Hey ya'll! I know I should be updating my other story but the plot bunnies just wouldn't leave me alone! No means no damn you! Anyway, you can expect at least one other new story from me after this one.

To my readers of my other story, I'm soooo soooooory for the delay! The next two chapter are already planned but due to all the random plot ideas my muse keeps throwing at me, I just can't concentrate! Never fear though. I think that once I get these ideas out of my system I'll be able to continue writing on Mist Maiden.

"There are only two forces that unite men - fear and interest."

Napoleon Bonaparte

"You do realize that we expect rain later today don't you?" Ino's inquiry, while well founded, irritated Sakura.

"Yeah, yeah I know. It's my only day off though and I sure as hell don't want to spend it indoors. I spend enough time inside while on hospital duty as it is." The roseate female glanced at the sky. Now that Ino mentioned it, it was a little cloudy…

"Fine. Since you're being so stubborn, here!" An exasperated blonde thrust a picnic blanket towards Sakura.

With a sunny smile that hid her growing doubts- thanks to Ino!- over her plans for the day, she cradled the blanket in her arms and gave her thanks to her rival/friend and made her way towards her intended destination. A meadow outside Konoha's gates.

What she hadn't told Ino was the reason she wanted to spend a quiet day in a peaceful meadow. Lately she had found herself dreaming more and more about her former team. The now legendary team seven.

The dreams didn't follow any apparent pattern or theme. Some nights they were happy and some….well let's just say she didn't sleep well those nights.

She stopped her journey momentarily, taking a moment to just enjoy the breeze that was gently blowing through the trees. It's been so long since I've just observed nature. Way too long.

Sakura couldn't even remember when her last day off had been. Her days at the hospital were almost unbearably hectic. She blamed Tsunade for this.

Since the defeat of Orochimaru, and the disbanding of the Akatsuki two years ago - thanks largely to her former team - Konoha had flourished in the momentary peace. Other hidden villages, however, weren't as fortunate.

The villages of Cloud, Grass, Star, and several others were going through their own private wars. Horrible wars that left hundreds dead and many more injured. The war torn villages found themselves overwhelmed with injured and lacking both the medic-nins and the resources to treat their shinobi.

That's where Konoha came into the picture. Tsunade knew it was only a matter of time before the next great shinobi war erupted. Tensions were already high and several of the prominent shinobi powers were just waiting for an excuse to battle.

So, being the crafty Hokage she was, Tsunade offered Konoha's medical assistance to the suffering villages. Since Konoha was widely known for its medical prowess, the villages were quick to accept. In return for their assistance the Leaf village received not only the unconditional support of the villages, but also trading privileges, the promise of later monetary compensation, and unreserved access to their medical jutsus.

All in all it was a very good deal. Still it was hard to appreciate her shishou's genius after she had pulled her daily sixteen hour shift in the hospital, which was more often than not followed by hours of paperwork.

Despite all their preparations, they had still been caught by surprise by the flood of patients sent to their hospital. Thousands came through their doors on a daily basis and they struggled frantically to keep the number of outgoing patients the same as the number of incoming patients. Sakura had taken to just sleeping in her office most nights, only leaving the hospital to take a quick shower and change.

The fact that she was even allowed a day off was a small miracle in and of itself. The only reason her shishou had even considered gifting her with one was probably due to her small breakdown the day before. Months of only hour long naps could do that to a person.

When Sakura next glanced at her surroundings she realized that she had reached her destination sometime during her musings. So much for enjoying the scenery during my walk.

The rosy haired kunoichi spread the blanket on the ground, taking care not to unnecessarily crush any of the wildflowers. Her task completed she flopped down on it unceremoniously. She stretched luxuriously on the soft fleece, thoroughly enjoying the feel of the material.

Under the quiet gloom of the darkening sky, she couldn't help but reminisce on her genin days. Days when she still had a team to call her own.

Six years.

It had been six years since she had last seen or heard from any of her former teammates. They had left her behind without so much as a goodbye.

She should have expected it really. She had always known she was the weakest link in team seven. She was always the one in need of protection. The one left in the dust in the ongoing quest for power.

She had noted, with envious and despairing eyes, the great strides her teammates made towards becoming exceptional - legendary- shinobi. It seemed that for every step she sweat and bled to take forward her teammates had effortlessly taken a hundred more, leaving her further and further behind despite her best efforts to keep up.

She had always felt so useless when she was with them, so insignificant. She knew better now. It wasn't that she was incredibly weak, it was that they were incredibly strong.

Still, even though she was aware that she was outclassed by every single member of her team, she had felt like she belonged. Like her teammates sincerely cared about her.

It was due to this misconception that she grew to love them. Every single one of them, Naruto, Sasuke, Kakashi-sensei, and Sai had all taken a hold of her heart.

My boys she paused to contemplate the phrase huh, it's been a while since I've thought of them as my anything.

It was true. When she had forgiven them, all those years ago, she had also unconsciously severed all ties with them. She still cared about them, but only as esteemed shinobi of the village, nothing more.

As she pondered her nonexistent relationship to the men who use to mean the world to her, she remembered how things use to be……

"Naruto! Hold Still!" An infuriated younger Sakura whacked her squirming teammate across the head, perhaps with more force than was necessary.

"But Sakura-chan! I don't need to get my cuts cleaned! They're only scratches!" The blonde boy held his aching head as he warily eyed his female companion from his position on the hospital bed, fearful of another blow.

Said female only glared harder at her hapless teammate. "You just think you don't need them cleaned," she all but growled. "Those kunais were filthy! Who knows how many types of bacteria were crawling all over them, just waiting for some dumbass to infect!"

Naruto mistook her passing comment as an insult. "I'm sorry Sakura-chan," he replied dejectedly. "Thank you for taking care of them. You're right, I am a dumbass."

The roseate girl's anger completely vanished upon seeing her teammates fallen look. She moved next to him on the bed. "You idiot," she said lovingly as she took him in her arms, "you have nothing to be sorry about. The only reason I'm angry is because I care and worry about you."

Naruto promptly crushed her body to his in a tight bear hug upon hearing her sincere explanation. "Thank you Sakura-chan……. for everything," he whispered in her ear.

She felt the dampness of his tears as he lay his cheek against her head. "Don't be silly Naruto. That's what teammates are for," she responded with utter conviction, a loving smile planted firmly on her lips.

I use to believe in them so much... believe that they would always be by my side….I really was naïve. The foreboding clouds overhead seemed to reflect her depressing musings.

In their defense, they had never really verbally told her she was important to them. She had always been the one to assure them of her affection, always the one to tell them she cared.

In her time on team seven not one of them had ever show her as much regard as they showed each other. In spite of her best attempts at remaining oblivious, she had noticed over time that she was the outsider in the group. The others all seemed to have a connection with one another, a special bond that she wasn't a part of. Even Sai, who everyone claimed had no emotions - she knew better - and who had joined the team a substantial time after her, developed strong ties to her male companions.

She had passed it off at first as a guy thing, she was after all the only female member. But as she observed the other teams she noted that they also had that bond, a bond they didn't seem to mind sharing with the kunoichi on their teams.

So she just ignored it. Ignored the fact that her teammates didn't seem to want her there. She grew so adept at it that she had apparently developed the illusion that they really did care for her. An illusion that was shattered when they left. Left to chase after Sasuke without her, even though it had long been decided that they would do it as a team. Guess I wasn't considered part of the team...it wouldn't surprise me if I wasn't.

She could still remember the day Tsunade had told her they were gone…..

It was a bright and sunny summer morning in Konoha. Birds were singing and there wasn't a cloud to be seen in the sky. Truly an environment that would soon starkly contrast one kunoichi's sorrow.

Sakura briskly made her way to the Hokage's office, inwardly wondering the cause for such an early meeting with her teacher. Tsunade usually didn't begin her training until the early afternoon, giving her the mornings to spend with either her team or on private training.

As she went through the commercial center, she noticed the strawberries were on special. With a warm smile on her lips, she made a mental note to buy some later. Her boys were extremely fond of her strawberry shortcake, a fondness that sometimes bordered on addiction.

She finally reached the office moments later, still unsure of the reason for the change in her routine.

"Morning shishou!" The kunoichi greeted upon seeing her teacher. The warm smile that still graced her face abruptly faded when she saw Tsunade's solemn face.

"What's wrong," she questioned immediately, somehow instinctively knowing the answer was going to deeply impact her.

"Sakura, I have some bad news." The beautiful blonde, usually so self-assured, was apprehensive.

With warning bells clamoring in her head the pink haired female looked at her mentor with wary eyes. "Bad news?" she asked.

Taking one last look at her newest apprentice, Tsunade turned to look out her window. She knew it was cowardly, but she didn't want to face Sakura as she told her what had occurred.

"Your team left the village hours before daybreak. The sentries on duty allowed them to pass, thinking they were on a mission of some sort. They had no mission. Had the evidence not pointed strongly to the contrary, I would dismiss their absences, assuming that something came up and they simply forgot or didn't wish to tell anyone. A letter left on my door, however, dispels that possibility."

The Hokage glanced at her student, her heart clenching at the growing anguish visible in the roseate female's features.

"In it they clearly state that they have temporarily severed ties to Konoha in order to furfill their selfappointed mission." She turned to face Sakura, steeling herself for her next statement - knowing the pain it would cause her student- , and saw the dawning comprehension on her face.

In a broken whisper, with tears now falling down her cheeks and eyes pleading to be proven wrong, she stated, "They left to bring Sasuke." She quickly lost all semblence of control at her teacher's affirmative gaze.

"No! You're lying! They promised! They promised we would bring him back together as a team! They wouldn't leave me!" She broke down into sobs, her voice denying the truth even as her heart ripped apart in certainty.

Through her tears and overwhelming sorrow she felt her teacher's comforting arms cradling her, her voice murmuring soft reassurances.

"Shishou," she asked in a faint, desperate, plea," did they mention me? Did they say goodbye?"

Tsunade's tightened embrace was all the answer she needed.

Her heart had healed since then. She now no longer burst into tears at the mere rememberance. The memory however still caused her a pang of pain. That day had showed her how little regard her teammates had for her, how mistaken she was for thinking she was special to them.

She shook her head slightly to rid herself of the lingering gloom that particular memory always brought about. Live and learn I suppose she thought with a sigh live and learn.

With darkening rain clouds threatening to spew their contents at a seconds notice, Sakura closed weary eyes, letting all her troubles, aches, and troubling memories melt away as she gave into the sweet temptation of sleep.

The next chapter will include the rest of team seven and their reason for leaving Sakura behind without saying goodbye. It's not because their jerks! Well…they are for leaving her behind…..they didn't even tell her they were leaving!…….hmmm. Forget what I just said, they're still jerks!

Also I'll try to include more of the rest of rookie nine in the next chapter, but I'm not making any promises. This story seems to have a mind of its own! I mean I intended to include at least Naruto in this chapter but I just seem to keep adding onto Sakura.

By the way, can anyone tell me if I'm spelling "shishou" right? I got the spelling off a translation site, but I'm not sure.