She was confused.
No, confused was an understatement. This was something far beyond simple confusion. To put it bluntly, she simply didn't know what the fuck was going on anymore.
Sakura couldn't tear her eyes off the two blonde men before her. She'd only ever seen the man in pictures, and of course everyday as she looked up at the faces carved into the mountain at the horizon.
But the Fourth Hokage was dead. He'd been dead for sixteen years now. There was just no way it was him.
It wasn't until Naruto's words reverberated in her head once, twice, three times more.
"You were right on time, Dad."
She shook her head as she tried hard to concentrate her chakra. Naruto needed her. She needed to heal him and fast before the ten tails tried—whatever the hell that had been—again. She suppressed a shudder when she realized that they'd all be dead if it weren't for…
"Nice to see you, Naruto." She watched as the man, standing tall, glanced over his shoulder and grinned brightly.
She almost faltered in her movements as she watched the man's face.
There was just no way.
But looking at his face, she couldn't tear her eyes away from his smile, lifting his cheeks and reaching his eyes, with his blonde hair messily arranged on his head. At that exact moment, she didn't understand why she'd never seen it before. It wasn't just a chance thing—it was a legitimate family resemblance.
She could almost feel Naruto's excitement through his shirt.
As she stared, in awe, she noted his eyes, dark and dead. Was this another edo tensei?
Her body froze as she tried desperately to keep her focus on Naruto. But as her thoughts raced a mile a minute she allowed herself to calm down. He'd saved them; not attacked them.
If this was edo tensei, it was different. Now, they had the undead fighting on their side.
And watching the back of the Fourth as he glared up toward Madara, she could only be grateful for whatever—whoever had made this insane miracle possible.
She had already been preparing herself mentally for her death; she knew it was unavoidable at this point. With the ten tails growing stronger, Kakashi-sensei gone, and Naruto's chakra all but withered away, they had no chance. They'd reached the end of the line.
But now, standing before them, was their chance. Maybe they wouldn't die. Maybe they'd be able to fight back again. They needed to take the offensive, but right now even maintaining a stable defense was getting harder and harder to do. Everyone was just getting so tired.
Sakura's hands hurt, her face burned and her eyes stung and her legs felt as if they could give way at any moment, but she couldn't allow herself even a single moment of weakness. She had a job to do. An important job.
For the first—and possibly the last—time in her life, thousands upon thousands of people were depending on her. If she didn't heal Naruto quickly and fully, then they'd be slaughtered.
Before she knew what was happening, the air grew dry again, static and heat suddenly rising. Panicked, her head shot back up, toward the ten tails. She had to hold her ground as she watched, fear rising, as the ten tails charged up another attack.
Letting out a grunt, she focused her chakra harder, pouring more of it into Naruto as she desperately tried to restore his energy. She needed to hurry.
Watching as another attack charged, this one seemingly much larger than the previous, Sakura's stomach sank, and sinking feeling in the pit of her chest grabbing hold of her.
Damnit! She thought that maybe with the last attack, the ten tails would take longer to recover and attack again, but apparently she was still underestimating the beast.
As the ninja around her sprung into action, Sakura could only stand and watch as they moved around her. Some running past her, following the Fourth Hokage's bold movements. Others merely spread out, already taking a defensive position. She could see countless ninja begin to make signs for another round of earth barricades. Already in the distance she could see walls shooting up from underneath the ground at an insanely quick rate. The ten tails hadn't even released its attack yet, and they were already preparing themselves.
Sakura grinned brightly as she watched her fellow shinobi work around her. Maybe they could do it. Maybe they'd be alright. Maybe—
Her thoughts were cut short when something caught her eye.
Besides her and Naruto, there was only one other person on the battlefield who stood, unmoving.
When her eyes found the prone form of Madara Uchiha, her heart sank as she met his eyes. His rinnegan stared right back at her.
She couldn't tell whether or not his gaze was curious or impatient, and if she were being honest with herself, she was terrified to find out which. His stare froze her on the spot.
Why is he looking at me? Why me? Why—
Still holding his eyes, she watched as he cocked his head to the side slightly, still studying her. He never once moved from his spot, even with all the movement around him. He didn't even flinch when the ten tails finally released its attack—the noise alone was enough to make Sakura want to slap her hands over her ears.
She allowed her eyes to straw for a split-second, watching as the Fourth Hokage stood out in front of the alliance, making quick hand signs and watching as a giant black seal appeared in the air, as if creating another barrier between the deadly blast, and the rest of the ninja.
When her eyes turned back toward Madara, she couldn't help but notice out of the corner of her eye, something that hadn't been there before.
Off in the distance to her right, about a good fifty meters or so, a large spear of wood steadily unearthed itself, growing taller with each passing moment. As its movement ceased, Sakura studied it nervously. Madara was still staring at her.
Her eyes looked down on Naruto's head, noting his lack of awareness at the strange sight she'd stumbled upon. Like everyone else, his eyes were trained on the action. The blast was just about to meet the giant seal when she heard it.
When her eyes shot back up, she bit her tongue and watched with wide eyes as the thick spear shot toward her with incredible speed.
Inhaling sharply, Sakura could only watch as the wood came barreling toward her, ready to end her life where she stood. She held on to her breath of air, knowing that it would be her last. She did not close her eyes though. She would not die a coward—she would face her death on the battlefield like a true shinobi of the Leaf.
With her last seconds, she focused, harder than ever as she worked on Naruto. Even when she would die, he would have still been healed enough by her to go and fight again, to make a difference, to win this war.
It was her death in exchange for a fully-healed Naruto. Bracing herself, she gladly made the deal.
And just as quickly as it had begun, everything seemed to stop at once.
It happened too quickly for her to react—too fast for her to even know what was going on. She was momentarily blinded by the flash of light, much too strong and bright for her eyes to adjust to.
But the flash of light did not disperse as quickly as it appeared. She couldn't help but become entranced by the light dancing before her in a crooked and wild fashion. She could feel the hairs on her arms stand on end as the static brushed lightly, and harmlessly against her skin.
She watched, hypnotized as she watched the lightening dance before her. Suddenly she wasn't entirely sure whether or not she'd been struck. Had she already been hit? Pierced through the chest? She was surely dead; there was no doubt about it.
That was the only explanation she had as to why she found herself staring at an Uchiha symbol directly in front of her face.
She could only imagine that she and Naruto held the same expression; shock, awe, confusion, and finally relief.
The sound of cracking wood is what finally brought her back to reality. Suddenly she could hear again, her ears bombarded once again by the chaos that was still developing around her. Her eyes finally refocused, watching as a large, pointed end of charred wood fell to the ground beside her and Naruto.
She had to have been dead already. There was no way this was really happening.
But as Sasuke turned slightly to meet her eyes, she knew there was no mistaking it. This was real.
As she spoke his name, the sound tumbling out of her mouth as a weak cry, she couldn't help but see him wince slightly. He looked... sad. It wasn't until Sasuke turned back around when she finally placed the emotion.
"Sakura," she froze, "are you alright?"
"I—" her voice cracked, startled at hearing her name fall from his lips, "I'm okay. I'm alright."
"Naruto," he peered back over his shoulder again with an eyebrow raised, as if silently asking the same question.
"I'll be good soon. I can feel my energy almost back up to its max." Sakura could hear the grin in his voice as he spoke to his estranged best friend.
She couldn't begin to understand how Naruto was handling all of this so… so calmly! First the Fourth Hokage, or his dad, or whoever it was appeared quite literally out of thin air. And now, Sasuke stood before them, blocking a certainly deadly attack aimed at Sakura.
Suddenly a memory flashed through her mind. Holding a kunai with an uncertain, inexperienced hand, a young Sakura prepared herself for the imminent impact of the ninja. Yet, a twelve-year old Sasuke had shot in front of her, facing her attacker. Protecting her.
Opening her mouth to speak, she suddenly gasped as more bodies flew in front of them, catching her off guard. She was too shaken up to even begin to understand what was happening.
There was the Third Hokage and the—no, it couldn't be. But there was no mistaking the faces of the First, and Second Hokage. She almost froze as their dark eyes flickered from her, to Naruto, to Sasuke, and then away, focusing on their enemy.
Her eyes remained before her, peering around Sasuke as more people arrived. Two men she did not recognize, and a red-headed kunoichi that she did. She allowed herself one choked gasp at the sight of Orochimaru. She just… she didn't understand.
"What's going on?" she allowed herself to ask, exasperated. Her head was starting to hurt and she was trying so hard to just roll with the punches and just accept things as they were but…
But the last time she'd seen the Third she'd been a little girl and the last time she'd seen Orochimaru he'd whisked Sasuke away after he'd attacked them after they'd finally found him and the last time she'd seen the red-headed girl she'd been near-death and Sasuke was telling her to kill her and—
"Reinforcements," Sasuke replied, his voice ringing loud and clear above all else. Around them, Sakura could see the expressions of each ninja changing from scared and confused, to hopeful and determined.
She felt Naruto stand up, gently shaking her grip on his back off. Reaching behind him, he grabbed her hand, gently squeezing it before shooting her a grin. Releasing her hand he clapped Sasuke on the shoulder, laughing as if things were normal. As if they weren't at war and surrounded by dirt and blood and bodies. As if the last three years hadn't happened.
As if they were still a team.
With another sudden flash of light, he was suddenly glowing once more, grinning at the Hokage before him.
"It's time for me to fight alongside my dad. Sasuke," Naruto turned and grinned at his old friend. "Thank you. I'll be back soon. We'll take them down together. That's a promise." And before she knew it, he was off, disappearing in a flash of yellow and gold, heading toward the Fourth and the newly-invigorated shinobi.
With his absence, Sakura suddenly felt lost. Looking back toward Sasuke, she almost flinched, noting his eyes fixed back on her. His sharingan was brighter than she remembered, the shapes more intricate.
He still held the same guilty look; she could see the emotion even in the dangerous red that stared back at her. When he lifted a hand toward her, she couldn't help but recoil slightly at the movement. She just couldn't shake the sight of him, desperate and with empty eyes, as he reached forward and grabbed her by the throat.
As if by reflex, her hand found its way to her neck, stepping back slightly as she tried to keep her breathing steady and her body from shaking.
She immediately regretted her actions as she saw his hand pause, his face contorting into a deep frown as he winced from her reaction. She could almost feel the guilt in the air, as palpable as the static she still felt tingling the tips of her fingers and the hairs on her head.
"Sakura, I'm," he paused, finally pulling his eyes away from hers. "I'm sorry." He clenched his fists together tightly as he faced the enemy before them, his posture stiffening.
Suddenly, her confidence shot through the roof, her heart soared, her eyes fought back tears, and she felt energized. She didn't have the time to waste to allow herself to fully take in his words. She couldn't allow her surprise to take hold of her; she wouldn't.
This was it; this was what she'd been waiting for—what both her and Naruto had been waiting for for years now. Sasuke was there with them. Fighting amongst them. He was on their side.
"I promise," his voice was quieter suddenly. Sakura leaned forward, struggling to hear his words. "I'm going to make things right again."
Shooting her one last fleeting glance, Sakura noticed that his expression had changed as well. He was ready to fight. He was ready to help them with this war. He was ready to finally become the man she had known all along that he could be.
Smiling, she blinked back the tears in her eyes, wiping at her face and smearing dirt across her cheeks.
He was back.
A/N: I wrote this in a couple hours. I just couldn't get the idea out of my head, and with the new chapter closing in on us, I had to write it before it came out.
This is basically what I would like to see in the incoming chapters. Will it happen? No, probably not. But a girl can dream, I suppose.