Summary: More than a ghost, less than human. A dead man asks an incarcerated Sakura for a favour. ItaSaku. Compliant up to manga chapter 490.
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.
Note: Random inspiration strikes again! This will be a multi-chapter story, but each instalment will be about this length. I think this might go rather quickly.
O O O
In the door, and you're there, and you're sorry for the fright
O O O
Konoha was still in the early stages of reconstruction two months after Pain's attack on the village.
And so, without any permanent lodgings available, Sakura found herself living in one of Yamato's simply constructed barracks. The building had been designed as temporary shinobi quarters, the bare accommodations and limited lighting attesting to such. The furniture consisted of a low table, a set of shelves, and her futon mattress. Her bedding was the only colour in the flat –which wasn't much to brag about, being that it was of the standard shinobi issue grey.
Worse yet was that after her recent "mission" to find Sasuke, Sakura had been taken off the active-duty roster and placed under house arrest. In said barracks. With absolutely nothing to distract her from her long hours of punishment.
Sakura had been cooped up in the room for a week and already she could sense the looming demise of her sanity. A few friends had been understanding enough to bring her books to read, and Sai had even given her a sketch pad, but there was nothing to substitute the freedom of moving around of her own accord. There was nothing to quell the resurfacing insecurities of her own usefulness. Forget the fact that she had failed miserably to apprehend Sasuke – even more aggravating was that she couldn't even contribute in the most mundane of ways to help her village. She was incredibly skilled, at the very least she could be working shifts at the hospital or tending to emergency situations within Konoha.
Locked in her apartment cemented her seemingly expendable purpose.
"Shit! No, no, don't think that way," Sakura scolded herself, taking a minute to dig the heel of her palm into her brow. To pass the painfully slow hours of her sixth night "in the brink", she had been sitting on her futon and staring out her window, watching the moon's leisurely trip across the sky. Unfortunately, this rather subdued activity allowed for quite a bit of reflective thinking, which in turn led to disappointed wallowing. And that led to self-destructive criticism.
She'd dealt enough of that recently, though, and for once was intent to avoid it.
"I don't need to reinforce my own feeling of inadequacy," she said to the otherwise empty room.
Funny thing, Sakura had discovered, when no one was around to hear her, she was still inclined to speak aloud. As if by persistence alone, she'd make an audience. So little time had passed and already she was desperate for company, for communication. Desperate for any sort affirmation that someone other than herself found her interesting, or just cared at all to hear her voice.
The truth was, however, that very few people probably missed her in particular. Sure, someone might whine about needing another medic, but that was a faceless occupation. No one needed the presence of Haruno Sakura specifically. Her own master, Tsunade, was well taken care of in the company of Nara Shikaku, Kakashi was busy carrying out war preparations with other experienced jounin, Naruto was off training with Yamato-taichou, Sai was part of ANBU... Anyone important to Sakura was surely satisfied without her.
"Who am I kidding, I really am a waste of space! … And now I'm deluding myself by talking to no one."
Sure there was a guard outside her door, but he or she never deigned to exchange words. Whoever was on rotation would escort her to the wash room three times a day, give her a meal twice a day, and pass on packages that were deemed acceptable for her to receive. That was all. The tall male guard with the shaved head didn't even say her name, just nodded at her when he wanted her to do something.
An incomprehensible moan of frustration escaped her. Sakura stopped rubbing incessantly at her brow and moved her hand so that she could once again observe the moon between her fingers. "Isn't there anything for me to do?" she asked the brightly illuminated orb, hoping some of its light would kindly enlighten her.
"Guh!" A 'thump' and the sound of something heavy sliding down the wall followed immediately. Sakura sat up straighter at the noise, which deceivingly hadn't come from the moon at all, but rather what sounded more like the guard just outside her flat.
Sakura bolted forward and latched onto the bars covering her window. They were situated so that her view was limited, keeping her from seeing what was happening not five feet to her left. The commotion had ended as quickly as it had started, though this observation wasn't a pleasant one.
"Hey, Keimu-san," she called out, knowing she was loud enough for someone outside to hear her. "Everything alright?"
In this circumstance, there would be no reason for the guard to ignore her. Surely an answer would have been acceptable, prudent even. The silence was odd – it made the fine hairs on her arms stand on end.
The sound of keys clinking together filled the emptiness and Sakura jumped when she heard the distinct noise of metal sliding into place on the lock of her door. Her eyes frantically jumped to the handle; her breath hitched as she waited for it to turn.
This was most definitely odd. Outside contact ended very strictly at nine o'clock in the evening –it was well past midnight at this point.
The lock clicked.
Wildly, she hoped that perhaps Ino or Lee had come to free her... Which was ludicrous, she realised, because none of her friends were exactly happy with the actions she had taken and were less than keen to risk their own necks to spring hers.
Sakura watched the handle, tense and ready for it to turn. She nearly jumped out of her skin when instead there was a polite knock at the door. A few choice words dropped from her lips and she clutched at her chest.
Most certainly odd.
Warily, she approached her apartment's only entrance, chakra gathered in her fist (just in case). "Uh, can I help you?" she offered, feeling just a bit foolish.
"I have a proposition for you," a disembodied voice replied. It was muffled and unrecognisable, but masculine. "Care to let me in?"
Sakura lamented over Yamato's decision to not install peep-holes. "Right. Um...who are you?"
There was a brief pause. Then, "I'm a friend."
A friend Sakura had obviously not met before, otherwise all this 'mysterious visitor in the night' crap would just be unnecessary. She frowned. Whoever this was, she could probably take him. So, without further ado, she pulled the door open.
And standing there –without any of his former glory– was one dirty and battered Uchiha Itachi. Covered in debris and shadows as he was, the bright glow of his Sharingan and the style of his long, ebony hair identified him easily enough.
Sakura felt the air in her lungs leave her in one breath, along with more whispered, choice exclamations.
"Hello, Sakura-san, mind if I borrow you for a little while?" the Uchiha asked, his voice surprisingly smooth and deep.
The floor was tilting curiously from under her feet and Sakura had to snap her hand out to catch the frame in order to remain standing. This was too much. "Does nobody stay dead these days?" she asked him, her fear and amazement slowing her thoughts considerably. (What does one do in a situation such as this?)
A sombre smile graced Itachi's lips as he returned her question with one of his own. "How up-to-date is your knowledge of the Uchiha clan? Of Sasuke and myself?"
Silly, silly questions for this man to be asking her. Even more unbelievable was the fact that he was visiting Sakura at her apartment. Speaking casually with her as if he wasn't an infamous criminal, as if they were actually acquaintances of some sort.
Her curt response reflected her state of shock and bewilderment. "Well, Sasuke's tried to kill me three times now, and you're practically a zombie...so I would say that I need quite a few things cleared up. Like now, preferably."
Uchiha Itachi didn't miss a beat at her slightly cheeky words. "I will tell you everything, if in return, you will help me."
Disbelief coloured her face. "This really isn't clearing anything up for me at all. Why should I do anything for you? You destroyed Sasuke's life, put Kakashi-sensei in the hospital, have tried to kill Naruto several times..."
The sad twist of his lips remained. "I spared Sasuke's life, I spared Kakashi-senpai's life, and I spared Naruto-kun's life. If at any point, had I exerted myself with any real intent to do harm, none of your nakama would be alive right now."
Sakura furrowed her eyebrows.
"I am offering you a chance to prove yourself, kunoichi. You should take it," Itachi insisted, though his tone hadn't changed.
The guard on the floor next to Itachi groaned and her eyes snapped to the man. It was Naoto-san, the one with a shaved head. She was surprised to see he was alive. Of course, the more she thought about it, after his defection from Konoha, all of the shinobi who had encountered the Uchiha had survived. That was a bit exceptional, considering his reputation and terrible amount of skill.
"You're not giving me much time to think this decision over, Uchiha-san," she pointed out.
"The circumstance does not allow for us to idle."
"What could you possibly need me to do?"
Itachi stared directly at Sakura, his deadly eyes appraising her seriously. "You're the most familiar with Chiyo-sama's forbidden jutsu. I am certain you can help me escape from my current predicament."
Sakura couldn't say she actually knew much about the Kishō Tensei technique. "Even if I could figure it out, who would you even want me to use it on?"
Before Itachi could answer her, there was a noise from down the hallway as a group of shinobi landed on the railing at the opposite end of the building. Conveniently, Naoto's body was hidden from their view by Itachi's cloak. Itachi himself looked all the part of a guard bundled up for the night shift. Nevertheless, Sakura knew both of them were tense as the four took their time entering their apartment.
It took her a second to realise that she hadn't called out to them or anything. Hadn't bothered to yell, 'hey, wanted missing-nin right here!' If she were to be completely honest with herself, Sakura knew that she was actually contemplating accepting the Uchiha's proposal.
"So who?" she prompted again.
Itachi, who had been carefully observing the cell down the way, brought his scarlet gaze back to her. "Me."
Sakura eyed him skeptically. "But you're –"
"Merely a puppet of Yakushi Kabuto's at the moment."
"How so?" Sakura took a step forward to scrutinize the man. As far as she could tell, he was a bit rough around the edges, though certainly made of flesh as opposed to wood. The only seams she could discern were those of his clothes. "Do you mean this metaphorically?"
Itachi wasn't looking at her any longer, his eyes averted to the side. Almost bashfully, she thought. "You have heard of Orochimaru's Kuchiyose, Edo Tensei, I'm sure," he said quietly, waiting for her to nod her head before he continued. "I need you to help me remove the seal that's keeping my soul under Kabuto's control."
"It doesn't seem that you are acting of his will right now."
Finally, Itachi returned his attention to her, a hint troubled. "I have a rather strong resistance to it and have managed to escape. For now."
"And once you're free of...Kabuto, really? He's still around? Ah – what do you plan to do then?"
There was no hesitation in his reply. "Stop Sasuke and Madara."
Itachi's face was hard and unapologetic, and the harshness unsettled her in a strange manner. Sakura swallowed solemnly, her chin bobbing with the motion. This was almost too surreal for her to accept. Would pinching herself to check if she were dreaming be too obvious?
"Sakura-san, I need your decision quickly. I cannot linger." She heard his words over the loud sound of her heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Thump. It was slow and steady, despite her apprehension. Why wasn't her body reacting more appropriately? She was a bit dizzy from their conversation, but otherwise her hands weren't shaking, her knees were supporting her just fine, even the raised hairs on her forearms had calmed.
This was a notorious mass murdered she was speaking with, shouldn't she be more terrified?
A thought crossed her mind quite abruptly: What do I have to lose?
This could be a trap. She didn't even know for certain that this man was in fact Uchiha Itachi. It could just be some random person with a very convincing disguise trying to kidnap her or something. She could die. Perhaps be used for ransom or in some other capacity as leverage.
But –she supplied, debating against herself, who would bother to do such a thing? Haruno Sakura held absolutely no worth to Konoha in light of a world war. No one, not even her shishou, would be able to take the time to worry over one soldier's life. And with Naruto gone, she didn't think any of her friends would be reckless enough to try and rescue her either.
And it's not bloody likely that Itachi was taking her to somehow incite his younger brother; she had already made it clear that Sasuke could not care less for her life.
Her answer came rather easily after this bleak observation.
"Okay," she agreed.
Itachi blinked, but that was the extent of his reaction.
"On one condition, Uchiha," she dropped the polite suffix. "Train me in genjutsu. Obviously nothing related your bloodline limit, but whatever else I think I can handle. And if you plan on killing me, know that I won't let it happen so easily. I'm a medic and am prepared to take you out if I feel it is necessary."
Itachi inclined his head, accepting her terms. "You should pack lightly."
Three minutes later and they were dashing down the shadowy streets, past the protective barrier and away into the mild spring night.
O O O
Author's Note: This is just for fun :D I don't at all think this would ever actually happen. Unfortunately.
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