Conflict of Interest
"All rise," the judge said.
Slowly Sakura stood with the rest of the audience, careful not to disturb her injury before she casually glanced at the people around her to see everyone who had worked on the East Coast Killer case was present. Ino stood proudly on Sakura's right with a smug smile while Itachi stood on her left. His fingers had been laced loosely between her own throughout the whole trial to show his support for her. At first she hadn't thought she would need it, but after she had been called to the stands she realized she needed it almost desperately.
But that was all over now and Neji's fate was about to be sealed.
"On twenty-eight accounts of third-degree murder, two charges of assault, and conspiracy of murder, the jury finds you guilty," the judge said calmly. "I hereby sentence Hyuuga Neji to life in the Tokyo Detention Center. Case closed."
At those words, Sakura couldn't help the satisfied smile that tugged at her lips. A strange sort of relief flooded over her as she realized that it was all over. The hell that had been her very life for the past few months was finally at its end. She could finally go to bed at night without having to worry if Neji was going to try to kill her again in her sleep. Not only that, but she got her apartment back and she didn't have to keep spending the night at Ino's or Sasuke's.
With a soft sigh, Sakura turned and started to follow her blonde friend out of the courtroom only to be called by her name. She froze at the sound of that voice. It was Neji's.
"Haruno!" he called.
Sakura hesitated. She wanted to keep walking without a backwards glance, but she knew that if she didn't face him now it would bother her for the rest of her life. She wanted this thing with Neji to end and the only way that was going to happen was if she told him how much she was going to enjoy her life now that she was free of him.
Slowly Sakura turned around and started towards the arrested convict, but she was tugged back by Itachi before she had taken more than a few steps. Surprised, she turned to him. His expression was unusually serious – he never used that look when dealing with her anymore – and his gaze was intense. Then she realized what was wrong. A small, comforting smile spread across her face as she gave his hand a small squeeze. "I have to do this."
Itachi hesitated for a moment before he nodded and released her. Slowly Sakura turned around and headed towards Neji and the police officer holding him at bay. He smiled wickedly upon her approach. "You know, I cannot understand what a powerful man like Itachi sees in a freak like you."
Sakura smiled. "No, I suppose you wouldn't."
Neji glared slightly. "What's that supposed to mean, pinky?"
Sakura ignored his provoking and frowned slightly.
Before, this man had been terrifying to her, haunting her every dream and thought. Now he didn't seem any more threatening than a caged cat whose fur was rubbed the wrong way. All his nefariousness and menace seemed to have disappeared with his freedom like dew in the afternoon sun. She guessed it was because she could roam around the streets without a care in the world without having to worry about when he was going to attack her next. Though she supposed she should be thanking him. If he hadn't asked for help with the autopsy, she wouldn't have figured out the message, but no, she wouldn't let him have the satisfaction of knowing he had helped her figure out he was the killer.
"I'm curious," Sakura suddenly said. "Did you target Itachi because he's the head of the police department or was it something else?"
Neji's eyes narrowed in anger. "Do you know why I killed all of those people?" he asked.
Sakura shook her head.
"Because they were all working against me," he hissed. "They all did something to make me look like a lesser person and they had to be taught a lesson."
Sakura's brows knitted together in confusion. "What did Itachi ever do to you?"
"He's an Uchiha!" he yelled. "He deserved to die!"
"And Sasuke and Shisui weren't good enough?" she asked, trying to understand his reasoning.
"No," he agreed. "Itachi is the leader of leaders. He controls everything." Neji suddenly became angry again. "And he took that away from the Hyuuga clan! We were supposed to be on top, not the Uchihas! I was supposed to be the Superintendent General, not him! And because he excelled at everything, I suffered and got knocked down to being the 'Chief Medical Officer'."
Sakura stared at him. She had heard of this conflict a while ago on the news, but hadn't thought anything of it until now. Neji had murdered and killed almost fifty people because Itachi had gotten the job that he wanted? All she could think of was wow. Then her eyes narrowed and she looked at him with a dark look. "Then why did you attack me?"
He smirked. "That's obvious. You figured out the message. I had to give you your reward."
Sakura glared at him for a moment before another thought crossed her mind. "You're not a field officer. Why were you wearing your badge when you attacked me?"
A sick smile twisted onto his lips. "I never intended to kill you, Sakura. I wanted you to see the badge. I wanted you to be scared wherever you went, wondering if I was going to attack you again."
Anger surged through her chest and she glared dangerously at him. He was a sick, twisted fuck. He had purposely left her in the mental state she had been in. She would have permanent scars on her body and mind to remind her of what had happened for the rest of her life because he had wanted to scare her? What she felt towards Neji before felt like nothing compared to now.
"Because of you, I'm scarred mentally and physically for life," Sakura hissed harshly.
Neji grinned. "A parting gift."
"If your ass wasn't being hauled off to jail, I would give you my own parting gift."
Suddenly the police officer holding Neji pulled him backwards a pace. "Time to go," he said.
Neji glared at him before returning his sights to Sakura. "Come visit me," he grinned.
Sakura wasn't amused. "You know, Hyuuga," she said seriously, "I would rather rip open my own stomach with a dull knife and pull each one of my organs out and label them in alphabetically order than come visit you." Neji's grin faded at her words, but Sakura didn't stop. "Let's just say, the only visitors you'll be getting are the ones that are going to ass rape you."
If it were any other situation, Sakura would've laughed at Neji's expression. His look of almost horror was incredibly amusing, but she just gave him a smile of pure satisfaction before she turned around and walked towards Itachi. He held out his hand towards her and with a bright smile, she accepted it before they turned their backs on Neji and walked out of the courtroom.
"What did Hyuuga want?" Itachi asked.
Sakura glanced around at the people still out in the halls as they walked towards the entrance. "An ass raping," she replied.
Slowly Sakura looked up at Itachi to see he was staring at her strangely. The memory of Neji's face when she told him her parting words surfaced in her mind and she couldn't help but grin. Itachi stared at her for a moment before they walked through the front doors of the courthouse and pushed past reporters who were looking for the inside scoop.
Only when they were seated in Itachi's car did he lean over and kiss her full on the lips. Immediately she responded and kissed him harder when Neji's reasoning for why he targeted Itachi drifted through her mind. Quickly she told herself to relax and she pulled back slightly when she felt Itachi smirk against her lips.
"What?" she asked.
He kept his expression blank. "Nothing."
Sakura gave him a look that told him she didn't believe him, but nonetheless he started the car and drove towards his house.
The drive helped soothe the nerves Sakura had left over from the trail. She was quiet the majority of the way there. Most of the time she watched Itachi navigate through the late-afternoon traffic, but occasionally she turned her gaze out the window to the passing cars and stoplights. Her vision faded out as her mind repeated her conversation with Neji over and over. She could still remember his anger towards Itachi clearly for taking away what he desired so much and she realized she didn't blame him for being angry. Itachi had taken away what he wanted most. She could only imagine what she would be feeling if she hadn't figured out the message in time and Neji had killed Itachi.
The very thought made her heart ache. She wouldn't have even had the chance to tell Itachi how she truly felt for him and she would've had to live with that for the rest of her life. She guessed that she wouldn't have been on her way to the trial this morning. She would've been headed towards Itachi's funeral instead, probably wearing the same black dress she was wearing now with her mascara running down her face in silent, black streams of misery. Sasuke would probably be driving her to her apartment right now and then she would cry and cry until her body eventually said enough and shut down. Ino would be coming over to check on her soon and she would hold Sakura until she woke. Then Sakura would tell Ino just how much Itachi meant to her and how much she hated herself for not telling him. As time passed, she would probably move on, but she knew there would be a small part of her that would forever hurt.
"Sakura," Itachi's voice said softly.
Slowly Sakura blinked herself out of her thoughts. She refocused her eyes ahead of her to see they were parked in Itachi's driveway. The gigantic house was looming in front of her with the spring sun shining just behind it. The red bricks contrasted greatly against the blue sky, but she still thought the house was just as gorgeous as the first time she had seen it. All the windows on the house were reflecting the clear sky and she took comfort knowing that one of those windows led to Itachi's room; the room he would still use for years to come.
He wasn't dead. In fact, he was currently holding her door open, waiting for her to get out, with a slightly worried expression. Carefully Sakura took off her seatbelt and accepted the hand he was offering her. He closed the car door after her, his hand still gasping hers, but didn't start towards the house just yet. Sakura looked up at him, but before she could say anything, he stepped towards her and wrapped his arms around her.
"Everything is alright," he assured her. "I will not allow anything to happen to you again."
Sakura opened her mouth to correct him on her thoughts, but decided against it and instead returned his gesture. She wasn't sure how long they stood there, each holding the other, reveling in the thought that a serial killer was no longer after either of them. They were safe and that's how they would both remain, with one watching the other's back at all times.
"Come," Itachi finally said. "I shall make you lunch."
Sakura looked up at his beautiful face and smiled softly. "Okay."
Then he took her hand again and they walked inside.
Sakura pulled out another painkiller and popped it in her mouth as her front door opened before she took a deep breath to help with her stomach wound and nervousness as footsteps echoed from her hallway. Quickly she placed her medicine into her purse and double-checked that she had everything as a knock on her bedroom door sounded. "Sakura, are you ready?" Itachi's voice asked.
"Yeah," she replied. She cringed as her voice shook slightly.
Her bedroom door opened and she heard Itachi take a few steps inside before he stopped. Purposely, Sakura kept her back to him as she readjusted her already straight dress. She cleared her throat lightly and walked over to her dresser to grab her necklace. She unclasped it and lifted her arms to tie it around her neck, but a sharp stab of pain ripped across her abdomen making her flinch and quickly she pulled her arms back down.
"Are you alright?" Itachi asked quietly as he approached her.
Sakura nodded quickly without looking at him. "Fine."
She could almost see the frown that was bound to be on his lips as he stopped behind her before he gently took the necklace from her fingers and put it around her neck. He rested his hands on her shoulders before he lightly traced his fingers down her arms. "Does it hurt?" he murmured.
Without thinking, Sakura nodded. She couldn't lie to him.
"Have you taken your medicine?" he asked calmly.
She nodded again. "Just now."
Carefully Itachi traced his hands back up her arms and turned her around. "Do you still wish to go to the ceremony?"
Quickly she smiled and nodded. "Yes, I'm fine."
He measured her up for a moment before he nodded and headed back out into her hallway. Sakura waited until he was out of sight to lean against her dresser and let out a long breath as she placed a hand on her stomach for a moment. Then she pushed herself up and walked out of her bedroom, grabbing her purse on the way.
As much as Sakura didn't want to go, she had to. All the officers in the TMPD went to the Tokyo Police Metropolitan End of the Year Awards Ceremony – Sakura didn't know why they called it the End of the Year Ceremony; it took place in late June. If an officer didn't go, everyone knew about it.
Its purpose was to acknowledge all officers for their suffering and hard work, but the most important part of the celebration was the Officer of the Year awards. It's an award given to the top ten officers who worked especially hard to get their job done right. Everyone always fought for it, something Sakura never understand for the persons were forgotten by the end of the following year, but it helped everyone aim towards a goal that made them work hard in a healthy way.
The drive to the ceremony hall was quiet and when they finally pulled into the parking lot, Sakura glanced at Itachi before she put on a smile and stepped out of the car. There were already quite a few cars parked in the lot and automatically Sakura searched for either Ino or Shikamaru's vehicle. Unfortunately she couldn't find it in the time it took Itachi to join her in front of his car and she had to turn away as she walked inside with Itachi.
There were a handful of officers on the bottom floor asking for invitations and directing people to the main hall where the party was located. When they spotted Itachi, they made their way towards him and bowed before engaging him in small talk. Sakura zoned out slightly, but was brought back abruptly to the present from the sudden, tight squeeze Itachi gave to her hand. Immediately Sakura's eyes flew up to meet his, but her glare stopped short when she realized the officer was also speaking to her. "We set up a table in the middle of the hall for the Uchiha family and yourself, Haruno-san," the officer said. "Fugaku-san and Mikoto-san have already arrived. Shall I inform them of your arrival?"
Itachi shook his head once. "That will not be necessary. Thank you. Have a good evening."
The officer nodded. "You too, sir." He turned to Sakura. "Ma'am."
Sakura was still staring at the man in surprise as Itachi started walking with his hand on the small of her back. Her wide eyes turned to Itachi, but he was purposely looking ahead. Eventually Sakura gave up and turned her attention to the people that passed by. All of them greeted Itachi and once again, Sakura was surprised to hear a lot of them wish her a good evening too. She had never been greeted by this many people before. It was an odd change.
"Come," Itachi suddenly said, leading her away from a majority of the officers present. "I want you to meet my parents."
Sakura's eyes widened and she stopped walking. "What?"
Itachi halted and turned to her when he realized she was no longer with him. "Is there a problem?" he asked in confusion.
"You want me to meet your parents?" she clarified.
He nodded. "Yes."
"Is right now not an appropriate time?" Itachi asked calmly.
Sakura laughed awkwardly. "No, it's not." She started to walk away in a different direction. "How about next year?"
Itachi caught her wrist in three long strides and pulled her back to him. Her body relaxed at his touch, but he could see the nervousness in her eyes. He gave her wrist a small squeeze before he led her towards the table where his parents were waiting. She noticed his hand had absentmindedly wandered to her back and was gently rubbing it, helping to settle her. "Do not worry," he whispered. "My mother will love you."
Sakura looked out him out of the corner of her eyes. "And your father?"
When Itachi didn't reply, Sakura looked at him sharply. Unfortunately before she had the chance to do anything, Itachi spoke: "Mother, father, I am pleased you could make it."
Sakura followed Itachi's gaze to see an older woman and man were standing before them. She noticed the woman was wearing a simple cocktail dress that showed off her figure beautifully, but not in a revealing way while the man wore a simple black suit. Immediately Sakura noticed that Itachi got his looks from his mother. His father was not an unattractive individual by any means, but he looked more of like Sasuke than Itachi.
Then she realized the woman possessed the eyes that she loved so much about the Uchiha family. Hers were amazing. They were absolutely sparkling with emotion. There was so much thought and feeling in her gaze Sakura couldn't make out one emotion from another. The couple looked so gorgeous Sakura felt herself shrink on the spot.
Fortunately, Itachi still had his hand on the small of her back and was silently giving her encouragement. She smiled at them politely and forced herself not to show her insecurities when Itachi released her to hug his mother. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek before Itachi shook hands with his father.
Then they turned to her.
"And who's this?" his mother asked.
"Mother, this is my girlfriend, Sakura. Sakura, this is my mother, Mikoto, and my father Fugaku," Itachi introduced them.
Sakura stared at Itachi for a long moment when he called her his girlfriend. It was the first time he had ever done so aloud and it was a little unexpected, but nonetheless she smiled when she quickly found that she liked it. It made her heart warm. With her smile still in place, Sakura extended her hand only to gasp slightly in shock when Mikoto reached forward and hugged her. She stiffened in the older woman's grasp, but slowly forced herself to hug her back. "Hi," Sakura said, pulling back slightly. "It's nice to meet you."
"We've heard so much about you," Mikoto smiled. "I heard you saved my son's life. Thank you so much."
Before Sakura could even respond, she found herself in another hug. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she didn't try to pull back. She had already thought of what life would be like without Itachi; she couldn't imagine it from a mother's point of view.
"I think you might have heard wrong," Sakura said after Mikoto let her go. "I only stopped him. I…I didn't-."
"Nonsense." Sakura stared at Fugaku is surprise as he spoke for the first time. "If you had not been there, our son would not still be with us."
Sakura smiled and opened her mouth to reply when another sharp stab of pain ripped through her. She sucked in a deep breath, immediately feeling Itachi's hand on her back, and tried to smile through the pain. It was useless though. Mikoto's expression was already clouded in worry and Fugaku's hand was extended slightly as if he had started to help. Quickly she glanced at Itachi and smiled weakly. "I'm fine."
He didn't look convinced. "You should sit."
Sakura steeled herself. "I'm fine. Honestly."
Itachi still didn't look convinced, but fortunately all their attention turned away from her as Sasuke approached. "Mother, father."
Immediately they engaged in another round of greetings. Sakura stood back and watched quietly as the family exchanged news and unconsciously her eyes glanced around the room only to find Ino and Shikamaru standing nearby. Ino caught her gaze and waved her over, but Sakura held up her finger to tell her 'just a second' before she returned to the Uchihas conversations. "Please excuse me," Sakura said quietly.
Everyone glanced at her before Mikoto smiled. "Of course."
Then Sakura turned and fled as inconspicuously as possible towards her blonde friend. "Hey, how are you doing?" Ino asked.
Sakura smiled slightly. "Please don't ask me that. Itachi's been watching me like a hawk since I got out of the hospital."
Ino looked over Sakura's shoulder. "Still is." Then she turned back to her friend. "What's wrong with that? He's just showing you that he cares."
Sakura shrugged. "I'm not dying."
Ino grinned. "But you were." Then she wrapped her arms around Sakura in a friendly embrace. "I never congratulated you on catching Hyuuga-bastard. You have no idea how proud I am of you!"
Sakura raised an eyebrow, but hugged her back nonetheless. "Thank you, mother. I live to make you happy."
Ino smacked her across the back of her head. "I was being serious."
Sakura rubbed the place Ino hit her before she rubbed her arm uncomfortably. "Everything's been too serious lately. I think I'm going to lose my mind if I don't be a little immature. Besides, what's life without a little fun?"
Ino snorted in reply. "Yeah, 'cause what better way to have fun than almost being murdered by a serial killer?" She paused. "Twice."
Sakura glared at her as Sasuke started the opening speech. She glanced around to see everyone was taking their seats before she returned to her attention to Ino. "Are you sitting with us?" her blonde friend asked.
Pursing her lips together, Sakura shook her head. "I'm sitting with Itachi's parents."
"Fun," Ino said. "Better hurry so you make a good impression."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "I saved their son's life. What more of an impression do I need to give?"
Ino shrugged. "Point taken. I'll talk to you later then."
Then Ino turned around and joined Shikamaru at a table across the room. Sakura watched her leave before she turned and made her way back to the Uchiha table. She took a seat next to Itachi and watched as Sasuke explained to everyone how well they did this year in keeping up with all their cases. She didn't pay too much attention after that and at one point she reached for a glass of wine only for Itachi to take it out of her hands before she could take a sip. "It's dangerous to mix your medication with alcohol," he explained. Sakura rolled her eyes in reply, but knew he was right. He gave her hand a soft squeeze before he stood up and joined his brother and cousin on stage.
"As every officer at the Tokyo Metro Police Department knows, this past year has been the most stressful in recent years," Itachi started. "The East Coast Killer case was the most difficult and time-consuming investigation ever to come across Japan and I am proud to say that my officers were the ones to solve it. I can now say from experience that all those who worked on the case are the bravest and most intelligent individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with and I would be pleased to work with each and every one of you again.
"For those who wish to take up work at another precinct, I am more than willing to give a recommendation to wherever you wish to go. I hope for you all to stay, but I understand if you wish to find work elsewhere.
"I would also like to thank Special Agents Sasori, Deidara, and Hoshigaki Kisame. Without their help, our case would have reached some dead ends that would have taken a while to get out of…"
Sakura glanced around the room as Itachi continued to thank multiple agents and officers. She vaguely watched as the officers on the case received the Officer of the Year award, herself included, but she didn't go up. She had the excuse of being injured so instead she sat and watched as Ino and Shikamaru stood with everyone else on stage. Sakura didn't hear the specifics as she eyed the wine glass again, debating whether or not it was worth the risk to have. Eventually she reached for the glass, but the moment the smell hit her, she lost her craving for it. Alcohol sounded appealing at the moment, but didn't smell it. Slowly she placed the glass down and glared at it before she returned her attention back to her the Superintendent General.
"There is one last award for the night I would like to give," Itachi continued. "As most of you do not know, there was one last message the killer sent us." A surprised murmur rippled through the room. "Because Haruno-san was attacked by the killer, I saw it fit to not release it to everyone on the case. We knew that the murderer was someone on the case, but we were not sure who it was. I spoke with Superintendent Supervisor Shisui and Chief Superintendent Sasuke and we decided to keep the message a secret so the murderer had a bigger chance of making a mistake and accidentally revealing himself. Before he could do so though, Haruno-san solved it. She learned that I was the new target-."
Itachi paused as more murmuring erupted around the room. Sakura shrunk slightly in her seat to avoid the many curious gazes sent her way, but one look from Itachi had her sitting up straight in her chair again. She ignored the gazes and glanced at Ino to see she was grinning proudly at her. Shikamaru caught her gaze and he nodded his approval before he returned his attention back to his superior.
"Not only did Haruno-san find out I was the new target and that Hyuuga Neji was the killer, but she also risked her life to save mine. She fought hand-to-hand with Hyuuga and even injured herself in the process to save myself," he paused slight. "Which is why Superintendent Supervisor Shisui, Chief Superintendent Sasuke, and myself have decided to award Haruno Sakura with the Metal of Honor."
Sakura looked up slowly with an expression of stunned surprise and met Itachi's gaze as applause erupted around the room. Itachi nodded at her and gestured for her to come up to the stage with a small smile that only she could see. Her eyes wandered around the room to see everyone was clapping and smiling at her, encouraging her. Carefully Sakura stood and walked to the stage.
It felt like everything slowed around her as she approached Itachi. She could see people clapping out of the corner of her eyes, but their motions were slow and sluggish. Itachi was still giving her that small smile of his, but this time it didn't comfort her. It felt like her heart was in her throat as she walked up the four steps to the top of the stage.
I wonder if this is a side effect of my medicine, she thought absently.
The moment Sakura shook Sasuke's hand everything came rushing back to her. The noise of the crowd returned and the sound of people cheering reached her ears as she turned to Shisui and did the same thing. Then she turned to Itachi. She took his hand, but it wasn't like the usual soft caresses. His grasp was firm and full of authority. It made her smile.
"I wasn't expecting this," she murmured.
Itachi smirked. "Glad to know I can still surprise you."
Sakura's smile widened slightly before she grasped her award and turned towards everyone. Their applause quieted as the Uchihas stepped back and she stood in front of the microphone. For a few seconds she stood on the stage watching everyone as she tried to figure out what to say.
"Um…" Sakura started lamely. "Well this was unexpected." Her eyes wandered around the many faces before they found Ino. Her blonde friend was smiling brightly at her and slowly she felt the courage to speak. "You know, when I was younger, I never dreamed of going into the police force. The thought of carrying a gun didn't sound very appealing to me." She paused. "Now I won't go anywhere without one."
A small chorus of agreement rippled through everyone before they fell silent again, waiting for her to continue. "But of course, the one time I actual needed my gun, I didn't have it," Sakura said. She smiled. "I guess my phone paid for that." Everyone laughed slightly at the memory of her using her phone as a weapon against Neji, but quickly quieted again. Sakura glanced over her shoulder at Itachi. "You still owe me a phone, you know." He raised an eyebrow in response.
Sakura smiled before she glanced down at her award again. "I'm actually glad that I went through all that I did though," she said quietly. "It made me realized something really important; something that I had been missing since I went into forensics." Slowly she raised her gaze and spotted Naruto sitting with Kakashi. They glanced at each other in confusion before they turned back to her. "I missed that excitement, that adrenaline rush that you get when you realize that there's something you absolutely have to do." Itachi's curious gaze was burning a hole in her back as she spoke, but she didn't look at him.
"Being on the East Coast Killer case made me realized this." She paused for a long moment. "Which is why I have decided to return to the field."
Silence and the shocked faces of her friends met her words. Ino's face was one of complete shock while Naruto looked horrorstruck. Kakashi's wasn't quite as obvious, but she could tell he was still surprised by her announcement. If he was shocked, then she couldn't even imagine what Itachi was feeling at the moment. She already knew he wouldn't agree with her decision, but she didn't want to be stuck in a lab anymore. She wanted to be out in the field until she was physically incapable of being there and that's what she planned to do.
"Thank you," Sakura finally finished. "Have a good evening."
Then she turned away from the microphone as everyone clapped if not a little unsure before she bounded down the stairs back to her table. Mikoto smiled at her as she sat down and gave her hand a squeeze before she turned back to Itachi who was speaking again. Fugaku's expression was blank, except for the small crease of his forehead. When Itachi gave that expression, he was worried. Was Fugaku worried about her? She doubted that, but from the way he kept watching her from the corner of his eyes, she began to believe it was true.
As Itachi wrapped up his speech and everyone made towards the food table, Sakura stood up and escaped to the restroom before Itachi could catch her. She needed a few minutes to compose herself and prepare for the argument that was bound to happen.
"Sakura, are you out of your fucking mind?"
The pink-haired woman looked past her shoulder in the mirror to see Ino walk into the restroom. Her arms were crossed angrily, but her blue eyes were shining with concern. She was genuinely worried about her. Slowly Sakura turned around and smiled slightly. "What do you mean?"
"Cut the shit," Ino snapped. "Are you seriously considering going back into the field after everything that you've been through this year?"
Sakura closed her eyes briefly. "I really want to, Ino. I wasn't happy doing forensics."
Ino sighed. Her anger slowly faded until her expression turned into worry. "Are you sure? There's a lot of other things you could do-."
"Ino," Sakura interrupted, "I'm sure."
Ino frowned slightly. "Well if that's what you want to do…" She paused. "Promise me you'll at least stay safe."
Sakura smiled before she hugged her long-time friend. "Of course I will be."
Then she released her and walked out of the restroom. Thankfully, Itachi wasn't at the table when Sakura approached. She took a seat and sipped on some water as she watched friends and family walk by, talking and laughing with one another.
"I am assuming you are not longer interested in the alcohol?"
Slowly Sakura turned in her seat as Itachi stopped next to her chair. She placed her glass down and shook her head. "It doesn't smell very appealing anymore."
Itachi didn't comment and instead extended his hand to her before nodding towards the dance floor. With a small smile, Sakura accepted and carefully stood before she allowed him to lead her to the floor. A slow song came on as Itachi wrapped his arms around her waist and she slowly lifted her arms to his neck before she leaned into him.
It was quiet for a while as they rocked back and forth to the soft melody. Sakura rested her head on his shoulder and breathed in his scent as his arms wrapped around her protectively.
"You did not tell me you wished to return to the field," Itachi said softly.
Sakura glanced up at him sheepishly before she returned her head to his shoulder. "I didn't think you would let me."
Itachi stopped dancing abruptly, causing Sakura to look up at him in confusion. His lips were pursed and his eyes didn't look happy. "Sakura," he said slowly, "understand I would never stop you from doing what you want to do." He cupped her face gently. "Just tell me."
Sakura nodded slowly. "Sorry."
His only response was to kiss her. It was soft, but it told her so much she felt her heart swell. When he pulled back, Sakura's head was still reeling, but she managed to smile as they fell in time to the music again. She followed his lead to the melody and looked up at him in confusion when he stopped again.
"I have something for you," he murmured.
Sakura looked at him in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Slowly her gaze dropped to her hands when she felt him press something into her palms. She half expected it to be another card, but her eyes widened a fraction before a wide grin spread across her face.
It was a phone.
It was a deep emerald phone. Carefully she slid it open to reveal a black keypad and a shiny, new screen. The numbers were still silver and automatically Sakura scrolled through her phonebook to see Itachi had already put his number in for her. Now all she needed was the rest of her friends.
With a soft smile, Sakura closed her phone and looked up at Itachi. "Thank you," she murmured before she placed a sweet, chaste kiss to his cheek. He replied by tightening his arms around her waist. Then they began swaying to the music again.
Sakura spotted Ino with Shikamaru dancing nearby as Itachi's parents rocked in time to the beat. They were smiling at one another. The sight made Sakura smile at their happiness and she vaguely wondered if that's what her life would be like when she reached their age. Would she be here dancing with Itachi, as they watched their son or daughter dance with their own lover?
She could only wonder.