Chapter Twenty-Five: It’s A Long Drive
The days were long but they were also quick. The days were blurring together and Sasuke wasn’t entirely sure what the date exactly was. If it weren’t for his mother constantly reminding him of how he needed to get to packing and shopping for his new dorm he wouldn’t even have been aware of how quickly his move in date was approaching.
“Why are you even moving into a dorm?” Sasuke cut Naruto off in his ranting. He had come over to play video games in the media room and had started whining about how his mother was constantly on his case.
“Life would be easier don’t you think?” Naruto rolled his eyes. “No fighting for parking or waking early as hell to fight against traffic and make sure I get to class on time.”
Sasuke snorted. The excuse sounded reasonable but he knew his spoiled friend had played his parents.
“As if you would sign up for any classes before lunch time.”
“You’re right I wouldn’t.”
They were quiet after that, only the sound of buttons clicking and the upbeat music coming through the speakers filling the room.
“You’re going to come back on weekends, right?”
Indra Otsutsuki College was only a two hour drive away. Sasuke could technically drive up to the city every weekend and spend two days visiting his family and friends and getting his laundry done at home and letting his mother stuff him with home cooking.
But the chance of that actually happening was very low.
Four hours of driving would cut into valuable time to study or work on assignments. As much as the idea irritated him he knew he would have to join at least one study group if not more depending on what his professors were like. Most students would only be free on weekends to meet up.
On top of the drive, Sasuke would be coming up to see Dr. Yamanaka which was more of a priority than seeing his friends according to his parents. He wasn’t going to drive up on a Saturday and ditch his psychiatrist when that was the whole point of driving up to the city in the first place.
It needed a new radio and when the seasons changed she was going to have to wait almost an hour for it to warm up properly but Sakura was already in love with her car.
“It’s red,” Ino giggled. “Can we call it Ladybug?”
The little Bug was adorable and compact, perfect for city parking. Sakura had cooed over it the whole weekend as her mother gave her a refresher on car maintenance in the parking lot behind their family’s café.
“Has Sasuke commented on your car yet?”
“He called it ‘fitting’,” Sakura made air quotes with her fingers, “whatever the hell that means.
“I think that’s your boyfriend’s way of calling you cute,” Sai guessed. “And small.”
“Oh!” Ino gasped. “We should call it Karin Jr. because you know, it’s red and small.”
“I’m not naming my car after Karin and she will probably kill you for the explanation to that suggestion.”
“How are you going to fornicate in it?” Sai asked. “Does Sasuke even fit in the car? That’s some kind of gymnastics.”
Sakura’s face heated up as Ino burst into a fit of laughter. The way Ino’s eyes kept flitting over to Sai the whole time Sakura was showing off her car should have been a warning that he was going to say something inappropriate. After years of dating Ino had developed a sixth sense for when Sai was about to say something to embarrass one of their friends.
“I’m going home!”
“Oh, come on Sakura.” Ino tugged on her arm to keep her from storming off. “Sai was only kidding.”
“No, I really wanna know how that━”
Ino elbowed Sai and gave him a look that had him shutting his mouth tight.
“No I have to go home anyway. There’s some stuff I wanna get done before Sasuke leaves this week. He’s gotta move into his dorm and then has orientation stuff on Monday.”
“Oh. Are you guys doing anything special before he leaves?”
“Why is it inappropriate for me to bring up their sex life but not you?” Sai interjected before Sakura could answer.
“Because that wasn’t referencing their sex life,” Ino groaned, wiping a hand down her face. “At least that wasn’t my intention.”
“Yeah, leaving now.”
Sakura waved behind her as she made her way to the driver’s side of her car. She could hear Ino reprimanding Sai through the car window. Something about minding the subject of conversation when they were on the sidewalk in front of her parents’ shop.
As much as they liked to tag team against her she was going to miss seeing them everyday. Ino was going to the same school and they tried to align their schedules to match and to have the same classes but it wasn’t possible to completely match up. And then Sai was going to the art school. The school was in the city and shared campus grounds with Senju University, but outside of scheduled meetups they weren’t going to be able to run into him as often as they used to.
Naruto was having the same struggle. The three of them had tried hard to get into the same classes but they were only successful when it came to their required UNIV courses that all underclassmen had to take.
“I’m going to fail if you guys aren’t in my science credit with me!” Naruto had wailed when he realized he was going to be alone in his Biology class. Sakura and Ino had been able to calm him down only after thirty minutes of assurance that they would get together to study.
Sakura was already missing everyone even though most of her friends were going to be going to schools nearby. All except one.
And she was going to miss him most of all.
The summer between high school and college was supposed to feel more monumental than it did. At least that was what Sasuke assumed.
Left and right all of his classmates were packing up their things and salivating for their first taste of real freedom. No more curfews or parents breathing down their necks.
But all he felt was numb to it all.
Going away to school didn’t feel like he was going to be any more free than he was at home. It didn’t feel like freedom to be alone and far away.
“You have everything ready?” Itachi asked, sliding a teacup across the bartop.
“Yeah I’ve got everything packed up and just sitting in my car.”
“You’ve got swipes for food. Make sure to use them. Hm?” Shisui stared him down from where he was standing by the sink cleaning vegetables in a vinegar wash.
It was always odd watching Shisui in a domestic setting. Sasuke was used to Itachi or Izumi working around each other and acting like real adults. Shisui never really had that chance when they were at his parents’ house.
Sasuke just had to remember that it was Shisui’s apartment first before Itachi moved in. He was so used to the three of them as a unit he sometimes forgot they were individuals.
“Izumi still at work?”
“Yeah,” Shisui replied as he moved on to slicing ingredients. “Unfortunately she couldn’t get the day off because she wanted to save her free day to see you off.”
“You guys are still coming to see me off?” Sasuke’s mouth quirked to the side and he bit his lower lip. Although Shisui and Itachi still saw his dad at work and his mother was visiting them at their apartment often the three of them hadn’t come over the entire summer.
“Well, father and mother did invite us,” Itachi answered. He averted his gaze, looking at his teacup instead of Sasuke, and drummed his fingers against the ceramic cup.
“Is that,” Sasuke shrugged his shoulders as he tried to find a better way to ask and failing, “okay?”
“Father has been,” Itachi looked up at the ceiling and then off to the side as if the refrigerator would grant him the answer, “oddly accepting.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of freaky…” Shisui shivered and shook his head. “I expected him to either ignore us or say something awful but he’s just…living life as usual. Except occasionally he’ll check in and it’s so awkward. I think I’m in trouble when he pulls me into his office and it’s literally just to ask how Itachi is doing.”
“You’re telling me.” Shisui sighed and prepared a wok for stir-fry. “I have so much anxiety now.”
Itachi laughed and poured himself more tea, taking out his medication he needed to take with his meal. Shisui served a portion for Itachi and then a much larger portion for Sasuke.
“Eat up kid.” Shisui glared, gesturing with his fingers to his eyes and back at Sasuke to say he was keeping his on him.
Sasuke rolled his eyes and made a show of taking a bite of chicken. The more Sasuke tried to eat, the blander the food tasted.
Dad accepted Itachi as he is…
Sasuke pushed his food around his plate with his fork.
That’s kind of…irritating.
“He makes it look so easy,” Sakura grumbled, forcefully capping her paint pen. She grabbed another color and shook the pen so that the paint would flow to the tip.
She followed in parallel to the previous color as much as she could, trying to keep her lines as straight as possible with no wobbles.
“At least my handwriting is nicer I guess.”
Sakura sighed and grabbed another color, tracing over the lettering she had drawn on the CD with pencil. When she finished she threw her hands up in the air in triumph. She tilted her head to the side and examined her work.
“Oh, he’s going to laugh at me.”
Sakura burst into giggles. She knew she was no artist but she was sure she did a good enough job. It was her third attempt at trying to decorate the CD and it was the best of the set.
I hope he likes it.
Sasuke lifted his fork full of pasta and let it unravel, letting it plop down on his plate. He twirled his fork to gather some pasta and repeated the process.
“Stop playing with your food,” Fugaku grumbled. He hadn’t commented on the dish of choice but his lips had tightened into a straight line and practically disappeared when he noticed the vegetarian dish.
Sasuke didn’t have to wonder why that was the case even though his mother had prepared a dish he liked that just happened to be vegetarian.
“I’m packing some up so you can have it for dinner when you get to your dorm,” Mikoto offered. Her eyes shifted down to his plate of where he was mashing zucchini and roasted tomatoes with his fork. “You’ll remember to eat right?”
Sasuke shrugged and went back to twirling his pasta around his fork. He twirled it and twirled it, attempting to gather as much pasta as he could.
“It will probably be late,” Shisui attempted to answer for him. “He’ll probably unpack all of his stuff and then crash right after. Sasuke will probably end up eating his dinner for breakfast.”
“I’ve never been to Otsutsuki College but the campus photos look beautiful,” Izumi budged in, taking the cue from Shisui. “It must be exciting, getting away from the city.”
“You’re going to do fine.”
Sasuke lifted his head at the sound of his brother’s voice. Itachi gave his usual gentle reassuring smile. Sasuke nodded but made no attempt to join the conversation.
Lunch had gone like that the whole day and if Sasuke didn’t block out the noise for most of it he would have probably stormed off. The amount of attention he was receiving was making his skin feel tight and the spaces between his fingers itch.
Normally during meal times discussions centered around work or Itachi’s health. Seldom did they come around to talking about Sasuke━and that’s what it was, about him not with him. It didn’t really seem to matter if he was there or not.
So he checked out.
I should just leave early…
It wasn’t like there was really any reason he should spend more time at home. He watched them all greet each other awkwardly and then sat through lunch where they bumbled through the topic of Sasuke’s university life.
All of my stuff is already in my car anyway.
Izumi gave him a wavering smile as she picked up his plate, helping his mother clear the table. Off in the great room, he could hear his father criticizing Shisui’s apartment and asking him and Itachi when they planned to move a more suitable apartment, closer to the hospital and with more room. His mother burst into a peal of laughter and Izumi apologized repeatedly about something to do with the kitchen sink.
Scooting his chair back, Sasuke removed himself from the dining room and made his way to the foyer. He grabbed his keys, gripping them in his fist so they wouldn’t jingle and give him away. As silently as possible he slipped out the front door, shutting it softly. Without turning back he made his way to his car. Rounding the hood to get to the driver’s side door.
He would have smoothly made his getaway if it weren’t for the fact Sakura was leaning against the side of his Jeep.
“Figured you would try to take off without saying anything.” Sakura rolled her eyes and stood on her toes, looping her arms around his neck. “I love you but you’re such an idiot sometimes.”
“Well,” Sasuke wrapped his fingers around her wrists, “I gotta go before they figure out what I did.”
“You were going to leave me hanging weren’t you?” Sakura narrowed her eyes at him, lips pursing. “And here I am with a gift for you.”
“Gift?” Sasuke quirked his mouth to the side. He had said his goodbyes to his friends the day before, not sure if he was going to be able to before he left and Sakura hadn’t said anything about a gift.
“Yep, it’s already in your car actually. Check the passenger seat.” Sakura tugged, keeping a hold of him and pressed a chaste kiss to his mouth. “Don’t leave me hanging when you leave. Call or text me after you’ve settled, ‘kay?”
“Aa.” Sasuke nodded and gave her another quick kiss before pulling out of her embrace. “But I really do have to go now.”
“Yeah. yeah. I should get going to before they find out that you escaped.”
Sasuke snuck into his car and pulled away as he put his seatbelt on, rushing out of the driveway and out of the cul-de-sac.
“Just going to put this on silent,” he muttered tossing his phone on the passenger seat.
Groping around his hand met with a plastic CD case. He flipped it to look at the clear front and in Sakura’s bubbly handwriting it just read “i love you” in all lowercase letters over a colorful spiral pattern.
Well, I’ve got a long drive ahead of me, he chuckled inwardly taking the disc out of its case. It’s always going to be a long drive…