Here it is, the final chapter. We are about 40 reviews away from someone getting their own one shot! I know we can get there! I'm giving 60 days from the publication of this chapter to receive the one shot.
So, let me just thank you for taking this journey with me. You are all amazing. It's been just over three years since I started this story. I can't believe how much you all care about it and love it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
There may be an epilogue to this, but if there is, it will be posted as a separate story.
The First Time
Chapter 15: Everything We've Grown
"So we move out to the garden, look at everything we've grown
And the kids are coming home so I'll set the table; you can make the fire"
It was the night nurse that woke him up. She hadn't known he was there, lying on blankets that he had commandeered from his home next to her bed.
"Oh, Uchiha-san, I'm so sorry," the older woman said, looking down at him in the dark. "I didn't realize you were sleeping over here."
Itachi grunted and shifted himself up, pulling his makeshift bed out of the way so the nurse could check on Sakura. A small flashlight was produced from the nurse's pocket, and she waved it in front of Sakura's eyes a few times. When the nurse released Sakura's eyelid, it slid back down, covering up the lifeless jade orbs underneath.
"Her pupils are equal and responsive. Her vitals are stable. Shizune-sensei said that they reversed the sedation medications. I'm sure she'll wake up soon, Uchiha-san" the nurse told him in a hushed whisper, trying not to wake the other patients in the long makeshift hospital room where they were keeping noncritical patients. Her tone was encouraging and hopeful.
Itachi only nodded in response. He didn't care about the nurse's bedside manner and optimism, for they both knew that she didn't really know whether or not Sakura would wake up, and if she did, whether or not she would be the same person.
"What time is it?" Itachi asked quietly. He had pulled himself onto his feet to stand over Sakura's prone, sleeping form. That's what it looked like, like she was sleeping. The nurse, a middle aged woman that Itachi recognized from his frequent visits to the hospital, checked the watch on her right wrist.
"Almost 4 a.m." she replied with a smile. "Hokage-sama should be here to visit her soon, ne? And all the others will be by after that, I'm sure, before they have to go out and work for the day."
Itachi's head dipped in agreement as he shifted to fold the blankets. It wouldn't be long until he had to go out to his own post and aid in the protection and rebuilding efforts for the village.
It had been a week since the attack, a week since the Akatsuki and their cohorts had invaded the Village Hidden in the Leaves, and their rebuilding efforts were slow, but steady. Piece by piece, civilians and ninja alike worked together to put their home back together. Fifty shinobi from Sand had arrived just yesterday after hearing of the attack to bolster Konoha's defenses, as it was now weakened. Any enemy that Konoha had would be setting up an attack.
Building resources from all of the surrounding nations were being brought every day to help their allies, and Itachi was glad that Tsunade-sama had put so many funds into the restoration account just in case this ever did happen. Nobody would have to pay for their homes to be rebuilt out of pocket, and that was a blessing.
After the nurse had left Sakura's side to check on a patient in the bed next to hers, Itachi moved out of the long room slowly. Sakura had been placed in the Academy, which had been triaged after the attack and was now used for noncritical patients. The desks had been moved out, and many medical gurneys were lined up with medical equipment hooked up to each patient. They must keep medical supplies like this in storage, as Itachi knew that the hospital and all of the civilian clinics were still bursting at maximum capacity.
Other family members of the other seven or so patients in the same room as Sakura waved to him as he walked from the long lecture hall. They had used the tiered tables as beds for themselves and storage for their belongings so they didn't have to leave their loved ones. Itachi preferred to sleep next to Sakura's gurney.
Nodding curtly in response to their greetings, Itachi opened the door to the former classroom and into the quiet hallway. Nurses were walking back and forth with medicines and other equipment in and out of the various classrooms. Itachi made his way familiarly to the cafeteria.
It looked the same as it had when he had been in the academy. Rows of tables were set up, and there was a small bar on the far end where children could buy food if they didn't bring it from home. The room was smaller than he remembered from his childhood, or perhaps he was just bigger.
Sighing to himself and running his hand down his pale, exhausted face, Itachi made his way over to where the small serving window was. Although they usually didn't start serving breakfast until 5, the kind cooks usually made something for him if he asked politely. Surprisingly, today he didn't have to ask. As he approached the bar, one of the cooks, Utano-san, had a plate ready for him that was slide across the bar. It was a small ration of rice, miso soup, and a few cuts of salmon.
"Thank you, Utano-san," he said genuinely. He placed his payment on the counter and the kind woman waved him off, telling him he looked half dead and to try to feel better. Itachi sat down and ate quickly, eager to get back to Sakura before he had to report for duties in an hour.
By the time he was done with his breakfast and was on his way to return to Sakura, the light was beginning to shine anywhere there were windows. It looked as if it would be a lovely spring day in Konoha. Unsurprisingly, Sakura already had one of what was sure to be a long line of visitors by her bed.
"Hokage-sama," Itachi greeted.
"Uchiha," Hatake Kakashi greeted with a sigh. "Please don't call me that."
Itachi didn't respond to his request. Instead, he came to stand next to the man who was half sitting on Sakura's bed. Kakashi was in his normal jounin garb, but Itachi saw that the white robes he would have to don all day were hanging over his arm. With the presence of foreign shinobi, it would be expected of him to stay in full regalia.
"Shizune told me she took her off of the medications that kept her in the coma," Kakashi said. "She said that it was up to Sakura to wake up now."
Itachi nodded in response. "We won't know the extent of the head trauma until she wakes up. She could be completely fine. She could suffer from neurological deficits."
Kakashi ran a hand through his spikey hair agitatedly.
"It'll be tough to explain it all to her when she wakes up," Kakashi said. "About Tsunade and about me being Hokage. Geeze, I wish she would wake up. I bet she'd know how to get Tsunade-sama back on her feet."
Itachi's eyes trailed over to their interim leader. Since Tsunade had not awoken the day after the attacks after a debilitating fight with Pein, and Shizune had stated she wasn't sure when or even if her mentor would wake up, the council appointed Kakashi Hokage in an emergency meeting. It would be detrimental to the village to go without a leader in this time and would leave them even more vulnerable to attacks from their enemies.
Kakashi smoothed his hand tenderly over Sakura's hair in one of his rare moments of showing affection. After a brief nod to Itachi, he threw his Hokage robes over his shoulders, tucked the wide hat under his arm, and walked from the door with his normal lazy slouch.
Itachi went down the hall to one of the washrooms to clean up a bit. Looking at himself in the mirror, he saw his pale face was gaunt and looked exhausted. The twin stress lines running from the bridge of his nose to his cheeks were more pronounced, deep and showing the turmoil of the past several days. The bags under his eyes were layering, and his hair was greasy from lack of shower and matting to his head. Perhaps he would stop by his home later to take a proper shower and nap in his own futon before returning to the hospital for the evening.
Running his hands through his hair, Itachi tried to smooth it out. Then he went back to the long room that was serving as Sakura's resting place, and two of her other most loyal visitors were there. Naruto was sitting fully on the bed with his legs crossed at the foot, just staring at Sakura's slumbering form. Sasuke was toward the head and turned when Itachi reentered the room.
Immediately zoning on the bandage wrapped around Sasuke's wrist, Itachi sighed. Where a strong hand used to be on Sasuke's left arm was now a stump. In his aiding Kakashi with one of Pein's paths, Sasuke had blown his arm off when his massive chidori collided with one of Pein's attacks. Although it was a major wound, Sasuke seemed to be coping pretty well with the new injury. He was left hand dominant, but most shinobi are taught from a young age how to be ambidextrous. After two days in the hospital, Sasuke had been released but wasn't permitted to do any sort of straining activity, which seemed to be more of a blow to his pride than the injury itself.
"You look like crap," he said to Itachi bluntly. Ah, he was grumpy this morning.
"Good morning Sasuke, Naruto-kun," Itachi replied, poking his little brother in his forehead. Sasuke went to rub his forehead with his stump, and his disposition just got darker.
Naruto was somber this morning as well. His bright blue eyes were glazed over and didn't seem to come to life until Sasuke nudged him. Blinking, he turned towards Itachi and gave him a half-filled smile.
"Ah, hey Itachi," Naruto replied. "We just came in to check on Sakura-chan before we went to work. We have guard duty on the western wall today. What about you?"
"Shishui and eye are doing scouting several miles outside of the village today. We won't be back until almost dark," Itachi replied. Sasuke's head bobbed up and down. Just then, the door opened and Ino walked into the room with Shikamaru and Chouji trailing behind her. A large bouquet of flowers was in Ino's hands. She gave the three boys a cursory smile and set the vase next to Sakura's bedside.
They exchanged greetings and small talk for a few minutes, but very quickly it was almost 5 a.m. and it was time for all of the abled body citizens of Konoha to go to work rebuilding and protecting their home.
Shizune practically sprinted from the Hokage's quarters on the top floor of the Hokage Tower to the Academy. Her geta caused her to trip over her kimono, so she flung them off and ran the rest of the way in her socks, holding her geta in her hands until she reached the front door. Her nervous excitement was getting to her, so she was panting by the time she reached the room where Sakura had been recovering. It had been less than 24 hours since she had been taken off of the sedation meds. The fact that she had started to wake already was a very good sign.
The nurse had propped the girl up on several pillows, and it seemed that even getting vertical took a lot out of her.
"Sakura-chan," Shizune breathed out when she saw her kohai awake and sitting up in bed. Sakura gave Shizune a limp smile back. The poor girl had been awake for less than fifteen minutes and already looked ready for another nap.
"Senpai, it's good to see you. The nurse wasn't good for much information. She just kept telling me that you would explain everything when you got here," Sakura replied quietly. There were another seven patients in various states of consciousness in her room, and she wanted to be conscientious of their sleep.
"Yes, yes," Shizune replied as she approached Sakura's bedside. She wiggled a flashlight in front of Sakura's eyes, watching her pupils dilate equally. The model patient, Sakura waited as Shizune did everything that would assess her mental state. "How much do you remember, Sakura? You took a pretty hard hit to the back and head."
Sakura's mouth twisted into a frown as she brought back the attack. "Everything. I remember creating the chakra shield and the rocks falling onto me."
Shizune let out a sigh of relief. All of Sakura's mental faculties seemed to be working very well, and her memory was intact.
"How did you survive the rocks falling over you with no mental or physical deficits, Sakura-chan? The amount of rock we pulled off of you should have crushed you, but you managed to get out with a minor concussion and a bruised back. Your biggest problem was your chakra exhaustion," Shizune asked. Sakura looked at her thoughtfully.
"First you tell me how everyone is," Sakura replied. Shizune nodded.
"Itachi is fine. He's been here with you every night. Sasuke is alive…" Shizune trailed off for a moment and Sakura was about to jump on her, demanding to know what the but after that was, but her senpai began speaking again quickly. "He lost his left hand in the attack but seems to be coping alright with the setback, all things considered. I don't really think its hit him yet. Naruto is fine, of course, if not a little down. Kakashi is alive and well. Shisui is alive, but seems to be taking the attack harder emotionally than a lot of people. He saw a lot of death," Shizune began down the list, purposefully avoiding the one person she knew Sakura would ask about.
"How many did we lose?" Sakura murmured to her.
"Right now, the total is 64. Fifteen civilians died, mostly from being in collapsing buildings, and 49 shinobi. Twelve of those were members of the Uchiha clan, who were attacked by Uchiha Madara," Shizune replied. Sakura's eyes raised high enough into her hairline, but her surprise was overridden by her sadness for her boyfriend and his family and it made Shisui's emotional distress all the more understandable. Twelve members of the clan…that was a shockingly large number. That would be a story she would have to hear later.
"Itachi was able to defeat him in the end."
"And Tsunade-sama?" Sakura asked. Shizune seized up and didn't meet Sakura's eyes. "Shizune…"
"She's alive," Shizune replied quickly. "But the fight with Pein took a lot out of her. It was Naruto who ultimately took him out. She's been in a coma since."
Sakura's heart seized, and her arms were pushing her off of the bed before her mind could truly process what happened. If her shishou was hurt, she needed to go to her and help her.
"Whoa, Sakura!" Shizune said startled. "What are you doing?"
"I have to go help her!" Sakura huffed out as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Just as her feet slid to the floor, a shooting pain shot down her spine, and she let out a surprised shriek before going boneless. Shizune was there to grab her and ease her back down.
"You're still suffering from a traumatic spinal injury. Do not strain yourself," Shizune chided her kohai seriously. Sakura's eyes were determined, though, and the senpai knew that keeping Sakura in bed for much longer would be nearly impossible.
"Then get me a wheelchair, Shizune-senpai," Sakura demanded tersely, trying to dissuade the wariness that was still attempting to overtake her. Shizune sighed deeply but moved away to get a wheelchair. After much bickering and finagling, they were able to get Sakura into a wheelchair comfortably, and the two were on their way to the Hokage Tower.
Sakura was shocked by the amount of damage that was done to the city even though she had seen it herself that night. It had been nighttime, and the city had been cloaked in darkness and smoke from the fighting, and rubble had been falling down everywhere. There had been no time to focus on what was becoming of their beloved city – they were too busy trying to save it. Almost every building had been touched by the fight. Cracks ran from the roof to the very foundations of the buildings. Some of the walls were caved in, but it seemed that they had most of the debris cleared from the streets and the reconstruction was well underway.
On the way, Sakura recounted how she used the last bits of chakra in the ring where she had been storing it to create a shield around herself that softened the blow of the pieces of wall falling on her. While the sheer weight of them had caused her back to bruise and strain and gave her a concussion, the blows were not fatal. Shizune had to give Sakura credit; she managed to save all of her patients, which were, of course, her main priority. She also managed to save herself, and although Shizune was upset that her dear little sister figure had put herself in harm's way, she was just glad that she was awake and relatively unharmed now.
Slowly, the two made their way from the Academy building to the Hokage Tower where Tsunade's prone form was being guarded by a slew of ANBU in the Hokage's official residence. Kakashi had taken over the helm as an interim Hokage, and although he had lost his apartment building and most of his worldly possessions in the attack, he had graciously extended the use of the apartments for Tsunade's recovery; there was no room in the hospital, and Shizune didn't want her to be in the public eye, with her age defying jutsu gone and the aged face of their official Hokage looking so desperately weak.
When the two finally made their way, albeit slowly, up to the fourth and final floor of the Hokage Tower where the Hokage's personal quarters were located, Sakura took the wheels of their chair into her own hands and pushed herself into Tsunade's bedroom herself. Many times she would come to wake her shishou after her mentor had spent the night drinking herself into a stupor.
Her poor shishou was prostrate and still under a thin blanket. Shizune had swiped monitors from the storage locker and hooked them up to Tsunade, and Sakura took a look at all of her stats. She was relieved to see that her shishou was stable. Comatose, but stable – just like she had been not hours before.
Her eyelids closed, drawing her chakra stores that had replenished over the past week. It felt good, so good, to bring chakra into her palms after having been bedridden for a week. Palms ghosted over her shishou's closed eyes and into her head. They moved down methodically as she systematically checked each and every crevice of Tsunade's bod, inside and out. When she was done, she made her way back to the brain and delved deeper than she had before.
As she was working her way through the frontal lobe, she noticed something abnormal. It wasn't anything major, but it was enough to pique her interest.
"Hm?" Shizune was closer to her now, peering over her shoulder.
"Where are shishou's CT scans?" Sakura asked. The copies were placed in her hands a moment later, and Sakura held them up to the light in Tsunade's room, looking at her brain very carefully, and that's when she saw it, a slight spot in the frontal lobe of Tsunade's scans. "There! A small bleed in her brain."
Shizune was looking over her shoulder at the scans.
"Yeah it was minor. I kept a close eye on it and let it heal on its own," Shizune explain. "The brain isn't my area of expertise. I didn't want to try to heal it and cause more permanent damage."
Sakura nodded. "It could have healed on its own, but I'm worried that some of her scar tissue could have become infected or inflamed, keeping her unconscious. Let's get her transferred back to the hospital. I want to run another CT."
Whirling around, Sakura was surprised to find Naruto and Sasuke running towards her; she took a moment to appreciate that they were both alive and well, despite Sasuke's sleeve falling down loosely where a hand was supposed to be. Then she got irritated. How the hell did they get onto the OR floor of the hospital?
"Ne, what are you two doing here?" she asked. Decked out in a full set of scrubs, she was on her way to the prep room to prepare for surgery on Tsunade.
"What are you doing?" Sasuke demanded. "You just woke up and Shizune said you were about to perform a surgery on the Hokage? Don't you think that's a little much?"
Sakura rolled her eyes. Sure, her back was sore, but she took some medicine and a soldier pill. Her chakra reserves were replenished and she was ready.
"Shishou has swollen scar tissue in her brain. I think that's what's keeping her unconscious. I'm not positive, but I think if I remove the scar tissue and repair the original laceration that caused the brain bleed in the first place, she'll wake up," Sakura explained excitedly. Sasuke just looked more peeved, while Naruto just looked plain confused. Rolling her eyes, Sakura shot them a dazzling smile. "I'll be fine."
"Itachi's going to be pissed you ran into a surgery where you have to crack open the Hokage's skull just after waking up," Sasuke retorted. Maturely, Sakura stuck out her tongue at him before shrugging.
"Hey!" They heard yelling from down the hall. Two security guards were racing towards them. "That's where you two are!"
Sakura glowered at them and shifted her weight to one foot, crossing her arms over her chest disapprovingly. "What exactly did you two do to get up here?"
Even Sasuke had the mind to look abashed at the situation.
"Get out," Sakura demanded. A nurse had stepped out of the scrub room to inform her that Tsunade was prepped and ready for surgery. The elevator doors behind them were opening and Sakura saw her OR team stepping out and into the hallway, ready for the surgery. Sasuke and Naruto were ready to protest, but Sakura held her hand up sharply. "Don't. I'll be fine. The surgery should take about six hours. I'll see you after."
Without any more words, Sakura spun on her heel and into the scrub room. As she cleaned out from under her fingers and scrubbed her hands clean with the brush, she took several deep breaths to calm herself. She was confident, but going into surgery on her shishou was incredibly high pressure, and Sasuke and Naruto were right to an extent. She had been awake for less than six hours and she was about to cut open her mentor's brain.
Taking another deep breath, she dried off her hands and stepped into the OR where a scrub nurse was waiting with her gown and gloves.
Kakashi, Shisui, and Itachi stared at them both with different levels of disbelief and irritation. They had all gathered at a recently rebuilt Ichiraku's for a late dinner, where Naruto and Sasuke delivered the news to the men about Sakura – both that she had awoken and then immediately gone into surgery on Tsunade. They would have found them sooner, but Kakashi had been in trade meetings all day, while Itachi and Shisui had been out of the village doing scouting.
The worst was Itachi. He still looked exhausted as ever, his face gaunt and pale. The news hadn't seemed to have registered with him; he just stared at the two blankly for a very long time in a dead silence. Without saying a word, he turned and left the booth in a swift pace.
"Get the ramen to go, old man!" Naruto called. Everyone else followed Itachi down the road, Naruto behind them, balancing ten different bowls of ramen, some for his counterparts but most for him, of course.
The hospital was still busy, overworked and overstrained from the attack, so the group of shinobi was able to slip in and up the stairs with little fuss. Kakashi had foregone his robes, exponentially aiding them in sneaking into the hospital. When they made it up to the floor where they kept the recovery wing for the OR patients, they found their pinkette instantly. She was standing at the nurses' station, still in her gown and scrub cap.
She must have felt their presence, as she whirled around to meet their gazes and a large smile began to spread across her face. It was dazzling and complete and didn't just reach her eyes; no, her entire body vibrated with happiness.
"You're all here! Good!" she exclaimed. Running up to them, she practically bowled Itachi over with the fierceness of her hug. She stood on her tip toes and planted a kiss on his lips that he was too tired to respond to. Pulling back to really look at him, she took in his blackened eyes, clammy pallor, and deep stress lines. He looked exhausted.
Sakura stared back at him with wide eyes, mouth agape. Naruto sputtered and almost dropped his ramen, had a hardly surprised Kakashi not took them out of his hands before he was able to lose his most precious food stuff and preventing it from practically filling the entire floor. Shisui also did not seem too surprised; Sasuke, however, had wide eyes and stared at the scene that was unfolding before him. Had Itachi really just demanded marriage from Sakura?
"Sakura, marry me," Itachi reiterated. She was stock still with wide eyes, her hands still clutching the fabric of his sleeves. His voice speaking again seemed to snap her out of her stupor, but just as she was about respond, the door to the room they were next to opened and Shizune popped her head out.
"Sakura!" she called. "She's waking up!"
Sakura turned to look at her and then to her friends, her eyes finally landing out Itachi. Her gaping mouth moved, but no sounds came out. Itachi brought his hands up and took her clutching fingers from his arms, giving her a soft smile, reassuring smile.
"Think about it," he murmured to her. "Now, go see Tsunade-sama."
Nodding weakly, Sakura turned and walked into Tsunade's room. Just ask she entered, she saw that Tsunade's eyes were slowly beginning to open. Shizune had already removed her intubation tube, and she was breathing on her own with the help of the nose tube. She couldn't make it there, though, because Shizune was pulling her to the side.
"Did Itachi-san just propose?!" Shizune asked in an excited whisper; admittedly, she had been eves dropping. Sakura nodded dumbly. "What are you going to say?"
Sakura looked at her closely, her mouth open to reply, but she suddenly couldn't help the wide smile that was spreading across her face. Shizune knew the answer and let out a squeal, but Sakura shushed her quickly.
"Hey, would you two quit gossiping and come help me sit up, you good for nothing apprentices?"
Smiling to each other, the two apprentices of the Godaime Hokage raced over to help their newly awakened shishou.
The light bounced off of the little diamonds in the ring as she held it up to the sun.
"Ne, Sakura-chan, you're blinding me," Naruto complained. Sakura giggled and pulled her hand back down. They were sprawled on top of the roof of Sasuke and Itachi's house, laying in the early summer sunshine, enjoying their brief respite from the work. It had been two months since the attack on Konoha, and the village was almost 80 percent rebuilt. Although there was still work to do, it was mostly delegated to the genin and chuunin teams now. There were still missions to take and training to accomplish.
"So you're really going to marry my brother?" Sasuke asked, his voice still holding incredulity.
"What did you think was going to happen, Sasuke-kun? We've been together for over a year," she replied. Curling over onto her side, she stretched her arm over Naruto to place it on Sasuke's arm where his hand and wrist used to be. He just grunted in response. "Plus, it won't be for a while. I take the ANBU exams in the winter and then we agreed to let me have one year of field work before even starting to plan the wedding."
"And I'll have to help Kakashi-sensei too. Tsunade isn't going to be taking back over as Hokage any time soon. She has a long road to recovery in front of her, and that may delay my promotion," Sakura added on.
Sasuke grunted again. Pulling herself up, she saw Itachi and Shisui walking down the path. Shisui waved enthusiastically while Itachi just held his hand up in greeting. Turning the other direction, Sakura saw Mikoto and Fugaku leaving the Uchiha district gates and head towards their hours. After the service for the Uchiha members lost in the attack, the parents of her best friend and fiancé were more clingy, coming over to dinner more than once a week for dinner or even just to drop by.
She couldn't blame them, though. That night their entire family could easily have been eradicated had Itachi not arrived when he did. It was only natural for them to be a little more involved now that everything had quieted down. Needless to say, the two had been ecstatic about the engagement announcement. Of course, they had been hesitant when Sakura and Itachi had presented them with the stipulations, but they were happy nonetheless.
Shifting herself, Sakura crawled over Naruto, who grunted by her sudden weight. Nestling between the two, Sakura laid back down carefully and snuggled into her two boys. They had lost a lot recently. Not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well. They had seen death before and had been through a lot, but they had lost some of their innocence, some of their youth, in the past few months.
The sound of footsteps on the roof brought her attention to the two figures that had been making their way from the village earlier. Sakura smiled up at Itachi, who gave her a soft look in return. The duo sat down behind Team Seven as they waited for Fugaku and Mikoto to arrive.
Sasuke elbowed Sakura in the side, trying together her to move over. The three were painfully smushed together, but she just laughed.
"And I also have another big medical project on my hands now too," Sakura murmured, her eyes closing against the glare of the setting sun.
"What's that, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked. She smirked.
"I'm going to grow Sasuke-kun a new arm."
Author's Note: First off, read the top author's note for some important information. Next,