I felt like writing, and this popped out. Hope you enjoy it.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Once again, edited by Aqualoner, who is awesome.

Sakura has never loved anything as deeply as she loves Sasuke and Naruto.

She is weak, and she is fragile, and she is nothing like the kunoichi she sees, darting around the village in green vests and long boots and tight fishnets stretched over perfect forms.

She is scared, and she is unsure and she is nothing like the girls she knows, nothing like brave, sturdy Tenten, with a hundred thousand daggers hidden under a pink blouse and a welcoming smile; nothing like striving, strong Hinata, who twists and turns in cages of chakra and light, forcing herself to grow, grow, grow; and most especially nothing like beautiful, daring Ino, of long blonde hair and stunning body, and flawless power.

Sakura is nothing compare to them, and fears being nothing her whole life because she can't twirl kunai through her fingers and she can't blast chakra through someone's heart, and she can't force her soul into someone else's body and control them like a puppet.

Sakura is a nobody compared to everyone else.

But she will break that mold if her teammates need her to.

In the middle of a forest, with her beloved and her friend lying behind her, and her first true brush with death at her front, Sakura rips a kunai through the hair she spent years growing and challenges her betters.

She forgets weakness and she forgets uncertainty, and forgets what it feels like to be a no one.

Because these people want to hurt her teammates, want to take Sasuke-kun and Naruto far away from her, and come Hell or high water, she will fight and she will die to protect them.

And in the middle of a forest, with streaks of pink scattered to the four winds and green eyes as hard as diamonds, Sakura learns strength, and the Sound Trio learns what it means to stand against a kunoichi.

Ino has loved Shikamaru and Choji her entire life.

They've been friends since before they can remember, since before kunai and shuriken and ninjutsu, since before memory and time itself. As far back as Ino can remember, they've always been there, quiet, gentle, and prodding her, pushing her, challenging her, making her, changing her.

Shikamaru always looks at the clouds and Choji always eats his chips, and Ino always harps at them both, for his laziness, and his eating habits, and in turn they call her bossy and overbearing, and Shikamaru tells her to shut up because Choji is too kind for such harsh words.

And Ino loves their banter, loves their never-ending circles of chatting, where no one gets ahead of anyone else, and they are caught in an endless loop on insults that don't mean anything and words of love that are hidden under barbs.

But most of all, she loves how they come together, when they most need it, as seamlessly and perfectly as if they had been made exactly for each other.

Some days, Ino likes to believe they were.

So, when Shikamaru and Choji go chasing after the boy Ino gave her heart to, she sits, stricken and cold, at her window, because they're gone and she's been left all alone for the first time that she can remember. There is no Shikamaru for her to call lazy, and there is no Choji for her to call fat. And there is no Shikamaru to call her bossy, and no Choji to take offense to her comment. And worst of all, there is no Shikamaru to tell her to shut up, when it really mean just stop nagging and enjoy our time together, and no Choji to offer her a chip that means we like being with you.

And when Choji lies in the hospitable, weak and thin, but victorious, Ino's grip on her kunai nearly snaps it in half.

Shikamaru finds her later, training until she can't even breathe anymore, because she'll be dead before she lets either of them run off like that without her again.

Tenten didn't know what love was, what it really meant, before she met Lee and Neji.

She doesn't even know them all that well before they were thrown together on Team 13.

The Rookie of the Year, some Hyuuga who asked her once to show him how his throwing stance looked, and then ignored her advice, and the dead last of their year, an overenthusiastic loudmouth who had trouble with even the simplest jutsu.

She doesn't think much of them, not even during training, until their first mission.

She's hurling her kunai and tossing her shuriken and flicking her weapons with such force and such concentration that she misses the barely-there flicker of chakra of the enemy at her back. Neji shouts a warning and he sounds so genuinely scared that Tenten turns and comes face to face with a kunai aimed at her eyes.

Her life flashes and she numbly decides that dying here is such a waste, and then green invades her vision and she is tossed to the side.

Lee skids next to her, his bicep bleeding, and Neji rams a chakra-covered fist into the man's torso with frightening force.

When Tenten finally works up the courage to ask Lee why he would do anything so foolish, he merely smiles at her, and tells she is his teammate, and he isn't willing to lose her so easily.

Tenten, who knows nothing but blade and blood and strength, finds this hard to understand, but when it finally strikes home that her life actually meanssomething to Neji and Lee, the world tilts on it axis, and Tenten resharpens all her weapons for the next mission.

She kills a man before he can unleash a rock spike at her teammates.

As she walks up and pulls her kunai out of his neck, the numbness in her body is broken by Neji's hand on her shoulder and Lee's serious eyes.

" I won't let them hurt you."

Hinata never really understood love before she was placed on a team with Kiba and Shino.

The Hyuuga Clan's idea of love is warped and dark and twisted to the point of being unrecognizable by a person outside of the clan. It is about honour and power and strength and blood ties and there is no room in the Hyuuga Clan for softness and tenderness and the love that everyone else knows. Because the Hyuuga Clan had no patience for failure, no time for weakness, and no understanding of accepting someone for what they are.

The first time Kiba invites his teammates to his house for dinner, Hinata is shocked by the openness of the table and the warmth that radiates from the house. Hana jibes her brother and makes loud jokes and the whole company laughs and laughs as Tsume offers more of the hot, spicy stew that Hinata finds she loves. There are dogs scattered all about, from tiny pups to the great, hulking beast Kiba calls Kuromaru, all bounding around the table, begging for snacks, or curled up nearby, watching the goings-on with steady, sharp eyes.

The Aburame home is quieter, with a touch of buzzing in the background. But there is always some kind of music playing whenever Shino brings his team over, and he teaches Kiba and Hinata older dances. They waltz around the living room, with the furniture pushed back and the faded, oriental carpet soft on their bare feet. Shino makes little quiches and fruit tarts, and Hinata steals a recipe off of him because she loves his pies.

With her teammates, Hinata suddenly doesn't feel so lonely, or lost, or pathetic, because Kiba's laugh is loud and brash and good, and Shino never says anything cruel, and she feels warm with them, safe and soft and perfectly herself.

Hinata learns from Kiba that dinner can be loud and rambunctious and funny, a time for family to bond and talk and smile, and eat thick, warm food that tingles all the way down her throat. She learns from Shino that free time can be spent laughing, twirling in odd motions and gripping someone's hand as the tempo of the music speeds up and falling doesn't mean failing.

After one particular failure on a mission, Hinata spends the night at the Aburame household, because they won't ask and she isn't ready to talk just yet. Her hands are raw and pink from the Jyuuken strike she landed not five hours before, on the woman who was about to stab Kiba. She let the target she was chasing get away, but what does that mean when if she hadn't moved, Kiba would be dead?

She curls on the bed in the spare room and looks at her hand, the council's hard words and her father's disappointed glare echoing through her mind. But Kiba is alive, and will invite her over for dinner again, and the word 'failure' doesn't seem so condemning anymore.

A kunoichi is placed on every three-man cell because of a law of the Nidaime Hokage's.

This law exists for a reason.

It is not because she will be more likely to take to medical ninjutsu, or because she may have better chakra control. Neither is it because she will probably excel in genjutsu.

A kunoichi is placed on every three-man cell because the Nidaime understood, perhaps better than any other male, the workings of the female mind.

He saw his sister-in-law lay waste to an entire enemy camp in order to protect his brother.

He saw his cousin decimate four men twice her strength to get to her infant child.

He saw his own wife get back up and fight, despite the blood pouring from her fatal wounds, in the defense of her homeland.

Nidaime Hokage was a smart man.

He made it mandatory that there be a kunoichi on every three-man cell.

He did this because he knew nothing could stand against a woman when there is someone she loves on the line.

Especially not if that woman is a kunoichi.

And there you have it.