"You're staring."

Itachi turned his head and raised an eyebrow.

"Staring at what, exactly?"



Hidan pointed a pen at him accusingly, waving it about like a little wand.

"Oh no, we are not doing this right now. I think you out of all people would know that your little diversion tactics won't work on me ever since I knocked you upside the head with that shogi game last month." Hidan said, making Itachi's eye twitch at the mere thought of that horrid incident, "But it's as clear as freakin' day that you, Mr. I-Don't-Know-What-A-Smile-Is, have been looking at Sakura-sama for the last thirty seconds."

Sakura was visiting the pediatric ward at the hospital to observe the staff and make notes and changes as she saw fit. She was speaking amiably to the head of the department, Matsumoto Hikaru, as they walked the floor.

"Is it wrong for me to study the way she takes care of the hospital system?" Itachi asked.

"No." Hidan admitted, "But if you were 'studying', I think you would have noticed me writing the word 'idiot' on your cheek."

Itachi snatched the compact mirror his friend lazily offered from his overcoat pocket. He snapped it open and turned his head, an irritable glance forming. Idiot was indeed written on his face in thick black letters ending in an exclamation point. A sigh escaped his lips as he closed and returned the mirror.

"I assure you, I wasn't staring." he said, "What reason could I have to do such a thing?"

Hidan hummed to himself as he leaned against the counter top. His eyes slid over to where Sakura standing, rather close to Hikaru as she laughed at something he said.

"So... you wouldn't mind if she decided to start dating the esteemed Matsumoto-sensei? Seeing them together all the time, all happy and lovey-dovey?" he questioned. Itachi closed the open folder in his hands and tucked it under his arm.

"Her personal life doesn't concern me."

Hidan kept his sly comment to himself as Sakura strode over to them. She grinned and waved before handing out some documents to the administration.

"Good morning, you two." she greeted, "Your shifts haven't started yet?"

"Nope. Pretty boy and I still have about fifteen minutes."

She nodded and moved her gaze to Itachi. Unbeknownst to them, he suddenly found it hard to breathe as he looked in her pleasantly emerald eyes. He didn't even mind it when she leaned forward curiously and poked his cheek.

"Itachi-san... are you an idiot?"

Hidan burst out laughing. Itachi repressed a heavy sigh and resisted the urge to wipe that stupid smile off his face. Sakura joined in the laughter, Itachi becoming mesmerized by her sweet-sounding voice. She clapped him on the shoulder before walking off toward the elevators. At her departure, Hidan tilted his head to the side and gave the counselor one of those knowing glances.

"You never answered her question."

"Be quiet."

The laughs subsided and Hidan raised his hands in defense.

"Hey now, I'm not telling you to stop what you've already got going on." he said, "If anything, I'll be rooting for ya'. But you better get your act together soon or some other guy's gonna come and sweep her off her feet because you couldn't."

Itachi took this time to consider those words. A small frown tugged at his lips.

"If you're so well enamored with the idea, why don't you act upon it?"

Hidan raised his left hand, showing the silver band on his ring finger.

"Just got back from my honeymoon, remember? Been there, done that, I'm great. You, on the other hand, are like thirty years old or something? Maybe you should consider settling down sometime. It might do you some good."

Itachi excused himself and walked to his office to start his shift. Say he did want to settle down in the near future. Say he did want a wife to hold in his arms and have a reason to make it home safe every day. Say he did want a child to raise and read stories to every night before bed. Say he did want all those things more desperately than anyone could ever possibly imagine, but...

He wilted slightly.

He already let his family down once.


What made him deserving of another?


"I'm ready to start my Kage training, ero-sennin." Naruto said. Jiraiya looked up from his peeping in the bath houses.

"Oho, are you now, gaki?" he mused as he stood up and stretched his arms over his head, "This is pretty sudden. What made you change your mind?"

Naruto pressed his lips together, thinking back to that moment on the Hokage Monument. That look in Sakura's eyes, the glow in her smile, and the way she had matured... If she stood up for her own all those years ago, maybe it was time for him to do the same.

"First Gaara became the Kazekage, then Sakura-chan became the Otokage." he answered, "And they earned those titles so long ago. Now I've got to suck it up and catch up to them, dattebayo!"

Jiraiya eyed his disciple thoughtfully. He heard that Sakura had revealed herself to be alive only recently, sending shock waves throughout all the five nations and bringing attention to Otogakure as a whole. Along with that came the revelation of Akasuna no Sasori's active status and the rumor of a third Uchiha.

But Haruno Sakura had been orchestrating this the entire time? Her? Well, he had to see that for himself. He cringed, remembering all the frogs he lost due to tried surveillance in that area and tried not to assume too much of what that girl had become.

"If you're positive about this, then we'll start training right away!" Jiraiya grinned. He turned back to his peeking, "But after this research session."


"Shhh! They'll hear you!"