Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Xenogears

Author's Note: And another!

Chapter 8

The green hue swirling around her hand faded somewhat as the chakra depletion was starting to get to her. She knew she needed to rest, but there were still a few more people that she knew that needed her help. How the Captain of the Thames thought that one doctor on board was enough, was beyond her. Sakura guided the bullet out through the wound, lifting her right hand and pulling her stuttering chakra forth, she healed the layers of epidermis as the spent metal came out.

Fortunately, it didn't hit anything vital and the blood loss wasn't as dangerous as it could have been. Holding the bullet between two latex covered fingertips, she dropped it into the bowl next to the patient's makeshift bed.

Pulling off the dirtied gloves, she grabbed the blankets and lay them over the sleeping sailor's chest. She stood up, her knees wobbling slightly. She cursed her prodigious use of chakra to make a statement on the enemy's ship.

Dami's voice derailed her train of thought, "I think you need to rest. The others aren't in any immediate danger, in fact there are a few of us here that can do first aid and their wounds are wrapped up nicely if I say so myself. The painkillers we gave them should last a while yet."

"I still have a bit more left in me. I don't need to stop yet."

Sakura calculated she had at least another hour left of intense medical chakra use and if the other sailors were like the last one she could probably finish the rest who needed her attention, and then she could rest up before checking on the few survivors in the brig.

She glanced up when she realized Itachi was approaching. Sakura did her best to squash the quiver in her knees. If he saw that, he would say something to her. Not that he could stop her, but she would rather not have to deal with being admonished for doing her job.

She must not have managed to quell the quaver knocking through her body completely, because when she caught Itachi's gaze head on, his eyes narrowed, and he didn't even have to say a word. Sakura pushed back the urge to stick her tongue out at him, and strode to another of the injured sailors that she knew needed her help.

Yes, the bandaging was well done, but a quick scan of his body with her chakra, and she quickly located a shard of a bullet lodged beneath the skin. Grabbing onto the remnants of her chakra, she could tell she didn't have much time left. It was with quick precision she extracted the shard.

The tremor in her fingers finally forced to her to admit that this would be the last one for the day. If she rested for about four hours, she probably would have enough to deal with the ones in the brig.

Flexing her hands, she sighed.

The lack of being sent to the field on missions was definitely showing in her stamina. In the hospital, it was difficult yes, but she had the option of switching out with another talented medic nin who could take over as needed. This one-woman show was definitely not her best gig.

A momentary blur in her vision took her aback. Scratch a four-hour break. She needed to eat, and sleep. Shit! She didn't think she had gotten so close to scraping the bottom of the chakra barrel.

"Sakura," Dami approached her once more, "We've got this. Rest will ya."

"I was just on my way to go do that." She waved at the older woman before pivoting on her heel and headed to go grab some actual grub.

Sakura didn't slow down, even as Itachi fell into stride next to her. A side glance shot in his direction, and she quickly took note of the dried blood still flecked on his cheeks. The sight tugged at her heartstrings.

"I really want to, you know."

She didn't even have to explain. The left corner of his lip quirked up slightly for a split second before slipping back to the stoic mask he atypically wore.

"Once you finish resting," he stopped mid stride and added, "We must speak."

Taken aback by the comment, Sakura also paused. Tilting her head, she was at loss for words – but after holding his eyes for several elongated moments, she finally dipped her head in agreement, "Of course. I'm just heading to the mess hall. I want to grab something to eat. After that, I could always meet you in our quarters. In about twenty minutes or so…"

He didn't hesitate. He nodded, and pivoted on his heel and strode away.

Massaging the bridge of her nose, she sighed and shook her head. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her of her self-imposed mission and with that, she hustled down to the mess hall and was just a little more excited than she probably had any right to be that the cooks were throwing together something that smelled absolutely delicious.

One of the cooks, an older man with sandy brown hair, with signs of gray streaks and an infectious grin with bright happy blue eyes that reminded her of Naruto hollered at her, "You hang around a few more minutes, we just about have this stew done."

"Can I take a raincheck on that Jin? Do you have any sandwiches left? I have a meeting…"

Curiosity was going to win against her stomach. Even with the delicious scents assailing her nostrils, she wanted to see what the Uchiha wanted to speak about.

"Of course, doc," the man smiled at her.

He reached over for an already wrapped sandwich and handed it to her as she moved towards the counter, "No spicy anything. I had this reserved just for you. Thanks for all you do."

A light blush dusted her cheeks, "Everything considered, it's the least I can do."

She couldn't shake off the guilt she was feeling that this whole pirate fiasco was her fault.

She grabbed a bottled water, and turned to go back to her quarters thanking him one more time. Perhaps, it was just because he vaguely reminded her of Naruto, or the chakra depletion was sending her a bit off kilter but his grin caused her to smile. But it wasn't enough to make her want to stick around longer than necessary.

Oh, who was she kidding? Itachi wanted to tell her something and just that thought alone caused a thread of curiosity that was winding its way through her thoughts and tugging her ever forward down the halls. If she had enough chakra, she would use it, just to go that much faster.

Impatience and her naturally inquisitive nature coiled together in her gut winding tight. By the time she got to her living quarters, she was a spring ready to coil. She hoped that he was already there waiting for her. She had told him twenty, but she felt like she'd made it much longer than that. Opening the door, she shut it with a snap when her eyes met his. She immediately went to her bunk and sat, setting her water down on the small makeshift mini dresser next to her bunk.

His eyes flit towards the small package in her hand and he arched a brow at her.

She ignored that for the moment and plunged right in, "There was something you wanted to discuss with me."

"It seems my brother is aware that we are on the Thames, and because of his recent actions – I wouldn't hesitate to consider that he may be in pursuit of… you specifically."

Sakura digested that announcement, leave it to Itachi to state the obvious. She responded, "I honestly haven't had the time to sit down and think about it." Literally and figuratively, after everything that had happened, she'd just started to patch up every sailor she could get her chakra on. She had realized it, but hadn't the time to ponder on it more than five seconds. A wandering mind and intensive wounds that needed healing stat just didn't mix.

Though, she was a bit taken aback by the fact that Itachi even broached the subject. At least with her. A moment of silence waxed and waned between them. Comfortable and uncomfortable all at once.

She clapped her hands together, the sharp sound bringing Itachi back from whatever brooding space he had chosen to occupy, "So, you mentioned Sasuke. It's the only conclusive thing that actually makes sense."

His head shot up, eyes narrowing, "To attempt something like this, causes me to assume that he doesn't have the means to get to this ship – but – to have communication with pirates from the other continent means that he is most probably also trailing us."

Her jaw unhinged and then she promptly shut it. Her entire hummed with the vibration of realization. Of course Itachi was right.

"Why the fuck?" She snapped.

Sakura shook her head, and rephrased, "What I meant to say is, what in the fucking hell could be so important about me, that he could want."

The look that Itachi gave her, spoke volumes. This is probably the crux of the matter that caused him to even broach the subject with her.

"I didn't realize it until you offered."

The puzzle pieces fit in place, and realization dawned. His eyes… the sharingan was going to be the death of her. She just knew it.

"All of this, just for…" she clutched at her half-forgotten sandwich on her lap. She shook her head, "He could just have gone and found another medic. I can't be the only competent one in existence that could take care whatever issue he's having."

Itachi shrugged at her, "You are capable and he knows this."

"But to chase me across the ocean?"

"My brother has issues with obsession," he deadpanned.

Sakura almost dropped half-forgotten sandwich at that admission. The corner of his lip quirked. Did Itachi just hint that he might have a sense of humor?

She quipped back, "No kidding." A stray thought hit her, "But why bring this up to me now?"

"It's a possibility that he will find a way to board, or we will have to deal with another attempt on the way back or perhaps he will attempt to ambush us on the other continent before we can find a way to return."

So, Itachi wanted to be prepared. Is that what he was getting at? Either way, the inclusive manner of fact approach, was causing her to feel warm and fluttery inside. In a way she had no business of feeling. Fuck, she hated that she was even feeling this way. It was like puberty all over again. She didn't want to read into something that wasn't truly there either. They were in a sense, partners in this situation after all. Although he could have just said fuck it, and left her to her own devices once they hit land, he was instead including her with his future plans. Was she daft?

"So, what do you suggest we do?"

"I can handle my brother," he clipped out.

Was this another 'stay out of my way' warning? It was all she could do not to roll her eyes at him.

She sat her sandwich beside her, and aimed a look at him. A look that she usually reserved only for a hard headed Naruto, and pinned him with it, until Itachi's eyebrows ticked. A sardonic lilt laced through her words in a way that would make Shikamaru proud, "Yes, I realize you probably can not only manage that, but also take out his entire group on your own. What's your point? And why bring it up if you have already decided the plan is… one man show Itachi Uchiha extraordinaire?"

He started to open his mouth and she lifted a forefinger, her expression likely mirroring her mentor, if the way he stayed quiet was any indicator.

Sakura decided to lay it all out for him, "The fact remains, that it seems Sasuke is after me and if he could get his revenge on you, all the better."

"I would have killed him."

The admittance was spoken soft enough that had she not been paying complete attention, she would have missed it. That statement was everything and nothing. A shiver coursed down her spine, the truth of it cutting through her irritation like a hot knife through butter.

"Oh." Oh! That sentence sucker punched her in the solar plexus. He was talking about the pirate captain, right?

"What you could not explain. I cannot… either, however," Itachi's eyes fell half mast, shadows darkening his downturned features – giving him an eerie expression, "I realize that, even now, knowing – I would still react the same should it occur again."

Another occurrence, did he mean his brother? Or was she looking into this more deeply than she should be?

Whichever conclusion he reached, he didn't care for the knowledge of it. At least, that was what she could glean from the inference. She had stopped trying to ponder about it, to figure out exactly what it was, or why it was. She just knew that it was. It was sticking her head in the proverbial sand, at least for a time – but there hadn't been the opportunity to delve into it.

Well, since they were having this moment, she decided to be candid with him, "I get it. You don't have to explain." Sakura knew without a doubt that should she be in the same situation again, that she would be compelled to react the same. She couldn't begin to explain the acceptance of the fact that she had either, so she just ignored it. At least for now, when it truly didn't affect her.

This unexplainable thread that linked them together, was never more glaring than in this moment. Sakura internally wilted. She didn't know what to say, what she could add.

"I am not a man who is prone to such irrational behavior," the admittance stark and naked. It was out of character for him, and the fact that it bothered him enough to say it out loud, and to her of all people was more than telling.

Another small glimpse of the man beneath the exterior. Not just the emotion itself, but admitting that killing someone just because they were in his way, as not rational. Once again, she was faced with an Itachi who truly wasn't just a typical sociopath murderous Akatsuki who was clearly off his rocker like the others of his crew – but she didn't dare bring it up to him.

When was it, she had stopped thinking of him as an enemy nin? Sooner than was sane, she mused.

Their eyes met once again, and before she knew it, she was on her feet and closing the distance. Call it impulse, or call it instinct. She found herself standing in front of Itachi Uchiha, staring down into his upturned face. His expression was hooded, as if he were trying to mask the emotions that were banked just behind his expressive eyes.

Just as she had, hours before, she placed her hands on his cheeks and bridging the distance she kissed him. It went beyond an urge, or attraction per say. It was like they were a pair of magnets drawn.

She felt him start under her touch and tense up.

At first, his lips were concrete – but after a moment, they softened, and something inside of her imploded in and on itself. So right, and so wrong simultaneously, her brain refused to comply with that knowledge. Sakura couldn't begin to define the emotional surge that went through her.

When he stood up, pulling her flush against him and wrapped his arms around her – her toes curled in her boots. Her eyes closed and she soaked in the moment. His masculine scent, a combination of bergamot and spice, was comforting to her in a way she couldn't define. In his arms she felt safe, and damn it all, it felt right.

Itachi was the one who broke the kiss first, but he didn't release his hold on her. She placed her cheek against his chest and the back of her eyes burned. She hadn't kissed him out of romantic intention, or attraction, but of something indefinable. It was an emotion that choked her up, should she ponder on it too long.

"What is this?" Sakura whispered against the fabric of his shirt.

"I am uncertain." Then, he added with a tiny note of humor, "You little traitor."

She scoffed, her chuckle dry, "That's like the pot calling the kettle black."

"You matter to me."

The words softly spoken, his warm breath fanning out over the crown of her head caused her to blush. It wasn't a romantic statement, not really, but the paradox wasn't lost on her. It shouldn't be, but it just was. This existence of this shared emotion between them.

This couldn't be categorized as Stockholm Syndrome, nor could Sakura neatly file it away in a category that didn't cause her to question her sanity. As it was, the existence of either, shouldn't matter one wit – or at least the pendulum shouldn't have swung into a positive direction.

She went to move away, but his arms tightened around her and she paused, taken aback by it. Sakura told him then, "With everything in perspective, you really should let me take a look at your eyes. If it's likely that we are going to have to deal with not only Sasuke, but possibly the shinobi in his crew – we are going to need every advantage we can get."

"Rest first, and I know you want to work with the sailors in the brig. I would request that you allow me to accompany you. I would also like to question them," the way he said it, made her realize that she wasn't going to have to deal it alone.

He finally moved away, and Sakura could only look down at her mangled sandwich beneath his searching gaze.

"Understood. I'll send word when I'm ready to check in on them."

Itachi backed up, giving her space and she watched out of her peripheral as he pivoted on his heel and left her standing there in silence.

As soon as she was certain he was well out of ear shot, she turned around, and put her wrapped lunch on the mini dresser next to the bottled water. Placing her hands over her mouth, she screamed.

Not a loud, bust a lung scream – just a small burst of high pitched noise that she was attempting to muffle. Thank the kami, that there was no one around to hear it.

Now that he was gone, she could feel the heat in her face, and she was asking herself. Had she just walked over and nonchalantly kiss Itachi Uchiha? Removing her hands, she shut her eyes and plopped down on her bunk, and covered her eyes instead.

Well, she just went and complicated this whole debacle just a bit further.

Hiro's words came back to haunt her, what happens at sea, stays at sea.

She was going to ignore the flutter of butterflies that just tickled her insides at that particular thought. She derailed that train before it left the station.

Sakura had truly believed she had outgrown and left behind the whole crushing on the silent, stoic, bad boy. Just like his younger brother, Itachi Uchiha was a good looking man. She wasn't blind, but it wasn't something that had ever registered in her thoughts in all of her dealings with him, and damn it all if he didn't matter to her too.

Her entire train of thoughts sputter to a near halt as the realization sunk in.

Itachi Uchiha mattered to her. His existence mattered. It had mattered enough that she stepped in between him, Sasuke and an incoming chidori. Just as she had known that he wouldn't kill her when he had cornered her and captured her mind in tsukiyomi. Hell, she had known there were badly injured people on the damn ship after that scuffle, and all she had wanted to do was heal whatever issue was going on with his eyes.

The emotional ties… It was something that was so integral, and apart of her - that she could completely understand what he had just admitted just minutes prior.

Was there a sealing technique that was done on the both of them years ago or something no one had told her about?

Running through her knowledge of the technique, she couldn't think of any that would bind people together in such a way. What the hell was this?

Removing her hands, she finally grabbed the sandwich once again, unwrapped it and sighed before taking a large bite. She was so deep in her thoughts, she didn't taste the darned thing. It could have been spicy and she probably wouldn't have realized it. She finished it, and tossed the wrapper in the small wastebasket. Uncapping the bottle of water, she drank enough to get the taste of whatever condiments they had used out of her mouth. She laid back on her bunk and just let sleep claim her, on top of the covers and all. If just to shut up her thoughts.

-o-

Suigetsu didn't bother to contain a smirk, "So, obviously that dumb shit didn't work."

He was the only one that had enough balls to talk shit back to him, Sasuke mused, somewhat irritated by it.

Juugo cut in, "It would be best not to waste anymore funds on these mercenaries. There isn't likely any that could take on someone of your brother's caliber."

For once, Karen remained silent. Her eyes were glued to Sasuke's face waiting for him to react.

Sasuke smirked right back at the smart ass white haired nin, "They did about as well, as I expected. I know they are still on that ship."

The pirate Captain's account of the encounter ultimately cemented Sakura's betrayal, and now he knew that he would have to deal with both of them when the time came, since they had for whatever reason are working together. Perhaps that encounter, had all been a set up.

Either way, when they finally hit land. He would have his watchdog to sniff them out of hiding. They wouldn't be able to escape him or any of the members of Hebi before they even had the chance to leave port.

After doing a little more research into this Void, or whatever it was that these sailors avoided – he knew that even if the troublesome duo caught a ship on the way back before the ship he was on could reach port, he would be able to intercept them. He had already sent word ahead through the mercenary pirates to keep an eye out for the pair of them. The bounty he'd put on Sakura alone, would have every mercenary in Aveh's port town searching frantically for a woman with her hair color.

Sakura's strange hair color was like a honing beacon. Apparently even over on the continent they were going to, pink hair was unusual. At least, from what he had been told. It would make it easy for him to keep at least an idea of where they were.

The trio of Hebi members eyed their leader with varying expressions. When Sasuke Uchiha went silent for too long, it didn't bode well for them. Their thoughts were astonishingly similar in reaction to the situation. At least in terms of this ridiculous goose chase of a half baked pink haired medic leaf nin from Konoha. They knew they were in this debacle for the long haul, trapped on a ship with an inflexible leader who had his mind on a singular goal - the rest of the world be damned.