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A Stitch in Time

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"I advise you try to remain close." Tobirama said as soon as they exited. "The village is active this time of day and I have no time to find you should you get lost."

Sakura huffed, nodding. Honestly she didn't think she needed the tour. She navigated her Konoha all the time, and this one wasn't even as developed as the village she'd grown up in.

Still, she remained quiet about this and let the Senju lead her through the admittedly busy streets of the village. "That is the market. Many merchants have set up shop there and if you ever need something, be it clothes or fresh produce that would be the place to find it." Sakura mentally filed this away. The selection wasn't as varied as it had been in her own time, when Konoha had several trading agreements arranged with other Hidden Villages, but it was still enough that she thought she would be able to find what she needed.

They continued the tour, and Tobirama pointed out the next spot worth noting. "That is the shop where you can purchase more munitions, should you need." Sakura turned her attention to a building that looked as new as it likely was. Of course in a ninja village one of the first necessities would be a place where shinobi could buy their weapons.

In her time, she remembered that TenTen was always there eagerly whenever new shipments came in. The older kunoichi had once told her that if she ever retired from active shinobi life she would open a weapons shop. Yet another memory from a lifetime ago.

Tobirama took note of the girl's expression as he told her about the village she would now call home. She seemed to be taking everything in, listening intently, until suddenly her eyes took on a faraway look and he knew she was thinking about the past.

In Tobirama's opinion a ninja hardly had time to look back; looking forward was what kept one vigilant and alive. Of course a village setting meant they no longer had to constantly keep looking over their shoulders, or so Hashirama kept telling him. But his brother forgot that this was only the first step.

That was why Tobirama maintained the position he did. To keep his brother focused. He was the realism to Hashirama's idealistic views of the world. And if that painted him as harsh, so be it. Like his caution toward the girl, who was only a few years younger than them by the looks of her, and yet she looked just as seasoned as he had at that age.

He turned, expecting to see the girl, Sakura, still at his side. But the distinct pink hair and strange clothes were nowhere to be seen. He cursed quietly to himself. He'd told her to stick close, and now she had been swept away…

As he had warned her, he didn't have time to scour the village for her. However, if he let her continue to wander, lost, she may become an inconvenience for whoever stumbled upon her. Worst still was the thought that word would get back to Hashirama and he would have to listen to his elder brother scold him about purposely leaving Sakura on her own. Looks like he had no choice but to find the troublesome woman.

Sakura blinked in surprise. One minute she was sure she was following behind Tobirama and the next minute, she was standing…somewhere that was not the front of the weapons shop. Lost in thoughts of the past—or were they thoughts of the future?—Sakura had allowed her feet to travel with the crowd in no particular direction.

And now where was she? Maybe it would be best if she got on a roof to gain a better vantage point. The sooner she found Tobirama the less miffed he'd be—hopefully. She had a feeling she wouldn't be his favorite person of the hour no matter what she did, short of pulling him from a burning building.

She turned around and squinted into the distance to see if she could spot a flash of white hair. What she didn't expect, was to catch sight of a very familiar clan symbol. Her heart raced, and she took off without thinking, shoving her way through the crowd as she ran after the back with the red and white fan on it. She'd have time to contemplate the irony of it all later, she told herself vaguely, right now she needed—

Too late, she realized she'd acted foolishly. Her hand had fisted itself into the high-collared shirt of who, for a second she thought had been Sasuke. But honestly that was impossible. Unless he had been thrown back like she was.

The man turned quickly, as expected of someone with ninja reflexes, and looking into his face, he most definitely was not Sasuke. Sakura wasn't as disappointed by that fact as she wanted herself to be. Really, was Sasuke Uchiha her first choice of person to be mysteriously sucked into the past with? Resoundingly no.

It was clear by the guarded expression on the handsome definitely Uchiha face that the man most certainly didn't know her and Sakura averted her gaze bashfully.

"I…I'm sorry. I thought you were someone else." she told him truthfully.

The unknown Uchiha studied her cautiously, trying to discern if this strange woman who had the audacity to grab him was a threat. They were still standing in the middle of path, both being jostled by people walking by.

"We should move elsewhere." Sakura stared at him in honest surprise. What she wasn't surprised by, was the deep voice. All the Uchiha she'd ever met seemed to have rich baritones.

"R-Right," she agreed quietly, and together they leapt to the roof of a nearby shop. She stood slowly, studying the man she'd chased down. He did look a lot like Sasuke, even from the front, except, he also vaguely reminded her of someone else, too.

"Now, you say you thought I was someone else. Do you have business with another member of my clan?" he asked.

The kunoichi was a little taken aback at the calm of this Uchiha. Sasuke had always been so cold to her, even as children. It had somewhat shaped her imaginings of what an encounter with another Uchiha would be like. Not to mention fighting that crazy madman Madara. Apparently the Uchiha had two sides: aloof or unbalanced.

Sakura shook her head. "N-No. I only just arrived here today. I was separated from my guide…and I wasn't thinking…from behind, you looked like someone I knew from back home. I'm sorry."

He appraised her, taking her in. "Home must be a long way. Forgive me but I've never seen a kunoichi dressed like that."

Sakura chuckled. "So I keep hearing." The women of this time likely mainly wore battle kimonos. She would have to get use to a different style of attire if she had any hope of blending in. The pink hair was already enough to set her apart as it was. "I'm Sakura Haruno,"

The man gave her a small smile. If she wasn't caught off guard before she most definitely was now. It wasn't one of Naruto's wide grins, but it also wasn't a smirk—the only thing close to smiling she'd ever seen Sasuke do—and it wasn't the maniacal, debauched grin of a psychopath she'd seen on Madara's face either.

Suddenly, he was standing close to her, and her hand was in his larger one. He brought it to his lips, and Sakura felt her face go red all the way to her roots. Had—had an Uchiha just put his lips on her skin?! Now she knew she was a long way from home. "I am Izuna Uchiha." The name meant nothing to her. She'd never heard of this Uchiha in the history books, so maybe he was a relatively insignificant individual in the grand scheme of things?

"I-It's nice to meet you," she mumbled. That's really all she could do when faced with this situation.

"Likewise." he replied. For a minute Sakura just took in and marveled about what it would have been like for there to be Uchiha like this in the present. Sasuke wouldn't have gotten a passing glance from her. But now wasn't the time to be thinking about all that, the what if's. She still needed to make her way back to Tobirama.

"W-Well, I should probably go." she said politely. "I need to find my guide and…he's not very patient." At least he wasn't with her.

"I understand." Izuna replied, "I should also return to my business. Maybe we'll meet again soon, Sakura-san." He leapt to the next roof, and then the next, until he was nearly out of sight. Sakura watched him go, still not really sure what to make of the encounter.

Sakura prepared to leap off the roof and search the streets again, but a hand on her arm stopped her. There was Tobirama looking highly indignant as he glared at her with sharp red eyes.

"I told you to stay close." He immediately scolded. "What sort of shinobi allows themselves to be taken by their own thoughts in unfamiliar territory?"

"The kind that misses home!" Sakura snatched her arm away. She had responded without thinking, and when she realized what she'd said, she recoiled with a gasp. Well. It was really no secret. And it definitely wasn't a lie.

Tobirama's eyes softened almost imperceptibly.

Great. Now the scorn was being replaced by pity. Sakura just wanted to be alone by this point. To privately mourn for what she had lost in the blink of an eye. What she may never get back if she couldn't think of a plan. She still wasn't even sure there was anyone in this time she could entrust the truth to. So for now she was on her own.

"Come, I'll show you to the house that's been prepared. I imagine you'd like rest."

"But you haven't finished showing me the village." Sakura found herself insisting. She was sure he was only dumping her off because she had gotten mopey. And no she didn't really need the tour but it didn't hurt—maybe there was something different in this version of the Leaf.

"That can be done another time." He took off, this time by way of rooftop, in the opposite direction Izuna had gone, and Sakura had no choice but to follow. She tried to note the location of as many of the notable places as possible, for when she was out by herself.

Most were in the same places she'd remembered. A few minor things were different or absent but for the most part she'd be able to get the essentials while she was here at least.

The house Tobirama landed in front of was quaint, but Sakura immediately found it charming. "Hashirama for once had the mind to think ahead. Instead of building houses as new arrivals come to the village, he prepared several rows of homes in expectance that we'd gain more shinobi over time." he explained. That meant the Shodai had used his Mokuton, which she'd read about. It truly was a very useful, multi-purpose talent.

They walked in and Sakura surveyed the home. There was already a futon, and a tidy little kitchen with sunlight dappling the floor from a window above the sink… She was already envisioning where she'd put in a small table for studying. It would do just fine for the time being. She didn't plan to make this her permanent residence. But until she knew how to get home, she had a roof over her head, and she was grateful.

She turned around and told Tobirama as much. Well, the part about her gratitude.

Strangely, he looked away when she gave him an earnest smile. Maybe he just felt bad about earlier? It was embarrassing to blurt out that she missed home so suddenly. Even if she knew there was no shame in it.

"I'll leave you to get settled," he grumbled, not even bothering to use the door to exit.

'Wow, it's like he couldn't get out quick enough.' Sakura was determined not to let Tobirama and his attitude bother her.

She stood in the middle of the room, hands on hips, trying to process the events of the day. The battle had ended just before sunset in her world. Here, it looked like it was just barely reaching high noon, so she likely arrived early morning. Was it even still October here, as it had been for her before? It certainly didn't feel like the crisp falls in the Fire Country she had come to know.

Just as she was debating whether she should bathe or go shop for some clothes with the meager amount of money she happened to have, she got a knock at the door.

Honestly she wasn't sure who to expect. Really, no more than two people could know where she was. 'I've only been in the neighborhood for a few minutes and I'm already getting visits?' she mentally laughed.

A tall woman she'd never seen before stood on the other side of the door. She had a long, narrow face; dark eyes, and dark brown hair in a short ponytail that stood straight up with a bang that bore a striking resemblance to Ino's covering one eye. She wore a simple light blue yukata. "Are you Sakura-san?" She asked before Sakura could even get a word in.

"Y-Yes?" Sakura leaned her weight against the door. She was tempted to add "Who's asking?" but thought better of it.

"I am Toka Senju. Lord Hashirama sent me, with a fresh change of clothes." The woman bowed slightly, holding the folded garments out in front of her like a peace offering. Sakura smiled awkwardly. It was very thoughtful of Hashirama; he was a kind man to his core.

"Oh, then please come in," she offered, inviting the older woman into the meagerly furnished home.

Toka stepped in without reservation, walking to the futon and setting the clean clothes down. "I will stay, in case you need assistance. Lord Hashirama said that you may not be accustomed to wearing the clothes I brought."

Sakura scratched her hair, which she would gladly take the opportunity to wash. "H-He's not wrong." she chuckled weakly.

Toka nodded, her solemn expression never wavering. She stepped forward, walking by Sakura toward the back of the house, where Sakura guessed the bathroom was. "I will help you draw your bath." She stated more than offered. Not wanting to offend the woman, Sakura silently accepted. She was completely drained and not too proud to take the help.

Twenty minutes later saw Sakura still relishing the steaming water of a hot bath. She sank down to her shoulders, having already scrubbed until her skin was nearly pink. Apparently, Toka knew some Suton.

Nothing as impressive as Tobirama's she assured her, but Sakura thought the Senju woman was a goddess at the moment. She'd even changed the water so Sakura wouldn't have to soak in her own filth. When she was satisfied, she carefully slipped out of the wooden tub and grabbed a nearby towel that had been brought with the clothes. "I'm ready," she called through the door, and Toka entered, doing several hand signs that made the water evaporate.

Feeling clean from head to toe, it was time to look at the clothes she had to choose from and decide what to wear. Toka had brought several neutrally colored yukata, for everyday use, as well as two battle kimonos, similar to the style Temari wore.

The one she gravitated toward was, ironically, red—or had Hashirama insisted on it?— and sleeveless with white trimming. It came to her mid-thigh for easy mobility. The other had sleeves and was a light green with a sunflower design. Sakura decided she'd save the kimono and had Toka help her into an emerald yukata instead. She put her zori back on, but left her headband under the stack of clothes still folded on the futon.

Toka nodded in approval. "Very nice. I chose well." Ah, so the clothes were Hashirama's idea but Toka's choosing. Sakura was relieved she hadn't been brought anything outlandish. Of course even if the clothes hadn't been to her tastes, she would have sucked it up and graciously worn it anyway, if only to be out of her dirty uniform. "Now, I've been instructed to take you to market to find furnishings for your house."

Sakura began to stammer out a protest but Toka was having none of it. "I must insist, Sakura-san. Lord Hashirama requested it and, given the choice, I would rather go against your wishes than his." Sakura sighed. The Senju woman was only trying to help as she'd been told to do. Obviously she had a great deal of pride in the level of trust Hashirama bestowed on her. She could understand. She felt the same about Tsunade's trust, even when it was the most menial of tasks.

That was how the two ended up back at the market Tobirama had shown her earlier, selecting furnishings for her home. Sakura tried to be inconspicuous in carefully selecting the cheapest things she could.

A hand carved stool or two, the small but spacious desk she needed, blank scrolls and a few brushes with an ink well. Sakura was ready to tell the Senju she had made her selections when the woman gave her a stern, almost disapproving face. It sorted of reminded her of Yamato-sensei's "spooky" face. Sakura flinched.

"Lord Hashirama insisted you also get more personal affects to make your home your own space." Well. Hashirama had spoken, apparently, and through Toka his will would be carried out. With a woman who took her duty this seriously there was really no point in arguing.

Sakura reluctantly moved on to pick out a few more things. A pot to cook, some decorative scrolls, a nice painting of a wheat field at dusk, and…an ink portrait of five cats, an adult with four kittens. Oddly, when she looked at the painting, she saw Team Seven…

The large cat watching over the kittens looked wise as it squinted, and she could almost imagine its silver fur. One kitten was on its belly, rear in the air and ready to play. It would have golden fur, she thought. The kitten in the middle was looking up at the older cat eagerly, waiting to learn. A white kitten with green eyes. The cat next to her looked sullen, bored. A dark kitten with coal eyes, she decided. And lastly, one kitten lay sprawled out with a Chesire grin, not a care in the world. Another dark kitten…

Overcome with emotion suddenly, Sakura looked away as her purchases were sealed in a scroll for easy transportation. Smiling wanly at the Senju woman in thanks, she tried not to dwell on her thoughts as they moved on, Sakura getting several sets of kunai, shuriken and senbon.

Toka pointed out a beautifully crafted black blade she thought Sakura needed, but the younger kunoichi sheepishly explained she wasn't very well versed in kenjutsu and relied heavily on her taijutsu. The last necessities Sakura was made to get were basically groceries. Some fruits and vegetables, and some rice she could make into onigiri when she returned.

That was enough for the minimalist in Sakura, who had been used to living on the battlefield without anything extravagant for what felt like years, in reality it was several weeks of non-stop fighting and twist after twist.

By the time Toka escorted her back to her new house and left her, Sakura was famished and decided lunch and a nap was in order.

She set the rice to boil, sorted through as many of the purchases as she could, and then collapsed on the futon, sighing heavily. 'What a long, strange day!' It wasn't over yet, though. There was another knock! Dragging herself back up with great effort, Sakura returned to the door and this time got a true shock.

Hashirama Senju stood on the other side, waiting patiently, a sunny smile already in place. She blinked. Oh. She definitely wasn't expecting him! She'd only seen him earlier that morning, but compared to then it seemed so much had already happened.

"Hello Sakura-san!" he greeted with no small amount of exuberance. "I came to see how you were settling in." He took in her appearance and his smile grew. "That yukata really brings out your eyes. Toka chose well." He acknowledged that it was Toka who had chosen, but he preened as if he'd picked the outfit for her.

'Where does he get the energy?! He's as bad as Naruto!'

"H-Hello Lord Hokage…" By comparison Sakura couldn't keep up. She wasn't even going to try.

"Oh, I know that's my title, but I'm still not that use to hearing it." He rubbed his head with one hand, the other still hidden behind his back.

"Well, you definitely deserve it!" Sakura smiled kindly. "It was very nice of you to send Toka-san to help me. To tell you the truth I'm a little overwhelmed by all the things I got today though…w-was it really necessary for me to get decorations too?"

Hashirama peered around her, an easy feat considering the height difference. Sakura was beneath his shoulders. The Hokage laughed good-naturedly. "Toka told me she had to insist! And still you hardly got more than you needed."

Sakura shrugged bashfully. "W-Would you like to come in, Hokage-sama?" Normally she'd be more confident, but this man was the First Hokage and a founder of the village! She couldn't show him anything but the utmost deference. Any self-respecting Leaf nin would likely be just as humble in her shoes. Well…except Naruto.

Hashirama looked over his shoulder. "I guess I should. It wouldn't be good for me if Tobirama saw me outside the office. He doesn't really know I'm gone," Sakura's eyes widened at his admission.

The First was ballsier than she thought if he really was willing to duck out on Tobirama and face his wrath. If she let him in, would she be harboring a fugitive? Would Tobirama come after her too? She mentally groaned.

Like she needed to give the Second Hokage more reason to hate her. He may have been a paranoid pain in the ass but he was still a future Hokage and she respected him too. It was too late to take back the offer though, because the First was gently squeezing by her and with slumped shoulders she shut the door behind him.

"I know I haven't made it look like much, but—"

"No, Sakura-san, it's great!" He said sincerely.

That was when she remembered the rice; she should probably check on that…

"Oh, excuse me…I was just making rice balls for lunch…" she bowed slightly.

Hashirama waved that off. "Do you need help?"

"No Hokage-sama! I couldn't ask you to do that! Y-you're still wearing your robes and everything!" Not that Sakura would tell the man he could help if he was wearing civilian clothes. Shishou's grandfather, helping her make lunch. How could she possibly—

"Could I help if I offered? Technically, you wouldn't be asking me then." He was already moving toward her as she took the pot of rice off the small fire.

She looked into his face and saw clear determination to do as he wanted. "Is this stubbornness a Senju trait?" she grumbled under her breath. She gasped, covering her mouth. Hashirama wasn't the least bit offended, thankfully. He boomed with deep laughter. Sakura nervously joined in with a few weak chuckles.

And that was how Sakura made lunch with the First Hokage. She was glad when they were done. He hadn't complained even once, merrily patting the rice into the perfect triangles as if he did it every day. Sakura was frustrated, and bit her lip to keep from complaining as the rice she was trying to mold refused to cooperate.

It was easy to tell whose were whose. The lumpy ones sat next to perfectly shaped onigiri. Sakura figured it was almost poetic. Because she was a lumpy rice ball in comparison to him, a rice ball without a grain out of place.

"There, all done." Hashirama patted his hands.

"Thanks for your help. I finished twice as fast as I would have by myself." Sakura told him in appreciation. "If there's any way I can repay your for this, or the clothes and things from the marke—" A loud, low noise filled the air and Sakura nearly jumped, expecting some snarling beast to come bursting in.

"Since you mention it, if I could try one of these rice balls it'd be a pretty big help! I haven't eaten since breakfast," He laughed again, and she smiled, laughing with him without hesitation this time.

"That I can do."

And that was how Sakura had lunch with the First Hokage. He asked her if she thought she'd be able to adjust to life in the village, and Sakura assured him honestly that she'd get the hang of it, with time.

Sakura even found the courage to ask him a few small questions only he would know, to sate the curious scholar inside her. Getting to know a legend was the chance of a lifetime. Who knew how long she'd be stuck here? Finally, when they'd finished off all the rice balls, Hashirama sat back with a contented sigh. "Well, that was a good meal Sakura-san. Food is always better with good company of course," he added charmingly, winking. "If Tobi had his way, I'd take all my meals alone, in my office."

He pouted. Honestly pouted. She found it endearing and hid a small smile. "Yes, this was nice Hokage-sama. I really can't thank you enough for all your help."

"You're a member of this village now. It's my job to help my people, no matter how small the act."

Sakura wouldn't say going out of his way to make sure she got settled in was small but the fact that he thought so told a lot about the kind of person he was.

"Oh! Before I forget…there's another reason I came."

Sakura perked in interest. "Oh? Not just to help me make lunch then?" She was feeling comfortable enough to crack small jokes. Hashirama seemed to have the ability to put people at ease with a smile. Not unlike someone else she knew.

He shook his head with a chuckle, reaching into his robes. "Tobi said I was rushing it—that we should wait until you'd been in the village longer. But after talking and having lunch with you, I can tell that you definitely deserve this." He produced a strip of cloth with a metal glint—oh! A headband!

He held it out to her proudly, taking in her wide eyes and awed expression. Sakura carefully took it from him with great reverence, running her thumbs across the cool, curved surface, feeling the familiar engraving of the leaf insignia in the center.

Sakura tried to fight it, she really did. But…

"T-thank you…" she choked out, her eyes watering.

Hashirama was definitely pleased by her reaction, though his smile was more sober now. "Hey now, it's okay. I know it's been rough for you, but you've got the Village now." Gently, he reached up to brush away a tear from just under her eye.

She managed to push back the tears and the crazy emotions after that, securing her new headband in place of her old one. She would always have her Allied Shinobi headband, but the new one now held sentiment too.

Hashirama looked like he wanted to say more, but his eyes suddenly grew wide, and a terrified expression passed over his face. "W-What?" Sakura became panicked, thinking somehow he sensed a threat. "Should I get ready for battle?"

"No. It's him." he said shakily. "I'm sorry Sakura-san but I have to go. Now!"

Sakura watched in confusion as the Hokage abruptly poofed away. That was until another familiar face poofed in suddenly.

A livid Tobirama was standing in the middle of the room, red eyes narrowed. "Hashirama!" he seethed. Unfortunately, when he couldn't find his brother, his eyes locked on her. "You!" he snapped. "He was here, wasn't he? How long ago? Which direction?"

Sakura slowly shook her head back and forth, eyes wide. She'd almost forgotten he was a sensory ninja. He could track down a chakra signature as well as any nin dog. Direction, distance, location…the redheaded girl Sasuke had recruited, had the same ability.

He kneeled on the floor, touching it with his index finger. Sakura watched in fascination as his eyes squinted in concentration. "You think hiding there will save you?!"

In a poof he was gone as fast as he'd come. Sakura sat in stunned silence. She was honestly bewildered. And then it struck her just how comical it all was, and she laughed in earnest. For the moment, all her worries were out of mind.