VitaminWater Fact Number 16: Dude guys…there's more to life than VitaminWater. (:
x. by ANGELforSHOW
Chapter Fifteen: XXX.
Purpose: Triple Antioxidants.
"You're not goin', right, Sakura?" Naruto immediately asked. "You don't even need t' meet your madre 'cause you aren't leaving, right?" He threw his fork down onto his tray and crossed his arms, halfway to a tantrum.
Sakura let out the breath that was still caught in her throat. "That's the thing, guys," she mumbled. She picked at the label on her VitaminWater – a XXX – with shaky fingers. "I'm not sure if I'm going to go or not."
"How could you say that?" Ino demanded. She wasn't angry, but her blue eyes shone with hurt. "Sakura, you can't really be thinking of leaving, can you?" Her face was horrorstricken. "We've been together for so long…you – you can't just leave!"
Sakura bit her lip and looked down at the empty space in front of her. She pulled her fingers away when Sasuke reached for her hand. "Ino, I don't want to go, but this is Suna. Suna's big, and I could get so far if I went." She blinked furiously, as if she were about to cry. "I can't just go with the easy decision if my future is on the line!"
Ino's face crumpled. "I know," she admitted quietly, "and I know it's wrong of us to pressure you into staying." She absentmindedly whirled a lock of platinum blonde hair around her index finger and took a deep breath. "Sakura, I'll be behind you with whatever decision you make."
Sakura exhaled another shaky breath. "Thank you, Ino," she whispered. She unscrewed the top to her VitaminWater but didn't drink any of it.
"Your mother said to meet her at noon. You should think this over," Sasuke said to Sakura softly.
Sakura turned and looked away from her friends and their table and the remnants of breakfast on their trays.
Thirty minutes later, Sakura was sitting alone at the edge of the campus, on an abandoned little bench that overlooked a murky, polluted river. It was cold, the sky was cloudy, her cell phone was on silent, and there wasn't a single person around, as far as Sakura could see.
I have to make this decision, Sakura realized, taking in deep yoga-breaths.
This so isn't working, Sakura thought, irritated. She pulled her legs up onto the bench and folded them Indian-style. She stared out into the dirty river and wondered how fish could even breathe in that water. She envied how the fish in the polluted water could breathe, but she who was aboveground and totally dry couldn't.
How was she supposed to make such a big choice? Sakura cursed in her mind, shoving her hands into her pockets, and frowning at the grey sky. She was eighteen and barely an adult for Christ's sake. She wasn't supposed to be making a life or death decision like this yet. So how did other people manage?
Her father had made the decision not to remarry, for the sake of his child.
Sai had made the choice to stomp all over her heart.
Sasuke had found something inside of him that made him confess, break loose, and take a chance with Sakura.
Her own mother had made the choice to leave her family, and then worked up the nerve to come back and ask Sakura to do something very similar to what she had done many years ago.
A pros and cons list wouldn't help her in this situation, and neither would a Venn diagram or a spider web or any sort of analytical chart. She couldn't be wishy-washy and say she wanted both. She had to make a clear-cut decision, and she had to go with whatever choice she made with no regrets.
A shrill ring came from Sakura's coat pocket. It was her phone alarm. It was 11:40. Sakura sucked in a deep breath and stood up.
It was time to go.
The walk to Sakura's mother's hotel building was fairly short, but it frazzled Sakura's nerves to no end.
"It'll be okay," Naruto said brightly, smiling at Sakura as he and Ino trailed behind Sakura and Sasuke. "You'll go far wherever you are, Sakura." He was serious for a rare moment. "You're too smart to fail med school."
Sakura felt as if she would burst out in tears at any given moment. "Thank you, Naruto," she whispered, giving him the best smile she could manage. "Seriously."
The rest of the walk was traveled in silence.
The hotel Sakura's mother was staying at was impossibly luxurious, definitely rated five stars, and evidence of a much better life in Suna. Kaori herself was wearing obviously expensive clothing and had a huge engagement ring on her finger. If Sakura had any ounce of compassion for her mother, she would've asked who the (un)lucky man was. But she didn't. Oh well.
"It's nice to know you at least showed up," Kaori said to her daughter. She cast a look at the rest of the group. "Did you have to bring an audience too, though?" She looked through beautiful light blue eyes at Ino. "I remember you," she said, a slight smile emerging on her face. "You were the little blonde girl. Ino, right?"
Ino nodded, but did not return the smile. "It's nice to see you again," she replied in a way that no one was able to tell whether the remark was sincere or sarcastic. "It looks like you're doing well."
Kaori's sweet smile slipped away dramatically, and was replaced with a slight quirk of her lips, a smile that no one could interpret. "Well, we're eating lunch then. I anticipated Sakura would bring some friends with her." She looked at Sakura pointedly. "She never did like to do things alone."
"Shut up, mother," Sakura said to Kaori shortly, not bothering to hide her contempt.
Kaori rolled her eyes as she turned around and waved to the group with a beckoning hand. "Still no manners I see. Come along."
Kaori led them into the hotel restaurant and into the back of the restaurant to a private room. Hors d'oeuvres were waiting on the table already. "Help yourself," she offered airily, sitting down at the round table and patting the seat next to her. "Sit here, dear," she said to Sakura. "I want to hear all about your life."
Sakura draped her coat mechanically over the back of the chair and sat down with a scowl.
Kaori sighed and rolled her eyes, casually taking a sip of wine from her glass. "I assure you, Sakura, my intentions are purely good. I just want the best for my daughter." She flipped shiny red hair over her shoulder and sighed. "My generosity is wasted upon you."
Sakura perked up a bit. "Oh, so you don't want me to go with you after all? Why didn—"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Kaori cut her daughter off. "Just because you're an ungrateful brat doesn't mean I withdraw my offer. What kind of mother would I be then? Does a parent stop forcing their child to eat vegetables because they put up a bit of a fight?"
Sakura looked at her mother with large, innocent green eyes. "Oh, right, but how would you know? You weren't really around when I started putting up a fight about eating my vegetables."
Kaori's patience was gradually beginning to slip away. "Honestly, Sakura, I'm trying to reconcile with you and all you seem to be doing is saying petty little comments and ignoring all of my efforts. How could I have ever given birth to someone so unappreciative?" she swirled her wine and practically shoved a tiny cracker sandwich down her throat.
Sakura settled for throwing her mother a particularly dirty look before helping herself to some bruschetta, angrily chewing the seasoned, diced tomatoes before downing the bread in several bites.
A dead, awkward silence hung in the air for a few moments. Ino cleared her throat and checked the time on her phone – 12:17 – before taking a sip of tea. "I think we should just get to the point here, if you all don't mind me being so bold." Ino's piercingly light eyes bore a hole into Kaori's forehead. "We all know why we're here. Why beat around the bush any longer?"
To everyone's displeasure, a genuinely pretty smile lit up on Kaori's face. "You always were impatient, Ino. But I have soup and salad, five filet mignons, and a platter of assorted desserts in the kitchen and on it's way. We'll eat and then Sakura can decide."
Sakura had the sudden urge to projectile vomit onto her mother's Burberry scarf, casually sticking out from the matching designer handbag.
But that'd be rather rude (not that she cared), and Sakura hated throwing up as much as the next person, so, she grudgingly refrained.
After the soup and salad course was finished, Sakura had learned that her mother was off living her dream as the editor-in-chief of Akatsuki en Mode, wildly successful fashion magazine, second to the famed fashion icon and former model, President Konan herself.
While sawing through the filet mignon (which, Sakura admitted, tasted fabulous and cut like butter), Sakura learned that her mother was fabulously wealthy and willing to pay for every cent of her education, even medical school, rather than have Sakura take out student loans like she had been doing at Konoha.
This had discouraged Naruto, Sasuke, and Ino a bit, making the last choke a bit on her roasted potatoes in shock.
By the time the dessert platter (which was absolute heaven) and afternoon coffee had come, Sakura was, in all honesty, leaning towards going to Suna. It really was a fabulous deal her mother was trying to force her to accept. The only things truly standing in the way were the three faces she loved the most, the three that were slowly slouching in their seats in defeat while dejectedly eating chocolate éclairs and miniature squares of tiramisu.
Kaori leaned back in her chair, and sighed with content as she polished off the last of her coffee and the final bite of her tiny, blueberry Danish. "Well Sakura, it's time," she said pleasantly. "I know you've have to have thought of this before, so lay it on us. What are you going to do?" she smiled and focused her pale blue eyes on her daughter.
"Um, right, but first, mother, tell me," Sakura said, "who're you engaged to?" Sakura stared at the large, ostentatious diamond on her mother's left hand. The diamond was cut gorgeously, and it was flanked on either side with vivid, bright aquamarines, set into a white gold band.
Kaori giggled like a school girl. "You'll love him, sweetie, he's just the most darling man in the world!" She composed herself once more, but there was still a giddy shimmer in her eyes. "You must have heard of him – Nagato Pein."
Sakura sputtered. "Nagato Pein like the CEO of Akatsuki & Co.?" she gaped at her mother for a second. "Didn't he just divorce Konan though? Isn't she your boss?"
Kaori laughed again. "Well naturally he divorced her once he realize he was in love with me. And as for her being my boss, well, not for loooong," she sang, losing her mature composure for once and smirking wolfishly.
The table was silent.
"Well, come on now, Sakura, we need an answer," Kaori said, smoothing some wrinkles out of her skirt. "I don't have all day." She smiled though, as if she was confident she already knew Sakura's answer to her proposition.
Ino's face fell a bit, but her gaze stayed on Sakura's confused face, unwavering. Naruto was unnaturally solemn, while Sasuke looked even angrier than he had been when they had arrived at the hotel.
Sakura swallowed hard. "I…" she faltered, shoulders drooping. "Um, I think…" Her face was overcome with overwhelming emotion and her eyes started to water. "I—"
"Sakura you can't go!" Ino burst out, slamming her fist down on the table. She gasped when she realized that the outburst had come from her, and her hands flew up to cover her mouth, but she drew them back down. "I know I told you that I'd support you with whatever decision, but you can't go with this bitch!" she spat out, pointing an accusing finger at Kaori.
Kaori's finely plucked eyebrows lifted slightly. Strong words.
Naruto slammed his fists down on the table as well, unable to keep silent after Ino's outburst. "YEAH, you can't go!" he told her angrily. "You can't say that you wanna go with some lady who abandoned you when you were little and just came back a couple days ago. You don't even know her anymore!"
"I'm her mother, she doesn't have to know me," Kaori interjected with a scowl.
The words hanging in Sakura's throat seemed to die after she heard her friends. She turned to the person whose opinion may have mattered the most to her at that moment. "Sasuke?" she asked gently, searching his face for any trace of emotion other than anger.
He caught her gaze, coal black eyes firmly locking in on her spring green ones. "We… I don't want you to go," he said. His voice was as quiet and monotonous as always, but there was anger and a hint of distress lingering beneath the cool front.
"Give me a reason."
A touch of confusion passed over Sasuke's face. "What?"
"Give me a reason to stay," Sakura said shakily.
He didn't know what to say. Of course he wanted Sakura to stay. But he wasn't stupid – he knew how much of a difference in her future this one decision would make. He knew how important reconciliation was with one's family – something he never got a chance to do. He knew that this wasn't the time to be selfish. He didn't want to be selfish. But… he was anyway.
Sasuke gripped the fabric of the tablecloth, clenching his fist tightly. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime," he said to Sakura, voice still soft and calm, "You'd get a free education. You're getting a chance to go to one of the best school in the world. You're getting a chance to reconcile with your mother. You can start over." He sighed quietly. "You'd probably lead a better life there," he admitted.
Ino and Naruto blanched. Sasuke was not helping.
Sasuke shot the two blonds a look. "And I know right now is not the time for me to be selfish," he said. "But I am going to be selfish anyway." He took deep breath. "I don't want you to go. And the reason why is… because I think I might be in love with you," he said gripping the tablecloth even tighter than before. "I love you," he repeated, "and if you go, I don't know what I'll do."
Sakura's eyes widened and she swallowed hard once more. "Sasuke, I…" she turned to Kaori. "I'm not going with you," she said to her mother. Her voice grew louder and more confident as she repeated herself. "I'm not going with you. I don't want to go with you. I don't want you to come back and ruin my life again. I'm done with you." Sakura stood up and grabbed her coat and bag. "Goodbye, mother," she said sarcastically, walking away from the table. Ino, Naruto, and Sasuke were quick to follow.
The room was vacated in four seconds flat, save an incredibly surprised woman.
"Guys, I'm hungry."
Sakura laughed and felt better at that moment than she had for days. "Figures, Naruto. My bitch of a mother treats you to a gourmet lunch and you're still hungry." She leaned into Sasuke's arm and smiled fondly at their interlaced hands.
"Let's just stop at the supermarket for something for him to eat so we don't hear him whining the entire way home," Ino suggested, pointing down the block at the welcoming supermarket. "I think I need more coffee beans too."
Naruto led the way into the supermarket, practically dancing towards the deli. "I want fried chicken!"
Ino disappeared to find her coffee beans, leaving Sasuke and Sakura to themselves.
Their feet seemed to automatically direct them towards the beverage aisle, and Sakura laughed when she saw the rows and rows and colorful labels staring back at them. And then—
"Oh my God, what is this?" Sakura inquired Sasuke with genuine disbelief. She held up two bottles for him to see. "'Sync'? 'Tranquillo'?" she read off the labels in disbelief. "Do I even want to try these?" she asked Sasuke.
Sasuke shook his head. "I know I don't. First fifteen flavors only, thanks," he said, waving away the two new flavors of VitaminWater.
Sakura laughed and put the two bottles back onto the shelf. "Maybe another day," she said, "but right now I'm sort of a on a Diet Coke fix, to be totally honest." She smiled at Sasuke and continued walking down the aisle. "C'mon, let's go find fatty Naruto."
"He's probably already eating," Sasuke said to her, rolling his eyes.
"All the more reason to find him," Sakura told him seriously. "Friends don't let friends eat whole, deep-fried chickens." She blinked her large, green eyes at him, as if reprimanding him.
Sasuke held back a snort of laughter and took her hand. "You just want to steal a chicken leg," he said, leading her down the aisle. "Come on."
Sakura beamed. "Right you are! You know me too well. That's why I love you."
Sasuke did a double take. She had said it. She might have thrown the three words in there casually, but she had said it. He stopped walking.
"What?" Sakura asked. "Do you feel okay?"
Then she noticed the look on his face. "Oh," Sakura laughed. "I mean it, you know," she laughed a bit nervously, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. "Really, I do." Her face began to flush. Was he trying to make her feel stupid? "I'm not sure if you were really serious at the hotel, but I figured I'd give telling the truth a shot, y'know and—"
And then he kissed her, which was all the reassurance she needed.
OKAY so it took five months to get this chapter out, but I did it! My apologies for it being so late. I could probably give you a thousand excuses, but there's nothing that can top the fact that I was just plain lazy.
I'd like to pimp a wonderful-freakin'-tastic fanart by Neitzarr. The link is in my profile. Thank you very much once again. (:
Thank you everyone who reviewed, everyone who's told me to get my lazy ass in gear and update, and those of you who put up with my everyday whining (you know who you are).
Special mention to defray who's been with me since the very beginning.
I'm sorry I'm rambling. I'm still kind of reeling in shock that I've actually finished something. This never happens, really.
You can check my profile for updates on my latest fanfiction and life endeavors.
Thank you once again! :D