UPDATE: Story thoroughly edited, with a few more added scenes and a lot more words!



Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

It is something that strikes you without warning, one day—an epiphany, if you will.

Sakura-chan is acting different.

It has taken you a while to realize it but today your mind seems to relate, piece by piece, everything strange that has happened in the past few weeks. And suddenly, you seem to notice all the little changes in her:

How she doesn't smile like a child anymore—she smiles warmly now, like a grown-up.

How she doesn't act quite as hyper as she did before—she's calmer now but also positively glowing.

How her voice has gone from haughty and impatient to soft and dreamy.

How she doesn't chat about those annoying girls anymore—her team is all she talks about now.

How those eyes look absolutely radiant now—especially when she talks about "Sasuke-kun"—filled with an emotion you seem to recognize all too well. (After all, you have looked at your wife with that same emotion every day since you met her.)

Sakura-chan is acting different.

It is too sudden of a change, you decide. You are so used to this bouncing pink haired child blabbering incessantly about how cool and strong and hot this "Sasuke-kun" is, so used to hearing her talk about how she will marry that "Sasuke-kun" one day and have his babies—

You stop and nearly smile as you remember spitting out the water you had been drinking the first time she told you this.

—but you are no used to this Sakura-chan who comes home every day with that big, loving smile on her face, who greets you with a soft "hello" and a quick peck on the cheek, and who doesn't talk about "Sasuke-kun" in the same way anymore.

There is no more screaming of "Sasuke-kun is so cool!" or "Sasuke-kun is the best!" at the dinner table but—

(now, it's "Kakashi-sensei was late again, that lazy coot!" and "Naruto fell into a ditch on the way home. He was covered in mud and branches!" and "Sasuke-kun brought homemade omusubi to the picnic today—they were so good!" )

—but there is some soft declarations of "Sasuke-kun smiled today. His smile is beautiful!" and "Sasuke-kun is very kind, I saw him help an old woman today" accompanied by some silly little blushes and shy smiles that almost make you want to grumble.

Your Sakura-chan has changed and you think to yourself, what has happened to my little girl?

You mention this to your wife who simply tells you, like it's the most obvious thing in the world, "She's in love, dear."

Love? Love? you think, and the thought does not sit well with you. She is far too young, you reason. Only twelve years old.

You say this to your wife, but she only smiles that knowing smile of hers and shakes her head.

"Love comes at all ages," is all she says before she disappears in the kitchen.

And you think that yes, maybe it's true, maybe your wife is right—she nearly always is after all. But you know that you are not quite ready to deal with your little girl's first love and to enter the role of the overprotective father.

You are not quite ready for her first real heartbreak when she is still so innocent.

When you meet him for the first time, you're not quite sure what to think.

He is at your doorstep, a tall handsome boy with spiky raven hair and dark, dark eyes full of something you don't like, and he is bowing respectfully to you. You get the impression that this child has been raised to act and talk a certain way.

You prove yourself to be right as he speaks, his voice quiet and formal. He is here to pick up Sakura for training, he tells you. He is well-mannered and polite, but you decide his persona is far too dark, far too tainted for your cheerful, shining daughter.

You fear that if you are too careless with him, if you do not protect her properly, he will end up breaking her completely and you will be left picking up the pieces of her shattered heart.

Your wife, who has been standing beside you all this time, calls your daughter down. You pay no heed—you are too busy critically assessing this boy from head to toe with your deep green eyes. You know your gaze is probably harsh, but you cannot help yourself. This boy projects too much anger, too much tragedy—he is no good for your dear Sakura-chan.

A door slams open upstairs, hurried steps echo in the hallway, and you find yourself very surprised. You have never seen Sakura-chan bolt down the stairs so fast or smile so brightly—you have never seen her eyes glimmer with that much happiness. And you realize, at this very moment, that your wife is right about her. She is in love with this Sasuke-kun.

The thought unsettles you, provides you with a sense of unease and a certain degree of distress. You do not know if you can protect your precious flower and it terrifies you to think you might not be enough to salvage her innocence. But what you do know is that this boy will undoubtedly break her someday, and that you might not be quick enough to catch her when she falls.

Dread fills you as you watch them walk away—

(with that blond boy that you hadn't noticed up until now… what was it she said his name was? Naruto, right?)

—because you can see her love-struck features when she looks at this dark and handsome boy, and you can see it in his impassive features: he will never let her in.

You can already anticipate how it will all end—her heart bleeding and crushed.

It happens far too quickly for your tastes. The fall.

Sakura-chan doesn't come home one night, and you worry the worst has happened.

You call the Yamanakas. It doesn't surprise you when they tell you that she is not with them—Sakura and Ino haven't been friends in a long time.

You call Kakashi next. When you tell him who you are, he seems surprised and asks why you are calling.

You ask if he has seen Sakura yesterday. He tells you he has not seen her after she left training and pauses before he questions if anything's wrong. You tell him that she hasn't returned since she left last morning.

He is silent in return, and you can hear him run his hand through his hair. He is worried, you realize.

"I'll go ask Naruto and Sasuke. If I hear anything, I'll call you back."

This should reassure you but instead you are feeling even more distressed. Your hands begin to shake and your mind begins to race with thoughts of rape and murder and kidnapping. You don't want to think about it, you don't want to imagine whatever horrible thing could have happened to her—to your little girl.

You are just reaching for the phone again, ready to call the cops, when the door opens and in your daughter steps.

You all but lose your composure.

"Where have you been?" you practically yell, your voice laced with crazed concern and complete panic.

But she doesn't seem to hear you. She moves with terrible lethargy and simply closes the door behind her with a resounding click. Then she leans back against it, disheveled pink hair hiding any facial features from your sight.

Your wife is descending the stairs when you make the first steps towards your daughter and you barely hear her call her name. The need to comfort your daughter compels you, and you don't know where it comes from but it is something you know you must do. Your steps are heavy as you approach her and the turmoil of worry and anger hasn't died down yet… but when you grab her shoulders and force her to look at you, everything seems to fade.

You have never seen anyone's eyes look as blank as hers did, right that moment.

And it breaks your heart.

Sakura-chan is not the same anymore.

In fact, you barely see your daughter anymore.

She locks herself up in her room all day and never comes out. She doesn't allow you or your wife to come in, nor does she respond to anything you both say to her. The meals are left outside her door, but she doesn't always take them.

She shuts out the world, and you still don't know what happened to make her this way, but you know that it involves him somehow—the rumors running left and right in the city tells you that much.

(You're not exactly sure what he's done though.)

Sakura-chan worries you greatly, but you are more frustrated at yourself for not being prepared for this. You hate yourself for not knowing what to do, for failing at every attempt to bring her out because goddamnit you're supposed to know and you're supposed to be the one she turns to when a horrible boy breaks her heart. She isn't supposed to isolate herself and wallow in her sorrow on her own!

You are a horrible father, you think. You should have seen it coming (or rather when it was coming), should have sheltered her from the fall—you should have been able to stop it all from happening!

You are her Dad, and she relies on you to keep her safe, heart, body and all. It is your duty to make sure no pain comes to her.

And you have failed her.

"Don't blame yourself," your wife tells you once she catches you crying in the living room. "It's not your fault." She wipes away your tears and wraps her arms around you tightly, trying to embrace your pain. "We just need to give her space. She'll come out when she's ready."

She's right, you muse, because your wife is always right.

Sakura-chan comes out of her room two weeks after that.

She looks thin, unhealthy, and—

(you make a mental note to check her in the hospital just in case anything might be wrong)

—as fragile as ever.

The first thing you notice is that her eyes aren't blank anymore. They are tired, weary and broken, and you think it is so twisted for you to feel so glad at her pain but at least she can feel once again and—

(your heart stops and skips a few beat because despite how terrible she looks, you can see it in her eyes that she is there, really there and)

god you missed her.

Sakura-chan is back, you tell yourself. She is sad and broken and utterly lost but she is back.

So when she looks directly at you with those sad, sad eyes, you can't help yourself. Your feet react before you can even think about what you're gonna make them do and they break into a run towards her. You only ever have the time to see her face crack before your body all but crashes into hers. Your arms instinctively reach out to wrap around her frail figure and you hold her with everything you have, providing her with the care, comfort and love she has so desperately needed these past few weeks.

"He's gone," is all she manages to say before her composure shatters and she breaks down crying wretchedly in your arms.

You don't know what to say—you don't know if you could say anything that could help, really. Because the boy she loves is gone—

(gone? gone how? dead? stolen by another? or did he… leave?)

—and you know from experience that there is nothing that can ease the pain of a first heartbreak.

You realize, at that moment, that there are no words you could ever say—

(except maybe "he's back" but he's not so you can't use those words)

—to your daughter that would make her feel better.

So you hold your wilted flower close to you and wish away her pain, and you cry with her. Because her heart is your heart and her pain is your pain and when she breaks, you do too.

You know you can't promise her anything, can't tell her that everything will be alright because you don't know.

But as you embrace her fragmented heart in the palms of your shaking hands, it is all you can do to swear to mend and protect it.

A year passes by and Sakura-chan stands straighter now.

She's grown up a lot again, you realize. She is stronger, prouder, and you have never seen her so determined.

You still know very little about what actually happened that night, but you heard enough to know that the boy left—no, no, betrayed—the village and left your daughter on a cold-stoned bench.

This alone makes you hate him with every fiber in your being and wish you could break his pretty little neck in half. This alone should have made her give up on him—but she hasn't and you can't understand why she hangs on so tightly to this undeserving boy and god why has she resolved to bring him back after everything he did to her?

When you tell this to Sakura-chan as she comes home from work, she just smiles and says, "It's because I love him, daddy."

Your wife deems this a perfectly good explanation, but you do not.

"Her argument has no logic," you say to your better half, when you are sure that your daughter has disappeared in her room.

She only laughs and tells you in this silly little voice, "Since when is there logic in love?"

With a defeated sigh, you realize that once again your wife is right.

It's another four years before you finally see him standing at your doorsteps again.

You know you shouldn't be surprised because the man has been back for a year now and Sakura-chan has been spending a lot of time with him ("I'm meeting my team, it's not just him!" she always says) lately but for some reason you are.

He is still tall and handsome with his dark spiked hair and even darker eyes, but there is something very different about him. You decide, after a moment's evaluation, that it's the missing heaviness in his eyes and the almost-nervous composure he retains in front of you.

"Mr. Haruno," he says quietly (and still so formally, you notice) while he leans and bows humbly in front of you. He straightens after a moment, meeting your gaze. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."

It is all you can manage to shake your head.

Your wife slips into the hallway, then, and asks you who is at the door. Her pale blue eyes widen when she sees him, the shock replaced by awe when Sasuke bows respectfully and speaks a soft, noble greeting. She smiles amiably and responds just as politely and it shocks you how forgiving she is.

"I'll get Sakura-chan for you," she says kindly, disappearing up the stairs.

Sasuke's attention is back on you, and you recognize an all too familiar determination in his eyes.

You are not prepared for what comes next.

He asks your permission to take Sakura out on a date.

It is solely because of the way his eyes start shining fondly when he sees Sakura coming down that you find yourself muttering, "Yes."

He knows this doesn't mean you forgive him or that you are willing to forget what he has done to her, but you are giving him a chance to make it up to you and he understands that.

And when you see the enormous smile playing on Sakura's lips when she sees him at the door and the way he ever so subtly returns it, you know you've made the right choice.

Some of you may have seen the original before this, and if you have you will notice it is MUCH longer and MUCH better. I had first posted this as a vent! fic, but then I decided it had potential and I could go a little further with it. So instead, I turned it into a full-fledged fic with a little more detail and emotions.

I still need my dad though. T-T

ON A LIGHTER NOTE: Has anyone seen The Legend Of Korra's hour premiere? I'M SO PSYCHED. And I am hopelessly obsessed with a new shipping: Makorra. THEY ARE SO CANON, BIATCH.