AU: Mostly canon in both worlds, with small alterations.
Pairings: Like all ninja/vampire stories... it's complicated. But understand Sakura is pansexual in this. And that I have thing for extremely outrageous or controversial pairings. Just sayin'.
A/N: I have no excuse for this, other than that I wondered what a Naruto/Twilight crossover might be like as I chewed on some carrots.
For someone of no noble heritage, Haruno Sakura has made quite the name for herself by eighteen years old.
With twenty sets of katas, four advanced jutsus, countless genjutsu tricks, and incredible control, intelligence, and speed, she is arguably one of the strongest kunoichi of her generation, her capabilities having surpassed Ino, Hinata, Tenten, Hana, and, through a combination of luck and drunken stupidity on her opponent's behalf, Anko.
She is also an accomplished Tokubetsu Iryou-nin, a first class Specialized Doctor of Medicine, with perfect markings on every examination. She has advanced almost all branches of traditional and contemporary healing, saved hundreds of lives, and her agile fingers can swivel a pair of forceps better than shuriken.
Finally, Sakura has one of the most extensive connections in the village, and through her, you will meet some of the most interesting people of your life.
For example, if you are an associate of Sakura, you are, by default, the new best friend of one Uzumaki Naruto (diplomat, fighter, and protectorate of Konoha, the Hidden Leaf Village) who will swing one arm around your shoulder, sashay you to one fine dining institution known as Ichiraku Ramen (you're paying), and, in between bowls of miso, hose you down with a billion questions from any romantic interest you might have in one certain pinkette (an answer which will determine the duration of your lifespan) to which brand of milk products will most likely give you uncontrolled bowel movements.
Besides Sakura's longtime blond companion, you will also have the privilege of greeting the commander of the military police force, Uchiha Sasuke, who, if on a good mood, will glance at you once before strutting away, and if on a bad mood, will glare you down with such intensity that you will collapse to his feet in bleak surrender, crying mama (to which you will suddenly lose your ability to form coherent sentences for the remainder of the week, because reminding one of the strongest shinobi in the village of his deceased maternal figure is never a good idea).
If by any fortune (or misfortune) you have recovered from Sasuke's extensive brainfuck and have not committed suicide yet, then there is a high probability that you might find yourself in the company of Sakura's friend and heiress of the most revered clan in the village, the lovely Hyuuga Hinata, who, while fidgeting with her fingers, will shyly present to you a bouquet of flowers from one incredibly sorry but outrageously busy medic. Alongside the flowers will be a strongly worded apology for her stupid teammates, and, if you are willing to give her another chance, Sakura will gladly give you a tour of the famous Konoha obon festivals upon your recovery.
And that will be the plan, if you do not give the messenger anything other than the politest form of thank you – brief, curt, and professional - because any breezily shot comments (or, say, experimental tests on the capability of your wiggling eyebrow to charm ladies) will result in oxygen deprivation and immediate collapse of the heiress. And as you lift her up in the hospital room, asking if she's alright (thereby causing another round of insta-faints), chances are, right then and there, her teammates will appear, or her cousin will appear, or Ino, the village gossiper who is far too willing to jump to conclusions, will appear, and if so, you are epically screwed whichever way.
Okay, so a bloody nose and several missing teeth later, you will probably be packing your bags, angrily limping to the Konoha gate, Sakura's quick footsteps following you, her hands clutched together, pleading that you stay one more day, one more day to see the lanterns with her.
And as you reconsider, most likely you will bump into some of her mentors, the infamous Hatake Kakashi, the brilliant Yuuhi Kurenai, and the legendary Tsunade, who will shoo her off for some mission, and Sakura will give you one last plea before disappearing to the Hokage's tower. That leaves the opportune time for her mentors to nonchalantly inform you of your gauche, despicable, and noncommittal conduct (courtesy of one copy-nin), or calmly reprimand you that teenage girls her age are rather insecure and you're not helping (courtesy of one genjutsu master), or just send you flying at over a hundred kilos per hour, screaming you don't deserve my apprentice, bitch! (courtesy of one Sannin).
And maybe you don't deserve her, hence why after several broken bones, gallons of blood loss, and a sanity that jumped the bridge, you change your name, rearrange your face, and live the rest of your life on a remote island as a hermit, pretending none of this ever happened. Just like every other interested fella before you.
Thus, every obon festival, Sakura sulks in the hospital wing, staring out the window at the lantern infested lake with such a despondent expression that sends Sasuke to shame, because goddammit, she is eighteen, at the prime of her youth, and what little guys and girls who are not intimidated by her reputation are squatted like flies by her own loved ones. And since there are not many people who find her quirky, semi-violent self appealing to begin with, the probability that she will end up in a convent now seems ridiculously high.
And it is that exact brooding that has her inwardly groaning, so she distracts herself from wallowing in self-pity by pacing around the room, rechecking the IV and monitors, wiping scalpels, and peeling mandarin oranges all while she rants to her long term patient.
"And after I got my mission, he just disappeared. Disappeared!" She punctuates with a stab into her orange. "And when I asked Kakashi-sensei, he just waved the matter off like men disappearing off the face of the planet is no big deal, and gave me some bullcrap about how I'm better off without him."
"Maybe Kakashi-san is right," her patient says, "if he is so discourteous as to abandon you on such an important date."
"Not you too," Sakura cries. "Look, I know he used to be a thief, I know his reputation isn't the greatest, but he's changed dammit. He's a decent man now, and he's so sweet to me, and he'd never just disappear had it not been for my lousy boyfriend patrol squad."
"Why not ask Shiho-san like last year? She would enjoy your company."
"Girlfriend patrol squad scared her away," she grumbles irritably, violently deskinning her orange. And Sakura is fond of Shiho too, loves the times they spent reading at the library, chatting over latest trivia, or giggling together under the tables of the crypt labs as they exchanged oekaki puzzles. Unfortunately, Sakura's friends did not approve of their nerd love, and it took fifty or so accusative fingers before Shiho broke down, bowed to Sakura, and said maybe it was best they invested their interests in other people.
Her patient gives her a sympathetic smile. "Maybe next year."
Sakura blandly nods. Meanwhile, her inner self is howling, because at eighteen, her hormone levels have shattered the scale, and if she cannot get a partner soon, she will start staring at innocent inanimate objects with not-so innocent intentions.
Sakura keeps her inner self on a leash, separates slices of clementine, and pleasantly deviates to a different topic with, "Well, the good news for the day is that we finally have a letter from the foreigners."
"On studying abroad?"
"Yeah. They say they can accommodate one of us into their lands, as long as we don't cause trouble. Tsunade-shishou picked me to go study their medicine."
"Did you accept?"
Sakura holds her breath. Then, with a sigh, she shakes her head. "I said I needed time to think about it."
It is a big deal. She will be going to another continent, submerging in foreign culture. The shinobi lands are reclusive, and it is not common to intermingle with the outside world. In fact, the idea is so big, that even her large cranium cannot register it. So instead, she tucks the whole notion away as another strange mission.
Though, after completing multiple life-death missions, fighting creepy pedophiles, chasing after magical gemstones, destroying armies of zombies, tearing the time-space continuum, and engaging in everything from dancing with puppets to petting saber-toothed tigers, all during her early adolescent years, Sakura is used to these kinds of things.
Still she hesitated, because this time, it is just herself. No Naruto, no Sasuke, no Sai. No one. Her reason is selfish, especially since her entire village is counting on her to save the patient before her. The village has honestly done all it can, but even techniques from the Nara's old records have not succeeded in providing a cure. It has gotten to the point that the reality her patient will die, and painfully, becomes harder to deny.
Then comes the letter. It is a godsend, a blessing, but instead of jumping at the opportunity, Sakura stood there, uncertain of what to do. The distance and time for this mission stunned her cold – an unknown land off the maps, and a period of two years.
All she thought was no more ramen, no more hospital duties, no more fail dates (granted, at the time, she did not know said date had already cut his hair and rearranged the katakana characters in his name), and no more Konoha.
Sakura did not say no, but she sounded rather cold-hearted, or cowardly, or both, to have not said yes.
Her hands stop. "I apologize for my indecisiveness, Itachi-san." She is unable to look at her patient in the eye, because what kind of message has she just sent to him? That they might have gained the opportunity to save his life, but she hesitated?
Itachi looks at her some more, or at least in her general direction.
"There is no need to apologize, Sakura-san," he says. "Leaving home can be difficult, even frightening. It was a wise move to ask for time to think, instead of jumping into something you might later regret."
He lifts a hand for a moment of her patience. "Sakura-san, I do not wish to burden you with more responsibilities either. Please, you are a young woman who have already put in tremendous efforts, and you do not deserve to be pressured into doing something you would not want to. There are many capable medics willing to take this mission, and I will understand if you decline."
Hearing these words sends Sakura a crash of relief. Sometimes, she forgets who is healing who, as Itachi seems to be doing more good for her health than she can give back.
More guilt settles in. It is not fair.
"Well, I do want to, Itachi-san," she says, her thumb nail digging into the soft skin of another clementine. "Tsunade-shishou said the land has unusual healing techniques, and you know I love learning. Besides, the faster we can cure you of your disease, the faster Sasuke can rid of that sour look on his face, and the faster Naruto can proceed on with planning their big fat gay wedding."
"You know, Sakura-san, there are other reasons," he says. "One will only see his own shadow when he leaves the shade of the tree. It may be the time for your own adventure outside the orbit of your friends. To discover your potential."
Sakura stops just before the clementine touches her lips.
"Besides, it's also a wonderful opportunity to make new friends or, say, lovers, without the interference of an entire village, no?" he teases.
Here, Sakura introduces her forehead to the table. "Oh gods," she cries. "Poor, poor Idate-kun."
Itachi cannot help but be amused at her misfortune. "I did not mean to bring that up."
"No, no, it's fine," Sakura sighs, surgically removing her head from the wood. She slumps and sticks the slice of clementine into her mouth, mulling over Itachi's words.
He has a point. No patrol squads. Going into an unknown land where people can judge her for her. The freedom to break from her routine. And maybe, just maybe, a chance to fulfill that childish fantasy of chivalry, romance, and adventure. Every girl can dream of that twilight fairy tale, can't she?
Huh, when put that way...
"Itachi-san," she says, after much decision weighing, "I think you may have just talked me into the whole thing."
Sakura looks down at the plate of twenty-or-so angrily peeled oranges on her table.
"Clementine?" she offers, extending a slice to him.
In between slices of the sweet fruit, Sakura stares at the floating lanterns in the distance, the expansive deep starry night, the familiar billow of the Konoha air against the curtains, all while exchanging thoughts on the New World and feeling much less lonely on the festive night.
Two months later, Sakura receives a full dosage of Naruto's whines, his arms wrapped around her leg like a tumorous growth.
"NOOOooo! No, Sakura-chan, you can't go! You- you just can't!"
"Na-ru-to! Give it up!" She pries him off.
While Naruto waves his arms frantically, she packs the rest of her medical equipment, travel logs, and legal documents. Past these items, she only has C-rank necessities, and a change of clothes. Sakura is confident she can secure anything else once she arrives.
From the corner, Hinata hands her several medical journals. She winces as Sakura pummels them into her backpack, and suggests a sealing scroll.
"They don't work where I'm going," Sakura says, then deals Naruto another head-whack. "And Naruto, I'm going. Don't you want Itachi-san to be better?"
"Well, well, yes, but can't someone else go, Sakura-chan? It'll be awful without you at Ichiraku. We'll have to invite Sai instead, and you know I don't like him groping my penis."
Sakura drops an eyebrow. "Sai's coming whether I'm there or not, but I have to go. Tsunade-shishou says their knowledge of medicine is better than ours. And since I am Itachi-san's doctor, it would only be best if I studied there. Right, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke says nothing, but his hands grip the edge of her windowsill hard. He honestly prefers Sakura in the village, seeing as she is of the few people he can share a lunch with. They also work beautifully together on missions, understanding each other's dynamics and knowing when to step back and let the other take over to guarantee the highest efficiency. And since Sakura is also the only one he trusts to place his brother's health in, he has a feeling that after she leaves, his paranoid trips to the hospital will increase exponentially.
But unlike Naruto, Sasuke also remembers how both he and Naruto have abandoned her for years. At the time, Sasuke did not give the slightest consideration for what Sakura might need to put up with, so it would be too hypocritical of him to stop her now. Sakura has the freedom to do what she feels is right, and his inconveniences will not matter.
So Sasuke glances away and gives a "Che, do whatever you want."
Naruto's face falls, and he knows he is fighting a losing battle when the only other support in the room, Hinata, gives a meek smile, equally supporting Sakura's decision.
However, as Sakura slides open the door and readies to leave, trying to conjure up a final snappy remark to Naruto about how she can handle herself, a crowd of faces has her somersaulting back.
"How can you not tell your best friend, billboard brow!"
"Good luck, Sakura-san!"
"Yosh, you have our best regards, Sakura-san."
"At least have one more barbeque with us."
"It's been a pleasure, Sakura."
"I brought the sake!"
Sakura's eye twitch, not because she doesn't find all her friends, teachers, companions, and a billion other people around her endearing, but because she specifically gave everyone notice weeks earlier, and no one gave a crapshoot then.
But what can you expect from these people? She nods and resigns with a "Yeah." She then addresses their concerns, and promises that yes, she will take good care of herself, write home often, and be back, safe and sound, in two years' time.
Several dozen arms wrap around her in a goodbye, and she feels a pang of regret at leaving. But as presents pile up in her arms (packets of cup ramen flavoring from Naruto, a set of shuriken from Sasuke, hairpins from Ino, a windbreaker from Lee, a Kenken book from Shiho, homemade onigiri from Hinata, wooden chopsticks from Yamato, and a billion fortune charms from everyone), and they send smiles, she too musters the courage to not cry.
"Aye, we're not late, are we?"
Sakura looks up to see four more figures at the doorway of her claustrophobic room.
"Kakashi-sensei! Kurenai-sensei, Shizune-san, Tsunade-shishou-"
She is interrupted by spontaneous G-cup breast suffocation, as Tsunade holds Sakura against her chest, and Shizune and Tonton join in.
"Aa, now, now. No need to be overly maudlin," Kakashi says, ignoring Tsunade's fist at him to shut his trap.
"Are you ready, Sakura?"
"Hai," Sakura replies, giving an embarrassed chuckle.
Soon, her friends are accompanying her to the Konoha gate, tagging behind like a giant, multicolored, and extremely bizarre train. Once past the post guards, who send curt nods, Sakura exchanges last hugs, mostly from a boy sobbing snot trails, blabbing on and on about how he will miss her, and a girl who affectionately flickers her forehead.
Kakashi and Kurenai flank her sides, and she is forced to depart. She looks back at the waves and shouts, cries and cheers, the giant wooden sign and towers marking her home, and tries to frame the moment like a picture in the vast expansive of a mind filled with facts and equations.
The breeze blows by her. She basks in the glowing sunlight one last time, the speckled shade of Konoha leafs batting against her skin.
One will only see his own shadow when he leaves the shade of the tree.
Itachi is right. She needs this, and Konoha will gladly wait for her return.
By the time the eastern gust is gone, so is one Haruno Sakura.