Disclaimer: I own nothing but my OCs. Everything else is a product of Masashi Kishimoto's imagination.

Chapter Seventy-One

Jin hadn't been able to stay for long the following day, he had said he had something to do. Rei didn't know what that could possibly be, considering he knew no one in the village, but she didn't bother to ask. The man honestly wanted to stay for longer, she could tell, so she knew it had to be something important.

She had resigned herself to spending the day on her own, stuck in a hospital bed, not very appealing, but she had no choice. Rei just wished she had a book or something to entertain herself, but no, the most entertaining thing was the stain on the wall that somehow looked like Tonton...if you squinted.

It was around noon when the door to her room opened and someone she definitely hadn't expected walked in.

"Hello, Rei-san. How are you feeling today?" Sai said, smiling as he walked in.

Rei blinked in surprise, wondering if she had fallen asleep or maybe the nurses had drugged her, but no. Sai really was there. She decided the best thing to do in this situation was to act civil. After all, Sai had not been rude to her in a while.

"I'm fine, just bored," she told him.

"So what brings you here?"

"I just thought you might need some company. I read in a book that when a friend is injured it is always a good idea to stop by and visit. Comforting a person is a good way to establish a lasting friendship."

Rei felt her eye twitch.

"What the hell kind of books have you been reading?" she deadpanned.

Sai's cheeks flushed a bit and Rei realized she was being rude. She really couldn't help it this time though. Where had he even gotten that kind of information? But she had to give him credit for at least trying to be a good person.

"Never mind," she sighed.

"I'm just in a bit of a foul mood. It gets to be really boring here, so thanks for visiting."

Sai's face brightened, at least she thought it did. It was hard to tell when he kept that strange smile on his face constantly, though it wasn't nearly as fake as before. If she looked really carefully, it almost seemed sincere.

"That's alright, it's just good to see you're feeling better."

Rei sat up, careful to not move too quickly, and was surprised to feel Sai helping her. She didn't push him away though, she needed the help.

"Naruto-kun sends his regards," said Sai.

"I ran into him on my way here. He said he would have come, but he had training to do."

Rei smiled a bit at that.

"That's just like Naruto, already working on getting stronger," she sighed, looking out the window.

"I just wish I could help him..."

Sai watched her for a moment before speaking.

"Are you still upset about not having been able to bring Sasuke back?"

Rei froze, surprised by the sudden question. She looked at Sai who only stared back, waiting patiently for her answer. With a sigh, she nodded.

"I trained for a long time, you know. To think that even after that I wasn't able to do anything..."

"That's because you're too kind."

That had definitely surprised Rei. She turned to look at Sai incredulously.

"Even after all Sasuke did you can't hurt him, at least you don't want to, even if you force yourself so you wouldn't be as strong as you could be if you fought someone else, someone you really hated. You're just not used to fighting with people that were close to you. You, like Naruto and Sakura, are too emotional."

Rei could see his point. He knew what he was talking about because he had given up his emotions in order to become strong, something she hadn't done. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. She was far too emotional, just like Jin had always told her.

"That's not a bad thing," Sai continued.

"Having emotions isn't bad. For me, it's very hard to be with people and I don't know how to act with others or what friends should do. You have Naruto and Sakura and everyone else because you never gave up your own feelings."

She could hear a faint note of melancholy in his voice as he spoke and it was the first time she was truly able to see how lonely he must have been all this time. He had become strong, but at the cost of friendship and bonds like the ones she had. It was really a price too high to pay.

"Maybe those feelings will make you stronger like Naruto."

Rei smiled and nodded.

"Yeah, maybe, but I still have a long way to go before I catch up to him and Sasuke. I guess I'll just have to work harder."

Sai smiled and it seemed more sincere than ever to Rei.

"Sai," she said.

"I think you can do better too, maybe not now, but soon. I'm sure if you work as hard as you do now you'll find your own bonds that you can treasure, like the ones Naruto has with everyone else."

She smiled and missed the faint blush on his face as he stared at her with surprise.

"In the meantime, though, try not to put too much thought into what the books say."

The young shinobi just blinked in surprise.

"Just do what you think is right, you don't need to rely on books to have friends. You're already a good person, just act however you see fit."

Sai nodded with a small smile.

"I guess I can try that."

He stood then, ready to leave.

"Aw, leaving already?" Rei complained.

"Yes, I'm sorry, but I have some things to do today."

"It's fine, hopefully I'll be out of here soon. Say hi to the others for me."

Sai nodded and walked to the door, but stopped after opening it. He turned back and smiled at Rei.

"Rei-san, I heard from Naruto-kun that you like ramen, perhaps we could get some when you get out."

For a moment, Rei was surprised by Sai's offer, but then she grinned at him.

"Sure, just don't forget."

With one last smile, he was gone and Rei was left alone to wonder about what had just happened. Never before had she thought that she would get along with Sai or even sympathize with him, but the truth was, he wasn't such a bad guy. Really, he was just lonely, she could tell that much, but she knew that would change with time. He was part of her team now and none of her teammates would let him be alone again. They might have failed once with Sasuke, but they learned from their mistakes.

The room was dark and silent, seeming to be empty even, but it wasn't. There was someone lying on the bed, one of the few pieces of furniture there, apparently sleeping.

Sasuke was in yet another one of Orochimaru's lairs, thinking about his last encounter with his old team. He had always known they would meet again, but even so, he hadn't been ready. They had all affected him in some way, even Sakura, but it was the other girl who had the biggest impact.

Even after all these years, Sasuke would not admit how strong his feelings for the girl were, but it was hard to deny that he felt something. He had felt his heart beat faster and his mind race as he saw her, but he had kept his voice and appearance calm, impassive, even cold. She had changed in the last few years, though not greatly. It wasn't hard to recognize the hyperactive young girl that had enjoyed annoying him so much and it wasn't hard to miss her, but he had pushed those feelings aside. She was different now.

He had seen it when he looked at her and confirmed it as their eyes locked for an instant as she attacked him. In those familiar blue eyes were years of pain, anger, maybe even hatred and he wouldn't blame her if she hated him. But it didn't matter, he couldn't bring himself to care, not now. She was part of his past, a past that he couldn't return to no matter what.

Maybe after he killed Itachi, he would go back to her and tell her he was sorry. Maybe he would even let her kill him, if that was what she wanted, but not before he had avenged his clan. All this time she had known who he was, what he was meant to be. He may regret having been involved with her, but he wouldn't change his mind. His purpose was to kill his brother, even if he lost everything else, it didn't matter.

Still, he couldn't forget the way her blood felt as it stained his hand, warm and sickening as it poured from the wound inflicted by his sword. Her face, twisted in pain, physical and emotional, and her eyes, both disbelieving and accusing. For a moment, he was taken back to that day in the valley, the day he had left and he hated it. He hated the way she made him feel by just looking at him. It was like she was silently reminding him of every sin he had committed and every person he had hurt, and perhaps she was, but he wouldn't let it get to him, he couldn't.

But Sasuke knew better. Already he was hoping he hadn't hurt her too badly, that her teammates had been able to help her. But it wouldn't do him any good to think like that. There was nothing he could do for her, nothing but let her hate him.

End chapter Seventy-One

Well there you have it. It's short, but I wanted to get something out. Anywho, hope you guys like it and please review if you have the chance. I love reviews, they don't love me apparently since they insist on hiding, but gosh darn it I love them!Thanks to everyone who reviews, alerts and/or favorites me and my stories.

Also, if you guys could, please check out bittersweetXromantic, who is running a Naruto Awards site for Naruto fanfics.A link is provided below, just take out the spaces.

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