Disclaimer: Of course I don't own Naruto.
It was actually very easy to find Tsunade. It was more along the lines of following the thump-thump of her chakra-enhanced punches over the screams surrounding the village. She ran as quickly as she could, unable to favor her feet even--or maybe especially--in these circumstances.
Luckily, they were a lot closer than she'd thought. Only on the other side of the village, rather than completely outside of it. But you tend to take whatever you could get.
Three giant creatures fought each other furiously, right beside the Hokage monument. She winced. They had absolutely no decency. Did they have any idea how long it had taken to finally get Tsunade's face on that mountain? How much effort the workers--and her, oddly, who had somehow been conscripted in the whole mess--had put into it to make it look almost like her? (The caricature had less sign of beer stains and looked almost intimidating all the time, rather than merely when someone made her mad.)
Sakura breathed heavily through her mouth, grateful for the mask that filtered out most of the smoke. The closer she got, the more it became clear that none of the legendary sannin were standing on their summons, but rather fighting around them. Katsuya, bless him, was attempting to protect the Hokage's monument while providing support to Gamabunta as he fought Manda, spitting oil that, yes, would take forever to clean up. Not that they wouldn't all be at it for days, anyway, once this was all over.
Well. There was something to look forward to.
It took all of three seconds for her to shake herself out of sincerely wishing that she didn't survive this war, if that was what she had to look forward to. This was aided by a kunai thrown at her shoulder, aimed precisely for the artery there. She pulled her hand up at the last second, the glint of light just managing to alert her through the blurry haze of pain, catching the knife by the hilt.
She very nearly turned to retaliate, but was interrupted by the war cry of Rock Lee, who was, of course, coming to the rescue. Seemingly without much effort, he dispatched the attacker, and gave her a quick glance before returning his attention to their surroundings.
"Are you all right, Sakura-san?" He asked.
She nodded. "Thanks, Lee," she said. And frowned. "How did you know it was me?"
He laughed out loud and flashed her a thumbs up. "I would recognize you anywhere!"
How sweet. It was nice to have someone around who actually knew her that well. Sasuke recognized her voice, and Shikamaru, who might simply be suspicious otherwise, knew her scent (of course, so did Kiba).
Naruto, of course, wouldn't recognize her unless she beat him over the head with it. And maybe not even then.
"Do you require my assistance?" Rock Lee asked.
She shook her head. "Thanks, Lee," she said, "but it's easier, and less noticeable, for one to get through. I want to stay out of sight until I can be of use. And no offense, but you're really distracting."
"I understand," he said. "Good luck!"
She smiled behind her mask, and moved again, breaking through the crowd still holding that kunai in her hand. She made proper use of it, cutting hamstrings in her foes as she went. It didn't do much for stealth, the screams shortly before they fell, but she could only blame that on close quarter fighting.
Still, it was unavoidable.
The Hokage matched Jiraiya almost perfectly, punch-punch as he leapt around, sometimes doing jutsu and sometimes attacking on his own. Orochimaru was still their equal, was still holding his own as he fought them, and she knew that it would not take long at all before he used his poison to hurt them. He could hold two off for a long time, but his stamina would not last forever--something he would know all too well. He would definitely have a weapon with him that would make his victory all but certain.
Sakura ducked even more fully into the fighting, hidden by flashing blades and illusionary jutsu, using them for cover as she found her foxhole.
She hid there, in the wrecked remains of a food stand, made all the more perilous by the broken beams that would threaten impalement if not decapitation. It really was the perfect place to hide, since her coat matched the stand's fabric almost perfectly. It even had a nice view.
Not that she expected to be here forever.
Instead, she focused on the battle, plotting. She needed to figure out a way to turn this in their favor, fast. Orochimaru might not look tired yet, but it was certain that he wanted to keep it that way. Exhaustion was bad, when you were planning to overthrow a country, and his men were good but not quite that good. Not any more than normal, anyway.
Which wasn't to say that Konoha was necessarily home of the elite, either. All that they had was Naruto. Sound had Sasuke.
As expected, the Otokage was starting to waver. His attacks no longer flowed smoothly as he dodged the Hokage's punches, blocked the frog hermit's kicks with his sword. Her eyes narrowed when, suddenly, she found exactly what she was looking for.
Slowly, painstakingly, Sakura formed the seals for the only jutsu she could afford to do. Kuchiyose no Jutsu. The summon technique. A tiny slug stared up at her, barely half of the size of her hand. She smiled in relief. Perfectly sized.
The small slug looked up at her quietly, something that all of them had learned to do. She moved it closer to her chest, and it turned in her hand so that they were both facing the same direction. She pointed her finger towards an outcropping of rocks, where a glint had been visible just seconds before.
"Kabuto," she whispered quietly, almost tonelessly.
She didn't need to say anything more. The slug slid up to her hand, and did not protest when she threw it like a ball, so that it landed right beside Katsuya. The slug would be able to tell him the message, and Katsuya would be able to act from there. He could easily form more slugs, and they could easily do what she had asked them to.
Kabuto was too close to Orochimaru. There would be a reason for that. For that, and for him to break into their hospital. He'd been after something. And the chances of it being for their side were so minimal as to be a joke. Especially after what he'd done to Hinata.
She exhaled, panted, trying to keep herself conscious and aware. Her chakra was so low as to be laughable, but it wasn't the lack so much as the use that brought her down. She'd never had much stamina in the first place, and while an hour's sleep was better than none, she definitely could use some rest and relaxation.
Which, of course, was so accessible on a battlefield.
The lack of movement made her feet itch, throbbing in time with her heartbeat. She nearly cried, but any sound would only betray her position. She knew better than that. Kakashi had taught her better than that. Any amount of textbooks had all but drilled that fact into her brain, back when she had been wondering what would make her cry out in battle. Everything was so much easier in textbooks. You did this, you did that, and if you didn't do this the trap was bound to explode in your face.
Maybe she should write a book next time. Textbooks really were like fairy tales sometimes.
After a long moment, Katsuya melted, shedding a dozen man-sized slugs that scattered around. They moved towards the monument, they moved towards the battleground, and they even moved towards her. They sought.
She kept her eyes open, knowing all too well that if she had spotted him, Kabuto was bound to know that she--or at least the person she appeared to be--was there as well. Expecting him to fall for her disguise was almost entirely out of the question. A spy himself, he wasn't born yesterday. Everyone was a fake until proven genuine.
There he was. She noticed him sneaking away, making his way as far from the slugs as possible. She smirked genuinely disgusted. If he thought that a clone was going to save him, he was sorely mistaken. The large slug clones were merely a feint, to hide the real danger--her own slug.
Kabuto screamed, a muffled, pain-filled scream as the slug smothered him, its skin a surface of chakra energy that numbed the brain, shorting the nerves that controlled movement so that his arms were unable to peel the creature off his face.
Assassin slugs. Her very favorite weapon. It would be able to scent and follow the trail of whomever it had been sent to find. Or perhaps "scent" was the wrong word. Nevertheless, at such a small size, it would be easy to underestimate. Countless others had made the same mistake.
The scream had drawn Orochimaru's attention, and she saw him hesitate slightly as whatever plan he'd had for the spy suddenly faded. But that hesitation did not make itself into an advantage for their team, because, of course, he was not so foolish as to come here without a dozen backup plans. The point was for him to win the war. One spy did not make much of a difference in the long run, no matter how useful in their scheme, however trusted that spy was.
It was time to move. Sakura slid backwards, trying to avoid sharp stakes of wood as the feet, the groans of pain, the screams that came immediately before death grew ever closer to her hiding spot.
She pushed herself up onto her feet, but was unable to wait for balance, necessity driving her into the fray again. She ignored the stars that spun around her head, the dots floating around her vision. She was seconds away from fainting dead away, and well she knew it.
Tsunade's scream cut the air, shredded her heart as she heard it. She moved faster.
Shizune. Where was Shizune? The Hokage was screaming. What was Shizune doing, not being there?
She stepped into view, ignoring the fact that there was absolutely no cover here, where the legendary sannin were fighting, protected by an invisible circle that the outside couldn't quite touch. It was entirely possible that there was a sniper here somewhere, and she had just walked into a trap.
She knew immediately that she had. The Otokage had noticed her slug the same way Kabuto had, and had seen fit to draw her out by attacking her precious Hokage. Jiraiya was also down, and she saw that his leg was bleeding--Orochimaru had cut his hamstring. How ironic. The frog hermit couldn't hop anymore.
Jiraiya was crawling slowly towards Tsunade, who was no longer moving. From where she was, Sakura could not even tell if she was breathing. Which was just as well, because she needed all of her attention on Orochimaru now.
"Shizune," he said. Behind her mask, her eyebrows rose. Was that who he thought she was? "It's about time you show up. Everyone was waiting."
"Shut up," she said. She noticed that he flinched slightly in surprise, and tried to reframe his taunts. Wrong target. "I'm here to kill you and save my village," she continued, "nothing else matters."
That made him laugh, shocking. "So patriotic."
She smiled. "I always have been," she agreed, moving closer. "Same as you."
This time he was surprised, and it almost showed. "Same as me?" He repeated.
"Minus the megalomaniacal streak," she amended. "But you can't have everything."
That leveled him out. "I see," he said. "You're right. You can't have everything. I expected to still have Kabuto with me, but you've seen fit to take him away. Who are you, anyway?"
"Just the Goddess of supremely lucky ninjas," she said. There was no hiding the smile in her voice. "Haruno Sakura, at your service."
"I see," he said again. And struck.
In the second before impact, Sakura thought that it was entirely likely that Orochimaru had expected to catch her in an illusion as he moved. To shade a killing aura, like the one he had used on her and Sasuke all those years ago, when his goal had been to damn the only person she'd ever loved.
As low as her chakra was, there was no reason to drop it completely and break out of the illusion. Besides, with all of the pain she was in, she couldn't be bothered to get caught up in it.
That did not stop her from losing all of the breath in her lungs as two strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her out of the way of the blow. The Otokage hissed, the sword in his mouth missing her by inches, and his elongated neck turned to follow them.
"What are you doing, throwing your life away?" Itachi's familiar voice murmured in her ear. "I told you that I would be the one to kill you."
It was pure stupidity to feel relief in those arms, to actually release a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding. It was stupid, and yet, there was nothing else she could do. These arms had carried her for so long, had tended to her for so long, protecting her from the outside world even though that had honestly been the last thing he'd been doing. He had been her savior then only accidentally.
"What are you doing here?" She asked, and her voice was surprisingly weak.
There was a small chuckle in her ear. "I, too, have a patriotic streak," he informed her.
She laughed in return. "You came, then. Didn't I tell you? Konoha welcomed you back, just like she always did."
He set her down on her feet. "So you said," he agreed. And moved to meet Orochimaru head-on. The second both parties were distracted, Sakura ran to Tsunade's side, dropping to her knees beside her.
Jiraiya was already there, trying to staunch the bleeding. "She's alive," he said. He looked up at where Itachi and Orochimaru were fighting, interest and surprise flickering in his eyes. "What's going on?"
"Nothing special," she said, and firmly took over. "A Leaf nin's come home in the aid of Konoha. That's all."
"That's all?" He repeated, and looked again. "How did you manage that?"
She laughed out loud. "You'd be surprised. I don't think half the people I told actually believed me when I told them. And it's not as though I'm a liar."
Her tone was just light enough, just innocent enough, that the old man's eyes flicked toward her with a kind of knowing. In the world of shinobi, honesty was only as good as your best meal, and often it wasn't exactly encouraged. You told the truth to your superiors. Everyone else got potluck unless you were told otherwise.
"How's your leg?" She asked, looking at him in concern. "It looks pretty bad. Did he hit anything serious?"
"Just the hamstring," Jiraiya said. He shook his head. "It might be poisoned."
She nodded. "I expected as much." One of the slugs had approached then, and its stomach pulled away to reveal a case of vials. She took it, pulling it out to examine. "I thought so. It's antivenin. This is why Kabuto broke into the hospital. He knew we were going to have some there, and he wanted to get it as far away from us as possible." Her eyes flickered to the slug and she smiled. "Good job."
"Will you need anything else?" The slug asked politely. Apparently, it didn't know her very well. Those that did knew she didn't spare much time for talking. Of course, if it had come from Katsuya, that was only to be expected. She wasn't much for epic battles.
She inclined her head. "Go back on standby," she instructed. "We might still need you."
It inclined its head slightly, sliming away at an easy pace. Sakura immediately turned to apply the antivenin in Tsunade, giving Jiraiya another vial. There wasn't much else she could do after that, other than try to slow the blood. But the Hokage was weakening, and they both knew it. She didn't even rouse as they worked on her.
"Can you do anything?" Jiraiya asked after a long time in desperate frustration. There wasn't much hope in his words. He knew as well as she did that she was merely an apprentice and, as such, not expected to know much. They had never had much time together before this.
She shook her head. "I don't have the chakra," she said. "And in this condition, leaving her be is less dangerous than being unable to complete the healing." She signed a slug over--though, typically, only the small assassin-slug understood the signal. It came over immediately, very fast considering its size. "Get Shizune," she instructed.
It moved without needing any more information than that. It went promptly to the larger slugs, who shrunk to the same size, dividing into a hundred others that swarmed away like a river of white rice.
Sakura turned around so that she could tend Tsunade while watching the battle, watching Orochimaru fall, seemingly defeated. Itachi turned, looking at her in return. His eyes were red, but his expression, as she looked, was strange. Complicated. Relieved. Frustrated. Worried. All of these emotions sparked his eyes, and there was nothing that she could say that would make it any better.
The Leaf nin-turned-Akatsuki-turned-Leaf ally was still looking at her, and he did not notice the way the skin fell away from his opponent's body. He did not notice the scales that erupted from the skin, the giant snake Orochimaru became.
He did not notice until the snake attacked him, biting him with long, jagged fangs.
Itachi cried out, but his eyes glowed even more red. Sakura watched in disbelief as the snake caught fire, a black flame that ate at it and did not die out. The snake let him go, and lashed around, trying to put the fire out. Trying to kill the man. Trying to stop the pain that held it in its paws and refused to let go.
Itachi lay on the ground, bleeding, and was unable to move. Sakura ran for him without hesitation, leaving the two other sannin to pull one of Konoha's most dangerous enemy's out of harm's way. She wrapped her arms around his back, grabbing him under the armpits to pull him away. For some reason, she knew better than to get between him and his opponent, just in case eye contact was necessary to continue the jutsu that burned Orochimaru black.
Nevertheless, dragging him was not painless. He panted, making weak sounds of pain that sounded almost unnatural coming from him rather than her.
She lay him down, falling to her knees next to him. His eyes were closed, and when he opened them they were black instead of red. Sweat beaded on his face. "Are you all right?" She asked worriedly, trying to mop it away with the corner of her filthy borrowed coat.
The question made him smile, a little. "Never better," he said. And then he frowned at her. "You know, you lied to me."
She smiled back. "I do that," she said. "You lied, too."
"Naruto is here," Itachi said and choked, pain rendering him speechless as he waited for it to recede. She pat his head, trying to calm him down, to help him through this. She pulled another vial of antivenin out of the packet, injected it into him. He shook his head. "It won't work," he said. "The venom's too strong."
"It will work," she insisted, although she knew that much, too. "Tsunade made it with Orochimaru in mind. It has to work."
"Nevertheless," he said, "Konoha's not going to want you to waste it on someone like me."
"I'm not wasting it," she said firmly, "on someone like you. It's yours. You helped us. This will be your payment. Very cheap, no?"
He laughed again, and groaned in pain. "They're not going to agree to that," he said.
"It's already done." She moved some more so that she could get a better look at his wound, cutting the fabric of his shirt where the fangs had stabbed into him. It went into his stomach on both sides, and right there, between his heart and collarbone. The opposing fang on that side only barely glancing off his spine. It had been a perfect blow, she realized. It had landed exactly where the Otokage had wanted it to. Itachi hadn't moved at all, but if he had turned even a little, the fang would have broken his spine. He could have been paralyzed so easily.
Her heart felt frozen. Even though he wasn't paralyzed now, the venom was right by his heart. And it was highly acidic. It would burn through the valves with little effort at all. Meanwhile, his stomach would be undergoing the same treatment. And his spine, while not hurt now, would undoubtedly also be in danger.
Itachi was going to die.
Itachi had caught the change in her attitude. He looked at her with his fathomless black eyes, and smiled. "You don't think I'm going to make it," he guessed, correctly.
She shook her head sharply, immediately putting her hands over the wound in his shoulder. "I can fix this," she said quietly, her eyes narrowing with determination. Her hands flickered green, faded, and then grew brighter. "I will fix this," she repeated. "You're going to be okay."
He smiled. "If it can be done, it would be you," he said. He closed his eyes, lifted his hand up to touch her shoulder. "I don't mind dying. I always thought it would be Sasuke who actually killed me, but I don't mind dying. I've really done a lot of horrible things. I'm glad that Konoha welcomed me back. Just like you said it would. I didn't want to believe it."
She laughed, weakly. The color grew even more bright as the acid was pulled from his shoulder, the wound closing up. "People usually don't," she agreed. There was unbelievable pressure on her fingers, and she could hear them cracking as the recently broken bones protested their use. "Believe in me. I don't know why."
He smiled. "Who knows?" One of his eyes opened. "Want to get married? One liar to another?"
She laughed. "Absolutely," she said. "As soon as you're better. In spring. We'll get married, and we can have two kids. Girl and boy. Akina and Michio. I'll work at the hospital and you can restart the Konoha police force and join ANBU part-time."
She almost didn't notice that she was babbling the same thing to him she had told Sasuke just a few days ago. All she knew was that he was still alive. Here, now, for one more heartbeat, Itachi was alive.
His eye closed again. "That's a plan," he said quietly, amusement just barely lightening his tone.
Beyond all expectation, the world did not suddenly end with Itachi's death. Though at the time, Sakura had been certain that it had. Chakra exhaustion had her fainting seconds after his heart stopped beating, while she tried to get him to wake up, to open his eyes again. To breath again.
He did none of these things. And so, when Sakura opened her eyes again, it was just to be expected that he wasn't there when she woke up.
Actually, there was no one there. She stared up a white ceiling, quite unable to move, her hands wrapped with gauze and both of her feet in casts. Her eyes flickered to the desk where, among flowers and fruit and books, countless books, a white mask with black swirls lay on top of a black coat. She smiled.
"ANBU, huh?" She mused.
The door opened and Shizune walked in, holding a clipboard in very efficient hands. She looked down at Sakura in surprise and smiled. "So you're awake," she noticed. "How are you doing this morning?"
She considered it. There was no real feeling of pain, and, for once, her feet did not hurt. Actually, they itched. It was the curse of casts. The instant you couldn't touch something, it had to itch.
"Alive," she finally answered. "There's no pain. How is Tsunade-sama? Is she all right?"
Shizune nodded. "For the moment," she said. "I heard that you're the one who sent the slugs to get me. That was a good idea."
"The only idea," Sakura said. She closed her eyes. "I knew I couldn't help her."
"And yet you try to save a member of Akatsuki?" The woman prompted. Sakura opened her eyes again. Shizune was looking at her levelly, one dark eyebrow raised. It was easy to tell how this woman had become the real power behind Konoha. "What were you thinking? He was probably there for Naruto."
"He was there because Konoha needed help," Sakura argued. "This was his home, as much as it's mine. He was the only member of Akatsuki there, or did you notice? He saved my life and he killed Orochimaru. What else do you want to know?"
Shizune made an annoyed sound in the back of her throat. "You do realize that the council is going to think that you had something to do with him being here," she said quickly, in annoyance. "Your entire reputation is shot. Not everyone missed your little proposal."
"I have no intention of hiding it," she said in return. "Itachi saved my life and he saved Konoha. There are worse people to marry."
"Like Sasuke?" Shizune prompted. "You aren't going to tell me that he was there to save Konoha, are you? I saw him kill our people so easily. He didn't even hesitate."
She'd seen much the same thing. But... "If you hesitate, you die," she said. "Sasuke had a reason to continue living. You notice that he didn't let Orochimaru absorb him and use him as a new body, didn't you?"
"Do you think that means he's on our side?"
"No," she agreed, after a long moment's thought. Her eyes drifted shut again. "But it doesn't mean he's on their side, either."
Shizune made a sound of disgust. "Go back to sleep," she said. "I'll wake you in an hour for your medicine."
Sakura didn't answer. She already had the sleeping part covered, thanks.
The next several weeks were filled with nothing but debriefings. Sakura spent most of it in the hospital, unable to see anyone except for the officials who came in to see her. The Hokage she saw only rarely, and only near the end of her hospital stay.
She'd spoken to the clan elders, and several others, and had nearly driven them all insane by refusing to answer the questions of people without full security clearance. And then, when she finally answered those questions, she'd answered them with complete honestly.
Funny, they didn't believe her any more than anyone else did. And it wasn't as though she was a dishonest person.
She knew all too well that she hadn't been stuck in the hospital for purely medical reasons. And it wasn't entirely for debriefing, either. The security in the building was highly optimal. She knew without having to be told that they suspected her to have a relationship with Akatsuki. The hospital was the perfect place to watch supposed terrorists without attracting notice.
She never saw Naruto.
Sakura leaned against the wall of the her room in complete mental and emotional exhaustion. No Kakashi, no Yamato. No Sai. All she had was a mask, an enemy momento that she wasn't even allowed to legally wear. Not that she was specifically advised against it, but still.
She was afraid to look in a mirror. Not because it was matter too much what she looked like--Lee would always shower her with the same devotion, and once Naruto got over the shock, it wasn't as though he'd abandon her. And as for Sai...well, he'd never thought that she was pretty in the first place. So looks weren't important.
Changes, however, were a different story. Itachi's death had not left her without scars, and it was impossible to imagine that none of them were visible.
She slid out of bed, reaching for the mask with hesitant fingers. The surface was cold, smooth under her hand, the whorl of black and red spirals making a pattern that was both familiar and terrifying, comforting and alien.
It felt right.
She put it on and grabbed the coat that went with it, washed clean but littered with holes. Stab wounds, slashes and scorch marks. This coat had seen so many adventures. She stuck her arms into the sleeves, wrapped it around her body, but didn't bother with the fastenings. There really was no point, after all. She still put the hood up.
Only then did she look into the mirror, and the figure staring back was completely unrecognizable. Aside from the night clothes that were hers, it was almost impossible to tell who she was. Small and slight in a coat that was much too big for her.
She wrapped the coat a little more tightly around her, holding it closed, and walked out of the room.
Sasuke was right outside, looking outside the window. He looked at her quickly, his dark eyes narrowing almost imperceptably when they saw the mask. She knew the instant he recognized her because, the second he did, he immediately looked away again, facing the moonlight once again with characteristic seriousness.
"So," he said. There was a strange tone in his voice. "You made ANBU."
She leaned back against the doorframe. She didn't have to be told that if she went too close to him without permission he would fade away like a mirage. "Who knows?" She asked, and followed that rhetorical question up with another. "Why are you still here?"
As expected, he did not answer for a very long time. "My brother's dead," he finally said, his voice surprisingly hesitant. "I didn't expect it to be like this."
She said nothing. This ending hadn't been what she'd expected, either. But if she said the wrong word now, he would disappear. The only thing she could do was say nothing.
Sasuke looked at her, and his expression was as lost as his voice. "You stole that from me," he said.
She pushed away from the wall, sticking her hands into the pockets of the coat. "I did," she agreed sadly. "I convinced the perfect brother you used to worship to come home and help his country. I stole your vengeance. I would say that I'm sorry, but that doesn't seem very appropriate considering the circumstances.
"But I am sorry that you lost your clear-cut ending," she said. "I can't even imagine how you're feeling right now."
"Me neither," he said.
She almost smiled. Once upon a time, she had never thought that he'd talk like this to her. But she'd been the only one he ever had talked to; she'd annoyed him until he'd have said anything to shut her up. Then he'd had to justify the things he'd said, explain them so that she would understand it. Like most people, Sasuke possessed a strong desire to be understood. Just one person was enough.
That was something that he'd taught her, whose very survival had depended on remaining underestimated.
"You would have saved him," Sasuke said, interrupting her thoughts. His dark eyes watched her, completely without expression. He was, she thought, searching for something solid to hold onto.
He trusted that she wouldn't lie to him.
"I wanted to," she agreed. She dropped her gaze, looking at the floor. Reflecting on memories that would forever paint her nightmares red. "But even if I had, he wouldn't have survived. That was probably the best end he could have hoped for under those circumstances. Even if it wasn't you, it was still an end that he chose for himself."
"And you would have married him?"
There was some kind of importance, some kind of urgency behind his question. She smiled at him, trying to soothe. Trying to answer a question he refused to give words to. "Absolutely," she said. "Didn't I tell you before? No one can compare."
That night, when Sasuke left Konoha, Sakura went with him. She didn't ask, but she knew that night was the night of his execution. It wasn't important. She didn't mention it, but they both knew her fate in following him. It was a fate that he had never wished for her, and that Sakura had never dared contemplate since that one night those three years ago.
It was a fate that she found impossible to regret even now.
Sasuke didn't have vengeance anymore. He had absolutely nothing to hold onto. If he died like this, it would be a very pitiful thing.
So, together they would go hunt the rest of Akatsuki. They wouldn't let the group threaten Naruto, or anyone else, ever again.
Sakura tore up the piece of paper in her coat pocket. There was no reason to tell Sasuke that she was doing so under orders. His innocence was one of his better features sometimes. He wasn't meant for political intrigue.
She'd keep that from him as long as she could.
Note: This actually ends a lot more abruptly than I thought it would. It's pretty open-ended. You can take it as you like. And before you ask, there is not going to be a sequel. This took long enough as it was.
You can thank Nightwing101 for this chapter. I was asked to update sometime during NaNoWriMo, so I told them to tell me again around the start of December. If any of you want me to work on anything else, you should try nagging around my birthday in February. That's the 10th. Those two occasions are the only times you're likely to find me in a charitable, writing mood. Just ask Hiei's Cute Girl.
Speaking of which, if you like this story, please go read my latest project, An Armed Truce. It's another Naruto fic featuring the ever-sarcastic Sakura, on her eternal mission of bringing Sasuke-kun back home again. And, of course, Itachi makes an appearance as well. There's never been a Goddess quite like this Sakura, and I plan on keeping it that way. So, if you have the time, please check it out.
Thank you NightWing101, poornmiserable, Murasaki Kurai, xI-Am-Your-Angel-Of-Music-x, Ahnkitomi, BlackButterfly-RedRose, Hiei's Cute Girl, fakemirage, darklace15, Laura-chan, Kurenai no Chinoumi, nolongerbeingused, kakashifaves, xantidote, Silantiver, pnaixrose, chibi-tori12, Blacksash, dark Alley, Imeralt Evalon, Kaze ni Tenshi, Cursed-Melody, Anichan, ShivaAeon, kutijenn, sillymail, Sailor Silver Moon, blackXheart, 4everDestined, and . for reviewing!