It's about damn time Sasuke learns what it means to take a kunoichi on. Without further adieu, enjoy.

Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, this scene would probably have happened already.

Beta: Aqualoner, who else? That girl is my hero.

She is Woman. Hear Her Roar

Akatsuki captures Sakura mid strike.

(she went down fighting, they told him. she went down kicking and screaming and cursing their existences. she went down breaking concrete and snapping limbs and spitting in their faces. she went down pushing children out of the way and halting attacks and slicing kunai out of the air. she went down like a true shinobi of the Leaf.)

They take her into a dark, dank room, dragging her by her broken, broken arms, her feet sliding in the wet dust behind her. Her head is bowed and her hair is falling into her face, and he chokes back something that might be pity, if he hadn't closed his heart and shatter all ties to that place so long ago.

(Pein acknowledges her futile struggles with a tilt of his head; Juugo stares after her trembling form, drawn to her aura – to light in between leaves and the trickling sound of the brook and green glowing hands that stitch skin back together; Suigetsu eyes the slender muscles and soft hair with appreciation, eyes darting to the single sliver of opened skin on her cheek, where blood drips down like the tears she won't shed; Konan nurses her wounded arm, splattered with an icy blast of water and caught in the vice of pale fingers, hurled through air and stone; Karin catches sight of blazing green eyes and shudders, because Karin is a woman, and Karin knows what is behind that hidden face.)

They chain her to the wall, and bolt her ankles and wrists with thick, rusty metal, and tell her, in deceptively gentle voices, that she can stop it at anytime. She needs only say the word, and they will stop. The blood from the cut drips once, twice, and beneath the curtain of her hair, Sakura smirks as the whip is raised.

(she screams and shrieks and let loose all sorts of hellish words from her chapped mouth, but it is all babble, all incoherent nonsense. she curses their names and their gods and tells them that they will all face punishment in the next life and beyond. she slumps against the wall at the end of the day, bleeding, shaking, rattling the chains with her feeble, seizuring muscles. sometimes she cries into the black corners of the room, and sometimes she is a hellcat, straining against the chains, clawing and biting at the faces of her tormenters, dancing just out of reach. But through all her raving and sobbing, she surrenders nothing. she holds her tongue, steady, strong, proud, and no word of the Jinchuuriki passes her lips. her pain is a pittance compared to her loyalty, and Pein begins to understand why Orochimaru failed to conquer Konoha.)

One the third day, Pein asks him to break her.

He steps in the room, quiet as a shadow, quiet as moonlight, quiet as a leaf on the wind. (He winces, because he is not a Leaf. Not anymore. Maybe he never was.)

She hangs against the far wall, suspended by metal, arms and legs spread wide. There is blood, old and new, caked on her skin and all down her limbs run red lines, streaking over her flesh and coiling into the muscles beneath. Her chest rises and falls gently, and he can hear the soft puff of her breathing (why bother to hide it? they know exactly where she is.) from across the room. Her head is down, and pink bangs (greasy, unwashed, darkened with grime and held in place by a dried splash of browning blood) fall into her face, hiding her eyes and forehead (she used to hate it so) behind a shower of pink.

(for a split second, he feels hatred. he has seen greater men broken in these chambers, but Sakura, here, in such a place, is beyond him. she is the weak one, the pretty one, the girl who will never grow, and his memories dictate that she was never meant for a place like this. she was meant for flowers and softness and gentle summer showers. Sakura is many things, but she was never meant to be a ninja. she was never meant to know pain or sadness or suffering, and for an instant, the boy he almost was rears his head and screams in agony, because Sakura was never meant to be here.)

He cups her face gently, with calloused hands, and tilts her face towards him.

" Sakura." He breathes, and her eyes flash.

" Tell me where he is." The chin in his grasp begins to tremble, and he smirks.

" Tell me where he is, and I can stop this." He lets his thumb stroke her cheek, and he can't decide why, because he knows it will get her to talk, but it sends a tremour down his spine, and makes his blood rush.

" Just a few words, and this can all stop." He leans forward, and pants slightly, because under all this, lies the little kunoichi he used to protect. " I don't like watching this, Sakura. I don't like watching them hurt you."

Her breath comes in shakily, and he lets his lip brush her cheek, her eyebrows, her forehead, over the cut that slides into her hair, and hot anger courses through them, because she is Sakura and she is pure and she was never meant for this life!

" For my sake, Sakura, please, tell me where Naruto is."

A single tears streaks over the healing cut on her cheek, and he smirks, hidden in her hair.

(he has forgotten. she is not some girl he can manipulate with pretty words and fake smiles. she is not some dim witted princess, flattered by dark eyes and looks through impossibly long lashes. she is not some naïve farm girl, swept away by promises that will never be fulfilled and a warm hand on hers. he has forgotten.)

she made a promise.

" You…" She rasps, her voice rough and dark from her screams, and his one hand drops to her throat, stroking tenderly, as if to try and alleviate her pain. " You…You…Sasuke-kun, you…"

" Sakura." He breathes again, and kisses the top of her head, winding his arms around her like he knows she always dreamed of. Her body is harder than he remembers from her childhood embraces, and there are muscles hidden just under her skin that disturb him a little, but she is warm with the life he left behind and under the scent of blood, she still smells of trees and wind and all the things that are home.

she has strength to match her beauty.

There is no warning, only the clink of the chains brushing together, and then a snap as they shatter, and then the rush of air around her moving leg, and then a thud as her foot connects with is gut and he is sent sailing back, eyes wide and blood leaking over his parted lips. The air whistles and the world blurs for an instant.

And then there is a crash as he slams into the opposite wall, plaster and rock crumbling around him like cheap whitewash.

There is a beat of silence, and in the span of a heartbeat, the dynamic of Team Seven is forever changed.

" You bastard!"

And then she is in front of him, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, hauling him off the ground, and crushing him against the wall. Her face is livid and alive with fury, and the eyes he has waited years and years and years to look into again, the eyes he left full of tears, are staring into his, hard as diamonds and bright as stars, set in a face flushed with the sort of anger that only a woman can feel. The world stops for a split second, because Sakura has punched him, and Sakura called him bastard, and Sakura is holding him dangling over the ground she broke with one kick.

she is a kunoichi.

" You have no right," she snarls, " to even say his name, traitor."

His head connects with the cracked stone.

" What makes you think I'd ever sell my teammate out for the likes of you?!"

She'd've done it once, right? His mind asks hazily.

" Naruto is my brother in arms! I would sooner die than betray him!"

Her fist shatters the wall beside his head.

" And you," Her words are poison and her tone is the bite, " can rot for all I care!"

He is thrown across the room again, smashing into the broken chains that couldn't hold her. She presses glowing green fingers to her legs, and he watches, with detached fascination, as the wounds close up, she is whole again in a matter of seconds. She eyes him contemptuously through her bangs, and he feels sick.

" Why?" he manages, when she kicks the door off its hinges. " Why are you protecting him?"

" Because it's the only way I can." Her voice is steady, but she's facing away from him, and he feels nostalgic suddenly, because she is the one leaving him behind. " You and Naruto…you two were always so far ahead…I could never keep up with you…I couldn't protect you…either of you."

She turns, suddenly, and smiles at him, a gentle, sad little smile, and something in his howls in warning, because he's seen that look before, amid the crackle of birds and the roar of water and the blazing red of the Kyuubi's chakra slowly seeping over Naruto. He's seen that look before, and he knows exactly what it means.

" If it's between you or Naruto, Sasuke-kun…" She trails off, and he knows, with a jolt, that this is how Sakura says goodbye.

" A kunoichi's place is by her Hokage, isn't it?"

And then she is running, and there is darkness.

He wakes up to Karin standing over him, looking at him with pitying eyes.

" Oh, Sasuke-kun, you're such a fool." The redhead whispers and leans down to help him up. " What were you thinking, challenging someone like her?"

He raises his eyebrow, because it hurts too much to talk.

" She's a woman, Sasuke-kun." Karin's eyes are distant. " She's a woman, and you threatened someone she loved very much. You never stood a chance."

(Sakura smashes her way through an army of Pein clones and hauls Kakashi out of the rubble. she drags both his and Chouza's body away from the fighting and kicks Konan into a building when the Rain kunoichi tries to intercept her. she brings both men to the memorial stone and inscribes their names into it with her own kunai, gritting her teeth and plunging the black steel into the equally black stone. she sets both their bodies on fire, the only way a shinobi of the Leaf ever wants to die, and leaves their smouldering remains by the stone as a warning and a statement to anyone who dares to attack her village - Fire burns where the leaves dance - and hops, restless with fury and adrenaline, back into the fray.)

Karin knows that Sasuke-kun will never understand, but she didn't expect him to, anyway. He's just a man, she thinks with a smirk, and burns the piled bodies of Leaf nin, saluting as the ashes are scattered to the sky.

Karin knows the lessons the Leaf teaches to its kunoichi, and, because she is a woman, she understands.

I believe that the way Konoha hold funerals for its heroes is by cremating them, thus allowing their 'will of fire', or their will to protect Konoha, to consume them (like it likely did in real life), and then let their ashes scatter over Konoha, thus showing that they are still protecting it in spirit. The saying I made up as a sort of quick eulogy is: May your will burn as bright in the next world as it did in this one.

So, there you go. I hope you liked it.