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Throwing a Stone In a River

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He was ambushed. He cast a genjutsu, but underneath the bandages he wore, Danzou had a Sharingan. For the first time in his life, he wasn't fast enough. He lost his eye.

Wait.

She was walking. She had found a stray kunai that belonged to Sasuke and followed him to return it. She inwardly cheered at the thought of being alone with him. She would definitely prove she wasn't a useless teammate.

Wait.

He was falling. The breeze dried the streams of hot blood on his face into a tacky mess. Above him, he could sense Itachi's presence on the cliff side, watching his suicide.

Wait.

She was falling. Instead of going home, Sasuke had gone to the river and she had slipped on the rocks as she approached him. His stunned face was the last thing she saw as she went over the edge.

Wait.

He was falling. The cold water of the Naka River broke apart under her back. His body slammed against the rocks hidden in the river and water began to fill her lungs.

Sakura woke up.

She flailed around desperately, still feeling the sensation of drowning. One of her fists was caught by a hand. At the same time someone told her to breathe, Sakura realized that the weight covering her body wasn't water but blankets. She brought herself under control slowly and began to take deep gulping breaths. As she calmed down a voice filtered through.

"-kura? You need to calm down, Sakura," her vision cleared as she continued to blink into awareness. It was a nurse talking to her, face solemn and her eyes searching. Sakura met her gaze briefly and then tried to take in her surroundings. Her eyes darted around the room, taking in the pale walls and the window, the curtain that was pulled back, and an open door that led out to a hallway she could just barely glimpse. Her ears took in the sound of beeping and Sakura angled herself to see an IV and a monitor at her bedside.

She was in the hospital. More specifically, it looked like the so called civilian sector of the emergency department, for incidents that were severe enough for someone to be admitted immediately, but not so severe that it required a full team of emergency med nin surgeons. It was most likely that Sakura had been treated by an on call med nin trainee, as a near drowning wasn’t usually severe enough to warrant a fully trained medical shinobi and as a new genin herself, civilian doctors were no longer permitted to treat her.

Her hair was still damp on her head, so she couldn’t have been unconscious for long. In the corner sat her new jounin-sensei, Hatake Kakashi. Probably so he could see if he would need to find a replacement genin for his team if one of them suddenly became brain damaged. His masked face didn’t tell Sakura how felt about her hospitalization.

The nurse caught Sakura’s gaze once more. “Sakura-san, do you remember what happened?”

Sakura frowned in thought and her eyes unfocused. “I…”

-pain in his skull and blood streaming down his face like tears, the water he accidentally swallowed in his lungs choking him-

“I drowned?”

The nurse’s face, which Sakura realized had lines of tension, relaxed.

“That’s right, yes. It’s good that you remember, it means there was probably no brain damage. A med nin came by and did a check, and he never found anything, but in cases like this its best to verify when the patient wakes up. Now, we’re going to do a quick physical.”

She then had Sakura complete a small series of tests that included tracking her finger, wiggling her feet and fingers, and answering a few more basic questions regarding her personal life. All of them she finished flawlessly. Another moment was taken for the nurse to listen to her heart and lungs, only for her to declare that her heart was beating normally and her lungs didn’t sound like they had any fluid in them.

The nurse went on to explain that Sakura had to visit tomorrow to make sure no other symptoms of her near drowning cropped up, and was in the middle of explaining that pneumonia was a possiblity when she cut herself off.

“Is there something bothering your eye?”

Sakura’s hand dropped from where she had been unconsciously feeling around the right eye socket and brushing her eyelid. She glanced up into the nurse’s faintly frowning face.

“Did something happen to my eye?”

-he lost his eye, too slow too slow, how could he be too slow, why did that man have one of those eyes-

She peered at Sakura’s right eye. “No, there was no damage to your face. Only mild abrasions to your back and a small bump on the head from the rocks. You were quite lucky; some parts of the Naka River are quite dangerous, you know. Does your eye hurt at all? Someone might have missed something.”

“No, it doesn’t hurt. I-I thought I hit my face when I fell. I must remember it wrong,” Sakura said. There wasn’t any way she going to tell the nurse she thought someone had ripped out her right eye before she fell in the river. It didn’t make sense, especially when she hadn’t been attacked and she clearly still had her eye. The nurse clucked her tongue and brought out a small light that she shined in Sakura’s eye. She twitched away from the brightness but obliging kept her eye open so the nurse could see the reaction.

“Well, your eye is dilating properly, and you say it doesn’t hurt, so it is quite possible you only thought you hit your face. There’s no bruising or scrapes anywhere to indicate you were hit there. Perhaps it was just a close call?” the nurse smiled at Sakura. Sakura smiled tentatively back.

“Once the doctor comes in, you’ll be able to fill out your release paperwork and go home. Get a good night’s rest, and then come back tomorrow. If nothing is wrong, you’ll be able to go back to your training right away. Take care!” she said. And with that she swept out of the room, no doubt to check on her next patient.

With the nurse gone and Sakura left alone with her jounin-sensei, the silence soon grew awkward. She had a feeling she was supposed to explain herself, but she didn’t know what to say to him. What kind of idiot, Sakura flushed, fell into the river and almost drowned? Her fingers picked at the blanket while she dithered between whether or not to say anything to Kakashi-sensei. If he hadn’t thought her foolish before, he probably did now. She drew in a breath to begin her explanation and turned her eyes to him, only to freeze in shock.

It wasn’t Kakashi-sensei sitting there in the chair anymore. Or rather, it was, but a Kakashi-sensei she didn’t know. This one wore the gray armor typical of ANBU and, Sakura flinched, his eye was uncovered, revealing a long scar and a red eye, as opposed to the dark grey of his right. Sakura might keep her eye covered too, if it looked like that. She blinked rapidly and the mirage disappeared, leaving behind the slightly more familiar Kakashi she had met yesterday, wearing the Konoha standard lightly armored green vest.

“Is there something wrong?” Kakashi-sensei’s lone uncovered eye didn’t seem to be accusing her, but Sakura found herself talking to him all the same.

“No, I just-I was just trying to figure out how to explain what happened,” Sakura said lamely. No matter which way she said it, I slipped on a rock and fell in the Naka River and now I keep seeing things sounded ridiculous.

Kakashi pulled out a bright orange book. “Sasuke already told me. You followed him to the river and fell in.” Sakura turned bright red in embarrassment. “He was the one who pulled you out and brought you to the hospital,” Kakashi added. Sakura didn’t want to giggle over that mental image in front of her sensei, so she steadfastly ignored it.

“Do my parents know?” she asked.

“Your parents were both alerted and are on standby in case anything goes wrong. As they had guard duty, I volunteered to come make sure you were fine and escorted home without further incident.”

Sakura winced. Kakashi-sensei definitely thought she was an idiot.

“Um, thank you. For coming. And…stuff,” she said. He said nothing in return and so Sakura began picking absent mindedly at her blanket. Her mind turned instead to the strange things she had seen, both while unconscious and just now in the hospital room. It didn’t take much effort to bring the images to the forefront of her mind.

“I’m a suspicious man, and I won’t change. What happens when you can’t trust me?”

-he didn’t have time, he wasn’t going to make it, not with two ROOT squads to evade. He had to meet with him, had to explain, it was all over now, there was no way to stop it-

“You’re my best friend. That’s why I want you to have the other one, for safe keeping.”

-no one could use his body, not with this, he’s said his goodbyes but he’s leaving him to do this all alone what kind of friend is he-

-too late can’t fix it now-

-why hasn’t he moved on, is he going to have to spend eternity in the river, guess he’s really living up to his name then-

-…who is that in the river? They’re…pink-

Sakura shook herself to dislodge whatever it was that was filtering through her mind. They weren’t whole memories, more snatches of voices and scenery, complete with a steady flow of accompanying thoughts. Sakura frowned down at her blanket. It made no sense. How did falling into a river give her whatever was happening in her head. Maybe it was the temporary loss of oxygen? She glanced at Kakashi-sensei and contemplated telling him. Just as she opened her mouth, there was a knock at the door and then a med nin peered inside.

“Haruno Sakura? I have your release paperwork.”

Sakura closed her mouth. Her jounin instructor would just think she was crazy anyway on top of being an idiot. It’d probably go away after a good night’s sleep.

She filled out the paperwork that the new shinobi had brought and nodded along with his explanation of her follow up care. It echoed much of what the nurse had told her fifteen minutes prior, including that she had to come back to the hospital tomorrow and that she could be at risk for pneumonia. He unfortunately didn’t say anything about near drowning including symptoms of hallucinations. Maybe, Sakura thought to herself, it was just her Inner Sakura? Though she didn’t know why her Inner self would come up with such odd images or include such a vivid, gory sensation of having her eye removed. Inner Sakura was mostly concerned with their mutual crush on Sasuke and their rivalry with Ino, though Sakura suspected she’d soon also become preoccupied with Naruto’s…Naruto-ness. She waited a moment to see if there would be a reply to her inner monologue. Her mind remained silent.

She was given a set of scrubs to walk home in and her belongings in a bag. With everything gathered up and herself officially released, she made for the door so she could leave. Kakashi-sensei ambled along behind her while still reading his books. For all intents and purposes, he appeared to be completely ignoring her and only happened to just be walking in the same direction as she was. Sakura might’ve believed that image too if it weren’t for the fact that earlier today he had soundly trounced her new team while spending the majority of the time reading. Jounin, Sakura decided, were very strange.

Outside, things weren’t much better. If anything, the images and illusions she saw multiplied, disappearing with a blink and reappearing another blink later. She saw people walking in the street she had never seen before. The shape of some of the buildings were different. On one notable occasion, she had cast her gaze toward the edge of the village and saw what could only be the Kyuubi letting loose a terrible roar. That had scared her into stopping in fear momentarily before it vanished and Sakura was reminded that she was in the middle of the street. If Sakura was seeing the Kyuubi on the horizon…was she seeing ghosts? But no, that didn’t make sense. She had seen an image of Kakashi in the hospital, and he was most certainly alive right now. And there was no such thing as ghosts anyway.

Despite the distraction of whatever it was that Sakura kept seeing, she made it home in short order. There, she awkwardly said goodbye to Kakashi-sensei. She had no doubt that he had noticed her odd behavior but had decided not to comment on it.

Sakura wrote a note to her parents that she was home and sleeping in her room before trudging to her room. All she wanted to do was take a bath and go to sleep, and it was unfair to not let her parents know she was fine. Thankfully, her house didn’t seem to inspire anymore weird mirages and Sakura was able to take a bath and get ready for bed in peace. An hour after she had returned home, Sakura was asleep in bed.

She was standing on a cliff, staring at a black haired boy in ANBU armor. It was nighttime, and there was something dried and crusty on her face beneath her right eye. Sakura tried to blink but couldn’t. Or rather, her left eye blinked…but her right eye was gone. Panic rose in Sakura’s throat. She needed to go to the hospital. Someone had ripped out her eye. She tried to tell the boy that they needed to leave but instead her remaining eye stayed fixed on him. Her mouth tugged into a small smile without her permission.

“You’re my best friend. That’s why I want you to have the other one, for safe keeping.” Her hand rose. With horror, Sakura realized she was going remove her own eye. She struggled to lower her arm but it kept rising relentlessly towards her face. She couldn’t scream for help and the boy was just standing there, he was going to let her do it, no no no no-

The last thing she saw were her own fingers.

It was funny. Sakura could feel how scared she was, how sickened and horrified. And yet her body gave no physical response. It had to be a dream. And if it was dream, she could wake up.

-wake up wake up wake up-

Sakura held out her hand with her eye ball sitting in it, dripping blood and fluid everywhere. If she could, she would’ve vomited, but the dream didn’t allow her to control her own body. Then she heard the call of a bird – a raven?- and then claws had plucked the eye out of her palm.

-wake up it’s just a dream wake up-

“You’re the only one I can count on. Protect the village, and the Uchiha name.”

-wake up wake up wake up-

Sakura took a step backward. She could hear a river rushing from somewhere behind her and below. Was she on the cliffs above the Naka River? She was…she was going to jump off the cliff. She was going to kill herself by drowning. She took another step, then another, and then she was falling, still smiling. Oh god, she was going to die. The breeze was drying the fresh blood on her face into a tacky mess. Her back was going to break the surface of the river any moment now.

-wake up it’s just dream wake up wake up WAKE UP-

Sakura woke up.

Her hands flew to her face immediately and felt around, and when she felt her eyes still in her skull she began to take great, shuddering breaths. She stayed hunched over in her bed for a long time while she tried to put her nightmare out of her mind. Who even had those kinds of nightmares? What was with her sudden preoccupation with eyes? She looked at her clock, which informed her in bright red numerals that it was very early in the morning. There was no point in trying to go back to sleep, and Sakura wasn’t even sure if she could after a nightmare like that.

Frustrated and still a bit scared, Sakura decided not to bother prettying herself up today. She pulled on her regular red dress and tugged a brush through her hair but neglected to make sure her bangs hung just right to frame her face, or that her hair gleamed perfectly in the light. It was straight and unknotted, and that would have to do for today. Hungry as she was, she also decided to forgo not eating breakfast. She didn’t have dinner last night so it wasn’t like she was even adding all that many calories. She would still look pretty. Just not…extra pretty. Hopefully Sasuke wouldn’t notice.

Making breakfast helped make the nightmare more distant. The sun was just beginning to rise, making the kitchen slowly become brighter. Sakura hummed a little as she shaped some onigiri and actually began to look forward to eating a full breakfast. It had been awhile since she’d had something more than just miso soup. And her parents would probably appreciate having breakfast waiting for them when they woke up. They could have a nice family breakfast for once. And then Sakura would go to training and prove to Kakashi-sensei that she wasn’t an idiot and show Sasuke how talented of a kunoichi she really was.

‘This is a lot less boring than sitting in the river all day already,’ a male voice said inside her head.

Sakura dropped the onigiri in shock and screamed.