"Thank you," he whispered in her ear, and she could feel the heat of his body against her back; so close, yet not quite
touching. She thought perhaps it was wrong of her to want the contact he was so teasingly denying her.
The tears pooled in her eyes spilled over again. She blinked through the blur. A sharp pain in her neck, her eyes widened
and the night started to fade away into shades of grey. No, she thought as her eyelids lowered and her knees buckled.
No. She slumped forward, but never hit the ground, something in her knowing he would catch her; he did. No, Sakura.
You're not this weak. No... No. No! His arm was around her waist as she faded into darkness.
"No!" she screamed, sitting up a bit. As she did so, her hand came up from her thigh where her kunai holster was and she
pressed the blade against the throat of the blurred figure leaning over her.
For a moment, an image was cast over the person there, and she saw spiky dark hair and equally inky eyes. She blinked,
tears spilling down her cheeks, and her vision cleared just as both of her hands were restrained and pressed against the couch
cushions to either side of her. Reactively, her legs tensed, but he sat on her lap, effectively keeping her from lashing out
as he tangled their legs together and leaned his upper body against her chest.
Wide-eyed, she stared up at him, still in a state of confusion from sleep. Wait. What was...? Who was...? "Itachi," she
breathed, recognition dawning. Everything clicked and she wasn't a stupid, love-struck twelve year old anymore. She was an
eighteen year old kunoichi of Konoha and the Hokaage's apprentice. Sasuke was gone and Itachi was a comrade. She'd been having
a nightmare, that was all. Just... "A nightmare..."
Itachi nodded slowly, warily, his body still tense as it rested against her own. "You remember?" he asked softly.
She swallowed, forcing her muscles to relax. "Yeah. I... I'm sorry. That I attacked you..."
"It was a pretty bad nightmare, then," he replied carefully, a hint of something entering his eyes.
She laughed hoarsely, numbly realizing that he'd just made a joke. "Y-yeah. Pretty horrible." The worst day of her life,
not that she'd admit it. "But... I'm awake now, and that's good..."
A brow quirked at her awkward statement. "Yes. Nightmares are bad," he reiterated dryly, smirking down at her.
For some reason, she was finding it very hard to breathe. It might have had something to do with his weight pressing her
back into the couch. His couch; she must have fallen asleep. "Um..." He was so awfully close, face inches away... "Uchiha-san?"
she breathed, tensing all over again. He had to know what he was doing. There was no possible way he didn't, and damn
her if it wasn't very distracting. "Could you... get off."
He obliged instantly, untangling his legs from her's, releasing her wrists and standing up. "Tea?" He motioned toward the
familiar tarnished tray sitting innocuously on the coffee table.
She thought about it for a moment but finally shook her head. "No. I should probably just get going," she muttered. "I'm
sorry about falling asleep on your couch."
The Uchiha shrugged, looking down at her calmly as she stood and shifted uneasily. "It's fine," he replied in his usual
apathetic, soft tone. And it was true, he realized. He didn't mind that she'd passed out on him at all. In fact, he'd even
kept a couple of her curious friends away to let her sleep a little longer; she really did look exhausted half the time nowadays.
His words clearly surprised her, for she looked up from contemplating her hands with wide, shocked eyes. "I... Really?"
It was as if she didn't know what to think, which was partially true. She couldn't wrap her mind around ruthless and deadly,
painfully polite Uchiha Itachi not minding her being rude. She really felt like a jackass. "Oh... I... um."
"Your friend Yamanaka asked about you, Sakura-san," he interrupted.
Once again surprised, she blinked up at him. "Oh. Um, what'd she want?"
Itachi shrugged again, turning away to grab the extra cup on the tray in order to put it up. "She said you had scheduled
'girl time'," he replied, his tone questioning.
Sakura felt like pinching her nose, but didn't because then her companion would know something was up. "Oh." Well, message
received, anyway. 'You have to give me the details'. Nosy Ino. "I totally forgot about that. I'll have to make it up to her."
She smiled up at him and promptly bowed. "I have to get going. Thank you for being so accommodating, Itachi-san." With that,
she let herself out, leaving Itachi to wonder when they'd switched to using their given names.
Itachi was well aware of the other person apparently trying to sneak up on him, even as a kunai was finally placed against
his neck and he stilled, visibly washing the blood from his hands in a stream. He didn't worry about the blade cutting him
and turned his head ever so slightly to look over his shoulder. "Kisame."
"Itachi." Gone were the honorifics, but they'd only ever used them on principal. They were far too familiar with each other
to really need them. Kisame was on his knees behind Itachi, leaning close, ready to end his life at the slightest sign that
Itachi would attack. But still he hesitated, a frown on shark-like features. "You're a Konoha nin, then. It's as Leader suspected."
"Pein is a fool; if he suspected, he should have investigated." It didn't need to be said that Itachi wouldn't have been
caught anyway, so Kisame shook his head.
"Maybe. Why didn't you tell me?"
The Uchiha froze, eyes widening imperceptibly at the heavily veiled hurt in the shark nin's voice. Surely not. "Kisame,
don't be foolish."
"I'm not, Itachi. I'm not being foolish at all." And it was there, written plainly across the other's face; he would have
followed and nothing could have stopped him. But now... Now he was in a difficult position, and it was either abandon Akatsuki
and thus be hunted as Itachi was, or kill the closest thing Hoshigaki Kisame had ever had to a friend. Or perhaps little brother
was more accurate. "Dammit, Uchiha."
Itachi resisted the sudden weary urge to sigh and looked upwards, into the tree tops, past them, into the sky, past it,
eyes alighting on stars both bright and dull. One winked, brightened and went out. "If you are under orders to kill me, you
should do it now, because if you hesitate, I will not be merciful."
"Fuck." The kunai was withdrawn and Kisame allowed himself to sit back on his rear, propping one knee up in front of him
to rest his wrist against, kunai dangling from ready fingers. "Then don't be merciful, Itachi, 'cause I ain't gonna kill you."
The Uchiha turned, red eyes spinning, but he did not pull Kisame into a genjutsu and in return Kisame met his gaze evenly.
An inclined head relayed his acceptance, even as red eyes looked into the foliage and met narrowed grey. His teammate didn't
budge, though, and continued to assess the situation. That was all Itachi could ask for now and he lowered his gaze back to
Kisame's charcoal eyes. "Very well. Leave Akatsuki, Kisame. They will fall; I will make sure of it."
Kisame's eyes widened at the warning. "What?"
"You know it will happen eventually, and with me no longer one of them, it is destined."
"Fuck. You've gotta be kidding me." But there was no amusement in Itachi's hard eyes, and Kisame slumped. "Hell, Itachi.
Akatsuki'll just send someone after me. Probably Hidan."
Itachi once again met the eyes of their watcher, only to find them widened and furious. Yes, Hidan would be a sore spot
for him, wouldn't he. Itachi looked down at the shark and was amused to find his gaze not on Itachi but off to the side. As
if he were suddenly paying attention to his surroundings. So he'd noticed. "And if you let them kill you after being my partner
for so long, then letting you live is a pointless venture."
Kisame looked at him again, understanding in his eyes, but he didn't let his new knowledge change his words. "Of course."
He sighed and rubbed a hand through already tousled blue hair. "This is fucking ridiculous, you know. What sorta choice is
it, between the relative security Akatsuki offers to a nuke nin like me and the constant alert and fear for my life if I were
"It is your decision, ultimately," Itachi replied, standing. "However, if I meet you and you still wear that cloak, I will
end your life then." And he truly did not wish to do so... He turned to run off through the treetops and their watcher
"Yeah. I know, Itachi."
He was gone.
Shikamaru was sitting with Sai, both mostly quiet as their meal of fish cooked over a fire, when Itachi met them there
several miles away from where he'd been. The roommates looked at each other and Sai didn't notice, immediately picking up
on his new favorite past time, bright fake smile touching a colorless face.
"Itachi-san! Good that you are finally here."
Itachi frowned at the impudent boy, but was ignored as Sai launched into a diatribe on prestigious clan mating habits.
Itachi's brow nearly twitched. He shared another look with his teammate, who was smirking in amusement as he leaned lazily
back against a tree. Sai, realizing that he was being ignored, regained Itachi's attention with a query about his libido,
or lack thereof. Black eyes narrowed dangerously, but Sai only smiled innocently (or his approximation of such) and patiently
awaited an answer.
"... What are you talking about?"
Sai shrugged. "You turn every man and woman that approaches you away, and I happen to know that despite rumors, you have
not touched Sakura indecently once."
Itachi glared. "How would you know?" he demanded, part of him rather offended that Sai would think he knew anything.
A brow quirked in a very good imitation of the Uchiha, and he realized how well the boy paid attention to everything around
him. "Well, you haven't been put in the hospital, for one," Sai replied dryly.
"He's got a point, there," Shikamaru pointed out, eyes laughing at him.
Itachi resisted the very uncharacteristic urge to scowl. He did not enjoy being teased. "Perhaps I am simply better than
you give me credit, boy," he replied and no, he was not growling in frustration and annoyance.
Sai, however, leaped upon what he was sure he definitely was not doing. "Oh? Then you profess to having made a move on
"I knew it."
"I did not profess to anything."
"You hinted at it."
"No. I did not."
"Yes you did."
Shikamaru smirked, watching the exchange as Itachi became more and more livid and Sai more and more excited. Really, the
boy was like a demon when it came to getting a rise out of people. Despite his thoughts, the argument continued unhindered.
"I. Did. Not."
"Then why are you so angry? I think you did."
"No. I didn't."
"I will kill you."
"Of course." A not-so-fake grin. "But that doesn't change the facts."
Itachi growled. "There are. no. facts, you dimwitted boy."
"Oh, so you're resorting to name-calling now."
Itachi appeared to be unsure if he should tear out his hair in frustration or strangle Sai in fury. He settled for glaring
instead, but then forced himself to calm down, not knowing why Sakura was such a touchy subject. "There is nothing wrong with
my libido, dobe, and there is nothing going on between Sakura and I."
Sai's brow quirked again, as did Shikamaru's, though for entirely different reasons. As the Nara genius reflected on the
similarities between Sai and Itachi's interactions and Sasuke and Naruto's, Sai continued speaking, winding the Uchiha up
all over again.
"I never said there was something going on between you and Ugly. Only that it was ridiculous that you hadn't made a move
on her," Sai said, smirking seemingly knowingly.
Itachi's eyes narrowed for two different reasons. "Don't call her that. Her name is Sakura and I happen to know she beats
you to a pulp every time you refer to her as such." The meaning behind his words - the threat - made Sai gulp. "And I am not
going to make a move on her, because she does not interest me."
"Then who does?" Sai went on after a beat, and perhaps just a bit more seriously.
"No one." With that, Itachi turned his back, scooped up their canteens, and darted off in the direction of the nearby stream.
Sai smirked. "Told you so."
Shikamaru sighed and began searching for the ryou he knew he was hiding somewhere, damning the intimidating pink-haired
kunoichi and her penchant for beating people up if they so much as said she was hot.