Author's Note: Hello, everyone! I am so sorry about the wait! I absolutely enjoy hearing anything and everything you all have to say, it really makes my day! I'm sorry this update was so slow, I've been really thinking about how to proceed and where I want to go with this story and I think I'm starting to get it onto the correct path. I just need a bit more time and chapters to work out exactly where it is going to go because try as I may to plan it out, as I write it, things change. Anyway, let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Warnings: Language, OOCness, Un-beta'd.
Word Count: 5,282
Sakura Seto awoke, feeling deep in her heart that something was wrong. She struggled, pushing herself to her feet - which at one point in time had been a simple task, now with a larger belly such a thing have become quite the trying endeavor - and moved as quickly as she dare toward home. She wasn't exactly sure what it was, but this overwhelming feeling of fear and alertness just wasn't something that she could ignore.
Sakura had fallen asleep beneath the cherry blossom tree by accident. She hadn't meant to be sleeping out in the cold while pregnant, but after the long trek out there - a lot longer now that she was moving slowly - she had to sit down and rest while she waits for Madara. It had been months since she last saw him, the night that they shared together, and had been dying to see him again. She had done everything she could think of to get ahold of him, but after everything that went down, she was beginning to fear that she wouldn't ever get to see him again.
But faithful as always, this particular cherry blossom tree has become a sort of private place where the two of them would meet. More so, she would go there, and whenever he came to see her, that is usually where he found her. She hoped that by going there all day, every day, she would be able to meet with his quicker, but alas, the war has kept him away from her for the entire time.
Sakura didn't even make it over the large hill that blocked her view of her home village before she knew that something absolutely horrible was happening. She could hear the horrible sound of people screaming and buildings collapsing. Sakura grabbed hold of her stomach, a way to balance herself, before huffing it the rest of the way up the hill to stare down at her home village, eyes wide in absolute terror and horror.
Her village was burning.
Now she had a clear sight of the inferno brightening the sky as smoke billowed upward. It was thick and black and impossible to see the moon through.
Sakura knew it was stupid. The logical choice in this situation should have been to turn and run - or, well waddle in her situation - as fast as she could away from there and investigate when the carnage was finally over. But she couldn't just do that. The only thing running through her mind, at that moment, was that her mother was down there.
The pink haired girl couldn't just sit around and do nothing while her village was burning and her mother could be who-knows-where! She had been taking care of her mother for as long as she can remember. Would her mother even be able to get out? Would she even be able to realize that she was in danger? Sakura didn't know, but she couldn't just leave her mother to such a fate. She had to make sure that she was alright.
So Sakura did the silliest, looniest idea someone in her position could have done and went to the village. And what she saw was traumatizing.
Men, women, children, people of all ages murdered in the streets while their homes, possessions and - in some cases even their own loved ones - all burned around them. Staring into their dead eyes, all wide in horror and fear, all seemed to stare back at her. Piercing her with their gaze. Throwing up was the only thing that Sakura could do in that instant. Her eyes and lungs already hurt because of the smoke, but this? This was like a physical punch in the gut. Like five hundred times.
Sakura had to hunch over as much as she could with a pregnant belly in her way and make her way through the streets, after no longer being able to throw up anymore. It was both a good and a bad thing that these attackers were systematically taking out each section of the village.
Good, because it sounded like most of the carnage was on the other side of the village, and bad, because Sakura's home was probably one of the first to be hit. It was odd, though, when Sakura came across her home, because, unlike the rest of the street, there was someone walking out of it. Definitely not someone she knew, and Sakura had to duck down behind one of the other buildings to hide from the man walking out of it.
At first she was confused. What was he doing in her house? Who was he? He certainly wasn't someone that she knew.
But then she saw it.
In his hand was a sword. She didn't remember much about him, but that sword was engrained into her mind forever. On it's hilt, clear as day, was a symbol. A symbol that Sakura recognized as kanji for eternal flames. And the blade was a intricate crystal like color except for the edge, which was darkened with thick, red blood.
Sakura couldn't breath, and couldn't even move as he headed off down the street, away from her. If he had headed her way, Sakura was certain she would have been dead too. She wouldn't have been able to hide from him. All she could do, all she could think about, was stare at the spot that he once stood in her doorway and feel in her very soul that her mother was gone.
Sakura laid there, in her bed, with Manmaru in her arms as she stares up at the ceiling, five nights after her dream of the fire. He holds Kuro tightly to his chest and buries his nose into Sakura's shoulder as he sleeps. Sakura moves away slightly and turns to him, running her fingers through his hair a bit, being sure not to wake him, though. He was so small and innocent, and Sakura just couldn't believe that this adorable little boy shared half of her genetics.
It was getting easier to be able to see this little boy as her own. No matter how hard she looks, she can't really see a lot of herself in Manmaru, but he did have a lot of her mannerisms. His pouting face was her own and his cute little glare was her own as well. But there wasn't much else.
They had yet another long day behind them. It's been almost a month since Sakura took back her place as Manmaru's mother and has been carefully, and lovingly, teaching him how to survive. She taught him all about Chakra, it's flow and where it comes from. She taught him all of the handsigns, making sure that he practiced every day so that it was ingrained into his memory, like it was for the rest of the Shinobi world. He would need it.
But Sakura wasn't going to sacrifice his childhood for training. They didn't train all day, every day, or anything like that. Sakura spent as much time as she could making sure that he was happy. She would bring him back to Yuzu's house to visit the other children and see how Yuzu was doing - secretly, because she worried about the older woman but won't say that. That would probably get Sakura kicked out.
Always, though, they would return tot he inn at night. Sakura would hold the little boy in her arms while he falls asleep, and stare at the ceiling, trying to figure out what to do next. She has been keeping an ear to the ground, trying to hear any information in regards to the Senju and Uchiha, but they have been very quiet ever since Sakura met up with them in that little cave.
Sakura lets out a long winded sigh. She really didn't know what to do anymore. There was a very vague future in front of her that she's going to be tripping and stumbling toward. In some ways, it's good to have a sort of direction in life. It's good to have a purpose, but she's coming to fret, almost alarmingly so, that she may not be striving toward it. She needs to break away from this and seek the direction herself.
So many things are still shrouded in mystery. A lot having to do with her past and her future. She just hasn't been able to properly put the pieces together quiet yet and she's beginning to fear that the memories, as they come to her, won't be in the correct order, which means she's going to have to work hard to put the timeline in order for herself. If she will even ultimately need it. If Sakura Seto is taking over in the memories department, what will Sakura Haruno be doing?
She can't keep living this way any longer. Not feeling the way she does - as if she's stuck. She has to move forward.
Sakura curls around the little boy as much as she can and closes her eyes, forcing herself to relax and fall asleep, relishing in the warmth of the little body next to her.
Sakura dreams of the her that she's becoming. She is standing under a large cherry blossom tree, looking up at the beautiful flower-like tree. The warm summer air blew on the back of her neck, pulling at her hair and clothes. The wind felt great against the hot sun beating down on her. Sakura smiles brightly up at the tree, just loving the flurry of motion and color.
It was beautiful.
Sakura came out here often to watch the cherry blossom tree blow in the breeze in all of the seasons of the year. She has lived near this tree her entire life and was told once that it was blooming the day she was born and that is what inspired her parents to name her what they did. She didn't used to visit the tree often but since she was no longer able to be with Hashirama and Madara, she found herself there whenever. She's not sure why she always came here, just that she did. She found a sense of peace here.
Her life has slowed down, grown quiet, since Hashirama and Madara left her. She missed them every single day and ached for the moment in which all of them would be reunited once more. She just wanted them to all be together again. She knew that Hashirama and Madara had some business to deal with between themselves, each other, and their clans, but that didn't stop her from missing them.
Sakura runs her fingers through her loose fringe, letting her eyes slip closed for a moment.
Someone wraps their arms around her and Sakura jumps in surprise, turning slightly to see messy black hair resting over her shoulder. She can feel hot breath brushing against her neck.
"Madara," Sakura giggles, resting her hands against the ones wrapped around her waist. "How did you know that I was going to be here?"
"I may not be an expert sensor," Madara says, wrapping his arms around her tighter, "but I am good enough to sense someone who isn't even trying to hide herself. Give me some credit."
Sakura smiles, turning around in the older boy's arms and hugging him tightly. "How are you?" Sakura asks, burying her face in his chest, relishing in the warmth given off by his body heat and dark blue clothing. Madara was always so warm, Sakura just loved it. She always felt so cold. There was always this chill to her skin that felt nice getting rid of whenever Madara was near.
"I'm okay," Madara says, letting out a long winded sigh. "My father has been over-bearing for the last couple of months really pressuring me to stay on the front lines."
Sakura's eyebrows pull together. "To... fight against Hashirama...?"
Madara lifts his head, long, messy black hair falling over his right eye as he stares past her up at the flowing light pink peddles. He doesn't respond right away, dark eyes unreadable. Finally, he says, "Yes. Hashirama is... he is very strong. As a kid I always knew that he was something else, but hearing what he can do on the battlefield, seeing the devastation he can leave behind is..." Madara hesitates a moment, a crease forming between his eyes. "It is unlike anything that I could have imagined."
Sakura's eyebrows pull together. "What does that mean? What is Hashirama able to do?"
"Amazing things," Madara says softly, a touch of pride for his one time best friend slips through, but he ignores it. "Hashirama holds control over woodstyle, something that no one in our clan has ever faced before. Naturally, you would think that wood would be beaten by fire, but his art is so powerful, it'd have to be really hot in order to even slow the branches down. Let alone stop it!"
Sakura's eyes widen in shock. "No way!"
Madara lets out a long winded sigh. "Hashirama, with his infinite kindness, generosity and stupidity. Of course, he would be able to control a prestigious element no one ever knew existed and therefore have no way of fighting against. It's almost some form of poetic justice, I suppose." Madara shakes his head, rolling his eyes. There was a bit of an annoyed curl of his lips. Then he sighs again.
"He's something else," Sakura says, offering Madara a little smile.
Madara lets out a slow, deep breath. "You can say that again."
"I haven't seen him in a while," Sakura says softly, resting her head against Madara's shoulder. "I miss him. I miss the times where the three of us could be together."
"I hate him..." Madara whispers softly.
"Who?" Sakura asks, voice muffled by his shoulder. "Hashirama?"
"No," Madara says softly. "My father. No matter what he does, what he says, it's always so...so wrong. He just doesn't get that Hashirama isn't someone that can easily be defeated. He will sacrifice the clan to stop one man. And I'm not even sure any of us would be able to do it. But that won't stop him from throwing away lives as if they didn't matter."
Sakura blinks slowly, hugging Madara a bit tighter. "Is it really getting that bad?"
"Yes," Madara says after a long pause, sounding pained and defeated. "I don't know how much longer this can go on. I can't watch this anymore."
Sakura doesn't respond right away. She doesn't know what to say. She is detached from the situation because of Hashirama and Madara. They wanted her to have nothing to do with it. They wanted their relationship with her to remain in tact. Sakura was still training and becoming stronger, but no where near strong enough to stand against either of them. But that is not the goal. She was learning for the sake of being with Hashirama and Madara, because they were her friends and that was all that they were able to really bond with.
Now that they are getting older, it's easier to find other things to do, but they don't have as much time to do so. Sakura hasn't spoken to Hashirama in what feels like forever, while she is able to keep in contact with Madara through letters. These times, these moments, where she can actually touch and hold Madara were very precious to her.
"I wish this was all over," Sakura says softly, forcing her thoughts away.
Madara wraps his arms around her tightly, running one of his hands up and down her back before resting his chin on the top of her head. "Me too." His admittance is soft, meant for only her to hear. She was the only one that he would act so vulnerable around. Sakura would never judge him or think of him differently. Still, though, he wasn't a very open person about his emotions. It just wasn't how he was wired.
But that was fine. Sakura didn't want to change him. She loved him for who he was. She didn't want him to change.
Sakura opens her eyes, staring at the ceiling of the inn, feeling Manmaru drool on her forearm from where he was resting his little face. Sakura slowly extracts her arm out from under the little boy and sits up slowly. She moves out of the bed slowly, being sure not to jostle the bed too much and wake the little early bird sooner than he needs to be.
She glances out the window for a moment to see that the sky is starting to lighten up. Sakura lets out a little sigh and walks into the bathroom, closing the door with her foot a bit and turns her gaze toward the mirror. She locks eyes with herself in the mirror. It was her own eyes staring back at her, but burned into her mind's eye was the vision of someone who looked like her - younger with long hair and a simple kimono, but still a version of her - curled up in the arms of none other than Madara Uchiha.
Sakura Seto loved Madara Uchiha.
It was such a strange, yet foreseeable turn of events that left Sakura feeling tired, rather than surprised. The possibility of Manmaru being Madara's was always a possibility. Sakura didn't know any other Uchiha in this time and Sakura didn't think that Sakura was playing around with Madara and another Uchiha around the same time. It was just... odd.
Of course the father of her child would be the one man in this time where she honestly couldn't form a coherent opinion on.
On one hand, Sakura wanted to hate Madara. She wanted to hate him, because it's his fault the Uchiha clan died, Sasuke left, Jiraiya died, the Leaf Village was attacked, Asuma died, Neji died and the countless others that had to die in order for the Fourth Great Ninja War to be fought and won. Many of which she had been buried up to her wrists in blood and guts inside them trying to save their lives, and for what? World peace? His own twisted version of it, at least? She didn't want to believe that there was a honorable reason for so many to die and so much to be destroyed.
But on the other hand, he wanted to stop the fighting. He wanted all of the badness in the world to come to an end. He went about it in a sick and twisted way, but his family, his blood, is cursed. That pretty much everything him and his family did since the beginning, is all because of a curse cast upon them by the Sage of Six Paths, even if the old man didn't originally intend for it to be that way.
Sakura just... didn't know what to think. This Madara, regardless of everything that she has been through with the Madara of her time, there was next to nothing with this man. He hasn't done anything wrong. He hasn't done anything that Sakura can really hold against him. He's a young man born and raised in wartime, and just from the one time that she's spoken to him in person and the few memories that she's gained from Sakura Seto of this time, she can't really say that Madara is a bad man.
She just doesn't know. She can't hold a future that might not happen against Madara. That just wasn't right.
But there was definitely something else about the memory that she couldn't ignore: Madara's anger over the war. She wasn't all that sure what to think, really. He seemed genuinely fed up with the war and was ready to be done with it.
She could believe that. The Madara that she knew wanted to stop all wars permanently too, but there was another source of his anger as well. He seemed to have been really upset with his father too. Seeing every choice that his father made lead to the death of someone. Sakura can't imagine growing up in that kind of environment. She can't imagine looking up to her father and watching him kill people. Sakura knew that it was a reality in the world of Shinobi, but on such a magnitude, to be right there and watch it happen, it's got to be taxing on a child.
Madara hated his father because of it. He hated his father for what he had to do. For what he was doing.
And by some form of strange, twist of fate now Madara was making the same decisions his father was making.
How would Manmaru react?
The thought made her shiver. She shutters as the image of Manmaru's face, twisted into an angry scowl just like his father's, flashes across her mind. She couldn't bare seeing something like that.
Could that be why Manmaru wasn't with Madara now? That would make sense, she supposes. Madara wouldn't want his own son to see what he saw.
Unless he didn't know.
Sakura blinks rapidly, feeling an aching pain in her chest at the thought. Madara didn't know? Is it even possible?
No, no. It's not possible. They have been writing letters to one another. She had to of told him about being pregnant. He had to of been the father, so she would have told him.
When she told him she lost her memory, there looked like there was something that he wanted to say, or perhaps something that he wanted to ask. Could that have been what he wanted to say? Or ask?
Sakura lets out a long winded sigh. She just didn't know.
"Mommy, can I go play in the field?" Manmaru asks, pointing over to the field on the other side of the river. They have been going to all sorts of random places for training and playing since Manmaru came into Sakura's care. It's been two days since Sakura had that memory of Sakura Seto at the cherry blossom tree with Madara and it's been one of the few things Sakura can think about since.
She's pulled from her thoughts, once more, at the sound of Manmaru's voice. She pauses for a second to think about what he said before she takes a moment to scan the immediate area around them, not sensing any danger, before nodding.
He puts his half eaten riceball down and runs across the water, kicking up a bit of water before making it to the other side, shaking his feet out from the freezing cold water. Sakura packs up their lunch and puts it back into the scroll she originally got it from and cleans up around where they ate, listening to Manmaru with one ear while he babbles on and on about one thing or another, using his imagination to get into conflicts with people and fighting them off. Sakura offers a tiny smile at his childish innocence.
That horrible image of the anger on his face was too much for Sakura to bare. Not him. Not little Manmaru. He should never have that horrible look on his face. She knew it wasn't plausible for that look to never cross his face because of the life ahead of him as a shinobi, but she wanted to keep it off of him for as long as humanly possible. No matter what.
Sakura crosses the river too and sits down a few feet away from her son, watching as he plays around in the dirt, pulling up her hood to block her eyes of the bright sunlight. She stretches her legs out in front of her, crossing her ankles and leaning back on her hands, watching the little boy play. She just loved him so much. He was so innocent and little and she loved him.
Sakura may be able to still tell the difference between herself and Sakura Seto, but the love Sakura had for Manmaru was real. She truly felt it. He is a beautiful, perfect little boy. She honestly couldn't have asked for a better little boy. She was so thankful for having him in her life.
She leans her head back, closing her eyes for a moment letting the sun beat down on her, enjoying the heat. It was nice to take a single moment to just relax, letting her muscles relax. She wished that she could just lay back, enjoy the sun and even sleep for a while, but knew that she couldn't. She could hear Manmaru talking and giggling still and it was one of the many reminders she had going on that kept her focused on the mere fact that she couldn't do any of those. She had to look out for Manmaru. She was his first and last line of defense, especially if she's wrong about Madara knowing about their son.
But she didn't know and as fun as it was having that continuously nag at the back of her mind, she really didn't.
"Gotcha!" Manmaru calls out, leaping onto Sakura's chest, pushing her down onto her back while knocking the air out of her.
She groans loudly, letting out a little wheeze before saying, dryly, "I suppose I deserved that." She should have been paying more attention. Since it's really been warming up for the past few weeks, the snow has been melting and the world is starting to really heat up around them.
Manmaru giggles sweetly, burying his face into her chest and hugging her tightly. "I gotcha didn't I, Mommy?"
Sakura runs her fingers through his smooth, pitch black hair. "You did, Manmaru. Mommy wasn't paying very good attention, was she?"
Manmaru lifts his head from her chest to look at her with the most beautiful bottomless black eyes surrounded by mile long lashes. There cute, tiny crinkles around his eyes from his adorable smile. "Mm-hm!"
Sakura places her hands on his cheeks before pushing them together, making his lips purse outward. Sakura laughs at the fish face before letting the little boy go. Sakura didn't know for certain if Manmaru was Madara Uchiha's son or not - and without having a detailed recollection of the fourteen year old's sexcapades, she wouldn't be able to say for certain one way or the other - but so far she hasn't seen anything in Seto's memories or in her own gut feelings that would say otherwise. Or, at least, offer up another possibility onto the table.
Sakura feels someone coming almost too late. She jumps to her feet and pushes Manmaru behind her, feeling bad when he lets out a little cry of surprise and pain when he landed on his knee.
"Stay behind me," Sakura orders, widening her stance to hide the little boy completely behind her and her cloak.
A moment later, she feels Manmaru press against her, obeying her order. Sakura's eyes scan the open field around them with narrow green eyes spotting two separate groups approaching. One form Sakura's left and the other from almost directly in front of her. Sakura's heart jumps up into her chest as Mandara and Hashirama lead the two groups - on of Senju and one of Uchiha - with their brothers and four Uchiha for Madara and two Senju for Hashirama.
"Skipper!" Hashirama says, brown eyes wide as the Senju approach from head on. He deviates slightly so that he stops a few feet away from Sakura. She slowly relaxes her posture but makes sure to keep Manmaru behind her, heart pounding loudly in her ear.
"Sakura," Madara says once he gets close, casting a slow glance Hashirama's way before returning his gaze to her. "What are you doing here?"
"I was wondering the same thing," Sakura says, looking between the two clan leaders with narrowed eyes. "What's going on here? Is there going to be some sort of fight? Let me know so I can get the hell out of here," Sakura says, glancing between the two.
"No," Hashirama says, shaking his head almost immediately after she asked about a possible fight. "No, Skipper, we aren't here to fight. In fact, we are here to talk about our future."
Sakura's eyebrow quirks upward. "The future for the two of you?" Trying to calm her heavily beating heart she says, slowly, "Big marital plans in your future?" She jokes poorly.
Hashirama and Madara stare at her without understanding. Kind of like the rest of their party, except for, surprisingly, the Sasuke-look-alike Izuna. He snorts, hand flying to his face as his eyes widen. Sakura is pleasantly surprised to see a face so similar to Sasuke's filled with such mirth.
He clears his throat, embarrassed, when everyone else turned to look at him.
"Sorry," he says, rubbing the back of his head before rolling his shoulders back.
"I don't get it," Hashirama says, tilting his head to the side.
"She is suggesting that the two of you will go frolicking through the plains gayly together in holy matrimony," Tobirama says blandly and Sakura felt a shiver of laughter tug at her throat, but she managed to keep it under control. But the big smile on her face was difficult to fight against.
Hashirama gives Sakura the biggest pout ever. "Ahh, Skipper! Why do you have to go saying something like that?"
Madara frowns deeply, putting his hand on his forehead and turning away slightly. He lets out a long winded sigh, as if not knowing what to say, but he did cast a little glare her way. Sakura closes her eyes for a moment, unable to believe she had just said that, yet somehow felt that somehow Sakura Seto had something to do with it. It could be either her sense of humor, or her sense of friendship with the men that compelled her to tease them - but she's not sure.
Sakura forgot. She couldn't believe it. In the short time she had been bull shitting with them, she had completely forgot. But it all came back when a soft, little voice behind her called out to her.
"Mommy? Are they your friends?"
All the men froze. Hashirama's eyes blown wide while Madara's head snaps upward, single visible black eye also wide, all staring at Sakura seeing as she was the only one there who could be a mommy.
Sakura looks down as Manmaru steps to her side, staring right up at Madara. Two sets of pure black eyes lock on to one another and by the look on Madara's face. The way his eye widened even more, his jaw dropped and this horrible look pulled his eyebrows close together, Sakura knew in that moment without a shadow of a doubt that Madara had absolutely no idea about the cute little Uchiha boy Manmaru Seto.