For Someone Important... Three years have passed since Uchiha Sasuke's betrayal of Konoha. But now that he has mysteriously returned to his old home, what awaits him and his companions as they try to mend what has been broken? Sasuke+Sakura, Neji+Tenten, Naruto+Hinata, Shikamaru+Ino, and Kakashi+Kurenai.

---------- Prologue ----------

Three years. Three long, long years had passed since that fateful night. The night that Uchiha Sasuke had turned his back on everyone and everything, the night he had given up his friends, his home, and his very life to seek power. Power that most likely would not even be enough to kill the man he had sworn vengeance against; the one he was seeking power to eliminate -- his own brother, Uchiha Itachi.

Three years since he had left his previous life behind...

Still, feelings would always be feelings and feelings would always get in the way. And that would always remain a prominent obstacle for a shinobi -- because, to some, feelings would always be considered a hindrance to ability. Because, to some, feelings would always be considered a weakness.

Because he would always possess those feelings.

No matter how hard he tried to push them out, they were there. The feelings he still had and would always have for his home, his friends -- for Kakashi, for Naruto, and for Sakura. The feelings he had pushed back into the farthest reaches of his mind, his thoughts regarding his life in Konoha more than thirty-six months ago, the feelings he had been unable to erase.

They were feelings he never would be able to erase.

Even after his encounter with Naruto, Sakura, Kakashi's replacement, and his own replacement almost six months ago. The moment he realized they were there, the minute he looked at them, he had felt something -- almost like the tiniest pang of guilt, somewhere inside himself. He had almost regretted his chosen path, and now he could only wonder if he truly had taken the best road to his ambition...

The best road to his dream.

---------- Chapter 01: Home ----------

It was dark out; the sun had already hid itself behind the distant hills. The few shreds of its warm light remaining had sheltered away for the night, leaving only the brilliance of the moon and stars up above as guidance for those who would be unable to see through the thick curtain of black called nighttime.

Alone, and walking toward the gates to the village he once called home, Uchiha Sasuke's obsidian eyes narrowed slightly to clear that persistent blur that had clouded them, not willing to give up just yet. Blood soaked noticibly through his black attire and he seemed to be having difficulty staying on his feet.

Hollowed breaths bellowed up from his dry throat to escape through parched lips that were partially tinted red. His body was giving out; he couldn't stay awake much longer. It had been hard, so hard he could barely count the ways, but he had managed to get away from the Oto. Itachi wasn't dead yet, and for that, Sasuke wasn't going to let his body be taken over now. Orochimaru should have known that, if he truly knew as much about the avenger as he claimed to.

It hurt, deep inside everything hurt -- not just the wounds he had sustained in his struggle with the snake Sannin and his minions. He had promised himself that he wouldn't return to Konohagakure, at least not until he had fulfilled his objective. It hadn't even really been intentional; the only place he really knew was Konoha, and for that reason his feet seemed to have guided him back of their own accord.

He had first betrayed Konoha, then he had betrayed his only chance to achieve the Mangekyou Sharingan by sparing Naruto, and now he was betraying himself, his will. In a sense, hr was going back on his word, something that he would probably never forgive himself for. He was about to look straight into the eyes of that which he had betrayed. They had no reason to welcome him back; in fact, this foolishness was most likely nothing more than suicide.

He didn't deserve to be forgiven, he didn't deserve to be welcomed back into Konoha... And he knew that it would be wrong to expect such a reaction. But still, he had to keep going, he couldn't stop now...

Sasuke was growing increasingly unaware of the world around him, sound whistled by his ears only barely and his eyes were going horribly out of focus, blearing and threatening to stop seeing at all. Maybe he wouldn't even make it... No, he would make it. He had to make it. He wouldn't give up. He wouldn't surrender so easily. At least, he had learned that much from Konoha.

Reaching the village boundaries, he stared up at the partially opened gates, his right hand shakily rising toward it. It was then that his knees buckled under him and soon after they connected with the cool earth below. Sasuke gritted his teeth, his mind fading in and out of consciousness as he tried to push himself closer. The pain from the stab wound he had suffered in his right side started to throb again worse this time, and he coughed as his body collapsed forward just inside the gate...

He was home.

-----

The gentle sound of the door slipping carefully open, the fresh floral scent of lilies, and an annoyingly tight and painfully burning sensation around his midsection was enough to sneakily flood Sasuke's mind with consciousness, breathing what seemed like new life into him and returning him to the land of the living...

But where was he?

Slowly, very slowly, Sasuke's ebony eyes fluttered open and shuttered when the allowed light filtered into his somewhat weak vision from the purely white room's only window. Silently, he trailed his eyes around the room's interior, but he stopped on a particular person who was sitting in the chair beside his bed. The room may have been practically empty, but in his eyes, it was all too crowded.

Haruno Sakura was wearing a small smile on her face as she carefully slipped the lilies she had brought for her former teammate into the ceramic structure of a rose colored vase that had been sitting harmlessly on the stand to Sasuke's right. As soon as the emerald eyed kunoichi was finished, she quickly noticed that the only other occupant of the room was very much awake and staring at her...

"Sasuke-kun," she acknowledged after brushing a few strands of her cherry blossom colored hair behind one of her ears; Sasuke forcefully averted his eyes to the ceiling, not wanting to meet her gaze. It sounded strangely refreshing to hear her call him by that name, it caused something to elate inside of him -- his heart, which seemed to have frozen over those three years seemed to resume beating.

It was as if something had been missing from his life, something that was vital to his very existence; perhaps it was something about Konoha, or perhaps it was something about Sakura. Still, it was hard -- much too hard to even look at her in the eye. He knew all too well that forgiveness was too much for him to expect this time.

Tiredness soon enough worked its way through his still injured body as he slowly rose up into a sitting position, draping his right arm across his midsection where he could clearly feel the pressure of bandages. They had apparently found him at the entrance of the village and treated his wounds.

"Hn." How typical. Maybe he was more like the old Sasuke now than the cold hearted one they had encountered more recently; that glimmer of hope alone was a relief to Sakura who wanted to break into a happy laughter at the mere sound of that ever so familiar dismissiveness. He was still her Sasuke-kun, no matter what. And, she concluded, no matter what he did to try and change that, he always would be.

However, Sakura's smile faded into a frown as she raised her left hand to wipe away the small amount of moisture that had gathered around the rims of her eyes. While happy to see him again after those six months, she couldn't stop that nagging feeling in her heart. It hurt, looking at him seemed to resurrect the pain from the night he'd left, as well as the pain she'd felt when he had elluded their grasp more recently.

This wasn't the first time she had remembered those heart wrenching events by any means, but it was one of the hardest. This was the day of his return after all. He was finally back after all of the pain, all of the loneliness, all of the hard training she and Naruto had both endured.

And now she would fight if need be to keep him from leaving ever again.

A perturbing silence settled into the room next, neither of its occupants truly knowing what to say. There had been so much Sakura had meant to say to Sasuke when she seen him again, there had been many things she wanted to tell him. She wanted to tell him that all had been forgiven, but she couldn't seem to form the words. She wasn't even sure if he would care about that or not, he was Uchiha Sasuke after all -- but still, she wanted him to know. And in her heart she wouldn't be all right until she was certain that he knew the truth.

On Sasuke's part, this was awkward for more reasons than one; he wanted to apologize yet he didn't, he wanted to run away but he couldn't, he wanted things to be different but he knew they weren't. He hated this silence; not knowing what Sakura was thinking was beginning to bug him more than it ever had in the past.

What he wanted... was her forgiveness. Something he knew he may never truly receive. Something he may never be able to earn again...

The quiet sanctity of the hospital room was abruptly shattered when the door was flung open, revealing a familiar blond haired boy who's cerulean eyes immediately fixated on the bedridden form of his best friend and rival. Sakura jerked her head around to see the third member of Team 7, as Sasuke turned his eyes only briefly to Naruto before averting them again.

Naruto wasn't certain what to say. On one hand, he was happy that Sasuke was back and he was perhaps even happier for Sakura because he knew she must've been overjoyed. On the other hand, he wasn't really sure how to react. Before, he'd had half a mind to beat the living hell out of the raven haired Uchiha boy(or at least try) and give him one heck of a talking too. But, now, he wasn't really sure what to do. In the condition Sasuke was in, there was no way he could attack him. So, typically enough for Naruto, he spoke the words that were probably the most obvious...

"S--Sasuke-teme, y--you're... you're back!"

It was oh so obvious, but so true. The significance of those words was a lot greater than one might realize at first, and it caused a strange feeling to pool in Sasuke's stomach. He was back, no matter how many times he repeated those words in his mind, it seemed fresh every time. He was back, he was actually back. Something about it seemed strangely surreal, but it was a feeling that threatened to force a smirk onto his mostly expressionless face.

"Dobe." Sasuke regarded, and Sakura couldn't contain the smile that formed on her lips; it was just like the changes that had occurred had been on a much smaller scale, it was like the three of them were still in Team 7 together. That was Sakura's dearest wish, but somewhere deep inside she also knew that things could never completely return to normal.

Still, she could hope for things to be as close as possible.

"Naruto..." Sakura murmured, drawing the loudmouthed boy's attention. He shifted his eyes from Sasuke to her, silently asking what was up. Sakura nibbled lightly on the inside of her bottom lip as her hands subconsciously clenched against her skirt. "I'm... sorry to ask this, but... can you leave Sasuke-kun and myself alone for a little while longer?" she asked carefully. Naruto waited a second before nodding affirmatively. Sasuke secretly noted this exchange; it seemed the immature boy he'd known before, though still essentially the same person, had matured at least a little as well.

This was, after all, the first time he had seen them in a nonviolent situation.

"All right, Sakura-chan; but, I want my chance to talk to Sasuke later," he replied and Sakura only nodded in agreement causing Naruto to slip back out the door before closing it a bit more quietly behind him. Sakura sighed lowly to try and relieve a bit of the tension that had rose to the air, her shoulders shaking slightly as she lowered her head a bit so her bangs shaded her eyes.

Feeling somewhat uncomfortable suddenly, Sasuke shifted a bit and turned his head to once again focus his eyes on the girl he once knew as a friend. His lips parted as if wanting to speak, but he couldn't summon the words. It was an awful feeling, not being able to even try and figure out how she felt. But, somehow he wasn't certain that he wanted to know...

What if she no longer felt the same way she did back then -- especially after all he'd done to them? What would his life really be like without Sakura? He had experienced such circumstances over the past three years, and he wasn't certain he could go through it again. Was it not possible that it was for that very reason -- those very same nagging feelings -- that he had returned?

"Sasuke-kun... I..." Sakura began, and Sasuke noticed a tremor in her voice; she had gotten stronger, he could tell just by looking at her that she wasn't the weak little girl she used to be -- he had realized that much during their last encounter. Both Sakura and Naruto had grown a lot.

But, regardless of Sakura's maturity since he'd last seen her, was it possible that she was crying? He could remember that she cried several times when they were in Team 7 together, and he used to think of her as nothing but an annoyance at first. But... things had changed.

So much would never be the same again.

Lifting her head revealed to Sasuke that tears had indeed formed in Sakura's eyes, but they seemed to be refusing to fall. She was holding them back, she was afraid. She didn't want to show him her tears, she didn't want him to see her as a crybaby. She didn't want him to see her as being weak. Not anymore.

And so, Sakura smiled. Perhaps the most genuine smile she had managed since her days as a Genin, and it was a smile that almost caused Sasuke's heart to stop. Her tears finally fell then, dripping onto her lap as she reached up to wipe them away, her smile never fading as her eyes actually met the real Sasuke's for the first time in three years...

"Sasuke-kun, welcome home."

---------- Tsudzuku: To Be Continued ----------

Preview: What will Sasuke's punishment entail? Next Time: "Affliction".

Disclaimer & Copyright Information: I do not own Naruto (© Kishimoto Masashi); however, I am the author of this story. If you have comments or suggestions, leave a review or send me an e-mail. Doumo arigatou, for reading my writing!