Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, I would stop giving the readers 17 page chapters in which nothing seems to happen… WTF.

Also, ItachiShisui mentions in this chapter. If you don't like yaoi, or well… I suppose it's incest. Then turn away. Huh. I only just now realized its incest. I feel kinda stupid. No action or anything. Just mentions of a crush. Sorry to people who don't like it. I'll continue this later so that I don't further spoil things in the chapter.

The Sun's Demon Assassin

Chapter 18- Mission Out

Date completed- I HAVE NO IDEA -____-;;

As luck would have it, Kurenai's team was out on a mission. Due to this, Tsunade called in Team Kakashi, Neji, and Shikamaru. The six nin were currently standing in her office, awaiting the mission details.

"I have called the 6 of you in here today for the assignment of an S-rank long term mission concerning a certain assassin. Your goal is to track down the Sun's Assassin, as well as their team. You are to get them to come back with you to Konoha." Tsunade commanded attention with her tone.

"Any reason? I have a feeling this isn't for tea and cookies." Kakashi inquired.

"As you all probably know, Konoha's relations with the other hidden villages are wavering. It is inevitable for war to break out. Due to the fact that we, allied with Sand and Mist, are likely going to be severely out gunned by what remains of Sound, Kusa, Ame, Iwa, and others. The chances of us not facing total annihilation are slim-" She elaborated.

"To non-existent." Shikamaru finished. "Basically, she's trying to say that if we don't get these mercenaries to help us, we are all going to die." He sighed. "Mendokusai. (1)"

"Exactly." Tsunade responded.

"But, Hokage-sama, these may be missing-nin wanted by our own country. Or people that were forced out of Konoha for reasons unknown." Sakura was trying to insure there were no loopholes.

Tsunade held up a scroll. "This has the entire council's graces, and signatures, for however long they are here to help us, that any acts they have committed will be forgiven and they will be treated kindly so long as they have been hired by us." She was NOTletting this chance to get rid of Sasuke go!

"Where might we find these people?" Sai asked.

"No idea. And you have an indefinite amount of time to find them. Kakashi, I want you to send a report back weekly." Tsunade finished. "There is a rumored sighting of them in Iwa."

"When do we leave?" Sasuke asked. He knew Tsunade had some other reason other than to find this group.

"6 hours from now." Tsunade said. "Pack lots. Here are your Visa's that will get you into any of our allied nations without fail. If you need to, restock there."

Everyone left. Tsunade smirked. It seemed no one suspected her want to get some distance from Sasuke. Good. And with any luck, she'd have at least a month of no Sasuke!

With Naruto

Naruto lay on her floor, curled up into a half fetal position. Her long hair splayed on the ground around her. Tears continued to sparkle down her cheeks, but her eyes lay closed, and her breathing more normal, although still rather fast. Every so often a small muttering, or whimper could be heard, but it was indistinguishable. Her mouth formed a resigned grimace.

Itachi, Haku, Zabuza, Shirone, and Kyuubi all crowded her door, the food that had been left behind remained untouched. Kyuubi took a small step into the room, and slowly moved to where Naruto lay asleep. Upon closer inspection her face was severely flushed, and red streaks marred the usually tan skin. "She has a slight fever." Kyuubi stated. "But it seems she's finally calmed down."

The others nodded. Kyuubi carefully picked up Naruto and placed her on the bed, and pulled a blanket over her.

"When you see her like this… It's hard to believe she's wanted by so many countries." Haku said. The last words lingered in the air. "She looks completely defenseless. Completely innocent."

"She gave up all innocence when she became a shinobi." Zabuza was firm. "But, this kid… I don't think she was ever seen as innocent." A dark look went across Kyuubi's fault. It was his fault she was viewed in that manner.

"She's so carefree. Or so it seems, but… Its obvious she isn't now." Shirone spoke softly. "I don't really understand… But I never knew her before she left Konoha." Shirone looked up at the ceiling. "I can't understand how someone would treat Naruto with such contempt."

"It's a mystery to us all." Itachi stated.

"Lets let her sleep and hope for a better tomorrow." Haku said, ushering people out of the door gently. Itachi looked back on the sleeping blonde one last time before sliding the door closed. No one noticed the grimace had relaxed into something closer to indifference. An almost smile graced her features.

A little before the conversation in Naruto's room, and also during

We all hate you. Why can't you just go and never come back. You're just a monster. If it wasn't for you, Sasuke wouldn't have ever left us!

Naruto shook her head at the idea. No… No one..

"Just die."

"Never come back."

"You're exiled."

"No one wants you here"

"So why do you long to return?"

The voices continued to chide her. Over and Over again. She was never able to receive some rest.

In the darkness shrouding her, figures were being to become visible.

"No… No…"

The figures closed in on her… More of them kept coming. It was a sea. She tried to move but found she couldn't. Her legs… Were so weak… She felt so weak. Features became distinguishable on the figures that enclosed on her. They were almost to her.. They had weapons knives. They were going to kill her. Tears dripped from her face.

It was true. They never would see her as something more than a sub-human, not deemed worthy of life. She resigned herself to her fate. Her death awaited, looming in the not so distant field… The figures had reached her. A knife stuck her skin. A blunt weapon. The knife was very dull.

Another figure approached and the process repeated.

A small light appeared a little ways away, and a cluster lights not so far a way.

It was no longer quite as pitch black. A lulling tone emerged from the lights, the figures that had been attacking her retreated. The lights lingered for a bit, bathing her in a dim light a feeling of care and adoration enveloping her and hugging her as the light did. One of the lights touched her forehead gently; it hovered for a moment before moving to reside next to her. More lulling sounds, and then slowly the lights began to move away, diming as they went. One of them lingered for a moment longer before finally diming away to nothingness.

Although alone now, she felt like she was surrounded by warmth.

It was wonderful.

The next morning

Naruto's eyes fluttered awake. She sat up quickly when she realized she was no longer on the floor, only to relax and slump back down when she realized she'd been moved to her bed.

That dream was weird.. But perhaps induced by her depressing day. Given that pretty much that was all she had thought about, it would have made sense. But what had cause the lights though? It was so weird. Those light had protected her, numbed the pain, now the question was what had caused them to appear. Since she was on the bed, it would have made sense for someone, presumably one of her teammates, to come in and move her. So maybe.. It had been them that had induced the light in her dreams? She wasn't sure.

Best not to dwell on the unknown. Or that's what she decided in this case.

It was so comfortable in her bed… And she still felt so weak… She continued to sleep.

Haku peeked into the blonde's room, only to discover his captain was still asleep. He approached the blonde cautiously, upon closer examination, he could tell Naruto's coloring was a little off, but better than it was last night. He crept out and let her sleep. After all, she pushed herself far harder than was safe. He quietly walked back to the sitting room, where the others were.

"Well?" Zabuza asked.

"She's asleep. She's still a little sick, but she looks much healthier than last night. The redness has decreased, and she's got some color back." Haku communicated. "I let her sleep. Especially since I know she pushes her self too hard. She's pushing herself dangerously. She can't always keep herself at the limit."

Shirone looked kind of confused. "Hm? But… We're always here to heal her." Shirone's naivety was showing. This was when it really showed that Shirone didn't quite have the same age and sharpened mind the others had gained from their years. Given that Shirone was under 10 years of age, this did make sense.

Zabuza shook his head. "You don't understand. Naruto's been pushing herself to the limit for weeks on end. She's always on the watch, always directing, always doing something. That kind of alertness takes its toll. Mentally. She wasn't exactly the most stable person to begin with, eh, Kyuubi?"

"No. She wasn't. The villagers in Konoha ensured that. She still isn't. She acts strong because she doesn't want others to worry. She's good at it too, only had her entire life to practice." Kyuubi responded. "Don't even think I would have realized if I hadn't heard her every thought. Even before the initial crack in the seal, I still could hear what she thought."

Zabuza continued. "She's mentally not completely stable. She's pushing herself to the limit for weeks on end. That much stress could kill someone. One's body isn't meant to function at 100 percent for a long period of time. When you do that, eventually something gives out. And if it's not your sanity-"

"It's a major organ. And it will most likely be past the point of repair." Itachi finished. "It's shortening her life."

"Exactly." Haku said.

Shirone looked stricken at the explanation. How could that be? Why would Naruto-san intentionally push herself to a point that shortened her life?

Haku smiled wistfully. "Let's not let her get to that point. I don't want to see her go before it's really her time. After all-" He turned to Zabuza. "She brought us up to the light. Brought Itachi into the light."

Itachi sullenly looked ahead, now reminded of killing Shisui. He never wanted to kill Shisui… Shisui had understood him. Upon meeting Shisui, Itachi felt like he had his first real connection to someone. Shisui was the first. Sandaime-sama was the second, Sasuke was the third… And.. Naruto was the fourth. His parents may have cared for him, but they never truly connected. His father wanted Itachi to be a perfect killing machine. His mother cared for him, but he never really had a strong, strong connection to her. Yes, her death did hurt. But it was nothing like Shisui's.

After all. Shisui had been his first crush. Itachi had a hard time admitting to it, seeing as Shisui betrayed everyone. But he would secretly admit to it. The fact he had loved his best friend. When Itachi had to kill Shisui, a part of him broke. He had acted like he was fine with killing Shisui, but when the last breath left Shisui's body, Itachi felt his chest freeze up. His heart ached with ferocity unmatched thus far in his life. And then his eyes had lit up in excruciating pain. He had gained the Mangekyo not only killing his best friend, but by killing his best friend, first connection to someone, first crush, first love.

It was odd that it was his cousin, his cousin, that he had loved first. Itachi hadn't wanted to love him… But it was difficult.

Shisui had been Itachi's first "bond". Shisui was fun to be around, made Itachi feel cared for, made Itachi feel... Something other than apathy. Shisui had been popular, yes. Maybe not the Itachi or Sasuke popular, but he was certainly popular. He just had this aura that made him popular. Whether it was his handsome face, or his "open" personality, it worked pretty well. He had small crowds of fangirls, and a couple fanboys here and there. Like Itachi.

Either way, Itachi had liked Shisui, despite the family status. Not that it really mattered, since to Itachi's knowledge Shisui had never even known that Itachi had liked him. Also, it was common for the Uchiha's to inbreed anyway. Itachi's love for Shisui would remain unrequited and secret. Shisui would never know that Itachi had liked him, and that was it, because Shisui was dead. Besides… Itachi had moved on. Maybe he didn't love anyone right now, but… He didn't grieve as he used to. With his heart wrenching as though it was being crushed by Gaara's sand.

It was also why Itachi didn't want to love anyone like that ever again. Better to face solitude and loneliness than that… Agony.

"-Chi? Itachi? You there?" Shirone was very concerned. Itachi had just zoned out for like… five minutes!

"Hn." Itachi grunted in response.

Back In Konoha

Sasuke prepared his gear for the long trip. He refilled the stores his seals summoned shuriken from, and packed as many kunai as he could. He brought along his sleeping bag and a tent, as well as dried food. He packed two extra sets of clothes, as well as his traveling cloak. He also brought along the technique scroll and the photos Naruto had given him. That stupid technique was giving him grief! It was like you had to look both ways at once! The technique was supposed to combine two elements at once. So you had to build both of the elemental type chakras. And then you had to put both of those elemental type chakras under an enormous amount of pressure. When you attacked with it, at the moment of impact, you had to increase the pressure on it to the point where it implodes, which caused the chakra to fuse and release energy, but while the chakra is wild, you have to control it enough to keep it from hitting you. It was similar to the chidori in a couple regards, but it was also totally different.

Obviously a technique that was exactly as the scroll Naruto had left for him had said. Something else.

Sasuke sighed. Had it really been five years since he had been forcibly dragged back here by a half dead blonde? He had settled back into the life here relatively quickly, and although he didn't show it, he was thankful that the beings he had once called his friends, and perhaps once again does, did not treat him the way they likely deserved to treat him. With hatred, despair and disgust. After all, if he had never left Konoha, Naruto never would have had to chase after him, nearly get herself killed several times, and eventually end up exiled after finally getting him back.

And yet, her friends all treated him fairly well after a few months of slight loathing. For Naruto, they were willing to let it go. To allow Naruto's wishes to be fulfilled.

If Sasuke ever saw the blonde again, he would…. Apologize, for lack of a better word, and thank, once again lack of a better word, her for asking them to treat him decently.

He had to admit. It felt pretty good to not have to deal with a pedophile trying to feel you up every few minutes. Err… Have people he could depend upon without them asking favors from you. Even if his instructor did read porn in front of him.

Sasuke cut his train of thought off. He had finished packing for the long trip and needed to head out. He grabbed his pack and navigated through the maze of shoji-doors that made up many of the walls in his house.

He was living in the Uchiha district again, he had been surprised to have found it cleaned up, repaired and in move-in able condition. All of the plumbing worked, as the appliances he had, such as the stove and fridge. All of the wreckage from the massacre had been cleaned up, disposed of, and the damage had been repaired. The fading paint, and white walls had been cleaned and re-colored. Any broken rice paper on the screens had been replaced, and the broken screens fixed, removed, or replaced. And the blood. Gone. Thankfully.

Sasuke had moved into one of the guest houses, not wanting to return to the site of where his parents had been killed, nor where he remembered seeing anyone else dead. And thus, he was staying in one of the guest houses.

Sasuke walked to the entrance, slipped on his shoes, and headed to the appropriate meeting spot. Maybe while he was gone he'd meet Naruto. Well, a guy can hope, right?

He still wasn't sure about… uh... How he feltabout the girl. Did he only like her as a friend… Or did he like her as something more? It was difficult to know. Especially seeing as he had only gotten a level head back a few years ago for the first time in many years.

He decided not to dwell, he'd have plenty of time in the coming weeks to think about it.

Returning to paying attention to where he was going, Sasuke had walked to the gates, where they were supposed to meet. Neji, Sakura, and Sai were already there. Kakashi had ended up showing a half hour late, Shikamaru with him.

"Kakashi! You're late again!" Sakura scolded.

"Ah yes, well you see I was walking on the road of life when I saw Shikamaru here asleep on a hill. A little Tanuki told me I had to find a magical branch to wake Shikamaru, and given that he was on the mission, I simply had to get-"

"Liar!" Sakura yelled. Kakashi merely grinned.

"Mendokusai. Let's get going." Shikamaru said to his fellow teammates. And thus, they left Konoha, not knowing when they would return.

Yusin's author corner:

Sorry for the delay, I've been kinda adding little bits and bits to it steadily. Been going through a kind of tough year.

Yay apathy? I haven't had much of a will to do anything really. Plus I've been pretty busy. I'll try to work on the next chapter and get it up faster. I wanted to make this chapter longer actually, but alas. Maybe I'll eventually get a 5000 word chapter? Oh well. Also, I ended up reuploading a bunch of chapters mostly fixing things like ans in the middle of chapters, because I know that's just annoying. So I removed them, shortened my first massive A/N, and am now working on reuploading. Still working on fixing things up…. Sorry for the… 6? Month deley?

Kind of… Halfway beta'ed by myself. I apologize Imperial Mint, if you did send me back the updated beta'ed version, I can't seem to find it in my large archive of email.

Reviews are loved! Update on standings.:

Also, I've been getting a whole crap load of votes on Naruto's pairing, THAT ONE'S BEEN FINALIZED, K? THX BAI. Sorry if Itanaru's not what you dig, I'll also make a not of that in the earlier chapters.

(haven't done this in a while)