Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85
Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi
Type: Two-shot (Complete)
Word Count: 6803
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: 17/09/08
It was two days later before the Uchiha woke up, and another week before he was relatively mobile again.
In total, it had been nine days since he had entered the hospital, and throughout the entire duration of his stay, he had been visited by almost every one he knew; his family, clan members, colleagues, teammates, his superiors, what sparse amounts of acquaintances he had—everyone but the one person whom he had least expected to actually not turn up.
She was also the same head medic whom, he had later learned, had given her all to save him from very nearly dying, she was the same healer who had been in charge of him for the first crucial twenty four hours after the operation and until he regained consciousness, and then she had immediately relegated his care over to another medic-nin.
She was also the same woman who had insisted on seeing him every day if she could, but now, she was conspicuously absent, and for some reason, that bothered him.
It was enough for him to enquire about her presence or lack thereof, but a nervously tittering nurse had only mentioned how Haruno-sama was a very busy individual and would not be able to attend to him personally.
It didn't make sense to him at all; was she so busy now, all of a sudden, that she didn't even have minutes to spare?
Since there was no way for him to probe further, he had reluctantly accepted the reply with his usual blanked silence, and the anxious nurse all but outdid herself performing her duties before scurrying out of his ward.
It was obvious that she had been intimidated by his mere presence, even when he had not done a thing.
It wouldn't have mattered at all to Sakura, though. She would have smiled that cheery grin of hers, at ease and completely comfortable around him.
…it disturbed him vaguely that he was thinking of her thusly right now, but then again, the differences between her and just about every other woman he had met were becoming more and more obvious to him, and equally undeniable.
He had a lot of time to consider and ponder over it the past days; being bedridden with nothing better to do had a way of clearing up a lot of thoughts, and it wasn't at all difficult to understand this feeling of growing discontent now that he did not have any sufficient distractions to prevent himself from analyzing his displeasure.
Whether he liked it or not, whether he actually wanted it or not, whether he actively discouraged it or not, her daily visits had became something that he had started to unconsciously expect, even look forward to.
And now that he hadn't gotten to see hide nor hair of her for the past week or so, it felt extremely…odd.
The Uchiha heir did not know what to make of this discomforting sensation, but in usual fashion, he proceeded to ignore it. He was successful to a certain extent; his vaunted self-control prevented him from wandering out of his ward against the healer's order to look for the pink-haired woman who had upset his normally sedate, peaceful life, though it didn't help at all that he seemed to be instinctively anticipating her arrival every time the door opened, only to face someone else other than her.
…Why was she avoiding him?
Another three days later, he finally received his answer.
She came to his room.
He had just completed a session of physiotherapy when she walked in, and where he had been expecting the healer who had been in charge of his wellbeing, he saw her instead; tousled pink hair, slightly off-colored, pale features, emerald eyes that told clearly of an improper lack of sleep. It was evident that the nurse had spoken the truth; she had been busy.
Her eyes lit up slightly when they met his, the exhaustion in her very being seemed to clear away immediately as she gave him that same happy smile that she always did. This time around, he was strangely mesmerized by her appearance, never mind the fact that she was stressed and didn't exactly look her best at the moment.
The adage, 'Absence makes the heart grows fonder' may be true, after all.
She went nearer to him and proceeded to browse through his file, and since he had never taken his eyes off her since the very moment she walked through the door, it was easy to observe her as she leafed through the pages of his medical history and quickly compared it with his present status.
"You are well on your way to recovery, Uchiha-san." She spoke at last, a friendly, faintly smiling expression on her face. "I will talk to the healer who is in charge of you; if you wish, you could probably be discharged before the end of this week."
He said nothing, merely stared hard at her as she announced her statement in her cheerful, amiable 'nice medic-nin' voice.
He barely refrained from frowning.
He could tell that it was different from her usual interaction with him, almost as if lacking a certain…something.
The look in her eyes…was different. It was normally softer, showing even more affection than it was now…
It was no longer the same.
She didn't seem to notice his incomprehension.
"Also, I have taken the liberty to clear your schedule with Hokage-sama; your team will be taken off the active duty list for the next two months to accommodate your recovery, and this means that all the missions that you had volunteered to undertake on behalf of Team Three will be reassigned elsewhere." She paused, and then continued smoothly. "You won't be disturbed any longer, Uchiha-san, so don't worry about anything but your recovery."
Something about her voice raised alarm bells in his head. For the first time since her entry, he spoke, his voice slightly husky from the lack of moisture, but still retaining his soft, tenor tone.
"What do you mean, Sakura?"
It was the first time that he had addressed her by name; she had always been 'Haruno-san.' But now, he wondered to himself, why he hadn't chosen to use her given name instead. Her name had rolled off his tongue smoothly and easily, certainly a lot more so than her surname.
Her eyes flickered slightly, but then she chose to distract herself by pouring him a glass of water and handing it carefully to him. It was only after he drank his fill and set the container back upon the side table that she replied to him.
"I won't bother you anymore, Uchiha-san," she told him firmly, her mind already made up. "The past few months must have been extremely trying on your patience, and I have intruded upon you too much."
He began to realize what she was trying to say.
"I won't pester you again, even if you are just too kind to say so." At that, she gave him a genuinely soft smile. "So please, you don't have to take on so many assignments just to avoid me anymore."
She had known all this time what he had been doing, and as much as it surprised him, what made him feel markedly worse was that she had never confronted him about it, always smiling at him and being her usual self, never mind that she had always known.
He should have felt tricked and fooled by her. Strangely enough, he only felt a foreign sense of growing…discomfort? Distress?
She bowed deeply before him, and he could only watch warily at the sheer finality of her action.
"Thank you for your patience, Uchiha-san. Please take care of yourself from now on," she whispered.
She kept the smile pasted on her face and in her eyes for as long as she could, at least until she had walked out of his room. He had watched her the entire time, those beautiful dark eyes of his probing intently into hers, almost as if searching for something. Whatever it was, she did not know. He said nothing and she wasn't in the mood to ask, either.
She had been purposely avoiding him for the past week, hoping against hope that maybe her interest in him would wane with time. It had made sense; wasn't that how most crushes were easily ended?
But she had clearly forgotten one thing in her flawed logic.
Whatever affection she felt for one Uchiha Itachi was a lot deeper than the shallow trappings of a mere infatuation.
And seeing him again after that entire week of absence only made her miss talking to him even more, never mind that he normally seemed unresponsive and apathetic.
It had been all she could do to say all the necessary words that would break off her fragile bond with him, but in the end, she had forced herself to do it. Everything had been one sided from the beginning, after all, and everything was one sided in the end as well, and now here she was, nursing her hurting heart and walking away from the man whom she now realized would never be for her no matter how hard she tried.
Because if all her trying ended up hurting him inadvertently in one way or another, then she would rather give up.
It was a completely logical move, but it was definitely a lot harder to convince her aching heart.
She was weeping by the time the door of his room slid shut behind her.
Her Uchiha teammate called out her name in a sigh, having seen her exit his brother's room. He had known that something like this would happen, and he had tried, in his own way, to warn his female teammate but to no avail. Sakura had always been so…Sakura.
The pink-haired female sniffled and looked at Sasuke, not at all embarrassed to let him see her tears. In fact, the smaller kunoichi trudged up to her alarmed teammate and proceeded to cry silently on his stiffened shoulder, much to the Uchiha's inward astonishment.
"Sasuke." She had whispered miserably in between small sobs. "I think I'm really in love with your brother."
True enough to her words, she didn't bother him again.
She never came by demanding her daily few minutes with him, and throughout the remainder of his hospital stay, he had been taken care of by another healer.
That disturbed him, especially now when he had come to the conclusion—and had also accepted—that he didn't mind being repeatedly 'bothered' by her.
But the kunoichi was determinedly making herself scarce, and he wasn't exactly used to seeking out people for personal reasons, not to mention since she had always been the one to find him, he really had no idea whatsoever where to start when it came to looking for her.
Fortunately, his younger brother was her teammate.
It had been a few days since he had been discharged from the hospital, and nearly two weeks since he had last seen Sakura. His younger brother was also behaving suspiciously, although very inconspicuously, almost as if the younger Uchiha was attempting to avoid his nii-san.
Like now, when he had caught Sasuke trying to slip back into the clan compounds late at night without alerting anyone to his presence.
"What are you doing?"
Sasuke really shouldn't have been surprised to hear Itachi's impassive, deadpan voice. What on earth his brother was doing lurking about in the gardens he had no idea, but knowing Itachi, he must have been there for a purpose, namely to corner his suddenly elusive sibling.
The younger Uchiha looked down from his perch on the large tree branch that he had soundlessly vaulted onto, and saw his nii-san immediately. In the semi-darkness of the moon-lit night, Itachi was sitting under the sheltering boughs of the giant magnolia tree, looking for all the world as if he had been meditating. Sasuke was not fooled, however; his brother had purposely concealed his presence and one did not have to do so in order to meditate.
Sasuke dropped noiselessly from the large tree, landing beside his brother's still figure with ease.
Itachi opened his eyes to regard his sibling. Sasuke was dressed in a casual outfit with the Uchiha clan insignia emblazoned over his back, and the fact that he was not due for any mission that day, nor was he training, immediately informed the older Uchiha just where his otouto had been.
With his teammates.
"You are up late tonight, nii-san," Sasuke spoke at last, his own baritone pitched low to avoid disturbing the peaceful stillness of the night. "Shouldn't you be resting?"
Once more, Itachi's quiet, keen gaze flitted across his brother's features. Thanks to years of observing his little brother, it was easy to pinpoint the slightly tensed set of his shoulders, the smallest hint of a scowl lightly creasing his brow as he looked at his elder sibling.
And Itachi had gotten his confirmation.
He looked away from Sasuke. "I was looking for you," Itachi replied at last. Before the younger male's frown could deepen with mild incomprehension, he continued steadily, "I wanted to ask about the whereabouts of your teammate."
Sasuke stilled completely at his brother's seemingly apathetic reply. His eyes widened imperceptibly with surprise.
What on earth…?
"Which teammate?" the spiky-haired Uchiha asked abruptly.
His brother proceeded to give him a blank look which Sasuke easily interpreted as one of his more impatient stares. They both knew just which teammate he was referring to.
Even though that was so, Sasuke was still openly surprised when Itachi actually said her name. 'Sakura,' not the usual, formal 'Haruno-san.' It was strangely intimate, almost as if his brother was finally acknowledging…something.
The crease between Sasuke's brows deepened further when it was evident that his brother was fully expecting an answer.
It wasn't difficult to notice the slight edge of protectiveness in the younger male's tone. Itachi eyed his brother intently.
"I have some questions that only she can answer."
"…Now is not a good time," Sasuke spoke eventually. He paused briefly, and then continued again in an annoyed, hushed tone. "Sakura is not well."
Itachi's reaction to the news was slight, almost unnoticeable. But Sasuke saw it; the minute tense of his lean, deceptively relaxed form, the quick flash of…something in those normally bland, impassive eyes, gone as rapidly as it had appeared.
Because this was Itachi, what may seem a slight reaction was actually tantamount to a much larger one.
Once more, this was something Sasuke had not anticipated.
"What happened?" That lilting tone was now markedly less bland, less emotionless.
Sasuke could feel himself twitch minutely with agitation just thinking of what had happened earlier. Sakura could be such a little idiot sometimes, to make everyone around her worry like that.
"She overworked herself again," the Uchiha of Team Seven answered tersely, the irritation in his voice evident. "She collapsed in the hospital earlier this evening. Chakra exhaustion."
Hokage-sama had been furious over her student's blatant disregard and carelessness for her own health, and Sakura had received a fierce scolding when she had come to, groggily, a few hours later. The remaining members of Team Seven had been queuing up behind their busty but fiery Fire Shadow, waiting for their turns to nag/yell at/lecture their teammate. Sakura had understood, though, the sentiments behind her friends' actions.
She had smiled tiredly at them, and not for the first time, had promised not to overdo it again. Unfortunately, the men of Team Seven were beginning to not be fooled and were learning to take her words with a pinch of salt whenever it came to the subject of her and work.
And of course, there was also this not-so-little problem between his wounded teammate and his apathetic brother.
Really, of all the luck, he just had to be stuck right in the middle between the two.
The dark onyx eyes of the elder pierced quietly into his otouto's similar, albeit somewhat annoyed, obsidian ones.
"Where does she live?"
This time, Sasuke was visibly startled by the quiet question. Then he stared hard at his brother.
"What are you trying to do, Itachi?" The spiky-haired Uchiha asked at last. "Leave Sakura alone. Do not toy with my teammate."
The calm, sure look in Itachi's eyes didn't change. Sasuke recognized that expression almost immediately. After all, it was a trait most common to those belonging to the Uchiha clan; once they made up their mind, they rarely attempted to change it.
And Itachi had already analyzed the situation, had already realized, had already decided.
"I'm not playing, Sasuke."
"I thought that you were only ugly, Hag. I had no idea that you were really stupid as well."
Sai's mild, ridiculously false, cheerful voice rang out from her kitchen as Sakura sat in her living room, curled up on the couch and looking miserable as could be. When it rained, it poured, and just when she was so sure that she had already hit rock bottom, it just made perfect sense that she had to catch a bad cold as well.
Now the poor kunoichi was wasted from chakra exhaustion, sickness, and heartache.
Not to mention that her completely unsympathetic, rude, and socially inept teammate was puttering about in her kitchen doing god-knows-what.
It was quite possibly the worst day of her wretched life.
"Here." The ex-Root member emerged from the other room with what looked like a bowl of steaming something, whereupon he proceeded to set it upon the coffee table before her. It was a simple broth, something that would sooth her dry, scratchy throat and hopefully unblock her stuffy nose as well.
"Thanks," Sakura muttered in a muffled tone. Her friend handed her a spoon and watched her, almost thoughtfully, as she ate.
Sai smiled his normal vague smile. "Nothing. Just thinking that you are going to die an old, shriveled up virgin."
If Sakura wasn't so used to the man's insults, she would have dumped the entire bowl of soup upon that stupid smiling head of his, hungry or not. However, since she was also feeling so damn miserable and tired, Sakura doubted that she even had the strength to aim properly and chuck the bowl without missing.
She sighed instead. Shriveled up old virgin, indeed.
"I think you may be right," she mumbled, much to his inner surprise. His normally cheerful teammate looked completely dejected at the moment, and he observed her consideringly.
Sai's quiet apology was completely unexpected. Before Sakura's eyes could soften with silent gratitude at his understanding, the ink-master amended his words. "I didn't mean to speak the truth. I suppose I could hire a male prostitute to help relieve you of your little problem, if it bothers you so."
Insert that blank smile.
Sakura paused in her actions, spoon halfway to her mouth. Then her eyes narrowed slightly, though the effect was somewhat dampened by her bleary, disheveled appearance. At long last, Sakura continued to drink her soup.
"I'm going to kill you painfully when this is over, Sai," the kunoichi merely remarked in a disturbingly calm tone, well aware that there was nothing she could do at the moment without overexerting her stressed body.
The ink-user appeared rather skeptical by her threat. His teammate looked so miserable right now that he couldn't imagine she would be able to fight a kitten and win. Fortunately, he decided not to share his thoughts with her, for once.
"You are most ungrateful, Hag," Sai commented blandly instead. "Remember who made your lunch for you."
Sakura gave him the evil eye.
"Sai, you only opened the can, poured the soup into the pan, and heated it up," she muttered. "Not that I'm not thankful, mind you, but you are still going to die when I'm able to kill you again."
She was not making sense at all, but he supposed it was only natural that she was babbling nonsense due to her illness.
Deciding to do his good deed of the day by humoring the sick, Sai decided to let her have the last say. He stood up.
"Hag, I have matters to attend to," the dark-haired Jounin informed his teammate.
Sakura merely waved him along. "Go then. Sasuke and Naruto will be dropping by later, but you already know that."
Team Seven had always been known as a fearsome and powerful demolition and tactics unit, but what most didn't know was that the team's secret to success was their incredible synergy. Of course, that meant whenever one of them was injured or out of commission, the others often rallied together to guard/protect/heal the wounded party. It was just the way the team functioned naturally, and as such, Sakura was literally being mothered to death by the three 'manly men' of her team. Their concern was heartwarming and aggravating at the same time, and although she really wanted to spend some moments alone wallowing in her heartbreak, it was literally impossible to do so thanks to their antics. The fact was, her teammates had thoroughly ensured that she didn't have the time or the mood to think about anything else, and they had pulled it off so magnificently, too.
Sakura was making some progress into her soup when she heard the knock on her front door. Sai had left but a brief moment ago, letting himself out with little fuss and a startled, albeit somewhat grumpy, Sakura wondered just what it was now that required her attention.
Couldn't she even be miserable alone?
Disgruntled and frazzled, Sakura reluctantly left her living room and padded over to her front door, throwing aside the latches and pulling open the door with little preamble.
"What is it now, Sai? Did you forget something-"
Her eyes finally raised up to meet those of her visitor, and it was only then when she realized with abrupt clarity that the man standing before her was not her teammate.
Sakura's eyes widened slightly.
In her surprise, his name had slipped from her lips quite unintentionally. The handsome, raven-haired Uchiha merely stared at the bedraggled and clearly unwell kunoichi with his usual silence, strangely enough, his gaze quietly watchful, almost as if he was intently looking at her for the very first time.
And it occurred to Sakura that she currently had a large, bulky blanket thrown over her weakened body, her hair was all tousled and messy from just waking up, her nose no doubt red from the flu, her entire expression bleary and miserable.
A squeak of dismay escaped her.
He didn't seem to notice.
"May I come in?"
It really wasn't a question, at least, it didn't sound like one coming from him. He had always appeared to be apathetic and greatly indifferent, but his Uchiha blood flowed true and when he so chose, he could easily become commandeering and possessing of the innate arrogance befitting his status as clan heir.
Sakura frowned slightly, but then she silently opened her door wider for the taller male to enter, shutting it quietly when he entered and trailing behind him as they moved further into her apartment.
Her fogged up mind raced with many questions. Why was he here? What did he want? Did something happen?
The enigmatic ANBU stopped in the midst of her living room, and she looked worriedly at him.
"Is something wrong?" she asked immediately, her eyes softening with concern. Were his injuries troubling him?
He looked at her, and then he shook his head once.
"I have heard from Sasuke that you were unwell." His normally impassive tenor was pitched softer than usual, and his eyes sharpened imperceptibly on her.
Sakura could only stare at him with bewilderment. Was that why he came?
Mildly confused, she nodded slowly.
"It was nothing," the pink-haired kunoichi answered slowly, rubbing her nose absently with a finger as she did so. "The hospital was understaffed due to a sudden influx of patients, and I overworked myself a little."
She had collapsed from chakra exhaustion. It was hardly as inconsequential as she was making it out to be.
"You are sick as well," he pointed out calmly, not entirely comfortable with this unsettling feeling of displeasure that was slowly forming within him.
She shrugged slightly, completely unaware of his growing unrest.
"I will get better," she assured. "It's just the common flu." Hesitant emerald eyes looked at the impassive man standing beside her. Did he really come all the way here just to enquire about her health? If so, what did that mean? Sakura did not know; she was hesitant to jump to conclusions.
Then she remembered that he was a guest now, and how rude was she to be standing around and not fulfilling her duties as a host?
"Please take a seat, Uchiha-san." She gestured towards her comfy couch. "I will get you a drink-"
"That will not be necessary." Almost immediately, he cut her off, the mild hint of steel behind his dulcet tone quietly authoritative. She nodded slowly. Silence lapsed, and it was getting awkward for her.
It was not so much for the Uchiha currently staring at her. He wasn't even hiding the fact that he was watching her blatantly, and she fidgeted slightly, completely unsure of what to do, what to say. Her chest twinge at his overwhelming proximity, and a part of her was resentfully upset that he had come here when she was diligently attempting to get over him. She had everything thought out so well, too; she would take the time to reprogram and recondition herself so that he would only be a mere acquaintance to her again. She would treat him as politely as she did all her patients and she would not trouble him with her affections any longer.
But his unexpected presence now was effectively throwing a wrench into her plans, and unfortunately, there was nothing she could do but try to pretend to smile.
He didn't like it at all. Combined with his own experiences as well as the warnings of his younger brother, he was learning quickly that she did not like to burden others, and more often than not, would selflessly conceal her distress or unhappiness if she had to.
"Sakura isn't normal," Sasuke had muttered uncomfortably last night. "She doesn't behave like a proper woman; she does not know her limits when it comes to helping others and she will not reveal her hurt because she knows that she would trouble those around her. She does not like to inconvenience others."
And that smile of hers was the perfect shield.
He had come knowing that he wanted to see her; her sickness had been the perfect opportunity that he had been unconsciously waiting for to look her up, but he had obviously neglected the fact that he, the powerful ANBU Captain, would be completely at a loss of what to say when he was finally before her.
It had never occurred to him that he would need to worry about such matters when it came to her; she always had something to say, had never tried to stress or pressure him into responding to her, had never really expected much from him safe for a little bit of his time—and attention.
In abrupt realization, he came to the stunning conclusion that he had really grown accustomed to her, was already perfectly at ease with her, this petite pink-haired kunoichi who was currently trying her best to distance herself from him now that he had finally taken full notice of her.
The same thought that had disturbed him enough to retreat from her now hardly fazed him. Removing himself from her had not changed the fact that he still could no longer ignore her now that she had his attention, and it seemed like he was coming out of this experience losing more than when he had first entered it. That was obviously unacceptable, and after that difficult hurdle, it didn't take him any longer to understand that he didn't mind having her around.
It was unfortunate that she now carried this opposite notion that he wanted nothing to do with her. It was faintly ironic; when she had made her confession to him, he hadn't wanted to hear it. Now that he was beginning to be receptive of her affection, she was most determinedly trying to withhold it from him.
Uchiha Itachi was hardly amused.
She had been upsetting his relatively peaceful existence for months already, and if it meant that her presence could renew the balance in his life, he was all for it.
So now, it was his turn.
Sakura, on the other hand, could no longer stand the silence anymore. She racked her brain for something to say and ended up blurting out something completely generic and lame, much to her inner chagrin.
"…Thank you for coming, Uchiha-san." The pink-haired kunoichi spoke quietly, sincerely. "You really didn't have to-"
Once again, he cut her off mid-sentence before she could finish, his dark gaze intent upon hers.
"You have always addressed me by name," Itachi interrupted her quietly. "I see no need for you to revert back to using my surname."
It was a small, inconsequential matter, but since he was aware that she was trying to use it to separate herself from him, he could not allow it.
Sakura could only stare at the man, once more surprised by his words. His eyes never left hers, and that calm, sure gaze of his bothered her enough that she was soon nodding her head in agreement.
"Alright, Itachi-san," she started hesitantly, still not entirely sure just where the Uchiha was going with this change in situation. Then, she became so thoroughly sick of her own uncharacteristic timidness around this man that she straightened her back unconsciously and frowned slightly. Her eyes started to take on a small gleam of what looked like renewed bravado.
What the hell, she hadn't even started nursing her broken heart and she was already getting annoyed by her own dourness.
Of course, a large part of that might be due to the fact that her heart really wasn't broken in the first place.
Itachi held her gaze a moment longer than necessary, and then he looked away.
"I'm also here to clarify something." His attention was now directed at the scenery outside her windows with great interest, though she continued to stare at him, this time quizzically.
"Clarify what?" she asked immediately. Sakura could not think of a single thing that he needed to know from her. Was it his injuries? Medication?
This was…difficult, certainly, a lot more so than he had ever thought. Not to mention the delicate nature of the matter, as well as this confusing woman currently standing before him and giving him that concerned, doe-eyed look of hers.
His carefully blanked gaze returned to hers, his observation keen as he trained his eyes on her face, watching her reaction unblinkingly as he attempted to figure out the truth.
"Why do you claim to like me, Sakura?"
His question was blunt and to the point. Subtlety and stealth may have been inbred into his very bones when it came to the matter of assignments, duties and missions, but when it came to matters that concerned emotions of the more personal kind, Uchiha Itachi was about as delicate as rampaging bull elephant. And so he tried to get it quickly over with, without beating around the bush, without tact.
Even Sasuke, who really couldn't boast to being the life of any party (and didn't really have any outstanding people skills, either) was a lot better than his stoic brother, thanks to years of rehabilitation from the more 'lively' members of Team Seven. Not Itachi, sadly.
And so, unfortunately for Sakura, such was the man whom she had fallen in love with, and his sudden question only made the young woman gape in surprise once more.
Of all the things he could ask, this was definitely not one she expected. Faintly, Sakura could not help but come to the conclusion that he was indeed here for her.
Her newly-earned bravado slinked away quickly, the coward. The fact that Itachi was looking at her so intently wasn't making things any easier. Why did he want to know, all of a sudden? Why was he asking now?
It made her frown harder. It wasn't helping matters that she was now feeling completely flustered as well.
"It was a really silly reason," she muttered at last.
He looked at her. Silly…reason? Silly, which meant frivolous, which meant that she was just like his admirers, after all.
"You are only infatuated with me for my physical attributes," he told her flatly. It was oddly disappointing.
Her frown deepened further, almost a scowl.
"I only wish it was so," she muttered then, much to his inward surprise. "If that was the case, I think I would have gone for that stupid brother of yours instead."
That last sentence served to make his brows draw together. So she thought that Sasuke was better looking?
"…not to mention that you are also a bucket load of trouble." Almost as if a dam had burst, a disgruntled looking Sakura began listing all the reasons why she should not like him. "You are a workaholic, you are ANBU, you are the future head of your clan, you have so many responsibilities and so little spare time, most of which you proceed to spend on training. You drive your body to the absolute limit, you refuse to take proper care of yourself, you are always overstressed and over pressured and look like you are about to keel over anytime soon, you don't like to talk, you are very intimidating and ridiculously antisocial, and most of all, sometimes I don't even understand why I would even like you."
Then she sighed miserably, almost as if she pitied herself.
"But I really do like you."
She muttered this almost despondently, and completely missed the odd expression on Itachi's face.
She looked at him then.
"This is your fault," she accused, almost as if she had just remembered what it was that had caused her to see him in an entirely new light. "If you didn't look so damn peaceful that day I wouldn't have-"
She stopped immediately, turning bright red with embarrassment.
His attention was perked by her words.
"That day?" he probed carefully.
Sakura was getting the feeling that she was digging herself deeper and deeper into a hole. She nodded defiantly, though.
"It was during Sasuke's birthday and you were lurking about in the courtyard." She clearly remembered that day almost four months ago, when she had accidentally stumbled across her teammate's elusive brother in the extensive Uchiha property. Sakura refrained from looking at the Uchiha as she continued to speak, twin flags of red sitting high on her cheeks. "I don't know what you were doing there but you were sleeping, and all I could think was how you looked so different."
He had been leaning against the aged trunk of a particularly large maple tree, his tensed body rarely relaxed, a long leg stretched out before him whereas the other was bent at the knee, his upper torso propped against the trunk as he catnapped lightly under the dappled sunlight. She remembered creeping nearer, careful not to wake him, her curiosity ensuring that she took a closer look at him, and what she had seen had made her blush with feminine pleasure.
The man slumbering before her had been absolutely beautiful. In tranquil repose, the harsh lines of stress on his face had faded away, and his intimidating aura seemed to have calmed as well, becoming less prominent when she looked at him. Long, sooty eyelashes fanned the high, aristocratic cheekbones, his nose was sharp and his lips thin; the man was so perfectly proportionate that it was no wonder that he had so many admirers.
But Sakura had never noticed until now, and it had made her heart flutter and skip a beat as she stared openly at the sleeping Uchiha. He had on so many layers of defenses and walls around him when awake, all meant to keep people away, but in slumber, he looked oddly defenseless.
Her eyes softened slightly at the memory, and he stared at her.
"You looked so very peaceful," she repeated again, a heavy blush inundating her face, well aware that she had probably intruded upon his privacy that day when she had gaped at his napping form like some village idiot. "I just wanted to see you like that again."
His brow went up at her mutter.
"You wanted to watch me sleep?" he asked, the smallest hint of incredulity coloring his lilting tone.
Her head came up immediately, and she gave him a good frown.
"That's not what I meant." Instantly, she was shy again. "You were always so…intense. For once, I just wanted to see you at peace."
Then she proceeded to blush so hard that he became mildly amused by her acute embarrassment.
"I think you would look even better, if you were happier."
The Uchiha had no idea how to respond to her words and slightly dreamy countenance.
"I have no need to look better," he answered her, eventually.
She wondered if he was offended by her mistaken implication that he wasn't very attractive. Judging by that usual blank expression on his face, Sakura doubted that was the case. After all, his appearance wasn't going to make him become any stronger, and come to think of it, being happy may very well not help improve his abilities as a nin, too.
It probably wasn't necessary for him to be happy, as well.
"You don't have to look happy to actually be happy, you know." Almost immediately, Sakura realized how contradictory her words were. She appeared awkwardly stuck, even as he looked at her with silent appraisal.
Sakura rubbed her nose again, this time trying absently to stave off a sneeze. He noticed.
"Have you taken your medication?" he asked abruptly, and she stared at him in surprise, not expecting the sudden change of subject.
She nodded. "I took my meds already."
"You will need to rest in order to heal."
She nodded once more. "I will."
It seemed then that there was nothing more to say.
Dark onyx met emerald and held for a brief moment. Then, he spoke softly, his calm, watchful gaze never leaving hers.
"It would…please me, to get to know you better." He was faltering slightly at first, as if almost unsure. Then, the inborn Uchiha arrogance took over, and coupled with the self-possessed surety in his eyes, he continued in his usual smooth, lilting tenor.
"Spend time with me."
With the exception that he sounded remarkably like he was giving her a command, it was almost exactly the same thing that she had told him that night outside the Ramen Bar months ago, and her eyes widened slightly at what he was trying to tell her. She looked at him closely, and immediately noticed the acute discomfort in his posture, the hint of anxiety in his normally apathetic gaze as he waited for her answer.
He was obviously not used to doing things like this, but the fact that he was doing it for her made her eyes light up unconsciously.
He watched her quietly.
She was surprisingly easy to please. What he had proposed was hardly a relationship, but more of a chance for them to continue as they once had, to get to know each other more. Even though he was no longer set against the idea of her, he hadn't accepted her confession just yet. As cautious as he always was, he needed more time to observe, to make exactly sure, before he could come to any decision. He had to admit that he didn't know much about this kunoichi, save for his own brief observations of her as well as that shared by his younger brother, and that would have to change.
Hopefully, with the passing of time and deeper understanding of the other, the suitable conclusion that they both wanted would come.
It may not seem like much at the moment, but Sakura was content.
Her affection may not be as one-sided as she had originally thought after all, and although he still did not feel completely the same way, he was slowly but surely reconsidering.
She would wait for him.
The pretty pink-haired kunoichi smiled and nodded.
"I would like that."
Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:
And here ends the introductory fic to Ramen-verse. For those who were wishing for more intimate scenes, well, I would advise you not to get your hopes up, at least not until the later sequels. Things like those are going to take time, a long time, at least for this version's Itachi.
For those who have already guessed correctly, the characteristics of Ramen-verse's Itachi was my interpretation of the Itachi that Kishimoto had chosen to reveal only recently, aka nice!misunderstood!Itachi. At least, this was my take on the type of person that he could have been in a non-massacre verse. Some readers have already noticed that he has a rather introverted personality, as well as somewhat emotionally fragile.
In Ramen-verse, Itachi is still as powerful and as intelligent as ever, and although his natural instinct to be antisocial and the lone wolf sets him apart from the general populace, he actually does care about the people around him, only that they don't know it because he is unable, not unwilling, to show it. His abilities, genius and ranking are already awe inspiring enough, but adding that to his own distant, warily watchful nature; he is very intimidating and some may even come to the mistaken conclusion that he is actually rather stuck up as well.
That is not true; the truth is that Itachi has no idea whatsoever how to interact casually with others. If you noticed, he was already an ANBU captain in his preteens, and coupled with the fact that he was the clan heir and no doubt had an accelerated education whereupon his peers would have been a lot older than himself, he had always been put in positions whereupon he had to be a leader, and at the same time, was always surrounded by individuals much older than himself.
In other words, although he is strong and smart and an excellent nin, the circumstances in which he grew up upon had isolated him and stunted his emotional development, so much so that he is actually downright uncomfortable in the presence of people in his age group and below. And so, following that point, it is easy to assume that, for this completely introverted version of Itachi that is, interacting with the abovementioned groups of people on a basis other than work and that of a formal superior-subordinate relationship would probably have been a complete nightmare.
Of course, he doesn't indicate that discomfort, just as he couldn't seem to be able to show a lot of other things. As such, people tend to leave him alone, and he gains that unapproachable, 'Ice Prince' status, a lonely, but formidable reputation worthy of any clan heir.
At least, until Sakura comes barreling along, but that's another story.
So this is my long, half-baked explanation for Ramen-verse Itachi, after I did some tweaking of the other versions of Itachi in my various fanfics.
Hope I wasn't too confusing!
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