A/N: This story will continue with a Sakura-centric third person point of view, but flashbacks will be either from Sakura's point of view or from someone else's if they are "telling" that part of the story to Sakura. That way I can sneak in some events that Sakura wasn't witness to.
Chapter Three – Naruto's Fist
Ever occasionally, Sakura saw an Anbu in the corner of her eye. The white masked, cloaked in black figures made a haunting image as they stealthily moved around, but she knew she should have expected it when training with Sasuke.
She didn't know if they hid to keep out of the way or more likely to strike at Sasuke suddenly and secretly if he choose to make an attempt to escape, which she knew he wouldn't. Yet, despite their ghostly presence she managed to concentrate on her training.
Sasuke had been surprised when she revealed Kakashi's Sharingan; it was still too soon to call it hers. However, he seemed to take the opportunity to train her seriously, too seriously than she cared for, but she knew part of his training style was based partly on how his Sannin master trained him.
While Sasuke spoke little of it, she knew Sasuke's training often consisted of Orochimaru attacking with jutsu for him to copy with his Sharingan and his other abilities increased as he tried to avoid or counter those jutsu. However, the attacks were deadly serious with Kabuto often having to heal Sasuke after he came close to the point of death.
It was a brutal way of becoming stronger and lacked all of the closeness she cherished with her own master, but she also knew had incredible effects on how strong Sasuke was.
"You're too slow."
Sakura looked at Sasuke with frustration, her head was already aching from the strange double vision created by the Sharingan. She had already learned the quickest way to end the biggest of her headache was to close her real eye, but she still saw confusing ghostly images of Sasuke whenever he moved.
"I'm moving as fast as I can!"
"I'm not talking about how fast your legs can move," he told her. "Kakashi's eye has three tomoe. You should be seeing the image of my next move from the slightest muscle tension of my body. This allows you to synchronize your movement to strike at an area moments before I am even at that spot, essentially allowing you to strike out and hit me before I'm even there."
Sakura concentrated as he lectured her as she was back in school. It did explain her double vision and she realized that it was more useful than that, "Or avoid you."
"It is better to attack you opponent sooner than avoid them forever."
"No," she told him with confidence. "For a medical ninja attacking comes second because they should never be hit by the enemy's attacks. When they face an opponent's attack, evasion is the first priority. They have to treat their team members, so they can't allow themselves to die."
He smirked as he looked at her in an arrogant way that she didn't like. "Fine then, try to avoid my attacks for as long as you can. I'll go easy on you by not using my Sharingan."
She gave him her own determined glare, while hoping that Kakashi's Sharingan still looked impressive underneath her long eyelashes.
Sasuke didn't waste any time as he launched himself toward her. She remembered his words and concentrated on the ghostly images the Sharingan gave her instead of the real Sasuke. Before the image reached her, she nimbly dodged out of the way.
The process repeated itself several times before she got the hang of it and it wasn't before long it seemed like she was dancing gracefully away from every combination of punches and kicks that Sasuke could make. The dance continued almost effortlessly to the point that she laughed in enjoyment.
Suddenly Sasuke disappeared from her vision, the beforeimage and the real one as well. She didn't even have time to turn her head in confusion before feeling a hard thump to her side that that sent her falling to the ground.
Before she could even realize what had struck her, three Anbu were suddenly beside her with their black robes swaying from their instant movement across the training area.
An Anbu with a cat mask spoke with a feminine voice despite an ambiguous figure under the Anbu's robe. "That's enough, don't you think that was a little harsh?"
Sasuke crossed his arms and looked at his Anbu guards with irritation. "She got too confident and forgot with one eye closed she left a blind spot. As it is, I was being soft on her by attacking so slow. She wouldn't have been having fun if I really attacked her."
Sakura felt herself being helped up by a pair of arms. "I'm alright. He's right. I should have taken the training more seriously if I want to master this eye."
The Anbu looked less than convinced if their stony, silent stance was a sign of their mood. Sakura had to wonder if they had extra orders from Tsunade to protect her.
Yet, she was frozen by Sasuke's look of frustration and questioning.
"Why do you want to master the Sharingan so bad? Naruto left yesterday and yet you are here, wanting to be trained. Do you want to take Kakashi-sensei's nickname so badly?"
"No," she told him, although she was slightly amused at the thought of calling herself Copy Ninja Sakura. "I want to train because of Naruto. I want to make this eye useful so I can help him. I made a promise of a lifetime to heal him so he can be a ninja again."
"That was a stupid promise."
"He gave me one like it three years ago. He promised to bring you back and he did."
Sasuke looked away and the smug arrogance melted away for a moment. For a moment, the former avenger looked like a vulnerable boy again.
"Naruto would have done anything to bring you back…he pretty much did," she said sadly as she reached up and touched where she had the First's necklace hidden underneath her sleeveless top. "Like him, I'm not going to give up no matter how long it takes!"
They were both silent a while and even the Anbu appeared to relax.
"SASUKE! SAKURA! NARUTO!"
Everyone turned in surprise to see Maito Gai enter the training area.
He was drunk…very drunk by his appearance as he swaggered into the training area in an nearly unbalanced walk, with red eyes, and a bottle of sake dangling from his fingers. He blinked a few times as if seeing through a haze, before recognizing them, "There you are."
The cat masked Anbu walked toward Gai and lifted a hand, "Gai-san, this is a private training period. I have to ask you to leave or we'll escort you out."
"Who are you to order me around?" he asked in drunken obnoxious manner.
Gai tripped and the cat masked Anbu rushed forward to catch him, but he rolled out of the way and started to twirl quickly in a circle on one foot in a comical attempt to regain his balance. Yet, as harmless the move was, his other leg raised high in the air and smashed his foot on the back of the Anbu's neck in a drunken version of a roundhouse kick.
The other two Anbu quickly rushed forward when their cat masked companion fell to the ground unconscious. Neither wished to harm the Jounin, but perhaps if they had known Maito Gai better they would have never gotten in taijutsu range of him.
In another intoxicated move, Gai seemed to fall backwards just as they reached him. His hand lashed out as if to maintain his balance, only to punch one Anbu unexpectedly in the face, and one his legs kicked out high in the air, which caught the other Anbu by the chin and sending him flying in the air before falling with a thud.
"What is this? They're suppose to watch over me, but they can't take care of one drunk?" asked Sasuke in disgust. "This is pathetic, even for Anbu."
"No," Sakura told him sternly, "He's using the Drunken Fist Style. Lee-san is a master at it, but apparently, Gai-sensei can use it too. Of course, it helps if you are really drunk."
She turned and saw that Sasuke had activated his own Sharingan. Watching drunken movements was one thing, but the fact it was a taijutsu style gathered his interest.
"What do you want here, Gai-sensei" Sasuke walked toward Gai calmly despite what he had just saw, but with the Sharingan activated, Sakura thought there was no real danger.
"I'm looking for Kakashi's spirit," he slurred.
"What!" yelled Sakura at the insanity of his words. She hadn't thought about how Gai might take the death of his eternal rival, but even this was beyond imagination. "Kakashi-sensei is dead, why would his soul be still in Konoha?"
"Not his soul!" yelled Gai as he made a fist overdramatically and looked up the sky with tears in his eyes, "HIS SPIRIT!"
Sasuke looked back to her, "Don't even try Sakura. He's clearly so drunk he's out of his mind…more than usual."
"Shut up, you freak!" yelled Gai. "The spirit of a teacher lives on in his students, to carry on his will, his strength, and his determination. For me that person is Lee, but one of you must have Kakashi's spirit!"
"Fine then," said Sasuke smugly as he flexed his fingers in a fist. "I have Sharingan and I'm a genius like Kakashi. I also have the first technique Kakashi every created. If you want to fight Kakashi's spirit, then fight me."
Sasuke rushed toward him as if he had with Sakura, but Gai stared at him with a silly grin while swaying back and forth, as he tried to walk, but made a clumsy taijutsu stance. However, one hand held the sake bottle while the other was in the shape to hold a cup.
When Sasuke reached him, he started out with a punch, but in a fluid motion with his free hand, Gai blocked and trapped Sasuke's arm. Undeterred, Sasuke twisted until he could make a high kick aimed for Gai's face, but Gai clumsily leaned backward and rearranged his feet to regain his balance, only to step on Sasuke's toes. The pain was distracting enough that when Gai leaned forward to regain his balance and let go of his arm, it forced him to loose his balance and fall to the ground.
"You are not as cool as Kakashi," muttered Gai as walked toward Sakura.
"Damn it!" cursed Sasuke. "Be careful Sakura! My Sharingan didn't see him in time!"
Sakura watched Gai carefully, her mind busy on determining why the Sharingan failed. "You said the Sharingan predicts the move based on muscle tension, but the alcohol helps loosen the body's muscles, allowing him to fight with unpredictable and unstructured moves."
Sasuke nodded in understanding as he watched Gai standing before Sakura.
"Gai-sensei, I have Kakashi's eye. Do you think I have his spirit?"
"Hmm…your cute." Gai suddenly leaned forward with his lips puckered comically.
"Eh!" squealed Sakura as she leaned back in surprise away from the offensive lips, but Gai grabbed an arm. She could have done many things such as push him away, but she refrained from punching him…instead she threw him…toward the wall of the training area.
"HELL NO!" she screamed as she channeled her inner self.
"You are not as cute as Kakashi," said Gai stubbornly from the awkward position where he had landed against and partially through the wall. As it was, he was upside down and his feet were higher than his head.
"WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN!"
"Where's Naruto?" he asked.
"W-What?" Sakura instantly calmed down at the mention of Naruto's name.
"Neither of you have Kakashi's spirit," said Gai as he managed to straighten himself up and sit back down on the pile of rubble. The sake bottle that was in his hand was now a broken wet mess. The fact he hadn't suffered the same fate spoke for his durability as a ninja. "I have to see Naruto."
"Naruto's gone," said Sasuke as he walked up to Gai. "He left yesterday."
"When will he back," asked Gai in misunderstanding.
He ignored her and continued, "Naruto can't be a ninja anymore because he can't mold chakra. The Hokage herself sent him away."
"He could be a taijutsu specialist," argued Gai. "He's only slightly worse off than Lee."
"I thought the same, but Tsunade didn't think he had the ability—"
"The Hokage is wise in many things, but a medical-nin should stick to training other medical-nin. Only a taijutsu master can decide who can or can't master taijutsu."
Sakura frowned as she realized once again they were ignoring her as they fought, just like the first time on the hospital rooftop, and it wasn't a pleasant reminder of how things were. Yet she knew one thing, she wasn't going to cry for them if they hurt each other.
This time they fought in a storage area behind the inn and surrounded by boxes and barrels filled with supplies. One box had already been smashed, leaving white flour on the floor, in the air, and on Sasuke's black clothes.
"A lot of things have changed about me."
She looked at Naruto and wonder if that was true. He looked at Sasuke with serious eyes, but an excited smile almost as if she were watching him from three years ago. While he often appeared untalented, there was something about him that amazed her when he fought. The only thing different was the puckered scars on his cheeks that weren't quite the same as the whisker lines they replaced.
"Perhaps," said Sasuke. "But don't think that because you suddenly know a real taijutsu that this fight is over!" Sasuke took off running toward Naruto, but then he jumped and spun at a ferocious speed. "Piercing Fang!"
Naruto didn't have time to dodge as the beast-like attack hit him, sending him flying against barrels behind him, resulting in another loud crash.
"That's Kiba's jutsu!" yelled Naruto as he managed to pick himself back up. He frowned at Sasuke, showing signs of the brat Sakura remembered, "Your cheating!"
Sasuke smirked, "I only agreed to use taijutsu and to not activate my Sharingan. Piercing Fang is the Inuzuka clan's secret taijutsu that I copied years ago. So it's fair game."
Naruto practically growled in frustration, which made Sakura want to laugh at how her boys had fallen back to their old behavior as if nothing happened.
"Fine, then don't expect me to hold back! I'm stronger than you think!"
"Hold on, Naruto!"
Sakura also blinked in surprise as Sasuke paused their fight himself, but when she saw him reach into his pocket, she knew what he was up to.
"Put this on," he said as drew out Naruto's old black forehead protector and threw it towards him, but Naruto only blinked in surprise as if he had no idea what to do with it.
"What are you doing! Are you making fun of me!"
"No! I'm saying this is a symbol," said Sasuke calmly as he repeated Naruto's words from three years ago. He pulled out his own forehead protector and tied it around his head. "That we fight as equal Konoha ninja!"
"Enough with the joke!" he yelled as he threw the forehead protector back before running toward Sasuke yelling in anger. "I'm not a ninja! So leave me alone!"
Sasuke ran toward him as well ready to attack him first, "Stop being an idiot!"
Sakura moved between them lightening fast with the help of the perfect amount of chakra moved to her feet, grabbed one of their wrists in each hand, and then spun them around before letting go, sending them flying into the boxes and barrels.
"If you want to keep fighting, I'll join in," she told them as she made a fist. Sakura could tell by their nervous faces that they knew she wouldn't hold back her super strength. "I'm assuming your silence means this fight is ended, but I want to know who started this?"
She rolled her eyes at their simultaneous accusations. At eighteen years old, they were both acted they were twelve again. She turned to Sasuke, knowing he was least likely to exaggerate the truth.
"He was trying to escape."
"W-What?" She turned back to Naruto, but the look of shame on his face confirmed what Sasuke said. "You were trying to leave?"
"I'm not going back to Konoha," he told her softly.
"So you were just going to leave, without even telling us! You were going to sneak off!" she yelled at him. "You couldn't even wait till morning!"
"I had a bad dream okay!"
Sakura blinked at him in surprise over such an odd response.
"I've had a recurring bad dream for three years and I had again last night. There is no way I'm going back to Konoha so it can come true!"
She took a breath to calm herself, knowing yelling at him wasn't getting anywhere. Therefore, she walked over to Naruto, and sat down on a box next to Naruto and the pile of broken boxes he sat on. "I'm sure its not that bad…it's a dream right? What is it about?"
"Well, you see…it starts out with me being back in the Academy…"
The bell ran for several seconds before finally fading away.
"I'm late!" yelled Naruto as he ran through the endless hallway, while ignoring the blank looks of everyone that he passed. He simply didn't have the time to be questioned. He only knew that he was late, but he couldn't remember why.
There was an old familiarity of the hallway, he had walked and sometimes ran through them hundreds of times and perhaps even thousands. They hadn't changed at all, as if burned in his childhood memory, but now the once familiar hallway was all a blur as his body seemed to race through it without him remembering to even move his feet.
He almost crashed into the doorway as he reached his destination. He slid the door aside, stepped in, and tried to speak despite being short of breath, but found he couldn't.
"YOU'RE LATE, NARUTO!"
"I'm sorry Iruka-sensei, I must have overslept or something," he blurted.
Iruka looked at him with a serious expression that was missing the kindness that Naruto had become familiar with, it was not the expression of the man Naruto considered to be like a father, but of the teacher he thought hated him. "Save your excuses Naruto and take your seat."
"O-Okay," he said softly in his confusion as he turned to the other students in the room, but his eyes opened wide as his body froze, "Hey, wait a minute!"
"What is it now?"
"They're kids!" yelled Naruto as he pointed to a classroom filled with a variety of eight year olds looking at him with expressions of boredom. "I must not be in the right class!"
Iruka rolled his eyes and lectured him, "If you want to become a ninja again you must start at the beginning."
"But I'm eighteen—"
"Stop wasting my time!" yelled Iruka with anger in his voice. Naruto hadn't heard him this mad since he painted the Hokage monument years ago. "Unlike you, some of these children have the potential to become great ninja…even Hokage. If you don't want to follow the rules then you'll have to leave Konoha again!"
Iruka only sighed in frustration, "Since you've disrupted my class, why don't you demonstrate the Transformation Jutsu? Move closer to the front so everyone can see."
Naruto moved closer to the front of the room. Every one of the eight year old kids had their eyes on him, which only served to make him more nervous.
"Transformation Jutsu," he announced as he made a hand seal and concentrated.
There was a scattered amount of giggles and laughter. Shame and anger began to burn inside him as he gritted his teeth. Even eight year old kids thought he sucked…
"NARUTO!" yelled Iruka.
"I'm trying!" he yelled. "TRANSFORMATION JUTSU!"
There was a huge explosion of smoke and he finally felt relieved that it worked…until he heard laughter…lots of it. Everyone in the class, even Iruka-sensei, was laughing and it wasn't just laughter, it was side splitting laugh-until-it-hurts laughter.
His first thought was he had screwed up the technique and transformed into the long nose, fat lipped version of the Third Hokage, just like the old days, but then he noticed his sudden lack of clothing, which normally he was used to that for the Sexy Jutsu. However, in this case he hadn't changed gender at all. He was still male and very naked…
"AH, I DON"T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE ACADEMY!" he screamed as he made a failed attempt to cover up before the dream faded away.
Sakura couldn't help it. She laughed…she laughed so hard she had to wrap her arms around her sides while resting her head on an unhappy Naruto's shoulder to keep her from falling and rolling on the ground in amusement.
"Naked?" she giggled as she tried to control herself. She looked over to Sasuke and saw that even he was trying to conceal a barely restrained ear-to-ear grin.
"It's not that funny!" protested Naruto.
"Yes it is, especially coming from someone who would transform into a naked, very developed member of the opposite sex. You had no problem about nudity then."
"It wasn't exactly my own," he grumbled.
"No, I guess not," she agreed while whipping the tears from her eyes. "But you won't have any worries about returning to Konoha."
"Yeah, right. You can't be sure of that."
"Naruto!" Sakura pointed a finger at him accusingly. "You've forgotten haven't you!"
"F-Forgot what?" he asked nervously as he leaned away from her glare.
"My promise of a lifetime!"
"T-That?" he yelled in surprise. He looked at her as if he never believed it was possible, but there was something in his eyes like hope. "You mean you've actually think you can heal me?"
"Of course. I already have, silly. While you were sleeping, you should be able to mold chakra like anyone now."
Naruto made a fist and opened it as he stared down at it. She wasn't sure what he was doing until she saw the miniature storm of chakra grow in his palm. It wasn't complete, after all it was years since he had the ability to truely mold chakra, but was much more than he had ever been able to do in three years of trying to mold at least the tiniest bit of chakra through his crippled inner coil system.
"Thank you, Sakura-chan!" he managed choke past tears, probably the first tears he had ever cried in many years. She placed hand on his shoulder and gave him a warm smile.
Next Chapter – Sasuke's Paper Fan
Author's Note: In the first scene, Sasuke may have seemed a little bit like a jerk, but it was only a short time at that point that he was Orochimaru's apprentice. Don't worry, Sasuke will have his good moments in this fic too.