Sakura sat in the dark. Her cheeks felt wet. A hand wiped at it bitterly. She hadn't even realised she was crying. A hand threw her cream prized possession across the room, in a fit of anger.
She should be allowed to grieve. It had been so long since she had last seen his face; the beautiful onyx eyes that bleed to a deep crimson. Did he still remember his promises to her? That question often ran through her thoughts nowadays.
Jumping through the trees at a leisurely pace, Itachi rubbed at his eyes tiredly. He had just completed his mission. His route to the Uchiha Compound passed directly through the forest. The chirps of the waking birds and small scuffles of animals were nearly enough to lull him to sleep. He thanked his training that he could still keep his eyes open. From somewhere nearby his ears caught a new sound.
The sound was muffled, coming out in small hiccups. At first he thought it an animal, but as he paused to further investigate it dawned on him. It was a small child's tears. As he landed on the dank ground, his suspicions were confirmed. Curled beneath the trunk of a tree was a small girl. Her hair shone starkly in the morning light, the soft blossom pink cascading gently in the breeze.
Snapping from his reverie, he pondered why the girl was there. In fact, he noted, it shouldn't be possible for a child to get all the way out to the forest by themselves. Had someone left her here?
Though he approached her, the girl made no move to look up. Seemingly, she was totally ignorant of his presence. He reached out his calloused hand and brushed it against her shoulder. In her surprise, she pushed herself backwards, head hitting the tree.
The teenager crouched down to the girl's level, decidedly not commenting on her accident. With a gentle smile he outstretched his hand, unknowingly radiating the aura of a prince. "Miss, why are you here all by yourself? Are you lost?"
The girl's hand moved to rub at the lump forming on her skull.
Itachi's own hand faulted when she looked up at him. Her eyes sparkled with a brilliant radiance, the jade tint causing him to emit a small breath of shock. He snapped back to attention as the small mouth took a breath. The boy watched on as she started to blush. To his amusement, he found her stuttering as she tried to form words.
"Eh? H-How'd you..? Ah! I'm, ano... G-gomen!" through her stuttering, she pulled her head low into as much of a bow as she could manage from her position. She took a deep breath before looking up again, her resolution gleaming. "I'm not lost. I'm out here... So that my tormentors wouldn't find me and hurt me again."
His stomach dropped slightly. What did she mean by tormentors? In fact, who even used that word? He offered her another smile and tilted his head. "Then at least tell me your name. I'm Itachi by the way." Perhaps if she told him her name he could take her back to her parents.
"Sakura, Haruno Sakura. Please, don't take me back to my parents though. They'll just beat me again. No, it'll be worse this time, after all since I'm late, it'll probably be worse- especially if you tell them that I was trying to run away from home," the girl seemed near hyperventilating.
Itachi wondered if he could be charged with her fainting from a hyperventilation attack. Somehow she had been able to predict his thought process. Her words played through his mind. "Are your parents your... tormentors?" It felt funny using the word tormentors like that, but he sucked it up for the sake of finding out if it was indeed her parents.
Sakura shook her head, tresses of pink whipping behind her in her hurry. He found himself being surprised a lot by this girl, it seemed. "No, they just like to 'discipline' me. Or at least, that's what they say." She paused, and her eyes again emitted a sadness that he hadn't seen on many children. "My tormentors are a group of kids my age. Plus a few adults, too. Every day, they come to find me and beat me up."
The boy's eyes hardened. He couldn't fathom why people would be beating up a sweet innocent girl like this. What reason do they have? "Why on earth do they beat you?" he exclaimed
At his question, her eyes darkened and she lowered her head. "Apparently it's because I have an abnormally large forehead... and because I'm weak." She sniffed sadly, and her voice wavered. "And... 'Cause I have no friends."
Upon seeing her face his heart thumped. Her eyes were scrunched closed as she suppressed tears, and her lips quivered with remorse. Almost automatically, his arms stretched out to pull her into a hug. She was unbelievably soft. Her small body felt like a mere teddy bear in his arms. He realised then, that perhaps he didn't want to let her go. He tightened his arms around the girl. Smiling sadly, he watched her break down in his arms.
After she'd calmed, he pulled her up to face him. He looked her in the eyes. "Sakura, I'll be your friend no matter what happens, or where I go. I'll be your friend, I promise."
Walking up to the door, Sakura raised her hand to the screen and gave it two soft raps. A door slid open to reveal Mikoto Uchiha. A pink apron was wrapped around her waist and in her hand she held a bowl of mixture. "Hello dear, you're here to see Itachi right?"
Mikoto turned around and beckoned for Sakura to follow. Stopping at the hallways entrance, Mikoto cupped a hand to her mouth. "Itachi-honey, Sakura's here to see you."
Sounds of shuffling and a muffled crash were head, and the two females shared a laugh. The door opened and Itachi appeared, woven basket in hand.
"Saku-chan. Would you like to go for a walk?"
Grinning she replied, incorporating a freshly made nickname. "Of course Ita-kun."
"Then follow me!"
Mikoto closed the door behind them with a wide smile. "Sakura-dear, Happy Birthday."
Sakura followed Itachi down a forest path, wondering how on earth his Mother had known. "Ita-kun, how did Mikoto-san know it was my Birthday?"
They'd arrived at a small hill when Itachi chuckled amiably.
"I told her of course."
Reaching into the basket he had carried with him, he pulled out a rug and some food, which he laid out across the ground.
Extravagantly, he extended a hand to her in a flourish. "Please take a seat Miss. Itachi Uchiha at your service." Eyes sparkling, he picked her up only to settle her on his lap. Hand reaching for the basket a final time, he procured a small object and offered it to her.
Sakura took the object from him and examined it. To her shock it was a small bear; it was cream, with pink ears and paws. In its hands it held a small heart, and she noticed writing there. It was a note. She pulled it closer and gasped. A small symbol was engraved there. "Aishitteru".
She pulled Itachi into a tight hug. He rested his head on top of hers with a soft smile reserved for her alone.
"Happy birthday, my cherry blossom."
With light footsteps, a now teenage Sakura ran up the steps to her house. Upon reaching her room, she collapsed on top of her bed, exhaustion eminent after her training. To her surprise, she sensed Itachi at her window, and immediately unlocked it with a click. Nearly as soon as she had done so, he collapsed upon her with a grunt. As she peered at him, her eyes widened in surprise and shock. His body was scratched and bruised, clothes torn and stained red. Pulling him inside, she set him down on top of her bed. Hesitating, she set to work stripping him of his vest, top and trousers. Hands glowing a soft green she set to healing his wounds, blushing a bright crimson as she did so. Though she had thought him to have fainted by this point, he sat up, ignoring her pleas to lie back down.
"Sakura. I have to leave the village. You won't see me for a long time, but I promise I'll come back Sakura. I promise."
She stared at him in shock and resignation. She couldn't help believe him. Ironically, this strong show of emotion would be the last Itachi would display for years.
"Goodbye Sakura." He leaned down and kissed her. Their first kiss. His lips were softer than his velvet hair, and they caressed her like a lover of a thousand years. The next moment he was gone.
Her body convulsed with suppressed tears. She cried on in silence for what seemed an eternity, before her instinct cried in warning. Shakily, she got into a defensive stance, though she could see nothing in the dark, her vision blurred as it was. A kunai clutched in her right hand. A deep velvety voice rang out and without her vision she knew his identity. The kunai fell to the ground in a clatter.
He embraced her in his arms. "I promised I'd come back Sakura-koi. Sakura, I love you."
A/N Thanks for reading!