A Brief Feminist Theory Interpretation of Sasuke's Nail Polish
Written 18 August 2007
Sasuke was in the kitchen when he heard a loud, “Yes! Sakura-chan’s here! And she’s got food!”
Rolling his eyes, he listened to Naruto’s enthusiastic greetings and the tone of Sakura’s exasperated replies, underscored by the rustling of paper bags. After a few minutes, a pink head peered into the kitchen with a smile.
“Hello, Sasuke-kun,” she said cheerfully. “I got the rice, and I picked up a few tomatoes on the way, too.”
“And ramen!” Naruto barreled past her, deftly ducking her irritated fist, and plopped the bags carelessly onto the counter. If he crushed those tomatoes, Sasuke thought without changing his deadpan expression, then blood would be spilt once more in the Uchiha house. “She got ramen! I love you, Sakura-chan!”
Naruto swept Sakura into his arms and twirled her, earning a breathless laugh that she tried to disguise as a growl of fury.
Ignoring the commotion wreaking havoc at the entrance to the kitchen, Sasuke began taking the foodstuffs from the brown bags and lining them up neatly on the counter to be put away. Then he folded the bags and stacked them upright in the cabinet under the sink, rinsed off his hands, and started getting out pots and measuring spoons and the cooking sake he had to keep hidden from Naruto.
“Ne, when’re we gonna eat?” Naruto demanded. Sakura had forced him to put her back down on her feet, and now he poked at a bag of rice. Sasuke shot him a glare and unceremoniously pushed him out of the way, absently nudging the rice package back to its original position.
“Never, if you don’t shut the fuck up and get out of the kitchen,” he told the blond bluntly.
Sasuke absently kicked at his shin, his mind already turned to the task of trying to dust off old memories of watching his mother cook. He remembered helping her in the kitchen as a little kid whenever he was not outside training, not minding the work even though his father had disapproved of a son doing women’s chores—not when his mother had been the only person to hug him. The Uchiha clan was a proud family, but not a demonstrative one.
He set up a pot of water to boil on the stove and into it measured out the raw rice. Then he started mixing sake and sugar and salt together in a small glass bowl, slowly pouring in some rice vinegar, until the salt and sugar grains were dissolved.
“Look at him,” he heard Naruto mutter. “He should’ve been born a girl, seriously.”
Sasuke stiffened, but it was Sakura that got to their errant teammate first, whapping him upside the head hard enough to loosen teeth.
“You want to say that again?” she asked him sweetly, eyes smoldering, and Naruto wisely eked out a high, “No ma’am, sorry ma’am.”
He meeped again when Sasuke’s hand shot out, black-painted nails curling into the cloth of his old jacket and dragging him forward until they were nose-to-nose.
“If you don’t get out of my sight and set the table,” Sasuke murmured silkily, “I will make you regret not having been born a woman.”
He cast a pointed look downwards, and Naruto broke his grip with a sharp jerk and a scowl. “Bastard,” he muttered, and leered. “Besides, you like that part of me too much to actually do anything.”
“Idiot.” The brunet was already turning back to the pots and bowls, clearly dismissing him. Naruto huffed, but before it could get ugly Sakura took his arm and led him out into the dining room.
Some time later, Sasuke put the last bit of sushi and sashimi on the platter (one of his mother’s best serving dishes, he recalled, one of the few not painted with the Uchiha fan) and after making sure there was no rice grain or water droplet left astray on the counter, picked up the tea things as well. He carried both into the dining room, noting that Sakura must have beaten some obedience into Naruto for at least a little while; the plates and cups were in their proper positions, chopsticks laying neatly flat.
Sasuke gave Naruto a dry look as he set down the platter and the tea tray, musing that his clan would have been scandalized had he brought such a lowborn savage anywhere near the property.
“I like what you two have done with the place,” Sakura said politely, looking around. When she had seen it last, the main Uchiha house was decrepit and rotting, but a few weeks of hard work had brought it back to some semblance of its former stateliness. It smelled of rice paper and freshly cut wood, and she thought she could detect the faint sweetness of incense that Sasuke would never admit to keep burning in the ill-fated dojo near the back of the house.
“Thanks,” Naruto grinned, and Sasuke grunted a reply as he sat down at the low table, crossing his ankles properly and keeping his spine straight. There was something nostalgic in sitting like this, the sleeves of his black yukata tied back out of the way, and he distractedly dropped crushed tea leaves into the kettle of hot water.
“We should do this more often,” Naruto continued. He was sprawled like a lazy cat on his cushion, unused as he was to sitting at such low tables, and forwent using chopsticks in favor of his fingers as he reached for the food. “I mean,” he said through a suddenly full mouth, “more than just once a week, all three of us.”
“We’re lucky we can have lunch together as often as we already do,” Sakura sighed. “You two have missions and I’ve got my duties at the hospital. Wow, Sasuke, this is really good.” She looked at him with surprised green eyes. “I didn’t know you could cook. Where’d you learn this?”
“…My mother.” Except he never had been able to figure out how she had cut the ingredients in such a way that the sashimi looked like it had rabbit ears. It had been one his secret pleasures as a kid, to open his bento and see that little something special his mother took the time to make, just for him.
Naruto shifted uncomfortably. For as long as they had known each other and, to a much lesser timeline, lived together, families and their lack thereof was a topic they tended to avoid by silent mutual agreement.
“Ha,” he said after a moment. “What kind of ninja cooks?”
“Just because you can’t cook anything more complicated than instant ramen,” Sakura said archly, “doesn’t mean the rest of us are so impaired.”
“I’m not impaired!”
“Besides,” she added, skillfully picking up a piece of sashimi and eating it without dropping a single rice grain, “I think it adds a certain dimensionality to Sasuke.”
Both boys looked at her in bewilderment.
“Well, think about it,” she explained, a little defensively. “The only people with any real power in Konoha are male—“
“Uh, old hag Tsunade, anyone?” Naruto interrupted.
“Not really. I mean, yeah, she can kick even your ass, Naruto…”
“…But it’s the men who decide what happens in Konoha. It was founded by men; it was a man who sealed away the Kyuubi—into a male host; it was Orochimaru, a man, who was our greatest threat before Sasuke killed him, Jiraiya who was first choice for Hokage before Tsunade anyway, you and Sasuke who were most renowned for your rivalry and…fucked-up-edness—“
“Sakura-chan!” Naruto exclaimed in surprise, as the kunoichi generally disapproved of cussing.
“For the most part, we women are there usually to support you in whatever insanity you men get yourselves into and to patch you up afterwards,” she finished, a little darkly, and then she took a sip of tea.
While Naruto looked at her like a fish out of water, Sasuke had a bit more self-control, merely blinking slowly and cradling his own now untouched teacup.
“And what does this have to do with my knowing how to boil rice?” he inquired dryly, flatly, and it was the utter casualness of his voice that gave away his irritation.
“Think about it,” Sakura replied. She was settling into that measured way of speaking that reminded Sasuke of Iruka, when the chuunin lectured his noisy eight-year-old brats, and his irritation quadrupled. “You provide the counterbalance to an otherwise blatantly misogynistic society, and not just because of your androgynous appearance.”
“Girly-boy,” Naruto snickered, earning another kick, this time from under the table. Sakura ignored the disturbance.
“You’re involved in many of the same plights common to women in fairy tales—being ignored or mistreated by family, losing your personal identity because of societal expectations, rape—“
“I was never raped,” Sasuke hissed, and if he had been a cat his fur would have puffed out to twice his size.
“In an emotional sense,” she soothed him. “And because of that mistreatment, you’ve been made more aware of the reality of the world and thereby more sensitive.”
“’Sensitive’? Oi, Sakura-chan, we still talking about the same asshole here?”
“I never said he acted on that sensitivity,” she snapped in frustration. “And I meant ‘sensitive’ in that he’s more aware of the subtle politics going on in society, and thus more capable of manipulating his environment for self-preservation.”
Well, that was true—next to Ino, Sasuke had the best grasp of the latest gossip going around the Village. Purely for informational and exploitative purposes, of course. Being born into a noble clan, and especially being the last living member, made political and social intrigue second nature. But that did not make him a woman.
“Also, like the heroine raised from poverty to royalty and then losing it all, Sasuke went from being unnoticed as a child to a veritable icon to the village fangirls, and then back down as a traitor.”
She said it all very matter-of-factly, so much so that it took Naruto a moment to realize what she was saying.
“I thought we agreed to forgive him for being stupid,” he said, and if there had not been such a serious and…protective? tone to his words, Sasuke might have kicked him again. As it was, he made a mental note to beat the shit out of him later.
She sighed. “Naruto, I wasn’t trying to insult him.” She looked at him askance, adding a little nervously, “Right, Sasuke?”
Normally, Sakura was the only person in the entirety of the Village safe from Sasuke’s passive-aggressive, fucked-up sense of justice, but now he just gave her a cool look and took a sip from his lukewarm tea. She swallowed, but forged on gamely with the passion of a scholar…and someone who had put way too much thought into a particular topic.
“It’s like he represents the ideal that surpasses the limitations of gender—the ascended hermaphrodite, if you will, encompassing all the virtues of male and female to create the enlightened whole.”
Naruto snorted tea through his nose at ‘hermaphrodite.’
“Betrayal’s a common theme in those stories. Normally from a lover, but in Sasuke’s case—I’ll shut up now,” she finished hurriedly, because his gaze had gone from neutrally condescending to downright freezing, and he did not bother to hide the brief flash of bloodlust in his chakra.
There was a strained silence in which Sakura stared down at her hands and Naruto stuffed his mouth full of sushi so he would not say anything he might regret. When the silence stretched and looked to be settling in for a while, Sasuke did nothing to make it go away. He was feeling vindictive, damn it.
But, naturally, Naruto was immune to it and decided to add his own philosophical observations to Sakura’s, once he was able to speak around the food in his mouth.
“He also paints his nails.”
Sakura grinned at him, a little deviously. “Well, they do say that real men wear pink, after all.”
“But Sakura-chan,” Naruto said in confusion, “they’re black.”
She rolled her eyes.
The dark color at the tips of his fingers made it rather impossible for Sasuke to deny anything, so he settled for glaring at them both and pointedly refused to hide his hands under the table. “It’s not my fault,” he said icily, “that my mother would have preferred a daughter.”
They stared at him and felt quite awkward.
“…Did she dress you up when you were a kid?” Naruto asked in horrified fascination. The fact that there was a slight flush on Sasuke’s cheeks when he narrowed his eyes threateningly pretty much gave away the answer. He had been acquainted with makeup and loose clothes long before Orochimaru ever came along.
Sakura fidgeted with her chopsticks and refused to look at either of them. Her shoulders were shaking, though it was not from holding back tears that her old crush was a cross-dresser as a kid; it was laughter at the fact that the dreaded last Uchiha’s mother had made him a cross-dresser as a kid.
“…Oi, teme, I’ve got this really hot maid’s outfit—OW! Fuck!”
Sakura put her face in her arms and laughed until her ribs ached.