Author's note: Okay guys, I'm sorry, really I am. I'm working on Not Just a Girl, but I will make no promises, as I don't have time to write now (I sat down to do an English paper and this came out instead, so I'm a little screwed so I really hope you like it). It's an introspective Sakura drabble, with dashes of the boys, and a pinch of Ino. Interpret as you will.


Sometimes it drover her insane, the truth, some days she woke up and wondered how she could do it every single day as though she had the right. Some days she went to sleep, for that is the only thing you can do with the truth, sleep it away, and she prayed that she wouldn't wake up in the morning. Some of these days she couldn't sleep it off, was busy on a mission, or at the hospital. These days she took stupid risks, the ones that were sure to get her killed and then didn't, or she passed the most serious cases to some one else. These days she spent hours staring at her wrists, at the blue vein that beat strong and steady, and she thought.

These were the days when she knew that no matter how strong she got, no matter how long she trained, or how hard she worked she would never come close to closing the gap between her and her boys (and what right did she have to call them hers? They weren't hers, and she wasn't theirs, they had left her behind long, long ago). She knew now that she wasn't watching their backs anymore, not because she had bridged that gap (no, that wouldn't happen, would never happen, she was just a silly, stupid, weak little girl), but because while she was busy training and training and training (and what was the point of that?) Sasuke and Naruto had moved so far ahead of her that she couldn't even glimpse their backs anymore.

These days were always triggered by either Sasuke or Naruto, the only two people left with the power to make her feel inferior. A simple offhand comment from Sasuke, or watching a spar between the two (or the one, because Sasuke moved so fast she never saw him). Watching them, and knowing that she never stood a chance against either of them, and knowing that they knew it too, that they kept her on the team so they could protect her (because even though they had left her to splutter and wither and die choking on their dust, they loved her, she knew it, never ever doubted it), because they thought she needed their protection, because she did need their protection. Every time Sasuke made a comment "Hn. Still weak." It sent her spiraling (he was the only one who could do it so easily) into the dark and confusing world of her own mind.

They loved her, Naruto with a fervent passion, loud and boisterous and so obvious it hurt, and Sasuke with the quiet desperation that was more subtle but perhaps stronger. But they never noticed. Never noticed that when she smiled there was no happiness, that she didn't laugh and her movements were listless or stupid. Never noticed that there was something in her that was destroying her, stripping away layer and layer of hard earned self esteem until she is just that sobbing child again. They never noticed, because they were there to protect her body, but spirits went beyond them, they didn't understand her insecurities and her fears. Luckily for her Ino always did.

Ino had known Sakura for years. She knew every facial expression, every tone of voice, every gesture. She knew every fear, and every joy. Even when they had been rivals she had studied her, learned her (for you can not defeat an enemy that you don't know). And on the days when Sakura was drooping, the weight of her thoughts and insecurities too much for her to bear with her back straight, Ino knew. And on the days when Sakura stopped seeing the boys as two men who loved her to the point of recklessness (poor Hinata had been forced to move on, because Naruto never would), and started to see them as two people who were so far out of her league that she should never bother them, Ino knew. And Ino fixed it.

She didn't do girl talk with Sakura, Sakura sometime during the years with team seven had been together had developed a dislike of talking about her feelings or admitting weakness, or being human in general. If she had attempted to talk to Sakura about her feelings she would have smiled and shut down. So Ino didn't talk to Sakura, not in the gentle way that she would have preferred to use with the woman who was her best friend. Instead she took her out to the training field and they fought.

They fought and they fought, and Ino hung in there, though she wouldn't have had Sakura been herself (Ino was good, but what Sakura always failed to realize was that she was great, fierce and frightening and terrible, and Ino was glad that Sakura was her best friend, because sometimes she terrified her, and thinking of what she would do to her enemies [and if her boys were with her?). They fought until they were bloody and Sakura was sobbing and sobbing and sobbing and Ino always wondered if maybe this time it wouldn't stop. But after a length of time, seconds, minutes, hours, days, Ino was never sure, the tears stopped and Sakura stood up.

She wouldn't meet Ino's eyes. Was too proud to thank Ino for her help, because in thanking she would have to admit her weakness, and perhaps she wasn't quite strong enough for that. But when she'd patched Ino up (she always kept the bruises, always, because they reminded her of her weakness, and more importantly of her strength) she always stood up straight. Then, she and Ino went shopping (it wasn't a thank you in so many words, but Sakura hated shopping, and Ino knew what she meant, because Ino knew her).

The next day would see Sakura on the training grounds, or in the Hospital, pushing herself to her limits and beyond. Because one can't get stronger if they don't push beyond their preconceived limits. The next day would see her bound and determined to bridge the gap that separated her and her boys (yes, damnit, her boys she had fought, and bled, and loved for those boys, and she wasn't a silly, stupid, weak little girl anymore, and that gap wasn't so big), if she needed to push mountains out of her way. The next day would see her as Sakura again, and that was enough for her, and Ino too.