Sakura had the jagged edged of a bone saw jammed beneath Orochimaru's kneecap and his shin, the rest of his cadaver already neatly chopped and ready for disposal in yellow waste bags, when Itachi suddenly spoke. "...What are you doing?"

"The lab's incinerator is built for the safe disposal of biological samples, not entire bodies," she replied, immediately pausing in mid-saw to give him a clinical onceover, the messy task preventing her from rushing to his side and coddling him like an overprotective mother hen. Her tone sharpened when he swung his feet off the chair and shifted into a sitting position. "Don't get up too quickly! How are you feeling?"

Itachi tilted his head. "...Different," he finally said.

"Well, your eyes are certainly different now." With one final saw, Orochimaru's right leg was sliced in half. Sakura dropped the two bits into individual waste bags, trying desperately to pretend that it was just another routine dissection. "Admittedly, the red kinda grew on me, but now they're a nice, new, normal shade of greyish-black. And the locket's vanished." She chewed on her lip, hardly daring to hope. "Do you think…" she began hesitantly, as she stripped off her dirty gloves and facemask and turned on the hot water at the sink. "Do you think the geis finally broke somehow?"

Rolling smoothly to his feet, Itachi withdrew a kunai hidden in his jacket and made a long slice in his palm. Blood immediately welled from the cut, pooling in his palm. Seconds ticked by, but the wound did not close. "It appears so. We will know for certain tomorrow."

Sakura sighed. "...Did you really have to make such a deep cut?"

Swiping some bandages and disinfectant from the cabinet, she walked over to Itachi. "Give it here," she said, reaching for his injured hand. Feeling the weight of his gaze on her, she fixed her eyes resolutely on his palm and focused on patching him up.

The unexpectedly erotic feel of gentle fingertips ghosting down the length of her neck made her head jerk up in surprise. As startled green met inscrutable grey, Sakura swallowed nervously, trying to suppress the shiver Itachi's touch invoked.

"You're hurt."

Sakura made a face, resigning herself to a month of turtlenecks to hide the nasty bruising Orochimaru left behind. "I'm fine," she replied, waving it off. Bruises would heal. "I would've died if you hadn't arrived. I owe you my life."

His eyes sharpened. The bandaged hand twitched in her grasp. "I owe you mine."

She barked a laugh. "I don't think I can take any credit for breaking this curse." Pink brows furrowed. "...Do you think we'll ever know what exactly happened?"

"Unlikely, but we can theorise. Danzo knew I would never take a life willingly, especially to protect him, without an explicit command. Perhaps the geis required me to kill, or to save, of my own volition before I could be freed."

"Or maybe, by killing a creeper who was neither living or dead, you circumvented it on a technicality."

"Also plausible."

Belatedly, Sakura realised she'd been holding hands with Itachi the entire time. Neither party seemed willing to let go. "Any idea what you're going to do with all this newfound freedom of yours?"

Itachi shook his head. "It has been a long time since I've indulged in thoughts of such luxury."

"Well, my room is available for as long as you need it." As soon as the words left her mouth, Sakura flushed a tomato red, shocked at how flirtatious her voice sounded.

Personal embarrassment immediately vanished as the beginnings of a smile teased at the corners of Itachi's lips. The expression in his eyes was impossibly soft. "I have grown rather attached to your windowsill," he said.

Sakura laughed, something bright and effervescent blossoming inside of her as her fingers tangled with his. This – whatever 'this' was between them – felt like the start of something wonderful.

This time, when she laughed again, it was at her own sentimentality. Beginnings or not, they had a lab to clean and body parts to burn.

"...Let's get all this blood off the lino and go home."