So long my luckless romance

My back is turned on you

Should have known you'd bring me heartache.

Almost lovers always do

-Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy

Story: Raven

Dedicated: Murasaki Kurai

Phrase: The Message in the Book

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto nor do I own Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven'. And if you've read the Raven you'll know I've taken a few liberties with it.

Edited: 9/15/10


Raven

She sat at her ivory vanity idly stroking her hair with her brush. His eyes watched from the shadows of her bedroom as her hand started at the roots of her hair and traveled down to the end.

Over and Over.

Again and Again.

The repetitious cycle continued. Although the mirror lay before her, her eyes stayed closed as if she were savoring her every action. Savoring as he savored.

The room was quiet. The only thing that could be heard was the light sound of her breathing . Satisfied, she placed the brush on her vanity and slowly opened her eyes only by the time she did so…he was gone.

And her eyes clouded with tears.

:::

She tried to kill him the first time they met alone. It was a futile effort that ended with her pinned beneath him. Who was she, really, to attack him? This man had destroyed his entire family-his prestigious powerful family, with one exception, all on his own.

The exception, also known as the man she was currently in love with, had slowly been driven mad (Although she knew that wasn't true. He wasn't mad and his actions were completely sane even if they did hurt her) by witnessing the events of his family's demise. In time the love of her life left their home, their village for the sake of obtaining power in order to destroy his older brother and for that reason alone she hated him.

He kissed her then and she fought him. She fought him with all the fury and frustration inside of her because he was the source of it all. He was the reason that Sasuke had left. So not only was Sasuke's animosity aimed at him but hers was as well. Itachi had taken Sasuke away from her as well as everything away from him. And to put the icing on the cake he was currently sought the life of her best friend.

When he realized she would not yield to him he removed himself from her, surprising her.

He left her with…

"I have no use for an unwilling woman."

For some reason unknown to her she found her mind pondering over his statement well into that night…and several after that. She didn't understand him at all. He seemed like the type to take whatever he wanted and be damned what anyone else thought. Yet with one statement he contradicted everything she had once believed.

It was two months before she saw him again and she began to wonder if he was deliberately putting himself in her path. He knew she could not defeat him so she began to think of herself as his prey and she didn't like that. Sure, it was certain that she couldn't defeat him but that did not mean that she was his to toy with. So Sakura marched up to Uchiha Itachi, placed her hands on her hips, and looked down on him as he sat on the one of the sofas in the lobby of the inn that she was residing in.

"Why are you following me?" She demanded.

He stared at her blankly. "Who are you?"

Sakura's eye twitched. Did he think she was an idiot? No one forgot her-or at least no one forgot her hair color. "Stay away from me!" She hissed then whirled away from him. She hadn't even taken two steps before a hand wrapped around her wrist effectively stopping her movements.

"Perhaps you should tell me who it is that I am staying away from." He said smoothly. She made an attempt to snatch her hand away from him but found her efforts futile. Her whole body stiffened when she realized that she was at his mercy.

"I am Haruno Sakura-as if you didn't know-I'm your brother's old teammate." His hand fell away from her then and Sakura took that opportunity to march away from him. Although, some unseen force compelled her to look over her shoulder back at him. His expression was still emotionless…well almost…there was something in his eyes…something she that she didn't understand or maybe she just didn't want to. So Sakura walked away quickly desperately wanting to put the confrontation with the older Uchiha behind her.

The next time she saw him he was sitting in a bar. An untouched glass of sake sat before him. He only stared at it as if were some sort of decoration and Sakura wondered what he was thinking. It was then that her mind started to shift. She never should have wondered what was on his mind because then she started thinking of him not as a mass murderer but as a human being and as a man that perplexed her to a degree that was infuriating. So she approached Uchiha Itachi and slid into the stool beside him. She grabbed his sake-because it didn't seemed like he was going to drink it- then signaled the bartender for another.

He glanced in her direction and raised a brow at her audacity. She didn't bother to look at him but instead stared at the empty glass.

"Why did you do it?" She asked him softly. It didn't take a genius to figure out what she was asking. Why did he kill his family? Why did he leave his younger brother alive?

Her simple question did in no way voice what was really on her mind. Why was he stalking her? What did he find in her that was so fascinating? Was he going to kill her as he had done countless others? Why was he still alive when their were people out there hunting him right that very second? Was he that good?

"If you're seeking some grand explanation that will perhaps justify my actions or maybe even condemn me then I have nothing to say. I did what was necessary. It's as simple as that."

"You just did what was necessary? What about what's right and what's wrong?"

He never answered her that night.

:::

She entered her home after a long day of work at the hospital. Her body was screaming to her that it was almost midnight and she needed to get to bed. She slipped off her shoes and dragged herself into her bedroom. Her eyes were barely open as she flopped on the bed. Her feet dangled over the edge and she was tempted to just not move until morning. She didn't care how uncomfortable she was but then her eyes alighted on a foreign object on her nightstand. A book lay there. Sakura sat up with a frown and grabbed it. It was a book of poetry by Edgar Allen Poe. A red ribbon stuck out at the bottom letting her know a page was marked that perhaps she should read. Sakura opened the book to see the poem The Raven. The first stanza was highlighted and Sakura's eyes quickly scanned the words.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door

-Only this, and nothing more.'

Sakura froze as she heard a knock on her door. She shivered at the eerie similarity to the verse of poetry she had just read. Who would be visiting her at this hour? Her mind could come up with no guesses as she padded over to the door shivering slightly from the cold that emanated from the floor.

The door swung open slowly revealing a deserted hallway.

Sakura frowned and closed the door turning to head back to bed. Who would knock on her door and leave like that? That type of thing didn't happen where she lived. Her apartment was mainly full of older people who didn't have the time nor the inclination to play games like that.

In the blink of an eye Sakura suddenly sensed another presence in her apartment with her. She reached for a nonexistent weapon but before her mind registered that she was unarmed, she was pulled back against a hard, warm body. Lips brushed against her ear whispering, "'Tis the wind and nothing more."

His voice washed over her and some of the fear that she felt dulled because he was no longer a stranger. He was someone she was now familiar with. Then logic took over and that fear raised to astronomical heights once she realized that this man, this betrayer of her village stood in her apartment. She should scream bloody murder but she didn't. Maybe it was the comforting way he held her in his arms made it so that she could not. She wasn't sure but she couldn't bring herself to dwell upon it. Instead she said, "Release me."

"I have no desire to do so."

"I haven't asked what it is that you desire. What I said was 'Release me.'"

"Then I will put it simply for you…no."

He leaned down then and buried his face in her hair. Sakura froze unnerved but soon relaxed because he did nothing more than inhale her as if she were his air.

:::

The man was all consuming. He invaded her thoughts…her dreams. She had learned very few things about him and yet there was something about him that was intriguing yet dangerous. That elusive quality made her reckless. After their first midnight rendezvous she couldn't find it in herself to stop him from coming to her.

And it wasn't long before she had fallen in love. She had fallen deep and hard. And she was bewildered by it. The love she had for Sasuke slowly faded away and was replaced by something that was tangible and real. It was a pity that it was forbidden.

They lay tangled in the sheets of her bed. A thin sheen of perspiration covered his body. Her leg was tossed over his hip and his arm was wrapped around her waist holding her close.

"What would you do if I died?"

The question startled Sakura. Yes, the world they lived in was dangerous and death was a big part of it but...Uchiha Itachi? Die? Who would dare attack one of the most powerful men in the world and live to tell the tale?

"That hardly seems likely." Sakura said shifting uneasily but still reaching up to run her fingers through his unbound hair.

"But if I did?"

Sakura stared into his too serious eyes and replied with the only answer she knew to be true. "Then I would die too."

His fingers tighten on her skin making her wince. She knew she'd have a bruise later but she didn't cry out in pain. He'd be less than pleased if he knew that he had accidentally hurt her.

"Life is too precious to toss away. If something were to happen to me-promise me that you will live." Sakura hid her face in his arm. He shook her gently knowing she was trying to avoid his demand. "Sakura."

Emerald eyes peeked up at him. "Why would you have me promise something like that? What about what I want?"

"You must promise me."

"Itachi what do you know that I don't?" Sakura said mildly panicking. This conversation of his death was not sitting well with her.

"I know of nothing."

"I don't believe you."

He said nothing else that night of death and promises.

:::

"Goodbye." He stared at her impassively as she dismissed him. Her eyes shimmered with unshed tears, tears that caught the reflection of the moonlight and eventually cascaded down her cheeks leaving stains of their aftermath in it's wake.

"Goodbye? You think I'll let you go so easily?" She stared at his hardened features lost, confused. All he ever did was push her away and when she decided to be the better person and end their illicit love affair-he wouldn't let her. Why? Why? The question shone in her eyes unasked yet still loudly voiced. "I will never allow you to leave me."

His hard calloused hand reached out for her wrist. He grabbed her and pulled her close to his body. She stumbled unprepared for his sudden movement. Sakura's free arm raised upwards to grab hold of him to break her fall. She hit his body letting out a small grunt that was quickly forgotten as he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. Sakura laid her head against his chest, hearing the strong steady beat of his heart and breathing in his earthy scent. One of his arms unwound from around her waist. He extended a finger tip and placed it under her chin, tilting her face upward so that she was forced to stare into the eyes that most men would never dare to look into.

His eyes promised death but in those moments they promised something else entirely. If only she could figure out what that promise was…

"Never." He only mouthed the words but she knew exactly what he was saying because her eyes followed the movements of his lips entranced. Almost in slow motion those lips came closer to her pressing against hers in a claim of dominance. Sakura automatically yielded to him parting her lips to allow him full access. A jolt traveled through her body when she felt the first stroke of his tongue. Her knees went slightly weak as she felt his hand lightly stroke her back in a way that was soothing yet erotic. It wasn't fair. He shouldn't be able to make her feel this way. These emotions should have never taken root and bore fruit.

Sakura pulled away. "I can't. You don't understand. I'm loyal to my village. I'm loyal to my friends, my family. You here with me right now is a betrayal of everything I have ever believed in-everything I've ever known!"

His crimson eyes gazed at her not with malice. Never that. He seemed to be waiting. For what?

She hadn't a clue.

Sakura lowered her head staring at his feet. It seemed like they stood there for an eternity on that cold night hidden in an alcove away from prying eyes. The sounds of the night surrounded them making the silence that had descended upon them almost deafening.

"I will make a concession because perhaps you did not hear me. This once I will repeat myself. I will never allow you to leave me. Never." At the emphatic note in his voice Sakura's eyes widened. She tried to turn away from him but he wouldn't allow it.

"Do you understand?" Sakura nodded her head. "Say it." He commanded imperiously in that way she hated yet adored.

Tears sprang to Sakura's eyes and she gave him a watery smile. "Nevermore."

A smirk appeared on Itachi's lips as he swept her into his arms and sped to her apartment. It barely felt like his feet touched the ground he was so graceful. The wind blew her hair into her face so she closed her eyes to avoid the sting that it brought to her eyes as it hit her emerald orbs.

She should be fighting this. She should not give in to this man so easily. Yet her heart, the traitorous monster, wouldn't let her. Her heart bathed in the liquid pleasure of his body pressed close to hers, in his strength, in him. Her hand reached up and grabbed a handful of his mesh shirt. Holding him tightly not wanting to let him go. Never. Never ever.

He sailed easily through her open window and strode into her bedroom as if he owned it like he owned her. He laid her gently on the bed then proceeded to pry her hands off his shirt. He pulled back but her cry of, "Don't!" made him pause since she was seemed so set earlier on their parting. "Don't leave. Don't leave."

"I will never leave you Sakura."

"Don't lie to me! Not like that. You have to leave. You can't stay here! And all things end. It's the way thing are."

"In one form or another I will always be with you." Sakura shook her head back and forth disbelieving but he ignored it and stood up. "You will believe me." He stated before he removed his cloak of black with red clouds and walked over to the chair that sat in her room and tossed it over it. He slipped out of his shoes then moved over to the bed to remove Sakura's from her feet then afterwards proceeded to slip into bed with her. It wasn't long before she settled herself on top of his arm and drifted to sleep.

When she woke up she was alone.

:::

"I'm betraying Sasuke. He'll never forgive me for this. He wants you dead."

"Must you always speak of betrayal? If I leave won't you be betraying yourself?"

Sakura turned her head away from his intense gaze. Yes, it would be a betrayal of herself. Of her heart and what she truly desired but leaving him would be for the greater good. It was a sacrifice that she should make. "You don't understand."

"Or maybe I understand completely."

Sakura's head whirled around fast. Words almost tumbled out of her lips. Words that would form questions that she knew he would not answer because he didn't like speaking of the past and she didn't like making him. So she decided to keep it simple. A question that he could give a simple answer to. "What do you mean?" His answer was more than she expected.

"Do you honestly think I feel no remorse at the loss of my family? It was a betrayal yet if I had not done it, it would have been a betrayal as well." His gaze was intense and something was lurking in his eyes that she just didn't comprehend.

Sakura's brow furrowed. "I don't understand."

"I know and yet you still love me."

Sakura felt a blush stain her cheeks. It was something that always happened when he in his 'matter of fact' manner stated her love for him. It was something that she internally rebelled against yet she didn't know why. Perhaps she was just obstinate or maybe it made what they had feel that much more real. "I never said that."

A smirk graced the Uchiha's lips as he reached out and grabbed her hand bringing it to his lips kissing the inside of her palm. "Most people assume that my heart contains darkness there and nothing more yet…" A sad smile flickered across Sakura's face as she recognized the words that her Raven quoted. "Even knowing part of my past you still say it every time you look at me, every time you reach for me at night, every time to you accept me into your life. Do not regret this time we have together, for each other."

She could hardly argue with him-not when he was looking at her thus. She never thought to have an Uchiha looking at her almost pleadingly. Her heart ached and she longed to pull him close and just hold him. She wanted to chase away the shadows in his eyes, in his heart. Tears sprung into her eyes as she thought of his words, 'Every time you look at me.'

They told her that trying to stop loving him was a hopeless endeavor.

:::

"This is my last time coming to see you." Sakura's mouth hung agape in surprise. Those were words that she never expected to hear come from his lips. He couldn't possibly mean them. This was some sort of joke and she was awaiting the punch line. But the punch line never came and her heart broke. A thousand sharp pieces of it stabbed her continually.

"You lied to me." She said woodenly. A numbness flooded her system giving her a brief respite but she knew it wouldn't last long.

"I never lie."

"You said you'd be with me always and now you tell me that you're never going to see me again. How is that not a lie?" She looked at him searchingly hoping he could say something, anything to end the sea of confusion that she had been tossed into. But somehow looking at him she knew that he wouldn't and she was doomed to drown.

"I told you Sakura. I never lie. You should believe in me."

"How can I believe in you when you're about to walk out of my life? When my heart is breaking? When you know, you know how much I love you? How much you mean to me? When it hurts so much to hear you speak of leaving me?"

'Take thy beak from out of my heart.' Her mind screamed.

Itachi reached out and wiped the tears from her cheeks then pulled her close and buried his face in her hair. "I love you." He said softly for the first time. Sakura pulled herself abruptly out of his arms and he let her knowing instinctively that she needed this moment to rant, to rave, to vent.

"Liar! Liar! Since when do you leave the one you love?"

"Life isn't always happily ever after. Sometimes the end is just the end."

She didn't hear his words because she was so caught up in her own misery.

"If you were just going to leave you never should have made me promises you weren't going to keep. You never-"

"Sakura that is enough." He pulled her roughly to his body and she began to pound on his chest in grief.

"It's not enough! It'll never be enough!"

:::

"Sasuke won. Uchiha Itachi is dead." The words came from the large plantlike Akatsuki member speaking to the other that wore a mask. Sakura wasn't the only one surprised.

They all were.

Sakura had to force herself to remain on her feet. She knew they were fighting but she had never expected him to lose-to die. Sakura's breaths starting coming out in ragged pants. An epiphany began to well up inside her. This was why he left. He knew. He knew that Sasuke was going to kill him.

It didn't make any sense. Why would he walk so casually to his death? Why would he do something so reckless? So foolish? That wasn't like the Uchiha Itachi she knew, she loved.

"Sasuke-kun killed Itachi?" Sakura whispered.

It wasn't long before they moved out. They were all there to retrieve Sasuke-to stop the Akatsuki from getting to him before they did. She once wanted Sasuke home but at that moment all she could think was that he was gone. Her Itachi was dead and Sasuke had killed him.

When they arrived at the site that the battle had occurred they were too late. There was no trace of Sasuke. No trace of Itachi. Both were gone. It was then that Sakura let the tears that she continuously shed for that man break free.

And everyone thought she shed tears for her lost teammate and not her lost love.

:::

Several months had passed since the passing of Uchiha Itachi. Sakura lay in her bed sinking deeply into the mattress beneath her. She tossed and turned trying to find a comfortable position but found herself unable to do so. Every day she had to put on a brave face so people wouldn't know how much she was grieving. It would cause questions that she could never answer. Every night she lay in a cold bed that always seemed so empty without him especially now that she knew that he was forever gone. Nights were always the hardest because there was nothing that she could do to distract herself from the truth.

The truth that she had an affair with a man who betrayed the village that she loved with all her heart. No, that wasn't right. The village had come second to him. She loved that man with all her heart. The man who was now gone. Embraced by his cold lover Death.

"I will never leave you, Sakura."

Sakura felt her lips twist into a bitter smirk. Never is a promise that he just couldn't keep. She knew it was foolish to believe in him but she had. She believed and now she was left to deal with the consequences of her actions.

Sakura bit her bottom lip hard enough to draw blood. She didn't bother to try to stop it as it slid down her face and onto her pillow staining her sheets. The physical injury distracted her from her emotional one. And any distraction was a good one.

"Sakura."

Her eyes snapped open at the familiar voice. She sat up quickly and practically jumped out of the bed in her anxiousness to see him. He stood in the shadows and she immediately threw herself into his arms. Grateful that the bad dream that was his death was over, grateful that she had been wrong all along. Of course he wouldn't do something as silly as dying.

"Don't you dare leave me again. I couldn't bear it."

"Hn." Came the reply that was all too familiar yet wasn't the one she was hoping to hear. Sakura pulled away from her midnight lover and looked into his face. And what she found was a face so similar but so different from the one that she had expected.

Pain.

She felt so much that it staggered her. She stumbled back away from Sasuke and would have fell but something prevented her from doing so. It felt as if strong arms wrapped around her and held her securely. Holding her up on her feet and guiding her forward back towards the man that she had moved away from so hastily. That force raised her hand and placed it against Sasuke's face when all she wanted was to yank it away.

Under normal circumstances she would have thought that Sasuke would move away from her touch but he didn't. And now she was stuck standing before him her hand on his face moving of it's own initiative lightly caressing him.

Why? Why was she doing this? She didn't love this man any longer. She didn't want him. The only man she wanted was gone. Sakura tried to pull her hand away but some force held her there.

"Sakura."

He said her name once more and she just stared up into his eyes silently. Waiting for him to say why he was here, in her room at this hour and not with the Hokage begging for forgiveness. But he didn't explain instead her turned his head into her palm as if savoring her touch. Sakura frowned perplexed. A myriad of emotions flowed through her until she found herself suddenly calm. A familiar voice rang in her mind and heart and even though she didn't care for the words she savored the voice.

"In one form or another I'll always be with you, Sakura. Be happy. This is my blood, my family. I want you to be happy with him."

Staring into Sasuke's eyes she found herself wanting to shake her head. No, she wouldn't do that. She wouldn't give her heart to this man again. She would not! Not after what he had done.

"Love him, Sakura. He needs you. Love him the way you loved me in the end-with no reservations."

She couldn't do that. That love was a love that was reserved for him and him only. She couldn't give that love to his murderer. Absolutely not.

"I'll always be with you Sakura…but you have to move on."

And Sakura was suddenly able to move her hand away from Sasuke's face. "Why are you here?" She asked finally.

To which he replied, "He told me to come. He also said to have you look at the message in the book that he gave to you."

A strangled gasp made it's way out of her throat and she rushed to grab the book that he had given her so long ago. Her eyes landed on the last stanza. His elegant scrawl had changed it. Tears streamed her cheeks as Sasuke came over to read over her shoulder. Sasuke took the book from her hands and slowly closed it then pulled her into his arms saying nothing but holding her tightly wrapping her in a feeling that was reminiscent of a love long gone and yet still with her.

And in the distance a distinct exclamation of an ebony winged creature chimed in the night.

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

In your boudoir just above your chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a man lost in his dreaming

,And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And his soul lies with you and another-giving protection from all life has in store

So that you shall be loved - - forevermore!