WHILST TIME TURNS
It was not ironic that Nara Shikamaru, Uchiha Sasuke, and Hyuuga Hinata had survived the massacre. What was ironic was that Naruto seemed intent on correcting the wrongs, even if it meant sacrificing himself to throw the three back into the past, a mental ordeal none of them are sure they can survive. AU Time Travel.
Author's Notes: This fic was originally drafted back in 2007-8 which is pretty much pre-Shippuden. Sasuke still seemed like a decent character and Madara was still nothing more than a name. In spite of recent information, this AU was drafted with all of the above in mind.
The rain came down heavily on the burning crust of a city.
Patches of pink and red trickled on the wet pavement, shading the gray a dull brown. Smoke coughed and wheezed indignantly at the rain. Murky puddles collected beneath the bodies, and the hiss of water sizzling against charred flesh punctuated the dull murmur of rain. Shells of humans limped, crawled, slumped through the streets. The rain drowned the sound of sobbing, but in the distance a lone wail echoed through the empty buildings. As the living scraped their way through the rubble and the dead, the Hokage tower smoldered. Under the twisted and gnarled shadow of the tower, three shinobi crouched over a bloody man.
Hyuuga Hinata rested the man's head in her lap. Her hands hung helplessly at her sides and her hair stuck to her grimy neck and obscured her peripheral vision, but she couldn't care less. Unable to hold back tears, she turned away so the salty water wouldn't hit the raw open wounds. Uchiha Sasuke remained crouched on the man's right. His shirt stuck to his skin with soppy rainwater and even soppier blood. Despite the endorphins, he inwardly seethed as the sharp rain fell upon his raw back. His ribs were broken too, but he remained solemn and silent. Nara Shikamaru resisted the urge to close his eyes in defeat. He slouched on the fallen man's left, his ponytail almost too heavy. Only the prone Uzumaki Naruto, Hokage of what was left of Konohagakure, had the semblance of a smile on his face. Despite the pulsing red chakra of a frantic Kyuubi, there was no denying that Naruto was dying. It was amazing he had even lasted this long.
"Heh, don't cry Hinata-chan," he murmured. If anything, her sobs increased. She raised her hands to hide her face. Naruto always seemed to have a 'Hinata-chan' for her, even when he was dying. Sasuke's shoulders tightened in agitation and even the passive Shikamaru shifted.
"Shut up dobe," Sasuke said heavily but without any real ire.
"Heh, heh, heh," Naruto panted and gasped, before giving a weak cough that caused the slit on his neck to spurt out more blood. Shikamaru flicked his eyes toward the tiny rivers of blood slithering out of his friend's gaping body and onto the cold, uncaring pavement.
"Don't worry," Naruto continued to weakly protest. He shook his head at Sasuke's furrowed eyebrows. "Don't get angry teme."
It was the nickname more than anything that made Sasuke rein in his rage. If Naruto wanted to act Naruto even on his death bed, there was nothing Sasuke could do about it.
There was a brief moment before Naruto spoke again.
"I'm going to die, aren't I?" the Hokage murmured.
No one answered.
He was silent for a while. Minutes, precious minutes ticked by in aching silence. Hinata's sobs finally ended but her hands still hid her face. Naruto was going to have a slow death and they all knew it. Sasuke dreaded the possibility that Naruto would ask for a mercy killing. In the ashes of Konoha, there was no place to hide and the truth was a harsh rough one. Sasuke had no doubt that he would be able to pull the blade. Whether he could live with himself afterwards was another question. It made one part of him wondered if Naruto knew so. Knowing Naruto as he did now, years after their preteen insanity, Sasuke wouldn't be surprised.
Shikamaru squinted at the sky, feeling cold rain hit his chilled face. Grey clouds. It was all rather depressing.
It was the sudden surge of hot, unstable chakra that threw them out of their sorrowful stupor. The chakra burned angry, the kind uncontrolled, untameable chakra that seemed to come straight out of the seventh level of hell.
"Naruto!" Hinata screamed before she was sent flying back. She tumbled and almost flipped, too stunned to even cry. Her fragile neck remained in a vulnerable position even as her form sailed toward the wall. Hinata's eyes widened, and her fingers flickered with chakra, but with a broken hip and a sprained spine that she had been secretly nursing, she was simply too tired to do anything except think, 'Naruto…!'
In a way, death would be a blessing.
Shikamaru and Sasuke had been crouching in a flexible position, so they had been able to flee at the sudden ripple of chakra. Even as Shikamaru's feet lightly landed a good distance away, his eyes widened fearfully as he saw Hinata go flying toward a cement wall. He crouched again to move forward but was thrown off when a black blur pushed past him.
Ignoring the tremor of pain that racked his body as he abused his own broken ribs, Sasuke glided onto the wall and held himself parallel to the ground just seconds before Hinata's prone body flew toward him. Despite his quick and violent movements, his hands were gentle as he wrapped one arm around her bruised back and another around her knees. Careful to support her neck with one callused palm, he landed on the ground with a heavy thud. The sudden force knocked a pained grunt out of his body, but he was careful to roll the force onto his knees and away from Hinata's body.
Sasuke's shoulders slumped. With that last stunt he had used up all his chakra and what was left of his pain tolerance. Hinata's eyes were blank as she looked upwards into Sasuke's dark, black gaze. Up close they could see every little cut, burn, and fear on each others' faces. Perhaps in their younger years both of them would have flinched away but now Sasuke only sighed as Hinata simply let her eyes flutter close in shameless, guiltless thanks.
"What are you doing dobe?" Sasuke hissed, biting back pain. Holding another person was putting additional strain on his injured back. Not really expecting a reply, he shifted Hinata into a more comfortable position and then almost dropped her in shock when he glanced upwards again.
Shikamaru's own eyes narrowed into slits as somehow, somehow Naruto unsteadily stood. Blood poured ever more vigorously out of his wounds, and he looked as if he were emerging victoriously from a massacre of the gods themselves.
"I…Kyuubi… will… do... something…" the man gasped out. His eyes were slightly crazed and feverish and his hands were shaking. His fingers cracked, broken, and became claws. Hinata silently screamed as more demonic chakra burst from his body. It took all her courage to keep herself from shaking underneath the malevolent spiritual weight. Sasuke tightened his hold on her to keep her from bolting, broken hip and all.
Naruto was muttering but no one could catch his stuttering words. Time was insignificant as the chakra continued to rise, and rise, and rise. The rain was howling and the rubble cast long shadows. Dimly, the three shinobi knew they were supposed to do something as they felt more than heard the screams from watching villagers but they were simply too lethargic, too depressed. It seemed as the last bit of humam within them had finally caught up.
Hell hath no fury like a demon displeased.
It was only before the very final, very last pulse of chakra that Naruto seemed to regain momentary control.
"Sasuke… tell Sakura that I love-" The rest of the sentence was lost as blood erupted from his mouth like a fountain.
Sakura? Never found except for her head…
His friend could only nod mutely. Hinata looked calm but Sasuke could feel a distinct off-ness course through her. It was for her sake, not his, that he looked away.
Naruto continued to talk but even his delirious mind realized he was only making guttural noises through the blood. Blood spewed out of his mouth and splashed onto the pavement. Shikamaru's eyes had gone dead and didn't even flicker.
The villagers were screaming.
Using his last effort, Naruto made one last attempt.
"The rest is… up to you guys…" Naruto burbled through the life-giving liquid. He was nearing the end. Just one last...
And then suddenly there was something tearing at their every bit of being. Their souls, their physical entities, their skin felt like they were being ripped in all different directions. Shikamaru crouched into a compact position as Sasuke instinctively curled over Hinata, who grabbed his arm in fear.
Suddenly there was no more Konoha, only a huge black vortex that loomed hungry. Shikamaru froze in horror, his eyes wide and deer-like with fright. Hinata's mouth twisted open as a terrified shriek ripped through her raw throat. She buried her head into Sasuke's dirty shirt as her fingers clutched at him for purchase. Sasuke could do little more than pull her toward him, an old primitive instinct in him finding comfort in having another living human close.
Faintly, distantly right before the darkness both sweet and unforgiving swept through them, they thought they heard his voice one last time.
Then true, deep, dank blackness.
Whilst Time Turns
Chapter 1: An Awakening from Nightmares
Nara Shikamaru had nightmares.
His nightmares were never about shadows. Shadows were warm and friendly, and they reminded him of cornflower hair and periwinkle eyes. His nightmares were always about glazy whiteness that had burned away his family, friends, and home. It was the same kind of glazy whiteness that had turned her periwinkle blue eyes into glass marbles.
Even in death she looked sickeningly beautiful.
He jolted awake. Scrambled in blankets that seemed both familiar and foreign. Felt cold sweat and bumps flutter up his arms. His hands flared with chakra.
His eyes were blurry and he had a monstrous headache. It took Shikamaru moments to refocus, moments that he wasn't sure he had. Perhaps he was in the enemy camp, perhaps he was…
Even after clarity, it took Shikamaru a breathless moment to realize where he was.
The distinct mess. The wooden desk with a crack in the grain.
The three legged stool.
Shocked, he looked down at his familiar yet foreign blankets. It was the patchwork quilt that his mother had made. He could recognize it anywhere. The tiny stitches, the faded blue. Even back then, she had always seemed to instinctively know his favorite color.
It was the same blanket as the one that had been lost when a particularly nasty missing-nin blew up his house.
This wasn't right.
Fighting down vomit and bile, Shikamaru's eyes closed. Hysteria clawed at him but he forced it down. Just when he thought he was in control however, he felt them. Down the hallway, quietly at rest.
Shikamaru was a rational, hardened, tough shinobi. But the seconds, hours, days, months, years of The Terror was seeping into his mind like a slow thick poison. It was the niggling monster he had forced away with what little hope he had. Even when hope had vanished, the whispers and tatters of good memories had kept him sane. However when even those died, there wasn't much to keep away the Insane and the Crazed.
Shikamaru burrowed his head into his arms and screamed.
Uchiha Sasuke had nightmares.
His nightmares were always about red. Different shades of red, like the glowing red of a Chidori to the muted red of dried old blood, the kind of red he'd seen on the walls of Orochimaru's torture chamber. He also dreamed of the kind of red that mixed fresh blood with dried old maroon patches, that shade of deep garnet that looked eerily like the Mangekyou.
It wasn't unusual for Sasuke to fall asleep outside out of sheer exhaustion. Sasuke bit back a curse as he slowly began to feel the pounding pain in the back of his head, the pulsing ache of his muscles, and the grit of dirt on his sweat stained body. Resisting the lazy urge to just lie there, he flexed his legs to flip upwards in a crouching position. For a moment, he was up where he was supposed to be….and then his nose was suddenly squished against the ground.
Momentarily too exhausted to realize he had just overshot, he attempted again. The feeling of his nose smashing against the ground a second time brought clarity slamming into Sasuke's brain harder than Kakashi's fist.
Kakashi. Squishy grass. A dank smell of blood and sweat and a rusty sword. If he just looked at the top half, he could imagine that Kakashi was only sleeping…
Breaking that line of thought abruptly, Sasuke focused on the more immediate problem. One failure, he could credit to exhaustion. Two failures?
Gingerly, Sasuke flexed his legs and flipped upwards again. But somehow, somehow, his legs seemed shorter than before, his torso lighter, his reflexes just that much slower. It was only with full concentration he was able to use his arms to support his frame against the merciless ground. As his mind went dizzy with frustration and exhaustion, he focused on his hands.
Sasuke's hands were definitely a lot smaller than he remembered them. They were missing crucial scars, calluses and old tattoos.
Something is terribly off. He rolled to his feet, like a civilian, not trusting his suddenly foreign body. As he stared at the trees, he distinctively felt shorter than he was before. Sasuke grabbed at his neck and waited to feel the old pulse of Orochimaru's weakened but not dead chakra.
Sasuke snarled. His chakra flared and twisted. He narrowed his eyes as he activated his Sharingan. Or attempted to anyway.
Terror began to chew at his senses as his vision refused to turn into the black and red world that was both Sasuke's blessing and curse. Even as he strained his eyes, the Sharingan refused to manifest.
Did Madara take his Sharingan?
But no, that didn't make sense. He would be blind then. Perhaps he was sealed?
No, Hinata wouldn't be that cruel.
For a fleeting moment Sasuke clung to his cool and resolve. He had spent too much time clawing through life by his fingernails to lose his cool at a time like this. After all, he was Uchiha Sasuke—the last Uchiha, the last and the best survivor. But the seconds, minutes, hours, years of the Terror weighed on him like thickened gravity and even the best of them had a pain threshold.
Must have been caught by the enemy after…
Sasuke felt like bringing the world to its knees.
So instead, he screamed.
Hyuuga Hinata had nightmares.
Her nightmares were always black. Darkness. Alone. She never saw anyone in her dreams. She only heard voices. Pounding, accusing, condemning, bitter voices. Voices that said she wasn't good enough. That she was weak. Pathetic. Unacceptable. Unsuitable. That she didn't deserve to be Clan Head. That it was her fault the Clan died—that everyone died, all except her.
When Hinata woke she scrambled for kunai that weren't there and those missing weapons sent her into more panic. She keeled over and put a hand to her chest, expecting to feel the pulses of pain she always felt when she was particularly stressed. Neji's blow, even after all these years, had left permanent marks.
Yet, strangely enough, she felt nothing.
Disturbed, and in a reaction more violent than really called for, she ripped off her jacket. She stared down at her chest only to find none.
What? Hinata blinked at her undershirt. It was flat. It was also loose enough for her to peek down and see the lack of a scar. Hinata pulled the undershirt away from her body just to make sure. Yes, where the scar was supposed to be was healthy white skin. In awe, she raised a hand to touch the healthy whiteness, but then froze at the sight of said hand.
Hands were important. Hands were what held your weapons and what kept you alive. They had reflexes and physical conditioning of self-defense that sometimes saved you even when you were most unaware. As Hyuuga Hinata, her hands were doubly important. Her livelihood as both a killer and a ruler laid in her hands.
Her hands had always been small but now they were tiny. Small. Lacking a memorable cut that ran across her palm, caused by a kuai she had tried to stop from piercing Hanabi.
Little Hanabi had looked so small when she lay facedown in a puddle of scarlet red. Her hair was sticky-looking. Hanabi's hair was usually long, silky, smooth, and alive.
Pause. Stop all thought process.
Where was she?
Hinata blinked again and turned her head to look around. She was outside. The grass felt scratchy. Up ahead she could see an old battered training post. The wind smelled a bit smoky but it was not the smoke of burning buildings. Even further in the distance, Hinata could see the distinct outlines of the Hyuuga compound. She must have felt asleep training.
Hinata shakily stood up and was shocked to see the training log was taller than her. She had never been tall but she'd been tall enough. Hinata reached out to touch the log. It felt firm and real underneath her hands.
She was angry. Bitter. Confused. She felt like a cornered cat with unfamiliar hands tearing at her.
Barely thinking, Hinata drew her hand back and smashed the training post to bits.
A long time ago Hinata had harbored dreams. She had never been an easy killer, so she had aspired to be a healer, a healer that could mend even the most broken men. But the Terror had shown her just how powerlessa healer was.
A healer could never engage the enemy. A healer could never protect or even defend. A healer could only hope for the best and then try to fix what she could. More often than not, injuries were fatal. Even healers like Tsunade could only do so much. Time clocked at the hospital had taught Hinata that prevention was still the best medicine. If only she had been strong enough to kill the various, nameless enemies, then there wouldn't even be a need for a hospital. But by the time she'd gained the strength, the urge to protect had died with all the people worth protecting.
The splinters flew by her and she ignored a particularly sharp one that cut her chin. Her hand was coursing with thick chakra and she couldn't help but relish its familiar pulse.
However, there was something off. Something about her body. Something about her legs and her arms. The force behind her hands was too strong and she felt herself teetering forward. Eyes widening slightly, Hinata twisted her ankle forcefully to stop her movement. It hurt but it was better than careening into the unknown.
She leaned forward and rested her palms on her knees. Her ankle hurt but it wasn't anything she hadn't felt before. What was more disorienting was the sudden drain in chakra. It was worse than blood loss.
Yes, Hinata had never been strong. But she'd never been this weak either.
Hinata raised her head to the skies. The stars seemed to be mocking her. She activated her Byagukan with a low growl of frustration.
That was when she saw him.
She hadn't even been looking for him. Her Byagukan had seemed to instinctively seize upon his familiar face, sharpening and picking at the defining details of one Hyuuga Hiashi. Hinata felt a ragged whine escape her lips.
She limped backwards in shock and her hands flinched, but her Byagukan remain activated. The chakra signature remained tragically clear, as tragically clear as her father's sleeping face. It was as if her father was really alive.
I'm hallucinating, I'm hallucinating, I'm hallucinating…
Not just alive, he looked young. Nothing like how he had looked before—
Before she had been taken into an observation center, asked to identify a body, then she was screaming screaming at some broken thing that couldn't be a body, couldn't be human, and most definitely couldn't be Father…
Crack, crack crack. Was that the sound of sanity being shattered?
Hinata's Byagukan roved and flew through the Hyuuga Compound with an assuredness that had come from being born, growing up, and ruling the Hyuuga. Hanabi. Neji. Even her Great Aunt. Even the old maid who had been the first to die, dying with the name Hyuuga on her lips.
Hinata struggled for control. However the seconds, minutes, days, months, years of the Terror had taken their toll. She could feel her vision tunneling in and she was only subconsciously aware of her Byagukan receding.
Hinata felt like making everyone in the world feel the same pain and hopelessness she felt. It wasn't fair.
She felt like screaming.
So instead, she bolted.
Fate hates the unprepared.
Oh yeah, you all want to kill me don't you? Despite all my big talk about throwing this aside, here I am reopening a Pandora's box. Blame it on my overactive muse who loves yoghurt and mustard.
Revamped and reposted. Originally wanted to post this underneath the character distinctions of "Shikamaru" and "Sasuke" but since this is definitely not a romance fic between the two (how disturbing), I decided to leave it underneath the more heterosexual labeling of Hinata and Sasuke.
Review. The golden cycle makes my muse happy. A happy muse equals a happy author equals a happy chapter equals happy readers equals happy reviews... and so on so forth.