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Fade to Gray

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This is fic was written for Zelha since she won the little game I had posted over on my livejournal. I am warning everyone now, this oneshot contains LOTS of spoilers from manga chapters 403-404. You have been warned. I don't want to hear any complaints. There is also graphic sex...lots of it, so run away while you can if that's not something you want to read.

Fade to Gray

How had things gone so horribly wrong? She had been so damn careful! She had kept her chakra repressed and maintained a large distance from the shack he was holing up in. She had been absolutely silent and practically invisible in the damp, misty underbrush as she lay in wait for the man she had been pursuing for years.

And yet he still found her.

That's why she was currently bound with chakra-enhanced rope too strong for even her to break, lying on a worn blanket that did little to cushion her from the hard stone floor. He sat in the single chair in the corner next to the fireplace that was hardly big enough to accommodate the logs it needed. The only sound was the scrape of metal against stone as he sharpened a kunai, his scarlet eyes focused wholly on his task.

Why was he keeping her alive? Why didn't he just kill her and be done with it?

She had known the mission would have many risks, but that hadn't deterred her one bit from taking it. If it meant finding Sasuke, she would do anything, even if it meant finding his older brother first.

She had left Konoha alone with Tsunade's permission, keeping her mission a secret even from Naruto because this time, the threat of the Akatsuki capturing him was too great. The only reason the Hokage had let her go solo was because she would be observing and nothing more, at least until Sasuke showed up.

They had been extremely lucky to receive the tip from the innkeeper in former Sound. Sakura and her team had been pursuing Sasuke, who had been pursuing Itachi, but it appeared they had managed to close in on the older sibling sooner than the youngest Uchiha had. They had missed Itachi and his parter by mere hours, and when they asked about him, the wrinkled and shrewd man running the dilapidated inn had told them that the Akatsuki man had left a message in case someone came looking for him.

The message was nothing more than a set of coordinates and the words, 'Come alone. We will see if your hate is strong enough.' scribbled in messy, angular handwriting. It was pure luck that Naruto had been with Sai, asking about Sasuke elsewhere as Kakashi carefully copied down the coordinates before instructing the innkeeper not to let on that they had talked with him and to give out the message to a man that looked like the person who had written it. It took a fair sum of money to coax the man to agree but in the end, they had succeeded and left the town with their blonde teammate and his artist partner being none the wiser.

Sakura had asked Kakashi why they hadn't waited there in the town for Sasuke to arrive and capture him then, but the older man had replied that fighting the Uchiha and his team of misfit criminals with just the four of them while trying to prevent civilian casualties would be nearly impossible. If Sasuke was going to go to Itachi alone, that would be the best time to capture him, and they knew exactly where the meeting was supposed to take place.

And so she had gone, taking the mission alone since there was no telling how long she would be away, and depriving the village of a ninja of Kakashi's caliber would be unwise when the rest of the Akatsuki were still on the move. She had no idea how long it would take for Sasuke to show up, but she had been instructed to poison the Uchiha on sight, shooting him with a handmade dart before he finally came face to face with Itachi. She would take him back to Konoha then, giving him just enough small doses of the antidote to keep him alive but weakened until they were back in Konoha and he was safely detained.

It was a risky plan, and one only she could manage considering the tricky properties of the poison she was using, but she had been holed up here for over a week, keeping watch from the woods surrounding the tiny building Itachi was hiding in. She had traded in her medic skirt for dark pants that were better suited to the chilly climate and her red top for a long sleeved black shirt that helped her blend into the darkness. As far as she could tell, Itachi had only left once to replenish supplies and other than that, he stayed inside, no doubt waiting patiently just as she was, but why didn't he give a specific date on that note? Why play the waiting game?

Sakura wouldn't dare to try and analyze the older Uchiha's mind. It was clear that he was insane and incredibly dangerous and so she made absolutely sure that she was all but invisible so he would never detect her, but apparently that plan had failed.

She didn't know how long he knew she had been there. Perhaps he had detected her from the start somehow with his Sharingan and had just been allowing her to stay a while. But as she had been circling the perimeter on her ninth day, he had appeared before her, completely calm and emotionless, crimson eyes spinning lazily. She hadn't even had the time to draw a startled breath before she was unconscious, and when she had finally awoken, she was inside the shack with him, stripped of her weapons, her shoes and her heavy traveling cloak, and was bound tightly.

He must have done something to her; a chakra repressing jutsu perhaps, because she felt too weak to hone her energy into a blade sharp enough to cut through the ropes. Even if she had been free, she didn't have the strength to fight him. She was completely defenseless.

"You're brave to have come alone, kunoichi," Itachi said, not bothering to look up from his task. He had sensed she was awake before she had even fully gathered her wits about her. "Brave, or incredibly foolish."

Sakura didn't say a word, just glared hatefully at his profile as he continued to run his blade along the stone he held in his other hand.

"You presume much to think you can singlehandedly bring my brother back to your village," he continued, still focused on his task. "I assume you meant to poison him and weaken him enough to subdue him, but you should know as well as I that he is much stronger than he was before, and will prove a challenge, even to the Hokage's own apprentice."

She shifted uncomfortably from her place on the floor, unnerved that he already knew so much about her and had seen through her plans as if they were rice paper. It appeared Itachi Uchiha was as sharp as he was twisted, making him all the more dangerous.

"What did you do to me?" she hissed angrily, not wanting to talk about her village nor Sasuke with the man who meant to kill him.

"I neutralized the threat you pose," he said simply, setting one kunai aside and picking up another.

"Why didn't you just kill me?" she spat, seething at the fact he was talking to her as if what he had done to her body was none of her concern.

He paused momentarily, the shack silent save for the crackle of the fire that kept the chill at bay.

"You interest me, kunoichi. I find it odd that you pursue my brother so aggressively. Are there feelings between you two that run deeper than those of mere teammates?"

He turned his head towards her as he asked the question, finally giving her a good look at his face. The resemblance to his younger sibling was striking. If it weren't for the deep hollows under his eyes and the long hair tied into a ponytail, he could have been Sasuke's twin. However, there was something about him that made it unquestionable that he was older. Perhaps it was all the things he had seen and done that contributed to the inexplicable aura, but something in his black and garnet eyes made him seem aged beyond his years. Those eyes, focused so intently on her made her breath catch a moment before she pulled herself together.

"That's none of your business," she answered defensively, her voice dripping with venom.

Itachi looked at her a moment more and then turned back towards the fire, unfazed by her anger.

With some effort, she managed to haul her body up into a sitting position. She had no leverage from her hands, which were tied behind her back, and the act left her feeling tired. He had definitely done something to her chakra reserves. She let her back rest against the uneven stone wall, feeling the chill from the stone immediately bite at her skin. She was bound at the ankles as well and she stretched her feet out in front of her, wincing as she lengthened cramped muscles.

"So now what? You're just going to keep me here?"

"As long as I consider you worth the trouble, yes."

Once again he didn't even look at her, and Sakura's fists trembled in anger at his indifference.

"So, I'm just your plaything until further notice? Something amusing to help pass the time?"

Her voice had risen to nearly a yell, her green eyes flashing angrily. Her sudden emotional burst finally caused him to glance at her once more. Wordlessly, he set down his tools and stood, walking the few steps to stand directly before her.

"You are my captive and nothing more," he said evenly. "What I do with you after that, I have not yet decided."

From her place of the floor, he seemed enormous, his cloaked form towering over her. She wanted to sweep his feet out from under him and attack him. It didn't matter that she had no weapons. She would tear out his throat with her teeth if need be, but if the simple act of sitting up had left her weary, fighting him would be impossible.

"I refuse to be your toy! If you think I'm just going to sit here and entertain you, you might as well kill me now."

He seemed to study her a moment more, those haunting eyes boring into hers is if searching her soul at his leisure. She refused to show her weakness by looking away, but every moment he analyzed her unnerved her more and more.

"I don't play with toys," he said simply. "I have no use for them."

At last he looked away, moving instead to pick up a small brown satchel off the floor that she hadn't previously noticed.

"Eat," he ordered, withdrawing what looked like some bread and dried meat and dropped them before her unceremoniously.

"I'm not hungry," she growled, at last averting her eyes to the uninteresting but surprisingly clean floor beneath her.

"Don't be foolish, kunoichi. You are weak and need sustenance. Eat."

"No."

"Either eat, or I will force you to eat," he said, his voice making it sound like he was indifferent either way.

The thought of the hated Uchiha shoving food down her throat was sickening. Reluctantly, she looked up at him.

"But my hands are tied."

The dark haired man withdrew a kunai from beneath her his cloak and knelt in front of her, slicing away the ropes around her ankles and then the ones binding her wrists. His motions put him in extremely close proximity, so close that she could feel the heat of his body and smell his scent. It was spicy and masculine, like sandalwood and cedar and wet earth. But beneath it was the faint but distinct odor of blood and death, a testament to the monster that he surely was.

With the ropes gone, Sakura tried to rub away the soreness and get her blood circulating fully again as Itachi returned to his seat and his task of sharpening his blades.

"Aren't you afraid I'll run away?" she asked hesitantly, picking up a dried strip of meat.

"If you try to escape, I'll catch you before you even make it into the woods and the result will not be pleasant."

His voice was still calm and indifferent but Sakura knew he would make good on his threat if provoked.

"So, what do I do now? Sit here until I die of boredom?"

She couldn't be sure in the flickering firelight, but she thought she saw the faintest trace of a smirk on his lips. She wondered if he found it funny that she was so brazen in the presence of one of the most dangerous ninja in all the five villages.

"Eat, and then sleep again. You only slept a few hours before and are weak. I will continue to keep you weak but you must sleep or your body will shut down. You should know as a medic what it means to run out of chakra."

She knew all right. Already she could tell her reflexes had slowed and simple tasks such as raising food to her lips were becoming exhausting.

Her meal was small, but satisfying, and it didn't take her long to eat. She was almost grateful to be able to curl up with the tattered blanket and sleep, her eyelids already heavy with fatigue, and despite the presence of the man she clearly despised, she fell asleep almost immediately.

When she awoke, the cabin was dark, the fire nothing but glowing embers, and she was alone. Several kunai still lay on the table, telling her that Itachi had not left for good, but was he really so stupid as to leave her alone with accessible weapons? We'll if he was giving her the opportunity, she sure as hell was going to take advantage of it. She stood, finding herself stronger than before, but still devoid of enough of her chakra that earth shattering punches and jutsu wouldn't be an option. She found her shoes and her cloak neatly folded in a corner, but her poisons and weapons were gone. Without the poison and its antidote, her mission was a failure.

She wanted to scream in frustration. Here she was, so close to finding Sasuke, and once again she would have to return to Konoha without him. She silently cursed Itachi's name as she collected the kunai he had left, gripping one tightly in her hand and hiding the rest in her cloak before slipping out the wooden door.

Judging from the faint light, it was early morning. The air was heavy with mist and the forest's chill immediately nipped at her unprotected skin. She hurried to the edge of the clearing, intent on putting as much distance between herself and his hideout as possible. She glanced over her shoulder, making sure she wasn't being watched from behind, only to bump into something solid and warm.

Her head snapped back to the front to find Itachi regarding her with the same emotionless expression he always wore, ebony bangs falling against pale skin. What looked to be a young deer was tucked under one arm. He had obviously left to search for food since she hadn't seen anything else in the cabin besides the food she had finished the night before. His other hand was already wrapped around her wrist holding the kunai, squeezing hard enough to make the bones grind together painfully.

The metallic weapon fell from her hand and hit the ground with a dull thud.

"Didn't I tell you the consequences for escaping would be unpleasant, kunoichi?" he said, his voice as monotone as ever as Sakura tried feebly to wrench herself free of his grasp.

"Let me go you monster!" she cried angrily, her heart palpitating like a butterfly's fluttering wings as she felt her strength wane with her every movement. Fighting was useless but she refused to give up. She raised a leg to kick him in the thigh and hopefully push him backwards, but the blow was weak and only exhausted her more.

She looked up at him hatefully, bitter and spiteful words on the tip of her tongue, but they disappeared in a pained gasp when she looked into his slowly spinning eyes. She was suddenly overcome with agony, pain shooting through every muscle and bone, no doubt caused by whatever jutsu he had caught her in. Her knees buckled beneath her, held up now only by his grip on her wrist as she shuddered and groaned, hardly able to breathe in the face of such overwhelming pain. Never had her whole body hurt like this, as if she were coming apart at the seams, as if her very soul was going to break, and through it all, Itachi just watched her, Sharingan turning lazily as she suffered at his feet.

"S-stop..." she panted, hardly able to form words, hardly able to think through such blinding pain, but her words must have gotten through because he dispelled the jutsu, spinning eyes becoming motionless once more as she dangled from his hand, half collapsed and breathing heavily.

"I trust you will not try to escape again," he said simply, slipping his arm around her waist and hoisting her easily over his shoulder, her arms hanging down his back limply.

She could only groan softly in reply as he carried both her and the slain deer back inside the house, dumping the deer outside the door and Sakura just a few feet inside as he set about rekindling the fire.

The pain had left her numb and her struggling had drained her almost completely. She lay motionless on the floor, watching her captor through half lidded eyes as he stoked the fire to a full blaze once more and returned to the deer outside to skin it. She must have faded in and out of consciousness because she only remembered fragments of him preparing their meal.

By the time most of the dizziness had left her, a rich and heady aroma had filled the hut and her cloak had somehow been removed, along with all the kunai she had taken. The food smelled delicious but she couldn't even summon the strength to sit up, instead remaining quietly on the floor as Itachi ate.

Her eyes drifted closed and she probably would have fallen asleep if she hadn't suddenly been lifted into a sitting position. Itachi was in front of her, dressed in only the fishnet shirt and black pants he wore under his cloak. She watched him groggily as he sat cross-legged before her, a chunk of meat in his hand. To her surprise, he peeled off a bite sized strip and held it to her lips.

With her current lack of strength, it was obvious she couldn't feed herself, but the thought of being babied by an S-rank criminal was infuriating. Even in her current state, she remained defiant, turning her head away and keeping her jaw clenched shut.

"You really are a foolish one," he sighed, pinching her nose between his thumb and index finger which forced her to open her mouth or suffocate. He took the opportunity to pop the meat into her mouth and pulled another piece off the chunk for her.

"We can keep doing this the hard way or you can cooperate. Your choice."

Sakura chewed the morsel grudgingly, secretly surprised by how delicious it was. As far as she could tell, all he had done was roast it by the fire, but it was tender and juicy and made her realize just how hungry she was. In the end, hunger won out over pride and she parted her lips and let him feed her the next piece.

Once again his close proximity forced her to feel the heat of his body and his breathe in his distinct scent. His presence was too strong for her to block out so she settled on keeping her eyes downcast as he continued feeding her in silence.

"Why are you keeping me here like this?" she whispered between bites, wondering if she might prefer death over being kept weak and defenseless and hand fed like she was his pet.

"I told you, you interest me, kunoichi."

At first, she thought that was the only answer she was going to get but then he continued.

"You love my brother don't you?"

The way he asked the question made it sound like he already knew the answer and was just waiting for her to admit it. Her eyes snapped to his and she was on the verge of telling him just where he could shove his inquiries, but his placid expression betrayed no traces of mockery or spite. He was merely curious.

"Yes," she answered after a long pause, before allowing him to feed her another bite. She wasn't sure why she had told him that. It wasn't like he had any business knowing about her private life.

"I see. And you would be willing to deprive him of his goal of killing me and drag him back to the village, though he would possibly hate you because of it?"

"It needs to be done," she said evenly, her jade eyes narrowing at his words. "But perhaps I should just let him kill you and take him back afterwards. Then everyone wins. The world is rid of you and Sasuke would come peaceably."

A slender black eyebrow quirked at her statement, and the faintest of smirks tugged at his lips again.

"If Sasuke did manage to kill me, do you really think he would happily accompany you back to Konoha?"

At this Sakura paused. The reason he had left Fire Country was to get stronger to defeat his brother. With that goal accomplished, he had no other reason to stay away, right?

"Of course, why wouldn't he?"

His finger brushed against her lips as he fed her the next bite and she found them to be rough and calloused and surprisingly warm against her soft skin. The unexpected contact sent a strange tingle through her and made her want to shrink away from the sensation, but with her back already against the wall, she had nowhere to go.

Itachi seemed to be studying her carefully, those deep and mysterious eyes once again appearing to search her soul for things even she did not know. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he had brushed against her a moment before but Sakura doubted he was oblivious to anything.

"It is strange that a woman who has seen so much death and bloodshed should remain so naive," he said, his fingers lingering near her lips even though he had already fed her the last of the meat in his hand, and she wondered fleetingly if he meant to brush them against her lips again. "You've remained innocent and un-jaded somehow...or perhaps your foolishness simply runs deeper than I thought."

It was more that he was thinking aloud than actually trying to insult her, but Sakura had no tolerance for words against herself or Sasuke, even those from the mouth of a dangerous criminal.

"You don't know a goddamn thing about me, or Sasuke for that matter. You haven't said a word to him in years, so where do you get off thinking you know so much?"

Her biting words seemed to have no affect on the stoic man. He just dropped his hand to his lap and regarded her thoughtfully.

"I know that shinobi your age are usually much more hardened to the world around them, but you've resisted it somehow. Sasuke on the other hand is has been affected by the darkness so deeply that it very well may consume him the way it consumed me. It's not a fate I wanted for him, but it may be the only way he-"

"Fate that you wanted for him? If you wanted a better fate for your brother then maybe you shouldn't have gone and killed his entire fucking family!" she cried out angrily, but as soon as she did, she was reminded of her weakened condition as her vision swam slightly and she slumped forward, only to be caught in Itachi's arms.

"There are a great many things you don't know kunoichi, about this world in which we live and about your own village."

He spoke softly, without venom or malice, seemingly unconcerned that he was cradling his captive against him gently, almost...tenderly.

"Put me down," she hissed, her voice acidic and her body tense despite her exhaustion. She hadn't thought Akatsuki members were capable of things such as tenderness, and discovering otherwise was disconcerting. He was a monster, a murdering, unfeeling monster, and she didn't want to think anything otherwise.

He lowered her to the ground and stood, his dark hair falling into his crimson eyes as he looked down at her. She met his gaze fearlessly and indeed, all her residual dread had dissipated. If he had meant to kill her quickly, he would have done so and the fact that he seemed to have his own secret agenda that included her in a mysterious way was more angering than frightening.

She was breathing shallowly, already winded from her outburst but even when she was weak and frail, she was still ready to fight to the last breath, a little hellion with a deceptively pretty face.

"The Konoha you hold so dear is full of dark secrets," he said softly. "Secrets that might crush you if you knew them. Secrets that would crush my brother as well. I do not expect you to understand me or my actions, kunoichi, but I will tell you this; one day you will realize that you and I are more alike than you would like to think, that good and evil, hero and villain, are sometimes one in the same. Gray seldom separates into black and white so neatly, and you will discover that all the ideals you cling so tightly to are nothing more than dust."

Sakura's brow creased as she tried to make sense of his cryptic words. Konoha with secrets? Well sure, she imagined every shinobi village had secrets. The Kyuubi living inside Naruto was the biggest one that came to mind. Her teammate hadn't even known the beast resided within him until he was mere days from graduating from the academy, but Itachi made it sound like her home was no better than the organization the missing-nin worked for. Good and evil one and the same? No, she wouldn't believe that. She couldn't believe that.

"You're wrong," she whispered hoarsely. "We are nothing alike. I'm not a murderer like you."

"But you've killed before," Itachi said, neither trying to anger nor bait her. He was just stating facts. "You killed Sasori of the Akatsuki, meaning you must have killed many others along the way to grow that strong."

"But it was to save my friend," she argued, her conviction clear even when she could barely sit up. "I kill for the right reasons, not for the sake of some evil plan like you do."

Itachi continued to look at her, and once again she got the sense that he was aged beyond his years. He seemed incredibly old, almost ancient, despite his youthful features. He had seen a great deal more than she had, most of it probably dark and sinister, which gave his words more merit than she wanted to admit.

"Naive little kunoichi, there are no right reasons to kill. Killing is killing. Murder is murder. A shinobi is a murderer regardless, and which side he is on does not change that fact."

"But-"

"Enough," he said, holding up his hand. "You need to rest. Your escape attempt today has weakened you considerably."

Sakura wanted to argue, but she too could feel that her chakra levels were dangerously low. Now that she had food in her stomach, her eyes and limbs were heavy and sleep was already overtaking her as her body sought to restore itself.

Even as she succumbed to slumber, she clung to the ideals that made it possible to do what she did every day, that allowed her to sleep at night after returning from missions where blood had been shed.

"I'm not a murderer," she whispered, but her quiet voice no longer sounded so sure.

Itachi remained watching her sleeping form, fascinated by the innocent woman who held power comparable to the Hokage herself. He stooped to pick up the abandoned blanket and draped it over her quietly, wondering when reality would prevail and her perfect little world would come crashing down around her.

By the time Sakura woke again, the light seeping in under the door had taken on an amber hue. She must have slept the entire day and now the sun was setting. She shifted on the floor, wincing at the stiffness that had accumulated in her joints from sleeping on such a hard surface. She sat up and found that she felt a great deal better and that enough of her strength had returned that she could move normally without feeling faint.

Itachi was sitting at his chair just as before, but instead of shapening kunai, he was examining a clear liquid inside a slender vial.

She immediatly recognized it as the poison she had brought to use on Sasuke.

"You must be quite an accomplished medic," he remarked, holding the vial up to the light of the fire and examining it through the glass. "This poison is an extract from ambrosia flower is it not?"

"Yes," she answered, surprised that he knew what was in the vial just by looking at it. "I didn't know you were knowledgeable about poisons."

"I've seen a few things while in the field, besides this liquid is slightly pink, just like the petals of the flower. In fact, I was even poisoned by this particular substance and I know how debilitating it is. It causes complete paralysis and if not treated, will stop the heart, am I right?"

Sakura said nothing.

"It's extremely tricky to administer enough antidote to keep ones heart going, but not alleviate the paralysis of the body. You were confident you could do this?"

"Yes," she said again, watching him examine the glass tube with interest.

He tucked the vial back under his cloak and turned to her, dark eyes fixing on her with the same scrutinizing stare.

"What is your name, kunoichi?"

She had been with the Uchiha over a day and a half now and this was the first that he had bothered to ask her name. She supposed he might have known it already since she had become quite infamous in Fire Country thanks to her skills, but she was sure missing-nin didn't have much time to catch up on recent gossip.

"Sakura Haruno," she answered.

"Sakura," he mused thoughtfully. "I suppose it fits your appearance at least, although you're hardly a frail blossom if you managed to beat Sasori."

She ran her fingers through her pink hair self-consciously. In all honesty, she disliked its natural color. People tended to take her less seriously because of it and she had had to prove herself again and again to people who thought she was just a silly little girl who liked to carry around kunai.

The cloaked man fell silent again and turned away from her, staring into the fire as if it held the answer to some mysterious question he had been pondering.

Sakura combed her fingers through tangled bubblegum strands and did her best to tie them into some semblance of a ponytail with the hairband she found in one of her pockets. It was too short to put up completely but it got most of it out of the way.

She was beginning to wonder if Itachi had perhaps fallen asleep when he spoke again.

"There's more food by the fire if you're hungry, and if you have to relieve yourself, you may go outside. There is a shallow creek a little ways from here where you can bathe, but know that if you have not returned in ten minutes, I will come find you, and I doubt you will want to be found in a state of undress."

His point had been made clear. If she wanted to bathe, she had better make it quick. The thought of the dark man seeing her nude made something twist in her gut. Chances were he hardly thought of her in a sexual way. Arousal seemed beyond his capabilities. He was too calm, too in control for such things, but that didn't mean she wanted him looking at her.

Without waiting to be told twice, she picked herself up off the floor and walked outside. She knew the way to the creek because it was the same one she had been using while watching the house. She would have liked to wash her clothes as well but ten minutes didn't give her much time.

As she stripped off her clothes and waded into the frigid water, her mind returned to their conversation the night before. For some reason, it was weighing heavily on her. He said Konoha had secrets, secrets so dark she couldn't even imagine, but Konoha was the village in which she had lived all her life. She loved it dearly and found it hard to believe such horrible things could be hidden in its past. But Itachi had been around longer than she and had no reason to lie to her. Somehow, she couldn't help but wonder what secrets he spoke of.

She scrubbed her hair and body and got out quickly before the cold water could numb her body further, but as she dressed and walked back to the cabin, she had the feeling that the chill in her bones wasn't entirely from the cold water.

Itachi hadn't moved when she entered the cabin, still seated in front of the fire. She cautiously walked near enough to grab a stake that had a hunk of meat on it and carried it back to her corner to pick at it at her leisure.

She was no longer fearful of Itachi, but that didn't mean she wanted to be near him.

"You're just in time. Your ten minutes was almost up," he remarked, arms crossed casually as he sat in his chair, his heavy cloak hung over the back as he soaked up the fire's warmth.

"I'm sure you're disappointed," Sakura remarked, her voice taking on a sharp edge as she kicked off her shoes. "You don't get another chance to use that weird pain jutsu on me."

Itachi's eyes flicked to her before returning to the fire. "I don't enjoy inflicting pain as much as you might think."

It was probably unwise to keep talking but Sakura couldn't help herself, and spoke between mouthfuls of meat. "You could have fooled me. You sure had that jutsu perfected. The one you trapped Kakashi in did nothing but cause pain too."

She had been told it was one of the Shanringan's more advanced and deadly techniques and she probably shouldn't have brought it up, but perhaps this was her passive-aggressive way of rebelling against her confinement.

If Itachi was bothered by her remark, he didn't show it. His voice remained as devoid of emotion as ever. "The Sharingan is not strictly for causing pain. It has other uses as well."

"Sure," she said incredulously through a mouthful of meat, acting a bit to bold considering who she was with. "I'll believe that when I see it."

Itachi smirked in a way that she didn't like. In fact, it was the most emotion he had shown since they had been together. "Are you calling me a liar?" he said, sounding just the tiniest bit amused.

"Well...I...maybe?" she answered lamely, not quite having the guts to say up front that yes, she in fact thought he was full of it.

"Then you shall see it now."

Sakura nearly choked and had to struggle to swallow her last chunk of food. Had she bit off more than she could chew concerning the Uchiha as well?

"What?"

"My technique. I'll show it to you."

He had risen from his chair and was making his way towards her and it didn't take him long considering how small the stone building was. Without his Akatsuki cloak, he looked so much like Sasuke that it made her chest constrict. He was built but still quite lean, his fishnet shirt doing little to hide the flex and flow of his muscles as he moved.

"Wait, I didn't mean for you to-" she began, panicking a little as he crouched down in front of her.

"Relax. Like I said, this won't hurt."

She wanted to look away, but found that she couldn't as those captivating eyes began to spin, faster and faster until she thought she might be sucked in, and suddenly, she wasn't in the room anymore. Itachi wasn't in front of her anymore. The warm glow of the fire was gone along with all the colors she had known, for here in this world, the only colors she could see were black, white, gray and red.

"What the hell?" she whispered, realizing that she was lying down when only a second ago she had been sitting up.

She tried to move but found that both her hands and legs were tied down to the X-shaped board she was laying on. She was spread eagle, defenseless and worst of all, completely naked.

She gasped at the realization and tried to cover herself but her bonds held fast. Above her, gray clouds floated in a crimson sky as a voice that was undoubtedly Itachi's rang out around her. It had no direct source but in fact seemed to be coming from everywhere. It was like he was omnipresence, existing everywhere at once, but that made sense if he was the god of this world.

"This is the same jutsu I used on the great Copy Ninja," the voice said, no doubt speaking of Kakashi. "But I promise I will not harm you here as I did him. Instead, you shall only experience pleasure for as long as I desire."

"What?" Sakura cried, struggling harder against the ropes that held her. She supposed that this was what she got for egging on a dangerous criminal but this was not what she had expected. If she was naked in this world, that meant Itachi could see her unclothed body, and she hadn't even kissed before, let alone exposed herself like this to anyone.

"No!" she cried out desperately. "I believe you now. You can let me go."

His voice didn't respond and she waited breathlessly to see what would happen next in the absolute silence of his jutsu.

Suddenly, her breath caught in her throat as she was aware of the sensation of fingers caressing her skin, beginning at her collarbone and running up and down her arms. She lifted her head and searched for the thing that was touching her but saw nothing, even though she could distinctly feel individual fingers running over her.

A similar feeling started on her legs, running from her ankles to mid thigh and then back again, and two more phantom hands began to touch her stomach, drawing random patterns over her abdomen that made her taunt muscles twitch.

The touches were hardly more than whispers over her skin but they were certainly having an effect. Although she was disoriented and a little frightened, she couldn't deny that the soft caresses actually felt rather good...which was quite disturbing and not at all alright with her.

"Stop it!" she called out to the invisible man ruling whatever place it was that she was in, but the only answer she got was the appearance of two more hands stroking along her sides, and this time, she could see them.

The strange thing was they were hands and nothing more, disembodied appendages that moved on their own, but they were long fingered and the nails were painted black.

Itachi's hands?

She watched in morbid curiosity as the other hands touching her became visible as well, all looking identical and all focused on touching her. The pair at her sides slipped high along her rib cage, grazing the edges of her naked breasts before moving in to cover the soft mounds completely.

Something between a gasp and a soft cry escaped her lips as the hands began to knead her breasts softly, fingers squeezing gently as the palms moved in slow circular motions, rubbing against pale pink nipples that were rapidly growing hard with the friction.

It was wrong, but far too fascinating not to watch as the hands cupped and squeezed her soft flesh. The fingers moved to the rosy pebbles at the center of each mound, pinching and tugging at them softly until they were rock hard and aching for more.

Sakura whimpered softly as the hands covered her to knead her all over again while the other hands slid teasingly over her arms, legs and stomach, making her tingle and quiver and causing a warm, pleasant sensation to form deep with her belly, like something liquid coiled deep within her.

"In this world, I control everything, even time," the voice rung out, drowning out her whimper as the hands on her breasts squeezed a little harder than before. "Now how long should I keep you here? An hour? Ten hours? Days?"

Sakura's back arched as what felt like something warm and wet closed over one nipple and she half expected to see a mouth suckling her, but when she looked, there was nothing, not even a pair of hands, and the others touching her elsewhere had also vanished although she could still feel them touching her.

Her head fell back as what felt suspiciously like a tongue swirled around the erect peak, and a similar sensation started on her second nipple, making her shudder and moan as the heat inside her grew. As strange as this violation was, Sakura found she didn't have the will to resist, and that was probably Itachi's doing as well. She had done no more than touch herself occasionally on the nights she was feeling a little lonely and wasn't already exhausted from her duties during the day, so being touched like this was something completely new. Yet, even as she tried to tell herself to hate what was being done by the eldest Uchiha, her body was undoubtedly enjoying his jutsu quite a bit.

She moaned aloud as phantom teeth and lips tugged at her nipples while the hands on her legs stroked high along her thighs. The way her legs were held open exposed her most sacred of places but the hands never ventured nearer than the crease of her hip, a fact she was beginning to find quite frustrating.

And then suddenly, they were gone, the caresses of all four hands evaporated as if they had never been there at all and when Sakura opened her eyes and looked, a single hand hovered between her heaving breasts as if it were waiting for her full attention.

Slowly, and quite deliberately, the pointer finger came to rest on her sternum, before drawing a slow line between her breasts and down her flat stomach. Sakura could feel the touch as well as anything in the real world. It was tangible and so real that the only thing that reminded her that this was an illusion was the strange color scheme and the fact that the hand had no body attached to it, making the whole thing rather surreal.

The finger continued to trace a path downwards, dipping into her navel briefly and running over trim pink hairs that covered her mound.

Sakura waited breathlessly as it came to rest at the place where her skin parted into soft fleshy lips that marked the opening to her sex, her breath coming in short, ragged pants as she fought to control her arousal.

The hand only hesitated a moment, and then the single finger was slipping inside of her, making her cry out as the digit pushed in effortlessly right up to the third knuckle.

Sakura's hips bucked as much as her restraints would allow as the single finger slid in and out of her sex at a torturously slow pace. Feminine muscles fluttered in response to the delicious friction of the digit dragging along her slick wall, and sought to draw it in further but nothing she did would make it move faster.

She had hardly wrapped her head around what was happening between her legs when the other hands and mouths returned, the invisible pair at her breasts immediately engulfing stiff nipples with hot, wet sensations.

She arched and moaned, head turning restlessly side to side as she let out a chain of needy and heated sounds.

The finger within her was joined by another, stretching her in the most wonderful way and makingher writhe even more as they continued to pump rhythmically.

She could hear the soft squelch of the fingers invading her soaking core, but wasn't surprised to look up and find nothing there. The hand had vanished but the sensations remained, driving into her and making her so crazy with need that not even the sounds of her own wet sex could embarrass her.

And then the fingers were gone and she groaned in frustration at the loss, but then something wet and flexible was gliding along her nether lips, extracting a pleasured cry from her as what felt like a tongue traced her quivering opening before dipping inside.

She threw her head back and moaned loudly as the invisible appendage alternated between swirling within her and flicking over the swollen button at her opening that had been neglected until now, sending a pleasurable surge through her every time it did so. Occasionally, it thrust into her deeply, its shape transforming back into something hard strong, stroking along the walls of her sex as a finger before once again becoming pliant and soft to stroke over her clit.

This blissful torture went on and on, the hands on her arms, legs, stomach and breasts never ceasing their assault either. How long had she been here? An hour? Two? It was impossible to concentrate when those fingers curled within her like that.

And then, the shape shifting thing between her legs withdrew and the hands playing over her stomach moved to grip her hips tightly. She didn't even have time to feel disappointed before she felt something hard and hot and unquestionably bigger than anything before it prod her dripping entrance.

And with one hard shove, it was lodge deep inside her.

She couldn't contain her pleasured scream as her orgasm tore through her. She had been held at the brink for so long that the final release shook her right to her very soul, leaving her breathless, elated and somehow wanting more, but the thick length inside her showed no sign of stopping its powerful thrusts that jarred her whole body with every surge forward.

She has having sex with nothing, being fucked senseless by a jutsu, an illusion, but that didn't change the fact that broken sobs passed her lips every time she was entered, that her whole body was burning with desire even after an intense orgasm. Somewhere, Itachi was watching her but she couldn't bring herself to care, but in the jumble of incoherent thoughts, she managed to form one fleeting notion.

He had certainly proven his point that the Sharingan could do more than produce pain.

The thing within her shifted again, licking and sucking now at her throbbing clit until she was so aroused she thought she would burst, only to have it transform again and resume pumping into her, sending her breasts bouncing in time until phantom hands cupped them, molding and squeezing them into invisible palms.

She came again and perhaps another time after that but by now the pleasure had intensified so much that she couldn't be sure where one climax ended and another began. Her core was constantly tightening in a steady set of endless contractions that sent chain reactions off through her entire body until every nerve ending was singing. Her fingers and toes began to tingle and her vision started to blur, and she realized she was in fact in danger of losing consciousness because her body simply could no longer handle such intense stimulation.

"Oh god..." she breathed as the pistoning length did not transform but in fact was joined a hungry mouth sucking greedily at her clit, making her back bow and her head snap back as she arched right off the cross she was tied to.

Another orgasm, overwhelming and violent tore through her mercilessly.

She couldn't take it. She was going to die. The human body wasn't meant to endure this. She was absolutely sure that when she blacked out, there would be no waking up.

But when she opened her eyes, she was back in the small stone establishment with the crackling fire and hard floors and Itachi was still crouching before her, his Sharingan no longer spinning and an incredibly smug smirk on his lips.

"I trust you won't be calling me a liar again, kunoichi?"

She blinked at him owlishly, feeling weak in a way that nothing to do with chakra reserves. She was breathless and trembling and sweating lightly and judging from the profuse moisture that had soaked her panties, she may very well have had an orgasm in the real world while she was coming over and over again in his illusion.

She could only stare at him stupefied for a moment, swaying slightly as she struggled to find her words and the strength to speak. When she did, they weren't exactly elegant.

"What the fuck was that?" she panted, finally beginning to feel angry that he had violated her in such a way.

"The Mangekyo Sharingan," Itachi replied casually, as if it were no big deal he had just pleasured her to the verge of unconsciousness. "Your sensei endured pain in that world for forty-eight hours but you hardly made it through four."

If she had been in this situation with anyone else, she would have punched them hard enough to send them flying through the stone wall and probably many of the trees outside, but considering this man could snap her wrist like a twig before the blow ever connected, she managed to control herself, turning her head away as a blush burned her cheeks and angry tears stung her eyes.

"Yeah, well it's not like I've done anything like that before," she muttered, more to the wall than to him, wrapping her arms around herself and hugging her body as if she were still naked before him and needed to cover herself.

"You mean have sex in an enemy's jutsu?" he asked, his voice far too emotionless for the words he spoke.

"I mean having sex at all," she said bitterly, curling away from him more, mortified that she was giving him this information in the first place.

Her response inspired a moment of quiet from the missing-nin, but she had no intention of turning around to gauge his reaction. His face was probably a blank slate anyways.

"So that was the first time a man-"

"Yes," she answered shortly.

"I see," he said at last. "You know, it's quite unusual for shinobi your age to still have their virginity. Were you perhaps waiting for-"

"Can we not talk about this anymore?" Sakura snapped, her patience reaching its limit. It was bad enough to be molested by someone like him, even if it was only an illusion, but then for him to want to talk about her lack of experience was more than she could bear. When did he decide to become so chatty anyways?

"Alright," he relented, straightening, but still regarding her like she was profoundly interesting. Even though she wasn't looking at him, she could feel his piercing eyes on her and at the moment, she couldn't take any more of his scrutiny.

"I'm going outside," she announced abruptly, standing on shaky legs that hadn't quite recovered from his jutsu.

"Ten minutes," he reminded her, finally turning away from her and returning to his seat.

"Whatever," she spat, shutting the door behind her more firmly than necessary.

She didn't go far. In fact, she only walked along the building a few feet, dragging her hand over the smooth stone exterior. She was oblivious to the cold as she turned with her back to the wall, sliding down until she was sitting in the dirt.

Alone at last, she wrapped her arms around her bent knees and finally let out the tears that had threatened to spill while she was inside. She was angry that he had used a jutsu on her like that and then acted like it was some sort of game, but her tears stemmed from much deeper reasons. Perhaps the induced orgasm had just been the catalyst that brought all her emotions to the surface.

She wept for Sasuke and the fact that it was looking increasingly hopeless that she would be able to take him back to Konoha, at least without him fighting his brother first. She wept for her own situation, the stress of living with an Akatsuki member finally taking its toll on her, and she wept because the words he had spoken about her own village and its secrets had affected her deeper than she wanted to admit, and she hated herself for allowing him to get under her skin like that and taint the once purely favorable thoughts of Konoha.

She also cried because she didn't know what to think of him anymore. It had been so much easier when she hadn't known him at all, when she could sit back and call him a monster with a clear conscious. But now she had seen several things that betrayed he was indeed a man as much as anyone else. Even though it had just been a jutsu, she had sensed the desire that enveloped her while she was in that world. It was his desire, but by the time he had dispelled the technique, he had himself under control, hiding all emotion behind red eyes.

She sat there for nearly half an hour, sobbing quietly as all her pent up emotions came spilling out. Despite his warning to be back in ten minutes, Itachi did not come looking for her, and she wondered if he somehow knew she was crying.

She almost would have preferred he come out and haul her back inside roughly instead of showing something that could be interpreted as sensitivity. It would make him all the easier to hate.

For the next several days Sakura remained his captive. She steadily grew stronger but still was nowhere near her full potential. She had a sneaking suspicion that he drained her chakra while she was asleep but apparently he trusted her enough to give her enough energy to allow her to move freely. She no longer felt frail and sickly but could sit up and move around. He even allowed her to go outside to stretch and train a bit as long as she didn't leave the clearing, but he never joined her, always staying inside or venturing into the forest briefly to catch another animal for food.

Every time he left she contemplated running, although she knew he would probably hunt her down minutes after she stepped out the door. The small amount of freedom he allowed her was a result of his trust and if she tried to escape in the middle of the night, not only would she probably be caught, but she would probably end up chained to his side, even when bathing and that was not something she was willing to live with. It wasn't that she was afraid of him, although she didn't relish the thought of being subjected to that painful jutsu again. Sasuke would come here. She knew he would, and she could only hope she would be lucky enough that he would appear while Itachi was out, giving her the chance to convince him to return with her, even if her poison vials and antidotes had been confiscated.

She had waited so very long to see him, to embrace him and tell him how much she had missed him, and even if he didn't return her feelings, she refused to give up even the faintest glimmer of a chance of bringing him home.

But that glimmer was growing fainter and fainter, for it seemed Itachi was as determined to fight Sasuke as his brother was to fight him. Even though her teammate had grown a great deal stronger while with Orochimaru, Itachi was a legend, a prodigy, and Sakura wasn't so sure the younger Uchiha could defeat him.

She didn't think she could bare to stand by and watch Sasuke die after everything she had done to get him back, but as the way things were now, it looked like she had few options.

It was the fourteenth day of her mission and the fifth of her captivity.

She refrained from talking to the Akatsuki man if she could avoid it. Things had been tense and awkward, at least for her, ever since he used that perverted jutsu. He hadn't tried to start a conversation with her either and so they had spent the days in strained silence or she went outside to put some distance between herself and the missing-nin. The only time they had interacted at all was two nights prior when it had grown so cold that sleeping against the stone wall left her shivering, even with both her traveling cloak and the blanket draped over her. Itachi had invited her to sleep near the fire, near him, and she had reluctantly accepted with her only other option being to freeze all night. He hadn't said another word, but simply rolled over and went to sleep while Sakura arranged herself as far away from him as she could while still feeling the warmth of the fire. The rest of the night was uneventful as they slept with mere inches between them and by the time she awoke the next morning, he had already gone out to find them some breakfast.

Breakfast much like the roast meat and handful of sweet berries she was eating now.

She had decided to stretch rigorously and walk herself through some more basic exercises for the majority of the day, simply to pass the time and get away from Itachi, but now the sun was about to set and she had retreated back inside for food and shelter from the cold.

Her captor was staring into the fire, as stoic as ever, and she wondered what the hell he thought about all day. As much as she hated to admit it, ever since her experience with his Sharingan, her mind had been thinking about him quite a bit. If she wasn't thinking about Sasuke or the cryptic words spoken against her village, she was thinking solely about Itachi, and some of her thoughts were quite inappropriate.

It was true she was inexperienced when most of her peers had had more than one sexual partner, so she supposed it wasn't so strange that she was fixated on thoughts of the Akatsuki man who in a strange way, had indeed become her first lover, but her thoughts strayed to forbidden territory as she wondered if he was that good in the real world. Could he make a woman scream like she had with the use of his physical lips and tongue and fingers and not just the ones in his technique? Could he caress her softly, gently one moment, and then ravish her like an animal the next?

The moment the images formed in her head, she tried to banish them, sometimes blushing slightly at the realization she was fantasizing about Itachi Uchiha. But once again, if he took notice of her awkward behavior around him he didn't make it known, which was probably just as well, especially when they were stuck in such close quarters like this.

She ate in silence, the only sound in the room being the crackling fire. She still found it hard to believe that she was here with the man that she had loathed ever since he had first entered Konoha. He wanted to kill one of her teammates and had killed the family of another. Silent rage boiled within her, but so did an unquenchable curiosity. All those people slain, his own flesh and blood...

She looked over at him as he sat, popping a berry into his mouth now and then, but otherwise not eating much. It looked like he was in deep thought and she wondered what about. What did S-class criminals think about?

"Why did you do it?" she asked before she was even aware that the words were leaving her mouth.

His head turned to her, expression unreadable.

"Why did I do what?"

She took a deep breath, hoping her question wouldn't anger him, but now that she had started she couldn't stop, not when she had wanted to know for so long.

"Your family, the entire Uchiha clan, why did you kill them?"

Her question spurred no other reaction in the man other than a slight shift of his body as he turned to her more fully. "You wouldn't believe my answer to that even if I told you, kunoichi. It would change your view of everything."

"Please," she said, not to be deterred, "I need to know the truth, to know what kind of reason could justify Sasuke suffering like he has. I want to know what made you do it."

Itachi looked at her unwaveringly, Sharingan eyes betraying nothing about how he felt, but he seemed to be considering whether he should tell her the secret.

"I did it," he said at last, "Because Konoha's elders ordered me to."

The wind could not have been knocked from her more fully if she had received a punch to the gut. She couldn't breathe, couldn't absorb fully what he had said. If this were true, that changed everything she had ever thought she knew about this man. He was no longer a villain, but a victim, a tool used by the village she thought could do no wrong. But she never called Itachi a liar, never pleaded for an alternate explanation, and deep down, she supposed that she had believed those words as soon as he said them.

"But...why would they..." was all she could manage, her voice trembling as her heart began to break inside her chest.

"Because they felt that the Uchiha were no longer in Konoha's best interest. Our clan had become too powerful, our views too different from those running the village. We were a threat, and I was the one chosen to eliminate them."

The pain she felt was almost worse than what she had endured when he had caught her trying to escape. Everything he had said before about murders being murders, about good and evil being indistinguishable, now rang so true that it made her sick with the thought of it. Itachi was only a murderer because her beloved village had ordered him to be. Everything everyone thought about him was all a lie. It had been so much easier to sit back and point the finger at him but now...now what was she supposed to do?

"But why did you spare Sasuke?" she whispered, unbidden tears welling up in her eyes, her hands clasped tightly together in her lap as her meal before her lay forgotten. "Weren't you supposed to kill him too?"

"Yes," Itachi said softly, his eyes shifted downwards to his own lap before they closed altogether. "But I couldn't. I was able to kill my aunts and uncles, my mother and father. But I couldn't kill him. I couldn't kill my little brother."

She squeezed her eyes shut as her tears spilled down her cheeks. She could hear it in his voice, hear the love he had for Sasuke. He wasn't lying and no amount of wishing otherwise would change it. Somehow, she intrinsically knew this was the truth, but then, why the elaborate story? Sure the leaders of Konoha had to save face, but what about Sasuke?

"Why didn't you tell him the truth? Why did you make yourself out to be the villain? He trusted you, believed in you."

"I know," he said, unable to mask his pain completely. "But it is far better for him this way, to think that I murdered on my own. It gives him the opportunity to avoid the fate that I could not. I'd rather live as a criminal than watch him walk the same path."

"Itachi..." Sakura said softly looking at his form slumped in his chair. He looked broken, weary and defeated and she knew that this was the proof above all others that he was indeed no more than a man, even if he was a man who had done horrible things. So captivated was she by his transformation that didn't even realize she had called him by name for the first time.

She stood, awkwardly at first, not knowing what to do, but she took a few hesitant steps towards him and stopped.

"You know, it's not too late to tell him," she said, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand. "You could return to Konoha and start over."

Itachi gave a small shake of his head and looked up from his hands, the hands that had killed nearly everyone he had ever cared about.

"My brother has hated me for so long that I doubt he could stop. He won't believe what I have to say."

"But the Hokage, I'm sure she could work something out with you. You're a valuable ninja. The village would take you back."

"You truly are naïve, little kunoichi. You think Akatsuki would just let me go? I've sold them my soul to them and cannot turn back now."

Now, more than any other time during her captivity, Sakura felt helpless. She longed for the power to change things, or at least for Naruto's amazing charisma and determination that always seemed to renew the spirits of those who had given up. It seemed Itachi was resigned to his fate, no matter how dismal.

"So, you're not even going to try?" she whispered, her fists clenched at her sides in frustration at the injustice of it all.

"I cannot start over kunoichi because the past will never disappear. Someone who has become as bloodstained as I have can't hope to be reborn pure as snow."

"But..." Sakura said, taking another desperate step forward, but then struggling for the words to say.

Tearful green eyes searched his Sharningan but she found neither answers nor words to comfort him.

"You really are unique, going to such lengths for the man you have every right to hate," he said quietly, a slight smile forming on his lips.

"I don't want you to go back to what you were, not when you can change," she said pleadingly, closer to him now than she had ever willingly come before.

"It doesn't matter. Sasuke will be here soon and that will be the end of things," Itachi said quietly, looking towards the fire as if he could see the future in the flickering flames.

Sakura's eyes widened as realization dawned on her. "You...want him to kill you."

"It's a most fitting end for me, don't you think? I am put out of my misery and Sasuke's revenge will be complete. I won't just stand there and let him defeat me. I'll fight him with all that I have, but if he's grown strong enough, and I truly believe that he has, I will die by his hand and maybe then I will finally know peace.

"So you're just waiting to die then," Sakura said, fresh tears cutting wet tracks down her cheeks.

"Death is all I have left."

Sakura was only a few months into her twentieth year and was still young, maybe not by shinobi standards, but she had much of her life ahead of her. She couldn't imagine a time when she could honestly say that there was nothing left for her in this world except to leave it. She realized how terribly lonely his life must have been, and that it was her village that forced this fate upon him. How was she ever going to face those towering green gates again after learning all this? How was life ever going to be the same? She supposed that it couldn't be.

She was about to speak again when he beat her to it.

"Go finish your meal before it gets any colder."

Eating was the last thing she wanted to do right now and she was about to tell him so.

"Please," he said softly with so much sincerity that she felt she had to comply. Apparently he was done talking about this and she would respect that, even though she wished she could talk him into an alternative to fighting his brother.

She retreated back to her corner to pick at the greasy lump of meat that had long since grown cold.

The silence between them was heavy and ominous and Sakura finally understood the gravity of Itachi's situation. He would probably never return to Akatsuki, would probably never see anything beyond this forest again, but as she watched him gazing into the fire, he seemed...serene. Maybe he had been waiting for Sasuke to end his life for a long time, and now that the time was growing near, he didn't have to worry anymore about all the other troubles he had endured. Sasuke was all that mattered.

That night proved to be even more bitter than the previous ones, the fire barely keeping the chill from encroaching in on the people huddled before it.

Itachi had spread out his cloak adorned with red clouds in front of the warm glow, and when he invited Sakura to sleep near the flames with him, she once again accepted, only now, she wasn't so paranoid about sharing close quarters with him. In fact, this time they both lay down on the garment, she covering herself with her own traveling cloak and he with the blanket. They faced away from each other but were so close that Sakura could feel his body heat against her, and she welcomed any additional warmth she could get.

They laid there a while, breathing deep and steady, but Sakura didn't fall asleep and didn't think the man next to her had either.

"Itachi," she whispered just loud enough to be heard over the crackling flames.

"Hmm?" he responded, confirming her suspicion that he was indeed awake.

"Do you think Sasuke will come here soon?"

"Yes, very soon," he responded. "He will come to me when he's ready, and that day is drawing very near."

Another moment of silence passed between them interrupted only by wood popping in the fire.

"You know, now that you've told me everything about Konoha and your clan, I don't want you to die. I don't know how I'm going to go back to Konoha now that I know what the elders there have done. I can't act the way that I did before."

"You don't have to act the same. Be different, maybe it will lead to changes that will better your home. And you hardly need me around to guide you. You made it this far already."

For some reason, his words triggered hot tears and a tightening in her throat. She was on the verge of crying once more but she tried to hold back. She had spent her entire childhood crying over Sasuke and now here she was; a grown woman, shedding tears for his brother.

She tried to stifle her sniffles but she should have known better than to think she could keep anything from an elite ninja.

"Are you crying, kunoichi?"

"No," she said a little too quickly, her voice breaking and giving her away.

She heard the rustle of cloth as he rolled over and felt a hand on her shoulder, gently coaxing her onto her back. It was the first time he had touched her in a non threatening way, beside the time her grazed her lips while feeding her, and amazingly enough, she didn't flinch away at all, but let him move her until he could see her face.

Twin tears had leaked from her eyes despite her efforts to blink them back and they shone brightly in the firelight.

"Are those tears...for me?" he asked softly, as if he couldn't quite believe someone could ever cry over him.

She sniffled ineloquently as she looked up at him. The warm lighting softened his features making him look even more handsome than he was in broad daylight. He looked like a man who could be capable of tenderness and maybe even love. Perhaps this is what he would look like if fate had worked out differently.

"It's just that I don't want you to die, not when I just found out so much about you," she murmured, drinking in his mysterious eyes and long dark hair still tied back into a ponytail.

"I wouldn't have told you what I did if I didn't know my time would be ending soon," Itachi said, surprising her by brushing his thumb over her cheek and wiping away the crystalline droplet of moisture on her skin. "But I suppose that's not fair to you to burden you with all this knowledge. I'm sorry for that, kunoichi. I suppose I'm responsible for opening your innocent eyes to the world a little bit more."

The pads of his fingers were warm and calloused just as they had been against her lips that time before. She was beginning to resent the naive part of her that didn't seem to want to wake up to reality. Life was no fairytale and as a kunoichi, she should have learned that long ago.

"You know, I don't think I want to be innocent anymore," she whispered, her hand coming up to close gently around his wrist. She knew her next words would change her forever but as far as she saw it, this change was long overdue. "Itachi, take it from me."

She thought he might pull away and reject her but he didn't move.

"You don't want to give me your innocence, Sakura," he said, his voice husky and low. The way he said her name silently thrilled her and she tightened her grip on him slightly.

"Yes I do. You've already taken some of it, both with that jutsu and the secrets you've told me. I want you to finish the job."

"Sakura I-"

"Please, Itachi."

She was tugging him down towards her, bringing his face ever closer until his lips were brushing against hers, making goosebumps break out over her skin that had little to do with the temperature.

The kiss was chaste and brief but it seemed to be enough to convince him.

"Are you sure you won't regret this?" he asked after they had pulled apart, his lips still millimeters from hers.

"I'll regret nothing. I know this is what I want," she whispered, hands sliding up his arms and over his fishnet clothed back as he settled his weight more fully on top of her, lowering himself against her but bracing an elbow by her head so as not to crush her.

Their mouths met again, slow and soft at first but then her tongue traced the seam of his lips in a silent plea for entry and the kiss deepened. The dance of their tongues stroking against each other instantly eradicated any doubt they felt as desire washed over them, fueled hotter with every passionate clash of their lips. Sakura's hands fisted in his shirt, clinging to him as he plundered her mouth and she plundered right back. She drew his tongue into her mouth and sucked it softly, earning a deep rumble from his throat that made her tingle deliciously.

His free hand cupped her cheek, his thumb smoothing over her jaw as they broke apart just long enough to suck breath into their lungs before melding together once more. His way of kissing was domineering but not overpowering, and she held her own against him, urged on by how much she desired him. Her hands began to roam his shoulders restlessly but there was no place that the mesh shirt didn't cover and she was suddenly aware that they were both wearing entirely too much clothing.

Fingers skimmed his back until she found the waistband of his pants and began pulling at his shirt urgently without breaking their heated kiss, but his tongue dulled her mind and numbed her usually dexterous hands. After several failed attempts, the Akatsuki finally pulled away and sat back on his knees to assist her in tugging his shirt over his head, leaving his sinewy torso bare.

Before she had much time to marvel, he was back on top of her, lips working over her neck and suckling a pulse point as his own hands began to inch her long sleeved shirt up to let his fingers play over her stomach.

The lust burning within her was building momentum with frightening speed but she didn't care. She had made her choice and planned to follow it, but she hadn't planned on feeling so out of control, so swept away by emotions for a man who mere days ago had been her mortal enemy.

She whimpered when he nipped at her collarbone through the dark material she wore, a small hand wrapping around the base of his ponytail to tug him up for another kiss .He complied and covered her mouth with his once more as she slid the band around his dark strands free entirely and weaved her fingers into his hair.

The length of his body was pressed against hers, making it easy for her to feel the sculpted musculature flex against her smaller form, but very soon she was aware of something rubbing against her that was definitely not muscle, something hard and long, dragging over her thigh. She tried to slip a hand between them to grasp it, to pump it and force more of those wonderful growls and groans from his throat but his hand caught her wrist and pinned it easily to the floor next to her head.

He released her slightly kiss-swollen bottom lip from between his teeth and gazed down at her, crimson eyes hooded with desire.

"Not so fast, kunoichi. Give me some time to explore," he murmured huskily, edging down her body so he could continue to nuzzle her shirt higher where his hands had left off, planting heated kisses over the newly exposed flesh of her stomach and ribs. She let out a shuddering sigh as he traveled higher until the bottom curve or her breasts were exposed. She hadn't bothered with her bindings since she took her first bath as his prisoner, figuring she wouldn't be active enough to need them, and now there was nothing shielding her skin from his eyes as he took the hem of her shirt between his teeth, tugging it up to her armpits and revealing the twin globes of pale flesh.

He let his eyes rove over her a moment, taking in her flushed appearance in the firelight. Her nipples were already distending thanks to the cool air and his smoldering gaze, and he let his hands come up to run along her sides and graze the soft outer curves, enjoying the feel of her against his fingertips.

He was staring at her with such intense desire she thought his gaze alone might burn her up. She turned her head to the side shyly so she wouldn't have to it face it head on.

"It's nothing you haven't seen before," she murmured, remembering that she had already been naked for him, and tied down no less.

"But that was just an illusion," he answered, cupping her mounds gently in his palms, "The real thing is so much better."

Indeed, the real thing was better. Although there was only one pair on hands touching her body instead of four, the fact that a gorgeously toned, handsome man was attached to them more than made up for it. He looked at her as if she were the most exquisite thing he had ever seen, and when he dipped his head to draw one hardened nipple into his mouth, the sensation made the same action in his jutsu seem pale by comparison.

She shuddered and arched, whimpering encouragements as she cradled him against her chest and wrapped her legs around his waist, eager for as much body contact as possible.

He took his time with her, thoroughly licking and sucking at the hard bud before switching to swirl his tongue over its neglected twin. He seemed to enjoy the noises she made as she arched beneath him and tried to press more of her into his mouth.

His ministrations were making her hotter than she had ever felt before, the apex of her thighs practically burning with the need to be touched. She wanted to tell him so but every flick of his tongue drove the words from her mind.

Just when she thought she might go mad, he pulled away, fixing her once again with glimmering eyes that excited her with just one lustful glance, before he tugged her shirt over her head and cast it away. His hand crept to the waistband of her pants, nimble fingers undoing the buttons and tugging them down over her hips. Shyly, she lifted her pelvis to assist him and suddenly her pants were sliding down her legs and gone all together, leaving her completely naked in the firelight.

He dark eyes studied her frame bottom to top and though he didn't say a word, his hungry expression told her he liked what he saw.

She stared back, admiring what she could see of his body. The firelight softened the pale scars that crisscrossed his chest and stomach but did little to hide the definition of his abdominals and pecs. Even a Greek god could not have boasted a more beautiful body and a new wave of heat flooded the pit of her stomach.

Unconsciously, her tongue traced the fullness of her bottom lip as the dark man moved back over her to kiss a heated trail from the valley of her breasts, down her flat belly and to the tuft of trim pink hair covering her mound. The closer he came to her source of need, the more each touch of his lips thrilled her, making her moan and writhe and her thighs part of their own accord until his shoulders were wedged between them, keeping her spread wide and his face was inches from her womanhood, taking in the sight of her perfect flower.

Never had she felt like she needed something so bad. His jutsu had prepared her for what he planned to do to her now that he had come this far, but when he reached his goal and then paused, she lifted her head to see what was making him wait, because she felt if she didn't get some relief from the throbbing pressure pulsing between her legs, she would surely go mad.

She found twin orbs of scarlet and onyx watching her face intently. Apparently he had been waiting for her full attention before continuing. His eyes never left her face as he brought a single finger to her entrance. There was no preliminary preparation, no teasing of her clit or nether lips, just the slow, steady push of his digit inside her, and he watched her intensely as she experienced a man touching her for the first time.

Her lips parted in a silent cry and her eyes widened in an awed expression, her breath coming in irregular little gasps. Her body willingly suctioned him inside, as if he belonged there, and he sunk into her easily, aided by the incredible slickness of her arousal.

He didn't stop until he was inside up to the third knuckle and paused a moment, feeling her flex and flutter around him as her body struggled to grow accustomed to his intrusion. She was burning hot and liquid and virgin tight, but his eyes never left her face, instead finding the sight of her pleasured expressions far more interesting.

He began to withdraw from her at the same torturously slow pace and the muscles of her canal were hesitant to let him go, clinging to him almost as fiercely as the hands on his shoulders. She whimpered and moaned as he pulled out so far he was almost free of her, but then he reversed his actions and began to push into her again. Over and over, in and out his digit moved, loosening her body for him, but never once increasing his speed.

She thought having him touch her here would bring her relief, but it seemed to only drive her into a greater frenzy. Her head fell back against his cloak, emerald eyes shut as she moaned for him, arching her back and grinding her hips against his finger in an attempt to make him go faster. When she went too wild beneath him, his second hand pressed her hips to the ground, stilling her actions and forcing her to endure his sweet torture.

Her fingernails were cutting into his shoulders, but she couldn't bring herself to let go and he seemed oblivious to the pain, still focused only on her face even as his finger moved so intimately within her,

"Oh please..." she moaned as her core flexed around him in a contraction that sent hot pleasure singing through her, "Itachi please...more..."

At first she thought he was going to ignore her request, but then he finally let his eyes move from her face to the place his digit was working in and out of her. She was so wet by now that her liquid desire had begun to seep out of her and run down the curve of her rear to soak into the dark material beneath her. Sakura propped herself up on her elbows, eagerly awaiting his next move as he seemed captivated by the sight of her dripping sex. And then his head was lowering, down...down...and then his tongue was flicking over the bundle of nerve endings that had been throbbing in need ever since their first kiss.

Her stomach immediatly clenched at the sensation and she collapsed back to the ground, unable to watch him as his tongue twirled around her clit in the most amazing ways. Her moans were loud and unhindered now and her thighs trembled against his shoulders as the air was driven from her lungs. Her hands released his shoulders and found new purchase in his hair, gripping silky strands as if the act would save her from dying of pleasure.

It appeared he was just as skilled a lover as he was a shinobi, his tongue tapping, stroking, swirling and sucking her clit, all coupled with the unwavering rhythm of his finger. She went absolutely wild and if it hadn't been for his hand holding her down, she probably would have arched clear off the floor.

The heat in her stomach built to such great levels that she was sure she was going to burst apart. She could tell she was on the brink of something huge but just when it was within her grasp, he released her swollen pearl from his lips and let his finger slide free.

She was trembling, so great was her need, and she tugged at him urgently, trying to get him to resume what he had been doing.

"Don't stop! Please, I need-"

"Patience," he said, sitting back to begin divesting himself of his own pants, and Sakura immediately understood why he had stopped. As his pants fell away, his member sprung free, long and lithe like the rest of him and equally imposing. She found she wasn't even worried about him fitting or the pain of their unison. She just wanted him inside her before her lust and burning need drove her insane.

She reached out for him, wanting to feel his hot shaft in her hand but he pressed her back with a hand to her stomach as he moved atop her once more. His dark hair fell loose around his shoulders, shorter bangs falling across his forehead and into his eyes and Sakura couldn't help but marvel at how beautiful he was, and suddenly, it didn't matter if their ambitions were different or that they were enemies. He was a man, and she a woman and that was all that mattered here in their makeshift bed with the fire to witness their coupling.

He moved with grace and power, like a big cat as he moved atop her, slanting his mouth over hers for another kiss. She moaned against his lips as she tasted something strange and unique on his lips that had to be her own flavor and was intoxicated by the eroticism of it, unaware that he was aligning himself with her entrance until his tip spread slick lips apart and he began to push inside.

He pulled away so he could watch her face as he entered her, more enticed by her expression of ecstasy and wonderment than how she felt around him, although he couldn't help a low groan himself. Her hands locked around his biceps as she felt her body part for him and something hot and thick and incredibly wonderful filled her up and stole the last of her innocence away. There was no pain, no resistance, just pure euphoria as that intense need was finally satiated a little as he pushed in to the hilt, stretching her in a way in which she had never before experienced.

She gazed into crimson pools as her own eyes glazed over with pure desire. She hooked her ankles together behind his back and arched up against him, pushing him just a little deeper inside, cooing at the sensation.

And then, he began to move, planting hands on either side of her head as he moved his entire body to draw back and thrust into her, slow and powerful. She cried out at the amazing feeling of him moving within her, pink hair splayed out on his cloak as she moved her head restlessly, her eyes sliding shut as she immersed herself fully in the raw, pure pleasure.

His torso dragged over her soft breasts with every pass, teasing rosy nipples into stiff points as he dipped his head to scatter soft kisses over her neck, cheeks, shoulders, lips, anywhere he could reach. His own breath was coming in harsh pants now but Sakura drowned him out with a continuous stream of heady moans, her hands sweeping over his back and down to grab at the toned expanse of his ass. She could feel the hard muscle working under her fingers and pressed him to her, urging him to drive in deeper.

Skin slapped against skin wetly and a sheen of sweat had broken out on their bodies, every droplet of moisture glowing with the reflected light of the fire.

Sakura was back at the brink, her muscles contracted inside of her with every one of his powerful thrusts, the pleasure flowing continuously, making speech and thought all but impossible, but through the haze, she managed to pant out his name, pleading for more in broken sobs and he complied, increasing the speed and intensity of his pumping hips until her whole body jolted every time he surged forward.

There was nothing in the world but him, all other things were inconsequential. With him inside her like this, there was no way to be any closer to him. They were joined as closely as two humans could ever be and this amazing experience would never leave her. Even when he died, he would be with her forever.

His lips found hers and claimed them passionately, exploring her mouth without compromising his rhythm. The sight of those exotic Sharingan eyes filled with desire and lust when they broke their kiss was the breaking point for the kunoichi. At last her body succumbed, driven to the pinnacle by his relentless thrusts and she cried out his name, fingernails scraping along his back as her womanhood clamped down on him, sending rippling waves of pure hot ecstasy through her and robbing her of her vision as everything turned to white.

Itachi watched her all the while, not saying a word but drinking in the gorgeous sight of his lover caught up in her orgasm, the very first one given her by a man. She grew painfully tight around him and twice as wet as a gush of fluid accompanied her release. She was so damn tight, so hot and wet and fucking beautiful that he couldn't hold out anymore. Just as she was coming down from her high, her groaned her name long and low as his own body shook and he emptied himself into her womb with a few last shuddering thrusts.

Sakura watched him climax, reactions slowed and numbed from her own release, but the sight of his normally stoic face contorting in pleasure was one she would not forget, nor the feeling of hot seed flooding her, mixing with her own juices as he collapsed on top of her.

For a long time they just lay there, his fingers tangled in her pink hair as his head rested against her soft breasts. The fire dried the sweat on their bodies and their ragged breathing finally returned to normal. A delicious, fuzzy glow settled over her, making her tingle with post orgasmic bliss and her hands began to draw random patterns over his back, feeling the bumps and dips of his scars under her fingertips.

"Itachi," she said at last, wondering if he was already asleep.

"Hmm?"

"Why did you bring me here? Why did you want me to stay with you instead of just killing me?"

At first she didn't think he was going to answer, the silence stretching out between them, but then he moved, rolling them over until she was settled against his chest, his arms coming up to wrap around her.

"Like I said, you fascinated me."

"Is that the only reason?"

He was thoughtful before he spoke.

"Maybe I just didn't want to spend the last of my days alone. I've been lonely my whole life."

Sakura reached up to brush ebony strands away from his eyes. "Well, I'm glad you did. I'm glad I got to know you, although I never would have dreamed I would say that in a thousand years."

Itachi smiled at her, actually smiled. It was slight, more of a quirk of his lips, but it was a smile. "Thank you for your company Sakura."

Sakura smiled back and rested her head against his chest, lulled by his steady heartbeat. His warm hands on her back were comforting and she wanted this moment to last forever, even though she knew that it would be all too brief.

Perhaps, she dozed, she wasn't sure, but suddenly, Itachi's body tensed beneath her, rousing her from her sleepy state.

She looked up at him with a questioning expression but the two words he spoke explained it all.

"He's here."

She gasped, her head snapping towards the door as she too was able to detect his chakra. He was still a ways off but rapidly drawing closer, heading straight towards the cabin.

Itachi slid out from under her, slipping on his pants and shirt as Sakura looked around for her own garments but they seemed to have been flung to the far corners of the room.

"Stay here," he ordered as Sakura stood, oblivious to her nakedness so he could put on his cloak.

"I can't just stay here and let you guys fight!" she exclaimed, still looking for her clothes without much luck.

"Sakura," he said sharply. "This is between me and my brother. Please don't interfere."

She turned to face him, her eyes defiant. "But I-"

He walked towards her, surprising her with a brief kiss that silenced her.

"I'm sorry," he whispered as he pulled away, Sharingan activated and instantly drawing her into unconsciousness. She went limp in his arms and he caught her easily, carrying her naked form back by the fire, laying her out on her cloak and covering her with his blanket.

She never heard him slip on his shoes or walk to the door, turning around to utter a last good bye before disappearing out the door and out of her life.

When she awoke, it was day, the sunlight streaming under the door and into the windowless building. The fire had died to nothing more than glowing embers, and the interior had grown cool. She stretched, trying to remember what had happened the night before when a strange pain between her thighs brought the memories rushing back to her.

She was no longer a girl but most definitely a woman, the sticky dried substance on her inner thighs proving it, and with Itachi of all people, but the thoughts of how he had made her feel, made her feel warm all over and she knew that if she had the chance, she would do it again.

But where was he anyway? The last thing she remembered was...was Sasuke approaching!

That bastard had knocked her out with the Sharingan! She had no idea how much time had passed since then. Jumping to her feet, she found her clothes at last and flung open the door and was just about to rush out when she noticed several glass tubes on the table. Upon further inspection she saw that they were her poisons and antidotes. He had finally returned them.

She pocketed the vials and ran outside, searching the surrounding area but finding nothing out of place except and area of earth that had been recently upturned, perhaps by a struggle. She widened her perimeter, searching the forest now, her heart beating madly in her chest as she looked for any clues to what had happened and where the brothers might be now. About half a mile into the woods, she came upon a large leaf that had fallen off a nearby tree. Along with the dew gathered on its green surface was a splash of blood. If there was more, it had already soaked into the earth and there was no way of knowing whether it was Sasuke's or Itachi's or whether it was even human at all.

She searched for hours, but her efforts proved fruitless. There was absolutely no trace of either Uchiha, no broken braches or footprints. So close, Sasuke had been so close, but he had escaped her once again. And Itachi, was he even still alive? Or would that night they spent together be the last he spent with anyone? With a heavy heart and no other choice, she began her journey back to Konoha.

After days of travelling, she had arrived at the village gates. It was not as difficult as she had thought it would be to return to the place she now knew so much about, but the place did appear a little different somehow, as if she had been gone for ages and things had changed during her absence.

She had reported straight to Tsunade, recounting what had happened, although the version she gave was the altered one she had come up with while journeying home. Itachi had still captured her and held her prisoner but as far as her mentor knew, Sakura had discovered nothing of Konoha's past nor the Uchiha massacre, nor had he used a perverted version of the Mangekyo on her. She had also left out the part of him taking her virginity in a night of lustful, passionate sex that Sakura doubted she would ever experience with anyone again. The Hokage had studied her long and hard and then nodded, accepting the tale and then asked that since she had been subjected to his Sharingan both when she had tried to run away and when Sasuke had appeared, that she let her do a full physical exam to see if there were any lingering effects from the technique that they knew so little about.

Sakura had agreed and now here she was, dressed in just her panties on an examination table while Tsunade took her vitals and began to probe her body extensively for anything abnormal.

The pink haired kunoichi closed her eyes and tried to relax as she felt foreign chakra invade her system, exploring every area beneath the skin for possible damage.

Tsunade's hands had come to rest on her stomach, her eyes closed in concentration when suddenly they snapped open.

"What the hell?"

"What is it, shishou?" Sakura asked, looking up at her mentor who was looking clearly perplexed.

"Sakura..." the blonde said, running her hands over her stomach again just to make sure."You're pregnant!"

"What?"

The surprised kunoichi placed her hand over her own abdomen and concentrated, not believing what the Hokage had said, but sure enough, a second chakra signature, faint but recognizable resided within her.

"Oh my god..." Sakura gasped. "I didn't...but he...how could Itachi..."

"Itachi?" Tsunade said sharply, her honey eyes met widened orbs of jade.

"Sakura, I think you need to tell me what happened on your mission one more time, and this time, why don't you tell me all of it."

This is the result of a one straight week of writing. It's pretty much all I did. I hope you all enjoyed it because it was a lot of work, especially you Zelha! Stripped Bare will be back in the works shortly. I just needed a short break from it.

J-Pop Princess