|Naruto FanFictions - Flowers Grow
Name - Flowers Grow
Author - La Editor
She thinks, today, she will tell him that she absolutely, without a doubt, despises him. Because it’s not fair, never was fair, that this all fucking happened, that it wasn’t his fault in the first place, which was so goddamned unfair because if everything had just turned out the way it was supposed to –
And then Sakura is ashamed of herself. Horribly, disgustingly ashamed of being so terribly selfish.
Selfish for wishing that it was his fault.
Selfish for wishing that everything had turned out the way she wanted it to.
So terribly, terribly selfish.
Sakura’s pale feet, with the slightest tinge of zori sandal tan, touch her cold wooden floor, sending a dull spark of ice up her legs that die after rushing through to her knees. The floor seems even colder with that beautiful moonlight, that painfully beautiful moonlight, coating it like a light blanket. The cold, pale light comes from the window, and when she looks out, she sees Konoha.
Home. Love. Joy.
“Yeah, right,” she mutters under her breath, and it is five o’clock in the morning and she shuffles to her little cold bathroom to let a cold shower do its job.
Her first thought when waking up was so depressingly morbid that Sakura tries to block it out, but memories flood and the dam breaks – like it was made of toothpicks –
And Sakura wonders, and her reason plays devil’s advocate against herself (which totally sucks, because she wishes she were one of the normal people who could completely immerse themselves in their own reason through and through), and she finds the real antagonist, and can’t help but wonder why someone would screw up their own mind as totally and completely and Orochimaru did.
Because if it weren’t for him, she would have a brother back.
Not a lover. No. Never that. Sasuke could never have been that, that which she so desperately wished for in ignorant youth.
No. Just like Naruto, the brother she never had.
But unlike Naruto, she muses as the shower turns off, the brother she never would have. She tries not to think on it too hard as she prepares herself for the upcoming day.
It is six o’clock, and as she leaves, she quietly pushes down the picture of Team 7 from all those years ago, in half-hearted hopes that it will leave her alone for the day.
The words are on her lips, and she wants to say them.
The shame floods back, and she opens the door and only says, “Good morning.”
She doesn’t look into Itachi Uchiha’s eyes today, and occupies her own with the clipboard she is currently using as a lifeline to what seems like a time long since past.
He says nothing.
Her wit and self-confidence come flooding back to push down that shame, and she is Sakura Haruno once more, apprentice to the Godaime, powerful medic with a temper to boot.
“You’re talkative today,” she remarks to the criminal. He doesn’t respond.
Being both guard and medic to Itachi Uchiha, eight days and counting, really isn’t the idea of her dream job.
Then again, being a medic in general isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either.
She absently wonders when she became so bitter, but brushes the uncomfortable thought off and sits down next to the man’s bed.
“Let’s check your bandages,” she says, and it’s a tired, half faked sort of smile (because she isn’t a phony through and through with a plastic smile, not yet), and he’s seemed to come to accept the fact that if he doesn’t take his shirt off, she will wrestle and tear it from him (though he’s a slow learner, five shirts later from his arrival). She checks the wounds.
They are from many different factors.
Upon his arrival, when he pointed out and quietly defined each wound – one word sentences, because he didn’t talk much at all, just pointing and saying the village name or group – there was one (she didn’t need to tell him that it was much older than the rest, and not the normal battle scar for a hard to hit criminal) he didn’t bother to explain. She surveys it now, a quick glance because that isn’t something she needs to focus on, and moves on.
Still, Sakura wonders if it was from Akatsuki.
But they couldn’t possibly have known he would betray them – or maybe that isn’t the word. Vacation comes to mind, but that sounds just ridiculous.
Sakura does the routine of rewrapping bandages and applying chakra and ointment, so used to it that it comes as second nature and she hardly has to think about it. Itachi doesn’t say anything, but like she has for the past several days, she talks to him half-cheerfully, half-unhappily for the sake of filling up the silence with words.
Because she has enough silence already, and at least when someone else is there she can fill it and not feel quite as stupid.
The bandages are done, and she’s stuck watching him for – Sakura checks her watch – another six hours until she gets a two hour break at one, which she then returns from until six in the evening.
Damn the rest of Konoha for getting so many damn missions, and damn Tsunade for that puppy pout, and damn herself for falling for it. There is a difference to caving in under pressure and then saying you’ll watch an S-class criminal, and actually doing it.
Sakura sighs and leans back in her mildly uncomfortable chair. There isn’t much besides the window of the room to view, and the on-alert neediness for her medic abilities has all but become obsolete after the first five days. He is healed up nicely, and all that’s needed now is to get the story.
The real one.
Maybe that was why Tsunade picked her for the job in the first place.
Sakura doesn’t know, because she certainly doesn’t feel like she’s much of a listener or someone to get others to open up. That feels like Naruto’s job (but they wouldn’t put him in here, because that would be certain death… on whose part, Sakura wasn’t sure).
“All done,” she mutters, and then hands the man his shirt. He slips it on and stands from the bed to sit on the chair to look out the window. He doesn’t really do much else, Sakura has learned.
“Can you tell me?” She asks.
He doesn’t reply for a long time, that she almost thinks he didn’t hear her, but then after that time, he turns his head a fraction of an inch to gaze at her, coolly detached and aloof, from his peripheral vision. He says nothing, and Sakura sighs.
It is three days later, and Sakura quietly pads into the room. The night guard leaves quickly, and she is alone with the sleeping man.
“Uchiha-san,” Sakura calls softly. The sleeping form on the bed near the corner of the bland white, cold room does not shift.
She walks towards him, and as she leans over him to wake him, his eyes snap open to greet her in an unwelcome narrowing of the eyes.
This startles her slightly, but she’s used to it by now, and the coal black eyes slide closed (his own way of a sigh, she supposes) before he slowly sits up.
Today, he takes his shirt off without her asking and she doesn’t say much, either, as she does her job as medic. That is finished soon enough, and he leaves to the bathroom to wash and change, and it will be another long silence for the day, but Sakura is tired stiff of silences.
The man sitting at the window does nothing to acknowledge her but the slight tilting of the head in her direction.
Sakura sighs and stands, pulling up a chair to sit beside him. His eyes narrow almost imperceptibly at her, and she sits regardless, resting her chin on the windowsill; she isn’t afraid of him, because he is just a man.
After a few minutes, tired jade eyes glance up to coal black.
“There isn’t much out there.”
This is the first time he has spoken to her willingly. Sakura mentally gives herself a pat on the back.
“I brought the paper,” Sakura says as she strides into the room. Itachi is awake, and sitting at the window already, because it has been almost two weeks since his arrival and the grogginess is gone from his body and there are no wounds to check.
All that’s left is getting the story, and it’s understood by her shishou that it will take a while to crack him.
She waves the newspaper in his face. He looks mildly annoyed.
“As if I would want to read garbage from such a worthless village,” he says to her arrogantly. She makes a not-so-pretty face and throws it at him anyway.
But she doesn’t defend her village’s name.
She instead asks him if he will tell her today.
“Why would I tell someone who knows nothing?” He doesn’t look at her.
“Wisest is he who understands he knows nothing.” She doesn’t look at him, either.
There is silence for a time.
“You already know.” His tone is flat. He attempts to close the subject, place it in a box under a lock.
“Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you tell me,” she says, and she pries it open and the box is broken.
“Tell me what you know.” It is not a request.
Sakura rests her elbows on the sill, absently fingering a piece of dull pink hair. She doesn’t look at him, and he doesn’t look at her. Outside is colorless, a vast canvas of silver clouds without lining, damp and bland and both beautiful and not at all.
“Orochimaru,” she starts, “Tried his body-switch technique on you when you were thirteen.”
Silence, and then:
“And it didn’t work.” She pauses. “And you weren’t yourself that day. That’s it, really.”
It’s a touchy subject, she can see, because his eyes flinch a little, because after years of keeping it in a box and everybody thinking he committed homicide purposely, the box is open and broken and it’s taking its toll.
She can see.
“That’s very true,” he murmurs. His voice is low and deep and very smooth, but there is a tiny bit of unsettle buried in.
He doesn’t say anything, and then the topic goes back in the box.
It takes a long time to get him to open up, to crack the walnut even a little bit. It’s mostly days of chatter, and days of bringing the paper and word puzzles and riddles and playing stupid games that Itachi doesn’t really participate in, and everyday, she asks him if today he’ll tell her? And each day is the same answer, and she expects it.
Despite this, the walnut opens slowly.
It starts, one day, when she wordlessly walks in with the paper, and it’s the same as always, and she is more tired than usual, so she crashes on the tiny couch because she knows he’s broken up, even if just a bit, and won’t murder her if she lets her guard down.
She throws the paper on the floor and stretches out on the old and only slightly comfortable couch, where she flings an arm over her eyes to block the light.
After perhaps ten minutes, she says: “Oh, right, and good morning.”
A slight snort of amusement makes her feel a little better.
The next day it is raining, so she walks in soaked and shivering to boot, so she uses the hair dryer that comes in the little bathroom connected to this prison that they both have been confined to for what seems like years.
Her throat is a little sore, only a little, so she just pulls up a chair next to his permanent residence and doesn’t say anything as they both watch outside.
“Do you like the view?” She eventually inquires blandly.
After a time, he replies.
She can admit that it isn’t the best view, but you can see the sky and thank whatever deity probably isn’t up there that the Hokage Mountain isn’t there to blemish it.
“…Why do you look out, then, day after day?”
“…There isn’t much else to view,” he admits coolly, still as detached and aloof as usual, almost untouchable.
“…Yeah. It really isn’t that great. It would be nice if there was another window to the east of here.”
He raises one eyebrow, and his face tilts towards her, but his eyes remain forward.
“This old place is on the border of Konoha,” she explains softly. “A window to the east would only show forests and sky. Nothing else.”
A few moments of silence.
“You hold no love for your village.” It isn’t a question.
Sakura is startled, and she opens her mouth to let out a hot retort, but there isn’t one, and her body forgets from time to time that this isn’t the Sakura that was so much more alive once.
“I do,” she says softly, and it’s barely perceptible, “I do. Just… not as much as I did.” And she is very conscious of how very sore her throat is now.
He watches her, and still says nothing. She didn’t expect anything, anyway.
“Why do you put up with this?” He asks her one day, quite suddenly, because a caged bird will die quickly without sunlight but will feel better with another to harmonize a melody with; Sakura watches him in confusion from her seat at the small table.
“Put up… with what?”
“This.” His eyes sweep around the room in a small gesture so large.
“Day after day. I tell you nothing, and you expect nothing, but you continue to come back, as though you understand I will not tell you what you want to know. You talk and chatter away, as though this is preferable company. There is nothing appealing of this place, there is nothing appealing about staying with a criminal who would murder you without a second thought. You understand that you have no benefits; I will never tell you anything. You understand that you could slip out and not do the job you were assigned and not be caught because I would not escape, and you hold no respect or love for your village to say it is out of duty. Why do you put up with it?”
(He isn’t angry, he isn’t agitated. He is calm and collected as always, an alabaster statue that watches her.)
He is standing, body lean and trim, even if slightly skinny, and tall. He is a coolly imposing figure against the bland gray light from the window (because Konoha has been cloudy ever since he arrived).
“…This is the most you’ve ever said to me,” she points out mildly from her seat at the dull wooden table. His eyes are black and cold and icy, but hers are jade and cool and tired, and their eyes are locked on each other intensely, but there’s some sort of understanding there.
He wants an answer.
And she knows it.
“…Why do I… put up with it?” She asks aloud, asks herself, and her eyes were just on him, but her vision seems to slide in and out of focus easily and she sees the window, the gray light.
Outside, it has started to sprinkle light droplets of colorless rain.
“How the hell should I know?” She asks him, and she closes her green blue eyes that were always dull and are, now, too (never the pretty sparkling blue that Ino and Naruto have, never the shining silver in Neji and Hinata’s irises, and never the scarlet that flames in the man before her—).
“I guess… I suppose… Because I really hate you.” She doesn’t give him a chance to respond and doesn’t crack an eye open to look for one, and she’s telling him, and that shame is killing her on the inside.
“…I really despised you, you know? Just thinking about what someone could do to their own parents really pissed me off, because everyone has problems with their family, and I remember before I was a genin I sometimes wished that… that mine would leave, too, all of them. I’m ashamed, but I don’t really think about it. It was stupid. I figured it out, just how important those sort of ties are, how sucky it is that blood is stronger than water. But… I still loved them, so it really pissed me off.
“Then there was the discovery about it all, and it was so messed up, and it all started to fall apart, and you had abandoned the Akatsuki, and it all seemed to break at the same time. Konoha. Otogakure. Orochimaru.”
She takes a ratty breath in.
She said it, she said it, and her eyes are open and something just left her chest. Something that was so heavy, so heavy, and it feels so damn good—
She sits up, and her eyes meet his unwaveringly and her stone mask is gone, and it feels so damn good.
“And I wondered,” she continues softly after a few moments, “I wondered if these things happen for a reason. I wanted to put blind faith in something, I wanted to put it somewhere, something to believe in. Then… I just realized, eventually, that things don’t have to happen for some higher purpose. Mistakes happen. Shit happens.”
“…How on earth did I get so jaded?” She shrugs again and stands up, another glorified figure in the gray light to evenly match his. “I guess I don’t care. I didn’t answer your question.”
Their eyes are locked.
You aren’t naive, she says.
And he understands.
Things are easier from then on, probably. It feels, Sakura reflects, less as if she were a warden, and more as if she were a roommate with nothing better to do than hang out in the apartment.
“They’re getting anxious,” she says to him idly, one day. “It’s been three weeks. They want some answers.”
Itachi snorts, and his eyes are closed.
“I wonder what they think they will do,” he says, “when their silly little questions are answered. How I could possibly benefit them.”
Sakura shifts, because she doesn’t know, but maybe she does. Because he’s insinuating without looking at her that he can’t benefit Konoha in any way, shape, or form. That once he tells her, he will be useless.
And he doesn’t care, she knows. But he likes to keep them on their toes, and even as a prisoner he likes to have power, because it’s all he has known.
“I can’t, of course.” She watches him without sympathy, because that is uncalled for, unwelcome. She watches with understanding, and it is the common bond that makes her tolerable to him, that makes him easy to talk to for her. “When their curiosity is satiated, they will kill me.”
He seems completely at peace with this fact.
“You didn’t kill the Uchiha clan,” she points out quietly. His eyes sharply find hers.
“I betrayed the village I had been bred under, I have killed several of their best shinobi—“ the disdain of ‘best shinobi’ was clearly evident, “-And I have actively participated in a group that was plotting the downfall of this village, all its allies, and all of its enemies.”
He watches her, now. “I have nothing more.”
And you’re willing to accept that, she frowns and tells him this. And he shrugs, a habit he picked up from her, and nods stonily, eyes on the gray canvas in front of him.
Sakura abruptly stands up and walks into the cold gray bathroom so he doesn’t see her cry.
“Sakura, Ibiki will probably be free within the next two weeks,” Tsunade tells her one gray morning a few days later. “I’m sorry that I’ve had to dump this on you. I know that you aren’t a warden, and you aren’t a torture interrogator. Medics,” she says, “Aren’t supposed to be the ones doing the hurting.”
And even if Tsunade understands this, Sakura muses as she stands in the cold gray room for mission prompts with cold wooden flooring and colorless blue-tinted walls, she still doesn’t really understand.
When the village elders ask her if she has found anything out, Sakura shakes her head and says that the wounds are just clearing up. There was a bit of the common poison type used on him— yes, that one, the one that leaves after effects for over two weeks, very easy to get rid of but hard to recover from, very common— and no, she hasn’t found out anything yet, but he has been getting better, so give her more time.
Of course, of course, and has it really been almost four weeks?
Sakura says nothing as she bows and leaves.
“Won’t you tell me?”
Today, he isn’t passive and cold and untouchable – he snarls, so unlike him.
“Why do you need to know?” He’s unsettled, in this position, and the lack of freedom is killing him slowly, she can see, losing himself bit by bit until there’s nothing left.
He is sitting by his window seat, same cold gray light from no sun and all clouds, hair just as dark as the day he came in and tied in a loose ponytail at the base of his neck, eyes coal black, but this time almost wild.
She slowly walks toward him to fill the empty chair next to his, because she would always pull it up, everyday, and eventually he just left it there (and for some odd reason, seeing him sit in his chair without her next to him somehow has started to feel just odd, to both of them). His eyes are brooding, and he is looking forward. She chances a glance at him before settling her eyes forward as well.
“Maybe… you’ll feel better,” she says slowly.
“No,” he responds, “Your job will be done and you can leave.”
Her eyebrows are knitted together unhappily. Because that isn’t it, anymore. That isn’t it at all.
He sees it. He understands it. And he closes his eyes and looks down, looking less and less of his twenty-six years and much older, the lines under his eyes suddenly so much deeper than she remembers when he just turned twenty.
“…You don’t have to, if you don’t want to,” she says so softly, feather softly, voice so soft and he rests his face in his hands, something he has never done before (because she knows, she knows that this is the weakest he has ever been and hates himself for showing it and hates her for seeing it).
But he doesn’t seem to mind when, as it starts to rain, she quietly wraps her arms around him like a young child and rests her chin on his shoulder, and they stay like that for a long time.
They can’t risk any shinobi, because the influx of missions has been almost unfair, so Sakura has been given night-guard because Itachi is well enough to be able to attempt escaping.
“I might as well move in here,” she jokes. He is only slightly amused, but amused nonetheless.
“Well, since I’m pretty much going to be here all the time now,” and she doesn’t sound too down about it, and she can tell it is unexpected to him, “I decided that you need entertainment and real food. Not this crap.”
She throws the instant ramen cup away and pulls out the bento box she has in a bag with a grin.
“And I swear to Kami I didn’t poison it.”
He pulls the chopsticks from her small hands deftly.
Itachi quirks an eyebrow, chopsticks stopping half-way up to his mouth. Sakura raises her hands up defensively.
“Ino says that my cooking could kill. It isn’t that bad, I swear! …But I guess you can decide that,” she mutters. Itachi snorts in not-quite-laughter but close, and Sakura is so shocked at the foreign low base sound that she has to sit down for a moment.
“…Do you draw?” She sporadically asks, a day or two later. Itachi is still at the chair next to the window, and it is almost unthinkable for one to be at the window without the other now.
“Why do you want to know?” He asks. She shrugs and looks at the sky that actually has spots of clear blue in the gray, for once.
“I had a friend,” she says, almost hesitantly, “Who liked to draw. He was good,” she says. Itachi doesn’t inquire anymore, but replies that, once, he enjoyed it. He hasn’t drawn for a very long time.
He isn’t all that surprised the next day when she strolls in from the few hours she has off in the morning with a pencil and sketchpad in hand, with a grin, and even if he isn’t surprised, he is oddly struck with the urge to give a smile, not a smirk.
And maybe, because he knows that the prospect of death is so close, he just doesn’t care anymore.
He doesn’t mind, and she sits down and slaps the supplies down on the wide windowsill, and looks at him expectantly; he raises an eyebrow, but nonetheless gently takes the tools in his hands, familiar friends he hasn’t seen in a time, and begins to draw.
He wants to smile again when she watches with childlike fascination and wonder, and it’s funny, because when they met she was jaded and bitter, and he was bitter and jaded.
The walls aren’t as gray anymore in the room, more of a dull white that feel more pure than binding. The room seems so much bigger when Sakura is there, and her eyes seem brighter and her hair is pinker, face less pale and with more of a glow. And when the sky isn’t blue, isn’t blue often at all, the gray light is suddenly bright and beautiful and no longer so melancholy.
“Teach me,” she asks, and they sit closer together as his rough hand guides hers across the paper (both left-handers, and how odd but he doesn’t dwell on it) to make a picture, and she knows what she wants to draw, and he has a faint inkling as they sit and sketch together.
A large, rectangular window on the paper, two seats, but she can’t draw people and hesitates, and he plucks the pencil from her to keep it going, two people, a man and a girl or a woman and a boy or two children, or two adults, and he can’t really distinguish it in his own mind—
She wants to try, too, so his hand encases hers and they fit together well enough and they draw, sitting close together and making a picture of two people in the picture who sit so much closer, strangely enough, and twilight comes soon enough. When the gray light fades, leaving a blue glow in the room until that begins to fade, too, Sakura falls asleep, her back leaning against his shoulder non-romantically—
And he doesn’t seem to mind.
Things are a lot nicer, with Sakura, but it has been five weeks in, and he knows that, no matter how much she would like to ignore it, she can’t. He can’t. Not for long.
So, just a few days after they draw the two people sitting close together by the window, he faces her and he knows that she knows he’s going to tell her, her smile fading and replaced by such a nostalgic face, head tilted and gaze focused on him.
“Won’t you tell me?” She asks softly, feather softly, and he finds he likes the sound of her voice, likes the sound of the words rolling from her tongue.
“I didn’t,” he says, and finds that his voice is a bit hoarse. She stands and goes off for a moment, and when she returns hands him a glass of water; he takes a sip. He tries again.
“I did not kill the Uchiha clan. When I was on an ANBU mission in my thirteenth year, I met the snake sannin. He wished to possess my bloodline, of course. Promised me power.”
Sakura is watching him fixedly, and he doesn’t quite know how to meet her eyes, suddenly. But he does, and is pleasantly surprised to find that there is no sympathy, no pity, just curiosity, understanding. Understanding.
“I declined. But… I knew that I would see him again, that he wouldn’t give up just because I said no. I ignored it.”
He expels air from his lungs in a heavy sigh that really makes him feel much more like an old man. And somehow he is more content than ever, but so pathetically weak, and he is somehow content with that thought, too, and something must be wrong with him, because that cold facade he tries to wear to tell this story won’t stay on, and it’s tearing him apart.
“Another ANBU mission… this time when I was barely thirteen, and my entire squad, including the commander, had been killed. I was tired, because I didn’t even see the jutsu coming.” A bitter laugh. “I was his first attempt at Orochimaru’s jutsu – or, more likely, his first attempt at a powerful shinobi, because it was not his own body that cast the jutsu. He was confident it had worked; he thought that I was dead, that the jutsu had perfectly eradicated any traces of my soul.”
Sakura’s eyes have some sort of tenderness in them, and not pity or sympathy. It is almost startling.
“But… I was awake, watching from the back of my mind. I was helpless. Not being able to control my own body, watching through my own eyes as someone else controlled my movements. Totally and completely helpless.” The words leave his mouth quietly, something he doesn’t want to leave in the open, words that taste sour and disgusting. “It became clear after a few days that he didn’t even know I was there. I knew he was planning to leave the village.”
He looks out the window but can feel her eyes on him.
“When I tried to fight back, when I was confident in myself that I had enough strength to push him out, all it did was alert Orochimaru of my presence. He had no idea until that point that I was still alive. When he found me he was initially shocked, but he was eventually pleased. He could use it to an advantage.
“He felt the things I felt and had already felt to a point, I suppose. I can’t… explain the tie that was there for those few days. A week or so, of hell. He fed the slight anger I had towards my family... my father, for pushing me to a point where I was sick of him, my mother for not trying harder to stop him. The village, for viewing me as a prodigy and a tool, nothing more. I only felt some form of… hope, I suppose, when I was with my cousin, Shisui. That was the only time before as well as then… and I felt stronger during that time when Orochimaru was around him.”
He looks at her in a sideways glance and can see the cold unhappiness in her eyes as she realizes.
“Orochimaru realized, of course. So he killed Shisui by my hands.” He sips some of the colorless water, and wonders absently if he sounds as bitter as he suddenly feels. But the mask hasn’t broken quite yet – cool as a cucumber as always, eh, Itachi? He hears Kisame’s voice in the back of his head with a feral grin that only belongs to the man with blue skin.
“I didn’t react for a few days. I was tired. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t close my eyes, I couldn’t sleep while Orochimaru controlled me. A prisoner in my own body. I fought back once more, fought as much as I could. It went on for several hours, and Orochimaru was beginning to tire, but in the end—
“I couldn’t do it.”
Her eyes were closed. He doesn’t want to see anything except the cool inviting nothingness of black behind his eyelids, save for the calm glow of the gray light dimly shining through the skin.
“He punished me, then, by killing my entire family, save one.”
“Your brother,” he hears her whisper.
He dips his head in a stony nod.
“He left the village – or, more precisely, I left the village… and… he couldn’t hurt anyone or anything else to affect me, and I was too weak to fight back.”
He slowly opens his eyes.
“A full week after that day, I was close to the Akatsuki headquarters, where he left his real body, because he ambushed and took over mine in someone else’s, no doubt a low rank ninja with hardly any willpower…”
He closes his eyes again, the gray light burned into the back of his lids. “So long… But his soul itself couldn’t stay in mine because I was still alive, so… I woke, and he was gone. I could move my body, could blink when I wanted to, moving my fingers was such a sensation itself…”
An expelling of air leaves his lungs in a quiet whoosh of breath.
“However, the damage was done, and quite extensive. If I had gone back, I would have been killed on sight. I knew I wouldn’t… couldn’t have been able to convince anyone.”
“Not even my brother.” He rests his head against the windowpane, eyes closed, unconsciously facing her.
His eyes are closed, but he doesn’t open them when his system almost jolts by the warmth of a body (if a body catch a body, those aren’t the words but they can be for now) next to his, and she is embracing him, and warm, wet droplets fall onto his shoulder below her chin.
“You’re much nicer,” she says to him as she perches on her chair in their usual spot, “Than I thought you would be.”
Itachi finds this just a little strange of a statement. “Of course, because all criminals wanted by six different countries are kind-hearted, charity-giving honest community workers,” it is dry and lacking emotion but she grins nonetheless, looking out past the window, and the gray light is there.
“It’s just…” she starts, “It’s just, I supposed you were incredibly inhuman.”
Itachi scoffs and looks out the window as well, leaning back against the cold chair that has never been quite comfortable, but he has grown used to it. “That is a foolish assumption.”
He sees her frown in slight indignation. “Of course it is! You don’t need to point it out. It’s just… the way Konoha raises its children, raised my friends, raised me…”
“Just as any other village would raise its own,” he replies impassively. “The only difference is that Konoha teaches its children to value morals that other villages could care less for. The other children understand that they will be monsters. Konoha strives against it, and tries to mask its children from seeing what they will become.”
Sakura leans her forehead against the windowpane, eyes closed, then shifts so her eyelids open and jade looks back at him.
“Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?”
The fact that Sakura is questioning this – and yes, he does remember her in the brief glimpse he had of her at age fourteen, tender age fourteen, the few encounters between the years he can remember well – makes Itachi uncomfortable. If this girl, once innocent and suddenly bitter, and then getting better – if this girl questions it, things really are falling apart.
In the end, he doesn’t answer.
When she walks in on a Thursday morning, later than usual after her several hour break and collapses on the couch that has become her bed for the past week or so, Itachi understands all at once. Detachment floods through his body – making him weaker or stronger, it is impossible to tell.
He waits, and watches her with no emotion.
Sakura has her arm thrown over her arms, like she so often does, but after a few minutes she peeks out from under her elbow and her eyes are oddly rimmed with a little pink.
“My execution date?” He asks softly (not just quietly, but not as hard as always—).
She slides her elbow back over her eyes and shakes her head, and speaks nothing.
It is only a time later that he learns she didn’t tell them at all, but good news! Morino Ibiki is coming back from that horrendously long mission he was needed on, back to reclaim his rightful place as the interrogator, back to do the job Sakura told them she didn’t do.
“Should I tell them?” The muffled voice sounds younger than Itachi remembers, and from his not-quite-brooding seat by the window he looks back at her.
“...Because… When Ibiki comes, he’ll get the story from you by torture,” she murmurs, suddenly only to herself and now it’s as if he isn’t even there – he watches her with silent curiosity, “But if I tell them…”
They both already know what will happen.
Itachi turns back to the window and looks out at the sky that he wants to touch.
It isn’t until later, when twilight has come and Sakura is in her big white pajama top and pink plaid pant pajama bottoms and comes silently to perch on her seat with two mugs of cheap hot chocolate in her hand, that any words are exchanged.
“Itachi, I have to tell them.”
She sets the mug, with a cartoon character from a children’s television show that looks like a yellow bear holding a honey pot painted on the smooth surface, before him. She keeps the mug with the cartoon tiger, bouncing on its tail happily and frozen in that one jump with the goofy smile painted on so nicely, for herself.
He understands the reasoning; a quick death would be much swifter than the torture methods that would obviously befall him, once Ibiki arrives. Both should be morbid, but the concept of death is hard to grasp, so suddenly, and it sounds restful.
“Then do so,” he tells her. Like she tends to do, because he knows she enjoys the cool seeping through to her brain and seemingly numbing it, she sets her forehead against the cool glass pane, little hands clamped round the mug with the tiger’s painted smile.
And, like so often between them, silence descends, and Itachi wonders if it is a good thing, or a bad one.
“Maybe they won’t execute you,” Sakura whispers finally.
“It would be foolish to think otherwise, Sakura;” Funny, it is almost strange-sounding, how he addresses her by her name, he has just thought but does not dwell on, “you understand this. And… why would you care for a life not your own, a life of a mere criminal’s?”
And all at once, the two mugs resting on the wide windowsill, she hugs him impulsively, the force knocking her own chair back, but never falling down.
“Because I don’t want you to die,” she tells his shoulder, muffled.
She doesn’t let go for a time—
But the stranger part is, that he doesn’t quite seem to mind.
“I told them,” she says flatly the next day, and promptly collapses on her couch (no longer ‘the’ couch, but ‘her’ couch, because they have really been there that long). Itachi finds it odd that she would be much more dejected than he, but says nothing.
“My execution date?” He inquires.
She turns over to face the wall and does not speak.
But while the days pass uneventfully, that fate drawing nearer to him (and, perhaps only a year ago, he would have had several escape plans, intricate details noted and filed away in his head – and when has he stopped trying? Because his life stopped feeling worth much, and he’s had his share of power – this is odd, just plain out of character for him—), the twilights and nights are comfortable, be they in silence, or not.
This night, Sakura once again approaches without saying a word, but she sits again (and their chairs are closer together, like the sketch in the notebook he hasn’t touched since, how funny) and leans her back against his arm, facing away. Almost brashly, he thinks absently, because there is no hesitation in her movements.
And he wonders if this is the first real friend he’s had since Shisui, once upon a childhood long ago.
“My execution date?” He asks softly, when her head is leaning against his shoulder, too, and she is looking out through half-lidded eyes at the last traces of light in the sea of blue.
“Three days from tomorrow,” she breathes. She shifts, and her eyes look up at him, and his eyes look down at her. A sort of understanding passes between them – he can’t quite understand it, but it’s there. It’s there.
“I could let you go,” she whispers; he watches her. “I can help you out of here.”
“And then what?” he murmurs, “I will be caught again, somewhere. And there will be no Sakura to open the cage.”
He acts on impulse, for once in his lifetime, and his lips brush her forehead. She smiles, and all is forgotten for the moment, as the chairs are more comfortable and they both drift off, forgetting, for once.
(And it’s nice.)
The first day, Itachi awakens before the pink-haired woman and stretches his back, because the chairs are just a little uncomfortable; he picks her limp body up, no doubt tired (this must take a toll on her, because she hasn’t been home in weeks, and when did he start to care?), and lays her on the couch.
The gray light soon greets him warmly. Itachi leans his head against the invitingly cool windowpane, until sounds of awakening are behind him, the telltale rustle of clothes and creaking of springs, a yawn.
Today, Sakura doesn’t take her break.
Instead, after she uses his shabby bathroom to wash and dress, she emerges and gently picks up the sketch pad with a smile and hands it to him.
He is surprised when he finds that he genuinely enjoys her company.
And when he comes back, from a short moment to have a glass of water, to sit down come twilight, he feels a little lighter when he sees a simple white chair-pillow resting on the chair he has already deemed uncomfortable (but not anymore, and Sakura is bent over the sketchpad but he sees the smile on her face, illuminated by that light, that gray light that is here to stay).
The second day, Sakura leaves for only fifteen minutes and returns with what looks like junk food and the paper she has missed picking up; with a grin, she opens up to the crossword section she enjoys doing so much and narrates every possibility next to him at the window, asking questions and occasionally jabbing him mischievously with her pencil.
He is surprised when he finds that the childish games amuse him, and he plucks the pencil from her hands to erase all her wrong answers – many, which makes him want to laugh – and fills in the correct ones while she sputters in mock-indignation and attempts to take it back, and only relents after they eat their dinner of chicken ramen (because ramen once in a while is good for the soul, Sakura says with a cheeky grin).
When she brings hot chocolate later, once again come twilight (a magical time, he remembers her once saying quietly when she thought he wasn’t listening), they have a light conversation about everything and nothing all at once, and once again he finds the painted honey bear on his mug, the bouncing tiger with a smile on hers.
“I think… I may not… hold as much love for this place,” she breathes softly, eyes closed and mug touching her lips to take in the cheap chocolate that Itachi has never actually drank – only savored the warmth radiating to his rough fingertips and calloused palms.
“But my home is here,” she continues and looks out at the dying sky, “So I stay. My friends, too, but the walls always feel so high.” She looks into the creamy brown depths with a smile that isn’t terribly happy. “When… when I was younger, I remember thinking it was so weird when I learned that nobody is supposed to leave the village, unless they want to be a bad person.”
She shrugs, almost helplessly, in that oversized white T-shirt and those pink plaid pajama pants, and Itachi is watching her (because there really isn’t anything out there he hasn’t seen a dozen times over that stays the same except for her).
“I know, now, that’s so stupid. …And even knowing the boundaries, when I was younger,” (back when she was fourteen almost fifteen and proud of that monstrous strength, when she was sixteen almost seventeen and still trying to get back his little brother – she is twenty two almost twenty three now, and she should still be young) “I felt free, here.”
She has her arms crossed on that windowsill, and Itachi leans forward to do likewise, mug sitting next to his arms, and he looks at her.
“Not anymore?” He asks.
“…Not anymore,” and she leans her head down.
“When you asked…” her eyes are closed, “and I told you that you were real… I don’t want that to go away,” she tells him, and Itachi doesn’t know quite how he feels about that.
(And he takes a sip of lukewarm hot chocolate, and is surprised when it tastes good.)
But when she leans her back and head against his shoulder, facing away, he shifts when only the moon is in the sky (and is so much brighter when all the other stars are dimmer) and makes her move, too, so as not to fall. When she turns her head a little towards him, the pale moonlight (the pale moonlight that she seems to recognize, that beautiful moonlight that makes everything seem a little colder) illuminates her face and makes it glow.
He kisses her, and keeps it simple.
On the third day, the last day, the bed Itachi never quite used isn’t extremely soft or comfortable, but with Sakura and him lying down neatly (merely lying, and nothing more; he kissed her, kept it simple, and he doesn’t and knows she doesn’t need more) on the white sheets, backs and heads propped up against the white wall, it’s warmer.
The gray light wakes him gently, seeping through his eyelids and illuminating the room that he doesn’t dislike anymore.
Sakura wakes up, too, but they don’t move, very close together (and he enjoys it, how odd—) and he doesn’t want to break it, not just yet, and knows she isn’t ready to, either, and her strange tinted hair smells like the crisp, clean rainwater kind of shampoo, and it smells nice.
“What time?” He finally murmurs.
“…At one,” her voice is feather soft, “And…” she shifts a little, “It’s eleven-thirty.”
“…So it is,” and he closes his eyes in comfort one last time, trying to absorb the moment (such a silly notion – why, he doesn’t know) for a few seconds or many minutes, which, Itachi doesn’t know. But they pull apart at the same time (her eyes are dry, and he’s glad, because shinobi aren’t supposed to cry), but there is a steadiness in her gaze watching him.
“They’ll be coming at noon,” she murmurs, and goes to the still shabby bathroom, soon coming out dressed for the day – still in that dull scarlet sleeveless shirt and black pants that end at her calves – and he is already dressed in the same black shirt and pants as always (Sakura bought them, because even if they look similar to the supplied ones, the Konoha jail clothes, these are so much more comfortable for some bizarre reason he can’t quite comprehend).
Jade eyes watch him evenly, and he meets them.
She embraces him, and asks one last time if he wants her to help him.
“I think,” he says quietly, “That attempting to escape death is like trying to forget how to sleep.”
He can feel her smile into his shirt, her arms wrapped around him.
The gentle patter of rain starts the moment he steps outside, and he breathes.
It is a public execution. Because Konoha isn’t above the standards like he thought when he was less than a child, that the woman he kissed thought when she was a child and a little older.
He is mildly surprised to find that the Hokage herself will be severing the chakra tie in his neck – it will stop the flow of chakra completely, causing the network to rupture and enabling death that will be short.
But from what he has heard, not short enough.
It sounds restful.
There must be something wrong with him, but he isn’t Itachi Uchiha, anyway.
He is Itachi.
And for once, that seems good enough.
There are more people out and about than he expected. Scowls meet his eyes; he pays no attention.
But he looks skyward instead, eyelashes rising and speckled with drops, and can pretend, for a moment, that nobody else is there except for him.
(This makes him want to run – to rush, to pump his legs in the downpour and never stop, just for the sheer exhilaration—)
But the shinobi flanking his left jerks him, and leads him up the dull white steps to the raised ground, where those closest to the platform can meet his face just a little below eye level.
The Hokage is saying something, addressing the crowd – a list of his wrongdoings and crimes against the village, he knows – but he sees the old woman, pretending and flaunting unreal youth, he sees her hazel eyes look down, mind elsewhere from what her mouth is saying.
Because her star pupil is slipping through the loose throng of people, weaving in and out to get to the front where his knees meet the slippery ground and he is leaning forward slightly for the Godaime to have access to the back of his neck; her star pupil is coming to the front, and not for any reason involving her teacher.
No, because the rain is streaking her hair and face and leaving beads in her long lashes, but there are streaks that start from her eyes and maybe aren’t the rain, because it is truly impossible to tell, but her expression is startling—
“I’m sorry,” she says sincerely to him.
Itachi focuses on her face, his body alight with something akin to adrenaline and anticipation but completely still, and he is completely calm in the face of death, and this all seems so unreal.
“You silly young child,” he says to her, because his mind is blank and sees nothing but the woman-child in front of him.
“But you aren’t so old,” she whispers, and the rain is starting to plaster parts of her hair to the sides of her face.
The Godaime continues to talk, her cool fingers gently touching the back of his neck and silently searching for the correct point to end it all.
“Thank you,” he says, and she understands, because this slip of a woman in front of him who shouldn’t be unhappy has been truly his first friend for a long time, and maybe if things were different he might even love her, and she might even love him.
Yes, it might have been able to grow, he muses, and she rests her cool hand that is much more soothing than the one on his neck on his arm, rain sliding down and creating pools beneath them.
And the woman above him isn’t speaking anymore, and the chakra buildup is in red-nailed fingertips.
Sakura pulls up a little and places her lips firmly against his.
(It would have been able to grow.)
And his eyes are for her and her alone, this girl-child friend, and he smiles to spite death, her breath warm against his cold skin—
And Sakura, I feel so tired, and—
He lips are turned up when he finally falls.
“You must be tired,” she murmurs, and her hands are shaking when she closes his eyes for him, and nothing else matters right now, and she won’t cry.
“…But I won’t forget, no matter what happens,” Sakura says to him, trembling only slightly.
And she turns around after one last long look that will be burned in her mind forever.
And yes, she thinks, something could have grown.
(And after she picks up all her things from that room, after she goes home to that lonely little apartment, she looks out the window at twilight and drinks cold chocolate from a mug with a painted little bear on it that is still smiling.)
Дата публикации: 14.01.2008
Прочитано: 2918 раз