"I'm not going."
"You have to."
"I don't 'have to' do anything."
"You can't just stay here, Sasuke."
"And why not?"
"Because not only would it be disrespectful, but it would probably infuriate Sakura."
Sasuke sighed, crossing his arms as he leaned back in the kitchen chair he currently sat in. Later that morning Naruto had brought Sasuke over to his home, giving him a place to shower, nap for a couple of hours, and even giving him some clothes to wear. Of course Sasuke had immediately denied the offer outright, but since Naruto was… well, Naruto… the next thing he knew he was walking through his front door, Hinata smiling at the pair from the living room.
It had been pretty awkward for the most part. He almost felt as if he were intruding, and of course Hinata had figured that out soon after Naruto left again to speak with Shikamaru. She'd offered him some food and assured him that it was no trouble and that he wasn't intruding in the least. After that she'd smiled at him and let him be upon hearing Kenji calling for her from another room. Thankfully she'd left him alone ever since.
It was after that conversation when he decided that Hinata wasn't that bad—and that Naruto had gotten damn lucky in finding a wife so much smarter and intuitive than he was.
But now, just a couple hours before sunset Sasuke sat stubbornly, glaring at the dark cloak that Naruto held out to him. He couldn't take it in his own hands. He hadn't worn a cloak like that in many years.
He also hadn't attended a funeral since he was a child.
Kakashi hadn't even been gone for forty-eight hours and there they were, preparing themselves to say their final goodbyes to him. Sasuke wasn't ready for that. It was too soon.
"She'd probably understand."
"Or," Naruto said, tossing the cloak onto his lap as he grew more and more frustrated, "she'll probably break your arm and be angry at you for months."
"I'm pretty sure she already is." Thinking back to his departure from Suna, he cringed inwardly, repressing a heavy sigh.
"Well, yeah. But do you want her to be even angrier?"
"I just… I don't want to face them yet."
Sasuke bit his tongue before forcing the words out, "The civilians. The ninjas. I'm just… not ready to see them all yet. Especially after all these damn years."
It was only eight years ago when he'd been actively planning to destroy the village and slaughter all of it's inhabitants, and he was well aware of the fact that all of Konoha knew about it, too.
"As far as I know, word has gotten around pretty fast that you're back in town, so it's not like it'll be too much of a shock for everyone there. And it's not like anyone would dare to make any sort of scene tonight. The entire village loved Kakashi."
Sasuke had to admit that he had a point with that. No one would dare do anything that might disrespect Kakashi.
"Now come on," Naruto said, gesturing to the cloak, "put that on. We're leaving."
Sasuke wanted to continue to futilely argue with him, but he knew that it was pointless. He had to go; he couldn't allow himself to be a coward forever.
Fifteen minutes later they were both approaching the edge of the village, watching from a slight distance as more and more people began to gather just ahead of them.
"Where Sakura?" Sasuke muttered to Naruto as they walked, eyeing the villagers as they walked along side them.
"She's been there for a while now. Ino came with her earlier today."
The closer they got to the site of the funeral, the more people turned their attention toward Sasuke as he and Naruto passed. There were looks of shock, a few whispers of surprise, and even a couple people who still held fear in their eyes. And although their looks were well deserved, he couldn't help but feel self-conscious. He wanted them to know that he was different; that he wasn't the teenager hell-bent on destroying their beloved village anymore.
The moment they reached the large crowd of people, Sasuke suddenly felt nauseous; from there on out everything was one long blur to him.
He remembered weaving throughout the people, following closely behind Naruto until they made it to the front of the crowd. He recalled their comrades all toward the front, and how he had to squeeze his way by them in order to reach Sakura, who was standing with her head down. He'd never forget the empty look she held on her face, with her eyes as hollow as a corpse's, and her skin whiter than snow. He remembered grabbing hold of her hand tightly, not hesitating or even caring about any looks he may have been on the receiving end of; he remembered not giving a shit about who knew how he felt about her. But soon after that, things turned hazy and Sasuke found himself feeling detached from his body in a way, of course trying to shut his mind and emotions off simultaneously.
He knew that there were people who got up to speak on Kakashi's behalf, but he doesn't remember any of their words; he hardly even noticed when Naruto spoke to everyone, addressing his village. He doesn't remember her moving, but he remembers watching helplessly as Sakura took a few steps forward and collapsed to her knees, sobbing silently. He recalls his feet moving automatically, dragging themselves over to her as he stood behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
He doesn't remember when the funeral actually ended, or when everybody started to leave, but before he was aware of it the only people that remained were his comrades accompanied by many other fellow shinobi.
"I know it's stupid for me to think this," Sakura eventually mumbled quietly, her head still down, "but I still can't help but blame myself."
Sasuke knows he can say nothing to her that will ease her mind—no matter what he tells her she'll always feel this way unless she can fix it on her own—so instead of uttering useless words to her, he intertwines his fingers with hers, holding her hand firmly within his.
It's the last time she lets him.
"We're leaving in a couple hours," he repeated again, for what felt like the hundredth time. "You should at least try to get a little sleep."
He sighed, "I'm tired of repeating myself. Please."
"Do you honestly think that this is a good idea? That this will help us find Hana faster?"
And with those words, he finally got a response in the form of an angry green-eyed glare.
"Sakura, you know I'm right."
"Shut up," she muttered angrily, turning her back on him again as she pulled her knees up to her chest. "Just shut up already, Sasuke."
After the funeral Sasuke had taken it upon himself to escort her back to her home; of course since he didn't know the way Sakura had to lead them anyways. He would've left immediately after if it weren't for the fact that the moment she stepped foot in her home she immediately began to cry. From there he scooped her up and brought her inside, choosing to remain close by instead of leaving her on her own.
"Do you think I like watching you sit here and let yourself deteriorate? Do you honestly think that I'd be okay with just watching this happen without at least trying to do something?!"
"Sasuke, I said stop it."
"I don't want to be worrying about you for this entire mission—"
"I can't just turn it off like that, that's not the way this works. I need to know you can hold your own against these people we're going to be going up against!"
"And I can!"
"No! You can't Sakura!" he snapped, finally losing his patience. "How on earth do you expect yourself to fight well without any sleep?" He paused, eyeing her carefully. "When's the last time you ate?"
Abruptly, Sakura stood up, "I don't need to hear this."
"Sakura, stop," reaching out he wrapped his fingers around her wrist tightly, holding her in place.
Suddenly, she reeled on him, "Let go of me!" She screamed, ripping her hand out of his grasp. "Don't touch me! Just stop it already! Do you think that I'm deliberately doing all this? Sasuke, I can't eat, I can't sleep, knowing that she's out there somewhere I can hardly even think without wanting to break down! I need her back Sasuke, I need her back or… or I don't know what I'm going to do." Sasuke watched as she wrapped her arms around her midsection, as if she were trying hard to hold herself together. "I need her Sasuke. I can't live without her. She means everything to me. She's my baby."
Again, Sasuke reached out to her, only to have her shake her head and step away.
"I'll be getting ready to leave," she mumbled before turning and walking toward her bedroom.
Sighing, he ran his hand through his hair; knowing that they'd be gone soon he kicked his feet up onto the couch and leaned his head back. He might as well get an hour or so of sleep in himself.
Being awoken abruptly by Sakura flinging a biscuit at him, he watched as she stood in the doorway to the kitchen, her clothes changed and her pack already on her back.
It didn't take them long to meet up with everyone at the front gates. Upon approaching he took note of everyone standing by, waiting to depart. Hanabi stood beside Ino, talking quietly amongst each other. Kiba and his dog, as well as Sai stood close by, watching as the two approached the rest of the group. But the two people that stuck out the most to Sasuke were standing off to the side slightly.
"Hey guys," Kiba greeted as they approached.
When Sakura didn't reply, Sasuke nodded toward him in acknowledgement, yet his attention was focused mainly on his two old teammates that slowly turned toward him upon hearing his name.
"Well, well, well," Karin grimaced, "look who decided to stop by after all these years."
Sasuke repressed a sigh, "Hi Karin."
"Ugh. Stop, don't talk to me." She held a hand up as if to physically stop him from speaking any further. Flipping her hair over her shoulder, she smiled toward Sakura, taking a few steps toward her and giving her a sympathetic look. Sasuke didn't even think she was capable of expressing these types of emotion for others.
But nevertheless he stood by and watched as Karin reached forward and hugged Sakura tightly, "I'm going to try and find her as fast as I can."
"Thank you," he heard Sakura whisper back, lifting her arms and weakly returning the hug. After Karin released her she smiled at her again, before promptly shooting Sasuke a sharp glare.
"Hello Sasuke," a deep voice chimed in from behind the quick-tempered redhead.
Finally looking up, Sasuke nodded towards Jugo in acknowledgement. He was relieved to see his old teammate after so long; Jugo was just the type of person he wanted for a mission like this. His strength was something that would undoubtedly come in handy.
"It's been a long time," he commented, smiling softly.
"It has," Sasuke nodded in acknowledgement.
"Jugo," Sakura smiled up at him, her eyes soft at the sight of the hulking man.
"I'll help in any way I can," he told her, his tone very serious. "No matter how long it takes."
Sakura bit her lip, tears beginning to well up in her eyes. Closing her eyes she forced out another small smile, "That means a lot, Jugo."
"There he is," Ino noted, her voice displaying her blatant annoyance.
Peering over his shoulder, Sasuke watched as Naruto rapidly approached. He merely nodded in acknowledgement before facing forward once again.
"Sorry I'm late. Alright everyone," Naruto spoke, addressing all of them, "you all know what to do." He received half-hearted nods in response as everyone prepared themselves for their departure. Sasuke watched out of the corner of his eye as Sakura tightened her grip on her pack. "Kiba."
And without any further words, they were off. Their first step was to try and trace Hana's scent back as far as they possibly could, until they physically couldn't find any traces left; that was Kiba and Akamaru's job. Next, Hanabi would step up, using her byakugan to try and locate any obvious disturbances in the area. If they could find any trace that someone had made their way through the woods in any direction, she was to find it.
For the duration of the trip, it would be Karin's job to stay alert for any chakra signatures, no matter how small or slight. With each signature she found, either Sai would take to the skies or Naruto would send a shadow clone to investigate, depending on how many people there were.
Ino's presence was perhaps one of the most vital to their mission. Masaru's strange jutsu was something that they couldn't figure out how to combat. If she could get in his mind for even a second, even if she wouldn't be able to control him, she'd at least be able to figure out a way to defeat him. Of course, Jugo's strength would become immensely important; his presence alone, paired with his sage transformation, would give them the edge that they desperately needed.
As they travelled, Sasuke found himself pleased that everyone on the team had a purpose, and that with their collected efforts, they might find Hana sooner than expected.
Eyes once more drifting toward Sakura he watched as she pushed herself hard, her face scrunched up with a mixture of determination and fury. Her eyes flashed toward Sasuke once, and upon noting his gaze fixed on her, her frown deepened. She pushed her legs just a little bit harder, placing herself a few feet in front of him.
Sasuke sighed inwardly. He'd have to worry about their unstable relationship later. At the moment, that was one of the least important things he was being faced with.
Just as soon as they found Hana, things would get better.
Things had to get better.
They travelled for almost fifteen hours their first day, and so far all their efforts had led them nowhere.
Kiba and Akamaru had only been able to trace her scent for about a half an hour. They reached a dead end at the edge of a cliff, with a raging river far below. No one wanted to comment on how there was always a chance that the trail could've ended there for a reason…
So instead everyone remained quiet and Hanabi wordlessly began to take lead.
Things were hopeful for a while. On the other side of the cliffs there had been a clear path where the forest had been disturbed within the past few days. For a couple of hours they travelled north, Hanabi carefully tracking the path of snapped twigs and crushed leaves, and at one point she even stopped, calling out to everyone the same moment she found a pair of small footprints in the mud.
For another hour after that, everyone was on high alert. Karin located at least fifteen different groups of people as they travelled throughout the day, and upon their discovery Sai would either take to the air on one of his ink birds or Naruto would send a golden clone, flying through the forest ahead of the group. Sometimes they'd both go if the group was large enough or if the chakra signatures were strong.
Each and every time, they came up empty handed; they'd even stopped two different sets of their own ANBU. Of course Naruto would always take the opportunity to meet up with them and tell them to keep their eyes peeled for the child, and then after that they'd be back on the trail.
Of course that trail led them nowhere and soon enough Hanabi stopped abruptly and deactivated her byakugan, having nothing else to follow.
Yet they tried hard to remain hopeful, even when the sun fell and the moon came out to lighten their path.
It had been a few hours after sunset when Naruto had called it a day, forcing everyone to stop and set up camp. The moment the group had stopped, Sasuke watched as Sakura stormed off angrily, her hands gripped her hair and her feet kicking at anything that was in her way.
At first, Sasuke had made a move to follow her, but as soon as Ino placed a hand on his shoulder, merely shaking her head, he bit his tongue, merely watching as she wandered off and disappeared from sight.
It was just past midnight, and Sasuke was on lookout duty. Staring blankly into the fire he tried hard to keep his senses on alert, but he couldn't help but become distracted by his own thoughts. He'd heard once as a child that once a person was missing for more than a few days, the odds of finding them decreased dramatically. He couldn't remember who it was that had been missing—whether it was a neighbor or a cousin, he couldn't recall—but he could remember the ceremony that had been held a month later, when the young ninja's body had been found.
Mindlessly picking at a scab on his forearm, he stared deeply into the fire, trying to rid his pessimistic thoughts from his head. The last thing he needed to do was begin to associate missing people as bodies just waiting to be found.
Hana was waiting to be found, and there was no way in hell that she was anything but perfectly alright.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, idly staring into space as he picked at his arm, but a presence behind him caught his attention quickly. Turning around abruptly, he watched as Sakura approached the fire, a blanket wrapped around her body.
She raised an eyebrow at his sudden realization at her presence. "You know, if I were an enemy shinobi you'd be dead by now."
He frowned at the sight of her out of bed. When Naruto had offhandedly assigned the look-out shifts, Sasuke noted how he'd purposefully left Sakura out of it; he knew just as well as Sasuke did that she needed sleep. "What are you doing awake?"
"Besides freezing my ass off?" She retorted, sitting close to the fire, making sure to put a bit of space between them. "I can't sleep. Duh." Just as Sasuke opened his mouth to say something, she cut him off. "And don't you dare tell me to 'just try'. Because I did. So shut up."
Scowling, Sasuke closed his mouth giving her an exasperated look. Studying her as she watched the fire, he took note of her pale complexion, her protruding cheekbones, and the way she shook severely every time a breeze coursed through the campsite.
She wouldn't last much longer if she kept going like this.
Forcing his mind to wander elsewhere, he found himself thinking of Hana once more, trying hard to stay positive and remain optimistic. But Sakura was usually the optimistic one, and when Sakura was on the verge of breaking down out of hopelessness that's how he knew that things were bad.
"Hanabi only found Hana's footprints," he commented, breaking the painful silence, "she didn't find anyone else's with hers. For all we know she could still be running, or even just waiting for us to find her."
"If it's either of those two, she's definitely running," Sakura commented, arms crossed as she stared into the fire. "When we first left Konoha I told her that if anything were to happen, she needed to move, keep moving, and she needed to avoid anyone that tried speaking to her. Or anyone that looked as if they recognized her."
"That's probably why she trusted me in the first place," Sasuke thought out loud, his words quiet. "I kept spotting her around town, but after I ignored her a couple of different times, that's when she followed me." Thinking back to the day when Hana had stumbled into his life, he found himself smiling softly at the memory. "She had hardly been in my apartment for an hour when she told me that I needed to wash her clothes because they were dirty."
"Did you?" He could hear the curious humor in her voice. The sound made his smirk widen.
"No. I put it in a bucket and told her that she was old enough to learn."
Sakura let out a light laugh; it sounded like music to his ears. "Bossing around strangers just hours after meeting them? Yeah, that sounds an awful lot like Hana." Sasuke watched as she scooted herself backwards, far enough for her to lean back on a nearby tree. She still looked as tired and unhealthy as ever, but her face seemed more at peace.
Maybe talking about Hana would be able to calm her enough so that she'd be able to sleep.
"Do you have any pets?"
Sakura gave him an odd look, "No, why?"
"Nori used to have an insane amount of cats before you met her, and all Hana wanted to do was play with them."
Sakura smiled again, shaking her head. "She's been asking for a cat for years now."
"Why not get one?"
Sakura let out a sarcastic laugh, "Yeah right. When I'm at the hospital, Hana either goes over to the Naruto and Hinata's place, or she'll spend time with Kurenai's son at their home. And since I'm at the hospital a lot, there would hardly be anyone there to take care of it."
At the mention of Hana's friend, Sasuke's smile fell slightly. "How did she become friends with him? The Sarutobi boy."
"When I found out I was pregnant, and even after Hana was born, I spent a lot of time with Kurenai. She'd just gone through everything I was going through, and she ended up helping out a lot."
Sasuke sat quietly, absorbing her answer. It made sense that she'd seek out help. Like always though, whenever he thought of Sakura having to deal with everything without his help, his chest tightened and the guilt and sadness grabbed him by the throat.
"Actually, I…" Sakura paused, her voice uneasy and quiet. She shook her head slight. "Ah, nevermind."
Sasuke frowned, "What?"
"It's nothing don't… don't worry about it." Her voice turned into a whisper. Pulling her legs up toward her chest, the smile faded from her face as she resumed staring blankly into the fire.
Before he could open his mouth to say anything, a light rustling came from one of the tents. Glancing over his shoulder he watched as Ino approached, cursing himself mentally. He wanted to know what had suddenly made Sakura's mood plummet. Now that his shift was over though, he figured he could wait until the morning to find out.
Standing up he brushed the dirt off the back of his pants, glancing towards Sakura once more. "Goodnight, Sakura."
"Goodnight," she replied quietly. But even though it was a barely-whispered reply, it was at least something. Much better than receiving silence from her.
As he entered his tent and laid himself down, he sighed deeply.
His daughter was missing. The woman he loved was falling to pieces. And they were up against an enemy that had killed his sensei; the one person in the world he'd come to view as a father figure.
This madness needed to end.
"I think I may have found something!" Kiba called, Akamaru barking loudly and repeatedly for all to hear.
Sasuke was by his side in an instant. It was just past midday and they'd been traveling ever since daybreak without any progress. When he'd seen Sakura that morning, she didn't look worse than the previous night, but she certainly didn't look any better either. He hoped that she might have gotten at least an hour of sleep, but she just looked so perpetually exhausted he could hardly tell any more.
"What is it?" he heard Naruto ask from behind him.
From beside Kiba, Jugo reached down, picking something up out of the dead leaves and grass. Turning toward them he held up a dirty white cloth.
"This has her scent all over it." Kiba explained. "Do you recognize it?"
Naruto stared at it with scrutinizing eyes before shaking his head. Yet, as Sasuke stared at the fabric, something in his head clicked.
Quickly reaching forward he snatched it out of Kiba's hands.
"Hey! What the hell—"
Once he held the shirt up properly, everyone fell silent, simply staring at the Uchiha symbol on the back of the shirt.
At once, it seemed as if everyone else showed up, running toward the men frantically.
"What?" Sakura yelled, "What did you find?!"
Sasuke merely glanced at her before turning the shirt toward the rest of their teammates. Sakura let out a light gasp at the sight, covering her mouth with her hand.
"I gave this to her," Sasuke finally explained. "Back before Suna."
"We're definitely heading the right way then!" Ino exclaimed excitedly. "We just need to keep running! Can you tell how long it's been here?" She asked Kiba.
He shook his head, "I wish. But if she dropped anything else along the way, we'll know." Patting Akamaru affectionately on the head he grinned widely.
"Just a heads up," Karin chimed in, her eyes staring into the forest. "There's a big chakra signature up ahead."
Naruto turned toward Sai. "You wanna go this time?"
The man shrugged, pulling his brush out of his bag, "Sure, why not?"
"Oh, you've got to be fucking kidding me," Karin declared abruptly. Everyone watched as she angrily folded her arms over her chest and stomped her foot on the ground once. "I am NOT about to deal with this bullshit."
"What's going on?" Naruto asked, getting ready to make some shadow clones just in case. Ino and Sakura shared a look, the former shrugging out of confusion.
"It's fucking Suigetsu." She spat his name out as if it left a bad taste in her mouth. "What the hell is he doing all the way out here?"
"I have a pretty good idea," Sasuke mumbled under his breath before taking off, running in the direction that Karin had indicated. Naruto yelled after him, but when Sasuke didn't reply he heard the sound of his comrades reluctantly following behind him.
"Why the hell are we going toward him?" He heard Karin ask exasperated. Ignoring her displeasure, Sasuke was almost elated to hear that Suigetsu was nearby, that meant that he might've found something. And if so, he might get his information a week earlier than he originally thought.
"Hey," Naruto asked, finally reaching him. Slowly, Sasuke could feel all his teammates catch up with him easily. "What's going on?"
"After I left Suna I tracked him down and asked him for a favor," he responded curtly, not wanting to give too much information away—after all, with Naruto being Hokage and Suigetsu hunting illegally, it was better to leave some things left unsaid. "I was originally going to meet up with him in about a week, but this works out much better."
"It'll be good to have someone else with us," Naruto declared, grinning widely.
"I wouldn't count on that. He's trying to stay as uninvolved as possible."
"GOOD!" Karin yelled from behind the group. "I do not want to deal with him more than I already have to."
"Karin, you know you don't have to say anything to him," Ino said, as if that fact was obvious.
"Doesn't matter," Sasuke could just imagine her flipping her hair and pouting angrily, "Just being around him is awful enough."
"It will be nice to see an old teammate after so long," Jugo chimed in quietly, bringing a positive and calming aura to the group.
It wasn't long before Suigetsu's chakra signature was noticeable to everyone else. And once he was in sight—sword hanging off his shoulder like usual—the group slowed down to a walk, approaching the swordsman. Suigetsu, upon spotting Sasuke and the other leaf-nin, had stopped moving once he caught sight of the oncoming shinobi.
By the time they reached his he was grinning wickedly. "Well, what do we have here?" He asked, taking in the sight of the relatively large group. "Is this the welcome wagon?"
"No," Sasuke said, not wanting to put up with any joking around on his part, "what are you doing all the way over here?"
"Helping, duh. I've been pretty damn productive."
"Say what you need to say, and go away." Karin spat, moving to stand beside Sakura, glaring intensely at her former teammate.
Leaning slightly around Sasuke, Suigetsu flashed a toothy grin toward her, "And deprive myself of your fine company? Ridiculous."
"I swear to god—"
"Karin," Sasuke spoke sternly, not even bothering to shoot her a glare. In reply all he heard was her scoff, turning around and mumbling something to someone else. Ino, maybe.
"So, I see you put a pretty nice brigade together here. To be honest it's a few more people than I expected." Almost leisurely, he took a couple steps around Sasuke, closely studying the group. "Hokage-sama," he bowed with fake-sincerity at Naruto before turning toward the rest of the group. Narrowing his eyes at Sakura he was quiet for a moment before his eyes widened in realization. "You! You're the baby-mama!"
Out of nowhere, Karin went and punched him on the side of his head, water splashing roughly against the leaves below.
Sasuke decided not to reprimand her; he actually felt like thanking her.
"Excuse you," he said bitterly, rubbing his neck as he regained his solid form. "There's no harm in just looking around."
"Cut the crap, Suigetsu," Karin said angrily, taking one step forward, putting herself in front of Sakura, hand already forming another fist as she glared at him.
"Yeah, yeah," he waved a dismissive hand in her direction, rolling his eyes. "Where's the kid that everyone's been freaking out about?"
In a split-second Sasuke was in front of him, holding him roughly by the neck. His sharingan bore down on him; he'd run out of patience. "She's missing and we don't have any time to waste," he spoke, his voice quiet, yet menacing as he tightened his grip on his throat, "so you need to shut up, and focus." Releasing him roughly, he pushed him backward, causing Suigetsu to stumble slightly.
The swordsman glared as he regained his footing, "You could've mentioned that."
Trying hard not to run his chidori through his head Sasuke took a few determined steps towards his former teammate. "The masked man. Masaru. Did you find out anything or not?" He demanded, only stopping when he was only a step away from him.
Grinning widely, showing off his pointed teeth, he let out a quick laugh. "Oh man, you're going to love this." Unhooking the large blade off his shoulder he set it against a nearby tree before sitting himself down on the dirty ground. "I caught up with this guy I know just on the edge of Fire Country, and he sent me this way. Took me a long fucking time to get here, too," he complained, idly taking off his shoes. As he picked rocks and crushed leaves out of them, he glanced back up toward Sasuke. "There's too many damn trees in this country, you know?"
"This is taking too long," Ino muttered out of frustration. Taking a glove off of her hand she started walking up to Suigetsu, "I'll get the information myself. You better hold still."
"I can help," Kiba called from the back of the group. Sasuke could hear Akamaru growl in agreement.
"Woah, woah there!" Holding a hand up to the angry kunoichi Suigetsu leaned back slightly. "I'm getting to it! Jeez! Calm down and get your mind-voodoo away from me."
"Then talk," Sasuke spat, just about ready to let Ino do whatever she wanted with him. He wondered if she had the ability to scramble his brains…
"I found him," he grinned. "That masked guy."
"What's his name?" Naruto asked, finally stepping forward to stand beside Sasuke.
Suigetsu shrugged, "Doesn't have one, as far as I know. He doesn't really go by any name either."
"Then how did you know how to find him?" Naruto narrowed his eyes ever-so-slightly.
"I have connections." Suigetsu deadpanned, shooting the Hokage a wry look before looking back toward Sasuke. "As I was saying, I found him. Talked to him. Got lots of info."
"Eh, I found him—well, he actually stumbled upon me—early this morning; just before sunrise I think. I didn't talk to him much, but I got a little bit of info."
"Did he say anything about Hana?" Sakura shot forward, only stopping when she was mere centimeters away from Suigetsu. "Did he have a little girl with her? She's about this tall and she has dark hair and dark eyes an—and just. Did you see her?"
Leaning away from Sakura slightly, he frowned. "He didn't have her with him. But he offered me a shitload of money and told me where I could find her."
"And that was this morning?" Sakura reached out, surprising the swordsman by gripping his knee tightly. Sasuke watched as her fingers dug into his leg roughly.
Wincing, Suigetsu awkwardly pulled his leg out of her desperate grip. "Yeah. But like I said, I didn't get to talk to him too much. It sort of looked like he was in a little bit of a hurry."
"So… so there's a chance that he doesn't have her…"
"I'm tellin' ya, there was no kid," he said, shrugging. "Maybe that's why he was in a hurry. Trying to find her or something?"
"He doesn't have her…" Sakura whispered to herself slowly, her eyes growing wide as tears sprung to her eyes. "He doesn't have her."
Sasuke watched out of the corner of his eye as Naruto approached Sakura, taking her into his arms and whispering soothing and optimistic words to her. Averting his full attention back to Suigetsu he watched as the man stood himself back up, reaching out and grabbing hold of his blade again.
"Can you take us there? To where you met up with him?"
"I don't see why not? It'll take us a few hours but—"
"We don't have any time to waste." Tears still in her eyes, Sakura pulled herself away from Naruto and stalked back up to Suigetsu. "Please take us there. Please."
Leaning back again as Sakura got a bit too close for comfort, Suigetsu nodded, shooting Sasuke an odd look. "Follow me."
A/N: Sorry about the long wait. Life's been treating me pretty nicely recently, and I'm back to working full time again for the time-being so I've been feeling less inclined to stay in bed all day writing. But don't worry I'll be posting another chapter next week to celebrate Changing Skies' first birthday!
I'd like to give a special shout-out to two awesome readers of mine, who took time out of their days to draw fanart for this story. The links to their respective artworks have been placed on my profile page. Feel free to share any other art with me if you or someone you know happens to get inspired to draw by this story. I'll be sure to feature them in my next chapter's A/N.
Again, be sure to check out my tumblr page (link is also on my profile) to read prompts you can only find there. I'm always accepting new prompts and I encourage you to check it out and perhaps send me a message!
Until next time. xoxox