Wasurenai na Ai (Unforgettable Love)

Italics are thoughts.

"whatever" is dialogue.

---------- indicates a scene change or time skip.

Kono you ni umarete

(We've been born in this world)

Anata no me ni

(And within your eyes)

Nani wo ozoshite

(Something is stirring.)

Ima kono chi ni chikara wo

(Right now, there is power in this earth)

No ni hana wo

(And flowers in the field)

Kokoro ni ai wo

(And love in your heart.)

Chapter One: Himitsu no Kotoba (Secret Words)

Sakura stared down at her hands and at the fully packed rucksack at her feet as she slouched on her apartment sofa. The moon hung in the sky, pale light filtering through the window and pooling on the floor. As she shifted her gaze to the glowing orb, she thought of no one else but him. What else could be expected of her?

Are you looking up at the same moon as me, Sasuke-kun?

Her cherry-hued hair had grown longer, and she had changed. They had all changed, in these eight long years which crawled past. Time seemed to drag on so long without Sasuke by her side. Even if he wasn't willing to go out with her, they were still team-mates. They still got on well enough. They still met regularly.

Unlike now.

Even as she tried to remain the same, she changed against her will. Longer hair, larger eyes, taller body, fuller figure, shorter skirts – she had learned to accept all these. Most of the village could not forgive the quiet Uchiha prodigy for almost killing the best genin of that time. Neji, Chouji, Lee – all three had almost died at the hands of the Sound Four. Shikamaru had been lucky to escape relatively uninjured, thanks to the timely arrival of Temari. Lee, too, had received help from Gaara at exactly the right time against Kimimaro. Kankurou, too, had gone to the help of Kiba and Akamaru. The shock had swept through the village, surprising everyone. Nobody had ever harboured the thought that Sasuke would abandon them, would turn against them, for the sake of power.

Tsunade had refused to send another team out after Sasuke, even after her precious protégé cried and begged herself hoarse. She replied that she had almost lost the most promising ninjas in the village, and she could not afford to waste any more shinobi. Not for the sake of one lone, pink-haired chuunin, and one misguided prodigy.

The fifth Hokage had rejected her plea. It was time for Sakura to take matters into her own hands and begin…

…If she could bring herself to.

She thought of Naruto first. The hyperactive blonde never failed to bring a smile to her lips, no matter how down she felt, how inadequate. In his own special way, through his crush on her, he had brought her peace and assurance of a sort – that she wasn't completely ugly and useless. Ino next- they were rivals for Sasuke's heart, but in their own manner, they were best friends. Kakashi-sensei too… the silver-haired jounin appeared casual and uncaring, but underneath the underneath, he was just a teacher who cared about his students a lot, enough to die for them. But apparently, he didn't love Sasuke enough to defy the Hokage's express orders. If he, far stronger and more capable than her, didn't dare, how could she?

The answer was simple.

She could, because she loved Sasuke with all her being. And that was more than enough for her.

Rising to her feet quickly, she grabbed the rucksack and slung it onto her back. With a number of quickly formed hand seals, there was a smoky pop, and she was gone. Without the presence of the roseate-haired chuunin, the sitting room seemed so empty, even though the moon still shone in all her splendour in the night sky.

----------

Sakura stalked through the forest, footfalls silent. A black hood covered her hair, her most prominent feature. Her Konoha hitai-ate was not in its customary perch on top of her head. This night, she wore it properly, just like Naruto, Neji, and Sasuke did.

All her thought processes led back to the same person.

Her red blouse and skirt were covered by a black hooded cloak, which hid her well in the shifting shadows of the night. Her beryl-hued eyes darted in every direction. The shadows could provide cover for more than just a Konoha kunoichi sneaking away to carry out tasks of her own. A snowy owl hooted in the treetops, and she shuddered. As she began to speed up, she enjoyed the wind which rushed past her..

-----Three Days Later-----

Sakura was tired.

Not just tired, but that type of bone-deep exhaustion which announced itself when it was most unwanted. She had been running for three days and nights on end, and the hunt was beginning to tell on her. She stopped to replenish foodstuffs and medicines in a small nondescript village before moving on, always taking care to avoid the ANBU and other shinobi.

She dropped to her knees beside a fast-flowing river, and dipped her hands into the cool water, splashing it over her face. The clear liquid shone like diamonds under the bright sunshine. She drank deeply, sighing with contentment. She was enjoying herself when she suddenly froze. Killing intent blossomed from a bush three meters away from her. Without hesitating a moment, she threw herself to the side, away from the stream, just in time to avoid a flight of shuriken. She jumped to a tree branch, hand going to the blade sheathed on her back Terror washed through her afresh as the monstrous figure of the Akatsuki missing-nin stepped out into the light where she could see him clearly.

She still remembered. Kisame, the brutal sharkman who had slaughtered his clan in a way somewhat similar to Itachi, grinned up at her menacingly. "Wonderful. I come expecting to catch a fish, and I catch a lovely young kunoichi." Samehade was in his hand, and he swung it a few times casually. "Come on down, little girl. Let's play," he chuckled. The green tinge of his skin made Sakura sick.

"I'll never let you take me alive," Sakura snarled, giving him a loathing look. The Akatsuki member only grinned as her eyes narrowed in suspicion. She had barely realized the truth when a kage bunshin of him knocked her square off her perch. Squirming around like a cat, she landed on her hands, and flipped immediately, dropping into a fighting stance, fists raised.

"Let's begin then," she growled, emerald eyes flaming with green fire. Infuriatingly, Kisame only chuckled at her, and put his Samehade aside. "I don't need my sword to beat a little girl like you," he laughed.

Sakura swore at him and charged. Kisame caught her foot easily as she lashed out at him with her right foot, then let out a muffled curse when her chakra-laden fist caught him square in the stomach. Grabbing her wrist, he lifted her bodily and threw her hard. With no way out, Sakura landed on the bumpy, rocky ground with bone-cracking force. Sharp gravel cut her left arm and leg. A quick burst of healing solved them.

"Oho… you're a medical ninja, eh?" Kisame noted with some amusement. Sakura sneered at him, then formed seals with her hands. Twenty clones surrounded him in an instant, all armed with a pair of kunais. The band rushed him quickly. Kisame leapt away, striking out with flying fists and feet. Several bunshins disappeared, leaving fifteen or so. A barrage of shuriken removed them all, leaving one valiant roseate-haired kunoichi behind. Kisame grinned and advanced slowly, relishing the taste of victory.

Another quick round of seals, and Sakura spit fire at him. A technique Sasuke had taught her before leaving – his family's famous Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu. Kisame swore and dodged the searing flames, and drove himself right into Sakura's foot. She had moved too fast for him to see clearly, and had prepared to kick him in the stomach hard. However, he had not noticed in time, and threw himself right into the path of her kick. Sakura heard a few of his ribs crack, and she smiled. A kunai spun in her palm, and she stabbed him hard in the side. At his hiss of pain, her smile widened, before she shoved him away hard. He landed on his hands and knees, breathing hard. The agony surged through him.

"Not so little now, am I?" Sakura taunted unmercifully.

"You should be ashamed of yourself, Kisame." Behind her, a dark voice reminiscent of deep caverns spoke. Kisame did not deign to reply, instead shooting her a hateful glance.

Sakura spun around on the balls of her feet, kunai in each hand. The infamous swirling mangekyou sharingan eyes greeted her. Uchiha Itachi! Damn!

She only had time for a fleeting instant of terror before Itachi's Tsukiyomi grabbed hold of her and dragged her mind away.

"I didn't ask for help," Kisame growled.

"Do you even know who you were fighting with?" Itachi questioned, ignoring his partner's rude tone.

"Some random kunoichi," the sharkman replied, sulking.

"No. This is the Godaime's pet protégé, and my foolish little brother's ex-team-mate," Itachi replied, lifting Sakura by the collar to stare into her face, which was presently contorted with suffering.

"Looks like I won't be able to fight for awhile, thanks to that bitch," Kisame complained.

"True. We can't let Akatsuki business slow down just because you were an idiot. We'll take the girl along," Itachi said, slinging her over his shoulder. Her body was limp, her face slack as she was lost in the spell of Tsukiyomi.

"Let's go. We only have six hours before Tsukiyomi ends and she awakes," Itachi ordered. Without bothering to help his partner up, he darted off. Grumbling beneath his breath, Kisame rose, wincing as his ribs ground against each other. Muttering uncomplimentary things about Sakura and kunoichis in general, he trudged off, trying his best to ignore the fact that he'd have been beaten by a girl less than half his age if Itachi hadn't come along.

----------

When Sakura awoke, her head ached dully. Her green eyes blinked at the ceiling confusedly, still rather disorientated. She tried to flip over, then found she couldn't move. Her wrists and ankles were bound with chakra-wrapped rope, and she was spread-eagled on the bed. With her hands so far apart, it was impossible for her to do jutsus, especially since the ropes were so tight that they were cutting off her blood circulation.

She turned her head, and met red eyes. She stiffened immediately, afraid that he would use his doujutsu on her again.

"So. You are awake. You have a lot to answer for, kunoichi," Itachi told her. Still dressed in his trademark Akatsuki black cloak, mesh shirt and pants, he stood beside the bed, looking down.

"I don't need to answer to you," Sakura snarled, pulling futilely at her bindings.

A sharp slap was dealt to her, her right cheek covered with a stinging red handprint. "First rule. Don't talk back," Itachi drawled.

"Kisame is unable to do his duties for a month thanks to your attack. You will stand in for him while he recovers," the missing-nin said bluntly. Sakura blinked in shock.

"Hel-lo! That idiot was the one who attacked me in the first place! Send him to a medic-nin!" Sakura cried out indignantly Itachi's eyebrows rose.

"Yes, Kisame has a tendency to underestimate females. However, you will do this. Or else you will never do anything else ever again. Understood?" Itachi studied Sakura's face a moment, until she turned her face away.

"Yes." She understood. That didn't mean that she was resigned to being Akatsuki for a month. She was a kunoichi, from the famed Team 7. No one, missing-nin or otherwise, was going to make her do what she didn't want to!


A/N: Please review. It would make me happy. Plus, it would speed up the arrival of the next chapter.

Thanks for reading.

25.01.2006: My new beta reader went over this chapter and discovered so many mistakes that I am totally ashamed. Anyway. I did my best to correct those mistakes. Any left over are fully my fault.

Kyasarinyume07 signing off.