Summary: After a year of successfully evading the Akatsuki, Sakura is captured by the man she hates most: Itachi Uchiha. She longs for freedom, but the Akatsuki are forcing her to be their personal medic by threatening the lives of her friends. Residing with S-ranked criminals is hard enough. Falling in love with one is hell. ItaSaku
Warning: Contains violence, mild suggestive themes, and strong language.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Things were getting complicated. More complicated than they should have been.
He sat near the edge of the cliff, observing the dark waves of the ocean below as they churned wildly, creating cream-colored foam across the water surface. The waves crashed violently against the jagged rocks below as the cold winter wind picked up speed. He unzipped his cloak and let it fall behind him, allowing the icy air penetrate his skin to the point when it became numb. It was good to feel numb sometimes. Better to feel and care for nothing rather than everything. Everything gets complicated.
He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, trying to focus on only the rhythmic noise of the sea. But his thoughts were far louder.
Maybe it is not supposed to be this way. I will just have to do it on my own. No point in having her involved in my own problems.
But I need her.
No, I do not. I just want to change my fate.
"I thought I would find you out here, Itachi."
The young man slowly turned his head to the side and ignored his conflicting thoughts as he heard his companion speak. He said nothing as he saw a large figure walking towards him, dressed in Akatsuki attire.
"Kisame," the Uchiha said softly, "What are you doing here?"
As the large shark-man approached his partner's seated form, he smirked. "I think you know why." When Itachi said nothing, he continued talking. "I just received a message. He is on the move again, heading for a village just outside the Land of Waves. It's our turn to track him."
Kisame surveyed his partner's reaction, expecting to see his usual emotionless expression, but something was different. Something was different about his eyes.
They looked sad.
Before Kisame could further contemplate the Uchiha's appearance, said man turned his head back to the ocean and spoke. "It's been a year since I last saw her."
Kisame's smirk faded. In all of the years that they have been partnered together in the Akatsuki, he never seemed so…unsure. "Sounds to me like you don't want to go through with this," he said slowly.
"No," Itachi said quickly as he stood up, making his expression was one again unreadable. "She is a necessary component of the plans. We will leave immediately."
Kisame paused for a few moments and then shrugged as he began walking in the direction of their destination. Itachi inwardly cursed at himself as he followed his partner. He couldn't allow his emotions to be so blatant. It was dangerous for him. It could ruin everything.
The Uchiha sighed. Things were definitely getting more complicated.
Prepare yourself, Sakura Haruno. We are coming for you.
Chapter One: Innocent Criminal
She lifted the axe high above her head one last time and swung it straight down in front of her, penetrating through her target with a clean cut and a loud smack. She sighed in relief as she admired her work, resting the heavy axe head on the ground while loosely holding the handle. The last log of wood was cut in half on the top of a large stump, as were many more that she cut earlier and had arranged in a pile next to her work area.
The eighteen-year-old pushed back her short pink locks, wiping away the sweat on her brow, and smiled slightly. She had been chopping wood since the sun had first risen, and it was now midday. She decided to not use her chakra for this vigorous task in an effort to make her body physically stronger, but now she was beginning to regret it as she stretched her sore arms and back. Now all she had to do was bring the large pile of wood back to her house although her entire upper body still burned with fatigue. Determined, she lifted the last pieces of wood and placed them into a wheelbarrow with the others, ignoring the aching pain in her limbs as she hauled her cargo and began wheeling it to her house.
Her breath in the bitter cold air fluttered and disappeared around her face as she exhaled. The afternoon sun was streaming in through the forest, making the snow on the ground sparkle and the grey, silent woods seem more peaceful and lively. It was both a blessing and a curse to live in such a remote, but beautiful place. Here, she was always at peace, but always so alone and excluded from society. Of course, if it was her choice, she would be back in Konoha, serving Lady Tsunade as an ANBU warrior and as a doctor. But her fate took a twisted turn the day she met Itachi Uchiha.
It all started about one year ago. Sakura was a highly skilled and respected doctor of the central ninja infirmary of Konoha. Although her main job was to treat shinobi patients both in the hospital and on the battlefield, she became very interested in a side project involving poisons. Her project was inspired by her battle and defeat of the Akatsuki member Sasori, who used puppet weapons laced with various venoms to inflict lethal damage upon his enemies with just one scratch of a blade. After months of relentless research and experiments, she was able to find many cures for numerous poisons, making her a famous doctor known in various other ninja villages. Her discoveries began promoting allies to join forces with Konoha so they could invest in her antidotes, making Konohagakure a very powerful nation.
One of the many villages that allied with Konoha was Kumogakure, which the Raikage requested that Sakura travel to their village to present her antidotes. Sakura had been working all day and night with other medical students in Kumogakure presenting her findings, leaving her exhausted as she traveled back to her homeland. Accompanied by eight other ANBU warriors, she thought she was safe. But they were no match against an S-ranked criminal.
They had set up camp for the night in the middle of a forest outside of the borders of the Land of Lightning after seeing how fatigued Sakura was. She instantly fell asleep while the other guards rested and protected the campsite. However, when she awoke in the middle of the night, she found that seven of the eight ANBU warriors had been slaughtered while she slept. Confused and enraged, she set out to look for the coward that murdered her comrades and the missing ANBU member.
As she was searching, she found that her vision was blurred and she couldn't mold her chakra into a useable form, as if she was drugged. Although it explained why she didn't wake when her companions were fighting and killed right in front of her while she slept, she cursed herself for falling prey to being drugged by the unknown enemy. He would have had to get close to her to give her the drug, and she was not one to fall blindly into enemy traps. The thought disturbed her, whatever enemy she was dealing with was stealthy enough to drug her without her knowing as well as kill seven ANBU members at a time.
Luckily, she didn't have to travel far to find the last ANBU member. He was standing at the edge of a cliff, looking at the waning moon ahead in the clear night sky. Sakura noticed that his arms were completely covered in blood and pulled out a kunai from the holster at her thigh, realizing that he was the one to kill the other ANBU. At the sound of metal clicking as she lifted the blade, the man turned around to face her, his blank mask meeting burning green eyes.
"What the hell did you do?" Sakura growled at him, her words laced with uncontained rage that seemed to emanate from her small form.
The man paused a moment, looking her over from unseen eyes behind the mask. "Sakura Haruno," he finally spoke, ignoring her question. "You have been requested to become a member of the Akatsuki."
Sakura kept her kunai raised in front of her as she processed the man's statement. "Who are you?" she asked, hoping to get more information out of him before she would mercilessly kill him.
The man continued to stare at her for a few more moments before he slowly removed the mask covering his face. Sakura dropped her blade in shock at what she saw.
The wind was blowing slightly, making some of his dark locks fall in front of his face and eyes that were as black as an abyss. Two noticeable tear lines ran from the corners of his eyes all the way down his cheeks. Sakura instantly recognized him from the bingo books as the infamous Itachi Uchiha, the man that single-handedly murdered his entire clan. He had disguised himself as an ANBU and was travelling with her the whole time she was dispatched to Kumogakure. But what was he doing? He travelled all the way there and back just to drug her and kill her colleagues after they already completed the mission, just to ask her to join his organization?
"Did you hear me, Haruno?" he asked slowly, as if speaking to a child, "By my leader, you are requested to-"
"Hell no," she responded, clenching her fists in rage, crouching into a battle stance. She mentally began to prepare herself for battle against Itachi, expecting that he would not go down easily.
His expression was calm and composed, unwilling to engage in battle with the young pink-haired girl. "You misunderstand," he spoke, his voice lacking any trace of interest, "Although I said that it was a request, it was quite the opposite. Think of it more as an order that cannot be denied."
"I don't follow orders from the likes of the Akatsuki," Sakura replied. She had already begun to formulate a plan to kill the Uchiha and deliver his body back to Konoha for research. But before she could even react, the criminal disappeared from in front of her and reappeared behind her in a second, twisting one of her arms behind her back and putting her in a headlock with his other free arm. Caught off guard by his lightning speed, she struggled to pry his grip from her neck with her free hand.
"You don't know it yet, but you are already one of us," he whispered in her ear as she continued to fight against his grip. He squeezed his arm tighter around her neck, making the world around her darken. In a matter of seconds, she was unconscious and tossed to the ground. After, the Uchiha criminal disappeared from the area, leaving the young woman's body on the cold ground in the middle of the forest.
When Sakura did wake, she ran straight to Konoha to report the incident to Lady Tsunade. When she did arrive at the gates of Konoha two days later after nonstop travel, she was arrested by four ANBU members before she could even set foot in the village. Confused, she let them bind her wrists as they took her to the interrogation center to see Lady Tsunade.
The old woman arrived as Sakura was being bound by thick chains to restrain her strength. Sakura almost found relief in seeing her sensei, but Tsunade's face showed deep disappointment and rage towards her devoted student.
Tsunade explained to her that a day ago, the hospital in Kumogakure had been blown up and the medicine that Sakura had delivered to the Raikage had actually been a lethal toxin that resembled the antidote, killing many innocent people. The Raikage believed Sakura was the culprit of the crisis that was in his village and wanted her dead for her actions against his village. It was either her death or war against Konoha, believing that they sent Sakura there to penetrate their defenses and weaken their army. To prove that Konoha was not part of Sakura's attack against Kumogakure, Tsunade agreed for the extermination of her beloved student.
Sakura couldn't believe what she was hearing. This was what Itachi meant when he said that she was already a member of the Akatsuki. Everyone thought she was a criminal bent on destroying the peace of the nations through fake antidotes. This is why he let her go instead of dragging her back to his leader: to let her see the effects of the misery he created for her.
Sakura tried to explain that it was Itachi Uchiha who replaced her real antidotes with toxins, blew up the hospital, and killed the other ANBU members that accompanied her on her mission. But Tsunade, her own teacher, didn't believe her. She left her at the prison while Sakura wept as her world was shattered.
Sakura was now labeled a criminal, and her alleged "actions" were to be judged by Lady Tsunade the following day. This meant death for the innocent girl, her death in exchange for peace with Kumogakure. But she didn't want to die for something she did not do, even if it mended the armistice between two powerful villages. Using her supreme intelligence and determination, she was able to escape the prison and leave the village before the sun rose the next day, causing a stir among the villages that another criminal was on the loose. Her face was in every bingo book, and ninja across the nations searched for her to claim the reward the Raikage set for capture. No one would know the truth of what really happened to the poor young girl and her meeting with Itachi Uchiha.
To this day, one year later, she is still hiding from the world. Although the bounty on her head still existed, the commotion between the villages for her capture had waned the last few months. But she is still hiding from a different enemy, a more powerful, fearsome adversary: the Akatsuki. Apparently what Itachi said about his proposal being an order to join the organization was true, and they were not going to stop their chase for her capture or forget about her, for reasons that she did not know. For the first few months after her escape from Konoha, she saw men dressed in dark robes with red clouds appear in the villages she was trying to hide in. She had even ran into one of the Akatsuki criminals when she went to a market in Suna, where she took careful measures to disguise herself as one traveling in a merchant caravan. This ended with half of the market being blown sky-high from explosives, but Sakura managed to escape in the chaos created by the naïve criminal's detonations.
It was about a month ago when she realized her mistake that allowed the Akatsuki to keep finding her. She had been hiding in highly-populated ninja villages, places that spread rumors about information on criminals to other criminals. She needed to be somewhere remote, isolated from any other shinobi village, somewhere untainted by the cruel ninja world. She was able to find such a place, miles away from anything. She found a village populated by only farmers who lived simple, innocent lives. She found an abandoned house a few miles away from the farmer village in the middle of the forest, a perfect location for someone to hide. Here, she could be nobody and live in peace without the fear of being followed by the Akatsuki or other vile ninja.
Sakura adjusted her grip on the handles of the wheelbarrow as she remembered her dreadful past events. She went from being an honored medical ninja to a highly-prized criminal in a single day. She lost her family, her home, and her dignity. Her life had completely changed by one single man. And she would never forgive him for what he done to her. Although she spent her life running from the Akatsuki, she secretly hoped that the Uchiha would find her, so she could personally kill him herself.
When she didn't spend her days chopping wood or doing other chores, she trained in perfecting her taijutsu. Although she no longer considered herself a ninja, she had to be prepared and physically capable of handling anyone who dared cross her. She wasn't the weak little girl who only relied on her friends and smarts on the battlefield; she was a strong young woman that was capable of defeating herself against even the most skilled shinobi.
Sakura sighed in relief when she saw her small cabin in the distance, her arms felt like they were going to fall off of her shoulders. She wheeled her cargo to the small shed behind her house and began to neatly stack the wood, being careful not to make the large pile fall. When she was finished, she took a few logs and tucked them under her arm as she went inside her house.
It was a small cabin, built for two but resided one. Although it was abandoned when she first discovered it, it was still in good condition, and so she didn't have to apply much work to fix it up. It had a small, cozy kitchen, a living room with a fireplace, a study, and a bedroom. Sakura kicked off her boots and headed to the fireplace and set the logs carefully inside. She started the fire and let the warmth of the flames heat her cold body. Before she could even make herself comfortable, her stomach growled loudly in response from not receiving lunch. Holding one hand on her stomach in an effort to silence the sound, she made her way into the kitchen to prepare some venison that she obtained while hunting yesterday.
She positioned herself in front of the fireplace again after she finished her lunch, enjoying the comforting heat as it radiated through her limbs. She lounged on the couch and pulled a quilt over her, drifting easily to sleep as she watched the mesmerizing flickering of the flames.
Sakura jumped awake to the sound of scuffling footsteps outside her house as they noisily crunched the snow beneath their feet. Alert and prepared to attack, she reached for a small dagger that was attached to her right thigh and held it in front of her. She slowly rose from the couch, being careful not to make any noise and avoiding having the waning fire cast her shadow near any windows. She crept up to the front door of her house where she heard the footsteps. She glanced out one of the windows to see that the sun had set and it was completely dark outside. No one from the village ever came to her house this late at night, even if it was an emergency.
Akatsuki… she thought to herself, pressing an ear against the door to listen for the intruders. She heard the footsteps stop right in front of the door, but no other sound was made after that. She gripped the knife tighter as she began to count down the seconds before she opened the door.
She pulled the doorknob quickly towards her and bent into a battle stance, dagger raised, as the door went crashing loudly into the wall. Sakura's eyes widened in surprised as her green eyes met two masked faces. Standing right in front of her were two ANBU Black Ops from Konoha, staring down at her with unseen eyes.