Well, I was just too happy with updating VINTA, so I decided to polish up this little thing! It's been half-written for weeks.
Summary: Sakura was Team Seven's princess. But this was just becoming a little bit too much. Team Seven X Sakura, some Others X Sakura.
Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, Sakura wouldn't revert to being a helpless damsel in distress every few chapters.
Sakura was Team Seven's princess.
Even when she insisted, and pouted, and outright whined for them to stop treating her like some helpless little girl damnit, because she was a fully-trained, deadly, dangerous kunoichi, Kakashi still made sure that they stopped at inns to sleep whenever they could, Yamato still made sure the paths they took were relatively smooth and easy, Naruto, Sasuke and Sai still conspired to get rid of any and all threats before she could move a finger, and the team, as a whole, on the nights they had to sleep in the open, made sure to completely surround her so she was protected on all sides, covering all the guard duties so she could get her precious beauty sleep.
At first, she hadn't really noticed, or cared. On escort missions, it only made sense to take easy paths, to have lodging, to have someone stay with the charge in the center of the circle and protect him or her for the whole mission, to focus on the charge and not get distracted by fighting. And when their behaviour persisted, well, she admitted that she had been flattered, and had kind of liked it. After all, what girl didn't like being treated like she was precious? She certainly hadn't complained about getting more sleep, she hated watch duty anyway.
However, as time wore on, she'd grown tired of it. She had started to see their actions as chauvinistic, protecting her only because she was weak. So she'd started to request that they let up a little – not stop completely, but at least lighten up with the whole treating her like a porcelain doll thing - let them rough it out instead of sleeping in inns, take the harsher, but shorter routes, even let her have watch duty now and again. To her extreme annoyance, they'd refused. So she'd started to ask more forcefully. Then demand, then pout, then whine, then introduce her fists.
They'd still refused.
So here she was, stuck guarding the snivelling, arrogant high profile charge they had been assigned this time (the Fire daimyo's fourth son), who had hit on her for most of the journey, causing her teammates to twitch suspiciously, before proceeding to lose what bravado he had when they were attacked by bandits. And assassins. And thugs. And more hired bandits.
Lord, how many people had this guy pissed off?
Sakura watched enviously as Sasuke sent three people flying with a single kick, as the other bandits surrounding him backed away, his reputation before he'd returned to Konoha preceding him. She bet she could have sent the whole lot to their knees with a click of her heel. If only she could fight! She shook her arm irritatedly, trying to dislodge the daimyo's son (what had been his name? Keito? Kenji? Kai?), who was clinging to her arm like a leech. He whimpered and clung harder.
A chakra signature flared just slightly behind her. She spun around, dragging their charge along (since he wouldn't let go of her arm) and was rewarded with the sight of a huge muscled bandit, giant axe raised high to deliver a killing blow to her. She grinned, excited. Adrenaline pumped, and she drew her fist back, ready to blow him back to kingdom come-
Only that Sai had just darted in front of her, all blurred ink and unfurled scrolls, and the bandit was now the unfortunate victim of a rather ferocious lion.
Sakura ground to a halt, left hanging, adrenaline fading even as her temper rose.
'Those bastards, this is the last straw!' She seethed.
It was time to play the ace up her sleeve.
Phase One: A woman's ultimate weapon
"Guys…" She started, after they'd dropped off that (no good, snivelling, sorry excuse of a) daimyo's son, and were seated around a table in their very expensive suite at an inn, courtesy of the daimyo, having just finished dinner. She clasped her hands on the table as a serious expression settled itself on her face, her teammates giving her their full attention.
"Yes, Sakura-chan?" Kakashi smiled, lone eye crinkling.
"Could you just let me fight, please? I'm getting really tired of not being in a real fight any more…" She said, making sure to inject loads of 'pity me, I'm so pitiful' vibes into her tone, even as she growled inside on the very idea that she had to ask their permission for something that should be her right as a kunoichi. She calmed herself before they could notice – if all went to plan, they'd learn their lesson. Seriously, she loved her boys, and she knew they had good intentions, but they took coddling to a whole new level with her!
They sighed audibly. "Sakura-chan, not again…" Naruto complained, "We just want you safe, that's all!"
"But I don't understand! You guys know I can take care of myself!" She argued back, the lines so familiar after the countless arguments they had. And, just like the previous times, it was time for an insensitive comment from…
"Not as well as we can take care of you." Sasuke said bluntly.
'Right on cue,' Sakura thought to herself, making sure not to let her smirk through her mask. It was time.
A carefully calculated tremble of her lips. An exaggerated sniff. And then her eyes watered, even as her team's expressions shifted to ones of alarm simultaneously.
"S-so that's it then? You guys think I'm weak right, that's why you treat me like this?" She asked, her voice breaking. She allowed her tears to spill down her cheeks, using her hands to wipe them away gently, in a manner she knew was endearing and pitiful (since she'd practised it in the mirror).
"Why? Why? Am I alway-ys… not gonna be good enough?" She sobbed harder, only partly acting as her insecurities came into play. However, she knew better than to let them get to her; Tsunade had pounded into her (sometimes literally) that she was a great kunoichi, no matter how her team treated her, and had even sent her on plenty of solo missions to boost Sakura's confidence in herself (which was the only way she was still sane, to be honest. If every mission she went on was with Team Seven, she'd go mad from lack of action.).
She pretended to be too absorbed in her wailing to notice Naruto's panicked flailing, Sasuke's slightly frantic expression (his eyes had widened), Sai's lost one, and Yamato and Kakashi's 'oh shit what do we do now' looks. Finally, it seemed that the team's more mature members came to a decision, and strong arms wrapped around her and another gentle hand descended on her head, Kakashi's "yare, yare, Sakura-chan, don't cry, that's not what we think at all…" sounding from somewhere above her head.
It was time to implement the next step.
With a seemingly sudden mood change, she used her strength to force herself out of Yamato's embrace and stood up, facing them.
"Isn't it?!" She shouted. "You guys don't let me do anything! I'm not some porcelain doll you know! I'm a kunoichi, but it's obvious that you guys don't care about that at all! I HATE YOU ALL!" Her tirade over, she burst into a fresh round of tears, and dashed into her room, sobbing loudly and slamming the door after her.
After a few more convincing and loud sniffles, that she was certain could be heard even through her bedroom door, she quieted. A smirk bloomed over her face.
Oh, she was good.
Phase Two: Sub-zero temperatures
"Ne, Sakura-chan, don't you think that cloud looks like Ton-ton?" Naruto gestured towards a cloud in the sky, even as they jumped from branch to branch.
Sakura completely ignored him, not even sparing a glance in his direction.
Naruto's bright smile faded and he said, "We're sorry we made you cry, please forgive us Sakura-chan!" If they weren't currently among the tree tops, he would have thrown himself at Sakura's feet and grovelled. In fact, Sakura wouldn't be surprised if he did just that. The mental image of Naruto trying to grovel, but falling off a tree branch and landing flat on his face nearly brought a smile to her face, but she maintained her mask of stoic indifference. Thank Kami-sama for her good acting skills.
'I'm supposed to be mad at them, I'm supposed to be mad…' Was the constant mantra in her head, so that she wouldn't accidentally slip up. The show must go on, after all.
"Stop being a child, Sakura," Sasuke said sharply, ruder than usual. Sakura knew it was because he was hoping to anger her into giving a response, but she was one step ahead of them. Her eyes didn't even flick in his direction, and her anger was expertly suppressed. Her boys, she thought fondly, they were always so predictable; she could spot their tactics a mile away.
A few hours later, as they set up camp, Sakura mentally congratulated herself on a job well done. She hadn't said a single word to any of her boys, since their 'argument' last night, and they were becoming antsy and upset. She secretly suspected that the lack of talking she had done today would mean that the next time she spoke, her voice would crack… or something.
Oh well. It was worth it.
On the last day of travel, before they reached Konoha, Sakura was gloating over her success thus far. She'd managed to maintain her 'cold shoulder' act for three days, and it was easy to read their discomfort due to her little act – in Sasuke's stiffer than usual posture, in Kakashi's tighter than usual grip on Icha Icha, in Sai's downturned lips.
Now for the final phase.
In the privacy of her own mind, Sakura grinned evilly.
Phase Three: That little green monster
The moment they stepped foot into Konoha, Sakura darted over to Izumo and Kotetsu, who were doing guard duty, as usual.
"Izumo! Kotetsu!" She squealed. As she had predicted, her voice cracked from disuse, though luckily for her, it could be interpreted as enthusiasm at seeing them. She gave them each a hug, then settled between them, holding each of their hands, swinging their linked hands happily. She spotted the tense forms of her team out of the corner of her eye, and her smile widened.
"Sakura! Welcome back!" Izumo smiled. Both he and Kotetsu were pleasantly surprised with her more-exuberant-than-usual welcome. He tried to force down the slight blush that had risen in his cheeks.
"Thanks! I missed you guys! The mission was really boring, especially the travel back!" She pretended to grin obliviously, even as she saw the forms of her boys tense even more. Step one hundred and twelve, indirectly insult her boys and imply she preferred other's company over theirs, check.
"Ooh! I see Shika! Bye guys!" Inwardly thanking Shikamaru for his coincidentally good timing, she darted across the street. She was good friends with the Nara, having worked closely with him for some missions, especially those that required much strategic planning. Also, Tsunade liked to pair them together on missions, since Sakura was able to get Shikamaru to work, and the two genii worked well together. Hence, he wasn't that surprised when he suddenly found himself with an armful of energetic pinkette.
"Hey Shika!" Sakura grinned up at him. Shikamaru's arms automatically came up around her, and his eyes observed her more-enthusiastic-than-usual greeting, and flicked from Izumo and Kotetsu, whose direction Sakura had just come from, to the tense forms of her team, who were now shooting daggers at him with their eyes. Having been the recipient of many a rant by Sakura on how annoyingly protective her team was, he was able to deduce what she was doing in those few seconds. Like she said – genius.
"Troublesome…" He sighed. Sakura, making sure her back was to her team, shot him a look that said, 'help me out or die'. He sighed again, before tightening his hold on her, holding her close enough that Naruto turned green with jealousy, before saying, "Hey. Welcome back. Anyway, I looked after your plants while you were away." He subtly shifted their bodies so that Sakura's side profile could clearly be seen from where the rest of Team Seven were standing, just in time for them to see her face brighten with a beautiful smile – the one she reserved for her closest friends and family.
"Thanks Shika!" She said. And, as the icing on the cake, she leaned up and kissed his cheek.
Shikamaru 'hmm'ed in response, though the bright blush on his face belied his seemingly nonchalant demeanor. He shot Sakura a look that said 'Now your team is going to hate me forever. Troublesome.', to which Sakura merely grinned mischievously.
This was more than her team could stand, and Naruto was suddenly beside them, yanking Sakura out of Shikamaru's arms, with a "Get away from Sakura-chan, Shikamaru, you pervert!", before a gloved hand landed on Shikamaru's shoulder, squeezing with just a little too much force to be friendly.
"Ah, well, we'll be taking Sakura then, team meeting. I'm sure you understand." Kakashi gave an icy, crinkle-eyed smile at Shikamaru before disappearing with the rest of the team, Sakura in tow.
Shikamaru was left in the street, rubbing his aching shoulder. "Troublesome…" He sighed. "Sakura… you owe me one." Then, he placed a hand on his cheek, looking away. "Or, I guess, we're even…" He walked off, scratching the back of his head.
"That girl is just too troublesome…"
Sakura sat facing her boys, arms crossed and a single eyebrow raised. Inside, however, she was grinning. They just needed a little push, and victory would be hers.
"Sakura, we need to talk." Yamato said.
Her expression didn't change.
"Ugly, is this still about our 'overprotectiveness'?" Sai asked, his frustration evident in the furrow of his eyebrows and the tone of his voice. Sakura mentally congratulated herself – for Sai, that was the equivalent of shouting at the top of his lungs.
She tilted her head to the side, conveying her silent 'what do you think?'
"Just… say something, Sakura-chan!" Naruto finally exploded, looking frustrated to the point of tears. Not to mention, her whole team was obviously jealous of her more than affectionate behaviour to everyone not-them.
Sakura opened her mouth to deliver the first words she has spoken to her team in days.
"You know why I'm upset with you all."
"If you're not gonna give in, I suppose I'll just ask Shishou to let me take more missions with other teams. You know, teams that actually let me do something." Their shoulders tensed. Just a little more…
"Hmm," She pondered openly, tapping her finger on her lip pensively. "I really enjoy working with Shika and Neji, maybe we can become a formal team-?" She was interrupted abruptly. She strained to contain her laughter. Her boys were just too easy – it was plain to see that Neji and Shikamaru held a rather special place for Sakura in their hearts, and the ease with which they worked together was a rather sore point with her team, though it was admittedly inferior to the teamwork that Team Seven had – well, used to have, before they became all protective and such.
"TEAM HUDDLE!" Naruto bellowed, a hint of panic leaking through his voice. Her boys huddled together in a tight circle, and they seemed to be engaged in a passionate and intense argument, while Sakura watched on, amused.
After a seemingly endless discussion, in which Sakura began to get bored, the men of Team Seven dispersed. Standing before her was Kakashi, leader of Team Seven and designated spokesperson.
"Maa… Sakura," He began. "After much discussion, we have agreed to… lighten up on the overprotectiveness." His shoulders slumped in defeat.
"YESSS!" Sakura leapt up, punching a fist in the air in victory, in direct contrast to the dejected poses of her boys.
"My boys," She sighed fondly, noticing their reactions. "You're all idiots."
Nevertheless, she approached them, and kissed each of them on the cheek. She appreciated their intentions, she really did, but they just didn't know when to quit.
As always, she had gotten what she wanted.
Because Sakura was Team Seven's princess…
… And she was well aware of that fact.
AN2: Well! That's that!
I really wanted to write some Team Seven X Sakura that wasn't tear-inducing and angsty, and well, I succeeded! (Pats self on back.)
Please please please review! Thanks for reading!