Author's note: Yeah, I was totally going to be writing the fourth chapter to Not Just A Girl but then this came and sat in my brain and killed my motivation for Not Just A Girl so I would be forced to write it. This was a mean, mean story that kicked my ass.
Summary: Sakura puts Duty before Honor before Love, except once when she doesn't
Warning: This is depressing, has language and hints of consensual yet not consensual sex.
Disclaimer: I don't own and would not want to own. They make the poor creator update once a week with chapters. I am lucky to manage once a month
Duty, Honor, Love
Sakura doesn't remember her first kill. She remembers, vaguely, the battle, the blood and death and pain. She'd been on a mission with Neji and Kiba, and neither of them had any binding ties to her. Neither had felt the need to protect her, to spare her from the gruesome battle that had come, as Naruto or Lee or Ino or even Sasuke would have done. So when the stone-nin came (and come they do, by the dozens, but they were pathetically weak, stone had a nasty habit of promoting quantity over quality) they had left to deal with their fair share and left her to hers. So she had stabbed and swirled and struck, more on instinct (drills upon drills upon drills beating responses into her body until she could perform the deadly dance asleep) than anything else, she couldn't tell you which of the ninja's died first, which died fastest, she couldn't even tell you which of the ninja's she had killed (because one stab wound looks like another, unless you are looking closely, and why would you bother to do such a thing) but the battle had ended. She'd been battered and bloody and bruised beyond recognition, but so had her teammates and the other guys looked so much worse (dead is always worse than alive).
Sakura wasn't Ino so when she comes home she did not scrub herself in the shower for hours to rinse off the blood on her hands and conscience. She did not weep, although perhaps she would have liked to. The Stone were enemies, it was her or them, and Sakura was a survivor, Sakura would always (or almost always) save herself. She did not wonder if they had families, loved ones, if people will mourn them, because they are ninja's and they knew what they were signing up for. They knew that all ninja (all men too, but it was different for ninja's, in a way that she would never be able to explain) died, that it was all too likely that they would die for their village. Sakura didn't wonder, because someday she would be them, and she was compassionate enough to know that she wouldn't want anyone to suffer the guilt (because she was a shinobi, and she knew what she was signing up for) and there was no logical reason for her to suffer. So she didn't.
Tsunade had looked at her carefully the next day when they reported to debrief her on the specifics, and Neji had glanced at her with unreadable pearl eyes. Tsunade had suggested that she take the rest of the day off, go find Ino and do girl stuff. But Sakura had far too much to do, far too much space to bridge before she could even see her boys' backs, so she had stayed and learned to save the way she learned to kill (drills upon drills upon drills beating responses into her until her chakra seeped and healed and closed in her sleep).
Sakura was a ninja and a ninja never showed emotion. She felt no pity, or remorse, because she knew that those feelings would break her. Sakura understood this, understood that it was her duty to protect her village, and that duty came before everything else.
Sakura only had one set of eyes haunting her (that wasn't quite true, she still saw depths of onyx and seas of red, still remembered the endless sky of blue, but those weren't haunting eyes, not exactly), only one kill that had caused a break in her. Even that wasn't the kill per say, it was her duty to kill, she was a weapon (one that lived and breathed and loved and feared and was both more and less effective because of it), and weapons killed. It was the way she had killed him, the sacrifice she had had to make. She had known, been warned what could happen to a kunoichi, and had ignored it (because she was Sakura Haruno, and she would never ever do that, Ino would make sure of that, it had been a promise, but promises were made to be broken), so she had suffered the consequences.
She would have killed the man anyway. She wasn't one for useless killings (she hated killing, it always amazed her how you could hate something and be so good at it at the same time), wasn't one to take the law into her own hand, wasn't one for vigilante justice. But she would have killed him, even if it had not been her duty. He'd been a big man, bigger, stronger, and heavier than her, the only problem for him, her only advantage, was that he had been a man. A sick depraved man, and for what was neither the first time, nor the last, she cursed the fact that she hadn't developed the way Ino had (at the same time she was grateful, because she was good at killing, strong and icy and she could do what she had to, and the little girls that would have needed to be sent shouldn't have to be good at killing yet, even if they are. Plus the fact that if she had developed Ino wouldn't be the best for those types of missions, and she would have to do them more often than even her sanity could stand).
The man had liked young girls, weak and defenseless and exotic girls. Perhaps he liked them weak because he was paranoid (and he was paranoid because he was a good ninja, and all good ninja are at least a little bit paranoid), or perhaps it was because he was sick and depraved. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. She had been led, naked, into the man's room, searched four different times for weapons, and had her hands bound by thick chains. The man had been attractive, far too attractive to need to do that to little girls, there would have been women begging him for the chance if he had so wished it, and she supposed that it was better that he wasn't a hideous giant (but it wasn't evil should look like evil, it wasn't fair that evil could wear the mask of good). He hadn't been gentle, but Sakura knew how to take pain (and this was just a little blood, a little stretching, nothing compared to being stabbed through the stomach so she could learn to heal herself. It had been nothing, except that it had been everything), and the paranoid fool hadn't thought to buy chakra suppressing chains.
She'd snapped the chains and snapped his neck, and walked out of his hideout cloaked in a powerful genjutsu. It had taken them hours to realize that the scared shivering little girl refusing to move from the bed was in fact their very naked, very dead leader. It had taken them hours, and by the time they had decided what to do about it she had already been back home, scrubbing herself with lemon juice, and alcohol and pretending the burn came from that (she knew contraceptive jutsu, she was a medic, but just in case).
When Tsunade offered her the next day off Sakura had taken it, and gone out with Ino. She'd let Ino hold her, and let Ino cry for her(because Sakura couldn't cry, if she'd cried she didn't think she would have been able to stop, and it is unfitting for a shinobi to die because they forced all the water out of their bodies via the eyes). She'd let Ino take her drinking, but did not let Ino convince her that it would be a good idea to bring home another man. She was a shinobi, a weapon, duty before everything else, but she had honor, and she had never slept with a man out of whim before so she wasn't going to start then.
She'd cried herself to sleep and allowed herself to remember briefly the foolish, fleeting fancies of her youth. Allowed herself to wish that Sasuke hadn't left. That Naruto was still with her being loud and annoying and real. She'd let herself imagine being protected again, not having to kill and sacrifice her honor for her duty. She'd given herself one night to imagine what it should have been and wish for what it might have been, but she had woken up the next morning and she'd been alive and she'd picked herself up and brushed herself off, and set about catching up with her boys.
Sakura doesn't remember her first kill. She is still brutally reminded of the time she killed her honor with her target (because duty comes before everything). Sakura would remeber this kill forever, would see these eyes in her head for longer than eternity, Sakura would never stop thinking of this kill, even if it hadn't been her last.
She loved Sasuke, more than herself, more than her village, more than anything she had ever loved or anyone she ever would have. But Sakura was a shinobi, and a good one at that, and duty always comes first. The battle had been bloody (because it was Sasuke and Naruto, or Naruto and Sasuke and they were always bloody, always big and dramatic and completely lacking of all the subtlety and finesse they should have possessed), and Sasuke would have killed Naruto. She had stayed frozen, Duty warring with Love fighting with Honor hissing at Duty. She'd wrung her hands and cried and shouted. But she was a shinobi and drills upon drills upon drills and Duty always had to win.
Sasuke had pulled out his sword as Naruto lay there spent and weak. He hadn't even thought to guard against her. Because he assumed she hadn't changed, was nothing more than a cheerleader for the blond hurricane that was his best friend, or because he assumed that Love would always outweigh Duty in her books. Perhaps in a different life he might have been right. Sasuke hadn't even considered watching his back as he contemplated how to kill Naruto, and Duty pushed aside Honor (a fair fight at least!) and ignored Love (Not Sasuke! Never Sasuke! Anyone but Sasuke!) and rammed killing chakra into the back of the last Uchiha to have a chance at salvation.
Sasuke had been fast; as fast as the snakes he had learned to summon and twice as deadly. So before he died (his heart stopping, his ribs cracking, his lungs collapsing, it was horribly painful and blessedly short) he'd shoved his sword through her heart in retaliation. His eyes had widened in the spilt second before death. Widened and filled with sorrow, and with something that might have once resembled love, except that Sasuke wasn't quite capable of love, not anymore, because hatred and love could not exist together. He might have whispered something, she could have sworn she heard the words 'Thank you' ghost from his lips, but she was bleeding out, dying, and it could all just be a hallucination too.
Sakura watched him die as she felt herself die. She could heal herself, even now she had enough chakra to stop the damage from spreading, and Tsunade had taught her the technique that would save her from any wound. Duty wailed and screamed, a spoiled child used to getting everything it wanted, she needed to get up damnit, because she was a ninja first and there were things her village needed her for. Honor was placid and firm and disgusted, and almost won her over where Duty could not, because honor sounded so much like him as it told her to get up, demanded she not take the cowards way out (not because she was a ninja, but because she was Sakura, who had battled demons and stared death in the eye and was NOT a coward). But it was Love, Love who had remained quiet and steadfast and had just simply been there for as long as Sakura could remember that ended up winning that battle. Love who had never won a battle before, Love that was seen as weaker and behind Duty and Honor, because Love never really fought for anything, Love won the battle.
Love won because her whole life had been Sasuke (getting him to notice her, getting him to love her, getting him back). Love won because that is what Love does. Love picks and chooses battles, and never loses the ones it needs to win. Love won, and Sakura lay herself against Sasuke with the strength that was slowly seeping out of her. She grabbed his hand and kissed his cheek, and let herself shed one tear.
Sakura Haruno had understood duty. She had killed, and couldn't remember faces, she had bled, and could count the scars. But she had learned from her teacher in that first day. A ninja who abandons his duty is Trash, but one who abandons a teammate is worse than trash. She couldn't abandon Sasuke, couldn't allow him to go somewhere alone, not when she had seen what had happened when he went off alone to Sound (the fool, none of this would have happened if he had just kept his ass where it was meant to be), and if she couldn't trust him less than three hundred miles away, how could she trust him to be as far away as dead?
Sakura Haruno died curled in Sasuke Uchiha's arms (she hadn't put them there, neither had Naruto, if anyone had been awake to notice that neither of the two living people had positioned them that way they would have wondered, but no one saw and no one questioned) which was as close to romantic as a ninja ever got. She had her name carved into the hero's stone next to his (it was the same as dying in his arms, except less physical and more eternal) despite the fact that no one but Naruto thought Sasuke's name should go anywhere within a thousand mile radius of the stone (no one was foolish enough to argue with Naruto). And years into the future, the sixth hokage told lovely, heartbreaking tales of the woman who put duty before honor before love, except for the once when she didn't.