Disclaimer: For those who do not know the drill, 'Naruto' is owned by Masashi Kishimoto.  All related characters, events and situations, yeah, you get the drill.

Author Notes: It always slightly bothered me that The Uchiha Restoration never mentioned how Sasuke freed himself from Orochimaru.  There are some vague undertones that prevent this from being a prelude, but all the same, I needed to write something of the extent.  (As far as canon goes, I'm a bit concerned that he won't live to see the end of the series, but being that I'm a fan of Sasuke, I won't write about that.)

Things That Cannot Be Fought

The end came when he saw the blood. 

Five against three.

The five, young ninja who sough Orochimaru.  They were powerful and talented, but they were the sort for whom the power and talent they possessed were not enough.  He could give them more.  He tore them from their homes and duties with the promise of more power, more techniques.  What he asked in return, they were willing to give.  What they would give him had they never been cursed with his seal was another matter entirely and one none of them ever cared to dwell on.  They knew where their loyalties lay. 

The three, an incomplete team.  Being incomplete, they were not a true team any longer and had not been for some months.  That they happened to stumble upon each other at this moment, on this day was a coincidence and nothing more.  They all had their own concerns in the unstable world their little village had become.  At the heart of their struggles was a need to protect one another, but the surrounding missions and training kept them separated.

One of the three faced one of the five and fought.  They had fought each other before, but this time both suspected it would be the last time they did so.  Only the winners of this accidental sortie would walk away alive.

One was fueled by hatred, a blind and all encompassing hatred that he would throw upon anyone, not caring who it wounded, who it killed.  He was quite sure it would be the end of his foolish former teammate.  Once upon a time, he had hated that boy for who he was.  Cheerful, confidant, but weak.  Somehow, his eyes held more promise than a prestigious genius.  Oh, how the genius hated him.  And yet, for whatever reason, true strength, bravado, he didn't know, in one moment, the genius changed and loved the other dearly.  Would give his life without a thought so that his teammate could go on.

But to this boy's mind, twisted and hate fueled that it was, it was the worst thing to ever happen to him.  To look at someone like an equal, like a friend, like a brother—it couldn't be done.  It would change him and stand in his way.

Uchiha Sasuke was actually rather pleased with the strength-seeking person that he was.

His opponent was fueled by betrayal.  He lived his life alone until three others had been assigned to his side.  It was the happiest he'd ever been.  Those three accepted him and stood by him and soon others started to accept him as well.  He wasn't a lone boy with a distant dream anymore.  He had a team and a mentor, THREE!, and so many friends.  That one walked away was enough to shatter everything.

So Uzumaki Naruto fought Uchiha Sasuke with all his might.

Sasuke led a team of four servants of Orochimaru.  Currently, that team was occupied in a four against one battle with Hatake Kakashi.  They were greatly surprised that they were losing.  All the power they possessed should have ended this battle before it begun, they thought.  Had their leader glanced away from his fight with Naruto to notice his new team's plight, he would have not been surprised.

At all.

And Kakashi hadn't even unveiled his Sharingan.  (Sasuke, of course, had gone into this battle with red eyes.)

In the midst of flailing limbs and thrown shuriken, one of the eight was still unoccupied.  Despite her near-perfect chakra control and better brain, Haruno Sakura was not exactly what one would call skilled at fighting.  This battle was far out of her league and staying out of it was her only hope to not become a hindrance to Naruto or Kakashi.  Sasuke as her enemy did little to improve her fighting ability.

She was unfortunately not below the radar for Sasuke's Sound Nin horde.  One of those fighting her mentor had managed to slip away from Kakashi and attack the prepared, yet woefully inadequate kunoichi.

She screamed.

She bled.

Naruto recognized the sound of her voice, and though still locked in battle with Sasuke, was able to scream "Sakura-chan!" and redouble his efforts.  The cry of his opponent did what the cry of the girl had not; guide Sasuke's eyes to her.  

The end came when he saw the blood. 

Black swirls had dominated his body for most of the fight, but suddenly there were more.  His skin was barely visible between the marks, the whites of his eyes, not at all.

Before Naruto could fully comprehend that Sasuke had abandoned him again, the four Sound Nin were dead.  He stared, red chakra, adrenaline and disbelief making him shake.  Kakashi seemed more or less unphased as he surveyed the bodies.  They had been teenagers who wandered down a wrong path, but had probably still held salvageable hearts.  Their deaths had been hasty and sloppy.  He sorely doubted any of them saw what hit them.

Sakura, her visage bloody and tear-streaked, trembled as she stared up from a crouch at the boy who did this.  Though he said nothing, her own words echoed in her ears.

I'd kill for you!

The black swirls faded as he collapsed and she could do nothing but catch him.