Childhood’s End

Title: Childhood’s End

Author: Lovesrainscent

Rating: T

Pairing: There isn’t one in the usual sense but let’s call in Sasuke/Sakura

Disclaimer: I do not own these Naruto characters and stand to make no profit from posting this story.

Summary: Inspired by Shikamaru’s conversation with Sakura in manga-459. My mind is stuck on that scene. This is just an alternate way I see that scene coming to (what is for me) a logical conclusion.

Childhood’s End

If Kumogakure kills Sasuke you and Ino and Naruto won’t stand for it…

If Kumogakure kills Sasuke you and Ino and Naruto won’t stand for it…

Shikamaru’s words echo through Sakura’s brain, carving ruts in her mind, etching themselves into her consciousness as she stuffs the small rucksack full of the minimum supplies she’ll need for her trip out from Konoha.

No need to pack for a return.

Tears prick her eyes and she wipes them away from her cheeks with the back of her hand, blinking as the ones caught in her lashes blur her vision for a moment. Then she shoulders the small pack and heads out the door doing the one thing she’s asked everyone else to do for her.

Find Sasuke.

Sakura’s privy to a lot of information, she knows where the Kage’s will meet so she knows which direction to head. For the most part she keeps to the fields and woods, away from towns and villages.

She does make one detour, though, to post a small package back to Konoha. Her hand hesitates for a moment as she considers the address to use, then she makes her decision and finishes the form with a bold flourish of the brush. She smiles as she hands the package to the messenger ninja and pays him the price for a regular service.

No need to pay for expedited, in this case later is better than sooner.

And as the box passes from her hand to his she feels strangely…light…free. It’s a small token, really, but it had begun to feel like the last thing binding her to the past.

From that point on it’s not hard to track Sasuke at all, there’s a trail of destruction a mile wide. Finding out where he is has never worried her, it’s getting there in time that’s important.

She’s got to get there before Kumogakure makes it worse. If they kill him…

Shikamaru’s words rattle like an unholy mantra going around and around in her mind…

If Kumogakure kills Sasuke you and Ino and Naruto won’t stand for it…

But the unspoken converse is true, too. If Sasuke defeats the Raikage and his party, Kumogakure will blame Konoha for not dealing with their missing nin in a timely way.

War will break out either way.

Shikamaru always was pretty good about balancing his equations.

She crests one more hill and swallows hard, realizing just how close she is to Team Hebi now. The air sizzles with burned out chakra and the devastation is mindboggling. Her insides clutch and her knees shake as she sees just what she’s up against.

Ducking back down behind the hill she makes a very small camp in which to rest for the evening. Her pack rations which normally taste like cardboard under even the best circumstances seem doubly dry and inedible now but she forces herself to eat even though she’s breaking off bites with trembling hands.

She fills her water bottle at a small stream nearby and spends the waning light practicing her jutsu. It seems surreal that a girlish prank practiced over and over amidst squeals of laughter with Moegi could be her last best hope but it is.

Pride goeth before a fall.

She hates to admit it but Sasuke’s vanity and his rage are his only weaknesses. The only weapon she has is to turn those against him.

Darkness falls and sleep, at least a light sleep, comes surprisingly easy. Sakura supposes that this is what it is like to be at peace with oneself, with one’s own decisions.

She wakes with the dawn and returns to the stream and executes her plan.

Oiroke no jutsu

She smiles at the whiskered cheeks of her reflection in the water and tousles the wild blond hair atop her head even more. Sasuke could see through a pure genjutsu but she doesn’t think he’ll be expecting this.

One last look at the reflection and she smiles fondly, thinking of the pranks she and Moegi have played about the village at the expense of their teammates, Naruto and Konohamaru, using this most effective disguise. As she smooths the folds of the orange jumpsuit she’s thankful they used it as much as they did. The practice made them proficient at including details that the boys never bothered with…such as clothes.

Sakura smiles and realizes that for the most part, it’s been a good life.

Then she crests the hill once more and roars out her challenge.

SASUKE!

Someone appears in the distance, but he’s big, much too big to be Sasuke. A second figure joins him and she can see that this one is a woman. Panic grips her because she’s heard of them and she knows she doesn’t stand a chance against either of these two much less both in a battle.

Please let his vanity win out she whispers silently to herself.

SASUKE! FACE ME!

She calls out a second time, hoping she’s got the pitch and the gravel in the voice just right.

Apparently she does.

Sasuke strides out on the plain below. The large man and the woman start to approach in her direction but he stops them with a terse command.

LEAVE HIM TO ME!

Sasuke’s voice rings across the valley.

It’s on, then and Sasuke’s attack is faster even than she’s prepared for, it’s all she can do to simply dodge as many of his blows as she can. She spends most of her time simply doing her best to avoid his attacks. Thankfully his team members are obedient vassals and they haven’t sought to intervene. What small amount of damage she is able to do to him comes more from her attacking the earth with the strength of her fists, splitting it beneath his feet, causing him to lose his balance and stumble.

Sasuke sneers as he regains his balance. She smiles faintly as she wipes blood from a corner of her mouth to hear him call “Naruto” weak and a coward, unable to simply stand and fight him. At least her disguise is working so far. His pride in his own superiority has blinded him to the fact that the earth splitting blows are not Naruto’s signature move, Sasuke doesn’t question the absence of Rasangan. He assumes, arrogantly, that “Naruto” simply is no match for him. It’s the same pride that also blinds him to the fact that Sakura herself has grown and trained and increased in power.

Maybe not to the level necessary to defeat him, but then again that’s not her goal.

All she needs to do is to get close enough, just close enough to land one strike, one blow against him.

She takes her kunai out now, it’s the first weapon she ever learned to use. Wrapping her fingers around the cold steel of the handle she grips it tightly for reassurance.

WHO’S THE COWARD! She taunts back at him in her newly graveled voice. YOU’RE AFRAID TO FACE ME WITHOUT YOUR SPIRIT-WORLD BABYSITTER!

Sakura’s doubly blessed this day. The disguise has held so far and she feels the evil chakra recede. He’s dispelled it himself at her verbal jab. His arrogance compels him to face “Naruto” without his dark shield of protection.

COME AT ME THEN! He challenges back.

And she does. Kunai, the first weapon they’d both learned to use, gripped in her hand she rushes in toward him blindly, like a child. After all that’s what they once were, children, sparring together, rushing at each other heedlessly.

He grabs her wrist and steps easily out of way, twisting her arm as he does so. Sakura hears the kunai clatter to the rocky ground below and she hears the bones snap as he breaks her arm above the wrist. However, her hand closes on his shoulder and she won’t let go.

He sneers down at Naruto and calls him weak in the instant before releases the chidori. The lightning blade pierces her body and she smells her own blood and charred flesh as she whispers his name. The jutsu falters but she won’t let go of his shoulder. No matter what she won’t let go.

In that same instant, Sasuke realizes that something is wrong. Something is decidedly wrong. He feels the chakra infusion, beginning at his shoulder where her hand is gripping tightly. He feels the strange duality as the chakra fuses with his own. Looking down into the face beneath him he realizes who it is he really holds.

Sakura? He whispers, unable to believe what he’s seeing.

Her jutsu falters and finally gives way as she slumps in his arms. By now her chakra is having the intended affect against his own.

It’s a technique skilled medical ninja can use. A medi-nin can fuse their own chakra with that of a patient near death. In rare circumstances, the medi-nin can keep the heart beating and the blood flowing in a critcal patient using their own body and chakra as a kind of pacemaker.

But the unspoken converse is true, too. A determined medi-nin can use their own death to take another down with them. Fusing chakra and neural systems, matching heartbeat for heartbeat, they can use their own death to bring about another’s. And Sakura is a most determined medi-nin. After all, she is her shishou’s own student.

It’s working. Sasuke’s voice sounds very far away to her and she’s feeling very cold at the moment. He slumps to the ground, his heartbeat slowing with hers.

“Sakura, why?” he whispers.

She wants to flutter her eyes open, but her eyelids as so heavy right now. All she can do is open them to slits. She sees him looking at her and it’s Sasuke. Not an avenger. Not the last Uchiha. Just Sasuke. She feels him struggling against her chakra but with her inner willpower she tightens her control ove himr, heart rate, breathing, synapses, they all are in sync with her own, all are failing with hers. Sakura realizes she better hurry up and die soon or he’ll figure out how to disengage from her.

SASUKE! Karin’s shriek of terror jolts through Sakura’s awareness. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, YOU BITCH! Karin shrieks again as she buries her own kunai deep in Sakura’s back.

“Karin, you fool,” Sasuke lurches forward, the blow to Sakura’s body a blow to his own. He collapses atop her and as her own fading heartbeat pulls his along with it, he whispers, “Sakura, you were the only one I didn’t want to fight. The only one I didn’t want to see die.”

As the light fades from her eyes for the last time, Sakura realizes that Shikamaru always was pretty good about balancing his equations. This way, her way, Shikamaru’s way really was best. Now Kumogakure hasn’t killed Sasuke and Sasuke hasn’t destroyed Kumogakure. There’s no need for war. And no one, not Naruto, not Sai, not Kakashi, not her parents, no one need avenge her.

Sakura has what she’s always wanted. She’s asleep in Sasuke’s arms. And no one can call her useless.

SASUKE NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Karin’s wailing is the last thing either of the two of them hears.


You get what I’m saying don’t you Sakura…

You get what I’m saying don’t you Sakura…

The words are tumbling around in Shikamaru’s head. It’s hard to quiet them, not even looking at the clouds can help. With a deep sigh, he sits up and takes out a cigarette, lighting it and taking a long drag. He’s spent the whole day out here second guessing himself. Since the village received the news, Sasuke dead, Sakura dead, Shikamaru has been been second guessing himself.

Had he done the right thing?

Had he pushed her too hard?

Did she … hate him?

He wants to dismiss such concerns as childish, foolish, …soft. He knows he is capable of being a good leader. For the sake of the village he strives to be a good leader. He didn’t expect Sakura or anyone else to love him for what he had to do, what he had sent her off to do. He didn’t expect her to love him. But to be worthy of being a good leader, he realized it was important for him to know that she hadn’t hated him.

Shikamaru has spent a lot of time out here the last few days studying the clouds and wondering about the roles of the genin and chunin and jounin in the village. The genin are weapons themselves. The chunin too are weapons but qualified to use those other weapons, to lead teams of genin and chunin and jounin. And the jounin themselves are…

His thoughts are interupted as he his hailed by a delivery ninja. He signs for the small package wondering who would have sent him something. As the delivery ninja turns to walk away, Shikamaru realizes he recognizes the handwriting. He doesn’t believe in ghosts but still a chill goes down his spine. Does the box contain his answer? Had Sakura hated him in the end?

He opens the small box and takes out the note and the red hair band. The note is simple: Shikamaru, please give this hair band back to Ino for me. ~ Sakura.

He reads the note a second time and then a third to make sure. He has his answer after all.

Trust.

She could have sent the package to Ino herself, but in the end she had …trusted him.

The genin are weapons. Chunin are weapons, but they can wield other weapons. And the jounin…the jounin are the weaponsmiths.

He had applied the pressure and the leverage she needed. He had helped finish shaping her into the weapon Konoha needed. And in the end she had found him a worthy leader and had…trusted him.

Maybe when things settled down a little bit he’d put in for that promotion after all.

~ by Ahsan 阿赫桑 on October 13, 2009.

One Response to “Childhood’s End”

  1. first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!xD

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