Disclaimer: Usual applied. I don't own the characters.

Warning: They're not OOC, they're just older that's all. I just thought this would be how the characters would be like, older and more mature. (It's an excuse, I'm using it.) This is based on the manga, so I don't know what's going on in the anime and I have no clue on any filler episodes (not even the "unmask Kakashi" one).

Spoilers: If you have not finished reading up to volume 26, that's chapter 233 of the manga, you'll encounter a lot of spoilers. As for the anime, they're not up to it yet, so don't bother reading this fic to spoil the storyline for yourself.

It's been three years since Sasuke's disappearance. Now he's finally been tracked by someone from his past, someone he least expected. A showdown he did not see coming will inevitably make him face some truths he had long been avoiding. (In the end, though, he would not be the only one left untouched.)

Notice Me

by Blue Jeans

Part I - Encounter on the Road

He first noticed the tracker the night before. He wasn't sure how long the fool had been following him, but he was pretty confident that the other was ignorant of him having detected it being there. Two nights ago, he had gotten wind that his brother was spotted in a town near this particular road, but that Itachi was there a week ago. It annoyed him that he was still so behind his brother's trail, but at least now there was a trail.

Three years. Three years of hell and training. Three years under the cursed seal placed upon him and finally, Itachi's scent was caught. Uchiha Sasuke smirked darkly to himself as he quickened his pace. Three years of non-stop training and dreams of revenge, it was all coming soon, this inevitable meeting and his own destiny. But first, before all of that, he must get rid of the ninja on his tail. It had been awhile since anyone was distinctly sent for him. At first the Leaf Village had sent many Hunter-Nins on his trail, but he had evaded them all. It had been half a year since Sasuke had heard rumors that he had been declared a missing-nin and placed on the book of criminals, but he was passed caring about any of that.

Some nights, when he wasn't careful, memories of his childhood would return. Those nights were the most annoying as he had no time for childish whims. He was almost a man now, and his duties of vengeance far exceeded his need for friends and family. Such needs were weaknesses, weaknesses he could not afford...

Weaknesses that may one day be turned against him.

His tail had finally caught up to him around noon, and for theatrics, he attacked outright with shurikens to acknowledge the other's presence. "Took you awhile," he said, pausing in the middle of the deserted road. Here, no one would disturb their fight as he had led them off the main road some hours back.

"I didn't want to disappoint," a feminine voice replied, surprising him only slightly. "Sasuke-kun." His head turned, dark eyes burning with indignation at her familiar address before they widened to see who stepped out of the shadows.

"Sakura... chan?"

The pink tresses were now long again, and her mouth was in that familiar, naive grin he had always associated with her. Her emerald gaze though, was no longer that of a child's but held the determined fire of a woman, grown. She was his age, but somehow, she seemed older than the child he remembered her being or the woman he had thought she would become. "Long time no see," she teased, but her eyes remained serious and trained upon his face.

Sasuke's gaze narrowed. Her head-protector reminded him of his youth, as did her presence. Her figure was no longer boyish, but one of a developing young woman. Haruno Sakura was once his most devoted follower, and after all these years her obsession with him did not seem to have lessened. Even now he wondered what it would have been like if he had an innocent childhood like Sakura had, if he did not have to take the road of revenge and hatred that his brother had set him on those years ago. "I give you a chance to turn back now, Sakura." He finally said. "I suggest you take it and leave while you can."

Haruno Sakura's smile did not leave her face. "What do you think this is?" she inquired. "A social call?" she suggested at the expression he shot her. "If you think I'm the same silly girl as three years ago, you're kindly mistaken."

"Leave," he commanded.

She ignored him completely as she studied his tense form. "I don't think you understand," Sakura straightened and positioned herself in combat form. "I am not here because of my infatuation with you three years ago," her green eyes burned with something he could not name. "I'm here to settle a score you owe to me... Pay up, Sasuke-kun, your loan has interest." It was all the warning he got before she launched into an attack.

Her skill had increased, but he had foreseen all possible endings to their meeting before he had thrown his first shuriken. He had been prepared for her, nothing she could do would surprise him. She was not on par with his level of fighting, and she had never been. The determined look on her face had only been there once. That time, when they had been fighting during the Chunin exams and she had been determined to give her life for their survival. It no longer held the desperation she had expressed upon his leave of the Leaf, instead there was a joy in her expression.


Her fist connected with his arm where he blocked her attack, and he felt the push of her chakura slam into him forcing him in the direction of her push. After all these years, her control over chakura still far exceeded anyone he had ever met or known. Perhaps, even in comparison to Uchiha Itachi, his ever elusive brother, she might have exceeded that man in this department. Dust rose around them as he skidded to a halt. It was split seconds he had before he had to dodge her assault from behind. "Getting slow, Sasuke-kun?"

I could end this in an instance, Sasuke thought to himself. Yet, he did not. He just countered whatever she threw at him. Then, suddenly, the attacks stopped and he heard her voice in the dust rising around him. "You're not taking me seriously." Sakura did not sound in the least bit angry or miffed, and her calm observations startled him as much as her earlier appearance had. "I guess, it was only expected, your image of me from the past."

"Leave," he warned her instead.

"Still stuck on that, are we?" Sakura asked. Her voice was no longer where she once was. She really did improve, but he could end this in an instant. "You're wrong, you know? I wasn't fighting with half an effort, no more than you were blocking with half an effort." He raised a brow at her testament. "Fighting isn't my forte, it never was." Sakura admitted, "But, I'm not nearly as weak as you think I am."

Her next attack came a lot faster than her former ones, and this time, she actually got past his defenses before he pushed her away. No damage was done, but she made her point. "Leave, Sakura. For old times sake, I will let you leave. But after this point, if you should attack me again, you will die here."

He could end this fight in an instant.

"Leave?" Sakura asked. The tone of her voice was so expressive that he could almost see her smirk of confidence through the cloud of dust around them. "You make it sound so simple, Sasuke-kun. You make it sound like a choice."

Her next series of attacks all connected, much to his surprise. He had never felt her chakura level raise so much in an instant. And then, she was gone. He could not sense her at all. "Sasuke-kun's greatest ability is in his Uchiha eyes," he heard Sakura speak in the darkness of his sightlessness. "His greatest weapon is his chakura stamina, almost demon-like in its endlessness." He heard her movements and this time he attacked out-right in the direction he heard her last. "Now we fight on the same level, Sasuke-kun." Sakura said. This time her voice was so much closer to his ear than he would have calculated.

In the dark, they were equals.

Uzumaki Naruto rubbed his eyes and yawned. He blinked away the sleep as he reached to find his forehead-protector, a habit he had gotten into since he had first received it from Umuino Iruka, his instructor before his graduation from the Ninja Academy. Naruto rubbed his stomach as it growled in hunger. He glanced at the clock with a frown before his expression changed into one of fear. "Oh no!" Naruto winced. "Sakura-chan's going to have my head if I don't hurry!" Just thinking of Haruno Sakura brought a smile to Naruto's face. In the time since Uchiha Sasuke's disappearance, everything changed. Even though he was unable to keep his promise to her, Sakura's relieved face when he woke up told him that Sasuke was not the only one she was thinking about when Naruto went chasing after the lout. Still, they made their promise by the posts they first been made teammates: that they would grow strong enough to bring Sasuke back, no matter what. After all, this was their ninja way.

He was out of bed in an instant before his eyes widened a second time that day. Imbedded on his wall was a shuriken, and tied to that was a note. He opened the paper just as pounding was heard at his door. Annoyed, he walked to open his front door just as a foot landed in his face. "N-Naruto-kun!" Two voices chorused in alarm to his twitching form on the ground.

"W-What happened?" Naruto asked in a daze.

The sheepish face of Rock Lee was seen hovering over Naruto's prone form. "A-h, sorry, Naruto-kun." Lee rubbed the back of his head sheepishly as he helped his comrade up from the other's prone position on the ground. "We came in a hurry because-"

"Have you seen the note, Naruto?" Yamanaka Ino demanded from the doorway impatiently.

"Note?" Naruto asked as he shook off the after affects of Lee's kick to the head. "Aa," he glanced at the note in his hand, scanning over the details. "W-What's going on?" He demanded suddenly.

"You just woke up then, didn't you?" Ino looked deflated.

"Well, she can't be that far off!" Naruto reasoned, looking to his comrades. "Sakura-chan must have placed the shuriken there while I was sleeping!"

"Naruto," Lee looked at him seriously. "Do you know what day it is?"

"Um, Friday?" Naruto supplied cluelessly, not sure if Lee was asking him a trick question.

"No, you idiot!" Ino exclaimed. The blonde rested her hands on her hips in exasperation. "It's already Monday, Naruto! Sakura had us drugged and sleeping the entire weekend!" Naruto's eyes became as round as saucers as his mouth hung open in surprise.

"What?" Naruto exclaimed. His voice boomed so loudly that the building shook with the force of his shock and outrage.

He was over her body, physically holding her down. She had stopped struggling, and though he couldn't see her, it made no difference at this moment. She was defeated and open to any and all attacks. It was enough to show his dominance over her. No matter how hard she tried, she would never be as good as him, he wondered if she got that now. "You chose to die, Sakura."

His voice was a lot calmer than he felt. He was angry with her, so angry he would have followed through with his words if he wasn't remembering the times in the past when he could not have raised a finger against her even if he had wanted to. "Idiot," she hissed at him. "You owe this to me." Sasuke froze then, his sightless eyes narrowed as he frowned down at her.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked her softly, his voice full of deadly intent.

"When you left three years ago, that person you fought against should have been me." Sasuke laughed at this then, because it was all he could do. "Don't be a fool." she spoke his mind. "I know I was not your dearest friend nor was I even close at any level to fight you," her voice was firm and he stopped to look at her then. "You want to know why I would say such an absurd thing, but it took me three years to get the truth out of Naruto." He could feel the fury of her green gaze even though he could not see it. "You pushed me away all those times, you were so smart, Sasuke-kun. But you let Naruto near where you feared me to tread, you were afraid I would get too close. It took me three years to understand that-"

The kunai landed neatly next to her head, cutting through her pink hair and nicking her ear so that the blood stained the blade. "Shut up," he warned her through clenched teeth. "You know nothing, even to this day. Only, Naruto isn't here to protect you, little girl."

She was silent for a moment, and he wasn't sure if she was gathering her thoughts or fighting back tears. "I'm a Medic-Nin," she answered calmly at last, there was not even a quiver in her voice to betray her. "I worked really hard for the day we will become a team again. I wanted to see your face so badly at first and I was filled with a sense of hope and purpose, because back then I still loved you even though you betrayed everyone and everything I worked hard to protect... now I just want to close that chapter of my life, Sasuke-kun. I came here to end everything."

"I did not say you will walk out of this encounter alive." Sasuke answered, ignoring her later words. "I could care less what you did with your life or what you would have done. None of those things concern me in the least."

"You let me live then," Sakura's voice reached him in the darkness. "If you want to see again, you will let me live now." He was unprepared for her foresight, but then again, it was easy to underestimate Sakura - it was one of her greatest skills, if one was to look carefully.

Sasuke glared at her. "I don't need you." He said each word with increasing emphasis. He felt her breath brush against the skin of his face and when he reached to push her down, he then felt her hands on his shoulder and her kiss on his lips. It was a soft, swift moment that ended as quickly as it begun.

"I know," Sakura said as she pulled away. "You never needed anyone, Sasuke-kun." He could not see the tenderness in her gaze even as her voice stiffened with formality. "You need me now if you want to fight Uchiha Itachi. In this condition you will not even be able to defend yourself against someone of your level three years ago. Knowing your infamy," Sakura's lips quirked, "you wouldn't survive a day, blind as you are. Knowing your enemies, no one will help you with my Sharingan Sight Seal, especially since I'm the one who invented it."

Sasuke's fingers tightened against her arms, enough to hurt her. The Sakura he knew would have whimpered and complained at his treatment, but this Sakura made not a sound and tensed not a muscle. "Give me back my sight then," he commanded.

"At a price," she answered audaciously. His hand clumsily found their way around her neck and he began to squeeze.

"You are not in a position to bargain, Sakura." he reminded her.

"Neither are you," she replied through clenched teeth. Even as spots began to appear before her eyes, even though she was gambling on their past relationship and the knowledge she had gathered, Sakura was determined to see this to the end. Even if it meant her own end, Sakura had already given up everything for this moment. Sasuke just did not know this, and even if he did, knowing Sasuke, Sakura had a feeling he wouldn't understand.

His fingers finally lessened their pressure but they did not release her. "What is the price?" He inquired at last. The pure anger in his aura would have silenced her if she was not better trained.

"The truth," she whispered through sore vocals that vibrated faintly against his fingers.

"The truth," he echoed with a disparaging snare. "What do you want to know the truth of, Sakura?"

"You," she replied. "The you of three years ago."

He bared his teeth at her threateningly. "Your childish whims would be the end of you."

She glared into his unseeing gaze. "What do you think this is?" she demanded. "I'm not asking if you returned my girlish infatuations," she snarled. "I want to know the truth. Why did you leave the village? Why did you fight Naruto like you did? What did we mean to you, Sasuke? What was Team 7 to you?"

He was silent under her assault of questions. "How did you find me?" he asked instead.

Sakura only smiled at this. "Call it destiny," she replied mysteriously. At that moment, Sasuke knew, Sakura was no longer the Sakura he knew three years ago, not anymore than he was the Sasuke of three years ago. Now, perhaps it was indeed time to let go of the past. After all, the past no longer mattered, seeing as how much they had both changed. "Why... Sasuke-kun? Why did you betray us?" Her tone requested his reply to be more logical than emotional. This Sakura was not like anyone Sasuke would have imagined her to have grown up to be. She was on a completely different level than the girl he had known and protected in a past life.

"Call it destiny," he echoed her reply.

In a way, it was just another simple truth in Sasuke's mind.

continue to part 2...