A/N: Welcome to the sequel to An Unlikely Seduction...the story that was meant to be a one-shot, and never gain a sequel in the first place. Buuuuut...oops. I started one. If you have not read An Unlikely Seduction, and you do not enjoy being confused, I would recommend you go read it before beginning this one. It's up to you, though.
This fic will contain graphic sexual situations, including non-con/dub-con, violence, gore, and occasionally strong language.
He couldn't remember the last time it was this difficult to breathe. Every inhale took a little more effort than the last, and with less payoff. The blood rising in his throat was a metallic trickle at first, nothing he wasn't used to. But with the ever increasing pain and shortness of breath, he found it accumulating until he had to stifle a cough. He couldn't cough. He couldn't make a sound. With the shouts, crashes, and booms all around him, it probably didn't matter, but he wouldn't risk it. He couldn't attract attention to himself.
The shattered ribs cut into his lungs as he covered his mouth with an aching hand, smudged with dirt and blood—both fresh and dried. Dark rivulets seeped through his fingers as his body shook. It took every ounce of his control to stay silent, and his good eye closed as the sharp bursts of hidden razors danced through his chest, beneath the flak jacket. A chunk of white porcelain with a streak of red lay on the forest floor below the thick branch he was slouched on, with his back against the trunk. A little more than half of the mask was left on his face, showing like a beacon in the dark forest, with the soft flicker of moonlight peaking through the leaves above. As useless as it was now, revealing one swollen, shut eye and the side of his bloody face caked with strands of tangled black hair, he didn't bother to discard it.
This was the first time his ANBU mask had been broken. Also the first time he found himself unable to rise to his feet, even with the defeating sounds of death and destruction all around him, creeping in closer by the second. But he wasn't alone in the chaos. There had been four of them, originally. He had already watched one of his teammates disappear in a flash of blue light. It always looked like flames, to him. Beautiful, glimmering flames that ignited silently in the darkness and withered swiftly back into oblivion, stealing away any trace of body and soul with it's dying light.
He'd seen it happen a couple times before. It was the ultimate, and expected sacrifice of every ANBU, should they be in danger of capture. A quick and anticlimactic death, to protect any information from leaking to enemy hands. A lonely suicide. Sometimes there wasn't even the chance to think...to reflect... One moment you were there, and the next, nothing. No body to be buried. No goodbyes to deliver. You simply ceased to exist.
The thought had never crossed his mind, until now. Death was everywhere. He'd taken enough lives, and seen so many others fallen, that he'd developed a healthy—or unhealthy?—immunity to its affect. Enough that he rarely even thought about his own, inevitable end. With the way he saw it, there was no time to think about death. Everyone was hurdling towards their own grave, some faster than others, and there was no sense worrying over when that time would come. It wouldn't change anything he did, or anything he believed in. His sole purpose was to serve as a tool for Konoha, and to protect his family and friends, just like every other member of ANBU...and every other shinobi in his village, for that matter.
It's always different once you can hear the footsteps of Death's approach, however.. No one truly knows if they're prepared to leave this world, until they can see, smell, taste their own demise creeping into them... It happened so fast, little to no transition. But didn't it always? He could taste his now. The blood in his throat was close to choking him. Unlike some of the others, he had been given a little time to think...to reflect...and with the opportunity, he also felt every step of Death wandering closer and closer, keeping in time with the labored beat of his overworked heart. His back was ruined, too. He could still feel his legs, so he wasn't paralyzed, but the agony that pulsed through him, blinding all of his senses and locking him immobile every time he tried to move, sealed his fate.
The aching tension in his fatigued muscles was gradually ebbing away as he grew tired and weaker. Slowly giving in as he heard the shouted orders of the enemy drawing close to him. They didn't know where he was. Not yet...but they would soon. With his chakra a mere flickering flame, struggling for life, he was not capable of much more.
To be honest, he wasn't surprised that this was how his life would end. Few shinobi lived long enough to show the wrinkles of age, as most died in battle. He was a little shocked at just how soon, how abruptly it was going to end, though.
A flash of blue caught his attention suddenly, and he glanced to the side just in time to see his second teammate consumed in a fiery cocoon of chakra. The waning light illuminated the darkness, casting a haunting glow on the leaves and trees around him as he quickly, and quite literally, disappeared into thin air.
They were finished. All of them. The mission had gone terribly wrong. They had known from the start it was going to be a difficult one, even for a group as talented as theirs...but they had failed. Yet, failing their Hokage wasn't what bothered him now, as the reality hit home.
Itachi smiled faintly, and his half-lidded eye shifted down to his lap. His hand slid up his flak jacket, and raided a small pocket to pull out a piece of flimsy cloth. He folded the dark blue fabric the way it was meant to be, shaping it into a long, rectangular bandana. Tying it a bit clumsily around his wrist, his smiled faded into nothing as he stared down at the Uchiha crest facing up at him. It was a little awkward and misshapen, having been drawn on by hand with red and white paint. The first thing Sasuke had ever given him, when he was barely old enough to throw a shuriken. He kept the bandana on him at all times because, for obvious reasons, he couldn't keep a picture. Anything that could identify his person was forbidden.
A quiet sigh puffed through his nose, which instantly sent his chest convulsing in a coughing fit that he was unable to suppress. Droplets of blood splattered on the branch in front of him and on his legs as he fought to control his lungs. Bringing his hand to his mouth again, he squinted his eye shut and grew still, willing his reluctant muscles to relax.
The shouts started again, much closer this time. If it had been daylight, he would have been able to see them through the trees now, and he knew his time had finally run out. He looked down at the bandana, the first sign of regret stirring in his gut. There was no alternative. Capture was never, under any circumstances, an option. But that didn't make surrendering to his less than grand finale any less painful.
"Forgive me, Sasuke..."
Whisper fading into the night, his hands lifted and aligned with his center, beginning the simple hand sign that would bring an end to the world he knew, and snuff him into darkness. There would be no tears, but the regret that had bubbled inside him exploded in a sudden wave of sorrow, causing him to cringe visibly as his brows furrowed and his head lowered.
A rustle from above caught his ears, followed by the soft snapping of twigs and a gust of wind. It was now or never. But a blinding pain racked through him suddenly, breaking his concentration as a shadow dropped down and crashed into him, jarring his injured spine back to life. A steel grip pulled his hands apart, disrupting the jutsu and stunning him with the white hot ripples that shredded his nerves throughout his torso. Teeth gritting, he seethed a gurgling breath from his lungs, just as a familiar voice reached out to him. A voice that struck him in awe.
"Itachi... Not today."
He opened his eye to gaze at the blurry visage of the twin Sharingan peering through an ANBU mask, crouching over him. The pain was worth it, once that weary, and slightly panicked voice graced his ears. The short black hair of his best friend, and trusted teammate, clung in sweat and blood-drenched ribbons to the cool porcelain. Before Itachi could find the right words, lost in a rush of shock and relief that swelled within him, Shisui turned his back and hunched over, drawing the body of his broken and battered friend over top of him by his arms.
Itachi knew better than to protest...but there was considerable reason for concern. There were only two of them now, and he could already tell that the man slinging his near dead weight onto himself like a turtle shell was not much better off than he was.
The wood beneath them creaked as his feet dug in, hips adjusting his stance and one hand gripping an arm that draped down his chest. With a pained grunt, Shisui sprang out of the tree and into the next, taking flight at a speed and an agility that he had managed to scrounge up from his deepest reservoirs. Carrying another human being was a difficult load over a long distance by itself, but with his energy depleted to dangerously low levels, the weight of Itachi might as well have been the weight of Konoha itself. Still...he bounded from one branch to the next, ignoring the searing heat that coursed through his legs.
For Itachi, every jolt and bump was sheer torture. Every ounce of strength he possessed fell to clinging onto his friend's back as the pain throbbed from seemingly everywhere at once, over and over again.
"They can't catch you." A weak whisper puffed past the other man's ear. It was a simple enough warning, but they both knew there was a heavier implication hiding in plain sight. He was going to weigh him down...literally...and then they would both be dead.
"They won't." His partner insisted tersely, and somehow found the muscle to move faster as voices bantered and called through the trees around them. He wasn't going to let him go so easily. So long as there was even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, he would reach for it endlessly. He would never, ever, leave his best friend to die, so long as there was a breath left in his lungs.
There was no further argument as Itachi shook, crimson continuing to seep from his lips and bead into the shoulder below him, though he had stopped coughing. He found the sounds of their world fading away, overpowered by the agony he was forced to endure, with no hope of escaping. It only took a few more minutes of it to steal him into unconsciousness. His grip on Shisui disappeared entirely, nearly causing him to falter and plummet them both to the forest floor as his weight shifted and almost slipped right off.
Shisui hissed in frustration as he scrambled to maintain balance and snatch him into a better position, knowing there was nothing he could do but keep moving. Never stop, never slow down, and never look back. His entire focus was on fleeing back to Konoha and straight to the hospital, even if it meant instantly collapsing in the lobby from a heart attack once he arrived...which wouldn't surprise him at this point.
The clock ticked to 12:06 am. Soft murmurs and an occasional muffled, lighthearted laughter echoed sparsely through the clean, and remarkably empty halls. Though there were more vacant rooms than usual, nothing was out of the ordinary as the night staff roamed around especially quietly. Trying not to disturb the few sleeping patients as they made their rounds. That was, until the lobby doors burst open, earning a couple startled yelps as an ANBU shot in and literally crashed to the floor before the front desk, with another body strapped to his back.
The moment the bright lights of the hospital touched down on them, Shisui's legs gave out. His breathing filled the room with sickening sounds of deep, greedy rasps, as if no matter how far his lungs stretched, he couldn't get enough air. It was alarming enough, without gazing upon the blood and debris that littered them both, and the receptionist immediately flew from her chair and yelled down the hall for the nearest medic.
Senseless syllables moaned from deep within his throat, as if he forgot how to speak, and when he couldn't get the words out, he lurched toward the hallway. Feet tripping no sooner than they had risen, he fell once more to the floor in a pitiful heap, the limp weight of Itachi smashing into him as he sprawled out, defeated.
The hurried pattering of footsteps rumbled in their direction as every staff member within earshot that wasn't currently occupied with something important dashed in a near sprint past door after door. His eyes peaked up through his mask, watching them move in what seemed like slow motion. Everything became sluggish, as if time itself was dying, and leaving them to hover in an endless limbo. It could have been the adrenaline, or merely his exhausted state of mind, but all it did was heighten his panic. They were too far away. They were too slow. They would never reach them before it was too late.
And yet, a couple short seconds later, his vision was flooded with feet and legs shifting all around him, and the crushing weight soon rose off his back. Shisui sucked in air as if he'd finally risen from the darkest depths of the ocean, and burst through the surface. A complete weightlessness came with it, and he instantly felt as if he was floating upward and past the very ceiling, though the sight of the floor never left his blurring vision. In the distance, he could hear frantic voices calling around him, ordering for another stretcher to be wheeled over.
"He's not breathing!"
"I can't find a pulse!"
"We need another IV over here!"
The medics scrambled around him, and he faintly heard the heavy thump of Itachi's lifeless form falling onto a stretcher before it swished past him and back down the hall it had come from. Two of the voices trailed along with it, leaving Shisui to stare helplessly at the wheels carrying away the body that had grown too pale and too cold in the time it had taken him to race back to the village. He had traveled as fast as he could...he really had... Itachi had merely fallen unconscious at first, which hadn't surprised him. But he had sensed a change just before he reached the main gates. There had been no physical signs. Just a simple, yet powerful feeling, that something had gone dreadfully wrong. Now, his worst fear had been confirmed.
His world turned upside down as the remaining medic flipped him onto his back, and he stared up into the blinding lights of the lobby like a zombie. He was being questioned...but he could no longer understand the words that met his ears. There were hands on him, but he couldn't keep track of where they moved, or what their intent was. The assaulting lights above were growing dimmer, drifting slowly down a tunnel that he was spiraling backwards into. Floating down, down, farther and deeper, until all that remained was a pinpoint in a sea of black...and then nothing.
A/N: This chapter was shorter than I am used to posting, but I hadn't planned on starting it this way originally. It's meant to be sort of a prologue...without a time shift. Or something. Yeah. Anyway, I appreciate any comments and constructive criticism you would grace me with.