Evolution of A Spectrum

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto!

Summary: Cell Seven can't fully appreciate Sakura because they don't fully understand her and everything she is…

A weapon.

The air around the tightly clustered cell crackled with the malevolent chakra of their enemy; actually, a more appropriate way to put it would be their client's enemy. But the fact remained; they would deal with him for the sake of the mission.

Sakura clutched the kunai in her hands even more tightly as her trained viridian eyes roved the field, taking in the Mist shinobi. They were fast and deadly…accurate and lethal in everything they did. But they were also frail and ephemeral and easily broken from formation with as little as a well-placed shuriken.

"Sasuke, Naruto, I'm going in." She whispered under the sounds of enemy kunai meeting their own.

The males of Cell Seven had no time to argue before she was sprinting; a blur of crimson and pink that spoke to her incredible speed. The ground shattered with the impact of her chakra-enhanced feet as she tore at them.

She collided with the first, grabbing his tunic and throwing him into his own comrade. Pivoting on her heel, she landed a powerful high kick to the third's jaw.

The fourth quite literally materialized behind her, bringing his short sword down towards the junction of her neck and spine. But she was faster: throwing her weight to the left in an awkward cartwheel. But the impetus of her maneuver quickly pushed her back onto her feet and in the same moment, she had brought her knee up into the intersection of his ribcage and stomach.

The sound of the sternum shattering and the ribs fracturing was sickeningly audible even from Sasuke's position. A gory composite of calcium and hemoglobin spilled onto the kunoichi in a crimson spray.

She quickly side stepped the body, letting it fall at her feet unimpeded as she turned to back to her Cell and her client.

A shield.

Naruto yelled despite himself as Sasuke's limp, unconscious body flew past him. He hesitated, turning to glance at Sasuke only long enough to see his stomach rise slightly with a breath. Greatly relieved, he turned back, gritting his teeth and growling at the nin'i before him.

"You bastard!" He roared, rushing Kabuto foolishly as an eerie red glow crept into his eyes.

'That's right, Naruto. Save me the trouble of coming to you…' Kabuto thought with a smirk, an invisible blade coalescing his chakra charged hand.

"No, Naruto!"

Kabuto frowned in irritation as Sakura appeared in the trees beside the Jinchuuriki, her sudden shout bringing him back to his senses.

"Uh…Sakura…" He stated rather dumbly, looking up to meet her eyes as his own returned to their natural, deep cerulean.

"Naruto! Watch out!"

He hadn't even gauged her movement before a warm spray of scarlet washed across his face.

"Sa…Saku…ra!" He cried, his trembling hands reaching towards the curved kunai still deeply embedded in her shoulder.

But she didn't reply. Instead, she extended her left leg with frightening alacrity and accuracy and caught his right ankle between her's. She twisted her foot, tripping him up. He stumbled, overcorrected, and fell back.

Just as she planned.

Now that he was free of her attack radius, she could react again; she spun, tearing the metal from her body as she brought her leg around in a roundhouse.

It contacted but the sound was wrong—it wasn't the sound of bone and muscle caving under her strength but the splintering of wood…

And he was gone…

"Damn…" She hissed half-heartedly as she brushed her hair back on impulse.

"Are you okay!?" Naruto asked, grabbing her from behind and pulling her into an embrace.

"I'm fine." She said, and then almost as an afterthought, "But I really should start on Sasuke."

"Alright." He muttered, releasing her and following her to kneel down beside his patient.

Soft and Feminine

Sasuke, as was his habit from the time he returned to Konoha, appeared at the training field several hours before Kakashi's instructions entailed. But he enjoyed the quite coolness of the morning and the solitude that came from the lack of alert citizens and shinobi. But, every so often, he would find he wasn't alone. And this was one such morning.

He had felt her chakra long before he had seen her but that was only because of familiarity. In reality, her control was so perfect, she maintained her shielding chakra on little more than inclination. In fact, he could distinctly remember being alarmed by her several times since his return; he had easily forgotten his cell mate's individual chakra signatures and, with her perfect halo, he had more than once nearly impaled her before realizing it was her. She had taken it in stride every time and had actually become quite adept at blocking his impulsive death strikes.

And this morning something had driven her from the comfort and relative safety of her bed in her apartment deep in the village. She quite obviously hadn't been training this morning (He knew how she looked afterwards: flushed, sweaty, bloody from her own, self-inflicted wounds as she sparred with her own clones or even simply tree branched and dummies…like a warrior goddess returned from the kill). And then some mornings she looked like she did that morning: reflective and even rather pretty in the pale blue morning.

He grunted slightly to alert of his presence—a precaution most shinobi took to avoid intuitive strikes that could easily be fatal is they contacted. With that, he took a seat beside her in the massive tree.

"Good morning." She stated, not bothering to look at him.

He grunted in reply before demanding, "What brings you out here?"

"I couldn't sleep." She responded, turning to meet his gaze slightly.

He snorted in something between concern and indifference.

She smiled as if she knew his thoughts intimately…and perhaps she did, he reasoned.

He turned back to watch the sun rise above the horizon but several times he caught his gaze slipping towards her; towards the soft curves of her lithe body, the seductive, downplayed glow of her eyes, and the lovely lines of her face.

Hard and Steely.

The word female means 'Iron Maiden'. And Sakura was perhaps the perfect representation of that word. And Kakashi knew this better than most even if he was more reluctant than most to admit it.

One occasion stuck in his mind rather stubbornly: A morning like any other in the ANBU Interrogation Unit. Sakura, far too kind to be an interrogator, often healed those ANBU injured in the interrogation process and sometimes even their victims. (He imagined she was quite aware that the more she healed them, the more they could be tortured later. But, as was often the case, the crueler aspects of a shinobi's life were met with stony silence and a quiet understanding). He had been sent, unofficially, by the Godaime to make sure she was holding up after a particularly long shift.

He had found her in the conference room where she was shrugging off a black lab coat (White held onto bloodstains far too obstinately to be of any use to the unit).

"Hello, Sensei." She smiled as she hung the relatively spotless linen on a hook.

"Sakura." He responded with an eye crease that was meant to represent a smile.

"What brings you here?" She asked as she sat down in a plush chair (One of the few luxuries allowed to the ANBU) and brought a Styrofoam cup of coffee to her insipid pink lips.

"Just checking in some gear." He lied.

She apparently bought it, and why not? He regularly accepted S-class missions. "And you've seen Lady Tsunade-sama for your post-mission physical?"

"Already been released."

"Good." She smiled rather tiredly.

The door behind Kakashi swung open as she brought the cup to her lips but, even without turning to see the intruder, Kakashi knew something was wrong. Sakura's cup fell away from her lips as she forced her back into an uncomfortably straight line and swiveled in the chair to meet some invisible challenge. He glanced absently over his shoulder at the man entering the room.

A Hyuga, if the glassy white orbs were any indication.

"Haruno." He stated, his words implying greeting while his tone implied something entirely different.

"Hagi." She replied, impertinently using his first name without the traditional honorific affixed to it.

"So glad to see you doing so well after that last patient. Honestly, the screaming of a clinically insane sociopath would do little for my mental stability."

He was saying a lot without saying it. And he had just called Sakura the one thing no one got away with: Weak. Kakashi braced for the backlash.

"Some are stronger than others, Hagi. I doubt that the same seal you bear would do little for my sanity." She smirked.

Now Kakashi was ready for bloodshed: It was well known Hyuga Hagi was from the side branch of the main clan and bore a seal identical to Neji's. And, like Neji, he was hypersensitive to its suggestions. If he attacked, Kakashi would have to step in. Under better conditions—if Sakura had been rested with something other than liquid sugar in her stomach—she could have taken him on in a fair fight with a good chance of winning. But not in her current condition.

"Watch it, Haruno." The Hyuga hissed threateningly, as if oblivious to the Hatake beside him.

"I would suggest the same for you." She smirked, peering at him over the rim of her cup as she took a sip.

"You think just because you're the Godaime's apprentice you can saunter in here without consequence for your words and actions."

"Really? Because you think that your bloodline makes you impervious to those of us who had to work for their position."

Really, neither was being very fair to the other. Sakura had worked hard for her rank and skills and never once had she used her standing with the Hokage to further herself. And the Hyuga really was an admirable person, but he had also had much in life handed to him on a silver platter.

"You think you're so much better than us." He hissed.

"Us?" Sakura smirked, amused, "You wouldn't say that unless you were insecure with yourself. And who are all these other people? Face it, Hyuga, its over."

"It will never be over." He replied before storming right back out through that door.

Kakashi watched him leave, feeling his chakra recede down the hall as his footsteps grew fainter. And then he turned back to her.

Seeing the question in his eye, Sakura replied, "We've been rivals for the same position for about a year now. But he was injured on a mission about three months ago and during his recovery period, Ibiki suggested I be promoted to that position."

"What position?"

"Record keeper."

This may not have sounded like much, but it was a high honor. The Keeper would sit in on interrogations and record what was said and what types of torture were inflicted on the uncooperative. However, it was also their job to report excess abuse to the Hokage. A person in this position would often receive veiled threats from the less moral ANBU and perhaps even bribes. As such, only those with implicit honesty and ethic fiber were even suggested for the position. It may have been true that Sakura's relationship with Tsunade had helped her peripherally but it certainly wasn't the reason for her endorsement into the Black Ops fold. It was likely, in fact, that the injuries the Hyuga had suffered on the mission were an excuse to dismiss him from the running: There already had been several questionable occurrences under his simulation keepings.

Sakura spoke again, a small voice that betrayed some of her otherwise hidden feelings, "I don't want to be that kind of person…but I can't just stand in the background and wait anymore, Kakashi. I can't just watch and hope that something drifts my way…"

He nodded. Once, perhaps, she had waited for such things to simply fall by cosmic force into her lap. Not because she expected them, like the Hyuga, but because she didn't feel worthy of going after them herself. But that was a long time ago.

"No one can find fault with that, Sakura." He stated.

Strong and Observant.

Tsunade watched with a great measure of pride as her student began to gain some ground on the jonin she was fighting.

She remembered distinctly when Sakura had first come to her; what a disaster their first sparring match had been: Sakura had been slow, hesitant, awkward…and as a result took every blow Tsunade threw at her. She had spent almost a week in the hospital afterwards but the very next time around, Tsunade saw a notable difference.

She had sprained her ankle sometime earlier in the day and, thinking little of the injury, hadn't bothered to heal it before meeting her new apprentice at the training grounds. As she took up her position, she gave Sakura the usual speech on evasion and her priorities as a medic. But Sakura had only listened half-heartedly, her eyes on the ground.

"Fine, then." Tsunade huffed, "Here I come!"

Sakura had feigned left convincingly before reeling right and has a result easily avoided the Sannin. Inside, Tsunade was mildly impressed. But she let nothing show on her face as she sprinted at the young girl one more time.

Sakura took only one hit during the match—the one that finally finished it. But by then, even Tsunade was feeling the strain of such an extended match.

"You did well." The blonde smiled, helping the girl to her feet.

"Thank you." Sakura replied, bowing deeply.

"How did you manage to avoid me?"

"Your right ankle—you weren't putting as much weight on it. So I stayed on your right."

Tsunade's eyes widened in visible surprise; she hadn't been looking at the ground, she had been studying the Sannin's body looking for a weakness.

And she had found it…

Tsunade shook off the reverie with a smile as she watched her student overwhelm Kurenai and pin her harmlessly against a tree. It was over and she had won…

Weak and Absent.

"That was great!" Naruto exclaimed, smiling widely as he rested his hands against the back of his head.

Sasuke snorted with his usual hesitation to commit to an answer.

Kakashi simply smiled.

But Sakura lingered behind, packing equipment back into her holsters in the slow, deliberate way of someone who secretly wanted some space.

"Sakura, are you coming?" Naruto asked.

"Uh…yeah…just a minute…" She trailed off with a sadly unconvincing smile.

"Everything alright?" The blonde asked.

"Yeah…" She muttered, more to herself than to him.

They would never know, she thought, the differences between them. They would never, she thought, be asked to give their body to the enemy. They would never be asked to forsake a small piece of themselves and suffer the torture of watching it wither and die inside of them as they completed the task at hand.

Something splashed against the thick, water resistance fabric of her pack and she realized with a start, that the tears she had long held inside had crept up into her eyes and were now flowing freely from those emerald orbs.

"Sakura." Sasuke called, the smallest concern lining his voice in what otherwise sounded like a demand made to a whining child.

"You guys go ahead. I'll catch up." She replied, her attempts at controlling her voice failing miserably as she turned away to spar herself the embarrassment of crying in front of her cell.

Kakashi motioned for them to go ahead. As their figures grew smaller into the orange horizon of sunset, he knelt down beside his only kunoichi.

"I'm sorry." He stated simply.

Sakura sobbed; just once. A single strangled noise that hurt Kakashi in places he didn't know he still had and secretly wished had died a long time ago.

Ethereal.

Naruto watched in some mixture of awe and absolute wonder at the kunoichi standing in front of him. It was an odd thing, an odd and beautiful thing, to watch her dance in battle. And he meant quite literally that: The grace of her arms and legs, the line of her body, the utter, breath-taking beauty in her power. And her music was the rasping of the labored breaths tired shinobi took, the grating pitch of metal on metal, the distinct melody of different elemental arts, the hiss of chakra against chakra, and the screams of the wounded that all combined in a horrible, stunning, and inescapable song that all shinobi danced to.

But her's was a ballet matched only in its elven and somehow primal elegance by its lethality.

And that combined with her pale green chakra, now forming an utterly perfect aura around her lithe form, made her look all that much more wraith-like. It trailed behind her in plumes that disappeared almost too quickly even more his demonically-enhanced eyesight to capture but, when he did glance such an effect, it was as if a pair of angelic wings were emanating from her back.

And, in many ways, she was his angel.

Carnal.

Neji eyed Sakura with some interest. And not even an interest he could place; there was a certain physical allure but it was no more powerful than what he felt for the other beautiful women of Konoha. And platonically, they had never been intimate and so he couldn't reasonably judge that to be the basis of his feelings.

No, it was undeniably sexual.

That…confused him. He felt little in terms of her body, but for some reason found her to be incredibly…sexy? No…that wasn't the right word…

No one would deny she was in fact breath-takingly beautiful even on an average day, but that wasn't it.

There was something worldly about her…

He didn't mean it has harshly as it sounded even to himself: He meant that many shinobi, and kunoichi as a general rule, due to the discrimination against their abilities, often flaunted their skills and in such a way one might assume they were calling themselves a higher evolution of human-kind. But she didn't…

And she certainly wasn't worldly in any materialistic sense; often he would detect a tear in one shirt and the next day be surprised to find she was wearing it again. Of course, they never smelled of anything but her detergent—a light, lemony scent that was rather pleasing.

But perhaps it was the way she transitioned seamlessly from being a kunoichi to being a citizen or a docter and back again. If it weren't for her bright pink hair, more than once he would have passed her by on the street without a second glance, believing she was another civilian.

Worldly in every sense of the world that was the opposite of its definition…

Vibrant.

Pink hair, emerald eyes, crimson garb, jade chakra…Sakura was a veritable walking palette of color. She was violent red and quiet blue. She was the accumulation of healing greens and destructive scarlets and sunny yellows and pale pastels and lovely pinks and more colors than Sai had names for.

She bewildered him and overwhelmed his.

His pictures had always been black and white sketches—the way he viewed the world; A colorless vision on the blank paper of life. There was right and wrong and there was the clarity of a superior's orders that overruled both. So strong was his believe in such ideas that he lived them in his black garb and sickly white skin…the physical representation of subservience and obedience a dictator could only dream of.

And then she had come along…

A vision of color so bright and violent it was painful to look at. He had hated her utterly and, not knowing what to do with those feelings, had one day been shocked to find grays creeping into his art. In disgust, he had shredded those works.

But it didn't help! Before he could stop himself, he was comparing shades of blue and looking for the subtle changes in gradient patterns that shifted blues to purples to greens.

He had an album at home, his secret shame and his furtive magnum opus. A sketchbook filled with nothing but pink and green and crimson and only the rarest glimpse of black. Shapeless forms that in their amorphous nature had taken on a life and structure of their own without his will but not without some small consent he didn't know he had the power to give.

And slowly, he found himself hating her less and less.

Pallid.

Very rarely was Sakura sick—being a medic had its personal perks, Yamato rationalized. Well…she wasn't sick physically very often.

But emotionally…

He wasn't going to dance around the subject: Emotionally the girl was a walking disaster. She blamed herself for everything from a kunai missing its mark (when she hadn't thrown it to begin with) to Naruto's demonic outbursts.

And she hid it convincingly!

It was only several years of ANBU Black Ops occupation that allowed him to see through her almost perfect façade; into the wan and ill interior where she accused herself of some crime that even he couldn't begin to fathom.

He had seen it that first time, in Orochimaru's lair, when she had rushed in before them. He had felt her chakra rise in triumphant preparation. But one word from the Uchiha's mouth, one careless statement on the value of life (his whims) and he had seen her eyes dim. He had looked into her heart and seen a ghostly corridor that he didn't imagine even she braved often.

That was why he had stopped her—not to spare her physically but to save her fragile hope. And now that the Uchiha was back, he had seen definite improvement but knew with every fiber of his honed and lethal being that she might never recover inside.

From what?

From the pain of a child forced to grow up too soon in a world too cold.

A medic.

This was new to Kakashi; and, hell, that was saying something for someone like him! He had been burned beyond recognition, hacked into several pieces that Tsunade somehow magically restored, laid in a coma for three weeks at one point, even. But evisceration was something original.

And she hadn't even broken a sweat when she found him lying in a clearing after a rather intense battle with his intestines draped around his body like some gory shroud.

She tsked lightly in disapproval as she knelt down beside him and began untangling the mass of soft flesh.

"Must you thrash so much?" She asked, referring not to his currently catatonic state but more so to his habit of pulling complicated maneuvers in battle that were relatively unnecessary.

"Pardon me." He replied with his usual amount of humor.

"Careful, I might just hold off on the pain-killers." She teased even as she filled a hypodermic from the holster on her hip. With a swift jab, the needle was in and out and morphine was flowing into his veins.

He didn't remember much after that point. But she did.

She had unknotted the coils of digestive tract and carefully slid them back into his stomach cavity, disinfecting the nasty laceration and clearing away twigs and dirt and the like with her chakra. Then she had washed him out with the sterile saline mix she carried on her person before stitching him back together with her chakra.

He would never know how close she came to losing him and how scared she really was during those first few moments. But she was a medic.

And, frankly, that meant blood and gore was her domain; where she operated in her element.

A healer.

Sometimes, there was nothing that could be done for the body. Not even, necessarily, that the wound or illness was terminal but that the patient's soul had withered and died long before. And it was here that Sakura could truly raise the dead.

Ino sat in her hospital bed, her eyes watery and vacant turquoise portals.

It was comical, almost…that she had vowed never to date someone who couldn't compete with her male model ads and had wound up dating Choji. It was so amusing she sobbed herself to sleep with the sentiment every night since that mission…

Sakura, standing just outside the door in her white lab coat, her charts tucked neatly under her arm, frowned to herself. Her eyes hit the floor—if only the back-up squad had gotten there just a few moments earlier she could have saved them both…But they hadn't…and he had bled out.

She stepped into the room, her heels clicking slightly on the white tiles as she crossed the room and sat down beside her friend.

"I'm sorry." She stated, "For your loss."

Ino didn't respond.

Sakura continued, "But he wouldn't want to see you this way."

"I know." Ino whispered back.

"It'll be alright." The pink-haired chunin stated, smiling slightly.

And Sakura made sure it was alright: Every morning she would get to the hospital a few hours earlier with Ino's favorite coffee blend in hand and her bag stuffed with the various bits and pieces necessary to feminine perfection.

They would sit up for about an hour chatting about some nonsense before Sakura would gather a bowl of water and her comb and wash her friend's hair. Then she would brush it until it gleamed and they would sit for a few more hours while Sakura did her hair and applied her make-up. No one would see it but the phrase, "Look better, feel better" had never taken on more meaning for the mind-manipulating kunoichi.

And, much later, when Shikamaru had finally recovered enough from his own grief to visit her, he would see her for the first time as a woman rather than his tiresome teammate.

Confused.

Long ago, Sakura had foolishly believed in right and wrong in terms of black and white; that the two were inseparably and inarguably defined and separate.

And then Sasuke had left and she realized that, although there were definitive rights and wrongs, there were many more shades of gray.

Well, that had torn her world apart and taken the liberty of shaking it. But she pulled herself back together convincingly on the outside.

However, inside, she found herself second guessing her every decision in battle.

Was Orochimaru truly evil or simply misguided? Was Kabuto clinically insane or insanely naive?

And more often than not, her hesitation was from confusion and not from fear as was the popular belief among those who didn't bother to know her.

Lonely.

Sakura watched as Sasuke and Naruto good-naturedly berated each other. So little had changed; Sasuke still sauntered down the road with his hands buried deeply in his pockets and Naruto frequently rested his hands against the back of his head. Kakashi still walked with his usual, casual gate.

Only she had changed…

She had stopped letting her arms flail innocently behind her as she ran after them and her legs no longer bowed unattractively when she was nervous. Now, her hands rested at her sides or on her hip and, perhaps, even against her chest if she were anxious. Her legs stayed straight beneath her hips, long and slender appendages that held no trace of their former baby fat.

And she was still sometimes the odd one out…

"Are you coming?" Naruto asked and she was suddenly aware that she had stopped walking.

She opened her mouth to reply, but no sound came out.

How she wished to let her arms trail behind her and her legs cave…but her arms stayed along her torso and her legs stayed beneath her.

A woman.

It was the Seventh Annual Konoha Kunoichi and Shinobi Appreciation Gala and technically the only formal thanks they received for their duties. As such, attendance was mandatory for all registered and active ninja. And no one hated it more than Uchiha Sasuke.

Stuffed into a crowded room where watching your back was virtually impossible, the noise thrumming so loudly it was painful to his sensitive ears, the reek of a department store's worth of perfume from over one hundred kunoichi…the list went on and on. Not to mention the impractical tux the men were required to wear—there was no hiding even a single kunai in those ridiculous things.

He snorted to himself from behind his glass as he raised it to his lips. And before he had a chance to drink the overly-sweet punch, the door several meters off opened and a single figure slipped inside, closing the door rapidly behind her.

He hesitated, not believing it was her…but it was…

She had selected a black gown that fit the curves of her body beautifully. Her finely sculpted décolletage was revealed by a low neckline that formed a V to expose her shapely breasts and the resulting cleavage. The thin straps fell across her shoulders that then cascaded down her back in a pattern of delicate lacing where it opened dangerously close to the curve of her hips and rear, exposing the entirety of the small of her back. The front had been slit up to her lower thigh and the edges were layered and scalloped in complex sheets of silk and a gauzy material that floated around the otherwise structured gown. Her feet were clipped in simple, black, slip on heels. Transversely across her neck ran a black lace choker that fell downward toward the ruby-colored stone it held in the hollow of her throat. Her pink hair had been secured at the nape of her neck and flipped up by a black shell clip so it fanned out attractively behind her. Her spiky bangs hung freely around her face, framing it. Her eyelids were covered in a layer of shimmering gold eyes shadow and her lips were painted in a frosty pink gloss. In her ears were small stones of the same color as the stone on her neck.

She looked…absolutely stunning…

He absently set his glass down on the table, crossing the room with deliberate strides.

"Oh…Sasuke." She smiled—not the smile of an infatuated girl waiting for a break but that of a confident you woman.

"You look different." He stated.

"Thanks. You look good yourself." She replied, knowing full well that was probably the greatest compliment she would ever receive from him.

He took her hand and pulled her close, not even consciously aware of his actions but only of the necessity of being close to her.

Gently, they swayed to the music playing it was now seemed like a distance background.

A Girl.

Shizune noticed, through several years of observation, that when Sakura was feeling anxious or afraid, she had a habit of folding in on herself. Not in the way of a girl, but in the manner of a woman: Her spine would curve slightly, guarding her stomach and ribcage as her arms came up slightly to her chest. Her knees bent as if she were moving to defend herself and her hips would arch away as if she wanted to step backwards.

But, curiously, she hardly ever did these when facing a physical threat. More than once she had stood up proudly against Tsunade as she prepared to attack her apprentice in the hopes of improving her evasion.

No, more often than not, she would cave into herself when she was arguing with a Kakashi or when Naruto stormed away in a fit of rage; and not because she couldn't hold her own, but because she didn't want to hold her own against them.

Shizune sighed to herself—that was Sakura's greatest weakness.

Her inability to be truly forward with those who cared the most.

For what reason, Shizune couldn't begin to fathom and to compensate she often offered her ear willingly when Sakura did need to vent.

Maternal.

Naruto easily scooped the child up, gathering the girl into his arms to prevent her from being trampled in the swarm of dispatched shinobi. In the same motion, he had pushed off against his heels and found himself balanced easily on a fence post.

"You really should be more careful." He told the girl.

In response, the poor child had burst out sobbing and screaming.

He panicked: "Hey! I didn't do anything! I helped you! What did I do!?"

"Naruto! Hand her over!"

He looked down into Sakura's angry jade eyes but was so relieved she was there could do nothing but smile gratefully and comply.

The kunoichi easily shifted the girl into a more comfortable position as she sank back against the fence in a sitting crouch, the girl seated on her lap.

"It's alright. He didn't mean to scare you." She cooed gently, wrapping her arms protectively around the child.

"I…I…kn…ow…know…." The little girl sobbed out.

"Shhh." Sakura whispered, "Its okay now."

The little girl's shuddering figure slowly simmered down and for a moment Naruto breathed a sigh of relief; he hated crying…

And then there was a sudden mewling howl that made him cringe.

'What now!?' He thought to himself, cupping his hands against his ears.

But he realized, she was laughing. Not just laughing—she was hysterical with a fit of giggling! And so was Sakura!

"How....did…you…do…that…?" He wondered aloud.

"I played peek-a-boo with her." Sakura replied without bothering to look up.

"Teach me your ways…" He pleaded.

The Sum total of an immeasurable array of shades.

Sakura stumbled back onto her unsteady feet, rising from the corpse of her fallen enemy. She had knelt there for over a minute, recovering what little strength she had left.

The mere act of standing made her head swim, her eyes blurred and her legs trembled; but she didn't falter and her world set somehow a moment later.

"Sakura…"

She turned her head over her shoulder, looking back at the three figures now gathered behind her.

"You…you came…" She replied numbly.

"Of course." Sasuke snorted.

"We came as quickly as we could." Naruto said.

"But it looks like you didn't need us." Kakashi smiled in approval.

She smiled, turning her aching body towards and staggering forward.

The sun was just setting behind her, a corona of light forming around her. And, for just a moment, like a prism separating the colors of the radial spectrum, they believed for a moment they really did see all that she was.

And they didn't forget all they had seen.

Finished