Chapter 2- Itachi's Downfall
Itachi was standing just inside the entrance of a cave. Night had fallen and he had just sent Kisame off ahead of him. The fight they had encountered in Iwa had drained him and he was tired. They had agreed that he would rest and then he would rejoin Kisame in the next village they were headed for. He sighed and wished, not for the first time, that his life had turned out differently. He would have liked to fall in love, marry and have a family but that wasn't what fate had in store for him apparently.
He looked at the stars, twinkling in the sky above him and wished he could sleep out under them tonight but he knew that wasn't a good idea. He knew that once he fell asleep tonight he wouldn't be woken easily and he was aware that there were others camping nearby. He hadn't bothered to check them out, they had weak chakra signatures and posed no threat to him as long as he was awake to deal with them.
He was about to turn and head back into the cave he had chosen for the night when he heard someone coming. Before he could look around the corner to see who might be approaching a young girl turned into the cave and ran straight into him. She promptly grabbed on to him, buried her face into his shoulder and started crying. Itachi was at a loss. It wasn't often that young girls turned to an Akatsuki member for comfort. "Whoa there. Are you ok?"
"Please help me. Please?"
Itachi was a little outraged, this girl wanted his help? Who was she to demand this from him? "And why would I do that?"
She sounded desperate in her reply. "I..I don't know. But please? Those men you hear, they kidnapped me, they're taking me somewhere to sell. Please."
Itachi sighed inwardly. He had made some rough choices in his life but he had never stooped to attacking a defenseless civilian or the slave trade for that matter. Something about her made him want to help. "Shhh, ok be quiet." He soothed her to quiet her down and avoid their detection. "Where are you from?" He at least needed to find out a bit about her.
Her answer made him stiffen, she could be part of a trap but he sensed the chakra signatures of the men looking for her, they were not high level ninja from Konoha. No Copy Ninja or Anbu here. It would be just his luck that the first person he steps up to help in years is from Konoha. He smirked in the dark at his foolishness. "Fine. Come on." And he led her deeper into the cave and around a corner where he'd laid his bedroll out and built a small fire for warmth and light. "Konoha, huh? What are the chances?"
In the firelight the girl looked at him and recognition dawned on her face. "Uchiha-san? You, you're Itachi Uchiha. Aren't you?"
Itachi stiffened at the fact that she recognized him. He looked at her carefully, she wasn't masking her chakra, she was most definitely a civilian and yet she knew who he was and showed no fear. "I am. And you are?" He was impatient, he wanted to know what he had gotten himself into inadvertently by agreeing to help this girl but he also wanted to sleep. Kisame would have a field day with this one if he ever found out.
"I'm Minori. My parent's own the sweet dumpling shop. You used to always come in and I'd wait on you. You stopped coming in, why?"
He looked at her again and remembered the girl who'd waited on him and his friends when they would stop for dumplings and tea after a mission or training. She had always been sweet but otherwise she'd left no impression on him, it was no wonder he hadn't recognized her. "I left the village." Whether or not she knew the details of why he had left he didn't know but he wasn't going to be the one to enlighten her. She wasn't afraid of him so that probably meant she didn't know anything.
"Will you..." Her voice faltered with fear and she looked at him with pleading eyes. "Will you help me get home?"
He sighed, "Yes. But we won't leave until morning. I need rest." He didn't understand what it was about this girl that made him want to help her. Perhaps it was simply her lack of fear of him. It had been so long since he had stood in front of someone who wasn't terrified of his power, especially a woman.
"Thank you Uchiha-san."
"Please, call me Itachi." With that he lay back, grabbing his pack to use as a pillow. "You can have the bedroll." And he fell asleep.
When he woke in the morning she was sitting quietly by the remains of the fire which had gone out over night. His bedroll was folded and ready to be packed back into his pack and she was quietly watching him.
"Hn." He was not one for conversation in the best of circumstances but now that he was well-rested he was doubting his sanity in choosing to head towards the village where more people wanted him dead than alive. "Good morning." He dug through his pack for some of the food he had packed and pulled out 2 onigiri, handing her one which she ate gratefully.
They walked back towards Konoha all day in silence. She seemed to respect his desire to stay quiet and when they did speak it was quick and to the point and then they would fall back into silence. He was thankful for that, he didn't think he was up to making conversation with this young girl.
As they walked he observed her. She was young, maybe 17 or 18. She had long blond hair which was pulled back from her face in a braid. It was a bit messy, no doubt from the ordeal of her kidnapping but beautiful none the less. She was shorter than he was, her head just coming above his own shoulder and her frame was small. Overall he thought she was quite pretty and if the situation had been different he might have wanted to know her more.
He shook his head and reminded himself that he was simply helping her get back home and how she looked had very little to do with that. He would do well not to get more involved with her than he had to.
The sun was starting to set and he knew she was tired so he decided to make camp for the night. He found an area that was protected by a stand of trees. "We'll stop here for the night. You'll be back in Konoha tomorrow. You know I won't be able to walk you all the way to the village?"
"Just the road entering it will be fine. Thank you."
He smiled, she was strong anyway. He gathered some firewood and then he pulled more food out of his pack, glad that he had packed a little more than he'd thought he would need. When they had eaten they sat and stared at the fire as the night set in. When he realized she was shivering he took pity on her. She was really a kind girl and he felt sympathy for her. He beckoned her to sit closer to him and offered her some of his cloak for warmth.
"Thank you." She whispered this quietly and leaned into the cloak for its warmth. Her hand touched his where they rested on the ground between them and she glanced up at him to see if she had done something wrong. He kept his face expressionless but he was stiff and agitated at the contact. Her touch ignited a desire in him that surprised him and he forced himself to keep it under control. Her voice invaded his thoughts. "Itachi? Is something wrong?"
He turned his head to look at her. With her sitting under the edge of his cloak their faces were very close to each others and he could feel her breath on his neck. "No." She looked back to the fire and shivered with the cold again. He reached out, against his better judgment, and put his arm around her shoulders to pull her closer to him and share his warmth with her. If he was going to hell he might as well enjoy the trip.
She looked up at him examining him with her gaze. "You are so beautiful."
She whispered this so quietly that had it not been for his excellent hearing he might have missed it. His heart skipped and his breath caught ever so lightly in his lungs. "What did you say?" He realized too late that his response was a little harsh but he looked at her carefully and with as neutral an expression as he could.
Her gaze was unafraid as she looked back at him. "I said that you're beautiful."
He watched her eyes and marveled at the lack of fear in them. She clearly didn't know who he was or what he had done. "You don't know me. You don't know the things I've done."
"I don't care. I love you Itachi. I always have. You always smiled at me in the shop. I was just a young girl, of no consequence, but you were kind to me."
She leaned up closer to him and when she did he leaned down to kiss her. It was gentle kiss, his lips just brushing hers but when she pressed into him it became deeper. He shifted so that they were facing each other and he could hold her more closely. He knew that he should get up and leave now. He should move away from her, give her the cloak and the bedroll and let himself freeze all night. She was too kind, too sweet and too innocent to even be near the likes of him. He pulled away for a moment. "I'm not a nice person anymore Minori."
"I don't care." And she closed the distance between them again sealing his fate forever. He didn't care what the consequences would be, he needed her sweetness and her innocence to envelope him for just this night. Tomorrow he would deal with the consequences.
He pulled her onto his lap and kissed her deeply and she let him. He couldn't believe it. She returned his kisses with a fervor and desire that surprised him. He smiled inwardly at what his precious clan would have said about his seduction of a simple shop girl. He let his hands roam across her back and slip under her shirt and when she didn't resist or pull away he took what she was giving him.
He woke up with her snuggled into his chest, remembering the night and cursing himself for it. He hadn't realized until it was too late that she had been completely innocent. He had stolen something from her that she could never get back and that he could never follow through on. And for what? His needs? His desire to cleanse himself of the death that had filled his life? She deserved more than he could ever offer and he knew that. He shook her gently, kissing her neck as he did. "Minori, we need to get up."
She sat on the ground staring at the trees while he packed up his bedroll. "Itachi?"
He looked up at her, she was looking directly at him now. There was no regret in her eyes only longing. "Yes?
"Take me with you." Her voice had a hint of pleading in it.
"I can't Minori. You don't belong where I'm going. You need to return to Konoha." He shuddered to think what his life would do to this sweet girl.
"I don't care about belonging. I can't live without you! I love you!" Her declarations cut him to the bone. What he wouldn't give to whisk her off and build a life with her but he knew that his very presence in her life would put her at risk. And he also knew that she didn't know what she was asking.
"You only love what you know of me. I'm not the person you think I am. Trust me." He wouldn't make eye contact with her.
"Do you love me?" Her question was impudent and demanding.
He walked over to her and stood in front of her, pulling her into his arms he held her close. "I..I don't know Minori. I only know that where I'm going you can't come. You don't belong in that world, you'd only get hurt." And he pushed her away. He needed to be strong for both of them. For one long moment he considered taking her with him. She was strong, she'd adjust and maybe even fit in but when he looked at her he knew he couldn't. She'd be a hindrance to the things he knew he had to do. And if he died, there would be no one who would take care of her. "I'm sorry Minori. The answer is no."
They walked in silence for the next few hours and when they reached the road that led into Konoha he faced her. "I can't go any further. I'm not welcome in Konoha anymore. I'll watch you and be sure that no harm comes to you until you are safe." He looked at her and saw the tears threatening to spill out from her eyes. "Minori, thank you." And he turned and walked away.
He stayed close enough to her as she walked down the road to be sure that no harm came to her. He watched as she sobbed and cried all the way back to the gates. It broke his already broken heart to see her like this but he knew it was the right choice. He hoped she would have the sense not to say anything about meeting him and all that had passed between them. When he saw that the guards were talking with her he turned and walked away.
He knew that he could never mention this to anyone.
Itachi sat in the trees and watched the sweet dumpling shop. He wondered if her parents still owned it even. He was taking a huge risk just being here but he was carefully disguised and masking his chakra and he hoped he could get one last glance of her before he faced the biggest battle of his life in a few days time.
His heart skipped when he saw blond hair coming down the road. He knew it was her and he briefly considered taking the chance to greet her and kiss her one last time but changed his mind when she turned and called to someone. Maybe she had started a new life, he wouldn't be the one to cause trouble for her.
His heart froze when a young boy, maybe 4 or so, joined her and held her hand. She bent to hug him, his dark hair and pale skin contrasted with her blond hair and tanned skin. And when the boy turned to walk beside her and he saw his face he wondered if it was possible. His breath hitched and he had to steady himeself when she spoke to him "Shisui, you need to be a good boy today while I work. When I'm done we'll go to the playground."
"I will mommy. I promise."