Warning : This is set after the most recent chapters :D Yes, there's ItaNaru. OMG why. Hahaha, this is only in 3-parts. They're all planned out, so this wouldn't take too long to update. Rating is M, for safety (I think this is only hard PG-13 though). SasuNaru, ItaNaru, ItaSasu and SasuSaku—as well as some other hints. Shounen-ai, yaoi, manga spoilers, drama, angst, mild violence, mild language, blah, blah, blah XD Usual stuff.

Disclaimer : I don't own anything.

Dedication : To Konoko89, along with my other loyal reviewers. You really make me so happy :)

Please pardon the mistakes--I rushed this in an hour T.T;; Hope you enjoy :)


"I want you to be the Hokage."

The serious tone pierced the entire room, amber-colored eyes steely gazing over the two members of Hatake Kakashi's Team Seven. The Godaime didn't lift her stare, even as her best apprentice's emerald eyes widened in shock and happiness, even as the once-traitor prodigy narrowed obsidian irises in disapproval and barely-contained anger.

"Tsunade-sama, I'd love to—" Haruno Sakura's voice was sculpted to show only utmost respect and obedience—a good little, golden girl—but her eyes and her trembling hands betrayed her zealous desire. A soft breeze entered the private room, but it did nothing to ease down the tension that built up.

"You can't."

Two words interrupted the younger female's agreement to the Godaime's statement, and Sakura shot her ex-teammate, her first love, a betrayed look.

Uchiha Sasuke didn't look like he wanted to take back the hurriedly-blurted-out statement anytime soon, and he crossed pale arms over his chest defiantly. It seemed as though he was the Hokage—not the blonde, busty Sannin—as he radiated utter stubbornness.

Instead of becoming irritated with the Uchiha's disruption, the blonde simply smiled in half-understanding and half-sorrow. Yes, she knew what the Uchiha was protesting about, and she didn't have any doubts that the smartest girl in their batch also understood.

"…There's someone else that's fit to be the Rokudaime, and you know it," Sasuke said without a hint of emotion, and Tsunade almost believed that Sasuke wasn't experiencing the same engulfing emptiness.

Sakura's look of betrayal didn't cease, and another spark of loneliness and jealousy flared within those jade-colored depths. She stared at her precious Sasuke-kun, then to the Godaime, then back to the moody ninja.

As much as she hated it, it's true.

Someone else is fit to be the Rokudaime—someone who's determined, who's powerful, who's compassionate, who's been dreaming of the role since forever. She knew it, she hated admitting it, she hated being second place, once again, but—

That person… was also nowhere to be found.


"Naruto-kun, are you ready?"

A male voice asked him, tainted with that smudge of concern, and the blond in question swiveled around to see a familiar face smiling at him. Mission or not, the other male's smile seemed to be permanently stuck to his charming face.

Uzumaki Naruto nodded, and added a reassuring grin for good measure. Sai didn't seem to be entirely convinced, but the blond knew that his friend understood. After waiting for so long, Tsunade finally allowed to send out a group of ninjas to go over and kick Orochimaru's ass. It was hard, but the Kyuubi's vessel managed to add 'take Sasuke-bastard back' to the list of mission priorities.

Said mission priorities were now clutched in Nara Shikamaru's hands, as their group leader reviewed the ideas and mulled over the strategies inside the genius brain. Naruto waited on the corner of the room, waiting for Shikamaru to call them and tell them the plan. The blond noticed that Tsunade seemed to have tried for sentimentality this time—she placed most members of the Rookie Nine in this operation. As if sentimentality could ever turn the Uchiha's blackened hurt into something more human—

"N-Naruto-kun," A shy, timid voice called out his name from his right, and he flashed the Hyuuga heiress with a forced smile, pushing out all thoughts regarding his failed missions to the back of his mind. Blue eyes regarded one of his teammates for this mission, and he cocked one golden eyebrow questioningly.

Seeing those azure eyes focused at her made Hinata's face flush in a slightly-unhealthy way, but she didn't back down… much. Pale-colored irises gazed at her crush's face, because, who knew, maybe this time, Sasuke would also drag this blond teen along with his spiral into darkness, maybe this time, Naruto would be injured severely in the upcoming battle, maybe—

"L-let's do our-r b-best in t-this m-mission, Na-Naruto-kun," Hinata said softly, before politely bowing down and moving back to her position beside her stoic cousin.

Naruto sighed inwardly, a bit disappointed that Hinata didn't stay long to distract him. He knew it was pointless, but was it really so bad to wish for his mind to be emptied of Sasuke-related thoughts, even for just a few minutes?

"Are you worried?" Sai asked again, that bit of concern seeping in, and Naruto wanted to hide away from those obsidian-colored eyes, eyes that were so similar, and yet so different, from that one person he was looking for—

"Of course not!" He exclaimed a tad too loudly for comfort, and his voice felt like cracking at some choice parts. "No matter who the enemies are—I'll kick their ass!" He declared boldly, grinning his trademark grin, as though trying hard to convince himself. Sai simply nodded, and a couple of ninjas nearby also agreed with minute smiles.

"Oi, come over here and let's discuss the mission strategies," Shikamaru's lazy drawl reached the blond's ears, and he smiled resignedly at Sai and nodded towards their leader's direction. Before he could go near the round table though, his sleeve was tugged back by a cream-skinned hand.

He knew, even without turning, who the person was.

"Na-Naruto… we're going to succeed, right?" The medic-nin asked shakily, voice filled with unshed tears. It was obvious that she wasn't all that interested with infiltrating Orochimaru's base, but rather, she was more eager about retrieving a particular person—

"Yes, we're going to." Naruto said solemnly, but filled with conviction, before moving away from her grasp.

He truly wished he could believe the confidence in his words.


"Sasuke-kun, do you think… Naruto would come back?"

The question was asked with utmost uncertainty, as though Sakura was afraid that Sasuke would kill her on the spot for mentioning their blond teammate's name. The pink-haired woman couldn't keep away the tint of jealousy from her voice, and her inner musings chanted a mantra to keep Naruto away, and she doesn't really feel guilty for that, but—

Sakura wishing for Naruto to be back here, in Konoha, was like the only thing she could do for her ex-teammate, in payment for his successful retrieval of their long-missing friend, the equivalence of making her most pathetic and impossible wish come true.

After all, if Sasuke-kun was back here, on the place where all their dreams were built and nurtured, it would be easy to let him see that she cared for him more than all the others, right?

"Naruto will be back," The Uchiha's voice didn't possess the hesitance that the pink-haired ninja thrived on; instead, security and certainty dripped over the words. Sasuke's pale arms were shaking slightly though, seemingly repressing an outburst of emotion.

"How can you be so sure?" Sakura asked desperately, disgusted by her weakness, but also angered at Naruto's effect on her beloved one. How can Sasuke-kun be so sure, when that person, suddenly left as soon as their mission became a success? How can Sasuke-kun undoubtedly believe Naruto? How can Sasuke-kun not doubt Naruto? How, how, HOW?

"Naruto will be back," Sasuke repeated, as though Sakura was dumb enough to miss his first statement. "And he will be the Rokudaime," He quietly added, glaring at the green-eyed ninja sharply, as though reproaching her of her sudden desire to be the Hokage.

"But if he isn't back… Konoha needs a new Hokage, Sasuke-kun, and you know that—" Sakura tried again, because if Naruto's stubbornness didn't annoy her prince, then she wouldn't annoy Sasuke-kun, right?

"I know why you want to be Hokage, Sakura," Sasuke said monotonously, but those charcoal-colored depths suddenly twisted into the horrifying shade of blood-red, and accusations sprang from them, causing Sakura to flinch. Plus, she couldn't bear to look at her precious Sasuke-kun now—he looked so much like he was under the influence of those flames dancing across pale, alabaster skin, like he was the evil enemy, like—

"I heard what you were saying to Ino," Sasuke clarified, malicious glints sparkling beneath those crimson-hued eyes, watching in satisfaction as guilt swam ferociously and made Sakura's meekly-standing form even more fragile-looking. It seemed that the anger at Tsunade for suggesting that one of them to replace her position wasn't completely gone yet.

"—But I was just joking—" Sakura protested feebly, though she knew that Sasuke-kun would never believe her. Maybe with enough trials, enough determination—things that Naruto always believed in—would make Sasuke-kun understand?

"Naruto…" Sasuke's voice sounded somewhat nostalgic, and something nasty churned within Sakura's gut. "…He'll be back… He'll come back to me."

And the Uchiha disappeared in a gust of wind, leaving the female member of their broken team alone in the road leading away from the Hokage's headquarters, heart re-broken into innumerable shards.

She knew she would cry over Sasuke-kun's unrelenting words as soon as she got home.


"Area J, completed."

Inuzuka Kiba's voice floated over the headphones discreetly perched near his ears. Azure-colored eyes trailed over the dimly-lit room's surroundings once last time, before he closed the door quietly.

"Area L, completed." He added, speaking to the gadget that Sakura had placed near his throat yesterday morning, before they sent out for Sound. It seemed that while Konoha had been trying to nail Orochimaru's hide-outs, the Snake Sannin was always one step ahead, already having moved out of the place more than six hours ago, if the dusty footsteps left were any indication.

Naruto felt like banging his head against one of the tastefully-covered walls, before he remembered the stealth was a very high priority in this mission. It was a bit off-putting, though, to find some of Orochimaru's rooms designed like expensive hotels—filled with feminine wallpapers, satin sheets, bouncy cushions and carpeted floors.

The blond decided that he didn't really want to know what the long-tongued ninja did in these rooms—

Sasuke, most probably, was here, writhing beneath the slim man's weight, those silky sheets bunching up around his pale back, probably covered with saliva as that tongue slithered around every possible area—

And Naruto decided that no mission protocol, no glaring from Shikamaru, could prevent him from banging his head loudly against the wall, in an attempt to chase away the disgusting images, even though his inner voice sang, in its malicious tone, about how Sasuke was probably a possession now that Orochimaru paraded around.

I'll kill that bastard, He mentally snarled, and I'm going to chop his freakish tongue to pieces first, while he watches in agony, he added with a physically-manifested sneer. It was, justifiably, Orochimaru's fault for the mental images that bombarded his mind. Sasuke wasn't Orochimaru's, nor anybody's, possession, damn it.

"—matter, Naruto?" Sai sounded somewhat worried, and Naruto snapped out of his unwanted thoughts. He laughed weakly at his speaker, knowing that the sound carried towards his teammate would be scratchy and he could blame it at the device—not at the sudden dryness of his throat and not at the constriction of his heart.

"Sorry—was fascinated by the bouncy bed here," Naruto apologized, lied, really, but he knew that it wouldn't have been nice to tell the dark-haired teen that he just imagined Orochimaru fucking his best friend a few moments ago.

It wouldn't have been the greatest idea, seeing that he was already tearing up from the mere notion.

Sai gave a somewhat annoyed scoff, but it was suddenly smothered over by a more urgent sound.

"Neji's team seemed to have encountered some resistance—all free teams, reinforce Neji, at location B immediately." Kiba relayed through the gadget, and Naruto nodded, even though nobody could see the action, as he was alone inside one of Orochimaru's more pleasing rooms.

He didn't see the pair of eerie red eyes that glowed as they watched his every movement.


Seeing Kabuto's face wasn't exactly a precursor to happiness, seeing that the silver-haired ninja was too strong and too irritating, but if Kabuto was here—Orochimaru was nearby—and if that's the case—

He bit down harshly on his lip, not minding the metallic tang of blood, and he willed himself to not get his hopes up. If there was one thing that Sasuke was especially good at, it was at crushing hopes. Naruto didn't like the idea of letting that bastard, whether he knew it or not, win over his emotions once more and reduce him to a pathetic state of loneliness.

He shook off those thoughts again, as needed enough concentration for his technique, Oodama Rasengan, to work effectively against the glasses-wearing male. This more refined and powerful version of his rasengan managed to defeat Itachi's Shapeshifting Clone, and it should be enough to cause damage to Kabuto—

He charged forward, not really seeing Kiba who was attacking Kabuto over and over, and Neji who was panting nearby, and pushed his hand (along with his shadow clone's hand) towards Kabuto's heart. He didn't miss the widening of those eyes beneath the reflective glasses, nor did he miss the taunting smirk that Kabuto shot his way.

He pushed his palm more insistently forward, anger boiling in his veins, mad at Kabuto's eyes for reminding him of his failures, for reminding him that a huge chunk of his soul is still missing, still in their vile and manipulative clutches.

He didn't miss Sakura-chan's gasp at his sudden violence and aggressiveness; he didn't miss the oozing of blood away from the gaping whole he made and cascading down his arm and tainting his jacket.

"Not bad, Naruto-kun, it seems as though you've tried hard," Kabuto said appraisingly, but there was nothing nice about the way his jet-black eyes were narrowed, nor was there anything wondrous about the sly smirk that bordered on the other man's face.

"Too bad that you haven't reached Sasuke-kun's level—" Kabuto said airily, ridiculing the blond opponent, along with his other teammates who failed to inflict major damage to one ninja, but his sentence was cut-off when Naruto fled past him, teeth bared angrily into an unforgiving snarl.



Coal-colored eyes warily regarded his best friend, his ex-teammate, his opponent, his most important person, and he sighed deeply, leaning against the tree trunk more than he would have liked. He didn't plan on doing this now, not when he had come so far, but there was something in Naruto's expression that urged him to continue his training to defeat Itachi back at Konoha.

"Are you coming, or do I have to drag you back?" Naruto's voice was different from before, different from when he was shouting (at the very top of his lungs) about dreams of becoming Hokage, different from when he was pleading for Sasuke to stay, different from when he was obviously heartbroken and asking Sasuke for his reasons for letting him live.

No, this one is different, even though he still possessed that undeniable charm and spark that relentlessly drew the avenger close. No, this one is different, as though there was something else separating them, even though Sasuke had already, wordlessly, surrendered to Konoha, despite Orochimaru's nasty promises of taking him back.

Really, it was disgustingly flattering that people have been fighting over him.

He wondered, as he dragged himself to his feet and walked alongside Naruto as though their ribs weren't broken and their skin weren't covered with each other's blood, how much have he scarred the other's heart.


"Guards from the West Gate reported sightings of intruders around twenty minutes ago."

Tsunade's expression was grim and solemn, but nobody could blame her. The word Akatsuki hang bleakly over the room, since the group has been rather active in these past weeks. It didn't help that they had no idea about Naruto's whereabouts, especially since he's the most wanted person in the Akatsuki's priorities.

Uchiha Sasuke watched how the Godaime assembled all her top ninjas, along with the others who managed to arrive at such a short notice. Black-colored eyes passed swiftly over the room, his gaze not lingering over Sakura's still-depressed form. He didn't even blink as he noticed Rock Lee subtly inching towards the pink-haired ninja, apparently worried over Sakura's sudden distress.

"—your mission. Transfer all the women and children to the hidden grotto. Find the intruders and capture them for questioning. If met with resistance, don't hesitate to kill them. Understood?"

Before the Godaime could even give out more orders, a respectful knock sounded from the door, and Kakashi was fast enough to open the door and place a kunai against the person's throat. The kunai fell sharply against the wooden floor, away from limp hands, as the silver-haired jounin recognized who the person is.

A lump formed uneasily and lodged itself in Sasuke's throat, and he unsuccessfully tried to divert his eyes away from the silhouette that he has longed for. Naruto stood there, smiling weakly and a bit stunned from Kakashi's welcome, golden hair shining slightly with the bright lights, blue eyes downcast but still perfectly alluring.


—there was something not right with the image, because no matter how much Sasuke wished for the happily ever after, no matter how much he felt cheated because of Naruto's sudden disappearance prior to his arrival, there was really something off with the way Naruto looked solemn and morose.

"What are you doing here, gaki?" Tsunade's voice was loud, but nobody else seemed to notice; everybody was still overwhelmed by their shock.

Again, the flicker of misery appeared and retreated away from the tanned face, and Sasuke's heartbeat increased with each moment of increasing dread. Wrong, wrong, wrong…

"…Tsunade-sama, I was going to ask you for something." Naruto's statement held respect and sadness, and it was very different from the Naruto prior to being a missing-nin. Sasuke watched, unmoving, as Naruto entered the room and closed the door.

This isn't Naruto…

Taking the pregnant pause as silence, he continued, as though he didn't notice Sasuke's pleading gaze directed at him. "…I want to get married at my home country."

If his appearance wasn't enough of a shock, the fact that he was going to get married—as though he didn't leave the village without anybody knowing—was even more of an unpleasant surprise.

Despite the onslaught of desolation that gripped him, however, a new presence that entered the room alerted him—alerted the senses that were ingrained to his very system. The pain of betrayal and confusion regarding Naruto aside, Sasuke didn't need any more sound after Naruto's statement submerged the room into stifling silence. He didn't need any more confirmation—not after he sensed that very, very familiar chakra signature.

The only sound in the room was the cry of a thousand birds.

To Be Continued

Yes, for those confused, the story structure is present-past-present-past. So… yeah, alternating. It will come together at the end though :) Any other confusion—please PM or email me. The "-.-.-.-" divider is used when the scenes are of the same/consecutive time-frames, while "xXxXx" divider is used when the scenes shift between present and past.

I'm aiming for a more 'grown-up' perspective here… and I also hope that I did fine with the characterizations. Not much things happened (and don't kill me for that 'cliffie', okay?) but since this is the prologue—that's rather to-be-expected. Naruto's reason for disappearing would be explained first thing in the next chapter :D

I only planned this installment to be around 3 pages, but since people have been threatening to kill me coz of the lack of updates… -peers guiltily- For those who kept wondering whether I'm dead or something, please visit my profile for details. Also, I've started a livejournal (username: shinigami39), where I already posted some drabbles that are not found in very sorry for the long absence, but there are really some things that can't be helped :(

Constructive crit, reviews, PMs, complaints, compliments—they're all welcome :D

PS: Gosh, I love possessive!Naruto and I really like writing B-tch!Sakura. XD