It took me a while to get my ItaSaku mojo back…get ready for a whirlwind of emotions.
I don't own Naruto.
"Is there something you are not telling me, Itachi?"
Itachi stood in the darkness of Pein's office, his Sharingan bright and intense. He couldn't explain the anger that was currently flowing through his veins, nor could he explain whom he was angry with. But his body language didn't give anything away as his cool façade was in place, his arms lying still by his side.
"About?" he asked, knowing a tinge of anger and impatience were seeping through his normally flat voice.
For the first time in long time, Itachi saw Pein's eyes flash with anger as he stood from his chair behind a large wooden desk.
"Don't play games with me, Itachi." He took a step closer. "We both know why you are here, but what I can't understand is why you are not divulging any information."
"There is nothing to divulge," he said smoothly.
Pein stepped in front of him, and Itachi wondered briefly if Pein's hand twitch signified the desire to ring Itachi's neck.
"She's a spy. Surely you know this?" Pein said condescendingly.
Itachi's eyes narrowed, now understanding Pein's game. Itachi had long suspected Sakura's lies—why he never said anything however, was something he would examine at a different time—and Pein obviously knew from the beginning. So he could admit that he did know, and be questioned as to why he didn't alert anyone, or he could say that he didn't know and—
Why was he even pondering this? Lying was beneath him, and he certainly wasn't about to change.
"I had my suspicions."
That seemed to please Pein greatly as his smirk grew wider.
"You've already failed me when you let the six-tails die and I let it pass. Don't fail me again."
"What are my orders?" he asked flatly, the boredom in his tone the only form of rebellion allowed.
Pein took another step closer. "I want her here when we capture the Kyuubi and have her watch someone she loves die. I want to see her pain."
Itachi didn't answer.
Studying his expression for a few moments, Pein leaned forward so his mouth was next to Itachi's ear. Fighting the urge to step back, Itachi listened, half-knowing what the threat would be about.
"One day," he began quietly, "I will take great pleasure in watching your face as you listen to her scream."
As Sakura approached the border of Oto, a heavy, dark feeling settled in the pit of her stomach. It was a cold, rainy day, but she knew the dread and depression she felt had little to do with the weather.
The memories that exploded in her mind when buildings came into view made her legs shake. She didn't have trouble accepting the fact that Sasuke was gone, but it was still surreal—like any second she expected him to pop out from behind a tree and challenge Itachi to the death. The thought brought a brief smile to her face, but it vanished when she remembered that he had died without fulfilling his ambition.
But perhaps what was most worrisome was the mental battle raging in her mind. On one side, she was sad for him because he had lived his life for one purpose, only to die before it could be accomplished. And another part of her was horrified at the thought of Itachi vanishing from her life.
It was almost humorous how much of an impact Itachi had on her. Here was a man who, a year ago, she hadn't met and very likely would have killed without ever knowing him. And now, she was afraid of the prospects of completing her mission and going home, knowing he couldn't follow.
…But maybe he wouldn't want to follow.
And that scared her more than she was willing to admit.
After another mile or so, Sakura approached the gates. She never traveled wearing her Akatsuki cloak for identity protection, but having slipped it on a few miles previously, she knew that she would be granted immediate access.
It scared her sometimes, how well she could slip into her role as a spy, but Sakura tried to chalk it off to one of the responsibilities of being a kunoichi. But there was also a part of her that felt a bit—guilty about much she had lied in the past. To be perfectly honest with herself, she was lying to almost every person she knew. Sasuke was probably the only person she had admitted certain things to. Briefly, she wondered if Itachi would understand her mission, or if he would be hurt.
Of course he wouldn't be hurt, she said to herself. But he would probably be angry with her for deceiving him. After all, he would just add her to his list of betrayers, but then again, he had no room to talk about betrayal.
But that didn't erase her guilt.
"State your purpose," said a short, bulky guard in a Sound uniform when she approached the gate.
"I've been sent on my leader's orders to measure your capability to wage war against Konoha. I assume you have been expecting me?"
The man shifted his weight, slightly embarrassed but not willing to admit it.
"Of course," he wheezed. "This way."
Sakura was led down a narrow dirt path through the trees before she met a clearing filled with gray buildings and run-down, dilapidated houses.
This was the village Sasuke voluntarily stayed in all these years?
She tried to keep her eyes trained on the ground, not wanting to think about the kinds of activities that went on during his stay here. There were no civilians on the streets, only shinobi had enough courage to walk down the sidewalk.
And suddenly, Sakura felt like Sasuke did this village a favor by killing Orochimaru. She knew things wouldn't change though, because Sound would need a miracle to choose someone for the position who actually cared for the well-being of its citizens.
"Haruno-san." A tall man in front of her bowed. "It's an honor."
She knew he was just kissing her ass and didn't really care whether she lived or died, but she returned the gesture.
"My name is Tanakawa Imoshi. I am the commander of the forces." The tall man turned to the short guard. "Return to your post."
The short guard bowed. "Hai!"
Sakura glanced up at the man, her keen eyes taking in his features. His face was hard and angular and reminded her somewhat of Ibiki. His hair was graying and long with eyes black as night, but duller than Itachi and Sasuke's. His uniform—baggy pants and a long sleeved shirt with wide sleeves—was dark green instead of gray like the other Sound uniforms. The only thing that made him stand out was the medal that was fixed to his chest. Sakura wondered why he received it.
"I'm afraid we have yet to choose an Otokage, but there are names being tossed around."
Sakura crossed her arms. "I'm afraid my leader won't be pleased with that. He wants an answer now. Are you ready to go to war or not?" She didn't break eye contact, trying to seem authoritative.
"Of course we are ready," he said with a slight incline of his head. "Orochimaru-sama entrusted this task to me and I would not send my men to their deaths," he said, his chest puffing slightly.
They are going to their deaths, she wanted to say, but she held her tongue.
"I did not mean to imply you would."
They were glaring at each other unblinkingly, both understanding that there was no love lost between Oto and Akatsuki. Sakura knew that the village and the organization hated each other—or rather, Orochimaru hated Ataksuki and vice versa—but Sakura couldn't help but wonder what happened that made Orochimaru hate the organization so much... and why, if they disliked each other, did they make this deal in the first place?
"...May I see your attack plans?" she asked, even though it wasn't meant as a question.
He nodded. "This way…" Tanakawa stepped into the stone building behind him, Sakura following in his wake.
"So," Sakura began, reading the paper closely. I need some sort of information to give Naruto. "If I am reading this correctly, you plan to attack in two days?"
But the man didn't answer.
Sakura felt the air around her shift slightly, her eyes widening in realization. She turned around as quickly as her reflexes would allow her, catching the kunai that was aimed for her neck between her fingers. Her eyes snapped up to meet the commander's surprised gaze before flinging the kunai back at him.
He caught it with a smirk. "Forgive me, Haruno-san, but I needed to make sure you were Akatsuki level."
She disappeared, only to appear beside him, her own kunai poised at his heart, cutting through his clothes and breaking the skin. "If you think catching a kunai before it severs your head is Akatsuki level, you haven't met many shinobi. I would hope a chuunin would be able to stop such an attack."
She felt him stiffen slightly.
"Of course. My mistake."
In the split second she was standing there looking at him, an idea hit her. It was so simple, but dangerous—very dangerous, and extremely risky. It was a decision that had to made…but if it didn't go as planned, she would be killed and everything she had done for Konoha would be for nothing…but if it succeeded, it would save Konoha, and Pein would never realize it was her.
It had to be done.
She lowered the kunai from over the man's heart, her fingers forming seals as fast as she physically could and lightly touched his chest, healing the wound the point of the kunai had left on his skin.
"I would hate to think of the consequences should you fail."
The pressure in her chest was highly uncomfortable. Sakura didn't understand where it had come from, but as she walked through the doors of the base, she had to lean against the doorframe to catch her breath.
She knew from the beginning that this mission was going to give her hell, but things were spinning out of control so quickly, Sakura felt at a loss as to what to do. She was getting romantically involved with an S-class criminal, Sasuke was dead, Naruto and the rest of her village was about to go to war and she couldn't be there, Itachi was going blind, and she was almost certain Pein knew she was a spy.
She had always had someone there to talk to, but with no Naruto, no Ino and no Kakashi, Sakura felt oddly alone. She knew she couldn't talk about this to Itachi, and the guilt she was beginning to feel was also adding to her high level of discomfort. It was obvious that the life of a shinobi couldn't be farther from comfortable, but Sakura had long since developed—dare she say it—friendships with these people, and while she wasn't concerned for their safety knowing they could protect themselves, she wondered what they would do if there ever came a time to chose between her life and their allegiance to Akatsuki.
Sakura shook her head and made her way to her room down the hall. Who was she kidding? A bunch of missing-nins among the most powerful shinobi in the world were never going to pick a pink-haired girl over their own lives. She knew that, and she had accepted it, but she couldn't deny that she wasn't slightly upset that was the case.
She wouldn't allow herself to regret, though, but she couldn't stop the feeling of anger and remorse she felt for this life. Not for the first time, she wondered if she would ever be happy.
When she realized that Itachi was asleep in her bed, the magnitude of the situation hit her so hard, her knees buckled.
What the hell was she thinking?
She suddenly felt like throwing up, her nausea causing her vision to swim. She didn't know why it had taken her so long to figure this out, but she suddenly realized what she needed to do.
She needed to get out.
She had fallen in love with the wrong, wrong, wrong person and if she didn't get out now, there would be no undoing the damage. She didn't know why she had tried to believe for so long that it would work out between them, and she didn't know why she kept choosing to believe Itachi would protect her from Pein… Maybe it was because she didn't want to admit that Itachi would never protect her from their leader, and Sakura could suddenly not remember a time in her life when she felt so terrified.
She was going to die if she stayed here any longer.
Completely disregarding her mission, her flight response began to kick in when she crossed the room with great speed and began searching her closet for her pack. She was tearing through her things, ignoring the fact that Itachi would wake up at any moment—
Why was he in her room?
The thought caused her to pause in the darkness and she turned around to see him sitting up on her bed, looking at her with dark eyes and a calm expression. He looked so beautiful in the darkness that Sakura forced herself to turn around and continue her search before she changed her mind.
Her eyes began to burn, but she didn't know why. Was it because she was never going to see him again? Was it because she was afraid he might die? Maybe it was because she had completely failed her mission and didn't care. She just needed to put distance between the two of them, and when she told Tsunade that she failed because Pein was going to kill her, it wouldn't be a total lie.
"Sakura," he said in his smooth, low tenor that continually gave her chills. Had she not seen him moments ago, she never would have been able to tell from his voice that he had just woken up.
She stopped what she was doing to turn and face him. "Itachi," she greeted a bit coldly.
He appraised her with his eyes, and she watched his onyx gaze go from her face to the pack she was currently holding.
"Are you leaving?" he asked, his voice not indicating a question. His gaze snapped back up to hers, and a new realization dawned on her.
What if Itachi wouldn't let her leave?
She was sure he could see the fear written on her face even without the aid of Sharingan, but as the thoughts flew through her head, she couldn't help but realize that Itachi was going to choose Akatsuki over her. He would never sacrifice himself or his pride for her well-being, whether she was going to be killed or not. She knew him well enough to know that he was a stubborn ass with some sort of self-sacrificing mission in life that she had never quite figured out, but she was the only other person on the planet who knew that there was much more to this Uchiha than meets the eye.
"No," she answered, surprised at the evenness of her voice. "I'm just getting back."
She knew he didn't believe one word she said because he had always been able to read her so easily—and it made her so mad that he could—but when he stood up from the bed and walked towards her, she couldn't fight the reaction to grab a kunai from her pouch.
He noticed, but didn't say anything as he took her pack from her grasp and put it back into the closet.
"Do not be foolish," he said softly. She caught his scent and cursed the calming effect it always had on her. "Sit down."
At a complete loss of what to do, she allowed herself to be steered through the darkness and follow suit when he sat on the edge of her bed.
"I take it that your mission was successful?"
Why was he asking such a stupid question? She knew he didn't care whether she had accomplished or failed Pein's task for her, and his lack of emotion began to make her heart beat faster.
What if he killed her right here? No one would come to her aid and with a sharp pain in her chest, she began to understand just how alone she really was.
So she began to edge away from him.
He watched her move away, and her stomach dropped when she saw him smirk.
"It seems like you are finally beginning to grasp your situation."
He's going to kill me was the only thought running through her mind and she desperately wanted to kick herself for being so naïve.
"Why are you in my room?" she asked, her voice only wavering slightly.
Was he sent there to kill her when she got back? What if he had been using her this whole time?
Blame it on paranoia or simply the situation, but Sakura's mind began going back over every one of their exchanges, wondering if he had been playing her from the beginning.
But…wasn't that what she was doing to him?
For once, he answered her. "I wished to speak with you when you returned."
They would use me, she thought, considering Pein's ruthless nature. Maybe he was deceiving Itachi. What if Pein wanted Sakura to gain Itachi's trust in order to use it against him? Sakura began to get a headache from just thinking about all the different scenarios.
She looked like she was going to vomit. "Breathe, Sakura," he said as he watched her pale significantly.
"I wish to know about your real mission."
She focused back on him, taking steadying breaths to try and keep a calm, clear mind.
"What real mission?"
Itachi's Sharingan activated before he could stop himself and Sakura backed up so far that she was against the headboard.
"No more lies," he whispered, and Sakura briefly wondered why he was not raising his voice.
Could it have been to calm her? Or was it because he didn't want any eavesdroppers?
"I will not touch you." He deactivated his Sharingan and Sakura scooted forward slightly, suddenly embarrassed by her actions.
"Are—aren't you angry?"
"My entire life has been a lie filled with nothing but deception and betrayal. I do not see why this situation would have been any different."
She felt a sting at his words when she caught the slight bitterness in his tone. She felt guilty again when she heard the words he would not say.
He wanted this situation to be different. He wanted truth in his life—something real and tangible and something that was his and no one else's; something that didn't revolve around a mission, something that didn't involve lies, pain and deceit.
"I don't know if it makes a difference to you, but my…mission had nothing to do with you. It was Akatsuki and that's it. With you—I never had to act."
Itachi couldn't hide the look of relief that passed quickly over his face, and Sakura wondered if maybe he showed her on purpose. Because he had always been a man of action, not words.
Sakura didn't quite know what to do next, but Itachi's quiet strength calmed her down. The fact that he wasn't angry made her feel somewhat better, but he was acting like…
"How long have you known?" she asked quietly, letting her gaze drop to his lips and ignoring her sudden desire to feel them against her own.
He smirked slightly. "You are not the type to betray your village. You would never kill a comrade."
Sakura actually smiled at his inadvertent compliment.
Itachi said nothing, but closed his eyes for a moment and brought a hand up to rub his temple. Sakura heard his deep intake of breath, and she wondered just what he was thinking.
"What are you going to do?" she asked with trepidation, slightly afraid to learn his answer.
He didn't look up at her. "About?"
How could he be so calm about this?
She was quiet long enough for him to hear her silent plea, and eventually, he looked up at her.
"Me," she whispered.
Itachi leaned forward and rested his forehead in his hands. His silence worried her because she knew he was debating what to do, but for some reason, she couldn't explain why she no longer felt frightened. She would do what she needed to in order to get out alive, and the fact that Itachi wasn't going to hurt her made her feel exponentially better.
As she saw it, there were two options. One, he could keep her there until Pein had her killed, or she could leave even though it would look like Itachi let her go. They wouldn't be able to make it look like she overpowered him, because they all knew that she couldn't. Unless…
"Hidan and Kakuzu left this morning to capture the eight-tails," he said suddenly, his smooth voice soft and slightly muted.
It took Sakura three seconds to realize, with horror, what he was saying.
"Which means Naruto is next," she said slowly.
He finally sat up straight not bothering to push his hair out of his face, and looked her right in the eye. "Correct."
And Sakura couldn't remember the last time he looked so tired.
He didn't break eye contact with her, and Sakura wondered if he was trying to tell her something through his gaze. "You might find that I am most prone to attacks during our healing sessions."
Her eyes widened and she couldn't stop the soft, grateful smile on her lips when she realized what he was doing.
He was giving her a way out.
Not caring about whether or not he would allow her, Sakura slid her hand into his and laced their fingers together. He did not return her squeeze but nor did he pull away, which was more than enough for her.
She felt tears began to sting her eyes when she finally understood that this was the beginning of the end. The year in Akatsuki was coming to a close and she had no idea whether or not she would see any of them again. She had a life in Konoha that was waiting for her, but she also had something of a life here as well. So much had happened and so much had changed, she wondered if she would be able to readjust…or if she had changed too much to be able to live confined within village walls after living the past year as she pleased.
And she felt foolish for feeling that way when she remembered everyone who was waiting for her. What would they say if they knew there was a part of her that didn't want to return?
But…she also didn't want to remain here either. She wanted…more. She wanted change; a different life that neither Akatsuki nor Konoha could offer her.
She wanted freedom.
What am I saying? she wondered, curious as to where her undying loyalty to Konoha had disappeared to. She would never betray them, but she also wasn't so sure anymore that she wanted to spent the rest of her life in the same village in which she grew up.
What else was out there that she hadn't experienced?
Itachi watched the conflict in her eyes closely, willing to give her another day to act. Pein wouldn't harm her until the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki was captured, and with his room down the hall, he would be able to hear any late night visitors.
He stood to leave.
"They are attacking in two days, Sakura, you must decide what to do."
Sakura watched him leave, grateful to be left in the privacy of her own thoughts.
It wasn't until a few minutes after he shut the door behind him that Sakura wondered how Itachi knew that.
An hour after Itachi left her alone, Sakura pulled a small scroll out of her desk drawer. If Naruto and Tsunade had a back-up plan, then she would need one as well. After a few moments of thinking, she wrote,
When you see them, breathe the air and die.
So Pein's a crazy mofo who is beginning to doubt Itachi's allegiance, Sound is about to wage war on Konoha for unknown reasons, and Sakura failed her mission and had an emotional breakdown. I hope you enjoyed it!
Until next time!
Question: Which would you rather read: NarutoSakura or GenmaSakura?
One chapter left...