Too Early for This

There was an eeriness to the quiet mornings in Konoha. The usual busy streets appeared disserted in the mix of nightclubs and bars closing for the day where people were arriving home from a night out and waking up to begin their day. In two hours' time the streets would be packed with traffic with people heading to work, city transportation, and kids being dropped off for their first day back at school.

But there was something especially different about the early mornings of September that put Sakura at ease; when the heat wave of August had just passed and they were beginning their dissent on fall and a new year—now their last year—of high school. Perhaps because there was a certain calm to this eeriness during these sorts of morning. Everyone was back in town from their summer vacation, but things haven't quite picked up yet for the new start of the school year. It was a quiet time in between summer and fall where one could relax for a while—a calm before the storm. All the troubles of the previous school year completely forgotten—or set aside, at least—and they were beginning again with a (possible) clean slate.

Jade eyes leisurely roamed the empty streets that quiet morning, taking in the cool morning fog which would no doubt be replaced by the scorching sun in less than four hours' time. Occasionally, Sakura would find herself behind a city bus or the car of a working man whose day started as early as hers, but besides the rare run-ins, she was free to drive through the streets in solitude.

Konoha seemed extraordinary peaceful at times like these, more so than it appeared to be when it was busied with people running around, coexisting with one another during the day. Any one new to the city could easily be fooled into believing the façade of peace which surrounds Konoha, with the low crime-rates, murders, and harassments. Although Konoha participated in its fair share of crimes and misdeeds—if one could call them as lightly as that—in the past, so very distant and long ago, such a thing remained present under a cloak of concealment few were tasked to maintain.

Ignorance was bliss. Ignorance was also maintaining public safety.

Turning off the freeway, Sakura made the necessary turns down the damp residential streets leading to her best friend's apartment complex. His athletic physique was easily spotted through the dimly lit lobby as he waited patiently—or not, considering the two times her cellphone went off—for her arrival.

"Do you have everything you need?" Sakura asked through the passenger window, watching Sasuke waddle down the front steps of his apartment with a gym bag containing lord knows what to attract the little juniors for their junior-senior basketball team. Not that the team needed any more help than the three championship trophies that they've brought home in the last three consecutive years, but Kakashi would be none too pleased if they didn't at least look like they were putting in some effort into building his prized sports teams.

"More than enough." Sasuke grunted, throwing his bag in beside hers in the backseat before climbing into the front. "You got a paint job."

Sakura's eyes flickered calculatedly to scan over her dark haired companion, taking in any subtle changes that were made over their two month separation before Sakura shifted her gears back into drive. The bastard was still apparently growing in height, so it seemed, leaving her to dread encountering any of her other male friends—especially Naruto—who probably sprouted an extra couple inches over the summer while she only managed a whopping point-five of an inch.

But with her inconsistent sleeping schedule, she figured it was what she deserved.

"I went a little overboard after covering up the scratches from Naruto." There was a little humour in her voice which soothed the misplaced anxiety within Sasuke. Something about heading back to school left that sort of feeling to mix in with the little excitement he felt about returning. School gave him a purpose, he figured. It was natural and familiar, and something about returning to a place filled with people he knew growing up was comforting, but always a little overwhelming.

"It looks better black," He stated, glancing into lazy green eyes he knew barely closed the night before. Sasuke looked her over in silent annoyance, something he knew Sakura had a sixth sense for, but ignored seventy percent of the time. Her hair sat neatly on her head in a high pony tail, held together with a clear elastic band he knew she hated using and pretty green and white ribbons that matched the cheerleading uniform she was wearing under her black sport's jacket. His eyes caught onto a faded brown scar, in particular, that seated itself comfortably on the outside of her right leg and ran a good five inches down to her knee. "What the hell is this?"

He gently touched the mark in a form of gesturing to what "this" he was referring to, knowing well that catching her off guard by sudden intimacy would either kill them both in a car crash and land him an elbow to the chin out of pure reflexes. Believe him or not, Sasuke had the scars to show what surprising Sakura did to a person although Naruto had better ones with better stories to tell.

"It's from rock climbing," She answered easily, taking a turn at a street that was all too familiar to the both of them before turning into the driveway of a certain loud-mouth blond of theirs. "I got it two weeks ago while I was down at my relatives."

Before he could scowl at her for whatever carelessness that came with rock-climbing which caused her to obtain such a large scar, the third member of their three man party came bouncing out of his house. Sakura silently apologized to his sleeping parents as the sound of his door slam echoed through her car, while Sasuke stuck with the scowl on his face at the two careless idiots he called his best friends.

"Dammit, Teme! I wanted to sit in the front!" Said loud-mouth blond exclaimed the minute he got the back door open, climbing in the center seat without caring for the two gym bags which prevented him from fitting into such a position. "You always take my spot!"

"Hey, you lost that privilege when you rear ended me in the spring." Sakura chide hotly, glaring at the blond in between checking the back for cars and reversing onto the empty street. "Besides, why does it matter? No one's at school right now to see us pull up, so you can't act cool by pretending you have some ownership to my car just because you're in the front seat."

Unsurprisingly, that didn't keep Naruto from mumbling profanity at Sasuke who made a point of snorting and smirking over his shoulder at the sulking blond. As old as they were, Sakura knew they would always be the two idiots who shoved sand in each other's mouths during elementary school.

Recovering from the oh so terrible loss, Naruto bounced forward. Resting his elbows on the shoulder of each seat, he watched the city street slowly fade away from its greyish, muted lighting and brighten up with the slowly rising sun.

"Ne, are you guys excited about going back?"

He knew he was. It was going to be a lot different now that they were seniors. It was their turn to be the cool kids and take over the school, but it's not like Naruto was never cool, mind you.

Out the three of them, it was always Naruto to be the most excited about returning to school. It was also always him to the be the first to complain about the workload and the tediousness of their weekly routine two weeks later when assignments were being handed out and homework was expected to be turned in. But it wouldn't be the first day of school without his enthusiasm, Sakura and Sasuke knew, so they both grunted in acknowledgement.

"What's with that attitude, eh?" Unfortunately, their lack of the enthusiasm wasn't going to be tolerated this coming year. Despite the last eight years where his enthusiasm fluctuated between extreme excitement for the coming year and disaffection—really depending on what he told himself the night before—the couple's best friend seemed to have great expectations for the three of them the coming year. Not to say he didn't have great expectations before—many that have been achieved, he'll have you know—but this year was going to be way different. "We're in charge of the school this year! We can do anything we want and Kakashi-sama can't punish us for half of them!"

"Actually, he still can, Dobe. We're still students."

Naruto didn't need to see Sasuke's stupid face to know the bastard rolled his eyes and Sasuke didn't need to look back to know Naruto was glaring into his earhole. Bystander Sakura, on the other hand, knew better than to get involved with her boy's bickering this early in the morning when Sasuke's anxiety was high and Naruto's adrenaline was rushing. The two needed this to balance them out every morning before the first day of school or a big championship game.

If Sakura was honest, which she wasn't going to be out loud, this school year wasn't going to be that much different than the last eight that she's had with these two. Sure, there was a lot more freedom that came with being seniors, but also more responsibilities and stress that came with the freedom. Not to mention that in two months' time, they would begin applying for universities or colleges, which meant grades were already an issue whether Naruto wanted to acknowledge that or not. However, nothing really changes beside that.

It was still just school with the same classes, events, dances, and pep rallies.

"No, Teme. It means he'll go easy on us because he knows we're seniors. And that means we're mature young adults now."

"Sakura and I are, but you still haven't turned seventeen yet, Dobe."

Sakura snorted. "Try that speech again next month, Naruto."

If pouts could make noises, it would be whatever noise Naruto made at Sakura's teasing. The blond retreated and sat back to stare off distantly at the towering building of their high school, easily spotted three blocks away in one of the prestigious neighbourhoods in Konoha, if the white-coloured brick wall and golden gates didn't give it away.

"About time they replaced those 12th century, black gothic gates." Sasuke remarked as the pulled up to the school.

"No kidding, those things were hideous." Slowly driving through the gold gates and around the flower bed and water fountain that the three of them noted was also new, Sakura had to give it to Kakashi, or the parent council, for implementing the changes they had. The flowerbed made it easier to drop one's kid off and drive out, seeing that it was a clearly marked drop-off, roundabout which fixed all the hustle and bustle and confusion of simply having an open space for inconsiderate drivers to pile in on. "Naruto, can you carry my bag in for me?"

Distracted by the fountain, Naruto managed a "sure thing" before scanning the rest of the area for any new developments. Whether he heard her or not, Sasuke would deal with him in end.

The two story window surrounding the glass doors of their grand foyer made it easy to peer inside the school and get the gist of events occurring that day. More likely than none, senior students were spotted in their stands, hustling for bake sales, fundraising, and sporting events in a marketing strategy to attract possible buyers and bidders as many came through the foyer—with the exception of seniors coming through the cafeteria from the parking lot. In less than two hours, Sasuke and Sakura would find themselves in one of those stands, rallying up names for try-outs for their designated sports team and selling their soul for the cause instead of trying to push through the crowd of people as they had done every year before.

Perhaps Naruto was right in saying it would be different this year, with being leaders and in charge of these events instead being on the receiving end and completely ignorant to the social and daily workings of the school. The only thing different about this year was the stress of school work and the entertainment of participating in school events. At least, that was what Sakura originally thought.

The little preview not only showed the blank stands the custodians had set up for the various captains and leaders of their extracurricular activity sale, but the people who arrived ahead of them. Indeed it was different and something extraordinary to see Kakashi at school before it started, for in many cases you could spot him running to his office as the bell rings for students to head to their first class or sneaking in through the window of his office during second period—or even lunch. But the fact that he stood in their foyer sparked Sakura's curiosity and sent a rush of adrenaline through her veins.

Kakashi wasn't the sentimental type to make exceptions to his habits, not even for the first day of school. She remembered clearly sitting in the auditorium all through second period and waiting for him to arrive at school and start off the assembly for the school year. There was something amiss, and that, alone, sparked her excitement.

The car slowed in front of the doors, preparing to stop completely for a convenient unloading of the cargo in Sakura's back seat but a quick change of plans sent Naruto rolling into the door window and Sasuke's legs flailing from the open door. He had been halfway out the door when Naruto managed a confused "hey—", cut off by the vicious force that was his best friend pulling him back inside by his waistband and the car ties screeching against the pavement in urgency.

When upright, his complaint managed to boil up into his throat before he stopped himself. There was an intensity in Sakura's eyes he was only fortunate enough to encounter a handful of times, and as much as he would have liked to voice his displeasure and the new pain in his neck from be jolted back in his seat, something about the way Sakura fiercely gripped the steering wheel and the controlled look of rage in her eyes warned him against it.

As to make matters worse, Naruto barely made a noise at the sudden change of action—nor did he complain about involuntarily imprinting his face onto her window. He stayed silent about the Sakura's driving because he understood the importance of the situation when Sasuke was more than oblivious.

So Sasuke waited until Sakura found a nice place to park on the side of the school before saying anything, only watching her with a careful eye as she managed to work with a certain calmness despite the fire in her eye.

"What was that?" He asked carefully, turning to look at Sakura before turning to see a very concerned and concentrated look on the usual carefree face of his male friend.

For a moment there was silence. A very tense and suffocating silence.

Yanking her keys out all Sakura could do was grip onto her steering wheel in deep thought, trying to play out the possibility of their situation and what all it, all of what she had seen, could mean. Naruto had seen it too, but his interpretation of the situation was much different than hers. Not that she could blame him, but her battle was a lot different than what they were going to have to deal with in T-minus fifteen minutes when they walked through the doors.

"Did you see him too, Naruto?"

There was a dangerous forced calmness in Sakura's voice that sent chills down Sakura's spine; an imposing aura which darkened the mood substantially and a lingering promising of a raising threat. It was a tone of supressed fury or (sometimes there was an "and" to this) distress. A tone of finality in a form of a question. The type of tone which tells you warningly that "you don't want to do this" and asked "are you sure about this?" At the same time, it was the tone of voice that asked "do you know what you've done?" with a certain strain of hurt and disbelief that made Naruto hesitant to answer.

Sakura was silently fuming in a way that made them believe she was more than ready to kill the next person who looked at her the wrong way.

Naruto gulped, nodding carefully and flashing a worried look at an every confused and alarmed Sasuke. "He—I think he…"

Sasuke's mind raced at the idea of "him" and who this "him" could be. It couldn't be Kakashi or any of their peers, could it? Talk definitely would've gotten around if someone had truly angered Sakura in such a way that drew her out of her usual impassiveness. Moreover, who else did Sakura and Naruto know that Sasuke didn't? If it was an ex-boyfriend he and Naruto would've taken care of him a long time ago, so ultimately, he was not only lost but worried.

He allowed Sakura to process whatever it was he missed in the two seconds it took for them to drive by the front of the door and speed off. Naruto wouldn't recover as quickly from being stunned, but even if he did, he wouldn't be able to form a coherent sentence for some time.

Darkened green eyes turned to look at him. Her face may have twisted into a look of concern, but her eyes still held a dangerously suppressed rage which surfaced very rarely.

"We saw your brother inside the building."

When the words left her lips, his world went deaf, but if he listened closely, he could hear the sound of Sakura's internal screaming.

"Well, that went better than I expected."

Itachi eyed his superior suspiciously as he sipped the coffee through the dark mask, not only questioning what he was expecting but also how the school board allowed him to work in an inappropriate attire. The suit was professional, he gave Kakashi that much credit, but the mask and eyepatch had to cause some sort of stir amongst the parents, at least, that donning one would have been petitioned against by now.

Nevertheless, he didn't mention it. If the principal had been able to get away with it for as long as he has, it was not Itachi's place to question or suggest against it. He could only guess that Kakashi managed to maneuver his way around these protests and petition with that odd charm of his.

What the young high school teacher was more curious about was the screeching tires of that black car which sped off, almost taking itself out in that sharp turns of the roundabout and narrow space of the gateway.

Itachi had learn, from an offhanded comment of "oh, Sakura-chan's here" that the car belonged to none other than his former partner (or were they still partners? He wasn't sure). It didn't surprise him in the least to see Sasuke and Naruto riding along with her either.

"And what were you expecting, exactly?" Itachi asked carefully, and Kakashi's lips stretched into a grin underneath his mask when he turned towards him with an eye crinkle.

"I expected her to come out of that car with a bat." There was a certain tone of amusement in Kakashi's voice that told Itachi he found Sakura's violent antics cute and nonthreatening. Perhaps because he watched her grow up from the sweet little eight year old that she was when they found her, or because he was a pervert. For the old man's personal safety, Itachi hoped it was the former. "Though she still might; you should be careful."

Kakashi was well aware the three teenagers would direct their anger towards him before they do Itachi. There was a chance that Sakura might just head straight for the kill when she finds Itachi because she had the familiarity that the other two didn't, but the silver-haired man knew the bat would find its way to his well-defined cheekbones somehow—he wouldn't put that passed sweet little Sakura-chan.

He toasted to their safety with his half-empty coffee mug, smiling anxiously when he heard the cafeteria side door open and three pairs of feet shuffled their way to the foyer from their right. They were unnaturally quiet this morning. Usually Naruto's voice could be heard echoing through the hallway, but the circumstances of slamming his face against Sakura's car door may have slowed down any voluntary movements of his jaw.

Try as he might, Itachi couldn't hide the tenseness of his form from Kakashi if he tried. Externally he held a façade of indifference. His expression was bleak and he stood tall with his hands in his pockets, looking unbothered by the sun shining in his eye.

But the slight stiffness of his shoulder told Kakashi all he needed to know.

Uchiha Itachi, their child prodigy, was nervous. He could infiltrate organized terrorist groups and criminal organizations with a steady heartbeat, but reuniting with his brother and partner appeared to be more nerve-racking than going into the lion's den. Kakashi wasn't even sure he was breathing anymore as his lone eye followed the young agent turn high school teacher headed up the stairs the second floor to speculate the on-goings within their spacious foyer.

Kakashi set his coffee down at one of the empty booths just as the cafeteria doors open, fully prepared to catch a flying shoe, or basketball, or textbook that had fair chance of being launched at his head.

To say he was surprised by what came through was an understatement.

In an aura of indifference which rivaled Itachi's, the three little shitheads Kakashi has been tasked with watching for the last three years walked right towards him without a sparing a single glance at the clearly visible man staring down at them from the second floor balcony. It was their "we see you, but you aren't important" instilment of dominance, letting Itachi know where he stood before even giving him a chance to choose for himself. It was as clear as their freshly washed windows that Sakura had concocted this plan, integrating her professional knowledge into her daily routine to benefit her personal life.

"Good morning, Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura said sweetly, setting Kakashi on alert for flying fists and anything she may have in the gym bag hanging from her shoulders. "It's so refreshing to see you here on time."

His lone studied her face and body posture, careful to note any sudden twitches or movements, especially those aimed towards his face or his groin.

"Ah, good morning Sa—"

"I think this may be the first time." Sasuke interjected, looking at Sakura who hummed nodded considerately in agreement.

"I wouldn't say—"

"You're totally right, Sasuke!" It was Naruto's turn to interrupt, looking at both of his friends and then at Kakashi with a scowl of suspicion. "So what gives, sensei? Why are you suddenly on time today?"

The small jabs they took at him were playful, but there was a distinct passive-aggressive ulterior motive in which they were blaming him for the sudden appearance of someone who had led them to believe was dead. Despite the crinkle of Kakashi's eye, the way it darkened slightly told Sakura he wasn't going to entertain their integration much longer.

"I could ask you the same thing, Naruto. Why are you even here, anyway? You didn't make captain of anything." Ah, there it was. Kakashi's warning for them to back off before he got really nasty. The blond entwined his fingers behind his head, huffing in annoyance but signalling his retreat.

It was so like Naruto to give up so easily when cornered. He either did that or exploded, both proving to be ineffective in proving his point or winning his battle. It was only his luck that he was friends with intellectuals like Sakura and Sasuke. While Sasuke excelled in school and wise in his own ways, picking out the flaws and phonies in people, Sakura excelled socially with her ability turn things around with a couple of words.

"He just came to help out Sensei. Besides, didn't you miss us over the summer?"

Kakashi knew it was going to all end if and when he looked into her eyes. Usually very sharp and cat like, the moment Sakura decided to play dirty and make her eyes round and doe-like—well, eight out of ten times she had whoever was foolish enough to look into them wrapped around her little finger. Hell, Sasuke even knew and fell for it because he kept his eyes straight and pinned to at the red book he saw through the clear wall of glass into the main floor of the library the minute he saw her face beginning to contort.

Sakura used it sparingly enough to still maintain its effects after all these years.

But somehow, Kakashi always chanced it with her. Reprimanding himself that he was a grown ass man with a successful career and the iron will of an ox, and that just because she used to be a sweet little girl who sat on porches and covered her face with ice cream before looking at him with those big round eyes does not mean the intentions she held in those green pools were as innocent as they were nine years ago.

So he looked and doomed himself instantly. His throat tightened while he stared down at her and said "Of course, Sakura. You always were my favourite student" which was followed with a "what?" "pervert," and a soft cough from the man who they had all been ignoring, standing above the four of them. Nevertheless, their eyes didn't even flicker for a second towards the third voice, either out of shear will or the strict warning from Sakura before they walked it, it was impressive to say the least—especially on Sasuke's part.

"I thought I was your favourite!" Naruto accused, a slight hurt in his voice that caused both Sakura and Sasuke to roll their eyes.

Kakashi's crinkle flattered and he regarded the blond seriously as if Naruto had committed a terrible crime.

"What on earth gave you that impression?" Naruto's jaw dropped and despite his many attempts to answer the questions, incoherent words and unflattering noises were the only he could manage before stomping away in a huff of exasperation. Kakashi turned his attention back to the two who remained and stared after the blond with annoyance and amusement. "As I recall, you have two stands to decorate."

"Hn." Sasuke grunted, tearing himself away from their circle to carelessly pick stand, no longer wanting to be involved in his two best friends' shenanigans. It was way too early for this. He agreed to coming in before school started to decorate the plain plastic table with a lame headboard attached to it, not get involved with harassing Kakashi and willing himself to not throw himself at his brother who had been missing for nine years—presumed dead for four of those.

Naturally, Sakura followed after Sasuke and picked the stand next to his—right under the balcony outside the second floor of the library, specifically for their backs to be turned to this intruder. She set the bag of pom-poms, confetti, and an unholy amount of glitter on the table while murmuring "this is so extra" to receive a pointed look from Kakashi and a soft hum of agreement from Sasuke.

She made a point of ignoring the hole that was burning into her back, gracefully dancing around her stand with glue and glitter, and wrapping garland up the poles as if two dark eyes weren't trained to study on her every breath.

Itachi stood quietly from above and watched, his eyes soaking in their every movement and trying to piece together who they were, what they were, and how they were based on that alone.

Needless to say, Sasuke's examination was much simpler than Sakura's. Despite his repressive and suppressive personality, it was easy to see he was easily annoyed, easily irritated, but not easily fazed—if that made sense. He didn't believe everything deserved his reaction, and only chose to react when beneficial to getting what he wanted, or if it was absolutely out of his control to do so. And he decided, or Sakura decided—maybe they collaborated by the way they seem to so easily move around each other—that Itachi's presence after so many years fell into the very former.

By his attitude towards Kakashi, it was easy to tell that he didn't like superior presence. He would respect it, yes, but he was not all that pleased with being talked down to or ordered around. He would listen if necessary—as was the order to start decorating their stands—but would revolt quickly if he thought a line was crossed, even by a hair. Was it because it was a common Uchiha trait or something he picked up on from his two friends, Itachi wasn't 100% sure. Sasuke was always so obedient as a kid, but one look in his eyes and you say quick flashes of frustration when he didn't wholly agree with what he was being ordered to do.

Sakura, on the other hand, was a mix of suppression and expression, leaving Itachi puzzled about which emotion fell into which category and what part of her was real. The Sakura he knew five years ago stuck to expression alone. Whatever she felt she showed. Whatever she tried to hide, he saw through. But in his five years absence, she mastered the art of schooling her emotions accordingly when needed. In other words, she could manipulate how others felt with how she felt.

Was it because of him or the influence of Sasuke, he couldn't really say.

It could also be puberty, he tried, almost groaning at the thought.

Missing five years of someone's life when they're twenty, and not much may have changed unless they've experience something traumatic. Missing five years of someone's life during that stage in their life and you may as well have not known them at all. It was an evolutionary stage in life—puberty and high school—and coming to meet her when she was nearly finished with them both, he might as well introduce himself to her again.

It was very easy to identify where she had changed physically with the cheer leading uniform that showed too much leg and too much torso, but where she changed mentally and emotionally was going to be much harder now that she's finally learned that her life depending on schooling her emotions.

The squeak of the front door turned Itachi's attention away from his enigma, but he didn't miss the way her face lit up when she caught sight of who walked through.

"Neji?" She gasped, jumping off the table she had been kneeling on in order to reach the banner above her stand.

"You're here pretty early," Said Neji inquired, gently stepping into the hug she offered him before acknowledging the other party in the room. "Uchiha."

There was an awkwardness that lingered the minute he said it. A question of "which one" danced around in their thoughts before it was easily dispelled with one look from Sakura. Sasuke held her gaze for a split second and grunted in reply, eventually answering back with a "Hyuuga" of his own before returning back to taping on his own cut out letters.

Itachi's eyes narrowed suspiciously, studying this new character that seemed to complicate things more for their three man dynamic. It was even more off-putting that Kakashi hadn't intervene to welcome this visitor, like he didn't want to get involved in the delicacy and, dare he say intimacy, that was at hand.

"I thought you moved out of town for school. Why are you here now?" Sakura bounced back to her cheerleading stand, ready to climb back onto the table to only be stopped by a gentle hand on her shoulder which offered to finish the task of taping her letters for her. Itachi didn't miss the way the brunet casted a long look at Sasuke, as if accusing him of leaving Sakura to fend for herself like an asshole that he sorta-kinda was.

"I don't start until Wednesday." He answered quickly, spacing and straightening out the "L" on her order and looking down at her for approval.

There was an intensity in his gaze which Itachi decided to be unfitting. Had things been any different he may have intervened, but with the way things were going, intervening would not be in his best interest if he wanted to progress from his outsider position. For an instant this "Neji" person's slate eyes glanced at him, resting on his face far longer than one would consider to be a glance before Sakura called back for his attention. If Neji noticed anything, he didn't say it. If he knew anything, he also knew it wasn't his business or place to say.

"I'm also here to welcome the new school year and pass my presidency on to Shikamaru." He finally finished, taping the last of her letters and stepping back to examine his own work.

"And this whole time I thought you came back to see me," Sakura sighed dramatically and loudly, but something told Itachi it was more of what she said than how she said it that caused Sasuke to pause for a second and glance over his shoulder at her curiously.

Now, Kakashi wouldn't say he was an instigator nor would he ever admit that he was a shit-starter. Seeking drama and attention was more of Gai's thing than it was his, and he definitely didn't rival the doings of Ino. Kakashi, however, just knew how and when to manipulate situations for the better good. Causing new problems which had the results to solve old ones. It was simply a matter of picking and choosing which one was more beneficial and was higher on his list of priorities.

"Sakura," Kakashi said warning, turning both the heads of his cheerleading captain and former school president. He didn't miss the way Sasuke paused for a fraction of a second, no doubt listening in to what he would say next even if the young brat acted oblivious. "I let you and Neji off the first time. I remind you that it won't happen again."

With one simple statement, he was able to sit back and watch it all unfold. It began with a near silent choke on Itachi's part, followed by a very loud one by his younger half who needed to grip onto the table to keep himself from toppling over from the intensity of the choke and the weight of the news. Sasuke eyed the stunned Hyuuga with a rare and raw display of disbelief and disgust, causing Sakura, to grip onto the sleeve of Neji's shirt firmly for reassurance which only seemed to anger the younger Uchiha some more. For a second, they all thought he would pounce, but oh so calmly he reached for the phone in his pocket.

At the same time, Sakura reached for hers. A flaw on her part for simply assuming he was only going to confront her through text message to keep the conversation private, and a mistake she deeply dreaded once she heard the pitter-patter of feet charging quickly in their direction following an enraged "what?"

From wherever Naruto was in the school, doing whatever it was he was doing—probably sulking or booby-trapping someone's door—he barreled down the hallway behind Sasuke, only stopping once he made it into the clearing and saw the criminals in question.

"You guys are hooking up?"

Sakura casted a long, dark, and threatening look which promised unholy pain at Kakashi before for turning to Naruto with a stern and infuriated look. She noticed slight narrowing and darkened look Itachi sent their way, and if things weren't escalating as they were, she would've snorted at his entitlement. One does not disappear for five years and return thinking they can impose their ideals onto her.

"No, we're not." Her tone of voice should've been enough for them to back off the topic. There was an air of finality to it that declared that the discussion was over, but it would seem that Sasuke wasn't part of this "them."

"Then you've hooked up before." Sakura's eyes rolled on the demand when she heard the sound of Sasuke unzipping his jacket. She turned to see him throw it aside carelessly, taking a purposeful step towards the Hyuuga who stood his grounds with an annoyed expression across his face. "And Kakashi knows about it."

Sakura exchanged a wary look with the unimpressed Hyuuga, and that was more than enough.

"You white eyed motherfucker! How dare you fucking touch Sakura-chan!" Naruto growled, throwing off his bag in a heap of rage, and impulse as his shirt was the next to go. "I'm going to kick your ass so hard, you'll be tasting my foot for the next month!"

Neji looked back from Naruto and Sasuke silently, as if debating with himself whether or not to accept this fight, to Sakura's disbelief. It wasn't that she didn't think he couldn't take the two of them on, they've sparred enough time to know he could at least defend himself when the time called for it, but the fact that he was actually considering the idea of fighting her two best friends on school grounds.

"Ok, enough." Sakura narrowed her eyes at their principal, finding no relief in his decision to dispel the shit that he oh-so-purposely stirred. Kakashi wedged his way between her and Neji, taking purposeful strides towards his office and beckoning both Sasuke and Naruto to follow with a simple "come." At the doorway, he paused, turning back to the remaining pair in the foyer and Sakura saw the glint in his sole eye. "You come in as well, Neji. It looks like I need to remind you of our school policies."

Before she could open her mouth to protest the absurdity in Kakashi's accusation, Neji signed and followed as he was told. Sakura stood rooted in her spot as the office door clicked close behind Kakashi and muffled shouts and growled ensued. There was suffocating stillness to the room that Itachi had admit made his stomach flip, once. In the silenced that echoed through the heavy room, it finally dawned on her what his intentions was all along.

Without hesitation she turned to look up at the man she made a point of ignoring for the half-hour, looking at him up and down to note the changes in him over the years and deciding that she was completely uninterested nor cared for them at the moment.

This was his fault.

If he had not been here—if he had not left them five years ago—Kakashi would not have planned to do what he just did. He was a slippery one, that principal and superior of hers. Every time she seemed forget, he always made sure to find a way to remind her.

Itachi parted his lips to say something. Perhaps it was to apologize, to greet her, or even to question her because she knew it was more likely than not that he felt arrogant about who he was that he invited himself into situations that didn't concern him. Sakura decided that today was not the day to tolerate such a thing, if she decides to ever tolerate it at all, and had more pressing matters to attend currently than to entertain an Uchiha who felt like he could walk in and out of her life whenever he felt like it without uttering a word.

One Uchiha was enough of a handful as it was, she concluded. She didn't need to get involved with another one.

"I don't want to hear it." She barked, her anger rolling off her in waves as she slammed the door open and stormed after the four trouble makers.

Itachi was left alone in the foyer. The heavy silence that hung in room now was only disturbed by more students entering through the school—students whom he decided were not important and ignored.

A lot would change in five years. He knew this went he accepted his mission. Mental preparations were made in the case that Sakura rejected him completely when he came back to her, a case proven to be true long before he even set foot through the doors. When everyone's first question was "have you seen Sakura yet?" he knew things weren't going to be as pleasant as they were before. It wasn't asked in the sake of Sakura's anticipation, but of wariness and surprise that he managed to be in one piece to speak to them after confronting her.

He knew Sakura had a temper, but what was more to be feared was the depth of her grudges.

He felt pangs of regret every now and then, especially during the holidays of when her birthday rolled around. Reflecting on what he had witnessed now, he only really began to question if the decision he made to leave all those years as he did was a smart one.

I was never the type to stick to doing one thing at a time. If you're currently reading my other story, you know what I'm talking about. But I promise to my "Scheming with the Devil" readers that this is actually beneficial to my horrid upload history. By being able to switch back and forth between the two stories, I won't leave you all hanging when I lose temporary interest because I have another story to work on.

All comments and criticisms are widely accepted and appreciated.