AN: This story is something that has been percolating in my head since the end of Chapter 482. So I hope you enjoy it. Also, since my other story is my first love so to speak, so don't expect quick updates to this one, but I'll aim for at least once a month. Thank You for reading, your humble author S. o. t. A.
AN-2(added 9/8/10): The pairing for this story is going to be Naruto/Sakura and two other girls to be annouced later by the story. Also there will be lemons in the story so if you don't like that sort of thing please don't complain as you have been warned. Plus as of right now the first is planned for chapter 12 so if you got that far after reading this its on you. Thanks for reading and for all your support your humble author S. o. t. A.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and I'm doing this for fun not profit.
Chapter one: Heart Break Canyon
Sakura arrived as a bloodied Sasuke, was about to finish off Karin, whom he stabbed through the chest with a chidori when he killed Danzou, shocked by the scene Sakura called out from across the narrow canyon that seemed to stretch down for miles, "Sasuke I'll follow you. I'll leave Konoha."
Kakashi landed in the spot where the team that accompanied Sakura to Iron Country was knocked out at. Approaching Kiba he slapped him lightly trying to rouse the boy. As the boy came too slightly he asked, "Where's Sakura." Kiba drowsily mumbled the directions knowing he didn't have time to waste he moved the boy's under some cover. Unfortunately he didn't factor in Sakura expecting pursuit and the booby trap she had placed on Sai activated when a new chakra source came near enough. As the gas bomb went off while he held Sai in his arms Kakashi managed to escape most of the sleeping gas but he did take a small whiff. Feeling light headed he made his way in the direction Kiba had told him, but far slower than before.
Naruto could sense Kakashi's plight while tapped into Sage mode, he could tell his sensei was slowing. Redoubling his effort he easily passed his sensei, while keeping a wide birth from the man. He arrived at the bridge just as Sakura jumped the small gorge that separated her from Sasuke. Not charging in for a change he sat back and watched as the scene unfolded.
"What do you gain by following me?" Sasuke asked.
"I've always regretted not leaving Konoha with you," Sakura said unevenly, "I don't want to live with anymore regrets." To Sasuke it sounded like she was trying t convince herself of her current course of action more than anything. But of what, coming with him or killing him, he couldn't say.
"Fine, kill her for me and I'll allow you to join me," Sasuke said indicating the critically injured Karin at his feet.
"Who is she?" Sakura asked.
"She is a member of my team 'Hawk,' but as you can see she is of no further use to me," Sasuke said not even looking at the young woman who had served him so faithfully. "You were a healer weren't you? You'll be a good replacement."
Naruto felt his heart break at that. He knew Sakura still loved Sasuke, but to leave the village and betray everyone for him was too much to bear. He only hoped that the turmoil he felt rolling off of her meant she wasn't really planning to leave with Sasuke.
Sakura walked by Sasuke with kunai in hand. As she passed him Sasuke smiled and said, "What do you think of that Naruto? Does it hurt, that the girl you have been willing to do so much for is willing to walk away from you and the village you love to be by my side?"
Sakura's green eyes opened wide at that turning to her right she saw Naruto standing there. Not able to meet his eye she said, "Just leave Naruto."
"You don't mean it Sakura, right? It's a ploy to get him to drop his guard so we can bring him back to Konoha," Naruto said the hurt evident in his voice.
"Please just leave Naruto," Sakura thought but said,"I meant every word. All my life I wanted to be by Sasuke's side, nothing else matters."
As the pain from her words reached Naruto's face Sasuke whispered just loud enough for her to hear, "Delicious, how does it feel to have betrayed someone so completely Sakura?"
Sakura felt the tears at the corner of her eyes but couldn't let them show she had to bear this burden both for the boy she had loved and Naruto. But then Karin whispered weakly, "…s-s-sasuke…stop…"
Feeling the killer intent Sakura spun to see Sasuke about ready to stab her in the heart with a Chidori powered hand, but she then felt a pull that normally would have meant a Substitution Jutsu had been used. However she hadn't been the one to use it as standing in her place was Naruto as she was standing in his. Sasuke's hand had passed through his chest and although Naruto had managed to prevent a fatal strike to his heart it still dealt massive damage.
Coughing up blood Naruto weakly said, "…the more things change… the more they stay the same eh Sasuke."
Understanding that Naruto was referring to their last battle, at the Valley of the End, Sasuke said, "Except this time I'm not leaving you alive. But don't worry soon all of Konoha will join you in hell. However, I'm curious why take the hit for her, don't tell me you still love her after her betrayal of you."
Sakura couldn't move. She didn't understand why. Hadn't she trained for this moment? Why was she still so helpless? Why couldn't she help Naruto when he needed her most? Naruto response to Sasuke cut through her faster than the sharpest knife, "I couldn't care less about that. Whether she meant to defect or not didn't hurt me nearly as much as her telling me she loved me and not meaning a single word of it."
Strengthening his determination Naruto tightened his grip on the hand plunged into his chest saying, "As to your plans for Konoha, I'm afraid you'll have to put them on hold because your joining me in hell." He then picked Sasuke up so that his feet no longer touched the ground and then began running to the cliff behind Sasuke. He vaguely heard Sakura scream his name but he knew he didn't have much longer before he lost consciousness so he just kept on running. Sasuke tried to pound on Naruto to force the blonde to let him go, but Naruto wasn't going to allow that. Not really able to see past Sasuke the edge of the cliff caught them both by surprise although Naruto held on.
Sakura watched as Naruto and Sasuke disappeared over the edge. Finally able to move, she quickly ran up to it but could see any sign of the boys due to the fog that covered the gorge's bottom. Running down the wall of the cliff she sent a pray to Kami that she wasn't too late.
Naruto felt as if he had hit every rock on the way down. Looking at his chest he saw that the Kyuubi had already begun healing it. He was surprised to still be alive truth be told, but figured it had to do with Sasuke having managed to get one hand to grab onto the canyon wall with chakra. It hadn't stopped them; however it did slow them down enough so the fall wasn't fatal. Looking over he could see that Sasuke was in a lot worse shape than he was. He could hear rocks crumbling down the wall which meant that Sakura was probably on her way down. Looking to his right he saw a river which ran through the gorge, needing to get away from the girl so he could put his other half-formed plan in motion he rolled towards it until he fell into the river allowing it's currents to sweep him away.
As the water took him to Kami knows where, he began to finalize the plan that he had started in the hotel room while sneaking away from Yamato. Gaara had told him of Madara's Moon's Eye plan when he let him know about what happened at the Kage summit. Whether it was true or not didn't matter, as he suspected whatever the masked Uchiha had planned relied on having all nine Bijuu. It had been one of the reasons he had allowed himself to take Sasuke's hit. If he died Madara's plans would hopefully never be fulfilled, but it looked like that option had been taken from him. So he would fall back to Plan B which was simply to fake his death and then do his best to help Konoha from the shadows.
Sakura reached the bottom of the gorge and immediately saw Sasuke lying there. Quickly running a scan over him, she saw that while he was seriously injured he would live. She thought about killing him due to the threat he posed but couldn't find it in herself to do so. She then went looking for Naruto. She found a blood trail that led to the river. It had looked like he rolled into it. She was about go running down the river when Kakashi made his presence known.
Seeing the defeated Sasuke he eyed smiled saying, "Perhaps I underestimated you Sakura I didn't think you were capable of beating Sasuke."
Frantic Sakura said while fighting back tears, "I didn't, it was Naruto. We have to find him Kakashi-sensei. I have to find him."
She was about to do just that when Kakashi grabbed her by the arm when she turned to him he said, "First is there an antidote for the sleeping gas." She shook her head no so he added, "Fine go up and heal that girl. I'll summon Pakkun and the others and they track down Naruto."
Sakura wanted to tell Kakashi to forget about the wounded girl. Sensing her thoughts Kakashi said, "The girl has vital information Sakura and we can't just let her die. Don't worry, I'm sure Naruto will be okay, it isn't the first time he's taken a Chidori to the chest after all."
Sakura's face took on a shocked expression at this, as she had never bothered to look into what had happened between Naruto and Sasuke during their first battle at the Valley of the End. Doing as ordered she watched as Kakashi cut his finger and summoned his pack giving them orders to search the river. He then went over to the unconscious Sasuke and bound him so that should he wake up he couldn't escape.
In the end, Sakura had managed to save Karin's life, but there had been no sign of Naruto. When Sai and the other's had recovered they immediately started searching as well. After twenty-four hours, Kakashi had ordered Sakura and Yamato, who had shown up apologizing to Kakashi about allowing Naruto to sneak past him, back to Konoha. Sakura had at first refused, but Kakashi made it an order saying should Karin's condition suddenly get worse she would need to be there. Before she left though Kiba had stopped her and in no uncertain terms let Sakura know that he blamed her for Naruto's disappearance and probable death.
After a week with no sign of Naruto, Kakashi had been forced to call off the search. He was declared M.I.A. Sasuke who had been in a coma ever since the battle was kept under constant guard in a prison cell in the I.T department. Kakashi had easily been made the 6th Hokage as a result of Danzou's death.
One of the first tasks Kakashi faced as Hokage had been Sakura's debriefing which happened in front of the council. She hadn't left out any of the details, even telling of her ploy at defecting, which in the end may have been a mistake as Tsume Inuzuka had raised the point that perhaps it hadn't been a ploy. After all her past had shown her to favor Sasuke and maybe it was only the fact that Sasuke was so deranged and the arrival of Naruto that had prevented her from leaving the village. Kakashi had tried to defend her, of course, saying since only she was there and Karin was on death's door, why tell anyone in the first place. Tsume had an answer for that though, saying Sakura wasn't a fool. If Sasuke woke up or Naruto turned out to be alive they would easily be able to counter her tale. While in the end she had been cleared of any wrong doing. The stigmata stayed and many of the Rookie Nine could no longer trust or work with her. Ino, stayed loyal to the pinkette, but the rest of Team Ten treated her with disdain. Kiba constantly belittled her and Hinata outright hated her unable to forgive the slight of playing with Naruto's heart like she had. In the end, none of the anger directed at her from the others matched the self-loathing she felt for herself. But instead of letting it break her, she dedicated herself to helping the village win The Fourth Great Shinobi War that had started.
A year had passed since Naruto's disappearance. Tsunade Senju, who had woken from her coma a month after Pein's attack, sat looking out on the village from her office as Head of the Medical Department. Her second in command, Sakura, was reading from some report or another, not that she was listening. Ever since Tsunade had woken up, she had been cold to her apprentice after hearing of her role in Naruto's presumed death. Tsunade had wanted to believe that Sakura had meant her defection as a ploy, she really did, but she knew that Sakura had still loved Sasuke right up until the Pein attack. She had asked her straight out for the truth, but when Sakura answered she had been unable to meet her eyes. From that moment on the rift between teacher and student had formed. They worked together well enough, but their close relationship had been replaced by a businesslike one.
Getting tired of even partly listening Tsunade said, "That enough Sakura. I'm sure if there is anything important in those reports I'll find it when I read them later."
"Is there anything else that you need?" the girl asked hoping for some sign of forgiveness.
But she received none as Tsunade said, "No, you're dismissed."
Her hurt obvious on her face she said, "I'm sorry…"
Tsunade harshly cut her off saying, "You keep saying that, but it doesn't change anything does it? Now leave."
Doing as the last of the Sannin ordered Sakura turned and left walking past Shizune who had entered the office and caught the last of the exchange between the two. When Sakura had shut the door to the office, Shizune said, "Don't you think you were a little harsh on her?"
Tsunade got up and looked out the window as she tried to ignore Shizune who wouldn't let the subject drop adding, "You know that for all the guilt and anger you pile on her it pales in comparison to the amount she puts on herself."
"Perhaps I would be more inclined to believe that if she didn't go and visit that piece of trash in his cell," Tsunade spit out.
Shizune just shook her head saying, "She was teammates with him and he's still in a coma. You can't just turn off who you care for you know. You can't honestly tell me that you never thought about the good times before Orochimaru's decent into darkness."
Wrapping her arms around herself Tsunade bypassed the question by asking, "What is it you want Shizune."
Seeing that her master wasn't willing to talk about it Shizune said, "The Hokage wants to know if the medical supplies are ready to be delivered to The Five Element Village."
Realizing that was what Sakura had been informing her about she handed the folder Sakura had left behind to Shizune saying, "Tell Kakashi the information is in here." Shizune took the envelope and left without another word.
As Tsunade watched the village she saw a mop of pink hair that showed Sakura was going home for the night. She knew she was being unreasonable when it came to her old student, but she couldn't help it. Sakura's actions whether she had wanted it or not had been responsible for the death of the young man she saw as a little brother. She wanted to believe in the girl, nevertheless there were just too many questions that wouldn't go away. If she had truly intended to kill Sasuke why knock out the rest of her team? From Sakura's own report Sasuke had been wounded and almost to the point of chakra exhaustion he would have been easy pickings for them? Why the subterfuge? In the end she couldn't truly say she knew what Sakura's intention had been that day, and she didn't doubt there were times when Sakura herself questioned what it was she had truly intended that day.
E was looking over the latest reports dealing with The Fourth Great Ninja War; he was currently residing in The Village of the Five Elements. The Village had been built on the eastern edge of the Land of Fire to serve as the central headquarters of the alliance. He had left Samui in charge back home acting as Regent. Despite Mifune's words at the Kage summit, it was proving to be a rather difficult war to win. So far they had reached a stalemate, but considering that Madara had been planning this for some time that was something he supposed. When Madara had declared his war, the smaller countries had almost exclusively sided with Akatsuki. Apparently they were tired of the great countries using their homes to wage their wars. So siding with Akatsuki had been Waterfall, Sound, Grass, and Rain, whose leader Konan had been quickly ousted without Pein to back her up. However, rumors had it that Konan had somehow managed to escape from the new leader of the village, but how was anyone's guess. Also, it turned out that Madara had set up a village in River Country so all the Great Nations borders needed to be secured preventing them from pooling their greater numbers.
Furthermore, Oonoki had attempted to crush Waterfall for its betrayal of Konoha's Alliance and to open a path to the Land of Fire only to have most of his forces almost wiped out. They had Waterfall on the ropes when Madara had unleashed the one-tail on Iwa's forces. The Chakra Beast had devastated them, but it had also proven that Madara didn't have complete control as the beast had broken free for a time. So despite the fact that Madara hadn't released anymore of the beast, the alliance never formed large armies just in case. Instead, the alliance relied on several smaller squads to carry out missions.
The final challenge the war posed was that the Akatsuki forces didn't fight like shinobi but like cowards. They didn't wear headbands most of the time, and targeted civilians often bombing civilian sectors. They were waging a war of terror. Having never really faced such tactics in the past the Alliance was having a hard time of rooting the terror cells from their borders. The only country that had been doing so quite well was Wind Country and that success could be laid at the feet of a mercenary named Kyo.
Kyo had appeared roughly six months ago in Suna. The man had quickly become a legend to the people of that country, earning the nickname the 'Desert Fox' after supposedly surviving an ambush by five squads of Grass's famous Deathseekers through cunning and trickery. Although what he looked like was anyone's guess as he never appeared outside without a white mask in the same vein as the Kiri-Hunter Division. Also, he was covered from head to toe in a desert camouflage cloak. The only person the mercenary seemed to trust or interact with was the Kazekage who had put the man to work weeding out the terror cells operating in and around Suna.
Hearing a knock he bid the person enter, and in stepped Shikamaru Nara who had quickly earned E's respect for his keen mind. Leaning back in his chair E asked, "Any news from Iwa yet?"
Taking a drag from his ever present cigarette the chunin said, "Afraid not, but that may just be because none of the messenger Hawks are able to fly over the enemy territory and have to take a longer route. Although, I'm beginning to worry at just how silent they have been as of late."
"Agreed," E stated then said, "If we haven't heard anything by morning send a scouting team to ascertain Iwa's current status."
Shikamaru then asked, "Sir, have you given any further thoughts to Operation: Bringing Down the House?"
"I have," E said gravely, "I'm afraid we do not have the forces for an under taking of that magnitude. The base Suna discovered in River Country may make a tempting target. But we can't take the chance of concentrating so many Shinobi to one undertaking in case Madara unleashes another of the tailed beasts."
"True sir," Shikamaru countered, "But your brother backed by a team of shinobi may be able to do it if they can approach the base unnoticed. "
"Yes," E conceded, "however as you know. Killer Bee represents the last Jinchuriki we have we cannot take the chance of him falling into Akatsuki's hands."
Not willing to let the matter go Shikamaru said, "What about Suna's mercenary? He may have the necessary skills."
"There are two problems with that," E said, "One, we would be trusting a man with a loyalty to no country and two he seems to only want to do jobs for Suna at the moment."
"Well what if we can convince Gaara of the importance of this mission, he may be able to convince him?" Shikamaru asked.
"I will consider it," E said finally after waiting several minutes. "There will be another Kage summit in one month. I will bring the matter up with Gaara then."
Realizing that was probably the best he was going to get Shikamaru bowed slightly and exited the room. E then went back to studying his reports trying to find a way to win this war. After all, he would hate for history to say that the Shinobi age ended when he was at the helm.
Sakura had gone home shortly after her meeting with Tsunade and was in the shower washing away the day's grim. She knew her Master was still cross with her even after almost a year and that it didn't help matters that she visited the comatose Sasuke from time to time. She couldn't help it; she still cared for the boy and hoped that he could be saved from his darkness and rage. But the monthly visits were probably also causing the rift between Tsunade and her to remain open. After all it was a joke among the Anbu Black Ops that they weren't guarding the boy to keep him in his cell, but to keep Tsunade out. Sakura had little doubt that if Tsunade ever made it past them, there would be nothing left of Sasuke but a stain on the ground.
Turning off the water, she stepped out of the shower and dried herself off, then with a towel wrapped around her head and a silk robe walked into her kitchen to make some tea. It was as she was waiting for the kettle to boil that her thoughts turned to Naruto as they often did when thinking about Sasuke. Of course when she started thinking about Naruto her thoughts would turn to the dark-haired boy in turn, as if they were somehow connected and that you couldn't have one without the other. She supposed that was true seeing as the boys were reflections of one another. Both had experienced painful childhoods but it was in how they allowed those moments to shape them that defined them.
Sasuke had been born into a loving family. He had the love and respect of the village, as well as her love of course. When Itachi had murdered his family Sasuke had lost that family but the village had still loved him and made it that he wanted for nothing. But it hadn't been enough. His desire for revenge had made it so that he would eventually betray his home; betray her, to fulfill the only thing he truly wanted in the world. When Sasuke had left that night, so long ago it seemed, and she had confessed her love for him she had thought the reason he hadn't taken her along was so she wouldn't have to walk the same dark path that he had chosen for himself. But seeing what he had done to Karin, a girl that shared the same feelings for Sasuke, just because she was no longer of use, she know believed it was simply because he didn't think she would have added anything of value in his quest for revenge.
The kettle began to whistle. Pouring the tea into a cup she walked over to the couch. Taking a sip as she sat down she then began to think of Naruto. Where Sasuke was born with everything the blond had been born with nothing. Not the village's love or hers. But he had never quit striving for both, going to such extreme measures as facing Orochimaru in the Forest of Death, to brave and stupid to ever run away. Fighting tooth and nail against a Shukaku possessed Gaara and winning. A feat that if the reports that came from Iwa after they faced the beast was practically unbelievable. And if Sasuke was to be believed he had done it for her. Then there was his Promise of a Lifetime. Where she had begged Naruto to bring back the one she loved knowing full well he had feeling for her, and he said he would. That he understood her pain, which of course now she knew he had been feeling because of her. But he had faced all those challenges with an unshakeable resolve and loyalty to the village and to her. So much so that even at the end, the only crime he had laid at her feet was that she had claimed to love him when it wasn't true. That despite everything he had done for her, she would try and manipulate him using the feelings she knew he possessed for her.
Looking into her cup of tea she noticed little drops of water falling into it. Reaching up to her eyes she could feel the tears that streaked down her face. Getting up she decided to go to sleep, allowing the feelings of guilt and self-loathing sing her to sleep as they had for so many nights since Naruto's death.
Morning in Suna was always a busy affair in the Kage's Mansion seeing as Gaara even with his tailed beast removed needed a fraction of the sleep a normal person needed. The mercenary Kyo, made his way to the Kage's office a chunin carrying a stack of paper quickly stepping out of his way allowing the man to pass. It wasn't fear that made shinobi stand straighter or move from his path, but respect. Respect for the man that many believed was single handedly keeping the worse of the war from their borders.
Barging into Gaara's office without knocking he saw his assistant Matsuri stiffen a little probably preparing to defend her Kage and the man everyone and their mother knew she loved, except the target of her admiration of course. "That will be all Matsuri," Gaara said in his monotone voice before she could berate the mercenary for his rude manner of entering.
Bowing to her village leader she walked out of the room closing the doors behind her. Gaara took a minute to study the mercenary. His white porcelain mask in place, with a desert camouflage cloak covering him not allowing Gaara to see the beige cargo pants or Suna flak jacket the man wore beneath it. As the mercenary pulled the hood of his cloak down Gaara see the tan bandana that covered his head not allowing a glimpse of the man's hair. Smiling slightly Gaara said, "And to what do I owe the visit Desert Fox?"
The man shifted clearly annoyed at the nickname he had been given by Suna's forces said, "Gaara, how many times have I told you not to call me that?"
"I would guess about as many times as Matsuri has told you not to barge into my office like you own it," Gaara said leaning into the comfortable chair. "Please remove your mask so we can have a real conversation."
Kyo did as Gaara asked, revealing the whiskered face of Naruto Uzumaki. After his brush with death, he had headed to Ami figuring Konan could hide him away until he was ready, but the rebellion against her had already deposed of her by the time he arrived. He had managed to help her escape from prison and the pair had come to Suna where Naruto had set up the Kyo alias. He was glad he had left Konoha when he did, especially when he found out from Gaara that the Kage's had planned to hide him away. It hadn't been easy to convince the former jinchuriki to go along with his plans, but Naruto could be persistent and had eventually worn down his friend.
Removing his cloak Naruto set it aside and then reached into a pouch at his back hip pulling out a scroll. He tossed it to Gaara who easily caught it. "What's this," Gaara questioned while attempting to open it.
Naruto said, "You might want to open that in the morgue as it carries remains of the terror cell that was operating in the town of Alabasta. Although there is one seal in the scroll that is storing some important papers I found. You might want to have your I.T. department shift through those right away. It may show that we are wrong about these terror cells being missing-nin hired by Akatsuki, but a long standing group trained by Madara in a manner similar to Root."
Gaara nodded his head then said,"What does Konan have to say about it."
Naruto shrugged, "She had no idea any of this was going on. After all, she and Pein were planning to use the tail beasts as a super weapon to end all war."
"Very well," Gaara said standing up. "Now perhaps you can tell me the real reason for your visit."
Smiling Naruto said, "Can't get anything past you can I? I'll be leaving Suna for a while, if you need to get in touch with me talk to Konan."
"I see, are you going to Konoha to tell her of your survival?" Gaara asked.
"Yeah," Naruto said, "I wouldn't want her to think she made a bad bet."
"And what of…" Gaara tried to say.
Only for Naruto to place his mask back on and reach for his cloak, "Well I better get going. I'll see you later."
He left just as noisily as he entered probably annoying Matsuri who was sitting at her desk outside. Gaara thought with some amusement. It didn't last as he thought about what he had wanted to say, "And what about Sakura." At first Gaara had been as perturbed as everyone else with the pink haired girl, but seeing the pain she felt as well as his friend's, hoped that one day the two would find a way to move on from the that day in Iron Country.