The sun had been nothing but an orange hue, quickly fading in the far horizon, and the air was a cool tolerant breeze, as his teammates lay immobile on the ground.
He didn't spare them a second glance before he turned around and walked away. They were the ones who demanded that he takes their training seriously. They had insisted that he trains with them this one time, since it was their last week together before he makes the transition into Anbu.
He had agreed, as a form of experiment. He was always willing to test his strength, and while they weren't particularly strong, they had a unique set of skills. And he didn't mind giving them the opportunity to demonstrate them in full.
The training grounds were behind him now, as he walked home.
His mother would be finalizing dinner preparations by now, and Sasuke would be hanging by the door eagerly awaiting his brother, so as to start telling him everything about his first day of school.
He had a few minutes till he had to be back though.
And with that in mind, he decided to take an alternate route home. A longer one that he had been thinking about trying for a few days now, just in case something were to happen and he needed to use it.
With measured strides, and eyes that carefully studied his surroundings, he had walked. This route could easily be his alternate path. It had many thick bushes, and a myriad of hiding places along the way.
He filed this information carefully, before his instincts told him to stop.
The Uchiha heir did just that, coming to a complete stop, as he was fully aware of another presence in the area.
Striding slowly, he came to a stop at a clearing surrounded by four giant trees. The entire area was enshrouded in red flower petals, encasing the ground and filling the air with a marvelous scent as they wafted with the easy breeze.
Itachi's attention, though, was drawn to the girl sitting in the midst of it all.
She was leaning against a tree, her hair spilling down her back in a luscious light brown curtain that seemed to flow in just the same manner as the flowers were carried with the breeze.
Her bangs hid her eyes, but for some reason, he knew that her eyes were the same exact earthy shade of brown as her hair.
She was wearing a red flowing dress, matching the shade of the flowers, and as she sat leaning against the trunk of the giant tree, she had a book in her hand, and she was engrossed in reading it. On her face, an expression that bespoke of just how much she was enjoying herself.
Itachi, who wasn't used to being interested in anything, found it hard to tear his eyes away from the scene in front of him. It was ethereal, almost magical.
He was unable to clinically assess the reasons behind his interest, like he normally did with everything he came across. And so, in the interest of better understanding what was drawing him, he walked towards the girl.
As he did, he was aware that he was becoming part of this ethereal scene; it was like he was being drawn onto the canvas so as to forever share this space with that girl and those trees, as part of this very moment.
The girl didn't look up as he walked in, even though he was sure that she knew he was there. He made sure to make his presence known, so that she could object to it if she didn't wish for him to be there.
And he found himself sitting down right next to her, and leaning against the same tree trunk.
She didn't look up.
The girl was engrossed in her book. Turning page after page, while Itachi sat there beside her, provided with all the time he needed to think, study, analyze and arrive at the cause of his interest.
It was proving hard to concentrate on thinking, though, as for the first time in his life, Itachi felt completely relaxed, as his eyes took in the sight of the beautiful magical creature set against the backdrop of a stunning rosy sunset.
He closed his eyes, exasperated at the direction of his thoughts.
Several minutes passed. Or maybe several hours, Itachi wasn't really sure how long he sat there watching her. However, he knew that at some point, the girl spoke, her eyes still fixed on the words of her book.
"I am Reina." Her soft voice echoed, and he heard an innocence there, an innocence that made something inside him take up arms, hoping for nothing but to be able to protect her from everything and everyone.
"Itachi." He husked.
She smiled to her book.
"Itachi." She repeated in her forgiving tenor. "Such a strange name." She added, her smile still there.
He listened silently. He felt like he needed to watch her as carefully as possible, as if to study her.
Silence reigned again, as the girl returned her attention to her book.
Itachi still watched, silently wishing for a glance at the eyes that were reserved solely for the book in her lap. A pang of jealousy flashed across his soul, and he opted to act upon it.
"What are you reading?" He questioned.
"It's a fairytale. A story of a girl who finds her knight." She said with an adoring lilt to her voice.
"Do you wish to find your knight?" He questioned.
She blinked, her eyes finally leaving the book, as she turned her head towards Itachi.
He stilled completely.
Her eyes were the exact same shade he envisioned them to be and her face was a vision of sheer beauty.
Her warm brown eyes held his attention, as she tilted her head to the side allowing her long locks to cascade freely downwards only to be swept by the breeze.
She smiled, and he knew she was pondering his question.
"Yes." She eventually breathed. "I want to find my knight." Reina added with a happy smile.
Itachi watched her carefully, as he studied the impact her every little action had on him.
For the rest of the evening Itachi stayed by her side, observing her soundlessly as she read through her book.
It was the first time he ever missed dinner.
Itachi and Reina had a routine.
They didn't talk that much, but every day after he finished training, Itachi would take the long road home, and he would spend hours sitting by this girl's side as she read her way through a book.
She would always pause and tell him about what she was reading.
It was always about something fictional and utterly magical. Such things, that Itachi would never consider reading, yet he loved it when her lyrical voice painted him a picture of the world she loved so dearly.
The air was always light around her, and her presence seemed to add color to her surroundings, making everything more beautiful.
But what was most beautiful, to Itachi, was whenever he managed the right combination of words to get her to give him her attention and direct those clear orbs of hers his way.
Itachi dreamed of her eyes, and the more time he spent with her, the less he wished to understand what he was feeling. It didn't matter anymore. This was the only thing in his life that he wouldn't analyze and try to master. This was the only thing in his burdened life that he would enjoy.
One day, she had produced a little Bento box and gave it to him with a captivating smile.
"You said that you come here right after training. I thought you would like this." Her voice sang a shy melody.
Itachi nodded gratefully.
It was at times like that when he wished he was more expressive.
This was the only time that he hoped to become a little more like Shisui, so that he could thank her heartedly.
She didn't seem to mind his silence though; as she appeared to understand the language of his eyes. She smiled at him again, as if to say: 'you're welcome'. And she went back to her book.
At another day she had looked at him, and said, "You're becoming an Anbu captain?" She repeated what he said with a happy smile. "This is amazing. I'm not even a Chunin yet and we're almost the same age. You should be very proud of yourself."
He thought about her words, finding an unusual ring to them. She had said that he should be proud of himself. And he never really took the time to think about pride. His clan's pride maybe, but never his own. He should be proud, and happy with himself, is what she was saying. To Itachi's keen mind, this was a concept worth exploring.
When he passed the Anbu exam, he had walked over to where she was before going home to inform his parents. And when he watched her excitedly fold her book and beam at him with incredible pride in her eyes, he dropped to his knees next to her and placed a chaste kiss on her lips.
She froze, brown eyes wide as they looked at nothing but him and he hoped to keep those eyes on him for the rest of his life.
Whenever they were together, she would talk to him about everything. About her life, her home, her hopes and dreams and about her books. He found this fascinating. The way she thought and the way she lived were nothing like the way he thought and lived. And every time they were together she would issue him an invitation into a world that wasn't his own, a world that was all the more enthralling nonetheless.
Most of the time he wouldn't reply to her words, or comment on her stories. Yet, he was grateful that she continued to talk to him, knowing fully well that he was happy to listen.
She added something to his life. Something that he didn't even know was missing.
This is why, on that day when he could find her no more, he vowed to do everything in his power to bring her back. He would sacrifice his life if that is what it took to save her.
He eventually got her back, knowing fully well that he got to her just in time.
Itachi stayed by her bedside for days. He didn't move, and if it weren't for Shisui, he wouldn't have eaten or drank either. He was just content sitting there by her bedside and waiting patiently for her eyes to greet him once more.
When she eventually opened her eyes, his relief turned into a stabbing pain in his chest, when she shied away from his touch. It was as if she was scared of him.
He knew she had suffered a lot, and he knew that it was him who caused her to get caught in the cross fire. Yet, he wished that she could see how much he cared about her.
But for the first time, she couldn't understand the language of his soul.
And so he said it out loud. He told her that he cared and that from this day on out he would protect her with all his might, and never allow anything to touch her again. And he told her he was so very sorry.
In response, he watched the warm pools of brown freeze over and turn to steel. She had told him to go, to leave her be. She had demanded to never see him again in her life.
And he had complied, vowing to never allow himself to feel that way again. He vowed to keep everyone at bay, for if he allows them close, not only will he get hurt, but so will they. And as time passed, he made a new promise. He pledged to never allow his brother to go through the same things he had. His brother would be saved from all the pain and when he eventually allowed him to have a girlfriend, he would make sure that she was strong enough to stand by his side and never leave him.
And so Itachi pushed everyone away from both him and his brother, knowing that when the danger subsides he would allow Sasuke to have someone. But he also knew that it was almost impossible for him to do the same.
Crouching on a tree branch, Itachi masterfully veiled his presence as he watched.
It was another clearing, carpeted with flowers. This time the flowers were pink.
And this time, no one read; they fought.
The pink haired subject of his interest was training with her teammates.
And Itachi couldn't help but watch.
This girl was the exact opposite of the one he once loved.
Where Reina was subdued, Sakura was unleashed. Where Reina was shy, Sakura was outspoken. Where Reina was timid, Sakura was opinionated.
Reina always held onto her books, always lived in a world of her own and always wished for the knight to save her. This is why when she came into contact with real danger, she collapsed to her knees. And demanded that Itachi leaves her, since his continued presence in her life might put her in even more danger, a risk that she would never take.
While, Sakura… Well, she was different.
She didn't hold onto a book, she held onto her teammates. Her dreams were of the safety of her loved ones and the prosperity of her country. She trusted easily, and gave wholeheartedly. She would eagerly part with her very last remnant of strength to heal an injured patient. And she would gladly sacrifice her life, to save those she loved.
Where Reina ran, Sakura stood and fought.
When Itachi first met her, he thought she was insane and unnecessarily stubborn for risking her life by going up against him just to give his brother a chance at freedom.
But in his heart he admired her for it and he also envied his brother for this woman who just wouldn't back down.
As time passed, he found himself comparing her to Reina even more.
Reina would talk to him while he listened. But Sakura always asked him questions, and made sure he answered. She seemed eager to get to know him more, and to understand him better.
Like Reina, Sakura too knew how to read his eyes and understand what he refrains from saying. But unlike Reina, Sakura was never intimidated by him, even though he was much stronger than she was, never mind being actively trying to intimidate her.
Despite his efforts, she didn't seem to hate him. She seemed relaxed around him and she allowed him to get close to her. He had danced with her, because he wanted to, even though he was supposed to be carrying out a plan. At times he thought of nothing but her, wanted nothing but her.
As a result, he over did it and he pushed her too far.
On that day in his house, he didn't plan on trying to kiss her, he didn't plan on dancing with her or on holding her as close as he did. But for the first time in a very long time, he felt the urge to no longer think and plan and to just enjoy her presence.
And that was when he pushed her too far. She had thought him to be playing her, while that day after she pushed him away and ran he realized that he was in love. He never thought it could happen again. He actually vowed to disallow it. But regardless of what he wanted, he had fallen for that girl who is the exact opposite of Reina.
When she accepted to face Madara, he had to take a second and admire her strength. Sakura was smart enough to understand what she was getting herself into, yet she didn't hesitate for a second. She had said that she would do anything to stop the man from hurting those she loved, and she had added his name alongside his brother's as a person she wished to protect.
She hadn't meant to say that out loud, yet it slipped, and the blush that graced her gorgeous face only highlighted her sincerity.
It was then that he realized that she was the one for him. And it was then that he saw that Reina truly wasn't.
While he wanted to protect Reina, Sakura wanted to protect him.
And now, as he watched her spar with her two boys, he was a hundred percent certain that he had found his match. His partner.
He would not only protect her with his life, but he would also make sure to make her as powerful as she wanted to be, for he wished to nourish that stubbornness and strength that were so uniquely hers.
Itachi closed his eyes as Sakura parried an attack from his foolish little brother.
He drifted back to the many times Sakura had faced danger, and yet didn't flinch.
Unlike Reina, when Sakura survived Madara, she didn't break. Her eyes were proud, even when her body was weak and he knew that she would have preferred dying to living without saving those she loved.
He smiled to himself, as he watched her aim a fist at the ground and shake it to the very core. His eyes traced her perfectly executed attack, as she kicked the blonde across the clearing and aimed him perfectly at Sasuke.
Watching his brother tumble to the floor. Itachi's eyes gleamed with admiration.
This perfect little creature was his one true love, and he would make sure that she knows it and never forgets it.
He smirked to himself, as he watched the blonde demand a rematch, while both Sakura and Sasuke made their way towards the locker areas.
Today would be the day he finally claims her as his.
It had been a month since he declared his love for her.
She had accepted his feelings, and the way she reacted to him made it crystal clear that she felt the same.
Itachi couldn't remember ever being happier than that moment when she so impishly told him that he would have to "kidnap her".
And kidnap her he will.
His eyes gleamed with anticipation as he abandoned the tree branch and stalked after her.
She had demanded that they wait before getting more intimate. He understood her trepidation; after all, they barely knew each other.
And so, they gave it one month.
And today, marked the end of that month.
Today, he would prove to her just how much he loved her.
He wasn't good with the words, and so he would prove it with actions, as he worships her the way she deserved to be worshipped.
Sakura sighed contentedly, as she walked towards the Women's Locker rooms.
She just loved the rush of training.
It allowed her to completely let loose and be herself.
A few acts could be this liberating.
*I could think of one act that could be more liberating.* Inner said with a lecherous smile.
As if echoing Inner's words, Itachi suddenly appeared in front of Sakura, and before she could react, she had to gulp at the expression on his face.
Her boyfriend of one month meant business, and she didn't need a translator to understand the feral look now gracing his beautiful face.
He pinned her to the wall behind her, shifting his body so that she could feel him, all of him, as his lips claimed hers, demanding and completely unwavering.
She held on to his now familiar figure, and marveled at how her self control quickly unraveled under his domineering touch. She wanted him, she wanted nothing but him.
A second later he pulled away, but kept her trapped.
She pouted and gave him a disapproving look for pulling away so quickly.
He answered her with a warm chuckle. One that she was becoming accustomed to hearing, but never accustomed to the impact it has on her.
She grinned, and stood on the tips of her toes, initiating her own kiss.
He gave in to her and let her take the lead for a few seconds.
But then the intensity returned building in between them, as he tilted her head upwards and deepened the kiss, while Sakura involuntarily arched her body into his.
Again, he pulled back.
"Why?" She hissed despite herself.
He grinned, brimming with masculine pride.
"Don't be impatient, Sakura." He advised with a teasing tenor.
"Hey, who are you calling impatient." She said, glaring at him.
"I am even more impatient than you are." His controlled lilting tenor echoed, husky and hypnotizing.
She gave him a dubious look.
"Tonight, Sakura, I will show you how impatient I am. If I allow myself to go any further now, I am afraid I won't be able to stop." He intoned, leaning close to her so as to speak directly in her ear.
Biting her ear and causing her to arch her back again, and hold onto him, he spoke, "Tonight, Sakura." He added and it was a promise, a promise of much more than just a night of passion.
Sakura smiled, and drew in a calming breath.
He drew back completely and scanned her figure.
"I will wait here as you change." He intoned.
Sakura gave him a smile, and surprised him by a quick peck on the cheek before she raced towards the locker rooms.
He watched her retreating form with a relaxed look on his face.
He was happy.
They walked to Itachi's house, side by side.
She had asked him about his day.
And he had told her that he spent it stalking her.
She gave a musical laugh in response, one that he was adamant on hearing all the time.
He then offered to train her, since she was thinking about taking the Anbu exam.
She gave him a hearty smile in response, and told him that that would be great.
He nodded and she grinned.
Their hands lightly touching as they walked side by side.
The second they approached Itachi's house, Sakura heard Shisui's voice.
"You need to go." His voice was firm and unyielding. And Sakura knew that when Shisui used such voice, something was very very wrong.
Glancing over towards him as they approached the door, Sakura saw that he was talking to a woman. The fact that Shisui would order a woman to leave was all the more bizarre.
The second Sakura and Itachi crossed the front gate, the woman turned around.
She was gorgeous.
Almost Sakura's height, with long brown hair and warm chocolate colored eyes. A vision in a pink flowy skirt and a small white shirt.
She smiled at them.
No, she wasn't smiling at them. *She's smiling at him.* Sakura realized.
"Reina." Itachi's voice echoed.
Sakura stiffened completely as the gorgeous woman made her way over to them.
"Itachi." Her soft voice echoed, happy and loving.
Glancing over at Itachi, Sakura found an unreadable expression on his face as he watched Reina come to a stop right in front of him.
"I tried to get her to leave, little cousin." Shisui said, almost apologetically. His apologetic look, however, was aimed more at Sakura than at Itachi.
Sakura's heart constricted.
"I missed you." The divine creature intoned, having eyes only for Itachi.
He didn't speak, merely eyeing her with his impenetrable mask firmly in place.
"Can we talk?" She questioned hopefully, seemingly seeing right through his impassiveness.
"Hn." He replied, and the woman beamed walking towards the door to Itachi's apartment.
Sakura was frozen as she prepared to watch Itachi walk after his ex-girlfriend. However, she was shocked when she felt his warm hand encase hers.
He didn't look her way, yet he drew her gently so that she would walk with him towards the door, hand in hand.
Her heart fluttered. Even more so when the other woman who had stopped in front of the door turned around and saw their hands intertwined, her eyes quickly darting to Sakura's face, as if she was just realizing that she was there.
They walked in, and Reina followed, as Shisui excused himself with an, "I'm leaving now. Bye little cousin, bye little kitten."
Once inside, Itachi led them to one of his living rooms, before turning to face Reina. He released Sakura's hand and spoke, "Reina, this is Sakura. My girlfriend, and future wife." He intoned.
Sakura saw the woman's features darken. She was shocked and devastated in equal measures.
"Oh." She said, before pausing for a second to collect her thoughts. "I didn't know that." She said with a half-hearted smile. "I heard about you finally revealing Madara for what he really is. I came to congratulate you for that. I knew you could do it." She finished, voice restrained.
"Thank you, Reina." He said, and he seemed to be thanking her for a lot more than what she said.
She nodded, and Sakura could tell that the woman was bravely fighting back tears.
"I'll give you two some time." Sakura declared, preparing to walk towards the kitchen and give them some space.
But Itachi's hand wrapped around her arm, stopping her in place.
"This won't be necessary, Sakura." He said in a warm tone, his eyes fixed on hers as he gave her a reassuring smile.
Reina smiled sadly, eyes darting between Itachi and Sakura.
"I am glad." She said, bringing their attention back to her. "I am glad you found someone that makes you happy." She added with a genuine smile.
Itachi nodded, and smiled at her.
"Thank you." Sakura intoned.
The woman nodded, before turning around and walking away.
Sakura watched her leave.
"She's beautiful." She declared.
"You are perfect." Itachi's voice echoed, as he drew her in so that her back was resting against his chest. "I love you." He whispered, as his arms enveloped her.
Sakura smiled, and a happy tear almost escaped her eyes, as she leaned back into the security of his arms.
"I love you too." She said it for the first time. She was happy she did.
She could hear Itachi's smile, as he leaned very close, so his lips were caressing her ear as he spoke.
"Prove it." His husky voice intoned challengingly, and a shiver of anticipation ran through her body, as he lifted her up into his arms, and started walking up the staircase.
"W-wait…." She stuttered, he was moving way too fast.
"Never again, Sakura. I won't wait again." Itachi declared.
Images of silken dark sheets filled her mind, as she watched her inner self pass out.
"I love you."