Disclaimer: I own nothing, not even Naruto. Believe it.

A/N: So, yeah. This is the first out of the In Retrospect Arc I'm starting. And don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my promise for ROABK, it's still in progress and will most likely be a New Years gift. Please, as always, read and review!

Orange Retrospect

By Miranda Panda-chan

You've always wondered what it would feel like to have a family-in retrospect; you probably should've been a bit more specific in your wish. You wanted one of those families with a loving father and mother, maybe a sibling or two, relatives that came at holidays or just came over once in awhile, and just the works in general. You wanted a family like that that went out to eat together and laughed and played and loved and cherished together. You wanted a warm family. Stereotypical and normal the way you've always pictured it, the way you've always seen it and watched from afar.

You didn't get what you thought you were going to get at all. At first, you thought you'd be getting an awesome sensei- because he was a jonin, and weren't all jonin going to be awesome? They were higher level ninja than even Iruka-sensei! You thought you were gonna get the love you of your life, and a rival that was an enigma of sorts that you would have loved to personally and publicly shank. You thought maybe, you'd get a friend out of this three-man-team nonsense, at least.

You didn't, though.

What you did get was an old perv, bratty little girl who hated you, and a rival/friend that you thought you hated but, in retrospect, due to Y-chromosome syndrome (as Sakura once called in) you're pretty sure it was the start a platonic sort of love (not the icky love Ino and Sakura read and giggle about on Girls' Night Out). You didn't get friends, either. Friends don't last, you realize. So no, you never did get any friends out of your team. You got family. A real family.

The hell if it was stereotypical, though.

You've always wonder what it would be like to have a family, and now you know because of these three very different people. You know the pain of having it torn away and apart. The tears, screaming, yelling, loneliness, depression, hurt, the almost-hate, the guilt, and the blame—you know it all.

You know the anger and betrayal you feel when your only not-really brother, and your rival all the same, breaks your not-really sister's, and childhood crush's heart, and refuses to come back home and gives up his own new family in search of power. You know how you feel inferior, unworthy, because you couldn't bring him back and you failed everyone because of that.

You know the determination to get him back and prove yourself to be the greatest Hokage you always promised you would be and worthy of the family you've waited all your life for despite how dysfunctional it may be.

You know the bittersweetness of having to patch-up your own family from your own issues to Sakura's inferiority complex to Sasuke's superiority and family complex, to even your own sensei's guilt issues.

You know the irony of how the one they all thought would amount to something great turned out to be a traitor, and the one they all thought would never amount to anything turned out to be the successor of the Hokage title once Tsunade-baa-chan decides to resign and pay off all her gambling debts. You know the irony that the weakest link became the strongest emotionally as she dealt with the pain of both of you leaving her and your own teacher not bothering to teach her. You're still amazed at how she can still smile even when it's hopeless, even when you can't even see the bright side of the situation. You know the irony of how she still may not have awesome ninjutsu—but her genjutsu and taijutsu are kick-ass and her medical skills have saved everyone at least once in their lives.

You know the immaturity of it all, the fights and arguments that occur on a daily basis, but you're a shinobi, you all are, so it never ends with just hurt feelings. It ends with broken bones, deep gashes, shattered hearts, righteous fury, and spiteful words that cut deeper than any kunai.

You know it all, all the negative of having a family, the arguments, the determination, the constant competition, the betrayal, the guilt, the pain, the irony, the irritation, the bittersweetness, and the blame. But you notice, in retrospect, it was all worth it. Every last tear, every last angry battle cry, and every last apology when you've done nothing wrong from your perspective—it was all worth it—because you know the most important thing that outweighs it all.

You know the happiness that comes with all of it. The satisfaction, the smugness, the pure joy that's a grin from ear to ear and a real gut-wrenching laugh-till-you-cry feeling. You know the happiness at Christmas when Sakura fixes a huge feast for all of you and won't let you leave until you've had at least two plate-fulls of her cooking that you think is heavenly, including the tub of ramen just for you and a basket of freshly cut tomatoes for the teme. You know the happiness when you all are just there. You know the happiness of being a shoulder to cry on as well as having one. You know the feeling of security and protection, as well as the protectiveness you feel for all your teammates. You know the happiness, finally, that comes with having a family, and even in retrospect, as you look at all the mistakes, all the bad things that have ever happened, all the yelling, screaming, fighting, blaming, and negativity—you wouldn't trade any of them for the world because you wouldn't change a thing. You love them far greater than any blood relative you may or may not have, even if it is patched-up, frayed, worn, and torn—you still have one that couldn't make you any happier than you already are.

A/N: So, as I already said—and I beg of you, I implore you, I'll grovel, too—FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD—review? Please?