Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters are created by Masashi Kishimoto, but the new plots (meaning the ones you don't recognize!) are mine. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
Title: The Evil Ribbon
Rating: T (PG-13)
50-shinobi Theme No 45: Ribbon
Summary: Non-massacre AU. Sequel to The Evil Hair Clip. A strand of ribbon leads to a bit of punching, bruising, stalking, running… and kissing. Sakura can only blame herself for it.
A/N: Here it is, the next story in this series. Enjoy!
The Evil Ribbon by elle6778
At the sound of her name, Sakura immediately tensed, stopping stock still in the middle of the empty street. The fine hair at the back of her neck stood erect, and it had nothing to do with the chill of the wintry wind. Instead, that was her usual reaction to the materialization of a certain deep, smooth, and now-familiar voice.
She groaned inwardly, wondering just what the man was up to now. So much for trying to steer clear away from him.
Since the hair-clip incident, her weeks had been filled with these sorts of encounter with a certain Uchiha. When he had assured her that their future meetings would not be confrontational, she had not expected this. She had not expected to see so much of him, reminding her of what had taken place in the hospital, even if it had been brief. Nowadays, it seemed that each time she turned, he was there, unnerving her with his company. These encounters were frequent enough that she was beginning to suspect that he was stalking her. It would not be so bad if she knew what to do about it, but she did not, and it was beginning to wear on her sanity. The man disturbed her, and his actions made her feel almost as if she was being hunted.
Keeping her expression even, she slowly turned around to be faced with a sight that usually made those of her gender sigh with longing. Not her of course. Facing Uchiha Itachi did not fill her with a sense of longing. She had seen enough of him.
"Uchiha-san," she greeted flatly.
The ANBU captain regarded her with a hint of amusement in his dark eyes. "I believe I mentioned that you may address me as Itachi."
"It's okay, Uchiha-san," she responded quickly, having no intention of making things more casual between them. Distance was what they needed between them, and that was all. Not that he heeded her past refusals, because this had to be like the hundredth time he told her to call him by his first name.
As she studied him warily, wondering what he had up his sleeve this time, Uchiha Itachi slid his eyes towards the hospital briefly and then returned his full, unwanted attention towards her. His amusement was still evident in the way his eyes gleamed, and Sakura had to suppress the urge to scowl. She had a feeling that he was just toying with her now as a payback for what had happened to him the last time, and thus, she did not want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he had rattled her.
"Finished for the day?" he asked mildly.
She lifted a brow and then turned to walk away. "Yes," she told him briefly, not bothering to elaborate.
She made sure she remained outwardly relaxed as she crossed the street, heading towards the grocery shop to buy the ingredients for the hotpot she planned on making tonight for the Team 7 gathering. She could sense the man walking close behind her, but she was not planning on acknowledging it. Talking to him made her feel edgy, flustered, and generally awful, which meant that she would try her best to avoid it.
The way she had done for the past few months.
However, if she had learnt anything about Uchiha Itachi so far, it was that he was a very persistent man. Despite her subtle snubs and not-so-subtle excuses, he kept coming back like an irritating itch that wouldn't go away. She was not even sure what he wanted from her. These encounters seemed to have been designed to fluster her, and that was it.
Stepping over the threshold of the grocery shop, she snagged a basket from the side and made her way towards the fruit and vegetable aisle. She glanced over her shoulder briefly, unsurprised to find that the maddening man was still following her. This was just beyond freaky. Still, maybe if she continued to ignore him, he would eventually leave her alone, she thought darkly.
A moment later, she was standing in front of rows of neatly arranged refrigerated fruits and vegetables. Just as she was picking up a tomato to inspect it, she felt him coming closer to her. She deliberately ignored him as she placed that particular tomato and several others into her basket.
"Expecting Sasuke over?" the Uchiha asked quietly.
She scowled, casting him a quick glance before she picked up some scallions, mushrooms and shungiku leaves. The sight of a head of cabbage nearby stilled her hand momentarily, as she was reminded that the vegetable was a certain ANBU captain's favorite. It was a little fact that Sasuke had imparted to her one day when they were served the dish many months ago in a restaurant, before the events of the hair clip. Not that she was interested in what Uchiha Itachi liked to eat. Hell, no!
Pointedly ignoring the cabbage, she picked up a carton of tofu. "I'm not aware that Sasuke's the only one in Konoha who likes tomatoes," she murmured, keeping her tone disinterested.
"Considering your… relationship with him, that would be the logical assumption," he pointed out.
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes as she straightened, heading for the dry goods shelves. There, she scanned the packets of dry noodles before her, quickly settling on the shirataki. That would go well with the beef she would pick up next. She still had some sauce back at home, so that was one thing she did not have to get this time.
Still trying to ignore the man walking far too close to her, she headed towards the meat section at the far end of the store. He was close enough, just slightly behind her to the left, that she could swear that she felt heat radiating off him, but she knew that it was probably just her imagination. Wordlessly, she picked up a pack of thinly sliced beef, placing it with the rest of her ingredients.
Just as she was straightening to walk away, she found a small gas cylinder thrust in front of her. She blinked once, vaguely registering that yes, she would need it to heat the cast iron pot tonight, before turning her gaze up at the Uchiha. He held it out, waiting for her to take it, while she continued to stare at him in bewilderment.
Was he actually helping her shop?
Before she could form another coherent thought, a warm hard took her free hand and the cold cylinder of gas was pressed against her palm. Her mind registered the firmness of his grip, just a fraction of a moment before she realized that this was the first time he had touched her after the hair clip incident.
"You'll probably require this," he told her mildly.
She stared at him, and then down at the cylinder. When she finally raised her eyes again, he released her hand. Strangely enough, that hand suddenly felt a little… lonely. What the hell?
"Uh, thanks," she muttered.
He inclined his head, the corner of his lips tilting slightly.
Then, in a move that baffled her eyen further, keeping in mind that he had been following her around for no particular reason, he turned and walked away from her. It was as if he had not been following her earlier at all. He just… walked away.
She stood there, watching his retreating back until he disappeared around the corner.
When she realized what she was doing, she huffed in exasperation and marched to the till, resolutely telling herself that it was good that he finally left her in peace. And no, she did not find his behavior intriguing at all.
The free weekend ended sooner than she would have liked, and the next thing Sakura knew, she was back at work. And as always, the weeks all blurred together as she concentrated on her task in the lab, applying her expertise in poisons and antidotes to create weapons that would give Konoha shinobi an edge over others.
Today, she was working on make-up. Tubes of lipstick and gloss sat on the long table, waiting for her to infuse them with sedatives specifically targeted to work against those of the male persuasion. These would be particularly useful for seduction missions.
Sakura was so absorbed in her work that when she first heard the yells from the corridor outside, she ignored it. But then, the yells grew louder and louder, distracting her from her latest test. Scowling in annoyance, she dropped the outwardly innocent-looking tube of lip-gloss and strode straight to the door to yank it open.
The commotion continued as she left her laboratory, making her way towards the source of the noise, ready to give whomever it was making such a racket a piece of her mind.
Only to have her words die in her throat when the reason for the noise came to sight.
Eyes widening, she watched as a frantic Uchiha Shisui grappled with the two masked ANBU sentries posted further down the corridor. There was a length of red ribbon snaking around his body, a ribbon which looked suspiciously familiar. A section of the ribbon was entwined around his neck, and a section around his torso, while the rest dangled freely behind him.
"Let me go, you bastard!" the Uchiha snarled.
"You are in a restricted area!"
One of the ANBU sentries blocked a punch. "Damn it! Calm the fuck down!"
"What the hell is wrong with you, Uchiha?" the other ANBU snapped as he twisted the Uchiha's arms behind his back.
A hair-raising howl escaped Shisui as he tried to claw at his own throat, and Sakura knew with her sinking heart that it had nothing to do with the way the ANBU was restraining him. But how on earth had he gotten his hands on it, provided, of course, the ribbon was actually the one she was thinking about.
"ANBU-san!" she called out across the space.
One of them turned towards her.
"I know what's wrong with him. Bring him into my lab," she instructed tersely. "Quickly."
She strode back into her lab, leaving the door open as she went straight to a locked cupboard at the far end of the space. Unlocking it and yanking it open, she pulled out a box from the back and opened it with a feeling of dread.
It was empty.
Her jaw clenched together when she realized that someone had stolen the ribbon and it had somehow found its way to Shisui. She snarled a string of obscenities in her head. The ribbon sample was not submitted to the Hokage for approval for a good reason, damn it! And they had even swapped the sentries for this area, so that the lab and its stores were now under the watchful eyes of ANBU operatives to prevent the hair clip incident from recurring.
"Let me go, you bastards!"
Sakura watched as the ANBU sentries got Shisui into the laboratory, but not without some effort. Once they were inside, she pointed at an examination table.
"Strap him down there."
Both ANBU tensed, hesitating at her words.
Expelling an impatient hiss, she snapped, "Now! Before it gets worse!"
The ANBU jumped into action, and before long, Shisui was thrashing against his restrains, but at least he was no longer a danger to himself. His face was red with the strain of his struggle and the veins' on his neck stood out against his pale skin.
"Let me go!"
Barely glancing at the two ANBU, she told them, "Thanks. You can go back to your post now."
They did not move, but she did not want to wait any longer. She placed her glowing palms against the sides of Shisui's head, stopping him from thrashing. The Uchiha's eyes were wild with pain, and she felt a stab of guilt at his condition. But how the hell did the ribbon get to him in the first place?
"He seems unstable," one of them pointed out.
"I can handle this," she assured him as Shisui's body began to relax under the chakra sedation.
"S-Sakura?" Shisui croaked, finally recognizing her.
She smiled at the Uchiha, watching as his eyes focused on her. "That's it, Shisui. Don't fight it. You'll be okay."
"Haruno-san, are you sure?" one of them asked, sounding a little concerned.
Without answering them, she began to unravel the ribbon from Shisui's body. Best get the evil ribbon away from him. But when she reached his wrist, she found the ribbon tangled under the restraint strap. A quick glance at Shisui's face told her that he was lucid and calm. So she reached out to unbuckle it.
The two ANBU inhaled sharply. "Haruno-san-"
"Wait," she interjected as she freed one hand. When the Uchiha only lifted the hand to rub his forehead, she turned back to them. "See?"
They nodded, evidently satisfied with what they had seen. She continued to untangle the ribbon from Shisui, rolling it into a tight ball with her glowing hands. It would not do for her to be affected by the unstable substances she had infused in the ribbon. Goodness knew how it would affect her.
"You can go, you know," she told the ANBU as she placed the ball of ribbon back in its empty box, making a note at the back of her mind to destroy it the first chance she had.
The two ANBU nodded. Without another word, they turned to leave, only to stop at Shisui's voice.
Eyes widening at the sound, she spun around to see Shisui looking up at her with hooded eyes, his face now flushed. Oh no, she thought as her mind raced. The ribbon's influence had always been unpredictable, which was why she had not released it for approval, but it was not hard to see how it was currently affecting Shisui. Now that his body was no longer fighting the ribbon, the ribbon's effect on his hormones must have kicked in.
She froze at his free hand came up to circle her wrist briefly, and then slid up her bare arms. The desire in his eyes was unmistakable, and Sakura found herself horrified at the whole situation. She should stop him. Now.
His hand ventured closer to her chest.
And he touched her.
Sakura saw red.
"Get your hands off me!"
And she swung her fist at him.
Alright, maybe she should not have punched him quite that hard.
Feeling a little guilty, Sakura sighed inwardly as she made her way to the recovery ward located at the other end of the hospital. The man could not help himself, after all. And she knew from the previous experiments on the ribbon that its influence could be overpowering.
She growled under her breath as she recalled how she had been groped just a couple of days ago. Okay, maybe he had deserved it after all. Still, her guilt compelled to go visit Shisui to see if he had healed from that chakra-enhanced punch to his face. He should be healed by now. And by her estimation, he should be discharged tonight.
Soon, she found herself in the corridor to the recovery ward for minor injuries. Voices filtered out from the rooms lining the white-walled corridor, and she could catch snatches of conversations as she continued her way towards her destination. Much to her surprise, when she neared Shisui's room, she heard some loud words filtering through the door. Shisui sounded annoyed, and when she stopped outside to listen, she could make out his words.
"… freaking long to make a move."
"That is none of your concern."
Sakura tensed at the second voice, her eyes widening in surprise. What was Uchiha Itachi doing here, now, at all times? Why was he here when she wanted to see if Shisui was alright? She knew that she should come back later, but curiosity made her stay to listen to the conversation within.
"Hell! If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't even notice her in the first place!" Shisui snapped. "You should be thanking me, you ungrateful bastard!"
"Is that so?"
Shisui snorted. "Fine, then. Since you're not interested, I'll have a go at her myself. She's quite a hot piece of ass."
Sakura's eyes narrowed. Shisui had better not be serious about that. Or he would find himself a permanent resident in the hospital. Furthermore, from the sound of it, Shisui could be behind the debacle with the hair-clip a few months back. She should really have some words with him if he thought that he was doing his cousin a favor by putting her in the spotlight. Especially now that she could not get rid of a certain ANBU captain, she thought with a dark glower.
Shisui went on in a leering tone, "Well, there is that small problem with her bodyguards, but I'm sure Sasuke-kun will not stop me if I try to take her out on a date. Properly, you know? Dinner, flowers… those sorts of things."
Sakura rolled her eyes.
Itachi's next words were spoken in icy tones. "I heard what happened yesterday."
"Ah, yes. Well, if those ANBU weren't there, I'd have-"
Shisui's words were cut short by a loud shuffle, a couple of dull thuds and then a hiss or two.
Sakura frowned in disbelief. Were they actually fighting in the hospital room? She should go in to see what was going on. After all, she was still a medic and she should not allow such things to happen to patients, even if he probably deserved it.
The only thing stopping her was the fact that Uchiha Itachi was in there.
Go in, or not?
The medic in her finally overrode her personal reservations. She had to make sure that the patient was alright, especially since she was the one who had landed him there in the first place. So, with that thought in mind, she shoved the door open.
Her awareness of Uchiha Itachi, who was standing by his cousin's bed, was instant. But she outwardly ignored him. Instead, she turned her attention to the figure on the bed.
Eyes widening in horror, she gasped at the sight of Shisui's face. He should not look like this after the extensive healing he had undergone. And the injuries looked new as well, which could only mean one thing.
She immediately swung towards Itachi, who stood there watching her without any particular expression. That, in itself was enough to irritate her.
"What did you do?" she snapped, striding past him to go towards the groaning Shisui to inspect the damage. They were superficial in shinobi terms, but the man's face was even more swollen than yesterday. "You deliberately harmed a patient in the hospital. That is against regulations, Uchiha-san," she told him in clipped tones as she ran her glowing hands over a wincing Shisui's face. No bones were broken, but the man was clearly in pain.
When Itachi did not answer her, she turned to him again. "Well? Care to explain yourself?"
"He needs to be mindful of what he says," he told her.
Shisui sputtered, wiping the blood off the corner of his mouth. "Hell! I was just calling it as I see it! You're sniffing around her like a-"
Itachi was there on the opposite side of the bed from her, hovering over Shisui even before she could blink.
"Itachi! Stop it!"
And all of them froze.
Slowly, Itachi straightened from the rigid form of his cousin. When they made eye contact, Sakura knew that she had made a grievous mistake. His self-satisfied half-smirk was enough to tell her that. Groaning inwardly, she resisted the urge to smack her forehead with her palm in despair.
"Yes… Sakura?" he returned, his tone deliberately smooth.
Calling him by his first name was a bad, bad mistake. How could she be so careless as to slip up like that? It almost screamed that she had given in, somehow, and allowed him to win, even though she was not aware that they were having any kind of competition.
"Oooh… the tension," Shisui whispered theatrically.
Sakura spun towards the grinning, bedridden Uchiha. "How long would you like to remain in this bed, Uchiha Shisui?" she asked sweetly, stretching her lips into a menacing smile.
Shisui immediately held both hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Sorry. Won't say another word. Promise."
Sakura inhaled deeply, trying to keep calm. These two would be the death of her. And she thought that Sasuke was bad enough at times. Well, enough of that now. Her first priority was the patient, and with that in mind, the best thing for her to do now was to get a certain ANBU captain away from said patient.
Gathering her composure, she turned to pin a stern stare on shinobi standing by the bed. "Please step away from the patient."
The Uchiha raised a brow but he obeyed, taking a step back from Shisui in a manner that seemed almost mocking. Sakura ground her teeth together as she leaned over Shisui for the cord to call the medic on duty. Itachi knew that she had meant for him to leave, but he had chosen to take her words literally.
As she pulled the cord, she told him firmly, "It's best that you leave now. He needs to be healed." Again, she added silently.
The door to the room swung shortly afterwards, revealing a harried medic, her hair escaping the brown ponytail at the back of her head. And when said medic saw her, her blue eyes widened in surprise. "Sakura-san! What happened? Is everything alright?"
Sakura gestured to Shisui. "He needs to be healed."
"But we already-" The medics words halted abruptly when she saw her patient. "What happened to you?" she practically shrieked in horror, rushing to the bed.
Shaking her head as she suppressed the urge to point an accusing finger at the stoic, uninjured Uchiha, Sakura decided that it was time to leave. Shisui would be fine under the care of his medic. Besides, she did not want to spend another moment in Uchiha Itachi's company. She might accidentally land him in a hospital bed if he provoked her further.
Without another word, she spun around and left through the door the medic had left ajar just seconds ago.
Confident that things were once more in hand, she allowed herself to think of what she would do this weekend. It was the first whole weekend she had off for about a month, and she planned to savor it.
Perhaps she should invite Kakashi, Naruto, Sasuke and Sai for another Team 7 meal. They had not gotten together for a while, and she missed them. The last time they had met was about a month ago, when she had cooked for them at her home. She grinned as she recalled the event. Kakashi, as usual, had somehow managed to eat without exposing his precious face. She still did not know how he did it. Naruto had complained that the shirataki noodles were so tasteless compared to Ramen, earning a thump at the back of his head. Sasuke had only grunted his appreciation at the tomato salad she had served with the hotpot meal. And Sai? Sai had just smiled in a way that she was not sure was sincere or not, but since he had eaten everything she had served, she guessed it was okay. The event had culminated with copious amount of sake, which saw all five of them sprawled in various undignified positions the next morning in her living room.
She sure had a lot of fun then. Yeah, so maybe she should ask the boys if they would like to do it again, she thought as she stepped into her laboratory. With that thought, she removed her white coat, hung it up on the coat rack and left the room with a red coat around her to protect against the cold.
Two steps out in the corridor were all she had taken when she felt the familiar twinge that warned her of a certain ANBU captain's presence. She immediately quickened her steps, even though she knew that she had no hope in hell of outrunning him if he really wanted to corner her. Still, she was trying to make a point, wasn't she, she thought to herself as she exited the hospital grounds.
Pointedly ignoring the shinobi rapidly gaining on her, she continued on her way back home, hating how she felt like a hunted prey right at that very moment. Damn it, she should really report him for harassment, if she was not so sure that Tsunade would just laugh in her face.
She was getting tired of running and avoiding him, if she was honest with herself. So, maybe it was time to handle this a little differently, she decided. Enough of dodging him. It was time to face him and put an end to this.
With that thought, she spun around and waited till he closed the distance between them, her expression set in a resolute mask. He did not seem surprised by her move, but then again, hardly anything surprised him, from what she had heard of him.
"Are you stalking me, Uchiha-san?" she ground out tersely.
She stared challengingly at him.
Obviously unaffected by her stare, he informed her calmly. "You're quite capable of using my name earlier."
"It was a mistake."
"Hm," he murmured. "That name must be how you see me in your mind, for it to slip out so naturally."
"Don't kid yourself. I don't waste time thinking about you," she shot back.
An amused half-smirk appeared. "I find that difficult to accept."
Hardly comprehending what she was hearing, her lips parted disbelievingly. It took her a moment to snap out of it, and then she took the two steps which separated them to glare up at him. His lashes were lowered now, regarding her silently in obvious anticipation of her response. What the hell was wrong with him that he had to make it a point to rile her?
"Hard to accept?" she echoed scathingly. "Why? Your arrogant self cannot understand that things don't always revolve around you? That people have other things to think of?"
"What do you mean, no?" she hissed.
"I did not refer to others, only you."
Oh, he was being deliberately obtuse now, she fumed. The man knew exactly what she was saying and he was just twisting her words to suit himself.
"Listen, Uchiha." She reached up to stab a finger in his chest to emphasize her point. Much to her chagrin, he seemed even more pleased by the contact. Ignoring it, she barreled on, "I do not appreciate being stalked, or talked about like what you did back there with Shisui. It's just rude!"
"I'm merely interested in you."
She froze at his sudden proclamation. What did he mean, he was interested in her? Like interested in a research specimen? Or interested in her as a woman? Was that why he had kissed her so suddenly back then? Was that the true reason for it, and not because he had wanted to test how far she could go?
Whatever it was, she was neither prepared for it, nor welcomed it.
In fact, his blunt expression of interest was really beginning to freak her out really badly. Not that his actions over the past few months had been any better.
She had no clue what to say or what to do. And so, without another word, she spun around and walked away from him.
As fast as she could.
Uchiha Itachi was definitely stalking her.
Like a predator hunting his prey.
Her confrontation with him last week had made no difference at all. He still showed up all over the place, unexpectedly. And it was driving her up the wall.
Sakura groaned inwardly as she quickly slipped into an alleyway, and immediately took to the roof. Grimly, she focused chakra to her feet and began to sprint. She probably could not escape him, but hell, she was not about to make things easy for him.
Make what easy for him?
Stalking, of course!
The man was relentless. It had been a week since she had fled from him, after his unexpected declaration of interest. And until now, she still did not know what to make of it. She still did not know how exactly he was interested in her, and no, she did not plan on finding out. That would be inviting trouble.
Because she was not interested in him.
She scowled as she leapt from one roof edge to another, mindful that a certain Uchiha was still on her trail, albeit some distance away. No, she could not be interested in him. He might be good looking, but she hardly knew the man, and most things she knew about his personality was not flattering at all.
Uchiha Itachi was a genius, but an arrogant genius who thought the world revolved around him. He was so confident, so sure of himself that it made her itch to bring him down a peg or two. But she was not so stupid as to think that she was capable of doing such a thing. There was a reason he was an ANBU captain, after all.
His role as an ANBU captain also meant that he was barely home, at least, according to Sasuke. With his all-consuming sort of commitment to his job, who would want to be saddled with him? His girlfriend or wife would only be neglected.
She groaned out loud when she realized the direction of her thoughts. No, she was NOT thinking of him in that light. Right now, Uchiha Itachi was just an annoying stalker, as far as she was concerned.
Whatever. Right now, she had to escape. Recalling that Naruto and Sasuke had mentioned something about a bar earlier, she changed directions and dropped to ground level when she located the bar. Without pause, she made her way into the darkened venue, intent on finding her teammates.
Surely Uchiha Itachi would leave her alone once he saw that she was with Naruto and Sasuke.
The place was crowded, she noted with despair as she pushed past the mass of bodies. Fortunately, luck was on her side for once, and it was not long before she spotted her blond teammate sitting together with the dark-haired one at a table at the end of the room. Quickly, she made a beeline for them, almost desperate in her hurry to reach them. She disliked hiding behind them, but she was really out of options this time. Her usual way of dealing with things head on seemed to make things worse when it involved a certain Uchiha. So perhaps total avoidance was the key here.
"Hi!" she called out happily when she reached them.
Naruto turned around, gracing her with a wide grin. "Sakura-chan! I thought you didn't want to come."
"Changed my mind."
"You're wearing your laboratory tunic," came Sasuke's bland observation.
She blinked, and then glanced downward. Sasuke was right. She had intended to go straight home, and she needed something to keep her warm since she had accidentally spilled some chemical on her red coat. It did seem a little odd, drinking in the bar with her loose white laboratory top, though.
"Came straight from the hospital," she explained sheepishly.
"You can go home and change, Sakura-chan. We'll be here for a while," Naruto said.
She shook her head. Going home meant risking an encounter with a certain Uchiha captain, and right now, she was content to stay where she was. Besides, there was a simple solution to her wardrobe dilemma.
Reaching for the hem of her tunic, she began to pull it up.
"Sakura-chan! What are you doing?" Naruto immediately hollered. "Don't take off your clothes here!"
Sakura froze. What? The few people around them silenced at Naruto's words, and proceeded to turn their attention to her until Sasuke shot them warning looks, at which, they quickly resumed their conversation.
"Shut up, Dobe," Sasuke ground out, delivering a smack to the back of the blond's head. "She's not stripping."
Giving the embarrassed Naruto an exasperated look, she told him, "I got clothes underneath, Naruto."
"Oh," he muttered, while Sasuke shook his head, looking annoyed.
Used to her teammates' antics, she quickly reached for her hem and pulled the tunic off to reveal a red sleeveless vest underneath. Deciding that it would do for now, she smoothed the material of her dark skirt down. Folding her uniform carefully, she bent down and stuffed the material into her medic pouch before straightening.
To find herself staring straight at a sleek body encased in the standard issue, skin-tight ANBU vest, minus the grey armor.
Trepidation shot through her even before she lifted her gaze.
To met the amused gaze of Uchiha Itachi.
She blinked once, twice, and then averted her eyes, growling irritably under her breath. Would she never escape him? Surely her movements were clear enough of an indication that she did not want him around. When was he going to get the hint?
"Nii-san," Sasuke greeted.
"Eh, Itachi-san, what are you doing here?" Naruto asked. "And why are you staring at Sakura like that?"
"Dobe… shut up," Sasuke chastised the blond again.
Her eyes shot up again, and true enough, the ANBU captain was still staring at her. Her irritation skyrocketed when he continued to stare, now wearing an amused smirk.
Determined to stay away from him, she turned to her teammates. "My round to get drinks?"
"Beers," Sasuke supplied. "No sake tonight."
Acknowledging his order with a nod, she quickly made a beeline for the bar. There was no particular queue, so she simply pushed forward with the mass of people until her front hit the bar.
Suddenly, Itachi was there beside her, appearing from nowhere like he always had done. Was he masking his presence earlier? The thought annoyed her. Was he treating this as some sort of mission?
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Yes?"
He inclined his head at the bar. "What will you have?"
"You don't need to get me a drink."
"I was simply wondering if you could order a bottle of beer for me while you're there."
She flushed at her mistake. A little reluctantly, she said, "Fine. I'll get it."
"Do you require assistance?"
"I assure you I'm quite capable of getting the drinks back to the table safely."
The bartender came to her then. "Yes?"
At his question, she ordered three beers and a juice for herself. She had no plans to get intoxicated tonight, since she had to work early tomorrow. Her primary objective was to stay with her teammates until Itachi left. And she hoped that he would do so soon.
Paying for the drinks once the tray of bottles and glasses was set before her, she lifted it high over her head and squeezed her way out, all the time conscious of Itachi's warm body pressed to her side.
The moment she broke out of the crowd in front of the bar, she heard him call her name. Stopping, she turned to face him, still irritated.
Itachi was watching her wordlessly, as if he wanted to say something. His gaze was intense enough to make her want to fidget. She felt crowded, even though there weren't that many people around them, and the urge to run came again. But her pride refused to allow her to do so while he was watching her so intently. So she tilted her chin to meet his eyes.
"Is there anything else you need?" she asked.
"What?" she gritted out through clenched teeth.
She closed her eyes, counting to ten in her mind as she tried to figure out what was the correct response to such a declaration. He was becoming more and more direct, it seemed, and that only frazzled her more.
When she opened her eyes, she responded in a voice much calmer than she actually felt, "Too bad, Uchiha. You don't always get what you want."
Luck was not on her side, because soon afterwards, someone jostled against her, immediately causing her to tether unsteadily as she tried to balance the glasses and bottles in the tray.
As usual, Itachi had to save the day. Reaching out, he took the drinks from her before the bottles and glasses could tumble from her hold. Then Sakura found herself being maneuvered to a less crowded section of the room before he stopped, depositing the tray on a nearby empty table at the corner. His movements were so efficient, so smooth and so confident that she felt even more aggravated.
Suddenly, in an abrupt movement, she felt her back hitting a solid surface, and the chill from the wall immediately seeped into her back. Her eyes flew wide open. What the hell? What did Itachi think he was doing, pressing her against the wall like this?
"Move away," she demanded when she realized just how unnerved she was.
He had caged her with his own body, much to her chagrin. Her skin fairly tingled all over at his proximity. With annoyance, she insisted to herself. Nothing else. It made it worse that she could not see his expression, for his face was shadowed in the sparse lighting of the bar.
However, the moment his head lowered, she realized what he was about to do. She immediately froze in place, staring up at him with a mix of horror and… anticipation? What the hell? She could not be wanting this, could she?
Still, she found herself unable to make herself move away as his face neared hers.
The unexpected interruption jolted her out of her inaction and she exhaled in relief when she saw Sasuke's familiar form, visible through the small space between the Itachi and the wall he had pinned her against.
"Sasuke," the older Uchiha returned, his tone surprisingly terse.
"What are you doing to Sakura?" Sasuke asked flatly.
Without further ado, she placed a hand on the ANBU captain's chest, ignoring its warmth, pushing slightly to make sure that he knew that she wanted him gone. The muscles under her palm shifted, tensed, resisting the pressure she was applying, and her eyes shot up to his, glaring a warning.
An odd light glinted in his eyes, and then he took a step back, allowing her space to breathe and to move away. Which she did, hurriedly, until she was standing in front of Sasuke. Her teammate's eyes ran over her once, but there was nothing amorous about it. By now, she recognized the look; Sasuke was making sure that she was alright. She would have hugged him in her gratitude if Itachi was not standing there watching. Instead, with an eagerness which was almost embarrassing in its intensity, she latched on to Sasuke's arm with both hands and gave him a meaningful look.
"Help me with the drinks?" she asked.
The nod he gave her was curt, but the fact that he had not shrugged her hands off assured her that he would help. After all, he was the one who had first noticed that Itachi had an unhealthy interest in her, months ago.
"Let's join Naruto," Sasuke said as he reached out, taking the tray from the nearby table.
She did not let go of Sasuke's arm until they reached Naruto. All the while, she could feel Itachi's stare boring into her back. For some reason, this time it was different. This time, she could not sense his usual amusement. Instead, his regard seemed… angry. No doubt he was not happy that he had been thwarted.
The moment she sat down at the table, a small voice at the back of her head mocked her, telling her that she should simply admit that she had wanted him to kiss her then, and that she was in denial so deep that she could drown in it.
Sakura scowled at the voice.
"Neh, Sakura-chan. Aren't you going to drink?"
She looked up to find Naruto giving her an inquiring look, holding up her glass of juice.
"Of course I am," she muttered as she brought the glass to her lips, eyeing her friend over the rim of the glass.
Sitting beside him, on the opposite site of the table, was Itachi. And much to her discomfort, he was staring straight at her, and she could now confirm her earlier suspicion that he was no longer amused by whatever it was that had kept him amused before. Instead, he seemed to be in a thoughtful mood. That contemplativeness remained even as Sasuke drew him into a quiet conversation.
Somehow, she found herself worried by his change in attitude.
Perhaps this was all she had needed; intervention from her teammates. Because right now, Itachi seemed to be reconsidering his interest in her. Did this mean that he would stop stalking her?
She thought of the days ahead without his frequent appearances, each time seemingly out of nowhere, surprising her with his unpredictability. It would be nice, not having to keep looking over her shoulders, right? Then again, if she was to think back to their encounters over the past few months, she had to admit that he was not really disturbing her. He usually only accompanied her on the journey to wherever she was going, and then leave afterwards.
Sakura frowned inwardly, wondering why she was even thinking about this. It was almost as if she feared losing his attention. She was being silly. Of course she did not want his attention.
Unfortunately, it seemed like she was trying a little too hard to convince herself.
The cold wind of early winter brushed past her face as she walked down the street, hugging her arms around her lab coat. It was late, too late for her to remain there drinking with her two semi-drunk teammates, so she had decided to make her way back home.
Only, she was not alone. Uchiha Itachi was with her. So, perhaps he was not at all discouraged by what had happened in the bar, after all, Sakura thought darkly as she tried to ignore the man walking beside her. Unfortunately, his earlier behavior only gave her cause to question her own true feelings for Itachi.
No, she did not want to think about it again. Not now, not ever.
Wanting to reach home sooner, she quickened her steps.
"You are running from me, Sakura," he suddenly remarked.
Way to state the obvious. She ground her teeth together, before turning to meet his gaze. "You're stalking me, Uchiha-san."
"Call me Itachi."
"Stop stalking me," she tossed at him again before turning away to swiftly make her way across the street to the apartment.
He simply followed right behind her.
Irritated, she gritted out louder, just as they arrived at her front door, "I said, stop stalking me!"
"Is that how you see it?" he returned smoothly, clearly unperturbed.
A snarl of exasperation left her as she unlocked her front door and pushed it open. Then, spinning around to face him, she snapped, "Just stop it, will you? Whatever you call it, I'm not interested!"
An elegant brow arched, and then he moved close, so close that she had to take a step back. He was invading her personal space, and was completely unapologetic about it. There was barely any space between them now that she was wedged between him and her front door, and she could not help but notice the warmth and the very male scent emanating from him. Scolding herself inwardly, she clenched her hands into fists as she glared at him.
"You would refuse even without knowing what I wish to offer you?" he murmured softly, his eyes searching her face.
His low tone he used sent a shiver up her spine, and involuntarily, her mind went back to that time in the hospital room where he had dragged her down for a kiss. He had used that tone then, to coax her to stop resisting. She had to get him off her now, before she did something stupid.
Like kiss him.
"Please step back," she told him in a shaky voice as she backed into her apartment.
"Why do you resist me?" he asked, reaching up to run a calloused finger down her cheek, kicking the door shut behind him.
Ignoring the jolt within her as his fingers reached her chin, she stared mutely at him, not wanting to answer. Unable to answer. The fact was, she simply did not know the answer to the question. Only that each time he came close, she felt cornered, edgy and was consumed with the urge to flee. As ridiculous as her reaction was, she simply could not stop it, and the whole thing was aggravating.
"This is unacceptable, Uchiha-san. You don't simply barge into my home uninvited and harass me," she ground out.
"And what does that mean?"
"I have attempted to approach you civilly on previous occasions. You did not appear to be receptive then."
"And that doesn't tell you anything?" she shot back.
"It simply told me that you're afraid."
Sakura almost winced at his terribly accurate assessment. Outwardly keeping calm, she pointed out, "You're practically hunting me, Uchiha-san. Surely you could understand that I have a reason to be concerned."
"You interest me. It is natural that I follow up on it."
She threw her arms up in the air. "This is not an assignment, Uchiha Itachi! You don't just… pursue women like this. Like you're a hunter-nin and she's a missing nin. It's usually more than that."
He seemed to be absorbing what she was saying, and then he gave her a brief nod. "Perhaps you could explain further."
Her eyes rounded. "Are you seriously asking me for tips on how to-" She shook her head. "Never mind." And then she took a deep breath to calm herself. "Look, Uchiha-san. I barely know you. And I definitely don't know you well enough to tell if I'm interested in you in that way."
"That could be easily remedied," he pointed out.
"Spend time with me."
She was stunned into silence. It was not as if she had no inkling of what he was up to, but he was so direct, so blunt. So matter-of-fact-ly asking her to what? Spend time with him? As in a date?
"What do you mean? Spend time, how?" she ventured warily.
"We both have to eat at times. Share a meal with me," he said, making it sound almost like an order. "And perhaps a walk or two."
She let out a hiss of breath. He was really asking her out on a date, and damn it, despite her reservations about him, she was sorely tempted. And being tempted meant that she was interested. How long had she been interested? Months?
Damn it, maybe she had been in denial all this time.
A long exhalation of breath left her. Perhaps she was being stupid. After all, if she was honest with herself, she could admit that she found Uchiha Itachi very attractive. Maybe, like he said, she should spend time with him to get to know him better. And then she could see how things went from there.
Finally relenting, she looked up at him, muttering, "Fine."
"You'll go out with me," he stated, his tone requiring her confirmation.
He stared at her for a long while, so intently that she had to fight the urge to fidget. And finally, not able to stand it any longer, she broke their gaze and prepared to turn away from him.
Only to be halted by a firm grip on her shoulder.
The next thing she knew, she was pitching forward, straight into his arms where her lips were captured in a bruising, hungry kiss. Her heart raced as he deepened the kiss, and she found herself moaning breathlessly in response as she curled her fingers at the base of his neck. It was not as unexpected as their first kiss. But this time, it was far more explosive.
She was breathless when he broke their contact.
"What was that for?" she managed to blurt out.
His lips quirked at the corner. "Isn't it customary to seal a promise with a kiss?"
And what a kiss it was, she thought hazily. Was it really a good idea to agree to go out with him?
He drew her close again. It was as if he realized that she was trying to think over the situation, and wanted to prevent it. All second thoughts flew out of her mind when he fused their lips together again.
This time, she heard a small groan rumbling at the back of his throat as he gave her a thorough kiss before moving his lips down a hot trail to her throat. She arched her neck in response, her eyes fluttering shut at the overwhelmingly powerful surges of desire coursing through her. Her lips parted breathlessly as he nibbled at her earlobe before nipping his way back up for another taste of her lips.
She was even more dazed this time when he finally broke this kiss, and could only stare at him breathlessly as he gently tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. All the while, there was an oddly sweet smile playing about his lips.
"And this kiss? What is this one for?" she asked shakily.
He met her gaze, and something hitched inside her. His hands slid up and down her back before settling on her waist to pull her flush against him. The way he looked at her could only be described as possessive.
And then, lowering his head once again, leaving her in no doubt of what he intended to do, he whispered against her lips, "For myself."
Somehow, by the tone of his words, Sakura had a feeling that he was not referring to the kiss. Giving him a chiding look, she said, "Don't get ahead of yourself, Uchiha. I've only agreed to dates."
He pulled back to smirk at her. "We will progress from there."
"No more stalking."
He gave her a pointed look. "Only if you cease running away."
She grinned, a little sheepishly. "Guess we understand each other now, huh?"
"Perhaps." And then, with an uncharacteristic show of emotion, he grimaced, "Shisui will be insufferable when he learns of this," he told her flatly.
Recalling the part the other Uchiha had played in bringing them together, Sakura chuckled. "You can always threaten him with that evil ribbon. That should stop him in his tracks." And then she frowned thoughtfully. "Come to think of it, I never did quite figure out how he got hold of the ribbon."
Itachi remained suspiciously silent.
She blinked at him as comprehension dawned. "You! You stole the ribbon from my lab?" she asked incredulously.
Now knowing if she should believe him, she asked suspiciously, "Then how did it get to him?"
"I found it in a box in front of my house and thought that Shisui would like to wear it," he told her seriously.
When she realized just what he had done, Sakura laughed. "You suspected Shisui of leaving both the hair clip and the ribbon on your doorstep, so you decided that it was time for payback, huh?"
His lips quirked. "Perhaps."
She reached for his hand as her laughter died down. "So… I guess since I haven't had dinner, you should buy me one now."
"If you wish."
She grinned at him, wondering why it had taken her so long to relent. If it hadn't been for his persistence, she would not be here today, making a decision to date Uchiha Itachi. "Let's go, then."
As they walked down the streets of Konoha, something told her that she would not regret this particular decision.
A/N: And that's it for the sequel. Hope you've enjoyed the one-shot. As always, I'd love it if you could review. Thanks!