I don't let it show on my face (never do) but when I tell Sakura I want her to move in with me, I'm suddenly, instantly, and forcefully intimidated.
I'd been planning to ask her for awhile now and it seems most logical – I have a huge place with more than enough space and I won't be there half the time anyway, since the season starts in two days and then I'll be traveling all the time. It doesn't make sense to expect her to stay here in this tiny place with the shitty pipes and the godawful location, when I have a huge, safe, empty place just taking up space.
But even though there's logic behind it, I'm terrified of her answer. Because I just laid it all on the line now. It's only after I hear the words that the logic in them seems weak.
We've only been dating for a few weeks. Somehow, I'd counted all the years I spent thinking of her and wanting her and missing her and hating myself for my inability to forget her, all as part of our relationship, but in all actuality, we've been dating, officially, for a month. That's not enough to consider such a huge step like this.
Moving in. A precursor to marriage.
But I just lay there and see my apathetic expression reflected in her wide, wide eyes, my hand still splayed on her stomach as it clenches underneath my fingers. Shock. A meme of shock.
At least she's not pissed at me anymore.
"You…wait…you want me to move in? With you?"
"This place ain't safe," I tell her, and it's true, but it's not my truth. Sakura's beautiful, and she's innocent (no matter what she tells herself), and she's approachable, and she's small. If someone were to follow her home, I know she'd put up a fight, but there's no guarantee she'd win. It's a bad neighborhood and a cheap apartment that's easy to break into, so she shouldn't stay here if she has anywhere else to go.
A truth, but not my truth.
"Is that the only reason?" she asks, her voice sounding faraway, like she's lost in thought.
"Safety. Is that the only reason you want me to move in with you?"
She sees right through me. Always could. That's what made her so terrifying to me all our lives. She can't see herself at all, but me? She doesn't just peek through this practiced apathy, she demolishes it. She won't let me get away with anything. And for as much as I resent that about her, it's also one of the reasons I need her to pack up her shit and move in with me.
She's a keeper.
"The paps found out about you," I murmur evasively. "They'll figure out where you live and harass you. There's better security at my place. Won't be able to bother you there."
Another half-truth, and I watch her wide eyes narrow because she's done playing this game.
"Why do you want me to move in, Sasuke?" she asks, her tone gentle but firm, and I'm reminded of my mother. How she was always kind and patient, but there was always an underlying "Don't fuck with me" kind of demeanor that made me, well, never want to fuck with her.
She sits up in bed, propped up on her hands, and my eyes dip to the navy blue bra she's wearing and back to her face.
And for once, I tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me.
"Because you matter," I murmur, avoiding her eyes. "And the time I have here in Konoha, I want to spend with you."
She throws her arms around me and kisses me and she's crying, but the good kind. She doesn't say yes outright but I make plans to help her move this weekend; she's got a lot of clothes for someone who lives on such a tight budget.
But I've got more than enough closet space.
I don't always say the right thing, but something in the way she kisses me tells me that this time, I knocked it out of the park.
Her lease is simple enough to break; there's a fee that I pay without her knowing I paid it, because I know that Sakura's uncomfortable with how easily I can throw money at a situation, when she's not in the same boat. And the weekend before the season starts, I rent a moving van and we spend the day packing up her belongings.
It's cold in Konoha but getting warmer, so it's not as unpleasant as it ought to be, moving everything. Hard, sweat-inducing work is made easier by the chill in the air. And there's the whole upside to knowing that, at the end of it all, this girl's gonna be sleeping in my bed on a more permanent basis.
"Sasuke!" she calls from the almost-empty living room, after I've loaded the third box of shoes into the back of the van. I head back inside and find that she's stripped the sofa of its cushions and she looks at me expectantly, wearing a Heat hoodie (I fucking love her) all her hair tied back in a messy ponytail.
"Help me with this?"
"Your couch?" I echo, staring at it. "I have one already, we can leave this one behind."
"Absolutely not," she says firmly. "My couch is a million times more comfortable than your couch. It comes with me."
I smirk. "You want to have two mismatched couches in our living room?" Our. It's 'our' now. Holy shit.
"Nah, I figure this one can go in one of the empty bedrooms," she says, clearly having thought about this before. "You know. So when we inevitably fight over something you did wrong," she adds, grinning playfully at me, "I can kick you out of bed and at least you'd still have somewhere comfortable to sleep."
"You think of everything, don't you?" I say dryly, and she laughs. She's got a point, though, and even though her sofa is old and a piece of shit to look at, it is way more comfortable than mine, so I grab the other end and we carry it out of her apartment, throw it in the back of the van.
She dusts off her hands on her jeans inside the van, and takes a minute to look at her belongings. Her entire life is in this van, and her bright smile dims a little, like she's worried.
"Sasuke, are you sure about all this?" she asks me.
"This." She gestures to the shitty couch and the boxes of her things, and looks at me in concern. "Moving in. You don't think it's too soon? Too much, or whatever? Are you gonna change your mind?"
"What're you so worried for," I mutter, taking a seat on her lumpy sofa in the back of the van, arms folded, because I don't like this kind of talk. "I'm not changing my mind."
"Just…think about what this means, for me," she urges, sitting down next to me. "This is it for me. My whole life is in here and that includes you, but if this doesn't work out, I have nothing. Everything I work for," she thumbs back to her apartment, "I'm giving it all up so if you back out, I've got nowhere to go. And that's scary."
I grab her hand and squeeze it reassuringly. "Don't worry," I tell her. "I wouldn't have asked you if I wasn't sure."
She sighs and smiles. Apparently I'm full of 'right things to say' today.
That night, in bed, in our bed, I'm exhausted. I have a nasty workout planned for the next morning, what with the season starting in a couple of days, but I'm really just…content.
Because I hear Sakura humming in the kitchen as she does the dishes from dinner. Even if there's a perfectly usable dishwasher under the sink, she does it the old-fashioned way. Wash, rinse, dry. Hum the whole time.
And my swanky apartment – too big for one person – starts to feel like a home.
"Get laid last night?" Naruto asks slyly at practice.
I raise my eyebrows at him.
"You look like you got laid last night," he clarifies, digging his elbow into my ribs and risking a concussion at the same time. "That shit-eating smirk…"
"Hn." Hell yeah. Last night. This morning. More than you, asshole.
But because some weird, backwards-ass force in the universe compelled it to be so, Naruto's my dumbass best friend, and I guess this isn't something you should hide from your best friend.
"Sakura moved in," I say casually, lacing up my cleats.
"Dude, seriously? It's only been like what, a week?"
"A month," I argue defensively. It doesn't sound much better.
"Well, I can't blame you. Quality girl like that, you've got to nail down when you can. Guess that explains why you're even more pleased with yourself than you usually are."
"Shut up, idiot."
It's the last practice before the season begins. Tomorrow. It's in all the papers, on the Internet, all over the sports news. Everyone's talking about Naruto and me. The big position switch, the risk of having two teenage rookies on a professional team. Whether Kakashi's gonna be hailed as a genius for future generations, or whether this is the biggest mistake of his career.
Like the preseason, only amplified, because this is the shit that counts. You can lose every preseason game 100 to 1, but if you show up with your shit together during the actual season, that's all that matters.
We're facing Oto. Huge rivals. Naruto isn't starting – he's good, but he's not proven the way our other pitchers are. I am. I'm nervous, something I will never, ever admit to anyone, except maybe Sakura. And I guess Naruto, since he's my best friend and junk.
Bastard's jealous. He wants the start bad. I smirk; if he'd stayed at catcher, he just might have gotten it.
It was Sakura's idea years ago to have me play catcher. And it's Sakura who's breathing new life into me, and compelling me to try harder, work harder, be better. Sakura who took an arrogant, aimless asshole with too much money and not enough responsibility, and changed him into a guy his deadgoneforever parents might just have been proud of.
"C'mon," I mutter to Naruto, concealing the fact that my smirk is feeling much, much closer to a smile. I pound my fist into my glove, ready to go. "Last practice before the season starts and I can't have you slowing me down."
I make it home that night tired and bruised up and just fucking glad to see her.
She's studying when I come through the door, curled up on the floor with her textbooks sprawled in front of her on the coffee table. Hair tied up, no makeup, in one of my old T-shirts and a pair of yoga pants. She looks up and sees me and I'm home.
"Hey!" she says with a smile that lights her up like a star. In a flash, she's on her feet and then in my arms, smelling like a daisy with sunshine in her eyes. "I didn't even hear you come in! How was practice? God you look exhausted…Kakashi must've slaughtered you guys today!"
I smile into her hair and let her hug me, still a little wrongfooted after so many days of seeing her brighten when she sees me. Like I can inspire that kind of happiness in someone like her. Makes no sense, but I'll chase that feeling forever.
"You smell good," she breathes; I made sure to shower before I left practice at the stadium. Poor girl shouldn't have to smell seven hours of sweat and grime. Her hands slide from my shoulders to my stomach, relighting a fire that never really goes out, before she stops with a giggle, leaning back.
"Sorry. I know you must be tired."
"Never too tired for you," I growl, pulling her forward again so I can kiss her.
Sakura kisses me slow and sweet for a minute before she dances back out of my arms. "You need to relax," she tells me sternly, unaware that nothing relaxes me more than that body of hers. "Lay down on the couch. You hungry? Oh what am I saying, you're always hungry. Here." She pushes me to the sofa and presses the remote into my hands. "I'll make you something real quick."
Isn't there a rule, about not being allowed to have everything in your life go completely right?
She hurries off to the kitchen to do something unreasonably nice for me, and I turn the TV on because she told me to, and I looked around the living room. It's still mostly my stuff – she's not all the way unpacked yet – but there are pieces of her everywhere. A sweater thrown across the back of the sofa. A picture of her parents resting on an endtable. A pair of tiny girls' tennis shoes kicked off by the doorway.
Little things that remind me it's not just me anymore. There's someone who wants to stick around with me even though I know I've got to suck as a boyfriend. I've had no practice with this. It's just like fucking baseball; tomorrow, they're gonna throw me into something I know I'll never be prepared for.
It's the same with Sakura. I keep waiting till the moment I fuck it up.
I know I came close the other day. I know I got drunk and yelled at her, after her asshole ex-whatever ran his mouth off to me. I know she didn't deserve it. All that, I know logically.
I feel myself frown.
Logically, it makes sense, but logic doesn't – can't – apply to Sakura.
It's unreasonable of me to have expected her to wait around for me to…to get my shit together, or whatever, when it came to her. I made her no promises before we graduated high school and after that, I acted like I never met her. Never contacted her, didn't keep up with her. To expect a girl like Sakura to read between the lines and infer that I secretly loved her and wanted her to wait, without giving her so much as a whisper to my real intent, is fucking stupid.
But I still wanted her to.
I'm angry, irrationally so, that I'm not the only guy who's seen what she looks like under those clothes. It pisses me off that I wasn't her first, or second, or…I don't even know what number I am.
And Sakura…I couldn't begin to tell you what number she is. There've been so many fucking girls after high school, and I can't remember a one of them. It doesn't matter, because she's the only one that's ever mattered.
And something tells me it's the same for me.
It's just not the reality I would have wanted for Sakura Haruno. She messed around with the same shit I did – sex with no attachment – and it left me feeling hollow and empty on the inside. And a girl like her should never feel that way. I know she must have.
She's got you now, I remind myself. And you've got her. Stop punishing her for what happened before. She owed you nothing.
Still. It's something I struggle with, her past, and mine.
"…and in sports news," says the announcer on TV, drawing my attention, "baseball season begins tomorrow, and it's sure to be a good year, folks. Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you've heard about local legend Sasuke Uchiha, who at 19 was signed as a starting pitcher for the Konoha Heat, up until a few weeks ago, when eccentric coach Kakashi Hatake suddenly switched him with 19-year-old catcher Naruto Uzumaki! After an impressive 10-4 showing during the preseason, many who were scratching their heads at this bizarre move are eating their words."
I smirk at the TV and let my head fall back against the couch pillows. (Do I have couch pillows? Maybe she bought 'em.)
"And I believe congratulations are in order," the announcer goes on, grinning, "because sources close to Sasuke Uchiha have confirmed that an engagement is on the horizon for the starting catcher and his young lady love, student Sakura Haruno!"
My jaw drops. What?!
Who the hell would have spilled a story like that?
Yeah, Sakura moved in with me and maybe that's premature by some people's standards, but I'm nowhere near ready for engagement. Neither is she. I know shit about being a boyfriend, let alone a husband. So what's this fucking story, then?
Naruto, I think, instantly furious. I glare at the announcer and wish I could take a swing at him, and Sakura chooses that moment to flitter back into the living room with a bowl of macaroni and cheese and a plate full of vegetables balanced in her arms.
She glances at the TV, sees what's happening, and then giggles. It's fuckin Suna all over again, how totally unaffected she is by what the paps are saying about her.
"Oh yeah, you didn't hear about that?" she says, setting the food on the coffee table in front of me, and sitting down on my left. "Apparently, we're pre-engaged."
"The hell's that mean?"
"How should I know? But when you pre-buy me a pre-engagement ring, it better be pre-expensive!"
Joking around. Completely unruffled by it.
"Oh come on, Sasuke. As long as you and I and our friends know what's true, what the hell does it matter what anyone else says?"
I don't want to fight with her, but she's still just so fucking naïve.
"It doesn't matter," I say, tucking into my food.
What I don't mention, in the interest of preserving this idyllic peace between us, is the fact that she hasn't been maligned in the press yet. It's gonna happen – it's bound to happen – because a young couple like us is bound to attract attention, and even if we keep our noses clean, the tabloids still need to sell their stories, so they'll make them up.
Up till now, they've painted Sakura in a positive light. Always commenting on what a good student she is, how smart, how driven, how pretty…the sweet girl who turned playboy pitcher Sasuke into a proper boyfriend. She's the media's darling right now.
But it won't always be like that, because drama sells.
Will she handle this all so calmly and rationally if they start attacking her instead? If they dig up things about her shady past, her low-income upbringing, things she's done or hasn't done…will she be so cool about all this then?
And if she's not…
If she decides this is all too much for her...
Where does that leave me?
note.. because sasuke wouldn't be sasuke if he wasn't drowning in insecurity.
hope you liked it. if you did, let me know. if you didn't, don't waste your breath in telling me please because really.
love you guys. hope you had a nice weekend :)
xoxo daisy :)