Title: ink blotch
Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85
Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi
Type: One-shot (Complete)
Word Count: 3537
Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #43, ink blotch
Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.
Summary: Ramen-verse Non-massacre AU. To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower… A deed, once committed, can never be undone. Like an ink blotch, forever besmirched…
Created on: 01/08/08
Completed on: 02/09/08
Chapter Last Revised on: 28/03/09
He appeared on her doorstep at two o'clock in the morning, streaked in blood and his expression blank, face wiped clean of emotion.
She had panicked momentarily at the sight of him in his ANBU uniform, his biceps and torso marred with the drying crimson-brown fluid, his dark eyes shuttered.
The protests at being abruptly woken up in the godforsaken hours of the morning died abruptly in her throat when she saw his condition, quickly replaced by worry when for a brief moment she thought he had gotten himself injured during his mission. However, a careful check and a brief administration of her warm chakra into his system quickly revealed that he was relatively unharmed, although his chakra levels were a fraction lower than usual, his posture painfully tense and the parallel lines of stress that ran over his cheekbones more stark than ever.
Something was wrong with her lover; that much Sakura could surmise.
Formerly worried emerald eyes softened slightly as she reached for him once more, interlaced her fingers around his, and led him into her house.
He was on her almost the very instant the door shut behind them, pressing her up against the wall of her hallway, his gloved hands on her waist, his mouth searching and finding hers immediately, kissing her hard and with great ferocity, almost…desperate for the taste of her.
Caught unguarded by his sudden, inexplicable fervor for her, Sakura relaxed into his firm embrace, tilting her face up to his and allowing him to ravage her lips, almost as if he was hungry enough to devour her whole. Her hands ran across his torso soothingly and managed to dishevel his raven hair in the process, running across every part of him that she could touch, trying to calm him down even as she accepted his almost savage kisses, even as she tried to understand what had caused him to behave like this.
The fact that he was getting blood as well as other various sorts of transfers on her was promptly pushed aside in favor of trying to comprehend his actions. He was gripping tightly onto her, not really hurting her, but just enough to make breathing a little harder than usual, and by now, he was moving from her lips to the slender column of her neck, drawing deep, sucking kisses as he reached her collarbone. His warmth was mesmerizing, and her body was starting to react to his ministrations against her will. She shook her head inwardly to dispel the feelings of desire for her powerful lover.
He had come to her tonight for a reason, and she would not rest until she could find out what had shaken him so.
"Itachi…" her voice was still husky from the last vestiges of sleep, but still she stroked him gently, running her fingers through his hair.
Eventually, he stilled under her tender ministrations, mouth pressed against her skin, face buried against her neck, his rigid form relaxing slowly into her embrace even as she rubbed his back and shoulders gently. Sakura was unaware of the time that had passed as he kept her pinned to her wall, but it hadn't seemed to matter in the face of his urgent need to touch her, to assure himself of something…just what, she had no idea yet.
But she was patient; she would wait for him to tell her, and she knew he would, when he was finally ready.
At long last, he finally lifted his dark head to regard her silently, and the haunted expression in his beautiful eyes made her draw in a sudden intake of breath.
She had never seen him look like this before; he had always been so strong, so powerful and quietly confident, but now…
His onyx eyes reflected…turbulent confusion, and maybe even guilt?
It became apparent that her lover was in pain, and for once, not even her exceptional medic abilities were going to be able to help her soothe his hurt.
She swallowed, trying to dispel the mild ache that had formed in the vicinity of her chest at his emotional anguish. Her own eyes darkened.
What was going on?
Questions inundated her head, all demanding to be answered, but one look at his weary features quickly put her in stride. Her medic side resurfaced immediately, the no nonsense portion of her quickly taking over, insisting that his physical wellbeing be taken care of first before anything else could be said, and Sakura agreed fully with that logic.
Tiptoeing slightly, she moved her face to his and nuzzled him gently, watching as he closed his eyes and allowed her to show her affection for him. He sighed softly when she kissed the side of his lips, and then opened his eyes to look at her again when she drew back.
"I will draw you a bath." She spoke quietly. "You will feel better after that."
He nodded, though it took a little while more before he consented to letting her go, and even then, he trailed in her wake in a manner not unlike that of a lost puppy. It was almost as if he was determined not to let her out of his sight, and in light of his sudden attachment to her, Sakura turned on the taps and arranged his bath as quickly as possible before turning to him.
"I will wait for you outside-"
"No," he interrupted her before she could finish.
Sakura could only look at him, but his gaze did not waver. He wasn't pleading for her to remain with him; he was too proud for that, but the fact that he wanted her to be by his side spoke volumes. The pink-haired kunoichi looked down at herself, taking particular note of her dirtied nightclothes before returning her attention back to him.
"I'm not bathing with you. I just had a bath earlier." She informed him. "I will wash your back for you, if you want."
He merely stood there, his eyes fixed on her, and she sighed inwardly. Of course, what was she thinking? That he would say no?
"Get in. I will be back after I have changed out of these." She padded out of the room without another word, slipped into her bedroom and put on a new set of clothing. By the time she returned, he was already sitting in the bathtub, his clothes piled neatly in a corner, his sleek torso partially submerged in the steaming water, and he was clearly waiting for her. Sakura walked towards him, and wordlessly, he turned his back to her.
The pink-haired female grabbed the stool nearby, drug it towards her lover, and then she sat down, picking up a white washcloth sitting on the side of the bath and gently dipping it into the water, running the wet, dripping cloth slowly down his back. The subtle play of his powerful muscles caught her attention for a brief moment, and she watched as the tenseness between his broad shoulders relaxed eventually under her careful fingers. For a man, he was considerably fairer than most, but he had always taken after his mother more in terms of appearance compared to his sire, and although she had seen him naked enough times to matter, his pale skin never failed to intrigue her. He was like a marble statue come to life under her wondering hands, only his hard, sinewy muscles and warm flesh reminding her that he was easily just as human as she was.
Inwardly shaking her head free of her whimsical thoughts, Sakura soaped his back and gave him a good scrubbing while she was at it, before rinsing the suds away with her washcloth. Then, she proceeded to massage away the tight knots at the base of his neck and around his shoulders, meticulously pressing and gliding the pads of her thumbs over a particularly stubborn set of muscles and he eased completely into her expert hands with a barely audible expulsion of air, his eyes sliding shut and allowing himself to fully appreciate her skillful fingers.
The bath water was almost lukewarm by the time she was done. She took her hands off him, and almost immediately, the raven-haired male stiffened slightly in silent protest. Sakura was not having any of it.
"You are going to get muscle cramps if the water gets cold." She merely warned him, even as she passed over the washcloth. "Wash up; I will wait for you in bed," she promised softly.
Then we will talk.
Sakura made use of the remaining time to take care of Itachi's dirtied laundry, as well as to do some washing up of her own. She had barely returned to her bedroom and settled down upon the bed when he emerged from the bathroom, raven-hair damp from the bath, only a towel wrapped around his lean hips. She watched him as he padded soundlessly towards the wardrobe and extracted a set of clothes from the growing pile that he was beginning to leave in her apartment, and proceeded to don them. The towel was promptly discarded upon the back of a chair by the time he was done, and he came to her with little fuss, entering the bed to join her, and she scooted towards him the moment he was settled.
He did not reject her; on the contrary, he pulled her close, burying his nose in her unbound hair, breathing in the familiar scent that was purely her. It had always been a mystery to him; how he could use her sweet-smelling shampoo and body wash, and still not be able to emulate the unique, comforting fragrance that was her. Not that it mattered; he had her by his side, and he was satisfied.
Neither spoke for a long time, and Sakura was content to luxuriate in her lover's warmth, quietly relieved that he had returned to her safely, and even though it was apparent to her that something had happened during the mission, she was guiltily relieved that it hadn't been him, that he hadn't been the one badly injured, nor had he returned…dead.
The pink-haired kunoichi was about to be lulled to sleep by his comforting presence when he finally spoke.
"I…" he hesitated, and then his eyes hardened as he stared at the ceiling, harsh and blanked.
"I killed a child."
Sakura, who had been about to fall asleep, tensed slightly in surprise when she heard his quiet confession. Her eyes flew to his right away, and immediately, the deadened look of self-recrimination in his dark eyes made her heart ache.
But he was not done yet.
"She had nondescript brown hair, her eyes were blue like the summer skies, and she was missing two front teeth. She couldn't have been older than five years of age, she was so small and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
It was as if he could not stop once he had started, and the words escaped his lips faster than he could control them. Sakura took a deep, shuddering breath at his deadly calm, emotionless recital. And yet, she could clearly hear the quiet self-loathing in his voice, the hopeless, self-directed despair at what he had to do so as not to compromise the sensitive nature of his mission.
"I had to make it look like an accident, and so I caught her before she could run, muffled her cries of panic, and then I severed her femoral artery."
Her death was not a quick one, nor was it by any means peaceful and painless. The jagged wound would serve as the perfect mimic of a result from a great, accidental fall down the cliffs nearby, and he could clearly see the terror and agony in the child's eyes as her small body struggled in his grasp like that of a desperate, dying animal, and he hadn't taken his eyes off hers until those panicked, frantic movements slowed and became jerky, and then mild spasms as the throes of death overtook her, and the light of life faded from unseeing eyes.
"It took exactly eight minutes and fourteen seconds for her to bleed out completely." He knew because he had counted, and it had felt like an eternity to him, watching his young victim as life leaked away from her. He closed his eyes. "She was crying piteously towards the end; she knew that she was going to die."
The guilt in his soft, haunted voice was blatant, and so was the pale, shaken expression on his face as he recalled the exact moment the light of understanding filled the young eyes of the child. By then, the fear and terror was no longer overwhelming, instead there was blanked acceptance, and the weary realization that she would not live through this.
He was the last person she would see, and she was the first person whose death he would never forget.
Soundlessly, Sakura wrapped her arms around him tightly, and pressed her face against his neck, almost as if she was trying to take some of his pain away. She was shaking slightly as he continued his blanked narration, and…so was he.
The infiltration mission to Iwa had been one of extremely high-risk and top-secret priority. Only the best had been sent to complete the week-long assignment, failure was simply unacceptable, and no one in Stone must know of their presence, for the discovery of Leaf-nin in Iwa territory could very well spark an international disaster—and war.
The child had been in the wrong place at the wrong time; too young to possess any sort of chakra signature, even the weak ones of most adult civilians, but old enough to identify the teams of foreign nin passing by.
She had to be silenced, and what was a small life compared to thousands, to the senseless slaughter that would be evoked in the event of war?
As team leader, ruthlessly efficient, Itachi knew what he had to do, where his obligations lay. It was all for the greater good.
"She was only collateral damage," he whispered almost soundlessly, almost as if trying to convince himself.
But they both knew that wasn't the truth.
The little girl had been more than that. Much more. She had been someone's daughter, a beloved sister, the pride and joy of her family. One day, she would have found her best friend, developed a crush, fallen in love, and lived the life she was meant to live—had she not met the team of Konoha ANBU that fateful day.
What right did he have to take her life?
He may have been a seasoned warrior, the most powerful nin to ever come from his proud clan, but even he had never stooped so low as to take the life of a defenseless young child before. Until now.
And it was killing him inside.
What could she say?
That he had done the correct thing? Or that he hadn't, and that something else could have been done to prevent this tragedy from happening?
Sakura knew that she would have been wrong to say either. It hadn't been right, but it had been the only thing he could have done in that situation.
She lifted her head slightly to look at him. His eyes were dry, painfully empty as he regarded her, but her own emerald orbs were wet as fresh tears flowed down her cheeks silently.
He could not cry, having been taught from young that the sight of tears was nothing but a weakness, but it was alright. She would weep for them both, and she did.
He closed his eyes and merely gathered her shaking frame close to him, even as he felt the wet, hot trail of crystalline grief dampen his shirt. It was warm against his frozen form, so very warm. His grip on her tightened slightly, gratefully, for her silent understanding, and he swallowed reflexively.
But the lump in his throat refused to go away. He wondered if it ever would.
I'm sorry, little one.
His clan definitely never saw it coming when the pride of their House, their future leader, decided to quit ANBU, and with that, severing the prestigious connection that the Konoha Military Police had with the Black Ops.
They were completely bewildered when the genius Uchiha stated that he planned to become a Jounin Instructor instead.
They were certain that he was joking, but when it became apparent that their heir was perfectly serious, the protests were overwhelming.
Itachi did not care. He had been in the ANBU longer than most, and after fifteen years of faithful service to the Black Ops, the Uchiha was ready to leave behind his dark and highly secretive career. He had lasted as long as he could; anymore and he may very well lose his sanity.
Despite the clan council's fervent argument that he may very well be promoted to the rank of ANBU Commander when the present Commander stepped down next year, the Uchiha heir proved to be unmovable when it came to his decision, much to the elders—and his family's bafflement. In the end, they could only reluctantly agree to his decision. After all, Itachi had always dutifully followed the clan's wishes whenever he was told, and this was really one of the rare times they could remember him going against their wishes, if any.
Sakura really wasn't very surprised when he informed her one day that he was finally quitting ANBU. She didn't even bat an eyelash when he told her that he had signed up to become a Jounin Instructor.
"That's good," she had remarked thoughtfully. "I have always thought that you would make a great teacher, should you choose to be one."
He had always been so conscientious and critical of his duties and work, and she had no doubt that he would apply that same unerring attitude when it came to training his team of Genin, should said hypothetical team be able to pass his test first. That made her smile inwardly.
Then she paused, and gave him a critical once-over. Walking over to him, she had looked intently into his eyes and asked the most important question.
"Is this what you really want to do, Itachi?"
He had stared back into her solemn eyes, those same beguiling, doe-like eyes that always saw him and only him, not just as an Uchiha, not just as a powerful ANBU, but just as he was. A person. A man.
A man whom she loved dearly.
"It would be a new experience," he sounded quietly determined, firmly decisive, and wordlessly, she only melded against him, wrapping her arms around his narrow waist, nestling the side of her cheek against his hard shoulder. His arms came up around her almost immediately, pulling her smaller frame against his lean, compactly muscled torso, and she sighed.
They both knew that this was partly for that little girl whom he could not save.
"I think that this would be good for you," she whispered softly. Unlike other men who would try to hide away their guilt, sweeping it under the carpet and pretending that nothing had happened, that the loss of a small life had not shaken them one bit, Itachi was facing his guilt head on, trying to bring himself some form of closure, trying to remember that nameless child in his own way, trying.
She wrapped her arms around him as tightly as she could, showing him her utmost support without words. He closed his eyes, and they stayed that way for a little while. Although he may not look like it, her lover was a surprisingly affectionate individual once he trusted her enough to let down his guard completely, always craving contact with her whenever they were alone, and was always more than happy to cuddle with her, content enough to just curl around her in bed and listen to her talk about her day. He was still quiet most of the time, but whenever he chose to speak, she never failed to give him her utmost attention, and in a way, their simple arrangement had worked marvelously for the two of them.
"I wonder what your Genin team will be like, though," she mused curiously then, lifting her head to gauge his reaction. He merely looked at her, having not considered that particular question yet. However, the fact that she had accepted his decision easily and without fuss was not lost on him at all. Lifting a hand, he stroked her cheek absently. She leaned into those elegant, yet slightly callused fingers, long, dense eyelashes a shade darker than her vibrant pink hair lowering with the pleasure of his touch.
"They will learn how to do the right thing."
His reply was a quiet whisper, and she opened her eyes slightly to look at him.
She smiled gently when their eyes met, dark obsidian against gentle, patient verdant. Attention still on him, she nuzzled affectionately into his palm.
"Don't worry so much," she assured him quietly; completely aware of what he was thinking. "You won't make the same mistake again, Itachi."
Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:
This is not the usual light hearted instalment of Ramen-verse, but not everything in life is perfect, unfortunately. There are always ups and downs, and as impressive as the ninjas in Nartuo-verse are, I also really want to believe that they are not callous enough to handle child assassinations with complete apathy.
At least, I want it to be so for Ramen-verse!Itachi. He is intelligent and practical enough to understand what he have to do in that sort of situation, but that doesn't mean he would escape the consequence of his decision wholly unscathed. I'm not sure if it is OOC to portray a hardened ANBU like Itachi being shaken by his kill, but judging by a normal human psyche and cross-referencing it to a peace-loving Itachi, I'm pretty sure that he would be at least slightly affected by his lethal action.
By the way, 'ink blotch' is actually split into two parts. I had to break it up because it was a little strange to put them together. I know I make no sense now, but the direct sequel, 'hopscotch,' will be up next week!
Before you guys start lynching me with questions like how a powerful group of ANBU could fail to detect the presence of a small child, I would like to share with you my little hypothesis on chakra detection.
I think that it is quite possible for every nin to possess a chakra signature that is unique only to themselves. Almost like fingerprints, if you will, only that it is chakra-based. That allows a nin to be identified by anyone with the ability to sense chakra, though of course, they can suppress their own energy and remain undetected, or even find ways to mislead and fool enemies by masking their chakra signature with that of someone else's.
Also, I believe that everyone possess chakra coils in their bodies. It is a mix of physical and spiritual energy that is essential to life, though the amount of chakra the body can store differs from one person to another, thus marking the difference between a ninja and a civilian. In that manner of thought, it makes sense that children, being young and possessing immature, undeveloped chakra coils, would have weak to nonexistent chakra presences that could potentially go undetected by shinobi.
Therefore, it also make sense that if a child does not attract any undue attention to herself, i.e. not make any sudden movement, is relatively well concealed and in an area unlikely to be visited by human traffic, it is quite possible that a group of swiftly passing foreign ANBU could stumble upon her unknowingly, and therefore chance upon an accidental meeting.
Well, that's my theory for 'ink blotch,' at least.
…yes, I am a research geek who really likes to think things through a lot.
And yep, Itachi is going to be a Jounin instructor. I haven't read a non-massacre ItaSaku fic where he becomes an instructor before, so it is rather fun for me, writing about Itachi-sensei! This is all part of the plot, as you will see!
Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic, thank you.