Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine, sadly Sue me and you will get nothing, NOTHING!
A few things first, as of this moment chapter 230 has been released, and, because I cannot see the future (poo!), that's where I'm getting my info from. This story takes place around a year after chapter 230; so I assumed that Sasuke has left for Orochimaru's Penthouse and returned, and Sakura has lost her Sasuke complex and learnned summoning slugs, healing jutsu and super strength from Tsunade. That's my angle, congrats, now you know. Enough chatter! Let's move on to the story!
Chapter 1: The End
Even Naruto, with his beyond-basic memory, could pinpoint the exact moment when the three of them came to that conclusion. As Sakura knelt there under a frigid, overcast sky, as the other two stood over her like veterans at a memorial, her hand traced the outline of her parents names etched into a block of stone. Two months had passed since the attack that left the Team 7 with one more thing in common.
Sasuke had barely been back four months when Orochimaru attacked, coming to reclaim his "stolen property" as he put it. Orochimaru's plan went just about as well as anyone would expect. He came, he smashed, he got his ass kicked by three newly promoted chunin. The battle raged long and cruel and when the fight finally drew to a close, the victor, as Kakashi-sensei always said, was teamwork. Orochimaru fled, clinging to his life by his short, scruffy, blonde hair, taking the lives of many Konoha villagers along for the ride, including Sakura's parents.
The three of them stared blankly at the tablet in silence for a while.
Sasuke's head sank as he stared at Sakura's hunched back, cold muddy guilt clogging his arteries. If he hadn't come back, none of this would have happened. If he hadn't come back, Sakura wouldn't have had to feel the burden of loneliness.
"Sakura, Naruto." He mumbled softly. Dark clouds circled overhead like vultures, ready to piss rain on them. "I'm leaving Konoha."
"What?" Naruto exclaimed. After all the trouble they went through to bring him back...
"Don't be an idiot." Sakura whispered into the cold grave markers. "It's not your fault."
"He's going to come back for me." Sasuke turned his nose to the sky and let the wind toss his hair around. "More people are going to die because of me."
A wet drop hit his forehead protector, then his shoulder.
"Same here..." Naruto whispered absent mindedly, visions of the Akatsuki, Itachi and Kisame surfaced in his mind as the rain flattened his hair.
"Sasuke," he glared with his signature, concrete determination at the other. "If you're leaving, I'm coming with you."
Sakura stood up, pink hair plastered to the curves of her face with water.
"You two," her voice shook and she hunched against the downpour. "Are you both going to leave me alone too?" The letters of "Haruno" on gray monument in front of her caught the drizzle and twisted the waterfall as the rain caressed down the grave's face.
Sasuke grinned spitefully.
"Fine, you can come too."
"Do you really think it'll be that simple to leave?" Sakura continued. "Even if we get passed Godaime, Orochimaru can still attack the village to lure us back."
"That's true." Sasuke shivered as his clothes soaked through. From what he could see of Sakura's cheek, she smiled.
A splotch of rain hit her face and arched down the curve of her cheek. Sakura turned toward them, scraping wet hair out of her face.
"I have an idea."
The boys glanced at her uneasily.
"But we're going to have to 'die' for it."
The next day, Godaime called a meeting of Konoha's ninja, levels chuunin and up. She stood solemnly at a podium and addressed her audience.
"Shinobi of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, we have struck difficult times. This latest attack by Orochimaru has added an increasing burden upon us, even though we were victorious. Our village has been all but crushed under the weight of his snakes, our numbers have declined by 65 percent, and, if it wasn't for skill and courage of some unlikely heroes (she glanced at Naruto for a moment) we might not have been so fortunate. This is the second of such attacks in the last year and a half. If this continues, Konoha will fall."
A shaken murmur arose from the crowd.
"For this reason, we cannot afford to sit quietly. For the last two months, our ANBU teams have been scouting the Fire/Sound border, and we have finally come across Orochimaru's base of operations. Our aim is simple. While Orochimaru is recovering from his injuries, we step in and take him out. I will not lie to you; this is a one way trip, but a success will mean the end of a heartless regime that threatens to collapse our country. Who amongst you is willing to accept this challenge?" Almost before the sentence completed, Naruto was out of his seat.
"Sit down Naruto, you dumb-ass." The Hokage berated, "Didn't you hear me? This mission is suicide. Stop playing the damn hero."
"Shut up, you stupid old hag! I don't give a damn if the mission's a suicide. I have every right to accept it if I wanna!"
"What did you just call me, brat!? I don't care that you're a ninja of this village; you're not even old enough to drink! I'm not sticking you in a team to go die."
"You don't need to stick me in a damn team! I have my own team!"
"That's right." A new voice echoed throughout the hall. Sasuke and Sakura both stood up from their seats in various parts of the auditorium. "We're going too."
A chorus of voices broke out in protest, but one voice stood out from the rest and made the others shut up.
"Absolutely not!" Kakashi shot up from the crowd, fuming. "Do you three honestly think I'm going to let you kill yourselves-?"
"Shut up, Kakashi-sensei, this doesn't concern you." Naruto threw a cold-killer glare down the stands at his teacher, letting Sasuke finish his sentence.
"This matter was decided long before this meeting."
"What?" Godaime cried confused.
"It's our fault that Orochimaru came here in the first place and it's our fault that he got away." Sakura spoke softly. "This mission couldn't have come at a better time, because to be honest, we were planning on leaving anyway. Please, Hokage-sama."
"Forget that, we're going whether she wants us to or not!" Naruto bellowed.
Confronted by their decision, and three large pairs of determined eyes, Godaime had no choice but to accept them for the mission.
"Then I'm going too." Kakashi announced proudly.
"No." Sasuke put out his teacher's proposal like a cheap cigarette. "As you've heard, Konoha lost 65 percent of its force. You're needed here." Sasuke flashed a rare smile (and most of the crowd swooned.) "Don't worry. We can take care of Orochimaru."
With its players decided, the conference cleared, leaving a bad after taste in the mouth of the Konohakagure.
Many people came to see Team 7 off, mainly friends, admirers and the Hokage, who approached Naruto as he turned sadly away from Iruka-sensei. As Ino and Sakura screamed at each other and as Sasuke drown in a pile of farewell presents from fans, Naruto and his former teacher had done nothing, just stood there and looked eye to eye, both in agreement that no words would ever make the moment okay. What do you say before you die? The important things. But what is "important"? Neither knew the answer.
"Naruto." The Hokage held out her hand. "The necklace. I want it back." Her eyes were stern and serious, a look that didn't fit her at all.
"Hell no. I won this fair and square. If you want it back, rip it off my cold, dead corpse."
The three of them turned their backs to the village they were born and raised in and just before they started off, Naruto raised his arm to the side and extended his thumb upward.
"See you later, Iruka-sensei."
"Yeah, see you."
Happy hour hit its prime time at a small bar deep in the village, except that few people looked happy. The entire place reeked of broken promises and regrets, as Kakashi pointed out to Jiraiya. The two sat at the bar, trying to think of other things besides Team 7, but, in the end, there was nothing else to talk about.
"Where did I go wrong?" Kakashi squeeze a bottle of sake. It was fresh, unopened; it seemed so pointless to drink when he could just tighten his fist around it, again and again.
"Don't do that." Jiraiya lectured, but made no attempt to stop him; the man looked drunk enough already and he hadn't even taken a swig. "You're going to break it."
"Why does everyone close to me disappear?" Kakashi whispered.
"Blaming yourself isn't going to help." Jiraiya sipped his sake peaceably. "Trust me, I know."
"Of course it is, but it's not the truth. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. I should've gotten Naruto to the academy faster. I should've killed Orochimaru while I had the chance." Jiraiya looked down at Kakashi, who was still squeezing the bottle, then at the ceiling.
"I did the same thing when Yondaime died, blaming myself, 'Why wasn't I there?', 'Where did it all go wrong?' because it was easier than admitting the truth. Kakashi, the truth is there is no one to blame. Stuff happens because stuff happens. People die because people die."
"They're not dead yet."
"Right, Tsunade said it would take them three days to get there and set up the explosives. That leaves us what?"
"12 minutes." Kakashi squeezed the bottle tighter.
Somewhere to the northeast, along the Fire/Sound border, a structure bloomed with the ferocity of a demon. The explosion smothered the inconspicuous building and, miles away, Kakashi's sake bottle shattered.
Author's Notes: Thank you all for reading my first fanfic ever! It was sort of rushed, I know, but I had to get Team 7 out as quickly as possible. Other chapters will be longer and more boring, trust me.
If there is something you don't like about it,the format, the style, etc. please tell me. I won't take it personally, I swear.
Please respond, should I continue this? I have a feeling that this is going to be a long story, and if it's crap then I don't want to waste my time, and your time, writing it all out. Should I keep going?
P.S. This document editor sux.