Tsunade didn't even look up at the ninja that materialized in her office, crouched on one knee, head bowed. She signed
a form and moved it to the 'completed' stack before snatching another irritably from the 'yet to do' stack. "Yamato."
The man took his cue and stood, standing ramrod straight before her. "Hokage-sama, I am here to report on Naruto-kun's
status," he said.
What else would you be doing? she thought uncharitably, but sighed and waved him on. She still hadn't looked up.
"He is... the same," Yamato informed her reluctantly. "There is no change. He still refuses to return to Konoha, and he
still refuses to do anything but train. The Kazekage has had to issue the order for no nin to train with him after dark, otherwise
he would never sleep."
Honey eyes flickered up to his face. She huffed and pulled down another form. "Idiot," she muttered.
Yamato suppressed a smile. "He and Sakura still do their bi-weekly visits, as you no doubt know," he continued. "She brings
him things. Gifts. Pictures. Sometimes Sai draws for him and sends it along with her."
Tsunade sighed and set down her inkbrush. She pinched the bridge of her nose. "It's been three months, Yamato,"
she said, sighing. "And yet he still won't come home. He still won't forgive-" She stopped, pressing her lips together to
keep herself from finishing that sentence.
He stared at her for a moment, before looking away and sighing. "He never listens to me when I talk about Konoha. I've
all but given up. He completely tunes me out." He pushed his hands into his pockets. "It's... He's changed, since he left.
I mean, he's more... driven. More determined. He still smiles, but never around people he doesn't know, or doesn't like. Which
includes me. He still searches for Sasuke. Not actively, but the Kazekage lets him keep an eye on the records in exchange
for Naruto's help with the Suna Academy."
Tsunade nodded. This was all stuff she knew. She didn't need to be reminded. She sighed. "Very well. Get some rest and
then return to him. Your orders are the same. If he needs anything, see if you can't provide it. Within reason. Don't let
him boss you around."
Yamato bowed. "Hai, Hokage-sama." He sank into the floor.
She had barely signed one more form before Shizune crashed into the room, looking harried. Tsunade looked up in alarm,
feeling stretched thin with all that seemed to be happening this morning. "Shizune? What is it?"
"Tsu-Tsunade-sama! Uchiha Sasuke... he's been spotted, just inside Hi no Kuni!" the other woman gasped, out of breath.
She must have run... but why?
"That's not too close, no matter where he came from," the Hokage said, frowning. "Relax. We have some time."
But the color didn't return to Shizune's face. "No, you don't understand, Hokage-sama. He's already killed three Konoha
nin that crossed his path," she said. "And he injured Kakashi. If Kakashi hadn't been meeting up with Jiraiya-sama for his
report, he wouldn't have made it out alive."
"You should have told me that to start with!" Tsunade roared, shooting to her feet and slamming her fists on the desk.
Shizune squeaked and tripped in her mad scramble to get back. "I-I'm sorry!"
"Where is Kakashi now?" Tsunade demanded.
Shizune gulped and quickly climbed to her feet. "Jiraiya-sama is bringing him back to Konoha. He sent a messenger hawk
ahead of him, and should arrive in a few hours. They injured Uchiha, but that won't hold him off for long. He's determined,
and he's mad, Tsunade-sama."
"Of course he's mad," the Hokage growled out. "We expected this. I had just thought it would happen sooner,
Her assistant nodded. "I'll have a room prepared in the hospital," she said.
"Good. Have someone fetch Shikamaru, Asuma and Ibiki. They are to meet me here yesterday," Tsunade ordered.
Shizune hurried through a bow and dashed out of the room. Tsunade slumped back into her seat with a sigh. "No warning,
no time," she muttered. "We can't get him back here... no, it'd be pointless anyway." She shook her head. "Hopefully Yamato's
not too far away..." She drew a deep breath. "SECRETARY!"
Sakura sat on the swing on her front porch, legs criss-crossed in front and eyes closed. She was meditating, or at least,
she was supposed to be. In reality though, she was thinking, allowing herself one of those few melancholy moments to regret
the past. It was still so new, still so raw, and painful.
She opened her eyes and looked down, gaze landing on a small splotch of long-since-dried blue paint. She could still remember
the first time she'd walked onto this porch.
She stopped on the first step heading up to the porch, putting her hands on her thighs in plain sight. She cleared her
throat noisily, but he didn't stir. "Uchiha-san? Are you okay?"
He turned his head to face her and opened his eyes slowly. For a minute, he just stared at her in seeming confusion
before he sighed and slowly sat up. "Is it that time already?"
She could almost hear his voice in the back of her mind. All she had to do is close her eyes and imagine herself standing
Sighing, Sakura got up and walked inside the house, looking around as if it was the first time she'd ever been in here.
But it wasn't. "It was my mother's, once."
She stopped in the livingroom, standing before a bookcase, and picked up a well-worn book on chakra manipulation. Something
creaked in the house and she dropped the book. The pages fell open to reveal a flower, a dried out white lotus.
"Sakura, thank you for coming," Tsunade said.
It was the day after the funeral, and things were still raw, still so bleak for the rosette kunoichi.
She didn't know how she was going to cope, how she had since Itachi was executed five days before.
Sakura sat in a chair without being asked. "Shisho... you needed me?"
Tsunade studied her face for a moment, and something in her eyes spoke of regret. "I'm sorry, Sakura. But there is...
Sakura blinked slowly, lips parting. "Will?" she echoed dumbly.
Tsunade nodded. "He had one put together, signed and witnessed about three days before I sent your team off to Shadow
Country." She pushed a thick packet of papers across her desk. "I would like you to take a look at it."
Sakura picked the packet up and began to read. After a moment, she started skimming, and once she'd gotten the gist
of it, she skipped to the end, where Itachi, the Hokage and two other witnesses had signed.
"You had left on a mission, before that," Tsunade said. "So you weren't available at the time to tell you. It must have
slipped my mind until now."
She stared down at Shikamaru and Ibiki's signatures, brow wrinkling in confusion. "Shisho?"
Tsunade's eyes narrowed. "He left you most of his belongings. Everything except a desk, which he gave to Shikamaru.
We don't know why, and he wouldn't really say anything about it, besides 'she is my friend'. Of course, should Sasuke come,
he automatically has rights to half the landmass, but everything else is yours. Unless Sasuke returns, the Uchiha lands and
everything on them belong to you."
Sakura sighed and knelt to pick the book up, feeling her heart ache.
The man stretched tanned arms above his head, yawning. "Aah... Miyami-san, I'm going to take my break!" he called into
the back of the shop. "We haven't any customers at the moment..."
"That's fine, Karasu!" a slightly deeper voice called in reply.
Shaking his head, the red-haired male walked over to one of the corner tables, and sat down with a pot of tea. He breathed
a sigh of relief. This was nice. Quiet, peaceful... There were no obnoxious customers bugging him, and he could drink his
tea without worry. It was practically paradise-
The sound of the bell over the door interrupted his thoughts. He frowned and pointedly did not turn around. He knew
who it was, anyway. Really, it was remarkable that the man hadn't found him before now.
Sure enough, a familiar ninja walked right over and sat down after pulling his giant sword off his back. He crossed his
arms and scowled at the green-eyed man on the other side of the table. "You," he said, pointing a thick finger accusingly
in the redhead's face, "are one fucking sick bastard, you know that? Fucking sadistic and sick and I
swear I'm going to beat your ass into the ground one of these days."
Karasu blinked calmly at the blue-skinned ninja. "Aa... Would you like some tea?" he asked, a token attempt at retaining
"No." Kisame scowled some more and crossed his arms again. Just for effect, probably.
Karasu quirked a brow, and shrugged. "You cannot remain in our shop unless you buy something, ninja-san."
"Oh, don't you dare 'ninja-san' me, you bastard!" Kisame growled.
"Calling the server names will not assist you in gaining favor. We have security. I will have them remove you," Karasu
replied, though he didn't appear particularly bothered by said name-calling. "Buy something."
Kisame let out a bark of laughter. "Buy something? Buy something? Why don't you buy me something,
you sadistic sonovabitch? It's your damn fault I'm even here! I come out here thinking 'woah, I recognize that- and
you know, if it is him, his cover name isn't very original'. It's only a matter of time before someone else
figures it out, you idiot! Like, say, Akatsuki, maybe? After all, they did pretty much kick your ass the last time
you ran into them."
Karasu's brow remained arched. He took a sip of his tea.
"Who I happened to have saved your skinny ass from, by the way," Kisame said. He was no longer really talking
so much as shouting. Loudly. Though that was pretty much implied anyway.
"Uh... Karasu-san? Is this a friend of your's?"
Karasu turned his head and smiled at his employer, Miyami-san. Short, balding, old but mostly kind. Very fair. Chronically
nervous, of course. Karasu hadn't really been able to help much with that in the last two and a half months, though not for
the lack of trying.
"Yes, Miyami-san. He is... a friend, I suppose." Karasu tried smiling more to get the man to relax. It didn't work. "He
will calm down once it's out of his system. I apologize for the noise."
Kisame choked. "You- OW!"
Karasu smiled and pretended he hadn't just kicked Kisame under the table. "See? Calming down already." Kisame opened his
mouth again and then hissed in pain.
Miyami's brow furrowed. "Well, so long as he doesn't make this ruckus when we have customers..." He shook his head and
left for the back of the shop again.
Karasu turned a blank look on Kisame. "Not here, please. I am at work. If you get me fired, I will pummel you into
Kisame groaned. "I hate you."
"Mm. Would you like to purchase something? Or leave?"
Kisame twitched, and then sighed. "Coffee. And if you have anything alcohol, spike it."
"I'm not giving you alcohol in the middle of the day, Kisame-san," Karasu replied bluntly. He got up to get the coffee,
"Fucking ass," Kisame muttered in his wake.
Later that day, Tsunade was scowling and pacing in her office when Shizune came in with a raven on one arm. She wordlessly
held out a sealed scroll. "A report from Karasu, Tsunade-sama."
Tsunade snatched it and broke the seal. She unrolled the seemingly blank parchment and set it on the ground, then bit her
thumb and slammed her hand down on it with a burst of chakra. She stepped back.
Before them, a specter of Karasu materialized, looking as unimpressed with them as always. "Hokage-sama," he greeted and
bowed. "Karasu, reporting in. Kisame-san approached me today at the cafe. He knew my identity. It is only a matter of time
before someone who actually wishes me harm figures it out as well. As such, I believe it is prudent to assume that my cover
is blown. Awaiting further orders." The specter vanished and the scroll burned to cinders.
Tsunade cursed and kicked the desk. "I do not need this!" she yelled. "GODDAMMIT!" The next time she kicked the
desk, it split in half, showering paperwork everywhere.
Shizune flinched away, eyes wide.
Tsunade wasn't finished yet. "BLOWN HIS COVER! That MORON!" she hollared. "How the HELL does he BLOW HIS COVER! He's supposed
to be GOOD AT THIS!"
"A-ano... Tsunade-sama..." Shizune stammered.
"What?" Tsunade snapped, rounding on the dark-haired woman.
"... Shouldn't you... um... send him his orders?" Shizune suggested timidly.
Tsunade glowered at her silently for a moment, chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath after her fit. "... Send
Shikamaru to retrieve him," she growled. "Oooh, I'm going to beat him..."
"Aa... yes, ma'am," Shizune said, and quickly vacated the room before Tsunade threw her desk out the window.
Itachi's eyes opened, and for a moment, his vision was so bleary that it was almost impossible to see anything in the
dim light. Then a face swam into view, and he could just make out blond pigtails and a familiar scowl.
"Hokage-sama," he tried, but the sound was little more than a croak. No one could understand something like that.
Someone helped him sit up, and Tsunade pressed a glass to his lips. He swallowed water, feeling like he'd been brought
back from the dead... which was, more or less, the truth.
"I'm sorry, Itachi," she said, sighing. "We weren't able to exchange the poison, so I had to flush it from your system.
Fortunately, we got there in time, so I was able to resuscitate you without much issue."
He nodded sluggishly. He'd figured as much. "Danzo?" he whispered, and sipped again at the water.
"The council was disbanded," she informed him. "He has... disappeared from the public eye. He's disgraced and refuses
to so much at look at anyone but his Root nin. By this time tomorrow, Root will also be transferred into the Konoha system.
They will become regular nin and be able to live regular lives... at least for ninja."
Something inside him unclenched at that. "Good," he breathed.
"You should get some rest," she suggested. "You're still recovering from the poison."
His fingers just managed to catch her sleeve as she moved to get up. "Sakura... san," he said, struggling to remain
Tsunade sighed. "She's doing alright, Itachi." She looked away, down at his hand. Her fingers gently unhooked it from
the green fabric. "She thinks you're dead. Everyone does. It was necessary." She nodded to the person holding him. "Rest.
We'll talk more when you wake again."
Itachi sighed and closed his eyes. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Naruto flipped back from his opponent, using only his left hand for anchor on the ground. He landed several yards away,
on his feet, and darted forward again. Kankuro met him halfway, kunai parrying the blond's short sword.
They shoved apart, both panting for breath. Kankuro lifted his arm, wiping the sweat away from his forehead. "You should
Naruto snarled wordlessly and attacked. Kankuro blocked. They parted again and circled. "I don't have to," the blond replied
after a beat.
"You don't," Kankuro agreed thoughtfully. "But you should. The Hokage worries about you, Naruto."
Silence fell as they lunged at each other again, and after a moment, Kankuro managed to trip the blond up. They tumbled
to the ground, rolled and Naruto pinned him, wakizashi pressed against the puppeteer's throat.
"I don't care," the blond said between gasping breaths.
Kankuro's finger slid underneath the tip of the blade at his throat and gently pushed it up. Naruto let him. "Yeah, I noticed.
You get more and more like that Uchiha teammate of yours every day," he commented.
Naruto scowled and lifted the blade, sliding it into the short sheath at his hip. He rolled off his friend and sat beside
him, arms crossed. "Who cares what you say? I'm not going to run away to get revenge on my dead brother," he retorted.
"You don't have a dead brother," Kankuro replied, shrugging as he sat up. He crossed his legs in an X before him and faced
Naruto with a serious expression. "You can't stay here forever, Naruto. You have to go home eventually."
"Shut up," Naruto snapped, and scowled. "I know that." He sighed and scrubbed a hand through messy, dirty hair, and grimaced.
He needed a shower. "Sakura-chan wants me to come back too. Something about how having just Sai to beat up is no fun." He
shrugged, looking down at his hands in his lap.
"Then go back," Kankuro said, sighing. He really didn't want to listen to any more of Temari's bitching or see Gaara's
broody scowls if he could help it. "Listen, man. We like you alright, and you've been a ton of help with the kids and about
anything else Gaara could convince you to do... But we really don't want to marry you."
The blond shot him a glare. "Yeah, yeah, I know," he snapped irritably. "When I'm ready to go, I'll tell you first thing."
Kankuro sighed again, letting his head drop back to stare up at the sky. He groaned. "Right," he muttered, exasperated.
It was Temari's turn next, wasn't it? Tomorrow. He shook his head and got to his feet. "Anyway, I have to get back, but now
I've gotta shower first." He eyed the blond. "You should think about doing the same, just don't waste the water." After dusting
his backside off, he gave Naruto a wave and let him be.
Naruto sighed as he disappeared, then flopped onto his back in the sand. He closed his eyes since there were never any
clouds in the sky and keeping them open would just burn his retinas. For a moment, he saw eyes, red and burning and full of
hatred. Then he fell asleep, and he saw them, accusing in their stares.
Itachi and Sasuke. The ones he'd failed.
The morning dawned bright and cheerful, birdsong in the air and the smell of freshly made coffee wafting on the breeze.
Karasu sat up straight in bed. Coffee?
His bedroom door opened as if on cue. "Time to get up, dear! I've made coffee!"
Karasu felt an overwhelming feeling of mortification and couldn't move, refused to do anything but blink at the blue-skinned
idiot in his doorway. His arm twitched. His eye twitched. A kunai appeared in his hand.
Kisame ducked, the kunai flying right through the wall where his head had been. He peered at the spot to find that it had
melted through. "Oh, ouch. You trying to kill me?"
"The thought had crossed my mind," Karasu replied bluntly. "I promise I'll make it quick."
Kisame laughed nervously and slammed the door shut on the next kunai, not that it did much but slow it down a bit. "Your
coffee's in the livingroom!" he called through the door and beat a quick retreat.
"Why is he still here?" Karasu asked himself, sighing. "There is no reason for him to still be here."
Shaking his head, Karasu climbed out of bed and quickly dressed, then went out to the livingroom. Sure enough, Kisame had
made coffee and set it there, along with... a donut. Karasu twitched. He looked around with narrowed green eyes, searching
for the blue-skinned nukenin. "Kisame?"
No answer. A thorough search of the house only served to confirm his suspicions. Kisame had run away. Perhaps the idiot
had brains after all.
Sighing, Karasu sat down to eat, and had no sooner taken one bite than someone knocked on the door. He set his mug
of coffee down with a sharp click, dropped the donut and almost stomped to the door. "If you are here to pester
me, you idiotic pain in the ass," he began, jerking the door open. He stopped. "Oh."
Nara Shikamaru blinked at him for a beat. "Um... I didn't do it?" he ventured, brow furrowing. "This is so troublesome."
Karasu sighed and stepped back, letting the Nara inside. "No, it's not you," he said irritably. "Did you see the message?"
Shikamaru shook his head. "No, but Shizune-san told me the basics. I suppose you thought I was Kisame-san?"
Karasu nodded. "Yes. He decided to make me breakfast and coffee first thing this morning," he explained, eyes narrowing
with murder in mind.
Shikamaru wasn't sure if he'd ever seen the other man so... pissy. Perhaps he just wasn't a morning person? Back when they'd
lived together, Itachi never talked to him first thing in the morning. This would explain it.
"You have coffee?" the Nara asked hopefully. He had started off for this town last night and had thus been up for almost
an entire twenty four hours. Coffee would be heaven.
Itachi nodded and gestured toward the half-full coffee pot sitting on a counter in the kitchen. Well, more like 'kitchenette',
seeing as it was actually a small space of tiled floor in one corner of the living room. "Help yourself. Mugs are in the cabinet."
He pointed out a stand-alone shelving unit with a door that was off to the side of the kitchenette.
Shikamaru toed off his shoes and offered Karasu a thankful bow. Three minutes later, he sat down beside Karasu on the couch
and they fell into a comfortable silence as they drank their coffee (and Karasu ate his donut). It was just like old times,
only... Karasu's hair was red.
Shikamaru's brow wrinkled. Man, that didn't even make sense in his head. Sighing, he broke the silence. "Anyone
else besides Kisame-san been here?"
Karasu shook his head. "No. Just him. What are my orders?"
"You're to return to Konoha," Shikamaru replied, and sipped his coffee. "I'll warn you though... Hokage-sama's not very
happy about this."
Karasu's eyes slid to the side, taking in the Nara's face. "I did not expect her to be." He tilted his head, then reached
up toward a small stud in the lobe of his right ear. "But your warning is heeded." He removed the silver earring.
Shikamaru looked over as the illusion faded, leaving behind his old friend. Shikamaru smiled slightly. "Welcome back."
Black eyes met grey. "Thank you."
The blade of his katana cut clean through flesh and bone, a spray of blood and the soft sound of a body dropping to the
ground the first and last signs of the Konoha ANBU's death. Around him were sprawled the bodies of two five man teams. He
stood in the midst of it all, still burning with rage and hatred.
His once white haori was drenched in blood, some drying, some freshly wet. His pants too. He looked down and blinked at
his waist blankly for a beat, then realized that it was the rope that had gone missing. Perhaps one of the ANBU had cut through
it during the fight. He wasn't injured, thankfully, but... Where had it gone?
His gaze roved over the numerous bodies but he couldn't find it, so he gave up with a shrug. It was a simple matter to
replace it, after all. Shaking his head, he crouched beside a body that hadn't been entirely covered in blood and hacked off
a clean piece of shirt to clean his blade with.
"Idiots," he whispered, quickly cleaning the blood away before sheathing his katana. He stood, dropping the cloth, and
turned away from the bodies. He had perhaps half an hour before the next group caught up with him, and he needed a bath.
He stooped at the edge of the field, spotting a familiar pile of cloth, and scooped it up. The sash was there, and as soon
as he lifted it, he found the severed rope. It took him less than two minutes to secure both in place. The extra knots would
do for now, and he could replace the rope later.
Behind him, he heard the soft sound of a groan. He turned his head to peer over his shoulder, watching a young woman haltingly
push herself up onto her hands and knees. He turned, and she looked up, mask falling to the ground as it crumbled. Dark brown
eyes stared up at him, in fear.
He smiled darkly and unsheathed his katana.
It was the shifting of the bed that woke him, and when Kakashi cracked his eyes open, he wasn't entirely surprised to find
her sitting there. "Sakura?" He tried to sit up, but she pushed him back down.
"You should stay still, Kaka-sensei," she admonished, frowning at him. "You lost a lot of blood, so you should just take
He sighed and nodded. "You're right. How are you, Sakura?"
She shrugged. "I've been better," she admitted, looking away. One hand lifted to tuck a few strands of soft pink hair behind
her ear. "I heard about Sasuke, and you, so I thought I'd... check on you."
Only 'Sasuke'? Kakashi mused. What happened to 'Sasuke-kun'?
Sakura drew in a breath and let it out, looking up at him. She smiled. "We'll stop him, Kaka-sensei."
His eyes widened. "'We'?" he echoed, alarmed.
She nodded. "Yes. I'm going out with a team of ANBU in half an hour to apprehend Uchiha Sasuke and bring him back to Konoha
for his crimes," she said softly. "Not that I'm technically supposed to tell you that, but..." She shrugged.
"Sakura, don't go," he said, grabbing her hand. "Do not go after him. He is not the man you once knew, Sakura,"
he plead. "He's... a monster."
"That's why I have to stop him," she replied firmly, twisting her hand out of his grasp. "Before he kills anyone else.
I'm not stupid, Kaka-sensei. I know there's probably nothing we can do now to save him, but..." She looked down, and closed
her eyes. "But I at least want to bring him home. And maybe then, Naruto will come back too."
Kakashi stared at her silently for a moment before forcing his body to relax. "Be careful, Sakura," he said, closing his
She kissed his cheek and left without another word.
Sakura was the last to arrive at the Konoha gates, prepared for her mission. She knew it was likely that she'd never see
the faces of her companions, but she still glanced around at the three masked figures, hoping for some sign to clue her in
on their identities. No such luck.
"Are we ready?" she asked, blinking at them.
One - a male - turned toward her and shook his head. "Nah," he drawled, and she bit back a grin. She knew that voice!
"We're still waiting for his imperial highness to actually get here to Konoha."
Her amusement faded to confusion. "Who?"
Genma shrugged. "Our Captain? We're still waiting for him."
"Oh." She blinked. "Who is it?"
He rolled his eyes. "You won't believe it if I told you. Man, I owe him a good kick in the rear for this shit."
He was saved from further questioning by Shikamaru walking through the gates and then right past all of them. "Hi, Sakura.
Bye Sakura," he said quickly in passing.
Puzzled, she wondered what the hell he was hurrying off for. She was about to turn and call him back when someone else
stepped into view. Her words were forgotten, and her blood ran cold. That walk, those eyes, that hair... He stopped just inside
the gates, meeting her gaze with all the calm of someone who hadn't come back from the dead.
She took a step, feeling numb. Another step, and the numb was melted by fire. A third, a forth step, a fifth, and she stood
before him. She pulled back her fist and decked him so hard he literally flew right back out of the gates. "YOU SADISTIC BASTARD!"
The ANBU team quickly scrambled out of her way as she went after him. He'd crashed right through a tree and was getting
back up when she reached him. Black eyes were draining to red as she grabbed him up by the front of his shirt and shook him.
"Do you KNOW what I WENT THROUGH, YOU DICK!" she yelled, vibrating with fury.
He stared at her silently, one hand holding his now broken nose. Finally, he sighed. "I'm sorry, Sakura-san."
"SORRY!" she yelled incredulously, shoving him away from her in disgust. "Sorry doesn't cut it, you ass! Sorry doesn't
take back the tears, it doesn't take back the anger, and the sadness! Sorry isn't going to fix Sasuke, or Naruto! So keep
your fucking sorry and shove it up your ass!"
He was struck by a moment of deja vu and shook his head. "It does not fix it, no," he agreed, frowning at her. "I did not
know this is how it was going to happen, Sakura-san. I had no clue. One minute, I am dead, and the next Hokage-sama
is sitting next to me explaining what happened. You may be angry at me all you wish, but please consider that I would
have done it differently. I would have told you."
She punched him again, this time without chakra. "Then why didn't you?" she snarled.
"I was acting under orders!" he retorted, frowning more deeply. He caught the next punch.
"Screw orders, Itachi! I was fucking scared! I cried! I went to your goddamn funeral, you sick
bastard!" And suddenly she was crying again. She pulled on her hand, but he didn't release it. "How could you..."
He sighed and winced as he popped his nose back into alignment. He wiped the blood away with the back of his sleeve, then
reached out and plucked up the necklace from her neck. He stared down at it. "Let me make amends?" he asked softly.
The muscles in her arm relaxed, and it only stayed up because of his grip on her fist. "How could you fix this?" she asked,
feeling angry and sad, happy and relieved, all at once. It was playing havoc with her psyche.
He didn't answer for some time, thumb gently tracing back and forth over the warmed metal of the beads resting on his fingers.
She must have worn it since he put it on her... "I will try," he said softly.
She let out the breath she hadn't known she was holding. "Fine. But I get to be there when Naruto confronts you after he
finds you," she said, eyes narrowing on him.
He actually grimaced at that. "Aa... as you wish." He released her fist and pointed at his nose. "Would you mind? It'll
be distracting on the mission."
She was tempted just to punch him again and refuse, but eventually the medic in her won out and she lifted her hands, healing
his nose in only a few passing moments. "You're such a jerk," she informed him, frowning. "And you're totally not getting
that bedroom back."
The corner of his mouth twitched. "We'll discuss that at a later date, I think," he replied.
She turned away and continued as if he hadn't said anything. "Or that bed! No way am I giving up that bed. If I'd known
you had such a comfy bed, I would have stolen it ages ago."
He snorted. "You would have tried."
She stuck her nose in the air and glowered at the watching ANBU group. "Well? Don't we have a mission?" she demanded archly.
Genma shook his head and patted Itachi's shoulder in passing. "You know, I almost feel sorry for you, Uchiha. But... not
Itachi didn't reply.