300th Puppet

By: roterritter

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Rating: M for disturbing content!

Spoilers: Anything before chapter 273 of the manga.

Summary: Naruto faces the consequence of leaving Sakura behind as he faces Sasori's 300th puppet. One-Shot.

A/N: This is darker than I normally write. It is a short one-shot that I managed to write during my writer's block for my stories. It's inspired by the current fight in the manga and is a "what if" in the case that Sakura lost. Sakura is one of my favorite characters and Sasori is a creepy villain (he makes human puppets...he's a freak) who puts her future at risk. While I doubt Kishimoto goes this path, it is a possible outcome, one that Naruto would regret because he separated the team. If anyone is too disturbed by this, well I got a nice fluffy NaruSaku one-shot in the works that should make up for it.

Naruto ran down a long path, not paying any attention to the summer sun that bore down on him or the song of the cicadas that had reached an otherworldly roar. His path was set and his destination was near.

He gritted his teeth in anger. Anger at everything around him and most of all anger at himself, but Kyuubi's red chakra kept him going as if flowed through him. He focused his attention on one thing.

Pink hair that used to flow in the wind when it was long, but just as attractive now it was short. Beautiful green eyes, a wide forehead that was perfect to kiss, and a fighting spirit that wanted to be acknowledged just like him.

A dark figure stood in the horizon of the road, a dark blot amid the natural greens and browns around him. At the speed he was going, Naruto would reach him soon. He watched the figure carefully, judging his height and shape. As soon as he made out the shapes of red clouds on the dark figure, his feet surged forward even faster.

"It appears the hunter has become the hunted. How amusing, we meet again Naruto-kun," said a member of the Akatsuki. This one was slender with an effeminate face and lazy looking eyes.

"Eh, I don't know you!" Naruto yelled in frustration. It was another Akatsuki, but not the one he was seeking. He would have to fight this one in order to move on and keep looking. He had to find the one that took her. "I'm looking for Sasori, the Akatsuki who looks like a slug and has an ugly face!"

The Akatsuki in front of him smirked.

"I assure you, I am Sasori. What you describe was my Hiruko puppet, until that bitch you were with destroyed it."

"Where is she! Where's Sakura-chan!"

"Oh, is she why you've followed me this entire time?" asked Sasori with an amused tone. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised since you blindly cased after Diedara for a dead body."

The anger at himself rose again. It was evident in Naruto's expression and eyes. It was ironic that he had left Sakura to her fate by trying to save Gaara when years ago he fought so hard to save her by fighting Gaara.

He had run off without thinking, only feeling Kyuubi's rage. Diedara had even warned them that Sasori was even stronger, but Kakashi had stayed, tying to save Naruto from his blind rage and from himself. Yet, he had left Sakura and the old woman with Akatsuki named Sasori. When they returned there was nothing there but broken puppets.

He barely had time to get to know her again. After two and half years, so much changed and yet so much hadn't. He was slowly discovering the ways she had grown up, the things she wanted him to notice when they first saw each other again on the streets of Konoha.

Naruto spoke clearly in a low threatening voice, "This is the part where you tell me if I give myself up you'll release Sakura unharmed." He was sure that is why Sakura had been taken. To get to him, like how they used the Sand Village against Gaara.

Sasori started laughing, a very amused yet evil sound that chilled Naruto to the bone. "You believe I took her as a hostage? No, sorry, I don't work that way." His smirk wider and the intensity in his eyes grew suddenly as he stared at Naruto.

"If you've done anything to harm her I'll kill you!"

"I have no doubt you would try to kill me anyway. After all, I'm an Akatsuki and you're a Jinchuuriki, so it's a hollow threat. It is our purpose to fight each other."

Sasori withdrew a scroll from somewhere underneath his Akatsuki coat and held out for Naruto to view. The end was partially unwound so Naruto only caught a glimpse of the character, perhaps the puppet's name. "This is the newest part of my collection, it is my 300th creation and this will be the first time I use it in battle. I spent special attention to conserve its beauty. I hope you like it."

A cloud of smoke burst from the scroll, Naruto could only set himself in a defensive stance to prepare for what ever the scroll summoned.

Through the time he had spent tracking Sasori he had learned a few things, such as Sasori was a puppet master of a caliber far beyond even Kankurou. He expected a puppet, but he never expected this.

The smoke slowly cleared to reveal a slender black shape in a long black coat with a black fur collar, but Naruto could see the first hint of pink.

"I was inspired by Grandma's puppetry when I fought her," Sasori explained with a smug voice. Naruto still wasn't sure what he was seeing, but he couldn't move his eyes and his stomach started to feel like it fell to his feet. "While being controlled by a puppet master, she appeared so nimble and the strength to get past many of my traps. She was already a living puppet in a way before I had even touched her. She even destroyed my favorite puppet, so it is only right that she replace him."

"W-What is this?" Naruto spoke, his voice quivered with growing fear. "Why did you make a puppet to look like her?"

Pink hair flowed in the wind, each strand perfectly placed in the hairstyle he remembered. Beautiful green eyes stared at him, now with coldness behind them, and a forehead wide enough to kiss was now made of cherry wood that had a luster of fresh polish and care. The puppet looked like Sakura.

"The puppet is her," said Sasori in a smug, satisfied voice. He was amused as he watched Naruto's expression fall apart into horror. "First I ripped out the guts, then peeled off the skin, and cleaned up all the blood. I treated the wood so it won't rot, and combined the puppet with all sorts of traps. I went through extra care to capture her beauty so it endures years and years."

"Y-you did this to her…you defiled her after you…killed her?"

"Killed her? I didn't say that, weren't you listening? I didn't say I killed her, she was very much alive when I did it. She still is in a way. She is now a human puppet, something that only I can create."

Naruto was barely listening and he looked at the puppet in horror. The food he ate just a while ago quickly rose up and out of his stomach. He bent over, taking his eyes off the puppet and the puppet master while he threw up. The taste of ramen burned in the back of his throat.

"Of course, you already know my puppet's name…Sakura."

Naruto looked up, not wanting to believe what Sasori said, but it was Sakura…at least what was left of her. The wooden face was perfectly molded to match the curves of Sakura's face and the eyes were still the same as her original eye color even if they stared at him with a certain lifelessness, yet frozen beauty. There was something disturbing about her puppet smile on her wooden lips, it looked the same as her warm smile that she had given him many times, yet now on a puppet mouth.

"Sakura-chan," he said weakly with tears in his eyes.

His anger at himself had boiled over by now. It was his fault that something this happened to her. Whether she had loved him or not, he had loved her and this was unbearable.

Blue chakra threads formed between Sasori's fingers and the Sakura puppet. The puppet began to move with loud clicks and whirs. Naruto watched as Sakura started running toward him, he was caught in indecision about how to attack or defend against the remains of his friend.

The puppet formed a fist and prepared to punch. Her fist getting closer to him…

Her hand laid on his cheek after breaking Itachi's genjutsu, but it stayed there longer than it needed to be. It was a pleasant feeling in contrast to the nightmare she woke him up from.

Naruto managed to dodge the attack, but the ground underneath his feat shattered under the force of her punch.

"How can she still be so strong," he muttered to himself, but Sasori overheard.

"A human puppet allows me to use the chakra stored inside them and the techniques and abilities they used when they lived. She used the freakish strength to destroy my favorite living puppet, so in return I did my best to conserve her ability."

Naruto moved further out of the way, cautious of whatever abilities the Sakura puppet might have.

"A human puppet," Naruto thought. "Does that mean Sakura's still alive? How can I fight her, hurt her after everything he's done, but if she's alive is there any hope that she can be restored? Medical ninjutsu can rebuild flesh and organs. Maybe Tsunade can do something to save her. It may not be possible, but I won't know unless I capture Sakura and defeat Sasori!"

It was a near impossible idea, but the only thing that gave him hope. The only thing that didn't leave him hating himself to the point he couldn't fight.

Despite his movement, the puppet quickly followed. His he formed a Rasengan in his hand, almost by instinct, but the second he began to thrust he stopped.

When he first met her when they were little kids, she was crying alone, just he used to. At the time, he finally decided to stop, but while watching the girl, he decided he never wanted to see her cry again, even if it cost him his happiness. Years later he made a promise to her to stop her from crying, but how could he fulfill that promise now?

"I can't…" he whispered, staring into the puppet's green eyes, "I can't hurt her any more than what he has already done."

The puppet had no such problems.

The puppet's mouth opened and a spread of senbon needles shot out, several of them hitting him in the chest and legs. He jerked and stumbled away.

"Careful," Sasori smirked. "Those are poisonous."

His limbs felt numb and his chest hurt, but before he could do anything, he felt the Sakura puppet's fist smash into his face with enough force to send him flying and eventually crashing into the dirt ground, his soft flesh breaking hard soil.

She fought so hard, learned so much, only to protect those important to her. It wasn't fair that she was turned into this because of him, because people were looking for him, because he left her.

He managed to pull himself up from the crater he made, puking up blood as he did.

"I only need you alive," said Sasori with an evil look as he walked behind the Sakura puppet and placed a hand around the puppet that was entirely too intimate looking. "I can smash you into a pulp and use your own Sakura-chan to drag you to the others. We'll have your Kyuubi soon enough."

"Let…go…of…her," Naruto spoke in a tone that hinted at barely controlled rage. Red chakra poured from his wounds, healing the cuts, the internal bleeding, and even the damaged caused by the poison inside of him. He felt his nails twist into claws and his teeth lengthen into fangs. His eyes became bloodshot and as red as the red rage that filled him.

"Kyuubi, whatever it takes, whatever you want, give me the power to kill him."

The unlimited red chakra spilled out, like a raging river out of a broken dam, wiping out everything in his path, including himself.

"Sakura!" Naruto woke up in a cold sweat. Only the sound of night was around him and his opponents no longer there. It had only been a nightmare.

It was night and he was sleeping on cold ground with only a blanket around him, but it was now shredded into strips and threads. His fingers were still poking through on of the many holes even though the claws had came and gone in his sleep.

Naruto sat up and glanced around the camp. There was a fire that was almost out and several people sleeping near it. He recognized Gai-sensei's team, but one particular sent him scrambling to his feet.

He jumped up, walked over, and crouched by a girl covered in bandages. It was Sakura and she wasn't a puppet, but her face contorted slightly from pain, even in her sleep. She was exhausted from her ordeal, but before she fell asleep, she managed to tell them everything about Sasori, including the threats to turn her into puppet, which managed to work into Naruto's nightmare.

He sighed in deep relief and held her hand. Her soft, warm hand. Sakura was safe, but not for anything that he had done. She saved herself and used skills and intelligence far beyond any Chuunin. By using teamwork with the old woman she survived, but no thanks to him.

"Be careful not to wake her," whispered Kakashi. Naruto turned and saw his teacher's single uncovered eye watching him. There was pride in his voice when he spoke, "She deserves her rest."

"Sensei, I abandoned a friend…that makes me worse than trash right?"

Naruto expected harsh words that would hit him like a sword's edge, instead Kakashi walked over and placed a hand on Naruto's head and ruffled his hair in a friendly gesture.

"You made the mistake of separating the group and not listening to me, but you did so to get back your friend, for that much I can't blame you. However, in doing so you placed a teammate who is also your friend in greater danger. For that I'm disappointed, but I'm sure you will make it up next time. Right?"

"Yes," he managed past his tears. His teacher was disappointed, Sakura was injured, and Gaara was still dead. He swore to himself to do better next time.

Author's Note: Okay, I made it a nightmare and ended it short. I couldn't stomach it much longer.

I will stress again, next to Naruto, Sakura's my favorite character. I've been thrilled with her performance against Sasori so far and cross my fingers that Kishimoto won't decide to do something disturbing, but this what if situation got into my head and wanted to be written.

I left in Sasori's description of how he creates a human puppet from the manga. It is rather horrifying to hear, especially in the context of a character we already know. But I thought it made it more horrifying for Naruto to hear instead of some vague description. Plus its more gut wrenching, but Sakura is really okay in the story and Kishimoto better kill of Sasori quickly in a painful manner for being such an evil freak.

Version 1.0

1.0: Original