"So, what's th-the slope at this point supposed to be?"

"Well, remember that implicit differentiation only tells you some of the information of the derivative of this curve, it doesn't go outright to do so."

"What? But..." Hinata growled and dropped her head to the desk to mumble against the wood, "I hate calculus." The past two hours had been going along like this. Either she was exceptionally bad at calculus, or her teacher was just horrible at his job. She suspected it was a bit of both, because after a four hour studying period with her tutor, she could usually bump her grade from a 59% to a nice 74% on her tests.

With a sigh, Itachi patted her back comfortingly, "Want a break?"

"No, no." Hinata shook her head and sat up straight. "I need t-to get this. My test is tomorrow and I'm sitting on the teetering edge of a C and C plus and father is going to be really upset if I d-don't get into Kon U a-and at this rate I won't because calculus is going to make my GPA drop drastically, and who's gonna accept someone with a two point four average into Kon U? And—"

Firm hands grasped themselves against her cheeks before directing her to stare him in the eyes. "We're taking a break. And then we will return. And you will receive an A in this next calculus test and the University of Konoha will beg you to join them. Alright?"

Her panicked face slowly relaxed into a closed eyed grin and she leaned into his warm grip. "Yes, sir."

"Good." He lifted his lips in a light smirk before raising his hand and ruffling her hair. "I think mother's with Sasuke in the kitchen. Why don't you go see them?"

"Okay." She stood up, opened her mouth as if to say something before smiling once more and said, "Thank y-you."

"You make me sound like a tyrant of some sort." He didn't look up at her as he stood up and shuffled and sorted through the papers before him with a small playful smile on his lips.

"Oh! I, uh, I d-didn't—" She hid her mouth behind her fingers and blushed profusely as she attempted to back up slowly from the room to relieve herself from the situation.

"After eighteen years of knowing each other, I had hoped you would know when I was joking." He looked up and suddenly she was in front of him, face grinning and mere inches from his own.

"Same here." She laughed and wrapped her arms around him in a hug. He sat there, unsure as to what to do. Finally, he returned it by uncertainly wrapping his own arm around her and drew her closer to him, enjoying the feel of her warm skin against his. He wasn't sure when he felt the shift from light hearted to something distinctly...not.

"Are you...upset?" He asked quietly to her. "The only times you are like this is when you are or you're thinking very deeply about something."

"A b-bit of both, I suppose." She confessed in a mumble. "I...we don't see you very much a-anymore. I miss having you here all the time...I know that e-even though Sasuke won't admit it h-he does to. You've gotten older—you're twenty-one a-already...and I—we can't h-help but feel a bit left behind."

"My dorm is a fifteen minute drive from here." He commented with an amused smile and pushed back the niggling feeling of disappointment he shouldn't be feeling for a girl who he was supposed to consider as his little sister as she stood back and looked up at him.

"I'm used to l-leaving my house and just coming over here before b-breakfast...talking with your f-family as everyone got ready...Hanabi walking over a few minutes l-later and then all go to school t-together." She whispered with a wistful smile.

"You still do that with Sasuke, do you not?"

"It's not the same." She shook her head and took another step back, "But I-I'm glad you're here right now with us nonetheless." With that, she took the final step outside the room and disappeared down the hallway.

With a groan, Itachi sank back into his chair and gripped his recently cut hair in frustration. Hinata had always been cute, sweet, and always there, but after coming back from a four month co-op in Peru she had suddenly...grown, matured. Her hair was longer, her clothes less loose, her stutter less significant, and her smile confident. All her life he had known her and there was always the dismissable notion to kiss her that popped up with every cute thing she did (which was very, very often), but never had it been this strong.

Of course there was Sasuke to consider too. There was no denying the way his little brother looked at what was supposed to be his best friend. Every smile she gave him seemed to be put away and cherished, and recently Sasuke had been looking for any excuse to touch her, to do something with her, just to be with her. Shaking his head and getting up, he wandered down the hall where Hinata had disappeared and leaned against the door jamb watching the scene before him play out.

"Sasuke!" She shrieked with laughter and attempted squirming out of his grip, to no avail.

"Sorry, I don't hear you begging for mercy yet." The dark, messy haired boy grinned and continued to trap her against the counter as his fingers assaulted and tickled the underside of her ribs.

"We—we have b-baking—to do!" She wheezed as tears trickled down the sides of her face. Desperately, she shoved her hands forwards and returned the tickles with her own set, leaving Sasuke jerking awkwardly in attempt to get away from the spasming fingers reaching for him.


The tickling match before the older Uchiha stopped suddenly as if set by a pause button as the two teenagers slowly turned to look at him and the Uchiha matriarch who entered into the kitchen from behind. "I thought you were in the den still!"

"Er...let me help you with those g-groceries, Mikoto!" Hinata squeaked suddenly throwing herself in front of the oven where something was ready to be put in. "Sasuke, why d-don't you show Itachi that...thing y-you were talking about?"

"That what--?" A sharp and totally unsubtle elbow to Sasuke's spleen on Hinata's behalf had him grunting, "Oh. Yeah. The thing." He walked past Itachi, waving an arm. "C'mon, let's go."

With an amused grin at both females in the kitchen who were pointedly ignoring Itachi's glances, he followed Sasuke out of the kitchen and over to the family room where Sasuke had sat himself down on the couch to turn on the TV.

"Subtlety is neither mother nor Hinata's forte. What's going on?" Itachi asked and sat down next to his brother to watch what seemed to be some reality TV show or another.

"Really? You don't know?" Sasuke snorted and smirked. "Dumbass."

Itachi's only response was to flick him in the forehead (an action which earned an indignant, "Hey!" from his brother) and ask, "When do you plan on telling Hinata how you feel about her? I don't think mother would be more pleased."

Sasuke surprised him by asking, "When will you?"

Itachi mused on this. "I wonder how Hinata would like knowing how she has two brothers fighting over her."

"I haven't brought out the punches yet." Sasuke shrugged and looked at him. "I think that...I think she knows anyways. A little bit. She's not that stupid. But she's just as torn as we are. I'm willing to see how things play out."

"My, my, little brother, you have matured since I've left, haven't you?" Itachi teased and was mildly surprised at the profoundness in Sasuke's words. He didn't think he had been that perceptive.

"Shut up, asshole. Don't think I've forgiven you for abandoning us like this for Peru." He turned back to the TV, indicating the end to the conversation. In many ways Sasuke was still the four year old he remembered who cried whenever Itachi left for school without him.

Lights in the room suddenly turned off as Mikoto and Hinata entered the room with big smiles on their faces and a lit cake in their hands. "Happy birthday tooooo you, happy birthday tooooo..."

His birthday? It was his birthday? June ninth? He blinked as it was set before him, eyes staring at him and ready to watch him blow out the candles. "Thank you," He murmured and lightly blew on them, flickering out each candle.

Sitting down between the boys, Hinata shyly pressed a quick kiss against the smooth skin of Itachi's cheek and murmured, "Happy birthday, Itachi. What'd you wish for?"

He glanced at her, her bright, bright eyes, and the easy way Sasuke had draped an arm around her before answering with a small smile, "Wisdom."

Weellll....it's been a while now, hasn't it?