Another First Time
Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
"I have a new mission for you," Tsunade announced, as Sakura scribbled away diligently on her side. Looking up, Sakura asked, "What's it going to be, shishou?"
"I'll tell you after you help me get the rest of the team together. I'm sending Team 7."
Sakura's eyes widened, and a bubble of hope formed in her chest. By Team 7, did Tsunade-sama mean…
"And by Team 7, I mean you, Naruto, Sai, and Yamato," Tsunade sternly said, knowing what Sakura was thinking. Said kunoichi's face fell slightly as she realized her mentor wasn't talking about the Team 7 Sakura had been hoping for. Not Kakashi-sensei, not Sasuke-kun…
"I just know you're not going to concentrate if I put you and the Uchiha together, Sakura. You two can save all your mushy loving for when you get back," ordered Tsunade, with a knowing smile on her face.
Sakura's cheeks tinted pink, and she nodded, saying, "Alright then, I'll go grab them and come back."
Tsunade gave her an approving nod and waved her off, head bent over her work once again.
With the knowledge that neither Naruto nor Sai had any current missions, Sakura knew where to find them. As expected, they were lounging on the wooden stools of the Ichiraku Ramen stand, talking with Sakura's dark-haired boyfriend, Uchiha Sasuke.
After a long four years, Sasuke had managed to avenge his clan. Returning to Konoha, he had found, much like he expected, that he was not quite well-received among the townspeople. Nevertheless, the Hokage renewed his status as a shinobi of Konoha, although Sasuke had been confined within the walls of Konoha for a year and was limited to only D-rank missions within the village. As time went on, the shinobi of Konoha began to slowly warm up to Sasuke again, and soon enough, his fanclub was completely revived with the exception of Ino, who had long ago given up on him.
Within that time, Naruto and Sakura were really the only ones who stood by Sasuke. While the Uchiha was still as cold and callous as ever, it as obvious that his two friends had made a large impact on him. So much, that only half a year into his return, he was able to face his own feelings for Sakura and ask her out. The past seven months had been very happy for the young couple – so happy, that they were seriously looking to settle down together in the near future.
It was all Sakura could ever dream for – a loving (although he didn't appear so) boyfriend, two amazing best friends (Naruto and Ino), a powerful and knowledgeable mentor, and a team that worked well together.
The three males turned around as they sensed her coming towards them. Giving them a bright smile, Sakura jogged up to them and plunked herself on a seat between Naruto and Sasuke.
"Sakura," Sasuke greeted, giving her a tiny smile that only she saw. She restrained herself from giving him a hug, knowing his aversion to public physical contact.
"Sakura-chan!!!!!!" Naruto enthusiastically said through mouthfuls of ramen. She playfully thumped him on the back, chiding him for his non-existent table manners.
Sai merely lifted a hand in greeting, saying a trademark, "Hey Ugly."
She glared but let it go – murdering one of the teammates she needed for the mission would definitely leave a black stain on her reputation as a kunoichi of Konoha. Something that Tsunade-sama would not approve of.
"We've just been assigned a mission," Sakura informed, turning to the two males on her right.
"We have?" Naruto gleefully exclaimed. "What rank, what rank?"
Shrugging, Sakura answered, "Don't know until you guys come with me and see. She said this time it's you guys, me, and Yamato-taichou. I don't think it'll be too exciting though."
"Aww…oh well, any mission is better than being stuck here, right, Sasuke-teme?" Naruto smirked at Sasuke, who glared back intensely.
"Shut up, dobe."
"Naruto, Sasuke's probation period is over, so stop bugging him about it," glared Sakura. It was Sasuke's turn to smirk, as Naruto made a face and Sasuke lightly squeezed the slender hand within his own. Sakura smiled at him, and hopped down from the stool lightly, saying, "We should go, or Tsunade-sama's going to throw a fit. She should've found Yamato-taichou by now."
Sai mimicked her actions, hopping down his stool lightly and pulling Naruto with him too.
"Come on, Dickless, you can have ramen after we're done briefing."
"Shut up, dumbass. Come on, Sakura-chan!" Naruto pushed Sai away to link arms with Sakura, who sighed and went along with it after giving Sasuke another small smile. Sasuke watched as the three walked off, disappearing into the crowd.
"We haven't had an A-rank mission, in a long time, eh?" Naruto said happily, as the four shinobi leapt between the trees.
"Yeah, and weren't you saying it probably wasn't going to be exciting, Ugly?" Sai asked lightly, clad in full ANBU uniform.
"Shut up," she muttered, turning away from the dark-haired male beside her.
"Now now, no arguing. Let's take this time to review our mission details," Yamato said, from his place on the other side of Sai.
"Our mission is quite simple – retrieve a scroll containing a small clan's secret jutsu from a group of missing-nin from the Cloud. According to our latest updates, they should be just about to cross the border from Fire Country into the Waterfall Country. These shinobi are apparently highly skilled in genjutsu, so we have to watch out for that. Our goal is to not engage them in battle, as their numbers are greater than ours, although their overall skill may not reach our level. Sakura, as medic-nin, you cannot afford to be injured. You will standby just in case we do end up alerting the enemy of our presence and need backup. Sai, Naruto, I will be creating a genjutsu that will hopefully confuse our opponents, at least until they realize that the scroll is gone. We should be out of their encampment by then though. Stealth is important. Are we all clear?"
Three voices said, "Yes!" before the four of them continued in relative quiet through the lush forests of the edge of Fire Country.
Sakura knew something was wrong as soon as they reached the well-hidden encampments of the enemy shinobi. Whether is was her kunoichi senses, or just her female intuition, her gut was telling her that something would go horribly wrong.
Naruto, noticing her discomfort, whispered, "Sakura-chan? Are you alright?"
Nodding, she replied, "Yeah, but something just doesn't feel right."
Hearing the whispered conversation between Sakura and Naruto, Sai said in low tones, "Just be alert. The enemy shinobi haven't noticed us yet."
Still not quite believing everything was okay, Sakura discretely formed a hand seal and whispered, "Kai!"
When no genjutsu faded, she was slightly reassured, although still bothered by the nagging feeling within her abdomen.
At Yamato's signal, Sakura landed noiselessly on the grassy ground, while the three males whipped through the treetops above her. A few seconds later, she felt Yamato's chakra signature weave into a highly complex and effective genjutsu, leaving her out of it so she could help monitor the events going on inside the encampment. Sai and Naruto were presumably already inside, and were expected to be able to come out within 10 minutes.
To her surprise, Sai and Naruto arrived by her side in 5 minutes, followed swiftly by Yamato. Sai, who was holding the scroll tightly in his left hand, transformed it into a marked kunai and tucked it into his pouch.
"Alright, we can go," he whispered, launching himself into the air, closely followed by Naruto and Yamato. Sakura lingered, a frown forming on her face.
Something. Was. Not. Right.
First of all, this was an A-ranked mission for a reason. Even with Sai's stealth and Naruto's chakra, there was absolutely no way they could've come out so quickly. This was further compounded by the fact that Sakura, while not quite the genius Shikamaru was, never, ever miscalculated important things such as that. She had carefully inputted in all the factors that could've delayed their retrieval, and the total time, in a best-case scenario, came up to be ten minutes.
Secondly, no matter how much Naruto had matured throughout the years, he was just not a quiet shinobi. Whenever a mission was completed successfully, Naruto always had to indulge himself in a little bit of whooping to feel complete. That little indulgence had gotten the team in trouble more than once. And yet, Naruto hadn't done his little whooping, and furthermore, had followed Sai without question – something that was totally uncharacteristic of him.
Dread flowed through her system as Sakura quickly formed another hand seal, one that had been taught to her by her mentor. One that was meant to dispel any genjutsu, whether high, low, or medium level. One that generally wasn't used as much as the "kai" jutsu because it required precise chakra control, something that Sakura had.
Forming the last hand seal, she closed her eyes and released a sharp burst of chakra. Within seconds, the scenery around her had faded and she realized that she had successfully dispelled the genjutsu that had been weaved around her teammates and herself.
Hearing sounds of kunai clashing, she leapt into the air and caught sight of Sai and Naruto, locked in battle with at least 6 Cloud-nin. Sai actually did have the scroll with him, but it was just tucked into his belt and looked like it would fall at any second. Yamato, too, was fighting 2 Cloud-nin, but he appeared to not even have a scratch.
They had been tricked and had fallen into the Cloud-nin's trap, but they still appeared to have the upper hand.
Things went downhill from there. Firstly, a fresh group of 6 Cloud-nin appeared and promptly joined the battle. Secondly, the scroll that had been on Sai's belt had loosened to the point that it fell, and since all three males were locked in battle, none of them could do anything about it.
Sakura kicked into action, managing to snatch the scroll out of the air before it hit the ground. Unfortunately, she managed to get the attention of the enemy shinobi, being very conspicuous with her bright pink hair.
Cursing as 4 Cloud-nin began to make their way towards her, she hurriedly transformed the scroll into a kunai and tucked it into the pouch on her belt that only held medical supplies.
Not wanting to give her opponents time, she concentrated her chakra in her fist and punched the ground, thoroughly surprising all 4 of them and managing to break the leg of the last one, who hadn't been quick enough to evade the sharp rocks that had suddenly jutted out from the ground.
She heard a muffled "Sakura-chan!" from Naruto before the enemy was upon her. She evaded kunai, dodged shuriken, trying hard to be able to keep herself and the scroll safe from enemy blows. But as the numbers were clearly against her, she soon found herself being caught in a corner. She had numerous gashes upon her arms, and found that holding even a kunai was getting harder – she suspected that the Cloud-nin used poison-tipped weapons. It wasn't long before one enemy nin got right up to her face.
"You've got a pretty face, but I don't think you're cut out to be a shinobi, girlie," the man laughed menacingly, his hot breath fanning over her face. White-hot pain pierced her abdomen and the world faded to black.
"Shit, Sakura-chan's got herself covered with Cloud-nin," snarled Naruto, as he hacked his way through another shinobi. Sai, slicing the enemy more delicately with his sword, replied, "I know. We have to finish up quickly, I don't think she can hold them for too long."
A gasp from Naruto caused him to whip his head around in Sakura's direction, where he saw she seemed to have stopped, her arms hanging limply at her sides. There was a Cloud-nin advancing towards her.
"Dammnit!" he cursed. Looking back over at Naruto, he saw bubbles of orange chakra beginning to appear from the blond's body.
"I'll take care of things here, you go help Sakura-chan," Naruto growled, in an uncharacteristic display of leadership.
Too surprised to argue, Sai turned around, just in time to see Sakura getting impaled by the Cloud-nin.
He thought his heart stopped.
What scared him the most was the fact that his mind held no care about whether the enemy nin got the scroll, but rather, the only thought occupying his mind was whether or not she was alright.
Which really was a stupid question, considering the fact that she had an extremely sharp object sticking out of her lower belly.
Needless to say, Sai finished off the Cloud-nin and in no time at all, Sakura was tucked safely in his arms.
"Ugly, hey Ugly! Wake up, will you?" he shook her slightly, surprising himself by the amount of concern in his voice.
Sai couldn't remember how long it had been since he had felt such an urgency racing within his blood. And most of all, he couldn't remember just exactly how tightly he had cradled her limp body within his arms as he, Naruto, and Yamato raced back to Konoha.
Sakura awoke to a darkened room, silent except for the slow, soothing sound of a beeping heart monitor. As her blurry vision slowly returned to normal, she realized that her room was empty, devoid of visitors.
That train of thought was cut short as her door burst open and she was promptly crushed by two individuals with blond hair and blue eyes.
"Sakura-chan!!!!" Naruto wailed.
"Forehead girl!!!!" sobbed Ino.
"Hey Dickless, Ino-san, let her breathe. You're going to make her suffocate," Sai's soft, monotonic voice said. "Although that might not be a bad thing…" he added in afterthought.
"Shut up," Sakura croaked, her voice hoarse from lack of use.
"You had me so worried!" Ino glared accusingly, jabbing a finger into Sakura's forehead. Said kunoichi rolled her eyes and replied, "Like I wanted to get impaled, Ino-pig…"
The atmosphere damped considerably. Sakura, confused by the sudden change on the expressions of her friends' faces, asked, "What's wrong?"
Ino cleared her throat and got up, saying, "I'll go get Godaime-sama," giving Sakura a small smile before leaving.
"Erm…how're you feeling?" Naruto attempted to break the heavy and awkward silence.
"Sore all over," replied Sakura. "What about you guys?"
Before they could answer, the door swung open to reveal Tsunade, looking infinitely pleased that her apprentice had woken up.
"Sakura!" she greeted, giving the seventeen-year-old a fond and familiar smile.
"Tsunade-sama!" Sakura cried, attempting to get up. Stopping her with a hand, Tsunade pursed her lips together, saying, "Stop it, Sakura. You're going to overexert yourself. You've been out for two weeks and you're still recuperating."
"Two weeks…" Sakura whispered. "I've been out for two whole weeks?"
"Yeah, you were, Sakura-chan. We were so worried!" Naruto said, his blue eyes still clouded with worry for her.
"I think we've already established that fact," Sai commented dryly, looking away from the occupant of the bed.
Tsunade sent an irritated glance towards the ANBU male, muttering, "I don't know why we still keep him around…"
Sakura and Naruto shared a smirk – while it was true that Sai was annoying, rude, and condescending, he was an excellent shinobi and a great addition to their team. And there were times when that cold and distant mask of his fell away and revealed a little bit of who he truly was on the inside.
"Anyhow, Sakura," Tsunade said briskly, "I've got to give you a check-up to see how you're doing. So if you boys will…" She sent the males a pointed glare, and both slowly slouched out of the room.
As soon as the door clicked close, Tsunade's annoyed facial expression slid off her face completely, and she turned to Sakura, a more tired-looking, serious look on her features.
Sensing that her teacher had something important to tell her, Sakura said, "Shishou, is there something wrong?"
Clearing her throat, Tsunade began, "Sakura, I really don't know how to say this…but do you remember your battle with the Cloud-nin?"
Nodding, Sakura gestured for her to continue.
"Well, it seems that all the weapons used by the Cloud-nin had been bathed with poison. When I first assigned that mission, I had no idea about the poisons, or that their genjutsu was so powerful, or else I probably would have sent someone like Shizune as well. I found out after you four had left that the clan that the scroll had been stolen from was actually keeping some facts from me."
Sakura noticed that Tsunade's fist seemed to unconsciously clench as she spoke.
"It seems that two of their most powerful clan members had been gravely injured trying to protect the scroll. They didn't tell me about that because I probably would've made them pay more, due to the added difficulty and risk. So I figured that things were looking pretty bad, with all the poison and everything. To make things worse, they were all different types of poisons, some that even I haven't seen before. The first several hours when you were brought back were tough, since I had to make guesswork out of several of your injuries."
Taking a deep breath, Tsunade continued.
"The reason you had been out for so long was because your body had to flush out the poisons by itself, at least the ones that had no known antidote. In the coming weeks, you'll have to train yourself hard, especially your arms, since the different poisons have left different aftereffects on your arms."
Giving a wry smile, Sakura said, "I suppose so."
"Apart from the varying degree of damage done to your arms, there is another very important point that you have to…" here Tsunade hesitated, biting her lip. A small frown found its way onto Sakura's face as she watched her teacher bite her lip in discomfort. Tsunade was not one who appeared this disturbed very often.
"Sakura…the sword that impaled you…it was covered with a quick-working poison that had spread a lot by the time Sai had gotten you to me. By the time I could remove most of it, irreversible damage had already been done to certain parts of your internal organs. I knit most of your insides together again, but due to the…delicate nature of the tissue that had been the most affected, I couldn't restore the ability of this tissue…"
"Tsunade-shishou, what exactly do you mean?" Sakura slowly asked, a feeling of dread beginning to climb up her gut.
"Sakura, I…I'm sorry. But the sword went straight through your uterus. The chance of you ever having children is small…"
"I'm sorry…" Tsunade finished.
Pressing a shaking hand to her bandaged abdomen, Sakura laughed weakly. "You're kidding, right? Tell me you're kidding…"
At Tsunade's desolate expression, Sakura crumpled up, dropping the hand limply onto her pristine sheets. A single tear made its way down her smooth cheek, followed by another, and another, until a steady stream of liquid flowed from her green eyes. Fisting the sheets in her hands, Sakura sobbed.
Children. While they weren't at the top of her priority list, Sakura had never wanted anything more than to get to have the chance to hold her own child, to get to experience motherly love, to watch as her children grew and surpassed herself…
Her green eyes widened suddenly and an icy fear tore at her heart. A single word fell slowly from her chapped lips.
a/n: Hey everybody!
First of all, many, many, many thanks to my friends Silver Matter and tingtinkerbell for editing and giving me lot of constructive criticism! They are both extremely talented writers and I hope you'll check them out too!
Um...this is my first chaptered Naruto story, ever. So please be nice and review, tell me how you like it so far. And no matter how much of a Sakura x Sasuke it seems like right now, it is going to be a Sai x Sakura. Very much so, might I add. And I have to admit, this story may not be for die-hard Sasuke lovers who will flame me to no end if I just slightly badmouth Sasuke. Not that I have any badmouthing planned (or written), but you know, I do have to break Sasuke and Sakura up in order to make this a Sai and Sakura, right? So that's just a little warning.
Please give me your comments and suggestions! Thank you!