Beginning Note: Hey, everyone! This is my first Naruto fanfic, so please be kind! It has a pairing that I have become extremely fond of thanks to many other authors, especially lastyearsthing. (Check out her stories! They're amazing! Many of her fics inspired this one!) Saku/Sasu lovers please don't hate me! Same for Saku/Naru lovers! I'm a Saku/Kaka fan all the way! I mean, when Sakura's older of course because then it would seem like I'm condoning pedophilia! Don't want that! Please enjoy! Oh, and this is now a chaptered story because it's way too long for a one-shot.

Disclaimer: I do not own, nor shall I ever own these delightful characters, even though I would LOVE to take Kakashi home with me and do naughty things to him. They are the copyrighted by Kishimoto Masashi. Any discrepancy within the characters and their behaviors is my own doing. Especially with Sasuke and Kakashi. Same for the story line!

Ties That Bind

Chapter 1

Sakura had been coughing up blood for around three weeks, non-stop. The eighteen-year-old medic knew she was sick, very sick. But she could not find the courage to tell anyone.

Sasuke had only found out by accident. He went to her house to see if she wanted extra training. He knocked on her door and was surprised that he didn't get answer. He heard her television playing in the living room, so he knew she was home.

"Sakura?" he called, wondering if she didn't hear the knock over the television. "Sakura, it's Sasuke. Are you here?"

When he still didn't hear an answer, he became worried and turned the doorknob. As Sasuke suspected, it was unlocked. He stepped through the doorway and looked around. He heightened his chakra and tried to sense her.

To his left, he felt the spark of her chakra, but it was almost nonexistent. Sasuke rushed into the room from where he felt the spark and froze when he saw the pink haired medic.

She was semi-conscious lying on her bed. Bright blood was splashed on her pristine white sheets. Sakura was as pale as the cotton she lay on and rail thin.

"Sakura?!" Sasuke inquired, shaking the disoriented girl's shoulder carefully. "Are you okay?"

Sakura turned her head to look at the black-haired teenager's face with unfocused eyes.

"Sasuke?" she asked through bloodstained lips. She coughed weakly, more blood splattering the sheets.

"What happened? Are you okay?!" the Uchiha demanded, concern filling his black eyes for one of the first times in his life. "Did someone attack you?"

Sakura pushed herself into a sitting position. Sasuke could see the toll the simple action took on her body. She paled and sweat beaded on her forehead.

"No one by myself," she said, glancing down at her blood covered tank top and sheets. "Shit."

"That doesn't make sense, Sakura. Did you get injured? Did you run into something? Did you not heal yourself properly?"

The Uchiha genius fired questions rapidly at the girl.

"No, Sasuke," she said, trying to stand up.

"Then what?" he demanded, holding her down. If the kunoichi got up, she would fall over. "Then what's wrong?"

"I'm dying," she whispered.

Her jade eyes met his surprised black ones.

"What?"

"I'm dying," Sakura said louder, straightening.

"What do you mean you're dying?"

"You're not stupid, Sasuke, so don't act like it," the girl snapped, her temper showing through the pain. "It's exactly how it sounds. I'm dying."

Sasuke stared at her.

"How?"

"Tuberculosis."

"Can't you heal it?"

Sakura shot him an annoyed glare.

"Do you think I haven't tried?" she snipped. "Why do you think my chakra is so drained? Honestly, Sasuke. Has being an ANBU stunted your intelligence?"

The Jounin stared at the medic, mouth agape. She had never talked to him like that before. Her eyes filled with tears at his look.

"I'm sorry, Sasuke," she said, rubbing her eyes. "I'm just so tired. I don't mean to sound so cranky."

Sitting on the bed next to her, her former teammate put a strong arm around her thin, shaking shoulders.

"It's okay," he said, taking in her frightened face. "I understand."

Sakura's face hardened and she pulled away from his surprisingly warm and comforting embrace. "No. You don't. I feel gross. Let me take a shower."

"Do you need help?" Sasuke asked, watching his female friend stumble to her closet to grab towels and clothes, ignoring her hurtful words.

She turned scarlet.

"No!" she said quickly and disappeared into the bathroom that was connected to her bedroom with the slam of the door.

Despite the situation, the black-haired ANBU smiled at Sakura's reaction to his question, and then turned his attention to the bloody sheets. What should he do with them?

Burning them would probably be the best. He had plenty of sheets to spare, so he would replace her ruined ones.

After taking the cloth to her porch and placing it on the concrete, he pulled a small pack of matches from his vest pocket. He swiped it and watched it flare before placing it on the sheet. He lit a few more matches until the sheets were completely ablaze.

"What are you doing to my sheets?!" shrieked Sakura from the door, now clean and blood free, pink hair damp on her shoulders.

"Burning them," Sasuke said calmly.

"And why are you burning them?" she demanded, hands fisted on her hips.

"Because there was blood on them," the Kohana ninja said, watching the ashes blow away in the wind. "I have extras that you can have."

"They could have been washed," she pointed out in annoyance. "It's not as if this is going away."

"Yes, but burning is better."

His teammate shook her head in exasperation still not completely understanding her old teammate's reasoning, her pink tresses flying around her face.

"Want some tea or coffee?" she asked, turning away to avoid her friend's questioning gaze.

"Sakura," Sasuke said, tone commanding.

He saw her shoulders slump and kunoichi turned to face him. Her eyes looked defeated.

"Sit," he said, indicating the patio chairs. She sat down with a sigh and he took a seat facing her. "Talk."

"What am I supposed to say, Sasuke?" Sakura asked. "What do you want me to say? I can't say it's going to be okay, because it's not."

"Okay then. How long have you known?"

"For about four or five months. I started coughing up blood about three or so weeks ago."

"Who else knows besides me? The Hokage? Kakashi?"

Sakura averted her jade eyes from his.

"No one but a Sand-nin medic," she said softly. "He was the one who told me that I had tuberculosis."

"What!?" Sasuke yelled at the medic, causing her to cringe in her seat. "How come you haven't told anyone!? Tsunade could have saved you if you had said something earlier!"

Sakura stood up, fury radiating from her body.

"No. She couldn't have saved me. I am equal in her healing powers, maybe better according to her. If I could have healed this, I would have. Do you think I like waking up every morning covered in blood!?" she shouted back at her friend. "Don't you dare judge my actions, Sasuke!"

"Do you realize the damage your actions are causing?" he demanded, standing up as well. He towered over her, but that didn't stop her from glaring intensely at him.

"You should think before you speak," Sakura told him coldly. "Or have you forgotten your past actions?"

Sasuke froze at her accusation. He knew she was right, but he didn't want to hear it.

"My actions have nothing to do with this," Sasuke said, trying to regain his composure.

"Of course not," sneered Sakura. "The indiscretions of the great Uchiha Sasuke don't matter. He can judge everyone else, but God forbid someone look too closely at him."

"Saku-" he began.

"No. This is bullshit. I'm not listening to your excuses," she snapped, turning away. "Get out."

"But-"

"Get OUT!" Sakura screamed, and then doubled over, coughs shaking her emaciated frame.

"Sakura!" Sasuke cried, rushing to his friend.

"Get out, Sasuke," the jade-eyed kunoichi said, blood running down her chin. "You can tell anyone you want since I know you will anyway."

He was about to protest again, but the look Sakura gave him clearly told him to leave. He stood up and left quickly. The minute her house was out of sight, the black haired ANBU sprinted down the street.

Sakura stumbled back into the house and into the bathroom to vomit, feeling dread pool in her stomach.

o-o-o-o

"Kakashi-sensei!" Sasuke shouted, pounding on the door. "Kakashi-sensei! Get up!"

Sasuke's former teacher and mentor opened the door, mask up, still bleary eyed from sleep and looking like he had a hangover. He scratched his chin, a few bristles from his invisible five o'clock shadow poking through his mask's thin material. Seeing his former student's panicked look, the Copy-nin's hangover seemed to disappear. Uchiha Sasuke was never panicked.

"What is it?" Kakashi asked, opening his door wider so Sasuke could come in. "Want some tea?"

"It's Sakura," he said, breathing heavily and ignoring the nin's question.

"Okay. What's the matter?" the gray-haired ninja elite inquired, now even more alert than before. The pink-haired, jade-eyed medic held a special place in his heart, unknown to many.

"She's really sick! She's dying," the teenager said, fear creeping into his voice.

The cup that Kakashi had been planning on using for tea tumbled out of his hands to smash into thirty different pieces. Sasuke stared at his former teacher in shock. He had never seen the elite act like this. The Kakashi he knew would have never let that mug fall or at least he would have caught it before it could shatter.

The Copy-nin disappeared into his room and re-emerged in a fresh Jounin shirt and mask. He placed his headband on his head, covering his sharingan, and ignored the shattered teacup on his kitchen floor. The pounding in his head from too much sake the night before was forgotten.

"No wonder she hasn't been showing up to train," Kakashi muttered, scratching his head. "I should have known she wasn't sick with the flu."

"She hasn't shown up to training?" Sasuke asked. "For how long?"

"About three weeks, give or take a few days," replied the masked nin.

"And no one thought something was wrong then!?" cried Sasuke. "How come no one went to check on her!?"

"I did," retorted Kakashi. "The first week she said that she was researching ways to battle the huge flu outbreak that happened when you were on an ANBU mission. Then she said that she caught it the next week. There's nothing suspicious about that. It's highly probable. I offered to help her, but she said no. I figured I would give her another week to recuperate. Obviously, it was a bad idea."

"You think?" snapped Sasuke.

"And where have you been for the last few years, Sasuke?" asked the Copy-nin angrily, glaring at the younger man intensely. "Certainly not paying attention to Sakura!"

Sasuke stiffened at the older nin's highly uncharacteristic words and tone of voice. Twice in a half hour he had been forced to look at himself and think about his past actions. He didn't like it. Kakashi was more agitated than Sasuke had ever seen him, if he had ever even seen the Copy-nin truly agitated. He couldn't remember for the life of him if Kakashi had ever acted like this before. The man usually had a lazy, laid-back personality. It was almost like the older man cared a bit too much about the pink-haired ninja.

Kakashi rubbed his good eye, then his temples.

"It doesn't matter right now," he sighed when he saw Sasuke open his mouth to say something. "I'm going to Sakura's house. You get the Hokage. Now!"

Sasuke jumped at the man's tone like he had in his youth and bolted out of the apartment and to Tsunade's office.

Kakashi raced in the opposite direction to his other former student's house. Her front door was open and he could hear a faucet running.

"Sakura?"

He didn't hear anything, so he stepped through the threshold and followed the sound of running water. The gray-haired Copy-nin could see a pale foot from the half open bathroom door. He knocked lightly.

"Sakura? It's Kakashi."

Through the rush of the water, he heard her weak voice.

"Ka-kashi…"

At the utterance of his name, Kakashi pushed open the door and thought his heart would stop at the sight of his former student. She was half-lying, half-sitting on the white tile and gripping the toilet, which was bright with blood.

The fragile kunoichi's body shook violently as she coughed into the toilet, blood spraying from her lips. Kakashi was frozen in place as he watched her cough into the bowl.

"Shit."

Kakashi turned at the sound of the fifth Hokage's voice. The Konaha leader went to move to her apprentice, but the Copy-nin held out an arm to stop her. Behind Tsunade, Sasuke narrowed his eyes at Kakashi's reaction. It was suspicious for just a student-teacher relationship in his opinion.

"Can you just give me a minute to talk with her, Tsunade?" the gray-haired man asked quietly.

The blonde's eyebrows rose a fraction at the masked man's request, but she nodded. Who was she to deny the man's request? Her apprentice and the Copy-nin had gotten close after Team Seven had dissolved.

The door was slowly closed in her face. She turned to face the young ANBU that had fetched her and was slightly frightened by his glare. It was a mix of anger, suspicion, and possessiveness.

"Sasuke," Tsunade murmured, quietly, sensing that Kakashi wouldn't speak with the pink-haired girl until the two of them had moved away out of earshot. "Let's sit in the living room and wait until Kakashi comes out with Sakura."

The teenager mechanically followed her into the living room, his knuckles white from clenching his fists. This did not feel right, the two ninjas being left alone in the bathroom together, especially since the former Team Seven's leader was much older than the pink-haired medic.

Behind the bathroom door, Kakashi felt like he was ripping in two. The beautiful girl in front of him was wilting before his eyes and there was nothing he could do to help. She flicked her jade eyes to him and he fell to his knees beside her. It was a rare show of weakness on his part. She had a tendency to do that to him. Kakashi had seen some horrible things in his lifetime, but this was one of the worst. When your own body turned on you.

"Sakura," he whispered and she turned her face to him.

"Kakashi," she coughed weakly, blood covering her mouth and running down her chin. Tears leaked from her eyes and he cupped her cheek, wiping away the moisture.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, pulling a handkerchief from his glove. She stared at him. He noticed. "What?"

"Handkerchief? Glove?"

Silly girl, he thought. Of all things to say when she's coughing up blood.

"I'm a magician," he said, hoping to make her laugh. She smiled slightly then grimaced, spitting more blood into the toilet.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Kakashi asked again, wiping the blood off her face tenderly.

"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I didn't want to worry you."

"And you thought this was better?" he admonished. "You're smarter than that, Sakura."

"Don't be mad!" Sakura said, starting to cry softly. "Please don't be mad. Kakashi, please don't be mad at me!"

Kakashi pulled her into his arms and she clutched at his back feebly, muttering 'I'm sorry,' over and over.

"Don't be sorry," the Copy-nin said, lifting her chin to see her face. "I could never be mad at you. You know that."

He wiped away another tear with his thumb and she placed her hand over his, holding it to her cheek.

"You're so warm," she sighed, closing her eyes. "It's nice. I hope I can be this warm until I die."

Kakashi's hand twitched and the young medic opened her green eyes.

"What's the matter?" she asked, fingers tightening on her former teacher's gloved hand.

"Die?" he repeated, mouth dry and the blood drained from his face. He should have known. Should have suspected something more. "What do you mean? I thought that Sasuke was just panicked about your conditioned and was exaggerating. I mean, I understand that it's bad. I've seen that much, but… Can you…"

"I can't be healed, Kakashi. I've tried. My chakra is too drained from trying to heal myself and keeping up with my job at the hospital. I think it's too far along now."

"No," he whispered.

Sakura pulled away and cupped his cheek with a pale hand of her own, tears running down her face. Leaning into her touch, he placed his large hand over hers.

"Sakura…"

Loud banging on the door caused the two Leaf nins to jump apart.

"Kakashi? Sakura?" called Tsunade. "You need to come out so we can talk."

"Okay," Kakashi said, raising his voice.

"I don't wanna leave," Sakura groaned, tightening her grip on him. It was nice and cool on the tile floor and her skin felt so hot now.

Kakashi stood up and cradled her in his arms, close to his chest. She squeaked.

"No! Put me down!"

He ignored the fussing girl and started to reach for the doorknob.

"Hatake Kakashi," she protested in a quiet voice. "Are you denying a lady a request? Put me down!"

Kakashi paused then, with a sigh, put her down, but didn't let go of her hand.

Sakura looked at him with confusion and he let go, opening the door and allowing her to go out first. The medic walked past him and shivered when she felt his fingertips at the small of her back. It was an alien feeling, but she liked it. If it had been anyone else, they would have been through the wall, even in her weakened state.

Tsunade was pacing in the girl's living room, a worried expression on her face. The black-haired ANBU on the couch watched her silently, sitting up straighter when he saw the two ninjas emerge from the hallway.

"You're going to wear out my carpet, Sensei," Sakura told the blonde Hokage dryly. "I can't afford a new one, you know."

"Screw your carpet," Tsunade said, moving close to the girl.

"How are you feeling, Sakura?" Sasuke asked

"Well enough," she said shortly, still upset with her former teammate. "Considering I'm coughing up blood."

Sasuke winced at her harsh words and tone. This was no longer the devoted girl he had once known. He felt a twinge of jealousy as he saw the Copy-nin's hand resting on her lower back. The pink-haired medic had obviously gotten over him years ago and preferred older men. No. That was unfair of him to think. He hadn't been truly involved with Sakura, Naruto, or Kakashi in years. He had been too busy dealing with himself and rebuilding his clan.

Tsunade on the other hand, was fussing over her student.

"Let me check you out," she said, hands glowing with chakra. "I want to see how much the disease has progressed."

She moved to stand in front of the girl. The busty blonde gave Kakashi a look of annoyance.

"For me to do this," she said tartly. "You need to move. You'll get in the way, Hatake."

The Copy-nin reluctantly moved away and Sakura was bathed in Tsunade's chakra, her skin tingling at the familiar power. It was painful for the older medic to examine her student. Her lungs were damaged beyond repair and the disease was taking a major toll on her body.

When she was done, she looked at Sakura sadly. Seeing that look, Sasuke and Kakashi's hearts skipped a beat. They knew in that moment that they were going to lose her.

"I'm sorry, Sakura," Tsunade said softly.

"There isn't anything you can do?" Sasuke asked desperately.

"Trust me, if there was, I would do it in a heartbeat, but there's nothing I can do."

Sakura sat down next to Kakashi on the loveseat and he took her hand. She smiled at him sweetly. Sasuke's eyes narrowed. He didn't approve of this… this thing between them.

"How did this happen?" the ANBU asked, not just referring to Sakura's tuberculosis, knowing no one else would realize his double meaning.

Sakura took a deep breath. "About a year ago, there was a bad TB outbreak in Mist Country."

Tsunade nodded. "I remember. I sent you and a bunch of other medics to help the Mist medics."

"Mmm," she said. "I spent a lot more time with the patients than any other medic because I had more skill than them and was more adequately equipped to handle the outbreak. I think I was susceptible because my immune system was weak from overwork and lack of sleep. I had been feeling poorly for the last few months and then when I was on a mission in Sand Country, I got a medic to look at me because I had been coughing more and more. He was the one who told me."

"How come you didn't tell anyone!?" Sasuke demanded.

"I could have gotten rid of the disease before it got like this," Tsunade said. "You could have too."

Sakura squirmed in her seat and Kakashi squeezed her hand reassuringly.

"It was too late by then. And everyone had his or her own problems to worry about," she said, staring at Sasuke pointedly. He looked away guiltily. "And I just thought it was because I was so run down."

"That was stupid," the Hokage snapped. "And now you're going to die because of your stupidity, Sakura!"

She stood up and stormed out of the house, door slamming behind her. Everyone stared after her, stunned. A dry sob broke the silence and Kakashi wrapped his strong arms around the pink-haired girl's shaking body.

"It's okay," he soothed. "She's just upset. When she gets upset, she gets angry. You know that."

"Yeah, I know," she whispered brokenly into his chest. "But that doesn't make it hurt any less."

Sasuke stood abruptly, unable to bear the two's intimacy any longer. He couldn't remember if they had ever been this close before.

"I'm going to see if the Hokage's okay, then I'm going to tell Naruto that you need to speak with him," he said, voice as monotone as he could make it. "I'll stop by later to check on you."

Sakura nodded as her friend left her and Kakashi alone.

"I'm so tired," she said, resting her forehead on her former teacher's muscular chest. It was extremely comfortable. She sighed.

"Then you should sleep," he said, smiling down at her.

"Okay," she said softly, already falling asleep in his arms.

Kakashi laid the girl down on the loveseat and started to move away. He was stopped by Sakura's hand gripping his shirt hem.

"No," she muttered. "Stay with me."

"There isn't enough room on the couch," he pointed out.

"Doesn't matter."

"Yes, it does," he said. "How about I put you in your bedroom?"

"Mmm. Okay. Does that mean you'll stay?"

"Yes," he whispered in her ear when he picked her up. "I'll stay."

Kakashi brought her into her room and put her down on the bed. He settled besides her, relaxing for the first time that day. He removed his headband that was covering his sharingan and closed his eyes. He had only been asleep for only two hours when Sasuke had pounded on his door. He had been out drinking all night with Genma. He would just rest his eyes for a few minutes and then watch over Sakura. Before drifting off, he placed a soft kiss on the young woman's sallow cheek. Within a few seconds, the Copy-nin was as deeply asleep as the pink-haired kunoichi next to him.

A few hours later, a soft knock on Sakura's door went unheard.

"Sakura? It's Naruto," the golden-haired teenager called. He pushed open the door when he didn't hear an answer. "Sakura?"

When he still didn't hear an answer, he felt for her chakra. Instead of sensing just Sakura's oddly weak chakra, Naruto sensed another familiar chakra.

"Kakashi must be with her," he muttered to himself. "But then why didn't they answer me when I called out?"

Following the strong pulse of chakra to Sakura's bedroom, Naruto turned the doorknob and quietly opened the door. Peeking his head in, he gave a yelp of shock and surprise at what he saw.

His former teacher and teammate were sleeping peacefully together on the kunoichi's large bed. Sakura was curled up against Kakashi's chest, fitting perfectly in the curve of the man's body, her long, pink hair bright against his black Jounin shirt. His muscular arm was around her waist, pulling her as close as humanly possible to his body. The Copy-nin's face was slightly buried in the girl's soft hair.

Naruto was unable to make a sound or to pull his eyes away. He felt ashamed at witnessing such an intimate moment, despite the fact that it was unintentional. The blonde ANBU silently closed the door and left Sakura's house. He had made it past her neighbor's house when he saw Sasuke.

"Did you talk to her?" his friend asked.

Naruto hesitated a moment before speaking.

"Not exactly…"

"Why not?"

The teenager bit the inside of his cheek and looked away from Sasuke. He was afraid that seeing Sakura with Kakashi like that would hurt his friend.

"What? Is she worse!?" Sasuke asked, worried.

Naruto had never seen him so flustered.

"Wait. Worse? Sasuke, what's going on?"

The black-haired ANBU looked at Naruto. "You don't know?"

"I saw her, but I didn't talk to her. She was sleeping," Naruto said, neglecting to tell mention the fact that Kakashi was sleeping with her. "Sasuke, what's wrong with her?"

Sasuke sighed heavily and looked away from his friend.

"She's dying."

"You're lying," Naruto said automatically.

"Would I lie about something like this? Honestly, Naruto. Why would I do something like that?"

"It's not true," the blonde teenager said. "It can't be true!"

His Sakura… Dying. Naruto felt his world starting to tear at the seams.

"I'm going to stop in to check on her. You didn't say that you saw Kakashi there, so he probably went home. I'll sit in with her."

"No!" Naruto shouted, grabbing his friend's arm.

Sasuke gave him an odd look. "Why not?"

"Um. So… So she can sleep peacefully!"

"I'm not going to jump on her, just sit with her," Sasuke said, shaking off the suddenly crazed ANBU and walking into Sakura's house.

Naruto groaned and trailed behind Sasuke, then stopped short. The teenage Uchiha was standing in the girl's bedroom doorway and the blonde could feel the rising fury in the ANBU's chakra. Naruto started backing away, and for the first time since meeting Sasuke, he genuinely felt afraid of him.

At the edge of his consciousness, Kakashi sensed danger. He slowly opened his eyes, spreading out his chakra to sense who was threatening him and Sakura. Whoever it was would be very sorry indeed if they tried anything. It was familiar. His eyes met a mass of pink hair that was tickling his nose. After realizing that it was Sasuke standing in the doorway, the Copy-nin shut his eyes again and pulled the medic even closer to him. He breathed in deeply, smelling the strawberry shampoo that Sakura used. Unable to stop himself, Kakashi let his lazy smile grace his lips. He knew his former student could see the smile because his mask was pulled down.

Sasuke's anger peaked higher than it ever had before at seeing his old teacher's lazy smirk spread across his face not even registering the fact that it was one of the rare times he got to see Kakashi's true face under the mask. He felt his knucklebones pop and his nails bit into his palms as he clenched his fists tightly. The Copy-nin was playing with him and the bastard knew it.

When Kakashi felt that Sasuke was at his breaking point, he rolled over and groaned loudly, pretending to stare bleary-eyed at his old student.

"Oh, Sasuke," he exclaimed, feigning innocence. "I didn't know you were here."

The younger Uchiha's eyes said it all. Kakashi's grin grew wider.

"Can I talk with you outside, Kakashi-sensei?" he asked through clenched teeth and emphasizing the word 'sensei.'

"Well, I don't think it would be a good idea to leave Sakura alone," said the gray-haired ninja, stroking Sakura's soft hair tenderly. Sasuke hissed slightly through clenched teeth.

"Naruto can sit with her."

Naruto's blonde head appeared around Sasuke's shoulder.

"Hiya, Kakashi-sensei," he said, giving a small wave.

Kakashi smiled at the blonde as he stood up and replaced his mask. Sasuke stalked out of the house, leaving Naruto and the former ANBU staring after him. The other nin shrugged and followed after the black-haired teenager.

"Take care of her, Naruto," he said, placing his hand on the familiar orange jumpsuit clad shoulder of the recently appointed ANBU.

"I will," Naruto whispered, moved by the emotion in the older ninja's voice. He realized how much more this affected his teacher than it did for him or Sasuke. Something had changed between that man and Sakura and this was causing the usually strong ninja before him to break down. He wondered when that had begun.

He went and sat on the edge of the bed, making sure to not wake Sakura. He guessed that he had always known that something had been going on between the older man and his friend, but seeing them earlier had confirmed it indefinitely. It had been years since Sakura had told Sasuke how she felt. It hurt Naruto deeply to see her in such pain and it made him angry at his other teammate. Teammates didn't disregard each other's feelings, even if they weren't true teammates anymore. As much as he loved Sasuke as a friend, he felt that Sakura deserved better and Kakashi was definitely better, even if he was older.

Naruto couldn't deny the fact that Sasuke was self-centered and selfish. Sasuke was so concerned about what went on within his own personal bubble that he didn't care about who he hurt or how badly he hurt them. When they were twelve, Sakura would have done anything for him. Now it was different. They were no longer twelve and naïve. Now she was a woman, independent and strong.

Naruto turned to watch his friend sleeping. His heart squeezed painfully at the sight of her. Her breathing was shallow and raspy and a cough would occasionally break her chest's rising pattern. Sakura's face was thin as was the rest of her. Clothes that should have clung to her once full curves, hung loosely around her emaciated frame. Her skin, normally a healthy, slightly tan complexion, was gray and she had purple bruises under her eyes that indicated lack of sleep. It finally hit Naruto that his friend was truly in danger of dying and dying very soon. But of what, he still had no clue.

A violent bout of coughing pulled the golden-haired boy from his musings.

"Sakura!" Naruto cried, grabbing her empty wastepaper basket and holding it in front of her so she could cough into it.

Blood spattered the plastic bag lining the basket and Naruto felt the very last shred of hope he had held onto fade. He rubbed the pink-haired kunoichi's back gently as she continued to cough up blood.

After about a minute or so, she finally stopped, spitting away any excess blood into the wastepaper basket and breathing heavily. Naruto handed her a handkerchief from his pocket. After she wiped her mouth, her jade eyes met his bright blue ones.

"Naruto!" she exclaimed and threw her arms around her friend. "I didn't realize that it was you!"

The ANBU hugged her back, saddened by how bony she felt. He pulled away and saw her look around.

"Where's Kakashi?" she asked.

"He's outside talking with Sasuke."

An annoyed look passed over Sakura's features and she scowled.

"Sasuke needs to mind his own business," she fumed.

"He's only looking out for you," Naruto told her.

Sakura gave an unladylike snort.

"Bullshit," she scoffed. "He's too involved with himself to notice anything going on. He only acts concerned. I'll be damned if I fall for that act!"

Naruto didn't reply to her statement as he took her pale hand in his large, tan one. Her eyes reluctantly met his.

"Sakura. What's going on?"

A/N: Okay, so here's the first part. I have literally been writing this story for years on and off and I figured I should, ya know, actually post it. You would think I'd be finished by now, but then again, there's life to contend with. I've been pushed back into my writing mode lately so hopefully, emphasis on hopefully, I will be able to finish this and Possession sometime in the next century. Enjoy and please read and review so I know that this doesn't suck.