Once Upon A Time

Chapter Two

"A Building Storm"

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So bring on the rain

Oh bring on the pain

And listen to the thunder

- Boys Like Girls

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"Yo, old lady Tsunade. Do you have a mission for us or not?" Naruto asked as he, Sakura, Kakashi and their newest member Sai stood in front of the desk.

"You're so impatient Naruto." Tsunade scolded as she flipped through a mission's book.

"Well it's not my fault you're so old you can hardly move." Naruto teased.

Tsunade's eyebrow twitched in annoyance. Sakura crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. Naruto was the only person who was able to say stuff like that to Tsunade without being beaten to a pulp.

"Ah, finally I think I've found one." Tsunade said. "It'll require you to go to the Sand village."

"Eh? For what?" Naruto asked.

"It seems that recently they've lost quite a few nin's on missions. They need some assistance." Tsunade said.

"So what do you guys think?" Kakashi asked.

"I think we should go!" Sakura said. "If they need our help we can't just sit around and do nothing."

"I agree. If Gaara needs our help then I'll go." Naruto said.

"Then it's settled. You guys will leave today. Now get out of my sight." Tsunade said.

The four quickly exited the room in fear of the elder woman's wrath. Kakashi led in front with Naruto and Sakura behind him. Sai stayed a few paces back. This was Sakura's first mission since Naruto had left. Team Kakashi was together once again, save for Sasuke. Sakura looked over her shoulder at Sai who was staring blankly down at the floor. He was a bit…odd, but seemed like a nice enough guy. Naruto seemed to have a problem with him though. Deep down Sakura resented him too. He would never take Sasuke's place.

"Ok everyone. Get everything you need and we'll meet at the gate in an hour." Kakashi said.

"You mean two and a half your time." Sakura said emotionlessly.

Kakashi let out a guilty chuckle but said nothing.

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At the end of two and a half hours, they only needed to wait 20 more minutes till they saw their gray haired ex-sensei lazily walking towards them with his face stuck in the latest Icha Icha book.

"So Kakashi, did you find out any more information on why the Sand village is losing all their ninjas?" Naruto asked as the four made their way out of Konoha.

"No, I'm afraid we'll have to wait to get more information from Gaara." Kakashi said never looking up from his book.

"It'll be good to see Gaara again." Naruto said and Sakura nodded her head in agreement.

If you had told Sakura when she first met Gaara that they'd end up being friends she would've laughed in your face. He had been quite serial killer-ish back in the days of their first chuunin exam until Naruto had literally knocked some sense into him.

'If someone like Gaara can change then maybe there's hope for…' Sakura sighed as an image of the elder Uchiha flashed before her eyes.

No what was she thinking. The boy she knew was long gone. He killed his entire family! He tortured Sasuke and Kakashi and now he was after Naruto for the nine tailed fox in him. And if they ever met in the future he probably wouldn't hesitate to kill her either. She had to get all these stupid thoughts out of her mind. They were enemies now. And if for some godforsaken reason she ever went against him in battle and won, she would be expected to kill him.

'But could I?'

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"Ah man. How much longer till we get there?" Naruto whined.

Team Kakashi had set out from Konoha two days earlier and Naruto was already complaining. Mostly because he hadn't packed enough ramen and was now currently out.

"I'd say we'll get there at around noon tomorrow." Kakashi replied.

He was looking boredly up at the sky, hands dug into his pockets. He had finished his Icha Icha book a couple hours ago and was now finding the journey to be quite dull.

"You're not the only one walking Naruto, suck it up." Sakura said.

Naruto sent a glare in Sakura's direction but remained silent. Sai looked back and forth between Sakura and Naruto with an amused glint in his eye.

"It's going to rain." Kakashi suddenly said.

Sakura and Naruto both looked up at the cloudless blue sky and then gave each other confused glances.

"In about an hour or so I'd say." Sai said.

The three other team members jumped slightly having forgotten he was there.

"I don't know what you two are talking about." Naruto said. "There are no clouds around anywhere."

But sure enough thunder could be heard faintly in the distance.

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Kisame looked up at the darkened sky as thunder echoed around them.

"It's about to rain." He said.

Itachi stopped walking to look up at the sky. A soft drizzle started falling.

"It looks like a big storm is coming." He said.

The two silently walked into the shadow's of the forest. They were currently at the edge between the Fire Country and the Wind Country. The forest abruptly stopped and miles of desert stretched out before them.

"Do you think he'll come?" Kisame asked as he stared down at the back of his partner's head.

"I'm positive." Itachi replied emotionlessly.

"Alright." Kisame said with a nod. "As long as we're not wasting our time."

"Hn." Itachi said before going silent.

The two men continued to walk in silence.

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The sky was now filled with dark gray rain clouds and a cool breeze blew around every now and again pushing the clouds further along. Sakura let out a sigh. The rest of this trip wasn't going to be fun at all. Along with the storm, Naruto was sure to complain the rest of the way. Sakura took her water jug from its holder on her hip and took a long gulp. She flinched slightly as a raindrop fell on her face.

"I hope this storm isn't too bad." She said.

"We're almost at the edge of the forest. We might be forced to wait it out because the desert will have no shelter." Kakashi said.

The forest had become very dark. The canopies overlapped with each other blocking out what little sun got through the thick clouds above. Lightning flashed and illuminated the shadows before thunder rumbled. Sakura cringed despite herself. She hated lightning and thunder. She tried to explain to herself that it was a silly thing to fear. All it was was molecules in the clouds rubbing against each other… what's to be afraid of? But it had never worked and she still winced every time she heard the loud boom of thunder. Another flash of lightning lit the forest up and for a second Sakura could've sworn she saw someone leaning against a tree… but when lightning flashed again there was no one there. She felt a chill run down her spine.

"Kakashi, do you sense anyone close by?" Sakura asked.

Kakashi was silent for a second and Sakura knew he was concentrating.

"Nope. Why?" Kakashi asked.

"Oh nothing. I just thought I saw someone but I guess it was just a shadow." Sakura said and waved her hand in the air.

"Well you can never be too sure. Keep alert everyone." Kakashi said.

Sakura nodded. It still felt like she was being watched but she couldn't sense anyone around. Another flash of lightning, but it was gone too fast for Sakura to see the pair of red eyes.

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Itachi watched Team 7 walk by from the shadows. He had been just about to reveal himself to the unaware ninja's, when the girl with them looked over in his direction just as lightning lit up the sky. It had been too dark before for him to notice the bubble gum pink hair. It wasn't some random kunoichi like he had thought… it was her. Sakura Haruno. When his eyes had met unknowingly with her emerald ones he had hesitated. Now they were aware that someone was lurking about in the darkness.

"Itachi? What's wrong?" Kisame asked from behind him.

He remained silent. Any chance of a surprise attack was washed down the drain. Still, if they didn't attack now they might not be presented with another chance. The only one he was concerned with was Kakashi. He didn't recognize the other boy with them, but he didn't really care who he was. Naruto… he might be more of a problem now that he had been training under Jiraiya.

Sakura…

Itachi turned and started walking away, brushing against Kisame as he walked past.

"Oi, Itachi. What are you doing? The boy's in the other direction. Are you that blind now?" Kisame asked.

"They have sensed our presence." Itachi said ignoring his previous question. "We'll keep our distance and watch them from afar. When they return, we'll attack then."

Kisame raised an eyebrow in confusion.

'I don't think his eyesight is the only thing he's losing.' Kisame thought before following after the shorter man.


Edited: Oct. 7, 2007