In Between

Author note: As you can see from the summary, this is very much an AU story. I wrote this some months ago. And tentatively, there are four parts. But as I edit and proofread, that may change.

No copyright infringement intended.

Konoha, Fire Country.

Sakura Haruno awoke with gasp and choked on the settling dust around her. There was an obnoxious ringing in her ears, muting the noises around her. She was outside, lying on her chest, feeling the pressure of the ground pushing painfully up against her ribcage. Her shell-shocked brain tried to pick out familiar voices amidst muffled noises. Her eyesight strained as the urban street around her came into focus. There was a large hole blown into the side of a building nearby.

Feeling some strength flow back into her limbs, she pushed herself off the ground and wiped gravel off her cheek. Various other villagers gathered around her, having also survived the blast. As her equilibrium began to right itself, Sakura remembered what had happened. She had been making her way toward the hospital and just narrowly dodged an explosive tag.

Earlier that morning, Sakura had risen early. She had a couple hours of free time before her afternoon shift at the hospital, so she decided to travel to a small town nearby for some supplies and medicinal ingredients.

There was a reason for her restlessness, a strained relationship with a certain Uchiha she had been seeing for the last year. The last time she had seen him was more than week ago. They had never gone this long without speaking to each other after an argument. And so for the ninth day in a row, she started her day worrying over him.

After purchasing everything she needed, Sakura had been halfway back from her supply trip when the ground unsteadily trembled. Ahead of her, a tall billow of black smoke started to reach up into the sky. She would think later, that was when the invasion had begun.

After lending a hand to a fallen villager, Sakura continued to make her way toward the hospital. She had to stop and stare, standing at the entrance to the Emergency Room. It was a nightmare.

Various medical-nin were dashing from dying patient to dying patient, shouting and healing simultaneously. There were more injured than the current staff could handle. The moans and cries of the injured made the hairs on her arm stand on end. This was something the 24 year-old kunoichi thought she had become accustomed to by now.

This had been the third attack on the Konoha within the past month. With every attack, the damage seemed to be more devastating than last. And whoever was attacking them right now managed to break past Konoha's defensive walls.

A rumble suddenly shook the hospital and dust fell from the ceiling. It didn't sound like the blast was directly on the hospital itself, but it was damn close. Too close for her comfort. Sakura's heart leapt, suddenly feeling helpless.

"I need morphine!" Someone shouted desperately at the other end of the floor.

It was enough to jolt Sakura from her stupor. Taking a deep breath, she began to work her way through the floor.

An elderly man seated on the floor to her right coughed violently, holding a piece of cloth over his mouth.

Sakura crouched down beside him. "Ojii-san. Are you injured?"

The grey-haired man removed the handkerchief to speak, revealing blood on the small piece of cloth.

Sakura gestured for him to be still and concentrated on channeling her chakra. Her glowing hands hovered over his chest and his lungs healed with little difficulty. After a moment, the man was able to breathe easier.

"You'll be okay. But please stay put, it's not safe yet," she ordered him.

The elderly man attempted to stand upright, but staggered. "My wife…"

Sakura frowned and reached out to help him balance. "Where?"

He pointed into a open doorway, a pair of medics tending to an elderly woman inside.

"She's in good hands." Sakura tried to reassure the man, but he looked defeated as he walked over to the nurses' station. She wearily wiped her brow with the back of her hand and turned at the sound of her name.

"Sakura!" Ino Yamanaka rushed over to Sakura's side, pushing her long blonde bangs back in haste. "The Chief wants more of us out in the field. You should come, it's getting really dicey out there."

Sakura surveyed the E.R. The staff was currently made up of nurses and a handful of medical-nin from the morning shift.

"I should stay." Sakura decided. She leaned over and spoke more discreetly, "Do you know anything more about what's happening?"

Ino frowned and placed her hands on her hips. "Two summons were spotted outside the village, a couple kilometers southwest of the village."

Summons? Sakura's heart sank at the mention of them. This was bad news. It took a great deal of skill and power to be able to conjure up Summons, let alone control them.

"From what the Chief told us, the enemy is so far unrecognizable. Whoever is attacking us, we don't know them."

"That's just what we need, another group causing us trouble." And more bloodshed, Sakura added silently.

Ino placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "We'll bounce back from this, we always do."

Sakura nodded and looked down, not feeling as confident as her friend.

"I should get going."

Sakura reached into a nearby supply station and grabbed an extra medical pouch before tossing it over to Ino. "Be careful."

With a wave, the blonde kunoichi disappeared down the hall. It was always hard to see her friends in battle. Sakura afforded a moment for worry, unable to keep her mind wandering off to him.

Her fight with Sasuke was about something…and nothing. This always happens and then they'd laugh about it once they had made up. And did they ever make up, usually more than once, leaving each other panting and gasping for air before going for another round of "making up".

But this time, they haven't even spoken to each other yet. Afraid to admit how much that worried her, Sakura steeled herself and went right back to work.

It was late in the afternoon and the sun was threatening to set. Sakura had finally taken her break, sitting behind the main desk at the medical station, snacking on an apple she grabbed from the cafeteria. Tossing the fruit away after she finished it, she rolled her stiff shoulders and neck.


The kunoichi had lost count of how many times that had been shouted out since she had arrived. A battered looking female ANBU carried someone through the entrance to the ER, followed by a sobbing middle-aged woman.

"On the gurney!" A nearby nurse ordered and then proceeded to push the patient into a spare room that was already occupied.

Sakura followed and discovered the injured villager brought in by the ANBU was a male child, no more than seven or eight years old. What was most disturbing was the large, dark, red stain, covering the expanse of the child's torso.

The nurse beside her gasped, "What happened?"

"A Summon!" The masked woman shouted and ran out swiftly the way she had entered.

Sakura examined the child's injuries, peeking through what was left of the front of his shirt.

"Large insect," The middle-aged woman wailed between sobs. "Too fast…knocked him down!"

The nurse motioned to have the mother escorted away to wait outside. "Can you see the gashes?"

Sakura peeled his tattered shirt away and found that his torso was misshapen. "I don't think that's problem."

"What is it?"

"He was crushed." They both looked at each with the grim knowledge.

Before the staff could even fathom a way to correct the damage, the young boy began to convulse wildly.

"He's crashing!" The nurse proclaimed.

"Help me with his breathing." Sakura felt the familiar surge of adrenaline coursing through her, as she worked on his heart, willing chakra from her reserve into her hands. But his internal bleeding was so severe. After a few failed attempts at resuscitation, the nurse looked to Sakura for directions.

Looking beyond the gurney, Sakura spotted the mother, watching from outside in hallway. It was the look in the mother's eyes that Sakura could not return. It was hope.

Sakura urged herself to look back down, removing her hands, her voice was barely audible, "Clean him up as best you can. Put him in a room upstairs and give the mother a moment to grieve."

"No!" The mom fought her way back to her son. It was then Sakura noticed, the mother hurt herself, limping back into the room. "Fix him! Save him!"

The nurse tried her best to console the mother, ushering her back.

"You can save him, I know you can! Please!" The mother ignored the nurse and pleaded hysterically.

Sakura had hit her breaking point. She had to find refuge or she'd have a breakdown right in front of everyone-and wasn't that one of her weaknesses Sasuke so tactlessly brings up whenever they argue?

"We're low on morphine." A medical-nin announced behind her.

Sakura blessed whoever that was, as they had inadvertently gave her a reason to excuse herself. She hastily chimed in, "I'll get it!"

Running as fast as she could through the crowded hospital, she reached the second floor supply closet. Closing and locking the door behind her, she leaned against it and prayed she would be left alone.

She walked away from the door and leaned against a tall shelf, hunching over slightly with her hands on her thighs. She inhaled quickly and released the breath with a hitch in her throat. That small hitch was enough to trigger the onslaught of emotion she had been so desperately ignoring. Hidden within the second floor supply closet, she allowed herself the release. Weaknesses be damned.

It was funny. It had been awhile since Sakura had done this, maybe she was out of practice. But she thought crying would make her feel better. Strangely enough, she still was miserable. And most of all, she wished Sasuke was here.

End of Part I, stay tuned!