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January 2017

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Title: Chasing Starlight
Rating: G
WC: 771

Summary: Sakura copes with being left behind.

Notes: Several years ago, I was going to write a Sakura-centric fic about what happened to her during the time skip, and I started this story. It would have involved her adventures talking to comatose Jiro, and then one day he'd wake up and sort of mentor her (along with Tsunade). Then I fell into other fandoms. When I might have come back to it, TW happened to me sooooo.

I could have sworn that I posted it, but nope. I didn't, so here you go.


If Sakura’s forced to be completely honest, then she'll admit (under great duress) that her favorite part of the hospital is the long-term jutsu damage ward. She knows that her reason is weak and despicable and cowardly, but she's past the point of trying to justify her ritual—even to herself.

At least, the medics and nurses can’t fault her for shirking any responsibilities. Sakura only ever does this when she’s off shift, and never when they’re busy. The thought does little to assuage her guilt as she settles into the uncomfortable visitor's chair.

“Sometimes it’s like I'm chasing after stars. They're so dazzling that it doesn't seem possible for the light to be coming from so far away—from so long ago. Even so... they’re the most real thing in my life right now.”

Sakura makes an aborted motion to offer the patient an apple slice before eating it herself.

“Sorry? It’s easy to forget that you're not really conscious. Well, not easy. But…. Ugh,” she growls to herself and makes a face at her own awkwardness. Despite what Ino says, they’re still too young to worry about wrinkles. Old enough to kill and die, but definitely not to worry about wrinkles. After all, most ninja don’t have the luxury of old age. “I'm not even sure why I’m apologizing. Maybe I should get back to my earlier topic before I say more insensitive things?”

The machines continue to beep placidly as Jiro stares at the wall with his sightless blue eyes.

“I need to leave soon, so I'll make it quick, Jiro-san," she murmurs. "I don't think I understood how far away we were until I started my apprenticeship. I'm just walking after them - I can't even run yet. I don't think someone like me can catch up to people like them.”

She slumps back suddenly, and moodily glares at her browning apple before eating another slice. The shadows deepen gradually until Sakura realises that she only has five minutes before Jiro's nurse makes her rounds.

Almost on a whim, she takes his hand and squeezes gently. “Thank you for listening to me all these times. Even if you never know or wake up, it really helps me to talk to someone without any judgement…” Sakura’s eyes close, bracing against the sudden flood of fierce fondness for the catatonic man. “Maybe it's forward of me, but I would have stayed! I checked to see if they were still alive, and they are. They’re both civilians now… but they shouldn’t have forgotten you. If you were my teammate, I would be here until the bitter end. I wouldn't leave you alone like this. Not until you recovered or died.”

In the ninja world, those who break the rules are trash, that's true, but those who abandon their teammates are worse than trash. Kakashi-sensei had told them that before, but now she's the one abandoned—not that it seems to count if it's to become stronger.

Well, damn those bastards. She'll catch them one day. "One day," she whispers, "I'll be so strong that they'll never even think of leaving me behind."

Jiro blinks once. Impossible. Sakura sucks in a breath and edges closer. She's read his chart. After being trapped in a genjutsu for so long, his conscious self had retreated inward to protect itself. Jiro Abe is in long-term care because he's totally non-responsive to stimuli. According to his records, he doesn't blink. He lies there: eyes open and motionless.

Her stomach roils. The staff allows her a lot of leeway as the Godaime's apprentice, but she's not really supposed to be here. What if she's done something to him? Sakura nervously eyes the clock. "I'm sorry, Jiro-san. I have to go. I'll be back as soon as I can."

With one last, careful press of her fingers, she prays please be okay.. She spares a few seconds to check that there are no traces of her visit, and then she's out the window and pulling the sash down with barely a ruffle of the curtain.

***


In the next minute, his nurse enters the room. With brisk efficiency, he takes Abe-san's vitals and performs the technique to re-hydrate the patient's eyes. As he makes a few notes on the chart, he comments, "There's purin with dinner tonight."

Jiro continues breathing.

The nurse shakes his head at the expected non-reaction. "And Kei-chan will be bathing you today. Not that it'll make much of a difference to you." Muttering softly to himself, he puts the chart back and goes on to his next patient.

After five years, Jiro closes his eyes.

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