The Word 'Traitor'

Disclaimer: Does anyone even bother noting the disclaimer anymore? Meh, not going to bother. I OWN ITACHI AND SHIKAMARU! I shove in a locked room together naked on a regular basis! Go ahead, try and stop me! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA!

Lawyers: Good day Ms. Skitty, we represent Mr.(insert name here at later edit) and we'd like to talk to you abou-

A.S.: Ulp! I own nothing! I never really said I did and I most certainly don't make any money off of this stuff, it's just for fun!

Lawyer: Good, make sure it stays that way.

Author Notes: Itachi and the plot bunnies made me make this, don't blame me for it.

A while back, I did a random search on FF (dot) net featuring Shikamaru and Itachi as the main characters. Don't ask, I don't remember why. What happened though was that I found a fic that was an ItaShika, and those blasted, annoying, needs-to-be-fixed plot bunnies started breeding again! And then that thrice-blasted Itachi got hooked on a couple of the ideas and Would. Not. Stop. Bugging. Me about 'em. So I gave in and wrote 'em down. Blame him, it's his fault.

The set-up back plot of this fic was inspired by Healing Eyes, I then took the idea, tweaked and made the beginnings of an epic from that short story. If you like this, you might like that other fic, just look up the title, or search with Itachi and Shikamaru as the mains. There's a whole four stories like that, you can't miss Healing Eyes. Well, enjoy and don't hurt me too bad, n'kay?

Oh yeah, this will be a yaoi, eventually. If you don't like, don't read, simple as that. But go ahead and give it a shot and broaden your mind. Who knows, you might become a Gay marriage advocate like me. Because (pardon me for getting preachy) homosexual relationship don't hurt anyone, as long as it's consensual, so… how does two guys loving each other equal a Bad Thing again?

(bar thingy ain't working just now)

Hot blood trickled down from a long shallow graze on the Chuunin's side to mingle with the sweat that seemed to be pouring down his body. Breath came in harsh, ragged rasps and exhaustion threatened to blur his vision constantly. But he wouldn't back down, couldn't back down. Not when his opponent was Uchiha Itachi. Even if he who was fighting was only Nara Shikamaru and he was entirely alone….

The day had started off bad, and had only gotten worse as it had progressed. Shikamaru was beginning to get used to this pattern ever since it had started with that botched retrieval mission. Shikamaru's own guilt at the way the mission had turned out had been bad enough, but then came the criticism from his superiors.

The leader of a team should not come back with only a broken finger when the rest of his team comes back nearly dead. Never mind that Shikamaru had faced a Jounin-level Genjutsu user and an illusion vs. shadow battle was decided by chakra usage rather than physical damage. And also ignore the fact that after the shadow user had assured himself that his team would live, he'd passed out for three days and couldn't be woken as he recovered from chakra over-expenditure.

Godaime didn't blame him; neither did most of the Jounin sensei. But many of the parents of his team did, as did the older Chuunins and Jounins. No excuse was good enough for them. And to add insult to injury, he had failed. Failed even though he'd gotten further back up in the form of Rock Lee and the Sand Sibs.

Shikamaru had been suspended from being a team leader for three months, but what with Konoha being under-manned it hadn't taken longer than that for him to be placed as leader again. In an effort to redeem himself, he'd insured that all of his missions ended in success and that his teams came out as unscathed as possible, no matter the cost to himself.

He may as well not have bothered. Even on the numerous occasions where he came back half-dead while his team was barely scratched, the sneers, superior looks and meant-to-be-overheard criticism continued. The final straw for Shikamaru's self-esteem came in the form of those same sneers and criticisms coming from those who had been his friends.

Kiba, Shino, Tenten, Sakura, Neji, Lee, one after another the condescension came. Even Ino and, more painfully, Chouji followed the flow. Only Hinata, who was too kind and soft-spoken to criticize, and Naruto held out. And only Naruto had supported him, stating loudly and firmly that Shikamaru had kept his team alive even though they had fought against five Jounin-level Sound nin, and they had only been four Genin and one inexperienced Chuunin.

But Naruto was gone now, having left on a training trip with Jiraiya. Which was why Shikamaru was now facing Itachi.

The shadow user had just successfully completed another multi-day, C-ranked mission with two Genins as his team. Two Genins who were twenty-eight and thirty-one, and who deeply resented the fact that a mere thirteen-year-old was of higher rank than they. Shikamaru was exhausted, and not because of the mission itself, which had been a mere medicinal herb retrieval.

After bearing with snide comments for three days and making his report while ignoring further comments and sidelong superior glares, he had made his way to his new favorite cloud-watching hill. This one was in one of the farther flung training fields, at the extreme outer edge of the Konoha city proper. His prior hill had been much nearer the inner city and therefore it had been much easier for him to be found and harassed.

After flinging himself onto the slope of his hill and forcing his body to relax and his mind to not think, Shikamaru felt that he might live through another day. That lasted only ten minutes until a stranger had disturbed his peace. This stranger with dark hair and dark eyes, high chakra level and vaguely familiar features had made light conversation that had swiftly grazed over Shikamaru's reputation before lighting onto the shadow user's friends.

After a few brief sentences, the subject had bee-lined to Naruto and had stayed there. In the mean time, Shikamaru had become more and more suspicious; there was something not right about all of this…

His suspicion had solidified into certainty when the stranger started asking if Shikamaru knew where Naruto was planning on going. Why would this person want to know that unless he had plans himself? A harsh challenge coupled with a 'kai' to release any low-level jutsus in the area had revealed the stranger to be of definite Uchiha stock. And since there were only two Uchiha left and this wasn't Sasuke, it was easy to identify him from there.

Uchiha Itachi, S-class Nuke-nin, slaughterer of his entire clan. I am so screwed…

But he couldn't give up or give in. Maybe he was fighting someone so beyond his own current level it wasn't even funny, but the alternative was unacceptable. If the brunette gave up, Itachi would continue his search for information and perhaps get what he was looking for. Maybe he would kill while he was doing this. Then he'd go after Naruto, for whatever reason he was doing that for. Nothing good…

And help won't be coming; I am in a training field after all, and a far-flung one at that. If anyone senses the chakra usage, they'll assume that someone's training. They won't even consider that someone might be fighting for his life.

Shikamaru's vision swam and he blinked hard to clear it. The cut on his side was only the largest of the many that decorated his body. Most were new wounds gained in this desperate scramble to stay alive; the shadow user couldn't dignify this by calling it an actual 'fight'. Calling it a fight would be to assume both fighters were of roughly equal level, and that just wasn't so.

The brunette eased sideways and felt the longer cut on his leg tear open more. This wound was almost a week old, but healing slowly. This fight had opened it and several other wounds that he had collected. All of them were forming a steady drain on his stamina, not to mention his blood; Shikamaru knew he wouldn't last much longer. So far he'd managed to outwit and outmaneuver Itachi, but that wasn't going to last. The only reason he'd managed to do that at all was because the older rogue Uchiha had underestimated the lazy bum.

But that's not going to work anymore, he's wise to me now, I can tell. He's going to expect something clever from me from now on. So what else do I have? I can't use any of my Kage no Jutsus, he'll be looking for that. And I don't have enough chakra for most of the other jutsus I know. Physically overpowering him is a joke, so is using weaponry. So that leaves… what?

Shikamaru rapidly dodged into some nearby shrubs farther down the hill as Itachi finally broke the current standoff by flinging some shuriken and a kunai. The brunette gained another kunai by pulling Itachi's out of his leg with a stifled grunt of pain. Great, another bleeding wound to add to his others. The shadow user was suddenly forced to fight off unconsciousness as his vision swam with sparks, graying out at the edges. I don't have much time, stamina or luck left. This last strike's gotta be all or nothing.

He cautiously peered out of the branches. Itachi was staring straight back at him. Shikamaru hastily ducked back. The Uchiha was at least respecting the Nara enough not to turn his back on him. Last strike… I don't have to kill, I have not a prayer of doing that, but if I can do something to damage him so badly that he can't run, and that'll draw attention, I can let other people handle it. He grinned without humor or hope, even if I'm not around to see it. Final Strike, I'll have to use Final Strike. I have enough chakra to wound him and no one can mistake that for mere training.

Final Strike lived up to its name, for whoever performed it never did anything else ever again; it was always fatal. A shinobi would gather every last scrap of energy- chakra, physical, mental or otherwise- into his center and then release it in an explosion. There were a few craters around the boundary of Fire and Earth that showed the final resting-places of some of the shinobi in the last Great War.

Only problem is, I don't know how to do it, I've only heard vague descriptions. Only Senior Chuunin and Jounin are taught it, and I don't qualify as either. Ah well, I can't use anything else, I just have to hope I can do this. I'm dead either way, so I might as well try to go out with a bang. Shikamaru brought his hands up in his thinking-seal, and set to try to figure out how to perform his last act.

For the first time in… well, his entire life, Itachi was actually enjoying himself. I had not a clue that Konoha held such a clever young ninja. I should have tried challenging this boy earlier. This Nara boy wasn't challenging in strength, skill or experience. But tactically… that was a whole other story. Never before had Itachi been forced to use his brain quite so much in battle! It was novel, and exciting.

The many small wounds that he had gave further proof to the boy's intellect. Not even Kakashi, not even Jiraiya! had so damaged the Uchiha as much as this mere Chuunin had. And to think, all I wanted was a little information from one of Naruto's few good friends.

Itachi hadn't really thought much when he'd approached the boy that was safely out of sight of the rest of the population. He'd only judged this child to be safe and easy. Akastsuki intelligence had stated that Nara Shikamaru was becoming more isolated from his friends thanks to his higher rank and the botched mission. The botched mission was also alienating him from his rank-peers and other superiors. The Uchiha had decided that this would make the boy more receptive to a friendly approach.

Too bad for me that he's so bloody smart. The Nara had seen right through Itachi's façade and henge and had challenged him. Surprising, but no big deal. All the Uchiha had to do was subdue the boy, kill him if need be, and move on to the next potential information source. But the Nara had kept Itachi from leaving, using all kinds of traps and skills that were too simple to be so devastating, but so cleverly used that they were that devastating.

I don't dare turn my back on him, the moment I do, he springs another trick on me; Itachi thought with admiration. If only he had this boy as an underling! I would not scorn him for messing up on his very first leadership mission against a force of unknown size and strength.

The Uchiha stifled a sneer of contempt, but one directed at Konoha, not Shikamaru. This was one of the reasons that Itachi had left Konoha, this shallow-sightedness. People were only willing to see one thing and forgot about the rest. They only saw Shikamaru's first failure, not the reason behind it nor the following successes.

Similarly, they had only seen Itachi's outward perfection, not his growing unhappiness or dissatisfaction.

He's doing something… The Nara had been in that bush for a good while now. Itachi put himself on guard; he'd learned now, don't underestimate Nara Shikamaru. The boy exploded out of the bush suddenly, charging straight, kunai raised. Itachi braced himself and focused peripherally, if Shikamaru was charging straight, then there must be a trap on some other side.

Too late, the Uchiha realized that the straightforwardness of the charge itself was the trap; there was no other secondary strike. He grabbed the kunai before the boy had a chance to plunge it in, and Shikamaru clamped onto Itachi's arm tight. The rogue then felt a building chakra, a chakra that was dangerously unstable and horribly unmistakable. Final Strike? That can't be, he's too junior to be taught that!

But, as this battle had taught him decisively, don't underestimate Shikamaru. It was Final Strike. But as experience in Akastsuki had taught him, every technique had a counter, if you studied it hard enough. The counter for the Strike was to reach into the Striker and drain the chakra. Tricky, but doable, especially if your chakra control was as fine as Itachi's.

Itachi centered himself and disengaged Shikamaru's Strike, draining him of all chakra. The boy moaned as he felt the last of his strength leave him and cursed weakly as his last chance to stop Itachi left with it. Since the Strike was disengaged and not released, only they two sensed. No one else would know what had happened. Good. The Uchiha caught the boy as he fell and lowered him to the ground as he slumped down himself. Disengaging Final Strike was nearly as draining for him as for the Striker.

Pulling power out of another person was tricky enough, but then he had to channel it through himself and into the ground since the power wasn't his own. This required that he make a 'funnel' to channel the power, a funnel that was eroded away by the foreign energy. There was a way to take chakra from another person and convert it into usable energy, but performing that tricky task at the same time as performing the equally tricky task of stopping Final Strike was too much for any human, even the genius Itachi.

But the battle was finally over. Shikamaru was too drained and exhausted to do more the lay there and glare at him while bleeding. All that the Uchiha need do now was slit the boy's throat and leave to recover. The fight had been too damaging for him to risk entering Konoha to locate another information source. But, as he took the kunai and lay the sharp edge on the shadow user's throat, Itachi found himself unable to cut.

It was no jutsu that stopped him, it was the eyes. He looked down into the deep, deep brown eyes the bordered on black and discovered that he had no desire to kill the owner of them. Shikamaru's eyes were fogged by exhaustion and blood loss, but they were still blazing with anger and frustration. And desperation; the boy was still trying to figure out how to stop Itachi, even now. He's still fighting, after all this, in the state he's in, he's still fighting.

Itachi couldn't kill him, he just couldn't. It was almost laughable; here he was, the man who had eradicated the entire Uchiha clan, and he couldn't kill this battered, beaten child. Not so much a child…

But still, helpless. But there's part of the problem. The thought of killing someone who was utterly defenseless like this was… distasteful. Yes, the Uchiha had killed his clan when they were unarmed and unaware, but if they had recovered from the shock, and many had, they could have defended themselves.

Shikamaru was so weak and hurt that he couldn't even speak, and was having trouble maintaining consciousness. He was absolutely no threat. Even if he was still fighting, struggling to not pass out and to try to find some strategy to defeat Itachi.

"I can't kill you." Itachi murmured out loud, looking down at the boy whose head was resting on the older shinobi's knees. "I want to fight with you again." He murmured even more softly, realizing that it was true even as he said it.

He did want to fight Shikamaru again, to fight against someone who challenged his mind and not his body or endurance. He wanted to fight the Nara when he wasn't already exhausted and wounded, for Itachi hadn't missed the signs of that. The blood staining the boy's leg hadn't come from any injury that the Uchiha had inflicted.

But, this desire to fight someone intelligent again and again posed a different problem. Shikamaru was too smart not to have picked up on some things, fighting tendencies, habits and such, and was too loyal to not report these things. Killing Shikamaru was the only way to eliminate that threat; the threat of some other fool using the Nara's hard won knowledge to his own benefit. Although, there is another way. I just need to seal the part of his memory that holds our fight, and then he won't be able to report what he's learned because he won't be able to remember it.

Itachi stifled a grimace, as promising as that idea sounded, it was going to be difficult to do. Sealing a part of someone's memory instead of the whole thing was a nit-picky and tiring process, locating the precise location and then binding it up in a way that didn't adversely affect the person in question.

Still, I have to do it if I'm don't want him dead, and I'd better do it quickly. He's still bleeding, and I have no medical equipment to spare. He'll die soon from blood loss without treatment. Soonest begun, soonest done; Itachi gently lay Shikamaru's head on the ground and began the sealing ritual.

(bar thingy still ain't workin')

Tsunade was on her way to the hospital to do her rounds when the biggest damned raven she had ever had the fortune or misfortune to see suddenly appeared in front of the building and gingerly settled to the ground. In one taloned foot was a person that it gently lay on the ground, lowering its head to inspect the person with a surprisingly kind expression.

Then the too-sharp black eyes focused on the Hokage and it quorked demandingly before launching sky-ward and- disappearing mid-air. But she had no time to gape at the disappearance, even from her distant position she could see and smell the blood. She rushed over to the prone form and started briefly.

It was Shikamaru, and he wasn't breathing! She stooped over him and checked his throat; there was a pulse, faint but there. But there was so much blood! So many small but telling wounds! She set immediately to work, performing artificial respiration, stopping the blood-flow and trying desperately to thread some chakra into him. His body soaked up the energy like drought-parched earth soaking up rain. There was simply no chakra left in his beaten form.

How could this have happened? She had just seen him not three hours ago! He'd just come back from a minor yet vital mission, retrieving some herbs that she desperately needed for a handful of patients. He'd been fine, tired but fine. But now! He was two paces away from death, blood-loss and total chakra depletion eating away at his life energy. She was battling desperately to keep his vital organs from just shutting down.

Another pair of hands joined hers; Sakura's. Her exceedingly clever and determined apprentice. The young girl may not be an expert in the finer and more delicate medical jutsus, yet, but she knew enough to supply energy to her mentor. Energy that was badly needed, no single injury on Shikamaru's slight frame was mortal, but the huge number of accumulated wounds was well on the way to killing him.

Finally, the boy was stabilized. He was well enough to be shifted into the hospital for further work. And when that was done, Tsunade was going to send out every person available to see just what could have happened to the boy. She was going to interrogate Shikamaru, of course. But that was going to have to wait until he woke up on his own. And if the Hokage was any judge, that was going to take awhile, and her questions would not wait.

Kakashi had been surprised by the sudden demand from the Hokage to search the city, but after seeing Shikamaru's condition he hadn't argued. The Jounin had Summoned his dogs to go out searching for odd scents, and a howl near the outer edge of the training fields told him that they'd found something.

Reaching Pakkun's location, Kakashi paused in mild shock at the clear battle field that met his eye. There was blood everywhere.

Not huge stains, but small drops here and there. But there were just so many of those small drops, making it clear that whoever it was who had done the bleeding had been fighting hard at the same time. Recalling Shikamaru's pallor, he could guess as to who that person was.

Pakkun was sitting next to the largest stain a small ways away from a large bush. He dipped his nose down to point out two separate stains.

"Itachi," was all the dog said.

"Itachi?" Kakashi replied, disbelieving.

"It was Itachi," the ninja pug insisted, "He was here; he fought with Shikamaru and was injured by him. Look at this blood, he received several wounds."

"Are you… sure?" Kakashi asked again. He didn't doubt his cute dog's nose but… Itachi, Uchiha Itachi, wounded by Nara Shikamaru?

"Yeah, I'm sure, you can check for yourself, you know. You know Itachi's scent." Kakashi did know the rogue Uchiha's scent, so similar to Sasuke's but just different enough. And the blood-smell here was Itachi's.

"And that's not all, come over this way," Pakkun said, leading his master to the city side edge of the grounds. There was a trail there, only a few hours old, and the smell from it was disturbing. Shikamaru had clearly made the trail, and just as clearly he'd already been severely injured when he had. There was no blood-trail, but just the scent of blood and pain. And profound exhaustion.

The last one had to be the most disturbing of all; it took extreme exhaustion for its scent to be detectable. This made Kakashi pause to think. How many missions had Shikamaru been sent on recently and how many days had he been allowed off? The Jounin knew that Konoha was short handed for reliable personnel, but that the most recent Chuunin should be this tired… there must be something else wrong here.

Well, at least now I know why he's injured. With a word of thanks, Kakashi dismissed Pakkun and the rest of his dogs, and headed in to report. While on the way, he puzzled over the failed mission so many months ago. Kakashi had given lip service to not blaming Shikamaru, but in his heart, he felt that if someone better and more experienced had led, they may have retrieved the erring Uchiha.

But now, on second review, he couldn't help but feel that he really had given the young Chuunin the short end of the stick. Enemy position had been unknown, enemy strength had been unknown, enemy objective had been pretty much unknown. Hell, enemy number had been unknown! If I had been in Shikamaru's position, with the troops he had, would I have done any better? Painful to admit, but Kakashi had to admit that he would have done essentially what the young Chuunin had done.

Well, maybe now I can start making it up to Shikamaru. There aren't many who can fight Uchiha Itachi and live, fewer still who can successfully wound him. If I get permission to, I'm going to spread that around. Hopefully that should repair his reputation a little.

(nope, still ain't workin')

Itachi watched as Kakashi left the scene of the battle then slumped back against the trunk of the tree he was hiding in. He didn't have enough chakra right now to fight against the Jounin and win. Fortunately, having so little chakra made it ridiculously easy to hide what little there was.

Hugin, the Shikigami raven, eyed his ally and clacked his beak in distaste.

"You sure did a number on yourself." he quorked critically, "You need to take better care, you have too many enemies and there's only so much we Ravens are allowed to do."

"I know," the Uchiha replied. After sealing up a tiny section of Shikamaru's memory, he had pathetically little energy, certainly not enough to enter Konoha with a wounded person and get out again. So he'd had to call on his allies to deliver the boy while he bound up his own wounds. Once again, Itachi was incredibly grateful he'd taken the gamble of making a forbidden Bond Alliance with one of the Shikigami clans instead of learning a traditional Summons.

There were pros and cons to both the Shikigami and the Summons. A Summons would always come when you called, but the size and quality of your Summon was proportionate to the chakra expenditure. Summons always did what you told them to, unless you summoned the chief of the particular species you contracted with. But that was all.

Shikigami didn't always come when called; they had to feel like obeying. It didn't matter how much chakra you pumped out, the size and quality of the ally you got depended on who it was who felt like helping. But, if your relationship with your allies was good, not only would they come when called, they'd come when they thought you needed help. They wouldn't always do what you told them to, but then, that wasn't always a good idea either. Itachi's life had been saved a number of times by his allies 'disobedience'. Even though it was that same disobedience that made the Shikigami Bond Alliance a forbidden technique.

Thus, Itachi had to only send out a trickle of chakra to request help, only enough to carry his message. And Hugin, one of the higher Ravens, had come willingly and swiftly. The Uchiha had explained what he needed done, and Hugin had figured out how to do it by himself. Now he was back, standing guard over his bond ally without being asked. And enjoying it fully too, Itachi detested feeling weak and as if he needed protecting, something Hugin knew only too well.

"I still don't understand why you put so much effort into that measly little boy." The raven complained, "He's no use to you, he'll try and kill you if he can, and you betrayed your presence here by saving him."

"I'm not too sure why I saved him either," Itachi confessed. Hugin grumbled about mental cases, which the Uchiha ignored, "But-"


"I couldn't kill him, nor did I want him to die. I am glad that I acted on impulse."

"That's unlike you,"

"I know," Itachi hauled himself to his feet and offered his arm to the bird, "but I can not bring myself to regret it."

"Humph, leaving me and mine to clean up the mess you make." The Raven muttered as he hopped onto the offered arm. "So, scouting duty?" He asked, cocking his head to peer at his human partner with one bright, black eye.

"If you please." The Uchiha replied courteously. It never hurt to be polite to Shikigami, least they take offense and decide not to help you. Not that someone as rowdy as Hugin would likely be insulted from such a thing. The large bird pointed his beak skyward before launching off; growing in size with each wing beat then- disappearing. Itachi could still sense his ally, since all the bird had done was wrap himself in a Wind-Cloak, but no one else could. And a bird that dwarfed most draft horses would definitely be noticed.

The rogue cast one last wistful glance back over his shoulder towards the city before heading off. Until next time, Shikamaru-kun.

(guess what, it still ain't workin', ain't that a surprise)

A.S.: #glares at Itachi# There, happy now? I wrote your bloody ItaShika fic for you, even though I've got plenty of other things to do!

Itachi: #shrug# It's a start.

Shika: #bound, gagged and shoved in a closet# HMMM-MUMMPH UMPH! (Don't post it) Ummph- unmmm humnn unph ump (It's bad, no one will read it)

A.S.: It's better than the other one that Mister. Bondage Lover here forced me to write.

Shika: UMMMMMPPPPHHHHH! (nooooooooooooooooooooooo)

Itachi: #low evil chuckle#

A.S.: That one though, won't be posted-

Itachi: #evil glare#

Shika: Humh! (yes)

A.S.: -Here.

Itachi: #approving nod#

Shika: UMMMMMPPPPHHHHHH! (nooooooo) Nupm phun! (Bad Skitty)

A.S.: Fanfiction (dot) net has this teensy little issue with M and M+ rated material so I'm not even going to bother posting the other ItaShika story here, I'm posting it on Mediaminer (dot) org. My author name is exactly the same over there, as soon as I figure out how, I'll attach a link in my profile.

Itachi: Good.

Shika: UNPH (bad)

A.S.: Well, until next time-

Shika: UNMOPH MUPH (no next time)

Itachi: Hush you, or do you want me to act out some of the scenes that would give the FF (dot) net managers a conniption?

Shika, A.S.: ACK!

A.S.: Uh, yeah, until next time, try and get that image out of your head!

Itachi: Humph.

Shika: whimper….