Slight spoilers if you don't know the history behind Naruto's parents/his mother's clan.

bits and pieces

She opens her eyes and the first thing she hears is her heart screaming wrong wrong wrong.

She is in the middle of a forest, flat on her blood stained back (because she'd been about to die, her eyes had closed and she'd begun walking towards the not-so-metaphorical light). Her limbs are aching and she has a splitting headache. There is a gash slowly weeping blood along her stomach and lacerations line her arm from when she'd raised them to protect her face from a bomb going off in the near vicinity, but she is alive, and the deadly long Kusanagai is not thrust through her heart like she expects.

Sakura's eyes slide close, and she lies immobile in the dirt for long minutes. When she finally gets up, her movements are creaky as she surveys the pristine forest around her in deadened calm. She can just see the peaks of Konoha's gates rising in the distance, and the only noise around her is birdsong and the occasional rustling of leaves.

The air of the Konoha that she came from (left, unwillingly abandoned) had been rent with the screams of her dying friends, the gates smashed and broken by giant summoned snakes.

Sakura staggers, braces herself briefly against the image of crazed red eyes and flashing steel whipping closer, closer.

She clinically notes that the blood is flowing more freely now from her sliced abdomen, and as she moves, shifting the shredded flak jacket to better see the wound, the jagged slice widens and the skin further rips.

She would be in agony if she could still feel the pain. As it stands, she is numb from blood loss and the adrenaline still coursing through her veins. Green flickers around her hands for a second before dying away; she has no chakra left.

Sakura sinks down to her knees because she has no strength left to move. She pulls her legs up to her chest-her injuries protesting the movement-, drops her head onto her knees, and waits.

Namikaze Minato is on a routine patrol around the village borders when he sees the girl from a distance. She is half sitting, half lying, completely still, against the broad mossy trunk of a tree. She is wearing what looks like a ripped regulation Jounin flak jacket, a dark, tattered skirt, and scuffed knee high boots. Her face is hidden against her knees but he can tell that her hair is a light, startling shade of pink.

The blond just stands there, twenty feet away in the sunshine as he watches her lying in the shade, something odd twisting and pulling in his chest for a few long moments before he finally notices her Konoha hitai-ate, tied like a headband in her hair and the same blood red as the gashes lining her arm.

He moves then, fast like his namesake, and when he is close enough-just a foot or two away-he sucks in a breath at the mess he can see; besides the oozing gashes in her arm there is a nasty looking cut on her temple, staining pink hair red (he thinks Kushina and shudders because the red of her hair should never be the red of blood). Shallow cuts are scattered on the exposed portion of her legs and he can tell there's something wrong with her chest because of the uneasy way she breathes.

Minato kneels, then extends his arm and gingerly prods the girl in the shoulder. She does not move, and he comes to the conclusion that she is well and truly unconscious. Gently, as to not jostle any of her injuries, he eases her away from the tree, sliding her legs out until they're splayed in front of her and her torso is exposed.

His eyes widen at the mangled mess of her body. Blood had completely soaked the torn jacket around it until it shines a bright sticky red, and still more drips from a gash at least five inches long and two inches wide along her stomach. Torn muscles shudder and writhe with each labored breath she takes. It is a wonder that she is still alive.

He quickly radios in for a medic.

When she wakes this time, she is greeted by a white ceiling and the familiar antiseptic smell of the hospital. There is no one else in the room.

Sakura is slow to sit up, and when she does, scratchy wool blanket falling away from her shoulders, she is surprised by the sensation of something constricting her abdomen. Her hand encounters the feel of newly changed bandages underneath the paper thin hospital gown, and that is when she notices similar treatment to some of the worse wounds on her arms and the gash in her head.

Green envelopes her hand and she is satisfied when the light does not flicker or shake. It only takes a moment to bunch the nightgown beneath her still bound breasts (she is vaguely relieved that she is still wearing her own underwear) and pull the bandages away. That is how Namikaze Minato and the Third Hokage finds her a moment later when he bursts through the door, having felt her chakra come to life.

She regards them across the room with bottle green eyes, hospital gown still bunched around her torso, green glow hands still pressed to her rapidly healing wound, and says, "So I am dead."

Minato doesn't even blink at her odd proclamation; people, ninja in particular, often say odd things after a near death experience, and this girl had been perilously, perilously close to death. But his eyes are immediately drawn to her uncovered stomach and the way flesh and muscle are steadily reknitting itself under her chakra-cloaked hand.

"Oh my, that is rather impressive," Sarutobi-sama offers from besides him, and his voice is open and kind as they both survey the strange nin. Her hitai-ate is no doubt authentic, the irrefutable chakra signature of the Sandaime that is imbued in every forehead protector of this generation coming alive in his hands, but there is no record of a pink haired kunoichi ever existing within the walls of Konoha, and the closest they have come is Haruno Masaki, a pink haired woman with an utterly unremarkable civilian background.

The girl does not, in all technicality, exist.

She does not speak, does not even spare the two another glance as she directs her attention back to healing herself. Minato and Sarutobi silently watches as she moves onto her arms and forehead once she is done healing her stomach.

The blond only ever remembers seeing one other person heal this quickly and efficiently.

"We need to ask you some questions."

She looks up again, then, and he is once again struck by the greenness of her eyes.

He grins reassuringly at her, but it seems to have the opposite effect; her movements completely still and if possible her eyes turn even greener as she tilts her head into the solitary ray of sunlight falling across the hospital bed.

"Naruto," she whispers, and her voice is cut-glass thin.

"You wish cake?" Sarutobi is still friendly, still calm, but there is the barest hint of bemusement in the pause between his words.

The girl blinks at Minato, shakes her head as if to clear herself of some unseen phantom and blinks again, looks away towards the single tiny window.

"...alive. I wish I was still alive."

Sakura doesn't tell them much, claims post-traumatic declarative memory loss, and in the end it seems like they can find nothing apparently sinister about her. She is sure that this is some twisted mind trip her own brain is playing on her and that any moment now she will wake up with her old teammate's sword run through her chest and her village in ruins behind her. Even so, she can't help but keep stealing looks at the future Fourth Hokage when she thinks he doesn't notice. For now, he is sixteen and only a jounin and looks so much like Naruto (that smile) that it aches. But even though the blond of his hair and the blue of his eyes are the same, he is too quiet, too serious, and she isn't sure how to react.

I love your son, she wants to say.

I'm in lo-, she starts to say. But Sakura and romance have never tangled well (her first killed her, is killing her and she prays that this trend does not keep), so her mind only skitters around the edges of the words.

It is odd seeing Sarutobi so much younger looking (how much had the Fourth's death aged him?), and she does not respond to his questions as he wishes, as she knows she should. Instinct tells her to make up some half believable story but her mind cannot be bothered, because none of this, she is convinced-still convinced-is real. Nonetheless she wants to ask Sarutobi why why why send a thirteen year old child to do the unthinkable to the slaughterhouse what right have you to utterly ruin the future my present like this-

But she doesn't, because the only answers she would have gotten, she thinks, would have been her own, and that has never been enough.

(Sometimes, after Naruto finally tells her about Madara and sacrifice and missions that should have never been given in the first place, Sakura feels like Konoha deserves what it has gotten. But that is Treachery, so she is always quick to banish half-formed thoughts.)

In the end, the Third sighs and finally gives up. He tells her that she is confined to the hospital until medics deem her ready to leave and then she will be integrated back into society. She frowns when he looks at Minato and tells him to look after her. The boy in question pretends he does not notice.

She does not give them a name.

He stops by everyday.

Sometimes only for a few minutes to see how her day went or to ask questions that she doesn't quite have the answers to anymore, and sometimes for much longer. She doesn't look at him much, in the beginning, because of the constant ache in her chest when she does and the tears she'd have to inevitably fight whenever his smile got a bit too bright and familiar.

She is haunted by nightmares in her sleep and too real phantoms during the day.

If she is dead and not only dying, she thinks, then this is the worst kind of hell.

But her ghosts are just a little too substantial.

The hospital itself is exactly as she remembers it, and she half recognizes the staff. Sarutobi comes by to check on her every once in a while too, especially during the first few days, and he is exactly as she remembers too.

But she cannot account for Minato.

She knows scant little about the martyred Fourth Hokage, and what she does know is definitely not enough to furnish her mind with all the little quirks and habits to make up a believable personality.

For example: he taps his chin when he is thinking and he scratches the back of his head if he is sheepish; he prefers coffee to tea and takes his black with no sugar; he is always perfectly punctual and perpetually polite; he is never angry or disappointed no matter how badly his day has gone and he is wholeheartedly kind and so devoted to his village that he makes her, so full of doubt and unease, sick with envy.

He wants nothing more than to be Hokage some day.

He reminds her of Naruto in his most serious, most sincere, most...distilled form.

And she knows she shouldn't but she begins to talk too, to respond to his queries about her day and starts to ask questions of her own. It is easy, too easy, to lose herself and forget, so easy to pretend that he is the son and not the father, that he is impossibly, maybe, real and that she's been thrown through some sort of time loop than force herself to remember that he might be-this all might be-some last, great, bizarre figment of her imagination.

(One day she wakes up and thinks it might be genjutsu. When he comes to visit later he finds her collapsed on the bed, chakra nearly depleted from her efforts to dispel what hadn't been there in the first place.)

But even at his loudest, he is still too quiet. He is never flustered and almost never clumsy and she has not seen him even mention ramen once. That doesn't stop her from clinging to what similarities that she does find though, and it is wrong, so, so wrong, but despite herself, despite all the differences, her eyes are starting to see stars.

During his twelfth visit, Minato gets tired of calling her kunoichi-san and gives her a name.

He takes one long look at her pink hair and green eyes and picks Sakura-san.

The suffix is wrong but he is still too close for comfort.

On her fifteenth day of waking up to the same white ceiling, three days after he gives her her name (back), a pretty red haired woman comes to visit.

Sakura does not recognize her and this scares her, because if she is not part of her memories then where did she come from?

The woman takes one look at her, draws herself to her full height, hair a flaming waterfall of silken red behind her and says, "The name's Uzumaki Kushina, and I'm Minato's girlfriend."

She has found Naruto's mother.

When there is no reply, Kushina narrows blue-grey eyes and strides over to the unmoving girl sitting in the chair by the window (he'd bought it over for her after hearing her mention how much she'd like to have a seat to look out from), one hand lifting to poke her in the shoulder, "Oi, you alive ''ttebane?"

Sakura moves then, smiles brilliantly up at the woman and says, "You have beautiful hair."

Kushina looks more confused then ever and even though the coloring is wrong and she is a girl her eye still curves the same way when she smiles uncertainly and her voice is a rough timber as she pats Sakura awkwardly on the head. "Thanks Sakura-chan, you have very nice hair too?"

Minato must've told her her name, she thinks at first, and then she registers the suffix and her heart breaks breaks breaks.

They visit her together now, and she wonders how they find the time.

She is happiest when they are talking to each other, Kushina riled up and Minato with his hands raised, cowed and trying to placate the angry woman. Sakura always redirects the conversation to them and they happily oblige her. This way she can sit quietly in the corner and pick out the bits of Naruto that she sees and piece them all together so it is like he is really, actually here with her.

She does not wonder much about what is here anymore. Instead every day she loses another fragment-that she'd saved for him-of herself to his parents, to this makeshift substitute that she has formed out of bits and pieces.

And when it is late at night and she is looking out at a whole, intact Konoha from her darkened room, she finally voices all the words she hadn't been able to say to him when they'd been together.

But the nightmares keep coming, and the sharingan still occupies her dreams.

Sakura thinks that it is the only thing left anchoring her to reality.

Sometimes Kushina catches the way Sakura looks at Minato-like he's her dream come true, like he's all she has ever wanted-and she worries, and then she will catch the exact same look mirrored back at her, and she still worries, but now for a different reason.

I get the feeling that Sakura-chan, she says to Minato after their daily visits to the hospital, isn't really all there.

Minato never comments.

Kushina is trying to shove ramen down Minato's throat and the latter is resisting valiantly.

"I'm in love with you," Sakura says.

The two completely still, and even when the silence starts to stretch a little beyond forever, they wait.


"I love you like I would die for you, like I would die for your dreams and your cause. Loving you is like needing to breathe and I was so scared in the beginning because I can't remember when you'd become so vital to me. Loving you is like loving the way the sun shines and the way the wind blows, and I don't know if I can ever stop. It's's like..." she trails off, not quite looking at Minato or Kushina but a little beyond. And when her eyes finally slide back into focus they're such a bright verdant green that they both feel an answering twinge of something that isn't really their own but is, is and when Sakura says "I love you" again, the three syllables clear and sure, Minato and Kushina smile back, wide, his grin identical to his son's and Kushina's eyes curving just so, and then-

And then it all disappears.

This time she wakes up in the forest again, except it is not so pristine and the screams that she hears are not her own. But her movements are swift and sure and free of pain and there is no expectant blade poised over her heart because she is darting away and he does not give chase. Instead the chirp chirp chirp of the chidori rings clear and true, lightning sparking along the edge of his sword as he turns to her teammate to Naruto oh god Naruto and he isn't going to have time to dodge, she can tell, so she does a complete one-eighty and chakra is propelling her feet across the battlefield she is flying flying flinging her body over his, warm and alive and the momentum knocks them to the ground and the Kusanagai misses them by barely an inch, white-hot lightning grazing her thigh with a burn but it does not matter the pain does not matter what matters is-

Naruto is bewildered beneath her but she's gone again, snarling, tanto drawn and her chakra is sizzling as it heals her flesh even as it chars and curls in the heat of the chidori as she runs into the technique, and Sasuke is surprised, surprised enough to drop his guard for a fraction of a second and she's got him, she's got him and they're all still alive.

She makes sure to punch him hard enough to knock him out and possibly break his nose.

When she turns to Naruto again, eyes brimming with promises and words that she cannot voice, she swears she sees Minato and Kushina for a second when the boy she has loved since, since she doesn't even know when grins and his eyes curve just. So. She thinks she can say that they look like they are proud of her, but all thoughts are swept away when Naruto hurls her into his arms and she is crushed against his warmth, his racing heartbeat thud thudding against her ear. She mumbles I love you I love you I love you wetly against his ear and his entire body freezes, but then he is smiling at her again, as bright as the sun and he is kissing her and and it's their first and it is so, so right.

And maybe, Sakura thinks, smiling against his lips, she will tell him a story one day, about a time when she thought she died and a blond haired, blue eyed nin had rescued her.


a/n: I have...I have literally no idea where this came from. At all. Started this at ten at night and finished it at five in the morning.

1) About the forehead protectors; I thought if left as they were they'd be a really shoddy way of identifying nin since anyone could take a piece of metal and etch whatever symbol they wanted, so I figured it'd be cool if, when genin first get their headband, the chakra signature of the current Hokage's imbued into the metal for identification purposes. Sakura lucked out because Sarutobi just happened to be the Hokage when she graduated too.

2) So did Sakura actually go back in time? Or was it some weird mind trick or even some genjutsu that she couldn't break? Seriously, this is all open to your own interpretation (one of the great things about writing).

Feedback very much appreciated!