Chapter 7

Insanity Is Reality

"Fill me with your poison..."


She/He/It's world fell to black and a lone figure stood with those monstrous eyes fixated on the crumpled body.

A soft voice from behind.

Itachi?

Hidan had her tightly coiled in his grasp, crushing her wind pipe. "Where is that bastard?" She choked, using her strength to slam him away. He deflected, pushing back even harder. "No? Well," he grinned sharply, "What a fucking shame." He leaned in close, his face morphing to that skeletal mask but Sakura glowered angrily back. ((-there there there!

...fuck yes...too fine...

Uchiha...))

In his crazed excitement, he failed to notice the build-up of chakra on her legs as she kicked violently and he flew into the air. Sakura breathed in deeply, trying to regain her momentum, moving up from her prone position to take better position. He landed easily, his ribs throbbing. He swung his scythe threateningly but Sakura was already there, holding it tightly between her hands as they struggled to hold power over it. "That's mine, bitch!"

He relied too much on that, she noticed. She managed to heave it upwards for a moment, enough to unbalance him, for her to land another hit on his body before swiftly jumping away, side-stepping then bashing his head. He cursed loudly, swinging the scythe that the unpredictable movement and triple curves slashed her skin as it travelled in his skilled grasp. She clicked her tongue in annoyance, staying in the air as she executed a simple Kage Bunshin to replicate herself and buy time as they moved around the enclosed space. His eyes flashed at the duplications, his mouth grinning wider as he took a stance. He laughed maniacally. Alarm raced through her at the ghastly transformation of black and white skin and shapes.

That's... disgusting!

Sakura scrunched her nose. Professionalism demanded her concentration but that nagging feeling that this fight wouldn't go as far. Well. Because of that man. She hated the reliance but she knew that she couldn't fight Hidan yet at her state. And her growing insanity told her that she was right. He hadn't made his appearance yet and Sakura was adamant that she could handle this situation. Whatever was going in her thoughts made the voice inside her scoff. Hidan was still laughing. She kept her duplicates away from him, wearily watching his movements. When he swung that scythe again, she tensed, seeing it aim for his own arm. There was no time for confusion when the stinging ache raced through the same arm that nicked her before. She looked up, scowling, understanding fast as she thought of how to remove that scythe from his possession quickly.

He manoeuvred his scythe swiftly against his ribs and Sakura moved.

She didn't make it in time. He didn't finish the movement.

Itachi made his presence known with the release of his chakra, immediately engulfing the area with suffocating force. Sakura stumbled, almost reaching out to steady herself on his back. She caught herself. Hidan grimaced, stilling. He straightened, reverting back to human skin. "Get it right asshole! You're making Leader all pissy and shit. Haul ass or I'll do it for you."

Itachi made no reaction to move at the threat. He stepped once, disappearing that had Hidan scrambling to move in his sluggish state before the Uchiha grabbed him in one hand, scythe discarded away. "I have no interest in Leaders' mood. I have the woman," he spoke quietly then that Sakura couldn't hear. "Attempt to hinder my progress again; I will discard your life as a nuisance to my duty."

Hidan snarled.

Then they both disappeared, leaving Sakura in the dark with pools of blood.

"Men."


The Uchiha considered her indifference to the pain inflicted upon her body recently. It wasn't the first time she hurt but has come to expect it whenever she took action. She was around monsters after all. He brooded over this as she groaned, that warm chakra fluxing lightly over her body. Others had intruded his charge with ... intent. The bothersome lot distracted the woman to the point of questioning her health. He wasn't pleased with the outside interference. Perhaps he should step in. Before the brittle hold that she foolishly kept denying ceased. Sakura turned her head to his direction, limbs slow moving and eyes closed tightly in meditation. She needed to recover her chakra fully, something he sought to accomplish this night before Hidan appeared. The nights away from the Akatsuki den was not all for naught. Now she needed to heal herself again. Appearances of his associates near her weighed heavily in his thoughts. Very soon.

Travelling would be wearisome. He predicted she would force his hand again to make the journey difficult. That meant being physical. He noted a discrepancy of her body's movement when she forced him close with her misconduct. She may bear her teeth and fight tooth and nail before the thought will cross her unstable mind, but her spine would subtly curve more into his forceful embrace, as if fitting herself to his shape. Hostility in her eyes hid the sensual reverberation of her breathing as she struggled more - (((Touchtouchmore... I'm lone-needwant...cold it's too cold...that warmth...

Get...Not too close! Not this not you

Waitwaiwaitwait-

-noha...?))))

Deprivation of affectionate touches might have altered her notion of tenderness of a man's touch to a laden standard. He was never gentle. It was a firm hold that kept her from panicking into reckless violence recently. She knew what to expect from him. Only when she settled down did he release her. When it was too soon, her reaction time was listless as if she anticipated his grip too tighten at any of her sudden movements while he measured his steps away. She'd massaged her arms to rid the ((non-existent)) marks of his hands but he'd scrutinized her ((soft features)) in the nights enough to discern that she needed to feel. When he would lay down his heavy cloak while she slept, she assumed it was concern for warmth in the chilly nights. It was those thoughts that allowed him to affect her regard of him to his gain.

She made a small sound. He appeared swiftly by her bedside. Then he left.

Kisame raised an eye at his unclothed partner. He didn't question, just snickered, dutifully following his incensed partner. A look at his blank face would conclude his usual detached interest, but his mouth was tilted down, angling his remorseless appearance and his blood limit sharpened in slow circles, to inflict nightmares that Kisame took care not to look directly.

"Whoa there, who are you looking to kill," Kisame laughed, with the usual silence from his partner. "I'll be waking the girl in a few hours. We're about ready." His partner walked away. "...or ya know, you could finish it if you want."

Itachi didn't heed to her questioning call. An irrelevant matter had transpired near her location. The body at his feet stirred. He should have ended it earlier. Now as her footsteps neared, he contemplated on killing the man in her presence. An Uchiha slaughtered ruthlessly to illustrate power, would not be questioned; a challenge to one would have issues with their sanity with fixed crimson eyes inviting one to a terrifying reality. Itachi didn't need to go such extravagance his former clan members displayed. His mere existence delivered just that. A quick flick of his wrist ended the life.

In the quietness, grass rustled as she made her way past the trees. He idly wondered if her representation of him would aggravate their uneasy development from adversary to strangers... it was an irritating issue he'd yet to expand on. It was a standstill. A slender form appeared. He didn't acknowledge her. He hadn't rested his eyes back to their opaque colour.

Judging from her still form, she was evaluating his frame of mind. He allowed her to watch, lingering on the fact that she could be trapped in another realm if she wasn't careful. It would be easy.

She took in his unforgiving appearance. Nothing signified importance to the body at his feet as he took no interest in his surroundings. She didn't care for the body. The lines on his face etched his inner battles, eyes that could perceive anyone without a care. He was defined by his strengths. He incited fear. Each time they were in close contact, Itachi couldn't distinguish sense from feeling whenever she brushed against him. The man that stayed close was a projection of a vacant male who didn't understand sentiments.

She knew, though, that his eyes flickered momentarily when he searched her bruised body, when she looked up at him with those defiant eyes and those odd moments when she was dependent solely on him.

((monster monster monster that man is a monster))

He wasn't entirely unfeeling, she decided. There was a measure of easiness she felt with him. Sakura still looked on even as the elder Uchiha raised his eyes to hers; there was no panic in her thoughts because dark eyes stared back.

They travelled again without trouble.

A quiet journey until Itachi appeared behind her, knocking her out. He carried her for the rest of the journey until she was back in her new quarters.

Then he reported to Leader.

"What happens now?"

"You decide." Weapons whistled the air as it assaulted the moving figure. "Do it now."

Familiar voices. "And then?"

The body skidded against the trees until he/she/it ((WHO)) regained balanced. Righted himself/herself/itself (WHOARE YOU) with a flash of dark hair.

"This is for Konoha. Do whatever you want."

One hand gripped the steel weapon, using precise stances to fire it directly towards the next calculated movement. "Who is that?" Her hands were moving on its own. "Just wait a moment-"

"One down finally." Accused eyes turned her away and she started when she felt a wet line dripped down her cheeks. "Why do you cry?" Irritation coloured their voice. "... deserves nothing!"

"We were so worried."

"I never should have left your side."

And red eyes stared waiting atop that tree, pierced with her weapon.

"Sa-"

"No."

The figure waited, waited and waited. She willed her body to move to see a glimpse of the shadowed features. Until that person turned with a billow of his/her/it cloak leaving her in the warmth of those accusing people's eyes. She was compelled to follow, uncomfortable with the injustice of her actions because she was kept safe, one piece because of that person with ever-looking eyes that stayed the nights with her when there was nothing but darkness but hands pulled her back into a closed city wall.

Wait..!

That person from afar halted, barely seen from the distance, turning back.

The hands were persistent, gripping her hair, face, even as she pushed them away. "Enough! Let go!"

And waited, waited and waited...

She will never learn. All that would ever come to an end is broken skin and a ruined heart. She should rid her notion of romanticism.

Even so, pale skin beckoned to his touch, begging for a reprieve in this unfortunate life where there was no softness and in the dark night where there was none to see, hands moved forward to rest on still ones. Fingertips traced and lingered on old scars before loosely intertwining on the underside of the motionless palm.

He allowed the hands reaching out to him.

He permitted how her hands sketched a strayed path of skin and scars.

Then when she timidly twined her hands with his, he gripped her soft hand in the lightest touch before she fell into slumber.

He courted her delusions skilfully.

The night concealed movements. Shrouded in black, alone, lone fingers twisted, lingering then fell away to rest beside the messy tangle of hair as a shadow leaned over the sleeping form.

She dreamt of birds against red skies.

She was warm.

She felt safe.

"She was never involved with him. Ever."

"How do you explain this?"

Sakura had done solo missions, not usually needing escorts with short trips ranging from a few days to a week, and had reported back the details of her journey. Aside from the missions with teams, there wasn't much material with eye witnesses. "It doesn't go on much," Ino shot back, "unless there was already a breach in Konoha and I doubt that Sakura would allow such a thing."

But there was a retired nin who gave a rattling detailed encounter of a young nin operating within his area that he kept tabs on. He'd noticed because the young wioman had bright pink hair. There would be an increase of dark ravens camouflaged in the robust tree, only seen with their red eyes and flap of feathers and that there was an unsettling amount of concealed chakra that disturbed the old man every time the pink nin would venture out. "Strange thing it was, I didn't bother since it wasn't any business of mine."

"So you never really saw who possessed that chakra you felt?"

"None. I'm now just a man running his business and I don't want to endanger my welfare and customers by being involved in this."

Kakashi immediately stood. "Thank you for your time." He pocketed his little book, leaving with the younger nins assigned in the investigation trailing behind him. They shared an notable look.

It was Uchiha Itachi's trademark.

Deidara wished he'd been there for the apparent Hidan ass-whopping session. He snickered, hand drawing out to finish the last layer of paint. The asshole had come back, balls in hand with a snarl like a kid sneering with broken teeth. The woman was back, more importantly, and he'd yet to visit her.

He laid down his instruments, planning to seek out that Konoha woman.

He spied her through the clouds, lowering his creation. The terrain surrounding her secured her position and he knew, without a doubt, that Uchiha Itachi was among the shadows that the thick trees cast. He wondered if she knew that fact because she hustled and observed herbs with no fuss as to whenever Akatasuki members could assault her opening site. He leaned in closer, out of sight to adjust his position of a better view of her. He grinned, taking out his latest creation with a timed sequence to explode when Sakura would throw the thing into, hopefully, Hidan's face like fireworks. "Serves him right," he cackled.

As he stealthily weaved through the branches, he stopped at one to get a clearer view. She looked healthy enough. Pretty even without all that bunched up face that kept scowling. He got lost momentarily in the vivid colours of pink compatible with green highlighting pale skin with shades of white in ((old battles)) lines. The terrain was too light, too similar and washed out the set of unique colours that was Sakura. As she turned her back on him, he snapped out of his thoughts at the plain colours now in view.

A quick check of her chakra lines revealed her recovery. There he noticed something strange. He erased the thought. Before he jumped down to greet her, there was an imbalance of air behind him with an unmistakable inkling of pressure. He stilled, trying to keep that mischievous grin. A purposeful, light tap barely heard was all he knew that Uchiha stood behind him.

He turned halfway, raising two fingers in salute, "Hey there, Itachi." The older man looked back. Sakura merely continued on, looking around her general direction, as if sensing another hazard. There was no fear in her eyes this time but sensing as if why would the air dynamics shift ever so slightly.

"No worries here!" He pointed at her, and then gave him a thumb up which he received a stoic look. Those eyes shifted down to the still artwork he'd created that leaned innocently against the tree. A chilling quiver raced down his spine as the Uchiha continued to look at his creation. He was about to explain, saying "I made it for her," to which the Uchiha ignored, "I designed it to explode with certain specifications for her amusement. Not that it would hurt her." The older man finally deigned to look back at him. "Seriously!"

He flickered away and Deidara was relieved to breathe.

"Sakura!" She turned. She watched him wearily, her brows drawn down with suspicion. He waved a greeting, falling down the height and landing with ease. "Hello, pet." A nick on his cheek. He raised a brow, his visible eye on her. "Where did you get that?"

"You dropped it."

"So! Looks like you got some exercise." She shot him an annoyed glance. "Thank the gods, you were starting to put on a few pounds. But it missed all the important bits," he gestured his hands outward in front of his chest, "Ah well. Lucky for you, there's other places to look." He ran a critical look at her, trying to ignore his mesmerisation with colours and shapes, failing. Perhaps his next creation would be more feminine, fix the imperfections in front of him. "A bit more curves there, yeah..."

She ignored his mutterings. Sakura examined the herbal plants that didn't grow in the barren land wherever the Akatasuki were stationed at. She needed more ingredients for a lethal dose but from what she collected so far could still damage the innards of the target. Deidara droned on, critiquing this and that, with that low baritone smoothly mocking her. "Don't you have another masterpiece to destroy?"

"Nah, just did one"

"Why do I even bother," she muttered, viciously tugging on a root. The force rebounded her hand into the air and Deidara dodged the potential fist implant.

"Which reminds me, pet, I have something for you!"

"No."

They bickered back and forth, his gift a disaster as she smacked it back to his face. He screeched and she held up her hair, pointedly saying, "Remember this? I haven't forgiven you for this!"

"Woman. My hair."

"Idiot. My pink hair."

Itachi's presence disappeared completely this time. The monster would never leave her. Sakura turned, as if knowing that too with her mouth parted slightly in surprise. He was a man that noticed too much detail because as she faced him again, he noticed the slight slant of her mouth in melancholy that dimmed the bright complexion of her eyes.

Uchiha Itachi was a frightening opponent.

Because the Konoha woman had come to rely on him; perhaps even in their secret nights. Deidara knew this. Because with that warm glow of green chakra flowing, trying to keep her body stabilized, there was a darker shade of chakra infused alongside, assisting her chakra with strength running through all entry points.


"Is she getting more owners or something?"

Someone scoffed. "Just one."

"The hell then do I see Deidara treating her like she's a princess in a fucking castle?"

"Probably because of Itachi," one laughed.

"What does that have to do with anything."

"Everything involving her involves him, dumbass. See what he did to Hidan?"

"Asshole deserved it."

"Shut the fuck up."

"I wouldn't worry about Uchiha," another said, "At this rate she'll become a liability."

"Not with Leader's preparations. I must admit, he's spoiling her."

"No, she's spoiling him," snickers abounded, "Hey hey hey, I want to take care of her once. Give me her for a day."

"You'll ruin her, jackass. That's if Uchiha allows it," someone snorted, "I doubt Leader will let you."

"I don't give a shit what you say. Might as well let her do something useful."

"And your idea is?"

Footsteps. "What a woman is meant to do." Then something being closed and one less murderous aura.

One bursted out laughing, "He hasn't eaten in a while. That sexist fuck is going to die." Silence. "Who wants to bet?"