The sky bleeds pink and yellow over the horizon, night isn't far behind. The temperatures are slightly cooler now, not quite as stiflingly humid, and there's even a pleasant breeze that pulls through her hair as she tugs her jacket tighter around her shoulders. Her legs are folded beneath her and it's just her and the smell of the sea and the endless ocean in front of her as she waits for him to come back.
It's the last day of vacation, a blissful week spent on the beach with Sasuke, and what a perfect vacation it was. Sakura's excited to head back to Konoha University, but a few more days of this? She smiles as she inhales the scent of dying summer. She could get used to this.
She's happy now. It's not a shadow, it's not an imitation. There are moments, of course, when she's sad, and scared, and angry, and frustrated, but every day, she's happy. Things are going well. Things are going right.
There's a sudden warmth around her shoulders and the smile on her face broadens and she looks up to find Sasuke with the blanket from the car.
"Hey, handsome," she breathes.
He smiles at her. It's Sasuke's version of a smile anyway. Softer than a smirk, one corner of his mouth tilted higher than the other. Not a wide, bright smile like Naruto's, but gentle in a Sasuke way, and a smile she knows is just for her, so she loves it all the more.
Then he sits beside her on the beach towel they're sharing, and she leans her head against his strong shoulder and releases a contented sigh. If she could stay like this forever, she would die happy.
"We should head back soon," Sasuke says softly. She knows him very well by now, and can hear the slightest tinge of regret to his tone. He might never vocalize it because that's just not Sasuke's way, but it's nice to know she's not the only one who will miss this idyllic beach vacation when it's over. "It's a long drive back."
"I know," Sakura sighs. She cuddles deeper into the blanket that smells like cigarettes and sunshine and Sasuke, pulling it tight around her and she wants to drown in the warmth and perfection of this moment. It's getting darker, and Sasuke's nothing if not practical; they'll be driving through the night if they stay here much longer, and tomorrow they'll need to pick classes at school and it's a big day an important day lots to do lots to do but can you blame her for wanting to put it off a little bit?
"I just wish we could stay longer," she admits to the soft cotton of the sweatshirt he's wearing. "I had such an amazing time."
She thinks back to late night walks on the beach, popcorn on the boardwalk, a ride on the Ferris wheel. Tender kisses shared beneath fireworks, fireworks shared beneath crisp cotton hotel bedsheets, and the uninhibited magic of being 19 and immortal and in love, and she doesn't want to ever leave.
"Aa," is Sasuke's response. Ambiguous and understanding all at once.
"I love you," she says, just because she can. And he answers with a kiss dropped to her temple, without articulating the words because he doesn't need to for her to believe in them. She looks up at him and thanks every god there ever was or could be for letting someone like Sasuke Uchiha into her life, stars in her eyes as he smiles in his Sasuke way and stands up, offering her his hand.
"Let's head back," he murmurs. He pulls her up effortlessly (sometimes, Sakura forgets how very strong he is) and when she's on her feet, he smoothes back candy pink beach waves out of habit. His fingers through her hair send a jolt like a thunder strike coursing through her body, and without warning, she winds her arms around his neck and presses her lips against his.
The last kiss of summer, and certainly the sweetest, and she falls a little bit more in love with him than she already is.
"Okay," she whispers against his mouth. "Let's go home."
Home is a new apartment in the building across from Ino's and Shikamaru's. Home is a tiny one-bedroom that's very expensive, hard to maintain, problem-ridden and perfect because it's theirs.
Home is her heart in Sasuke's hands, his gentle half-smile and the echo of waves rolling in against the shore.
Home is Sasuke and Sakura and all the bittersweet magic that burns in between.
She's beautiful with the dwindling summer starlight shining in her eyes.
She's like summer itself, balmy and gorgeous and dazzling, full of promise and laughter and everything every girl has aspired to be since the dawn of man. Not a stitch of makeup, just flawless tanned skin, wild pink, sunbleached hair and a stunning smile, and she's his and there's times he still can't quite believe it, but here she is.
"The car's packed up," he says, even as he commits the sight to memory. Of Sakura, her lips kiss-swollen and her eyes full of nothing but happiness. The waves crash behind her, the wind tugs through her hair, and there's the slightest cherry-red flush to her cheeks heralding a mild sunburn. It's time to go, he knows, but Sakura is not the only one to regret this perfect vacation's end.
She kisses him again, and threads her tiny fingers through his to show willing. He guides her back across the beach to where he's parked the Jetta, their footsteps crunching through the sand; he sees Sakura cast one last, longing, parting glance at the ocean he knows she loves before she's back to herself again, chattering and giggling and teasing and everything that makes her his girlfriend.
Sasuke's 20 years old now.
He's 20, and he's starting his junior year of college.
Oh, and he has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up, besides a fixture in the life of Sakura Haruno.
At the beach for the week, spent in the amorous company of the most amazing girl on the planet, it's easy to forget all the murkiness and uncertainty of Real Life. Real Life isn't spent kissing every inch of your girlfriend's perfect body on the sand while she cries out your name and makes you weak; Real Life isn't spent knocking back bottles of Yuengling while you toast to fireworks and each other; Real Life isn't spent sharing vinegar-soaked French fries at the mini-golf pier.
But they're heading back to Real Life now, and it's not so easy to forget anymore.
Sasuke can't tell her how confused he is. How muddled his life has become, not without sounding ungrateful for who she is to him. There's nothing in the world he values more than Sakura Haruno, and to complain to her about having no direction anymore (without the staggeringly high expectations of a family he no longer lives to please) would only upset her. He's not the most sensitive guy in the world, but he's also not completely heartless.
He knows that Sakura's happy these days, but that she's still fragile. Like newly-made glass, delicate and breakable. Their relationship was never easy when it mattered, and she's not as self-assured as he knows she should be.
He can't risk her beautiful smile.
He'll figure this out on his own. He's got to.
"Need me to drive?" she asks, when they reach his car. The backseat is full of their things, towels and suitcases and souvenirs for their friends (none of whom were happy at being left out of their romantic getaway). "You must be tired."
"I'm fine, Sakura," he replies. "Get in."
She does, and he loves the way she looks in his passenger's seat. Relaxed and comfortable, one leg propped up on the dashboard and her iPhone in her hands as her thumbs fly across the screen, and she laughs brightly at something he doesn't know.
"Phillies beat the Yankees 9-8 in extra innings!" she exclaims boastfully. "What do you say to that?"
Sasuke buckles himself in and takes a look at her, her green eyes full of mischief and laughter, her smile as genuine as he's ever seen and thinks to himself, the Yankees can lose every game in the season if it means she'll smile like that forever.
"Still a long ways to go till the playoffs," he says instead, rolling his eyes at her antics. "Don't get ahead of yourself."
When he's with Sakura, he doesn't feel as anxious as he knows he should about his lack of direction. Talking with her, even when it's serious, even when they're arguing, he's reminded of what an amazing person she is and focusing on that, he can postpone making any abrupt decisions for his future.
But they're heading back now. Heading back home to their tiny apartment with the queen-sized bed and the sheets that smell like Sakura, and with every mile they drive, he's closer and closer to the uncertainty that threatens to swallow him whole.
He's Sasuke Uchiha.
He's 20 years old.
And he has not one fucking clue what he's going to do with his life.
And there's no running from that. Not anymore.
note.. Here you go :) Part Two of this story-that's-taking-over-my-life. Hope you like it! Let me know what you think :)
See you soon!