Rumours and Assets

The rumours at Konoha Gakuen High have been confirmed and Itachi Uchiha is indeed pursuing the new Hyuuga girl. And for the sake of defeating him, Sasuke wants to win her affections first. With his good looks and "too cool for you attitude", it couldn't be too hard, right?

A/N: I'm very excited to write this chapter, but I'm really worried that I can't write this chapter well... I've been looking forward to it, so I'll do my best everyone! And a note to you all: no one has romantic feelings towards anyone yet, unless I have clearly had them or others express so (unless, of course, it was the rumour, because you can't always trust what anyone says. :) ) Just want to mention this in case any more people are going to stress over it. I want to build up the characters and their relationships with one another before putting in the romance.

Anyway, onto the chapter!

...

Wave after wave washed over him, constantly knocking him over, as he struggled to break the surface of the water to catch his breath, eyes squeezed shut, ears, nose and mouth filled with the salty water of the ocean. He continued to struggle in vain against the never-ending tumultuous waves, hands flailing wildly, in an attempt to keep his head above the surface, desperate for air. "Brother!" the gurgled sound that issued from his salt water-filled mouth sounded both weak and pathetic, but in such a situation, the younger of the Uchiha siblings was willing to swallow his pride. "Big brother!" His wail was cut off as a wave crashed over him, forcing him under.

Sure and strong hands took hold of him, pulling him up out of the water's depths deftly, as if the young Uchiha were incredibly light; his weight utterly meaningless to the one who plucked him easily from under the waters surface. The person held him close, carrying him back to the sandy shore as the younger boy scrubbed the salt water out of his eyes.

"Next time, do not go out on your own, Sasuke," came the gentle and concerned voice of the older Uchiha, Itachi, as he placed his seven year old brother onto the sandy shore, assisting in wiping away the excess amount of sand and sea water from his small round face; Sasuke's face scrunched up as he allowed his brother to do so.

"I'm old enough to go out there on my own," the younger of the two insisted, mouth pulled into a firm and stubborn line.

"But not an adequate enough swimmer to be doing so from what I saw," replied Itachi, Sasuke opening his eyes to pout at him, deflated.

"Well, I want ice-cream then! Brother, you promised!" Sasuke cried abruptly with renewed vigour, pulling insistently at Itachi's arm.

The older of the Uchiha siblings sighed, a bemused smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. "Yes, I do recall such a promise. Shall we go then?"

...

Itachi Uchiha's eyes slowly opened from sleep, his gaze meeting the off-white ceiling of his bedroom, light steaming in through the slightly opened blinds, touching the tips of his hair as he continued to lay flat on his back, silent and still, recalling the memory he had just dreamt of.

As silent as he had been when he had awoken, Itachi shifted up into a sitting position in bed, running a steady hand through his hair before placing his legs over the side of the bed, deep in thought as he planted his feet firmly on the carpeted floor of his bedroom, rising to prepare himself for the day ahead. Walking out of his room, he eased down the corridor that separated his and the younger Uchiha's bedroom, not a sound issuing from the floor as he skilfully made his way across it, knowledgeable of the spots that would allow a creak to issue from it if ignorantly stepped on. Stopping outside of the specific door, Itachi simply stared at the pale white colour of it, unmoving and scarcely breathing, as if any sound he made would alert the person within it of his presence.

Why did he always hesitate when he reached this point?

He raised his hand slowly, reaching towards the door knob, hand pausing as he was about to touch it. His hand dropped back to his side and he turned away, silently trudging away, disappointed in himself. He had begun this hadn't he? Why didn't he simply resolve it; end it?

A young Sasuke reached up, offering his brother his half-eaten ice-cream, a messy ring of chocolate chip mint around his mouth as he smiled brightly, tiny ice-cream covered teeth showing. "I'm sorry you dropped yours, brother. But you can have mine. It tastes really nice, honest!"

That image, that memory, simply wouldn't leave Itachi's mind. He placed a hand over his mouth as he coughed, pain rising in his chest, causing him to hold a hand to his chest as he doubled over, the harsh coughs continuing to issue from his mouth, rattling his entire body as he shook from its force.

A door was thrown open behind him and footsteps sounded behind him, and Itachi attempted to force the coughs to stop, closing his mouth and trembling as he tried to hold in the urge to cough, blood dripping from his mouth and staining his hand. A hand closed roughly around his arm and Sasuke began to drag his brother towards the front door of the house, his hair unkempt and clothes in disarray, having just woken up.

"Sasuke," Itachi coughed, staring in surprise at his younger brother's back as he kicked open the front door in aggravation.

Sasuke looked over his shoulder, dark rings lining his eyes from lack of sleep, glaring at the older Uchiha as he continued to drag him out of the house. "The doctor's," he simply grunted, slipping his feet into slippers and forcing Itachi to do the same. "You never do what anyone tells you to, even if you're pathetically sick," Sasuke growled in anger as he waited impatiently for Itachi to place shoes on, his painful coughs forcing him to stop every so often. "And if you don't stay healthy, how the hell am I going to beat the crap out of you at full power?"

Wiping away the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand, Itachi sighed inwardly, shoes finally in place as he pushed himself up, another cough shaking his body. "I have… more important matters to—"

"What can be more important than looking after one's self?" Sasuke asked, clearly irritated as he pulled Itachi to his feet. "You look after yourself and forget about ties with anything else, anyone else!"

Itachi's gaze rested on the floor and a flicker of emotion, that Sasuke could not name, passed in his eyes. There was a pause before Itachi brushed off a drop of blood from the corner of his mouth—and the younger Uchiha could've sworn he saw that corner of his mouth twitch up—, his face impassive as he stated calmly, "I'm fine now. The coughs have ceased."

Eyes widening in disbelief and mouth twisting in fury at what was known as the Uchiha's stubborn—and sometimes infuriatingly ignorant—pride, Sasuke opened his mouth to say something in response when without warning, Itachi reached up, poking Sasuke on the forehead, a brief smirk pulling at the older Uchiha's mouth.

"I'm sorry Sasuke. Maybe next time."

And with that, Itachi stood, turning towards the front door and heading back into the house, needing to prepare for the day ahead as it was a school day, leaving behind an annoyed and slightly confused Sasuke who rubbed his forehead, wishing that annoying feeling of nostalgia would simply leave.

...

Shizune was not at all pleased as she stormed down the school corridor towards the principal's office. As vice-principal, she had every right to discuss this issue that the school's principal had attempted to conceal, conveniently forgetting to inform her about the problem. Her heels clicked furiously against the tiled school floor as she stalked across it, closing in on the principal's office door, flinging it open without another thought. The sight that greeted her would've amused anyone else, but Shizune simply let out an infuriated roar as Tsunade attempted to escape the room by climbing out the window, having heard Shizune's thunderous footsteps as she approached her office.

"Tsunade-sama!" Shizune cried in disbelief. "Get down from there before you hurt yourself!" she yelled, panic sneaking into her tone as Tsunade swung her leg up onto the window sill.

Tsunade looked back over her shoulder, cheeks rosy from drinking, and she waved a very lazy greeting as she tipped precariously forward over the window ledge. "Ooohh, it's you Shizune!" was her slurred greeting.

"You came to school drunk?" Shizune cried thunderstruck before racing forward to stop the principal from toppling over the window sill.

Back on her two feet, Tsunade waved Shizune impatiently away, staggering back to her desk and plopping down into her seat exhausted.

"Tsunade-sama! I cannot believe that you gambled our school's funds away again! What made you think you could win this year?" Shizune burst out angrily. "I know that's the real reason why you're holding this fundraising event! How could you-"

"Shizune," Tsunade said firmly, cutting her off as she glared at the vice-principal. "Firstly, I am not drunk, I just had one drink today and besides, it's early Monday morning. Secondly... I have gambling problems."

"I can already see that!" Shizune cried in disbelief.

"But..." Tsunade continued, lowering her gaze to her desk as she thought, "...I actually used this year's school funds to repay the debts we had for the past years issues. And so, because of that, we needed to raise some more money to cover the rest of the debts and ensure that they don't threaten to close down our school anymore."

"But! How can you possibly believe that these kids can fundraise enough money for the school's debts?"

Swivelling her chair around to face the window, Tsunade smiled to herself as she gazed out at the azure sky. "Because, I simply do believe in them. Those kids." She let out a sigh through her smiling lips and swung back around in her chair to face an uncertain Shizune. "And besides," she added with a laugh, "I heard the Uchiha boy is acting in this one. This should attract crowds."

Wait... perhaps... did Tsunada-sama intentionally give the play to Sasuke-kun's class to ensure that he would get a role and attract crowds to make lots of money? Shizune sweat dropped before shaking her head in disbelief as she watched Tsunade laugh triumphantly to herself. What a calculative principal...

...

Her knees were shaking, practically knocking together and she could feel herself hyperventilating as she gazed up at the school gates. Perturbation rose into her throat and Hinata forced herself to swallow it down, gulping in fear.

It was Monday morning.

It was the day that they would officially begin rehearsing and though Hinata had practised her lines throughout her entire weekend, she was no more confident than she had been the last week. How could she possibly survive this? How would she be able to overcome this? How would she even be able to willingly step into the school, surely to her doom?

She clasped her hands together over her chest, feeling them tremble and biting her lip nervously.

"Hinata?"

Startled, Hinata jumped, spinning around quickly to find Naruto standing behind her, staring at her quizzically. She placed a hand over her racing heart as it slowed, sighing in relief to see that it was only her blonde-haired classmate. "Oh, g-good morning, Naruto-kun."

"Yeah, good morning. Why are you standing out here?" Naruto asked, to the point, cocking his head to the side as he stared at Hinata who blushed in embarrassment, having been caught. "Is something wrong?"

Hinata shook her head mutely, lowering her gaze to her black leather shoes, embarrassed.

"Then come on, let's go inside together!" Naruto enthused with a cheery grin.

Silence fell as Hinata remained where she was, shaking her head and biting her lip fearfully. She couldn't do it and she knew it. There was no possible way that she could go through with this, her heart was bursting at the seams with the strain placed upon it by her fear, something that she was unable to shake.

The grin on Naruto's face dropped and he cocked his head to the side once more as he stared, puzzled, at the Hyuuga heiress. He watched as she pressed her hands more tightly together and noticed them tremble as she did so, surprised and confused as to what she could possibly fear about in the school. His mind suddenly drifted back to last week, to the reading rehearsals their class had completed for the play. "Are you scared?"

"Eh?" Hinata turned to see Naruto's gentle smile and a reassuring wave of understanding emanated from him as if he understood her fear and could emphasise with it.

"It's alright," Naruto said with his cheerful grin, "we only have to do our best, and as long as we do that, everything will be alright."

The words were comforting to Hinata, warming her fearful heart and the trembling ceased, her body relaxing, relieved from a heavy burden she felt she had been carrying for a long time. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, thinking calmly of how fortunate she was to have the support of many people. It made her happy; glad that there were people that were concerned over her, wanting to help her along the way to changing.

Naruto's voice sang through Hinata's thoughts enthusiastically, his fist clenched in anticipated excitement. "Come on, Hinata! We'll charge in together! We'll take this head on!"

In response, Hinata clenched her fist also in determination and agreement, a shy smile lighting her face. "Yes!"

A delighted grin broke onto Naruto's face, and Hinata realised the boyish charm that radiated magnificently from him, before he turned, marching through the school gates determinedly, with Hinata following happily behind, her cheeks tinged rouge, glad for her classmate's company.

Hinata placed a hand over her heart, unable to stop smiling. Kami-sama... I am so glad to be so fortunate.

"So, you have your first official rehearsal today, hn?" Deidara asked with an amused grin, leaning his cheek onto his closed fist, observing Hinata as she silently nodded.

It was homeroom and Kisame-excluding Itachi, because he seemed incapable of displaying any true emotion, and Sasori because he just didn't give a damn-watched in amused interest as Deidara interrogated Hinata in concern of the play rehearsal that her class was to hold that day.

"So, are you frightened?" Deidara asked, tilting his head to the side, grin still plastered to his face.

Hinata gave the art student a small smile. "Yes," she answered, voice gentle as she recalled Naruto's face from earlier that morning. "But even so, as long as I try my best, everything will be alright," she added softly, the smile never leaving her lips.

All of the Akatsuki members turned to regard her in mild surprise from her unexpected reply. Although it clearly was not confidence that came from her, it was a manner of quiet reassurance, as if she truly did believe in the words she had said. And it was that strange calm manner that the Akatsuki members saw as Hinata left for her first period class when the bell sounded, smiling and waving as she farewelled her senior companions.

Deidara was the first to speak, the look of surprise not having left his face as he stared after Hinata's retreating back. "For some reason... I feel like doing something that idiot leader of ours would do, hn..." he murmured, shaking his head as if to clear it.

"It's interesting... somehow, she must've matured over the weekend," Kisame spoke, the corners of his mouth pulling up as he grinned.

"I think it's strange," Sasori put in as they began to file out of the classroom, Kurenai ushering them out.

Silent as ever, Itachi was first to step out of the classroom, and it required some poking from Kisame to coerce his opinion on the subject out of him. "The performance is in two weeks. Before that time, we should ensure that we have secured tickets," he spoke smoothly, pacing easily down the corridor.

"That's quite an idea, Itachi-san," Kisame replied, giving his approval.

"Normally, I never agree to anything you say, but I think I can 'secure' front row tickets, hn," Deidara put in in response.

"I don't believe that you're even capable of securing tickets on your own, Deidara, so I propose that I fulfil that role," Sasori suggested, bored.

Deidara whipped his head in the other art student's direction, insulted. "You're an ass, you know that?"

So it was decided.

The Akatsuki were going to watch Hinata's performance, whether she liked the idea or not.

...

Hinata sneezed loudly into her hands as she covered her mouth in time, receiving a 'bless you' from Sakura as they sat in class, awaiting the teacher's arrival to begin their play rehearsals.

"Nervous?" Sakura asked, unable to suppress the wide smile that was creeping onto her face from her excitement.

Hinata nodded. "Are you?"

"A little, but don't worry, I'm sure we'll do our best," Sakura said in a hushed tone as their first period teacher, Anko, sauntered into the room, slamming her books down and demanding silence.

Once the class was silent, Anko gave out a weary sigh, hands placed on her hips as she addressed the class. "Alright, now that you've calmed down, I'll have the student council president, Neji Hyuuga, and the class president, Gaara, come up to speak to the class about what you will be completing today."

On cue, both Neji and Gaara rose from their seats and moved to the front of the class and Hinata felt the strange sense of anticipation and a little excitement build up in her stomach. She had to do her best now. She had the support of many people and she couldn't let small facts deter her anymore; she was determined to prove that she would change, was changing and had changed. Her fist clenched tightly as she waited for her cousin and Gaara to speak.

"As you are all aware of the fact that today is the day that we begin the play's official rehearsals, I will also inform you that we only have two weeks remaining before the actual performance date," Neji explained, his eyes roaming over the entire class as he spoke in a stern and grave tone. "During which time, I expect you to perfect your acting and backstage working," he said, his tone becoming cold and menacing as he emphasised his expectations, causing a shiver to ripple through the class.

Geez, he has a scary face, Kiba grumbled mentally.

Why did someone elect such a serious guy to be our student council president? Naruto groaned in his mind, shivering at the thought of what may happen to him if he weren't able to perfect his acting.

Gaara's instructing voice cut through the horrified thoughts of the class, "The student council president and I have agreed that it would be best if we were to hold our rehearsals in the school hall. Thus, for the next two weeks, please ensure that each period you are present at the hall, as no one will come and retrieve you from any classes you may be waiting at if you have forgotten. If this is the case and you miss any rehearsals, you will be instantly stripped of your part in the play," he explained, pushing up his glasses smoothly.

Cold-hearted. Who elected these people? the entire class thought as a draft blew in through the open windows.

"So then, now that that has been explained clearly, we will be moving to the school hall to begin our official rehearsals," Neji said to a chorus of cheers.

Along with the rest of the class, Hinata rose from her seat, trembling. It's alright, she thought, placing a hand over her heart to calm herself. As long as I do my best...

"Hinata!" Sakura called, pumping her fist in excitement. "Let's go!"

Nodding her head, Hinata followed close behind her bubblegum-haired friend, catching Sakura's infectious enthusiasm, albeit nervous, and prepared for whatever may lay in the weeks ahead.

...

Needless to say, the Akatsuki did not see much of Hinata that week and when she did arrive to some lunches, Tobi would be overjoyed, to the point where he needed to be restrained by Deidara and Hidan (which by this time has become the norm).

"Pet-chan! Pet-chan! I'm so happy to see you!" Tobi sobbed during lunchtime on a Friday afternoon as he struggled against Deidara and Hidan's hold.

Hinata sweat dropped at the sight before her, forcing a smile. "I-I'm glad to see Tobi-senpai as well," she replied innocently, her cheeks tinged a slight rouge as she took her usual seat on the rooftop.

Gasping, Tobi struggled even more against his restraints. "That is the smile of an angel! Lighting the heavens and the earth! Oh how I have missed basking in this heavenly light!" he cried, his voice trembling as if he were weeping with joy.

"Damn, I wish I could just knock this idiot out, hn," Deidara said through gritted teeth, vein popping out in his forehead.

"You're telling me," Hidan said, growling in annoyance as Tobi continued to thrash about.

"Release me! Release me, I say!"

"Shut the fuck up! Damn, you're annoying!"

Hinata laughed nervously, hoping that Tobi would calm down and that no violence would ensue if he continued acting "strangely".

"So, one more week after this, eh?" Kisame's amused voice interrupted Hinata's thoughts and she turned to him smilingly.

"Y-yes," she replied cheerily, nodding her head.

"Fuck! One more week of this hell!" cursed Hidan as he and Deidara continued to struggle with Tobi.

Laughing nervously once more, Hinata sweat dropped as Tobi began to ramble on about "an angel's smile" which made no sense to her.

"So, how're you doing?" Kisame asked, grinning as Hinata turned her attention to him again.

"Eh?"

Kisame's grin widened at her confusion. "Your acting of course," he put in, "how's it going?"

At this, most of the Akatsuki turned their attention to the blushing Hinata who looked down at her hands, fidgeting nervously, embarrassed as she spoke up, "W-well... w-well... I-I don't really know..." she paused, swirling her index fingers around one another, "... b-but... I th-think I'm getting better... I keep doing my best!" Hinata exclaimed, suddenly clenching her right fist tightly in determination. "So..." she hesitated once again, this time with all the Akatsuki staring at her in surprise and wonder.

They were seeing a strange sort of courage from Hinata that they had not witnessed before.

"S-so..." Hinata continued, nervous once more, fidgeting with her fingers. "... I'm sure... that I'm alright," she concluded, smiling in embarrassment at her confession.

"AHHH! SO ADORABLE!" wept Tobi as he leapt and embraced Hinata's head, cheek of his mask rubbing against the top of Hinata's head, shocking Hidan and Deidara, who's grips had loosened as Hinata was speaking. "My Pet-chan is far too adorable! Your words deeply impacted my heart! It hit me right here!" Tobi announced dramatically, taking Hinata's hand and placing it over his chest where his heart was, causing her entire face to burn a bright red.

"GET OFF OF HER YOU PERVERT!" yelled Deidara, wrenching Tobi away from Hinata and stomping on the Akatsuki leader furiously.

"I wanted only to bask in the light of my Pet-chan!" Tobi whined defensively.

"BASK IN THIS!"

"AIIEEE! HAVE MERCY! NOT THE EXPLODING CLAY!"

Hinata sweat dropped once again, wondering how a moment with the Akatsuki always resulted in Tobi being violently dealt with.

"So... you are improving?"

Turning to the older Uchiha, Hinata smiled warmly, knowing it was he that had spoken as she could no longer mistake the deep and velvety voice. "I th-think so."

She tilted her head and watched as Itachi gazed off into the distance, face impassive, though she was sure that he was deep in thought. Turning back to her lunch, Hinata pushed the tips of her index fingers together nervously as she summoned her courage to speak, gulping before she forced her lips to part. "W-would I-Itachi-s-senpai...?" Her throat closed up.

Itachi turned his cool gaze to her. "Would I, what?"

Hinata turned her burning face away, heart hammering too fast, words automatically leaving her mouth, "It's nothing."

There was a pause where Itachi simply stared at the back of Hinata's head before nodding and turning away. "I see."

Clenching her fist, Hinata opened her lunchbox and began to eat slowly, disappointed in herself. She had wanted to ask if the older Uchiha was interested in watching the play, but thought that she may be continuing to intrude in something that he had explained earlier to be none of her business. She wondered if Itachi wanted to watch it because of his brother. Because Hinata felt that somehow, she wanted the two to act as true brothers. So that there were no more replacements; so that others would see the two Uchiha's as siblings rather than enemies.

But why was she so concerned over this? She couldn't understand it herself, but it was what she wanted. She had realised the other week that she simply wanted them to get along. To be happy. It was because at that moment, Hinata could tell, there was no happiness for either sibling, and it was upsetting for her to see that.

Why does there seem to be such sadness and hate there? Hinata thought, resting her chopstick in her lunchbox as she thought. Why is there such unhappiness there?

...

Sakura stood before Naruto, face turned away, an expression of hate and disgust marring her face. "I refuse," she said through clenched teeth, seething with anger, her fists clenched tightly, nails biting deep into her palms.

Angered by this, Naruto seized Sakura's chin and turned her face roughly, forcing her to look at his sneering face.

A shiver zipped down Sakura's spine as she stared into the blonde's steely blue gaze.

"Don't kid yourself, Kushinada. I'm offering you freedom and why would you reject something as valuable as that?"

It was Monday morning of the second and final week of rehearsals, and Hinata watched in awe at Naruto's amazing performance. He had improved impressively since their first ever rehearsal-alongside every other actor-, and now he stood before the class, causing the hair on the back of Hinata's neck to stand on end as she watched his portrayal of the villain, Yamano Orochi.

"Leave me be, snake!" Sakura hissed venomously, pulling her face away and stepping back as she glared at Naruto, fists clenched to the point were her knuckles burned white.

Hinata placed her clenched hands over her chest in fear and anticipation. Run, Kushinada! she thought in spite of herself. She knew how the story unfolded, and yet, she could not rid herself of the hope that somehow, the Sharingan Princess would avoid her grim fate.

"Pretty intense, Naruto's really improved," Kiba commented, also as absorbed as Hinata.

Nodding mutely, Hinata continued to watch the performance before her, unable to tear her eyes away.

"Well, after all, Naruto and Sakura are very close friends, so of course Sakura had a hand in helping him improve," Sai explained, eyes following Naruto and Sakura's movements on the stage.

"I WILL NOT!" Sakura screeched, slapping Naruto's hand away.

Hands clenched tighter, Hinata chewed on her lip, knowing what would happen next, though praying it wouldn't.

Kiba glanced over in surprise at Hinata. "Oi, Hinata, are you okay? You're on edge there."

"I-it's suspenseful..." Hinata replied honestly, gulping as she watched the scene of the play unfold before her.

Turning back to Naruto and Sakura's performance, Kiba couldn't help but nod in agreement. "Gee, whoever wrote the play was damn good."

...

Kisame sneezed loudly.

"Gesundheit, Kiissammee!" Tobi called cheerily during PE class, waving as he jogged merrily across the field.

Deidara and Hidan glared moodily at him.

"My, he's cheerful, hn," Deidara commented darkly.

"It's because the Hyuuga was with us for recess. But damn is he annoying!" Hidan grumbled, walking up to the home base mat to bat.

Gai had insisted the class play a "fierce battle of springtime youth" on the baseball field, much to the Jounin class' displeasure, soon had them threatening homicide when Gai announced he would participate also as the pitcher, slinging the balls at an impossible speed to the awaiting batter.

"Prepare yourself, Hidan!" Gai said with his trademark sparkling smile. "And show me your springtime of youth!"

Hidan narrowed his eyes. "Oi, Gai-sensei! Kiss my uncaring springtime ass!"

An angered spark gleamed in Gai's eyes as he pumped himself up. "For that foul language, I shall use my super speed ball! Prepare yourself for an attack!" Gai shouted as he hurled the ball at Hidan, the ball whistling through the air.

A smirk pulled at Hidan's lips and he swung his bat forward, hitting the ball just in time and sending it hurtling up into the sky, shocking Gai.

"INCONCEIVABLE!" Gai cried as he watched the ball slice through the air high above him.

"Damn straight! Now what, Gai-sensei?" Hidan said smugly, as he walked leisurely to the next base, watching the PE teacher's startled reaction to his hit.

Recovered, Gai turned to Hidan, giving him the thumbs up and blinding smile. "Nice!"

A vein popped out on Hidan's forehead as he paced to the next base. "Quit doing that, you stupid idiot!"

"Someone catch that ball!" Kisame shouted, cupping his hands around his grinning mouth.

"Tobi will! Tobi will!" shouted the masked Akatsuki leader excitedly, dashing hurriedly for the ball, arms outstretched.

"Don't exert yourself, idiot," muttered Pein as Tobi rushed past the base he stood at, the ball approaching.

"Tobi's going to catch it! Tobi's going to-!"

The ball struck Tobi's face and remained where it was: stuck in the eyehole of the Akatsuki leader's mask. "AHA! TOBI CAUGHT IT!"

"In reality, he didn't," Zetsu put in, cleaning his teeth with a pick as he sat lazily at one of the bases.

Gai stared in awe and amazement at the ball stuck in Tobi's mask's eyehole before also giving him the thumbs up. "Ooh! Nice catch!" Spinning around, he then pointed at Hidan who had stopped walking from base to base, staring dumbstruck at Tobi. "You sir, are OUUUUTT!"

Clenching an angered fist, Hidan flung his bat to the floor unceremoniously, yelling, "I DIDN'T WANT TO PLAY THIS FUCKING GAME ANYWAY!" before turning on his heel and storming away immaturely.

"What an idiot," Deidara muttered, slapping his forehead before turning back to the expressionless Uchiha beside him. "So, you say you've already got the tickets ready to go? We're really going to be watching Hinata-chan perform?" the blonde-haired art student asked with interest.

"Yes," Itachi replied coolly, gazing away with disinterest.

Deidara clenched his fist angrily. Damn you and your apathy! he growled mentally, I wish I could be that damn cool!

"But why so disinterested?" Deidara asked through gritted teeth, still annoyed with the Uchiha's cool indifference. "I thought you would be, at the very least, pleased with being able to witness Hinata-chan's debut."

"You talk too much, idiot," Sasori put in, causing Deidara to whip his head in his direction and hiss at him in aggravation.

"I wasn't talking to you!"

"I was, however, talking to you."

Kisame snicked as they continued to argue, grinning broadly as he turned to the silent Uchiha. "Have something you're busy planning to do?" he asked, knowing the Uchiha a little better than the rest of the Akatsuki.

Itachi was silent as he returned his gaze to the baseball game, watching as Gai wept over what he referred to as "the beauty of youth"—basically someone had hit the baseball and sent it soaring above the heads of everyone and into the stadium seats. "Yes," he replied quietly. "I have something important to attend to."

...

Blood gushed out of the wound in Sasuke's side and he clamped his hand tightly over it, gritting his teeth, attempting to ignore the unbearable pain, blood dripping out of the corner of his mouth. "I… will not… give up… Kushinada…" he gasped before collapsing, his knees having given way beneath him, his cheek pressed painfully against the floor as he struggled to push himself back up one-handed, too weak to muster any energy.

Footsteps sounded across the floor; it trembled ever so slightly and Sasuke looked up dazed at the figure that loomed over him. Desperately clinging to consciousness, Sasuke found he could no longer summon any strength to keep his eyes open; they slowly closed as he breathed once more, "Kushinada," before he finally lost the battle, his eyes closing as he lost consciousness.

The class applauded, amazed by the Uchiha's blatant improvement over the past two weeks—everyone was more than surprised and amazed that both Uchiha and Uzumaki had worked extraordinarily hard to improve their acting abilities.

Sasuke was pulled to his feet by Gaara, who flashed a brief smile, patting him on the shoulder, complimenting him on his improvement as he walked across the stage to where Neji stood, tight-lipped, refusing to acknowledge the Uchiha's brilliant performance.

Smirking triumphantly to himself and highly amused by the Hyuuga's reaction, Sasuke walked across the stage towards the stairs, climbing down it, pushing his damp bangs out of his eyes, brows creasing together as a familiar figure approached him.

Hinata rushed up to the Uchiha smiling, her cheeks flushed and eyes bright with excitement. "U-Uchiha-san! Th-that was great!"

Sasuke brushed his hair off of his damp forehead. "You were watching?"

"Y-yes! You were w-wonderful!" she exclaimed, her eyes shining with honesty.

Sasuke smirked. "And do you think I was better than Naruto?"

"Eh?" Confusion crossed the Hyuuga's face.

"Was I better than Naruto?" he pressed, impatient.

"Uh-m... I s-suppose so...?" Hinata said in more of a question than an actual statement, her eyes wide with uncertainty.

Sighing, Sasuke ran his hand wearily through his hair before downing some water. Why did his brother find such interest in this dull girl? What was it about her that attracted him? After all, Sasuke thought, she's just a stupid girl and they're all useless from my experience. Simply toys to play with and nothing is gained if you take unusual interest in them.

Surely, there was something about the Hyuuga that was advantageous to the older Uchiha. He paused, trying to think of the advantages he would have if she finally understood what he wanted and accepted. The only thing about her that was advantageous to him besides the fact that he would finally defeat his brother was that she had previously provided him with fresh tomatoes everyday. After winning her over, he would have nothing else to do with her and it would only result in him discarding her like he did to so many other girls. What a pity, he thought dully, sipping some more water, no more tomatoes for me.

"That will be all for today!" Neji called from the front of the stage, clapping his hands together to gain attention from the class. "There shall be more rehearsing for the rest of this week as already mentioned previously. Please continue to rehearse at home in your own time. Thank you for your hard work," he said with a nod before dismissing the class from the theatre.

Hinata turned her attention back to Sasuke and bowed, a smile lighting her face as she did so. "Goodbye, Uchiha-san," she said warmly, Sasuke staring at her as she turned and hurried away, catching up to the waiting Sakura who chattered happily with her as they made their way through the theatre chairs in the direction of the theatre exit.

Picking his bag up and shouldering it, Sasuke searched the crowd of students and spotted the indigo-coloured hair amongst the exiting class and thought to himself how unusual it was that just when he thought that there was nothing of interest in someone, they always managed to surprise him with something quite interesting.

An arm wrapped around his neck, pulling him back into a headlock, knuckles being pressed and rubbed humorously against the top of his head, the unmistakable snicker of Naruto reaching the unamused Uchiha's ears.

"Get off, dobe," Sasuke grumbled in annoyance.

Those surprising people always managed to annoy him.

...

Needless to say, Sasuke was exhausted as he pushed open the Uchiha residence's door, wiping the gleaming sweat off of his forehead with the back of his hand, relieved to be out of the heat of the afternoon sun, shrugging out of his school jacket and tossing it onto the lounge room sofa. "It's hot," he sighed, pacing into the kitchen and stopping in his tracks at the sight of Itachi Uchiha seated at the dining room table, nonchalantly eating chocolate chip mint ice-cream on a waffle cone, indifferent to Sasuke's presence and glaring eyes.

"Hello, Sasuke," Itachi greeted coolly, holding out the ice-cream in his hand, face blank of any emotion as he stared pointedly at his younger brother.

Sasuke's brow twitched. "I don't like sweet things," he replied crisply, eyes narrowed, the corner of his upper lip turned up in contempt.

"I wasn't offering," Itachi replied, turning away as he continued to calmly eat the ice-cream.

"You bold-faced liar!" Sasuke snarled, shaking his clenched fist in anger at him, a vein pulsating painfully clear in his neck. "You held it out and offered it to me!" he yelled, teeth grinding in irritation.

"I do not recall such things. Quite bold accusations on your behalf," Itachi said, continuing to eat the ice-cream at a leisurely pace.

"Lying scoundrel!" Sasuke yelled, slamming his fist down upon the kitchen table.

"I do not understand why you insist on referring to me as a liar."

Once again, there didn't seem to be any peace within the Uchiha residence.

...

End of chapter eight.

A/N: Ugh... I hate myself. I apologise that this was late and pathetic and I still haven't even reached the actual play because I just go off on a tangent for every single chapter and I know I suck royally right now but please forgive me, I have a lot of school work to do right now and I will try and make up for this rubbish with chapter nine which should be done much sooner than this one (though, I can't make absolute promises).

Thank you so much all those who review! You make my day! :) Please continue to read and support this story with your lovely reviews! You guys are awesome!