Title: How the mighty have fallen

Summary: Don't you trust me?

Dedication: To paper lanterns and teachers who care.

Notes: I did have to write this. I didn't have to make this the first thing I published on this site. I'm sorry?

Disclaimer: It's Kishi's.

She breaks.

It is not slow, but a fracture rather like a brick thrown through the window.

She breaks when Sasuke comes home.

She has always struggled to come to terms with emotion and its role with shinobi, but she knows there will always be lingering anger towards that boy who took her innocence. She thought he would be there forever, and so the gaping hole would hurt for eternity. It was not a new feeling, such passion towards him, but before it was a fevered love. Now she sees only the black in his tarnished heart, not the hope for more white. He tainted her, taunted her, and so when he comes back, it is the most concentrated agony to realize how much they favor him.

Missing-nin, killer, criminal, and still there is reverence. He clashes with Naruto, and it is with all the confidence of lonely years. He practices with Lee and Kiba and Chouji and Shikamaru and is sharp as a knife, but never never nevernevernever fights her. What can she do to get him for a fraction of a second take her seriously? Nothing.

It is when she watches the spar with Kakashi that she finds herself breaking.

It is their similarity. Kakashi's sharingan is spinning in time with Sasuke's, and they both move lightning fast. They match move for move, and she is not so struck by this until they both test out their Chidori.

Under the chirping of two thousand birds, Sakura realizes that Kakashi taught her nothing. Sasuke, he gave the Chidori, his strongest attack. Naruto he at least palmed off to Jiraiya, a strong ninja, with the chance he might learn something. But what did he ever offer her? When she showed the slightest bit of promise while tree-walking, she was sent off to babysit while he helped the boys. Always sent away, hidden and protected. She is viciously curious as to what he actually thinks of her.

When she kills Kakashi, she pretends to be healing him. His chest is split by a shallow slash, made by a lucky shot in a spar, and when she raises her hands to it, the chakra is at first soothing and green. The others are gone, and Kakashi has been patiently reading his Icha Icha book, waiting for her. She smirks. When her chakra scalpel slices the tendons in his arms, he tilts backward in shock.

"Sakura, what are you doing?" Before he can strike at her, or try to put her under a genjutsu, or even scream, they are under a silence jutsu that creates a bubble inaudible to the rest of the world. She is suddenly at his throat, and though she holds one hand tenderly over the sharingan, she slips down his mask.

"Oh, I always wanted to see what was under here. I'll still have the memory even if I'll never be able to tell Naruto."

His mind is still functioning even after such a severe shock, and so he immediately understands. "Why, Sakura?"

"To test the limit of my abilities." She sees his wince. "Ah. So he told you. I only found out what Itachi the night of the massacre from Naruto. It's always been just the three of you, really. But I did this to see how blind you were. To see if you trusted me as weak, sad Sakura, who could cry her eyes out safely on the sidelines. I wanted to see if you still thought of me as worthless."

"I never thought that, Sakura-"

"Of course you did," Sakura cuts in ruthlessly. "You never bothered to give me any of your attention. It was you, Naruto, and Sasuke protecting me from the realities of the shinobi world, never thinking that I could handle it. You failed to look underneath the underneath, and that, as you taught us, or mostly them, will get you killed. I wanted to know if you so foolishly thought that that was all there was, and is, to me. It turns out that you do."

"I have always valued and trusted you, Sakura-chan. You're the Hokage's apprentice, my former student, and I thought that I could." He added the -chan to her name out of pure self-preservation, to appeal to whatever is left of the pupil he once knew. Even then, he senses that it will not be enough.

"You say that, but I am observant enough to notice that you tense when even Naruto touches you. Had you respected me as much Sasuke, you would have been able to have me over your shoulder and into the tree. Had you respected and yet trusted me as much as Naruto, you would have had me in a genjutsu, not tried to reason. But I'm me, who you don't respect at all, and so I was able to slip under the guard of the famous Copy-nin."

He can hear the lost battle in her voice. "Now that you've done it, what do you plan?"

"A perfect copy-Kakashi will be seen leaving at eleven tomorrow morning for his S-ranked solo mission. If you failed my test, I thought I would want you to die with dishonor, but I find I can't muster that. You will be found to have sent the scroll you were sent to retrieve for the village back with the last of your chakra, along with your sharingan. We can't have Tsunade-shishou worrying about it being appropriated by Sound, now can we?"

When the realization that her plan will be successful dawns in his one visible eye, she throws back her head and laughs. "The real reason that you will die today is that you have become a threat to the village's progress, as well as my personal grudge. You are old, now, and set in your ways. There will never be another genin team to pass under you anyway, but your blatant assumptions based on gender have been showing even in your ANBU missions now. I know, because I found the seventeen filed complaints when I checked the records."

He despairs.

The feeling of a kunai against his chest, that he had so thoughtlessly bared when he waited for her to heal him, is cold and harsh. "Kaka-sensei, I am going to cut out your heart and drain your blood to leave in a clearing near Sound, and there is not a thing you can do to stop me."

She brings it down.

He does not cry, or even cry out, but the lines of pain on his face scream out the agony even more clearly than an actual scream.

She presses a kiss to his cheek as she reaches in for his heart, not even looking, but gathering with a sealed scroll his blood as it rolls towards the ground.

Her green eyes are thick with the bliss of triumph when he peers into them. "I think I can promise you this, Kakashi: you will be honored, and remembered lovingly, but I will never let there be another one like you."

"Sakura, I may not have given you much, but I tried to give you knowledge, and this goes against everything I ever told you. So how could you be here, doing this?"

"Oh, Kaka-sensei," and the words hurt more than the mortal wounds, "you may have taught me once upon a time that those who abandon their teammates are lower than trash. I used to think that was all you taught me. But what you really taught me was how to hate."

No one ever discovers that it was her, or even finds where she buried the body.

Sakura attends the funeral, comforts Naruto, and when she next sees Tsunade, she gives her a bottle of sake. Tsunade is at first perplexed, but when another arrives on her desk the next Wednesday, and the next, she knows where they come from, but not the silent gratitude that gets them there.

One day, curled up in bed next to Sasuke, she buries her fingers in his hair, and tells him.

After a moment's silence, he says, "So vengeance is what changed you. Sometimes it will destroy a person, but it just might set them free."

He presses a kiss to her no-longer-quite-so-big forehead, and there is nothing more to say.

A/N: I don't hate Kakashi, but his lack of teaching for Sakura pissed me off.

Seriously, that was so sucky of him.

(Aaaaaand I slipped in that SasuSaku. Because I could.)

I decided to try to see if I could develop as an author, so all feedback, even flames, are welcome!