I can't quite forgive you yet

We've a long way yet to go.

But we can try to work it out

It's time to take it slow…

:Part Three:

Sakura watched her former teammate through half lidded eyes. The blonde Hokage was merely sitting at his desk, wading through the mounds of paperwork. Yet even with the mountain piled next to him, he still had one area cleared.

Sakura smiled every time she saw the small framed photo. It was a picture of Team 7, back when they had first formed. Sakura herself was smiling sweetly at the camera, where Kakashi had his mysterious eye-smile, with his hands on top of Naruto and Sasuke's heads, who were glaring at each other like there was no tomorrow.

She turned a concerned gaze back to the twenty-three year old. Ever since that day up in the Valley of the End, something had been missing in Naruto's eyes. Sakura had never been told exactly what had happened, but she was told enough to know…that Sasuke was never coming back.

But when she'd spoken of it to Naruto, the man had just gotten a desolately empty look in his eyes that scared her, and a small smile on his face. "He's coming back Sakura. Eventually." then he'd walked away, leaving a stunned pink haired girl behind him.

Naruto wasn't the same after that. He still smiled at everyone, but they were quieter, more subdued. Everything about him was. He quickly rose in ranks over the next years, training every day he didn't have mission.

He'd actually become quite good looking in that period, and suddenly a lot of girls (ninja and civilians) wereasking him out. He'd declined them all though. It made Sakura wonder, sometimes. If she didn't know Naruto had given up on her, she'd think he was still waiting.

Then one day Tsunade had announced her successor. To everyone's surprise but the Rookie Nine's, Team Gai, and Iruka, it was Naruto. Naturally, the elder villagers put up a big protest over that because they were horrified at the thought of the 'Kyuubi brat' running their village. Tsunade had eventually silenced them by pointing out all the good Naruto had done for the village. All Naruto asked for was a chance.

By the time he'd taken over the village, Naruto had earned the trust and respect of them all.

Sakura was startled out of her musings when Naruto suddenly sat up ramrod straight, looking out the window. "What the matter, Hokage-sama?" she asked tentatively. Naruto spun around and rose out of his seat. He smiled at her. "Sakura, I'm leaving and I'll be back by tomorrow." as she was about to say something he interrupted her, "And no, I won't be taking any ANBU guards." he said firmly, and swept across the room and out the window.

Sakura sat stock still for a moment, before something else registered.

"Naruto, what about your PAPERWORK!"

¤

A Tori masked ANBU that stood at the gate sighed. Today was just not his day to get assigned on guard duty. For one thing, it was pouring rain and dark. And for another, his partner was asleep, so he couldn't even get intelligent conversation to battle his boredom. He looked over at his Neko masked partner. Yep, still in a doze…Damn.

He was about to sigh again when he suddenly snapped to attention. There was a strong chakra signature in the distance, approaching rapidly. He tensed, ready for a fight if need be, but relaxed when he recognized the figure that stopped in front of him.

"Hokage-sama." he said with a small bow.

"Neji." Naruto greeted him, then his partner, who'd woken up. "Shikamaru." Neji felt relief flood him. Ever since Naruto had left suddenly and unexplainedly yesterday, the whole village had been tense with apprehension and a small amount of fear.

"Please call Sakura, and tell her to meet me at the hospital right away."

Neji started in surprise. "Are you injured, Hokage-sama?" Shikamaru asked.

"No, but he is." the blonde indicated a dark figure slumped over his back. Cursing his inattention, Neji focused on the figure. He gasped.

"That's…Uchiha Sasuke." he said in surprise.

"Hai, it is." Naruto grinned.

¤

Sasuke groaned as he drifted to the edge of consciousness.

Had it all been a dream? Any minute now he would wake up to find himself in the middle of the forest, or in his room in Orochimaru's lair. He groaned again. 'And what Naruto said…I must really have been dreaming.'

His eyes felt like they were glued shut. He struggled, but eventually he managed to pry one open, then the other. Cool, blank white ceiling met his gaze. 'I'm in the hospital.' And not just any hospital either. 'Konoha Hospital…' his eyes snapped wide open as his hazy memories suddenly became crystal clear.

"Kuso."

A soft chuckle made him snap his head around so fast his neck popped. There was Naruto at his left side, sitting in a chair drawn up by the bed. Sasuke sucked in a breath, only now noticing how much Naruto had changed. Gone was the boyish face and the baby fat, it had given way to broad skin and finely chiseled features. He was finding it hard to tear his eyes away.

"Naruto."

"It's great to see you awake, Sasuke."

"…How long have I been asleep?" he asked hesitantly.

"Three days. Sakura has had you in an induced sleep while you were healed. You had dangerously low chakra that had to be stabilized, not to mention nearly dead from blood loss." all this was said in a decidedly neutral tone on Naruto's part. He wasn't meeting Sasuke's eyes no matter how much he tried to catch his gaze.

"What about the Curse Seal?"

"I sealed it while you were sleeping. It's a better one, stronger than Kakashi's." Sasuke was starting feel hurt that Naruto still refused to look at him. But he kept up the questioning.

"Not that I'm ungrateful Naruto, but why am I not in prison being interrogated right now?" That got Naruto's attention, and he fumbled around in his robes, finally pulling out a thick yellow folder. He set it gently in the Sasuke's lap as he sat up, finding he could now do so without pain.

"What's this?" he asked, picking up the heavy file.

"It's your ninja profile. Read it."

Not seeing the point, he flicked the cover open. Though there was no picture, it contained his name, age, description, and status. He paused at the last. It didn't say missing-nin…it read, "Gennin of Konoha?" he asked aloud.

"Read the mission stats."

Sasuke hurriedly flipped a few pages until he got to the missions. There weren't very many, so Sasuke skimmed through them. At the very bottom he stopped, staring at it with a shocked composure. He almost forgot to breathe.

Mission issued by: Rokudaime Hokage

Rank: S-class

Length: Indefinite

Objective: Kill Uchiha Itachi by whatever means necessary

His hands were gripping the edges of the file so hard his knuckles were turning white.

Status: Complete

¤

Sasuke slowly lowered the folder onto his lap, but didn't look up. He could feel tears burning at the edges of his eyes, but he desperately fought them back. He didn't want to have a breakdown in front of his former friend.

"So…you knew?"

"Iie."

His head snapped up to meet cerulean eyes dead on.

"But I hoped."

The pools that met his weren't empty any more. Now they were filled with life and light, and, he realized with a startled gasp, love. Two tanned hands came up to brush along his cheeks, making him shiver unexplainably.

"Because you are my most precious person in the world, and I'd do anything if it meant getting you back."

His heart was beating a mile a minute, and Sasuke suddenly felt all the emotions he'd suppressed for years well up again with a vengeance.

Suddenly all he wanted to do was be in Naruto's arms and more, for always.

"I love you."

He didn't know who had said it, and suddenly it matter as warm lips came crashing into his with a fiery passion.

He moaned lightly, giving into the kiss as Naruto pushed him back down on the bed. Papers scattered everywhere, but neither cared.

Sasuke smiled as they broke this kiss for air, joy and adrenaline washing through him.

He knew everything wouldn't be perfect after this. Others would still be afraid and wary of him for his betrayal. The rest of Akatsuki and Orochimaru were out there, and a war was on the horizon.

But none of that mattered anymore, because now he had Naruto .

¤

Owari

¤

Finished! And just in time for school….joy. I know they're severely OOC, but hey! That's what makes up most non-canon Yaoi fics anyway…-.-;

Please R&R.