Hey there, guys! Hope you're all making it through the cold snap. Me, I'm trying to hibernate but peoples keep making me leave the house to work. Enjoy the chapter. The next is already partway done, but I'd like to hear what you think of the story so far so drop me a line. I wanna say thanks to Sakura's Unicorn for getting after me to finish the chapter and then editing it so nicely. I also want to thank -raining ripples- for making some lovely Sakura and Sasuke kitty fanart for my story! I love it! You can view it through my DA account.
Oh, yeah..Nii-tan..this chapter is dedicated to you. For keeping me company while I was writing it.
Chapter 32—Breaking the Status Quo
Sai could hear the Akatsuki prisoner's pathetic whine from the edge of the Uchiha district. Collecting the last of his ink mice from patrol, Sai ambled toward the screeching yowl.
"Kakuzu, it's not fair!"
"Shut the hell up."
"But it's not fair! Why do I have to change back into a cat first?"
The lavender-eyed gray cat clung to Kakuzu's knee, stubbornly trying to climb up his leg while the ninja held him off with one hand. "Stay down, you idiot."
"But Ka-ku-zu!" Hidan whined loudly
"Perhaps the rate of change has something to do with intelligence?" Sai suggested, expressionlessly, walking toward the group of Akatsuki gathered outside Sasuke's family home. The air of expectancy was thick as the ninja turned away from the Hokage and arguing duo to regard him. Sai's interruption distracted them only momentarily.
"Yeah, you panty-waist assholes. I'm better than you all," Hidan crowed. "I changed back to a cat first cause I'm more dangerous."
Kakuzu scoffed, shaking the annoying gray lump from his leg.
"He means you changed first because of your lower intelligence, dumbass!" Deidara snorted and, in a flash, Hidan flew at him, claws out, knocking the blond backwards as the two tumbled. By the time they got back to their feet, Deidara was also a cat.
"Well, doll-face," Kisame leaned one arm against the post where Tsunade was standing, silently watching the masked ninja staring at her from twenty feet away. "Maybe on our next date you'll share a little of your sweet nectar."
"Tch," she scoffed, watching Kisame transform rapidly. "I'm not drinking with you, you big, blue oaf."
"I was referring to the nectar from your honeyed lips, sweetheart." The big blue cat wrapped around her ankles purred.
"Kami-sama save us all." She rolled her eyes and stepped off the porch, walking toward the last two ninja yet to change back into cats.
Sasori's eyes followed her carefully as she approached. Madara asked him to test the spell as they changed back to see if it was possible to break either the curse or the collars, but as the change came over him, the world around him reeled, and, in that moment, his desire to break the curse was replaced with another desire—the desire to go watch the fish wriggling around in the koi pond.
Senju Tsunade's eyes were slightly glazed from alcohol, but Tobi knew that, despite spending the day drinking, she wasn't drunk and he wasn't about to tip his hand to this bitch who'd helped that child and Neko-baa capture him. This bitch deserved to die…but he couldn't kill her, not yet. Not until that hex was broken.
'It doesn't matter,' he thought. 'I've lived this long—what's a few more months? But there's no way she'll hold me for three years. First, I'll capture that damn apprentice then I'll kill Neko-baa after she removes the spell. Then, Senju, you'll pay with your life after I make you watch while I kill every soul in this village.'
"Oh yes," he grumbled murderously under his breath. "You'll pay."
Then, in an instant, he too lost his train of thought.
Tsunade glared at the orange and black marbled cat looking up and her and bared her teeth.
When Sasuke stormed out of Sakura's bedroom and into the living room, Kakashi was gone. He glanced over to see Itachi was no longer lying on the couch asleep. Thinking Kakashi and his brother left, he cursed and kicked the sofa…before he heard the sound of someone in the kitchen.
"Kakashi had to leave suddenly." Itachi came out, holding a cup of tea with an amused look on his face. "He probably didn't want to get into the middle of a jealous lovers' quarrel.
"Jealous…" Sasuke scoffed. "Who's jealous?" Seeing the smirk on his brother's face, he growled. "We're not lovers."
Itachi hid his widening smirk by taking a sip of his tea and clearing his throat. "I may have been in pain when I came back today, but I was lucid enough to hear Sai tell Kakashi that you two we're cozied up in bed together, little brother."
Sasuke's jaw dropped, but before he could protest, Itachi went on.
"And don't try to tell me that you did not just forbid Sakura from marrying another man." Itachi raised one eyebrow. "I heard every word." He set down his cup and crossed his arms. "But if you're trying to persuade her from marrying another, you're going about it the wrong way."
"You are fucking nuts if you think that I—"
"I saw the look on your face this morning when you looked at her, little brother. You. Care."
Sasuke scowled. "She's an old teammate, nothing more. She's going to screw up—"
Sasuke sighed and pushed past his brother, opening a random cupboard, ignoring him and looking for food.
"It's also obvious that she cares for you." Itachi spoke without turning around. "She left the safety of her village to go on an impossible mission to help you."
Sasuke slammed the cupboard and turned to argue but his brother was gone…and the door to Sakura's room had just closed.
Itachi pushed aside the chair the girl hastily shoved in front of her door to block anyone from entering and crossed into Sakura's bedroom.
His younger brother's teammate lay on her bed, engulfed in an embroidered silk kimono. She looked like a porcelain doll that some child had thrown aside carelessly—her messy, rose-colored hair falling out of the golden pins holding it up and dress askew.
"Go away, Sasuke-kun," Sakura grumbled, her face not leaving the pillow.
"Sasuke is sulking in the kitchen," Itachi replied.
Her shoulders jumped and Sakura sat up on the bed and looked at him, irritated. "You're supposed to be resting Itachi-san."
"Not an easy task when you two are fighting in the next room."
Sakura blushed brightly looking down. "Gomen nasai." She reached up and pulled the pins sliding from her hair. Itachi set the cup of tea in her hands and she sighed, taking a sip.
"Lovers' quarrel, Sukoshi?" He asked, deftly sidestepping the spray when she spit out the drink.
Wide-eyed and sputtering, Sakura looked up at the elder Uchiha brother. "N-no!"
Itachi glanced up and down at her wedding dress.
"Hn." The tiniest lift of the corner of Itachi's mouth had her blushing furiously and rising.
"Nothing happened!" She waved at her gown. "This has nothing to do with him!" She waved toward the door, indicating Sasuke.
His too-patient stare had her clenching her fist.
"If I hadn't just spent the morning healing you, I would punch you through that wall."
Days later, Sakura still hadn't spoken a word about the incident to Sasuke or Itachi. Tsunade had ordered them back to the Uchiha district as soon as they changed back into cats and Itachi and Sasuke still stubbornly still slept in Sasuke's old room with her, but now the silence between the three stretched from night all through the day.
Finally, she could keep her silence no longer. She woke up to hear raspiness in Itachi's breathing. When she called his name, Sasuke's head came up from where he lay on the window ledge. He jumped off and stalked out of the room without a word. Sakura sighed, closing the door after him and locking it before she sat back down to examine Itachi.
"Seems my otouto misses your attention," he observed calmly.
Sakura scoffed. Beginning to heal the damage she found.
"Don't believe me, Sukoshi?" Itachi chuckled. "I know my brother. He doesn't like to share things he believes are his."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "No worries there. Sasuke isn't concerned about me at all, Itachi-san."
"Tell me about this other man."
Sakura ignored him, getting up. "Ok, I'm finished for today. I'll check you again tomorrow."
Itachi flicked his ear. "You know, ignoring the problem won't make it go away."
She frowned. "I seriously doubt you can understand my troubles, Itachi-san. Please don't worry about it." Sakura walked out of her room and was immediately accosted by Deidara demanding her attention.
Sasuke wandered into the backyard to find Deidara lying on his back in Sakura's lap while she brushed knots from his long coat. The fur on the back of his neck stood up when she laughed at some stupid thing the orange and white cat said.
Sasuke scoffed as he walked past which drew Sakura's eye to him. In the bright sunlight, she noticed his fur was even worse than Deidara's—dirty and neglected, like something was wrong. She thought she knew what that was. She opened her mouth to speak and Deidara interrupted her.
"Sakura-chan!" His six-toed paw landed on her nose bringing her out of her reverie. "Me first, unya!" He followed her gaze following Sasuke. "Nya, you always pay attention to him. I'm not done yet! You forgot my tail, hm!"
"Later, Deidara-kun, I promise. Right now, I need to talk to Sasuke." She picked the cat up out of her lap and set him down, disregarding his protests.
She caught up with Sasuke just as he was jumping into a tree to lose her. She caught him mid-leap, ignoring his warning growl. Hanging onto him, she made hand signs for a transportation jutsu.
Sasuke looked around the sterile lab and flattened his ears. "What are we doing here?"
"I know that odd seal is bothering you. I can see it in the way you're walking. Why didn't you tell me?"
Sasuke sniffed and looked away.
"I learned how to get rid of it," she informed him. "I'll make you a deal. You give me what I want and I'll remove that seal right now."
Sasuke looked at her suspiciously. "What do you want?"
"Bone marrow…and no questions asked. Deal?"
"Wh—" His mouth snapped shut and he glared at her. She could tell he was curious, but it was plain as day he was also in immense pain. Kakashi's fuinjutsu wasn't working. Whoever was looking for him had activated that seal on his back and it was extremely painful. She was surprised he could walk at all. Sakura crossed her arms obstinately to wait him out and he finally sighed tiredly. "Fine."
"Thank you." She walked over to a drawer and removed a hospital gown from it, throwing it at him. "Put this on. It opens in the back."
"I thought I only needed to take off my shirt. What's this?"
"I'm taking the marrow from your pelvic bone. It's the best place for a sample. Now hurry up," she snapped, preparing a table to work from. "And I said no questions."
Suigetsu sat his great sword in the shade of a tall oak and took another sip of water.
"Mah! I'm sick of this bullshit!" He stretched out his long legs and leaned back against the tree. "If Sasuke wanted us to find him, he would have found us already." He sneered. "I gotta babysit a fuckin' monster who plays with birds and chipmunks, meanwhile Sasuke's nailing that chick," he grumbled to himself. "Uchiha's getting a sweet, little piece of pink tail and I gotta haul around an ugly, annoying, red-headed bi—"
Half a dozen paper shurikens flew out of nowhere, lodging themselves in the wet tree behind him—where his stomach had been moments before.
"What the fu—"
The tree behind him collapsed in on itself and he was engulfed in a flurry of paper. He tried to disintegrate into his liquid form, but the paper wrapped tightly around him. Above, the tree transformed into the blue-haired Akatsuki ninja.
"You lost something." Konan tossed the silver ring onto his chest.
"It wasn't me!" Suigetsu whined. "It was Karin. She stole it from me and threw it out into the forest to protect Uchiha."
"You ran away."
"I came to search for the Uchiha! I was gonna come find you as some as I found him!"
"Likely story," Konan growled, holding a kunai to his balls.
"No, no!" he begged in a high-pitched voice. "Karin says she knows where he is! He's close! I promise! Hey, give me another chance. As soon as I see him, I'll put the ring on. "
Konan released him and he fell twelve feet to the ground. He hadn't even known she had him in the air.
"Last chance," she promised. "Next time, I castrate you."
Suigetsu covered his terrified, shriveled up privates and scrambled over to where his sword lay. "Yeah, yeah, lady. You got it, anything you say."
He looked around and she was gone.