Akatsuki Babysitters

Midnight

They were on the rooftop of the Akatsuki House, gazing up at the expanse of murky navy and its spotted sheen. Itachi never really took the time to stare up at the sky anymore. In fact, the thought had never even crossed his mind. But when Sakura took hold of his hand and made him go up to the roof with her just for the purpose of looking at stars in the middle of the night, he had no good excuse to refuse.

So here he was, sitting outside at midnight with his eyes turned to the sky.

"Uwa... isn't this so pretty? There are so many stars!" Sakura exclaimed, pointing upwards, "Don't you think it's pretty, Itachi-san?"

He glanced her way.

"Aa."

She grinned.

"Ne, ne, you know what else? Mama told me a story about the stars. She said that once someone passed away, their souls would go up, up,up until they become bright enough to have the honor of being seen at night!" she exclaimed in awe, "I don't know anyone who became a star. Do you know anyone up there, Itachi-san?"

"Itachi-chan! Come down here, I made onigiri! Bring Sasuke-chan down too, would you?"

"You are the future of the clan. I expect nothing but great things from you, Itachi."

"Yo, 'Tachi! Wanna spar with me? I improved my shunshin!

"I know... quite a few." he replied quietly.

"Really? I bet they're really happy up there, then. Maybe they might be a little sad because they can't be with you anymore, but that doesn't mean they're gone. Mama always tells me that the brighter the star, the more they're smiling. And that's a good thing 'cause all the stars are really bright! That mean that the ba-gillions of stars have ba-gillions of smiles!"

Sakura had gotten up to her feet and had her arms spread out, as if trying to embrace every star that she could.

"... Why would the stars smile down at me?" Itachi whispered. His voice was so soft that Sakura almost didn't hear him. "What if it was my fault that some of the stars are up there in the first place? I don't deserve their smiles."

The girl crouched in front of him, head tilted to the side and eyebrows furrowed.

"Did you love them, Itachi-san?"

"Pardon?"

"Did you love them?" she repeated, "Did you love the stars you put in the sky?"

Itachi stared at her, straight-faced, searching her genuine irises for some sort of hidden motive. What could he say? They were his family.

"I did."

Suddenly, Sakura's hands were on his cheeks. She beamed.

"If you loved them, they loved you too, silly! If someone loves you, they'll always love you. No matter how bad you've done somefin', they'll always forgive you. I know it's true 'cause once ate a buncha cookies when Mama told me not to. She got mad at me and I got into big trouble. I thought Mama hated me when I did that, but at the end of the day, she still read me a story and tucked me into bed. See, Itachi-san? I did something bad and Mama still loved me!"

"Father, Mother, I..."

"I know, Itachi."

"Itachi, just promise me this. Take care of Sasuke. And do not fear, this is the path you have chosen. Compared to you, our pain will be over in an instant. Even if our philosophies differ, I am proud to have called you my son."

Sakura grew alarmed when a couple of tears started streaming down Itachi's face. He gently held onto her wrists and bowed his head.

"You... truly are a kind child..."

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