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Past is Prologue

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The tears burned like hellfire and her throat was raw from shouting.

They'd won the war. Kaguya was sealed away forever so that no one would be able to bring her back again. The relief was deceptive.

War had descended on them and they had survived it. After what they had been through she thought everyone would get along and maybe Sasuke would come back to Konoha. She'd been so wrong. Her lost teammate seemed truly evil, wanting to murder the Kage and even Naruto.

It had killed her inside as she watched her teammates fight to the death. Sasuke needed a good beating though and Naruto was the best at dishing it out. She'd seen him give so many people reality checks that she was sure the blonde was going to be the only one capable of knocking some sense into the Uchiha.

That was the only reason she stayed out of the fight. It was hard but she believed in both of them. Except, yet again, they'd gone too far.

As their battle finally finished in a bloody draw she was able to rush forward towards her boys as she rubbed her eyes clear. They were both so frustratingly stupid, but Sasuke was, surprisingly, the worst.

She landed beside their bleeding forms and the tears kept coming. When they had charged at each other with their attacks and collided, they caused mutual destruction to one another. Maybe the boys thought one of their jutsu would win out, but it only destroyed the arm they had attacked with. There was so much blood and she stared at it as she placed her glowing green hands on both of them.

Sasuke would just have to deal with her touching him.

Their blood had mingled together between them. It felt as if she was looking at their new found unity but the blood loss still bothered her. With anyone else she could have remained calm about it but these were her boys, the people she cared about the most. So the sight of them like this had her unable to keep her composure.


That was Sasuke calling her but she didn't dare even glance at him. She could practically hear his irritation crackling at that. He had no right to be mad after what he had just done. She didn't have to look at him if she damn well didn't want to.


It was Naruto this time.

"…Your face is really dirty, ya know." Her head jerked up and she stared down into an ocean of blue. The other teenager grinned up at her, but she had locked onto her reflection in his eyes. She could barely see it but the tear tracks were very obvious. Her face must really be filthy.

"It is incredibly dirty." Without thinking Sakura turned her head a bit so she could glare down at Sasuke with steaming emerald eyes. He stared back at her blankly. Then his arm began to slowly rise off the ground. She watched it come towards her face but didn't feel any threatening aura coming off of him. Finally, his fingers reached her and lightly brushed against her cheek.

It annoyed her that she blushed as her chakra stuttered for a second. It felt impossible that she could still have feelings for the Uchiha but the way her chest felt compressed she knew it was true. God help her but she loved the bastard.

That arrogant smirk slipped onto his face so naturally it should have pissed her off but her insides melted instead. Uchiha were quite dreadfully attractive. It was like a weapon. If used properly Sasuke could probably take out mid to low level shinobi, regardless of their gender, with just a look. Of course he would never weaponize such a thing. His enemies were surely grateful for that. There was no way she'd fall into bed with an enemy ninja but she felt for anyone who did. The supposed betrayal to her comrades would gnaw on her until there was nothing left.

The hand fell away from her face and he rubbed his fingers together a bit. Sakura saw the grime on them immediately. He had been wiping her face clean! "That's better." It was then, as she stared down at his own soot covered cheeks that she felt that god awful chakra again. Instantly, she cut off her healing chakra. Their wounds were closed now and she needed to save what chakra she had left.

Naruto and Sasuke had felt it to, rolling away and jumping to their feet with some difficulty. Without any thought at all they had fallen into an old formation of theirs, backs to each other while they individually watched their own area.

They wondered if they had imagined it since nothing was happening. There was no sight of Kaguya. That was until a dimensional portal ripped open thirty feet from them. Sakura staggered back as a familiar hand shot out of the opening. "No, it can't be." Everyone watched as the princess started to slowly crawl out. Sakura was nearly hyperventilating from the shock. How in the world did she get out?! There was just no way.

The woman wasn't even halfway out when Naruto pulled Sakura in towards him with his one good arm. The move was sudden but she didn't resist, at least until he kissed her forehead. Her green eyes flew to look into blue and the expression on his face had her furrowing her brows even more than they already were. Naruto looked sorrowful as he pushed her backwards into Sasuke. "Get her outta here, Bastard." Before even giving her the chance to protest the blonde was running towards Kaguya and Sasuke teleported them elsewhere.

The abruptness of the jutsu shocked and disoriented her. It made her nauseous and pissed off. If Sasuke thought he was going to leave her here while everyone else went to fight he was dead wrong. Her chakra infused hands dug into him. There was no way he was getting away from her.

Sasuke sensed her hold tighten and he felt horrible about what he had to do but there was no chance he was going to let her go back to that fight. He already knew the outcome and he wasn't going to let it happen to her. It was late to realize now but he finally knew what he felt for her. Leaving her was going to be hell and he knew that's straight where he was going. He didn't deserve anything from her but if he was going to hell anyway…

Instead of pushing Sakura away he tightened his hold. It stunned her for a second since she thought the exact opposite was going to happen. As he leaned down he noticed their height difference. It was such a silly thing to take note of at a time like this, but it amused him just a bit. She had been about even with him in their genin team back in the day. After he'd left he hadn't stood next to her very much and when he did, he didn't notice her height. That hadn't been a priority.

Sakura watched as he lowered his head, mesmerized. His lips touched her own and her eyelids fluttered shut at the contact. While the setting was nothing like she'd imagined, back when she did that kind of thing, the kiss was nice. They had just fought a war together. He was coated in blood and missing an arm. She was covered in dirt and her chakra was exhausted. Truly nothing like her girlish fantasies.

It was better.

The kiss deepened and grew more passionate as Sasuke pressured her lips apart. His hand wandered up from around her waist towards her breasts. The kiss ended just as swiftly as it began as his hand moved above her breasts and to her shoulder, pushing her away roughly. It was easy for him to do because she had loosened her grip on him in surprise.

"Goodbye, Sakura." There was no time to stop him as he teleported away.

Sakura felt her rage come to a boiling point. He couldn't just do that to her and run away to fight on his own. All three of them were teammates and unlike when she was young they were equal partners. Or supposed to be. The minute she got her hands on either of them after this they were finished.

As the shock started to dissipate and be replaced by a burning need to hunt down and kill she spun around, trying to figure out where Sasuke had brought her. It couldn't be far, he was severely low on chakra and would need to save some for the fight. She just had to find the right direction to go.

The sudden sound of battle was the first indication of which way to go. He really hadn't taken her far at all. What was the point then? She'd be back to the fight in minutes. She took off running, pink locks flowing with the wind resistance created from her speed.

Mentally taking stock of her supplies she grimaced. There wasn't much of anything left. Her vest was long gone and her shirt sleeve was ripped. She had about five minor healings and three strength bursts, and one kunai to her name. She'd like to say she'd done more with less but there was nothing 'more' than the first wielder of chakra. She was still nearly two minutes away when the sounds of the battle dulled and then fully stopped.

Worry shot through her, forcing herself to pump more chakra into her legs. Four minor healings and three strength bursts left. Nothing could happen to her boys. They'd survived so much, been through too much and if they were to perish in battle they'd do so together. By each other's side like always. Finally, she broke through the tree line but she stumbled to a halt.

Pink tangled hair blew in the wind as green eyes widened at the sight before her. The odor of death was overwhelming. It sickened her. This was the outcome of a war that they never had a chance at winning.

It was horrific. There were bodies of shinobi of all the five great nations' strewn across the field. Blood spatter was everywhere. She'd been elbow deep in chest cavities while saving people and it never bothered her anymore. Yet this carnage turned her stomach enough that she began to dry heave.

There were ripped open bodies all around, some completely disemboweled. What she'd seen of war was child's play compared to what was before her now. Had the goddess been holding back or was she enraged by what they had tried to do to her? It was all of seven minutes that she was gone for. This much damage this quickly…it seemed impossible to her. She'd never seen anything like it, but she'd also never been up against a being that was considered to be on the level of a goddess.

Sakura stood at the boundary to the field and just as her medical training surpassed her revulsion, she caught sight of the goddess. She quickly jumped back to hide behind a tree. Her heart was pounding and sweat was running down her back. Fear was overtaking her and slowly she leaned back into the tree, sinking down. Her hand had instinctually covered her mouth to try and conceal her heavy terror induced breathing.

Intellectually, she knew there was no reason to bother doing this. Kaguya would sense her chakra before she heard her breathing. Masking her chakra came easily but it hadn't been on her mind while running here. She'd been going to join a fight, not attempting to hide herself. Kaguya wouldn't have missed her approach.

She sat there waiting for the princess to come and end her life.

The air itself felt charged as the woman drifted closer to Sakura. Without even trying the teenager could sense the massive amount of chakra that was Kaguya. She wondered if she should attack her with the kunai when she came close.

Grinding her teeth she moved her hand from her mouth down to grab the kunai. She was not going down without a fight. Just as she decided on lunging at the princess to attack before she did, the strangest thing happened. The white haired woman passed by her hiding spot without even a glance in her direction. As if she hadn't even known Sakura was there at all.

It seemed impossible, but she couldn't think of any other reason Kaguya wouldn't have killed her. She had helped bring her down after all. There wasn't any time to evaluate how she could have been missed, she was just glad that it had happened.

She needed to see if there were any survivors, but she had to wait until she believed the goddess was far enough away. If she healed anyone while she was in the vicinity the princess would come charging back once she felt Sakura's chakra flow.

Considering how fast Kaguya could travel, she'd give her one minute before she used chakra. It was a short interval and if she had time she would have liked to wait longer. If anyone had survived, they wouldn't last long. That monstrosity of a woman wouldn't have left anyone alive if she thought it was possible they would survive.

After counting to sixty, Sakura rushed onto what was left of the battlefield. She checked for any signs of life and as she waded through death, she found two people from cloud who were beyond help. It killed her not to even try but she didn't have enough chakra to heal them of their fatal wounds.

They recognized her as soon as they saw her. Her shishou had always warned her about how easily the enemy would take notice of her. Pink hair and the byakugō seal were a dead giveaway. It had never been bothersome in the least. This was the first time it disturbed her.

These people were looking at her with hope when she couldn't offer any. It wasn't possible for her to let them suffer either though. Medics had to make hard choices, it was something Tsunade said often and until this moment she had never quite understood. She had known there would be people she couldn't save. She hadn't known there would come a time when she wouldn't even be able to try.

Sakura never was the type to leave someone suffering. There wasn't any time to comfort them until they left this world either. The only option that came to her was distressing, but it the only choice available.

She smiled down at them with only a barely noticeable furrow to her brows. Her hands gradually came down onto their chests where she then shot a tiny amount of her own chakra into their systems. It was a quick and painless death. It took scarcely any chakra to preform, but it was the most atrocious way to end someone's life. She'd rather be killed brutally by an enemy than painlessly by someone she trusted.

After it was over she kept going, not giving up. If there was even a small chance of finding even one survivor she would look forever.

Then she came across Kakashi. It was right as he was fading and when he noticed her he tried to talk. It came out as a gurgle as his lungs filled with blood. The eye he had left narrowed as he struggled to lift his hand. Sakura kneeled down next to him, her frame wrecking with sobs.

She could see that his skull was cracked open, staining his silver hair red. It was as red as the sharingan he once possessed. Her arm started to move towards his head to at least numb the pain but he knocked it away with his rising hand. It made it to its destination when it reached her own lowered head.

For the final time he patted her on the head, mushing up her hair. He was able to get one word out, "Go-good." She held his hand as he took his last breathe. As he did, his chakra performed an ending jolt and zapped out, shocking her bare hands.

Key moments of her sensei's life flashed before her eyes. It didn't surprise her, occasionally with shinobi possessing lightening style chakra this occurred. It was one of the main reasons she preferred to wear gloves even in the field since it dithered the transferring of chakra. The phenomenon always felt like a massive invasion of privacy.

When it was over, Sakura set her sensei's hand down gently. She couldn't linger over him, there were more bodies to check. She found one more person, a kunoichi from sand, who was injured badly. The wound was one that she had enough chakra to heal. The problem was if she could heal it before the injury overtook the other woman.

She rushed the healing as much as she could while the kunoichi pleaded with her just to kill her. She didn't want to live in a world where the goddess resided. In the end she grew quiet and her chakra signal flickered until it cut off completely. She wasn't able to save her.

There was hundreds of bodies she had already checked, could there really be any survivors? She had already found Lee, Tenten and Kakashi. Could she live with finding Ino, Naruto, or Sasuke? Seeing this much death at once had already scarred her. She couldn't do this alone, she just couldn't!


The voice was weak but she had heard it. Someone was alive! She stood up and swung around. Where were they? Had she imagined it?


No, there it was again and it…it sounded like Sasuke. She turned to the left and there he was. Bloody and broken, but alive. Except she could feel his chakra getting weaker by the second. She jumped over the mass of bodies between them and landed at his feet. At least where his feet should have been. His legs were gone but the wounds were cauterized, he must have used a fire style jutsu.

He did what he could for himself which was good but she could see he was going into shock. His breathing was shallow and he was sweating profusely. It was something she could treat. She put her hand on his forehead, moving his bangs aside. Sasuke stared up at her with an expression on his face that she had never seen before. He was regretful.


"Just shut up for now, I'm concentrating."

"…I'm sorry."

She bit her lip, trying to keep what tears she had left at bay. "Sorry? For what?"

"…For everything up till now."

The tears were streaming down her face now, along with snot. "You are so much trouble…stupid…"

He smiled a little but then removed her hand from his forehead and brought it to his chest. When she tried to continue to fix his blood flow he shook his head. "Don't."

Confused, she looked up into his eyes and she realized what he wanted. A shinobi without his legs was finished. This was something Tsunade had never taught her how to deal with. Sasuke didn't want to live like an invalid, especially in the type of world that now existed. If things had been different she would have insisted but she couldn't force it on him.

So, she sat back and curled up to him, quietly weeping. Her hand was still over his heart where he was holding it. Her administrations from earlier had delayed the shock, but she knew it would start coming back any second.

"Look at me." Sakura didn't want to, yet last wishes weren't something she could just ignore. She gazed up into his face and noticed his sharingan was activated. It was a wonder she didn't take it as a direct threat and drive her kunai through his eye socket.

The truth was that she'd never naturally thought of the sharingan as a threat, possibly because in the beginning Sasuke was the only one she knew who had it besides Kakashi. She trusted him to never use it on her. Instead it meant safety. Sasuke had always been there to protect her while wielding his sharingan.

As she stared at him, the world began to simmer and she realized he was putting her in a genjutsu. A really obvious one. She started to resist it but his hold on her hand tightened. "Let me. I want you to see." So she did.

He kept it so she was still aware of her body as she watched the genjutsu play out. Gradually, it dawned on her what was happening. This was worse than what transpired with Kakashi-sensei. Sasuke was showing her his life story.

Of course in the beginning it was okay, his only problem being wanting his father's attention. Then the massacre took place and the misery filled rage only got worse from there. She had no idea why he was showing this to her, it was torture.

As it came to an end, when he kissed her, she figured it out. He didn't have enough time to tell her in the real world, but he wanted her to know how he felt. He wasn't good with words so he'd thought this to be the best solution.

Right from the start, he'd had feelings for her.

Well, all it was at the onset was interest, and there was annoyance there to, but he had begun to care for her. Regardless if it was sometimes irritating, her affection did reach him and it was new to him. It had been such a long time since someone had worried for him in such a sincere manner. He even kind of liked her weakness, it felt nice to protect her. To feel needed and strong. Though he did think it was necessary for her to be stronger to stay a kunoichi.

Soon after the forest of death was when it occurred to him that he cared for Naruto and her too much. Kakashi was even starting to feel like a father figure. Affection was a dangerous thing, to him it was a weakness. He left and he tried to bury his feelings for team seven. The effort was mostly successful, his obsession with revenge consumed his every thought. The curse of hatred won out and nothing else mattered.

When Naruto and Sasuke fought, the blonde succeeded in knocking some sense into him. He overcame his hatred and saw his actions in a new light. It felt terrible. In his eyes, Sakura had become everything a kunoichi should be and he was attracted to her strength.

All those repressed feelings had come to the surface. It wasn't yet love, but it could have been and he wanted her to know that. The genjutsu ended as he teleported back to the battle, he didn't want her to see the rest.

Sakura cuddled closer to him, muttering a thank you. Right after she spoke her head jerked off his shoulder, "Wait! Naruto suppressed my chakra signal?" She thought back too that kiss to her forehead and Kaguya's complete ignorance to her presence. Naruto's seal had saved her life.

Sasuke chuckled at her delayed reaction. His chest rumbled under her hand. The rumble quickly changed to a shaking as the shock set in. She sat up in panic, although she knew this was going to happen.

His eyes were calm even if he was obviously in pain. The shaking diminished until it stopped completely. She settled back against him, rubbing her face into his shirt.

His hold on her hand tightened again and she shot a pulse of chakra into his heart without thinking. Shock would kill him swiftly but painfully. She had known what he wanted as soon as he had put her hand there.

It was a horrible thing to request of her, but Sasuke wasn't known for his fairness. His chakra didn't try to zap her, probably because his main element was fire. She was glad, there was no way she'd be able to see any of his memories again without breaking down.

Sakura didn't know how long she laid there with him, but even after it started to get dark she stayed. Why did they have to take her away from the battle? What was it worth if she was the only one alive? They should have been together until the very end as a team. To leave her here like this was sinful. She wrapped her arm around Sasuke's waist to bring herself even closer.

Either way, she was all that was left of team seven.

She was the only survivor.

Sakura stared up at the sky as the sun beat down on her. Sweat dripped from her face onto her hand, then slid down towards the shovel she was holding. She was standing in the field where the last battle took place, surrounded by freshly dug dirt.

It took a long time but she'd just finished burying the last body. She couldn't do much for them except this. Everyone deserved a proper burial even if it wasn't in their home village. Taking them all back to where they originated was too risky. Travel needed to be kept to a minimum for fear of running into Kaguya.

The goddess might not be able to sense her but that wouldn't matter if they had a direct run in. It was already dangerous enough to bury the bodies. If Kaguya came back she'd know someone was still alive. Sakura didn't know what would happen if she were to find out. Killing everyone hadn't been the princess's original goal, just a consequence of her fury.

It really had been everyone too. After going back to Konoha to bury her friends within village walls she'd discovered the bodies of civilians that had been hunted down. She was sure it wasn't just the people from her village either. In her rage Kaguya had eradicated the human race.

That wasn't the kind of person Sakura wanted to accidentally meet up with. Instead she would be fully prepared when she went after the goddess. That is what she had decided as she came to know that she really was the only survivor. There was no point in living in a world where there was nothing. Civilians weren't even spared, no one was here to protect. No one left to pass on her skills to and rebuild the world with. Plus she had the gift Naruto gave her. Kaguya wouldn't even see her coming, surprise was the only advantage she had.

As of now all Sakura needed was to rest. Her chakra reserves were depleted from the war and all the digging she had been doing. She needed to recover before she put any plans into action. For now she would train to keep herself at peak physical condition and plan. Once her reserves were completely restored, she would search for the princess. Looking down at the finished graves strengthened her resolve.

The sun would set soon and it was time to head back to Konoha. She would rest there until the time came to use what Naruto had given her.

Two months passed without any sightings of Kaguya near Konoha. During that time Sakura stockpiled weapons, she no longer only had one kunai to work with. Every day she went over what weapons she was thinking of bringing with her to fight the goddess. At first she'd thought armor would be a good choice, then promptly decided against it. Her style needed agility to perform and she wasn't used to metal being attached to her body.

In additional to that, this whole mission relied on her remaining as quiet as possible. It was bad enough that she wasn't a quiet fighter. Stealth wasn't her strong point at all and because of that it was the main skill she trained in the last two months. It was hard but she progressed further than she thought she would. Still she definitely was not as proficient in it as she thought she needed to be. Probably never would be.

The only good thing about this was that even with this level it might be possible for her to sneak up on the princess. She thought the goddess could be like Kiba, hoped her to be anyway. The Inuzuka relied so heavily on his nose that if an enemy could sneak by that single sense of his they'd get the drop on him. Kaguya should be so used to being able to naturally detect every living thing that she may never even refer to her other senses.

She guessed it didn't matter at this point, she would have to find out by experience. It was time to confront her. Now all she had to do was find her.

It took another month to locate the princess. In the end, after searching through wind and earth countries she found her in the land of fire. She was halfway between Konoha and the Valley of the End. Surprising, that they'd been so close to each other for so long. She'd seen nothing of her so she'd assumed that she wouldn't be in the fire country. How wrong she'd been.

She first spotted the woman gliding towards the valley at a slow pace. When shinobi traveled through this area they tended to use the giant green trees of the forest as stepping stones. Sometimes they even slept in them instead of on the ground. Kaguya didn't bother with such things so it made it easier for her to be located.

Sakura tailed her for a while, keeping to the trees for cover. Just like Naruto had wanted, the goddess wasn't able to detect her. Feeling confident, now that she'd seen for herself that the seal was actually working, she slid her kunai out of her weapons pouch.

Besides, senbon needles, paper bombs, kunai, and Sai's tanto she had brought little else with her. She'd wasted time collecting weapons she would never use. Sticking to the basics had been her best bet. Anything fancy would just get her killed. In fact…she put the kunai back where it came from.

The surprise of her attack wouldn't last long. One hit of her chakra enhanced fist would do more damage than a slit throat. The attack could come fully from behind and was capable of killing an opponent. Much safer indeed. Now she just had to time it right.

When Kaguya had her eyes facing forward, Sakura sprang off her branch, leaping towards the woman with a chakra enhanced punch at the ready. This was it. This was the end of the goddess. It was really happening.

Her celebration was too soon, as at the last second the princess turned her head. Pale eyes widened in shock but a section of her hair lifted just in time and skewered Sakura through the chest. She hung there like a doll, feet not even touching the ground. Blood dripped from the wound, into Kaguya's hair and then onto the grass beneath their feet.

The wind blew, shifting fallen leaves around. Purple lines ran along the girl's body as she twitched. Her bangs lifted with the breeze and her green eyes stared back at the goddess with intense hatred. She'd only just managed to activate her jutsu.

"It was your plan to die, was it not?"

She grinded her teeth and gripped the woman's hair, trying to pull it out of her chest, unsuccessfully. "Of course not. I came here to kill you."

"While your ability to hide your chakra is astounding, it would have never been enough to kill me. The boy only gave you this gift for you to hide from me with." Her head tilted in what seemed to be confusion. "But you knew this. You'd known of my ability to read your minds, sense your feelings. There was no hope of success."

Sakura shook her head, pink hair tossing about her shoulders.

"Yes, deep inside you wanted to die. This was a suicide mission."

Silent tears ran down her face as she acknowledged this as truth. Naruto would have never expected her to fight this monster by herself. All he wanted was for her to survive. Except he hadn't know there would be no one waiting for her off that battle field. Sole survival was deeply painful. She finally understood Sasuke now.

Memories of him drifted through her mind as she waited for her seal to run out of chakra to sustain her healing. The contact with Kaguya's hair was draining it rapidly. At least she'd die at peace, knowing she'd tried her best.

"My grandson…I see." The princess's stare got more intense. "You're her."

Sakura had no idea was she was talking about now.

"I've always wanted what was best for my family. Although, it seemed I was never fruitful in giving them what they needed. You on the other hand…" She nodded her head. "You could give him happiness even for a little while."

The bitch was delusional, she was sure of it. Also psychotic, look at what had become of the world because of her after all.

"I never wanted this to happen either. This existence without humans is far lonelier than I imagined. There was so much chakra sacrificed due to my ire. How wasteful. Suppose we can change this outcome and give my boys a little contentment in the process?"

For some reason she felt like she wouldn't like where this was going. "Bite me."

Kaguya was shocked again. "Why would you want that?" She received a glare for her question. "I guess it does not matter. Mm, giving you to Indra would not work. That is too long ago to change anything. In Sasuke's time you already exist, there cannot be two. It must be Madara then."

"What are you talking about?! Just kill me already!"

"Since you want death so badly, I'm unwilling to reward you with it. Instead I'll send you back to Madara's era. You'll fall in love."

Sakura's mind seemed to freeze at the demon's words. Fall in love with Madara Uchiha? The man who, regardless of what happened in the end, was the catalyst to the war and revival of this witch before her now? "That will never happen!"

"Don't you believe yourself to be soulmates with Sasuke? If you are, which I believe you to be, then it will happen."

"I'll never fall so low as to love such a beast."

"Can you say that without your memories?"

At that Sakura was biting and scratching, trying to get herself off this piece of filth's unwashed hair. She had no doubt at all that the demon was capable of doing what she said. Space-time ninjutsu was tricky business but for this being it would be a piece of cake. There was no limit to her amount of crazy and no way was she going anywhere near Madara.

"If you send me back I'll kill him. I'll make sure you are never revived!"

"What happens in another timeline will not affect me, I'm already free. Black Zetsu will find another way to free the other me if it is needed." Another two sections of hair lifted from the ground and then moved apart. Between them a dimensional portal opened. The wind coming from it seemed to shake the very foundation of the earth Kaguya stood on.

"Your seal will keep you alive as the travel through dimensions rips you apart. It is likely your chakra will run out before you arrive. If it times right then all that will be left of you will be your soul. You may be very weak for many years as most of your chakra will go to replenishing your seal."

"What if it doesn't 'time right' you crazy bitch?!"

"While I am letting you live, it will do you good not to insult me so. It is only due to my plan for you that I have not killed you for your transgressions." The piece of hair that was through Sakura's chest began to lift her up higher from the ground, as if to show the power that the goddess had over her. "Now, if your chakra does not last you then you will not make it to your destination. Your soul will be destroyed and will never be able to be reincarnated. So don't die."

And then Kaguya tossed her from her hair and into the portal behind her. The girl screamed out in horror and pain as the bonds of time attempted to constrict around her. The powerful winds cut at her skin, reminding her of Temari. Still her body kept dropping into the void beneath her, her seal healing any damage that befell her.

While falling deeper her seal's rate of healing dropped significantly until she had run out of chakra. Her body started to deteriorate, whole pieces of flesh were being torn off of her. Before long there was nothing left of her skin. She looked like Naruto when the nine-tailed fox overtook him. Then her bones started to be crushed.

She began to wonder what was happening. She had been talking to Kaguya…but who was that? Mentally, she was losing something precious. Everything was a blur. The people she knew, the places she'd been, they will all disappearing from her mind. There was still Sasuke though, and she clung to his image even as her moments with him were taken from her.

As the last bits of her skeleton were turned to dust, his face faded from her psyche. There was nothing left. Sakura Haruno was no more. Her body hit the ground with a thud.

Chapter Text

A Senju unit was moving among the trees, coming back from Uchiha land where they had been sent to scout the clan's forces. Suddenly, the wind picked up, whipping their hair around their foreheads. That wasn't enough to slow them down and they surged through the vortex of air pressure that had formed.

At least until the man taking the rear freaked out and jerked backwards. The change in direction had him falling out of the tree he had been about to jump from. It happened so fast that no one was able to stop his free fall.

The man's back hit the ground hard, a groan escaping his lips. Although they'd only just made it back onto Senju territory, no one had been chasing them. They felt safe enough to jump down to join their comrade.

"What happened?"

Sitting up slowly, the man pointed up at the tree he'd fallen from. "This woman appeared out of nowhere. It looked like a whole other world, I couldn't see any of you behind her. There was only an oddly colored landscape." One member of his group raised his eyebrow questioningly. "She had long sweeping white hair, like a ghost! And a third eye." The men surrounding him sighed, yanking him back to his feet by his arms.

"You must have really clunked your head on the ground pretty hard. Stop making up stories." Flabbergasted, he stuttered, trying to come up with the right words to make them understand what he had witnessed. Before he could come up with anything his friend slammed his hand against his mouth.

"Do you hear that?"

At first there was silence but through the wind came the cries of an infant. If he hadn't fallen out of the tree they would not have heard it at all. The men looked at one another, knowing it could be a trap. The Uchiha had never played fair and bringing a child into the field seemed like the kind of despicable thing they would do. Still the pitiful cries tugged on their war weary hearts. It was impossible not to at least check.

As a scouting team, they already had the skills they needed to observe without being noticed. Nodding at each other, the four men took to the trees once again, heading towards the sounds. What they discovered was something they weren't expecting. They had themselves prepared for an ambush but all they found was a pink haired baby cradled in its mother's arms.

It was squirming, trying to make its way out of its swaddle. The mother and father lay deathly still, clothes caked in blood from their wounds. The bodies were already stiff, but the mother's was partially hiding the child. Before her passing she had obviously tried to protect the little bundle.

What sickened them most was that these people were civilians. There weren't any weapons on them at all. The family must have just been passing through and accidentally found their way onto the warring clans' territories. Either bandits or Uchiha had gotten to them. No self-respecting Senju would go after civilians. It would be a misuse of their power.

One of the men drew his sword, approaching the baby. The man who had fallen pulled him back. "What are you doing?!"

"It's suffering."

"That doesn't mean you just kill a kid."

They glared at each other. "Then what do you suppose we do? Take it in and raise it?" He sneered, "We don't even know where it's from."

"I didn't say that, we could give her to a barren civilian family. Let us have Butsuma-sama decide." Coming to the decision that bringing the baby to him was the best solution, they pried the child from its mother's cold arms. The crying stopped immediately. That was when they noticed the blood that had dripped down onto the infant's blanket. It had stained it in a blossoming shape. Bundling the baby up tighter, they took off towards the Senju compound once again.

They came upon it quicker than normal, as they'd sped up when the child started to cry as they jumped into the trees. Landing outside the walls, the guard eyed them wearily; appearing with a screaming bundle of joy was unusual.

Without hesitation they filed in towards the clan leader's quarters, the baby quickly quieted again when it realized they were no longer traveling at mind numbing speeds. The four shinobi eagerly knocked upon his door, wanting to rid themselves from the child before it started to cry again.

The door was yanked open by their angry leader, who growled out, "What do you want?" Somewhere from within the house they heard a sobbing woman. It was certainly his wife and the men worried they had interrupted a fight with the pregnant woman. Young Tobirama stood behind his father, watching them with his unnerving red eyes.

The couple had three other children but they were nowhere in their line of sight. "We found a baby, Sir. Civilian born. Its parents are deceased." The man's eyes shot down to the bundle of cloth in one of his men's arms. Sneering, he told them to dispose of it. As if the child knew what he was suggesting it gave out one loud wail then went silent.

Suddenly, there were sound of scampering feet and Hashirama came around the corner followed by his other two younger brothers. His eyes were rimmed red from crying and he sniffed as he paused at the hallway entrance, staring at his father's back. "Mom is trying to get up."

Butsuma looked alarmed for a moment before he spun around and stomped off towards where the children emerged from. The four shinobi glanced at one another, considering their options. Hashirama sniffed once more before turning away, followed by all except Tobirama. The second oldest stared them down, then nodded his head, "Come in." Afterwards, he turned and trailed after his family. Following his example, they did the same.

They stood outside a bedroom, watching the main family from the entrance.

In the room with the leader's wife was the clan's midwife. The lady must have gone into labor while they were away on their mission. Yet the somber mood in the room didn't fit the celebration of the birth of their fifth heir. The motionless baby in the midwife's lap gave the situation away.

The long haired woman, after having given birth was attempting to stand. "My baby, my baby!" She cried out, trying to disengage herself from the grip her husband had on her arm. "I heard my baby." She turned her head towards the door and caught sight of the shinobi standing there. Her eyes locked onto the child, tears stopping. She wiped at them with her free hand, then with one hard yank she'd freed herself from Butsuma.

She smacked his hand away when he tried to grab hold of her again. Sitting back down, she demanded they bring the pink haired child to her. Her husband stepped back in frustration, but let her have her way. Arguing with her in her condition would do his wife no good. The bundle was handed to her and she stared down at the flushed baby with relish. Her baby was okay, that old hag of a midwife had lied to her.

Smiling, she hugged the infant to her chest, "My little girl. Now…what should I name you?" Her fingers brushed up against something crusty on the blanket. Moving it a bit, she noticed the blossoming pattern. "Oh yes, Sakura Senju. Sounds nice doesn't it, Butsuma?" Her eyes lifted up to her husband's face. She looked lost in a dream. Of all the cruel things he had done in his life this just wasn't one of them. He knew she was being delusional but he couldn't take this away from her.

"Yes, it is a nice name." The sole female Senju sibling was buried without having ever taken a single breathe. Sakura was a pureblooded Senju. No one outside the main family, besides those four shinobi, the midwife, and possibly the guard at the entrance knew any differently. They'd be suspicious, there had never been a Senju with pink hair or green eyes before after all, but the lady's pregnancy would deter most of that.

Months later, little baby Sakura was surrounded by her brothers. Hashirama, at nine years old, knew they weren't related by blood. He still treated her just like he would have his blood bonded little sister. To him she was truly his sister, nothing else mattered.

Tobirama was two years younger but just as perceptive. It was obvious that his mother hadn't given birth to Sakura. The first time he saw her was with those shinobi. At the same time he didn't understand enough about blood ties to know that the little pink haired girl wasn't his true sister. Kawarama and Itama were oblivious to the situation. She was just their sister.

Still the siblings had their issues.

Kawarama tickled her foot while Itama looked on in jealousy. Hashirma shook a stuffed toy in her face, happy to see her giggle with joy. A stupid grin slid onto his lips, making Tobirama shake his head at his foolish brother. He might not think much of it but he still stayed close and watched them play. The white haired boy may have not even held his sister yet, but it was his responsibility as an older brother to a little girl to protect her. Even if it was from their oldest sibling's lack of intelligence.

It was lucky he was here because without warning Hashirama accidentally dropped the toy onto her face. Before the brown haired boy could even blink Tobirama had plucked it up and threw it at him. "Be careful, you could have suffocated her." That started a fight about his lack of attention and supposed stupidity. The two boys were still battling it out on the floor when Itama toddled passed them towards the door, carrying Sakura with him.

Kawarama looked on in confusion. "Where ya takin' her, Itama?" The other two siblings stopped their fight, turning to see what Kawaram was talking about. Itama was trying to open the door while balancing Sakura.

"Imma gonna give her back to the kami."

"Itama, no!" Tobirama jumped forward before Hashirama could, yet again, and stole the pink haired baby from Itama.

It was quite a new experience for the red eyed boy, having never held a baby before. He stared down at her, surprised when she gazed back up at him, not frightened of his unusual eyes. She cooed at him, grabbing his finger that was close to her face. Just like that, while holding onto him, she dozed off to sleep.

Tobirama felt his heart swell in a way he'd never experienced before. His brothers had been able to protect themselves ever since he could remember, but Sakura was so little. So defenseless in a time of war. He promised himself he'd protect her with his life. No one would get passed him, or Hashirama for that matter. The Senju were strong and capable of protecting this one little child

Four years later he felt the same way. He just hadn't realized how hard it would be. Sakura was missing again and he didn't know how it kept happening. At eleven years old Tobirama was the best tracker the Senju had ever seen. His sensory skills were off the charts. No one was ever able to sneak up on him or hide from him for long.

Except Sakura of course. He swore her chakra signal was near nonexistent, he had to be touching her just to sense it. It hadn't bothered him so much before, at least until she started to sneak off. The first time it happened the whole family freaked out, except his father, believing she'd been kidnapped.

Only she'd come back a few hours later. Clothes a little worse for wear but with her goofy smile intact. She'd given each of them a flower she'd picked from a meadow outside of the Senju compound and then waddled off. His father was actually a little impressed. Then he'd reached over to Hashirama and ordered him on guard duty when he wasn't on the battle field. He couldn't have his wife losing control every time she couldn't find the little girl.

Hashirama had obviously failed terribly and then Tobirama had been assigned to the position. It kept getting worse though. It didn't matter how much they'd upped their security, she kept finding a way through. He knew she sometimes just stayed within the compound when she wandered off, she reappeared far too quickly for her to have always taken a trek outside their boundaries.

Even so close, they couldn't find her unless she wanted to be found. That's why Tobirama had gone from just keeping a vague eye on her to watching her 24/7. He had wanted to see what she would do. He hadn't thought she'd still be able to mount a disappearing act. All it takes is one second of looking away and she'd be gone. It was making him paranoid.

He'd even done that quick head turn thing when he realized his gaze had wandered. Each time the other clan members looked at him as if he was crazy and Sakura would just innocently be standing in the same place. It was making him insane, especially after what happened to Kawarama and Itama. He'd failed them both.

The worst was when he thought about how Sakura would never be able to remember them that well. Kawarama had loved her dearly and been a fierce, proud shinobi. Itama had warmed up to her when she'd learned to walk. For some reason the bi-colored haired boy had been her favorite, even after the multiple attempts on her life.

She had followed after him like a lost puppy, seemingly more impressed by his simple jutsu than Hashirama's wood style. The boy had appreciated that a lot. Her first word had been his name. Their mother was devastated, but after that Itama liked to pretend he was the only one who could interpret her babbling. He had said mean things in her stead, as he had liked to say.

Hashirama had tried to tread on his translator territory once and had gotten a bloody nose for his efforts. Mother was the only one allowed to do that besides himself. Tobirama had laughed quite a bit that day. It seemed ages since he'd laughed that hard. Their deaths had hardened him even more than the war already had.

So he hated how Sakura would go missing but searching was futile. It was just impossible to find her without setting eyes on the wandering imp. Hashirama had been sneaking about lately also, though he never looked for him as he did his sister. For now he would just head home.

Sakura grinned from her hiding place in a bush, Tobirama had finally stopped looking. She'd won this round of hide and seek, like always. She struggled out from under the bush, ripping her shirt in the process. Her mother always dressed her in a kimono at the start of the day. Sakura didn't like this much and ditched the clothing as soon as she decided to take a stroll. She borrowed some of her deceased brother's clothes instead.

For the most part the items fit her but they were extremely baggy. She honestly would have preferred something prettier, she just liked comfort and flexibility more. One day she'd be a great ninja just like her brothers. She needed a better range of movement to do so. Better not to get used to kimono now and have to change it later.

Examining the rip in her clothing and deciding it really didn't matter, she trotted on. For about a year now, she had been draw to a particular spot. She didn't know why that was, but she couldn't fight it. Even after she realized it was close to Uchiha land, she still came. She never stayed very long, just looked about as if she was expecting something to show up. After a little while, she would start to get a feeling as if she was in danger. She'd leave immediately.

As she stood there today, admiring how large the trees around her really were, she heard a splashing noise. Nothing she hadn't heard before while she was here, but the splashing continued this time. In a repetitive manner. Someone was nearby.

More curious than alarmed, Sakura headed off towards the sound. After a little bit the trees opened up and there was a boy standing next to a river. He was tossing rocks into it and they were gliding across, until it would sink halfway. She was amazed, she's never seen anything like it. "Woah."

The boy spun around so quickly that his long blue shirt was picked up by the breeze. Black met jade and the little girl felt magnetized to this boy, just like she did to her spot. The boy's brows furrowed as he stared at the little pink haired girl before him. She didn't seem like a shinobi, more like a homeless urchin. Her clothes were dirty and ripped. The way they hung on her frame made it seem like she probably hadn't eaten a good meal in months.

She had either lost her family, or they were poor. Neither case was uncommon. Her looks didn't match any known clan and she didn't hold herself like a shinobi. The brat wasn't any threat to him. "Who are you, Kid?" She didn't answer, but came closer to look into the river.

"How did you do that?"

"You mean this?" He watched her closely but skipped another rock, though it failed to reach the other side yet again.

She clapped anyway. "Cool!" He felt himself puff up at the admiration he was getting, hoping Hashirama wasn't going to show up anytime soon and ruin it. The showoff would make sure she saw his stone reach the other side and even comment on Madara's lack of ability. For now it was his time to shine. If the little peasant hadn't seen anyone successfully skip a stone before, he wasn't going to tell her he failed at it.

He skipped a few more, some even almost making it all the way across, but soon realized he'd never gotten an answer to his question. "What's your name?"

She gave him a too big smile, "Sakura. Who you?"

No last name given but probably more of an age thing than a shinobi creed. Though he had seen shinobi as young as her on the field, just not female ones. "Madara."

She tested the name, as if it tasting something for the first time. "Ma-da-ra."

"That's right, don't screw it up." She nodded and then rudely walked back off into the forest, leaving him scratching his head. He went back to his stone skipping, waiting for Hashirama to show up while wondering why he hadn't noticed her coming up behind him. A while later a flower was stuck up near his nose, mid-swing of his arm. He freaked out, backpedaling away from the child.

For the second time Sakura had snuck up on him and he didn't like it one bit. The first time he'd been alerted to her presence before she got too close, but this time she'd made it right beside him without him noticing. It would be a frightening skill for a shinobi to have.

She walked to him and tried to give him the flower again. It was a daisy, a very common flower. "Here you go. Now you throw rocks." He was forced to accept the flower but he was quite confused. "Mama always says to 'give and take' when I want something." Oh, she wanted to see him throw more and this was his payment. His payment was a damn daisy. He shrugged and then continued skipping his stones to the sound of her clapping.

That was the first time he became a show pony for flowers. He had a strange feeling that this was going to happen a lot.

Chapter Text

Another stone skidded across the water, sinking in shortly after it hit the halfway mark. His arm was getting tired and he had no idea why he continued. Madara Uchiha wouldn't be ordered around by anyone, especially someone who paid him in flowers. Yet every time he looked down and saw the little girl's happiness he picked up another stone.

It wasn't like Sakura was anything special, just that he hadn't seen such pure innocent joy in a very long time. Even Hashirama, who liked to pretend he was the pinnacle of exuberance, was badly scarred by war. This girl had obviously never seen such horrors before. Been made to fight just for survival.

If she had lost her family to the fighting or disease then it was certain that she didn't truly understand what had happened. Probably hadn't witnessed it. Soon even her shining innocence would be destroyed. More likely sooner than later if she kept wandering in the forest. Another shinobi may have either killed her or decided to use her for sexual satisfaction. Disgusting, but true.

Men were more beastly in times of intense warfare, even children weren't safe. A civilian with no battle prowess was in considerable more danger. He may not care for her in any special way but at least he wouldn't help her be stained by the times they lived in.

That was why, when Madara felt Hashirama's approach, he ceased his throwing. "It's time for you to leave." She eyed him questioningly, looking like she may be stubborn. "I have adult things to tend to."

Her facial expression accused him of lying. "You're not an adult."

He got annoyed quite quickly. "Of course I'm an adult. More adult than you."

She was still highly skeptical. "How old?"

He proudly pounded on his chest, "Thirteen. I'm a shinobi so I'm an adult."

She wasn't quite sure how to dispute that and felt like she had lost this battle. "Fine." Not happy that she was being ordered away, she stomped off.

He noticed her head was held high. She had good posture for a peasant and the attitude of a snooty princess to match. It was made funny by her actual status. She'd learn to fix the attitude when she realized where she stood in life. He wondered how she would have acted if she'd known he was the heir to the Uchiha clan. Surely less uppity.

That was one nice thing about Hashirama, they could behave normally with one another, since the other boy didn't know of his title. Madara occasionally thought about his friend's reaction to learning he was more than just a regular Uchiha. He knew that Hashirama most likely knew what clan he was a part of. The Uchiha had a signature look that every member possessed. Genes couldn't be hidden so easily.

Sometimes he would try and identify which clan Hashirama probably belonged to. Brown hair and eyes were common, you couldn't throw a stone without hitting someone with these traits. For a while he considered the possibility of him being a Senju, but for him to know Madara was an Uchiha and not to have tried anything while being a Senju felt impossible. The impossibility of that scenario went through his mind again when Hashirama popped out of the trees.

The brunette had been a tad somber lately but not enough for Madara to push the issue when he was told there was nothing wrong. Yet right now his depression was apparent from the very start. He settled down next to the river, hugging his knees.

"What's wrong now?" He asked it tentatively, he'd been trolled one too many times not to be weary. Except it was rare for Hashirma to be like this at the beginning of their meetings. The last time he'd seen him act this way was when he'd told Madara his brother had died.

The bowl cut boy was silent at first, then sighed. "My mom is ill again. My father doesn't think she is going to make it."


He heard some sniffing. "Yeah. She's always been real weak bodied, with sporadic bouts of depression. Everyone was really surprised that she'd had five kids."

Stuff like this always felt super awkward. "Yeah, you said you still have a little brother and sister, right?"

Hashirama nodded, "My little brother has inherited a…condition, but he deals with it well. No health problems. On the other hand, my sister…" This was the first he was hearing any of this.

"Has an illness?"

"Not exactly. She just gets sick a lot. From simple colds to more serious things. It has gotten better in recent years, but when she was younger it was really bad. We almost lost her many times."

This was new to Madara since he'd never been worried about losing someone to illness before. Hashirama always seemed as healthy as a horse, it was surprising that his family had illness running through it. "If your mother has been sick before, how do you know this is really the end?"

"After my little sister left her this morning, my mom collapsed and hasn't woken up since. My father kicked me out for being a nuisance." His depression seemed to get deeper at his own words. "My brother got to stay." He rubbed his cheek as if he was recalling a wound, like he'd find a scar there if he scrubbed hard enough. "Has your father ever hit you?"

His rubbing motion suddenly made sense. This was getting deeply personal and he felt uncomfortable. Of course Tajima Uchiha hit his children, it was how he taught them. Whether it was to be better sons or better shinobi. Didn't matter either way, usually the two meant the same thing to his father. He'd gotten the worst of it, Izuna was generally good about following their father's orders.

Madara tended to skirt around it more, apparent by his friendship with an unknown boy. Going about things his father's way would have had him killing Hashirama on sight that first day. Probably Sakura too. Uchiha would be the only people alive if it was up to the older man.


Sakura ran home in a mood, upset that she had been sent away by her new friend. She was always sent away when her family started to talk of shinobi things. It irritated her so much. They thought she was weak because Tobirama had said that she only had enough chakra to survive on. That if she used any of it her body wouldn't be able to take the strain.

Why should it matter that she couldn't use chakra? Her body could get stronger and she'd master taijutsu. Someone just needed to give her a chance. Big brothers were so stupid.

Angry, she didn't realize she had sped up to an unnatural quickness. Abruptly, her heart started to race painfully. She immediately stopped running and leaned against a tree, breathing heavily. She started to feel as if she was choking and she went to her knees. Coughing, blood spattered across the hand she had close to her mouth.

The girl wasn't worried, this had happened before. Afterwards she'd always sense a sudden surge of energy and feel a lot better. As if a failing organ had been restored. She was fine, the sickness usually passed quickly. The onset was just sudden which made it harder to hide from her brothers, but not impossible. If she kept quiet through the attacks they mostly didn't notice. One day she'd be as strong as them and all this would be behind her.

Once the attack ended, she started for the compound again. She spent much more time out here today than she ever had before. She hoped her mother wasn't too worried. Sneaking back in was even easier than normal. There was less guard activity. She wondered why that was but headed towards her home without questioning anyone. The clan members watched as she passed by them, whispering behind her.

She bumped into Tobirama as she entered their home. His red eyes seemed glazed, it was obvious he was upset. Terribly so if he was showing signs of it. He tended to try to pretend he felt nothing at all. He wasn't very successful. His temper and moments of amusement often snuck through. Sakura lifted her arms up, "Pick me up, Tobi."

Slowly, he leaned down, arms going around her. Except, he stayed crouched instead of standing up. It dawned on her as his body started to shake that her brother was crying. And it wasn't Hashirama. This was Tobi, strong Tobirama. She'd never seen him cry before and even now he was hiding his face from her.

Biting her lip, Sakura tried to keep her own tears down, this wasn't the time to be a child affected by another's mood. In the end she couldn't hold it in, though she did manage to remain quiet. At least until she released a choking sob, arms tightening around her white haired brother.

It spoke to how upset he was that he didn't even try to calm her, lost in his own misery.

This he could take, her resilient desire to sooth him but without words. If he'd broken like this in front of Hashirama, without the other boy knowing what was wrong, he'd get questions when he needed silence. His brother was well intended but he just wasn't like him, he didn't want someone to talk him through his sadness. Sakura seemed to know this instinctively and let him cry on her tiny shoulder.

When the tears finally dried up, for them both, Tobirama took his little sister to their mother. Her crying started again and by that time Hashirama was back, having sorted out his bothersome endless talking. Butsuma sat holding his wife's hand while Sakura was comforted by her siblings.

No one commented that Tobirama's red eyes seemed to have migrated their color to the rims of his eyes. Maybe they didn't even notice, it was so hard to tell. The pinkette's wrecking sobs kept everyone's attention.

It could have been the noise or possibly the fact that what was left of her family was finally all around her, but their mother woke up. Sakura gasped, then shot herself into the woman's rising arms. "Mama, mama don't go!"

Brown eyes looked down at the crying pink haired child. Her daughter was only four, her boys eleven and thirteen. They were just becoming men and she'd had so little time with the little girl they'd found one day in the forest. She could accept that now. Her first daughter had never even gotten the chance to live or even have a proper funeral due to her delusional mind.

She'd needed something to cling unto at the time. If Sakura hadn't come into their lives she would have surely died shortly after giving birth. This girl had let her live a few more years and she would just be grateful to the kami for the time that'd been given to her. Still she would have loved to see them all grown up. They would have to live without guidance now.

She could only wonder what would happen to Sakura, surrounded only by foolish men. Would they know what to do to help her when she became marriageable? Be able to explain what was happening? Oh, her time had come too soon.

Her fingers went through soft pink hair, "Sakura, you'll always be my daughter." The little girl raised her green eyes to her brown. "If nothing else please remember that." Next her eyes moved to her oldest. "Hashirama, you'll make a great leader one day, just don't be blind to evil intentions. Trust too easily given is just as easily broken."

His bowl cut jiggled as he nodded. Far be it from her to judge her child's fashion sense but…"Fix your hair, maybe grow it longer, if you want any girls to be interested. Just make sure your father doesn't cut it ever again." Butsuma nearly chuckled. His wife moved on to their second born, the last of their children who lived.

Tobirama stared back at her for a long time, his eyes jerking about occasionally as if he was scanning the room. It was a condition of his albinism, involuntary eye movements, along with what Butsuma figured was near blindness. He made up for it in his sensing ability but, naturally, he was defective. The boy's red eyes were intimidating and the erratic eye movement made it seem like he was always aware, watching. Though he really was just sensing, and looking in your general direction.

His mother patted the white haired boy's hand along with Sakura's, requesting they switch places. Tobirama did as asked and moved in closer. Her hand went around his neck, bringing his ear to her lips. "You'll be a very strong man, you already are, but you don't always have to be." Her eyes darted in his siblings' direction. "You have people to lean on." She smiled at him as she released his neck.

After that Butsuma ordered the children out so she could rest. Sakura looked back in worry as her brothers pushed her forward and out the door. Her mother smiled and waved at her.

That was the last she saw of her. Their mother didn't make it to sunrise. When the morning came they gathered to bury her. The whole Senju clan stood beside them as she was lowered into the ground. Sakura was unable to keep her composure, some of the older Senju women had to take her away. They were unable to calm her.

It was only as dusk fell that Hashirama and Tobirama came into her room, reeking of sweat and blood. Even on the day they buried their mom, they were forced to fight. She just gazed up at them, drained of her ability to cry. There was nothing left but body aches and swollen eyes. Hashirama kneeled down in front of her, then suddenly there was a stuffed rabbit shoved into her face.

Then in the squeaky voice he had mastered years ago he spoke, "Don't be sad, you still have us." He peeked out above the doll, then glanced at his brother. "You know, I heard that the grumpy one," he jerked the rabbit's head towards Tobirama, "Gives the best hugs. Second only to Hashirama's. Wanna give that a try?"

Sakura let out one big gasp for air from a would-be sob and threw her arms around her brothers, trapping the rabbit between them. Yes, she still had her siblings. They were just as miserable as she was, but they still tried to cheer her up. "You are the bestest big brothers in the world."

They went to sleep that night cuddled together in her room. Sakura held the rabbit close to her heart, not willing to let it go. Butsuma leaned against the wall outside the room, wondering if it was possible for the little girl to remain this innocent. What would be the thing that stained her beyond repair? Her chakra levels were so small that she would be unable to use ninjutsu, and she was very clumsy. Almost as if she had no sense of balance. He'd seen drunks walk a straighter line than she could.

His pseudo daughter wouldn't be able to fight in their war and he, the man who pushed everyone to battle, was just a little grateful. There was far less of a chance of death or disillusionment in a civilian lifestyle. Maybe she would make it out of this unscathed. He could only hope. With that thought he went to climb into his own bed, exhausted from the emotions of the day. He hadn't realized how hard it would be to sleep without his wife by his side.

The next day Sakura kept her rabbit by her side, even after her brothers left. She sat there thinking, while her new hand maiden went about asking what she'd like to wear today. Her mother would have just shoved the kimono on her whether she liked it or not.

This woman listened to her about wearing her brother's clothing, only tsking that it wasn't appropriate wear. She still did as requested though, afraid of the repercussions of not giving the sole female child of the head family anything she wanted.

For breakfast she wanted to only eat the meats and her assistant let her. Her mother never would have allowed this, she'd have force fed her if she had to. In fact she'd done so on numerous occasions. She's never realized how much she'd miss these previously annoying things. Her hair hadn't even been put up to keep dirt out of it. It was always something her mama made sure she did since Sakura tended to crawl about in dirty places. She didn't know how to put it up herself and no one came to her aid.

As the morning progressed, her attitude towards the handmaiden continued to get worse, until in a final fiery explosion, she erupted. "You can't replace my Mama, you ugly cow!" Leaving her stunned handmaiden behind she rushed to conceal herself so that she could escape the compound unnoticed.

After she'd done so, she ran towards her favorite spot, tripping several times and tumbling about. By the time she made it there she was filthy. Her hair had dirt in it and even pieces of leaves from her falls. The rabbit she'd carried with her looked ragged from all the abuse it at taken when it was previously white. She looked nothing like the fifth child of the great Butsuma Senju.

That is probably why, when Madara discovered her despondent form in the woods, it solidified his impression of her as a peasant. He hovered over her, surprised that she hadn't noticed his approach. He didn't try to conceal himself at all. Finally, as his feet were placed in front of her lowered head, she realized someone was with her. Slowly, without an ounce of self-preservation, she raised her head to look at him.

He thought to himself that he could have so easily killed her. She was defenseless and far too trusting to be shinobi. Her jade eyes widened in recognition and she jumped into him, knocking him to the ground. She fell with him, just happy to see someone she knew, even if she'd only met him once.

Disconcerted and tense from having been taken down so effortlessly, Madara had to keep himself from slitting her throat. He took deep breathes to convince himself that she wasn't a threat that needed to be eliminated. This child had a death wish.

Growling, he pushed Sakura off of himself and stood up. "You don't just jump somebody like that, I could have killed you!" It was a little surprising that he felt like he would have regretted that.

She looked up at him with those big childish eyes of hers, "But you wouldn't a done it right?" She smiled up at him goofily. "We're friends, ain't we?"

He pointed at her in defiance, as if to indicate her griminess. "Like I could ever be friends with someone of your status."

Sakura didn't follow his train of thought, believing he meant her position as the third heir of the Senju clan. "Don't worry about that. I won't mention it if you don't." She meant her title, he took it as the friendship she was trying to foster with him.

Realizing he wasn't going to get anywhere with her, he walked back off towards the river, having only come to investigate the noises she had made in her travels. She followed behind him, which he shouted at her for, but didn't try to stop. She picked up a daisy in passing, handing it to him when they reached their destination. "Throw?"

Madara glared down at the flower, but her eyes were pleading so he snatched it up quickly, then shoved it in his shirt to shut her up. "It's called skipping stones." She nodded, taking in the information. She sat down next to him as he skipped his stones, content to just watch him.

After a while he noticed that she seemed a little quiet for her disposition. Although it wasn't as apparent as Hashirama's always was, he could tell that she was saddened by her thoughts. He eyed the dirty stuffed rabbit she clung to like a lifeline. Her mood was starting to affect his throwing and it irritated him.

"Okay, what's wrong?"

She looked up from the river into his coal black eyes, hearing the stone he just tossed plop into the water. "I'm just thinking about my mama." The boy cringed, realizing this was going to get far more emotional than he was prepared for. He thought maybe it would be about a lost toy. He could help with that, but this…he wasn't equipped for this.

His mother had died when he was eight, he'd already been on the frontlines by then and considered a man. No one tried to comfort him and his brothers never came to him to be comforted. This was new territory for him, Hashirama had been the only one he'd talked to about mothers. That conversation didn't go very far and the other boy was more mature than this little girl. He was far more worried about accidentally saying something wrong.

Slowly, ever so slowly, he reached over to pat her back. She didn't react so he took that as a sign that he was doing something right. Sakura fidgeted with the toy in her hands, drawing his attention to it. "Did your mother give you that?"

She nodded, "A long time ago."

He took that to mean her mother had passed long ago. Without knowing how rude he was being he told her what he thought of her stuffed rabbit. "It is incredibly dirty." For a second it seemed like she froze but she didn't take offense, only shaking her head to acknowledge she heard him. She wondered why she felt she'd heard those words before.

His hand, that he'd continued to rub her back with, came around to the front of her. To make sure she was okay with it he pulled gently at the toy. She was very much not okay with this, pulling back from him quickly. He'd been planning to give it a wash in the river for her, since it was apparent she didn't know how to do such things if it was this dirty. He ditched that idea when he saw her reaction.

"That's okay, I'm not gonna take it from you." It had been a very long time since he'd felt this gentle, or needed really. He'd always protect Izuna but they were rougher with each other on a daily basis. The brat didn't need him anymore either. He remembered when his little brother would be all cute, asking him to get things for him and teach him techniques. Now his independent streak had emerged and he mostly did things on his own. Not cute at all.

Sakura had eased back into him, and Madara decided getting her mind off of depressing thing was the best idea. Collecting a few more flat sided stone, he showed them off to her. "Want to learn?"

Her eyes seemed to light up at the suggestion. "Madara will teach me?" He nodded and noticed that, unlike Hashirama, her mood didn't do a complete 180. She was still obviously saddened but was happy to learn how to skip rocks. He supposed his friend was just easier to distract than even children were.

He handed her one of the stones he'd pick up and then demonstrated with his own how it was done. It was very much like teaching Izuna how to do the Shurikenjutsu, which was the only way he knew how to explain it after all. She watched him carefully, trying to replicate his motion when it was her turn to try. The rock slammed into Madara's face.

"Arg!" He crouched down, rubbing at his forehead. It was a dead center hit. "What kinda aim is that?! The river you idiot not me!" Sakura blushed, embarrassed at her blunder. She released the stone too early and it had gone behind her, hit a tree, and bounced back at him. He was upset at having been able to be hit more than at the pain. If that had been a shuriken he would have been dead.

"I'm sowwry." His glare was shut down instantly as she looked up at him with those big green eyes full of apology. He shoved another rock in her hand and turned her towards the river to give her another shot. He turned his face away from her, not daring to look at her. She wasn't cute. She wasn't cute at all.

In fact, he figured out ten minutes later, she was a menace. Sakura had thrown maybe twenty rocks. At least seven of them had landed in his face, most once again hitting the center of his forehead. He was starting to doubt after the third time that her aim was off at all. She was either a math genius, considering all the ways the stones had bounced before slamming into him, or the clumsiest human being on the planet.

As another rock barely missed him, striking the spot next to his head on the tree he was hiding behind, he was fed up. Marching forward, he grabbed her raised arm before she could toss the projectile. Saddling up behind her, he growled, "Just do it like this." He moved her body into the position that worked best for him, angling her arm in just the right way at her side, then he backed away. "Now hold that for a moment."

He made sure he was safely tucked behind his tree again before he told her to restart the tossing motion in that manner to gain momentum. She released the stance, recreated it and gently threw the rock towards the river. It went in the right direction and skipped across the surface twice before it sunk down. He sighed in relief.

Before Madara could stop her, Sakura had tossed herself at him, happy as could be. "I did it, Madara. I did it!" She hopped around him, in remnant of the toy bunny that was still locked in the grip of her left hand. She had not set it down even once during their session, but her mind was no longer on her mother. Shockingly, he had done a good job at distracting her.

A smile slid onto his lips, pleased he was able to do it. "Yes, you did."

Chapter Text

On several more occasions, over the course of a few weeks, the two met. It was always coincidence on Madara's part. The river was where he hung around in his free time, the little girl was the one to seek him out. Just like Hashirama. The buffoon initiated their friendship, not him. In fact the two fools seemed like they would get along spectacularly.

While Madara felt odd when he thought about that assumption it wasn't like he purposely tried to keep them apart. It was by chance that they just haven't met yet.

After the first time teaching Sakura to skip stones, Hashirama had only come to the river once. During that meeting he informed him that his mother had passed on. That was the most likely reason for his perpetual absence. So if the brunette happened to come upon them it wouldn't matter. There was no reason for Madara to try to keep the young girl to himself.

That's why it meant nothing at all when he pressured Sakura to leave as he sensed his friend nearing them. He only thought she might be too tired to deal with the idiot. The fact that it was only near noon was irrelevant, she was small and lost energy more quickly. There was nothing else to it, thank you very much voice in his head that roared for him to hide her, hide her, hide her.

And maybe he was thinking that, but it was just for her protection. He'd found out through their numerous meetings that Sakura really was very clumsy. Countless times he'd been forced to catch her before she fell into the river. She didn't know how to water walk and she was so tiny, along with being impossible to sense. If she fell deep enough it could be hard to find her.

There were many more instances of intense clumsiness. The girl was a walking time bomb of disaster. He was very careful with her, watchful, but Hashirama wouldn't know this. The black haired boy swore that his friend didn't even know how to think before he acted. The four year old could accidentally fall on a kunai the other boy took out.

There was no need to chance this, so he sent her away again.

Hashirama, in all his grinning glory, came upon him with a plan for their day already in place. "Let's race to the cliff, Madara." There was no way he was going to be tricked again so he took off running. Thinking of new places he could meet with Sakura the whole way. A place where he hadn't taken the brunet before.

"That's cheating, Madaraaa!" He could hear Hashirama yelling after him. His competitive spirit was lit though and he wasn't slowing, not when he could hear the brunet gaining on him. Seeing the cliff ahead he judged the distance and decided to jump the rest of the way. He twisted his body mid lunge so that his feet faced the cliff.

When he connected, he attached himself with chakra and continued to run up the ledge. He was already cackling about his win when he reached the halfway point, but then Hashirama was suddenly besides him, looking as cool as a cucumber. The other boy's head turned to look at him. Giving him a sly smirk, the brunet rushed ahead of him.

"Damn you, Hashirama!" He heard laughing and then that ugly bowl cut popped out over the edge of the cliff.

"You're still a dirty cheat."

Like it wasn't anything he hadn't done before, pot calling the kettle black was what this was. As he reached the edge and jumped up onto the top of the mountainous area, he brought the heel of his foot down onto the idiot's head. "You left an opening you fool!" He shouted out in pain holding his head, but Madara allowed him no time to recover. He gave him a little shove off the cliff.


The black haired boy threw his arms up into the air. "I'm king of the mountain!" He felt a tug on his leg and that was all the warning he was given before he went flying off the cliff alongside his friend. He saw the wooden branch wrapped around his ankle as his body flipped around so he was falling head first. He really should have been on the watch for that, but he'd been in a celebratory mood.

Crossing his arms, he waited for the jolt he knew was about to occur. They'd done this for fun before and Madara hadn't enjoyed it. Hashirama called it bungee jumping and referred to him as scared when he'd said he hadn't wanted to hand his life over to a freakin' piece of wood. Though that one word had been enough to get him to concede and 'at least try it' as the brunet liked to say. Afterwards he'd puked, it hadn't been pretty.

He was used to it now and trusted Hashirama to stop the branch at the correct length for his brains to stay in his skull. The jolt happened right before his head hit. It stopped his fall but then dropped him. His skull knocked off the ground, just much more gently than a fall from the cliff would have. Madara got up rubbing at his head while growling at his friend. At least it hurt less than a rock to the forehead.

The brunet was hanging upside down from a branch just like he had been a second before, with a smug look on his face. "Who's the king of the mountain?" The branch brought Hashirama back to the top in a blink of an eye before he dispelled it.

Grumbling to himself, Madara climbed the cliff again at a slower pace. He was out of breath from having done the climb twice when he made it to the top. He was prepared to yell and show his demon face, but when he saw the other teen lying on his back, staring up at the sky in melancholy, he couldn't. No matter how much Hashirama tried to behave normally he was still recovering from the loss of his mother. His despondency wouldn't be as easily changed as it usually was.

Sitting down next to him, Madara stared out at the space they had declared to be their future village. "You know you don't have to pretend with me, right? I'm used to your depressed ass. If we are gonna be co-founders we need to be able to deal with each other."

Hashirama sat up and wiped at his suddenly leaking eyes. Slowly, Madara reached out and patted him on the back. In seconds the brunet was a sobbing mess. His tears seemed to go on forever, it was starting to get dark when he finally stopped.

"Th-thank you." His voice sounded hoarse and he probably needed water.

The black haired boy took note of this for when Sakura cried in front of him. The thought surprised him. Why was he thinking of ways to comfort the brat for things that may never even happen? He tried to shake the thought off on his way home after the two went their separate ways.

The next day, when the pink haired girl came to the river, he dragged her to an old play area of his and Izuna's. It was secluded and hard to get to. The entrance had overgrown vines covering it, requiring him to make a new opening. The hole in the vines was barely noticeable when he was finished. After they covered it back up with the torn away vines it would be perfect.

Sakura was a little nervous to go underneath those sharp saber tooth plants, but trusted her friend's judgment enough to do as he said. She slid through the opening, and when she was finally clear of it she was quite surprised with what waited for her on the other side. It was a clear expansive area with a single tree in the middle. From one of its branches hung a swing.

She squealed with delight as Madara crawled through the hole in the vines, dragging the cut pieces in behind him to fill it in. He wiped himself down as the little pink haired girl rushed forward to try out the swing his mother had made for him and his brothers. It was old and rickety but she obviously loved it, not even testing to see if it would hold her weight before she sat.

A warm feeling spread through his chest at the scene, happy for the old thing to get some use. Izuna had never liked it much, he seemed to have an issue with not having both his feet firmly planted on the ground. Madara felt very much the same way so the swing hadn't seen a lot of use even in its prime. The ones who used it most were his other younger brothers and they hadn't been around enough to fully appreciate its value.

The four year old looked as if she would finally give it the love his mother thought it deserved. She probably would have loved to have had a daughter. One like Sakura who was filled with so much joy and empty of hate. He swallowed the tightness in his throat that always seemed to accompany thoughts of his mom.

Moving forward, he grabbed the rope on either side of the little girl and gave her a little push. No matter how small, she was happy with the movement. "Do you like this spot?"

"Yes!" She giggled as he pushed her higher still.

"How about you come here for now on instead of the river?"

She tried to look behind her as best she could. "But Madara is at the river."

"I'm going to start coming here instead. You can come here whenever you want. If you need a safe place to stay during the night this is just as good as anywhere else."

Her head bobbed though she couldn't understand why she would want to stay in the woods instead of her bed. "Okay." She swung in silence for a little while, pumping her legs as Madara had already finished with pushing her. He came around her front, dodging her feet as he climbed up into the tree. "Does that mean no more skipping?"

He hesitated while grabbing for a low hanging branch. "…I might take you there again, but you can't hang around there alone. Understood?" He glared down at her daring her to question his authority. She didn't even notice his intensity, just agreeing to do as he said.

There was no way to describe how pleased that made him. He absolutely hated being defied on such matters. Izuna liked to say he had a controlling streak, he liked to say that he better damn well listen to him if he wanted to live to see another day. Challenging superiors on the battlefield got people killed. It was good to know Sakura wasn't going to pose a problem in this respect.

Things went on like that for a few short weeks. When Madara was back from the battlefield he would either hang out with Hashirama or Sakura. Mostly it was the latter as it wasn't very often that the brunet's schedule matched with his. On the other hand the pinkette had an enormous amount of free time and while he did spend a substantial amount of time with her, he disclosed very little to the girl.

They didn't actually talk much at all. It felt weird to hold a conversation with someone so much younger than him, mostly they just hung around one another silently. At times the girl would collect some flowers and show them off to him. In fact their little hide out seemed to be gaining some decoration here and there. For the most part he ignored it.

He felt as if he was taking care of a puppy, it was one of the main reasons he took her here. Since he'd been the one to discover her, he felt as if he had an obligation to at least make sure she stayed alive. Giving her a place to hide if necessary and checking on her well being was all this was. He had somehow gained a pet, she didn't quite seem human to him. She was too young and innocent for this world.

Things always had a tenancy to change though. He really shouldn't have been as surprised as he was.

Everything seemed to have gone still, there weren't even any crickets to fill the silence. Madara had to endure the quiet as he tried to process what his father had just told him. Hashirama was a Senju. They had just met the other day and nothing seemed out of place. Except Izuna, the little rat, had followed him. Always one to listen to their father.

He supposed he should just be glad it hadn't been a Sakura day that he'd been caught on. His brother hadn't attack Hashirama because he believed him to be too big of a threat. Which was true, the idiot was strong. Madara hadn't even been able to beat him in a fair fight. All he'd been able to accomplish was a mutual take down. He had no idea what the other boy would be capable of in a real fight but he was sure it wouldn't be good for them.

A Senju. He'd thought of that possibility before, hadn't he? It had seemed like an impossibility because Hashirama hadn't tried to take him out. Maybe he had known all along because he didn't feel surprised in the least. It was easier to believe him not to be a Senju than to feel he had betrayed his family in multiple ways. More than making friends outside the clan, he had befriended a Senju.

Wanted to create peace with a Senju. That sounded wonderful to him, but his father would never accept it. His father was actually, at that very moment, making plans to track and then kill Hashirama. He couldn't let that happen.

That night he carved words into stone.

In the morning he was jittery, hoping his father wouldn't figure out his plan. After Hashirama got away, he wouldn't think of any other outcome, his father would know he tipped him off. He was fine with that, he'd gotten quite used to the beatings, but that could only happen after his friend's escape. If discovered too soon it could result in the brunet's death. He'd been in life or death situations before, but that was his life on the line. Someone else dying by your error is far more intimidating.

Finally, it was time to go to the river. He trudged along, hoping Hashirama wouldn't show up. Escaping Tajima Uchiha wouldn't be an easy feat and he was worried about how he could help. When he arrived at the river he was so focused on his task that he didn't even notice Hashirama was acting just as strange as he was.

Usually his behavior would have sent alarm bells ringing but every bit of his attention was devoted to getting this stone to his friend. What he hadn't expected after the exchange was for the new rock to also have letters carved into it. Everything seemed too slide into place and he realized that the Senju must have had the same idea as the Uchiha.

They said their goodbyes, then turned their backs on one another and rushed away. Neither got far, their families jumped out and clashed weapons. Just as suddenly as the assault, the two older boys realized what their fathers were planning.

Butsuma's weapon shot out towards Izuna and Tajima's did the same to Tobirama. Madara didn't even really have a chance to be horrified, he reacted instinctively. Without any thought, he'd thrown his stone to knock the weapon off course. He noticed Hashirama had done the same when they faced off in front of their brothers.

"I don't care who you are, I won't forgive anyone who tries to hurt my brother!"

"And the same goes for me."

The little brothers looked on in shock while their elder brothers stared each other down. It was Madara who looked away first, too overcome by everything to even look Hashirama in the eye.

"…Hey, Hashirma."

"What is it?"

"Maybe all those plans we made together…are just a pipedream of ours." It hurt to even say it, but it was the truth after all.

Hashirama's face tightened at his words. "Madara, what are you…"

With no other way to convey his sincerity and also to give his friend the respect he deserved as a fellow shinobi, Madara looked into brown eyes. "It might have been brief, but it was fun…Hashirama."

Tajima, who had been letting his son speak until now, spoke up. "Three against three. Madara, think we can take them?"

The one thing good about his father was that he thought about his odds before entering a fight. Not one to do anything when it would end badly. He didn't let his rage control him. It was always calculated decisions. "No, Hashirama is stronger than me. If we fight then we'll lose."

Izuna actually came out of his defensive position from the shock. "There's a kid stronger than you, Brother?"

Madara didn't answer, still keeping his eyes on the Senju in front of him. Tajima didn't acknowledge his younger boy either. "I see. Quite impressive. Let's retreat."

Finally able to break eye contact, Madara gave his last friendly farewell before turning away. "Later." He felt his resolve and despair for their parting come into being in an unintended way. His sharingan had activated. He wondered, if this was the way it happened, if he even wanted it at all. He needed to protect his brother though, and he'd fight the other boy to do it.

Hashirama couldn't believe what was happening. "Madara but you…haven't really given up on it, have you?" There was no way he could just let him leave like this! They were friends. "You have just gotten to the same point I-"

Madara never gave him the chance to finish. "You are Senju." Hashirama gasped behind him, surprised that he would be using his clan against him. He'd thought none of that would matter between them. "I truly wish it wasn't so. The Senju killed my brothers. And the Uchiha your brothers. That's why there is no need to show each other what's inside of us." He couldn't hide his horror at what was being said, couldn't stop it from progressing. "Our next meeting will likely be on the battlefield, Hashirama Senju. For I am Madara Uchiha."

When the other boy turned his head around, Hashirama jerked back in surprised. He'd never seen the sharingan in his friend's eyes before. It felt like a threat.

Madara was surprised not to have gotten a beating for warning Hashirama when they got back home. His father was too engrossed in the fact that he'd finally activated his sharingan. He chose to ignore how it happened. Izuna was just as excited, bouncing around him once their father had left them alone. He asked questions at lightning speed, desperate to know what having the doujutsu felt like.

His little brother was quite upset when he couldn't really explain it well. He wasn't good with words and Izuna was too impatient to give him time to come up with an accurate response. After a while his sibling finally gave up questioning him, realizing that he was not going to get any useful information from him. He walked off in a huff, reminding him of Sakura.

Thinking of the imp, he'd have to check on her. If by chance she had heard the commotion by the river she might be scared, or worse, try to go check on it. She was too curious and stupid for her own good.

His father seemed not to care about his sneaking off anymore, since he hadn't sent anyone after him when he left. He used his new sharingan to make sure of that, hypervigilant the whole way to their little hideout. Once he was sliding through the opening, he deactivated it so that Sakura wouldn't see.

That was unnecessary though. The girl wasn't there, but every time he came she was always here. Worry shot through him that she had gone to investigate and gotten kidnapped by the Senju. Or killed. No, it was best not to think like that. Hashirama wouldn't let that happen.

A stray thought wandered into his mind that Hashirama wasn't the one in control. At the moment his friend's father was and he seemed just as bad as his own. Killing a small pink haired child would mean nothing at all to him. Sakura was no one important in the grand scheme of things, her death wouldn't even faze that bastard.

There was no reason for it to faze him either though, was there? She was as good as a pet to him, not even as good as a ninneko the Uchiha were known for using. Except they were also known for avenging even their ninneko. If anyone thought they were going to get away with killing the little peasant girl they were dead wrong. No one touched what was an Uchiha's.

Before Madara knew it, he was rushing to the exit, ready to take on the whole fucking Senju clan if need be. Hashirama wouldn't get a free pass either if he had stood by and watched without doing anything to help the defenseless kid.

As he leaned down to push away the vines, they moved and there was Sakura. He was forced to move backwards, falling on his back as she crawled forward, pulling on the vines. She ended up seated between his legs, looking up at him in surprise.

"Madara? What wrong?"

He didn't know what to say, there was so much wrong. His brow crunched up as he thought about it all. Hashirama was a Senju, his father was a bully, and Izuna was sure to be poisoned by it all. So many things had gone wrong along the way. His brothers' deaths for one, which should have never happened. Not being able to mourn anyone because they had all died honorably, like shinobi are supposed to.

Even his mother, who wasn't a shinobi. His father didn't let him mourn her either. Everything in this world was messed up and wrong. There was so many ways he could answer that, yet all he found in the end was one cold hard truth.

"I lost a friend today."

Chapter Text

Sakura didn't quite know what to say to that. Tobirama had cried in her arms not that long ago and that's when she realized that strong men weren't always so. At times they needed someone by their side to be there for them. She knew her brother had needed for her to keep silent. He constantly wanted to be the resilient one and didn't wish for her to point out his moment of weakness.

Hashirama on the other hand wanted to be worried over. When he was really sad he coveted being coddled because no one really ever gave that to him. Butsuma made sure that even their mom wouldn't baby them, which only created 'weak-kneed' men.

Madara was a whole nother beast in this regard. He would despise being pampered and silence wasn't what he needed. If he decided to show weakness in front of someone willingly, then it was something he wanted to at least acknowledge. Not point out bluntly, or even for them to show they recognized it as sadness, but to show that he was heard. What he really wanted was to be cheered up, not to be let to wallow in gloominess.

So, Sakura did something she learned from Hashirama which she had become quite good at. She trolled. "You have other friends?" She spoke with her very best skepticism tone.

His head jerked up so quickly, he was surprised he didn't get whiplash. He stared up into green eyes, thought they should be brown, and nearly smiled. While he hadn't noticed it before, he realized that both Hashirama and Sakura had a propensity to poke fun at him. He liked to react angrily to it, but he did enjoy it. It was the quickest way out of a slump he knew of.

Seeing that he was breaking out of his mood, the girl smiled at him. "Do you want to talk about them?"

Not really, except at the same time he really did. There was no way he'd ever be able to mention Hashirama in front of anyone else around him. She was the only non-Uchiha he knew. In the end he couldn't control himself and told her all about the idiot he once called a friend. He was careful to never reveal who he was or give too many clues that could lead back to him. Though he might have omitted other details also. Like how he'd been bested in stone skipping by the fool.

Sakura didn't need to know silly, useless information like that.

This went on for a while, as he had over a year's worth of meetings to discuss with her, but neither of them moved from their position at the front of the entrance. Finally, he started to get close to where Hashirama and he parted ways, and their conversation hit a lurch. "We just…" Without even realizing it, remembering those intense emotions brought his sharingan to the surface.

So caught up was he in trying to figure out how to explain how their friendship broke apart, he didn't even notice the change. Or see Sakura leaning in to get a better look at his red eyes. "We just differed too greatly." Differed by a clan name.

When he glanced up to see her reaction to all this, thinking she was probably too young to really understand any of it, he was surprised to discover her inches from his face. Along with that, he recognized that he had unconsciously activated his dojutsu.

Madara knew his eyes would be blood red and terrifying for a little girl. Especially if she knew of the Uchiha and their legacy, which everyone did. Civilians even taught their children to be weary of anyone wielding the red eyes of death. The Uchiha weren't on good terms with anyone. Without even meaning to he had scared her away.

Well, that would have been the normal reaction, but Sakura didn't get frightened. She even stared right into his eyes, sending a shiver down his spine. Only a short while ago did he achieve his sharingan, but all his life every non-clan member he met was petrified of accidentally seeing his eyes. Before his eyes had ever bleed red he was ostracized for the simple chance that it might happen. It was hard to buy things when merchants weren't even dare look at you.

For this tiny little slip of a girl to dare gaze into his eyes, with a stimulated sharingan no less, was shocking. And enthralling. She didn't stop there either.

Reaching out, Sakura cupped her hand around his cheek, leaning in even closer. His eyes looked different than Tobirama's, but no less safe. There was a black Tomoe inside which her brother didn't have. She'd never seen an eye like this before, one with a design inside of it. It was very…


Without thinking Madara suddenly let his gaze wander over the child in front of him, taking in all the information the sharingan was willing to provide. It was easy to see why he hadn't noticed its activation at first. Sakura was devoid of chakra until she had touched him, then her system lit up. Not as brightly as everyone he had seen while wielding it before though. Hashirama had looked like a firework, bursting with energy.

The little peasant before him was the exact opposite. She barely consisted of any energy at all. Scanning her form he swiftly found the cause. The area of her brain was completely bare of any chakra. There was a void there that her energy seemed to be draining into.

Although he'd never looked at a civilian before with the sharingan, he was sure this wasn't normal. There was too big of a difference compared to a shinobi. A big empty space inside someone's head was unusual, but he had no reference to refer to. For now he'd have to leave it alone.

He deactivated the dojutsu and Sakura actually seemed disappointed. He couldn't get over how amazing that was. There was no way he would let her go now. She'd become more than just a pet.

Nervousness started to overtake the pinkette as Madara's stare only appeared to have intensified without its redness. To calm herself she pulled out her stuffed rabbit from her waistband, where she'd stored it to crawl inside their hideout.

The motion drew the teen's attention. At the sight of the dirty toy, he tsked. It was still filthy. Every time he saw her she had it with her, usually in her hand but always within reach. He'd realized it was very precious to her.

Last time, by the river, she recoiled when he'd tried to take the rabbit and he hadn't tried again. Still, there was no better time than the present.

"Do you trust me?"

Sakura bit her lip and blinked up at him. Of course she trusted him, Madara hadn't given her any reason not to. They'd been friends for what seemed like a long time and he had been nothing but good to her. The answer was very simple. She nodded her head yes.

The black haired boy leaned even closer, making sure she saw his hand moving towards the stuffed animal. "Will you let me help you clean that?" It was a test to see just how much the kid trusted him.

The little girl tightened her hold on her possession, unsure. This was the toy her mama gave her, the one she carried around since her death. It cheered her up when her brothers weren't around to do so, which was a lot. Lately she couldn't even bring herself to let it out of her sight. She thought if she did it would disappear just like her mama. Giving it up would be like handing over a limb.

Madara wouldn't take it though, would he? It was just for a cleaning and she'd have it right back. There was no need to worry. Looking up at him, she pushed the rabbit into his hand and he seemed to freeze as if he was shocked.

"That much, huh."

His eyes went from the toy back to her face then he reached towards her until his hand cradled the back of her neck. She didn't even bat an eye at the vulnerable position. There was no question that he could snap her neck so easily. Maybe he should have been worried that he often thought about how simple it would be to kill her, but it was just the way of the shinobi. Always checking others for a moment it would be possible to kill them with the least hassle. It was a switch that was hard to turn off.

Frankly, Madara never had someone willingly being this open with him before. Even Izuna kept himself reasonably defended against sudden attacks when he was with him. It was a habit that they couldn't change. This feeling of someone voluntarily putting themselves in this position for him was empowering. Like he had the whole world in his hand instead of a child's neck.

Along with that came another emotion, one he couldn't recognize but it felt similar to a rush of battle lust. He shifted slightly, feeling a tension in his groin. Whatever it was he'd ignore it for now.

Standing up, with the stuffed rabbit in hand, he turned Sakura around so she was facing the exit. "Let's go to the river." After knowing both of the clans hung around there, neither would go there again for fear of an attack. The place would be practically abandoned from now on.

Once they were there the young Uchiha took his time washing her prized possession. The dirt came off it in waves in the beginning. By the end it was back to its naturally white color. The child squealed in delight when it was returned to her.

After that, they sat at the edge of the river together in silence. That was how it usually was between them, never really speaking too often. Except now Madara didn't really like that very much. He wanted to understand her better.

"Why a rabbit?"

Startled, Sakura glanced up at him. "I was afraid of them. Mama didn't want me to be."

Of all the things to be afraid of the boy hadn't thought rabbits would be anywhere near the top of the list. What a highly unusual fear. Now that he was thinking of questions he came across one he was a little disturbed he didn't know the answer to. "How old are you?"

Grinning, the girl threw up a hand with four fingers lifted. "I'm this many."

He raised an eyebrow. "Can you count?"

This rattled her but she got a stubborn look on her face. "A course I do." Bringing up a fist, she took her thumb out, "One." Her index, "Two." Her middle finger, "Three." Her ring finger, "Four." Then she stopped, staring at her hand in concentration as she lifted her pinky. "…seven."

"Wrong." He flicked her on the forehead in punishment, but was happy she knew at least this much. People of her status tended not to even know numbers during their childhood.

Glaring up at him, she growled out in a fashion very much like his, "I'll learn."

From then on he always asked her all kinds of questions, from what her favorite color was to why the sky was blue. Madara liked questioning her about things he knew she wouldn't know the answer to. What he hadn't expected was for her to always come back with an answer sooner or later.

After messing up the number system, she was able to count to twenty by the next week. From this he gauged that his assumption of her as a family-less peasant wasn't true, she had someone who taught her things. She probably had a merchant for a father, which was better. Merchants could even become rich given the right resources. They were probably just suffering hard times right now, as most people were.

Sakura was so annoyed by her mistake during her encounter with Madara that she asked her father for a tutor. Someone that could teach her the things she wanted to know. Butsuma hadn't wanted to give in at first, he was always taught that females didn't need to know such things. Knowledge wasn't how a woman got married.

In the end, just to get him to concede, Hashirama had to point out to him that besides her title as his daughter she didn't have much going for her. Men didn't want a women with a weak constitution. They would want her to bear them sons and their mom, with her physical weakness, had been an outlier in having given birth to four strong sons.

If Butsuma wanted her to find a husband he should give her the chance to be knowledgeable so she would be able to offer him something, regardless if it was considered feminine or not. With heavy reluctance, he decided to abide by her wishes.

Years passed like that. Madara and Sakura grew closer and closer until it seemed all of his time away from battle was spent with her. While he loved Izuna, they exhausted their tolerance for one another during the moments they were out in the field.

Going to their hideout also allowed him to be away from his father who was only getting worse, forcing his younger son to follow in his footsteps. He'd done his job good to, Izuna now truly hated the Senju. It made him feel free from it all when he was with the innocent girl, so he kept increasing the minutes and hours he was together with her.

On the other hand Hashirama and Madara clashed in battle many times. Soon their fighting outshined their fathers', using the frontline as their personal playground. No one dared get between them. Tobirama and Izuna fought by their sides, keeping the other's little brother out of their way. It wasn't child's play though, the two younger men would fight just as fiercely, if not more so.

Before any of them knew what had happened, eight years went by in a flash.

From the roof of the clan leader's home, Tobirama watched Sakura sneak back into the compound yet again. At eleven his sensing abilities were amazing but at nineteen they were now far superior compared to back then. Yet he still couldn't sense her.

He'd accepted that she was an abnormality, but for someone who could sense so much it made him uneasy. Hashirama was suddenly at his side, watching their sister navigate her way to the house. "Have you ever followed her?"

The white haired teenager felt he was being needled for what he'd done long ago. He shook his head, it didn't feel like much of a concern when Sakura was younger. She always came back unharmed and with flowers. It hadn't seemed like she went very far. Now things were different, the fighting between the clans was worse than ever.

"We should probably talk to her about staying close." They flashed back inside the house so that she wouldn't see them watching her.

The next day, before Sakura could head off to wherever she went, the brothers confronted her. "Sakura, Dear." Hashirama called out to her when she tried to leave the breakfast table. The pink haired girl's shoulders hunched in. Her brother only called for her in that manner when he wanted something.

Turning back to him, she noticed Tobirama was also looking at her. She stared into his red eyes until they started to jerk about. When she was younger and didn't know it was something he couldn't control, she would get angry at his lack of eye contact. Now it felt normal to her, just a part of Tobi.

After learning what was happening, if they were looking at one another and it started to happen, she'd keep her position while waiting for it to be over. That way they could resume eye contact and he wouldn't be left behind.

She didn't wait for that now, feeling like she wasn't going to like what required the both of them to be here to talk about. Her eyes went to her older brother, the clear leader of whatever this was. Tobi took control of many things but when the brunet wanted it he could tame his brother with just a look. It was obvious he felt like he should be the one to open the topic instead of his younger sibling. Which most likely meant it was a sensitive matter that the more insensitive one of the pair might not be able to handle with the proper care.

It was amazing to see how far he had come from that little kid she remembered from so many years ago. She remembered coming home that night Madara first showed her his Sharingan, happier than usual. He'd treated her like a real friend, more like an equal. Not even her siblings bothered with that.

When she finally arrived at the Senju compound, her arms were filled with flowers. In her joy she may have plucked too many. To get rid of some she offered one to everyone she came across. No one was surprised, she'd done this kind of thing quite often. Many of the clan members called her the flower child.

They were happy to see her fully out of her depression from her mother's passing. Hopefully they would see her play with her brothers around the compound like she used to, now that they were back for a few days. She always lit up the place with her charm.

Wanting to get back inside the house without her father noticing, she sought out the window to Hashirama's room. Her own window had been blocked off for as long as she could remember. So going through her brothers' was her only option. While Tobirama's room was closer to her own, she normally used Hashirama's since Tobi was known to be a tattle tale.

To reach the window she had rolled a log under it a long time ago. Her brother had become used to her climbing through it. Though most of the time he wasn't there to see her do it.

That night Hashirama was actually inside, but she didn't notice at first. There were no candles lit to offset the setting sun so the room was dark. She'd made it about half way to the door when she heard her name called.

Without hesitation she flipped out, flung herself backwards, slamming herself against the wall, hand covering her heart. Her reaction was dramatic but her brother, who was sitting on his bed, didn't respond to it at all. He just stared at her with sad eyes. For the second time that day she comforted someone.

She realized Hashirama was speaking and it broke her out of her thoughts.

"We were thinking that it would be good for you to stay within the compound for a while." By the way she looked at him, he knew this wasn't something she liked the sound of. Petite she might be, but she had the stubbornness of a bull. "The warfare is heating up. It isn't safe out there." All he got was that blank stare of hers, perfected from watching Tobirama.

She did a slow blink for him. "I don't understand what you mean. I'm always in the compound."

"Oh come on, we both know that isn't true."

"Prove it." Cold she might be, but she was a young girl who desired friendship above all else. No one in the compound wanted to play with her for fear of hurting her. They were all sure Tobirama would come to them in their sleep to slit their throats if they did. She was pretty sure the man in question was actually the one who started that rumor. Madara was all she had and she wasn't giving him up.

The white haired teen slammed his hands on the table, standing up. "Stop this nonsense. If you don't comply I'll make sure father knows of what you have been up to."

Angry beyond reason, she pointed up at him rudely and quoted Madara. "Snitches get stitches." Then ran away, leaving them with their jaws hanging open.

"She's twelve, where did she learn that?" It was quiet for a moment, then brown glanced up to meet red. "Though I see you're still a snitch." He promptly ran away, just as his sister did, leaving no time for retaliation.

Sakura hurried away from Senju land, rushing to get to her safe haven. A place no Senju should really be thinking of as safe. It was Madara Uchiha's domain. She'd known the second she'd seen his sharingan that he was an Uchiha. Her father warned her of them, the people who had eyes the color of her brother's. Supposedly, they were meant to strike terror into the hearts of their enemies.

She wasn't scared though, she knew there was no reason to be. Madara was a friend before he was an Uchiha. He wouldn't hurt her.

As the months went on, she started to come to the realization that she couldn't tell him who she was. When her brother finally told her what was bothering him, she found out Hashirama was the friend Madara had given up. All because he was a Senju.

From hints the black haired teen had given she figured out he thought she was lower class. A peasant. While that did irritate her, making her want to show off her real status, she couldn't. So she continued to dress the way he expected a merchant's daughter to.

She was able to wear some nicer things as she told him her family was a bit wealthier than he first imagined, but there would be no fancy outfits to impress him with. Mostly she wore a simple sleeveless red dress with slits on its sides and green shorts.

Madara had also changed his choices of clothing. He was twenty-one now and usually wore a high collared blue shirt with the Uchiha symbol on the back, long enough to cover most of his leg. As of late he carried a gunbai with him. As the years went on his hair got longer and he kept it at waist length, its color a contrast with his pale skin. Her hair had also grown longer, reaching the small of her back, but she liked his far more.

Arriving at their little hidden area, she ducked under the entrance, the hole having grown bigger over time along with Madara. Lying on the porch of a wooden structure he built when she was eight, was the very Uchiha she sought after. He was under the section that a misshapen roof hung over, hiding from the sun.

Smiling, she ran over to him. "Madara!" Her cry of his name appeared to have stirred him, as he turned his head in her direction, but didn't open his eyes. She knew he was faking his sleepiness, once awoken he was hard pressed to fall asleep again for at least a little while. "I have a request."

That made him open his eyes as any appeal from her was rare. He always liked to have spare favors lying around. "What do you need?"

She climbed up beside him on the porch, practically sitting in his lap, then turned those big green eyes onto him pleadingly. He swallowed and closed his eyes, fighting bad thoughts. He wasn't physically attracted to her, her child's body didn't interest him. The problem was the he was attracted to her on a different level, a deeper one. She was kind, smart, and willing to challenge him where others weren't.

All things he would like in a future partner, and while he was sure she'd be physically desirable later in life, currently there was no sexual attraction. Except when she showed the trait that drew him to her the most. Her willingness to submit yanked on his chain constantly. He liked conflict too much to want someone he could walk over all the time and felt nothing when meeting other women who were demure. What he liked was the ability to give in even when they had the skill to fight back.

Sakura knew he would help her either way but she begged instead of giving a general request. He liked that she could put her feistiness down for a period of time. It just about killed him when she did this. At the moment she scooted even closer. Then she asked for something very unexpected. "Can you teach me taijutsu?"

He didn't know he would regret accepting.

Chapter Text

As Madara came flying towards her with a high kick, Sakura hit the deck to dodge. She had originally asked for his help because he was the only one she thought would teach her. What she hadn't expected was for him to be so invested in the training. Honestly, after knowing him for so long, she really should have anticipated that he wouldn't give her special treatment.

The Uchiha, while certainly not going full strength with her, wasn't letting up. His blows rarely connected but when they did it was always a very gentle touch. Knowing this gave her the chance to lower her anxiety and observe his movements. Mostly she just attempted amateuristic avoidance maneuvers, which always irritated the man. He wanted her to fight, not to run. Retreating at the wrong time got people killed.

It had been a few weeks since the girl first requested this of him and the first was spent showing her the correct form. Something she completely lost track of in their wannabe spars. Once in a while though, she'd fall back into defensive and offensives positions quite naturally. Several times he could have sworn there were stances she went into that he had yet to teach her.

Even more rare was when she would suddenly stage an attack that, if performed with proper technique, would have pushed him back or landed the hit. It was almost as if her mind knew what to do but her body couldn't keep up. Those were the instances that worried him the most. A short time after they started training, one such incidence occurred and it scared him to death.

Sakura had been trying to land a hit that day with mounting frustration. Madara was just having fun moving away from her pathetic excuse of attacks. Then it happened. The girl, with hands on bent knees, attempting to catch her breath, raised her head and stared right at him. Her eyes were glowing a fierce green, holding a new determination.

Smirking, she jumped backwards, crossing her arms as she did. Translucent metal strings attached to her wrists were hit by a ray of sun, lighting them up. Tracing them, he realized whatever they were attached to was behind him. He whirled around, though he heard the kunai whizzing behind him before he saw them.

Turning back around, he darted forward to avoid the weapons coming at him from both sides. As he did this he wondered where she'd gotten the wire and the kunai. More importantly, he wondered when she had the chance to place this trap.

A trap.

His eyes narrowed as he realized what this was. He'd moved towards her just as she shot forward in his direction, with her fist raised high. All she wanted was one hit. Her determination had become so intense that it transformed into killing intent.

Madara responded to this as he always had, with his own killing intent. He blocked the blow with his arm, forcing her hand upward, and pushed his other hand against her chest with enough force to break a grown man's ribs. The child went flying until her tiny body slammed into the tree their swing hung from. He heard a sickening crack on impact and the branches swayed from the collision.

He was horrified.

Attacking had been such a natural response to him, he hadn't even hesitated in taking her down. Had he killed her? The girl's sudden gasp for air relieved him. He rushed forward to check to see how much damaged he had inflicted.

When Sakura saw the man's attack connect she felt something inside of her break. Time slowed as the force threw her off her feet. She noticed right away that she was heading for the tree behind her. This might be the death of her.

Fear pumped adrenaline through her system, along with something else. Her energy levels spiked and she didn't feel exhausted anymore. The pain inside of her was also gone before her back hit the tree. She didn't scream in pain but she could feel that something had happened to her spine. The hit winded her for a moment but she gasped greedily for air. Seeing her friend approach, seeking comfort, she reached out her hand to him.

Taking the hand offered, Madara started to check how badly she was wounded. Pressing against her ribs, he observed her reaction. She didn't even wince. Nothing broken there. Next, he examined her head, no blood, dents, or feelings of dizziness. The crack hadn't come from there. That left…it couldn't be that.

As if a heavy weight had landed on him the Uchiha went from crouching next to her, to kneeling before her. One of the worst injuries a shinobi, or anyone for that matter, could suffer from was a spinal injury. In one move he could very well have ended her life.

With growing trepidation, he reached out to touch her legs. She hadn't moved them yet, but if there was even a little sensation left in them he would do everything he could to get her help. Even go to the Senju.

As disgusted as the Uchiha were to admit it the other clan just had more and better healers. He would put his gunbai down in front of Hashirama and beg him for help if needed. Even more than ever before, he was realizing how precious Sakura was to him. After all these years she was still innocent, capable of bringing a bright light to his dark world. And he'd crushed that with his bare hands.

Madara's fingers were almost touching her leg when he saw it twitch. His head rose and he gazed down into her face. The pinkette stared back at him questioningly. Swallowing the dryness in his throat, which didn't help at all, he asked her, "Can you stand?"

Blinking, she nodded slowly, as if confused at his question. "Of course." Then she tried to stand, he gawked at her as she pushed herself up from the tree. Her knees buckled halfway but her legs were working. His relief was palpable.

Trying again, she made it to her feet this time. Staring up at her now, the twenty-one year old shinobi with crumbled up brows, circled his arms around her waist. His face was pushed up against her stomach and although the Senju girl would have sworn her shirt was getting a little wet, maybe she was still a bit dazed.

After the man did a few swipes of his face against her shirt, she was then pulled onto his lap without warning. He moved to her neck, nuzzling into it. She could feel the leftover tension in his body so she rubbed at his shoulders, trying to calm him. "I'm okay. Strong as an ox, you know." He laughed lightly against her neck, squeezing his arms around her to bring her even closer.

Shivering, Sakura shifted a bit. His laughter caused his breath to come out in a strong burst beside her neck and it did funny things to her stomach. She was suddenly more aware of the body against her own. There were hands on her hips, holding her in place with a tight grip. Her own hands were crushed up between them. Moving them slightly, she was able to press her palms on his chest. She didn't push him away. She felt safe like this, enclosed in his embrace. It never felt like this when Hashirama hugged her.

That day, tightening his hold on her, Madara swore to himself that he wouldn't hurt her again. He was more aware of himself now, making sure he never entered into a serous battle mentality. After that incident, she hadn't summoned enough killing intent to jar him again. Occasionally, her determination would morph into something more deadly, but he was always careful with her.

She was getting frustrated again today, having become more upset that he'd allowed her to hit him a few times. It was to show her that she needed to work on her physical strength as much as her technique. As of late she was being caught up with the logistics. She didn't seem to care why he was doing it though, just upset that he was letting it happen at all.

Her irritation levels were rising higher and higher. She knew she was weak but now he was sticking her nose in it. Finally, as she came at him ready to punch, he didn't show any intention to avoid it and she snapped. An inner voice screamed out 'crush him' while she yelled out, "Stop messing around!"

Madara's black eyes widened and even without his sharingan activated he knew he needed to move. Dodging to the side, he watched her stumble forward, her hand knocking into the tree. The tree seemed to rock in its roots, but he paid no mind to that.

Right as the girl's fist connected with the tree, her body froze in place, unnaturally still. She stayed like that for a moment, until a slow shiver overtook her body. The young man approached her cautiously, unsure about what was happening. Then her shivering turned into full on shaking. Her body couldn't hold itself up anymore. She started to fall to the ground, forcing the Uchiha to catch her. That's when he saw that she had begun to foam at the mouth.

"Sakura!" He didn't know what this was, but he couldn't just leave her like this. Whatever sort of attack this was, it was serious. Picking her up, he made sure to keep her face turned to the side so she wouldn't choke on her own fluid. With one swing of his gunbai, Madara ripped through the vines guarding their secret place. Outsider or not he would take her to his clan's healers. Even if he had to threaten them at gunbai point, he'd make sure she got the help she needed.

He left so fast that he didn't notice the small crater Sakura's fist had made in the tree.

Her whole body hurt, as if someone had used her as a battering ram. The worst pain was radiating from her chest. It felt like she'd been pierced by something. Prying her eyes open, she realized that she had been stabbed. There was something white going right through her body. Following the cord like material, she traced the source back to a pale woman that stood before her. She'd been impaled by her hair.

There was no warning before she was suddenly pulled out of what felt like a too large body and then forcibly shoved back in for a new situation. All she got to see this time was her brother's proudly standing side by side, emitting a feeling of strength. Standing beside them were two others, an older man and a young blonde man.

After witnessing that, she was yanked away again, only to come face to face with the woman from before. This time she was in her own body. "It is not time to remember, or come to the Shinigami." Claw like hands gripped her shoulders, digging into flesh. "You have not stopped anything yet. Go back." She was suddenly pushed backwards. Pushed into a body that felt like it was dying.

When Madara made it to Uchiha grounds, carrying a limp body of a pink haired pre-teen he got some attention. His yells for a healer brought even more eyes onto them, including his brother's. The younger Uchiha heir followed him to his room where he placed Sakura on his futon. Her shaking wasn't as violent as earlier, but it was still going on.

Glancing at Izuna, who was staring, mystified, at the oddly colored child, he ordered him to fetch their most knowledgeable healer. Nodding, the teen ran off to do so. Leaving that to him, Madara settled down next to Sakura, grabbing hold of her hand.

He was afraid. It had been so long since he let this emotion overtake him that he didn't have any idea of how to deal with it. Lifting her hand to his face, he pressed it to his forehead. Bowing his head, he prayed to any god that would listen to let her live.

That is how Izuna found him, and the sight unsettled him along with the healer he had kidnapped. One of the very few who utilized chakra instead of traditional medical practices. "Brother…"

Madara raised his head slightly, only to set his scrutiny on the healer. Disturbed by this, the older woman spoke up, "Are you injured, Madara-sama?"

Standing up, he gestured to the child in his bed. "Help her."

Shocked, the shaman backed away slowly. "But she is an outsider! I can't help her." She was appalled at the prospect. "Your father would kill me."

Grabbing the woman by the front of her worn out dress he snarled in her face, sharingan activated. "And I won't?!" Faced with the choice of angering a man out of his prime known for his brutality, or the young Uchiha heir whose legends on the battlefield have reached even her ears, she chose to confront the known.

"I'll do it!" Still annoyed with her, Madara threw her down onto the futon. Scared, the woman quickly got to work. Soon after her glowing hands touched Sakura, the shaking stopped completely. He kept his eyes on her though, making sure she didn't try anything. While he watched the healer, Izuna observed him.

His older brother had never acted this way before. Once in a while he would break a rule of their father's, but never to this degree. He brought an outsider onto Uchiha land. Into their home. The likelihood of him being forgiven was slim.

Who was this child to his brother for him to risk so much for her? And she was a child. A petite little thing in a dirty dress. Nothing about her screamed special besides that odd hair of hers. Yet it was obvious how the older Uchiha felt about her. Sighing, he sat down on the opposite side of the kid from the shaman. Madara decided to stand to retain an air of supremacy around him.

A short while later the healer removed her hands from the girl. "I'm done. It was a seizure brought on by recent chakra exhaustion. There is no discernible lasting damage. She could wake at any moment." The healer warily turned her head to look at the Uchiha heir. "May I go now? Please, before your father finds out I'm here." The only response she got was a nod from Izuna when his brother didn't answer.

She swiftly scurried off. That left only the two brothers and an unconscious child in the room. For a lengthy stretch of time they sat there in silence. It was clear what his brother had planned for the girl. The only thing he couldn't understand was why he hadn't acted on it yet.

The brat was at least twelve or thirteen. Already at marriageable age for females. With her looks she'd make a fine concubine one day. His brother should have already claimed her so that no other could. Once he declared her as his property, she would be able to live lavishly in Uchiha territory. There was no need to wait. He didn't have to do anything until she reached an age that he found her physically desirable at.

Suddenly, sharp eyes turned on him with the utmost seriousness. "Izuna, let me ask you this; if you had something you wanted right in front of you, what would you do?"

Mirroring his sibling's look he answered him. "Take it. Would that not make you happy then?"

"Ah, I would be happy. Yes."

He gestured at the kid on the futon. "And yet you won't with this girl." The sudden smile on the other man's face was bitter.

"I can be very selfish, just not with her. I'm not sure why either."

With a gentleness he'd never seen in the older Uchiha before, he caressed the sleeping child's cheek. Izuna bit his lip, speaking softly. "…They say, when someone changes in such a manner, that they are in love."

Madara's hand halted, still against Sakura's face. Love. A simple word with an enormous amount of complexity behind it. Was he in love with her? He had thought she would make a good partner in life. He hadn't thought about how he actually felt about her beyond a yearning to be around her light. She offered it rather carelessly to him after all. There was no reason not to take what she was giving.

Though what she didn't give to him was love so he hadn't thought about it. He supposed that was of no consequence. She was a merchant's daughter, much easier to wed than some heiress. That's when it dawned on him that marrying her was his plan all along. It seemed like such an obvious outcome that he had given it no real thought at all.

Sakura was the only female he had ever shown any interest in. Most women were weak and bothersome, but not her. Though she might have physically been weak, she was mentally strong. She never cried at his verbal abuse. From the start she understood he didn't always mean what he said. She accepted him and to him, that was the most important aspect of a wife.

As he was thinking about all the ways he could propose this proposition to her, the door to his room slid open. Back lit by the sun, his father stood at the opening. Behind him, standing in the yard, were curious onlookers. He made a motion to suggest he wanted to be followed, then walked off, leaving the shoji door open. The servants scattered as he walked their way.

Madara pushed Izuna, who had been rising to his feet, down by his shoulder. "Stay here." While he was gone he needed his brother to stand guard over the child. Bare feet gliding over the tatami mats, he went to join his father. He made sure to close the door when he left.

The two men met in the clan head's office, both looking like they were prepared to come to blows. Tajima was the first to speak. "Who is she?" His voice boomed in the confined space, but his son did not flinch.

"My choice of wife, the future matriarch of the Uchiha clan." A killing intent that nearly put his own to shame surrounded the older man.

"I think not." He shook his head as if to show what a ridiculous idea it really was. "That is a position only for an Uchiha. She may be your mistress if you want, but she may never have a position of power." He glared at his son, trying to keep his dominance of the situation.

Madara kept his face as stoic as possible. "And if I don't wish to listen to your arbitrary rules?"

"She will die." Suddenly the room seemed to warm several degrees. A heat like no other was wafting off of the young Uchiha in waves. He didn't even need to move to make the threat of bodily harm apparent. It was only now that he realized that they were now the same height. The boy also had more muscle then he did. They had come to stand on equal footing without him even noticing.

Thinking of all those battle his son had fought with Hashirama Senju, he backed up until he was against the wall. No, they weren't on equal footing. His oldest had long surpassed him. Before he could activate his sharingan, Madara had him pinned to the wall by his throat. "If you as much as look at her, I'll rip your eyes out."

With that threat hanging in the air, he released his father and flash stepped across the room. Hand on the door, he glanced back with his sharingan spinning in his eye to make sure the warning held. Then he exited the clan head's office and started back towards his bedroom. Danger leaked off of him as he debated what to do.

Tajima Uchiha never took being ordered around well. He'd worry over his words until he inevitably decided they were a bluff. Then he would go find Sakura. He couldn't have his father doing that.

Shortly after Madara arrived back to his room and dismissed Izuna, Sakura woke up. Her eyes opened slowly, the fading light in the room seemingly hurting her retinas. Flinging her arm over her face, she attempted to block the light. "Sakura…"

The girl popped up when she heard him, eyes racing to his face. "Madara." She felt something tighten around her free hand. Peeking down, she noticed that he was holding it. A bright blush covered her cheeks, but she didn't attempt to remove his appendage. A matching hue seemed to color his own before he turned his face away from her.

"It's time for you to be getting home. I'll bring you." Maybe then he could express to her father his willingness to marry her. Unexpectedly, the girl appeared to panic. Her eyes darted around the room like she was searching for something to change the topic of conversation. Nothing came to her.

"I can get home on my own." Red eyes glared down at her but she wasn't intimidated. "I can do what I want." He crossed his arms and intensified his stare but it did nothing. "Okay, you can take me as far as our base."

Thinking that this was enough of a concession for now, he agreed. He'd convince her of the rest later. Slinging her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, she made a nose of indignation. He flash stepped outside of his room and jumped over the barriers surrounding the Uchiha complex. It didn't take him much time at all to reach their base at full speed.

Once they were there she attempted to climb out of his arms, but he didn't allow this. "Hey! Let me down."

"No. Tell me where you live, I'll take you there. I won't put you down until you do."

Not willing to be blackmailed and unable to let him walk into the Senju compound, she stubbornly refused to disclose where she lived. "If you don't let me go, I'll never talk to you again."

"You brat! I'm just trying to help you out." Grumbling to himself at her silence, he mumbled, "Like you could really remain quiet." She huffed, and turned her head away from him. From there they were both silent for a good twenty minutes.

Both of them suffered as his arms were beginning to get tired from holding her and she didn't like the soundless environment. She didn't cave though and it quickly became evident that she never would. It dawned on him that she was stubborn enough to stop seeing him completely. There were just some things she would never give up and this appeared to be one of them.

Sighing to himself, in disbelief that he was actually giving in first for a change, he set her down. Pointing at him rudely, a trait that reminded him of Hashirama, she ordered him not to give chase. "If you follow me I'll never come to see you again." Then she raced off into the distance.

He had planned to follow her. There was a chance he could still do it to. He'd never taught her to sense chakra, she wouldn't even know he did it. Just the possibility that he could be discovered was enough to keep him in place though. Ultimately, she had a tendency to surprise him that he couldn't chance. "Damn it!"

A few short weeks later Tajima and Madara were coming back from a battle by themselves when they were ambushed by Hyuuga. It was unmistakable that the Byakugan users didn't know who they were. There were only five low powered shinobi. They must have come upon them on a scouting mission and thought two lone Uchiha would be easy to take out. Their mistake cost them their lives.

Tajima was flicking off one of their bodies from his sword when Madara came up behind him. "You have been looking for her."

An intense heat flared at his back, a manifestation of his son's rage. He didn't question who the boy meant. "Did you really think I wouldn't? Of course I need to see if she is fit to be my daughter-in-law."

A snarl came across the younger Uchiha's face. "You were planning to kill her!" Realizing that this was serious, Tajima spun around and attempted to kick him in the sternum. He'd already been prepared for this with his sharingan spinning in his eye. It was easy to catch his leg and spin him back around, grabbing his sword away from him as he did so. "That is something I can't let you do, Father."

The jab of his own sword into his heart killed him before he could say anything else. It pumped twice more after the penetration, squirting blood once Madara removed the weapon. He jumped away as not to get any on him. His story of a Hyuuga sneaking up on Tajima and getting the better of him in his old age would be more believable that way.

Watching his father die on the forest floor wasn't as pleasing as he thought it would be. All he could think about was Izuna. If his brother were to find out what he had done, he'd never forgive him. He didn't do this with forgiveness in mind though. This wasn't something he just decided on a whim, it was the only feasible option that allowed Sakura to live. The other was him letting her go but he was much too selfish for that.

He wondered if he could be sad over his father's death. It didn't really seem proper for a killer to be dejected over the body. Tears did not come to him, but his eyes felt...different.

Like that Madara became the next head of the Uchiha clan and the first to ever achieve the Mangekyo Sharingan.

Chapter Text

You really are…annoying.

Sakura shot up from her bed, breathing heavy. Her hand migrated towards her heart as it felt like she'd been stabbed multiple times over. Green eyes wandered the room, trying to calm herself. Usually when she woke she'd have no recollection of what she dreamt about. Right now though, she remembered sharingan eyes staring into her soul.

Frankly, it disquieted her. Except it wasn't the eyes that truly bothered her. It was the lingering feelings left over from the dream. A yearning for something had surfaced, similar to missing a chopped off limb. An emptiness inside of her. She forgot something very important.

Pondering what this missing entity could be, a ruckus in the house started to catch her notice. It sounded as if her brothers were bickering again. She almost went back to sleep, thinking she didn't really want to be bothered this early in the morning. Then her stomach rumbled. She'd gotten home late the night before and missed dinner.

With a grimace, she struggled out from under the covers. She kept that expression as she trudged towards the kitchen, wearing her sleeping yukata. The commotion seemed to be originating from this area but she was ravished with hunger.

And just as she thought, the scene that meet her when she arrived in the kitchen was her siblings arguing. The table was set though and she just ignored them, picking up her chopsticks. "Itadakimasu." She dug into the rice with their conversation as background noise. Tobirama seemed to be the one who was the most upset, as per usual.

"Damn it Hashirama, this is not the time to fool around! Father wants you to take the position of clan head."

"I've already told you, I don't wanna take it." Her oldest brother was obviously pouting again. That's how she knew this wasn't a serious matter, Hashirama knew when not to play the fool.

"Madara has already taken Tajima Uchiha's mantle. Father wants you to show your power. To show our head is just as strong." The mention of Madara's name caught her attention, but it didn't keep it for long. He had told her about this just the other night. Her friend taking the position didn't mean much to her at first, until he'd informed her that he would be busier now.

"Are you implying that father is weak?" It was only then that she'd realized what it would mean for them. Their time together was already pretty slim, this would only shorten it more. It would be at a nearly nonexistent level from now on.

"Don't try to twist my words, Brother." Her mood considerable dampened at the news and this morning hadn't helped matters. She was cranky. The food cooled her temper a bit and the scowl was nearly gone.

Finished with her food, she nodded to the servants who came to take her dishes away. "Gochisousama." She stood and began to walk away, feeling revived from the meal she consumed. It was right then that her mood plummeted again.

"Please Tobirama, you are being annoying." Her brain suddenly went into maximum retaliation mode even though the comment wasn't meant for her. All the stress hit her at once and her infuriating brother became the target of her unbridled fury.

She had Hashirama in a choke hold before he could blink. The element of surprise was strong. "Damn it, can't you ever be quiet?! And calling me annoying, how dare you! I'll get you for this, Naruto!" She punched his head a few times for good measure. Tobirama only looked on in shock at his demure little sister attacking their brother.

"Saku-ra." The brunet tried to speak through the surprisingly strong hold on his neck. She loosened her grip a little. "Narutomaki? Are you hungry for some Naruto?" His phrasing of that make her uncomfortable for some reason, so she hit him once more on the head before she released him.

She stomped away in a very unladylike fashion while Hashirama rubbed at his neck. He didn't turn his head away from Sakura's back but his eyes glanced at Tobirama from the side. "I think she gets this from you, Snitch." The raijin hit him before he could dodge.

A short time after overhearing that conversation Butsuma stepped down. Hashiram took on the role that he had wished to avoid for at least a little while longer. No one expected the previous clan leader to die a week after passing down the title.

He'd looked older than his actual age for years now. The stress had worn away at him. After feeling relief from finally handling the position to his heir, his heart gave out. They knew he would have preferred it happening on the battlefield but he couldn't escape a natural death. Neither Hashirama nor Tobirama cried, respecting their father's honor. He would have given them a verbal lashing at just the sight of a tear.

Sakura tried to follow their example but in the end it was impossible. Tears dripped down her face as they buried him. It wasn't nearly as bad as when their mother passed on. Back then she'd gone on for hours. Still, she felt sad. Though Butsuma was a bit of a jerk, he had loved them all in his own way. He was the only father she'd ever known, it was normal to miss him.

Tobirama hand came down onto her shoulder in comfort while their brother addressed the Senju clan as they laid their father to rest. Taking her eyes away from her oldest sibling performing the eulogy, she acknowledged Tobirama's presence.

"You have to be strong now, little sister. Hashirama will need us both to keep him sane. A clan head has to make the tough decisions." He was talking about this war they were a part of. The brunet would want to end it as soon as possible. While it was a nice sentiment the man wouldn't be able to decide this on his own.

If the Uchiha were determined to keep fighting there was very little Hashirama could do. It was as that thought passed through her mind that Sakura thought maybe she could do something. Madara was her friend and at times he even listened to her. Though how she would bring up the topic of the fighting without raising suspicion eluded her.

The next time she visited their hideout Madara wasn't there, a normal occurrence after he became clan head. The genjutsu he put up where the vines used to be was a poor substitute for his company. On the other hand it did feel like his chakra and it warmed her. Sometimes she would even stand in it instead of going all the way inside.

She was doing exactly that when a heavy weight suddenly fell against her. The genjutsu rippled as she was knocked out of it, a sign someone had walked into it. She fell just inside the entrance and so did the intruder. Right onto her.

"Oomph!" She could barely breathe with the added weight on her. She struggled to free herself from underneath the trespasser, feeling much like a crab with a too large shell on its back. Her arms were flailing when a voice spoke into her ear.

"What were you doing?" It was Madara! And he sounded terrible. He lifted himself off of her, hitting the ground hard. Turning her head, she realized he was hurt. There was a large gash across his abdominal. The sight of the blood had her feeling faint.

When her eyes decided to get back in their original position from nearly rolling back into her head, she crawled over to him. "What happened to you?" She hovered over him, worrying. It appeared he didn't like that at all. He grabbed hold of her, dragging her down until she was lying at his side.

"It does not matter. I'm fine." He didn't look fine to her. "I just…need some rest." With that he closed his eyes, trying not to remember that he didn't have the energy to make it home. He ended up coming here when he remembered it was closer.

The Hyuuga had ambushed him again, this time in vengeance for their fallen comrades. They must have been feeling empowered after hearing they'd managed to take out Tajima Uchiha. The arrogant fools were getting cocky, strolling onto Senju and Uchiha land to get to him. He'd taken most of them out swiftly but a final lucky strike had wounded him.

All Madara could think about was sleep at that point. He'd lost a lot of blood and knew he should treat the wound, but he just felt so tired. The kunai must have been poisoned. How unusual for a Hyuuga.

If the poison had already affected him this much after only a short time since infection then it was quite strong. The kind that killed. He knew he would die without treatment but Sakura didn't know the way to the Uchiha complex to fetch help. There was no energy left in him to go there on his own either. He was as good as dead. At least she was here with him.

"Just sleep, Sakura. It will be over when we wake." He lost consciousness before she could reply. She thought he'd fallen asleep just like he said. Placing her hand over his abdominal, she too fell asleep after fretting over his injuries. She'd trust him to still be there when she woke.

As she slept cuddled up to his side, she dreamt of another world where she was a medic. Someone who could help him. Over and over again she healed her patients with glowing green chakra. It almost felt like she could actually sense the tingle of it on her hands.

Madara woke feeling disorientated. The residue pain in his stomach was a sign he was still alive. He'd thought for sure this had been the end of him. Done in by a simple kunai strike from a falling Hyuuga. For a second he even wondered if this was karma for murdering his father. It made him think of when he brought Tajima's body back home.

The guards had seen him from a distance, carrying their leader. Having figured he was injured they'd called all the healers on hand to meet him at the entrance. Izuna was there also, worried about their father.

When he arrived and didn't sent the older Uchiha down immediately for him to receive help, Izuna was the first to figure out what was wrong. He'd come forward with a shaking hand outstretched. It never touched him. He fell to his knees after he came close enough to see the paleness in the other man's face.

Black eyes stared up at Madara, begging him to tell him that their father was hurt, not dead. Only then did he set the body down so that he could hug his brother. The other clan members gathered around them in mourning as Izuna wailed in his sorrow.

They stayed like that even as rain started to fall. Soon everyone was soaked but no one moved. Until Izuna finally tore himself away from his older brother to crawl, sobbing, towards the man who'd given him life. Collecting him in his arms he rocked the body as if to sooth the already dead man. He'd always been more outwardly emotionally then most Uchiha.

It took a while but the now heir to the clan raised his head, finished with his cries. Red eyes settled on his older brother and their clansman gasped in wonder at the unusual sight. "Who has done this?" Madara matched his stare, mirroring the Mangekyō Sharingan in his sibling's eyes.

"The Hyuuga."

No one doubted him for a second. The Uchiha's feud with the Hyuuga was almost as notorious as their one with the Senju. The rivalry of their dojutsu was never ending. This was a fight for their pride. The byakugan was a simple mutation of the sharingan, one that should never have existed. Everyone was willing to believe Tajima's death was the Hyuuga's doing.

Izuna became so focused on revenge that he'd forgotten about meeting Sakura completely. Conveniently forgetting all the tension between father and son after her appearance. Thinking of the pinkette now, he looked down at her clinging to his side. He'd thought he saw the last of her when he succumbed to unconsciousness.

Knowing how that felt now, he knew he'd done the right thing with his father. He didn't know how it happened or why, but her existence was essential to his own. If it was his father's life or hers then it was a trade he'd never regret.

His hand came out to cup her cheek, and he started to lean in. Suddenly he groaned, a pain in his stomach becoming evident. Looking down he moved Sakura's hand away and lifted his shirt to examine the wound. The only thing he found was a scar in the shape of a slash mark. It wasn't a scab but a fully healed injury. While it was a bit red it wasn't infected.

Shocked, he rubbed at the area thinking it an illusion. Then he recalled the girl's hand on him. Picking it up, he immediately noticed a chakra burn on her palm. Somehow this chakra-less child had healed him.

At being jostled from him grabbing her arm, she started awake. He was a bit disappointed, she looked quite cute sleeping next to him. His disappointment only rose when she didn't wake with a flutter of her eyelashes or a cute little yawn. Her eyes flipped open fast and wide with crumpled brows. It was similar to a very ugly deer.

Surprised to see him, her fist automatically shot out and clocked him in the jaw. No matter how weak the hit, at certain angles, anything can hurt. He moaned out in pain, remembering all the incidents where she'd accidentally injured him. And those damn stones, he'd never let her around them again.

Once again she was all apologetic, but damn if he wasn't starting to think it a bit insincere. Rubbing his jaw, he glared at her. "You have to be more aware of where you are. This can't happen every time I sleep with you." Her eyes widened again and a deep blush set in. He saw her reaction and smirked, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "What a dirty mind you have, Sakura." Hearing him say her name brightened the red hue on her cheeks. She didn't want to look at him anymore so she turned her face away, hiding it from his view.

It struck him then that she was attracted to him. The realization had his smirk settling down to a more boyish grin. He was pleased that she found him desirable. It would make it much easier to get her to agree to marry him.

Their age difference wasn't that significant considering women married men much older than them all the time. That was for women whose families were trying to move up in life or needed protection. Sakura was much too stubborn to ever give into that type of marriage. If she wasn't at least attracted to someone a relationship would be impossible for her.

His grin turned back into his usual smirk. "Oh, don't do that. Your blush is quite beautiful." Grabbing her chin, he turned her face towards him. Unlike any woman he had known before, she didn't look down when their eyes met.

Girls were taught from a young age that they were never to look a man in the eye unless he told her to by verbal command. The same thing was said to them about wild animals. That eye contact would only make them more aggressive. Though he liked the way she wouldn't glance away, it was probably a true statement about the aggression thing.

It was almost like he felt a spike in his testosterone. This fearlessness of hers always got him going. He wondered if it could be considered in a good way. Probably not. It made him want to make her fear him. To force her into a submission she was willing, and yet not so willing, to give.

He didn't just want the parts she was already voluntarily handing over, he wanted it all. Yet if she ever did give him her complete submission he wouldn't desire her anymore. The challenge would be gone. So he wished for the day she'd look away from his eyes and never look back without an order, except he really didn't.

Staring into green eyes, he closed his own burning red ones and started to lower his lips to hers. They nearly connected when she gave a tiny shriek. She was so close to him that it hurt his eardrums, making him wince. Moving away from her he brushed at his ears as if he could wipe away the pain. Squinting down at her, he nearly chuckled when he noticed what had happened.

She wasn't so fearless after all. Shaking a bit with a disgusted expression on her face she pointed down at the creature resting against her leg. "Get it off." He deliberated leaving it there out of spite from being ordered around. Then he thought about how oddly fragile she could be. Also coming to him for any amount of help was always nice. Made him feel needed.

With a grin, he lifted the tiny thing off her and raised it to eye level. It seemed to panic slightly at this, kicking its back paws as if it could get away. What a silly thing to be afraid of. Putting it back down, he gave the rabbit's rump a push towards the genjutsu. "Now be gone you hideous beast. I thought you conquered your fear because of your plush toy?"

Sakura's little mouth turned into a stern line at being made fun of, not happy with her supposed knight in shining armor at all. "Mama only wanted me not to be afraid. I never said it worked for more than a toy."

Mood gone, he laid back down and muttered to himself, "Why rabbits of all things?" She smacked him in the chest for even questioning it.

As the weeks went on Sakura started to train privately in her taijutsu skills. After Madara ended up hurt she devoted herself to it entirely. Girls usually didn't fight as shinobi, only getting trained in the basics so they could adequately defend themselves when needed. Unlike other girls her age she hadn't even gotten that much training.

When Butsuma found out she was without any usable chakra, he'd decided against it. Clan females were taught genjutsu so that they could distract an enemy and run away. Such knowledge of how to perform one wouldn't help her when she was incapable of it. Taijutsu was never for girls. That's why she was so surprised when she first saw Toka.

The twelve year old went to observe the troops training in secret to learn new taijutsu moves she could teach herself. This was the second or third time she'd done it and she hadn't been caught yet, even when Tobirama was out in the field with them. This time she ended up being seen.

It was right as she realized the armor clad shinobi dominating the spars was a woman that she lost her grip on the tree she was hiding in. "Eeep!" The tree was tall and she probably would have broken a bone if she hit the ground. Luckily, the woman noticed her sudden fall and dashed forward to catch her.

As strong arms encircled her in their embrace, her weight was caught without the woman even stumbling. The little girl could only look up at the dark haired Senju in wonder. "You're a Kunoichi." The woman's expression morphed into one of offense. Without warning she was dropped onto the hard ground.

"Don't call me that, Senju princess." The words were said with such disdain that it shocked her.

"But…why not? It's amazing to be a female shinobi."

The older Senju didn't seem as offended anymore, realizing the girl did not understand. "That is not what that term means, little miss. Kunoichi is a word used for a ninja that uses sex as a weapon. They can be either male or female." She crouched so they were at eye level. "Not every ninja that happens to be female is a Kunoichi. So don't call me that."

"Okay!" Smiling, Sakura wondered what else this woman could teach her.

Chapter Text

After Sakura found out there was a female shinobi in the Senju, put simply, she stalked her. She discovered her name was Toka and that she was proficient in genjutsu. Those tidbits she managed to weasel out of Hashirama. He was a well of information and easy pickings. All that was required to get him to sing like a carney was to cuddle up next to him. Easiest mission ever.

The one thing he didn't have to offer her was the woman's schedule. Tobirama was the one who dealt with things like that. Much different prey. She figured she had come up with the best plan to get him to spill his guts. She would trick him into releasing the intel voluntarily. Hunting him down early one morning, she interrupted his mediation.

She normally wasn't even up this early so it immediately raised his hackles. "What are you up to?"

What a suspicious bastard he was. "I just wanted to spend time with my big brother."

His face seemed to flatten to a 'do you think me a fool' expression. "You haven't sought my company since you were four."

"Oi! That's a lie." Seeming to have come to the conclusion that she was harmless enough at the moment, he relaxed a bit.

"True. You do come to me when you need my jutsu for something. You're like a chakra parasite."

She couldn't deny it, Tobi conjured the best bath water. "Not this time. I actually have a jutsu for you." He huffed in such a manner that it substituted for a snort.

"You've come up with a jutsu?" His disbelief at the prospect offended her.

"Well, no." He nodded his head like he'd known it all along. "But…I do have this!" A scroll dropped down into her hand from the sleeve of her yukata and she held it like a sword. He eyed it with interest. "It's a scroll I found while I was out playing." She rolled it in her hand to reveal a perfect replication of the Uchiha seal, an image she had never come into contact with according to him.

It gave the scroll an authentic feel and would increase Tobirama's desire for it. She waved it in front of his face like she would with a dog and his eyes tracked it. Then she turned around, flicking it back into her sleeve. "But I can see you don't want it, teasing me like that."

Behind her, he shifted uncomfortably. He thought about just stealing it from her, but decided against it. The little girl was known for holding grudges. "Fine, what do you want?"

Giddy at how well her plan was working, she smiled. "A simple thing really, Toka's schedule." He stiffened thinking about the scolding he would receive from the Senju warrior later if he handed it over. Then he thought about that tantalizing scroll. With that in mind he squealed like a pig. Inwardly, Sakura was smirking, captivated at how low Tobi would sink to at the promise of knowledge.

After he told her what she wanted to know she happily handed over the scroll. Once that was done she headed of toward Hashirama's headquarters, presumably to see Toka. Tobirama waited until she was out of sight before he quickly pulled the scroll open.

Red eyes darted around the paper, prepared to take in all the information inside. Slowly, his shoulders sunk down and he crushed the scroll in his hand. The only thing inside was a chakra infused ink image of three pigs wiggly their asses at him. Underneath that, in Sakura's chicken scratch, was the word snitch. He couldn't believe that this was going to be an ongoing theme for his siblings.

Pissed, he raced off in the direction she went towards, ready to give her the spanking he'd been promising to her since she was six. When he caught up with her she was already in Hashirama's office. Uncaring about this, he slammed open the door. There, sitting innocently in their brother's lap, was Sakura.

Toka stood at the brunette's side, handing over a few papers. Noticing the white haired teen enter his office, Hashirama grinned up at him. "Look Tobi." He gestured towards the vindictive little girl. "It's been years since Sakura wanted to sit in either of our laps." Poking her head out from under the brunet's chin, his sister stuck her tongue out at him.

Without hesitation he crushed the man's beaming ray of happiness. "Hand her over, she needs to be punished."

The older Senju held the pink haired girl closer to his chest. "For wanting to spend time with me over you? She hasn't done anything wrong!"

"No, you fool." He tossed the offensive scroll onto the desk. Picking it up, the clan head examined it, then raised his head with a pitying expression. "Is this all?"

Glancing down at the scroll again, Tobirama saw that the image of the pigs was gone, leaving only that single vexing word. Knowing this was going nowhere, he slammed his hands together in frustration. "Water Style: Water Shockwave!"

The wave of water that was formed forced the pre-teen out of Hashirama's hold. Grabbing her, he jumped out of the window, landing on the grassy area outside. Then, in full view of the Senju clan, for maximum humiliation, he threw her over his knee. Twelve times he spanked her, for each year she'd terrorized their family with her antics.

She gasped at the first few, struggling to get free. Then after the third one she ceased her movements, getting abnormally quiet. This made him feel odd because it wasn't what he was expecting. With the twelfth strike done he looked up as a shadow settled over him.

Both Hashirama and Toka were glaring down at him, soaking wet. The female Senju opened her clenched fist, showing the ruined papers in her hand. His brother sighed, turning to see scrolls pouring down the makeshift waterfall. "All my paperwork…"

Taking note of Toka's twitching eye, and knowing all too well what that meant, the white haired teen considering taking his sister as a hostage. Then he realized this would make no difference to the woman. He could also make an escape attempt. He knew he could get away, his speed was only matched by Hashirama and the two Uchiha brothers they fought so often.

The problem with that was that Toka wasn't very forgiving. It couldn't even be said that she was an 'eye for an eye' type. More like an 'eye for an I'll burn your fucking house down with you inside of it and listen to your screams of agony' kind of person.

She was the one who guarded his back during their battles, if she felt so inclined she could let a stray kunai slip through and wound him. Nothing serious but it would hurt like hell for weeks. She'd done it before. It would be better to just pay his penance now.

Letting Sakura go, he watched her run off towards their house, a little surprised she didn't stick around to watch. Toka pointed towards the subduing waterfall and shouted, "Now clean this up you waste of space!" So he did. For hours he cleaned while the woman oversaw his efforts.

It came as even more of a surprise that his sister didn't turn up to bother Toka. After this all took place just to get her schedule. That was strange of her considering her earlier determination. He actually paused in his administrations while considering why this could be, then he was whipped back into action by the sound of Toka's voice. "Get back to work!"

He grumbled to himself the rest of the time, thinking about how this would have been much quicker if there were more of him. As the thought passed through his mind, he wondered if it was possible for a jutsu to make more of him. The clone jutsu was nothing more than an illusion, but if he could make actual solid clones like Hashirama's wood style ones…

The minute Sakura felt herself be released from her brother's hold, she sprinted away from the scene, heart racing. The spanking had done something weird to her. She felt kind of funny in her stomach, and then that strange feeling of warmth had moved downwards. It had made her freeze, fearing that if she moved at all Tobirama would notice there was something weird about about her.

She should have been feeling indignant and in pain not…whatever this was. What creeped her out the most though was that this feeling she thought she only got around Madara happened with her brother. Shame had hit her hard and she'd run off to her bedroom without a word to anyone.

Once there, she turned and locked the door so that no one else could follow her inside. Sliding to her knees she pressed her forhead to the cool surface of the wooden door, as if she could physically block anyone who wanted to force their way inside.

A few minutes passed by before she realized that no Senju maids had noticed her entry into the house. Slowly, she picked herself up and walked over to her bed. The strange feeling was still there, making her panties feel uncomfortably warm.

Trying to rid herself of it, she decided to take a nap. This didn't work out as there was nothing to distract her thoughts from wandering to the punishment she had received. She tossed and turned, squirming about. Then her legs rubbed together and there was suddenly a more intense feeling.

She gasped and her hands went to cover her mouth, but didn't move her legs apart. Eyes wide from the shock of such an unexpectedly good feeling, she tentatively tried it again. When the sensation didn't diminish, she continued increasing the pressure of her thighs inward.

This wasn't any help in making her calm down, only making her yearn for something more. As her thoughts started to wander from the spanking to Madara, she felt shameful. That didn't stop her from merging the two together though. She began to wonder what it would have been like if her friend had been the one to administer her punishment. The thought made her want to be bad.

As that scenario ran through her head, her hand left her mouth and cautiously moved down her stomach. This felt wrong, but that didn't stop her from undoing her yukata because it also felt very nice. Finally, her hand reached her panties and she learned this was an even more amazing feeling.

From there she explored her body until she was withering in her sheets. No matter what she did the feeling only seemed to get more intense and she was forced to stop before she exploded. Left distinctly unsatisfied from the ordeal and all the more disgusted with herself, she sobbed into her pillows.

For the rest of the night she stayed locked in her room, refusing even dinner. After being ignored from the other side of her door, her brothers let her be, thinking she was only pouting at Tobirama's treatment of her earlier in the day.

The next morning, Sakura left her room early. She needed to get away from her place of disgraceful behavior and hunting Toka seemed to be a good remedy. She found her right where Tobi had said she would be; sparing with the other Senju warriors.

Grinning at her successful endeavor, she climbed back into her spying tree. Usually just watching them train had mollified her, but after having interacted with the woman she wanted more. So when she saw that they were starting to get tired, she took the chance to intermingle with them.

Jumping out of her tree, she darted off to the well to fetch them some water. Their practice was just ending when she arrived, walking backwards and dragging a large pail in front of her, gasping for air the whole time.

Noticing her approach, the Senju men were laughing as she got closer. Toka didn't seem as amused by her display and Sakura couldn't understand her displeased expression. At least until she detected the sly glances the male Senju were shooting at Toka in their laughter as a fellow soldier approached her.

The man sat next to her while she was cleaning her katana and slung an arm over her shoulder. "Now this," he indicted Sakura, "is how a woman should act. Barely able to lift a pail and coming to our aid." Toka had punched him in the face before anyone could blink.

He was left bleeding on the ground, cursing after them as Toka dragged her away from the scene, pail abandoned behind them. The last thing she heard before they were out of the training area was, "Fucking bitch!" She hadn't even heard Madara say that word but once before. He had informed her of its derogatory meaning towards females and said that it was no way to speak of women. That if anyone were to ever say it to her, to come tell him about it.

The yanking on her wrist was starting to hurt and she nearly told Toka this, but they stopped before she could. The grip on her was suddenly released and she was rubbing at her wrist when the dark haired Senju spun around. She glared down at her and said, "You're a disgrace to all women who are trying to become something more. Your position meant something."

Those words hit her hard as she was reminded of what had occurred the day before. "I thought you might have had some self-awareness after seeing you able to taunt your brothers like that, but I was wrong." Her lip curled in obvious distaste. "You go around cratering to men, its only acting spoiled with your siblings."

No, that wasn't true. Gender had never mattered to her. She'd never followed her mother's or the Senju maid's demure rules. She was more than just the 'Senju Princess' dammit! No simple girl would stand up to Madara Uchiha and not back down. To actually win a contest of wills with that stubborn mule of a man. Yet Toka saw her as nothing more than that.

It made her angry, tears springing up in her eyes. This was the kind of anger that she hated the most, the wet kind. She shook with rage and the woman seemed to misunderstand it as unhappiness from being reprimanded. This irked Toka even more and she turned away from the child, planning to escape before the waterworks.

Except before she could jump to the roofs, Sakura grabbed onto the back of her shirt. "Wait a second." She wiped her nose on her yukata with her free hand. "You think you can just walk away after saying that? You are going to teach me how to fight. I'm not going to give up." It dawned on the woman then that she was seeing the girl more in the last few days.

"You've been stalking me, haven't you? I thought that was only a male activity."

The girl's eyes went sideways to avoid looking at her. "No…"

Toka knocked her on the head, "Yes you are, you little brat!"

Anger gone now, Sakura rubbed at the bump forming on her head. "It doesn't matter. I'm going to follow you until you become my master."

Toka nearly yelled at the girl to turn her away but thought better of it. "Fine, do what you want." Children gave up rather quickly, always finding something more interesting to chase after. She'd let her tag along to Hashirama's office. Within an hour or two the princess would go and find something more entertaining to occupy her.

They arrived at Hashirama's office where Toka nagged him into doing his work. In the beginning her brother was delighted to have her there but as they began to discuss battle strategies and reports on casualties he asked her to leave the room.

This made her a bit upset. She wanted to be like Toka who, regardless of her gender, the twenty-one year old was okay with her hearing such things. She listened without complaint though, not wanting to be ordered to stop following the woman altogether.

Sakura waited for her for several hours outside her brother's office. It got to the point that she thought Toka may have escaped out of the window instead of dealing with her again. Then, without warning, the door swung open and the girl looked up in hope. With shining eyes, she regarded the woman before her. She half expected it to be Hashirama leaving for a late lunch.

Pure happiness oozed out of her at not being abandoned. This seemed to get a reaction from the cold Senju, whose eyes widened in surprise at the sight of her. "…I thought you'd be gone by now."

"And I thought you would have left me here."

Eyeing the girl, she looked from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. She was clothed in a way that, if you didn't know she was basically Senju royalty, you wouldn't even think her high-class. Her hands were dirty and calloused, though only lightly, with nails clipped in such a way that her handmaidens wouldn't have allowed it. For the life she was supposed to have lived until now this should not have been possible. She was forced to reevaluate her opinion of the twelve year old. The brat was training and not just in genjutsu.

When Sakura first started to tail her she'd thought it was just a fascination with a type of woman she never encountered before. It never even occurred to her that the kid actually wanted to be like her. She reached out her hand to help the girl up, "Come have tea with me."

It wasn't an invitation but a demand, Toka never even let go of her hand as she dragged her to the compound's teahouse. While they were on their way there, Sakura noticed several older men and women shake their head when they passed them. She heard one of the women whisper to another, "Poor girl, she'll never find a husband. All because of her father."

Toka lips visibly tightened at hearing this but didn't stop their forward motion. Though she did commit a very vulgar gesture at the clucking women, leaving gasps in their wake. She heard her say to herself, "Give'em what they want." Arriving at the teahouse, Toka shoved her through the entryway and greeted the old shop keeper. "Grandma!"

The older woman turned with a smile on her face, until she noticed Sakura. "Oh! Dear, you should have told me you were going to bring a guest. Especially one of such status." She patted her hair down and smoothed down her dress. "I look such a mess right now. I will go change." Starting to turn away, the older woman was stopped by Toka.

"You don't need to change for this runt. She is a princess in name only." Maybe Sakura should have felt insulted at that, but she didn't. She had spent her whole life being respected just because she'd been born into a higher class family by chance. It wasn't something that she had earned for herself.

While some might say that in such a situation she is living out her hard work from another life, she didn't believe that. Reincarnation seemed like a logical impossibility. And even if it existed she was sure that where people ended up in life was a luck of the draw. She'd heard of too many people of power being cruel to believe it was a reward for something.

All she wanted was to be acknowledged for her own accomplishments, like Madara was. The fear and reverence that he instilled in people were because of what he had done in his life. At least that's the way he told it. She didn't hear much about him from the Senju, no one spoke of the fighting around her.

In fact what she knew about him in respect to this was very little. Her knowledge extended to him being her brother's friend and that was it. She'd have to put more effort into finding out what he was like out there on the field.

Toka's grandma hovered over them after they were seated, making sure Sakura's teacup was full after her granddaughter had rejected having tea for herself. She didn't like it much and only drank it during formal clan meeting as not to insult anyone.

It took a while but they were able to get the older Senju to give them some time to talk alone. Extra customers showing up helped a lot. After finally getting some privacy, they were left to silently sit across from one another. She sipped her tea carefully so as not to burn herself.

"Why do you want to learn such things? In your position, you shouldn't have to." Sakura put her cup down and settled her hands on top of one another in front of her. Staring directly into the other women's eyes with sincerity she told her the reasons she had.

"There is no guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen here. Invasions can occur and I don't want to be a burden if that does happen. I want to be able to adequately defend myself and help others who can't." Her jagged nails were digging into her own hands so hard that it punctured her skin. "Why did you learn?"

Toka leaned her head into her hand, a light smile on her face. "I didn't have a choice in the beginning." This surprised the girl as females were normally forced into weakness not into growing stronger. She nodded towards a picture of a man that hung on the shop's back wall. He was a handsome enough fellow with similar features to the woman's own.

"My father wanted a boy and was delusional enough to think me one. He taught me since I was young." Her smile became bitter. "Back then no one cared. I was simply being forced. After he died everyone expected me to stop training. To become a proper young lady. When I didn't, they wanted to believe something was wrong with me. Like there was with my father."

Sakura shook her head vehemently, "There isn't anything wrong with you. I think you would have been like this even if your father didn't do as he did. You're too strong willed to be weak." Toka's arm lowered to the table and she looked at her oddly. It was as if she was seeing something for the first time and was awed by it.

"…You're very much like your idiot brother." In another context she could have felt insulted at that but she knew the part of Hashirama she was referring to. The part that made people want to follow him. There was a brightness around him that was near impossible to hate. Toka knew about the greatness that was Hashirama Senju. Sakura was flattered at the comparison.

Standing outside of Hashirama's office after sending Sakura home, Toka decided to go through with her decision. She knocked on the door. There was quiet for a second, then the sound of the window opening and closing followed by scurrying. When this was finally done Hashirama called out, "Tobirama?"

Inside four man had been alarmed at the sound of a knock on the locked door. Brown eyes shifted to the tree old men sitting with him on the floor, then to the cards and money laying in between them all. His gambling partners seemed less unsettled than he was, having grown into an uncaring attitude.

At their age if caught they didn't have anything to fear. Most people thought them too set in their ways to be able to change them. On the other hand they knew if their young friend were to be found out, they'd lose a fairly good revenue source.

Whenever that white haired brother of his finds Hashirama like this, he can't sneak back to their games for weeks. It was the only reason they did as he said when he forced them out the window after making a ledge for them to stand on.

Once the elder Senju were hidden he rushed around collecting the evidence of their gambling. When that was done he turned to the door, pretty sure that it wasn't his brother. The man would have knocked the door in by now. Still to be careful, he called out for him, "Tobirama?"

There was another smack on the door. "Open the damn door, Hashirama!"

Sighing in relief, he opened the door with a smile. "It was just you Toka."

She glared at him and went for his ear. He let it happen. "Are you trying to say I'm not as scary as Tobirama?"

He yelped in pain and peeked up at her, "Yes."

He laughed as her expression turned to that of a demon. "I'll show you terrifying."

The elders flinched at the smacking sounds that started to come from the office. Toka was worse for them than Tobirama. At least the white haired brat knew how to show them respect. The woman was completely different. She wasn't so willing to concede to their position.

Hashirama's cries of anguish finally stopped and then the window was suddenly ripped open. The petrifying eyes of Toka Senju met theirs. "You can leave now you old coots." They rushed the door when she moved out of the way, abandoning their friend who was laying on the floor in what they presumed to be a puddle of his own blood.

Toka kicked him in the head after the old men had run off. "Get up and heal yourself." He laughed lightly as he did as he was told while she glared. It always irked her that he let himself be beat. Still didn't steal all the fun out of it though.

"So, what did you need me for, Toka?" He looked up at her sitting on his desk from his position on the, floor cleaning the blood with a towel.

For a few minutes she was quiet considering how she should phrase her request. With him a sensitive approach was necessary. "I was thinking about your sister today." He made a sound of acknowledgement. "And a thought popped into my head. She is a little defenseless, don't you think?"

This caught his attention and he finally stood to his full height, now gazing down at her. "What is this about?"

Dark eyes met his and she laid it out for him. "I want to train your sister in the arts of a shinobi."

Hashirama wasn't at all shocked by this, having noticed Sakura's interest in Toka. "By her request I presume?" The woman nodded her head slowly. "Well, that doesn't bother me at all. She should be able to defend herself. It would give me a little peace of mind." Before she could celebrate he raised his finger in the air. "But, I'm not the one who is going to have a problem with this."

Later as Toka sat across form Tobirama, who was sipping on his tea, she wondered how it had come to this. Glancing down at her own cup of tea, she felt like a poor farm boy about to ask for a noble woman's hand in marriage. The man's superior attitude had never affected her before. It was hard to see him as anything but a brat once she saw him pouting after being chastised by Hashirama.

Except this was different. She'd known since they were children that Sakura was untouchable. Calm and logical thought was often lost to this man when it involved his cute little sister. When they were thirteen she'd seen him take down five older shinobi for making fun of the girl's clumsiness, even though she wasn't around to hear the insult.

And now she was going to ask to train that same young girl. She supposed she should just rip it off like a bandage. "I want to train Sakura as a shinobi." The sip of the tea he'd just taken got caught in his throat. Chocking, the liquid dripped from his mouth onto the table. His expression changed from shock, to disgust, and finally landed on fury.

"What?" He said it like a venomous snake that was giving her one chance to back out of this. She was brave, or stupid enough to stick to her original statement. She repeated herself and somehow his rage managed to grow. "No. Stay away from her, Toka. She can't learn such things, she's a girl."

"As if I have a dick?"

The man cringed, always the proper one. "So vulgar…" He shook his head. "She is a lady, someone who will marry a noble man. Learning shinobi skills will only hinder her."

Toka laughed in his face. "If you think that girl is a lady you are more delusional than my father was." She laughed some more at his hilariously offended expression. When she finally calmed down a chill settled in the air. "No, she isn't a lady at all. She wants to learn and get stronger. You are preventing her from moving forward in life."

This unnerved him a bit. "What if she does marry a noble man and he isn't kind? You can't sense everything in a person, Tobirama. There are horrors in this world that, as a man and a powerful one at that, you are very unlikely to suffer through." Her eyes met his and he could see she was haunted by something.

"By marrying such a man she'll be forced to part from you. You will be too far away to save her from anything." She glared at him. "Is that the type of future you'll wish upon her? One that she is inadequately prepared to deal with?"

The teacup he'd picked up again, dropped from his hand, spilling the liquid all over his lap. He didn't even notice, he was so drawn into her hypothetical scenario. He was shaking in fear for his sister as he lowered his head to her and gave his consent. "Please, teach her everything you can."

Chapter Text

Sakura could barely breathe. Her heart was racing and her vision was blurry. None of this mattered to Toka though. The women was jogging laps around her as she ran, pushing her to go further faster. Cardio, she had said, was the most basic training for shinobi. The other was their kunai and shuriken accuracy.

Which Toka learned very quickly never to trust her with. She was still sporting a scar on her neck from their first week of practice. In all honestly, she had tried to warn her. She'd been told by Madara many times that she was never to touch his tools for fear of a sonic reaction that would devastate the world. His words, not hers. He still seemed bitter about the stone incident.

It had been three weeks since the Senju warrior had become her master. In that time she'd see a marked improvement in how long she could run without collapsing. She lived for her days of rest. For those she made sure she was far away from the compound so she couldn't be roped back into training.

Somedays she was too exhausted to make it all the way to their secret place. Yet when she did, her friend was often not there. She'd only seen him once since the start of her training. They'd both been pretty tired and she didn't disclose to him about this new period of her life. After refusing to train her after she fell ill, he would not be happy to learn about this.

Didn't matter really, she would do it whether he liked it or not. Desperation drove her forward. She wanted this war between their clansmen to end and she needed to be powerful enough to at least stand a chance on the battleground. So she trained like a madman, letting Toka take complete control of her schedule. Her muscles hated her.

Hashirama and Tobirama watched their little sister from the treetops, impressed by their friend's ability to keep her in line. They'd know her to be mischievous her whole life while parading her innocent façade around. This new determination of hers to direct her energy somewhere besides messing with them was heavenly. And strange.

Was meeting Toka all it took to drive her to this extreme? Didn't seem probable to them. It was impossible to find out otherwise though. For now they would have to believe that this wasn't a long haul trick they were all involved in.

Tobirama didn't appear to share Hashirama's thinking on this matter. He thought this training was definitely sincere. Why this was, he did not bother to explain to him besides a simple long drawn out look at Toka. His brother was more interested in her story lately and it bothered the brunet.

There were too many secrets he was keeping for the woman and he didn't want his nosy sibling to so much as get a scent of the trail. He knew Tobirama wouldn't use the information he found against her, but he'd promised her when she pledged herself to him that he would do everything in his power to hide what had happened to her. His brother didn't need to know.

Sighing, he patted the white haired teen on the shoulder. "I'll head back to the office now. Don't neglect your work." He got a glare of disbelief shot at him. It was always him being told that by others, not the other way around. Saying it to him now was just to make sure he wouldn't spend too much more time sniffing after the woman.

With a flash the brunet disappeared, leaving Tobirama to watch his departure. Growling in annoyance at being chided by the king of procrastination, he darted off to tend to his own work of training their forces. As he did that he let his mind wander between the mystery of Toka and the new jutsu he was creating.

Madara was in his own office dealing with the annoyance that was Izuna. He was rubbing his temples, attempting to erase the headache that was forming. "Izuna, for the last time, I'm not going to authorize you waltzing into Hyuuga territory undermanned and with a suicidal plan."

Izuna, in a fit of rage, slammed his hands onto his brother's desk and threw venom in his face. "Then don't be so weak willed. Give me more men! You're a disgrace to our father's name. You should want revenge!" Red eyes glared down at him, forcing him to activate his own to take on the threat his foolish sibling was presenting.

He stood up himself, ready to put the boy back into his place. "Show me some respect! I have put the Senju fights on hold for you and we have been chasing Hyuuga everywhere. We cannot have two full-on clan wars at once, choose your battles! Either the Senju or the Hyuuga but you have to choose." Face twisting in obvious loathing, Izuna stormed out of his office.

Slowly, Madara slumped back down into his chair, covering his face with his hands. He wouldn't regret anything. His father was an awful man who only breed hatred, his death was deserved. Sakura was a ray of light that he wouldn't allow to be crushed. He'd never regret it.

As Izuna left his brother's office, he marched towards the training area, burning a plant in the hall on his way. Spiteful, but a very much needed release. He couldn't understand Madara at all. It always bothered him a bit that he hadn't hated the Senju as much as he did. This was on a whole other level.

The Senju may have killed their brothers but that was in war. Everyone knew such things happen. Tajima was killed in an ambush, a deliberate attack against them. He knew his father better than he ever had his brothers, making this even more personal than their feud with the wood sprite.

He couldn't give up either though. It would be like giving up his father's will. To the end Tajima fought hard against the Senju. His distaste for them was legendary. Even for revenge he couldn't abandon that. Yet his brother was demanding it of him. How could he ask that of him? The older man was just as much their father's son as he was. He should have some self-respect.

Listening to the angry child's stomping footsteps fade away, the long haired Uchiha stood up and stretched. He hadn't realized just how stressful this end of things was. Previously, all he had to do was go where he was told and battle it out with Hashirama. Now he had to make sure the incompetent idiots weren't dying.

His clan meant a lot to him, but god sometimes they could be such fools. The only smart thing they'd done so far was seemingly start leaning towards ending their fight with the Senju. In their last skirmish Hashirama offered peace. That was when they'd found out about him taking leadership of his clan.

Izuna had shot a fireball off at the man in rage at the suggestion, then went back to fighting Tobirama. Truly that fight needed all of his attention. The little white haired brat he'd first met at the river so long ago had grown into a man. A fast one at that. Taking your eyes off him was deadly, Izuna had earned a long narrow scar on his abdominal for doing so.

He was lucky he'd jumped back or he would have been cut in half. Barely out of the way in time, the sword had grazed his stomach instead. That had put any peace negations on hold, Madara himself being infuriated at the injury. His dislike of Tobirama was growing by the battle.

Strapping his gunbai on his back, he considered what he should do about his sibling's new found hobby of Hyuuga slaughtering. If it had been anyone else he'd have already stopped them, but this was Izuna. He left his office. The boy used to be very kind. Emotional, but kind.

He dodged the incoming patrols as he left the Uchiha complex. It was his fault this was even happening. Making sure he wasn't being followed, he made his way to his second home. If only Izuna would give up on the Senju then this wouldn't be so bad. Forming a peace treaty with them was near the top of his list of things he wanted to do as clan head.

Eliminating the Hyuuga wasn't that far down that list either. Doing both in one shot would be good. There was one good reason for wanting both of these things and he didn't see it, her, as he passed through the genjutsu he had put up. Sakura wasn't here.

It was very rare for this to happen. Most of the time when he came to visit, she was here. It bothered him when she wasn't since this was the only place he knew to look for her. She'd hidden where she resided from him and her chakra couldn't be tracked. A kidnapping was always on his mind. He forced himself to shake off the feeling and laid down to rest while he waited for her.

Busy from their conflicting schedules, it was another two weeks before they met. By then Madara was nearly exploding with his desire to see, hear, touch her. The new Uchiha forces Izuna trained ended up bearing the brunt of his frustrations. He visited the field they practiced on far more than he ever had before.

The dissatisfaction of not being able to go to battle or see his wife-to-be fueled his inferno and scorched the ground they'd been standing on just previously. Several of their troops suffered broken bones by his hands and everyone was feeling with their own body the reason he'd become the head of the clan.

By the fifth time he'd come to visit his sibling with the intent to 'help' with the herd, they shook in their boots at just the sight of him. They turned their pleading eyes to his brother, "Commander…"

Izuna looked at them heartlessly, "Should I join my brother today?" They shook their heads but neither sibling cared very much about their opinion. Together they drove the men into exhaustion. Izuna was wiping his hands of ash as Madara walked away from the carnage. "I'll see you at dinner then?" He waved his hand in acceptance as he darted off.

This time Sakura was lounging on the porch when he arrived. She sat up quickly as she saw him enter, pushing her hair out of her face. Smiling at him, she reached towards him, "Madara." Alarm bells instantly went off in his head as he looked from her to the little house he'd built behind her. This wasn't going to work.

He grabbed her outstretched hand and pulled her off the porch. Throwing her over his shoulder, he ran out from their hidden area. She gave a little shriek at first but was otherwise accepting of the action.

As he ran with her, he decided where he was going to take her. The river didn't seem like a good enough area for today. What he'd been wanting to show her for a while now was the cliff. The place he and Hashirama had agreed to make their village. It was a dream of his, more so than ever and with their fathers gone it was possible.

When he placed his foot on the wall of the cliff and started to walk up it, Sakura freaked out. "What are you doing?! Oh god, no." She shut her eyes tight as she heard him chuckle. The jerk wasn't going to stop. "I really don't like this, Madara!"

He laughed some more as he shifted her position to a more comfortable one and her legs wrapped around his hips. "Don't you trust me? I won't let you fall." She was quiet and still shaking. "…I promise you, nothing will happen. You can open your eyes." Her grip tightened on his shoulders and he felt her legs lock around his back, uncaring of the gunbai.

It was as her nails dug in and she let out a whimper that he knew she'd opened her eyes. "Keep them open. You'll see that there is nothing to fear." He couldn't see if she listened to him, but soon after her shaking did stop. Then they reached the top.

When he set her on her feet she stared up at him for a second. Finally, she smiled, "That was amazing! Super cool." She picked up her leg, examining the bottom of her shoes. "You're using chakra right? Like glue?" She was fascinated at the prospect, having never seen anything like it.

Her brothers had never performed this trick in front of her before. They'd tried to show off to her when they spared while she was there so she had no idea why they hadn't used this. It was the most amazing thing she'd ever seen. Her brothers must just not be able to do it. "You're the coolest, Madara."

That seemed to puff him up, as her compliments always did regardless if he knew the act wasn't uncommon at all. Some of the weakest shinobi were capable of tree walking. Water walking was a bit more difficult but still considered easy. She was unknowledgeable enough in the shinobi arts to admire the things that looked the most like magic. How innocent.

"Of course, I'm awesome. Now look over there." He turned her body so she was facing the other side of the mountains. As she gazed out into the vast space below her, something inside of her called out to it. This is her home, the place she fought to protect. The village everyone had protected with their lives. She never thought she's see if again after she'd left it that last time to go confront…she didn't understand. It didn't matter. This was her home.

"It might not look special now, but-" He looked down at her to see her reaction and was shocked to see her crying. "What's wrong?!" He jumped back in surprise, not sure how to handle her tears. This was something that had never changed. "Hey." He touched her shoulder lightly and she turned into his chest with a sob. She was only a head shorter than him now and fit quite nicely there.

"I don't know. I'm just so sad." She cried for a good hour, dirtying his shirt. He held her until she was finished, confused but accommodating. As she calmed, she moved away from him and he missed her warmth. Sniffing, she asked, "What is this place?" He brought her closer to him again, her back leaning against his chest as they looked over the trees.

"In the future, you'll be safe here." She pushed her head against his chest so she could look up at him. "I'm going to end the Uchiha's feud with the Senju. When this fighting ends these lands will be safe for you. Few will want to challenge our combined might." He brushed a stray tear off her cheek. "You won't have anything to fear. I'll keep you safe. Forever."

It was then, as he looked down at her with his dark eyes that she realized she was in love with him. She didn't just find him attractive, she liked the parts of him that were so rarely shown. Dazed by this discovery, she turned her body around, letting his hands stay on her waist, and pulled him down by his neck.

Allowing this, he lowered his head for her, thinking she would whisper something in his ear. Instead, she closed her eyes and brought her lips to his. His eyes widened, shocked at her actions, but quickly fell into her inexperienced kiss. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her, lessening the strain on his back. He felt her smile against his mouth as she wrapped herself around him, giggling.

That made him smile along with her, glad he waited until she kissed him first. In the end they ended up laughing at nothing, breaking off the kiss. They had their foreheads pressed together, grinning while looking into each other's eyes. Removing her appendages from harm's way, he let himself fall back into the ground, having removed his gunbai during her teary session.

From there he kissed her again, stopping her giggle fit. Slowly, he bought his hands up her sides and back down, feeling for nonexistent curves. Tickled, she moved backwards away from his kiss but he chased her, sitting up in the process. He raised his hand towards her chin and pulled her jaw open to deepen the kiss.

Gasping in surprise, she nearly reared back, but was kept in position by his hand. He released her quickly though and she stayed put, wiggling in his lap. This had him groaning and he torn his mouth away from hers. "Stay still." She gazed at him with such yearning with her starry eyed expression that he nearly felt bad for stopping, but he couldn't let it go on.

Closing his eyes in consternation, he forced his arousal down as best he could. This brat was trouble. He leaned his head on her shoulder as he calmed, holding her hips in place so she couldn't move again and make him start the whole process over. He sighted in relief when it went down without her noticing. She was still too young.

She watched him as his eyelids fluttered open and she was suddenly jealous of his eyelashes. No man needed such beauty. He stared at her for a while, as if he was searching for words. Then he sighed, bringing his mouth to her neck to place a kiss there. "I'm going to marry you."

Pure happiness shot through Sakura at his words. Girls usually dreamed of a fairytale romance with a prince and she was no different. She's wished for that once long ago too. It just didn't stick. Maybe it was having grown up with her brothers, but she knew she wouldn't be able to marry a nobleman.

And though Madara was many things, he wasn't a nobleman. He may be from a family with high status but he was a clan leader, not a prince. There was nothing flowery or tame about him. He literally breathed fire. He was the dragon in the stories the princesses were warned about. A shinobi through and though.

From what she'd seen of the Senju warriors, a life with a shinobi husband wouldn't be pretty. It was blood and guts, everything a girl shouldn't want. Sakura wanted it. She wanted everything that a life with Madara would entail. He was the man she loved after all and she never much liked dresses anyway.

She couldn't have it though. Not yet. Whether he promised the fighting would end or not, she needed to see that happen. It appeared he didn't hate the Senju as much as she thought he might, but she still couldn't bear to tell him the truth. What if he backed out after he figured out who she was? Befriending and creating peace with a Senju was much different than marrying one.

The clans would merge if that were to happen. No clan liked to have their bloodline mixed with another. She'd seen children born from such unions called half breeds. She'd never be able to take that. Naturally, she couldn't see Madara dealing with that kind of thing calmly either.

His lips traced a leisurely line down from her neck towards her breast bone and she knew she had to get out of there to think things over. It physically hurt her to pull away from him, feeling more satisfied with a light touch from him than everything she'd done to herself.

"I have to go." He raised his head sluggishly, almost as if he hadn't heard her.

"Mmm?" It was more of an absentminded acknowledgement than anything else.

She stood up, gathering his attention. "I said that I have to go now."

He caught her hand, worriedly staring up at her, "Why?" She shook his hand off and walked off towards the edge of the cliff, quickly realizing she wasn't getting down on her own. He was unpleasantly surprised by her abruptness, she hadn't even said anything about him saying he would marry her. That didn't bode well for her acceptance. He shouldn't have said anything.

Sakura placed her arms across her chest defensively. "Can you just bring me down?"

He stood up at his own pace, taking time to figure out what caused her sudden change in attitude. "Not until you tell me what's wrong." That, apparently, was the wrong thing to say. He practically saw her eyes darken.

One thing she couldn't stand was being ordered around by people like they had the right to do it. "It doesn't matter, I just want to go home. Do I have to tell you everything?"

Madara was starting to feel like they were already married and he was the fool husband being tossed around by a cheating wife. He didn't like that she was treating his worry as if it was nothing. He was a worrier on his best day and neurotic at his worst. This wasn't a trait that would go away. He grinded his teeth, anger building. "Fine."

Grabbing her, he jumped off the cliff, giving her no time to anticipate his move. Her screech nearly busted his eardrum, but it was worth it. When they reached the ground maybe she would think about her tone a little more.

Releasing her as soon as their feet touched ground, he took two steps back, preparing himself for a fight. He was completely right to do so, she came at him like a crazy spitting mad cat. All jagged claws and sharp teeth.

"You nearly gave me a heart attack! Tell me before you do something so stupid again!"

He tore her hands off of his shirt. "I don't think I will."

Pissed as hell, she wrapped herself around him like a snake and used everything Toka had taught her. "You dick sucking, motherfucking, son of a sow, stupid fucking cunt, with one tit bigger than the other, stinking like piss..."

It went on but by then he'd lost track of it. His mouth hung open as her nails dug into his chest and she bit his shoulder, on his back like a monkey. He was in a state of shock, wondering where on earth she'd learned those words and thinking he needed to kill them. He couldn't even fault her because he was pretty sure she didn't know what she was saying. Just that they were insults.

Finally after a good two minutes of just swearing, she settled down, noticing he wasn't reacting to her assault anymore. Then her tears came again and he was no more prepared than he had been before.

The sky was staring to darken by the time he calmed her this time. Her emotions were everywhere today and he didn't even lecture her for her choice of words earlier. Today was a mess. He sent her home with a smile on her face and a threat on her tongue. "If you follow me I'll never speak to you again." Only after she left did he remember his gunbai was still on the cliff.

Sakura arrived home that night lethargic. She had aches in places she wasn't used to and all she wanted to do was sleep. Hunger urged her to the kitchen instead of her bedroom. Walking through the dining area she realized her siblings were eating dinner.

None of it looked appealing to her and she bypassed them to go scrounge up her own meal. They called out for her but she didn't stop. Going on her way, she scavenged through the cupboards, until she found the cocoa bread and the sweet sauce she didn't remember the name of.

Ripping open the wrapping around the bread, she sat on the floor tearing off the cover to the sauce. After dipping a piece of the bread into the sauce, she shoved it into her mouth whole. Hearing some shuffling, she looked up to see her brothers standing in the entryway, gaping at her. Her face was stuffed but she spoke anyway. "What?" Small bits of bread erupted out of her mouth. Tobi's face scrunched up in disgust.

"We were just wondering if there was anything wrong." Her face transformed into that of an Oni, worse than Madara's had ever been. Hashirama jumped back as if he was burnt, dragging Tobirama with him. Swallowing the food in her mouth, she picked up the lid on the floor and then threw it at them.

It hit the wall and they turned their eyes back to her, but it bounced, hit the edge of the counter and came at the younger brother from the side. He sensed it and threw his head back rather inelegantly. Hashirama turned at the last second and took it to the nose. The brunet fell to his knees, holding his face and crying out in agony.

In a nasally voice, he called out, "I'm sorry." The white haired teen scratched at the red mark on his chin, turning away with eyes sparklingly in humor. "We'll leave you to…whatever this is." Grabbing Hashirama by the back of his shirt, he pulled him from the room. She heard her eldest sibling whining about being unloved as he was forced to leave her be.

Later that night she tossed and turned in bed, unable to get comfortable. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, she fell into blissful unconsciousness. It was only a few hours later that a maid came to wake her for her training. Her eyes were drooping in exhaustion as she pulled herself up in bed while the maid ran to get her bath ready. She'd always preferred breakfast before a wash.

Yet as she crawled out from her cocoon of blankets, she felt something gush out into her panties. Untying her yukata, she looked down at her underwear and screamed bloody murder. She was dying, she knew she was dying. As her door was yanked open by a group of maids she quickly closed her yukata and crouched down.

They stared at her facing them and she screamed at them, "Bring Toka here!" There was no way she was going to discuss a wound in this area with anyone but that woman. She didn't like any of her handmaidens very much and her brothers were out of the equation.

One determined maid marched forward, walked passed the pink haired girl and pulled back the blankets. There, for everyone in the room to see, was a bloodstain on her sheet. Suddenly the other maids were giddy with excitement and for the life of her Sakura couldn't understand why. Where they happy she was dying? How cruel.

The one who had come into her room without permission rushed back out. She ran to inform the elders of their clan what had transpired. They needed to know before the girl's brothers found out. If the duo had too much of a head start they might try to hide the girl-no, woman-from them.

As a female heir, she was profitable. The group of old man would be able to marry her off to a nobleman that was beneficial to them. There was really no use for more Senju woman; there was no reason not to give her to an outsider. Somewhere faraway would be preferable. She was a distraction to their clan leader and the true heir.

If they were trying to watch over her, protect her, they could put the clan on the backburner. That was not an option. She'd need training as a proper lady, but her looks weren't bad. There would be hordes of suitors out for her hand. Surely, they'd be the ones to pick the best match for her, for the clan really.

Now that she was marriageable, anything was possible. Hashirama wouldn't be able to do a thing. He'd have to do what was best for the clan and stand by their decision. Tobirama would be forced to listen to his will, their will, or be exiled. Sakura would make a very pretty bride, they should be thankful.

Right after receiving the news, the elders quickly picked one of their personal guard to go watch over the girl. Running away with her wouldn't be an option. Plus now that she had bled, her interactions with the opposite gender needed to be monitored.

Men had a sense for knowing when a woman was ripe. They couldn't have anyone trying to move up in the world by impregnating her. To keep the line legitimate they'd be forced to marry them. For now, the guard would keep her safe from that fate at least.

Sakura was still sitting in her room, near tears, waiting for Toka after another maid had went to summon her, when a strange man appeared in her doorway. The maids moved aside for him and didn't protest at him entering her domain at all. He came inside and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her up. "It's time to visit the elders."

He didn't address her with any form of respect. Not a princess or even a miss anywhere in his words. It was as if she no longer deserved it after suffering from such a wound. Like the blood leaking from her vanquished her standing as a person. She didn't know how to take this and felt incapable of objecting as he began to lead her out of the room like a small child.

Chapter Text

By the time the unknown man entered her room, Sakura was already dispirited. She was sitting in her own blood all alone while the maids stood by watching her. She felt like she was on display and she hated it. Their stares were embarrassing, but all she could do was stay still and wait for her master to arrive.

The thought of moving at all made her fearful. When she'd gotten out of bed she'd felt that strange wetness. Moving would just make her bleed out quicker from whatever wound she had. Her normal feistiness was gone. All she wanted was her mama.

Then that man had come in. She didn't put up a fight, not wanting to move more than she needed to. His mention of the elders of the clan didn't even connect. She was in her own world, not taking noticing of anything.

Not the grip on her arm or the maids filing out of the room in haste, hurrying to get out of this strange man's way. It seemed they knew him from somewhere. Feared him by the looks of things. None of them came to her aid.

Then Toka suddenly appeared in the door-frame. Her normal stern experience was even worse today, disgruntled at having been summoned. Then her dark eyes zoomed in on the man and his hold on Sakura. The room's pressure intensified as the female Senju walked forward, forcing the man back. Her brows creased. "Let. Her. Go."

"I cannot do that." The suffocating pressure in the room, which the twelve year old now registered as killing intent, spiked severely. Her body felt heavy with the weight of it.

"Then I'll make you." Her katana slung across her back was drawn in an instance. The man threw Sakura away from him and met Toka's katana with his tanto. He attempted to get in her range, but she succeeded in keeping the distance between them. With blinding speed, over and over, their weapons clashed. It appeared to be an even match as they dodged and twisted around her room.

Only when they jumped back from each other yet again did he see the woman's free hand come up and make a hand sign. He actually felt his vision warp, black bands wisping at the edges of his vision. The use of genjutsu use didn't surprise him, but its weakness did.

He knew of Toka Senju and her accomplishments in the art. Highly improbably that he was able to throw her genjutsu off with a simple kai release, but that is what happened. His vision cleared, no longer hazy and the unusual blackness gone.

He barely caught the fist the aimed to punch him in the jaw. The woman had taken advantage of the small time lapse in his judgement. Once again they went at each other with their weapons. It seemed to go on forever and while his stamina was dropping she only looked to be getting faster.

In the end he didn't notice what was going on until he felt a sharp pain in his side while Toka was across the room from him, not attacking. Once more his vision warped and there was Toka, staring up at him while holding the katana that was stabbed through his side.

Their fight…it had only been a genjutsu. It had to have been when he'd thought he had released her jutsu. It must have had several layers to it. He'd thrown off the weakest only to encounter the next, more realistic layer.

The sudden need to be on the defensive when her genjutsu-self went to punch him had kept him from noticing. He should have expected nothing less from a female warrior. Beautiful, but deadly. He would be sure to give her no more openings. He was still fit to fight.

Taking one big gulp of air to refill his lungs, he stepped backwards quickly, pulling himself off of her katana. She hadn't been expecting him to do that. In seconds he was within her range and he swung his tanto down towards her head. Toka dodged backwards, creating space between them.

As Sakura watched them fight, she felt a rage unlike any other she'd felt before build up. Rage at her own inadequacy. This man felt he could walk into her personal territory and take her without a fight. Relying on Toka for everything was not an option for her. She was sick of being useless, sitting back and watching things play out in front of her.

Pissed as all hell she snuck up behind the man while the two shinobi fought. He was far too concerned with keeping out of Toka's ideal range, when he wasn't attempting to get passed it, to pay attention to her location.

It was just as the woman backed off again for a moment, having spotted her, that her brothers suddenly arrived at the opened door. They came just in time to see Sakura lunge at the man from behind. She was on him in seconds.

Immediately, she went for his eyes, planning to scratch them out. He was forced to drop his weapon and try to protect his optic nerve, closing his eyelids to stop easy access. With one hand fighting to get to his eyes, her other was in his hair pulling on it. She yanked so hard that she ripped a section of it from his scalp. It was surely bleeding.

Teeth bared, she dove towards his neck, biting precariously close to his carotid artery. Her teeth broke skin and if she'd gone slightly to the left and a little deeper she could have killed him. When she jerked her mouth away, she ripped skin.

Her brothers were still at the door, frozen at the sight of her vicious attack. Hashirama realized then and there that if his sister's training with Toka was successful, Sakura would be a terrifying force. The ability to sneak up on shinobi was nearly nonexistent. Spies and scouting teams often lost their life due to this very fact. His sister was amazing…and about to kill someone.

The man was unable to shake the girl off. She was stubbornly clinging to him as she left his eyes to head down towards his weapons pouch. She was fishing for a kunai to stab him with when hands started to pry her from the stranger.

Without thinking, she tightened her grip on the kunai she'd gotten hold of and swung her arm backwards. She felt it connect and stab into the body of the person behind her. There was a grunt, but besides that, no reaction. The hands under her armpits were still there and successfully removing her from her prey.

She was kicking and screaming, willing to kill to get back to the man who'd tried to kidnap her. At least until she was forcibly turned around and witnessed her brother bleeding before her very eyes. She'd stabbed her own brother, right in the shoulder.

Guilt hit her hard. She'd been so singularly focused that she hadn't realized it was Hashirama. There was no excuse, she'd wounded him. The kunai was even still sticking out of his shoulder, amplifying her culpability.

Tears sprang to her eyes as she evaluated the injury. Tobirama came up to them to check it out along with her. Then he raised his hand and wrenched the kunai out. Hashirama let out a high pitched screech and cried out, "Tobi!"

Their brother smirked, tossed the kunai back to Sakura and turned to face the man who caused all this trouble. The kidnapper's back straightened at the observation he was receiving. Circling him, the white haired man glared. "I recognize you. I trained you." The teenager grabbed the back of the man's bleeding scalp. "Now, why are you in my sister's room?"

Showing no fear at the clear threat, he didn't even try to escape from Tobirama. Though slightly older than him, the boy was still his superior. His commanding officer while he'd been in training. He'd show him no disrespect. "Sir, my job was to bring her to the elders. They wanted to see her now that she is marriageable. Sorry, but there is nothing you can do."

This disclosure shook the room. Toka was the first to react to the news. She sheathed her katana and walked over to Sakura. Taking the girl a few steps away from her brothers, she moved her arms away from her yukata. It fell open, revealing to her that the man spoke the truth. Toka's expression was empathetic.

For a moment she paused, and then tied the yukata back up. Kneeling down in front of the other woman, she took her hands into her own. The fear was obvious in her face. She tried to comfort her. "Sakura, there is nothing wrong with you. This is very natural for a woman."

She patted down the pink strands that were sticking up from her student's sleep and wiped at her blood covered mouth. "For now go with the maids to take your bath. Afterwards I'lll be there to explain all of this to you."

Little hands held tighter to her own. "So I'm not dying?" Hashirama let out a nervous giggle and Tobirama shifted his weight, red-faced.

Toka smiled at her. "No, you aren't. You're just becoming a grown up. I'll explain everything later." Then she gave the pink haired woman a push in the direction of the maids. "Now go take your bath." Nodding slowly, she followed after the herd of maids that had formed.

After Sakura was gone, Toka slowly stood up, sighing deeply. The two siblings took two swift steps back, but the other man didn't know better. Before he could blink the Senju warrior had dashed forward and punched him in the gut. The hit was so hard he threw up a little on the floor, eyes bugged out.

She then grabbed him back the neck, pulling his head back so she could stare down at his hunched form. "The elders were going to sell her off to the highest bidder, weren't they? Keep her confined so she could never see her brothers again." She smacked him across the face. "You sicken me." A kick connected with his shin, knocking him down to his knees.

"You're right. Maybe her brothers can't do anything. But I can." She brought her face closer to his. "Without being exiled either." She threw the man away from her.

Hashirama started to speak worriedly, "Toka, are you going to-"

She cut him off with a wave of her hand and a discreet glance in Tobi's direction. It took a few extra seconds for her to muster a grin, but she succeeded. "I'm going to blackmail them." With that, she left them in the room, leaving with a heavy heart.

Tobirama watched her go, peeking sideways at Hashirama only to see him with his head down with clenched fists. There were very few things that could anger his brother, but he seemed upset now. "What is she going to do?"

Finally, after a beat of silence the brunet raised his head and looked into red eyes sadly. "Bargain with her tragedy." The mood was heavy and that was never something he liked much. Forcing a grin, he spoke to the man who was steadily getting to his feet. "Toka tends to be overshadowed by us, but she is just as legendary. What a fool you are to think you could pick a fight with her and win."

A few minutes later, Toka was outside the elders meeting room, trying to calm her breathing. This was going to be hard. She didn't want to recall or even talk about what had happened to her. Yet if it could save Sakura similar pain, she'd do it.

With that in mind, she pushed open the door and stormed the room. The elders jumped in their seats, not having expected her. They'd always had a distinct dislike of her. She knew too much and was unpredictable in her wildness. She was a liability and she was going to use that to her advantage today.

Slamming the door shut behind her, she marched right to their table and glared at them. "So she's 'marriageable' now. I wonder what age I would have become marriageable." Their tension level shot up, nervous that she was bringing up the past. She'd never done it before. This was new behavior, dangerous behavior.

Finally one of the old men spoke up, "What are you playing at?"

She leaned in with a smirk on her face. "Making you my bitch." The man jerked back, looking at her in revulsion. "Oh, you don't like my manner of speaking? Because I'm not a man? Well, you made me this way!" Her nails dug into the table. "And I'll tell everyone."

That alarmed them all. Especially as she turned towards the door. "Wa-wait!" She paused for a moment. "What do you want?"

Nearly undetectable, her shoulders sagged and she muttered under her breath. "There's my bitch." Turning around, she stared them down. "Give me Sakura."

Now it was their turned to be outraged. "You know we can't do that!" She knew from just looking at their faces that they weren't going to just give the girl up. Her eyes narrowed, deciding she would try to get as much control as she could.

Sakura was just finishing her bath, considering getting out of the water, when there was a knock on the door. If it was those handmaidens again, she was going to beat them with a stick. Toka welcomed herself into the room before she could even ask who it was. "Toka!" She sunk just a little bit more into the water, embarrassed to let the other woman see her in a state of undress.

Her master noticed this right away. "You'll have to get over that if you want to be a shinobi in any manner of speaking." Pink eyebrows raised. "Men without pride will purposely rip a female shinobi's clothing. They think if they can expose her that she'll try to cover up and give them an opening." She didn't mention what happened to the women when such a method succeeded.

"…can you explain what's happening to me now?" The older woman nodded and pulled up a plastic seat next to her. From there she explained what a woman's menstruation was and what it would mean for her. Her little student didn't seem to like any of it.

"Get married?! I can't do that." She thought back to Madara's proposal or at least a declaration of his intent to propose. Honestly, she'd been excited before the Senju reality had crashed down on her. Remembering his quest for peace made it better, but now she was realizing something she hadn't considered before.

She didn't want to get married. At least not right now. There were things she wanted to do. Training under Toka being just one of many. Yeah there were girls her age getting married in the Senju. Some had already lost their husbands to war, others even had a child or two.

There was no way she was ready for that. Not children. Except her body was telling her it was ready. Telling the elders they could do what they wanted with her. She felt nauseous at the possibility. "Toka, you said I could become a shinobi if I trained hard enough. It was all lies!"

Her master grabbed her shoulders before she could think to do anything stupid. "I didn't lie! And you will become a shinobi. I made a deal with the elders." The girl turned to her with cheeks flushed from the heat of the water. "We got a stay of execution."

"A stay of execution?" There was no comprehension in her words.

"It means they won't marry you off just yet. They said I could train you for a few years while you take etiquette lessons." Sakura made an ugly face at that. "The trend lately is to have older brides anyway."

"This is only delaying it! I'll still have to marry some guy I don't even know and move away from my brothers."

Toka shook her head, finally letting go of pale thin shoulders. "No. All you have to do is become more of an asset on the battlefield than as a wife. They'll leave you to your own devices after that." At least she hoped. The elders could be vindictive and she could only hold them off for so long. "Also…you'll have a guard until that time comes."

After that time passed slowly for Sakura. Days dragged on without anything but training to occupy her. Her guard, supposed kidnapper, watched her every move. He kept better track of her than either Hashi or Tobi ever had when she was a child. Eyes were constantly on her and he never let her out of his sight.

Except at night when it was too dark to travel to see Madara. Even if she wanted to there were different man guarding her door during that time with a female escort with them. Without a window her only method of escape had been the door.

Still she was trying to coming up with a plan that would let her see the man she loved. Just once would be enough. She'd left him behind that last day in such a bad mood and without saying anything about his willingness to marry her.

With some time to think about it she'd decided she wanted to tell him who she was. If he desired peace as he said he did, her lineage wouldn't matter. He didn't hate Senju and it was such a relief to know that. She'd been in such an odd swirl of mood swings that day, it hadn't even occurred to her to tell him. Now she didn't have the chance.

It was as she was milling around the compound, planning methods of escape that something changed. A two day period free of training had opened up for her when Toka had been ordered to the frontlines to take part in a battle that was going to take place.

She'd been gone for a little over thirty-six hours when there was a commotion at the gates. With her guard trailing behind her, she went to investigate. She would wish she hadn't for the rest of her life. The sight that met her horrified her. There wasn't even much of a chance to observe before she was leaning over and heaving.

Wounded troops were being carried into the compound. Some were already dead. Still more disfigured by burns on their bodies. There were many that wouldn't last the night. And in the midst of it all were Hashirama and Tobirama, carrying a limp Toka. That is what made her vomit.

Her friend's midsection was covered in blood, and it was still dripping from her, staining the ground. She could see things inside her body that should never be visible. Somehow she'd been eviscerated. Toka was dead, had to be.

Her guard was holding onto her, keeping her standing, when someone rushed forward and threw a clean cloth over the female Senju's stomach. "That will keep infection out." Hashirama started to call for extra healers as he set his trusted advisor down. He began to heal her then with his dark green chakra.

Well known for having amazing healing properties, her brother's chakra was probably the only thing that could save Toka. He seemed distracted though, upset by something more than the wounded woman before him. That wasn't doing her any good.

It was right then that something overcame Sakura. A strength buried deep. Her knees stopped shaking and she no longer needed the support of her guard. Mindlessly, she moved forward, heading straight for Hashirama. No one gave a second thought to her presence, too busy treating the injured or watching over them. This gave her the opportunity she needed to slap her brother hard a single time.

No one besides her guard even noticed. Her oldest sibling was shocked to say the least but his chakra never stopped healing. She took his hands by the top, navigating them to a spot that she knew was better. Then she used the tiniest amount of chakra to link their hands together. Like that she was able to send little pulses out to his nerves for him to replicate in Toka.

Hashirama may have amazing healing chakra but he'd never learned how to properly use it. Her master needed a more delicate hand for such a precise healing, her own would have to do. There was no reason she should know where the chakra needed to be directed, but she did. Later. She'd think about all of the 'hows' later. Right now Toka needed her.

It took three hours. During the second they'd been able to move her into a secure clean room. That was also when Sakura had to quit. The small amount of chakra she had access to dwindled down to nearly nothing, until all that was left was what kept her most basic bodily needs alive. It was almost like starvation.

Luckily by that time her brother had figured out what needed to go where. He might not be an expert, but he would do. After the third hour, it was finally done. He'd healed her as much as he could. There would be a massive scar and she'd be bedridden for weeks, but she would live.

Only when Hashirama started to go help others did she let herself ask the question that burned on her tongue. "What happened out there?" Toka wasn't weak. For her to have been wounded like this…someone even more powerful than her had to have done it. That would mean they would have been on Hashirama's level. An opponent he should have been facing, not Toka.

The brunet was at a loss for words as he looked out over the wounded. "This much is normal, but…" Unconsciously his eyes went to rest on Toka again. "She just- I only…it was Madara." He dropped himself next to his friend and held her hand, lowering his head to her. "I'm so sorry Toka. So sorry."

Chapter Text

The office was dark. Too dark to even see in. Curtains were blocking any moonlight from gaining entry. There weren't even any candles in the room. In a fit of rage the man sitting behind the desk had thrown them out the door. He couldn't bear to even look at himself right now. In the dark like this, he felt like he didn't exist at all. The perfect solution.

So there he was, in total blackness waiting for…something. All he could do is wonder at how they'd ended up here. There was no question that he wanted peace. Wanted it for both Sakura and Izuna. Yet, his brother did everything in his power to make sure a treaty wouldn't occur. If only he hadn't been in enough of a mood to end up playing along.

After giving it some thought, Madara decided it must have been the last day he saw Sakura. That's when it started. Izuna's plan and his own misery. At the moment he would give practically anything to go back to that day. He'd stop her from leaving or follow her. Find out where she lived. At least that much.

Then he would be able to locate her. It has been weeks since he saw her and she didn't even say anything about his desire to marry her. Either something had happened to her or…she'd run away. At this point he didn't know which he preferred.

She never stayed away this long. For eight years they haven't gone a month without seeing each other, though sometimes it was only for a minute. Now he had to face the fact that he barely knew anything about her outside of the time they spent together.

From the beginning he came to assume she was from a merchant's family, with a male guardian. Only now did he start to doubt his assumption. After her long disappearing act, he'd scoured the land of fire. Made sure to ask every merchant he came across if they knew of a girl with pink hair.

No one even heard of such a thing. The one lead he had was of a traveling civilian couple people had seen years ago. The wife was said to have had a pinkish strawberry blonde hair while her husband had a fiery red. They had a son who had dull pink hair. The Haruno family.

The couple having a little girl was never mentioned. Not exactly what he was looking for. He looked into it anyway and heard about two civilians who were found dead just on the boarder of Senju land. Either bandits or the Senju had gotten to them because no self-respecting Uchiha would do that. Everything turned out to be a dead end.

Madara couldn't believe she was able to disappear without a trace, but she'd done it. She was impossible to track with no trail to follow. It felt like he would never see her again. His frustrations were mounting along with a horribly insecurity that hadn't bothered him in years.

Usually he made it through the day just fine but late at night, while he was attempting to sleep, his mind raced. He was hurting right in his heart and it was killing him. With no body surfacing, he was fairly sure Sakura was alive. No one bothered to bury their kills anymore.

Discovering her body would have been worse, so he welcomed this pain. Anything was better than that. Even not seeing her anymore. Thus he could only wonder at why she wasn't appearing before him while he searched for her.

Izuna used his frustration against him. The scene from the battle field flickered across his eyelids and he scowled. He jumped out of his chair and paced the dark room from memory. The Senju hadn't been bothering them lately. Pulling out like Hashirama said they would. It helped that Madara hadn't shown his face in the field.

Showing up to a small skirmish where there was no one of his caliber present to stop him reeked of aggression. So he stayed away, as did Hashirama. It was going well until a group of five Senju were eliminated while traveling on their own land. Trespassing and murder.

Hashirama was forced to act and all evidence lead to the Uchiha. There was no doubt in his mind that it was Izuna. Just like him, he'd been losing his mind. Just in a different way. He wanted to hunt the Hyuuga but didn't want a treaty with the Senju. Or even a cease fire. Their father had twisted his mind so much that he was willing to sacrifice more Uchiha to the war.

Nothing mattered to his brother except not 'admitting defeat' to the Senju. Going into the battle he'd known it was all Izuna's doing but he hadn't realized just how far he was willing to go. For all intents and purposes it was a normal fight, though an intense one. Hashirama had even brought Toka out to play.

He only ever saw that woman during a really major battle. Normally, she kept to the shadows, dealing with important matters that took a small highly specialized unit. He'd never paid much attention to her beyond the times Izuna mentioned her. His little brother absolutely hated the sight of the woman.

She often tagged teamed him with Tobirama. Just when he thought he was tiring the white haired bastard out, she'd step in. Drove him crazy. It always gave Madara a good laugh. Mostly because she still stubbornly tried to use genjutsu on them. It never worked on Izuna but others of their clan had fallen victim to the female warrior.

Everything had been going normally until Toka left Tobirama's side, a group of Uchiha leading her farther and farther away. Then Izuna suddenly jacked up his ferociousness level by several degrees, seemingly trying to go for the kill. This new speed he was devoting so much chakra to would be impossible to maintain for very long.

The younger Senju sibling was holding his own, using his sensory skills to track him. This display of strength drew everyone's attention, even Hashirama's and his own. Their collisions lowered but didn't fully stop, giving less than half their focus to their brothers. By now they were used to their erratic behavior.

This time was different though. Just as Toka began to make her way back to them, Izuna's speed dropped dramatically. It happened right as Tobirama staged a, now, lethal attack as Madara's and Hashirama's jutsu were about to clash. Suddenly, the brunet darted off towards the younger Uchiha, his wood release shifting to head right for him.

His eyes bleed red, turning straight into the mangekyō sharingan. Those Senju bastards were planning to team up to take his brother out. He expected better from Hashirama. How could he? This was unbelievable. There was no way he'd let them succeed. He started to swing his gunbai towards the offenders, hoping to knock them away from each other with a shot of wind.

The distance was wide and the wind powerful. It would have been nothing harmful, Izuna was in the way after all. Yet instead of it being a wide spread attack, Toka came out of nowhere and jumped in front of it. The wind ended up turning into a condensed strike as it released pressed up against her stomach.

Her scream of agony made bile rise in his throat because he didn't mean to do that. He saw her clothes rip, saw skin tear and expose her innards. He saw what he had done, just as everyone else did, including Hashirama, whose wood release had formed a wall to block Tobirama's sword and water jutsu that was aimed at Izuna.

It was a misunderstanding. A horrible misunderstanding because he could see from the look on the brunet's face that he did not understand. Hadn't seen the woman take her own life at the end of his gunbai. This wasn't his choice dammit! She'd made it for him.

Eyes going back to black, they moved from Hashirama's aghast expression to Izuna, only to see something far more terrible. His brother was smiling and it occurred to him then that this was planned. Maybe it hadn't gone exactly as the younger man thought it would, but the end result was just as good.

There was no time to think about this as the Senju were ordered to retreat. The wounded were grabbed and dragged away. Toka was taken by Hashirama and his brother. The former's chakra surrounded the injury, trying to keep her alive until they made it back to their compound.

He ordered the Uchiha to let them go. Izuna was not happy with that demand. In an instant there was a snarling face shoved into his own. "Why would you let them escape?! We had them! They were shaken up, a perfect opportunity to gain the advantage. We could have killed them."

As he looked down into the twisted features of his sibling's face he realized that this wasn't his brother. Not the one he remembered. Izuna was endlessly kind and he cared about everyone. He'd been the one the clan had to watch carefully because he was overly friendly with the merchants, a perfect target for a kidnapping. A boy much too naïve. Now he was this snarling man in front of him. He should have stopped this much sooner than he had.

Over the years he'd watched his father corrupt him and done nothing to stop it. His brother had went from caring about everyone equally to only caring about Uchiha. There was less smiling at merchants and more glaring at his surroundings. Then their father had moved to localize that wariness to the Senju and increase its intensity to hatred.

This was his fault. His failure, and he couldn't stand to look at it. In front of his clansman, his hand swung outward and he slapped Izuna across the face. Afterwards there was silence, but he could hear the ringing in his ear from the sound of the smack. Even now as he traced the outline of his office in the dark, he swore he could still hear it.

Only in a spar had he ever attacked his sibling and never in such a disrespectful manner. A slap was far more indignant than a punch would have been. Izuna was speechless and unable to continue the argument. The rest of the clan was anxious about his behavior, feeling as if he was sidling with the Senju over the Uchiha. In the state the clan was in now, a peace treaty would be improbable. They would think he was signing their rights away. For now his plans had to be put on hold.

Suddenly, there was a knock on his door. Believing it was more bothersome people trying to check on him, he barked at them to leave him be. A muffled voice answered him. "If you think I'm leaving anytime soon you can eat a shoe."

Izuna! His whole body turned to face the door as he considered opening it. Could he face his brother after what he had done to the younger man? More importantly, could Madara look into his eyes and not want to do the same thing again?

He supposed this would be a chance he had to take. Asking him what had happened on the battlefield was priority. This could just be a misunderstanding. With that possibility in mind, he unlocked the door and let the teenager in. Barely any light came in, and it was still difficult to see. Standing in the middle of the room, they faced off.

He crossed his arms across his chest and stared down at the slightly shorter man. "Did you plan that?" One eyebrow raised questioningly, but by the look on his face the boy knew exactly what he was talking about. He was just ignoring the whole thing.

"You should really eat. Locking yourself away in this room doesn't do anything for you." Black eyes scanned the office, taking in the mess he'd made when he had swept his arm across his desk in fury hours, days, ago. He wasn't sure anymore. As far as sleeping or eating went he'd done none of that, but that wasn't a very good gauge of time for him.

In the past, while he was on the frontlines, he had gone three weeks with no more than ten hours of sleep. Three day cycles of battling and keeping watch ending in only an hour or two of rest. He could keep his body going on just an apple and a few sunflower seeds a day for a week straight. However long it had been since he'd left this room it was nothing in comparison to that.

Clearly Izuna was worried for nothing. He was just deflecting the conversion away from his question. Reaching out he grabbed his brother by his shirt, pulling him in closer. "I asked if you had anything to do with what went down out there?!"

Izuna cautiously raised his hands to wrap his fingers around his older brother's wrists. "If I tell you again, will you please eat?"

It was only then that Madara noticed the true concern concealed in his expression and the delicate hold around his wrists. In no way did he like this treatment, glaring to show just that. "What do you mean again? And I'll eat whenever the hell I want."

His mouth tightened but then he sighed, as if life had exhausted him. "Okay, fine. At least I know where your head is at right now." He released his hold on his brother and then pulled the hands gripping his shirt away. "It's been three years since the battle you're remembering. You are twenty-four years old."

This was met with an obvious disbelieving scoff and he took a few steps back to distance himself from his crazy younger sibling. "Please you need to eat, just look at yourself!" Izuna threw his arm out towards the side and he followed the motion with his eyes. He found a mirror hung on the wall that he didn't remember hanging there.

It was too dark in the room to really make anything out in it besides an outline of their shapes. Izuna raked his hand through his hair with a mumbled curse. He walked out to the hall, picking up one of the candles that was laying on the ground and lit it. Madara jerked back as if he'd been stung, covering his eyes as he hissed in pain at the sudden light.

As he adjusted to this change, he lowered his hands slowly, gaze automatically switching to the mirror. He looked at it with revulsion. The image in that mirror couldn't be his own, it just couldn't. The man in the mirror was unnaturally pale, his face gaunt, with his clothes hanging off of him like rags. Hair hung lifelessly from his head. This wasn't him, it wasn't him.

His hands went to the bottom of his shirt and lifted it. The man in the mirror followed suit. His ribs were visible. He let his shirt fall back down and turned towards his brother. As he did so he noticed that he couldn't see him that well with the candle he was holding blurring the edges of his vision. "What happened?"

Izuna considered this for a moment. "That day or how you ended up like this?" Eyes narrowed to try and see him better along with anger. "Okay, alright. Both. Just sit down." Reluctantly, feeling as if his knees would give out otherwise, he listened to his younger brother and sat down behind his desk.

"Three years back I thought we'd be able to take out Tobirama, shake Hashirama up and take down the Senju." Izuna settled himself down in a chair across from him after picking it up from the floor. He must have knocked it down sometime earlier. "I knew if it looked like he was going to get the better of me, you'd intervene. What I didn't expect was Hashirama or Toka to get involved. They ruined everything."

So he'd been right. His brother had stopped moving of his own volition to lure him into saving him. It sickened him. That Toka woman had suffered a horrible death thanks to him falling right into the plan. No, no. He couldn't concern himself with that right now, he needed to know the rest.

"After that you were okay. You spent maybe two, three days in here, but emerged in one piece." Then why the hell was he like this right now! "Now now. Put those eyes away. I'm getting to it." He fidgeted in his seat, uncomfortable talking about such things. "It was almost a year before you started to behave strangely. You would get unreasonable angry over the smallest things. Then you told me about her."

The last word was said with an almost bitter feel. He clearly blamed what was happening to him on this girl he spoke of. He was pretty sure he knew who he was talking about. "Sakura."

Izuna leaned forward in his seat. "Forget about her already! She is long dead. No matter how much you search you haven't found anything." Three years and Sakura still hasn't shown up. If this was true she probably was dead. To hide for that long without ever leaving a clue was impossible. Civilians had nowhere to hide from them. "Soon after you had your first lapse."


He nodded, "Yeah…it was bad. You looked worse than you do now and you actually collapsed. Then you recovered." If that was the case why was he like this now?! "After that you were good for a while, but then we lost a large amount of people to the Hyuuga warfront." He scratched his head and turned his eyes away. "Every time this happens it is always the result of some mental shift."

Madara kicked the desk as he stood. "Are you telling me I don't cope well?!"

Izuna stood up right along with him. "Yes! This most recent one is because…your vision is going." He staggered backwards, not prepared for that information. His neck snapped to the right and then to the left, taking in everything in the room. Things were blurry. It wasn't the darkness or the light making it hard for him to see. His eyes were going.

Why?! The sharingan was supposed to be a superior form of eyesight. He's never heard of an Uchiha's sight going before. "Brother, it's the result of the mangekyō."

The mangekyō, the new version of the sharingan that only the two of them possessed. "Your sight…"

"I'm not fairing any better. Actually my sight is a bit worse than yours." There was a moment of silence before Izuna smiled and started to head to the door. "We'll have to live with it. Let's get some food in you now. God knows how much stress you have put on your body with this constant up and down."

He didn't get the chance to say anything before his brother disappeared. Sluggishly, he lowered himself back into his seat, feeling as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. His mental fragmentation was probably because of lack of nutrition, sleep, and socialization. Once he got some of each he'd be in his right mind.

His eyes caught the glint of the mirror in the candlelight. The man in the mirror was him, but he wouldn't ever let it be again. As he leaned back and closed his eyes he wondered how many time he'd told himself that before.

Chapter Text

Hashirama's words stunned Sakura, more so because immediately after saying such a shocking statement he turned his complete attention to Toka. It gave her the chance to sink into her feelings. Her brother may have only said that to convey to her just how much he was hurting, she knew their history better than anyone, but it did more than just that.

While she wouldn't say that the two men's relationship was weak, there was no doubt that it wasn't as strong as her own connection to Madara. Not currently anyway. Her brother was friends with him for just a little over a year. Afterwards they fought constantly for the next eight.

On the other hand she'd known him for those eight years and had forged a deep friendship with him. She was sure she had knowledge about things he'd never told anyone else. In her childishness she'd thought she knew him inside out. Except clearly she didn't.

Of course the fighting between the Senju and Uchiha was something she was aware of. She'd just never seen the effects of it before. They'd lost both Kawarama and Itama to the war, but she'd been too young to really take that in at its full effect.

Her wanting to stop the fighting was more of a moral compass that Hashirama had handed down to her. She knew it was right and also desired it for selfish reasons, but she'd never really thought very deeply about it beyond that. Faced with the aftermath of war, the wounded moaning out for help, is an entirely different feeling. It was motivation mixed with disgust.

Madara had said he wanted to end this war so why was he still fighting? It had been almost three months since Hashirama had taken up their Father's position and stopped the fighting with the Uchiha. The two only fought once after her brother became the Senju clan leader and he had declared a tentative cease fire. If the Uchiha didn't attack them, they'd return the favor.

When Toka had been sent off for battle, Sakura found out about the five Senju that were found dead. It was clear an Uchiha had done it, but she'd thought it was just a few gone rogue from their leader's orders. She hadn't expected her friend to have had a hand in it. Yet from what she'd just heard it was a possibility.

This spurred her into doing something that she had never done before. She questioned some of the Senju warriors on their thoughts about Madara. While Hashirama went from bedside to beside, healing others, she trailed after him. After he was done his thing and moving on, she would speak to the injured men.

None of them had good things to say about their enemy, but it was worse than she imagined. Some claimed their burns were due to his fiery flames. Others said he wasn't human, a monster that was able to stand against a god. All fairs judgements from men who'd faced such a beast in war.

In the end she decided to hold her own judgment until she spoke to Toka. The woman wasn't emotional in the face of battle and would be able to give a rational opinion on the matter. Though until then she would worry about the repercussions of this confrontation between the two clans.

After a tiring day of fighting and healing Hashirama was exhausted. Still his little brother demanded a debriefing of him. Such a slave driver he was. Though it was really only in this closed off room with Tobirama that he could let loose his emotions. Sakura was a nice second but she could never truly understand the horrors of war when she had not seen it firsthand.

"Hashirama, why did you save the young Uchiha?" He moved his face a bit so that his forehead wasn't pressed up against the floor where he was lying and blew his hair out of his face. Just as his mother had told him to all those years ago, he'd let it grow out. It was only in her memory that he kept it as long as it was.

With a face full of what he expected to be new wrinkles, he gazed up at his red eyed sibling. "…If Izuna were to die, there would be no chance of peace." He turned his face away so he could once again bury it into the floor.

"If he lives there will be no chance of peace. He hates the Senju and as long as he is unwilling Madara will never agree to a peace treaty." Tobirama did not understand how Hashirama couldn't see this. The hatred the younger Uchiha had of them was never ending. There wasn't one thing he could think of that would change the man's mind about them.

The brunet sighed and flipped himself over so he was staring up at the ceiling. "Maybe so, but people can change. Be persuaded. But people cannot be brought back from the dead." In his opinion saving Izuna was one of the best things he had ever done. If only Madara hadn't attacked Toka, they could have already been celebrating a truce.

As his mind wandering to Toka something else came to the forefront. He sat up a little so that he was at eye level with Tobi who was sitting properly, seiza style, sipping his tea next to the table. "While I was healing Toka, Sakura helped me."

"Of course she would. Toka is her master after all. If she didn't attempt to help, I'd be more concerned." He took another sip of his tea not at all sure why Hashirama would believe this an interesting enough topic to bring up in this debriefing.

"No, you don't understand." This time he sat up completely, moving into the seiza form that he hated with all his soul to convey his seriousness. "She helped me heal her. I had no idea what I was doing and…I thought we were going to lose her, Tobi."

Almost in slow motion the white haired man lowered his cup until it made a clanking sound as it connected with the saucer. "Are you trying to say that Sakura has your healing property?" He shook his head at his brother's foolishness. "Impossible. She does not share our blood."

"No, not my healing property! It was like…I can't even describe it." Now that he had his brother's attention he fell out of the seiza. "But my healing ability isn't really a Senju thing. I think it's the Uzumaki blood we have." The idea seemed to hit them both. "Maybe Sakura has an Uzumaki lineage! It would explain her hair color."

When their sister had first shown up Butsuma had considered this but dismissed it quite quickly. The Uzumaki weren't a clan that would just let one of their own go missing without searching for them. They were a close knit group who valued family.

What he hadn't considered was the possibility that a clan member could have broken off and started a line all their own. The relation could be distance, but there all the same. "If that's the case we should invite the Uzumaki for a visit when we get a chance." With that they started to talk about actual battle outcome.

A week passed before Toka regained consciousness for a considerable amount of time with her full cognitive abilities intact. The drugs they'd been pumping into her had kept her pretty incoherent. Every day of that week Sakura was by her side, talking about random things even though she could hear her chattering. Which was good because if she could she'd have told her to shut it long ago.

Her guard stood outside of the infirmary, content that no men in the cabin were well enough to attack her. She didn't even know his name but he was still the biggest pain in the ass she'd ever met. He was fairly quiet but when he did speak it was usually something insulting. He behaved like quiet the prince around her brothers though, at least smart enough to understand the likelihood of death if he didn't.

Sakura was actually in one of her rare moments of silence when Toka woke. In all the time she waited for her master to wake she didn't consider the option of a brutal awakening. The female warrior jerked out of bed without warning and had her hands maneuvered in such a way around the girl's neck that she could easily snap it. Almost as if she'd been halfway to doing it before she'd realized who she was defending herself against.

Both of them were breathing heavily as the women cautiously let the girl go. "Sakura…" Her gaze roamed the room as she calmed, sinking into herself on the cot. Carefully, her hand went to her stomach to check for damages. Fingertips traced the bandages wrapped around her midsection absentmindedly.

The girl pulled her hand away before she could yank at the wrappings. She knew Toka well enough by this point to understand she would want to see the result of her injuries. "Don't do that. The skin is till new. After the first healing it was thin enough to see through."

That only made her want to see it more. "Hey! It's not that interesting. It turned my stomach. Plus Hashirama's healed you every day since. It isn't see through anymore." This seemed to kill the woman's interest and she laid back submissively into her bed, still exhausted. "So Toka…"

Brown eyes glanced over at her, waiting for her to finish, irritation slowly climbing as the clock ticked on the wall. "Spit it out already! Ugh." She clutched her abdominal, realizing her mistake at having shouted. Sakura smiled a little and Toka glared. Business as usual.

"I just wanted to ask how this could happen to you." Better not to mention Madara's name, the woman was too smart not to notice she was fishing for information on the man if she did. For a moment everything was silent besides the quiet breathing coming from the other patients.

Black hair fell around her shoulders as she leaned her head back against the wall behind her, starring up at the ceiling. This was actually the first time she'd seen Toka without her hair done up in an elegant knot. "The leader of the Uchiha clan was about to use a fire jutsu against your brothers. At the time they were distracted with other matters. It would have hit and they'd have died." This was Toka's truth, what she understood of the situation.

Madara had tried to kill her precious siblings. She couldn't believe it. He'd said he wanted peace. That he wanted to keep her safe from war above all else. Why had he lied to her? If he'd at least been honest with her it wouldn't have felt this bad. She would have understood.

This was war after all, but to give her hope of peace was just cruel. Could she really marry someone who had been so willing to kill her family? Maybe it was possible that Madara even had a hand in the death of her other brothers. He'd probably killed too many Senju to even be able to tell her if he had.

She'd known he had killed before, he was a shinobi. Killing was just part of the job. This hadn't bothered her when she thought he'd had a conscious. That it wasn't something he really wanted to do. Yet he'd been ready to take out Hashirama and Tobirama in cold blood when the Senju offered peace. His willingness to harm others was evidence to the fact that the five Senju deaths could have been ordered by him. Her mind was in disarray over all the possibilities.

Toka noticed this and misunderstood it as distress over her brothers being endangered. "Don't worry, your brothers weren't hurt by the attack. I stopped it."

That pulled her right out of her despair. "By taking the attack all by yourself! Not even deflecting it or warning them instead. You must have a death wish."

Her tone raised Toka's hackles. "There wasn't any time for that!"

"Tobirama is probably the fastest man alive! There is always time." The door to the infirmary suddenly slammed closed. Neither of them had even heard it open. Their heads spun around in alarm. Tobi stood in the entryway starring them both down with his intense red eyes. For the first time Sakura was a little intimidated by her brother.

"No, I wasn't fast enough to have escaped the kind of attack Toka is speaking of, Sakura. I'd have been able to stop her if I was." It left a bitter taste in his mouth to admit to it but his next words were sincere. "We would have died without her. She saved us."

The twelve year old looked back at him with what appeared to him to be disappointment. He wasn't strong enough to save her master, wasn't fast enough. It was then that he started to wonder about the possibility of a jutsu making him faster than he already was. Something that would make it impossible to escape from him. He put it into his stock of jutsu ideas.

A week later Toka was practically begging to be released from the infirmary. Right after Sakura left that day the female Senju had tried to get out of her bed. Tobirama had pushed her back into it, which was the wrong thing to do. They ended up fighting and he wound up with a bite mark on his hand.

After her stubbornly refusing to give herself time to heal he'd ordered the healers to drug her again. The next day they started to restrain her instead of using the drugs so her wounds wouldn't open up again.

Sakura was sure the minute she was released the woman would be aiming for Tobi's head. She spit nails at just the mention of his name and he returned the favor, often calling her a rabid dog. The compound would be a war zone when Toka was deemed well again. In fact that's just what the healers were about to do.

She made sure to be out of the way when the woman's restrains were unlocked. The nurse didn't get the chance to discharge her, Toka was out the window before she even got the papers out. Walking over to the window, the girl examined the claw marks on its edges. Her master was like an escaped animal heading straight for its main gatekeeper. She almost felt sorry for her brother.

There was movement at her side, making her peek out of her peripheral vision. Her guard stood next to her, running her finger along the new groves in the wood. "What a vicious women." Her head spun around to get a better look at his face, but the smile shoe could have sworn was on his face was gone.

"Hey, Guard. What's your name?" He glanced at her questioningly, surprised that she would ask him such a thing. "Don't overthink it! I'm just getting sick of calling you guard." The man nodded acceptingly.

"They call me Sai." For no reason at all she felt her body tense up as a familiar feeling came over her. It was the same feeling of longing and loss she'd had about her 'spot' so many years ago along with what drew her to Madara. A sense of closeness and an image of a boy with a broken smile hit her out of nowhere.

There was a pain in her chest as another image accompanied it. A girl with long blond hair laying bloody on the dirt floor. Gasping, she stumbled away from the man, holding her head. She felt heartsick, as if she'd just watched her puppy die. Choked up, she physically turned her body away from Sai to try and hide her reaction.

Hesitantly, he moved towards her to check if she was okay. Sensing his approach, she considered her escape options. Being vulnerable in front of a virtual stranger was terrifying. There wasn't a chance of getting away though. It was his job to follow her.

Instead of touching her and turning her back around he went around her so that he was facing her. No one said anything until she raised her head to look at him. Then his eyes widened and he started to call for a medic. "What's wrong?" His head turned back around from when he was searching for a healer.

"Miss, your nose is bleeding." Just as he said that she felt something wet touch her lip. Raising her hand, she touched her face, feeling the warm liquid run through her fingers. Taking it away she stared down at her hand. It was covered in a dark red blood.

A year later there was no question that Toka was fully recovered. The woman was the daughter of Satan himself. A real demon. A horrid slave driver. It was a mantra Sakura repeated to herself over and over as said demon placed more weight on her back while she did pushups.

This wasn't as bad as running in the river with weights tied to her legs though. All this training had changed her body in a way that she hadn't thought of. Her previous string bean arms had muscle now, even if they were still slim and lean. The most drastic change was surely her calves. She swore they were at least twice the size they were before.

Plus she had abs now, certainly they weren't as amazing as Toka's but she'd take it. More than ever before she felt strong. It still annoyed her that all they'd done was strength training though. Her master hadn't taught her how to fight yet at all. She constantly said that this step needed to be completed before moving on. 'Basics first.'

"Okay, you're good now. You met your quota." Sighing in relief, she let her arms go, throwing herself to the floor. Laughing, Toka removed the weight from her student's back. "Okay Hercules, let's go get something to drink." The teen grimaced, not sure if that was the best idea.

It was something they did fairly often but it was starting to get weird. She was thirteen now and, as Tobirama liked to say, the wolves were moving in. Whenever they went to Toka's family's teashop, a lot of men tended to follow them inside. Some did nothing but stare, others were bolder. One came up to them to ask her guard for a chance at courtship.

Toka's reaction hadn't been friendly at all and so after that first time few men were still brave enough to do the same. Their stares still made her uncomfortable. Toka noticed this and would sip at her water, pointing out the lecherous men, having a ball at her expense.

At one time she even got serious, ordering Sai away from the table to speak with her alone. She'd asked her if there were any men she found attractive or interesting. Honestly, she didn't know how to respond to that.

She knew of her master's deal with the elders, the classes she was forced to take in etiquette never let her forget it, so she also knew the importance of this discussion. Toka was hoping for her to find someone she found tolerable. Had promised that if she did, she would fight the elders tooth and nail so Sakura could marry the man she loved.

At the same time she was scared to let her student go out on her own to meet men. She didn't trust that side of their species at all. Hashirama and Tobirama were rare exceptions to her rule of thumb.

This mattered naught to Sakura though. There was just no way that she would fall in love with someone besides Madara. For a while it was hard for her to connect what she actually felt for the man and what she felt obligated to feel for her family.

Finally she decided that there was no way she could erase her feelings for him, but that as long as the fighting lasted she would not continue their relationship. It was difficult to stay away at first, but the longer she did the easier it became.

There was no question that she still thought of him, her resolve was just stronger. She shoved him in the darkest corner of her mind and tried to believe that out of sight was out of mind. Still occasions occurred that made her yearn to see him.

Toka shoved her shoulder to get her attention. "Are you coming or not?" Pulled out of her thoughts of Madara and knowing she did need to talk to her master about something, she decided to go along with her to the teashop as usual.

Before they walked in though, she ordered Sai to stay put outside of the shop and make sure no one followed them in today. He did as asked flawlessly. Left alone now, master and student took their seats in the farter booth possible away from the customers already inside.

Toka could sense that something was up, but kept silent while she waited for Sakura to speak up about what was bothering her. This wasn't the time to be impatient. The teenager was relieved that she was given time to figure out how to bring up such an embarrassing topic.

After a few minutes passed between them without either saying anything, Sakura finally leaned in. Feeling secretive she followed along with her. Together they were bent over the table, the girl not even daring to look into her master's eyes.

"My…chest is starting to bother me during training. Is there a way too…I don't even know what I'm asking." There was a deep red hue dusting across her cheeks, clearly uncomfortable talking about this part of her anatomy.

Toka reeled back, her spine now flush against the booth behind her. This wasn't in the job description of master. She was completely unqualified to help her with this problem. There was no reason for the teenager to be embarrassed about her own natural body, but the shock was too much for her to convene that with her reaction.

In turn Sakura pulled back from her, more ashamed than before. "I'm sorry. I just didn't know who else to talk to about such matters." Flushed in dismay, she tried to flee the booth. Before she could get away, Toka grabbed her by the back of her qipao dress.

"No. I'm sorry." Pushing the girl back into her seat, she tried to explain herself. "I just don't know what to say. It is impossible for me to help you much in this regard. I don't know much about this topic." Under the table her leg started to shake nervously.

Her student didn't seem quite willing to believe her. "How can you not know? Don't you have this problem too?" Her other foot started to do a tap dance, not prepared for this line of questioning. She'd thought Sakura would just be a good girl and not ask her things like this.

Her silence made the girl frown and it was obvious she was starting to think ill of her, believing her to be lying. Faced with that option or disclosing the truth, she choose something she thought she'd never decide to do. She told the truth.

"You don't understand. My father…I had my breast tissue removed when I was younger. Therefore I never needed such knowledge." Bringing up such a long forgotten incident unnerved her, flashes of the forceful surgery coming to the forefront of her mind. It was more of a butchery than any type of surgery really.

When it because clear that removing the tissue was beyond his capability, her father had burned it away. The pain had been terrible but not as much as her other surgery had been. "I only know about menstruation because of what I have heard from other women. My womb is long since gone." That had been the truly unbearable operation.

She still had nightmares of the elders standing over her as an unqualified healer cut her open and tore out her uterus. Her father's idea of ripping out her femininity at its core had intrigued them after he had used fire to erase her breasts from existence. They'd offered up a more permanent solution once they found out what he had done.

Someone they'd gotten it in their convoluted heads that they might really be able to turn her into a man. Battle strength in numbers had always been their ideal way of war, but many of the Senju male population had been lost to the war already. Women had always outnumbered men but it quickly became hugely disproportional and wives were still giving birth to girls.

With such uneven numbers a large number of these women would be unable to find a husband. Wasted resources in the elders' eyes. They'd liked the idea that they good turn these 'wasted' women into a better resource, men able to fight for them.

She truly had no idea what they'd expected to happen, but clearly they thought their experiment a failure. Without a care they used her life as a trial run. She had not even had her first period when they took the option away from her.

In the eyes of men she was never marriageable and never will be. She supposed her torture was somewhat worth it since it made it possible for her to be able to save her student from those old men's clutches. It was still hard to bear though.

Smart as always, Sakura seemed to at least get the gist of what her master was implying even if she didn't understand how things like that were possible. Her master just didn't have the same anatomy as her anymore. Wait. Did that mean…

"Am I going to have to be like you to be a warrior?" Immediately she regretted the way she'd phrased that. It made it sound like she thought less of her master because of the way she was. That wasn't true at all though.

Her thoughts were stopped from going any farther when Toka grabbed her by her shoulders. "No!" Panic warped her face into something terrible to glance upon. Sweat beaded down her forehead as she stared down into her student's wide green eyes. "Never let yourself think that. I no way am I a better warrior for what was done to mean."

Not quite true, she'd probably never have even glanced upon this profession if things hadn't happened the way they did, but regular females could make just as good fighters as males did. Take the Uzumaki clan for example. Their women could be fierce and Toka was glad to never have to go into a real battle against one.

Sakura relaxed after hearing this, glad that she would still be able to retain the ability to have children for Madara. Her thoughts came to a screeching halt. That desire had totally come out of nowhere and it made her face far rosier than it had been before.

She pushed her face into the table to try to hide it. "Hey are you okay, Brat?" Pressing her face even harder against the surface she tried to erase the image of cute dark haired Uchiha children from her mind, but was completely unsuccessful.

It had been a year, a full fucking year, since he had last seen Sakura. He worried over her constantly and hoped for her to reappear even as he searched for her. His worry and hope of her recovery turned to frustration as the days and months dragged on. It was killing him, slowly but surely.

Frustration and he dare say even hatred at the girl, drove him to madness. At time he'd get unreasonably snippy at their troops, something only Izuna dared to point out. That, as always, led them to fighting in front of said troops. He took quite the pleasure in kicking his little brother's ass in front of his own men. After a while it became so common that even Izuna stopped bothering to call him out on his temper.

When picking fights stopped working to cool his anger, he turned to drinking. He just hadn't realized he was such a sad excuse for a drunk. Izuna came across him one day sprawled across the tatami mats in his bedroom.

The sun wasn't even up yet but his brother always had been an early riser. If only he'd remembered to close his door when he stumbled in his room last night, the younger man never even would have seen him. It was beyond his abilities to turn back time though.

Izuna stopped and stared into his room. "Madara, what are you doing?"

He shoved the empty sake bottle under the lower part of his back, attempting to hide the evidence even after his sibling had already seen it. Shaking his head for no reason, he answered him, "Nothin'." He stared back at Izuna as innocently as he could.

"You're drunk off your ass, aren't you?" He couldn't quite decide between being angry or amused by the situation. Madara replied in the negative, but with the way he slurred no one would have believed him. Sighing, Izuna joined his big brother on the floor of his room, sprawling himself out next to him. "…What's wrong with you lately?"

Turning his head in stared into eyes that matched his own, somehow comforted by it, and asked his sibling a question he'd wondered about. "Hav you evera been in luv?" Shaggy black hair shifted across his face as Izuna shook his head. "Hurts. Right ear." He patted his chest, over his heart, turned his body towards his brother's and told him about Sakura.

It took hours to describe the progression of their relationship over the near decade that he'd known the child. Trying to justify himself to Izuna about the age difference was a significant portion of that, even though his brother never said one word about it.

The gap in their ages didn't seem that big to him when he compared it to their own parent's difference. Twenty years was a large one. Their father had lived far beyond the estimated thirty years of a shinobi. Their mother, sadly, had not. She'd been just brushing twenty-three when she passed.

Still he listened to Madara's wallowing, a little happy that he was telling him about this even if he was drunk. The sun was well over the stop of the trees when the story finally stopped, his brother having been sober for a while now. Together they dozed off, sleeping cuddled close to one another.

After that incident he realized alcohol wasn't doing it for him. It didn't melt away his frustration at all, only matching it with depression. Long nights alone remembering that kiss he shared with Sakura was the worst part. He was a twenty-two year old virgin and completely male. Urges hit him out of nowhere at strange times.

Once he decided he would marry Sakura, he had put all that on the back burner. He planned to wait for her until she was ready, but now there was no end in sight to this particular kind of frustration. In one broken down moment of indiscretion, he laid with a women that he did not love.

What killed him the most was that he liked it more than he felt he should have and knew he was probably going to do it again. He'd always thought himself a faithful man and this turn of events made him ashamed of himself.

Men had free reign in this world but he still felt like he'd betrayed Sakura. He was not the type to keep a mistress or tolerate any such behavior from the person he wed. This left a terrible feeling in his heart.

These feelings intensified until it grew into a typoon inside of him. Then it all came out in one long drawn out period of endless despair. He had no clue that this would just be his first lapse of many as his body broke down from starvation and sleep deprivation.

Chapter Text

It was four years after Toka's near death experience and Sakura was sixteen now. She didn't feel sixteen though, she felt decades older. It was always that way after a bout with her master. Compared to when she was twelve she was strong now, able to hold her own against enemies.

Back then it seemed to take forever, but Toka did start to teach her how to fight. At the beginning it was strictly defense, another thing that irritated her, but that was just one of her master's rules. 'A good defense is the foundation of a great offense.' Just like her strength training, this took about a year and a half.

In the last year she was finally able to learn offense and surprisingly Toka had been right. She was nearly untouchable with her defensive speed. It made a hit and run strategy just her style. Specialized in chakra-less taijustu, she was better than most of the Senju troops in this regard. Though they still kicked her butt in a regular spar.

Being unable to use chakra appeared to be something that would stay with her for life. When this got her down her brothers were always there to raise her spirits. Hashirama often told her that out there in the 'real' world she'd do just fine, that she would be classified as a stealth fighter. Her ability to hide enabled her to attack an enemy before they could employ their chakra.

Tobi was quite different in his attempts to cheer her up. He didn't even like to talk in the hypothetical about her going out to fight. Instead he would bring her all kinds of sweets. You get caught dipping coco bread in sweet sauce one time and you are branded for life. Didn't matter that it was true that food comforted her, her brother was still a sexist jerk. She still ate the chocolate though. Couldn't let it go to waste.

The only one unkind about her insecurity was her guard, Sai. She was fairly sure that he didn't know how to be kind so she didn't take offense. She'd seen a whole new side to him the first time she had a nose bleed. He had a nervous cuteness about him that surprised her. Even now if her nose started to bleed he freaked out. There was no training for that kind of situation, at least none he had taken part in.

Plus her nose bleeds did increase. Lately it was happening more and more. Sometimes she'd wake up to a bloody pillow. It always followed a sudden instense pain in her head, but the occurrences were at random intervals. She couldn't figure out what had caused it. A few times it happened in front of her siblings and it had worried them. When that did occur she blamed it on her etiquette studies or an intense training session.

They were gullible enough to believe her. God, she loved her boys. Body tensing, an image of a picture of three children and an older masked man flashed across her mind. It was quickly erased by a severe pain behind her forehead and the feeling of an oncoming nosebleed. Rolling over in the dirt, she rose to her beat up knees. Coughing, small speckles of blood dripped out of her mouth and hit the ground.

This was also a new development. For the last six months or so it wasn't just nosebleeds anymore. She was vomiting up blood at alarming rates compared to the few times it happened in her childhood. Usually it was just a few spots of blood as it was now.

Her cough caught Toka's attention and her master sat up to look over at her. The woman was still catching her breath, fighting Sakura on equal chakra-less ground was hard even for her. "Are you okay? Did I hit you in the stomach too hard earlier?"

Sakura shook her head and settled back down, sending a smirk Toka's way. "Like that pitiful strength of yours could have hurt me." Tucked by her side was her hand, blood wiped on it from her earlier nosebleed.

Sixteen felt ancient.

Later that day she was sought after by Tobirama while she was enjoying her time in Toka's teashop, as her grandmother passed away two years back. Her brother didn't seem bothered that she wasn't finished with her tea, ordering her to come along with him. Not having anything better planned today, she went along with him. Sai followed behind them.

Noticing this, the white haired man glared, having never forgotten when the other man was first assigned to his sister. "You can take a break. I'll be with her so you aren't needed." Her guard nodded and flash stepped out of sight. Sakura took hold of Tobirama's arm as they walked towards their home together, as she was taught to do when a man her rank or above was escorting her.

"Brother, what is it you need me for anyway?" It wasn't often he sought her out this deliberately. In fact the last time he did it-she pulled on his arm, forcing him to a stop. He looked down and saw her staring up at him with sparkles in her eyes. "Is it a new jutsu you wanna show me?" She was jumping in excitement, her ladylike façade completely vanishing.

When Tobi invented a jutsu it was always cool. He even once told her that he came up with his shadow clone technique when he was cleaning up the mess he made in getting to her to give her that dreadful spanking, which she'd rather forget. The mention of that had made her turn bright red, but it was interesting to hear how he came up with his jutsu ideas.

"Yeah, it's a jutsu. One that has no match in this world." His chest seemed to be puffing up. Rarely one to brag in front of others, he saved his true need for reassurance with people he was closer to. Laughing at this display, Sakura started to walk forward again, pulling him along with her towards their house.

"Yes, yes. You're amazing." They made it to the house and she opened the door and pushed him through. "Now show me!" Leaning forward on the tips of her toes she waited in anticipation.

Chuckling, he shook his head. "Not here." He eyed the entryway as if just the thought was ridiculous. "Let's go to the backyard. It will be easier to see." Giddy, she rushed to the sliding door that lead to the yard. This was the most excitement she'd had in a while. It felt like forever since Tobi had shown her any new jutsu. When he did it was always the favorite part of her day, week, month.

She lived vicariously through him or at least his jutsu. She didn't have any of her own and was rarely used in a spar where her opponent used them. Only when Tobi showed her his jutsu did she get to see any up come and personal. Hashirama's didn't count. Having lived with him so long his wood style had long ago failed to fascinate her.

Once they reached the enclosed backyard, Tobirama wandered over to the pond and tossed a three pronged kunai into the water. Sakura's forehead wrinkled in confusion as he walked away from it. "What are you doing?" He had a little smirk on his face but didn't bother answering her. When he was on the edge of the yard he told her to watch him closely.

Training her eyes on him, she didn't even blink, waiting for something incredible to happen. Then, suddenly, her brother disappeared. She didn't even see the movement that usually accompanied a flash step. Eyes darting around, she tried to find him. Nothing, there was no sign of him anywhere in the yard. Just as she was considering checking the house, she noticed the water from the pond shift.

Tobirama rose from the water and she gasped. "How did you get in there?" The water hadn't made any sound at all. If he'd flash stepped into it she'd surely have noticed. She didn't know of any jutsu that would hide someone in water without using any hand signs at all, especially being so far from the water source.

Red eyes started to move involuntarily and her kunai shot out of his hand at the same time, shocking her. She made to dodge it, but before it even reached her, a pale albino hand was around it, stopping its forward movement. Closer to the kunai now, she could see the fuinjutsu seal on it. "What it is you're doing? You are fast. Faster than I have ever seen you."

He nodded, his face set in a tight frown. "Fast enough to save people." While he stared down at her with meaning she remembered what happened four years ago. He must have been coming up with this jutsu since way back then. That day she'd said he was probably the fastest man alive, now she was certain that he was.

"It's amazing!" She couldn't help but stare at him in awe, considering all the complexity of a jutsu that seemed to teleport him. Her brother was smart, unquestionably so. A genius. How was she related to such an amazing man? Shaking her head, she tsked, mumbling to herself. "He got all the good genes."

Being chakraless was hindering her more than ever as she was faced with her sibling's accomplishments. He was continuously progressing, but she was stuck in limbo. It felt like she'd never be talented enough to call herself a Senju proudly, as if she was a disgrace to her clan.

She knew she was strong now, but apparently not enough to be allowed on the battlefield. Hashirama was alright speaking of her hypothetically fighting in the real world because he was certain she'd never see the warfront. They were too protective of her and it was holding her back.

Even with this feeling of inadequacy falling over her, she still congratulated her brother on his jutsu. Sitting back, she watched as he practiced it more. Deep inside he was such a show off. Hashirama had gotten so much attention in their childhood that it had always overshadowed the talent and hard work Tobirama had put into his shinobi training.

He secretly loved it when others took notice of such things. Sakura was his biggest fan in this regard. Just like with Itama all those years ago, Tobi enjoyed the attention. Her brother's would always be equal in her eyes. Neither could ever be better than the other, even if she was fascinated with ones techniques more than the others.

As he played around with the new jutsu he created, Sakura watched and started to get the gist of it. If his enemy didn't know how it worked it would just be like he was traveling at the speed of light. He'd be even more of a terror on the battlefield with this.

Finally, he stopped his teleporting as he appeared in front of her. "I want to discuss something with you." Lowering himself in the empty space next to her, he sat down. "I can mark people with this formula." He lifted the kunai in his hand, showing off the seal on it.

"So you can teleport right to someone?"

Nodding, he shoved the kunai back into his weapons pouch at his side. "Yes and it can't be erased. It will be there forever unless they rip the skin off that has the seal on it."

She grimaced, imagining that's just what an enemy shinobi would do in that case. The fear of Tobirama Senju being able to pop in whenever he pleased and possibly invading their compound would force their hand. "Wait, how large of a distance can you perform this jutsu?"

His red eyes peeked out at her from the side. "Very large distances, but the chakra cost increases as the distance does. The size seal varies that too though." A burst of air left his mouth, as if he was preparing himself to say something she wouldn't like. "I wanted to ask you if I could place the seal on you."

Instantly, she stopped all body movement, even breathing. He quietly tried to explain himself, voice hardening as he attempted to convince her that his opinion was the correct one. "If you are ever lost or kidnapped I'll be able to find you this way. It isn't good that I can't sense you. That could be used to an enemy's advantage. Anyone else I'd be able to find easily, just not you. This seal will solve that problem." Knowing where she was at all times would reassure him. He already knew where everyone else was anyway, this would just be fair.

Sakura was disgusted that this was even an option for him. "You want to brand me like cattle."

"Of course n-"

She stood up, furious. "That wasn't a question. That is exactly what this is, don't try to disguise it as anything else." What was that word Toka had used for her once upon a time? Oh yes, she remembered it now. "That is behavior like a stalker's. Knowing where I am at every moment of every day!"

Her hands went to pull at her hair, destroying her neatly put together bun as she dug her nails into her scalp. "My every move is already being watched. I can't even eat a cookie without the elders knowing I broke the diet they put me on. Do you know what it's like, not being able to do anything without someone else being told about it? It's awful. It's suffocating!"

She glared up at her brother who had stood up along with her. "And yet you want to cage me even more. Take away the one piece of freedom I do have." Tears had sprung to her eyes as she yanked the sleeve of her kimono down, a left over from her etiquette class earlier that day. Baring her wrist to him she yelled, "Fine, take it away, Brother. Put the last shackle on and strip me of everything I have. I'm just property to you anyway!"

Tobirama staggered back, not at all prepared to be hit with her sister's repressed feelings. "You aren't property. I care about you. You're my sister for god's sake!"

She pushed at his chest to create even more distance between them. "That there is the problem! I'm the Senju sibling's little sister. I'm Butsama's daughter. I'll be someone's wife. Someone's mother someday. Why is my existence always tied to someone else's?! Can't I ever be an individual? Just be Sakura Senju?" Her tear filled green eyes stared up at him pleadingly.

As he looked down at her scrunched up face, he couldn't come up with anything to say to answer her. How could he when everything she had said was true? He supposed the only thing he could say was a simple concession. "I won't ever use this seal on you, Sakura."

He pulled the sleeve of her kimono down, hiding her wrist again. With that, he walked away, leaving her alone so that she could calm herself. He didn't think she'd be able to do that with him there, hovering over her like a threat. In the end he didn't understand her at all, the only thing she wanted was a hug.

Crouching down, her hands covered her face and she wept.

In the coming days Sakura sunk into a depression. Nothing seemed to be going the way Toka had said it would. She thought that she could be a good enough asset on the battlefield, more useful there than married off. That hadn't changed the elders' decision though, they were still set on getting her hitched to a big fish. In fact just the other week they had tried to get her to meet with the Daimyo's son.

She didn't even bother to hear them out before she turned their suggestion down. The only reason it was put on hold was due to Toka's interruption. It seemed her own opinion meant less than nothing to them. If only she could prove herself, prove that she was better warrior material than wife.

That thought had been nagging her for a while. All she had to do was sneak off from Sai and join in a battle. There weren't any planned ones in a long time though, the fights being mostly sudden. So when she heard Hashirama discuss an upcoming one with Tobirama at the dinner table, she listened closely.

Two days from now their troops would run smack into the Uchiha's and they weren't going to avoid the confrontation. Her one worry was Madara, she didn't want to run into him out there. If he found out she was a Senju it would be from her lips. In the end she decided this wouldn't be much of a problem. She would join the fight late and go to the back of the battle. She would make sure to stay clear of her brother's along with Madara.

With this idea in place she started to come up with a plan to escape Sai's watch. This would be easier than before as they'd developed a bond. She hadn't ever tried to hide before in fear that the council would increase her guard. It was already bad enough, she didn't need to be observed any closer. This would be worth it though, it had to be. Only at the end of the battle would she reveal herself so she could take credit.

The minute her brothers knew what she had done they'd lock her up and throw away the key. Whatever she did would have to make an impression on the council because she wouldn't be getting another chance to show what she could do in a real battle situation. If they weren't going to give her permission to join the fighting she'd do it on her own. Following Toka's orders were getting her nowhere, she needed this. No one would say no to her afterwards.

When the day came, Sakura watched groups of shinobi leave the compound in their assigned units to join the forces already close to the battle location. Each would leave around an hour apart as not to draw attention to themselves. A large mass of chakra would be easily noticed by sensors and immediately taken note of.

It wouldn't take long for a shinobi using chakra to get to the point of confrontation, but it would take Sakura at least two hours. She left shortly after the second group of Senju warriors. While traveling to her desired destination, she started to consider what she was doing. If things didn't work out she would be in a lot of trouble.

She may even be blamed for any deaths that happened, that her presence had been a distraction. Of course she had thought of this before, heaving realized her hair would be very noticeable. To fix this she had stolen one of Tobirama's happuri, asking Toka to get it modified to cover the back of the head like a helmet. It had been fairly simple, lying to her master that it was a surprise for her brother.

He recently had suffered a head wound while sparing with Hashirama. They had once again gone too far and ended up injuring one another. Hashirama had been able to walk it off, but Tobirama was forced into a two day long bedrest. He hadn't been happy about it and consequently neither had the rest of the compound. Misery loved company and Tobirama enjoyed it more than most.

If he wasn't content, everyone knew he was displeased. It was a chain reaction of sorts. The people who were forced to take care of him, be near him, were directly affected. Their moods would plummet and then anyone they were in contact with got upset with their poor temperament. It went on like that until the whole compound was consumed by Tobirama's black aura of displeasure. It spread like an infection.

It was quite a sight to see as a bystander, though Sakura was rarely a bystander. She lived with the overgrown brat and was often charged to look after him. If only they could force him upon the infirmary, but they wouldn't take him anymore. Recently, they took turns, Hashirama, Toka, and Sakura.

They'd rotate their shifts so that none of them had too much contact with the man. It was a police put in place when everyone else refused to interact with him and Hashirama along with Toka were busy. Three days of being near her bedridden brother and Hashirama walked into Tobirama's room to find Sakura trying to suffocate him with a pillow.

Thinking about it now made her chuckle darkly. Either way Toka gladly modified the happuri so that it would be one less way for him to be injured. When Sakura got it back she had been surprised at the quality of the work, wondering who Toka had brought it to. She was certain the amount of money she'd given to Toka wouldn't have covered this.

Her master had seemed unsettled when Sakura asked her about it. In the end she'd told her that it was a gift from her to her student. She'd been pleasantly surprised by this and hugged her mentor before taking off with her prize.

Now the happuri surrounded her own head, hiding her colorful hair. Unless someone caught a good view of her face, no one would know she was there until intentionally revealed herself. Even if someone did see her and recognized her face they were unlikely to truly believe it was her. Perhaps they'd think it was just someone who looked like the Senju princess.

After traveling for a while, Sakura came across the sounds of battle. Smiling, she picked up speed. Finally, she had reached her destination. Finally, she'd get to see Madara again. The thought had hit her out of nowhere. In the last few years she desperately tried not to think about the older man.

Still without meaning to his image would surface in her mind. Whatever she felt for him hadn't faded, but she was more weary than not. Madara had asked her to marry him, told her he wanted to create a safe place for her. Yet the fighting was still ongoing years after the fact. There was no effort on his part to find peace with the Senju.

Maybe she was naïve but she just couldn't understand why this would be. Hashirama was completely willing to form a peace treaty, he even had most of the clan on his side. If Madara just gave the word peace would be possible. All clues lead to his desire for peace being a lie. It wasn't something Sakura found herself believing in, but still it was worrisome. Hard enough to ignore that she didn't attempt to contact him.

All that ended now though. While he wouldn't know she was here, she would be able to see him once again. In fact when she finally came across the battlefield, Madara was the first thing she took notice of. From the treeline, hidden from view from the fighters, Sakura watched the man she loved viciously attack her brother.

She knew enough to realize that Hashirama wasn't in any danger though. Her eldest brother was strong, many from their clan considered him on the level of a god. She was confident that Hashirama would hold his own even if it didn't look like it. Madara was pitching fireballs at the other man that were several times bigger than herself. She could feel the heat from where she stood, at least 150 feet from their position.

She was mesmerized by his fire, amazed at his battle prowess. With ease, he swung his gunbai around as if it weighed less than nothing. It was incredible to witness the two of them fighting. They had a wide empty area around them, everyone too afraid to approach them. Anyone who got too close were quickly forced away by Madara's intense flames.

It was as she stared at Madara that she suddenly heard a clash of weapons. The sound was strangely close by as anybody close to her was also within the blast radius. Looking around she spotted the source of the noise. Tobirama was clashing swords with a Uchiha less than forty feet from her.

Apparently he had met his match in sword play. The dark haired man wasn't pushed back, blocking and striking effectively. It wasn't as fascinating to watch as Madara's fight, but it took skills to do what they were doing. The speed and accuracy was stunning, it created a beautiful dance from the motions. She was about ready to move from her position to join the forces in the back when Tobirama's opponent jumped back to escape the swing of her brother's weapon.

Her breath seemed to leave her when she caught sight of his face. He possessed a delicate beauty even thought that wasn't what caught her attention. Sasuke…images shot through her mind, all of a man who looked so much like the Uchiha before her now.

An intense feeling of longing socked her in the stomach out of nowhere. She felt a need to be close to this Uchiha, even if it wasn't a reasonable feeling. Within a blink of an eye her brother crossed swords with the man one more time. As close as she was to them, she could see Tobirama twitch.

That wasn't a normal motion for him, he was always disturbingly calm during a fight. No movement was unnecessary. It was strange for him to have twitched in the general direction of his kunai pouch. Without warning the memory of her brother showing her his newest jutsu came zapping through her mind. He was going to use it against this man! He was going to use it against Sasuke.

Before she even realized her own intentions she was darting off towards them. If she'd been anybody else Tobirama would have sensed her, even if he couldn't see her. Just like always she could see his red eyes darting around widely because of his condition. He looked right at her as she approached but he could see her.

The other man didn't notice her rushing towards them as his back was turned to her. He wouldn't be able to sense her either. She was just about there when Tobirama let his kunai fly. The Uchiha didn't even pay any mind to it as it wasn't even close to hitting his body. There wasn't a need to dodge. He had no idea what was about to happen.

Before it reached his side Sakura was throwing herself in front of him, attempting to save a man she didn't even know. Tobirama teleported himself to the kunai without realizing anyone had intervened, still only sensing Izuna. Within a second of her placing herself in front of the Uchiha her brother was at her side. His sword cut into her and she cried out in pain.

In her sudden agony, Sakura' head had reared back. The happuri fit loosely on her skull and with the jerking motion of her head it came tumbling off, hitting Izuna in the face. It hurt, but he was far more unsettled by the bright pink hair that now blocked his view. Without meaning to his next breath brought the smell of the woman's hair into his nose.

Cherry blossoms, he groaned in distress, pulling back, not having expected her body's reaction to the smell. His jerking back hadn't helped matters though, the female in front of him staggering backwards until she fell into his arms. There hadn't been a reason for him to catch her but he did. He even lowered himself down so her body could rest comfortably against his.

Finally his eyes raised to look up at his opponent, slightly surprised to see an actual expression of emotion on the stoic man's face. It was an expression of complete and utter despair. His pale lips seemed to move slightly for a moment before he got out one gasp of a pain filled word. A name. "Sakura."

Tobirama thought long and hard about whether to use his new jutsu on Madara's little brother. Hashirama had always been insistent about not harming the duo and stupidly he'd listened while hoping to convince his brother otherwise. While Hashirama might be able to fend Madara off without any intentionally lethal blows, it was harder for him.

While their fights always looked intense he was sure Madara was also unwilling to kill the other man. Izuna didn't have this issue, he was always out for blood. As thirsty for it as water. It was hard to keep such a vicious man back while systematically attempt not to kill him. He was working with a handicap, one his opponent didn't possess.

Over the years he'd obtained injuries just because he hadn't gone at Izuna with full strength. While he never told Hashirama this, he was sure his brother knew. Sometimes when he treated his wounds he'd find the brunet watching him, his moth twisted with an ugly pained expression.

It was hard for them to look at each other after a battle. Hashirama was ashamed of his own request and Tobirama was frustrated with his limitations. The only thing holding him back was a weakness he wished he didn't have. He cared about what his brother thought of him. It was hard to stomach it, but he knew that was the only thing preventing him from striking Izuna down.

He'd always been their strongest fighter against the sharingan, his mental fortitude along with his blindness were helpful against genjutsu. Visual cue jutsu did nothing to him, he didn't have to worry about being pulled in just by looking into the sharingan by accident. What he could see couldn't hurt him.

If Hashirama hadn't wanted him to let the kid live he was sure he would have been able to get one lethal blow in. It was his brother's request that put a strain on their relationship. Tobirama hated lying to his cousins that he'd just been unable to complete his task. The shadow of a hateful plea would always haunt the siblings.

The worst it had ever been was when Toka got hurt because of Hashirama's insistence upon Izuna's life mattering. It had been a hard pill for the brunet to swallow. One of his best friends had nearly died and his own brother blamed him for it. In fact he blamed himself. In the years following Toka's accident it had been hard to keep his promise to Hashirama. Very hard.

After coming up with the flying thunder god technique he'd always figured he would use it against the Uchiha eventually. It was perfected now and he had no other excuse besides his weakness for Hashirama's approval to not use his most powerful weapon in what was a battle of life or death. It was the only way Izuna ever fought.

Before the fighting even began he had decided to use it today. Except using it hadn't been as easy as he'd thought it would be. When he went to grab his kunai with the formula written on it, Hashirama's pleading suddenly came to mind. His brother's belief that Izuna's death would ensure that the war never ended.

In the end it took another minute for him to hype himself up enough for a second attempt. It needed to happen, with Izuna out of the way it would free him up to help the rest of their troops. The longer he waited the more casualties he could have prevented happened.

With the lives of the Senju this attack would save in mind, he finally let his kunai fly. He let his senses be sharpened by his battle instincts. His chakra sensing was active and he kept it locked down on one signature in particular, making sure Izuna stayed in position was essential. No one else got in the way, the kunai was going to be dodged, not knocked off course. Everything was perfect.

He could feel his eyes wildly darting around as if he was taking in all of his surroundings, even when he couldn't see a thing. Within a moment he let himself be drawn to his kunai, sword held firmly in his hand. His plan was to appear beside Izuna and slice into him with the sword before he could get out of the way. It was a pretty flawless plan. The flying thunder god technique was deadly even if someone knew what to expect. With Izuna completely unaware of the seemingly harmless kunai his victory was assured.

What he hadn't expected was to hear a feminine gasp of pain after he teleported. With the new closeness, he squinted his eyes to be able to see better. He didn't know why he did it, he was already quite sure of what he would see and it wasn't a pleasant image.

The gasp had sounded familiar but more than that was a smell that caught the breeze. Before he even saw her he knew, he knew what he had done. Yet her name still left his lips with a painful shock when pink hair came into focus. As she stumbled back into Izuna, going to the ground with him, a shout escaped him. "No!"

It was disbelief. This wasn't possible. Denial firmly embedded itself into him. Tobirama's outburst caught Hashirama's attention. His head turned along with Madara's to see what the commotion was. His breath seemed to catch at the sight of a sword rooted into his sister's chest. "Sakura!" Before he even realized what he was doing, he rushed to her side.

Madara didn't move, couldn't move, at first. There was a heavy pressure on his chest, a deep shock that paralyzed him. All he could think was one name over and over again. Sakura, Sakura, Sakura, Sakura! Use of his muscles suddenly kicked in again and he was running towards her. Hashirama had always been a bit faster than Madara.

In this case he'd even had a head start, but within a moment he felt Madara breeze passed him. His gunbai flew out of his hand as he went to throw himself to the ground beside her. He didn't even make it that far. The albino bastard grabbed him by the front of his armor and pulled him away. In an instant they were in each other's faces, practically frothing at the mouth in rage.

While he was being pulled away from the woman he lied, he'd managed to grab Tobirama by his armor in turn. He couldn't deal with this right now, not when Sakura was bleeding next to him. His mind was filled with panic and wonderment. Sakura was alive. Why was she here? Why had she so obviously jumped in front of his brother, taken the hit meant for the younger man?

She must have known who Izuna was to him. That he was the precious little brother he spoke so often about. He couldn't even fathom that she'd do such a thing for him. It seemed to make the years of living without her disappear, as if none of it mattered because she was willing to sacrifice herself for someone he cared about.

Still he hated her a bit for it too. She was willing to leave him all alone again. It wasn't possible to rank his love for Izuna and Sakura, but he didn't want to lose one to keep the other. He wouldn't be able to deal with that kind of loss. It was this slight resentment that powered his fury at Tobirama.

This combined with the fact that he recognized the sword in Sakura's side as the Senju's he was willing to kill him to get to the pink haired girl. So focused was he on Tobirama that he never noticed the look of enchantment upon his little brother's face as he looked down at the young woman in his arms. All he paid attention to was the stone cold face of Tobirama Senju, sneering at him.

"Stay away from her, Uchiha." The man spoke his clan name as if he was saying scum. It appeared that they were synonyms in the Senju's mind. This was when Madara really began to see it, see that no matter how much he had wanted it peace would be impossible. The Senju would never cease hating the Uchiha. Hashirama was an exception, there wasn't a single other Senju that didn't see them as demons.

Whether he desired it or not a village between the two clans would never happen. It felt like he was choking on a stone, but he had far more important things to pay attention to than an old dream with Hashirama that was falling apart before his eyes. Pulling the white haired man closer to him, he spoke. His voice was like gravel as he said, "You feed you are allowed to say that when it's your sword sitting in her chest?"

Honestly he had no idea why Tobirama cared about the girl when she'd saved a Uchiha but perhaps he felt obligated to protect a civilian. Something nudged at the back of his mind though. Hashirama knew her, he'd shouted her name, terrified. This was only just starting to sink in as Sakura attempted to sit up.

Izuna held her close to him so she couldn't', but she did manage to gasp out a word that sent chills down his spine. "Br-brother. Don't." Without any thought at all, Madara would have seen him process it if there had been, Tobirama released him. There hadn't even been a need for consideration, the man's body had reacted automatically to the request. It was immediately apparent that he hadn't meant to listen, but that it had just been a habit. Something he did regularly.

The sight had something tightening in his chest and Madara knew it was his heart constricting. He was halfway to wondering how intimately they knew one another for him to just react like that when his brain finally caught up with the rest of him. Brother. She'd called him brother. Something fractured in his mind as he tried to rearrange everything he knew.

Blankly, he watched as his brother's expression turned to disgust, seeing it but not really taking it in. Hashirama rushed into the space between the two groups, breaking him out of the fog that was clouding his mind. It was then that he realized the battle had paused all around them. It felt similar to four years ago when Toka had thrown herself on his gunbai.

He needed to shake that thought though. That woman had died due to his attack, but that couldn't happen to Sakura. He still hadn't rationalized her betrayal with everything that had come before it. Coldness didn't set in yet, his heart still yearned for her. Just like four years ago he'd hold the battle so that Hashirama could get Sakura the hell out of here. She needed the medical attention the Senju could give her.

Izuna didn't get the chance to toss her away from him like it looked like he was willing to do. The brunet pretty much crashed into him to get a hold of the girl in his arms. "Oh, Sakura. Little sister, why are you here?" It was only then, hearing Hashirama say the words little sister that Madara even recalled that the man had such a sibling.

Their last talk had been years ago and remembrance faded long ago. Now though he did remember his friend having spoken of the two siblings he had left. Tobirama and a little sister who'd been ill many times. This brought back the memory of the boy's mother dying. The brunet's grief had been fresh, but Sakura's pain at losing her mother was more subdued.

He'd thought she had lost the woman long ago not shortly after he met her. How unusual. The girl was emotional, he would have expected her to have a bigger reaction all those years ago. Still what concerned him most was that Hashirama's sister had been a weak child with a poor immune system. Even if Sakura miraculously survived being stabbed, infection was known to be just as deadly.

Trying to answer her brother's question, Sakura opened her mouth, lips parting to say something. All that came out was a gasp of pain. It took a moment but she did managed to get something out again, "Tobi…wo-would have…killed him." The white haired man at his side visibly tensed up. No one besides Madara noticed and he felt a vicious hatred for the other man creep up on him.

Yes, suffer. You did this to her. You killed her.

Entirely focused on the three Senju he didn't realized when Izuna's expression changed from short lived disgust to a certain kind of fascination. The young man couldn't quite wrap his head around the fact that a Senju had saved him. His gaze was quickly ripped from him though when a new figure joined the group.

With the battle paused all around them, she made it to them fairly quickly, zig zagging between the still bodies of the two clans. Then she was standing beside them in all her glory, Toka Senju. The two Uchiha were clearly surprised, eyes tracking her as she threw herself down next to the dying girl.

Madara wasn't even sure how she was still alive, it looked as if she'd been stabbed directly in the heart. Except now he was wondering how Toka was alive. The last time he saw her Hashirama was carrying her away with her abdominal ripped apart. She'd been so close to death that he'd been sure it would be. Afterwards he never saw her again. Of course he assumed the worst, that he'd killed her. Who wouldn't?

Yet seeing her now, hope filled his chest. If Hashirama had been able to save her surely he'd be able to do the same for Sakura. "What happened?" The Senju woman leaned over the teenager, wearing a matching expression of despair that all the Senju currently showed. Sakura was clearly loved.

After accessing the damage and realizing how bad it actually was Toka sprung up, whirling around to pounce on Madara. Hashirama managed to grab her to hold her back. She screamed at the Uchiha while trying to get loose. "What have you done?!" Her near death experience still fresh in her mind. To her he was still the man who'd attempted to kill the Senju brothers and just got her instead.

No one knew the truth, even if Hashirama suspected that Toka was misunderstanding something. It was hard to refute it thought, with the injury she had sustained. "Toka! Toka, calm down!" The woman was ferocious in her movements, neck stretching, and jaw snapping to bite down when the brunet's hand got too close to her mouth. He pulled it back just in time but couldn't stop the foot that came jack hammering back into his shin.

Still he held on until finally Tobirama stropped the nonsense with his soft words. "It was me."

Toka slowed and Hashirama moved to pick her up to turn her to face his brother better. Her eyes showed her confusion, she hadn't heard what he said. Couldn't have. This time he spoke louder, the guilt in his voice obvious. "I did it." Nothing else was needed. In a blink of an eye Toka stopped all movement, she appeared to sag back into Hashirama's arms. Her eyes never left Tobirama though.

They stared at one another for several seconds and even Madara could see that something was passing between them. As quick as it came it was gone. Toka tossed the older Senju over her shoulder as she pulled her body towards the ground. Her feet touched the ground silently as Hashirama's back connected with the hard dirt with a thud. Swinging around, she brought her hand up to Sakura's face.

The girl's eyes were closed, her face expressionless. "We have to get her to the compound quickly. Hashirama, charge your chakra." The man scrambled to his feet, his hands already glowing green as he splayed them across his sister's chest. Finally, Tobirama stillness fell away as he marched forward.

As gently as he could, he lifted the teenager into his arms. His brother stood with him, hands never leaving her. Pale lips touched the girl's ear as the white haired man lifted her into a more comfortable position. "You'll be okay. Please, be okay." Head rising, red eyes darted around the group. "Grab my shoulder, Toka."

For a moment it seemed like she wasn't going to do it, her lips twisting with something indistinguishable. She didn't know why he requested this of her, but she followed the order in the end anyway. With obvious reluctance her hand connected with the tall man's shoulder.

Madara didn't have the chance to even wonder what the hell that damn Senju was doing while his sister died in his arms, they were gone before he could. Just gone, disappeared, vanished.

His body jerked back in surprise as Izuna rolled away from the spot the group had just been standing in. The rest of the Senju around them seemed as confused as they were, but they fell back. Their leader wasn't here anymore and they didn't want trouble while Madara still stood in the field. They retreated without protest. The Uchiha let them go, too astonished with the events of the day to do otherwise.

With a wave of their leader's arm, they too headed back to their own compound. That left the two Uchiha brother's standing there, only silence accompanying them. Izuna had yet to put two and two together to realize who Sakura was to his older brother. It wasn't even in the cards in his mind for the little civilian girl he'd seen just once to be the beautiful young Senju that saved his life.

All he could think to say was a short but complex statement. "She saved me. A Senju saved me…from another Senju." The wonder was present in his voice. There didn't seem to be any disgust left, only surprise that such a thing could have happened.

Madara was too busy staring off into the distance at the retreating backs of the Senju army to really listen. He nodded slowly, "Yes. A Senju saved you."