Edit June 27th, 2007: Making a few minor corrections in the storyline to make it flow better.

Please note that this story was started well before the time-jump got too deep in. In this, apparently Sasuke came back at some point and Sakura never fought Sasori. There are a lot of plotholes concerning where this story fits in, and I may just take it down and start over to make up for that. See latest chapter for details.

I Just Wanted To...


I just wanted to be strong...

Her right leg throbbed with immense pain. She ran with a desperate limp, using every ounce of her willpower to keep herself from collapsing on the ground. Her chakra was near-spent, saving the miniscule amount for a dire emergency and to keep her conscious. Blood was smeared across her face, still flowing from the raw cuts on her forehead and cheeks. Her clothes were both soiled and torn, vaguely resembling her once spotless uniform. Her weapons were down to nearly zip, consisting only two basic kunai and one standard shuriken. Her vision was blurred; the poison taking its effect. To match the pain in her leg, her left arm was nearly numb, the two thin needles sticking out of it being the source of the poison.

To say she was in over her head would be the understatement of the century.

Sakura knew not where her teammates were. She'd lost sight of Naruto first, when he was catapulted out of the fighting area by a strong ninjutsu attack. Eventually, she found herself without allies and in the enemy's hands.

Running was her only option.

Why was she, a chuunin, put on a mission of this caliber? Her teammates were all Jounin. Was it for old times' sake? Even so... this mission was above her level. And she had a feeling everyone knew that.

She knew she was weak. Her strength did not lie in her abilities but only in her intelligence. And intelligence is worthless when fear overruns your rational thinking.

She wanted to call out for her sensei, for Sasuke, for Naruto, for anyone to help her. But she knew no one would come. The growing doubt inside her reminded her that the only people on her trail were that of the enemy.

Although most of her reasoning had been thrown out for the pure instinct to run like hell in order to survive, she was able to deduct that the light she was approaching meant she was getting close to the edge of the forest.

Normally, this would be a good thing. But for Sakura, it was not.

She approached the last few trees and her eyes widened as she quickly shifted her body to skid to a stop. Pain erupted from her injured leg as she bit back a cry. Losing her balance, she tumbled forward and over the cliff's edge.

She reached out to grab the ledge, but her fingers slipped through the blades of grass and could not grasp a firm hold on the ground. With a shrill scream, she fell down the cliff side, her body roughly tumbling down the slope until it came to a stop in the ravine below.

Naruto's head jerked up at the familiar feminine scream echoing from a distance. His entire body shuddered with fear of what he didn't want to admit. He attempted to get up to search for Sakura, but the blinding pain forced him to fall back onto his side, where he passed out from blood-loss.

When he awoke, he was in a bed not of his own. It took mere seconds to recognize the standard hospital room. In the bed next to him, the curtain pulled back, Sasuke laid asleep, breath steady, but unconscious.

In the chair between them, sat Kakashi, one arm bandaged and stitches on his face and probably other parts of his body. He looked tired, pale, and most of all, grave.

Naruto frowned. "Ano sa... Ano sa...Kakashi-sensei...?"

The Copy Ninja looked up to Naruto, weary eyes seeming slightly relieved at seeing the young man awake. "Naruto."

The blond squirmed a bit until he was in a seated position, despite protests from his body. "Did we get 'em?"

Kakashi almost let out a snort at the boy's question. However another question broke the silence before Kakashi could answer. "Where's Sakura-chan?"

He saw his sensei freeze and his eyes widened. "Kakashi-sensei? Sakura-chan's OK, right? Right???"

In the other bed, Sasuke opened his eyes, listening to the one-sided conversation. He didn't move to give away his consciousness, but merely waited for his former sensei to answer.

Kakashi finally met Naruto's eyes, and the first time probably ever, the blond saw such sadness in them he couldn't begin to describe.

"She wasn't found...It's been three days and she's been declared MIA."

Missing in action... Naruto's eyes lost their liveliness as he stared. To think that his best female friend was gone...

Sasuke closed his eyes, refusing to let any tears fall. He should have protected her. He owed it to her. And he had failed. And she was most likely lost to them forever.

And there was mourning for many people in the village of Konohagakure.

But what they didn't know was...

...Fate had a different plan for Haruno Sakura. One other than her death.

To Be Continued…

A little quick reference for the few Japanese terms and such used here.

Ano sa: Hey

-chan: Suffix used to show closeness to a friend, family member or lover. Often used toward children as well.

Sensei: Teacher/Instructor.

Ano sa: It basically translates to "Hey". Naruto uses it a lot in the anime. Like his is usage of "dattebayo".

MIA: Missing in Action. Military term.

Criticism and comments appreciated. If you're gonna flame me, at least make yourself intelligent sounding. Otherwise you're just insulting us both. :D