The Shadow Strikes

BY : Sasunarufan13
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 193
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor make profit of it. Kishimoto owns it.

Author's note: My leg's not doing as well as I hoped it would, but I'm getting tired of this writing funk and frankly if I only write when I'm feeling good, only a few updates in an entire year would occur or so. That being said, I did my best with this one, but I'm not sure of how it turned out. I hope it isn't too awful! *winces*

This is the final sequel to Hokage's Shadow. If you haven't read the series yet, you might want to do that first in order to familiarise yourself with the setting. With that said, I hope this meets your expectations somewhat at least!

Warnings: Sasuke's pov; established slash; canon typical violence; drama; reveal of the enemy; small flashback

I hope you'll like it!

The Shadow Strikes

One of Kyuubi's tails was gently swaying back and forth above Ryoto, capturing the baby's attention. Deep blue eyes focused on the tip of it and the little boy gurgled a giggle before he tried to grasp at the chakra tail. He gasped when his fingers slipped right through it and he stared at the red outline in surprise.

"Who would have thought that Kyuubi would willingly play a babysit?" Sasuke remarked idly, placing new files on the desk.

Naruto snorted, his attention focused on the document in front of him, even as he used his non bandaged hand to gently rock Ryoto's crib. "He claims it's because he doesn't want to listen to his crying, but he just doesn't want to admit he's growing soft for Uchiha."

That must have elicited some kind of response from the Nine Tailed Demon, because Naruto rolled his eyes out of the blue and scoffed. "He thinks he's so smooth, but he's totally weak for Ryoto, I'm telling you."

"Quite understandable," Sasuke smirked and walked around the desk to kiss Naruto on his mouth, before he gently brushed a finger against Ryoto's cheek. His son blinked up at him, cooed and then promptly went back to trying to grab Kyuubi's tail.

"I'm stepping out for a bit," Sasuke announced, deciding that it was better not to mention how apparently Ryoto didn't even need a Sharingan to put Kyuubi under his control.

He and the demon fox might have agreed to co-exist, but the Kyuubi could still react quite prickly if he thought Sasuke insulted his pride. The last thing they needed was for the Hokage Tower to explode, because the demon fox couldn't handle a joke.

"Oh okay," Naruto said surprised and blinked. "Anything serious?"

Sasuke shook his head. "No, don't worry about it; it's nothing. I'll be back soon. Don't slack off in the meantime."

"You and Shikamaru are both so annoying, I swear, why not just take over this crap paperwork if you think you'd do it better," Naruto grumbled darkly as he bent over the document again.

He would definitely be paying for that snarky comment later on, but Sasuke had plans elsewhere now. He created a clone the moment he was in the hallway, leaving him to guard the door. Unlike previous Hokage, Naruto wasn't fond of having guards stationed in front of his door, stating time and time again that he could defend himself. While he and Sasuke had learnt to compromise on a lot of things, Naruto's safety was not something Sasuke was willing to compromise on and so he would leave clones behind whenever he couldn't be present himself.

The past months had clearly shown just how important that extra bit of protection could be.

Frowning, he turned left and entered the room right next to Naruto's office, where Nara was studying several scrolls. They were spread out across the desk, covering it entirely, and the various cigarette butts in the tray betrayed that the spiky haired man had become increasingly irate with his task.

"You ready to go?" Sasuke inquired, ready to open a portal.

Nara turned around and sighed, taking a moment to roll his neck and shoulders. Quickly he rolled up the scrolls and dumped them in a satchel waiting on the chair. He swung the satchel across his shoulder and walked over to Sasuke.

"Yes, let's go."

The portal led them straight to a meadow Sasuke had visited a couple of years ago and he ignored Nara's curious look. This was one of the few places he could be certain of that would be desolated, which made it the perfect place for what they needed to discuss.

"What did you find?" he questioned immediately. They had no time to beat around the bush, not when the enemy out there could be designing their next plan to attack Naruto.

Nara grimaced and rubbed the back of his head. "Not something that you will like," he said, dumping the satchel on the ground. "Hinata's been keeping an eye on who enters the village since she prevented one of the attacks."

"She's using her Byakugan to check the chakra signatures?" Sasuke assumed.

"Yes, mainly to keep an eye on all the strangers who enter," Nara confirmed. "The idea was that if this is an outsider doing all this, they would have to visit the village several times. Meanwhile I kept track of the visitor's logbooks."

"Is it an outsider?"

Nara's grimace deepened. "No, unfortunately the only conclusion I can draw is that whoever is organising these attacks – they're a villager of Konoha."

"Fuck." Sasuke dropped down on a tree stump and rubbed his forehead. For a while now he had suspected that the enemy had to be someone within their own ranks, but to hear it confirmed …

Naruto was going to be devastated if he found out about this.

"I've tried to come up with several possibilities, but it has to be someone from the village," Nara said and pursed his lips. "If someone had broken in to get their hands on the secret information, Hinata would have come to recognise their chakra. That she can't pinpoint any foreign chakra can only mean one thing: the enemy is someone in our own ranks. Someone from the village itself wouldn't raise any alarm bells."

"Someone who somehow manages to get the information every time," Sasuke murmured. "How are they doing that? We've been so careful the last couple of times; they shouldn't have been able to overhear anything. You think we're searching only one person here? Or multiple?"

Nara hesitated. "I don't think it can be a large group if it's more than one person," he said slowly. "Someone would have made a mistake by now then if it was. There also wouldn't be any need to hire criminals if they are a group. They could simply just try to overwhelm either one of you."

"So we're searching for someone in Konoha," Sasuke said pensively, ignoring how the bark underneath his fingers gave away when they dug into it. "Any ideas who it could be?"

"The only ones I can think of are the Council," Nara smiled humourlessly. "But for all that they might hate that Naruto is Hokage now, hiring some criminals doesn't seem their style either."

"No, they would be more likely to send someone from Root," Sasuke said scornfully. "They're also holed up in their cushy homes; I never even once felt them around the office."

"Apparently you lingering around is quite the deterrent for them," Nara said dryly before sobering up. "I've been breaking my head over who it could be, but honestly, I've got nothing. I just can't think of anyone who would want to get rid of Naruto now. He was hated before, yes, but the entire village loves him now. Even if they don't appreciate him for himself, they have to know that getting rid of him would put the village in danger."

"And since when are they smart?" Sasuke smiled cynically and shook his head. "We're going to have to draw them out, whoever they are. I don't want to wait and see what their next move might be."

The criminals sent after them were getting smarter and smarter. It was only thanks to Kyuubi's warning last time that they had managed to get rid of the sleeping powder before it could have affected any of them. Waiting for the enemy to strike again was too risky.

"And how are you going to draw them out when you don't even know who it could be?" Nara asked sceptically.

"I know a way," Sasuke reassured him as he opened a second portal. "It's the best chance we have."

"Are you going to tell Naruto about this?" Nara asked, frowning.

"No, not yet. Not until we know who it is and why they're doing it," Sasuke replied after a pause. "There's no need to worry him before we know all that."

Whoever it was, the fact that it was someone from the village would hurt Naruto no doubt. For all that the villagers had treated him awfully for years, he loved Konoha as a whole. To think that someone from that same village was the one sending criminals after them … They could only hope that it wasn't someone known to them.

"You think you can help me out with this?" Sasuke inquired, resting his hand on his hip.

Karin rubbed her knuckles over the shaved part of her head and pursed her lips. "You're not asking for something easy here," she cautioned him.

He had tracked her down in one of Orochimaru's former hideouts where she was keeping track of all the former underlings of the Sannin. With the vast network of contacts she'd managed to build up throughout the years, he occasionally asked her help in finding someone. Fortunately for the both of them, she'd got over her crush some time ago, which made talking to her a lot easier.

"I know, but I don't want to wait until the next attack comes either," he retorted. "This has been going on for far too long and I intend to put a stop to it sooner rather than later."

"I get it, don't think I don't," she sighed and rose up from her chair, pacing back and forth in the room. "But even if we focus on the borders of Konoha solely, that still leaves a vast area to cover. And it's not like we have a fixed pattern to work with either, right? Unless this person meets these criminals on fixed dates?"

"They don't as far as we know," he replied and leant against the desk. "But it's not like they space out the meetings that far either, considering the amount of attacks we've been dealing with in less than one year already."

"That's true." She halted in the middle of the room and placed her hands on her hips. "I can send out some people, have them spread rumours to draw this person in. I don't know how long it'll be before they bite – if they do – but it's the best I can offer."

"You think they would be willing to carry something that can warn me if that person contacts them?" Sasuke questioned. He wasn't certain what to think of sending out people who once had worked for Orochimaru – because she was referring to them – but this was the best chance they would get at trying to find the enemy before he could launch another attack.

Karin hesitated; her red hair glinting in the light when she moved her head slightly. "I'll ask, but I can't promise anything," she admitted and bit down on her lip. "They all owe me a favour, though, so I don't think they'll protest too much."

"Thanks for helping me out with this," Sasuke said sincerely.

"Of course, any time," she smiled.

"You're sure you can trust her?"

Sasuke looked up, letting Ryoto grab onto his finger. He was in an unused room right next to the Hokage's office, waiting for Naruto to finish reading the last remaining files of the day before they could go home. Ryoto was getting a bit cranky the longer Naruto stayed away, so Sasuke tried his best to keep his son distracted.

"Of course I can," he replied and snorted quietly. "Why wouldn't I?"

Nara hesitated visibly, resting a hand against the doorframe. "I'm not going to lie, she's been on my list for a while now as to who could be behind these attacks," he admitted begrudgingly. "Given the history you two share - "

"That's all in the past," Sasuke interrupted him. "She wouldn't have anything to gain from trying to attack either me or Naruto. She got over her crush on me and she likes Naruto. She's not the one we're searching."

People would have noticed if a former underling of Orochimaru had been trying to gain access to sensitive information. Not only would her chakra have alerted him – because neither she nor Suigetsu or Jugo were likely to visit Konoha out of their own will – but she didn't have any reason to send criminals after them. She had moved on from him and she had even struck up some sort of friendship with Naruto after she'd insisted on getting to know him.

He hadn't meant to overhear them. He'd been on his way back to Naruto's apartment, figuring he could take him out for ramen, when two familiar voices coming from Training Field B had drawn his attention.

He found Karin and Naruto facing each other near the edge of the field. Neither of them looked defensive and he had half a mind to dismiss the scene and wait at the apartment, but something – curiosity? – kept him rooted in place.

"So you're going to tell me why you wanted to see me?" Naruto asked curiously; his hands crossed loosely behind his head.

Karin smiled tentatively; the fingers on her right hand fiddling with a bracelet around her left wrist. "I just wanted to know who the person is that could make Sasuke-kun see reason."

Naruto cocked his head to the right. "See reason? I don't know what you're talking about," he laughed amused, but his laugh was cut short when she impatiently slashed her hand through the air.

"Don't act dumb, that's an insult to the both of us," she said irritated. "You know full well that you're the only person Sasuke-kun was willing to listen to even when he lost himself in his revenge. None of us could get through to him, but you."

"Well, he'll probably tell you I'm too stubborn for my own good," Naruto snorted. "And you were his team too, no? He must have trusted you; otherwise he wouldn't have bothered forming a team with you three."

"I don't know whether it was trust back then so much as that he could use our help in bringing down his brother and then Killer B," she stated frankly. "But I'm not talking about Taka."

"I don't know how I can help you, though." The blond man frowned. "I mean, I'm here now, but I don't know what you're looking for."

She shrugged, a strange whimsical smile playing around her lips. "Don't bother, I think I'm starting to get it. Take good care of him, will you? For all his bravado and hard exterior, he needs someone on his side."

"Oh please, you don't have to tell me that," Naruto scoffed, kicking away a pebble. "I'm not planning on letting him be an idiot again, that's for sure!"

They occasionally came together to share a meal, his former team Taka and he and Naruto. It didn't happen often, because they were all busy, but they managed to find time every once in a couple of months. Karin in fact had been hinting today that they should get together soon again, because they hadn't had a chance to meet Ryoto yet and they were all curious, yes, even that idiot Suigetsu, though please don't let him hold your baby; the idiot will most likely drop him!

"If you're sure," Nara said sceptically.

"I'm sure," Sasuke replied resolutely. "Besides, you're the one who concluded that it is someone in the village here. Karin's not from the village."

"I know," Nara sighed frustrated and tugged at his ponytail. "I wish it was otherwise, but everything points to a mole in our ranks. Still, I thought we were only involving Hinata and Tsunade-sama?"

"Karin knows how to be discreet," Sasuke retorted clipped. "And if we want to draw this guy out, we need help that only she can offer."

"I suppose so," Nara muttered, but it was clear he wasn't happy about it.

"Oh, what's this? A secret meeting between my two assistants?" Naruto jested, appearing behind Nara, who startled slightly.

"Who are you calling your assistant?" Sasuke asked unimpressed as the blond man wriggled between Nara and the door.

"My mistake, I should call you my guard dog, hm?" Blue eyes glistened and lips spread in a wide grin when Sasuke slapped the back of his head. "Aw, love you too, boo."

"I'm going home before I lose my appetite," Nara muttered and lazily waved them goodbye before disappearing.

"Not everyone knows romance, it seems," Naruto sniffed and quickly pecked Sasuke's mouth. "So, what were you two talking about?"

"About how you're incapable of just finishing your shit on time," Sasuke said bluntly and handed Ryoto to the Jinchuuriki. "Here, before he starts crying because you took too long."

"I did not take too long, bastard, not my fault that they keep dumping paperwork on me," Naruto whined even as he pressed Ryoto against his chest and kissed his forehead. He perked up then, following Sasuke out of the room. "Hey, I've got an idea! How about you deal with the paperwork and I deal with the rest?"

"Am I already not doing that for the most part?" Sasuke said dryly. "Besides no, thanks, you're the one who wanted to be Hokage, remember?"

"Yeah well, none of them warned me about the amount of paperwork that is involved with this position," Naruto complained. "I swear none of the previous Kage had it this bad! You think peace comes with more paperwork? Because if so, that majorly sucks."

"What, you prefer another war instead?"

"I mean, no, I guess, but I wouldn't mind some more action," Naruto pouted, shushing Ryoto when he mewled displeased. "Yes, I know you agree with me."

"If you shut your complaining now, I'll give you some action at home, how's that?" Sasuke murmured in his ear, smiling when a blush instantly set Naruto's face alight.

"Not around innocent ears!" Naruto exclaimed, covering Ryoto's ears immediately.

He didn't refuse the offer, though.

Night was settling in three weeks later when one of the badges – the newest of the new line of technological devices that specialists were creating to aid shinobi in their work – started to tremble harshly, making two pairs of eyes lock onto it.

"They have him?" Naruto asked apprehensively, his hands pausing in cleaning the cooking pot.

While Naruto still wasn't aware that the suspect was most likely someone from Konoha, Sasuke had told him about the idea he and Karin had concocted, seeing no reason to lie about that. He didn't want to lie to Naruto, especially not something that concerned his life, and explaining his sudden absence was easier if the blond knew what was going on.

"Looks like it," Sasuke replied neutrally and grabbed the badge, silencing it. "I'm going to check it out. Can you stay with - "

"I'll stay with Ryoto," Naruto agreed, but his eyes darkened somewhat. "But only in case this turns out to be a trap or so. Be careful, all right?"

"I'm not the one always rushing into things," Sasuke chided him and kissed him quickly, brushing a hand across Ryoto's hair on his way out.

Nara was already waiting for him outside, his own badge clenched between his fingers. "Think this is it?"

"One way to find out," Sasuke replied and created a small portal.

Every badge had been assigned to a team of two people and they each had their own places they lurked at in an attempt to lure in the enemy. This particular badge was connected to a team consisting of two women who were staking out a rundown bar straddled on the border of the Land of Fire and Amegakure. Most of the places in that area were of the seedy kind, the one every respectable shinobi tended to avoid if they had no good reason to go there. That meant it was also a good place to seek out people for more nefarious purposes, like say an attempted attack on the Seventh Hokage.

"They're not lying about the rain at least," Nara muttered when they stepped out of the portal and were instantly greeted by a rain shower.

Large puddles covered the road, turning it muddy and the few streetlights present were flickering heavily, on the verge of giving out. They followed the road up north and were greeted by a lonely bar when the road bent left. Some desolate looking buildings stood several yards further; the shattered windows looking like jagged wounds and the roofs partly collapsed.

The rain started to pick up, pelting down heavier, but Sasuke didn't even register the cold raindrops hitting his skin; all his focus on the single bar in front of him. Finally after nearly a year he would discover who was behind all these cowardly attacks. Once he had his hands on them …

The bartender – an old, greying man with a jagged scar running diagonally across his face – didn't even look up when both men entered the bar. Some men occupied the seats near the back, but they were too busy with their card game to pay them any attention. Sasuke wasn't interested in them either; his attention going straight towards the two women seated next to the window. A hooded person sat at their table, but unlike the other patrons, this one did turn around when Sasuke and Nara approached them. He shot up from his chair and made to rush past them, but Nara was quicker, using his Shadow Jutsu to keep the man tethered to the chair.

One of the women – a brunette named Masako if Sasuke recalled correctly – smirked, leaning her chin on her hand. "Man, now that's what I call a handy jutsu."

Her friend, Nanami, chuckled. "Definitely would make it easier to help lighten the pockets, I'd say."

"You bitches betrayed me!" the hooded person growled, the low voice making it clear it was a man.

Masako raised an eyebrow unimpressed. "Betrayed you? That only works if we had a contract, honey, and we never agreed to do shit. Not our fault you took the bait."

Nanami looked at Sasuke. "You still need our help or can you handle this alone?"

"We'll take it over from here," Sasuke said idly, resting a hand on the man's shoulder. He smirked when he felt him tense slightly. "Thanks for your help."

"Karin's helped us out loads before." Masako shrugged and stood up, adjusting her short skirt. "This was nothing, really."

"You can always count on us for help." Nanami winked and hooked her arm around Masako's. "In case you were wondering, he wanted to hire us to abduct the Seventh Hokage for several weeks. Would pay quite a hefty sum for it too, I can imagine why the others agreed. So unless this one got the same idea, I'd say you got your guy now."

Before the women left, Nanami handed something to the bartender, who simply nodded and waved them off.

"Why don't we go outside as well?" Sasuke suggested and hauled the man off his chair, dragging him outside with Nara closely following behind.

"You've kept to the shadows long enough, why don't we get acquainted finally?" Sasuke asked sarcastically and slammed the guy against the wall before Nara roughly tugged his hood down.

The long white hair being revealed had Sasuke dropping him in surprise and Nara quickly bound him with his shadows again, even as he stared just as stumped.

Green eyes stared up at them mockingly. "I don't think we still need to be acquainted or is your memory that bad already?" Mizuki asked tauntingly, even as he laid bound in the mud against the wall.

"Didn't they send you back to prison years ago?" Nara asked, frowning.

Sasuke remembered Mizuki as one of their instructors at the Academy, but he'd fallen in disgrace after he had attempted to steal some secret rolls. He didn't know what he'd been doing in the years afterwards, only that he'd been sent to prison.

"Got out on good behaviour," Mizuki smirked, seeming to enjoy their confusion.

"I guess being utterly unable to use ninjutsu does make you less of a threat, huh," Nara remarked unimpressed.

That comment did seem to hit a sour spot, because irritation briefly flashed up in his eyes, almost gone too quick to be spotted.

"I don't care why you got out, but I do want to know your reasons for sending those people after us," Sasuke said icily and unsheathed his katana.

Mizuki eyed the blade with murky interest. "To get revenge on that stupid brat," he answered clipped.

"Something isn't right," Nara said, eyeing him carefully. "Last time you got out, you tried to kill Naruto, but these women said you wanted them to abduct him. Why not pay them to kill him?"

"Change of heart," Mizuki grinned, stilling when the tip of the katana was pressed into his throat.

"Cut the bullshit," Sasuke said bluntly. "What do you have to gain by abducting Naruto?"

"His misery," Mizuki smirked, not even deterred when the blade cut his skin; a single drop of blood trickling down into the hollow of his throat. "What else?"

"Something isn't adding up here," Nara murmured, changing a glance at Sasuke. "Hinata would have noticed it if he had come into the village and there's no way he was ever around the Hokage Tower. I never sensed him when we discussed the travels and he can't use any ninjutsu anymore to cover himself either."

"Which means he had help from someone in the village," Sasuke surmised.

"You two were always the smartest of the group," Mizuki said mockingly. "Yes, I had some help setting this up. Kind of hard to sneak into the village when you've been branded persona non grata."

"Who's the one helping you?" Sasuke demanded and shifted his katana downwards, pressing it right above Mizuki's heart. "And don't even think about lying to us."

The older man tilted his head to the left. In spite of being outnumbered and having a katana resting against him, he seemed to find some amusement in the situation; an odd smile quirking the corners of his mouth.

"As it turns out, the Will of Fire means shit when love and jealousy come into play," he said cheerfully, which didn't serve as an answer at all.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Sasuke asked, narrowing his eyes. He revealed his Rinnegan and Sharingan and this time at least Mizuki grew slightly apprehensive.

Even though he no longer could perform any ninjutsu, he was more than aware what the Sharingan could do to someone.

"You really don't know," he said and there was still some amusement lingering in his voice. "I shouldn't be surprised considering it took you this long to find me, but I didn't think it was that hard to guess who you got betraying you and that brat."

He choked slightly when a shadow slithered across his throat and tightened around it. "How about you start answering our questions clearly and not in riddles?" Nara suggested and while he sounded calm, his dark eyes were ablaze and he looked one wrong word away from tightening the shadows around Mizuki's neck.

"Testy, testy," Mizuki choked out. "Why don't you come closer and I'll tell you who's pulling the strings here?"

"Could be a trap," Nara warned underneath his breath.

"I'd like to see him try something," Sasuke said grimly and tightened his grip around his katana before he lowered himself, getting closer to Mizuki.

The older man grinned even as more shadows grabbed his throat as a precaution. The rain nearly drowned out his next words, "You're best off asking …"

Sasuke's vision turned red.

Humming filled the hallway, joined by the sound of shoes being kicked off. There was the rustle of a jacket before bare feet padded deeper into the apartment and the light in the living room was flicked on first.

"Oh god, Sasuke-kun, you scared me!" Sakura gasped shocked, jumping when she spotted him on the couch. She removed the tie out of her hair and asked, "What are you doing here? You need medical help?" Worry flashed across her face.

"I have to give it to you," he said monotonously, "I never would have suspected it was you, so well played. Guess I was still naïve after all."

A nervous chuckle escaped her and she slowly lowered her arm. "Sasuke-kun? What are you talking about?"

"What I don't get, though," he continued, "is why you thought your stupid plan would succeed. Did you honestly believe I would give up on Naruto if he disappeared for a while? Did you really think you could just weasel your way into my life and make me fall in love with you if Naruto was gone?"

She stilled and scoffed then. "I don't know what you're talk-" Her nonchalant answer was cut off by a scream when a kunai whipped straight past her, slamming into the wooden frame of the door, leaving a thin reddish line behind on her cheek.

"I know everything," he said coldly and rose up. "As it turns out, you didn't pay Mizuki nearly enough that he would keep your name a secret. Let me ask you something: did you truly believe no harm would come to Naruto?"

Even as she stood there trembling like a leaf, she stuck out her chin stubbornly. "I know he wouldn't be hurt, because that's what Mizuki and I agreed on when I - "

"Yes, funny that, seems like Mizuki had something entirely else in mind," Sasuke said idly and took a step closer. "It also appears that he forgot to tell those criminals every time that I was supposed to be left unharmed. Because that was your plan, right? Get Naruto out of the picture and hope I would give up on him so that you could try to sneak your way into my life. That you are this incredibly stupid is something I don't get, however."

She balled her hands into fists. "If you would just give me a chance," she started, but he cut her off with a cold laugh.

"A chance? I've told you time and time again that I will never love you," he spat and she shrank back, her eyes widening. "I've rejected you over and over again, what will it take for you to finally get it through your thick skull that I will never love you? Naruto's never abandoned me and you think I would forget about him in just a couple of months? Just how delusional are you? You got me and Naruto nearly murdered all because you couldn't give up on your childish crush!"

"It isn't a childish crush!" she snapped back. "I truly do love you and if you would just give us a chance, you'd see that I would be better for you than Naruto - "

Her mouth opened in a silent gasp when he grabbed her by the throat and slammed her into the wall. "You don't get to speak his name ever again after the shit you pulled," he hissed, stamping down on her bare feet when she scrabbled at his wrist. "Naruto considered you to be one of his closest friends and this is how you repay his trust and friendship? By wanting him dead?"

He slammed her against the wall again, making her groan in pain. "I should get rid of you for this, but I don't want Naruto to know how much of a traitor his own friend turned out to be. It would fucking devastate him to know it was you this entire time. How could you do this to him?" he asked in disbelief.

"Sa-Sasuke-kun, please," she choked out. "I'm – I'm sorry."

"Sorry doesn't cut it now," he said icily. "You apologise if you can't meet up with him, you don't apologise for nearly getting me and him killed."

It would be so damn easy to just slit her throat now. Monster strength she might have, but she couldn't use it this close to him and he had always been quicker than her. Just one quick draw and this would end. He had considered her a comrade for years, had even become a bit closer with his thanks to Naruto's interference, but she'd gone too far this time.

This wasn't simply some annoying flirting that could be brushed aside. This wasn't another confession that he had to turn down. Even if she had only intended for Naruto to be kidnapped for a while and not truly harmed, the fact remained that she had given a dangerous criminal access to sensitive information. She had known Mizuki still harboured hatred for Naruto and would do anything to get his revenge. She'd basically handed over Naruto on a silver platter to Mizuki without even the slightest hint of remorse if that meant she could get Sasuke in the end.

He couldn't forgive her. He would never forgive her for this betrayal. This was past crossing some limits.

If it was just up to him he would kill her here and now and not even feel a shred of remorse doing so.

But he couldn't.

Because Naruto would start asking questions, would wonder why one of his closest friends had died, and Sasuke couldn't do that to him. He couldn't let Naruto know how deeply Sakura had betrayed him. That would destroy him and Sasuke wouldn't let Sakura have that kind of power over him. After what she had done, she was nothing to them anymore.

"If it was up to me, I would just kill you now," he said coldly and tears dripped down her face. "I wouldn't even regret it. But I can't do that to Naruto. I can't let him know how much you betrayed him. So this is what you're going to do."

He leant closer and tightened his fingers slowly around her throat, listening to her choking. "You're going to leave Konoha within the hour. You're going to stay as far away from here as possible and you will never show your face here again. If you try to take revenge, I will find you and I will kill you. If I so much as suspect that you're planning something, you won't get a second chance."

He loosened his grip, making her fall down and touch her throat, wincing. "What – how are you going to explain me being gone?" she asked in a small voice, shrinking back when he stared at her with his Rinnegan and Sharingan on full display.

"You're going to leave a letter behind with an excuse. A good one, one that won't make Naruto worry," he said icily. "You get one hour only."

"Thank – thank you for not – for not killing me," she swallowed.

"I'm only doing it for Naruto, not for you," he said scornfully. "You're worth less than the dirt underneath my shoes. One hour. If you're not gone by then, I'll be the one coming up with an excuse."

Leaving that threat hanging in the air, he left the apartment and made his way to the forest first where he used Chidori on several trees and boulders, working out his rage before he would do something that might hurt Naruto.

Sakura was gone thirty minutes later.

"I didn't even know they had let Mizuki out," Naruto said troubled, turning away from the small window.

It looked out into the cell where Mizuki would spend the rest of his life now. The man was staring blankly in front of him; his hands resting idly on his lap.

"I asked Tsunade whether he would have problems with his missing tongue, but she said they could work something out," Naruto went on, a bit disturbed. "I know shinobi have to be prepared to do everything, but cutting out his own tongue?"

"I don't think you could accuse him of being completely sane," Sasuke murmured.

It was very unfortunate that Mizuki had ended up with his tongue cut out before he landed back in prison. Very unfortunate indeed.

"True, I suppose. I'm at least glad that we won't have to look behind our backs any longer," Naruto sighed, nodding at the guard when they left the prison. "I knew he disliked me, but that he hated me so much …"

"It's over now," Sasuke declared and grasped his hand. "We no longer have to worry about organised attacks coming from him."

"That's true and it's a relief," Naruto agreed and rubbed his forehead. "Eugh, I'm not looking forward to that meeting with the hospital board this afternoon. Couldn't Sakura-chan have arranged all this crap before she decided that she needed to 'find herself' or whatever she meant with that? She didn't even give me a date when she will be back!"

"I wouldn't worry about her that much," Sasuke said idly as they made their way back to the office. "She can take care of herself just fine."

"I suppose so," Naruto nodded and then grinned. "What do you think of celebrating tonight? We no longer have to worry about an attack and that calls for a celebration, don't you think?"

"You're the Hokage, there's always a chance of an attack," Sasuke pointed out exasperatedly. "Don't just assume that with Mizuki behind bars, you'll be safe for the rest of your life."

"I know," Naruto said lightly and halted in front of Sasuke, pressing up against him to kiss him. "But I can defend myself just fine. Besides, I've got you, no? I know you'll always have my back."

"Always," Sasuke promised and wrapped his arm around Naruto's waist to kiss him again, uncaring that they were in the middle of the corridor.

No matter what, Sasuke would always be there at Naruto's side. Silent as a shadow, ready to strike when necessary. He would always be there.

Forever and always.

The End

AN2: Some of you already had an inkling as to who it could be :) As for people who might think this is out of character for Sakura: she basically admits to being willing to stalk Sasuke in her novel, so I figured it wouldn't be farfetched if she thought that keeping Naruto out of the picture for a while would give her the chance to get closer to Sasuke. No, I don't take constructive criticism about that.

We've finally reached the ending of the series! When I wrote Hokage's Shadow, I hadn't anticipated that this series would run so long :') Thank you for joining me on this trip! I hope the last part doesn't disappoint you too much ^^;

Please leave your thoughts behind in a review; should you spot any mistakes, please point them out to me.

I hope to see you all back in my future stories! Please stay safe and take care of yourselves!



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