Summary: Nothing could have prepared Orochimaru for what did stand in the doorway: it was a girl. With pink hair. And she was saying, "My name is Sakura Haruno of the leaf, and I want to join you. I want to become strong."

It wasn't a particularly interesting day at base. Kabuto was experimenting, Orochimaru was plotting, Sasuke was brooding, and all the Sound Village was training or resting. Or at least, that's how it seemed until Orochimaru heard loud bangs and crashes, dull punches and kicks, and several yells of "LET GO OF ME YOU IDIOTS, CAN'T YOU SEE I'M COMING WILLINGLY?" and what sounded suspiciously like a body thudding against the wall.

Orochimaru looked up from the scroll on which he had transcribed his newest jutsu, raising an eyebrow. Nobody disturbed the quiet eeriness of his base…ever. Usually, those who resisted enough to do so were just killed. Thus, his curiosity was quite perked as the door was harshly pounded upon. This could mean two things: somebody was let through, or somebody forced their way through. The pounding intensified.

"Come in!" the snake called, fearing that it might break if it endured much more abuse. The door opened and Orochimaru expected to see a big, muscular man with blood staining his hands, having beaten all the other guards up and here to assassinate Orochimaru himself. But nothing could have prepared him for what did stand in the doorway, with the guards still intact but a bit bruised behind them.

It was a rather short girl.

With pink hair.

And she was saying, "My name is Haruno Sakura of the Leaf, and I want to join you. I want to gain power through training."

Sasuke Uchiha did not like waking up.

He was quite grouchy in the morning. It signaled another day when he would be training, too slowly, annoyingly; another day when he couldn't yet kill Itachi; another day closer to the time he would have to turn over his body to the Snake so that together they could accomplish a mutual goal; another day filled with weaklings fearing him. He did not exactly look forward to losing his body to a creep like Orochimaru-sama. He was foul and disgusting—and that tongue…No, sleeping was true bliss…

However, Sasuke was definitely not a lazy person. He knew he needed this training, and if it meant killing Itachi, well, waking up in the morning was an infinitely small price to pay.

He clambered out of bed, threw on a shirt, and opened the door to his room. His sword was already sheathed at his waist—he slept with it, of course. In Orochimaru's lair, you never knew what would come for you. The first few days, when he had neglected to be prepared, he'd woken to two slitted eyes staring at him. They were purple. He'd scrambled out of bed, looking for his weapon, but by the time he found it the creature was gone. No harm had been done, but it had been enough to scare him out of his wits. That had been back then. Sasuke no longer got scared.

Sasuke walked silently toward the training room, the dimness of the hall not halting him at all. His sharingan was nearly permanent nowadays, what with its being in constant use. The sharingan, however, wasn't responsible for his other senses, also heightened: those were a result of training and lack of exposure to real light. His now sensitive nose suddenly picked up the scent of blood. The avenger stopped dead in his tracks, then broke into a sprint to the source.

He pushed the training hall door open and beheld a strange sight… a lone figure standing in the middle of the room… and bodies laying all around it. What was this? His hand instinctively crept to the hilt of his sword.

Familiar laughter filled the hall—Orochimaru's. He emerged out of the shadows. "Well, well, well… it appears that perhaps you can be of some use after all. Now, heal them—every one of them." Sasuke raised an eyebrow. So this person was a medical ninja? What could Orochimaru want with him? He already had that Kabuto… the mysterious figure turned and knelt by the closest body, then stopped suddenly.

"We're not alone," he said in an unusually high voice.

"Ah, Sasuke-kun! You're just in time to meet the newest addition… I do believe you know each other, no?"

Sasuke realized that the 'he' was, in fact, a 'she'. He froze. "Yes," the woman said. "We did."

"Then I will leave you to get reacquainted," Orochimaru cackled sadistically, a grin on his face. It was almost as though he knew…

No. He couldn't. Impossible.

As Orochimaru exited, he slowly stepped over to the newest member. The light threw her face into relief, and blood was splattered in a few places, including her lips, pink hair, and around her green eyes. Sasuke knew it wasn't hers. She had already acquired sound attire similar to his, only in dark, forest green. Her hair was in a high bun, bangs held back by a Konoha Headband with the typical kunai slash all Rogue Ninja inflicted on their hitai-ate. Her skin was as pale as ever, shining with sweat and dirt. She still panted slightly, leaning over a body, ragged, cut-up nails on the victim's chest.

"Hello, Sasuke-kun," said Sakura Haruno, not looking up.

She released chakra into her fingers and color flooded back into the man's cheeks, his breathing steady.

Emotionless. Emotionless. Keep your face emotionless. He'd thought it would be a bit longer before Konoha found him—wait, no, that wasn't right. Her forehead protector was, after all, slashed. Sakura wasn't working for Konoha. But she had to be—she wasn't the type to abandon her town, her friends. Those bonds that held her there…she wasn't strong enough to sever them.

"I'm not going back," Sasuke told her, managing to keep his anger in check. His irrational, pointless anger.

"That's not why I'm here," Sakura responded testily. She reached into a pack strapped to her side, pulling out a bandage, and putting pressure on another person's profusely bleeding leg. She immediately turned around to another warrior, grabbing his arm and twisting it into place. Sasuke managed to control his wince at the sound of snapping, creaking bones.

"Then why?" he called over the ruckus. She stopped briefly, ripping the man's shirt and swiftly creating a sling out of it. There was another few cracks as she slid it over the man's neck and under his wrist. She staunched the blood flow of a nasty gash adorning another soldier's face, and grabbed a kunai from his leg. Her kunai, Sasuke presumed, which she had used to fell him. Not even facing him, Sakura replied,

"Same as you: to get stronger." She was already placing her hands onto a man's chest, but then paused. "Damnit. This one's too far gone." She switched to the body next to it. Sasuke didn't know whether he was more surprised by her answer to his question or her cursing. He noticed they were slowly moving through the bodies, advancing from the middle to the outsides. Sakura was panting, but never paused. So, she was a medic-nin. Again, Orochimaru already had Kabuto…why? Something else occurred to him: who had been the one to injure all these ninja? Orochimaru?

Sasuke suddenly felt furious. He was supposed to be training now, but she had taken up the hall. Why was she here, anyway? She reminded him of things he didn't want to remember. She was a weakling, and Orochimaru would expect him to save her in every little instance. Not to mention, she would probably cling to him like a parent… but wait… she had brushed off the fact that he wasn't returning to Konoha so easily. Somehow, this made Sasuke even angrier. Then he stopped himself. Why was the fact that she no longer cared if he went important? He didn't need her for anything. No, this was completely irrational…

He turned in place without a word and strode outside, leaving Sakura alone with the hundreds of bodies she had to heal.

Sasuke burst into Orochimaru's room without knocking. He didn't care what he saw in there, he was going to get some answers.

"Why is she here?" Sasuke demanded furiously. "She's obviously a spy, here to infiltrate!"

Orochimaru didn't even glance up from his work at his desk, his back still to Sasuke. He merely picked something out of a drawer and threw it at Sasuke.

Sasuke's jaw dropped when he caught the object. "This… this is…"

"She is here for the same reason as you; nothing more. Your training will commence this afternoon. Do not bother me again without cause," Orochimaru's deadly voice sounded. He was still painting. Sasuke swallowed his pride and bowed.

"Hai, Orochimaru-sama." And with that, he turned his back and swept from the room, throwing the object onto the bed.

Orochimaru smiled over his scroll. The boy has finally learned some respect.

As he padded back toward his room—or rather, cell—Sasuke heard light footsteps behind him. It was Sakura and Kabuto together; without a doubt, Kabuto was showing her where her room was. Sasuke listened for their steps even as he pressed his palm to his door to open it. He'd made it so that the door recognized his chakra signature and only allowed it in. As he stepped in, he realized that they were stopping at the room right next to his. He paused briefly in dismay, then entered his room and slammed the door behind him, lighting the candles with a quick fire-style. He was restless. He needed to train.

Angrily, he opened up a scroll, grabbing it from behind his bed, and began to read it. No sooner had he unfolded it than there was a knock on his door.

"Enter," Sasuke said clippedly.

"There's no need for that," Kabuto's voice came. "I just want to make sure you will guard Sakura-chan's room, as I don't currently have the key to it. For now I've placed a binding jutsu on it, and only you and I and of course Orochimaru-sama can open it."

"Fine," Sasuke responded, making sure his glare was visible through his words.

"By the way, weren't you two on the same team? I remember in the Chuunin exams—"


"It wasn't a question, Sasuke-kun. I know you were. I expect the next few days will be quite…interesting."

"Go away."

"Very well, but just because you ignore her doesn't mean she doesn't exist!" Footsteps, padding away.

Sasuke shrugged. It had worked well enough in the past.

Still, even if he did try to ignore her, he knew it wouldn't be easy. Sakura had no idea what Orochimaru's base was like. She would obviously need help. And he would have to provide it, or Orochimaru would skin him. He waited for the classic timid "Umm, Sasuke-kun?" and was quite surprised when he heard a banging on his wall from the right, which was Sakura's side.

"Hey! Could you at least unbind the fucking bathroom?"

Sasuke choked on his own saliva.

Sasuke was sweaty and tired from his training that afternoon. Orochimaru had worked him harder than ever before, only now occasionally taunting him about Sakura being a better ninja than he. Ridiculous, but Sasuke had his pride to nurture, and couldn't face an insult like that. In the end, Sasuke was left panting on the ground and scowling at the illusion ninja Orochimaru had used to finish him off. It disappeared in a puff of smoke. "That's enough for now," Orochimaru said, and laughed, though the humor was entirely lost on the raven-haired avenger. "Dinner will commence in two hours."

Sasuke's brows furrowed. "Dinner?" Until now, Orochimaru hadn't said anything about it. Sasuke had always journeyed out to a nearby village to steal anything he needed, and a small meal a day usually satiated him.

"Yes. Haruno-san offered to cook for us today, and I must say I am curious to see what she will come out with." Orochimaru turned on his heel and swept out of the room.

"C-cook?" Sasuke stammered at his sensei's retreating back. "S-Sakura?"

Okay, Sasuke admitted it. He had sort of missed good, cooked meals. He'd almost missed conversation. But he had definitely not missed Sakura. Nope.

He arrived in the dining hall in fresh clothes. He felt a sudden pang of pain in his chest, remembering that when he'd eagerly rush into the dining room at home his mother would cook food with the exact same scent. He'd never noticed back then, but the food his mother had cooked was delicious. He hadn't appreciated anything enough. He wasn't sure he could handle this.

Sasuke pushed away his sentimental thoughts. There was hardly any time for those when you were training with an immoral and immortal snake-bastard to kill your own brother. Sentimental feelings made you lose sight of your purpose. And everything had been going just fine until Sakura showed her goddamn face. Growling inwardly, he stepped around the corner and he barely stopped his jaw from hitting the floor.

There were many, many tables, and many, many people, very, very diverse. The only thing they all shared was a Sound headband strapped across their forehead. None of them looked at ease being around so many others, but seemed to be handling it. Sasuke raised an eyebrow.

He counted to ten.

Then he ran from the hall, all the way to his room, until he slammed the door behind him, panting.

Nope. He still couldn't handle it.

As Sasuke was lying on his bed two hours later, there was a neutral knock on his door. "Sasuke," Sakura said without waiting for a reply, "I left your food out here. You should probably come get it before one of those rodents crawling around here does." And that was that: Sakura's small footsteps padded away until she opened her door and shut it.

Sasuke was slightly amused. Those rodents had been his meal for some time now.

He got up and retrieved the food. He heated it up with a small Katon and took a tender bite.

There was a curious burning behind Sasuke's eyes. It tasted exactly like his mother's cooking.

AN: No, this is not a sappy story where Sasuke realizes "OMG I SHOULDN'T BE EVIL". Don't worry. I have my failings, but I respect Sasuke and won't do that to him XD Anyway, this may evolve into a SasuSaku. I'm not sure. I might have to change the rating if I add in a lemon, which would be my first one ever. Chapters aren't prewritten, so what you say definitely has an influence. So, reviews would be nice :D I have thick skin, so don't be afraid to leave some con-crit. Also, I'm not beta'd, so if you spot some typos please point them out! Sakura's reasons will eventually be revealed... but who knows when? MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-hack-cough-anyway, thanks for reading!