Team Seven. They're probably the most well-known team in all of Konoha.
Comprised of the Kyuubi vessel, one of the two remaining survivors of the Uchiha clan (and once a traitor to Konoha), and an ordinary girl with one of the sharpest minds in Konoha (and the fiercest tempers). Taught by the famous Copy-nin Kakashi, divided to the three Legendary Sannin.
No one would look twice at this group when they were 12-year-olds, just starting out as clumsy genin.
Sasuke Uchiha, of course, caught everyone's eye. A genius, the last Uchiha in Konoha, wielder of the Sharingan. Everyone knew him; adults pitied him, young girls chased after him, boys admired him. He was talented, a fast learner, determined. Everything Konoha wanted in a ninja.
So much was expected of Sasuke. But no one anticipated his betrayal.
Naruto Uzumaki, vessel to the demon fox, and self-proclaimed future Hokage. He was a prankster, a class clown. Always seeking attention, any kind he could get. He was shunned from the very beginning, hated and feared. Still he smiled, waiting for a friend to come along.
No one would open their eyes to see what the blonde goofball would become.
So he wormed his way into their hearts, instead.
Sakura Haruno had been the most overlooked. She was just another Sasuke fangirl. Never working to her full potential, never offering a helping hand to her other teammate. Scorned by the boy she admired, adored by the boy she hated. Sakura was an ordinary girl until Tsunade took her in, teaching her to crack the ground with one hit, and mend bones with one brush of the hand.
The girl that cowered behind her teammates, wept over their wounded bodies, and protected them with her life.
They made up Team Seven. They made up the team that would one day strike fear into the hearts of enemies, pride into the hearts of Konoha, and reassurance into the hearts of civilians everywhere.
But first they brought their hearts together.
When most people think of Team Seven, they think of something amazing. Perhaps Sasuke leaping in front of a young girl to block a kunai from an enemy. Or Naruto, giving all he has to protect his village. Or maybe Sakura, hands moving over a deeply injured man, healing him when no one else could.
And it's true, this is what Team Seven does. That is why they are known.
But people like me, people who have known them for years, think of other things.
Things like Sakura slapping Naruto upside the head for insulting her precious Sasuke. Things like Sasuke and Naruto flinging insults over a bowl of ramen. Things like the three of them waiting on the bridge for their perpetually late sensei, as they exchange their friendly banter.
This is what I think of. This is also Team Seven, when they're just three kids, who love each other, who protect each other, who can't live without each other.
Sometimes I see them walking down the street, coming back from a mission or going out for a bowl of ramen (or, in Naruto's case, at least three).
The first few times, I always saw them in the same formation: Naruto bounding ahead in the middle, slightly ahead; Sasuke on his left, hands in pockets; and Sakura, skipping along on Naruto's right, sneaking sideways glances at Sasuke.
So the first time I saw them out of order, they looked so very wrong.
Sakura was in the middle, her hair now much shorter, though I noticed this afterwards. She was chatting animatedly with Naruto; for the first time, she was smiling at him, her eyes shining brightly, almost reverently. Sasuke was on her other side, looking at his teammates in a way I couldn't quite explain. Whatever had happened, I knew it had been big. It had brought Team Seven closer, for sure.
I later learned of what had happened, how Sakura—cowardly, weak Sakura—had fought to protect her unconscious teammates.
And I—and everyone else—saw Team Seven starting to grow up.
For days I watched them. They fascinated me. They were all so different: a cold avenger, a girly, temperamental princess, and a loudmouthed blond with a heart of gold. You wouldn't even expect them to notice one another, yet they were the best of friends.
I had my doubts, but when I saw them, I knew.
"I'm starving," Naruto whined, in that way Naruto always did (and still does—that boy will never grow up).
"You're always starving," Sakura muttered. She smiled sweetly at Sasuke. "Are you hungry, Sasuke-kun?"
Sakura seemed to take this as a yes, and she smiled at him again, in a very different way, as Naruto cheered.
Sakura paid for them after the meal, since Naruto was broke.
He didn't even notice that the other two barely touched their bowls. They had eaten their lunch an hour ago, while Kakashi helped Naruto with his genjutsu.
When you see them, not when they're on the battlefield, or even during training, but in moments like this, when everyone's at peace—even Sasuke—you can see just how much Team Seven loves each other.
They care for each other.
Like when Sakura brings Naruto dinner after a long day.
They respect each other.
Like when Sasuke goes to no one but Sakura for healing.
They trust each other.
Like when Naruto drinks himself into a stupor, knowing that Sasuke will take him to his apartment and watch over him.
They complete each other.
Sometimes Team Seven fights.
"Weak," Sasuke scoffed.
Sakura bit her lip to stop it from trembling. Sasuke walked away, hands stuffed in pockets.
But he didn't get far.
Naruto appeared suddenly in front of him, yelling, hurling insults and growling threats. His words, as always, cut Sasuke—he had a knack for that—but it was Sakura's expression that stung the most.
Her eyes were slightly glassy, but her mouth was set in a determined line. Her hands shook a bit, but she tightly gripped a kunai.
She turned away from the other two and began to train.
But they always, always make up.
Later that night, Sasuke and Naruto met up for ramen. Sakura was supposed to meet them.
Half an hour later, she still hadn't shown up.
This worried them. Sakura was always on time, if not early.
"This is your fault," Naruto accused.
Sasuke ignored him, but he couldn't help but feel guilty.
Making up his mind, he stood up. Naruto looked at him in some surprise.
"Let's go," was all he said. But Naruto understood. He always did.
They headed to the training grounds, and, as expected, spotted Sakura, slumped on the ground.
Naruto knelt down beside her. "She worked herself too hard," he said, shaking his head. Sakura never had their kind of stamina. She wasn't able to deal with intense training.
(Not then, anyways. But she improved. And I'm so proud of her.)
Sasuke leaned down and scooped her up gently in his arms. Naruto, for once, didn't comment, only smiled knowingly. Sasuke raised an eyebrow at him.
When they got to her house, Sakura began to stir.
She opened her eyes slightly. "Sasuke-kun?" she asked drearily.
"I won't be weak for long…" she shifted, eyes already starting to drift shut.
"We know you won't, Sakura," Naruto replied for him, shooting Sasuke a venomous glare.
She was already asleep, there was no point in answering. But he continued to glare, even as Sasuke leapt up to her balcony, slid open the door, and set her on her bed.
The next day, Sakura yawned widely as they started to train. Naruto and Sasuke noticed, and Naruto gave him a pointed look.
Sakura got into a defensive position. Sasuke watched her, then sighed.
He strode over to stand behind her, re-positioning her arms.
"You have the strength to block attacks, Sakura. Use it," he said simply, already walking away.
When Sasuke left, Team Seven fell apart. Sakura cried for the first few days, and Naruto was lost in a torrent of emotion.
They made a promise—to themselves, each other, and Sasuke. They would bring him home.
And a few years later, they did.
The next time I saw Team Seven, they were again out of order. This time, Sasuke was in the middle,. Sakura and Naruto stood close to him, smiling, but throwing murderous glances at anyone who dared to stare too long.
For once, they were the ones protecting him.
Sasuke was often said to be the strongest member of Team Seven. Gifted with skill, speed, intelligence, and strength, anyone could see why. He surpassed all others, overcame any challenge with ease.
But after his betrayal, he was sneered at, thought to be weak.
Around that time, more people looked at Sakura in a new light. Highly intelligent, with medic skills that would one day perhaps rival Tsunade's, and the ability to topple a tree with one kick, she was feared, respected, admired—everything she had hoped she would be.
She had once been the weakest member of Team Seven, mocked by her enemies. Now she was strong—though, she was sure, never the strongest—and feared by them.
Naruto, during all of this, stayed in the background. He was an exceptional ninja, minimal intelligence, but sheer strength, steely determination, and all heart.
He would one day rise above all the others. For now, he was content to stay where he was; coming out only when needed, and letting his friend get the attention she deserved.
I don't think of it that way. There's not a strongest member of the team, nor is there a weakest. When they're together, they are the strongest. As a team, working together, putting Sasuke's skill with Naruto's brute strength and Sakura's mind. Their strengths come together, overshadowing their weaknesses.
Apart, they're Sasuke Uchiha, the lonely orphan with the hordes of fangirls, Sakura Haruno, Konoha's sweetheart, and Naruto Uzumaki, ramen-loving goofball. Hardly frightening.
But together, they're Team Seven, who will one day pass the Legendary Sannin they were taught by.
Sakura knows all there is to know about her boys.
She knows Sasuke loves tomatoes, and regularly brings him some for lunch (he always "forgets" his).
She knows that Naruto hates to cook and clean and do his laundry, so she does it for him (though she nags all the while).
Sasuke and Naruto know her, too, and repay her in the best ways they know how.
Naruto buys her her favorite flowers—pink carnations—and leaves them by her door every week.
Sasuke shows his thanks in his own way, allowing her to latch on to him, or putting up with her dinner "invitations."
Though they know she doesn't expect anything in return, and she knows they insist on it anyways.
Team Seven still looks out for each other, for the smallest things.
Sakura drags Sasuke and Naruto to her apartment for dinner every chance she gets. She likes to know they're eating properly.
Naruto and Sasuke never let Sakura walk alone late at night. They know she can take care of herself, they just don't want her to have to.
Naruto and Sasuke always know when the other is upset, and they take care of it; Sasuke buys Naruto ramen, Naruto helps Sasuke train.
They're not just friends anymore. They're family.
I smile softly, as I look over at them. Sakura's laughing at Naruto's antics, and Sasuke offers a smirk and an offhand comment about his idiocy. Naruto retorts, and pounces at Sasuke, but he merely steps easily to the side.
Sakura and Sasuke shake their heads and look over at me. Naruto follows their gaze.
"Hey, Kakashi-sensei! Aren't you going to yell at us to start working?"
"Or at least pull out your book?" Sasuke mutters, and Sakura giggles, putting a hand over her mouth.
"Just thinking," I say with a shrug.
"Really?" Sakura flops down beside him. "You could teach them," she waves towards her teammates, "a thing or two."
Maybe, I think, only smiling in response, s Naruto protests loudly, and Sasuke folds his arms over his chest. Or maybe you guys could teach the rest of us.