Chapter 1:

An invitation

Banished

Naruto Uzumaki was banished.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Naruto had brought Sasuke home after a long term mission. It was completely unplanned and unexpected but he did. Tsunade was furious. She had told him time to time that Sasuke was in all the bingo books and considered a threat. If he was found and captured then he would be executed. Naruto went mad. He didn't want him to be executed. He completely lost his mind. He yelled at my master. He slammed his fists on the desks and screamed at her.

When he was dragged out of the office he even hit Shizune. He hit her. It wasn't like him at all. Naruto was obsessed with bringing Sasuke home. Hearing that Sasuke was going to be executed threw him off the roof. He completely went mad and yelled and hit anyone who tried to calm him. He – even hit me. It scared me in a way. Naruto had actually hit me. In all my days of knowing him, I never thought he'd hit me. When I think back to the day he was banished I can still remember his face.

Tsunade yelled at him at the gate. She hit him on the head once. She threw a bag of clothes and food at him before asking for his headband. I remember the look on his face when she asked for it. Naruto had worked so hard to earn it. I remember that he hesitated greatly before taking it off. And when he handed it to her I could tell he was about to burst into tears. He looked at the ground in shame and before he turned around to walk away forever he looked at me. His eyes were full of sadness and regret. He said something to me – but I didn't hear it. I wish I did.

I wouldn't be surprised if they found his body one day. And at the autopsy they found out it was suicide. He loved this place. And he loved the people in it – even if they all shunned him when he was young. I also wouldn't be surprised if he was still alive – living in some other village somewhere; working hard to be their Kage. I can even imagine some other pink haired girl hitting him on the head when he was acting stupid, and some other black haired guy to be silent around them.

I wonder if he thinks about us. I wonder if every time the pink haired girl hits him on the head – he thinks of me. I wonder when the black haired guy calls him a dobe he thinks of Sasuke. Does he think of Tsunade every time their Kage yells at him after he pulls a prank or tells a joke? Is there a pervert of an old man there to talk with him and teach him life lessons every here and there? I even wonder – if every time he walks in his apartment – he thinks of his real home.

Konoha

I wonder what he'd do if he found out Sasuke wasn't executed. Would he yell and scream like before? Or – would he smile and say that he's happy? It was only after he left that Tsunade noticed change in Sasuke. She had decided to give him a chance and call off the execution. I asked her many times to let Naruto come back home, but she refused. Sasuke was now Hokage – mostly in the knuckle head's place. And I was his assistant. Ever sense Naruto left, He'd changed his attitude. Sasuke was now more like a mellow Naruto. He'd smile and laugh with me. And he'd even tell a joke here and there.

I wonder if Naruto still smiles – and if he does – who does he smile at? Does he smile at that pink haired girl from his new village? Does he even have friends? Who knows – I wish I did. Maybe he lived in that new village that was founded about a year or two ago. Now that I think about it – it was defiantly two years. It was called the Hidden Shadow village – while their Kage was called the Yōkaikage. I guess they needed something since Kage already meant shadow.

Sasuke and the Yōkaikage were already speaking to each other. I remember walking in his office here and there and seeing him smile to a message. Sasuke told me that the Yōkaikage was funny. That was a good thing to hear about a 'demon' Kage. In a way that always got me thinking of Naruto and his jokes. I never laughed out loud – but inside I was always laughing hard. I didn't want him to hear – but now I wish he did hear me laugh at his jokes.

His banishment changed everyone. It changed Sasuke. It even changed me. I was in love with him – but I wouldn't accept it. And now that he's gone – it's got me thinking of how I missed out. I should have told him before it was too late. 'Sakura-Chan he's close by!' He'd say 'I'll bring him home this time!' I always shook my head at him when he smiled and said those words. Why couldn't he have just realized – that I didn't care anymore. I didn't want Sasuke anymore – I wanted him. I just couldn't say it….

But now Sasuke was back and I told him – face to face – that I didn't love him any longer. I told him that I wasn't interested anymore and neither was Ino. He smiled. I guess he was relieved that he didn't have Ino and I kissing the ground he walked on anymore. I was relieved too. At the moment that I think of him – I'd rather kiss the ground Naruto walked on. He rescued Sasuke and he did it for me – even when I wanted to tell him to do it for other reasons; since I didn't exactly want him home any longer. I never got around to telling him that though. I wish I did.

But now he's gone and it's been four years. I'm twenty years old now. And so is he – if he's not dead. I know that because his birthday is only a couple months after mine – seven to be exact. October tenth is his birthday. I silently celebrate it at home for him; hoping that somewhere out there – he's celebrating it too – thinking of all of us. I know he thinks of me somehow. When he hit me – I saw in his face that he hated himself at the moment. I know he didn't mean it. He was just angry with Tsunade; not anyone else. I just got in his way. I tried to tell him to calm himself and it all happened from there.

I miss him. I want him home, and I know somewhere deep down Tsunade wished she hadn't banished him. Sasuke misses him too. I should get a list of all the people who miss him and hand it to Tsunade – who is now part of the village council since Sasuke took her place – and see if she's convinced enough to let Sasuke let Naruto come back home. But if Naruto's twenty too; what if he's married now? I wish he's not so that if he does come home – I can tell him how I feel.

Maybe I'll ask Sasuke to go on a mission just to patrol the outside of the village. Maybe I can go check on how all the other allied villages are doing and see if Naruto's living in any of them. And if he is, I'm defiantly going to tell him. I'm going to walk up to his face and take a deep breath and say – Naruto Uzumaki….I love you.

I've always loved you….

~*~

Sakura yawned with her hand over her mouth as she walked down the hallway. She was on her way to Sasuke's office with a coffee at hand. She never knew he liked coffee. She found it out the first day he was Hokage. He had asked for coffee and she went to go get it of course – but she was confused when she did. The pinkette opened the door and walked inside with a smile on her face. "Good Morning Sasuke." She greeted after shutting the door. She walked over and set the coffee down.

Sasuke – with a smile - reached over and grabbed it. "Good Morning Sakura" He then greeted back before taking a sip. "How are you this morning?" He asked after setting it down. Sakura sighed. He always asked her that. She knew it was coming.

"Oh I'm fine…" Sakura answered before setting a hand on his desk. "Just like always." He looked over and raised a brow. She had exaggerated the 'always' a little too much. "Sasuke I want to ask you something." She then muttered with a slight grin. He nodded and set his pen down before facing her. "Can I go on a mission?"

"No"

Sakura hung her head. The Hokage's assistant was never allowed on a mission – unless it was for something really important. "Fine…" She muttered before standing up straight. "Never mind." Sasuke slightly chuckled with a small smile and went back to writing on some documents. Because he was a busy man Sakura decided to take her leave but something started pecking at the window. She and Sasuke both looked over and saw a bird. It was grey and white and had a message on its leg. 'A message?' She thought. 'Sent straight to him?'

"Oh…I wonder what he said." Sasuke muttered as he stood up. Sakura raised a brow and watched him open the window. The bird perched itself on his arm and he took the small scroll. After that, the bird perched itself back on the windowsill and he walked back to his seat. He sat down and unrolled it. Sakura even found herself right behind him looking over his shoulder.

'That would be great Lord Hokage. But may I ask that for this meeting – can you come here instead? The reason 'why' isn't at your concern at the moment but I do humbly request you come speak with me in person here. It would also be a good time to take a good look around my village. For it being hidden in shadows – it's a beautiful place.'

' Lord Yōkaikage'

Sakura raised a brow as Sasuke rolled the message up. He then took out another scroll to message back. "What did you ask him?" She finally asked after a moment. Sasuke didn't answer at first but after he rolled it up he gave it to the bird and looked at her.

"I requested that we'd become allies." Sasuke told her as the bird flew off. "Usually we'd meet here since I was the one to ask, but I guess he wants me to go there." He sat down and took out a small map. "I need to bring two people for guards" He set a hand on his chin and looked at Sakura. She had her hands together and under her chin as if she was silently begging him to ask her to come. "I'll bring you and…"

"Bring Sai." Sakura decided for him. "He's perfect for the job." She then said. "He was my teammate back when Naruto…was still….here." She trailed off with sad eyes and looked at the ground. Sasuke noticed her depression and set a hand on her shoulder.

"Try not to think about him Sakura." He said. Sakura looked up and saw him giving her a small smile. "I'll bring Sai along. Ok?" She nodded and he went back to looking at the map. "That's where Kagegakure is…" He mumbled after awhile. She looked to where he was pointing on the map. "It's around where the whirlpool country used to be" He looked out the window. "That's not too far. I didn't expect it to be that close."

"Whirlpool?" Sakura asked as she looked at the map even closer. She hadn't heard of that village before. But since Sasuke mentioned it as 'used' to be – she guessed that was the reason. He being Hokage probably helped the fact that he knew it was there. "It looks to be about a day away." She then said as she looked at her longtime friend. He nodded and looked at the map again.

"Go get Sai." Sasuke ordered after rolling the map up. "We're leaving today." He then said as she made her way over to the door. "We'll be there tomorrow morning." Sakura nodded and did just what he said. She walked out the door and made her way down the stairs. After leaving the building, she quickly made her way to the said artist's apartment.

When she arrived she knocked on the door – just like any other visitor would. She waited a moment but got no response. 'Please tell me Ino didn't drag him onto another date….' She thought in anger. Ino had a crush on the emotionless man. He didn't exactly know what love was and he was a little scared of her so he let her drag him onto dates. Finally the door opened and the pale skinned man peeked out.

"Hello Sakura-san…"

Sakura smiled as he rubbed one of his tired eyes. It was still early in the morning. She had also smiled because of what he called her. After years of putting up with 'hag' she finally got him to call her by her name 3 years ago. A year after Naruto left. "Good Morning Sai." The pinkette greeted. "Hokage-Sama needs to leave the village and he decided to take me and you along." She them told him. After seeing him nod she continued. "Get ready and I'll get you on our way out; we're leaving later today."

"Ok…"

Sai shut the door and Sakura walked back out of the complex. She looked at the gate and smiled sadly. She could imagine Naruto standing at that gate for the last time. She wondered if he came back and stood there at night – just to look at his old home. The pinkette walked down the other way and soon came to her apartment. She walked inside and grabbed a bag. Usually these trips took a day or two.

Sakura opened her closet and peered inside. She grabbed her pajamas and went to walk away but noticed something at the top. A head band was resting at the top of the closet alone. Her eyes narrowed in sadness and she reached up to grab it. After setting the pajamas on the bag she sat down on her bed and blew the dust off of the head band. 'Why would I let your head band stay up there and collect dust?' She mentally asked as she rubbed the metal that rested on the black fabric. 'How – rude of me….'

Holding the head band close, Sakura shut her eyes and smiled. It was Naruto's. A couple months after his banishment, Tsunade gave it to her. She knew she'd never let Naruto come back so she decided to give his head band to her to remember him by. She slipped the blonde's head band in her bag and finished setting some other things in it. She collected a few things to eat and drink – mostly water – and then set out the door; of course not forgetting her favorite book.

"Hello Sasuke." She greeted as soon as she left the complex. Sasuke had been waiting for her apparently. He nodded with a smile and they both started walking. They were silent for the whole trip until they arrived at the artist's complex. "I'll go get Sai." Sasuke nodded again and she did what she had said. Soon she and the said ninja came out and they all headed for the gate.

"We will arrive tomorrow morning." Sasuke said to his guards. "That is if we don't stop to sleep on the way…" He trailed off to look at them both. "Do you want to keep going or stop to sleep?"

"I believe stopping to sleep will take too much time." Sai answered. "It would be easier to stay up, because after the meeting we could stay in a hotel and sleep right away." He looked at Sakura for her approval. After she nodded in agreement, he looked at Sasuke.

"Alright then…"

After Sasuke said this, both his guards nodded and they all took off.