Title: Ramen

Author: paws-bells

Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85

Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi

Type: Two-shot (InComplete)

Genre: Romance/General

Word Count: 6013

Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #50, Ramen

Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.

Summary: Non-massacre AU. Their love story started inside a Ramen Bar, of all places. She had yelled her confession to him for the world to hear, but he had walked away. Of course, he hadn't known then how determined she could be.

Created on: 18/08/08

Completed on: 02/09/08

Chapter Last Revised on: 13/09/08

Chapter 1

Team Seven definitely never saw it coming.

As usual, it was nobody's fault but their own.

The signs were all there, large neon-lit signals that all but screamed what was going on, only coincidentally, by some sheer grace of god, all three young men, intelligent and extremely powerful individuals of their own right, completely failed to notice that quite possibly for the first time in her life, their only female teammate had fallen in love.

Heck, knowing them, the chances were appallingly high that they had even forgotten that the last member of their team was actually a woman.

Either way, the three men of Team Seven, together with the unfortunate male who had earned her favor, were in a for a very rude awakening when said female made her interest known one day, and very loudly too.

In the crowded midst of one Ichiraku Ramen Bar, the sharp sound of a tea cup being slammed against the wooden table was loud despite the chattering atmosphere of the small restaurant. So was the unpleasant screech of a stool being shoved backwards abruptly as a certain, determined, pink-haired kunoichi suddenly sprung up from her seat. Vibrant emerald eyes blazing with fierce determination and a sense of bravado that she didn't exactly feel, Haruno Sakura blurted out the feelings that she had kept bottled up within her heart for the past three months.

She had to say it and she had to say it right now!!

"I like you, Uchiha Itachi," The beautiful young woman blurted out bravely and fearlessly—completely suddenly and out of the blue, too. "And I have decided that you will be the only one for me."

Right before her gathered teammates, as well as the man whom she had fallen so hopelessly in love with, Sakura had declared her intentions loud and clear to all who bothered to listen. In this case, it was all the patrons of the small but popular ramen stall.

Unfortunately, the reaction to her spirited and highly unusual declaration was a rather anti-climatic one.

The Uchiha in question, who had joined his younger brother and his team for an intense sparring session and had agreed to have dinner with the group as well, didn't seem to react at all to the kunoichi's confession. The powerful, albeit very quiet and reserved, ANBU merely continued to consume his meal in silence.

Once again, unfortunately, it was not the same for her teammates, though.

"…I swore I just heard the Hag confessing to Emo's brother," Sai commented to no one in particular. "I must be imagining it."

Sasuke, who had been gaping gracelessly the very moment Sakura's uncharacteristic words left her mouth, managed to pick up his jaw with great difficulty. What…the hell?

"You are not imagining it," The younger Uchiha mumbled at last, still in some shock. His normally above reproach, intelligent, sensible and sometimes unbearably cheerful female teammate had just done something incredibly foolish and reckless. He couldn't believe that she had just declared her affection for his brother, of all the people to do so to. His brother, for crying out loud.

In a Ramen Bar.

And wait a minute…

Sasuke shot a faintly smiling Sai an annoyed glance.

"Stop calling me 'Emo,' Sai.'"


Naruto was unavailable for comment. The blonde was so stunned by his Sakura-chan's fierce declaration that he was currently frothing at the mouth and not exactly 'all there' at the moment.

The spiky-haired Uchiha looked to his female teammate at last. Sakura appeared to be staring hard at his older brother, almost as if waiting for him to give some sort of reaction to her outrageous statement earlier. Sasuke could have told her that she would be in for a long wait, if that was the case.

Just then, the older Uchiha, who had been sitting beside his younger brother the entire time, finally put down his chopsticks. "I'm done with my meal," He commented quietly, his low, lilting tone calm and unperturbed as usual. It was as if he hadn't even heard Sakura's words.

Completely ignoring the kunoichi, who was still staring at him, the long, raven-haired male turned to his otouto. "I'm going to return to the clan grounds first." Then, his remote, distant gaze flitted over to each of his brother's teammates, although the kunoichi was left for the last. Nodding once, politely and nothing else, Itachi rose smoothly from his seat and left the ramen bar as soundlessly as a wraith.

Sasuke winced inwardly at the stumped expression on Sakura's face.

Crash and burn, and she hadn't even taken off yet.

"…You are not the first to confess to my brother, you know," Sasuke remarked at last, inwardly wondering just what it was about his stoic brother that had attracted Sakura. Sakura, his friend, who had never expressed any interest in men before, was suddenly declaring her liking for Itachi. And he could probably count with one hand the number of times his brother had met with his teammate. It really was baffling.

"Though I'm certain she was the one who did it the loudest," Sai chimed in his usual blank tone. "Sit down, Ugly. Everyone is staring at you."

At last, Sakura sank back onto her seat. She was still silent after her declaration, but she was mostly ignoring the wide-eyed stares and amused whispers that were going around the restaurant, a small frown on her face. In the spirit of looking out for his teammate, Sasuke sent out some well placed glares and managed to quell most of the inquisitive patrons of the ramen bar. Still, there was no doubt to the younger Uchiha that what had just happened was going to be passed all over the Konoha grapevines come early tomorrow morning.

"Sakura, you idiot. Couldn't you be normal and confess to my…brother in a more isolated area?" Sasuke muttered irritably, slowly recovering now from the shock of his friend's abrupt—and wholly unusual—declaration. "Now look at what you have done; you are going to be the laughingstock of Konoha tomorrow."

The pink-haired kunoichi in question still did not seem to come to her senses, and beside her, Naruto was still all googly-eyed and off in his own little world.

"…I'm not going to give up yet."

Her head snapped up suddenly, and it was then that her two 'sober' teammates noticed the light of determination that still shone brightly in her eyes. In reality, it had never faded at all, and Sasuke could already see what was going to happen already.

"Sakura…No." The younger Uchiha sighed with disbelief, but knew that it was probably too late. His teammate just wasn't a quitter (even when she very well should); she wasn't known for being timid or a coward, either. It was quite the opposite, really, and Sakura was about to prove it yet again.

Almost as if she had just realized that the man whom she had just declared her affection to had left and was no longer here, Sakura sprang up from her seat once more, muttering a distracted 'I will see you guys later' and then quickly fled the ramen bar as well. Sasuke had no doubt that she had gone off in search of his brother.

The younger Uchiha resisted the urge to groan.

Of all the men in Konoha, why Itachi?

That was Naruto's cue to blink awake.

"...I swore I heard Sakura-chan telling your brother that she likes him, teme," The blonde Jounin muttered bewilderedly, looking around only to find that both the older Uchiha and Sakura was nowhere in sight. "I must have been imagining it."

Sasuke really did groan out loud this time.

"It's not your imagination, dobe."

"Itachi-san!! Please wait!"

Since he had chosen to walk, it was easier for her to catch up to him and she did so immediately, drawing up abreast of the impassive male and slowing down to a trot beside him.

The Uchiha heir merely sent her a cordial, sideways glance before looking forward again.

"Haruno-san." He greeted her in a detached manner, and she had to fight hard not to flinch inwardly from his discouraging, icy tone.

This was probably why most of his fangirls chose to admire him from afar. His emotionless, impassive demeanor appeared to be most exciting and exotic for the women in question, but it was also thanks to that same frigid, blanked temperament that he was isolated from others—but that only served to make him appear even more mysterious.

The perfect catch.

But she wasn't like those fangirls who happened to liked him because of his status, power, or looks, and because she really wanted to know more about him, she persevered hard and relentlessly when most would have already been put off and angered by his remote and seemingly callous actions.

"Itachi-san." Her eyes never left his as she spoke to him, not even when he stared straight ahead and failed to spare her another glance. "I'm sorry if my confession back there caused you some discomfort, but I meant exactly what I said; I like you."

It was evident that the Uchiha had hoped to avoid this particular conversation by blatantly ignoring her declaration and assuming that she would have been like the many others before her, giving up immediately when they had received no reply from him, but that was clearly not the case.

She was persistent, and he could only give her the standard reply that he had perfected over the years.

Pausing in his steps, Itachi finally turned towards the kunoichi, meeting her earnest, expectant gaze with his own unfailingly polite, but yet so very empty, one.

"Thank you for expressing an interest in me," He started quietly, neutrally, "But I will not accept your confession, for I do not share your sentiment."

Judging from experience, here was where the tears and cries of disappointment would begin, and he silently resigned himself to being subjected to the hail of feminine wiles and theatrics that was soon to come.

Surprisingly enough, she never did any such thing, though, only tilting her head slightly and observing his carefully blank gaze.

"…Did you teach Sasuke the proper way to go about rejecting love confessions from girls as well?" she asked eventually, much to his inward surprise. "You both say exactly the same thing."

He had not expected for her to say anything like that, and she was inwardly delighted to see the faintest hint of curiosity stirring within his dark eyes.

Then those same onyx orbs narrowed imperceptibly with mild incomprehension. Had she confessed to his younger brother before as well?

Almost as if she could discern his thoughts, she shook her head slightly and continued to speak. "I have seen Sasuke turn down his admirers before," she explained. "And I think you got me wrong; I wasn't trying to force a reaction or an answer from you when I said that I liked you," she informed him candidly, though there was the smallest tint of shyness in those bold emerald eyes of hers.

"I was just letting you know how I feel, that's all," she admitted truthfully. "I don't expect you to feel anything for me, of course. How could you? You don't even know me."

He was slightly intrigued by her calm reaction in the face of his rejection, not to mention her odd reasoning. His interest failed to show on his face, however. This kunoichi just wanted to let him know that she liked him? Whatever for?

"You don't know me at all as well." He was obligated to point out, expressionless as ever. All she probably knew of him was his abilities, his rank, his duties.

To his surprise, her eyes gentled slightly. "You are wrong," she informed him softly, a small, secretive smile lighting up her dainty features. "I have seen a…special…side of you only once before, and I really liked what I saw then."

She peered at him intently then, almost as if trying to search for and look past that currently cold and impassive façade of his, for the real Itachi whom she had been so hopelessly charmed by. It was no use, of course; he was as wary and as tightly guarded as a wild animal, though she still wasn't planning to give up just yet.

"I just want to see it again," She told him truthfully, wistfully.

Onyx eyes widened imperceptibly at her strange words. He was inwardly startled by her explanation.

What had she seen?

Oddly enough, he was now curious to know just what she had saw in him for her to exhibit such an expression on her face at this very moment; large doe-eyes softly gentle but not dreamy, pink mouth curved in a small, genuinely pleased smile and nothing like the artificial, coquettish twitch of lips and practiced coy glance that he often saw in simpering females.

This was different, like nothing he had come across before whenever he had to deal with such difficult matters.

And that only served to intrigue him further.

Then, she looked at him straight in the eyes, that soft gaze of hers clearing to form pure determination.

"Please, just let me get to know you more, Itachi-san," she requested. "Even if it is just for a few minutes each day, will you spare a bit of your time?"

She wasn't requesting for a romantic relationship, or even a date. It appeared that all she wanted from him was only some interaction.

If he agreed to what she was proposing, he had no doubt that she was going to be bored out of her mind within days of getting to know him. Judging by the past reactions of women who had tried to get too near him, the stars in their eyes tended to fade quickly the very moment they became aware that he wasn't what they had thought him to be. He wasn't exactly the best conversationalist in the world, nor was he prone to small talk or especially gifted with a glib tongue, and his life revolved completely around his work, his clan, and training. He was a silent, stoic, and boring individual, and once she realized just what type of person he was, he was very certain that she would leave him alone, like the rest.

And so he quietly agreed to her request.

As promised, she was waiting for him the very next day, right outside his clan's holdings and when he came out exactly on time, there she was, chatting amiably with the Uchiha sentries who took turns guarding the clan property, her face animated and her eyes lively as she paid genuine attention to whatever it was that the pair of Chuunin were telling her.

Surprisingly enough, she noticed his presence almost immediately, her head lifting up from the conversation and her eyes alighting on his person. They lit up with warm welcome, and she greeted him.

"Itachi-san!" She called out cheerily. "Are you ready to go?"

There was no shyness, no embarrassment and definitely nothing coy about her open behavior, and that was very odd since she certainly wasn't acting like the kunoichi in the past who had proclaimed to like him. Still, he did not let his puzzlement show on his face, and merely nodded silently. After all, he had no intention of encouraging her whatsoever. Stepping out of the clan compound, he proceeded towards the Hokage Tower to check the mission listing for his team. The pink-haired kunoichi who had decided to tag along waved and called out her goodbyes to the younger pair of nin whom she had been talking to before catching up to him.

"How was your day so far?" she asked affably, and he glanced at her briefly before returning his attention ahead.

"…it was adequate." His tone was lilting but distant, but she easily let it roll off her back.

"Really?" she sounded amused instead, much to his inner incomprehension. "My day didn't start out as well, though. Naruto came over and started banging on my door in the godforsaken hours of the morning, and then…"

She proceeded to spin a rather humorous tale involving her over concerned, over reactive teammate and the mess that he had wrought in her house until she had decided at last to boot the yowling blonde out of her home. The handsome, raven-haired Uchiha remained silent throughout her entire narration, and didn't seem to react at all to her words. She was mildly disappointed by his lack of response, but she was not fazed, well aware that he was listening, even though it may not seem like it. Then, she continued to tell him about how her other best friend Ino had come around as well, demanding to know if she had really made a confession right in front of everyone in Ichiraku. After some more fuss and even more scolding from the other blonde kunoichi for her rash and unthinking actions, she had suffered from a rather hectic morning, and she was not at all shy relating her experience to the quiet man walking beside her either.

If he thought that he was going to intimidate her away by being emotionless and unresponsive, he was going to learn that it wasn't going to work. It was fine if he didn't like to talk; she had more than enough things to say for the both of them.

She had known from the very beginning the type of character he possessed, and was therefore not surprised or deterred by his antisocial behavior. This was Sasuke's older brother, after all. It wasn't difficult to assume that they were bound to have some similarities in terms of temperament.

However, it did surprise her when he spoke eventually.

"You are not concerned?"

It was only curiosity that prompted him to speak, nothing else. There was no doubt that this woman beside him had made a spectacle out of herself for doing what she did last night, and the village would be most interested to spread the news around, seeing that it involved an Uchiha as well as the Hokage's prized student. The members of his clan would not heed the unfounded whispers unless he confirmed it, and therefore he was relatively unaffected by the gossip.

It wouldn't be the same for her, and as she had voluntarily mentioned, already those close to her were indicating their concern.

Sakura looked at him sideways, and then she shrugged.

"I don't care what others think," she answered calmly and truthfully. "Those who know me are aware of what I am and what I'm not. I'm not ashamed for liking you."

Candid and to the point, she had struck again. This time, it was enough to make him turn his head slightly to regard her in silence. She didn't seem to mind his heavy, considering stare, looking back at him openly until he chose to direct his attention elsewhere again. He offered no response, and she didn't expect him to.

"Well, here is where I take my leave." The kunoichi broke the silence when they arrived at the Hokage's Tower a short minute later. He must not have expected her reply, for although he refrained from speaking, she could feel his impassive gaze land upon her for a brief moment.

Her lips twitched slightly with wry amusement.

"I have to go to the hospital to work my shift. I can't always be stalking you, you know?" Her voice was rich with humor, never mind the fact that she was lightly making fun of herself. Walking ahead, she turned to him slightly with a wave and a small smile. "See you tomorrow, Itachi-san."

Within the next two months, Itachi learned that the pink-haired kunoichi meant exactly what she said when she had asked for him to spend only a few minutes of his time with her. Without fail, she would seek him out on the days when he had no pressing duties or assignments to attend to, her emerald eyes always landing on his person with genuine happiness as she came up to him, and it didn't matter that he was mostly silent during each of their encounters, for she was more than happy to speak as long as he listened.

She seemed to be able to locate him quite easily as well; between his younger brother who was her teammate as well as her own connection to the Hokage, it probably wasn't difficult for her to discover his whereabouts whenever she chose to. Still, there was no specific timing, place, or event that triggered her to appear before him; their meetings seemed to occur with complete randomness, but every day, she would come to him once, and never for more than fifteen minutes.

Their conversation followed no fixed pattern either. Of course, she was the one who spoke most of the time; sometimes sharing her day's experience like that very first day she came to him, sometimes relating to him special vignettes of her friends and teammates, other times just generalizing, discussing work, politics, anything and everything under the sun that came to her attention on that particular day.

She never attempted to pressure him to talk or force him to respond to her, and so, most of the time, he didn't participate actively in those conversations, though he eventually became a little more relaxed around her once he realized that unlike the others, she really wasn't pinning any unrealistic expectations on him, and genuinely only wished to spend time getting to know him better.

There were no feminine wiles, no coy flirtation, none of the many little tricks that he had already become accustomed to and, in a way, immune to, when it came to dealing with those of the opposite gender.

She was obviously, glaringly, decidedly different; cheerful, teasing, but yet still respectful of his need for personal space; intelligent, bold, engaging, but yet sometimes shy and easily embarrassed at rare moments. A paradox, she was, and since she had insisted on coming to him daily, the intellectual part of him just couldn't resist trying to analyze her, pry her apart to find out just what it was that made her so very different from the rest.

And so, slowly but surely, he learned to calmly listen to what she had to say, quietly providing an input only when strictly necessary; which wasn't all the time but always just enough to satisfy her. It was an uncertain balance, but for some reason or another, she didn't seem to be discouraged or deterred by it at all.

He was becoming used to her presence.

And so, despite his initial unwillingness, he began to understand this kunoichi more and more, learning about her through keen, quietly watchful observation and examining her many different thought processes and reactions to her surroundings and people with unusual interest and the meticulous thoroughness that he was famous for.

She was very friendly and outgoing, and unlike himself, seemed to make friends everywhere she went. There were always people, nin and civilian alike, who called out to her whenever they happened to walk along the streets of the village, and she never failed to address them by name when she greeted them back. Some were patients whom she had healed before, some were colleagues whom she had worked with before, some were childhood friends, some were neighbors, some were even common, everyday market grocers and shopkeepers, but all were her friends.

She was undeniably popular and well-liked, this pink-haired Sweetheart of Konoha.

And the more he got to know her sunny nature and smiling, determined character, the more he didn't understand.

I have seen a…special…side of you only once before, and I really liked what I saw then.

What had she seen? And why him?

Of all the people from all the different walks of life whom she knew, why him?

As the weeks passed, the mystery plagued the Uchiha more than it ought to. He didn't ask her to clarify her words, however, but the fact that she was beginning to get to him, if only a little bit, made him wary enough to forcibly distance himself from her.

He took more missions than needed on behalf of his team, assignments that required accomplishments in foreign soil as well as days of travel, thus successfully lengthening the intervals between the short minutes in which she would get to see him each day.

That in itself was beginning to become a rather aggravating—and mystifying—subject to him.

How was it possible that this pink-haired kunoichi was slowly but surely forcing him to revise his opinion of her by just spending a few short, inconsequential minutes with him daily?

He was avoiding her.

It wasn't obvious, but she could tell. All of a sudden, his team was taking up more high profile and high-risk missions, most of which required the ANBU to leave Konoha for days at a time, and whenever he finally returned, he would only allow himself and his team a mere day or two of recovery time before setting off on yet another highly classified assignment.

Not surprisingly enough, that meant she had less chances to see him.

Not surprisingly enough, it hurt.

But still she persevered, and still, she always smiled for him.

"Hey, Itachi-san, you are going for another mission tomorrow, right?" She really didn't have to ask, and he nodded, onyx gaze blank as usual, impassive attention fixed at a distant point. She had been waiting for him outside the ANBU headquarters, and the very moment she had appeared, he had distanced himself mentally, reminding himself to ignore her, reminding himself not to find her interesting, reminding himself that she was only a distraction and nothing more.

Superficially, it worked.

Her expressive verdant gaze flickered slightly at his less than lukewarm reception; once more, he was completely indifferent again, apathetic to her.

Where was the Itachi who had let his guard down a little, who always listened to what she had to say, who always watched her with those quiet, intent eyes of his? Why was he hiding his true self away again?

Her chest region contracted in distress, but still, her smile never wavered.

"I have something on today," she lied through her teeth. "So I won't bother you for long."

His emotionless gaze flickered over to her at last, and her eyes softened, those large, doe-like orbs revealing her genuine concern for him.

"Please return safely, alright?"

Onyx eyes widened imperceptibly. Despite his best efforts, she had managed to rattle him again.

He stiffened slightly and took his eyes away from her.

"I have to leave," he told her expressionlessly instead, almost as if he hadn't heard her at all.

Her smile threatened to falter. Sheer stubbornness and determination kept it firmly in place. She could not let him see her upset; it would be all over if that happened.

She had promised that she had only wanted to get to know him better; that was all. There wasn't supposed to be any emotional attachment to him.

Too bad she had been lying when she had made that promise.

"Alright, Itachi-san," she whispered, "Good bye."

Another two weeks passed, and Sakura was still determinedly trying her best to spend time with the increasingly busy Uchiha. She still never exceeded her self-allotted fifteen minutes though, no matter how it was getting more and more difficult to find the proper time, no matter how he seemed to be increasingly close-mouthed and indifferent to her.

The only thing that encouraged her was the fact that she knew that he still listened to her, even though he never responded any more.

Then, everything changed.

"Sakura-senpai!" A panicked medic-nin trainee came barreling into the staff room during a particularly quiet graveyard shift in the hospital. The pink-haired kunoichi was immediately alert, setting down the book that she had been reading and preparing to follow her subordinate. Judging from his tone, there was definitely an emergency.

She was right.

"ANBU Team Three has just reported in with two casualties," the younger nin fired out swiftly as Sakura followed him out of the staff room. "We have one serious casualty and another with more superficial injuries. Both are being treated in the A&E right now."

Sakura faltered slightly. ANBU Team Three.

That was Itachi's team.

Then, almost immediately, she pulled herself together, her eyes calming with professional intensity, her strides quickening to reach her patients.

Now was not the time to panic and worry.

"Tell me more about the situation," Sakura asked immediately, her voice calm and almost serene, effectively offsetting the nervousness of her fresher and greener junior.

"We have ascertained that the less injured patient suffered only from a broken arm and a few stab wounds. They are not life threatening. The other ANBU, however, is losing a lot of blood and we suspect internal hemorrhaging from massive trauma as well as poison in his bloodstream."


Her eyes narrowed slightly.

"Have any of you administered the poison test already?" she asked even as the two all but ran towards the Emergency department.

"Affirmative." Now with his more competent senior and head medic at the helm, it was evident that the younger trainee was feeling more confident and assured of his duties. "We are also attempting to identify the source of the internal bleeding, and are awaiting your arrival to begin the treatment."

It would require advanced chakra control, not to mention a great amount of chakra to kick start that level of healing, and Sakura was currently the only one on this late night shift with that sort of ability.

Within half a minute, they arrived in the Emergency ward.

"Haruno-san!" one medic muttered with relief.

"Sakura-senpai!" another healer called out quickly. "The seals are all drawn and prepared for you to start the healing jutsu. We have confirmed that the patient is bleeding profusely from his liver and, to a lesser extent, his kidneys as well. The poison has already been identified, and extraction is currently being taken care of by another team of medics. We may begin treatment for the internal bleeding any time."

The pink-haired kunoichi nodded grimly. Another colleague passed her a hastily prepared file regarding the patient's current stats, and after glancing through it quickly, Sakura nodded.

"Let us begin."

Prepping was a quick affair assisted by the trainees, and then she, together with three other medic-nin, quickly entered the theatre where the injured ANBU was already there, currently being monitored by a pair of nurses.

Sakura, who had been trying her best not to worry, felt her heart stop momentarily at the terrifying sight of the pale, raven-haired Uchiha lying so frighteningly stil in the midst of the seal circle, numerous tubes attached to various part of his body, sustaining his vitals and barely keeping him alive.

And somehow, he was still conscious.

Before she could stop herself, she strode hurriedly to him, and the extent of the damage done to him made her blanch inwardly.

…surely, she had seen worse.

But the fact that it was him, this time around, shook her badly.

Taught well by her powerful mentor, Sakura did not allow any of her growing distress to show on her face. Instead, she forcibly leeched away her worry, replacing every bit of her momentous anxiety with pure professionalism.

Their eyes met, his fogged by the anesthesia and pain, hers stormy and turbulent, yet slowly turning purposefully blank and emotionless and she cut off her feelings by sheer force of will. The chaotic force of her emotions would only hinder here, not help.

Swallowing hard, Sakura spoke.

"Uchiha-san." Her normally cheerful voice sounded coldly clinical to his ears. "We will begin your operation now. In less than ten seconds, the anesthesia will kick in completely and you will feel nothing more. I will begin the countdown now. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven…"

His eyes closed at last, and after another check from the nurse, everything was set to go.

Sakura took a deep breath, and then she turned her head slightly to her left and nodded to her fellow colleagues. They got into position immediately.

"Let's start."

The operation took exactly four hours and fifty minutes. Four other medics took turns, periodically switching with the original three to provide the necessary chakra energy to fuel the exhaustive healing process. The Uchiha had his entire blood supply replaced twice over, and his blood pressure bottomed out once.

But they managed to save him in the end.

The extensive internal injuries were completely healed, the poison in his system extracted, and so he would live.

As the nurses and orderlies transported the unconscious ANBU out of the theatre, a small, tired cheer rang out from among the remaining medics. Sakura gave them permission to leave for the day; they had done well and had barely any energy left in them to be useful in the hospital.

"But Sakura-san, what about yourself?" one of her colleagues asked. Their head medic had been the only constant source of chakra throughout the entire operation, as the healing jutsu had required her perfect control and therefore she hadn't been able to rest at all.

The visibly drained pink-haired kunoichi stood up slowly and shook her head.

"I still have the paperwork and reports to see to, as well as the post op care and checkup of the patient," she answered softly. "Don't worry about me; I should be able to last until the end of this shift."

And so Sakura cleaned up, got out of her scrubs, and made her way towards Itachi's ward immediately. He was the most injured out of his team, and the other ANBU had already been taken care of by other medics.

Entering his room silently, she was once again greeted to with the sight of his unnaturally still form, as well as all the various medical equipment that was being hooked up to him. He was still pale, almost bloodless, from his injuries and the operation, and it was then that Sakura allowed herself to tremble with distress.

Now that the emergency was over, it had finally hit Sakura hard in the face that he had almost died, and she could have lost him.

She merely shook harder as she continued to watch him. According to the official reports, the team had fallen to an ambush of three foreign teams of ANBU, and it was only by sheer miracle, as well as the captain's sacrifice, that the entire team had escaped alive.

This was all her fault.

He had been pushing himself and his team hard and getting so many missions all in the interest of avoiding her. But thick-skinned and shamelessly determined as she was, she had completely failed to acknowledge what had been right in front of her the entire while.

He may not believe it, but she was more aware of his true character than he could ever imagine. She was well aware that behind the façade that was powerful, emotionless warrior, hid a man who cared deeply for his brother, who cared and thought for others more than the world might know, so much so that even though he had great difficulty expressing it, he was still trying in his own, obscure ways to help, careful not to hurt anybody unless completely necessary.

She saw what others clearly did not, and it was with that true part of him that she had fallen so deeply in love with, but now it was evident that her unrequited affection was doing more harm than good.

And as usual, it was just like him not to tell her straight out to leave him alone, and instead he had gone to so much trouble just to avoid her.

This was her fault.

The hurt at the knowledge that he was keeping away from her was nothing compared to the pain now, and Sakura knew what she had to do.

She had to give up.


Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:

Yes, I'm back in the ItaSaku fandom. My GaaSaku muse was being rather inconsiderate and went back into hibernation mid-fic, whereas my ItaSaku muse was chomping at the lead and being a completely domineering bastard as usual, terrifying the other muses to submission and abusing the authoress, as usual. I couldn't fight back anymore, so I yielded. So yep, I will be hanging around the ItaSaku fandom again for awhile to come.

I really do feel sorry for my readers; my attention is always scattered all over the place and I tend to skip from one fandom to the next on a whim. Many apologies, people!


'Ramen' was actually intended to be a one-shot, but it got too long and I had to split it into two. I will put up the final installment sometime next week, either on Wednesday or the weekend. For those who have read this chapter but are still not entirely sure just what is going on, well, this is an entirely new non-massacre AU, not related at all to Fiesta-verse, Icha-verse, Flirt-verse or any of their many sequels and prequels. But like the abovementioned trio, I'm planning to add on a few more one-shots to 'Ramen' as well, since I happen to be shamelessly intrigued by the many possibilities of this version's Itachi and Sakura.

And yes, sequels to 'sexy-no-jutsu', 'flirt' and 'deep fried vegetables' are currently in the making as well.

…I'm on a roll here, for no reason other than the fact that I really have no life outside of final year projects and fanfiction.


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