Author's Note: This is just a short little ficlet that I've been wanting to do since…forever. It should basically be called Naruto: How It Should Have Been Written because I know that Naruto is the title character, but Kishimoto doesn't know how to develop a heroine. Every time that Sakura shows up in the manga or anime, she always seems to be in tears and whenever she gets really determined…it never seems to go anywhere, especially before the Shippuden. So here we have Naruto from Sakura's perspective. There will be a spoiler alert for every chapter, so if you haven't seen those episodes (unfortunately I'm going by the anime, partially because it's longer than the manga because of all the filler episodes) DON'T READ unless you just don't care. By the way, these are just snapshots of Sakura's life, some are from the manga/anime, some are things that should have happened but didn't.
In keeping with my tradition of having themed chapters, the theme for this will be quotes.
Quote for Chapter 1: "Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."—Alfred to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.
Title: Catch 22
Rating: T (or PG-13)
Summary: Sakura isn't weak because she lacks strength. She is weak because they protect her. Sakura-centric
Pairings: None (yet)
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Spoiler Alert: This chapter contains spoilers from episode 10 to episode 220. This also includes the 3rd Naruto movie. You have been warned.
Chapter 1: Why Do We Fall, Bruce?
They had never seen her as much as a fighter.
Sasuke was too busy putting the weight of the world on his shoulders. He protected her out of the guilt that he couldn't do the same for his family. He scoffed that she was weak and annoying, which was the blunt truth because Sasuke never sugar coated anything. When Sakura was younger, she thought it was romantic when he protected her. She thought that meant that he cared for her. In a way he did care for her, but not the way she wanted him to. He protected her because she couldn't protect herself. Call it a man's job to protect a woman, but the fact stood that they were supposed to be on equal grounds, Sasuke just tipped the scale in his favor.
Naruto adored her too much to let her get hurt in the first place. He jumped in front of her when Sasuke couldn't, and if she had a tiny scratch he would freak out and blame himself that he let her get hurt. Naruto and Sasuke doubted her ability to protect herself. If you asked him, Naruto would say that such a pretty face didn't need to get dirty for nothing. Although it was stronger in Sasuke, both of them had an air in her presence when fighting or training which clearly said, "Give us a minute woman, the men are working here." Naruto was like her brother, and he possessed all of the obsessive protectiveness that came with it. He lavished her with attention instead of offering to help her train, even distracting her from training. Sakura fell behind.
Kakashi drilled the idea of teamwork into their heads since day one. However, "teamwork" implies a sense of equality amongst its members, an equality not expressed with Kakashi. He focused on the training of Sasuke and Naruto, who showed great potential in everything they did. Sakura was book smart, which was a kind of intelligence the world-wise Kakashi knew wouldn't get her very far in a Shinobi world. The boys were more street smart, and Kakashi picked up on it quickly. When she clearly beat them in the tree-climbing exercise, he was inwardly proud, but shocked that she had managed to beat the boys. He made a mental note that she would excel at jutsus, however simple training was a different matter. Their silver-haired sensei always made sure to make sure Naruto and Sasuke sparred together so he could spar with Sakura, to make sure she wouldn't get hurt. He never allowed her to have a challenge, and naive Sakura couldn't see the difference.
Sakura looked down at them from the tree, laughing when her teammates stared at her in complete astonishment. To be honest, she hadn't thought she could really do it, but then her feet just kind of…stuck. She'd felt fairly confident when she'd felt the chakra gather under her feet, but then again she'd felt confident before only for nothing to happen.
She nearly squealed in excitement when it was a simple matter to just walk up the tree.
"Oh? It seems the one who is best at controlling chakra is Sakura, the girl." Kakashi said. Naruto began to praise her from the forest floor…but Sasuke turned away from her in annoyance.
What is it? She asked herself. What have I done? Why isn't he complimenting me?
She sighed from her position on the branch, when she really should have been reveling in this accomplishment. It was one of the few times that she would feel superior to her teammates.
The fight with Zabuza had given her an adrenaline rush, as she was told to protect their charge from harm. She had taken pride in herself at the time because she had the utmost important job of protecting Tazuna, who was under the protection of Konoha itself!
But later she would wonder, harm from what?
Naruto and Sasuke had been told to deal with Haku, while Kakashi himself was fighting Zabuza. There were no other threats for their charge to be protected from. She had been stuck with that job to stay out of the men's way, yet they made sure to give her something to do to make her feel useful.
At the time, she did feel useful. But then the love of her life teetered on the brink of death and she felt absolutely worthless.
Sakura was proud of herself when she saw through Iruka's illusion when he told her not to join her team at the Chuunin Exam. To be honest, she wouldn't have seen through it if she hadn't known Sasuke as well as she did because of her fangirling.
That pride was reinforced when Sasuke acknowledged her genjutsu abilities, and again when Kakashi met them at the door and told them he was proud they came. Her greatest sense of fulfillment came from being able to do nearly the entire written portion of the Chuunin Exam without having to cheat. Though she found from there that everything went downhill.
Being a girly girl, Sakura hardly knew the first thing about surviving in a place like the Forest of Death. She was inwardly freaking out that she had to pee outside when she should have been worried about the enemy nin lurking at every corner. She wasn't able to spot Orochimaru, who had done a henge to look like Naruto. She wasn't able to break out of what was really a simple genjutsu, a technique she prided herself on. Even Naruto had joined the battle and lost, which would have been a more honorable alternative to watching the scene play out like a movie. She couldn't even begin to fight him after Sasuke was injured, just stayed on that branch. It was Sasuke who had done everything, Sakura was just his pep-squad.
Her only consolation was holding Sasuke after the curse mark appeared on his neck because it was the only thing she could offer him: comfort. It was the one thing that had been beaten into her head the moment she turned old enough. Look at the men, doing their duty to this country, treat them well. Look at the men, take care of them.
When the Sound ninja came looking for Sasuke, Sakura saw her chance. She battled them because now she was protecting them, and after all the things they had done for her, she couldn't let them down now.
There came a sense of confidence when she sliced her own hair off, her precious hair she'd grown out because Sasuke liked girls with long hair. But she would do anything for her team, and she knew that they would do anything to save her. They had risked their lives for her on more than one occasion. Fury and determination alight in her eyes, she fought the enemy with every fiber of her being. It hurt, and blood was leaking from her cuts faster than she would have liked to admit, but she had her intelligence, and outwitted the foolish Sound Nin.
Even though she gave it her all, she still was at the mercy of Zaku. Lee had gotten hurt protecting her. But chopping off her (long, glossy, wonderful) hair in an attempt to save the people she loved in a moment of strength now seemed to be in vain as she waited for the killing blow.
Thankfully, she had InoShikaCho to the rescue. She was used to that, people rescuing her. She cared for her teammates while her former best friend and her own team fought the enemy nin, degrading herself the whole time for still being so weak.
"Sakura, who did this to you?"
Sasuke came to her rescue. Again.
She wanted to believe that he cared for her, and the words out of context would have made any romantic swoon, but the horror in front of her dispelled any romantic notion she had. This wasn't justice, this was revenge. She didn't even know who this man was, with so obvious a bloodlust in his eyes. It left her breathless, and not in a good way.
And for the very first time, Sakura got to rescue Sasuke. From himself.
She held onto him in the aftermath of the curse. Oh Sasuke-kun! What's happening to you?
"Sakura-chan! Your hair!" Naruto ruined the moment with his boisterous voice.
"Yeah…it was just impractical, so I cut it off."
She wasn't going to make him worry. She had to be brave. For them.
Her fight with Ino told Kakashi that maybe she wasn't as weak as they assumed. Sakura's strength was her mind. Sasuke and Naruto outshined her in strength and endurance, but Sakura outshined both of them with her mental capabilities.
But none of them knew what capabilities.
Every one of Kakashi's students had their quirks. Sasuke was angsty and withdrawn. Naruto was clueless, but happy most of the time. Sakura was bipolar so much that it was scary.
They had all seen her "other side", mainly around Naruto. The one that was easily annoyed and strong as hell, but none of them really knew what the "other side" could do. Not until her mind, her one real strength, was taken over by her childhood best friend. With Naruto's encouragement, she expelled Ino's Shintenshin no Jutsu from her body, something that was absolutely unheard of.
Though Sakura was the only one on Team 7 who didn't advance to the final round, she was the student Kakashi was proudest of.
To the pink haired girl, the fight with Gaara was a blur. All she could remember was her sensei saving her in the stadium, and then trying and failing to protect Sasuke against the murderous Sand sibling.
Her resolve strengthened as it had never done before. She may not have been a quitter, but she was sick and tired of being weak.
She remembered the way Sasuke opened his eyes when he awoke from his coma. Dazed. Disoriented. In fact, he was so out of it that he probably didn't even realize that she was hugging him, crying on his shoulder. She'd been sick to death with worry, and in the span of just a few seconds he'd been healed by a rather voluptuous woman. She wished she could be that strong, for Sasuke. Even for Naruto. It felt like for every step she took, her teammates were already taking a thousand more in one stride. It was enough to not only take her ego down a few notches, but her pride as well.
It wasn't the first time she felt like she didn't belong. She often felt like she should be a Shinobi Theorist, if such a thing existed. Measuring trajectory of kunai with perfect wind speeds at an ideal 45 degree angle. She belonged in an ideal world. She didn't belong here.
In fact, when Sasuke had come to her in a frenzy, asking if she knew where Naruto was, mumbling something about Itachi, she wondered, "Who's Itachi?" Which only proved how little she knew her teammates.
Sasuke hated bullies, except when he was the bully. And he was a bully with good intentions. Sakura got a laugh that he got to beat up a bunch of thugs trying to take money from an older man. She liked the fact that she could calm the shopkeeper's nerves in the Land of Tea, and then look on confidently as she knew that these three thugs were no match for a thirteen year old Sasuke. He intimidated people, and with good reason. She reflected that he would probably always carry an air of regality around him. Girls saw him for his good looks, and then they pushed him away as they started to really get to know about him. He was moody and arrogant and not a nice person to be around.
But, if you stuck around long enough, you were able to see a side of Sasuke that only a privileged few were able to see. An unguarded Sasuke that regarded you as a friend. You never felt intimidated, always comfortable in his presence. You were protected. Sakura, after a year, felt she had finally reached this stage, although she had been last in comparison to Naruto.
On escort missions, Sakura was usually given the job of protecting their charge. This was given to her by Kakashi, so he and Sasuke and Naruto could fight the bad guys. On this mission, Kakashi wasn't here, but Sakura took up the position anyway, protecting Morino Idate. Naruto's style was too smashy-smashy to stay in one place for very long, and Sasuke worked too fast and was too valuable to stay in one place. Only Sakura had the patience and the reflexes to guard the charge. It was easier to dodge when you were constantly flitting around, but standing still for too long put a target on your back.
It got really annoying when that charge was so defiant that they refused to listen to anything that you say.
Rain nin were everywhere and the boat was going down in flames fast.
"Go, Idate!" Sakura yelled.
"No! You'll use me as a decoy!"
Clones were closing in on them. With a sudden burst of strength she didn't know she had, Sakura lifted the main mast from the deck and took out the clones. "We will never use you as a decoy." Sakura said to the frightened man. "Now go, we're right…"
There was a kunai headed for Idate, and Sakura barely managed to block it. The knife cut into her arm, and she heard shouts of concern from her teammates. "Go, Idate."
And that was another reason they always put Sakura on charge duty. Because she could ease their fears like no one else could.
"I love you so much!" She screamed at Sasuke. "Take me with you."
Because I want to be strong too.
But she was still weak, and therefore worthless to her one true love. That hurt more than anything.
"Sakura, thank you."
Later she would think cynically, Why are you thanking me? You have nothing to thank me for. I've done nothing to help you Sasuke-kun.
She would never really know why he thanked her, but she hoped when he returned he would tell her.
"I'll bring him back Sakura-chan! It's a promise of a lifetime!"
You're leaving me here?! She wanted to scream at him. Why are you taking them? They hardly even know Sasuke! He's my—our—teammate! Not theirs!
But it was her duty as a ninja to smile and nod through teary eyes.
Sakura wrung her hands, pacing in her room. They were on the search for Sasuke, and she wasn't there with them.
It's all my fault. She thought. If I'd only stopped him in time…if only I'd been less annoying…stronger…would he have stayed? If…
The pink haired girl's train of thought broke off when it felt like a hole opened in her chest. Something was wrong. Something was going terribly wrong, and Sasuke and Naruto were right in the middle of it.
Sakura opened her window and glanced at the street, seeing Kakashi walk by with his book. It was only because she knew him that she knew he was nervous as well, the hand that held his book was tighter than normal, and he looked like he was itching for something to do. Sakura jumped down, yelling his name.
"You've got to go find them, Kakashi-sensei!" He raised an eyebrow at her. "Please, something is wrong!"
"Sakura, they're probably fighting. Of course something is…"
Pink hair flew as Sakura shook her head. "No…I know that, but…I can't explain it, but something is really wrong."
"How do you know?"
Sakura put a hand to where the hole inside of her was tearing at her insides. "It hurts, Kakashi-sensei."
Her sensei slowly put his book away. "I'll go talk to the Hokage and see what I can do."
And the next day, Naruto entered the village on Kakashi's back, unconscious, and not far from death.
The chance finally arose for Sakura to go with Naruto and Jiraiya to retrieve Sasuke. Naruto was caught in a barrier, and Sakura was absolutely frozen.
I can't do a thing. She thought as Naruto was slowly being crushed in front of her. Nothing's changed! I'm still no use at all!
Arashi's pincers came down hard to crush Sasame, but Sakura steeled herself. She deflected the weapon with a kunai and, hardened her eyes not to show fear like Sasuke and Naruto had done. I'm a ninja! A shinobi of Konoha! I refuse to be weak any longer! Shannaro!
Her eyes were filled with wrath.
I will not let you win. I will give my life before I let you win!
"Sakura!" Sasame uttered in surprise.
"Sa-ku-ra. Watch it or you'll go first, is that what you want?" Arashi, or rather the monster that had taken over him, sneered at her.
She glared at him. "Death's not something to be afraid of, Sasame taught me that!" The deadly pincers were closing around her neck, but she still glared. "Worse than death is a life that helps no one. I'm not afraid of giving my life if it will help someone who's important to me!"
But Naruto wouldn't let her die.
She got to see how strong Naruto was when he was really determined. He broke through a barrier and defeated the enemy in one fell swoop and came out nearly unscathed.
"Naruto!" You're safe! Thank—
"Promise me you won't ever do that again. No life should ever be thrown away, not even for the sake of someone else."
She was being scolded? By Naruto? The idea that he was lecturing her left her ashamed and embarrassed. She hung her head. But then something occurred to her.
Damn it! It's my duty as a shinobi to lay down my life. Naruto, stop protecting me! I don't want you to have to—
Her thoughts were interrupted as Jiraiya arrived.
Walking home, she reflected. "Arashi was right, I'm just so much dead weight."
"Are you kidding me?" Naruto finally spoke up. "If you hadn't risked your neck like that, I wouldn't have had the strength to go on! You were amazing!"
"Thanks, Naruto." Even if you don't really mean it.
All I was thinking was protecting someone I care about…
And then it hit her.
She was finally going to do something about it.
"Hokage-sama." Sakura addressed with confidence. "I want to become your apprentice."
I'm throwing the old Sakura away. Forever.
She wouldn't allow her fate to rest in the hands of others anymore.
Sakura didn't see Naruto a whole lot anymore. He went on missions while Sakura stayed in the village to develop her medical ninjutsu. She hadn't been out of the village in at least a month, and she was starting to get cabin fever. She was really starting to feel bad for all the animals she couldn't save. She'd killed so many fish in the past two weeks…
All her training was worth it though when she walked home and found a dying bird next to a storefront window. It had obviously run into the glass and she could only faintly see the hitching of it's breath. The fact that it was lying on its side was a bad indication as well. The owner of the store came out with a dustpan, and Sakura realized with no small amount of horror that he was going to dispose of the poor animal.
"Wait!" Sakura yelled. "Don't kill it!"
"It's bad for business, girlie. And besides, I'm putting it out of its misery."
"Just give me a minute…" and she kneeled down beside the bird and green chakra flowed out from her hands. She felt the broken wing and ribs, and carefully knitted them back together. She got up with bated breath, and felt something like relief flow through her when the bird hopped up, was dazed for a minute, and then flew away.
The shopkeeper stared at the retreating bird in astonishment, and Sakura smiled.
Sakura finally had a chance to escape from the village when Tsunade took her to a somewhat desolate area West of Konoha. Sakura suspected she was only doing this to get away from the mound of paperwork on her desk.
The area was somewhat rocky, and Sakura wrinkled her nose at an unidentifiable smell lingering in the air.
"Punch the ground, Sakura."
Sakura tilted her head a little.
"Mold chakra into your fist and punch."
So Sakura did, and was satisfied when a decent sized hole appeared beneath her. She looked up at Tsunade for praise, but found that the older woman was giving her an uninterested look. "That's pathetic, Sakura."
Sakura gaped at her mentor. It was only her first time! What do you expect?!
"Stand behind me." When the pink haired girl was behind the Hokage, Tsunade punched the ground, not even putting a lot of force into her punch like Sakura had. The medic-in-training stumbled when the world around her tilted, and she was thrown off balance. When she looked at the destruction, rocks were displaced, sticking up from the ground in jagged forms, and there was a crater in the ground that was probably as deep as the Hokage Mountain was tall. She gaped again.
"Now, Sakura, try again."
Sakura forced herself to smile as Michiru, the prince of Moon Country, came over and was obviously admiring her. This pig was the man who bought things without any regard for responsibility, and she had an instant disliking of him. She was surprised by the attention though, no one in Konoha (at least no boys anyway other than Lee) gave her a second thought. She figured she intimidated them, which she unfortunately could not do to this man because she'd just met him.
"Are you really a ninja, even though you're such a cutie?"
How old are you again? Sakura asked him in her head. She felt Naruto and Lee's agitation.
Shannaro! Inner Sakura protested. Look past the pink hair you jerk! I'm going to kill you!
"She's young, but she's excellent." Kakashi vouched for her. She felt her pride swell up a little. Even he had no idea what her training under Tsunade entailed, and she was looking forward to surprising all of her friends and teammates.
"Nice to meet you, little lady." And he shook her hand, stroking the back of it with his meaty hand. Naruto and Lee looked on, outraged. Sakura stilled for a moment and then forced herself to smile.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
The prince's face turned a lovely shade of purple as Sakura shook his hand with a grip tighter than strictly necessary. She let him go when she figured he'd learned his lesson. Her team laughed, and she got a small warning glare from Kakashi before his one eye turned to amusement.
"And," Kakashi explained. "She's stronger than most adults, too."
Oh Kakashi-sensei, Sakura thought amusedly. You don't even know the half of it.
Naruto left a few hours ago with Jiraiya to train for an indeterminable amount of time. Sakura was watching the road out of Konoha with saddened eyes.
Tsunade put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's for the best, Sakura."
"It doesn't feel like it." She had been counting on Naruto's support to keep her going.
"I know how you're feeling, but you have to trust me on this one. I had male teammates too."
"But you can punch craters in the ground. I bet they never left you behind."
"But I'm still a woman Sakura. Any male teammate is going to protect the female no matter how good she is. Now that they're gone you don't have anyone to protect you anymore." Her amber eyes met green ones. "I know how male teachers treat the females too, and it's high time you put your neck out there. You will get hurt, and bleed, and you'll probably do things now that your teammates wouldn't dream of you doing in a million years. It's for the best, you need to stop relying on them to protect you."
Her words hit the mark and Sakura knew she was right. I miss you guys but frankly, good riddance.
Author's Notes: So I know it isn't very long. I tried to pull stuff from the manga/anime in which Sakura has some importance, but it's Naruto's story, so Sakura doesn't get much screen time. As always, review and tell me what you think.