Chapter Thirty-Three: Messages

Words: 6784

According to my list of works on FFN, I used to post new fics something like once every one or two months. Where has that gone… as usual I can only blame Real Life, plus a touch of writer's block stalling this chapter. But I made it through, thanks to my amazing beta! Enjoy.


When I get home from class that day, I shut myself in my room and flop on the bed. My mind runs the same handful of thoughts on a constant loop: about Sasuke, about Marcus, about having sex and being in a relationship and being single and my mental list of potential bed partners. The list would be shorter, but I can't make myself cross off people who I know would be a bad idea to sleep with no matter how willing we both are. Takeshi is one of those people. It's hard to admit, but Blue is another. Some nights I still dream about his body. I don't know if it's just because I associate him with sex or because I want him above all others. But then I dream of Sasuke a lot too.

I fall asleep there on the bed and dream of Sasuke. I dream that I'm examining the painting in the gallery and that he comes to take it away, saying that it's part of a series he's done. Sai is in the series, as well as a long line of other people I don't know, people from the past. Sasuke pulls up the unfinished painting of me and asks me if he can finish it. I'm a little sceptical, a little wary – but more than that, I miss him, and so I say okay and he puts the canvas up on an easel and then pulls me into his arms. I hold him close and I kiss him and we're skin on skin, and as we stoke our desire the canvas begins to paint itself. Brush strokes appear against the black background: where Sasuke's hand drags down my side, the highlights illuminate my skin; where his lips press against my collarbone, the shadows collect in the crevasses. But the painting never gets finished. Sasuke pauses, pulls back to look me in the eye. In the dream his face is indistinct, but then his mouth opens and I can count the creases in his lips and when he speaks it's a ringtone.

I wake up. My phone goes off again, the custom text tone I set for a certain Duckbutt. My first instinct is to go back to sleep, but then my mind accelerates to normal speed. Why is he texting me now? It's probably the first time in at least a month. I reach out to the bedside table and pick up my phone. On the lock screen it displays "Duckbutt," followed by a preview of the text. I'm so used to ignoring these now that my eyes don't even stray to the content. I just stare at his nickname until the screen turns itself off again.

I toss the phone away again and close my eyes, vaguely wondering what he sent but mostly not wanting to look. My hand trails lazily down my torso as I recall my dream. It was so realistic; I swear I could actually feel Sasuke's hands on me, the heat of his body. I could feel my heart swell with emotion as I pulled close to him. I wanted him. I was so happy to be near him. It felt so good to be with him…

I allow images of the dream to fuel me as my fingers wrap around my shaft and start to stroke. I imagine it's Sasuke's hand providing the friction, bringing me to full mast. I imagine the look on his face, the fire in his eyes, the way his body would curve above me. He'd duck his head to kiss me; his tongue would slip between my teeth to touch mine. I'd thread my fingers through his coarse, silky hair and breathe in his scent. He'd whisper dirty things in my ear, about how much he wanted to see me get off, about how much he wanted my cock in his ass. He'd tell me to touch him, to kiss him, to pound into him as he rode me. He'd mutter a string of swear words under his breath as I fucked him; he'd moan my name and beg for it harder and I'd feel him tightening around me—

A knock at my bedroom door nearly makes me jump out of my skin, then the doorknob turns. I scramble for cover, sitting up and pulling my knees up in front of me, but before I can say anything the door opens and Sai walks in.

"Naruto, I—oh." He stops, takes in my flushed face, my dishevelled hair, my trousers hiked down to my thighs and the collar of my shirt tugged off-kilter. "Were you – did I… interrupt?"

"Kinda, yeah." I self-consciously straighten my shirt. "Couldn't you have waited for an answer before opening the door?"

"It's not usually a problem," he says. There's a strange look in his eyes.

"I'm not usually jacking off." It's not like any of us are uncomfortable with each other's bodies, but we at least like to masturbate in the privacy of our own rooms. I wait for him to leave, but he doesn't move – just stands there, his face unreadable. I suddenly realize he's in nothing but low-rise skinny jeans. A thin trail of hair below his navel leads my eye downwards. I swallow. "…So what did you want?"

"Just some company," he replies slowly. "Sakura isn't back yet, but I thought you might be available to spend time with."

I know the words I'm supposed to say: "come back later," or "can it wait?," or simply just "no." But for some reason I can't. I don't want to send him off. I realize it's because I'm staring at his body, drinking in the sight of him, longing, desperate to touch – and not just platonically. I'm sick of going it solo. I want somebody to turn me on. I want somebody to get me off.

"…You may as well stay," I finally concede.

"Okay."

I hesitate, then lie back down. It's not like Sai hasn't ever seen my junk before, even standing at attention. Just not usually when I'm aroused. I watch him from my pillow as he sits on the other end of my bed, my foot against his thigh, and just looks at me.

"So," he says, gesturing vaguely, "what are you going to do about that?"

"About – oh. I dunno. Take care of it, I guess." I rest my hand on my stomach for a moment, then slide it back down again. It's not entirely weird, doing this in company. I've done it around Blue before. With the interruption, I kinda lost some of the momentum I'd had, so I start off slow again, distinctly aware of Sai watching my every move.

"You're just going to do that while I sit here and watch?"

"Well, what were you expecting to do?" I ask, my eyes roving across his collarbones, down the silhouette of his waist, along to each protruding hip bone. I realize that I want him to ask – I can't ask him to help me, not after denying him for so long, but this time if he asks… if he asks, I won't say no. "You're the one who wants to hang out with the dude who's busy touching himself."

"It's not like I knew what you were up to when I came in."

"Somehow I'm not inclined to believe you." We're all well aware of how loud I am when I'm doing stuff like this, and the walls aren't exactly soundproof. I know for a fact that sometimes Sai just gets off listening to me. Unfortunately for me, he's entirely quiet, so I don't get the same privilege.

"I suppose not. I never was a good liar."

"At least seem apologetic, huh?" I pick up speed, still watching his face. "So you knew, and you came in anyway. You got an explanation for that?"

"I expect you can guess my intentions."

"Sai—"

He raises a hand and I flinch, but he just rests it on my leg. "You didn't turn me away," he says. "Here you are, masturbating in my presence – with me in your bed. I think we both know what we both want."

"Why is it that you're only ever cryptic and mysterious when it's the most infuriating possible time?" I growl.

He just smiles. Something about it makes my chest squeeze tight, and I exhale loudly as the pleasure briefly increases. If I'm not careful, this could end before anything even happens. I slow down my pace again, backing away from the edge.

"Too much already?" Sai's hand slides up my leg a little. "So, Naruto. Do you want it or not? You've been saying no for quite a long time now…"

I roll my hips, pushing my leg into his touch. "If you wanted the opportunity to touch me, this is it. Take it."

His smile widens and he drops all pretences. "Gladly."

Sai moves up the bed until he's sitting beside me. His hand continues up my leg, fingers playing at the inside of my thigh, the sensations muted against my jeans. I watch his progress, slow and casual. Though I wouldn't say it's exactly sensual, there's a thrilling intensity about him. It's obvious he's wanted this for a long time. Suddenly I start to wonder if this was a good idea after all – not the fact that we're doing this, but the fact that it might lead to bigger things, or that Sai might expect it to. I've experienced firsthand what happens when people forget to make sure they're on the same wavelength.

"Before you go any further," I say quickly, "I want to make it clear that this is a casual thing only. You're lucky I'm even letting you do this right now."

"Noted," he says. His hand lifts over where my jeans have bunched up around my legs, and when he makes contact with my skin my breath hitches. His hands are warm and comforting, a touch I know well, though not usually in so intimate a way.

"You sure? I don't want there to be any misunderstandings."

"I understand, Naruto." He splays his fingers, palm flat against my thigh, and his pinky just barely misses the base of my cock. "This is a non-contractual, single event. No strings attached."

"Right. Okay." I bite my lip as his fingers slowly wrap around my shaft, pushing my hand away and taking over the job. I pull off my shirt, feeling hot now. "I wouldn't say it's necessarily a one-time thing. That would be a bit limiting."

Sai squeezes as he strokes upwards, then slides his thumb across the tip. "I won't hold my breath."

"No, okay, but don't feel like you have to do everything all at once either. We've got time."

"Exactly how far are we going?" he asks, his voice absolutely casual as he pumps me. "I don't expect you're that keen to fuck me."

I frown. "What are you implying?"

"Nothing. It was just the impression I had. Am I right?"

"…Maybe. Not today, I'd say."

"That's better than I'd expected." He lets go of me and I wonder for a second if he's actually pissed off, if he's just going to leave me hanging, but then he looks me in the eye and very deliberately licks his palm. I shiver. Then he's back to stroking me, faster now.

"I've got lube, you know," I grunt through the sudden return of the sensations.

"If that's what you want, I'm happy to accommodate."

I kick off my jeans, then reach sideways to open the drawer in my bedside table and fish around for the tube I know I've got lying around. "Are you really enjoying this?" I ask, as I pass it to him. He pauses in his actions to apply the lube before continuing.

"Quite a lot, actually," he says. "Though I expected you to be a lot more… vocal in your reactions."

"The fact that you expected anything at all should be more surprising than it is."

He cocks his head, but otherwise ignores me. "Is it because we're talking?" he asks, squeezing, and I moan. "Hm. Perhaps it is. Stop worrying so much and enjoy this."

"Who said I'm – mmn – worrying?" I narrow my eyes as he speeds up again.

"Just relax."

He probably has a point. With the pleasure mounting higher, I'm breathing more heavily, rendering speaking a more laborious task. "Sai…"

His eyelids flutter and I see his Adam's apple bob once. His hand is unrelenting. It feels good – it feels amazing, to have someone touching me like this after weeks of no one but myself to keep me company. And yet there's still something missing. If not for the lust in his eyes, the way he's jacking me off would almost feel… clinical. It's too one-sided, that's what it is. Having someone else do it is all good and well, but that's not what it means to have a partner, romantic or otherwise. I've learned as much with Blue.

"Sai," I breathe, my voice suddenly huskier than before, "isn't this kinda… frustrating for you?"

"How do you mean?" he asks calmly.

"Well, you're doing all the work, and I'm reaping all the benefits. Meanwhile all you're doing is watching. Doesn't it… turn you on?"

"Oh, you have no idea."

"You know, I probably do." I push myself up on my elbows, then sit upright. Sai, surprised, pulls back, but I slip a hand around the back of his head and kiss him. It takes him a moment to catch up, but then he's pushing back eagerly, his hand tugging and twisting at my shaft, and I moan into his mouth.

"Mm… Naruto," he pants. "Are you sure about this?"

"Dead sure." I drag him back so that he's on his knees and one hand above me, then bring my hand around to his front. I can see him watching me intently as I unbutton his jeans and pull them down with his boxers to his thighs. I reach back up to cup him, already half-hard and heavy against my palm. He closes his eyes and rests his forehead against mine as I massage him, feeling him slowly hardening. Now it feels right – now it's mutual. I've never been one to just sit back and watch.

Touching Sai is not nearly as wrong as I thought it would feel. Turning him on, having him close to me, watching the way he sinks into me like this is all he's wanted for a long time… I assumed it would be awkward and confusing, but on the contrary it seems to fix something, repairing the link that's been missing between us. Because when it comes down to it, when we're here in my bed and Sai's pushing into my touch and murmuring my name, when he's treating me like I'm all that matters right now and I feel like I'm about to explode with pleasure, I can feel that this will change us. But it'll change us in a good way. No matter what kind of love this is – although he loves me romantically and I don't love him the same way; although I'd take a bullet for him and he might not for me, I realize that this makes us stronger.

The pleasure peaks and I spill into Sai's hand, the climax coursing through my veins like fire, and he follows not long after, his body going rigid and trembling as I coax every last drop from him. He's panting, shaky, and exhausted, but when he opens his eyes and looks at me he smiles, one of the most genuine smiles I've ever seen from him, and I have to smile back. We grab a couple of tissues from the bedside table and give ourselves a quick wipe-down, then Sai collapses on the bed next to me and we just lie there, sated and happy.

"Thank you," he says, a few minutes later.

"And you."

"As relationships go," he says, "I wouldn't mind if we just continued with this."

"Really?"

"You don't think I'm telling the truth?"

"I don't think you're telling the whole truth," I say.

"Whatever you're willing to do with me, I'll be happy."

"How happy?"

"Happy enough." He brushes my hair back. "I already know you can't give me everything I want. But we may as well give each other the things we know we both want."

"I guess so. I just… I'm sick of hurting people." I look into his eyes. "This isn't going to hurt us, is it?"

"It won't hurt me."

"You can't know that."

"If it does, that'll be my problem, and I'll deal with the consequences. Simple enough."

"In theory."

He takes my hands. "I want to keep doing this. There will always be risks, but sometimes the outcome is worth it. I just want to be close to you. It's more than I've ever had before, so I'm willing to take the risks."

I close my fingers around his hands, but I still don't know. What if I hurt him? What if I mess up again? I know how much he wants this. What if I end up taking advantage of that?

"I'm afraid I'll hurt you," I confess. "I'm afraid I'm going to do something stupid, something I know I shouldn't do but end up doing anyway. Because I'm selfish. Because I'm petty. Because I only think something is wrong before and after I do it, and I can never resist temptation."

"I trust you," is all he says.

"I don't want to feel like I'm using you," I say.

"How could you be? You're not the only person who wants this. You know how long I've wanted this."

"Yes, but—"

"If you think you're going to end up using me," he says, "then use me. Take me how you want me, and I won't complain. I trust you, and I trust your morals, and I know you're a good person. Anything you can throw at me, I'll catch it."

"I don't know – I don't know what I want anymore."

"Then stay with me until you decide."

I bite my lip. He squeezes my hands.

"You don't have to think of this as a mistake. Just another step. Sometimes you have to try things to realize they won't work out. It's something I've learned from my course, but it can apply to anything: it's okay if the first thing you try doesn't work, or the second thing, or the third one. Because each one makes you better. Maybe your feelings will change, and maybe they'll stay the same, but either way I'll be there for you until you know. And after."

I feel a touch at my cheek and look up. Sai's watching my eyes, his face as earnest as I've ever seen him. I take a deep breath and will myself to believe in him. To believe in myself.

"…Okay," I say, and bury my face against his collarbone. "Yeah. Okay."

He wraps his arms around me. "Just take it a day at a time."

"I do love you," I whisper. "You know that, right?"

"I know, Naruto."

"Even if… even if it's not how you want me to love you. I just thought that should count for something."

"It does. Thank you."

I breathe him in. He smells like a sense of home, like comfort and friendship and trust. I can't imagine what I'd be like if I didn't know him and Sakura. I wouldn't be me.

Wait—

"Shit," I say, pulling back, "what about Saku—"

Before I can finish, though, I hear the front door open. We both freeze.

"I'm home!" comes Sakura's voice.

"In here," I shout back automatically, then clamp my mouth shut. That probably wasn't a good idea. To Sai I say, "What should we do?"

Sai is calm. "We tell her."

I frown.

"Do you not want to?"

"I… think she deserves to know," I say finally.

"Then we should tell her. Even if it's difficult."

"You do it."

He shrugs. "Okay."

I go find my discarded boxers and tug them back on so that I'm not butt-naked, then lie back down on the bed. Sai resumes combing through my hair. After a couple of minutes I hear my door open and look to see Sakura poke her head in. A moment after she steps in, she wrinkles her nose.

"It's really musty in here," she says, sounding confused. "What've you been up to, Naruto?"

Sai meets her eye, and his expression is so serious that she hesitates.

"…What?" she says.

"We gave each other a handjob," he replies.

For a moment she just stares, blinks. Then she looks at me. Slowly I nod.

"There was a mutual need," Sai goes on lightly.

"…Okay. Is this going to be a thing now? I mean, you two."

"We are not going to be a thing," says Sai. "This is a non-committal, strictly physical arrangement."

"Further sessions are negotiable," I add, "and, if agreed to, will be happening on a single-event basis."

"Right. That's cool." She smiles. "If it makes you happy. Just keep the noise down, alright?"

Further sessions are in fact negotiated – just a handful, once in a while. The three of us spend the first week together, rarely ever out of each other's company, whether we're on our own at home or hanging out downtown or spending time with our other friends. Then we help Sakura pack and she heads home for a little while to be with her parents, leaving me and Sai alone in the house. We start branching out more: I spend a night at the name twins' place; Sai heads out to the forest to do some painting. But when we're at home and bored and lonely, we have each other, and I can tell that more than anything, that's what makes Sai happy.

It's a couple of weeks into the summer when one of Sai's friends invites him to a house party. They say Sai can bring people, and Sakura's back the day before it happens, so we decide to all go out for dinner in town before calling up all our friends and finding our way to this fucking huge house while the host's parents are away. It's a great night; even Kiba and Sui's relationship and Takeshi's flirting can't fuck with my head. For maybe the first time since before my break-up with Blue, I feel really, properly happy, like nothing can go wrong with the world. It feels like, through all the stupid shit and mistakes and blunders and wounds and pains, at the end of it all, I'll be okay.

I find myself, hours later, sitting alone on the edge of a dark balcony with my legs and arms stuck through the metal banisters, a half-empty beer in one hand and my phone in the other. Light and sound stream in from the open door behind me, the party still going long into the night, but I've found a moment of silence here on my own and I'm feeling at peace. Things are starting to make more sense now, in a way. My life finally seems to be fitting together again, not because of, nor despite, any type of relationship goings-on, but just because I'm starting to understand myself. I'm understanding what I need, what I want, what I can give and what I can let myself have. Maybe I don't get everything just yet; maybe this doesn't automatically mean I won't make mistakes in the next relationship, or the one after, or in any of the ones I ever have again. But like Sai said – that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because I'm learning to understand myself. Because I'm okay with myself. Because I have to love myself before I can love anyone else.

I take the beer slowly. I'm not in the mood to let loose completely, but I'm enjoying the slight buzz and the warmth of a little alcohol in my system. Like this, my thoughts flow more freely, but I still feel lucid enough to be in control. I stare at the home screen of my phone, taking in the number at the top telling me how many messages I haven't read. How many Sasuke's sent me. There are a few voicemails in there as well. I close my eyes and think about Sasuke. I can't remember the exact tone of his voice, or what he smelled like at all. Even his face is harder to recall than before: the way he smiles, the straight line of his nose, the angle of his jaw, the shade of his irises when the light catches, the way his hair falls across his brow. The details are lost to the past, and I realize I miss him intensely.

I glance over my shoulder. The curtains are drawn over the open balcony door, blocking me from the view of people inside. Turning back, I finish my beer and set the empty bottle down. I open my message inbox. I look at Sasuke's thread for one long moment. Then I open it.

The most recent messages are from a few weeks ago. Timestamps indicate that they were the first in over a month. It's almost strange how much I've trained myself to ignore his messages – my eye very carefully dances around the actual words he's sent – but a capital M draws my attention and I catch a glimpse of the word. Marcus. It grabs my attention. I can't help it.

19:32 Got a message from Marcus saying he met you at the gallery today. Heard you liked the painting, thanks

19:32 He also mentioned something about you having broken up with Blue?

That's all it says.

I frown, reading over the words again. Looking for a hint. Trying to find a hidden message. But the texts are frustratingly casual, almost too polite. I imagine a huge river, a wide canyon, a fucking ocean between us. Gripped by a sudden need to hear more from him, I scroll up until I find the ones I recognize and begin to read.

Duckbutt

11-01-31

23:39 I hate you

23:42 I hate you so much

11-02-01

9:20 Happy February. I still hate you

11-02-02

22:14 I'm not sleeping with Sai anymore btw but he's probably already told you that

22:15 In fact I'm surprised you aren't in my bed right now if you know that so either he didn't tell you or you're still being a stubborn asshole

23:29 You have no fucking right to be angry with me for sleeping with Sai even if he is your roommate

23:29 Maybe if you'd given him a chance and fucked him first he wouldn't have turned to me for relief

23:30 Not even sure how those two are related but hey

23:30 Maybe in an alternate universe

23:30 Anything can happen

11-02-04

12:31 Naruto

15:40 Naruto

15:42 Naruto

15:42 Naruto

15:53 Fishcakes

23:27 Naruto

11-02-06

16:41 Fishcakes

16:41 Naruto Naruto Naruto Naruto Naruto

18:05 You're ignoring my texts aren't you

18:05 I hope you're not on that shit phone plan that charges you for incoming texts

11-02-07

16:57 If you are I'm sorry

16:57 I'll pay you back. If you read this

20:02 Or you could just tell me and I'd stop texting you I really would

20:03 You could even lie and say you were on that plan just to shut me up

20:03 Though I don't know why anyone our age would let someone charge them for incoming texts

11-02-13

10:58 What the fuck do they mean you're dating Blue now

11-02-14

0:14 Happy Valentine's Day I guess

0:15 At least one of us will be happy

3:35 I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day

3:36 It's never bothered me either the way it does some… but this year it's going to kill me

3:36 In case you couldn't tell from the timestamps I can't sleep

16:12 Good thing I don't have class today because I only just woke up

16:12 I wouldn't have been able to concentrate regardless

11-02-18

10:28 So this whole thing about being in an actual relationship with Blue

10:28 What happened to hating him

10:28 What happened to breaking it off with him

10:29 Don't tell me you fucking went back to him after you walked out on me

10:39 …

11:01 Shit Naruto you really know how to manipulate a guy's heart

11:04 Look I'm sorry about the thing with Sai ok

11:04 If I'd had any idea this would happen I'd never have even considered it

11:04 But I guess that's a shitty excuse

11:52 I don't know what else I can say

11:52 I'm sorry

11-02-24

10:55 This lecture is boring as fuck

11:23 Am I the only one whose course lectures tell me nothing but mind-numbing history and stuff I already knew

11:23 Like come on they told us about the rule of thirds in the second term

11:23 The scariest part is some people genuinely had no idea about it

11:41 I mean they had to submit a portfolio to get in didn't they

11:57 Thank fuck it's over

11:57 If you see this text do you wanna have lunch?

12:10 Naruto Naruto Naruto pick up your goddamn phone

12:15 What if I say I'm fucking someone else

21:12 No?

11-03-03

01:02 Okay, I lied about fucking someone else

01:02 I admit it was a ploy to incite a reaction from you

01:03 In the ridiculous hope that you might happen to read that one text out of all the texts I've sent you that you obviously haven't read

01:03 I don't know why I even bothered

01:04 But please come back

20:49 At least stop ignoring me

21:00 At least let us be friends again

11-03-11

14:02 Even if we can't be friends again could you at least stop by sometime so I can finish my painting?

14:05 It's due next week

14:05 I mean I could start over if I really have to but I'd prefer not to. Good models are hard to come by

14:06 At least if we're not friends it'll be easier to get through it

14:06 Probably

14:06 Maybe

11-03-15

20:33 Who am I kidding? I don't want to stop being friends

21:01 I fucking miss you ok

21:01 I miss spending time with you no matter what we were doing

21:02 Just being with you made me happier

23:38 Well I guess I'd better get to bed. Goodnight

11-03-16

18:18 I found a new model

18:18 Thought you might like to know

18:18 Very photogenic, easy on the eyes

18:18 Not quite my first choice but I'm kind of on a tight schedule here

11-03-22

02:12 So guess who had te best fucking IDea while drunk

02:14 It's me

02:14 I'm drunk as duck

02:14 Fuck

02:14 Fuck dypos ok I'm drunk as a duck or wtever

02:15 Evryefbdy knows thatbtexing ur crush while drunk is the best idsa

02:15 I better not fucking rememebr a thing inthe morngng

02:15 I guess that's only gonna happen if I delet all these texts before I skeep

02:16 Which I'm not gonna hacking do

02:16 Is this phones autocofrect hellbent on me not swaring

02:17 It won't fix half my misyakes but I can't sa for the life of me

02:18 Btw I don't hate you I take that back from last mont h

02:18 Or whenever itwas

02:18 I never hated you

02:18 In fact, the oppsite. I jst wish you weren't so dense that you couldn't see t hat

02:19 Why the hel did I fall fr someone so ducking dumb

02:21 Maybe if I oculd remember our how dumb you were I would've told you sooner and then this would never have hapened

02:39 Shit I just spent the past fifteen minutes thinking how to phrase thise okay fuck it just listen or don't listen or whtaevery ou're doing right now

02:40 I love you.

02:41 I know it doesn't hVe the same impact over text and also when I'm drunk but fucking hell Naruto I love you so fucking much. Hwo do I make that clear.

02:43 I love you and I want you and I need you Nd sometimes it phsycially hurts t miss you this much

02:48 My chest hurts Nd I want to curl up next to you bu t you're not there and

02:49 Duck

02:49 CAN WE SOTP WIT THE DUCKS ALREADY

02:50 I hope you're reading this I bet you'd find it hilRious

02:18 I miss you

03:29 I can barely keep my eyes opn anymore goodngt Naruto

11-04-03

14:12 Oh my god please do not ever read that

14:12 My head is pounding I'm begging you just delete everything right now

19:19 I'm thinking maybe I should've pushed you harder

19:19 Maybe I could've convinced you to stop sleeping with Blue if I'd told you how I really feel

19:20 If I'd just asked

19:24 I feel like crap for making you cheat on him

19:24 Though obviously that hasn't deterred either of you so maybe not so much

19:25 You were so adamant about being exclusive though

19:25 When we first met and all

19:25 If you hadn't been I could've slept with you right that day

19:25 Maybe if we'd slept together and never saw each other again it would be better

19:26 It would mean I didn't have to deal with all this pain and loneliness bullshit

19:26 I say that but let's be honest I don't think I'd trade it for anything

19:27 Except maybe having you by my side

19:30 Too sappy? I'm still hungover

19:31 I guess it's true though. I don't know how to explain it

19:31 But you meant something to me

19:31 Regardless of what that was

23:55 Goodnight Naruto

11-04-12

02:40 I can't sleep. I've been having trouble sleeping for a while now

02:40 Every time I get in bed I think how empty it is without you

03:11 I wish you were in my arms

11-04-21

15:22 I guess you really aren't reading these. Or just not answering which on my end is pretty much the same thing really

15:25 So I guess that means I can tell you some things I'd never have the courage to say if I knew you were

15:25 Even though it's entirely possible that you'll decide to read them later

15:25 I'll think about it and get back to you on that

11-05-09

22:29 I didn't forget about what I said last time I texted you

22:30 I spent pretty much the whole last two weeks figuring out what to say

22:30 But in the end it's not really a big deal what words I use is it

22:41 I love you. I want to be with you and I want to be close enough to you to push you out of your comfort zone

22:41 This isn't the kind of love where I tiptoe around you and ignore all your flaws and try to pretend everything's perfect

22:42 I will push you and I might break you but I expect you to do the same for me because I want this to be everything

22:42 And if that scares you off maybe you're not right for me but I want you anyway

22:43 (1/2) And I guess this is really pointless because it's been months now and I see you every week, almost every day and nothing happens and NOTHING HAPPENS but w

22:43 (2/2) hen I see you I forget how long it's been since we were friends and it's still as raw and clear as it was the day we stopped talking

22:45 I'm sorry everything got fucked up. I really am

23:16 I'll stop pestering you now

23:16 Mostly. I'll try to.

23:16 I miss you.

I blink. I hadn't even realized I was at the end until I found myself looking once more at the texts I received weeks ago. Coming back to myself, sitting on a balcony in the warm night, I realize there's a tightness in my throat and my heart is beating twice as fast and three times as hard as usual. The thing is, I can't really pinpoint precisely why. When I search my mind, no single emotion presents itself to me as the source: instead, I only see a whirlwind of blurry thoughts and feelings, all tangled like threads, different colours and textures and weights and lengths jumbled in a messy net wrapped around me. Overwhelmed, I clutch my phone tighter in my hand, and take deep breaths until the storm calms down a little.

Sasuke. Despite months of silence and fleeting glimpses, despite arguments and betrayals and rumours, despite everything, he still loves me. Loves me at all – because this is the first time I've had it in words. No implying anything, no reading between the lines. He loves me and he misses me, and I've never been able to tell him either of those things myself.

I scroll back up the texts, slowly, catching snippets here and there until I reach the beginning of the ones I hadn't read until now. Then I read them all over again. And again. In going through them, I find myself reliving the past few months from a new perspective: it's like these texts are little windows into Sasuke's life, brief peeks when the rest is solid brick walls. Through these windows I see the links between us, the red string connecting us even after all this time. I see his actions following the aftermath of our fallout. I see his reaction upon hearing that I was dating Katsumi. His loneliness on Valentine's Day when I had nothing but happiness. His new painting model. There's a pang of jealousy in my chest at the memory of the blonde, charismatic man I met on my last day of classes, but it's quickly wiped out by the humour in his drunken texts. Poor Sasuke, inebriated, thinking of me. I know how much he must have been hurting.

In reading his texts I realize something: we're not so different. True, I'm not as drunk as he seemed to be, and not as lonely. I have Sai to turn to if ever I want a bit of company. But I can't love Sai – not in the way he wants me to, and not in the way I want to love someone. I need something that I can't take from Sai. I can see it in the way he looks at me. If you think you're going to end up using me, he said to me, then use me. Take me how you want me, and I won't complain.

But I don't want to be using someone. Even if he's okay with it, that's not the kind of relationship I want. He'll burn himself out, devoting to me like that. Yes, I want someone to love me, but it can't be someone who's just going to go along with whatever I say. I've spent the past year dominating Katsumi, bossing him around, dragging him along. I expect my relationship with Sai would go the same way. I don't need someone to defer to me – I need someone to match me, to challenge me.

I think Sasuke could be that someone.

I wonder, though, how much he misses me. Emotions fade over time. Feelings that would once have bolted me in bed with depression now only tug fleetingly at my heart. It was torture for me to see Katsumi tear himself apart to be with me, but now it's just a dim ache. Sasuke's texts – the ones that said he missed me – were at least a month ago. That's plenty of time for a wound to heal.

But then again, that was three months after we fought. I ask myself, do I miss him any less than I did in the week following the fallout? And the answer comes to me immediately: I don't. Not in the slightest. My time with other people has always been nothing more than a distraction to take my mind off a yearning that has never gone away. It's not like I didn't have a good time with them. It's not that I couldn't actually live without Sasuke. But I wonder if I'll ever stop missing him.

It's probably not healthy to want someone this much, I tell myself. But when did my heart ever listen to my brain?


As usual, author's notes are my place to alert you guys to stuff, since I know not everyone follows my tumblr. Not that it matters because of how slowly I update nowadays, but I'll be in New York for the next week. Will I have time to write? I don't know. But I have plans for the next chapter so hopefully I can at least solidify them a bit in my mind.

I miss the days when I had at least five chapters of buffer… I honestly don't have time to write as much as I used to, though. Even since graduating from university and coming home and settling in, I've had a lot to do, looking for jobs and travelling with family and stuff. I have to admit that L.U.S.T. hasn't been a priority even within my creative free time, partly because I've been struggling with it, so I'm taking it more slowly than I used to and I hope you guys aren't too mad at me for that!

As usual, I'm much more contactable on tumblr (my username is ravenandfox). If you want to chat or ask questions, you can send them there. Otherwise, see you next update, whenever that is.

R+F