author's note: So. Itachi x Sakura. This is new. But Sasuke is an asshole and I am infatuated with this idea, if not actual product. Also new: First person. And: Actual chaptered story. Thus I am entirely unconfident and unsure as to whether or not this will go anywhere. Am suffering a major case of insecurity. And so I whine.

Pertinent to the actual fic and not my psyche: loose (because I am lazy) AU from somewhere directly before Itachi's death. Obviously.

Shades of Sunrise

prologue: listen

Everyone wants to know why.


I was looking for Sasuke. I was always looking for Sasuke, back then. Have you ever missed someone so bad it hurt? That it ate you up, starting deep in the secret dark of your heart and expanding, blooming, infecting everything else, from the top of your head to the tips of you toes? That's how I missed Sasuke. That's why I trained with Tsunade, that's why I crushed concrete beneath my fists – that's why I went through years with a little empty spot in my chest labeled 'Sasuke was here.'

I was skirting the borders of a Sound base, following up on rumors and bar-gossip, not hopeful but desperate because you get to be that way, after a time. Days drag to months that drag to years and you get to be raw, sensitive and even the little things, the outside chances, start to count.

Usually, Naruto was with me on these missions, but this time I was alone. Alone is scary, when you're a ninja. We're trained to work as a team, a unit, a seamless whole (or, in my and Naruto's case, a ragged patchwork of a whole, with cracks and chunks missing, with glue and tape and hope all that holds it together. And Sai is one of the glued-in pieces, don't forget, so we are a special sort of awkward). Anyway. I was alone and it was scary and I should have known that something bad would happen.

It did.

One second, I was crouching on a branch, smothering my chakra and sitting very, very still. I remember trying not to breathe, because the sound of the air hissing through my lips was muting another, more dangerous sound. There was someone nearby, close enough to sense but they were good at what they did and I could just make out a flickering, faded sort of chakra signature that seemed to waver between existing and not. They were like a word on the tip of your tongue; right there, right beyond what you can reach, close enough to taste but not near enough to grab. One second, I was crouching on branch and narrowing my eyes in concentration. The next, the world exploded.

I do not, in all honesty, quite remember all of what happened next.

It was Sound-nin, I am sure, and I am almost certain there were four of them. Maybe five. They came from above, with exploding tags and loud, echoing bangs. I was thrown from the tree but I am a ninja and it was not so hard to arch through the air and land ready to spring into action. We fought, and this is where everything starts to blur.

Here is what I remember: Punching a tree and watching two figures fly from the debris; a kunai whizzing past my side; shouts and screams; a new chakra signature, one that I didn't pay attention to, not really, because I thought it belong to one of my adversaries; a new fear flicking across the nin's faces.

There was a ripple that went through them like a wave, a look of trepidation passing through one set of eyes and into the next, and I knew something was happening. One of them threw something, something the size of my fist and round, dark. I didn't know what it was but I knew that I did not want to be near it, so I leapt back, away. I was not fast enough.

It exploded and they ran.

For a second, I was confused. Why were they running? Why, after such a dramatic explosion, had nothing happened with the strange, small explosive?

I realized two things in the next ten seconds. The first: The chakra signature from earlier was still approaching, and I suddenly realized why the Sound ninja had run. Chakra like lighting, I thought. Chakra like power given form, massive and rippling and a vision of Naruto, clawed and tailed, flashed behind my eyes. Run, my mind screamed. I tried and I realized something else: Everything hurt.

Now, it is ridiculously obvious that the bomb had been a gas bomb. Now, I know how useless it was to stand there, in the middle of a forest, and press my hands to my belly and think heal. Because even as I felt the toxin leaving, even as I mended myself, I was getting weaker. It was like trying to stop a river with your hands, like catching the wind. In my panic, I forgot about the powerful chakra that was still coming my way, because this had never happened before.

I don't remember anything past the point what I heard footsteps, felt my chakra pounding uselessly against my melting innards, and thought I'm going to die.