Disclaimer: Naruto and characters do not belong to me.
UPDATED A/N: After re-reading this story, I just was not a fan of how I originally wrote it. Hopefully everyone will enjoy this version better. Feel free to let me know how I'm doing.
Sakura was startled awake by a knock on her apartment door. Squinting to try and relieve the throbbing in her head, she tripped over a pile of clothes rather ungracefully. Too tired to get back up, Sakura prayed that whoever was at her door would find it too troublesome to wait and would go away.
She was just starting to fall back asleep when there were another series of knocks. Groaning, she pushed herself up, shuffling out of her room and over to the door. What a fabulous start to her morning.
Walking around the cobbled streets of East Konoha was not where Itachi wanted to be first thing in the morning. He could practically feel the dirt clinging to his black suit. He had parked a few blocks away to not draw attention, and it was a good thing too, judging by the look of the apartment he was in front of. The chipped green paint and noticeable cracks matched the others on the block.
Hearing the door open, he returned his gaze. He was not, however, prepared for the mass of pink that assaulted his vision.
"Itachi Uchiha. To what do I owe this unexpected surprise?" Itachi composed himself.
"Are you Sakura Haruno?"
"Perhaps. Is Sakura in trouble?" Itachi was tempted to say yes, but decided against it.
"Then yes, I'm Sakura." Despite the obvious fatigue, the girl couldn't keep the cheeky grin off her face.
"May I come in? I have some urgent matters I wish to discuss." Sakura rolled her eyes.
"With the FBI, aren't things always?" Nonetheless, she pushed the door open and allowed the Uchiha through.
"Would you like something to drink? Coffee perhaps?" Itachi nodded. Yes, coffee would be wonderful at a time like this. He still couldn't believe he was actually here. However, the agency needed help in a certain field of expertise, and she was apparently one of the best, though that had yet to be determined.
A few minutes later, Sakura came back with two steaming cups of coffee. She handed him his and then sat back in her spinning chair, making sure not to spill the coffee as she moved around to get comfortable. Taking two big gulps, she allowed herself a few moments to wake up. Coffee was truly a Godsend to deal with the aftermaths of late nights.
"Alright Uchiha, what seems to be the problem?"
"I'll start off by saying that I know you have participated in less than legal cyber activities and once this case is over, I will catch you so you can reap the consequences of your actions. But first, we need your skills to help us catch a threat to national security." Sakura merely raised a brow.
"You threaten me and then expect me to just help you with a problem… one that the FBI seemingly can't handle, no surprise there. Don't you guys need to take a class on like coercion and finesse? You clearly missed it. Besides, do you have any evidence to substantiate your claims?" Too stunned by her audacious mocking, the words were out of his mouth before he could even think.
"You're too good to leave any evidence." Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, Inner Itachi face palmed.
"So then all you have is speculation to go off of." The cheeky grin on her face reminded him so very much of the Cheshire cat. The miniscule narrowing of his eyes was the only indication that he was now thoroughly annoyed.
"We have digressed from the issue at hand. Will you provide assistance?"
"You're the FBI, don't you have legions of computer tech underlings to do your evil bidding?"
"We have acquired a number of threats in the past and have been able to eradicate them to the best of our abilities. Despite having an exceptional Cyber Ops team, we have yet to make any progress in the most recent threat. A new set of eyes with similar expertise could provide a different perspective. If your skills do indeed meet our standards, your assistance would be greatly appreciated." Sakura took a sip of her coffee, hiding her grin behind the rim of the mug.
"I'm flattered you think so highly of me."
He ignored her comment. "As it is a matter of national security, we need assurance of your cooperation before I can disclose any details of the case."
"So you basically want me to accept blindly without any certainty of my safety as well as any agreement of payment…yeaaaah I'm gonna pass. Thanks." The fact that she didn't immediately agree without knowing the terms eased his worries that perhaps she wasn't a complete idiot.
Allowing a brief pause in the conversation, he looked around the room. Although it was quite an improvement compared to the exterior, the one bedroom apartment was definitely small. It was furnished and certainly looked lived-in, however there were no picture frames, no posters, no books, nothing. It lacked the personal touches each home usually had. He took a sip of his coffee before attempting a new angle.
"My condolences for your loss." It gave him a slight sense of satisfaction to see that he had caught her off guard.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"We were all saddened at the news when we heard about your parents." The moment it was out, he knew he had struck a chord. Her demeanor was no longer playful and she clammed up instantly, gaze sharp.
"How do you know about my parents?"
"They had been some of Konoha's top field agents."
"…Had?" Her lack of knowledge regarding their deaths was not lost on him, and he filed it away for later.
"They were killed while out in the field."
"How do you know? What proof do you have?"
"One day, a few years ago, we lost complete contact with them. Their phones completely dropped off the grid and the trackers we place on all our agents vanished. It could be that they are in hiding. More than likely, if they haven't tried to contact us yet, especially for this length of time, then chances are that they're dead." He wasn't one to sugarcoat things.
Placing her now empty mug down, she lazily spun in her chair. Sakura interlaced her fingers, pointers straight and resting against her lips, contemplating.
All that travelling around finally made sense. As field agents, they had to travel to various countries, never staying too long, to gather Intel on the inner-workings of each government and their power players. Their disappearance wasn't her fault. There was no further need to blame herself. It wasn't because they…- she halted that train of thought. She could think about that later.
If her parents had been FBI agents, then obviously the FBI would have their records. She could hack into their database and gather that information herself…but it would definitely take some time and if they were to trace the hack back to her, then she'd definitely get thrown in jail…or worse. It'd probably be easier if she agreed to help them in exchange for unrestricted access to all the information they had on her parents.
The unwavering need to find them had been snuffed. Ohhhh no. Now she was out for blood. The need to locate them morphed into finding out what happened to them, how they died, who did it, and most importantly…what she'd do to their killers once she found them.
Itachi watched as she spun round in her chair, obviously digesting the news. She took it far too calmly to be considered normal. The feral smirk that suddenly bloomed on her features gave him pause, however it was gone by the time she rotated around to face him.
"Alright, I'll do it. BUT, in exchange the FBI will provide full access to my parents records, including previous missions, who they worked with, and anything that they may have even been mentioned in."
"I will need to get permission from the Director. Only she can authorize the access."
"Fine. Give me 5 minutes." Not bothering with the empty mugs, she padded over to her room, locking the door behind her. Itachi leaned back into the couch and began to mull everything over.
"Let's go." Brought out of his inner musings, he glanced over to see that she had changed into a different pair of dark jeans now tucked into black heeled boots. Hair brushed lazily so it fell to her lower back, she finished the look off with a maroon elbow-length button up, left un-buttoned over a black tank.
He inclined his head and then wordlessly got up from the couch, leading them out. Shouldering her bag Sakura followed him, carelessly locking the door behind her.
When they got in the standard issued government car, Itachi pulled a blindfold from his pocket. Sakura took one look at it and smirked.
Ignoring her sass, he made sure that the fabric entirely covered the area from the tip of her nose to her eyebrows, thankful that she didn't struggle.
The 45-minute drive to Headquarters was quiet aside from the rumblings of the engine.
Feeling that they had arrived, Sakura went to remove her blindfold, only for Itachi to halt her hand.
"Not yet." Getting out of the car, he walked to her side and placed his hand on her shoulder. He began to guide her through the maze of corridors, stopping every now and then. Sakura recognized the familiar 'swoosh' of automated doors and mentally tried to map out the floor plans. She despised the fact that she needed to rely on him to guide her where to go.
Finally they walked through another set of doors before stopping. Itachi allowed her to remove the blindfold while he knocked on the decorated doors in front of them. A muffled voice from inside answered.
Itachi opened one door and then walked in, allowing it to shut closed behind them.
Sakura analyzed the woman sitting at the desk. Long blonde pigtails, impatient amber eyes, enormous chest…this was the famed Tsunade Senju.
"She has replied with a counter-offer of sorts." An eyebrow rose.
"Is that so?" Her penetrating gaze slid over to Sakura. "And what might this so-called counter-offer be?"
"I will help in exchange for full access to my parent's personnel records as well as any and all possible files they were mentioned in." The eyebrow was back.
"Trying to play detective?" Sakura glanced away.
"Something like that."
"And why should I? How can I be so sure you are trustworthy enough to not abuse the access to the information we would provide?" Sakura shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly.
"It's good to see we have someone competent leading our national security team, Tsunade Senju. Frankly speaking, you can't."
Tsunade ignored the jab towards her predecessors. Rubbing the bridge of her nose, she thought it over. If the whispers of her skills were indeed true, then Tsunade had no doubt that she would get the information one way or another. Better to have her with them, than against them. Sighing, she eyed her bottom drawer with the empty secret compartment. Stupid Shizune, all that free liquor, wasted.
"Alright, we'll see what we can find."
"Lovely. Now that that's settled, let's discuss payment. I got bills to pay y'know."
"Payment? Shouldn't not getting arrested be enough payment?" Sakura gave her an unimpressed stare.
"Genius over here," she gestured towards Itachi, "happened to let slip that you've got nuthin' tying me to any of those alleged illegal cyber cases. Try again."
The tightening around the corners of his mouth and his silence were enough of a response to Tsunade's incredulous look.
"Fine! But first I want a demonstration of your so-called skills. If you don't measure up to the skills of our Cyber team, you're out." Sakura smirked.
"Good. Then let's get started."
10 minutes later had a very bored-looking Sakura sitting in a viewing room, a laptop and monitor already set up and waiting for her. After her chat with the Director, they had escorted her to this room and were now watching her through the two-way mirror. An intercom crackled.
Interlacing her fingers, she cracked them before delving in. They hadn't told her anything about the test, just that she would be up against the members of the Cyber Ops team. Figuring out the objectives was apparently the first part of the test.
Her first order of business was to do a thorough scan of the computer. Since it was one they'd given her to use, they could have just as easily given her a faulty one or one with holes in its security. If they had given her a system with hidden vulnerabilities, what purpose would this serve for the test?
Once she thought about it, things began to click into place. If it was true, then they wanted to see if she had the skills to fill in the holes. But where did the cyber team fit in? They said she'd be up against them…so then maybe she had to defend her system and make sure they didn't exploit the weaknesses? With it all laid out, it seemed rather simple…almost too easy. There had to be something else.
The results of the scan confirmed her theory that they'd given her a system with weak security, if they could even be called defenses. Now that they were all identified, Sakura went in and built them up, adding her own versions of the code so that any types of attacks on the system would immediately be traced.
A moment later another screen popped up, having traced an attack on her defenses. Not one to play defense, she got to work on analyzing their own security, her mind already working to come up with a battle strategy. It seemed that another one of their team members was also attacking their system.
And there was the missing piece of the puzzle. The goal wasn't just to build the best defense, but to be able to also have the best offense simultaneously.
She smirked. Well that suited her just fine.
Sakura got to work on the other team member. If they were so focused on attacking their own team, then she'd take the opportunity while their attention was elsewhere. She noticed another doing the same.
It went on like this for over 2 hours, constantly repurposing her defenses while attempting to defeat the others. She had already managed to take down 3 of them.
An hour into the "game" she noticed one of them was testing out different areas of her security. They weren't outright attacking, more like poking and prodding to see what she had put up. Playing it that safe…it must be the team leader cataloging her strategies, a smart move on the FBI's part, she'd give them that. She let them be and focused on taking down the others.
Three hours in and two more members were down.
It was in the fourth hour of the game, when the pace had come to a standstill, that it happened. The previously observant leader had deemed it time to participate, and thus let it loose. Despite working furiously to defend against the attack, Sakura watched almost in awe of the absolute destruction that reigned. The game was over.
Sakura leaned back so that the chair was sitting on its hind legs. She brought her own up and let them rest on the table while she replayed the game in her head, going over all the strategies that worked and those that didn't.
A few minutes later Tsunade and Itachi walked in. Sakura merely turned her head slightly to glance at them, still mostly focused on her own thoughts. The team leader was a genius. They must have been writing the attack codes the entire time they were testing her defenses just so that they could completely override her system in the end. It actually surprised her that the FBI had such a ruthless member of their Cyber Ops team. Their strategy was completely different from the others, and for that she had to give them props.
Tsunade cleared her throat to grab Sakura's attention.
"From the reports we received from our team, I can conclude that you passed our test." Sakura smirked and gave a slight nod.
"Welcome to the team Haruno." Itachi remained silent behind the Director.
"According to all 6 members, you have exceptional skill not only with systems but also strategy and shifting strategies mid-play to adapt to the circumstances. Quite high praise coming from the entire team." Sakura pondered over this.
"So these 6 members that are part of your Cyber Ops team were the ones I was up against?"
"Yes." Sakura leaned her head back. Adopting what would later be called her thinking pose, she brought her two pointer fingers to rest against her lips, interlacing her hands and letting them rest against her chest.
"Interesting. Then I believe we have our first lead." Tsunade's eyebrow was back up.
"And why is that?"
Sakura turned her head. She caught and held the Uchiha's penetrating stare.
"Because not including myself, I counted 7."