Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto
The day was supposed to be about them but she could hardly resist a quick peek at the team meeting she knew was happening atop the academy. Sometimes it was fun to traipse through time.
She laid out on the roof canopy, carefully hiding her chakra and presence, as the newly created Team Seven had their first meeting beneath her. Her white sundress billowed out allowing her pale skin to take in the sun overhead.
"I'm Hatake Kakashi. I have many likes and dislikes. As for my dreams, you don't need to know." Team Seven's leader finished mysteriously.
"Eh! Uncle Kakashi, you're a lazy porn-loving Jonin. Stop trying to sound so cool!" Naruto yelled.
The Jonin sighed and wished he wanted to cover his ears at the loud shouting. A smile adorned Sakura's face as she listened to their bickering and could just imagine Kakashi's annoyed face.
"Right. How about you?"
"But you all know me!" The blonde argued.
"Do it anyways." Kakashi tiredly ordered. Sakura heard some mumbling along the lines of dirty old pervert and she had to keep from laughing.
"Yosh! I'm Namikaze Naruto, the son of our current Hokage. I like ramen but I like my mom's ramen the best! And I extremely dislike this guy next to me. My dream for the future is to succeed my dad and have everyone acknowledge the Fox Demon inside of me," he finished upbeat as ever.
Naruto had always worn his heart on his sleeve but it surprised Kakashi that he already considered the Kyuubi a part of himself after one day. Rumours spread all over the village about how the once terrorizing fox demon resided in the son of the Hokage. So far, the public was mixed on its feelings about Kurama. But Naruto was a tough kid and would undoubtedly get people to see the fox in a new light, no matter how long it took.
Kakashi turned his attention to the, so-far, blessedly silent member of his genin team. "Next."
The raven-haired boy threaded his fingers together with a look of concentration on his face, at least when he wasn't throwing glares at the blonde.
"My name is Uchiha Sasuke. My dislikes include the Baka and my clan's politics. I admire my older brother. And I have one dream. I want to become the next leader of the Uchiha and improve the clan."
Sakura warmed at how much Sasuke's life had changed even in these early years. After her last meeting with Itachi she knew he would inherit the Uchiha clan and from there he would make serious and important changes. Just like he dreamed of doing now.
Kakashi was thoroughly amused by his team's aspirations for the future. They both had a long way to go.
"Alright, and lastly…" Sakura sucked in her breath before the last person in the team introduced themselves. "Because this will only be a three-man team you two will be expected to give your all to training and missions. No exceptions. You're dismissed."
Sakura whipped straight up and went still. No, that couldn't be right. There was supposed to be four members of the original Team Seven. Kakashi, Naruto, Sasuke, and…her?
Her hand flew to her mouth as it became harder to breathe.
She should've known better.
In all of Sakura's travels, she had never seen another pink-haired girl or woman in the village. She pretended it was because she wasn't looking hard enough. No good could come from seeing yourself in the past. But she had never wanted to believe the other possibility.
She didn't exist.
Then something worse dawned on her, worse than never being a part of their lives.
If she was twelve again and down there sitting on the steps next to this new and improved Team Seven how would she fit in? Naruto was different, so was Sasuke, and even Kakashi had changed. But Sakura would've remained the same. She would be in love with Sasuke and maybe this time because he was not obsessed with revenge, he would return her affection. Then Naruto, who would be more confident because of his upbringing, would be a good friend to her early on or maybe she would fall in love with him instead of Sasuke altogether.
Sakura screwed her eyes shut and attempted to breathe past the lump in her throat.
She knew from the start her mission was a solo act but she never felt this before. The people around her, the one's she recognized and knew from the past weren't those people at all. They were living different lives and those lives didn't involve her, amidst all her interventions, they never had.
Kakashi wasn't the stranger. She was.
Maybe this team of extraordinary individuals didn't need her at all. The thought sent her spiraling into the first stages of a panic attack. Her body convulsed with shivers and her eyes welled with tears. With her chakra still under control, she stood up on the roof and made a vortex.
Three Months Later…
Sakura sat on a bench waiting for Kakashi to walk home from the Hokage tower. The evening was a warm summer one and the wind tickled her legs where it reached beneath her black skirt. As per her promise, she wore something other than her ANBU uniform. After the Land of Snow she packed her armour away and chose civilian clothes over shinobi attire.
Those clothes didn't last long. Her white dress had fallen to pieces after an odd sort of day and by day, she knew it was closer to a linear month. A trip through the vortex had her in Suna greeting the Kazekage, then she was eating ice cream with Itachi in the park, to the first meeting of Team Seven followed on the heels of their graduation from the academy, and finally ending by challenging Yamato, of all people, to a spar.
After so many years, her accuracy with the jutsu was much improved and she could manage to land in the past or the future within days of where she needed to be. The only downside was every activation of the Sharingan was using more chakra and causing more pain.
After sealing the Kyuubi into Naruto, she had barely enough chakra to complete one activation of the jutsu herself.
There had been several weeks of deciding where she should end her time.
Sakura debated searching for Sai or Tsunade before she lost the ability to make jumps. She was selfish to want to see them again. But it wouldn't serve any purpose. To find Sai she would have to expose herself to Danzo and infiltrate Root. Finding Tsunade would lead to questions about her identity and why her chakra and medical abilities were so familiar. She knew her stubborn, busty shishou wouldn't just let her disappear in that case.
In the end, she chose to finish back at the beginning and managed a final jump using the remnants of the Kyuubi's chakra mixed with her own.
Her head tilted up and scanned the brightly coloured posters on the wall across from her. The village was pasted with them, announcing the competition between the five great nations. Team Seven, the Rookie Nine, Gaara and his siblings, Kabuto and Orochimaru, all of them were in Konoha for the Chunin Exams.
Sakura bought them a second chance and with her first deep breath in twelve years, let the finality of that sink into her exhausted body. Minutes later, she heard his approaching footsteps.
Her head popped up and met his lone grey eye. The surprise on his face was genuine and she was wounded by the familiar expression, voice, man.
She stood and smiled. "Kakashi-sensei."
"You make me sound old." He sighed dramatically.
She grinned. "Who can tell with only a quarter of your face showing."
"Mah, I guess you're right. I must be devilishly handsome." He responded and scratched his chin thoughtfully.
He was closer to the Kakashi of her memories. The Jonin uniform, the permanent slouch, and the hitai-ate pulled down over the Sharingan. The one she felt safe with and protected by but that was silly because none of these Kakashis was the one she knew. He was a familiar stranger and while that scared her, it didn't distress her enough to keep away.
"Were you waiting for me?" He asked directly though the answer was obvious.
She folded her hands behind her back and leaned forward with a dazzling smile. "I was hoping to walk you home."
"Afraid I'll be attacked?" He cheekily responded and offered his arm to her. Sakura grinned and slipped her arm through his. They fell into step with each other and started down the street.
"Depends. Do you walk around with your mask off?" She countered.
His eye crinkled with his smile. "I can't do that anymore. Naruto and Sasuke might see and that would ruin my fun."
She laughed heartily, "They probably think you're deformed, with fish lips or buck teeth."
"Ah but think of the challenge. The Hokage has already agreed that if they manage to see me without the mask he will promote them to Jonin on the spot." He looked down at her and winked.
Sakura swatted his arm playfully and shook her head.
They continued in silence for a few blocks. Sakura allowed herself to enjoy his body heat at her side and absently rubbed her fingers against the fabric of his sleeved shirt.
Every thought about the past and the future were ignored in favour of the present. Here she was strolling through the village with Kakashi. The scent of the woods and polishing oil filled her senses as the heat of his body warmed her side. Her knee length skirt brushed against the hem of his pants and made a soft swishing sound with each step.
She forgot what peace felt like.
Kakashi led them to his modest apartment, unchanged since she last had the opportunity to visit his home. When she caught sight of the building she stopped in her tracks and let go of his arm.
Sakura turned her face to the side to hide her silent tears.
He smelled the salt before she could speak. "Saku-"
"I came to say goodbye." She stated.
Her words came out in a rush to prevent him from saying things he could not take back or make her change her mind.
Kakashi's gloved hand came up to her chin and gently tilted her face up toward his. Watery green met cool grey until she closed her eyes. With the pad of his thumb her wiped away the tears on her cheek. With the same softness, he pulled his hand away. Sakura swallowed the sobs that threatened to break free from his actions.
"Why are you leaving?" He asked.
"It's time I moved on."
"That's the most I can offer." She met his piercing gaze with determination.
He couldn't fight against her stubbornness and win. His shoulders drooped in defeat and he adopted a more neutral tone. "What would happen?"
"Sorry?" Confusion wrinkled her brow.
Kakashi stepped close. His hands remained at his sides but his face was angled towards her and he bent to compensate for the height difference between them.
"If I was enough of a reason to stay." He mused.
A blush crept up her face and tinged the tips of her ears red. Sakura shook her head to dislodge her ridiculous wants. "Nothing. It never could." Sakura stepped back. Because you're not him, not really.
Hurt flashed in his eyes that she dutifully ignored. "Let me say goodbye and wish your team luck on the exams." She managed to say evenly.
They continued to silently stare into each other's eyes and somehow read the unspoken words between them. She hated saying goodbye in person. It was part of the reason she would up and disappear. Goodbyes were awfully final and she had already said her fair share.
"I'll keep looking for you." His words were an ironclad promise.
The specific words triggered a bubble of emotion in the pit of her stomach that led to an ache in her chest. She wanted to curl up into him and never leave or think about consequences again but she had no stake on his life. He was a different Kakashi and while he was offering her something she desperately wanted, it was not hers to take.
"I doubt you'll have time. You'll have your hands full for a while." She responded to lighten the mood. His face darkened and she gave in a little for his sake.
"Come find me." She playfully winked.
She leaned forward on the tips of her toes and gently placed a kiss to his masked cheek. Then Sakura stepped away and the air ushered back in between them. Her hands quickly made the signs and she disappeared in a cloud of smoke leaving him alone.
Kakashi stood frozen as his mind fought between what he selfishly wanted to do and what he knew was asking too much of a woman he did not know.
A/N: Hopefully this chapter cleared up a few long since asked questions. And with that Sakura completed the mission to fix the past...now what?