Author's Note: Alright, hello to whoever is still out there! I am so sorry about the long wait! I just got a second job and it's getting so much harder for me to write. I have some strong feelings about this chapter. A lot of you have been asking for a chapter form Tobirama's POV and I tried really hard, but I couldn't write it all from him. I was able to do a little blip, though. I've come to learn that I am not good at writing from his mind. :'D So forgive the cringe. And apparently, I suck a romance or building romance, sooo. Anyway, thank you for all of your support thus far through my great leaps of absence and the small bout of almost plagerism that I faced even though I am vastly undeserving of it! Let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Warnings: Language, un-beta'd, poor stab at light humor, OOCness.
Word Count: 5,473
Sakura opens her eyes to stare at the ceiling in her dark room. That dream, it had to of been a memory of right after the war was over. That would have been the only time Sasuke and Naruto would have been in the same room without trying to kill each other as teenagers. And now that Sakura is focusing on it, she can see an image of Naruto and Sasuke running toward one another with supercharged Rasengan and Chidori in their hands. Then when they clash together, the torrent of power that swirled like a whirlpool in the air around them as their jutsu collided with one another. Their rippling power rolling off of them in waves before there is a bright flash of light and an explosion.
Sakura's next memory of them in the hospital is fuzzy as it mixes with the memory of her knelt between their broken, bleeding bodies, using her healing ninjutsu to try and keep them alive.
Blinking a few times, she sits up slowly, rubbing her forehead. She's happy that her memories are coming back to her, but she wished that it would all just come back at once so she wouldn't so confused anymore. This slow and steady return of memories has been nice and all, but she would rather all of them come rushing back so fast it's like an epic punch in the face. May it hurt like hell, but clear everything up.
Sakura pushes to her feet and walks through her house, slipping her shoes on and heading outside. The cold air hits her burning flesh, drawing a sigh of relief from her lips as she seals her house back up before going on a walk. It's still dark out, but morning is drawing near.
It's freezing so early in the morning, all the hair on Sakura's arms and legs stand on end as the chill bites at any flesh exposed to it. She has to go, she has to walk to clear her mind. She heads into the forest, not toward her people parked a few yards, but somewhere else. Somewhere she hasn't visited since coming to this time but it still holds a precious place in her heart. Training ground seven. Just like her team name. When she stops in the open field, spotting the large lake on the other side of the field she is brought back in time to the first time she was here.
She remembers the first time she came here, bright and early before the sun even rose over the horizon. She was warned, with Sasuke and Naruto, not to eat breakfast beforehand by their sadist of a sensei for they would simply throw it up. She obeyed, easily intimidated at that time. She was so nervous, she couldn't even bring herself to have dinner the day before. She really paid for that.
But that was their beginning. All four of them. Their lives all really started that day. Not only did they officially become a team, but they linked themselves to one another permanently forever. Even if they hadn't realized it at the time, Sakura sees it clear as day now. The bond that formed between them that day is unbreakable. Regardless of how they feel about one another today; love, hate or other, they are inseparable. The connection they all share will stay with them forever and always. Whether they want it to or not.
But this place holds so many memories. Some painful, some exciting, some happy. But Sakura accepts them all. This place helped forge her into the person that she is today, and for the most part, she is proud of the person she has become. She can be happy with who she is, and especially with how far she has come in her life from the little girl gullible enough to not eat anything for breakfast or dinner leading up to a very important milestone in her life simply because a man she didn't know told her not to - well, the breakfast, not eating dinner was her own fault.
This place, even though it really isn't the one that she held these memories in, or would ever be the place, makes her happy to stand here. It gives her this sense of relief and even releases from this life. Even if, for just a single moment, she can be lost in those times. They weren't all extraordinary or life-changing in some way, most were simply monotonous, but she associates this place with joy. And with how things have been going, she needs a little bit of joy. Joy untainted by anything else.
Sakura can't even associate this place with sadness at the loss of Sasuke. This place, even though it holds a strong presence of Sasuke in her memory, it doesn't make her sad in the slightest. To her, this place is like the center of a hurricane. Everything around it is twisting and twirling, spiraling down into absolute madness, yet somehow this place remains untouched. It's still pure in the emotion that it illicit when Sakura is here. She can be both everything, and nothing, here. It's just a place to a lot of people, only of her time, really, it's just a patch of land here in this time, but to her, it's something more. A lot more.
Still, regardless of how frail a grip on her control that she has, standing her in the training ground of choice for her team brings her peace. It gives her a semblance of calm in the maelstrom ripping apart her life.
He wasn't following her. It was purely coincidence that he found her in his patrol. His brother would jest with him, poke fun where it was clearly not needed or asked for, but it was just an accident that he sensed her here on his way back to get a few hours of sleep before getting ready for his day. Hashirama, ever the worry wort, reminds him constantly that he's going to burn himself out at this rate but his protective instincts are on overdrive. It's hard enough that his family is boxed in by families of his own time, people loyal solely to themselves but this is different.
Thousands of people - and that number is still incomprehensible to him - are all allied together under a single banner. They are loyal to each other and an ideology and that has worn Tobirama's nerves blunt and bloodied. He isn't used to that. No one of their time is, and it really throws him for a loop. Everything that his brother dreamed of is existing right at this moment just outside of the village that they are trying to build. It was far-fetched to dream of in the very beginning. But it is so much more than that. It's happening right now, right at this moment.
And it's unbelievable.
He knew when the end of the war was in sight that this transition would be hard on all involved. It would be insanity otherwise. There are ups and downs to any and all changes. In the act of bringing so many people together in some ways strips them all of their independence. It stops being about the clans. It becomes about everyone - about the collective.
He knew this transition wasn't going to be easy. When the end of the war with the Uchiha and their allies was in sight, he knew this to be a definite. No revolution is worth doing without its ups and downs. If the system worked as smoothly as people wanted it to, there wouldn't have been a need for change in the first place. It has to change - in many ways, some acceptable and some that test the boundaries of society and the strength it holds - for better or worse. This was about building a future for their children that they were never given. Living in the clans was familiar, but this is a true community. This is a mosh posh of people who would never have agreed to this had they not believed that it would work.
At least, Tobirama wishes that so.
But even so, knowing that this is the most trying times for all of them, including himself, he is going to do everything he can to help make it work. He may not completely trust all of their allies - and he's not certain that he ever will - but he won't make this strange situation needlessly difficult for any of them. In order to help him relax, he patrols.
He walks around the premises, sometimes around the perimeter of his house, sometimes the Senju compound, sometimes the village, and sometimes he goes out as far as he dares from the village before returning. It's not a lot and he knows it's a bit crazy, but it makes him feel better knowing that the general vicinity is safe for the time being. It's insane, he knows. He just can't fight the mindset ingrained into him from years of wartime.
With all of his happy attitude and joyous smiles, Tobirama isn't naïve to the night Hashirama sits awake, pacing back and forth or reading, or going on walks himself. But he pretends to ignore the nights his eldest brother wakes up screaming. He pretends to ignore the haunted look in his big brother's eyes after the demons they are all running from finally catch up to him. But he hides it well - better than most others. In fact, better than any other than others Tobirama has come across. In all of his greatness, even Hashirama isn't immune to the horrors of war. They haunt him just as easily as any other mere mortal.
Tobirama doesn't sleep. Not much. Sometimes he can get a few hours of restful sleep, but it's never as much as he needs. He's simply trained his body to be able to live off of it. He knows it's not right and he's running himself ragged, but sleep isn't something that comes to him easily, or for long. Even now, surrounded by so many allies, he awakens in a cold sweat, not from any sort of night, but from a brief dream he doesn't remember and his senses stretched out as far as he can, able to focus in and locate every person within his sensing rage with near pinpoint accuracy.
It's so precise, his head is hurting.
This wasn't one of those nights, thankfully. He just couldn't sleep tonight. Not that that is anything new. He's not worried though, but he does patrol. It makes him feel better and that's how he found her. He wasn't stalking her or sensing for her. He just found her by coincidence.
She stares out over this open field with happiness sparkling in her eyes. She must see something in this place that he doesn't. When her green eyes turn to him, her expression softens.
"Hey, what are you doing here?"
"Patrolling," Tobirama says, stepping up next to her. He looks around at the field again, wondering if he would be able to see what she does. He doesn't. "Can't sleep?"
The corner of her lips quirks up a bit with a thin layer of mirth. "Something like that. I just wish all my memories would come back. All in one swift punch in the face is fine, so long as I'm not living in this sense of oblivion for a moment longer."
"Can't you just ask someone about what all happened?" He asks.
She sighs, rubbing at the back of her neck. "I probably could, but everyone is so busy and my memory loss, compared to others, is nothing. I'm only missing pieces of the last few months in my time. Some are missing more than a year, some even two years. And it is coming back. So, I just... need to be patient." She runs her hand through her short pink hair.
Tobirama doesn't know what to say to that. He doesn't have anything wrong with his memory, in fact, its a lot better than most. He can only imagine what it feels like to be missing a chunk of your life. He wished it hadn't been like that for her, but he has no power over it. He knows she can figure it all out. She can make it through this, she's too strong not to.
And should she need it - although he doubts that she would - he'll offer whatever help he can.
"So..." Sakura says slowly, pulling Tobirama from his thoughts. "Tomorrow is the day, right? We get to learn your decision."
Tobirama nods. "Yes, we've decided to cast our vote within the next few hours. Once the decision has been made, we will call in your Hokage to tell him of our creed."
Sakura interlaces her fingers in front of herself. Her smile is tight. "Can't wait." A moment of silence, then, "Thank you, Tobirama-sama. Despite how the vote comes out, thank you for taking a chance on us for as long as you have. I know it couldn't have been easy for you." She has no idea. "But I appreciate all the time you've offered us." She turns pretty green eyes to him. "Thanks again."
"I wish it didn't have to be like this," Tobirama says before he can stop himself or analyze his words before he says them. "I know what is can't be undone, but it doesn't make this any easier."
Her eyes widen in worry. "What? What do you mean?" Her hands curl up into fists, shaking in fear.
"It's nothing bad," Tobirama says, "I don't know the votes of the others, yet. This entire situation is just... unorthodox." And he wished it hadn't come to this for a lot of different reasons, most of which he doesn't want to think about, but the way his brain works makes that impossible. It doesn't matter if he wanted to think about it or not, he will, because that's just how he's wired.
Sakura looks down at the grass with bright green eyes, her breath coming out in clouds of fog around her mouth as the temperature is frigidly cold before the sun comes up. The days prove to be warmer, but the night still brings the chill. There are still people without homes to call their own, as the village is growing faster than it is able to sustain. Thankfully, they aren't too far behind, but without constant vigilance and care, they could and the cold will take many if they aren't careful. Hashirama fears that waiting any longer to tell Sakura's people their decision may prove to be fatal for many of their old, young or sick. Winter is fast approaching, and while it's uncommon for the Land of Fire to get a lot of snow and for long, this winter is going to be a cold one.
"I understand," Sakura says, and Tobirama doesn't doubt it. Sakura's level of insightfulness isn't lost on him.
Tobirama sighs, running a cold hand through his hair before stuffing it into his sleeves, looking away from the small pink haired girl next to him. He is very aware of her. Of when she shifts next to him. The way the waning moonlight turns her naturally light pink hair near pastel colored. How despite her short stature and relatively skinny frame, her arms and legs are lined with lithe muscles and there is a monstrous strength there. Her hair isn't done up in extravagant hairstyles as the woman of their time are prone to. Even a good number of the woman of her time appear to take a great deal of pride making sure their hair is done up nicely, Sakura's hair is brushed and down. That's it. Her outer beauty is apparent, but her inner beauty is far more attractive than fair skin, pretty features and nice hair could ever be. "This makes it so much harder..."
Sakura looks sympathetic, staring at the side of his face in understanding. She may not be the same way he is in his mistrustfulness, but she knows him enough to be able to understand that this is one of the hardest things for him to do. Letting people in has always been a death sentence. The more other's know, the more dangerous it is. For him. His family. His way of life. He's not flexible enough to be able to accept people at face value. There is a healthy degree of caution, he knows, but he's not able to be that. He just doesn't trust people. It's hard for him.
"Us being here?" Sakura asks, sympathetically.
Tobirama shakes his head. "Not in specific. Not really. There is just a lot to think about."
"I know this is a lot," Sakura says. She looks down at her feet, shuffling back and forth a bit. A particularly cold breeze blows through them, pulling at their hair and clothes. "I'm sorry we have to do this to you, but it does mean a lot that you guys at least thought about it and didn't just toss us to the wind." She wraps her arms around herself to help keep the cold out. Tobirama smoothly removes his heavy haori and places it over Sakura's shoulders. She flushes - or perhaps it's the cold getting to her - and smiles her thanks.
If this situation, these people from an alternate future coming to them, telling them the story they did, Tobirama knows that his approach would be very different than it is. But so many variables come into play. They aren't all strangers. He knows one of them. He knows Sakura. And it's selfish of him to use his connection to her to alter his choice. He has to be impartial. He has to see everything without blinders. But he can't. She makes it hard to do that. And as much as he wants to blame her for it, he can't.
He's falling in love with her and she isn't. That's his fault, not hers.
To her, he is a version of one of the men that ruled her village, probably living long before her. He's competing with the image of himself that she's had ingrained into her all of her life. That's just terrible circumstances. Yes, Tobirama knew what his vote was going to be tomorrow, but it didn't make this any easier. Not in the slightest.
Sakura lets out a loud huff, pumping her fist a bit as if to psyche herself up a bit before turning to Tobirama with green eyes burning like fire. "We'll be okay. All of us. No matter what tomorrow brings. We've got this." Her smile is strong as if she's drawing strength from this place. "I should let you go. You must be tired. No matter what the ultimate decision is, tomorrow is going to be a long day for all of us."
Tobirama nods. "Yes, rest well, Sakura."
"Yes, you too, Tobirama-sama." She blinks slowly, turning to gaze longingly at the field before her one last time before nodding at him once. She moves to pull off his haori branded with the Senju clan crest on the back to give it back, but Tobirama shakes his head, stepping back, still relatively warm in his thick kosode
"Keep it," he says. "Until tomorrow." He turns and leaves, hearing her soft goodbye be picked up by the wind and taken away.
Sakura makes it back home not long after her separation from Tobirama, being careful to hang his haori up so it doesn't wrinkle for when she returns it to him. She was thankful for it. The kind gesture was enough to warm her body more than the fabric ever could. It was obviously made for him, being a mixture of white, black, and red, and being huge on her.
The gesture was sweet. So sweet and unexpected. He really is different than what she imagined he would have been like. Not that she ever really thought about him in school when she was learning about the Tobirama Senju of her time, but he was definitely more than she could have hoped for. As a shinobi. As a man. He was definitely someone she deeply admired and hoped to grow even closer to as the days go on.
If they are able to stay together. No doubt moving to find a new home will only create a huge fissure between them that may never truly close. Not that it's anyone's fault. Time and distance just do that.
Her mind travels back to when Salma and she were talking about Salma's love and the older girl had asked Sakura if there was anyone that she loved. A part of Sakura had thought about Sasuke, remembering her love for him since childhood but also seeing him for the person he became. What circumstance and life made him into. Sakura couldn't blame Sasuke for not loving her, that was just the way of life. She would rather her heart be shattered to a million pieced by the boy she loved admitting the truth of his emotions for her - or lack thereof - then live the life of a lie.
It's painful, it hurts, but maybe the Sakura of years ago without self-esteem or self-worth would have accepted placation, but she won't now. If Sasuke didn't love her, she would have to finally stop chasing him and look elsewhere. Especially inward. She had to love herself before she could expect anyone else to love her the way she knows she deserved.
But that day, there was another that she thought of. The very same enchanting man she met with again tonight.
Flushing deeply, Sakura spares a peek through the darkness at the haori hanging up by her door staring into her room. It's like a silent guardian looking after her, somehow. It was his, yet it was here, in her room with her. A piece of him. No matter how minute.
She crawls back into bed, her face set aflame and wrapping herself up in blankets, feeling terrible that she's able to sleep in a warm home while a lot of her people aren't. If they are able to stay, she's going to donate this house to the sick and injured, get as many of them out of the cold. She's so surprised that she hadn't thought of it until now. How very selfish of her.
Oh, well, she knows why. The sick and injured need constant care and that would bring more and more people into the village and it would quickly become overwhelming for the people of this time. Still, Sakura doesn't feel any less of a dirtbag even knowing that. There has to be something that they can do. If the vote tomorrow comes out that they will simply ally with her people, Sakura has no idea where they will go.
She knows that Tsunade and Kakashi have been hunched over a map of the lands, discussing where to go should they need to. They have also been sending out able-bodied shinobi to nearby towns, and very few into Konoha, to purchase anything and everything that they could need in the case of either mass assimilation or a mass exodus from Konoha and its lands. No one is sure of how this is going to turn out and everyone is getting very anxious.
She can only pray that they all make it through this. She's confident they can. She's just not sure how much of them will remain on the other side when they do. How much of themselves will they have to sacrifice in order to achieve the peace they thought they got when all the Shinobi Villages allied with one another. It wasn't enough to save them from the terrible fate of losing so many as well as their village. What more are they going to have to lose before this is over? Will there even be any piece of them left to come out on the other side?
Only time will tell.
For now, she'll get a few hours more of rest before she has to get up and prepare for the big day that is to come.
Thankfully, falling back to sleep was easier than she anticipated, although this time there was no dreams or memories. Just simple, blissful, blackness.
As expected, the next few hours after waking up and really starting her day were some of the hardest in her life. To walk around the medical camp like it was any other day before it trying not to pay attention to the time as the sun rose higher and higher into the afternoon. Somehow, the Founders got into a debate - they had to of, this vote was taking forever - before they finally sent word for Kakashi and Tsunade to tell them of their decision. Neither of them appeared anxious or to feel the apprehension in the air, which Sakura has to give prompts to considering she's a shaking mess.
When they didn't come back after the first ten minutes, Sakura had to stop herself from getting her hopes up. How long was "I'm sorry, we can be allies, but you can't live with us" supposed to take longer than that? But then she had to wonder if the Founders were being nice and offering to help map out a place for them to go or perhaps working out the details of an alliance.
The possibilities are endless and if Sakura was able to just sit for a second and really think about it, she would drive herself mad with wonder and worry. She's not sure anything short of physical restraint would stop her from marching into the village to the meeting room, and demand to just know what the hell they decided on in regards to the future of her and her people. She knows that she will always be a welcomed guest of Konoha, both the Uchiha and the Senju clan leaders said so themselves, so it's a safe bet to be true, but she doesn't want to be a guest. Or a visitor. Or an ally.
She wants to live in Konoha! It's her home. And this waiting is driving her insane! Why isn't someone saying anything?
"What?" Sakura snaps, spinning on the person who spoke to her. The bowl in her hand snapped in half by the sheer force of her strength.
Ino stares back at her, single revealed blue eye wide. "Oh shoot. Sorry, girl. Didn't know you were in the middle of a mental freak out."
Sakura looks down at the obliterated pieces of the bowl. Thankfully it was empty. "Shit." She sighs. "Sorry, Ino. I've just been worried about the decision. I just need to know one way or another what's going on. This is driving me crazy."
Ino's smile is playful as she helps Sakura pick up the pieces of the bowl from the ground of the tent their in. "I know what you mean. The wait is the worse part. We have no idea what's going on in there." They bag up the bowl and stuff it into the garbage. "I would give anything to just poke my head in and ask what the decision was."
Sakura laughs, feeling good about smiling. "Yes! Something! Anything would be better than not knowing!"
Ino dusts off her hands and knees. "Well, I spoke with Shikamaru, he says that the chances are pretty good that we were accepted and will be staying in Konoha."
Shikamaru's such a smart guy, hearing that really gives Sakura hope. She just hopes it doesn't prove to be bitter. "Oh yeah? What does he think they are talking about in there?"
Ino grins. "Village expansion. We have a lot more people than they do. They are probably discussing preliminary ruling structures too. See as we are more established than they are. They are still a bunch of clans, loyal to their clan leaders, who have agreed to serve the Uchiha and Senju clans until they can all decide on a village leader. Probably going to be a temporary arrangement until we can decide on how to move forward. For now, as Hokage, Kakashi-sama can agree to it on our behalf, but when it comes to a full-on agreement that directly affects the clans, then the Clan Leaders will be brought in to agree on our clan's behalves." A pause, then, "At least, that's what Shikamaru theorizes."
Sakura nods. That makes sense. Not that the clans of her time can really turn down much, seeing all of them have grown accustomed to the community a village provides, that none of them can live alone now so just short of absolute servitude, Sakura's not sure there is really anything that is going to dissuade them from joining. Besides, Konoha is still Konoha. With all of them working together, Sakura believes that they could all make it better than before. Konoha now could learn from the future, alternate timeline Konoha. Not make the same mistakes that they did.
Sakura peeks out the tent flap to see people rushing by, and her heart jumps. Before she can take a step toward the flap, Choji sticks his head in, looking between the two girls. "Sakura, Ino, come on. Kakashi-sama has returned with Lady Tsunade."
Sakura and Ino share the briefest of looks before rushing out of the tent toward the gathering crowd of people, pushing their way through to the front. Sakura feels Ino interlock her arm through Sakura's to keep them together. It brings Sakura back to her childhood when they would do this, except it was Ino who was dragging Sakura along, not the other way around. Oh, how things have changed.
Once they get to as close to the front as they are going to get, Sakura can see Kakashi over Hinata's head and past Ginta's shoulder. He's looking around at everyone, waiting for as many people that can gather do so before he speaks. Tsunade is standing beside him, Sakura can only see the top of her head and that's it. She bets her Master's arms are crossed over her chest.
After a few painful minutes of bated silence, Kakashi finally says, "Well, as most of you know, we've been in talks with the Founders of Konoha about our future. There was a debate on whether or not we would be allying with them and moving to find ourselves a new home or if we would assimilate with them and together create Konoha in the mixed images of both what we know, and what they were trying to build. They have come to a decision. Finally." And then he stops. He stops speaking completely. No one says a word for almost an entire minute, waiting for him to continue, but he doesn't. He just stares around at everyone. All they all stare back at him with growing anxiety and irritation.
Why did he stop? This was the most important decision they've faced since being forced to flee from their home.
Tsunade tsks, raming her elbow into Kakashi's ribs, making him crumble over in pain he so rightfully deserved. He heaves in agony for a moment before straightening up with tears in his dark eyes and says, "Start packing up everything, everyone. I'm going to need the civilians and the injured shinobi who can still move about begin packing everything up for transportation while all able-bodied shinobi come with me to the opposite side of the village where we will begin clearing the way for our new homes."
There was immediate, disbelieving silence then a deep, collective sigh of relief, and finally cheers and sobs of joy intermixed by all who were present. They were finally going home. Back to Konoha.