Author's Note: Sorry for the slow update! I can't believe have over 800 reviews for this story! I am so honored! Thank you all! I would to hear what you guys think! Enjoy!
Dedicated to: PeopleOrderOurPatties: Your PM to me was super cute and thoroughly enjoyed! And you sent it on my birthday, which was a plus! Thank you!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Warnings: Nothing much, maybe language and OOCness.
Word Count: 5,180
Sakura twists around toward the door, heart pounding her chest. But there was nothing there, no one. She could hear someone talking on the other side of the door, and it sounded like a woman. The voice... it hadn't been in her head but just outside the door. Still, her entire face drained of color. Sakura didn't know who she expected would be there, but no one wasn't it.
Her mind was able to rationalize the woman out there being the one talking, rather than the one in her own head, but there was still a lingering feeling that she couldn't get over. Her skin was crawling, heart pounding, and it felt like her brain was going haywire.
"Sakura-chan?" Hashirama asks, tilting his head to the side. "Are you okay?"
Sakura looks over at them, seeing the shadows of Ashura and Indra no longer behind Hashirama and Madara, before relaxing a bit and nodding her head. "Um, yeah," she says breathlessly, running her hands up and down her arms trying to settle her frayed nerves. "Sorry, I just scared myself is all," she says, attempting to ease their confused and slightly alarmed looks by her actions.
Tobirama's eyebrow quirks up at that. "Um, are you alright?"
"Definitely," Sakura says, rolling her shoulders back and keeping her chin level. "Alright. Now, down to business. Lord Madara," she looks over at the Uchiha patriarch, who nods solemnly for her to continue, "I need you to start getting Lord Izuna out of that room. He's been coupted up in there for too long. He needs fresh air and exercise. Nothing strenuous, just up and walking around. Can you do that? Two or three times a day, take him out for walks."
Madara nods. "Yes, I can do that."
Sakura nods. "Good. Now, is he, um, picky about food at all? Any allergies?"
Madara shakes his head. "He'll eat anything."
Sakura runs her hands up and down her arms, still unable to shake the feeling that wrapped around her earlier. She forces it from her mind for now and focuses on the current issue. "Good. I'll prepare his meals for the next few days until he's of better health. I guarantee it's going to taste like shit, but he'd better eat every bite because it'll make him better."
The corner of Madara's lips curve up a bit, while Tobirama flinches, recalling how good her chakra pills were. Sakura smiles, knowing what that reaction means and not angry about it like she would have been earlier. Tobirama's eyes find hers and smiles faintly, despite obviously being weary about what was going on with Izuna Uchiha. Sakura was too, a little bit, but trusted that whatever would happen, would. She has faith that Madara and Hashirama will be able to take care of whatever it is that Izuna may or may not throw at them.
Sakura just hopes that Shikamaru doesn't murder her before she can do anything helpful. Or potentially very, very harmful. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea from the beginning. There's a reason Sakura has no recollection of the younger brother of Madara Uchiha.
The wound Tobirama inflicted on him must eventually take his life.
Shikamaru woke up for the first time since he almost got Sakura brutally shanked by the three founders, two nights later. He was in bad shape, but was getting better, slowly but surely. His body was weak and he could barely hold up a conversation. Sakura managed to get some water and soup into his system before they lost him again to the night.
It was the next morning that Sakura, Madara and Izuna took a walk to the next village. Izuna had been up and moving since Sakura asked it of Madara to get him moving and it has brought the younger Uchiha brother to life. He isn't strong and he can't walk for long, but insisted on going with her as thanks. It was slow going but Sakura already took care of Shikamaru for the morning, so he should be fine until the afternoon. She already told the brothers that she may have to run home depending on how long it takes them.
They didn't seem to mind, Sakura just thinks Izuna wants to get out of the village. Away from his clan and the Senju. To be honest, this is probably the most time he's spent with Madara in months. Sakura can see how happy he is. Leaning heavily on his elder brother, laughing as Madara recalls things from their childhood from what he sees around him. Sakura remains as quiet as she can to let the brothers have their moment.
To be honest, they probably insisted on going on this long walk with her, because if something happens, Sakura would be able to help them. The only other person that would probably be able to heal any issue, would be Hashirama, and that doesn't seem to be anywhere on Izuna's radar.
But Sakura doesn't want conflict. She wants both brothers to be happy, Madara is practically glowing in happiness when he's with his little brother, so she ignores it along side the younger brother.
Sakura's not sure what Madara believes. She's not sure if he truly doesn't believe that Izuna actually hate the Senju or what, but she's decided that it shouldn't be her problem right now. Right now, whatever anger and rage she suspects is boiling in the younger brother's blood, isn't there now. If Izuna is really cursed, then Madara is his cure.
"Koyo would have liked to see it," Madara says softly, holding tightly to Izuna's left arm to keep the younger brother upright. Izuna hums softly in agreement, closing his light, unseeing eyes.
Sakura couldn't help herself, she had to ask, "Who is Koyo?" A pause, then, she adds, "If I may?"
Madara looks over at Sakura, as if he forgot that she was there, before looking forward down the road. "That's my baby brother. He's gone now."
Sakura's heart sank. "I'm sorry, my lord. I didn't know."
Madara shakes his head. "It's okay. Koyo was only six when he died." Sakura's face contorts into a look of horror at that. Madara smiles without mirth. "It's fine that you didn't know about him. It's the type of thing that happens when you take part in a war stretching almost three hundred years."
"The good die young," Izuna says solemnly, opening his eyes slightly. "Him and Senshou were both too young."
"My other little brother," Madara says simply, probably referring to Senshou. "But they weren't the only babies lost in war. That's why, when Hashirama and I became clan leaders, all the babies were taken from the battlefield."
"Yes," Izuna says slowly and Sakura braces herself for something scathing about the Senju clan or Hashirama, but instead, Izuna continues simply, "that was something I could appreciate about the Senju clan leader. He doesn't kill children and he threatens his clan not to either. That's something we can all agree on. Too many little lives lost."
Sakura's shoulders relax a bit. Looks like she's worried for nothing. No, the curse is real, but maybe having some distance from the village, from his clan and the Senju, is calming his anger and soothing the curse.
"I'm sorry about your brothers, Lord Izuna, Lord Madara," Sakura says softly.
"Thank you," Izuna says just as softy, closing his eyes again. "I can see them sometimes, behind my eyelids."
"Me too," Madara says, sucking in a deep breath before letting it out slowly.
There was a long silence that follows. They slowly walk down the road, listening to their own feet crunch the dirt and leave along the path they walk toward the next village over. Sakura wanted to get a few things. She needed clothes for Shikamaru, he's long since sweated through what he has on, and among other things, she also needed to get some actual dog food for Akamaru. Sakura feels bad for just feeding him scraps.
Kiba is going to roast her alive when he finds out.
They made it to the village and were able to do their shopping. Sakura took her time, knowing that this was when Izuna would be getting the most of his rest. It was obvious he was exhausted but adamantly refused Madara's offer to be carried home. He insisted that all he needed was a break and he would be back to full strength and would be able to make it back to the village, no problem. Both Sakura and Madara knew that was a lie, but neither wanted to argue with the annoyed Uchiha and let him do as he liked.
Sakura checked on Izuna just to be sure that he was doing as well as someone who had practically been bed ridden for the better part of three to four months could be, and he was. Shinobi are strong, especially those from clans. He's resilient and able to build back strength quicker than someone like herself would after such a long reprieve from shinobi duties.
Plus, his good mood and fierce determination is also helping his recovery. Thankfully, it appears that Izuna is not easily dissuaded once he's put his mind to something. Which is great in the recovery process but if his anger against the Senju gets as bad as Sakura fears that it might, then it will become something very, very bad. It may be the thin thread that separates a peaceful resolution and the destruction of the Leaf, it's people and it's ideals.
Sakura worries for the future, but doesn't know how to approach it. Shikamaru is definitely going to kill her when he finds out what she's doing. Sakura just can't turn her back on Izuna and Madara. Not when she saw the way Madara was painfully resigned to losing his only last living brother. The pain and betrayal etched on his face and in his eyes is hard to forget. As much as Izuna has been desperately trying to get better, Madara has been using every avenue he can think of to get his brother better. Finally one was shown to him and he was faced with a horrible dilemma.
Izuna or his dream.
Thankfully Hashirama was the one that made the decision for all of them, being forever the voice of reason.
Sakura wanted to help Izuna, but she didn't want anyone walking into this without knowing what could possibly happen. Everything they all worked so hard to do; the village, the alliances, the friendships, Sakura's future, all of it could be destroyed so easily. She wanted them to know about the curse. Maybe if the First knew about it now, understood it... Madara might somehow be saved. The attack of the Ten Tails and Kaguya could all be avoided.
Sakura knows that she shouldn't be changing anything, especially after what Shikamaru told her. Avoid the Uchiha and Senju clans. But she can't just turn a blind eye to the idea that she might be able to save the lives of some of her friends by doing this.
As much as Sakura wants to go back on her word, lie, about being able to help Izuna, make up any sort of lie or reason as to why she can magically no longer do it and face the consequences for that on her own, she can't. She's not afraid of Madara and Izuna hating her. Well, she is, but it's something that she was willing to live through if it meant that all of her loved ones would be alright. There was just something deep inside of her that wouldn't allow her to take back her words. No matter how much she agonized over it, she couldn't bring herself to muster the courage to just tell them that she's too apprehensions to do the job anymore and accept that they will never be able to forgive her.
But she can't.
She can't turn her back on Izuna and Madara. Not after Madara went out of his way to ask her to help him. That meant that he trusted her. Saw her as someone important. Strong enough to save his little brother, the obviously most important person in his life. That, and Sakura is probably the last acceptable chance that they have. No matter how much pain he's in, Izuna is adamant about not receiving help from Hashirama, which is probably for the better. While Sakura's sure his chakra is potent enough to heal the damage, she worries that it won't be done well.
A crazy twist of fate where the word's most powerful medical shinobi absolutely has barely an idea of what he's doing. Imagine, if he had a full, educated, grasp of everything that he was doing? He would be untouchable.
And that's a scary thought. Hashirama Senju hasn't unlocked his true potential.
They make it back to the village in good time. Sakura bids the brother's farewell and heads to her home, after promising to stop by with dinner later for Izuna loaded with lots of good stuff to make him better. Her cooking is atrocious, she knows - and loathes it - but even Madara has sworn to eat it as well to support Izuna. Sakura just thinks it's an excuse that if it kills one of them, it'll kill the other. She doesn't miss the look of dread on their faces when she brings them food and the way they murmur their goodbyes to one another before eating. Promising to see each other in a better, "safer" place.
Sakura hates Uchiha.
Why does she have the shittiest luck with them? She's going out of her way to help them, damnmit. A little gratitude and masking their dislike and mistrust of her food would be appreciated. Assholes.
Sakura checked on Izuna again to make sure he was gaining weight back - he was - and that he was getting stronger - he was. It was only a matter of time before he would be healthy enough to be able to be worked on. Sakura had a little bit of a fear about healing him, especially with how bad he was, but thankfully there wouldn't be any cutting him open and risking that lack of proper sterilized environment for an operation. It would just put strain on Izuna's body and if it was too weak to take, it would no doubt give out.
Sakura explained to Madara and Izuna that she wouldn't be able to do much with Izuna's eyes unless she got another pair of Uchiha eyes to put into Izuna's eye sockets. They understood. Well, Madara did. Izuna was sort of horrified at the prospect of having another clansmen's eyes in his head. And that they would probably have to be dead in order for him to do it. It didn't settle well with him and ultimately lead to an argument between the brothers.
Madara insisted that it was for the best. Izuna would be able to see again! The person they took from wouldn't be able to use them anymore anyway! The person sure wouldn't be needing them where they were going!
Izuna was aghast by that, and a bit annoyed. He argued that it wasn't just theirs to take. It belonged to someone else. It is one thing to be given the eyes, but to merely take them from the dead just wasn't a road he was willing to travel down. He would rather relearn how to be a shinobi without sight then defile one of their family members like that.
Madara begrudgingly agreed, but still looked like he wanted to talk more about it - see if they can compromise somehow - but Izuna appeared to be done hearing about the subject for now so Madara dejectedly dropped it and finished his dinner. Sakura left not long after that.
Sakura woke up that night to Shikamaru falling back into bed after having gone to the bathroom by himself for the first time since he was brought to the fledgling Konoha. She managed to give him a bit of water and some bread and crackers to put into his belly before letting him go back to sleep with some medicine that he took with an annoyed grunt.
So far Sakura's saving grace has been that Shikamaru has just been unable to stay awake long enough to talk to Sakura about how fucking stupid she's being trying to save someone she knows for certain doesn't live to see the future. Not for this village.
Sakura made sure Shikamaru was comfortable again before getting Akamaru some fresh water and letting him out again before heading into her own room for the first time in days to sleep. She had Akamaru stay with Shikamaru in case something went wrong, and kept her door open so she could hear them. She hasn't gotten a decent night's sleep in days. She had to sleep, better than she has been recently, especially since she is going to have to shift her focus to making sure Izuna and Shikamaru both get better quickly.
Sakura knows that this is probably a bad idea. She should just take Shikamaru and Akamaru and go, but she can't. This is her home. It is her village. Was it selfish of her to be unable to leave it, despite what her friend said? She's afraid of the answer.
Naruto was never one who always leaned toward the side of caution, so there must be a legit reason for them having to avoid the Uchiha and Senju. It has to be something that is so important that he was the one who said it. It was one thing if it was Lady Tsunade or Kakashi-sensei, but this was Naruto. Sakura's known him since she was eight years old. He may have gotten more mature during the war, but she doubted he changed all that much.
And besides, why was he the one giving the orders? Not that she minded him somehow being a higher position than her. She thought one day he would become her Hokage, and would embrace that day with glee, but unless he was promoted from genin to Hokage right after the war ended, Sakura finds it hard to believe that too much time has passed. Sakura didn't feel older, not really. She thought she was still seventeen, but depending on how much she forgot, she could be older than she thinks she is.
And that's a strange feeling. What if more time than she's willing to admit passed? What could have happened to make her forget the war ending? Obviously they won, but how? What happened? Why are they - and they being Shikamaru, Akamaru, Sakura and whomever else is out there somewhere, waiting for Sakura to find them - in the past? What is going on?
Sakura turns toward the window, watching the trees blow in the breeze illuminated by the moon somewhere above the house. Sakura closes her eyes and turns away, getting comfortable and forcing her mind clear. She needs to get Izuna and Shikamaru better, learn about what happened back home and why they are here from Shikamaru, and then go looking for whomever is still out there.
"We need to leave."
Sakura pauses in grounding down the herbs into the mixing bowl to look up at the tired eyes of Shikamaru Nara in the evening of the next day. He was obviously still exhausted from the fever and from being bedridden for days, but he was conscious now and the fever was finally completely gone. Shikamaru lets out a long winded sigh and sits up slowly. Sakura pauses, reaching out toward him to help. Once he's sitting up, bowing over himself a bit, belying how tired he was.
He reaches up and runs his fingers through his brown hair, yanking tiredly at the knots until his fingers can slide through unhindered. Sakura pulls his hair tie off of her wrist and offers it to him. He appears grateful, taking it from her and swiftly tying it back up at the crown of his head before letting his hands drop back onto his lap.
"We need to leave," he says again, looking over at Sakura.
"So you remember that," Sakura says slowly, going back to making his medicine. "You know, in your fevered state, you almost got my ass - and yours - blasted off this planet by our village founders. Oh, and Akamaru, too." The white dog perks up at the sound of his name on the other side of Shikamaru. His tail wags a bit, looking between them, before lowering his head back onto his paws.
Shikamaru sighs. He rolls his shoulders back a bit. He looks over at Sakura and blinks slowly. "Yeah, sorry about that. I remember saying some things. Sorry. I must have been really out of it."
Sakura nods slowly. "Your fever was really high. Don't worry. I was able to give us a believable reason, but now I need the truth. Shikamaru, what happened? Why don't I remember the war ending. Let's start there. What happened at the war? How did we win?"
Shikamaru rubs his forehead, squinting at the grain in the wood flooring in front of him, trying to recall something. "You remember Madara getting his Rinnegan back?"
Vaguely, Sakura did. Flashes of images of the war. Of Madara's head bleeding into a snow white, purple, ringed eyes staring back at her.
"Yeah," Sakura says. "Sort of."
So Shikamaru tells her about the war. About Sasuke coming with the first four Hokage to help assist them in the fight. Madara being betrayed by Black Zetsu. About the Rabbit Goddess Kaguya, Sage of Six Paths. About Asura and Indra. He told her about Team Seven being reuinited and fighting against the Rabbit Goddess and finally beating her and releasing the genjutsu Madara cast upon the world.
Sakura sat in silence, listening to his story. As he talked, Sakura could feel the memories crawling back to the surface. She does remember Sasuke coming back, she remembers the Hokages, she remembers the Rabbit Goddess, crystal clear. Surprisingly - and maybe not so much - she remember the Rabbit Goddess with more clarity than most other things.
Probably because the image of the Rabbit Goddess has been haunting her for a while now. Well, she initially remembered the Rabbit Goddess.
"What happened after the war was over?" Sakura asks. "We all went home, right?"
Shikamaru nods, rubbing his eyes tiredly. "We did. We all finally returned to our villages and forged real peace and alliance treaties with the other Hidden Villages and there was a semblance of peace for a short while." He rubs his forehead again, eyebrows pulling together tightly as if his head was splitting. "And then... and then..."
Sakura's eyes widen in worry. "Oh no. You didn't forget too did you?"
"No," Shikamaru says sourly, glaring at her. "I just..." He rubs his forehead. "Son of a bitch. I... I remember that we were fighting a lot. A new enemy. I remember that we had to come here to the past in order to protect a VIP." His eyebrows pull together tightly. "Damn, why can't I remember...?"
Sakura frowns. "So it's not just me..." She looks at Shikamaru worriedly. "So both of us are having issues with memory... why is that? Could it have been... the fever?"
"I recall some things," Shikamaru says. "I remember that we all came here in order to protect a VIP that would become instrumental in fighting our enemies in the future. I was never told who it was... or if I was... I don't remember - shit."
Sakura raises an eyebrow. "What?"
Shikamaru rubs his forehead for the fifth time in the past ten minutes. "I remember that Lady Tsunade theorieze that the Space-Time ninjutsu that we would use to get here would us here may cause some memory loss."
Sakura groans. "Of course it does." She rolls her eyes. "It would otherwise be very convenient."
Shikamaru glares at her too. "True, but it should only be snippets that are missing. If you can't remember the end of the war and beyond, that means there is definitely something more at wrong. I remember that we were fighting an enemy that we were grossly unprepared for. It was an assault against all of the Hidden Villages in one, precise coordinated strike. We didn't see it coming." Shikamaru rubs his forehead again. "I remember... we were weak, united, and extremely unsuspecting."
Sakura pushes the medicine aside and scoots closer to him. "Who was it, Shikamaru? Who attacked us?" Her jaw clenches, feeling a fire in her belly. So it wasn't on a whim that they were sent back in time. There was someone here that they were trying to protect. She could do that. She could focus her energy on protecting someone. "Who are we suppose to protect?"
Shikamaru groans, pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes. "Shit! Why the hell is this happening? Damn it all, I can't remember." He drops his hands, frustrated.
Sakura forces her curiosity down, reaching out and putting a hand onto his forehead to feel his frustration is warming his body, which is the last thing he needs right now. "It's fine," Sakura says calmly, despite feeling like ripping the world apart for answers. "You need to concentrate on getting better. Once you are, then we can figure out what to do next. Your fever is gone, but you aren't out of the woods yet." She finishes up his medicine and gives it to him to eat.
Shikamaru looks like he wants to keep working out what was going on in that big brain of his, but must have realized that he would be no help to Sakura or their cause if he gets sick again and begrudgingly drinks the concoction, gagging a bit. Sakura glares at him, to which he shrugs and forces down the entire thing before laying down to get some rest.
A loud explosion pulls Sakura from being wrist deep in a fellow Leaf ninja. She looks around to see her home burning around her. People were running and screaming away down the street. She could see other Leaf ninja battling off intruders in the village. She does a quick scan around her to make sure no one was sneaking up on her while she was distracted. Everyone else was otherwise preoccupied. She can see Choji towering over the village, bringing his fists down on the buildings and feel the ground rumble beneath her legs.
Sakura looks down at the shinobi beneath her and realizes it's Kotetsu. His face is contorted in pain, a slice nearly splitting his chest in half was bleeding profusely. But his breathing is even and calm, keeping his heart rate down. It's what has kept him alive long enough for her to get to him. Had he began to panic, he'd of been dead.
Izumo is nearby, protecting Sakura and Kotetsu while she worked. She couldn't focus on anything else right now, Kotetsu needed her. She returned her attention to the older man and quickly finished healing his wound. Much to her relief, he would be fine. But he couldn't fight anymore for a while.
She ordered Izumo to get Kotetsu out of there and moved on. There is another loud explosion that rocks the village and off in the distance Sakura sees ink tigers running down the street plowing down every enemy in their paths. Sai appears next to her, worn and tired but thankfully alive and unharmed aide from some scratches and a bloody temple.
"The Hokage has ordered all remaining ninja to head toward the barricade by the tower," he explains. "Headquarters has been overrun."
"Ino?" Sakura asks impulsively, worried about her long time friend and comrade.
"Fine as far as I know," Sai says, rubbing some of the blood away from his face with a grimace. "She, along with Shikamaru have already pulled back. We have to move too. Everyone has to get back there. All the remaining civilians have been accounted for. Let's go, Sakura."
"Not 'Ugly'?" Sakura asks with dry humor, despite he desperate situation they are all in and following after her teammate toward the tower.
Sai's smile is wane and forced. "I thought you hated that name."
"I do," she affirms.
"Then why ask?"
"Just... Trying to look for some normalcy in this hell, I suppose," she says, truthfully.
Sai nods, like he could understand that. Sakura was starting to wonder if he could. He has gotten better at interacting with people, especially his team. There was a long road the former ROOT member needed to walk before he was a real sociable member of society but he was getting there.
"What are we going to do at the tower?" Sakura asks. "Does Shikamaru have an idea for a push forward? Some way to throw off the enemy and take back Konoha?" They kill a few enemies and tell the nearby shine I to head to the tower. They agree and speed off in that direction.
Sai shrugs his shoulders, keeping his eyes forward. "I don't know," he sighs, running a hand through his short black hair, looking tired. "I hope they have some sort of plan, though. I don't know how much more the Leaf can take." His words were said simply but left a foreboding feeling in the pit of Sakura's stomach.
"Is it really that bad?" Sakura asks softly, face twisted into a look of worry.
Sai looks over anther with a dark expression. "It's bad." another explosion sends them flying through the air. Sakura hits a nearby building, knocking the wind out of her. She hits the ground just as hard, rolling onto her side, wheezing in pain. She feels someone lean over her and turns to see a sword coming down onto her head.
Sakura jerks awake, heart pounding, eyes wide, flying around the room. The danger in the dream has passed. Her instincts settling a bit. She was safe. But that didn't feel like a dream. It felt like a memory. A memory of Konoha.