Fate's Allotter

Part 3

Ch 23: A New Way


He smelled like the woods. Pine and clean air mixed with the subtle hint of smoke. He smelled like Konoha, like home.

She wanted to melt into his embrace. She wanted to cry in misery. This was Minato Namikaze, Naruto's father, the future fourth hokage, and she should distance herself immediately.

But his lips were smooth and warm, and her heart was tired of the fight her mind knew it must endure.

She loved him.

After everything she had been through, what could it possibly hurt to admit it now? She loved him. She didn't want him to leave; she didn't want him to fall in love with Kushina. She didn't want him to look at that beautiful, spirited woman as if the redhead was the only thing that mattered in the world. No, Sakura was honest enough to admit that she selfishly wanted that for herself.

She loved his hands, larger than her own, warm and calloused and strong. She loved being in his arms, the only place that felt safe after everything that had happened. She loved how her breath caught when he surprised her, showing up unannounced, and she loved how his presence filled her with warmth and joy and hope in a world that was so bleak and grey.

When he looked at her, it was as if the sun and stars and moon had all aligned, and it hurt to even imagine a world without him in it. It would be a lesser place, a colder place, and seemed too awful and unthinkable.

The war inside her between love and duty was an old one, and even as she yearned for a different choice, she knew the decision had already been made. Because she was Sakura Haruno, and she had always put herself last.

As gently as she could-and hating herself for every millimeter she put between them-she pulled away.

"Is there somewhere we can talk?" she whispered feeling weak and cold and sad.

He said nothing, just gripped her gently by the shoulders. Even though he must have been exhausted and running on fumes, he didn't hesitate so spend a little more chakra and flashed them away.


A shadow hovered above the tent crowded full of tiny bodies, still and silent. He knew this was the opportunity he had been waiting for to swoop in and take his prize. This Kimi was pure and untouched and alive and had all the untapped potential of a true Spinner. He could save her. They could build a better world together.

So why was he hesitating?

The Namikaze would be blamed for her disappearance; that was easy enough to arrange. He had waited lifetimes upon lifetimes for this moment. He had traveled to haunted and desolated worlds and had sacrificed the last of his humanity for this moment, and here it was. The time was now, his chance to change everything. His last opportunity.

And still he was hesitating.

It had everything to do with Sakura, of that he was certain. After watching that touching display between her and Minato, and knowing her as he did, knowing what sacrifices she was prepared to make for a better future had somehow left him cemented to the ground.

It shouldn't have mattered. It had been centuries since such trivial things had affected him so, and yet it reminded him so much of the Itachi in the first world he had visited; the one who had allowed his younger brother to kill him if that's what it took to bring his sibling happiness.

That kind of sacrifice felt wrong then, and it felt wrong now.

He knew what Mrs. Kirk would have said, had she been there beside him. She would have put her hand on his shoulder in one of her rare, kinder moments, and told him the world, this world, was as it should be. Their job was done, and fate had been fulfilled.

Then he would tell her that fate was a foul and malicious thing, and he would change this fate, this awful destiny even if the gods ripped his essence apart because of it. Then, of course, she would smile in that strange way as if she pitied him-an impossible feat to be sure-and tell him, yet again, that this was not the final moment or the ending of the story, just a special moment that had beautiful and lingering meaning.

He never understood what she meant by that.

He had to move, his mind undecided even as his body was not, but when the tent fabric rustled and a small figure emerged from the tent, the hooded man held very still. As always, seeing his very young counterpart unnerved him to the core. What would become of this boy? Who would this Itachi be? A clan killer? An angry immortal? What miserable fate was he doomed to?

The young boyi said nothing as he gazed up at the face that was now unmasked. On their first encounter, the red eyes had given the older man away as an Uchiha, and Itachi had considered the possibility of a traitor or even a branch line that had somehow escaped of the walls of Konoha. Yet when he looked at the man's face, eerily similar to his own, he realized their relation must be much closer than he initially anticipated.

"What do you want?" Itachi asked, blunt as ever.

The older Uchiha was quiet for a long time as he contemplated his response. Eventually he said, "What everyone wants: a perfect world. No death or fighting, just happiness and peace."

Itachi scoffed. "Impossible. People's wants will always come into conflict, and people always want more than they have. Fighting is human nature."

"So there can never be peace or happiness?"

"Peace is what you fight for. Happiness is what you make."

"What if you can't find or make it for yourself?" the hooded man asked.

Itachi shrugged, "Then fight for the peace and happiness of others."

At this stage in his life, Itachi had not yet developed a keen interest in philosophy nor his counterpart's somber outlook, and as such, he was quickly growing bored with the current line of conversation and was quietly hoping the man would just answer his original question rather than keep beating a dead horse.

On the other hand, the hooded man was having difficulty placing the emotion fluttered through his chest. Ever since he entered this world, he had known that, for the first time, he was entering a world in which a younger version of himself existed, and he had avoided the boy like the plague.

He didn't want to see another Itachi make a mess of his life. In no world he had been to had an Itachi not lived miserably. Perhaps, he had tried to reason with himself, it was because he could only enter worlds where Itachi was dead or not the Enforcer so he had never had the chance to see an older, happier Itachi or an Itachi that had lived a good full life.

Either way, he didn't want to watch it happen. He didn't want to know what fate befell this Itachi. It felt too much like an echo of his own many failures.

The older Uchiha remembered a time where he had believed that the strongest gift he could leave those he loved was to give them everything he had. He would gladly sacrifice his his life for theirs, happiness for theirs, his peace for theirs. That is what love meant.

But now he saw, so clearly, how wrong he had been his entire life for self-sacrifice was its own kind of selfishness. It implied that his suffering is what his loved ones would have wanted; that they would have gladly accepted the sacrifice he made. He had known it to be a lie even as he told it to himself, yet still he turned a blind eye and refused to admit it.

What his mother would have wanted, what his Kimi would have wanted, and what the many versions of his brother still wanted, was nothing so grand. They would have wanted to be happy with him, to share the joy and sorrow together because that is what love really was, and if they couldn't get that, they would have been content knowing he was happy, somewhere, even if it was worlds apart.

And he had failed them all.

It was only when he had watched Sakura and Minato together and realized what Sakura was going to do, that her realized his mistake. Sakura was falling into the same trap that he had. She was going to sacrifice everyone's happiness-hers, Minato's, and all of her children's-all in the name of good intentions.

She would tell Minato the truth, and then when Sasuke opened a portal a few minutes later, she would return to her world to escape the pain of that loss. To force fate back to what she thought was the right path. In turn, Minato would try, for her sake, to love Kushina, but how could he? One person could not be substituted for another. Despite Sakura's best efforts, there would never be a Naruto in this world, and because there was no Naruto destined to become the Kyuubi's next vessel, Mimi would die. Kimi would die. Fate would repeat itself.

He saw it happening like the falling of dominoes, inevitable and unstoppable. Only this time, it had been his hand which had pushed the first tile. Fate was a circle going around and around again, and he could feel the gods laughing at him.

For a moment, he felt an overpowering wave of helplessness and horror. It was happening again, and it was his fault. Kimi would die, Itachi would become the Enforcer, and everyone would be miserable for another thousand, thousand lives. The gods really were laughing at him.

No. He refused.

"If someone cares your you," he gruffly told his younger incarnation, "they would want the same peace and happiness for you, and the worst thing you could do is to throw that away. Be peaceful and happy for them and they will be peaceful and happy for you."

He twisted on his heel, and before the young boy could so much as blink, the Enforcer had shunshinned away.

Itachi peeked back in the tent and counted heads. When everyone was accounted for, he sat down outside the tent and waited. Either the strange Uchiha would come back or Sakura would-or both perhaps, but in the meantime he would guard the others as he always had. Chunin trials or not, they were part of his family now, and Itachi would protect them, always.


Mrs. Kirk hummed lightly to herself as she waited for her companion to arrive. Sakura's old kimono gripped in one hand, and a brush full of pink hair in the other. While she was certain that Sakura would choose to stay this time, it never hurt to have a backup plan.

As she continued to hum, a presence stirred beside her and smiled. This had not been the Uchiha she had been expecting, but who was she to complain?

"Won't you sit down? You must be tired by now."

As usual, he ignored her invitation. "How do you know Sakura will stay?"

She smiled enigmatically, "I don't."

She could practically feel the icines of his stare at the back of her head. "You don't know?" he deadpanned sounding incredulous.

She shook her head, still smiling, "Nope, but that isn't the point. Sit down Itachi." She patted the ground beside her.

He stared at her for another minute, suspicious and reluctant, but finally, he lowered himself to the ground and sat stiffly beside her.

"Then what is the point?" he asked.

"I'm not a puppeteer. I can give them a push in the right direction, but ultimately, it is still their decision, and they have the right to make it.

"It's the same for us isn't it?" she continued, "When we came to this world where our other selves lived, we knew it would be the end. No more chances, no more world jumping-or at least not if you want to keep your powers and immortality-but now all the cards are on the table and the end is drawing near, you're afraid that the past is going to repeat itself."

"Won't it? She has even more reason to leave now than before. Fear will drive her away."

"And yet," Mrs. Kirk argued, "those are all the same reasons prompting her to stay. Have faith."

He smirked. "Have faith. You should know me better than that."

Crossing her legs, she made herself comfortable. "Perhaps, but I think you've miscalculated."


"Why would your Sakura leave? It is plain as day that this Sakura loves her children, and I'm certain your Sakura felt the same. If she had to leave, then why didn't she take Kimi, Mimi, Sota, and the rest with her? What reason could she have to leave them behind? She risked her life, time and time again, for each of you so I began to wonder at the discrepancy in character."

The enforcer grimaced in realization, and Mrs. Kirk smiled encouragingly.

"Naturally," the older woman continued, "I was suspicious that she did not leave of her own free will so I made some arrangements." She gestured to the kimono and hair brush. "If Sakura does leave, I want it to be her choice, and if the children come with her, well, perhaps they will find a happier fate. Of course, if she stays…"

Itachi nodded, readily following her train of thought. "It seems I was mistaken," he mumbled, barely audible, "You are still very much a Spinner."

Mrs Kirk laughed, "Oh, I wouldn't go that far! I just gave them a helpful push. She's still the Allotter after all so it is up to her what happens next."

Itachi hummed in agreement. It was strange. He should be out there trying to force history to go the way he wanted it, but for the first time in ages, he was content. No, he didn't want history to repeat itself or to let this Kimi die or this Itachi endure his loneliness and misery, but if it did happen, it no longer felt like the blame lay with him.

He didn't feel the press of doom at his throat any more. He felt free.

This was a different Kimi, a different Itachi, a different Sakura, and he could leave it up to them this time. He didn't have to be their enforcer. Not any more.

"There's one more thing I have to do, and then… I think I'll rest a while."


They didn't go far. First because neither of them wanted to be out of shouting distance from the kids, and second because he just didn't have the chakra reserves to take her all the way to Konoha.

She was crying-that was the first thing he noticed-and the look on her face was heartbreakingly sad.

"I have something to tell you," she said, "One year from now on March 28th, a girl named Sakura Haruno will be born in Konoha general hospital. Me, or at least the version of me that lives in this timeline. Then about twenty years later, she will be tricked just as I was and be sent back to the past. She will try very hard not to change the past, but she can't help herself. She just wanted everyone to be happy, to have good lives this time.

"But she kept making mistakes, the same kind she made all her life. Really she is a bad shinobi, letting her emotions get the better of her. She adopted kids she had no business talking to, and she met a man that she should have stayed away from, she knew better, but he was just so good and thoughtful and kind and she couldn't shake him.

"Without him… it was painful to think about. In her future, she knew that he died, and she kept hoping it wouldn't happen this time, that she might find a way to save him.

"But then she realized something even worse than that. In the future, her best friend was actually this man's son… another woman's son. Not only was she risking the future, she was sabotaging her best friend's very existence.

"So you see," she hiccuped, her eyes big and watery, "I can't… We can't…" She looked away, unable to bring herself to finish that sentence.

The pinkette wrapped her arms around herself feeling cold and more alone than she ever had in her life. This was worse than Sasuke leaving the village, worse than Naruto's rejection, worse than every disdainful gaze her mother had ever sent her. If she had been a good daughter and followed her parent's advice she never would have become a shinobi, and had she just been a good shinobi, this never would have happened.

But as usual, she kept trying and failing to have both. How many more moments like this did she need before she learned her lesson?

But then, had she not been who she was, had she not done what she had done, then she never would have met Minato.

Sometimes life isn't about what you did but rather about what you didn't do. She didn't push him away, she didn't avoid him like the plague, and she didn't wait quietly for the storm to pass or to find her way back home. She didn't do any of those things, and here they were miserable because of it.

He might as well be a million miles away because she was never going to touch him again, never going to feel the warmth of his gaze, or the lightness of his smile.

She studied her feet. What else was there to say? It was over now. Done. Finished. Lost forever.

Gentle fingers tugged at her chin, pulling her eye back up to meet his.

"Your name is Sakura Haruno?"

She couldn't help it; she burst into laughter. After everything that she had told him-her past, his future, his son-that was what he wanted to know? Maybe the tension and lack of sleep were getting to her, and she forced her laughter down before it tipped over to hysterical sobs.

"Yes," she admitted, "My full name is Sakura Haruno, shinobi of the Leaf."

"It suits you," he smiled, "So tell me this, Sakura Haruno of the Leaf, did your presence here irreversibly change the future."

She choked, "Erm, yes… probably."

"And," he continued, "Do you intend to keep changing the future for the better as far as you are able?"

Sakura paused. The truth was obvious wasn't it? Of course she would; she couldn't seem to help herself. First it was adopting the kids, and then it was trying to prevent the Uchiha rebellion and subsequent masacre. She couldn't stop herself from getting involved with Kakashi's team with the kannabi bridge mission, and she couldn't stop thinking about Kakashi's kidneys and how she could cure him and on it on it went. Of course she would continue meddling; that was who she was-the shinobi who cared far too much.

"Yes," she whispered a little afraid of what he would say next.

"So if that future is already gone, then there are no guarantees for the rest of it either. For all you know, I might never even have a son, and I could die tomorrow or I could die of old age. You can't be certain can you?"

"No, I can't."

He cupped her face, resting his forehead on hers. "Let me make the future with you, the kind that you want to live in. One where I know that every version of you will be happy in."

She didn't know is she could. She was afraid; afraid to admit that maybe he was right and the future she had known was gone and afraid that if she let herself believe it, she might actually doom it for good. She was at war with herself, and she wasn't sure what to do.

"I wanted to impress you"

That aching, burning feeling was back. Her skin tingled under his touch, and her heart beat erratically in her chest. His eyes never wavered from hers, steady and patient as always.

"But when I look at you, when I see that despite all the terrible things the world produced someone like you, it doesn't seem so bad… I'll just have to try harder."

Doubt and fear had always been her enemies, and before they could force her to change her mind, she leaned forward, eyes fluttering closed, and pressed her lips against his.


"Ah, Sasuke-san, I was wondering when you would show up," Mr.s Kirk greeted.

"Little brother," Itachi noted, "you look… unwell."

Sasuke stumbled through the portal, left shoulder clearly dislocated and a strange dark substance oozing from his various other wounds. Chakra poisoning, no doubt.

"Where is Sakura?" he wheezed, "This should have led right to her."

"Sorry to disappoint, my dear," replied Mrs. Kirk, "but Sakura is otherwise occupied. Perhaps we could be of assistance?"

Sasuke looked bewildered and on the verge of losing consciousness. "This doesn't make sense. Where is she?! She has to come back right now or else-"

"Oh little brother," the ancient Uchiha sighed as he rose to his feet, "No matter what world you hale from, always so dramatic.

"What do you say," he held his hand out for Mrs. Kirk, "one more for the road."

The old woman smiled, "These old bones never do get tired of a little adventure." She took his hand and rose to her feet. "What is it this time boy? Nuclear war? Ten tailed beast? A giant monster on a rampage? Come on now, what's got your panties in a twist this time?" She laughed at Sasuke's bewildered expression, "Well come on then, I'm not getting any younger standing here, and we can't save the world while gabbing and gaping at one another, now can we? Go on now, get. That portal won't stay open forever."

"But Sakura," he protested even as she was shoving him back the way he came while Itachi followed a step behind.

"Now don't you worry about her," the old woman reassured. Sasuke winced as she patted him on his dislocated shoulder. "I'm sure she'll be just fine."


Warm arms wrapped around her, fingers tangled in her hair, and it felt like home. She smiled and decided that maybe he was right. The world was an awful, ugly place, but when she looked at him she felt hope. Maybe they really could make a better world, a brighter future. Either way, they would do it together.




A/N: It's been such a long time hasn't it? I had actually given up this story as a lost cause after getting some particularly unkind messages about it, and generally feeling lost on what direction to take this story (happy ending, sad ending, bittersweet?). Anyways, on Christmas eve, I received a very heartwarming message that convinced me to finish it up, even if it wasn't perfect. Yes, there are still plenty of loose strings to tie up, and maybe I'll write an epilogue later on. Either way, many of you have been waiting patiently for a long time to see how this would all come together, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me and providing with encouragement every step of the way.

I would like to dedicate this chapter to all of you, and I hope everyone reading this has a very merry Christmas.