A/N: I haven't written anything SasuNaru for a while, and this idea came to me as I was reading the manga. I consider it to be a lot more serious than my other works, so don't expect a lot of humor or silly antics.

The setting is about chapter 531 and onwards. Since this is my take on what's going to happen during the war and with the main characters, I guess this story will be non-canon (or AU?) from there on out. Basically, think of this as a how-I-would-want-Naruto-to-turn-out fanfic. ^_^ Spoilers for those who haven't read up to chapters 53X in the manga.

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The sun hung low in the dusky amber sky, glowing dully against the harsh, ruined landscape. In the distance, the dark sea churned restlessly, disturbed by falling bodies and fighters splashing through its waters. Shinobi lined the cliffs and desolate outcroppings of rock, raining steady showers of kunai, shuriken, and jutsus through the air. Wind whipped through their shouts and cries, rendering words indistinguishable. Wave after wave of White Zetsus surged over the terrain, clashing with the shinobi joint forces.

A few kilometers away, a young teenager crouched hidden in one of the few remaining groves of trees not yet demolished by the fighting. His fists were clenched at his side as he watched the gathered ninjas battle Madara and Kabuto's infernal army. Every part of Naruto longed to jump in the fray and aid his friends and comrades…but he had to deal with a greater threat.

Reluctantly, he turned his gaze to the southwest. Somewhere there, within a day's journey, Madara and Kabuto were at the rear of their army, waiting while scores of clones and resurrected shinobi whittled away at the five nations' forces. And with them…was Sasuke.

Readjusting the straps of his backpack, Naruto looked over the land before him, eyes picking out a path to take that would avoid most detection. With a slow inhale of breath, he quickly gathered the chakra to the soles of his feet, preparing to start his-

He darted to the side just in time, a tiny flare of chakra and the rush of air his only warning as a heavy rope net fell where he'd been crouching just a split second before. The blond ducked into a roll to get a little more distance between himself and whoever his adversary was.

The mesh of the net crackled with energy, flashing an electric blue. A chakra net, obviously designed to prevent the target from escaping. He instantly reached towards his hip holster, withdrawing three shuriken. Besides the net still sparking in the dirt, he couldn't detect another chakra signature in the vicinity, so whoever it was trying to capture him was reasonably skilled. Naruto strained his ears for any hint of sound, stilling his body. Maybe it'd be a good idea to enter Sage Mode to try and find-

"Hold it."

He froze as he felt the chill of cold steel graze the nape of his neck, the imminent threat clear. However, the deep and calm voice that spoke was familiar. "Kakashi-sensei." It wasn't a question.

"Yo." The silver-haired Jounin lowered his kunai. "Going somewhere?" His student didn't reply, nor did he need to. Kakashi understood well what Naruto was probably feeling right now. Just a few hours ago, scouting parties had reported back with information about Madara's base. While the other generals had been more concerned about a plan of attack, Kakashi knew his students well, and had feared Sakura or Naruto – especially Naruto- would go after Uchiha Sasuke themselves. Clearly, his suspicions hadn't been far off base. "I know what you're trying to do, Naruto. And as your team leader, I want you to stop and come back with me. That's an order."

The young blond sighed. He'd expected this, but had hoped he could elude his teacher long enough to escape. "Sasuke is my responsibility, Kakashi-sensei. I can…stop him."

They both knew he'd meant to say I can save him. But it was a hope that had grown terribly feeble over the past few months, to the point where Naruto and Sakura no longer voiced it. It was a hope that Kakashi had all but lost. He'd already lost one protege, and he was not about to let another throw away his life.

"Don't do this, Naruto. It's not worth it." Naruto was looking to the side and away from his gaze, but Kakashi knew he was listening. "You may not want to keep hearing this, but it's critical that you get it. You have to understand that Sasuke is a product of the shinobi system we live and function in The Uchiha, his family, were killed as a result of Konoha's crimes, it's true. But they did their fair share of murder and evil too over the generations. And unfortunately, Sasuke has chosen to side against us. Don't go after him, Naruto. He is not the Sasuke we used to know anymore. Madara has taken advantage of his hatred and lust for vengeance." He sighed, running a hand absently over his Sharingan, obscured by his hitai-ate. Close by, the sounds of war raged on: screams and bloodcurdling yells, the sharp tang of metal on metal, bodies moving and hitting earth. It all coalesced into a dull roar of noise that persisted day and night, until silence was simply a fading memory.

Naruto finally turned, his expression determined as he faced his team leader. "I can do this, Kakashi-sensei. And I know you think it's me doing too much to keep a promise to Sakura…but it's more than that." He sighed, brow furrowing in thought. "In so many ways, I could've been like Sasuke is now…He might not think so, but he's like a brother or a part of me that I can't give up on. The way I see it, if someone like me who everyone used to hate can be happy, then he should too!" He pounded a fist into his other hand, punctuating his statement. "I'm the only one who can take his hatred and anger, so it's my job and no one else's."

Somewhere back at headquarters, the Kages were probably just discovering the Nine Tail's Jinchuuriki's disappearance, no doubt with apprehension and anger. But for those who knew Naruto, it was hardly surprising. Keeping the blond in the dark about the war had been hard enough, but preventing him from taking action once he found out was near impossible. Especially when it came to his former teammate. He'd overheard enough to realize what was going on around him, and to find out their information on Sasuke's whereabouts.

"What if the Sasuke you find isn't worth saving," the Jounin said quietly. "Would you still risk your life for him?" Naruto glared back at him, clearly not accepting the possibility. "Naruto, there are so many things you don't understand about him."

The blond scoffed. "Like what?"

"Like the Sharingan."

"So what, it copies-"

Kakashi slowly uncovered his left eye, the three black tomoe swirling slowly against a blood red eye. "I'm not referring to what it does. I'm asking you if you know what it means." At Naruto's blank and confused look, he continued. "In many ways, this eye is a gift. It can give you great power, help vastly in battle. It sees everything and forgets nothing. But make no mistake," he slid the hitai-ate back over his eye. "the Sharingan is the curse of the Uchiha clan."

"I don't get-"

"Listen to me, because I need you to understand this in order to understand Sasuke. Do you know how the Mangekyo Sharingan is achieved?"

Naruto shrugged, slightly put off by the conversation. "You train really hard?"

"It requires that you kill your best friend." Kakashi observed with grim satisfaction that the color had drained out of Naruto's face. "Great power at great cost. But using the Mangekyo too much will eventually make the user go blind." He stared straight at his student, making sure the message sank in. "And the only way to prevent that…is to take another's Sharingan and implant them into yourself." By now, Naruto's face was slightly green with horror and disgust, but it was necessary that he know. "You kill your best friend for power, and you slaughter your kinsman to keep it. And today, their clan barely exists anymore because of it. In many ways, the Uchiha bloodline exemplifies a lot of what is wrong in the ninja world: greed, power for the price of innocence. They leave behind a legacy of bloodshed, of horror, and of hatred. And Sasuke has inherited it…" Surreptitiously, the Jounin reached a hand into his side pouch, fingers closing loosely around a coil of thin rope. "Naruto, you shouldn't waste your life to try and save him."

A part of Kakashi empathized with Naruto's need to confront and try to retrieve his former rival. He'd seen that hope in Sandaime-sama and Jiraiya when it came to Orochimaru. And for a while, Kakashi had also held on to the small hope that Sasuke was redeemable. But seeing his ex-student's actions and attempts to kill Sakura had virtually squelched that belief. Team Kakashi's failure weighed heavily on his conscience, and the Jounin regarded it as his own personal duty to take out the defector, and not Naruto's.

"I'm sorry, but I can't let you leave here, Naruto. Let's get you back to HQ and-"

Both men moved within milliseconds of each other. Kakashi's hand flashed, whipping the rope forward in a wide arc. His other hand formed a seal, channeling chakra into electricity through the rope coils. It was best to end this quickly, before Konoha's #1 unpredictable ninja came up with a plan.

Naruto ducked just in time, hitting the ground as he felt the weapon skim the hairs on his head with a sharp hiss. The Jounin had probably loaded it with enough energy to stun and render him immobile. Obviously, he'd decided an unconscious Naruto would be easier to haul back to Tsunade. Well, couldn't have that. Kakashi had retrieved the chakra net, whirling it in his hand to gain momentum for a throw. Thinking fast, Naruto lobbed two smoke bombs into the air, straight at the Jounin's head.

Instinctively, the older man lashed out with the net, blocking the projectiles from striking him. Instantly the two shells burst, releasing large plumes of dust and smoke and obscuring Naruto from view. Nice try, but… Undeterred, Kakashi pushed up his hitai-ate, the fearsome Sharingan spinning rapidly.

There.

This time, Naruto was a moment too late, stumbling as the electrified rope coiled around his legs, forcibly lashing them together. Fumbling, he launched the three shuriken at the Jounin, aiming for his hands. A split second later, the chakra net slammed into his chest, knocking the wind out of him and tipping him backwards.

Kakashi easily sidestepped the shuriken attack, not bothering to turn as they shot past him and landed uselessly in ground a few meters away. He waited half a minute as Naruto thrashed angrily on the ground, movements eventually slowing to a stop. "Sorry Naruto, but it's for the-"

With a sharp pop, the body lying on the ground abruptly disappeared, leaving only traces of smoke and chakra.

Shit. It was a shadow clone. The Jounin spun around, searching with his Sharingan. In the distance, he could make out faint bursts of chakra as Naruto sped away. Grudgingly, he had to admit the kid had a good head for strategy. He'd used the smoke cloud to hide as he'd made a shadow clone, and then transformed himself into a shuriken. Kakashi's attention had been focused on the capturing the clone, who'd thrown the real body. One thing was for sure though: the Fifth was going to chew him out.

With a sigh, he pressed a finger to the short-range communicator affixed to his vest collar. "Communications team, come in." He waited for the affirmative squawk before continuing. "I have a message for Hokage-sama."