Illusions of Innocence

Chapter One – Tourniquet

Just to give you all a warning before we begin: this story is rated M due to infrequent (when Hidan's not around) swearing, a little gore and lemon.

"Itachi! Hey, Itachi, wait up, un!" Deidara jumped out in front of Uchiha Itachi, who had to work ever so slightly harder than usual to keep his composure. He arched an ebony eyebrow at the out-of-breath shinobi in front of him.

"Hm?"

"You have to come, see; I'm trying to find Konan but she isn't around, and we're all shit-scared she'll yell at us because of her and us being men and all that, but she'll die if we don't do something right now and we don't know what to do." Deidara paused for breath, before adding "un," weakly to the end of his garbled monologue. It wasn't often that his speech quirk sounded forced. Itachi's eyebrow was halfway up his forehead by this time, but he gave no other indication of his confusion.

"Start again – slowly. Who is this she you mentioned who is going to die?"

"This girl me and Hidan -"

"Hidan and I." Itachi interrupted smoothly. Deidara scowled.

"Fine. This girl Hidan and I found in the woods. She looks real bad, like she's been beaten up by…well, by a bunch of dangerous S-ranks, un. She's unconscious."

"Then let her die." Itachi shrugged. It wasn't difficult. He was actually quite surprised at Deidara's concern. He turned, ready to continue on towards his room as he had been planning to when Deidara had ambushed him. Deidara sighed.

"But…she's from Konoha."

Itachi turned, the barest hint of interest written on his features. "Konoha? Are you sure?"

"Yeah…well, she has a Konoha headband with her, and Kisame says he thinks you'll recognise her, but he won't tell me or Hidan who she is."

"Fine, I'll come." Itachi stalked off in the direction Deidara had come from, heading for the Akatsuki base's medical room. Deidara scurried along behind him, muttering unintelligibly under his breath. Itachi didn't even bother to enquire as to what he was saying. He didn't care. He was too busy mulling over the possibility of useful information from the 'dying' Konoha kunoichi.

Reaching the medical room, Deidara took a deep breath, as though steeling himself. Itachi almost rolled his eyes at the theatrics, and pushed the door open with one hand, striding into the medical room with an aura that would have had most normal people cowering under tables.

"Itachi!" Kisame sounded mildly relieved, and the tiniest bit amused. Itachi fixed him with a dark look. Unperturbed by his partner's death glare, Kisame gestured to the table in the centre of the room. Itachi walked over to examine the figure lying lifelessly on said table. She was a state, that much was true. Her headband, red rather than the conventional blue, was tied above a deep laceration on her thigh like a tourniquet. Itachi turned to the three other shinobi in the room, Deidara, Kisame and Hidan.

"And none of you had the foresight to remove this binding?" He pointed to the headband, the faintest hint of disbelief laced into his words. "If she were not a kunoichi with the unusual ability to manipulate chakra even as unconscious and injured as this, she would have died due to blood circulation cut-off." Hidan muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a profanity. Deidara paled.

"She isn't going to die, is she?" He asked, obviously worried about their leader's reaction to such news.

"Probably not." Itachi said, sounding as though he couldn't care less. He untied the bloodied headband and dropped it to the floor. Deidara picked it up silently. "Hn…" Itachi studied the female for a few seconds. "I know her."

"And?" Kisame asked eagerly. "Am I right?"

"For once, Kisame, yes." Itachi replied. "I think, underneath this mud…and the blood, of course…" He trailed off. "Get some lukewarm water." His command wasn't aimed at anyone in particular, but it was Deidara who hurried over to the sink, after being elbowed in the ribs by Kisame. Deidara carried the water over to Itachi. The Uchiha prodigy didn't even raise an eyebrow at the cheap bucket it was contained in. The Akatsuki's medical room was not the best-equipped, and its main 'medic' (Zetsu) wasn't particularly qualified. That could be changing, Itachi thought dryly. "Where is Zetsu?" He asked as he pointed Deidara towards a cupboard for a sponge. Deidara gave a small huff as he retrieved an off-white sponge for the Uchiha.

"He went out looking for herbs this morning. Won't be back until later." Kisame told Itachi, who nodded in acknowledgment of the explanation, but did not answer.

"So are you going to tell us who the little bi…kunoichi is?" Hidan asked irritably. Kisame smirked, evidently pleased with his own knowledge.

"Patience, Hidan." Itachi said, taking the blue sponge from Deidara and dipping it into the bucket of water. He squeezed the excess water out of the sponge and began wiping the dirt and blood from the girl's hair. Hidan and Deidara craned their necks to get a better look at the girl.

After a few seconds, Deidara sucked in a breath.

"No freaking way, un. No freaking way do we have the Hokage's apprentice here!" He frowned. "It isn't an impersonator?" But he knew it couldn't be. Any illusion would have slipped with the kunoichi's current, dangerously low chakra signature. But he also couldn't quite bring himself to believe that the near-legendary Haruno Sakura had fallen into their hands. Albeit, covered in wounds, blood and dirt and close to death, but even so.

"She will be useful to the Akatsuki's knowledge of Konoha." Itachi said, his tone without inflection.

"Too right she will. But…what the hell happened to her?" Kisame wondered out loud. Itachi shook his head slightly.

"I don't know."

This admission surprised everyone else in the room. Uchiha Itachi always knew the answers.

Itachi discarded the sponge on the table Sakura lay on, and studied her injuries as best he could. There was no way to ascertain the full extent of the damage without removing her clothing, and whilst Itachi had no qualms about this, he had the feeling his fellow Akatsuki members would. He supposed a good place to start would be the gaping hole in Sakura's thigh that she had tied with her headband. It was still gushing blood, whereas most of the other wounds had begun clotting, and were more superficial in any case.

"Um, Itachi, I don't mean to like, disrespect your amazing superpowers or anything, un," Deidara began nervously, "But, uh, do you actually know any medical jutsu?"

"Not a great deal." Itachi replied, before turning his full attention to the bleeding kunoichi. Kisame, Deidara and Hidan could do nothing more than watch as Itachi's hands glowed light green. They all wondered how Itachi had learnt any medical jutsu at all, but none dared to disturb the focused Uchiha genius with something so trivial as a question.

Of course, Itachi's idea of "not a great deal" was "quite a lot, actually" to most shinobi. He managed to heal the wound sufficiently, and ascertain that Haruno Sakura had a few broken ribs and a fractured ankle. Then he stood back to look at the kunoichi herself. The girl he had ties to, albeit faded and distant. She was pale and skeletally thin. Much thinner than he remembered from the last time they had met. Her hair was the same candyfloss pink colour, though. He had heard she could open craters in the ground with one fist, but she had seemed to be just another weak, frightened, materialistic kunoichi when his high-level clone had fought with two of her team mates. Of course, that was just under three years ago now. She had been with that Sand elder, just standing around uselessly, more of a burden to her team than a help.

He recalled that she had killed Sasori shortly after that meeting. He supposed the old woman, Sasori's grandmother, had done the majority of the work in that battle.

"Hey! Is anyone here? Anyone?"

All the shinobi in the cramped medical room turned to look at the door, behind which the slightly-anxious voice of Konan could be heard. Deidara was the first to move, pulling the door open and bolting into the hallway.

"Konan!" He said, the greeting not fully expressing the heartfelt relief her appearance had given him. She was a woman. She'd know how to deal with the whole bizarre situation.

"Hey, what's wrong? Why are you all in the medical room? Is someone hurt?"

"Not one of us," Deidara shifted his weight from one foot to another, adding, "Well…I guess you'd best see for yourself, un."

Konan followed Deidara bemusedly into the medical room, which was beginning to reek heavily of blood. Nobody really noticed this. They were Akatsuki: they could handle most things with ease. Nevertheless, Konan's nose wrinkled involuntarily as she stepped over the threshold. She completely ignored Kisame and Deidara, heading straight for Itachi and the table on which the prone figure of Haruno Sakura lay, lifeless but for her shallow breathing.

Konan drew in a breath. Itachi watched shock, disgust and pity flicker across Pein's partner's face, and he remained silent. He did not comment when Konan's hand reached out, her face somehow clouded with the undoubted pain Haruno Sakura would have been experiencing were she conscious. Her hand wavered slightly, and she brushed a few strands of pink hair away from Sakura's face.

"She has a fever." Konan said finally, turning away from Sakura, her voice flat and steady.

"Lukewarm water and another sponge, Deidara." Itachi ordered smoothly. Deidara didn't even protest at being made the general dogsbody this time.

"Do we have any intravenous drips?" Konan looked around the room. Every look but Itachi's was completely blank. The Uchiha shook his head. "Apparently not." Konan sighed, resigning herself to inadequate medical equipment and being surrounded by utter morons who didn't even know what an IV was.

"There's something not right." Konan frowned. Itachi paused as he was about to take the sponge and water off Deidara. He studied Sakura's body for a good few seconds, before pushing up Sakura's battered red shirt, ignoring Deidara's gasp – it wasn't like he was violating the girl: he was saving her life.

"There." He said simply. Konan gave a strangled hiss which she turned into a cough. Deidara's expression darkened. Hidan and Kisame stepped forwards simultaneously to see what all the fuss was about.

They quickly understood. Daubed on Sakura's abdomen with her own blood, above a deep, hollow cut that was still bleeding copiously was a symbol that was never a pleasant sight, even for Akatsuki, and least of all in their current situation.

"Torture." Hidan, the Akatsuki's resident sadistic torturer confirmed what everyone had already known. "I've never seen those exact symbols before, though," He admitted after a moment, looking at the lines with unconcealed fascination and frustration at not recognising the symbol. He, Kisame and Deidara missed the frown that crossed Itachi's face for a fraction of a second, but Konan was sharper.

"Itachi?"

Itachi shook his head.

"What is it, Itachi?" Hidan's curiosity was immediately piqued.

"I don't know for certain, and besides, it's her story." He gestured to Sakura.

"Who fucking cares? Tell us!" Hidan said, but Itachi studiously ignored him, taking the sponge and water from Deidara's hands and passing them to Konan.

"Gauze, Deidara." He commanded in a voice that indicated he wanted no more questions asked of him. Deidara dived for the pitiful supply of bandages at the other end of the room, seemingly wanting to be away from the sheer danger radiating from Itachi.

Itachi and Konan bandaged Sakura's stomach wound and wiped the blood symbol off her skin. Konan sponged Sakura's forehead, hoping to reduce her fever by a few degrees. Finally, she stood back with a nod of assent.

"I don't really want to move her, but she can't stay here." Her gaze fell on Itachi. He gave a small nod of acknowledgment, and lifted Haruno Sakura lightly, before striding from the medical room, Kisame following in his wake.

XOXOX

"No, I swear I didn't. I didn't! No, stop…"

Itachi flicked on the light switch next to the chair he was sitting in, and looked over to Sakura, whose whimpering and sleep-talking had been going on for several hours.

At that moment, hazy jade eyes flickered open, then closed again. Itachi shifted his weight to the left of the chair, waiting. He was not disappointed. The disjointed, piercing scream that came from the tiny kunoichi was probably loud enough to have woken the entire Akatsuki. It certainly had Kisame scrambling out of bed, muttering sleepily:

"What? Where's the fir? What time is it? Oh." He caught sight of Sakura, and the eyes that were open again now, looking around the room restlessly. Itachi was pretty sure she didn't actually understand what was going on or what company she was in.

"She's just dreaming." Itachi told Kisame, who scowled.

"Don't we all wish we were dreaming. In bed. Asleep." He clambered back into his bed and pulled the covers over his head.

"Thank you for the support, Kisame." Itachi remarked dryly.

"Support?" Kisame's muffled voice said with a laugh. "You're Uchiha Itachi. You need my support as much as I need to stay awake giving it to you."

A moment later, Itachi was listening to the shark man snoring. He sighed and reached up, flicking the light switch down and closing his eyes, ready to sit out the night in darkness alongside his deranged, deeply asleep team mate and a tortured, near-unconscious Leaf ninja who happened to despise him because his little brother had been her team mate and childhood crush.

It was at times like these that Uchiha Itachi felt glad that he was an emotionless bastard.

XOXOX

I wrote a new story! And it's ItaSaku!

Please R&R: what do you think so far? The good and the bad, but please don't flame the pairing. All ideas about the story are welcome, but please don't be offended if I don't use them.

I was speed-typing because I (and my best friend) really wanted the first chapter to be out today, so feel free to let me know of any glaring mistakes.

Besides all that, updates should be once a week, if not more frequently.

Thanks for reading! Until next time. 3