In her twenty years of existence on this mortal plane, there were many things that Sakura understood.
She understood that having a big forehead wasn't as bad as it had seemed when she was twelve, especially when you need all the smarts you have in order to survive being the genius disciple of the Godaime.
She understood that failure is the mother of success, and had learnt that as long as one worked hard and refused to give up, one would reach the top as head ANBU medic just like she had at the age of eighteen.
But as much as she believed in the value of determination, she also understood that there were just some things in the world that you cannot have no matter how much you want it. She had learnt that lesson the hard way at the age of thirteen, when she had her young heart broken and her innocent rose-tinted view of the world shattered.
She understood that same age that the gift of friends are the rarest of jewels in life yet so sorely overlooked, and she swore never to do so again.
She understood that life would always go on and that time would stop for no one, not even for the misguided souls who had chosen to walk down the wrong path.
Indeed, Sakura had grown up very nicely, not only in form, but mentally as well. She exuded a subtle beauty that was unique in her own way, and made even more alluring by her long, confident gait and sunny nature. She had learnt to put herself in the shoes of others, and to empathize and never do anything rash that would hurt those of whom she cherishes and loves.
There were many things left unsaid that the pink-haired kunoichi could now comprehend and take in stride, just like that scouting mission in Kirigakure that Tsunade had sent her ANBU team on two days ago. She hadn't been surprised actually, had already expected something like that when they ran across the lone Akatsuki. Harsh exchanges had been delivered from one side only to be easily rebutted by cool, detached answers. Then they fought, the powerful S-class missing-nin against her team of four, and Sakura had been proud that they had managed to hold their own against the Akatsuki.
The Konoha ANBU had retreated soon after, and Sakura with them. She had been bringing up the rear of the group, frantically avoiding the flashing red orbs of the Sharingan while desperately jumping from tree to tree in a bid to lengthen the distance between herself and the relentless pursuer but to no avail. He caught up easily with her, and should have been able to rip her apart with no problem at all but it was as if he were holding back, much to Sakura's growing confusion.
As crazy as it seemed, it quickly felt as if the Akatsuki were not trying to harm her team, but more like…expecting something from her.
Sakura didn't know what the hell was going on, but she was sure of one thing, what he wanted she sure as certain was not going to give it to him. Not without a fight, at least.
She had lost sight of her team awhile ago so it hadn't been surprising at the least when she started to move off in a direction all by herself, hoping to shake off the mssing-nin before rounding back to meet with her group. Her plan had been a little too successful though, when she had ran out of forests to hide in and gradually found herself cornered at the edge of a tall, remote cliff, between a gaping, seemingly bottomless pit and-
It hadn't been hard to identify the Uchiha heir; the swirling Sharingan that had resembled twin pools of crimson blood, stark and emotionless, not to mention that bittersweet almost-familiar onyx hair and sleek muscular build had told her without fail that this was the male that had mercilessly massacred his entire clan all within the span of one night.
"Are you Haruno Sakura?"
His voice was deep and rich, and would have gave Sakura a sense of utter security had she not know what he was capable of. Belatedly she wondered how on earth someone with a voice like that could do all the atrocious things that she had seen the Akatsuki take credit for.
Sakura kept her gaze resolutely on the ground before her, but nodded in mute response. She wasn't stupid; and testing the patience of a known psychotic killer would definitely border somewhere near insanity. The pink-haired kunoichi racked her head for a way out of this situation, all the while thinking up and discarding the Uchiha's possible motives for not killing her yet.
Then she remembered the strain the Sharingan had inflicted on Kakashi-sensei's body, and her eyes widened imperceptibly. The reason became all too clear. By then he had moved so silently to stop before her that she hadn't noticed his movement until his booted feet came into her peripheral vision. She stiffened in a way not unlike a frightened deer in the presence of a deadly predator.
Sakura prayed hard that her deductions for his agenda for trapping her thusly was correct, then lifted her head quickly to look him hard in the eyes.
She regretted it the moment he locked down her wide-eyed stare with his blank ones, and even though he hadn't used any genjutsu on her she could feel the cold, precise power roiling off him in thick, heavy waves. She could not look away now that he had her in his gaze, and Sakura had to work hard not to shudder in fear. His sheer power might be intimidating to others, but it was the fact that it was so tainted that made her cringe slightly away from him.
In the quest for supremacy, nothing was sacred anymore.
The blood of the best friend.
The blood of family.
So this was how the eyes of a demon looked like.
And apparently, soon to be blind.
"I know what you want." Sakura's voice was surprisingly steady, her eyes calm. Itachi continued to look at her with inscrutable eyes, clearly waiting for her to continue. Emerald eyes gleamed.
"I'm not going to help you."
Sakura stood quietly before the taller male, the look on her face serene and accepting. They both knew that she was aware of the unimaginable things that he could inflict on her, tortures that would make the eventual onset of death seem like a blessing, but there she was, one moment very afraid of what he could do, and the next shedding her fears like a heavy cloak to stand by her decision with unwavering determination.
Reluctantly, he had to admit that her absolute refusal amused….and fascinated him.
Such childish naiveté in a grown woman…
His name was known far and wide across the five countries, and not many had dared to refuse him what he wanted…and then lived to tell the tale. He wondered what made her think that she was so special.
"Oh?" He asked softly, his gaze darkly amused. "What makes you think that you have a choice?"
Then he illustrated his point, and a momentarily stunned Sakura watched as she moved forward against her will to stop nary an inch away from him, then started to flush as her arms rose on their own accord to snake around his neck in an extremely intimate fashion not unlike what a lover would do. Itachi did not move a muscle, and Sakura's emerald eyes started to flash with pure outrage when she felt herself tiptoe towards the male currently watching her with that cool, dispassionate gaze.
There was nothing she could do to stop what she knew would come next, and try as she might she could not even open her mouth to demand that he stop whatever that he was doing. All she could do, however, was what Itachi wanted her to do, and Sakura knew that he was without doubt trying to intimidate her into submission, and that made her even angrier.
She stared straight into those Sharingan eyes as he got her to inch painstakingly slowly towards him, her eyes showing her increasing fury and helplessness. He reveled in that look on her face, reveled in the discomfort that he had wrought in her, and the sardonic look in his eyes told her so. She stiffened and tried one last attempt to pull herself from his control, straining hard against the restraints that he had put in her mind, ignoring the intense flashes of pain that occurred as she did so. Come on, there wasn't much time left-
Then their lips touched.
Sakura's mind went blank.
It was true that Itachi was controlling her movements like an expert puppet master, but her senses, her feelings were all still hers to experience, and right now, everything was going haywire- and going straight to hell.
It shouldn't even be counted as a kiss, for she hadn't been the least bit willing in the first place and it was only the mildest contact of lips. In fact, it could have easily passed for an innocent exchange. Almost.
Sakura's emerald eyes widened with shock at the spark of…something that skittered up and down her spine at the unwanted kiss. She was still stuck in the position, still pressed intimately against him, feeling his cool lips and surprisingly smooth texture acutely and…
Sakura's eyes rounded with horrified shock. Goddamn it, this is not happening!
She was not getting turned on by this weird situation!
Utterly mortified, Sakura's eyes flew straight to the male who was the cause of all her confusion. Sakura's humiliation deepened when she saw that knowing look in his calm eyes, and there was nothing she could do about it. It had to be all his doing, the pink-haired kunoichi tried to convince herself. He had to be the one evoking those artificial reactions from her, for the alternative was simply too unbearable to think about.
If Itachi had set out wanting to prove his point without doubt as to who the control belongs to, he had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Sakura clenched her eyes shut in seeming defeat.
It was apparently enough for the Akatsuki, for within moments Sakura found herself being lowered to stand solidly onto the ground once more. She still had her arms wrapped around Itachi's neck, and she was now pressed so close to him that they were literally plastered together from chest to thigh. Sakura turned tomato-red.
He forced her to open her eyes to look at him. Sakura gritted her teeth at the look of muted triumph in his red eyes.
"Now that we have established your position…" The red eyes sharpened dangerously, turned cold as they pierced into her very soul with pure mercenary intent. Sakura shuddered inwardly.
"Will you do it?"
It was a good question, and one Sakura readily had the answer for.
She smiled at him, the gesture genuine and startlingly innocent.
"I pity you, Itachi." Sakura's voice was soft and sad. "You have thrown away everything important in life for something that only you deem worthy. You are so blinded by the taste of power that you have tossed aside even your humanity."
Then her melancholy emerald eyes focused intensely on him, turned just as dispassionate as his had been.
"This is why I will never help the likes of you, Uchiha Itachi. You are a monster."
Before the Akatsuki could react to the frankly-delivered words, Sakura dropped her arms simply from his neck and took one step back.
Crimson Sharingan eyes widened almost imperceptibly at the telling action.
She could have broken away from his mental hold from the start.
"Goodbye, Itachi." The pink-haired kunoichi smiled gently at him once more, her emerald eyes clear and her pretty features tranquil and disturbingly peaceful. "I hope we won't see each other again; I don't think we ever will."
Then right before his very eyes she took another unfaltering step back, and dropped into pits of hell.
Sakura knew that what she was doing was literally committing suicide. She had no idea at all how high the cliff was and there was no way for her to anticipate the time near impact for her to create a cushion of chakra that would soften what she was definitely sure would be a deadly impact.
But that didn't mean that Sakura was about to give up just yet.
She was intelligent. She didn't have a big forehead for nothing. She was determined to survive this fall. The consequences of her failure were unacceptable. She had remembered how it had nearly killed her when Sasuke had defected over to Orochimaru; the sense of lost had crippled her for weeks. There was no way she was going to let that happened to those who had cared about her.
She must not die.
Long strands of pink hair slapped violently against her face due to the great rush of air borne from gravity, and Sakura pushed them away even as her mind and eyes worked together, taking in the speeding-by surroundings around her with analytical precision as her brain threw out theoretical and practical solutions at quickly as possible.
'You are really going to die, you know?'
Inner Sakura spoke dryly for that first time that day. Sakura frowned. She didn't really have the time to entertain her alter ego at the moment.
'We will live. Just be quiet for awhile and let me figure out how to keep us from becoming pancakes at the bottom of this valley.'
Inner Sakura laughed. 'Who said that I was talking about that? Look above you, my dear.'
Eyes having gone unfocused in deep contemplation for all of the five seconds that she had been falling, Sakura shook her head and looked up above her to the skies-
Just in time to feel the collision of a body slamming into hers. Her eyes widened and stared straight into furious red orbs but an inch away. Belatedly Sakura realized what her inner self have been babbling about now.
He had followed after her.
Sakura's breath hitched painfully when he pulled her close to him in mid fall, and the gesture would have appeared almost protective had she not seen the look of utter malevolence on Itachi's face. Sakura started to experience the bitter taste of fear.
The Uchiha didn't come to save her of course; he came for the satisfaction of killing her before gravity could do its job.
'Kami, he's going to finish me off now…'
Sakura screwed her eyes shut.
"You think that you have everything sorted out, don't you?"
His voice was soft, and lacked the anger that she had expected. Her eyes burst open to stare at him with confusion, and the powerful Sharingan reeled her in immediately.
"Foolish little girl, you don't know anything."