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When the sake is broken out, Sakura eyes it warily. “I’m not too sure about this, guys.”

“Ah, c’mon, Sakura-chan! It’s been too long since we’ve had a Team Seven sake bonding night!” Naruto waves the bottles in the air, enthusiasm tangible. Across the room, Sasuke merely grunts. Sai doesn’t seem to have an opinion either way, and Kakashi didn’t even bother to look up from his book. Naruto takes their silence as agreement and barrels over Sakura’s murmured protests.

Though Sasuke notes she drinks more sake than he and Naruto combined. What is she trying to drown out?

Two hours later, he has his answer.

Two hours later, she’s a sobbing wreck. She’s draped across Sasuke and Sai’s laps, clinging to Naruto’s neck like a drowning woman. Her fingers brush against his whisker marks, his hair, the corners of his eyes, anywhere she can touch. Her desperation is evident, but he can’t see a reason for it. “You died and *hic* lef’ me all ‘lone! Why…why did you die? I missed *hic* you! Weren't ‘sposed to die before me, baka. None of you.” Her shoulders shake under their hands. This isn’t the Sakura they know.  

Their Sakura is strong. Hard as nails, furious when they break the rules, with a fist stronger than Tsunade’s and a heart the size of Fire Country. She doesn't weep like a broken hearted teenager even if she is one. 

Even Sasuke, who Naruto claims had no soul, is weak to Sakura’s tears. None of them can bear to see her cry. His hand moves to rest on her shoulder but she seems to know who’s touching her without looking. Violently, Sakura yanks away from him. Catching sight of him, her scream is just as violent. “Don’t touch me! Traitor!” There’s a sudden wildness to her eyes as she leaps up, desperate to get away from them. 

Putting distance between her and her bewildered teammates, Sakura settles into a defensive position. The shakes have subsided and she glares at Sasuke. Venom pours from her gaze, threatening to burn him alive. Her fists have yet to burn green, but from the way the night is proceeding, it’s only a matter of time. Since the other members of Team Seven seem frozen in shock, Kakashi decides it is time for him to make a move.

When Kakashi’s hand touches her arm, trying to offer comfort and calm her down before she brings the building down upon them, under the look in his eye, Sakura breaks. She crumples in on herself like a cheap piece of rice paper, hands moving to cover her face. The helpless sobs wracking her body are just wrong. Sakura doesn’t cry like that. Sakura hasn’t cried in front of them in years. 

“Sakura…” Sai’s approach is careful, guarded. He, the one who struggles the most with real human emotions, always seems to know exactly what Sakura needs when she falls apart. In two lurching steps, she’s in his arms.

“You died, Sai. You died in my arms and there wasn't anything I could do. You an’ Kaka-sensei an’ Naruto and everyone. And I couldn’t stop it.” Her fingers curled around his shirt convulsively. “Don't leave me alone,” she whimpers plaintively.

“We won’t leave you, Sakura-chan, don't worry about that.” Naruto’s struggling to maintain his optimism as he rests a hand on her back. Sasuke has learned his lesson and keeps a careful, watchful but no less anxious distance. She sags in the embrace of her boys, listening to their murmurs of comfort and assurances that they weren’t going to leave her alone.

Sakura eventually drifts into a peaceful sleep, cradled by Naruto’s strong arms.

(Two days later, when their hangovers have worn off, they ask Sakura about her breakdown. She looks at them questioningly, humoring them even as her eyes hold befuddlement. She laughs when they relay her words to her. Waving them off as drunken rambling or an old nightmare, she distracts Naruto by asking about getting ramen.

In the commotion of the loudest blond in Konoha shouting about noodles, only Kakashi notices the minute tightening of her eyes. He knows she's lying but has no way of confirming it.

They don’t even think of time travel; it never crosses their minds. 

But wouldn't that have explained so much?)