&dedicated to: everyone who has reviewed. :D and specifically, lauchoco92, the very first reviewer!

Summary- In the natural scheme of things, the dead stay dead. But in the world of ninjas, nothing's for certain anymore. Sasu/Saku.

&for the last time in "refuge", i apply the official disclaimer that i do not and will not own naruto. ever. ):


oh my gosh it's

R.E.F.U.G.E.

final chapter.

read it and
weep.


March 23

Location- Konoha

Sakura let out the breath she was holding. Tentatively, she slid her eyes toward Sasuke. Stone faced, as always.

She hated having everyone stare at her. Jounins sat in a half- circle in the conference room of the Hokage Tower. Tsuande sat in front of them, at the center. Sakura continued fidgeting with her fingers and trying to spare a few glances around the room. Naruto sat in the front, his arm in a sling and an eager grin on his face. Naruto smiling was a good sign, right? she thought. At least he was okay.

A warm, clean hand wrapped around her fingers, and she stopped fidgeting under its hold. "Stop," Sasuke muttered, eyeing her reprovingly.

"Sasuke-kun, I'm nervous; can you blame me?" she answered, her voice lowered to a whisper. She could have yelled it; everyone was probably listening in, anyway. Sakura swallowed the lump in her throat and looked ahead at Tsunade.

She and Sasuke were pulled out of the hospital early that morning and kept in a cell...

-x-

The cell was only half lit, and it was in the cleaner sections of the Interrogations quarters. Sasuke was pushed in a little more roughly than her mild "nudge", Sakura noticed. The guard's name was Yuki, and he had a hesitant smile for her when she turned around. The door closed behind them firmly, and Sasuke promptly found a spot on the floor to sit. She glanced up at the small, square window, wondering how long they had to stay in a cell.

She looked back at Sasuke. His eyes were closed. He tilted his head back against the stones of the wall and fell into his normal silence.

If you could stay, she wondered, would you be happy, Sasuke-kun? When he focused his gaze on hers with that same black intensity he was so accustomed to, she realized she had said it aloud.

"Would you?" she insisted. Sakura bit her lip, because she didn't understand the look in his eye.

"..."

"Well?"

"A stupid question."

"Okay." She amended, "Cross out 'happy', then. Would you hate it here?" She had the distinct feeling that he hadn't really considered his personal "happiness" in some time. If ever.

"...I don't know, Sakura," Sasuke offered, giving in. With an exasperated wave of his hand, he answered, "I guess it depends."

"Depends on what?"

Sasuke shifted uncomfortably on the ground and turned to glare at the wall. "Just sit down and be quiet."

He shielded his torso with his arms on top of his knees in a loose circle. He was probably still in pain, Sakura figured, so she decided to leave him alone. She hesitated and walked toward him, plopping down next to him against the wall. Sasuke got his wish for the next few minutes until she leaned towards him. "Did you miss us?"

Sakura frowned at his deadpan look.

"Fine, different question. Did you think about us?"

His hand raked through his hair. "Yes." It didn't mean he necessarily thought well of them, so he seemed satisfied with the answer.

Nodding, Sakura fell into a similar silence.

It was another hour before a series of pounds echoed from the right corner of the building. Sakura shifted on the floor and sat with her legs Indian-style. Was that-?

On cue, Naruto waltzed through the door with a cheer that hadn't entered Interrogations before. "NARUTO UZUMAKI IS IN THE BUILDING!" Naruto announced. He sported a hefty sling on his right arm, which hampered the effect of pumping his fist into the air. Kakashi appeared behind him, noticeably more subdued. Sakura's smile was all Naruto saw before he lifted her up with one arm. "Sakura-chan!"

Laughing ,Sakura held onto his neck with both arms.

Naruto swung her around once more for good measure before he set her down. His smile caught her off guard for a long pause. She couldn't pinpoint what it reminded her of. "I'm so glad to see you, Sakura. I never believed for a second what everyone said." His blue eyes settled on her with relief. Then she remembered: families of patients at the hospital. She had forgotten that look of desperation and disbelief. It had been so long. She decided that it didn't look good on Naruto.

"I've missed you," was all Sakura could think to say. His arms were tight around her waist until he released her. Naruto turned to look at Sasuke, who hadn't moved, and she padded toward Kakashi. Kakashi had his orange book in his hand, but it remained there slightly ignored. She smiled and reached up to hug him.

"We do have business here, you know," Kakashi started, glancing all around the room. He stopped at Sasuke. Letting go of Sakura, he flipped his book closed and pocketed it. "Naruto refused to let anyone else do this. Cooperate with our questions, please."

Naruto spared a questioning look at Sakura, and she answered off-handedly, "Of course."

He smiled in return. "Well?" Naruto asked, facing Sasuke.

Sasuke still sat on the floor. Sakura credited that toward his wounds, rather than his attitude. Of course she was being hopeful. He shrugged in a nonchalant manner. "Ask something."

"Have you killed any Konoha ninja?"

"...No."

Kakashi peered at Sakura, and she felt a little offended. "No."

He only nodded and gave her an absent pat on the head. "Did you help us in the invasion?"

They both answered yes.

Interrogations dragged on longer than Sakura might have guessed. Where they'd been and why, who'd they had killed... The list went on. Smiling to herself, Sakura wondered how Naruto remembered the questions. It ended with "Why were you with Sasuke and his team, Sakura?"

And she grimaced; the Council would love to fault her with that. Hobnobbing with a missing ninja? Wonderful.

To Sakura's surprise, Sasuke answered for her. "To help me kill Itachi."

"And did you?"

"Yes."

"And where were you, Sakura?" Kakashi asked. He turned toward her somewhat repentantly.

Folding her arms, Sakura propped herself against the wall and pursed her lips, starting with, "Ah..." Lines started forming on Kakashi's forehead, and she tried to find the words. She didn't want to look guilty, after all. "Everywhere, sort of."

"Sorry, Sakura-chan, we need specifics." Naruto shrugged.

"I was... taken." She frowned at the word choice. "I was in Rain... first. With Sound and Akatsuki. Then they moved to Waves, I think. I don't really remember anything." Scratching the back of her head, Sakura cringed. Her story wouldn't hold up very well in trial if she didn't remember everything. "I woke up in Rain, where I met someone who had seen me running from Akatsuki. Then I came back to Konoha-"

"You came back to Konoha!" Naruto gasped. His blue eyes were big and round. "And you didn't tell me?!"

"Sorry, Naruto," Sakura answered sheepishly. "That was early March. I couldn't have very well paraded into your apartment. I only saw Tsuande, and she told me to leave." Naruto didn't look very happy, though. "And... then I travelled. Somehow, I ended in Waves and found Sasuke-kun. Well, it was... the other way around, actually."

Kakashi only nodded and turned half-way towards Sasuke. He vaguely gestured to both of them. "So why are you two here?"

-x-

That brought her to present. Tsunade brought the room into silence and flipped open a folder in front of her. Sakura could spot "CONFIDENTIAL. Property of Lady Hokage." in big, block letters.

She began with a flat, "The Council's dead."

Sakura's eyebrows shot up, and a din of voices erupted within the jounin assembly. The Council dead?

"Killed by the Akatsuki. I have confirmation from Interrogations." Tsunade sighed and started rifling through the pages, looking reluctant. "I'll give you the gist." She cleared her throat and started, "Danzo was found at seven p.m. by Kakashi Hatake, crushed beneath a building. All other members of the Council were found in the Hokage Tower, each suffering a slash in the jugular.

"Burnt remains of paper were found in the back room. From what can be read, it seems the papers had details of an arrangement with Akatsuki." Tsunade started scanning the pages and summarizing. "It's rumored the Council was involved in the invasion, along other dealings with Sound. Then the 'arrangement' seemed to be centered around-" She paused and eyed Sakura. "-Sakura Haruno and the chakra development study she was funded for. We can only speculate the motives.

"Alright, lastly, the Akatsuki members that were here in the attack were Kisame Hoshigaki, Itachi Uchiha, Pein, and Konan; taken down by a Suigetsu Hozuki, Sasuke Uchiha, and Naruto Uzumaki respectively. Konan was reported to have left after appearing in the invasion." Tsunade flipped another page. "And... Sasuke Uchiha's team is being held in Interrogations for the time being. Jugo, Karin, and Suigetsu Hozuki will be detained there until Sasuke is sentenced his punishment, and until we decide what to do with them.

Tsuande pushed the folder away from her slightly and faced the assembly. "So we are left with two missing ninjas, and no Council. It will be up to you jounin to decide. The trial starts now." She even had an anvil, which she swiftly banged against the desk in front of her.

Naruto's yell rebounded behind Sakura. "Are you kidding me, Grandma? A trial, now!?"

"Quiet!" Tsuande stared at the lacquered floors and brushed a pigtail behind her. "We'll begin with both accounts." Her voice was the same honeyed tone Sakura remembered. Tsunade's almond eyes settled on the two. "As I know Sakura will recall, you two cannot defend yourselves. Interrogations will report what they know, and you may only answer any questions directed at you." Sasuke grunted in annoyance, and she finished with a glare directed at him.

Trying not to fidget again, Sakura contemplated the effectiveness of trials. For half of an hour, Naruto and Kakashi had to report their interrogation. Beside her, Sasuke grew more and more irritated as arguments went back and forth. The words "traitors" and "death sentence" were brought up enough to make him unpleasant.

Naruto spoke up. "Then I have a question for both of them. Why are they back in Konoha?" Naruto looked... nervous. A messenger had interrupted when Kakashi had said them the same question, summoning them for Lady Hokage. So neither of them had answered. Sakura huffed to herself. Did they question her motives? Did Naruto?

"Sasuke Uchiha, go first," Tsunade ordered, resting back in her chair as she waited for his reponse.

Sakura could almost feel his sigh. He turned around and let everyone have a good look at him. Don't say something rude, Sakura pleaded to herself. "I helped you win a war, didn't I?"

She groaned.

"Don't be a smartass, Uchiha. It's not helping your case," Tsunade snapped.

"Case?" he answered. Sasuke angled his head over his shoulder and frowned. "This couldn't even be called a trial." Sakura felt herself getting paler as he went on. "No one knows what to do. We'll stand here another three hours and be packaged into a cell again."

"Oh, really?" Tsuande's temper was no better than it normally was. "And what do you suggest we do?"

Sasuke shoved his hands into his pockets. "Vote already. Or just put us on indefinite probation."

Kakashi stood up before Tsuande could get angrier. "I know one jounin who's in your favor." His lone eye crinkled in a smile.

Naruto pumped his fist into the air and backed him up. "Yeah, yeah! Probation until we're certain they aren't threats! No harm in that, right, guys?"

People starting talking amongst themselves, but Naruto's voice was louder than the rest. "Come on, you remember Sakura-chan! All of you would be dead by now without her. And Sasuke-teme hasn't hurt any of us. He's helped us, even!"

Tsunade sighed loudly behind her, and Sakura turned around to face her. "Tsunade, you know Sasuke-kun and I only want to stay," she whispered.

The jounin still argued with each other, and Tsuande lowered her voice. "I know, Sakura," she said. "But it has to be majority. We can't have dissent with the villagers. Especially now."

Mutely, Sakura nodded and turned around. The jounin bickered with each other.

"House arrest."

"Death sentence!"

"They haven't done anything!"

"Oh, come on, guys! Isn't house arrest, probation, and some community service enough?" Naruto bellowed.

Sakura groaned softly. Mpnths of community service?

Pumping his fist in the air again, Naruto put on his reassuring smile. "It's not like we couldn't use the help around here! In the hospital, too."

Tsunade interrupted, "Naruto! Sit down!" With a meaningful glare, Tsunade got him to sit back down and she continued, "Speaking of which, I have the final report on the damages." She opened the folder again. "But we'll talk about that later. We'll finished questions to the two accused, and then we'll dismiss them to discuss the sentence." She turned to Sasuke and leaned forward. "Answer Naruto. Why are you here?"

"To stay," he sighed. He could have made more of an effort to sound assuring, Sakura thought.

"Sakura?"

Shaking her head, Sakura shrugged. "To stay."

Tsunade nodded and waved the guards in the back forward. "Alright, you two are dismissed. You'll be held upstairs."

The room fell into a temporary silence. All the jounin had their eyes on them, watching the two exit. The double doors shut behind them with a soft click, and voices already started filtering through the door. One of the guards motioned the two in front of him with a "This way." Sakura glanced uncertainly behind her and clenched her fists. Just like that? They couldn't even be there to hear the sentence?

Sentence. It's funny how things happen. When Sasuke left, Sakura never thought Kakashi would have another missing ninja on his team... Sasuke walked silently next her; she took a little comfort in not being alone. The room upstairs was not much larger than a closet. The guards let them in and shut the door.


Sakura tapped her feet impatiently on the floor. It had been an hour. Sasuke had been half-asleep the whole time, and that left her with little to do but think. Was it that hard of a decision? She had been gone... for six months -six months in which there had been no trace of her. If they were just going to proclaim her dead, why did they bother labelling her a missing ninja? The Council hadn't liked her, of course, but... It was oddly coincidental that those measures were taken. So that even if she were alive, she couldn't come back.

"Sakura," Sasuke groaned next to her.

Forehead scrunched up, Sakura glanced over curiously. He motioned to her feet, and she chuckled, tapping one last time before bringing her legs up to her chest. She hugged her knees. "Sasuke-kun..." But there wasn't really anything to say that he didn't already know. She bit her lip unhappily and remained quiet.

"What?" Sasuke prompted. Crossly, he folded his arms and propped one leg across the other.

Sakura smiled, despite herself. "It's nothing. I guess I just feel like talking. Distraction." She turned and stared at his profile. A hairline cut ran down his jaw, and she reached up to wipe it away, index finger covered in chakra. Sasuke peered at her out of the corner of his eye; as she withdrew her hand, he sagged against the wood wall and looked up. "Are you still in pain? You really shouldn't even be awake." It was impressive that he was conscious.

His eyelids slipped over his eyes, and he nodded slowly.

"I'm sorry."

Sasuke started shifting where he sat. "Why say sorry for something that's not your fault?"

It seemed like more of a rhetorical question. Sakura hugged her knees closer and let her head hit the wall. Looking at the ceiling, she shrugged. "That's really not the point."

"Then the point is?"

"Because I'm sorry you're in pain? It doesn't have to be my fault, for me to want you to feel better." Sakura looked at him and frowned. "You're too independent when you can't even let someone feel bad for you, Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke grunted and then suddenly looked down.

"What?" Sakura asked. She put her feet on the floor and leaned toward him. "What, are they out?"

The guards opened the door. It was a short trip downstairs, and the jounin had already filtered out of the conference room.

They stopped a few doors down, in the doorway of one of the verandas. Sasuke stood next to her, eyeing the village. Sakura shifted where she stood, leaning against the door frame Slowly, she started, "It'll be fine." He turned to look at her, the gray light from the rain clouds softening the harshness of his face. She smiled and tugged his hand toward hers, squeezing before letting go. "Promise."

Nodding, Sasuke opened his mouth, about to say something, when Naruto's hand slapped down on his back.

"Teme, you got off easy!" Naruto yelled triumphantly, lacing his fingers behind his head. His smile was brighter than she remembered.

Sasuke snorted and leaned away toward the railing, looking terribly grumpy. Folding his arms across his chest, he frowned. "Dobe."

Naruto just laughed.

-

-

-

-

Rain poured onto the window, leaving the trees blurry and smudged. Sakura curled closer to the glass pane on the window sill and wrapped her fingers tighter around the teacup in her hands. Steam came off the liquid, and she took another sip. She leaned her head against the glass and unfolded her legs, letting one drape to the floor.

Sasuke waltzed into the room and plopped onto the sofa; bandages were still wrapped around his torso. His hair was still rumpled from sleeping. Groggily, he rubbed at his eyes.

"Naruto and Kakashi are taking us out today, you know. If you feel bad now, make sure you take an aspirin," Sakura said. She smiled as a soft groan met her ears, and she added, "To get ramen, even. I'm sure you haven't forgotten how Naruto eats his ramen." Sakura laughed lightly as Sasuke groaned a little louder.

He lay across the length of the couch and folded his hands on his bandaged chest. "...Who's watching us now?"

"Shikamaru and Ino." Peering through the window, Sakura waved at the two figures opposite the apartment. Ino could not be happy: she had to be complaining about the rain and her hair, Sakura thought to herself with a smile.

"Hn."

One month of house arrest, and then five months of community service. That's if they were good little missing ninjas. Twenty-eight more days of house arrest. Lookng up, Sakura slid off the window sill and perched on top of the arm of the couch.

Sasuke kept his eyes resolutely shut, a frown impressively intact.

Leaning over him a little more, Sakura laughed and rolled her eyes. "Sasuke-kun, we both know you want to see them."

She brushed a strand of hair off his forehead, and Sasuke caught her fingers. "Maybe." Sakura smiled, and he kept her fingers where they were, holding them midair. "How are you feeling?" he asked, voice deep and hoarse from sleep.

Her eyes strayed to his hand, and Sakura made a slight shrug. "I'm... fine. Ino's been making them go easy on me." Interrogations was breaking the mind blocks on her memory. The blocks were already weakened, she knew, since she had already remembered a few short scenes. But the rush of forgotten memories was sometimes painful. The overload made her feel sick and feverish. It was giving her nightmares. She had woken up last night, pinned beneath Sasuke, as he had tried to wake her up...

Sasuke stared at her for a few speechless moments, until he ran his hand farther up her arm and tugged her down. Eyes wide, Sakura half-landed on top of him, and she paused in front of his face, motionless. His eyes reminded her of fire, even as they were black. "I'm sorry," he whispered, fingers running down the length of her hairline. The calloused pads of his fingertips crept into her hair, and her eyes fluttered closed.

Dazed, she didn't really hear his words until his hand cupped the back of her head, and he pulled her farther down...


a/n.
you know, for parts of this i felt really happy writing it. :) i hope "naruto" gets a happy ending. so were you all happy with the ending? was it good?

the final chapter! can you believe it? i feel so relieved and happy. but a little sad too, because i enjoyed writing this. and i've gotten better from writing it. so thank you, fanfiction, and thank you readers. :D i sincerely appreciate everyone who read and reviewed!

PS. i've written another story that's about six chapters long. i'm going to post it (updating weekly or biweekly) and if you're interested, put me on your alerts. (you could always take me off later, anyway.) okay then, bye folks!