A/N: WORKING IS DUMBBBB!
I suppose I should add that both of us will be operating under the unrealistic "Everyone is alive who we want to be alive and—hell whatever—walking around Konoha!" idea for the duration of this collection.
Disclaimer: NOT OURS. We have our personal favorites, of course, but we don't own them…
"Oh, Itachi-san, good morning." Sakura greeted, as he held the door to the sweets shop open for her.
Itachi nodded in polite greeting, his other hand clutched around the ever-present white paper bag emblazoned with the shop's logo. "Good morning, Sakura-san. Here for the usual?"
"No, actually. I was thinking about white chocolate raspberry truffles this morning. But I see you've already made your purchase." She smiled softly, aware of the hidden meaning behind her words.
Every week on the same day at the same time for the past six months the two of them had been meeting up just like this. Sakura had chalked it up to strange coincidence the first few weeks, when a change in her hospital hours had led to her encountering the Uchiha during her weekly sweet raids. After the first two months she had gotten over her shock to venture a polite greeting. After the next two they started making casual conversation for all of half a minute before he, always the first to arrive, went on his way. And now at six they were on first name basis. By a year Itachi might consent to tell her exactly what it was he was buying every time she saw him.
The first time she had ventured to ask what he was buying, half-wanting to inquire as to whether the candy was for him or another, he had given her a cryptic smile and nodded at her.
"My purchase is, like your own, for myself."
Any and all further attempts at wheedling or tricking the secret from him as time had passed had been politely evaded. At this point, Sakura wasn't sure she would ever find out what exactly it was that Uchiha Itachi had a sweet tooth for.
She knew, of course, that the reason he tolerated meeting her at the sweet shop at all was because he always arrived before she did to make his purchase, and because he knew she would never make any attempts to spread rumors of his candy love to anyone else. Why he feared for his reputation when he was so feared in general, Sakura didn't know. But she supposed he thought that a love of candy might make it harder for others to take him seriously.
"Yes," Itachi murmured, tucking the bag away into some hidden pocket. "I will see you next week, Sakura-san." He gestured the door open wider, expecting her to go inside.
Sakura fought the small flutter of disappointment in her stomach. Though rare, sometimes their conversations lasted more than a mere thirty seconds of exchanged greetings. On these occasions, Itachi would calmly step outside, letting the door to the shop close and turning his full attention on Sakura. This was not to be one of those times.
Reminding herself that Itachi surely had things to do today more important than holding useless conversations with casual acquaintances, Sakura moved inside. However, she missed the suddenly calculating look that appeared in Itachi's eyes as she passed him. Sakura turned to wish Itachi a good week, but was met with the door closing behind her. Sighing, she moved up to the counter knowing that acquiring her week's allowance of sweets would surely cheer her up.
The next week, Sakura arrived at the sweet shop a least two hours later than usual, out of breath from having rushed and disappointed that even driving herself to such extremes hadn't changed the results. There was no doubt in her mind that Itachi was long gone, and she cursed quietly under her breath.
Normally Sakura ate lunch later, when the mid-morning to early afternoon rush at the hospital died down. It was more convenient and took advantage of the late afternoon hours that were usually quieter. Sakura was a busy person, and she appreciated having a few extra hours to herself, especially since the switch of her lunch hours now meant she missed lunch far less than she had before.
But today an entire team had come into the hospital under critical condition, awkwardly being wheeled through the doors just as Sakura was leaving. Generally she worked the emergency room in the late afternoon to early evening when the need was greatest, but she couldn't go on good conscience when her reserves were high from having performed rounds all morning.
Consequently, Sakura was late that week for her chocolate run. More depressed than she cared to examine at the lack of Uchiha to hold the door open for her, Sakura walked in and demanded her usual: a large box of dark sea-salt truffles filled with maraschino cherries.
"Sorry, Sakura-san," the shopkeeper said, taking one look at her haggard face and wincing. "I sold my last box a few hours ago. The next shipment isn't due until tomorrow."
"Oh." Sakura's face fell and she glanced at the other delectable offerings for display under the counter. She really just wanted her usual heaven-wrapped cherries. Nothing else seemed to appeal to her today.
"I'll tell you what," the shopkeeper suddenly suggested, brightening at an apparent idea. "Take these truffles as an apology, and I'll write you a note for a place across town for a box on me."
Astonished, but pleased, Sakura shook her head. "Oh, Kensuke-san, that's not necessary. I won't have you paying for my chocolates for me."
Kensuke only smiled at her and shook his head right back. "Sakura-san, you're one of my most loyal customers, and a box of chocolates is not going to break the bank." So saying, he handed over two small truffles wrapped in cellophane and tied with a red ribbon and pulled out a notepad. He scrawled directions for her on one side and a note for the shopkeeper on the other.
"And before you protest," he insisted, "when I say the other side of town, I mean it. These truffles are an apology for how far you need to walk."
Knowing that arguing would be futile, Sakura took both the proffered note and the chocolates, smiling and thanking Kensuke before she left his shop. Once outside, she read over the directions and took to the rooftops, the quicker to get across town to the other candy shop. The two truffles he had given her remained wrapped in their cellophane. Sakura wasn't one to say no to free chocolates and decided to save them for her emergency chocolate stash back home.
It didn't occur to her to worry that her chocolates wouldn't be there when she arrived. Innocently, she presented her note and was astonished when the older woman's face fell and she handed back the note with a shake of her head.
"Oh, dear. I'm afraid we're out of those as well."
"Really?" Sakura felt her heart sink, knowing she had trekked across town for no reason.
"Yes, I'm just as surprised as you are," the woman said honestly. "The plain cherries are very popular, but the sea-salt ones are less so and we generally don't run out of them. I suppose it's my own fault. I don't stock as many of them as the regular maraschino, so I was unprepared when I ran out. I'm sorry, dear," she ventured, giving Sakura a sympathetic look, "for you to have come all this way for nothing."
Hesitantly, not sure if she wasn't setting herself up for further heartache, Sakura asked "Are there any other places than might carry them?"
The woman bit her lip, staring into space in thought. Finally she ventured "There is one place, but it's a bit of a stretch. I know of many other sweet shops in the city, but as I said, your cherries are very particular, and not many places bother to carry them."
She took down a pen and a pad of paper and marked down an address, giving it to Sakura over the counter. "It's not too far away since you're here already, otherwise I wouldn't even suggest going."
Sakura thanked her and was nearly to the door when the woman called her back.
"Dear," she said, handing over a small bundle wrapped in tissue paper, "I'm essentially cheating you out of a free box of chocolates, so please take these as an apology, my treat."
Slightly amused, Sakura thanked her again and left the shop. Despite not having what she had come for, Sakura mused that she was certainly accumulating a fair amount of free chocolate.
When she entered the next store, she was unsurprised when the shopkeeper informed her that they no longer carried her particular sea-salt truffles, having sensed a pattern. This shopkeeper didn't venture to give her free chocolates, but did point her in the direction of the only other store he knew of in Konoha that might carry her chocolates, adding on "if it's still there. It's in kind of a 'bad' area of town," as she left the store.
The shop was indeed no longer there when she showed up on its doorstep. But contrary to the shopkeeper's belief, it wasn't gone for good, but simply because it had moved, if the sign on the door was correct. Sakura memorized the address the sign directed her to, realizing wearily that the new location was close to the original sweet shop she had started out at.
If this store didn't have her chocolates, she was going to give up for the day and come back for them tomorrow when Kensuke's new shipment came in. She'd spent a weary hour in intensive surgery repairing various internal structures of the injured shinobi team and she'd skipped lunch to come get her chocolates with the desperate hope of seeing Itachi.
But instead she had missed both Itachi and her chocolates, and been sent on a wild goose chase to try and track one of the two down. It was more than her tired body could take. This store would most likely be a bust too, and Sakura was going to go out and treat herself to a buffet so she could stuff her face and not have to cook.
Thankfully, repairing various internal structures of injured shinobi teams usually gave her the rest of the day off, so at least she had the opportunity to go out and spend a nice long, late lunch stuffing her face.
With this in mind, Sakura came to the street the shop was supposed to be located on and stopped short. The sign had clearly directed her to number 2036, yet it wasn't there. The only numbers listed on the even side of the street were 2034 and 2038. Where 2036 was supposed to be was a park taking up the entirety of the lot.
Sakura ran a hand through her hair. It was impossible, and yet she knew her memory couldn't be incorrect. Apparently, the sweet shop she was looking for hadn't been built yet. Glancing at the permanent looking playground equipment and trees, Sakura sighed. It looked as if the sweet shop wasn't likely to be built at all. She supposed there was a reason the shopkeeper had considered it a bad side of town after all.
Feet on autopilot, Sakura found the closest park bench and sat down. She was going to sit here and enjoy the scenery. She was not sulking. She was enjoying the scenery, and determinedly not thinking about phantom sweet shops or stupid gangs that liked to play pranks on unsuspecting passersby.
"Sakura-san?" she heard faintly, almost not hearing the soft noise because of how hard she was not sulking.
"Yes…?" she questioned, raising her head and hoping that, whoever it was, they would make it quick. The short word died, somehow before she had a chance to finish.
Uchiha Itachi was standing in front of her, watching her carefully, one hand tucked behind his back as he held the other out to her. He was holding a wrapped box of chocolates by its decorative bow.
"I believe you were looking for these?"
Sakura's mouth gaped and she stared at him. "You… what?" she tried unsuccessfully before pulling her mouth shut and trying again. "Itachi-san?"
He made no reply to any of her attempts at speech, simply placing the box directly in her lap.
"Itachi-san?" She stared at him, the box of truffles, and then back to him, slow comprehension sparking in her brain. "Did you do this?"
"Did I do what?"
"This." Sakura gestured in one smooth motion, face snapping into a glare at the innocent way he was cocking his head at her.
"If you mean: Did I buy the last of the truffles from those stores, then, no, I did not. If you mean: Am I responsible for you being here, then, yes, I am."
Sakura's mouth made a small 'o' as her thoughts jumped with what Itachi was telling her. "You wanted me here?" she ventured to ask. Then "Why?"
The thought that Itachi had somehow pioneered it so that each of those shops had run out of truffles and directed her inevitably to this park was mind-bogglingly. Well, Sakura could understand about the sign, but had he bribed every single one of those shopkeepers to direct her here?
Glancing at Itachi, Sakura registered the small smirk on his lips as he watched her. Apparently, yes.
"…Is this a date?" She blinked in surprise when his smirk widened and he reached for her hand. Numbly, Sakura let herself be pulled from the bench, grasping the box of chocolates as an afterthought and letting him lead her further into the park.
Due to the hour, the sun was at a high point in the sky, another reason Sakura had bemoaned hiking back and forth across the city. Now she saw reason to be thankful, as the park was deserted and afforded them some measure of privacy. Itachi led her under the shade of a few sprawling trees, and she was surprised and flattered to see a picnic blanket and open basket waiting for them.
"How long have you been planning this?" She asked once she was sitting. Itachi had not relinquished his hold on her hand.
"For some time now."
"Today was a good day?" She was skeptic, of course, for at this point she was sure she looked tired and malnourished and probably smelled sweaty. Strangely, Itachi didn't seem to care.
"In some ways, it ruined my original plan," he admitted. "But," and the look he shot her was full of sudden warmth, "in some ways it has made it even better."
Sakura had many questions at this point, not the least of which revolving around how long the Uchiha had liked her if he had in fact been planning this 'for some time now.' But Itachi was reaching into the picnic basket, and Sakura stilled her tongue at the homemade food emerging. Right on cue, her stomach rumbled.
Itachi sent her an amused look to which Sakura blushed, pointedly glancing away as he served her and handed over a pair of chopsticks. He proceeded to pour her a glass of cool tea as she dug in and she watched in interest as he served himself next and set into his own food.
She was reminded again of how disappointed she had been not to see him earlier, and she glanced down at the chocolates that sat on the picnic blanket at her side. He'd probably had them in his fridge waiting for her ever since he'd realized he liked her. He came in to buy his chocolates before her, but there was no way a man like Uchiha Itachi wasn't capable of learning what her favorites were, especially if he had some interest in her.
Sakura blushed at the very thought. So much trouble had gone into his plans and the content feeling settling into her being, other than being caused by a rapidly filling stomach, was also caused by pleasure.
"Itachi-san," she murmured, putting her chopsticks aside and staring down at the box of truffles. "This is… that is." Stumbling over her words, she felt the gentle pressure under her chin as he tilted her face up to meet her eyes.
Sakura gulped nervously and gave him a small smile. "Thank you."
Itachi, she noted, had already finished eating. He had probably been waiting politely for her to finish and speak. As if to confirm her suspicions, the hand under her chin came up to brush lightly across her face and steal into her hair. For a moment Sakura closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling as he caressed her scalp.
Then she heard him whisper directly into her ear, breath puffing out and stirring her hair. "Sakura, would you like to know what I buy every week?"
Surprised, Sakura moved to open her eyes, but Itachi's other hand fell across them and he nipped her ear, biting at the rim in disapproval. Sakura exhaled a shaky gasp at the feel of his teeth and dutifully squeezed her eyes shut, either because she was obeying him, or because of the feel of his tongue laving at the skin of her ear.
She felt Itachi's hand fall away from her face and heard the rustle of the familiar paper bag. In preparation, she held out a hand, fully expecting Itachi to drop his mysterious sweet into her palm. But she was confused when he took her hand in his and she felt nothing between the meeting of their skin.
About to open her eyes despite his earlier protests, she suddenly felt his fingers press against her lips. His thumb slid along her bottom lip and she let her lips fall open slightly, disappointed when his thumb disappeared, only to feel his fingers press against her mouth while holding something.
At his urging, she took thumb and first two fingers into her mouth, allowing him to deposit the candy inside as well before she sucked slightly at his fingers. She felt his sharp inhale against her ear and released his digits, giving her lips a purposeful lick and catching his fingers in the process, just to hear the way his breathing grew harsher.
Then she felt Itachi's presence retreat, and sat, quietly trying to figure out what he had given her by taste and texture. The candy he liked so much was round and coated in milk chocolate. Sakura sucked, and as the chocolate coating began to melt away, she encountered a rougher coating with her tongue. Curious, she finally dared to bite down, and the candy split with a sharp crunch in her mouth.
Astonished to have finally figured out the mystery, Sakura blinked her eyes open and looked up at Itachi, sitting very close with his dark eyes intent on her face.
"Malted milk balls?" She licked her lips teasingly and gave him a crooked smile, feeling a flutter in her gut at the way his eyes had flashed momentarily at her actions.
"Of course," Itachi said, voice barely above a whisper, "you know my secret now."
"Do I?" Sakura leaned forward, imitating his hushed tone.
"And as such," Itachi continued, "I must be assured of your silence."
"But, Itachi," Sakura whispered, so close their noses almost touched, "I would never give away your secret."
"I will make sure of it," he said, right before their lips sealed together.
Author's Addendum (A/A): Shino is dying in the park of heat stroke.
PROMPT: Gumballs. And—hell yes, I'm gonna do it—Deidara