|little green frogs
Author: rawrchelle PM
Itachi/Sakura. AU. Happiness is difficult to acquire, but it won't run from you. You just have to find it. Of dreams, wishes, and blindingly searching for what's already in front of you.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Itachi U. & Sakura H. - Words: 5,349 - Reviews: 63 - Favs: 180 - Follows: 14 - Published: 05-09-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5957802
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
notes: because i am never satisfied with my writing anymore, because i want to be better, because i am impulsively leaping ahead instead of taking baby steps.
"It's not that I hate fairytales. But you know what they all say: it's predictable. Which is okay for movies, but not for life."
"So what is it that you want? A role-reversed, convoluted love story?"
Laugh. "Something like that. But sometimes, the convoluted-ness of it is what makes it beautiful, don't you think?"
"Arguing with you will be too much effort, so I will just agree."
"Oh, we all know you're just a ball of mush on the inside."
little green frogs
the warmth of your heart entangled with mine.
There is a coffee shop. It's family-owned, and known for its freshly brewed coffee and muffins that are always fresh out of the oven. It's not overly popular, as it's tucked in a quieter side of town, but there have always been enough customers to sustain it quite well. The décor is several shades of brown, red, and maroon—worn over the years, and in need of renovation.
When Sakura begins to work at her parents' shop to start saving up for her tuition, she doesn't expect anything marvelous. It's just a shop, after all; one she has spent copious amounts of time in as a child, and one she will continue to spend time in. She has bigger plans, though—bigger dreams, as she's always been a dreamer, and she never wants to stop looking past the horizon. But for now—for now, though, the small world enclosed within these four walls with soft jazz music playing in the background will be enough.
"Welcome," she says when a bell tinkles softly, signifying that the door has been opened. She sees the silhouette of a man against the light of the windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling, and watches him slip into one of the booths in the far corner, almost completely hidden from view. She has never seen him before.
She counts steadily in her head to the beat of the jazz in the background: one, two, three, four—and when one minute ticks past, she approaches him.
"What can I get for you today, sir?"
He looks up at her with dark eyes, and she is momentarily taken aback; his features are so striking that it is hard to do much more than stare. "Just one black coffee, please," he murmurs, voice soft, but so incredibly articulate.
Her head nods robotically, throat tight. "Just one moment, please."
His cup of coffee is placed in front of him no less than two minutes later, and he nods in thanks to her, and she returns to her place behind the counter.
The man stays there for approximately forty-five minutes, before he finally stands and approaches her, pulling his wallet out of his bag. A student, she registers. He must be a university student.
"That'll be three hundred fifty yen," she tells him, having memorized the price already—only memorized a little better than the contours of his face, his high cheekbones, his straight nose, his thin lips. Because for the past forty-five minutes, she found that she couldn't take her eyes off of him.
He pays her and she gives him the change, and he accepts the coins, slipping them into his wallet. "Thank you," he says, nodding once.
She can only nod back.
Sakura finds herself foolishly hoping that he will return. She doesn't know why she feels that way—it's stupid and irrational. She has long since learned that she should depend on no one but herself for her own happiness, but this man—she cannot quite place what it is about him, but he is very alluring.
The stifling heat of the summer is particularly unbearable that day, as the air conditioner has broken. It is that day, when she has her hair tied up in a messy ponytail, when perspiration is dotting her forehead, that he visits, the tinkling of the bell signaling his arrival.
"Welcome," she says again, and already, her eyes are glued to him. Maybe it's the romance novels. Maybe she's read too many; she's attracted to the tall, dark and handsome characters; the ones with the tragic past and with a sensitive side hidden behind the hard demeanor. Again, he takes the same seat in that booth, hidden from view, and again, she waits exactly one minute before approaching him. "What can I get for you today?"
"One black coffee," is his reply, and he doesn't even look at her. She finds herself gripping the pen and notepad tightly in her hands.
"As it's quite hot today, sir, I would like to recommend to you our iced coffee. It will be more refreshing than something hot." His hands are folded on the table in front of him; long fingers interlaced delicately, as if each finger was meticulously put in place.
"There will be sugar and crème in it, I presume?" A simple tilt of the head, and he is looking at her—and suddenly, she feels ten degrees hotter.
"Yes." She nods. "Although, if you'd like, I can specially prepare some iced black coffee—but that will take a little longer."
He is expressionless when he regards her, a blank slate, a mere cover to a tantalizing book. Oh, if only she could just open that book. "If you wouldn't mind." His voice is soft like velvet, and she wishes he would speak a little more.
"I'll get right to it, then."
No less than ten minutes later, she places a glass in front of him with a blue straw—because she feels that blue is his color, although she was stuck between that and red for a long while. He doesn't respond for several moments, and she wonders if she should just walk away. But then he turns and looks at her, the corners of his lips tilting upwards by a fraction.
"Thank you, Sakura-san."
She only realizes that she has a nametag on later that evening.
It takes three more weeks for her to discover that he visits on Tuesdays. To her, it's a little odd—Tuesday is such a blank day, the day of the week that no one cares about. He chooses this day of the week to come.
"You remind me of someone I knew a long time ago," she blurts out one day—maybe because she feels that they know each other well enough, or maybe because she just wants to.
"Do I?" What surprises her is that he seems vaguely interested.
She nods, feeling giddy. "A boy I went to middle school with. He was quiet and broody and he loved tomatoes and—" And at one point, I would've done anything for him. "I'm sorry. I assume you will be having black coffee?"
"Yes," he says, appearing deep in thought. "If you are not busy, would you like to sit with me for a while?" Her stomach churns at the thought, and her smile is small.
"Maybe for a little while," she agrees. Tuesdays are not busy days, after all.
With his coffee, she brings a muffin and glass of milk for herself, because she's not one for caffeine. They sit in silence for several minutes, where she picks at her pastry, careful to keep her eyes on the table. She's been known to be overly curious, and it's bad, bad for others and bad for herself—
"Will you tell me more about this boy?" he asks, voice lilting.
"I—" She blinks at him, surprised. "You actually care?"
It's the first time she hears him chuckle—a soft laugh, but a laugh nonetheless—and she wishes she could make him do that more often. "It's interesting," he settles on saying.
And so she tells him the story of an isolated boy, a frail girl, and an impossible friendship. She tells him about halfhearted thankyous and wholehearted pleasedon'tgos and a wound that took much too long to heal. Somewhere in the story, her eyes grow glassy with tears she refuses to shed, and she determinedly stuffs a piece of muffin into her mouth.
"Would you like a piece?" she offers meekly when she sees him eyeing said muffin.
"What kind of muffin is it?"
"Chocolate chip." Then she glances at his cup of coffee, only half full. "Oh—you don't like sweets, do you?"
"No," he answers airily. "I quite like sweets."
"But your coffee…"
"I dislike its bitter taste, to be honest," he admits, taking his spoon and swirling it in his cup, just because he can. "I drink it for a completely different reason." She wants to know why he drinks something he doesn't like, and it seems that it is clearly written on her features, because he chuckles again. "Maybe I will tell you, one day." So she merely breaks off a piece of her muffin and offers it to him.
Forty-five minutes later (because he never stays longer or shorter than forty-five minutes), he pays for his coffee and heads towards the door. A familiar feeling washes over her as she looks at his retreating back—the same feeling she went home with every day, remembering that Sasuke never looked at her once when she said goodbye to him.
The man turns his head just enough for them to lock eyes. "I will see you next week, Sakura-san."
She opens her mouth, momentarily lost for words. "Yeah. See you next week, uh…"
"Itachi," he finishes for her.
"Right. I'll see you, Itachi-san." The smile on her lips is faint when the door closes behind him with a small tinkle of the bell, but it is there.
It's only now that she realizes how much better see you later is than goodbye.
January rolls around, and her last year of high school begins. She still works at the shop on the weekends, though—and on Tuesdays. Always on Tuesdays.
"So you're still in high school." Itachi nods, swirling his spoon in his coffee, a chocolate chip muffin sitting beside it. Today, she has her homework spread out in front of her and a mug of tea in her hand. "Not what I thought, but that makes sense."
"How old did you think I was?"
"In university, at least. You emanate an…aura of maturity, I suppose."
She can't help but beam, as she stares at her Japanese homework. "Do you believe in fairytales?" she asks, scribbling some notes onto her essay outline. Her question is met with silence. "Itachi-san?"
"Aa." He looks at her, thoughtful. "No, I don't."
"What about happy endings?"
He tilts his head a little to the side. "Is this for your homework?"
"Something of the sort, I suppose."
After taking a dignified bite out of his muffin, he crosses his arms and leans back in his seat. "Happy endings are possible in stories, but not in life."
"Humans are humans. No matter how much happiness we encounter, we will always want more. Without sadness in our lives, it loses its brilliance. And also…humans don't have endings." It's then that she remembers that Itachi is studying to be a police officer, like his father. It would make sense for a police officer to not believe in happy endings, after encountering deaths and tragedies of all kinds.
"I believe in them," she says, feeling the need to defend herself. "Don't you think that without believing in things like that, life just loses its sparkle altogether? Then you're just living through every day, not really looking forward to anything."
"I just said I didn't believe in happy endings. I never said I didn't look forward to anything." He raises a delicate eyebrow at her, and she wonders how long this will last. Because something as peaceful, something as quaint as this couldn't possibly last. There couldn't be a happy ending here.
"Oh. I suppose. What do you look forward to, then?"
"Very few things," he answers mildly. When he blinks, she can see his long lashes against his pale skin. She wants to brush that loose lock of hair out of his eyes—and she almost does, until she remembers where they are, who they are.
"What a dull life, then," she teases, flipping open her new novel to look for quotes.
"Aa. But that's quite alright—I'm used to it."
"That's not good!" She hits the table with the palm of her hand, seemingly startling him. "You can't just live life like that!"
"Why not?" he asks, dark eyes glinting with humor.
"Because—well, obviously because there's more to life than that, of course!" She looks at him indignantly. "Especially because your father is a policeman and because you're studying to be one too—you should be able to treasure the happy moments more, shouldn't you?"
He studies her for such a long time that she flushes, looking down at her work. He has a knack for doing that—inspecting her until she wonders if he's discovered some freckles on her nose that even she doesn't know exists, waiting for several moments before answering a whimsical question of hers, as if actually thinking deeply about his response to something that she didn't even ponder two seconds about.
"Perhaps," he finally says, neither a yes nor a no—staying where he was, going nowhere.
"We need to spend time together outside of this place," she says thoughtfully. "You go to Toudai, right?"
"Mm. That's not too far from my school. Maybe we could spend a Friday afternoon together!" After a moment of thought, she flushes. "I mean, that is, if you want to. I understand if you don't want to be seen with someone my age…"
"No," he answers noncommittally, without hesitation. "It's fine. This Friday, perhaps?"
It takes a moment for her to realize that he said yes, that he is allowing their almost-friendship to progress, that he is letting her glimpse into his everyday life. It almost feels like a gift of some sort, something precious that she couldn't quite grasp physically, but it was there, warming her heart and spreading all the way to her toes. It feels, she thinks, a little like happiness.
"Okay," she agrees. "When do your classes end?"
"A little after three."
"Perfect! If I catch the right bus, I'll be there at about…three twenty-five?"
"I will wait for you at the front gates."
He doesn't physically smile like she does, but she thinks he is smiling a little with his eyes, with the way he's looking at her.
"Jewelry, accessories, clothes, chick flicks…oh, and romance novels, of course!" She ticks off the items on her hand. "Well, that would be what the stereotypical girl would want."
"I see," Itachi muses as they walk down the street. He's very tall, she realizes—she only reaches to about his chin. "Is that what you want? A fairytale, happy ending, and a sunset to ride off into with your prince?"
She shakes her head, laughing. "Oh, no. Definitely not. Did I give off that impression, with what I was going on about it?"
"Yes, you did."
"Well, I like them. They're nice to read about and stuff—but I'm not a princess. I'm not going to sit around all day and wait for some stupid prince to save me." She smiles. "If anything, I'll be doing the saving."
"Understandable." Itachi nods. "You want to be a surgeon, correct?"
"Mhm! One day, when you get shot by some psychopath serial killer, I'll be the one breathing the life back into you. Isn't that awesome?"
"I don't know what constitutes as awesome, but I'm sure that getting shot is not part of it."
She waves it off. "The awesome part is me saving you, obviously. If you haven't noticed, chivalry is dead." She sees several schoolgirls staring and whispering at them—or more specifically, Itachi—and she wonders if it's always like this. She isn't the only one he's attracted, of course. Then a thought strikes her. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
He looks down at her, quirking an eyebrow. "What brings upon this question?"
"Just wondering." She shrugs. She's careful not to step on the cracks in the sidewalk, and stumbles when she nearly bumps into a stranger. Itachi's fingers grip her arm in a firm hold, keeping her in place when she's about to tip over. "Where are we going, anyway?"
"My place. I thought you would like being served for a change. And no, I don't have a girlfriend."
"Are you gay?" she blurts out, before slapping her hands over her mouth and blushing furiously. But Itachi doesn't seem fazed, or even insulted by the question.
"I don't believe so," he says, a little uncertainly. "I have never tried being with men."
"Now would not be a good time to start," she says, punching him affectionately. Over the course of their almost-friendship, she has learned that he is actually a very compassionate person—he just has trouble expressing it. She wants to bring out the best in him, because his best will be amazing, his best will be stellar, infinite.
Not surprisingly, his home is big. She politely removes her shoes at the door and pads behind him to his room. She was right, all of those months ago—blue is his color.
"Milk?" he asks, setting his bag down at the foot of his bed. "We also have juice and tea. No carbonated drinks, though; my mother strictly prohibits that."
She smiles fondly at the thought of a beautiful woman—because that's the only kind of woman who could give birth to someone like Itachi—scolding him about eating sweets and unhealthy foods. She wonders what she would say if she knew that Itachi now has one chocolate chip muffin a week. "Just milk is fine; I don't want to trouble you." The door closes behind him, and she is left in his impeccably tidy room, almost afraid to touch anything. Everything in here is precious, personal—any sort of movement would cause a ripple effect and shatter something that he holds close to his heart.
She can't help but approach his bookshelf, though; he holds a variety of reading material, ranging from novels to encyclopedias, textbooks, and even two different editions of thesauruses. When she moves to inspect his desk, she blinks in surprise. Sitting there is one of the romance novels that she claims to be her favorite—one that she told him about just days ago. There is a bookmark placed into it, somewhere in the middle—
The thought that he listens to her pointless ramblings makes her smile.
And that's when her eyes lands on a picture. It is the only thing even remotely personal in the room, but it's the people in it that make her stop in her tracks.
To the right, there is Itachi. He looks a few years younger, and the lines on his face, signifying his insomnia, aren't as prominent. He's smiling—smiling like she's never seen him smile before, unrestrained and soft and just plain beautiful. To the left is a younger boy, almost an exact replica of him—
The name is on her tongue before the image even clicks in her head.
Now that she thinks about it, Itachi has never told her his surname. Uchiha, she's guessing, then. They're so familiar in appearances—it's no wonder he reminded her of him when they first met.
"So you've noticed." Itachi's voice makes her jump a little, and she flushes, turning so he wouldn't see. "Here. Your milk."
"Thanks," she mutters, accepting the glass. "Why didn't you tell me you were Sasuke-kun's brother?"
He tilts his head to the side, a mug of green tea in his hands. "You never even told me that boy's name. How would I know for sure that it was my little brother?"
"You could've asked," she insists.
"But then you wouldn't have wanted to befriend me for the sake of befriending me, would you?" There is something sharp in his tone, and she doesn't like it one bit. To her, Itachi has always been calm and composed—never is he overly cheerful, but at the same time, he is never upset or angry. "You would've wanted to know me for Sasuke."
Why is she getting all worked up over this? She hasn't seen Sasuke for six years. It shouldn't matter now. He may have been important to her at one point, but because of him, she learned how to stand up and walk on her own. Isn't that what matters most? Why is she turning around and reaching for the past, when it clearly isn't going to come back? The present—right now, it's Itachi. She likes him, enjoys spending time with him because he's him, and not because he holds similarities to Sasuke.
That must be it. It can't be anything else.
"Sorry," she says, bowing her head. "You're right."
There is a moment of complete silence—everything is so still, and all she can do is stare at him. She wonders if Sasuke is in the house right now, if they're separated by just a wall—but the burning expression in Itachi's eyes pulls her away from those thoughts, and then, he is all there is.
He takes one step closer to her—closer than they've ever been before, but still too far. There is a crossing of boundaries right now, overstepping previously made lines, promising more in the future. She grips her glass of milk tighter, and when he breathes, she can smell the tea on his lips. Fairytales. Happy endings. Riding off into the sunset. Suddenly, all of it seems so very possible, and she finds herself wanting it so much.
The spell is broken just one moment before it all comes crashing down, sweeping her away in its torrential waves.
"Sasuke has soccer practice after school, so he'll be home at around five. Would you like to stay for dinner?" His indifference almost makes her cry, and she wants to throw her glass to the floor. Why didn't he just kiss her? Why is he offering her to see Sasuke? Why is he letting her go?
"I—" She swallows thickly, and all she can do is nod. "Okay."
Itachi's mother, Sakura learns, is a lovely woman, just like she imagined. "Your girlfriend?" she titters in glee, taking her by the shoulders and inspecting her thoroughly. "And so pretty, too!"
"No, Okaa-san," Itachi answers, not the least bit fazed as he sets up the table. "Just a friend."
Sakura is searching the area for Sasuke. It's already six; he should be home by now, but she hasn't seen him yet. One part of her is so eager to see him, her Sasuke-kun from so many years ago—but when she sees Itachi exchanging a friendly banter with his mother while he helps her cook, she wonders just how similar the brothers are. If one is better than the other. If she loves them just the same. And when she thinks that, she's a little afraid.
"Sasuke!" Mikoto calls up the stairs. "Dinner!" Sakura's heart leaps to her throat, and she looks at Itachi for reassurance, the only object of familiarity in the room.
For the majority of the meal, things are quiet, save for Mikoto's occasional chatter. Sasuke is sitting across from her, beside Itachi—but she can't bring herself to look at him. The head of the table is lacking a presence, although the chopsticks and empty bowl is sitting there. Their father must still be working.
It doesn't come as a huge surprise, but her movements still pause when she realizes that she wishes it were just her and Itachi, with coffee, milk, and muffins.
She's in the living room, inspecting the shrine standing against the wall when Sasuke comes to stand beside her.
"Killed in action," he says simply. "Nii-san was the one who took it the hardest." That would explain why their father wasn't at dinner. Their father already left them a long time ago. "Okaa-san still makes a pot of black coffee for him every morning, when he's the only one in the family who ever drank it."
She looks at the picture of Uchiha Fugaku, the very essence of bravery and courage. "So that's why Itachi always drinks black coffee."
"Aa. He's taken on Otou-san's burden."
"He must be very strong, then."
There is a pause. "He's the strongest one out of all of us." It seems so strange, so alien to her that Sasuke would have a civil conversation with her. But there are no butterflies, no pounding heart—there is absolutely nothing, and the hole where her feelings for him should be aches.
And that is all it is.
It is nearing Christmas, and when he steps into the coffee shop, he brings a flurry of snow with him.
"Oh—Itachi," she greets, a little flustered. It's been a few months since they've last met; her parents forbade her from working, so she could concentrate on entrance exams. She wants to go to Toudai—wants to be just like him. "Hello."
He nods once—always proper, always polite, always Itachi. "Sakura." She feels a little awkward—it's been too long since she's been under his hard stare, and she's forgotten how to handle it. It's like meeting him all over again, feet clumsy and her body falling sluggishly, just like the first time. He has been nothing but a whirlwind of emotions to her, an array of colors, but at the same time, a simple greyscale.
"It's been a while, hasn't it?" She smiles the way a child who lost her two front teeth would.
"Aa." He takes his regular seat, and she bustles around, making his coffee. At the last moment, she decides to drop in two cubes of sugar. It will do him good.
The muffin and coffee is placed in front of him, and she slides into the seat across like always, gripping her glass of milk, knuckles almost as white as the drink itself. Her very heart is shaking in her ribcage, not knowing whether to be afraid or just relieved. There is a single snowflake sitting on his long lashes, and she thinks he's beautiful.
He stirs his coffee with his spoon because he can, and when he drinks it, an imperceptible frown meets his lips, but he says nothing. A small sigh escapes her lips.
It's been over a year. More than a year of Coffee Tuesdays (as she has secretly dubbed them), debates on human nature and fairytales, and forty-five minutes of sunshine. Just over a year, and she feels she knows everything.
"I, uh—want to go to Toudai," she tries, smile small and voice even smaller. "I don't know if I'll get in, though."
He looks at her once, before glancing at the windows behind her. "Of course you will." Of course you will. He has such faith in her.
"There were so many people there to write the entrance exam, though." She takes a sip of her milk. "All of them seem so smart. And there was this one kid—he was blonde with odd scars on his face—he asked if there was snack time one hour into the exam! Stupid, isn't it?"
"Aa," he says, lips tilting upwards by a fraction. "Very stupid." They lapse into silence, and she wonders what she should say. There's nothing to say. Everything she wants to say is wrong. "Christmas is nearing." His voice sounds strained. "Okaa-san would like you to come over for Christmas Eve, as she suspects that you'll spend Christmas Day with your family." She ducks her head when her cheeks flush. Spending Christmas Eve with his family almost makes it seem like she's part of the family. Being part of Itachi's family—
"Yes," she says, nodding. "That will be nice."
She's never told him how she loves watching him tuck that stray lock of hair behind his ear. Or how he smiles with his eyes when she says something funny, or how he always catches her when she stumbles. She's never told him about the nights she's dreamt of him, or the times she just stares at the cell phone charm he got her for her eighteen birthday—
The three fateful words are just on her tongue. I love you. I miss you. Please come back. But the last time she uttered those words was to his younger brother, and look at how that turned out. She doesn't want to lie—not to Itachi. And so she says the next best thing.
"I want to be happy." Her voice is hushed. "I want—I want life to be bright and brilliant and sparkling, with minimal sadness and all of the laughter in the world. I want to be with you."
He tilts his head to the side. "You and your fairytales."
"Not fairytales. Just happy endings."
His eyes close, long lashes against pale skin, and he sighs. "Very well. I will try."
She blinks, staring at him. "Itachi?"
"Except," he says contemplatively, "I refuse to get shot just so you will breathe life back into me."
And she laughs—almost in a state of tears, because it is so unbelievable, so amazing, so very Itachi—and it just hurts, this blinding faith, this searing hope. This is Itachi. This is her Itachi.
She sniffs a little. "Can I change your cell phone background to that one picture of us jumping in the pile of leaves?"
"What about promises? Promises of forever and happiness and—"
"I cannot give you the world, Sakura," he sighs, almost tiredly. She shies away. "But this—I can give you this." He gestures around them. "Coffee on Tuesdays. Forty-five minutes of my undivided attention. And sometimes—sometimes, a glass of warm milk when it is cold outside."
And she doesn't know what she can give him—maybe something sweet, maybe some courage, maybe something more. She can't give him the world either, but she can give him her world.
And all she can do is smile, reaching for the sugar bowl by the wall, grabbing two more cubes of sugar and dropping it into his cup.
"So. Late night phone calls?"
"Must you, Sakura? You need to focus on school."
"How about holding hands in the street?"
"There will be too many people around."
"A text at midnight once in a while, just to say goodnight? Because you love me?"
Sigh. "If you insist."
a/n: the university of tokyo, tokyo daigaku in japanese, is abbreviated into toudai for short.
looking at my older fics, it seems that you guys liked them more—but most of them were meant to be funny. i want to be able to captivate my readers with something more meaningful. i'm growing, little by little, you see.