Summary: AU: In between the missions and the mayhem, Itachi enjoys coffee and company. And then the mayhem resumes.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own Naruto or any of its affiliations…I am merely borrowing its characters and settings to indulge my own fantasies and then share said fantasies with other people who equally do not own Naruto. I am not making any profit off this.
Author's Note: n_n; An Alternate Reality where, basically, the countries are like cities within a large metropolitan area and each city has its own mafia/yakuza/gang/syndicate. The technology in the story is slightly more advanced than modern times and the location isn't necessarily any place on Earth (but think Shanghai), but there are references to real life things. Does that make any sense? T_T; ...Well, basically, it's Action!Itachi in a Kiton suit, what more could you want?
Underwater I wrote drowning
I used to be such a good, good swimmer
Café Vittoria was neutral territory these days, so it made an ideal place for them to meet –not to mention the caffee macchiato they served was the best in the city.
As always, Itachi had managed to find a two person table in the back room of the small establishment where he waited for her patiently while nursing his favourite drink. No matter the venue, privacy was always a priority.
He turned a page in his book between sips and discreetly looked over his red-tinted sunglasses for any sign of his expected guest. She was always one for being punctual, but too often, she was held up by overly protective senior members of Konoha, or she would be pestered into an emergency surgery, or something else that was equally tedious. Haruno Sakura was just one to be sought after.
If it wasn't for her medical background or her deadly accuracy with any gun, then it was for her charm or her devastating looks. She was still young (too young for the business, but then, so were many others), and, despite her upbringing, rather innocent. She was never one to say 'no' to someone in need. Though at times, the 'need' a person claimed to have for her was usually rather insufficient, in Itachi's opinion.
Certainly, as a matter of fact, he was not being hypocritical.
If anything, these few monthly visits that they shared were mostly for her benefit. It seemed that after he had saved her life that one time —and back then, it had been purely for Sasuke's sake— Sakura could not let go of him. She had used her connections with Lady Tsunade to look at all the information they had on him, and from there, logically deduced the places she would most likely run into him. She would have been killed again, too, had she stumbled across him even minutes earlier, as he had just finished a drop-off with Deidara, but somehow Sakura had been lucky enough to survive that day as well. Itachi had been surprised to see her, but even more so when she stepped right up to him, her hands empty and non-threatening, and without touching him elsewhere, kissed the side of his jaw quite quickly before uttering a breathy 'thank you'.
And then, with much more confidence, Sakura proceeded to tell him that she was not at all convinced he was working solely with the Akatsuki. She listed the results of her research on him, combined with suspicious actions of his that she had seen first-hand, and said quite bluntly that she was sure he had faked his falling out with Konoha for the sake of his younger brother. And that she was convinced, though it had yet to be confirmed by her superiors, that he was currently an acting double agent.
Itachi had cursed her prodigious mind and told her that she was clearly mistaken as he wouldn't hesitate to kill her. To prove his point, he had dragged her down an alley —one that was conveniently shadowy and grungy— quite smoothly put a gun to her head and cocked it, the metallic clicking sound loud even in the midst of city noises. Sakura's body may have been straight and tense, but her eyes had been as steady as his grip and she had said evenly, "Put the gun down. Killing me here would be too messy for you, anyway."
From there, he had eventually agreed to her invitation to coffee in order to discuss Sasuke. Sakura had seemed quite hung up on his brother back then, and Itachi had grudgingly attempted to guide her because she was from his old syndicate, and he felt oddly responsible for her after saving her life. Though over time, they began to speak less of Sasuke and more about trivial, less dangerous subjects, but Itachi wasn't sure if that was because her feelings for his younger brother had faded, or because it had become very obvious that Sasuke was closer to killing him with each passing day and Sakura thought it too raw a subject to discuss.
Instead, they had traded opinions on literature, discussed the economy, and even finished a crossword puzzle together. Sakura was especially remarkable company, Itachi had finally admitted to himself one day. She was well-read and up to date on world events —let alone everything that was going on in their world— and she always had a well founded opinion to share. She was always smiling, too. With her soft green eyes and exotic hair, she was a welcomed sight on every occasion.
It was becoming harder to see Sakura regularly, though, and already it had been five weeks since he had last met with her. For a two week block of time they would decide on a new place to exchange information, usually in the form of a letter, and her most recent note had said that she would meet him at eleven in the morning at this shop. He had checked the box this morning to see if she had cancelled last minute, but there had not been anything new for him to read.
Eventually, while reaching for his handkerchief, Itachi glanced at his watch and subsequently frowned as he realized that she was running over an hour late. It was not a record, but it was getting up there. Telling himself he should not feel so distracted by her absence, he went back to reading his book.
Two hours later, after Itachi had been forced to switch to ordering water lest he have some sort of undignified caffeine and sugar high, Sakura still hadn't shown up.
They had a rule that the meeting had a two hour window for the both of them to show up, which meant Itachi had already given her an extra hour. They had never missed a chance to see each other in the past, and he couldn't help but wonder what it was that held her up so badly today.
Strictly due to the nature of their occupations, images of a hurt, shot, or dead Sakura flashed through Itachi's mind. She was, after all, a high profile target for several organizations, and any day now, a hit could be ordered on her. Even Akatsuki was keeping an eye on Sakura —especially after what had happened between her and Sasori not too long ago. If his boss found out that Itachi had been secretly traipsing around the city with a Konoha operative, then it wouldn't be Itachi's head Pain would be after.
That man would find Sakura first and try to rip as much information out of her as possible. If at all he felt that one of his highest ranked subordinates had betrayed him, he would not hesitate to take even Lady Tsunade's exalted protégé. And he would not bother to be gentle with her.
Another image, this time of Hidan standing over a bloody, pink-haired form, came to his mind, and Itachi had to massage his temples and take a deep breath before his heart calmed again. That, thankfully, was not a possibility he had to worry about — the last he heard, Hidan had been incapacitated by the heir of the Nara clan.
At any rate, he needed to stop letting his thoughts get the better of him. Yes, there were possible scenarios where Sakura could get hurt, but they were unlikely. He and Sakura were both well trained in staying untraceable, and so far, neither of them had encountered even small amounts of suspicion from their respective groups.
She had probably just been stuck in surgery, pulling bullets out of that Inuzuka kid again.
Reluctantly, Itachi paid his bill and made his way out of the café. Outside it was cloudy and cool and he thought that, even in this weather, Sakura would still shine as prettily as ever.
Because the girl was pretty, despite how hard it was for him to acknowledge the fact. She had pleasing features, smooth skin and nice bone structure, and a lithe body that was toned as well as feminine. But there was more to Sakura than just 'pretty'; she had an inner light that radiated strength and warmth simultaneously. It was the glow of a girl who had the right balance of willpower and compassion.
Itachi stifled his rather positive observations concerning the Haruno girl before they touched upon forbidden territory. She was a young girl who was not ugly, that was all.
Except, even Itachi was forced to admit that this was blatant self-delusion, Sakura was more than that, and being attractive or standing out physically in the kind of world in which they lived was a dangerous thing for a woman. If Sakura had been kidnapped, any man would jump at the chance to touch her. She was so delicate but stubbornly determined, that any cruel person, certainly, would start to obsess over breaking her. And once again, Itachi was somewhat relieved that the torture specialist, Hidan, was no longer around. However, there were others in the organization who would happily leave nothing of Sakura behind had they the chance to get near her.
Again, Itachi had to snap his thoughts away from dark places. Sakura was just as much a member of the underground society as he —she wouldn't get caught so easily. She knew the risks and how to avoid bad situations.
Undoubtedly, she had learned from her past experience with Akatsuki and the rash decision that had almost cost her life, he reassured himself.
Itachi arrived at the parking garage where he had left his Aston Martin, but when his car came into sight, there was an unpleasant smear across its hood.
The smear was actually Deidara, but the boy was unpleasant nonetheless, and Itachi chose not to think about how he had managed to slip into the secure valet parking. The younger man grinned at Itachi from his perch and said to him when he had walked close enough, "Ain't she pretty, hm?"
Itachi didn't answer the blonde, choosing instead to move past him and patiently slip on his leather driving gloves before unlocking his door. Deidara swivelled in his spot to watch him and the sound of the movement on the surface of Itachi's car was jarring and far too squeaky. Trying to ignore his fellow Akatsuki, Itachi started to get behind the wheel when Deidara's voice stopped him.
"I asked if you agreed that Haruno Sakura was pretty, Itachi."
In the Akatsuki, Deidara fulfilled two very important roles: explosives expert and reconnaissance agent. Whereas Sasori had been a more traditional mechanic, Deidara was a genius with electronics and had an unnatural enthusiasm for mixing unstable chemicals. He could set up cameras anywhere and run a feed back to the base to be watched live or recorded, and then with a press of a button, he would destroy the recording device once its use had run out.
For him of all people to mention Sakura meant for certain he was not bluffing. Deidara may often be volatile and noisy, but he was very rarely wrong when it came to his job. He was the best at what he did, after all.
"Get in," Itachi said edgily, as he slid into the seat. A moment later Deidara was settling into the passenger side of the coupé, excitedly touching every interior surface of the Vantage and trying the radio dials. "Stop it," Itachi ordered, resisting the temptation to swat at the wandering fingers. He started the engine and started to drive, waiting until they were on the main road to speak again. "What do you know?" he asked, forcing the tension from his voice.
Deidara, who was still happily working on adjusting his seat, answered him easily enough. "I know you two have been meeting each other in different places across the city. Usually small bistros and like 'couple spots'. You guys decide on a location to exchange information and then on the time and location of where you can see each other in person."
It was better than, 'I know your history and that you are a double agent', Itachi thought ironically. "Anything else?"
"She kissed you, but only once, and it was that first time she saw you, hm," Deidara twisted slightly in the car so that he could look at Itachi straight on. "That day after the Nibi drop-off. I was going through destroying my security cams when I saw you and her talking. You were expressionless as always, but I couldn't see her for the most part, just the back of her head. Oh, and then you dragged her into the alleyway and I was positive you were gonna get your rocks off right there, but I couldn't see. But when you walked back into view, neither of you looked messed up or anything."
Disregarding his passenger's rather crass commenting, Itachi asked, his voice tight, "What do you suspect?"
"Hey, listen, if you think you can just shoot me and be done with it, I have a trigger here attached to my palm and with one fist I can have a composite video of your little trysts sent directly to Pain's personal blackberry." The blonde gave him a cool smirk. "But you, especially you, Itachi, know that I am not one to die for the sake of Akatsuki. I'm only here because it's a high-paying job and I like the thrills. I just thought we could work out an agreement, hm."
Itachi glanced over at Deidara and took a moment to decide the best course of action, but he wasn't given the chance.
"I'll leave her alone if you let me have the Kyuubi or your brother," Deidara stated smugly, knowing that he was the one with the power in this situation. From the perspective of someone who took Itachi at face value, as a cold-blooded and psychotic bastard, then this probably sounded like a fair deal. For all Deidara knew, Itachi could care less about Sasuke, and Uzumaki Naruto was just another container.
"You really think she is that important to me, do you?" Itachi asked coolly, and Deidara nodded his head with obvious conviction.
"She's the first girl I've seen you talk to in almost four years. Well, not counting Konan and the ones we've done business with."
Had it really been so long? Itachi had not really considered it before, seeing as he wasn't one to socialize with members of either gender too often, but he supposed that was about right. After he had killed his cousin and his mother, he had lost touch with the other sex. There was no longer any purpose in pursuing a woman for reasons other than his job. "She is interesting company." Itachi replied evasively.
"Yeah, but if I had some time alone with her, I'd make her do more than talk, if you know what I mean?" Deidara raised his eyebrows suggestively while a feral grin twisted his lips.
Perhaps Itachi applied a bit too much pressure to his brakes when he came to a stop just then; while he had a seatbelt on and was relatively unaffected, Deidara flew off the leather seat only to smash into the dashboard. He had been sitting sideways, so his arm took the brunt of the hit, but the sight of him fussing over his hair and cursing Itachi was amusing enough.
The blonde took only a little amount of time to right himself and properly secure the strap across his chest before he spoke again. "Okay, so the girl is clearly your territory —too bad, but whatever, hm. So, who's it gonna be, the Kyuubi or Sasuke?"
From some time ago, the Akatsuki had been tracking Sasuke's movements, and not once at the mention of his possible death had Itachi reacted with any interest. If he were to suddenly act possessive of him now, it would be out of his character. Sasuke had taken down Orochimaru; surely he could handle Deidara. And if he failed to defeat the sadistic 'artist' then it would hardly have been believable for him to defeat Itachi. He just had to trust in his brother's skill and his will to live so that he could get revenge for the clan.
Sasuke was also a better choice, because at least with his confrontation with Akatsuki, there wasn't chance of an apocalypse. Selfishly, Itachi wanted his brother to live, but in the end, the general population and peace took precedent over one life.
While Uzumaki was pretty well-covered at all times, if by some chance the Akatsuki did manage to get a hold of him, then everything would be over. Pain had already managed to procure seven of the nine different, equally destructive, plague-like bacterial strands, and if he gained control of the Kyuubi, then the Akatsuki would be one step closer to an inescapable biochemical war.
As it had been for the other containers, only Naruto's body was capable of living with one of the particular bacteria because of a mutagenic property of his chromosomes. And the research that Senju, and then Namikaze, had carried out to develop a cure had only gotten so far as to keep the Uzumaki boy from being contagious. Only a direct transfer of blood would be enough to infect others. As of yet, Konoha was still struggling to create a cure.
Itachi needed to make sure they had enough time to engineer something and mass produce it; otherwise, the results would be devastating.
Though it went against every fibre in his heart, he said, "Do what you will with Sasuke."
"Ah, ruthless," Deidara said with a wide grin. "I've had a problem with that kid ever since he killed off Orochimaru. I guess now I have the chance to get him back. Ah, hey, you can let me off here."
Itachi directed the car to the curve and slowed to a stop, not bothering to turn to Deidara even as the blonde opened the car door, still speaking. "You should really make your code harder to break in the future. And reading the letter at the box and destroying it right there is good most of the time, but not when it can be caught on camera anyway."
Deidara stepped out onto the curb, but then almost immediately leaned back into the car with more parting words. "Oh yeah, and one wrong move, Uchiha, and I'll make the girl go bang."
To make his meaning clear, he held up his other hand to show Itachi a second remote detonator in the centre of his palm. He flexed his fingers in a threatening tease and flashed one last dangerous smile. "Be careful, now, hm."
And with that, the younger man was gone —off to prepare for battle. Itachi watched his platinum ponytail for as long as he could until it eventually disappeared in the crowd of people on the side walk.
Shit. He needed to find Sakura.
The only place he could start would be their message box, which was actually the underside of a newspaper dispenser outside a general store on the other end of the city. First off, however, he needed to get a new car. Deidara had been alone with his Vantage for up to possibly three hours; there was no telling what he had done to it.
Itachi spent the latter part of the afternoon driving to the outer metropolitan area in order to leave his car in an Akatsuki storehouse. He made sure to be subtle about where he parked it, but if some of Deidara's spare technology got caught in the explosion, well then he would be very sorry for the blonde's loss.
When he exited the building, which was industrial and quite unsightly, Kisame had already arrived to pick him up. He was leaning against the hood of his Rolls-Royce, Phantom Drophead Coupé —the only sedan capable of supporting his massive frame—enjoying a smoke as he waited. Itachi frowned at his partner and brought his silk pocket square to his mouth as he coughed.
"Something wrong with the Aston Martin?" Kisame asked as he guiltily put out his cigarette.
Itachi went straight for the passenger door and said by way of complete explanation, "Deidara."
"Ah, yeah. I heard the kid's on the move against Sasuke," Kisame said as he got into his car, Itachi doing the same on the other side. "You all right with that?"
Itachi gave his long-time colleague a quiet look, but it was mostly lost behind the scarlet shades he wore. In any case, Kisame understood; he had become an expert at reading the stoic man's minute expressions. Of course, Itachi's countenance read 'That is none of your concern' at the moment, so really, his skills were not especially helpful. He barked out a laugh at this and started the engine.
"All right, we're off!" Kisame pulled out of the lot and they started to travel back into the innermost cities of the metropolis.
For a long while, the two occupants were silent and lost in thought. Itachi's focus, unfortunately, was switching back and forth between Sasuke and Sakura and their increasing chances of death by 'being blasted into many small pieces'.
How was it that he had allowed two people to get dragged into the web of a crazed explosives expert? Why hadn't he tried harder to protect Sasuke? If things continued as they were now, then Itachi really would be responsible for the deaths of his entire family.
Then there was Sakura —a girl he did not even have the right to associate with, and now he was going to get her killed. He should have never allowed her to manipulate him like she did so easily half a year ago. She had been so adamant and sure of herself that he had given up the thought of arguing with her almost immediately.
If he hadn't, though, then she certainly would have tracked him down again, in any case.
But he could have outsmarted Sakura somehow. Itachi was a genius as well, if not even more so than her, and now, in hindsight, he continually thought of ways in which he could have discouraged her from her inappropriate pursuit of him. There were so many other choices that he could have made in order to prevent this situation from happening.
Eventually, however, as time passed, Itachi grew too weary to continue trying to relive his past mistakes in ways that would have changed the current situation. Yes, he had made miscalculations, but the thing he needed to think about now was protecting Sakura. The threat to her life was more immediate —it would take several days for Deidara to corner Sasuke into a fight, at the very least.
"I need to get to get to Kusa," Itachi said as he rested his head against the cool glass window with a shallow sigh. "As fast as you can, Kisame, please."
Kisame, who had probably been waiting the entire time for his passenger to say something, gave Itachi a cocky grin. It was an unsettling sight because, for one thing, it greatly contrasted Itachi's mood at the moment, and it just looked strange on his partner's heavily tattooed face —and that Kisame was wearing his grill tonight as well just made it worse.
Completely unaware of Itachi's thoughts on his looks, Kisame said cheerfully, "I won't ask if something is going on, but will you need any back up?"
"I think something of mine has been compromised." Itachi replied vaguely. Of course, Sakura really wasn't his, but Kisame did not know that. And by "compromised", he meant that she was in serious danger of being assassinated.
If what Deidara claimed was true, and that at a moment's notice he could kill her, then it meant that the bomb was not planted in her apartment or workplace. It had to be something that she travelled with constantly. Maybe her pocket book or her lip gloss.
There was a vivid image, then, of Sakura going to apply make up only to have the bomb detonate as she reached her face.
More images of the girl being killed entered his head, and after awhile the scenarios completely strayed altogether from death by 'being a blast! Literally!' to things that were much darker and more drawn-out.
Itachi cursed mentally and glanced at the navigation system on the console. They still had quite a distance to travel, and the closer they got, the worse traffic would get. He needed to move fast, and there was very little possibility of Kisame's monstrous sedan weaving between cars on the streets with ease.
"Kisame," Itachi said, finally breaking the long pause in conversation. "If you could just get me to the South End Tunnel, then that would be sufficient."
"So, that's a 'negative' for back up, huh?" his partner quipped.
"For now," he answered, and he saw that Kisame actually looked surprised by the serious answer. Itachi ignored the glances being sent his way, and instead retrieved his cellular phone from the inside pocket of his suit and quickly dialled Zetsu. "Get my BMW to the westbound entrance of the South End Tunnel, ASAP," he said without any preamble when the other line picked up.
"I'll have it there in twenty," was the confident response and then the call cut off abruptly. It had been Zetsu, of course, as he was the one in charge of all the units of transportation that Akatsuki used. For all the years Itachi had known him, he had never missed a rendezvous. How he could move anything that quickly in the city was nearly beyond the laws of physics, but Itachi did not dwell on the means (though he suspected it had something to do with the subterranean electrical circuit maintenance passages), but rather on the fact that the task would get done.
"It's unusual for you to change your mind," Kisame observed after Itachi had hung up. "Must be something important."
Saving any life, really, was something important.
It was just that, at the moment, Haruno Sakura's was taking priority.
"Hn," he answered non-committally. Itachi remained silent until he saw that they were approaching the tunnel and that, sure enough, standing perfectly unscathed on the other side of the concrete barriers, was his sleek and manoeuvrable BMW.
"Get off at the Highway Maintenance stop up ahead," he said, already sitting up straighter in anticipation.
"Yeah, yeah. I see it." The Rolls-Royce looked extremely out of place —and if it had been possible, a little uncomfortable as Kisame drove it up alongside the grungy and obnoxiously coloured service vehicles. "Itachi," Kisame hesitated a bit, and for once he seemed to speak without humour. "Are you sure you're fit to drive that?"
There wasn't time for him not be, he answered internally. Aloud, he just gave another vague, dismissive answer as he exited the sedan. Hovering between the open door and the seat of the car, he bowed his head respectfully. "Thank you, Kisame."
"Keep watch, kid," was Kisame's farewell before he drove off and Itachi was on his own again.
Adjusting his gloves and coat, Itachi turned to take in the welcomed site of his custom built, black and vermilion BMW K 1300 sport bike. He would find Sakura in no time. Kisame had only ever driven cars, and therefore had no appreciation for the sophisticated, high-performance ride that a motorcycle like this offered.
He quickly secured his phone's handless earpiece and slipped his helmet on. Normally, he would wear more appropriate, sturdier fabrics when riding, and so a small part of him briefly lamented over the damage he would indisputably inflict upon his superfine-wool suit, but it could not be helped.
Just sitting on the bike reminded Itachi of the stability and power it offered. Even for someone in his condition, he still navigated the roads with ease —weaving between cars effortlessly on his way to Kusa. His ultimate destination was Hi no Kuni, but there was no way he could mention that to another Akatsuki without someone questioning his motives or at the very least, imposing him with their company.
It was easy enough to get into the districts that made up the City of Fire, despite that he was using his distinctive motorcycle that he knew Tsunade had marked, but the real trouble would be getting into the central hub of Konohagakure. Itachi had been able to use his knowledge from his stint in ANBU the last time he had entered that territory, but by now they would have updated their security for certain.
Itachi's best chance for infiltration would be the pier side of the Konohagakure district, which was a steel, labyrinthine forest of freighters and shipping containers on its border with Kusa. From there he'd travel through the Aburame clan's district and then eventually to Sakura's apartment. If she wasn't in, which was a certain possibility given her occupation, then he could at least have a solid place to begin looking for her. At the very least he could check her home for any of Deidara's electronics or explosives.
Above the noise of the streets and the tops of the skyscrapers, there was an approaching noise of thunder and the distinct promise of a storm. Unconcerned with how his bike performed on slick pavement, Itachi was more worried for the other approaching storms that involved his insane comrade, his kin, and the only girl he would ever care to miss were she to disappear from his life.
To be continued in Part II. Thanks to Lady Silvamord for the beta read. Also, many apologies for the absence on here, I've just been super busy and feeling generally uninspired to write :( I'm getting back into the swing of things though.