Story Title: Tempest Keep

This story is on official hiatus until further notice.

A/N: This story has been rolling around in my head for some time. So one night, unable to sleep. I decided to go ahead and write it. For this plot, I was inspired by Xenogears. Despite this, it's not a true AU as it will take place in the Narutoverse. At least, not the extreme AU's you all know me for. For those of you who have played Xenogears, you'll notice my inspiration most likely, and quotes that I will credit at the end of the chapter. For those of you who have not, do not worry, there will be nothing confusing. It's not a crossover. Just a plot idea. I just want to be completely honest and I don't want to take complete credit saying that the idea was all original.

"Itachi" can be translated as "weasel". To some degree of Japanese belief, weasels are considered a harbinger, often signifying ill fortune. -From Wiki

Summary: What should have been a simple C-rank mission to deliver a scroll to Tea Country so a certain pink haired medic could take a break from a tedious hospital schedule became anything but. All within the breath of a moment.

Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me. Neither does Xenogears which inspired this plot.

Chapter 1:

Sakura truly believed that she was a capable, strong, and reasonably intelligent kunoichi. Her medic skill were second to none and her chakra control was close to perfection. There wasn't any nin with a bloodline trait that she knew that could match her skill when it came to chakra control. However at this very moment in time, none of these things mattered in the grand scheme of things.

Despite all her skills as a competent kunoichi, she had very quickly found herself playing the role of prey. The one who chased her was known to be merciless and his bloodline trait was certainly not one she wanted to tackle this gray and cold morning. She didn't think she'd be prepared to face it at any moment of the day, to be frankly honest. She wasn't a coward by any means of the word, but she was smart. And smart people knew that misplaced pride didn't save a person's life when death was hot on their heels.

The pink haired medic nin could sense by the nearly stifling chakra signature that pursued her that she was outclassed. Sakura got the feeling that he was allowing her to sense the signature, and honestly it was subtle, but the deadly edge to it caused shivers to run down the length of her spine. She knew exactly whose it was. Sakura had sensed it once before. It was during the time team seven and team Gai had went to retrieve the Kazekage from Akatsuki's clutches. At that time, what they had fought, hadn't even really been the true man himself at full power. It had taken both the full combined efforts of Naruto and Kakashi-sensei to take the clone down. Her breath came out in near gasps from fatigue at the forced quick pace. She moved from tree branch to tree branch, her brain trying to assimilate a plan of escape. Instead she found herself being driven forward by him. The instinct to remove herself from the threat was too strong to ignore. It overrode her need to rest.

Pulling the scroll, the object she was sure he more than likely after out of her jounin issued vest pocket. She placed a quick concealing seal over it, and stuffed it into knothole of a tree as she jumped past. He wasn't close enough to get a visual on her, so it should remain safe for the moment at least. She'd come back for it later if she was able to. If for some reason he caught up to her, she didn't want the information to fall into enemy hands. The medic nin lifted her face slightly when she felt a droplet hit her forehead. The moisture dribbled down the side of her cheek and by the time it got to her chin, she found herself caught in a hard downpour. The water pelting her pasted her clothing and hair to her now slick skin.

The young woman hopped down from an old oak branch and into an open field. Her heart caught in her throat when she realized she had ran herself into a cliff. Or maybe, she concluded, he had pushed her this way purposely to effectively trap her. It would explain the show of the ominous chakra signature. Peering down the sheer rocky face, she knew that there was no way she could safely climb down the now wet slicked stone without taking a major chance. She definitely felt like she was playing a game of cat and mouse. The disgruntled kunoichi was not enjoying playing the role of the cornered rodent.

Lifting her chin bravely, she decided she'd at least face her pursuer. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of coming upon her cornered and quivering scared and helpless. Fear was replaced by a sudden spurt of calm serenity. An emotion completely out of place with the situation she found herself in. Slowly she turned to face none other than Itachi Uchiha.

When he landed in the opening at the opposite end from where she stood, her slender frame straightened her spine uncurving until it was ramrod straight. Despite the knowledge she had of the sharingan, the compulsion to look into those red eyes that could very well mean her death was too strong to ignore. Her eyes lifted almost against her will. For several long moments silence reigned between the two of them. The sound of rain splattering against the ground pounded in her ears along with hard beat of her heart. Sakura could hear somewhere within her mind Chiyo's voice lecturing her, even after the years had gone by since the old woman's death. To take on a sharingan wielder alone was suicide. Her face rose and she gazed brazenly into his eyes because oddly enough, she wanted to. The sudden sensation was compulsory, unexplainable, and even though common sense denoted that she should be afraid for her life in this situation, especially since she recalled vividly what the Tsukuyomi had done to Kakashi-sensei, the fear that been in her heart before had left her. Though she was looking at the elder Uchiha brother, Sasuke's name didn't even register in existence in her befuddled state of mind.

The ire she should feel for this man, the hatred that she'd once proclaimed out loud because this person had threatened the very existence of her precious people, had melted away like a sandcastle against the strength of the tide into the realm of the forgotten. It was such a strange sensation that she was confused by the sudden dulling of her emotions. She fought against the bizzare emotions churning within her. She was a creature who believed in common sense. This strange sense of self was very unlike her, and it didn't fit in the scheme of survival. However, she lost the battle, and couldn't wrench her eyes away.

Pupils in almost too large green eyes dilated and her breath caught in her throat as she was pulled into the limbo of Tsukuyomi beneath the drugging pull of deadly crimson. Her head fell back and her mouth opened slightly when she found herself staring up into a sanguine moon. Trying to pull her equilibrium together the best she could in such a place. An existence that was, and wasn't. She found herself failing miserably.

In this world created by him, as silly as the thought was, she found it eerily beautiful in a bizarre sort of way. A breeze whistled past her and the shallow water she stood in rippled against her sandal clad feet. Dark red clouds floated past lazily across the ebony shaded sky almost making her forget that it was actually raining where reality remained. It was a strange feeling, she thought somewhat absently, that she wasn't afraid even as she continued to hold those cold eyes of his with her own.

Tilting her chin at an angle to get a better look at his face, as she gazed quietly into his stoic visage, an inexplicable warmth stole through her, curling through her insides. Unexplainable and completely bizarre. Her voice came out strangled, the words spilling from her lips were words neither of them expected, "I should hate you. I should be afraid."

"Hn," was the only sound that came from the impassive male.

Though his face was blank and his eyes were as emotionless as a stagnant puddle, Sakura sensed he was just as confused as she was. Her body seemed to have a mind of its own, because though it was an utterly stupid thing to do her logical sense of self berated her, her hand raised moving past the high collar of his cloak and her fingers brushed the skin of his cheek.

Immediately he stiffened when the callused fingertips traced his jawline, the touch as intimate as a lover's. Graceful and gentle. He grabbed her seemingly delicate wrist in his hand and pulled it away from him eyeing the young woman, her odd actions and words unnerving him. It had been years since another person had touched him without malice. Itachi Uchiha, had long killed off his emotions. A still, gray pool, placid and untouched in his soul. The life he had chosen, the path he had determined to walk unwavering had required that he'd done so. If he had not, then, he would have fallen into madness. The blood of many soaked his hands, some innocent and others intent on power and war. His love for his brother was the only part of him that he hadn't allowed to die away. It was he who held his redemption.

He had trailed after this Konoha kunoichi after separating from Kisame, in search of a scroll that Pein wanted. Information pertaining to Tea Country. It was a simple matter, or so he had thought. Somehow before he could sweep in and take her completely by surprise, she had sensed his presence. She shouldn't have for his skill by far out-classed hers. Itachi couldn't even say that he'd truly caught her. He'd been close to it, but she had jumped down into an open field and had turned to face him. The woman even had the audacity to look him in the eye without a trace of fear in her slender body. Usually he had to subtly coerce an opponent, shinobi far more seasoned than her, into looking into his eyes.

A ripple, in the surface of the gray pool. Something about her green eyes, pierced something in him he couldn't explain. Her presence was making him distinctly uncomfortable. Which should have not been possible, because his emotions should be long dead. Reflexively, and unaware, his thumb began to trace small circles on her thin wrist. In this place, where only the mind existed, the two faced one another uncertainly.

When Itachi realized what he was doing he released his hold on her and asked without inflection, "Where is it?"

"Gone," was the reply.

Sakura watched as he arched an eyebrow, the first true expression of emotion she'd seen from him, as slight as it was. He was irritated she surmised, her expression serene. It was strange, this perplexing sense of calm that had over taken her. Even when his hand shot out and wrapped around her neck, there was no fear, after all this place was only an illusion he created. It felt real however when the tapered fingers squeezed her windpipe and lifted her bodily off of the ground.

Suddenly she felt something hard against her back, and she realized as he stepped back to look at her, she was hung on a crucifix. In his hand a wakizashi blade appeared in his grasp, and he held the pointed end out at her, the point only inches away from her midriff. Her eyes never left his as he repeated, his eyes if possible had gone even colder, "Where is it?"

A smile curved her lower lip, "Gone." She replied again. Sakura had no idea where her self preservation had gone. She curiously watched the way the left corner of his mandible tightened slightly. It was obvious he found her answer less than pleasing.

"Is a scroll worth dying over?" he asked softly, twin crimson piercing. His patience was beginning to wear thin with the strange young woman. Her behavior was not of a kunoichi, it was not typical either.

In that moment Sakura came to realize something. He hadn't killed her for her impudence. Hesitance was not something she'd expect from this man. Actually shouldn't he be the type to kill first and ask questions later. A murderer without a soul? The fact that he hadn't truly hurt her was perplexing to say the least.

Sakura replied, though she didn't know what possessed her to speak the words that came from her lips. It was a calm statement, and one that would have led him to believe she was mocking him, but the composed expression on her face belied the fact, "No a scroll is not worth dying for," a pause and a breath, "but - you will not," her eyes met his and Sakura strangely knew this to be the truth as it tumbled from her lips, "kill - me..." The realistic side of Sakura, the part that was being pushed back and quieted protested against the sheer madness of the words. It wasn't like her to taunt enemies. It was unrealistic. Insane.

Itachi's hand gripped the hilt of the sword so tightly his knuckles went white. This woman. Wasn't she supposed to be the disciple of the Godaime? A woman of formidable strength and medical skills. The girl who was a friend of the Jinchuriki, and the once teammate of his sibling. Malachite eyes, piercing in their intensity gazed into his with an emotion he couldn't quite read. The words she'd spoken were not a verbal challenge. She had spoken them as a truth. It was a simple statement. Rippling gray in the black crevice of his soul for every moment she held his eyes. His hand tightened and his jaw clenched. Where was her sense? Her eyes, her body language, her relaxed posture. The woman, held absolutely no fear of him. It was puzzling to say the least.

Sakura watched as he cocked his elbow back. Even still, she couldn't summon up the fear that she knew she should be feeling. Then just as the tip of the sword was about to pierce her flesh, the sanguine moon above them both plummeted, and the existence that was and wasn't swirled, the nebulous shifting. Sakura blinked, and when she felt the blades of grass brushing across her ankles, she realized that she was again aware. The young woman lifted her chin, and now that she was free of the Uchiha's hold, she immediately lined her limbs with chakra and swiftly moved into a crouching stance.

He stood, not but fifteen feet away from her, his entire body tense as he watched her with trepidation in the lines of his body. Even though his face was completely blank, she could tell that he wasn't quite sure what to expect from her. Sakura lifted her face, the breeze tickling her bangs against the skin of her forehead. Green eyes darkened to viridian when she sensed the chakra signature of none other than Sasuke. Understanding dawned on her, Itachi had probably released her from Tsukuyomi because of his brother's approach. Her lips moved into a frown when her heart did not leap in her chest as it normally would have. The lack of reaction alarmed her but even then the emotion was minimal. Maybe the Tsukuyomi had affected her mental facilities more than she first thought. Her reaction to everything was not like her. She should be spitting obscenities and hateful comments at the Uchiha who had one eye on her and one in the direction of the forest canopy.

She pointed a finger at Itachi, "What in the hell did you do to me bastard?" Sakura felt a little better after getting that out, although it was a little on the late side. It made her feel somewhat better to behave more like her usual self.

He didn't deign to reply, and Sakura's attention was averted as the younger sibling appeared along with the ones who followed him. When he eyed the two of them, there was confusion there, but Sakura realized something within the clarity of that moment that she would never have noticed if it wasn't for the strange state of mind she was in. The hate, the loathing, and the darkness in Sasuke's eyes, was completely absent in the elder sibling's. By which all accounts, shouldn't it be mutual? Sakura tensed, waiting, believing that Sasuke would charge his eldest brother with hateful insults and pledges of ending his life. It would give her a chance to escape.

But, it was not to be. Sasuke turned his chin, his eyes obsidian for the moment, "So you got to her first eh?"

Sakura suddenly found herself under four sets of eyes with varying expressions in them, none of them good. What had just tumbled from Sasuke's mouth was definitely unexpected. The fear that had been absent, was now finding it's way back and she felt it squeeze her heart. After all these years of avoidance, what could he possibly want from her? She couldn't help the confusion that bloomed on her face.

Sasuke eyed his brother, "I trust you'll stay out of this? I will settle matters with you at a later time," When his brother didn't react either way, he turned his gaze back to Sakura. It didn't matter, Itachi wouldn't be able to interfere, because his brother was alone, just as Sakura was, while he had three powerful shinobi behind him. To all their relief the rain stopped, leaving them standing there in the mud, the puddles rippling from the cold breeze. Sakura shivered for more reasons that just the icy chill. She felt a small spark of anger ignite in her at Sasuke's lofty behavior. She grabbed ahold of the familiar emotion, and held onto it like a vice.

"Don't talk about me as if I'm not here," Sakura placed her hands on her hips, a gesture of bravado she didn't quite feel. However it leaned a bit more towards normalcy, and so she grasped at it in hopes of grounding herself.

A smirk she knew all too well adorned his features, "Isn't that greeting a little bit cold Sakura-chan." The way he said the endearment was enough to make her stomach twist into sickened, painful knots.

Itachi watched the young woman out of the corner of his vision. Even with his eyesight going bad, he could tell by her body posture that the confidence she had before was completely gone. She was a blur of pastel pink and raspberry clothing. Even the girl's physical attributes seemed out of place for a kunoichi. He was curious however about his brother. It wasn't like Sasuke to ignore him, and focus on someone else. Today was making less and less sense as it wore on. He frowned, in fact it made him all the more inquisitive about what his sibling wanted with the rather useless girl.

"Forgive me if I don't feel the need to be polite to traitors," Sakura snapped back angrily. It'd been eight years since he'd left the village, and she had long ago realized that he was never coming back. Even Naruto had come to terms with the loss of his comrade and the two of them had moved on. Sasuke had become someone they no longer knew. He had, in their last meeting tried to kill both her and Naruto, and that had been more than enough closure for Sakura.

"You wound me, however," he stepped forward his arms crossing over the front of his bare chest, "Niceties aside..." his lips furled into a parody of a smile, "I've been waiting for you to leave the confines of the village. Apparently you're quite the dedicated little doctor. I was about ready to go in there and retrieve you personally. There is something I need of you - of course it seems my brother realizes your usefulness as well and has found you first, but that's of no matter."

Itachi only raised a brow at this comment. So they were not after the scroll which would make things difficult. He couldn't let them kill her until he found out what she'd done with it. He was beginning to regret the fact that he'd sent Kisame on ahead.

"Whatever it is you want! I won't do it," Sakura sorely out numbered, responded through clenched teeth her hands fisting at her sides.

The younger Uchiha slowly unsheathed the kusanagi sword and his lips furled into a snarl, "Oh you will Sakura-chan, of that I have no doubt"

The mockery in his tone set her teeth on edge. Today should have came with a warning label she thought to herself wryly. The moment of humor, just like everything else today was out of place. It seemed her only way out was to fight. But with Sasuke's trio behind him smirking at her, and Itachi watching, biding his time. It was a lose lose situation for her at best. She could try to bargain her way out, to ally temporarily with Itachi, but that was like making a deal with the devil - not to mention that she'd be willfully handing information over to the Akatsuki. And who was to say that Itachi would allow her to leave alive after he was done with her. Despite her words of before, her sensible side didn't believe them. She still couldn't understand what had possessed her to say such a stupid thing to him.

He took three steps in her direction and when she tensed he said, "Don't worry Sakura-chan. I will be the only one you fight. I highly doubt you'll be much of a challenge. After all, you were always the weakest member of team seven."

Her lips firmed into a thin line, but his words did not strike the chord within her that it normally would have. Sakura met the onyx eyes that melted into deadly sharingan. Again that feeling of calm over took her and she felt herself drowning in the displaced emotion. Her enemies watched the uncertain girl straighten her small body. The hesitance in the lines of her slender frame completely disappeared and the lines around her face softened, her visage regal, oddly kind and wise. Her words were so softly spoken, those around her had to strain to hear them, "Some things only the weak can feel but weakness does not make them secure. It's because they are weak, that they can develop kindness and never look down on people."

As the words came from the young woman, those that surrounded her felt the emotional weight placed behind them. Itachi Uchiha frowned, there it was again. That gentle demeanor, the calm young girl that had faced him in Tsukuyomi. Even the expression on her face was different. Her eyes struck him oddly enough as old. Very, very old. It belied her obvious youth. Her statement was as completely unshinobi like as it could get. It was almost like he was watching two different people in one body. Yet, it wasn't anything like Zetsu's split personality, but it still reminded him strongly of it. Very puzzling indeed.

Karin found herself eyeing the strange kunoichi and she quickly stepped forward and grabbed Sasuke's sleeve, "Be cautious of her Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke scoffed at the redhead, "You cannot be serious."

"I sensed a strange fluctuation in her chakra signature," she bit her lip, something about the young woman made her nervous. When the other woman turned her head to address Sasuke, those green eyes were suddenly so piercing. She almost felt like the girl could see through her. Which was ridiculous, but it made her leery of the other kunoichi all the same. She added softly, "It was like I was looking at two completely different people all at once."

Sasuke eyed Sakura, the girl he remembered as a clingy know-it-all who had always been completely useless in battle. Even though it'd been years since he'd last seen her, his taunt should have shaken her. From what he recalled, Sakura had always been a little on the emotional side for a kunoichi. He wouldn't allow Sakura the chance to play mind games on him, he thought. His visage darkened visibly and his temper rose in his impatience to get this over with. It had unnerved him to see his eldest brother cornering Sakura. Itachi, a person he loathed above all people, and it had worried him at first. Sasuke's sight was beginning to dull, and Sakura was the only medic he knew of that could help him. The last thing he needed was for Itachi to figure out how useful she could actually be. He'd make her heal his eyes one way or the other and then he would kill his brother. Fortunately for him, Itachi was not with his partner, and with team Hebi behind him - his brother could do nothing to stop him from taking the lone, unprotected kunoichi for his gain.

When Sakura didn't move to attack, Sasuke gripped the hilt of his blade, and in a blur of white and purple he rushed her.

Sakura was still cloaked in the ebb of peaceful calm and watched him as he charged. She could tell by the dark look on his face, that he meant to force her to his will. Deep within, she felt anger stir at his attempt to bend her to his whims. Lifting a fist, she cocked her elbow and she was about to aim for his face, when suddenly she was blocked by Itachi. Her eyes widened and her arm faltered as her eyes focused on one of the clouds emblazoned on his cloak. She blinked thrice. Why would he bother? It didn't make any sense.

She heard Sasuke curse when Itachi stopped his attack in a seemingly effortless maneuver, "Out of my way bastard!" and then, "If you're so eager to die today, why didn't you just say so?"

Sakura took a step back, shock etched deeply in her features. Sakura stammered at Itachi who still held his position in front of her, "No matter what you do, I won't give you the scroll!"

"Stupid woman. Are you not a kunoichi?" His tenor reached her. "If you had any sense you would have taken advantage of my distraction and escaped."

Her lower lip worked at the words thrown at her. He was right. Where in the hell was her sense today? Even still, she stood rooted to the spot, unable to make herself move. Her brain was yelling at her to run, to do as he said. But that small voice inside of her, that strange sense of calm, of self, held her still. Before her eyes, the brothers fought, blurs of black and white, flashes of sharingan, blood and everything else Uchiha. Team Hebi only watched, waiting to be given the okay to join in just in case. They knew that this was Sasuke's fight, and his fight alone. Sakura could see the thirst for blood in their eyes, and was sickened by it.

Sakura's green orbs widened when Itachi moved forward, an onyx blur against the grass, forming a jutsu that Sakura didn't recognize. Whatever it was missed Sasuke only by a slight margin, but it was enough for Sasuke to knock the elder sibling back. Sakura frowned, how did he miss something like that? Sasuke's grin was completely malicious and bitter as he gazed down at his brother. He smirked at Itachi who leaned against a trunk of the tree, holding his side and eyeing Sasuke with a fathomless expression on his stoic face.

"I would thank you for the opportunity brother, but-" the malice in Sasuke's voice was so ugly and twisted it made something churn painfully in Sakura's gut. Fear begin to blossom, and the whisper that seemed to spill up from her soul became more insistant, until it was buzzing wildly in her ears.

She contemplated the scene unfolding in front of her. In the end, isn't it what Itachi deserved in the first place? The man had murdered the entire Uchiha clan and from all accounts had taunted Sasuke as a child fostering a hatred that had twisted the child into what he was now. When Sasuke's hand sparked with chidori, Sakura's heart clenched painfully in her chest. Something foreign and wild welled up within her an emotion so strong it nearly bent her over in half by it. The voice in her head was no longer a soft whisper, but a stark command. The urge to protect the eldest brother went against all reason. Against all sanity. It made no sense to her, to her distraught emotions. For a moment, when she glanced at the stoic Akatsuki, she thought she saw another man's face blurring into view. It looked like Itachi, but yet it wasn't. She blinked and the illusion was gone. The clinical side of Sakura, made a mental note to check into the mental ward of Konoha should she make it back alive.

When Sasuke's sandal clad foot lifted, Sakura's did as well. Her body moved without her permission. Automatically the chakra needed lined the soles of her feet, ankles and leg muscles and before she knew what she was doing, the kunoichi to the surprise of all present herself included, planted herself in the oncoming path of the chidori. When she met Sasuke's startled gaze, she knew hers mirrored the shock in his eyes. He swerved instinctively, and instead of the chidori hitting her straight on, it grazed her right side searing through skin and sinew. White, hot light danced before her eyes as pain raced through her body. It was sharp and jagged, lancing through her senses like a hot poker. She could hear her own scream spilling from her throat, and echoing out in the space around her.

Sakura could feel the warmth of her own blood trailing down her side. Despite the pain, she met Sasuke's angry eyes and he couldn't help but gaze back. Tranquility and peace filling the depths of the deepest, soulful green eyes he'd ever looked into. Was this the Sakura Haruno he'd known? It was almost like looking into a complete stranger's eyes and yet the warmth, and familiar feeling was all there. He could see she was just as confused by her actions, and he wondered if his brother had somehow used the sharingan to move her there, to protect himself from the oncoming chidori. That idea was quickly set aside when he could see that his brother was taken aback by Sakura's actions as well. Anger blazed inside of him. She had stopped him from killing his brother. The startling knowledge made him hate her.

Her hand went to her side to stem the flow of blood, she knew somewhere in the back of her mind she should be healing herself. However her thoughts were too focused on the boy turned man in front of her. She watched as his eyes narrowed into hatred so intense and dark it turned his once handsome face, twisting it into an ugly caricature of loathing, "You bitch! You..." he stuttered at her, stunned by what he perceived as a betrayal. This was the very woman who had said she'd loved him, never mind they were only twelve at the time, "How dare you? Once I'm done with you! I will kill you!"

Sakura sighed against the pain. All too wise green met sharingan, her lips firming beneath the onslaught of his hatred. She found that all she could feel for the boy was pity. A sad smile touched her lips and words not her own spilled from her lips, "Sasuke, you think that you're looking forward to the future driven by hate on a fruitless quest for power. But in the end you're only looking at yourself, and like that - in the end, you will find nothing."

At the soft spoken statement, Sasuke's glare intensified. Her demeanor was nothing like the Sakura he had known. She was supposed to be temperamental, rash, emotional. Instead she had spoken to him, pity and melancholy for him prevalent in her pained visage. Her words pricked at him, mocked him. His anger turned into cold rage. Later, he would make her pay for her idiotic and pathetic interference.

Itachi's lower lip worked as he watched the young woman stagger in front of him, bleeding from her side. Why had she done something so idiotic? She had move to protect him, although he had needed none. Itachi could handle his brother, of that he was certain. His brain just couldn't wrap around the woman's actions. It was too selfless for any shinobi, Konoha nin or not. Just minutes prior before his brother had come upon them, he'd threatened her life in Tsukuyomi. She should by all rights consider him an enemy. She would be stupid not to. This would be considered betrayal in the eyes of Konoha. She should be trying to help his brother kill him. His train of thought halted when the girl turned her head, her short jagged pink hair sliding over her shoulders, her viridian darkened eyes were warm and thoughtful. Another ripple. The piercing quality of her gaze, far too gentle twin emeralds tugged at apart of him that he hadn't even known existed. Who was this woman? He knew who she was, by the run of the mill information that was well-known. Yet, he was beginning to wonder about the validity of that information.

Her next words stunned all into silence, including his brother. The affection in them, the depth of emotion behind her tone would have made Itachi believe that she was completely delusional, but there was far too much clarity in her eyes for him to come to that conclusion. Simple words, a strong womanly voice lacing over the girl's more dulcet tones, "Itachi live," blood trailed from the corner of her lip and then her knees collapsed and the girl fell to the ground unconscious. The sight disturbed him far deeper than it should have. For someone who'd seen so much death, the stupid female's pathetic behavior shouldn't have effected him in the least. He wrenched his gaze away, and focused on his brother. He noticed the look of shock had not yet worn off of his sibling's face. His brother was staring befuddled at the woman like he'd never seen her before.

Two simple words from a stranger. They should have not had any effect on him whatsoever, but for some reason that he couldn't explain. They did. Immediately afterwards however, his face was wiped clean of all emotion. The gray waters of his soul settled.

Sasuke bit out, "What in the hell did you do to her?"

"Concerned little brother," he mocked Sasuke, yet his words held no inflection, no feeling, "You weren't acting like it just moments ago."

Confusion, stark and naked, was visible before it was wiped away by angry loathing, "That wasn't the Sakura I knew. She..." He shook his head. It didn't matter. He would figure it all out later when he had her where he wanted her. For now he would focus on his enemy. His brother.

Two sets of crimson orbs met and bodies tensed as they fell into a fighting position once more.

-o-

Sakura could hear voice leave her lips, "Itachi live." It bounced around in her head, along with the echoes of Sasuke cursing her to the depths of hell. Her eyes shut and as she plunged into the darkness awaiting her. She allowed it to enfold her. She welcomed the comfort it brought. It was like sinking in the depths of water. Her mind was plagued with feelings - emotions and memories that were not her own, and yet they were. A myriad of blurs, tangible and yet she couldn't grasp them. Awake she hadn't understood anything, but in this place within, she understood.

Words she was unable to convey. Emotions she wasn't able to voice. The man who would change her, and watching herself change. Such a long, never ending, heart-rending dream. In this dream, she was Mother Hoshi, a name that had been adorned upon her by the hope of the masses. The star that would shine amongst them against the war that threatened to sunder the nation from its very foundations. It was a title that had been given to her, whether she had wanted it or not.

Smiling, her hands folded on her lap, dressed in robes of the clergy she represented. She held the position, her eyes focused on Kioshi. Her limbs were stiff from sitting for hours, but she endured it. If only to spend time with him. She could see the lines of tension at the corner of his lips. His stoic visage intent on the canvas in front of him.

Her voice was gentle, "You look tired. Maybe we should stop for today."

Kioshi's obsidian eyes lifted, meeting concerned green, "I'm fine, but perhaps it would be best if we finish up for the day. You look tired Mother Hoshi..."

"Stop it," she grimaced at the male, "When it's just the two of us, call me Sakura. Like you used to. It isn't like you to be so stiff and formal."

Mother Hoshi watched when his lips pursed but then he nodded, his voice terse, "If that's what you want Sakura."

Sakura. She had always liked that name. When she had first met him, that was what he called her. It was her true name.

Relaxing her pose but not moving from her seat, she watched as he packed up his oils into his battered carrying case. He lifted his head, his low riding ponytail sliding over a muscular shoulder, "I need to go back home. I should be back within a few days."

"Oh," concern filtered into her gaze, her fingers smoothing out the cream hued material of her dress, "Is there something wrong?"

"I need to gather more pigments," he said, but he didn't meet her eyes this time.

"You're going to go so far just for that?" She asked startled by the unexpected announcement.

He turned his face completely away, the shadows covering his expression. "If I don't, I won't have the right pigments."

"I see," She replied, forcing cheerfulness into her voice. She smiled brightly, "Why don't you take one of my followers with you? You'll be safer - it's too dangerous to travel alone."

Kioshi stiffened, then nodded, his lips drawn into a grim line. Taking up his case, he turned on his heel and before he left he replied, his voice curt and clipped, "I'll do that thank you Mother Hoshi."

She wondered when it was he started to refuse her. Their positions, their circumstances, he refused to look past them. To see the woman beneath the suffocating title. Or perhaps, it was her. If that was the case, she didn't want them. She only wanted them to be themselves. So she asked him, to paint her. The way she really was.

Dreams. A life of Mother Hoshi, and countless many other women. Long, heart rending dreams, where one ended another began. Now that she was awake, those endless dreams are nearly impossible to remember at all. In those dreams, she loved only one man, no matter the day, no matter the era, that did not change, only his name.

That dream changed her, it served the catalyst for her to resolve what her purpose was. That long, long memory of a dream, perhaps it was the memory of her soul.

-o-

The two brothers faced each other, the harsh lines of their faces deepening as they contemplated their next attack. Team Hebi watched patiently, pleased that most of the drama was over with or so they thought. It was a cold day, and they wanted to grab the stupid girl that Sasuke wanted and to get the hell out of there.

Karin stiffened, her red eyes going to the fallen body of the woman. Entranced, she could not force herself to look away. White light was beginning to glow around the woman's frame. It glowed soft, like an aura at first. Pushing her glasses up against the bridge of her nose, she called out in warning before it was too late, "Sasuke!"

At the sound of his teammate's voice, he kept his brother in sight, but positioned himself to be able to glance at Karin as well. Irritation at being interrupted etched itself in his cold, unrelenting visage. Anyone else he would ignore, but he had long learned to listen to Karin's warnings. Even if she was annoying, she never interrupted a battle unless it was gravely important.

"The girl!" Karin pointed at Sakura's crumpled and bloody form. By the second, her aura was growing brighter and brighter. She didn't know how no one couldn't see her light. It was getting to the point of blinding.

The two males looked at the broken and bleeding girl. Sasuke scoffed, but then just as he was about to move into a fighting stance to attack his brother, deadly sharingan activated. Light, piercing and radiant suddenly sparked from Sakura just above her chest. The brothers both paused. Her back arching, her body lifted from the ground on the trail of pure white light. Sasuke's elbow went up to cover his eyes as did Team Hebi's. When the light disappeared, he removed his arm, a curse spilling from his lips.

Itachi, along with Sakura was gone. Twice Sakura had gotten in his way, whether intentionally or not. His brain tried to process what he'd just witnessed. This was Sakura for kami's sake. The whiny, teary eyed, too large of a forehead girl with weird out-of-place pink hair. The girl who had followed him like a love sick puppy even when he'd been rude and callous to her. This was the girl who had cowered, never able to stand on her two feet alone - always depending on the males of her team for protection. Team seven's weakest link. It came as a startling realization as the conclusion asserted itself. This Sakura was no longer someone he knew. She was no longer a girl, but a grown woman. Just like everyone else, she had changed. He found that he didn't like it, because within the blink of a second, the dynamics of his well-laid out plans had changed.

"SPLIT UP! FIND THEM!" The angry order echoed loudly. Even though he knew that not even Karin could track his brother, if his sibling didn't want to be found.

-o-

A/N: The quote: "Some things only the weak can feel...but weakness does not make them secure. It's because they are weak, that they can develop kindness...and never look down on people..." Is direct from the game Xenogears. The dream scene, was also based heavily off of Sophia's story from the game. For some odd reason, Sakura had always struck me as an old soul and I thought it'd be fun to write her in a bit of Elly/Sophia perspective. The italics there at the end, a lot of it was also direct from the game as well.