Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, Xenogears, ect… ect.

Chapter 6

That night Itachi couldn't quite grasp the peaceful ebb of sleep. He tossed and turned as fragments of dreams, remnants of the past plagued his mind. He rolled onto his stomach and squinted at the shadowed walls.

Feelings that he had long repressed were beginning to surface and cloud his mind. The moment he had truly come face to face with the pink-haired kunoichi, the gray waters of his soul had continued to ripple disturbed. During the day it was unnoticeable, nor did it even register in his mind when he was completely awake. However, when he had time to ruminate in the evening, he couldn't halt the thoughts that wouldn't stay buried.

In order for him to become the epitome of a perfect shinobi, Itachi believed that he had to relinquish all hold of his humanity so that he would become a weapon without a sheath or a hilt; but one that wielded itself, honed upon each transgression wrought by bloody hands until even his maker couldn't put a stay of safety on him that a pummel would have. He had thought he had achieved that goal through his time in the Akatsuki.

Mikoto, his mother's fearless and forgiving brown orbs, was still seared deep inside his mind. It had affected him in a way that nothing else had ever done. His mother was the only one who hadn't fought. She had accepted it. Or perhaps hadn't wanted the sin of her son's blood on her hands. He would never know now. The woman had been in many ways cold, due to the Uchiha clan's influence.

There were small windows into a fraction of hidden moments, where he had caught a more tender look about her when she had looked upon her sons. But that expression never appeared in his father's sight. It had switched something inside him; the moment she had taken her last breath. Somehow, it had goaded him to be crueler to Sasuke than necessary that night. Where he had been forgiven by his mother, to counterbalance that he had wanted to be loathed by his younger sibling because that's what he deserved.

And for years, this knowledge had been still and stagnate beneath the surface and unsettled in the deepest depths that he kept hidden from the world. Yet this young woman, this strange Konoha medic shinobi should have feared and hated him. Instead she had faced him as fearless as his mother had.

He had even gone so far as to condition his brother's desire for vengeance. Carefully, he had wrought and spun Sasuke's hatred of him, until it had twisted into a monstrosity that he himself could no longer recognize. Somewhere a long the way, it's distortion had diverged and turned into a direction that he hadn't expected. Itachi had long come to realize that he had underestimated the power of the emotion itself.

Rolling on his side, he turned to stare at the bleary lump of the woman in the opposite bunk. Over and over in his mind he played back the whole scenario that had taken place between him, her and Sasuke.

He could still see Sasuke's blatant shock and disbelief.

Sakura had openly admitted that she couldn't quite explain her behavior.

Itachi didn't want to even admit it privately in his mind, that even though he had shown no outward traces of oddity in his own reaction. She had affected him, when she should not have.

It was then that he decided; even though the Captain of the Thames had privately requested that he keep an eye on her, he would keep his interactions with her as limited as possible. There was still so much that he needed to do. And the last thing he needed, was to be distracted by the little green eyed spitfire.

-o-

Sakura rose that morning, feeling better and less sore than she had in days. Never mind the fact that she had used the chair in the medic office as a temporary bed of sorts. Just thinking about the damnable thing, had her rubbing the back of her neck as she sat up. Glancing over to the side, she eyed the clock to take note of the time and her gaze immediately panned over to the empty bunker. Her senses flared outward to check to see if he was still nearby. When she realized that he was already out and about for the morning, a small frown touched her lips.

The sun should be barely rising as it was. A brow arched and she ran her fingers through the tangled mass of hair. Shifting out of the covers completely, she quickly found the pile of clean clothes and immediately changed into them. Sakura hurriedly went to finish out her morning routine. After running the comb through her tresses in an effort to look presentable, she was out the door. If Itachi was already up, it was likely the group to pick up Haro would be in the medic office waiting for her.

When she arrived, Dami greeted her with a smile, "Morning Doc."

Sakura nodded in return and then said, "I'll do just one more check over, and then he's all yours."

"Sounds good," the redhead responded, still grinning.

She entered the medic office and after the initial greeting, proceeded to do just as she said. Satisfied with his breathing and his heart rate, she gave Haro a big smile, and he returned the gesture. She turned and opened the door wide open and ushered the group in.

Dami told her, "We'll take care of the rest. Is there anything else we should know before we move him?" "Nope. He's healing up fine. On the counter," Sakura pointed to the clear bottle filled with blue and white capsules, "is some pain medication for him. He's to take one in the morning after breakfast every day for a week."

Sakura watched as two large sailors hefted him gently out of the bed, and proceeded to take him out. They halted next to Sakura when Haro asked them to stop. He smiled at her, "Thanks again, Doc. I'll see you around."

She smiled and nodded, "Try and take it easy okay, Haro."

He chuckled and shook his head as they carried him away.

"We'll send someone up to change the bedding. Would you mind if I borrowed your muscle after you get some breakfast?"

A frown surfaced on her features, wiping away the smile that had once been there, "If you need me right away, I don't mind if…"

"Eat. Then come find me on the second level cargo bay," the redhead returned sternly, before pivoting sharply on her heel and left Sakura standing there staring after the forewoman with a bemused smile.

What was it with these people and their obsession with her eating habits anyway? A dry chuckle escaped her throat. With a mental shrug, she made her way up to the cafeteria and hurriedly gathered up what bits of breakfast remained and sat down at an empty bench to eat. Already, the sailors and various workers had finished their meal and had vacated the mess hall.

Just like a Hidden Village, everyone and everything had to be in place to keep disasters at bay, she thought to herself as she bit into a lukewarm piece of egg. It was with an almost mechanical precision she finished off her breakfast.

Rising, she took her tray and took the last gulp of her still hot tea before quitting the premises.

Curiosity urged her on, she went to the second floor to search for Dami amongst the smoke and workers flitting from one end of the large, almost cavernous hold to the other. The insistent clank of steel and hammers drew her attention. Her lips pressed into a thoughtful line when she realized that they were still cleaning up the accident from a couple days before. They had already cleared most of it away, but it was obvious that the crane they were milling around sustained some damage at the base.

Sakura strode up to the redhead the moment she spotted her. She inquired smoothly, "What do you need? I'll do whatever I can to help."

"That was quick." Dami surveyed her silently for a moment, and then gestured to a pile of crates that had also been tumbled into an awkward angle against the edge of the black grate, "We were able to get most of the mess picked up. We could have unpacked and repacked everything but after seeing what you could do, I would rather not waste the materials to do it. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind helping us move that out of the way, so that we can get to the crane to fix it. We have a few welders aboard that I know can handle it once they have the room to work."

"Just show me where you want them," Sakura started to roll up the edge of her sleeves, and the moment she took her first step towards the toppled crates - she began to line the specific muscles that she would need to use for the job with chakra.

The sailors watched the young, mysterious doctor pick up the large insanely heavy crates easily and efficiently only to relocate them to exactly where the forewoman wanted them.

However, by the time it was all said and done, Sakura had worked up a good sweat. Wiping her brow with the back of her hand, she glanced at the neat pile she had just made. She smiled at Dami, "Was that the last of them?" "Yup. Thanks. You just saved us a lot of time and effort that I really didn't want to spend on just one project."

A thought suddenly came to Sakura, "I still haven't figured it out yet. I know this is a working ship, but other than having a crew to keep the engine fed with fuel. Why are there so many people needed on this ship?"

Dami gestured to the group watching them with a flick of the wrist towards the still broken crane, "Get back to work."

A smile graced Sakura's features for a moment, and then she arched a brow when Dami turned back to her once again.

"This ship, is very much like a floating city. Since the Captain is hell bent on staying out at sea most of the time. We just pick up the cargo and supplies and go. He leaves it to the foremen to sort it all out later, and keep everything running as smoothly as possible during the journey to and from ports."

"If you don't mind my asking, what kind of cargo does this ship carry?" Sakura asked, curiosity lacing her voice.

"Anything and everything, really. Trade has really opened up with the other continent in the past few years."

"What is it like over there?" Temujin hadn't really talked about his homeland much. All that she knew was that when he was a child it was a war torn land, Sakura mused privately. Hopefully it wasn't like that anymore.

"It's hard to explain. It's very different than anything you've probably seen before. The language is all that we really share with them. You'll see for yourself when you get there," Dami glanced at her and smiled with a small shake of her head.

At that response, Sakura fell silent.

Dami suddenly asked out of nowhere, "Did the Captain mention the issue of pirates?"

She tilted her head to the side, "Yes. But only briefly. Are they a major concern?"

"The closer we get to the eastern continent the more likely it will be. We have the means to fight back, but I'm most concerned about this metal tub getting damaged in the fray. The people on the other continent have technology that frankly, we lack. We've been fortunate enough that it hasn't happened that we've been boarded yet, but -" Dami suddenly grew silent and shook her head.

"Well hopefully it doesn't happen this time either, but if it does - the Captain has asked us to help," Sakura said to reassure the forewoman.

The other woman was about to reply when suddenly one of the workers called out, "Yo Dami! Can you come over here a minute?"

The redhead gave her a tight smile before striding away to assist the worker.

Technology or otherwise. Sakura knew that the pirates or whatever they were wouldn't have a chance against Itachi should they have the ill luck to board the Thames.

She almost wanted to berate herself for the self assured faith she had in the shinobi. But, considering the circumstances, it was only human of her to feel some relief in the knowledge that between her and Itachi - should any enemy try to attack the ship, they would have a hell of a time succeeding.

Turning on her heel, she left the second cargo bay with her mind full of things she still wanted to get done. The medicinal supplies still needed to be organized and categorized so that she would be better prepared in the case of another emergency.

Just as she was turning down the hall to the medic office, Itachi came around the bend at the same time.

When he stopped to peer at her silently, she instinctively did the same. It didn't take long for the stretch of quiet to annoy her. She quickly thought of something to say, "I just came down from the second floor cargo bay. Dami needed my assistance."

When he arched a brow at her, she silently admonished herself for the useless comment. She swallowed and then added, "She asked me if the Captain had mentioned the pirates to us." Shifting her weight to her other foot, she cocked her head to the side, "Apparently, as we get closer to the other continent, the higher the risk. We still have a long ways to go, but… we should discuss a plan just incase it actually occurs."

His adam's apple bobbed as he continued to stare right back at her. Not for the first time, Sakura felt like a specimen waiting to be dissected.

After he seemed to come to some sort of conclusion, his eyes narrowed on her falling into narrow slits, "Stay out of my way."

In other words, he was telling her without mincing words that he didn't need her assistance. She hated to admit that the dismissal stung, when it shouldn't. It wasn't the first time someone had overlooked her usefulness. Hell, she knew that she shouldn't blame him for his reaction after their little scuffle with Sasuke and his groupies. She hadn't shown herself to be reliable, that was for sure. But on some level, it still pissed her off.

The moment he stepped passed her. Sakura mumbled something about male Uchiha's and PMS. Kami only knew that they were as moody as a hormonal woman, even on their best days.

He didn't even bother to stop or look back at the grumbling female.

-o-

"Do you believe it's possible to catch up to the Thames?" Sasuke asked the Captain of the ship in a cool tone, that belied the hard look in his dark eyes.

"You're telling me, that if I can get you aboard the Thames before it docks on the other continent, that you're going to pay me fifty thousand ryō?" The balding man leaned back in his wooden seat and scratched the graying scruff of a beard on his chin, "Well, I'd like to accept your offer, but - even for money like that, I'm not going to cut through the Void to try and play catch up. The Thames is a large cargo ship for sure, but it's swift for its size."

"A hundred thousand then," Sasuke placed his palms on the table and leaned forward to peer into the Captain's watery gray eyes.

Karin's eyes flit between the two males knowing full well that Sasuke's temper was still simmering just below the surface after the strange pink haired woman had escaped with his older brother. Talk about rubbing the salt in the wound. He had called it killing two birds with one stone; but she knew better. The issue with the woman was much more personal than he let on.

She cut in curtly, "What is the Void?"

The old sailor turned to glance at her, he turned in his seat to get in a better position to look at her, "Oy lass, you've never heard of the Void?"

Karin shook her head, "I hate to admit that I haven't." She avoided peeking over at Sasuke to gauge his reaction at her interruption.

"It's the very reason why travel takes so long. Sturdy ships have tried to cut through the Void to make it to shore quickly. None have ever made it, not as far as I know. Choppy seas, sea monsters, and unreliable weather that hits ya like a hurricane. Not for any amount of coin, will any Captain worth his salt take his ship through there. It's not worth your ship or your crew. But," he turned to Sasuke then with a frown playing about the corner of his mouth, "I can see what I can do. The Thames left port only a few days ahead of us. I'll talk to my navigator and see what he thinks can be done."

Sasuke's lips thinned at the Captains response, but instead of arguing further - he nodded.

Karin let out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.

As each day came and went, it seemed that the Uchiha was more and more on edge. She wanted to ask him what was so important about this Sakura anyway. In her private opinion, a medic was a medic.

She dipped her head at the old sailor before falling into line behind Sasuke and shut the door behind them.

Before she could vocalize her thoughts, he spoke first, "Either way, it won't matter. I would prefer that we don't miss them before they hop on the first ship home. It would be better if we could catch them at sea however. They would have no where to run."

The last bit held an edge to it that reflected in his midnight gaze. It caused Karin to shiver noticeably. She hated to admit even in the haven of her mind, that it wasn't in the good way that usually made her feel excited in all the right places.

"I'll inform Juugo and Suigetsu of the Captain's response. As it is," she fell into step behind him again when he began to walk away, "we were fortunate that we were able to find a ship that would give us passage on such a short notice, and at a reasonable price."

Sasuke glanced over his shoulder over at her, his eyes narrowing into slits to peer straight through her before he finally just left her standing there staring at his retreating back. Karin took that as an affirmative to proceed.

-o-

Sakura watched his retreating back with something akin to bewilderment. Unsure of how to react to the dismissive statement, she quelled the temper that wanted to rise and decided it would best that she get back to work herself. He was an Uchiha. That was just how they were.

Striding down the last stretch of the drab gray corridor, she entered the medic office and did exactly what she had decided to do.

However, unlike the messy filing system everything else was in decent order. She wondered with not a small amount of wry amusement, how long it would take her to get bored. They hadn't even been out a month yet, and still had so much time to go. She hoped that they would be affable to giving her a ride home.

Pausing to rub her temples, she wondered absently if Itachi would do the same. It was one thing to be stuck with the shinobi on the trip one way, but a totally different one to ponder about the return home.

Shaking her head hard to clear her thoughts, she mumbled to herself, "One day at a time Sakura."

Though, she had to admit. She was a bit taken aback by Itachi's calm temperament. Sure, he had been angry about their situation initially, but to her complete surprise he had never taken it out on her. They shared a bunker, to her chagrin, but it really was uneventful all the same.

Really, she should be plotting his demise. It wasn't like she didn't know how much her village wanted to end Akatsuki once and for all. Yet, when everything was said and done, Itachi had stepped in to block Sasuke from getting his hands on her for reasons unknown to her. He could have left her bleeding body behind, but he hadn't done that either.

Her deeply ingrained sense of integrity balked.

Sakura openly grimaced when she recalled her hate filled rant, as a teenager. She sighed. She supposed a lot of her emotions had changed after Sasuke had tried to kill Naruto. After that had transpired between them, she had literally decided, fuck it.

Usually she could come up with a better word for things. But, that summed it all up for her in a nut shell.

She knew Naruto still carried some hope that Sasuke would decide to pull his head out of his ass. Suffice to say, she didn't share Naruto's feelings on the matter. All she really wanted to give Sasuke was a chakra filled fist punch to the jaw. Just the thought alone, gave her the desire to pop her neck and crack her knuckles.

Deft fingers continued to move and work, even as her thoughts whirled round and round. At the end of every thought cycle, her mind always came to dwell on one man.

A small snarl of frustration at her wayward self furled her lip. If only her own actions hadn't confused her.

When she finished her current project, she sat down on the chair still sitting next to the bed with a large sigh. Shutting her eyes against the feel of the massive vessel rocking slightly back and forth against the calm ocean, she loathed her inner self introspection at this time in her life.

A wry smile curved her lips at the thought.

Her mind slowly came to a grinding halt. Perhaps she had used more chakra than she thought, she mused. Part of her wanted to get up and return to her room to catch a quick nap. Another, wanted to avoid the Uchiha completely.

Perhaps Uchiha males in general were the bane of her existence.

She was still perturbed by his stupid comment, and she'd rather not look at him if she could help it. At least for a little while. It was like this that she fell asleep, her chin tucked against her chest.

-o-

Late that afternoon, Itachi had the misfortune of running into Dami, the forewoman. She hadn't said a word. Instead she had leveled a piercing look at him that would have rivaled any Hyuuga clansmen.

Despite his resolve that morning, he decided that it wouldn't hurt to follow up on the simple request. After all, even though he maintained this situation was entirely the kunoichi medic's fault, the Captain of the Thames had been lenient with them. From what little he knew about ships like this one, stowaways were not treated well.

Not that he was incapable of terrorizing this ship and forcing their compliance. Thinking back on it, Itachi didn't know why he just didn't do so in the first place. It would have been the most effective course of action.

Her soft voice haunted him, you aren't going to hurt them, are you?

In the end, it all went back to that problematic female.

Before he realized he was doing it, he was striding in the direction of the medic office where. He hadn't bothered to track her chakra signature, because he knew that's exactly where she'd be.

He didn't bother to knock. Cracking the door open, he peered inside. Slowly, he slipped it open all the way. His mouth firmed when he found her sound asleep in the chair, once again. The woman really did not have any sense of self preservation as far as he was concerned. She didn't even stir at his silent entry.

It would be a simple matter for him to end her.

The thought alone caused bile to rise to his throat. He had initially thought she had made a ridiculous statement when she announced to him point blank, in Tsukuyomi in all places, that he wouldn't kill her. His eyes narrowed at the stray thought.

In the matter of a second, he was standing in front of her. His shadow engulfing her petite form.

Dark gray eyes roamed over her from head to toe. Stray strands of pink hair had fallen forward, brushing against the sides of her pale, soft cheeks. Itachi's hands clenched at his sides as the overwhelming urge to brush a fingertip against her delicate skin that seemed to beckon him.

What rocked him, was that it was not the feeling of desire for a woman that nagged at him. No, it was something indescribable, that beckoned him into a realm he did not want to traverse. Confusion spiraled through him at the strangeness of his situation. All the years of his strict training melted away and what was left there, was him. A man.

He stood frozen in place, trying to analyze the emotion that clawed at him.

His mouth twisted at the irony when he realized exactly what it was.

Staring down at her prone form, his fingers curled into a fist as he snatched his wandering hand away and forced it to stay at his side.

Itachi turned away, and left the room before he did something that he would regret.

He shut his eyes, against the sensation that beat at his senses.

The longing left him drowning in a clogged choke that he couldn't seem to grapple his way out of. When it was all said and done, the yearning to protect the woman overrode everything else in that moment he had stood over her unprotected form.

In the deepest part of him, the piece he didn't want to admit to was that when everything was said and done, this whatever this was, was the reason for his decision behind all the recent choices he'd made concerning his current situation. As much as he wanted to blame her for it, he knew that he could not.

Lost in thought, he returned to assist the forewoman.