Title: Tall

Author: AppleL0V3R

Beta-reader: SymphoniaFreak

Fandom: Naruto

Characters: Team 7

Rating: T

Type: One-shot – Complete

Summary: Ever since they first met, it wasn't he or she, it wasn't I or you. It was 'us'. And she knew that any other way just wouldn't be right.

Theme: 50 Muses LJ challenge (#13 – Turned)

Word Count: 2,755

Disclaimer: If you've heard of it before, then it's obviously not mine.

Note: This collection of one-shots is dedicated to the friendship and dynamics of Team Seven, not the relationship between any mentioned pairings. So if there are pairings they will not be the focus.

The fact that this is actually major futuristic AU is purely because of an anime I've been watching and not because I like doing this. The muse demanded so I'm delivering.

Requested by: Anime Freak456

Edited on: December 8, 2011

"Alright guys, bring it home."

Sakura almost breathed with relief; they were almost to the homestretch of this horrendous mission and she was more than ready to get back to her home. Oh home. She hadn't seen Konoha in months it seemed, though it had actually only been one. But it was still one too long. "Roger that." She responded through the communicator.

At the same time, she heard Naruto whoop with glee. "Home, here we come!"

"Hold up, dobe. Kakashi said to bring it home, not come home. We still have to finish up this mission."

The rosette knew without looking that the blonde had started pouting at their anti-social friend's statement. "I know that, teme. I'm just saying that after this we can go home."

"Provided we don't get killed."

She grinned. "Oh stop being pessimistic, Sasuke. We've gotten out of these things without so much as a scratch before."

"And other times by the skin of our teeth."

"But that's what makes it fun." Naruto interrupted, his exuberance clearly restored.

There was a snort from Sasuke's direction and the rosette giggled lightly. "Whatever you say."

Their mission had been pretty much a search and rescue and destroy, a common assignment for the three of them. One that was sometimes easy, well as easy as fighting androids and aliens could be, and other times they were simply impossible. The three of them always got through because nothing could tear them apart. Nothing could make one of them abandon any of the others.

Usually such tasks took teams of six or nine, but the three of them liked sticking tight together. Adding other people to the mix messed up the natural equilibrium they somehow managed. They didn't need words and standard signals to communicate with each other; they simply knew what was needed, what to do. That's why they worked so well. And Kakashi was the boss of their unit, not just the three of them, but the whole entire division. But the lazy man usually used her and her boys to get things done when he didn't feel like doing them or simply wanted to read his porn instead.

At any rate, they'd managed the search and find parts of the mission. Now all they needed to do was destroy and get their asses home. Easier said than done.

Sakura shifted on the vehicle below her; the motorcycle's leather was starting to stick to the cotton of her uniform pants. Her shirt felt a little too tight as well, but it was supposed to be so that it didn't get caught on anything she didn't need it to. And as for the helmet, not even she wore it anymore and she was suppose to be the most health care aware of the three of them.

Only a few more miles until their destination. She glanced to her left and right to see that Naruto and Sasuke were indeed beside her still. She grinned cheekily. "You're still beside me? I thought the two of you would have shot ahead by now."

Before the last words were even out of her mouth, there was a sudden whoosh of wind that added pressure to the air already around her, yanking her hair in all different ways before finally passing. The grin didn't fade and she didn't need to look to know that they were ahead of her. She decided to hang back like she usually did. She could fight, that much was for sure. But the hostages also need someone to protect them, so she was stuck playing protector. The rosette didn't mind all that much; very rarely did she have a problem with it and that was only when the freed hostage was a prick and pissed her off. She only put up with attitude if it came from Sasuke and even then she hardly let him get away with it. But she could deck her brother, she couldn't raise a hand to the guy she had to save.

Thankfully she didn't have that many to protect this time, two teenage girls and an adult male. The man was pretty compliant, doing anything she asked of him and the two girls followed his instructions almost blindly. She remembered when she'd been like that. At the time she was thirteen and saw the world as black and white and authority was always right. She didn't think like that anymore, especially not since she'd met her boys

Seven Years Ago

Streets of Downtown Konoha

Young Sakura hurried down the streets. They were getting emptier as the sky got darker, and fear was beginning to twist and pool in her gut. She didn't want to run, lest she attract even more attention, so she went as fast as she dared all the while repeating in her head that she would be alright and the only thing she should be worried about was how much trouble she was going to be in for being so late. It hadn't exactly been her fault; cram school had gone longer than it was supposed to and the teacher had kept her afterwards.

She kept her eyes steadily in front of her and on her feet, refusing to look anywhere else, lest she see something that frightened her out of her wits. And knowing this place like she did, that was very likely to happen. She hated being young and weak. She couldn't wait to get stronger, wiser and able to protect herself from this scary world she was growing up in.

But what she hated most was being so alone. There was never anyone there when she needed them. No family of any sort, no teachers who actually cared, no friends to stand beside her. All she had were Conducts, to tell her how to behave and who to be and they didn't give a damn about her or her well being. If something happened then oh well. If she was hurt beyond repair she would be abandoned, even thrown to the wolves for worse to happen. If she got into a life or death situation that she'd never be able to get of alive, they would let her suffer. They would move on like she'd never existed in the first place. Because the fact of the matter was that they didn't need someone who was weak and, unless they were extremely strong, everyone was replaceable.

The world sucked.

And she acknowledged that it always would.

Suddenly a sound far too close to her resounded and it stopped her dead in her tracks. Squeezing her eyes shut tight, she told herself in a panicked mantra 'don't look, just run, don't look, just run.' But her body wouldn't move, not an inch and though it felt like her knees were going to give out on her, she stayed frozen in her place. She felt something against her leg, and before she could stop herself, she shrieked and fell backwards, her things scattering as she fell on her ass. Her eyes flew open and she turned her head this way and that to find the source of her scare.

Settled on its hind legs in front of her while tilting its head as it stared at her, its long tail swishing behind it. She blinked once then twice and finally felt like an overly alert fool. It was just a fox that had brushed up against her, though it was odd how it was just sitting there staring at her. Kind of unnerving really, but strangely not threatening.

Taking a deep breath to slow her racing heart, she smiled and held her hand out to the small creature. "Come here, boy. I'm sorry I shrieked; you just scared me is all." She hoped that that the animal was indeed a he because there was no way she was going to check.

He stayed just like he had been for a moment, his tail swung a little more before stilling and he got to his feet. He was the size of a puppy, she realized as she watched him, her books and curfew momentarily forgotten. Slowly he padded forward, stopping mere centimeters from her outstretched hand and then seated himself once more. His red eyes never left hers as he leaned forward and pressed a furry forehead against her palm.

She couldn't help but think about how soft his orangish fur was and how cute he was as she tentatively moved her hand to start petting. A sound of content escaped him as finally the small fur ball closed his pretty eyes and pressed more fully into her touch.

Sakura enjoyed the moment, having never experienced anything like it in her young life, and she was about to go even closer when his eyes shot open. His body went rigid as he swung his head to the left, allowing her to realize that there was a dark alleyway right there, not more than a few feet from her. The act froze her in her spot, panic returning far too swift and hard. "What is it, boy?" She whispered quietly. His ears twitched, but he didn't react to her past that. She felt almost foolish for talking to an animal, but with the way that he had clearly responded, she couldn't help but think that his eye and fur color were the least of his quirks.

He kept watching the alleyway, but his body seemed to relax, bristling fur settled as he scooted just a little closer to her until she could feel his body heat. Once he was comfortable and halfway in her lap, he let out a bark of sorts, sounding quite happy as he did so. She wanted to be comforted. She wanted to breathe out a sigh of relief. But this was a fox and for all she knew whatever had relaxed him would be dangerous to her.

Straining her green eyes, she tried to make out a form of any kind from the darkness, fear still high in her throat.

"Kyu. Hey, Kyuubi, no running off like that." The voice was male, but before she could have a chance to feel further scared, she realized it was on the boy side of a teenager's developing voice. That gave her a little better chance. After all, wasn't she already far in her combat training? Some of the fear drained at the reminder, but her body wouldn't loosen up until she saw the speaker.

"You could have gotten hurt." This one wasn't the same as the first one and it was a bit deeper though still undoubtedly in the same age range.

Still young teenagers or not, there were two of them, both boys, and they were friends with a fox. She knew that meant if they chose to harm her, there was nothing the rosette could do about it.

A blonde haired boy who looked about her age came into view, the darkness of night and the lack of lighting causing her sense of color to be thrown off, but she was positive there were three whisker marks on each cheek. Less than a step behind him was a boy not much taller with black hair and black eyes and dark clothes but pale, pale skin. The first boy blinked at her then looked to the fox. "Did you find someone, Kyuubi?"

The fox tilted his head and inched closer to her, not quite protective or possessive, but definitely claiming. "Hello." She answered, trying to convince herself that they could still be a threat. But with the way the boy smiled in response – a grin nearly splitting his face in half – she found it much harder than when she hadn't been able to see him.

"What's a kid doing all the way out here?" This was the second boy, he looked slightly intrigued and annoyed, but mostly nonchalant. Something told her he was the brains of the two, the one who made sure they stayed alive and when tact didn't work, the blonde protected them both.

Indignation rose in her throat, quickly displacing and burying any semblance of fear. Sakura shot to her feet, causing Kyuubi to quickly scramble out of her lap. "Who are you calling a kid? I bet you're younger than me!"

Both boys blinked and she realized suddenly that she had acted on the wrong impulse. She waited for one of them to lunge or something but the blonde burst out laughing as the black-eyed boy raised an eyebrow. "Don't look like a scared little kid and I won't call you one."

She felt herself bristle further, but wasn't about to make the same action twice. Just cause it hadn't killed her the first time didn't mean she would get off scot-free the second.

"What's your name? Mine's Uzumaki Naruto and one day, I'm going to rule these streets."

It was her turn to blink. Did he just introduce himself as…wow. The boy had guts, but she supposed those who grow up trying to survive on their own would have to have a backbone of some sort. "Err, I'm Haruno Sakura. And I'm going to be a doctor." This seemed to take them by surprise as well, but before either could say anything, she bent down to start picking up her books. "And you? What's yours, Mr. I'm not a kid."

She felt his scowl before she saw it. "Uchiha Sasuke." He shoved his hands in his off-white pant pockets.

A smile started in on her face, and then she froze for what seemed the nth time, quickly standing and whirling back to face the one who'd just introduced himself. "Did you say Uchiha Sasuke?"

Naruto pouted, crossing his arms over his chest and began muttering under his breath, "And here I thought she was different. Why does every girl go for him?" He went ignored for the moment.

"Yeah, what's it to you?" Black eyes zeroed in on her, reminding her of a completely different pair. Ones that had been slightly more gray because of flecks of blue.

Her voice caught in her throat at the reminder, but she pushed past it because she had to know. She just had to. "Are you…are you Uchiha Itachi's little brother?"

The boy's lips parted slightly and like lightening he was right before her, grabbing her arms almost harshly. "You know my brother? Where is he?"

"Hey, teme, be careful. Do you want to scare off your only lead?"

She shook her head and swallowed. "No it's okay. I'd react the same way. He told me about you once." Her lips curled slightly into a small, sad smile. "He misses you, and he wants so badly to look for you, but he's afraid that if he does he'll draw their attention."

Still the black eyes stayed on hers, as if searching her soul to see if she was telling the truth. "Who are they?"

But she shook her head; no one spoke the name on these streets, no one with half a brain and a little bit of self-preservation anyway. "I can take him to you, but it will have to be quick. Otherwise they'll chain you too."

Finally, Naruto spoke up. "Are you chained like teme's brother?"

She nodded sadly. "I vowed to myself that I would get out. Itachi made the same vow."

With determined eyes Sasuke answered, "Take me to him."

"Us. Teme. There is no you or me anymore, remember. It's 'us'."

Glancing back with traces of shock, the boys locked gazes. After what seemed like eternity, Sasuke let go of her arms and nodded to his friend. "Us."

All she could do was smile.