Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. The decision of who gets to be with who should better be left in the hands of the creator Kishimoto-sensei. *shudders* I don't want to decide.
Author's Note: ^_^ A one-shot Naruto fic! I try to keep it OOC—oops, I mean IC. *chuckles nervously* Anyway…You could consider this a NarutoxSakuraxSasuke friendship! The flashback part was inspired when I saw in the manga Sakura watching Sasuke sleep (I think in Volume 18?). This takes place much later—this is the second battle between Itachi and Sasuke.
This is the SECOND revised version. =_=; I finally read Volume 17 (I had only read the manga summaries before)… Itachi is WAY OOC in this fic, so I'm changing bits and pieces of this story.
Her battle was finished.
Sakura drew out a long tired sigh as she threw her enemy's bloodied kunai to the side. She wiped the blood at her mouth with the back of her hand as she trudged on. She didn't look back at her fallen opponent; instead, her eyes found a very beaten-up Naruto barely standing from his own fight.
"Naruto!" she went to his side, hands unconsciously reaching to steady him. The blond-haired ninja smiled up at her, cerulean eyes twinkling triumphantly. He didn't have to tell her he had won.
"You're hurt badly, Naruto. You should rest, you idiot," she chided, but he knew she was secretly concerned.
He chuckled weakly, "Not until Sasuke's battle ends…" However, despite his struggle to stay conscious, Naruto fell forward, haziness overcoming his mind until it was completely black. Sakura caught him and called his name, but he couldn't respond. To her relief, however, when she checked his pulse, he was still breathing.
"Eh…you idiot…" she muttered as she set him down near a tree.
He tries too hard and he gets hurt all the time. …But…he'll be all right, in the end. An unwilling smile crept up her lips. And he'll be always grinning at me and Sasuke-kun after. Naruto...
The sound of crushed wood brought her attention back to the last battle. She stepped forward as she made out Sasuke's battered form thrown against the tree in the flying dust. Her fingers ached to reach for her kunai at her side, but this was his battle, not hers. Those fingers curled into an angry fist, her sense of helplessness mounting every moment. It was stupid to think she would be able to go against the infamously powerful Uchiha Itachi, but she couldn't help the motherly instinct to protect Sasuke. Naruto would have wanted to interfere with the fight as well. Her heart torn, she gazed at the two figures in the distance...
Two boys, not even men…two brothers, not even strangers, and yet…
"Is this the strongest you can give me?"
Her eyes swerved to scrutinize Itachi, trying to figure out what was in his mind. A breath got caught in her throat. Was she seeing things? Underneath the cold fiery of his loathing gaze, there was...something akin to compassion as he looked as his younger brother.
If he loves him...why does he want his own brother to kill him?
The boy struggled to stand up from the broken tree, his hand covering a newly opened wound at his side. He brushed the irritating raven locks of hair away from his scarlet eyes, the three black circles of his lineage spinning wildly in them. The two of them locked gazes with each other, Sharingan against Sharingan.
"No...This time, I won't fail, Itachi," he rasped out.
"I had waited for this…" The former Anbu captain's stony countenance taunted his angry little brother. With a smooth flick of a hand, he drew out a kunai. He spun it around with a finger, watching as Sasuke withdrew his own weapon.
The pink-haired ninja trembled, fearing what would happen, but she forced herself to stand up and watch bravely.
This…is what Sasuke-kun wanted.
Fingers graced pale cold cheeks and brushed away sable bangs. Sad emerald eyes traced his sleeping form. The wooden chair creaked as she shifted slightly closer to the bed.
"Will he be all right?" she asked without turning her head. Naruto appeared from the shadows of the room, arms crossing over his chest.
"Aa," he replied quietly.
"Thank goodness…" A pause. "How's Kakashi-sensei?"
"He's sleeping, but he'll wake up soon." Her teammate walked to the door. He didn't look back. "I'm going to train."
Sakura bowed her head. "Aa. Bye." The door opened and then closed shut.
He's worried… But the feeling of unable to protect his friends is stronger than that. I could feel his pain, his desire to become stronger. Like me.
"He had found the man he wanted to kill, but the man was too powerful."
Sakura looked over her shoulder in surprise; she didn't sense a third presence. It revealed to be the enigmatic Kurenai, one of the ninjas present at the battle against Itachi.
"Of course you couldn't see me," Kurenai replied, as if reading her mind. "I am a Jounin, after all."
She gave a grim glance at the boy in the bed. "He was foolish, trying to fight him. ...Or perhaps, just too emotional. I'm disappointed. That is not the way of a ninja."
Sakura stiffened, her hand tightening on his arm. "The way of a ninja is up to him to decide. Emotions have kept us alive, thus far, Kurenai-sensei. You mustn't make light of us."
"I'm not making light. Things are not as easy as it once was. Feelings had him almost killed."
"But..." As the female jounin opened the door, a self-depreciating smile lifted the corners of her thin mouth. "I could be wrong. Kakashi's kids could prove the way of the ninja wrong..."
Then she left, leaving Sakura to look at the door in wonder.
But she drew her thoughts back to her friend, biting her lip in worry. Why would he want to go so far as to die to fulfill his wish? Isn't his life important to him? ...Is he really so lonely that he wants to die? It's...too sad...
"Oh..." Sasuke's mouth partially opened, whispering words incoherently. She dropped her head closer to his, straining her ears. The tips of her pink hair tickled his face.
Older brother? Her brow furrowed in confusion. She listened for more.
"Why…why did you kill... Why…?" he murmured sleepily. Suddenly his obsidian eyes flew open, terrifyingly clear. Sakura leaned back on her chair, startled.
"Why do I have to kill you?" The lucid voice broke through the stillness. The young chuunin shook, enraged and hurt at the same time. Sakura reached her hand out to him, but he fell back on his pillow, sleep overtaking him once more.
She grew still. The man he wanted to kill was his own brother. Tears welled up her eyes. It was his brother who massacred the Uchiha clan...
"Loneliness...It's a level of pain different from being yelled at by your parents." Her hand covered his, her warmth driving the iciness of his fingers away.
"Goals...I rather call it an ambition...To kill a certain man."
"At that time...I was crying. My..." Teardrops spotted the old brown blanket.
I can feel his pain...his struggle...his isolation. Naruto's the same...except his brash and cheerful nature hides it. It's no wonder he understands Naruto more than I do... It's no wonder I felt left out, being the girl who had what they lacked. Is this why I don't strive as hard as they do? But...
"I think...I think I understand you now..." she said hesitatingly, lifting his hand to touch her cheek. "...Even if you can't hear me...you're not suffering alone."
Please let me share your pain. If I only could give some of what I have to you...
"You're not alone…Naruto and I are here—we are your friends—your family. You just can't leave us, not with all we had been through…" She closed her eyes tightly. "Please…don't...don't die, if not for your sake, then for us..."
People need you. Naruto needs you. I need you. When you fight, remember us, remember that you have us. Dying won't make us happy. Please don't throw your life away like this again...I'll cry and Naruto will--Naruto will... She couldn't help but to grin. He'll kick your ass.
It was what felt like a century before she decided to leave. She took a deep shaky breath and placed his hand back on the bed. The chair scratched the wooden floor as she stood up. Slowly, Sakura took out her kunai, gazing at it for some long moments. It gleamed in the dark.
For the sake of those two, I must become stronger. If I want to protect them too, I need to be stronger.
Then the kunoichi glanced at her friend and smiled serenely, no trace of her crying to be seen.
"I'm going to train, Sasuke-kun."
His name fell out of her pale lips, a small whisper that caught the wind and reached his ears. Sasuke glanced at her. Sakura wasn't crying, yelling, nor was she waving back at him—she was smiling. If it wasn't for his eye ability, he wouldn't be able to see the small sad smile.
Sakura's…a little different today. It's a relief she won against that man.
Then he saw Naruto and had to snort. The total moron was out cold next to her, but doubtlessly, from the stupid grin on the idiot's face, he must have defeated his opponent.
What good would it do if you win the battle but pass out too? Dimwit.
When he turned his head back, he realized that this was the first time he broke his focus on battle.
A chuckle escaped from him. Maybe that would be the last time he would ever see them. He was planning to take the bastard down with him anyway. "I'm going to make sure we're going to have a family reunion, Itachi," he smirked as he wiped the blood off his face.
"Let's see if you can, Sasuke." Itachi rushed forward so quickly that to the naked eye, he couldn't be seen. Sasuke was taken back by the speed and barely parried the kunai thrust at him. If it wasn't for the Sharingan, he would have lost an arm. He could see his brother's smirking face as the kunai disappeared and reappeared to attack another place.
This speed...it's impossible to math!
There seemed to be no opening for attack. All Sasuke could do was dodge and block the attacks, but it was tiring him out more than he already was.
"I was jealous of you." Sasuke was startled by his brother's calm and quiet voice. It seemed to surround him all around.
"What?" he growled out as a few Shuriken whizzed by his shoulder.
"As the future head of the clan, I went through hell. I became genin at age seven, a chuunin a year later, and then an anbu captain at age thirteen." Itachi murmured. "Who would have thought my younger brother would graduate at twelve?"
"I don't get what you're saying," the younger replied through clenched teeth.
Where could he be? Dammit, I can't attack!
"I hated Father and I never knew Mother. But you…you didn't have to deal with that. You were the younger child. You had a childhood I never got to have, and two parents who thought you were a son and I a monster!" his voice grew furious and the attacks came harder and faster.
Sasuke was bombarded by his brother's kunai from all sides, the sharp knife cutting him from the head down to his legs. It was more excruciating than the needles Haku had thrown at him. Through the whirlwind of attacks, he could see his brother's eyes, dull and dark just like that painful day. What was he thinking?
Sasuke screamed from the overload of blows, releasing wild chakra from his entire body. The strong burst of energy knocked the kunai out of Itachi's hand and violently shoved the elite ninja to the floor feet away. The loss of control over chakra left the boy shaking and collapsing to his hands and knees. A sticky metallic-tasting liquid pooled at his throat and he coughed it out, his blood spraying onto the dirt ground.
Sakura dared not to cry out in fear of interrupting the battle, but she knew the amount of chakra Sasuke drew out took a toll on his body. He wouldn't be able to hold out in the battle. Clasping her hands close to her heart, she prayed for his life.
Itachi stood up. "You're running out of chakra. You won't be able to use the Sharingan any longer."
"I--I won't give up," Sasuke choked out as he looked up at him. He managed to get up and throw his brother's kunai back. "I'm not going to face our parents without you."
"Then," the jounin caught the flying kunai, "shall we end this?"
"Yes, let it end." The younger ninja threw his kunai aside and dropped into a jutsu stance. He barely had enough chakra to execute his next attack, a technique he had saved for last. His fingers formed into three seals, energy building up around his right hand.
This is where our path together ends, Naruto…Sakura.
Battles cries shook the air as two figures charged at each other. Memories and voices flashed through his mind as Sasuke rushed forward.
"Why did you save me? I don't need your help!" The chakra cackled like a thousand birds.
"Don't you want to be stronger than the one you want to kill?" His feet sprinted even faster, cutting through the wind with his beyond-human speed.
"If you give into hatred, Sasuke, you won't defeat Itachi."
"Your eyes are like mine, full of loneliness." The three circles in his crimson eyes spun faster.
He was startled out of his reverie. He never recalled hearing those words, but the voice seemed so familiar, as if it was calling him back.
He screamed harder as he met Itachi. His hand came rushing through, the intense light of Sasuke's chakra blinding everything. Sakura shut her eyes tight.
"Thank you…Sasuke." Itachi's face remained expressionless, but blood trickled down his mouth.
Sasuke was quiet; his dark bangs shadowed his eyes. His hand had cut right through Itachi's abdomen while the older ninja's kunai was barely wedged into his own side. It didn't even hit a critical point.
"I killed them…" Itachi's trembling hands circled his wrist, keeping Sasuke's hand lodged in his stomach. "I killed them all because I needed to lose my only weakness. And I left you alive…because…"
"You wanted me to kill you," the younger brother replied, looking up. His eyes were back to brooding obsidian. "Now I'm the last of the clan."
"Revive the clan; don't let it die out... And…I—won't get to see them."
"Because I'll be in hell," A tiny smile lifted the corners of his thin mouth. Sasuke's eyes widened. "I'm not planning to see you dead anytime soon either. They're waiting for you."
There was silence, before a quiet, "I know."
"Farewell, Sasuke…" His hands fell limply to his sides.
"Aa…" The surviving brother glanced down at his hands, the warm crimson liquid oozing down his wrists and dropping to the floor. How long had he desired this? How long had he lived miserably, surviving only to kill him? He pulled his hand out and caught his dead brother by the shoulders. He set him down and brushed a hand over his lifeless eyes, closing them. At last, he would never see those taunting, sickening red eyes again.
Itachi glanced over his shoulder to find Sasuke standing behind him.
"Today, you were going to teach me Shuriken jutsu…" There was disappointment in his tone.
"I was busy…" the other replied. "Besides, Father is a good teacher."
"But your way of throwing them is the best. Even I know that." He looked down. "You always act as if I'm a burden to you."
Itachi gestured him to come over and Sasuke padded forward. Suddenly two fingers pushed him back by the forehead. His older brother's ebony eyes twinkled in amusement as he spoke softly.
"Forgive me, Sasuke. Next time, okay?"
The younger brother felt a tinge of displeasure and bewilderment at his brother's strange way of apologizing, but it quickly disappeared when he looked at his brother. There was something in his thoughts, something dark Itachi was brooding about. Sasuke cocked his head, failing to understand what his brother was going through.
"I can't take care of you today," said Itachi as he stood up from his seat on the front stairs.
The little boy rubbed his forehead, frowning. "Every time I ask you, you would always say, 'Forgive me, Sasuke,' and then poke me on the forehead. Then you would say, 'Not today.'"
The older boy didn't reply as he left the room. Despite that, Sasuke smiled.
How could I not realize what was going on? He…the reason why he never taught me was because he wanted me to grow up as a normal kid—not a prodigy. How could I not see his eyes? No…my brother didn't kill them to measure his power…he wanted to destroy those he loved because it was a sign of weakness.
But in the end, he had lost the strength of…the heart. That…was why he kept me alive for…
A teardrop fell on the pale face of Itachi.
To force me to live…To gain what he lost…
I had never hated you, brother… I couldn't, even when we were younger. I just—just never understood you.
Now I'm the only one of my family. The very thing that had kept me standing to this day is now gone. …But…
He didn't need to look to know she was standing next to him. Sakura bent down next to him and touched Itachi's arm.
"Arigatou gozaimasu, Itachi-san," was what she said.
I think it's not as hard as it used to be. I...I can keep on living.
"Sasuke-kun, are you all right?"
"Aa... " he lied, swaying back and forth with dizziness until he fell to the floor.
Sakura shook her head, a relieved smile crossing her lips. "You can be such an idiot like Naruto sometimes."
When Sasuke came to, he found himself leaning against a tree next to Naruto. He blinked, his vision adjusting to the afternoon light. He saw Sakura bending over Naruto, wiping his face with a torn piece of her dress. "S-Sakura?"
She glanced at him, "Finally, one of you woke up."
He looked down at the bandage that was wrapped around his side. "T-thank you..."
"It's nothing. We better get going. I couldn't carry nor leave you, so I waited for you guys to come around."
"...How long was I out?"
"For about five hours, at most. Not bad for a person who used up all his chakra." She shot a look at Naruto. "Unlike someone I know."
"He'll come around."
"I hope so," she muttered. "What are you going to do with your brother's corpse?"
"I'll have to leave it to the hunter-nin to find it. He was a dangerous criminal with many jutsus; I can't bury him."
"True..." she replied, though she winced at the thought of the birds eating away at the organs. They were silent for a few moments before she turned her head to him and smiled.
"Let's...let's go home, ne?"
A pause, then a small smile. "Aa."
"Can you walk by yourself?"
"Are you sure? Because I'll need some help with this idiot. He's too heavy."
"It's fine." They walked over to their unconscious teammate at the tree. The two of them took one arm each and hauled him down the forest path like a piece of luggage. Of course, the discomfort of his behind being scraped on the floor woke the blond ninja with a painful start.
"HEY! Is this how you carry your loved one!?"
Both of them replied in unison, "Who said we loved you?"
"This is really a great way to carry your teammate," Naruto growled. "Let me go." They released their grip immediately and his head collided with the ground. "NOT LIKE THAT!"
"That's what you get for passing out, you total moron," Sasuke deadpanned.
"Shaddup, Sasuke!" Naruto picked himself up, rubbing his bruised head. He caught up with the other two. As they walked, the orange-clad ninja kept on glancing at his friend with a peculiar expression on his face.
The irritated Sasuke looked at him in askance. "What do you want, you total moron?"
"Ano sa…" Naruto sheepishly smiled back. "I'm glad."
Sakura smiled. "Me too."
Feeling oddly left out, Sasuke frowned. "You are all idiots."
"Perhaps, but you'll understand," Sakura patted him on the shoulder. "Well...Sasuke, what are you going to do now?"
"I don't—" he paused and shot her a strange look.
"N-nothing." His gaze shifted to the clear skies above him. It seemed like what happened earlier this morning didn't happen at all. I thought after killing him would be difficult and painful, but now it's just a sense of closure. It's odd…to feel somewhat content. "I don't really know...except someday I'll resurrect my clan."
Sakura turned beet red. "I could help you…with, you know, resurrecting your clan."
"What!? How about me, Sakura-chan?"
"You're annoying!" she glared at Naruto, threatening him with her fist for his untimely interruption. Sudden gloominess dropped on the usually jubilant ninja at the rejection as he trudged on.
"Why is it always Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke? What's so good about him anyway?" he muttered. When he saw Sasuke's expression, however, he fell over. "Unbelievable! He's—he's—"
"How cute!" Sakura exclaimed. "Sasuke-kun, you're blushing!"
"N-no, I'm not…"
Author's Note: I finally got the whole manga up to the latest chapter! XD I was so happy when I got to the Itachi volume, but then found the guy to be completely different from my depiction…so I had to change some things. The one error I didn't fix was the chidori attack Sasuke did. In the manga, Sasuke use it against Itachi, so technically, the chidori would be useless against the powerful Sharingan user for the second time. But Sasuke doesn't have any other powerful technique different from the ones used by his clan…so I couldn't do anything about it.
Itachi…is not a bad guy at all… The look in his eyes are so intense…they have a sense of humanity about them—not that cynical venomous look Orochimaru has. (I love those flashbacks in Volume 17 @.@...)
But yeah…makes you wonder, who was Sasuke blushing for? The question lingers…
It's hard not to be biased with all the pairings though. I tried really hard to make it a friendship thing. I hope no one was disappointed with the fact that there were no pairings even until the very end.
But I think it's leaning a little to the Sasuke/Sakura thing. I am such a total moron.
Gah, me and my overactive wild imaginations.
¬_¬ I'm not the only one, though.
Despite my rambling, I hoped you like it! ^_^ Please kindly review!