Title: cabbage patch
Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85
Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi
Type: Continuous (InComplete)
Word Count: 7029
Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #23, cabbage patch
Rating: M (Contains content suitable for mature teens and older)
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.
Summary: Non-massacre AU. Their story began long before anyone could realize it. The story of a little pink-haired girl child, and a stoic young boy.
Created on: 13/02/09
Completed on: 21/02/09
Chapter Last Revised on: 06/06/09
Four year old Haruno Sakura was having the time of her young life.
She was currently happily mucking around a quiet section of what appeared to be a large, leafy forest area, but the young girl was hardly afraid of being all alone. No, how could she possibly be alone when her future pet-to-be was right here with her?
To be more accurate, the tiny thing was busy scampering ahead of her, though, almost as if trying its best to escape the pink-haired child, but of course that couldn't be so! Sakura was going to be the best pet owner in the whole world, and she had happily told her soon-to-be pet that too, though in order for her to do so, she would first have to procure herself an adorable, fuzzy little critter to call her own. And she had set her sights upon the most adorable little fuzzy with the most beautiful, sleek fur and cute pointed face, quivering whiskers and all!
It had been love at first glance for the young girl when she had first seen that pair of twitching ears, the shiny, black button eyes, and that tiny black nose. It had only been a quick glimpse that she had caught of the shy creature before it had turned tail (and what a cute, fluffy tail it was!) and fled from the edge of the marketplace, and, mesmerized and excited, the child had followed her new pet unthinkingly, flinging herself headlong into the dense woods that her village was literally surrounded in.
Coincidentally, she had also left behind her harried mother in her hurry to retrieve her new animal friend, who had been rather occupied juggling a few bags of groceries and hadn't immediately noticed that her young daughter was no longer following behind her.
But that was no matter, as Sakura really wasn't afraid of or even intimidated by the towering trees and thick foliage as she ventured deeper and deeper into the forest; her attention was fully on the quick silhouette of the fleeing animal, her small legs pumping with the tireless energy of a young, determined child as she ran after the startled creature. There was a time or two when she had almost lost sight of the fleet-footed creature, but luckily enough, it would reappear before the child could get too worried, and due to the fact that it was also a baby just like her, she was catching up easily to it.
Little Sakura had no idea of the time that had passed as she scampered from bush to bush in an attempt to catch her pretty pet, and she didn't particularly care either, focusing her entire concentration on getting her hands on the fuzzy little critter, cooing happily to the wary little thing and chattering nonsense to it in a way only children do.
It took a few missed attempts as well as a bit of trial and error on the smart little girl's part before she managed to trick the animal up a small sapling and, quite suddenly, lunge for it. Not expecting such a bold move, the little creature was quickly grasped and plucked off the thin branches, squeaking and wriggling in panic even as its pink-haired captor tried to soothe it with reassuring murmurs and gentle strokes over its luxuriant fur. The frightened animal was about to rear around to deliver a sharp, vicious bite to the being that had caught it when Sakura, in her earnest desire to calm her new pet down, accidentally pushed out a trickle of harmless chakra into the small critter. The young animal went docile immediately, quivering torso going slack and relaxed in the delighted young girl's arms as comfortable, peaceful sensations washed through it, a clear cut reassurance of safety that quickly put the animal at ease.
Pleased that her new pet was finally behaving itself, the pink-haired child carefully tucked the quieted baby animal snugly within her coat, and proceeded to spend some time lovingly arranging her pet until she was absolutely sure that it was comfortable before returning her attention to heading for home.
Only to realize that she now had no idea, whatsoever, where she was.
The entire patch of forest that surrounded her looked similar no matter where she turned, and she couldn't quite remember just where she had come from. To her credit, the young child did not panic immediately. Slowly stroking the furry head of her whiskered friend, Sakura wandered bravely around the darkening forest until she felt utterly exhausted. It had tired her greatly to chase after her pet for the entire afternoon, and it quickly showed in the way her footsteps slowed and as more yawns graced her small, elfin face.
A trickle of worry began to inundate the little girl as the sun started to sink into the horizon and shadows stretched eerily all around her, and, shivering slightly, the young child eventually remembered what her Mother had always told her to do if she had gotten lost—stay put and wait for somebody to come and get her.
Deciding to be a good little girl and heed kaa-san's repeated orders now that she had found her pet, little Sakura wandered over to a huge tree and proceeded to hunker down against the thick trunk, drowsily cuddling her fuzzy little friend to her the entire while, whispering assurances of how everything would be alright and how Mama would absolutely love it just like she loved Sakura-chan.
But now, they had to wait to be discovered, and as night descended quickly, clutching her trembling new pet weasel to herself, Sakura wished that whoever was looking for her would get here faster.
"Please, Hokage-sama, you must send someone to find my daughter!" A distraught Haruno Miharu cried out in her panic as she burst into the top of the Hokage's Tower, clearly near tears. "My baby girl is still too young to be wandering about all alone, and it's almost night time already! I have searched and can't find her anywhere, and dear god, she's only four; what if someone took her?!"
The young mother looked as if she was about to go into hysterics at the thought of her only child being kidnapped by the many foreign nin that entered and left the village daily, and it took awhile before the Third could calm her down.
"I'm sure Sakura-chan will be alright, Haruno-san. But first, I need you to calm down, and tell me exactly what happened so that I can decide on a proper course of action. Take a seat, Haruno-san, take a moment to collect your thoughts and then tell me your side of the story."
Haruno-san nodded, and after taking a deep breath to settle her jittery nerves, she started to explain the series of events that had led to her daughter's disappearance. The Sandaime listened thoughtfully, puffing on his pipe the entire while as he considered Miharu-san's worried account.
"It was my fault," the pretty blonde woman berated herself harshly, face drawn tightly in distress. "I was too busy with the groceries, and didn't pay attention to see if Sakura-chan was still following behind me. I didn't even know just when she disappeared behind me; she was always such an obedient little girl so I don't know what happened—you must help me, Hokage-sama, I don't know what I would do if I really lost Sakura-chan!!"
Haruno Miharu really did burst into tears then, and helplessly, the grandfatherly Sandaime patted the distraught mother awkwardly on the back.
"Haruno-san, how about this," the Third suggested at last, "You return home to rest first, and in the meantime, I will arrange for a Genin team to look for your daughter. I'm pretty sure that little Sakura-chan has merely gotten lost whilst playing; we will find her soon and before the night is through, your daughter will be back at home and getting ready for bed."
The kindly old man was exceptionally reassuring, his sedate calmness in the situation serving to settle Haruno-san's nervousness as well, and at last, the young mother agreed to go with the Hokage's plans. The Sandaime quickly called in an available team of Genin suitable for the task, and within minutes, Team Five reported in for duty.
The three Genin who entered the Hokage's Tower were young, two of whom were barely in their teens, whereas the last one didn't even look like he was past the age of ten. Despite her distress, Miharu's slightly hesitant expression was evident as she watched the three children approach the Hokage's large desk. Then, she caught the Third's comforting expression, and she decided to trust her wise leader fully.
"Hokage-sama." The trio greeted the Third respectfully, bowing to their leader first before standing by for orders.
"Team Five, I have a Class C assignment for you this evening," the Sandaime announced with little preamble. "It's a search and rescue mission; four year old Haruno Sakura has somehow gotten separated from her mother during a shopping expedition, and as you can see, Haruno-san is very worried about her young daughter. Your mission is to find Haruno Sakura and bring her back here as soon as possible."
The Sandaime proceeded to provide further details to the Genin team, and when he was through, he asked, "Do any of you have any more enquiries about this mission?"
The two older Genin shook their heads, but the youngest of the trio, an Uchiha, the Uchiha genius and future clan heir, merely kept silent. The Third turned his attention to nine year old Itachi, currently the youngest Genin of Konoha, for three years running.
"Do you have any questions, Itachi-kun?"
The raven-haired boy regarded his Hokage with quiet solemnity. "Hokage-sama," he requested at last in a precise, yet polite tenor. "I would like to be allowed to speak to Haruno-san in order to understand more of the situation, as well as to learn her exact route of travel prior to and after Haruno Sakura's disappearance," he explained, giving his reasoning for his request. "The search will proceed faster if we can establish a grid search pattern based on the travel route, and we will be less likely to overlook or spend additional time scouring the wrong places."
The Sandaime nodded in agreement with Itachi's sound deduction, and if Miharu-san still doubted the young Genin's ability, she no longer showed it. The dainty blonde hurried over to the stoic boy, and proceeded to answer each and every question that he asked to the best of her abilities. When Itachi was done, he thanked the anxious woman stoically, but she only shook her head and placed her hands beseechingly on the stiffening boy's own.
"Please, I am depending on you and your team to bring back my daughter safely," she requested urgently. "Please do your best and find her quickly. It's already dusk—just the thought that my baby is all alone out there, crying and afraid-"
The woman broke off abruptly, and started to look more than a little teary herself, much to the boy's inward alarm. Luckily enough, the Third came and swiftly relieved the uncomfortable Genin of the burden of reassuring the distraught woman.
"Go, Itachi-kun," the Sandaime Hokage directed firmly. "You have all the necessary information now, and in light of your sensei's absence today, I hereby appoint you as Mission Leader. You will be in charge of your fellow teammates, as well as the planning of the entire search and rescue operation. Is that clear, Itachi?"
The Uchiha's dark eyes drifted briefly over to the upset, yet expectant expression of the woman before returning his attention to the Hokage. The solemn, raven-haired boy gave his aged, wise leader a small bow.
"I understand, Hokage-sama."
"Geez, I can't believe that Hokage-sama actually put him in charge." Thirteen year old Musuko Dora, a member of Team Five, complained loudly in disgust as he shuffled out of the Hokage Tower. Beside him, his normal teammate, thirteen year old Kameji Nikurashii, nodded in agreement.
Nikurashii rolled his eyes. "What do you expect? He is the future Uchiha clan head, after all. If you had that kind of wealth and connection, it probably wouldn't be hard for you to be like him."
Dora scoffed derisively, never mind that the person whom they were openly mocking was but only walking a few paces ahead of them.
"Like I would want to be like him."
Both boys had only recently graduated from the Academy a few months ago, but due to an uneven number of graduates this year, they had been unfortunate enough to be saddled with a Genin whom they had never worked with before. This new teammate of theirs, whilst having already attained the Genin rank two years before, had never been in a team until now, having always been individually instructed by specialized trainers throughout the course of his Genin career. It was only recently that it was decided that he should be allowed to rejoin a team in preparation for the Chuunin Examinations, and at first, the pair of newly minted Genin had been thrilled by this piece of news, uplifted by the fact that they would have a knowledgeable 'sempai' to look up to and receive help from.
Then they got to meet their new 'sempai' for the very first time, and their perspective quickly changed.
Their new teammate was only nine years old, and quite incidentally, was also the famous Uchiha genius. However, despite the quiet boy's young age and seemingly smaller and un-matured stature, he very swiftly proved to everyone that he was every bit the child prodigy that his clan had touted him to be. Possessing a keen, highly gifted intellect, well honed observation and deduction skills, not to mention an expert arsenal of all three aspects of nin arts, the solemn, dark-haired boy had already far exceeded the abilities of any average Genin, or even Chuunin.
It really was no surprise that his new teammates quickly grew to resent him as he surpassed them repeatedly in terms of abilities and performance. The fact that he was a good four years younger than them did not help matters whatsoever. As far as the older Genin of Team Five were concerned, Uchiha Itachi was a freak of nature.
To his credit, the young heir to the great Uchiha clan did not appear to be particularly affected by his unpopularity amongst his teammates, and didn't even seem to care much when they tried their best to make life difficult for the young boy. No, Itachi was as stoic and as implacable as he had always been, a lesson taught by his highborn clan even before he could walk—to never lose his composure before anyone.
Unfortunately, his teammates only interpreted his refusal to acknowledge their blatant exclusion of him and his natural quiet, reticent nature as sheer arrogance borne from a difference in social standing, and before long, they wanted as little to do with their young, talented teammate as possible, even to the point of reacting with hostility to the younger Genin whenever the dark-haired boy was near.
The fact that not once had Itachi complained or reported his teammates' bullying to a higher authority or even his highborn family only made the two older Genin of Team Five bolder in their harassment of the Uchiha prodigy, and very soon, they were riding roughshod all over the quiet boy, using their age as an excuse to torment the younger, but much more skilled Genin.
And Itachi, well-bred, painstakingly polite, and with a massive dislike for conflict, could only allow his teammates to do as they wished.
"We will begin the search from here."
Once again, it was as if Itachi had not heard the scathing remarks that had been directed at him, or if he had, it simply did not matter to him. The younger Genin turned to regard his older counterparts with the neutral expression that he always wore, and quickly laid out his plans of operation for his teammates.
"Haruno-san has mentioned that her daughter was still with her when she was in the downtown district, and it was only when she was at the market that she noticed her child's disappearance. We will use the market as the epicenter of our search zone, and going by the calculation of probability, the average rate of travel for a four year old, as well as the time that has elapsed since Haruno-san reported her daughter missing, I estimate a search radius of roughly six kilometers."
Dora merely scowled at the annoyingly monotonous manner in which the Uchiha was showing off again, whereas Nikurashii frowned at the bothersome mission. And it was almost dinnertime, too. Damn.
"As we are near the edge of the village, nearly half of the search area is encompassed by the forest and training grounds. I suggest that we split up for the search-"
"Very well," Nikurashii interrupted rudely, a malicious idea quickly forming in his head as he stepped up to his younger teammate. "Dora and I will take the streets. We will ask passersby if they have seen a little lost girl; you don't like to talk much anyway, right? You will be more suited to searching the forest, what with those special Uchiha eyes of yours, yeah? Didn't Sensei mention that you have already mastered your Sharingan?"
Swiftly catching on to what Nikurashii was doing, Dora joined in as well, a subtle light of meanness burning in his small eyes. "Yes, Itachi. After all, you are so much more capable than the two of us combined, you know; I don't think you will have any trouble taking on the forest search by yourself, right?"
For a brief moment, the Uchiha tensai said nothing, only regarded his two teammates with an intent, almost piercing regard that quickly convinced the pair that their younger counterpart was acutely aware of their plans. The emotionless, unblinking stare quickly made the hairs at the back of their necks stand up eerily, and just before they were about to snap defensively at the strangely astute raven-haired boy, he blinked and nodded once. Sharply.
"I will take the forests," the slender, young boy, barely four foot five in height, agreed blankly at last. "The time now is seventeen thirty five. We will meet back here again in exactly two and a half hours."
Nikurashii and Dora were already beginning to walk away, their minds already on the type of food that they were going to have during their little 'dinner break.' "Whatever. Just go rot in the forest and don't bother us, you freak."
It took Itachi one hour to comb the expansive training areas thoroughly; despite being mostly deserted, the young raven-haired boy was painstakingly meticulous in his search, using his hawk-like eyesight and attention to detail to look for any clue that might remotely point to the child whom he was supposed to find. There were none, and the small handful of nin that he had passed by also indicated no sign of any pink-haired little girl around the area.
Very quickly, it occurred to the highly analytical Sharingan-wielder that the child truly was not in the vicinity, which meant that she was either somewhere within Konoha's marketplace district, or within the dense woodlands that were just beyond the training grounds.
The young Genin came to a stop at the edge of the thick forest, and intelligent onyx eyes stared hard into the shadowy, intimidating darkness that stretched into the woods. By now, dusk had come and gone, and the land was blanketed in the velvety darkness of the night. Mentally, Itachi recalculated the probability of a young child entering the forest for no reason whatsoever, and came back with a relatively unfavorable result.
It was definitely more likely that the little girl was somewhere within Konoha's protective walls, though a small, instinctual part of the young Uchiha heir hesitated to follow his sound reasoning and return straight for the village.
From what he was told, this little girl was only four; the exact age that his little brother, Sasuke, was. His otouto was still at the point in his life whereby the cover of night and darkness would scare the little boy into searching for his aniki for some comfort and reassurance, and therefore it wasn't difficult for the quiet Uchiha heir to picture a terrified little girl child lost in the woods.
The young, slender Genin closed his eyes briefly, considering his options. He quickly came to a decision.
Dark eyes reopened, and then slowly bled into crimson.
He was going to have to make this search quick, in order to leave sufficient time to return to the populated areas of Konoha to conduct yet another search should he not be able to locate the girl in the woods. Knowing Musuko and Kameji as well as he did, they were likely to miss some areas that he would not, and therefore, there was really no choice but for him to search their designated area as well.
He should have enough time if he hurried—but barely.
Fifteen minutes. If the search yielded no little girl after fifteen minutes, he would return for the village right away.
Soundlessly, the Uchiha tensai slipped into the dense forest, and within seconds, there was not even a trace of his presence left lingering.
Exactly fifteen minutes later, there was still no sign of any little girl amongst the dimly lit forest, and true to his intentions, Itachi started to turn around, about to make his way back to the village, when he sensed movement at the edge of his peripheral vision.
It was just the slightest glint of something reflected off the stray moon beams that had managed to filter down through the dense foliage to the forest floor, but it was enough to draw the Uchiha's attention to the little girl nestled amongst the mossy undergrowth of a massive oak tree, partially hidden and curled up at its base, slumbering deeply.
As he drew nearer, the child's physical features became clearer to him. The soft pink hair that caught the moonlight and had originally announced the child's presence to him fell around her delicate, elfin face in careless abandon. Her eyelashes were startling long, fanning her rosy cheeks that were still chubby with baby fat, her upturned nose indicating playfulness and mischief, and last but not least, was the small, red mouth that was slightly pursed in sleep. She was also very small still, even smaller in size than Sasuke was right now and that only served to make her look even more innocent and vulnerable than she already was.
Strangely enough, the fair skinned little girl, almost a baby still, was oddly mesmerizing as she lay sprawled on her side, half curled into herself, surrounded by moonbeams and shadows.
If the nine-year old Uchiha heir had possessed a more whimsical sort of a character, he would have likened the younger child to a lost forest fae, ethereal and almost otherworldly.
But Itachi was not the whimsical sort; he was brought up from the cradle to be coldly factual and highly analytical, and what was most important right now was that he had finally found the lost girl. The young, raven-haired boy dropped soundlessly from his perch above the still sleeping child and proceeded to crouch before her. Placing his hand on her shoulder, he started to nudge her awake in the same way he usually did his little brother.
It didn't take long before those long eyelashes began to flutter with passive agitation as the little girl began to rouse from her brief nap, mildly disorientated as large doe-like eyes the purest shade of emeralds blinked open, slowly focusing her sight upon the quiet boy crouched before her.
In the semi darkness of the moonlit night, the Uchiha's features were partially obscured amongst the shadows, but there was no denying the stark crimson gaze that clearly marked him a member of his proud clan.
Unfortunately enough, the little girl was not old enough to recognize the significance of those glowing Sharingan. However, she did recognize the metallic plate that was tied against his forehead, the Leaf insignia that proclaimed him friendly.
"Who are you?" little Sakura murmured thickly, almost confusedly, still not completely awake yet. "Are you lost too?"
Itachi ignored the little one's question. "Is your name Haruno Sakura?" he asked stoically instead, and after a brief moment, the pink-haired child nodded slowly, rubbing her eyes with closed fists and yawning widely. She reopened her eyes and peered at the older boy curiously.
"Who are you?" she repeated her question once more, now clearly more awake then earlier, slowly sitting up from her previously sprawled position as she regarded the silhouette of the boy who had woken her. "Did you come to bring me back to Kaa-san?"
"I was sent by Hokage-sama to retrieve you," the young Uchiha confirmed, and evidently, that was enough for the trusting little girl. However, if Itachi was expecting sheer gratitude from the child, he was in for a bit of surprise.
"What took you so long?" Sakura questioned with bold, unapologetic interest.
For a brief moment, Itachi thought that he had heard wrong. He stared at his temporary charge, but Sakura merely frowned precociously at her rescuer, a cute little wrinkle marring her brow as she waited for her answer.
"…we are returning to the village," the Genin replied evasively at last, straightening back to his full height and taking a step away from the little girl, clearly not sure of what else to say to her. "Your Mother is very worried about you."
Unfortunately for the solemn Uchiha prodigy, little Sakura was no longer paying any attention to him. No, she currently appeared to be rather preoccupied, looking as if to be searching for something within her coat linings, carefully patting her pockets anxiously until she seemed to have felt whatever it was that the little girl was looking for, a delighted and relieved expression on her small face. Then, she stood up carefully, clearly not as afraid of the dark as Sasuke was, and turned to look at Itachi with completely guileless trust.
"How are we going to go back?" she asked innocently, moving towards her rescuer until they were standing side by side, her shoulder brushing against him as she stuck close to him. The young raven-haired Genin stiffened slightly at the child's proximity and instinctively, edged a bare inch to the side. Unfortunately for him, the little girl merely followed after his subtle movement, and within a matter of a few seconds, he was back in the same position that he had originally been in.
Itachi looked upon the clear, expectant gaze of the little one, pristine emerald pools that reflected the innocence of childhood, and quickly realized that although the little girl wasn't openly showing her fear, she was at least feeling apprehensive about her current situation.
The young Genin gave a cursory glance at his surroundings; although the moonlight was adequate enough for travel, it was unlikely that a child would be able to move smoothly through the dense foliage as effective as he could. The Uchiha heir returned his attention to the child beside him, and without a word, the older boy dropped to a crouch once more, though this time, he presented his back to the surprised child.
"I will carry you to the village," Itachi spoke in his usual stoic manner. "You will have to climb onto my back."
When Sakura did not respond immediately, the Uchiha turned slightly to regard the little pink-haired girl. She was staring at him with something akin to hopeful excitement, the dim lighting doing nothing to conceal the hesitant wonder in her eyes.
"Are we going to fly amongst the trees?" she asked, all traces of sleep now no longer in her voice, swiftly replaced by a more lively tone of interest.
…Fly amongst the trees? It quickly occurred to the Uchiha what the little girl meant. It was apparent that she would like to experience the higher speed of travel used by most nin to maximize their efficiency; in reality, a simple application of minute chakra to the leg muscles in order to increase optimal energy usage. As a result, it did look to the civilians as if nin possessed the ability to effortlessly glide through the air for long distances; an act that must have appeared almost magical to a young child.
It would have been impossible to deny the little girl such a simple request when she was looking so very earnest, and at last, the older boy nodded once.
"If you wish," he replied shortly in his usual, soft spoken voice, but little Sakura-chan did not appear to be at all intimidated by the older child's distant nature. No, eyes all but lit up with anticipation, she was about to clamber up the slender youth's back when she suddenly remembered her own furry little passenger. The little girl paused then, and suddenly looked somewhat hesitant and unsure of herself.
"Anou…I can't." she whispered at last, and she started to look rather forlorn. "Can we walk instead?" she asked rather nicely, albeit in a rather dejected manner that quickly told the Uchiha heir something was wrong. Then, Sakura continued to explain.
"My Itachi-chan might fall down and get hurt, so I must protect him no matter what, so I can't."
She sounded perfectly convinced by her own logic, though on the other hand, Uchiha Itachi stared at the young girl with something akin to great surprise. The young Genin wasn't very sure if he had heard correctly, and he reacted before he could control his impulse.
"…Itachi-chan?" The good looking raven-haired boy repeated faintly, and if Sakura-chan was a little older, she would have detected that nearly imperceptible hint of disbelief in that quiet, modulated tone of his.
But fortunately for Itachi, Sakura wasn't old enough to know better, and besides, he wasn't even the 'Itachi-chan' whom she was referring to.
To prove her point, the precocious child first walked around her rescuer and turned to face him. Then, she reached unabashedly into her coat, and with little preamble, grabbed something out from its inner lining. The Uchiha tensed slightly when he saw a wriggling mass of black being pulled reluctantly from the piece of clothing, and then had to visibly prevent himself from flinching when it was promptly shoved in his face courtesy of his exuberant charge.
"This is Itachi-chan!" Sakura cooed sweetly, even as the tiny handful of fur that she was happily clutching in her small hand wriggled and chittered angrily before the Uchiha's stunned expression. Not surprisingly, the little critter didn't look particularly keen to be so near the older boy, and Itachi shared the same sentiment.
As usual, Sakura didn't seem to notice. Satisfied now that she had shown off her new pet to her new friend, the little girl proceeded to hug her weasel to herself, much to the Genin's alarm. Concerned that she would be bitten, the older boy was about to try to take the animal away when surprisingly enough, the sleek, black creature broke free from Sakura's hold and proceeded to scamper its way down the length of her arm before skittering across her shoulder and heading straight back into the opening of her coat, much to Sakura's tickled laughter.
It was the truth that the nine year old Genin had no idea what to make of this strange situation, and it was further compounded by the fact that his namesake appeared to be glaring grumpily at him from its perch on the giggling young girl.
"He's cute, isn't he? My Itachi-chan?" Sakura stroked her pet with great adoration, and begrudgingly, the young animal allowed itself to be patted by the girl child, although that suspicious, dark eyed gaze never left Itachi for a single second. "I think Kaa-san will like him too."
Somehow, the logical and factual young Uchiha decided not to tell the blissful looking little girl that it was highly unlikely that anyone would welcome a weasel into their home. Weasels were, after all, the harbingers of ill fortune and disaster.
And if his guess was correct, this baby weasel that Sakura was carrying was probably the very reason why she had somehow ended up all alone in the middle of the forest at night.
"Did you become lost while looking for your…pet?" Itachi asked, even as he stood up and beckoned for the girl to go with him. Without preamble, Sakura immediately followed after him like an obedient little duckling, nodding and beaming at him in response to his question.
"I think he was lost too," the young pink-haired child was only too glad for the chance to talk about her Itachi-chan. "I saw him in the market, looking very hungry. Sakura-chan will feed you when we get home, okay, Itachi-chan?"
The little weasel merely looked up at its new caretaker, black nose twitching here and there, small ears perked up with interest, almost as if it really understood what the young child was saying. In reaction of such strange behavior from a woodland creature, Itachi found himself looking at the cheerful young girl contemplatively. There was a faint possibility that this young, untrained civilian child had somehow managed to use what minute amount of chakra she had to interact and tame the animal just by sheer instincts alone, which in turned implied that she could very well possess some latent abilities as a nin—if she ever learned to quit being so chatty, that is.
But now was not the time to consider such matters; he was still obligated to bring her to the Hokage Tower as quickly as possible.
"What is your name, nin-san?" Sakura asked out of the sudden then, childish curiosity lighting up those clear, emerald eyes of hers.
Itachi hesitated for a brief moment. "My name is Uchiha Itachi."
"I-ta-chi?" the pink-haired girl echoed, momentarily confused. She lit up quickly all the same, though. "Itachi, like my Itachi-chan?"
Now resigned to his fate, ridiculous as it was, the young boy nodded. It was strange that he was being so unguarded around this sunny and sweet-tempered little girl in a way that he had seldom been around others, but she was disarmingly charming in a guileless manner that not even his little brother and his sulky pout had succeeded in accomplishing, and the young Genin decided to put aside his somewhat disquieting realization to be analyzed later.
After all, rare or not, it was highly unlikely that he would come across this particular little girl after his assignment was concluded.
"So you must know what Itachi-chan eats, right, Itachi-kun?" Sakura stroked the head of her pet gently, a small frown starting to mar her brow as she contemplated her own question. "Because I don't know what Itachi-chan would like to eat…"
For once in his life, the Uchiha quickly found himself at a complete loss of words.
"…you believe that I'm like your…pet weasel?" He sounded almost bewildered, as if he was somehow no longer in control of the conversation, without even knowing it. It was definitely a disconcerting sensation, being repeatedly caught off guard by a four year old little girl. The serious, nine year old Genin had no idea whether to be annoyed or to be…amused.
Sakura nodded, firm belief evident in her large, expressive eyes.
"Kaa-san says that I'm Sakura, because of my hair." The little girl patted her hair, bringing his attention to the soft, chin-length strands that fell neatly around her small face. "See? It's pink, just like the Sakura blossoms! So you must be Itachi because your Kaa-san and Tou-san think that you resemble one!!"
Itachi certainly hoped not, and at the same time, it was all he could do to conceal the appalled expression on his face. Looking at the small, pointy faced animal who was still currently giving him the evil eye, wondering whether his parents had given him his name because of his physical resemblance to the furry critter was about the last thing Itachi would like to contemplate at the moment.
To be perfectly honest, he had never thought much about the significance of his name until this little girl by the name of Sakura had pointed it out to him. He would have been better off never having to think about such disturbing matters.
"Your little pet will probably do quite well on a diet of meat and eggs." The young Uchiha quickly changed the subject, easily recalling the bit of useless information that he had read somewhere a long time ago. Before the talkative little girl could open her mouth to ask any more questions (demoralizing to his pride and common sense), Itachi continued. "You must keep quiet for now, Sakura. I need to concentrate on our surroundings to keep you safe."
Sakura frowned slightly at the quiet, but nonetheless authoritative, request from the older boy, and nodded in agreement at last. "Alright."
Surprisingly enough, the pink-haired child was able to quietly occupy herself without demanding his attention, and Itachi was left in peace and blissful silence for the next twenty minutes or so. Not surprisingly, their progress out of the forest was painstakingly slow in order to accommodate Sakura's small, baby strides as they travelled carefully through the semi-darkness as well as the thick forest foliage, though it didn't take long for Itachi to notice when the young girl began to tire.
Slowly, she was starting to lag behind him, tripping clumsily over her own feet as more and more yawns crept across her dainty face, but to her credit, she didn't start to cry or whine to be carried. Come to think of it, she had probably missed dinner as well, but yet, Itachi had not heard even a peep of complaint coming from the child. He watched her carefully from the corner of his eye, but she didn't seem to notice his attention at all, judging by the busy way she was fighting her growing drowsiness—and slowly losing.
It went to the point where she was beginning to weave alarmingly in her track that the young Genin decided to interfere. Placing a gentle restraining hand on the smaller child, he stopped her movement, and at the same time, brought her attention to himself. She looked at him dazedly, large emerald eyes sleepy and lethargic.
"Itachi-kun? Why are we stopping?" she murmured a little confusedly, not exactly sure what was going on.
"You are tired, aren't you?" the raven-haired boy asked simply. Sakura actually had to think about his question for a bit before nodding in agreement. "Would you like to be carried?"
Sakura did not reply at first, although the little girl sagged bonelessly against the slender youth the moment he was near enough for her to do so. Itachi had to repeat his second question before he could get an answer out of the tired child.
Sakura rubbed her cheek sleepily against the hem of Itachi's shirt, and then nodded once again in soundless agreement.
"No flying." She remembered to put in her request. "Itachi-chan might-"
"-fall down and get hurt," Itachi completed the sentence in his usual stoic manner. "I will keep that in mind." He stooped down, and then paused, not sure how to go about carrying a little girl. It was easy handling Sasuke—he was a boy, after all, not to mention his younger brother. But this child was most certainly not male, nor was she related to him at all. However, before the Uchiha heir could worry about the matter too much, Sakura took matters into her own hand.
Eyes already falling shut, the little one stumbled blindly towards Itachi and wrapped her arms around his neck. Without preamble, she buried her face against the side of his throat and sighed sleepily. The Genin stiffened immediately, but when Sakura did not move, he slowly wrapped his arms around the child's waist and hoisted her up, resting her light weight against a lean hip. The pink-haired girl made a small sound as she was being adjusted until she fit properly against the youth's sleek torso, but mostly kept quiet and docile as Itachi made her as comfortable as possible.
Meanwhile, the black-furred, little 'Itachi-chan' had his head out of the girl's coat opening and was still staring suspiciously at the other Itachi. The Uchiha was also wary of the small animal, well aware of its potential to turn aggressive should it feel threatened. As if on cue, the fuzzy critter started to squeak unhappily at his human counterpart, almost as if scolding him furiously. The nine year old boy stilled; with an armful of drowsy Sakura, it was going to be difficult for him to defend himself should the weasel decide to attack.
"Hush, 'Tachi-chan," the little pink-haired girl mumbled in response to all the noise, shifting slightly as she did so. "I will get you food when we get home; wait for a bit more, okay?"
Surprisingly enough, its owner's voice was enough to reassure the little thing, and it fell quiet, drawing back within the safe confines of the coat, although Itachi had no qualms that it was probably watching him acutely even from its temporary burrow. Assured that he would not be attacked by the five inch long weasel, Itachi started his solitary trek back to the village. Sakura clung to him like a baby koala the entire way, unguardedly asleep in a manner that could only be achieved from pure trust in her temporary guardian.
"Itachi-kun," Sakura whispered drowsily against the youth's neck when they were about to reach their destination, her voice small and almost inaudible. "Thank you for coming to get me…"
The Uchiha heir in question paused briefly in his steps. Impassive dark eyes shifted over to look at the mussed mop of pink hair that spilled across his shoulder, and warmed fractionally.
"You are welcome, Sakura."
Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:
Yes, dear readers, you did not read wrongly. 'cabbage patch' is a continuous fic, or at the very least, it will be a collection of closely related one-shots depicting the relationship between Uchiha Itachi and Haruno Sakura over the years, from childhood to adulthood.
Be warned! I have plans to raise this fic's rating in the future, but not now, for rather obvious reasons. Concerned readers need not be worried; this fic will contain no pedophilic content (as well as minimal mention of Orochimaru).
I'm aware that canon-verse Itachi and Sakura are roughly five to six years apart in age. For the sake of shortening their age gap in this fic, I will assume that they only have a difference of five years between them for this series.
If the name 'Haruno Miharu' sounds terribly familiar to you, then you are right. This authoress was just being a lazy ass with no sense of creativity whatsoever, and had decided to use the same fictional name for Sakura's mother from 'That Stupid Dream.' Do not be surprised if this name appears in other fics in the future!
The two other Genin members of Team Five are being complete bastards to Itachi, I know, but I believe that it's a reasonable reaction coming from a pair of thirteen year old boys. They are immature, they are intensely prideful, and it makes sense for them to feel intimidated and resentful over the many accomplishments of a younger Genin so much more superior to them in terms of intelligence and ability. They might have stopped their taunting of their youngest teammate had the latter attempted to retaliate, be it in the form of reporting the bullying to his superior and/or his clan, or by brute force, but because Itachi chose not to do so, they merely got bolder, hence the blatant scorn and disrespect towards the passive Uchiha heir.
Do keep in mind that the formation of Team Five is still relatively new, perhaps only five months or so in effect, and that's also part of the reason contributing to the friction within the team.
I hope the appearance of 'Itachi-chan' (the other one, not our favorite Uchiha) will not come across as a complete cliché to some of you. I have plans for the baby mustelid, you will see soon enough. So for now, please content yourselves in the rather adorable imagery of Genin!Itachi vs. Chibi!Itachi!
For those unaware, 'tensai' means genius in Japanese.
Last but not least, this is the first time I'm writing young Sakura and Itachi, so I would love feedback and constructive criticisms from the readers!
If Itachi does seem just a tiny bit more responsive and open in this fic, that is purely intentional. Remember, he is only nine years old at the moment, and only a Genin, albeit a rather serious and intelligent one. I reckon that he will be freer with his emotions prior to his promotion to the Chuunin rank, as well as his subsequent entry into the infamous ANBU Black Ops.
As for Sakura, well, she's still a baby, and therefore still retains that inherent faith and innocent expectation towards any authority figure, in this case, her rescuer. I don't think she's old enough to feel awkward being carried by a boy yet, and I hope that fully explains Sakura's natural trust towards Itachi.
That's all for now; I hope you folks enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it!
Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic!