(suggested by BB1123)
"Who the hell ate the last yogurt?" Sasuke demanded as he entered the room. The metal doors automatically slid shut behind him. Kakashi peered at him past the edge of his orange book before he silently resumed his reading with a little shake of his head. Sasuke's accusatory stare then flew to Naruto sitting at the navigation panel.
"…Was it the last?" Naruto tentatively responded.
"Wrong answer," remarked Kakashi before Sasuke picked up the nearest object (an ashtray) and flung it straight at Naruto's head. Naruto didn't duck fast enough and the glass dish hit him in the back of the skull.
"Ow, calm down, Prissypants. I'll buy you more yogurt when we land. Christ!" yelled Naruto as he rubbed the back of his abused head.
"Anyway, the Captain's up. He says we should all gather at the bridge for something important," Sasuke added with the same vicious look aimed at Naruto. Naruto glared right back.
But when Itachi arrived on the bridge, the bickering two got back to work. Kakashi didn't move from his seat but he did give a salute as Itachi made his way to his chair.
"Regarding that jewel we found last week, I've brought us to someone who can help," said Itachi. Naruto twisted his head to peer out one of the windows.
"Is that why we're out by Jupiter? I thought we were headed back to Mars after all this," remarked Naruto. Itachi nodded.
"There's someone out here we can talk to," replied Itachi. He punched in a long sequence on his keyboard. The interface flickered through different windows until it reached the communication program. Names and numbers scrolled past until it landed on one in particular. While Naruto watched this, Sasuke tilted his head to watch Callisto slowly spin past. The icy moon was as gray and bleak as it always was. There was a seedy bar and a few equally shady hotels on it but the fact that everyone had to walk around with oxygen tanks and heat-regulation suits to keep from dying made the tourist trade less than effective there. The only notable establishment on the moon was a large fueling station that pilots frequently used on their travel between inner and outer planets.
"Who the hell is living on Callisto that we have to talk to?" Sasuke muttered. As the webcam warmed up, Itachi shot him an amused look. He silently pointed at the windshield. Even Kakashi looked up from his book to follow the finger. Sasuke squinted until he could see the shape hovering in the darkness outside.
"Is that a ship? What's it doing orbiting a moon like that? Isn't that illegal without a permit?" Naruto gasped.
"Highly illegal. But I doubt law enforcement out here is strict," Kakashi drawled. The conversation was interrupted when the ship beeped to let them know that the call had connected. The transparent partition in front of the captain's control panel and chair glowed before an image appeared on it. It took a moment for the brightness level to adjust. Already bored, Naruto picked up the flying instruction manual and began lazily sifting through it. Sasuke crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back in his chair, turning away to face the windshield. When the colors on the screen normalized, it was clear that the camera on the opposite end was trained on a bed.
There were empty food containers pushed off to the sides next to the mattress. Clothes were strung up behind the bed. The view out the dirty window showed the same darkness of space. In the back corner was what appeared to be an old hoverboard with a fair number of scratches and dings. There was a growling noise accompanied by a flailing hand emerging from the sheets.
"Talk," a disembodied voice barked from somewhere on the bed.
"Oi, wake up. I've got something to ask you about," Itachi said. A sleepy grumble answered him. Very slowly, a head lifted from the tangle of pillows and comforter. But then it dropped back down with a soft thud. Itachi shook his head.
"What the hell do you want?" the man grunted.
"Don't forget that you owe me a favor. Now get up," Itachi sighed with impatience.
"Ah, I know that voice," a woman suddenly chimed in. Three extra pairs of eyes suddenly flitted to the screen. The image turned peach for a moment as a palm grabbed the camera lens to angle it more to the left. Then, when it focused, it revealed a woman with nothing but a sheet wrapped around her. There was an intricate tattoo of scattering flower petals and swirling shades of blue and green running down her left arm. Maybe it was the odd lighting of the room, but her hair was the most unusual shade of pink. Behind her was an open closet that overflowed with wrinkled clothing.
"Uchiha Itachi," she uttered in a near-purr. Itachi's jaw tightened.
"Haruno," he responded with clenched teeth.
"Who?" Naruto whispered from behind his manual.
"My brother's last partner," answered Sasuke in a low voice.
"Ah! You mean the one that ditched him and ran off with a bunch of money?" Naruto suddenly exclaimed, forgetting to be quiet in all his excitement. Sasuke let out a long sigh, pretending not to feel the power of his brother's glare on the side of his face.
"To be fair, I used part of that money to drink a toast to you," the woman interjected. She peered intently into the camera and ran her fingers through her long hair. When her arm moved, it pressed against her breast, creating a line of cleavage above the edge of the sheet. Naruto turned pink as he slowly pretended to be staring elsewhere. Sasuke cleared his throat.
"So, what the hell do you want, Itachi?" the man's voice growled from somewhere off-screen.
"I need a second opinion. How much do you think this thing could go for? We salvaged it a few days back and I don't trust the people who might be willing to buy it to name a price," Itachi said. With a few button presses, he sent an image of their cargo to the other ship. At this, Sakura's eyes widened. She suddenly shifted from her position on the bed, partially out of view of the camera.
"Hey, lend me that, will you?" she said. After some rustling, she scooted back in front of the camera, a silver scope in her hand. She held it up in front of her right eye, squinting the other one shut. Leaning in close, she examined the image being sent to her computer screen.
"Ah, hey. That's a big rock. I'd price that at maybe 10k? If it's not damaged, you might be able to milk it for about 12k," Sakura remarked. She then nudged the lump lying in bed beside her.
"Hey, what do you think?" she asked. There was a mumble in response.
"Useless," Sakura scoffed before turning back to the screen. She lowered the scope while a mischievous smile spread her lips.
"I'm assuming you called because you need more than a cursory consultation. If you're way out here, that means you're on your way to Europa. The people there aren't exactly known for their fair business," she said, wagging a finger at them.
"I'm asking him, not you," Itachi retorted.
"Pass," the man immediately said.
"I'll go," Sakura offered. The man sat up. A shaggy mane of tangled blonde hair covered his face.
"What?" he demanded.
"I said that I'll go, then. You told me you were a treasure hunter, not a lazy drunk," Sakura cheerfully said. She crawled off the opposite edge of the bed. Turning her back to the camera, she let the sheet drop and began picking up her clothes off the floor. Before Itachi even turned his furious gaze to the crew, all three men quickly averted their gazes.
"Haruno, what are you doing?" Itachi said in an impatient voice. There was a distinct snap as Sakura adjusted the straps of her bra. She pulled on her underwear and then shimmied into the tight black shorts she always wore. She cast a brief glance over her shoulder.
"Look, you need someone to make sure you don't get swindled and I want to get the hell out of here. Just open up when I go to dock, okay?" Sakura sighed. She then zipped up her sleeveless red top.
"I'd be more worried about getting swindled by you at this point," muttered Itachi.
"Flirting already?" she teased in response. She pulled on her black boots while fixing the camera with a knowing smile. Shaking his head, Itachi turned his chair away from the screen.
For some insane reason, when the ship received a signal requesting a docking position, Itachi waved for Naruto to proceed. With a few flipped switches, the bottom hatch of the ship opened to let the small red vehicle inside. Naruto monitored the usual airlock procedures on his screen while Sasuke turned to face his brother.
"I thought you said she ruins people's lives," Sasuke demanded.
"And?" said Itachi with a weary look.
"And you're letting her on our ship?" Sasuke continued in an incredulous tone. Itachi slumped back in his chair.
"Don't worry. She's not interested in any of you. Just… don't look into her eyes and you should be fine," warned Itachi. There was an ominous edge to his words. Naruto paled a little while Kakashi finally closed his orange book. Hooking a finger into the red scarf around his neck, Kakashi pulled the knit fabric up to cover the lower half of his face. And then he put his feet up on the console and resumed his reading of his book. Sasuke gave his brother an exasperated look before he turned back in his chair to face the front of the bridge.
The doors slid open and Sakura pranced in with the smell of flowery perfume. She lifted her sunglasses to the top of her head as she swept her gaze around the bridge. Seating herself on the arm of Itachi's chair, she pushed off with her feet, sending the chair spinning in a slow circle. Itachi slammed his foot down, jerking them to a stop.
"Good to see you too, Darling," she purred before she twisted around and planted herself straight in his lap. Draping her arms around his neck, Sakura flashed a coy smile.
"Don't even think about kissing me with that mouth," he flatly said without looking at her.
"Why? Jealous that it's been elsewhere?" teased Sakura. When Itachi slowly turned his stony gaze to her, she fluttered her eyelashes. After a tense but brief staring match, Itachi shoved her off his lap and got to his feet.
"Where you headed, Cap?" Naruto asked.
"Shut up," Itachi snapped before he strode off the bridge. The heavy metal doors slid shut behind him. They all sat staring at the metal doors for several seconds until Sakura clicked her tongue.
"That went better than expected," she sighed to herself. With a little grunt, she got to her feet and dusted off her backside. She examined her nails and then adjusted her hair before she realized that there were other people on the bridge with her. Eyebrows rising, Sakura turned to face the rest of the crew.
"Ah, so you're my replacements. Nice to meet you," Sakura said. Before anyone had time to respond, she put on her sunglasses and then pushed the button to open the door.
"Wait, where're you going?" Naruto demanded.
"To the kitchen. I haven't eaten all day. You have any yogurt?" Sakura simply answered. She missed the fact that Sasuke shot Naruto a glare.
The presence of a woman on the ship was an alien experience to the three crewmen. The captain seemed to deal with the problem with exasperation but he seemed powerless to make her leave. Her long legs were the main point of interest for quite some time until she grew fed up and punched Naruto in the face. After that, eyes stayed above her neck and that seemed to suit her just fine.
Sakura adjusted to her change of homes quickly in comparison. She was restless- constantly cooking up stir-fry in the kitchen while sneaking a cigarette or wandering around the ship looking for things to do. She dropped by the engine room and easily resolved a problem with the coolant without consulting the manual while Sasuke watched with amazement widening his eyes. When a nearby electrical storm scrambled the communication systems, Sakura pushed Naruto's hands off the keypad. She opened up the console instead and spent several minutes cutting wires and taping new connections together until the screens flickered to life again. She stayed far away from Kakashi, though. On the night she arrived, Kakashi whispered something in her ear and promptly received a knee in the groin. They hadn't spoken since.
As the weeks passed, the captain's anger bubbled down to something closer to irritation. The deal on Europa went well and they came away with a hefty profit. Part of that, however grudgingly, went into Sakura's bank account. Sakura was unfazed by the dirty looks Itachi sent her way. And despite his brother's warning, Sasuke found himself warming up to the woman very quickly.
"So you're a smuggler too?" asked Sasuke one afternoon as he closed the main power panel in the boiler room and leaned against it. He rubbed at a smudge of black grease on his cheek. Sakura, sitting on top of an old crate, smiled.
"Not exactly. I'm a dabbler. I kind of wander around picking up new trades and learning them as I go," Sakura responded with her cheek in her hand. Sasuke raised an eyebrow. He spun his wrench around once before pocketing it.
"Okay, well, if you had to define yourself in one job title, what would it be?" he tried again.
"A winner," answered Sakura with a smirk. Shaking his head, Sasuke chuckled. He turned around, flipping switches and checking monitors to make sure that the engine was running smoothly. Only when all the registers lit up green to say that the systems were healthy did Sasuke turn back to her.
"Why'd you break up with big bro anyway?" he questioned with a grunt as he shoved a particularly stubborn panel shut with his shoulder.
"Oh, you know, he was obsessed with finding your uncle and killing him for most of his life. But one day, he suddenly started talking about the future and stuff once all of that was over. I don't know. I was 20. I panicked. And then, a couple weeks later, I packed my things and left," Sakura said in a soft voice. But then her expression shifted to one of suspicion.
"By the way, if you ever tell him that, I'll kill you," she added with a glare. But Sasuke was already paling as he stared over her shoulder. Sucking in a deep breath, Sakura steeled herself.
"He's behind me," she slowly said. Sasuke nodded just once. Grimacing, Sakura looked over her shoulder to find Itachi standing in the doorway with a thunderstruck expression. A hiss escaped through her teeth as she looked around the room. When her eyes flickered up, they found the grate for the air vent directly above her. She got to her feet, snatched the screwdriver from Sasuke's pocket, and stood on the box to quickly unscrew the grate cover. It clanged noisily to the ground when she dropped it. With one pull, she hoisted herself up and then swung her legs up into the vent too. All the while, Itachi stood staring without any intention to stop her.
"…She's in the vents, Big Bro," Sasuke commented as he stared up into the dark rectangle she had disappeared into.
"Yeah," Itachi agreed.
"Has she done this before?" the younger brother went on to question.
"Yeah," Itachi sighed. Kicking the box aside, he strode out of the room, leaving Sasuke still staring up at the vent.
"What the hell…" Sasuke whispered to himself
Captain Uchiha spent the rest of the afternoon tracking Sakura through the hidden vents and service tunnels throughout the ship. He commandeered ("STOLE!" Naruto shouted after him.) Naruto's tracker and set it to detect life forms on the ship. He followed Sakura's movements through the vents, surprised by how well she remembered the layout after so many years had passed. At one point, she stopped moving and he began to wonder if the machine was malfunctioning. Then the smell of peanut wafted down from the nearest grate and he realized that she had stopped to have a snack. He burst out laughing.
Only when the ship clock hit 6 did Sakura peer out furtively past the grates before she removed it as quietly as she could. After another careful look around, she jumped down from the vent, finding herself somewhere near the cargo bay. She saw no sounds of people nearby and let out a sigh of relief just as she saw something moving very quickly toward her.
"You left because you thought I was going to ask you to marry me?" Itachi demanded while grabbing her wrist. When she struggled, he pushed her until her back hit the wall.
"Let go of me," she said in a shaking voice.
"Tell me the truth, Sakura. You told me it was because you were bored," he went on. At this, a steely look took over Sakura's face. Her lips pulled into a sneer.
"Oh, fuck you, Itachi! Governor's sons don't end up with smugglers. You think I didn't know?" she snapped. The startled expression on his face was somewhat satisfying to watch.
"Your friend told me everything that night we went to that bar on Mars. You and your brother are the missing sons of the Governor of Triton," scoffed Sakura.
"That has nothing-"
"It has everything to do with this! I grew up catching mutated rats for a living, Itachi. I spent three years flashing my tits to strangers in a sleezy little bar on Mars until I could save up enough to buy my own ship. I never had a future planned out for me so I had to make one. I've never let myself be thrown away before. And I sure as hell wasn't going to start with you," Sakura spat. She shoved his chest hard. But Itachi stood his ground.
Grabbing her shoulders, he pinned her against the wall. He matched the intensity of her stare.
"Then why did you come back?" he questioned.
"Because I missed your stupid face, okay? But this isn't going to work. It was wrong of me to come here," Sakura told him in a low, quavering voice. Pushing his hands aside, she started off in a brisk stride down the hall. It took a long moment, but his footsteps began clomping after her.
"Where are you going?" Itachi called after her. His own angry voice bounced around in loud echoes.
"Anywhere. Maybe I'll go stay with my friend on Ganymede. It doesn't matter. I just need to get away from you," Sakura retorted without slowing down. She knew without looking that Itachi had flinched at that. She soon made her way to the docking bay where her little red ship was waiting. It opened up to her after scanning her fingerprint and retinas. Her bag filled with her few possessions was already sitting in the passenger's seat. It had always sat in there, always waiting for her to leave at a moment's notice.
Itachi stood staring at her.
"Sakura," he said.
She leaned back in her seat with a heavy sigh. When she looked over at him, she had to steel herself.
"What?" she finally retorted.
"…What the hell are we doing?" Itachi inquired. A soft laugh left her at that. Both her hands came up to grasp the steering controls.
"Don't worry, Itachi. We'll meet again. We always do," Sakura said in a voice laced with warmth. With that, she pulled a lever. The glass roof of the cockpit descended to seal her in completely. She flipped switches and twisted buttons until the engine began to hum. The sound grew louder and louder before a voice crackled in over the intercom.
"Cap, we've got notice of an engine starting up in there. What's going on?" Naruto asked over the speakers. At this, Sakura's gaze fluttered to him again. There was no pleading in that look. She simply sat there, waiting for him to make a decision. He took a deep breath before making a decision.
"Nothing. Authorized take off. Release the locks," he yelled back.
Itachi stared at Sakura for a long time before he put his hands in his pockets and headed inside through the thick sliding doors. Once he was safely inside the hallway, he watched through the glass door as the floor of the bay suddenly dropped open. The small red craft hesitated before energy exploded out the rear jet and it smoothly fell through the opening. A loud beeping ensued as the doors began shutting so the bay could be pumped full of air again.
By the time the captain was back on the bridge, three pairs of curious eyes were on his every movement.
"She's gone," Sasuke guessed after a long time. Itachi sank into his chair without comment.
"Shame. I liked her," Naruto chirruped. Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"A glooming peace this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things," Kakashi suddenly recited. Itachi stared uncomprehendingly at him until the older man tugged his scarf down to reveal a sly smile. He pulled off the orange dust jacket to his book to reveal a more classic text.
"Romeo and Juliet? What the hell, I thought you were reading porn this whole time!" Naruto exclaimed.
"Seems like you're a pair of star-crossed lovers destined for tragedy, Itachi," Kakashi stated as he waved the book in front of his face.
"Well, she's crossing stars, alright," commented Sasuke as he glanced down at the scanners on the console. Attention turned to him.
"Looks like she's high-tailing her way straight out of the solar system," Sasuke observed as he followed the beeping red dot on the radar. Itachi's brow furrowed.
"What? No. She said she was going to Ganymede," Itachi said as he stood to look at the radar too.
There was a long pause before Kakashi closed his book with an odd sort of finality.
"Itachi… any chance you've changed the combination on the safe since the last time she was here?" the older man calmly questioned.
"Ah… crap," sighed Naruto.
Itachi shook his head as his younger brother launched into an infuriated tirade of insults. Glancing out toward the windshield, he watched the distant glow of her ship soaring through the darkness. For some odd reason, he felt a proud smile curl his mouth.
Thanks for all the prompts and reviews up until now. I've never done an anthology before but it was a genuinely fun experience. Hopefully I'll find the time to be able to start another one of these in the future.