notes: Aaand I'm back with the next chapter! This didn't take months luckily; just had to get myself to sit down and actually type it up since I already had everything written!

This chapter is pretty short, just letting you guys know. The next one should be longer though!

Thank you all for welcoming me back and leaving such lovely reviews!

Also, from here on, Madara will begin to come into play. I mentioned this back in the first few chapters, but I'll reiterate here. I'll be using my own version of Tobi/Madara because the whole Obito thing is just too complicated for this story and doesn't fit with what I want to happen.

Well, enjoy!

See you at the bottom.


Sugar Cube

-Chapter Eight-

The Truth Hurts


November 18, 2:45 PM

Sakura's hands froze in their place on Itachi's forehead as she, out of habit, let her chakra fan out and check the rest of his body. She frowned a bit, pausing her healing for a moment to more firmly focus on what she'd found. She gasped softly and met his gaze as he looked up at her.

"Your eyes..." She trailed off and he narrowed his gaze at her.

"I do not need your pi-"

She interrupted him with a hiss, "You overzealous idiot," and grabbed his face to pull him closer as her hands glowed a deeper shade of green. "Keeping your Sharingan activated all the time only worsens the damage done to your eyes. You're nearly fucking blind Uchiha! Kami, what is with you men - thinking you can just keep your injuries a secret? You should have had a medic check you ages ago. Any longer and you'd be blind as a bat!"

Itachi regarded her coolly, inwardly a little shocked as he felt a bit of the pressure behind his eyes be relieved.

"Are you quite done?"

"Hell no. I'm going to keep nagging you until you get it through your thick skull that you aren't invincible or indestructible." She scowled down at him and adjusted her hand placement so that her fingertips were gently pressing the bone surrounding his eye sockets. "You're lucky I know what to do. Kakashi-sensei ha-"

She stopped short and her mouth snapped shut. She felt her chest tighten and she pressed her lips together stubbornly. She silently began the painfully slow process of repairing the damage done to Itachi's eyes for a few minutes before sighing.

"It will take a while, but I should be able to heal most of it. But I can only work for short periods of time; too much at once could just add to the damage." She sent him a serious look, fully descended into her medic-mode. "Every day. Half an hour or so. You come to me or I find you and pin you down. Understood?"

He was silent but she took his slow blink and slight head-tilt as a confirmation.

She grinned at him and went back to work, her own eyes closing as she focused on her task at hand.

It was some time towards the end of the half hour, as she sat back, a big chunk of her chakra and energy missing, that he spoke again.

"Thank you."


When Sakura reentered the living room, she was immediately tackled to the ground by Tobi, who pawed at her face and shoulders as he made a strangled sort of whiny, gurgling sound.

"You're okay!" he exclaimed, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her face. "Sakura-chan was gone for so long! Tobi thought Itachi-san had killed you."

Sakura blanched and attempted to coax Tobi into letting her go. "I'm fine, Tobi. Really!"

But he had firmly latched onto her and refused to release her.

Fortunately, Hidan was quick to grab Tobi by the back of his shirt and toss him off of her. Sakura sat up and took Deidara's offered hand, making a face at him as the mouth licked her palm.

"Seriously, though." Hidan said, crossing his arms and scowling at her. "What took so fucking long?"

"Yeah, un. That was a lot of time to heal a headache." Deidara added, shooting Itachi a glare as he appeared in the doorway. Kisame sent the Uchiha a raised eyebrow from his place on one of the recliners but didn't say anything.

Sakura huffed and made her way to the couch, plopping down into the seat. "He needed a checkup," she answered simply, massaging her still-sore wrist. "As a matter of face, you all do. Who knows what secret injuries or diseases you guys might have."

They all seemed to shuffle nervously and Sakura pursed her lips. Why did guys hate getting checked by medics so much?

"Calm down, calm down." she said with a sigh, "Lucky for you four, I'm too tired at the moment to force you to sit still or check you over." She leaned back and let her eyes close, one cracking open when Tobi spoke.

"Why are you tired, Sakura-chan? Did you not get enough sleep last night?"

She grimaced and tried to come up with a good enough excuse. That fight with Itachi had exhausted her, both physically and mentally, but she couldn't tell them about that.

"I, er-"

"We sparred." Itachi interjected suddenly, face blank as they all looked over to him in shock. She felt her face heat up as he met her eye and spoke once more before falling silent.

"Haruno-san is a very formidable opponent."

It was awkwardly quiet in the room until Hidan broke the silence, moving to stand next to Sakura, beside the couch.

"I was wondering about those bruises on your neck." he growled, glaring darkly at Itachi.

Sakura's hand darted to her throat as she realized that she must have forgotten to heal herself there. Deidara was soon crouched down in front of her, moving her hand away to inspect the bruises. He touched them tenderly, frowning as she flinched slightly, and shot the nonchalant Uchiha a glower.

"What the hell, un? Were you choking her?"

Kisame sent his partner a very chiding look and Sakura was highly surprised to see something flash through Itachi's eyes briefly.


But, before anyone could say or do anything, she attempted to console them.

"Guys, guys. It's okay. Really. Look." She put a hand to her neck and quickly healed the bruises with what little chakra she had reserved, smiling weakly. "See? All better. It's no big deal."

They didn't seem very convinced so Sakura sighed and stood, brushing past them to get to the doorway.

"I'm going to take a nap." she muttered before pausing, hand on the doorframe as she looked over her shoulder at the men, emerald eyes narrowed.

"And, just to remind you all, I'm fully capable of taking care of myself - I'm sick and tired of people treating me like I can't."

And, with that, she left for her room.


They were all staring at Itachi, watching him with expressions varying from annoyance, exasperation, and anger.

He simply stood there, expression blank.

"I was simply testing her and her abilities." he deadpanned, eyes closed nonchalantly.

"Bullshit." Hidan growled, "You've had it out for Pinky ever since she got here."

Itachi ignored him and crossed his arms. "I was only doing what would benefit the organization. If Haruno-san could not even decently hold her own against myself in a spar, she would not be of much use to the Akatsuki."

He fell silent once more, refusing to speak again even once they started confronting him.

"Do you have any idea how exhausted she must have been, un?" Deidara demanded, eyes narrowed at the Uchiha. "In the last four days, she's fought and beaten both Kisame and Hidan, healed their asses, did some other healing on the side, traveled from Ame to here, put up with us for an entire night of bullshit, and probably a whole bunch of other crap beforehand." He pursed his lips and brushed his bangs out of his eye. "Give her a break, un. She deserves to rest without you bothering her."

Something akin to surprise flashed through Itachi's eyes but no one noticed.

Kisame was about to add in his two-sense when Tobi spoke, the temperature almost dropping in the room as they all tensed at the sound of his now much deeper and serious voice.


They all fell silent, very nearly holding their breaths.

"Itachi-san was right to test the girl. The whole point of these two weeks is to test Haruno-san and determine if she is worthy of joining the Akatsuki." His head turned to face Hidan and Deidara, a flash of red appearing within the eyehole of the mask.

"And you two," they stiffened, "Stop babying her. Haruno-san is right; she's perfectly capable of taking care of herself."

He paused and chuckled before the heavy atmosphere in the room quickly dispersed. Tobi shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck.

"Mm, Tobi's head hurts."

And they all gave a collective, internal sigh of relief, falling into silence for a while.

However, about a half hour later, their attention was drawn to the sound of the front door slamming shut and the muffled thud of a body hitting the floor. The five rushed to the source, stopping short at the sight of Kakuzu slumped against the door, bloody wounds covering his body.

Before anyone could react, Sakura was suddenly there, pushing past them to get to Kakuzu, a serious yet worried look on her face. She instantly knelt down beside him, hands glowing green as she started barking orders at the men.

Once they overcame their initial shock, they quickly went about doing as she demanded.

She slung the unconscious Kakuzu's arm over her shoulders and heaved him to his feet, dragging him to the living room as her expression grew grim.


November 18, 10:15 AM

Naruto refused to believe them.

They were wrong.

They were lying.

She couldn't have left.

He was at her apartment and unlocking the door with the spare key she'd given him before he even realized he'd left the Hokage Tower.

He'd conduct his own investigation and find the culprit that had taken her.

He might not have such a heightened sense of smell like the Inuzuka's but he knew Sakura-chan's scent and would be able to tell if anyone else had been in her apartment. But, as Naruto searched, desperately trying to find some sort of clue, nothing seemed to stand out. Nothing was out of place, besides the empty cabinets, and he was left wondering what sort of cunning nin had been able to take Sakura-chan by surprise and leave no trace of their presence.

It wasn't until he'd entered her bedroom that he felt his heart drop.

Only one thing drew in his attention.

The old photograph of Team 7 from back when they were gennin.

The picture that she cherished so much.

Lying face down on teh table.

Not knocked over; he could tell.

Placed face down.

He knew, then and there, what it meant.

And, even as he cried out in anguish, he still couldn't believe that she'd left.


notes: Partially the reason this chapter is so short (really, really short compared to my normal chapters wow I'm sorry you guys) is because I wanted to leave you guys with that little cliffhanger, ahahahaaa. Next chapter will most likely be longer though!

I don't think Naruto will be showing back up for a while. He might, but I'm not entirely certain.

I'm...not all that content with this chapter. But I owed you guys an update and I've had this sitting in a journal for months.

I think there was something else I wanted to say here but my brain's deciding that it doesn't want to fully cooperate right now so I'll just leave you guys with this.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter! I'll see you next time.

Stay lovely, my friends.