Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
AN: It's pretty wordy this time around, lots of thinking. But hopefully it'll help understand the other side of the story. Oh right, enjoy. And sorry for the wait.
Headfirst Into Temptation
Irish Diplomacy- "The art of telling a man to go to hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip."- Irish saying
Don't Play Poker Without Your Face
It had been a shock to realize that he was an incarnation, according to Jiriaya it had taken a millennia to nail his ass into accepting a position in the Council of Purgatory and for the most part he hadn't regretted it. It was a change, a less stressful one, to be around people whose actions were always logical and pre-meditated. But more than that it was the cracks in his armour being filled.
Cracks that had began to appear since he had first taken the ANBU badge, to the fractures first caused from telling Kurenai that her husband was dead. Like fault lines, those fractures would later impair his judgement in his mortal life. It was only after becoming a Neutral and being with Temari that the cracks were less and less like chasms.
Was it a law, like Murphy's Law perhaps, that the most emotionally draining experiences were caused by loved ones?
Losing Asuma and then Chouji had been draining. Asuma had been like a hundred cuts bleeding at once. With every sting of his memory he felt like he lost something precious. Chouji's death had at first, been impossible to accept. How could Chouji, sweet, caring, loyal, somehow still-innocent-despite-everything Chouji have died? Without him there? His fault, it had been all his fault.
Disbelief and guilt warred constantly in his mind. It had taken Temari to shake him into seeing the reality of it, that no he hadn't been there, but there was no fixing and he needed to move on. Their tentative romance had become full fledged after that.
Losing Ino however had been, while he was still alive, particularly draining. Simply because he had lost her piece by fucking piece. With the other members of Cell 10 it had been all at once, their death left him raw, but with nothing there to grasp onto he had stumbled forward. With Ino he had made a tactical error.
He had taken for granted their bond and underestimated her emotions.
It was no secret to him that Ino had been annoyed with his liaison with Temari, but their bond (forged through years of friendship and then later camaraderie as well) plus Chouji's peacekeeping kept her calm. He had underestimated how close her and Chouji had gotten during those months he had strayed towards Temari. Therefore when Chouji died it hadn't struck Shikamaru that Ino could have possibly taken his death harder than he did.
He had assumed Ino would struggle to hold them together like she had when Asuma passed. But she hadn't.
Instead of going outwards towards him, she clung inwards, finding some inner strength that allowed her to function without any help or comfort from Shikamaru.
When he was brutally honest with himself he would admit that he had been surprised it was Temari who was by his side. He had expected.... someone else. But he was confused by Ino's indifference and had instead begun to turn solely towards Temari. He wouldn't realize till much later that it was because he was hurt by her actions.
Cell 10 had worked so well because they needed each other, and Ino not needing him left him at a loss as towards what to do. He hadn't even considered the idea that she was just appearing not to need him. But he hadn't questioned her actions and assumed, stupidly, that like him, Chouji's death hit her differently, therefore she treated it differently.
Things had been awkward between them, none more so than when he was informed, by his aloof superior no less, that Ino had taken on an open ended infiltration involving one of the biggest crime bosses in Japan.
And then he realized, when Ino had let out all her thoughts at their final confrontation, that while he was falling in love, so was she. And he had a numbing epiphany; she slipped threw his opened fingers. Ino had fallen from his grasp, but before she had hit that "path of no return," he could have done something, because unlike with Chouji or Asuma, he was able to do something.
Just because Ino had always sorted out the emotional conflicts among them, didn't mean she always would. Not when she was hurt by his abandonment, alone, and hating herself for lying to the man she had begun to fall for.
And he realized all of it too fucking late. It left a bitter taste in his mouth and an ache in his chest because he knew, with a gut feeling that twisted and knifed in his stomach, that they would never fix that rift. Even while laying siege to Sabaku's mansion, he had been continuously running in his mind how different things might have turned out if he'd been more......?
Or just remembered that Ino never could allow herself to completely separate her passion from her duty. Her loyalty and her morals. It had both annoyed him and made him jealous. For Ino, despite seeing comrades fall and corruption in the legal system, she could still throw everything into the job because she sincerely believed in it. That fiery innocence had been one of her best qualities. Seeing it fade out was..... painful.
The worst part of his first days in Purgatory was learning that she had died. Then it was not knowing where she went, and pitifully hopeful that he could talk to her again. And then it was the horror of learning where she was. And then it was learning why. And then the loathing he felt for playing a part in making her choose. That was the absolutely worst part.
Logically, he knew it was Ino's choice and that even if he had been more sympathetic there was little he could have done. Yes, if they hadn't grown apart, he might have been able to influence her, push her away from the attraction that begun to develop between her and Sabaku. If Shikamaru had still been her confidante, their friendship might have been enough to remind her why she was gaining Sabaku's trust, that it wasn't only about ruthlessly leading Gaara to the legal slaughter later.
If they were still friends, maybe Shikamaru might have reminded her of what she was really fighting for, who would always be on her side.
But contact during an infiltration is limited. Ino might have made an effort to see him, if they still had a solid friendship, but who knows? Would those few interactions have been enough to stop an attraction that she would always return to afterwards? If they had been still been close, would she even have taken the Sabaku mission at all? Did Ino do it to get away from him, or because she had, at least in the beginning, want to take down one of the biggest crime lords in Tokyo?
Shikamaru and Ino had been a constant for each other, but love... It was the biggest unknown variable. She had loved the stoic crime boss.
He couldn't even begin to guess how she felt about Sabaku joining the council a couple years back. Would she be disappointed to see him? Pleased? He didn't know. He didn't know her.
Maybe what was really the worst, was that there was a path he could have taken that would have ended in a future that didn't leave his best friend bound for eternity for. He could have listened, he could have tried to help her. He could have been there for Ino and been with Temari. But how was he to know that if an attraction was real it didn't need to be chased after, or that even a friendship like theirs could disintergrate? He just didn't know.
Ino was, Shikamaru had concluded wearily after everything was said and done, an emotionally draining person.
Che, still is.
The guilt that had been stewing silently for the last decade shrunk exponentially. The thousand thoughts of shame and indecision that flitted through his minds seconds before Ino knocked him out was gone.
In it's place was a cool, and detached brilliance working a million miles a second. A mind focused only on the pursuit of greater good and the interests of the majority. He was the highest adviser on the Council of Purgatory now, the youngest lieutenant in ANBU and whatever sentiment he might feel towards his ex-teammate would have to be boxed for now and opened at later period of convenience.
It was business now. Ino had made it clear she would do what she had to, to get out of Hell. So would he. The insistent voice in the back of his mind told him to settle matters now, they had been friends, they owed each other that much. The voice, which sounded remarkably like Chouji, could easily be drowned out. All he needed to do was turn to the emptiness Ino left him with.
The coldness tugged at him, leaving him hollow, he could almost feel this bodily weakness rattle his soul. It was almost all he could to stay awake, he was half afraid what would happen to him if he fell asleep. Though he doubted that Itachi would allow word of his captivity to get out, even among his fellow Hellions, several of them owed him some ill turns. Enough to make him uneasy about resting in hostile territory. What a tune he was singing now. He ignored the irony and forced himself to focus on the current situation.
Little by little the coldness seeped away from his bones, but he no longer noticed it. His mind was still buzzing with his earlier conversation with the resident pinkette.
"Since I have nothing but time to kill, you up for some harmless conversation?"
Her smirk appeared slowly. It was different than Ino's familiar, comfortingly cocky one. It was calculating and chilling. Her eyes gleamed in a way that suggested she knew something he didn't and she probably did. Shikamaru was surprised he could still find the energy to feel irked.
"Stumped are you Nara?" Sakura guessed silkily, she stepped forward and the door, more of a stone wall on hinges really, swung shut with an ominous whoosh. It reminded Shikamaru that the woman could do anything to him inside this cell and no one would know. She was certainly capable, he thought, remembering in detail reports of her callousness and efficiency. Like you're one to talk. Besides Ino, he was pretty sure no one here cared what happened to him either, so long as he didn't die.
Which given her renown creativity, gave her a lot of options. And thanks to the blonde's drain he wasn't completely sure that Ino would care either.
"They give you a little too much credit." They being her council, Shikamaru deduced automatically, his mind still working rapidly despite his state.
"Enough credit for your boss to know my absence would cause the greatest hit among my council." He had worked that out almost immediately after his capture. "And enough credit for me to know you shouldn't be here."
Her eyebrow arched, giving her the appearance of an amused pixie. "Oh really?" Or devilish sprite. If any of Hellion councilors or Sakura's unfortunate "patients" had been there they would have warned him that "the look" meant he was treading dangerous ground, or maybe in the case of the former, they would've watched in vague amusement
"You specialize in assassinations and the corruption of souls. Whatever your boss is planning, he's going beyond that. No matter how skilled you are, you're of little use in a siege of Heaven, at least until you get passed the gates." He was taking a chance in provoking her, but he figured it was worth it. Intelligence is the difference, only a fool makes a plan for battle with a notion, when the opportunity to have facts is there beforehand. "You're not important enough to know everything and that's why you came here," he inferred. "To find out."
He felt her before he saw her move, Shikamaru's sharp eyes barely even registered her pink hair in the dim lighting. A burning sensation gripped his jaw and from the bottom of his vision he saw a fiery green light emit from the female councilor's hand and light up the sallow skin tone of his torso.
"You should hold your tongue better," she advised softly. Her "Touch of Death" was infamous among all three races and even though a full blast couldn't fall a member of any of the three councils, Shikamaru was far from his full strength.
Sakura seemed to be aware of this too. She tapped his cheek thoughtfully with a slim, deadly finger, each motion causing a burn on his face. "Right now you're weak, you're body is barely starting to regenerate the spirit energy you lost," she predicted accurately.
"A full blast would definately put that cheeky soul of your's to rest," she estimated. Her thumb rubbed his cheek bone in what would had been comforting circles if it weren't for the fact that she was utterly capable of killing him with that hand.
"Then why don't you?" he asked bluntly. Had any person of lesser intelligence been listening in they would have thought Shikamaru stupid.
Even Ino, loathing as it was for her to admit, would agree that Sakura was anything but stupid.
She smothered a laugh and released his face. "And alert those friends of yours to your presence?" she questioned, amusement obvious in her voice and like he had assumed, catching onto what he was suggesting.
"Never-mind that they'll have to piece together whatever's left from what Itachi himself would do to me." Still laughing she fell back, the unnatural coolness around his face disappeared, but her touch lingered uncomfortably on his face.
"If you want to die that badly, then I promise you it'll be in due time. When you do finally pass, it will be when your death will collectively weaken the council at the moment that will benefit us the most. So don't worry," Sakura reassured him. "I'll even offer to deal the hand myself."
"Joy," Shikamaru said flatly.
She looked at him, but Shikamaru got the feeling she was looking through him more than anything else. "I wasn't that surprised at his choice I'll admit. He always did play favorites with her," she muttered, more to herself than him, but Shikamaru strained to hear. She seemed to remember that he was there, the pout that had been forming on her face disappeared completely, leaving only a sweet smile that raised the hairs on his neck.
Instinct would have had him backing away if he had been able.
"I suppose what I am surprised at is that she actually did it," Sakura murmured thoughtfully. "I never thought loyalty was one of Ino's flaws, if anything I always thought it was the quantity of it that got her here in the first place."
"So I hear," he replied through gritted teeth. She ignored him or maybe she just reveled in his pain privately like a responsible tormentor, Shikamaru was betting on the latter.
"Itachi would know what to offer though," Sakura mused out loud, like she was taking to a wall, or a minion, instead of one of the most dangerous members of Purgatory after Kakashi and Jiriaya. "He'd probably know to leave out the fact that he's planning to kill you as well, I don't think she would respond well to that. But then again he does, quite literally, know Ino inside and out."
Shikamaru stiffened. Sakura's emerald eyes gleamed maliciously and she broke her act of feigned ignorance. It seemed she decided openly tormenting him would be more fun than merely pretending to ponder out loud.
"You didn't know? No you didn't," she answered herself. "If old news, tame news at that, got such a reaction, then these next few weeks are going to be hell."
"Funny," he snapped, his temper fraying. "I figured I was already here."
Sakura laughed. Though it was a little known fact, Sakura's laugh had once, in her mortal life, rang out with innocence and simple joy. It was a childish giggle that had the ability to brighten the room and had made several hardened men soften and sullen women smile. The laugh Shikamaru heard sounded more like a twisted, sadistically tainted echo of something amusing.
"You're going to find out soon, that physically being in hell doesn't mean you're getting the actual experience. But don't worry I'll help you."
Some kind of rivalry, he guessed.
That was the only thing he could think of that would give Sakura that type of initiative to go against Itachi's orders (he figured there was some kind of order on what was surely limited access to his cell). Proffessional or personal he didn't know. He hoped it was the latter. You make mistakes when it's personal.
Rumors had circulated that the female councilors of Hell rubbed each other the wrong way.
They rumors, were far and few in between (he suspected Itachi had a hand in that.) Having traveled in political circles in both his mortal and immortal lives, he knew no leader would want news of disunity in his chain of command spread. News like that could mean the difference between a cowering, if spiteful followers and a full-out rebellion. But Neutrals did know everything. Or almost everything, he thought briefly, but bitterly.
Yet it was important to remember that Sakura wouldn't stake everything to get a one up on Ino.
Kakashi once told him that the difference between the Hellion Council and theirs was that a true Hellion had not only a sense of self preservation, but the sense of when to use it. No rivalry, no matter how serious, could make Haruno be so stupid as to visit him without gaining anything for herself. The fact that she was using him to her advantage, made him unsure if she could be used herself to his advantage.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Ino was his enemy now, there was no arguing that, and so by proxy that would make Sakura an ally of sorts. But as Sakura and Ino were allies as well (if reluctant ones) and that lowered the chances of Haruno's actions having positive results for him. Sakura would still work in the best interests of Hell, or better said, in the best interests of Itachi. What was bad for Ino, might still be good for hell, and thus would be bad for him.
And yet at the same time, what was bad for Ino, could extend to being good for him. Despite their conversation, and his prior knowledge of the pink haired demon, he still had too little knowledge to work with.
And yet despite the fact that their conversation had been horribly unnerving and discouraging there was a small shred of hope he gained from it. He'd probably know to leave out the fact that he's planning to kill you as well, I don't think she would respond well to that.
Sakura had unknowingly reminded him of the possibility of his Ino. Cell 10's Ino was buried somewhere deep, it had to have been to have allowed her to suck out his aura. But no matter how pushed aside that Ino was, it would not disappear so totally and allow her leader, even if it was Uchiha Itachi, to kill him. He knew that Itachi would take advantage of his captivity to weaken Heaven's allies during the future siege and he was surprised Ino hadn't seen it herself.
But for the first time in over a decade, she could have freedom. That taste in her mouth could blind anyone. He'd just have to open her eyes. Force her to listen and remind her that they were friends. Use her regret.
It was a 12 years late in coming and even though his influence on her had surely weakened, he would make her remember who she was. They were playing for such bigger stakes now. She couldn't not feel guilty, and the part of her he still knew, he could bother. He could get under her skin, make her trip up.
Ino never could allow herself to completely separate her passion from her duty.
The problem in the past had been, he always could. Now it would be his salvation. No regrets, no guilt.
"Why are you back?" Neji asked bluntly and to anyone one looking on he might have sounded careless.
Not care free, Ino thought firmly, she doubted Hyuuga Neji could ever sound carefree.
He gave no sign of being irritated by her presence or surprised that she had appeared behind him merely seconds ago. There was no tension in his stance and the only sign of motion were his pale eyes that scanned the streets for his charge. His eyes lit on the girl's small figure and even when Ino didn't answer right away, his silver orbs did not leave the smiling teen mowing her way through the crowded street.
"My charge," she answered finally and she moved next to Neji. Once Neji saw that the doorman allowed his charge inside and satisfied that she was safe, he saw her watch her 'supposed charge' stumble in ridiculously high stiletto heels and signal for a taxi across the street.
"Still insisting on that?" he inquired dryly. He felt a slight spike in her energy before it settled into a low key hum that he had learned to identify was the thrum of a Neutral's aura.
From the corner of his eye he saw her fists clench and she released a low breath. Neither said anything and Neji began to idly wonder if Naruto had a point in females enjoying a challenge in company. Why else would she be here?
"I'm not even supposed to have a charge," she admitted after a couple of minutes.
"No surprise there." A sharper spike, it took slower to settle, but he felt her aura swirl in... confusion? As if it was in turmoil? Nonetheless he kept his suspicion hidden.
"One of the councilors is missing," she explained, as if word had not reached the higher ups in Heaven almost immediately. Neji, as well as pretty much every other being, Hellion or Angel, knew of the genius' disappearance by now. "And the remaining council members are pulling more experienced Neutrals out to search. I'm covering for someone. And you're right, I'm new.... to this," she added awkwardly.
Turning her words over in his head he thought about her explanation.
He knew Nara, not well, but enough for it to be sufficient that he had a grasp on how much of an impact his absence had on the balance. The slight disturbance in her aura could very well be concern for her councilor and nerves over being given a charge she was ill-equipped to handle. As a new Neutral she would not have mastered the quiet control over herself that so many of her more experienced kin had.
Finally he turned towards her, his eyes absently admiring the sunlight caught in her golden hair.
"But that still doesn't explain why you're here, when you so clearly don't want to be."
If her father could see her he would have tugged a strand of her hair fondly at her pose. That was of course assuming that Inoichi wasn't shocked that his baby girl ended up in hell. She sat Indian style on her bed, her eyes closed in thought and lips pressed together, wearing the same expression she had when she was six and trying to remember were she left her toy or solve a word puzzle.
The Hyuuga was disciplined, well schooled in controlling himself, it would take far more than a pretty face to distract him from his duties, Ino concluded, remembering their conversation.
Ino reminded herself as to what was at stake. He has to recognize your discomfort as honesty, yet not be shifty enough to arouse his suspicion. "My charge comes here often and since your charge is around here often, it would be easier to just get along with you than argue all the time over false accusations."
"And?" he prodded. It wouldn't have annoyed her if it weren't for the fact that Neji sounded like he was only asking because there wasn't any paint to watch dry.
"And what?" she retorted peevishly.
He raised a slim eyebrow. "You don't really expect me to believe that you're so humble as to put aside antagonism for a better work environment do you?" Under normal circumstances, she doubted that the Hyuuga would be this curious about his company, but then again she had already pinned him for an angel who took no chances when it came to the safety of his charges.
Years of training in ANBU had her mixing lies with truths. Make it hard for them know, use truths to lie and they won't know when you lie to hide the truth.
"My boss found out I blew a golden opportunity in talking with you. He was annoyed." true
Without even voicing his question, she answered it. "Neutrals need contacts, now more so than ever. And considering your rank in Heaven, to have left things the way they were because of some ill said words would have been a mistake. Our success depends on harmony. My superior is worried that I am not... harmonious enough." lie
"For a newbie that blew her first watch and pissed a high councilor of your ally, I'm disappointed that your boss didn't get more than annoyed."
"He doesn't get angry. He prefers results." true "Besides, you weren't pissed." annoyingly true
Ino rubbed her temples.
She had two weeks a month at the most, each day should be a monumental step.
All she accomplished today was a somewhat civilized conversation. She opened her eyes slowly and looked at her hands feeling them thrum with the unfamiliar sensation of Neutrality. She felt it twist and turn in her like another layer of skin, trying to break out, but she tamed it. It cooled and washed over her, running over the fury darker sensation of her true aura. Her thoughts however, ran wild.
Aside from the already impossible task of making Hyuuga Neji fall, could she do this, again and again to Shikamaru? His drained life thrummed in her hands, she felt like she had stolen a part of soul away. And she hated it.
She could never her the life she once had, it wouldn't give her back everything she gave up. That had died hours before her mortal life did, but freedom was a start. She heard a voice in her mind and she broke herself out of her reverie. Speak of the devil, she thought grimly.
Come to the Chamber. Now.
Ino put up with the discomfort on having Itachi pick at her mind. Had they been alone she would have bitched about it more before letting him in, but they weren't. To her shock, Sasuke was there as well. He stood next to his older brother, who was seated in his chair calmly observing today's events in her mind. Sasuke himself was watching the proceedings without saying anything.
As expected of Itachi, he offered no explanations at all for his decision to let Sasuke be present for her report.
The purpose of private updates was to keep unwanted people from knowing what she was up to. The official word put out was that she was leaving false trails. Though there had been a couple of raised eyebrows at that, particularly from Kankuro and Sakura, no one had seemed to be too suspicious. Since Itachi made no effort to telepathically tell her to be cautious as to what to say in front of Sasuke, she had to assume that Itachi had already told him. Besides she doubted Sasuke could be here if Itachi didn't want him to be.
"Progress," Itachi allowed, retreating from her mind, but also allowing his presence to linger. "But not enough."
"You said it yourself Itachi. Hyuuga is controlled. Hormones aren't the only part in this," Ino argued, grateful at being in familiar territory. As dangerous as it was, bickering with her cold blooded leader was normal for her. Easier than betraying people, draining their auras and sleeping with them. "I need time."
"Time is the one thing we don't have," Sasuke retorted, breaking his silence and shifting forward slightly. When he was still, he could be a statue blending in with the decor. But any movement gave the impression of a typhoon stirring. "Nara may be the smartest of them, but the rest aren't stupid and Ibiki's getting creative. Sooner or later they're going to find out that the only trails they have are fake and they're going to strive for something real. You have two weeks."
Ino's eyes blazed, but Itachi raised a hand to silence them both before an argument could break out. He regarded Ino carefully. "Sasuke has a point," he acknowledged with a tilt of his head towards his bother. "But you're right. As expected, Hyuuga will cost them the most and he will require a reasonable amount of effort. Time is of the essence however. One month Ino."
Ino met his gaze head on. Itachi could force circumstances to give her two, maybe even three months without compromising his plan. But she recognized the deadline for what it was. A control.
As she considered her options, she thought how after, the self-disgust of sleeping with the Hell-born leader faded she learned to recognize the good things that came from bedding Itachi in terms of aftereffects. So far, she was sure on only two.
At the time she had question herself as to why she was essentially sleeping with her boss, but she came to the conclusion that it had been the result of two factors and was rather unnerved.
One) She missed Gaara and she hated the torment that came with the close proximity she dealt with when he had first joined the council, 5 years ago. Kankuro hadn't been there yet to make it easier. Itachi had been similar enough that when she wanted the red-haired man that badly, she could imagine it was him whom she was fucking.
Two) At the same time, when she wanted an escape from the younger Sabaku, it was always possible to lose herself.
But the positive results were,
first) that after Itachi, her desire for Sasuke was over before it started. Ino knew full well what kind of men she was attracted to. Dark, complex, cunning males. Shikamaru, Gaara, Itachi all had those qualities, though their differences were numerous. If she hadn't been with Itachi, chances were she probably would have been romantically, or at least sexually, interested in the younger Uchiha. But Ino was an extremist and Sasuke after Itachi seemed like a watered down, less terrifyingly exhilarated version. The sex wouldn't have been nearly as good. Another preemptive strike to that possible attraction was the added fact that Sasuke was most likely asexual and therefore would not be having sex with anyone.
Ino asked herself if she was a masochist, her habit of getting involved with men who's dark side enticed something similar in her. The fact that screwing Sasuke as well would have made her the only female councilor to ever bed half of the male members of the council was another deterrent. It struck her as somewhat whorish and she preferred to leave that to Sakura. The second and probably most valuable thing Ino learned was about Itachi himself.
True Itachi knew things about her that not even her teammates did, and he still gave her those long, contemplating stares that left feeling exposed and vulnerable, but it went both ways.
She knew exactly how dangerous he was, after all the first half of their affair had been when Itachi had been leading the rebellion. His mind was always calculating, always plotting. Even in bed; his pleasure seemed to come from how much and how often he dominated her, or vice verse. Their escapades gave Itachi an upper hand when it came to dealing with her that he never hesitated to use.
Ibiki once told her to find out the reason, the motive, the drive behind everything. Because people will rarely do things out of pure malice or pure good. Itachi never did anything without a reason and by giving her the option of betrayal, giving her a drive for her freedom, he had backed her into a corner he knew she'd chose.
So she was fucked in such a way that it was only, and utterly, her fault.
She considered her deadline. It had taken 23 years for her and Shikamaru to make a tentative move beyond friendship before Temari came and bulldozered that out. It had taken seven months to become intimate with Gaara and two months with Itachi.
One month with Hyuuga Neji?
True, Itachi was as disciplined as Neji was, if not more so, but Ino had been able to incite amusement and arousal in him and due to the work stress that came with planning a rebellion, neither had tried particularly hard to avoid the sexual outlet that resulted from that primal attraction.
Neji would be different. She doubted that he was that stiff in the sack, but as a leader among the angelic, he knew the repercussions of his decisions, how it would effect the morale of those under his command. He would be cautious. She had done this one before with Gaara, unintentional though it was. She could do it again.
"Fine." She hoped to whatever deity might not hate her yet that Neji was an incredibly sexually repressed individual because at this point, any little thing would help.
Thanks to InoxSasukeSOS, tu amiga loca, DarkSmile, Coco-Minu, Doctor Kiba, Lex, Logikk, sugarmonkey778, Nukumi, Rainforestfrogs, XxSymphonyofSoulsxX, Blacktears110, Mizuyah, Lems, Kimiaara, shelvesinthecloset, kiwi4me, WhiteDemoness11, and WEIRDkittywwingz.
and everyone else who put me on their alert list, thank you so much for sticking with me. Hopefully it won't take this long next time around. And as a form of appreciation. Here's a preview to the next chapter.
- - -
"Just what exactly are you doing Sakura?"
She didn't even flinch from surprise and Itachi morbidly summarized that she probably wasn't. Even the newly arrived in Hell quickly learned that Itachi knew everything that happened in his domain and Sakura was not a fool.
She smiled sweetly. "I'm helping to burn bridges," she replied. "Ino isn't the only one who can do reconnaissance. I know what he was to her. I know she's still touchy over Gaara and she only knew him for less than a year, she knew Shikamaru her whole life. She cares Itachi, even after a decade, some of her loyalty remains. Lucky for us, it turns out Nara's always been able to sever his. Typical Neutral."
"I'm just moving it along that's all."
- - -
Fear not, the next chapter will have more Ino/Neji action. But remember folks, they are planning a siege. It wouldn't be realistic if we didn't include all three parties. Hope you enjoyed it.