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pulled the jungle underground

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“Why won’t you come back?”

 

The question hung in the air like the smell of burning.

 

Sakura stood up, and she was shaking. She was actually shaking, and this was bad, this was very bad, because Sakura was always easily moved by emotions but she never – quite – lost it, and now she was losing it.

 

“You want to know?” And that shake in her voice was new, that wet angry shake – “You really want to know why I can’t come back? I love you guys, I really do – you guys mean more to me than I can – I love you, OK, but I can’t come back.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because there’s no space for me!”

 

A pause.

 

“There is no space on that team for me, Naruto. There’s you with your voice and your jumpsuit and everything about you is so goddamn loud, and don’t think I don’t know why that is, I might have missed it when I was twelve but not now, and – and the issues, the endless issues that follow you around the room everywhere you go – your past takes up more space in the room than someone twice your age! And then there’s Sasuke, with his, his, his manpain, I swear I can hardly breathe under all that angst and the weight of everything he doesn’t say –”

 

“Sakura –”

 

“And then there’s Kakashi-sensei, and God only knows what’s going on his past but I swear I can’t hear you two over the roar of everything he’s not telling us, and I can’t, I can’t be on a team with you guys, OK? I can’t do it, because there is just no space for me with all three of you on a team and every time I’m even in the same room with you three I – I can feel myself getting smaller.

 

“You think I was always the way I was on Team Seven? You think that’s how I got the top academic score in the Academy – you guys were great but you were terrible for me, I’ve never been so small and so silly in my life as I was when I was with you, I felt so small and you were all so big I could barely breathe, let alone – let alone grow.”

 

Her eyes were wild, and there were no tears in them.

 

“Sakura-chan.” This time softer. “Please. You’re our teammate… I miss you.”

 

The anger written in her face and body was colder than any he’d ever seen from her, and this was bad, this was really bad – “Don’t you dare call me your teammate. Maybe you think that’s how it was but it wasn’t, you guys never saw me as a teammate so don’t lie, Kakashi” – oh God, she dropped the –sensei, this was really not good – “and Sasuke saw me as, as, as dead weight and – I don’t know what I was to you, some kind of, of princess to be protected and rescued and – you guys never ever saw me as a teammate, you always saw me as the weak link and that’s what I turned into.”

 

“Sakura-chan –”

 

“Just – go.” Now she just sounded tired, and as if she was about to cry and didn’t want anyone to see it. “Go away, Naruto. I can’t talk to you about this now. Maybe when I’ve had a bit more sleep and a lot more coffee –”

 

“OK. Just – we all miss you. Even Sasuke’s weird Uchiha grunts have been sounding grumpier than usual.” Maybe the joke wasn’t in good taste, but he didn’t know how else to respond.

 

“I know,” she said, even though she sounded like she didn’t. “I know. I’ll… think about it. Just – not right now, Naruto. Not right now.”