I'd like to offer a thousand thanks to Japboix1 for all of his help. He did an amazing job helping me fix this chapter and letting me bounce ideas off of him for where to go with this next. Without his help this never would have gotten posted.
War had always been an inevitable abstraction to the young shinobi of konoha. They knew it was more than a possibility, knew that there would be blood and that people would die. But having that knowledge in no way prepared them for the real thing. But here was the real thing, in all of its horror, at their doorstep.
Time had stopped working normally. It sped up and slowed down as comrades were dismembered, impaled and exploded. It slowed as blood squirted into the air sped up when it fell to the ground in a gruesome red rain. It warped as the blood in their ears pounded so hard they could barely hear anything else- until they realized it wasn't time that had frozen, it was their own bodies. They had to move, had to fight to live. It had to be close to being over, right? Just over.
At this point, it was beyond winning or losing. None of the young shinobi knew how they stood overall. All they knew was people they had grown up knowing, grown up dreaming about when they could use these skills, were suddenly and violently blinked out of existence. Winning. Could anyone ever really win a war if this is the price they had to pay? No. You can't win, you can only finish it.
In the trees they could hear debris ricocheting off of leaves and landing with a sickening thud onto the now muddy ground. Their beautiful forest surrounding konoha, nearly all the way to the suna border, was decimated. Tree trunks were unusually dark with still warm blood spatter and the once grassy ground was littered with broken or abandoned equipment and flesh. Sakura would have vomited but there was nothing left in her stomach.
She found herself alone in the horrors surrounding her. She was running towards her teammate who was fighting in a small clearing up ahead. At the start of all of this she had been torn between the duties of being a medic nin and the desire to fight to protect her friends so that she didn't need to heal anyone. She originally settled on the mindset to hang back and only heal others, but far too many chakra signals were blinking out. What was the point in being able to heal if there was no one left to heal? She was going to fight.
She needed to protect one person in particular. A blonde haired blue eyed shinobi of great strength and greater heart. She had an unshakeable fear of him dying without her being able to tell him something important. It had taken her weeks to get up the nerve to tell him. And it had taken her much longer than that to decide that what she was feeling was acceptable and real. She had tried to tell him a few times since then, but he misunderstood why she was acting serious and she lost her nerve. But now, with the reality of death in front of her, it couldn't wait.
She approached the clearing at full speed only to stop short and take a moment to see how best to surprise the attacker. In front of her she saw an unknown enemy ninja with a sadistic sense of humor, playing with Naruto and to her disbelief, Sasuke. She would find out later that Sasuke had entered this battle with intent to not let anyone else kill Naruto. Sasuke was determined to do that himself. So for the moment, he was fighting Naruto's enemy. Sakura wrinkled her nose in disgust. How had she ever liked this guy?
Their attacker knew his opponents were losing strength and was toying with them. Sakura let out a small involuntary gasp as she saw the state they were in and took in the situation. If they were having this much trouble, she wasn't sure how much good she could be. Sasuke, who was more observant than Naruto, looked up to see the source of the small noise. Their assailant jumped at the chance and stabbed him through the heart. Before the blade was pulled from his body he gave Sakura a small smile and mouthed "I'm sorry" to her. Blood oozed its way from his mouth as he finished the word. Sakura saw the light fade from his eyes. He was gone.
What was he sorry for? For dying? For leaving? For coming back? For hurting her? For wanting to kill everyone? Or was it something sicker, like being sorry he wasn't the one to kill Naruto? She would never know.
Another chakra signal blinked out in front of her. Another valuable life lost. This time it was a life that had once meant so much to her, a life that she was partially responsible for losing. She should have known better than to gasp. Naruto began to glow with rage as Sakura burst through the trees, fist nearly sparking with the chakra she had built up. She could tell Naruto how she felt once this bastard went down.
Naruto had seen Sasuke look up and on instinct had looked up to see what had caught his attention. The moment he did, he heard the sick sound of something being thrust into flesh. He could feel himself not breathing right. He knew it was over, knew his precious Sakura had just witnessed something that would never leave her. Above all else, all he had wanted was to protect her. Now it seemed, he had failed. He threw caution to the wind and prepared to avenge Sasuke. His fallen comrade. His brother.
With a single enemy still standing, the war was basically over. Madara had been masterfully dealt with by an elite alliance of Anbu who were selected solely for that purpose. She wasn't sure what had happened to Sasuke, but she had felt him pass on. Shizune stood admiring her fellow shinobi as she took a small break before running off towards the final battle. There were 2 familiar chakra signals coming from that its' direction. It was Naruto and Sakura's battle. A battle that she was certain would be over soon and their tired but smiling faces would join the rest of the alive but wounded crowd. She began to walk over to where they were, in no particular hurry since Naruto wouldn't want help anyway. Then she felt it. Her stomach sank and she shot off at full blast. Their chakra was fading. How could this be?
When she arrived on scene the enemy was poised to slit Sakura's throat, forcing an immobile Naruto to watch. Without hesitation Shizune materialized behind him and aimed to stab him through his heart from behind. The attacker had been worn down first by Naruto alone, then by Naruto and Sasuke and finally by Naruto and Sakura who were crazed by the loss of their "friend". He knew that he would lose this fight. The attacker dropped his weapon, did a forward flip over the two injured ninja and disappeared into the forest. Shizune cursed her luck, he would have to be dealt with. He was too strong. She sheathed her weapon and prepared to treat two new patients. What she saw when she looked down made her heart freeze.
Naruto lay on the ground with a discarded katana running straight through him. It had belonged to the man who lay dead in the underbrush, several yards from where they fought. It looked like Naruto had been thrown backwards by an attack and forced on to it. Sakura began slowly dragging herself towards him, holding a hand over her abdomen. From behind her gloved hand Shizune saw what looked like intestines nearly falling out, being held in solely by her hand. I can't help them. Shizune thought to herself in a panic. Even if she was fully rested these injuries were too serious for her to treat alone in the middle of the forest. They were going to die. She took a step towards them, hand outreached with tears forming in her eyes.
"Sakura. Don't move." She said softly. "Don't make it worse... Stop moving… please… STOP!" she shouted the last word, tears starting to flow.
"Shizune" Sakura breathed, the word catching as she gasped in pain.
"Sakura don't…" she was cut off by the dying medic nin.
"We both know…that there's no way…that I'll live." She said as she finally was within arms reach of Naruto. His breathing was labored but he was wide eyed and watching Sakura's every move.
"And…all I want…is to be able…to be near Naruto…in the end."
"Sa…ku..ra…chan…" Naruto whispered, being unable to raise his voice further.
She finally reached him. She lay down, resting her head on his shoulder and put the arm that wasn't holding her insides inside, around him, carefully not touching the sword that would kill him in the end.
Shizune stared at them. Lost for words. Frozen in the intimacy of their last moments on this earth.
"I'm gonna die?" Naruto asked, it wasn't exactly a question, but there was a hint of hope in his voice.
"Me too." She whispered back. The tears streaming down both of their faces were washing away the dirt and grime of war. There were a few moments of silence as they stared into each other eyes. Shizune wondered what exactly they saw.
"Hey, Naruto" Sakura said as she twitched in pain, coughing up blood. It splattered on his neck.
"Yeah?" he said, unable to move most of his body now. The world was getting gray and fuzzy at the edges. He knew that if he lost consciousness, he would never regain it. He wanted to stay, until Sakura had left. There was no point in staying without her.
"I need…to tell you…something." She winced and coughed, which made her wince more. It was a vicious cycle and Shizune could see her time was running short.
"I know." He replied.
"No." she normally would have gotten angry with him for finishing her sentence, but there was no anger left in her body. There was barely anything left in her body. She could feel the need to sleep coming over her. It was so strong. But she had to tell him this, if only just this once.
"I love you."
Shizune's tears escalated. Naruto told her that he loved her too. There was a moment of silence as Sakura's breath caught and she struggled to say something.
"Don't Sakura. Please don't!" Shizune begged taking a step forward.
"Shizune." Every word was harder. Every thought was slippery, like they would disappear if she didn't concentrate very hard on them. But she was so tired. This was important though! She had to stay just long enough to prove to him how serious she was.
"What?" Shizune hadn't mean to sound angry, Shizune would never forgive herself for sounding that way. In fact, she would have nightmares for years to come about these few moments.
"Marry us" Sakura said gripping Naruto's hand. He knew it was being held from the pressure, but he couldn't really feel it. After all of this time he was finally getting to hold her hand and he couldn't feel it. His eyes would have widened. His face would have grinned, but all he could do was breath. And that was becoming so hard. Both of their eyelids were drooping. This was it.
"What! At a time like this?" Shizune was panicking. How could this happen, to these two!
"There…is…no more time…" Sakura said, "Unless…Naruto…objects?" She said, forcing an eyelid open to see the gleam in his eyes. He was fading fast though, and Shizune wasn't sure if he had the strength to reply.
"Yes." One word was hard enough.
"Is this ok with you?" Shizune asked, although she knew the answer.
"Already…said…" his voice faded away. Shizune was crying so hard she was wondering when she would run out of tears.
"Sakura, do you take Naruto to be your husband from now until…
"Say al…ways" Sakura interjected, trying desperately to hold on.
"…forever" it was close enough, she doubted Sakura had the energy to get angry. Shizune couldn't believe what was happening in front of her.
"I…do" she said, attempting to nuzzle Naruto's neck since she couldn't feel her hand to squeeze his anymore.
"Naruto do you…"
"believe….it…" he said, with a half smile, presumably he couldn't control the side of his body that had taken the hit.
This was the part that was going to kill her to watch. This was the part that would have Shizune waking up sweating in the night.
"You can kiss…" she began to say it but was shocked into silence as Sakura shakily pulled herself up on her elbow and kissed Naruto. Naruto's kiss back was the last of his strength and when they pulled apart the light in his eyes started to disappear. He looked happier in death than Shizune had ever remembered him being in life. He got his girl she thought as the gravity of the situation started to really hit her. They had been in love all this time? It took death for Sakura to realize it? It took war and blood and spilled guts for Sakura to open her heart up? Fuck, was all she could think as she watched the final act unfold.
Sakura leaned back from the kiss slowly. As she was moving, her body jerked and it looked like she hiccupped. Shizune saw her lips halfway parted encased in a bloody spit bubble. The look in her eyes was tortuous. When the bubble popped, Sakura's life ended. She collapsed onto her husband of all of 60 seconds.
Their chakra had disappeared. Shizune fell to the ground. Noticing now, the dead Uchiha off in the corner of the clearing. Shizune weeped, her heart pounding so fast it felt like it might stop out of sympathy. She promised herself that they would receive the proper paperwork to make this official so they could be buried together. She would do it as soon as she could move from this spot.
She screamed and punched the muddy ground as Kakashi arrived. He had taken off as fast as he could after he felt their deaths. He hadn't been far. He was about to put his hand on Shizune's shoulder, to offer what little comfort he could, when he felt it. Familiar chakra shot through the air like thunder. It was so strong it hit him in the chest and he was knocked back a few feet. Shizune looked up, tears momentarily stalled in her confusion. Before their eyes was a massive orange glow. The mass had enveloped both Naruto and Sakura. They were being raised off of the ground by its force. Wounds were closing, intestines rewinding themselves and nestling back in their place. The glassy dead gleam in their eyes was gone, but there was no light in their eyes.
"The Kyuubi?" Shizune asked, not expecting a response. But a response she got in a thunderous voice.
"If he dies, I die. And I'm not going anywhere." It was the kyuubi.
"But why heal Sakura?" Kakashi asked, afraid of the implications and afraid to waste time with stupid questions with this tailed beast.
"Simple, if she dies, he'd give up and then we'd both die."
"Then why not heal them earlier!" Shizune said as she jumped to her feet, furious that they had gone through that for nothing.
"Because it was such a touching scene." The voice responded with a chuckle.
"You sick bastard" Shizune said as Kakashi put a hand on her arm, warning her from approaching the monster. It was healing Naruto and Sakura after all.
"How are you healing her?" Kakashi asked, voice emotionless.
"Listen to you, the girl, the girl! Why do you care?"
"Guess it doesn't really matter…"Kakashi said in a hushed voice as he pulled Shizune further from the clearing. Afraid to get too near the glowing mass, afraid of what the chakra could do to someone who wasn't Naruto.
"Will this really work?" Shizune was almost afraid to ask.
"All I can do is heal their bodies." The Kyuubi replied. "They have to come back on their own." The horrible beast chuckled.
Kakashi frowned. There was something off about that logic. Why heal them this late in the game if there was a chance it wouldn't work? Just as Kakashi was formulating an intelligent way to question the Kyuubi, the fox broke the silence.
"Until next time, mortals!" the voice said with unreasonable humor. The glow disappeared abruptly.
From across the forest a crying Ino had been leaning on an equally upset Shikamaru. They had felt their friends die. All of this had reminded them of Asuma's death and they were losing their grip. It hurt too much. Shinobi training didn't really prepare you for this shit. This was it; they were going to quit being shinobi tonight. No more of this.
Back in the clearing lay two totally unharmed bodies. Shizune and Kakashi took a cautious step forward, neither of them hearing a heartbeat nor feeling their chakra. It wasn't until they were both kneeling down, ears getting closer to their chests, that the heartbeats kicked in. Bastard did that on purpose Kakashi thought without real malice, since they were alive again because of the sadistic fox. While their bodies certainly were alive, they weren't awake yet.
From across the forest Ino and Shikamaru's tears were halted as they felt their friends' chakra blast back into existence. They could almost feel their heart beats in the chakra, that's how strongly it was pulsing. They started to run. Confused and daring to be hopeful but afraid of what they might find.
A/N: Please tell me what you thought!