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A Stitch in Time

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Somehow, they had done it. Ended Kaguya. For good. Sakura smiled at her boys, reunited at last, in exhaustion. The proof of her own labor rested proudly on her forehead. She had entered the war without it, but had gained a seal to match her master's on that day. Not even her sister disciple, Shizune, had a seal. Sakura was happy. She finally had earned a place at their sides.

Everything had been going well, the remaining shinobi were loudly rejoicing and the battered bodies were finally ready to rest, when Ino's alarmed shout broke everyone out of their revelry. She pointed with a shaky finger, Shikamaru steadying her with a hand around her shoulders, and one by one everyone looked up.

In the spot where Kaguya had been recently slain, an oval, sparking hole had appeared. No one said anything, or moved, or even breathed (it seemed). Thy watched as what appeared to be an eye, decidedly reptilian-like in it's green-gold color and one black slit for a pupil, peered down at them. The masses were frozen, and Sakura wondered if the fearsome eye had a paralyzing effect or if they were all just that shocked.

She attempted to force her weary body to prepare for battle, staring challengingly up at the newest assumed threat. It stared back, gaze roving over each shinobi until it landed on her. Sakura felt her breath leave her in a gasp as it started to glow a deep forest green. It was almost like…on the other side she could see a lush world. A forest, green and peaceful, with a river flowing calmly through it. She was hallucinating though. She was sure it was a trick by the strange orb meant to disarm them. But why did she feel like her firmly planting feet were losing traction, like she was sliding forward? Odd.

She thought so at least, until she heard Ino shriek her name, and turned to see her teammates coming out of their stupor to run for her, Naruto in the lead, arm outstretched. "Sakura-chan!"

Even the unmoved Sasuke looked completely caught off guard in that moment.

"What? Naruto?!" She yelled, but in the panic she wasn't sure if he even heard.

Sakura shrieked herself when she was positive her feet actually left the trodden soil. She was getting sucked in, and as much as she kicked and clawed at air, gravity had abandoned her.

"I claim this one." A voice rang clearly over the shinobi. It was a woman's voice, powerful and as deep as time.

Claimed? No, Sakura Haruno was not a possession to be claimed! But the force pulling her further into the air disagreed.

Everyone was shouting for her now, and she saw the faces of all her friends looking frantic. Hinata's wide eyes were watery as she watched her helplessly get pulled away from them. Ino looked like she was demanding Shikamaru to do something. Lee did his best to get to his feet and dash to her rescue just like he had that day she acknowledged him. Tsunade bellowed for her, but she was severely weakened from the battle and supported only by her fellow Kage. Kakashi looked completely stunned. Sai had summoned animals to retrieve her, but they had been battered away by the strong, invisible hand pulling her skyward. Naruto was still running for her, but Gaara—

The Kazekage stretched his own hand out, a fierce look glimmering in his eyes. Two tendrils of sand snaked out through the air and wrapped around her wrist and ankle. For a minute, Sakura had an anchor against the pull. There was a shared sigh of relief. Kankuro and Temari cheered next to him. Gaara began attempting to bring her safely to the ground again, and Sakura's chest heaved at being in the center of the gravity-destroying tug-o-war.

"I claim this one. I will not be denied." The voice growled this time, enraged that they had dared to try and stop its wishes.

Gaara's eyes widened. Something was fighting his sand, almost prying it away from Sakura. He quickly sent out two more tendrils to grab her other wrist and ankle, and another around her midsection for good measure. Sakura Haruno was Naruto's treasured teammate, and had become a dear friend of the Kazekage's in her own right.

He would not let her be taken away. He fought with everything left in him to keep Sakura without crushing her limbs or ribs. But he could feel the invisible grip pulling harder the more he pulled back. At this rate he would accidentally kill her trying to save her.

He hated to, but if he didn't… Gaara loosened his sand, only marginally, but it was enough. She was quickly sucked up, flipping through the air until she collided with the monstrosity of an eye—and falling through it with one last scream. The air was suddenly calm again; the redhead knew because there was nothing pulling against his still-animated tendrils of sand. Empty and outstretched, there was laxness. The eye blinked, and, having gotten what it came for, winked out of sight.

Those who had been close enough to see what had happened, those who had known Sakura, mourned her immediately. Screamed for her in vain. Naruto roared his rage, Kyuubi chakra seeping through. And the sky remained the sweet and somber mix of oranges and pinks as the sun began to set on the absence of the pink-haired kunoichi.


 

Her first moments in her new world were baptized with water. But the burning in her lungs might as well have been flames. She was sinking! And she tried bringing herself up, but her limbs were as useless as lead weights. It felt like every ounce of her remaining chakra—dwindling supply though it was—had been depleted.

Of all the ways she was sure she'd die, Sakura had never suspected drowning. Fate was unpredictable. Ripped away from her friends and comrades so suddenly only to be left for dead in at the bottom of a river… At least she thought it was fresh-water.

Almost out of oxygen, she tried to recall her proudest moments. She had finally proven her worth, at least. Maybe…she could be remembered as a strong kunoichi after all.


 

His eyes narrowed minutely as he raised a hand, watching as a stream of water rose from the river. Before he could form a jutsu, he paused. A weak chakra signature was nearby. Very nearby. Closing his eyes, he reached out with his sensory perception. The signature was so close it was almost on top of him…or at his feet. There, floating downstream towards him, was a body, face down and wearing ninja garb he had never seen before. He watched with a cocked head, in case this person was feigning injury to wait for his guard to come down, but when the body almost floated by he realized it was no act.

He applied chakra to his feet and easily caught up to the body. Looking down, he could tell it was a woman. He pulled her into his arms, knowing that in her unconscious state she was harmless. He carried her back to the bank and set her down on her back, noticing her clammy skin and pale color. She didn't stir.

She wore a red forehead protector, and he took it out of her wet pink hair to study. Even before he looked at the kanji that simply read "shinobi" he knew she was no Konoha nin he'd ever seen. They currently had no pink-haired kunoichi. Besides that fact, the village was still newly formed, only having been completed for less than a month. He made a point of knowing every shinobi clan and face currently living within village walls.

And she was certainly no civilian, whoever she was. She also wore pants, something no kunoichi he'd ever seen did. All together she made one large oddity from head to toe to origin. While he was known for being the more cautious of the two between his brother and himself, he decided this woman was a mystery that needed unraveling.

Placing a hand above her chest, he willed what water was in her lungs to rise. Her dainty mouth was forced open as an orb of water left her body and she sputtered a deep cough. He continued, making sure all water had been expelled before running a lightly glowing hand over her to revive her. Jade eyes slowly flickered open.