Word count: 1712
Rating: PG for language
Notes: Er...I got bored and I started writing and this happened! First I thought it was going to be serious (but that didn't work at ALL) and then I thought it was going to be light-hearted fluff (but that didn't work either) -- luckily, there is a form of fanfic where it is perfectly acceptable and even laudable to smush many genres together and pretend it was deliberate, and that form is the Five Things.
The title, obviously, is a legacy from the time when it was fluff.
As my first piece of Naruto fanfiction, there was no way this fic could escape being dedicated to ryokophoenix. Enjoy, my dear! I wrote it very fast and it's not very good, but I figured it was worth purging my need to write about Sakura's training before it ate my head completely.
five people sakura punches in the face
Tsunade says, "The first thing you need to know is that not everything can be fixed."
On the first day of Sakura's training, she finds the Fifth Hokage asleep at her desk, surrounded by sake bottles and drooling into a pile of mission reports.
"Excuse me." Sakura puts a hand at her shoulder and shakes. "Hello?"
No response at all.
"EXCUSE ME," Sakura shouts, but the woman just snores lightly. She also gives a little face-twitch that reminds Sakura of Naruto at his most obtusely comatose morning-self, which is probably why Sakura narrows her eyes, lifts her hand, and delivers what she will later describe as a purely automatic slap across the face. "Wake up," she snaps. "You're wasting daylight."
There's a prolonged, slippery crash of papers behind her back, followed by an outraged voice demanding: "What are you doing?"
"Shz'ne?" Tsunade rubs her face against the damp paper for a moment and then lifts it clear, blinking. "Ow."
I just hit the Hokage, Sakura thinks, followed closely by, Fuck.
Shizune sighs and stoops to gather her papers. "Haruno Sakura has arrived for her first training session."
"And has...hit me." Tsunade stands up slowly, pushing back her hair with one hand.
"Sorry!" Sakura throws her hands onto her knees and bows.
"Ha!" Tsunade sounds pleased; she even looks it, too, when Sakura straightens up. "I knew there was a reason I picked this one," she adds, and Sakura has just enough time to brace herself before Tsunade gives her a friendly slap on the shoulder that sends her flying into the nearest wall.
Nothing has ever hurt this much: no bruise, no kunai wound, no bone-deep screaming ache the morning after a training session, and it's almost ironic that the greatest pain comes from within. Her fingertips are white and her hand is on fire and Tsunade hasn't told her to let go so there must be more chakra somewhere in her body but she can't find it, can't even focus on the pain repression techniques she knows she's been taught. Her memory of Iruka's calm voice is crackling into nothing.
"Gather all of your chakra into your fist," Tsunade says for the sixth time.
Neji's Byakugan is fixed on her wrist, his fingers digging tightly into her skin at exactly the right position to create a one-way chakra gate. Sakura gives a whimper and hates herself for it, because Neji's gaze moves to her face with implacable, contemptous grace that says: I see everything you are, and every inch of it is unworthy. "You really are pathetic," he says.
Impossibly, the pain in her hand increases, and moves from a burn to a sharp, sharp searing that threatens to wipe her thoughts. Sakura struggles to hold herself together, Neji's judging eyes before her and Tsunade's on her back, and she realises that what she wants more than anything else in the world is to go home and shut herself in her room and cry.
You really are pathetic, she tells herself, as an experiment.
And some quiet unknown voice says in return, No matter how many people say it, sometimes it's just an excuse.
Everyone knows that Haruno Sakura is a pathetic ninja, just like everyone used to know that Uzumaki Naruto was a dangerous freak, and just like everyone now knows that Uchiha Sasuke should never be spoken of; is as good as dead; is never coming back.
Sakura makes a choice.
"You really are an arrogant pain in the ass," she says, and in the time it takes for Neji's eyes to widen she grits her teeth and forces everything she can muster past the gate and into the flames, her heartbeat thundering into a panic, her face contorted with strain.
"Focus it, Sakura," comes Tsunade's sharp voice from behind her.
She's yelling something loud and wordless as her fist connects with Neji's jaw. He spins twice in the air before he hits the ground, and even though her arm is shaking all the way from the shoulder to the fingertips and her knees are about to collapse, Sakura has never felt this good in her entire life.
She makes choices. She builds a few bridges and burns a few more. She even brings up the subject of Sasuke with Ino, unsure of whether this particular bridge should be burnt or mended or if it's even her call to make any more, but the conversation starts awkwardly and gets worse from there.
"You think you could have -- you?" Sakura knows it's a bad idea but she can't help it: she laughs.
Ino's face tightens and Sakura only sees her hand when it's too late to dodge properly, so the blow catches her in the forehead and ignites a nasty ache.
"And what made you so qualified?" Ino spits. "You thought that just because you were on his team you could act as though he showed you anything, as though he registered your existence in any way..."
"Stop using the past tense!" Sakura snaps back, suddenly furious beyond reason. "He's not dead. Everyone keeps acting like he's -- oh --"
It's nothing like their exam fight: they don't use weapons and they pull the worst of their punches, they do not speak at all, and finally Sakura catches Ino's fist in her own palm and they stand there, breathing hard, looking at one another. And then Ino kicks out and sweeps Sakura's legs out from under her -- Sakura keeps hold of her hand -- and they both crash to the floor and roll apart.
"I suppose at least you have the possibility," Sakura gasps, pushing her headband up and out of her eyes, gazing at the ceiling. "I know that I couldn't stop him. Maybe you --"
"No, I couldn't have," Ino says abruptly. "I know that. Neither of us could have. I mean, I thought --"
Sakura remembers Naruto's shining, confident grin and says, "We all did."
For a while Sakura lies on the floor next to the girl that used to be her best friend, listening to their breathing decrease in volume, stretching out her muscles and thinking about the future instead of the past.
"We should have done this months ago," she says.
"Yeah. And you know," and Ino, amazingly, starts to giggle. "Most teenage boys would have paid to see what just happened here. But if it were Sasuke --"
An answering giggle bursts out of Sakura's own throat, and with it goes something that she didn't even know she was still clinging to. "No. No, he wouldn't care at all."
"Well." Ino turns to her with a wicked grin creasing her split lip. "Maybe if Neji and Naruto --"
"Aaaauuugghh," Sakura says, and tries to kick her in the shin, but she's laughing too hard to aim.
"Have you seen Temari?"
"Shikamaru," Sakura says from between her teeth, carefully transferring the origins of the chakra threads to her left hand and keeping up her mental chant of tug on the diastole, release on the systole. "I'm kind of -- hang on -- kind of in the middle of something."
"Um." Shikamaru just stands there for a moment, looking as though turning to leave the room would be far too much effort for him to contemplate. "Well, if you --"
Patience, Sakura decides, is for people who aren't holding lives in the space between their mind and their fingers. With her newly-freed right hand she lashes out and stops his sentence with the simple but effective technique of putting her fist in the middle of it.
"Fuck off and let me concentrate, assface!" she yells then. "I've got my chakra wrapped around his aorta! Do you want me to kill him?"
Off to her right, Tsunade looks down at where Shikamaru is sprawled out on the hard hospital floor and gives a proud smile. "Isn't she doing well, Shizune?"
What's surprising is that it takes her just over a year to dream about him; what's frightening is that it's eerily lucid, as dreams go. She thinks she might have preferred something absurd.
But they're standing on the road leading out of Konoha and Sakura looks steadily at the familiar shape of him, that solemn face and those eyes like cold empty hours, and she waits for her heart to ache, but it doesn't. Instead she finds the anger that she forged a long time ago out of the way her throat hurt for two days with the force of her crying and her back ached from sleeping through a cold night on a concrete bench. The way Kakashi hardly said anything to anyone for days. And above all else the terrible, terrible self-blame in Naruto's face as he tried to tell her that he'd failed.
It's a dream, so there is only a tingle of sensation across her hand when she hits him, but his head turns to the side anyway and that's enough.
"Bastard," she says, though she can't muster as much heat as she'd like because her voice is held in the same midnight monotone as the trees around them. "If you only knew how many things you ripped apart by leaving."
Sasuke shrugs. When he speaks the tone of his voice isn't quite right, and she supposes that she must be beginning to forget. "That's not my problem -- it's yours."
"And I'm working at it." She's so tired; she's asleep, and she's tired. Everything about this dream is unfair, but everything about Sasuke has always been unfair and she isn't really surprised. "I heal things, now."
His mouth quirks cruelly and she wants to hate him. "You always wanted to heal me. But you couldn't."
"You could have let us try." Us. That’s important. She wants to expand on it but she's losing control of the dream.
"Not everything can be fixed," Sasuke says. There is blood running down from his mouth and it's the same colour as his eyes.
"I know." Sakura is waking up; she can feel the dawn tugging at her feet. She watches him fade away and she says, "But sometimes that's just an excuse not to try."