Title: deep fried vegetables

Author: paws-bells

Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi

Type: One-shot (Complete)

Genre: Romance/Humor

Word Count: 7059

Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #02, deep fried vegetables

Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.

Summary: Non-massacre AU. Follow up to fiesta. No, Sakura would tell Sasuke a few weeks down the road, I didn't fall in love with your brother because he was an Uchiha. I fell in love with him because he knew how to cook.

Chapter Last Revised on: 13/01/08

"…and so I told Shika that my parents want us over for dinner tomorrow and that Daddy probably wants to give him THE Talk. Surprisingly enough he took it quite well; I half thought that he was going to panic or something. But of course that wouldn't be like Shika." Ino mused with a roll of her eyes. "It's probably too troublesome to worry, knowing him. Don't you agree, Sakura?"

The beautiful blonde turned to her pink-haired companion as they walked down the busy streets of Konoha. Both were returning from a simple B-ranked escort mission and were heading towards the Hokage Tower to hand in their mission scroll.

Distracted emerald eyes focused slightly back onto her best friend.

"Er…yeah. Of course." Sakura sounded so preoccupied that her best friend frowned slightly at her. This wasn't the first time Ino had caught the young medic-nin acting like this.

"Hey, what is wrong with you?" The blonde asked. Something was definitely off with her friend and the Yamanaka was most determined to find out what it was.

Startled by the unexpected question, Sakura blinked and stared at Ino.

"What…do you mean?" The petal-haired female replied cautiously. Had she been that obvious?!

Ino's frown deepened.

"What do I mean?" the blonde echoed. "You are always so distracted nowadays! Something is bothering you, isn't it?"

As always, Ino could be so very astute when she wants to be.

Sakura looked a little trapped. She didn't want to lie to her friend but what was she supposed to say about this odd situation that she had found herself in?


That was as much as a guilty admission according to Ino. Sapphire eyes started to gleam with a sort of curiosity that would not be appeased until everything was revealed.

Placing her hands on narrow waist, the blonde eyed Sakura most speculatively. Her best friend looked unsure and indecisive; obviously this matter was of some great importance to the pretty pink-haired medic and it was confusing her as well. Ino wondered inwardly what this was all about. It certainly couldn't be work-related; Ino knew firsthand that Sakura simply loved working at the hospital. It couldn't be about her boisterous team either; Sakura and the boys got along so amazingly well that it was as if they were really a family. Sai was always teasing her (and earning beatings from her because of it), Sasuke and Naruto were always so fiercely protective of her and Kakashi just watched after all of them like a proud papa.

So what could be bothering Sakura?

Sakura was quite sure that she didn't like the analyzing light in Ino's eyes.

"Is it a man?" The blonde hazarded a guess at last. Even though Sakura was officially single (no thanks to her scarily powerful male teammates) there were certain signs about her that Ino found most familiar. The distracted preoccupation, the slightly dazed look on her face, the confusion…

Sakura was right. She didn't like Ino's wild guess after all. The kunoichi froze.

Ino appeared most intrigued. So it really was a man.

"Who is he?" The blonde was as usual, most blunt in her questioning. Sakura felt herself turn red.

"There is no man." The pink-haired kunoichi denied quickly as she hastened her pace towards the Hokage Tower. She had been out of Konoha for almost four days already. He was definitely going to be on the lookout for her return. Sakura could only hope that he would wait till she had gotten home before cornering her. They were almost discovered that last time!

As if remembering again how he had caught her in the hospital nearly a week ago and then proceeded to nudge her into a deserted room before kissing her stupid, the blush on Sakura's face deepened.

Sharp blue eyes caught that abashed look immediately. Any hope that Ino would leave this be and pretend that nothing had ever happened dropped immediately to nil.

The blonde easily matched her petite friend's brisk footsteps.

"Are you sure?" Ino teased. "That look on your face is not saying the same thing as what you claim, you know. Come on, forehead, who is he?"

Sakura shook her head quickly.

"He's no one." Sakura retorted.

"Oh, so he's not a shinobi, then?"

"I did not say that." A little harried by Ino's insistent questionings, Sakura blurted out before she knew what she was revealing.

Blue eyes gleamed.

"What's his rank then?"

"He's AN-"

Sakura's mouth clicked shut immediately when she realized what Ino was doing. The pink-haired female frowned at her friend. Ino was unrepentant, however.

"ANBU, huh?" The blonde questioned slyly, eyes twinkling with mischief. "Not a bad catch, forehead. And how could you hide a boyfriend from your best friend?"

The flustered kunoichi shook her head once more.

"It's not like that!" Sakura denied fiercely. "We are not…together or anything…"

Ino looked dryly at her best friend.

"Judging by the fact that I haven't heard Naruto and the boys howling for blood yet, I would say that was rather obvious."

Sakura was starting to look quite chagrinned.

"They are a little protective, aren't they?" The kunoichi quickly grabbed onto the chance to change topic.

Unfortunately, Ino was not fooled. The blonde eyed her friend with an arched brow.

"Nice try, but I'm not about to fall for that." Smirking slightly at the comically woeful look on Sakura's face, she continued. "So when did you start having feelings for this mysterious ANBU? And you had better spill it all, forehead, and I may be convinced not to tell the boys what I have just discovered today…"

Immediately, emerald eyes widened with horror.

"Don't do that, Ino!" Knowing her teammates like she did they were definitely going to overreact and harass her until kingdom come if need be. Then the absurdly overprotective measures would come in and they would all happily drive her up the wall with their insane schemes.

She was well and truly cornered by Ino, and boy did the blonde know it. Sapphire blue eyes laughed at her.

"Then you better start talking. Who is he, Sakura?" Ino asked eagerly. This was going to be good, she just knew it. It was such a long time since Sakura was actively interested in a man, and that blush on her cheeks was so rare that Ino was most interested in finding out the identity of this male. Was he someone they all knew?

Sakura bit her lips nervously.

"Can I not tell you his name yet?" Sakura asked. To be honest, the pink-haired female was not at all sure of her standing with her occasional—okay, a lot more than occasional—kissing partner. He had all but implied almost a month ago during the Summer Festival that she was supposed to be his distraction, and as much as the idea was beginning to distress her she just could not seem to say no to him every time he came for her.

Then there were those gentle caresses to her cheeks, the thoughtful look in his normally distant onyx eyes whenever he looked at her…

Sakura was getting so confused.

"…alright." Ino looked intrigued but decided not to push the matter. Sakura would tell her when she was good and ready, and she was more than willing to forsake a name if the pink-haired kunoichi was willing to divulge details in exchange. It made Ino wonder what all the secretiveness was about though. "So where did you meet him?"

Sakura slowed down her pace as the Hokage Tower slowly came into view. The pretty medic-nin hoped that she would be able to satisfy most of Ino's curiosity by the time they got there. There were so many interested ears in the administration building after all and even though he had never expected for her to keep their meetings a secret common sense told Sakura that his clan would not take it very well if they knew what was going on between herself and their powerful, esteemed heir. She knew that they wholly disapproved of her close friendship with Sasuke as it was; it was probably going to become worse if they found out that she had been kissing his brother for the whole of the past month as well. Not to mention the explosive reactions of her teammates…

Sakura winced inwardly just thinking of it.

"…it was at the Summer Festival."

Ino's blue eyes lit up almost immediately.

"Oh!" The blonde kunoichi exclaimed as she recalled the circumstances of that night. "It was when you got separated from us, isn't it?"

Sakura nodded.

"Yes. I told you that I went to the training grounds because it was quieter there, didn't I? Well, he was there even before I was."

"And what happened?"

Sakura shrugged.

"We talked."

Ino arched her brow again.


"Random stuff." Sakura answered evasively, much to her friend's irritation. Ino was willing to overlook that though.

"And then?"

Sakura started to turn pink again when she recalled what had happened next. It was such an intensely private matter to her but she knew that Ino would not give up until she told her something significant.

"And then…we kissed."

Blue eyes widened.

"You…kissed him?!" Ino sounded incredulous. This was Sakura after all, Miss Let's-Be-Cautious-And-Not-Do-Anything-We-Will-Regret!

Sakura nodded, embarrassed.

"It was more like he kissed me." She admitted dryly. She didn't recall having the time to react to his intention.

"And you just let him?!"


Thankfully, she was saved by a most unexpected arrival.

The tall ANBU appeared before the two women so silently and swiftly that none had the time to react to the nin until after he spoke.

"Medic-nin Haruno Sakura," The voice, though slightly muffled by the mask, reeked with cold authority. "Your presence is required at the hospital immediately."

Ino frowned at the ANBU.

"But she had just returned from a four-day mission." The blonde argued. "She shouldn't be put to work in the hospital right away. The exhaustion spent on the road might impair her judgment in the hospital."

"That is irrelevant." The masked shinobi turned his attention towards Ino, and said female was so busy trying to demand an answer from the ANBU that she missed completely the look of recognition that flashed briefly across Sakura's face.

He was here.

There was only one Weasel in the whole of ANBU, and he was it.

Despite herself, Sakura felt a sliver of anticipation whisper down her spine. If she was to be honest to herself she would have admitted that she had missed their little rendezvous—had missed him.

Undaunted by the ninja's arrogant impassivity, Ino was about to take it up with him when Sakura interrupted.

"It's alright, Ino." The kunoichi spoke calmly, stepping away from her friend's side to move towards the tall, masked ANBU with the long raven hair. "I will go if I'm needed. Can you manage to submit the scroll yourself?"

Ino looked insulted.

"What am I, a Genin?" The blonde retorted. "Of course I can submit the scroll myself."

Sakura nodded, then turned to leave with the ANBU.

Then Ino called out.

"And you are not off the hook yet, forehead. I'm definitely going to get the rest of the story from you later!"

Sakura looked dryly at her friend.

"Of course. I wouldn't dream of trying to escape you, Ino."

Then they were gone, the ANBU shadowing her friend closely as Ino watched them disappear across the rooftops of Konoha.

Shrugging slightly to herself, the blonde continued making her way towards the Hokage Tower, absently wondering just who Sakura's mystery ANBU could be. Then one thought led to another and just before Ino entered the admin building a most startling realization occurred to the blonde Jounin.

Since when did ANBUs become messengers as well?

It didn't take much else for Ino to understand that she had just been tricked. That wasn't just any ordinary ANBU! That was the male who had kissed Sakura!!

And she had just let them go without discovering anything about his identity!!

Ino's face screwed up with blatant displeasure.

Oh Sakura, you are not getting off this easily next time!!

The trip back to her home was made so quickly that Sakura didn't quite understand how it happened. Then they were in her apartment and he tugged her into her bedroom immediately. Before Sakura could even gasp she was promptly pinned against her bed. His mask came off quickly and she only had a moment to look at his proud patrician features before he closed the distance between them and proceeded to ravage her mouth with his.

He was unexpectedly urgent this time and she was surprised to realize that so was she. She returned his ardor with equal fervor; tongues dueling passionately, her soft, feminine curves fitting perfect against his lean, taut form as she pressed herself closer to him and snaked her arms around his neck. He nipped and laved at her succulent pink lips and she released a soft breathy cry in response, then he turned his attention to the graceful line of her jaw, trailing lips and tongue and teeth down the smooth, milky curve to reach her neck.

Emerald eyes dropped close at the feel of firm lips against her slender throat, and in automatic response the kunoichi allowed her head loll to the side to give him better access to her. She had learnt quickly over the past month that he seemed to have a most intense preoccupation with that particular portion of her and she didn't mind it one bit. The way he ran his teeth across her sensitive flesh never failed to induce shivers of delight from her and his hot, sucking mouth against the area where her neck meets shoulder always made her whimper with pleasure.

His overwhelming heat and scent of clean rainwater surrounded her completely and it had now become so familiar to Sakura that she happily immersed herself around him. Tentatively, the pink-haired beauty lifted her head slightly and brushed her lips lightly across his ear. It was the first time that she had initiated any contact between them and he paused immediately in his ministrations.

Dark onyx slid over to meet stunning emerald.

Sakura felt herself turn pink, but still she leant towards him boldly and pressed her mouth against his. Their shared kiss was so much gentler than the one before and the kunoichi felt her breath hitch.

They parted eventually, their breathing a little steadier and less erratic than earlier on. Slowly, she dropped her arms from around him and he eased his weight slightly off her. He looked at her with dark, searching eyes.

"Welcome back."

His beautiful tenor was like crushed velvet, and her eyes darkened slightly.


Sakura felt a little awkward. Most of their time spent together so far was either stolen or very short; usually he would corner her (how he always managed to locate her unerringly she still had no idea), kiss her silly and then he would leave. She understood that he had a very tight schedule at the moment; the ANBU had just lost three entire teams to an ambush and while they were still recuperating in the hospital the remaining teams were working overtime in order to cover all their duties and missions.

Therefore they seldom if ever spoke to each other during each of their passionate interludes but that was perfectly alright to Sakura. His touches always conveyed his message to her, and even if it wasn't intentional the sometimes gentle caresses never failed to give her a sense of belonging.

For now, she was with him and even though it was only temporary…

She was only a distraction, a substitute that was supposed to take his mind off the type of assignments that he was always sent to.

The growing hurt in her chest was unmistakable, but Sakura swallowed it and smiled slightly at the tall male hovering above her, watching her intently with sharp, observant onyx eyes.

"…you should go now." Sakura spoke quietly. This was quickly getting very awkward for her. "Your missions-"

"The newly trained recruits came in today." He interrupted her smoothly before she could finish. "Most of the additional assignments had just been handed over to them."

Sakura stared at Itachi. Was he trying to tell her that he wouldn't need her as much now that his mission burdens were lessening again?

For some reason that distressed her. She hid it well enough though—or so she thought.

"That's good." Sakura answered with as much cheer as she could muster. It wasn't much. "I'm quite exhausted by my own mission though; so I'm going to rest now. You should rest too; all those additional duties must have been wearying."

Once again, her voice had softened with concern for him. Then she seemed to remember that she was supposed to get him to leave and so she started to nudge at him. He acquiesced to her unspoken request to be let up, and moved away from her. He didn't go far though, and when she sat up he was but inches away, sitting on the bed beside her and watching her with a most peculiar light in his dark eyes.

"Well, you know the way out; I will see you when I see you again, I guess-"

Her attempt to evade him was glaringly obvious to him—and so was her growing distress. Onyx eyes narrowed imperceptibly.

Sakura was most surprised when he did not leave like she had expected him to. Instead, the powerful Uchiha calmly started to undress himself.

The pink-haired kunoichi could only gape as he shrugged out of his ANBU vest and then proceeded to unarm himself; unstrapping the kunai pouches and shuriken holders with the ease of frequent practice. The senbons were next followed closely by the summon scrolls strapped to his hips. The elbow length black gloves came off last and then he dropped everything onto the floor beside her bed. Clad in only a thin black undershirt and black pants he reached for her and she was too stunned by his actions to resist.

She broke out of her stupor when he started to help undress her as well; tugging off her Jounin vest and removing the various packs of weaponries strapped to her body.

"H-hey! What are you doing?!" Sakura sputtered softly when he easily divested her of her supplies, leaving her only in her red shirt and knee length kunoichi shorts. He didn't reply her with as many words but pulled her down to lie upon the bed again. Then he was beside her, his lean body radiating gentle warmth as he gathered her to him and pressed his face against the crook of her neck.

Sakura was most bewildered.

"I…tachi? What are you-"

He sighed.

"Rest, Sakura."

"But you-"

He lifted his face to hers. She could not help but notice the lines of exhaustion that were etched deeply onto his beautiful face. Emerald eyes softened, and her hand lifted of its own volition to trace the twin marks of stress that ran parallel to his sharp, aquiline nose. He must be tired too; maybe even more so than herself.

"I don't make it a point to invite men into my bed." She muttered at last. As if to acknowledge her point; his hold around her waist tightened slightly. "You are the first actually." She babbled on. "But I didn't really invite you in; you sorta invited yourself-"

"Sakura." He interrupted her with that usual tranquil voice of his. She stopped abruptly and stared at him. "I'm not going to do anything to you. Trust me."

He sounded so quietly compelling but Sakura wasn't worried at all that he would act dishonorably towards her. She wouldn't have allowed him to be here if she was.

"I do trust you." She whispered. And that was the problem. If possible, this new sort of intimacy that they were sharing now felt even more private to her than their previous interludes of passion, and Sakura was scared of her own feelings. She was getting attached, and too fast.

It was going to be hell to untangle herself from him when her time was up, but still…

The pretty kunoichi shifted slightly until she was comfortable before edging closer to his heat. It felt wonderful, and she could really get used to this sort of thing. As if her quiet surrender had relaxed him as well, the powerful Uchiha lowered his head and nudged his nose lightly against the soft skin of her neck before settling there.

"We will talk later." His soft avowal made her feel oddly secured and she nodded slightly.



When Sakura woke up however, he was nowhere in sight.

It was already nighttime and her inner clock was quick to inform her that at least five hours have passed since she was lulled to sleep by his comforting warmth and reassuring presence.

The pink-haired female was most disgruntled.

So much for talking later.

Disheveled from the utterly restful sleep, Sakura was about to leave the bed to freshen herself when she noticed at last that his belongings were still here; piled neatly among hers. Then she scented the smell of food wafting from the doorway of her bedroom.

The kunoichi frowned slightly. What the…

Soundlessly, Sakura crept off the bed and padded out of her bedroom. There was no one in sight in the living area and so she headed straight for the kitchenette.

He was there.

And cooking.

Sakura could only stand at the archway and stare.

Her presence was obvious to him the very moment she appeared and he turned slightly to look at her. Barefooted as well, he had not put on his ANBU vest and he looked so rarely relaxed and at home that she had no idea what to make of this entire situation.

Uchiha Itachi was cooking in her kitchen.

How weird was that?

"What are you doing?" She managed to ask at last.

A dark brow arched up at her ridiculous question, and then he turned back to the stove and proceeded to handle the kitchen utensils with such casual ease that it was absurdly graceful. His quiet confidence lent him an added masculine appeal that was not the least detracted by the fact that he was basically doing domestic chores in her home. It didn't take long for her to decide that unlike his younger brother who could not tell one end of the pot from the other; he apparently knew his way around a kitchen well.

And whatever he was making smelled damned good too. Curiously, she walked to his side to see what was going on. She felt his gaze land upon her for a brief moment before they turned back to monitor the color of the cooking food.

He was making tempura kakiage.

It was almost done. Sakura watched as he switched off the stove before using long chopsticks to pick out the pieces of light golden, deep fried vegetables from the pot. He made quick work draining the excess oil before transferring the food onto a plate.

The tall male stepped past her easily to place the dish on the kitchen table. Sakura noticed that he had already set the table and that there were two bowls of piping hot udon sitting on the table as well. He gestured for her to sit. A little bemused, the pink-haired medic obeyed.

He sat across her and after looking curiously at him she took up her chopsticks and picked up a piece of fried mushroom. She dipped it in the tentsuyu sauce and after a soft exclaim of 'Itadakimasu', placed it in between her lips and took a delicate bite.

Sakura had no idea what to expect but it was very good. Surprised emerald eyes flew up to meet his. The kunoichi chewed quickly, then swallowed.

"This is delicious." Sakura commented before popping the remainder of the shitake mushroom into her mouth. Onyx eyes gleamed at the way she was enjoying the meal. Slowly, he picked up his own chopsticks and began to eat as well.

"I didn't think that you knew how to cook." She sounded mildly impressed as she tasted the Japanese noodles.

He looked at her.

"Because I'm an Uchiha?" He asked; his voice calm.

She shook her head.

"No, because like the rest of my teammates Sasuke can't cook squat; so I figured that you wouldn't either." She shrugged. "But then again most shinobis don't know much about cooking other than preparing field rations so I just assumed." Sakura was most fascinated with this new side of Itachi though. Who knew that he had a hidden talent in the culinary arts? "So what else can you make?"

He appeared slightly amused by her curiosity.

"I know enough." His answer was so vague that Sakura could not help but frown at him in a most disgruntled manner. Then she sighed.

"Well, thanks for this meal, Itachi." Her gratitude was most sincere. "You didn't have to." Sakura wondered just how many people had eaten before Uchiha Itachi's home cooked meal. Somehow she didn't think those were very high in numbers.

"I didn't have to." He agreed. Then he looked at her intently. "But I want to."

The faint meaning behind his words was quite startling. Her eyes flew up to his.


The odd light that she had seen earlier in his eyes was there again. Its presence made her heart beat faster, much to her inner bewilderment.

"Let's talk about us." Even his normally lilting voice sounded a little off to her. She stared at him.


"Is now not a good time?" He asked her simply. She shook her head immediately.

"Well, no…But what do you want to talk about?" She asked cautiously.

"I have not imbibed alcohol ever since that night during the Summer Festival." He admitted quietly. "Of course, the credit goes to none other than you."

Sakura did not know what to say. Was this his way of telling her that he didn't need her any longer?

Almost immediately, her former voracious appetite disappeared. Sakura set down her chopsticks slowly. The kunoichi tried her best to conceal her growing upset.

"…good for you." Sakura tried to smile. Honest to goodness, she tried. She didn't succeed very well though. Across from her, the Uchiha looked at her with unreadable eyes.

"Does this mean that you don't need me anymore?"

So this is what this entire setup had been about. He had been trying to thank her…for her services.

Before Sakura could control herself, she sprang up from her seat. If that was what this entire arrangement was about, she wanted nothing to do with it.

Her explosive reaction startled him. It didn't show on his face though. Itachi stood up slowly as well.

"Was that all you wanted to tell me?" The pink-haired kunoichi continued. "If that was it, I could have told you from the start that this was not necessary. You needed my help; I merely provided it."

She smiled at him blankly when all she wanted to do was to cry. This was such a mess. When did her heart decide to like Sasuke's intense older brother?

She needed to get him out of her house.

Without another word, Sakura turned and started to back out of the kitchen. The area was too small for the both of them, the atmosphere too intimate. Without on purpose he was giving her false hopes and she wanted out before she got even more tangled up than she already was.

He followed after her immediately. Something had set her off and he needed to find out what it was. The look of hurt in her eyes made something within him clench with swift reflex; she was turning away from him for the first time and he was learning quickly that he did not like it at all.

He caught hold of her before she could scurry back into the sanctuary of her bedroom.

Turbulent verdant clashed with intense onyx.

"I think you should leave." Her soft, distressed voice made his eyes hardened.

"Not until you tell me why." His tenor was still soft as ever, but the hint of steel was unmistakable by now.

Sakura merely shook her head.

"Our business is concluded." She tried to sound as nonchalant as possible but towards the end her voice broke slightly.

He really did not like the way she was trying to kick him out of her life like yesterday's rubbish.

"Says who?" He challenged quietly.

Her eyes narrowed.

"You don't need me anymore."

"I never said that."

She frowned. Why was he making this so difficult?

"You implied it. Am I supposed to wait until you spoke of your intention?"

He nodded once.

"Yes. You should listen to what I say first before making any wild conjectures."

She was such a sensitive little creature; looking at her now reminded him once more how easily she could be hurt emotionally. The clan would eat her alive if they knew of her connection to him, and as much as common sense dictated for him to let her go because she was just not his to have he could not do it. She was the rare spot of light that had accidentally found its way into the grayness of his life; what had started as a brief curiosity was quickly morphing into something more. Her sweet gentleness was something he had not experienced before, and despite the fact that they were all ninjas her innocence was still startlingly intact.

Unlike his.

Despite everything she had known she still saw the world as something wonderful, still firmly believed that she could make a difference as long as she never stopped trying. She was not aware of it of course; but he had observed her keenly for the past month. She was always so determined to help, her cheerful kindness and sometimes sassy nature never failing to charm those around her. And she never seemed to notice the effect she had on people either; if she did she certainly wasn't using it to manipulate and influence those around her for her own gains.

And that was what had attracted him to her more than ever.

He had been the ultimate weapon of the Uchiha for so long and he was well aware that he was being controlled like a puppet by the clan. His genius was supposed to be only restricted to the field of battle and missions; he was not supposed to think for himself outside of that. He was just a tool to be used, something that could help further the goals and ambitions of a power hungry clan and he absolutely abhorred it. But there was no choice for him. This was the life that he had been born into and he had accepted it. As much as he wanted to do something reckless and dangerous and just be free, he could not. The long arms of the clan would reach and corrupt its next available victim should he choose to leave, and he would not allow that. And so for his little brother, he would stay.

And now, there was her as well.

Itachi had no idea yet what he was going to do with her but one thing was for certain; she had captured his attention and he had no intention of cutting her loose from him. His clan will just have to deal with this; he had been subservient to them for so long but not any longer. Any retaliation towards this pink-haired kunoichi was going to be swiftly dealt with by him.

Itachi stared at her with intent obsidian orbs. Like it or not, her life was going to change from today onwards.

"Tell me, Sakura." His voice was strangely quiet. "What am I to you?"

The kunoichi froze immediately at his question. Her eyes flew up to his. He locked onto her gaze immediately, and she was trapped.

"Wha- What do you mean?" His question had been so loaded, and it made her nervous.

He was undaunted by her evasion.

"What am I to you, Sakura?" He repeated in a seemingly patient tone. The look in his eyes however, told her the truth. The dark onyx pupils were demanding, hard.

Sakura drew a sharp breath. With sheer force of will she broke their gaze.

"You are Sasuke's brother." She muttered quickly. "You are just Sasuke's brother, nothing more."

The way she was diligently dodging his hawk-like gaze told him immediately that she was lying.

"Sakura." His voice was decidedly a little less patient than before. The slight edge was barely detectable, however.

He lifted her chin and nudged her to meet his eyes.

"Tell me the truth." He probed her intently. "Do you mean to tell me that you would have allowed any other male to touch you the way I had?" His voice lowered, became a soft, husky tenor. "Kiss you the way that I had?"

Sakura was caught in the intensity of his beautiful eyes. She could not look away.

And she could not lie.

He would not give her that choice.

But that didn't mean that she could not keep her silence. And so Sakura clamped her mouth firmly shut.

His eyes narrowed, then bled crimson as he forced her to maintain her gaze with him.

"So you would have allowed anyone to caress you the way that I had?" He asked softly, insistently. Still she refused to speak. "You would have allowed my brother, or your other teammates to run their lips down your throat, taste your lips-"

"No!" He was planting all sorts of images into her head through his Sharingan. Images of Sai, Naruto, Sasuke touching her, rubbing their lips down her neck-

Sakura recoiled mentally. Those were her teammates! They were almost like siblings! She just could not imagine engaging in any of those acts with them!!

Or with anybody else, for that matter.

Emerald eyes widened with pure shock at her realization.

He merely looked at her, the satisfaction on his face undeniable.

The confused kunoichi promptly gave up the fight. She had no idea why he was so bent on making her admit her emotional involvement and as much as it alarmed her that he would use her weakness against her she was so tired of keeping her growing feelings to herself. The past month with him had evolved from something as a great shock to something that was starting to mean a lot more. And if he wanted to know how much he affected her, then so be it.

"…no." She took a deep, calming breath and faced him resolutely. She was not ashamed of her feelings; just afraid of how he would react to it.

The bloody crimson faded away; onyx eyes glinted.

"Good." Then as Sakura gaped at him openly, he continued. "You were never 'just' a distraction to me either, and I am no longer content with just spending stolen moments with you."

His implications were most startling. She stared at him.

"You mean-"

"I want more." His voice was calm, his gaze confident as he watched her. "I want you."

The kunoichi did not know what to say.

"Are you serious?" She blurted out faintly at last.

His gaze was unreadable.

"What do you think?"

Sakura nibbled her lips worriedly. Then she thought back about his peculiar behaviors today; cuddling with her, resting with her, feeding her…

Realization was slow to dawn, but when it did Sakura's eyes lit up with wonder.

He had been trying to show her that he would take care of her.

Still, Sakura hesitated.

"But your clan…"

He leveled a calm stare at her.

"Do you doubt my ability to protect you?" He asked.

Sakura puffed up immediately.

"I can protect myself." She snapped irritably before she could stop herself. She had spent her entire life training just so that she could be on par with her powerful teammates. Being insinuated as weak was one thing she could never tolerate.

His soft, gentle little pink-haired female had claws.

Dark eyes gleamed with approval.

"Then you have nothing to fear."

She frowned.

"I'm not afraid of your clan." The kunoichi muttered. "But I know they don't like me and this is going to be troubling for you if they ever find out what we have been doing so far…"

He had known that she was a rather protective and selfless creature; it just had not occurred to him that she would try to protect him as well.

That peculiar look was back in his eyes again. Sakura's frown deepened. Now what was wrong with him?

Then his eyes burned into hers.

"I will not give you up." His soft tone was calm as ever, but there was a finality in it that told her he meant exactly what he said. "The clan will just have to get used to you."

Then before Sakura could think of any adverse situations that may impair their relationship as a couple, he continued blandly. "Besides, I'm sure my little brother will help."

At that reminder, emerald eyes widened.

Gods, her teammates!

It didn't matter that Itachi was related to Sasuke; they were definitely going to raise a ruckus if they found out!

Itachi was most amused by the fact that she was more afraid of the reactions of her teammates than those of his clan members. Oddly enough, that reassured him on a most instinctual level. This pink-haired female would not be intimidated by his family; she wouldn't have stuck loyally by Sasuke if she had been in the first place.

"You are going to be the one to break the news to Sasuke and the boys." Sakura blurted out immediately.

The look on his face was one of arrogant expectation. It wouldn't be difficult to convince her teammates to support her decision to be with him. Any disagreements from the younger males would be settled swiftly on the training grounds.

"And your answer is…?"

Sakura swallowed slightly at that intent look on his face.

"…alright." Then before he could say a thing she spoke quickly. "Though I'm still not sure that this is going to work, but I'm willing to give it a try."

Itachi looked calmly into determined emerald eyes. Then he nodded once, and gave her one of his rare smiles.

Sakura turned bright pink immediately, much to the Uchiha's inward amusement.

"Your willingness is all that I require, Sakura."

The kunoichi nodded hesitantly, then opened her mouth as if to say something else. Before she could though, her stomach spoke for her. The angry protests from her tummy made her flush immediately. He looked at her with growing amusement.

"Now that this is settled, shall we retire back to the kitchen?"

Sakura nodded sheepishly. This was her fault as usual, for overreacting and all. She followed him back into her little kitchenette obediently, inwardly milling about what had just happened. By the time they were seated around her small table again there was a mildly contemplative look on her face that told him immediately that she was planning something again.

Sure enough, she spoke not ten minutes after they resumed their meal.

"Can we keep this from everyone firs-"


His answer was immediate, and firm.

Sakura frowned.

"But don't you think it would be better if-"

He looked at her calmly.

"No, Sakura." Once again, he interrupted effortlessly before she could finish.

"But why not?"

It was a perfectly good idea to her, at any rate. There would be no added conflicts because of her decision to be with him and both of them would not get into any trouble because of it as long as they stayed low profile and discreet. She was not like most women; she didn't mind not having a boyfriend by her side all the time for her to flaunt to her friends and other ridiculous whatnots. Love does not equal possession, and as long as he continued to shower her with the affection that she was due—and sometimes more, Sakura was content.

Obviously she had no idea the amount of suitors that she had, and it was all probably thanks to the diligent efforts of his little brother as well as the rest of his teammates. Belatedly, Itachi decided that he owed the males of Team Seven for effectively warding away interested parties from this oblivious pink-haired kunoichi, if not she probably wouldn't have been all alone during that Summer Festival and he wouldn't have met her.

The lean Uchiha eyed her intently.

"Does your involvement with me shame you?"

Sakura was immediately affronted.

"Of course not!" The kunoichi looked at him with pure incomprehension. "Why would I do that for?

He ignored her question.

"In that case, I don't see any reason why we should conceal this relationship."


"Sakura." His tranquil voice stopped her before she could argue any further. She glanced up at him and paused completely when she saw the look on his face.


"I want everyone to know that you are taken." There was not a hint of humor in his gaze, just pure seriousness and the absolute certainty that she was now one of his. No one within the village would be foolish enough to touch or accost her; his name would provide a sort of protection and if that fails, whoever dares hurt her would have him to contend with. "I have no intention of sharing you, Sakura."

His blatant claim made her heart race. Heat suffused her face at his implications.


Onyx eyes gleamed with gentle affection at the pretty medic-nin sitting across from him. She looked so stunned at the moment that it was endearing.

"Are there any more objections?" He asked in a most polite manner as if they had been doing nothing but discussing the weather for the past few minutes. "I'm sure I can convince you otherwise if there are."

The soft, amused purr in his voice made her squeak. Sakura shook her head immediately, cheeks pink from all the blushing he was making her go through.

Onyx eyes gleamed.



Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:

I absolutely love the friendship between Ino and Sakura. It's something about the way they always try so hard to annoy the cookie out of the other, but when it really boils down to it they would do anything to protect their best friend. I admire that a lot, which is why I have more Sakura-Ino friendship scenes in my fics than any other.


The title of this fic is pretty ludicrous I know, but most of you are already aware that my Ita/Saku one-shots are themed and this is just another one of many. What can I say?

Come to think of it, I have something more to say actually. Tempura kakiage is also known as mixed tempura. It doesn't necessarily have to consist only of deep fried vegetables but other ingredients as well, like prawns, shishamo and scallops, etc. The tentsuyu sauce is the traditional tempura dipping sauce. It has a rather light taste, almost like broth really.

Yes, I know. The research geek has struck again.


I really like the idea of Itachi being an excellent cook. Heir to the great Uchiha clan or not, his character is that of someone who has a great thirst for knowledge as well as the willingness to pursue that ambition no matter the situation. The art of culinary is just yet another skill that he had successfully and confidently conquered. Nothing beats a man who knows his way around a kitchen well, I always feel.


This will be the one and only follow up to fiesta, at least for the moment. I suppose there is still enough brain juice for a little something more but we will see first how the response for this one goes.


Lastly, I will have to regretfully announce that this is going to be the last fic that I will be uploading for this month—at least. Exams are coming up and will end only after the first week of February, so I will be on a hiatus until after then. I will resume writing the follow up for heartstrings as well as my other continuous works after my papers, so don't worry that I'm abandoning ship or anything like that.

I will see you when I see you again, my lovely readers!


Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic, thank you.