I don't own Naruto… T-T

Seven of the Rookie 9 plus team Gai stood in the Hokage's office. The only two not there were Sasuke, who had left the village, and Naruto, who none had seen in 3 years. He had requested to be removed from Team 7 after failing to bring back Sasuke for the 5th time.

Tsunade, who was sitting behind her desk, seemed to be waiting for something. None asked why they were here. They knew the Hokage would tell them when she was ready. For once her desk wasn't covered in paperwork, she wasn't asleep, and she wasn't drinking. She seemed to be taking her job seriously for once.

From outside the office, a shuffling sound could be heard. Someone knocked on the door. "Come in," the hokage said, sitting up. This seemed to be what she was waiting for. Two ANBU came in, followed by a man they all knew. Escorted by two ANBU, looking the same as when they last saw him, except different clothes, was none other than Uchiha Sasuke. He stood as tall as Kakashi and wore black zori, pants, and a navy shirt with the Uchiha crest on the back. His hair was held back with a leaf hitai-ate.

The gathered ninja looked at him shocked. The Uchiha's former teammate looked to her sensei, "Lady Tsunade, what is this? When was he brought back?" the pinkette asked. The Hokage looked at her and said, "He was brought back a year ago, by the ANBU. He was sentenced to a year's imprisonment and 6months probation. The year's imprisonment has been carried out. He will be sent on low ranking missions to determine if he is loyal to the village. He will also be continued to be watched by ANBU."

They all looked at the man they hadn't seen since they were 18. So he had been brought back. Naruto hadn't gotten to fulfill his promise. He looked at them, smiling. Although he hadn't let on, he had missed all of them. His smile shrunk slightly when he saw someone was missing.

"Wait, where's Naruto? Is he on a mission or something?" he asked, turning toward the Hokage. When he said the blonde's name, the pink haired girl, his former teammate, began to cry. He turned toward her, a look of confusion on his face. She shakily said, "H-he left T-team 7, t-three years ago. N-no one has s-seen or h-heard from him in that t-time."

His eyes widened. The dobe had left Team 7? No one had seen him in 3 years? The person who had taught him about bonds, had broken his bonds with others, his friends?

We think he's left the village. But, the N-Naruto we know would never abandon his friends of village," the pinkette said, stumbling over the blonde's name. Sasuke looked at Tsunade for confirmation. "He left team 7," she said. Confirming that, but not that he left the village. He wasn't the only one to knowtist that. She then turned to a section of the wall. "You can come out now Kurosu." The gathered ninja looked at each other. She was talking to the wall?

But a couple of minutes later, a section of wall disappeared. A Genjutsu. It had been undetected by any of them, except Tsunade. It had hid a tall figure, about 6'4, dressed in the standard ANBU uniform. A black sleeveless shirt with matching pants and a white armor plate vest with matching shin protectors and gauntlets A red scarf, signaling he was a captain, hung over his neck. The black ANBU tatoo on his left arm was outlined in silver, denoting him as not only an ANBU, but a Grade Zero ANBU. The ELITE of the ELITE. His mask was empty of any design. He had dirty blond hair, kept in a ponytail that fell to mid back. They couldn't see any other features, for they were hid by his mask.

A gasp was heard from Sasuke. "You're the one who brought me back!", he exclaimed, somewhat happily. "I never got to thank you!" He held out his hand, as if to shake hands with him. The ANBU looked at the offered hand, and brushed past it. He put a scroll on the hokage's desk, and crouched down in a bow. Sasuke looked at him. His expression a mix of anger and a little hurt. He had hoped he could properly thank the one who had brought him back, and now that he had the chance, he was rejected.

By now, the Hokage, who had been reading the scroll, looked up and said, "Good work as always, Kurosu. But, I believe it's your vacation time now, isn't it?" The ANBU gave the lightest of nods, barely bowing his head. "I thought so. Why don't you take off your mask, and show everyone who you are." When he made no move to remove his mask, Tsunade gave him an angry look. "Maybe you didn't hear me. I wasn't asking you if you felt like it. I'm ordering you to." Yet again, the one she called Kurosu made no attempt to remove the mask. Tsunade sighed. "Please take it off… you blonde gaki." she said resorting to an old nickname.

The captain continued to stare at her, joined by the former Rookie 11. An ANBU captain's identity was an S-classed secret. For her to tell one to reveal his face… Kurosu sighed before giving in. The ABNU slowly lifted his hand and pulled the mask from his face. It hovered over it for a few minutes, as the rest of the gathered nin waited to see who he was. None had noticed the old nickname of their old friend.

He pulled it down and clipped it to his belt. Ignoring the shocked looks from the others, be bent his head yet again in a bow. "Hokage-sama," he said to general astonishment. The pinkette and the avenger's eyes were wide. "N-Naruto!", Sasuke choked out, for he recovered from his shock first. "You're in ANBU?" he asked after he had fully recovered. The 11 ninja looked at their old friend. He was taller than he had been, towering overm them all now. His blue eyes no longer held the hyper, happy, warm light they all knew so well. They held something different now. They were now calm. Calculating. Emotionless. A killers eyes.

There was a reddish brown stain on his face, vest, and in his hair. The color wasn't dirty blonde. It was a stain. Dried blood, and not his own. He had killed… He turned to them. "Yes, I am in ANBU. I have been for sometime." He looked away from them, and out the window of the hokage's office into the darkened city. Night was his element, the moon brought him comfort and peace of mind, and the cold harshness of winter refreshed him. He was stoic on the outside, but held pain on the inside. Like his first kill...

"Naruto why did you quit the team?", Sakura asked. Naruto stared at her and a memory flashed into his mind…

Flashback

Another mission to retrieve Sasuke. Another failure. He wouldn't come back. Naruto looked in the mirror on his bathroom wall. Loud orange jumpsuit, bright yellow hair, happy eyes clouded with tears. He really was an idiot. What kinda of ninja dressed in these kind of clothes? He needed to change. He needed to get stronger to fulfill his promise to bring back his friend.

He headed to the hokage's office. Tsunade, who was working on paperwork, turned to look at the blond. She could see the sorrow in his eyes. "Yes Naruto, what is it?" what she heard next is not what she had expected.

"I request a permanent leave from Team 7, and I request a place in the ANBU." The happy blond was gone. After yet another failed attempt, he was gone. "Why?" He looked at her. "Because, it's the only thing left to do."

With those words, she knew the blond idiot she knew and loved was gone. This stranger was the only thing that remained. It was as if an abyss had opened up beneath him and he fell through the darkness like a boulder, with no end to the eternal spiraling down.

"Are you sure this is what you want? Naruto, the road you are asking to take is paved in blood, are you willing to do what it takes to save your loved ones?" He didn't hesitate. "I'll do anything to protect the people I love. Do you hear me, anything!" She looked at him. He was truly going to do this. "Very well. I will have you removed from Team 7, and placed in an ANBU squad." He bowed his head, "Thank you Hokage-sama," he said, surprising her and sounding nothing like himself. He really was gone…

End Flashback

She hadn't thought he would make it, but he did. It had been hard at first. But he had managed, had come to terms with his new life and learned how to separate his normal self from his ANBU personality, who was a lot more cold and merciless. Not that he had a normal life. He hardly took vacations, doing mission after mission. Death became his sole accomplice. His dark bride in the marriage of loneliness. Ever since he joined the ANBU ranks, he has undergone a complete transformation. No one would mistake him for the same brat he was years ago.

Time passes

Even when it seems impossible.

Even when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise.

It passes unevenly, in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but it does pass.

Because he worked so hard, he had quickly rose through the ranks. Becoming a captain in the blink of an eye. He had become much stronger. He learned about and became a sensory type shinobi and well as a diversion specialist, infiltrator, an assassin, direct assault type, and a scout and tracker nin. He had become a killer for the sake of the village. For the sake of a promise… for the sake of a friend…


another one-shot finished... this was my second one. i wanted to write a fic on how far naruto would go to fulfill a promise. thank you for reading, if i mispelled something or wrote something that offended you, i'm sorry. please let me know what it was that offended you or was misspelled... flames and reviews are always welcome... by the way they are all 21 in this, except gai's team, who is 22.

Kurosu= "black master"