Author: Ms Trick
Notes: I thrive on reviews and cupcakes. I would be honoured to accept either.
Sakura tapped her pen against her open notebook and impatiently glanced at the clock hanging on the darkened classroom's wall. In front of the gathering of bored students, a video about something or other was playing but it was difficult to hear it over the fans whirring above. So the tape held almost no one's attention save Mr. Ebisu's and he was standing next to the damn thing.
She twisted her pink hair up off the back of her sweaty neck and tied it into a ponytail, nostalgically remembering Ebisu chasing Konohamaru and his around the streets of Konoha when Konohamaru was still a little kid.
She sighed, thinking of the hardened genin he was now. She tried to focus on the film.
This is pointless, she internally whined.
It was late spring. It was hot outside. Sakura only had one more exam to get through and then she was completely done for the year. And that exam was not Ebisu's French one. Not to mention she still had yet to figure out how to approach the four she needed with what she knew would be the flippin weirdest request of their lives.
Sakura looked down at her blank notebook, remembering the Godaime's words from...was it really just two days ago that she was home in Konoha?
She stood at attention in front of her teacher as Tsunade spoke over the noise of the hospital, which was in constant disorder. Nurses and doctors and medic-nin weaved through a non-stop parade of wounded ninja and civilians and the blonde sannin had pulled her out of the parade's path to continue explaining her mission.
"Four, Sakura. You have enough chakra to activate the chakras of four others plus your own. You need to do it quickly and then find Kabuto as fast as you can. This is not going to be easy."
Sakura could have kicked herself for taking two full days to recuperate her wits after Tsunade's jutsu had catapulted her into this strange future. She hadn't been expecting the weight of two sets of memories to be so heavy.
At first, she couldn't sort out which memories belonged to her, Haruno Sakura the kunoichi from the Hidden Village of Leaf, and which memories belonged to Sakura Hardwick, senior at Leafseek Highschool in Reno in 2007.
But now Sakura was sitting bored and calm in her French class, having gotten a handle on herself. She was used to being two people, though recently she and Inner Sakura had been morphing into each other.
She did her best to operate on a need-to-know basis. She was first and foremost a ninja and was keeping the memories of who she was here in the back of her mind. She was on a mission. She could do this.
It didn't help that the Godaime's timing had been off, she thought with a snicker, glancing down at her chest. She was technically sixteen years old but when she was hurled into the body of her future self, it had taken about five minutes for her to realize that her boobs had not been that big a minute ago. She had an eighteen-year-old's body.
As such she was a little clumsy.
The bell rang and when Sakura stood, she nearly fell off her strange feet in their strange shoes. Ino gave her a concerned look as she tucked her nail file (guess what she'd been doing all class) into her purse.
Sakura shot her a smile and pulled her sunglasses on so Ino wouldn't notice her gaze lingering on her friend's pale blonde hair, which came to a neat end just below her ears. It reminded Sakura of when they were kids and Ino had seemed like the coolest kunoichi wannabe in the whole village.
Then again, her future self recalled a young Ino with hair falling to past her waist.
Sakura shook her head slightly to regain her focus and pulled her large bag's shoulder strap over her head.
The students streamed through the classroom door and burst into the hall to join the throngs of others that were all glad to be finished for the day. And the week, consequently. It was Friday.
"Found a dress yet?" Ino asked, also pulling on her sunglasses as they worked their way towards the school's east exit, the one near the soccer field.
Sakura let herself be Sakura Hardwick for a few minutes and chatted with Ino about prom dresses in the sun on the steps of their high school. She spotted Temari (whose last name was ironically Sands) slinking out in a black sweater that was way too big for her and looked way too hot.
This was odd as she was usually in something mesh, or tight fitting, or lowcut. Temari was sexy and she knew it and she wasn't afraid of showing off, which her current outfit didn't quite do.
"Is that one of Kankurou's sweaters?" Ino asked with a snicker, indicating their friend with the lollipop she just unwrapped.
"Tem! What are you wearing?" Sakura called to her friend, whose dirty blond hair was in two pigtails rather than her usual four.
"Shut up!" Temari demanded as she approached them. "My alarm didn't go off and I couldn't find anything to wear."
Sakura and Ino laughed and Temari stuck her tongue at them.
"Prepared to swoon?" Ino giggled, glancing at the school doors, where two very familiar boys were stepping into the sunshine, each with a duffel bag in hand.
Sakura's heart clenched and she looked up at them. And it was not just because Naruto and Sasuke at eighteen were hot. But the turmoil she had watched them go through in her time that was so harsh...wasn't there. You could see it in their faces, in their postures. Sasuke's stance wasn't that of someone deadly, Naruto's stance wasn't that of someone who had defended himself his entire life.
Naruto was laughing and punching Sasuke's shoulder. He was in black sneakers, a scruffy pair of jeans, and an orange (of course) t-shirt. On his head was a pair of goggles worn for some reason unknown to both Sakura's future self and her past self.
Sasuke stood next to him like the model of Naruto's antithesis in a black long-sleeved button down lying open over a white wife beater and dark jeans.
Sasuke looked at Naruto and smiled. Not the smirk Sakura had only ever seen him wear in her time. A real smile.
Sakura bit her lip, her heart aching. This was a time and place when her two team mates were happy. Here, in Reno, in 2007, there was no curse seal poisoning Sasuke's aura, there was no Kyuubi buried into Naruto's soul. Sasuke was not the only survivor of a massacre. Naruto didn't spend his life shunned for reasons beyond his control.
"Yoohoo? Sakura?" Ino's voice cut into her melancholy thoughts like a beam of light.
"Woah, sorry. What?"
"Heh, the enchantment that is Sasuke and Naruto get to you?" Ino asked with a laugh before popping the lollipop back into her mouth.
"Did I drool?" Sakura asked, a smile making its way to her face.
"Where is my fucking twin?" Temari complained irritably, eyes fixed on the school's doors.
"Making out with Kiba in the parking lot," came a voice from behind Sakura, making the three of them start.
She turned to find none other than Gaara standing there.
She knew that this guy in black cargo slacks, mesh to his elbows, and dark eyeliner around his eyes was just a quiet high school junior in this time period, but Sakura couldn't help checking herself. She was used to him being a rather large political figure, after all.
But much like Sasuke and Naruto, this was a Gaara that hadn't been sharpened to a point and grated raw by life. This was a Gaara with family, with parents rather than a tough shinobi sensei. This was a Gaara that hadn't carved the word 'love' into his own forehead.
"Kiba?" Sakura said, incredulous.
The Godaime had mentioned this, the strange parallels and opposites between this future and the past. Naruto and Sasuke were best friends regardless of trials and circumstance. But Kiba and Kankurou were thoroughly involved when they'd hardly had any interaction in her time.
Gaara shrugged and shifted his books from the crook of his elbow to his other arm.
Temari scowled. She snagged her brother's wrist and, dragging him behind her, called out a goodbye to Sakura and Ino. She stalked down the steps and towards the busy parking lot that was a mess of people and cars trying to leave.
"Ah, there's TenTen. Sure you don't want to come with us to the mall?" Ino said, absently twisting the now-bare and soggy lollipop stick in her fingers.
"I'm good. But call me later!" Sakura said, playing the part of herself perfectly.
Ino bid goodbye and jogged down the steps in her purple flip flops to where TenTen was waiting in a little silver car.
Sakura waved goodbye and transferred her bag to the other shoulder. The school grounds were a little less hectic now that much of the crowd had managed to flee. Sakura wandered over to the bleachers bordering the soccer field and tiredly dragged herself to a seat that would give her a good view of the team's last practice of the year--they had their last game tomorrow.
She found herself not too far from Hinata and her sister Hanabi. Hinata was dressed quite pretty today, Sakura thought, eying the dark-haired girl's long, flowing white skirt. She had large black headphones over her ears and was absently watching the soccer team begin their warm-ups with purple eyes that Sakura couldn't help but think didn't suit her as well as her white ones. Next to her, Hanabi sat with some math homework spread out on her knees. Hanabi was still in middle school...maybe she was a freshmen?
Sakura blinked as she found her thoughts meandering into the territory of Sakura Hardwick. This was not was she was here to concentrate on.
She turned her attention to the field and from behind her sunglasses, searched out three of the four teens she needed to contact.
Naruto was the easiest to find, of course; his blonde hair nearly reflected the afternoon sunlight as he kicked the ball towards...who else? Sasuke.
That was one and two. It took her another full minute to locate Lee.
Hell, it had taken her nearly all of yesterday just to figure out who he was. While immensely recognizable as Konoha's Beautiful Green Beast Jr, here his black hair--usually in a bowl cut--was short and spiked straight up. And Sakura hadn't seen him in spandex yet, though he did wear a lot of green.
Of course, all he had to do was grin and shove a peace sign into Neji's face for Sakura to find him.
Sakura eyed three of the four she had chosen to help her stop Kabuto. She needed the strongest ninja she knew: Naruto, Sasuke, Gaara, and Lee. And not only strong, she needed ninja who had the willpower to get through this. If nothing else, these four had willpower.
She sighed loudly. What was she supposed to do? Walk out into the middle of the field, slap some chakra into them and say 'Hey? Know who I am? We hardly talk but in a past life we had our share of moments. Want superpowers?'
She knew Hinata and Hanabi had to wait for Neji to be done with practice so he could drive them home but Sakura figured she had no real reason for hanging around. It was obvious approaching them now wasn't going to happen.
Sakura came to a decision and got to her feet.
She'd give them their chakra boosts one at a time and when they realized there was something odd about them, she'd do her best to explain herself as fast as possible. Hopefully before dregs of their other memories started to flow into their unsuspecting minds.
Lee and Naruto were trusting by nature, she considered as she clambered off the bleachers. If she could show them that she was telling the truth, they'd believe her. Then Naruto could help convince Sasuke despite his innate suspicions.
She sighed and peered up as a cloud passed over the sun.
Gaara would be tough though. She'd have to try him first.
Her brilliant and not-thought-out-enough plan, of course, led to her standing next to a grumpy cactus in Nevada's Black Rock Desert while the redhead had a panic attack nearby.
That evening, she had made up some excuse to the Sands family that seemed plausible as to why she needed Gaara to come for a ride with her. She had driven until they were beyond the city and had desert on either side of the road--less than an hour. Over the rush of wind battering them in her jeep, she kept assuring him that yes, she would explain what was going on soon, that no, she wasn't crazy, and no, she wasn't kidnapping him.
She had stopped the jeep, pulling over to the side of the road and nearly hitting the cactus. Under his utterly confused gaze, she had taken his hand in hers and pressed two fingers into the flesh of his inner forearm.
The sudden sharp injection of a heady stream of blue chakra had sent Gaara reeling and falling out of the car.
And now he was scrabbling through sand that kept reacting to his fear and swirling around him in protective clouds. Glancing back at her motionless car, Sakura pulled her sweater around her and shivered in the desert night air. She walked towards the other teen slowly.
He sat on the golden ground frozen as a ring of sand swished and shuffled around him in a lazy orbit. He stared at it, confused and frightened.
"Ah," he gasped, startled, as the tender flesh on the inside of his wrist suddenly stung. He raised his arm to see a small black tattoo bubbling up to mark his skin where Sakura had pressed her fingers. It looked like the outline of a squat 'I'.
"What is going on?" He rasped out, staring at the strange mark.
"Gaara of the Desert," Sakura said clearly over the noise of rustling sand. "I'm here to tell you who you are."
He looked at her, his eyes heavy with eyeliner and narrowed. This shrewdness was part of the reason he was a great kazekage. But he didn't know that.
Sakura pulled her sweater tighter around her and continued.
"Well, I'm going to show you who you were. And then I'm going to tell you what you need to do now."