Metamorphosis – an Itachi & Sakura story
By: F.M. Wrights
Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.
A/N: My first Naruto story! It's an Itachi x Sakura story so if you have any objections against this pairing, I'd suggest to stop reading and turn around.
FOR FIRST TIME READERS AFTER JULY 2008: Metamorphosis was my first fiction and written while I was sixteen years old. My English has since improved tremendously and Metamorphosis has become a thorn in my eye considering all the spelling mistakes etc. Feel free to read it, but please don't leave reviews about how bad the grammar is and how illogical everything seems, I know.
So proceed at own risk. :)
Chapter One – Descend into Darkness
She knew she couldn't take this any longer.
It has been six years since she last seen his arrogant smirk; six long years since she heard his magnetic voice and smelled his unique scent that reminded her of rain and forest. Six years since he just knocked her out and left with just two simple words.
Ever since that day, both she and Naruto had tried everything in their power to take their mind off their teammate, to train individually and when the time was ripe, they would meet again and bring Sasuke back.
Which failed miserably since they were never able to find Orochimaru's headquarters, or Sasuke for that matter. It was as if both had vanished into thin air, leaving not even a small trail behind.
Desperate, they had returned after spending two weeks in the Country of Field, attempting to find their lost teammate but never succeeding.
Sakura was sure she was going mad.
She cried when Naruto tried to comfort her, telling her that his promise was eternal; that he'd bring Sasuke back, no matter what. She sobbed as Sai suggested that perhaps Sasuke had left Sound already in search of his older brother. Sakura wept as the annual team photo shoot was announced and Naruto suggested to make a picture of the three of them, while holding a picture of Sasuke in their hands, showing that they still knew who their real teammate was.
And now she was drained.
She had hit rock bottom when Sai stepped out of the shower they were sharing during a C-Class mission, drying his hair. He saw her then and flashed that fake smile of his as the towel fell down to the ground, exposing his hair.
His hair was spiky at the back and she knew it was because he was drying his hair in that place, but she just couldn't get the mental image of Sasuke's hair out of her head then.
When he tried to ask her if something was the matter, she had quickly turned around, ignoring Naruto as he called out her name and locked herself up in her own room, spending the rest of the afternoon crying over a fading image.
The year afterwards, she tried to ignore everything that had any connection with the Uchiha. She tried hating him, but failed miserably as she glanced to their group picture when they had just become Genin. She tried to ignore the pain that he had left in his wake, thinking that one day, it might just go away.
Sakura tried to wish Sasuke away; wish that she had never laid eyes on him, but he would still be there when she woke up.
On her seventeenth birthday, she hoped to find Sasuke standing in front of her door, congratulating her with her birthday as he pressed a present into her hands, Naruto in tow with a smile, telling her that he had kept his promise and brought Sasuke back.
She smiled slightly, mentally complimenting herself for being so naïve throughout the years.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto called her gently, awaking her from her reverie.
Sakura glanced at her right, watching as Naruto landed on the same branch as hers before jumping further. "What is it Naruto?"
His cerulean eyes had lost the spark she was used to seeing as a child. She supposed losing your best friend and not being able to help him would do that to someone. Maybe she had lost her own spark; who knows?
His hair was longer and flatter than before, but it still had that spiky edge to it. Now sporting a Chuunin uniform, Sakura couldn't help but feel saddened with the thought that they'd left their childhood behind, together with Sasuke.
"I was wondering…" Naruto stalled slightly, voice faltering. "Would you… like to eat some ramen with me?"
She remained quiet for a moment, contemplating his offer and Naruto grew more restless with each passing second.
"I'll pay!" he quickly said as an afterthought, making Sakura smile slightly.
"Sure," she nodded and watched as Naruto beamed back like a child who had just been given some candy. She smiled sadly, before focusing on the road ahead of them.
They had just returned from a B-Ranked mission, concerning a certain paranoid Daimyou who thought he needed Shinobi to protect him. But nothing had happened throughout the entire mission and so they returned completely unscathed.
Her eighteenth birthday was during said mission and Naruto had apparently found a way to send one of his Bunshins to the nearest gift shop and buy her a box of chocolates.
She smiled lightly; it was probably the most romantic thing Naruto had ever done for her.
Sakura pondered slightly on what to wear. She wanted to make it special for Naruto, one good, happy memory of her. After all, this was her last chance to eat some ramen together with him.
Because on her eighteenth birthday, she decided to leave Konoha and find Sasuke.
She chuckled lightly. Leave it to Naruto to call her name, rather than to knock on the door. She waved goodbye at her mother who smiled back at her before continuing to chop the vegetables for dinner.
Walking out of the kitchen, she could hear Naruto yell her name again and balled her first slightly in irritation, before realizing this was the last time she would see Naruto.
She froze in the hallway and for the first time, she doubted her decision. According to her plan, she would eat with Naruto, wait until her mother had fallen asleep before packing her stuff and run off towards Sound.
It seemed like such a good plan.
If only she wouldn't miss her mother, Naruto, Kakashi… Even Ino.
Tears burned in the corners of her eyes as she recognized that she wouldn't see any of them again, and what for? A man… no, a boy of her past who didn't even go out with her once. A boy who blatantly ignored her feelings and ran off to gain power.
But he was also someone else… He was boy who complimented her in order to cheer her up; a boy who fought to protect her. A boy who would lie next to her in the grass during a mission, and his presence would be enough to soothe her and to make her fall asleep. A boy that she had confessed to love.
Sasuke was a boy and she would have left Konoha to be with him.
Without fully realizing it, she had been crying.
"Sakura?" her mother's voice sounded concerned. "Are you alright? That boy is still calling out to you!"
Sakura snapped out of her thoughts, quickly wiping away the tears that streamed down her cheeks before turning around, meeting her mother's worried glance. "I'm fine. I'll see you tonight."
Her mother nodded with a half-hearted smile and Sakura smiled back before rushing towards the door where the blonde shouted her name once again, this time knocking on the door as well.
She opened the door roughly, stopping Naruto as he attempted to knock again.
"Sakura-chan," he smiled brightly.
"There's no need to break down the door you know," Sakura smiled weakly as she grabbed her boots, putting them on before walking through the threshold, closing the wooden door behind her.
Naruto nodded eagerly. "Sorry, I thought you were gone."
The word 'gone' nearly made her flinch and she bit her lip slightly to stop herself from crying again.
"I was just distracted," she said quietly.
Naruto smiled bright to her, obviously oblivious to her small depression as he led her to Ichiraku.
They shared light conversations as they walked through the illuminated streets of Konoha. Sakura was only listening with one ear though, smiling sadly as she stared at the buildings she used to pass by so easily, not knowing that one day, she might even miss those.
While Naruto was ranting about his latest technique that Jiraiya had taught him, Sakura looked at the academy as they passed it by, vividly remembering all the times that she would sit in the field of flowers with Ino, staying there for hours, just chatting until they saw the sun set and ran off to their respective homes before their mothers became upset.
She missed those days.
"Yes?" she asked, half-smiling as she continued reminiscing about her childhood.
"We're here," Naruto grinned widely, propping his arms behind his head. "You sure you're alright Sakura-chan? You seem a little distant tonight."
"I'm fine Naruto," she poked his stomach gently. "Let's go."
She was awarded with another one of his grins as they walked into the small stand.
"That was great," Naruto exclaimed as he rubbed over his stomach as they walked away from Ichiraku. "I can't believe how I've lived two and a half years without it."
"Me neither," Sakura chuckled.
He smiled at her, sky-blue eyes fixated on the roseate kunoichi next to him and then his gaze turned serious. "Are you sure you're alright Sakura-chan?"
"Yes, why?" she asked softly.
"You haven't eaten much… I haven't seen you so down since…" his voice wavered slightly and Sakura knew where this was going.
"I'm fine… I just…miss him," she said evasively.
He nodded slightly. "I know… I do too."
They stopped on near the crossroads and Sakura smiled. "I need to go left here."
"I know," Naruto grinned. "Want me to take you home?"
"I'll be fine Naruto," she smiled slightly before stepping towards him.
She ignored his shocked look as she wrapped her arms around him gently, pressing herself against him in a last ditch attempt to memorize the texture of his clothing, the way he smelled like spicy ramen and the way he held her in his arms as he wrapped his own arms around her.
"What did I do to deserve this?" Naruto whispered softly in her ear, making Sakura hold on to him tighter. She never wanted to let go of him; she was secure in his arms and he would protect her from everything, she was sure of it.
If only she loved Naruto.
If only she could forget about Sasuke.
And then the waterworks started, and Sakura cried on Naruto's shoulder as he whispered gentle, soothing words in her ear while stroking over her back. He never asked why she was crying, he just held her in his arms for those precious minutes as she clenched and twisted Naruto's Chuunin uniform in her hands, never wanting to let go.
It took her several minutes to calm down and several more to finally gain the willpower to let go of him.
She was afraid to look him in the eye, afraid that he might see through her instantly. But his hand cupped her chin gently before pushing it up, forcing her to look up and see the sad smile that adorned his lips.
"Don't worry Sakura-chan," he said, voice still as strong as ever. "My promise is still valid. I'll bring Sasuke back."
"I know you will." And I hope you'll bring me back too.
"You sure you want to go home alone?" Naruto's voice was tinged with concern. "It's no problem for me to take you home."
"I'm sure," she said calmly, forcing herself to smile.
"I'll see you tomorrow then," Naruto grinned at her, before clasping her shoulder. "You take care alright? It'll be fine, trust me."
"See you tomorrow," Naruto smiled before turning around as he walked away towards his house. Halfway around, he turned around and waved at her before turning around again.
Sakura just watched him as his form slowly blended and disappeared in the dark shadows.
When she got home, her mother was asleep already. Sakura wasn't surprised; her mother went to bed early and woke up early just to make her daughter's breakfast.
Stealthily, she opened the door to her mother's bedroom, and slipped inside before sitting down on the ground, watching her mother's sleeping form.
Biting her lip to quell the tears that were threatening to spill, she gently stroked her mother's hair, making sure that she wouldn't wake up before turning around.
It hurt to know that this would be the last time she would ever see her mother.
Casting one last, lingering look over her shoulder, she sneaked out of the room and walked the stairs up to her room.
She opened the wooden door and walked straight to her closet, knowing that if she stayed any longer, her resolve would fade and she would end up staying in Konoha, rather than searching for Sasuke.
She grabbed her backpack and quickly stowed some of her clothes in it, bandages, a couple of medicines and some anesthetics and finally, the picture of Team Seven.
She glanced at it, longingly as she touched Sasuke's photographed head, enjoying the feel of the cool glass against her warm fingertips.
"Soon Sasuke-kun…" she whispered as she packed the picture.
Glancing around her room for the last time, she refrained herself from crying as she stared at the picture of her and Ino.
She would definitely miss Ino.
She didn't even had the chance to say goodbye.
She trembled slightly as she grabbed two pieces of paper from her desk and hastily scribbled a goodbye note for her mother and one for Naruto.
Sakura knew he would understand. He would hate the fact that she was gone too, but she knew he would understand why she left. Perhaps the one most understanding of her feelings was Naruto.
Placing the two pieces of paper on her bed, she heaved her backpack over her shoulder and turned around without even a second glance. She closed the door behind her and looked around her house before she walked down the stairs as quietly as possible.
She toyed with the thought to see her mother again, but she knew that doing so would only lead into more tears and questions if her mother accidentally woke up and saw her daughter sitting next to her bed, crying her eyes out while carrying a backpack on her shoulder.
Therefore, she settled with touching the wooden door of her mother's bedroom for a while, wishing things could be different before she turned around and left the house.
Luckily, she didn't live far from the gates of Konoha. Sakura wasn't sure how much pain she could handle and for a second actually envied the missing-nin who had carelessly turned their backs against their villages and left to live by themselves.
Vaguely, she wondered how many of them regretted leaving.
She strolled past the academy again, smiling slightly as she remembered all her fond memories in the classroom when everything was still simple. When she would still bicker with Ino about who could sit next to Sasuke.
If she had known that the Chuunin exam would be such a disastrous event for all of them, Sakura wouldn't have shown up. She would have stopped after the written exam, not giving Orochimaru a reason to find Sasuke. She would have protected all of them from the events that happened afterwards.
If she hadn't entered, Sasuke would have never caught Orochimaru's eye and none of this might have happened. There would be three people dining at Ichiraku tonight, rather than two. She could still ask Sasuke if he would go out with her, and perhaps after knowing her for years now, he would say yes.
Sakura knew this was all just a fairytale, but how she wished it could be reality.
She walked past the garden of flowers, picking of the cosmos flowers and smelled it's fresh scent as she placed it, lovingly, inside of her backpack. She would dry the flower later on and keep it as a memento for Ino.
Finally, the gates that led to Konoha's exit came into vision, and with that, the road where her hopes and dreams were crushed; where she had confessed her love for Sasuke and he had declined her once again.
She turned around.
There was still time to go back. This was foolish; she would say goodbye to everybody for Sasuke. She would leave her village, where she had build up a career as a medic-nin, the village where she had turned into a Chuunin.
And for what?
To help a lost boy find her revenge for his older brother? To help him train? She wasn't even sure what she would do once she arrived in Sound.
"Don't worry Sakura-chan."
She shivered slightly as a cool night breeze passed her.
"Don't worry Sakura-san… It'll be fine, I know it will turn out fine. Naruto-kun gave you the 'Nice-guy' pose after all."
"Lee…" she whispered slightly, remembering how he had tried to cheer her up after the three Genin left to search Sasuke.
"Sakura… Don't worry, everything will turn out fine."
And she took a step back to Konoha.
She was right, this was foolish. Someday, they would all combine their powers and they would bring Sasuke back. This wasn't worth it.
She could lose her life if ANBU found her. For all she knew; Orochimaru or any other Sound-nin would kill her if she arrived there. There was no telling what would happen in the future and it scared her.
In Konoha she would be safe.
In Konoha, she still had everyone else.
She took another step back to Konoha.
She could still hear his voice calling out to her. If she closed her eyes now, Sakura could imagine Sasuke still standing in front of her, his back turned to her, the Uchiha emblem colored in such vivid colors compared to the dark night.
Sakura remembered everything he had told her that night.
He wasn't like her or Naruto… His heart had chosen revenge above them… He found her to be annoying…
He had thanked her…
She turned around and bit her lip as she stared at the gates that loomed in front of her.
She clenched her fist slightly and took a step towards the gates, steeling her resolve.
Sakura took another step and looked over her shoulder one last time before tears started to sting in the corners of her eyes and she turned back towards the gate and ran over the stone pavement, jaw clenched so hard that it hurt as she ran past the gate and left her home village.
"Sakura-chan," he knocked on her door as he yelled her name.
This was the second time that she didn't open up immediately and Naruto was getting worried. Usually her mother was home around this hour, and although she still stared him suspiciously, probably thinking that the Kyuubi might pop up any minute, she would always go to Sakura's room and get her to hurry up.
Then again, maybe she was already at the Hokage tower.
With one last scrutinizing look and the awful feeling that something was wrong, Naruto started sprinting towards the Hokage's headquarters; fully aware that he was fifteen minutes late and Tsunade would give him hell.
He dashed past Izumo and Kotetsu, hearing them yell and swear loudly as they dropped the stack of papers they were holding. He yelled an apology back and ran into the headquarters, nearly bumped into Shizune and earned some swearing from her as well.
He apologized quickly before finally reaching the room where Tsunade's office was located.
Without knocking first, he opened the door violently and stepped in, before realizing that Sakura wasn't there.
Instead, Sakura's mother was there, crying quietly and Kakashi was standing in front of Tsunade's desk and had turned slightly to see Naruto enter.
And then it hit him that something bad had happened.
"… What's going on?" he asked, voice faltering slightly. "Where's Sakura-chan?"
"Sit down," Tsunade directed and Naruto immediately spotted the waver in her voice, contradicting the stern manner she regarded him
"What happened?" Naruto asked again, ignoring Tsunade's orders.
"Naruto," Kakashi spoke up, tone serious. "Sit down."
Naruto gave Kakashi an exasperated glance as he stalked forward and sat down on one of the chairs. "Well?"
Usually, Tsunade would rant at him that she was the Hokage and that his bratty little self needed to show her some damn respect, but to his utter surprise, she only sighed forlornly.
"Sakura left Konoha," she said, hiding her face from view as she tried her hardest to overcome the emotions that were in danger of escaping.
Hokages don't cry.
It remained silent after that statement. The only thing Tsunade could still hear were the sobs of Sakura's mother and the harsh breathing of Naruto.
Naruto's world was shattered in that instant.
Everything made sense now.
He understood why she held him so tightly last night, why she had agreed to go on a date with him. Naruto even understood why she cried and why she found it so hard to let go of him. It all made sense.
But he wasn't willing to admit it.
Sakura wouldn't leave. Not after all that they'd been through together. Not after all the promises they made to bring Sasuke back and hit him until he was knocked out and they dragged his sorry ass home.
She could have the first go… he promised that.
Maybe she hadn't left the village… Maybe there was something else going on.
Was it his fault for leaving Sakura alone yesterday? Was she attacked?
"What are you saying Tsunade-baachan…" he whispered hoarsely, chuckling slightly. "Where did she go to? The mission already? Was it because I'm late?"
"You know what I meant," Tsunade said harshly.
"She wouldn't leave," Naruto whispered like a mantra before yelling it out to Tsunade as he rose from his chair. "She wouldn't leave! We were going to bring back Sasuke together!"
"Naruto," Kakashi said his name half-threateningly as he laid one of his large hands on Naruto's shoulder and pushed him back on the chair. "You're talking to the Hokage," he said firmly. "Show some respect."
"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto rose his voice desperately. "You know that she would never leave! Say something!"
"Calm down," Kakashi said in a low voice, thought Naruto could swear he heard a sympathetic tone in his voice. He heard his teacher sigh softly and clenched his teeth painfully hard in frustration before fixing his gaze back on Tsunade.
"How do you know she's gone by her own free will?" Naruto searched desperately for another solution to the mystery surrounding Sakura's disappearance. "Maybe someone kidnapped her!"
"She left a note," Sakura's mother finally spoke up, voice quivering somewhat as she stared at Naruto through her tears.
From the corner of his eyes, he could see that Tsunade was finally looking up as well.
Shocked, he muttered the only thing that he could at that moment. "What did it say?"
Wordlessly, she fumbled to get something out of her pocket, before thrusting it to Naruto, who accepted the small scrap of paper wordlessly. Still staring at Sakura's mother in puzzlement, he opened the letter and stared at Sakura's hastily scribbled handwriting.
I'm so sorry Naruto.
He trembled slight as tears started to well up in the corners of his eyes. No matter how hard he tried to be strong, this always happened for some reason. He tried protecting everybody and yet failed to protect the two people closest to his heart.
And he was supposed to become a Hokage? Someone who could protect an entire village?
He wasn't even fit to protect his own friends.
Tears dripped down from his nose onto the paper, staining the ink. The tears blurred his vision as he crumpled the letter in his hands, unaware of the fact that Tsunade had stood up and was walking towards him with a sympathetic and sad look in her eyes. Unaware to Kakashi's hand which had involuntarily gripped his shoulder somewhat harder. He was even oblivious to the fact that Sakura's mother was crying again.
"Why…?" he asked to nobody in particular.
"Why what?" Kakashi asked gently, the firm tone from before gone.
"Why is everybody leaving me?"