A/N: I'm actually really proud of this ^^
In Which We Grow
Sakura is twelve years old and doesn't really know very much.
She is young and stubborn to a fault (one fault- him). She is taller than she'd like to be, taller than the two boys on her team, she hasn't quite grown into herself, into her body, into her own. She is clumsy and awkward but by instinct knows every line, every way of flow to the life inside of her, to the chakra that pulses faster than any heartbeat.
Sakura is book smart. Sometimes (more and more often since she discovered that she bleeds) she wishes that she were a different kind of genius. She wishes that she could navigate her way through life the way she could a linear bi-lateral equation.
When she really thinks about it, she wishes she were more world weary (but most of the time she is blissfully oblivious to the shear amount of things she doesn't know).
Sakura doesn't really know what unconditional love is until the choice is made by hands working on instinct. Until she has no time to think-
Because there is nothing else in the world more important than the two boys beaten and broken behind her.
And so she takes the hits, she bleeds and she prays that if she dies then there will be someone left to save them.
Sakura is thirteen years old. Her hair is short, she is a little less clumsy and she knows that nothing she does will ever be good enough. She accepts this; it is inevitable with the life she chose.
And when she tries to remember why exactly it was that she chose this all she can remember is that all she's ever wanted to be was a kunoichi. All Sakura (with her pink hair and innocence, shear stupidity and passing acquaintance with tact) knows is that the men and women with faces of stone, words of steel and bleeding hearts that no one sees, are heroes.
It's so much harder than she ever imagined it would be.
She remembers something that someone once told her too long ago to really matter; "Life's hard. We deal with it however we can." But god almighty, whywhywhy?
There is bile in her throat. But Sakura is running. And Sakura doesn't know much.
Sakura knows that her mother is a housewife with three children younger than herself, whose names blur because they're so young and she's never home and howisthatevenpossible?
She knows that her father is a grocer and that when she was little he used to lift her up high and once he'd pretended to drop her and she'd started to cry, even after he reassured her again and again that he'd never let her fall.
She knows that she loves her teammates very much.
She knows that she wishes she could have really talked to Sasuke, been his person, really let herself appreciate Naruto and his brightness, and really been worth Kakashi's tutelage.
And what she knows, without certainty, is that she is about to die.
She also knows that this doesn't matter.
This doesn't matter because Naruto and Sasuke are flying at each other, the wind is whipping around her and static electricity is white noise in her ears. This doesn't matter because Naruto and Sasuke are going to kill each other.
And it again, isn't a conscious decision to run.
It is the knowledge that she cannot live without them that spurs her steps, that makes her feet pound against the pavement, pushing off harder and harder. It gives her strength and speed and adrenaline that she has never known.
It doesn't matter though. Because it isn't enough.
Sakura isn't enough.
Sakura is thirteen years old. And Kakashi appears between them and flings them to safety.
Kakashi will never know that he saved three lives that day.
Sakura doesn't know anything. Sakura is useless.
Sakura discovers this on the day Naruto returns beaten, crying and making promises that he fully intends to keep. Promises to her, promises to himself. Promises that one boy is making them make. Promises that she doesn't know he will one day make her want to break.
Sakura Haruno doesn't exist to be that person anymore. The person who loves and loses and doesn't know a thing about what she's talking about but babbles away anyway to anyone who will listen.
She tries to pretend that the one thing she does know isn't that Naruto always listened.
Because he was going to leave her too.
And her prophecy was quickly fulfilled.
Sakura is fourteen years old.
Her head is so full of knowledge and she's always so hungry. She wants to know more, to learn more. And as soon as the aching in her limbs stops being crippling, she starts to feel the encroaching emptiness of shattered unity and so returns to a very different teacher than the first.
Who bruises her. Who breaks her. Who mends her.
And makes her bleed.
Tsunade is the strongest person she's ever known (she tries very hard to convince herself of that. To convince herself that Naruto was stupidstupidstupid. Not brave.) she makes her remember why she wanted to become a ninja. Why, once upon a time, she had thought the stony people who walked in threes and fours were heroes.
It was because they protected.
Her fists are flickering green.
She walks home alone. To an empty apartment that not one of them had ever been to.
In the midst of ink stained finger tips, birds that won't fly and people that won't come back, Sakura forgets what unconditional love is.
Sakura is fifteen and her head is full and screwed on straight.
She has made her first kill, lost her first patient and had her first kiss.
In that order.
She is fifteen and her memories have fuzzy edges, because it doesn't really matter exactly what shade of blue his eyes were, or which side the headband tilted towards or even what it felt like when a boy she loved had smiled at her.
There is only the next mission, next patient, and next hurdle to jump.
Sakura is no longer stupid, she knows things now. She is not naïve. She is not twelve.
But Sakura still doesn't know a damn thing.
She doesn't understand it. Her head is crammed full, her heart is on lockdown and her muscles build and build and build.
She has grown and grown and grown until she didn't need to anymore and she's as tall as she's ever going to get. She has grown into her own body, learned her limbs. She is no longer clumsy but holds a menacing, serpent-strike grace.
She is fifteen. And suddenly she isn't the weakest one anymore. Suddenly she isn't always fighting and striking out against impossible odds, against those who's experience and power far exceeds her own. She is fifteen and she isn't the underdog anymore.
She isn't the longshot.
Sakura feels everything and yet nothing when she learns that there are people weaker than her.
Because Sakura has discovered the magic of being a medic; giving and taking life.
Sakura has learned to play god.
Sakura is still fifteen, just shy of a year more when he comes back.
Vaguely she hears a clock ticking and an alarm go off. She knows she has surpassed her own life expectancy. And it is a sad, pathetic thing that this is what she takes pride in.
"I'm home," he says and she wonders what that means. Where is home? Is home this place that she protects, that she is loyal to? The house she rents out to strangers because mommy and daddy and the children whose names she still doesn't know don't live there anymore? The people who live here? Are they her home?
She doesn't tell him that she doesn't understand.
Sakura is still fifteen, and still knows very little, but she knows that he is privy to infinitely more than she is. And maybe if he stays this time, if he lets her stay with him, she'll be along for the ride when the world opens up to him again.
This is when Kakashi comes back into her life. Because no matter what, it has always been about Naruto and Sasuke.
Quickly she learns that she is nothing like the girl they knew.
With the tinkling of bells as her theme song she dances across rock and earth and shows them exactly how right they are. Because she is a grownup now. She isn't quite stupid, nor is she as smart as she's like to be.
And she can crush boulders with her bare hands.
Sakura is sixteen when she discovers exactly how stupid she had been.
It is three years too late that she realizes that she has been lying to herself for a very very long time.
Sakura had never been in love with Sasuke. Had never been in love with anyone before. What she had felt was the need for acceptance that being just like all the other little girls would get her. And Sakura had been perceptive, Sakura had known that all the other little girls liked Sasuke Uchiha.
It is a terrifying thing discovering that something that once defined you was never actually real.
But she is sixteen now, a big girl and she doesn't have the time or energy to spare to cry over the lies she told herself one upon another life. The lies she told an obscenely stupid child were of no consequence.
She was looking at Sasuke again. That's why.
Yet, as she looks at him, she remembers her childhood fantasies of him coming out of his shell, confiding in her and whisking her away into a happily ever after.
She's looking at him now, and she can see nothing of the flawless, wonderful, golden boy she'd supposedly fallen in love with. All she can see is a man stricken by grief, who had lost his way a long long time ago. She sees a man with more flaws than quirks, more anger than anyone she had ever met.
And again she falls.
This time for real.
Sakura Haruno is sixteen when she learns the meaning of falling in love.
And she had thought it had hurt before…
She hadn't known…
Sakura is a woman now. She knows things now.
Things that make her cringe and shudder in undiluted horror.
Sakura knows what it feels like to quiet literally crush a man's heart in her palm. She knows what a rape victim looks like when she doesn't recognize safety; she should know, she was the one to treat her. Sakura knows what it's like to not be able to remember the color of her own skin because it's so smeared with blood, dirt and the ashes of funeral pyres that black and red are the only colors in her world.
Sakura knows what torture feels like.
But Sakura has reached a half way mark.
She is twenty-five years old. And she thinks she's having early onset menopause. One minute she's sobbing her heart out, the next she's just so angry that she really thinks she might kill the dark haired artist sitting beside her, totally at a loss as to what to do. The next moment she can't breathe from laughter.
Sakura is all grown up now. And she's sitting on a couch, in a room full of men who she loves more than anything else in the whole wide world and it hurts (god, why can't I breathe?) to be so happy. She doesn't understand.
But she does. Maybe.
Sakura is a twenty five years old. She is a woman, an adult. Sakura knows things now.
She knows what it feels like to win, to triumph, she knows what it's like to hold a newborn baby boy in her arms and realize that she has brought yet another child into the world, happy and healthy and ready to be loved. She knows the look on a mother's face as she hands that happy, healthy baby off to her, and into a life. She knows what being in (requited) love feels like. And it doesn't hurt quite as much as she remembers.
Mostly importantly, Sakura remembers what unconditional love is.
And this time, she knows she will never forget.
Sakura is twenty five years old and doesn't really know very much.
But she knows enough.
And it's only the beginning anyway.
A/N: The tackle in Jigsaw was PURE fanservice, I don't think I've ever done that before…I feel dirty.
But yeah. I'm tired and I have exams. So I think I'll stop posting and actually study now…
By the way…Generation Now anyone?
Review~ It makes me less angsty a person.