Summary: This story is set four years after the current Manga (460). This tale is about the time that Naruto and Sakura spent in ANBU. Sasuke has yet to be brought home, although they did run into him at some point around the time Danzo became Hokage. Akatsuki is still out there, although they are not as much of an immediate threat as four years ago. This is a story about not only being in ANBU, but the trials that Naruto and Sakura go through as a young adults. What trials await them? Will they ever bring Sasuke home? What kind of Hokage does Danzo make? Prequel to "In My Father's Shoes".
This story is nearly finished on my computer. I hope to get it updated regularly as fast as possible-but being a perfectionist that may not be as fast as even I would like. Read and Review.
All Naruto characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto. The story is only about what could be.
They entered a dimly lit night club where they spent a few nights out of the month with some of their closest friends. The music was loud, the beat was fast, and it was a way to escape from the realities that went with being ninja. Sakura and Naruto walked through the throngs of people looking for their friends when they spotted Ino waiving at them from a table clear across the crowded room.
"So where have you two been?" Ino asked Sakura as she joined them at their table. The members of team 10 and Sai were already waiting for them at a table when Sakura and Naruto walked up. Sakura was wearing a red mini skirt and a black short sleeved blouse that showed off her womanly curves. She had let her hair grow out longer than how she wore it as a genin and she had it tied up in a lose braid. Naruto walked in wearing a black, long sleeve turtle neck and orange cargo pants, longer versions of ones he use to wear as a kid. Naruto had hit the last of his growth spurts and was now a head taller than Sakura and he had slightly broader shoulders than his father had at his age. To say that they both were looking good would be an understatement.
"We just had a little something to take care of with Yamato-taicho," replied Sakura calmly. The one thing out of place was a bandage that covered a rather fresh tattoo on her left shoulder that just barley peeked out from under her short sleeve.
"Sakura, what's that?" Ino said pointing to her left shoulder.
"Nothing," the pink haired kunoichi replied pulling her sleeve down a little lower.
"Is that a tattoo? You guys really did it didn't you? You got into ANBU!?"
"Shhhh! Not so loud Ino-buta," she shushed back. ANBU members were supposed to be anonymous, but it was no secret among their friends that they had applied at the suggestion of Tsunade and Kakashi.
"Fine, Forehead! Be that way," Ino said turning to the guys for support, but finding none.
"Oi Naruto, Sakura, what will you have to drink?" asked Shikamaru quite ready to get the attention away from his noisy blonde teammate.
"Just the usual," replied Naruto, "Sakura?"
Shikamaru motioned to the waitress as Naruto and Sakura took seats opposite each other. Naruto sat on the same side of the booth next to Shikamaru. Sakura sat next to Ino. This left Choji and Sai up against the wall on the far side of the table. Choji had found the bowl of chips as usual. He was now more muscle than he was growing up making him look like a well built sumo wrestler. Sai just looked like an older version of his younger self, a little taller and a little more filled out. Shikamaru looked almost like a copy of his father, minus the scars.
"How's the arm?" Sai asked Naruto. He was sitting next to Ino who had her hand on his thigh, but he didn't really seem to notice.
"It's not as bad as it was. I like that stuff you gave me earlier to put on it," he replied.
"Naruto, when are you going to learn it isn't the cream that works so well? Mine still hurts like crazy." said his pink haired teammate. Her tattoo was starting to itch and she was trying not to touch it.
Naruto shot Sakura a look of amused affection out of the corner of his eye, but no one seemed to notice as the waitress was returning with their drinks. "Thanks," he said to the waitress before turning to Shikamaru. "So Shika, how's Temari?" Naruto asked with a fox like grin on his face.
Shikamaru had finally admitted that he had other reasons to take all those trips to Suna lately after Naruto's endless badgering for the last month. It seemed that he and Temari were getting serious and it was mutual because the Suna kunoichi was in Konoha almost as often as he was in Suna.
"She's fine, but I'm getting tired of making that troublesome trip across the desert. There's got to be an easier way…" he trailed off looking out a nearby window at a dark sky.
"Man, you've got it bad," teased Naruto. "So when are you going to talk her into moving to Konoha?"
"As soon as her brother, the Kazekage, feels he no longer needs her in Suna. At this rate that could be never," replied a rather frustrated Shikamaru. "She seems pretty content with how things are between us at the moment. Troublesome woman."
"You could ask her to marry you," interjected Choji in between mouthfuls.
"And risk the wrath of the Kazekage at the loss of his best Jounin? I'm not sure I'm ready for that. Troublesome woman," Shikamaru replied with a sweat drop. "How about you, Naruto? When are we going to see you get wrapped around a woman's finger?" the shadow user said changing the subject away from himself.
"Hehe, who knows," he laughed scratching the back of his head. Not even his close friends knew about him and Sakura. They had been dating in secret for the past four years in fear that Akatsuki or even the Hokage might find out and use it against him. It was no secret that Danzo didn't like the jinchuuriki and it wasn't beneath him to use anything he could to make Naruto's life miserable. He only let Naruto join ANBU because he thought it would make him easier to control.
"I thought you still had feelings for ugly here," Sai said referring to Sakura. Sakura blushed, but it was more because of the anger she felt at Sai's nickname for her than anything.
"Watch it pale face," she growled looking as if she would reach over Ino and punch him at any second. Sai leaned behind Ino a bit as if using her as a shield.
"Now, now, Forehead, I'm sure Sai was just opening his mouth to insert his foot as usual," Ino said trying to calm down her friend. It didn't pass her by that Sakura got upset pretty quick whenever Sai insulted Naruto, but then again it didn't take much to make Sakura angry these days.
"I read somewhere that when you like someone you are supposed to support them during an argument," Sai said looking down at the blonde haired kunoichi.
"Really Sai, I wouldn't have to keep supporting you if you found a book worth quoting," Ino replied.
"Don't worry about it, Sai. Sakura and I have an understanding. If neither one of us is seeing anyone by the time I'm Hokage we'll get married," Naruto said as his eyes danced.
"Of course he has to live to be Hokage, notwithstanding me killing him personally," she added trying her best to hide the tender look behind the glare she was shooting him. He just laughed and scratched the back of his head again.
"Don't tell me you are waiting for Sasuke-kun to return still," Ino gave her a look of disgust.
"No Ino, that dream ended long ago," she replied with a far off look in her eyes as she remembered her first kiss with Naruto. She took a sip of her drink hoping it would relax her just enough to put up with Ino tonight.
Ino motioned for her to get up so that she could get out of the booth and proceeded to drag Sakura off toward the bar. "Come on, Forehead. I need a refill," said Ino as she took Sakura by the arm pulling her away from the boys.
"Hello, Konoha to Sakura, where did you disappear to just now? There is something you're not telling me," pried the queen of gossip.
"No, it's nothing," Sakura said as she waved off her friends suspicion. The guys didn't seem to notice them leave and had fallen into a conversation of their own about women problems. Ino and Sakura could catch the occasional "troublesome woman" coming from Shikamaru's direction.
"Come on, you're definitely hiding something from me."
"OK, so maybe there has been someone else since my crush on Sasuke, but he's no one you know," she said trying her best to hide her annoyance with her persistent friend. It was getting harder and harder to hide her feelings for her blonde teammate, but she only did it because she wanted to protect someone precious to her.
"Finally! I knew you were hiding something from me. So, is he still in the picture?"
"No! He's old news." She could see Naruto glance at her out of the corner of her eye.
"So, is there anyone who is news?"
"Awe come on, Forehead, there has to be someone you like," Ino pouted. "Don't tell me you like Naruto?"
"Naruto is just too Naruto," Sakura sighed. "There hasn't been any time for dating, Ino, you know that. Between Akastuki, the Jounin exams, applying for ANBU, the hospital, and our regular missions I haven't had the time. You know better than anyone how much a slave driver Tsunade has been since losing her office as Hokage."
"Fine, fine. Don't think I'll let you off that easy though. You're turning into an old maid. Of course if you wait just a bit longer, Sai might be available," Ino confessed.
"I thought you and Sai were exclusive?"
"We are, but I don't know… There just isn't much of a connection anymore. Besides, I've met someone new."
"Oh?" Sakura asked taking another sip of her drink that she managed to grab from the table before being dragged away from it. Ino had been going through men like they were flavors of ice cream and Sai was only the most recent of her favorite flavors.
"He's a civilian, but he's quite the looker. Father had him over for an interview at the flower shop last week and there was just something about him."
"Ino, there is always 'just something' about your latest conquest. Anyway, why would I date Sai? There is just something so wrong about dating teammates," Sakura said looking bored. She loved Ino to death, but she was always so indecisive when it came to men. Not that long ago Ino thought there was 'just something' about her socially awkward teammate.
They could hear the music coming from the dance floor and it seemed that more and more people were leaving the booths to dance. Not too many things had been positive since Konoha had been rebuilt and Danzo was made Hokage, but they did have a few more night clubs added since being rebuilt and the younger generation of ninjas took advantage of this. Sakura could see Naruto coming toward them out of the corner of her eye.
"Care to dance?" Naruto said as he offered his hand to Sakura. She looked like she could use a break from Ino's badgering.
"I would love to," Sakura replied taking his hand. She shot a triumphant look over her shoulder at Ino as she had just been given an escape from their conversation.
"How come you never ask me to dance?" an annoyed Ino said shooting a glance at Sai as she walked back toward their table.
"Want to dance?" he asked almost out of defense.
"Thought you'd never ask," she said sarcastically.
Naruto guided Sakura to the dance floor as a slow song began to play. He put his arms around the waist of his "teammate" and she put her arms around his shoulders careful not to give into her urge to hold him close. They swayed gently to the music hoping the volume of the music would drown out their conversation.
"Sorry about Ino," Naruto began. "I hope she's not getting to you too much." He gazed into her jade eyes. The desire in his eyes conveying what he longed to tell her in words.
Sakura looked into his deep blue eyes. She could get lost in them so easily. She glanced down quickly hoping no one would notice how she had been looking at him. "It's OK, but she just makes me so mad with her constant flirting and questions about my love life as if she's waiving hers in my face."
"I promise you, Sakura, one day we won't have to hide anymore," he said flashing her his famous smile.
"Naruto, if you make any more promises you'll never have a day of rest as long as you live," she teased as she looked into his eyes. He couldn't help but laugh at how cute she looked when she looked at him like that. She truly made him the happiest man alive no matter what was going on in the world around them at the moment.
Naruto saw Sai and Ino making their way toward them on the dance floor and he stiffened up. Sakura noticed his reaction and looked in the direction he was looking in. Seeing her rival in all things she knew why he had reacted the way he did. If Ino even suspected for one second that they liked each other more than teammates, it could be all over. It was no secret that the queen of gossip could spread news rather quickly and there was no telling what Danzo would do if he found out.
"Naruto, I didn't know you could dance," teased Ino as they danced beside them.
"I'm not called the world's most surprising ninja for nothing, Ino."
"Hey Sakura, switch with me. I want to make sure I'm not caught in someone's genjutsu," she said rather flirtatiously toward Naruto.
Sakura looked into Naruto's face and he nodded to let her know that it was OK. She released her hold on him and she reluctantly switched partners with Ino.
"Don't you mind, Sai?" she asked once she was in Sai's arms. He was surprisingly holding his own on the dance floor.
"Not much. Whatever Ino wants, Ino gets," he looked at his former dance partner almost with a hint of regret in his eyes. The music picked up and Naruto moved to twirl Ino around to the beat of the music.
"Sai, if I didn't know any better I'd say you were jealous," teased Sakura sarcastically.
"I read in a book that a man should feel jealous when one's girlfriend flirts with other men, but to tell you the truth, I don't think Ino and I are meant to be," he said calmly.
Sakura was a little taken aback at her teammate's confession but decided to change the subject. Truthfully, it made her feel a little awkward learning of her friend's failing relationship. They danced until the song ended then both couples walked back to sit down at their table. Shikamaru had ordered another round of drinks for all of them and he was obviously in the mood to celebrate tonight for the success of his friends making it into ANBU. Sakura couldn't help but notice the half hearted flirting going on between Ino and Sai. She almost wished that she could just put them both out of their misery, but decided it wasn't her place to say anything. It was best just to let those two work it out in their own time.
The rest of the guys didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary and Sakura decided to shrug it off and join in on the fun. As the evening progressed, the guys seemed pretty well "relaxed" and to everyone's surprise Choji was hitting it off on the dance floor with several of the regular girls. Sakura always thought of him as a great big teddy bear and it never occurred to her that he might actually be dating material. Naruto was also a favorite on the dance floor as several girls seemed to have their sights set on him. Sakura had to admit he had grown up to be quiet the eye candy. That black turtle neck hugged his well defined muscles just right and she was having a hard time not staring at him as it was. It was also hard hiding her jealousy at all the attention the fan girls were giving him, but he seemed oblivious to their advances and she knew where his loyalties lied.
"Naruto seems to be enjoying himself," Shikamaru said turning to Sakura. Ino and Sai had once again hit the dance floor leaving just Sakura and Shikamaru at their table. He looked rather bored and Sakura was sure it had to do with the absence of a certain Suna kunoichi.
"Yeah, he still can't get use to all the attention he gets from the fan girls now. We were all busy with Sasuke growing up and he has admitted to being a little lost as to what to do with the attention," she laughed as she saw a pair of girls arguing over who was the next to dance with him. He just stood back and scratched his head obviously looking rather clueless as the two girls argued over him. "Excuse me," Sakura said as she got up from the table. She had had enough of the fan girls and went to go rescue her boyfriend.
"Naruto, I believe I was next," she said side stepping the surprised pair as she walked into his arms.
"Gladly," he said sweeping her up as they moved away to the beat of the music leaving the fan girls frustrated and fuming. "Thank you," he said looking rather relieved at her arrival.
"No problem. You rescued me once already tonight and I figured I'd return the favor," she replied. He spun her around to the music and she felt a little light headed. She couldn't tell if it was the alcohol finally getting to her, or the rush of emotion she felt whenever she was in his arms. Oh if only it was just the two of them out there on the dance floor…
"Sakura, tell me something, do you think we did the right thing joining ANBU?"
"I don't see why there is any reason not to be. I thought you wanted to be in ANBU?"
"I did, I mean I do. It's just that something has been bugging me since this morning. The Hokage seemed rather happy while he watched us get our tattoos and uniforms. There is just something about his expression that seems out of place. I just can't put my finger on it."
"Tsunade never did trust that man, but I'm sure its fine and you were just imagining things. Besides, how else are you going to get the experience you need before becoming Hokage. Even Kakashi was insistent that the people follow their leader better when he's been through the same experiences as those he leads."
"True, true. I have you by my side, so I guess whatever comes our way we can deal with it together," he said smiling down at her with the smile he reserved only for her.
She could feel her face flush from the attention he was giving her. No matter what, she had the hardest time hiding her feelings for him in public. Even after years of practice he could still make her lose control of them at the drop of a hat. The song ended and they moved back to their table where Shikamaru was still sitting. He always said it was too "troublesome" to dance and was content to sit and watch his friends make fools of themselves.
"Guys, I think I'm going to call it a night. We have to report early in the morning and I would like to get some sleep before then," Sakura said as she put her share of the tab on the table.
"I'll walk you home. You never know what kinds of wierdo's are out there this time of night," Naruto offered as he tossed a few ryu of his own on the table.
"I hope you aren't referring to yourself, baka," Sakura teased. "Tell Temari 'hi' for me next time you see her."
"Night guys," Shikamaru said not seeming to mind being left to his thoughts.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto whined as they moved toward the exit. "Did you have to go that far?" he said referring to being called a weirdo.
"You know I love you right?" she replied giving him the cutest innocent look she could manage while being under the influence of several drinks.
"I'm beginning to wonder," he shot back sarcastically. She just rolled her eyes and turned in the direction of her apartment. She was glad she had moved out of her parents house a couple of years ago and it made life a lot easier when she didn't have to explain to her parents about how much time she spent with Naruto outside of missions and training. When they reached her door she just barely managed to get out her key before she felt arms snake around her waist.
"Naruto, what are you doing?"
"I can't help it. You just look too damn sexy in that skirt."
"Well, you could at least wait until we get inside," she said as she unlocked the door. Once opened they ducked inside and closed it behind them, Naruto wasted no time in placing kisses on the exposed skin on her neck. Sakura let out a moan of pleasure and turned around to face him. His lips met hers and they locked passionately. Sakura's hands moved up to cup his cheeks and he made soft moans as she stroked the whisker marks there. He couldn't resist the rush that having his whiskers stroked gave him and he deepened the kiss only ending it to come up for air. They were both left panting from the rush of emotion and endorphins as they looked into each others eyes in the moonlight that came in through the window.
"You know I can't control myself when you do that Sakura-chan," Naruto said looking deep in her jade green eyes. She could tell he was excited by the way his voice wavered. "If we aren't careful there is no telling what I might do."
"Why do you think I do it then?" she said returning his gaze. No matter how hard she tried, she always felt like she could drown in those deep blues. "Besides, I need to make sure that you aren't thinking of any of those little fan girls that were all over you tonight."
"Sakura, you know those girls mean nothing to me. They are just good cover so that no one sees how crazy I am about you," he said as he started to work his way down her neck in gentle kisses. If her stroking his whiskers was what drove him wild, it was him kissing her neck like this that made her lose all self control. She had to take a deep breath to regain her composer before pushing him back a step so that she could look in his eyes.
"Naruto, as much as I love it when you do that, I was serious when I said I need sleep before tomorrow. I don't want to be half asleep during our first mission in ANBU." Her expression was deadly serious as she spoke and he sighed in defeat.
"Alright. I'll restrain myself this time. However, next time you tease me like that you might not be so lucky," he said giving her a look that was full of lust and mischief. He gave her one last passionate kiss before turning to go. "I love you," he said as he made to open her door.
She stopped him before he could turn the handle and got up on her tip toes and gave him one last passionate kiss in return. "I love you, too."
He brushed some of her pink bangs off of her face and he was gone before another moment passed leaving her alone in her entry way. Sakura let out a deep sigh and removed her heals. 'Maybe I should have made him stay long enough to rub my feet. They are killing me,' she thought to herself, 'although, there is no telling how much sleep I would have ended up with.'
She walked off toward her bathroom to get ready for bed the same moment as a blonde outside looked up toward her window. "Aishiteru, Sakura-chan," he said under his breath before walking off toward his own apartment.
End Chapter 1