“What happened to your arm?”
Sasuke looked down at his double, with his flashy clothes and stupid smile, even while he lay bleeding out on the ground, and wondered what universe could have possibly turned him into this. The Sharingan told him nothing about this other Sasuke, apart from the fact he was completely drained of chakra.
It was the other Sakura who came with him, who beseeched Sakura for her help, that he learned that his double’s presence here was an unintended result of some mission gone terribly terribly wrong.
“A fight with Naruto,” answered Sasuke, watching the disconcerting sight of two Sakuras kneeling over this Sasuke, palms glowing green.
The other Sasuke’s brow furrowed. “Who is Naruto?” he asked, with great effort.
“He means Menma,” said his Sakura, her voice too high. “They are from a different world and in that world, Naruto’s parents called him Menma.”
The other Sakura glanced upwards briefly at their exchange. The other Sakura had few differences with his Sakura, though she seemed much calmer as she healed the broken body of, well, him. His Sakura couldn’t stop from casting little anxious glances at him, glances that the other Sasuke quickly picked up on.
“Hello, other Sakura,” he said, mustering what should have been a carefree smile, had it not been twisted in pain. “It is good to see you again!”
“Hello, Sasuke-kun,” Sakura returned, her voice pitched a little higher than usual. “Don’t move, please. Keep holding still.”
Sasuke watched as his other self laughed; a laugh that, even half choked with blood as it was, was far lighter than any sound he could imagine himself making.
“For you, Sakura, anything.”
“No talking,” snapped the other Sakura. “Didn’t you hear her? You’re dying. And you,” she bit out, her gaze snapping towards Sasuke. “Stop looming and give us some space.”
Blinking, Sasuke obeyed, backing out of their space. Instead, he hunkered down under the shade of one of the trees ringing the clearing, and waited.
Hours later, his other self was stable and unconscious. The other Sakura stripped off her gloves and turned to face them, wan and pale and very determined.
“Thank you,” she said to his Sakura. Her tone was measured and her voice did not tremble, though Sasuke could see that it cost her effort to maintain such a calm demeanor. “If ever I needed another me, this was it.”
“It was nothing,” said Sakura. She also looked shaken, and her eyes kept moving between Sasuke and his double, laid out on Sakura’s cloak. “He’ll be all right. You could have healed him on your own.”
The other Sakura shook her head, another efficient motion. “It was not nothing. He would have been dead without your help. And neither of us know how to get back home.”
“You don’t remember? From, ah…the last time we switched places?”
The other Sakura shook her head. “Do you?”
Sakura mirrored the motion, the ends of her hair fluttering softly in front of her face. “I don’t know how it was done, exactly. But, perhaps, if you tell us how you got here, we might figure out how our experiences could be reversed.”
The other Sakura nodded, and even gave a tiny smile.
“That would be acceptable,” she said.
Their discussion turned to the sort of technical jargon that Sasuke could not follow, and he decided it would be best to retreat back to where his other self lay, still unconscious.
It was, if possible, even stranger looking at him now that he is peacefully sleeping than when he was bleeding out in front of Sasuke’s eyes. Sasuke doubted he himself has ever looked so calm.
This version of him, though the same age, seemed softer. His body was not as scarred, the muscle definition different.
He looked up; his Sakura had broken away from her conference with the other Sakura. The other was on the far edge of the clearing, kneeling and searching through the bag she had been wearing when they had fallen through.
“Sasuke-kun, this is going to take a while. I don’t think we will be able to make it to the mountains before tonight,” she says, apologetic.
Sasuke nodded, because unspoken went the obvious: they would not abandon their other selves.
“Should we bring them back to the village?” he asked. “Consult with Kakashi?”
Sakura shook her head. “I don’t know. Honestly the best thing to do is stay put here. The…other you can’t be moved that much right now. Besides, I was speaking with her, and we are both starting to remember something of our travels in the past. We should be able to fix this together.”
He didn’t doubt it: one Sakura was formidable enough. Two should not have too much trouble against an unknown jutsu.
“Let me know if I can help,” he said, though what did he know of alternate worlds?
Sakura seemed to have the same thought.
“I don’t think that will be necessary, Sasuke-kun,” she said. “But I will let you know.”
Sasuke waited, but she seemed to have nothing more to say. She was just standing there, looking from him to his sleeping double.
Abruptly, she reached out and enveloped him in a fierce, tight hug. Awkwardly, he tried to reciprocate—which was difficult, as she had pinned his arm down and he still lacked the other.
She held him like that for a long moment. Then, she took a deep, shuddering breath and released him.
“Sorry,” she muttered, rubbing hard at her eyes. “I mean, he’s not you, but he’s still—he almost died.”
He cupped her cheek, to show that it was not the case and also that he understood. He might have leant forward for a kiss under different circumstances, but he could see the other Sakura approaching over her shoulder, and let his hand fall back to his side.
“Shall we start?” asked the other Sakura, looking between them.
Sakura straightened up and moved away from him, smiling at her double.
“Of course,” she said. “Let’s get you home.”
Sakura, Sasuke thought, was meeting her double with considerably more grace than Sasuke had met his. It helped that her counterpart seemed to have more in common with her. They were conferring together in lowered voices, trying to figure out how to return the other Sakura and…Sasuke to their proper world.
Meanwhile, he was stuck on babysitting duty.
It wasn’t illogical. He knew the signs of his own body well enough to detect if anything looked wrong and he would be absolutely useless in figuring out the physics of another world.
But his other self was a real piece of work. His first words upon waking were:
“You are a mess, aren’t you?”
Sasuke looked down at his other self, stretched out on his back in the clearing, his head pillowed on Sakura’s (the other Sakura’s) cloak, his torso still heavily bandaged.
“I am not the one who nearly bled to death coming through another dimension.”
The other Sasuke gave him a considering look. “But that’s not what I meant. Your eyes don’t match. And you have no fashion sense at all. Is it because you’re travelling all the time? Why would you do that? Why not stay in the village?”
“My path has taken many different turns from yours.” said Sasuke curtly, ignoring the comment about his clothing.
“Sakura didn’t say much about you apart from the fact that you weren’t in the village when she crossed over, that first time. It’s nice to finally meet my other self.”
Sasuke only gave a tight nod, uncertain if he could return the sentiment.
Idiot that he was, his other self was nevertheless very perceptive.
“So…in this world, we got together with Sakura?”
Not we, Sasuke thought to himself, more than a little spiteful. We are not the same person. Sakura would never fall in love with an idiot like you.
Unfortunately, this other self of his (who dressed flashily, talked absurdly, and still had both of his arms) was undeterred by his silence. He who had none of the baggage of defection, of following so many wrong paths. He who, according to his Sakura, with a bitter twist of her lips, apparently gave away his affection freely and fecklessly, like party favors.
It turned out; there was a reason behind her distaste for roses.
Some Uchiha this boy was.
“Not much of a talker, are you?” The other Sasuke was amused. He raised himself up on his side, chin propped up by his hand. He looked over to the two Sakuras, kneeling down with a blank scroll rolled out in front of them, making annotations. One of them (the one that wasn’t his and definitely was not his other self’s) up and over at them, her gaze sharp and unsmiling. The other Sasuke gave a lazy wave in answer. She huffed, her lips thinning out, and returned to her work.
His other self watched her, and heaved a world-weary sigh.
“See, my Sakura-chan doesn’t love me,” he said, looking back at Sasuke, his expression almost comically wounded. “It’s a little disappointing, especially considering how much cooler I am than you.”
Were it not for the fact that slapping him would undo some major healing and invoke the wrath of not one but two mednins upon him, Sasuke would have given in to the impulse. As it was, all he did was take a deep, calming breath, three counts in, six counts out, and resume his mapping.
He turned to scowl up at Sasuke.
“What did you do to make Sakura-chan fall in love with you?”
Sasuke paused to level a blistering glare.
“To start with, I never called her Sakura-chan,” he bit out.
His other self looked baffled. “But how else do I tell her she’s special to me?”
“I am honest,” he insisted, affronted. “There is nothing but truth in my affections for Sakura-chan.”
“Then I can’t help you.” He returned to his map, debating on whether or not to report this incident in full to Kakashi when the time came to send in a report. It was turning into something, he reflected, a little too bizarre.
When his double did not respond with a smartass comment in kind, he looked up.
What he saw made him drop his pen.
His double looked at Sakura, his own Sakura, with a longing that Sasuke was startled to recognize—the first sign that they held anything in common, outside the physical.
He wondered if the look on his face had ever been so plain with it; with the desire to hold Sakura, not only to have her, but to be hers.
But even there, he could see the difference. The other Sasuke’s expression was mixed with uncertainty, whereas Sasuke had always known he had been first in Sakura’s heart.
This Sasuke had no such solace.
That, he supposed, was where they truly differed.
He felt a twinge of unwanted pity for this double. Or perhaps just the idea that there really existed a universe where Sakura did not love him was really too much to bear.
Charasuke was his opposite in almost every way that mattered—but in this, Sasuke thought he might know the best way to get through to him.
“You are not honest with her.”
Predictably, Charasuke bristled. “I have always been honest—”
“And yet you seek the attention of other women?” Sasuke cut in. “No. That is not honest. If she really is the only woman in your heart, then make it clear she is the only woman you want by your side.”
Chagrinned, Charasuke looked away, his eyes settling again on the back of the Sakura of his world. Sasuke watched his jaw tightened.
“How did you do it?” he asked eyes still on his own Sakura. “How did she fall in love with you?”
“I didn’t do anything,” Sasuke replied. “In fact, I did many things that should have ended her feelings for me. Things I regretted even as I did them.”
“But her feelings didn’t stop?” persisted his other self. “Right?”
“Does the fact that she spurns your advances stop your feelings?” he returned.
The other Sasuke shook his head. “She has not spurned my feelings.”
“No, I’ve asked. She just tells me to stop playing around.”
That…was actually a better situation than Sasuke initially thought, considering the other Sakura’s harshness when she spoke to his counterpart.
Though, to be fair, he had been bleeding out at the time, so it was more likely anger born from worry than anything else.
“I don’t blame her,” said Sasuke. “You are playing around.”
His double bristled at him. Good.
“Not about everything,” said the other Sasuke heatedly. “Sakura-chan knows she would be special to me no matter what! She is nakama.”
Also a reason why she wasn’t responding to his advances, thought Sasuke, though voicing it aloud would not help anyone.
“Have you said those exact words to her?” he asked instead.
“Then do so. And thank her for saving your life, while you are at it.”
His other self snorted. “Of course I will. Just how poorly do you think of me?”
Sasuke only shook his head. “Stop your flirting. Try honesty.”
For the longest time, he felt that it was all he had to offer her.
Maybe it would work for this idiot.
His double considered for a moment, and gave a firm nod. “I’ll try it,” he said, smiling slightly. “Thank you, my other self.”
Sasuke just grunted, not quite trusting himself with a suitable reply.
His double laughed again. He leaned back, and carefully folded his arms behind his head
“If we were only going to have one thing in common, Other Me, I’m glad it’s the girl we love.”
So am I.