"Sasuke-kun!" Sakura says as sweetly as she can, fluttering her eyelashes, "After this do you want to eat dinner wi-"

"No. I'm going home."

"Th-Then I'll go with you," Sakura says desperately, "Did you know that I'm really good at cooking-"

"No, thanks," the dark-haired object of her affections says.

"Geez, Sasuke, why are you such a bastard!?" Naruto says, narrowing his sky-blue eyes at Sasuke-kun.

"At least I'm not a moron."

"You fucking piec-"

"Alright, that's enough," Kakashi-sensei says quickly, before a fight is started,"Let's not fight. We've had a long week and I'm sure everyone wants to go home, so let's debrief fast."

Sakura shoots a glare at Naruto who doesn't seem to notice

"Naruto and Sasuke, you've grown a lot. I honesty didn't expect you to hold your own against strong opponents like Haku and Zabuza. And Sakura, you did well too; I was impressed at your chakra control."

Sakura beams at his praise and then glances at Sasuke-kun to see if he is impressed. He doesn't look like it. She scowls and turns her anger on Naruto who is whopping with delight and babbling something about ramen.

"Just shut up, Naruto," she says angrily, "Why are you so loud?"

"Oh, Sakura-chan did that asshole hurt your feelings? Don't worry, I'll make it better!"

To her horror, Naruto is leaning in, lips puckered. She whacks him hard on the head, causing him to fall to the wooden floor of the bridge Team Seven stood on.

NARUTOOO! You-You idiot!" Sakura screams, face flushed with anger, hands clenched at her sides, "Stop messing around!"

"One day you'll fall in love with me, Sakura-chan!" Naruto beams, not at all looking like someone who had just been punched.

Beside him, Sasuke-kun scoffs.

"Yeah, you better believe it asshole!" Naruto says, glaring at Sasuke-kun.

"Don't call Sasuke-kun that!" Sakura says angrily.

"Why not? He is an asshole!"

"Hey, calm down," Kakashi-sensei says, looking a little taken aback, "Why don't you all just-"

"-get a life? Yeah, Sasuke, why don't you?"

Sasuke-kun glares disdainfully at Naruto, "Idiot."

"Well fuck you too!"

"NARUTOOO!" Sakura yells, not for the first time that day, "You're so annoying! Why don't you just go away! I don't ever want to see your face here again!"

She never does. For the next day…Naruto disappears.

The People We've Become

Chapter One-

Haruno Sakura walks down an old dirt road. There have been rumors of a strange sickness that has taken hold of a small village of the Mist Country, and she's determined to discover its source and hopefully find a cure. It is an opportunity, she tells herself, to test her skills as a medic-nin and to do some good in the world that obviously needs it. But deep inside she knows that isn't the reason for her travels. But for now she can keep deluding herself.

It has been almost two years since she departed Konoha, and she hopes to keep it that way. The reasons for her departure are varied and she doesn't like to think on them. Avoiding them during the nighttime is hard enough without her dwelling on them by day as well.

She doesn't know exactly how long she walks, but as the sun starts to set she decides to go at a little faster pace to find a place to sleep. She can always sleep outside, however, after two years of wandering around she's found that she can usually trade her skills for a place to spend the night.

Sakura jumps from tree to tree and soon finds a village nestled in between the trees. She digs her mask out of her traveling pack and puts it on. She pulls on her hood to cover her short hair and walks slowly up into the village. She was told that the disease is confined to only one village, but she can't be sure that it isn't here too.

A few children playing in the road are the first to see her, and they stare in awe and back away slowly. Sakura knows she makes an intimidating figure; masked and hooded like she is. She walks into what looks like a small shop, and the man at the counter starts. He's a middle-aged man that looked like he's just started to lose his hair. She walks as unthreateningly as she can to the counter and bows politely.

"Excuse me, sir, do you know where I can find the town headman or woman?"

He stares at her for a few seconds and then reddens in embarrassment.

"Uh, well, Omae-sama should be…uh…here, let me show you…"

Sakura steps aside as he comes out from behind the counter, nervously glancing back over his shoulder as she follows him to the door.

"D-Do you see that inn there?" he asks.

Sakura nods.

"Omae-sama-that's his name, is usually in there. And…uh…," he looks nervously at her.

"Yes?"

"Well, may I ask you, I mean…what business do you have with him?" he says boldly.

Sakura smiles, slightly amused. So the man has more guts than she thought.

"I am a wandering doctor, I suppose you could say," she tells him, "I am going to a village south of yours said to be struck by some strange disease. However, I would like to know if I am able to stay in this village tonight by trading my skills, if you have any need of them, for a place to sleep."

"Y-You are a doctor?" he asks, surprised, "Yes, of course, I'm sure Omae-sama would…" he trails off suddenly.

Sakura frowns slightly, looking at him intently through the eyeholes of her mask.

"Well," the man starts up again, "I'm not sure whether I should say, but…there's a girl here who fell off a cliff. She miraculously survived, but she can't move anymore."

Sakura nods, "Her spine was probably broken or fractured," she says, "She would be paralyzed. I might be able to do something for her, but it really depends on how it was broken and where."

The man nods and she bows again before setting off for the inn. People whisper and point as she goes by, however Sakura has been wearing a mask ever since she left Konoha and is used to such treatment. She enters the inn and surveys it, like all good shinobi, carefully.

There is a bar at the center with an array of stools and booths surrounding it. In the far corner there is a staircase, which she assumes leads to the rooms above to bar.

The men in the bar turn to look at her suspiciously as she makes her way up to the bartender and asks as quietly as she can who 'Omae-sama' is. The bartender looks unsure of whether to answer, so instead points at a hefty man with long black hair, sitting in the middle of the bar. Sakura thanks him and makes her way to the center table aware that all eyes in the room are following her.

"You must be Omae-sama?" Sakura says politely, bowing her head.

"Who's asking?" he says, looking her up and down suspiciously.

"I am a doctor," she replies, "I was wondering whether you have any need of my skills in this village."

"What so you want in return?" Omae says shrewdly.

It's only when he says this does Sakura realize how young he is. He could only be a year or two older than she is.

"A place to sleep would be nice," she says, "And dinner."

He surveys her suspiciously and then a man to his right whispers something in his ear.

"What kind of doctor?" Omae asks and Sakura knows what he's asking.

"I use chakra if that's what you're asking," Sakura says coolly and Omae blushes.

"Well there is one…but it may be hopeless…" he suddenly looks tired.

Sakura waits patiently.

"My younger sister," he says, "Had an accident…the village doctor told us she broke her spine which means she can't move her legs or her arms."

"Paralysis," Sakura says, "I might be able to heal her, however, if it's not a clean break then it could prove to be impossible."

He nods seriously and stands. Sakura follows him out of the inn and to a small house on the edge of the village. Sakura carefully takes off her shoes and enters the house. An old woman, who must be Omae's grandmother, shrieks and has to be told that Sakura isn't some kind of demon, but is instead her to see her grandchild whose name is, unimaginatively, Kiri. Sakura follows Omae to one of the back room where a girl who is about fifteen years of age lies prostrate on a futon.

"Kiri," Omae says softly, all gruffness gone, "Someone's here to see you."

The girl on the bed turns her head slightly and Sakura can see just from looking at her that her head is probably the only thing she can move.

"Who is it?" the girl says softly.

Her voice is small and depressed and Sakura wonders what it's like not being able to move.

"I would go insane," she thinks, " I would die."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Sakura says, bowing, "I am a doctor."

"Another one?" the girl says sadly, "Onii-sama, it's useless. I'll never be able to move again."

For some reason this makes Sakura angry. However, she keeps her cool.

"How long since the accident?" Sakura asks, kneeling beside the futon.

The girl doesn't say anything.

"Kiri!" Omae says, almost angrily.

"A little more than a year," she says, not looking at Sakura

Behind the mask, Sakura winces. A year? That wasn't good.

"I'll see your back, if you please," she says.

Omae stand and gently turns his sister onto her stomach. Sakura rolls up her sleeves and pushes the girls shirt up. Omae leaves the room.

"I'm sick of this," the girl whispers, "Sick of all these doctors coming and saying the same thing over and over and over again. He still won't let it go. The only reason I still agree is for him."

Sakura doesn't know what to say, so instead she keeps silent and runs her hands carefully over the girl's spine.

"I had a friend who was in the same predicament you are," Sakura says softly, digging in her bag for some equipment, "He wasn't paralyzed, however, he couldn't do all the things he wanted to. My shishou performed an operation on him and he got better."

The ring on one of the two necklaces around her neck suddenly seems heavier for a second.

"Your spine is broken, however it isn't as bad as I thought it would be," Sakura says, "It is possible to reconnect your nerves, however…there is a high chance you wouldn't make it."

There is an awkward silence.

"That's impossible," the girl says, "Everyone else who's come said it was hopeless."

Sakura allows herself a grin behind her mask, "I can assure you that the previous doctors who looked at you weren't medic-nin."

"You're a ninja?" the girl asks.

Sakura frowns, not liking where this conversation is going. There had been to many things this day that reminded her of things she would like to forget. Broken spines, shishou, ninja.

"No," Sakura replies, "I am not."

Not anymore.

"Do you want to take the risk that you wouldn't survive?" Sakura asks.

"Yes," the girl says without hesitation, "Gods, yes."

Sakura rises, "Excuse me a moment then."

She leaves the room and walks to find Omae sitting at a low table with his grandmother.

"It's hopeless, isn't it?" he says when she enters

"No," Sakura says, "I can perform an operation, but there is a seventy percent chance she won't survive it."

He looks up at her in surprise, but then looks down again, "No…that's too high, I can't…I can't lose her…"

"You're sister has already agreed."

"You can't be serious!" he says angrily, standing, "I won't have it!"

"You're sister wants to be able to move again," Sakura says, "And I can already say that I would rather die than be stuck in the position that she is in now."

He looks her in the eye and swallowed, "But what if she…"

"I'll do my best to insure that that doesn't happen," Sakura says, and then more gently, "This is what she wants."

Omae still looks unsure.

"Shuichi, you had to let her go at some point," the old women says, "Why not let her go with hope?"

"Obaa-sama…"

He turns and looks pleadingly at Sakura and then closes his eyes. When he opens them, all wariness is gone.

"Alright," he says, "alright."

Sakura smiles and proceeds.

Sakura never liked performing operations. They were too long and much too stressful and she'd performed more than one that ended in death. She is determined, this time, however, that she won't fail. For herself, as well as for the girl and her brother.

She works for many hours that night, rendering the whole 'trade skills for a bed' idea quite useless. But then again, it didn't matter that much. There were many nights that she hadn't slept both inside and outside Konoha ever since Sasuke left. She became a workaholic, because work keeps her mind off things she wants to forget and Sakura likes the fulfillment of completing a job. She likes healing and helping people, because she can forget her own unhappiness, just for a second, when she sees their happy faces.

Sakura is exhausted when she finally exits the room. She's very close to taking a soldier pill, even though she detests them.

"How did it go?" Omae asks, desperately, surprisingly awake for a person who has been sitting outside a door for eight hours.

Sakura smiles, even though she knows he can't see it behind the mask, "She's going to be okay," she says tiredly.

Omae stares at her for a few seconds and suddenly she's being hugged harder than she's ever been in her life. She's dazed and can only just hear him sobbing out his thanks.

The rest of the night goes by in a blur. She barely tells Omae about the physical therapy exercises his sister will have to go through before she will be able to walk normally before suddenly the house is full of happy, crying people and Sakura is so tired and feels so out of place. By the time it's morning, Kiri is awake and everyone is sobbing in relief and yelling and screaming until they are blue in the face.

Omae's grandmother shows her to an empty room upstairs and when she leaves, Sakura locks the door and begins to undress, ignoring the people below. She pulls off her cloak, revealing a loose, long-sleeved shirt and the standard tight pants of a shinobi. She pulls off her shirt and begins unwrapping the tight bandages that are wrapped around her torso. After seven years of being a ninja she's found that breasts only get in the way and the easiest way of dealing with them is by wrapping them away. Being pretty and feminine was something she cared about when she was a child and at nineteen years of age, she's neither considered a child by herself nor by society. The last thing she takes off is her mask and she stands stark naked in front of a long mirror that leans against one of the four walls. She pulls a small yellow bottle out of her bag, opens it, and pours a small amount of the clear liquid inside onto her right palm.

She starts with her face. She dips her index finger on her left hand into the liquid and braces herself as she traces the scar which starts at her forehead, goes across her nose and down the her cheek, coating it with the clear solution. It hurts a bit; it always did, but it's always worth it.

I won't forget.

She dips her finger in again and coats the next scar. This one starts just below her left eye. It curves down her cheek, down her neck and chest, between her breasts, and curls around the left side of her waist. That is the longest one.

This is so I'll always remember.

The next one is much shorter. It starts in the middle of her back and goes straight down her left leg, stopping just before her knee.

I decided…

The one after that is even shorter. It goes from the left to right side of her stomach, nicking her navel.

…that I'd keep doing this…

A long one, starting at her left shoulder blade, going down to her right thigh.

…forever, so that…

A deep, but tiny one, just above her left breast.

…I'll never, ever…

Six short ones; four on her right arm, two on her left.

…forget you…

Three intersecting long ones, carved into her back. These are the most painful, for they were the first.

and these scars you gave me…

And the last two; one entwining down her left leg, down to her ankle, and the other spanning her right calf.

Tsunade-shishou.

A few days later Sakura departs from the village fully rested and well fed. She keeps going south, though at a slightly faster pace than before, the words of Omae ringing in her ears.

"Where are you going now?" he asks, as she is about to leave.

"South," she says.

He looks so relived that Sakura asks him why.

"There's been strange things going on in the Northwest," he says, looking uncomfortable, "Not in this country, but on the mainland, it could be just rumors, but…just be careful."

As she goes further into the country she realizes that she doesn't like these murky forests much. She'll be glad to leave this country of trees, mountains, and fog. The sooner she finds that village the better. She is 50 kilometers away when fate decides that she isn't meant to go any further.

When Sakura first sees them, they are merely two figures in the distance walking north on the path. She dons her mask and her hood and keeps going. When they get closer she thinks they must be a young husband and wife, perhaps traveling to visit some relatives. By the time she sees otherwise, it's too late. She's seen their faces before and even if she hadn't she could've told right away by their attire and lack of headband that they are rogue ninja.

The male has red hair and pale green eyes. He's carrying a gourd of something on his back. He's one year younger than Sakura, if she remembers correctly, and originally came from the Wind Country. She's seen his picture hundreds of times on the S-class list back in Konoha. He wears a simple black shirt with the kanji for one in crimson dyed or painted on it. It looks like a splatter of blood. His name is Sabaku no Gaara and he's a jinchuuriki. The holder of the Ichibi.

The woman is older than both her and her companion; she strains to remember. She has platinum blonde hair and startlingly dark eyes. Sakura thinks she is originally from the Cloud Country and she's also on the S-class list. She wears a navy blue shirt of the same style as Gaara with the kanji for two on it in white. Her name is Nii Yugito and she's the holder of the Nibi.

Sakura forces herself to keep walking and tries to remember everything she was told about these two jinchuuriki. But it's no use. It's almost been four years since the shinobi of Konoha were told about the five remaining jinchuuriki and how they were to kill them on sight. It appeared that Akatsuki was getting stronger and all the great countries were getting worried about what the jinchuuriki were going to be used for. They made a pact that the jinchuuriki must be killed before the Akatsuki found them.

That was the day that Sakura's trust in Konoha first began to waver.

They are only a few meters away and Sakura forces herself to remain calm and alert. She doubts the stories about all jinchuuriki being bloodthirsty killers are true, but you can never be too prepared.

They are so close now and it seems like time is slowing down. Sakura is never more grateful for her mask, for she fears that her face would give her away.

"You're from Konoha," Nii says, when they are not even a meter away, her dark eyes narrowed in dislike, "I'll never forget that stench."

Time freezes.

Sakura opens her mouth to say something. To say anything, but it's too late. The woman's arm comes at her and she only barely dodges it. She flips backwards, ridding herself of her cloak and hood. She draws a few kunai, but before she can throw them she's forced to dodge a wave of what appears to be sand.

Gaara glares at her and blocks her kunai with a wall of sand. Sakura curses under her breath and makes a few hand seals. She runs at Nii, a bright ball of energy in her hands, but the jinchuuriki lashes out with her foot, hitting Sakura in the stomach. Sakura flips backwards again and lands on her hands and knees gasping for breath. She's reluctant to go full out on these people because she's not a Konoha shinobi anymore and has no reason to want to harm them. In fact, she's more connected to them than they know. But she knows they won't listen to her; they're too angry and bitter and Sakura doesn't blame them.

Dodging a wall of sand, Sakura realizes that she has two options. She can either go all out on them and get them or herself killed or run. Sakura's always had pride and hates running, but now's not the time to be thinking of such things. She veers off the path, followed by a huge arm of sand.

"You won't get away!" Nii yells angrily and Sakura can see plainly that her eyes have changed color and her teeth have morphed into fangs.

She can also feel her chakra shift to a more sinister type. Sakura turns and blocks one of the clawed hands with a kunai causing the holder of the Nibi to scream in pain. Sakura sees the opening, but hesitates. If she wanted to, she could kill her right here, right now. But Sakura doesn't and punches her right in the face. Nii falls backward, unconscious and just in time for in a second she would've transformed and her chakra would've burned Sakura's hand more than it already did. Sakura grasps her right hand staring at the amount of damage a single punch did to her glove and her hand. This is her mistake. Suddenly, she's lifted up into the air. Her entire body, minus her head is surrounded by sand. Sakura screams in pain as it contracts and she feels her ribs break. She has no other choice than to use her trump card now. Sakura lashes out with her super human strength that took her a better part of her fourteenth year trying to obtain. The sand wall breaks under fists and Sakura's falling. She sees the surprised face of Sabaku no Gaara and she hits the ground bleeding and coughing.

"Impressive," he says, speaking for the first time.

Sakura spits out blood into her mask and it drips slowly down her shirt and onto the ground. She struggles to her feet and backs up only to find that she backed up onto a cliff. Below her is a raging river. She looks back at Gaara to see him smirking at her.

"You put up a nice fight," he says, "But now, it's over."

Sakura makes her choice in a spilt second and throws herself over the cliff. Air is blowing in her face and she feels her mask fly off and then suddenly she's wet and cold and then everything goes black.

When Sakura wakes up, everything hurts. She opens her eyes blearily and finds that it's noon and she's lying on her back in the shallows of the river. Every breath hurts and she can smell and see blood dripping down her chest. With trepidation and shaking hands she slowly cuts away her shirt with a kunai and forces her head up to look at her wounds. At the last second Sakura forces her head away and vomits into the shallow water, her chest burning with pain at her actions. Tears of pain roll down her cheeks and she bits her lip to keep from crying out.

"No," she thinks, "I won't be weak. I won't cry."

She lets her head fall back and she lays there for a long time with her eyes closed, trying to ignore the stabbing pain in her chest every time she draws breath. Something brushes up against her leg and Sakura look to see her pack. Her mask is no where in sight. She reaches with her kunai and manages to pull it closer to her. She shakily opens the pack and find a packet of food that the water didn't get to. She's not at all hungry, but she need the energy to heal herself and get out of the water otherwise she'll die here. Her soldier pills are ruined and so is her book of medical ninjitsu, but those are easily replaced. She eats the food slowly, willing herself not to retch again. Sakura rests a bit after that and then begins to heal her wounds. It takes longer than it usually does because she has to take breaks in-between. After what seems like hours, the pain is gone but Sakura has no energy left to drag herself out of the water. She's cold and wet and there's nothing of use to her in her bag. It's getting dark which means it's just going to get colder.

"I won't die here," she thinks, trying to force her legs and arms to move, "I won't die! I won't…"

Haruno Sakura falls back into the shallows, unconscious.

A/N: Ugghh, I really shouldn't be writing this right now. I have three other fanfics that I should be working on, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone. It's not my fault…really.

I realize that this fic is really confusing and there's going to be at least one plot twist. You will eventually find out exactly what happened to Sakura, but it'll take awhile.

Also, just to make it clear, Gaara never was in the Chuunin Exam, so that's why Sakura has never seen him before, except for on the S-Class list.

Anyway, updates on this and my other fanfics are going to be slow, but I will get to them.

Next chapter will be called "Goddess" and will be from someone else's point of view. Please review!

p.s. I realize that 'omae' is an informal way of saying 'you' in Japanese, however it is also a last name.

p.p.s. I sincerely hope that I don't have to explain the name of this chapter.