Sakura walked briskly down the street toward the bridge in the early morning

I'm not dead… though a run-in with a 150lb golden lab on Saturday did leave me with a lovely set of teeth shaped burses on my left arm.

Sorry it took so long to update but life is like that. My dad was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005 and sense then things like 'fan fics' have been replaced with more 'quality time' activities.

Thanks you to everyone who volunteered their time and skill to get me back into this Anime in order to finally finish this.. I know there's still a LONG way to go but I know I can do it.

Thank you everyone!

Welcome Back


A week later Sakura walked briskly down the street toward the red bridge in the early morning light. A slight tan darkened her skin from several long hours spent in the sun playing with two new nephews that had stopped by her uncle's and aunt's during
her week-long stay. Tiny sparkles in her ears had become her favorite keepsake
from the sunny experience; not only were the petite scarlet stones pretty to look at, but
each contained a tiny space ample enough to hide a grain-sized note if need be.

A sudden rainstorm the night before had washed out parts of the roads and sidewalks, leaving rocky pebble-like paths snaking between buildings. The mud left on the road was now quickly drying in the rising summer sun, alternating between sticking to her sandals and floating up in tine dusty clouds.

She was later than usual for their first meeting back, and thus was taking longer strides to make up some time. Not that it mattered all the much, because she always
arrived a few minutes before the specified meeting time and today would be no

Shops and buildings around Sakura were slowly beginning to bubble to life.
Movement appeared in windows and light chatter was heard as the market place was swiftly filled. Soon, all of Konoha would be up and the day would get into full swing.

Finally, the buildings begin to thin, and the red bridge came into sight as Sakura rounded the last set of wood-paneled constructions.

Her pace slowed as her vision narrowed in on the form sitting on the far side of the wooden expanse. A grimy jacket and greasy hair were combined with the familiar Konoha Ninja band hanging from the figure's neck, to jolt Sakura's memory.

What is Naruto doing here at 7 am?

Why does he look like he was mauled by a bear?

A few moments later she stood in front of him, waiting for a reaction; but he didn't move.

Didn't look up when she asked what had happened to him.

Didn't blink when she dropped to her knees in front of him.

Didn't flinch when she grabbed him by the shoulders and began to shake him roughly.

And only mumbled softly when she started to scream his name in a slight panic to get a reaction of some kind from him.

He knew she was there but he simply didn't have the strength to reply.

"This isn't funny, Naruto! Come on; answer me, what's wrong? What happened?" Sakura demanded as she began to examine her teammate's seemingly lifeless form.

His hands were folded across his lap and his knees were pulled up tight to his chest. Glassy eyes and small scratches were visible under the sullied mass of blond hair. Naruto's cheeks were stained crimson and his breathing seemed ragged.

Sakura brushed his hair out of the way and placed a hand on his forehead, confirming what she already suspected; Naruto was running a high fever; and by the look of him, it was days old.

"…M'fine… tired..." was about all that could be perceptible from the once hyper shinobi's lips.

What's wrong with him? I've never seen him this out of it before. Concentrating chakra to her fingertips, she began to wipe away the scratches and erase the burses on his face and neck. His eyes slowly drifted shut as he mindlessly leaned into the warm touch.

I can't see him getting into a fight and getting his ass kicked this bad; he's an amazing fighter, one of the strongest. His shadow clone cancels out any chance of him being outnumbered… But he's sick… Naruto doesn't get sick! Well, I mean he can, he is human after all, but I've never seen it before… Man, he's burning up, I need to get him to the hospital soon.

"Naruto, it's me. Can you tell me what's wrong? Where does it hurt?" she cupped his face with her hands and lifted his head to look him in the eyes. He blinked for a moment, seeming to finally realize she was still talking to him. He licked his lips and answered quietly.

"…My throat hurts…."

Sakura smiled at that, "Well it's probably because you have your henti too tight silly; how about we take it off for a minute?" Even as she spoke, her fingers were already untying the, surprisingly loose knot and removing the blue and steel cover. In a flash, Narutos' hands came up to cover his throat and neck, but it was too late. He knew she had seen what he had hidden so carefully beneath the blue-clothe, steel headband. Panic flooded his eyes as he watched for his female teammates reaction.

Sakura had stopped breathing. Her words caught in her own throat at the sight that was revealed. One very large handprint circled his throat. Red, yellow and purple finger outlines reached around his neck, the fingertips meeting over his windpipe. The pressure needed to be applied to human flesh to create that class of bruising, as well as the unnatural size of the print, sent a new set of warning bells of in Sakura's mind.

He should be dead! The grip on those pressure points would crush the windpipe and cut off circulation to the brain through the arteries! But that hand… it's so big. No one in Konoha has a pair of hands that size, not counting Choji's family, and they need to use their special abilities for that.

It was the look in his eyes that finally made her move. His eyes seems almost dime and lifeless, like he was sleep walking. But the fear that reflected in them when his hands went to cover his battered throat flickered, and his pulse and breathing had quickened. Her hand began to glow a soft green as she placed them over the prints on Naruto's neck and his own protective appendages. She didn't say anything, just smiled gently and continued to push her healing power through her hands and into his hands and throat. And slowly, his hands slid from his battered neck back onto his lap, allowing her hands to touch the marred flesh of his throat. His eyes slid shut and his head tilted back to rest on the post.

"…" Naruto's lips moved to form words of thanks but his voice was lost before it got past his chapped lips.

"Don't talk. Your voice box is damaged. Just keep quiet for now and tell me later, ok?" This was serious. Naruto wasn't himself. His body was injured and sick and he was tired- and Naruto wasn't Naruto! Sakura glanced around helplessly for her sensei or teammate. Naruto needed more help then she could provide at the moment, but she couldn't leave him like this to get someone. His stillness bothered her more then she cared to admit. He just sat there quietly while she ran her hands over his face and neck healing his wounds. The Naruto she had come to know would have been blushing (and not from a fever) and stammering senseless words in his attempt to ask her out once again, or confessing his undying lover for her… again.

But this quiet Naruto… Wasn't what Sakura wanted.

"Hey, Naruto," She started, but when no reply came she said his name again louder.

After a moment, glassy eyes opened slightly to look at her. She had his attention, or at least as much as she could get of it. He was listening.

"What do you say after the mission today we get some ramen? Would that make you feel better? My treat, but I'm not paying for more then 2 bowls…" if that didn't get a positive reaction out of the blond member of her team then she didn't know what would.

His eyes watched her for a moment and didn't move. Sakura began to wonder if he had even heard her when suddenly tears started to run down his face and in a startling movement, that threw her completely off guard, he flung himself at her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and burying his face in the crook of her neck.

Sakura's primal basic instinct was to shove him away and beat the living daylights out of him, but a muffled hiccup and his trembling frame keep her still.

He was crying….

Naruto Uzumaki…

The orange ninja of Konoha…

Was trying to muffle his sobs on her shoulder.

" Naruto?"

Her heart was in her throat and her hands began to tremble ever so slightly as she lifted them up and rubbed soothing circles in his back and mumbled soft words of safety and comfort in his ear. Sakura's fingers felt through the thin material of his jacket and ghosted over the noticeable bones of his vertebra. Her view of the red bridge post and clear blue green stream began to blur suddenly before she blinked away the tears. Now was not the time to get emotional! Later, once Naruto was better and she was sure everything was fine, she'd have herself a good little cry, and then beat the blond freak to within an inch of his life before healing him and doing it again for making her worried sick.

She looked around again for Kakashi and Sasuke.

Where were they?

Something was wrong with her Naruto!


End chapter "Welcome back"