Hey everyone! I decided to write this new fic because the idea has been swimming around in my brain for a while and I just had to get it out before it went "poof" forever. Lol! Anyways, sorry if the characters are a bit OOC. I'll be trying to keep them in character the majority of the time, but in this fic, Sasuke-kun learns to open his heart and learns what true power is. Itachi is dead, obviously, and so Sasuke-kun is back in Konoha. WOOT!

Anyways, please read and review! Tell me what you all think, seriously. This will be kind of long, because the chapters won't be as frequent.

Uchiha Sakura

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. There, ya happy?

The Strength of the Heart

Part One:

He was a man. A powerful man. ANBU captain and one of Konoha's most elite ninja. His reputation exceeded almost those of the Hyuuga clan, and surely surpassing the lost Uchihas as well. His methods for killing were quick, sufficient and deadly. But when it came to interrogation, it was rumored throughout the village that one would not want to be on the receiving end of his torture.

He was everything that every male ninja could dream to become. He was the best.

He also was a man of deception.

To everyone in Konoha, he was a wonderful father. Loving, compassionate, caring and understanding. He cared deeply for his one and only child, whom everyone said had his eyes.

But to an outsider, no one would suspect that his child suffered on a daily basis.
Most would look on, thinking that the many bruises had come from intense training. Such was the life of a young ninja. They all started off young, working hard and training until they were on the very brink of using up the last of their chakra. It was a routine, a pattern, almost considered a tradition.
For the life of this man, his child would only know the hatred that followed from her mother's death.

18-year old Haruno Sakura ran through the forest, her mind still playing over the events that had occurred only moments before. Her heart was heavy and her eyes stung with unshed tears. So typical, Sakura. She admonished herself angrily. Go ahead, cry. See if that makes you feel any better! That's all you did when HE left the village!

Sakura stopped as she reached the bridge where her team used to meet, when what seemed like a lifetime ago. She looked down at her latest wound, which was a gash that ran from the top of her right shoulder all the way to her elbow. A kunai had caused this wound. But the cut had not been clean. It was sliced in a wavered fashion, as the person responsible for it had been drunken over with sake. Sakura rubbed her eyes furiously as she focused hard on her arm. She gathered chakra to her left hand and began to slowly close the wound up, making it disappear. Once she was done, she looked out at the river, the moon shining on the water, giving it a serene look.
Sakura sighed. She sat down and dangled her legs over the edge of the bridge. Her arms rested on the railing and her chin dropped to her wrists. Another sleepless night. She thought, closing her eyes for a moment.
Her thoughts drifted. They'd started on the evening's earlier events, but when she remembered the ugliness of it, she forcefully pushed them from her mind. They drifted to Sasuke. He was now back in Konoha, after nearly six long years of being gone, he was back. Sakura had seen him maybe all of once since his return. Tsunade had him busy doing community service around the village. Basically a bunch of D-rank missions that even a Genin would laugh at. But he had to do it, otherwise suffer Tsunade's wraith. His status had been allowed to increase, as long as he behaved himself, but he was not allowed to leave the parameters of the village walls. Sakura honestly had forced herself not to go see him. As badly as she wished she could, her heart refused. She knew that she would betray herself again if Sasuke just took one look at her, so she chose to be safe, and not to see him at all.

You're gonna snap you know. The voice inside her head commented idly as she stared out at the water.

I don't need you to tell me what's gonna happen. She thought bitterly.

Why won't you just stand up to him? So what? He's your father—''

SHUT UP!

Tears had finally beaten their way out and were streaming silently down her cheeks. She rubbed her eyes angrily and tried to get up. But she felt a presence behind her.

"What are you doing out here so late?" A smooth voice asked from behind. Sakura recognized the voice. It was the very last person that she'd wanted to confront.

"Just out to clear my head." She replied casually, standing up and tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She wouldn't let him see her cry. Just keep walking… She told herself, as she walked brusquely away.

"Alone?" the person called.

Sakura whirled around angrily. She really didn't want to be so mean, but if he saw how raw her heart was, she would never let herself live it down. She would not appear weak, not in front of him.

"YES Uchiha Sasuke! I'm allowed to walk around by myself now! I am 18 years old!" Sakura drew in a deep breath and continued to glare at him. Much to her surprise, he looked startled. Almost as if he couldn't see her reacting to him, of all people, that way. Tch, I guess she's changed. He thought as he watched her turn defiantly on her heel and walk away.

Sakura stealthily snuck herself back inside her house. It was already past midnight and she knew that her father had a two week long mission starting first thing in the morning and she knew that he would probably be asleep. Tip-toeing up the stairs, she was almost to her door, already celebrating on her minor victory when she heard…

"What were you doing out so late?" a cold voice asked from behind her.

"N-nothing, Hinata-chan leant me a book that she needed back so I—"

"Don't even try to lie to me!" Her father screamed, backhanding her hard so that she fell against the wall. "You would try to lie to me, of all people, who knows about every step that you take?" Sakura dared not try to defend herself. She knew what her father was capable of, and her trying to do anything would result in a bloody mess. Her eyes closed against the pain and she gave herself into the numbness.

Sakura woke sometime later, to feeling something slip around her body. She guessed that it was someone picking her up. She kept her eyes closed as whoever was carrying her gently laid her down onto a bed. She kept her body limp until she felt something rough slip below her waistline. "Oh Sakura…" A husky voice murmured above her. Sakura's heart began to race as she recognized the voice.
It was her father's.

Her eyes opened and they widened as she saw his hand start to tug away her shorts and her heart skipped a beat in fear as he leaned in close to try to kiss her.

"GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!" She screamed as she felt his other hand slip into her shirt to fondle her chest. She jumped up, ignoring the searing pain in her muscles. She'd barely had time to think as she flipped off the bed, landing in a defensive stance and throwing a deadly sharp kick into her father's swelling groin. He keeled over, but grabbed her ankle as he fell, bringing her to the floor too.

"You ungrateful little bitch!" he screamed, holding her fast as Sakura kicked, trying desperately to get away.

"Let me go!" She shouted. He only held on tighter, growling angrily as Sakura almost landed a kick in his face.
"You're not getting away so easily! I'm not finished with you yet!" He shouted yanking her hard in his direction. Sakura felt her ankle pop, and then pain washed through her foot and leg. Screaming with fear and pain, Sakura could only watch as her father brought his fist into her cheek. She felt something snap, but she kept her eyes averted, making sure that he wouldn't try to touch her like that again. She felt him grab her right arm and twist it sharply towards the pale moonlight coming through the window.

"I see you've healed your little present I gave you earlier." He said, shoving her aside. Sakura ignored the pain in her body as she forced herself to sit up.

"You're Konoha's best medic Nin, yet you couldn't even save your own mother!" he screamed.

"You're worthless, FUCKING worthless! It's your own fault that she's dead!"

Sakura only watched as her father came at her again, this time, a kunai in his hand. Sakura rolled backwards, coming up from the roll about five feet from him. Her heart nearly froze as she saw the sadistic look in his eyes.
"You will be lucky to wake up in the morning." He said in an icy voice.
The last thing Sakura remembered were her father's angry red eyes boring down on her…

FLASHBACK

15-year old Haruno Sakura was out on her day off. Her parents, both Jounin, one already ANBU, were out on an S-class mission. Sakura had been told that it was highly confidential, but Tsunade assured her that they should return safely.

Sakura skipped happily to the place in the park where her mother always used to take her as a child. She sat down on one of the swings and began to get the swing going. Back and forth she went, the wind blowing her now shoulder-length pink hair from her face.
In the distance, Sakura saw two forms approaching Konoha's gates. She could see that one was badly hurt, as the person was being carried by the other teammate. As the two Nins got closer, Sakura recognized them as her parents.

"Holy shit, TOUSA! OKAASAN!" She shouted, jumping off the swing and running to them. She burst through the gates and didn't stop until she'd reached her parent's side.

"Yo-you must save her, Sakura. Your mother w-was badly hurt." Her father stammered, fighting hard to hide his tears. Sakura's heart wrenched as she looked at her mother's wounds. These were way too complex from what she'd already learned to heal. "I-I can't heal this. I'll go get Tsunade-sama. She's a better medic than I am. Just hold on!" Sakura said, racing away as fast as she could to Hokage Tower.

But when she returned with her sensei following at her heels, the sight that lay before her made Sakura's heart shatter.

Her mother laid completely still, skin pale from loss of blood, and her breathing had ceased. "O-Okaasan?" Sakura choked. Her father looked up at her. "She's gone Sakura. You took too long." He muttered, bowing his head as he turned his eyes away from his deceased wife.

Tsunade frowned as she watched her apprentice's expression. "Sakura was not too late. Your wife's injuries were too fatal. I'm not even sure I could have saved her Haruno-san." She said, squeezing Sakura's shoulder sympathetically.

Sakura remained quiet.

Her mother was gone, and it was all her fault. She hadn't been strong enough.

END FLASHBACK

Blood cracked around her eyes as she slowly came awake. She was lying on the floor, blood pooling around her, mostly near her head.
Fuck. What did that bastard do to me? She thought bitterly as she tried to move. Her arms ached and her head was spinning. A dry, parched feeling was in her throat as she tried to sit up. That's not good. She thought. I'm dehydrated. Lost too much blood…

Looking around her, she realized that she was in her father's room. Her clothes had been torn, but they were not off. Thank kami. She thought. Her father was gone. The bottle of sake that he'd consumed now lay resting on its side by the bed.

Sakura sat herself up, looking at the clock. It read 11:30.

"Shit, I'm gonna be late." She muttered angrily to herself. She stood, and felt blood caked on to her. "However am I gonna cover this one up?" She muttered as she ran some hot water in the tub. She flipped her head down, allowing the water to run harshly over her shoulder-length hair. Blood stained the water an auburn-ish color, and the source of the blood on her head became apparent as she felt a searing pain along the cut.

Once her hair was clean, she gently towel-dried it, finding some bandages to cover up her head wound. She quickly dressed in fresh clothes, wincing a bit as she found numerous cuts all over. "Kuso…" she whispered as she then turned her attention to her broken ankle. Glancing at the clock, she saw that she had about 20 minutes before she would be considered late.
Not enough time to heal a broken ankle.

Sighing heavily, she set to work on healing herself as best she could. She gathered as much chakra to her hand as she could and went to work on her ankle. It took almost an hour, but she managed to accelerate the re-growth in the bones. Thankfully, she could stand on her foot again.

After looking at the clock, she dashed out the door and to the bridge where her team met everyday.

Naruto looked around as he arrived. "Ne Sasuke-teme, where's Sakura-chan?" He asked, his tone worried. "She's never usually this late."

"Sorry guys!" they both turned to find Sakura slightly limping but still running as fast as she could to greet them. "I overslept, I'm sorry!" She said, out of breath. Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her.

She didn't have those wounds last night. I just saw her. There's no way she could have sustained those while training. He thought after giving her an once-over.

"Ne, Sakura-chan, what happened to you?" Naruto said worriedly, coming over to her and circling around her.
"Nothing! I just hurt myself cuz I was in a rush this morning. Fell down some stairs. No big deal." She replied easily. Her story seemed to convince a certain blonde, who was just looking relieved that nothing serious had happened.

Tch, you're such a dobe. There's more to that than she's letting on…Sasuke thought, all but glaring at Naruto. He knew from the look in Sakura's eyes that her story was a load of crap, but from the nervous look barely hidden in her eyes he knew that she wanted to keep this private.

Fine.
He would just talk with her about it when they were alone.

Kakashi sensei chose that moment to appear. He poofed on top of one of pillars on the bridge, Icha Icha Paradise open in his hand and a stupid grin on his face. "Yo…" He said, looking over the edge of his perverted book at his three students. Sakura's bandaged form caught his eye, and his one visible eye narrowed almost unnoticeably. His gaze then traveled to Sasuke, who sent him a knowing look. Kakashi nodded slightly at the raven-haired teen, before turning his attention back at the threesome.

"I'm sorry, but I ran into this old lady who needed help with her grocery shopping and—"

"LIAR!" Naruto and Sakura both screamed in unison. Kakashi smirked. "Well, enough of sitting around. Let's get going." He said, heading off to the training grounds.

Sakura lagged behind, favoring her right foot. Sasuke's eyes narrowed on her as he allowed Naruto to race past him and after their sensei. He slowed down and waited for Sakura to catch up. She ignored him as she walked by, keeping her gaze at the ground, hardly paying attention to where she was going. She didn't stop either until she heard, "Sakura." She turned around to smile brightly at Sasuke. "Hai?" She asked. Sasuke kept his gaze locked on hers. "What happened to you?" He asked, not allowing his gaze to waver. He would get answers out of her if it was the last thing he did.
Sakura laughed lightly. "I already told you Sasuke-kun, I—"

"You and I both know that's a bunch of bullshit." Sasuke interrupted, walking towards her. Sakura's eyes widened a little and she backed up. "I don't know what you're talking about…" she whispered.

"You didn't look like that when I saw you last night by the bridge. Something happened to you on your way home."

Sakura's eyes were wide and then her vision was clouded by…tears? She thought. She hastily wiped them away. "It's nothing Sasuke-kun, really. We should catch up, they'll start without us." She turned to go, but Sasuke caught her by her bandaged wrist. She winced slightly, only to face Sasuke's deeply narrowing frown. "Sasuke-kun, what…?" She was cut off as he placed a hand over her mouth.
"You can stop lying now Sakura. I know this wasn't an accident. You're a girl, but you're not that stupid." He said, waiting for her reaction. Normally, a comment like that would have driven her to smack him upside the head. Now, however, Sakura's gaze dropped to the ground, not allowing him to look her in the eyes anymore.

Waves of fear and embarrassment washed through her as she realized that she was caught. There was nothing more that she could say that would convince Sasuke that this all had been an accident. She was gonna get it so bad if she ever told anyone though. Would Sasuke tell once he found out? What would happen? Would Tsunade banish her father from the village? Would he really come back and kill her like he'd threatened in the past? What would the other villagers think? Sakura began to tremble.

Sasuke noticed this and his gaze reverted back to Sakura's face. Her cheeks were streaked with tears and her other hand was squeezed tight in a fist by her chin. He felt her trembling underneath his hand and her skin had started to turn clammy.
"Sakura, what the hell happened?" He asked softly. She shook her head and started to back away from him.

Sakura continued to back away, both hands raised and palms out, as if invisibly trying to push him away from her. "Just, forget about it, ok?" She whispered, turning around. She had to get away from him.
"Sakura…" He started again, his tone more stern.

"NO!" She yelled finally, doing her best to leap away to the safety of the trees. She wouldn't let him find out. Everything would be hell once he did.

Sasuke was right behind her. "SAKURA!" He shouted.

Back at the training grounds, Naruto had begun to get restless. "Ne, Kakashi sensei? Where's Sakura-chan and Sasuke-teme?" He asked. Kakashi sighed. "They'll catch up Naruto. For now, let's just spar a bit one on one. I want to see how much you've learned training with Jiraiya." Naruto's eyes lit up. "Really? I get to fight you?" He exclaimed gleefully. Kakashi grinned, nodding, before his hand disappeared behind his back…and reappeared with the latest volume of Icha Icha Paradise.

Naruto's face dropped. "Oi! What the hell are you doing?" He yelled, his hands curling into fists.

"Well, you're just standing there, and I've gotten to a rather good part in my book…" Kakashi's statement went unfinished as Naruto came attacked. "I won't give you the chance to read that sick-ass book of yours!" He roared, throwing a series of punches at Kakashi.

His sensei smirked as he blocked every single one. "Heh, Nice." Kakashi murmured as Naruto came up behind him, using a clone as a distraction while the real Naruto snatched the novel from his sensei's hand.

"HA!" Naruto yelled triumphantly, holding the book in the air, a wide cheesy grin plastered to his face. His cerulean gaze dropped to the orange book in his hands. "Now, what is it about this book that's so damn interesting?" He wondered aloud curiously. He flipped the book open again.

Kakashi's visible eye crinkled into a grin as he watched Naruto's curious expression change to one of utmost horror and disgust.
"HENTAI!" He yelled, chucking the book back at Kakashi with extra fervor.

Kakashi caught his precious book lovingly. "Hey, you're the one who wanted to know, so I let you satisfy your six-year curiosity. You are of legal age to view it after all. So are you satisfied?"

Naruto grunted the disgusted look still evident on his usually cheery face. He glared at Kakashi as they began again.

Sakura tore through the trees as fast as she could, hoping to make it back to her house so she could hide away until her father returned. Her body screamed out in defiance as she pressed on.
Sasuke was getting closer.
Suddenly, her ankle gave out on her and she dropped to the ground, yelling out in pain as she landed hard on her bad foot. She lay on the ground for a moment, breathing hard. Her body hurt so badly, but she wasn't about to give up. She crawled behind the nearest tree and masked her chakra. She didn't want to be found.

She felt him land near her, his footsteps barely noticeable as he looked around. Burying her face in her arms resting atop her knees, Sakura held in her tears. She wouldn't cry. Not now, not in front of him. Her thoughts plagued her mind, her worries threatening to take over her sanity. Sakura screamed out in frustration and sadness in her mind. Her inner self was right.
She was going to snap.
A gentle and warm sensation rested on her shoulder a moment later. "Found you." A voice whispered in her ear. Sakura looked up, slightly surprised to see Sasuke standing over her. "I'm your teammate, Sakura. You don't have to hide everything from everyone all the time." He said, kneeling down next to her. Sakura only stared up at him with wide green eyes as he brushed aside her hair to reveal the bandages on her head. Tears filled her eyes again as she met and held his gaze. "I-I could say the same for you." She whispered, her soft retort reaching his ears. He smirked. "Yeah, but I'm working on that."

At that moment, Sakura dropped the guard and the walls that she'd built up around herself. Sasuke stared into her eyes and saw the raw hurt and fear that was coursing through her.

"Sakura, who the fuck did this to you?" He whispered, his eyes narrowing.

"No-no one." She muttered.

My father

My Father!

MY FATHER!

MY FATHER!

MY FUCKING ASS BASTARD FATHER!

Her Inner self was screaming, as if willing Sasuke to read her mind. Sakura couldn't tear her eyes away from his face. After all these years, there was something, different about the way Sasuke looked.
Older, stronger, more handsome. But in his eyes there was something that wasn't there before he'd left Konoha…

Trust

Sakura bit her lip as tears threatened to come. She bowed her head and angrily wiped them away. "I-I have to go now Sasuke-kun." She whispered as her eyes looked towards the sky. It was already high noon and they'd been sitting there for a while now. Sakura made to stand, but as she did so, a sharp pain shot up the leg of her injured ankle. She winced as she put her weight on it.

"Sakura."

Sakura didn't look at him. She knew for a fact that if she did she would break. If she did, then her life would be in danger.

"Please, Sasuke-kun, just leave me alone. Kakashi sensei and Naruto must be getting worried right now about us. You go back first and I'll—" She was cut off as a hand closed on her wrist. She flinched as she felt herself being spun around.
"Sakura, what the hell is going on with you?" Sasuke demanded. "Something is not right. You were fine last night when I saw you! Tell me who had the nerve to do something like this to you!" Sakura squeezed her eyes shut against the tears. "I-I can't tell you!" She screamed, her hands now covering her face. "I-I...I don't want to die!" She cried.

Sasuke's eyes narrowed dangerously.

Whoever had hurt her had obviously made some sort of threat, implying that her life would be taken should she reveal the identity of her attacker. Sasuke racked his brain for all the people that Sakura would possibly be intimidated by. Since his return, he found out that the number wasn't high. She was Konoha's top-ranking medic Nin, and had a determination that would match Naruto's on a daily basis, especially when it came to defending him. Now, however, the girl that Sasuke saw before him was the same young Genin that he'd known back when he was 12. She'd grown so much stronger in his absence, but something was out of whack.
Sasuke pulled her hands from her face, getting a good look at her. After a moment his heart took over. He pulled her sharply towards him, causing Sakura to lose her balance and fall onto his chest. He caught her and scooped her up into his arms. She was so light. And warm…He added in his mind. Sakura let out a squeak of surprise. He smirked as she wriggled in his arms. "Let me go!" she demanded. "You surprise me, Sakura." Sasuke said, his comment shutting her up. "You're Konoha's top medic, and yet you can't seem to figure out that because of your broken ankle, you cannot walk. Tch, and here I thought you were the smart one on our team." Sakura's eyes widened in disbelief before they narrowed in anger.

"Let me go!"

Sasuke smiled. Sakura froze. She'd never before in her life seen Uchiha Sasuke smile. Seeing that he'd succeeded in silencing her, he walked with her in his arms to the place where Kakashi sensei and Naruto were training.

Naruto's eyes widened as he saw his best friend approaching. "Ne, Sasuke-teme! What happened to Sakura-chan?" Kakashi's visible eye looked Sakura over more closely. It looked as if she'd been badly injured on a mission and hadn't gotten the chance to recover before she went back to train again. Naruto was at Sakura's side instantly, looking her over before his eyes narrowed in anger at Sasuke. "You bastard! You're the one who did this to her! I TOLD you not to be so hard on her!" Naruto fumed, his face turning redder by the second.

Sakura was quick to intervene. "Iye, Naruto! Sasuke-kun didn't do this. I just trained too hard and—"

She felt a pressure on her shoulder as Sasuke squeezed gently, letting her know that she shouldn't continue. Almost as if he knew that she was lying. She didn't meet his gaze, however, but instead looked up at their sensei. "She's hurt and I'm taking her home. She refuses to listen so that's why I'm carrying her. If I'd let her, she would have run off to fine you two to train and she has a broken ankle." Sasuke explained in his usual tone. Sakura flinched slightly. She hated this. This was why she'd always worked so hard in training with Tsunade, so she wouldn't have to rely on people to try to protect and take care of her. It made her feel weak.

"I'm really fine, Sasuke-kun." She said, placing her hands on his chest. "Yo-you can put me down now."

"No, you're not Sakura." Kakashi's voice cut through. His eye had narrowed on her, scrutinizing her carefully. "Sasuke, take her home. I don't want to see her back here until she's fully healed." He said, crossing his arms as if to make his order final. Sasuke nodded, and took off with Sakura cradled close.