"So?" Ino urged the next day at lunch once they were seated at a table in their usual cafe. "How'd it go?"
Pausing with her salad-covered fork halfway to her mouth, Sakura raised a brow at her friend. "How'd what go?"
Throwing her hands up in exasperation, Ino was quick to elaborate. "The thing! With Uchiha Itachi? You know, 'hunk of the
Sakura grimaced slightly. "Gods, I don't even remember most of the damn night," she muttered dejectedly. "And I didn't
get much sleep. Do you know how seriously formal that man is? It's enough to drive anyone crazy!" she griped, gesturing
with her fork and oblivious to the fact that Ino was watching her with wide eyes. "I mean, he insisted on doing everything
traditionally. He opened doors for me, made sure I was comfortable... He was the perfect gentleman! But behind it all, he's
still an arrogant jerk."
She pointed her fork at her friend before popping the bite into her mouth, talking around it and heedless of manners. "Sheesh,
he may have denied it, but I know he groped me at least twice. The jackass. Naruto's a better man than him!" With that,
she scowled and chomped on a crouton.
By this point, though, Ino was gaping at her, shocked. "S-Sakura... Did you really... you know...?"
Blinking, the rosette kunoichi had to think before she realized what her words implied. "What? What? No!" she squeaked.
"No, I just started... Well, he wanted me to help with an injury." She shook her head. "And while I was doing that, I guess
he got a little too comfortable... and maybe he fell asleep, but I don't buy it. His arm was around my hips when I came to
for a break." She scowled again.
Ino shook her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Sakura, honey... You are the worst excuse for a woman that I've
ever known." When Sakura made an annoyed sound, unable to talk through her food, Ino continued. "Seriously. If you thought
he was checking you out like that... How did you not jump his bones?"
"Seriously," another voice added and they both blinked, so absorbed in their conversation that they hadn't noticed Temari
and Shikamaru creep up on them. Temari grinned at them. "So. Who are you guys talking about?"
"Uchiha Itachi," Ino put in before her friend could answer. "She got invited over to his house - alone - and didn't totally
screw him senseless and make him fall in love."
Shikamaru frowned slightly. "Normally, I'd say something along the lines of not being able to love her, but I think I'd
get my butt handed to me and that'd be troublesome," he said thoughtfully, then added, "Though I'd have an excuse to sleep..."
Temari glared at him, and that coupled with both Sakura's and Ino's glares efficiently shut him up. The wind nin smiled
slightly at Ino. "I did hear that he was attractive, though I've never actually met him... But..." She bit her lip and glanced
around as if afraid someone unwanted would overhear. "Aren't you afraid that he's like an Akatsuki spy now or something? There's
been a lot of doubt in Suna about him being here and not in a cage, and Gaara's been forced to deal with that, along with
the Suna council giving him hype. They've been talking about forcing him to give up the treaty with Konoha because they're
afraid he'll somehow endanger their village..."
A little irritated - that was exactly the concerns of the council here in Konoha, as she'd found out at the meeting with
them last week - Sakura shook her head and curled her fingers into a fist. "Okay, Temari-san, I'll admit that Uchiha-san's
a bit odd - unorthodox even, at a stretch - but he's definitely a Konoha nin, and as such, when he places his loyalties, he
Temari shook her head and sat down beside Ino. "But you're wrong. Wasn't he loyal to Akatsuki just a month ago?"
The pink haired nin opened her mouth and closed it, unable to contest Temari's point. It was true. He'd told Akatsuki that
he was loyal to them, when he'd been a spy for Konoha all along. But... He'd also obeyed when the Hokage told him to remain
home. If he'd really been a bad guy... She shook her head. "No. I believe he's one of us," she said firmly, utterly convinced.
The foreign nin shook her head. "Okay. But promise you'll be careful, okay, Sakura? Don't do anything unnecessary until
you're absolutely, one hundred percent sure that he won't go back to Akatsuki in the end. Alright?" She smiled when Sakura
gave a nod. "Okay. So. What's for lunch?"
Tsunade was in another damn meeting. The council members were adamant that she lock Uchiha Itachi away, Danzo more-so than
most of the others. And now, according to the missive Temari had brought with her, they had the Suna council's full support
and agreement; she and Gaara had agreed that Uchiha was an asset, though they knew he was still dangerous.
Normally, Tsunade only saw the heads of the council, but with her continuous refusals to lock him away, she was now facing
the entire force. Sakura wasn't with her and Shizune for once, either, for which the blonde was glad. The rosette kunoichi
would be hitting things by now. Probably.
For now, Sakura was with the very topic of their disagreement, tending to the Uchiha's eyes. Of course, only Sakura and
Tsunade knew exactly what she was doing, but still. When her student had come to Tsunade - belatedly - with the vague concern
about healing his eyes, the Hokage had instantly approved. Mostly to spite the stupid councils and their ridiculous ideas,
but there was the thought that if Itachi was at full health and strong as possible, he'd be something to wish for, even more
than he already was.
"-ade-sama? Tsunade-sama, are you even paying attention to us?" a council member demanded thinly.
She gave him a wry smile. "Why should I?" she asked. "No matter what you say on the subject, my decision is final. Uchiha
Itachi will be watched carefully, but he is a ninja of this village." Her smile vanished and annoyance crossed her face. "And
as far as I'm concerned, that means he deserves and gets my protection."
The woman to the right of the man who'd just spoken sighed. "If we believe that a decision of yours would eventually endanger
the village, we have the right to usurp you, and I believe that is just the case, Tsunade-sama."
The annoyance quickly changed to fury and Tsunade barely kept herself from hitting something. "How would you know
if he's a traitor if you go and lock him up! Observing his everyday activities is enough, goddammit! All you will do by locking
him up is ensuring that he's an enemy, and I'm quite sure you don't want that."
The woman's features tightened. "I have no intention of just locking him up for observation, Tsunade-sama. He will stay
in jail and rot there."
The only thing keeping the Hokage from doing something bad was Shizune's hand on the woman's shoulder, pressing her firmly
down into her chair. The dark-haired woman smiled at the council, and they fell utterly silent. "Please, give us a week. We
will double security on him, and if you are not convinced of his allegiance in one week..." She trailed off, shrugging.
"Very well," the woman agreed after a moment's thought. "I will permit you a week to convince us of his loyalty to Konoha."
"Get the hell out," Tsunade growled, shooting to her feet and stomping out the door. Shizune was quick to keep up, and
the Hokage wasn't sure if she felt like crying or screaming, so she chose to be grateful to her assistant instead. Really,
Tsunade wouldn't have personally been able to come up with that on the spot; she would have been too furious to do it. "Thanks,"
she mumbled. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Shizune's familiar smile.
Somehow, and Itachi didn't want to even ask the reason, the Hokage decided to give him a roommate. Of course, the house
was definitely big enough for more than one person, but still... At any rate, he was grateful that she at least said he could
pick who. Out of about six candidates.
All of them somehow managed to be either younger than him or older and perverted. Naturally, he'd dismissed the female
of the group when the six showed up - the blond walked away, pouting - as well as the one dressed in green as soon as he opened
his mouth and said something about Itachi's youthfulness. The boy slouched in disappointment and meandered away, a couple
of people smothering snickers in his wake. Itachi stared at the rest, trying to remember their names.
That was one Hatake Kakashi... He'd met him and didn't really like him, but they'd see. Itachi didn't actually like
many people anyway. Hm... Nara... Nara? Huh. Okay... That one was... "Why are you even here?" he asked, a little confused
that the smirking boy had even volunteered.
"I wanna make your life hell," Naruto replied honestly.
Itachi sighed and resisted the urge to pinch his nose. This entire situation was completely ridiculous and the Uchiha found
himself wishing that he didn't have to deal with it. "Who are you?" he asked, moving on to the last of the group. The boy
smiled. Itachi felt like twitching at the fakeness of the expression.
"I am Sai."
That didn't really help... Mustering what was left of his surely depleted pride, Itachi turned away. "Nara, move in by
tonight," he said and disappeared into the house. As soon as he was gone, silence fell. Then...
"Now, now, Naruto," the blond's former sensei chided lightly, a little amused. Of course, being the private person Itachi
was, Kakashi had almost bet on him picking either Shikamaru or Sai. The Jonin felt a little sorry for the poor boy, given
that security was being enforced so much that he needed to take on a house-mate. At least the Nara genius shouldn't give him
too much trouble.
A sigh was heard. "How troublesome."
Hopefully it wouldn't be the other way around.
Shikamaru stepped up onto the porch of his new place of residence later that afternoon only to find the Uchiha repainting
a desk with a soft blue color. The older male paused and glanced at him over his shoulder, then set the kunai he'd picked
up down again. He wiped his paint-stained hands off on a towel beside him and stood, dusting off his knees. He bowed in greeting.
"Welcome," he murmured, quirking a brow when he saw how little the boy had brought. "Follow me." He lead the boy through
the house, down a hall to the left of the door and into another section that had a dining room and kitchen. He walked through
these - both were spotless and dust free - and pulled open a door at the end of the kitchen. Beyond this was an equally clean
hall, darkened without lights or windows but many empty picture frames.
Shikamaru wondered if the man's family had once been in those frames. Was it painful? Maybe he regretted what he'd done.
The Nara found himself thinking that maybe he was just a little sad for the quiet man. Here he was, living in the very house
where he himself killed all of his living family, with the exception of Sasuke, whom he'd driven to the brink and beyond of
insanity. While he didn't think the man would be uncomfortable living in their final living place, it still seemed out of
After all, Sasuke had moved out of the Uchiha compound all together after he'd been released from the hospital.
Finally, the two stopped at a door at the very end of the hall and Itachi slid it open. "If you'd be more comfortable with
a swinging door, I can provide one," he murmured, stepping aside to let Shikamaru pass.
"Nah," the younger nin replied with a shake of his head. "A sliding door is fine with me; I don't mind at all."
"Good." He gestured awkwardly to the door nearby, just to the left of Shikamaru's new room. "That's the bathroom. There
is another one on the other side of the house. You saw the kitchen and dining room and the living room is just off the entrance
to the house. You are welcome to use anything you need, as long as you replace anything you use up or... break," he frowned
slightly at the thought, and Shikamaru decided to be extra careful with breakables. "Usually, I'm working on something within
the compound, but if you can't find me... I'm probably around the village somewhere. ... Any questions?"
The Nara shook his head. "No. That just about covers it," he replied. "And... Um, if you can't find me... I'm probably
hiding from Ino somewhere." Despite the seriousness with which this was announced, Itachi smirked slightly.
"Feel free to hide from her here; I don't like trespassers anyway."
Somehow, Shikamaru got the feeling that they'd probably get along just fine, despite Choji's worries.
"Oh, Gods I can't stand him!"
At the sound of the rather familiar voice, Sakura glanced up from her paperwork as Ino closed the door behind her. "Can't
stand who? Is Shikamaru being a jerk again?"
"Not only that," the blond ranted, "But he's being a jerk with Uchiha! It's like a jerk fest!"
Not sure if she should be really amused or really worried, Sakura settled for quirking a brow and setting her pen down.
"How about you start at the beginning, Ino," she suggested.
Ino huffed and plopped down into the chair on the other side of Sakura's desk. "It all started this morning, when I went
over to his new place at Uchiha's to get him to come training with me and Tenten..."
Ino was stopped, just as she was about to enter the compound, by a masked ANBU. "I'm sorry, Ino," he said, and she recognized
Genma's voice. "No one outside of security and the place's occupants are aloud inside right now."
She blinked, a little concerned. "What? Did something happen to Shika?"
He laughed softly. "No, no. Nothing's wrong. Uchiha-san just said that no one is to enter the compound today. Especially...
Er..." He shifted backwards, which confused her, and hesitantly went on. "'Troublesome women'."
Her first thought at that was that if Uchiha really said that, he was either quoting Shikamaru's condition or Shika
was rubbing off on him. Her second thought was huh, troublesome women? Why would he... Her eyes narrowed.
"Troublesome, huh? Are you implying that I'm a troublesome woman?" she demanded, starting to get angry.
Genma visibly gulped. "No! Just that all women are- What I mean to say is- It was actually Shikamaru who- Through Uchiha-
I- Ack!" He dove to the side when she swung at him. Then he pointed at Uchiha, who'd appeared and was watching the scene in
amusement. "He started it!" he cried childishly before disappearing.
Ino rounded on the older nin, only for him to lift a brow in silent challenge. However, Ino wasn't stupid. "What the
hell? We barely know each other and I'm a troublesome woman?" she demanded irritably.
Itachi didn't reply, only continued to look slightly amused as she fumed in front of his property. "Gah!" she cried
and threw up her hands. She tossed the basket with rolls her mother had made onto the curb. "Here; it's from my mom. Geez."
"I don't eat the food others cook," he replied quietly.
Ino's face started to get red. "ARE YOU SAYING MY MOTHER WOULD TRY TO POISON YOU? SHE ISN'T EVEN A NIN!" she screamed.
Itachi didn't reply.
"... and after that, I left and came here," the blonde finished.
Sakura sighed, a little annoyed herself. Ino's mother's rolls were to die for. "Did you at least get the basket?" she wondered
Ino blushed at that. "No. I said he could choke on them and stormed off..."
It was quiet for a long moment, the aura of the room awkward. Finally, however, Sakura sighed. "So... What do you expect
me to do about it?"
"You're his medic!" Ino retorted, and rolled her eyes when Sakura instantly protested. "Oh, please, you go over to his
house twice a week for 'routine check-ups'. I know you're healing some wound on him that's taking a while to heal. Anyway."
She shook her head, hair tossing around her shoulders. "Just do something. I don't care what." She got to her feet and smiled.
"I have to go. Tenten and I were supposed to meet for training half an hour ago... Bye!" The blond waved and jogged out of
the room, leaving Sakura alone with a lot to think about.
When Sakura got there, Shikamaru and Itachi were seated at the kitchen table - silently - while drinking tea and eating
the rolls Ino had left behind. Uchiha looked up at her and quirked a brow. Shikamaru frowned, his mouth full of bread.
"How did you get in?" the red-eyed man asked, sounding slightly annoyed.
"Genma's afraid of her," Shikamaru replied. The two looked at each other and after a moment, the lazy nin shrugged. "I
Sakura rolled her eyes at the silent communication and stole a roll from the basket - both men shot her irritated looks
- before sitting at the end of the table. She took her time eating the roll, letting them stew - Shikamaru looked decidedly
nervous when she didn't start in on them immediately - while she waited for just the right time. As she swallowed the last
bite, Uchiha opened his mouth and she spoke (he hated to be interrupted, but she didn't care at this point).
"So. Ino sent me over, complaining about how you guys are jerking it up together." She resisted the urge to smirk when
Shikamaru choked on his food. Itachi only narrowed his eyes. "... in a jerk fest and stuff," she added a beat later, and Itachi
relaxed slightly, the tightening of his mouth easing. "As such, I figured I could come over, find out what was up, and...
er..." She glanced at Itachi's eyes pointedly, and he shrugged, indicating that he didn't care if his new roommate knew.
"And what?" Shikamaru asked suspiciously, scooting away from her and her reach.
"And tend to Uchiha-san's eyes," she replied.
He blinked and glanced at Itachi before looking back at Sakura. "His eyes? Is that what you've been up to every couple
"Yep." She beamed. "He asked me to look at them; they've been burned with chakra, so I'm healing them."
The lazy nin winced and shot Itachi a sympathetic look. "That has to hurt," he said.
Itachi shrugged again, looking down at the roll he'd been messing with since she came in. "It matters not. They'll be healed
eventually." He glanced at the kunoichi for conformation and she nodded.
"Mostly, anyway. They might be scarred," she said with an apologetic smile. "But at least they'll work, and they shouldn't
bother you when all's said and done."
Shikamaru took a bite of another roll, and was glared at when Sakura reached into the basket only to find that there were
none left. "What?" he asked innocently.
She huffed and rolled her eyes. "Oh, whatever. Uchiha-san, let me look at your eyes, while I'm here."
He inclined his head and turned his chair. She dragged her own over to sit before him and reached up as he closed his eyes.
Shikamaru watched in shock as he actually allowed the medic nin to touch him. You know. Without watching her like a
Perhaps... perhaps there was more than met the eye when dealing with the ruthless Sharringan wielder. More than anyone
had ever heard.
Fingers curled tightly into a fist, locking. The man stood in shadow, the terrified form of a messenger nin cowering before
him. Teeth gritted tightly and eyes flashed with rage. A growl started low in the man's chest; of fury, of sadness... Of hurt.
The pain in his hand, caused by his nails digging into the flesh of his palm, was nothing compared to the pressure in his
aching chest. He could barely breathe, the feeling of betrayal rising up and rearing it's ugly head within him. They were
his allies! His enemies! How dare that worthless rodent try to take them away from him! How dare he play
pretty with them! Just the thought was enough to make the man want to kill something; this did not bode well for the messenger
The man's head snapped back of his own volition and he let out an angry, anguished howl that stirred birds from their nests
and sent smaller animals scurrying for their burrows. Red eyes gleamed, teeth glittered and the man in shadow never even noticed
the hot blood dripping down from his painful hand.
"Huh?" Oh, that was bright. Way to go, Sakura! the pink-haired kunoichi thought irritably.
Before her, the dark-haired Chunin glared some more. "I said," she snarled, "Stay away from Itachi-kun!"
As you can imagine, Sakura was just a bit confused, but at the same time, she wasn't really. She'd known this would happen
eventually. She was just annoyed at the poor timing. Well, there goes lunch with Sai. Oh, well. I'll make it up to him
tomorrow with some nature guide or something. She sighed. "Look. I don't know how I'm hurting your chances with
Uchiha-san," she said, mentally adding Trust me, you wouldn't have a chance in hell, anyway. "But I assure you; our
relationship is purely professional-"
The younger girl snorted. "As if! I've seen the way you look at him, Haruno!"
Ooh... That was going too far. "The way I look at him?" she demanded, and no, her voice did not just rise
several gazillion octaves. Nope. Not at all. "What the hell! I don't look at him like anything! Uchiha-san is Uchiha-san!
He's a comrade and that's it!" She stepped closer to the suddenly nervous girl, shaking her finger in her face. "Unlike
you, I take my job as a ninja seriously! I'm tired of broody clan men that are dangerous and arrogant, so in
case you haven't gotten it through your thick fucking skull yet, Uchiha-san isn't even on the fucking spectrum!"
As she finished her rant, silence descended. People were staring, the poor Chunin was slack-jawed, the birds had stilled
in their trees and Sakura was panting from the force of her tantrum.
Behind her, someone sighed. "Haruno-san," he said softly, and that was all it took for her to freeze on the spot.
Oh shit. Slowly, she turned and looked up into annoyed jet eyes - when had he stopped using the Sharringan to see?
she wondered - and swallowed. "Oh. Um... H-hello, Uchiha-san... Er... Hi..." she murmured, unable to come up with anything
even vaguely more intelligent to say.
He sighed again. Shaking his head, he gestured down the road they were on. "I was just heading home. Would you like to
accompany me?" It was clearly not a request, so she nodded and let him lead her away. Soon, the midday Friday crowds of people
shopping for the weekend thinned as they walked farther away from the main market square. In the silence of Uchiha's company,
Sakura was able to think back on the not-so-kind things she'd screamed. Admittedly, she wouldn't be surprised if Itachi was
angry with her. What she'd said and implied wasn't exactly very nice.
Geez. What is wrong with me lately? she asked herself irritably. Granted, with Tsunade's temper peaking and her
patience with the council stretched thin, Sakura was forced to take on a lot more work at the hospital. She'd all but been
given the title of administrator, and she hadn't seen Naruto or Sai much at all recently, unless they got banged up on a mission
and were admitted to the hospital. Really, Sakura was starting to get too stressed herself.
Stupid sake-drinking Hokage and missing clan heads that happened to be spies for Konoha rather than highly dangerous criminals.
Uchiha led her all the way to his house and let her in - Shikamaru was nowhere in sight - before bringing her to the kitchen
slash dining room and motioning for her to sit at the table while he prepared tea. He'd noticed how quiet she had been on
the way here and decided, when she'd tripped over her own feet and barely noticed it after he steadied her, that he should
probably speak to the Hokage about giving her some time off.
She looked like she really needed it.
"I'm sorry," she announced suddenly.
Itachi paused, glancing at her over his shoulder. She had her head bowed and was fiddling with the salt shaker. He frowned,
trying to think of something to do to get her to relax... "It's fine," he replied and turned away. Really, the thing that
bothered him most was the fact that he was actually bothered at all. He'd seen that dark-haired girl around and knew she watched
him - most women did, after all, and no that wasn't arrogance; it was fact - but he hadn't thought she'd have the guts to
confront Haruno Sakura.
"Not really," she muttered dejectedly, as if disappointed that he'd forgiven her. "It was pretty awful of me, actually.
I mean, I know from experience that you and... Sasuke," it looked as if she had trouble spitting out the name, "Are so different
that it's ridiculous, but... I can't help comparing you. It's like a bad habit that refuses to go away."
He could understand, at least, if not sympathize. So with a shrug, he place her tea before her and sat down with his own.
"It doesn't matter."
Sakura frowned. "It does to me!" she retorted, the disappointment in her eyes expanding to the set of her mouth.
Itachi met her gaze evenly and sipped his tea. "Why?"
For a moment, all she could do was stare at him incredulously. "Why?" she echoed faintly. He nodded, lifting a brow to
urge her on; he was truly curious as to the answer. "Because... Because you're people! And... And you're my friends, and..."
She trailed off at the look on his face as he felt shock at the title. Not many professed to be his friend - or at least,
not many that he didn't mind - so to hear the words from her lips only served to firm his determination to do something -
anything - to get her to relax, if not cheer up.
Fortunately (for him), she misinterpreted his expression. "Yes, Uchiha-san," she said, looking down at her hands in embarrassment
- heh, that was amusing. "You're my friend. You haven't given me a reason not to be friends- not really. So I figure, why
The man across from her was quiet for a moment - it was just like a Konoha nin to find friendship with an unlikely person
for completely unintelligible reasons, but he supposed he could see her as a friend... Sorta - and then, "And Sasuke?"
She flinched. Sasuke. Her first love and teammate. Naruto's best friend. Forever a part of Team 7, even if he'd left them
and betrayed his village. Smiling sadly - he blinked at the rather dramatic gesture - she nodded. "Yeah. Him too. One of my
two best friends in the world." But her eyes said more, and he was tempted to call her on it. He didn't.
And really, for her, that was all there was to it. All that was left, she told herself. She couldn't love him anymore.
Not when he'd betrayed her worst of all.