(A\N: Wow. I didn't think I would get this to you so quickly. I'm going to love summer break! Enjoy!)
Sakura's brows furrowed in annoyance as she rolled over on the bed. She could feel the heat of the sun coming through a window, hitting her bare back. The sheets were crisp and cool. Her body felt exhausted and her muscles ached slightly. But that wasn't what had awoken her.
No, it was the fact that someone was licking her cheek. And that someone had a very cold nose and a rough tongue.
Itachi? What the hell?
She opened her eyes, only to meet soft brown. She blinked a few times, before her face was attacked once more by a rough tongue. She let out a sputtering yelp as she sat up, holding the excited little ball of fur at arms length.
It wriggled in her grasp, trying to reach forward to lick her again. She stared down at the thing in confusion. It was a little Akita puppy, with powder white fur. Its tail wagged as it seemed to notice her endearing gaze, and he looked up at her with those big puppy dog eyes that always turned her to mush.
"Hello little one." Sakura greeted. Something inside of her constricted at the sight of the dog. It reminded her of little Naruto. "How did you get in here? I don't see Itachi as the type of person to own a little puppy." She laughed at the thought as she placed the pup in her lap, scratching his ear absentmindedly. Hit rough little tongue licked her hand as she did so.
She looked around Itachi's room with a wandering gaze. He wasn't there, but she hadn't really expected him to be. Staying to hold her well into the morning so that they could wake up next to each other would have been too good to be true. By the height of the sun, she guessed that it was closer to noon then morning, and she must have slept in.
That was when she spied the small scroll on the table beside the bed. She wouldn't have paid it much attention, except for the fact that it had her name written on it. She looked around the room for a moment, as if just waiting for Itachi to enter and reprimand her for going through his things.
After a few moments of silence, she grabbed the scroll and unraveled it.
This dog followed me home from training and I thought you might want it. The dog looks hungry. Feed it.
Sakura grinned at that, as she looked down at the little dog, feeling happy tears sting the corners of her eyes. She petted his smooth fur and laughed. "You aren't from the woods, little pup. But I won't tell Itachi he was being sweet. It'll just embarrass him." She had seen the well-groomed fur and knew the little puppy had been bought, not found.
But if Itachi wanted to pretend he had just found it and gave it to her because it was annoying then she would let him.
Itachi…She really was speechless. He had actually bought her a dog. She had read between the lines of his little note. Perhaps she was even reading too much into it, but the soft question of forgiveness for destroying little Naruto was blatantly apparent.
And that fact made her smile. The small knot of worry in her chest loosened, and it was replaced with a strange something that fluttered where her heart was. She had been so afraid that it would be over and he would want nothing to do with her after he'd taken her. But…the puppy was a silent promise to her.
A promise that he wasn't going to leave…even if he wasn't there in the morning.
She slid out of bed, grabbing the closest thing she could find to clothing and slipping it over her head. She found herself in Itachi's shirt, which hung to her hips.
She picked up the pup, hugging it to her as she whispered, "You don't know how special you are to me, little pup." He began to lick her cheek and she laughed again. "I'll have to find a name for you, won't I? Well, before I feed you, let's go to my room and get changed. Then we'll head to the kitchen for some food, alright?"
The little dog gave a small yip which she took as a yes as they headed out the door.
Deidara walked down the hall and stopped in front of Sakura's room for the second time that morning. The first time had been earlier that morning to see if she could relieve the throbbing between his eyes and the knot on his head where he'd apparently hit it on the floor.
But the first time he'd gone, she hadn't been there.
He gave a sad smile, one full of pain and acceptance. He'd realized where she was instantly. It wasn't hard to sense her chakra signature, that soft and subtle presence that he'd always searched for wherever he went.
In Itachi's room.
He gave a soft sigh as he lifted his hand to knock. He was rather proud of himself for accepting it as well as he had. Strangely enough, he was happy that Sakura was happy, even if Itachi didn't deserve her.
She was the one thing he believed he actually cared about now, and he just wanted to make her smile.
He heard her soft laughter come from her room, unconsciously making Deidara smile. Her laughter always did that to him.
Maybe Sasori was right. Art lasted forever, as painful as it was sometimes. His love for Sakura would never diminish. It would remain and he would hurt when he saw her with Itachi, but he would be happy for her too.
Of all the people in the world Sakura deserved to be happy.
And Deidara would be there for her, whenever she needed him. He gave a small smile as he knocked.
He opened the door with another thought and a grin. The moment I see a rift in your relationship, Itachi, I'm going to do everything in my power to take her from you.
"Oh! Deidara!" Sakura smiled at him brightly, and he didn't think he'd ever seen her smile like that before. "How are you feeling?"
"I've been better, yeah." Never stop smiling like that Sakura...
We're rivals, Itachi. You and me, yeah…
And I think I like it that way, for now.
"You look like your head hurts, here, let me see." He felt her cool, efficient medic-nin fingers brush across his brow and he resisted the urge to close his eyes to savor the feeling.
He just smiled at her.
"Thanks Sakura-chan, yeah."
Itachi Uchiha was sitting on the ground, leaning against the tree trunk in the middle of the clearing. He'd awoken earlier that morning to the strange sensation of someone breathing against his neck.
Sakura had been curled against him, hands on his chest. He had merely stared down at her for a moment, before slipping out from beneath her cautiously since he did not wish to wake her.
Sakura Haruno in his bed. The picture would forever be etched in his mind, of that moment when he had looked back from the open doorway to see her sprawled across his mattress, the sheets tangled around her body and her mussed hair hanging in her face. He liked the picture.
But Itachi Uchiha also hated it. It showed his weakness that he had developed due to the pink-haired kunoichi from Konoha. He hated that weakness. But…he also realized that perhaps having a weakness merely meant he was human.
For a long time he'd wondered about that. He had ruefully joked silently that he was born a demon. Surely no human could be as heartless as he was. It would explain his readiness to kill the people who had brought him into this world. But he had a weakness now. He was utterly human.
He heard her soft laughter floating through the house, followed by a soft yip of excitement. He smirked at the sound.
"Dammit kitten! Tell that puppy to shut the hell up! Some of us are trying to sleep!" Kisame's roar echoed throughout the base.
"Don't talk to Sakura-chan like that, yeah!" That was Deidara, still trying to defend her—which continued to irk Itachi.
"Haruno-san will most likely be hungry. Perhaps you two could stop bickering long enough for her to eat?" Sasori had intervened before someone was seriously hurt, just like always.
"Just as long as she doesn't eat loudly." Came Kisame's pained whine.
"Oi, Kisame. Let me fix your head before you bite someone else's off." Came Sakura's bland reply, a teasing undertone to her voice, as if she were enjoying his discomfort to a small extent.
She's turned them into an annoying family. Itachi thought as he stood, his Akatsuki robe shifting beneath him. Shinobi do not need families.
They do not need attachments.
He stopped for a moment, his hand resting against the wooden column of the porch.
But even shinobi are merely human.
Another small smirk appeared as he headed into the house. He could imagine the look Sakura would give him—an averted glance and a bright blush as she stuttered out a greeting or a thank you for the dog.
I will not let you be a weakness to me, Sakura Haruno.
I will merely train you until you are no longer a hindrance. He tried to sound annoyed at the idea, but in truth, he wasn't. Training Sakura would certainly be…interesting. When you are no longer a hindrance, you will no longer be a weakness.
He entered the tea room, seeing all four of them seated at the table, a small white ball of fur sitting in Sakura's lap. Their eyes met and he smirked as he saw the blush before she looked away, stuttering out a greeting.
I said you were strong, Sakura Haruno. Now I will make you stronger.
He was the Uchiha prodigy after all. He could do whatever the hell he wanted to. He watched Sakura from the corner of his eye as he sipped his tea.
Starting with Sakura Haruno.
The thought gave him more pleasure then it should have. For some odd reason, he wanted the day to end quickly. The sooner it was night, the sooner he could taste his blossom once again.
It was if she sensed his thoughts, or perhaps she had actually read his mind, for she stood hurriedly. "I'm going to take a bath. We're heading out in a few hours, right?"
"Yeah." Deidara answered back readily.
She slipped out of the room, and Itachi stood.
"Where are you headed, Itachi?" Kisame asked, sill holding an icepack to the side of his head.
Instead of the usual 'hn', he gave an actual answer.
"Training." And then he left the room as silently as he had entered. Deidara and Kisame shrugged it off, continued to fight over who deserved the last rice ball.
Sasori merely smiled to himself, giving a soft chuckle that went unnoticed by his two companions. Training indeed, Itachi.
The last time Sasori had checked, the training grounds were nowhere near the bathhouse.
(A\N: It's finished! The second installment in the trilogy has officially ended. Now on to the third story!!!!!
So, here are my projects for this summer:
Maelstrom the third story of the Ripple in the Pond trilogy
Shades of Grey: my Sasuke\Sakura fic (don't hurt me Sasuke haters!)
The alternate Deidara-Sakura ending (no title yet)…hopefully. (I will have to feel inspired to write that one, so it might be later)
I hope you have all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I've loved developing the relationship between Sakura and Itachi and I hope to continue loving it as I make their relationship grow in the next story.
I want to thank all of you (your reviews kept me going). I can't tell you how much I appreciate you all.
Question: Why do gas stations lock their bathrooms? Are they afraid that someone is going to clean them?)