It is days like these that make her smile.

Naruto is bursting with orange fire, like always, cracking his perverted jokes that only an experienced peeping tom would find funny. Sakura finds herself smiling, more at his broad smile and stark blue eyes than anything else, because frankly, she thinks his humor could use a little more practice.

Sasuke has on the secretive smirk that he slips cleverly beneath his lips. It's almost as if he doesn't want anyone else to see that small upward quirk, because it's something ridiculously precious he can't afford to lose. It says a lot of things, more than any of the words his rough mouth could ever shape.

Kakashi is leaned up against a tree, reading in the shade, seemingly unaware of the chaos known as Team 7. But she notices; in the small moments when he looks up with a brief warmth in that lone black eye before turning back to the flapping orange book. She notices, but she won't tell him, because she knows he's sensitive about these kinds of things.

She feels happy like this. These interactions are ordinary and routine, yes. But today, for some reason, the sky seems so far away and close, all at once. There's a kind of distance and nearness to these people that Sakura can't define. Something buzzing deep inside as she socks Naruto in the stomach for making a particularly crude remark, something indescribably warm as she screams at him in a very unladylike fashion.

She's grateful for this. She's grateful that there is this establishment between them, this small latticework she can call her own. Everywhere else, there might be pretenses, and everywhere else she might need to worry about how to act and what to say, but with these boys she feels at home in herself. She can fall, and she knows they'll be there to catch her without question or hesitance.

She's so happy that when Naruto asks her if she'll go with him for ramen tonight, she says yes, and not grudgingly. And when Naruto calls to Sasuke and asks if he'll join and Sasuke grunts (but with the smirk still on) and starts walking after them with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, Sakura can't help the smile that breaks out on her face.

And when Kakashi invites himself along, padding after with his head still buried in his book (but she catches the brief glimpse), Sakura thinks that her heart might explode from joy.

She loves these boys, and they love her.

Walking down this dusty road with the orange sky holding her close, Sakura knows there might be regrets left behind. She knows that there will be tears (mostly her own), and maybe even bitterness; but right now those things seem small and far away, things of a dream. Right now she can let herself laugh and she can let them be themselves. They don't need to force any smiles. They don't need to force love. They can be, and it will come naturally.

Just live.


Team 7 still makes me smile in the end. :)