Title: Magnum

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: Part III! :O

-o-

Tell me if I'm yours

-o-

It really was an ingenious device, she admitted to herself. He could detonate a vast number of explosives by merely tapping his fingertips together.

Well, actually, Sakura could not say that for certain, but it was pretty easy to ascertain the purpose of Deidara's wickedly outfitted hands. Through the scope of her binoculars, from where she crouched on top of a stack of boxcars, she was free to observe his strange devices as he tested them out. At the moment, in place of explosives, they were triggered to make what looked like neon bulbs turn on, and so far he had been satisfied with the results as light after light responded to his commands.

The central computer chip and transmitter that each of the pads on his fingers were connected to by lines of wire was in the centre of his palm on each hand. She had already known about those, but had been confident that each hand could only be programmed for one task. These new little thimble-tap things had just opened a terribly expansive and adaptable arsenal of bombs for Deidara to exploit to the fullest.

Even from a hundred metres away, his gleeful (and slightly mad) grin was clearly visible ‒she didn't need her magnified lenses to see his triumphant expression.

Sakura cursed under her breath. This guy was not exactly approachable.

It was getting dark, the rain relentlessly pouring, and she was starting to question what she could learn from accosting Deidara. Sure, he apparently had a considerable grudge against Sasuke, but that did not necessarily mean he was any more the wiser to her (ex) team mate's whereabouts than she. And Sakura couldn't just leave Shiba and Bisuke hanging around on their own for too long. Unbelievably expensive and expertly trained as they were, dogs were still prone to meander off after any old scent that caught their interest.

Below her, she noticed that Deidara seemed to be wrapping up his trial run. The lights going off now were getting farther out from his central position as he tested their utmost limits. He was not as confident as he was before, trying each one out, but he was all the more ecstatic when they worked.

Oh, she smiled, figuring out his execution design. Clever.

It was not that he had memorized a specific pattern of taps for each explosive ‒rather one set for distance, and another for its directional orientation. A light went off at what she estimated to be ninety metres out, south-east by south, just to the left of her.

Deidara's grin widened and he tried another sequence. A light, this one strapped to the side of a goods van just below her, went off, and her eyes flicked to it for a second before they were back to watching Deidara.

Except now he was staring right back at her.

And that was when Sakura noticed she was glowing.

-o-

It was the first argument they'd ever had. And it wasn't terrible, but it unsettled him nonetheless.

The meeting place was a quaint Turkish tea house, which was narrow and cluttered and somehow still distinctly charming. Sakura had picked it out. It was a perfect spot, really, with a private veranda in the back that they had all to themselves, and they had talked freely with little worry about being overheard.

Maybe it was because the atmosphere had been so relaxed that she felt able to broach the subject. With flowers draped over every surface and romantically patterned iron-wrought chairs, the setting was almost surreal. It must have given her a sort of spiritual boost.

"Isn't that book a bit depressing?" Sakura asked, voice soft and not all aggressive. Just sincere with curiosity.

Itachi glanced at what she was referring to; a non-fiction novel that sat to the side of the samovar between them. The title read 'Black Mornings: Slave Labour and the Child Workers of Tsuchi no Kuni'. He took a slow sip of his drink while he considered his most recent literary endeavour. "It is very sad," he agreed quietly.

"It is a bit beyond me how you can manage to read this after you've just finished 'The History of the Demon of Kirigakure'," she murmured.

At the time, he had not recognised the bait for what it was.

"I suppose it is because I like to keep my life in perspective," Itachi replied honestly, not really thinking the answer to be so important.

But Sakura sighed knowingly, as if expecting his answer. He realised later that she actually had.

"What is it?" he asked, her expression a bit disconcerting. Her eyes, which had been determinedly staring away, finally found his, and they were brimming with concern and trepidation.

"You don't have to keep punishing yourself, Itachi."

The blunt observation and slight chastisement took him off-guard and he could not think of an immediate response; though Sakura didn't allow him much time to think of one.

"You don't need to remind yourself that other people have lives worse than your own," she clarified, sounding a little sad and the slightest amount exasperated. "What you have experienced in your life is devastating, and no matter the number of other tragic accounts you come across, that fact will never change."

Itachi wanted to explain that she was completely wrong and that he was only reading these books to satisfy a more scholarly interest. ...Except, it was quite feasible there was a deep seeded part of him that had a much more solemn reason to keep searching these stories out.

Of course she had been the one to see and acknowledge the strange and austere behaviour that drove him to humble his own mind-numbing agony.

Itachi looked away from her and back to his book, reaching out to let his fingers run over the smooth surface distractedly. There had been times in his life that he had lamented, Why me? Why did I have to live this nightmare? He had never received an answer and had felt immediately disgusted with himself for being so selfish. That was why he read the books that he did – because there were many people in horrible situations who kept living, despite the hate of the gods bearing down their necks every day. He was no different, really.

Besides the unavoidable fact that his life was this way because he had chosen it to be so. And in that manner, he did not have the right to grieve as did these others. Below-caste people forced into mines, children ordered to kill one another by dastardly syndicates, women shackled into prostitution... At least he had been given the honest opportunity to say 'no'.

He could have told Danzou and the elders that he was unable to carry out the mission.

He had not.

"Itachi," he heard distantly over his thoughts and he sluggishly regained his ability to focus on his company. A hand had joined his as he had been reflecting and he hadn't even noticed. He was suddenly very aware of the gentle massage Sakura was giving him, ghosting her fingers over his own, back and forth with slow purposeful strokes.

Something swelled in his chest; a breath he was unconsciously holding.

"You did not have a choice." Sakura was a mind reader, he decided, but Itachi was unable to look away from where her pale delicate hand rested with his own, which was stained and calloused. He could not bring himself to speak, and she must have correctly inferred that to mean that she had figured him out just right. So she continued, taking the conversation in a slightly different direction, "It would be foolish of me to ask you to stop mourning, but... I want you to know that..."

Itachi listened as she trailed off, too fixated on where their bodies met to prompt her to finish. He was too cold and she too warm, but slowly he could feel the heat transferring between them. He moved his hand to catch hers instead, holding her fingers and sweeping his thumbs over her knuckles.

Sakura tightened her hold on him, returning his gestures. "You don't have to be alone in this any more."

He stilled his movements and finally glanced at her face again. She looked so inviting with her tender expression and hopeful smile, but she was offering him too much, and he wondered if she even understood what she was saying. Itachi said her name quietly, trying to warn her away.

Ignoring his cautionary tone, she broke his gaze and looked at their linked grip, bringing up her other hand to further envelop his own. It was inadvertent, but he held onto her just a little tighter as she did so. "Okay," Sakura said after a long while, "you don't have to accept anything now, but I am not going to take back anything I have said."

She withdrew her hands all the same, and he refused to frown at their sudden absence. Itachi took another sip of his tea then, occupying himself to keep from reaching out and seeking her warmth. There was a strong to desire to feel that soft skin again under his fingertips.

He noted absently that the tea was cold.

-o-

Even now, months later, Itachi could still imagine the feel of her hands on his. It was the last time they had touched, and he wondered if it would remain that way forever now. There had always been the strict rule that he would never initiate any physical contact with her and curb any that she attempted, but now that it seemed so eminently possible that he really would never hold her again, it was almost...

Itachi swore and ran his hand threw his hair to shake his train of thought. He exhaled loudly, his breath cloudy and visible in the cool air. The rain was bordering on sleet now, and he had pulled his bike into a abandoned mechanic's garage for a few moments while he considered his next course of action.

Konohagakure had offered nothing in terms of Sakura's whereabouts, only that she wasn't at her apartment or at the old ANBU clinic where she had been working on occasion as an emergency surgeon. There were so many places she could be, completely unaware of the bomb strapped to her body, and it turned his stomach to admit he may never find her fast enough.

Itachi couldn't help but think how he could have prevented all of this. Or of how he should have taken her offer the moment it left her lips and pulled her against him; kept her close to him, where no one else could touch her.

The oddly possessive urge came to him unbidden, but not exactly out of nowhere. It had only taken that initial kiss from Sakura to stir up his stifled male instincts, and he had been battling them ever since. But repressing them and ignoring them had done Itachi no help, especially now, when they were threatening to finally snap and override his rationality altogether. Perhaps if he had simply indulged in these biological impulses earlier, he would at this time be able to handle them more appropriately.

As it was now, all he could think about was finding that little blonde haired 'colleague' of his and loading him so full of lead that even his descendants would be sick with poison. For Deidara to threaten Sakura as he had –it was unforgivable.

But Itachi also felt that he should have cared to protect her more.

He wanted to have her with him again, safe.

-o-

Sakura did not waste time returning Deidara's dumbfounded stare and immediately ducked under more cover. Shit, shit, shit. Her heart was pumping three extra beats a second and the chill of the air around her seemed to have frozen over the rest of her insides. She had to make up her mind quickly; fight or flee.

The boxcars were stacked four high and the only way up was the same way down, makeshift ladders melded directly into the metal siding. Thankfully enough, the goods vans were arranged in such a pattern that allowed for more than one route of descent, but she was still a highly visible target. She would have to try and throw Deidara off her trail.

She managed to climb down to the next layer of vans before she slipped her cloak off her shoulders, instantly bracing against the harsh temperature, to hook it around one of the ladder steps. It was partially visible from the ground angle, and she hoped it would be enough to catch Deidara's attention and stall him for a few minutes.

Her fingers were numb and a little clumsy as she reached for her throwing knives. Despite the fact she was going for a clean getaway, having weapons at the ready was always a good idea. The rain and wind helped mask her footsteps as she hurried along the roofs of the boxcars, making her way north west, towards Deidara. Behind the stacks she was out of his view, and so she felt secure enough backtracking. He would most likely assume she had gone in the opposite direction from him.

"Hey, Konoha skirt!" Sakura heard him shout as she dropped down another level, and she realized with a jolt in her stomach that he was already much closer. Her pace slowed considerably with her effort to mute her movements. The Akatsuki could probably hear the hollow echo of her boots hitting the metal surface with each step, "you should be careful about where you walk you know!"

He was talking about his bombs, of course. Sakura could see them stuck to different places around her on all sides, and so far, had been quite mindful to avoid them. It was futile, maybe, but she prayed that he would not detonate any of them.

There was a loud boom from behind her and Sakura dropped to her knees as the explosion reverberated through the boxcar structures. Shit, shit, shit. Out of instinct, she had covered her head protectively when she had gone down, but she slowly brought her hands away as she craned her neck to see what had happened.

The van where she had left her cloak dummy had been blown apart. Shit, she thought again, he's way too close. The throwing knives she was holding were gone in the next second as she launched them away, hoping the clang of metal on metal would again divert his attention. She was up and running in the following second.

"Ha!" he exclaimed and another bomb in the distance was set off. Sakura was able to retain her balance, but only just. It was time to call for back up.

Her hand reached for her earpiece, "Yamato-Taichou" already out of her mouth before she realized it was missing. She whipped her head back around and wondered if she had dropped it somewhere. Sakura squinted her eyes, straining to see the dark little shape anywhere, when, without any preamble, it was inexplicably floating right before her face.

She paused and stared bewilderedly at it as it hung in the air, swaying slightly. "The hell," she started to say before a light grip on her chin cut her off. She swore she felt her heart stopped beating as the breath in her lungs left her.

"Are you looking for this?" a low and darkly amused voice asked from in front of her, though Sakura continued to look into empty space. The grip tugged her face upwards and she forgot to struggle as a form started to take shape where there previously had been nothing.

The orange mask was the first thing to reveal itself fully, and the last thing she saw as she belatedly tried to wrench away and something struck her neck in return. As her vision swirled into blackness and she began to slump forward, the voice spoke again. "Oh, Itachi, the silly little things you cherish."

And then she was caught up in someone's arms and she blacked out completely.

-o-

She wasn't aware that he was looking, and really, Itachi was a bit glad he was able to just observe her.

It was a summer evening and they had met up at an outdoor café in Tsuki no Kuni just as the sun was setting. They had already spent some time talking about the recent economic recession and employment trends and net changes in response, but the conversation eventually played out and now they were both left to contemplate the maturing nightfall.

At least he figured that was what Sakura was doing, her eyes focused on the red sky visible between breaks in the park's trees and the skyscrapers beyond. He couldn't be bothered to join her, as she was a much more preferable sight.

The majority of the past month for Itachi had consisted of tracking down the Yonbi jinchuuriki with Kisame. It had been difficult and tedious, and he had been unsuccessful in disrupting his partner's ability to subdue the container, Roushi. It was another loss for Itachi's personal agenda, and another loss for his former syndicate. He had felt his shoulders sag with the added guilt of his failure.

"You're still doing everything you can to help Konoha. No one expects that of you, and no one is disappointed," Sakura had said after he had shared his worries with her. She had made to comfort him, her hand stretching out to his arm, before she had withdrawn and smiled forlornly. "It may sound crass, but thank you."

It was not crass at all. It had lightened his heart and made him want her to reach out for him again so that he could meet her halfway.

Itachi contented himself by taking in as much of Sakura as he could with his eyes. He traced the profile of her face, memorized the elegant line of her neck, and studied how the smooth cream colour of her skin glowed softly with the oranges and reds of the dusk.

Why was she here with him, he kept asking. And when would she leave him?

-o-

When she came around, it was from a sharp slap across her cheek. Sakura moaned and blinked her eyes open, only to focus on the blue hood of Deidara's Corvette, and she wanted to shut them again, if only to wish she could reopen them and be somewhere else. She wasn't given the opportunity.

She felt someone, probably the person who had slapped her, pull at her shoulder until she was sitting upright and facing the assailant.

It was the explosives and reconnaissance expert himself. Even with the thick black scarf wrapped around his neck, she could tell Deidara was grinning.

"Sakura-chan," he said, and she was surprised to hear he knew her name, "why so far from home, hm? Isn't this a fair distance for even a blossom such as yourself to wander?"

She didn't answer him, partly out of stubbornness, and partly because her teeth were starting to clatter terribly from the cold. Her cloak was gone and her blouse was already soaked and had begun to stiffen in the cold weather. She was vulnerable in more than one way. If Deidara didn't set her on fire first, then she would surely freeze to death.

How could this have happened? Where had she messed up?

"It's thanks to Tobi, hm," Deidara supplied helpfully, reading her confused expression as she looked around.

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked, her words scratchy and unevenly paced. She flexed her hands, wondering why she couldn't feel them properly, and found that they were restrained behind her back, bound by rope. The low circulation and temperature had made them useless.

"Well, he may be an idiot at times, but that guy sure can sneak around like no other. He said he had been sitting with you for quite some time."

Sakura felt a chill go down her spine that was not at all related to the weather. An idiot? The same person who had knocked her out? And, she realized with a sickening twist to her stomach, the same person who had mentioned Itachi?

"...Really useful for placing my bombs, hm," Deidara concluded. He had made a little speech about the troubles of his partner, though she hadn't paid any mind. This 'Tobi' was certainly not who Deidara thought he was, or else he was seriously schizophrenic.

As her head continued to clear and her thoughts righted themselves –being forced into unconsciousness had a tendency to confuse a person‒ Sakura remembered what had made her run in the first place. "Why was I glowing?" she asked, not having the grace to refrain from frowning up at the man in front of her.

Deidara smiled. It was unlike the grin from earlier, not at all flamboyant and mad, but refined and somehow much more pensive. "Because of the electrical current that went through the curium hydroxide in your pendant," he purred.

In a way, the cool satisfaction dripping from his sultry voice was much worse than the crazy laughter from earlier. Sakura swallowed thickly and asked the obvious. "Why is 'curium hydroxide' in my pendant?"

She felt the heavy leaf symbol resting above her sternum. It instantly weighed a hell of a lot more than it ever had in the past. The only thing that kept her from panicking was the fact that he would not detonate it while standing hardly a pace from her. She wriggled around uncomfortably nonetheless.

"Well, obviously because I put it there. You were showering the other day and I switched the original with the current." He recalled this with pride and brought a hand to her face to pet it gently with his fingertips. "You should really consider upping your security, hm."

Sakura pulled her head away but was glad to note that Deidara had removed the experimental device from earlier. He was back to the standard two detonators in his palms.

"Any particular reason for placing a bomb on me and then not making it explode?"

"Well, that's the purpose of blackmail, isn't it?"

Shit. Did this have something to do with what that masked man had said? Itachi and something about cherishing this or that?

Sakura readjusted her seat, moving her feet along the grill in a distracted display of nervousness. "You're using me as some sort of leverage? Like some weak little doll to screw around with?" Her voice was even more wretched as she leaned away, trying to hide her face behind her hair.

"Don't look so sad, hm," Deidara said easily, no idea of her past insecurities as a burden to her team mates. The smooth and enticingly low purr returned. "I promise to treat you real nice."

-o-

Itachi was a bit surprised that the empty street he had been staring at while thinking of what to do next was unexpectedly not so empty. He straightened automatically and slipped off his bike to stand under the threshold of the old garage. Making only slow and obvious movements, he regarded his new guests with caution and forced the tension from his body. It would not be good to come off as anything but relaxed and non-threatening in front of these two.

From where they lingered in the street, Shiba and Bisuke warily considered him in return.

Back in the day, when he had not even reached his teen years, Itachi remembered the first time Kakashi had introduced him to the pack. Some of them were still pups themselves and he had gotten along just fine with hounds; youngsters bonding in the face of working alongside seasoned experts.

But there was none of that camaraderie between them any more. Itachi tried not to flinch as Shiba bared his teeth and started a low growl, and he wondered why they had not already attacked him.

Well, they were alone, so perhaps because no one was around to give the order?

Ah.

Something clicked and he knew immediately why such coveted and irreplaceable tools were out on their own. "Where's Sakura?"

The two animals recognised the 'Sakura' sound and glanced at each other with what could only be a doggy equivalent to 'Oh, hell'. The secondary mission to detain the enemy was overridden by the primary focus of protecting Kakashi's student and without a second sniff in his direction, both Shiba and Bisuke abandoned Itachi to sprint off down the street.

Not hesitating any himself, Itachi activated his Sharingan and quickly mounted his bike to take off after the little dots in the distance. The rain wasn't an issue through his red lenses and keeping up with the inhumanly fast hounds was not a problem with his BMW. He exhaled roughly, caught between being anxious and relieved. Finally, finally he would be able to get to Sakura.

He just hoped there was still the proper amount of her left when he made it.

-o-

'Treat you nice' was just barely off his lips when Sakura's solidly reinforced foot landed a sound hit on Deidara's left temple.

Her hands, freed from the rope thanks to the concealed and snap-accessible blade (for just this purpose) on her belt, were instantly tearing at the necklace until it snapped and she flung it a good ten metres away. And in the next second Sakura followed the clip to the head with a soundly placed blow to Deidara's ribs.

The Akatsuki was dazed but still conscious, and the next kick he blocked. Sakura reached for her gun instinctively, but it was unsurprisingly missing. Deidara managed to get to his feet and start matching her attacks. Despite being an engineer and typically engaged long-distance offensive, he was still more than proficient in hand to hand combat. Nearly a head taller than her and with roughly half her weight in added muscle, he was definitely someone to be careful around.

At 161 cm and 45 kg, Sakura on the other hand, was someone who most definitely appeared harmless.

Which was why her mentor had trained her extensively in Edo jujitsu; using the force and balance of an opponent against himself.

An exchange of strikes between the two of them eventually turned in Deidara's favour.

"Such a rush!" he breathed, arm moving towards Sakura's head with tremendous force; a knockout punch if she'd ever encountered one.

So it was only fitting that Sakura avoided it by a hairsbreadth and grabbed onto the arm to use his momentum to help her push him into the ground. She snapped his arm behind his back and held him down with her foot at the top of his spine.

"Who was I blackmail against?" she bit out between quick breaths, unknowingly matching the hurried pants of the man secured beneath her.

Sakura had expected him to be shocked, or maybe even sarcastic, but she was caught off guard by Deidara's laughter. She watched, her body paralysed with dread and otherwise too occupied holding him down to do anything, as he uncovered the detonator in his palm and tightened his fist.

-o-

The explosion was towering and blazing in the dark sky. Itachi braked and veered to a sharp stop reflexively, his eyes drawn to the swirling flames and billowing smoke. Ahead of him, the dogs had startled and were skirting nervously back and forth across the street as they two watched the sky.

It didn't last very long. The fire died down soon enough so that it had disappeared behind a wall of goods vans and then all that was left was the column of smoke rising into the air. Itachi belatedly tore his eyes from the scene, his breathing uncontrolled and his grip white from where he clutched the handlebars.

He couldn't admit it, but it scared him all the same: For whom was that blast intended?

Abandoning his bike, Itachi took off on foot towards the origin of the explosion. Shiba and Bisuke were quick to follow and he kept pace with them as they navigated through the stacks of boxcars. His Sharingan picked up the signature of combustible compounds and chemicals as they moved, and in preparation, he loaded his double-action .50 calibre revolver, not deterred by its weight as he slipped the cartridges into place while still running. If he came across Deidara, at this moment, he couldn't be sure he wouldn't pull the trigger on his alleged comrade.

That bomb had been for Sakura. Itachi felt that truth settle deep in his heart and he grit his teeth to keep from putting a hand to his chest in an effort to physically tear the overwhelming certainty away. It should not have been meant for her, but it was.

He had condemned it to be so the moment he lowered his gun from her impossibly patient face. If he had not let her live then...or if he had not let her live after she fought Sasori... If he had stepped away and let fate work itself out, he would not be heading towards what would surely be her third meeting with death.

But Itachi was never one to let Death move along at its own pace. He'd stolen the lives of targets, of Jinchuuriki, of his parents –he had even set a time for his own demise– and so was it not natural that he tamper with Sakura's as well?

It was only appropriate. Even the most striking moth would still burn in the presence of Amaterasu. Itachi's black flame consumed everyone who dared come near him.

His musings quieted as he turned a corner and saw the still burning remnants of what could only be Deidara's work. It was a fantastically warped piece of metal and plastic. There may have been an axle and gear visible, though he could not be sure. There was someone obscuring his view, her small frame taking up all of his vision. She was the only thing he could look at.

"Sakura..."

He was saying her name, and not in mourning and with regret, but because she was standing a few metres from him. Sakura didn't hear him, and busied herself gingerly picking something up off the ground. All her limbs were still intact and functioning properly –he even heard her curse over the crackling of the fire, apparently dismayed with the state of whatever it was she had in her hands.

And then Itachi remembered that she was presently wearing a bomb, as the recently detonated one was obviously something else.

"Sakura," Itachi repeated, this time loudly enough for her to hear as he made his way to her. She turned to him, a dazed expression painted across her smudged and weary face. God, she was beautiful. He had the strongest urge to smile, laugh, make some sort of exorbitant exclamation that she was alive. But first he had to get that damn explosive off her.

"Itachi, why are you here...?" she started to ask as he reached her, but she stopped when he dropped to examine her boots without further comment. "And Shiba and Bisuke came back too."

"How often do you wear these?" he ignored her greetings for the dogs, intent instead on feeling out every little crevice and surface of her shoes.

Sakura wasn't in the frame of mind to question his behaviour, and she answered tiredly, "Often enough when I'm on active duty for missions. Though I have to replace them–"

'Not all the time' was all he heard and so Itachi lost interest in them and instead slid his hands up her calves and over her knees. "What about the holster, the skirt?"

"I don't know...the skirt every once and a while, the holster more regularly..." she trailed off as he started on her blouse next, smoothing it out under his palms. "Ok, what's this about? I mean, I'm all for the 'reaffirming life' excuse, but I wouldn't have expected you to be into that sort of thing."

Itachi was about to pop off the top button when Sakura finally halted his movements, her thin fingers wrapping around his wrists with an unexpectedly firm grip. Even cold and wet with rain, her touch still ignited a strong, warm feeling in him. Itachi snapped his eyes to meet hers. "Tell me, what do you wear most frequently?"

She frowned at him, clearly unable to follow his actions or questions. And then a thought occurred to her and he watched as her eyes lit up with recognition. "Oh! You mean the bomb? Yeah, it's gone. Deidara was only happy enough to tell me about it, so I was able to get rid of the thing right after I kicked him and got my hands loose–"

Itachi wrapped his arms around her and tugged her against his chest, burying his nose into her hair. His gun got in the way and her arms were stuck between them awkwardly.

"And then he blew his car up and while I was still recovering the bastard slipped away." Sakura finished, speaking into his suit. She was a bit out of it, so he released her and replaced his gun into his holster, before he cupped her face gently and made her focus on him. She found his wrists again.

"Are you going to be all right?" He felt the question was a bit trite, but he had to ask. She was drenched and shivering and more than a little dishevelled.

Sakura took a deep breath and smiled shakily, nodding her head. She said rather shyly, "So, does this mean you are no longer interested in handling everything by yourself? Are you finally going to let me in?"

She wasn't a moth. Though she appeared delicate and soft, there was so much strength and tenacity in Sakura that she could never be something so dainty. She was willing to bleed and was able to handle herself with plenty of cunning and vigour. The warmth he always associated with her wasn't just from her compassion, of which she did have plenty, but because she was a flame just like himself.

Sakura would match his black with all the red she could give.

He did not have to push her away with the reasoning that it was for her own good. She did not need to be protected.

This time when Itachi pulled her towards him, she moved with him and their faces met seamlessly and suddenly the rain was not so frigid any more.

-o-

Author's Note: The end! Yay!

Lady Silvamord did the beta read~ She was absolutely fabulous as usual and very patient with my terrible abuse of pronouns and commas.

Take care, everyone! And please review =3