Senko: ...-attempts to dodge knives being thrown at her- ;; I'm so sorry for such a late update. I really wanted to finish this story asap because I know how it'll end in my head already and heck it's already planned out in my notebook D: but I was busy. And when winter break arrived, it was one of my goals of this winter break to finish this story. But starting in December, my ghey ass comp wasn't functioning properly -.-; and then it just broke! O.o it wouldn't work! And I finally got it fixed just now.

Many thanks to fujifangirl101, akatsuki's hikari, renyun, ReemyCreamy, Shy-Princess, Deidaras Masterpiece, aznkitty180, Mayumi Crescent Moon, Hao'sAnjul, kattylin, MistressBlossom, Uchiha Kari, LadySakuraForest, princessai4ever, itachi-sama a.k.a cathrun, sakura asakura, whiteinu1, Sw33t.Stuff.Sakura, Gothic Saku-chan, Heartless Ghostie, .My.Beautiful.Rescue., saiyan prince1, deviltwit, ayane04, Emo Vanpire Princess Bella, IHateTheLog, Anita Tseu, kit, unbeatablehinata, silverXakaXtsuki, Kinomi-chan, 43InuAsha, Zephyrette, Sailormooninukag, Lulu2006, shadox, EmeraldEyes69, XxAnime HokagexX, xXCute SakuraXx, and Agata for reviewing:)

And as always, special thanks to my awesome beta-reader Alphadale :D

Disclaimer:Me no own. Duh.



Chapter 11



Step. Step. Step.


Step. Step.

Naruto flopped down on a nearby chair, situated just beside the hospital room's door. One thing he never liked about hospitals was the silence. Every step he took in his pacing back and forth would echo in the long, quiet hallway. He shut his eyes briefly for a few seconds before opening them again, standing up, and facing the door, the tips of his fingers gently touching the cold doorknob.

His hand dropped down to his side.

Just a few days ago it had happened. Sasuke had come to Konohagakure and Itachi had returned to his grown up self. Naruto hadn't wanted to believe in it at all.

He had chased after Sasuke, who chased after the fleeing Itachi. When he was brought back to the village, he was questioned whether or not Itachi had regained memories. He wanted to say 'no,' that it seemed like Itachi was about to but didn't and that all it would take was another dose of the age drug to win Itachi back.

But he couldn't.

So here he was, in front of his female teammate's hospital room, internally debating whether or not he should tell her. He didn't want to lie to her or never tell her, but at the same time he knew he would be unable to watch her as he tells her that one of the most important people around her has yet again left her. She should be conscious from the attack of the Mangekyou Sharingan by now.

Naruto let out a soft sigh. Perhaps he should give this more thought.


Naruto whirled around to be met with a kunoichi much similar to him, possessing the same golden hair and blue eyes. "Oh...hey, Ino."

Ino smiled gently at him. "Aren't you going to go in?"

His eyes casted away to the side. "I don't know."

One week later.

"Good morning, Ino!" Sakura beamed.

"Eh...uh, morning...Fore-...uh, Sakura," Ino replied.

"Ah, I hate how it's so hot. I'm thinking that we should all take a trip to the beach," Sakura said, leaning over the various flowers of the Yamanaka Flower Shop.

"I...suppose so," Ino said. "Who are you getting flowers for?"

"For Lee-san. He's in the hospital again from his last mission and he's hurt pretty badly," Sakura picked out a few daisies. "I'll take these. How much will it be?"

Ino sighed. "Zero dollars."

"Really!" Sakura exclaimed. "You haven't allowed me free flowers since our ninja academy days! Thanks so much, Ino. How about if I treat you to lunch today?"

"Yeah, sure," Ino smiled.

"Alright then. See you at lunch," Sakura skipped joyfully out the flower shop.

Ino watched as Sakura left, frowning. "Sakura..."

"Hey, Ino," Shikamaru said, entering the shop. "Sakura was just skipping around with some flowers. She seems to have recovered rather well. You look kinda sad. Argued with Sakura again?"

"No, no," Ino smiled weakly.

"I get the feeling this is the part where I ask what's wrong..." Shikamaru muttered. "But that's too troublesome, so I'll see you later!"

He turned to the door, but the way his blonde teammate gave no demand for him to stay bothered him. Normally he would try to stay away from depressed or angered females, but now was not the time. She needed someone. He sighed. "Alright, what's wrong?"

"Sakura's so happy..."

"You don't want that?"

"No..." she murmured. "Just...I heard some stuff from Naruto. A week ago, we told Sakura about Itachi's memory gain. I had expected for her to cry and break down, but she didn't. In fact, she didn't really do anything. She just smiled and she acts as though nothing as happened."

"I see..."

"It bothers me that she's so polite and happy about it. The day after we told her about it, she recovered immediately and demanded to start working again. I don't know why she's like this. I know she must be sad inside. Why won't she tell anyone?"

Shikamaru sighed. "Seems to me that her being polite and happy and skipping around is her way of replacing the sadness. Just go with the flow, Ino. Maybe all she needs is everyone else's happiness and love."


"This is so troublesome..."

"There you go, Kiba. Just be careful with your arm now," Sakura said.

"Thanks a lot, Sakura," Kiba beamed.

The turning of a doorknob stole the two's attention and they looked toward the door to see none other than the Godaime. Sakura smiled. "Good afternoon, Tsunade-shishou!"

"Hello, both of you. Sakura, I see you're doing well," Tsunade said.

"Of course I am."

"Just take it easy, alright? And if you need a break, just tell me."

Sakura frowned slightly. "Take it easy? Need a break? I'm perfectly fine, Tsunade-shishou. In fact, I think I should do more."

"Do more?"

"Yes. I haven't been on a mission in a while."

"There are no missions for you. Perhaps in a few weeks there might be but right now-"

"I think Sakura should get a mission," Kiba interupted. "She's one kick ass medic. If she was on that mission with my team, I bet I wouldn't have to suffer with my arm injury the entire journey back to Konoha!"

"Yeah, shishou, I'm needed out there in the shinobi world."

Tsunade sighed. "Alright...I'll let you go along with Ino's team on their mission. They're leaving in a few hours, I think."

"Okay, so is everyone ready?" Shikamaru asked, standing at the entrance of Konoha in front of the gate. "Eh...Ino, why do you keep glaring at me?"

"Because you're smart like her!" Ino glowered deadly. "STUPID SAKURA!!! How dare she invite me to lunch and not show up! I got dressed and I was all waiting for her!! ARGH!!"

Chouji opened a new bag of chips. "Well, she is pretty busy with the hospital."

"That is no excuse!"

"Hello, everyone!" Sakura's voice rang.

All three pairs of eyes turned to see the pink-headed kunoichi coming towards them. Ino blinked. "Forehead? YOU DITCHED OUR LUNCH!"

Sakura stopped, gasping. "Oh my gosh...that's right! I'm so sorry, Ino! Kiba was my last patient and I was about to come get you but Tsunade-shishou showed up and she told me that I could come along with you guys on your mission. I was so excited I left home to pack."

Ino inhaled deeply. "Fine. I guess that's a reasonable excuse."

"So what are we doing for this mission?" Sakura asked.

"We're just going to guard a family. They think they are going to be attacked, but Godaime-sama says chances are they won't be attacked. The family always bothers for shinobis because they are paranoid, and so far they haven't been attacked at all," Shikamaru answered.

It took the group only a few hours of traveling to reach their clients' home. Their clients lived not too far away from Konohagakure, so they were able to travel the afternoon and reach their destination by dusk.

"Hello," a middle-aged woman smiled. "Thank you so much, kind shinobis. We have faith that you will keep our humble family safe."

"Konoha shinobis are the best," an old man, perhaps the father of the woman, smiled. "Please keep us safe."

"You flatter us," Shikamaru answered. "Anyway, we'll do our best to protect you."

A gentle tug on Sakura's skirt drew her attention. It was a little girl, perhaps around seven or eight years old. "You're prettyful."

Sakura smiled, squating down to each the girl's eye level. She gave the girl a gentle pat on the head. "You're very pretty too."

"Is your hair real?" she asked.

"Mimi!" the girl's older brother snapped. "Of course it's real!"

Sakura let out a small giggle.

Sakura dropped herself onto the bed. There was only one spare bedroom containing a single bed. The room itself was rather plain. They had decided that the two girls would share the bed and the two boys would keep watch. Then the boys would switch with them after a couple of hours.

"I wonder if they'll really be an attack..." Sakura muttered.

"Probably not," Ino said, setting her backpack in a corner.

Sakura frowned. "Damn, Tsunade-shishou...I bothered her to send me on a mission because she told me to take it easy and ask for a break if I needed one...she sent me on this mission because she knew there'd be no attacks!"

"Ah, excuse me," the middle-aged woman said from the doorway. Both kunoichis turned to face her, giving her their full attention. "There is a festival taking place. Why don't you guys come along for a bit and have some fun?"

"Oh! A festival!" Ino squealed. "This is the best mission ever!"

Shikamaru appeared by the doorway, followed by Chouji. "Don't get too happy. We're only going to be there for a very short while."

"A festival is a festival," Ino declared. "Therefore, I must be happy."

The woman smiled. "Well then, we will be leaving in about an hour."

"YAY! Festival!" Ino frolicked around, excited by the beautiful lights and various booths. "Sakura, Sakura! Let's go to that booth! Oh, and that one too! And the one next to that looks interesting!"

Shikamaru sighed. "Ino...stop getting too excited. Remember, we're here to guard."

Ino frowned at him. "You're no fun."

The group walked around with a slightly unhappy Ino. Ino had wanted to go around to many other booths, but Shikamaru wouldn't allow her. Sakura followed behind the group, taking in the sight of the festival.

Tug. Tug.

It was the little girl, Mimi. Sakura smiled and took Mimi's hand as they followed behind the group. "Hey there, Mimi."

"Hi," Mimi said shyly. "I wish I had your hair..."

Sakura giggled. "It's not that great. As a shinobi, I have to be able to blend in with my surrounding. If I had your brown hair, it would be a lot easier to hide."

"Ooooooooh," Mimi said. "But if you weren't a ahhh...shi...shining...shine...that thing, then you'd be the prettyfullest girl ever."

"Nuh-uh," Sakura responded. "I can't take your spotlight."

"Do you have a boyfriend?"

Sakura blinked. ", why?"

"My grandpapa always says that my mommy was really pretty when she was young and lots of boys wanted to date her. You're pretty, so you must have a boyfriend."

Sakura laughed. "Well, I'm not that pretty. When I was your age, people used to tease me because of my huge forehead."

"No way!" Mimi exclaimed. "I bet lots of guys like you! Yeah! Maybe they're scared you won't like them 'cause you're too pretty!"

"Is that why you would never feeling an emotion such as love for me? Since you fear me because I am practically a monster and I have the ability to make you suffer to the point you'd wish for death?"

"That can't be true," Sakura said in a low voice.

"I wanna grow up to be prettyful like you or mommy," Mimi beamed. "Pst...wanna know one of my dreams?"

"Hm? What is it?"

"To get that," Mimi pointed to a booth.

The man in charge of the booth grinned at what Mimi pointed to. "Yes, this beautiful two-peice heart necklace is a wonderful couples gift!"

"A two-peice necklace?" Sakura said.

"Itachi, Itachi!" she pointed to an object and turned her head to face him.

He walked up to her to see what she was so excited about.

"Isn't it pretty?" she stared at the object.

"Yeah!" Mimi exclaimed, staring in awe at the necklace.

It was a simply yet beautiful two-piece necklace in the shape of a silver heart.

"I guess necklaces are nice," Sakura said.

"Hey! Sakura and Mimi!" Shikamaru called from ahead. "Hurry up! We don't want to lose you two."

"Sakuraaaaa," Ino drawled. "What were you and Mimi doing?"

"Looking at stuff," Sakura answered. "I'm kind of tired from all this walking. I think I'll go back now."

"What!" Ino exclaimed. "NO WAY! You have to stay here!"

"Actually that would be a good idea," Shikamaru said. "Just don't fall asleep when you get back. Guard the house and we'll return in a little while."

"Awww..." Mimi murmured, letting go of Sakura's hand.

Sakura gave her a gentle pat on the head. "I'll see you guys later then."

With that, Sakura walked away from the group and made her way through the crowd of people. She hated to be reminded of him. The past week, she had done well in forgetting her troubles. It was odd, really. She remembered when Sasuke left, she was depressed and wanted to bring him back. She had done everything in her power to stop him, and when she failed to stop him, she tried everything to get him to return.

But this was different.

When the news hit her that Itachi had regained his memories and had left the Leaf, she couldn't find it in herself to cry or break down. Perhaps it was because she had been expecting it all along.

She was hurt, but it wasn't the kind of hurt that could be identified with tears. It was that kind of hurt that, when triggered, would make her heart ache and cry out for salvation, but her mind knew there would be no rescue. Crying was useless because it could not stop the aching.

Sakura brought her hands up across her chest, hugging herself as she walked through the woods. The clients lived in a small house a short distance away from the town, and Sakura had barely noticed now how lonely the road was. She picked up the pace, not wanting to remain there too long for fear that she would remember the events with him.

When the house came into sight, Sakura inwardly smiled in relief and half ran there, turning the doorknob to enter the house.


Something wasn't right.

When they had left the house, she witnessed as the woman locked the door. When she was leaving everyone else to return to the house, she forgot to ask for the key. Why was it that, without a key and with a locked door, she could open the door?

Quietly, she slid her hand down the holster strapped around her hip and pulled out a kunai. She slowly opened the door and stepped inside, making sure to stay cautious of anything unusual. She was careful to make slow and silent steps as she walked through the rooms of the house.

The last and final room she approached was her group's very own bedroom. There seemed to be nothing unusual. She exhaled in relief and walked forward, about to drop herself on the bed.

She stopped.

Her eyes peered through the window before the bed and laid upon a dark, cloaked figure standing a good distance away. Immediately, she dashed around the bed, opened the window and jumped out. Quickly, she brought herself up after landing, still clenching the kunai tightly in her hand and glowering at the figure.

Then there was a silence.

The rustling of the leaves was the only thing heard as Sakura's glower slowly faded away and her mouth parted slightly as she gazed at the red eyes.

She was unsure of what to say. Should she say his name? Should she greet him? Should she fight?

His foot steps drew her attention away from her thoughts, causing her to blink and focus on him. She could only keep silent as he strolled towards her with slow, lazy steps and with each step that brought him nearer to her, she found her breath pacing faster.

He stopped approximately a feet in front of her and her head now lifted slightly to meet his mesmerizing crimson eyes. He wasn't the young boy she had been spending months with anymore. He was taller than her, a lot more powerful and deadly, and even more attractive than before.

Sakura let out a small gasp when she felt his left hand lay on her shoulder, and ever so slowly she found herself gently pushed against his chest. Her hand clenching the kunai unintentionally let the kunai slip through and fall to the ground. "I-"

Her sentence was cut off in the very beginning by her sudden loud gasp in pain and she drew back from him. She glanced down to see he had slashed her thigh with a kunai, and in the blink of an eye he had grabbed her by the arm and slashed it. He dropped her arm.

Ignoring her glare at him, he leaned over to her side and whispered silently. "When the family returns, tell them an Akatsuki member took the scroll. You fought to the best of your abilities but I escaped."

With that, he turned around and began to walk away, leaving Sakura to fall to the ground. She didn't cry when he left or when Naruto and Ino told her about him regaining memories, but now she felt her eyes sting. Now, she felt the tears roll down her cheeks.

"W-Why don't you...Why don't you just kill me?" she muttered through her quiet sobs. "Why give me mixed signals, attack me, and then leave me to suffer?"

He stopped in his tracks and for a moment she sat there on the ground staring at his back.

(1) "Simply because I have the body and life of my twenty-year-old self does not mean that I have forgotten my twelve-year-old self," he said, and then proceeded to walk away.

"I'm very terribly sorry," Sakura apologized.

The old man sighed. "Well, I guess it's alright. I knew shinobis were after my family scroll. I wanted to keep the scroll safe, but I was more concerned that the shinobis would attack my family. The good thing everybody's safe. It's not a mission failure, since you did fight off that Akatsuki member so in other words, you did guard us."

"I suppose," Shikamaru answered.

"Say, Sakura, who was the Akatsuki member?" Chouji asked. "Maybe if we tell Godaime-sama, she can send someone to try and retrieve it."

"I don't know," Sakura answered quickly. "It was dark. I couldn't see him."

"Well, do you remember what he looked like?" Chouji asked.

"Ahhhh let's just go sleep now!" Ino interupted.


The room flash for a split second and brightened, allowing Sakura to view it. She hadn't been in Itachi's room ever since his departure. His door had always been closed, and so when she was released from the hospital and returned home, she didn't even bother to enter it.

His room was clean as always, unlike Naruto's messy place. She had expected it of him though, seeing has responsible and neat were two of the many verbs that described him. Something was wrong, though. Her fingers found the light switch again and flicked the lights off. Now it was much better. He had always been more of a dark person to her.

She made her way blindly through the room to his bed and gently laid down on it. His scent was still very fresh and for the first time since he left, she allowed herself to feel sad over his departure. She indulged herself in his scent, every inhalation earning tears from her eyes.



Senko: There you have it :) chapter 11! This isn't the end yet, of course :D

1) I uh...totally forgot -.- how old is Itachi? I'm thinking...he's five years older than Sakura, so in the beginning she was 14 and he was 19. He turned back to his 12 yr old self. Then Sakura had her birthday in March, turning her 15. Then in June, Itachi had his birthday and then he turned back to his old's...20, right? o.O;;

Thank you for reading and reviewing :)