spoilers to speak of, but it might help if you're familiar with
recent manga events. Set sometime in the hypothetical future.
Sasuke is running.
It's night and he's in the forest and he thinks he's getting close to Konohagakure now, because the shapes of the trees and the avenues he's using to jump across the branches are looking distressingly familiar. He hadn't wanted to stray this close, but nobody would expect him to do it - yes, nobody would think him stupid enough to go near a village full of hundreds of ninja all eager to seek his demise, he muses with a dark mental chuckle - so he is hoping it will throw off some of the ANBU who are on his tail. At the moment he can't hear anyone approaching behind him; it doesn't necessarily mean anything yet, but he knows he's gradually gaining. He wraps his black cloak tighter about him as he bounds through the treetops, the red clouds on the hem flapping in the breeze of his swift leaps.
It's probably rather morbid that he ripped his brother's cloak off the latter's broken body instead of letting them give him his own, but Sasuke hardly cares what other people think.
After a while longer, when he hasn't heard any noise of pursuit or seen any indication of life around him for at least an hour, he drops down into a clearing and leans against a tree trunk to take a short rest. With slightly fumbling hands he reaches underneath his cloak to feel at the bandages over his chest. The blood seems to be soaking through again. He'd like to stop and rebandage himself, but he's still far too close to Konoha for comfort. He reaches back to adjust the katana slung over his shoulder, slightly jostled from all the jumping around, and just catches his breath for a moment.
A member of Akatsuki, having to stop to catch his breath. Embarrassing. They'd caught him off guard.
He still has a few moments to spare before he needs to be off again, so he takes a second to look around the clearing. Actually look, as opposed to scan for signs of enemy presence. He blinks and lets the Sharingan go, giving his chakra a brief rest, and thinks that he sort of remembers this clearing.
There's a big arrow carved on one of the trees over there. On the far side he thinks he sees one with horizontal notches all up and down the trunk. Did he come out here to train once?
He purses his lips, and decides he really is too close to Konoha.
Rising from his spot, he turns toward the tree trunk and is about to head back up it when he hears a faint hiss approaching through the air behind him. He leaps away just in time to avoid three kunai that thunk solidly into the wood about where his chest had been a moment ago. Sasuke whirls around.
A figure leaps gracefully down from the notched tree on the other side of the clearing, and draws its sword as it moves out into the moonlight. The pale glow glints off silver-white hair and an ANBU mask. One of his earlier pursuers, then - but alone? Not usually ANBU's style.
Sasuke immediately draws his own sword, dropping into a combat crouch, but the other ninja doesn't approach yet. He raises his katana in front of his face, giving Sasuke a grave salute, before rushing forward.
His speed is excellent, Sasuke notes as they clash swords, ducking a blow that would've beheaded him. He hasn't fought anyone quite this good in a long time. Though Konoha ANBU are known and feared by ordinary ninjas, normally they would not be much more than an annoyance to someone of Akatsuki caliber; Sasuke thinks this one seems to be the exception to the rule. Their katanas clang and slide against each other, making noise that's sure to bring the rest of the ANBU running if they're anywhere near. Sasuke grits his teeth in annoyance but doesn't dare put the sword away yet. Weapon versus bare hands can be a gamble, and Sasuke is old enough to know what happens when one gambles.
They spring away from each other and Sasuke makes some quick seals, shooting a wind jutsu at his opponent, who dodges up into the trees and comes down on him with sword pointed to impale. Sasuke raises his own just in time for the blow to slide off it and the other man gracefully backflips onto the ground again, much closer than before this time. They circle each other warily.
Sasuke moves in first this time, bringing up a blow from underneath that the other man blocks. Sidestep, swipe, clang, slash. They dance together there under the moonlight and Sasuke is actually enjoying himself after a little while, matching swords with someone else who knows what they're doing, but he reminds himself he doesn't really have time for this. He needs to find an opening to finish the fight quickly. One ANBU isn't a problem, but he's wounded, he's been at this all night and his chakra isn't infinite; if they all show up here again and try to take him together, they could cause him some problems.
So he thrusts out with a vicious blow the enemy has to leap back to avoid, then quickly sheathes his sword and starts making seals. The other man watches him warily, sword poised, almost seeming as if he's waiting for something.
"Well, thank you for the entertainment," he says over the chirping sound suddenly filling the clearing, directing a smirk toward the expressionless ANBU mask. Then he's rushing forward with speed no ANBU member could possibly match, one hand low to the ground, crackling with blue chakra -
And watching with disbelieving eyes as the man flashes forward with a kick to a particular spot on the underside of his arm and his katana blade appears suddenly at Sasuke's throat. The chirping fades away. Before he can recover from his astonishment his hands are wrenched forcefully behind his back.
There is only one other person in the world who knows Chidori's single weakness.
"Welcome home, Sasuke," Kakashi's voice whispers, cool and mocking, in his ear, and Sasuke knows without a doubt that he is about to die.
They stand there for a long, tense moment, and neither says a word. Sasuke waits for the cool touch of the blade across the skin of his throat, and when it doesn't come, he turns back to look at the mask next to his face uncertainly.
"What are you waiting for?" he whispers back.
A breeze passes over the treetops above them, leaves rustling.
"For you to tell me I was right," says the mask.
Sasuke looks down for a moment. Kakashi can see the faded bloodstains marring the dark cloak just as well as he can. Black doesn't show blood very well, but they're both shinobi; they know what to look for.
He fingers the Akatsuki ring hanging loosely off his hand, and thinks about the clearing. He is pretty sure he does remember training here. In fact, he thinks he remembers a time when... they trained here. He thinks he remembers them bickering a bit. He thinks the man standing behind him with a sword to his throat was sitting under one of the trees around here, reading some trashy novel and watching them lazily.
He tries not to think about them anymore.
A couple seconds later, or perhaps an eternity, he gives a slow nod, and turns to face the mask again for a moment. He thinks he can see a familiar red glint through one of the eyeslits.
"You were right," he murmurs as he looks away.
Kakashi sighs, and maybe there's something like guilt in his voice as he speaks quietly, but Sasuke doesn't know what he says or how he says it because there is pain and warmth and red and something cold piercing his flesh. And then there is black.
really is too close to Konoha.