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All the Stars

Chapter Text

Kakashi doesn’t see it coming.

A hand grasps his shirt, pulling him into an alleyway and slamming him into the brick wall. His back groans in pain and he hears the slight crack underneath him as the wall chips.

“Why are you following my sister around?” The hand in his shirt loosens and Kakashi pulls himself together, leaning against the wall with an air of nonchalance that hides his racing mind.

He hadn’t sensed her. There was nothing, no smell, no shift in the air around him. He takes his time answering, dragging his eyes over the girl’s form.

Tall and thin, with hair, a pale pink- too bright for a shinobi- that is pulled into a sloppy ponytail. One pale shoulder is exposed from the loose shirt she wears. The slight breeze ruffles her hair carrying her scent over to him, a hint of peaches and sweat. He wonders how she had hidden it earlier. She doesn’t look like a threat.

“ANBU?” he questions. There’s no way a chuinin can hide their chakra signature like that. The strength is off too for her height and weight. Though, he muses, he’s seen ninja do far more with a lot less.

“My sister. What do you want with her?” her eyes narrow, the green darkening in the low light. He doesn’t need his sense of smell to know she’s upset. He bites back the smile that’s cropping up at her anger. She looks more like an angry kitten than a deadly shinobi.

“Maa, kunoichi-san. She’s my student, there’s no need for the anger.”

“There’s no need for the stalking either,” she snaps back. Kakashi shrugs, reaching into his jacket to pull out his book. He may as well get to the next chapter while he’s getting scolded.

“Are you serious?”

“Hmmm.”

The book is gone from his hands, flying towards Momo-chan. He should ask for her name, but the idea of putting effort into what is obviously an assault leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

“You can have this back when you apologize for stalking an 11-year-old. And for trying to break into my apartment,” she waves the book threateningly, shoulders tensing again. He blinks at her in surprise but makes no movement to take the book from her.

She narrows her eyes again, fingers tapping the cover of the book. Her nails, he notices, are painted a light lavender. She turns and with a sharp crack, she disappears.

Kakashi leans against the wall, letting out a deep groan.

Chapter Text

He breaks open the files the Hokage gave him, swiping the dust off the front cover. Sakura hadn’t been interesting when he first got his team assignments. She was a civilian and on a team with Sensei’s son and the last Uchiha, it was easy to overlook her.

The girl’s file is thinner than the boys.

Only known relation is a kunoichi named Suzuran. He likes Momo-chan better. There’s no ranking next to it and the name is unfamiliar.

He can’t go ask the Hokage for her file. If there’s no ranking, it's either because she’s ANBU or so classified her missions aren’t public records. But he supposes the Hokage won’t mind answering a couple of questions about the kunoichi.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Haruno Suzuran,” he asks, placing Sakura’s file back on the Hokage’s desk. He takes notice of the slight frown on the old man’s face before a sigh escapes him. The Hokage shifts, seeming his age for once. There’s a slight dip in his shoulders and he looks away, glancing out the window at the village below.

“Suzuran,” he starts. There’s a hardness to his voice that is usually reserved for mission talk. “Slated for ANBU, right out of the academy. We were lacking the forces for the missions we had, and she showed tremendous ninjutsu skill at school. It was the obvious choice, but no one accounted for the girl’s lack of respect for authority. She passed her training but, she failed missions left and right. She spent a whole year in T&I for reconditioning.”

“She’s a threat,” he summarizes. She must have been younger than him when she entered ANBU forces. He can’t help the small bit of pity that rises in him. He at least had a team and a sensei before he lost it all.

“No. She’s loyal but her ethics get in the way. Once she reached jounin level, reconditioning no longer made sense. Minato had her running infiltration and retrieval missions under Shikaku’s watch. Once the killing stopped, she calmed down considerably”

“And now? Her sister is my student.”

“Suzuran may be difficult but she’s good at her job and kind to a fault.”

Kakashi nods, taking his leave. He wants her file. Going into a situation blind isn't how he usually does things and it'd be easier to get his book back if he knows who he's up against. If she had been ANBU, he must have worked with her, but there's no memory of pink hair in his head.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

He spends the day watching for a flash of pink amongst the standard browns and black of Konoha’s civilians. He doesn’t know if she’s avoiding another confrontation or if she’s just good at hiding.

Momo-chan, as Sakura’s sister has been dubbed in his head, stole his favorite Icha-Icha. He doesn't know what the woman is doing with it or why she went after the book in the first place. Part of him is afraid that she was a lot more prepared for their encounter than he was.

He resorts to following her sister around. If anything, he can anger Momo-chan to revealing herself and figure out his student at the same time.

Following her sister around is a lot more boring than he wants to admit. Watching her pining over the last Uchiha is mind numbing, but Sakura does show some skill with taijutsu. Is she hiding her ninjutsu skills? Her spars with her classmates show the potential for good chakra control but, there's none of the flash that he's used to seeing in ninjutsu masters.

Did Momo-chan not teach her sister anything? Or perhaps the girl didn't possess the skill? Sakura is young and flighty. She's loud and quick to anger. She doesn't seem like a child raised by a shinobi.

He sighs, closing his eyes and pushing his chakra outward. He's not a sensor by any means, but at the very least he can find out what he's working with. Sakura has far less chakra than the boys.

"Ino-chan," the girl shouts, pulling her friend up from the dirt she had just thrown her in. The two clasp hands, Sakura guiding the blonde up and helping her dust off.

She's too soft.

The other terrible truth is that she's too much like Rin.

He turns away, suddenly disinterested in watching over Sakura. Slowly, Kakashi makes his way over the training fields, his feet taking him on a path he knows far too well.

Training Ground Three gives way to a small clearing where a large, black gleaming stone looms over him. The dull throb in his chest, stretches past his ribs and heart, making it hard to breath. He lets the sadness swell inside him.

He can go back to being a ninja afterwards.

Chapter Text

“Hatake-san.” Suzu stops on the roof of her building, staring at the man in surprise. She shifts back slightly, hand pressing against the still fresh wound below her ribs. His face tenses underneath the mask, nose turning away from her.

“You were on a mission?”

“Yes.” She steps forward hesitantly, trying not to let her confusion show on her face. Hadn’t she warned him about Sakura? She lets out a small pulse of chakra, checking on the runes in her apartment. None of them have been touched, though Hatake would be dead if he tried.

She wants badly to go home, take a shower, and heal herself.

Then, sleep.

Kami, she could sleep for a thousand years.

“Did something happen while I was gone?” she asks to distract herself from the pain.

“No.”

“Okay, so are you going to tell me what you want? Or should I just finish bleeding out while you figure that out?”

“My book.”

Her face drops into a blank mask. Is he serious? Kami, it’s like that time she and Ron hid Hermione’s text books and spent the week paying for it.

“I…I, wow, umm, you should pay a visit to Inoichi after this. See if he can put some social skills into that head of yours. Maybe fix the monosyllabic speech patterns too while he’s at it.”

When he doesn’t respond, she lets out an angry huff, tugging on the ends of her hair. Hatake narrows his eyes in her direction, his face smoothing after a moment. His eyes curls and he lifts a hand, palm facing her.

“Get some rest, kunoichi-san. I’ll come back later,” he finally says, fluffing his hair. Suzu is instantly reminded of James Potter ruffling his hair in her past life.

Hatake disappears as she blinks. Suzu shakes her head, shoving away all her thoughts of just how weird all Konoha’s jounin are. It’s easier to pretend she’s the normal one.

Once inside, she drops her pack by her bedroom window and stumbles out of the room towards Sakura.

Sakura is asleep, huddled between numerous pillows, several blankets covering her body. The tension in her body falls away, the pain dulling to a slight throb. Seeing Sakura safe makes every mission worthwhile.

Her sister is small and slight in the bed, looking increasingly like their mother every day. Suzu runs a hand over her hair, leaning down to press a kiss to Sakura’s forehead. The girl shifts slightly in her sleep, the scent of her flowery shampoo rising to fill the air. Suzu makes a note to buy Sakura kunoichi standard lotions and shampoo in the morning.

Sighing, she makes her way to the bathroom they shared in the hall. Dropping her armguards and armor to the floor, she peels away the tight black fabric. It sticks to her skin; the combination of blood and heat have seared some of her shirt to her skin.

She pulls out her wand, something she barely uses anymore other than the occasional medical charm that she hasn’t devoted time to learn wandlessly. Waving it, she mutters a diagnostic charm under her breath before beginning on the process of repairing the damage. It takes longer than she thinks, the chunks of fabric melted to her skin, resisting the pull of her magic. Chakra fabrics are always a pain.

As her skin knits back together, she turns on the shower, letting the hot steam fill the room and ease the tension in her shoulders.

___________________________________________________________________________

Sakura lets her sleep in. She hears her sister briefly enter her room before quietly shutting the door. Suzu, through her haze of sleep, can only hope she remembered to vanish her bloody clothes last night. When she does wake, it’s to the lingering smell of pancakes and the sound of the shower running. Groaning, Suzu pulls herself from the soft comfort of her bed, wrapping her blanket around her shoulders, and making her way towards the living room.

Suzu flops onto the couch, reaching in-between the couch cushions to pull out the famed Icha-Icha book. Hopefully, Sakura didn’t decide to clean while she was away. Suzu goes through the first couple of pages quickly, falling easily into the plot.

“This is soooo dumb,” she mutters, pulling a pencil from thin air and writing in the margins of the book. What Kunoichi would leave themselves bare for an attack? Did Jiraiya-san even know any Kunoichi?

“What are you doing?” Sakura asks, bumping her elbow. Suzu closes the book with a snap, hiding it away in her sweater before her innocent baby sister can see the title.

“Nothing,” she mutters. Sakura narrows her eyes suspiciously but drops the issue. Suzu takes a moment to look over at her sister. Her newly gained Hitai-ate is peeking out from her hair. Her chest aches looking at it.

She’s proud of Sakura, of course. That doesn’t stop the pain that comes from knowing that her sister will be in constant danger. Sometimes, Suzu feels as if she’s betraying the memory of her old life by raising her sister to be a soldier.

But Harriet had the luxury of being a pacifist.

“Are you happy?” she asks Sakura, pushing her hair behind her ear and tugging at the end of the Hitai-ate. She wants to steal her sister away to some place quiet and peaceful like the Land of Tea.

“I got top scores, even Ino didn’t do as well as me.”

“Do you want to invite her over tonight? We can have a girl’s night before you guys have to march off to training.”

Out of all of Sakura’s friends, Suzu like Ino and Naruto the best. Both blondes have such stark personalities that it makes the house brighter whenever they stay over. Naruto is so kind and lonely that it reminds her of herself. She can’t help but hate the Hokage for isolating the boy.

They had all failed Minato in the worst kind of way.

Without realizing it, Suzu’s hand ruffles through Sakura’s hair, messing up her neat locks.

“Sorry, sorry,” Suzu says horrified, smoothing out Sakura’s hair again. She spoils the girl too much, but she doesn’t see the danger in letting her sister indulge in a childhood crush. The Uchiha boy probably needs more love in his life than anyone in the village.

Chapter Text

Suzu amuses herself with training while Sakura is at school. She has a remote, underground base built with funds funneled from her war-pay to practice her magic. No one knows it exists. The men who helped her build it have had their minds wiped clean of any interaction with her. A couple of strongly charged runes and charms hang around it, making it the safest place in the village.

She can be Harriet here.

The burn in her muscles is familiar and a welcome relief from the unhappiness that normally clouds her mind. She doesn’t know what she’s doing in this world, even after 20 odd years here.

Sakura is the only thing holding her together.

Suzu goes through the stretches with half a mind, the movements engrained in the memory after spending so much time learning them. That’s one thing that she doesn’t mind about this world. She’s so much stronger here. Training her body had never been something she had done as Harriet. Harriet had relied on pure grit, instincts built from years of abuse.

Suzu isn’t like that. She’s quick, so quick that sometimes it feels like time is moving slow. And she can crush a rock between her fingers with a small pulse of chakra running through her body. Despite all the missions, she rarely feels exhausted. Her chakra store built up naturally by ninjutsu practice keep her body running even when her mind is drained.

This is nothing though to her magic. Her magic, pressed against her body, hidden away from fear of her aunt and uncle, had suffered in her old life. It had fought to survive until she went to Hogwarts. Years as a horcrux corrupted it.

Here, Suzu lets it grow untamed and wild. Though she has a wand, the elder wand that had followed her through death to this world, she rarely sees the need for it. Suzu can do more with her magic here than wizards had though possible in her old world.

It’s scary to think that she has all that power but, she’s glad she does. It means she can protect Sakura and the village that had become her home.

She didn’t dare show Konoha what she could really do.

They’d ask her to use it.

Her mind flashes to the brief, faceless years she spent in ANBU. The smell of blood, the blank cold pit that had formed in her gut and never left, seizes her. Lion is a murderer, a shinobi of Konohagakure, a hand in the dark guiding the Hokage’s blade. Lion is the face she wears when she wants to be no one and nothing. Lion is not Harriet.

Lion is Haruno Suzuran.

And Haruno Suzuran kills.

The tendons in her body ache as she cools down. Her fingers are red and callused, the skin of her knuckles still split. As she finishes, she slips into the other room of her base.

She has a replica of the room of requirements. It defaults to the Gryffindor common room when Suzu is feeling nostalgic but, mostly it is a tea-room. Her mother in this life had been a tea merchant and Suzu remembers learning every step of the hours-long tea ceremony. There is something soothing about making tea (her hands are not used to being used for something other than killing).

She’ll need to go home, clean the place up before Sakura comes home. Suzu groans out loud, her tea spilling over the rim of the cup. She forgot about the book. Hatake-san was really starting to get on her nerves.

______________________________

Sakura is upset. Though she doesn’t mind being on a team with Naruto and Sasuke-kun, a part of her had been secretly hoping that Ino would be with her. She knows, logically that two girls to one team was rare. Her sister had explained the way that genin teams worked and even though nee-chan never had her own, she knew a surprising amount about it.

And sure, Sakura is glad to have a chance to talk to Sasuke-kun, she knows that he won’t want to. Suzu had explained that to her as well. She remembers the sudden terror in nee-chan’s eyes when she had gotten home that night, wrapping Sakura up so tight, it nearly hurt.

The Uchiha were gone.

Dead.

Everyone but, Sasuke.

It makes her sad when she looks at him, the same way it does when she remembers Naruto is all alone. But she’s determined to help them. Naruto is her brother, even if he shies away from her whenever she does something for the sake of being kind.

It doesn’t hurt that Sasuke-kun is strong and smart and cute. She just hopes that he’ll be happy having her as a teammate.

And if he doesn’t, then that’s okay too.

Her sensei, on the other hand, is an idiot. She had almost cracked up when the erasers fell on his ash-grey hair. Naruto hadn’t even bothered pretending and cackled straight away.

Hatake-sensei also tells them nothing about himself. Though Sakura knows he’s a jounin and one of the good ones, she can’t help but wonder if he’s qualified to teach. He seems young and the mask on his face is annoying. Sensei overexaggerates his expressions to show his reaction behind the think covering, but Sakura just thinks he’s a bad actor.

After Naruto finishes his ramen induced ramble, that makes her face drop. Sakura sits straighter, staring her sensei in the eye.

“My name is Haruno Sakura. What I like is,” she pauses, looking over at Sasuke before turning back to her sensei, “My dream for the future is to be a great shinobi like my sister. What I hate is people hurting my friends or my sister!”

Naruto grins, holding his fist out towards her. She casually bumps hers with his, eyeing their sensei to try and gleam out what his plan is.

Sasuke-kun goes next, speaking longer than she had ever heard. He doesn’t look over at any of them, holding his folded hands before his face. Sakura shifts her and Naruto closer, feeling bad that they’ve formed such an obvious divide between them without realizing it.

His announcement that he wants to kill someone makes her freeze. He’s her age, but in that moment, he seems so much older than her.

“Good! The three of you are all unique and have distinct personalities,” Sensei announces, his hand going up to ruffle that stupid hair of his. Sakura watches enviously as it maintains its style. He hops down from the ledge he’s perched at stalking towards them.

“We’ll have a mission tomorrow,” he says cheerily. Sakura has the distinct feeling that their mission will be anything but fun

“Yes, Sir. What kind of mission?” Naruto shouts, saluting their sensei. She drops her head into her hands, sighing loudly. Naruto can be oblivious sometimes.

“Well, it’s a task that only the four of us can do together.”

“What? What is it?” Naruto nearly jumps out of his skin in his excitement. Sakura eyes their sensei again, wondering if he was just playing with them by dragging out the mission details.

“A survival exercise.”

“Why are we doing an exercise when this should be a mission?” Sakura asks over Naruto. Something about the way he’s telling them about this ‘mission’ doesn’t sit right with her. If it were a real mission, he’d give them more details. “Besides, we already did survival exercises in the academy. That’s why we’re here.”

“This is no simple exercise.”

“Then what kind of exercise is it?” Naruto asks. Sakura glances at Sasuke-kun, taking in his disinterested face. After this meeting is over, they can all grab lunch. She’s spent enough time with Naruto to predict his every move, but Sasuke-kun just seems lonely to her. Sakura promises to ask nee-chan if she can invite her teammates over. Her nee-chan seemed to always know what people needed to relax, hopefully it would be the same with Sasuke-kun.

Hatake-sensei giggles in a way that make Sakura feel both creeped out and frightened. Hadn’t Nee-chan said something about the signs of a pervert. She’d have to ask her again.

“What’s so funny, Sensei?” she asks, glaring him. It seems to spur on his craziness even more, his eyes shutting in mirth as he waves his hand around.

“If I tell you, you’re not going to like it.”

“What?”

“Of the twenty-seven graduates who came here, only nine of you will be accepted as genin. The remaining eighteen will return to the academy. In other words, this exercise is an extremely difficulty test with a 66% failure rate.” Despite the voice he’s put on, she catches a hint of glee in his posture as if he were refraining from rubbing his hands together and laughing. Are jounin crazy?

Sakura’s face drops at the information. She hadn’t studied for so long to be denied by some stupid test her crazy sensei decided to give them. Besides, Suzu never mentioned a test.

“I decide whether you pass or fail. Be at the designated training spot at five in the morning and bring your gear.”

Sakura nods sharply, clenching her fists at her side. She wouldn’t fail now. Ino would never let her live it down. And Suzu had passed her test alone, Sakura had a team behind her. She wouldn’t disappoint her sister. Being a kunoichi was her dream.

Hatake-sensei turns away from them, leaning over the ledge. Just as she thinks he’ll disappear, he turns back toward them, his hand in the air.

“That’s it. You’re dismissed… Oh and skip breakfast tomorrow. You’ll throw up.”

Angered at the blasé attitude of their jounin-sensei, Sakura jumps up, pulling Naruto with her. Stalking over to Sasuke-kun, she stands in front of him with her hands on her hips. Her eyes, narrowed, burning brightly, she points a finger at him.

“Sasuke-kun, get up.”

He stares at her, unblinking. Her hand wavers slightly, but she repeats the motion.

“Get up. We’re getting lunch and then we’re going to my house to strategize. I’m not failing this test.”

“Sakura-chan, does he have to come?” Naruto whines, pulling at her sleeve. She turns her glare towards him, taking satisfaction in the slight flinch. He should be scared.

“Yes, Naruto. He’s our teammate.”

“But, he’s-“

“Enough, Sasuke-kun is the best in our year. Everyone knows that.”

She turns back toward Sasuke-kun, holding her hand out, willing him to take it. He doesn’t but, the fact that he waits for her to move before following is good enough.

This can work.

It must.

___________________

Momo-chan is waiting in the café. He’s surprised to see her dress in light, civilian clothing, looking every bit like one of them rather than the shinobi that lingers below the façade. His book is placed on the table in front of her, hands neatly folded over the cover. She looks like a school-girl, all innocent and pink-cheeked.

She turns and he swears she’s cast some sort of genjutsu from the sudden glitter cloud that appears around her head.

He shakes it off, not missing a step as he slips into the booth. He flings one arm on the back of the booth, spreading his legs wide to relax and attempts to steal back his novel.

“Say you’re sorry,” she says, snatching the book back before he can grab it. She’s quick.

“I believe I’m the one who was assaulted and robbed. You should say sorry,” he says evenly. His lips lift at the redness that grows on her face. Her mouth opens and shut once before she waves her hand and the book disappears from his sight. A seal? She'd hadn't used any chakra. Something else then.

“You’re rude and late.”

“Ahh, I was late because the dog outside my house gave birth to a litter of puppies. I had to help the owner find a home for all of them before it got cold.”

“It’s summer.”

Kakashi shrugs and leans back in the booth, picking at a loose string on his shirt. He watches from the corner of his eye as she rubs her temple. The closer he looks, the more he suspects the genjutsu. There are bags under her eyes and a thin gash on her chin that is red and oozing slightly. She still hasn’t gone to the medics. She’s younger than him but, her eyes are old, tired, and weary in a way that looks off on a face surrounded by pink hair.

“Don’t make that face, kunoichi-san. It’s my job to check on my team before I meet them. I’m going to be keeping them alive for the next couple of years.”

“Suzu, please.”

“Hatake Kakashi.” He shrugs, knowing he’ll still call her Momo-chan in his head. Her scent, a mix of peaches and grass, lingers in the air smelling like summer. Is she doing it on purpose? Most likely, she knows his sense of smell is stronger than most.

“Please, I already knew that. You’re a legend in ANBU, it’s a shame the Hokage retired you.”

Kakashi doesn’t react to her words but, there’s a lump forming in his chest making it hard to breath. ANBU was death and darkness. It was somewhere he went when he wanted to forget himself and leave behind the name that had made him famous.

Suzuran’s eyes widen across the table, her own hands twisting. They are so green, like a whole canopy of leaves lives in her eyes.

“Sorry,” she says, her hand reaching across the table. She stops halfway, hovering awkwardly in the air before pulling it back. There is a beat of awkward silence where Suzuran shifts in her seat, the energy around her jittering as if she was waiting for the right moment to flee.

His book appears on the table in front of him as she blinks. He pulls it toward him, placing it in his vest before she decides to change her mind again.

“It was good,” she offers, placing her fidgeting hands on the table, “but, there are some parts I would change. The sex is well written, though”

“You actually read it?” he asks, forgetting his role as a cool and hip ninja. His face is burning beneath the mask, the tips of his ears turning red.

Suzuran gives him a filthy smile and he lowers his head into his hands with a groan. She laughs slightly, the sound breathy and wild, before shifting to leave.

She stands, slipping out of the booth. As she leaves, she pats the top of his head twice before muttering something under her breath.

He wonders if it’s possible to die of embarrassment.

Chapter Text

Naruto sticks close to her side as they walk through the city. Though the small braided bracelet that Nee-chan gave him makes most people forget he is there, a fruit vendor screams at them as they walk by.

Sakura glares, tightening her arm around Naruto as he shrinks into her side.

Sasuke-kun walks some distance behind them, his chakra flaring unintentionally at the surprise intrusion by the civilian. Sakura pauses turning to make sure he keeps his pace with her.

Sometime later she’ll make sure that Nee-chan pays the vendor a visit and sets him straight. But, for now she focuses her chakra to hide some of Naruto’s. When Sakura had first started the academy, she hadn’t even noticed Naruto’s chakra but, having felt it even just once, she realized why people shied away from him. It was stronger than any chakra she had felt, stronger than Nee-chan’s or the Hokage's.

Though she doesn’t have as much chakra as Naruto, Sakura knows how to manipulate hers a lot better than most people. Using it to protect Naruto even just a little is worth the slight exhaustion she feels by the time they get to her house.

Nee-chan isn’t home when they get there. The windows are open allowing a soft breeze carrying the scent of sweet rolls from the bakery below to fan into the apartment. Naruto’s whole body relaxes inside the house and he throws himself onto the couch, shoving the strawberry shaped pillows underneath his head.

“Hey Sakura-chan, do you have any yogurt left?”

“Peach or plain?” she asks, heading to the fridge. She freezes for a second, looking back at the hesitation written all over Sasuke-kun’s face.

“Sasuke-kun, it’s all right you can come inside. Naruto, give him a pair of slippers.” Naruto groans but follows her orders. Sasuke-kun’s jaw clenches and he takes off his shoes leaving them in the genkan and stepping through the door. He slips on the slippers, moving slowly to the couch. His nose crinkles at the sight of the soft pink couches with fruit pillows.

“Do you want one too?” she asks, shaking the small bottle of drinkable yogurt in his direction.

“Hn,” he responds. Sakura wants to scream. She knows that Sasuke-kun is quiet but, that’s not even a word. Were all the Uchiha like this? The thought has her annoyance fleeing, remembering with sudden pity that Sasuke-kun is all alone.

She’d have to ask Ino what to do. Ino was always better at getting other people to talk even if it was out of annoyance.

“So, what’s the plan for tomorrow?”

“It’s survival training. We do it so much that it’s boring now,” Naruto says, responding to her question. Sakura hands him the yogurt, placing one in front of Sasuke as well.

“You barely ever focus on them when we do. Kakashi-sensei is a jounin. That means it’s going to be harder than any survival training we’ve ever done.”

“I bet we could take him. If he fell for my eraser trick, he must not be that smart.”

“Or maybe he was pretending. Nee-chan says that jounin see more than anyone else.”

“Your sister is a jounin?” Sasuke asks. He too has leaned back, hands fiddling with the cap of his yogurt. It’s the most relaxed she’s seen him all day.

“Yes.”

“Then why hasn’t she trained you?” The look on his face isn’t one she suspected on seeing. His nose curled, eyes narrowed, he runs them over her form. Sakura wants to cringe and hide away in her clothes. It makes Sasuke-kun look cruel.

“Who says she hasn’t?” Sakura responds sharp and cutting. Sasuke-kun doesn’t know anything about her or her sister. It’s not really his fault but, she doesn’t like the insinuation in his tone. Sakura had heard enough of that from the other kunoichi in her grade. She doesn’t like hearing it from him.

“Besides, nee-chan is busy. She’s not just a jounin for show, she goes on missions all the time.”

“We can’t really plan for tomorrow without knowing what sensei wants, Sakura-chan. I say we just stick together and attack him if anything. Then he has to let us pass, if we take him down.”

Sakura looks at Naruto at the same time as Sasuke-kun, their eyes meeting. Sakura’s grin is real and bright at the sudden look of surprise in Sasuke-kun’s eyes. He’d learn soon enough what it was like being near Naruto.

Naruto hid a lot behind the sunny smile and pranks.

They’d make a good team, all three of them.

___________________

 

She eyes the dark-haired boy with a hint of annoyance. He has yet to say a word since she arrived home and despite the circumstances – she understands what it’s like to lose your whole world- the rudeness is not something she expected or liked.

Sakura eyes him with a level of infatuation that Colin Creevy once held for her.

Yeah, not happening.

“Are you planning on speaking or should I start learning how to read minds?” she asks.

The boy blinks at her, slowly as if she was intruding on his day.

“What was your name? Saki? Sachiko?” Suzu mutters, hiding her smile at the rising red in Sasuke's neck.

“Sasuke,” he mutters, sending a heated glare her way. The plants behind her wither from the force of it, but Suzu smiles brightly. Leaning her chin into her hands, she tilts her head, a small glitter genjutsu floating around her face.

He’s cute, a downright tsundere if she’s ever seen one. Sasuke’s glare grows deeper and she swears she can see flames in his eyes. Suzu increases the genjutsu, forcing the background to melt away into soft pink clouds.

“You’re not cute,” he says, breaking the effect, with a soft release.

“We’re going to be best friends, Sasuke-chan,” she declares. Suzu moves away from the kitchen counter, pulling things from the fridge to make dinner. She feels the Uchiha’s eyes on her, a cold, questioning glare.

“Don’t call me that,” he mutters at last.

“Wow, why is it always the rude ones with fan clubs?”

“Hn.”

“What do you want to eat?” She asks, ignoring his non-response. Was it an Uchiha thing to make that noise? She feels the hollowness fill her again at the reminder of what happened to his family. How alone he must have been these last couple of years, living in the compound with the constant reminder of their deaths.

Suzu breaths in deeply, shaking the sadness away and burying in in her gut. She catches Sasuke’s eye as she stares at the fresh tomatoes she’s put on the counter and makes up her mind. In another life, Molly Weasley had barely blinked before welcoming Harriet into her family. The least she can do in this life is offer Sasuke the same.

The boy disappears as she cooks, slinking back into the living room where she can hear Sakura yelling at Naruto. Suzu hums, using magic now that Sasuke is gone. A knife rises in the air, chopping tomatoes and onions while Suzu sets to making the dough for pasta.

When the food is finished, table set, the kids wander into the dining room. She’s left a whole pot near Naruto, knowing the boy would eat more than any of them. Sasuke looks happily surprised, his smile awkward and lopsided as if he hadn’t used it in a while.

He eats the whole plate of food, not sparing them a glance as he attacks the tomato-sauce covered pasta.

She silently fist bumps her sister under the table.

After dinner, Suzu clears the table, leaving the pots and pans to wash themselves in the kitchen. She shuffles the kids into the living room, silently summoning a deck of cards from her room.

Sasuke watches silently as she shuffles the cards, putting a bit of chakra in her hands to do it quicker than any civilian could.

“It’s a training exercise,” she claims, dealing the cards to Sakura and Naruto. Sasuke hovers at the edge of the table, slightly uncomfortable from the casualness they exude. She leans over, tossing seven cards in quick secession in front of the couch. He looks at her for a long moment before sitting down. Suzu tosses a warm smile his way and deals her own cards.

“The aim of the game is to cheat as much as possible without getting caught by the other team. Me and Sasuke will play together against the two of you. You match the suit or the number until you have no cards left. The first team with none wins. An ace, jack, or queen allow you to give the other team 5 additional cards.”

She catches Sasuke’s eyes, hoping to convey that she wants him to take those cards before anyone else can. He gives her a tight nod, that has her grin growing.

Sakura and Naruto lose the first three rounds, ending up with half the deck each. Suzu plays the next two with just Sasuke, not willing to admit that the kid has quick fingers when it comes to sneaking cards into her hand when she’s not looking. She wins the first round and lets the second one end on a tie, drawing the first smile of the night from the young Uchiha.

Naruto and him end up going back and forth afterward. The bantering pulling more words out of Sasuke than she had thought possible. Sakura and her settling for watching the two. Though Suzu ends up holding her sister back whenever Naruto goes a bit too far and Sakura jumps up to defend Sasuke-kun.

Suzu makes a mental note to talk to her, Ino too, about boys.

Her heart squeezes uncomfortably at the thought of the boys, both having lost so much, going back home alone. She had not known any of the Uchiha personally, but Suzu had been assigned to help clean up after the massacre.

Despite everything she had seen, both in Harriet’s war and hers, Suzu cannot forget the blood that had covered her hands those nights. Children slaughtered in their beds like pigs by a boy no older than some of them. She shudders at the thought, shifting her gaze away.

If Sasuke makes her breath stop, then Naruto makes her heart shatter. Looking at him, made Suzu hate everything she was in this world. She’d failed Minato as badly as Dumbledore had failed her parents. The thought eats at her with every glance at the blue-eye boy.

Seeing him here, teasing Sakura and fighting with Sasuke, all for a bit of attention, a small piece of love to call his own, makes her hate the Hokage. She’s willing to risk his anger, ANBU’s constant eyes, to let Naruto gain a night of peace by staying here.

“Do you want to sleep here tonight, Naru-chan?” The smile he sends her when she asks, just as unsure as the first time she had asked, cracks her some more.

“Hai, nee-chan. Maybe you can make some ramen in the morning for me and Sakura-chan so we can beat Kakashi-sensei.”

“Maybe not ramen but, I’ll make you breakfast. Can’t have my little genin fainting on their first day, can I?”

“Faint? I won’t faint. Sasuke-teme might. He's always so delicate."

"Shut up, usuratonkachi. I actually passed on the first try, unlike you.”

“Do you want to stay?” Suzu kneels to the ground, talking over the two arguing boys. Sasuke meets her stare. His eyes are deep and dark. It is hard to believe that one day they will hold the famed sharingan.

“No. We have to be up early tomorrow.” He frowns as he speaks, revealing a small dip in the corner of his mouth. Suzu resists the urge to squish his face between her hands.

“Okay, but you have to pinky promise me that next time you’ll stay for the night,” she holds her pinky finger out in the air between them. Sasuke glares at the finger as if it’s offended him, which she wouldn’t be surprised to find that it did.

“Hn.” He loops his finger with hers anyway and Suzu takes the moment to swing her thumb up, pressing it against his. His nose curls at the movement, cheeks turning a rosy pink.

Sakura joins her at the door, hands flying to fix her hair as she waves goodbye. Suzu reaches down and messes the locks up again.

Chapter Text

She wrote in his book. Not just notes, but paragraphs of thoughts in the margins, little square papers tucked between the pages. In the back, there are pages where she’s written an alternate ending to the book.

He doesn’t know what he should do. Instead of reading the notes, or the story at the end, he tosses the book into his drawer, taking out it’s sequel and placing it in his flak-jacket.

He’s spent the last couple of hours following his new team around, though none of them actually catch sight of him, there’s a tenseness to both Sakura and Sasuke that leaves him wondering.

He had written Sasuke off as a product of his clan but, the girl surprised him. He’d written her off originally after seeing her in the academy but, then she muted Naruto’s chakra, compressing it into a tight
little ball rather than its usual overwhelming cloud.

She was too young to have that kind of chakra control. Or maybe not too young, but someone should have known. It should have been in her file. Her own chakra seems too low to even attempt hiding the nine-tailed fox’s chakra. She must be hiding her own as well.

What had Suzuran been teaching her? And why hide it?

His job is hard enough as it is. Looking at Naruto is like taking a knife to the ribs. The memory of Minato’s warm eyes, his sensei’s quick hand ruffling his hair makes it hard to breath. He’d give his life a thousand times if it meant that Minato could be here.

Kakashi had failed him at every turn, first with Obito, then Rin, and now Naruto. The other thought that aches at him, worse than Minato sometimes, is Kushina. She’d love Naruto, the same way she loved everything else, with every ounce of her being.

He can deal with all the rest. He’s lived with his demons long enough to know that. But there are moments when he watches Naruto is reminded so sharply of Kushina and his breath just stops.

Sasuke is not any better, a constant reminder of his own sharingan and Obito.

But Sakura was supposed to be the easy one. Top kunoichi, high scores on her tests, middling taijutsu and ninjutsu skills. Easy to teach and easy to ignore.

Instead, it turns out she has an ex-ANBU operative for a sister, two dead parents, and secret chakra skills.

Kakashi sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose and pulling his mask back up over his face. His students should be arriving at the training field soon. He has no intention to show up until later but, he’ll watch them form the trees.

He needs information, even if it means stalking children.


___________________________________________________________________________________

 

Ensui glares at her over his paperwork. Her head, resting in the palms of her hands, tilts to the side, smile growing.

“No, Suzu.”

“Ensui, come on. It’s not like I’m asking for you to kill your clan leader or something.”

“I’d rather you did. At least then, I’d be able to report you to T&I and let Inoichi-sama deal with you.”

“Honestly, you’re being so dramatic. I just want you to free up one of the training grounds for me.”

“There’s a month’s long waitlist to reserve one. The academy students just got assigned to teams. Use the communal ones.”

“But, Ensui…”

“Suzuran.” He holds her gaze steadily. Huffing out a sigh, she leans over his desk, resting her chin in her crossed arms. Ensui’s in one of his “I’m a good shinobi” moods and there’s no getting him out of it.

“At the very least, will you join me for lunch? Shikaku’s been working you like crazy and I haven’t seen you in ages.”

He softens, the corners of his eyes not as tight. Suzu hides a squeal of delight as the Nara stands and stretches, his back cracking loudly. She waves a hand, two neatly wrapped bento boxes appearing in her hands. Stretching out a hand in Ensui’s direction, she waits until he takes it to apparate them out of the dusty office.

The two of them settle on the soft grass of a field near the edge of the Nara compound. Ensui’s tense shoulders relax and she throws another smile in his direction, unwrapping her own bento box. She folds the cloth covering the box, and ties it around her wrist, cracking her chopsticks in half.

“How was the mission?” Ensui asks.

“Boring. I stole a scroll from some Kumo bastards. One of them got me on side with those nasty new bombs they’ve been testing.”

“Did you at least take one for R&D?”

“Of course, I did. I’m not a genin.”

“Thank kami for that,” he grins behind the mouthful of rice, cheeks puffing. Suzu rolls her eyes, sending a small bit of magic his way that causes him to choke. Though he doesn’t know it was her, he glares in her direction.

Ensui manages to calm his sore throat and watering eyes, finishing his bento before lying in the grass. A part of her wonders if she likes the Naras for their deer, which remind her of Lily and James Potter, or for their laid-back attitude to life.

Lying beside him, she enjoys the easy calm. Head clear of thoughts, she watches each cloud lazing by against the bright blue sky. The soft, aromatic scent of wildflowers fills her nose.

Suzu thinks she could lie here forever watching the world pass by in the clouds. She knows why she likes the Naras.

It’s not the deer or the calm, it’s the fact that they see more about the village than any other clan. Minato had handed her over to Shikaku after ANBU. Suzu had been isolated, alone, unused to having someone watch her back. As much as Shikaku had seen a solider, he’s also seen a girl who had lost herself in the darkness.

It was him that introduced her to Ensui, something she would forever be grateful for. Ensui hadn’t put up with any of her bullshit, figuring her out in a matter of weeks. He’d seen her at her worst, after missions that had broken whatever parts of Harriet were left.

“The Hokage asked for you to be assigned a team,” Ensui admits, breaking the comfortable silence. Suzu tenses, rolling over onto her stomach so she can look at him.

“Why didn’t you take it?” he asks, eyes narrowing, highlighting the thick green eyeliner he’s wearing.

“I don’t think I have the stomach to teach a bunch of kids how to kill,” she bites out. Hokage-sama and her have always had a tense relationship. It was hard to trust a man who had been willing to overlook her ‘reconditioning’ for the sake of the war.

“Suzu, this world isn’t kind. You know that better than most.” Though there’s no judgement in his voice, she can hear the confusion of her words. Ensui had always believed that they did the bad things to protect the good in the world. Suzu doesn’t know what to believe anymore.

“You should think about it. It’d be good for you.” He says, leaning back down and closing his eyes.

Suzu rolls over again, sinking into the grass, her head by his shoulder and shuts her eyes too.

 

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

He arrives at the training field approximately three minutes before Sasuke creeps in. Sakura and Naruto trail in afterwards. A small bento box in Sakura’s hands is handed to the Uchiha who eyes it in trepidation.

“He said not to eat,” the Uchiha says, a stubborn tilt to his jaw that Itachi also shared.

“Come on, teme. Just eat it, Suzu-chan spent all morning making it,” Naruto answers, shoving the bento box into Sasuke’s face. The boy sits unmoving for a few seconds before he caves under the withering stares of his team-mates.

Kakashi almost finds himself liking them. Though Naruto and Sasuke fight the whole time, there’s a smoothness to their bantering that takes the real edge off.

Sakura, he can tell, has a temper. She jumps between talking casually with the boys, weeding out words from Sasuke, to yelling at Naruto. Naruto doesn’t seem to mind the sudden burst of violence, either outright dodging her punches or letting her chase him around the field, only for her to pummel him to the ground.

She nearly turns on Sasuke once, stopping only when his glare turns in her direction. Her cheeks grow pink under the boy’s gaze, leaving Kakashi with the troubling reminder that all three are about to enter puberty.

Can he retire early?

Looking after a bunch of brats isn’t what he signed up for when he became a shinobi. Who’s going to take care of his dogs while he watches the gremlins? He’d bet that the Hokage hadn’t even considered his dogs when he assigned him this team.

It wouldn’t be that bad if he failed them.

Sighing he hops down from his tree, just as they start falling asleep. Well, Naruto and Sakura. Sasuke seems to have also inherited the Uchiha stubbornness.

“Good morning, everyone,” he calls out.

“You’re late!” Naruto and Sakura shout in unison, jumping to their feet at his arrival.

“Well, a black cat crossed my path so, I had to take the long way,” he lies. Smiling cheerily at the team, though he supposes they can’t really tell, he waves hello.

“Well,” he clears his throat, turning away from them, “let’s get started.

Pulling an alarm clock from his bag, he sets it on a post in the middle of the training field and sets it for noon.

He reaches into his pocket, pulling out the two beaten-up bells that Minato had left him. Swallowing hard, he lets them dangle in the air pulling the kids attention to them.

He wonders whether any of them will be able to steal one. It had taken him months of training before he could even get close enough to Minato to touch one, let alone grab it. But, he’s not Minato and if these genin are anything like their parents, minus Sakura, they just might surprise him.

“Your assignment is very simple. All you have to do, is take these bells from me. That’s all there is to it.” He raises his hand once, snapping the bells together so they make a sound. Narrowing his eyes in their direction, he starts pointing towards the three posts at the end of the training grounds.

“If you can’t get them by noon, you’ll go without lunch. You’ll be tied to those posts, and you’ll watch while I eat my lunch in front of you.”

Would it be odd to admit that he’s hoping they fail? Just so he gets the satisfaction of watching their frustration as he eats as slowly as possible, not letting them get a glimpse of his face. The thought brings a smile to his face.

“What? Why would you do that to us?” Naruto asks, face dropping into a heated glare.

“It’s all right, Naruto. We’ve already eaten, sensei. It’s more important for a shinobi to have energy than not being sick.”

“Very good, Sakura-chan. Great initiative from all of you.” He smiles again, watching closely as her eyes narrow at the bells. Good, she’s smart.

“Wait, a minuet, why are there only two bells?”

He takes a moment to chuckle, dropping it quickly when she cringes backward. He wasn’t that creepy, was he?

“Well, that way at least one of you will end up tied to a post and ultimately disqualified for failing to complete the mission,” he waits a beat for the news to sink in, “That one goes back to the academy.”

“Then again,” he muses out loud, “all three of you could flunk out, too.”

Ringing the bells once more, he puts his serious face on. Staring at each of them forcefully, he watches as they straighten up under his intense gaze.

“You can use any weapons, including shuriken. If you’re not prepared to kill me, you won’t be able to take the bells.”

“No problem, sensei.” He watches as a slow smile grows on the pink-haired genin’s face. If it weren’t for the fact that she was still a kid in every sense of the word, he’d think she was eager to try and kill him.

“When I say start you can begin,” he smiles at them again.

Sakura crouches, slipping her hand into her side holster and pulling out a kunai. Though Sasuke and Naruto tense, getting ready to run at him. She stays crouched, eyes bright, one hand pressed against the ground.

“Begin.”

Naruto moves first, launching himself forward, hands quickly pulling out a kunai. Kakashi catches the kunai in his hand, twisting Naruto around so that the kunai is aimed at the back of his head. This is too easy.

Kakashi glares down at the blonde head of hair, taking note of the step back that Sasuke makes. Sakura is unmoved, hair framing her face so he can’t see what she’s thinking.

“I didn’t think you’d be first, but you came at me with the full intention of killing me, Naruto. I can’t believe I’m saying this; I’m starting to like you guys.”


__________________________________________________________________________________

 

As soon as Sensei is distracted by Naruto, Sakura moves her hands, forming the hand seals to make a clone as quickly and quietly as possible. Trading places with the clone, she follows Sasuke into the bushes, watching as Naruto takes on Kakashi.

Once she’s hidden in the trees, she closes her eyes, ignoring Sasuke’s confused expression for the moment. Suzu had taught her, after their parents had died that terrible day, how to sense and mask chakra. Sakura hadn’t been very good at it, but she had trained hard to learn. The fear she had felt that day, paired with the inability to do anything at all while they died, it changed her.

Her parents had been murdered by a rouge-nin from Iwa, eager to pay Suzu back for something she had done during the war. Sakura never asks what it was. War stories are like darkness, there is a before and an after, what happens in the shadows, stays there. She loves her sister too much to relive it.

But Sakura remembers the grinning, deranged smile of the Iwa-nin, his rust-red clothes during into a muddy-brown after he had killed her parents. She hadn’t thought of shinobi as monsters before then.

Sakura had fought, with every ounce of training that the academy had taught her but, it wasn’t enough. Not against a jounin-deserter. Sometimes when she sleeps, when she lets the memories take over, she sees her mother spread out on the floor, throat pulled open from ear to ear. White bone spilling out amongst the pink tissue. Her father hadn’t lasted as long.

Suzu had burst through the doors, face craved from solid stone as she pulled Sakura away, handing her to the ANBU-nin with her.

She was still close enough to the apartment to hear the man’s first screams.

Suzu had been vicious for months afterward, scared to go on missions, eager to protect Sakura in any way she could. She’d been hesitant to train Sakura, despite the days she spent begging.

“Geniuses didn’t last long in Konoha,” Suzu had said.

Despite it, Suzu had caved, swearing her to secrecy. The need to rid herself of the fear and guilt she felt motivating her, Sakura clung to her sister’s every word.

And then Suzu taught her about magic and Sakura had hidden everything away. She didn’t know what Suzu had lived through before she was born. What little she knows is hints and half-remembered stories from her mother.

They’d turn Suzu into a monster too if they knew.

She supposes she knows a bit of how Sasuke feels about his brother.

Though, Naruto’s charka overwhelms her senses, Sensei’s own lightening-based chakra has a similar feel to Suzu’s that she can tell it’s not the real him.

She watches as he gets ready for a big jutsu, hands forming the sign of the tiger seal. It must be a fire jutsu. Sakura doesn’t think, straightening quickly.

“Naruto, get out of there quick, he’s going to destroy you.” Sasuke tenses next to her and they share a quick, worried glance. When Kakashi finally delivers the move, “A Thousand Years of Death,” she just wants to die.

Did that count as harassment? He just shoved his fin-

No. She’s not thinking of it.

“Those two are just idiots,” Sasuke mutters to her. Sakura nods, her clone finally standing to fight Kakashi.

While Naruto’s intervention had distracted him, Sakura had been planting small genjutsu traps around the training grounds, designed to be activated while Kakashi stepped closer to her.

They were little tricks designed to buy her some time while she found where Sensei was. Small things, like throwing off his aim or making him think that something was closer than it was.

He trips up, the first time her kunai catches his sleeve, ripping into loose fabric. She doesn’t hide her smile at the slight surprise in his eyes.

He matches her taijutsu, blow for blow, but Sakura is enjoying the challenge. He’s a lot stronger than the people she’s used to fighting. Despite the lean muscle and quick feet, fighting him is nothing like sparring with Suzu. He’s both quick and blunt, going for the moves mostly likely to take her out quickly.

Sakura doesn’t have a chance to see if her strongest genjutsu, “Hell Viewing Technique” would have worked on him. Kakashi sends a strong punch her way, that her clone is unable to block, popping the clone in a puff of smoke.

She smiles from her tree as he spins around looking for her. Launching herself towards, the ground, she crawls into the bushes as Sasuke has his turn.

Now, she just must find Naruto get him in on her plan and somehow convince Sasuke to play nice with them so they can get the bells.

Finding Naruto is easier than she thinks. His blonde hair sticks out amongst all the green and he waves eagerly at her, all while laughing at the beating that Sasuke is getting.

“Naru-chan, I have a plan.” She announces. Naruto turns towards her, blue eyes wide.

“Me too, we should team up and take down Kakashi-sensei together. He called me a loser; you know. I’m not a loser.”

“What? When did he say that?”

“During our fight but I’ll show him. He’s underestimating me. I’m going to be Hokage one day and prove to everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re dead last or first in class.”

Sakura smiles softly at him, intertwining their fingers together and giving his hand a tight squeeze.

“What was your plan, Sakura?”

“Oh, basically the same thing but, we’re going to need Sasuke to fight him.” As soon as she says his name the boy is bounding into the woods near them.

“Naruto make some clones to distract Sensei while we plan,” Sakura orders, grabbing onto Sasuke’s shirt and tugging him down to her level. He glares as he hits the ground but, doesn’t make to run away.

“Good. Now that we’re all here, this is the plan…”

Once they finish discussing, Sakura sends the boys on their way and launches into the clearing, forming a quick hand sign that fills the clearing with a misty fog. It’s not as dense as it could be but, it has Sensei aware that she’s there. Sakura launches into another series of hand signs. Maybe she’ll get him with her Hell Viewing Technique now.

Sensei’s hands cover her own before she can finish the jutsu. He raises her trapped hands above her head and Sakura latches onto him, pulling her body up on arm strength alone, wrapping her legs around her arms. Hanging like a monkey from Sensei is undignified and he realizes this, letting her hangs quickly, she swings her body around, hands brushing one of the bells as she does so.

Perfect.

He glances down at the bell, that Sakura has a chakra string wrapped around. She’s still not as good with it as she like but her chakra control is better than most. She can keep it up for another minuet at most.

“Now, where did you learn that?” he asks, head tilting. Instead of answering, Sakura tugs at the bell again, watching as she lifts from his waist. It doesn’t get far Kakashi clutches it between his fingers, his other hand hovering near her chakra string.

“Very clever,” he compliments, before flickering out of her view. She spins around feeling the surge of chakra lighting up behind her. “But, not quick enough.”

Sakura smiles, shaking her hands as the string dissolves. She ducks down quick, feeling the shuriken fly out from the tree behind her. Kakashi tries to follow her but, her leg sweeping out beneath his feet forces him to the left and right into their trap.

Sasuke meets him there, sparing with him as Naruto’s shuriken land into the tree. Ninja wire gleams in the sunlight and Sakura moves as Sasuke forces him backwards into the wire. Sakura gets another string ready, latching onto the two bells.

Just as she pulls them towards her, both the bells and Sensei disappear in a cloud of smoke. Another clone. She’s starting to hate shadow clones.

The three of them glance at one another, breathing heavily. Her chest aches from the exertion, fighting a jounin is not fun.

Just as they’re about to launch their next attack together, the alarm goes off.

Sensei smiles, though Sakura doesn’t know why, they’d failed. Sakura’s shoulders slump in disappointment.

Sensei moves toward them, chakra forming a dark cloud around him, he forms a couple of quick hand signs before Naruto. Sakura moves without a thought, matching Sasuke’s pace, to stand in front of their teammate.

“Any last words?” Sensei asks them, meeting their gaze evenly.

“You said this was a team exercise,” Naruto screams, shoving his way forward, “There are three people to a team. How can you only have two bells?”

“We’re a three-man squad and we’re all in it together,” Sasuke says, backing Naruto up.

“That’s right. Even though we didn’t get the bells, we wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. We’re a team, we’re not leaving anyone behind.”

“You’ve all failed to steal any of the bells. Each of you tried individually. Naruto, far to brash with your attacks and sloppy with all your hits. Sasuke, you failed to ask your teammates for help when launching your attack. Sakura, you were clever but, your plan fell apart once you got distracted.”

She slumps down, hair sticking to her face. She can’t meet anyone’s eyes and her stomach churns at the thought of having to go home and tell Suzu she had failed.

“But, all three of you came together to try and steal the bells. And for that, you all pass.”

Naruto is the first to register the words, launching himself into the air with a furious yell. Sakura looks up, meeting her Sensei’s single eye. He smiles, the eyes shutting and forming a curve. She didn’t think it was possible for a single eye to convey that much warmth.

“What?” Sasuke asks, casting quick glances at her and Naruto.

“You pass. You’re the first class that ever succeeded. The other’s fell into every trap. They couldn’t think for themselves. A ninja must see through deception. In the ninja world those who break the rules are scum, that’s true. But those who abandon their friends are worse than scum.

“He’s kind of cool,” Naruto whispers, bumping into her. Sakura nods, watching as Kakashi-sensei preens at the compliment.

“The exercise is over,” he states, “Everyone passes. Team Seven starts its first mission tomorrow.”
Sakura jumps up, joining Naruto in his celebration. Chest feeling lighter than air, she smiles happily, throwing her fist in the air.

They’d done it. They had really done it.

“Let’s go home,” Kakashi-sensei says, leading them away.


___________________________________________________________________________________

 

When he gets home, he eats the meal he’d prepared earlier that week and then wonders over to his bedroom.

He hadn’t had any intention of reading Suzuran’s notes. Despite the fact that she had clearly left them there for him, he’s still unsure about the woman.

Kakashi is used to learning about people through training with them, spars, the regular ninja way. He can’t challenge her to a spar without reason and despite having been in ANBU he’s quite sure that there were no pink-haired kunoichi running around. She must have worn a henge.

He could steal her chart from ANBU HQ, but it’d lead to people asking questions. The last thing he needed was people wondering why he was chasing down a woman.

He opens the book, pulling out the little cards she’s slipped between the pages. He takes out the sheets at the end as well, setting them aside to read at the very end. He picks up the first note, written on pale pink paper that smells like the sweet rolls from the bakery beneath her apartment.

Hatake-san,


I enjoyed the book but, thought it could use some work. Here are some slight changes I made and some commentary on the Jiraiya-sama’s thoughts on kunoichi. You’d think having been on the same team as Tsunade-sama, he’d be a bit less of a perv. Anyway, I personally thought that Aiko-san should have ended up with Haru-san.


I apologize for stealing the book in the first place. Once I felt the traps in my apartment go off, I got worried about Sakura. After what happened to our parents, I’m a bit overprotective. I’m sure that’s something you understand.


Haruno Suzuran

Fuck.

Kakashi leans back, head hitting the wall. He’d forgotten.

Naruto and Sasuke were alone, breaking into their houses meant nothing. They were children without a sense of security. Whatever privacy they had was non-existent due to the constant ANBU guards stationed around them.

He’d been careless around Sakura. She might not have been what he imagined but, her only living relative was a ninja, a kunoichi of this village. Attempting to break into her apartment was crossing a line. Ninja homes were untouchable, it was the one place they could escape to after the things they did in the real world.

And he hadn’t even cared.

Kakashi had recklessly tried to get past the seal and traps surrounding the apartment. A pit starts forming in his gut, and he drops his head into his hands, rubbing at his eyes.

How had Suzuran taken it so lightly?

The look on her face when he had stopped her on her rooftop pops into his head. Silent resignation scattered over the dips and shadows of her face, pain lingering in her furrowed brows. She’d been injured, holding onto her ribcage as if it was the only way to stop from collapsing.

Kakashi groans, hitting his head once again on the wall. His hand reaches up, ruffling his hair, lips curling downward.

Tomorrow, he’d find her. Though last time he tried, she’d proven hard to find. What had the Hokage said about Shikaku-sama? Didn’t she work there?

Maybe it was time for him to pay the jounin command a visit.

Chapter Text

The room she wakes in is pitch black and thrumming. Suzu squeezes her eyes shut tight, trying to stop the throbbing in her head. She can’t remember how she got here or where here is.

Pushing out a bit of chakra to get a sense of where she is has her doubling over, hot white pain building beneath her eyes. Gasping for breath, she pulls at the collar of her shirt, willing her throat to open.

It takes minuets- hours- for the pain to subside enough for her to think. She’s a shivering, sweaty mess on the floor, the dark pressing against her lids.

She learns quickly in the dark. The room is four-feet by four-feet. Her cupboard under the stairs had been larger. There is no position in which Suzu can stand upright or stretch out.
She’s too tall in this new body of hers. There is a single cot, with a thin scratchy blanket and no pillow.

In the darkness, she starts to lose it.

Suzu is eleven, the same age she was when she went to Hogwarts.

She has stolen.

Lied.

She has already killed.

Broken a man’s spine.

Tore one’s throat.

Used a killing curse.

She doesn’t know how many.

In the darkness, Harriet withers.

Even her memories of this life, once bright in her mind have turned fuzzy. She can’t remember the pink-haired woman’s name. Nor the small child that frequents her dreams.

Her name disappears in the dark.

 


 

Suzu wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. It’s a short and shrill scream, lasting only a second before being cut off. It’s enough to wake Sakura up. She startles awake, breathing heavily as she stares at the blank ceiling above her.

“Tell her to shut up,” her inner says, voice still infused with sleep. Sakura feels a clawed hand of despair crawling up her spine. She should go out there. But she knows her sister too well and the sight of Sakura will just fill her with shame.

Instead, Sakura lies in her bed and listens as Suzu moves around the house, the light in the hallway turning on. She counts her breathes, willing her sister’s ghosts to go away.

It’s a long while before the light flicks off. Suzu’s steps don’t make their way back to her room. The sound of a window opening and closing in the living room echoes through the house

“She’s running away,” Inner whispers in the depths of her mind.

“No, she’s not.” Sakura says. Suzu is a lot of things, but a coward she was not. She’d never run away, no matter what demons chased her at night.

Sakura turns over in her bed, running her chakra through her system until her eyes grow heavy.

Sakura wakes up before dawn to the smell to bitter herbs and something sharp and cool, mint maybe. Following the smell to the kitchen, she watches Suzu repeatedly press the button on the blender. The thick, green liquid inside does nothing. Sakura sighs, walking over, and gently pushing Suzu out of the way.

“You have to be gentle, stupid.”

“Sakura-chan,” Suzu greets in surprise. Her sister is decked out in her seldom-worn jounin outfit, though her normal boots are on her feet rather than the standard-shinobi sandals. Around her waist is a light blue apron with the image of a bunny plaster over the front.

“Are you going on a mission?”

“No. I figured you and I could have a morning training session before you meet up with your team.”

 “Are you alright?” she asks. Suzu shifts beside her, smile falling briefly, before her face turns upward, mask falling into place. Sakura wonders if a day will come where she too has a mask, pale and blank, radiating a calm that hides the storm beneath.

That’s not the world she wants.

She thinks of Suzu again. Of the shaking limbs she hides, the bloodied clothes Sakura’s found hidden in the trash, how her eyes grow dim and for a moment it’s as if she’s lost.

Sakura thinks, that if this world was not one that she could bear, she would make herself a new one

“I’m fine, Sakura-chan. I’m sorry about last night,” Suzu says, refusing to meet her eyes. Her spine is curved under the weight of her own shame. 

“Don’t be sorry,” Sakura says loudly, snapping her sister out of her thoughts. It'd be easier if she could fight nightmares. Then she could pummel them to the ground until the earth cracked. She fiddles with the buttons on the blender, pressing hard enough that one of them gets stuck. 

"Oh, you fixed it," Suzu says. Sakura rolls her eyes, handing her the drink and leaving to go get dressed. 


Sakura ducks away from the punch, sending an uppercut towards Suzu’s chest as she does. Her sister dodges, shifting her body away with a flexibility that she’s jealous of. Circling each other like a pair of caged cats, Suzu smiles at her.

Sakura scowls, striking out at the opening by her ribs. Suzu captures her hand, shifting her elbow downward to hold tight as she sweeps Sakura’s feet out from under her.

Sakura hooks her legs around her sister’s torso, using her other hand to pull a fist full of hair. Letting out an enraged shriek, Suzu quickly lets her go. Sakura readies herself, putting her fists up before her, as her sister moves to strike again.

She blocks the first hit, but Suzu’s other fist meets her rib in quick succession. Sakura tries to keep up with the barrage of punches and kicks, but eventually backs away, falling into a defensive position.

“This isn’t fair,” she calls out, as Suzu issues a kick strike to the back of her knee. Forced into a kneel, she glares up at her sister’s teasing smile. Sakura latches onto Suzu’s thighs, forcing her onto the floor. Clambering up her body, not to be thrown off by Suzu’s inane wiggling, she sits on her sister’s stomach.

“You’re not even trying,” Sakura says, pulling out a kunai. The Suzu below her smiles and pops in a cloud of flower petals.

Where Suzu is flexible and quick, waiting to outlast her opponent, Sakura goes for the punch. She’s strong where her sister is quick. Fighting her is a dance, albeit a controlled one where Suzu always seems to have the advantage. But there are moments where Sakura trips her sister up from the force of her blows and the sheer stubbornness of her fighting.

Sakura hates losing, Inner hates it even more shouting at her to stand whenever she falls, to move when she stumbles.

Sakura stands scrambling to look around for her sister. An invisible hand pulls at her shirt, issuing a sharp slap to her wrist.

“Invisibility cloak is cheating,” Sakura calls out.

Her sister has a flare for dramatics, pulling magic and chakra into the fight as if it was normal. Most of the time, Sakura can’t tell which is ninjutsu and which is magic. Other than the conjuring, which most people excuse as some secret kenjutsu her sister developed, Suzu is careful to never use spells that are obvious. Most of the elemental spells could be excused as elemental ninjutsu.

Sakura knows that she’s careful to never use obvious hexes and jinxes when she’s on a team mission but, it still doesn’t stop the worry that someone will see. Magic is too deeply ingrained for Suzu to stop using it all together.

The sudden movement of a couple of flower petals to her right has her sharply focusing. She doesn’t shift as the air around her suddenly stills.

“Get her,” Inner shouts. And even though, she knows that Suzu is playing around, Sakura jumps, tackling the air. She hits something solid and hard, pushing down a laughing Suzu.

It’s an all-out brawl on the floor, fistfuls of tangled hair, shrieks of laughter, and dodging blows. Sakura pushes a bit of chakra into her hand, trying to get Suzu to hold still and accidentally hits her across the face.

“Ow,” Suzu shouts, as Sakura’s punch catches her across the jaw. “What the hell? How do you even hit that hard? You’re like ten.”

“12,” Sakura deadpans. But then at the watery eyes of her sister, something she’s sure is only to gain sympathy and not out of any real pain, Sakura deflates. Suzu rubs at her jaw, conjuring a mirror in front of her to look at the blooming red across her face. Sakura is sure it will bruise and that her sister will let it so that she can moan and groan about it all day.

“Here you can hit me back,” Sakura offers.  She grins at the spiteful look Suzu sends her way. Inner cheers at her victory.

“I’ve been practicing supplementing my natural strength with chakra,” she admits, after a while.

“What?” Suzu looks away from the mirror, capturing her gaze with wild eyes. “Are you crazy? You could rip your muscles apart like that.

“I read about it in a book. One of those medical journals you have lying around,” Sakura says.

“Sakura, I don’t care if the Hokage himself told you how to do it. Practicing a technique like that without supervision is dangerous. You could have died.”

“I didn’t think-“

“I won’t yell at you for wanting to learn something new. But you can’t do it alone. Next time ask me, and if I don’t know how to do it. I’ll find someone who does.” Suzu declares, heatedly. Sakura nods swallowing back the guilt she feels at the look of fear on her sister’s face. She hadn’t thought it was that big of a deal but, the blank mask that takes over Suzu's face has her thinking otherwise.


 

The Jounin Command office is a bustling hub in the center of the village. Though it is non-descript on the outside, housing a hot-pot restaurant on the first floor, inside it is the center of operations for the village. Kakashi has seldom entered the building. ANBU HQ was on the outskirts, fitting for a place meant to operate in the shadows. Jounin-senseis didn’t really deal in the day-to-day missions. They still got assigned when the village needed them, but that was usually taken care by the Hokage.

Shikaku-san barely looks up as he wanders in.

“Hatake-san, who let you in?”

 “The door was open,” Kakashi says, pointing to the office door. He makes no mention of the fact that he used his clearance to get past the first barriers of admin-nin. Shikaku doesn’t look like he believes him in the slightest which is smart.

“Ah, why are you here?”

The question gives Kakashi a moment of startling clarity that he’s gone a bit far. It’s not that he cares about Suzuran. What he cares about is the fact that people are hiding things about her. Her sister, the Hokage, and Naruto to some extent. Minato-sensei had known her as well.

He doesn’t understand all the secrecy and he’s not used to be the one kept in the dark.

“I wanted to ask about the recent mission roster.”

“Sit down, Hatake-san.” Kakashi’s not one to let people get away with honorifics or the last-name game but, Shikaku-san had known his father. Not to mention the man could kill if he wanted to. Sometimes it was easier to let the bigger fish pass you by.

Patting himself on the back for his genius infiltration skill, Kakashi practically throws himself in the seat. He has to be careful. As much of a genius as he is, Shikaku-san is probably ten steps ahead of him and most likely already knows why he’s here.

“How is your genin team?”

“First one to pass,” he declares brightly.

“I wonder whose fault that is. And Sakura-chan? Is she getting along with the boys?”

“Sakura-chan?”

“Don’t pretend that you’ve come in here to make small talk. You’re about as subtle as your mask is.”

 Kakashi opens his mouth to reply but, a heated glare from the Nara head has him shutting it just as quickly. Shikaku stands walking around his desk, to peer into the hallway.

“Ensui, is she still there?” He calls into the hall. A resounding thump can be heard from down the hall and a high-pitched yell. What sounds like a small fight ensues, the sound of two kunai clashing echoing through the hall.

“Yes. She. Is.” Ensui calls back. Ensui shunshins into the office, a pouting Suzuran in his arms. A tear through Ensui’s shirt is the only sign of his struggle.

“Oh, Kakashi-san. What are you doing here?” Suzu-san asks, her hair is wet and matted to her forehead. The soft scent of peaches mixed with iron and the oils used to keep blades from rusting rises in the air as she shifts her hair on her head. Some senbon go in it and stay there holding her hair in place. Though he’s seen the color on Sakura, something about seeing it in an adult woman makes it look less real.

“Mission roster.” He responds. She eyes him for a moment.

“In Shikaku-san’s office? Aren’t you meant to be training Team 7?”

At his nod, she shrugs, turning away from him and toward Shikaku-sama, bowing shortly. Shikaku-san lets out a long, low sigh causing her to straighten up.

“What’s up, boss?”

Shikaku-san nods in his direction giving her a look that clearly says, “Deal with it or I will.” Kakashi doesn’t know whether to be offended or proud of the fact that he’s gotten that look from every one of his superiors.

“What?” she asks, tilting her head.

“Suzu.”

“Fine. Kakashi-san follow me. I’ll show you the mission roster,” the way she says the last words is downright dirty. He shivers feeling a chill creep up his spine. No woman should say words like that.

“Come on, we might as well get a good meal out of this,” she says, leading him down the hall. The walk out of the Jounin Command office is silent and stiff with tension.

 “What is it?” she asks, as they cross the street.

“You’ve given Sakura extra-training,” he says, following her into the small restaurant on the street corner. The smell of grilled fish hits his nose, smoky and sharp. He follows Suzuran to a small table in back where a waiter comes by without question, placing an array of vegetables, fresh squid, shrimp, salmon, and other sides before them. He disappears once Suzuran nods. A spark from her fingers and the pit is light, the fire bright and hot.

 Kakashi is slightly overwhelmed, not knowing what to do as he waits for a response. Suzuran seems to enjoy his fidgeting, glancing at him from underneath her lashes as she places the fish over the fire.

“Of course, I have. She’s my sister,” she says, sitting back and looking at him.

“She hid Naruto’s chakra. That’s not something a twelve-year-old can do.”

“You were a jounin at 10. Chakra compression is a basic skill in our field.”

“Sakura’s not a jounin. She displayed average taijutsu skills and average ninjutsu skills in the academy. Her theoretical knowledge was good but, it was just that, theory. There’s nothing in her files about above-average chakra control.”

“First of all, an academy chart is no basis for talent, something I’m sure you’re aware of. If it was, people like Maito Gai would have never graduated above genin. And, she didn’t hide his chakra, she dulled it, masking it with her own. Why are you so concerned about my sister anyway? From what she’s told me, it’s Sasuke and Naruto that you’re worried about.”

“She’s a part of my team.”

“And, I’m sure it has nothing to do with the visit you paid the Hokage asking about my chart.” Though he’s slightly startled by her knowledge, he doesn’t let it show. Somehow this conversation is spinning out of his control, he’d meant to come and apologize for attempting to break into her home. Bringing up her sister was a mistake.

Suzu pulls the fish off the barbecue, placing some onto the empty plate before him before serving herself.

“You were ANBU,” he says, not touching his food. She swallows the massive bite she’s forced into her mouth and nods.

“When? Which squad?”

“Does it matter? I’m not there anymore.”

“The Hokage said that you’d been put through reconditioning.”

“Reconditioning? Is that what they’re calling it?” She shoves her plate away from her. There’s a bitterness to her face that curls her nose.

“It’s been known to happen,” he says, dully. He’d seen it before, ANBU who lost it after weeks out on missions where nothing, but death followed. ANBU who were found bleeding out in the shared showers, no one sure if it was an enemy or their own misery that had cause their wounds.

“It wasn’t T&I,” she mutters, her gaze stuck on where his mouth is behind the mask. “You seem well acquainted with Councilman Danzō. I’m sure you understand what kind of conditioning it was.”

The seal on his tongue burns quick and sharp at the mention. Swallowing hard, he shifts under her heavy gaze, the pieces falling into place.

“You were ROOT.”

“No. Danzō tried. He’d seen how proficient I was on the field, but I was a bit of a loose cannon. He thought he could fix me, make me one of his pawns. He almost did but, the Yondaime—Look, Kakashi-san, reopening my past isn’t something I want to do.” He jolts at the mention of his Sensei

“I didn’t know,” he mutters, softly. Suzu rolls her eyes, seeming fed up with the conversation.

“Most people don’t. It’s not something I go announcing all over town.”

“Why tell me, then?”

"Because my sister’s life is in your hands. If it makes you focus on keeping her alive, then I don’t mind spilling my secrets,” she says, not a hint of a lie in her face. Kakashi is not used to being told the truth. Ninja hoarded secrets, holding them tight, dying to keep them.

Yet, Suzuran was willing to give hers up for Sakura. He doesn’t know what to say and it seems that Suzuran knows that, shifting her burning eyes away from him and back to her food.

“Come to practice tomorrow,” he asks. The words fall out of his mouth impulsively but, it seems like the right thing to do.

“Why should I?”

“She’s your sister. The best way to keep her alive is make sure her team is a strong one.” Kakashi does not admit that he’s out of his scope.

For once in his life he feels as if his genius is failing him. What good is it all if he can barely tolerate looking at his students.

Sasuke is too much like him at that age for Kakashi to know what to do.

Sakura is a whole planet away from what he’s used to dealing with. He’s sure that she’d put up with his training simply out of spite.

And Naruto…Naruto deserves someone who could love him.

“Isn’t that your job?”

“It is. I’m not asking you to train them. I’m asking you to watch and tell me if you still believe I’m not the right teacher for her.”

It’s a small, almost meaningless gesture but, it’s the most he can offer. He’s not used to dealing with families. His had died out too long ago for him to remember what it felt like. But he knows about the urge to protect. The gnawing pit that formed in your stomach, forcing you past your breaking point.

He thinks that Sakura is lucky to have a sister like that.

“Okay,” she agrees. 

Chapter Text

Sakura is not sure what to think when her sister announces that she will join their training session that morning. Training with Suzu was vastly different from training with Kakashi-sensei. Knowing her sister’s short temper and stubbornness, Suzu would do nothing but fight with Sensei.

A part of Sakura wanted to see it. If anyone could best Sensei, it was another jounin. People called Sensei, Kakashi of a Thousand-Jutsu, the copy-nin. Sakura didn’t know why, but she suspected it had to do with the what hid beneath his mask and hitai-ate.

Suzu had her own nicknames. Names that sunk like stones in a well.

Another part of Sakura wanted to be the one to do it. She had read the journals of Uzumaki Mito, the Slug Princess Tsunade, and Kiyoshi the Unbroken from Iwa.

Sakura wanted to be like that, a name so feared that people hesitated to even whisper it. She knew that she was strong. Her mind sharp and clear made it easy to pick things up.

 But, to Kakashi, to shinobi in general, Sakura had no name backing her up. Haruno was not a clan name and had all but died out with her father.

If Sakura wanted respect, she would have to take it herself.

When they arrive to the training field, a fine layer of mist has covered the ground. The cool air and early morning sun hints at the warm summer on the horizon. Suzu sets out a thick blanket on the ground, picnic basket full of food placed on the corner.

Sakura does her stretches as Suzu walks around the perimeter of the field, hands bushing against rough bark of the trees.

In the lonely days of her childhood, when Ino was the only friend she had known, and Suzu still lost in the madness of her mind, Sakura had watched her sister do the same thing. Runes, seals not known to any minds in this world, painted upon walls and windows.

Her mother had been the only one to edge Suzu back into the world. Now, it more an old habit to secure their surroundings than a serious attempt.

“Laps?” Sakura asks, bending over backwards. It was hard to believe that anyone enjoys running. If she wasn’t being chased, there was no point in the activity. Some, like Suzu and the Green-Beast that stalked Konoha, had lost whatever sense they had long ago.

“We can race. First to twenty laps wins,” Suzu says, stretching her arm over her chest.

“That’s not fair.”

“It wouldn’t be fair if I sat and watched. I’m doing the laps too. It’s not my fault if you’re slow.”

“That’s like pitting a rabbit against a fox.”

“Arguing won’t make you any faster.”

Sakura glares but, follows her sister into a crouch. She waits for her sister’s signal, feeling the pleasant buzz of energy fill her body. Suzu counts but, Sakura rushes off before she gets to three. Laughing at the displeased huff coming from behind her, she pushes her legs forward. For a brief few minutes, Sakura has the lead but, the burning in her legs eventually catches up and Suzu whizzes past her.

Suzu runs laps like dogs chase squirrels, enthusiastically and without any form. By the time Sakura had muddled her way through ten laps, Suzu had finished at least twenty.

“You have to be quicker, or you’ll be dead,” Suzu says, passing her by.

“Or you could be clever and not get caught.”

The scowl that draws Suzu’s lips is worth the stumble as her sister shoves her aside. Moments later, Sakura collapses in a sweaty heap on the grass next to her, hair forming a pink halo around her head. Suzu turns to look at her, eyes tracing over her face with a faraway look. Sometimes it’s as if she’s lost her anchor to this world. Sakura only hopes that she’s enough to pull her back.

“Hungry?” Suzu finally asks, lifting Sakura’s head into her lap. Sakura stares up at her, eyelids fluttering shut beneath the sun’s rays. Suzu leans forward a bit, letting her hair drape over Sakura’s face and blocking out the sun.

They settle in a quiet peace, one that can only be shared between sisters, a silence full of things known and not-known, said and unsaid.

 An hour later, when Sakura is fed and watered, Sasuke arrives, slinking into the field silently. His cool, dark eyes fall over her with an impassiveness she’s associated with the Uchiha despite not knowing many of them. The look makes her feel small.

Pushing the feeling deep inside where it can’t claw at her pulse any longer, Sakura gestures for him to sit. The sharpness of his features and strength to his movements leaves her feeling awkward and lanky.

“Sasuke-chan,” Suzu trills, giddily. She smooths out a section of the blanket and places a bento box in front of Sasuke. There are a few brief moments of silence, where Suzu and Sasuke simply stare at one another before he picks up the carefully prepared bento box.

“What time does Kakashi-san usually come?” Suzu asks, spreading out on the blanket. She props her head up on her hand, leaning on one elbow.

“Noon, sometimes later,” Sakura says. She turns to look at Sasuke who nods in confirmation. The harsh look that enters Suzu’s eyes leaves Sakura feeling chilly all over. Kakashi-sensei made a mistake that morning, sleeping in or whatever he does. If she knows her sister well, Suzu’s coiling up all her anger and annoyance with the man for when he come.


 

By the time Naruto arrives, stumbling in half-asleep and unkempt, Suzu has worked up a temper. She never had a team of her own, ANBU members were like leaves, coming and going as the seasons went. Genin teams always seemed like a bit of a dream to her and reminded her of Hermione and Ron. Her first few months of training, during the harsh trials that eventually led to a mask and a standard tanto blade, Suzu had wished desperately for someone else to be with her.

If there was one quality that Suzu shared with Harriet, it is the steadfast loyalty that runs in her veins. Konoha’s teams, the sacrifice that people like Hatake Sakumo made for their friends, that was something Suzu could understand. What she can’t understand is their sensei’s half-assed approach to taking care of them.

It’s no wonder then, that the sight of Naruto half asleep, shirt moth-bitten, and the crumbs of stale toast clinging to his mouth sends Suzu in a tizzy. She sits Naruto down next to Sasuke, shoving his bento towards it and topping it with the remaining half of her own breakfast.

“Thanks, nee-chan,” he says, shoving bits of egg into his mouth. Sasuke grimaces next to him but, makes no real move to leave.

“What have you all done so far? Strength exercises? Speed Training? Kunai practice?” Suzu asks, directing her attention towards Naruto. She knows enough from Sakura but wonders if the boys feel the same about their sensei’s attitude.

“No, nee-chan. We’ve been doing D-levels and a bit of those other things.”

“What about tai-jutsu? Nin-jutsu?”

“Kakashi-sensei doesn’t trust us with big jutsus but, he’s wrong. I told him; I’d be the best ninja ever. I’m going to be Hokage,” Naruto declares, eyes burning brightly. Suzu’s heart stutters for a moment, wondering briefly into a past memory of the Fourth Hokage.

No.

As much as Naruto is like his father and mother, he’s his own person as well. She won’t make the mistake to confuse him for them. Naruto still managed to see good in this village despite how it treated him.

“Konoha would be better off with a Hokage like you Naruto-chan,” Suzu says.

“Hn,” Sasuke tilts his chin upward as if he had been personally insulted. She wouldn’t be surprised if he was. No Uchiha had ever been Hokage.

“Don’t scoff, Sasuke-chan. The Fourth Hokage was an orphan without a clan to back him.”

“Was he really? Did you know him, nee-chan?”

“You remind me of him actually, Naruto. He was a genius in every sense of the word but, sometimes he’d come up with the inanest plans that left you wondering if he was mad.” This is as close as she’d ever come to telling him the truth. Another inane rule of the Hokage’s, though Suzu had never been allowed close enough when Naruto was a child to contemplate breaking it.

If she told him now, would he hate the demon inside him? Would it drive him mad?

“Thanks, nee-chan,” Naruto whispers, softly.

“Never let anyone tell you that you’re less than you are.” She takes Naruto’s clammy hand in hers, squeezing tightly to reassure both him and her. A shift in the air behind her had her tensing. Suzu drops Naruto’s hand, sitting with a stiff spine as Kakashi crouches on the ground next to her.

“Suzuran it’s a bit early to be so serious,” he drawls. A burst of anger, quick and explosive fills her before she swallows it back, leaning into the blank mask she’s mastered as a kunoichi. Cold as a crisp winter day, she turns to stare at him. If he is startled by the lack of fear in her eyes, he does not show it.

“You’re late,” she bites.

“I got caught up. A stray cat here, an old lady there. Time flies.” Disinterest lines the arch of his shoulders, even as he reaches past her, arm brushing her shoulder to grab the last of the rice balls. She catches his wrist between her fingers, squeezing tightly until his grip lessens and he lets her take the rice ball back.

“I don’t need excuses. Training your students is usually done to ensure their survival. If you can’t manage to show up on time, perhaps you should consider asking the Hokage for a reassignment.”

“They’ve managed just fine so far. Learning a bit of independence is healthy.”

Suzu takes a deep breath, ignoring Kakashi and turning back to the children. How can he not take this seriously? Fingers clenching tightly in the loose fabric of her shirt, Suzu pulls away from him and the children.

“Lesson time?” Kakashi asks.


He’s fucked up again. It’s easy to forget that his lateness isn’t appreciated by everyone. Most people put up with his bullshit because of sheer pity. Kunoichi had a talent of looking past the sob story and remembering that Kakashi was once a functioning human being.

Ignoring the chastising looks thrown his way by both Sakura and Sasuke, Kakashi brings out the bells, letting them dangle between his fingers.

The boys attack him first, Sasuke with a great show of chakra, a fire-ball worthy of an Uchiha. Naruto, like always, is brash and too reckless but enthusiastic.

Sakura does something behind his back. While he’s distracted by both Naruto and Sasuke, he sees her enter his field of vision, fingers brushing against his lower back with a sudden jolt.

The world falls apart.

His limbs, once light and limber have turned to stone. His body won’t listen. As he tries to lift his tongue, the weight of the movement strains all the muscles in his face. Panic rises for an instant before the feeling goes away and he stumbles forward.

Sakura, rosy cheeked and sweating, holds up the bells with a proud smile.

“What was that?” Kakashi demands, then realizing that neither of the boys were responsible, rounds on Sakura.

“Do it again,” he says, watching as Sakura’s face turns an even brighter red. He can feel Suzuran lingering at the edge of his vision, hovering like a bee over a flower. Sakura’s face scrunches up, her hands twisting to form the seals again.

His vision warps and pulls. He tries to take a step forward and finds his body frozen unable to move without gravity shifting. Even his hands refuse his commands, feeling heavier the more he tries to move them. He lets outs a pulse of chakra which eases the effect before Sakura breaks it herself.

“Where did you learn that?” he asks, breathing heavily.

“Nowhere. I read a book.” Her voice, high-pitched and panicked, reminds him of how he used to reassure his father after doing something he wasn’t supposed to. “Michi and the Seven Cats of Yomi. Michi snares one of the bakeneko with a charm that makes his body grow heavy like a stone. I thought that we could use a genjutsu to do the same.”

“Genjutsu can’t effect your physical body, it can only make you think it does.”

“I know. Suzu’s a master at lighting chakra, she said that some Kumo-nin use it for medical purposes. I thought if we combine the effects, we can trick the body into believing the genjutsu too.”

“How old were you? When you did this?”

“Eight but, I didn’t perfect it until later.” He looks at her again, seeing the pieces fall into place. Raised by a genius, a girl who was placed in ANBU right out of the academy, who was a pawn of Danzōand anyone else with the slightest bit of power. What would someone like that do to stop the same thing from happening to her own family?

He turns to look at Suzuran, the worried lines around her eyes, the clenched fist at her side.

“Enough,” Suzuran calls, meeting his gaze evenly. A noise like lightning striking stone erupts and the next moment she’s in front of him. Kakashi jumps backward as her hand comes out to strike him. For a couple of moments, she plays with him, hands brushing his shirt, legs just missing him.

When she grows bored of the evasiveness, a sharpness enters her gaze putting him on the edge. The next tangle of limbs has his elbow caught in her grip, her leg forcing his from the ground. A twist has him on the ground, back hitting the dirt with a dull thud. His elbow grows cool and numb, too heavy from him to lift.

Gritting his teeth against whatever she’s done, he pushes himself into a crouch.

“Lion,” Kakashi says, recognizing the fluidity in her movements. He’d fought with her before and it had never been pretty. Suzuran smiles grimly, all teeth, stretched and taunt. Cold drips down his spine, the realization striking him with sudden clarity. For all the bloodline strengths that Sasuke and Naruto were granted, Sakura had the distinct advantage of living with a legend of ANBU. Whatever natural power the boys held, would be matched in sheer will-power and brains.

“I haven’t been that for a while.”

“It doesn’t go away.”

His hand twitches at his side, desperate to pull away his hitai-ate and unleash the sharingan. He’s seen enough of Lion’s skills in the field to know that they are unevenly matched without the mirror-eye.

As if she’s aware of his thoughts, her body relaxes, arms loosening like willow branches in the wind. Kakashi does not follow suit, every part of him brims with stinging awareness.

"Relax,” she says. In ANBU, she had been forgettable. Brown eyes, dark hard, slim, and hard. A face easily hidden among thousands of others. It was her mask that made her memorable. With the mask, she was the quickest kill in all ANBU.

“That’s a bit hard to do at the moment.”

“An angry ninja is a dead one.”

“I’m not angry,” he snaps back.

“Good. The bells was the Fourth’s test. It’s works best when there’s an established team dynamic.”

“It’s training technique to develop team dynamics.”

“Says the only living member of his team.” He flinches away from the words, surprised at the coldness of her tone. Like all their past interactions, bitterness and a lack of tact lend a sharp edge to their words. Kakashi, unused to the lack of control he feels, backs off.

“I’ll end the exercise here then. Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, get your things, you’re dismissed for the afternoon. Meet back here tomorrow at noon.”

A tense silence grows as the children pack their things. Suzuran won’t meet his gaze and for once he doesn’t mind. There’s something about the cool green that strikes him numb.

Once they’re far enough away, he sighs letting some of the tenseness fade away. Making his way over to Suzuran, he holds a hand out to her, pulling her up from the ground. Pink strands fall from her face, pushed through the air by the soft breeze. He will not admit that she’s pretty, in the way that women are when they are unafraid and young. She reminds him desperately of a newly sprung leaf in spring, bursting with a quite energy and hinting at future warmth.

He guides her towards the Memorial Stone. There are no apologies to be traded between them anymore. He understands her fears better than he had before today.


 

Suzu looks at the worn stone, the names carved into the face of it. Most of them are blank, empty faces, people who had died like whispers in the dark.

“Sometimes it’s hard to come here,” Kakashi admits. The sound of his voice cracks the fragile silence they had built. Suzu is certain that he hadn’t meant for her to hear. She knows the rumors, facts when they come from a shinobi’s mouth.

Kakashi is a man wracked with guilt and forced to deal with loss after loss. Everyone’s seen him here at one point or another, speaking for hours on end or paying a silent vigil for his fallen friend.

She wonders if he’d loved him.

She doesn’t ask or voice the thoughts that are on the tip of her tongue. Whatever help he needs, she can’t give. Though she remembers working with him in ANBU, he’s still a stranger to her. There’s no use telling him to go to therapy.

Despite the Yamanaka’s consent urging for phycological evaluations and mandated therapy, they’re still just bodies to the Hokage. Kakashi is part of an era that saw ninja as the Hokage’s weapons and no more. A couple of words from her wouldn’t change that.

It’s moments like this, looking at the trauma of another shinobi that reminds Suzu of how not normal this world is. Even Sakura, who Suzu never hide anything from, does not understand that their world is a broken one built on decades of violence.

Though, she too is bitter and ruined from this world, Suzu is like a scar, pink gnarled skin that has knotted over some great wound. Stronger for having survived, but never quite the same.

“It should be. If it was easy, then everything they died for meant nothing.” She feels more than see’s Kakashi’s gaze. The few times she had been on missions with him in ANBU, she had caught a rare glimpse of his sharingan, the red spinning in relentless circles.

Now, with the ANBU porcelain gone from his face, she can catch the slight edge of the scar underneath his hitai-ate. His mask covers the rest and Suzu had never been inclined to catch a peek. In the academy, she’d heard a rumor that he had worn it because he looked like his father. Now, Suzu wonders how true that is.

“How old was Sakura?” Kakashi asks, shoulders brushing against her own. Suzu looks up, watching the quiet stillness of his face. This is a real mask, she thinks. Turning back, she finds the name that he’s looking at. Obito Uchiha. The world they live in was cruel. For Kakashi, doubly so.

“Seven,” Suzu answers. Kakashi’s breathing stops for a quick moment, the rise and fall of his chest halts. She wonders how old he had been. Suzu had been only four when Hatake Sakumo committed suicide, but she had decades of life lingering in her head. She remembers the man walking through Konoha, aimlessly as bitter whispers hit him with the same sting of a senbon.

“She was all alone.” Horror lingers at the edge of Kakashi’s words.

“I was on a mission,” Suzu says, her voice low, barely heard over the wind. “When I came back, I smelled the blood from down the street.”

“And Sakura?”

“No one should have to watch their parent’s die, Kakashi. Not that young,” her voice seizes in her throat. Memories of her mother rise behind her burning eyes. Kakashi turns away from the stone, staring down at her with a heavy gaze.

“You were right, I treated her wrongly because of my own biases. I won’t make that mistake again.” His voice is steady and stately, as if he were some lost noble pledging his fealty to a daimyo.

“You probably will. It’s hard to let go of all the privilege you’ve had. You were born to a clan and the world told you that you were better because of it.”

“I’ll try then,” he concedes.

“That’s all I can ask for I suppose.”

She turns away from Kakashi, leaving him to his stone and mourning. She cannot help but think of the ghosts that lingered in the Great Hall long after their deaths.

In the mist and fog, hidden beneath the cool shade of Hashirama’s trees, Kakashi looks more ghost than man.