CHAPTER 24: Back Together

Disclaimer: Nope… Naruto's still not mine. :(

Hey guys! It's been a long time! SORRY! It's been ages since I last uploaded! ): But I have a good reason! I suffered from the infamous writers' block and it's been a real busy year… I don't have enough time for fanfiction! So since I'm having a break now, here's chapter 24 of Back Together! (: I really hope you guys enjoy it and stay with me till the sequel!

Konoha was rebuilt, but the familiar warm aura of it was no longer there. A lot had changed since the war. People seldom went out and Konoha wasn't as lively as it was before.

He walked around the streets of the now gloomy Konoha. The sight of him was unbelievable. He resembled a walking corpse. His clothes were dull and dirty, his hair was incredibly untidy-bangs all over his face and uncombed and his face was void of any emotion. This was a complete opposite of the handsome, neat and the most envied man in Konoha.

Shizune followed behind silently, footsteps hardly heard. She was his caretaker for the day. He had collapsed a few days ago due to malnutrition and dangerously low chakra levels. He was supposed to be hospitalized for a week, but had left the hospital without a word. He had a look of firmness on his face that repelled everybody and no one dared to hinder his actions. Shizune could only follow behind him helplessly, lest he collapsed once again. Her constant pleads for him to go back were only ignored and responded with a bitter silence that tensed up the whole aura around them. She realized then, that he could take silence, coldness and bitterness to a whole new level. A level that could frighten anybody in sight. Goosebumps formed on her skin and she shivered as she looked at the boy walking in front of her.

He no longer lived a life worth living.

"Sasuke!" Shizune jerked at the sudden voice that came from behind her.

"Sasuke!" She looked at Sasuke expectantly, waiting for him to respond to the voice calling him. No response.

"Sasuke!" He just continued walking, unfazed by the voice calling his name.

"SASUKE!" Shizune felt a gust of wind as Naruto ran past her, towards the boy in front, and stopped him from walking.

"Sasuke! Damn it, what happened to you?" Naruto exclaimed, looking at Sasuke's disheveled figure. When he received no reply, he finally acknowledged Shizune's presence and looked at her with a questioning look on his face.

"Malnutrition. 70% drop in chakra levels." Shizune replied briefly. Naruto's sky blue eyes widened as he looked at his best friend. Sasuke looked horrible and his face was drained of any life. Naruto's eyes softened as he remembered that episode.

"Sasuke… It's been almost a year… You have to at least take care of yourself." He advised. Sasuke just started walking, eyes stuck to watching the ground, bangs now shielding his face. Naruto sighed and dropped the subject.

"Anyway… I came here for a reason." No response. "Tsunade wants to see us. All of us."

Everyone was there. Ino, Shikamaru, Chouji, Ten Ten, Neji, Lee, Hinata, Kiba, Shino, Sai, Suigetsu, Karin and Juugo were all present.

It had been 6 months since Sasuke and his team were on probation and they were now accepted back into the village. They all were all jounins now, along with everybody else. Tsunade finally spoke.

"As jounins, all of you need to be deployed into teams for missions. I have the finalized list now." She flipped through some papers before taking out one from the stack.

"Naruto, you're with Sasuke, Suigetsu and Karin. Sasuke's the team leader." With this, Naruto sulked.

"Neji, you're with Juugo, Ten Ten and Lee. You'll be the team leader. Shikamaru, you're the team leader with Ino, Sai and Chouji in your team. Hinata, Shino and Kiba, you're team will be twinned with other ninjas of other villages." Tsunade continued.

Everyone moved to their respective teams and Tsunade seemed pleased with the arrangement. "Dismissed!"

"So…" Naruto tried to get the team talking. They were Team 1 now. 'This is so different from Team 7…' He thought bitterly.

"Why am I cursed with such luck to be put into the same team as you again?" Suigetsu whined as he pointed at Karin. They seldom fought now, and have come into better terms ever since the funeral.

"How would I know?" Karin rolled her eyes.

She was no longer a fan girl of Sasuke and had grown to start noticing Suigetsu's charms. Sakura's absence had changed Karin's character. She was no longer the bitch she was last time and had become much more mature. She prayed for Sakura everyday before she went to sleep and sincerely hoped Sakura was alright.

Suigetsu had remained the chatty person he was but became less open. He didn't share his feelings anymore and bottled everything inside. Sakura would usually be his outlet when he was frustrated, but now that she wasn't there anymore, he kept things to himself.

Naruto also remained cheerful and bubbly and hid his depressed and cold self from others really easily. He missed Sakura dearly and prayed that they might find her body some day. He rarely fought with Sasuke now, pitying the guy in his current state. He was together with Hinata after so many years of liking her, and her liking him back. They were a very popular couple in Konoha.

Sasuke on the other hand… He became more uncaring, colder and hardly talked anymore. He visited her grave everyday without fail, a pang of guilt and sadness stabbing his heart every time he went there. He couldn't help but believe that she might still be alive, but let the thought slip every time he let reality hit him back cruelly.

"So… we're a team now, huh everybody? Just like old times, Sasuke!" Naruto grinned and patted his best friend's shoulder, only to realize the impact of his words after he'd said them.

"Things will never be like old times." Sasuke muttered after weeks of not speaking to the rest and turned to walk away silently, leaving a tense atmosphere behind.

"Team 1! This is your first mission as a team!" Tsunade looked at each and every one of them.

"I take you all as serious shinobi. You have to remember, that a shinobi never shows his emotions or lets anything get in the way of accomplishing a mission." Tsunade glanced at Sasuke. He just stared back at her, and Tsunade looked away, not letting the pools of emptiness in his eyes get to her.

"You'll be going to the Land of Crystals to escort a few students back here to Konoha. They need your protection and this is not an easy mission as these students are wanted by many dangerous organizations and villages. You could end up in many difficult battles and have to protect these students with your lives."

"Baa-chan… You're always giving us the easy missions… Come on, we're Jounins already!" Naruto complained.

"This is not an easy mission! Although it is easier than others I have given you, I'm giving it to this team to test out how well you can work with each other!" Tsunade glared at Naruto, who just sighed and raised his hands in defeat.

"Leave for the mission by 8 in the morning. Dismissed."

Team 1 arrived in the Land of Crystals very easily with little problems. They had met with bandits, assasins and ambushes on the way, but these were easily handled by Naruto, Suigetsu and Sasuke. Karin didn't even need to lift a finger. They were escorted by the villagers to the Hokage's building, where they received instructions and met the students they were escorting.

They were then allowed to roam around the village for an hour or so as the students pack their things, and leave for Konoha afterwards.

"Suigetsu!" Naruto called out. Suigetsu looked at him expectantly. Naruto went to whisper something into his ear. Suigetsu blushed before looking at Naruto with a nervous look on his face.

"I don't know… I'm too chicken for that kind of shit!" Suigetsu replied him. Naruto sighed before replying.

"Hey man, if you don't do it now, you'll never do it. Come on, gather the guts. I'm sure Sakura will be proud of you if you did it. You and I both know you've been wanting to do this." Naruto reassured Suigetsu, who had a few panic attacks before walking over to Karin.
"H-Hey Karin, let's go uh…walk around the village and uh… do some…stuff." He stuttered while not daring to meet her eyes.

"Yeah sure, we're going to walk around with Sasuke and Naruto, aren't we?" Karin shrugged and looked at him.

"N-No! I mean…" Suigetsu was lost for words and looked at Naruto with pleading eyes.

"NAHHH! I want to spend quality time with Sasuke here! He's my man, you know? You two go… shoo off somewhere! Bye! Hope you two have some fun!" Naruto winked as he pulled an unresponsive Sasuke away before Karin could react.

"SO…" Suigetsu scratched the back of his head nervously. Karin blushed and pretended to look at her nails awkwardly.

It was going to be an interesting day for those two.

Sasuke walked silently, while Naruto continued talking endlessly. He looked around the village. It resembled Konoha but had a very cheerful and happy vibe, in contrast to Konoha.

"Sasuke, can you say something?" Naruto twitched and snapped at Sasuke. Sasuke glared at Naruto from the corner of his eye, as if challenging him to say more. Sasuke wasn't watching his way and continued glaring at Naruto, who in turned glared back, when suddenly, he bumped into someone. Someone had walked straight into his muscular chest and fell down onto the ground from the impact. Sasuke also fell backwards, breaking off his glare battle with Naruto.

"Ouch! Sheesh, watch your way!" A voice interrupted the process of Naruto being slaughtered in his mind. The voice was very feminine and sounded oddly familiar. He looked up and looked straight into pure emerald eyes. His eyes widened.

"SAKURA!" He abruptly exclaimed, a shocked expression replacing the emotionless expression that had been there since her death.

Naruto, alarmed by Sasuke's exclamation, quickly turned to the girl Sasuke bumped into. She had long brown hair, which was tied up with a pink ribbon. She had a centre parting and widow's peak, and fair skin. She was wearing a black robe that stopped right above her knee caps with a grey singlet inside and sandals. She looked like a normal shinobi going for a casual walk around the village, except that she went grocery shopping, as seen from the plastic bag on the floor and the oranges rolling out of it. 'Sakura? What's Sasuke thinking? This girl looks nothing like Sakura! She looks so much more mature anddifferent from the child like girl Sakura was… She's actually quite beautiful...'

Both Sasuke and the girl stood up at the same time. Then, to Naruto's surprise, Sasuke hugged the girl tightly. With tears streaming down his face, he cried out, "SAKURA! How could you leave me like that? I love you so much! You have no idea how much I wished for you to come back every single day since you went missing! The hell… You're finally back!" He kept sobbing as he buried his face deep into her shoulder. The girl gasped and struggled in his tight grip.

"GET OFF ME NOW!" She tried pushing him away, but was unsuccessful. She kept hitting him and kicking him but he didn't move. Naruto's eyes broadened before he started pushing them apart.

"SASUKE! Snap out of it! This isn't Sakura!" He tried convincing Sasuke, who ignored him.

"It's Sakura! You're BLIND! Go away!" Sasuke yelled.

"WHO IS SAKURA? WHO ARE YOU?" The girl shrieked. Sasuke pulled away from her and looked into her eyes with tear-filled eyes.
"You! You're Sakura! It's you… Your hair colour just changed!" He shook her.

"I'm not Sakura! Who the hell is that? Get away from me! NOW!" She pushed Sasuke away violently. Sasuke looked at her, hurt crossing his features.

"YOU'RE SAKURA!" Sasuke exclaimed. They had gathered plenty of stares from the villagers by now. Naruto looked at Sasuke nervously.

"Sasuke! It's not Sakura! Look at her! She has brown hair! She looks much more mature than Sakura! Look at her curves! Look at everything! SHE'S NOT SAKURA!" Naruto yelled at Sasuke.

"SHE IS!" Sasuke punched Naruto, earning many gasps from the villagers. Naruto's face darkened.
"Look, I know Sakura's death affecte-"

"SHE DIDN'T DIE! SHE'S RIGHT HERE!" Sasuke pointed at 'Sakura'. The girl just rolled her eyes, exasperated.

"Look my name's not Sakura, okay? You recognized the wrong person!" She tried knocking sense into Sasuke.

"Heard that, teme?" Naruto rubbed the spot where Sasuke had punched him at.

Sasuke's face just darkened, an infuriated expression plastering his face. Suddenly, black marks started dominating his whole body. The marks started spreading everywhere and he started shaking.

Naruto cursed. 'Damn it! His cursed seal activated! What do I do now?'

The villagers watched the scene in horror, as Sasuke's skin became a dark grey shade and as his hair grew longer. Wings shaped like hands started appearing on his back. He looked at Naruto. He was enraged. His face was filled with hate and anger. Naruto backed away.

"It's Sakura!" Sasuke hissed.

"Sasuke, it's not Sakura! Snap out of it!" Naruto seethed as his fingernails grew longer. He was going to turn into the nine tailed fox. Just then, Suigetsu and Karin pushed through the crowd to view the commotion.

"DAMN IT! Naruto's going to turn into the Kyuubi! What now?" Suigetsu exclaimed in horror. Right then, the villagers started to scream and run away, afraid that they would be harmed. Karin rushed over to the girl in between Sasuke and Naruto and pulled her away.

"We have to get out of here." She said to the girl, before running away with her to a safer place. Sasuke watched as the girl was pulled away from him. That made him angrier. He was going to go after them, when Naruto jumped on him to prevent him from moving.

"SUIGETSU! Give me a hand!" Naruto roared.

"What the shit? Can you control yourself?" Suigetsu ran over hesitantly.

"I can! I have a seal that would keep the Kyuubi in me! Hurry up, knock him out!" Naruto grabbed Sasuke's hands and tried to cease any movement from him. Suigetsu quickly located the knock-out point of Sasuke and applied tremendous pressure onto it. Sasuke suddenly stopped moving and drifted into unconsciousness.

All he could see was black. 'SakuraCome back…'

He heard hushed murmurs coming from outside the room.

"The students were safely escorted here. Good job."

" Yeah. Sorry we couldn't handle Sasuke properly, baa-chan."

"I understand. You guys did your best. Suigetsu, Karin, I need you two to follow me back to finish up the documents for this mission."


"Naruto, you stay here and take care of Sasuke. He's already awake."

Sasuke stiffened upon hearing that and shifted his body to face away from the door. Footsteps were heard walking away from the door that separated his room from the corridor and slowly, the sound of the footsteps kept getting softer and softer. Then, the door opened and someone entered.

"Sasuke. I know you're awake." Naruto voiced out. Sasuke remained silent.

"I know you still haven't gotten over Sakura and none of us have either. That girl in the village... We already apologized to her. She's not Sakura." Naruto said softly. Sasuke's eyes saddened.

"Naruto." Naruto's jerked up and he looked at Sasuke incredulously. He hadn't called him his name since forever. Sasuke turned to face Naruto.

"I know Sakura's still out there... That was her... I swear." He murmured softly, unsure of how Naruto would react to that.

"Sometimes… We have to accept reality. Sakura-chan wouldn't want to see you in this state. She always advised you to stay happy, didn't she?" Naruto tried comforting Sasuke. Sasuke just nodded.

"It's hard to accept it, but you have to. The least you could do for her now would be to fulfill her wishes. You returned to Konoha and stopped your whole revenge plot, that's a good start." Naruto pulled Sasuke to sit up.

"Now, all you have to do is to move on with life and live it happily. Everything happens for a reason right?" Naruto continued, before pulling Sasuke into a brotherly hug. For the first time, Sasuke broke down badly since her death. He cried and the tears flowed endlessly. Naruto pulled away before taking something out of his pocket.

"She gave this to me a few years ago. I just didn't know when to give it to you." Naruto stated, before handing the object over to Sasuke. It was a simple black ring with the engraving 'Smile'. Naruto then handed Sasuke a card.

"She wrote it when you left and passed it to me, in case I ever encountered you in a battle…" Naruto explained. "So… Stay happy for Sakura's sake and continue being the bastard you are." Naruto smiled, before leaving the room.

Sasuke stared at the card for awhile before reading it.


I've always wanted to marry you! :) But that's kind of impossible, now that you've left. I really hope you come back… That's all I ask for… For you to come back, remain a Leaf Village shinobi and no longer be bent on revenge. I also want you to be happy. No matter what, no matter how down you are, no matter how bad a situation is… Remember to smile. That's how I live my life… Though I constantly got rejected by you, I continued being happy and thought of the positive things in life- That I met you. Though we're separated, I hope that you'll always smile and be happy. True happiness comes from within. I hope that you live life happily and always smile, no matter how bad a situation may seem. Whether you come back or not, I hope that you're happy wherever you are. Everything happens for a reason and I believe meeting you is one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I love you, Sasuke-kun.

Love, Sakura. A.k.a, annoying. :P

He slipped the black ring onto his finger and stared at it, before a genuine smile made a way to his face. He closed his eyes and felt peaceful for the first time since she went missing.

"Hey Sasuke! You're so slow! Hurry up already!" Suigetsu whined while stomping his feet at the gates of Konoha.

"Hmph, whatever. At least I'm not as slow as your stupid brain, who can't register what's right in front of you." Sasuke smirked slightly, as he looked from Suigetsu to Karin. They just blushed ten shades of red. Everyone widened their eyes at Sasuke and his shocking comment.

"Sasuke, what's wrong with you?" Suigetsu gasped. Naruto grinned.

"Finally knocked some sanity into you, huh?" Naruto smiled at Sasuke and punched him lightly, before heading out of the village gates for yet another mission.

"Hn…" Sasuke looked at the ring on his finger. "True happiness comes from within." His eyes softened as he looked up to the sky, a warm smile crossing over his angelic features. 'We'll be back together some day. I know it.'

HIIIIIIIII! This marks the end of Back Together, but the beginning of the SEQUEL! xD I hoped you enjoyed it! I'd like to thank all my fellow readers and reviewers! YOU ARE LOVED! (: So I was wrong, this chapter is PRETTY long, and not that short. :P But the longer the better right? ;)

I really love you all for supporting my story. I will include all your names at the end of the sequel! ;) I really truly love all of you because you have given me so much confidence in writing and I have improved so much! See you soon, at my SEQUEL!:D Please continue supporting me! Arigato! :)

LOVE :),

Hitomi Junko