Author's Note: Thank you for all the interesting reviews! It was cool to see the different character theories people came up with. Sorry for the slow pace of this story, and thank you for all who have been patient! Heads up, I use the Japanese spelling of Killer Bee. Now starts the time skip.

Artwork related to this story can be found at http: / www . soul4projektion . deviantart . com (remove the spaces)

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of the characters from the series in any way.

Naruto: Jishin (Earthquake) Arc

Chapter 1: Broken Pieces

Maybe without me

You'll return to all the beauty I once knew

But I can't stay to see how the sight of me

Brings that madness back to you

These broken pieces of me

These broken pieces of me

Apocalyptica feat. Flyleaf, "Broken Pieces"

"It's been a while, teme. Still can't believe it's been four years," the blonde spoke quietly as he regarded the tombstone in front of him. A light breeze ruffled his hair, free from his hitae-ie for once. His eyes wandered over the scant writing on the stone, nothing but the Uchiha's name and dates of birth and death. He sighed heavily before continuing with his yearly update to his departed teammate.

"Things are a bit too quiet…Madara has been missing since he last attempted to capture Kirabi. Although if anyone could hold up to Madara, it'd be him." Naruto mused, eyes shifting from the stone to focus off in the distance. "Baa-chan just informed me that the jounin exams will be starting in two weeks, we are hosting them this year. I've been given approval to compete this time, Kaka-sensei vouched for me since the council is still a bit leery of a jinchurriki competing and advancing."

He snorted at the thought before frowning sadly. "I haven't heard anything much about Sakura-chan…not since she left. I guess I'm still in shock that she actually left Konoha. I mean…I understand now why she did to you what she did. Well…at least now I do after Baa-chan and Kaka-sensei talked to me. Four years is a lot of time to think and reflect on what has happened." The blonde fell silent, lost in thought.

"Uzumaki-san." Naruto turned around to see the Anbu standing behind him, the bear mask gleaming in the afternoon sun.


"Hokage-sama has requested your presence at the tower at your earliest convenience." The Anbu spoke before bowing and disappearing in a puff of smoke. Naruto shook his head and turned back to the grave, "Guess I need to go, teme. I'll be back next year."

At the current time that Naruto was heading to see Tsunade, a group of five people were making their way towards Konoha.

"I can't believe we're actually going back." The red headed female broke the silence as she mused aloud. Her hands tightened their grip on her traveling pack, eyes wandering over her companions from behind the black frames of her glasses. The sandy blonde next to her turned her head to face the red head, grinning slightly.

"I know Karin. It's going to be weird…and quieter without you and Sakura in Suna anymore. I'm quite excited to be heading to Konoha, although I'm not looking forward to dealing with the politics involved with the exams." The tall brunette next to her snorted, his black head covering moving as he shook his head.

"You're just excited because you get to see that pineapple-head of a boyfriend you have, not because of the exams." Temari glared at her brother for his comment, huffing. Her glare softened as she moved her eyes to view the remaining two members of the group, a pinkette and darker redhead walking quietly next to each other. The pinkette's face was serious, and Temari could see that her jaw was tight with tension. Gaara sensed his sister's gaze, and turned his head slightly to meet her eyes. She barely ticked her head in Sakura's direction, and his eyes moved to regard the pinkette next to him.

He could feel the tension that surrounded the woman, and frowned when he realized just how nervous and upset Sakura was to be returning to Konoha. Gaara knew from the start what had made her flee her home village. While he understood why Naruto had felt the anger he had, he had been dismayed to hear just how much the blonde had allowed his anger to affect his actions. Her reluctance to return was obvious, and the former jinchurriki could only hope that things would not go wrong.

Gaara shook his head and looked up when Kankuro broke the silence again with the information that they were approaching the gates to the village. Here's hoping, he thought.

"Oi, Baa-chan. You wanted to see me?" Tsunade's eye barely twitched at her nickname from the blonde in front of her. She closed her eyes, pushing down her annoyance at Naruto before opening her eyes and regarding him with a serious expression.

"I did. As you know the jounin exams are being held here in two weeks. As such, competitors in the exams will be arriving starting today and continuing over the next week." Naruto nodded, a bit of confusion showing on his face.

"And this is related to me how?" Tsunade's eyes grew sharp as she frowned at him.

"This includes competitors from Suna...and those who were temporarily in Suna." She could see the dawning realization on the blonde's face, her jaw set as she steeled herself for any possible negative reaction on his part.

"The reason I called for you is to let you know that Haruno Sakura is returning to compete in the exams, and possibly return for good as her exchange to Suna has expired." Naruto paled a bit at the mention of his former teammate. Swallowing hard against the lump that formed in his throat at the name, he looked down before looking back up at Tsunade.

"When does she arrive?" His voiced wavered a bit in what she could guess was a combination of nerves and sadness. Tsunade sighed and softened her look at the blonde.

"Today, along with Karin, the Kazekage, and his siblings. I expect to hear from the watch post when they do arrive." The Hokage had barely finished speaking before Naruto had disappeared out the door. She sighed deeply and raised her eyes to the ceiling, offering a silent prayer that things would go smoothly. Kami knew that Sakura did not want to return to Konoha, that much was made obvious after her last conversation with the Kazekage regarding the tournament.

"And what of Sakura? Will she need to return to Konoha to compete?"

"Yes…Kazekage-sama you know as well as I do that her time in Suna is almost up. We need her back in the hospital here, we are understaffed and a lack of new medic recruits has dwindled our numbers." Tsunade shook her head and focused her gaze back on the redhead.

He nodded, "She is ready to advance in rank, that much has been obvious on the missions I have sent her on, as well as the information I have received from my siblings regarding their training sessions with her." Gaara paused, before continuing on.

"I just don't know if her spirit can handle a return to Konoha."

"Oh thank Kami we've arrived! I was seriously getting sick of you two and your scheming and plotting." Kankuro whined while stretching his arms above his head, earning a dark glare from Temari and Karin. A well-placed whack to the brunette's head by Karin sent him face first into the dirt as Gaara shook his head with embarrassment.

"Idiot. I still cannot see the relation between you and Gaara." The redhead scowled and huffed as she folded her arms across her chest and glared down at the dazed Kankuro. Temari rolled her eyes skyward before shaking her head and moving over to the pinkette. Sakura's eyes had narrowed a little at the display her traveling companions had put on, but other than that no sign of her thoughts or feelings were betrayed on her face.

"Sakura? We probably should head to the Hokage's tower to check in with Tsunade-sama." A slight nod was Sakura's only acknowledgement to the blonde's statement, before she opened her mouth to speak.

"Inform Tsunade-shishou that I have arrived with you and will meet with her later." The flat tone to the pinkette's voice, familiar to those with her, belied none of her feelings at returning to her home village. Temari frowned and cocked her head.

"Why are you not going with us?" Sakura shook her head and disappeared down the road, leaving her companions to stare off after her. The blonde made to call after her, but was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see her younger brother staring at the retreating form of the pinkette.

"Leave her be. She has her own skeletons to deal with, and she needs time. She will report to the Hokage when she is ready."

Leaves crunched under her feet as she made her way to the edge of the mountain, the early evening sun starting to set and bath the area in golden orange. Coming to a stop above the carved face of her shishou, Sakura's eyes took in the view of the village. Several changes could be noted from the rebuilding, and from her vantage point on top of the Hokage Mountain she could see for miles past the village walls.

So much damage…and not just from Pein. The whispered voice hovered at the edge of her consciousness, and Sakura frowned at the intrusion. She shook her head, ignoring the presence for now. A cooler breeze blew by, ruffling her mid-back length hair from where it was uncovered from its bindings and sending a shiver down her body. The red cropped length sleeveless hoodie and white shorts she wore did nothing to protect her against the cooling climate of Konoha in the fall. A brief longing for the warmer climate of Suna filled her, before she huffed and shook her head at her frivolous thoughts.

Dropping down to sit on the dusty stone of her shishou's image, the golden orange light of the setting sun glinted off the metal plates attached to her long gloves. Her eyes examined the color, and her heart ached as the comparison to the Uzumaki's orange outfit crossed her mind. No, she thought bitterly and with a trace of nervousness, violently shoving the thought and feelings associated with it down.

What's the matter, Saku-chan…? The voice in the back of her mind purred maliciously. Scared of what will happen if you think about him? Fearful of what might come about if you dwell upon the hate, the anger…?

She shook her head rapidly, bringing a hand up to press the knuckles against the dull metal of her hitae-ie, pressing the cloth and metal tightly against her forehead. Satisfied that she had control again, her eyes opened and stared blankly at the view before her, the jade orbs dull and emotionless. So caught up in reining in her emotions, she failed to notice the chakra signature residing in the forest behind her, nor the one approaching her.

Naruto's mind raced with too many jumbled thoughts as he made his way towards the Hokage Mountain, the one place he felt he could process everything. She's coming home? Sakura… He shook his head, a mix of residual anger, fear, nervousness, longing, confusion, and happiness running through him. He honestly didn't know what to make of what Tsunade-bachan had told him a short while ago.

So lost in his thoughts he was caught off guard when a hand grabbed the back of his coat and dragged him back against a tree. His dazed eyes fell on his attacker, and he frowned at his sensei.

"Kaka-sensei, what…"

"Hush Naruto. I would not advise being in this area for now." The blonde furrowed his brows in confusion, crossing his arms and staring at Kakashi. "What are you on about? I always come up here to think." Kakashi nodded in acknowledgement, it was well known amongst those who knew Naruto that his favorite spot to think was upon the Yondaime's likeness.

"I know. But there is someone else near there now, and I do not think it would be wise to be around her now." Naruto's eyes widened in realization, his chest tightening at the knowledge.

"She's here? Already…?" He choked out, eyes still wide. Kakashi eyed his former student critically, before nodding. "Yes. But I do not know yet what her feelings are at being back here, and so think it unwise for you to see her at this point." At this the blonde narrowed his eyes at the older jounin.

"Feelings…? What do you know, Kaka-sensei?" The silver haired jounin threw a sharp look at Naruto, stepping back. "From the few times I ran into her during missions with Suna, she's not the same person you knew before. She's changed Naruto – I had mentioned her returning before and she pretty straightforward on the matter, refusing each time." He looked up at the girl he had been observing for the last half-hour, remembering the inner struggle she seemed to have during that time. Eyes drawing back down to the blonde, he shook his head. "We should leave."

Naruto opened his mouth, ready to argue with Kakashi but a stern look from the older man made him snap it shut. Reluctantly he followed his sensei, but glanced back at the woman he could now see sitting on the mountain edge. The dying sun turned her long pink hair that was bound in a fashion similar to Yuuhi's a burnt orange color, and her outfit was different, but regardless of the physical changes he could still tell it was Sakura.

His heart ached at the sight of her, and not for the first time since coming to his senses he realized that she had been gone because of him. Because of his words, or so Ino had implied. He sensed there was something else, something deeper, but out of nervous fear of the blonde he didn't probe. Turning back around he hurried his pace to catch up to his sensei as the man made his way deeper into the forest.

Sakura kept her head bowed as she sat on the cold ground, eyes staring into nothingness. She had registered the two chakra signatures behind her once she had regained conscious thought, and now fought hard against the fear and bitterness that had erupted within her at the recognition of one particular signature.

Just remember, Saku-chan…you'll have to face him at some point. I will relish the experience when you do…and there'll be nothing to save him from me. Not even you.