Bonus Chapter: Epilogue
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A/N: At long last this project is finished! YAY!
Uzamaki Naruto never gave up. Never would give up when his friends were concerned. Ever since Sasuke Uchiha's betrayal he had followed his nindo. He had brought back Sasuke only a few months ago. Still the kunoichi had been missing for a little over a year. At first he thought Akatsuki would contact him and ask him to come but no word had come.
It had begun with Ino's disappearance. She had vanished from the training yard without giving a sign to where she had gone. Shikamaru and Chouji had searched the grounds for her but still had found no trace. After three days they were convinced that something was wrong.
Hinata and Sakura had been taken during the mission . He had gotten Sasuke back but loosing the two kunoichi was too much. Sakura—he still loved her. She was the perfect person as far as he was concerned. Her kidnapping ahd made him almost abandon the quest for Sasuke but Kakashi had refused to let him go.
"Sakura can take care of herself."
Hinata was his friend. Both Kiba and Shino had been disperate to find the heiress. Naruto had been concerned but his first priority had been trying to get Sakura back. Even after the team returned to Kohana with Sasuke, he had been ready to set out. It was then that Tsuande told him about Tenten.
Tenten had been out for a walk one morning and never came back. The kunoichi was known for taking long runs but she tended to not be gone for more than a few hours. A few pieces of clay found in the vicinity confirmed Naruto's worst fears.
"It's the Akatsuki, ba-chan."
"How many times have I told you not to call me that brat!"
"I want to go after them."
"We don't even know where they are besides most likely this to lure you out."
Tsunade had sent out teams of Anbu but each team came back seriously wounded or dead. The few that lived spoke of terrifying experiences battling Akatsuki. Even the only female member of Akatsuki had fought the oncoming Anbu protecting the kunoichi from being retrieved.
Kohana had been in desperation as they looked all around to find the missing girls. Gaara and his people in Suna had contacted them to say that Temari had gone missing less than a few days after the others had disappeared. Both Gaara and Kankuro had been frantically searching for their sister. There were no signs that anything terrible had happened as she was traveling to Kohana to deliver a message.
Six months after the disappearance of the kunoichi a letter had arrived in Kohana addressed to both the Kazekage and the Hokage. Outlined in the letter was a peace offering from the Akatsuki. They would halt their activities in return for the hostage kunoichi being allowed in to remain with them.
The entire letter was met with the usual resentment. The remaining members of Team Guy threatened to go in after Tenten any way necessary. The same was true for Shino and Kiba. The pair had never forgiven themselves for not rescuing Hinata immediately. Sasuke could care less about finding the absent kunoichi. This would give him the perfect opportunity to kill his brother and fulfill his oath as an avenger.
Tsunade and Gaara had spent hours in conference before sending a message back to the Akatsuki. The Kohana and Suna councils had both ruled that the deal was approved. The agreement was simple and all that was lost was one of the top medical ninijas and a four other kunoichis of various power ranges. Years of war with the Akatsuki would've cost them more. Tsunade and Gaara had determined that the agreement might be a way for the Akatsuki to cover up that the kunoichi were really dead. They wanted a personal assurance that the kunoichi were living and the kunoichi themselves had to agre to remaining with the Akatsuki.
That was how Naruto had ended up in the woods waiting. Not far from him stood the Akatsuki leader. The man's piercings gleamed with the reflected sunlight.
"You Kohana nins are always the same. Even my former sensei Jiraya," the Leader said, "would be acting as if we could not be trusted."
"You lot don't have honor," Naruto retorted.
"You came to Ame to see the kunoichis. Don't make this harder. Be grateful it's me you are dealing with. The others might not be so gentle."
Naruto stared at the missing nin. "I just want to see my friends and talk with them alone."
Pein didn't say anything. The kunoichi, he knew, would have the opportunity to leave. Konan wouldn't like that and as much as he loved his angel, he couldn't say that he would like it either. He had become friends with some of the kunoichi allowing them to get into his bubble something that only the Akatsuki members and Konan had been allowed before had. He glared at Naruto. What was this boy thinking coming here? Did he not know that the entire reason to capture the kunoichi was to lure him out?
From out of the woods the five women came. Each had said goodbye to their captor. Tenten smiled at Pein before turning her brown eyes towards Naruto. She knew that Konan was waiting for him not too far away and she hoped her friends would have faith that they would return.
The Akatsuki leader said nothing as he merely walked away.
Finally the women were left alone with Naruto. Naruto scanned the area repeatedly making sure that no one was in the woods. He didn't need the girls feeling threatened into returning.
"It's good to see you Naruto," Temari said breaking the annoying silence. "You can relax the Akatsuki members are back at their headquarters."
Naruto grinned. It took a moment for him to look at the girls. The main things he noticed of course when Ino's new short hair and Hinata's slightly bulging stomache. He frowned.
"Were you….did you….did someone…We're you raped?" he finally blurted out.
Hinata looked ready to burst into tears for a second but quickly composed herself. Ino, however was glaring at Naruto.
"Are you an idiot?" the blond screamed. "You honestly think that we'd let something like that happen to Hinata-chan."
The other kunoichi also continued to glare at Naruto.
"I don't doubt that you guys would protect Hinata but the Akatsuki aren't exactly nice guys. They're monsters. Look at Itachi, he murdered his entire family except for Sasuke-teme. He's back in the village now Sakura-chan. But anyway the Akatsuki don't know what it means to care about someone."
He barely could dodge the kunai that came flying at him from Tenten's direction. Hinata was glaring at him with her activated bloodline.
"Tenten, what are you—"
"Don't you dare call Dei-kun a monster," Tenten yelled. "He's not a monster neither are the others."
"Itachi has been good to me," said Hinata.
Naruto felt his mouth dropping. "You can't be serious Hinata. He's the father of that—"
"It's a baby," Sakura snapped. She had been quiet long enough. "We're happy here Naruto. We're loved for who we are."
"Yeah," Temari snorted, "though the way those two show me leaves something to be desired."
"But at least you know the care, Mari," Tenten said to her friend. "It's not like back at the village where we all had to wait while the boys were considered the important ones.
"You can't be serious Sakura-chan. You can't believe that any of those Akatsuki love you!" Naruto shouted.
"Sasori does love me," the pink-haired kunoichi retorted.
"Sasori! Do you not remember what he did to Chiyo? What he did to Gaara? Sasori isn't capable of feeling love," he turned to Hinata, "neither is Itachi. The word doesn't exist to them. You all have spent too much time here. I'm bringing you back whether you like it or not."
Sakura's face flamed with anger. "What makes you think that you have that right? Kohana signed the treaty. The peace has been made. We'll leave if you try to take us. Besides could you protect Hinata's baby from her crazed clan or from Sasuke?"
Naruto felt his blood heating. "Sasuke would never hurt Hianta or her child. Her clan wouldn't do anything to her either."
"You truly are an idiot!" Ino shouted. "Clans won't accept back a tainted heiress who is carrying the child of an s-class murderer. They'll either kill Hinata and the baby or take the baby and raise him to be a weapon. Hinata will be dead either way. And Sasuke is obessed with Itachi. Even Kisame said it was nuts."
"You all ned to come back. The village—"
"Oh can it!" Temari shouted. "Give this letter to my brothers. I have better things to do than argue with you. Come on Hina, Ten, Ino. I think Sakura has a few things to say to Naruto."
The other girls headed back towards the village.
"How is shishou?" Sakura asked.
"Ba-chan is fine. She needs her number one apprentice back. Sasuke-teme asks about you sometimes and Kakashi-sensei is good. So you ready to go home with me, Sakura-chan?"
"This is my home now."
"Sakura, you can't believe that Sasori cares about."
She didn't reply. "Goodbye Naruto. Don't come back here."
Naruto doesn't know what to feel as he watched Sakura held back to the village. He bows his head sadly as he prepares for the long trek home. Perhaps the length and the loneliness of the journey will give him enough time to think.
Ino moved quickly through the brush. A year ago she would've jumped at the chance to go with Naruto and return to the village. A year ago she would've wanted to return home but not now.
Ino accepted that she would never be the greatest kunoichi nor would she be the strongest. She wasn't the strongest and medical ninjutsu wasn't something she found herself loving. Instead she realized that genjustu was where her talent lied and Kohana already had a genjutsu mistress.
But it was more than that.
"What's eating you kid?"
She didn't even glance at him. "Nothing much tuna-chan. I just feel so tired."
"You and tired don't even fit in the same sentence. What's wrong Ino?"
She tried not to smile as he said her name. Rarely did he ever say it. Usual she was just woman or kid or even sometimes girl.
"You already knew about Naruto coming here."
"What about the dumb brat?"
"I just—do I have a purpose here?"
His eyes shot up. She couldn't be thinking about returning to that cursed village. Not that he would let her go back. If he had to he would drag her by her hair back to headquarters and lock himself and her in a room together until she saw reason.
"Of course you do. What kind of question is that?"
"What is my purpose do I have?"
"To annoy me."
She scowled at him. "Be serious. Kisame, what am I good at?"
"Ino, you're always improving and didn't you help Konan arrange the garden?"
"Like that's important."
"The two of you make sure we eat! Besides you're the best person for doing supply. All our missions are stocked properly and according to old stitch face you saved us lots of money. Hell, you ever came up with some strategies that Leader didn't know about for cutting down on waste."
He pulled her towards him forcing her to meet his eyes.
"Ino, why the hell can't you see that you're special? I'd probably die of boredom if you weren't around. No one else can argue like you."
"Tell me how you really feel," she snorted.
"Fine!" he shouted crashing his lips to hers.
She stared at him in complete shock. Not that she hadn't wanted that kiss but she had never expected it from him. Definitely not from him.
"Sharky, I didn't know you cared!"
He glared at her
"Don't you ever call me that in public."
"Whatever you say but in private you'll always be my Sharky."
He growls slightly before she gives him a kiss.
"Where are you going woman?"
"I figured I'd train. It's going to be a beautiful day even the cosmos are blooming."
"You and your flowers."
"Oh come on fish-face, it's not like you don't ever pick flowers for me. I heard you mumbling about how I always rearrange your bouquets. I swear you Mist nins are only good for two things."
"And what would that be?"
"Fighting and loving."
"Whatever you say loud mouth."
"That's loud mouth-sama to you."
Kisame shook his head as he raced after her. He couldn't understand why he loved as much as he did.
She doesn't know why. It isn't as if she is unhappy in her new life. She is happy, happier than she ever was in hidden village.
Naruto had been her first love and maybe his rejection of her hurt—it wasn't the rejection of her love for him but the rejection of who she had become. She hadn't faced him as a weakling but instead had strongly stated her refusal.
Naruto who saw the world in such thick shades of black and white couldn't understand how she had changed. Maybe if she had stayed weak he would've understood but she couldn't be that girl. She couldn't be that girl again because then how could she deserve the love she had earned?
She feels the warm arms wrap around her and leans in. Here with him she is safe and it is a strange and wonderful feeling. Never before has she been so safe but no one in Kohana would understand how she could love an S-class murderer. The Uchiha Clan killer, the man who committed patricide and matricide, with the blood red eyes and cold voice was the only person that taught her to be strong.
Naruto had called him a monster. He had reminded her of Itachi's sins as if she didn't know them. She knew what Itachi was. He was a man who had his share of demons and his dark side was more prevalent than his light but she was content to be his light. He loved her without asking anything. He made her see herself as someone of worth. He didn't force her or torture her with silence.
Her father would disown her now if he knew she was no longer chaste but she didn't care. She couldn't hide the fact.
"Hinata don't think of them."
She gazed into his dark eyes. For once the eyes were black instead of the red she was used to. Would their baby have his eyes? She didn't know.
"I'm not upset Itachi. It's just I know now I can't go back. I'll never see home again."
"Was it ever home to you, Hinata?"
She knew what he meant by that question. She had never truly been happy in Konoha. The Hyugga compound had been so cold and unfeeling.
"No koi," she answered. "I think my home is with you."
"Good," he replied kissing her forehead.
"WHAT THE HELL GIVES THAT KID THE RIGHT! WHAT THE HELL! JUST BECAUSE WE WERE TEAMMATES DOESN'T GIVE HIM THE DAMN RIGHT!"
She smashed the clay pots and plastered faces that she had made a few days ago. Sasori had been teaching her how to make puppets out of wood but Sakura had always liked to make decorative things. She had asked Deidara for some clay and made the pots. She even was going to make some dolls considering that Konan was expecting and Hinata said that baby was a girl. The faces had been practice but she didn't care now.
She turned towards the wooden doll bodies. Some were hers and others were Sasori's. She didn't think as she punched into the half-finished puppets.
She feels his arms circle her suddenly. Perhaps he was angry that she had broken his projects but he doesn't even look at the broken wooden bodies. Her hands were blooding and covered with splintered wood. Like a fool she forgot to wear her gloves when she attacked.
Gently Sasori took the splinters out of her hands.
"Do you love me?"
Sasori gazed at her his eyes boring deep into her. He knew then he shouldn't have let her go to Uzumaki. This morning she had known he loved but that was before Uzumaki spoke to her.
"I'm not capable of loving anyone but you, blossom."
He kisses her forehead and holds her close. She is still fragile like any doll but she is also made of flesh and blood. That only makes him love her more.
Tenten didn't even try to think about home. There she had been a kunoichi frequently overlooked. Not that she was resentful. Why should she be?
Tsunade hadn't chosen her as an apprentice. Neji and Lee had never treated her like an equal. Gai-sensei never had time to properly train her.
She was okay with all that. She was fine with being in the background. The background was a nice place to be. The background gave her the chance to blend in and pretend her existence mattered.
She knew like Ino did that she wasn't anything special. She was just the orphan girl that was the weapon's mistress. It had hurt though that only Naruto had come to take them back. Neji and Lee probably didn't even care she was gone.
She couldn't think like that. She did matter. She was strong and brave and she did not belong in the background. She didn't want the spotlight but she wasn't worthless. She had meaning and she would not be trampled by her teammates.
"Hey Ten-chan come here, yeah!"
She giggled as she saw the giant clay bird and his smile.
She takes his hand and hugs him tight. She has a place to belong and that is enough.
Deidara doesn't say anything as he holds her. It is good to have someone else that understands.
Temari sighed. At least now her brothers would know not to go looking for her. Her letter that she had entrusted to Naruto explained that she would gut either one of her brothers if they showed up.
She had her own problems now and being told that she was needed at home was total bull. They didn't need her. They needed to grow up.
"Do you have to pray so loudly?"
"Do you have to count your money out loud?"
She could hear the metal weapons being pulled out as the two immortals charged each other. Part of her wished that they would just kill each other so it would be over but that was damn near impossible.
"What are you two idiots doing?" she shouted her eyes flaming.
The weapons were dropped at the sound of her voice.
"How was you're meeting with that damn f—"
Temari glared. "Don't you dare finish that sentence," she growled.
"So did that idiot want to collect a bounty?"
"Not everything people do is for money. Some times there are people who believe in honor."
The two men ignored her as they once again pulled out their weapons and face each other. She smiled grabbing her fan as she sent them back with a giant wind blast. The things she did for these men. At they are hers.
Naruto had been here five years ago but still she had needed to see. He had been convinced that the Akatsuki had brainwashed the captured kunoichi or that the girls were suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome. It had taken five years for the new Akatsuki base to be located and everyday the families of the missing girls begged some news.
Now she didn't know what to tell them.
She watched the children run through the area. The forest protected them from the outside world. Then again the Akatsuki headquarters wasn't in an open area.
Still her brown eyes watched as the children played taking in the precious moments of childhood. It reminded her all too much of her village and she desperately wanted to return but what would she tell the girls' families? Surely she couldn't tell them the truth.
She instead gazed at the children. Some were rougher than others while some were just shyer but all were precious. She knew that as she had always known that children regardless of parentage or loyalties were truly innocent. At least they were innocent until they were given kunai and sent on missions.
But these children were different. They each had weapons near them but they were still playing the games of childhood. They weren't miniature shinobi like she had expected. Each child had something unique and sacred about it. Each knew they were loved. Her own village couldn't even accomplish what the Akatsuki had. Naruto's lonely childhood was proof of that.
"Ready to go?"
She turned to look at her oldest friend. He always had his ways of gathering information. He had found the base for her and had agreed to accompany her. Perhaps he had known all long that this was what they would find.
In the clearing a little girl with reddish pink hair ran around. Sakura. Her bright smile as she was chased by two girls both with familiar smirks. One's hair was dark and the other's was white but their faces showed they were sisters. Temari. A girl with light light blue hair was playing with a boy with blond hair. The boy smiled but his brown eyes were lit with joy as they shaped animals out of clay. Tenten. Another little boy with dark hair was watching. He stuck up his nose slightly when he saw the dirt on their hands and pouted slightly. Ino. The final child sat in the dark by himself. It was obvious that he was shy. His eyes rolled with a sharingan but immediately turned grey and he smirked slightly. Hinata.
Tsunade smiled as she turned a way. Here there was peace. Here there was a future and she could not interfere.
"Let's go home, Jiraya. There are no Konoha nins here anymore."
In the shadows a group of five woman smiled.
A/N: Thanks for reading. I'm glad this project has been liked so much and all of the feed back is great. I