the worst part of you is me

My weakness kept interfering; long ago, I decided to fight back: to protect, to save, and give myself a purpose.

You can't break me like you used to.


If there was one thing Sakura was definitely sick of, besides her weak will and the crying, it was the constant struggle with her memories. Wishful thinking had reduced her into a coward as flashbacks of what used to be haunted her mind.

Team 7 may never be what she remembered and hoped for, but the longing for those bonds to restore was extreme. Sakura and Naruto waited for their lost teammate to find his way out of the darkness he walked into. The wait was in a messy midst of pain and betrayal, with little support from the world as one by one, their friends moved on.

The time finally arrived, and the pain lifted from their spirits, making them stand straighter, and their hearts were able to breathe easier. Only he was not like what she thought he would turn out to be, despite the various warnings of her fellow Shinobi and former teachers.

He is not the Sasuke you remember.

Sakura acknowledged that she was no longer a child, and could reflect on the past and anticipate possible consequences. Of course, he was not the same Sasuke she knew to be. The man was forcibly given the curse seal, and was stripped of any good in his life when Itachi was forced to kill all of his clan - including his parents - leaving Sasuke as the sole survivor under false pretenses to transform him into an avenger.

He tried to kill her friends - her dearest friend, Naruto - countless times. He tried to kill her twice with little thought. Sakura preferred not to remember these events. These memories were tucked away because they only weakened her resolve.

Sasuke was looked down upon in the village he grew up in - the one he set out to destroy as revenge - and would surely meet death if he were to ever return. Sasuke was fed lie after lie, but the avenger willingly came home. On the request of Naruto.

Naruto could move mountains, and had a strong influence on Sasuke that she did not have. Sakura knew this since she was thirteen, and chained Naruto into a promise of a lifetime.

How incredibly selfish.

And the promise still held, even as she tried to free Naruto from it.

For the first few days upon his return, she did not see him. He was kept in the prison cells or interrogation rooms the majority of his time. He was under strict watch on orders of Tsunade. He was still untouchable.

But she, as a medic Kunoichi, could not afford to spend her time waiting to see him. Her duty was to her village first. So she banished the disappointment from appearing on her face when Tsunade sent her on a long mission. As she left in the morning with two other Shinobi, she hoped that he would continue to remain here.

For a chance to talk, so she could see how he was like now.

The mission was a success. Sakura no longer could afford mistakes as a Kunoichi. She was constantly learning, and was able to maintain those lessons. The effort paid off as her reputation in society soared.

A Shinobi must always put the mission first.

As tradition, whenever a member of Team 7 -which no longer officially exists, but it never seemed to feel that way once they were all together- returned from a mission, Naruto treated them with a meal at Ramen Ichiraku.

This time, however, it was only the two sitting at the ramen shop. Sai was off somewhere and Kakashi had new duties. Still, she was thankful to be able to converse with the blond alone.

"Do you think I can speak to him, Naruto?"

Naruto's face looked grim. She immediately picked up on it.

"Is he still here? Did he escape? What's going on?"

"No, he didn't leave."

Relief settled in as she thought back on how much she wished during her mission that she would not have to come home to another emptiness.

"Sakura, I'm sorry."

"Why would you be? You brought him back."

A bit awkwardly, Sakura leaned sideways from her seat as her arm went around the taller Naruto in a half embrace.


"So what's the matter?" she asked, her hand giving his arm a reassuring squeeze.

There was conflict on the young man's face.

"Naruto. You can tell me. I'm not the same Sakura as before." She stated with a smile, "I don't cry about my forehead anymore."

He stared off into his large bowl. Sakura felt such uneasiness as she, too, watched the steam float upwards. Clearing her throat, she continued, "How many times have I knocked you out-"

Blue eyed finally met her own.

Once Sakura closed the door to her apartment, she did not bother to turn the lights on. The darkness felt like a comforting blanket to mask her conflicted emotions swirling in her heart, and the clashing of thoughts.

If it were not for Naruto's eyes that spoke his every transparent emotion, she would have thought it was a cruel joke. However, Naruto never lies. He was the purest form of friendship that could ever exist.

So what if the infamous Uchiha Sasuke picked up a habit of bedding random women? So what if the tears easily assembled after years of trying to master her emotions for her duty -for fixing the mistakes in her past?

Sakura Haruno will not cry. She has seen torture, death, and loss. Each day was a struggle and a lesson to make it easier to act on days where the unexpected happened; whether it be an invasion, hostage situation, or even another heartbreak.

As her sadness threatened her further and interrupted her thoughts, she stood up straight to walk into her small kitchen.

A Shinobi must never show emotion.

It was one of the essential lessons taught in the Academy.

"I always got perfect scores..."

"...memorized over 100 Shinobi ways..."

"...and have a heart that will not allow herself to cry over him."

It never stuck it seems.

She began to prepare tea as a distraction.

And when she crawled into bed, her refusal to shed tears was her tacit acceptance. He would never look at her that way. What matters...what is suppose to matter, is that they were all alive, and she had her wish. Here was the opportunity to help each other grow.

Most of all, she had to make sure he did not regret his decision of returning to a life he thought he had no place in.

She banished her thirteen year old self from her conscience.

Sasuke didn't and doesn't need you like that.

Sakura feared what would become of her once she saw him again. Not only would it be the first time in months - nearly a year - that she finally had the chance to see him, but with this new revelation about her old crush.

She was not the only worried one. Naruto came by the next morning to apologize. In return for his devotion, she respected him enough not to lie to him. She refused to tell him she was completely fine. Instead, she gave him another hug.

"At this point, I am so grateful he is alive and willing to be here...with us."

"Sakura-chan, I don't know why he's doing this. It's not him. He's not the type to...to..."

She closed her eyes during his faltering words. "It's not our fault."

Perhaps the person whom Sasuke damaged the most was now in her arms. Sakura tried not to feel anger towards the ex-avenger.

You will never break Naruto like you did to me.

He acknowledged her whenever Naruto requested they eat together at the ramen shop or some other restaurant. Sasuke did not say much, and during some moments, it would feel like old times. Naruto running his mouth, Sai's inappropriate comments, Kakashi's tardiness...maybe Naruto had it wrong?

There was a part of her that relished the suggestion. Naruto HAD to be wrong, her thirteen year old self piped in, he was always jealous of Sasuke. He wanted you for himself!

No. Naruto was the only constant person in her life. He saved and would give his life for her in a heartbeat. His past actions echoed that, even saving her from the Uchiha himself.

And she felt absolutely terrible for even considering that idea when she saw it for her own eyes.

He was not the type to converse, especially when he went to the market for food or supplies, but the woman picked up on his inaudible cues. Unconcerned about who was around, Sasuke headed back to the direction of his place, and she followed him with a schoolgirl smile on her face.

Sakura snapped out of it, and with a steady hand finished paying the fisherman, knowing she was concealed enough in the masses to be caught staring at her old team mate.

As the weeks passed, Naruto was seen fewer and fewer, as he worked for his dream of becoming Hokage. Sai managed to enter the Academy as a sensei, much to the astonishment of everyone who knew him well. Kakashi talked about retirement and reading Icha Icha full-time. And what took up most of her hours was at the hospital as a medic.

The Uchiha did not seem to have big goals like the others anymore. Inquisitive, she decided to ask him.

"What does it matter?"

"I am sure the village would like to see you situated again. I know there are some who still oppose you living here among us, after, you know..."

"I never said I will like them."

Curiously, she looked at him. If she had not seen him allow that woman to follow him, she would still have doubted. Aside from the betrayal, and attempts to kill anyone in his path of destruction during those lost years, he felt like a grown-up version of the boy she used to know.

But he is not - you can distinguish that very well.

"In that case, what are you interested in?"

The look he gave her was unusual, as if he actually considered her question. Instead, with a brief smirk, he began to leave.

"I'll see you around. Tell Naruto to stop bothering me. It's annoying."

Perplexed, she moved onto her day.

So, the Uchiha was on speaking terms with her. Maybe this still could be just like she and Naruto wanted.

Her day would have been a good one if it hadn't for a blonde beauty that came rushing to her with gossip.

And lots of it.

Before, she would think to herself. In the scope of the whole picture, does this change much? Furthermore, there was still her silent acceptance of a differing personality. Time certainly has the mysterious power of changing people.

At least he wasn't on a murderous rampage.

Despite Ino comforting her on the situation, Sakura felt it was more of a concern if the Uchiha's recent activity became public knowledge rather than what she personally felt about it. He did not need to put himself in that negative view when he was supposed to work on improving his role in the village.

Though, she was not present when the legal conditions were laid out in front of him. How much does Sasuke have to do in order to prove his loyalty again? Either way, she noted the looks of some of the villagers, and what they were saying about the last Uchiha.

None of it was favorable. So why was he putting himself more at risk everything she and Naruto worked for?

Actually, most of it was in gratitude to Naruto. He stayed at the legal proceedings as he vouched for his best friend while she was out on a mission. If given the chance, she would be at their side as well.

Determined, she would not let him dig his own grave once more.

"Sasuke, you have to stop."

He did not respond immediately to her demand. He ran a hand through his messy hair as he moved from the door and back into his apartment.

Sakura followed him in, closing the door behind her. It was the first time she entered the place that was given to him until he was able to afford better housing on his own.

It was a multi-purpose room. The kitchen was several feet away, and there was a futon by a wall. Sasuke went to fill a glass of water.

"Stop?" Turning to look at her for more yapping, he raised his glass to drink.

"I know I haven't been," she began, "...upfront about something in particular that you have been doing."

Sakura looked at him directly as he lowered his glass. "Frankly, I know it's none of my business. However, I am fully aware of your conditions to remain here in the village, and I don't think you're doing yourself, or any of your friends, a favor by behaving in such a manner."

She had not exactly planned out her words to the man in front of her. Years of carrying diplomatic agreements in missions or being alongside the Hokage herself were enough training to help her remember how to modify her body language and facial expressions to remain professional - not like some lovesick girl begging him to stop crushing her heart.

Her professionalism as a Kunoichi faltered a bit when he massaged his neck, and spoke.

"You may sound more like an adult, and have additional words to say than the dobe, but you, like him, aren't saying anything at all."

Sakura blinked in astonishment. "I feel like you aren't giving me the chance to finish."

"If we were out on the battlefield, you have to choose your words with extra care, Sakura."

"But we are not on the battlefield," she rebutted as she pushed the thoughts of their past as enemies away.

Pulling out a chair, he sat rather lazily on it, not offering her a seat or as much a drink.

"I would have killed you by now, moved on from your corpse, and already be a distance away."

In silence, she debated how to carry on as her teenage self demanded a better tactic after hearing such words. Tell him how you feel.

A short-lived chuckle interrupted her. "Relax, Sakura. I was not being serious."

For a second time, he raised his hand to massage his neck as he yawned. "Perhaps, I should have been wise in choosing words as well," he stated when there was still a lack of a response.

Sakura took a second to look down before replying, "There is no need. I would now like to rephrase. I realize I was vague..."

Green eyes caught the pair of black panties on his carpet floor, unaware that black eyes tracked her gaze.

"Ah, she was telling the truth about forgetting that."

Instantly forgetting her newly formed speech, all she could come up with was one word.


Sasuke stood from the chair as he spoke, "It's interesting how they all make up some excuse to come here again. They are all very alike, and predictable."

Just how many women...?

"Why are you doing this to them?" she asked, "For amusement?"

"No," his answer sounded genuine, after a short pause.

Will there ever be anyone who reaches your standards, Sasuke? Sakura wondered. A part of her expected him to also answer that question while he watched her.

"Your reactions to these things are already enough for my amusement," Sasuke deliberately placed emphasis on the word she chose. "Would you like me to tell you more?"

Her eyes flashed in anger. This was all a rouse. "Screw-"

His lips lifted slowly and seductively, "Me? How willing are you?"

Sasuke's demon had resurfaced.

The warning was not in his words, but in his body language. It was something she did not learn until after he tried to kill her, and now Sakura could prepare a defense or attack.

Whether her anger had given away her next move, or he used his Sharingan, her punch was caught. A part of her fury subsided and in place came satisfaction. There was no way that did not hurt him, though he did not release what he seized, or outwardly displayed discomfort.

"Let go."

Sakura could definitely hurt him. Had he ever seen her in combat? She did not remember the events that occurred during the Fourth War anymore. There was too much death. Too much blood. Too much loss. And with a victory, why remember the tragedy?

"I prefer this position," he said after viewing her stance, creamy legs firm, skirt rising a little.

Instantly the feeling of exposure crept in, so she neared her body towards him as one of her legs rose, ready to kick him away. As expected, he also caught it with his free hand, and she was at the liberty to use hers. With both his hands occupied, she sent another fist in his direction.

Sakura did not know what to anticipate in the game of taijutsu with the Sharingan wielder, especially when it was not activated. It gave her the sense that they were on somewhat equal ground, and it fueled the fire in her eyes as she swiped, and he dodged.

It did not matter to either about the noise they made. Innumerable times, she almost had him against the wall where she could tie him with chakra strings, but he would evade her each time.

The energy she used was present in the sweat and her quick breathing; she jumped away from him in an attempt to rearrange herself for another move.

And when that failed, she frustratingly yelled, "You think this is a game?"

Why wasn't he trying to hit her? It hadn't stopped him before.

Then there was that smirk again, followed by a low laugh.

He was playing with her. Frantically, she wanted to figure out why, but the more she focused on that, her tactics were getting sloppier by the second. Sakura had to make him take her seriously.

In what felt like the umpteenth time, she found herself hitting the floor. Her arms held behind her back. He did not say a word, nor did it feel like he wanted to. What should have been the time to reconstruct another plan, it was replaced by thoughts that ought not to be present at all.

She was too much aware of his body, of his breathing, of his shadow on the floor next to her, and of his scent.

It was enough to make her breasts feel uncomfortable in the bra she wore. The fabric was unforgiving to her erect nipples.

Forcibly turned on her back, black hair came into view as she felt a painful bite on her neck. Responding in a small scream of bewilderment, she threw him off with her chakra, and used it to heal her wound.

"In a fight, that would certainly be considered a wrongful move, Sakura. Using your chakra because of a superficial reason is quite the disappointment. If it had been more damaging, however..."

"We are not on the battleground. I can't be seen with this in public!"

"So, you choose to waste chakra."

"What's your problem?" she asked angrily, as the bright glow from her hand disappeared along with the wound.

"I just wanted you to prepare yourself. I'll do it again until you learn."

He charged, keeping her back on the floor as he reached her, to repeat his action. This time she grabbed what she could when his mouth neared, which was closer to her ear than her neck -she could have swore he took in an inhalation of her fragrance- and pulled the back of his hair. It was a warning that she would no longer stay defenseless. She could fight back, and make new choices.

He let out a growl, but it succeeded in removing him from her freshly healed neck. Sasuke took that chance to give his own retribution as he also took a handful of pink hair.

Sakura could not believe he would do such a thing. Opposed to how she reacted to the bite, she did not scream to her hair being pulled. The thrashing continued, leading to more rolling of bodies across the floor. Finally, she succeeded being on top of him long enough to draw chakra to her fist.

While Sasuke did not release her other arm, he also did not advance to fling her off like he had been. He looked at her without much expression. "What are you going to do to me?"

Sasuke did not sound threatened or concerned at all. She was still his amusement. Was it not obvious that she was intent on teaching him a lesson of her own? Perhaps a blow to his face would rid of that ridiculous behavior he had lately.

"I thought you would do anything for me."

He is not the Sasuke you remember.

His manipulative words were disturbing. Sakura recalled he did not use much force against her in the past, excluding when he knocked her unconscious when he left the village, rather it was more so in relation to his words.

The word of thanks...

...To a demand of killing his female ex-team mate for proof of allegiance.

Feeling sick and tired, she noted how hot it was in the room. Flushed, she adjusted her legs on his frame, preparing to give most of her body weight to him, and lessening the exhaustion she was feeling. To her inner horror, there was dampness between her thighs.

This aroused her?

His scent was an aroma that put her in a dizzying trance. After so long, here she was, touching him. As a Genin, there was not a moment wasted where she could openly touch him.

This sudden physical contact was more than she was able to handle because of how he was acting. Yet she was not going to give in.

His hands rose, settling on her thighs. She jerked back, beginning to remove herself. There is no way in hell she would let him become aware of her reaction. He sat up swiftly, meeting her face to face.

"Sakura-chan," his voice ringing in a resonating tone, "You're something I haven't had before."

His hands moved from her thighs to her bottom, pulling her into him. "All you have to do is move against me."

Who was he?

Drawing away, he gave a sharp pull in response. She felt warmness, his pants cushioning her bare legs, and an urge to squeeze her thighs around his hips.

She focused on keeping her breathing as normal as possible. She did not want him to know the type of remaining power he held over her.

"I know you have wondered what it'll feel like to be underneath me. Perhaps you like to ride-"

The punch was fueled in anger, but she was able to hold herself back enough to not kill him. She did everything possible to remove herself from his grasp as she quickly walked out the door.

Not caring to check if he shielded his skull from cracking, she attempted to calm her breathing and her chakra when the sunlight hit her face.

She was a strong Kunoichi. She wasn't a 12 year old girl who was still under the spell of a girlish fantasy, or the 13 year old who begged him to stay, and the 16 year old girl who thought she could end it all.

But her heart.

Her traitorous heart.

With the last of the lingering self-discipline, she demands herself not to look back because she knows just as much as he continues to pursue her...

...She would not be able to resist him any longer the next time he came to her.

How she hated her weak will. All those years of proving herself, all that training, and all those opinions of those who held her in high regard were wasted.

I'm as flawed as you are.

In the comfort and privacy of her own home, she allowed herself, what used to feel natural as a response to the situations in her life – a cry that shook her being, and down came the woman she built herself to be in crumbles.

I should have killed you. I should have never held back.

There was no one else in the world that stirred her like he did. She was a pathetic girl, and as a woman, she was no different.

Defeated, all she could hold onto was the stoic mask that was always needed as a Shinobi. That would be her best choice in survival when he devoured her whole, and spat her back out.

You shatter me in a way I thought you never could.