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Her mother loved cooing at her. She'd scrunch up her nose to make the silliest of faces, just so she could catch her little daughter off guard. And Sakura would let out a happy gurgle, a soft bubbly gurgle that caused her mother to look at her with warm delight.
She also thought that her father was absolutely terrifying in his fatherly way. He would lift her tenderly up high in the air and drop her- only to catch her again, with a terrifying glint of mischief in his eyes. Startled by the sudden momentum and her father's awful sense of humor, she started to cry bitterly. Poor Kizashi Haruno swore up and down to his livid wife, that he would not scare his "lovely little blossom" like that ever again, before she finally relented and Sakura relaxed in his arms again.
Baby Sakura Haruno's brain never registered much other than the rustle of leaves outside her house, her soft toys, that infuriating pacifier or the smell of her mother's soft lavender quilts or the bobbing of her father's knees. And everything was safe and happy. But sometimes, like a vague memory or an echo, she would hear a scratchy voice calling out to her at night.
"You can change all of this, Sakura-chan. I know you can."
When she turned one, she was given child-safe crayons and paper to hone her hidden artistic talents. But Sakura didn't draw elaborate masterpieces or violent explosions of colorful lines. She started to draw things that came back to her in strange dreams, of seals and cryptic warnings and men from the sky and a pair of bloody, bloody red eyes. And she'd tear page after page after page of drawings just so she could draw it again, because she felt so irritated and they won't get out of her head.
Her art was smudged and wayward, crayon markings haphazardly forming shapes and things she didn't understand herself. Her mother wondered why her daughter overused her black crayon while her father was vaguely reminded of those Uchihas with sharingan eyes in the shinobi district. Neither parent was a ninja, nor had they spent much time in the company of those "pesky roof-hoppers" to understand the complex seals that young Sakura happily scrawled on pages.
And one of the first few words that Sakura blurbed out to her parents also vaguely sounded like 'shinobi'.
By two, Sakura is beginning to have more of those strange dreams. The cryptic red eyes that haunt her dreams begin to pan out, she sees a young boy with bloody tears and she's disturbed. She doesn't know why she feels disturbed but she just does. So she wakes up crying and crying till her parents come rushing in.
They smile at her, they tell her it's alright and she sleeps again, under their warm hands holding her, she nods off to a dreamless sleep.
When she's three, she's rambunctious. She runs around the house till she drops, with a little blanket fluttering behind her. But young Sakura feels like wind when she jumps, she's reminded of nostalgic things and those awful strange feelings of that only feel right in her dreams.
Mebuki Haruno realizes that her daughter has too much energy and that energy needs to burn. So she takes her daughter out with her, and nearly has a heart attack when her child slips out of her hand to 'ketch duh bufferfy'.
And like that, Sakura gets lost in the busy crowds, drunken with exuberant little giggles as she chases the little red butterfly with astonishing single-minded precision. And well, she's having the time of her life until someone grabs her and picks her up.
She blinks. Once and then twice, watching the butterfly mocking her as it dances away.
She turns around to see a man with silver haphazard hair, much like the one in her drawings. He has his left eye covered and he's observing her with slight interest. She then sees her mother comes up to the two of them, panting between scolding her daughter and apologizing to the strange man.
"Sakura-chan, say sorry to the nice man you troubled," her mother says to her reproachfully. She turns back to the nice man in shock and a bit of curiousity. We knows him, we knows him, we knows him, her mind chants.
"Owwy," she bubbles out politely. The mask he's wearing shifts lightly.
"No problem, please don't run off like that next time," he says, while turning to leave after waving goodbye.
And Sakura at three remembers an older feminine voice call out.
By four, she's cracking open books on shelves and reading them tentatively as her father practically swoons ("my baby's reading, my little scholar- look at her, Mebuki"). But her parents soon realize that their child is unusually intelligent. She's reading words naturally as if she's done it all her life, and the stories sound dear and familiar to her, stories about the old Hokages and the big bad fox demon. And the soft questions she asks, are careful and intelligent, too precocious for her age.
And her poor civilian parents from simple non-shinobi roots realize that their daughter is a genius.
But for the first time in her life, Sakura realizes that her dreams make sense. She's from the future. She's trembling with this revelation. And all that information carefully stored at the back of her head starts to unravel itself slowly around her brain and begins to make sense of the words on the pages in front of her, down to her muscles and into her fingertips. And a flood of memories return to her, familiarity of the good old Konoha library and the musty shelves and the medical books filled with cryptic drawings of the human body all make her remember. And Sakura feels a rush of adrenaline run through her system as a familiar purr of a voice in her head cackles madly.
And she grins in excitement, "Welcome back, Inner."
In a different time, for Sakura, Inner functioned as a sort of imaginary playmate. As she grew up with the decorum and practices that came with being a kunoichi and a girl in the patriarchal ninja society ("kunoichi need to be subtle, no raising your voice, be subtle"), Inner was her violent mental catharsis. Inner bristled in anger in her defense while she kept up appearances, a pleasant smile peppered on her face.
Inner bubbled with rage at the mean children who teased and teased her for her forehead. Inner helped her prove them all wrong. Inner rumbled with words that she could not say, words she could only stutter. Inner threw Ino out of her mind and allowed her to stand on equal grounds with the other ninjas of her generation. And with Inner, Sakura felt like she could take the world by storm.
So when all of her fevered dreams reminded her of Naruto's last, punctuating words, to make the future better. When all her friends, and the people she'd known in another life were eerie copies of what she remembers. Inner kept her sane. When she sees dead men walking the streets. When she realizes that she holds several futures in her hands, because Konoha is a village created out of bonds. And these bonds are so volatile, crackling with the will of fire. Because, the old Hokages dreamed of futures where ninja stood side by side. And Sakura realizes the weight of this tremendous burden upon her little shoulders. Because she doesn't know what catastrophes she could cause. But Inner reminds her to stand her ground.
Because Inner is the only fragment of precious sanity in the wake of this hellish world.
A/N: So I tried a timetravel story, out of the several botched attempts at scenarios- several including Sakura being found in a forest or whatever, I realized that I really wanted something pre-massacre and definitely still Sakura-centric. Because while insane god-mode powers aren't Sakura's forte- her intelligence can help her win more battles, so I'm trying ha. I've got a scant few ideas to throw around, I'm mostly playing around with the rough edges that Kishi left unpolished in his plot. I'm a new fanfiction writer, so I'm absolutely awful at getting this right. I keep coming back, re-reading and changing grammatical errors. Do leave a comment telling me how horrible this is or if you have any ideas to solve the muddle that the Uchiha massacre is. Or if you just want to talk about Sakura's character or say Hi or tell me what the weather's like- that's all fine.