Kingdom For Two [7-9]

Chapter Seven: Let’s Take It Day By Day

Sometimes, opening his eyes in the morning was the greatest accomplishment of the day. Sometimes just breathing was reason to celebrate.

Cold. Unreasonably cold. Itachi’s body had difficulty regulating body temperature properly. He could be burning or he could be freezing, sometimes it was the complete opposite of what everyone else felt. Today, he was cold, even in the comfortable heat of his family home.

Sliding his legs over the edge of his bed, Itachi sat there for a moment, taking in all the creaks and aches of his limbs. Just the usual, no new pain. He stood up and walked over to his rocking chair and took his oversized black and red striped duster cardigan that was hanging off the back and pulled it on over the sweater he was already wearing. His father hated the cardigan, calling it too feminine. It became well-worn because of how often Itachi made it part of his ensemble after that.

Itachi sighed, body comforted in it’s new layer. He pulled at the sleeves and the way they covered his hands so only his fingernails poked out. His freshly painted fingernails. Itachi’s hands shook more often than not nowadays so Izumi took over the painting. If he was in a pleasant enough mood and wanted to go out he would go to a salon with his mother who could care less if it was yet another thing his father didn’t like.

“It’s just nail polish, Fugaku.” His mother had huffed and rolled her eyes. “It isn’t permanent and besides…it looks fantastic on him. He has such nice looking hands.”

Itachi put on his house slippers, not wanting to feel the cold of the hardwood floor any longer, and made his way down to the kitchen. He shuffled past the great room, grateful for his house slippers as he walked over the marble tiling, and made his way to the kitchen.

“Don’t you dare only drink juice, Itachi.” Mikoto narrowed her eyes at her eldest son as he reached for the pitcher of orange juice in the fridge. Itachi sighed and made room for his mother to pull out ingredients for a late breakfast.

Itachi had the bad habit of skipping meals. Sometimes due to nausea but mostly because he didn’t have an appetite or the energy to eat. He couldn’t summon the will to eat anything when his body didn’t communicate hunger to him. The periods of time in which he was prescribed Prednisone made it easier to eat because it increased his appetite but at the same time it made it harder to sleep.

Itachi sat on a barstool at the kitchen island and watched his mother as she cooked. His mother looked young for her age and she moved with grace. Sometimes he felt like his mother was the twenty-two year old and he was the forty-five year old. It wasn’t like that was an old age, but a twenty-two year old should be able to run circles around someone that age.

Itachi smiled softly, eyes tender as he watched his mother’s process. She sprinkled a bit of sugar with the salt she used for his rolled omelet because of his love of sweet things. She slid over a small bowl of the fruit salad that she had been preparing earlier for him to eat, mostly berries with clementine slices. She warmed up a croissant, his preference over toast.

Itachi didn’t usually care for the way his mother spoiled him and Sasuke. He would have been fine with a bowl of cereal but he wouldn’t take this away from her. He hadn’t needed her most of his life, a truly independent child. He never complained and never asked for anything. He was a genius, choosing to take the high school equivalency test instead of attending and going straight to college when he was fourteen, never once needing his parents help in his studies.

It wasn’t until he was nineteen when he first started getting sick that his mother felt like she had any part in his life. It wasn’t until he got sick that he started realizing that he had never put much mind to his family. He loved them but he never made much time for them, not even for Sasuke who he was forced to admit was the person he cared about most, even more than the rest of his family, more than anyone else.

“Where’s Sasuke?”

“He went for a run earlier. He’s in the exercise room now.”

Itachi sighed. Although his family was humble it was hard to forget that they were blue bloods when he looked around at his home. It was one of the reasons he preferred to eat in the kitchen. It was ridiculous that they had a breakfast room which was the same size as their dining room that was attached to the living room that they only sat in when they had guests. It was a beautiful room covered filled with an array of houseplants but Itachi felt weird and out of place in his large and beautiful home.

“I’m going to go to Shisui’s place later.”

“Invite him over for dinner,” Mikoto ordered as she cleared the counter of the used dishes. “And Izumi too. You guys hang out all of the time but I feel like I haven’t really seen either of them in a while.”

“Of course.”

Itachi left the kitchen to head over to the exercise room which required him crossing the great room again. The great room was even more proof of how ostentatious their house was. All the furniture was high end and modern and faced a recently renovated fireplace to match the modern interior of their home.

Itachi found Sasuke using one of their family’s weight lifting equipment to work on his arms. His younger brother was shirtless revealing a lean yet muscular form that reminded him much of what he use to look like when he had the energy to exercise. Because it was winter now he couldn’t swim in their pool. Swimming was the easiest form of exercise for him but he disliked indoor pools.

Itachi smirked at his little brother who was heavily distracted with his workout and hadn’t heard him come in due to having his headphones in. It amused Itachi at how much energy Sasuke had left over to work out considering his healthy sex life. Granted he hadn’t heard anything the night before but Itachi had heard plenty of soft sounds coming through his bedroom wall every night the previous week. No matter how quiet they tried to be, Sasuke and Sakura’s night sessions were just loud enough for him to hear. It was a good thing that the master bedroom was on the first floor and if there were any guests to use the room down the hall they wouldn’t be able to hear at all. Itachi had tested the distance in which they could be heard.

On bad days, Itachi was angry, pissed off that his brother would be so inconsiderate as to rut like an animal when he knew on the other side of the wall his older brother’s bed stood against it, their rooms almost a perfect mirror in regards to the furniture. He refused to acknowledge the jealousy he felt when he heard Sakura let out pleasured and happy sounds. Sounds he couldn’t always pull from his loves because of the shape of his body.

On better days, it amused him how Sasuke’s mood and behavior depended on whether or not Sakura and him were visiting each other. In fact, the past week had easily been Sasuke’s best week since school had started. Itachi had caught him humming to himself the other day as he grabbed something to eat before school. If it weren’t obvious that they were keeping their relationship secret, Itachi would have laughed in his face at the fact that Sasuke stood straighter, the bags under his eyes were lighter, and he wasn’t as quick to snap at everything that irritated him. Getting laid was just as good for Sasuke as his therapy sessions were.

“Sasuke?” Itachi pulled out one of Sasuke’s earbuds. Sasuke paused in his repetition and looked up. “Can you drive me over to Shisui’s?”

“Aa. Let me shower first.”

Itachi hated when he had to depend on others. He preferred when he could come and go as he pleased but some days, like today, it wasn’t possible. He didn’t have the energy required to drive himself. Didn’t have the energy to argue with himself that he would be fine on his own.

Shisui lived in a small but posh apartment in River Place, the area Fugaku called the “artsy” part of town where Konoha started to look more city than town. Itachi couldn’t argue with his father, almost every architectural structure on the other side of Naka River was a work of art including the bridge needed to cross to reach River Place. At night the bridge lit up along the arch revealing a beautiful rainbow light mosaic art piece. It glowed at a healthy brightness that didn’t disturb the residents but still made it a wonder.

Itachi would have moved there, moved in with Shisui if he hadn’t gotten sick. He hated being a burden to his family, he wouldn’t do it to Shisui or Izumi.

Itachi had tried to leave them once. He tried to split up from them causing them all to get into a fight. Shisui and Izumi refused to part from him, inserting themselves into his life so that even though they weren’t together he was still stuck with them. Itachi eventually caved in, too lovesick to be near them yet so far away at the same time.

“Hey Babe,” Shisui greeted him when he walked into apartment and shut the door. Shisui cupped his face in his hands and gave him a kiss, too deep to be chaste but short enough that it wasn’t inappropriate for a greeting.

“Hello,” Itachi smiled softly giving him a peck on his cheek. “Where’s Zu-Zu?”

“She found out you were coming over this morning and rushed over here to disinfect and clean everything.” Shisui rolled his eyes and grinned cheekily. “She’s a mad woman. Honey! Babe’s here!”

There was a small crashing sound like something was being dropped and then the thud of feet slapping on the hardwood floor.

“Ita!” Izumi turned the corner and wrapped her arms around Itachi’s waist. Itachi kissed the top of her head and she squeezed tighter. “Thank God you’re here. I was stuck with Shi and his mess the entire morning.”

“It wasn’t that bad.” Shisui hugged Itachi, squashing Izumi between them. “You’re exaggerating, Hon.”

“Oh, please,” came Izumi’s muffled reply. “Your place would be filthy if Ita and I didn’t clean up.”

That wasn’t necessarily true. Itachi hadn’t been able to do any cleaning in a long time so it was usually Izumi taking care of everything. Itachi would help with small things here and there but Izumi had a hard time letting him. Itachi had blown up once when she wouldn’t let him do a few loads of laundry and Shisui got angry when Izumi started crying and apologizing. It wasn’t a good day.

“I hope you already set up the movie, Shi,” Izumi pushed herself free from their group hug and headed to the kitchen to grab a bowl of popcorn that was sitting on the counter. “You had more than enough time to get everything ready.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Itachi followed Shisui to the couch. Shisui leaned his back against the arm and pulled Itachi to lie with his back against his chest. Izumi followed behind them and nestled herself in front of Itachi between his legs. Shisui’s guests always wondered why his couch didn’t face the television. It was their favorite sitting position.

Twenty minutes into the movie, Itachi started squirming. He couldn’t stay comfortable and his body was protesting it’s stillness. Izumi had to get up so that Itachi could stretch out a bit. It happened a few more times causing them to pause the movie frequently.

“Let’s take a nap,” Izumi suggested, faking a yawn. Itachi’s eyes narrowed at her, knowing exactly what she was trying to do and he felt slightly insulted that she was trying to get him to rest after watching a movie. No matter how much he needed it.

“A nap? Or a nap?” Shisui asked, rubbing his crotch against Itachi’s backside. Itachi felt heat creep up his neck remembering how he couldn’t allow Shisui to finish the last time they were all his bedroom due to the stress it was giving his muscles and legs. He felt pathetic at how Izumi and Shisui had to do all of the work when it came to sex.

“No, you perv,” Izumi snapped, face flushing pink at the way Shisui was staring at her lewdly. “I wanna cuddle.”

“And I wanna see you sit on Itachi’s face. Let’s compromise.”

“How about we just cuddle?” Itachi sided with Izumi. He wasn’t going to try to prove anything to anyone with how his body was feeling.

They curled up all together on Shisui’s king sized bed. He had bought the bed so big so they could all lay in it comfortably. Izumi stroked Itachi’s hair as he rest his face in the crook of her neck. Shisui wrapped an arm around her waist, his face buried in her hair. Itachi tried to relax but his body was feeling restless.

“I think when we have kids they should all be Shisui’s.”

“What? No. I thought they were going to be all of yours, Babe.” Shisui frowned. “When curly haired kids pop out your parents are going to flip and question your marriage to Honey. What are we going to do? Confess that I’m fucking the both of you? Yeah, sure. Fugaku’s gonna love that.”

“I want one from the both of you,” Izumi mumbled into Itachi’s hair. “Why are we discussing this?”

Itachi sighed and pressed his face deeper into Izumi’s neck hoping the smell of violets would cheer him up. It didn’t.

“No child should share my genetics.”

Izumi stiffened in his hold. It was one of the weird things about Itachi being sick. They were over considerate to his condition but at the same time acted like he wasn’t sick at all. Pretended that he didn’t have Lupus or MPA. Itachi knew that it wouldn’t be fair to bring children into the world that he would doom to being sick the same way he was. He knew that was one of the reasons why Sasuke kept Sakura at arm’s length. It was in his genes too. Itachi had all of the symptoms and the struggles but he wasn’t the only person in his family that may have Lupus.

“You’re such a pessimist.” Shisui tugged on Itachi’s ear playfully. “What are the odds one of our kids has it? So what if it runs in families? Look at your mom and dad. They’re both healthy.”

“And so am I.” Izumi took Itachi’s chin in between her thumb and index finger, lifting his face up to hers. She smiled tenderly at him and placed a sweet kiss on his lips. She leaned her head back and kissed the underside of Shisui’s jaw. “And I’m having one of your curly mopped brats too. I want our kids to have a little of each of us.”

“Besides,” Itachi mused, “it wouldn’t be too weird if we ended up with a curly haired child. Look at Sasuke’s hair.”

“That’s not curly. I don’t know what the hell that is.”

“It’s unruly. And it defies gravity.” Izumi giggled. “And it’s close enough.”

Dinner was awkward. It was too quiet as they all chewed their food. Itachi’s mood kept getting lower and lower.

He tried not to react to his pre-cut steak. Itachi knew his mother only did it so that if his hands had started shaking throughout the meal that he wouldn’t feel embarrassed when he needed to ask for help. But he still would have liked to have tried to cut his own food.

“I’m going to a hockey match with Naruto on Saturday.”

Everyone looked up from their dishes and turned to face Sasuke. Sasuke took a bite of his steak, staring down his father who sat across from him at the other end of the table. Fugaku put down his fork and knife and put his elbows on the table. He clasped his hands in front of his face and rested his chin and mouth on them.

“You’re going out?” Mikoto asked excitedly. Itachi smiled to himself, glad that Sasuke could do something to make her happy. “To hang out with friends?”

“Just Naruto?” Fugaku asked.

“No.” Sasuke matched his pose. “I’m going with Naruto, his girlfriend, and Sakura. He wants us, his best friends, to meet her.”

“Naruto has a girlfriend?” Mikoto squealed. Fugaku frowned at his wife but she was no longer paying attention to him. “You have to send me a picture of her on Saturday.” Mikoto turned back to her husband and asked, “Can you transfer money to Sasuke’s account? You’re going to go eat dinner before the match, right?”

“You expect him to pay for all of them?”

“Now you’re just being obtuse Fugaku.” Mikoto pursed her lips, her hands on her hips. “I expect Sasuke to pay for his own meal and for Sakura Haruno’s. I expect my son to be a gentleman.”

“Doesn’t Sakura Haruno have a job? And wouldn’t her feminist ideologies cause her to feel insulted that a man would assume he needed to foot the bill?”

“Fuagku. Again, you’re being obtuse.” Mikoto crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Sasuke should still offer and let her decide. And if she lets him pay he should have the money to back up his offer. Now transfer the damn money.”

Well played Sasuke. Itachi had to hold back from smirking. Sasuke had purposefully informed his parents of his plans so that it wouldn’t be a surprise when Sasuke was out with Sakura. And on top of that he had gotten his mother involved and now if it seemed like he and Sakura were on a date it wasn’t because he had taken her out but because his mother had told him to act the gentleman.

“Why do I feel like I owe the brat a pat on the back?” Shisui leaned over and whispered to Itachi.

“Because he deserves one.” Itachi smirked.

His father was severely mistaken if Sasuke was going to continue taking his bullshit lying down. Itachi took a sip of water and looked at his father and back to his brother, both of them continued to stare each other down as they ate.

Fugaku may have won some past battles but Sasuke wasn’t going to hand him the war.

Chapter Eight: Talk To Me Talk To Me

There was something heartbreaking about the smell of winter. It caused an ache in her chest when she breathed it in. The air of Konoha was brisk and clean, the cold of it harsh on Sakura’s cheeks as she ran through the worn-out path through the trees of the section of forest behind her neighborhood.

There were hundreds of trails, Konoha being mostly forest especially in the residential areas, but Sakura preferred running off the paths down the one she beat into the forest floor over the years.

She, Naruto, and Sasuke had created this path when they were ten. They would run through the woods together, Sasuke and Naruto racing against each other leaving her to trail behind them. Naruto refused to acknowledge that Sasuke was faster, always trying as hard as he could to push past him. It had taken a few more years before Sakura was truly able to run alongside them.

“On your right.”

Sakura turned her head slightly to her right. A dark blur pushed ahead of her. When she was finally able to focus on the back of the person running on her path she recognized the gravity defying locks that sat at the back of Sasuke’s head. Sakura grinned at the faux casual way Sasuke jogged, a slow pace for him that she could easily match without difficulty.

Sakura touched Sasuke’s elbow to get his attention, knowing that he wouldn’t go for a run without his headphones. Sasuke looked at her from the corner of his eye and raised an eyebrow. Sakura grinned cheekily and sprinted ahead, swerving down a newer path than the one they were on. She listened to the thud of feet hitting the ground behind her and knew he was chasing after her. She had a headstart but he was going to catch up soon. After all this time he was still faster than her.

Just a short moment after she took off ahead of him, Sakura was pulled to the right from behind by a pair of strong arms. She stayed still, letting Sasuke drag her off of the path behind a tree.

“You’re not a morning person,” Sakura stated cheekily. Sasuke rolled his eyes and took his headphones out.

“And you don’t like the cold.” Sasuke tugged on the zipper of Sakura’s sky blue lightweight running jacket. She protested and slapped his hand away. She wore thermal gloves, thermal leggings, and a thermal sweatshirt under her jacket and she still felt cold. She had no idea how Sasuke got away with wearing his basketball shorts and a hoodie over a t-shirt. She swore he had fire in his blood.

“So what’s your day like today?”

The two of them strolled through the woods forgetting their workout. No one ever came by this part of the woods and it had become one of their hiding places over the past year. They would walk until they found a secluded clearing and just lay in the grass talking or just enjoying each other’s presence in silence.

“How’s Itachi?”

Sakura shifted on her side and stared at Sasuke as he looked up at the gray November sky. They laid in the grass, a yard apart, and Sakura reached out with her arms in the space between them, reaching for him, finger tips longing to make contact. Sakura wanted more words. Wanted to hear his thoughts and his feelings. Wanted him to be more open. She wanted to know all about what hurt him.

Talk to me, talk to me. Just turn around and talk to me.

Sasuke turned his head to look at her. He just stared at her, face blank for a moment, and then crawled toward her. He hovered over her and pressed his face to her neck, inhaling her scent and pressing kisses to her jawline and throat. He unzipped her jacket and slid his palms up her torso, pushing her thermal up.


Sasuke kissed her fiercely and pulled up her thermal and sports bra up by her armpits. Sakura hissed as the harsh cold air nipped at her skin.

“Sasuke! It’s too cold for that!” Sakura squirmed and pulled herself away, adjusting her clothes. Sasuke scowled and turned his face away from her. Sakura pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes at him.

Is that really all I’m for?

“I have to go Sasuke. I’ll see you later.”

Without taking another look back, Sakura got up and sprinted away. She didn’t hear the thud of feet hitting the ground chasing her this time.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Sasuke pulled away from the exercise room’s cardio strike bag. He reached back for it, resting his forehead on it. His forehead was slick and slipping from the sweat but he gripped onto it with his hands.

He couldn’t get the look on Sakura’s face out of his head. The confusion, the frustration, and then the hurt. He knew he was being pretty shitty when he ignored her but he didn’t want to talk about Itachi. Sasuke didn’t want to think or talk about what was going on with his brother. But he also couldn’t just fuck his problems away.

Sakura was a wonderful reprieve from constantly worrying and stressing about what was going on with Itachi and his body. She was a source of warmth and a blissful distraction from his father’s unrelenting judgement and demands for greatness in all that he does. But pounding her into his mattress wasn’t enough for a relationship. At least not one that Sakura deserved. One that he wasn’t even sure he could give her.

Frustrated, Sasuke pulled back from the strike bag and spun, slamming his heel against the bag with enough force to almost topple it over.

“Wow. It must have really pissed you off. I’m sure the strike bag is sorry and would like to talk it out.”

Sasuke almost audibly groaned when he heard his cousin’s voice. Shisui had always been irritating, taking up all of his brother’s free time when they were younger. It only got worse when he started fucking him.

Sasuke shook his head and tried to clear his negative thoughts. It was rude to belittle his brother’s relationship with Shisui by narrowing it down to their more carnal forms of intimacy. He understood that Itachi, Shisui, and Izumi had a hard time as it was with the way society judged their relationship. The three of them had sat him down and gave him the “sex talk he wouldn’t hear in school or from their parents”. It was weird hearing his brother tell him he was panromantic asexual and that Shisui was bisexual and that it seemed that Izumi was heterosexual because so far she was only attracted to men. Talking about different sexualities had been overwhelming back then considering he wasn’t sure if he was ever going to be interested in sex when he was fourteen years old.

Well, he figured that out fine later on despite Naruto’s pushiness to get him to watch porn and to “figure that shit out”. Shisui just laughed at him when he told them “it” only seemed to work when he thought of one specific person. Izumi was at least nicer and told him it was probably more of an emotional thing for him. Sasuke completely blanked when Itachi tried to give him a long lecture about the ace spectrum and decided he didn’t give a fuck about sexualities and whatever the hell “demisexual” was.

It was a lot easier for him to just go with whatever makes someone happy then to deal with all the labels of things. He, personally, just didn’t care.

“What are you doing here Shisui?” Sasuke bent down to pick up his towel and iPod from the ground.

“I came here to hang out with your brother since I’m off today. It’s rare that it’s ever just him and me and we need to talk.”

“Without Izumi?” Sasuke paused in wiping his sweat off and raised an eyebrow at him.

“Yeah, this isn’t a group thing and I know Itachi wouldn’t appreciate it if we talked about it in front of her.”

“Why are you excluding her?” Sasuke narrowed his eyes at Shisui and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He knew he was being unusually defensive of Izumi but he was still affected from when Naruto used to isolate him and Sakura. The situation was completely different but it still caused something unpleasant to stir in his chest.

Shisui frowned at him but then smirked, crossing his arms in front of his chest and shifting his weight to one leg, hitching one hip up.

“Because Izumi babies Itachi sometimes and he won’t feel comfortable venting about the fact that Itachi and I are having problems being physically intimate if she were there. It’s not an Izumi thing that and he wouldn’t want her to worry about it.”

Sasuke’s face twisted in disgust. Somehow hearing about his older brother having sex was just as bad as when he had heard his parents actually having sex when he was younger. He knew Itachi had sex with Izumi and Shisui and that he had always felt insecure about it because sometimes he was repulsed by the act and didn’t want them to think he didn’t love them. It was just awkward because Itachi had always been as much of a parental figure to him as his parents were.

“Don’t make that face. You asked.”

“He’s not feeling well today so keep your hands off of my brother,” Sasuke snapped, pushing past him to leave the exercise room. Shisui grinned broadly and followed him.

“You really need to get over your brother complex.”

“Shut up!”

“Why are you guys arguing?”

Sasuke looked across the great room and saw Itachi holding a mug and a plate of cookies and wearing his oversized duster cardigan. Sasuke hated how much smaller it seemed to make Itachi.

“We’re not.” Sasuke looked down at the marble floor, trying hard not seem like a little kid getting caught breaking a rule and failing. He walked over to his brother and grabbed the plate and mug from him. “I’ll take this up to your room.”

“Oh, we’re going to the media room actually. We’re going to turn on Flames Central and listen to a bunch of middle aged men and the one woman make commentary for hours before watching the match. And don’t worry, I actually like how the heat feels on my hands.” Itachi took back the mug and cupped it in both hands.

“Why do I feel like you’re mocking me?” Shisui muttered.

Sasuke shifted on the balls of his feet, feeling uncomfortable. It was one of those moments that he felt guilty even though it would probably hurt his brother’s feelings if he knew that Sasuke was feeling any guilt.

Sasuke was excited to go watch the Flames play. Usually he would curl up on the couch in the media room and watch with his brother. Ever since his brother started to drift apart from his friends, he had been the one to hang out with Itachi and he felt guilt naw at him if he left him alone. He also felt guilty knowing that going to a live match was something that Itachi would enjoy but had difficulty even thinking about the possibility because he was never sure if he could attend until the day of and if he couldn’t that would be a waste of tickets. And pushing himself on that day to sit in an uncomfortable arena seat would mess him up for the following day.

Itachi’s life just sucked so much.

“Don’t you have to get ready for your date? You stink.” Itachi wrinkled his nose at his brother. “Go shower and Shisui and I will pick you out an outfit.”

“I can dress myself,” Sasuke grumbled. “And it’s not a date.”

“Sure you can,” Shisui laughed. “And of course you’re not going on a date with Itty Bitty.” Sasuke didn’t like the way Shisui winked at him.

“Don’t call her that.” To Sasuke it seemed as though everyone had something they called Sakura and she hated nicknames. Well, not all of them. Sakura did seem to like the one Itachi gave her but it wasn’t like anyone disliked Itachi and the nickname was sweet.

“Just go shower, Sasuke.” Itachi pushed his brother toward the foyer to get to the stairs. He sounded tired of the conversation and standing there so Sasuke allowed himself to be ordered around just to give his brother a break.

“And do something about your hair.”

“Shut up Shisui.”

Sakura decided to walk over to Naruto’s house and wait with him for Sasuke. Logically it made sense because she wouldn’t be pushing her luck by getting in the car alone where Fugaku could see them. And she could also make sure that Naruto was dressed properly for his date.

She was avoiding telling herself she was just trying to stay away from Sasuke for as long as she possibly could.

Sakura had been excited for today. She was going to go watch her favorite hockey team play and she was going to be going on her first date ever. It didn’t matter that it was a double date and that Naruto would be with them the entire time. But she apparently got excited for no reason. She wasn’t going on a date. It was Naruto’s date with Hinata. She and Sasuke were just going for the ride.

“You look, um, nice?” Naruto raised his eyebrow at Sakura’s attire. He was under the assumption that she was going to dress cutely. Sakura had shown up in light blue skinny jeans and knee high boots but wore the white and red jersey for her favorite player, the goalie, under her faux fur trimmed utility jacket. It wasn’t what he expected from her as date clothes which seemed like a bad sign. He had hoped that this would be a good chance for his best friends to act like a couple but something seemed to have happened.

“Are you really going to wear your orange hoodie? Naruto, I hope you at least washed it.”

Naruto grabbed onto the strings of his hood defensively. It was like his security blanket. He never left the house without his hoodie in his favorite color.

“I used Febreeze.”

“Gross, Naruto.”

Sakura sat on the edge of Naruto’s bed, too scared to go near anything else. How he got away with having a messy room with Kushina for a mother baffled her.  She would have hung out with Karin but she seemed to be out for the evening already. Karin’s room was cluttered─Sakura found out she was secretly a sentimental person that hated throwing things out─but clean and everything seemed to have an order that was easy to understand. The Uzumaki cousins were so different.

I’m outside. Why did you go ahead? I needed to talk…

“Sasuke’s outside.” Sakura cleared the text from her notifications, not bothering to open it and read the rest.

“Ready!” Naruto smashed a bright red beanie with the Flames logo across the front onto his head. It clashed horribly with his orange hoodie but he looked happy. “Let’s go pick up Hina.”

Sakura and Naruto headed out, hugging Kushina goodbye before leaving. Naruto pulled her right into a giant bear hug, lifting her slightly off the ground.

Behave Naruto!” Kushina called out as they headed down the drive.

“Sheesh, you would think I was seven or something,” Naruto grumbled. “What are you doing?”

Sakura was in the process of climbing past the front passenger seat to get to the rear seats of Sasuke’s two door Jeep. Sasuke hadn’t said anything, just looked at her all confused.

“Sakura, I’m going to have to sit in the back with Hina.”

“We can switch when we get her.”

Sakura buckled her seatbelt and looked out the plastic window of the soft top, refusing to look at Sasuke.

Hinata was a quiet girl. Sasuke forgot she was there sometimes because she seemed to sort of blend into the background. The opposite of Sakura. His eyes kept shifting to look at her as she walked on the other side of Hinata who was practically being dragged by Naruto who hadn’t let go of her hand ever since she got into Sasuke’s Jeep.

“There was a perfectly good ramen place down the street,” Naruto complained. He had tried to drag everyone over there but Sakura put her foot down and insisted that it wasn’t appropriate despite Hinata’s protests of not caring where they ate. Sakura got her way and they were standing in a Pizza Kitchen much to Sasuke’s secret delight.

He hoped he was part of the reason Sakura suggested the place but she had been giving him the cold shoulder. It seemed he was in for another one of her silent treatments which was starting to get annoying.

“Two,” Sasuke informed the hostess. “Preferably a booth.”

“Sasuke there’s four of us.” Naruto poked hard on his shoulder. Sasuke elbowed him to get him to stop.

“Really, idiot? Don’t you want one on one time with your date?” Sasuke continued to give Naruto an unimpressed look as he watched his face flush crimson.


“Yeah. Oh.” Sasuke pushed Sakura on the small of her back despite the noise of protest she made when she realized that he had just split the group. He knew she wouldn’t want to cause a scene in front of Hinata, hoping to make a good impression for Naruto’s sake.

When they got to the booth, Sasuke waited for Sakura to slide in and slid in after her, trapping her inside. Sasuke quickly placed their order of four cheese and tomato pizza with extra tomatoes before Sakura could make any comment.

“Really, Sasuke? You’re going to trap me in here?” Sakura huffed and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“Isn’t this what you do on a date? Obnoxiously sit on the same side of a booth and leave the other side completely empty?”

“Wait. We are on a date?”

The tone of voice she had used stung a lot more than Sasuke was prepared for. He forgot sometimes that a side effect of Sakura having become friends with Ino Yamanaka years ago was that she no longer had a problem with making biting comments. Sakura wasn’t always sweet. It just wasn’t something he ever had to deal with.

“Aren’t we?” Sasuke asked softly, playing with the rolled up cloth napkin of utensils left in front of him. “I was under the impression that we were.”

“We’re not,” Sakura answered. She rest an elbow on the tabletop and rest her cheek against her fist, facing away from him. “Couples go on dates. We’re just people that fuck each other.”

There was a watery edge to Sakura’s voice. Sasuke was sure that if she was looking at him he would see her jade eyes turn glassy as they welled up with tears.

“There’s more to us than just people that fuck each other.”

“Okay. We’re friends that fuck each other.” Sakura turned to face him, glaring. “No. Not friends. Friendly acquaintances. Neighbors that are just way too friendly.”

“I’m sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean to─”

“It’s fine, Sasuke.” Sakura leaned back against the booth and looked up at him with a defeated look on her face. “I just misconstrued what I meant to you. But I would really like to stop whatever the hell it is that we’re doing, okay? I can’t anymore.”

Sasuke expected this to happen. He figured one day Sakura would want more than he could currently offer her. He just hadn’t expected the conversation to happen in the middle of Pizza Kitchen during what was suppose to be their first real date.

“I just wanted you to talk to me.” Sakura’s voice was low and raspy, like she was holding back from sobbing. “I’m starting to feel like all I’m good for in your life is to lie on my back and spread my legs. Would it even matter if it was me?”

“Don’t you dare try to suggest that. Don’t think for one second that─”

“What else am I supposed to think?” Sakura cut him off. “I just want you talk to me but apparently I’m useless for anything that isn’t physical because you never tell me how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking about. What do you want from me, Sasuke?”

Everything. But Sasuke knew he shouldn’t ask for anything from her. He was always lost in his head thinking about the unfairness of his brother’s life. His father was intent on controlling his life. He had to keep his mother blissfully ignorant of exactly how controlling his father was so that she could remain happy and her attention would stay on Itachi who needed her care and affection more than he did. He was still fucked in the head from all the shit that went down in Oto, something he was never going to talk to anyone about because it involved more people than just him.

But he could be just a little selfish, right? His relationship with Sakura was the only selfish thing he had done in a long time.

“This.” Sasuke slid his hand across the booth’s seat and grabbed Sakura’s hand, interlocking their fingers. “I want this.”

“Sasuke─” Sakura pulled away from him and looked down at her lap when the waiter came back with their pizza.

They sat in silence for a bit. Sakura picked out all of the excess tomato slices from her pizza and put them on Sasuke’s plate. After a quiet ten minutes Sasuke grabbed onto Sakura’s hand again. He pulled her hand under the table and intertwined their fingers. He held on tight when Sakura tried to pull away.

“I can try harder. I will try harder.” Sasuke rubbed the hand he held with his thumb the way Sakura usually rubbed his when they held hands as they tried to fall asleep. Sasuke waited patiently for an answer. It came in the form of Sakura resting her head against his arm.

“So. How do these date things go?”

“Not completely sure. But we’re definitely not doing that.”

Sakura looked over in the direction Sasuke was nodding his chin towards and giggled. Naruto’s table was in perfect sight of theirs and he was attempting to feed Hinata but was using a lot more force than necessary to place the food in her mouth.

“I guess it’s cute when they do it.” Sakura pulled out her phone to take pictures of them. It would be good teasing material. “So what do you think about Hinata?”

“Quiet. Small. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

“Really? She was sitting right in your car and you didn’t notice anything else besides the obvious fact that she’s small?”

“Well, I was focused on more important things. Important pink haired things.” Sasuke smirked down at Sakura who had flushed pink.

“She seems nice.”

“I can’t gather any opinion on the matter considering she barely talks.”

“I thought you would consider that a good trait since you don’t talk much yourself.”

“Naruto is my best friend and you’re my girlfriend. And you two are the chattiest people I know other than Yamanaka. I don’t think most people would take that information in and come to the conclusion that I like quiet people.”

“I’m your girlfriend?”

“Jesus, Sakura. What else would you be?” Sasuke scowled, the tips of his ears turning red in embarrassment. There had been too much awe in her voice when she asked the question.

He hadn’t thought it needed to be said out loud. It was the kind of the thing he considered to be obvious. Yes, their relationship had to remain a secret from his father and sadly the other members of his family for security, but it wasn’t like he didn’t want her to be his girlfriend. He assumed she had been his girlfriend for the past few years already.

Well. Now I know why she doesn’t ever bug me about anniversary stuff.

“You’re annoying you know that?”

“Hey! I am not─”

Sasuke stuffed a slice of pizza in her mouth to prevent her from talking. Sakura narrowed her eyes at him but took a bite from the slice. She pouted and looked sort of cute with tomato sauce on the corner of her mouth.

Dates aren’t that bad, I guess.

“You’re being ridiculous.” Sasuke sighed and pushed Sakura toward his car. When she hopped out of his Jeep to let Naruto out from the back seat she tried to start walking home but was dragged back into the car.

“You’re dad is going to see me and think we lied about going to the game.”

“You’re overthinking everything. It would make perfect sense for you to still be in my car considering you live right fucking next door. Besides. Date’s not over.”


“I had to share you with Naruto and Hinata. So date’s not over.”

“We just fought earlier about the fact that all we seem to do is have sex. Do you really think─”

“We’re going to talk. You wanted to talk right?”

Sakura chewed on her lower lip. She did say that she wanted him to open up more. But now wasn’t the best time.

“I do. I think we have a communication problem. But not now. I would rather you be home on time and not get in trouble with your dad.”

“Fine. I’ll just come over later.”


Sasuke’s eyes widened at her cry of protest. He knew he had fucked up earlier and was aware that they wouldn’t be having sex anytime soon but he didn’t expect to be completely barred from her room.

“Not tonight,” Sakura said quickly. “I feel like tonight’s not a good night for one of our gambles. We just went out together and it feels riskier.”


Sasuke turned back around, driving back up Forest Grove Street to enter their cul-de-sac. He pulled up his driveway and was going to walk Sakura the twenty feet to hr house when she held up her hand to stop him.

“You should go straight to your house. Don’t even look to make sure that I’m in my house.”

“You’re being paranoid.”

“Just do it Sasuke.”

Sasuke sighed and did as she asked. Sakura kept an eye on him as he walked up his stone walkway and up the stoop of his house to make sure he never turned toward her house. As soon as Sasuke unlocked his front door and walked in the light in the living room went on. It was safe to assume that it was Fugaku waiting for Sasuke.

God. That man is predictable.

Sakura shook her head and went inside her own home. She headed into her kitchen and found a note on the counter. Her parents had gone to bed because of their early start the next day but left something for her to eat in the fridge just in case she was hungry after the game. Her dad said he would see her at work in the morning and that he wanted a play by play of the match. Her mom had placed kisses goodnight with her baby pink lipstick on the bottom of the note.

Sakura went to bed wondering why some parents had the time to spend with their kids and yet wasted it on not loving them properly.

Chapter Nine: Let’s Take A Trip

Sasuke was getting fed up with his friends. One of them kept holding his phone up to his face instead of his book and the other wouldn’t stop staring off in the direction of a certain redhead with a dazed expression on his face.

“I thought you guys wanted to study.”

Naruto and Suigetsu had asked Sasuke to tutor them. Suigetsu needed to keep his grades up to remain on the swim team and Kushina had asked Mikoto if Sasuke could help Naruto with Pre-Calc. Naruto’s grades had been dropping and Sasuke had a pretty good idea why.

Sasuke snatched Naruto’s cell phone away. He looked at the screen and saw that he had been messaging Hinata. Sasuke was tempted to remind Naruto that if he distracted his girlfriend when she should have been doing her own schoolwork that her tutor would inform her father and she would have her phone confiscated. He would have, but the idiot had been so damn happy the past few weeks and everything was starting to get back to normal with them.

But he didn’t mind screwing with Suigetsu.

“Stop undressing Karin with your eyes and pay attention.”

Suigetsu scowled and Naruto’s face twisted in disgust.

“Gross! Dude, that’s my cousin!” Naruto gagged and Suigetsu reached to throttle him but Sasuke slammed Naruto’s chemistry book on the desk to get their attention back.

“You’re such a dick, Sasuke.” Suigetsu frowned and pulled his Konoha Swim Team hoodie’s hood over his head. He leaned back in his seat and lazily scrawled his answers to the practice problems Sasuke had made for him.

“Naruto, why do you have your Chem book with you?” Sasuke raised his eyebrow at his friend but instead of answering him Naruto just started waving excitedly to someone behind him.

“Sorry I’m late Naruto.”

Sasuke looked up and saw Sakura slide into the seat next to him across from Naruto. Karin had moved from the table she was sitting at and grabbed a chair to sit at the end between Sakura and Naruto.

“What are you doing here, Red?”

“Sakura told me she was going to tutor you in Chemistry for her last few hours this semester for the Honor Society and asked me to come with so that I know where to continue at home.”

“What? No! You suck at teaching!”

“No, I just don’t have the patience for morons,” Karin sneered. Sakura gave a small cough and gave the Uzumaki cousins a disappointed look. Naruto dropped his gaze to his lap in shame. Karin turned her head away haughtily.

“We’re in a library,” Sakura scolded them. She turned to Sasuke and Sasuke was taken aback at how sweetly she smiled at him. Usually she was polite and gave the same smile she gave everyone else when they were in school but the adoration she usually had to mask was out in the open for anyone to see. “Sorry but this is the only time I can make to tutor. Do you mind if I help Naruto with Chem? You can assist Hozuki in the meantime.”

Sasuke really wanted to ask her why she was too busy. She usually did have a packed schedule. All seniors had to do at least twenty hours of community but Sakura went beyond that, actually enjoying volunteering at the Konoha Hospital Center. Then she had to do tutoring for the National Honor Society’s requirements. But she no longer had volleyball since it was winter now so that should have cleared up part of her schedule.

“I prefer to be called Suigetsu. But you can call me Sui since you’re so cute. Only cuties can.” Suigetsu winked at Sakura and Sasuke glared at him.

“Doesn’t Jūgo call you Sui?” Naruto cocked an eyebrow and grinned impishly at him. Karin started snickering and Sakura covered her mouth with her hands to suppress her giggles.

“Don’t you have something to study, Blondie?” Suigetsu snapped, turning back to his own work.

“Okay, Naruto. What are you having difficulty with?” Sakura pulled out her reading glasses and slipped them on.

Sasuke tried to focus on helping Suigetsu with his math work but he was distracted with Sakura sitting next to him and Naruto across from them. Nostalgia washed over him as they all sat in the library.

Sasuke paused in his writing as Sakura let out another frustrated huff. She was lying stomach down on his bed towards the foot of the bed and he was sitting on the floor with his back against it. Naruto had left moments earlier, Kushina having come by to pick him up for soccer practice.

Sasuke had started attending Oto Preparatory School two years prior, Naruto and Sakura had continued on to Konoha Secondary School after they all had graduated sixth grade from their local elementary school. Although they no longer attended the same school, the three of them still got together at Sasuke’s to do homework and hang out. Mikoto liked to keep the three of them around to keep an eye on their studies.

Sasuke watched as Sakura chewed on her lower lip and tapped her pencil against her nose. It was something she always did when she was concentrating on something she was trying to solve. It was an old habit but it was starting to make Sasuke feel strange when he saw her nibble on her lip.

Sakura let out another sigh and shifted her body, squirming a bit to find comfort. Sasuke knew it was mostly due to the fact her body had started to react to her anxiety over not being able to solve the practice problems Itachi had left for the both of them. Sakura wanted more challenging work but math had never been as easy for her as her other subjects.

Shifting her body had brought Sasuke’s attention lower, down to her clavicle and further. Her small breasts squished against his mattress creating an oddly appealing visual. Sasuke was almost tempted to reach over and button up her red blouse all the way. Now that he was in ninth grade he was starting to notice changes in his friend that he hadn’t before. He blamed Naruto and Shisui for his predicament.

Naruto had always been a pervert but it was getting worse as they got older. He had come over some time ago with a DVD he had “borrowed” from his godfather and watched it on Sasuke’s desktop. Sasuke had been repulsed by what he had seen and Naruto told him he was abnormal. Naruto kept coming over after that with new DVDs to see if he could figure out what Sasuke was interested in.

Nothing really clicked for him. It all seemed empty and meaningless. He felt nothing from what he was watching. When he brought up his concern with Itachi that he felt like something was wrong with him, it had been Itachi and his partners that took him aside and taught him about sexualities. Izumi took on the gentle older sister role and told him it was nothing to worry about. He was still really young and was probably not emotionally ready. Shisui joked with him and said the answer was probably closer than he thought. And he was right.

Sasuke tried to do what Naruto seemed to do, look at girls his own age─some older─and try to see them in a different light. The three girls he knew that were popular for their looks were Izumi, Ino Yamanaka, and Sakura.

In Izumi’s case it felt disloyal towards his brother to even attempt and slightly incestuous since they always had a sibling type relationship. He thought she was pretty, just like how he thought his mother was beautiful. Not that he would tell her because then Izumi would think that he actually liked her and it was fun watching her pout when she thought he didn’t care if she was there or not. Izumi still thought that sometimes, a slight insecurity stemming from the fact that he would cry and whine whenever she was around Itachi when he was a toddler.

In Ino’s case he understood logically why boys were interested in her. On paper it made sense. She had long silky blonde hair and almond shaped blue-green eyes framed with thick dark brown lashes that she would flutter teasingly. Ino was already curvy and boys like Naruto and Kiba Inuzuka had a hard time not staring at her chest. But she was loud and brash and it irritated him to be around her for too long. He had no idea how Chouji Akimichi and Shikamaru Nara did it but he guessed it had to do with the fact that the three of them were like Sasuke, Naruto, and Sakura: childhood friends since the crib.

Sakura’s popularity upon leaving elementary school unsettled him and Naruto. Naruto was always complaining about upperclassmen following her around and that she was just too cute for her own good. Sasuke was unsure of what to to think about that. Despite some annoying tendencies, he had always thought Sakura was nice, talkative but it was comforting and unsettling when she was quiet, and the only girl whose presence was welcomed. She was obviously pretty, his favorite characteristic was her wide green eyes. He loved the way they shined when she was happy and hated how they glittered when they welled with tears.

Sasuke liked Sakura. He could list all of her good traits but if he were honest he could probably find them in someone else. Anyone could be sweet and caring. Ino was proof that there were many chatty girls, perhaps he could find another one that wasn’t annoying but comforting. But just thinking about Sakura not being by his side and someone else taking that place, that seemed to have been regulated to her since they were infants, caused a sharp pang in his chest. There wasn’t any real reason he could find about why he liked Sakura. It was just something he felt and it got stronger every day.

He felt awkward watching Sakura, like he was being a bad friend, but he was curious. He wanted to know if he could muster any other feeling besides the obvious like. Sexual attraction was something he believed was important at fourteen, a bad concept instilled in him due to society.

Did Sasuke think Sakura was physically attractive? Yes, of course. No one could argue that she wasn’t pretty. A heart shaped face dusted with freckles that were slightly darker than her creamy skin. Plump pink lips that he kept finding himself looking at more often than not. Her eyes. He couldn’t get enough of her green, green eyes.

The more he stared at her the more he found more to like. She had long toned legs that he liked to watch as she ran towards him after he sprinted ahead of her and had to wait on her to catch up. She had a flat stomach that she exposed when her shirt slid up when they lounged around in the grass of their backyards, enjoying the weather. Sasuke recently discovered that he liked the way her body dipped and curved, her round and perky bottom becoming more pronounced, when she lied on her stomach on his bed when they were spending time in his room.

Sasuke enjoyed when she was close, close enough to smell the apple scent of her shampoo. Close enough to feel her shoulder length strands tickle his cheeks. The softness of her mouth against his.


Sasuke had been distracted, daydreaming, and never noticed Sakura lean over the edge of his bed to kiss him until she already had. His eyes widened and he watched her, confused, as she pulled away from him.

“Um. You were kind of staring at me, my mouth, so I…I thought maybe..that you also wanted to…” Sakura bit her lower lip and her eyes became downcast. “Sorry, can we pretend that didn’t happen?”

“No.” Sasuke swallowed hard. Sakura blinked up at him, jade eyes glassy from tears ushered out of embarrassment. Wanting to feel how soft her lips were pressed against his again, Sasuke cupped the base of Sakura’s neck and pulled her back down to kiss her.

Not sure of what to do he just pushed harder against her lips. Sasuke’s ears started to heat up, embarrassed at his inexperience, but soon enough something wonderful happened. Sakura matched his fierceness and parted her lips, the pressure causing Sasuke’s to do the same. Sakura moved her mouth against his, slow and clumsy, and he followed her lead. After a while of moving their mouths together a strange urge to be closer overwhelmed him and he attempted to pull Sakura even closer, forgetting that she was lying on the edge of his bed.

Sakura fell over, crashing her head against his knee. After an initial outcry of pain, Sakura blinked up at him and started to giggle. Her face flushed pink and her eyes shimmered with mirth. Her eyes were bright with glee and Sasuke liked them like that. Liked them like that a lot. And apparently kissing her was one way he could keep them like that.

He bent over and cupped her face in his hands, bringing her up for another kiss. Sasuke heard her sigh, and felt her breath enter his mouth. Sakura’s hands slid up his arms and over his shoulders. Sasuke felt the pads of her fingers slide up his neck and into his hair. There was a tingling sensation on his scalp and he was enjoying the feeling. Sasuke slid his hand under the hem of Sakura’s blouse, feeling how soft and supple her skin was underneath his fingertips.


The two of them froze upon hearing Mikoto calling him. They pulled apart, scrambling to their feet when they remembered the door to his bedroom had been open the entire time. Luckily for them, Mikoto was just shouting up the stairs, voice loud and clear because his room was closest to them.

“Mebuki just called. Sakura needs to go home now.”

Sakura rushed to pack her bag, stuffing her papers and notebooks haphazardly. Sasuke stood there watching her, unsure of what exactly had just occurred. He kissed Sakura and he enjoyed doing it. He didn’t enjoy the uncomfortable warmth pooling in his lower stomach after the fact but it was ebbing away after the shock from his mother shouting.

“I’ll see you after school tomorrow,” Sakura told him. She stood on her toes, now much shorter than him, and pecked him on the mouth. “Bye.”

Sakura tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, face flushing an even brighter pink. She looked down at her feet and then quickly left. He could hear her small feet stomping all the way down the stairs. Sasuke stood there, slightly dazed and unsure of what to feel or do. He could ignore what had happened and continue doing his homework, forgetting that he and Sakura had just done something quite new for them. Or he could take a break and think about how good it felt to wrap his hand around Sakura’s hip and how nice her soft sighs sounded in his ears.

There was a warm and giddy feeling welling in his chest when he remembered how she smiled at him, eyes all warm and bright after he kissed her. The heat in his stomach returned when he thought about how flustered and pink she looked after they pulled apart. He definitely didn’t want to forget either of those expressions.

In fact, he was looking forward to the next time he could pull both those looks from her.

“If you still want a ride to work we gotta go now.” Sasuke’s attention was drawn away from checking Suigetsu’s worksheet by Karin scooting her chair back. He looked up and saw Sakura packing her things.

“Sorry Naruto but I have a shift at the café today.”

“You work on weekdays now?”

Everyone turned to look at Sasuke. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud but it had come out. Karin’s russet colored eyes gleamed mischievously as she smiled at him. He had never gotten around to asking Sakura about the weird looks Karin was giving him but now he definitely knew that she knew something.

“Yeah. I start today.” Sakura shifted her shoulder straps so they sat more comfortably. She carried more books than the rest of them. “I never got around to telling you ‘cause I just talked about it to my dad this morning.”

“Why would she tell him?” Sasuke heard Suigetsu whisper to Naruto.

“I’ll call you tonight, okay?” Sakura bent down and kissed his cheek. Sasuke’s face warmed up. He slightly panicked because of the physical display of attention. It seemed like a Sakura thing to do but they had never done something like that in front of others. Sakura turned back around and linked arms with Karin who was cackling as they exited the library.

“Did you see his face? Priceless.” He vaguely heard Karin tell her as they left. Sasuke was still dazed but already conspiring to get back at Sakura for embarrassing him in front of their friends.

“What the hell was that!?” Suigetsu cried out. Naruto, who was snickering, started making shushing noises at him, pointing to the librarian that was glaring at them from behind the checkout counter. Suigetsu narrowed his eyes at him but then turned on Sasuke and hissed out a whisper, “Why is Sakura Haruno, one of the hottest girls in this stupid school, kissing you of all people?”

“Wait, he doesn’t know?” Naruto grinned impishly. “Oh, this is going to be good. Suigetsu, didn’t you ever wonder why Sasuke seemed like he was never into girls?”

“Well, yeah. I thought he wasn’t interested in girls when we were at Oto but I assumed he had a crush on Haruno after I caught him staring at her a few times after we transferred.”

Sasuke glared at the two of them. They were talking about him like he wasn’t even there. He stared at Naruto hoping he would take a hint from the look on his face to stop talking.

“Oh, it’s not just a crush. He’s in love.” Naruto batted his eyelashes and clasped his hands to his heart. Sasuke threw a ball of paper at his face but Naruto just brushed it off and continued. “They’ve been dating for, huh, I don’t know how long actually. When did it all start again Sasuke?”

“Since we were like fourteen,” Sasuke hissed, eyes narrowing even more. Sometimes he wondered why Naruto was his best friend when he couldn’t even decipher what Sasuke was thinking by looking at his facial expressions.

“What!?” Now it was Naruto that shrieked. He held up his hands defensively when the librarian made a scandalized noise of protest. “Fourteen? Fucking fourteen? I thought you got together when we were fifteen, maybe sixteen. You should have told me then. You guys suck.”

Sasuke sank lower into his seat. Everything was starting to go back to the way things were with the three of them but he occasionally felt guilty in regards to having kept everything secret from Naruto. Their friendship might not have taken a dive if they had let Naruto in on everything from the start. They might have just been fooling around, flirting with the idea of being more the first year they were involved, but they should have told their best friend when they became more serious. Sasuke was slightly distracted when Itachi was hospitalized but there really was no excuse. He should have done something when he first noticed Naruto’s odd behavior.

They couldn’t go back and fix it so they just had to deal with what they could now.

“Well, that’s just not fair. Of course the prettiest girl around would end up with this gloomy asshole.” Suigetsu rolled his eyes and snatched his paper back from Sasuke, looking it over for what he had missed.

“I wonder what Karin would think about your interest in Sakura,” Sasuke drawled. He knew that Suigetsu didn’t actually like Sakura but it still bothered him that he couldn’t go five seconds without commenting on how she looked.

“Eww, gross. No. No!” Naruto clamped his hands over his ears. “We’re not discussing my cousin and this soggy bastard. If anything is going on, I don’t wanna know.”

“Soggy?” Suigetsu raised an eyebrow questioningly at Sasuke.

“Because you constantly smell like chlorine water and almost all your shirts are never one hundred percent dry.”

“I hate him.”

Sasuke shrugged and took out the worksheet he had prepared for Naruto. That hadn’t gone too bad. Maybe hanging out with Sakura in school wouldn’t be so bad. It’s not like he ever ran into any relations in school.

“Wait. Are you involved with Karin? Is that why she’s always coming and going whenever?”

“No. We’re not together. If she hasn’t told you anything about what she does in her free time then it’s none of your business.” Suigetsu stood up and packed his stuff. “I have practice. I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow.”

Naruto watched him leave and as soon as he was gone he turned back to Sasuke.

“Do you know anything?”

Sasuke shook his head. He really didn’t know. He never really understood how the four of them─Sasuke, Jūgo, Suigetsu, and Karin─became friends considering he wasn’t that good at dealing with people and taking much interest in their lives. The only people outside of his family he could say that he really knew was Naruto and Sakura.

And sometimes he didn’t really know his own family and what was going on with them.

It was never a good sign if Sasuke came home and his dad’s Crown Victoria was already sitting in the driveway. He never worried if it was his Mercedes-Benz because Mikoto mostly used that vehicle, but the Crown Vic always made Sasuke want to U-turn and go anywhere else.

All Sasuke wanted to do after basketball practice was take a shower and go to sleep. He had swung by the Haruno’s café to grab a tomato and mozzarella panini to go and to get a glimpse of Sakura so he didn’t need anything to eat. Considering he had his own bathroom in his room he didn’t need to leave his room for anything for the rest of the night.

But since his dad was home there would be other plans.

Sasuke sighed and entered his home, knowing he couldn’t waste time trying to avoid any confrontation as long as possible. Fugaku would already know that he was outside. As soon as he removes his shoes and places them inside the foyer closet, his mother calls out to him from the great room.

Oddly enough, his family was just casually lounging. Mikoto had prepared a tray of mugs filled with hot cocoa and there was a fire roaring in the fireplace. Itachi was sitting on one of the two loveseats, bundled up in his sweaters and a blanket covering his legs. Fugaku for once wasn’t looking at him with one of his more dour expressions but with a relaxed and content look.

“It doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes to get home from your school. You took thirty-five.” The question of where he was didn’t need to be asked out loud.

“I stopped somewhere to get something to eat.”

“That’s not why we were waiting for him, Fugaku,” Mikoto scolded her husband good humoredly. “You’re being too strict. It’s not even curfew yet. Come and take a seat. Sit, sit!”

Instead of taking a seat on the cushion his mother was patting, Sasuke headed over to the couch Itachi was sitting on and sat with him. Subtly, Itachi moved closer, not minding the slight smell of sweat in favor of Sasuke’s body warmth.

“We were discussing our plans for our trip coming up,” Mikoto informed him cheerfully, getting up to hand him a mug. “We’re going to a ski resort during winter break. Your silly brother wants to bring Shisui along. Why ruin a perfectly could chance for a romantic winter wonderland vacation by bringing his friend along?”

Sasuke shifted his gaze to his older brother. Itachi had an impassive look on his face but his grip on his blanket tightened.

Just like Sasuke kept his relationship with Sakura a secret, the nature of Itachi’s relationship with Izumi and Shisui was as well. Their parents didn’t know that the three of them were all involved with each other. Fugaku wouldn’t stand for it and Itachi didn’t think his mother, as open minded as she could be, would be understanding of a poly relationship. And even if she was understanding and ready to back Itachi up, Itachi would never put her in a position where she would have to oppose her husband.

“It’s not just that. We already booked our rooms and there is nowhere to place Shisui,” Fugaku backed up Mikoto with what he thought was more logical reasoning.

“Why doesn’t he just take my room?” Sasuke offered. “I have practice all winter break so I can’t go anyway. The Varsity team doesn’t take a break. I can just stay with Auntie Kushina and Mr. Minato.”

“We’re not leaving you here alone,” Fugaku said gruffly, narrowing his eyes at Sasuke.

“I wouldn’t be here home alone. I would be staying with Auntie Kushina.”

Sasuke and his father stared each other down, much like they had when Sasuke said he was going with Sakura to a hockey match that Naruto had invited them to. They were drawn out of that state by Mikoto letting out a disappointed sigh.

“I wanted us all to go but I should have known you would pick basketball over a vacation with your family. You work too hard.” Mikoto took a sip of her hot cocoa and let out a contented sigh, the sweetness bringing her mood up a bit. “I guess Shisui can take Sasuke’s room. We don’t have to modify the reservation.”

“Is that all? Because I need a shower.”

Fugaku nodded and Sasuke excused himself. Itachi stood up, stating he was tired and needed to go to bed, and followed him up the stairs to their bedrooms.

Before Sasuke entered his room, he felt a hand tug on his elbow. He turned to look at Itachi who gave him a weak smile.

“Thank you, Sasuke.”

Sasuke nodded slowly at his older brother and entered his own room, locking the door behind him.

Sasuke pulled his clothes off wondering how his family could try and pretend to be so happy when all of them were keeping secrets from each other.

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