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Sasuke has known the girl with the pink hair who’s been growing against the cage’s sharp edges for more than half his life. She’s a scrawny thing, barely feed, never let out of her cage, she reeks and never talks. She’s been forgotten in most aspects, since the first time Sasuke ever interacted with her.

Sasuke doesn’t know a life outside of sound and Orochimaru-Sama’s care. Or at least doesn’t remember one. He’s always been treated fairly with the Sannin, spoiled in almost everything since he was four and his life around the man started.

He remembers going down to Kabuto’s lab with Orochimaru-Sama one day when he was six and looking at the cage right away. “Who’s that?” He asked, already accustomed to witness slavery and abuse as a normal thing. 

“She’s Sakura-chan.” Smiled Orochimaru-Sama. “She’s Kabuto’s.”

“Kabuto’s?” Asked Sasuke confused. He didn’t know people could own other people, or why Kabuto deserved to have the pretty girl on the cage. She looked sad, scared and miserable. Sasuke would do a much better job of taking care of her.

“Yes, I found her in a park in Konoha.” Answered Kabuto, coming into view from the shadows. “She was so pretty and her colors were so bright that I had to take her with me. Isn’t that right, Sakura-chan?” The girl didn’t respond.

“And why is she on a cage?”

“Poor thing, still doesn’t want to be a good girl.” Said Orochimaru-Sama in a fake saddened voice. “Probably has that Will of fire bullshit already brainwashed on her pretty head.”

“The will of fire?” The concept sounded incredible, like coming out of the Samurai era stories he sometimes heard on his travels with Orochimaru-Sama. 

“It’s a philosophy by which we… The people of Konoha, steer their lives and conduct.” He explained as if it was one of his classes. “They believe the fire on their spirits burns bright and strong, that they can live on by their will and their courage alone.” Laughed the Sannin, watching Sasuke’s awestruck features with sick amusement, “but every flame extinguishes, and so, the people of Konoha burn bright and warm for just a moment until they die.”

The girl never gave up on Kabuto’s wishes, whatever sick thing he expected from her. Maybe Orochimaru was right, maybe she had the will of fire burned into her soul. Maybe her will was slowly killing her.

In return, Kabuto left the girl to root on her cage. Her shoulder blades, sharp and her skin cutting onto the bone, the bars of the cage hurting her, burying themselves through her skin. 

Sasuke found himself captivated by her.

She had fire on her green, red-shot eyes, even after years of crying until she just didn’t have the liquids stored in her body to so. The spoiled boy of Orochimaru-Sama liked the way everyday Kabuto asked her if she was ready to be a good girl and how everyday she glared at him until the medic sighed and left her alone. He liked her pretty and yet dirty long, pink hair. 

He liked her, but she made him feel guilty, because she probably hated him, too. Just as she hated Orochimaru-Sama and Kabuto.

“Why don’t you say yes?” He asked her one day, when he was twelve and assumed she was the same age, and surprisingly, the girl on the cage answered.

“Because.” Cracked her tired voice, “girls are not objects, people can’t be owned.”

He started taking care of her, after that. Feeding her, giving her water, cleaning her through the bars of the cage. Sasuke wanted her to still be defiant, to keep her obstinate resistance going against her captors. And so, he supplied her with the tools to maintain her little revolution.

He’s fifteen now, and he’s aware of the plans Orochimaru has for him. He’s been travelling alone. Found a man, a brother with the same eyes he learned to master at a young age. The man told him he had a surname, an important name to honour, even if he and his brother were the last Uchihas left alive.

His brother, Itachi, told him Orochimaru kidnapped him as a child, to steal his body, to steal his eyes. 

Everything starts to make sense the more Itachi explains, and so, alongside his brother he decides to escape, to kill the man if he can, and to finally be free of him.

But he needs to take her with him.

In the verge of his sixteen birthday, Orochimaru offers him a wish, anything he wants. Sasuke knows this is Orochimaru’s sick idea of a last supper.

“I want her.” He demands, and even as he is sure Orochimaru knows of who’s he talking  about, Sasuke clarifies. “Sakura, I want Sakura.”

“So you like the girl, huh?” Smirks Orochimaru, not even waiting for an answer “Alright,” nods the Sannin, “Kabuto wasn’t doing anything with her anyway.”

He speed walks to her cage on the lab just as his kidnapper hands him the key. He opens her prison in a hurry but extracts her from the cage with the utmost care, she’s almost infused in the thing, it would be disgusting for anyone if he could ever feel disgust for Sakura.

But he can’t. So, as her naked, bloody and skeletical body falls on his arms, Sasuke holds her close to his body, but not tight enough for her to feel the strain on her wounds.

“Don’t worry, Sakura.” He murmurs kindly “You and I are going to get out of here. We’re going back to Konoha.”

He’s promising things he doesn’t know he can actually do. First of all he’s aware Orochimaru is planning to assimilate his body in a few days, maybe giving him some time to enjoy his gift. That it’s the only moment he knows Orochimaru will be vulnerable enough to kill him. 

And even if he comes up victorious from his fight, there’s no reassurance Konoha will welcome them with open arms, after so many years living under Orochimaru in Sound.

But Sakura deserves the hope, deserves the dream of going home after so many years of slavery, she deserves freedom, deserves a hero.

Sasuke has the will of fire carved on his soul, he will burn bright and deadly for her freedom.

 

Chapter Text

Before his fight with Orochimaru, Sasuke carefully lies the weakened girl to rest on his bed, mindful of her wounds he cleans her blood stained body to prevent further infections just as he used to do as a child through the cage bars.

Then, he installs various traps around and outside of the room, he even summons Aoda with strict orders to guard the door and protect her from anyone who isn’t Sasuke.

The fight against his kidnapper is seriously anticlimactic, Sasuke spent almost his entire life believing Orochimaru was the strongest man on earth, his training was hard and demandant from the start. In his childhood days, he never could defeat the sannin. But somewhere around his fourteen birthday he stopped demanding his weekly fights with Sasuke.

That should have been a clue.

Apparently, the consequence from years of desecrating his body, mind and soul, is that the snake no longer presents himself as the fearful foe he was in his prime years. Sasuke easily defeats him by will alone. Consuming his life essence just as Orochimaru tries to consume him.

But after going back to his room Sakura isn’t awake anymore, and nothing Sasuke does manages to rouse her for more than a little moment, until she falls unconscious again.

In the end he’s forced to carry her the whole trip until they arrive at the meeting point Itachi instructed him to reach in the few days after defeating Orochimaru.

“Who is she?” Demands his brother in a cold, impassive tone of voice when he sees Sasuke walking with girl sleeping on his back.

“She’s Sakura,” answers Sasuke. “She’s a child of Konoha, too.” Itachi arches his brown in a silent command to elaborate. “She was kidnapped by Kabuto, Orochimaru’s right hand man just few years after me. She was being kept in a cage.”

“This is a problem.” Mutters Itachi. “The fifth Hokage has been very accommodating by allowing us to come back to Konoha even after everything. She wasn’t in our plans.”

“Allowing us?” He was under the impression Itachi and himself were welcome into their home village.

He carefully removes Sakura from his back and instead takes her in his arms and sits with her body held close to his chest.

“I became a missing nin after we lost you. I deflected as son as I was notified of your kidnapping. You were also listed as a missing nin when the news of a Sharingan wielder teen working with Orochimaru reached the grapevine.” He confesses. “But I’ve been doing undercover jobs for the current Hogake in an effort to afford us a place back in Konoha. It’s just… This girl, I didn’t plan for anyone but ourselves.”

“But we can take her with us… Right?” He’s sacrificed so much for her, she’s been such a constant in his life for the longest time. Sasuke can’t imagine a life without the responsibility of taking care of her.

“Yes,” sighs Itachi, “but we should wake her up first. She needs to eat or at least drink some water.”

He opens a bottle of rice wine under Sakura’s nose. The sweet, tangy smell is enough to wake her up with a start. She struggles against Sasuke’s hold on her waist, but she’s weak like this, after years of malnutrition, dehydration and cruel imprisonment, she can’t even walk by herself, least of all fight Sasuke’s embrace on her.

“You’re going to be just fine, Sakura-san.” Soothes Itachi, petting her sweaty, pink hair.

He’s being uncharacteristically kind. All of Sasuke’s meeting with his brother has given him the impression of a forceful and cold man. Maybe he’s traditional, maybe he fully believes in giving girls a special treatment. Or maybe Sakura’s pitiful appearance has warmed his heart.

After feeding Sakura pieces of bread and some water, in order to no upset her small stomach. Sasuke bathes her in a river nearby instructed by his brother, who will send a message to his Hokage with a crow summon, about the new addition to their group.

They will start their journey back to Konoha in the morning and she needs to regain some strength.

—————————————————————————————

A few days after she receives Itachi’s message, Tsunade holds a reunion with Konoha’s Jonin teachers.

“Why did you summon us, Hokage-sama,” drawls Asuma, taking a drag of the cigarette Kurenai instructed him to drop before entering the Hokage’s office.

Kakashi hadn’t spared his superior one single look. Too engrossed in his smut to even pay attention to the group. Yamato, the new addition, won’t leave his side, nervous as ever and trying to find comfort on his listless sempai.

“I called you here because I will reopen Naruto’s case.” This grants her the room’s whole attention.

“Why?” Demands Kakashi. “no team has been able to handle him. Not even Kurenai’s cell.”

“Besides the kid is doing well as a Genin, he’s allowed to do higher classification missions, there’s no need to reopen his case.” Reasons Asuma.

“Uchiha Itachi is coming back to village with his little brother.” The information doesn’t sit well with everybody, but they all knew it was going to happen sooner or later. “The brat will need a team, and I think it would be good for the both of them to work together as a team.”

“But who would even agree to take care of Naruto Uzumaki and Orochimaru’s boy?” Asks Kakashi amused.

“I’m glad you asked, Hatake.” Her smile is sadistic as she looks pointedly at him “You and Yamato will be their teachers.”

“Why would Kakashi-sempai need my help?” His admiration and respect clear.

“The Uchiha boys are coming with another prisoner of Orochimaru. She’s been kept captive all of her life.” She explains “I believe she will be needing empathy and someone to help her with the basics of returning to society.”

Yamato has some experience with that specific sort of trauma, he can’t promise he will be of much help to the girl, no if his own precarious return to society is anything to go by. But he can sympathise.

“They will arrive to Konoha in a week. Be ready.”

“Yes!” They bow their agreement.

“And Kakashi.” She stops the lazy man. “Be sure to notify Naruto. Will you?”

“Will do Hokage-sama.” Obeys reluctant, the Jonin.

Chapter Text

Sasuke doesn’t expect their return to Konoha to be as turbulent as this. He doesn’t know exactly what he wanted. But surely, anything can be better that five adult Shinobi stopping them at the doors, restringing him while five other ninja take Sakura away from him by force.

“I’ll kill you” He threatens them coldly, red eyes glaring at the men holding him back from Sakura, who doesn’t have the energy to fight them off.

Itachi, the traitor. Holds his face by his chin with two dainty fingers “Be still,” he drawls as his eyes bleed red with a completely different Sharingan than Sasuke’s.

“I’ll kill you too!” He screams before falling into his brother’s genjutsu.

He wakes up on an uncomfortable chair in what seems to be someone’s office, if the mountains upon mountains of paperwork just lying around him are anything to go by.

“I’m glad you’re awake, brat” Mutters the most sarcastic and at the same time, authoritarian voice he’s ever heard. The voice belongs to a tall, blond woman with two sets of ridiculous pigtails, who glares at him as if his mere existence was a grave offense to her own.

“Where’s Sakura?!” He screams standing up “I’ll burn this place to the fucking ground if you did anything to her!” He marches straight at the woman with clear killing intent.

He doesn’t even get to draw his sword when the woman hits him so hard in the face he breaks a hole in the wall with his whole body. “Haruno Sakura is well and receiving the best medical treatment Konoha has to offer” She growls standing over his battered body. “She was severely malnourished, dehydrated, was running a fever caused by an infection and most of her internal organs were failing, but luckily for her, I was there.” Braggs the woman.

“And who are you?” Sasuke grunts standing up just for the sake of his dignity.

“I’m your Hokage, boy” she says forcefully “and your superior from now on, if you want to have a life in Konoha. That’s it.”

“This is Sakura’s home.” Mutters Sasuke in a defeated tone “And Itachi says this is the best place for the both of us to be… You saved her.” He doesn’t fully trust Itachi, now that he sided with the Shinobi who took away his last remaining precious person, but Sakura loved Konoha with the same fervour his brother has displayed time and time again. “So you have my loyalty.”

“The first thing you will do is take care of the disgusting parasite you assimilated into your pretty boy body.” She snaps her finger and a masked shinobi appears by her side, “This Anbu will take you to your brother, he will know what to do.”

The process of extracting Orochimaru and the curse from his body is both terrifying and painful. He feels a new sort of resentment for his brother after he fights him until his limit and forces Orochimaru to manifest out of his body and proceeds to bind him with the most powerful jutsu Sasuke has ever seen.

Itachi’s Susanoo is powerful and majestic, Sasuke can’t believe there’s anything more powerful than this.

“Are you able to walk?” Asks his brother not to kindly “If you allow Tsunade-sama to check you over, she will allow you to visit Sakura-san.” He bargains.

He of course, agrees immediately, the Hokage told him she was stable, but she also told him Sakura’s organs were failing.

Sakura is the longest bond he’s ever formed, he knows Itachi is his brother, but he’s been taking care of Sakura for years, she’s his most precious person now that his whole reality has crashed down.

Tsunade looks angry when she ends her check-up, but at least she doesn’t have that sick gleeful look Kabuto always sported when he did his weekly physical exams. “Orochimaru and the curse are gone. You will feel weaker in the following weeks because you no longer will have that powerful dark chakra cursing through you, but without that corrupted chakra you won’t slow down your team.”

“My team?” He didn’t know he had to form part of a team.

“As you never entered the academy you will form a Genin team with two other ninjas who are behind in their shinobi training and a Jonin teacher” She explains bluntly, “Sakura will be part of your team when she finally heals, and the other one…” Smirks the blond “well I’m sure you will be meeting him very soon.”

“Sakura!?” He stands up abruptly “Why would you put her in a ninja team!?” Sakura has never had formal training, she doesn’t even have the muscular consistency to endure the physical training, she’s weak after years of neglect and torture.

“She was signed up in the ninja academy before she was kidnapped, so we assume she wanted to be a Kunoichi.” She explains “We are assuming she still wants to be a ninja, if she says she doesn’t want to resume her training she can decline the offer but you’re no one to deny her.”

“She’s my responsibility!” Exclaims Sasuke, “she’s my…”

“You’re not her captor, Uchiha. She’s her own person and you will learn to respect her as such!” Her voice is strong and her glare is fervent enough to melt ice. “I will take her on as my apprentice. No woman in this village will be powerless under my watch.”

Her words don’t comfort him, not completely. But they’re enough for the young Uchiha to accept the Hokage’s decision “Can I see her?” He asks.

“Put on a shirt first” She growls pointing out at his bare chest “Have some decency, she’s on the room 206, and don’t bother any of my nurses while searching for it.”

When he finally finds her room the first thing he sees is the back of a blond woman’s head who’s sitting by Sakura’s bedside.

“Who are you!?” He screams at the woman “What are you doing here!?” The woman, alarmed by his sudden presence, turns to look at him with a surprised expression.

“I-I’m Ino,” she introduces herself “I’m Sakura-Chan’s best friend.” Then she breaks out crying “I just never thought I would be able to see her again!” Sasuke doesn’t know how to react, but apparently he doesn’t have to, because the girl stands up to leave “Thank you so much for bringing her back home.”

She approaches him with the intention of hugging him, no doubt, but Sasuke moves away from the blond. He hates being touched.

Finally, alone with Sakura, he takes the seat previously occupied by Ino, Sakura is sleeping peacefully. He carefully moves some stray hairs from her face, not wanting to wake her, but managing to disturb her slumber anyway.

“Sasuke-kun” She drawls somnolent “Are we finally home?”

In an impulsive display of affection, Sasuke leans down to kiss her forehead. “Yes,” he says kindly “we are in Konoha, they took you here to the hospital and the Hokage has been taking care of you, she’s a very skilled medic.” Admits the shinobi reluctantly.

“She?” Asks Sakura confused.

“Yes, the Hokage is this really abrasive woman, I don’t think she likes me.”

“Wow, when I was a kid, the Hokage was a really kind, old man, I guess it was bound to change” She admits.

“That is not relevant right now.” He dismisses, holding the back of her neck carefully to look at Sakura in the eyes, “More importantly, how do you feel?”

She smiles kindly and reveals in the intimate touch, still not accustomed to feeling innocent affection, but gladly accepting it from Sasuke, who’s always been there to help her thought the worst years of her life.

“I’m feeling better,” she assures him resting her cheek on his forearm “Thank you for worrying.”

“I always worry, Sakura…”

He’s not sure of what exactly he was going to tell her, but whatever it was, he’s interrupted by the door of the room being slammed open and the loudest, most obnoxious voice he’s ever heard screaming.

“Hey! My name is Naruto Uzumaki and we’ll become the strongest team in Konoha!” The source of the voice is a blond teen dressed in a black and orange tracksuit, he smiles wildly at them and both Sakura and Sasuke stare at him dumbfounded “Then I will become Hokage!”

Chapter Text

Sasuke didn’t know the blond teenager who entered Sakura’s hospital room as if it was his own, but he assumed he was their new teammate.

“Uzumaki Naruto,” Sasuke tried the name “You must be the other member of our team,” mused the young Uchiha, observing the boy from head to toe. “I can’t say I’m impressed.”

“Our team?” Asked Sakura, completely ignoring the intruder in favour of the much more interesting news.

“Yes,” answered Sasuke, staring suspiciously at Naruto only for one second and then giving Sakura his full attention. “The Hokage wants us to become part of a Genin team with this guy.” He explained pointing at Naruto who was boiling with rage for being ignored at their door. “Of course you can deny her, but she did make the offer to train you if you join us or even if you don’t.” Sasuke made sure to give her all the information available to him, not wanting to lie to her in any way or circumstance.

“But wouldn’t I be a hindrance to the team?” Asked Sakura confused and sad. “I’m weak like this, I didn’t even go through basic training at the academy…”

“You won’t bother us, Sakura-chan!” Screamed Naruto taking advantage of the moment to incorporate himself in the conversation once more “Can I call you Sakura-chan? Kakashi-sensei told me your name!”

“No,” denied Sasuke, “You can’t.” He made a mental note of finding out who this Kakashi-sensei was.

“I wasn’t talking to you, bastard!” Exploded Naruto walking purposely towards Sasuke and holding him by the collar of his shirt. “She can speak for herself.”

“I know she can, moron!” Screamed Sasuke on Naruto’s face, “but she doesn’t have to lower herself into talking to you!”

“Huh! You want to fight, duck butt?” Challenged the blond.

“Whenever you want, you little…” Sasuke was already rising his chakra up when the voice of the only girl in the room interrupted them.

“Sasuke-kun!” She interjected, raising her voice for the first time in a long time.

“Yes, Sakura?” Inquired Sasuke dutifully, extracting himself from Naruto’s hold with a forceful shrug, “Do you need something?”

“Could you leave me alone for a moment, please?” Requested the pink haired girl, not looking at him, “I have to think about the Hokage’s offer.”

“Of course, Sakura.” Conceded Sasuke standing up and kissing Sakura’s forehead, “Just remember I’m here with you no matter the decision you make.” Saying that, Sasuke left the room, forcefully taking Naruto with him.


 

The day after, Sakura discovered that both of her parents were well and alive, her mother went to see her on her third day of staying on the hospital and both women cried in each other’s arms until exhaustion, Mebuki, only left when the nurses asked her to go home a second time and then she came back the next day with Sakura’s dad.

It’s only then that they became trouble. 

Not trouble, really. They were still her parents and she loved them, but Sakura no lo longer could imagine a life living by their side, and they no longer wanted to be separated from her.

“Tsunade-sama informed me that you’re going to be released tomorrow,” exclaimed Kizashi after having hugged her daughter and cried on her slim shoulder for a while. “We have your old room cleaned and remodelled... you’ve grown so much, honey.”

“I’m…” Sakura sighed “I’m not coming back home, dad… Mom.”

Both of her parents tensed at her words, Kizashi laughed in disbelief “Good one, Sakura-chan!” he kissed her cheek “I almost believed you!”

“I’m serious,” sighed Sakura, “I’m staying with Sasuke-kun and his brother, we don’t want to be separated.” She blushed.

“I didn’t know the Uchihas where living in Konoha,” commented Mebuki with a tense rictus on her aged mouth, “I thought the Uchiha district was dismantled after the massacre and Itachi’s resignation.”

“Sasuke-kun and Itachi-san will be living in a new Uchiha house,” Related the youngest Haruno, “I will be going to live with them.” She confessed.

“But why?” demanded Kizashi, holding onto her shoulders, “Sakura-chan, we just got you back.”

Sakura hesitated, looking sadly at her parents and then at every corner of her hospital room until her eyes finally landed at the open door, against which Sasuke was leaning peacefully, silently observing her, giving her the space to enjoy the reencounter with her family.

“Because Sasuke-kun is important to me,” She confessed. “we haven’t been separated in years and now we don’t want to. We can take care of each others.”

“How can be so sure that he’s going to take care of you?” Insisted her father desperately, “he’s an Uchiha, Sakura!”

“I promise you, Haruno-san,” Interrupted them the youngest Uchiha, “that I will take care of Sakura.” His back was tense, he looked anxious, but he was staring at Kizashi deadest on the eyes. “I’ll take care of her until she gets the tools to take care of herself and even after that if she allows me.”

“She will be coming home every now and then,” ordered Mebuki, steeling her voice and talking over Sasuke, “you will not separate her from us but we won’t force our daughter to come back if she doesn’t want to.”

“I swear I will not.” Bowed Sasuke, “my only wish is for us to live the happy life we were denied when Orochimaru and Kabuto took us from home.”

“And of course you are also invited to come with Sakura anytime you want,” smiled the woman with a motherly tone, “any friend of our Sakura is a friend of ours.”

“Thank you, Haruno-san.” Sasuke regaled her with a rare grateful smile.

After a few hours of conversation and barely concealed interrogation coming from Kizashi, the Haruno left the hospital with the promise of coming back the next day to try and help Sakura move into the Uchiha’s new home.

Sakura waited until they were gone to speak about the resolution that had been eaten her inside since Sasuke talked to her about it “I decided that I want to be part of our Genin team, I want to train with the Hokage. I wanted to be a ninja ever since I was a child, I promise that I won’t be a bother, Sasuke-kun!”

To be fair, Sasuke wasn’t completely on board of exposing Sakura to the ninja world, she wasn’t trained, she wasn’t even comfortable with most forms of socialisation since she had been forced into confinement for the better part of her life.

But ultimately this was Sakura’s choice.

Sasuke didn’t have many objectives in life, he himself also being incarcerated by Orochimaru in his own way before meting Itachi, when his only purpose was growing stronger so Orochimaru-sama could make good use of him.

But now, with his big brother by his side and a bright new future ahead of him, Sasuke only wanted to live a happy life with his precious people.

If being a ninja could make Sakura happy, then Sasuke was no one to separate her from her dreams.

“You won’t be a bother, Sakura.” Sasuke comforted her, “and I swear to be there for you in every step you take in your ninja path.”

This was his new purpose.