Sakura looked over to see Hinata stroking Naruto's hair.
Sakura was only less than surprised. Of course everyone knew Hinata liked Naruto, yet, Sakura did not expect this kind of confidence coming from the timid girl.
Usually being this close to Naruto she would blush and stutter.
She had become more self-confident around him recently but she had not expected her to be so comfortable and close.
She smiled at first but then felt kind of jealous.
Wait? Sakura was jealous that Hinata was so close to Naruto? Where did that come from?
Naruto was like a brother… an annoying one, too. Not someone she had feelings for…right?
Naruto stirred shaking Sakura from her strange train of thought.
He opened his eyes and looked frightened. He closed them muttered 'it wasn't real' to himself and opened his eyes again.
"Hinata?", Naruto said weakly.
"Yes, Naruto-kun?", She responded with confidence.
"Thank you…" he drifted off for a second, "for being here for me when I wake… I'm not lonely" he smiled feebly and closed his eyes again.
Sakura watched this whole thing and once again surprised herself by wishing she was the one Naruto was talking to.
Groaning slightly he sat up looking around.
"What happened to Itachi?" Naruto asked to his surrounding comrades.
Mentally, Naruto felt frantic and crazy. The genjustu really messed with him but Kyuubi lessened the effects.
"We attacked and he ran because he was weakened." Neji said blankly.
"Thanks for saving me… I really thought it was the end when I woke up in that cell. Especially when Yukio fought Kakashi right in front of my cell and I saw Kakashi get…" he trailed off and looked at the ground. "If only I could have done something!" He said in an angered tone. "It's my fault I couldn't save him!" Naruto finished with his fists clenched.
Everyone looked at him sadly, and then Hinata spoke. "Naruto-kun you couldn't have d-done anything and you know it. E-everyone is helpless at some time in their life and you've got to accept you can't s-save everyone." She looked at him with a depth in her eyes.
He looked at her. Everyone else was looking at Naruto waiting for his reaction. Neji was proud of his cousin for finally breaking out of her shell and speaking her mind. Sakura was unsure of how to react to the situation. Tenten was happy for her friend for finally getting some confidence.
Naruto just looked into her silver eyes and blinked in a depressed manner.
"I guess… I know that deep down…" Naruto then lightly smiled, it was a mere shadow of his former foxy grin. He seemed so distant.
"So did you guys defeat that bastard Yukio?" Naruto said with hopeful eyes.
Tenten smiled. "I did, I got him from behind." She chuckled lightly in triumph.
"That's great", Naruto said and stood up slowly. He was in a lot of pain.
Hinata quickly used her arms to support him.
Neji took his chance to talk about the next plan of action. "We killed most of the mercenaries that didn't flee, Yukio is taken care of and Itachi and Kisame fled when we got the upper hand. We have no business left here other than bringing Naruto home and informing Tsunade of our run in." He paused. "First we need to get as far away from this island as we can and hopefully to a hospital or hotel where we can get our injuries treated. Then we will travel back to Kohona in as little time as we are able to. But first, we must find Akemi."
Walking as quickly as they could while injured the team set out to the docks. The way there was followed by the sights of many bloodied and massacred bodies. Hinata gasped at one particularly horrible one and Naruto held her. She was still assisting him with walking and he felt himself blush noticing how close they were.
She blushed too and looked away. Neji eyed Naruto suspiciously; he was protective of his cousin ever since they started to get to know each other.
The team reached the docks and didn't notice any presences. They walk onto the boat that Akemi attended to previously to see two dead people with white senbon needles impaled in their heads.
Suddenly, Akemi walked from behind a barrel.
She sighed in relief, "Good you guys are here. If it took you any longer I was going to have to leave without you." She smiled. "But honestly, what took you? I'm aware of what took place, but after Ayaka was cleared out there you still didn't come." She paused. "I thought you guys had died."
Neji spoke, "If you were aware this was supposed to be a stealth mission, but do to some complications we had a large battle on our hands. Afterward we ran into some company that stopped us from reaching you sooner."
Akemi contemplated this for a second and I decided she wasn't going to further press the issue on why they were late. "I am aware, but to be honest I had a feeling you guys were going to have to fight to be able to leave. I am impressed by how well you guys held up, though. Taking on so many people, I thought I was going to have to step in and blow my cover… But now, I don't believe there is much of a place to stay undercover at… so I believe I'm coming back to Kohona with you guys."
No one knew what to say. Finally Neji spoke, "Thank you for the assistance on this mission, Akemi-san. Are you a ninja of Kohona?"
Akemi laughed lightly, "Yes! I'm a jounin, infact. I was ANBU but I retired and took on this ten year mission."
The team minus Neji looked at her with eyes as wide as dinner plates. "Ten years, here?" Naruto looked shocked.
"Yeah" She said laughing at their demeanor. "That is a conversation for another time, though. Let's get going!" She called out to them.
"I have no crew for this trip…" Akemi said drifting off. She eyed Naruto, Hinata, Neji, Sakura and Tenten. "Could I request all of your assistance?" She asked the team.
They nodded confidently. She smirked; luckily they had never been part of her crew before.
"Someone needs to tend to disposing of those bodies." She looked down, "oh, wait one moment." She put her hand in front of her and the senbon needles in the dead bodies shot toward her and into a container on her back.
Tenten went over to the bodies lifted them up neatly and threw them overboard. She clasped her hands together.
"Taken care of." She said simply.
Akemi continued, "Okay, someone strong needs to hoist the anchor from its resting place; the lever is broken. Someone else make sure to adjust the sails so the wind is blowing in them properly. Someone else needs to be a lookout, and yes, I do know that sounds stupid but we really need someone to…" she drifted off and then continued assigning jobs.
Finally the ship lurched forward and they began on their journey back to the main lands.
After completely most of the assigned jobs, everyone rested quietly. Naruto then became restless.
Akemi was steering the ship silently. A light breeze made her hair dance. Personally, she was bored as well. She was not looking forward to going back to Kohona. She had left to many loose ends untied, which she assumed unraveled and tangled together.
"Naruto have you finished everything?" She said noticing his presence.
"Yes, I have." He responded plainly.
"Okay, good. For now just wait until we get closer to land." Akemi said. "Wait, Naruto?"
"Yes?" He responded once again blankly. He didn't feel like mourning but he didn't feel right being cheerful at the moment.
"Do you know Hatake Kakashi?" She looked over at him.
His eyes widened. He didn't respond.
Akemi continued, "He was an old friend of mine."
Naruto was still silent. Akemi turned to look at him.
"If you don't know him you could just say so." She said with a bit of a rude tone in her voice.
A tear threatened to fall from his eye. Memories flooded through his mind that he had blocked out prior to now. Kakashi was gone. Not like how Sasuke left but could be retrieved. Kakashi was never coming back and thinking about that hurt him more than anything. Being alone he had not lost many people. The Old Man was one of the first deaths he experienced but it still hurt. Now Kakashi was added to his list of departed people that actually cared for him.
Akemi turned around again, finding Naruto sitting on the steps up to the top of the boat tears spilling from his eyes.
She walked over to him slowly and kneeled, "Are you okay?" She asked quietly but alarmed.
"He…" Naruto choked out "He is… dead." Naruto looked down. His tears stopped. He was done crying.
"He was here… on Ayaka. He was kidnapped with me but Yukio killed him."
"Wh-what?" Akemi asked startled. She looked into his poignant eyes.
Akemi immediately stood and walked over to the steering wheel for the ship and continued doing her job. She realized he needed to be with his comrades and she had a job to do. As she heard him leave she noiselessly let spare tears escape her eyes.
Naruto stood up and walked back to the rear of the ship and sat down with Hinata.
He was in no mood for talking or anything of the sort but he needed someone. He looked at her with pleading eyes. She understood and hugged him in a comforting way.
After a few moments everyone from their team was sitting around him. They spoke briefly about the mission. They carefully avoided the topic of Kakashi.
Akemi called out from the front, "Get into position we are going to hit land within the hour."
Arriving on land transpired without problem. They abandoned the ship and began the long journey back to Kohona.