Title: The Malice Series 02; Traces of Malice

Fandom: Naruto

Rating: R

Pairing: NaruSaku

Warnings: Het(!!!), implied bisexuality, angst

Note: I know this used to be a one shot, but now it's part of a series. And I changed the name of it because as it wrote itself out, I realized there really was no absence of malice. I have a better chapter for that title.

Summary: Since the day Naruto realized that Sasuke was cheating on him with Kyuubi, the blonde has changed and not for the better. Can his other original teammate save him now?

Traces of Malice

Sakura watched Naruto saunter out of the Hokage's office with dim and worried eyes. Though her ex teammate wore Anbu garb, distinctive hair hidden below a dark hood, and still sported a blank white mask, she knew it was him.

It had been over a year since Naruto and Sasuke's breakup, and since that day, Naruto had been a changed man. It was disconcerting, even today, to see the cold veneer of bare civility that Naruto treated Sasuke with. Though all of them suspected Sasuke had been cheating on the blonde, the breakup was still shocking. Though no one was wilder than Sakura herself to find exactly who Sasuke had been cheating with, and exactly what had happened that day between the two of them, it was something everyone was doomed to speculate upon. Not a word had passed Naruto's lips about it, and Sasuke would likely sooner die than admit what he had done.

If seeing Naruto treat Sasuke with such cold distance was disconcerting, it was dismaying to find that the blonde's new attitude extended to everyone else. Even Iruka was not spared. Surely, he was slightly warmer to them than to the Uchiha, but still…

The loud, obnoxious, boisterous, laughing, smiling, warm and loving blonde boy was gone, as if he'd never existed. Instead, there was this tall, manly, aloof stranger that wore his face and body like a seamless disquise. The goofy but loveable boy that was at best a passable ninja had metamorphosed, seemingly overnight, into a calculating, powerful, apparently superb killing machine.

And it was killing Sakura.

At first, when Naruto walked right by her, without even a glance, she was miffed. When he coldly rejected even her angriest demands, she grew strangely quiet.

Watching what had once been warm and loving turn into cold indifference because of the Uchiha had destroyed the last of her seemingly lifetime adoration of the raven. Now, crying at night had become the norm for her. And she couldn't bring her self to even look at, much less talk to Sasuke.

It was guilt, at first, which drove her into such spates of hopeless weeping. Guilt, because she'd secretly hoped for such a thing to come to pass, on more than one level. Though she loved Naruto like a brother, it had galled her that he was such a lackluster, if passionate ninja. He was clumsy, he was loud, he was too bright and obnoxious for someone in their position. Surely any change in the blonde would be beneficial. And deep down, in her heart of hearts, she'd secretly dreamed of Sasuke's and Naruto's relationship failing. Then the Uchiha would finally look at her and realize her true worth.

Sasuke should have been hers, and if Naruto were out of the picture, surely he would be.

But seeing the death of something so vivid and beautiful had smote her to her core, and she finally began to look at Sasuke without the rose tinted lenses of childhood love and adoration.

Sasuke was an ass, pure and simple. He was cold to a fault, rude to those closest to him, was unbelievably arrogant, and cared for little, if anything, that did not affect him directly. If she'd had her way, it would have been her, Sakura, who'd felt the sting of his infidelity, known the pain of a shattered heart, tasted the bitter tang of loneliness.

Seeing what such had wrought in Naruto, the brightest of them all, the warmest in heart, had brought her low.

And it was very strange… she didn't miss her lost adoration of Sasuke hardly at all. What she did miss, though, was Naruto's bright eyes, his joyous, if raucous laughter, his skewed sense of humor, and most of all, his warm presence at her side. Naruto acted as if they'd never been teammates at all, barely nodding to her greetings, and calling her, without fail, 'Haruno'.

Yes, Sakura cried very hard at night. All her dreams had come true; Naruto was truly a magnificent ninja, and Sasuke was footloose and fancy free. And she hated every moment of it.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

***************************

It was late, when Sakura wearily made her way home from yet another endless day at the hospital. Her steps were slow and lagging. And she tasted bitter ashes upon her tongue.

She and Sasuke had crossed paths, not twenty minutes ago, when the raven was being treated for an ugly gash in his thigh, garnered in his latest mission. Without Naruto at his home to treat his wounds, Sasuke's had become infected, and he'd finally had to come in for treatment.

The raven was cold mannered, nothing strange in that. And Sakura couldn't help but smirk maliciously. How it must have galled the Uchiha to admit he needed assistance. Sakura had treated him herself. And her when hand rested on the porcelain smooth flesh before her, she'd trembled, and not with desire.

Sasuke had learned nothing from losing Naruto, even if it was painfully obvious to all and sundry how much that loss had hurt the dark man. He was rude to Sakura, and offended her when he told her to simply treat him, not caress him like a lover.

Oh, she'd longed to strike that cold look right off his undeniably gorgeous face. Not trusting herself to speak, she'd said nothing, but hurried through the medical jutsu, wishing she'd not taken the Healer's Oath. She would have loved to send him on his way, untreated.

But she hadn't. She was sworn to heal those of Konoha who had need of her, no matter what.

Now, heading home to her lonely room, and lonelier life, she heard the sound of Kakashi's angry voice.

"I don't know what the hell you are trying to prove, but this new lifestyle of yours is destructive. You will stop it now."

Kakashi was so rarely upset enough to raise his voice that it stopped her right in her tracks.

"I don't know what you are talking about, Hatake," Naruto's cool and collected voice, which she hated so much now, let her know exactly who Kakashi was angry with. "Not that it matters in the slightest. I am an adult, and shall do as I please."

"Don't take that tone with me, young man. Don't force me to have a talk with Tsunade." Kakashi responded heatedly.

"Close your mouth, Hatake," Naruto's voice was even more severe than ever, even as it never varied in its cold tones. "You are not my sensei anymore. Speak to the Hokage as much as you please. I've done nothing to endanger not only my status as a ninja, but my standing, however dubious it may be, in this community."

During a moment of deafening silence, Sakura managed to creep close enough to stare through the dense branches of a pine tree, and saw the pair of them, standing on the path that lead from Konoha's less savory environs. Though Kakashi was still, and obviously always would be considerably taller than the blonde, somehow Naruto managed to look up at the older man in such a fashion as to seem as if he was towering over his erstwhile teacher.

"Naruto," Kakashi finally spoke, the anger having vanished and suddenly was laden with strain. "This is not like you. Sex… it's a precious gift, and not to be squandered with strangers. Your body should be given to a lover, not some strange man or woman who just wants you for their own pleasure."

Sakura felt a chill at Kakashi's words.

"I never took you for a sap, Hatake," Naruto chuckled grimly. "Spouting off shit like that. Next you'll be telling me how wondrous love is. Don't make me sick. Love is for fools. I'll fuck whomever I want to, thank you very much, and you have no say in the matter. You sound like you're jealous, Kakashi," The chill was suddenly gone from Naruto's voice, and the blonde was actually flirtatious. "Do you fancy yourself as my lover?"

Kakashi gave a hoarse choke. "That's ridiculous, Naruto!"

Naruto stood even straighter, and flicked an imaginary mote of dirt from his dark sleeve. Gone were his black and orange jumpsuits of yore. Now he wore all colors of the rainbow, rather like a peacock. Right now he was dressed in black slacks with a vibrant blue overshirt of mesh through which his finely toned body was easily seen. Sakura couldn't believe that she would ever miss his hideous fashion sense, but Naruto without his orange was just…. Wrong somehow.

"Now," the blonde went on decisively, "having had this lovely little tete-a-tete with you, I shall be on my way. Good night, Hatake, and you too as well, Haruno." Naruto nodded to the kunoichi where she stood hidden among the trees, turned and walked quickly away in the direction of his apartment.

Sakura came out of hiding, seeing no reason for it anymore, since Naruto was obviously aware of her all along, and stood beside her sensei. She was struggling against tears.

"I miss him," she said shakily, and Kakashi had no need to wonder about whom she meant. "I don't know who that man was, but that was not Naruto."

Kakashi said nothing, simply stared blindly down the path that Naruto had just vanished down.

"Sensei," Sakura finally faltered, "exactly what were you talking about?"

Kakashi gave a bitter laugh. "I'm surprised you haven't heard. Everyone's talking about it. Naruto's having sex with anyone that crosses his path. He'd drinking and screwing total strangers, and who knows what the hell else."

In fact, it was Gai who told him he needed to have a stern talking to Naruto. The boy was falling into darkness fast. Who knew where this new path would take him?

"Tsunade-sama will straighten him out," Sakura almost stammered, aghast. Naruto, oblivious Naruto, a manslut? It boggled the mind.

Kakashi heaved a dark and deep sigh. "Don't think she hasn't tried. But Naruto listens to no one. And he's right. There's nothing anyone can do. If he wants to whore his body out to anyone who catches his fancy, well, as long as it isn't an enemy, no one can do a damn thing about it." He shuddered. "He… he won't listen to me anymore. Not even to Iruka. Iruka's shattered by Naruto's attitude. Iruka…" He trailed away.

Sakura could understand. Iruka had been closer to Naruto than anyone, save Sasuke. To have the blonde turn on him must certainly hurt.

Naruto had come so far. Once shunned and reviled by all, he'd slowly eroded that negative reputation of his, and garnered a great many friends. Now, everyone would dislike him again, only this time, obviously Naruto didn't care.

Damn Sasuke! This was all his fault.

"Obviously," Kakashi said softly. Sakura hadn't even been aware she'd spoken the last out loud. "But again, there's nothing anyone can do or say. Sasuke's never been one to care about anyone else. I thought at first that Naruto had finally broken though his icy shell, but…."

"He cheated on Naruto," Sakura said firmly, her voice crackling with anger. "Everyone knew it. Of course, no one had found out with whom. Naruto hasn't said a word about it."

"God, I think I just might have an idea. But I hope to hell I'm wrong…" Kakashi, always one to look 'underneath the underneath', felt his skin crawl.

Sakura's head turned to her ex sensei with a jerk. "What?"

But Kakashi's face was unreadable once more. "I'll say no more. Have a good night, Sakura. We can only hope that somehow Naruto comes back to his senses."

And as quickly as Naruto had departed, so too did Kakashi, leaving Sakura standing alone on the path, blinded by sorrow and shock.

**********************

Though she was never quite sure how it happened, Sakura found herself outside the door to Naruto's house a few moments later. What she hoped to accomplish, when Kakashi-sensei could not, she had no idea. But the passage of the day had struck within her a deep chord to do something, anything. Naruto simply could not go on as he had been to date.

She broke out in a cold sweat. What would she say to him? It wasn't like there was even a shred of the old camaraderie they once shared. They were barely civil, or rather, he was barely civil to her, and certainly showed her they were no longer on a first name basis. Despite all the years together, he'd left her irrevocably behind, and what could she say to him now?

Several times her hand rose to knock upon that door, and just as many times, it fell back, unsure, uncertain, and afraid.

"Well, well, if it isn't Haruno." Naruto's voice drawled from behind.

Startled, Sakura turned and beheld her teammate, his blond hair somehow wilder now than it had been a while ago. He held a bag in his hand, and stared steadily at her in an uncomfortable and infuriatingly condescending manner. Inner Sakura rose suddenly and her shoulders firmed.

"Naruto."

For a moment they just stared at each other.

"Do you mind?" Naruto said, jerking his chin towards her as she stood between him and his door.

"Can we talk?" Sakura blurted out desperately at the same time.

The closed look on his face turned suddenly to a sneer. "And what would we have to talk about, Haruno?"

It was suddenly too much, and Inner Sakura overwhelmed her.

There was the slap of a fist against flesh, and Sakura shook. Her fist, so casually thrown against Naruto's self in the past, was now lodged securely in his own hand. Never again would he let her beat him as he did in the past.

"That's enough of that shit," Naruto said bitterly, and Sakura had the grace to feel ashamed of herself. But she lifted her chin resolutely.

"Is it?" She cried. "I'm sick of being Haruno. Whatever happened between you and Sasuke was between you and Sasuke, Naruto. Don't treat us all with the same brush!"

Naruto's face became grim at the mention of Sasuke's name, but he did not rise to the bait. Instead, he homed in on something else. "What brush, Sakura-chan," he derogatorily slurred her honorific," The one where you rejected me with pain and scorn in the past, spoke to me as if I was an unwanted pest in your life? Is that the brush you speak of? I am tired of people treating me like shit. Sick to death of it. I've had enough. Of you, of Kakashi, of Sasuke, of everyone. Why can't you leave me the hell alone? I'm leaving you alone finally, aren't I?"

"But I don't want you to leave me alone!" Sakura cried. "I want my friend back! My Teammate!"

Naruto's eyes narrowed. "Your friend? How many times did you call me an idiot? How many times did you tell people I was nothing but a loud mouthed Baka? Is that the words of a friend? As for being your teammate, you've always made no bones about how worthless you think I am; as a ninja, a friend, as a man!" Naruto's face was red with anger.

"That was then!" Sakura ground out, smote with guilt. There was great truth in his words… In the past. "Sure I still call you names, tease you. But not like before. Now it's in camaraderie."

"What kind of camaraderie is it when to talk to me like I was dumber than a box of rocks, but beat the ever loving shit out of me should I ever cross you in the slightest way? God, Haruno, spare me your friendship, your camaraderie." He turned away in bitterness.

There was an uncomfortable silence. Sure, he realized that Sakura had changed her mind, but it still hurt, every time she called him an idiot, every time he offered a bit of himself to her, only to have her act as if it was something impure, something unwanted. Though she forgave him for being with Sasuke, more or less, every slur directed his way, every slap, every kick, every slug, had hurt him more than on a physical level. Couldn't she understand that?

"I don't think of you as worthless, Naruto," unspoken went the 'now'. "Not as a ninja, not as a friend, and certainly not as a man." Sakura's words were halting as she struggled to find a way to him.

Naruto closed his eyes. She just wasn't getting it, and his anger once more spiked. "Is that so? Then what do you say to a little play, Sakura-chan." Slightly red tinged eyes regarded his female teammate, his grin a playful one.

Unfortunately, for all her intelligence, Sakura reacted as she ever had. "Dammit, Naruto, why do you have to be so crude? Why do you have to be such a baka? I wouldn't date you if you…" Her words faltered to see Naruto's playful grin turn to narrow-eyed scrutiny, nostrils flaring.

"Yeah, Haruno, I see how much you value me, especially as a man."

"N…Naruto… I didn't mean…" Sakura stammered, unable to see how to salvage this mess she'd made.

Suddenly, Naruto was crowding her, his now bigger body, sleek muscles, and blond good looks towering over her. "You have no idea as to what kind of man I am, Sakura-chan." Once more, he spoke playfully, but with a husky, dangerous edge to his voice.

The heat of his body was suddenly pressing her insistently against his front door, big and blue eyed and god, so fucking gorgeous. Those expressive eyes were heavy lidded with sensuality, that wide lipped mouth suddenly brushing against the sensitive shell of her ear, with sweet warmth. One finely muscled thigh insinuated itself between hers with a slow and delicate grind. Calloused fingertips caught her chin, stroking the line of her jaw softly with suddenly undeniable skill. A hot lick of his tongue across her lobe, and Sakura's knees suddenly went weak, and she sagged in his arms, the suddenly plumped saddle between her slim thighs swollen with want, with lust.

"Do you want me to show you what kind of man I am, sweet Sakura?" Naruto continued, his voice a sensual enchantment he'd honed with a hundred partners of both sexes lately. Fingers plucked at the tips of her breasts, so hard and pointed from his inexorable and so enticing assault. Another grind against her body, his hardness inescapable against her thigh, then belly; the dig of which went right to her groin with trembling anticipation.

Sakura cried out when he began to softly suckle the earlobe he was tormenting so teasingly. One big hand settled on her firm taut buttocks, and began to gently slide her up and down his hard thigh, thrust of his hips at the apex of each ride leaving nothing to the imagination. He could fuck the shit out of her, and she would love every second of it, that is the skill he now possessed.

A skill the betrayal of his most precious persons had given him.

Suddenly, in Sakura's inner eye, was the Naruto of long ago. Twelve years old, a dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose, barely seen. That toothy uninhibited grin, that husky almost abrasive laugh. Mirth and friendship sparkled out of those huge blue eyes the color of a summer sky. Hey, Sakura-chan, want to get some ramen with me? Pure innocence.

Not this sultry creature making love… no… blatantly and carelessly seducing her against a wall. Naruto was… he wasn't… The Naruto of her childhood was gone, and Sasuke wasn't the only one that had driven him away.

"Naruto!" She cried, bursting into tears. Fists reached up to shove against his shoulders to push away, but he was already gone.

He was standing several feet away from her, where she leaned trembling against the wall, her eyes filled with tears.

Naruto passed a trembling hand across his dimmed eyes. "I'll never be good enough for you, will I, Sakura?" He whispered softly.

He looked so jaded, so weary staring at her as she cried silently. He bent down and picked up the bag he'd dropped without her even noticing, ninja that she was.

"There is nothing more to be said between us, Sakura," he said with gentle determination. At least he wasn't calling her Haruno at the moment. "Go home. Leave me be."

He brushed past her, through his door, and shut it resolutely almost in her tearstained face.

She stared at the door, heard and felt the locks engage, and put a hand to her mouth, feeling ill. She only wanted to get closer to him, but she failed, spectacularly. He was now farther away from her than ever before. Defeated, she left, still trembling from the shocking adult pleasure he'd draped her with a moment before.