A/N: Can't say this is canon since it's AU in some respects. This was done a good 3 months ago. I didn't have intentions of posting it but whatever. It's supposed to be done for the 50 Shinobi Theme on LJ but I never got back a response from them. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy.

Brick Wall

When Sakura was twelve, her fingers were unblemished and smooth with hope, love and faith. She held her hopes in her hands, saw love between the cracks of her fingers and found faith along the ridges of her knuckles. She prided herself in her hands, if nothing else (since her forehead was receiving rather crude comments).

But when Sakura was twelve, she was also stupid. Her hands were nothing if they couldn't hold onto life.

-

She and Ino were walking quietly (it was very scarce to find the company of both girls present and none of them talking) among the bustling crowd of Konoha near the market center, a basket in each of their hands. She was never too excited about these grocery trips but ever since her team's defection, it was all she could do to not think about Naruto and Sasuke. Ino was as lively as ever, maneuvering through the street market with ease that could only be done through many years of practice. Sakura practically had to grab onto the back of the other girl's shirt in order to keep her in sight.

The blonde suddenly turned to her, "Forehead, hold this for me!" Ino's eyes were brimming with drive.

Before Sakura had a chance to respond, the red basket was thrust into her arms and Ino was making a bee line for the produce section. It was buy two pounds and get one pound free. The pink-haired girl shook her head and waited (un)patiently for Ino to crawl out of the riot.

When Sakura handed the blonde girl back her basket, she was surprised by the roughness of her fingers as she accidentally overlapped their hands. "Ino…your hands."

The blonde raised an eyebrow, "My hands?" She asked, bringing them up to eye for inspection.

"They're…" She struggled for the right words.

"Rough? Calloused?" The blonde said it so easily.

Sakura nodded, unsure of what to say. She was taken aback when Ino barked out a spasm of laughter. "What the! You pig! Why are you laughing?"

"Sakura!" The girl giggled, wiping away her tears. "We're kunoichi. My hands have been like this for years now. I work at a flower shop remember?" Ino glanced down at Sakura's own hands and she grasped within her hands feeling the difference of smooth skin versus her calloused one. "You can't save these forever." She whispered.

Sakura frowned. She thought she was the smarter one out of the two of them.

-

When Sakura was fourteen she broke four metacarpals and sprained both wrists trying to break a brick wall. It was her seventh time and she barely made a dent against the jagged bricks. She sucked in a sharp breath, mending her broken fingers with mediocre skills and began again.

"You're doing it wrong."

Sakura quirked an eyebrow at her shishou. She never did anything wrong in her life (but she didn't exactly do everything right either), not when it came to instructions and learning. Precise chakra at the point where your fist hits the surface of the object and release it in an instant. It wasn't that hard to grasp but still, there was barely any damage done.

Tsunade walked over to a nearby pillar and easily smashed her fist into it, webs of cracks tracing itself down the body of the pole and in seconds, splintering it into nothing but debris and dust.

The younger kunoichi furrowed her eyebrows. What the hell was she missing?

The Hokage picked up Sakura's left hand and shook her head, examining the damage on her hands and then the damage on the wall that was on the receiving end of the punches. "You need to take off this layer of chakra."

"But…" Oh. So it was what she added.

"You have precise control and when you've perfected this technique you can come back to the chakra shield. Right now, though, it's throwing you off." Tsunade could see the bruises swelling around her knuckles but otherwise her hands were unscathed which was unusual for someone punching a brick wall. "When you break something, you need to be prepared for the consequences."

Her teacher left her with those few words to mull over. Sakura closed her eyes and breathed out. When she opened them, the chakra shield was gone and the brick wall that she slammed her fist into crumbled to the floor. She cradled her hand to her chest, ignoring the throbbing pulse through her veins and smiled. She never felt better.

-

When Sakura was fifteen she donned a sleek pair of black gloves on her dainty fingers.

Naruto asked her one day when she finally agreed to go out with him why she was eating with her gloves on. She had told him that she grew accustomed to them on her fingers and felt naked without them.

"Besides, my hands are nasty to look at." She joked, flexing her fingers into a fist.

The blonde looked displeased at her comment and reached forward to grab her hand. He tried to unbuckle the Velcro that fastened the gloves around her wrist.

"Hey! What are you—"

"Take them off." He demanded.

"What?" She tugged back her hand but Naruto held on tightly.

He placed a finger over her pulse and she was afraid he could detect how fast her heart was pounding. How long had it been since a male had held her hands. Despite the platonic gesture behind it and despite that it was Naruto, Sakura couldn't discount the fact that he was still holding her hand and Naruto was still male.

"Take them off." The blonde repeated.

She nodded mutely, stunned by his actions and quickly slipped the gloves off. Before she could settle the garment besides her, Naruto swiftly pulled them out of her hands and tucked them into the pockets of his jacket.

Her eyes widened. "Naruto! I want those back!"

But he tossed her a look that didn't resemble her Naruto at all and she snapped her mouth shut, closely watching him as he perused over her fingers. His eyes traced the scars that intersected each other, some fading and some still pink that ran from a little above her knuckles down to the joints of her phalanges.

"Is this what you call nasty?"

It wasn't hard to hear the faint bitterness in his voice ad she swallowed, looking away guiltily. Naruto was running his own fingers across her knuckles in a tender sweep that made her draw in a quick breath.

"They remind me of my failures." She said softly.

She could tell by the way his grip had tightened on her hand that he disapproved of her belittling herself. He drew her closer, bringing her hands up as a wall between them. "These are reminders of your struggles. Not failures." He softly pressed his lips to the tips of her fingers and it could barely even be considered a kiss but it had Sakura blushing to her roots. "These hands heal people."

When she finally got over the fact that Naruto just kissed her hands, the blonde was already slurping on his noodles as if the exchange never happened—except she could see a sliver of her black gloves peeking out from his pockets. She looked from her naked hands to the black material Naruto had stolen away from her.

Maybe giving her hands some time to breathe was a good thing.

-

When Sakura was seventeen, the last thing she expected was to see her former comrade and his supposed dead brother leaning on Naruto and Kakashi, respectively. After she'd gotten over her initial shock of seeing the two Uchihas together in Konoha and alive, she reacted the only way she knew how.

She reveled in the fact that she had landed a good punch on Uchiha Sasuke. Her fist were gloved (Naruto allowed her the condition of fighting with them on as they did protect her hands from unnecessary damage) as they sunk in against the missing-nin's jaw and when she heart a satisfying crunch, she smiled.

She couldn't bring herself to knock his head off his shoulders so she settled for breaking his jaw instead. It was oddly satisfying when the Uchiha wasn't throwing her an impassive look over his shoulder anymore. Instead, he glared at her with a faintly concealed mix of skeptic and confusion while Naruto was trying his best to help up the younger Uchiha without laughing too hard.

Granted, Naruto had already dragged his ass to the village so it wasn't really during battle that she had thrown the punch but what counted was the fact that she had thrown one at all. ANBU immediately surrounded her but she shrugged them off, declaring that that was all she intended to do. She then turned to the other Uchiha and thoroughly examined him with a keen eye.

"It seems at least one Uchiha knows how to take care of himself." Itachi blinked but she was already moving towards his younger brother again.

She reached forward, placing her hand on contusion that was forming from his jaw line down to his mouth. She could hear the murmurs around her and the stiffness of the ANBU that were guarding her former comrade. The Hokage wouldn't appreciate it if they had to arrest her apprentice to keep the kunoichi from dealing another blow to the captive that would surely leave him unconscious. One of them stepped forward to stop her but Kakashi intervened before Sakura was written down for assaulting an ANBU officer.

She'd taken off her gloves and this time she was the one who was able to feel the difference between her calloused hand and his smooth cheek bone. Sakura looked up at the man whom she used to love, love, and love. "You managed to keep your face unscathed." She said unthinkingly, while pushing her chakra to mend his broken bones.

Sasuke frowned, unsure of where she was going and very aware of the audience she had attracted.

"That's good." The kunoichi muttered, finishing up the healing session. "Because that's the only thing you have going for you, Sasuke-kun."

And when Sasuke decided to cast her with a hard stare, he received a pretty smile in return and an unflinching look from the petite girl. He shifted his eyes to where she had a firm grip on his forearm, a little too firm for a woman her size and age. He was sure she would leave an imprint on his skin. He noted how her hands were lined with scattered blemishes, scars and battle marks that cut around her fingers to the side of her hands.

"Get them to the hospital." She instructed, hands sliding off of his arm to pull on her gloves again.

A jab to his side pulled his attention away from her and he turned to glare at Naruto. "What?" He growled, unconsciously rubbing his jaw. Her chakra was still warm against his skin, the sensation leaving an uncomfortable knot in his stomach.

"Regretting that you ever left?" The blonde snickered.

Sasuke promptly shut him up by planting his foot down on the blonde's head. He frowned and looked at his older brother who was more amused than he should be with his side bleeding profusely like that.

"You're bleeding." He pointed out dryly.

Itachi raised his eyebrow and glanced down where a botch of blood was seeping through his tarnished black shirt that was singed around the edges. "Perhaps, I should request for Sakura-san's assistance." He muttered as Kakashi led him towards the hospital.

He left Sasuke sputtering behind him and Naruto blowing out specs of dirt from the breath of laughter.

-

When Sakura was nineteen, she could break a brick wall with her pinky and heal the worst of wounds without breaking a sweat. But that wasn't all she could do, she could break hearts and heal them too because Sakura herself had her heart broken and she was the one to heal it.

When Sakura was nineteen, her hands were tainted with blood (from saving patients and victims), battles and reality. That didn't stop her from loving, hoping and keeping her faith instilled in her hands though.

And if anyone needed a reminder, she wouldn't mind breaking down a few brick walls to get to them.