Lalala I'm going to fail all my finals. I can't focus but at least I got this chapter done. It might be a while before I get to the next chapter or might just take a week depending on how well my studying goes.
Enjoy this product of my insomnia and shattered hopes and dreams.
Chapter 16: Happy Golden Week
By the end of April, Sakura had made a few interesting discoveries. The first one was that Sasori had an intense and irrational hatred of clowns and all things clown-like. This was a random discovery, one largely brought on when they were walking past a man dressed as a clown on the street who had stopped to ask them to donate money to orphans. Sasori had given the man such a lifeless stare that the unfortunate clown had burst into tears and run off.
The second revelation was that Kisame secretly loved dancing to choreography that was normally designed for girls. She had caught him enthusiastically waving his arms around to the mix CD she had accidentally left in the stereo. So startled by the sight, Sakura had dropped her water bottle, sending it rolling across the floor and knocking straight into Kisame's foot. Kisame froze, eyes wide as he turned to face her with his hands still curled up into cat-like paws at his temples.
"Oh crap. Don't make fun of me."
"Sure," Sakura said, already pressing a hand to her mouth to stifle her giggles as Sasori's head popped up over her shoulder. All it took was Sasori staring at her before Sakura burst into loud, full-bellied laughter while Sasori pointed a finger at Kisame's face.
The third and probably most amusing thing that Sakura discovered during April was that she had the power to make her boyfriend blush like a little girl. All it took was her pouting and saying "Ikkun" in her sweetest voice to make him concede to her on most points. However, he had also discovered one of her most key weaknesses: she was afraid of frogs. This discovery too was accidental. One day during their morning run, an innocent amphibian had crawled up onto the asphalt, nearly getting squished under Kisame's foot. Sakura had taken one look at the cold-blooded creature and let out such a high-pitched shriek that Kisame and Deidara imitated the noise for almost a week afterwards. Half-crying and half-laughing, Sakura had been forced to cover her eyes until Itachi shooed the animal away with his foot. Of course all of this had happened after Itachi made her promise never to call him "Ikkun" again.
And then, before anyone realized how quickly time was moving, it was the end of April and Golden Week* had rolled around. A full week free from schoolwork and student council responsibilities awaited her and it was a break that Sakura desperately needed.
Sakura lay on her back, relishing the cool feeling of the floor against her skin. She grumbled under her breath as she ripped open the wrapper of an ice cream bar. Tossing the wrapper aside, she stuck the cold treat in her mouth. A contented sigh left her as she rolled onto her side only to find Kisame and Deidara watching her with looks of utter disgust.
"Stop being all happy and crap. You're giving me a cavity," Kisame grumbled.
"And you!" Deidara said, pointing an accusatory finger at Itachi who was sitting next to her with an ice cream bar in his mouth too. When Itachi simply blinked at him, Deidara seemed to deflate a little.
"Forget it. I was trying to find something to yell at you about too…." Deidara mumbled, lowering his hand.
"Shut up, Deidara," Sasori sighed from the corner. He was stretched out on his back, one arm thrown over his eyes. He slowly sat up, raising his arms over his head until they let out a satisfying pop. Looking around with sleepy eyes, he scooted across the floor until he reached Sakura.
"How are you feeling?" she asked as she rolled onto her stomach.
"I've been sleeping 14 hours a day. I should be near-human in about a week," Sasori flatly replied before he stretched out on the floor next to her.
"Has he always been like this?" Sakura inquired after watching Sasori sleep for a moment. When she looked up, Deidara shook his head.
"We only got 3rd place last year. Sasori ate nothing but crappy cup ramen and slept like 20 hours a day for about two months. He's pretty sprightly this time, yeah," Deidara told her as he poked at Sasori's shoulder with his big toe.
"Any plans for next week, Sakura-chan?" Kisame suddenly asked. Sakura popped the clean wooden stick out of her mouth and tossed it on top of its discarded wrapper before she grabbed another ice cream bar from the pile. As she peeled the plastic back with a thoughtful expression, Deidara poked Sasori again with his foot. This time, Sasori responded by smashing his fist down on Deidara's bare toe before rolling onto his side and depositing his head into Sakura's lap. Sakura barely glanced down at him or at Deidara rolling around in pain.
"Sleeping," she said. The grin creeping up Kisame's face made her eyes narrow with suspicion.
"What?" Sakura demanded.
"We should go to the beach," Kisame said.
"That's a stupid idea," Sasori suddenly replied without lifting his head. Sakura stifled a snort.
"Well it's the off season so the beach would be nice. And the weather's warm enough," Itachi mused. When he rubbed at his chin, Sakura's eyes widened.
"Didn't Sasuke-kun mention that your family has a summer house?" she said, looking at Itachi with excitement.
"Go without me. I can finally get some real sleep without you bothering me," Sasori commented as he finally lifted his head from Sakura's lap.
"But it's off season, Sasori-san. It'll be quiet and I'm sure the ocean air would be good for your health," Sakura argued. He tilted his head to look up at her with scrutiny. With a heavy sigh, he dropped his head back into her lap and closed his eyes.
"She's dangerous, Itachi," Sasori grumbled.
"I know," Itachi responded.
So after a little discussion and a little more persuasion, everyone agreed that spending the week at the Uchiha family's beach house was the best plan.
"Hey, My-chan, why not invite little Baby Sasu-chan and your other friends, yeah?" Deidara suggested. At this, Sakura and Itachi turned to give him identical looks of disbelief making Kisame snicker.
"Why? So you can bully him some more? Give him a break, Deidara-san. Sasuke-kun's my friend," Sakura scolded, waggling a finger at him. But Kisame interrupted by throwing his arm over Deidara's shoulder.
"That's not it, Sakura-chan. You see, Deidara here wants to play volleyball but he always loses against Itachi and me. So he's hoping that some fresh Uchiha blood will help even out the odds," Kisame told her, ignoring Deidara's deadly glare as he tried to shrug him off. Kisame simply moved his arm to catch Deidara in a headlock while Sakura and Itachi looked at each other.
"I suppose there's enough room for about three more people?" Itachi said as he counted off on his fingers.
"Hm… well…. I guess then…." Sakura trailed off as she pulled out her cell phone.
It took a bit of persuading since Hinata had never actually met any of Sakura's other friends before, but she eventually agreed that a vacation on the beach sounded fun. The phone call with Sasuke was much shorter. In fact, it took less than a minute:
"Sasuke-kun, I'm going to the beach with your brother and some friends. You should come."
"OOH ASK IF I CAN COME TOO!"
"….Can the idiot come?"
When Sakura put her phone down, Deidara was scowling. Though it could have been because Kisame still had him caught in a headlock, Deidara didn't seem at all bothered by his position. Instead, he was glowering at her phone.
"So my friend Hinata-chan and Sasuke-kun and Naruto," Sakura listed out.
"Two boys, yeah?" Deidara said in a voice heavy with disapproval.
"Yes but one of them is 'Baby Sasu-chan'," Sakura pointed out.
"Besides, if her boyfriend says it's fine, it's fine," Sasori grumbled out. Sakura patted the top of his head with a bright smile. When all eyes turned expectantly to Itachi, he froze for a moment. While Sakura was looking at him with her big green eyes, just behind her, Kisame and Deidara were silently shaking their heads. Itachi's gaze flickered back and forth between these opposing groups before he shrugged.
"I'm sure it'll give Deidara and Kisame plenty of time to make their lives living hell," Itachi sighed. At first, Deidara looked outraged. But then he exchanged looks with Kisame and a devilish grin pulled up at his mouth.
Sakura began to fear dearly for Naruto and Sasuke.
After a couple more hours of practice (where Kisame kept missing his entrance until Deidara ripped off his shoe and whapped him in the back of the head with it), they grabbed a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant and then separated to pack. Just as Sakura walked into her apartment and turned to wave at Itachi to let him know that he could leave, her cell phone rang. Her eyes flickered over the caller ID for a moment, just a little hesitant. But to her relief, it was Hinata's name that popped up.
"Sakura-chan, are you sure it's alright for me to come with you? Isn't this an event with your dance team?" Hinata immediately asked in a worrying tone that Sakura recognized well.
"Don't be silly, Hinata-chan. If Sasuke-kun and Naruto are allowed to come, I promise you that you're not being a bother," Sakura assured her friend as she lugged her suitcase out of the closet. She could hear the sound of a zipper over the phone.
"Are you done packing already?" Sakura inquired to distract her. As she spoke, she grabbed a handful of undergarments from the top drawer of her dresser.
"Almost. What are we going to do there? Do you think it'd be alright to pack a bathing suit?" Hinata worried and worried until Sakura stopped rolling up t-shirts to laugh a little.
"It's the beach, Hinata-chan. Some sunbathing, maybe volleyball. I'd bring a bathing suit just in case. I don't think we'll be swimming in the ocean because it might be cold but you never know," said Sakura as she opened up her bottom drawer where she had stashed her bathing suits from last year. She picked up the mint green top she had favored last year and as she stretched the fabric, she realized that it probably wouldn't fit anymore. The bottoms were too loose and the tops too tight. Just as she began to worry, she heard a series of beeps.
"Ooh, Hinata-chan, I've got another call on the line. Do you mind waiting for a second?" Sakura said, already guessing who it was.
"Okay. But Sakura-chan, what kind of bathing suit should I bring? Naruto-kun's going to be there!" Hinata blurted out.
"Um… pack a few and I'll help you decide when we get there," Sakura quickly replied before she hit a series of buttons.
"None of your swimsuits from last year fit and you were about to freak out, yeah," Deidara greeted her. Sakura scowled even though she knew he wouldn't be able to see her.
"Don't worry. Fishy's been planning to spring this on us for days. Sasori and I have a few things so we'll bring them, okay?" he assured her. She let out a long sigh of relief.
"You're the best, Deidara-san. I have my friend on the other line so I have to go."
When she flipped back to Hinata, she heard a serious of rustles.
"Would wearing a dress be strange? I always wear pants on my dates with Naruto-kun," Hinata immediately began. Sakura rifled through a few things in her closet before she plucked some dresses off the hangers and folded them over her arm. As she began organizing everything into her suitcase, Sakura patiently guided her distraught friend through everything she might possibly need. When Sakura reminded her to bring a few feminine products in case of an emergency, Hinata let out a little squeak of surprise.
"I heard one of the girls in class talking about how her boyfriend became so… bold when he saw her in a bikini for the first time!" Hinata panicked. Sakura could hear the beginnings of hyperventilation.
"Hinata-chan!" she half-yelled over the sounds of Hinata's gradual breakdown. Everything went quiet.
"Naruto is probably just as shy if not shyer about stuff like that. And there are four adults there plus Sasuke-kun and me. He's not going to try anything," Sakura logically stated. As she zipped her suitcase up, she heard the faint crackle of plastic.
"…Are you sure?"
"I'm so sure that if he does try something, I'll shave off all my hair," Sakura said with a laugh. To her immense relief, Hinata giggled in response.
"Thanks, Sakura-chan. I've never gone away with friends before. You're the best," Hinata sighed. Sakura smiled as she popped the handle out of the suitcase and stood it up. Her shoulder bag packed with her wallet and cell phone and other necessities was slung over her right shoulder. Glancing down at the long t-shirt and leggings she had worn straight from practice, Sakura decided she didn't need to change her clothes. Instead, she pulled on a light-yellow hoodie and pushed up the sleeves to her elbows.
"No problem. We'll probably be around to pick you up in about half an hour," she said. After offering a few more tidbits of advice, Sakura hung up.
Itachi came by after about ten minutes. When he popped open the trunk, she caught a glimpse of two simple blue duffel bags along with a plastic red cooler. She gingerly lifted the lid with her pointer finger and found it filled with bags of ice. She closed the cooler and then the trunk before plopping down in the passenger's seat. Sakura took a moment to twist around to wave at Sasuke sitting sullenly in the back seat. But he took a moment to wave back at her before crossing his arms over his chest.
"So we're picking up Naruto and then Hinata-chan?" Sakura confirmed as Itachi leaned over to give her a greeting kiss. She thought she heard Sasuke gag a little.
"That's right. Deidara and Sasori are taking Kisame," Itachi added as he pulled onto the street.
The two-hour ride to the ocean was a lot less awkward than expected. While Sakura sat up front chatting with Itachi to make sure he didn't fall asleep while driving, Sasuke immediately leaned his head against the window and fell asleep. Naruto sat in the middle with Hinata to his right. Though there was a fair share of blushing and giggling from the couple, everything seemed relatively pleasant. When Itachi's black car drove straight across the sand to the Uchiha family's beach house, Sakura gasped.
The white wooden siding glowed light blue in the moonlight. It was three stories high with a large porch that wrapped up the front of the building. When Itachi parked in the driveway, Sakura sat with her hands in her lap, just taking in the view and listening to the distant rush of waves lapping against the sand. She finally turned to look when she heard Naruto snickering rather loudly. Sasuke was still dozing rather peacefully despite the fact that Naruto was poking his cheek less than gently. The sound of car doors slamming and Deidara cheering, "I'M STARVING, YEAH!" immediately jolted Sasuke awake.
"I think he's honestly traumatized," Sakura commented as she and Itachi looped around the back of the car to open the trunk. Sasori's navy blue sedan was parked next to them. Deidara cheered loudly as he bounded off into the house, leaving Kisame and Sasori to unload the car. Sasori half-heartedly glared at his friend's retreating back.
"Leave him. He had coffee on the way here. He'll be asleep in an hour," Kisame grumbled as he lifted a box onto his shoulder and headed into the house too. When Sakura picked up her suitcase, she immediately met Itachi's eyes.
"No," she firmly said when his hand moved to take her luggage from her.
"You need to take your stuff and that cooler," she argued when he reached again. Sakura threw her arms up into the air when he easily tucked his duffel bag under his right arm and took the cooler in his hand before rolling her suitcase along in the other. Rolling her eyes, she took a couple plastic bags from the stuff in the back of Sasori's car and followed Itachi up the stone pathway. The foyer was a soft shade of cream matched with light wood floors. She peered past the doorway into an open living room area that flowed into a dining room. She poked her head into the other doorway and found a brightly-lit kitchen with little green seashells dotting the backsplash tiles. She placed the bags on the marble counters before she headed outside again to help Kisame. After a couple more trips, everything was moved inside and the cars were locked. Everyone gathered in the living room. There was a large beige sectional that easily seated Hinata, Naruto, Sasori and Sakura. Kisame and Deidara were sprawled out on the floor, Deidara's eyelids already drooping. Itachi turned to his brother to discuss something for a moment before he clapped his hands to gain everyone's attention.
"Alright. It's late so I'll tell everyone where their rooms are. Sakura and Hinata-san will be in the master bedroom on the second floor. The door has a green ribbon hanging from the doorknob. Naruto and Sasuke will be in the room next to theirs and Sasori-senpai will be in the room across the hall. Kisame and I will be in the room on the third floor and since Deidara kicks in his sleep, he'll be sleeping on the couch down here," Itachi listed out. Deidara shrugged, as if he had already expected being ostracized.
"Well we're pretty tired so I think we'll be heading to bed first," Sakura said as she stood. Hinata timidly copied her, her eyes darting nervously around to everyone in the room.
"Oh and before I forget, Hinata-chan, these are my friends. That's Kisame-san, Sasori-san, Deidara-san and my boyfriend… Itachi…. Itachi-kun."
Deidara and Kisame chuckled together when they watched her stumble over the new title for Itachi. Sasori simply dipped his head when his name was called.
"N-n-nice to m-meet you. I'm H-Hyuuga H-Hinata. S-s-sorry t-to-to intrude," Hinata nervously greeted them, bowing deeply.
"It's not really a bother. Since you're My-chan's best friend, it's no trouble," Deidara casually said while examining his nails. He glanced up to look her over once with a shrewd look that Sakura recognized.
"And she's Naruto's girlfriend so be nice, Deidara-san," Sakura sternly said, giving Deidara a little glare.
"That's not what I was thinking of, you perv. Your friend's pretty, Sakura-chan. I approve," Deidara declared before he stood and shoved Naruto off the sofa with his foot before collapsing onto it. Sasori swatted his forehead once before he moved off the sectional too, leaving Deidara to sprawl happily.
"Good night," Sakura said as she took her suitcase. She was met with a chorus of similar greetings. The two girls took up their things and headed up the staircase to the second floor. They ended up in an open sitting room furnished with wicker furniture. To the left were three doors, up ahead glass double doors that led to a wide balcony and to the right one more door. They easily spotted the green ribbon and Sakura was the one to enter the room first.
The inside of the master bedroom looked like something straight out of the glossy pages of a department store catalogue. Everything from the mint green walls to the large bed complete with throw pillows was perfectly coordinated. While Hinata peered into the connecting bathroom, Sakura slid open the glass door that led to a small balcony just big enough for a small wrought iron table with two matching chairs. She stepped onto the cool stone that looked out onto the empty white beach. The foam gathering on the sand seemed to glitter as she scanned the horizon. She gripped the metal railings to take in deep breaths of the cool, salty air.
"Sakura-chan, come look at this," Sakura heard Hinata call out to her in a voice breathy with excitement. So Sakura took another refreshing breath before she tore herself away from the sight of dark water frothing up and down the shore. When she closed the door behind her, she was met with Hinata pointing to a picture frame left on top of the dresser.
"Ah, I recognize that!" Sakura exclaimed when she saw what Hinata was so interested in. It was a family portrait of the Uchiha family, obviously taken many years ago from the way that Itachi's head barely reached his father's elbow. Mikoto was the only one sitting while her husband stood to her right. Itachi stood just beside his father while Sasuke stood close to his mother's left, his small fingers wrapped around the edge of her sleeve. Sakura reached into her bag to pull out her wallet. Tucked behind her school ID were two small photos that she brandished to show Hinata.
"Is that who I think it is?" Hinata asked.
Sakura grinned. The first was the same picture of Itachi in his footie pajamas as a baby that Mikoto had given to her. The other was of Itachi as a chubby-faced child sitting on a beige settee, his feet dangling in the air. The familiar blue and white polka-dot bowtie Sakura had come to love so much was set neatly in the collar of his white shirt. The sight of his blue button-down cardigan and neatly-pressed black pants made Hinata squeak.
"Isn't that adorable?" Sakura asked. Hinata turned bright pink but was only able to nod furiously.
"How're things going with you and Naruto?" she suddenly inquired as she turned around to draw the curtains. Hinata plopped down on the edge of the bed. From the way Hinata's cheeks remained pink, Sakura couldn't tell whether her initial blush wasn't fading or if another one had renewed the color.
"Sakura-chan, can I ask you something?"
"Hm?" Sakura replied as she hung up her hoodie in the closet and then yanked her t-shirt off. As she pulled her arms through the sleeves of the oversized light-yellow t-shirt she had packed for sleeping in, Sakura turned back to Hinata.
"Well…. You've… you've been with Uchiha-san for four months now, right?" Hinata began, twiddling her fingers. Sakura nodded slowly as she peeled off her leggings and slipped into bright coral-colored shorts decorated with white butterflies and swirls.
"How…. How… how far have you…. You know?" When her friend trailed off while turning an alarming shade of red, Sakura's eyes widened. Flushing a little too, Sakura grabbed a pillow and half-heartedly threw it at Hinata.
"Hinata-chan!" she exclaimed as she threw herself onto the bed, rolling onto her side to hug a pillow to her chest before rolling over to face Hinata.
"But… well I was talking to Ino-san and she kept asking me when Naruto-kun and I were planning on… planning on doing it. And since your boyfriend's so mature, I thought maybe you would know," Hinata explained in a much calmer voice.
"Well, I probably know less than you do, Hinata-chan. It's kind of frustrating. I think he sees me as just a kid," Sakura admitted with a sigh.
"HEY MY-CHAN! WE GOT ICE CREAM! COME DOWNSTAIRS, YEAH!" Deidara called from just outside the door, making Hinata jump. Sakura met Hinata's wide eyes and she giggled.
"Don't worry. They're all loud but they're really nice," she assured her as she stood. Sakura glanced towards the door before she grabbed the white sweatshirt with cat ears on the hood that Kisame had given her.
"Come on. Change into your pajamas and then let's get ice cream before they eat it all," Sakura said. She waited for Hinata to put on a light purple nightgown that fell to her knees. With the touches of lace and ribbons, Hinata blushed as she wondered out loud if it was too revealing. Sakura rolled her eyes as she grabbed onto her best friend's hand and dragged her downstairs. They passed Deidara splayed out on the sofa while Kisame and Sasori were flipping through the channels on the TV.
"Itachi-kun?" Sakura called as she poked her head into the kitchen.
"Strawberry or chocolate?" Itachi asked as soon as he saw her. Sakura released Hinata's hand as she took the last few steps up to the island where Itachi was sorting through plastic bags. She hoisted herself onto the counter and put her hand on his shoulder as she peered down at the food.
"Go sit with everyone else in the living room, Hinata-chan. We'll be out in a second," Sakura said when Hinata continued to linger unsurely in the doorway. Hinata nodded once before she cautiously made her way towards the sofa where Kisame had grabbed Deidara in another headlock.
"Are we making your friend uncomfortable?" Itachi quietly asked as he handed her a bunch of plastic spoons.
"Hmm I think Hinata-chan's just naturally a little wary of strangers. I don't think she dislikes anyone though," observed Sakura as she took a couple of the containers of ice cream and hopped off the counter. But before she could leave, Itachi slipped his hand around her waist and pulled her close to his chest. She didn't even have time to blush when Itachi planted a kiss on her mouth and then released her like nothing had happened. When she scowled, Itachi looked at her with his most innocent expression.
"The ice cream's melting, Sakura."
"Ah! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY-CHAN, YOU SICKO?" Deidara exclaimed as he suddenly ran into the kitchen and threw Sakura over his shoulder before dashing into the living room. Sakura squealed when he threw her onto the sofa and then headed into the kitchen to loudly harass Itachi.
"What…what just happened?" Sakura asked in a dazed voice as she looked over at Sasori sitting cross-legged on the floor. Sasori shrugged and then took the carton of pistachio ice cream from her and ripped off the lid. Poor Hinata sat carefully on the sofa next to Sakura, like moving too brashly would set off a bomb. Naruto and Sasuke wandered downstairs a minute later. Sakura didn't miss the way Naruto's eyes bugged out when he noticed his girlfriend's feminine nightgown. He began thumping Sasuke furiously on the back before Sasuke retaliated by grinding his fist into Naruto's temple and shoving him aside. Scowling in his usual manner, Sasuke made his way over to the sofa. He looked like he was about to take the open spot next to Sakura before he glanced toward the kitchen. With a grunt, he settled on the floor by Sakura's feet to prop his elbows up on the coffee table.
"Deidara-san, stop being weird and come eat!" Sakura called as she plopped a carton of strawberry ice cream in her lap and took up a spoon. Only Naruto seemed to be really shocked by the sight of Sakura tearing off the plastic lid and digging out a huge chunk of ice cream. Even Sasuke barely glanced in her direction.
"Any rum raisin, yeah?" Deidara asked as he plopped down on the floor next to Sasuke. Sasuke's eyes darted nervously toward Deidara and then to Kisame sitting across from them. When a grin stretched Kisame's mouth, Sakura picked up a spoon and lobbed it straight at Kisame, hitting him in the forehead.
"Be nice, Kisame-san. If you're going to bully anyone, bully Deidara-san," she chastised. Kisame only grumbled a little as he rubbed his forehead. Then, shrugging, he picked up the spoon that had struck him and used it to steal some ice cream from Sasori.
"So cruel, My-chan! Why are you conspiring with Trout-kun against me? Aren't I your favorite, yeah?" Deidara grumbled.
"Why would you be her favorite? Get away. Your face is disgusting," Itachi interrupted as he shoved Deidara further away from Sakura with his foot and then settled on the sofa to Sakura's left. Putting his arm over her shoulders, he peered into the half-empty carton with some amount of disbelief. Sakura pouted, cheeks filled with the sweet treat.
"Don't judge me," she mumbled.
"Too late," Itachi retorted as he took her spoon and used it to scoop some ice cream into his mouth. Deidara, who had scooted over to sit next to Kisame, began making loud gagging noises while Kisame looked ready to really vomit.
"Oh go get a room, you two," Kisame snarled as he flopped onto his back.
"DON'T ENCOURAGE HIM, YEAH!" Deidara yelled, jamming his foot into Kisame's side. When Kisame made a noise like a grumpy bear but didn't retaliate, Sakura laughed a little. She swatted Itachi's hand away when he reached for her ice cream. Giggling mischievously, she shoveled the rest of the ice cream into her mouth and turned to Itachi with a triumphant expression. He shook his head as he tapped her nose and then moved off the sofa.
Once the food was gone, Deidara and Kisame turned to their old hobby of harassing Sasuke. When Sasuke turned to her with wide eyes, Sakura let out a sigh of pity and quickly took Deidara and Kisame by the hands.
"Now, children, time for bed. Leave poor Sasuke-kun alone," she said in a teacher-like voice as she helped them to their feet.
"But My-chan!" Deidara whined even as he obediently marched out of the living room behind Kisame. Sasori stood too, pausing to pat Sakura's cheek before he headed up to bed. Sakura and Hinata lingered in the kitchen, helping Itachi clean up before calling it a night.
"Good night, Ikkun," Sakura quietly said, rising on her tiptoes to kiss him. His hand caught her wrist as she tried to slip away. The curl of Itachi's crooked smile made her blush before he pulled her in for another kiss. As they drew apart, he lightly nipped her lower lip.
"I thought we had a deal about you not calling me that, Sakura," Itachi reminded her. Feigning innocence, Sakura looked up at him with wide eyes. When she batted her eyelashes at him a few times, Itachi let out a weary sigh.
"Sleep well," Itachi murmured as he pressed his mouth to her cheek. Then, glancing at Hinata shyly hiding behind the edge of the doorway, Itachi nodded politely.
"Good night, Hyuuga-san," Itachi added. Still a little red in the face, Sakura quickly grabbed Hinata's hand and hurried upstairs. Hinata looked a little flustered too as they flopped onto the bed together.
"Wow, Sakura-chan… He's…. he's such an adult!" Hinata breathed, pressing her palms to her flushed cheeks. Sakura rolled her eyes as she wriggled out of her sweatshirt and tossed it on top of her suitcase before slipping under the covers. Hinata copied her, smoothing the edge of the soft fabric with her hand.
"Don't be fooled. I know for a fact that he secretly read comics in the newspaper while he pretends to read the finance section," Sakura sniffed. The girls looked at each other in the dim bedroom before they giggled. Though they had planned to whisper to each other all night without sleeping, gossiping and wondering until dawn, Hinata drifted off after less than 15 minutes. So Sakura lay in the dark, staring up at the white ceiling. So after half an hour of blankly watching shadows shifting across the ceiling and listening to the soft whisper of the ocean in the background, Sakura carefully slipped out of bed. She paused to pull on her sweatshirt before she quietly left the room and traveled down the stairs barefoot. As she made her way to the kitchen to get a glass of water, she heard the clink of glass. She glanced around the empty dining room and then the connected living room but there was only Deidara splayed happily across the sofa with one of his legs wrapped around his pillow in an undignified position.
It was when Sakura turned to admire the view of the pool in the backyard that she noticed two figures on the back deck. It didn't take long for her to recognize Kisame's large frame and Itachi's silhouette.
"Can't sleep?" Itachi greeted her when she stepped outside, sliding the glass door shut behind her. The soft murmur of the ocean greeted her as she stepped onto the smooth wood deck. Kisame lifted his free hand to wave at her while he filled up a tiny shot glass with sake. When Sakura nodded, Itachi patted the empty space between him and Kisame. She settled on the deck there, pulling up the hood of her sweatshirt. She heard Kisame chuckle as he tugged at one of the cat ears.
"Ooh is that a hammock?" Sakura asked, pointing excitedly at the shape hanging between two trees just next to the edge of the porch. Without waiting for anyone to answer, she bounded barefoot across the cool grass and happily climbed into it. She let out a little cheer as she settled into the comforting curve of the contraption.
"Want to do a shot, Itachi?" Kisame inquired, holding up the green bottle to Itachi. Itachi shook his head.
"No thanks," he politely declined before he stood and walked over to Sakura who had begun rocking herself back and forth. When Itachi grabbed on to the edge of the hammock to stop her, Sakura looked up at him with a pout. The only lights on outside were the two sconces on either side of the door. Even then, the soft golden color barely touched his face. His smile did funny things to her insides.
"Having fun?" Itachi asked. Nodding enthusiastically, Sakura tried to scoot over inside the confines of the hammock.
"Try it! I've never been so comfortable in my life," she insisted. Even when he looked ready to protest, she pulled at his arm until he let out a sigh and hopped into the hammock next to her. After some awkward twisting and squirming, they managed to find a comfortable arrangement. Lying side by side, arms pressed together, they stared up at the black sky. Isolated from the city of Konoha, big, twinkling clusters of stars appeared. Sakura nudged Itachi's shoulder as she pointed up at the largest point of white light.
"That's so pretty! Do you think that one's Polaris? Isn't that the one you should follow if you ever get lost?" Sakura said. They stared up at it for a moment before two red lights began blinking on either side of it. Itachi chuckled.
"Or it's an airplane," he flatly said as they laughed together.
By the time Kisame had finished off his bottle, he hadn't realized how quiet it had gotten.
"Hey, it's almost 2. We should…" Kisame trailed off as he turned around and saw Sakura's arm dangling lazily off the edge of the hammock. Kisame wasn't quite buzzed, just a little warmer than usual. So he was able to quite nimbly tiptoe over to the edge of the deck and peer inside the hammock, intending on catching his two friends making out and embarrassing them thoroughly. Instead, he was met with a sight that made him faintly embarrassed and nauseated all at once. Sakura had fallen asleep, obviously lulled there by the soft rocking of the hammock. But she had rolled onto her side, curling up against Itachi's side. Itachi's right arm was wrapped loosely around her, just enough to keep her from falling out. That would have been all fine on its own, but Itachi had fallen asleep as well.
"I should get a girlfriend too. Stupid Itachi showing off them being all lovey-dovey," Kisame grumbled as he turned and headed inside. A moment later, he emerged again, carrying the soft blue afghan that had been draped over the arm of the sofa. He draped it over Sakura, making sure to cover most of her exposed legs before leaving the rest on Itachi. Grunting proudly, Kisame made his way up to the third floor and happily took up the entire bed.
"YOU PERVERT! YOU DEMON! YOU HORNY LITTLE BASTARD!"
These were the sweet words that Haruno Sakura woke to in the morning. She groaned softly as she tried to bury her head under whatever she could, trying to block out the noise. But the sound of Itachi's exasperated sigh in her ear pulled her back to reality. The hiss of ocean waves crashing over the shore and the smell of salt in her nose reminded her of just where they were.
"I guess we fell asleep," Sakura whispered, cracking her eyes open. She found her head resting on Itachi's chest and she blinked a few times just to make sure. As she watched, Itachi's left arm rose. He checked his watch and then let his arm fall down.
"Damn that Deidara. It's only 7," Itachi grumbled and Sakura decided that she really liked the slight catch in his morning voice. She didn't reply as she closed her eyes again and snuggled closer to him. His low chuckle vibrated through his chest while he tightened the arm around her waist.
"AND YOU STOLE MY BLANKET TOO! SCREW YOU, YEAH!"
Muttering a very unkind word that made Itachi laugh, Sakura opened her eyes again to stare at the soft blue fabric draped over their legs. She reached out to lightly touch the knitting with her fingertip before she drew her hand back up to rest lightly on Itachi's chest. Itachi didn't seem to be as curious as her because he knocked his foot against hers underneath the blanket.
"I'd expect you to be a little more embarrassed and shocked in a situation like this, Sakura. I'm a little disappointed," Itachi idly remarked.
"Well I'm still sleepy and this hammock is unrealistically comfortable," she retorted. She flinched when the double doors leading onto the deck were flung open. And Deidara, dressed in just his boxers and a black t-shirt stood in the doorway, glaring fiercely. Sakura stared at flamboyant pattern of bright pink hippos scattered across his boxers.
"Nobody stole anything from you, Deidara. And this is an afghan, not a blanket," Itachi calmly said. Sakura's eyes widened as she watched a vein begin to throb dangerously in Deidara's temple. She nervously tugged at the front of Itachi's shirt, wondering if Deidara's head would actually explode from the dangerous shade of red it was turning.
"What do you think you're doing, hm? Are you going to take responsibility for your actions, Itachi? WHAT IF MY-CHAN GETS ALL BLOATED AND PREGNANT? ARE YOU GOING TO MARRY HER THEN?" Deidara shouted, stomping his foot furiously while pointing an accusatory finger. Then, from the balcony on the third floor, came a familiar voice.
"Deidara, shut up!" Kisame roared as he stuck his head past the sliding door.
"What? FISHY? Why aren't you on my side?" Deidara shouted as he looked up. Kisame, with his hair sticking up at odd angles, stumbled out onto the balcony. He leaned over the railing to look down at Deidara.
"I put the freaking afghan on them, alright? And shut up just because you have blue balls. No one cared when you slept with double-chinned girl from the library," Kisame snarled.
"SHE WASN'T DOUBLE-CHINNED AND I WAS DRUNK!"
Sakura stuck her finger in her exposed ear, trying to block out the yelling exchange so early in the morning. She was grateful when Kisame ripped off his slipper and flung it straight at Deidara, hitting him in the face, effectively cutting off any words that were bubbling up in him.
"GO BACK TO SLEEP, DEIDARA!" Kisame hollered before he went back into his room and slammed the glass door shut.
"Yes, Deidara. Go to sleep before Sakura realizes that you used the words 'bloated' and 'pregnant' in the same sentence as her," Itachi said in a pleasant voice. At this, Deidara paled. His blue eyes darted from the door to Sakura glowering at him as fiercely as she could while wearing a hood with cat ears. He stooped to pick up Kisame's slipper before he hurried back inside.
"Double-chinned?" Sakura repeated, tilting her head to look at Itachi's face.
"Deidara got really drunk and ended up going home with this random girl. She says Deidara fell asleep so nothing happened but we decided not to tell him that," Itachi explained. Shrugging unsympathetically, Sakura let her head fall onto Itachi's shoulder.
"I don't know where he gets all that energy from," she sighed as her eyes slid shut. The low sound of Itachi's chuckle and the murmur of the ocean were the only things that answered her.
"Are you hungry?" Itachi asked.
"Not yet," she replied in a small voice.
"Alright. Wake me up when you are," he said. When he threw his leg over her and pulled her even closer, Sakura let out a squeal. But when Itachi made it clear that he intended to fall asleep in this manner, Sakura gave up on struggling and instead decided to sleep too.
Two hours later, Sakura had managed to crawl out of the hammock without waking Itachi before readjusting the afghan over him. Shivering just a little from the cool morning air, she hurried inside where Deidara was once again slumbering quite peacefully. This time, he was lying face-down on the floor, clearly having fallen asleep while sulking.
"Hey, Kitten. I'm going out for a run. You coming?" Kisame greeted her when they met in the doorway of the kitchen. He tossed the remnants of an apple core in the trash can, already changed into shorts and a clean t-shirt. Sakura shook her head.
"Too hungry. Too tired," she explained. Kisame's mouth stretched into a grin.
"That's fine. See you in a bit," he said before he jogged out the front door. By the time Kisame returned from his run, the house was filling with the rich fragrance of sizzling bacon and eggs. Sakura greeted him with a tin of warm blueberry muffins straight from the oven. Tears of joy sprang up in his eyes as he took one and quickly peeled off the paper wrapper before jamming the whole thing into his mouth.
"You're the best!" exclaimed, reaching for another muffin. But when Kisame reached out for a one-armed hug, he was pushed back by the face by Itachi's hand.
"Go take a shower, Kisame," Itachi ordered, pinching his nose with one hand.
"This is the smell of a man, Itachi. Don't get jealous," Kisame chortled as he made his way up to the third floor to wash up. When Sakura turned to offer Itachi a muffin too, he ignored the food and instead leaned in for a kiss. Though she had been expecting the chaste peck they always exchanged in greeting, she was surprised by the brush of his tongue along her lower lip. Before she could react, he pulled away and gave her one of his smiles that never failed to make her turn a little pink.
"I thought I told you to wake me. You shouldn't have to make breakfast alone," Itachi sighed as he looked around at the platters of steaming scrambled eggs and crisp bacon. There was even a pan in the oven filled with something that looked like cheesecake.
"But you were sleeping so well. Seriously, try one of these," Sakura said, holding up the muffin tin again.
"Blueberry?" Itachi confirmed, waiting for her nod before he took one of the fluffy treats. Steam curled into the air when he split it in half. Itachi only popped one part into his mouth, holding up the other in front of her.
"That's okay. I had one when they came out of the oven," Sakura said. But when Itachi raised his eyebrows at her, Sakura sighed and opened her mouth. Just as Itachi eased the muffin half into her mouth, Sasuke shuffled into the kitchen, running a hand through his messy hair. His eyes widened, swiveling between his brother and his friend before disgust crossed his expression.
"Ugh. Call me when breakfast's ready," he groaned, hurrying out of the room.
"Did you time that on purpose?" Sakura demanded as she set the muffin tin down on the counter and slipped off her oven mitts. She swallowed her mouthful of food before she scrunched up her nose in a scowl.
"Perhaps," Itachi replied a little mysteriously as he took up two full platters and whisked them off to the dining room. By the time everyone else had stumbled out of bed, the cheesecake was out of the oven and topped with cream cheese frosting. Only Hinata was out of her pajamas, changed into a light blue dress over a plain white t-shirt and jeans. Sakura had found the time to switch her pajama shorts for a pair of sweatpants but she remained in a similar state of frumpiness as the rest of her friends. Hinata's eyes met Sakura's, wide with confusion probably from the fact that she had woken up to a very cold and very obviously unused half of the bed.
"Morning, Hinata-chan," Sakura simply said. Hinata raised her eyebrows at her but was distracted by Naruto calling her name as he cheerfully flew down the stairs. Everyone crammed around the rectangular table to dig into the feast. There was the usual struggle of Kisame and Deidara squabbling over who got the last piece of bacon while Sasori was struggling not to fall asleep in his eggs. When Sakura got up for a moment and came back with a few apples, she found that Deidara had slumped over across his chair and hers, already dozing off again. Balancing a tray in one hand and a knife in another, Sakura stared at Deidara until his eyes slowly opened.
"I'm waking up to My-chan holding a knife, yeah," he muttered. Kisame snorted as he grabbed Deidara by the ear and yanked him upright. When Sakura settled into the newly vacated seat, the rest of the table fell silent. Puzzled by the quiet, Sakura looked up while peeling one of the apples.
"Have you been putting My-chan up to wife training or something?" Deidara demanded. Kisame and Sasori both raised their hands to smack him. Their eyes met and then Sasori extended his arm in an invitation for Kisame to proceed. But Kisame shook his head.
"Go ahead, Sasori-senpai," Kisame insisted. With a nod, Sasori cracked his knuckles and then proceeded to hit Deidara so hard that his forehead banged against the tabletop. While Kisame and Sasori exchanged high-fives, Deidara clutched his head, groaning.
"But you're seriously good at this, Sakura-chan," Kisame suddenly chimed in as he watched Sakura rotate an apple around the blade of her knife. The bright red peel came off in an even strip that spiraled down onto the tabletop. Sakura smiled as she held up the creamy apple revealed underneath before she dug her knife into the soft flesh and cut out a clean wedge. Before Sakura could hand it off to anyone else, Deidara promptly ducked under her arm and chomped down on the fruit.
"You asshole! That was supposed to be Itachi's piece!" Kisame complained as he pinched Deidara's cheek.
"It was?" Deidara yelped.
"It was?" Naruto asked with a bewildered expression.
"It was?" Sakura and Itachi repeated as they looked at each other.
"If you're going to be all gross and lovey-dovey, you might as well do it right," Kisame huffed.
"….You're weird, Kisame-san," Sakura finally declared as she went back to cutting neat wedges off the rest of the apple.
After everyone had finally stopped eating, they leaned back in their chairs, reclining and patting their bellies.
"I'd say Baby Sasu-chan and Naruto do dishes," Kisame cheerfully volunteered.
"What? Why us? You guys ate too!" Naruto immediately whined, jumping to his feet.
"Because we need to work on the choreography for that new set," Itachi answered as he got to his feet. Sakura groaned, letting her head loll back against the chair.
"My legs hurt! I don't wanna! I thought this was vacation! I think I hurt my ankle or my wrist. I have my period. I have leprosy-" Sakura's long list of complaints was cut off as Kisame and Deidara took her by the arms and hauled her out of her seat.
"None of those things are true except for maybe the leprosy, Kitten," Kisame chortled.
"What?" Sakura said as everyone else eyed Kisame strangely.
"Well… I noticed you get pretty crabby toward the middle of the month so I just assumed-" Sasori clamped his hand over his mouth and quietly dragged him away.
"Off we go," Itachi said in a strangely cheerful voice as he took her by the hand and pulled her outside. Sakura managed to grab onto Hinata's arm to drag her along as she was hauled out the back door to the yard. Deidara followed soon after with his mp3 player and a set of speakers. As he busied himself setting up the music, Sakura sat Hinata down on the edge of the porch.
"Feel free to watch. If you get bored, you can leave. But please don't get bored," Sakura said with a smile. Before Hinata had time to respond, Kisame and Sasori came running out and the first song blared through the speakers. Sakura scrambled down to get into her position in the front of the formation with her back turned to Hinata.
With a small competition coming up in the neighboring city, Kisame had persuaded everyone to take part. The prize offered was a stack of gift certificates for his favorite all-you-can eat sushi buffet. Though Sakura and Deidara had rolled their eyes at such enthusiasm over a minuscule reward but they agreed that working out some new routines wouldn't be a bad idea.
"You want to go with your solo part, My-chan? We could use that blank spot for either you or Mr. Fish over there," Deidara said as his finger hovered over the play button. Sakura hesitated for a moment before she nodded and motioned for him to go ahead.
Sakura supposed that they could have chosen a somewhat cuter song since Hinata was watching and she was positive that Naruto and Sasuke were shoving each other as they struggled to peek through the back door without getting caught. As her foot tapped along to the beat, Sakura glanced over at Itachi. He looked at her over his shoulder and his smile almost made her miss her cue.
She was the first to step out of the line. The choreography that Deidara had mostly arranged for this song involved a lot of tutting and popping, which made her relieved that everything had finally clicked for her last month. Now without much thought, she could flex the muscles in her arms and legs to pop her limbs. When she and Deidara took a few steps backward, Sasori, Kisame and Itachi walked between them, filtering to the front. It wasn't as easy to get lost in the music since the moves were still a little rough and everything was concentrating to make sure that they didn't collide with someone else; it was still fun to be moving in time to the same beat. The heavy bass sounded like the thumping of a heart driving her feet on.
When Kisame picked up Sakura by the waist to twirl her, Deidara let out a loud catcall. Itachi stepped on his foot as he passed, making Deidara howl in pain.
Practice went on for a while as they worked out the awkward spaces until everything flowed as smoothly as possible. At some point, Sasuke and Naruto seemed to have forgotten all about doing dishes and were seated in plain sight by the door as they watched everything.
"Wait wait wait. I'm dying. Give me a second, yeah," Deidara panted as he held up his hand.
"Me too. Water, please," Sakura groaned as she peeled off her sweatshirt and rolled up the legs of her sweatpants.
"I'm super-hungry, Kitten. What's for lunch?" Kisame asked.
"She's not your maid, Kisame. Why don't you make something then?" Itachi retorted as he elbowed his friend between his shoulder blades. When Itachi put his arm around Sakura, she simply slumped against his chest and made a vague noise to agree with him.
Since leaving just Kisame alone in the kitchen would almost certainly guarantee food poisoning, it was quickly agreed upon that Itachi should help him. When everyone discovered that Naruto and Sasuke still weren't done with the dishes, Sakura was escorted away by Sasori while Deidara and Kisame put on their most menacing faces.
After a quick meal of surprisingly edible grilled cheese sandwiches, Itachi ran everyone through the routines over and over again until Deidara, fed up and exhausted, threw himself into the swimming pool, effectively ending practice. Hinata, who had obviously grown bored but was too polite to say so, was still sitting on the porch by the time Sakura was finally free to talk. Naruto was sitting right next to Hinata. His hand was resting on top of hers and was most likely the reason for the alarming shade of red Hinata's face had turned. Sasuke was lying lazily on the other side of the porch, a book covering his face as he napped. When Sakura approached, Naruto and Hinata both jumped, as if they had been doing something grievously wrong.
"Everyone says we should head into town for dinner. What do you think?" she asked as she settled on the porch in front of Hinata. As Itachi walked past to shower, she felt his hand touch the top of her head in a gentle pat. Hinata's eyes widened. Hinata waited for Itachi to be completely out of earshot before she leaned in closer to Sakura.
"So what happened last night? Where did you go?" inquired Hinata. Naruto, in a surprising stroke of insight, decided that he wasn't meant to hear this conversation and wandered off to bother Sasuke.
"I couldn't sleep so I went downstairs for some water. Itachi-kun and Kisame-san were hanging out on the porch so I went out to talk with them. And then I convinced him to get in that hammock with me because it's ridiculously comfortable. We fell asleep. That's all," Sakura recounted with a thoughtful expression.
"That's all?" Hinata pressed with a somewhat doubtful expression. It took Sakura a second to process the implications behind Hinata's question. But when she did, Sakura flushed bright pink as she swatted at her friend.
"HINATA-CHAN!" Sakura exclaimed.
"I'm just asking! I'm sorry, Sakura-chan!" Hinata said in an equally shocked tone. Trying to distract herself, Sakura grabbed onto Sasori's arm as he walked past. His bored eyes fell on her. The only indication that he actually cared what she needed was the slight lift in his left eyebrow.
"Dress code, please. Dress? Jeans?" Sakura asked. Sasori rubbed his chin for a moment.
"It's an okay place. Jeans should be alright," he vaguely replied before he drifted off. Hinata's eyes followed him for a long time.
"Um… that person's a little unusual…" Hinata finally commented. Sakura nodded gravely.
"Sasori-san is definitely unusual," she agreed.
Half an hour later, all the guys were gathered in the living room. After their showers, everyone smelled pleasantly of various soaps and shampoos. Kisame hadn't gone to too much trouble with his appearance, choosing a clean black t-shirt and jeans. Sasuke and Naruto seemed perfectly happy to go out in t-shirts and basketball shorts. Though Deidara and Sasori had tried to weasel their way into Sakura's room to meddle with her wardrobe, she had firmly slammed the door shut in their faces.
"Let's go! I'm hungry!" Sakura announced as she happily skipped down the stairs. A high-pitched squeak of approval escaped Deidara as he ran to throw his arms around her.
"I'm so proud of you, My-chan! This is a beautifully coordinated outfit, yeah!" Deidara declared as he made her spin around once for him. Sakura couldn't help but be a little proud of herself too. After the fashion show, Sasori had happily gifted her with all of the clothes he had made for the photo shoot portion of the project. This included a pair of bleached skinny jeans that Sakura had grown to love almost irrationally. They had an amazing ability to make her legs look so incredibly long that she couldn't help but adore them. On top, she wore a long-sleeved t-shirt with blue and white stripes underneath a sleeveless grey hoodie. The kitten necklace she had gotten from Itachi on White Day, as always, lay on her chest, a permanent part of her everyday wardrobe. Deidara spent at least two minutes obsessing over how her lace-up black boots were the single cutest thing he had ever seen her wear on her feet before. This made Sakura feel a little guilty when Hinata timidly followed after dressed in an airy white blouse tucked into a high-waist purple skirt. She was the very image of a doll in sparkling black flats. But after Deidara's tearful cooing, Naruto's excited stutters fell a little short. However, Hinata seemed overjoyed by her boyfriend's half-articulated compliments so Sakura was a little comforted.
"It's a 15-minute walk from here. Be sure to be holding on to your buddy's hand at all times so nobody gets lost," Kisame announced in a nasally voice.
"You heard the man," Itachi said as he reached out to lace his fingers through Sakura's. He looked perfect as usual in dark jeans and a striped blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up in his usual trademark. The first few buttons of his shirt were left undone, revealing the top of a simple white v-neck underneath. Overall, he looked, smelled and sounded very nice, making Sakura wonder what kind of strange twist of fate her given her such a perfect boyfriend.
"Why would you think I'd choose you as my buddy?" Sakura teased as she swung their arms between them.
"Yeah. Quit stealing my buddy, Ikkun," Sasori butted in as he took Sakura's other hand. Sakura stifled a snort of laughter as she watched the smile slide straight off of Itachi's face.
"Wait, then what about us? You expect me to hold hands with Miss Universe over here?" Kisame demanded, jabbing his pointer finger into Deidara's cheek. He yelped when Deidara snarled and bit the offending finger. When Sakura glanced back, she found that Hinata was holding hands with Naruto and laughing as she watched Deidara and Kisame bicker like usual.
Dinner was an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that was a little loud and a little messy. But by the end of the night, everyone was stuffed full of crab and shrimp and the soft chocolate cakes everyone had fallen in love with. On the walk back to the house, Sakura was so sleepy and full of food that Kisame carried her on his back.
"Are you really sleeping, My-chan?" Deidara asked as he walked behind Kisame to poke her in the forehead. Sakura responded by yawning at him. Though it was barely midnight, by the time everyone stumbled into the foyer, all eyes were drooping. Kisame set Sakura on her feet, making sure that she wouldn't fall over right away. Giving her a light hug, Kisame let out a proud belch and lumbered up to bed. Sasuke and Naruto waved goodnight to everyone and also headed upstairs.
"I'm really sleepy too. I'll see you in a bit, Sakura-chan," Hinata said with a delicate yawn that she hid behind her hand. She took an awkward moment to bow towards Sasori and Deidara sitting lazily on the couch before she hurried off. Itachi finally stepped into the house after taking out the garbage and bringing in the newspaper just in time to see Hinata disappear up the staircase.
"Join us, My-chan. Join the dark side, yeah," Deidara declared as he held out a hand to her. Sasori patted the empty spot between him and Deidara in a further invitation.
"No thank you. I'm really tired. I think I should go to bed too," Sakura said as her head lolled tiredly against her shoulder. Itachi chuckled at her dazed expression.
"Come on. Bedtime," Itachi said as he put his hands on her shoulders.
"NOT WITH YOU, YOU WOLF! YOU BEAST WITH TWO BACKS! NO! YOU HAVE FOUR BACKS AT LEAST! YOU KEEP YOUR PAWS OFF MY-CHAN!" Deidara spewed threats as he watched Itachi guide Sakura up the stairs. Itachi scoffed.
"Is this enough skinship for you now, Sakura?" Itachi asked as Sakura took the steps slowly. She cast him a sleepy yet perplexed look over her shoulder. Then he lightly flexed his fingers and she realized that his palms were resting on her lower back to make sure she didn't tumble down the stairs. She pursed her lips.
"Maybe Deidara-san's right, Mr. Wolf," she sniffed as she took another step. Sakura let out a muffled squeal when she suddenly felt Itachi grab her around the knees. His other hand cradled the back of her head so that when she fell, her head wouldn't be hurt. So suddenly, she was lying on her back. Looking up into Itachi's smirk made butterflies spaz out inside her stomach.
"What was that, Sakura-chan?" inquired Itachi in a low voice. The last few weeks had marked some sort of change in Itachi. He wasn't any less gentle or well-mannered and if anything, he had opened up to her more, showing off his wry sense of humor and his sarcasm. But there were these little moments, when they were alone and he would suddenly be so…alpha male.
Sakura should have been at least a little panicked. Here was her adult boyfriend hovering over her with a hand planted on either side of her head. She was lying underneath him and Deidara and Sasori had probably already fallen asleep downstairs. Sakura looked up into his dark eyes and part of her already knew that he wouldn't do anything if she pushed him away even as a joke. The usual panic that filled her chest in situations like this was pushed aside by something stronger than curiosity. Sakura wondered if his lips would taste like chocolate if she did kiss him right then. What would he do if she did kiss him right there? Her heart raced as she imagined scenarios, some of them less romantic and more risqué. Still, Itachi just hovered there, neither touching nor pulling away.
"Kiss me," she whispered, flushing at the audacity of her own words.
Itachi was surprised. She could see from the way his eyes widened a little, his eyebrows lifting. Since his hands were occupied with holding him up, Itachi lowered just his head and pressed his mouth to hers in a soft kiss. When he drew back to take a breath, Sakura didn't know what kind of face she was making. But Itachi's eyes narrowed and then his lips were on hers again. Only this time, his mouth was insistent, almost hungry. A sweet flavor she recognized appeared when his tongue suddenly entered her mouth, stroking against hers. She giggled a little and he drew back just enough to whisper the word "what" against her cheek.
"Chocolate," she murmured back. Itachi chuckled in response. As Itachi's attention returned to her mouth, Sakura heard a clatter from downstairs. She lightly shook Itachi's shoulder but he had noticed the sound too. Before they could even begin to disentangle themselves, Sasori calmly climbed the stairs.
"Sorry for the intrusion," he said without any inflection in his voice as he carefully stepped around them. When Sasori continued up the rest of the way without looking back at them, Sakura and Itachi stared. After a moment of stunned silence, Sakura glanced at Itachi's dumbfounded expression and giggled.
"We should get to bed," Itachi sighed. Sakura was inclined to agree a little, despite the pang of disappointment lingering somewhere in the back of her mind. She would die of embarrassment before admitting it out loud, but she liked the feeling of being so close to her boyfriend like this with him looking at her like she was the only thing he could think about. As if he could read her mind, Itachi sat up, watching her like he was trying to gauge her reaction to something. Without saying anything else, Itachi gathered her up in his arms bridal style and walked the rest of the way to her room. Everyone else's doors were already securely shut and there was even telltale snoring from the direction of the room that Sasuke and Naruto were sharing.
"I'm glad that wasn't Deidara. He would've been screeching until both of us went deaf," Itachi sighed as he set Sakura down on her feet.
"He would've woken the whole house," Sakura agreed as she laughed a little. When Itachi wrapped his arms around her waist, Sakura tilted her head back to receive a little good night kiss. To her surprise, Itachi seemed intent on starting off where they had been interrupted. She struggled to pull herself away from his mouth especially when his tongue dragged across hers and her legs turned to jelly. But when she finally did, Sakura pulled at the front of his shirt.
"What if someone catches us?" she hissed. Her words broke off in a squeak as she felt Itachi's lips on the side of her neck.
"They won't," Itachi muttered in response before he pressed a kiss to her exposed collarbone that made her shiver.
"Yes they will but they won't interrupt. Gosh I'm thirsty," Sasori corrected them on his way back downstairs. Sakura and Itachi froze again, their wide eyes locking.
"What is he, some kind of ninja?" Itachi whispered.
"More like some extraterrestrial," Sakura said in response. She pecked Itachi lightly on the lips before she let her hands slip off his shoulders. Itachi didn't look too happy but he still released her.
"Don't make breakfast by yourself in the morning. Come wake me first, alright?" said Itachi in a slightly patronizing tone that made Sakura pout. She crossed her arms over her chest but she couldn't completely hide her smile.
"I will. Good night," Sakura finally agreed. Itachi put his hand on the back of her head to guide her in for one last kiss just as Sasori easily floated upstairs with a glass of water in his hand brandished like a trophy.
"Be sure to use protection, children," Sasori remarked before he disappeared into his room. Sakura couldn't fight the giggles that exploded out of her at the murderous expression on Itachi's face. She spun him around the pushed him in the direction of the stairs.
"Good night," she firmly said when he turned to look back at her. Itachi's mouth curled up in a smile as he watched Sakura slip into the room and shut the door before turning the lock. Hinata was in the bathroom brushing her teeth so Sakura changed into pajamas and grabbed her bag of toiletries. She gabbed happily with her friend as they took turns washing their faces and getting ready to sleep. By the time they crawled into the large bed, Sakura got the feeling that Hinata had something she wanted to say but was too afraid to.
"Hinata-chan?" Sakura prompted after they lay in the darkness for a few minutes.
"Um… how far… how far have you gone? I've only kissed Naruto-kun before and I'm worried he'll get bored with me. What about you?" Hinata timidly inquired after some extra hesitation. Sakura was surprised at herself for not becoming a flustered, blushing mess. She put her finger on her bottom lip as she thought for a moment.
"Kissing. Nothing else," Sakura finally replied.
"Really? But your boyfriend's so mature and probably experienced!" Hinata gasped.
"Well, Hinata-chan, I might be more experienced too if a weird alien with red hair didn't keep saying weird stuff," Sakura retorted as she rolled onto her side to sleep. Sakura knew that Hinata was probably perplexed for a long time as she lay wondering.
The week went by surprisingly quickly. After the first morning, Itachi was adamant about Sakura not having to cook by herself while everyone sat back and ate after sleeping in. The first time she had ventured up to the third floor to wake Itachi was a somewhat traumatic and hysterical experience. She hadn't realized that Kisame slept only in pants. So she had climbed up the spiral stairs, only to run straight into Kisame's chest.
"Oops! Sorry, Kitten!" Kisame said as he threw his arm around to stop her from falling down the stairs. Sakura yelped as her cheek made contact with Kisame's chest. And exactly at that moment, Itachi's eyes had snapped open, catching a situation that could easily be misinterpreted.
He misinterpreted quite well.
After the second day, when Kisame had sat down to breakfast with a suspicious lump on the back of his head, Sakura waited until Kisame had left on his morning run before she went to wake her stubborn boyfriend. It was like some corny scene out of a romance movie with a well-built young man lying in bed with his head burrowed under the pillows. Since he only wore a dark wifebeater and pants, the defined muscles in his back and shoulders were visible when he moved in his sleep. When she carefully sat on the edge of the mattress to say his name, his head would emerge from the fortress. Itachi always had a vaguely confused expression on his face just as he woke before his eyes would focus on her and he would always smile.
The first time he had pulled her onto the bed and burrowed under the blankets with her, after laughing and struggling for a bit (and squealing when he discovered that her tummy was extremely ticklish), they had managed to fall back asleep. It wasn't so difficult, actually. The bed was warm, the covers soft and lying in Itachi's arms was strangely comforting. In fact, it ended up being one of the most pleasant naps she had had in a while. Inevitably, Deidara had woken up an hour later, knocked on the door and found only a slightly perplexed Hinata. He had decided to charge straight upstairs to find Sakura and Itachi and proceeded to have something resembling a seizure.
After that, Sakura was careful to avoid being yanked into the lure of a ridiculously pleasant nap. Instead, she learned that if shaking him didn't work, she would only need to whisper his name against his ear for his eyes to snap open. Before he could grab hold of her, she would prance away to the kitchen where he would be forced to follow.
Dance practice happened for a couple hours each day after breakfast where Hinata and Naruto would usually go take a walk on the beach and Sasuke would read a book or take another nap. Lunch, some tanning on the beach or a few rounds of beach volleyball and then dinner would follow. Sakura had discovered that Hinata was extremely self-conscious about the size of her chest and made every effort to tone this down with overly-modest bathing suits. But she had finally convinced Hinata that the dark purple tankini she had brought was definitely not lewd and that she most certainly did not look like one of those indecent girls who sold themselves to strange old men at night. After a few days of this process, Sakura had gotten a pleasant tan while Deidara managed to once again turn into a lobster.
Sakura didn't quite understand what had gotten into her boyfriend. Maybe it was the vacation. Maybe it was the fact that warm weather was coming back again so she was wearing shorts again. Or maybe it was because he saw her in the simple red and white-striped bikini Deidara and Sasori had gotten for her. At any rate, almost every chance they were alone, he would steal kisses from her in the kitchen or pull her into the laundry room while everyone else was busy picking out a movie to watch that night. There was a small red hickey on her shoulder that she hid quite successfully under the sleeve of her t-shirt. But every time Itachi caught a glimpse of it, a strange look of satisfaction would pass over his face that Sakura almost felt bad for liking.
Saturday night, their last night at the beach house, was Deidara's birthday. Though some drinks were passed around, Sakura politely declined, meaning that Hinata, Sasuke and Naruto were able to refuse without feeling guilty either. Since neither Itachi nor Sasori were particularly big fans of drinking, the alcohol was left to pass between Kisame and Deidara. After a long night of barbeque in the backyard and talking and laughing, everyone retreated back to the living room to watch a horror movie. Sakura would have been terrified by the copious amounts of serial killers and fake blood gushing from every scene, but she fell asleep against Itachi's shoulder about 10 minutes in. Deidara, who had put his head on Sakura's lap, was snoozing quite happily soon after. In the end, only Sasori was awake to see the fate of the hero.
The next morning, while Sakura was busy nursing Deidara out of his hangover, the rest of the boys loaded the cars with suitcases. Deidara, armed with sunglasses and a large bottle of water, rode with Sasori, Kisame and Naruto (who had grown surprisingly close to Kisame during the week). This left Hinata and Sasuke to snooze in the backseat of Itachi's car on the drive back home. Sakura curled up in the front seat, trying not to giggle and wake her friends each time Itachi's fingers would brush over her knee.
"Any big plans for your birthday next month?" Sakura asked, trying to distract him as she held his hand to stop him from tickling her again. Itachi's expression sobered.
"You know when my birthday is? I don't remember telling you," he said.
"Mikoto-san mentioned is once. So no plans?"
Itachi's sudden silence confused her. She gasped when Itachi turned away from the road to lean across the space between them and kiss her. Sakura pushed his face, trying to get him to focus back on his driving, making him laugh.
"It's your fault for being too adorable," he told her and Sakura shook her head.
"Stop being gross when I'm trying to sleep, you two," Sasuke groaned from the backseat. Sakura blushed as she pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her face and sunk down in her seat.
The month of May slid by in an easy haze of comfort and fun. Schoolwork was manageable, any business for the student council was easily handled and filed away. Early in the month, the school had held elections for the position of historian had brought in a freshman by the name of Inari. Inari had gotten off on a rather rough start in the student council. During their first meeting, he had pointed at Sakura's cartilage piercing and declared it a violation of school policy. Sakura, who had been running particularly low on sleep that day, picked up the school manual, flipped it open to the page in question and slammed it down in front of the boy.
"Male students will be forbidden from having cartilage, lip or eyebrow piercings in order to preserve the school's image. In addition, female students are restricted from having facial piercings as well as piercings in any place other than ears," Sakura recited without looking at the words. Udon and Moegi stood over her shoulders, trying their best not to laugh too hard at the look of horror on the freshman's place. Since then, he had become strangely docile towards Sakura and a little frightened.
Hyuuga Neji came to visit once. The second he had stepped into the office, Moegi and Udon had scrambled around like chickens with their heads cut off while Sakura greeted him with a smile. He saw the rejection stamp held in her hand and nodded approvingly.
"Keeping this place from collapsing completely, I see," he commented while Sakura rolled her eyes.
"Excuse you, Hyuuga-senpai, but I believe I might have surpassed even the mighty you," Sakura retorted with a fake sniff. And she was secretly glad that they had become friends before he had graduated.
Midterms season was a source of great stress and torment for most. Sakura took it a little easier than usual, taking time to sleep a few hours a day and remembering to eat some of her meals. In the end, Shikamaru, who had received a verbal threat of death from his mother, had jumped to 2nd place with Sasuke taking 1st. She had taken a very respectable 3rd while Naruto had cheered about staying out of the bottom 50. With everyone deciding which university to attend or whether they were attending university at all, the nervous cramming from all her classmates struggling to raise their rankings was expected.
"My-chan, where are you planning to apply for school?" Deidara asked one day after practice. As Sakura sat on the floor stretching her legs while waiting for her hair to dry, Sakura blinked at him.
"Here, obviously. Don't be silly, Deidara-san," Sakura simply said.
"Oh….. Fishy, you hear that? You hear that, yeah?" Deidara called. Kisame came running into the room with an ice pop sticking out of his mouth.
"MY-CHAN WANTS TO COME TO KONOHA U! SHE'LL BE OUR CUTE LITTLE UNDERCLASSMAN!" Deidara howled, throwing himself at Kisame who spun him around with his own happy whoop. As Sakura stared at the cheering duo with a mixture of amusement and disgust, Itachi walked into the studio with Sasori in tow.
"…I think I broke them," Sakura admitted as the three of them stood watching. Sasori shook his head.
"They were born defective, Sakura-chan. We should get a refund," Sasori corrected her as he walked over to smack some sense into both of them.
Review please! Let me know what you thought. Let me know what you want! Except for a pony or a castle because those are things I can't give you no matter how much I love you all for being such great readers.
*Golden Week is a week in Japan where everyone has off work and school because there are a few national holidays that all fall in about a week's span.