Uchiha Itachi~Love of the Heart #42
"So…how is she doing?"
"What do you mean who, Sasuke?" Naruto narrowed his eyes.
"Who are you talking about, dobe?"
"Grrr, Kokoa! Who else?"
"Oh. How should I know?" He shrugged, shaking black tresses from his face.
"Um, maybe because you live with her."
"We've both been busy."
"Is she even alive?"
"Sasuke…I'm serious. When I last saw her she was upset and angry, and she made Sakura-chan cry, and she – Kokoa's not herself."
"Don't you think I know that?" he whispered, turning his face. "It's weird, but I don't know what to do. I have to focus on my own things too. It's just a mess."
"A mess –"
"The girl is out of her mind, worse than I've ever been. She's on edge, and now she's going on a mission in a few days. She's planning something, but I don't know what. I don't know how else to help." He fell quiet. Naruto shut his eyes in understanding.
"Ne, Sasuke, we have a mission too. Aren't we supposed to meet Kakashi-sensei at the gate in a little."
"Ah," he replied, starting off without the blond.
"Eh? Sasuke? Wait! Don't leave without me! You're such a jerk!" He ran after.
Kokoa and Sasuke had already said their goodbyes. Her mission wasn't for another few days. She fell to the couch with a soft thud, nestling against the many pillows. Craning her neck forward, she slipped the necklace off, eyeing it in her palm. It was times like this, when Sasuke was away, that she realized how truly alone she was. She feared what would happen when he left. What would become of her? What would happen to the poor little girl who only ever wanted to love and be loved?
Closing her fingers around the chain, she brought it to her chest, to her heart. Itachi wasn't there. She couldn't hold him or look after him, but she could Sasuke, and by helping Sasuke and keeping him safe at home, he wouldn't get his revenge, at least not before she got her answers. Itachi left her yet she cried for him to this day. He took her friends, her family, her past, and her future, but he wouldn’t take Sasuke. She would protect the boy she held dear out of affection of course, but also out of selfishness. She would protect Sasuke for Itachi's sake; her own twisted logic.
He strolled through the village with calm eyes, bangs bouncing with each step, hands in pockets. Arriving at his destination, he brought a fist to the door.
"To what do I owe this honor?" Shisui greeted him with a smile.
"Shisui," Itachi said, nodding politely.
"What brings you here? It's been a while." He casually leaned in the doorway.
"Nothing. I returned from my mission this morning. I thought I'd stop by. I have some time off."
"Oh? I can tell," he chuckled, brushing a spot of dirt from his friend's shoulder. "Good job not dying."
"Mmm, I try." He shrugged.
"As close as we are I still can't help but think you're here for a reason other saying hello."
"It's nothing serious. I was just curious if you're going to the festival tonight."
"I am free, but I didn't plan on going. Why?"
"No reason. I'm just curious like I said," he replied with a smile.
"Oh? Tachi, it seems you want to go. Am I right?" Shisui stepped outside, shutting the door behind him. Taking a few steps with his friend, the two eventually ended sitting side by side on a set of stairs.
"Personally I don't care much for things like this. Not that I'll never go, but this time around Sasuke isn't feeling well, so my mother isn't letting him go. I would like to go with Kokoa –"
"But your father is being…well your father?"
"Hai. If I took a girl to something like a festival he'd be convinced that we're seeing each other. It's complicated." He sighed, letting his shoulders fall.
"So why come all the way to my place. Surely it can't be solely because you missed me so?" Shisui cracked a grin.
"I had the ridiculous notion that if I told you you'd come up with a brilliant idea as always."
"Oh, Itachi-kun, flattery will get you nowhere."
"Actually, I was hoping you'd come."
"As your date? I thought you were seeing Kokoa. This is so unexpected –"
"Hai, hai. So you mean the three of us?"
"Ah. If it's the three of us as a group of friends then he won't be so suspicious, especially if he decides to go that night as well."
"A festival does sound nice. And dango too. And seeing pretty little Kokoa all dressed up…" He peered over at Itachi from the corners of his eyes, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Itachi narrowed his eyes.
"So you are protective and possessive. Heh, I wasn't so sure since you always wear the same face and act so casual around her."
"I didn't say anything."
"No, but your eyes did."
"I…" Itachi turned his face in embarrassment.
"Yosh. I'll help you out, Tachi. I'll go."
"What kind of best friend would I be if I didn't help you out with something so simple. Besides, Kokoa is the only girl who's ever going to put up with your crap. I'll do whatever necessary to make sure she stays. I can't have you growing old and alone."
"Thanks for thinking so highly of me, Shisui," he sneered.
"You know better than anyone how strange and antisocial you are. Just helping my brother out," he smiled, ruffling Itachi's hair.
"Tch, Shisui…" He sighed, pulling his hair out of the ponytail to fix the mess his friend had caused.
"Hai, hai. I'll help you. I could go for some snacks and fireworks, a break from the ton of work."
"Ne, Itachi, can I ask you something?"
"I'm going to ask you anyway. You're always so serious, aside from when you're with Sasuke. You do your job, you follow orders, and you keep to yourself. You're reserved even around me."
"That's just how I am _"
"I didn't finish," he sneered. "You should listen instead of interrupting your elders." Itachi eyed him. "I meant why Kokoa?" Itachi's face softened.
"What do you mean?"
"You're so serious and withdrawn, and she's so happy and excited. I know she's suffered. I know she lost her family. I know part of it is her desperately wanting to be happy, but she tries so hard. I just...she doesn't seem like your type. Not that you have a type. I didn't think I'd ever see you in a relationship, Tachi."
"It's...well I've known her since the academy. She was different. She...I can't quite explain it, only that I was drawn to her, the way she sat twiddling her thumbs or biting her lip while she struggled to speak up or make a decision. I just wanted to help her, always. The older we got, the closer we got. I guess like you she knew me instead of my Uchiha name, and as a shinobi she has suffered like me.
She has suffered and lived her life all on her own, yet she finds it in her to smile and be kind to those she cares for. I know as ninja we are tools, but born into a clan who has only ever fought out of love or hatred, I have no right to claim that we are emotionless tools. I have no right to judge, so Kokoa...she laughs and cries and it's because she's human, and because she's human she understands me and where I stand as a boy, a shinobi, and son of the captain. She is my other half." His eyes widened at his final statement, lips parting when he saw the smirk on his friend's face.
"Is that your language for I love you?" Shisui leaned in, eyes shut, lips puckered.
"Drop it," Itachi mumbled.
"Oh come on, haven't you two talked about marriage?"
"So? Many people have arranged marriages or hope they end up together without having confessed yet or anything..." he turned his face.
"Ho? I've never seen you this flustered. Ka-wa-ii."
"Shisui," Itachi said with an exasperated sigh.
"Naaaani?" He took a quick glance, chuckling softly at Itachi's bunched shoulders and clenched jaw, and he spotted the slightest hint of pink stain his cheeks despite the fact he turned his face.
"Oi, Itachi," he said softly. "I'll go. No worries." With his face still, turned.
He tapped the door, playing a brief song with his knuckles.
"Door? Now?" Kokoa set down the ice cream and dragged herself over, cracking it just enough so she could peek out.
"I-Itachi-san - why are you -" se stammered, realizing she did not want him to see her in the old tank top and messy bun she got cozy in.
"Hello to you too. Is it all right if I come in?"
"Uh - yes - yes! Just wait ten seconds." She released the door and scurried off to throw a shirt on. Itachi shook his head with a raised brow. She never ceased to amuse him. She truly was a mess, but she was his mess.
"Sorry," she said, walking out while tugging the hem of her jacket.
"It's fine. Isn't that mine?"
"What?" She looked up, oblivious.
"The jacket you're wearing." He pointed a finger.
"Ha? Oh! You must have left it here." She nervously fiddled with the zipper, hoping he wouldn't realize she kept it because it smelled like him and eased her heart whenever he was away for missions.
"I'll go change again-"
"It's fine," he chuckled. "I'm just wondering where it went. Looks like I caught you red-handed." He stepped over, flicking her forehead. She sunk into the jacket with a,
"Tch. Why are you here? I thought you were busy today."
"Truth is..I lied." He admitted.
"Lied? What for, Itachi-san? Is everything all right."
"You kill me when you do that," he sighed,
"I lied to you, and you're asking if I'm ok."
"I mean you're not one to lie, at least to friends and family. I figure something might have happened. If it kills you, fine then. I'm going to kill you instead for lying." she punched at his shoulder, but he caught her fist.
"I know you asked to go to the festival, but I lied and said I was busy. Truth is Sasuke has been sick and he can't go, and my mother will also be staying with him. If we had gone together my father would have made comments or started thinking something was going on, and you know how we've been hiding the fact. So I lied, hoping me being busy with work would be easier for you to handle than bluntly saying we can't because of my father. I am sorry."
"Mmm, I understand." She nodded.
"You're all right?
"I just won't kill you this time," she said with a smile.
"Good. I'm glad. Why don't you slip out of my smelly jacket and into something pretty....perhaps that red yukata a certain Uchiha gave you for your birthday." He grinned.
"Yukata? But why?
"Shisui said he would come with us so it would be three friends together instead of what would obviously look like a date.
"He's agreed to be the third wheel.?
"We'll owe him big time, Itachi-san."
"If it means taking you to the festival you've waited months for, then it's worth it. Besides, there will be dango."
"That there will." She smiled softly, eyes widening when he pushed up her chin with two fingers.
"Go get dressed. You take forever and you're a mess."
"It's my day off. Hai hai. Are you going to wear a yukata?"
"Me? Yukata? I wasn't planning on it. I was going to go in my uniform. Many shinobi, on duty or off, go in uniform."
"So why can't I?" She pouted.
"Because you're a pretty little girl who has a pretty little yukata stored away," he teased, hoping he wasn't coming across as too pushy. He truly did love her in that scarlet yukata. Kokoa didn't dress up often due to the nature of her work ,but oh how he loved it when she did.
"I'll wear it only if you wear a yukata too, you know, since you lied to me and all." She crossed her arms, eyes narrowed.
"But..." He let his shoulders . "Hai, hai, fair enough. I'll just force Shisui to do the same." He headed for the door.
"Thank you, Itachi san.."
"Don't thank me. Its something I want too. I want you to be happy, Kokoa. Stop smiling like a dork though. We'll meet you half way . Look for us."
"So your father isn't going?"
"He was still at home when I left, reading over some things. I doubt he'll leave all that work for a festival. He's not the type."
"You got that right." Shisui blew a strand of hair from his eyes, throwing an arm around Itachi's shoulders.
"No worries, Itachi. Even if he does show up, that's why I tagged along. He likes me. I'm sure I can smooth talk our way out of trouble or suspicion, though it'll cost you," he grinned, rubbing his fingers greedily.
"Kokoa and I already know we owe you. We'll think of something." Itachi shook his head.
"Speaking of Kokoa, is that the yukata you made a fuss about, unsure if she'd like it or not?"
"Hu?" He followed Shisui's gaze, his own eyes spotting the girl.
"Ah – eh – hai."
"Whew!" Shisui bit his lip, holding his sides. "I'm positive I've never seen you this flustered before, Itachi," he said, still biting his lip with a grin.
"I'm not used to you teasing me about this…I'm not used to anyone teasing me about it to be honest," he mumbled.
"Tachi's in love. Who knows…she might just love you too, isn't that right, Kokoa?" he said loudly in the end.
"Isn’t what right?" she inquired. Itachi stiffened.
"I said I bet you're excited too," Shisui said, figuring she'd kill him if he hinted about her secret, the one she had no choice but to trust him with. "Anyways, you look very pretty, Kokoa."
"I – ah…" She stared at her feet, face boiling. It took everything in him to keep from laughing.
"Gomen, gomen. What I meant is that Itachi thinks you look very pretty."
"Thank you," she whispered. Speaking of Itachi, he shot Shisui a glare before starting off.
"You wore the yukata," she said, catching up to him.
"It's been a while. Not too bad though," he smiled, tugging at his sleeves. "I made Shisui wear his too."
"It's actually quite comfortable," the older friend stated. Kokoa chuckled at Shisui's comment. "Yosh. Let's get going. I'm sure it's packed by now."
"You know, Shisui-san, I've seen Itachi-san kick back and relax before, but this is…"
"Same." She nodded as they eyed their friend swallow dango ball after dango ball.
"I know it's his favorite, but this is quite terrifying."
"He's addicted. He can't help it."
"Should we stop him, Kokoa?"
"Hmm, no. It's his one day to be himself and not so serious. I'll just make sure he doesn't vomit later."
"This must be why he's kept you around. You truly are good to him. Thank you for looking after my best friend, Kokoa, even if he does have a strange dango problem." He cracked a grin. She laughed quietly into her hand, but fell quiet and looked up in surprise when something slipped between her fingers.
"I know you like this kind," Itachi said, leaving the fresh stick of treats in her hand.
"Arigato," she chimed, moved by his gesture. Shisui tilted his head, watching the two, watching how kind and respectful Kokoa was, and just how much Itachi cared for the girl who was always too shy to speak up in class. It brought a smile to his lips, to see someone as troubled and pressured as Itachi act so warm and almost normal towards her; however, it also worried him.
Would it last because of their jobs? And more importantly, would Kokoa stay true to her word? Sure he believed her now, but when things really got rough, would the Kuroki stay by Itachi like she promised? Shisui knew there would come a time when Itachi would need her more than anything. Sure he didn't know what would happen, but he knew Itachi would struggle with something, and Kokoa would be the only one able to pull him back to his feet. Whether she knew it or not, Kokoa had Itachi's heart. Although he couldn't always be there with her physically, he gave her all of his heart.
Itachi sat, knees to chest, watching the fireworks light the sky. He shut his eyes momentarily, feeling his friends on each side. Normal people always attended events like this. Shinobi too, but…he wondered if those who weren't ninja enjoyed the little things in life a bit more – or perhaps it was the fact they had more of a chance to do so. He wondered what it meant to live a normal life. Would had it ever been possible for Uchiha Itachi to live as a normal boy, or did being born into a clan like the Uchiha seal his fate? He sighed deeply, catching Kokoa's attention. She peered over at Shisui who seemed to be dozing off, head bobbing around his shoulders.
"Are you all right?" she inquired, taking a hold of his sleeve. He nodded with a smile. Sure he wondered what normalcy was like, but being a shinobi meant he could protect his mother and father. He could protect Shisui and Sasuke. It meant he could protect…
"I'm fine, just happy to be with you, Kokoa."
"Thank you for going to all the trouble just so we could come, Itachi-san."
"Him? You're mistaken. I'm the one who went to all the trouble; wearing a yukata, missing a nap, chaperoning you two because his father's head would burst if he saw you."
"Weren't you sleeping?" Itachi, said, facing his friend with a dull expression.
"Hn, I'll teach you not to disrespect me so easily, Tachi." Shisui ruffled his hair.
"Tch, again? How troublesome."
"I got it," Kokoa said, tying back his hair.
"If you're going to kiss, I suggest doing it soon before I spot your father or anyone who would find it necessary to tell him that his oldest son is making moves on a girl, at night, on a hill, at a festival, under hanabi…" He turned his back to them. Itachi sighed. So Shisui was being serious. He took Kokoa's hand in his. Distracted by the action, she didn't notice him lean forward, pressing soft lips against her own. She pulled away with a shy giggle, squirming in place, flustered. He leaned back with a chuckle.
"Mmm, it's all right. It was nice, Itachi-san."
She sat beside the fire, toasting cold hands, eyeing the rest of her squad. All were asleep but one, and not just any one, Takashi. They had gone on a mission together before. How could she forget the older shinobi who didn't seem to care that she was the Kokoa who was involved with the Itachi. He wasn't one to judge and made it obvious it required too much effort to care about something that clearly didn't affect him.
"Where's a little girl like you going this time of night?" he yawned as she walked by. She paused.
"I'm not little."
"You're smaller than me," he grinned. "Don't worry. I know you can kick ass if you need to. I've seen reports and heard rumors. You must be skilled if you helped your little Uchiha boyfriend out." He picked at his nails as he sat on the ground with his back against the tree. She was about to protest, but knew he meant it as a joke.
"I just need a walk. To clear my head."
"Oh?" He eyed her. Takashi wasn't stupid, and he was an excellent shinobi. He knew she was up to something, but he wasn't going to stop her. He knew she was troubled and Konoha didn't seem to care. If she wanted to run off and get herself in trouble, so be it. He wasn't going to interfere so long as it didn't affect the rest of the squad.
"Just for a little. I always liked the night air, and the moon is out."
"Hai, hai. Just don't get us killed. It'd be a shame. I'm too young, you know."
"Hn, sure," she sneered before leaving him.
She at first enjoyed the night like she told Takashi. The crisp air, the quiet hooting of howls, and crunching of leaves. But those simple treasures faded as she focused on her original goal. She was going to fix things. That's what she told Sasuke. She was going to find him. Not Itachi. Him. Doing a bit of research and somehow getting assigned to this specific mission, it seemed the heavens were on her side just this once. He was close, and she knew it.
She spent what felt like an eternity searching, waiting, listening, feeling, anything, but nothing. She pushed herself off the tree she had been leaning on with a deep sigh. A twig snapped, and before she could even shift her gaze she stood paralyzed, restricted, bound by fear and what she assumed was some sort of gen-jutsu.
Her heart slammed against the walls of her chest as she struggled to fill her lungs with the cold, night air. If she didn't calm herself she was sure she'd suffocate or choke like the fool she must have looked like. With another snap of a twig and crunching leaves, she spotted a figure dancing in the dark. A taller figure. A larger figure. One encased in a terrifying vat of chakra that made the hairs on her neck stand erect and tears bubble at the corners of her electric blue eyes. One step. Two steps. With the third they finally stepped into the moonlight, and oh the horror that stained her face.
"I never thought we'd get the chance to meet, Kuroki Kokoa."
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