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so different but still the same.

Chapter Text

“It’s okay, I’ve always wanted to have a near-death experience by accidentally slipping off the Hokage Monument and being saved at the last second!”

 

Genma eyes the girl incredulously-- one hand lifting the girl by the ankle and actually contemplating if he should just let go. 

The girl didn’t seem to really mind her compromising upside down position. Her loose leg hangs bent to the side, one arm falling to gravity but the other tugging her chinese dress down across her crotch despite the ninja shorts she wore underneath.

Sakura looks so nonchalant about it that Genma can swear it isn’t the first time she’s done this. The pink-haired girl grins, almost proudly.

He’s not a fan of manhandling children, so he lifts Sakura carefully across one arm and steps off the Second Hokage’s Rock Monument.

 

Setting the girl down on her feet, he watches the girl dust herself off, arms occasionally cutting in and out of her long pink hair and getting stuck. 

“So,” he huffs finally, kneeling down to reach her eye level, “how old are you now, Sakura-chan?”

The child beams proudly, “I’m three!”

“And did your Mommy teach you anything about how three-year-olds shouldn’t wander off to the Hokage Rock on their own?”

“Not really, but Mommy did tell me not the eat needles.”

Genma all but sputters, hacking out the last of his self esteem (he swears Raidou is laughing back there but he’ll strangle him later) and actually doubling over at the critical hit.

Taking the senbon out of his mouth and tucking it away into his headband, (he’s definitely not bothered by a kid’s words. He definitely isn’t,) he turns to the girl with all the patience of the Second Hokage, “now, Sakura-chan, try not to come here without your Mommy, alright? If you fall off, you could get seriously hurt.”

“I’ll be fine,” Sakura tucks her hands confidently at her hips, “I mean, you were here! If I fall off again I guess you can just catch me again.”

“Sakura-chan, I think you’re missing the point--”

“...You won’t catch me if I fall again?” 

Genma drops in horror when Sakura’s eyes brim with tears. The three-year-old shivers, sniffling and rubbing her eyes, “you’ll leave me to die ?”

 

Genma’s heart sinks in, not exactly guilt, but utter mortification, “No!” he jumps quickly desperate, “that’s not what I meant! Uh! Of course I’d save you, I’d save you no matter what! Yeah, I’d die for you, Sakura-chan, but-”

“...there’s a but?” Sakura was ready to burst into tears again.

“No! There’s no but!” at this point Genma’s gesticulating so wildly he’s drenched from headband to socks in cold sweat, “I just meant that I uh, no-”

 

“Sakura-chan!” 

Genma freezes.

The Yamanaka daughter marches up the stairs, shoving aside a guffawing Raidou (oh Genma was going to murder him) and stomping straight for her fellow three-year old.

For a moment, Genma expected the girl to give him a stern talking to about making girls cry (after all it’s Inoichi ’s kid and if that doesn’t strike horror into every Jounin nothing does), but instead the girl barely seems to acknowledge the TokuJou as she puffs her chest up in a show of anger and breathes out deeply.

Then, she sums it up: “No!” 

 

And Sakura cries out an ugly baby whine, as if her mother had just grounded her, “but I’ve always wanted to try the Puppy Eyes to get out of trouble!”

Wait, what?

“You promised we’d go to the flower field to find Marigolds today!” Ino returns sharply, taking the girl by the wrist and tugging her up to her feet.

 

The girl is gone by the time Genma gathers enough of himself to realize he’d been totally played by a three-year-old . And patience be damn, Genma was ready to pinch the girl’s cheeks until they were redder than her ribbon.

 

“SAKURA-CHAN!”

Chapter Text

A day in Konoha starts something like this.

An old lady screams, and two hungover shinobi stumble disastrously into fighting stance, panic making them forget how to hold kunai. They juggle it around like hot potatoes before their minds swirl to the source of the scream, and whatever the old lady’s shivering finger was pointing at.

 

The little lady of the Haruno house is sitting on the roof of the Dango House.

Eating a jar of mayonnaise. 

Straight from the jar, with a spoon.

 

Sakura turns around and meets the two shinobi straight in the eye-- her brows furrowed, her glance sharp and moody.

She slowly takes another large spoonful, and without breaking eye contact, she makes sure they see her eat it.

 

The two shinobi run away screaming.

Just another day in Konoha.

 

-

 

“Ino…” Uncle Inoichi is almost scared to speak up, “what… are you eating?”

 

He knows his daughter and Haruno’s girl are good friends. He has nothing against the more… impulsive nature of the latter girl, but this .

He expects a lot of things when he comes home from a mission that lasts all night. A loving wife. An excited daughter greeting him home.

He doesn’t expect to see his daughter at the doorstep, eating mayonnaise straight from a jar.

 

To his shoulder-dropping relief, Ino beams up at him, proudly proclaiming that “it’s Sakura-chan’s homemade pudding! Want some?”

An exasperated palm on his face, he just prays the headache would stop one day. 

“Do I want to know why it’s in a mayonnaise jar?”

 

“I dunno,” Ino scoops another spoonful into her mouth, humming delightfully at the sweet, sweet caramel-- oh, she could get addicted to this. 

Inoichi pinches the bridge of his nose, the headache coming but he knows that won’t help, so he resigns himself to fate and asks, “and where is our lovely cherry blossom herself?”

 

Ino doesn’t look up from her pudding, “I’m not sure how but she made some adults cry, so she’s running away.”

Inoichi eyes the mayonnaise jar with a sort of disgusted understanding, and lets out a long, suffering sigh.

He was going to have to talk to the Harunos about their daughter. Again

 

“Inoichi, dear, welcome home!” his wife, god bless her soul , greets him home, “I set out the futon for you!”

Inoichi almost cries, because yeah, that sounds great.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Sakura stays so still, Mebuki thinks she’s a statue. 

(But the girl is blinking. Breathing, although it takes a while to see it. Leaning against the wall, legs pulled straight and hands at her sides like a mannequin-- quietly watching from where her head has lolled a little to the side. Sakura doesn’t lift her head until Mebuki reaches over to ask what’s wrong.)

Sometimes, Sakura is so motionless, Kizashi wonders if she’s dead. 

(Then he panics, freaks out, and gets mini heart attack. He affirms she’s alive, and sighs audibly in relief. Sakura giggles a little, and teases her father amusedly. Kizashi never tells her how infrequently she blinks, the still and lifeless way she stares; and he never tells her how much it scares him.)

 

“See that guy? Slap him.”

“Why?” 

“He’s wearing crocs.

 

Sakura pouts at that, “that’s not a reason to slap random passersby,” she purses her lips and decides she’ll be firm with it, if it’s just this. She may be three years old, but she’s been in enough trouble today! Mama’s going to confiscate her ice cream!

“But he’s wearing crocs ! He’s wearing the abomination of a shoewear in the ninja age and he’s walking around with them and I swear that’s the ANBU that was following you last week okay how dare a proud shinobi even put those things on his feet-”

“Don’t be mean, you’re just a talking voice in my head!” Sakura reprimands.

“And you’re just a pink-haired monkey with a big forehead!”

“Wait, did you say he was following me?”

“Oh NOW you hear the important part?”

“He’s a stalker!” Sakura declared, pointing accusingly, “Mama said I’m allowed to kick stalkers in the butt.”

“No, he’s a ninja. He’ll be guarding his dick. So aim for the following major arteries--”

 

“Sa~a-ku-ra, -chan!” there’s Ino, calling out to her from the street, voice obnoxiously loud on purpose as she cups her mouth to make a show of the holler as she sings her words out, “what’re you doing up the~e-ere?”

And Sakura grins, cupping her own mouth and hollering back in her own tune, “no~o~thi-ng, I’m just bo~o-red!!”

There’s a silence as the two girls burst into giggles.

 

Sakura hops onto her feet, staggering dangerously on the slanted roof and stepping a few paces to grab a radio pole so she’d regain her balance.

She spins down with a delighted squeal, laughing as the shopkeeper squawks and leaps in to catch her. 

The moment she’s set down, she grabs Ino by the hand and they run for the park. The shopkeeper’s lecture fell on deaf ears, and Sakura isn’t about to ask him to repeat it.

 

With a fond sigh, life continues, and Sakura momentarily forgets about the voice in her head.

Chapter Text

“Have you ever wanted to adopt a kid?”

“But I’m a kid too?” Sakura more often than not finds herself unable to understand some of what Inner Sakura told her to do. 

She’s alone today by the sand pit, the lower tips of her shirt and most of her pants dusty, but she doesn’t really care much. The sun’s long set, but Sakura waits for her mother to pick her up.

Maybe she should’ve followed Ino when her mom picked her up… oh well, she’s always wanted to stay out super duper late and have some sketchy scary encounter with the supernatural. Or suspicious cliche badboys, whichever.

“Pick up a kid by the street and make your parents house him. Become friends with someone no one ever talks to. Extroverts have to adopt introverts, it’s law.”

“You sure use a lot of tough words…” Sakura mulls over that. Inner never bothers to explain much, but if she does, her explanations end with more questions.

“Kid. Lonely. Talk.”

“Ohhh, I get it!”

 

“Uhm…” 

Sakura perks up at the voice that isn’t hers. Did the suspicious cliche finally happen?

“Uhm, you’ve been talking to yourself for a while now… why?”

Sakura swirls her head around until she finds a boy by the swing. The boy’s yellow hair stark against the darkness, and his white shirt reflecting the moonlight so brightly he was hard to, well, not spot. 

A scowl set on his face, the boy regards the girl with a raised eyebrow, obviously weirded out by her conversation with herself. His hand clutches hesitatingly on the rope of the swing.

“I’ve heard of you. You’re the crazy girl everyone talks about or something,” he notices, and tells the girl as if she wasn’t already aware.

Sakura doesn’t mind if he was kinda rude. “I found a lonely-looking boy!” she declares with newfound joy, raising her hands in a victorious cheer.

“A lonely-looking-- wait, me?!”

“Can I adopt you?”

“Can you wha-- NO! Are you crazy?”

“Ehhh, but why noot?”

When Sakura bounces up from her spot, a hand dragging lazily through the dust on her shirt, she makes her way over to the swing in easy, long steps.

The boy looks like he has half a mind to run away right now, but he’s too terrified to try. He curls up in the swing, legs on the seat, and body turned back in case he’ll need to bolt out of there--

Not sensing the boy’s discomfort at all, the girl laughs and gives one hand forward, “I’m Sakura!”

The boy eyes the hand almost incredulously.

“Am I uh, supposed to take that?” he asks, skeptical.

Sakura raises an eyebrow, “have you never gotten a handshake before?”

“Huh? Of course I have!” the boy’s reaction is explosive, almost offended, then he mutters lowly, “like, from Gramps, maybe.” 

Sakura hears it and pouts.

The boy seems to shake that thought away, hand reaching out to take the girl’s in his before he can hesitate again, “uh, and oh right, I’m Naruto!”

“Nice to meet’cha, Naruto!” Sakura grins, “there’s still a while before my Mama comes, so wanna play together?”

“...what?”

 

“It’s still a while before my--”

“I heard you the first time! I mean, like,” Naruto is flustering now, hands gesticulating wildly in some form of a panic, “you, uh-- wanna… play with me?”

“Could I have meant anything else?” Sakura sneers, a little annoyed by the boy’s apparent reluctance to engage in a playdate with her. She crosses her arms and scoffs, “you’re lonely over here, anyways.”

“I’m not lonely!” says the boy defensively.

“Well, I am. So play with me!” the girl demands with a huff.

Quicker than Naruto can react, the girl grabs him by the wrist, essentially dragging him off the swing and into the sand pit, laughing.

The boy squeaks, stumbles, and falls face first. But he scrambles up anyways, and with a complaint that fell on deaf ears, a late night sandcastle battle begins.

“Well, I see you’re taking my advice.”

“But he said no to adoption,” Sakura reports to her Inner Voice.

“That’s the trick, Sakura. You’ve already adopted him.”

Chapter Text

Naruto never really understood things.

Sometimes, he would be doing something as simple as buying groceries, and the shopkeeper would cast wary, distrustful frowns in his direction.

Other times, he would be walking down the street and people would make sure not to be in his path. Parents would hastily lead their children to the other side of the road-- with fearful glances sent Naruto’s way, as if they wanted nothing to do with him-- even crossing his path.

It was when he tried to play with the kids in the park, and they said no, shoving him aside with scornful sneers, that Naruto finally got the clue.

He’s being hated.

 

Was it something he did? Naruto didn’t ask, because it had to be. Naruto had unconsciously offended them, somehow, and Naruto didn’t think he should be asking.

His ANBU guard had found him in the park one late night, and walked him home. But even he simply told the boy to get some sleep, and had left without even taking a step into Naruto’s apartment.

Naruto understood that he should stop being such a nuisance .

 

Uzumaki Naruto. His bed was cold and he was always alone. The ANBU guard is apparently always around, but they were trying really hard to make it seem like they’re not.

So like any other day, Naruto walks the street, taking the sides of the roads, alleys, and the less busy areas. He doesn’t have many places to be, anyways. He enters a park only after the group of kids have left-- so he can perhaps spend some time on the swing, without anyone knowing.

He lives his life in the shadows, because he’s desperate to not interfere with anyone’s lives.

The entire village can still happen without him-- so he roams the towns quietly, wordlessly-- without being noticed. It’s better that way, for everyone.

 

He curls into his cold, lonely bed, and he tries to tell himself he’s okay like this.

If he dies, he’ll be forgotten and that, well, thankfully, wouldn’t trouble anyone either.

Chapter Text

“Sakura dearie, why are you up so early?” Mebuki calls out from her spot on the dining table.

 

Sakura, awake much to early for her age, peeks into the room in all her pink and red glory, “I’m going to wander around compounds I’m probably not supposed to be in, get lost, and see if magic mountain beasts will take me in and teach me their secret overpowered skills!”

“That’s great, sweetie,” Mebuki sips on her coffee, eyes back on her newspaper, “come home in time for dinner, alright?”

“Bye, Mama!”

 

With a click of the door, she’s gone.

Kizashi facepalms, “why is this completely normal to you?”

Mebuki shrugs. “Puberty?”

“She’s three years old!” Kizashi retorts automatically, more on instinct than reason, because yes , both of them are well aware puberty doesn’t hit at three years old, but this girl is literally still a toddler! Albeit, a horrifying one, but still.

He slumps into his seat with a sort of exasperation in his posture, “my goodness, it’s only been three years since we’ve had her?”

“She may be young, but this is a ninja land, she’ll be fine,” Mebuki offers hopefully, “but I fear for the future of that child. I already pity whoever fate has set out for her to marry.” 

Kizashi buries his face into his hand, and the groan that rumbles out of his throat reverberates in utter exhaustion.

“If she ends up corrupting little Ino, Inoichi will have my head,” he mourns.

“A little late for that now, don’t you think?”

“Please write my will for me.”

Chapter Text

“Trespasser!” the boy declares, kunai in his hand (it’s a rubber kunai. Thank the lords) as he stares the girl down as menacing as his chubby cheeks could.

“Pardon me, but I feel like I’m being threatened by a cupcake .

Sakura raises a brow at her inner voice’s response. She personally thinks cupcakes are yummy. Icing and tea would go well with them. She prefers anko, though. Anko dumplings, Anmitsu, Anpan-- oh, and that honey thing!

“Sakura, I’ll have to remind you that I hate anko. I hate red beans. Stop it- wait no! That’s not the point!”

Back on topic, Sakura beams at the boy.

“Hi, are you a fairy?” she asks, innocence radiating out of her like beams out of a flashlight.

The response she gets is a frankly appalled, completely unexpected, “what’s a fairy?”

 

She blanches, “you don’t know what a fairy is??” she’s absolutely horrified, “that cannot be left alone. You’re coming with me,” she grabs him by the wrist.

They march deeper into the forest.

Sasuke barely manages to get a ‘huh’ out before he’s busy dodging tree branches and roots. The girl that grabbed him was a little shorter, but she had the firmest grip Sasuke had ever been exposed to. Even his mother didn’t pull on him this roughly.

He hops abruptly over something black. He wonders what that was, turning to look at it-- then he smacks headfirst into a tree branch and yelps.

The girl doesn’t seem to notice, and was seaming through thick vines.

Sasuke was entirely occupied just trying to stay alive, so he ends up following the girl wherever she was trying to go, forgetting to keep track of his bearings.

 

They emerge in a clearing. A small, tree-canopied clearing, just enough for a picnic mat and a couple of children to crowd around.

Sasuke has no idea what a blue and cherry-pink patterned mat is doing in the middle of the Uchiha grounds, but at least the girl has already let go of his hand.

“This is my secret hideout!” the girl declares proudly.

“This is like, behind my grandpa’s house.” 

“Details, details!” 

 

The girl totters behind Sasuke, edging him forward until he’s just a pace before the mat. She kicks off her shoes (Sasuke eyes it incredulously, because she kicked off her shoes that’s the first time Sasuke has ever seen anyone do that) and sits down on the further edge of the mat.

She pats the spot in front of her, “c’mon, c’mon sit down!” she waves at him, producing a book from behind the tree (what? Was that magic??) and opening it. “I’ll tell you a story about fairies!”

Sasuke freezes. “You can read?!”  

 

And immediately he’s on the mat, shoes somewhere under the root of that tree over there because he kicked it too far. But for now at least, he doesn’t care.

“Itachi-nii said I’m too young to learn how to read,” he whines, “is it different for girls?”

“Dunno!” Sakura makes way for the boy to settle beside her so they can both see the book, “I can’t read either, but the voice in my head can!”

“The voice in your head?” Sasuke asks, “who’s that?”

“Hmmm, I guess he’s kinda like a fairy?” she honestly doesn’t know, “sometimes he’s cranky, other times he’s a girl.”

“Okay,” that made no sense but Sasuke decides not to dwell, “but he can read?”

“Yep!” the girl is bright.

Sakura opens the book widely in the around-center of the picnic mat, and opened to a page with an amazing illustration of some sort of mythical fairy goddess.

“Once upon a time,” 

And she echoes.

Chapter Text

“Look, Sasuke, ducks!”

Sakura bounces over to the river, her shoes forgotten. Mama duck was waddling in the water, a trail of ducklings jittering after her.

“You forgot your shoes, Sakura,” Sasuke went around to gather the footwear, his own and hers, “wait, ducks? Sakura, we can’t go near the river, Itachi-nii said it’s dangerous.”

“But ducks!” she reasons.

“Uh, okay then,” Sasuke approaches the river, crouching down near the edge.

The duck is a sheen of white, looking harmless and still fluffy despite being drenched. It looks soft enough to cuddle, but Sasuke knew better than to touch it.

With the grip unbecoming of a little girl, Sakura scoops a duckling out of the water. Mama duck squawks, literally leaping out of the water in alarm.

“Now we run!”

“What?”

In a second Sakura bobbled up, a struggling duckling in her hand, and without wearing her shoes she was scampering right off.

Mama duck attacks Sasuke, who shrieks, and runs after Sakura with their shoes in hand. Mama duck hops out of the water, a murderous glint in her eyes-- and gives chase.

Sasuke is terrified. Sakura is laughing.

“Hm? Sasuke?”

To their saving grace, a figure crosses their path, seemingly having been searching for him already. Sasuke’s eyes lit up at the sight of his brother.

“Itachi-nii!!!”

Sakura turns around, “weasel?” then crashes into Itachi because she hadn’t been looking. Right after that, Sasuke jumps onto Itachi’s shoulders, tears in his eyes.

“The duck’s gonna kill us!”

“Mama duck will chase us down to the depths of the sky!”

Itachi, crowded by two shrieking mongrels, holds onto the kids and shunshins away with them. 

They find themselves in front of the main house, and Sasuke promptly hobbles off and runs to his mother, crying about how ducks were demons.

Itachi sighs, and turns his attention to the little girl still clinging one-handed to her waist.

“So, I suppose you are Haruno Sakura?” he says, because well, at this point, there wasn’t a soul in the village that didn’t know this troublemaker.

Sakura beams, “hi!”

The eight-year-old manages to smile back with the maturity of a saint, “hi, I’m Itachi. What are you doing in the Uchiha Compound?”

“I was trying to find pixies!” she responds, like it was a common, daily thing in this ninja land.

To Itachi’s freezing horror Sasuke emerges beside him, talking back, “no, we can’t find them, if we find them they’ll disappear!” he clings to the other side of Itachi.

Sakura, still cupping something in her hand, pouts.

“Then I can be captured and put into fairy jail in fairy land,” she says defiantly.

“They’ll suck your happiness out!” Sasuke whines.

Itachi wonders how exactly he ended up in the middle of this quarrel that made absolutely no sense. He didn’t want to think about it.

“Sakura, what’s that in your hand?” 

“A new friend!” 

“No!” 

Composure lost, Itachi shoots down, trying to snatch the duck out of the girl’s hands-- but the girl is quicker, dodging him. 

“We need to give that back to Mama duck,” he reasons, sounding very less like the ninja he was supposed to be and sounding rightfully more like an eight year old older brother.

“No, we’re keeping him!” Sakura pouts.

“I wanna keep him too,” Sasuke agrees and Itachi whirls around, oh no, Sasuke’s been corrupted in less than an hour!  

“I’m naming him Chicken!” Sakura declares proudly.

“No, we’re naming him Eagle!” Sasuke says, tightening his grip on Itachi’s shirt.

“Kids, that’s a duck,” Itachi mutters in resignation.

Chapter Text

“Izumo and Kotetsu will be needed for a mission, so in the meantime, Mibu Shinobu and Uzuki Yugao will be in charge of guarding the gates.”

“Yes, sir!”

“You’ll get your mission brief from your team leader… which is, Kurenai.”

“Got it, Hokage-sama.”

“You’ll set off in two hour’s time, this mission is an B-rank. Stay safe.”

“Thank you very much. Let’s go, Kotetsu! Race ya to the gates!”

 

Hiruzen sighs, watching the two Chuunin bicker as they chased each other out his office-- it was like they were children again, being comfortable and excited at the thought of a new mission. 

“What’s with them?” Yugao shrugs.

“Maybe they’re happy they get to stretch themselves out after gate duty?” Shinobu suggests. “Or maybe they’re just glad they can avoid little Sakura for a while.”

At that, Hiruzen perks up.

“What did Sakura do this time?” 

 

The pregnant silence that ensues is almost humorous.

The two burst like a dam.

“I came back to the Jounin Centre one day and everyone was playing the floor is lava!!  Even Shikaku-san, and that had to be utterly horrifying cause he has his Shadow Possession--”

“Carrot zombies in the shopping district! Carrot zombies!!” Yugao sounded near tears, “I don't even know how a cooking mishap turned out to that, but then she found a pony at the stables and-- the poor little steed was terrified!”

“She lifted little Konohamaru into the air on top of the Hokage Monument and just started screaming about the circle of life!” 

“She broke into the Inuzuka main house at 2:00 a.m. to pet all the dogs .”

“She exploded glitter in Kotetsu’s face because she wanted him to take off the bandages. He said it was a fashion statement and said no, so they started fighting in front of the village entrance until Izumo had to knock the boke out.”

“Oh, he did that to Genma too because she wanted to borrow his bandanna,” a pause, “unfortunately she succeeded and Genma was depressed for a week.”

“Really, did you hear about the time she snuck into the Hyuuga house and put makeup on Hizashi-dono?” Yugao was exasperated at this point, more debating with Shinobu than talking to the Hokage, “and apparently he just let it happen because she was cute.”

“Well, we can’t deny she’s cute,” Shinobu folds his arms, “she even got Uchiha Fugaku to take in a pet duck last week. Mikoto-dono is head over heels for the little girl.”

 

“Now, now,” Hiruzen finally speaks up, waving a hand in their direction, “I think I’ve heard quite enough. I’ll speak to little Sakura about this.”

And the two Chuunin fumble, “we- we are very sorry to trouble you with the matter, Lord Hokage!”

“It is no issue at all,” he breathes out heavily, “hurry on now, gate duty won’t wait on you.”

“Yes, sir!” they salute quickly, and shunshin out of there.

 

Hiruzen, hands interlocked under his chin, watches the spot they were in for a few more moments.

Then, he sighs.

“So, Sakura, what are you doing under my desk?”

 

A squeak, “oh no, he found me!”