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The Importance of Aiming

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It starts, as a lot of bad ideas tend to, over a few too many cups of sake.

“I've become a housewife!” Sakura shrieks, nearly rivaling her twelve-year-old self for pitch as she slams her hands down on their table. It creaks ominously, but thankfully doesn’t give. “I—I—look at me! During the war I was amazing and now—now I'm wearing a hairnet!”

Obediently, Sasuke and Naruto look her over, and have to admit that it is indeed a very large change from the strong, brutal, ferocious young woman who fought side by side with them in the Fourth Shinobi War. Like a lot of the shinobi in Konoha, Sakura has seemed to…stagnate, more or less, in the years since Obito, Madara, and Kaguya.

Not that any of them want to go back to war, per se. It’s just that…this is their ending? This is their happily ever after? If Naruto didn’t know better, he’d say that Obito won, and this is an Eternal Tsukiyomi keeping them all content while their bodies slowly rot in the real world.

Not that he isn’t happy, but…

But they're standing still, and after a whole life spent racing forward, towards the next achievement hovering just beyond his grasp, it’s hard to adjust to. And it doesn’t help that all of their comrades are getting married, planning families. Even Sai has settled down, which is…honestly a little bit horrifying.

“I don’t want to give up on my dreams,” Sakura says, rather miserably, and slumps back into her seat, staring forlornly into her cup. “With everyone else starting families and so disgustingly happy, I just—what happened to my dream of becoming a great medic-nin, and surpassing even Tsunade? What happened to giving up on Sasuke when I saw what a hopeless loser bastard he was, and how ridiculously obsessed with Naruto he always was?”

Sasuke, perhaps tellingly, doesn’t protest. “Hn,” he huffs, pouring himself another generous measure of sake and swallowing it down without hesitation. “And what about me?” he asks darkly. “I wanted to lead a social revolution, so something like what happened to me could never happen again. I wanted to change Konoha, make it better, and then instead of getting the chance to do so I gave up on that, told Naruto he was right about everything, and left to become a wandering hobo. And I married the girl I poked in the forehead, just like my brother used to do to me. My therapist broke down crying when I told her that.”

Sakura pats his hand consolingly, and pushes the sake bottle closer. “If it’s any consolation,” she tells him, “I married the bastard who tried to kill me several times, and never seemed to notice I existed until Naruto beat him into the ground and I had to heal his wounds. I'm still considering the possibility of long-term head trauma.”

“Yours or mine?” Sasuke asks, morbidly curious.

Sakura grimaces and waves her wedding ring in his face. “Obviously both.”

Sasuke inclines his head, conceding that, and then as one they turn to look expectantly at the slumped figure of their Hokage, whose forehead is resting flat on the table.

“What?” Naruto protests with only a sliver of his usual enthusiasm. “I'm allowed to be tired, okay? I feel like the protagonist of some ridiculous shonen manga that goes on for three hundred chapters longer than it really needs to, jumps the shark at least once—”

“Or more, if you're counting Kisame,” Sasuke interjects, in the name of being fair.

“—and then ends suddenly and abruptly, only to come back for an inane and ridiculous sequel,” Naruto finishes, narrowing his eyes at his friend but otherwise ignoring the interruption. “Believe it.”

“And it probably ends with all of the even reasonably strong female characters either retired or settled down as housewives,” Sakura mutters, still hung up on this point. “With two kids each, happily cleaning house even when they were trained to go out and kick ass just like the men. Argh! It makes me want to punch someone straight out of their clothes, just to prove I can!”

The tables around them empty with gratifying speed, just on the off chance she decides to go through with it. Sakura glares at the fleeing patrons balefully, then snags the bottle from Sasuke, forgoes her cup, and swallows the remainder down without even coming up to breathe.

Head still resting on the table, Naruto waves at the bartender to signal for another round.

“Well?” Sasuke asks him, and there's that morbid curiosity again. “How are you and the stalker you barely even knew existed before she declared her undying love?”

“Hey!” Naruto protests, picking his head up to glare at Sasuke again. “Hinata-chan is fine! And just because I never noticed she was a—a—” He waves his hand in approximately the area of his chest, flushing a little, and seems at a loss for words.

Thankfully, that’s never been one of Sakura's problems. “You never noticed she was female and wanted to make like rabbits with you,” she supplies, to the sound of Naruto choking, and then adds, since this can't be overstated, “Because you were too busy chasing after Sasuke.”

The two boys blink at her and the strangely placed emphasis, apparently missing what she’s getting at by a mile, and Sakura groans, drops her head into her hands, and mutters, “I give up. You're both clueless. Let me put it another way: how much angst do you think you could have saved us if you two had been boning since puberty hit?”

Naruto blinks, poleaxed, and looks across the table at Sasuke, who seems equally stunned. A long moment of staring at each other, and then they jerk their eyes away and studiously look elsewhere.

“But I was in love with you,” Naruto protests, though it’s not quite as vehement as it would be if Sakura didn’t have a point.

“But I married you,” Sasuke adds, though he sounds vaguely horrified now.

“And I love both of you, too,” Sakura tells them patiently. “Equally. Especially since I found out that Sasuke is just like any other male, and my youthful fantasies of being Sasuke's wife in no way accounted for dirty underwear all over the bathroom.”

“Are you saying we could have saved the world with the power of a threesome if we’d all been rational and well-adjusted as children?” Naruto asks, brow wrinkling in confusion.

Sakura blinks, opens her mouth, and then carefully closes it again. “I…guess I am,” she says slowly. Almost considering, really, given the way her eyes are narrowing thoughtfully. “Though, you know, to be well-adjusted we’d have had to change a lot of things around us. Like the massacre, for one.”

“Obito,” Naruto chimes in, expression shading towards tragic as he remembers the amazing man who tried very, very hard to kill him and enslave the rest of the world.

“Pein,” Sasuke adds after a moment. “And Zetsu—if he was gone, Kaguya wouldn’t have a way back.”

“Stop the kunoichi from fighting over boys and show them that they can be just as strong without having to learn to arrange flowers when they should be focusing on assassination techniques,” is Sakura's growled contribution, but when Naruto and Sasuke both look at her she huffs and says reluctantly, “Bring the Sannin back, maybe? Beat some sense into Orochimaru, find Tsunade, recall Jiraiya—with all three of them in the village Sand wouldn’t risk an attack, so peace would hold a little longer. Maybe even Kumo would keep their distance instead of killing Neji's father.”

“Save Neji,” Naruto murmurs, and his eyes are growing more intent now, brighter than they have been in a long time. “And the Sandaime. Dismantle the Hyuuga House system.”

“Deal with Danzo.” Sasuke's voice is rough, and he raises his cup like asking for a toast. “And save my entire clan.”

“And everyone,” Naruto rumbles, and when he opens his eyes again they're Kurama's red instead of summer-sky blue.

I think,” Kurama tells them with a sly fox grin, “that I just might be able to help you three.”

Sasuke and Sakura look at each other, then back at the fox, and Sakura crosses her arms over her chest and arches a brow.

“We’re listening.”



The execution is simple enough. Kurama does the heavy lifting, while Sakura, Sasuke and Naruto just have to focus on their selves at the moment they want to return to—five years old, in this case, and Sakura thinks of herself back then with a mix chagrin and nostalgia. If there was ever a case of an overcompensating wallflower worse than her—

But not this time, and that’s the thought she clings to as chakra rises up around them like a storm. There's a brilliant flare of light, a rush like she can feel the world spinning out beneath her feet as the three—four?—of them stay still, and then a long fall down through darkness that twists her stomach up in knots and steals all the breath right from her lungs. She reaches out automatically, and finds that Naruto and Sasuke are already reaching for her and each other in turn. Their hands are grounding, steadying, and Sakura squeezes their fingers tightly, forces her breakfast to stay down, and lets herself fall.

The landing, when it comes, hurts so much that she screams before she can stop herself, and then the only thing she knows is darkness.



Sasuke wakes feeling…odd. Not bad, actually, though he’d expected it from either the hangover they were all bound to have or the way his very veins had burned on impact with his younger body. But there's a certain lightness to his limbs, a strange sort of steadiness in the center of his being, and he feels for his chakra before he even opens his eyes.

It’s…weak. His reserves are smaller than he’s ever felt them before, even as a small child, and Kurama had promised to try and keep their chakra systems intact during the transfer. But at the same time, he’s never, ever been this…balanced before. For all that he has a fraction of his normal strength, he can tell where every single ounce of his chakra is, can feel even the smallest sparks of it steady and waiting to be called up. It flows more easily, too, more predictably, and instead of the jagged-edged sharpness he’s come to associate with it, he can feel…smoothness. Like steel poised to cut, tapering down to an edge so sharp it’s almost invisible.

And then—

One spot, in the center of his forehead, that burns in his senses like a trapped sun, like an entire galaxy of chakra contained and waiting patiently for use.

Eyes still closed, Sasuke sits up, and his center of balance is completely wrong. There are…differences. Where there shouldn’t be.

With a sinking suspicion that he knows what's happened, Sasuke warily opens his eyes, and is confronted by pink. In his own face. When he knows that the nearest other body is some five feet to his left, and just now sitting up with a groan of its own.

“Dead last,” he growls, and it comes out several octaves higher than Sasuke has ever managed before, even in the dread grasp of puberty. “Dead last, I'm going to kill you.”

Naruto looks back at him with wide blue eyes, definitely five years old, but the way he’s holding himself is wrong. The way he’s sitting is wrong. It’s like…

Like he expects to be wearing a skirt, and is sitting so as to preserve his modesty.

Horror building, Sasuke stares at Naruto—at Sakura in Naruto's body—and then slowly turns his head to the left.

It’s him. Or—it’s his body, skinny and short and round-faced with childhood, hair sticking straight up in the back the way it always does, eyes red-black with the Eternal Mangekyo. But there's an expression of shock on his face that Sasuke would never allow to show, and he’s staring at one pale hand as though he’s never seen it before. Which, at least from that angle, he never has, because that’s Naruto.

That is Naruto wearing Sasuke like a tailored suit, and Sasuke swears that his head is going to explode any minute now.

There's a sound like someone rather sheepishly clearing their throat, and all three of them turn to level deadly stares at the one responsible for their situation. The dread demon fox, scaled down to a slightly less obtrusive size but still towering over them, shuffles his paws and tries not to meet any of their eyes.

“Kurama,” Naruto-as-Sasuke growls in the practiced I-am-Hokage-answer-me-now tone that he perfected with the likes of Kakashi and Lee and Kiba. “What the hell did you do?”

In my defense,” Kurama starts, and Naruto groans as though he’s familiar with that phrasing. Sasuke is willing to bet he is, because most Konoha shinobi wouldn’t know sane or subtle if it came up and bit them in the ass. The fox just steamrolls over him. “In my defense, playing around with the transmigration of souls is a tricky business, and you were all so particular about how I had to do it, keeping chakra systems intact and playing around with cognitive development and all of that. Also, your puny little human bodies are kind of hard to tell apart, okay?”

“Sakura,” Sasuke grits out, feeling his temper building, and doesn’t allow himself to wonder if it’s his own or Sakura's, “has pink hair.”

“And Naruto is your jinchuuriki,” Sakura shrieks, and that’s definitely Naruto's voice raised to a glass-shattering pitch. “How could you not recognize him?”

Kurama mutters something and ducks his head.

“Say that again, Kurama?” Naruto asks with deadly cheerfulness, pushing to his feet. He doesn’t quite crack his knuckles, but the thought is definitely there.

It’s…nearly amusing to watch the Kyuubi no Kitsune go reeling back, all but waving a white flag of surrender. “I said, it’s maybe kind of remotely possible that the twelve bottles of sake you three downed before we got the idea have something to do with it. I'm a bijuu, okay? It’s not like I usually end up drunk as a skunk in a bar. You should be happy that I even managed to get you this close to being in the correct bodies while I was smashed. If there’d been a passing squirrel, this could have ended badly.

“Badly,” Sakura-in-Naruto repeats faintly, and presses a hand to her forehead. “Oh my god, I'm the Kyuubi jinchuuriki. Oh my god, I'm Naruto.”

Sasuke goes to stand up, stumbles when his weight redistributes in a way he wasn’t expecting, and tries to catch himself on a tree. Instead, he puts his fist all the way though it and just…stares.

It’s one thing to know Sakura is strong. It’s another entirely to realize that it takes concentration for her not to squish his skull like a melon every time she touches him.

He takes a slow, careful breath and forces himself to think.

“Orochimaru,” he says finally, when he feels like he isn’t going to start screaming. Not right this second, anyway. “He has that…body-switching jutsu.”

“Right,” Naruto says, crossing his arms behind his head, and it’s ridiculously eerie for Sasuke to see his own body moving the way Naruto's usually does. But Naruto is using that certain cheery everything’s-okay-because-I'm-not-panicking-do-you-see-me-not-panicking tone of voice he only uses when things get too weird even for him. (Sasuke has noticed Sai is usually involved in those incidents.) “That’ll work! And while we’re there we can ask him to use that Edo-whatever jutsu of his on Rin!”

“Who?” Sasuke asks blankly, glancing over at Sakura, who looks equally lost.

Naruto frowns at both of them, like he’s disappointed that they don’t recognize some random name. “Rin,” he insists, like that’s supposed to mean something. “You know, Obito's precious person? She was always able to make him do the right thing, so if we have Orochimaru bring her back and then we tell her what Obito is planning on doing, she can stop him! She was kind of like Sakura with the whole be-smart-or-I'm-going-to-punch-you thing, so it should work.”

Sasuke stares at the man who is more or less his Hokage, then trades another glance with Sakura. This time it’s…almost impressed. “That might actually be a good idea, dead last,” he says, crossing his arms over his chest and thanking whatever gods were looking out for them that none of them are more…developed. He’s absolutely sure that he couldn’t handle having breasts.

Naruto pouts at Sasuke with Sasuke's own face, and…yeah. No. Sasuke whacks him over the head, careful not to use his full strength even though he sends Naruto sprawling with a yelp. And really, is it any surprise Naruto is as thickheaded as he is if he’s been taking Sakura's love-taps all these years?

“Stop it!” Sakura growls at them, rising to her feet and planting her hands on her hips. In Naruto's body. Sasuke feels like this can't be overstated. “Okay, so Orochimaru is our first stop. Sasuke, you're the one who had the creepy relationship with him in the past—future—whatever! Can you talk him into helping us?”

Sasuke considers this, remembers a few bits of blackmail that should still be applicable that he picked up during one of the Snake Sannin’s drunken ramblings, and nods firmly. “Yes,” he agrees. “And Orochimaru can raise Rin, who will turn Obito, who can take out Akatsuki and then Danzo.”

“Awesome!” Naruto cheers, throwing his arms around their shoulders with a brilliant grin that just does not work when he’s wearing Sasuke's face. “And while they're doing that, we can become awesome ninjas and make jounin before we’re six. Right?”

Sasuke cracks a reluctant smile, looking his teammates over. And…maybe Kurama is right. This isn’t the worst thing that could have happened. They're back in the past, and…that’s a good place to start, right?

“So,” Sakura says, with just the faintest edge of manic cheer. “First stop, the Akatsuki headquarters for Orochimaru?”

Naruto laughs. “Hokage-jiji’s head is going to explode when we bring him back,” he crows, bouncing away and heading deeper into the forest. Sakura and Sasuke follow him, Kurama awkwardly slinking along behind them to bring up the rear.

“Our parents will worry,” Sakura says softly, glancing back at the village just once. Then she lifts her chin, expression settling into lines that are actually familiar when seen on Naruto's face. Determination, strength, resolve—she’s made up her mind. “Except Naruto doesn’t have parents, and that means I don’t either right now.”

Sasuke thinks about heading back to Konoha, having to bypass the Uchiha Clan compound because he’s wearing the wrong body. Thinks about being right outside the walls where his family is alive, alive and waiting for him, and then having to leave, and feels his own shoulders square. He doesn’t think he could stand that.

Orochimaru as their first stop is making more and more sense.

“Kurama!” Naruto yells from up ahead. “Get your furry butt up here and pretend you're a packhorse! This is your fault, so take responsibility!”

I am an ancient creature of chakra, schooled by the Sage of Six Paths himself!” Kurama protests, though it sounds suspiciously like a whine. He doesn’t hesitate to stalk up to where Naruto is waiting, either, and crouches down to let them jump on his back with only a few more halfhearted complaints.

“Yeah, and you can't aim for shit,” Naruto counters cheerfully, settling right behind the fox’s head and glancing back at Sakura and Sasuke to make sure they're settled. “All right, we’re off to save the world, believe it! Kurama, mush!”

I hate you so much,” Kurama growls, but leaps forward anyway, long strides eating up the ground.

So. They're all in the wrong bodies, and their only hope of getting back into the right ones lies with the depraved traitorous scientist who wants to become immortal. Konoha is probably going to have a collective conniption when its five-year-old jinchuuriki and the youngest son of its most powerful clan vanish overnight, and there's still several dozen people to kill or otherwise deal with.

But at least no one’s a squirrel, and Sasuke's learned enough about counting his blessings to be content with that for now.

“So,” Sakura calls into the wind whipping past them, leaning around Sasuke's shoulder to look at her teammates with evil in her eyes. “Does this mean you have a crush on Sasuke now, Naruto?”

Naruto yelps something that might be either confirmation or denial. Sasuke growls, raising a fist threateningly, and Sakura just laughs.