How do I love thee?
A/N: Okay so for the alternate ending we're going to rewind things a bit to before Sakura returned home and go from there.
Laughter erupted from my throat as Itachi's arms pinned me to the bed. "Let me go, Itachi."
"When I'm ready." He replied. His body was pressed against mine. His body was solid as rocks and felt utterly delicious.
"Itachi!" I bucked my hips trying to throw him off me. It was a half-hearted attempt that I could tell amused him. It didn't show on his face but I knew because well, Itachi had different phases of serious that could be seen in his eyes. I was currently looking in his amused-serious eyes. I turned my head at the poof that I heard immediately putting us both on alert. I relaxed when I realized that it was probably a reply from the letter that I had sent to Lady Tsunade. I was excited because I loved every letter that I received from the people closest to me. I tried to reach for the letter but I realized that Itachi still held me captive and it seemed as if he had no intention of letting go anytime soon.
"Itachi, I want to read my letter."
"We're busy. You can read it later." I didn't want to read it later. I wanted to read it right then. He leaned down to bring his lips to mine. I quickly tucked my lips into my mouth so he couldn't kiss me. "You're being childish."
I quickly stuck my tongue out then hid my lips once more. Itachi grunted disgruntled and rolled off me. I smiled and reached for the letter.
You seem so happy now that you are gone. I'm just writing to let you know I'm lifting the five year time limit that I have set upon you. Come home whenever you wish. If you wish to at all.
By the way, You have to train to be able to contain great amounts of chakra. If you try to do it suddenly, with no training, then most assuredly you will die. Accustom yourself to holding a little at a time and build up from there.
Your proud teacher,
I frowned once I reached the end of the letter. Itachi, sensing my mood shift immediately began to question me.
"What is it?"
"Lady Tsunade just sent me a letter saying that I don't have to return to the village if I don't want to."
Itachi's whole body stiffened. "Why does this bother you?"
"It just doesn't seem right. She never wanted me to leave in the first place. I just can't believe that she would not demand that I come home."
"Do you want to go home?"
I hesitated. Did I? I loved life on my own and with Itachi. If I went home then there was no way that our relationship would ever be like this again. I wasn't sure if he was something that I was willing to give up, yet I loved Kohona. I loved Naruto and Kakashi. How could I go without not seeing them again?
"I don't know. I just know that something is not right about this letter. Something is going on at home that they don't want me to know about."
"Sakura, if it were something serious don't you think she'd ask you to come home?"
"Maybe. Yes, she would."
Itachi pulled me into his arms. "Then don't worry about." Looking into his eyes, I found right at that moment I couldn't worry.
Don't rush home on our account. Be happy. We love you.
"Now I know something is going on!" Itachi looked up from the book he had been reading. "It's time for me to go home." I continued.
"I just received this letter from Naruto telling me not to hurry home. That is so not like Naruto. Something is going on there and I need to find out what it is."
"Why don't you just write a letter and ask?"
"Psh! Like they'd answer truthfully."
Itachi closed his book and looked at me. "Sakura," He faltered momentarily. "I don't want you to go back."
I looked at him startled. "Why?"
"I know what they are hiding from you. If you go back then this will be over for us."
"Don't be silly. It's you and me. You know that."
"Do I? Is there nothing that can change that?"
Sasuke, my brain immediately thought. "Sasuke went home. Didn't he?" He didn't answer and I took this as confirmation. "Why would they hide his return from me?" I knew why Itachi would. But why would my friends do such a thing?
He didn't reply to my question and this time I started to become nervous. He wasn't telling me anything either that had to mean something bad. Something really bad.
"Tell me what's going on Itachi."
"He's dying." He said it calmly with no sort of inflection in his voice while my heart plunged into my stomach. No, it couldn't be true. Not Sasuke. Despair was written on my heart.
"I have to go. I have to leave now." I jumped up frantic grabbing things to take with me completely forgetting Itachi's presence until I felt his arms on my shoulders shaking me slightly.
"This is why I didn't tell you. What happened to 'it's me and you'?" My eyes focused on him bringing me back down to earth. "You're never going to let go of your past are you? I've been wasting my time haven't I?"
Some unknown emotion covered his face and struck a cord deep within me. "Itachi." I said softly raising my hand to run my fingers through his unbound hair. "Itachi, I have to go. If I can save him I have to do it. I can't let him die. You know I care about him. You know I love him and I know you love him too in your way. You don't want him dead, not like this anyway. If I can save him then I have to. Can't you understand that?"
"If you go back then it will be over between us." I could have taken that as a ultimatum but I knew it wasn't the case. He was just stating the facts as he knew them. Going back to Kohona would put a halt on our budding relationship if it didn't kill it. "Is that what you want?"
"Beyond keeping Sasuke alive I don't know what I want Itachi. Let me do one thing at a time."
Not another word did he utter as he presented me with his back and left me alone. I didn't like that too much. I would be leaving soon and I wanted him with me. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant.
I looked at the small bag I had packed for my journey. It was almost time for me to leave and I had not seen a trace of Itachi. My heart was heavy in my chest. I had hoped to see him before I left but I guessed it was not to be. I took a last look around my home. The home that for the last few months I shared with Itachi and pain spread through my chest and tears blurred my eyes. I quickly picked up my bag and stepped outside. A breeze hit me and I shivered from the cold.
"Leaving without saying goodbye?"
My heart reacted before my mind could as I threw myself into his arms. My legs wrapped around his waist and my arms around his neck.
"It thought you had left." I said with my face buried in his throat. "I thought I wasn't going to see you again." Itachi's arms wrapped around my waist holding me tight against him.
"I wouldn't leave you for good without saying goodbye." He paused then said, "Goodbye, Sakura."
It took a minute for my mind to register to what he was saying when it did my arms clung to him tighter. "Itachi, I don't want us to be over."
He sat me down on my feet. "Go, heal Sasuke. We'll discuss us afterwards." I realized then that he wasn't expecting me to come back. He was saying his goodbyes and cutting me out of his heart completely.
"Itachi Uchiha." He looked at me bored and detached like he used to look at me when we first began this relationship thing. "We have unfinished business and it will be settled. I promise you that."
He briefly inclined his head and left then.
So began my journey back to Kohona. It was quiet and uneventful. Winter was rapidly approaching and I was hoping to make it home before then. The snow that would surely come would slow me down and I needed to reach Sasuke's side as soon as possible.
I bit my bottom lip in worry. What had happened? Was he okay? In my distraction I barely dodged the shuriken that was aimed at my head. I jumped out of the way and let my eyes quickly scan the area for the enemy. It didn't take me long to find him because he let out a blood curdling scream.
"You dare attack the woman of a member of the Akatsuki?"
"I didn't know! I swear! I didn't know!" His eyes pleaded with Death as he stood before him coming to take his soul.
"Ignorance is not bliss." He said, his scarlet eyes swirling dangerously.
The air was suddenly filled with a scream of agony and despair.
He appeared in front of me shortly after the scream died. "Itachi, what did you do?"
"You're going to die if I leave you alone." He said completely ignoring my question.
"I can take care of myself!" I crossed my arms across my chest in a huff.
He didn't reply but rather pulled me to his side and headed in the direction of home.
"This is as far as I go."
The gates were only a mile or so away. I was safe in Kohona territory, however the man at my side was not.
"So, I guess this is it--"
My statement was cut off by his soft lips on mine. His tongue danced lightly over mine. When he ended the kiss unwittingly I clung to his form.
"Stay, with me Sakura. Don't go back. The distance between us will become infinite. Don't make me let you go."
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder Itachi."
"No, absence dulls the memory and makes the past seem as a dream. I will not be a distant memory."
"I will not let you stand between me and what I have to do."
"And I will not let him take what's rightfully mine!" It was the first time that he had ever raised his voice that I knew of. It was then that realized that Itachi Uchiha truly loved me. He wanted me at his side always. The realization stunned me I realized that he was offering me everything I wanted. His mind, his body and his soul. He had been trying to voice the sentiment for so long but had probably been unable to and now I understood. He loved me.
Itachi Uchiha was in love me, Sakura Haruno.
"I will not let him die Itachi."
I turned and walked away from him then. I didn't turn back but if he did he would take that as a sign that I was wavering in my decision and he would then snatch my choice out of my hands. I couldn't allow him to do that. That was the first time that I had ever shed tears over him, that day that walked to my village. It was something that I hoped to never do again.
I waited until nightfall to enter the village. I quickly performed a genjutsu on the guards and allowed myself to slip through before they could ever blink their eyes. I made my way to the hospital and performed the same act their quickly locating Sasuke's room and entering it.
The deterioration of his body was horrifying. I had seen something similar to it once before and I knew that this only could have been my doing. I immediately set to work on healing him.
I worked myself to complete exhaustion. My chakra was depleted. All my work would unravel unless I was able to gain chakra from someone else quickly. Fortunately the answer to my problem opened the door. I quickly moved knocking out the visitor. It was one of the medics I was unfamiliar with. I picked him up and sat him in a chair and began absorbing his chakra so that I could complete my task which I did swiftly.
I sat down on Sasuke's bed and ran my fingers through his hair. It was then looking at him as he rested that I knew that I was never going to have the kind of relationship with Sasuke that I had with Itachi. Sure, Sasuke and I would probably be a good match but Itachi was my rock. He was dependable. Itachi's sheer presence was intoxicating and I was drunk on him.
Sasuke's eyes opened and tried to focus on me.
I didn't answer at first my mind was full of thoughts. He continued to look at me questioningly. I shook myself out of my daze and looked into his eyes.
"I'll always love you Sasuke. You'll always have a place in my heart."
Confusion showed on his weary features. I reached out and touched his head and said softly. "Sleep."
I stole quietly out his room and into the night moving swiftly before I was spotted. A shock of silver caught my eye causing me to turn my head before I left the village. It was Kakashi with a woman. Her long dark hair fluttered in the wind. Kakashi's arm slipped around her waist and pulled her closer to him. It made me smile, seeing him with her, because I knew that he had moved on and he had found happiness somewhere else. It also made me smile at the irony of the ringleader of SAA with Sharingan Kakashi.
I was still on Kohona land when the sun had arisen but I was far away from the main village. I didn't know where he was so I headed back to my home hoping that he would find me.
It was three months before he showed up. The door swung open and the sight of him left me breathless even though he looked disheveled and angry. I started to stand up and go to him but I decided to wait first to see what he had to say.
"I have been looking for you for quite some time woman." It seemed it was going to be an impossible task to get him to use my name on a regular basis. It no longer bothered me though. I kind of thought of them as endearments now. I was also rather confused. He never seemed to have problems finding me before.
"My name is Sakura." I said cheekily.
"I don't like to be sent on a chase."
"I don't know why you wouldn't look here first."
"You went back so that you could--"
"Heal Sasuke." I finished.
"I thought you were going to stay."
"I don't remember saying that."
"You're not going back? You're staying here?" He fired out his questions rapidly.
"Yes, I'm staying here. You have a problem with that?"
I have the pleasure of saying that I was the first and only person to stun Itachi Uchiha. I was proud of it. It was a story that I planned on telling our children over and over again. Yes, he was momentarily speechless. Momentarily being the key word.
"They let you leave again?"
"They never knew I was there." I waved my hand dismissing the subject. "So I believe I told you that our unfinished business would be settled. Now is a good time."
"There is nothing to settle. You are here that's all that matters."
"Well, in that case I've changed my mind. I'm going back home." I said sarcastically.
He pulled me out of the chair that I had been sitting in, into his arms.
"I do not find that humorous."
I smiled. "I did. Don't worry Itachi. You'll have to kill me in order to get me to leave you and if you try that then I'll tie you to a chair and blindfold you so I can keep you forever."
"That sounded quite psychopathic."
"It's the company I keep." I retorted.
"You know if anyone else said something like that I would have killed them."
"Yes, but I'm special."
"How is that?"
"Why don't you tell me?"
It was then that a desire that had been embedded deeply in my heart was finally fulfilled. A light beamed down from the heavens and shone upon him that glorious day because he smiled. If he was handsome before his smile eclipsed it. His was a terrible beauty. It was the kind that people would kill over, that tore apart nations, that brought tears to your eyes, that could truly spark an addiction.
It was a beauty that I could live without seeing again. He already held my heart in his hands. I couldn't give him my sanity.
He leaned his head over to my ear and spoke softly. "Are you asking me to count the ways?"
I shivered as his voice rumbled in my ears.
"It would be nice." I said trying in vain to get closer to him.
"Mmm. I'll think on it but right now I think I'll show you how I feel about you coming home."
Home. Our home together. I liked the sound of that.