Sakura was sitting in her favorite cafe when Ino found her. The blonde stood just behind her for several minutes without
the other kunoichi noticing, and her brow lifted further with each sigh. Finally, she took the seat opposite the pink haired
nin, startling her friend out of her thoughts. "So, things go well with Itachi-kun?" the blonde asked cheerfully.
Sakura flushed a dark pink. "Um, you could say that," she hedged, looking away.
Ino's eyes narrowed. "Spill. Just between us."
Sakura glared at her suspiciously, then sighed again. "We're going out on a date Saturday," she said, smiling. Four days
away... "He asked me out. I said yes."
Ino grinned. "Oooh, really? That's so awesome!" she gushed cheerfully. "You know what this means, don't you?"
Sakura felt a chill of dread go down her spine, but the blonde's excitement was contagious, so she finally smiled. "Shopping?"
"Damn straight!" Ino said sharply, and smirked. "C'mon! Now!" She grabbed her friend's wrist and started to drag
"Wait! The bill!" Sakura yelped.
Shikamaru sighed, wondering how the hell he'd gotten himself into this. One moment, he was having barbecue with Choji,
enjoying a nice relaxing day off, the next, Ino was dragging him to some department store for 'a male opinion'. Troublesome.
Currently, he and Ino were waiting outside the dressing room as Sakura tried on the pretty red dress the girls had been
gushing over two minutes ago. Loudly gushing. Almost shrieking, in the blonde's case.
He sighed, even as he heard an annoyed groan.
"Ino, it's not going to work!" the mednin groused, stomping out of the changing room. She looked absolutely stunning
in that little halter dress.
"What?" Ino yelped. "Oh, I was so sure!" She surveyed her friend and shook her head. "It's so pretty, though!"
"It makes my waist look big!" Sakura snapped. "And it clashes with my hair, dammit."
They fell into a contemplative silence before both unanimously turned their gazes onto Shikamaru. He gulped. "Uh..." Think,
think, think... Don't disagree, don't agree... so... "There was one in black, I think," he said quickly. "Maybe that would
be better? Not that you aren't downright sexy, in this one."
Sakura sighed and thought about it for a moment. "Alright, let's try the black one. Maybe it's the color that's off," she
Ino beamed. "Great!"
Catastrophe aborted... for now. Shikamaru wanted to sink into the floor.
Sometime later, Sai peered through the window when he saw a familiar face, then walked into the store. Ino caught sight
of him, and dragged him over, suspicious of Shikamaru's evasive answers. "Sai! Look!" She pointed to the pink-haired kunoichi
dressed in a slim, form-fitting, knee-high number in a silky dark green. "Isn't she gorgeous?"
Sai eyed Sakura thoughtfully, noting the nervous nibbling of her lip, the shifting her weight from one foot to the other...
"Mmm... It kind of brings out her big hips..."
Five seconds later, Sai went flying through the shop window.
"Uhg, this is no use!" Sakura said, near tears, half an hour later. "I'm hideous! Fat! Ugly!"
"No you're not!" protested Ino, scowling. Damn Sai and his mouth! "Look, I likedthat green dress-"
"-so did I," Shikamaru inserted, and was largely ignored.
"-and listening to Sai doesn't work anyway. He's stupid." The blonde nodded knowingly. "Besides, have you seenthat
man's idea of fashion? A bellyshirt? Really? That doesn't work for guys, honey."
Sakura nodded, reluctantly conceding the point. "So the green dress? I dunno, if he thought that... I mean, he doesn't
lie to me often..." She sighed.
"What about that one over there?" Shikamaru asked, pointing.
Both women followed the direction of his finger, and gasped. "Shikamaru, you're a genius," Ino said, shocked.
He shrugged, leaning back against the wall and not replying. It was true, after all.
Itachi, meanwhile, had decided to clean the house. Not that it needed it, really, since Sakura was a compulsive sterilizer,
and he cleaned his messes up after himself anyway. But still. Dusting could be done, and the living room needed a new coat
He invited Lee over to help move the furniture and paint. Ten minutes into the other man's company, he regretted it a bit.
"-and so beautiful, I'm just shocked at her living with-"
"Lee," Itachi finally said, tired of the green male singing Sakura's praises. "She's my girl. Shut up."
That brought Lee up short. "Y-your... girl? Sakura-san?" he said, looking devastated.
Itachi sighed wearily. "Yes. We're dating." Technically. "Please stop mooning over her. It is... uncomfortable." Annoying.
"And it makes her uncomfortable." Irritated. "So stop. She likes you. But as a friend."
Lee looked caught off guard, but then he heaved his own sigh. "That is so... unfortunate." And then his eyes burned righteously.
"But youthful! And we shall have a youthful battle for her affections, you and I, Itachi-san!"
Dammit. "Okay, go battle youthfully outside," Itachi said, replacing himself with a clone to follow the other male out.
Once they were gone, he came out of the kitchen and got to work painting the walls.
Sakura returned two hours later and walked into the living room. "Itachi? Why is Lee battling a shadow clone outside?"
she asked, and winced at a crash in the nearby training grounds on the compound.
"He wished to battle me for your affections. I had better things to do, so I sent him out with a clone," Itachi
"You toldhim?" she groaned. "Uhg, fuck my life. Man, now he's going to pester me about it."
"He would have found out by Saturday anyway," Itachi pointed out, finishing up the third wall before climbing down
the ladder. He moved it and the white paint over to the last wall and started on that.
She sighed heavily and shook her head, then glanced around the room. "I'm opening a window," she said. "It stinks in here."
"Aa," was the only reply she got.
She set the grocery bag she had down on the floor and walked over to the windows, shoving them open to allow in a breeze.
Itachi paused when he felt his shadow clone disspell. He made another one and sent it out, then went back to what he was
doing, smirking. Interesting fight.
Sakura spotted his look and shook her head. "You know, it's almost creepy, that whole shadow clone knowledge thing. I don't
want to find out you're using it to peep."
"There's an idea," he said mock thoughtfully.
She swatted his leg and huffed, snatching her bag up off the floor. "I'm putting my stuff away. Are you almost done?"
nodded. "Yes. Fifteen minutes."
"Kay." She disappeared into the back, putting her new dress up on a hanger and hanging it in her closet. For a moment,
she smiled at it, and then she thought about thanking Shikamaru somehow. Ooh, Ino's mom's rolls. She'd talk to Ino later.
Shaking her head and grinning at herself, she walked back out to start an early dinner. It'd be nice to eat out on the patio...
She checked in on Itachi to find him still painting, then went back into the kitchen and started putting things together
for a light meal. Salad, maybe? Mm, and cold shrimp. Shrimp salad? That sounded nice, she mused.
A pair of arms wrapped around her waist and she leaned back into him. "You know, I think this would be considered 'cheating',"
she told him bluntly.
The shadow clone smirked faintly. "I like cheating. I am very good at it," he replied.
"What if I don't like cheating?" she replied mock seriously.
He pretended to consider that for a moment. "Ninja," he finally replied, and leaned down to nibble on her throat.
She sucked in a breath. "Itachi, knock it off! I'm making dinner!"
"We've got about an hour until you needto," he replied, smirking and not stopping.
She scowled and stabbed at him with the steak knife she drew from the knife block. Predictably, he jumped back, and frowned.
"Now who is cheating?" he asked.
Her eyes narrowed, and she sighed when he dispelled. Out in the living room, she heard Itachi drop something. She smirked.
Served him right!
Still... living with Itachi, and planning on datingthe guy, was... frustrating. Especially after their... accident
that morning. What had she been thinking? One minute, she'd been terrified, thinking about all the things he'd done to her
former teammate. The next, she'd been telling herself it didn't matter. Her heart hadn't been able to catch up with her mind
before she'd kissed him. Made herself kiss him, told herself that he was now, Sasuke was the past. And then... then he'd kissed
And then nothing. They were kissing, and the world was upside down and inside out and Itachi was kissing her, she'd somehow
ended up on her back, and they were pawing at each other like horny animals... If Naruto hadn't come in then, she would have
fucked him, and been happyabout it.
Now she was telling herself, What about Sasuke?
But... what about him? He was Sasuke, and he'dbetrayed her. First. Hell, there hadn't even been a 'them'
to worry about!
Which just made it worse! Sakura moaned and leaned over, dropping her head to the counter. She was so screwed. Sasuke,
Itachi, Sasuke, Itachi... Make up your fucking mind already, Sak! The duck dick or the smug dick. Choose already! Or date
Shino! At least he was nicer, even if he had a bug problem.
She groaned again, lifting her head and dropping
it again. The vague pain helped her focus. Sasuke was gone. She still loved him... but, she couldn't quite forget that night.
Feeling him behind her, wanting to lean into his chest but being too terrified of rejection to do it...
She sucked in her breath, remembering a similar moment only minutes ago. Itachi. Leaning into hischest... Feeling
his arms slide around her waist like warm silk. His mouth on her throat...
Damn, Sak. You need to get laid. AND! You have a perfectly willing Uchiha just out in the living roo- actually, he's behind
you. SIX O'CLOCK!
Sakura shook her head of Inner Sakura's inane ramblings and straightened, turning to meet the patient Uchiha's gaze. He
was leaning against the kitchen doorway, eyes calm and dark, staring right back into her's. "Something is bothering you."
She swallowed, but refused to look away. "I still love him," she whispered, watching his eyes go cold. "I love him so much,
that sometimes my heart aches, and I have nightmares..." She trailed off. Itachi was pulling away, straighting to his full
"Back on our mission," he said slowly, stepping into the kitchen and advancing. She turned, backed up against the
counter. "When we met Sasuke-" She flinched at the harsh sound of his brother's name on his lips. Why did he sound angry?
"-and I fought him... he sent a clone after you, do you remember that?"
She nodded mutely, staring up at him with wide eyes as he stopped mere inches away from her.
His face was close to her's, and his gaze lowered to her mouth. He lifted a hand and lightly trailed a finger over her
bottom lip. "Do you know what he said to me, even as he stopped me from saving you?" She didn't answer in any way, but then
he didn't wait for her to. "I'll remember it, for a long time. I've dreamt of it, woken up in a cold sweat because of it..."
His hands cupped either side of her jaw, fingers splayed over her neck and the base of her head.
He leaned forward, mouth so close, lips brushing her's as he spoke. "'You destroyed what I loved. It's my turn'," he breathed.
His thumbs gently skimmed her cheeks. "I couldn't stop him. I could not get in the way. I would have died to save your life,
Sakura. If Naruto had not arrived when he did, I might have killed Sasuke to get to you. To save you."
She swallowed, her mouth trembling. He was so scary like this, and at the same time... she wasn't afraid of him at all.
And then it hit home, sank in. Sasuke... he was going to slaughter her. Murder her to get back at his brother, for petty revenge.
She didn't matter to him. Her heart shattered, and tears rolled down her cheeks without her permission.
And Itachi wasn't finished. "I would have killed my beloved baby brother for you, Sakura. The little boy I risked everything
for, the little boy I killed an entire elite clan to save. I would have cut him down, ended his pathetic excuse of an existence.
She blinked slowly, causing still more tears to pour down her cheeks, her vision to blur. What the hell? Killed him? Sasuke?
Her indrawn breath was shaky at best.
"A little food for thought, Sakura," he breathed, lips caressing her's. "What would he have done?" He pulled away
and left her there to sink to her knees.
Sakura stared after his retreating back, sitting on the floor
against the cupboard doors. "What would he have done?"That single phrase echoed in her head. What would Sasuke
have done, if put in Itachi's position that day? What would he have done? Would he have saved her, risked his life for her?
Or would he have left her to die and gone after his brother?
The answer, the one she knew deep in her heart, didn't need to be said.
Itachi went back into the living room, shaking with anger. He would have said more, stayed to comfort her... But he was
angry. So angry. He could have broken her neck, shattered her skull. The desire never rose, and that just made him angrier.
He caredfor her, in a way he'd never cared for anyone, not even Sasuke.
He couldn't stand there with her, not with how angry he was. He didn't want her to see him like this, didn't need her to
fear him. Hell, he'd probably just blown it as it was.
Except... she said it, confessed how she still felt for his little brother, and... he'd snapped. Something inside
him had snapped, like a branch giving way beneath his feet. He'd almost literally seen red, and chakra almostwent
into his eyes, made them bleedred. A fog of burning fury had settled on his shoulders, made it hard to breath, and
all he could think about was making her notlove Sasuke.
So he'd told her the truth. Maybe it had worked, maybe it hadn't. Right now, he wasn't entirely sure he even cared.
Once again, he'd made her cry, broken her heart in a way he was almost certain no one had ever managed before. Worse, he'd
broken the little faith she had left in her former teammate. Hurt her, maybe even changed her... he wouldn't blame her for
hating him, if she chose to do so.
He sighed and slumped onto the floor, closing his eyes. How could he be so stupid? Sakura...
"Wow, you know, that was reallyimpressive there," a familiar voice drawled.
Itachi didn't finish throwing the kunai, and was locked in place by shadow. Shikamaru had been ready for him. He said nothing.
"Did you even see me?" the Nara asked, sitting down beside him and releasing the jutsu. "Or were you too busy agonizing
over that little speech to even notice I was in either room?"
Itachi sighed and bit back the urge to kill the boy. He actually didn'thate him. One of the few people he didn't
even mind so much. "What do you want?" he asked softly instead.
Shikamaru looked at him quietly for a moment, then looked away, at the wall across from them. "You wanna talk about it?"
"Me neither," Shikamaru admitted. "It's too troublesome."
Itachi almost laughed, but refrained. Had that been a joke, or honesty?
"You know..." Shikamaru stopped, and frowned. "I'm... not even sure why I'm still here. I noticed the door open,
and felt your chakra... I could tell you were pretty pissed." His gaze slanted toward his ex-roommate. "Really pissed. So
I investigated, figuring I'd leave if you were alright... Stood there in the hall during most of that speech. Didn't heareverything,
obviously. Most of it was whispered, actually-"
"Shikamaru," Itachi sighed. "You are rambling."
"I know. You make me nervous," Shikamaru replied. "Which is troublesome, too." He heaved a sigh and got up, holding
his hand out to Itachi. "C'mon."
Itachi hesitated, but took it and let Shikamaru pull him to his feet. He regarded the Nara with much suspicion. Shikamaru
shrugged. "We should get out. She's sad now, but she'll go into her denial phase next, which means anger, and an angry Sakura's
more scary than you are."
Itachi quirked a brow. "Oh?"
"You have restraint when you're mad. Sakura doesn't," the younger male pointed out. "More dangerous, yes. But definitely
more painful with her." He shook his head. "Personally, I'd rather not be around when she blows her top."
"I cannot just leave her that way," Itachi said, frowning. "I livewith her."
"Oooh, yeah. That isan issue, isn't it?" Shikamaru whistled. "Well, damn. Good luck. I'm going, before I
die a messy death." He waved and quickly vacated the premises.
Itachi sighed in his wake, then headed for the kitchen.
Sakura sat where he'd left her, face buried in her arms, which rested on her knees. She said nothing when he sat down beside
her, but she didn't move either. If he didn't know better, he'd think she was asleep.
After a while, she sighed and sat up, then leaned over and put her head on his shoulder. "Why'd you tell me that?"
He hesitated, and pursed his lips thoughtfully. The truth, or a lie? He'd never lied to her, so it was no real choice.
"Because the thought..." He stopped and sighed. "The thought of you loving him made me... angry."
Sakura heaved a sigh. "So you got jealous?"
Itachi frowned at her, but she was essentially right, so he didn't answer. Instead, he threaded his fingers through her
hair and then ran them through soothingly.
"You have a really scary way of acting when you're jealous," she told him, but didn't move away.
He wasn't sure if he should take that as a compliment or not, so he once again didn't reply.
Sakura heaved another sigh and sat up, looking up at him. "I'm sorry."
Itachi's gaze went from the wall to her face, and his brow furrowed. "For what?" he asked softly.
"Making you angry," she said. "I just... I wanted to believe..." She stopped and sighed, dropping her head onto
his arm again. She was so stupid. How could this ever work between them? With their history? With herhistory with Sasuke?
Itachi sighed beside her. "It will... work out," he murmured thoughtfully. "Somehow."
Maybe. She frowned and sat up. "You should finish the living room before the paint dries... I was gonna make some salad."
She climbed to her feet and found that he was suddenly in front of her, trapping her against the counter once more. Those
butterflies were visiting her stomach again, and then he was kissing her. The butterflies disappeared, melting into a pleasant
heat one wing at a time.
As she felt his tongue teasing the seam of her lips, she couldn't help but think, how could this not work?
Sakura had woken up especially early that morning, and thus she was able to catch the surprising sight of Itachi training.
At first, she'd just sensed a brief burst of chakra. Probably nothing, but since he was wanted by pretty much all the major
countries, not to mention Akatsuki and his brother, she'd decided that it couldn't hurt to check.
So she'd left the house and snuck over to the special Uchiha training grounds not far into the forest behind it. He was
a whirl of motion. His muscles slid like liquid beneath his form-fitting mesh shirt, the fabric plastered to his skin with
sweat. Feet barely touched down on any surface before he was dancing through the air like a master gymnast, arms rolling out
and kunai slicing through the distance between he and the center of every target he threw at.
She stood there beside a tree, taking a deep breath and watching him as he landed on the ground briefly before springing
up again and snapping his leg out to catch an imaginary foe. His fingers touched a tree branch for a split second, altering
his momentum just enough to get him into the middle of the clearing. He twisted his body around, bringing that same leg down
on yet another opponent before tossing three shurriken out to lodge neatly against the kunai embedded into the targets.
He landed and spun, arm flashing out and catching a third opponent before he knocked them from their feet and kicked out
with the same leg behind him. Sakura released the breath and he turned, a kunai in each hand, to meet her gaze. He relaxed
and smirked faintly.
She stepped out from behind the tree. "Hi. So thisis what you do when you get up so damn early," she teased, smiling
back at him.
He nodded. "I cannot get out of practice," he replied calmly before walking towards the nearest target to retrieve his
Sakura shook her head, amused. "Well, I'm gonna go make something to eat, so if you finish soon, it should be ready in
fifteen minutes." She smiled and waved before turning to go.
His hand on her bicep made her turn back, and then she was pushed up against a tree with his mouth on her's. He didn't
actually smell, either, she noted as she kissed him back. A little sweat, but eh. She'd smelled worse.
He pulled back after a beat and nodded. "I'll be there."
She grinned and left, humming under her breath the whole way.
"Why areyou up so early?" he asked later as they ate.
Sakura stifled a yawn, covering her mouth, and shook her head. "Shizune, Shisho and I are doing training all day today,
and tomorrow. Medical stuff," she explained vaguely. "We're meeting in half an hour." She shook her head and finished quickly
before getting to her feet. "Which means that I, sadly, must go get a shower." She paused and sniffed the air. "You too."
He narrowed his eyes at her mock suspiciously. "Mm. I will."
She beamed. "Good!" She waved and trotted further back into the house to hog the bathroom for ten minutes. Once she'd stepped
out of the room, toweling her hair dry, she glanced around but found no sign of the sometimes unpredictable Uchiha.
"Hmmm." She shook her head and went into her bedroom to brush out her hair and finish getting ready. She was halfway
through the task when she realized he'd been in there. Her eyes narrowed as she glanced around, trying to figure out what
he'd done. Her bed...
She shoved aside the gauzy curtains that hung from the poles running from each post to the next to reveal the bed. Sure
enough, her bed - which had been messy - was made and there was a small wrapped parcel on her pillow. She made a face. "Neat
freak," she accused the absent male and picked up the parcel.
She sighed and sat down, setting her brush down beside her to peruse the package. After determining that there were no
traps of any sort on the it, she unwrapped the simple pearly paper and then opened the rectangular box. She forgot how to
"You think she'll like it?" Naruto sighed, staring down into his bowl of ramen. He prodded it with a chopped stick,
but really didn't feel like eating right then.
Kiba gave him a look. "Why wouldn't she? And anyway, I thought you weren't going to court her until afteryou finished
The blond gave him a guilty smile. "I couldn't help it!" he admitted sheepishly. "I saw it in the store at the border town
and... I just thought they'd look nice on her."
Kiba's slight frown all but vanished. "You're ridiculous, you know. You don't notice her for yearsand then you do,
and suddenly you can't stop thinking about her? Have you done anytraining in the last week?"
"Yes!" Naruto protested instantly, then abruptly deflated. "Sort of."
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Kiba said, grinning, and cuffed the blond upside the head. "So you're not still on
about Sakura, then?"
Naruto blinked and looked up from prodding his ramen again. He shook his head as he reached a hand up to adjust the semi-heavy
cloak on his shoulders. "No. You should see how she looks at Itachi... and, well... If the guy makes her thathappy..."
He grimaced and forced himself to eat some of the ramen. Which, really, was all it took to make him hungry.
Kiba snorted and tried again two bowls (roughly a minute and a half) later. "Yeah, but... You didn't care when she was
all about Sasuke."
Naruto sneered lightly at the name, surprising the Inuzuka. "Yeah right. Sasuke never cared about her. Itachi does. And
anyway, I'd never give her to... to... to teme." He scowled darkly and ordered another bowl.
Kiba, wide-eyed, stared at the blond silently for a moment. "Why? I mean, you used to be all 'I'll bring back Sasuke, yeah!'
Naruto paused, ramen halfway to his mouth, and lowered his chopsticks. "We... fought him. Sasuke was about to kill her...
He'd never done that before, and I was... scared. The look in his eyes..." He shuddered. "He... really doesn't care
who he hurts, does he? It doesn't matter to him if it's the people who love him, just so long as he gets back at the bastard."
Kiba looked away at that. It was a sobering thought, and he didn't really have any sort of reply to it. So he didn't answer,
and after a moment, Naruto went back to his ramen. The silence fell, and stuck.