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Time Flies Like An Arrow

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(the first time one of her dreams comes true, it is a nightmare. It starts out innocently enough – she is playing with Ino, weaving daisies into chains, and the sky is deep blue overhead – then a man spits in a blonde boy’s face, completely unprovoked. Utterly random. The boy only stares at him, bewildered, spit dripping down his cheek. The man is too far away to hear what he is saying, but Sakura sees his red face twisting in anger. She sees the blur of movement behind him, the glint of a mask, an aborted movement. She only saw it because she happened to be looking. The boy doesn’t say anything to the man, just gathers his things, his face bright red in humiliation, then walks away. Sakura watches and thinks I should have done something)

When it happens again, she does.

It starts just the same as her nightmare, a normal day in which she and Ino have chosen to sit in the park and enjoy the sunshine, away from their parents’ watchful eyes. Ino picks a few daisies and offers them to Sakura, her face falling at Sakura’s horrified expression. Sakura manages to play it off with a shy smile, tilting her head and waiting for her hair to fall over her eyes. But Ino’s ribbon holds it at bay, her quickly-reddening forehead on display. Ino smiles indulgently, opting to just show Sakura how to weave the delicate stems together, her clever fingers flashing almost like –

(hands moving too quickly to see, but her mind follows the pattern – monkey – dragon – rat)

Sakura buries her face in her hands. What’s happening to her? She can hear Ino’s voice, low in concern, and then someone else. A man’s voice, deep and filled with anger unlike any Sakura has ever heard before. Her head snaps up just in time to see the man approaching the blonde boy.

She’s on her feet before she knows it, Ino jumping up to join her, but she’s too late, the man has done his spiteful deed and the boy is crestfallen, face glistening horribly in the sun and she had somehow seen this coming and still failed to stop it.

Sakura doesn’t stop to think. She just charges, her tiny legs carrying her across the park double-time.

“Hey!” She shouts, her voice an indignant squeak. The man gives her a surprised look, but it is the boy who is most affected. He flinches away from her as if expecting a blow. She feels something unpleasant burning in her stomach.

The man looks around him, seeming to realise where he is and what he’s done for the first time. His shoulders sag, he looks less like a man possessed by rage. It doesn’t dampen the fire of Sakura’s fury. “Look, sweetheart, you shouldn’t be hanging around this little freak.” He says, his voice all reasonable adult. You really should listen to me, you know. Sakura has heard that same tone a thousand times before, but never from someone less qualified than this beast.

“Say you’re sorry!” Sakura demands, hands on hips. She remembers from her dream, that flicker of movement, the white mask, and deliberately does not look in the direction it had been. But she feels… something. A flicker of interest, maybe. A rough feel of something shaped like a person, made of energy. She remembers lessons she’s never had with a woman whose voice could put you to sleep or send chills down your spine, depending on her mood. She remembers the woman putting her hands out and blue flickering around her palms.

Chakra, she thinks. There’s a person hiding over there who’s brimming with chakra.

The blonde boy is gaping at her, big blue eyes painfully wide. Sakura wonders why he’s so surprised, then remembers that no one, including her, came to his aid in the dream. She grits her teeth and plants herself in front of him, glaring up at the bemused adult before her.

Ino is hovering in her peripheral vision, a buzz of expectant energy, like a cat about to pounce. She’s ready to leap to Sakura’s defence, if necessary. Sakura feels a surge of warmth towards her best friend.

(“No! Ino! Don’t you dare, you stupid Ino-pig! Ino, please!” A spill of platinum blonde hair, a streak of scarlet, and Sakura hopes with every breath that something will change, that those eyes will open once more –)

The man spits again, a disgusted, “Ha!” He sticks his nose in the air, “As if the beast doesn’t deserve worse. It’s an insult to the Yondaime’s memory to let the monster run around without a leash – ”

Sakura doesn’t think, she acts only on instinct. She draws her tiny fist back and strikes the man’s knee, hard. It buckles under the blow and he gives a shout of pain, nearly toppling over. His face purples in rage and he raises a hand as if to hit her back – Sakura feels a dark pulse in the boy’s energy behind her, like a slumbering beast twitching in its sleep –

– and an unfamiliar shinobi swoops in, intercepting the blow so casually it seemed as though both men had rehearsed beforehand. The newcomer smiles, a shiny needle sticking out of his mouth, and gives the man’s arm a friendly shake as if in greeting.

“Yo,” The shinobi says, dark eyes travelling over the group of them, lingering on Sakura the longest, “You ought to be more careful, Kenji-san. That might have really hurt the kid, you know? No one wants that, do they?”

Sakura sees the tiniest little shift in the shinobi’s grip. The man lets out a pained hiss and shakes his head, paling rapidly. “N-no. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to – ”

“I’m sure you didn’t. ‘Cause it’ll never happen again, will it?” The shinobi just sounds cheerful, his tone of voice so different from his actions that Sakura can’t help but narrow her eyes suspiciously at him, and for a moment, she tries to get one of those little flashes of something, dreams or whatever, but nothing happens. She’s left disappointed.

Sakura feels a little hand tug her sleeve. The blonde boy is still staring at her wide eyes, but he’s grinning madly now too. Her mouth twitches into a smile in response, shy and small. She shares a glance with Ino, who’s smiling too, but at Sakura, warm approval written all over her face. Sakura flushes.

She looks up just in time to see the shinobi release the man, patting his arm and ignore his wince.

“I’m – I’m,” He takes a deep breath, his jaw clenching as he struggles to form the words, “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

With that, he turns on his heel and leaves, limping ever so slightly. The shinobi watches him with an air of deep satisfaction. He isn’t wearing a white mask and his chakra is tightly restrained, but the feel of him is the same. He was the figure watching from afar.

The shinobi bends down to face them all at their level, “Everyone okay? No bumps, no bruises?”

Ino lets out a huff like she’s offended at the thought of that man being capable of hurting her. The blonde boy enthusiastically shakes his head, practically vibrating with excitement. His glittering blue eyes haven’t left her yet, nor has his hand on her sleeve.

The shinobi meets Sakura’s eyes, his brows raised in question. She shakes her head, all courage deserting her at once. Ino shifts closer and Sakura wraps a hand in her shirt, tugging it like she pulls at her mother’s clothes when she wants a hug.

“Okay then,” The shinobi says, straightening up, “I’ll get going if everyone’s okay. You’re sure you’ve all got your arms and legs?”

Ino giggles, waving a hand at him. Sakura just nods, half-hiding behind Ino.

The shinobi waves back, and with a casual bye-bye he disappears in a puff of smoke. The boy makes an awed sound at the sight, but Sakura’s too busy trying not to look at where she knows the shinobi went.

 “Hey, hey!” The boy uses his grip on Sakura’s sleeve to spin her around. His grin is blinding, “Thanks! You were so cool! The way you yelled at that old geezer! And, ha! When you punched him in the leg and he went all wobbly and purple! You were so cool!!”

Sakura knows her face is as pink as her hair and since Ino’s behind her, there’s no hiding it. She just smiles as wide as she can, hoping he doesn’t make fun of her.

“I’m Uzumaki Naruto!” The boy declares, and Sakura feels the dream coming before it hits her.

(a big, white smile, a declaration of protection, of friendship, of love, Naruto is the sun, the light that blinds and warms and feeds the village, the people who once hated him so much for being the kyuubi’s container now love him and need him desperately.)

“Hello,” Sakura says quietly, “Are you a monster, like that man said?” She sees Naruto droop, feels the flicker of disappointment from the shinobi across the street, and hastens to add: “I don’t care if you are. I like monsters.”

Naruto stares at her, his mouth open, eyes tracing her face as though he has never seen anything like her before. Then he grins again, tears gathering in his eyes and she feels nothing but joy radiating from his chakra, so wild and radiant, just like him.

“Yeah!” He shouts, “Yeah, I’m a monster! I like pranking and ramen and I’m gonna be Hokage one day!”

Ino lets out a little disbelieving titter at that, but Sakura remembers the dream, the certainty of the villagers’ love for him, and knows he’s right.

“Of course you will,” Sakura says, “Can we still be friends then?”

“Friends?” Naruto gasps, “And – and you really think I’ll be Hokage someday?”

“Monsters are really strong, and you’re nice too. So, when you get bigger you’ll be the strongest and nicest person in the village, and they’ll have to make you Hokage.” Sakura explains.

“And of course we’re friends,” Ino grins, slinging an arm around Sakura’s neck and drawing her close, “Sakura-chan was gonna beat that guy up for you!”

“So, you’re Sakura-chan?” Naruto says, “Ne, ne, Sakura-chan, I’m gonna be Hokage and you’re gonna be my best friend, you’ll see! We’ll play pranks and run around and eat ramen every day!” He declares, pointing a finger at her. Sakura has the oddest flash of a boy with a bowl-cut making a similar gesture at her and talking about springtime.

“Okay. I’ve never had ramen before.”

This, out of everything, makes him gasp the loudest.

***

Hello, friends.

This is a time travel fic, not that Sakura knows it, in which the process of coming back in time left Sakura’s memories scattered. Certain triggers cause them to return, but with zero context, making them very confusing for her. Sakura’s about four in this chapter, and these memories have given her an instinctive knowledge of how to wield, sense and mold chakra, hence why she could sense the ANBU (when he wasn’t actively suppressing his presence).

This is also a wish fulfillment casual fic. I haven’t read the manga or watched the anime in yonks. This is basically a fun little fic in which I right a few wrongs in the Naruto canon, such as Naruto’s friendless childhood and Ino and Sakura’s friendship being broken over a boy. I kind of want to prevent the Uchiha massacre, but tbh how could I do that without changing everything?? Also not sure how baby Saku could manage that. Maybe by smothering Itachi with his own martyrdom.

In case anyone’s interested, I have no idea who I will pair Sakura with in this fic, if at all. So…

Quick poll for fun: who do you want Sakura to end up with, romantic stylez?

A: Itachi

B: Sasuke

C: Gaara

D: No one

E: Your suggestion.