The Red Butterfly
By Laura-chan

Pairing: Sasuke/Sakura, hints of Shika/Ino, Naru/Hina, Neji/Ten, one-sided Sasu/Ino

Rating: Part 1- T/ Part 2- heavy M

Disclaimer: Of course everything related to Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto-sensei! OOC characters and plot do belong to me.

Warning: Mature contents, AU (Alternate Universe) and some OOCness. Part 2 WILL contain mature themes.
I am Italian, English is not my first language, please forgive my mistakes.

Part 1

Big, fat tears rolled down the woman's cheeks as she tried for the last time: the huge portal in front of her frightened and intimidated her, but she was desperate. For her own sake... for her daughter's sake... she had to do this.

She knocked on the door with a weak fist, but the sound echoed in the spacious room behind it. She waited in the pounding rain.

The door opened, and a black figure came out, eyes watching gravely the woman from beneath the heavy hood.

"Please." She pleaded, begged, her voice revealing all her vulnerability and fragility. "Please, take my daughter as an apprentice or a servant for the deity, the great Akuma!"

"Woman." The man answered, his voice husky and grave. "You do not know what are you talking about. Only men are allowed to the service of our God."

"Please." She begged, again, arms stretched in front of her as she showed him a bundle of blankets, wet because of the rain. "No one wanted her: I asked every temple, every shrine... This is my last chance."

Now the man seemed interested. "Let me see her." He said, backing a bit and opening the portal wide enough to let the woman enter. She sighed, somewhat relieved, hope shining in her eyes: she entered the temple, covering her head with a drenched scarf in sign of reference and respect.

The priest looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "You seem to know our rites."

The woman looked at him with hooded jade eyes. "Her father was a servant of your God." This only served to intrigue more the man.

Walking closer to him, she moved the blankets away to let him see her dear child. "I cannot keep her." She whispered. "And the villagers called her 'daughter of Akuma': they wanted to kill us both."

The priest couldn't contain a gasp. "Very unusual indeed." He murmured, then looked back at her sharply. "Follow me."

They walked bristly through a maze of passages, hallways, rooms and soon the woman lost her sense of direction: finally, they arrived in a huge hall, bigger than the first one they'd been in. Statues of the Akuma were all around the room, four enormous torches lit up the room, giving the cold, black stones a red hue: six long steps brought to a platform with a black altar and a tall mirror that reflected the light of the fire.

White and red fans were everywhere in the room, on the walls, on the torches: the woman knew she'd come to the right place.

The High Priest was praying in front of the altar on the platform, but the one she had followed went to him and murmured something at his ear: the elderly man stood up quietly, his eyes burning as he stared at her.

"Come here." He ordered in a surprisingly strong voice. She obeyed.

"Show me the child."

She did.

The High Priest for a moment didn't comment then turned around and mumbled something the woman didn't understand but sounded like "Pink hair is a sign of the Otherworld...": he threw sand in a brazier on the altar and then knocked over the brazier on the stony floor towards the mirror, still saying words in a language she didn't know.

"PLEASE COME!" he bellowed at the end.


Then, a shadow appeared in the mirror. "Why have you disturbed me?" a voice growled.
"My deity." The two priests sat on their knees, bowing low enough to touch the floor with their foreheads. "There is someone you need to see."


A foot appeared through the mirror, then a leg, an arm, a chest, a head: the Akuma stood in front of the three mortals.

"What is it?" he asked rudely, eyes red with irritation.

The High Priest, still not raising his eyes, moved a hand behind him, silently telling the woman to come forward: she obeyed, trembling slightly at the aura the being emanated.

"This child is most interesting." The Priest continued. "It should appease you, Ouji-sama."

The Akuma, who appeared to be a young man to the woman, didn't shed his bored and annoyed expression as he stretched a hand out to take the bundle she held protectively at her chest. Reluctantly, she obeyed the silent command.

The Akuma shoved away the blankets none too gently, and then stopped: jade eyes surveyed him innocently, strands of short pink hair framing her almost too large forehead.
He stayed there, quietly observing her, for some minutes.

"Ouji-sama?" the High Priest hesitantly asked.

"She's mine." The Akuma stated. "From now, to eternity." He looked at the woman, who was watching sadly her only daughter.
More gently, he said to her, "Thank you for bringing her here. My priests will give you whatever you need."

He started to turn back, when something made him change his mind. "What's her name?" he asked.
The woman, who was still prostrated on the ground, answered with a trembling voice.


The Akuma stayed still for a fleeting moment, then nodded. "A fitting name, indeed."

And with that, he went back in the mirror.

Humans believes Hell to be many things: for Christians, it's a place where sinners go after death, suffering many torments because of the bad deeds they've done in life. For Ancient Greeks and Romans it was simply the place of afterlife, a dark, ominous, scary underground city with only shadows as its inhabitants. Some people believed in the Nirvana, some others in the Makai.

But in truth, Hell was nothing like humans imagined: Hell was just another dimension inhabited by akuma and oni and servants, men and women who had sold their soul to them for one reason or another. Hell was actually a quite nice place, with beautiful gardens, japanese-styled palaces, orderly streets.

Uchiha Sasuke entered his room and the mirror behind him became black: as one of the major demons in Hell (or Underground as he preferred to call it) he had some privileges, and one of those was having a personal way to communicate with his temples – the mirror.

The child in his arms whined a bit and started sucking on her thumb.

He looked down at her, a claw gently tracing her cheeks; giggling, the child grasped his forefinger in her little hands, staring curiously at his long claw.
"It's dangerous for you to touch me like that." He said, knowing that she couldn't understand him, yet. His tone was annoyed, but his expression gentle: the baby made him feel calm, the calmest he'd been in centuries.

Someone knocked on the moving panel of his room and he sighed. "You may enter, Okaa-san."

Uchiha Mikoto, who was often seen as the Buddhist goddess Kannon, shooed away the servants who had opened her son's room for her and entered; her dark eyes widened at the sight of the bundle of covers in Sasuke's arms.

"You got someone pregnant?" she asked almost naively and her son groaned.

"No, Okaa-san, I didn't." His mother was too fixated with grandchildren. She pouted and elegantly sat down.

"Sasuke-chan, when are you going to give me grandchildren? Even your brother is mated by now..."

"He found his mate." Sasuke answered, shrugging. "I still haven't." That wasn't completely true, but she didn't need to know his plans yet.

Mikoto narrowed her eyes. "Then, why are you with a human baby?"

"She was a sort of... sacrifice for me at my Temple in the Capital."


The woman took a closer look at the baby, who was trying to grasp the collar of Sasuke's black haori. Her jade eyes were wide in wonder and her mouth open in a child's laugh.

"She is so cute! Can I hold her?" Mikoto smiled; then, she frowned her son's reticence to do as she asked. Sasuke didn't want to give the baby to her, however she was his mother and he trusted her. After a few seconds of indecision he sighed and laid the bundle in the older woman's arms.

"Aren't you beautiful?" Mikoto cooed, tickling the baby with a clawless finger. She lifted her head and looked at her son. "What's her name?"

"Sakura." He answered easily.

"Mh. She's going to be a beauty when older: do you want her to be your servant?"

Sasuke grimaced at the word. "No, I simply want to take care of her." 'At least until she's old enough...'

Now the Uchiha matriarch was watching him with deep, penetrating eyes, trying to search into his own for an answer. "Sasuke." She said seriously. "What are your plans for this child?"

He smirked. "You will know soon enough, Okaa-san."

The first years Sakura lived in the Uchiha compound passed all too quickly, for both her and Sasuke: the akuma kept the secret of her presence to himself and no one but his family and most trusted servants knew about the little human girl living in the residence.

In Hell time passed like in the normal world, but it had a different meaning for the demons and the humans living there; everyone lived much longer than those in the outer world and Sasuke's own father, Uchiha Fugaku, was 3000 years old.

Sakura grew up with Sasuke: he was jealously protective of her and never let her go out of the compound – sometimes he didn't even allow her to go out of his quarters without him. She was used to sleep with him and if it happened that he had to spend the night out, in the morning he would find her tired but awake, because she was unable to sleep without him.

The little girl soon conquered everyone in the Uchiha family: Mikoto loved her to death, Itachi smothered her and Fugaku, no matter how much he tried to hide it, was wrapped around her finger.

So, Sakura grew up as a spoiled, but sweet girl.

Sasuke and Sakura were inseparable: she followed him everywhere he went, and he didn't mind her company, on the contrary, he wanted to stay with her as much as possible. He taught her to write and read and a little of self-defense, like throwing and avoiding kunai and shuriken: he wanted to train her harder when she was older.

At first she was so clumsy he secretly despaired of her ever going to be able to protect herself: after two years of training, at age six, she still wasn't able to hit the target, not with shuriken nor with kunai. No matter how many times Sasuke patiently tried to teach her and correct her aim, Sakura seemed not to have the ability of throwing straight.
Still, Sasuke persevered.

At that age, his affection for the girl was that of an overprotective older brother: but things changed.

Once, when she was eight years old, one of the most famous clans in Hell arrived to the Uchiha compound, invited for dinner: the Hyuuga family – the head of the clan Hiashi Hyuuga with his wife and daughters, Hinata and Hanabi, and his brother Hizashi with his wife and son, Neji.

Now, Neji and Sasuke knew each other but weren't exactly what you would call... friends. They were companions and rivals more than anything else.

To be exact, they were in the same group of friends, which gathered some of the children of the most important families in Hell: this group was formed by Sasuke, Neji and Hinata, Uzumaki Naruto, Yamanaka Ino, Nara Shikamaru, Akimichi Chouji, Inuzuka Kiba, Aburame Shino, Subaku no Gaara, Kankuro and Temari.

The unsaid leader of the group was Uzumaki Naruto, son of the Fourth Emperor of Hell: he was the one who had gathered around himself, thanks to his lovable and enthusiastic personality, people so different between themselves.

So, Neji and Sasuke weren't friends, but they were Naruto's friends: actually, Naruto was Sasuke's best friend, not that the Uchiha was ever going to admit it.

But let us return to the story: that day, Fugaku, Mikoto and Itachi were greeting the Hyuuga and leading them to the garden while waiting for dinner, when Sakura, running away for the maids who had to take care of her, bumped in Neji.
The Hyuuga seemed perplexed by the discovery.

"This human still has a soul: and she's too young to have sold herself to you." Hiashi said in a questioning tone. Fugaku didn't answer but tensed slightly, while Itachi quickly moved next to Sakura.

"She smells good... good enough to eat." Hanabi murmured to her older sister: unfortunately, it's not a rumor that occasionally akuma would eat humans.

Sakura tilted her head and looked at the boy in front of her.
"Hi!" she smiled happily "I'm Sakura!"

Neji looked scandalized that a human would talk to him like that and was ready to punish the girl, when a hand grasped his wrist.

Red-tinted eyes greeted him when he turned around. "Don't touch her." Sasuke warned, positioning himself between Neji and Sakura.

"Sasu-chan!" the girl exclaimed, wrapping her arms around his right leg, grinning widely.

The Hyuuga looked astonished as the ice-cube Uchiha Sasuke smiled softly at the girl, before ruffling her pink hair.

"Sakura, I told you not to go out of my quarters alone, didn't I?" his voice was firm but still gentle.
The girl pouted. "But I was bored..." she whined, "Yumi-chan is not as fun as you to be around."
"I know, but you must obey me. Now go back to your room."

The girl grumbled but did as she was told, a flustered maid bowing repeatedly and apologizing as she led the girl away from the room.

Two days after, the group met in a famous bar called Ichiraku, Naruto's favorite place.
"How long had it been since we've done something exciting?" lamented Yamanaka Ino, staring at her blue nails.
"Troublesome woman..." Nara Shikamaru murmured, only to be silenced by a death glare from the blonde.
"Well, it's true that this is getting boring..." admitted Tenten, a lower akuma who worked for the Hyuuga and was friend with Neji.

"Maybe we should go to the Upperworld and chase some humans." Subaku Kankuro suggested and his sister Temari scoffed.
"That's so out of date."

"Do you know that Uchiha has a little girl living in his quarters? A human girl."

Everyone's attention went from Neji to Sasuke, who was now openly seething at the other akuma.
"That's none of your business." He gritted out: he didn't want any of his friends, especially not Naruto, to know about Sakura.
"She calls him Sasu-chan. How cute." Smiled Neji sarcastically.

"What! Teme didn't tell us!" Naruto shouted. Sasuke sighed: Naruto was always so loud.

"A human girl?" Ino seemed curious. "Now, that's interesting. Why are you keeping her there? Want to eat her when she's older?"

"She...she smells really sweet." Hinata said blushing: even if she was an akuma, she was really shy.

"Cool!" Naruto exclaimed. "Maybe we all could try her, eh Sasuke-teme? A piece for everyone of us."

No one saw the Uchiha move: all they could feel was the air moving and then they saw Naruto being choked by Sasuke, who had a hand at his friend's throat. Sasuke's eyes were red with the sharingan, one of his clan's special powers.

"Don't. You. Ever. Talk. About. Her. LIKE. THAT!" he screamed, shaking the blond.

"Oi! Cut it out temeee!" Naruto growled, throwing a punch the other male avoided.

Sasuke had regained control of his emotions, but his eyes glinted with unbelievable fury. "If one of you touches a hair on Sakura's head... I will have his or her life."

With that, he stormed out of the bar, ignoring the shocked stares of his friends.

Uchiha Mikoto and Itachi were discussing quietly in the matriarch's room, when a flushed maid knocked on the panel and bowed to them.

"Uchiha-sama." She murmured. "There are some visitors for Sasuke-sama, but he isn't at home. What should I do?"

Mikoto closed with a snap her fan and exchanged a look with her older son. "Lead them to the waiting room: I'll be there soon. Then, make sure that Sakura doesn't escape from Sasuke's quarters."

"As you wish, Hime-sama."

As Mikoto had suspected, the group of Sasuke's friends was waiting in the room and bowed as soon as the Uchiha matriarch entered, followed by Itachi.

"Please, Naruto-kun, everybody, sit down." She smiled gently. "Unfortunately my son is not here at the moment, but he should be back home soon... if you wish to wait for him..."

"Ne ne, Mikoto-san!" Naruto started. "We exactly aren't here for Sasuke… we want to know more about the little girl who lives with you."

The woman visibly tensed and while Itachi didn't show emotions, his eyes became red for a second, only to return to their original black shade soon after. "What do you want with her?" He asked coldly.

"We're just curious." Ino shrugged, hoping to conceal how MUCH they really were curious.

"I'm sorry." Mikoto was serious. "But we don't exactly trust anyone with Sakura. After all, she's still human, and you could be tempted to eat her." Under the polite phrase there was hidden a warning: don't touch Sakura if you didn't want the entire Uchiha clan to chase you.

"We would never hurt her!" Naruto protested. "We simply want to know why te—Sasuke kept her a secret from us for so long."

Mikoto opened her fan. "This is something you must ask my son, Uzumaki-san. However, she's important to him, so please don't do anything foolish. If you want, you could wait for Sasuke in the garden; the servants will bring you green tea and something to eat."

None dared to argue with the Uchiha matriarch, so they walked meekly into the garden, sitting in the shade of two enormous oaks: as the older woman had said, soon five servants were bringing the tea.

"This is getting even more interesting." Ino stated, eyes flashing: she was actually jealous of this girl Sasuke protected, since she had tried for so long to catch his attention. Ino had for decades dreamed that Sasuke would choose her as his mate, but he never showed interest in her or in any of the girls who tried to win him. She had finally resigned herself, only to find out that a child, a human, had been able to do what she, the beautiful heiress of the Yamanaka clan, couldn't not: catch Sasuke's attention.

It was unbelievably embarrassing.

"So, it's not only Sasuke." Shino said. "All the family is quite protective of this girl. What's her name?"

"Sakura." Neji answered. "She's quite unusual for a human: green eyes and pink hair."

"Pink…?" Naruto blinked.
"Pink!?" Ino snorted. "What a freak."

"Actually…" Hinata piped up, "…she's kind of cute."

The blonde huffed but didn't say anything else: Shikamaru, who was laying on the grass and dozing next to her, opened one eyes and stared at his long-time friend, bitterly wondering why she never seemed to notice him the way he wanted her to.

The group remained in silence for a bit, enjoying the tranquility of the garden.

Naruto, who was laying on the ground, crossed his arms behind his head and stared at the blue sky, doing some cloud-watching in typical Shikamaru-style and wondered why his best friend was so attached to a human girl: Sasuke usually didn't care about humans or girls, he didn't care about anything outside his family and his friends (read: Naruto himself). His behavior recently had been very strange, and now the blond knew why he was always running home and never having much fun with them.

He admitted it, he was jealous: this 'Sakura' was stealing his best friend from him! It wasn't fair, he had been there much before than her!

A childish voice interrupted his musings.

"Uh, what are you staring at?"

Naruto's gaze moved to the side: a little girl was watching him curiously with liquid green eyes and her hair, tied in two ponytails, was PINK.

"Ah!" Hinata exclaimed, then muffled her scream with a hand. She kneeled down and smiled at the little girl. "You are Sakura-chan, aren't you?"

The child tilted her head and giggled "You were here some days ago! I remember you and the long-haired guy because you have such pretty white eyes!"

"Aww." Hinata gushed, followed closely by Tenten. "You're adorable." Temari sat down too and smiled at Sakura. "She's very cute. I can see why Sasuke keeps her with him."

Meanwhile, Ino burned in jealousy. "But look at that forehead! And that hair! It's so… ABNORMAL!"

Tears gathered in the child's eyes and the other females quickly panicked. "B-But but, Sasu-chan likes it! He says it remembers him of the cherry blossoms!"
"In fact it's very nice! What Ino mean is that it's… an unusual color! But very pretty!" Tenten quickly improvised.
"Really?" the child asked quietly, sniffling.
"Really." The akuma smiled gently.

"Are you crazy?" Temari hissed to Ino. "Can you imagine what Sasuke'll do to us if we make her cry?" the other blonde only huffed, offended.

Naruto, for once, was quiet, observing the little girl in front of him: she looked nothing special, yes, she was cute, but she was a child, Sasuke couldn't possibly be interested in her. He was confused and wanted nothing more than receive answers from his best friend.

Shino, Chouji and Shikamaru were busy watching the child too, as she chatted animatedly with Hinata and Tenten. From the looks on their faces, none of them could see what this girl had that had intrigued their friend.

A flustered maid ran in their direction and the bowed down low, as she panted.
"Sakura-sama, please." She begged. "Don't disturb Sasuke-ouji-sama's guests: you know you're not allowed to go out of your rooms if he isn't here."

The roseate-haired child stuck out her tongue, "But it's so boring! Sasu-chan is never home lately, and I'm tired to stay inside! I want to play in the garden!" her cheeks were getting red, a sign she was getting ready to throw a tantrum.

"Please, Sakura-sama!" the maid pleaded again. "Sasuke-ouji-sama will get angry at me!"

"No!" the girl stubbornly refused, as she attached herself to Tenten's leg, who looked around uncomfortably.

"Sakura." A scolding voice was heard. "Why don't you obey my orders?"

The child's face lit up with a beaming smile, as she detached herself from Tenten, to run toward a figure who was standing behind the now weeping servant.
"Sasu-chan!" She exclaimed, leaping at him.

Sasuke caught her effortlessly in his arms, lifting her until she was eye-level with him.
"Sakura." He said gravely. "I'm very disappointed in you: I told you many times to stay in your quarters if I'm not home. It's for your protection and I'm getting tired of you disobeying me."

"But-but…" the little girl stammered, eyes growing glassy with unshed tears, "It's so boring! I have to stay inside that room all the time, and I enjoy reading books but it gets old after a while! Itachi-nii-chan is usually away, Mikoto-okaa-chan and Fugaku-otou-san don't have time to stay with me…and you're never home, you're always too busy for me…" she looked down. "…and I miss you."

Sasuke's eyes softened and his friends gaped as he hugged the child tightly.
"I know the compound isn't the ideal place for a little girl… but Sakura, you must understand that I want to protect you, and that you must follow what I say."

"But I simply want to play in the garden! It can't be that dangerous, can it?" she whined, clutching his neck.

Sasuke looked behind her, throwing a chilling glare at his friends. "You never know, someone could be able to trespass, to pass through the wards, someone who could hurt you." He moved back and smiled gently at the child. "I promise I'll spend more time with you only if you promise you'll obey my orders and never go out of our quarters without me or Itachi or Haha-hue or Chichi-hue. Alright?"

The little girl through about it for a few seconds then beamed. "Okay! Pinkie promise?" she stuck out her pinkie.

"Promise" he said, crossing fingers with her. "Now go with Yumi: I'll arrive soon."

"Okay." She nodded obediently, then waved at Sasuke's friends.

He watched her walk away, then turned to them. Temari and Tenten quietly gulped; Shino, Chouji and Shikamaru moved out of the range of the Uchiha's temper; only Naruto stood his ground.

"What were you doing here?" Sasuke asked coldly, his anger badly concealed.

"You never told us we couldn't see her." Naruto replied boldly.

They stared at each other for a long time; then Sasuke seemed to relax.

"No, I didn't." he admitted warily. "I still don't want you to hurt her. If you want, you can visit her; after all, Sakura will be needing female company soon."

"We don't want to hurt her, Sasuke-san." Hinata said timidly. "After all, she's under your protection."

The dark-haired akuma smiled sardonically. "I hope so." And with that, he walked away.

"What do you want Naruto?" Sasuke asked irritably as he closed the shoji door, being careful not to wake up Sakura.

"You sleep with her?" gaped his blond friend.

"Get your mind out of the gutter!"

Naruto had come, alone this time, to talk with his friend two days after the encounter with Sakura: he wanted answers and he wanted them a.s.a.p.!

"What the hell, Sasuke! I don't understand you anymore! What's so special about this girl that you spend all your free time with her? You even sleep in the same bed as her!"

The Uchiha glared at him, but then sighed. "Walk with me." He said quietly, motioning for the blond to follow him.

They walked together quietly, their bare feet silent against the wooden floors.

"So?" Naruto prompted.

Sasuke bit his lower lip, then stopped: he seemed to be struggling with what he had to say. "She… Naruto, she is… she is her."

The blond froze. "HER!? Are you sure? She's a human!"

"Not even Chichi-hue knows how it's possible… I'm doing some researches, however there's no doubt. Naruto, the pull, the emotions… it's just like they taught us in fairytales. Everything is true."

His friend sighed. "Now I understand your strange behavior." The he grinned. "I'm a bit envious: I want to know too how it feels."

Sasuke smirked. "No way, you're too much of a dobe."

"What!? Temeee, I dare you to repeat that!"


"Argh! I hate youuu!"

Everything was back to normal for the two friends.

Eventually, Sasuke had to admit he was glad Sakura had some female company to talk to, because he was sure he wouldn't have been able to stand all that "girl talk" she did with Tenten, Hinata, Ino and Temari in the following years. At first Ino was cold with her, but after some years, and after an infamous accident in which the akuma had put Sakura in danger, they had become friends: also because Sasuke had rejected Ino cruelly and harshly, after she had pleaded for forgiveness for almost killing the little girl – there's no need to say that the blonde took offense of his behavior and sought refuge running to Shikamaru.

And so Ino had finally noticed Shikamaru, who had loved her secretly and patiently for centuries. After realizing that she was fonder of the lazy akuma than of Sasuke, the two had started dating; which made the Uchiha immensely happy because he was finally free of the annoying Ino.

At age 11, Sakura decided she had enough of Sasuke's over-protectiveness. "Sasuke-kun, this afternoon I'm going out with Hinata-chan and Tenten-chan for some shopping."

His hand froze in the middle of signing an important document: he turned around to see the girl smiling angelically at him.

"No." he blurted out and went back to his document.

"What!?" she gasped. "I'm going whether you like it or not!"

Sasuke sprang to his feet and stormed to the girl; his eyes were slightly red and Sakura bit her lip, a bit scared. "You're not going and this is my last word!"

"But Mikoto-san said I could go!" she whined. "And I'm not going alone! I want to go out, Sasuke-kun, you can't keep me cooped in here forever! I want to see the outer world!"

"It's too dangerous." He said, gripping her shoulders, staring down at her. "You could get hurt and—"
"I'm tired of this! I can get hurt in the garden, I can get hurt if I go out, I can get hurt everywhere! I'm not as frail as you think I am!"

"You won't go Sakura. Now go back to your room and be a good girl. Hinata and Tenten can visit you here."

He turned around and sat at his desk, resuming his work: but his acute hearing didn't miss the muffled sniffling. His hand clenched around the feather he used to write: he didn't like it when she cried, but he couldn't risk losing her.

"I HATE YOU, SASUKE!" the girl suddenly screamed as she ran out of the room crying.

The dark-haired akuma broke the feather as he tightened his grip on it and his heart tightened painfully at the hurtful words. He knew he'd done the best thing, but he didn't want her to be upset with him.
'I'll take her out tomorrow.' He silently promised, taking a new feather.

Ten minutes later, another presence entered the room.
"Why nobody is leaving me alone? I have work to do." Sasuke gritted his teeth.

Itachi watched him nonplussed. "I'm just back from calming down a distressed Sakura, otouto. You know you can't always keep her in the manor: she's growing up, she's curious, she wants to know the world. I don't see anything wrong with her going to explore the city with Hinata-

san and Tenten-san. I understand the fact that you want to protect her, but the more you try to keep her chained, the harder she'll try to break free."

Sasuke didn't turn around, but reflected on his brother's words.
"I can't lose her." he answered simply.

"You'll be losing her soon, if you don't stop with this behavior." And with that, Itachi left him alone.

Secretly Sasuke resented the fact that he wasn't enough anymore for her: Sakura needed female friends and more often than not sought Ino's, Hinata's, Tenten's or Temari's company instead of his. He felt like she was slipping from his grasp and he didn't want this.

"Tomorrow." He murmured "Tomorrow I'll take her out, we'll visit the city, maybe she could do some shopping…" with that through in mind he continued his work, slightly relieved.

That same night, Sasuke sleepily felt Sakura shuffle around: even if they didn't sleep in the same bed anymore, they stayed in the same room, because neither was able to sleep well without the other. When she opened the shoji and walked out, Sasuke dismissed the fact as a visit to the bathroom and turned on his other side, falling asleep.

When he woke up, before dawn as usual, he glanced at the futon beside his and his heart skipped a beat when he noticed it was empty.
'Calm down' he said to himself 'Maybe she's somewhere in the house…'
However, it had never happened before that he had woken up to find her missing: he felt uneasy.

She wasn't in the bathroom; he quickly washed and put on some clean clothes, then went to the kitchens: the cooks hadn't seen Sakura since the evening before. He searched the halls, his parents' and Itachi's quarters, the training room; he went into the garden, interrogated the guards.

Sakura had disappeared.

Tenten sighed as her partner, a young akuma called Rock Lee, continued to babble about how he was going to defeat his eternal rival, Neji Hyuuga. As protectors of the Hyuuga clan, they were supposed to patrol at night the streets around the manor; however, that night Tenten was exhausted, having sparred with Neji for the entire afternoon, and wanted nothing more than go to sleep.

So, it was Rock Lee who noticed 'it'.

"Tenten-san, what's that?"

The brown-haired akuma narrowed her eyes at the bundle of clothes near the wall of the compound her partner had indicated: cautiously she went closer and touched it with the tip of her katana. When it moved and moaned, Tenten jumped back to Rock Lee's side in a defensive stance as they both watched it warily.

When a roseate head peeked from under the clothes, Tenten sighed in relief.
"Sakura-chan!" she exclaimed gently. "What are you doing here, this late? Why aren't you at the Uchiha manor?"

Sakura looked at her sleepily, then launched herself at the startled akuma. "Tenten-chan! I got lost! I-I-I… I got away! I escaped!"
"You…WHAT!?" Tenten gripped Sakura's shoulders and lowered her head to stare at the younger girl. "Sakura… why? Why did you escape? If Sasuke-san finds out… he'll be outraged!"

"I don't care!" snapped the human. "He is mean! He doesn't want me to go out, I never have fun and he's always busy!"

"Oh, Sakura-chan… don't you see?" the brown-haired akuma hugged the other girl. "He wants to protect you, the only way he knows. Yes, he is a bit stupid, but he's a male after all." And she winked at Sakura.

Sakura bit her lower lip and hid her face in Tenten's shirt. "I don't want to go back…"

"But Sakura-chan, I can't bring you to Hyuuga household… it's not my place!"

"What is this ruckus?" a voice asked coldly from the shadows.
Tenten and Rock Lee froze, before bowing respectfully. "Neji-sama!" they exclaimed.

The Hyuuga stared blankly at the scene before him: Sakura watched him, not afraid, and they engaged in a battle of will through their eyes.
"You can stay in Tenten's quarters for the night." He finally conceded. "But first thing tomorrow morning I'll contact the Uchiha: I don't want him to go on a rampage through Hell to search for an ungrateful child." Sakura swallowed the insult without flinching, since she wasn't feeling guilty at all. "And I must admit I don't want to suffer his wrath once he finds out you've been in my home all the time."

With a nod, Tenten pushed the girl forward and brought her to her rooms, which weren't as grand as those Sakura shared with Sasuke, but were nice enough and fit for Tenten's rank.
"I have some spare futon in here." The akuma said as she opened a shelf. "And here some sleeping clothes. I have to complete my rounds, but soon I'll be back here." Tenten smiled gently. "Sleep well, Sakura-chan."

With that, she exited the room and closed the shoji.

Sakura laid on the futon, uneasy: it was comfortable enough, but everything around her was so different from the Uchiha household that at first she couldn't relax and sleep. Every muffled noise would startle her, every shadow scared her and suddenly she wished she was back home, with Sasuke's solid form to comfort her.
Then, she remembered their argument in the afternoon and decided it was worth being in foreign place, just to give him a scare. 'This will teach him!' she through furiously. 'Always treating me like I'm made of glass…Sasuke-kun needs to trust me more…'

With that, she fell in a fitful sleep and never woke up until Tenten shook her awake.
"Come on, Sakura-chan. Neji-sama sent a messenger to the Uchiha compound; Sasuke-san will be here soon and I don't think he'll be too happy with the stunt you pulled…"

"I don't care!" the human said, moodily throwing aside the blankets. "He deserved it!"

Tenten sighed, but said nothing. Sakura dressed quickly, in truth a bit distressed at the thought of seeing Sasuke after escaping home: the day before it had seemed like a smart idea, but now she was getting scared of facing Sasuke, who, she knew, was going to be very angry.

"Stand your ground and don't give in." she muttered to herself under her breath.

Tenten brought her to a spacious room; the pink-haired girl noticed Neji standing to the side, having a conversation with a man she knew all too well and who had his back turned to her. She bit her lower lip and slowly advanced, hunching her shoulders in shame.

Sasuke turned around and looked at her emotionlessly: his blank stare hurt her as much as she guessed she'd hurt him. Suddenly Sakura remembered why she'd run away, so she squared her shoulders and straightened her back, continuing walking toward him, meeting his unflinching eyes with her determined ones.

As soon as she got close enough to him, she felt a stinging pain to the cheek: she cried out and then looked up at the man in front of her, who still had a hand raised. Sasuke's face was now expressing his rage, frustration and concern.

"You foolish girl!" he hissed, without raising his voice.

Sakura on her part was shocked: she'd never been slapped or hit and that Sasuke had been the first one to do that had disturbed her deeply. Her jade eyes filled with tears and she hesitantly took a step back, still holding a hand on her reddened cheek.

Suddenly she was being held in a strong, warm hug. "You foolish girl…" his voice was weaker now, it almost shook. "How dare you… Have you got an idea of how worried I got?" Sasuke was stroking her hair, whispering in ear, pulling her closer to him. "I promise I'll bring you in town to shop, I promise I'll be always here for you, I promise I'll never let you get bored you again, I promise you can go out with Tenten and Ino and the other girls, I promise you anything… but, please, don't do that again, don't run away…."

Sakura was shocked: Sasuke had never talked to her like that and she'd never, ever, heard him pleading someone. Suddenly she felt very stupid.

She wrapped her shorter arms around his broad shoulders and cried in his neck. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry Sasuke-kun, I'm sorry…"

The akuma lifted her up in his arms, her head still hidden in the hollow of his neck: he nodded in thanks to Neji, Tenten and Lee, then he walked out of the Hyuuga mansion, his precious charge held safely in his embrace.

- End Part 1 -
To be continued

Akuma: demon/devil
Okaa-san: mother
Otou-san: father
Ouji-sama: prince, his highness
Hime-sama: princess, her highness
Haha-hue: mother (respectful)
Chichi-hue: father (respectful)
Shoji: sliding panel(s) usually used as door(s) in traditional Japanese houses
Otouto: little brother
Futon: traditional Japanese beds.

AN (IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ): So, I finally posted the first part of TRB: however, I'm still working on the second one (writer's block is a horrible thing, my dear readers) and I don't know when I'll update. I WILL complete the story, but I have to find time and inspiration to finish writing last chapter. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one.

Please, leave a REVIEW, your comments always inspire me.