Title: hopscotch

Author: paws-bells

Beta-ed by: MelissaRose85

Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Itachi

Type: One-shot (Complete)

Genre: Romance/Humor

Word Count: 2311

Theme: LJ Community, 50-shinobi theme #17, hopscotch

Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.

Summary: Ramen-verse Non-massacre AU. To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower… It was a chance at redemption, a first step towards something new. Iruka does not know who to feel sorry for more; his Genin-hopefuls, or Uchiha Itachi.

Created on: 01/08/08

Completed on: 02/09/08

Chapter Last Revised on: 05/04/09

When the day finally came for him to meet his Genin hopefuls, he was endearingly nervous.

This powerful and very lethal male, who normally wouldn't even bat an eye when accepting the most dangerous S-class assignment, was clearly fretting and worrying just thinking about seeing his new students for the very first time.

Sakura could not help but become hopelessly charmed by him all over again.

It wasn't obvious to those who didn't know him, of course; he was still quiet and not prone to anxious bouts of chatter but she could clearly see it in the way he was checking the clock once in a while, the way he seemed to be calmly reading a book in her living room whilst waiting for the time to pass but yet she had not seen him turn a page at all. It was rare to see him like this, almost like a little child excitedly waiting for Christmas to arrive—that was a very abstract representation, unfortunately, but the sense of anticipation was definitely there.

After all, it had been a couple of months since he had signed on to be a Jounin Instructor, and this was the latest batch of Academy students who had just passed their exams. Watching him, Sakura pushed away from the kitchen doorway that she had been leaning against and padded towards him soundlessly, taking a seat beside her preoccupied lover and setting her mug on the coffee table.

As usual, those detached, yet mildly curious onyx eyes shifted her way.

"You are worrying again," she informed him wryly, slowly taking the unread book from him and placing it on the table as well. "For someone who's supposed to be the cool Number One Bachelor in Konoha, you sure are quite prone to anxiety attacks."

He frowned slightly at her amused observation, but it wasn't for the reason she thought.

"I no longer qualify as a bachelor," he answered at last. "I have you now."

Her eyes warmed at his frank comment, the emeralds in her glowing gaze seeming to be richer than usual. Stretching upwards towards him, she proceeded to drop a casual, completely affectionate kiss on his cheek, immediately earning his attention and successfully distracting him from his wait.

She gave him a small, sweet grin.

"Well, that's true. But I think I would have hell of a lot more rivals if the world knew just how gentle you really are, Itachi," she remarked, still smiling. "I would probably have to fight quite a few kunoichi to keep your affections all to myself."

The scenario that she had painted out made no sense at all, and was highly unlikely, seeing that he tended to intimidate quite a lot of people before they could even get to know him, and even when they did, his warily watchful and silent demeanor almost always never failed to daunt anyone from getting too close to him. Even his many admirers learned to admire him from afar. She, on the other hand, had been one of the rare few who had manage to crack his shell and seemingly icy, emotionless façade, never giving up despite his lack of response sometimes and determinedly wriggling her way into his life, permanently creating a niche for herself when it came to him.

He was now quietly glad that she had, because now that she had found him- this cheerful, gentle ray of sunshine that was always shining just for him, he was not going to let her go.

"You would fight for me?" he enquired with growing interest.

She nodded immediately.

"Hell yes." She did not hesitate, not at all shy to proclaim her genuine liking for him. After all, this was also the same plucky little female who had chased after him the very moment she had decided that he was the one for her. She always wore her heart on her sleeve, and was so open and expressive that it had taken him awhile to get used to her brand of affection. Which was just as well, since he happened to be downright inept when it came to revealing his emotions, and now that they were together, she had rubbed off on him some. Slightly. Well, a little.


"It's a good thing that I'm such a formidable, kickass kunoichi," she mused almost to herself, and he could only look at the shamelessly pleased woman sitting beside him, a small twinge of amusement growing within him at the self-satisfied expression on her dainty face. It failed to show on his own, however. At the same time, he was also well aware that she was trying to distract him from thinking about meeting his team of Genin hopefuls later in the afternoon, and as usual, she was succeeding.

Really, he was thankful for whatever god had decided that he would be the one whom she would fall in love with.

The raven-haired male snaked an arm around her waist and drew her onto his lap. Used to his action by now, she shifted slightly and allowed him to pull her into his warm embrace. Wordlessly, he buried his face against the warm, sweet-smelling crook of her neck, nuzzling her gently and showing her without words his deep appreciation for her.

She understood, as always, a soft purr of contentment trilling from her chest.

"You will do great," she told him when he pulled back from her eventually, completely confidently in his abilities. "Think of it this way; if that tardy, porn-reading sensei of mine can succeed in being a Jounin Instructor, you sure as hell can do it too."

At the other end of Konoha, a certain 'tardy, porn-reading sensei' sneezed violently.

When it was finally time, they walked to the Academy together, side by side, hands not touching at all but still close enough that any average nin worth their salt could tell by their body language that these two clearly belonged to the other. The Academy was along the way to the hospital, and since it was around the same time for Sakura to report in for her afternoon shift, she had decided to tag along with her lover for a little while.

Iruka-sensei was there, looking frazzled as usual, even before he had to enter the classroom to announce team arrangements. Sakura was happy enough to spend some time talking to her old sensei, catching up on recent events and listening to her pony-tailed teacher talk with fondness about this newest batch of fresh graduates. Itachi stood by his vibrant pink-haired kunoichi the entire while, content to listen to them talk as they waited for more of the Jounin Instructors to arrive, all the while wondering about Sakura's amazing ability to strike up a conversation with just about anybody.

Eventually, most of the prospective shinobi teachers arrived, and Sakura even spotted quite a few familiar faces. Surprisingly enough, there was Shino, Genma as well as Inuzuka Hana, Kiba's older sister.

"Well, we will just have to wait a little bit more before my cue to enter the cage to tame those demon spawns," Iruka muttered, gesturing with a tip of his head to the noisy classroom behind him. He gave Itachi a short glance. "Three of whom may just very well be your responsibility for god knows how long, Itachi-san. Are you really sure you still want to be an instructor?"

It was a rhetorical question, but Itachi nodded solemnly all the same.

"I will do my best," he promised quietly, surely. "I will attempt not to get any of your students killed under my watch."

There would be no outright promises, since promises seldom held in the world of shinobi, but since he had made a promise to try, Sakura had no doubt that nothing short of Itachi's own death would stop him from keeping the Genin hopefuls from harm.

It was a rather morbid reminder of just what those shouting, laughing academy students playing just behind the wall were about to get into. Iruka's cheerful appearance dimmed somewhat; Itachi tended to have that kind of gloomy effect on people, but Sakura had already learned to easily brush his sometimes dour remarks aside. The Uchiha heir had a habit of taking things at face value sometimes, and that made it a little awkward for people to attempt humor with him. It wasn't that he was dense or blithely oblivious; Sakura was beginning to suspect that he did it on purpose, as a way to isolate himself from people who were trying to get too close to him.

Itachi was fiercely protective of his personal space, but Sakura was equally determined to rehabilitate her lover until he was at least somewhat sociable around people.

Well, at least until he wasn't downright antisocial.

The pink-haired kunoichi smiled at her old teacher.

"Don't worry, Iruka-sensei," Sakura assured gently. "Itachi is a ridiculously excellent ninja, even though this is his first time taking a Genin team, I'm confident that he will allow no harm to befall any of them, except for when he is training them, of course. Then it will look like he is attempting to kill them himself, those poor kids." Sakura grinned at her small joke, but an alarmed Iruka hardly looked amused.

Itachi merely eyed the overprotective man. "Sakura is mostly just joking, Iruka-san," he provided in that usual deadpan but truthful manner when the older male appeared temporarily at a loss for words. Unfortunately, Iruka did not look at all assured.

What the hell does 'mostly' mean?

Sakura's grin only widened slightly.

"I think it will be good practice for you, Itachi." She looked at her lover with a sly, speculative eye that had him watching her intently—and somewhat warily as well. She was normally up to some sort of mischief whenever she gave him that particular sideways glance, her eyes lively and feisty with humor.

He wasn't wrong.

"After all," Sakura continued innocently. "When we do eventually get married, you are going to have to learn how to take care of a brood of kids, anata."

Iruka gaped. Of course he had heard awhile ago from the local grapevines that Sakura and the distant, emotionally detached Uchiha were an item, but he had never guessed—nor expected that the cheerful, sunny pink-haired kunoichi would be so at ease and comfortable around her silent and stoic counterpart. How they actually interacted with each other was still beyond comprehension to Iruka.

Her lover, on the other hand, stilled completely at her casual remark, his cat-like, exotically slanted eyes focused upon her, almost as if trying to ascertain if she was joking once more. A quick, utterly feminine gleam in her beguiling eyes told him that she just may be serious after all, but then she started to smile again, a small, secretive smile before leaning over to her lover and touching him lightly on the arm. He wasn't keen on public displays of affection after all, and she didn't like to flaunt the intimate relationship between herself and Itachi before the prying, invasive eyes of others, either.

"Practice hard, Itachi," she teased softly, and then she tiptoed slightly and whispered gently, almost shyly, into his ear.

"I love you."

There was the slightest tinge of embarrassment on her cheeks when she drew back, this normally bold and forthright woman who had once fearlessly proclaimed to the world before that she would be his and no one else's.

But yet, this was the very first time she had openly informed him of her true affection for him. He already knew of course, long before she even had to say it, but the fact that she did all the same was not lost on him at all. At the moment, he could only stare at her in an abjectly mesmerized manner, but Sakura knew that everything was going to change when he had the time to recover and mull over what she had just said and get back to her after his meeting with his team of Academy graduates. Her lover may be an excellent shinobi and a genius to boot, and although he was not as quick on the uptake when it came to dealing with emotional matters and/or her, he was adapting quickly and learning the ropes fast—especially when it came to her.

But at the moment, Sakura busied herself with glancing at her watch and feigning dismay over how late she was going to be for work—which really wasn't that far from the truth, to be perfectly honest.

"Well, I really have to go now. Find me after you are done?" She didn't have to ask; after this, he would have gone to look for her even if she hadn't.

He nodded once, and after a quick flurry of goodbyes, both men watched her disappear quickly from their sights. Then Iruka turned to Itachi. Not surprisingly, the younger male appeared completely dazed, and Umino wondered if he was one of the few lucky people who had ever seen the normally apathetic and indifferent man look so—bothered.

Huh, so it was really true that Sakura had the powerful and fearsome Uchiha wrapped around her little finger.

The Academy sensei was strangely glad for the pair, since they seem to complement each other very well in a completely odd and unorthodox manner—in the best way, of course.

He smiled genially at the Uchiha heir, who looked as if he was finally beginning to recover from the repeated bombshells that his lover had just dropped upon him before inconsiderately scampering off and leaving him all alone to deal with the repercussions—as well as the fact that Iruka-san was now feeling so sympathetic towards him and was attempting to make small talk, of all things.

"So, what does it feel like to be proposed to?"


Questions That I Would Like To Answer Before You Ask:

Before you ladies can get too excited about this, er, no, Sakura is not pregnant. You can say that she's just hinting to Itachi that she is not averse to having his emo, super-strength babies, like my amused beta had observed, provided that he takes up Childcare 101 seriously, of course.


As I mentioned before in 'ink blotch,' this was supposed to be part of the prequel, but because of the abrupt change in story mood from angst to humor, well, it was a bit strange, and so I split it up. That's the reason why this is a bit shorter than my normal installments. Other than that, I hope you enjoyed this!


Your reviews fuel my passion for writing. So please leave a comment if you like this fic, thank you.