Third: each of three equal parts into which something is divided

"Four minus one is three. One is one third of three. One plus two is three. Three times one is three. Three plus four is seven."

She remembers reciting these facts in the Academy, learning her math. It is ironic, she thinks, because it took her all these years to learn to understand what she memorized when she was seven.

Four minus one is three.

It's her and Sasuke-kun and Naruto and Kakashi-sensei that first few months. They've been so close together, and they've woven themselves together as separate threads in a tapestry – simple, but it is them.

She likes Kakashi-sensei and adores Sasuke-kun and cares for Naruto and they are her team and she loves them.

(Silly girl, stupid girl, you didn't know the meaning of love then.)

She smiles and holds them close to her beneath the starry sky because even as naïve as she is, she knows that good things don't last.

Kakashi-sensei slowly drifts away from them to drown in his own bittersweet memories and for a while, Sakura, Sasuke, and Naruto make up Team Seven.

(Kakashi-sensei never really wanted to be Team Seven; he got them started and they just kept going. With or without him.)

One is one third of three.

It is a good thing that she held them close while she could, because soon Sasuke is torn away from her, and a little later, so is Naruto.

Sasuke joins Orochimaru for power to slay his brother.

(She asked herself on many moonless nights what kind of monster would want to kill his own family, but he was Sasuke-kun and therefore no monster to her.)

Naruto leaves with Jiraiya to get stronger so he can bring Sasuke back.

(Power, power, power. Why was it always for power?)

(Wasn't love enough?)


(Wasn't friendship enough?)


(Weren't memories of laughter and warm summer nights enough?)

(No, no, no, no, no.)

They need power, and for a while there is no Team Seven but for a faint flash in the fading memory of a young man with old eyes who is drowning in his sorrow and regret.

(I failed, I failed, I failed…)

One plus two is three.

Eventually, Naruto comes back. It is a joyful day for Konoha, and the sun shines all the brighter for it.

(Now all they needed was Sasuke.)

Two thirds of Team Seven goes to find the last third, to make Team Seven – to make themselves – whole again.

(Whole, complete, full… Something they were once upon a time –

once upon a time, and maybe never would be again.)

And when they find that missing piece, that missing boy

(because for all his talking, he was only an eight-year-old boy trapped in a dark chamber with his dead parents and a brother who tried to save him by killing all he held dear)

he is so much stronger that they wonder –

Does he have enough power now?

His pride prevents him from following them home

(Konoha was his home, not Orochimaru's lair; and they were his team, not Hebi or Taka)

but a few weeks later, he limps into Konoha (home), still bearing injuries from Rasengan and chakra-filled punch.

His injuries are added to when his teammates discover him.

("Naruto, get off him; you're crushing his ribs and they were already broken to begin with!")

Three times one is three.

It is a long, tedious journey back to health; after all, Sakura is a medic, and she severed all the right places during the fight.

It takes even longer for all of Konoha to accept the traitor in their midst

(the shinobi had all been affected, but Sasuke didn't really care about the opinions of the civilians)

and it seems like forever, but one day Sasuke finds himself sitting on a stool at Ichiraku's with a bowl of ramen before him and Naruto on his right and Sakura on his left.

He thinks that maybe he's been forgiven – just a little bit.

(Naruto was broke and Sasuke ended up paying, but it was a small price to pay for their forgiveness.)

Now all that's missing is Kakashi.

Three plus four is seven.

And eventually Kakashi comes back, and they are four people again.

(It could almost have been them years ago, but for one thing.)

They all know that they will never be those ignorantly naïve children again

(Kakashi was never naïve, but he had been a little less jaded in his youth)

because they have the memories of three people, separated and lost

(they were searching for each other but stranded alone)

and they will do anything to keep from being alone again.

(Kakashi had gotten used to being alone; he was there to support the younger three – to keep them from becoming like him.)

And somewhere in the middle of this –

the spirits of four people, three young and one with old eyes –

the dark, haunting memories of three children, alone and abandoned –

the memory of a young girl reciting math in the Academy –

and what came after –

horror, pain, loneliness –

somewhere, all along, there was them.

(Sasuke, screaming over his parents' bodies; Naruto, mocked and shunned by his home village; Sakura, left behind, forsaken by her teammates for memories and power; Sasuke, Naruto, Sakura, Kakashi.)

- They were (and had always been) Team Seven. -

- - -

I haven't updated in a long while, but for anyone who's got me on Author Alert, I promise that a longer story is being beta-ed as I type. I hope I didn't confuse anyone with my tense changes (with present time for the regular type and past tense in the parenthesis), but I was experimenting. The second to last paragraph – one of my betas said that I didn't need it there, but I liked it because it explains how I got the three plus four (the memories of Sakura, Sasuke, and Naruto when they were young and then the four of them as they are now). Tell me what you think!