Title: Rehabilitation
March 10, 2013
The consequences of war are steep.
Team7ness, Sasuke/Sakura, Naruto/Hinata


"We've got an injured Chuunin incoming towards Tent Three! Fractured left leg and lacerated intestines! Inform Shizune-sempai for emergency surgery!"

Shadows elongated quickly across the right side of the cloth walls, accompanied by harried footsteps that faded away with increasing distance. The shouting was becoming more frequent – all of them concerning injuries and in tones that were laced with utmost urgency. The tension in the air made Sakura uncomfortable as she sat in her bed, green eyes staring unseeingly at her lap as she listened to the noises that surrounded her, muffled by the canvas of her small tent.

"Poisoned patient in Tent Five! Notify Hinata-sama immediately! We need a toxin expert to make us an antidote now!"

Her fingers unconsciously twitched against the rough, wool texture of her blanket, the gray fabric itching against her skin but effectively keeping her legs covered from the evening breezes that slipped passed the shelter that covered her from the mysterious world outside.

"We need a refreshed medical team sent back to the front lines! Medic Team Nine is close to chakra-depletion and support is needed out there as soon as possible!"

She frowned, biting her lower lip as she watched another flurry of shadows scurry across her left wall, heart rate increasing with uneasiness and uncertainty as she sat motionless in her single bed – left arm bandaged into a sling, and right leg bruised and throbbing.

"…Front lines…?" She whispered softly to herself, twisting her head to regard the man sitting silent a few feet away – a man who had visited her, without fail, for the past three days, "…Are we at war?"

Her voice was soft, timid even, as she innocently blinked at him. Kakashi looked up from the orange book he had barely been paying any attention to, lone eye considering her thoughtfully before he shook his head in half-hearted reassurance.

"…It's nothing to concern yourself with, Sakura-chan," His reply was weary but he laced comfort into his tone as much as he could, "Just focus on getting better, alright?"

She stared at him with her large green eyes – eyes he had trouble looking into because while they belonged to Haruno Sakura and looked like Haruno Sakura's they did not hold the clarity, intelligence, and recognition that he was so used to seeing. This woman wasn't his Haruno Sakura – the girl he had taught, and had watched grow, into a formidable kunoichi of her generation.

And because she stared back at him before nodding with acceptance of his answer – without pushing and prodding and arguing a more satisfactory response out of him – only cemented that very fact.

Sakura, however, felt frustration build up within her. Waking up to a world she was unfamiliar with, and possessing only darkness for memories, left her unbelievable lost and confused. Her only anchors to reality were the two people who occasionally visited – Hatake Kakashi and, the beautiful, voluptuous woman, Tsunade. They were constants in the life she now found herself in – a life that consisted of the past three days since she first woke.

Yet even then, both were very succinct with her. She could understand taking things slow, considering her condition – she could even understand being cautious since her past life was a mystery – at least to her. Who knew what things could trigger any particular behaviors or reactions…

Was she even a good person? What if she was bad? What if she was an enemy in this war she presumed was being fought? And why and how did she get into the state she was in now?

She shut her eyes and brought a hand to her head, pressing it against her throbbing temple and unconsciously wanting to soothe it away by willpower alone. Instead, all she could do was physically massage gentle circles into the unpleasantly aching point.

With a soft breath, Sakura trailed her gaze down the exposed portion of her injured arm, eyeing the purple bruises that decorated her pale skin and inwardly wondering how they came to be. She looked down her right arm and noticed an aged scar in the crook of her inner elbow. Curiously, she looked towards Kakashi, observing his equipped appearance, the worn bandages and multiple scrolls adorning his person, the strange headband that covered his left eye, and the mask that obscured the lower half of his face.

The pouch on his left side, hanging off his belt, caught her attention – metal clanking lightly together within when he shifted slightly in his seat.

'Kunai…'Sakura couldn't help but instinctively identify, not knowing how or why, but recognizing that, whatever it was, was a tool – sharp and very dangerous, if used correctly.

Her fingers twitched and she clenched her blankets in an effort to control the annoying spasms.

Biting her lower lip, Sakura only gave a moment's hesitation before plowing forward, "…Hatake-san?"

His body flinched subtly as she quietly voiced his name, lone eye closing for a few seconds before he lifted his head to give her his full attention. She guiltily stared back at him, not ignorant to the way he reacted around her and not liking that she was causing him pain – if she was reading the shadows in his eyes correctly.

"…May I ask you something?"

He politely lowered his book, face-down, onto his lap, and nodded, "Of course."

"What…were you to me?" She inquired softly, voice shaky, a little afraid to hear the answer, "What am I to you?"

Kakashi stared at her, his single eye going unfocused as he looked beyond her – through her – his expression blank. Sakura curled her fingers tightly around her blanket, fidgeting under his gaze, averting her eyes when several more seconds of silence went by.

"…I…" He cleared his throat before projecting his voice a little louder – a little stronger, "I'm your friend, like I said before." He regarded her intensely before continuing, "I was your teacher…But I've always viewed you like a daughter, Sakura. We are family."

Several thoughts ran through her head as he explained. When he said teacher she couldn't help but think ninja. Her eyes flicked towards her mysterious bruises, wondering if they were there because of a profession she couldn't remember. And then he had said daughter and family and tears came unbidden to her eyes, hands already flying up to swipe them away before bringing them to her aching head, her thoughts causing a sharp pain to slice across her cranium.

She groaned and there was a shuffle of movement before Kakashi was instantly at her bedside, helpfully pushing a glass of water into her hands which she greedily gulped down.

"I apologize," He whispered in genuine concern, "We need to take things slowly if we don't want to affect your memories negatively."

"…I wanted to know," She defended, breathing out slow as she cradled the half-empty glass on her lap; "…Thank you, Hatake-san, for telling me."

"Please," His tone was strained as she couldn't help but look up at him as he ran a hand through his silver-grey hair, "Call me Kakashi."

His eye was creased into a frail smile and Sakura returned it with a small one of her own. She felt that his man was someone she could trust in her state of mind. Despite the sadness and solemnity that surrounded him he also exuded an air of protectiveness and determination that made her safe in his care.


It sounded right. Something seemed to be missing but using that particular form of his name was more comforting to her than before. It was a positive step in a direction she hoped was true in her road to recovery.

Her toes curled – half in experimentation of her limbs' nerves and half out of boredom. Night had fallen and she could hear the sound of crickets chirping, accompanied by the occasional conversation of passerby medics. Kakashi had left hours prior, summoned by Tsunade for a briefing. His lone eye had fleetingly glanced at her with mild concern before he smiled beneath his mask and assured his return as soon as he was able.

So Sakura sat alone in her bed, the candle on her bedside table flickering in the breeze, and a pen held loosely in her hand as she stared blankly at the notebook lying on her lap. Tsunade had given it to her, instructing her that if anything came to mind – a thought, a memory, an image – writing it down would probably be beneficial in gaining back who she was.

So far – she didn't have much.

She had written down Kakashi's answer to her question; she had drawn a kunai in the upper right corner and a syringe in the bottom left; she was even compelled to drawl several swirls in the margin, and an arbitrary batch of apples and tomatoes.

It all didn't make any sense to her, however.

And as much as she wanted to actively think about trying to remember, she didn't know where to even start.

"…Who…am I?" She whispered with mounting frustration.

There was a shift of movement and Sakura instantly tensed, lifting her head up to regard the dark shadow that was slowly entering her tent. The grip on her pen tightened, unsure how to react if anyone, other than Kakashi or Tsunade, emerged.

Her eyes were immediately drawn to twin pools of mesmerizing grey-blue. She blinked, fingers going slack around the pen as she regarded the newcomer warily – cautiously – studying the attractive, young woman with long, blonde hair who was staring at her with an expression that caused Sakura to frown with genuine concern.

The chirping crickets filled the silence and Sakura released a quick breath once she realized she had been holding it.

"…May I help you?"

The stranger blinked once, then twice, brows creasing slightly as she shook her head and offered a smile reminiscent to Tsunade's – troubled, "Hi. I'm…Yamanaka Ino. I wanted to come by and see how you were doing…"

Sakura's lips twitched upwards, "So…you're acquainted with her? With Haruno Sakura?"

Ino faltered from stepping towards her, expression crumpling. "Her? You are Haruno Sakura," She offered a shaky smile; "You're my best friend."

Sakura felt her throat clog slightly, her eyes losing focus as looked down at her notebook, "…I apologize. I can't seem to remember you, Ino-san."

"I-It's okay," The blonde beauty assured as she stopped a foot away from her cot, capturing Sakura's attention, "I'm sorry I haven't visited; I've been…needed in the medical tents," She shook her head, brushing away Sakura's questioning stare, "But I wanted to let you know that I'm here to help you, okay Fore–Sakura? If you need anything, you can always come to me."

Sakura bit her bottom lip, hearing the shakiness in her company's voice and nervously eyeing the blood stains that decorated her clothes, especially now that she was closer to the candle's light. She looked nice – sincere – and she couldn't help but desire for a friend like her. But the more she looked at Ino, the more she could recognize the anxiousness in her beautiful grey-blue irises and feeling sympathy rather than sadness towards her personal dilemma.

It was so difficult to be sad when she didn't know this woman. She was saddened by her pain, just as she was saddened by Kakashi's pain, yet it was a detached sadness. She was beginning to identify her emotions as objective rather than subjective.

There was no known connection to be found between these people to strongly affect her thoughts and feelings.

"Thank you, Ino-san," She finally offered, making sure to firmly link gazes with her, "I really appreciate your help; and for coming to visit me."

"Of course," Ino declared, "I wish I had come much sooner. I didn't want to overwhelm you, either. Hinata-chan and Shizune-sempai are extremely worried; and Shika-kun and Kiba might not say it, but I know they want to check up on you too."

"…Sempai?" Sakura repeated, confused, her temples mildly throbbing as she took in the information, "Shika and…Kiba?" She released her pen and rubbed the aching point with a wince.

"Kami, I'm so sorry!" Ino expressed regretfully, panicked, pressing her palms to her face just as tears flew down her slender cheeks, "I didn't mean to confuse you, Sakura."

Sakura shook her head, "It's nothing you did, Ino-san. It happens occasionally," She looked up and gave a weak grin, "It's to be expected, yes? As it's my head that's affecting my memories. Perhaps the pain can help jolt them back into my brain?"

Ino laughed wetly, but shame laced her expression as her eyes went unfocused once again, returning to a time Sakura had no knowledge of, "Still…I'm sorry, Sakura. Your memories…"

"Hey, it's okay," The interruption cut the blonde off and Sakura lifted her lips a fraction higher, "It's not like my condition is your fault. Friends wouldn't hurt friends, right?"

Ino's breath hitched and her expression shuttered before she closed her eyes, "…R-Right."

Sakura observed the blood stains decorating Ino's clothes and exposed skin with a little more wariness. She remembered how heavily armed Kakashi's body was. She listened to the frantic calls of severe injuries and urgent help around her tent as the hours passed by. Sakura couldn't help but feel anxiousness for the world that lay beyond the thin, canvas walls surrounding her.


Ino opened her eyes and stared at Sakura, the bed-ridden woman absently tracing her finger along the picture of a kunai she had drawn in her notepad, "Pardon?"

Innocent green eyes shifted to look at her – much too innocent than Ino remembered seeing them, at least not for years, "You're a ninja, aren't you, Ino-san? Kakashi also?"

Ino opened her mouth, wanted to say 'you're a ninja too, Forehead' but noticed the caution in Sakura's eyes as she looked at the blood stains received from an earlier surgery, "…Yes, we are."

"And your Haruno Sakura," Sakura want on – and Ino had the sudden urge to scream at her for referring to herself as if she wasn't her best friend, "Your Sakura was a ninja also."

Ino's jaw clenched, "…She was–is," She took a calming breath and sighed, "You are still a ninja, Sakura."

Sakura shook her head, not looking at the blonde, fingers curling into the fabric covering her lap, "No. I'm not. If she was…" She exhaled softly, "Not anymore."

Ino's eyes widened, "But–!"


Ino turned at the sound of the familiar voice, grey-blue eyes widening as she quickly bowed her head with respect, "H-Hokage-sama."

Hazel eyes regarded her blankly before sliding towards Sakura, the pink-haired woman smiling with relieved recognition upon seeing her; she turned back to the blonde and nodded her head westward, "You're needed in Tent Two for some rounds, Yamanaka. Let's allow Sakura her rest; it's past midnight."

Reluctant but obliging, Ino bowed her head, "Yes, of course, Hokage-sama."

"Rest, Sakura," Tsunade commanded firmly, a more motherly tone laced into her usually abrasive voice.

"Y-Yes, Tsunade-sama."

The candle blew out and there was a shuffle of blankets and clothing as Ino followed Tsunade out of the tent, into the heart of the Joint Army's Medical Corps campsite. Despite it being late, there was still a flurry of activity and Ino hastily sped her steps in order to return to her duty.


She halted, heart stopping at the firmness of the voice that called her, and hesitantly twisted her head to meet the stern yet worn expression of her village leader.

"Yes, Hokage-sama?"

Tsunade sighed, glaring down at the floor as she crossed her arms over her well-endowed bosom, "It will take time so we need to be patient," She looked up, connecting hard hazel with misty grey-blue, "In her current condition – if Sakura doesn't want to be a shinobi then she doesn't have to be."

Ino's heart stuttered, "But–!"

"We are uncertain of how long her mental trauma will persist – or rather, how severe the damage is. Perhaps the locking of her memories may stay a permanent change," Tsunade argued logically, "We cannot steer her life in a direction that we want especially if she may never remember the life she once led. For her sake, we'll let her live the way that she wants as we continue her rehabilitation within the safety of the village. Is that understood?"

Ino wanted to argue – wanted to press the fact that Sakura would regain her memories – even if it took weeks, months, or years to safely retrieve them – but the hard look Tsunade gave her made her falter, words drying up in her mouth before she bowed her head in reluctant acceptance, "…I understand."

Yet, as a friend who was going to be helping Haruno Sakura in her rehabilitation process, Yamanaka Ino was not going to give up in bringing back the woman she grew up with. Yamanaka Ino would be damned if she failed her best friend in her personal duty to save her.

Sakura woke up to an early morning that almost seemed peaceful. She lay in bed as the sun's light illuminated the space, easily breaking through the thin canvas of her tent. Several birds chirped pleasantly and all seemed calm and serene. Absently, she flexed her fingers, curled her toes, and took several deep breaths before sitting up in bed, stretching her good arm out and rolling her neck with a light flinch.

"You're finally awake."

Sakura immediately startled and she twisted her body to see a dark figure sitting in the chair Kakashi normally occupied. Her good arm automatically moved into a defensive position, hand clenched almost as if she could feel something in her curled palm. The stranger was someone she didn't recognize although he sat in her presence with an air of familiarity.

With a tensed body, Sakura stared, blinking up at him warily as he looked down at a notebook he seemed to be drawing in. His pale skin was stark against the darkness of his clothing, a small smile lifting the corners of his lips while his coal irises briefly flickered to regard her before returning to his project.

"I have been looking for you everywhere," He finally started, voice amiably light, "I was expecting you in the medical tents but it seems you have been injured. Though everyone failed to tell me of your whereabouts," He stopped drawing and looked up thoughtfully, "Perhaps I have offended them and they are angry with me?" He shifted his gaze to look at her, smile growing a fraction more, "I hope not." He returned to his notebook, "So, how did you get hurt, Ugly?"

Sakura blinked again, dumbfounded. She stared at this strange boy and tried to process his words. The friendly tone of his voice and the ease of which he presented, sitting with her, made her believe that this person probably knew who she was.

She swallowed, "…Ugly?"

He looked up, one brow raised, scrutinizing her intently before he stood up and approached her. Sakura shifted, in an effort to move away, watching as he stopped a few feet away and leaned forward, staring at her blankly – curiously.

"…More so than usual," He finally answered, straightening, "You usually put more effort into looking presentable. I suppose your injuries have prevented that."

Bewildered, Sakura blinked again, "…Who–?"

"I have decided to name this drawing Reunion, however it is not yet completed," He twisted the notebook to face her, revealing a sketch that instantly captivated the young woman, "What do you think?"

Sakura stared at the illustration, half of it colored in and the other half still in black and white outline. There were five people present, four men and a single woman. She recognized two of the men – one as Kakashi with his decipherable silver-grey hair and the other as the man currently holding the notebook. The other three were unfamiliar to her – one male had spiky hair and a wide grin, while the other male only revealed his back, though a prominent fan was marked on his shirt. The girl fascinated her the most, however, colored with petal-pink hair and emerald eyes, carrying a smile on her face that caused one to twitch on her own lips.

She reached out and tentatively touched the page, "It's beautiful…Who are they?"

The boy stared at her, blinked and pulled his notebook away, "You are acting strangely, Ugly."

Her smile faded and she curiously looked into the stranger's dark eyes, "You keep calling me that," She frowned and brought her right hand up to her cheek, "…Am I really so unattractive?" She pointed at the notebook, particularly the woman, and tapped against it twice, "Who is she? She's very pretty."

The boy pulled the notebook away even further; brows creased steeply, "I am very confused by your behavior, Ugly. Is this another behavioral test? I am not familiar with, and have not read, anything relating with your current methods…"

Sakura frowned, "…Huh?" She bit her bottom lip, shaking her head, "Look…You might know me, or rather her – Haruno Sakura – but I don't know who you are…"

He regarded her intensely, frown deepening, "…How long has it been since you were on the battlefield?" His eyes hardened, "What are your injuries? Why have you been admitted here?"

Sakura sucked in a breath, possessing no answers, "…I don't know."

"Sakura, are you awake?"

Emerald and coal irises darted to the tent's entrance and Ino stepped through with a weak smile, body growing rigid when she noticed the company beside her best friend's bed.


The man turned his body to focus his attention on Ino, "What is wrong with Ugly?"

"I didn't know you were in the Medical Camps, Sai," Ino averted.

"I was given orders from Hokage-sama to convene here," He answered calmly, "What's wrong with her?" He turned back to Sakura, "What is wrong with you?"

Ino frowned, "Sai!"

"You asked me who she is," He continued bluntly, pointing at the woman in his drawing, "She is you. You are Haruno Sakura. Why do you not remember that?"

Sakura blinked, "Sh-She's Haruno Sakura? She's me?"

Sai's eyes hardened, "Who did this to her?"

Ino had never seen Sai's eyes look so dark and foreboding as he glared at the woman sitting in her bed, as if her lack of memory was her fault – as if the woman Sakura had become was an imposter – who, in a sense, she was, "Come with me, Sai. I'll explain it to you outside."

Sai remained silent, staring at Sakura intently before turning his back on her and purposefully striding after the blonde kunoichi, "Do Kakashi and Naruto know about this?"

"Only Kakashi-sensei," Ino answered as they exited the space, words fading away with distance, "No one else must find out – especially Naruto."

"Why not? What happened to her?" Sai inquired; his tone steely. Ino's answer, however, had been too muffled to comprehend.

Sakura's heart was pounding in her chest, something she hadn't noticed earlier, but the stranger's visit – this Sai – had caused her body to grow hot with tension. Was she familiar with him? He seemed familiar with her. And he seemed to know Kakashi also, given his presence in his picture.

But the other two men, she couldn't recall – and the name he mentioned; she opened her mouth, "…Naruto…" The name rolled off her tongue easily enough, but that was it. There was nothing triggered by hearing or saying the name and she sighed with irritated yet tired resignation.


She looked up and a smile immediately twitched her lips upwards as she instantly recognized the two figures standing meters away from her.

"Good morning," She greeted.

Tsunade smiled and approached her seated form, hands already outstretching to check the bandages wrapped around her injuries, "Good morning, Sakura."

Kakashi inclined his head in acknowledgement, but his lone eye seemed shuttered.

"…Is something wrong?"

Tsunade unwrapped the bandages of her wounded arm and gently probed the once-broken bone, satisfied to discover its successful healing, "You're fit for travel now, Sakura. And the safest and fastest routes have been scouted out and cleared for traversing back to Konoha."

Sakura blinked, confusion swimming in her green irises.

Tsunade only smiled warmly, "Your body is ready, and the roads are safe, to go home and begin your rehabilitation."

"…Oh," She glanced between Tsunade and Kakashi, "Will you both be coming with me?"

Tsunade shook her head, "I must remain here to oversee the…medical camps."

Sakura's gaze shifted to Kakashi and his single eye was closed, "…Kakashi?"

"…I am fit to leave for my next mission," Kakashi answered softly; he opened his eye, "It may be quite some time before we see each other again."

Sakura's heart instantly pained upon hearing his response, a sudden fear overtaking her, "But…"

"We will see each other again," Kakashi assured, offering a crinkle-eyed smile, "I promise."

"…But how long will that be," Sakura questioned, plainly uncertain, "And if you two are here – who will be helping me?"

"You've met Yamanaka Ino," Tsunade answered, hazel eyes roving over her scared expression, "And she's informed me that you have encountered Sai. They will be watching over you in Konoha, as well as a group of some of your close friends and several ANBU. You'll be in very trustworthy hands."

Sakura's hands clenched, not liking this new and abrupt change, the fear in her stomach settling deeper and heavier, and her heart thudding painfully in her chest, "Will I ever get better?"

"Everyone is working very hard to see that it will be done," Tsunade replied instantly, running a gentle hand through her short locks, "I will also be working very closely with the medics in Konoha through hawk communication."

"…Okay," Her response was breathed out shakily and she looked up to regard Kakashi, "Please be careful…on your mission."

Kakashi nodded, "I will. And I will contact you as frequently as I am able."

"Get some rest," Tsunade suggested, patting her arm and standing up, "Once everyone has been briefed, you, and the team watching over you, will be leaving tonight in the cover of darkness."

Sakura slowly nodded her head in acceptance, "Alright."

With a final encouraging pat to her shoulder, Tsunade stood up and left the tent, Kakashi offering one last faint smile before following after the older woman.

"…Konoha…" Sakura whispered to herself quietly, "…Home?"

She had been bundled up in several layers to protect her from the chilly wind of nightfall. When she had finally stepped out of the tent that had sheltered her for several days, Sakura had curiously looked around to find more tents, lit up by the surrounding torches situated around the camp. Some people were walking around, most in a hurry, all dressed in either combat or healing attire.

She was swiftly led to a small carriage which was flanked by several bodies. A majority of them wore ceramic masks with animal illustrations. She also viewed Sai and Ino, speaking to Tsunade. Both looked very determined, expressions hard and resolute. Several yards away, another young woman, with long blue hair and strange, lavender eyes was examining her with furrowed brows of concern.

"Hokage-sama is already giving up two of her most promising medics – not to mention that one of our best is incapable of rejoining the fight," A masculine voice drawled, "Sai will be a major loss to our airborne strikes but he is adamant on joining Sakura's team in returning to Konoha. Kiba was willing to return home to provide additional protection for Sakura but, unfortunately, we need him here to provide support for our intelligence units; especially since we're losing both Ino and Hinata."

Two figures rounded the corner of a cluster of nearby tents and Sakura recognized one of them as Kakashi. The other male was shorter, with hair held in a spiky ponytail, hands shoved into his pockets as he spoke candidly with the silver-grey haired male.

"Konoha's defenses will need to increase, Shikamaru," Kakashi suggested gravely, "I don't know how much interest Obito has on Sakura but we can't take the chance if he tries to go after her again."

"Do you happen to know why he might have any interest in her at all?" The spiky-haired youth inquired.


"…Sai knows about Sakura's condition. Do you plan on telling Naruto too?"

"We shouldn't. His focus needs to remain on Obito – especially now that Sasuke is with him," Kakashi answered, "As much as I want to tell them when I finally meet up with them, it isn't the wisest thing to do."

"He'll find out sooner or later."

"Then we'll deal with that when that time comes."

"Troublesome," Shikamaru sighed, scratching a hand behind his neck, "Who knows how long that'll be."

"Until then, we just need to try and help her as much as possible," Kakashi affirmed seriously.

The younger male nodded with agreement, "I already have shinobi gathering as much information and intelligence as possible concerning Obito, Madara, and the power of the Sharingan."



Sakura's attention on the conversation was immediately ripped away as she twisted her head to regard the woman who had approached her – the one with long blue hair and lavender irises.

"…Hi," Sakura smiled, "Nice to meet you…?"

"Hinata," The woman answered, smile strained as she twisted her hands together, "Hyuuga H-Hinata. I'm going to be traveling with you back to the Hidden L-Leaf Village."

Sakura studied her, "You're one of her friends?"

Dark brows furrowed, "Her?"

Sakura shook her head, "Sorry; I meant to ask that you're one of Sakura's friends?"

The young woman's smile faltered, "Um…Y-Yes."

"I apologize for not remembering you," Sakura shared sincerely, "But since you'll be traveling with me, hopefully we can be friends…again?"

Hinata instantly nodded her head, "O-Of course! And I'll help you in any way I can a-also!"

Sakura smiled, "Thank you, Hinata-chan."

"All right, time to get on board."

She shifted her head and looked at Kakashi who was smiling at her kindly. The man, who had been conversing with him, stood a few feet away, staring at her intently – probingly.

"Have a safe journey, alright, Sakura?" Kakashi offered, "Listen to Ino, Sai, and Hinata. Stick close to them."

Sakura nodded, "Okay."

"Be careful," He stated firmly, lifting a hand and patting her head which caused a wave of nostalgia to hit her, "I'll contact you soon."

"Please be careful too," She replied before looking up at him hopefully, "And if you can visit – please do."

His mask shifted into a smile, "I'll try."

Then, helpfully, he took her hand and led her to the carriage, helping her into the small compartment and squeezing her hand in a final farewell. The door closed behind her and she leaned out the window, listening to Ino and Sai call out instructions for their departure, and watching with a heavy heart as the carriage began to roll away, moving further and further from Kakashi.

Beside the other man – Shikamaru, if she heard correctly – another male had arrived, followed closely by a large, white canine. He had dark brown hair and red marks on his cheeks, staring after her and her company with solemn eyes, speaking in low tones with Shikamaru which was responded with shakes of his head.

She switched her gaze back to Kakashi and silently hoped that she would see him again soon.

They would frequently communicate with each other through hawk communication.

But it would be eighteen months before she would see his face again.

A/N: I got a burst of inspiration for this fiction. We'll see how this goes. The beginnings of stories are always hard for me, only because I always have trouble setting things up. Hope you guys enjoyed and Naruto and Sasuke will be in the next chapter!

The Curse readers, sorry for the delay on the new chapter! I'm trying to dish it out as soon as possible!

Any questions or concerns feel free to PM or Review! I'll get back to you as soon as possible!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and Company.

So…what do you guys think will happen? How do you guys feel about everyone's reactions and Sakura's thoughts?

Next Update: Hopefully soon? Eeep.

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