Training grounds had a serenity about them in the early morning. The rising sun warmed her body, while the chill morning air and damp dew laden grass cooled her off in equal measures. The hot and cold soothed her aching, well everything.
It had been a week since she had started channeling her chakra, and she still felt like shit. How on earth was she supposed to do anything like this? It was barely fifteen minutes into what Shizune had dubbed a light early morning workout. "Come on Sakura, this is nothing like what Naruto does in the morning."
Or at least what she daydreamed he did in the morning. For the past couple days, her day dream had been boring of watching Naruto in the morning, waking up Jiraiya, hearing an excuse or some generic orders, and watching Naruto train some more. It was all rather disappointing.
And annoying. In her daydreams Naruto would summon her, then she'd have to go hide behind a tree, or if he remembered to summon her next to a building find a safe place to change out of Naruto's clothing and into her own.
Sakura ran a tired hand through her sweat soaked hair noting that she was getting close to needing another hair cut. With a groan she pushed herself off the post she had been resting on and resumed her workout. She still had time before Tsunade woke up.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Sakura glared at the grinning blond that was all too happy to have her around. He was like an overeager puppy that was just happy because he was happy. She refused to let him infect her with his happiness. She was in the middle of an existential crisis!
"Good morning Sakura," Naruto said, handing sakura her clothes.
She acknowledged him with a grunt, her clothes felt softer than before. She eyed Naruto up and down as he just smiled at her. "Did you wash my clothes or something?"
Naruto nodded, clearly pleased with himself. "Yea, you said they were dirty yesterday so I did laundry."
The idea of Naruto handling her clothes every day was still an alien one that didn't quite sit right with her. Sure it was better than him just leaving the clothes she was wearing on the ground and forcing her to wear his clothes. But this was Naruto. And now he had washed her clothes. Like… like they were lovers or something!
It was just wrong.
"Thanks, I guess, now turn around and close your eyes." Naruto complied to her demands by covering his eyes with his hands for extra insurance. Sakura sprinted a large tree and glared at Naruto's back to make certain he wasn't going to peak. She really should give him more credit, he hadn't tried anything yet.
Especially with how delicate her situation was.
"Okay, Naruto you can turn around now." She closed the distance between them and gave a helpless shrug. Time for another boring day of watching Naruto train. It wasn't like she could train as a clone, or do anything remotely productive. "What are you doing today?"
Why did it sound like she was going to ask him on a date? This was Naruto. Na-ru-to.
"Ehh," Naruto shrugged a frown on his face. "The pervy sage wants me to work on Chakra control on my own for a bit. He'll be here later though."
Sakura groaned rubbing the bridge of her nose in frustration. What on earth was Jiraiya doing? How was this going to help Naruto become strong enough to bring Sasuke back? He was just leaving the boy to his own devices, that's what they did in the academy and that turned out so well for Naruto that he failed all three tests.
It'd be better off if she trained Naruto herself. At least that way he'd have some guidance. Even if he was technically stronger than her, she could think of some way to make Naruto stronger! "Hey, Naruto."
She couldn't believe she was about to do this. What on earth was she doing? Naruto always paid attention to when she explained stuff. Hell, if Iruka had any sense he would have made her tutor Naruto during the Academy. "How about you let me train you?"
"Huh? How can you train me?" Naruto's confusion stung at her weakness. The fact that she was indeed weaker than him in just about every aspect, and yet she was offering to train him.
Bravado took over. "What you don't think I'm good enough.?"
"What? No! That's not what I meant Sakura I"
"Stuff it Naruto," Sakura growled taking a step back. Her entire body felt restless. Ready to fight and prove herself. Just like when she fought Ino. Sure she might be weak. But she'll show Naruto just what she can do. "Me and you we're going to spar. So get ready."
"Three." She dropped into a combat stance.
"Wait!" Naruto shouted desperately trying to take his jacket off before they started.
"Two." Her mind cleared, her muscles tensed with a strength that wasn't there before.
Naruto dropped into his stance, looking unsure of the situation.
"One." A deep breath to calm herself. Naruto's footwork was sloppy. She had a longer reach than him, he had more strength and endurance, speed was up in the air. A single hit against her would make the end of the spar.
"Go." Her plan of attack was ready.
Charge in, catch Naruto before he was prepared, aim for right leg, knock him off balance. Follow up with open palmed thrust to the chest forcing arms wide. Grab wrist - use momentum - throw Naruto onto the ground.
Avoid counter attack, faster than expected, forced to overcompensate, on defensive now. Dodge right hook, dodge high kick into low kick. Counter with knee to the face. Take advantage while Naruto is stunned. Left hook, unexpected, forgot Naruto's toughness.
Solid hit, pain. Nothing.
Sakura placed a hand on her cheek where Naruto had hit her clone in the daydream, feeling tendrils of pain along her jaw. Just as quickly as it appeared the pain vanished, leaving only the soreness of the mornings training. "Even in my dreams, I can't beat Naruto."
Every day it was becoming harder to believe that they were just daydreams. They felt… so real, as real as any memory she had. And they were all the same, never repeating day by day. Nothing in the psychology book she glanced at gave any clue into how daydreams differed.
But they weren't supposed to be sequenced; not like a coherent retelling of a day.
Besides what kind of backasswards idea was it for her to train Naruto? They were entirely different shinobi. He had a giant chakra reserve and had the subtleness of a typhoon. She had the finesse of a hummingbird and the reserves of one. "How on earth can I train…. Naruto."
Realization donned with the sharpness of a freshly peeled scab revealing the fading memory in her mind. Long ago when they were in the wave on their first real mission. Naruto had come to her for help. He had asked her to help him become stronger because she could do something that he could not.
"What was it that Iruka said about heaven and earth?" That they needed balance to become a strong shinobi. Naruto was earth, she was heaven. They balanced each other out. Together they could become stronger faster than on their own. "Not much point thinking on it. It's just a stupid little dream after all."
She was having such a hard time believing what she was saying. There was something weird going on with Naruto and his Shadow Clones and part of her was stuck in the middle of it.
"Yo," Kakashi said nonchalantly as they passed each other on the street.
Sakura stood, she hadn't even seen her sensei. And what was with that greeting? She was his student, a member of Team Seven! Of Team Kakashi! And all she got was a Yo! She brushed her anger aside, she was going to be late if she had to deal with her sensei today. Wait, Kakashi knew the Shadow Clone Jutsu. Made, he could dismiss the crackpot theory she was starting to believe.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura ran after him despite her muscles groaning in protest.
Her sensei sighed and looked at her with the same thrilling exasperation he did when somebody was going to ask something annoying from him. A look he normally gave to Naruto when her teammate was bugging him for a new Jutsu. "What is it Sakura?"
"Is there something odd about the Shadow Clone Jutsu?"
Kakashi blinked at that. No doubt expecting idle chit-chat or perhaps a request that required more energy. "Odd what do you mean odd?"
Sakura brushed the bit of hair that had fallen out of place behind her ear and shrugged. "Well like, stuff that Naruto doesn't use them for, they can't just be for distractions or overwhelming your opponent."
"Actually, they take too much chakra to be used the way Naruto does it." Kakashi mused tapping on his chin. "The shadow clones were originally designed to be used as scouts."
"Scouts? But if they got caught all it takes is one hit and all that information is gone."
"That's not true, you see when a clone vanishes the original receives its…. Memories." Kakashi's speech slowed down towards the end as though he was just realizing something. "Sakura I do believe you've given me an idea."
Sakura nodded. If the user received the memories of the clone, then that only added fuel to her theory that her daydreams weren't daydreams. "Me too Kakashi-sensei, thank you."
She spun on her heel and ran towards the Hokage building while her mind raced. If the Original received the memories then it would make sense that she would receive the memories of her own clone. But not how Naruto was summoning a clone of her.
She was the original, yet he was the replicator.
"No, it still doesn't make any sense." Sakura shook the thought from her head as she ran down the final street to the Hokage's office.
"Shadow Clone Jutsu."
Naruto stood in front of her holding, his nose as blood leaked from it. A small bit of pride flushed over Sakura at the sight of the injury she inflicted upon Naruto. "Serves you right, I got three hits in before you got one. Now, are you willing to let me train you?"
"I didn't think you were weak," Naruto wheezed out trying to hold back the tide of red that was pouring down his face. "I just wanted to know how you were going to."
He was cut short as a bubble of blood burst from his nose.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Here let me see it." Without a conscious thought, Sakura took Naruto's face in her hands and twisted it to get a better look at the damage. Then her hands acted on their own, they moved towards the nose and began to heal him.
She knew what she was doing. She was healing Naruto's broken nose. But the how was another story. She never learned how to do this. She had never done this before. For a few speechless moments, she just stared as she corrected Naruto's nose.
"I didn't know you could do that." Naruto rubbed his nose to make sure it was attached properly.
Sakura stared at her hands in confusion as though they weren't her own. What on earth was happening to her? Was the real her learning how to do this? Why didn't she know what was going on? She looked at Naruto and nodded. "I didn't either."
"Well, it's still awesome!" Naruto grabbed her hands and began to shake them up and down, jumping as he did. "You're just like the old Lady or Shizune!"
"Let go of me, you dork." Sakura snapped her hands back from Naruto and glared at him. Somehow this was all his fault. She just knew it. It wasn't like she was summoning a clone of herself. That'd be a normal thing but, no this was Naruto. Jiraiya was right. Weird stuff just happened around him for no good reason.
Naruto took a step back and rubbed the back of his head with a wide smile on his face. "Hehe sorry Sakura, I just got excited, I feel like this is a preview of how much more awesome you're going to be when I get back."
Sakura felt her hair stand up when Naruto said those words. Normally compliments from Naruto were cheap and barely worth the time of day. Or did she just never really notice their worth until now. Either way, it was just Naruto. It wasn't like Sasuke called her pretty or anything. "Whatever idiot, now get into the water while I get dressed I have an idea of how to train you."
The chill water felt wonderful on her feet, just enough to cool her off from the standard Land of Fire summer heat. It was one of the few moments she had to appreciate just how beautiful her home country was. She'd rarely been outside of it, but there was something wonderful about the green trees climbing up rolling mountains like waves of the earth.
With a long stretch feeling the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the river Sakura let out a content sigh. And then she looked at Naruto and frowned. He was standing shirtless, staring and smiling at her.
She wasn't even wearing a bikini or anything revealing just her normal clothes. "Why are you staring at me?"
"Cause you're pretty." It was almost flattering in a creepy kind of way.
Sakura shook her and frowned again. "Right well listen up Naruto cause I don't want to to repeat myself."
Naruto slapped his arms down to his sides and stood at full attention. "Yes, Sakura-sensei!"
"Don't call me that!" Sakura growled it made her feel old. She was only thirteen dammit, way too young for anybody to be calling her sensei. "Anyways, you know how when you want to walk on the water you have to keep a constant flow going that's able to keep up with the water moving?"
Naruto nodded. "Yea, it took me a while before I got the hang of it."
"Well, today we'll be doing the opposite." Sakura closed her eyes and concentrated on the water. She pulled the water that touched her upwards like a sleeve that went up to her knee, from there she guided it into a small band that swirled half an inch thick around her leg. "Instead of trying to keep the water off of you I want you to try and pull it onto you."
Naruto clapped. "Alright, just you want Sakura, I'll get this down in no time."
Sakura reached down and touched the band with her hand. The Water leaped from her leg to her hand. She balled it into a fist and sent it flying towards Naruto. "I wasn't done explaining!"
The water hit Naruto directly in the face with almost enough force to knock him over.
"Once you can do it, I want to see how much you can hold on you at once. So go all out!"
"Okay, okay, I'll do it."
For an hour Sakura watched as Naruto struggled to even pull the water up to his body. She knew what he was doing wrong, trying to go one part at a time instead of forming a continuous pull up his body to deliver the water to the spot.
Pulling another globe of water up around her hand Sakura guided it across her bare arms as she watched Naruto struggle. He was getting frustrated, he pulled too hard and the water shot up around him drenching his clothes. She could just tell him what he was doing wrong.
A smile broke across her face. But where was the fun in that? Naruto was supposed to be good at thinking on his feet, and besides, she was bored. She pulled several globes of water up her body so that she sleeve of liquid along her left arm. Plenty of ammunition.
She let the first one fly. "Hey, Naruto!"
He looked up just in time to get hit in the face with a blast of water. "Hey!" Another ball of water to the face.
She always did have a knack for hitting Naruto. "Come on Naruto, are you just going to stand there in taking it?"
He glared at her as water poured down his face. Unable to take it anymore a grin broke out on his face. "Alright Sakura, but remember you asked for it."
Her response was to throw another ball of water at him.
Naruto charged forward running ontop the water into the deeper portions of the river. He came to a skidding stop along the water's surface spraying Sakura with water.
A laugh escaped her as the cool water sprinkled her. "Is that all you got Naruto? Come on put some chakra into it!" She brought her arm down into the water pulling as much as she could onto her arm and then flung it at Naruto. A miniature tidal wave collided with Naruto knocking him under.
Naruto shot from the water like a dolphin a trail of water following him straight up into the air sticking to his arm.
Sakura couldn't help but smile. He figured it out. But then she realized the water was still trailing him. It was a lot of water. A stupid amount of water. Like the river was flowing up with him, a reverse waterfall. "Naruto! Calm down!"
It was too late. He was already swinging an entire river in her direction. The first few water droplets sprayed down on her. Followed by the impact. She let out an eep. It was a good thing she was a clone and couldn't actually drown.
"You're thinking about boss aren't you!?" Konohamaru all but shouted in her ear, smothering the enjoyment of her last daydream.
Sakura glared at the boy, he was every bit as annoying as Naruto in a smaller more concentrated package. Tsunade had tasked her with being the school nurse today, apparently, it was within her skill level to treat small things like scrapes and bruises, even sprained ankles. Which was not in short supply at the Academy with the kids being kids.
Konohamaru seemed to go out of his way making certain she had plenty of work to do. This was his fifth visit to her. He was both her first patient of the day and her last patient of the day.
"What makes you say that?" Sakura mumbled as she inspected his ankle more closely. She already knew it was a small sprain, nothing a bit of chakra couldn't fix. But at the same time, prolonging Konohamaru's suffering might teach the brat a lesson.
Konohamaru rubbed his nose and gave her a stupid grin. "Well cause he's your." He held out his pinkie finger waggling it in front of her face in a suggestive manner.
"I'm not Naruto's girlfriend." Sakura groaned out in frustration, every time she saw Konohamaru or any of his friends it was always the same thing. No matter how clear she made it, they always called her Naruto's girlfriend. "Why do you keep saying I am?"
"Cause you make the boss happy."
The simplicity and honesty of that statement caught her off guard. For a moment she just stared at the boy who no longer had his cocky smile that was missing a few teeth in it. "What makes you say that?"
"It's the way he looks at you." Konohamaru looked incredibly serious for a nine-year-old. With a small smile he explained, "My dad looks at my mom the same way."
The Daydream replayed freshly in her mind drifting to where Naruto was staring at her. She felt her cheeks warm as she remembered Naruto calling her pretty. For a daydream, she sure was able to get Naruto down into it. And Konohamaru was right, Naruto did look at her in; well… in a way.
"Yea well he bugs me." She twisted his foot sharply to one-side while channeling chakra into it. There was a loud pop, followed by a yelp of pain from Konohamaru. "There, your ankles better, now leave before I need to heal you again."
Konohamaru ran sprinted off the table with a slight limp, the pain would linger for a bit. "Just because you're flat and ugly doesn't mean you have to be so mean!"
Sakura glared at him, watching as he leaped from the window to join his friends down in the courtyard. "You can run brat, but you can't hide."
Sooner or later she would get ahold of that brat and show her just how mean she can be. "Damn brat wouldn't know a cute girl if one hit him in the face." She placed a hand on her chest. "Besides, I'm still growing."
With a sigh she turned back to the nurse's office, ready to clean up for the day. She paused and examined her glass of water that had been sitting at the desk for a long moment. Curiosity got the better of her. Dipping a single finger into the water she recalled what she had done in her daydream.
The water began to crawl up her skin, it kind of tickled. But more amazing was how simple it was to do. Once they entire glass of water was on her hand she began to play with it, making it cascade down her fingers like a water only to slide back up the back of her hand.
The basics of making the water stick to her was simple enough, but moving it around was much trickier, shaping it into a ball even more so. In theory, it was an amazing and versatile exercise for chakra control. It just lacked a practical application like tree climbing or water walking did.
But it was harmless and could even be fun for the younger students. "A perfect chakra exercise for Naruto too."
"Shadow Clone Jutsu."
"Less water next time Naruto." Sakura smiled as she appeared, examining the mud hole that now resided where she had once stood. Thankfully Naruto remembered to put his shirt on before he summoned her. Or was it created? "Did you find my clothes?"
Naruto nodded and held up a mud ball that might have once been her clothing. "They're kind of dirty."
Sakura let out a sigh and frowned. "Guess I'll just have to wear your stuff for a little while."
"Oh, it won't be that long Girly." Jiraiya's voice boomed from behind him. The old man had a small frown on his face. "Naruto was supposed to be training, instead I find out that you two have been goofing off."
"Like you're any better Pervy-sage," Naruto replied quickly. "I bet you were off doing something perverted!"
"Well duh," Jiraiya said pulling out a notebook and pointing at it. "I was doing my research brat."
That set something off in Sakura. Naruto's teacher would rather peak on women, (an unforgivable act in of itself) than train Naruto. She marched forward glaring up at the giant man. "What the hell is wrong with you! You tell Naruto what to do and then just leave him to his own devices! That's what he went through in the academy!, and he failed three times! Naruto is an Idiot! He needs somebody to help him!"
Jiraiya returned her glare without backing down an inch. "Naruto, you stay here and get dried off, Girly, come with me."
Once they were out of Naruto's earshot, Jiraiya began. "Look, I know you're just trying to help your boyfriend."
"Not my boyfriend."
"But, you're not helping him the way he needs to be helped."
Sakura frowned as she followed behind Jiraiya. "Oh, and how's that?"
Jiraiya spun to face her and placed both hands on her shoulders. "Naruto has this amazing ability to think on his feet and come up with weird strategies mid-fight. That's the skill I'm trying to cultivate here. I'm trying to teach Naruto how to figure things out on his own."
"How is that any different than what happened to him at the Academy?" Sakura wasn't buying it. As far as she was concerned Jiraiya was just being a lazy pervert. Still, the man was a Sanin and he did train the Fourth Hokage.
"Simple, I'm giving him a direction," Jiraiya said. "Believe me, I know what I'm doing seems weird. And like it might not be helpful right now. Three years isn't enough time to properly train him. I'm going to have to set up a foundation that will help him grow and become much stronger otherwise."
Sakura frowned it made sense in a way, Kakashi had a similar way of teaching them as a team. But it still didn't feel right, She gave Naruto a direction while she was there and he figured it out on his own because of her. Just like back in the wave. "With all due respect, Lord-Jiraiya, I'm going to keep helping Naruto."
It wasn't like he could punish her, she was a clone after all.
AN: I stayed up late to write MORE NARUSAKU!God this slow burn is killing me. Looking forward to the next couple of chatpers though.But in the mean time... Any thoughts on a Fem Shikamaru?