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i'm meaner than my demons

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Sakura was so dead. And that was a pity, because she really, really, really wanted to learn a new jutsu. The shunshin, Sasuke had called it. 

It seemed so handy and - 

Sakura pressed her hands to her face and dragged them down her cheeks, exhaled. Stop geeking out over a jutsu you might not even get to learn, Sakura.

Because the odds that she would last thirty seconds in a fight against Kakashi? Doubtful. Naruto had been a powerhouse, but Kaka-sensei had simply used more brains than him, which to be honest, wasn’t that hard, but still. Sasuke. Oh Kami, Sasuke. He’d used the fucking Sharingan, the legendary dojutsu, and Kakashi had wiped the floor with him. 

Speaking of Kakashi … “ Sakura-chan!” Kakashi singsonged again. “Ready to start?”

Sakura ground her teeth and pulled out a kunai.

Thirty seconds. She had to run away from Kaka-sensei for thirty seconds.

Oh, she was so fucked - 

Sakura ran at Kakashi, cursing herself as she did so, because Sasuke hadn’t made the first move in his spar. Then again, Sasuke had barely lasted thirty seconds.

Kakashi looked at her, two feet away from him, and rushed her. And boy, was Sakura so glad she’d practiced her kunai aim, because she knew she wouldn’t last even five seconds if the grey-haired jounin rushed her and they were in a taijutsu spar. So she leapt back, and threw a kunai, aiming for the inside of the crook of Kakashi’s elbow, while pulling out something, anything, with her other hand. 

The kunai, of course, was deflected by Kakashi, who didn’t even blink an eye as he halted, parried it, and continued to rush her.

Sakura fumbled around. 

And … oh, fuck, oh fuck fuck fuck fuck Kami please - 

Kakashi swung the kunai, and Sakura pulled out the lucky charm her mother had given her at the same time. 

She wanted to die. Of all the things - 

The charm had been given to her before Wave, and she’d thought it a charming gesture. It was made out of porcelain and glass blown jade, and now it shattered under the pressure of the kunai that Kakashi drove at the flesh of her palm.

Sakura leapt back, as Kakashi came forward, grinning unabashedly. He had two kunai in each hand now, and she gulped as she pulled out another kunai and continued to walk backward, knowing that, at any moment, Kaka-sensei would rush at her again, and this time, most likely, he would be able to end the spar by trapping her. 

It’d been what, ten seconds?

Fuck.

She gulped. Even if he rushed her, there was no solution she could think of, her brain wasn’t working, and Kakashi was rushing at her too fast - 

Sakura stepped back too quickly and her foot must have snagged on something, because she fell backwards, unprepared, and the kunai clattered out of her grasp. 

Fuck indeed.

If Kakashi made it to her, she would lose the spar exactly like Sasuke had - in only fifteen seconds. That’s worse than Naruto. I want do better. I want to do better. I want to - 

The next few seconds blurred together, because Sakura immediately went through the hand signs for the only jutsu that could give her an edge in this - the jutsu she had practiced the most during Wave. 

Four signs. 

Kaka-sensei took four steps. The first two got him to Sakura, the third got him to jump over her, and the four had his hand outstretched, kunai pointed at Haku’s headband - 

Doryuukatsu.

The earth behind her exploded, and she moved as fast as she ever had - she grabbed the edge of the earth beneath her, and scrabbled up onto the irregular steppe that had formed, dirt trailing behind her as she grabbed a fistful of it and threw it into Kakashi’s uncovered eye. She didn’t stick behind there long enough to find out what is reaction was, but she heard some sort of distinct wheeze and the clatter of two kunai falling on each other on the ground. As Sakura reached the top of the earth, she allowed herself a brief grin, because she’d gotten away from Kakashi. 

All she had to do was somehow outrun him some more.

Her grin faded as she felt the familiar throb of chakra leaving her body, and nearly fell to her knees for a second as Kakashi threw a kunai at her, with an explosive tag trailing behind it.

There were two Kakashis now, both looking at her with their visible eye narrowed, and Sakura felt her stomach flip. She needed thirty seconds. Thirty seconds, thirty seconds, thirty seconds, please please please I want to learn justus, I want this - 

They came running at her, armed to the teeth in a flash, and there was a distinct staticky smell to the air as they started to climb onto the steppe, hands near Sakura’s feet.

Shit.

She drew out another kunai and kicked dirt into one of the clone’s faces, watching the dirt hit their eye and them drop their weapons, clawing at it, and weighed her options.

She could either jump above them and pull a Sasuke and try to attack the clone from behind and make it disappear, or she could - 

One of the Kakashis grabbed her ankle and Sakura yelped as she felt electricity buzz through her. Fuck, she had forgotten to take care of the other one. Her body briefly spasmed as the panic began to take over, and for a moment, Sakura was back in Wave, back with Zabuza and Kakashi with his raiton stabbing him through the chest - 

She screamed and forced her arms to close around the kunai, even as Kakashi leapt back and began to do something with his hands and her body was still spasming - 

And thrusted down. 

The steppe beneath her had begun to crumble by now. But Sakura had seen Naruto swear the blood on his left hand that he would become Hokage, before Wave. She had seen Sasuke promise himself that he would become a better ninja, and it showed in every kunai he threw, every shuriken he flicked, every single time he practiced.

The boys wanted to get better with all their heart.

And Sakura did, too. 

She’d seen Wave, survived Zabuza, killed Haku to avenge Sasuke when she thought he was dead - she would get better, if only to protect Sasuke and Naruto. 

And so Haruno Sakura swore by the blood trickling from her mouth that she would not fail her nindo. She wouldn’t let Sasuke and Naruto lay out pale, dying, in front of her. Ever. she would get better, stronger, and that started here. 

Lasting thirty seconds.

I want this.

And Sakura pulled on her chakra, pulled on the remains of her chakra inside the crumbling dirt, and knotted it together. She felt it pulse under her feet and through her bones, and she swung.

She pulled the earth from where it was becoming a pile of dirt, pulled it close together and up, and slammed it right into Kakashi’s clone’s chin with enough force, with enough chakra behind the motion, that the clone poofed.

She briefly registered a whoop in the nearby vicinity and concluded that such an obnoxious yell could only belong to Naruto.

In front of her, Kaka-sensei stilled for a second, letting surprise flicker across his face. It was so much easier to read him now that he didn’t have a mask, and it was like his personality had changed a bit too. He was no longer the chilly man that she had introduced herself to at the rooftop.

Then he flew at her again in a blur, and Sakura staggered, kunai held up in front of her in one hand, but her ankle and leg were still weak from the shock she’d gotten, and she buckled as Kakashi pressed a kunai to her throat with one hand and held the small of her back with the other.

He grinned at her, and she grinned back, canines exposed.

“Thirty-seven seconds, Sakura.” he said. “And I would like for you all to pay attention, because I will teach all of y’all a jutsu - but before that, I’d look for you to meet a friend of mine.”

With that, he let her go, and Sakura stumbled back, landing on her butt as she lost balance.

In front of her, Kakashi began to perform a complex series of hand seals quickly, there was a poof of smoke.

Sakura cringed, hands held out in front reflexively, but what emerged from the smoke wasn’t a clone or a jutsu of some sort.

As the smoke evaporated, she began to see the outline of a wolf, all silver fur and sharp white canines. Its ears were flattened back and it grinned, all feral as it growled, “ Kakashi .