Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Kishi does, and he does a damn fine job with it if I do say so myself! Hope you enjoy my fanfic!
Summary: When Shikamaru and the rest of the rookie nine set out to kill Sasuke once and for all, Naruto does all he can to stop them. Now, he and Sakura are banished from the village and traveling with Sasuke who is determined to figure out why Naruto would give up everything he had, just to keep him alive. Are there more to Naruto's feelings than there first seems?
"Everyone knows why we are here, correct?"
The rookie nine, along with Sai, were gathered in a small room in the lower part of the newly rebuilt Hokage tower. Shikamaru stood at the front, looking over the faces of all his closest friends- minus two very important members. The faces of the men; Kiba, Shino, Rock Lee, Neji, Sai and Choji, were all held in stern determination as they comprehended the venture they were about to undertake. The kunoichi of the rookie nine; Ino, Tenten and Hinata, sans Sakura, were less sure about the choice they were to make in this small room. Every few minutes the others could hear a small sniffling sound coming from Ino.
Shikamaru took a deep breath then opened his eyes and said with conviction,
"We are all here because we believe in Naruto."
He paused and a few people nodded their heads in agreement. He went on,
"Everyone here knows the trials Naruto has faced. We've watched him grow along with us into possibly the strongest shinobi the Leaf, and maybe even the world, has ever seen. We have always been behind him, backing him up when he needed our assistance and now, when his dream of becoming Hokage is so close, we must stand behind him once again to assure that dream becomes a reality."
Murmurs of agreement fluttered across the room, then it became quiet again. Shikamaru was growing closer to his point. To the reason they all knew they were there.
"We all know there is only one thing standing in the way of Naruto realizing his true potential. This is no longer about the village. What we must do, we do for Naruto. The person who holds Naruto back is the same person who has recently been spotted, alone, near the Land of Fire, close enough for us to find and eliminate!"
Shikamaru closed his eyes again to add dramatic tension. He had never cared for giving speeches before, but this was an important moment. This would determine whether the others would go along with him on this dangerous mission. He knew how difficult it would be, but he truly believed that for the betterment of The Leaf, and particularly for Naruto Uzumaki himself, it needed to be done. He opened his eyes and said clear into the room,
"That person is Sasuke Uchiha."
There was silence and so he continued,
"You are all here voluntarily to help complete this secret mission, and for that I thank you. This will be dangerous, and some may even die. No one will deny Sasuke is a formidable opponent, but remember this! He is alone, and he has no reason to fight. We have each other and we fight for Naruto, we fight for The Leaf! If we are all agreed, then it is time to leave."
The mood in the room was contradictory. Shikamaru's speech had energized them, but when they thought about what they were energized to go do, they became conflicted and confused. A few of them, like Rock Lee and Hinata, couldn't help but think about how Naruto would feel if he knew what they were going to do. The whole mission was a chance, that's why it was secret. There was no guarantee they would kill Sasuke, and even less assurance that Naruto would just simply accept that Sasuke was dead and move on like they hoped he would. People like Ino and Choji couldn't help but think that Sasuke had been one of them, and that killing him was somehow a betrayal. Yet, all the nay-sayers nodded solemnly along with those that agreed whole-heartedly with this venture, and filed silently out of the room. Ten bodies slid stealthily out of the gates of the Leaf as the darkness of night crushed over them, reflecting the dark deed they had set out to do.
Sakura Haruno clutched her heart, not wanting to believe what she had just heard. She had been listening secretly on the other side of the door to the room where Shikamaru had announced his and the rest of the rookie nine's mission- to kill Sasuke Uchiha.
Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura's very first love. Her ex teammate who had abandoned the village to seek power and then became her enemy. Sasuke Uchiha who had nearly killed her as she was about to kill him.
No...She thought. I was never going to kill him. I couldn't. I can't.
She closed her eyes as she remembered what her friends had just set out to do.
But Shikamaru can.
She gulped. As she had listened secretly in on their meeting she had noticed that she agreed with what Shikamaru was saying. She thought Naruto could be Hokage too. Sasuke had been holding Naruto back ever since he left and no matter what Sakura did she just couldn't get Naruto to give up on their ex teammate.
She also understood probably more than anyone how Naruto would feel when he discovered Sasuke was dead. Panic suddenly overcame her like a violent chill. She knew exactly how Naruto will react when he found out Sasuke was dead.
"Oh no..." she moaned softly to herself.
She started to run. As she ran, tears started to pour down her face. She was crying for Naruto, for Sasuke, for herself, and for the entire village. Thought part of her warned not to do what she was about to, another part of her kept her legs moving in one direction- towards Naruto.
She tried to dry her eyes when she reached his apartment and knocked on the door. It was to no avail for the second he opened it, already wearing the clothes he usually slept in, and frowned in worry asking her, "Sakura-chan, what's wrong?" she burst into tears again and buried her face in his chest as she cried.
He tentatively patted her hair as she attempted to calm herself. Finally she caught her breath long enough to look up and into his bright, worried eyes. She had still been deciding if telling him was the best idea but when she saw his eyes she pictured exactly how they would look filled with rage and pain instead of worry, and the decision was made for her. She had no choice. She had to tell him.
"They're going to kill him!" She cried, grabbing tightly onto his shirt. "They're going to kill Sasuke!"
Sasuke Uchiha was empty. There was nothing inside of him, of that he was convinced. There was nothing there because everything that had been there before was now gone, eaten up by revenge, burned down to the dregs from a lifetime of hatred.
He had nothing and no one to care about, and because of that he barely cared about himself.
When Shikamaru and the others attacked he wasn't completely surprised. He knew he had been spotted a few days before. He'd been careless and it came back to bite him. He didn't want to die, but he didn't really want to live either.
Not a word was spoken between him and his old friends as they began to fight. They had nothing to say to each other. He got in quite a few good blows in the beginning. Ino was an easy target; always had been, but he didn't put enough power behind the attack to kill her. Shino's bugs weren't so much painful as they were annoying so Sasuke retaliated against him next. He couldn't help but notice the way they helped each other fight. Whenever he attacked one person, another was always there to help deflect or lessen the strength. There were too many people attacking him all at once and he was beginning to wear down. He thought he might have a chance if he took Shikamaru out, he was obviously the leader. He threw a phoenix fire jutsu in his direction but Akamaru jumped in the way and took all the damage.
That was the turning point in the battle. Kiba was mad and Shikamaru was still yelling orders of attacks. They all focussed in on him at once and Shikamaru caught him in his shadow possession jutsu. Suddenly he was being sliced from all directions. Several wounds poured blood at once and he fell to his knees. They closed in on him and as a final effort he sent a huge shock-wave of lightning from his body, throwing them all back at least ten feet.
It would have worked if that hadn't been the very last of his chakra and nearly the last bit of his strength. He was barely holding himself up on one hand he couldn't move at all. After a moment half were back on their feet and Shikamaru was walking towards him with murderous intent plain on his face. Sasuke stared back defiantly, ready to accept his fate, when all of the sudden from behind him he heard a familiar voice.
"Dammit Shikamaru it's Naruto! Kill him now!" Kiba yelled.
Naruto Uzumaki came crashing into the clearing where Sasuke lay on the ground with the other member's of the rookie nine spread randomly, Shikamaru standing closest to Sasuke. Naruto jumped over Sasuke and stood between him and Shikamaru with his feet apart and his arms spread wide. His eyes found Shikamaru and he pleaded with his gaze until Shikamaru's anger grew and he yelled,
"What are you doing here Naruto?"
"I can't let you kill him," he answered simply.
The others who were standing or kneeling behind Shikamaru muttered quietly and stared at Naruto, each with a different expression. Sai, who was bleeding from a wound in his leg, yelled angrier than he'd ever yelled his entire life,
Naruto's eyes flashed in Sai's direction, then quickly back at Shikamaru.
"If you kill him it will only bring pain and hatred and that just breeds revenge. It's a horrible cycle that never ends!" Naruto explained so to try and get Shikamaru to understand, praying his argument would get through.
Shikamaru just closed his eyes and shook his head then yelled back, feeling just as strongly as Naruto that he was the one who was right, and Naruto was the one who was wrong.
"Sasuke Uchiha has no one that would feel pain for him! No one to feel hatred for those who killed him! Sasuke Uchiha has no one! No one will take revenge for Sasuke's death! No one!"
Naruto took a deep breath and spoke very clearly then, slowly, with purpose and in a leader's voice,
"I would take revenge for Sasuke's death."
A few people gasped and Shikamaru was taken completely aback. He looked at Naruto like he'd never seen him before and asked cautiously,
"You would attack your fellow Leaf shinobi, your comrades, your friends... for him?"
Naruto opened his mouth and seemed to choke on his words. He swallowed and looked visibly shaken, but when he spoke his voice was steady as a rock.
"I wouldn't have any other choice."
Shikamaru's eyes shot open wide and he shook his head slowly, not wanting to believe what Naruto had just said. He mouthed the word "no" silently over and over as Naruto stared back defiantly in that same protective position.
"You cannot mean that, Naruto," he whispered. "You always have a choice. You know that better than anyone! We're your friends!"
Naruto nodded to show his agreement. Shikamaru noticed that he wasn't wearing his headband. He assumed that he'd probably gotten dressed fast when he found out what they were planning and simply forgot to put it on. He probably ran all night to catch up with them. The more he thought about this the angrier Shikamaru grew. Did Naruto really care about Sasuke this much?
The wind picked up in the small clearing and Naruto's hair billowed about his face. He nodded again, staring around the clearing at each of his friends before stopping at Shikamaru once again.
"You are my friends," he said meaningfully, lowering his arms and stepping forward with one foot. "That's why I need you to understand! Please!" His voice altered into a pleading hush.
"Don't kill Sasuke. Let him come back with us. As a prisoner if we have to, just please let him live."
He fell sharply to his knees, his hands on the ground before him and his head bowed.
"I'm begging you Shikamaru."
Gasps erupted from the others who were watching this scene unfold. Naruto even thought he heard a quiet hiss of, "idiot" from behind him.
He didn't care. When he looked up it was straight at Shikamaru and even his eyes seemed to be begging with all worry of dignity gone.
"Why?" Shikamaru whispered, and the clearing hushed so that the only sound that could be heard over the wind was Akamaru's labored breathing. Naruto bowed his head towards the ground again, his mouth remaining closed. Shikamaru waited until he was sure Naruto was not going to answer, and then he yelled,
"WHY?" He didn't wait for Naruto to reply before he continued. "Naruto, do you not understand what you are asking? Do you not understand why we did this? We did it for you!"
Naruto looked up, the gray light from the overcast sky filling his blue eyes and making them shine unnaturally bright. Shikamaru could see his hands clench, his fingers digging into the soft earth as he replied softly,
Shikamaru was loosing his carefully constructed control. How could Naruto be acting like this? It was so clear to him, why couldn't Naruto understand?
"Sasuke is your weakness!" he shouted, and Naruto flinched.
"You have a chance to be someone! He's all that's holding you back! Without him you could be the next Hokage!"
Naruto now looked like he was in physical pain. He bit his lip then said softly,
"Fine, Shikamaru. You win. Just let him leave and we can go back-"
"No!" Shikamaru growled. The others watching him became tense, confused. Why wouldn't he let Sasuke go? It was clear that Naruto wouldn't allow him to be killed.
"The only way Sasuke Uchiha leaves here," Shikamaru said slowly, like an ultimatum. "Is if you leave with him."
"Shikamaru!" Choji said his best friend's name warningly, trying to get him to calm down before things got even more out of control.
Shikamaru didn't flinch, just stared defiantly at Naruto, confident that this would get him to see clearly. Naruto stared back at him with wide eyes, then looked down, his hair casting a shadow over his face. Slowly he stood to his feet, and Shikamaru let out his breath, sure that his declaration had snapped Naruto out of whatever insanity had gotten a hold of him. Once on his feet, Naruto fixed Shikamaru with an unreadable gaze, then said flatly,
"If that's the way it is, then I guess this is goodbye."
"No, you can't-"
"Shikamaru, don't let him-"
"QUIET!" Shikamaru yelled behind him. "You heard him, didn't you? He chose Sasuke!"
The clearing was silent once again. All eyes were on Naruto. What would he do?
He closed his eyes and nodded slowly.
Shikamaru was beyond shocked, but he regained his composure quickly.
"If this is really what you choose," he muttered darkly, "then I have nothing else to do but to... banish you."
The uproar behind him was insurmountable. Every bird residing in the trees surrounding the clearing flew into the sky as every voice screamed in defiance of this sudden declaration. This was serious. Shikamaru was head adviser to the Hokage ever since his father died. He had the power to banish Naruto if he really meant what he said. This threat was not to be taken lightly. A pink blur suddenly crashed into the ruckas and landed beside Naruto, panic and worry etched all over her face.
"Sakura, what are you doing here? I told you to stay back!"
Sakura ignored him and turned to Shikamaru.
"Please reconsider!" she cried, grabbing a hold of Naruto's sleeve desperately. "He'll change his mind! He doesn't mean it!"
"If you're so upset about this then why did you tell him in the first place? I know it was you, Sakura, don't deny it! You had to have known it would turn out like this when you told him! This is your fault! And look at him," Shikamaru growled through gritted teeth. "He means exactly what he says. There is no way he's going to change his mind, I can see it plain on his face!"
Sakura looked up at Naruto and saw his jaw and eyebrows firmly set, staring straight ahead at Shikamaru. She stepped in front of him, trying to hold back the fresh sobs that were desperate to break loose from her eyes. She grabbed his face with both of her hands, forcing him to look square into her eyes.
"Naruto," she muttered. "Please... please. Before you do anything rash. Look around. Look at all your friends and tell me you would really be willing to become their enemy."
Naruto slowly nodded and she moved away so he could see everyone clearly.
They were worn from battle, bruises already forming in various places on each of their bodies. Kiba was lying protectively over Akamaru's body and he held Naruto's gaze when their eyes met. Shino was nearby and he dropped his head, leaving Naruto turn to Ino who couldn't even look at him she was sobbing so hard. He gulped when he saw Neji holding protectively onto Hinata's shoulders. Neji glared but he barely saw it because Hinata's silent cry was worse than any angry expression. He closed his eyes as if physically struck and when he opened them he saw Rock Lee staring at him sadly. His lower lip trembled and Tenten clasped his hand to help comfort him. Finally, he saw Sai. Sai looked worse than sad. He looked heartbroken, like Naruto had betrayed him.
Naruto turned back to Shikamaru after glancing at Choji's kind, patient face, then sighed. Besides him, Sakura felt the beginnings of relief. Perhaps it worked, maybe he was rethinking everything.
Then, she saw Naruto slowly turn and stare at Sasuke. Sakura turned to look at him too. He was lying battered on the ground and gave no hint of an expression to either of them. It was in that moment that Sakura finally and completely lost all affection for Sasuke. She turned to Naruto and hung her head, seeing that he hadn't shared the same epiphany she had. She couldn't understand it. What did he see in Sasuke?
"That's how it is, Sakura." Shikamaru addressed her and she turned back around to face him, Naruto slowly doing the same. "He has chosen Sasuke, so he is banished."
Sakura still couldn't accept this, couldn't believe this was happening. This had to be just a big mistake. There was no way Naruto was going to be banished, it couldn't happen.
"No!" She cried. "Please! Don't do this Shikamaru!"
"Sakura!" Naruto said calmly beside her. "There's nothing you can do. I made this choice, and a ninja always sticks by his choices."
Sakura's brain raced, and before she could stop herself she yelled,
"Then I'm coming with you!"
Naruto's eyes widened as he stared at her and gasps once again sounded from the rest of the rookie nine.
"Sakura you can't!" Ino cried. "Think about your family! What will your mother do if your banished from the village?"
"She's right, Sakura," Naruto said, frowning. "I've made my choice. I can't drag you along with me."
"You won't be 'dragging me along with you.' I'm not a little girl anymore. I can take care of myself and I'm not letting you do this alone, Naruto. I'm staying with you no matter what."
Ino turned to Shikamaru.
"Don't do this Shikamaru! We can't loose two of the village's best shinobi over something like this! Just let Sasuke leave, please Shikamaru!"
"I've made my decision!" Shikamaru spat. "And so have they!"
The clearing was silent again as the serious finality of the situation crashed over all of them at once. Something had been broken, and Shikamaru was mad, madder then he'd ever been before. He could not comprehend what Naruto could be thinking. They had set out on this mission for him, and now he was the only thing standing in their way. Why couldn't he understand that Sasuke was bad? Bad for him, bad for the village, bad for the world!
He clenched his fists and closed his eyes. Then when he opened them he yelled,
"Naruto Uzumaki and Sakura Haruno are hereby banished from The Leaf Village. You are to leave the area and never return. Everyone else, it's time for us to go home. This mission has failed, and we have no more business here."
It took a few moments before the others realized the command given by Shikamaru was final. As leader, they were obligated to follow his commands, even when they disagreed with them. Neji started to leave first, pulling Hinata along with him. When he passed Rock Lee and Tenten they dropped their heads and followed slowly after their teammate. Like the entire thing was in slow motion, they all began to leave the clearing and file into the woods that surrounded it, heading in the direction of the village. Finally, only Shikamaru, Choji, Ino and Sai remained.
"Take Ino and make sure everyone is okay." Shikamaru said sternly to Choji.
He nodded and began pulling Ino away from the clearing as her sobs continued uncontrollably.
"Sai," Shikamaru then said. "You go back too. Unless... you feel your loyalties lie were Naruto and Sakura's do."
Sai stared at Naruto and Naruto stared back for a full minute. Even Sakura could see how hard this was on Sai. After all, she had just made a similarly hard decision moments ago.
Suddenly Sai's gaze flickered to Sasuke still laying on the ground. He frowned and without another word, turned on the spot and vanished in a whirl of black ink.
Now Shikamaru stood alone on the opposite side of the clearing, facing Naruto and Sakura. He shook his head sadly.
"I'm sorry it had to come to this, Naruto..."
"But I made my choice," Naruto finished for him solemnly.
Shikamaru nodded and felt his anger bubble up inside him again. He turned around to leave and just before disappearing to follow his comrades, muttered darkly,
"I was wrong about you, Naruto. You don't have what it takes to be Hokage, and now you never will."
The second he vanished Sakura and Naruto heard a "thump" behind them. They quickly spun around and saw that Sasuke had passed out, his fatigue and multiple wounds having finally caught up with him.
Hi! Welcome to chapter 1, nice to meet you, I'm KeikoPanda102, the author of this fanfiction. I sure do hope you liked this chapter, and I hope even more that you stick around for the next chapter, because I have a really good feeling about this story, I think it could be my best ever! If you like it so far, please tell me what you liked about it in the comments! Yay! XD