Alternate Beginnings of an Uzumaki Collection Chapter 2

Sasuke Cutting Loose

Unlikely Allies

Surrender of An Innocent

Crazy Sakura

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Story: [Sasuke Cutting Loose]

Summary: Sasuke has been stuck in a time-loop for a long while.

Genre: Humor

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It was funny how the mind worked, Sasuke mused to himself. It'd taken him 19 loops of hard work, blood, death, betrayal, imprisonment, slaughter, teamwork, infiltration, suicide, and a grudging respect for a woman dressed in fishnet, but this was what he would like to classify as his first true epiphany.

Itachi couldn't get to him in here.

As long as the time-loop that he'd been caught in was still in effect, nothing his brother could do really mattered.

Still, he couldn't really bring himself to saying it out loud, simply because it sounded so obvious when you actually put some thought into it, but for him it really hadn't been.

Itachi was his boogeyman, the monster he looked under his bed for – figuratively of course, he slept on a futon on the floor – and he ruled his dreams with a grip of terror. The mere thought that Itachi didn't matter was absurd. It was like discovering that the sun was just a daydream of his.

So Itachi must be able to hurt him, damage him, kill him. But he couldn't, because every time he died, every time he found himself broken and shattered on the ground, every time he was faced with hopelessness, his time would reset and he'd wake up in his bed.

Many viewed Sasuke as a genius, and he was, but he'd never really thought that much about his mental state, opting instead for training to become stronger. In fact, the only reason for his sudden epiphany of freedom had been something that Naruto had said when he'd asked him why the blond boy always smiled.

"Because if I live in anger or fear, they'll win."

It'd been a laughably idiotic thing to say, the simple words of a stubborn child. But somehow, Sasuke had understood.

The last Uchiha smiled as he entered the first part of the chunin exam, ignoring the way that Naruto kept staring at him with something akin to unsettled horror. He was free to do whatever he felt like, because Itachi didn't matter. He could become stronger, he could pick a fight with the Hokage, he could join in on Naruto's pranks, he could get into Ino's pant-...

Okay, no. Just no. There was freedom and acting out, and then there were fangirls.

He suppressed the urge to shudder at the very thought, and began to look for something with which to distract himself.

"Sasuke-kun~!" And, of course, Ino shows up. Great, absolutely fantastic.

Desperately ignoring the high pitched noises that occur whenever the two fangirls meet, Sasuke briefly considered getting a bowl-cut. After all, it seemed to be working wonders for Lee.

Then he realized that the adoption of his hair-style might classify him as 'youthful friend'-material by the student and his teacher, and so promptly discarded the idea for ever and always, even if it meant suffering the annoying girls' incessant wailing for all of eternity. There was just something about the spandex-clad duo that had him thinking that whatever horrors Orochimaru had in store for him couldn't really be all that bad.

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Story: [Unlikely Allies]

Summary: During the Invasion, two unlikely people get caught in a time-loop.

Genre: Adventure

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Gaara watched his sister do the exact same thing that she'd done last time, trying to convince their middle brother not to take out his anger on the young boy that'd just ran into him.

Really, and they told him that he had anger issues.

Sighing slightly at the stupidity of it all, Gaara looked towards the sky.

The clouds were pretty today.

He wasn't sure if they were the same as they'd been last time this had happened, after all, back then he hadn't been fully sane, and hardly in any shape to be paying attention to something as fantastically bloodless as the weather.

Still, it was a nice view.

He wondered briefly if his current situation was good, bad, or some kind of dream.

Gaara had never dreamed before, but he'd once heard someone say that you couldn't pinch yourself in your dreams, or something along those lines. So they were a bit like genjutsu. At least that's what he'd gathered.

Shukaku continued on with its mindless muttering about blood and death, but it still seemed a bit off from the transition.

Gaara wasn't sure how he'd ended up back in time, but he was fully willing to blame Shukaku. It seemed fairly innocent of the accusation, but logic was irrelevant to who was actually blamed for whatever situation had arisen. At least, that's what he'd heard. His brother probably talked a bit too much.

Naruto had stopped his rampage, for his precious people. And just as he was faced with the power behind the bonds of the blond, he blinked. And then they were on their way to Konoha, getting ready for the Invasion.

He wasn't sure how he'd ended up here, but if everything played out like last time, then Naruto would save the young boy who'd run into his brother, and maybe then he could ask him what had happened.

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Gaara stared at the wall of their assigned quarters as the sun set.

Naruto didn't know him. Naruto had never seen him. Never fought him. Never told him about his precious people.

He was alone.

Naruto hadn't come back in time with him.

It was just Gaara and Shukaku. A boy and his insane demon.

Still, maybe he could keep Naruto safe? Not hurt Naruto's precious people, not participate in the exam, maybe try to get closer to his siblings.

There were so many options.

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Ino startled out of her bed, twisting, getting caught in the blanket, and then tumbling down onto the floor with a loud thump.

Suna was attacking, and she'd somehow ended up facing an enemy nin all alone, having been briefly separated from her team.

The kunai. She suddenly clutched at her chest, expecting a sticky dampness that wasn't there.

It didn't hurt either.

Had she died?

Ino stared at the wall of her bedroom, and saw the calender hanging there.

The calender that clearly stated that the first part of the chunin exams were coming.

Had the world gone mad?

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She'd spent two hours trying to break through the genjutsu, before finally deciding that whatever it was, it was so far out of her league that she might as well declare it real.

Shikamaru had glanced at her with a slight frown at one point, which was proof of just how distracted she was by all of this, for even Shikamaru to declare it worth the trouble of thinking about what was going on. If only for a moment.

Nobody else seemed to have noticed how the world had rewound over a month in time that morning, and there weren't any signs of Konoha's forces preparing for battle, so apparently none of any importance had realized it either.

All of this left Ino in a very annoying situation. Did she try to warn the Hokage, thereby risking being locked up for being insane? Or did she just go with the flow, and hope that the village could deal with the Invasion on its own?

In the end, she chose to go with the flow. Partly because she remembered her dad once mentioning the specific conditions that people that'd been labeled as a danger to themselves or others were locked up in. And partly because she wanted to kick Forehead's ass this time.

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Gaara frowned slightly as he made his way to the exam.

Bonding with people who were terrified of you was hard.

Shukaku wasn't making it any better either, with all of its ramblings of blood and death.

Gaara wondered if there was a way to shut it up. Meditation had never worked, killing people only lessened its efforts, and as of yet he'd never succeeded in finding anything to fully silence it.

The test was the same as it'd been the last time. Same questions, same tricks, same bluffs, same cheating, same intimidation.

Really, it was enough to actually be somewhat amusing.

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Ino had to bite her lip to keep herself from giggling at the seriousness of those surrounding her.

Sure, she'd been intimidated the first time too, but that didn't make it any less amusing to watch them tremble in fear over something that was such an obvious bluff in retrospect.

And then came Naruto's speech, solidifying the resolve of those around them, and finally the bluff was revealed to them all.

As their indignant voices echoed across the room, Ino hid her face and prayed that nobody would notice her shoulders shaking from withheld laughter. Or that if they noticed that they'd think it was her being hysterical, or something, and in generally not laughing at them.

She didn't want people chasing her down for some perceived slight during the survival test in the Forest of Death.

Unfortunately, apparently it wasn't to be, because when she looked up from her bout of silent laughter, after Anko had vacated the room, Gaara met her eyes.

Paling drastically at having drawn the attention of the crazy person, Ino glanced around for a place to hide.

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The blonde girl hadn't done that before.

Perhaps... perhaps she was reliving this too?

Why her? If this was truly the work of the Ichibi sealed inside of him, then why would it affect someone who hadn't even been nearby when the jump must've happened?

A mystery, then.

Gaara saw the girl pale once she noticed his attention, and he wondered why she'd fear him if she didn't know of him. Deciding to confirm his suspicions, Gaara calmly walked up next to her.

"It's easier when you've already done it once?" He asked her carefully, trying to make it clear to her if she truly had returned with him whilst still not showing his cards, so to speak.

The blonde girl stared at him for a moment, fear warring with incomprehension. Then something snapped into place behind her eyes.

"Spandex isn't a bad guy, go easy on him?" She asked in return.

A smile briefly twitched at Gaara's lips, as he found someone who understood. Before it was replaced with an almost guilty frown. "I'll try."

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Ino stared at the crazy boy who was apparently aware of the repetition, and who actually looked guilty about almost killing someone in the preliminaries.

This was beyond baffling. This required further research.

"Why?" She asked.

Gaara glanced over at a blond in orange who was apparently talking with his former classmates.

"Because... he'd be upset." He stated in a slightly uncertain way, as if he wasn't entirely sure of this himself, but wasn't going to let anyone know that.

Ino glanced over at Naruto, the dead-last of the academy, the one who beat Neji in the finals, the one who'd just given an inspirational speech that'd hardened everyone's resolve.

There was something a bit... rare about him, wasn't there? And here came a psycho who suddenly tried not to kill people because it would upset the guy?

Ino was fairly sure that there was a story here, somewhere. And she wanted to know.

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Story: [Surrender of An Innocent]

Summary: A different way of love to form. A different reason for love to be denied.

Genre: Drama, Romance

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She watched the boy who would always carelessly declare his love for her as he walked quietly, subdued, away.

She'd never be able to return his feelings. The thought made her cringe. She could almost feel the tears threatening to break free from her eyes.

No matter of her feelings, she wished, hoped, prayed, begged that somewhere, soon, there would be another to claim his heart. One who could return that silly, absolute, trusting, and childishly innocent love.

So she'd left him with her, the girl who already loved. The girl who already watched from the shadows, the girl who might just reach out one day.

One day wasn't good enough, one day wouldn't keep him from breaking, shattering, she needed to reach out for him soon, fast. Now.

So she'd left him with her. Told him that she felt nothing. Told him to leave.

Because she needed to disappear. Away from him. Never allow him to follow her again.

His love belonged to one who could keep him, save him, be saved by him.

That one wasn't her. She'd never be that one. No matter how much she wished that it could've been. She would break him, shatter him, she would only watch as that spark in his eyes slowly clouded-over.

She wouldn't even consider it. She would always keep it there, feed it, nurture it, make it bloom. It wasn't her place. It never had been, never should've been, never could've been, never would be.

So she watched them, vision blurry as she tried to breathe life into his dying embers. And she wished that she had lungs that could do that. Capable of breathing life, innocence, and love. Her breath was just air.

It burned. Something in her chest, clenching painfully as she brought a smile back to his lips.

She smiled, her lips tasting of salt. He would be alright. He would be safe, happy, innocent, loved.

It would be enough.

She turned, walked away, ignoring the burning, ignoring the taste, ignoring the image that replayed itself endlessly behind her eyelids. Him smiling happily at her.

Tomorrow, perhaps there would be nothing for her to risk breaking. No spark to dim, no smile to crack. Perhaps she could finally disappear. Perhaps... perhaps it would get easier to see him with her. Someday.

Maybe tomorrow.

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Story: [Crazy Sakura]

Summary: Sakura never befriends Ino to start with, instead finding a book about conquering the world. Quite a bit changes as a result.

Genre: Humor, Adventure

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It was a crossroad, a young girl with pink hair that was bullied by some older children. But this time there was no beautiful and confident savior, with hair like golden silk and smelling of flowers. No, this time it was only her.

But even if this particular event had happened so many times before, this would still remain the crossroad for the young girl. So, she cried as she fled from their taunts.

She fled until she found herself in the library, still sniffling silently as she began to look around. She knew that this wouldn't be the last time it happened, unless she changed something. She wasn't sure what to change, but if she could turn her weakness into her strength, like she'd once read that you should, then perhaps she'd be free from their pointing fingers.

"How to use your head; a kunoichi's guide to world domination. By Kurama the Ninth." Sakura read the cover of a book.

She wasn't entirely sure what world domination was, or why it was important enough that someone had made a guide for it, but it told you to use your head. That was kind of like using your overly large forehead for a good cause, right?

It wasn't a very big book, but it felt... heavy somehow. As if holding it meant holding something more than merely paper and ink.

Shrugging the feeling off, Sakura began to read.

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Now, it should be noted that most authors don't actually want to conquer the world, and would most likely simply amuse themselves by finding new and ever more intricate plots in which to do so.

Whether Kurama was being serious or not, well it's hard to say.

Unfortunately, regardless of whether or not the foxy author wrote the truth, Sakura was going to make sure to follow the rules.

Never underestimate a child with a guide on how to be better, the pure level of dedication that they might hold to their plans is unnerving to say the least.

Especially when they get positive feedback for their actions.

Like, say, broke one of their bullies' nose by headbutting them, thereby cementing their position as one that none would dare laugh at.

Not that a teacher didn't disapprove of this course of action. Of course, that only served to force the child to develop a 'them against me' sort of attitude, dragging her deeper into the reassuring arms of her guide to world conquest.

It's most likely that Kurama would be feeling very proud at her progress, had they ever met.

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Sakura walked confidently into the classroom where all the graduates had gathered.

Bitchy Blonde sat amongst her friends, fawning over Dark and Broody. Dark and Broody was brooding. Hilariously Idiotic Blond was trying to glare at him, scrunching up his face in a a very amusing way. Fatso was eating. Lazy was sleeping. Barking Idiot was playing with his dog. Shy Girl was sneaking glances at Hilariously Idiotic Blond. And Buggy was sitting in a corner.

She supposed that she might want to learn some of their names, one of these days, but she couldn't be bothered.

She had a world to conquer after all.

Taking her usual seat near the back – always a good idea to keep your back against the wall – Sakura waited patiently for their teacher Scar-Face to show up. She was fairly sure he wouldn't have enjoyed being called that out loud, much like the rest of them, so she simply called him a respectful sounding 'sensei', instead of the workable 'you' that she usually used amongst her classmates.

She wondered if anyone there had actually noticed that she didn't remember any of their names.

Possibly Lazy, if he'd ever bothered with paying attention to her, and Buggy, because he seemed to be good at observing things. But then, she wasn't sure if Buggy knew the rest of their names either.

Sakura kind of liked Buggy. She didn't mind Hilariously Idiotic Blond either, but that was mostly because he made her laugh. The rest she didn't bother with.

Sighing softly as she realized that Hilariously Idiotic Blond was a very long name, she decided to shorten it into 'Hilarious Blond'.

Then Scar-Face began to divide them into teams.

This proved to complicate her naming-system, as she really didn't have a clue who this 'Sasuke'-person she was on a team with was. 'Naruto' was apparently Hilarious Blond though from the amount of noise he was making, so at least she'd get a few laughs out of her new teammates. Good to know.

Frowning slightly in thought as she tried to get Hilarious Blond to show her who their other teammate was so that she wouldn't be forced to speak up and make everyone realize that she didn't know their names, Sakura wondered who their teacher would be.

Would they perhaps be like Crazy Fishnet? That woman who seemed to both threaten and seduce people into buying her dango? She'd liked her. She'd been funny.

Of course, she'd immediately thrown away the idea of acting in such a manner herself, as not only might it mean to encroach upon Crazy Fishnet's territory, it would probably not work as she didn't have enough cleavage. Yet.

She'd have to make getting more cleavage a priority. Kurama had pointed out that it made people not pay attention to the cleavage-owner's hands, which would be fantastic if she was planning on stabbing them.

Turns out their other teammate was Dark and Broody. Wonderful, she'd probably be attacked by his fangirls or something.

Nodding thoughtfully to herself, Sakura made a note to keep an eye out for Bitchy Blonde.

It was kind of sad, she supposed, that she could probably distract them by henge-ing herself into Dark and Broody and then just take off his shirt. Unfortunately, she might be forced to stab them after that, as they might attack her in that way that fangirls did.

She could sympathize with Dark and Broody, it must be tough to be forced to listen to their high-pitched noise for several hours a day.

Didn't mean she wouldn't stab him if he was annoying – Kurama said that it was good to make an example of annoying people – but it would mean that she might lend him earplugs if he ever started to look like he'd snap.

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Her eye twitching slightly in annoyance, Sakura glanced at the clock.

Three hours late. Their bastard of a sensei was three goddamn hours late.

She'd probably try to kill him when he showed up if she didn't already know he'd beat the snot out of her – Kurama always said that it was important to know your limitations.

Hilarious Blond was setting up a prank, which was pathetic in every aspect of the word.

Dark and Broody pointed this out, and Hilarious Blond got offended.

He really should learn to take criticism, and Dark and Broody should learn some damn subtlety. Antagonizing your own teammates would be bad. What if they stabbed you on a mission? It would completely ruin the mission. That was why you shouldn't annoy your teammates. Coworkers were perfect targets, as long as you didn't annoy them on missions, since missions were important and it wouldn't do for you to get stabbed and the mission to be a failure just because you annoyed someone.

Frowning at the two idiots that were going to join her on the team of their bastard of a sensei, Sakura finally opened her mouth.

"You're both idiots."

The two boys blinked, looking surprised, both at her speaking, and how she'd so casually insulted them both.

"You, learn to take criticism better. It's either that or you'll be forced to learn from your own failures. Failures that may end with you losing more than you're willing to lose." She looked meaningfully at Hilarious Blond, before turning to Dark and Broody. "And you, learn to criticize. What kind of pathetic advice was that? 'It would never work', unless you continue with that line of thought, explaining both why it wouldn't work and/or giving an explanation of what could be done instead of the intended course of action, it becomes such a pathetic advice that you might as well go and choke on something for all the help it is."

The two boys stared at her with something a bit similar to a cross between annoyance and awe.

She got awe a lot when she spoke. Possibly because people always enjoyed seeing other people insulted in a rational manner. It was impressive.

Thankfully, she was spared the loud retort that she could see building in them by their sensei getting the eraser dropped on his head.

"My first impression of you." He drawled. "I hate you all. Meet me at the rooftop." Then he disappeared.

Tilting her head as she considered this new development, Sakura made her way to the roof, ignoring her other teammates unusual lack of bickering.

Once they arrived, they took the seats that the late, masked, bastard of a sensei directed them to.

He quickly declared that they were going to introduce themselves, and demonstrated how to do so after Hilarious Blond asked him to.

They only learned his name, technically, though since Sakura hadn't been paying attention to it she only really learned that he was a mysteriously late, masked bastard of a sensei.

She found that this was a very long name to remember him by, but was a bit short on inspiration.

"My name is Haruno Sakura, and I like..." She paused, considering how much subtlety she would need to dodge the question a bit. "Books." She finally finished with a decisive nod. "I dislike annoyances." She continued. "And my dream is..." She almost said 'conquer the world', but Kurama said that you shouldn't actually tell anyone that until it was too late for them to do anything about it. "To use my head." She finished with an evil smirk.

Because smirking evilly was fine. Nobody could prove that you were trying to conquer the world no matter how much you smirked, or how evil that smirk looked.

She watched as their teacher looked up from his orange book, apparently trying to weigh her words, before turning to the next one.

"Blondie you're up."

As Hilarious Blond began to ramble about ramen and being Hokage, Sakura tried to figure out where she'd seen that orange cover on a book before.

"Ah, the Icha Icha series." She exclaimed, just after Dark and Broody had said something about killing someone and getting laid – both pretty damn good goals as far as she was concerned.

The rest of them stared at her in confusion, whilst their teacher had a look of dawning realization.

"You've read Icha Icha?" He asked, sounding both scandalized and amused.

She nodded, because those books were good at describing how to use your cleavage to make people not pay attention to your hands. She'd wanted to make sure she'd got it right once she had cleavage of her own.

"How?" He asked, apparently believing that the age-limits were somehow going to stop her from reading a book.

Pah, what foolishness. Nothing would ever stop her from reading a book she wanted to read. And the shop-keeper had learned not to question her age again after she'd henge'd into her, sans clothes, and then began to walk back towards the crowded street.

Don't underestimate a ninja.

"I bought it?" She tilted her head cutely, trying her best to look confused and innocent of any potential blackmail that she might've committed in order to do so.

"But-..." He trailed off, staring at her in confusion and suspicion.

"Is there a reason why I shouldn't have been able to buy it, sensei?" She asked him innocently, hoping that he'd drop the subject before she was forced to admit to actually breaking the law.

He stared at her for a few moments longer, but finally slumped a bit, looking strangely defeated.

"Not at all." He said with a plastered on smile. "But you shouldn't tell your teammates of it, wouldn't want to spoil it for them." And now his smile seemed a lot more genuine.

Sakura looked at him for a moment longer before she came to an odd conclusion.

Their sensei amused her.

Smirking at the thought, Sakura nodded enthusiastically.

After all, it wouldn't do for them to learn of her cleavage-techniques before she ever had a chance of using them, would it?

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Masked Pervert-sensei was late again.

This annoyed Sakura, and so she was currently occupied with planning just how she was supposed to get her sweet, sweet vengeance on him.

The boys were clearly annoyed as well, though they were showing it in different ways.

She wondered briefly if any of them had actually followed their sensei's 'advice' or if they'd taken her word for it when she pointed out that their bastard of a sensei would most likely be going out of his way in order to make them suffer, and that it would therefore be stupid to actually listen to what he was saying.

She hadn't put it quite like that, since that might classify her as 'insubordinate' and get her into useless trouble, but she'd been close. Very close.

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