Heeeey… I'm finally back, and I'm starting an AU (gold! Sorry, we're studying the elemental table in science right now…) fic now… It's slightly inspired by Erena G.T. Rose's Dangerous, but it's definitely not nearly as good, and the beginning, middle, and end are very different. Heck, I don't know how Dangerous ends.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Hmph.

- - -

Blood stained the brick wall as Itachi leaned heavily against it, clutching his bloody side. Three shadows fell over his pain-lined face and he looked up to see the twisted faces of the men who were chasing him.

"Look at him! Not so mighty now, are you? Uchiha Itachi!" the tallest sneered scornfully, kicking Itachi's side. Itachi managed to twist so that the blow missed the gash on his torso but winced, knowing that it would bruise.

Damn… They just had to find me after I got this wound… He clenched his teeth. I'll have to use a knife because I'm not strong to take them all on unarmed… But it's Hidan's knife… Hidan would probably kill him for dirtying his sacred knife, but if he did nothing, he would be dead for sure. For once, Uchiha Itachi had no options.

A fist connected with his cheek and he felt the bone snap. He glared at the owner of the fist and spat, but said nothing.

A smirk spread itself over the man's pale face. "I imagine we are the first to see the great Uchiha Itachi in such a vulnerable state?"

"Let me kill him now, Orochimaru!" the dark-haired boy beside him hissed, his onyx eyes blazing at Itachi's face.

The third man chuckled softly. "Patience is a virtue, Sasuke-kun."

"Shut up, Kabuto!" Sasuke snapped in return, not taking his eyes off of Itachi. "I've waited so long to kill him…"

Orochimaru laughed and produced a long knife from – anyone else would have shuddered, but this was Itachi – his mouth. Sasuke took the dripping handle without hesitation and raised it over Itachi's still form, poised for the killing blow.

And swore loudly as a senbon needle imbedded itself in his hand, causing him to drop the knife with a clatter. A bright, silvery laugh tinkled through the dark alley.

"Don't swear," the voice chided cheerfully. "It's rude." A slim figure stepped out of the shadows and into the dim light that the moon provided. Itachi's eyes narrowed at the silky strands of rose-colored hair that drifted over the girl's emerald eyes, but Sasuke's eyes widened in shock at the sight of the newcomer.

"You!" he snarled, stepping back. "What are you doing here?!" The girl giggled, raising an elegant, mocking eyebrow.

"I'm following you, of course!" she replied, slipping her hands into her sleeves. "I was sent to get rid of you." Her hands came out of her sleeves to settle in front of her, whirling glinting knives on her long, slender fingers.

"What did I do?" Sasuke demanded. Immediately, the girl's smile dropped and her eyes darkened.

"You know very well what you did," she said calmly. There was a whirring sound, and one of her knives thunked into Sasuke's chest. He coughed up blood. The girl frowned slightly, her eyes darting from Sasuke's hunched over form to Orochimaru and Kabuto. Shrugging, she let the other knife go speeding at Sasuke.

He caught it inches from his body and threw it back; she swiftly reached out and snagged it by the ring on the handle, carefully avoiding the blade.

Sasuke retrieved Orochimaru's knife and advanced on her. She only smirked and gestured at his hand. He glanced down and saw a hairline of red.

"Do you remember what my specialty is?" she asked, sending the kunai into a blurring ring of gleaming metal.

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Poison," he spat. Itachi's eyes widened as comprehension dawned on him.

"Bingo!" She grinned, letting the kunai fly into the air. Sasuke tried to move but found that his body would not respond. When he tried to lift his arm, his leg twitched, doing nothing to prevent the girl's other knife from entering his chest.

"D-damn you…" he choked out as he keeled over sideways. The girl didn't look fazed as she watched him fall, offering him no show of emotion.

"Anyone who lives down here has been damned from the day they were born," she replied shortly before she put her placid, smiling mask back on to show the world. When she turned to Orochimaru, he and Kabuto were gone. Snorting, she bent over Sasuke's body and retried her kunai knives, tucking one away and severing his head with the other. "I'll just take this, then."

Itachi pulled himself to his feet, leaning against the wall. The pink-haired girl's eyes darted up to scan his figure before she straightened up, apparently deciding that he posed no great threat to her. And she was right – for the moment.

He hadn't become the leader of the infamous Akatsuki gang for nothing; beating the previous leader had been a battle to the death.

She pulled a small jar from her pocket and tossed it to him. He caught it and looked at her suspiciously, turning it over in his hand. Without looking at hi, she turned and kicked Sasuke's body aside.

"It's a medicinal cream. Rub in on your wound – it'll stop the bleeding." Her words were soft and polite, but her pose and the laughter in her voice told him she could hold her own.

"Why should I trust you?"

"Trust me?" She seemed surprised at the idea. "I never said trust me. As for the cream… I'll leave the decision up to you. Ne, Uchiha-sama?" With an echoing laugh, she slid into the shadows and was gone.

Uchiha-sama? Itachi started. How did she know…? His eyes, blood-colored, narrowed. Orochimaru. She must have been listening before she showed herself… And I didn't notice her!

The wound in his side began to burn. Closing his eyes, he cautiously smeared some of the cream the girl had given him on his hand. When nothing happened, he applied it to the large gash. Relief spread through his torso, the coolness of the cream soothing his skin. He found that the wound had stopped bleeding and he could travel.

Merging with the shadows, Itachi made his way back to the Akatsuki base. May we meet again…

- - -

"Hey, Itachi! Did you bring my – What happened to you?" Hidan demanded as he noticed the blood on Itachi's hands. The Uchiha only grunted and tossed him the knife.

"You're lucky I didn't have to use that." Giving no explanation for his strange and puzzling comment, Itachi pushed past Hidan and found himself face-to-face with another one of his subordinates.

"Hey, Itachi," Kisame greeted.

"Where's Deidara?"

Kisame shrugged and jerked a blue thumb behind him. "In the back, probably arguing with Sasori about their stupid art again," he grumbled. "Can you stop them?"

Itachi ignored him as he stalked into the hallway, rapping sharply on Deidara's door. "Deidara."

"You're back already, un?" The blonde opened the door and stepped away so that his leader could step into the room. "What is it?"

Wordlessly, Itachi placed the girl's cream into his subordinate's hands. "I want you to take a look at that."

"Sure thing, un!" Deidara grinned and shoved piles of who-knew-what away from the middle of his desk, eventually unearthing a microscope.

Itachi could not help but wonder how the teen knew he even had a microscope. Deidara sat up suddenly, blinking in excitement.

"Nani? What is it, Deidara?" Itachi placed and hand on Deidara's chair and leaned down to look at the jar of salve. In the bright light of Deidara's room, he could see details that he'd missed in the moonlight – like the green specks that dotted the otherwise white cream.

"This is amazing, un! It's a medicinal cream made of herbs and ingredients that can only be found in one part of the city. The amazing thing is that it's made entirely from scratch and I've never seen it before, meaning that this is an original medicine. Whoever made this knows quite a bit about herbs, un." He turned to Itachi. "Where did you find this?

Itachi straightened up. "Someone gave it to me." Unconsciously, he pushed the cloak back, and Deidara's eyes studied his leader's side.

"What were you hit with, Itachi-san, un?" he asked, cocking his head and glancing up into crimson eyes.

"Some idiot got hold of a katana while I was talking to Orochimaru. Two of them, actually. Why?"

Deidara's eyes had widened. "Your wound healed in that short amount of time, un? I'd like to have the rest of this to try and see if I can figure out the ingredients."

Itachi nodded and examined his torso. Sure enough, there was only a light scar to prove that just minutes ago he had had a serious injury.

Taking a small dish and placing some of the cream in it, the blonde picked up a thin vial of purple liquid and dripped a tiny amount into the white stuff. Immediately there was a small explosion out of which Deidara just managed to get his arm.

Itachi's eyes narrowed at the smoking dish, but to his surprise, Deidara began chuckling. He put away the vial and stood, shaking with laughter.

"What is it, Deidara?" Itachi waited patiently until the teen's laughter had subsided, then repeated the question.

"The cream blew up when I tried to test it for poison, un! I'm pretty sure that there's nothing wrong with this, but I think I'd like the person who made this. Quite clever, actually; to have the substance self-destruct so it couldn't reveal the contents," Deidara replied in amusement. "I'd like to meet this person, un."

Itachi turned and swept out of the room. Before he closed the door, Deidara called, "I think I know a way to take the rest apart, though, un!"

Itachi said nothing, only lifted a hand casually in acknowledgement. Deidara mumbled something about the old-fashioned way but by then Itachi was too far away to hear.

- - -

"I killed Sasuke." Sakura tossed the head at the older woman's feet with disdain. "Tsunade-shishou."

Tsunade smiled grimly. "Good job, Sakura. Were there any complications?" The pink-haired girl hesitated.

"There were two men with him when I found him," she stated. "Should I have killed them?"

"Who was it?" Tsunade leaned forward sharply, her blond pigtails swinging across her shoulder.

"Ano… Orochimaru and Kabuto, he called them," Sakura replied uncertainly. "Shishou…?" For Tsunade's hazel eyes had widened.

"No." The blonde's voice was clipped. "Stay away from Orochimaru. He is not to be taken lightly, and Kabuto has medical skills to rival yours and mine."

"Hai." Sakura bowed politely. "Ah, shishou. I'm running out of herbs. I'd like to go and get some more."

Tsunade sighed. "Very well. But you must be back here before dawn. I don't want you seen."
Sakura flashed her a grateful grin and was gone. The blonde sighed again and scratched her head, looking uncomfortably at the dead man's head. Already, the lips were turning blue in that telltale manner of poison. Sakura hadn't even had the respect to close his haunted eyes, so Tsunade crouched down and did it herself.

Outside, Sakura was intercepted, by a bouncing ball of yellow. "Sakura-chan! How did you do?"

She laughed cheerfully. "Hi, Naruto," she said brightly. "Tsunade-shishou has the traitor's head."

Naruto grinned ferally, narrowing his blue eyes. "Serves him right," he snarled quietly. "He had it coming, killing Sarutobi-sama…"

A young woman with blue hair and soulless white eyes rounded the corner, and Naruto's eyes softened. "Hinata-chan! Can I talk to you?"

Hinata blushed. "O-okay, Naruto-kun," she stammered shyly. Sakura laughed and, sensing no need for her presence, left to get her equipment.

Placing a black cloth bag in a pocket of her baggy black pants, Sakura slipped out of Konoha grounds and headed for the one place that she could get her herbs – the heart of the place ruled by the Oto gang.

A shadow flickered in her peripheral vision, and she whirled. Only to find a willowy blonde with sapphire eyes grinning at her.

"Yo, forehead girl. Tsunade-sama said I should accompany you!" she chirped. Sakura frowned.

"Ino, go back."

"Nuh-uh!" Ino retorted huffily. "Tsunade-sama told me to follow you; plus the guys on the emergency squad need more herbs.

Sakura sighed in defeat. "Are you sure you can make it to the heart of Oto? I heard there's a new, stricter leader."

Ino smiled sunnily. "I'll be fine; don't worry about me!"

"Fine. Let's go, then."

- - -

Deidara had given him the place where the herbs found in the girl's medicine grew. Scowling, Itachi cursed himself. Why did he care so much about seeing this girl? But he couldn't deny it; the girl could be a useful addition to Akatsuki. After all, they had no medic.

Two figures came out of the shadows and bent over, producing kunai and carefully gathering the plants. In the dim light, Itachi could see her pink hair.

HE watched, entranced, as her slim fingers deftly sliced through the stems and bundled them together, slipping the punches of green and purple and red into her pocket.

Then she froze and looked around. Her jade eyes passed over him without stopping at all, but she murmured something to her friend, who nodded.

- - -

She knew someone was there, but with the hazy air she couldn't pinpoint exactly who it was.

"Ino, go back." Her tone was laced with authority, and Ino obeyed without hesitation, dropping back and disappearing into the darkness.

Slowly, Sakura stood and turned, stepping toward the shadows. If the person watching bore hostile will, they would attack before she was completely gone.

And sure enough, strong arms held her immobile as a damp cloth was placed to her face. Recognizing the fumes and odor of a knockout gas, she wiggled and a tiny capsule fell to the ground. Breaking it with her foot, she felt the fresh antidote counter the effects of the gas and only feigned unconsciousness. The man behind her slung her limp body over his shoulder and turned. Fully alert, Sakura watched and memorized every twist and turn he took. She would know her way back.

- - -

Itachi dumped the girl unceremoniously onto the floor in a heap and then crouched down by her.

She quickly calculated the amount of knockout gas that had been in the cloth and waited the correct length of time before stirring.

"Nnng…" She rubbed her eyes and sat up, freezing when Itachi stood up. "Where am I?" As if she didn't know.

The raven-haired man chuckled. "You are in the Akatsuki headquarters," he told her quietly. "What is your name?"

The girl's eyes blazed and she lifted her chin proudly, keeping her mouth tightly closed. Just then, Deidara knocked and opened the door, too excited to remember the rule about entering the leader's room.

"Itachi-san! I found the last ingredient to this, un!" he exclaimed, waving the small jar frantically – and stopped short, staring at the girl on the floor. "Who is she?"

"That's what I've been trying to find out," Itachi replied amusedly. "So, you figured out how to take the contents apart?"

Deidara nodded happily, but Sakura spoke unexpectedly. "It doesn't matter," she scoffed. "I gave you the type that stops working after five minutes exposed to air." The blonde stared at her incredulously.

"You – what, un?"

"I gave Uchiha-sama an earlier version of that cream. I found a way to make it even better," she elaborated.

"You were the one who made this, un?" Deidara's voice was disbelieving. Sakura felt insulted and decided to remain silent.

Frowning when he could not get her to speak again, Itachi placed the saturated cloth over her mouth and nose once more, and once more she broke a capsule containing the antidote. When she slumped over, both men left the room, muttering quietly.

The instant she was sure they were gone, Sakura leapt up and opened the wondow, falling silently outside and following her memory back to Oto's land. From there Konoha was easy to find.

Deidara stepped into the room, almost knocking Itachi over when the Uchiha stopped abruptly. "What is it, Itachi-san?"

Itachi stepped aside to let Deidara see the floor in front of him. The empty floor. "She got out." Itachi's voice was flat and emotionless.

Something on the ground caught Deidara's eye; he bent down and picked the shard of glass up, carefully turning it over in his fingers and examining it. Sniffing it cautiously, he narrowed the eye not covered by his long silky bangs.

"It's to counter the effects of the gas you drugged her with, un. That means…"

Itachi finished for him. "She was awake the whole time and probably knows the way back to Oto. We'll never find her now."

Deidara sighed. "She's interesting, un. Next time I want to talk to her longer and see how much she knows."

"Oh?" Itachi took the broken glass. "And how do you know there will be a next time, Deidara?"
The blonde grinned, shrugging. "I don't know, un," he replied. "I can just feel it."

Oh, how prophetic, Dei-kun… So, I'm finally back on. I have been… ahem… busy debating – cougharguingcough – with my friends about Sasori (who I have finally met). I think – no, I know that he's really really really really really pretty!!!!! But they don't agree. So tell me what you think: both about the story so far (my first long-ish first chapter!!!!) and Sasori (who really is pretty!!!!!). Ja ne!