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flash in the nick of time

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Shikamaru is going to die and Sakura cannot watch it happen. 

She knows him now, knows him better than she should, maybe. He's her comrade. He's her friend. She had felt his absence keenly when he left for Miyajima Forest, the dwelling place of the deer summons that contracted selectively even among the Nara. He had come back a sage, right in the nick of time to save the world. Save the village, rather. 

The Naru-Sasu-Saku was a heavy demolition and distraction type of team. The flash and the bang, if you would. They had been assigned to keep Pein's different bodies separate from one another, and to kill as many of them as possible if they managed to corner one. 

That was before Shikamaru led an army of deer bigger than grown shinobi from the bowels of Fire Country into the decimated village, coming up behind Pein and destroying any hope for Akatsuki's retreat. 

Now, with Shikamaru pinned, with his beautiful healing-summoning-soothing hands pierced through with those strange, black chakra receivers; with his magnificent buck, bright green in color with one broken horn thrown onto his side, choking beneath the arm of one of Pein's burly bodies. Now, Sakura throws herself forward. 

There was a reason the Haruno settled in Fire Country; it was always good to be invaded on a sunny day. 

Sakura gathers as much yin chakra into her eyes as possible, summoning up chakra as she does, and when she squeezes her eyes tight, holds her hands and fingers in Bird. 

When she sees the world again, she is moving as quick as the light from the sun does. 

Sakura is well aware she will get chewed to heaven and hell and back again if she lives through the Haruno forbidden technique. Her mother will bring her back to life just to punt her into death again. But she's willing to take that chance. Or rather, she has to be. 

Because she's already done it. 

For the first half a second, her eyes begin to bleed, and then Sakura realizes that time hasn't accounted for her yet. She recovers herself with a quickness that only a kunoichi could, and as her organs shudder to follow her, she runs. 

The speed of her attacks makes up for the lack of strength she can display during the jutsu, so when she goes to release Shikamaru's buck, she takes half of Pein's path with her. And when she goes to release Shikamaru, she tears the chakra receiver out of his hands and throws it, and it flies, far out of the stratosphere. 

She tries, she tries to land a hit before she blinks, but her eyes can't take the strain, and neither can her body, and just before her fist can connect with Pein's wicked, still face, Sakura slumps. 

She can see Shikamaru from where she is on the ground. She fell on her side, and he turns his face towards hers. Time accounts for Sakura again, and it all goes very slowly until it goes back to normal again. 

"Sa - Sa - ,"

Her name sounds warbled and far away in his mouth, and the blood in her eyes is mixing with some kind of enzyme in her blood, designed by genetics and fate and the gods to protect her should this ever happen. But Sakura is well aware of what she's lost today. Of what she's done. Not blind, maybe. Her eyes were made for the strain. But her body. Her bones. Her very blood. 

She might have just ended her shinobi career. 

But that was the point, wasn't it? To be ready to give your life for your precious people. That was what Kakashi-sensei had taught her, and what Sakumo-sensei had taught Sakura's parents before them. Always use your most powerful techniques in the defense of precious people.

Sakura smiles, even as blood tacks her eyelashes together, even as Shikamaru reaches out, his hand glowing green, trying to help her even now. She reaches out, tries to feel for her fingers but she - she can't quite feel - 

Shikamaru's hand on her cheek. And she knows it by the sandalwood smell of him, by the earthy power-chakra-smell still on him from his Forest. She sees him, standing over her, a pelt on his shoulders, and from his forehead, slowly  extend a small pair of bone-white antlers. Shikamaru's sclera go black as his pupils, and the hand on Sakura's cheek somehow gets softer. 

'He's a sage,' someone in the back of her mind reminds her. 'You're a sage, and he's healing you.'

A laugh tries its way out of her chest, but she doesn't quite make it. Instead, she opens her mouth and croaks, "Can wait." 

Shikamaru's expression breaks when she says it, but when she murmurs, "Kick ass," a kind of smile settles on his face that goes grim with determination the next time he looks up. He makes a sign with one hand and a swipe of his blood, and then Sakura is being lifted gently onto the back of a doe who bears her away to the infirmary. 

The blood from Sakura's eyes stains the white doe's pelt, but she has enough control to turn her head over her shoulder, and look back at him as she is taken away. Shikamaru is standing tall, his back to her, the wind tousling in his loose hair. 

'In defense of a precious person.'

She falls asleep knowing her sensei would be very proud of her for this.