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Chapter Text

The sun slowly peeked through the curtains of most of Konoha's bedrooms, sending bright beams of light into unsuspecting ninja and civilians everywhere. While the civilians mostly groaned and turned over in bed, the ninja had to grit their teeth and bear the early waking hours.

Jounin reported to the mission's office to turn in mission reports or to pick up a parcel of D-ranks for their genin teams. Chuunin reported to their four man squads, ready for a B-ranked mission out of the country or for border patrol.

Konoha was waking up.

XXX

"Wha-!" Sakura jerked awake, the kunai she kept under her pillow in her hand. Her weight leaned forward and with a thumb, she landed face first on the carpeted floor of her room.

"Ow." She muttered, sitting up and rubbing her head ruefully. Stupid alarm clock.

Taking a deep breath, Sakura rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and began to get ready for the day. By six she was showered, her hair was combed out (short as it was), and she was looking for something to wear.

Her hand ghosted over her usual outfit- a red dress emblazoned with the Haruno family circle. Her hands fingered the holes worn through the fabric, frowning at the frayed seams and stains she suspected were blood.

The dress was beyond repair and not even the most skilled of seamstresses could have the ability to repair the numerous abrasions, holes, and manage to get the rather large bloodstains out of the red fabric.

Even though it was only a dress, Sakura could feel a wave of sadness approaching. This was her Team Seven dress, the dress she had worn on the C-ranked mission to Wave and to the Finals of the Chuunin exams. And now, like her team, it had fallen apart.

Sakura sniffed, and viciously wiped her tears away. It did no good to cry over nothing- she had to report the mission office.

XXX

As an Academy teacher, Iruka was often struck with nostalgia when he saw a student he had taught walking around, laughing with their genin team or proudly sporting a chuunin vest. He would remember, rather vividly, what they had looked like at eleven and twelve and smile fondly and perhaps he would call out and give them a congratulatory wave.

He was proud to say he could remember almost every student he'd ever taught.

So when Sakura Haruno walked into the mission's office, wearing something that definitely wasn't her customary shinobi wear he almost fell out from behind his desk.

"S-sakura-chan?" Iruka sputtered, straightening himself and adjusting his headband which had slid askew.

"Oh, hey Iruka-sensei." Sakura said, smiling slightly, completely oblivious to Iruka's astonishment.

"Y-you… you look different." Iruka sputtered.

Sakura raised an eyebrow and looked down at her attire. Instead of her usual bright red dress she had opted to dig in the back of her closet for something new. In the back, half obscured by fallen clothes, she had found a crumpled black long sleeve shirt with three pink diamond patches sewn down her upper arm.

She smiled fondly as she stroked the comfortable fabric. The last time she'd worn a shirt of this style was in her early years of the Academy. If she remembered correctly, her grandmother had given this to her as a graduation present- she was now ashamed to say she thrown it into the depths of her closet because she figured her red dress was much more pleasing to Sasuke-kun.

"Yeah." Sakura grinned sheepishly, stepping farther into the room. Iruka's eyebrows shot skyward. Was she wearing regulation shinobi pants?

Iruka briefly checked the ceiling to make sure it wasn't falling.

"Well, what brings you here today?" Iruka said, settling back into his 'authority' voice.

Sakura's smile wavered and her eyes flickered. "I don't know, why don't you tell me?"

Iruka blinked and sat back. That was it, wasn't it? He took a good look at her face and saw what he had just realized reflected in her eyes.

Team Seven had defined her- without them you just didn't know where to place her. On her own, she was unremarkable-a below average kunoichi who would have probably quit the active shinobi lifestyle for administration or the academy after reaching Chuunin status. Instead, she had been assigned to the Copy-cat Nin's team along with the last Uchiha and the Jinchuuriki for the Kyuubi no Kitune.

She had been in the background so long that now, when her team was stripped from her she was barely a blip on the Konoha radar.

Iruka realized this and could now identify the aura radiating off of her as a mix between betrayal, anger, and soul crushing helplessness.

"Sakura-"

"Haruno-san!"

Both Iruka and Sakura looked to see Izumo leaning against the doorway, winded. "H-hokage-sama has sent for you. You have an appointment in ten minutes."

"Aa, Izumo-san." Iruka said, nodding. "You'd better get going Sakura-chan. Hokage-sama wouldn't like to be kept waiting."

"Yeah, I'd better go." Sakura assented, a melancholy expression taking over as she walked out of the room. "See you later, Iruka-sensei."

A silence stretched on as the sound of Sakura's sandals on the wooden floors slowly tapered off.

"Was that the Team Seven girl?" Izumo asked, his head tilted quizzically.

Iruka sighed heavily as he reorganized the missions set out on his desk. "Not anymore."

Chapter Text

Tsunade sighed as she shuffled the papers on her desk, double checking that all the forms had been checked out in triplicate before sliding them into her outbox.

God, genin teams were a bitch.

She had the four fresh teams graduating from the academy this year, plus the genin who'd passed the remedial exams all clamoring for jonin sensei- jonin she couldn't afford to spare at the moment.

"Shit." She mumbled, kneading her forehead to ward off the growing headache. Maybe two chuunin per genin team…?

"Tsunade-sama?" Tsunade blinked and looked up, noticing her assistant slipping into the room.

"What is it, Shizune?" she asked, turning back to her paperwork. Maybe a special jounin for specialized teams instead of chuunin?

"Haruno Sakura is here to see you now."

Oh.

Tsunade nodded and gestured for Shizune to send the girl in, leaning back in her chair as she did so. Casually, she flipped through the Haruno file- blinking at the picture of the smiling, bright-eyed genin clipped to the corner.

Teammate to Uchiha Sasuke, traitor, and Uzumaki Naruto, jinchuurikiri, Tsunade noticed there didn't seem to be very much detail in Kakashi's reports. Her eyes narrowed- her ninjutsu repertoire hadn't changed since her graduation eight months ago, she still only knew the three academy ninjutsu. She was brilliant, analytical- why hadn't Kakashi used her as a foil against the two male genin on the team? With training in compartmentalization and self-control exercises, her infatuation with the Uchiha could've been contained and allow her to work as a shinobi, instead…

Tsunade slapped down the file on her desk in frustration as a knock sounded on the door.

God, that person better have sake.

"Come in!" Tsunade barked, swiveling her chair to stare out of her windows at the Konoha skyline.

"Hokaga-sama?" Haruno's voice was respectful and slightly hesitant as she closed the door behind her. Good; she got no respect around here. "You asked to see me?"

"Sakura Haruno, age 13, genin of Konohagakure?" Tsunade asked, her tone questioning.

"Yes, Hokage-sama." She sounded confused.

"You have two choices," Tsunade said, her voice steel. "Your team has been dissolved-" Tsunade noticed the tenseness in the young girl's jaw, which she attributed to grief or something- "and Kakashi has requested some long S-ranked missions and will be out of the village almost indefinitely."

Sakura muttered something that sounded a lot like "figures" and Tsunade's tone sharpened.

"What 'figures', Haruno-san?" Tsunade's voice was like ice. "Hatake Kakashi is out serving his village- helping return Konoha to stability and to protect it from foreign invaders." The accusation in the Hokage's words didn't need to be spoken.

Sakura's shoulders shook and her hands clenched in rage. Helplessness rose like a tidal wave, almost threatening to sweep her away.

"Can I speak freely, Hokage-sama?" Sakura asked, his voice shaking with emotion. Her throat burned and she felt moisture building in her eyes; a feeling she ruthlessly suppressed.

Tsunade nodded, her posture still stiff. For once, she was stone cold sober.

"Kakshi-sensei has never once given me instruction in the shinobi arts." Sakura lifted her eyes from the floor to meet the unaffected orbs of her leader. "Outside of the three academy jutsu, I know only tree walking –" her voice turned bitter. "-which I got right on the first try, without any assistance or instruction."

"According to your academy tests, your IQ was estimated at 126, only 14 points from being considered an academic genius."

Tsunade turned in her chair, looking Sakura down with a gimlet eye. "My question is why your abilities as a kunoichi haven't shown that intelligence."

Sakura flushed, shame coloring the tips of her ears.

"You can try and blame Kakashi all you want. Yes, he was partly to blame but mostly- mostly you were just lazy, weak, and misguided. Suffering from delusions of romance."

"Is that what is says in my file?" Sakura asked, her voice low and rough, like her tears were caught in her throat.

"Yes; the Uchiha traitor, was it?" Tsunade raised a lone blonde eyebrow as Sakura's eyes dropped to the ground. "The same boy that Naruto has promised to bring home- the promise of a lifetime hmmm?"

"Excuse me, Hokage-sama." Sakura's voice was tight. "I am going to help him. We'll do it together."

Tsunade snorted. "Not with your skills as they are. You chakra levels will never make you a suitable melee ninja. Medical ninjutsu, assassination, ANBU, stealth… those are the occupations that would fit your ability level. Uzumaki and the Uchiha- they are flashy ninjutsu and taijutsu types. Lots of chakra, lots of strength acting mostly on instinct." Tsuade rolled her eyes. "Neanderthals."

"Hokage-sama…?" Sakura didn't really know where Tsunade was going with her little tangent.

"You're being reassigned, Haruno." Tsunade said. "To Team 8, until Hyuuga Hinata is cleared for active duty after her surgery."

"What? Wait, I-"

"My decision is final, Haruno." Tsunade's voice was like steel. "Report to the Missions Office at 5:00 A.M tomorrow morning. Don't be late."

Sakura frowned mutinously before bowing and nodding. She turned on her heel and left, her back rigid and her chin tall as she walked away.

Tsunade smirked to herself as she reached past her sake bottle to the pertinent forms lying out on her desk.

OFFICIAL FORM OF REASSIGNMENT IN THE CASE OF

-SAKURA HARUNO-

FROM THE FORMER GNIN CELL 7 LEAD BY JONIN KAKASHI HATAKE,

TO THE CURRENT TEAM 8 LED BY KURENAI YUHI,

BY ORDER OF THE GODAIME HOKAGE OF KONOHAGAKURE, LADY TSUNADE SENJU…

Tsunade paused, pen poised over the dotted line. Pondering.

Perhaps she should give it a little more time…?

Tsunade snorted, her hand slipping beneath her desk to the flask stuck to the wood. She carelessly signed, her loopy handwriting scrawling across the page as she took a pull.

Whatever.

Chapter Text

Kiba scowled as he caught a whiff of the Haruno girl's scent.

'Why don't you like her?' Akamaru yapped as he trotted alongside his master. She's nice.

"I just… don't, okay?" he growled, sticking his hands into his pockets.

'You don't like that she's replaced Hinata.' Akamaru cut straight to the heart of the matter, giving his master a look that the young man could only assume had been learned from his mother.

"That too." Kiba muttered as he came up on the Team 8 clearing. "And she doesn't seem to know anything." In fact, it was rather sad. She was just as bad as he'd feared- almost completely useless. She had above average stealth, especially now that she'd gotten rid of that godawful dress, but that didn't help when his nose could easily pick her scent up at fifty paces.

He fixed his scowl back onto his face, breaking through the tree line. He was early, actually (he was usually the last one before Kurenai-sensei arrived) and he wasn't surprised when he saw that familiar (annoying) shock of pink hair.

"Haruno-" Kiba froze at the same time that Sakura whipped around.

She was covered from head to foot in bruises- concentrating on her arms and sides for the most part. The glow of healing chakra on his hand flickered out in surprise.

"What happened?" Kiba demanded, stomping up to her. Rage radiated from him in waves, making even Akamaru's fur bristle a little.

"Training." Sakura muttered, resuming her healing.

"Bullshit!" Kiba yelled, reaching forward to stop her from applying the jutsu. "This isn't training; someone's beating the crap out of you!"

"So?" Sakur shot back, shooting to her feet. "You don't care! You've mentioned several times that I'm not a part of this team. You don't have the right!"

Kiba gulped, guilt on his face. "Yeah, but-"

"Who could forget," Sakura sneered. "'Don't thank me,'" she parroted. "'I'm just keeping you alive until we get Hinata back. After, you can go drag some other team down with you.' Isn't that what you said?"

Kiba actually physically flinched. They'd gone on a C-rank escort mission the first week she'd been assigned to them. While she'd managed to hold her own for a while against a group of bandits, one had broken through her genjutsu and Kiba had been forced to intercept the hit. When she'd attempted to bandage it after the enemy were dispatched he'd been... less than understanding. "Yes, but-"

"Shut up!" Kiba slammed his mouth shut. He'd usually stand up for himself and cuss back but in this case his instincts were screaming alpha female. "I'm trying the best I can you ! I'm a civilian kid you asshole! I wasn't born with some fancy clan techniques or bloodline. Hell, I didn't even have any teachers who taught me anything and I sure as hell didn't have teammates who stuck by me either. So do me a favor and go-!"

What followed afterward was a torrent of the most foul words Kiba had ever heard, suggesting he go do something that was in all probability physically and mentally damaging and considered morally wrong in most countries. Through his humiliation he allowed a note of relief that the kunoichi kept Akamaru out of it- something the smug little dog seemed to be aware of as he was calmly lying down at Sakura's feet and laughing that raspy dog laugh that Kiba hated.

"-and furthurmore-"

"Sakura!"

Sakura froze, mid-rant. She gulped and Kiba heaved a sigh of relief at the face of his saviour. "Kurenai-sensei..."

"What is the meaning of this?" the women barked, striding up to the two of them.

"Er-"

"I was-"

"I believe the yelling started when Kiba started questioning her methods of training." Shino said quietly from his silent position next to his sensei. "Why? Because Kiba called her dead weight."

Kurenai locked her red eyes on the both of them and they both simultaneously cringed at the heightened feeling of doom that fell on their shoulders.

"Well," she said in a dangeorus tone. "I believe I know what we're going to do today."