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Fragmentary Foregoing

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The road was quiet, despite the war going on. Actually, it was because of the war that it was quiet. The second world war was worse than the first, but it was only inevitable that it would be that way. People grow, techniques develop and the world progresses. People get selfish in their wants and violent when they don’t get it.

…Or something like that.

That’s what Naruto has had to adjust to since coming here almost a year ago. She had died- finally killing Madara- only to meet somebody. Meeting the Shinigami was an experience, even more so upon learning that he had a request. Though one didn’t say no to the God of Death either way.

Madara broke a lot of rules that were laid out for humanity and neither he nor his sister liked that. Because of the shiki fuin seal, it was easier to meet her when she died and because of fate they knew she would die.

Or shouldn’t have, but they changed it so she did. Or something- she didn’t know. All she knew was that because she killed Madara before, she had to do it again. The bastard Uchiha killed thousands and changed things that weren’t supposed to change.

More than that he played a God. They didn’t like that.
(Which Naruto thought was ironic, given that they were shinobi. And shinobi loved to play god. She wouldn’t lie and say that she hasn’t played at judge, jury and executioner before.)

They barely waited until she knew what she had to do before launching her back down to earth. She could say with her whole self that they weren’t her favorite people by any means. They said that she achieved peace in her land with Madara dead, or as close as it could get. But it wasn’t enough, the deeds were done and people were dead. Too many dead and not enough time. It wasn’t enough.

She wasn’t enough.

So here she was, tired as hell because she had done it. Granted, once Obito changed sides in the war it only took a story to tell them where Madara had been hiding since the fight with Hashirama. Three miles west of the Valley of the End, two miles in and in a genjutsued cave. In other words, right under their noses.

The man was powerful, even at eighty-two and despite months, years, of planning, it was hard and she was injured pretty bad. She was healing, much slower than she was used to. The Gods had taken Kurama away so she was left with Uzumaki longevity and the byproduct healing factor. It had nothing on the foxes healing.

And she was alone. Madara was dead and they got what they wanted but she was still here. She didn’t want to be. How many times had she stood at the edge of a canyon or a bridge and just look down and knew that it would be so easy for it to be over? Too many times but not enough to make it happen, apparently. Cause she was still here.

Naruto didn’t let the tears blurring her vision fall, wiping the deep red hair out of her sweaty face. She wiped her whiskerless face, ignoring the sting when sweat and blood aggravated one of the cuts of her neck.

The road was quiet and Madara was gone but she was still here. She just wanted it to stop.

Her hearing picked up on frantic breathing and soft curses even from two, no two and a half miles out. Damn, whoever they were, they were fast.

Naruto didn’t even blink when they fell in front of her because- Kakashi-sensei? No- no he died. (Gutted from wrist to wrist, neck to pelvis like a damn sacrifice- stop. Just stop.) No, but it looked like him.

It hit her like a water jutsu from Kiri- suddenly coming out of the hole that she was too deep in for a moment to realize- people were alive. Kakashis father was alive and Kakashi was alive. Her parents were alive. Jiji- Jiraiya- god, they were alive.

But- what did that mean to her? For her? She was done- she did what she needed to but- what now?

Eyes accessed each other and Naruto took note of the two comrades under his arms who weren’t conscious and… how? What day was it? Why- shit. Late night fires filled with stories and stitches, regrets and tears and what ifs.

March 49 AWE. Hatake Sakumo, leader of black ops mission to ambush Sunas puppeteer brigade and destroy supplies centered through Samiki and Fumoki. Failed, at the cost of his teammates lives and inevitably his own.

Today was that day- or yesterday. Now.

Naruto couldn’t breathe and her vision was still cloudy but she noted that Sakumo didn’t flinch when her pack was thrown at him.

“There’s-“ Her voice cracked and she cleared it, wondering when it was the last time that she actually spoke.

“There’s medical supplies and rations. Blankets are sealed in the brown tied scroll, waters in blue. Help yourself.”

Naruto ignored his widening of eyes and turned, pointing to the trees she just came out of. “Take the path for about four miles and you’ll come up to the Valley of the End. If you can get down to the water safely, you’ll come to a trail that will take you directly to one of Konohagakures stationed tents. It’ll be faster than this road.”

The silver headed man adjusted his grip on the two who really didn’t look good. Naruto wondered if all Hatake wore a mask, though his was more scraps then anything. “Why are you doing this?”

Naruto wondered the question herself, remembering the one time she had seen Kakashi cry. The man had no faith in himself but so much faith in others. So much regret and he would have changed things better, he would have wanted to change things.

But they were all dead. Bloodied battlefield, scorched grass that had been dirt for years because there wasn’t enough water. Red and brown became the new green because war. War caused death and hurt and- stop.

Kakashi should have been the one here, in the past. Or Sasuke. Jiraiya. Anybody but her because she just wanted to… she just wanted to die. Wanted to see the people- her people- who were no more.

Naruto ignored the question because she didn’t know. Kakashi needed his father even if he didn’t know it. The red head was still tired and sore and bloody from the fight that had taken place not two hours ago and lasted for longer than that.

Naruto swallowed, quickly putting her hair in a knot. She hadn’t seen a hair tie for years. She had no hopes for ever returning to Konoha because it would never be her Konoha. However, Kakashi, Tsunade and Jiraiya explained that the man was smart. So, she would need to play this safe.

“You’re coming from the West. You’re sweaty and your teammates have sand in their wounds, you came from Suna. I don’t know what- but something went wrong. You’re powerful and quiet, whatever happened was important but given the way that you seem scared or at least worried… Just save your teammates, I’ll finish whatever happened in Suna.”

Sakumo gaped, shaking his head and eyeing the woman who had to be insane. He studied her, tiredness clearing up as ease set in as much as he hated it. She had… red hair. Holy shit- “Uzumaki?”

Naruto covered her choked sob as a snort. She was too late to even try and save the Uzumaki clan and with her red hair… Almost like a lightbulb she realized that this could be enough of a cover story. Sakumo seemed to realize that it was as much confirmation that he was going to get.

Weariness set back in- Uzumaki were known to be strong. The woman was covered in blood and she seemed to know… something. “Why are you..?”

Naruto almost laughed, looking up at the sky that suddenly seemed blue. When was the last time that it was blue? Kakashi flashed in her mind and she swallowed her grief. The first to go had been Sasuke- because she couldn’t fucking move-, then it was Sakura. They were all they had left and while they were never lovers, nobody had their mind on that- he became her brother.

They were family and Kakashi needed his father.

“Consider me an ally, Hatake-san. Your reputation proceeds you. Konoha needs you, I suggest you go.”

The man watched her and before he could say anything, she was gone. Sakumo let out a shaky breath, setting his teammates down and pulled his mask off. He reached over for the backpack that the Uzumaki woman left. He had no idea what had happened but he knew that he was thankful. He hoped he would get the chance to thank the other. He glanced at the direction the woman left, wondering faintly how strong the woman -Uzumaki- needed to be to survive as long as she had when the world was like this.

XXX

Chiyo was younger, Naruto mused. She was calmer when in battle- no time to think on problems and just rely only on instincts. War ingrained senses she never thought of in her and she was grateful. These puppet users hardly held a flame to Sasori, but there were many. And Chiyo, the woman who both trained and raised the Akatsuki member. And Chiyo was mad.

Naruto gathered that this was the fight that Sakumo killed Sasoris father in. She couldn’t bring herself to feel much sadness besides ‘oh.’

Hatake hadn’t been able to do much but anger the troops. She had no idea why the mission went as bad as it did but given how she was pretty much dancing around the puppets, this wasn’t going to be hard. The supplies had already been destroyed by their own wind jutsu and she nearly laughed to herself. Baki had been the only close ranged fighter that she met from Suna. Everybody, including the siblings and Gaara, had been mid to long ranged.

She could fight however she wanted and once she got past their defenses… let’s just say that the fight wasn’t particularly hard.

In the end, there were only a few left alive, including Chiyo. Killing had become essential given the thousands of reincarnated ninja who most remained unnamed. Given the looks they were giving her, they were scared enough. Their supplies were destroyed and… Sakumo finished his mission.

Doing something past the purpose of Madara calmed her, made her feel like she could breathe a bit easier and think. Madara was gone… the thought brought a smile to her face. Her people died by his hand but he couldn’t touch them any more even if they weren’t her people. The bastard was gone…

Obito would be safe, Kyuubi wouldn’t break free and her parents would stay alive. The Uchiha clan would never be under suspicion and they would never be massacred. Things would be… better. They would live and… now what?

Naruto stopped walking. The thought didn’t bring immediate sadness as it did only hours ago. The future was safe and the gods themselves had said Madara was the worse that the world had seen and he was gone. She did what she came to do and she knew that the world was better for it.

That night Naruto went to bed, not happy- she didn’t know if she could ever be happy again- but she was ok. For the first time in years, Naruto could say that she was ok.

XXX

Sarutobi Hiruzen, the third Hokage of Konohagakure, stared at the man seated in front of him. They had been in the office for almost three hours now and he had no idea what he could say. Sakumo failed the mission, yes, at the cost of his teammates safety. But, he met an Uzumaki. An Uzumaki who -given the white flag he received from carrier hawk only minutes ago- completed the mission for him.

Suna surrendered and the only people still fighting were Kumo and Kiri.

Hiruzen leaned back with a pipe in his mouth. He inhaled, watching one of his best ninja squirm. They were lucky. If he hadn’t met the Uzumaki, who knows how much longer this war would have gone on. He sighed, wanting to be upset with Sakumo- and he was-, but it could have been much, much worse.

“You’ll be on probation for two months, Sakumo. I’m not pleased, I’m sure you can tell. I believe a thanks are in order, however.”

The still bloodied and tired Hatake nodded when he realized what the other was saying. His leader continued. “The fact that you, more-or-less, found an Uzumaki is very important. Given that this mission was already a secret, the village will not know your place in this.”

Sakumo nodded, eyes shut for a moment because god, if he hadn’t met Uzumaki than this would have been a mess. He didn’t even want to think about what would have happened. What the village would do, how Kakashi would… Kakashi.

“Agreed, Hokage-sama.”

Hiruzen nodded, sitting up. “I believe it would be important we find this woman and bring her here. Offering her sanctuary is the least we can do, it’s what we should have done when Uzushiogakure first fell. You’ll be on probation, as you know for the next two months. However, it will not be in effect until she is here.”

Sakumo blinked, dread pooling in his stomach. Despite everything that had happened, he just wanted to see his son and get reacquainted with his bed.

“You messed up, Sakumo. I will give you two weeks to find her and if you don’t… you have two weeks, Hatake, dismissed.”

The Hatake stood, face neutral though he was internally anything but. He roof jumped back to his house as his thoughts pivoted on what he was supposed to do. It was past midnight, Kakashi would be asleep and tomorrow was the day of graduation. He hoped Kakashi wouldn’t be too upset that he had to leave again so soon. On the plus side, he’d be given two months minimum, reguardless of if he finds Uzumaki or not.

XXX

When Hatake-san asked him to watch his chibi, Minato was honestly surprised. He hadn’t spoken or worked with the elder much even though his respect for the silver haired man was great. Upon asking if everything was alright, he worried about the miniscule flinch the other gave him.

The other looked past him, where he knew Kushina would be and swallowed down whatever emotion was making him want to gag. The other didn’t answer, only thanked him. Minato watched the broad back walk away and wondered how serious this was and what it had to do with Kushina.

The thoughts stayed with him for the remaining days before the Hatake returned. His only thought then was holy shit.

XXX

Naruto was surprised to see Sakumo again. She had no idea why he was even looking for her but she realized that whatever it was it was most likely important. After everything, she hesitantly gave herself permission to think about what she should do.

That sounded stupid but usually her and thinking didn’t go very well together.

She silently gave the other clearance to walk in the motel room: the ground would have been better than the bed but it had a shower. Even if it wasn’t cheap.

“What can I do for you, Hatake-san?”

The silver haired man only handed her a scroll as he looked around the rather barren room. Naruto rose an eyebrow and opened it, her mouth closing as she read more and more.

She didn’t like it. She didn’t deserve it. She didn’t… Stop and breathe.

Naruto closed her eyes, ignoring Sakumos inquiring look and began pacing the room.

Back in her timeline, she failed. She completely and utterly failed except she didn’t. Madara died but at what cost? She knew she couldn’t mentally afford it and if she could… she still wouldn’t want to.

But that was then, and this is now.

Those words were painful to admit and she knew Kurama would have slapped her over the head for doing this to herself. But it was hard not to. Tsunade died, Sakura died, Sasuke, Jiraiya, Kakashi and Shikamaru…

They all died but Madara was dead now. He couldn’t hurt them ever again.

Thinking about the people she didn’t leave behind but failed, brought pain to her heart because she knew exactly what they would say. They wouldn’t want her to do this to herself. They would want her to be happy. They would say that she deserved whatever happiness she could find. In whatever time.

Even if she didn’t think she deserved it, she knew they would want her to and that’s all she could say. She had nothing to live for herself, but she was strong -always had been- for the sake of others.

Naruto blinked, eyes having dried and she felt drained. She ignored the feeling of heat in her chest and refused to acknowledge that this may end up somewhere. “When do we leave?”

Sakumo looked relieved but Naruto didn’t think further on it. Sealing what she needed to in their respective tattoos, she followed the other silently. They made it to Konoha that night.