Title: Hunter-nin

Author: paws-bells

Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85

Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi

Type: One-shot (Complete)

Genre: General/Angst

Word Count: 2228

Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #32, Hunter-nin

Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.

Summary: Sequel to Inner demons. She is fiercely protective of her country and he took advantage of that to tie her down to him. Trapped and desperate, hate is inevitable.

Created on: 08/08/08

Completed on: 02/09/08

Chapter Last Revised on: 15/10/08


The one and only time she tried to escape, he got to her before she could even reach Konoha's gates.

It had been three months after she had healed him and he returned her chakra to her, and the very moment she saw her chance, she had bolted, dropping everything and gunning full speed ahead for Konoha, racing back to her beloved village as if Hell itself was chasing after her.

In a way, that was exactly the truth.

Taken against her will, she had been thoroughly captured and completely subjugated under the raw, unyielding power that was only his to wield. She had been dragged back to one of the many secret bases of his notorious organization, imprisoned and kept under close guard, even as she had no idea whatsoever what he wanted from her. Kept in the midst of Ame's wilderness, Sakura had entertained little hope that her fellow Konoha-nin would be able to enter the tightly guarded, enclosed Rain territory to come to her rescue.

Therefore, the very moment the watch on her slackened, Sakura had grabbed the lead and ran for it. As long as there was the opportunity, she would always try to return to her village.

Unfortunately, that was a mistake she would never forget.

He didn't punish her for her folly; no, she remained completely unharmed.

It was those whom she had come in contact with who bore the full brunt of the Uchiha's merciless execution.

He could have had retrieved her even before she left the borders of Ame, but he had let her go further, almost like a dangerous jungle panther stalking, playing with its terrified prey; he had allowed her to go further, giving her hope that she just might be able to escape him, the ruthless, crimson-eyed demon that had imprisoned her in his hell for the past months.

He was teaching her a lesson.

As a result of her rash, desperate decision, two Chuunin patrols of the Leaf were mowed down with brutal efficiency, right before her helpless, exhausted eyes. It had taken less than a minute for him to deal with the pair of younger, inexperienced nin, but still they had tried to fight to protect her from the attention of the extremely powerful, mentally unstable S-class nukenin.

Forcing her to watch as her fellow Leaf-nin paid the price for her defiance.

Their lives were forfeit the very moment they decided to lift their weapons against him, and he canceled their lives with no remorse, no hesitation whatsoever.

A true, merciless killer.

Badly shaken, weak, and chakra-less from the non-stop sprint from Ame to Konoha, she could only watch as he calmly, methodically cut them down, not even using his infamous kekkei genkai and completely annihilating the younger nin with the casual ease of a natural born predator. There was no need to keep them alive, and so he destroyed them one after the other. There wasn't even the time for her to call out a warning, for them to abandon their futile stand against her captor and to retreat, to run back to Konoha to get help.

Almost as if within the blink of an eye, they were already upon the ground, the last signs of life draining from their eyes, and their coagulating blood flowed sluggishly from their freshly deceased bodies, just a small distance away from her. Then, he who had came after her with the eerie soundlessness and swiftness of the encroaching night had turned his glowing, bloodied orbs upon her stunned, shaken form, and lifted his hand towards her.

She remembered fixing her eyes dazedly on his hand, looking at the pale, elegant, long fingers, the hand of an artist, the hand of a remorseless killer.

"Return with me."

It wasn't a request, despite his toneless, indifferent voice; it had clearly been a command.

But she was almost home; she was so near, yet so far.

She wasn't about to give up what might be her only, last, chance at freedom. Not without a fight.

Devoid of chakra, mentally and physically exhausted from the worrying non-stop sprint from Ame to Konoha, she had somehow found the strength—and will—to keep going. Haggard, hysterical, and angry, she had lunged unthinkingly at him with raw, desperate ferocity, and that was the last thing she remembered, together with those blanked and detached bladed Sharingan.

When she woke up three days later, bitter, upset, and still very angry, she wasn't very surprised to see that she was back in the Akatsuki hideout.

However, she was astounded to realize that she still had her chakra at her disposal, that they hadn't drained her like they always had.

The raven-haired Uchiha was there though, when she awoke, and when he looked at her from the other end of the darkened room, she drew in her breath sharply and stiffened with increasing fury, despite her still weakened form.

"You will not attempt to escape me again," he informed her quietly. When she didn't reply, he merely continued. "Every time you do, I will simply kill to bring you back."

Sakura blanched inwardly. The casual, nonchalant way in which he spoke told her that he meant exactly what he said, and immediately, she understood why he had decided to return her chakra to her.

Despite the physical freedom that he had allowed her, she would still be chained here, to him, morally obligated to remain where she was because this man, this demon, whom she was bound to, would have no qualms whatsoever taking the lives of all those precious around her just so as to ensure that she would be unable to return to her village.

"Why?" Sakura burst out suddenly. "Why me?"

His seemingly apathetic eyes sharpened.

"My eyes are deteriorating," he informed her flatly. "I needed the aid of a medic, and it was clear that you are one of the best."

Sakura stiffened. So that was the reason why she had been taken in the first place.

"Then why didn't you tell me so in the beginning? Why wait until now?" she asked angrily, even as she struggled to sit up on the futon.

He merely looked at her.

"I don't trust you," he answered her shortly; 'don't,' which meant that he still didn't.

Sakura really didn't care. She didn't trust him, either.

"But now, I will offer you a deal."

She stilled, and looked at him warily. He had her attention now.

"Heal my eyes to the best of your abilities, and I will let you go."

She frowned.

"I will not betray my country to help you."

"On the other hand," he continued smoothly, almost as if she hadn't interrupted him. "You can choose not to do so and remain here for as long as needed."

She bristled at his cold, blanked tone, but he didn't seem to care.

"I will give you three days to come to a decision."

Without another word, the lean, raven-haired Akatsuki exited the room, leaving behind a rather conflicted kunoichi.


Three days later, Sakura finally gave him her answer.

Her denial had been emphatic, and she had nearly spat it in his face.

"Very well." His calm acceptance of her fierce reply was surprising, to say the least. "I can only presume that you will not regret this decision."

Trembling with growing agitation, Sakura had remarked in a sharp, scathing tone that she would never regret choosing to be loyal to her country.

His long, sooty eyelashes had come down then, concealing his bladed crimson eyes from her.

"Not everything is written in black and white, kunoichi."

Before she could form a proper reply, he inclined his head slightly at her, and then turned and left her alone.

Sakura did not get to see her main caregiver for nearly an entire month, but it was apparent that the organization had no plans of mistreating her. As promised, she was well taken care of, albeit still closely guarded by lesser members of the Akatsuki. Still, a part of Sakura never completely let down her guard, almost as if constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And drop it did.

The next time she saw the raven-haired Uchiha again, he was covered in blood.

Unlike the last time the same thing had happened, it was not his.

She had stared at him blankly for a long moment as they both stood on opposite ends of the narrow corridor, her eyes flitting from his usual apathetic appearance to the drying bloodstains that coated his hands, his uncloaked torso, even his face.

She had flinched at the sight, but what she finally realized he was holding in his fingers made her blood grow cold.

White porcelain masks, intricately painted with blacks and browns and reds.

Animal faces.

Hunter-nin.

And they, too, were streaked with crimson-browned rivulets.

Sakura swallowed hard, and then, she turned stark eyes upon the emotionless gaze of the tall Akatsuki.

Without preamble, he spoke first, flatly, tonelessly.

"There had been a leak," he informed her shortly. "One of our spies was captured by Konoha, and your name came up."

Before Sakura could react to the unexpected news, the Uchiha continued calmly. "Your status, according to Konoha, is no longer 'missing'."

He approached her soundlessly, and all she could do was tense as he drew near, her eyes glued to the cracked masks hanging off his pale fingers, unable to tear her stricken attention away from the porcelain material.

"Konoha's Bingo Book has just been updated. On account of your abilities as well as the sensitive nature of your political connection to the Hokage, you are now an A-class missing-nin, to be subdued and apprehended on sight, even to be killed if you resist capture."

It was evident by now what he meant. Her eyes widened slightly at the inevitable realization.

Oh no. Oh no.

"Tell me that they were not from Konoha." Her voice was initially hard, and then it softened with growing desperation, dread. "Please."

He looked at her.

"I cannot do that."

Her heart froze at his dispassionate reply, and then her face was twisted into such an expression of anguish that it looked as if she was in physical pain. Were the owners of these masks someone she knew? Had they talked and laughed together before, were they friends?

But one thing was for sure.

They were Leaf-nin, hunter-nin ANBU who were sent to retrieve her, and he had killed them with little remorse.

The ache and guilt in her chest solidified immediately to form anger, as well as the desperate, utterly selfish wish that none of those nin he killed were her friends. She was quietly sickened by her thoughts; after all, those oinin had been someone's children, someone's lovers, someone's parents. In order to protect their country, they had come here to retrieve her, and were all killed instead.

And in order to protect her country, she was obstinately set against using her medical abilities to aid the notorious nukenin currently holding her captive, and as a result, her fellow Leaf-nin were paying the fatal price for her decision.

Guilt knows no reason but its own, and for her, the feeling of doubt and self-reproach was quick to change into blind anger.

"You didn't have to kill them," she hissed furiously, moist emerald eyes glaring wetly into detached crimson.

He didn't react to the righteous fury in her voice.

"You are in no position to tell me what to do," he answered her curtly, and then, he started to brush past her to continue down the hallway.

Sakura stiffened completely at his dispassionate, uncaring tone.

Of course he didn't care.

He was no longer affiliated with their beloved village, after all. Had even shed the blood of his own kin, in order to cut himself from their country.

"You are a monster," she whispered angrily behind his back, her voice hoarse, her tone contemptuous. "A betraying, heartless monster."

He had paused as she cursed him, her distraught countenance evident in the shaky way she spoke.

The emotionless light in those crimson eyes never changed.

"Make your decision soon, kunoichi." The Uchiha's voice was blank, apathetic, almost as if he did not care at all that she had just insulted him gravely. "The next group of nin who proceed may just very well be your precious teammates."

Without looking, he was aware that his cold, callous remark had affected her the exact way he had wanted it. She was no doubt stiffened with horror, but yet, those eyes of hers were still glaring holes into his back.

He was unfazed; well aware that he had won this round. She was trapped and desperate; ripe for the picking.

Now, he would only have to wait for her to come to him, and he was a patient man.

Wordlessly, the lean, raven-haired nukenin continued down the hallway in long, silent strides, the porcelain white hunter-nin masks the very last indications of his presence as he disappeared eventually among the darkness of the hideout. She watched him go, so helplessly angry that she was shaking.

He truly was a demon, a cruel, ruthless demon that plagued her relentlessly, who would stoop to nothing to get what he wanted.

But she knew what she had to do. They both knew.

I'm so sorry, my friends.


:owari:


Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:

Here we go; the second prequel to 'blood limit', as promised. For those who were wondering just where the romance was, well, there will be very little of it, almost none, in fact. The prequels of 'blood limit' deal with the beginning of their relationship; how they had come to be together, the various situations and necessities that binds them to each other until other…more intimate emotions takes hold.

For obvious reasons, 'instant love' for this pairing is rather unrealistic. It would take time, understanding and compromises on both sides for Itachi and Sakura to bridge the wide river of distrust and anger respectively, not to mention the problems of their conflicting values, obligations and loyalties.

Well, at least that's what I feel.

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Writing anti-hero!evil!Itachi, whose many ends may not justify the often dubious and unethical means, was quite fun after a lull of Non-Massacre AUs. Writing a defiant, loyal Sakura was equally as refreshing. I sort of miss the old days where Itachi was just 'badass and evil to the core', whose favorite phrase is not 'Peace', and whose hobby is certainly not visiting sweet shops.

Not all the time, mind you, but sometimes, haha.

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Last prequel to be up next Wednesday!

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Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic, thank you.

--paws