Don't mind me; just doing some maintenance. *whistles*

xx LCF


Vestige: a surviving evidence or remainder of some condition, practice, etc.

Sakura was jolted awake by the sudden weight that was upon her. Green eyes snapped open instinctively to find a mop of unruly dark hair and mischievous green eyes staring back. The pinkette groaned playfully, relishing in the sound of her daughter's tinkling laughter as she promptly rolled over, taking the four-year-old with her.

"Kaa-chan! I get up, get up!" She shrieked between guffaws as Sakura tickled her mercilessly.

After several more seconds, Sakura relinquished her hold on Sayuri for a moment before opening her arms in hopes for her morning hug. The young girl complied as she launched herself at her mother and squeezed her for all she was worth, which was quickly followed with an adorable and slightly sloppy kiss on both cheeks.

"Alright tenshi, now what's got you in such a good mood this morning?" Sakura asked as she promptly got out of bed, tiny feet padding behind her and into the bathroom.

"Tou-chan is coming today!" Sayuri exclaimed.

Sakura couldn't help the grin that took residence on her face at the look of sheer delight that filled her little girl's face. It wasn't too often that Sayuri got to see her father, considering the fact that he was constantly traveling between Konoha and Iwa during the short span of time he got between missions just to see them. A soft smile played on her lips as Sakura allowed memories of years past to fill her mind while she ran through her morning routine.

She had first met Yoshikawa Takashi five years ago in a medical tent during the Fourth Shinobi War. He had received a severe concussion during a battle with multiple Zetsus and his left arm snapped in two places. Sakura had done a proficient job in healing his injuries as quickly as she could and promptly placed his arm in a splint to set over the next few days. He barely managed to get during the entire encounter before she sent him on his way and yelled impatiently for her next patient. To her surprise and slight confusion Takashi had stopped by her work station the following night, proclaiming his feelings to her and dropping off a rather sweet love letter. He had said that he didn't know his chances of surviving the war and hadn't wanted to depart from this world without at least telling her of his feelings, however quickly developed or fickle they had seemed. At the time Sakura had been set on gently refusing his advances, letting him know that there was someone else she deeply cared about. And though he had taken her gentle let-down rather graciously, Takashi still insisted that she at least keep and read the letter whenever she had the time. What he had failed to take note of during his departure, however, was the look of melancholy that flashed over her features at his well-wishes of the supposed really great guy.

The weeks following their encounter were filled with much pain and exhaustion. While on their way to the Northern camp to treat the wounded, Sakura's squadron had been ambushed. They had lost two medics in the span of minutes and from the looks of things they were about to lose more. Sakura had effectively landed a solid punch on a Zetsu, failing to take not of the other that crept up behind her before it was too late. Just as the white creatures jagged teeth were prepared to connect with yielding flesh, it had stumbled back several steps as a kunai embedded itself into its forehead. Taking note of the explosive tag attached at the handle, Sakura quickly back-pedaled to keep clear of the explosion and crashed right into Takashi. His hands had been solid on her shoulders to keep her from falling and a soft smile curled his lips at the sight of her. From then on, despite her initial refusals, the two had tentatively grown closer throughout the span of the war that had lasted for four more months.

Shaking her head lightly before spitting out the remnants of her toothpaste into the sink, Sakura turned to look at the small girl that had once again made her way into her bedroom and idly fingered the small trinkets and bottles of perfume that littered her vanity. It was hard to imagine that in just eight months, her baby would turn five and begin her first year at the Academy.

Time had a habit of speeding up exponentially once you had children. It seemed like just yesterday that Sakura had been at the hospital, yelling at the top of her lungs and crushing Takashi's hand—who had barely made it from Iwa in time for the delivery—all the while coming up with new and terrifying ways to castrate him. After ten agonizing hours of labor and forty-five minutes of pushing, Sakura finally held a wailing Sayuri in her arms for the first time. She could not deny the love and pride that had swelled within her every time her baby girl was in her arms; she had felt so utterly blissful, so content and radiating with happiness as she held her and ran an affectionate finger over her pudgy cheeks. Sayuri was a part of her, part of Takashi, and it left her in awe at the wonder of nature. The tiny babe in her arms had been a perfect blend of both of them, with her father's head of dark hair and her mother's pallor—and soon discovered, green eyes.

But it didn't remain so for long.

Sakura wasn't particularly aware of when she realized this, she just did. As the years passed and Sayuri got older, she felt a sudden seed of doubt begin to root itself into her psyche. Sayuri had an explosive temper, which Sakura was embarrassed to admit, she inherited from her; but there were other things too. Little quirks, like a facial expression or her incessant habit to keep things in a certain order. It was not something she had picked up from either parent or from any other familiar that she spent large amounts of time with. She was exceedingly intelligent, far more so than Sakura had been at her age and had already began to show a growing pool of chakra that was far larger than any child her age had. Almost as if her body was preparing her for the insurmountable amount of jutsu she would learn once she became a shinobi. It did nothing but confirm Sakura's painfully increasing suspicions of her parentage.

To say that Sayuri's conception had been planned was a far cry from the truth. In all actuality, Sakura had just turned seventeen at the time and they were reaching the pinnacle of war. Though by this time, she and Takashi had started to fall for one another. After spending three weeks with his unit, Sakura and the rest of her squad had been reassigned to the next checkpoint. As a filed medic she could no longer afford to stay with his battalion, and soon she and the rest of her squad had to provide back-up for the medics in First Division. She idly remembered the pressure of his mouth as it slanted over hers when she had given him the news of her impending departure, the soft murmurs for her to be safe and return to him alive, and the all-encompassing warmth that flooded her veins at his feather light touch. It had sent a flurry of emotions to gather at the pit of her stomach, emotions that she had been forced to keep down in the meantime for the sake of duty but finally acted upon when she reciprocated his kiss. They had easily crossed the threshold from merely being comrades to something much more that night and by morning she and her three-man cell were gone.

Halfway to their destination, their squad had been ambushed. She remembered the dread that filled her at the sight of the dozens of Zetsu before them. They all fought fiercely but soon grew weary. Unlike Sakura, her fellow medics hadn't been trained as nearly as much as she had in order to be an efficient combat medic and that fact had started to become painfully obvious as the fight drew on. It seemed that with each Zetsu they managed to take down, at least three more were in their place. It wasn't long before they were overwhelmed by their increasing numbers. Just as she was prepared to deliver an earth-shattering punch—one that would create a sufficient distraction for them to escape—a heel-lick landed squarely on her jaw, sending her toppling through the trees and away from the center of the fray. Stars exploded in her vision and she could barely hear her two companions as they cried out her name. She was momentarily stunned, the world spun dangerously around her and she could hear the Zetsus coming, feel the vibrations of their approach on the earth. Despite the obvious danger she couldn't move, and she was sure she would die by their hands.

Sakura had no time to form a coherent thought as a hand covered her mouth and hoisted her roughly into a cave several meters away. The deadly surge of chakra was heady in the air, causing goosebumps to erupt on her exposed arms. As her sharp sense of awareness finally caught up with her, she was petrified beneath an iron grasp, large green eyes blinking up at her savior in disbelief.

He had saved her. The very same man she loved and loathed at the same time, the one she had been resolved to kill, the same man that had tried to return the favor. She could still feel the pressure of his hand as it crushed her throat and her adrenaline spiked at the thought, causing her chakra to flux violently. Sharingan eyes glared viciously at her as the hand over her mouth placed more pressure. His kekkei genkai began to spin rapidly as he blanketed a layer of his chakra around them, making them undetectable to the Zetsu that currently swarmed the area in their search for her. It was only after several painstaking moments with his hand still over hers and body flushed against one another on the cave wall that the last chakra signature had disappeared from sensing distance. His hand withdrew from her mouth slowly as his cloudy black gaze pierced her.

She wasn't entirely sure why she did it, especially considering who he was. But she had been so overwhelmed, so thankful, and it didn't help that all the feelings she thought were gone had rushed back to her in nanoseconds. It was a moment of insanity, of fear, and to a degree, understanding. No words were said, but she knew he understood even after their years apart. Her lips pressed against his, seeking a comfort that he had surprisingly provided, if only for his own selfish benefit. It had been a single moment in time, but one that she had yearned for as her love for him grew when they were children. And though she knew just how grave an act she had just committed, had she had a second chance she would have done it all the same. Sakura had woken alone several hours later, but the genjutsu around the cave was still intact and the ghost of his searing touches haunted her mind.

It was several weeks after the Fourth Shinobi War had come to an end, and she and Takashi had officially become an item, that she realized that her period was two weeks late. Three days and a positive pregnancy test later, she'd felt the rising doubt slowly creep into the back of her mind before she shoved it back fiercely. Takashi and she had been in a sort of pseudo-relationship weeks before the end of the war, neither wanting to commit in case they were to die but still turning to one another for comfort. It was far more probable that he was the father. But as she had come to know, probability hadn't been on her side this time around.

Takashi wasn't Sayuri's father; a simple DNA test had confirmed that.

She had thought about telling him the truth, but whenever he came to see them, all she saw in the warm brown depths of his eyes was pure adoration. He loved Sayuri with all his heart and she didn't want to hurt him, not in that way. Takashi didn't deserve it, not in the least. So with each passing moment spent between them, she was haunted by her betrayal, because every time she looked at her little girl, she saw him.

"Kaa-chan, it's already eight!" Sayuri's voice called from where she stood.

"Shit." She cursed under her breath as she walked over to her closet, pulling her cotton camisole over her head and tossing it carelessly into the hamper. She quickly put on her black tights along with her favorite long-sleeved maroon top before taking Sayuri to her room to get her dressed, glad to know that she had had the sense to pack her backpack beforehand. Sakura just knew that she was going to be running late today. While there was no pressure for her to arrive at the hospital at exactly eight-thirty on the weekdays, unlike her first sensei, punctuality was something she wished to uphold.

Sakura quickly pulled an indigo shirt over Sayuri's mass of dark hair, wary of her sudden giggles.

"Kaa-chan?" she inquired, her voice muffled as he struggled to get her head through the opening of the shirt.

"Yes tenshi," Sakura answered as she guided her daughter's arms through the sleeves.

The little girl grinned in a manner that could attest to how much time she spent with her 'Uncle' Naruto. "You said a bad word."

"I know sweetheart, and mommy is very sorry." Sakura explained as she walked into the kitchen, four-year-old in tow. She opened the fridge and pulled out the bentō she had prepared the previous night before leading them to the entrance of their apartment. She quickly slipped on her boots and helped Sayuri into her own nin-sandals before immediately putting on their coats and scarves, affectionately tucking a wayward strand of ebony hair behind her ear as she situated a blue knit hat atop her head.

The biting wind of winter greeted her and Sakura was suddenly glad that she had insisted Sayuri to wear the matching blue scarf she loathed. Her daughter would be thanking her in a few weeks when the snow was due to reach them and she would be allowed to go out and play like the other kids, instead of being cooped up inside the apartment with a cold or the flu.

"Kaa-chan, can we have amitsu today?" she asked suddenly as they made their way down the road, her viridian eyes glimmering with hope.

A peal of laughter escaped Sakura. "You mean anmitsu?"

Sayuri nodded her head vigorously. "Yes! Can we, please?" she asked, her lower lip jutted out in an adorable pout.

Sakura shook her head in playful exasperation as smiled down at the girl. "Maybe after dinner sweetheart, that way Tou-chan can have some too. That is if you manage to be a good girl for your Grandma today and finish all of the lessons she gives you."

They had come to a stop before her childhood home, her hand gently rapped on the door several times as she looked down at Sayuri who was busy thinking over her proposition. Like most children that came from shinobi families, Sayuri didn't attend school. She was given lessons in reading and basic calligraphy from the time she was three by her grandmother while Sakura worked at the hospital and was on the occasional mission. The young girl was a quick learner, picking up the most basic of subjects with a matter of ease. It was just another thing she had come to inherit from her biological father…

Sakura was pulled from her musings when her mother answered the door, Sayuri's happy cries of 'grandma' carried by the sudden burst of wind as she rushed forward in a black and blue blur and promptly attached herself to the elder woman's leg.

"Sayu-chan, you just saw her yesterday." Sakura smiled as she gave her mother a kiss on the cheek in greeting before giving her the backpack and packed lunch. She knelt down so that she was at eye-level with her daughter.

"Remember, be good." She said, her face pulled together in mock-seriousness. Sayuri merely laughed and launched herself in her mother's open arms before she gave her a messy kiss goodbye.

"I will, promise!" her baby replied happily before being led inside by her grandmother.

Sakura smiled before she closed the front door. Despite the tribulations she had faced in her life, Sayuri was blessing she was never going to take for granted. All she had done with her life from the moment she found out she was pregnant was for this little girl, her whole world. Although she may have been on the receiving end of disdainful looks for becoming a mother at such a young age and choosing to have a child out of wedlock at that, Sakura had to admit that the pay-off was well worth it. If she could get Sayuri to keep her happy carefree smile then she was happy with life.

Checking her watch, Sakura noted she had a little over five minutes to make it to the hospital for her shift. Gathering her chakra for a teleportation jutsu, she was halted immediately as a puff of smoke filled the air and her former sensei materialized before her.

"You know, as much as I love catching up with you Kaka-sensei, I have to admit that your timing is as miserable as always." She deadpanned.

"Good morning to you too, Sakura. It's great to see you as well." He replied dryly. Sakura fought the urge to smile but not before losing miserably. "Actually, as much as I love catching up with you also, I'm afraid that I'm not here on a personal call. Tsunade-sama would like for us to convene in her office now."

Sakura's smile faltered at his words. "Is everything okay? Did something happen?"

"I can't disclose anything, for now you're just going to have to go on while I round up Naruto and Sai." Sakura nodded before taking the nail of her thumb between her teeth pensively. It was a habit she had unknowingly picked up from her Shishou years ago and it was impossible to get rid of.

Kakashi vanished without a single trace and as Sakura made her way to the Hokage Tower, she couldn't help the heavy weight that had inexplicably settled in the pit of her stomach.

Whatever news Tsunade-sama had for them, Sakura knew that it was going to be far from good.

She walked into the Hokage's office to find Sai and Naruto already inside, Kakashi nowhere to be found.

"Good you're here." Tsunade said as she caught sight of her apprentice. "Alright, now that I've got the three of you present I can begin." She said, her amber eyes glued to the documents that were scattered on her desk. After a moment, she caught sight of the one needed and placed it before her.

"I know you're all wondering why I've called you here. The truth of the matter is classified information, only six people know—nine with the three of you included. I feel like you lot are trustworthy enough to handle the information I'm about to share. That and you'd skin me alive if you ever found out about what I'm withholding."

Naruto let out an impatient sigh. "Just tell us what it is baa-chan." He huffed.

"Naruto!" Sakura hissed through clenched teeth, stomping down the urge to bring about a physical retribution for his behavior.

Tsunade looked at him sharply. "Look here, gaki. You may thing that you'll be next in line to become Hokage, but remember this; I haven't named my successor yet. So if you think you've got this in the bag by the time I step down, think again."

Naruto gulped before he nodded vigorously, but otherwise remained quiet.

"Now, seeing as there won't be any more interruptions. I've called you three here because just four hours ago, Kakashi's ANBU squad returned from their month-long mission in Grass. None have sustained any serious injuries, but they did stumble across something rather unexpected."

"What was it, Tsunade-sama?" Sakura asked, holding her breath. Her heart was beating erratically for no reason but she somehow knew it was something she had been both longing and dreading for the past four years.

Tsunade closed her eyes and let out a sigh, her fingers instantly going up to massage her temples. That was never a good sign. When she opened her eyes, they were the most tired Sakura had seen in a very long time, and she knew at that moment what the Hokage was going to say.

"Uchiha Sasuke has returned to the village of his own volition. He arrived in Kakashi's custody and is currently in ANBU's high-security prison."

"What, how?" asked Naruto, immediately getting riled up.

It was all Sakura heard before her vision spun ad a wave of nausea crashed into her. She immediately collapsed and lost consciousness. The shouts of concern lost on her as her head connected with the ground with a sickening thud