War and Slavery

Notes: My imagination has no 'off' button and I can't find the place where the plot bunnies breed, so I can't shoot them. You can blame this fic on those two things and on the fact that Itachi likes to read over my shoulder and got inspired by a weird fic I read. It was an Ita/Shika fic, and it made the jerk horny, so he started to bug me to write one like it.

After over a month, I gave in, but he'd already decided to make another that was more… brutal. The first one is 'The Word 'Traitor'', and this is the second one. It's not a nice fic, it doesn't start that way, and it may not get any better. That's why it was only on Mediaminer for a while, since those nice people don't mind flying blood, guts and semen. Yes, there are going to be lemons sooner or later. Probably sooner, so I can get Itachi to quit poking me with that damned sex toy of his…..

I am my own betta reader, please pardon my typos.

Life was a hard thing, when you were a shinobi. There were a large number of things you had to mentally memorize, a number of things that had to be practiced until your body memorized them. Not just jutsus, which were hard enough, but protocols and politics. Who was enemies with whom, which clan was in ascension, who was of what rank now, which village was allied with which, etc.

Then there were the missions, which were also hard and which also required a certain amount of memorization. It could be noticed, if one paid attention, that a great deal of information could be gained it you noted which people and which families, asked for what kinds of missions and how often. Occasionally, large problems had been nipped in the bud from this. Sometimes, large problems had developed, because no one noticed the trends. Fortunately, Shikamaru no longer had to worry about that. Unfortunately, the reason was war.

It had started in Suna. Akastsuki had all the demons, save one. Actually, it was one and one half; when Gaara had been revived, he dragged a piece of Shukaku with him when his soul had returned to his body. For some odd reason, the rouge organization was displeased by this and decided to go after that stray piece first. After all, it should be easy, they had taken Gaara before. Piece of cake, right? Wrong.

The Suna shinobi were furious that their Kazekage had been taken from them so easily the first time and with so little fight on their part. So when Akastsuki had sent another two members to retrieve Gaara, all of the Suna shinobi had risen up in rage. The Akastsuki had barely escaped alive.

That had been the first mistake.

Akastsuki really wanted that half of the Ichibi.

The assault that had followed Suna's initial victory showed all the world just how powerful Akastsuki had gotten. With the eight members acting as generals leading their many followers and the leader acting roughly as a kage, Akastsuki attacked the unsuspecting Suna village with an overwhelming ferocity that defied all expectation. It was all-out war.

Naturally, when Suna started to suffer heavy losses, Konoha immediately sent reinforcements to their ally. It made good political sense, and good defensive sense. Make your ally grateful to you for you help, and have your ally do the job of stamping out your mutual enemy for you. Too bad it hadn't worked.

Konoha had to send more and more of it's shinobi to assist the desperate Suna until a full half of Leaf forces were sunk into the resistance. It was an opportunity that Orochimaru couldn't resist.

Fortunately, on that front, Jiraiya and Tsunade were expecting such a move from their former, insane teammate. Unfortunately, on that front, the amount of soldiers that Orochimaru could field was far larger than expected.

That's the problem with being a legitimate village opposing a rogue village. Shikamaru thought while he sharpened a kunai. Konoha is very careful about which migrants we'll allow to be shinobi, while the Snake doesn't give a shit, just so long as the bastards will spill blood for him. That lets him recoup losses faster than us because he can hire indiscriminately.

That was Suna's problem as well, very few reliable shinobi were joining them, while Akastsuki was recruiting like crazy. Suna was suffering the same heavy losses as its enemy, but Akastsuki was able to keep its numbers up. So Gaara was forced to make a hard decision that cost him: Abandon the city, fall back.

They did, the Suna shinobi loyally following their hard fighting leader. Gaara had earned their loyalty a thousand times over in the many battles of the war, standing shoulder to shoulder with his people and protecting them with everything he had.

What he did have was less than he would have liked to have been able to wield. Having Shukaku extracted from him and only regaining a piece of the demon had decreased his fighting power dramatically. He was still terrifyingly strong, far stronger than any of his truly loyal shinobi… but less so than he had been.

Suna forces fled to join Konoha and turned to fight against Sound just as strongly as they had against Akastsuki. Konoha was grateful, but then the predictable happened and the united Konaha/Suna forces had to fight on two fronts as Akastsuki pursued its prey. Luckily, while the Suna and Konoha shinobi viewed each other as allies and friends, Akastsuki and Sound hated each other. They spent as much time sabotaging each other as they did trying to destroy Konoha/Suna.

That's probably the only reason that we're still in the fight, Shikamaru mused, examining his blade edge in the firelight. Tsunade had been forced to make the same hard decision as Gaara had had to; abandon the city. She had ordered it for the same reason Gaara had, Konoha, like Suna, was more than just buildings, a tower and a monument. Konoha was her people, and Konoha would survive for as long as someone wore the Leaf proudly.

It's been a downhill fight since. We're down by 40, but Suna's down to 40. Gaara's lost six shinobi out of ten, and that's killing him. These psycho's are after him, and his people are dying for him. Never mind the fact that they're willing, and that Suna would probably be destroyed if all the demons were gathered. The fact remains that his people are dying, Suna is dying, and he can't stop it, can't make it better.

Shikamaru consider it a gods' granted blessing that Temari, Kankurou and Baki had survived. They and Naruto were probably the only things keeping Gaara sane. And supporting Gaara was one of the reasons that Naruto was still sane. The blonde had been just as hard-hit by the devastation as the redhead, but he didn't have the support of his people.

There were a small number of Konohanian lunatics that wanted Tsunade to throw Naruto and Gaara to Akastsuki in the hope that it would make the organization go away. Naturally, Tsunade refused. Naturally, the Rookie Nine, Team Gai, and the Sand Sibs were outraged by this group.

Although it doesn't take much to understand where they're coming from, even if they're being insanely shortsighted. The war had lasted for nearly nine months and the toll on mind and body kept mounting. Everyone wanted the war to end, and many were desperately grasping at any straw that might let the war end. Thus, the formation of the crazy group, people praying that by giving one enemy the things it wanted, the war might end.

But there's no easy answer for Orochimaru, he wants to destroy Konoha, and wouldn't mind destroying Suna if he got the chance. And anyone with a brain knows that Akastsuki isn't going to disappear if they get all the Bijuu. They'll just get stronger.

A murmur of voices caught Shikamaru's attention and he looked over by the campfire. Gaara was huddled listlessly by the warmth, Temari on one side, Kankurou on the other. Naruto was leaning over, talking to them, the firelight highlighting his features. The blonde's lips curled into the form of a smile but were devoid of the feelings needed to make it a real one. The shadow user couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Naruto's real smile.

Naruto seemed to sense Shikamaru's gaze, and turned and smiled sadly in his friend's direction. The brunette curled his own lips into an answering not-smile as the blonde murmured one final thing to Gaara before heading over into Shikamaru's direction.

"Hey," Naruto greeted.

"Hey," Shikamaru responded, "how's he doing?"

"Better, still blames himself and thinks he should have stayed dead that one time."

"Idiot," the shadow user muttered without feeling, "maybe his death could have altered things for the better, but more likely for the worse. And Akastsuki would still have come for Kyuubi, and Orochimaru would still want to kill us all."

"And we wouldn't have Suna helping us like this without Gaara's insistence." Naruto added. "How are you doing, by the way?"

Shikamaru knew what Naruto was referring too. Nara Shikato had been one of the many casualties covering Konoha's retreat from the city. Shikamaru had taken the death of his father and personal hero hard. But what had hurt just as bad was his mother's total rejection of his presence, although logically the brunette understood.

Shikamaru looked just like his dad, and that similarity hurt his mother, like seeing the ghost of her husband constantly.

"Better," Shikamaru lied. Like he'd been doing constantly since the war started, he had swallowed the pain down and shoved it into a corner where it couldn't hurt him anymore. Naruto nodded, clearly not believing Shikamaru's lie but, like everyone else, he didn't have the resources or time to make the shadow user open up.

Besides, Shikamaru wasn't the only one hurting. Akamaru had lost a leg and Kiba blamed himself for his canine best friend's injury. Neji had lost an eye, and that injury had caused Hinata to go into a downward spiral of depression. Sakura had managed to get her to be useful among the medics, but the shy Hyuuga was still more silent than usual. Chouji and his parents were all alive, but all badly injured. Because most of the refugees were divided into small, separate groups, Ino, Sakura, TenTen and Lee had no idea if their parents were alive or dead. Shino had lost much of his family and had become more withdrawn as a result.

Everyone had lost a friend or relative. Everyone was exhausted, hungry and injured in mind, body or soul in some way. Last time Shikamaru had had the luxury of a full bath, he'd spent a full thirty seconds gaping in surprise at the multiple scars criss-crossing his frame. What was even more disturbing; he couldn't remember where he'd gotten more than half of those scars. As long as he could keep moving, he never had bothered to do more than slap some salve on the wounds he noticed to keep infection at bay. This was war; every resource, every article, every scrap was valuable and needed, even the cloth for bandages.

Shikamaru blinked, Naruto was no longer standing beside him and the brunette couldn't say when the blonde had left. A different blonde was approaching. The shadow user put down his kunai and held out an arm. Temari needed a shoulder again.

That was all that Shikamaru could give her, he didn't have the time, or energy for anything else. Fortunately, Temari didn't want anything else, just a friend and someone to pat her on the back while she cried. This was becoming a well-practiced ritual.

Gaara blamed himself for everything, and Temari blamed herself that she couldn't make her brother stop. Everything she'd lived for and fought for was gone save for her small core of family. She, who had prided herself on her emotional control, could no longer stop crying when it became too much to bear.

She clung to her Konohanian friend's vest and just wept quietly while she got those pats and a few 'there-there's'. Shikamaru leaned into her a little, this ritual was mutually beneficial, Temari never criticized him if he cried a little too. And she'd been the one to hold and pat after Shikamaru had received the news that his father had gotten killed while stalling the enemy with his kagemane. Nobody had realized Shikato was going to do that when he'd gone back to 'check if anyone had gotten left behind'. It was only when he hadn't come back that the truth had been realized.

Still a hero, Nara Shikato's name had been added to the list of people who would be memorialized on the stone of fallen hero's if the village was reclaimed. No, when, when, not if, never if. We will reclaim our home. Someday.

He leaned into Temari a little more and she hugged him back. It wasn't a wartime romance, as Ino loved to claim, but it was a needed friendship all the same. A shoulder to cry on, a body to lean against… this was why Suna and Konoha still fought on. There were a lot of new friends and few loves among the two villages. A lot of wet shoulders, and hugs.

The group that Shikamaru and his friends were in was small, and very tired. They'd fought three battles today, and there were many injured. So when the alarm whistle was sounded in the pattern for a large, armed approaching hostile force, Shikamaru didn't hesitate for a second in calling for retreat. He had the authority to do this because he'd been promoted to Jounin during the course of the war.

Several of the Sunanians hesitated until Gaara snapped out of his funk and agreed, adding his own voice in the command for retreat. Everyone was swirling in organized chaos, grabbing need items and shouldering wounded comrades. Everything that could be done without was left behind. This small company couldn't withstand having anymore wounded.

They're moving too slowly, Shikamaru observed as he tossed some more rolls of gauze into the medics pack. The medic nins were flat-out exhausted and near being causalities themselves, they weren't going to move fast at all. He looked up to scan the rest of the company and noticed one of the scouts race in. The shadow user sprinted over to the scout.

"Report." He demanded.

"Large armed force, non-shinobi, heading straight for us with speed." the scout rasped, wiping sweat out of her eyes.

"How large?" Gaara demanded, coming up on Shikamaru's right.

"Twice our size at a rough guess," the scout replied, "but… fresh."

Which we aren't, Shikamaru winced. Beside him, Gaara grimaced, the same thought clearly passing through his mind.

"Do you know of anyone in the group that's good at laying a false trail?" The brunette asked the redhead.

"That's mobile? No one." Gaara sighed, withdrawing more. He had come alive at the alarm, ready to protect his people. But now… He was pulling back again.

"I- I can lay a trail…" the scout offered. Shikamaru pounced on her.

"Take two people who are fast and have reserves and lay a trail at a 135 degree angle from us and make it seem like all of us are there." he ordered her. "The medics are drained and there are too many wounded." The scout nodded and started to head off, "One more thing," the scout paused, "come back alive."

The scout saluted then leapt off; Shikamaru turned and started with the evacuation. But things weren't going as planned; the few fighters that weren't exhausted were already having to fight against the very few enemies that had gotten as far as the camp. The retreat wasn't going fast enough, they needed more time.

Most of the group had already completely evacuated the camp clearing, Shikamaru playing rearguard, waiting for the others to catch up. But they weren't coming.

"I'm going to make sure no one was left behind." He told Kankurou before turning and racing back. A quick Shadow Needle as he reentered the camp clearing evened things out a little and he ordered everyone there to cover the retreat while he covered them. As he was left behind alone, he used his kagemane to keep the attackers from following, but he knew he couldn't hold them for long. Even if the attackers weren't shinobi, he simply didn't have the energy left.

But it was as he was holding them that he noticed something disturbing; their weapons were primarily nets, bolos (1), and dart guns. Oh shit… A bolo, a binding weapon made of three weights tied together by three long arms of rope, hit him from behind, binding him and knocking him unconscious.

The leader of the raiding party carefully inched near his quarry. A calculated, forceful application of his toe insured that the quarry wouldn't wake anytime soon. And what a quarry it was. The raid leader grinned, baring stained, rotten teeth.

The owner of the slaving operation had taken a great risk, sending a party against a Konoha band, but the potential rewards were great. A Konoha shinobi represented a great deal of money to a slaver; such a commodity was highly sought after, if the creature could be tamed. And a Jounin! The price a Jounin would command would pay for the damage this battle had done ten times over if sold to the right person.

So yes, the leader of the raiding party was very well pleased, he'd only hoped to capture a few Genin, maybe a couple of Chuunin at best. Catching a Jounin, no matter how beat up the creature looked… The leader began to chuckle, he could see a fat bonus coming his way, one that he wouldn't have to split with too many of his raiding party, since so many had been killed. All the better. He began to laugh hard; the thought of a great deal of money did that to his kind of scum.

(Many Months Later)

A commotion at the end of the hall that Shikamaru was kept in woke him from a light doze. Irritating, not that he could do anything about it. He was in lousy condition, but he'd grown somewhat used to that. He wasn't entirely certain how long he'd been captured, three months, six months, more, but long enough.

His body hurt, his hand in particular. A lot of things had been done to him especially after the owner of the slaving company learned that he wasn't going to get a lot of money out of him. His rank was Jounin, but his power level was that of a Middle Chuunin at best. Many potential customers had been angry when they heard that and refused to buy him on the basis of false advertising. Those that had come after that initial discovery were disinclined to buy him because he was so beat up. Who wanted a shinobi slave as scarred up as he was?

And not only was he scarred up, he was vicious, recklessly throwing every resource at his disposal at the soldiers slaves sent to test his strength, desperately trying to kill. But not only did he try to kill the other slaves, whenever the opportunity presented itself, he tried to kill the Masters. He'd only succeeded in hurting a small handful, but that was enough. The true value of a shinobi slave was the ability to order them to do a variety of tasks, as well as to have them bodyguard his Master.

Shikamaru kept trying to kill his potential new Master, therefore he was worthless and untrustworthy. This infuriated his current owner; the owner had sent a party after a small, worn-out group of Konoha shinobi in the hopes of catching a number of valuable slaves. What he got was one worthless, unsellable pain in the ass. But the owner hadn't become the owner without being a good businessman and knowing how he could recoup his losses.

The first thing he had to do to get some profit out of Shikamaru was to make him… tractable. The best way to do that was to break him, so Shikamaru was sent to a brothel that the owner had a share in. The brunette had been one of the older slaves for sale there.

Voices jarred him out of his musings for a moment, making the shadow user slant a glare in the general direction of the speakers. He was careful to make sure his unbound hair shielded his eyes; he didn't want to get punished for something so small as glaring. He shifted slightly, trying to get his broken body into a less uncomfortable position. It didn't really work, but the last time he hadn't been in some kind of pain had been before the war started.

So being sold multiple times a night had only introduced him to a different kind of pain not a worse kind. He hadn't just submitted to it however. Same as when he'd been up for permanent sale as a bodyguard, he had pit ever resource at his tormenters.

Maybe his chakra had been sealed from him by the Cold Iron collar around his neck, but he still had his nails and teeth and had nearly killed a small handful of men by tearing at their throats. He'd been beaten for that of course, but he wasn't going to let himself be raped without a fight.

Cold Iron… Shikamaru rubbed at his neck carefully, he still had that collar on. Cold Iron negated all chakra flow, and when touched to the bare skin of someone with a high level, like a trained shinobi, it left a nasty burn. When made into a collar and snapped around a shinobi's neck, it prevented the shinobi from accessing and manipulating his chakra. Of course, it had to be lined with silk or wool first before it was placed around his neck, otherwise the collar would burn through the shinobi's neck and kill him.

Not that I think my owner would mind doing that right now… The brothel he'd been placed in had gotten a reputation for having a dangerous whore, and while that had attracted some individuals, it had repulsed many others and the establishment had started to lose business. When Shikamaru had been hauled out of there, he'd nearly gotten beaten to death because of the lost profit. But the owner restrained himself; he was still determined to get some money out of Shikamaru's hide, one way or another.

So now, after who knew how long, the brunette was languishing in a cell, beaten and half-dead. Jammed in his mouth and part way down his throat was an elaborate metal gag, since he wouldn't stop swearing at his captures, using a few of Naruto's favorite phrases. His right hand was crushed, common practice for shinobi slaves. If he couldn't use his hand, he couldn't make the seals need for his jutsus. His future owner could have the bones reset if he was deemed trustworthy.

He glanced at his hand, it had been crushed within the first few days of his coming here and the bones were mostly fused. He'd had to set it himself as best he could since he was only a slave and unworthy of medical treatment. Some of the fractures are still infected. There was part of the reason he was in such bad condition, no too few of his wounds had become infected and were adding to the toll on his health. The main reason for his bad condition, however, was because he was starving to death.

The gag kept his mouth from closing all the way so he couldn't chew nor could he swallow. Three times a day, when the cells on his row were cleaned out, he was given water. It had been several days since he'd last been given food, but he'd refused it. They'd had to force feed him, something that had only taxed him further.

He stared down at his bony knees and felt a faint stir of satisfaction; he was no longer skinny, but emaciated. Good. I'm not living like this; I refuse to be 'owned' by anyone. They can keep me from slitting my wrists or my throat, but they can't keep me from starving myself. When they'd force fed him, he'd made such an ordeal out of it he'd burned more calories than he'd gained. A few more weeks- hell a few more days- and he'd be out of this nightmare for good.

Shikamaru pulled his knees close to his chest and rested his forehead against them. It was cold down here, and few of the slaves were permitted clothes. The voices came closer; the brunette recognized one of them as his owner and felt a hot thrill of hate settle in his gut. The owner and whoever he was talking to meandered close to Shikamaru's cage, so he glanced through his hair to see who it was out of ideal curiosity. This wasn't the first time a potential buyer came through here and it wouldn't be the last. Not that it had anything to do with the brunette; no one wanted to buy him, scrawny as he was now.

The small thrill of hate that was in his gut was soon joined by rage when he saw who the buyer was; black cloak with red clouds, long black hair tied back in a tail, unmistakable Uchiha features: there was only one person like that. Uchiha Itachi.

One of the people who Shikamaru could safely blame for his current situation. If it wasn't for Akastsuki, Konoha would still be strong enough to squash any slaver in the Fire lands. If it wasn't for Itachi, Akastsuki might not be as strong as it was. If it wasn't for Itachi's earlier actions, Sasuke wouldn't have run to Orochimaru, making the Snake bold enough to attack Konoha as well.

It's because of him… it's all because of him. Shikamaru couldn't contain his hate, and now clearly glared his rage at the black clad man, heedless of potential punishment. Itachi met his gaze coolly, lifting a brow aristocratically at the emotion burning in the brunette's eyes. Shikamaru would not have predicted what happened next.

If Itachi had been granted a choice, he wouldn't be here right now. But… he hadn't been given that choice. The Leader of Akastsuki had ordered him specifically to go fetch ten new slaves. Intellectually, the rogue Uchiha knew why it had been him sent; he was the only logical choice after all.

Kakuzu would be so stingy with the money he'd been given, he would only buy the cheapest and most inferior slaves. Deidara would find some excuse to blow up the new slaves, therefore cutting down the number that actually replaced the slaves that had been lost. When Sasori was still alive, most of the slaves had come back as puppets, useful only to Sasori himself. Hidan just tended to sacrifice most of the slaves to his bizarre, blood-thirsty god. The rest, Kisame included, would just go to the nearest slave market, tell the owner "I need X number of servant slaves" then head back with that number of purchases of indeterminate age or health.

Itachi was a little fussier. The Leader knew he could trust Itachi to not kill the new slaves before he even delivered them, nor would he purchase slaves in poor health or temperament. The Uchiha was trust-worthy in this respect, simply because he was finicky about who he wanted to allow into his private quarters to do the cleaning.

Which was why he was being given a guided tour now; he wanted to know what kind of conditions his ten new purchases had been in before they'd been placed up for sale. This way, he could inform the medic team what kinds of health issues they should be prepared for, since there was rarely ever such a thing as a perfectly healthy slave.

I fear my report to Mei-Lin and her team is going to be a lengthy one; Itachi thought disdainfully. This was the first time he'd come to this particular establishment, it was newly made since Konoha's downfall. He didn't think much of it. True, the owner had laid down a few sanitation rules, the pens were fairly clear of most feces, but the slaves themselves were in less than ideal health.

Most bore extensive scars and new wounds, all were skinny, a few could even be called emaciated. All of the slaves were filthy, over-crowded and gazed at him with fear-filled, broken eyes.

Itachi didn't really want broken slaves, beaten yes, broken no. Beaten slaves were generally cautious and subservient, but still possessed free-will and a desire to prosper. This kind tended to be very useful in the hopes of being freed, which most masters would do for a superior slave. Broken slaves tended to be exceedingly skittish and had to be told precisely what to do, for they didn't dare think for themselves, least they be beaten again.

The owner paused by the next doorway in the labyrinthine building. The building was composed of dozens of cell-lined corridors that criss-crossed in no predictable manor. It was as if the structure had been designed specifically to be as confusing as possible so that an escapee would be unable to find his way out. Which may be close to the truth.

"Forgive my inquiry, but are you sure you wish to see all of my establishment?" The greasy, fat-ball of a man who was the owner asked, squinting watery eyes up at Itachi.

"Yes, I am certain," The Uchiha replied tonelessly, "Why do you ask?"

"Well, you see honored customer, it's just that in every slavery ring, there are a few… feral individuals." The man reluctantly admitted, "It's the same with every market of stock," he added hastily, "with horses, there are few wild and crazed beasts. It's also the same with cattle or goat or pigs or-"

"And you bring up this subject for what reason?" Itachi said, impatient for the point. He did not like this place and he really did not like this man.

"Ah, well… It's just that this hallway holds those feral sorts who can't be tamed and they are very unsightly to the eyes. I do not wish to subject you to such a thing if you would no-"

"Did I not specifically state that I wished to view the entire premises?" The Uchiha growled. The grease-ball cringed and whined and finally unlocked the door and led Itachi in. For a few moments, he wished he hadn't insisted on seeing this hallway as well. It was vile, the stench was horrific and the sight of so many beaten, bleeding bodies was a match for the smell. Several of the occupants lunged at the bars, howling and clawing. Some cowered into the farthest corner, whimpering and messing themselves. Some were dead and the corpses had just been left to rot.

And then there was one, small, skinny, naked body that just sat and glared. The fact that this one did nothing, but was still very much alive was such a contrast that Itachi couldn't help but stare back at him. Their eyes met, and the Uchiha was struck by the very sane, intelligent rage those dark eyes held. This individual knew who Itachi was and this small pathetic figure hated Itachi, specifically.

He took in the rest of the bony figure; Cold Iron collar, elaborate gag, old scars, calluses on his palms that showed that he had once held a kunai. It all added up to this boy having once been a shinobi. Some part of Itachi that was well buried under years of emotionless disregard howled in protest that a fellow shinobi should be brought low like this. Another part of him was intrigued by the fact that this small boy could still have his sanity in spite of the condition he was now in. A third part, connected to the second, thought it would be interesting to see if this child could be tamed, for certainly someone who was as tough as this boy could be useful.

"I'll give you five ryou for this boy here." Itachi heard himself say. Immediately the owner started to bluster over the low price, the servants that the Uchiha had just picked out were eight ryou each. A Genin could be sold on the black market for twenty. Itachi had a hunch that the youth before him was of much higher rank than Genin.

His hunch proved correct when the owner let slip that the youth was a Jounin out of Konoha, and that he wasn't for sale for any price under one hundred ryou. Itachi scoffed at the price, pointing out the boy's condition, and stating that no Jounin would ever permit himself to be caught by a slaver. Unless he was exhausted by the war and protecting his people, as Konohanians are prone to do; Itachi theorized. He could very easily see were a Jounin, especially one promoted prematurely because of the war, could be captured like this.

The haggling continued, Itachi stubbornly sticking close to his price, the owner wailing that he was being cheated, but suspiciously letting the price drop drastically. Finally they settled on eleven ryou, and the boy was rousted out of his cell to be cleaned up and dressed in a slave smock. Itachi hastily demanded that the Iron collar be removed as well. The owner hadn't been thrilled at this order and didn't seem reassured when Itachi stated that a shinobi in that kind of condition was unlikely to have chakra to spare for even the simplest of jutsus.

But finally all the slaves were assembled in the antechamber were Itachi had gone to wait, ten adults in poor condition and one youth who had been a shinobi in horrible condition. Looking at the last slave that Itachi had paid for out of his own purse, the Uchiha briefly wondered about his own sanity before deciding that he had never been sane and that this purchase was merely the latest manifestation of this.

(1) Bolo: I don't know if this is the real name of this weapon, but what I'm going to describe does exist, if not under this name. It is a rope and weight weapon shaped like a 'Y' with a heavy round weight, made of stone or lead, tied to the ends. It's thrown kind of like a lasso to bind the legs of running deer or rhea, a bird like an ostrich or emu. Often it will break the legs, and the fall will break the neck. It's a weapon I thought appropriate to a slaver.

A.S.: Urg, this is it, this is one of the things Itachi has been forcing down my throat. If you eventually see a similarity between this and 'The word 'Traitor'' don't be surprised, because the relationship plot is the same.

As you all may have guessed, I read a lot, and I've noticed that all good stories have two plots; the action plot and the relationship plot. The action plot is the events that drive the characters, the relationship plot is the interaction between the characters. In 'War' and in 'Traitor', the action is different, but the relationships are mostly the same. I don't really like have two such similar stories up, but 'War' lets me do such interesting things to Shika that I couldn't resist.

I will warn you about one thing now though: In this, Shikamaru is a slave. He's property, chattel, he doesn't have any rights of his own, nor will he be granted any. This is why slavery is so horrible and outlawed in all civilized nations. Itachi is (mostly) civilized, so he will treat Shika as a person, for the most part. But there will be some scenes where Shika's rights as a human are disregarded and cast aside. That's the beauty of fiction, I can do things to a non-existent person that I would never dream of doing to a real person.

Still, if the thought of someone being tied up and raped, and having such a scene graphically described (or as graphically as I can manage, seeing as it'll be my first lemon scene) is offensive to you, do yourself a favor and don't read. I'm not out to offend or shock anyone, I'm out to entertain. Most of my stories will have a 'Happily ever after' tagged onto the end, since that's what sells, but the characters have to struggle and suffer to get there. People are entertained by the struggle, and reassured by the end. But the struggle has to come first, and in this case, it's going to be pretty bad at first. Keep the end in mind, and I'll see you next chapter.

…… Shika, you can come out of the closet now, Itachi's busy roughing out the next chapter…. Shika…?