Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me and I am making no money off of this story. This is for entertainment purposes only so please don't sue me, I'm poor.

A/N: Firstly, I'd just like to thank everyone who read and reviewed the last chapter of "The Butterfly" I'm glad you all enjoyed the story and if you're reading this, I'm especially glad that you are reading my new fic

So, this is an Alternate Universe story so I've taken a few liberties with characters and situations but I will try to explain them so please bear with me.

Also, I'm really sorry to those who read and reviewed this first chapter before I pulled it. I wasn't satisfied with it and there was a lot of stuff that I had wanted to add that I hadn't. So this is the new and improved version of the chapter with almost 10 pages worth of extra content. Every scene has been modified, some were changed completely. I think its much, much better now and I think that the characters a clearer now and there's less semblance between how I portray the characters in this story and how I portrayed them in the Butterfly.

To Mr. Pointy from Mediaminer, I'm sorry for the slowness in updates, my computer has been malfunctioning so my writing time has been halved and a lot has been happening in real life so I haven't been able to write. However, this re-write is now complete and I think the second chapter should be up in 3 or 4 days. The chapters are a lot longer and a lot more detailed so they're taking me a while longer to write.

Umm…yeah, that's about all the notes I have for this chapter so far. Oh, for those on FF.net, I'm sorry but the stupid thing won't save my breaks in the sotry so if it seems to jump from one scene to another it's because the break is missing and I'm sorry.

I hope you all enjoy it, I look forward to your reactions so please review And I apologize again for the false start from a few weeks ago and I would just like to remind you all that I post some previews and deleted scenes in my livejournal which is at livejournal .com /users /anotherstraycat

Hindsight's 20/20: Chapter 1

By: Tea Leaf / Banana Soap

A growl came from beneath the yellow covers as a sudden blaring noise shrieked through the room. The pillow was pulled tightly over his head in an effort to drown out the intrusion but the noise simply got louder and louder. Finally a large tanned hand with dirty fingernails and several scrapes and scars across the knuckles reached out and smashed the alarm clock beside the bed, putting a definite end to the noise. He sighed in contentment and snuggled back into his lumpy mattress, fully intent on going back to sleep.

His electric blue eyes shot open and a slight twitch developed under the left one as another shrill sound blared from the other side of the room. He grit his teeth and pulled the pillow tighter over his ears but still the noise persisted. Finally, with another growl, his strong arm whipped the pillow across the room, knocking over the second alarm clock.

The noise was slightly muted now, suffocated by the pillow, but it still insisted on screeching the time. He had to get up now.

He looked over at the slightly more damaged alarm clock beside his bed and made out the numbers 7:43 before cursing mildly under his breath.

He heaved his large body onto his hands and attempted to push himself out of bed only to get his legs tangled in the sheets and toppled to the floor.

He let out an "oof" as his back made contact with the cold wood and he lay there a second to recuperate.

Finally with a resigned sigh, he detangled his legs from his faded yellow sheets and once again pushed himself to his feet. He stumbled across the room in his threadbare boxers and shut off the alarm clock then leaned heavily on the wall as he made his way to the bathroom.

He stopped at the sink and took a good look at his messy blonde hair that seemed to be sticking out in every direction, as it always seemed to. His eyes were slightly blood-shot and had slight dark circles under them, four hours was definitely not enough sleep for him to function properly. He grimaced at the large bruise on his jaw; things hadn't gone smoothly last night. He sighed and hung his head lightly. This was definitely not how he'd pictured looking for the first day back at school.

He pushed away from the sink and stripped off his shorts before stepping into the shower and turning on the water. He yelped slightly at the cold but at least now he was wide-awake.

Slowly the water heated and he smiled a little goofily in pleasure as the heat helped soothe the soreness of his muscles.

Last night had been worse than expected. He'd wanted to do a quick clean job, get in and out and home by midnight.

Not so lucky.

He'd had the car boosted and in storage on time but it had been a little harder than expected to break through the locks. He'd scratched the paint by accident while he'd been forcing the door open.

The boss had been unimpressed and the various bruises that now coated his skin had been the result.

He scrubbed his hair and skin vigorously, ignoring the stiffness in his muscles, then turned off the water, stepping out of the shower stall and towel dried his skin and hair.

At least today was the first day of school though and that thought consoled him as he pulled on some jean shorts that had been cut off bellow his knees and a loose orange tee-shirt with a blue swirl con the front.

Not that he liked school itself, the actual class part sucked. But he liked the people there, and if nothing else, Uzumaki Naruto was a people person.

She looked up at the clear September sky as the sun rose and heated the air. It still felt like summer, but the laziness to the day made it clear that the season was drawing to a close.

She walked slowly, the collar of her long red trench coat pulled up, partially hiding her face.

She was reluctant to go back but she knew better than anyone that it was the best thing for her to do. She'd never get out of this hellhole without her high school diploma.

This hellhole was like every other, full of dark alleys, fences and graffiti as far as the eye could see. It was a perfectly clichéd concrete jungle.

The streets were mostly empty at this time of the day, the only inhabitants usually being the drunks who hadn't made it home last night, the drunks who had no homes to make it back to and the stray cats and dogs that were scrounging for something to eat.

The air was stale and laced with the lingering scents of garbage, sweat, urine and blood. The sidewalks were filthy, everything was filthy, and she couldn't remember ever seeing anything clean for as long as she'd lived here. Even the laundry stretched out on lines between the well-fare housing complexes looked dirty.

She continued down the cracked pavement, keeping to the thin space between the junkies and drunks that lounged the crumbling walls of the buildings and the putrid alleys and the mad drivers that always drove practically on the sidewalk to avoid the potholes in the middle of the road and would take out anything that dared stand in their way.

She kept her head low so as to not meet anyone's eyes but kept her gaze high enough to spot trouble in time to dodge it.

Not that she really had to worry though, people took one look at her long red leather trench coat with the infamous white circle on the back and ran in the other direction. She was a person that was not to be messed with. She had strong protection.

She eventually came to a chain link fence that lined a filthy park and slipped through a rip in the links that had been widened into almost a door after so many years of frequent use.

She walked along the basketball court, heading towards the four-story, graffiti covered, slowly crumbling brick building that found itself on the other end of the track field of the park.

She walked over the dead, scarred grass, still taking her time. She was early, as usual. She didn't have anything better to do in the morning, not even sleep in. She didn't sleep well.

Her eyes were still low, her shoulders were hunched, and her feet in their threadbare sneakers dragged in the dirt. Maybe she'd walk a few laps around the track before going into the school.

"Look who decided to show up after all." Came a slightly higher-pitched voice that had a definite sneer to it.

She sighed and closed her eyes briefly before turning to the girl who stood opposite her on the track.

"Ino, it's too early for this." She muttered as she raised her green eyes to her rival.

The blonde girl glared her ice blue eyes and sneered her painted red lips.

"It's never too early for you to get your ass handed to you. I thought I warned you last year to never come back here." She continued.

Haruno rolled her eyes.

"I would first like to point out that you have never been able to "hand my ass to me" as you so eloquently put it and I thought I told you last year that you could go hang yourself if you didn't want to see my face again." She responded as she adjusted the white bandana over her chin length pink hair.

"You think you're so much better than everyone else don't you Haruno? All because of that fucking coat of yours! Well fuck you. If anything you're worse, at least I don't have to whore myself out just to survive." The blonde snapped superiorly as she crossed her arms under her ample chest.

"No, you do it for fun." Haruno responded apathetically.

Ino glowered and growled as her hand reached into the pouch at the small of her back and pulled out a long sharp blade before charging the other girl.

Haruno slipped off her red coat and tossed it to the side before jumping aside to dodge Ino's lunge. Ino recovered quickly and lunged again. Haruno caught the hand with the kunai and pulled as she landed on her back and raised her right leg, applying pressure to the blonde girl's bared mid-drift, and sent Ino flying over her head and to the other side of the field.

Haruno flipped easily back to her feet and turned to look at Ino who was on her hands and knees in the dust trying to catch the breath that had been knocked out of her when she'd landed.

Haruno dusted off her old, lacerated jeans and adjusted the ripped mesh shirt she wore before picking up her trench coat and pulling it back on.

Ino looked up and glared at the white O on the back of it.

"Really Ino, you have no skill." Haruno told her frankly as she turned and met the other girl's blue eyes.

Ino growled and rose shakily to her feet, her breathing still very painful.

Haruno rolled her eyes.

"You know very well that if you come near me again you won't be able to get back up." She told her, her voice cold and serious.

Ino hesitated in apprehension.

A bell rang loudly from the school.

"Fuck. And now you've made me late." Haruno muttered angrily as she shot a glare at Ino before continuing her walk towards the school. This was exactly what she'd wanted to avoid.

Hatake Kakashi watched the class dispassionately with his one good eye. Already the students (mainly the boys) were arguing and fighting with each other as others (mainly the girls) were squealing and making other inhuman high-pitched noises of fake ecstasy as "best friends" and cliques rejoiced at their reunion.

He hated the first day of class. Actually, he hated every day of class but the first in particular.

He sighed as he rested his covered chin in his hand while he sat at his desk and watched the students pile into the desks and send notes and paper airplanes sailing over the noise. His first class, English Lit 12. A bunch of hormone crazed 17-year-old kids all firmly entrenched in their high school cliques and personas. All beyond originality of any kind. His lip curled behind the upraised neck of his turtleneck shirt.

The second bell rang and he stood up to close the door just as an almost 6-feet blonde built like a football player skidded through the door.

"Right on time! Hey Hatake-sensei!" he said brightly. Kakashi nodded to Naruto slightly and closed the door as Naruto collapsed comfortably into a desk near the front.

The tall, gray haired man walked back to the blackboard and wrote down the class code and his name before setting down the chalk, adjusting the unfolded turtleneck and headband that obscured his face and took a fortifying breath. He turned and faced the class and frowned slightly.

They were ignoring him.

"Hey! Listen up!" he stated, his voice drowned out.

His eye narrowed.

"Hey! The bell rang, that means shut up and sit down!" he yelled into the noise.

The students finally noticed him and slunk disgruntledly into their seats, the noise that had been deafening dying down to a slight murmur.

"Good. For the rest of the year I expect you to do this every time you're in my class and hear that second bell. Now, what are you going to do next class after the second bell?" he asked them sarcastically.

No one answered, a few glared.

"You're going to sit down and shut up. Now answer, what are you going to do next class after the second bell?" he asked again, a little sharper.

"Sit down and shut up…" came a few muttered replies.

"Repeat it."

"Sit down and shut up." Said everyone.

"Good, if you do that, this should go smoothly enough." He muttered before moving to the front of his desk and leaning against it.

"Now, this class is—" he was cut off by a knock at the door.

His eyes narrowed momentarily as he let out a slightly frustrated breath (he hated to be interrupted) and walked to the door, blinking slightly when he saw the principal standing there.

"Ah, Kakashi-san. So sorry to interrupt." The old man said congenially.

"Not a problem Sandaime." Kakashi said easily.

"I have a new student to introduce, if I may." The principal continued.

"By all means…" Kakashi said in the same laid-back tone and he opened the door wider and moved, waving the principal through the door.

A tall youth with spiky black hair fallowed him through. Kakashi sighed inaudibly as he took in the sunglasses, leather and chains the kid was sporting. Just what he needed, another troublemaker. He leaned against the wall by the open door as Sandaime moved to the center of the class and the kid stood beside him.

"Good morning students, glad to see so many of you back again with us this year." Sandaime said genuinely as he cast a fond smile around the students in the room, and nodded slightly to Naruto who grinned at him.

"I have a new student to introduce to you all today. This is Uchiha Sasuke." The principal continued waving his hand slightly to indicate the tall young man beside him.

The kid didn't react, he simply kept his stone-like expression and Kakashi was certain that he was scanning each person from behind his dark sunglasses.

Sasuke disconnected as the principal continued with his brief introduction. He narrowed his eyes slightly at the several calculating looks he received after the principal mentioned that he was a transfer student from a very high-class academy. He hated it here already. Mind you, he hated it everywhere.

Haruno stood just outside the doorway, waiting for Sandaime to finish his speech and studying the new arrival. He had a black leather jacket with a wide collar and an off center zipper that was covered with studs and chains and had a red and white fan airbrushed on the back. His coat was closed so she couldn't see his shirt. His pants were black leather as well with several small chains laced through the belt loops, and black steel toed leather boots on his feet. Leather and chains everywhere, she mused that he would be a metal detector's worst nightmare. The clothing screamed cash. Her eyes narrowed slightly. What was a rich kid doing at this school?

"So, seeing as he's completely new to the school and neighborhood, I was hoping some of you might be kind enough to show him around."

Immediately all the female hands shot into the air and several high pitched voices started pleading with the principal. Sasuke inwardly grimaced at the idea of being chained to one of these twits.

"I can show you around." Came a more lower pitched but still female voice from the door, addressing him directly.

Every other voice in the room suddenly went quiet.

He turned and looked her up and down, taking in her red trench coat, her torn and worn jeans and mesh shirt, the hard muscles revealed on her stomach, her set jaw, her hard eyes.

Perfect.

"Ah, Haruno-chan, thank you for volunteering." Sandaime said, smiling at her.

"It will be my pleasure sir." She responded, smiling politely at the principal while keeping skeptical eyes on the new student.

"Well, now that that's taken care of, I'll leave you all to your class." Sandaime said with a nod before taking his leave of the room.

Kakashi nodded to him as he passed and motioned for Sasuke to take a seat before turning onto his newest arrival.

"So nice of you to join us Sakura-chan. Next time, see that you do it on time." He said, deceptively nonchalant as he walked back towards his desk and froze as a kunai sunk into the wood where his thigh would have been when if he'd sat on it. He pulled it out of the wood and turned to the pink haired girl who was glaring murderously at him.

"Don't call me that." She hissed through gritted teeth.

Kakashi threw the kunai back at her, imbedding it into her desk in the front row.

"Weapons are not permitted in class." He responded easily before turning back to the class at large.

Sasuke blinked in surprise at the exchange. Normally, someone would be expelled and maybe even arrested for a stunt like that.

"Now, as I was saying earlier, this class is a mandatory one. The school boards force you to be here, I know this and so I won't hold it against you if you don't like it. I understand that you don't have a choice. However, that does not mean that I will allow you to slip through it without doing any work." He continued sternly.

"This class is mandatory for a reason and that's because you will theoretically be honing skills that will be invaluable to you in the future. So, that means I expect you to do any and every assignment I give out and I expect you to do it well." He said, his eye slowly scanning the room, making sure everyone understood.

He paused on the new kid and his eye narrowed slightly.

"Uchiha, right? Lose the sunglasses." He said.

Sasuke arched a dark eyebrow.

"Then you take off the headband and make everyone wearing regular glasses take them off too." Haruno spoke up.

"Excuse me?" Kakashi said, still deceptively calm as he turned his gaze to the pink haired girl who'd been carving the desk with her kunai and was now leaning back in her chair with her foot on the desk, her arms crossed and a mutinous look in her hard eyes.

"You heard me. There is nothing in the school dress code that forbids sunglasses. If you are going to discriminate against them, then you must discriminate against all things that cover eyes, such as regular glasses and that headband of yours." Haruno stated with an undertone of general contempt.

Kakashi looked at her for a long moment, he'd really hoped she wouldn't be in his class this year. She was always picking fights with him.

"No, I do not. As you said, it is not a breach of dress code it is in breach of my personal rules for my classroom, Sakura-chan. And my rule is against sunglasses only." He told her, ignoring the rage that flared in her eyes and turned back to Sasuke.

"Take off your sunglasses." He repeated.

"He can't make you." The girl told him.

Sasuke debated for a moment, he could probably argue this and win but that would draw a large amount of attention that he didn't want and would probably smack him with detention.

He removed the sunglasses and slipped them into an inner pocket of his black leather jacket, ignoring the venomous look he received from the pink haired girl.

Class moved on and Kakashi proceeded to outline the independent study he expected them to do as well as every other assignment they'd be given and went over the reading list.

Finally the hour and a half was over and the bell rang.

Haruno stabbed the kunai back into the desk, stood and left. Naruto hurried after her and Sasuke glared and did the same. She was supposed to show him around.

Kakashi sighed in relief as the students poured out of the room. One down, 2 to go. HE spotted the kunai still in Sakura's desk and walked over to pull it out but glared when he saw where she had stabbed it. All class she'd been carving and elaborate execution for him and had finished it off with the kunai stabbed where his hidden eye was.

"Ne, ne, Haruno-chan! You know, you really shouldn't screw around with Hatake-sensei like that, you'll get detention or worse." Naruto told the pink haired girl as he walked beside her towards her locked.

She tsked. "You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I give a flying fuck about what that bastard will try to do to me." She responded in her vaguely disconnected voice.

Sasuke paused as he watched the throng of students part like the red sea in front of her before continuing to follow her.

Naruto shrugged, he could argue that he was pretty sure she did because otherwise she wouldn't let the teacher get to her like he did but…arguing with Haruno was never a smart thing to do.

"How was your summer?" he asked instead.

"It was fine." Haruno muttered as she reached her locker and wrenched it open.

She tuned Naruto out and rummaged through her locker as he proceeded to tell her in ultimate detail the events of his two months of vacation only to jump back as Naruto suddenly crashed violently into her locker.

"Fuck, watch where the hell you're going asshole!" the blonde snarled as he turned on his assailant. Haruno placed a restraining hand on his shoulder and held his eyes for a second, now was not the time to start a brawl. Naruto took a deep breath, fire still blazing in his electric blue eyes, muscles still tense, body still crouched and ready to attack but he remained still.

Haruno slowly turned, her hard sea foam green eyes locking with the trademark pale silver eyes of the Hyuuga clan. Her lips thinned as she pressed them together to keep them from curling in contempt as she took in his Gap slacks and button down shirt and his perfectly groomed long brown hair that was kept out of his eyes with a black headband that covered his forehead.

"Stop blocking the hall." Said the calm voice of Hyuuga Neji as he stared at the blonde with cold eyes and an even colder smirk.

Naruto growled but remained still.

"H-hi Haruno-san!" came an excited voice beside her and Haruno resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Rock Lee.

"He wasn't blocking the hall asshole, it's you and your damn crew who are doing that." Haruno snapped at Neji as she gently shoved Lee out of her personal space and shared her glare with Neji's large entourage of "cool" seniors.

"I don't believe this has anything to do with you Haruno-san so I'd stay out of it if I where you." Neji said icily as he drew up to his full height in an unconscious effort to intimidate her through physical stature.

"Well it's a good thing you're not me, this school couldn't afford to have two immature bullies with pathetic superiority complexes." Haruno returned smoothly as she let her shoulders slope back lazily and a small superior smirk to curve her lips.

Sasuke watched the exchange intently, keeping on the fringe of it with the growing crowd. From the other spectators' excitement, he was convinced that this was a common and usually highly entertaining confrontation.

Neji's pale eyes narrowed as his jaw locked.

"I'm only going to tell you this one more time, stay out of it. This is between men…Sakura-chan." He said condescendingly as he leaned in towards her.

His mistake was lowering himself to her face level.

Her stance tensed and her right fist flew out faster than anyone had anticipated. Her knuckles connected hard with his cheek, sending him flying into the row of lockers on the other side of the hall with a large crash.

"Between men? What kind of a man picks on people for sport? What kind of a man is too ill-bred to simply ask politely for someone to move? What kind of a man resorts to violence at any opportunity?" She said, fake sugar coating her anger as she stepped menacingly forward finally allowing her lips to twist in disgust.

"You're really one to talk you classless street hooker. You can never hope to be half the man Neji is." Tenten, who had so far remained silent, snapped at her before rushing to Neji's side, a handkerchief in her hand as she dabbed at the blood at the corner of his mouth.

"Well as Neji so kindly pointed out, I am not a man so whether or not I'll ever measure up is irrelevant." Haruno stated coldly, her hard green eyes holding Neji's glowering ones.

"Hey, break it up!" said a voice as it pushed its way through the large crown surrounding Haruno, Neji, Tenten, Lee and Naruto.

"What's going on here?" the teacher said as he finally broke through the mob, quickly assessing the scene by taking in the damaged lockers and the blood from Neji's split lip.

Haruno squared her shoulders.

"Nothing Iruka-sensei. Unfortunately the hallway had been too crowded and few people got pushed around." She said as she smiled sweetly at the teacher.

He looked at her suspiciously then looked at Neji and Tenten who said nothing. He turned to Lee who looked away. He turned to Naruto, who was still half crouched and ready to jump at any second, and frowned at him.

The blonde shook his head slightly and stood, moving into a lazy slouch.

"Really sensei, just a misunderstanding." he assured the teacher.

Iruka sighed in resignation and thanked whatever mad gods were looking over them when the bell rang just then.

"Alright everyone, nothing to see here. Get to class." He said, dispelling the throng of students that had been hoping for the first big fight of the year.

"I hope you all are more careful next time you're in a crowd." Iruka told Haruno and Neji sternly, giving them a look that told them clearly that he knew they were lying, before heading to his own classroom.

Neji cast one last glare at Haruno then left for his next class with Tenten and Lee.

Haruno turned back to her locker and kicked out the dent Naruto had caused before slamming it shut.

"Fucking Neji, thinks he's king of the school." Naruto complained as he waited for Haruno to collect herself.

"I hate fuckers who think it's their god-given right to push people around." Haruno responded with a sneer before turning to him.

"What's your next class?" she asked easily, her apathetic mask firmly back in place.

Naruto pulled out his schedule.

"Uhhh…oh hell no." He said as he stared at the course code.

"Let me see." She said as she grabbed the paper.

"Ugh, Gym with Gai-sensei." She shuddered.

"You?" Naruto asked her as she pulled out her schedule.

"You have got to be kidding me…" she muttered to herself.

"Gym with fucking Gai-sensei." She told him in an ironic tone.

"How convenient, that's my next class also." Sasuke spoke up for the first time, bringing his presence to their attention.

The pair looked at him with raised eyebrows and blinked momentarily, they hadn't noticed him standing there.

The second bell rang.

"Shit!" Haruno and Naruto cursed together.

"Come on!"

Haruno grabbed onto Sasuke's arm and the three took off through the halls towards the gym.

Gai's gym class, though not a mandatory credit, was a very popular choice. In a neighborhood like this one, being in top physical shape and having a strong base in self-defense, combat and sport skills that could be used in a fight, were essential to survival and as such, the class was packed. The students were in their gym clothes and sitting on the benches that lined one of the gym walls as they listened to their eccentric teacher talk about the key elements of a good fighter.

Neji rolled his eyes and tuned the teacher out, as did many of the other students in the room. In all honesty, Lee was probably the only one who was really into the teacher's speech and complementing theatrics.

"Ah, more healthy, youthful students just in time to volunteer to help in my demonstration!" Gai boomed out while striking a pose as the three late students flew through the gym doors.

Haruno and Naruto sweat dropped. Sasuke frowned; there was something weird about this teacher. Maybe it was the energy, maybe it was the posing, but he was pretty sure that it was the green jump suit with its orange leg warmers and red bandana belt.

"No gym clothing?!" Gai continued in a scandalized tone as he inspected the three. Haruno and Naruto's torn jeans and worn tops and Sasuke's leather were definitely not appropriate for Gai's gym class.

The rest of the class snickered from the benches where they were waiting for class to start up again; they all knew what would come next.

"Never fear!" The teacher answered himself dramatically before pulling out three green spandex body suits out of somewhere (the three late students really preferred not to know) and tossing them at them.

"It is the ultimate stream-lined, form-fitting, easily-accessible, perfectly-made bodysuit! It's my beloved piece of gym-wear must-have!!" He said with a flourish and another pose.

The trio caught the suits easily and shuddered convulsively at the image of their teacher. Yes, Sasuke was now quite sure he wasn't going to like this class. He already didn't like this class.

"Now, to the change-rooms, chop chop!" Gai-sensei continued while making a chopping motion with his hands.

The three groaned and did as they were told, emerging a few minutes later with scowls and green bodysuits. Several students catcalled at them, Ino's voice standing out shrilly as she made comments about Haruno having a flat chest. Many of the girl's were drooling openly over Sasuke; Hinata flushed brightly as she discreetly admired Naruto.

"Excellent!" Gai cheered at the sight of them, his booming voice drowning out the students. "Now for the demonstration!" he continued with typical energy as he waved Haruno, Naruto and Sasuke over to stand with him, facing the rest of the class that was still seated on the benches that lined the walls.

"Now, as we were discussing while our models were preparing themselves, there are three key elements to a strong fighter that we are going to work on this year." Gai began.

"First is balance!" He exploded, breaking out the flashcard with the word written in large sparkly letters.

The class oo-ed appropriately though Lee was the only one who was sincere.

"Haruno, if you would be so kind as to demonstrate…Balance!" Gai said with more waving of the flashcard and a pose for good measure before tossing a large red ball at her.

Haruno frowned at the ball in confusion. She turned her confused eyes to Gai but he was only looking at her expectantly. She sighed, apparently she should know what he wanted her to do with the ball.

She looked back at the ball. Gai wanted her to demonstrate balance…

Her expression smoothed as she figured out something to do.

She walked over to the ball and placed one foot on it then rolled it forward as she stepped on the ball, bringing her other foot onto the ball as well. She steadied the ball and stayed standing on it.

"Yes, that's a good demonstration of balance." Gai said not nearly as extravagantly as earlier.

Haruno frowned slightly; this wasn't good enough. So she made it better and began to walk.

The ball rolled steadily under her feet as she moved around the room with the ease of someone walking on flat ground.

"Very good Haruno!" Gai said brightly, sending her a thumbs up.

She smirked slightly and brought the ball back to Gai's side before stepping off and taking a seat beside Chouji and Shikamaru near the gym door.

"Great balance!" Shikamaru told her sarcastically as he mimicked Gai's thumbs up.

"Bite me." She muttered back with a slight smirk before turning to see what weird task Gai-sensei had in store for Naruto and the new kid.

"The second key element to being a strong fighter is POWER!!" Gai said with his exaggerated enthusiasm as he waved his new flashcard.

"Naruto! Please demonstrate POWER!!" he continued, turning to the stocky blonde.

Naruto frowned deeply in confusion at his insane sensei.

"How the hell am I supposed to do that?" he asked, genuinely perplexed.

Gai blinked at him. "Easily, show off your power." Gai responded, seeming to think it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Naruto frowned even deeper and opened his mouth to question some more.

"Just gather some chakra and make it explode and be showy or something. That should satisfy the lunatic." Sasuke muttered to him quietly so that their teacher wouldn't hear. He really wanted to get this all over and done with as soon as possible.

"Oh…that kind of power. OK!" Naruto said, determination brightening his eyes and a smirk spreading across his face as he took a few steps forward.

Hinata sat up slightly, biting her lip as excitement sparked in her pearl-like eyes. Haruno spotted her and a small smile twitched at the corner of her lips.

Naruto closed his eyes and braced his legs, his hands curling into fists and held at his hips. He took a deep breath and concentrated on the energy coursing through the chakra coils of his body.

Neji muttered a quiet "Byakugan" as he watched the blue chakra flow through Naruto's inner coils. Was this really the best the maggot could do?

Naruto kept his eyes closed as he probed deeper within his spirit for his power; slowly it was heating up as it flowed through his body.

Neji frowned slightly as the blue turned to purple and slowly turned to red and exploded.

A sudden huge wave of chakra burst from Naruto, seeming to consume him it its crimson flames.

Sakura smirked with pride; she'd helped him master that. Sasuke blinked in surprise, he hadn't expected this kind of incredible strength from this live wire.

"Excellent! That, my wonderful students is POWER!!" Gai exclaimed excitedly while waving his flashcard.

Naruto grinned his trademark foxy grin (Hinata's blush deepened) and went to take the vacant seat next to Haruno, Chouji and Shikamaru.

"Good control." Haruno told him as he sat down. Naruto beamed, that was high praise from Haruno.

"Now class, the third element to being a strong fighter…SKILL!!!!" Gai exploded as he waved his last flashcard, the largest and brightest of them all.

Sasuke rolled his eyes.

"Now…you, I'm sorry, I don't know you. Your name?" Gai asked Sasuke in an aside.

"Uchiha Sasuke." Sasuke drawled easily in his deep voiced, boredom clear in his tone.

"Right. Now, Sasuke will demonstrate SKILL!!!" Gai declared brightly to the class, ignoring Sasuke's tone and still waving his flashcard.

Sasuke took a few steps forward before turning so that his side faced the class and his back was to Gai. He performed a short sequence of quick hand seals before taking a deep breath and blowing through a hooked finger in his hand, causing a large flame to shoot out on his breath and gathered into a large ball before burning itself out, leaving slight scorch marks on the ground.

Neji's eyes narrowed and a slow smile spread across his lips. This kid was interesting.

Haruno's eyes narrowed and she pressed her lips together. This kid was dangerous; she'd have to keep an eye on him.

Ino's eyes narrowed as a predatory smile crept along her painted lips. This kid was hers.

Gai's eyes blinked rapidly. He'd been expecting a taijutsu demonstration.

"Ah…Excellent! Excellent demonstration of ninjutsu SKILL!!!" Gai said, recovering his usual exuberant personality and waving the flashcard again.

The class clapped, they were impressed.

Sasuke smirked; this was good. He'd established himself. He looked over to where Haruno was sitting and frowned slightly at her narrowed eyes and when he noticed there were no more free seats there. He scanned the benches. The only free seat was beside a very busty blonde in very revealing gym clothes with a very worrisome look on her face. He groaned inwardly before taking the seat.

"Impressive Sasuke-kun." She said sweetly. "You're new right? I'm Yamanaka Ino." She continued, leaning closer to him. He looked straight ahead, ignoring her and her blatant cleavage.

And so class continued with many poses, loud noises, streamers, sparkles and many were sure there was a smoke machine and a bubble machine stashed somewhere in the gym. On the upside though, at least it was entertaining in a strange and disturbing way. Gai rambled on about balance, power and skill and had the whole class do a few exercises together and dropped quite a few not so subtle hints about a great project he'd divined that would be revealed next class until finally, the bell rang and the students were all released for lunch.

Everyone headed to the change rooms quickly (especially Haruno, Naruto and Sasuke seeing as they were in those horrendous jumpsuits) and disappeared towards their favorite lunch spots.

Sasuke stepped out of the change room and looked around for Haruno or that blonde kid that had been with her all day and growled slightly in frustration when he couldn't find them.

"Would you like to eat lunch with me Sasuke-kun? I could show you around and introduce you to some people." Ino said brightly as she stepped up to him, inwardly cheering at the slightly lost look on his face. If he was lost, he was more likely to accept her assistance.

Sasuke debated inwardly. Sure the blonde girl was flashy and pushy and loud and annoying but he was stuck seeing as he couldn't find his "guide". He did need to learn about the school and the people in it and this girl seemed like the social type so she would know everyone. She was probably the ideal guide for the moment. He sighed silently before nodding his head slightly and muttering an affirmative noise to Ino.

Ino smiled brightly as a cunning spark hid in her ice blue eyes.

Haruno lay out on the beaten up grass in the center of the track field with Naruto, Shikamaru and Chouji.

This had been their lunch ritual since high school had started. None of them were really into the cliques and the crowds and so they simply took themselves away from it.

"That was some gym class eh? Gai-sensei sure hasn't gained any sense over the summer." Naruto stated with a grin.

Haruno smiled slightly as Shikamaru and Chouji chuckled a bit.

"Well, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Means he's consistent and reliable." Shikamaru said lazily as he watched the clouds.

"Yeah…I think that's what I like about Gai-sensei. He's a rock." Haruno said easily as she too watched the clouds.

"I can't believe he made you wear those jumpsuits. I'm glad I was there early enough to change, can you imagine him trying to force one of those green things on me?" Chouji said fearfully. The other three laughed at the idea of their chubby friend in spandex. Chouji just did not do spandex.

"So, how was everyone's summer?" Naruto asked as a sense of general happiness crept through him at the familiarity and comfort he had with his friends.

"Mine was ok, I spent most of it with my grandparents in the country helping with their deer and playing go." Shikamaru answered in his trademark lazy but content voice.

"I spent it helping at my family's restaurant. We won an award for best apply pie in the district." Chouji answered proudly and everyone congratulated him warmly.

"How about you Haruno?" Chouji asked her.

"I worked a lot…and spent some time with my boyfriend." She added with a soft smile, her eyes taking on a slightly dreamy cast.

"Well, I won a ramen eating contest and got free ramen for a year. I also got a better job and can now afford a nicer apartment. No more roaches!" Naruto said with a bright grin.

"Thank God for that, those things were so gross." Shikamaru said with disgust as the others grinned.

They were silent for a while, falling into their old pattern and enjoying the comfort of each other's company.

Their lunchtime ritual had started slowly. Shikamaru had always enjoyed cloud watching and disliked crowds so ever since he had started school, he'd always spend the lunch hours outside unless it was raining and even then, he tended to go out anyway. He and Chouji had become friends in primary school so Chouji had soon started joining Shikamaru outside and hadn't strayed from this habit yet.

Naruto had generally been an outcast throughout his childhood and had always escaped outside to vent his frustration and anger and get away from the people that caused it. In junior high, he'd stumbled upon Chouji and Shikamaru. They'd been eating and had some leftover food and had offered it to Naruto and Naruto had been eating with them outside ever since.

Haruno hadn't joined until her first year of high school. She'd been a very moody 14 year-old and had been constantly getting into fights with everyone; she'd had no patience for people. On the lunch hour of her first day she'd gone outside and lay down on the scarred grass to simply help relax and clear her head. Shikamaru had decided that she'd picked a great cloud watching spot and so had lay down near her, Chouji and Naruto had followed. Chouji had offered her some lunch and so she'd started talking to them.

And they'd simply done the same thing every day since.

An odd sort of camaraderie had evolved from it and had worked out to everyone's benefit. Shikamaru was really smart and so helped them with their homework when help was needed. Naruto could supply them with any kind of technology they could ever want at a really good price and had his own apartment and so could supply anyone with a place to crash when needed. Chouji was an awesome cook and supplied them all with decent food. And Haruno took care of them; protecting them in school and helping them sort out their problems whenever they had any.

Chouji sat up then and opened his backpack, pulling out a large bag and opening it.

"In celebration of our first day back at school for the 4th time, I made us all a special lunch." Chouji said proudly as everyone sat up, intrigued. He smiled brightly and handed out the four bentos.

And with a chorus of "thank you"s and "itadakimasu"s, everyone dug in with relish. Chouji's lunches were always incredible.

Haruno stretched out her hand before snapping her chopsticks apart, it still stung slightly from hitting Neji earlier.

She sighed contentedly; this was her favorite part of being back at school, lunch break.

Ino led Sasuke down the crowded halls to the cafeteria, she was chattering non-stop about some stupid subject or another; he wasn't really sure what, he'd tuned her out a while ago.

She was still babbling as she led him to a table full of younger girls who looked like her clones and sat down there. She made some gushing introduction to the girls who swooned accordingly before scanning the room and making remarks about the various cliques that could be found.

"This school is big on fighting, each clique has its prize members that protect the rest. Over in that dark corner, those are the weird people; they like it dark and quiet and keep to themselves a lot. They also tend to have weird special abilities and like animals. The people to avoid are Inuzuka Kiba (he's the furry looking one, avoid him, he always smells like a dog), Aburame Shino (he's really weird, he doesn't talk a lot and he likes bugs…)" she said sotto voce with a shudder "And then there's Hyuuga Hinata but she doesn't really like to fight so she's generally ignored.

"That table beside them, those students are OAC's, they're really popular and are almost royalty around here." Ino continued, pointing to a table full of very arrogant looking "cool" people. "The fighters are Hyuuga Neji (he's really strong and loves pounding on people so don't mess with him)—"

"Wait a sec." Sasuke interrupted her. "Neji and Hinata are both Hyuugas right? Are they related?" he asked her.

Ino's eye twitched slightly, she hated to be interrupted but then she smiled sweetly and responded readily.

"They're cousins in a very large and prestigious family. But they don't get along. Hinata is the heir to the main branch of the family and so is super rich and something of a spoiled brat. The only reason she's in a public school at all, especially this one, is because she begged her parents and because Neji already went here. Neji is part of the branch house and those members are almost servants to the main house. Neji is supposed to be Hinata's bodyguard here at school but they completely avoid each other and Neji really hates her." The blonde explained.

Sasuke's eyes narrowed slightly before nodding for her to continue in her general introductions as he stored that information away for possible future exploitation.

"So as I was saying, the OAC's to avoid are Neji first, then there's Tenten (she's Neji's girlfriend and isn't as strong but has deadly aim with weapons so she's really dangerous in knife fights).

"That table by the window is a table for foreigner's, they're from the Middle East or Africa or something like that. Something with a desert anyway. They're really dangerous people, rumor has it they run the new mob in town. They're all fighters but you really want to watch out for Kankuro (he's the one with the face paint, he's weird, has a puppet fetish), Temari (that's the blonde girl, she likes fans and is a really smart and strategic fighter) and then Gaara (he's a year younger but he's the strongest, he has some weird power that I don't understand so that's all I know).

"Outside, training is the gym teacher Gai, who you'll remember for our last class, and the track and field team. Weirdly, they're a clique too but the only one worth fighting is Lee (that's the one who looks like Gai-sensei's clone)." Ino said easily.

She continued on, briefing him on all the different groups at the different tables before finishing with her own table and pointing out the abilities of all of her clones, finishing with herself as the strongest.

Sasuke though her to be negligible.

"What about those people in the field?" he asked her, his gaze still at the window.

"I already told you, that's Gai-se—" she began.

"Not them." He cut her off. "The ones lying down, that blonde guy and the pink haired girl." He elaborated.

Ino's eyes narrowed.

"They're negligible." She said sweetly.

"Humor me."

She narrowed her eyes.

"Fine. The lazy skinny one is Nara Shikamaru; he's a total lazy-ass who can't be bothered to do anything more strenuous than watch clouds. The fat one is Akimichi Chouji, he likes to eat and watch clouds with Shikamaru. The stupid blonde is that useless Uzumaki Naruto, he's a criminal and a weakling, he's always getting into fights and getting beat up." She said snidely.

"What about the girl?" Sasuke pressed.

"What girl?" Ino asked, being intentionally obtuse.

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her.

"That's Haruno Sakura."

He looked up and met the pale eyes of Hyuuga Neji.

"She's a total bitch, mouths off to her teacher's, picks fights with everyone and is constantly sticking her nose in where it doesn't belong. She disappeared for a year when she was 13 and when she came back to school, her family was dead. Some think she killed them. Most people also think she's having an affair with Hatake Kakashi." The Hyuuga protégé told him.

He frowned slightly at the information, that didn't sound right.

"You're better off not making friends with her, it'll make you the enemy of everyone else." He continued, he cold white eyes holding Sasuke's black ones.

"You fascinate me. Come sit at our table." He ordered.

Sasuke considered, weighing his options. Allying himself with this Hyuuga Neji might be useful for now.

Sasuke stood and the pair walked back across the room.

Ino glared, how dare they leave her behind! Especially after she'd been so nice and useful to Sasuke-kun! She'd get him back for this.

"Tell me more about Haruno." Sasuke said as he sat down at the semi crowded table of upper class-men.

"She's a whore." Tenten answered spitefully.

"Why do you say that?" Sasuke asked her, these people kept making really harsh accusations but no one was justifying them.

"Because of her coat." The brunette girl answered, looking at him like he was the densest thing on the planet.

"What about her coat?" Sasuke asked, beginning to get frustrated.

"You're not from around here, are you?" Neji stated more than asked as a slightly condescending look came into his pale eyes.

"In this town, there is a very dangerous gang known as the Akatsuki." Neji began.

Sasuke struggled to keep his face impassive as a sudden rage swept through him at that hated name.

"There are nine members and all of them wear black leather trench coats with a large red circle on the back. The subordinates of the Akatsuki, people who aren't true members but want to be, wear red trench coats with black circles. Now, these people are highly dangerous criminals who are responsible for at least 60% of the crime that goes on in this district and considering the amount of gangs and mobs around here, that's really impressive." Neji explained.

"What does this have to do with Haruno?" Sasuke asked him, his face still eerily calm as his heart pounded in anticipation.

Neji frowned inwardly, something about this new kid had changed as soon as he'd mentioned the Akatsuki and he got the distinct impression that he was expecting something.

"Well, every now and then, the Akatsuki take on charges, people they protect. But it is a very rare thing seeing as all nine members have to agree to want to look out for this person. Those chosen are given a red trench coat with a white circle on the back. Haruno is the only known person to wear one." Neji told him seriously.

And suddenly it made sense. That's why everyone was afraid of her and resented her. She was under the protection of the most fearsome group of individuals around.

A slow smirk crept across Sasuke's lips. She was his link to the Akatsuki. He'd been right when he'd seen her this morning; she was perfect. She would be the key to his revenge.

"Most people believe that the only reason the Akatsuki is interested in her is because she's good in bed as has become their personal hooker." Tenten added in.

"So what about you? Why are you so interested in Haruno?" Neji asked him them.

Sasuke snapped out of his inner musings and gave him a lazy look.

"She's fascinating." He answered simply.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully for which Haruno was grateful, she'd almost been in two fights already today as well as several arguments with Kakashi-kun and this was only the first day of school.

Her afternoon classes had been pleasant surprises though, a good consolation prize for her miserable morning. She'd had math with Asuma-sensei and Shikamaru and the whole "cloud clique" had had visual arts together last period.

Sasuke was quite sure by the time he went home that this school was indeed a strange one. He's spent the whole afternoon turning down dates from girls and turning down fight challenges from guys. People just couldn't seem to leave him alone. To top it off, that Hyuuga guy had managed to get him to eat lunch again with his crew tomorrow. Something he definitely did not want to do. He had to extricate himself from this attention as soon as possible; it was distracting from his purpose and could even turn out to be harmful to it. But the afternoon hadn't been unproductive; he'd begun to formulate his plot. The first step would be to get close to Haruno and he had several ideas as to how to do that.

Naruto was just happy to go home, he'd been tired to begin with but school had drained him even more, he was quite sure it was a miracle that he hadn't passed out on his way home.