Streets of Chicago
I wake up from a dream—in it, I live on a mushroom in the middle of the ocean, date a sexy gangster, and can break-dance. (Four words: Skillz of Madness, bitch.)
When I get out of bed, I check to see which parts were real and which were invented by my subconscious. (Woe.) Looking out the window, I see the skyscrapers of Chicago instead of a scene from The Little Mermaid. (Great movie, great movie. Gotta love fish-people.)
Time to try door number two. With little ceremony, I plop down on the ground and try to spin on my head.
Note to self: Find out where the brain cells that got me into medical school went, because they sure aren't in my head—
Which, by the way, I have found is not meant for spinning on. (Television can be very misleading.)
"SON OF A SEAHORSE."
I lie collapsed in a heap by the bed, moaning.
Footsteps approach quickly; the door opens. "Sakura! What happened?"
Okay, so my dream got one out of three right: I am dating a sexy gangster. His name is Sasuke, which starts with the same letter as sexy.
Yeah, I thought it was fate, too.
As he crouches beside me and props me up, I mull things over. One out of three isn't bad. It's like… thirty-three percent, right? Which is like having thirty-three cents. Which can buy you… ummm… a couple minutes in a parking meter?
But really, who needs a parking meter? Cool people take the subway. (Hurrah for peer pressure. Actually, who am I kidding? I am peerless—because I am just. That. Cool.)
The subway is, of course, a great place to pick up sexy gangsters. Watching fondly as Sasuke checks over my head for any bleeding, I rest my case. (I really missed my calling when I opted for med. school over law school.)
"Sakura," he admonishes, dark eyes concerned and exasperated. "What were you doing, you twerp?"
Funny he should ask. "Trying to spin on my head."
One thing I love about Sasuke is that he allows me my endearingeccentricities. He just sighs, pulling me to my feet effortlessly. "Yeah, well, don't try to do it again."
"I won't," I inform him earnestly. "I've learned my lesson." Next time, I'll just try to do The Worm.
I follow him out into the living room, where he sits down on the couch and reads the newspaper, as he's probably been doing for the past, oh, two hours. The freak gets up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday. Did you notice my use of "freak"? Because, really, I think it applies.
Watching him, I assume a pensive position, my hand on my chin. Hmm. You know what this scene is missing?
Fun-colored, artificially flavored cereal.
I skip to the kitchen, where I fill up a big bowl with equal parts Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. (Hahaha, I considered getting that—what's it called? Hannah Montana Secret Identity Cereal. But then I was just like… No.
Just Say No, people. Good code to live by. … Unless someone's offering you free food. Man, I love free food. But who doesn't? Forget this "To be or not to be" crap, that is the question.)
When I feel my bowl is full of enough sugar and chemicals to tide me over until lunchtime (or between-breakfast-and-lunch-snacktime), I grab a pitcher out of the fridge. See, when I was little I hated milk, but I still wanted to hear my Rice Krispies snap crackle and pop, right? So I would always put limeade in, and the habit has stuck ever since.
Sasuke thinks it's weird, but Sasuke also thinks it's weird that I like to watch CNN Newsroom while reading Sports Illustrated and singing Jesse McCartney songs. (Shut up, all right? The kid can sing. Even if his songs do fall under the, ahem, teenybopper category. But, shhh.)
Munching on my well-balanced breakfast (it's equal parts meal and fun, how balanced is that?), I re-enter the living room.
Sasuke's wearing his dork glasses—they're square, and they have these thick-ish black frames. They're funny as hell, but they also make him look
So. Incredibly. Sexy.
Okay, yeah, um.
Grinning, I duck under one of his arms (they're raised to hold the newspaper) and settle myself on his lap. When he notices me staring at his face, he instantly scowls and removes the glasses, setting them on the side-table.
He's very sensitive about his glasses, you see.
I roll my eyes. "Come on, don't be a spoilsport. You know I think you look adorable in them." He pointedly ignores me. "What, are they not gangster enough for you?" Gotta use those cheap shots when ya can.
"Shut up and eat your stupid cereal, Sakura," he gripes.
"Maybe my cereal thinks you're stupid."
I'm witty, I know.
To make myself comfortable, I lean back against his chest (which, believe me, is every bit as yummy as my cereal). A particular article in the newspaper gets my attention. "'How do you see yourself in twenty years?'" I read aloud.
"As dictator of a small country in Latin America," I tell Sasuke idly. "Or perhaps the world's first popstar mime. I can envision my first hit single now: 'Hey Guys, Look, I'm in a Box.'"
He clears his throat slightly. "Sakura…"
"No, don't tell me," I interrupt. "I've got this. Um… you joined the Communist party. Your hair is actually blond. You're a vampire—or possibly Hannah Montana. Maybe both."
I smile at him, munching. "So? Was I close?"
He looks like he doesn't know whether to be amused or annoyed. I seem to inspire that paradox in a lot of people. Go figure. "No," he says, "not really. I," his eyebrows slant, "want you to meet someone tonight."
"Just in general, or…?"
Sasuke prods my forehead with the index and middle fingers of his right hand. "Someone particular. My," he makes a face, "best friend, actually."
I spew limeade and brightly-colored bits of cereal all over Sasuke's shirt. (From which point on he never lets me sit on his lap while eating ever again. Lame.)
The bouncer holds up a hand. "ID."
I scowl at him. "Do you know who I am?" I've found that if you ask this question with a convincing blend of outrage and disdain, you don't actually have to be anyone. But, dammit, I'm twenty-four, and I feel like people are still going to be asking for my ID when I'm forty-four.
(Although, come to think of it, that might not be such a bad thing.)
His expression is all ennui. "No, that's why I asked for your ID."
… All right, yeah, well. Even I'll admit I was asking for that one.
Sasuke rolls his eyes and steers me past the hulking, very large, spectacularly intimidating man. (You know those people that are like, destined for certain careers? Yeah, he's one of 'em, and he's found his calling.
I persist in believing that I was meant to be either a carnival worker or a door-to-door salesman. Hey, hey you—wanna buy an inflatable toothpick? …How about a shovel?
Dunno where I went wrong in life.)
"She's fine," my adorable gangster informs the bouncer, who hesitates but doesn't say anything—although he does glare at me when I stick my tongue out at him, which makes me press closer to Sasuke quickly.
This presentation of Team Sakura Kicking Ass is brought to you today by our sponsor, Sasuke Uchiha.
See, when he wants to be, Sasuke is the most singularly menacing person in the history oh-shit-oh-shit-that-guy-is-effing-scary. This suits my purposes well, at times. With my creative genius and his ability to back up my threats, there are so many things we could accomplish—like world domination, or winning the Nobel Prize for Win.
Anyway, it's around eight at night, and we're entering some club/bar place. (I'm not sure what to call it, shut up. It's like two-in-one shampoo/conditioner, only, you know—in building form. Yes.) It's only opened recently, but it's already way popular with young, bored rich people.
I wonder if they serve waffles.
"Hey, Sasuke! Over here!"
We turn to see a young blond man sitting at the bar, grinning broadly and waving his arms like he's trying to land a plane. Apparently, Sasuke's best friend.
Wonders never cease.
When we approach, he jumps up and shakes my hand enthusiastically. "Hi, I'm Naruto. You're Sakura. You're really pretty, but man was I surprised when Sasuke let it slip that some chick is living with him—not that you're some chick, it's just, I mean, the bastard is Sasuke, you know, and then he wouldn't even let me meet you until now, what an asshole, can you believe this is what I have to put up with?"
I blink, and turn to Sasuke, who assures me solemnly, "We can go home right now if you want."
I smile at Naruto. "So you're one of Sasuke's gangster pals, yeah?" Christ, they let in this kid and they won't take me? A couple months ago I asked Sasuke if Akatsuki had some sign-up sheet I could put my name on. I even started working on my résumé and beefing up my gangster qualifications. But Sasuke said no dice.
(Actually, he said, with this really sexy intensity, "Sakura, you will not ever have anything to do with Akatsuki, not over my dead body and like hell while I'm alive." So I'm thinking my only option is to find a time machine and go back to before Sasuke was alive—and, by extension, not dead—and be a gangster back then. Maybe chill with Al Capone. I feel like we'd be tight.)
Before the blue-eyed man can respond, Sasuke cuts in, "Naruto doesn't have anything to do with—"
I glower at him. "He's wearing the fricking Akatsuki ring. I'm not stupid." Contrary to all indications, I know. Sometimes even I forget that I can use words like "interdigitate" properly in a sentence. But stuff like that gets you beat up. (So does being a guy and wearing "I Run with Vampires" T-shirts. Oh, American popular culture. How you have fallen.)
Sasuke looks at me quietly for a moment, before quirking his mouth apologetically. "No," he sighs, "you're not, though my life would be a lot easier if you were."
So would mine, actually. I might actually work at a carnival. Actually, forget that—if I did, I never would have met Sasuke. Somehow I have difficultly picturing him eating cotton candy and waiting in line for the pony ride.
… Wow, how 'bout them mental images.
Soon the three of us are seated at the bar, Sasuke determinedly in the middle as some sort of buffer zone—like he's doing an impression of one of the Soviet Union's satellite countries.
I feel like he'd be Lithuania.
Naruto cranes his head to see me. "So, Sakura—what's the bastard like at home?"
What is he expecting me to tell him? That when he's not in public, Sasuke wears lipstick and sings showtunes?
Blah. The stool is very tall, and I swing my feet, shod in tan cowboy boots—those, along with my white summer dress, make for an audacious fashion statement. Whether that statement is stylish or tasteless, even I can't decide. "I dunno. I'm not sure what Sasuke's like outside of home."
By which I mean, what he's like when he's roaming the streets of Chicago, being… gangster… and… organizing crime.
Do you see? Do you see how in the dark he keeps me?
Just then, the bartender (who has the conventional, cookie-cutter, bland good looks of an Abercrombie & Fitch model) approaches and asks what he can get us.
Naruto orders a beer, Sasuke a single glass of scotch, and me a Mountain Dew.
… Yeah, yeah, shut up. At least mine comes with a bendy straw.
As the bartender hurries to get our drinks (I'm pretty sure his haste is inspired by the ring we each have, although I like to think that people are eager to serve me regardless of the threatening jewelry I wear), I tilt my head.
I'm hungry. (We just ate like, two hours ago, but whatever.)
"I'm very sure they don't serve waffles," Sasuke drawls, and tugs gently on a lock of hair hanging around my face. At my baffled look, he explains, "You were using your I-want-waffles voice."
I wasn't aware I had such a voice. Hmm.
Sasuke shakes his head. "You don't even like waffles that much." When I open my mouth to interject, he goes on, "Yeah, you like the novelty of eating waffles. I get it."
Damn if the kid doesn't know me well.
Naruto looks on with wide blue eyes. "Dude, that was freaky," he says to Sasuke. "Can you read everyone's minds, or just hers? Ooh, here, do me. What am I thinking?"
Sasuke raises his eyebrows. "You're thinking? What's the special occasion?"
"Funny. Very funny," Naruto deadpans. "Seriously, you should get your own show."
Which every female in America would tune in to every day, I'm sure, as long as he would just sit there shirtless.
… Oh, God, what a horrible show! I don't want obsessive preteen girls and creepy old cougars ogling my boyfriend. In a fit of possessiveness, I lean over and wrap my arms around him.
He looks down at me, bemused. "What are you doing?"
"Protecting you from being mentally violated by women all across America," I mutter into his soft red shirt.
Oh, the things I do for love.
Naruto stares at me with fascination, but Sasuke takes it in stride and detaches me from his torso, just as someone walks over.
That someone is a man in his mid-thirties, with light brown hair, a bandana, and a toothpick hanging lazily from his mouth. "Mr. Uchiha," he begins, in a casually respectful voice, "I need to talk to you about—"
"Not here," Sasuke says shortly, carefully not looking at me.
I gotta say this whole cloak-and-dagger thing is getting pretty old. Although I'd kind of like to have a cloak and a dagger, just for kicks, you know. Maybe I'll add them to my Christmas list, right below a new Swiffer Sweeper, the complete history of the Napoleonic Wars, and a 64-pack of sparkly crayons.
"It's important," the man persists, sharing a very brief look with Naruto.
Sasuke clenches his jaw. "Fine," he mutters, and stands. Glancing back and forth between me and Naruto agitatedly, he starts to speak—
Just as Naruto hops onto the stool beside mine and slings a friendly arm around my shoulders. "Don't worry, you jerk. I got 'er."
I scowl. And he can go get me a booster-seat, while he's at it. I hate that Sasuke feels like he has to baby-sit me. Does he really think I'll implode the minute he leaves me unattended in a public place? I survived for twenty-three years without the guy, although I'll admit there were some close calls—like that time when I was four and I thought the greatest hiding spot ever was in the oven.
Or that time in kindergarten, at recess, we were on the see-saw and I was up and this other girl was down and then she just got off and I fell and it hurt like crap and sometimes even now I wake up and I'm just angry about it, because my God what—
"I'll be right back," Sasuke assures me.
Welcome back, situation at hand.
I shrug in an I-so-totally-don't-care-that-the-love-of-my-life-doesn't-feel-like-he-can-talk-about-what-he-does-in-front-of-me-just-because-it's-undoubtedly-illegal-and-at-the-same-time-really-awesome manner.
It was a very expressive shrug, all right? God.
Sasuke and the other guy cross the room to, get this, a secluded corner. Rolling my eyes, I turn to Naruto. "Can you believe—"
I never get to find out if Naruto can believe, because at that moment he tackles me and brings me crashing to the floor, although he twists so that he takes the brunt of the fall.
Dude. What the crap.
Suddenly gun shots are going off above my head and Naruto has his hand clamped over my mouth as he crawls along the floor, with me bundled under one arm.
I struggle, but it's useless. Even when I manage to get one arm free and start hitting him, he barely seems to notice.
Note to self: Acquire upper-body strength.
If I live through the night, of course, a matter that's looking a little iffy right about now.
Eff my life.
"C'mon, Sakura," he mutters as, slowly but surely, we make it across the room. The lighting is dim, and I can't turn my head to see, but guns are still going off and I can definitely hear people fighting and shouting. "Look, I'm really sorry about this, but just calm down, all right? Stop struggling."
I bite his hand.
Even with all the resistance I put up, soon we're at the back of the room, and Naruto gets up and hauls me to my feet. He hurries me through the kitchen and out the rear entrance to the building.
It's only when I see the waiting van that I feel the first prickling of real fear. Okay, Sasuke. Seriously, you can come save me whenever you feel like it.
By which I mean now.
… How about now?
As Naruto hands me off to a man standing by the van, I renew my struggle. He grimaces. "Seriously, Sakura, just—OW YOU KICKED ME IN THE SOLAR PLEXUS."
There's another place I'd like to kick 'im, too.
The new guy holds me down while Naruto uses twine to bind my hands and feet. Fricking twine. You can tell they didn't think much of my gangsterness. (But, dammit, I still can't free myself. Yeah, not gonna lie, this is pretty degrading.)
Now that no one's hand is over my mouth, there are a million-and-one insults I want to scream, but what ends up slipping from my lips is "Why?"
Please don't let that be the last thing I ever get to say. Because when I die, it should be with an F-bomb. Or at least while I'm using my James Earl Jones voice.
Naruto sighs as the other guy takes me and sets me prone on the back seat of the van. "Sakura, I swear—"
I never get to hear what he swears, either, because the other guy slams the door shut. I make up for this, though, by doing a lot of swearing myself on the drive to… wherever we're going.
I'm holding out for Disney World.
I think it's been about ten minutes when the door opens again, and the guy—who, by the way, vaguely resembles Ron from Harry Potter, how's that for bizarre—picks me up carefully and puts me down outside.
I'm glad I decided to wear boy-shorts under my dress.
My throat is sore from non-stop cussing in the van, so I survey my new surroundings silently. (Gotta work up to Round Two, you see.) We're in a deserted lot on what looks like the North Side.
I still want waffles, but mostly I want Sasuke.
"Ah, Sakura. Glad you could make it."
I freeze. "Itachi?"
Sasuke's older brother steps out of the shadows—yeah, that's right—and smiles unperturbedly at me. "How are you?"
"Absolutely spiffy," I snarl. He kidnapped me? But—he's Sasuke's brother, and he was so charming the other time I saw him, and he and Sasuke are in the same gang/mob/thingy—
"I'm sure you're wondering what's going on," Itachi says calmly, and motions with his hand to Gangsta Ron, who pulls a knife out of his pocket. I stiffen—oh shit oh shit oh shit I have a deep-seated fear of pointy objects—but he only uses it to slice through the twine holding my hands and feet immobile.
Freed, I rub my wrists absently, and as I have nothing more productive to say, mutter petulantly, "I want Sasuke." I feel like this guy doesn't care about my waffle needs.
"I'm certain he'll be along soon to collect you," is his patronizing response. He strolls to a bench along the quiet street and sits down, motioning for me to join him.
Now, before you think less of me, I don't normally sit with people who kidnapped me—but, see, my feet hurt.
I sit down on the bench, but as far away from Itachi as possible. It's silent, which automatically brings a "So how 'bout them Cubs?" to my lips. But this guy doesn't deserve to discuss America's Pastime.
Before I can come up with something else to say (because, really, that phrase is all I got), he speaks. "Don't take this whole thing personally. This was about Sasuke."
Fantastic, I can't even get kidnapped on my own merit.
"Oh, yeah? Naruto just accidentally grabbed the wrong person, then?"
Without looking at me, Itachi says tonelessly, "Sasuke has responsibilities, to me and to many other people. He's always taken them seriously, has never done anything to jeopardize the nature of our jobs." He frowns. "Until you. You… mean the world to him."
Hey, I like where this is going.
"I'm not sure why," he continues. "To be honest, you seem rather silly and shallow to me."
And the award for pleasant small-talk goes to…
I glare at him. "Has anyone ever told you that you're kind of a douche?"
Okay, maybe it goes to me. But.
For the record, that wasn't me. That was Sasuke, who just appeared out of nowhere.
I jump up as Sasuke strides toward the bench, his eyes pitch-black and narrowed, his fists dead-white and clenched. Itachi just crosses his feet languidly. "Little brother."
And then they start shooting.
Just kidding. Seriously, guys, jaykay.
Sasuke takes a moment to look me over, presumably making sure I'm not dead/dying/about to throw a fit, then turns back to his brother. "Why. Why the fuck would you take her."
Itachi spreads his hands demonstratively. "Look at yourself, Sasuke. You're a wreck. She's only been gone from you for about twenty minutes, and you're falling apart at the seams. And I can't even imagine how badly you shot up the club."
Sasuke just glares silently.
"You're losing control," Itachi goes on. "You're becoming soft and sentimental. I can see it, everyone can see it, and sooner or later it's going to get you killed. Everyone in the city knows how to get at you now. So…" he shrugs. "Consider this a lesson, and a warning. Get yourself together, or we're going to have to make you, for everyone's sake."
And then he walks away, and is swallowed up by the darkness.
That part's legit., guys. The dude, while douche-y, is ninjatastic, I'll give him that.
Once his brother is well and truly gone, Sasuke seems to deflate, collapsing in on himself. He bows his head, and hunches his shoulders. In this moment, he doesn't look dangerous or sexy. Just very, very alone.
A little hesitantly, I go up and wrap my arms around him. He remains unresponsive.
Come on, hug me, hit me, yell at me. Do something. Don't just stand there. Don't look so sad.
Finally, he winds his arms around my waist. "Don't worry," he murmurs to the top of my head. "We'll figure this out."
Hell yeah, man. Team Sakura will always prevail in the end.
So this was written over the course of like, eight months. And I hate it. But. I will return to the Chicago!verse after this, and the new installment will be added here. Yes.
Um, don't really expect much from me for a while. My brother just recently got diagnosed as bipolar, and he's at 10% coping level. So, uhhh, that's lots of fun. And I'll be in China for basically all of my summer, with no chance to do anything on this site. But, hey. You guys have been great.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.