The days blend together and the nights do, too, and that's the way he needs it to be.
If his life is a routine, if one balmy morning bleeds into another mild night, if he's kept busy and focused on schoolwork and a slave to his ambition, then he won't have time for petty, needless things like regret. Like guilt.
There are times, though. Times like today and he can't forget. He can't focus on his work, he can't drown his bad mood on a long, solitary walk around the sprawling Oto campus.
Today marks one year.
One year since he left Konoha, one year since he arrived in Oto in his Jetta.
Dates don't typically mean much to Sasuke, besides homework deadlines and exam days, so he doesn't really need to mark the passage of time. Few dates stick out in his mind, but he remembers the bad days. The day his family was killed in that car accident, he'll never forget that day.
And something tells him he'll never forget today either. It's December 3rd. It's one year since he drove away from sorrowful green eyes with anger and fire and guilt in his heart, and even one whole year later, after countless attempts to drive her out of his heart, he's still brought down by her memory. Dragged to his knees by the very thought of her standing so thin and small and alone with the snow falling all around her, watching him drive off without even a goodbye, never knowing why he was leaving.
And today, he blows off his lectures. Skips a Poli Sci review that he desperately needs to attend. Even skives off his one-on-one tutoring session with Dr. Orochimaru, because this one day, Sasuke can't be the robot Oto knows him to be.
Today, Sasuke leaves his schoolbooks behind and passes on his morning workout at the gym. The guilt he's felt in the back of his mind every single day since he left consumes him and his focus is skewered, so he heads off campus. Doesn't take his car (rarely takes his car anywhere, these days), but gets on the bus to downtown Oto for a change in fucking scenery.
He finds himself at a hole-in-the-wall bar in one of the seedier districts, a place he's never been to before, because Oto University is his self-appointed prison and he doesn't permit himself any time off for good behavior. And it doesn't matter that he's underage, not in a place like this – that's just like Konoha, and even thinking the name of his former university pisses him off with unwanted nostalgia.
Because right now, what Sasuke wants to do more than anything, is drink himself back into his chosen apathy. He wants to pound back shot after shot of something strong, until her face disappears back to the furthest recesses of his heart.
And it's not just her, either.
He wants to forget Naruto, too. He wants to forget the endless parade of text messages and emails and missed phone calls, since his dumbass best friend just won't take a fucking hint. He wants to forget Ino, who he learned from Naruto awhile back had just given birth to a healthy baby girl, and Shikamaru right along with them. Because the baby's theirs, not Sakura's, and that means he fucked up. So he wants to forget the idyllic little family he was too ashamed to admit he wanted.
And Karin and Kiba and Neji and everyone else back in Konoha, laughing and smiling without him. Laughing and smiling even though he can't do either one of those things anymore.
He wants to forget, so he drops himself onto a tattered stool at the bar and quietly orders (demands) a shot of tequila.
The empty seat beside him isn't empty for very long. A woman sits down beside him, shapely and he might normally have found her attractive, if his opinions hadn't been hijacked a year ago by the prettiest girl in the universe. She sits so she's facing him, and whether it's the low-cut blouse or the smolder in her shameless eyes, he knows that her intentions are less than pure.
"Hey," she breathes. She smells like cigarettes and it makes him think of Her.
So he hates this woman, and turns back to his third shot.
"My friends dared me to try and get your number," she goes on, not taking a hint.
"So how 'bout it?"
"Ooh, touchy. Girlfriend?"
Silky pink hair and a sunny smile and dark secrets hidden behind pretty eyes, and workouts and movies and kissing in the rain and…
"Fuck off," he murmurs, signaling the bartender for another.
She huffs in irritation, blowing curly brown hair out of her ways the way She used to when she was pissed. Then she leans in closer, her breath fanning across his ear and making him tense up.
"Look, fuck the number, okay? I think I know what you need, and I'm willing to give it to you. No muss, no fuss, you can just fuck me and we'll both forget about it the next day."
Maybe it's the similarity to Her, or maybe it's the differences. Sakura – he only thinks her name because he's drunk, otherwise it's taboo – would never have been this bold, this brash about anything. She was shy and subtle, secretive, even mysterious at times, and while it had captivated him, it had also infuriated him. Here was another girl, beautiful in her own right and older than Sakura, clearly more mature and full of the confidence that Sakura so desperately lacked. Offering him a momentary reprieve from this self-imposed exile with no strings.
Whatever it is, it tempts him. For longer than a second, he debates if maybe this is exactly what he needs on this shitty fucking day. A quick fuck, ten minutes of aching, pent-up anguish released on a perfect stranger who reminds him of Sakura in a grotesque, desperate way, and then it's back to his practiced stoicism.
He appraises the woman with narrowed eyes, and then he comes to his senses.
"Keep the change," he says to the bartender, slamming way too much money on the counter and leaving the bar with his hands in his pockets and the woman staring after him in anger.
It's raining when he steps outside, raining when he gets on the bus, and it's raining when he falls asleep that night with his stomach on fire from all that alcohol and his heart even heavier than before.
Sakura is gone. She's gone because he let her go. She made her choices and he made his, so wallowing in guilt and regret about it all these months later isn't going to bring her back. She was never meant for this life anyway, and he pictures her smiling and laughing with the others back in Konoha, where she belongs.
When he opens his eyes again, he realizes he's slept through the night. It's December 4th. A new day. And it's back to the grind like there was never any interruption.
It's the easiest thing in the world to shove thoughts of Sakura and Naruto and Konoha and everyone else to the back of his mind, the way he's done every single day since he came here. Now that there is nothing momentous about the date, he can focus his attention back where it needs to be: on his schoolwork. It's almost Finals Week and to maintain his perfect grades, he's got to have his head on straight, and now, he does.
In Oto, routine is his best friend, but it's only the really bad days he remembers.
He remembers because she's asked him to, sitting on their Konoha couch in their happy apartment months after the fact. She wants to know about Oto and he could tell her, but he finds it ironic that the only day he really remembers is the day he broke from his visceral routine. Everything else bleeds together in a hodgepodge of things he doesn't need to think about ever again, but the only day he recalls with any sort of specification is the day he spent drowning his sorrows and thinking of her.
If she ever figures out how pathetically I've loved her since the beginning, he thinks, almost smirking, then she'll probably dump my ass and call me a psychopath.
"It was a routine," Sasuke says quietly, playing with the ends of her hair. "I did the same thing every day."
"You don't miss it, though?" Sakura asks, pressing him. "If you had the chance to go back, would you?"
"'Course not," he scoffs. "Where's this even coming from, Sakura?"
She hesitates, then sighs. "It's just…I don't know. With everything happening lately, I kind of…wanted to know the truth about what you did in Oto. You always said it was just studying and working out and not much else and I believe you. But I never really asked you if you ever wanted to go back."
I have everything I want, he thinks harshly, knowing that what he has is more than any man deserves. He's in love with the most amazing girl in the universe and they have a home together. He's attending an excellent school with a new, fresh ambition, and he's got a lot of friends and they're all wonderful people and they drive him crazy and piss him off and he gets to work on cars for fun and play baseball.
"I never asked you if you were happy here," Sakura whispers. "Because Sasuke, if you wanted to go back to Oto, if you only felt like you were here to make us all happy and you weren't happy here yourself, I'd go with you."
The sentiment is touching, but he's more struck by how completely off base she is.
"If you don't know I'm happy by now," Sasuke murmurs, angriest with himself for making her doubt it, "then I've done a shit job letting you know."
Sakura smiles like she's settled some internal debate with herself, and then she kisses him.
"I'm happy with you," she says simply. "I'm happy every day. And I'm sorry if all this shit coming up makes it hard for you to see that, but thank you, Sasuke. Thank you for being here with me and thank you for making me happy."
A kiss to her forehead, and nothing more is said.
Kiba watches them through the window.
He's drunk again. People avoid him on the streets because of the way he staggers and starts. And no one's been drinking with him and people who drink alone are alcoholics, but he doesn't care.
And you can't call him a peeping tom because it's not like he meant to spy on them. Because he didn't. That wasn't his intention coming by their apartment, but it's not his fault the window curtains are drawn and they live on the first floor and he can see everything.
They're talking, but he can't quite make out the words, and he's not really sure why he's trying to. It hurts every day to see them together, and to watch them when they think they're alone, trading secrets and sentiments away from prying eyes, is nothing short of torture. There's no greater pain than loving someone who loves someone else, and Kiba's been tormented by that fact for months, now.
And because his heart aches and he's feeding into it with bourbon and regret, he stays, hidden in the nighttime shadows and he watches as Sakura and Sasuke talk quietly together on their sofa.
They look good together, he thinks, hating it, and he brings the half-empty bottle to his lips and takes another swallow. They always did.
Sasuke's sitting on the sofa with one arm slung across the back, his free hand playing with Sakura's hair. And she looks as beautiful as ever, wearing one of Sasuke's T-shirts, her bare legs folded beneath her as she says something doubtlessly lovely to Sasuke that Kiba can't quite make out.
It used to be me, he thinks angrily, swaying on the spot but making sure to keep out of sight. It used to be me she cuddled up to and said sweet shit to. It should've been me.
He's so drunk right now he can barely stand, let alone think clearly about anything, but impossibly, he recalls a memory with such visceral clarity that it almost brings him to his knees.
"Admit it," Kiba chuckles, when it's just them alone in the common room that night. "You were surprised."
She laughs as she sits across his lap, knees on either side of his hips, color in her cheeks still high from so much celebrating.
"I was," she concedes, though it's far more her style to give him sass and never cop to anything. "You got me. I've never had a surprise party before. I should've expected it, though. Between you and Ino."
The room is empty except for them and the pitiful remainder of Sakura's surprise 18th birthday party. There's a half-eaten chocolate cake and all the blown-out candles, semi-deflated balloons and streamers and confetti strewn all over the floor. It'll be a pain in the ass to clean up, but right now, Kiba's focused on the stunner in his lap and the gratitude in her wide green eyes.
"Thank you so much, Kiba," she tells him, with such sincerity that he almost can't believe it.
"Anytime, gorgeous," he replies, and he kisses her.
It's just them, alone in the room, and it's very late, and everyone else is asleep. And what Kiba really wants to hear isn't necessarily 'Thank you.' What Kiba really wants to hear is, 'I love you.' And 'I'm over him.' And 'I choose you.'
But he'll settle for 'thank you' because Sakura is doing her best. Sakura is becoming a different person now, slowly but surely, with her hair cut short and her new tattoo and her nose piercing; and even though she's always told him she can't love him, maybe she'll change her mind. Maybe if he just hangs on long enough, maybe if he digs his fingers hard enough into her waist to leave marks that remind her he was there and he IS there and he'll BE there the way Uchiha never was, she'll grow into a girl who has the strength to love him back.
Till then, he'll settle for the way she lets him fuck her in the common room. Because in those precious minutes, she's connected to him and thinking only of him and while he's inside her, there's no way she can even remember there was ever a guy named Sasuke Uchiha.
While he's inside her, it's Kiba and Sakura and she's not damaged goods. She's whole and happy and perfect and she doesn't mind that it's him slamming into her instead of Sasuke, because it's HIS name she cries out when she climaxes. HIS shoulder she bites into to stifle her screams. HIS back she sinks her nails into like an angry red love letter.
"Happy birthday, beautiful," he murmurs in her ear, when it's over and she's sweaty and panting above him. He wants to tell her 'I love you,' wants her to know it from his own mouth and not just in his EVERY ACTION, but now isn't the time.
Maybe it never will be.
Kiba remembers it like a blow to the back of the head, and to see her there, with her legs folded and her hair long again, so fucking happy he can't stomach it, with another guy, makes him sick.
Sick of her, sick of him, sick of himself, sick of everything.
He didn't sign on for this. He didn't know that he wouldn't be able to move on from her all these months after their never-official relationship went up in smoke. He didn't know he'd find himself here at her window, forever drunk and drowning in bitterness, pretending it's him in there instead of the man – the boyfriend – she really loves.
Then he sees Sakura shift so she's straddling Sasuke. The position is the same one she'd let Kiba fuck her in at her birthday party, and to see it reenacted with another man is one of the most unfair things he's ever witnessed. He watches every sordid detail, watches as she leans down and kisses Sasuke with an affection and a gentleness she'd never been able to show him. He watches as Sasuke's arms come up automatically to hold her in place, watches as she slides her hips against his in invitation. The shirt she's wearing rides up and he can see the lace of her panties, and…
I never stood a chance, did i? he thinks with a sneer, finishing the rest of the bottle and throwing it carelessly into the street.
He shoves his hands into his pockets because he's got to get away from this. He can't be here any longer. He can't watch another fucking second of what's happening in there because it's killing him. Sakura outdrew him and that's all he ever really learned from love, so now he…
Now he doesn't fucking know. But he's sick of this. Sick of everyone involved in this.
Drunk and bitter, he moves on from their apartment, heads back to the sidewalk, crosses the street. He steps on the broken glass of the bottle he's thrown and doesn't feel the shards cut through his sneakers and into his feet. Doesn't feel anything. Doesn't know anything. Doesn't see anything.
Not even the headlights of the red pick-up truck as it rushes towards him, unable to stop in time.
note.. gone for awhile, huh? i missed this universe, though.
big ups to anyone who can spot the 'hallelujah' reference.
xoxo daisy :) go phils!