Twilight – an Itachi & Sakura story.
Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto
A/N: Final chapter!
Chapter Ten – Endless
There was no rain when they left.
Pein apparently trusted Itachi completely when it came to guarding Sakura and had stopped his relentless storm. Sakura could only surmise that Pein was getting tired as well and that the rain was draining his chakra. After all, it should take a massive amount of power to influence the weather.
"Itachi-san… where are we going?" she questioned silently, drawing the cloak closer to her body, sniffing experimentally to see if the unique scent that belonged to Itachi also clung to the cloak he had lend her.
Itachi moved quickly in front of her, zigzagging through the dense forest like it was child's play. He stopped on top of a large fir tree, half standing underneath the deep shade. He seemed to be lost in though, as if the implications of his actions suddenly reared its ugly head as soon as she had spoken up.
No longer frightened by the Uchiha's very presence, Sakura moved until she stood right in front of him. Curious, she attempted to meet his eyes, trying to attract some attention. But the look in Itachi's eyes was blank, as if he were looking to some place far beyond her. He almost seemed troubled, but then he blinked and the usual alert, scarlet gaze was back as Itachi regarded her quickly.
"… Itachi?" she asked silently, barely audible.
"Be quiet," he answered, his crimson eyes turning to the skies. His eyes narrowed slightly.
"Pein?" she whispered, finding it hard to speak out loud. The lump that hard formed in her throat wasn't going away, no matter how many times she swallowed hard.
"Hm," Itachi said, observing her for a brief second. "We need to make haste. It won't be long now before rain starts to fall."
He started to turn and resume the road that lied ahead of them, but Sakura quickly grabbed his arm. The warmth of his arm radiated through the dark fabric of his cloak, a comforting presence against her cool skin.
"Stop," she said, so quiet that for a moment, Sakura doubted if she had even said the word.
Itachi didn't turn toward her. He stood very still, as if he had turned into a statue on the spot. His muscles felt tense under her touch, and as she let go, he released his rigid pose and turned towards her.
"Yes, Sakura?" he questioned, looking back and forth between her eyes.
"Why are you doing this?" Sakura said, grabbing the front of his cloak as well, desperately wanting an answer. This was a man that hadn't shown her any affection until just a few hours ago, after days of humiliating her and degrading her. There was no way in hell that he would just bring her away from Akatsuki and ask nothing in return.
Itachi seemed to read her mind. "I expect something in return. But now is not the appropriate time to discuss the terms of our little exchange." He placed one of his large hands over the hand that was clasping his cloak. "Let's move on."
Before she could even say another word, Itachi grasped her wrist and jumped onto another branch, pulling her along with him, until she moved on her own. His fingers uncurled and let go of her. Sakura stared at his hand, longing for him to touch her again, in that gentle fashion of before.
"Shadowlands," she muttered quietly as they moved away from the forest, through a small piece of barren land. Small bones that belonged to animals lay on the ground and not far from their location could she see a fox searching around for food.
This has been the site of one of the most gruelling and hardest battles between Hakumei and Akatsuki. Though she hadn't actively participated in the fight, Sakura had to heal every single one of the wounded afterwards. Tayuya had been covered in burn wounds and another one of the sound ninja was poisoned to the point where she couldn't even think about saving him.
"Did you fight here?" Sakura asked, following Itachi without missing a beat. They moved across the desolate land fast.
"Look at the trees," Itachi said, pointing with one manicured finger to one of the few dead trees that still stood up straight. The bark was blackened with ash and no leaves adorned the branches.
"Burned," Sakura observed.
"I'm the only one in Akatsuki who uses fire attacks," Itachi said simply.
Sakura glanced at him. "So Tayuya…"
"Tayuya?" he prompted after a short pause.
"She came in with burns all over her body," Sakura said, almost accusingly. She bit her bottom lip, knowing that she made no sense at all. She hadn't cared about Hakumei at all, so why did the fact that Itachi burn Tayuya bother her so much?
Itachi made an amused sound, but didn't reply to her.
They increased their tempo, until she could finally see some living trees in front of her, and birds circling above the tree tops. A river ran near, Sakura could easily hear the musical sound of the stream as it headed downhill and for some reason, she felt oddly nostalgic.
"We move into the forest and then we'll take a break," Itachi instructed simply, jumping from one rock onto another one. He landed on the muddy ground and continued his dash for the forest.
Behind her, thunder crashed loudly and Sakura halted in her steps, turning around to see the storm that raged in the distance. Lightning flashed while dark clouds accumulated into what seemed a circle.
"Pein," Itachi said. He had apparently turned around as he stood next to her, observing the storm. "The jutsu reaches far, but we've outrun it. As long as he doesn't move, we should be able to stay inconspicuous for a little while longer."
"Itachi…" she started, but Itachi silenced her with one look.
"We'll talk later. Let's keep moving until we're a good distance away from the storm," Itachi said curtly. He pointed to the clouds that seemed to swirl into a different direction now. "Pein is moving."
Sakura swallowed hard, but nodded and kept up with Itachi as he sprinted away, crossed the last bit of the barren land that had once been a forest.
Uchiha Sasuke crouched down on top of a branch, overlooking the town he had left so many years ago.
Nothing had changed at all. As the sky bled reds and golds, Konoha was enveloped in bright rays of sunlight. It streamed over the shabby looking buildings and the crooked apartments near the wall that surrounded the city.
The large mountains that were located around the north of Konoha adorned another face and it seemed they finally fixed the fissure that had formed into the Third´s face after Orochimaru's attempt to take over Konoha.
He sat completely still, weighing his options.
Team Hebi was gone; Akatsuki had finished them easily and thoroughly. He had grossly underestimated Akatsuki and had definitely over-estimated the three that he picked up out of Orochimaru's lair.
In the village was the useless idiot he had left behind. But also emotional connections and fears that he had abandoned the second he stepped outside of Konoha.
Sasuke laughed under his breath, bringing a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I have no other place to go," he whispered softly to the wind. To go to Konoha was to face the consequences of his actions, but there was no other place he could go to for training now. Orochimaru had vanished somewhere, presumably dead if Akatsuki had found him.
With a sign, he sat down, propping one knee up, allowing his arm to rest on it while he tapped his lip with his finger.
They stopped near a small creek. Sakura rushed to the water, thankful for the quick break as she splashed water over her face. The icy water felt good against her flushed face. She dipped her hand underwater and drank some, glancing over at Itachi.
His face was set in a blank stare, gaze distracted as he looked over the water.
"Do you recognize this place?" Itachi said eventually, his voice no more than a quiet whisper.
Sakura shrugged. "I don't pay much heed to my surroundings. Trees and trees and rivers are rivers."
Itachi's lips turned up for a split second, but he didn't turn his gaze towards her. He seemed to be a million miles away, even though he was a few feet away from her. Itachi closed his eyes, his long, dark lashes caressing his cheeks.
When he opened them again, they were dark blue.
He glanced at her, then at some point farther away. "If you continue into that direction, you'll be in Konoha by nightfall."
Sakura's hands froze midway as she brought another handful of water to her lips. Her emerald eyes widened as she turned to face Itachi completely, throwing the water back in the creek. Sakura scrambled up and moved towards Itachi until she stood in front of him. "Why would you say that?"
Itachi didn't respond, but simply undid the buttons of his cloak, opening it up. Under the heat of the sun, he was undoubtedly frying inside, but the pause only annoyed her more and more. "Why would you say that, Itachi?" Sakura snapped, her teeth scraping over each other. "You're a cruel bastard."
"Perhaps I'm taking you back," Itachi suggested, taking his cloak off completely before folding it into a neat package.
Sakura shook her head. "No, you're not. Because that would mean you're doing something for someone else. You're incapable of caring, remember?"
"I didn't say it came without a price," Itachi said, leaning forward until his breath washed over her face. The inticing mixture of musk and forest clung to his skin. Everytime she inhaled, it entered her nostrils, rendering her completely useless. This time, she resisted.
"What price?" Sakura said, leaning closer as she glared at him.
Itachi responded by dropping his cloak beside him, and lifting one of his hands up to cup her cheek as the other one snaked around her waist, holding her firmly in place. His calloused thumb stroked her cheek while he observed her. Under his scrutiny, she grew restless and attempted to resist. Itachi laughed softly.
"I'm letting you go," Itachi said, the faint hint of a smile still gracing his perfect lips. His long fingers trailed through her hair, almost as tender as they had the day before. "Because that is what you want, is it not?"
"What is your price?" she breathed onto his lips, desperate to hear the answer while longing to feel more of him against her. Even the soft touches of his hand on her back were driving her insane.
"In the village, the Fourth Hokage left a legacy," Itachi said, lips touching her jaw. With one finger, he tilted her head for better access. "I want you to keep an eye on him. Make sure he doesn't do anything rash."
"Until you come for him, that is?"
He smirked against her overheated skin. "Clever kunoichi."
"Sadistic shinobi," she whispered in his ear.
Itachi laughed deeply and she reveled in the sound of it, wrapping her arms around his waist. Sakura pressed herself closer to him, feeling his hard muscles against her. In return, Itachi's grasp on her tightened as his lips slowly trailed back up her neck, over her jaw to her lips.
Sakura moved her hands until she held his head between them, her thumbs touching the smooth planes of his cheeks. She kissed him back, desperate to make this moment last between the two of them. Her mouth opened against his, but Itachi pulled back.
"Itachi… please…" she resorted to begging. Before she had met him, Sakura had never begged, but it was so easy to get caught up in the moment and remember nothing but his enticing smell and his virile beauty.
He pressed his thumb against her lips and looked at her with his exquisite dark gaze. "Do we have a deal?"
"The Fourth's legacy?" she questioned.
Itachi removed his thumb from her lips. "You'll find out soon enough. Perhaps you were too young when you were taken away from Konoha to know."
"Who is it?" Sakura whispered, leaning closer to inhale his addicting scent.
"You'll find out soon enough."
His grip over her waist loosened as he started to pull away from her. Sakura glanced at him, finding his eyes crimson again. "Is this goodbye?"
"Yes," Itachi said.
"But not forever."
"Will you come for me?" she questioned.
"No. But I will visit from time to time and see how you're holding up our part of the agreement." Itachi glanced at her eyes as he moved away from her.
"But I won't know you're there," Sakura mused out loud, watching Itachi to see if she was right. He looked at her, crimson gaze piercing. His hands settled on her shoulders, watching her without blinking as they moved down, removing the Akatsuki cloak from her shoulders until it fell on the grass.
"No, you won't," Itachi replied.
"Then this is goodbye," Sakura said, half-smiling.
"For you, yes."
She moved closer, pressing her lips against him in one desperate, ditch attempt to memorize everything about him. It was strange that just in one night, everything had changed about Itachi. He was the cruel, ruthless person he always was, but Itachi also had some torturous look in his eye and she could identify with that.
Itachi let her go.
Already his mark was deeply embedded in her and Sakura would owe him for the rest of her life. She was a few hours removed from Konoha; from freedom. All she had to do in return was to follow some legacy around and make sure he was safe.
She could do that.
"What if I don't obey your orders?" Sakura whispered to his lips as he leaned in closer, inhaling the exquisite scent that clung to his warm skin.
Her eyes were closed, but she could clearly feel his smirk against her skin. "You will."
"Will Sasuke be there?" she questioned quietly, pulling back.
Itachi gazed at her for a short moment. "Perhaps."
"Will you kill the Fourth's legacy?" Sakura probed.
"Perhaps," he replied yet again.
"Will you kill Sasuke?" Sakura already knew the answer.
Her eyes widened as she looked up to meet his poignant stare. "What?"
"No," he replied again, his face a complete blank.
"Do you want me to kill him?" Itachi said, the corners of his mouth turning up ever so slightly.
"No," she said, shaking her head. Sakura observed him for a split second, until a thought rooted inside of her head and she was unable to dismiss it. His eyes were telling her nothing, but Sakura knew for some odd reason that he knew exactly where her train of thought had stopped. "Did you kill the clan?"
She expected a quick, calm 'yes', but Itachi yet again proved her wrong. "Perhaps," he said as he grasped her wrists. "Pein is coming. Go, Sakura."
"He will kill you."
"Perhaps," Itachi said again, aggrevating her. He obviously noted the look in her eyes as he closed his cloak again. "Perhaps he's thinking about it," Itachi revised. "But he wouldn't. I'm too important for this organization."
"Who are you, Uchiha Itachi?" Sakura said, frowning. "I don't understand how you can be so cold and so warm at the same time."
"I've never been warm," Itachi replied, his thin lips now hidden behind his high collar. "As for who I am… You know my name."
"And that's all I know about you," Sakura retorted.
"It's all you need to know."
"I'll be your spy and guard the Fourth's legacy. I'll be betraying my village for you."
"Yesterday, you hated me," Itachi said in cold amusement. "A few days ago, you wanted to kill me for touching Sasuke." He stopped momentarily and grabbed her chin with his long fingers, tilting her face up until he could see her emerald eyes blazing. "Today, you want to know everything about me and you don't want to say goodbye."
"Itachi…" she started, but he cut her off by placing a finger on her lips.
"You know nothing," Itachi said simply. "And that's the way it'll stay."
"I will ask Sasuke," Sakura replied.
"Sasuke will say nothing," Itachi responded quietly. "Guard well the legacy, Sakura."
And then he was moving away from her, letting go of her twists as he turned and walked away towards the edge of the meadow they were standing in. Itachi didn't glance over his shoulder as she hoped he would.
A breeze passed by, carrying leaves and sand. Instinctively, Sakura closed her eyes to protect them from the dirt. But as she re-opened them, she was standing alone in the meadow. The only sign that she had ever been with Itachi was the Akatsuki cloak that lay rumpled near her feet.
She picked it up and turned it inside out, not knowing how Konoha's reaction would be to see a cloak from an enemy organization. The crimson of the inside of the cloak oddly reminded her of the Sharingan and she smiled as she lifted up the fabric.
Saying goodbye to Itachi had hurt, more than it should even, but right now, the path in front of her would lead to Konoha. A place where she would be safe. Away from the intrigue of politics, from rogue shinobi and the first brewings of war. A place that had no Pein, or Orochimaru, or anyone else threatening her to kill those that she loved.
Haruno Sakura was free.
Bearing only that one thought in mind, Sakura smiled brightly like she hadn't smiled in years. She accumulated chakra to her feet and moved to the direction that Itachi had pointed out with almost super-human speed, forgetting all about Hakumei and Akatsuki and the humiliations she had endured.
Itachi was right.
Red mixed with dark blue as the final rays of sunlight disappeared beyond the horizon. She had just reached the border to Konoha. A large, imposing wall that she could remember as the outer wall loomed in front of her, fog distorting her vision.
There were ANBU posts all around her, and she was quite sure that it would be dangerous to approach them. Sakura had no passport and she doubted that any of the ANBU members would recall a girl getting kidnapped a decade ago.
Her best option was to go to the Hokage immediately, and then to visit her mother.
Making up her mind, she swiftly climbed into one of the largest trees around the wall until she reached the top. If she would store enough chakra into her feet, Sakura could easily get onto the wall.
The fog was working in her adventage.
Usually, the wall was guarded by chuunin who would see anyone coming there from a mile away, but the mist was thick and with her lightly colored clothing, she wouldn't be seen. Even so, Chuunin moved up and down the wall once in a while, she could see their green vests outlined starkly against the silvery color of the mist.
Sakura inhaled deeply, stored chakra in her feet and made a mad dash to the end of the branch. She flew through the air for a split second, completely free from gravity, before landing with a soft thud on the wall. Without thinking or listening to see if she had been spotted, Sakura jumped off the wall and into Konoha.
Using the very last of her chakra, she sprinted until she was inside of town, hidden between crooked houses and the various restaurants that were opening. Warm lights scattered all across the streets welcomed her and Sakura had to fight to resist crying as she hear someone playing the flute.
The melody was soft and soothing, though it had been almost haunting in her mind. She passed the boy playing it and he gave her a crooked grin as he noticed her stopping in front of him, enjoying the tune.
Sakura smiled back uncomfortably and moved on through the throng of people. A lot of shinobi wandered around, she noted, as she walked past a boy with messy dark hair. He was playing with his enormous white dog, grinning freely. Though he seemed ordinary, he was armed with several shuriken and kunai and his stance was guarded to some degree.
She turned into a smaller street. It was dimly lit and quieter than the street she had previously been in. It was hard for her to orientate; it felt like a million years ago that she had been in Konoha, running around with another girl whose name she couldn't recall.
Sakura passed a couple, hugging each other as they walked past her and into a small ramen stand called 'Ichiraku'. She stood still, pondering if she had any money left as the delicious smell of ramen entered her nose. Just as she made up her mind to walk on, determined to get to the Hokage's office before midnight, a tall, blond boy stepped outside.
He seemed deep in thoughts, but he looked up and regarded her with his cerulean blue eyes before grinning widely at her. "Are you lost?" he asked her, still grinning widely. The three stripes that adorned each of his cheeks moved along with the smile, stretching slightly.
"I… guess I am," Sakura said, smiling back at him. "I need to get to the Hokage's office."
"Visiting the old lady huh?" he replied easily. "It's a bit difficult to explain the way, but I'll walk you there, if you'd like."
"No thank you," Sakura declined politely. She found the boy nice, but she wanted to be alone for a while instead of having to explain everything to a random stranger. "Just the directions will be fine."
"Oh," the boy responded, obviously disappointed. "Well, go straight on from here, third street to the left, then to the right and you'll be right there."
"Difficult indeed," Sakura teased, winking. Surprised with how easy she had teased him, Sakura bit her lip, wondering if she had gone too far. But the boy laughed sheepishly as he folded his arms behind his head.
"Be careful though."
"Hm," Sakura said, looking up to the moon. "It's a bright night. I doubt I'll get in trouble. Thanks for the directions."
"Anytime," the blond said.
Sakura turned to leave, but the boy laid his hand on her shoulder, stopping her halfway. "Hey, I'm Uzumaki Naruto by the way. What's your name?"
"… Sakura… Haruno Sakura," she said.
"Sakura-chan huh? I hope I'll see you again," Naruto laughed as he let go of her shoulder. "I feel like we could be great friends."
Sakura smiled. "I think so too."
He grinned widely at her, ready to ask her some more questions, but he felt the presence of someone approaching and turned around. "Kakashi-sensei, it's been a while!"
Naruto whirled around to introduce Sakura to Kakashi, but she was already gone. He smiled at the open place where she just stood, already having memorized her emerald eyes and bubblegum hair. "Take care Sakura-chan…" he whispered to the night, before dashing towards his teacher.
"That's quite a story," Tsunade whispered, looking at the girl in front of her. She looked exhausted, dark circles under her bright, emerald eyes. But her posture was rigid, as if she was prepared for anything that might attack her. "Haruno Sakura was it?"
"Yes," Sakura answered politely, her fists balled in anticipation.
Tsunade sighed, leaned back in her chair and turned her hazel gaze back to Sakura. "You were abducted when you were a child, escaped from Orochimaru, and found your way back to Konoha, if I understand correctly."
"Yes," Sakura repeated. She had completely left out the part about Akatsuki. To tell someone else about how Akatsuki worked and where they lived, what their abilities were; all of that seemed treachery, especially after Itachi freed her. For some reason, Sakura also felt that Itachi would know she wouldn't mention them.
At that precise moment, another kunoichi witch short, raven hair stepped inside. Sakura recognized her as the kunoichi that Tsunade had sent away the moment she stepped inside and said her name. In her hands was a file and though it was half hidden by the woman's hand, Sakura easily spotted the kanji of her name on it.
"Thank you, Shizune," Tsunade said, accepting the file as Shizune handed it to her.
Shizune bowed before turning to Sakura. "Would you like something to drink?" she asked politely, her flat, dark eyes observing her for a split second.
"No thank you," Sakura replied, smiling ever so lightly.
With another curt bow, Shizune stepped outside the room, closing the wooden door softly.
As Sakura turned to see Tsunade's expression, she noticed that Tsunade was skimming through her file, sometimes stopping to read an entire passage, before continuing the scrutiny. "Your story of being abducted seems to be correct," Tsunade said after a while with another sigh, closing the file.
"However, you were working under Orochimaru for a long time," Tsunade continued, her brown eyes looking back and forth at Sakura's. "I can't trust you just yet. I hope you can understand that."
"I do," Sakura said quietly.
Tsunade nodded in approval. "You'll go through a trial period. If I deem that you're trustworthy, you'll be placed in a team, if you want to continue being a shinobi."
"I do," Sakura replied. "My medical abilties come in handy."
The Hokage nodded again. "I'd like to see those abilities of you. But, we'll save that for tomorrow. I gather you'd like to see your mother now."
Sakura nodded eagerly. "Can I?"
Tsunade smiled for the first time since Sakura had stepped inside her office. "You're dimissed."
Sakura nodded and turned to walk away, but Tsunade's voice stopped her in her tracks. "Oh, and Sakura."
"Next time, use the front gate," Tsunade said with a small grin.
Sakura stood still for a moment longer, searching Tsunade's face. She then bowed deeply and hurried out of the room, through the long hallway until she stepped outside the Hokage's office. Her stride turned into a sprint as she hastily moved past two shinobi carrying boxes, past a blond girl chattering to a somewhat overweight shinobi eating some potato chips.
She moved across the bridge she knew so well, past the Hyuuga household that she passed every day when she was younger. She rushed past the hot springs and a silver-haired man peeping at the women, not caring about repremanding the pervert as she came closer and closer to one of the smallest districts in Konoha.
Passing through another small street, Sakura turned to the left and gasped as she noticed the street where she grew up. It was bathed in moonlight, and the smell of a barbecue restaurant invaded her nostrils.
Though she wanted to run, Sakura walked slowly and carefully towards one of the houses, her eyes fixed on the door. She nearly bumped into a girl with white eyes and a shy stare, but Sakura couldn't care less as she moved past the final few feet, up the few steps.
She stood in front of the door, rehearsing what she would say to her mother. Itachi's face flashed before her eyes and Sakura silently thanked him as she knocked on the door, hesitantly.
"Coming!" called a familiar voice. Sakura's knees buckled under her weight.
The door opened, revealing a woman. Her pink thresses were adorned a slim face, lines of worry and perhaps, hopefully, some of laughter had formed around her eyes and mouth. Her emerald eyes looked so much older than she could remember and her face was set into a disapproving look, until it transformed into a look of shock and finally into one of incredulous joy.
Sakura had prepared an entire speech and would then hug her mother and not let go, but the words stuck inside her throat. A large lump had formed and no matter how many times she swallowed, it would not go away. It was hard to breathe as she looked into the face she had dreamed about throughout those haunting nights in Orochimaru's den.
Finally, she smiled.
"I'm home," Sakura said, tears streaming over her face.
Her mother lunged forward to hug her daughter, incredulous and shocked, but so ecstatic and overjoyed that her enthusiasm quickly moved onto Sakura. She held her mother tightly, enjoying the warmth and the familiar floral scent, freesia perhaps, which always seemed to surround her mother.
They stood like that in the door opening for what seemed an eternity, holding on to each other as they both cried silently. Finally, her mother moved away from her, still crying as her hands moved over Sakura's face. "We should go inside," her mother finally said, another bright smile on her face.
Sakura nodded, allowing her mother to lead the way.
But as she moved inside, Sakura stepped onto something solid.
She glanced down, expecting to see a pebble or something akin to that, but instead saw a small ring. Sakura picked it up, her eyes widening as she noticed the small crimson circle and the kanji for 'red' on it.
Instinctively, Sakura looked around, scanning the perimeter for a flash of black and red, or perhaps to see his crimson eyes peering towards her from some point.
But the street was empty.
Her mother was there, grabbing her hand as she pulled Sakura out of her reverie, looking worried. But Sakura flashed another reassuring smile as her fingers curled around her mother's hands. "Yes, let's go."
With another smile, she pocketed Itachi's ring and followed her mother inside.
A/N: Woah, opening ending huh? I have to confess that's because I originally also had a sequal in mind. I might still write it, but I think I like this ending a lot as well, haha.
Thank you all for reading, it really means the world to me to see people also like to try other stories by me. I was really hesitant to start an AU, but I'm glad I started the project and continued going, even though my muse abandoned me from time to time.
-- Mitsuki Shiroi