Sooooo sorry for the delay, but if you want to know what has been going on you can check my profile or send me a message. I don't mind answering questions. But anyways, things are heating uppppppp! And as promised, there will be a sleepover scene in this chapter for my horribly delayed updating. Also, I hit the 100 review mark on this story. YAY! Thank you to those wonderful people that inspire me to write: Clearly Emily, SasoLOVE111, ..CHoMP., DevilToBeLoved, XionNight, xoulblade, Lungs, Sakura Haruno ROCKS17, Lady Icicle, CrazySakuraHarunoXD, wingchan7, KaiandApple, pacchiri cherii, animemusicnut, BloodyRose, Gin Kitsune 13, LilithiaRW, catty12, pein's naughty girl, Weasle-Chan, Lozbii, Vesper Chan, Coolio, TDI-Ryro-Eclares, Little Miss. Cloud, kokkilamb01, thedoggydog2, jowilleatyuh, garraATEmyCOOKIES, hana-chan2.0, Don'..Me, SakuraPhoneix13,
DISCLAIMER:As always, I have no ownership over Naruto.
"I don't care how skilled she is, Hidan. Her defeat over Sasori as well as Konan is sufficient evidence of that."
"I prefer not to be reminded of such events," a voice spoke from their holographic form.
"Then you shouldn't have let yourself be defeated so easily, Sasori," the leader retorted.
The puppet master remained silent, although the members knew he was scowling. The room remained quiet as the members realized the dangerous mood their leader was in. "Does anyone know her current location?"
No one spoke up.
"Itachi. Wasn't it your responsibility to keep tabs on her?"
"Hai, Leader-sama. Unfortunately after her battle with Konan, we lost all trace of her," the Uchiha responded in his hologram form.
"So we have no leads to her where-a-bouts?"
"I expect you insolent fools to change that quickly. Your new mission is solely to locate Sakura Haruno. Dismissed."
'You may have the upper hand now, cherry blossom, but have no fear. We will be sure to change that shortly.'
Ch.8 Times like these
After spending hours catching up with her friends, Sakura decided that at the point when it began to reach into the early hours of the next day, it was past time for her return home.
"Naruto, do you still happen to have that spare key to my apartment?" Sakura questioned as she stood from her seat, stretching her arms above her head.
"Of course, Sakura-chan!" Naruto replied as he whipped the key out of one of his orange pockets and handed it to her with a wide smile spreading across his whiskered cheeks. "I thought you may need it eventually so I ran home to get it for you."
"Such a gentleman," Sakura replied softly with a small smile pulling at her lips before she turned back to her friends. "Sorry to cut this visit short. I know I still have a lot to catch up on."
"There'll be other times, forehead," Ino told her as she and Chouji moved over to her standing form and gave her friendly hugs.
Sakura moved around the room, thanking everyone for coming out to see her. As the pinkette turned to leave, she noticed Naruto, Sai, Kiba, Shikamaru, and Neji waiting for her at the exit.
"You guys aren't sick of me yet?" she questioned as she exited the building with her male friends close behind her.
"Not at all, babe," Kiba told her with a smirk as he moved next to her and threw an arm around her shoulders as they continued their journey to Sakura's apartment. "Besides, we don't want you to go back to a lonely apartment."
"Yeah, Sakura-chan," Naruto spoke up with his usually warm smile. "So we're staying the night. Hope you don't mind!"
"Even if I did, Naruto, you'd still stay in my house regardless," Sakura replied with a short laugh as she shot the blonde a smile.
As the group reached the front door of Sakura's apartment, they stood behind the pinkette as she slowly unlocked the front door and stepped into her previous place of residence. She looked around the dark apartment and let out a sigh. She noticed that it was relatively clean with no signs of dust, with everything in the way she remembered leaving it.
"I came over a couple times since you've been gone," Naruto spoke up quietly as he watched her move into her kitchen and run her feminine hands over her counters. "I just…didn't want it to look dead inside when you came back."
"Thank you, Naruto," she told her friend quietly before turning back to the group. "I'm going to take a quick shower. You guys can just make yourselves at home. In fact, some of your old clothes may still be in the guest room if you wanted to change."
Sakura gave her guests a smile as she made her way into her bedroom, where she also noticed the lack of dust, before she pulled out some old shorts and one of her friend's old shirts from her dresser and held it lovingly against her chest. She scurried over to the bathroom where she took a quick shower then changed before returning back to her living room. She found Naruto and Sai occupying the ends of her couch, leaving room for her to join them, while Shikamaru sat on the floor with his back resting against the couch as Neji and Kiba occupied the two chairs on either sides of the couch.
The pinkette made her way over to the couch, where she stretched herself across her team member's laps; laying her head on Naruto's and her legs across Sai's. She felt Naruto's fingers combed through her damp hair lovingly while Sai traced absent minded patterns into her smooth calf, as if he were painting a picture.
Sakura let one of her hands hang over Naruto's knees as she copied his actions into Shikamaru's hair. The Shogi master let out a sigh as she pulled out the tie that held back his thick locks. "I think this would be better suited to someone like Ino, you troublesome woman."
"Perhaps," she replied as she ran a hand through his hair making him look slightly over his right shoulder to gaze at her serene features. He let out a sigh and let her continue her task as they all sat in a comfortable silence as some of the Jounin began to doze off. About an hour later after light conversation about the medic's absence, Sakura, Neji, and Shikamaru were the only ones still awake.
"Sakura," Shikamaru's voice called out quietly. "I know this is probably the last thing you want to talk about, but I'd like to hear about the Akatsuki. You said they have been active in trying to capture you the past two years. What do you know that we don't?"
The pinkette let out a small sigh as she gazed up at her blonde teammate who had dozed off with his head lulled onto his shoulder as one of his hands had found hers in his sleep. "I'm assuming they want me for my medical abilities and or because of the relationship I have with Naruto. Wherever I went, they weren't far behind. About three months ago, I killed one of their members and since then they haven't been able to locate me."
"Who did you kill?" Neji asked quietly from his spot in the near by chair.
"Konan, the leader's partner," Sakura told them.
Sakura and her opponent were both panting heavily as they faced each other in the now destroyed forest. The pinkette knew that she, as well at the woman across from her, were both reaching the dangerously low levels of their chakra and the battle would soon be over.
"Why is it so important for you to catch me?" Sakura questioned between pants as she began healing the broken ribs on her right side. "Why are you so persistent on ruining my life? Hm?"
The woman with the purple hair just continued to let out heavy breaths and hold her injured arm to her chest as she watched Konoha's previous medic with hate and determination bottled up in her expressive jade eyes. She stayed silent for a few moments until a small smile appeared across her bloodied lips. "It was never my intention to ruin your life, Haruno-san."
Sakura let out a brisk laugh as she continued to take in deep breaths, "Then what was your intention?"
"I had no intentions, Haruno-san," the woman spoke as she looked down at the ground. "I was just following orders."
She lunged at Sakura once more who was ready for her attack when it came. The female Akatsuki member performed a previously used attack as she formed her arm into a sword with her paper techniques. Sakura knew she had just enough chakra for a final power-filled attack. When Konan came towards her, she dodged the blade and sent a chakra scalpel towards her heart.
Sakura knew she was successful when she saw the woman dressed in red clouds fall to the dirt floor, clutching her chest in pain as she coughed out blood that ran down her pale chin. Her breath became shallower as the pinkette proceeded to crouch down, holding her hand into another scalpel near the woman's neck as she gazed into her eyes.
"Are you going to give me any information, or would you rather me just end it for you now?" Sakura's voice spoke calmly as her eyes remained unreadable to the paper expert.
"You would-" she paused as she let out a pained cough and let more blood slide down to her chin, "do that when you could let me die slowly?"
"I could walk away now, if you'd rather. I have no difficulty doing so."
Konan let out a choked laugh as she let a small smile pull at her lips. Sakura saw that she was fading as her eyes started to flutter close. "Now I finally understand what Pein sees in you. You really are…quite an amazing woman, Haruno-san."
And those were the Akatsuki member's last words as her body went limp and her eyes fell closed leaving Sakura to think about her words.
"So what now?" Neji questioned quietly.
Sakura let out a tired sigh as she slowly sat up from her lounged position across her couch and teammates. Subconsciously, Naruto felt her movements and didn't like the fact that her warmth was moving away from him, so he reached out and wrapped his muscled arms around her waist and pulled her onto his lap, nuzzling his face into her hair before falling back into a deep sleep.
The pinkette rolled her eyes as she let a smile grace her features before turning her attention back to the two ANBU members in front of her.
"Now I believe they are going to continue to search for me. I do worry that the talk of my return will reach them eventually making them come here, but if that were the case I'm not sure what their plan of action would be."
"The possibility that they will declare war as to be taken into account with this situation," Neji retorted as he leaned back in the chair he was occupying.
"I fully understand this," Sakura replied evenly to her pale eyed friend. "But I don't want to think about that right now. If the time comes, and the Akatsuki do declare war against Konoha, I will leave again so I don't put the village in danger. That way they can take their war else where."
"Or you could stay and we can partake in the battle that has been long overdue with their organization," Shikamaru added as he moved to the space that now was given on the couch due to Sakura's new position.
"If you guys think it would be better for me to leave the village, I want you to be honest with me," she whispered as her apple eyes glanced towards the ground.
"No one wants that, Sakura," Neji replied quietly after a short pause. "But we do have to consider all possibilities when it comes to what the elders as well as Danzou are going to have to say about your return."
"Do either of you know when they're going to meet with Tsunade?"
"Seeing that your return is big news within the village in just a matter of hours, I'm assuming that he'll be storming into the Hokage's office first thing tomorrow morning," Shikamaru told her as he let an amused smirk form at his words.
"I really hope he has a heart attack from the shock," the pinkette whispered with a small smile as she snuggled into the future Hokage and fell into a much needed sleep surrounded by her friends.
"Tsunade this is absolutely unacceptable!"
"What is?" The blonde Hokage questioned to the angered group standing in front of her desk. "The fact that I'm going against your wishes? Or the part where Danzou stomped into my office like an upset child?"
"You insolent brat," Danzou hissed as he tried to calm his ever growing temper. "You have gone behind the council's back on multiple accounts in just one day! You're not fit to be the leader of the village, you spoiled woman."
"Danzou," one of the elders commanded in meaning of silence. "That is quite enough."
"The real reason we're here is to discuss the obvious, Tsunade," the other elder spoke up as Danzou let out a huff of frustration. "Why have you let Sakura Haruno return to the village without consulting us before hand?"
Tsunade clasped her hands together and rested her chin upon them as she gazed at the three highly acclaimed members of the village. "I will have you all know that I have never regretted taking my place as the Hokage of this village," she began as her hazel eyes slid shut as she released a short sigh before opening them once more to look at the three people in her office. "The thing I do regret, however, is the fact that I let someone else sway decisions that should have been my own. I regret letting you poison my mind with these ridiculous excuses of what was best for the village. I regret exiling my only student, who is like a daughter to me, for two years when there was really no valid reason too. And most of all, I regret ever agreeing on letting you council my choices. I am the Hokage of Konoha, and my rule is law. My decision is to let Sakura Haruno return to the village permanently."
The three respected elders stood in silence; Danzou looking like he was about to burst with anger. One of the elders let out a sigh before speaking up once more.
"As you wish, Tsunade."
"Now leave my office, and do not bring this matter up with me again."
As the unwanted guest began to leave, Danzou turned towards the blonde. "You are going to regret this, Tsunade. Mark my words."
"And you are going to regret ever trying to ruin what this village is, Danzou. You mark my words."
Danzou gave her a blank expression before leaving the room and shutting the door harshly behind him. Tsunade let out a sigh as she began to massage her temples, "I need a drink."
Sakura awoke the next morning to the smell of breakfast foods filling her small abode. Stretching out her limbs and feeling a few satisfying crack, her eyes fluttered open and greeted her with the sight of her teammates and friends asleep in various placed around her living room.
Smiling at the sight, she noticed that everyone was beginning to wake up for the same reason she did. Sensing the familiarity of the three chakra signatures that were cooking up a storm in her kitchen, she couldn't help but continue to smile.
Sliding out of Naruto's grasp, she moved quietly over to the kitchen where Kakashi, Yamato, and Genma stood preparing an assortment of foods for themselves as well as everyone else who had stayed at Sakura's house the previous night.
"If I would have known that my return home came with complimentary breakfast the next morning, I would have come home sooner," the pinkette joked as she leaned against the archway that lead to the kitchen.
"I can list off a few more things that could follow with a complimentary breakfast," Genma purred seductively as he moved over to stand next to the green eyed medic, pulling her into his side.
"I don't doubt that for a second with a mind like yours, Genma," retorted as she tried to repress a giggle at the brunette's familiar flirtatious antics.
"Genma," Kakashi called out in a warning tone as he moved to pull his previous student away from his womanizer of a friend. "Don't even think about it."
Sakura let out a short laugh as she hugged Kakashi's side, laying her head slightly against his muscular chest, "Oh, how I've missed your bantering, but we have other people in my living room who would not approve of such talk. How much longer until this wonderful meal is finished?"
"Give us five or ten minutes, Sakura," Yamato spoke up as he gave her a small smile. "That is, if these two behave themselves and actually help me like they said they would."
Sakura moved to pull away from her former sensei, but was pulled back by her wrist into a warm embrace. The pinkette let out a sweet laugh as she hugged him shortly before pulling away and moving back into her living room to wake the rest of her friends. Seeing that Shikamaru, Neji, and Sai had woken up on their own, the pinkette turned towards Kiba who was asleep in one of her chairs.
Moving over to the piece of furniture, she bent over slightly while she brushed one of her hands lightly through his chocolate tresses while her mouth was positioned by his ear. "Kiba," she called out softly. "Wake up."
She felt his hand shoot out and grasp her wrist lightly while he pulled her body to fit into his lap. His nose nuzzled into the crook of her neck as he let out a tired laugh, "I've been awake, Sakura. I just faked it so I could get you to come over here."
"You are such a pain," she answered with a giggle as he held her close. She moved her mouth back over to his ear once more, "This is the only time I'll let you get away with doing something like this. You know that, right?"
"Don't hate me if I continue to try," the brunette replied with a confident smile as he wrapped his arms tighter around her slim waist.
"Kiba, I suggest you let go of Sakura now," Neji's voice instructed as he glared at the dog lover who was much too close to Sakura.
"Pull the stick out of your ass, Hyuga," Kiba mumbled into Sakura's bubblegum tresses. "Why would I want to move from this extremely satisfying position?"
"Because if you don't within the next ten seconds, Naruto might try to rip your head off when he sees you holding his teammate so lovingly," the lavender eyed male replied, smirking inwardly at the violent thought of Naruto attacking Kiba. And if Naruto didn't, he sure as hell would.
"Neji makes a valid point, Kiba," Shikamaru added. "You might want to move away from her."
In that moment, they heard the blonde groan as he inhaled the smell of the air and stretched out his limbs. Of course the smell of food would wake him up. Letting out a yawn, he lazily opened his tired cerulean eyes and looked out in front of his relaxed position.
"Where's Sakura-chan?" he mumbled quietly as he stifled another large yawn and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
"You're in trouble now," Sakura whisper to Kiba in a sing-song voice as her perfect lips pulled into a playful smirk.
Naruto ran a tan hand through his blonde hair as he turned slightly to his right to find Kiba holding the woman in question in his lap; much to close for comfort.
"Kiba-teme!" he shouted towards his dark haired friend as he stood abruptly from his pink haired teammate's couch. "Let go of Sakura-chan right now!"
"No way, Naruto," Kiba shot back as he nuzzled his face into Sakura's neck, inhaling the flowery scent that made his eye lids flutter slightly in delight. "I haven't seen her in forever and you hogged her on the couch last night."
"You let go of her right now, mutt, or I'll go all Rasengan on your ass!" Naruto threatened as he five feet away from chair that sat Kiba and Sakura.
Before the brunette could retort with some less than polite comment, Sakura slipped stealthily from his grasp and appeared in front of her blonde teammate. Balancing up on her tip toes, she gave him a peck on the cheek before walking over to the kitchen.
She looked back over her shoulder with a smile, noticing the obvious shock at her sheer speed when she escaped from Kiba's grasp. "Are you boys just going to sit there, or are you going to come and eat breakfast?"
Shikamaru let a small smile tug at his lips as the males moved to follow behind their newly returned friend.
Their Sakura was back.
As months passed in the village, things began to fall into the pattern that they had over two years ago. Sakura was returned to her position as head of Konoha's hospital and regained her rank as a shinobi in the village hidden in the leaves.
Currently, Sakura was on her way to the Hokage's office to give her an update of the medical staff, high priority patients, and the hospital in general. It really was nice to have her job back, and even though she was busy, she didn't mind it. She told everyone that she was making up for lost time; which she was.
'Once I speak with Tsunade, I have to train with Neji, meet with Shikamaru about his last mission, and meet up with the team for dinner,' the pinkette mused to herself as she walked the path to the famous Hokage tower.
'Its nice to have a schedule and be needed again, isn't it?'
Sakura let a smile grace her features as she reached the building and walked up the steps that led to Tsunade's office.
'It really is.'
Knocking on the large door and hearing permission to enter, Sakura opened the door and entered into her mentor's office. "Tsunade shishou," Sakura greeted with a small smile as she handed a stack of paper to the blonde leader. "I have all the reports you requested from the hospital on the patients as well as the staff."
"Go ahead, Sakura."
"All the files I gave you are those of the high priority patients that you instructed me to research upon my return, all of which are cured or on their way to recovery," the medic began as she couldn't help but show a small amount of satisfaction behind her words. "As for the staff, they have all been evaluated and new medics are currently in the process of being trained. I have written down my suggestions for nurses who I believe either need to be transferred or fired, and the doctors who need to be reassessed in their positions."
Tsunade smiled as she crossed her arms over her ample chest and leaned back into her chair, "I am very impressed, Sakura. You've solved all the cases the other doctors could not and caught up on everything built up over your two year absence in a matter of months."
"Thank you, shishou."
"Everyone is very glad to have you back, especially me," she told her student with a smile. "No one else bothers to help their own Hokage with some simple paperwork."
"Oh, the nerve of some people," Sakura replied with a light laugh at her mentors underlying tone. "Was there anything else you needed, shishou?"
"Yes. I wanted to talk to you about the upcoming Chuunin exams," the Hokage began. "It will be taking place in Suna this year, and since I'm the Hokage, I'm obligated to attend. The actual exams will be in two weeks which is when I will be leaving. Since Naruto is still in training and I don't quite trust him to be in charge of an entire village while I'm gone, I'm going to leave the village in Kakashi's charge for the few days that I'm gone. I want you to assist him during this time. Unfortunately, Danzou will be remaining in the village during this time and I assume he will be pinning to take over while I'm away."
"You want me to keep an eye on him then?" Sakura questioned.
"That's exactly what I want you to do," Tsunade responded as she stood from her desk and walked slowly over to the back windows of her office and looked across the vast land that was her city. "But I want you to be very careful about it. He already knows that I'm onto him. I don't need him questioning my motives any more than he already is."
"You should also know that there will be many shinobi attending this event in Suna, so there will be a short supply of ninja here and there will be a minimal amount of missions that we will be able to accept during that time."
"Is that safe?" the head medic inquired as she moved to stand next to her Hokage at the window, holding one of her wrists behind her back.
"We really don't have much of a choice at this point in time," Tsunade replied with a short sigh. "All of the Genin and their sensei's must attend as well as myself and my advisors, other ninjas who need to participate to receive higher ranks, those who have been asked to be proctors, and the support that we are requested to take from the village."
"That is an awfully long list."
"You're telling me," she replied with a sigh as she turned to look at her apprentice. "Can I count on you?"
"Of course, shishou."
"Thank you, Sakura. Now get out of here," she told the pinkette with a small smirk. "I hear you have a date with the Hyuga then Nara. You're a busy, busy girl."
"Shishou!" Sakura protested. "They are not dates. I'm going to train with Neji and have a strategy meeting with Shikamaru."
"Sure. That's what you kids are calling it these days."
Sakura rolled her apple colored eyes as she moved towards the exit of the room, "They're not dates, shishou."
"Yeah, yeah, but you want them to be," the blonde replied as she smirked at the woman over her shoulder. "Have fun, Sakura."
"It seems the Chuunin exams are rapidly approaching, my lord."
"Yes, it does seem that way," the man hissed. "Is everything on schedule for the attack, Kabuto?"
"Yes, my lord. We will hit the leaf when they are at their weakest," the addressed man replied as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his thin nose.
"Perfect. It seems like it was just yesterday that I paid my dear village a visit," the man retorted with a dark chuckle before he turned to Kabuto. "Make sure Sasuke is informed."
The male nodded and disappeared from the room.
"Soon, Konoha. Soon."
Insert sigh of relief here. I am back, lovers! I am so sorry for my long absence once more. If you want to ask me about it, go for it. I don't mind telling you about my life if you want to hear about it. ANYWAYS! Thank you all for reading. ANNOUNCEMENTS: 1. I will be updating all of my unfinished stories within the next month or two. 2. I hope to have my DeidaraxSakura one-shot out really soon. 3. If you haven't already taken the poll for the next one-shot, please do so. 4. Need a BETA reader? Ok, I will. 5. Remember to leave me some love. Love you all!