The second morning on their way to Shadow, Sakura left before anyone else got up and so, after some discussion, the guys
decided to go get food. Shikamaru meandered off toward a nearby stream, leaving the others to their own devices. He peered
into the water curiously, unsurprised to note that it was teaming with fish. "Fish it is," he muttered, sounding absolutely
Meanwhile, Sai was stalking his own prey, the rumbling in his stomach urging him on. He waited for a few moments, surveying
the surrounding forest and- there! He made a few handseals, and within moments, the three rabbits he'd caught were dead and
in his hands. He grinned, sure Shikamaru had probably taken the easy way out and went after fish. He would win their
unofficial contest now! The only thing that worried him is he was unsure what Itachi would go after.
While Sai was gloating over his supposed victory and Shikamaru was lazing about on the bank of the river with a make-shift
fishing pole, Itachi was in the trees, running along in search of a meal. He decided upon something big, since he was pretty
hungry. That and he wouldn't let that egotistical, stuck up, assumedly emotionless brat one-up him. Not that he'd admit to
these thoughts, of course. He stopped by a clearing. Down below, a pheasant was digging at a patch of dirt with it's feet
before dipping it's head and grabbing a worm it'd found. Itachi nodded, satisfied. After he killed that bird, he'd go find
The three met up again after about an hour and started skinning and cooking their respective food, all agreeing that it
would be best to share - Sai commented that this was because they were all good shinobi boys and girls, and Itachi threw a
rock at him - while they waited for Sakura to return. When she did, all three looked up, both Itachi and Sai realizing they'd
not come close to winning. Not with her around.
She was carrying a moose. And not just any moose. A huge one. A male one. It was humongous.
"Hey, guys!" she greeted cheerfully, dropping the moose with a thud to the ground.
Sai was the first to recover from his shock. "I see your taste in men hasn't improved, Ugly," he commented.
This time, he got an entire moose kicked into his face...
Shikamaru sighed. "Troublesome."
The group were running through the trees, Itachi at the rear, Sakura at the front and Sai and Shikamaru in the center.
The two in the middle were discussing something in low tones, but until Itachi heard their female teammate's name, he hadn't
been paying much attention. When he heard it, though, he quickened his pace slightly to draw a little closer in order to eavesdrop.
"-got a scar from him, too. I think she actually is still injured from the last time we saw that traitorous bastard," Sai
was saying, sounding slightly annoyed.
Shikamaru gave him a strange look. "Why hasn't she healed herself? And I thought Naruto said he didn't get near her last
"Naruto lied, to appease everyone. Ugly said she didn't want anyone to know, and that it wasn't serious," Sai replied,
shrugging. "I figured she would know better than anyone and left it be."
"Did you tell the Hokage?" Shikamaru asked.
"She did, or so she says," Sai said.
Shikamaru fell silent, contemplative. "Why wouldn't she heal it by now, though?" he mused, more to himself than the ex-Root
Sai answered anyway. "I don't know. She gets strange about that man."
"It doesn't make sense, Sai," Shikamaru argued. "She hasn't had feelings like that for Sasuke since she started taking
on more work for the hospital. She hasn't had the time to feel that way about him, or anyone. So why would she refuse to heal
an injury he inflicted simply because it was him that inflicted it?"
Sai pondered that for a moment. "I don't know," he admitted thoughtfully. "Perhaps she wishes it to scar? Some sort of
failure mark or something."
Shikamaru shook his head. "No, that doesn't fit. Sakura doesn't do things like that. She's downright scary about her appearance
- almost as bad as Ino is - and a medic to boot. She wouldn't let it scar because that would give it the chance to get infected."
"True," Sai mused. He shrugged. "I don't know. Probably never will. She doesn't really open up to me; not like she does
with Naruto. Ask him about it when we get back."
Shikamaru sighed and nodded glumly. "You're right. I'll talk to him about it, I guess." With that, the duo fell silent,
and Itachi, interest piqued by the fact that the wound had to do with his precious little brother, tucked the conversation
away in his mind.
That night, when they stopped for the day, Itachi approached Sakura. It was Friday anyway, and thus they needed to do another
healing session. But first things first. "Sakura-san."
She looked up from where she was setting out her sleeping bag. "Hello Itachi-san," she said, smiling. She glanced in Sai
- and Shikamaru's - direction. "Did you need something?"
"Are you injured?" he asked, crouching and missing Sai and Shikamaru's exchanged look.
Sakura blinked, surprised. "Oh, you noticed? It's nothing; I'm fine," she assured him, smiling. She looked a little embarrassed.
He remained unconvinced. "May I check it anyway?" he asked. "As the medic on my team, I cannot have you risking yourself
unnecessarily. I need to assure myself that it will not hinder you."
Strangely, Sakura turned a bright cherry color that clashed horribly with her hair. "Uh... No," she said, clearing her
throat. "It's fine. Trust me. I'm the medic, so I should know."
The corners of Itachi's mouth tightened fractionally, but he offered a brisk nod. "Yes. You should," he agreed.
"You should do something about your face, Ugly," Sai suddenly spoke up, coming over to them. "It's clashing with your hair."
Sakura drew back her fist and knocked him across the clearing, making Shikamaru whistle appreciatively. "Out cold," the
kagemane user murmured, checking Sai's pulse. "Nice left hook," he added.
Itachi smirked. He quite whole-heartedly agreed with that assessment, and it also took care of Sai for the duration of
their healing session. Which saved him the trouble of having to come up with something; they might think he was being traitorous
or something, not that he could see Shikamaru and Sakura jumping to such conclusions. Sai, being Sai, might.
"Very well," he said, regaining the irate kunoichi's attention. "Shall we start?"
She blinked, drawing a blank for a moment. Start? With what? Oh. It was Friday. Duh. Sakura shook off her minor confusion
and smiled. "Sure. Here; pull your bag over here and then you can just go to sleep afterward," she said as Shikamaru dragged
Sai off by one arm, just in case he woke up during their session.
Itachi inclined his head and did so, careful not to have it too close, if only to prevent Sai's suggestive platitudes.
He lay down on top of it and immediately closed his eyes, aware of her every moment up to the point where she positioned herself
near his head and began, stilling only then. He found the fact that she was almost meditative during this state fascinating.
It made him wonder if she noticed anything going on around her. Perhaps he should remain awake until she was finished...
"Are you uncomfortable?" she asked half an hour later, when he shifted for the third time in order to keep himself conscious.
He quirked a brow without opening his eyes, knowing the expression was useless as her own eyes were closed as well. "I
am fine," he replied.
"You can sleep, you know," she said after a pause, when he'd begun to think she wouldn't say anything else (and after he
He didn't answer, but didn't bother trying to remain awake any more. She'd proved that she was still aware of her surroundings,
so he didn't really need to stay awake. That was good enough for him. Some time later, he was pulled from dozing with the
sound of someone approaching. As soon as he'd twitched to stand, hand shifting toward his pouch, Sakura spoke.
"It's Shikamaru," she said as the other nin stepped into the clearing.
"You gonna be much longer?" he asked, hands in his pockets as he surveyed them. "Sai's not awake yet, but he's going to
Sakura smiled slightly. "Mmm... One more hour," she decided. "Is that alright?"
Shikamaru shrugged. "Fine," he replied, disappearing back into the shadowed forest.
Itachi found it interesting that he'd practically melted into the darkness. Perhaps it was his kagemane, masking his presence...?
Interesting. Itachi would have to look into the matter later. It could be useful in a pinch. "Do you require a break?" he
asked, his thoughts turning to the pink haired kunoichi. She'd been sitting in that same position for some time; he wondered
if it was uncomfortable.
The shifting and then lessening of her chakra answered him before her words. "Yes," she said, sighing. "Maybe a sip of
Itachi was up before she could twitch toward her sleeping bag, grabbing up her canteen and handing it to her. He nodded
when she thanked him and then sat back down. She chuckled. "You didn't have to get up," she said, a strange note in her voice.
"I could have gotten it myself."
"It's fine," he replied, shrugging. "I've slept some. Don't bother."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not lazy, you know."
He gave her a look. "You are doing me a service. The least I can manage is to get you your water," he said, closing the
Sakura smiled and shook her head. "Alright, Itachi-san," she agreed, clearly only humoring him. "Come on. Let's finish."
"Hnn." He lay back down and closed his eyes again, relaxing under the calming, cooling effect of her chakra on his face.
The sensation lulled him to sleep again.