Disclaimer: I do not, and will never own the rights to Naruto.

{Beta: enapets21}


Everything had almost gone back to normal when Sai was ordered to leave the village. It was an execution disguised as a mission. He knew that Danzo never meant for him to return - he had learned to read emotions enough to see the flash of betrayal and hatred in his eye whenever he glanced at him.

Sai normally wouldn't mind. If Danzo had done this a while ago, before Sai had met Team Seven, he wouldn't have cared. He would have carried out the mission with a straight face, no matter how much blood - or whose blood - was shed. But this time...it was different. He tried to keep his face emotionless, but found himself smiling when he shouldn't be. Simply standing beside a stream full of jumping fish made him smile for no reason...and it didn't make any sense.

This was a mission - an ANBU ROOT mission. He should carry it out as if he never met Team Seven...because according to Danzo, nothing mattered but the mission. But suddenly it did. He couldn't just cast everything away like he could before. The name Sai meant something now...not just a few letters thrown together for a mission. Sai was his name - he finally had a name...and he couldn't cast it aside.

That was what brought the look of betrayal upon Danzo's face. Sai didn't want to let his new life go, and betrayed a direct order to do so. He responded to his name; something he should never do...because he didn't have a name. Sai knew the second that Danzo gave him this particular mission what his true intentions were...and he also knew that Sai wouldn't abandon the mission. He may still want to keep his name, but failing a mission was something Sai never did.

Sai sat down beside the small stream he had been staring at. The fish that were leaping into the air hours ago had calmed down, and were now just flashes of color against the gray stream bed. He continued to watch them, fascinated in their movements; he didn't even notice he was smiling anymore.

There was a new feeling that he had never felt. The yearning to go back home. It was as if something was calling him back to Konoha. He missed his home, his friends - especially his friends. At first, they had been just people to work with. They would sit in the forest beside a fire, waiting for the sun to come up so that they could continue their mission. In the beginning, Sai remained cold and distant. But he couldn't deny the fact that Sakura, Naruto, Yamato, and even Kakashi had grown on him. The cold that had engulfed him had slowly disappeared until he could stand beside his friends, enjoying their company.

Sai's gaze never wavered from the stream. The stars reflected off the surface, making his smile widen even more. He was no longer standing beside his friends - he never would. He wanted that cold indifference back, he wanted it to not matter if he returned to Konoha or not. But the ghost of warmth was still there, reminding him of what he would never have again.

He sat beside the stream until midnight came, the sky darkening even more as the stars stone brightly overhead.

Midnight had once been warm, but it never felt so cold alone. He wanted to talk to his friends, and simply listen to their idle chatter. It made him feel warm and wanted, but now that it was gone he was colder than he had ever been before.