Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85
Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi
Type: One-shot (Complete)
Word Count: 4633
Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #44, pebble
Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.
Summary: Her decision was like the pebble that caused the ripple effect. She was still not sure if she had done the right thing, though.
Created on: 18/09/08
Completed on: 21/09/08
Chapter Last Revised on: 25/12/08
When Sakura stumbled out of her bedroom the morning after the Rokudaime Hokage's lavish wedding party, eyes bloodshot and nursing an extremely nasty hangover, the last thing she expected to see was a dead person sitting in her living room.
It took her three blinks as well as the universal 'what the fuck' expression before she realized that the apparition didn't seem to be fading away. It wasn't even the usual pair of imaginary gremlins who often came by to gleefully visit whenever she overindulged in alcohol.
Hell no, this particular specter was sitting on her living room couch, calm as you please, and he was looking right at her.
Sakura's first thought was that she hadn't woken up yet. It must be so, for the other alternative would be that she had finally gone insane. Yes, she was definitely still sleeping alright; she was now in a dream world and in her dream self, inside her dream apartment and nursing a horrible hangover.
This was a bloody nightmare, but at least it was still a dream. Sakura didn't know what she would do if it wasn't, but yes, thank god this was only a dream.
If not, she sure as hell wouldn't know what to do with what looked like Uchiha Itachi sitting on her couch, especially when she remembered that the man was supposed to be dead five years ago? Or was it six? Seven?
Either way, this was definitely the weirdest dream she had ever had. It was so weird that she even decided to take her dream self off to her dream bed. Ghost or no, the Uchiha sure was one creepy…thing, unblinking crimson eyes, Akatsuki cloak and all. Sakura had no wish to be anywhere near him, even if he was only a figment of her imagination.
"…At least he isn't Sasuke...." Sakura muttered to herself. In her current state of disorientation, she completely missed the sudden, intent look that her 'new, imaginary friend' had shot her at the mention of that bastard ex-teammate of hers. "Back to bed."
Without another word, the pink-haired kunoichi shuffled back to her room, absently pushing a brief burst of healing chakra into her temple, successfully soothing her horrid migraine. A part of her was belatedly surprised that it actually worked in dreamscape, but she quickly forgot about marveling over it. The twenty year old kunoichi crawled into her familiar bed and promptly went back to sleep.
Huh…would she remember this weird dream when she woke up?
When Sakura finally woke up again, it was no longer morning and her headache was mostly gone. She was still groggy as heck, but it wasn't as bad as before. She lolled about lazily in bed for a moment or so; was it possible to feel achy even when one has only been drinking like an alcoholic for the whole of last night? Evidently, it was, but eventually, the pink-haired kunoichi drug her dehydrated carcass out of bed and padded to the kitchen to get herself a glass of water.
Imagine her shock when she walked out of her bedroom and saw him again.
Sitting in the exact same position, on the exact same couch, was the rather eerie raven-haired S-class nukenin who was supposed to be dead, and just like before, he was staring straight at her with those bloody Sharingan eyes of his.
And like before, Sakura could only gape.
Was she dreaming again?
"This is not a dream."
The quiet, lilting tenor escaped the lips of the suspiciously solid-looking specter. Sakura started to tense instinctively.
Shit, had she been caught in a genjutsu without her knowledge? Did Sasuke and those damn Iwa-nin that he had allied with somehow sneak into her village to put her in a genjutsu with his brother?
It didn't really make much sense, but then again, no one could say that the last Uchiha was all 'quite there' in the first place. But one thing was for certain, he had definitely found the wrong person to mess with.
Almost immediately, the lingering discomfort of the hangover was promptly shoved aside and forgotten as Sakura gathered her chakra to herself. Emerald eyes narrowed, she flashed through a familiar set of seals, and immediately suppressed her energy to a bare minimum with the expert ease of frequent practice before expelling the tightly controlled chakra outwards in a powerful pulse, hissing the 'Kai' command that would dispel the illusion technique.
The image of the Uchiha didn't even flicker as the pulse of pure chakra washed over his form.
"You are not in a Genjutsu."
The emotionless, disembodied voice of the deceased nukenin sounded out calmly. The godforsaken blandness in his tone made her teeth grit with irritation.
"What are you?" she spat out, stiff with anger. It couldn't be Orochimaru's Edo Tensei; the infamous Snake Sannin and his assistant Kabuto had finally been killed last year, taking to their graves all the forbidden techniques that never should have been created in the first place. And besides, who else could be diabolical enough to bring back the dead, just so that he could sit in her living room and annoy the living daylights out of her?
…Surely even Sasuke had his limits when it came to insanity, right? And besides, last time she heard, he was off in the midst of Iwagakure, busily being fruitful and multiplying, spawning little Uchiha with that fangirl follower of his.
Sakura was pondering if she could take on the devastating might of this Uchiha when evidently, he lost his patience with her and the situation.
She froze momentarily when the man stood up, and was about to fall back to a defensive posture when he floated over to her.
Honest to god, the Uchiha drifted over to her like…a ghost.
Was that some new type of ninjutsu? All of a sudden, Sakura was praying very hard that it was. She was too young to be deemed crazy, there were still so many things that she wanted to do, and most of all, she did not want to be stuck with Uchiha Itachi as an imaginary companion for the rest of her life!!
Now that he was drawing closer (Sakura refused to even think that he was hovering towards her), she could see the semi-transparent grayness that he was outlined in, and to her shock, she could also see the vague outline of her entire living room through him.
Sakura was more horrifically fascinated by that particular fact than the quietly dangerous being that had stopped right before her. He had been absolutely lethal when alive, and she wasn't quite sure if that had changed now.
Slowly, stunned emerald lifted up to meet glowing crimson. He really looked even more demonic than before; pale, ghostly skin, the pure black raven hair in sharp contrast, those piercing red eyes.
Then, she finally noticed that he was in her personal bubble. Right in her face.
Disturbed, she belatedly realized that his aura was cold.
Sakura stiffened further in reaction, and instinctively, sought immediately to defend herself from the perceived threat of the S-class nukenin. Seeking to distract her opponent so she could regain her bearings, the pink-haired kunoichi reached wildly for an object behind her and flung it full force at the Uchiha.
The thick medical book that had been lying innocently on the shelf but moments ago flew towards the apathetic male—
—And then proceeded to sail right through him, landing with a resounding crash upon the floor behind him. The ghostly figure didn't even flinch.
What the hell…?!
It was enough to make her freeze in her next action. She had never heard of a Bunshin that could talk, so did this mean that—
Almost curiously this time, Sakura took another book and threw it at the specter. Once more, the heavy object fell through the non-corporeal form. It took another three more tries chucking different objects through the Uchiha before it evidently annoyed the stoic ghost enough to speak again.
His tone was sharp, and Sakura could only stare at him.
"…you are a ghost."
She sounded faint with shock.
Questions inundated her mind, all the how's and the why's and no explanation forthcoming whatsoever. As much as a complete mental breakdown seemed like a rather comforting prospect at the moment, Sakura chose to regard the Uchiha warily instead.
"Why are you here?" she asked. How was he even here?
A single, blank look was all she received, and it took her all of one minute before she realized that he had no intention of answering her.
Or maybe, he simply had no answers for her.
"Do you…uh, know that you are no longer…alive?"
He merely continued to stare unblinkingly at her, and the fact that his deadpan expression did not change told her that yes, he was probably aware that he was as dead as a doornail. Sakura was completely nonplussed; this was such a ridiculous situation, and of course it made sense that it would have to happen to her, of all people. Things like this never failed to find their way to her doorstep, and in this case, had even invited itself into her home.
And what was he now? An 'it?' A ghost? Or still a 'he?'
Sakura was still not sure what the hell was going on here, and she was still not exactly ready to accept the 'ghost' theory either, though everything seemed to be pointing towards that, especially the…image of the Uchiha currently floating soundlessly right before her.
If this was a genjutsu, Sakura was going to happily kill the idiot nin who had thought up of this illusion when she managed to snap out of it, after which she was going to cast it on her worst enemy the next time she happened to be in combat. She would even add in the ghostly specters of Orochimaru and friends just for laughs and giggles.
Speaking of that, Sakura was now reluctantly grateful that she only had to deal with one unresponsive Uchiha…spirit. She really wouldn't know what to do if it was the Snake Sannin instead. She would probably have raced to the first Shinto shrine that she could find and start buying ofuda like no tomorrow.
…that was actually a good idea. It may rid her of the homicidal spirit currently beside her.
It was going to take some effort, but she was certain that she would be able to lure him to the temple with promises of enlightenment and 'seeing the light.'
Of course, in hindsight, he probably wouldn't be feeling very enlightened when he got to the other side and had to face a horde of his angry clan members, but that was really none of her problem.
Decision made, she was about to ask (nicely, mind you) for him to go somewhere with her when those crimson eyes suddenly turned bladed.
The Mangekyo Sharingan.
Before she could even wonder if he could actually make it work, the powerful entity whispered the word that she most did not want to hear.
He forcibly took over her body, that son of a bitch.
'Tsukuyomi' her ass. One moment, she was gaping at him and the next, Inner Sakura was screaming gibberish at her for invading her territory. Sakura would have loved to indulge in a bitch fight with her annoying alter ego, but there was the more pressing problem of the Uchiha body snatcher to worry about. By then, Sakura was beginning to become pissed as hell, and so was her fierce inner self. Both wanted this foreign entity out of their body and they wanted him out, now!
Surprisingly enough, their combined fury—and willpower—actually worked. A few minutes after, her violent, furious thoughts towards one ghostly Uchiha Itachi was enough to boot said spirit forcibly from her body, and whereas he looked at her in mild surprise, she had glared at him with full fury in her raging, emerald gaze.
"Do that again and I swear I will get the monks here to exorcise the hell out of your ass," she snarled heatedly. "You-"
He did it again, that bastard!!
This time, it took a relatively short time for her to eject him from her disorientated form, but that was probably because she was angrier than ever. So was Inner Sakura, come to think of it.
"I said, stop that!" she growled when she was finally in control again, eyes narrowed and hackles raised in fury. Now, she was no longer skeptical of the fact that she was really dealing with a ghost. And how was she supposed to defend herself against him if he didn't even flinch when she threw things at him? Or rather, through him?
The Uchiha frowned inwardly. She was not supposed to be able to force him out of her body, but somehow, she did.
Then again, she wasn't supposed to be able to see him either.
Not surprisingly, the kunoichi caught on to his meaning immediately. She scowled. "What do you mean, 'how?' Am I supposed to roll over and let you possess me instead?"
He said nothing, and she muttered all sorts of swear words under her breath. What was she going to do now? As much as she wanted to take this matter to Naruto, he had just gotten married after all, and it wouldn't be fair for her to rain on his parade by presenting him with her problems when he was supposed to be enjoying marital bliss with his shy Hyuuga bride.
There was no choice; she had to hear the truth directly from the horse's mouth, even if said horse didn't seem capable of speaking in full sentences and kept trying to take over her body at every other turn.
"What is it that you are looking for here, Uchiha?" the kunoichi asked immediately. There was no doubt that he was here for a reason, probably to get something.
Those crimson eyes stared at her consideringly, but he said nothing. Irritated, a part of Sakura wanted to chase him out of her house but was afraid that he would wreck havoc in her village by trying to possess others instead. And so she persevered.
"Look, if you are not out to get Konoha, I may be able to help you," she offered. "But you have to tell me what it is that you are trying to do here."
"Bringing harm to Konoha is not on my agenda."
Sakura felt herself relax somewhat at the hollow, blank statement. At least he wasn't out to harm her beloved village. After her ex-teammate had gone off to join Iwa, thoughts of war had been prevalent in the minds of many. The last thing Konoha needed to worry about was being attacked by a vengeful ghost who could not be attacked by conventional means.
"I need information."
Surprisingly enough, he continued to speak.
She frowned slightly.
"Information?" she asked. "What sort of information?"
At that, he fell silent again. She was hard pressed not to pinch the bridge of her nose with growing aggravation.
"Alright, on to the next question, since you want to be so secretive," she spoke matter-of-factly, though the hint of annoyance in her voice leaked out easily. "Why did you come to me, then?"
For a long moment, he did not answer her. Just when she was beginning to form the conclusion that he was not planning to speak at all, she heard his reluctant admission at last, blank as ever.
"…I cannot procure what I need in this form."
Sakura understood immediately what he was trying to say, and with that understanding, came a flare of increasing irritation.
"That may be so, but you can't just go about possessing people!" she snapped instinctively. "And even if you did manage to take over my body successfully, I doubt you would be able to mimic my normal behavior. People are going to notice and you are going to get me killed."
That didn't seem to bother him at all, and Sakura twitched, forcing herself to calm the hell down instead. Here she was, growing mad at a ghost, of all the things to do. Some deity in the heavens above must be very amused right now.
It was not the same for one aggravated pink-haired kunoichi.
"What happens after you get your information?" she asked at long last, after she had managed to rein in her temper somewhat. The fact that the damn specter looked as bland as always was not helping at all. Sakura drew a mental picture of herself throwing all sorts of objects through the apathetic spirit and immediately felt a lot better.
His gaze was as blank as ever, and once more, much to Sakura's chagrin, no reply was forthcoming. No thanks to him, Sakura came to the conclusion that either he did not know the answer, or he felt that she did not need to know.
Her frown worsened. What the hell was going on here? Not to mention, the fact that she was in such proximity with an S-class nukenin was beginning to fray her nerves, regardless of whether the man was dead or not.
"If I refuse to help," she asked cautiously. "What will you do?"
The apathetic expression in his eyes did not change, but somehow, Sakura could feel the air around him shift dangerously. She did not react visibly, although she had to steel her nerves in order to do so.
Annoyingly enough, he once again chose not to say a word. There was no threat issued, nor did he give any indication that he would approach someone else to possess instead, since she was clearly unwilling and he seemed to be unable to subdue her. The air of quiet, lethal menace seemed to surround the specter, but he did nothing.
The tensed pink-haired kunoichi stared warily at the Uchiha. Why was he not retaliating?
Perhaps he was unable to do so?
Sakura was momentarily stunned by her own revelation. If that was the truth…
She looked at him speculatively.
"Other than that faulty possession technique of yours, you can't do anything, can you?"
His deadpan expression offered no answer, but the combination of his narrowed eyes, stiffened form and increasingly icy aura told her what he refused to.
The deadly (and now very dead) Uchiha Itachi had been declawed, defanged, and thoroughly neutralized. He must be feeling completely miserable right now, not to mention rather pissed.
Sakura, on the other hand, just appeared utterly nonplussed. Well, that certainly explained why he wasn't trying to actively kill her, though the less than friendly vibes she was receiving from him right now told her that he would probably remedy that situation if he could.
Emerald eyes turned thoughtful as she continued to watch the apparently displeased phantom. She didn't know why she said what she did, but it seemed that she had already unconsciously made the decision to let the words come out whether she wanted it or not.
"I should despise you for what you have done to your brother," she informed him almost calmly. "If not for the massacre, Sasuke would not have defected to Sound, and now to Stone."
That garnered a reaction.
Something seemed to stir in those crimson, bladed eyes, and he focused impossibly on her.
"What do you mean?" he asked slowly at last, the minutest hint of incomprehension coloring his cold voice.
She looked at him inscrutably. Was it possible that he didn't know?
"That darling brother of yours has abandoned Konoha, and has joined Iwa," she informed him. "After your defeat, he is intent on seeing to the destruction of Leaf. We are now at the brink of war."
The small flare of surprise in the ghost's eyes was impossible to hide in the backdrop of his previously empty gaze. So the Uchiha really was unaware. But then, almost as if the faint ripples of shock had never been there in the first place, those bloody Sharingan blanked again, clearly waiting for her to continue.
"I'm not vindictive enough to resent the dead." She gave him a blatant, quelling glance. He offered no reaction, and she sighed wearily, rubbing her face absently as she did so. "Sasuke may have been influenced by your damaging actions, but ultimately, he is responsible for his own decisions."
"I will help you."
There was no hesitation in her voice, but her eyes hardened.
"Be that as it may, know that my aid is not without conditions," she continued firmly. That, he didn't seem surprised to hear. "You will not harm Konoha, its members, and all its allies. You will not aid or abet our enemies. You will not withhold any information that you know, and that I seek. You will cooperate with me by any means required, and last but not least," she paused, swallowed, clenched her fist tightly before opened her eyes again, the emerald gaze resolute. "You will teach me now to defeat the Sharingan, by lethal means if necessary."
He stared unblinkingly at her. The determination in her eyes was unmistakable.
This had all gone on for far too long, and it had to end. Because of her foolish hope that Sasuke was still the teammate whom she had known once upon a time, because of her foolish dream that her friend would one day come back to them, their entire village was about to risk war—because Naruto and herself were too softhearted to sever the deep bonds of friendship with the man who had long ago discarded them like yesterday's trash.
Enough. It was time for the remainder of the broken Team Seven to wake up and understand that things were never going to be the same again. Even if she had to give up on the boy who had been her first crush, and later, good friend, even if she had to forget about all their short, bittersweet memories together as Genin, even if she had to harden her heart and kill Sasuke if need be, she would do it.
Team Seven's private anguish would be nothing compared to the agonies of war. Families torn asunder, children who had to sacrifice themselves for their country, so much heartache and desolation. Above her love for a lost friend was her love and fierce protection of her country, for her precious friends and family. Sakura would not allow Konoha to come to any harm, and now that Naruto had become Hokage, the village, too, would come first before anything else, and they both knew it.
The naive, unthinking promises of the past had to make way for the responsibilities of adulthood. There was simply no other way.
It was time to wake up, and now was just the perfect opportunity to do so.
She was still not sure what was going on here, but it made sense to keep him near her where she could watch him, and besides, it was probably the only way to learn more about this strange situation. And while she was at it, she would get him to teach her how to deal with that cursed Sharingan that was his clan's bloodline limit and Sasuke's trump card.
"All or nothing, Uchiha, or you can look to someone else for help," she whispered sharply, well aware that she was driving a hard bargain. However, she was also laying all her cards out on the table. If he helped her, she would help him as well, to the very best of her abilities. It would be a fair trade off.
He looked at her for the longest time, but she did not flinch under his gaze, did not falter. At long last, he fixed his attention elsewhere.
She may be unaware, but the alternative that she had suggested was not possible. He could not seek the assistance of others; for some reason or another, she seemed to be the only person so far who could see his non-corporeal form, not to mention the rather vexing fact that he seemed to be…restricted when it came to movement, and it was beginning to appear that this kunoichi seemed to be the very epicenter of his travel range.
She did not have to know, though, and unless she thought enough to ask specifically, he would not tell her either.
Especially when not even he was aware of what was going on, or of the purpose behind his abrupt awakening to the realm of consciousness.
Why now? Why Konoha? Why…this woman?
The lack of facts was something that would have to be rectified swiftly. Judging from what the kunoichi had as much as alluded to, a lot had changed in between the time of his death and now—and why was Sasuke not in Konoha like he was supposed to be?
Her words had troubled him, and above that, everything had changed. The world as he had once known it had moved on and continued after his death, and now that he had returned, not completely dead but not entirely alive either, there was much to learn. Like it or not, he was now helplessly dependent on this pink-haired female, the one he easily recognized as the ex-teammate of his brother.
It was difficult to admit, but he had always been a brutally practical person above all, and like it or not, he required her assistance. With the exception of her last demand, the rest of her requirements were rather expected. Still, they were within his concession to give in exchange for her help. The Uchiha returned his impassive glance to her at last, and then he gave her an imperceptible nod.
Her eyes narrowed. It was not enough.
"I want your word," she insisted obstinately, blatantly ignoring the air of growing agitation that encompassed the spirit. It was obvious that she was pushing her luck, but still she refused to budge. "Swear on your honor."
"I swear," he spoke tonelessly. "You have my word."
He really didn't sound awe-inspiring, nor was he very assuring. However, it wasn't his job to assure her at all, and so, she finally let it go.
"Very well, Uchiha-san." Now that she had extracted what she wanted from him, she could afford to be cordial.
"We have a deal."
Once again, no response was forthcoming from the Uchiha.
Still, Sakura was feeling ridiculously pleased with herself at her success in negotiating with him, until it eventually occurred to her that she still had no idea, whatsoever, of the sort of information that he was looking for, not to mention just how she was going to explain this situation to Naruto and the rest without sounding like a raving lunatic.
Understandably, Sakura was not so thrilled by the time her many disastrous thoughts caught up with her. The pink-haired kunoichi looked at the intimidating, silently hovering, specter.
Cold, crimson eyes, glowing eerily, stared back at her unblinkingly.
She was hard pressed not to shiver at the deadened gaze, leeched completely of emotions. Sakura remembered seeing Itachi once before, five years ago in fact, back when he was still alive. At least, it had been the substitutes of him and his partner when Team Seven raced against the clock to rescue the Godaime Kazekage, Sabaku no Gaara. Strangely enough, the Uchiha's expression then was exactly the same as it was now, blanked and detached.
It was as if nothing had changed.
Or maybe, his soul had been dead even then, from the very beginning.
The small shiver really did manifest itself this time, and Sakura wondered if she had done the correct thing by striking this bargain with him.
Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:
Once again, rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I'm busy with life, school work, and new fandoms in general, but worry not! I have no plans to abandon my OTPs here in Naruto, and am most determined to see all my fics to completion. All in good time, though, that's the best I can promise!
Still, I apologize for taking such a long break, dear readers! I really appreciate all your concerned PMs and reviews, so my uploading this fic right now is partially for you guys. The rest of you can credit this surprise Christmas post to my good friend Zelha, who mentioned that I should start putting up something for the fellow shippers of the fandom. Merry Christmas, all of you!
Now, back to 'pebble.' As you can see, this is my attempt on another take on a supernatural ItaSaku, and obviously like 'paper fan,' this is something of a teaser chapter—again. It is a little more crack-ish than 'paper fan,' though, but I'm rather pleased with the bit of humor in here, haha. Like before, I have a plot brewing in mind for this, but it will have to be put on hold at the moment since I'm currently working on a pair of continuous ItaSaku AU, along with the various one-shots for the 50 themes challenge. Yep, isn't it somewhat assuring to you anxious people that I haven't exactly been sitting on my bottom and twiddling my thumbs these past two months of inactivity, at least not all the time?
Surprisingly enough, I have nothing much to say about 'pebble' for now. The plot is pretty much straightforward, but do tell me what you think because I have never quite read a ghost!Itachi fic before, so any comments would be much appreciated!
Next up! Another installment for Ramen-verse!
Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic, thank you.