Hajimemashite and konnichiwa minna-san!

I just had the urge to write this, and it wouldn't go away. I'm proud of how it turned out, and I hope you all like it. :)

I will soon be making a joint-account with my friend Fyreyce. (Soon, as in later today.) We will be known as FEARtheBOREDOM if that username hasn't already been taken. If it has been taken...well, we'll figure something out. ^^; Anyway, this doesn't mean I'm abandoning this account. I'll still update this regularly (regularly? Che. You're such a liar, Steph.) or as regularly as I can. I'm about to put out the next chapter of Worlds Apart, Yet So Close, so you can expect that either today or tomorrow.

And I'd also like to inform everyone of my DragCave scroll. On DragCave, I'm raising dragons. I have four eggs right now, and they need about seven hundred views in the next four days or they'll die. Then, they'll become hatchlings and they'll need even more veiws to grow up. Once they're grown up, they'll be fine on their own. So if you'd all please click my eggs, I'd be very happy! :D Link is below:

http : // dragcave. net / user / KouraAkatora

(Take out the spaces, of course.)

Please read and review!

There were many things Haruno Sakura could take. She was a pretty tough girl, after all. She could take a hit and retaliate without missing a beat to strike her opponents down. She could knock out those arrogant assholes who thought they were the rulers of the world with one punch. She could put up with all the verbal shit thrown at her and not go off on a rampage. She could take down the asstards that dared to pick on her best — and only — friend, Hyuga Hinata. She could take a lot. Much more than your average person, in fact.

But not this. This took things to a whole new playing field where the rules changed and the fur began to fly.

Uchiha Sasuke was the top-ranking bastard of Konoha High. He wasn't at the top of the food chain; he was above the food chain. And he was also Sakura's greatest enemy. They had hated each other with a fiery passion ever since the day in preschool when he stole Sakura's crayon and she bit the hell out of his back for revenge. They were both dead-set on killing each other one day. They had had more than their fair share of fist fights — all of which Sakura won — they'd thrown more insults than either could count, and they had even resorted to pulling very ugly pranks. Even through it all, they were still going at each other. It was a mutual hate-hate relationship.

But, despite this, he wasn't the one who had just made Sakura's last nerve snap like a twig. Oooh no. It was someone worse. Much, much worse. And who could possibly top Sasuke for the Academy Asshole Awards?

Why, his older brother, of course.

Uchiha Itachi may have looked calm and emotionless on the outside, but on the inside, he was a demon. He was the incarnate and every single bad thing in the universe. There was just no besting him; not even his father was that down-right horrible. And why is he so horrible?

Because of everything about him. His 'holier-then-thou' complex, his infuriating little smug smirks, his complete jerkface attitude, his so-called 'genius-ness' that Sakura had yet to witness, his arrogant prick-ish air. EVERYTHING.

Sakura hated his guts even more than she hated Sasuke, and that was saying a lot. Hinata and the Akatsuki gang — Itachi's little groupies — had no clue as to why she despised him so, but Itachi himself knew very well. And he was proud of it, too. She just knew it.

Itachi acted one way in front of his friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers; but around Sakura alone, he was almost the polar opposite. He was like a totally different person. Around the Akatsuki and everyone else, he seemed quiet and detached, like an older much more mature version of Sasuke — minus the ugly duck butt hair. But if you stuck him in a room alone with Sakura and locked the door, he was an absolute nightmare. Sakura swore that his main goal in life was to ruin hers.

And now, he had just crossed the line. He had just signed his own death warrant because as soon as she got her hands on him, Sakura was going to curb stomp his pretty little head until there was nothing left except a big ugly red stain on the concrete. He was going to die.

Feeling incredibly proud of himself, Itachi smirked down at the pink-haired little hellcat. Sakura scowled deathly black flames back up at him, face blazing as red as the pure rage shaking in her form. Itachi was a horrible, horrible person for the shit he put her through, but this was just down-right low.

"Your face is red," he remarked smugly, arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against the doorframe inside the girl's locker room.

The door was closed behind him, and every other student — and the teachers, Matarashi Anko and Maito Guy — had vacated the gymnasium not even three minutes earlier to go to lunch. Sakura had been preparing to do the same a few seconds after the bell rang, but this ugly tun of events was stopping her. Hinata had just left after saying she would meet Sakura in the cafeteria when the rosette stepped out of the showers. She had wrapped herself in the black towel she brought from home, suspecting nothing seeing as she did this every day. Imagine her surprise when Sakura came to find her clothes missing and a very self-satisfied Uchiha Itachi standing at the only exit of the girls' locker room.

Sakura gripped the bottom and top edges of her towel, suddenly feeling as if it were entirely too small. She had never been shy wearing it in the girls' locker room because there were only girls allowed inside during changing times. A lot of the girls didn't even bother with towels; they just walked around in their birthday suits and compared breast sizes. Sakura wasn't as crude as them by any means; she always grabbed her clothes and changed in the bathroom stalls connected to the showers.

But now it was a whole new story. Now her cloths were gone, the girls were gone, and there was a man three years older than her blocking her only escape route. The towel only reached as high as her bra would have and as low as mid-thigh. All in all, it was a very uncomfortable occurrence.

"What did you do?!" Sakura hissed, her tone deadly and her jaw clenched. She clutched the towel around herself as tightly and closely as she could.

Itachi chuckled lowly. "I evened the playing field, of course."

The girl scowled venomously. "Where are they?!" she demanded.

He smoothly raised an eyebrow, smirk still intact. "Where's what, Sakura-chan?"

Sakura wanted to hit him so badly. She wanted to pound his face into the ground and slam his genitalia in a car door. She wanted to murder him.

"My clothes!!" she practically shouted. "And don't call me 'Sakura-chan', you shit-faced son of a bitch!!"

"I believe your anger has just reached a new level," Itachi taunted, a deep quiet laugh escaping his lips. "Keep caution; if you aren't careful, you may drop your towel."

A frustrated cry tore from her throat. "Just tell me where they are, you ugly little fucker!!"

His smirk widened. "Such nasty words for a girl to say."

"Tell me!!"

Itachi straightened up from the doorway, reaching down to catch her chin between his thumb and finger as his face lowered to hers. Sakura glowered furiously into his dark eyes, face flaming. His expression was one of pure amusement and swelled-ego.

"Alright," he murmured, intentionally bumping his nose with hers. "Seeing you so worked up and in so little clothing, I couldn't possibly deny you that knowledge. If you wish to retrieve the rest of your attire" — he chuckled — "check the flagpole in front of the school."

Sakura's eyes stretched as wide as ramen bowls, her lips parting slightly in disbelief. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart skipped a dozen or so beats.


Itachi chuckled again. "My, my. How the mighty have fallen." He dipped his face further, so close their lips could have held a sheet of paper between them. "What will you do now, I wonder...? Oh, and you had better hurry. As soon as lunch is over, everyone — yes, even the male students and teacher — will be coming in here for bathroom cleaning duty. Best of luck."

And as quickly as he had appeared, Uchiha Itachi was gone. Sakura sucked in a deep, sharp breath through her nose and slid to the floor, securing herself in a corner. She stared sightlessly at the closed door, clinging to her knees tightly and going even redder when her towel hiked up to her hip. She yanked it back down and settled for sitting with her legs straight out in front of her.

How dare he? How dare Itachi do something like this to her? Sure, they had thrown some pretty ugly things at each other, but this was just plain cruel. It was bad enough that Itachi had somehow stolen her clothes and hung them up on the school flagpole for everyone to see, but the bathroom cleaning? That was a new low, even for Itachi.

Sakura had forgotten about the bathroom cleaning. The only bathroom in the entire gym was in the girls' locker room; there wasn't one in the boys' locker room, and the one in the main gym had been sabotaged a week earlier by a pipe bomb courtesy of some little screwhead Sakura was adding to her hit list. The teachers were ordering the students to clean the bathroom after lunch every other day as punishment; Anko decided that if one kid was going to pull something, they'd all have to suffer the consequences to teach them a lesson. And today was one of those cleaning days.

Sakura had always been able to take care of herself. She'd never come across a problem she couldn't handle. Until now, that is. For the life of her, she couldn't think of anything that she could do. Konoha High gym class didn't require a 'dress-out' uniform like almost every other school did, so it wasn't like she had any sweaty old gym clothes to change back into. At least she had her towel. She doubted any of the other girls would have a—

Sakura froze. Wait a minute. That was it. Maybe the other girls had spare changes of clothes so they wouldn't have to walk around school all day smelling bad! It was worth a shot. She leapt up and latched onto the first locker she reached. She peered through the small diamond-shaped holes in the door, squinting to try and see. To her immense joy, Sakura discovered a pair of short black shorts and a white tank top. She didn't care if it wouldn't fit or if it was small; it was still clothes. Sakura pressed up on the latch and pulled the locker door—



...why wasn't it opening?




...oh. Shit. It had a lock on it.

Sakura screamed out in frustration, slamming her fist against the locker so hard her knuckles split open. Now that she was thinking slightly clearer, she realized every locker had a padlock on it. They had been assigned by the teachers. Sakura yelled as many curses that came to her lips as she could, many of them not making any sense. She kept yelling until her voice was just a blur of shrieks and sounds; the words wouldn't from anymore. She was nearly trembling with fury as she slid down and collapsed on the bench in the center of that aisle of lockers.

It just wasn't fair. What had she ever done to Itachi — minus the name-calling and insults — ? Nothing. It was so out of the blue for him to do something like this, and she couldn't understand why. It was so incredibly confusing, Sakura's head hurt just thinking about it. The only people she could imagine pulling a stunt like this one were Sasuke, Karin, Ami, and Ino. No one else. Not Itachi, not the Akatsuki, and not even Zaku, whom she had engaged in a fist fight with on her first day at Konoha High. Sakura was about ready to start bashing in the locker doors to get clothing when a sudden thought struck her.

My phone!! She shot up into a standing position and scrambled to the other aisle to reach her locker. That's it!! My phone!! I can call Hinata and get her help!!

Sakura fumbled with the padlock on her locker, having to start over twice because her hands were shaking so hard. When the lock finally clicked open, she nearly tore it from the latch and nearly threw it to the ground in her haste. She yanked the locker open and grabbed her messager-style backpack, opening it and rifling around for her familiar gray-black rectangle of freedom. She sifted through papers and books, wincing slightly when the tip of her lead pencil stabbed beneath her finger nail. The full horror of her situation washed over her.

Oh my god... Sakura shook her head, falling to her knees and staring in utter shock at her locker. No...no...my cell phone was in my pocket...

And that meant either Itachi had it, or it was currently hanging with her clothes from the flagpole. This couldn't be happening. Sakura growled angrily when she felt a familiar prick in the corners of her eyes, wiping them furiously with the back of her fist as she threw all her crap back in her locker. She chucked the lock at the closed door of her locker, ignoring it when it took a hard blow against the concrete floor. She hugged her legs close, no longer caring that her towel rode up high, and buried her face in her knees.

This had to be a dream. An awful, realistic dream. There was just no way this was happening to her.

The coldness of the floor told Sakura that it wasn't, in fact, a nightmare. It was all real, and it was about to get a hell of a lot worse if she didn't do something quickly.

So, with a small burst of determination, Sakura heaved herself to her feet began to calm herself. She closed her eyes and relaxed her tense muscles, forcing herself to sort everything out.

Alright, Sakura. she told herself. Stop throwing a fit. If you keep sitting here and screaming like a baby, things are going to get really ugly.

That's for sure. For once, her Inner was calm and collected.

All right, first things first. Make sure the towel won't fall down or rip.

Nodding to herself, Sakura opened her now much clearer eyes and hunted down a dozen or so bobby pins off the floor. No matter how atrocious they smelled — hair spray; ugh — they would have to make do. She tucked in the ends of her towel and pulled it as tight as it would go, wrinkling her nose as she stuck the bobby pins in her mouth. Diligently, she began slipping the pins onto where she had tucked the towel in, criss crossing multiple ones over each other to secure them in place. Once satisfied, she moved on to the next item on her list.

Check every resource I have available to me.

Sakura pulled open her locker again and searched the contents. She frowned. All she had was her papers, six or seven library books, a couple text books, her backpack, and some old blue chewing gum that someone from the previous year had oh-so-kindly left her on the back wall of the locker. Nothing useful there.

Don't sweat it. she reminded herself. There's still plenty of other places to check.

Sakura began on the locker to the right of hers, pulling every padlock to see if any of them were left unlocked. To her delight, the third one she tried did the trick.

Heh. Third time's the charm.

Sakura smiled and pulled open the locker, recoiling with disgust when she discovered it belonged to Watanabe Ami. More like Wanna-be Ami. Nevertheless, Sakura turned her head to the side and scrunched up her nose as she picked through the purple-haired girl's things. She sighed in disappointment when she found nothing of use. (Except maybe the hair spray. If she could find a match too, she'd be set.)

Shaking off the doom cloud that threatened to appear, Sakura moved onto the next locker. She continued all down the row, doubling back to check the lockers on the left of hers. Finding no others unlocked, she turned to the lockers across the aisle and started again. After another minute and a half of wasted efforts, Sakura moved onto the second and only other aisle of lockers in the locker room. She went at double time, trying to hurry and check thoroughly simultaneously. She hesitated when she reached the very last locker, sending a quick prayer before pulling on the lock.

No luck.

At least it hadn't been a total waste. She had come across three other lockers that had been unlocked, and in searching them, she found some mace and — surprisingly — a tazer. She may not have gotten any clothes, but now she had some weapons. (Although, she still wished she had found a couple matches. Some homemade flamethrowers would have been nice.)

Sakura nodded faintly, clutching the two self-defense items in her left hand.

It's a start. the rosette mused, bitting the inside of her cheek thoughtfully. Next is to check the floors, the showers, and the bathrooms stalls. I might find something useful there.

Sakura focused almost painfully on the floor, taking tiny baby steps so as to make sure she covered every square inch. Unfortunately, however, that led her to slam head-first into a wall. She cursed under her breath, rubbing the top of her head and wincing as she continued her search.

Damn wall. I'm gonna feel that ten times worse tomorrow.

You can say that again. her Inner self retorted.

Sakura's mint-colored eyes began watering as she stared at the somewhat dirty floor, straining as she refused to blink; blinking would cause her to miss something. Of course, even as she thought this, refraining from blinking didn't help her not miss the second wall she knocked her head on.

Sakura stumbled back, this time yelling a word that would have landed her in ISS and she squeezed her eyes shut. A throbbing headache was beginning to kick in. She took a couple steps forward to brace herself against the wall when she stepped on something smooth and slightly warm. Because she hadn't expected to step on anything, Sakura had placed most of her weight on her foot as she was stepping down. The smooth object slid forward in a jerking motion at the sudden weight, causing her foot to come flying out from under her. The girl cried out in shock as she landed flat on her back, groaning and slowly rolling onto her side.

She was going to destroy whatever it was that had made her fall. She used her hand to slap at the floor until her felt the smooth object, bringing it to her face and cracking her eyes open. The pink-haired teen stared at the small square of paper in her hand as if it had just declared itself a brand new student of Konoha High. Blinking stupidly, Sakura sat up and rubbed the back of her head as she unfolded it. To her utter disbelief, she found handwriting on it.


Third on the first aisle. Left side.

Sakura's eyebrows furrowed as she tried to decipher the message. Obviously it was a locker combination, but what was it doing here? She pushed herself to her feet and glanced around the locker room, unconsciously pulling at the bottom of her towel to make sure it hadn't risen when she fell. She frowned at the short, neat handwriting. Shrugging to herself and deciding it couldn't hurt to try, Sakura envisioned how the locker room would appear if she was standing in the doorway. She padded over to the locker indicated, feeling a sense of déjà vu come over her as she tried the locker combination. The rosette took a deep breath and finally pulled down on the padlock.

It didn't work.

Sakura scowled, glaring down at the paper as she attempted the combination again. When it didn't work, she tried a third time. Still nothing. She ground her teeth together, feeling incredibly stupid when she realized why the combination wasn't working.

This was her locker.

She felt like slapping herself for her moment of completely idiocy. In her desperateness to find clothes, she hadn't realized she was attempting to open her own locker.

Good going, Sakura. her Inner deadpanned. Real smooth.

Quiet, you.

Sakura glowered at the small slip of paper as if it was its fault for her predicament. It was there to taunt her; to mock her foolish attempts at freedom from her impending embarrassment. Just like Itachi.


...now that she thought about it...why was it there? Who would leave a combination to her locker — a wrong one, in fact — in the middle of the locker room? It made no sense. Unless...

A sudden very crazy, very insane idea popped in Sakura's head.

Oooh no. Inner Sakura rejected, shooting down the idea before it could grow. No. No. That's not possible. There's no way.

But maybe...

No! Bad, Sakura! No! Do not go there!

But it could be.

No way! No chance!

But maybe it is possible.

Her Inner fumed silently for a moment.

...alright, fine. Maybe.

A slow, thoughtful smile stretched across Sakura's face. If the combination doesn't work here, maybe it works in the guys' locker room.

It was worth a shot, because right now, she had nothing else to go on.

Sakura sped over to the door, slowly cracking it open and peering out cautiously like a character from a cartoon. All clear. She slipped her whole head out, glancing around to make sure no one was in the gym. Finding that she was completely alone, Sakura took a deep breath to prepare herself.

And darted across the entirety of the basketball court-sized gymnasium and flew into the boys' locker room. Sakura was nearly hyperventilating as she pressed her back against the door, straining to hear if anyone had entered the gym. Nothing. She took a few more gasping breaths to calm herself and peered around. The boys' locker room looked exactly like the girls', except the lockers were blue instead of red. There were two aisles of lockers and a wide door-less doorway in the back that led to the showers, but no second room for toilets at the far end of said room. Sakura rechecked the location of the locker and glanced around, spotting it and creeping up as if she expected someone to jump out at her any second.

Sakura reached up and began twisting the padlock according to the combination, forcing her hands not to shake. She hesitated.

Alright. she mumbled inwardly to herself. If this doesn't work, I'm royally screwed. So please, please...

Sakura held her breath and pulled down on the lock.



Feeling her insides go cold, Sakura desperately tried the combination again and yanked at the padlock.


Sakura felt as if her heart had stopped. The lock had clicked. It had clicked. It had clicked.

It had been the right combination for the locker! Her suspicions had been correct! She'd just screwed up the combination the first time! OH, JOYOUS DAY!!

Sakura began laughing for no reason whatsoever, faintly wondering of she was insane as she pulled the lock off and swung open the locker.


Sitting on top of a black backpack was a pair of neatly-folded dark clothes.

Sakura didn't care in the slightest that the clothes belonged to some random guy from her gym class; they were still clothes. She was seriously considering kissing whomever she stole the clothes from simply for being so stupid as to have left his locker combination and directions on the floor of the girls' locker room after the last time they cleaned the bathroom. It was practically a miracle!

Sakura grinned manically as she yanked off her towel and pulled on the surprisingly warm clothing. She snatched on a pair of shorts — to act as underwear — under a pair of black sweatpants, cleaning her towel of bobby pins and tying it around her chest to act as a makeshift bra before tugging on a nice-smelling black t-shirt. From the looks of it, the shirt would have been slightly tight-fitting on the owner, though it was loose on Sakura. She smirked to herself, fully intending to trot into the cafeteria and maim that arrogant prick that had thrown her into this mess before pausing to think. She decided to pick through this person's things first so see who the clothes belonged to; she wanted to be able to thank him, after all.

Sakura dug around in his backpack — a black messager bag almost identical to her own — and pulled out the first paper her finger brushed against. She smiled and checked the top right-hand corner for a name, nearly having a stroke when she saw it.

Uchiha Itachi

"....oh my god..."

Now she knew why she had somewhat recognized the handwriting of the locker combination. It was his.

Horrified, Sakura dropped the paper and scrambled back from the locker, flinching and trying to decide if she should burn the clothes she was currently wearing. The rosette shuddered, rubbing her arms to fight off the sudden chill running down her spine. She eyed another small folded piece of paper that had fallen out of the locker when she took the clothes. Wetting her lips and deciding to go for it, she nabbed it and unfolded it. The contents of the paper stunned her more than anything that had happened in the past five or ten minutes — and that was saying a lot.

Hello, Haruno-san.

I trust you found the locker combination on the floor. Congratulations.

The clothes are yours for the taking; I suspect you'll be needing them. There is also an envelope in the side pocket of my bag that you might find extremely useful. Best of luck.

"What the..."

Sakura could have caught flies with her gaping mouth. She just couldn't believe it. What exactly was he doing? Blinking and shaking her head incredulously, she reached into the specified pocket and pulled out a small manila envelope. Casting another wary glance at the locker and the door, she opened it and peered inside.

Papers? No; they were too small. Folded papers, maybe?

Sakura reached in and grabbed a small slightly thick stack bound by a rubber band and inspected it. They were pictures. She frowned, pulling off the band and flipping through the photographs. To her further disbelief, they were all of Sasuke and his three bitch friends.

Sasuke butt naked as a silly-looking two-year-old baby. Sasuke cowering from lightning as a four-year-old boy. Sasuke crying and running in terror from a clown. Sasuke screaming and running from what appeared to be his father dressed as Santa Claus. Sasuke hugging a pink bunny and sucking his thumb in his sleep as a five-year-old boy. A couple dozen of Karin, Ami, and Ino making out with countless different guys. A snuck-through-a-door-crack shot of Ami stuffing large balls of cotton down her shirt to make her chest look bigger. Ino slumped over on her desk fast asleep with her pink thong panties and butt crack showing (which looked fairly recent). A snuck-around-a-corner shot of Karin pulling at a wedgie and looking around to see if anyone was watching.


The list went on.

Sakura threw her head back and burst into hysterical laughter, eyes watering and stomach hurting as she took in all the embarrassing photos of her greatest enemies. She stumbled back and fell against a locker, clutching her chest as her lungs began to throb. Painfully loud snorts and cackles echoed throughout the locker room, eerily bouncing off the walls and distantly reaching the ears of a few students in classrooms down the hall from the gym. Said students exchanged confused looks, shrugging and going back to their game of paper football while completely ignoring the teacher.

This was gold! She had just struck the mother load! It was almost too good to be true.

Sakura allowed a few more giggles and snickers to escape before clamping her mouth shut and jumping to her feet. She would forget that Itachi had stolen her clothes for now; the first thing she had to do was rub it in Sasuke's ugly little face. Or better yet, make copies of the pictures in the teacher's lounge and tape them up all over the school. Now that would be hilarious. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, indeed.

Mwahaha...he's so going down.

Oh, you bet. We're gonna knock that smug look right off his face.

Sakura shut the door to Itachi's locker gently, feeling that slamming it would be rude after the wonderful gifts he had just bestowed upon her. She would worry able the 'how's and 'why's later; right now was the time for sweet, sweet revenge. She picked up the locker combination she had dropped earlier in her excitement and refolded it, tucking it safely in the warm pocket of Itachi's — her — sweatpants. She also grabbed the mace and tazer, surprised that she had brought it with her. She honestly didn't remember removing it from the girls' locker room. Oh well.

Sakura gathered the pictures and bound them with the rubber band, sliding them back inside the manila envelope and pushing down the tap to close it. She reattached the padlock to Itachi locker and snapped it shut, spinning it a few times for good measures before dashing out of the locker room. Sure, she had no shoes, and sure, she had no socks, but that wasn't going to stop her. Sakura jogged across to the girls' locker room and tossed the mace and tazer inside before looking up at the clock above the door.

She had about twelve minutes until the bell would ring, signaling for everyone to return to class so the next lunch could go. That was fine by her; she only needed ten to run to the teachers' lounge and make copies. Grinning to herself, Sakura peeked out into the hallway before hurtled out. She flew past a few classrooms, the students inside oblivious to her diabolical intentions as she slipped inside the teachers' lounge. She skidded over to the copying machine, pulling out the first picture and sticking it in. She pressed the number five and then the copy button, smirking very smugly. She wasn't nervous about getting caught, none of the teachers would be there until the last block of the day: the one after the current third block. The teachers ate the in 'teacher lunch room', because apparently the lounge wasn't good enough for them.

When the fifth copy was printed out, Sakura took out the picture and slid in the next one. The copying process went by fast, and soon she was already on the seventh picture. Just as she was removing the photo of Ino disgustingly lip-locked with Zaku and replacing it with a picture of Karin doing the same with the teacher-in-training Kabuto, the door to the teachers' lounge opened.

Sakura froze up, cursing inwardly. She was so close, too, and she had only used up about two and a half minutes. She snuck a glance at the teacher about to issue her a detention for coming in and using the copier, only to do a double take. It was Itachi, of all people, and he was giving her a knowing smirk as he leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed exactly as he had been doing in the girls' locker room. The door was closed behind him, and he was alone. No teachers in sight.

"I figured you would come here," he murmured in amusement, a few stray locks of black hair falling against his cheek. "And I see you accepted the clothing I left for you. I imagine it must have been hard when you realized they belonged to me."

Sakura glared at him, not appreciating his teasing.

"I don't know how you got these pictures or why you gave them to me," Sakura muttered, turning to face him, "but don't think I'll just forgive you for what you did." Such a hypocrite, Sakura. "I don't care that you gave me clothes to wear; that doesn't change the fact that you've just humiliated me in front of the entire school."

An unreadable expression darted in his dark eyes, passing too quickly for Sakura to read. He gave a quiet sigh, his new smirk seeming almost ironic.

"Would you believe me if I told you I was blackmailed?" he asked. Sakura's eyebrows shot up before her eyes narrowed again. She took a step back warily. "As I thought. Of course you would not believe me. It seems impossible, does it not?"

"It seems," Sakura growled, "like a load of crap to me."

He let out a quiet 'heh', straightening up and stepping toward her. Sakura, in turn, took another step back.

"Believe it or not, I was blackmailed."

"To what?" Sakura demanded angrily. "Steal my clothes and possibly ruin my life?"

His smirk wasn't nearly as taunting now; it had smoothed out a bit, and it almost look like... a smile? No. It wasn't a smile. But it was close to it. And was that...an apology she saw?

"No," he disagreed, advancing again as she backed away. Sakura cursed when her back hit the wall. She was stuck. "I was blackmailed to deliver the message."

She blinked, staring up at him blankly and not realizing how close he had gotten. "...eh?" was her genius reply.

He chuckled lowly, finding her clueless face amusing. "To deliver the message," he repeated. "To inform you where your clothes were hanging, and to make you assume that I was the culprit."

Sakura gazed at him stupidly. "...huh? Why?"

His eyes flickered. "It relates to what I am being blackmailed with."

She blinked a few times, a question mark displayed clearly on her expression.

"And why were you blackmailed to pretend like you stole my clothes and hung them from the flagpole when someone else actually did it?"

"Were you not listening at all? Or are you honestly this thick-headed?"

Sakura scowled, red adorning her face at the insult. "I'm not stupid, Uchiha!" she snapped. "It just doesn't make any damn sense!"

His eyes were alight with amusement, pissing her off further.

"What's so damn funny?!" she demanded.

He caught her chin, and Sakura's cheeks flared as she recalled being in a similar position earlier while wearing nothing but a towel. This time, however, she was wearing his clothes.

"Do you know who blackmailed me?" he asked, smoothly changing the subject and attracting Sakura's attention. She eyed him warily.


"My otouto."

Shock spread across Sakura's face like a wild fire.

"What?" she choked out. "He did it?!"

"Of course. You didn't actually assume I would do this...?"

Sakura looked away, trying to glare at the floor. "NO," she mumbled more forcefully than needed. "Well, I mean...it felt funny and...but..." She scowled when she felt his smirk directed at her. "Shut up!"

He laughed quietly, bringing his face closer to hers. His smirk widened when her cheeks blazed even brighter.

"Do you know why I gave you the photographs?" he asked. Sakura tried to ignore the feeling of his breath on her face.

"No, dumbass," she muttered, feeling the need to defend herself with stronger words. "I already said that I didn't."

"To teach my otouto a lesson," Itachi murmured easily. "To show him what happens when he attempts to blackmail me."

"It isn't 'attempt' when a person succeeds."

"To be honest," he continued, ignoring her words, "I couldn't care less about what he was intending to use against me. It still irritates me, however, that he would try to do so when I could so easily retaliate with tenfold force. So to demonstrate this, I delivered these photographs to you." His smirk was self-satisfactory. "I knew you would use them for purposes to fulfill your own revenge, and in doing so, it satisfies me. Killing two birds with one stone."

"Then why'd you go along with it?" Sakura countered. "If his 'dirt' on you doesn't matter, why'd you let him blackmail you when you could've just said no and got him back anyway?"

The sudden glint in his demon eyes made Sakura's stomach fill with dread. "Because I knew the look on your face when I delivered the news would be a once-in-a-life-time occurrence."

She bristled, scowling at the dark-haired male. "You son of a—"

Her angry rant was suddenly cut off by his lips on hers. Her face went so dark a shade of red, it was debatable whether or not it was actually red. She froze up in place and stared in shock with eyes the size of dinner plates. When he pulled back, Itachi's smirk was more infuriating than ever.

"And I also knew the look on your face after that would be even better."

Sakura stumbled over words, attempting to find her voice as something snapped inside her.


Sakura leapt at him with all her fury, fists flying and shockingly ugly words ripping from her throat. Itachi simply chuckled and dodged her blows, catching her arms and trapping her back against him.

"Go back to making your copies," he teased. "I'm sure you'll derive entertainment from Sasuke's expression when he discovers childhood pictures of himself all over the school."

He released her when he was sure she wouldn't come at him with her fists again. Sakura whipped around and glared deathly blame flames at him.

"What was the meaning of that?!" she ground out.

She growled at that damned smirked of his.


Itachi smoothly dodged the stapler and hole puncher Sakura threw at him as he left the teachers' lounge, all the while laughing and smirking. She yelled out in rage, feeling the need to smash something. That arrogant, smug, proud little son of a bitch had just stolen her first kiss! She was going to murder and/or castrate him with a rusty spoon!

...as soon as she finished humiliating Sasuke like he had tried to humiliate her. Yes. He was going down first, and then his brother would be next. And then the little prick that blew out the main gymnasium bathrooms with a pipe bomb. Her hit list was steadily growing.

With a scowl, Sakura went back to copying the photos and checking the clock every so many seconds. Thanks to Itachi's little interruption, she had wasted a precious four minutes of her time. Now she only had about five and a half minutes left.

When the copying was finally done, she only had about a minute and fifteen seconds until the bell would ring. (The stupid thing had run out of paper, so she'd had to take more time loading it.) But, nevertheless, she had every copy ready. Sakura snatched up the tape and flew out of the teachers' lounge, randomly taping up the pictures in record time. Of course, when the bell rang, she had only managed to get five up. To her credit, though, they were all embarrassing pictures of Sasuke. (The Santa Claus thing, the pink rabbit, the clown, the lightning, and one of him crying his eyes out with Itachi smirking over him with his hand in a 'got your nose' position.) Sakura got a real kick out of the last one.

Cursing, Sakura threw the tape dispenser back in the teachers' lounge without bothering to see where it landed and took off running for the gym. She burst through the doors and skidded to a halt, taking a couple deep breaths and leaning back against a wall nonchalantly like Itachi would have done. She rested her left arm across her stomach, left hand holding the pictures while her right elbow sat on the back of her left hand; she examined her nails lazily as she waited for the students and teachers to enter. Just heartbeats later, people began to poor in. Itachi was the first one in, casting her a smirk and joining her in leaning against the wall.

"Have fun?"

Sakura shrugged faintly, feigning indifference.

"I'd say so. I managed to get five pictures on the hall walls."

"Hm. I'll have to go see after class."

Small smirks played on both of their lips, Sakura still looking at her nails and Itachi gazing straight ahead. A moment later, Hinata dashed over.

"S-sakura-chan!" she stammered, blushing slightly at the sight of Itachi next to her. "W-where were you?"

Sakura beamed brightly as Hinata, scaring the poor girl. "Oh, you know. Around."

She shuddered a bit, shyly poking at the floor with her foot and clasping her hands behind her back. "W-why are you w-wearing that?" she asked nervously.

Sakura blinked, glancing down at her clothes. It wasn't until then that she remembered she was wearing Itachi's clothes. Uchiha Itachi's clothes. As in, clothes he had worn before. (And she had thought they smelled nice when she put them on. Gah.) She held down a blush, instead darting a look at Itachi.

"Mine can't exactly be worn at the moment," she replied easily, looking away. "I had to borrow some."

"From w-who?"

"From me."

Sakura twitched, fist clenching as she restrained herself from hitting him. Hinata blushed crimson, squeaking out a quiet 'oh'. The rosette watched the students entering, eyes flickering when she finally spotted Sasuke. The boy was talking casually with Suigetsu, unconsciously shaking off Karin, Ami, and Ino when they latched onto him. After a moment, he sensed a pair of eyes on him and looked up. His eyebrows shot up when he saw Sakura and Itachi leaning side by side, both watching him with expressions he didn't like. His eyes narrowed and he mumbled something to Suigetsu before stalking over to them. His eyes flickered toward Sakura.


Her tone was equally flat. "Uchiha."

He took in her attire with a narrowed black gaze. "Odd choice of clothing, Haruno." He flashed a sharp look at Itachi. "I wonder where you got them...?"

Itachi smirked at his younger brother. "I thought it would be rather obvious, foolish otouto," he replied smoothly. Karin, Ami, and Ino glared daggers at Sakura.

"Have you seen the new school flag, Billboard Brow?" Ino mocked. The three of them giggled, shooting her scathing smiles.

Sakura smirked back. "Have you seen the latest pictures going in the school paper?"

Sasuke frowned and the three girls exchanged confused looks.

"What crap are you spewing?" Karin retorted.

The suddenly scarily-devious expression on Sakura's face sent chills down their spines. Sasuke glared at her, and she lifted her hand to reveal a wide array of photographs. The three girls shrieked in disbelief, and a murderous look glinted in Sasuke's eyes. He attempted to grab the pictures, but Sakura slipped them behind her back, cocking an eyebrow in challenge.

"Hand them over," Sasuke demanded dangerously.

"Bite my ass," Sakura shot back smugly. "Payback's a bitch, Uchiha. Eat it."

"You." Sasuke rounded furiously on Itachi. "You did this."

For the first time, Sakura didn't feel the urge to punch in Itachi's smirk; it wasn't directed at her, but rather at her life-long enemy. "Of course I did. Where else could she have possibly gotten pictures of you when you were a baby?"

"Did you forget who you're dealing with?!" Sasuke growled, glowering at both of their triumphant expressions. "I'll ruin your lives." His anger lashed out at Itachi. "Should I just shout out your little secret to everyone?" he threatened. "Over the intercom, perhaps?"

Itachi's smirk didn't falter; in fact, he didn't seem fazed at all. "Be my guest."

"Hand them over!" Sasuke snapped at Sakura.

She glared back. "Make me."

"How about this, Sasuke?" Said boy glowered death up at his aniki. "We will not send these in to the school newspaper."

"What?!" Sakura demanded. "Bullshit!"

Itachi's lips twitched. "We will not send these in to the school newspaper," he repeated, making Sakura scowl. "However." Sasuke raised an eyebrow stiffly, and Sakura watched him from the corner of her eyes. Itachi seemed to ponder over his words. "I believe you understand what I'm trying to convey, Sakura. Make our demands."

Sakura had to force herself not to laugh; the term 'our demands' made it sound as if they were holding for ransom. "If you pull shit on us again, we'll highlight your ass in the newspaper and post these pictures all over the school walls." She neglected to mention the five already taped up.

Itachi laughed quietly. "Precisely." He raised a thin eyebrow smoothly at his younger brother. "You should not threaten me with blackmail, foolish otouto. I can do much worse than you are capable of. Keep that in mind."

Sasuke snorted, storming away in an ugly mood with his three carry-ons scampering behind and whining. Hinata stared at Sakura with wide eyes, knees shaking. Sakura shot her a scarily-bright smile, making the girl flinch.

"And that's how you take out the trash, Hinata," she chirped. "Don't worry; I'd never do anything like that to you." Sakura patted her friend on the back, the poor girl jumping in terror.

A deep, loud laugh attracted their attention. Sakura barely had time to react as something dark was thrown at her. She caught the objects, eyebrows shooting up in surprise when she discovered them to be her missing clothing. She looked up, meeting the gaze of one of the Akatsuki — Hoshigaki Kisame. The entire Akatsuki (minus Kakuzu, Zetsu, and Konan — all of whom were in different classes) were standing before them with amused expressions.

"Did you get these down?" Sakura asked, a grin spreading on her lips.

"You bet, kitten," Kisame replied, ruffling her hair. Sakura ducked her head, swatting at his hand. "Couldn't let Itachi's otouto get away with it, could we?"

Sakura made a face. "If only you guys had been around a few years ago," she commented. Before she could continue, Sasori cut in.

"I was under the impression," Sasori murmured, "that Karin took all your clothing."

Karin. the girl thought bitterly. I should have known. I'd bet my life that Ami and Ino were in on it, too.

"Hey, that's right," Kisame agreed slyly, eyebrow arching. "Where'd you get the clothes?"

"Some idiot left her locker unlocked," Sakura deadpanned, easily lying to cover for herself. She didn't want them knowing that they were Itachi's clothes. "I was desperate; what can I say? She'll never figure out I took them."

Hidan snorted. "I had no idea you were a fucking thief," he joked.

Sakura flipped him a bird. "How about I hang your clothes from the flagpole?"

"Try it," he shot back with a smirk.

"I'll catch you when you least expect it," she promised. "I'm hated by over half the school for a reason, ya know." With a grimace, she continued. "Do you realize how long Chicken Ass and I have been trying to kill each other?"

Kisame barked a laugh. "Chicken Ass?"

"His shit-ugly hair style looks like a chicken's ass," she stated bluntly, crossing her arms.

Most of them laughed at that.

"How long?" Hidan questioned, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"Too long," the rosette answered with a sigh. "Literally since preschool."

"What made you hate each other, yeah?" Deidara asked, blinking.

A dead serious expressing overtook Sakura's face as she stared each of them down. "He stole my black crayon. I tackled him and bit his back."

"Wait, wait, wait," Madara murmured. "You bit his back? As in, you bit his own crayon in return, or you bit his actual back?"

"I bit his actual back."

They all cracked up, Hidan clapping her on the back. "Nice job!"

Itachi smirked. "I wondered why Sasuke came home crying and screaming that he hated the color pink."

Sakura grinned. "I have that effect on people."

"You know, kitten," Kisame said, "one of these days, you're gonna come busting into one of our houses with a big-ass gun and demand that we hide you from the police because you killed some guy."

Sakura laughed, grinning and nodding. "How'd you know? I could've sworn no one was looking when I buried him this morning."

They all chuckled again, perking up when the rosette's expression twisted wickedly.

"What da'ya got?" Hidan asked immediately, recognizing the look in her eye.

Her responding cackle made Hinata flinch. "Try some dirt on Chicken Ass."

They crowded around to get a good look while Itachi chuckled quietly. Sakura whipped out the pictures, the smirk on her face scaring the students across the gym. Sasuke scowled over at them when the group roared with laughter. Hidan looked as if he had busted a gut over the picture of Sasuke screaming and running from Santa, while Deidara was nearly dying over Sakura's personal favorite: the old 'got your nose' routine with Itachi.

"Where'd you get this?" Kisame choked out, snorting at the photo of Ami stuffing her shirt.

Sakura nudged Itachi with a grin. "Meet my supplier."

They all glanced in surprise at the Uchiha.

"I can understand the pictures of Sasuke," Madara mused, "but the others...?"

Itachi smirked. "I have connections."

Any further questions were halted when Anko's voice rang out through the gymnasium. "Listen up, you maggots!" A hushed silence immediately reigned, bringing a smirk to the woman's face. "Go get your crap from your lockers, and make it quick!"

The students scrambled to follow her orders; it wasn't wise to piss off Anko. Itachi caught Sakura's arm before she could go in the girls' locker room. She shot him a questioning look, raising an eyebrow at the amused gleam in his eyes.

"You may keep the clothes," he murmured, his gaze taking in her attire almost smugly. "They suit you rather well."

Sakura glared, face reddening as she pulled away and stalked into the girls' locker room. She made a beeline for his locker, spinning the lock and yanking it off when it clicked. The rosette grabbed everything our of her locker (minus the year-old nasty blue gum) and darted for the bathroom stalls, jumping in the first one she reached. Instead of changing her clothes completely — there wasn't enough time — she exchanged the shorts for underwear and the towel for her bra. She stuffed the rest of the clothing in her backpack after digging out her cell phone from her jeans pocket and sliding it in the sweatpants pocket. Once satisfied, Sakura dashed out of the stall and grabbed Hinata's shoulder.

The poor girl jumped a good ten feet into the air, looking as if she had just had a heart attack. Sakura pulled her to the side where no one else could hear.

"Hey, Hinata," Sakura mumbled sheepishly. "I've got a favor to ask."

"O-oh." The pretty dark blue-haired girl smiled. "What can I do?"

"Gomen," the former apologized. "But can we, uh, switch locks?"

Surprise blossomed on the girl's face. "O-of course. Why?"

"Ah, well...you see, some girls broke into my locker 'cause they knew the combination, but if we switched, they'd never figure out what happened. Your locker would still be safe, and mine wouldn't get broken into!" Sakura beamed at Hinata with a creepy brightness, her twitching eyebrow the only indication that the 'breaking-and-entering' irritated her.

Hinata gave a shy smile, nodding faintly and going off to retrieve her padlock. Sakura did the same and, after a quick look to make sure there were no witnesses, traded locks with the Hyuga girl. They both grabbed their backpacks and rushed out of the locker room, meeting up with the Akatsuki by the wall they had been by earlier. The pink-haired girl snickered inwardly when she heard two girls commenting about how they found their mace and tazer on the floor. Not a moment later, Anko ordered everyone to drop their crap and get cleaning on the bathrooms. Naturally, the males students took that chance to look around the girls' locker room as they all passed through. Gai passed out rags, sponges, and toilet brushes. Sakura took a torn gray rag, while Hinata chose a new-looking violet sponge. The pearl-eyed girl began cleaning around the sinks with about two-thirds of the rest of the class who were all too disgusted to go near the toilets. Sakura, on the other hand, settled for scrubbing the floor in one of the stalls. Somehow or another, Itachi ended up cleaning the walls of her stall.

"You didn't chance," he remarked in amusement, voice slightly lowered so as not to be heard over the loud chatter of every other student. Sakura glared at the floor as she began scrubbing with more force than necessary. She chose not to respond, finding it to be the safest route. Her ear twitched when she heard his quiet chuckle. "Refusing to speak to me? I had no idea you resorted to such childish antics."

"I'm not childish!" Sakura snapped, not caring in the least that she was abusing the poor floor. "And I'm not refusing to speak! I just have nothing to say!" She mentally cursed when she felt an air of smugness coming from him; she couldn't let him take the opening she had practically delivered on a silver platter. "Shut up!"

Oh, real smooth, Sakura.

You be quiet.

Itachi smirked down at Sakura, squatting easily to reach the bottom of the stall wall to finish cleaning. The rosette scowled as she rubbed at the tiles ever rougher, yelling out a loud curse when her hand slipped and slammed against the bottom of the stall door. A lose screw bit into her skin, tearing open a long cut and drawing blood. Itachi gaze snapped to the wound, his amusement gone.

"Shit!" Sakura growled, cradling her injured hand and shooting fiery glares of doom at the offending screw.

"Let me see," Itachi demanded, gently grabbing her hand and inspecting the damage. "I don't think you'll need stitches, but it isn't a shallow cut."

"I can see that," Sakura muttered, though not removing her hand from his. His grip wasn't tight; it was careful and warm.

"What's going on here?" Anko snapped, appearing at the entrance of the stall. "Stop fucking cursing and get back to work!"

Sakura's Inner self face-palmed at her teacher's antics. Anko eyed their conjoined hands — not able to see the blood from her angle of view — and physical closeness, a sly smirk crossing her features.

"Alright, enough with the kissy-kissy, you two," she taunted. "Save that for when you get home."

Sakura bristled indignantly, face flaming red, and tore her hand from Itachi's. "I'm injured!" she spat. "Do you think I want to be around this arrogant prick?!"

Instead of criticizing Sakura's very unladylike language like the hypocrite she undoubtably was, Anko peered down at her hand again. To her surprise, she discovered ripped skin and a good amount of bright crimson blood. She cursed (making her sound an awful lot like Sakura) and pushed back all the students that were crowding around to get a peek, shouting for Gai to hurry over. The tall, rather strange teacher was there in a heartbeat. He wore an olive-green vest and a red sash around his waist over a green spandex jumpsuit with orange leg warmers. His inky black bowl-cut hair shined, showing that he took care of it well, and his massively-thick eyebrows resembled large fuzzy caterpillars.

"What happened?!" he cried.

Sakura sighed in annoyance, holding her hand close to her chest as she stood and grunting a thanks to Itachi when he pulled her up by her elbow. "My hand slipped," she deadpanned. "I cut it on a loose screw from the stall door hinge."

"I will take her to the nurse," Itachi spoke up without giving Sakura a chance to go alone. She cried out in protest, rudely interrupted by Gai.

"How very youthful of you!" he congratulated, his teeth glinting as he shot a thumbs-up at the Uchiha. "Please escort young Sakura-san and protect her in the springtime of your youth!"

Sakura gaped at the sensei, an objection bubbling to her lips. "Of course," Itachi agreed smoothly before she could speak. He grabbed her wrist and nearly dragged her after him as he excused them. He quickly guided them from the bathroom, through the shower room, into the locker room, and out into the gymnasium.

"Let go!" Sakura demanded, determined to yank her wrist from his grasp even if it meant breaking it in the process. He scooped up both of their backpacks and the envelope of photos, finally releasing her when they reached the hallway.

"Come with me," Itachi murmured, fixing her with his serious gaze as if saying not to argue. Sakura grumbled under her breath nut followed obediently, knowing better than to let a wound go unattended. She was studying to become a doctor, after all. The black-haired senior led her to the nurse's office, holding open the door for her — to her surprise — and stepping up to the front desk.

"Yes?" the nurse's assistant asked, an almost flirty expression adorning her face. Her eyes appreciated the delectable-looking male before her. "What can I do for you?" Sakura gagged to herself at the double-edged sound to her words.

"We need to see the nurse," Itachi replied evenly, not so much as blinking at her attempts to catch his eye in a romantic manner. The nurse's assistant glanced up in disinterest, not seeming to have noticed Sakura when they entered. "She had gotten a cut."

Cut, shmut. the woman thought crossly, placing her cheek in her palm. "Yeah, yeah. Her office is back there."

"Is she in today?" Itachi asked, knowing full well that the girl would send them back even if the nurse wasn't there. She worked part-time at the school and part-time at the hospital.

"Yeah, she's in," the girl sighed, waving them off. "She'll be in her office; it's her lunch break right now."

"Arigatou." The brunette swooned after Itachi as he guided Sakura into the back hall, shooting mental death flames of jealousy at the pink-haired girl. They walked to a closed door labeled 'School Nurse: Shizune', and the older of the two knocked politely. There was a moment of silence before a voice reached them.

"Come in!"

Itachi opened the door and waited for Sakura to enter before following. A woman with chin-length dark hair lifted her eyebrows in surprise, folding up her sandwich in its wax paper wrapper and pushing it away. She brushed her fingers together to get rid of any crumbs and smiled up at them.

"Sakura-chan!" she greeted. "Itachi-san. What can I do for you?"

"Shizune-nee." Sakura nodded. "I got a cut."

The woman sighed in fake exasperation, her eyes twinkling with good-natured humor. "Again?" she teased. "You're in here every other day for something. Did Sasuke 'accidentally' leave a letter opener in your binder again?"

"What?" Itachi demanded, eyes cutting down to Sakura. Said girl neatly avoided his gaze, shooting a scarily-bright smile of her own at Shizune.

"Nope," she replied. "My fault this time." Shizune seemed to catch on, not having realized before that she didn't need to bring up Sasuke and his out-of-hand stunts around Itachi.

"What happened?" She stood and took the hand Sakura held out to her, inspecting it.

"I cut in on a loose screw from a bathroom stall door hinge."

The nurse paused, eyebrows furrowing as she looked up at the girl in confusion. "A bathroom stall door hinge?" she echoed. "How did you manage that?"

"I was scrubbing the floor and my hand slipped."

"Ah; I see."

She shot another confused look at Itachi. "And why are you here?"

He didn't even blink. "The teacher asked me to escort her here; we were all cleaning the bathroom."

Bullcrap. Sakura thought in irritation, eyebrow twitching. He volunteered to force me here. She decided not to voice this aloud, however, because it would only lead to more interrogation about why he and she were together.

Shizune hummed thoughtfully, finally looking up after studying the cut for a moment. "It's not as deep as it looks," she reported. "There's a lot of blood, but it'll heal soon. A bandage should fix it right up." She beckoned Itachi and Sakura with two fingers and walked out of her office, going down the hall and entering a small clinic room. Sakura followed her in and waited patiently behind the woman, while Itachi leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed. Shizune beamed at Sakura when she finally turned back around, a small tube of antibacterial creme and bandages in her hands. "You got lucky, Sakura-chan. This cut is even smaller than the ones you got when those girls filled your notebooks with razor blades."

"Razor blades?" Itachi repeated, face hard and one eyebrow raised. "I had no idea so many people were out to get you."

Sakura avoided looking at him again, shrugging almost self-consciously. "Yeah, well, you know how it is..."

Shizune cast a knowing smile down at the pink-haired girl, winking when she caught her eye. Sakura blushed crimson and looked away, glaring, grateful that Itachi couldn't see her face.

"There you go," the nurse announced, patting Sakura's injured hand. "That should do it." Sakura inspected the wrapping job and nodded.

"Great as always," she said, dropping her hand back to her side. She bowed. "Arigatou, Shizune-nee."

Shizune smiled again and waved her and Itachi out of the room. "Don't mention it," she replied. "Now back to class." Sakura caught the wink Shizune sent her, face flushing all over again. This time, however, Itachi noticed as well.

"What was that about?" he murmured after they had walked out of the office. Sakura nearly jumped out of her skin when he spoke, not expecting him to break the silence.

"What was what about?" she asked blankly, hoping to throw him off.

Itachi was not swayed. "The wink. And then your face colored."

Sakura glared down the hallway, refusing to look at him for the thousandth time that day. "As if you'd care," she muttered under her breath, but Itachi still heard it. He studied her expression for a moment longer before letting it go.

Silence reigned until they arrived back in the gymnasium. All the students and the coaches were still in the girls' locker room apparently, because the gym was deserted. Instead of going back to continue helping, Sakura sank down onto the floor beside her backpack. Itachi arched an eyebrow.

"Like hell I'm going back in there," she grunted, seeing his reaction. "I should get worker's comp. Or student's comp."

Itachi chuckled quietly. "Very well, then," he agreed, picking up his bag. This time, it was Sakura's turn to raise an eyebrow.

"'Very well, then' what?" she asked.

Itachi smirked down at her and suddenly grabbed her wrist, dragging the startled girl to her feet. She snatched a hold of her messenger bag out of reflex, attempting to free herself from the Uchiha.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?!"

Amusement shone in his dark eyes. "Treating you to student's comp," he replied simply, walking out of the gym and taking her with him. "You were injured 'on the job', after all."

Sakura glowered suspiciously at the back of his head, finding it easier to walk along with him instead of resisting and getting dragged, but he kept a firm hold on her wrist nonetheless. "And what exactly are you planning to do to 'treat' me?' she demanded.

He glanced down at her, the smirk on his lips twitching ever so slightly wider.

"I'm taking you out, of course."

Sakura felt as if she had had a heart attack. She stumbled over her words, her face reddening as she tied to think of something to say. This amused Itachi even further.

"What?" she choked out in disbelief, somehow managing not to trip over her own feet.

"Are you hard of hearing? Or are you merely too excited to fully comprehend?"

Sakura scowled up at him, eye twitching in irritation. "You're an ass, you know that?"

"So I've been told."

Sakura snorted, trailing after him with plots of murder circling in her mind. She would get him back for this. For embarrassing her and for making her chest feel funny. He would pay. Right after she was finished reaping revenge on his arrogant stuck-up good-for-noth—

Sakura froze up, eyes going wide. Itachi glanced down at her in question.

"Wait," she breathed.

"I'm not letting you weasel your way out of this," he told her firmly. The pun in his choice of words was lost on Sakura, who currently had a one-track mind.

"No, no, no." She shook her head, eyes staring sightlessly ahead of her as thoughts circled in her head. "I'll go with you. I won't even struggle or complain. Just give me three minutes."

Her reply surprised him. She would go with him? She wouldn't struggle or complain? Well. This was certainly something he should hear her out on.

"For what?"

Sakura's hand — the one that Itachi had a hold of by the wrist — clenched and a dark grin stretched across her lips. "Payback on Sasuke."

Itachi found himself liking the diabolical look on her face. "Do tell."

"I'm gonna post up all those pictures. I only got to put up a few before; people won't notice if there's just a couple, but if there's a large group of them all around the school, they'll be pretty noticeable."

Itachi raised an eyebrow. Damn, that really got on her nerves.

"I thought you were using them as blackmail to force him to leave you alone...?"

"Yeah? Well, whoever said I had to tell him the truth?"

Itachi smirked. "Well, then we should look for tape. I'll aid you."

"Why?" Sakura asked offhandedly as she led the way to an empty classroom, not really caring if he answered or not.


Sakura paused with a tape dispenser in hand, shooting him a confused look. "Curiosity?"


She frowned. "You already used that excuse earlier," she argued.

His eyes flickered with a silent chuckle. "Ah, it seems I did," he agreed. "When I saw your wonderful reaction to a mere kiss." Her face heated. "On that note, your reaction was rather extreme from something so small."

Sakura glared at him. God, she hated how he could twist every conversation they had into something on her.

"Could it be that I, perhaps, stole your first?"

Sakura's jaw clenched and her face went a brighter shade of scarlet. Damn him. Damn him to hell.

"Ah." There was unmistakable amusement in his voice. "Interesting."

"...shut up," Sakura spat indignantly, stamping away with the tape.

She slapped the first picture her hands touched in her bag onto the wall, throwing four strips of tape across he corners. She went for a second and repeated.

"Give me half of the stack," Itachi said, lips twitching as he fought a smirk. "It will take less time."

Sakura grumbled and reluctantly did so, tearing off a couple dozen pieces of tape and sticking them to the back of her hand to use later. She continued hanging pictures and taking take from her hand to stick them up, Itachi doing the same. They spread all across the hallway, covering wall space everywhere. After a moment, Sakura went back to him for more tape and then continued with her work. About two minutes into it, roughly four minutes before the bell was supposed to ring and dismiss students to their next classes, a couple beeps sounded, signaling that the intercom had just been activated. Sakura ignored it, not interested in hearing the principal Tsunade — no matter how cool she may have been — drone on about school rules and other unimportant crap. The voice that sounded, however, was not Tsunade's. It was a voice both she and Itachi recognized.

"Hello, fellow students of Konoha High School,"Sasuke said smoothly, making both of them tense up. Just what was he planning? "I have an important announcement to make. Tsunade is currently occupied and has given me permission to use the intercom."

"That means he bribed her with alcohol," Sakura deadpanned.

When Itachi didn't agree or even chuckle, she looked back at him. He was staring up at the intercom with slightly narrowed eyes. Her eyebrows furrowed. What—

"Some very shocking facts about my older brother, Uchiha Itachi, have recently come to my attention, and I think it's only fair that I should share them with you."

Sakura's eyes widened. This was what Sasuke had threatened to do. He had told Itachi he would reveal his secret via intercom if they didn't return the photos.


"Did you forget who you're dealing with?!" Sasuke growled, glowering at both of their triumphant expressions. "I'll ruin your lives." His anger lashed out at Itachi. "Should I just shout out your little secret to everyone?" he threatened. "Over the intercom, perhaps?"

Itachi's smirk didn't falter; in fact, he didn't seem fazed at all. "Be my guest."


Itachi didn't seem as cool and uncaring now, Sakura noted. In fact, he seemed a bit angry. She watched him curiously, tilting her head up to listen to what Sasuke had to say but not taking her eyes off him. She just had to know what his little secret was.

"He has developed a crush on one of the girls attending this school," Sasuke declared.

Sakura's face was disbelieving. Itachi? Having a crush on someone? Impossible. The sound of a few squeals came from classrooms around them that still had students in them. The girls were all apparently eager to find out if they were the one Itachi had fallen for. Sakura stared at him, wishing he would look at her so she could see if what Sasuke was saying was true or not.

"A freshman, in fact," Sasuke continued with a taunting edge to his voice.

There were quite a few cries of despair from girls in older grades.

Sakura could practically hear the triumphant smirk in Sasuke's voice when he delivered the bomb.

"Haruno Sakura."

She froze up completely, mind going blank. All connections from her brain to her body seemed to shut down. She was going into shock.


What had he just said? Surely she hadn't heard him right. Surely...

Sakura faintly heard Sasuke remark, "That will be all. Best of luck, dear aniki." The underlying challenge was blatantly obvious. Don't mess with me, Itachi. What will you do now?

The intercom clicked as it was shut off and cries of disbelief echoed all throughout the hall, but Sakura ignored it all. She stared wide-eyed at Itachi, silently willing — no, begging — him to look at her. To tell her that Sasuke had gotten his facts screwed up. To tell her it wasn't true.

But when he finally met her gaze evenly, his eyes said everything.

Sasuke hadn't been lying. He hadn't been wrong. He'd been right on the money.

All Sakura could do was stare at Itachi, mind not comprehending what had just happened. The full impact of it all hadn't yet hit; it was the calm before the storm, as the cliché went. She couldn't even move her mouth or form the words to ask him. She didn't need to. But it still scared her.

It scared her because she hadn't seen it coming, and she couldn't protect herself from things that caught her off-guard. It scared her because she had never seen that look in Itachi's eyes before. It scared her because it stirred up a warm feeling in her chest that she had been desperately trying to suppress since the very first day she had met him when she was eight.

And that was a sorely losing battle right now.

"W-well," Sakura stammered, closing her eyes as she grinned sheepishly at Itachi and forced herself to laugh it off as if he had just played a joke on her. Maybe if she pretended it wasn't real, Itachi could play along. "That was interesting...but let's get back to work. We don't have much time—"


She paused, shooting him a questioning smile. If she tried hard enough—

But his eyes were serious. It was obvious that he wasn't going to play it off as nothing.

"We need to talk."

"About what?" Sakura asked, still trying to pretend. She inwardly begged him to give it up and pretend with her. If he did, it would make things so much easier.


But no. He wasn't going to.

Sakura sighed and let her smile drop, looking away. She was quiet for a long moment.

"...I never thought it would come to this, you know?" she finally murmured.

Itachi watched her evenly, unblinkingly. He listened carefully to every word. A small, bitter ironic smile tugged at her lips, and she felt the ever so slight warmth pooling in her cheeks.

"Since the day I met you when was eight...Kami only knows how many times I imagined hearing those words." She laughed, grinning half-heartedly at him as the corners of her eyes pricked. "But I knew I would never hear them. I knew...I knew you'd never say something like that, so I locked it all away. Just being sort-of-friends was good enough for me. At least it was something, right?" She shook her head, looking down at the floor as her smile turned sad. "Just a stupid kid's dreams that was never meant to become a reality."

He grabbed her chin and forced her to meet his gaze, shocking her; she hadn't realized he had moved closer.

"You really are thick-headed," he remarked softly. "Be quiet for once and don't screw this up."

Unable to tear her eyes away from his, she stood there entranced. She was hypersensitive of him; she noticed every detail. The ever so slight shadow his long lashes cast down his cheeks. The thin lines on his face evidence of many nights of inadequate sleep. The few strands of his dark fine hair that had escaped the band at the nape of his neck, and instead fell gently against his cheek. The way his lips parted just slightly as he breathed. Everything. And to Sakura, the man before her wasn't just a pretty face. He was beautiful both inside and out. (Very much so on the outside, mind you.)

So, recognizing that she was fighting a losing battle, Sakura's lips curved into a small almost nervous smile. "Alright," she whispered. "Just this once."

Itachi searched her eyes intently with his own for something — perhaps to see if she was faking the smile. They stood in silence as the seconds ticked by, neither blinking. Finally, he gave a small nod and took her hand, tugging it gently.


Sakura didn't need to be told twice. She didn't resist. She walked with him out the front doors of the school, marveling at the warmth of his hand. They left the tape dispenser in the hallway, forgotten with the sixteen pictures that had managed to hang. The rest were stuffed back into Sakura's messenger bag, also forgotten. Heartbeats after they ascended the few stone steps leading down from the entrance, the bell sounded inside. They both paused, looking at each other as they waited expectantly.

And then, someone inside cried out rather loudly, "Oh my god— is that Sasuke?!"

Itachi and Sakura shared identical smirks as countless other shocked yells and calls followed the first, spreading like wildfire. That was what happened when you fucked with Itachi and Sakura, after all. You got royally screwed over.

"You should come by once school has ended," Itachi offered. "Or perhaps now; I wouldn't hurt to wait for an hour and a half." Sakura understood that he meant his home.

"Why?" Sakura asked, though more than pleased with the invitation. She found herself seriously liking that wicked gleam in his eye.

"To gauge Sasuke's reaction," he replied smoothly, as if talking about the weather. "I imagine he won't be pleased."

Sakura laughed, grinning and unconsciously squeezing Itachi's hand. "He'll throw a hissy fit," she remarked. "Just you wait."

Itachi smirked again before it softened a bit. "I'll say it someday."

Sakura's eyes widened as she looked up at him. She knew what he was talking about: his 'little secret' that Sasuke had spewed out over the intercom. (Thinking about that reminded her...oh, Kami. Now the whole school knew. Just freak'n great.)

"When the time is right, I will say it." He gave her that look again, the one that looked so much like a smile. It took her breath away. "You said that was your dream, correct? To hear me say it, myself?" He ran the pad of his thumb gently over the back of her hand.

The faintest flush was visible on Sakura's face as she delivered a wide pretty smile, one Itachi hadn't expected someone so tomboyish to be able to produce. "And I'll say the same in return," she agreed, feeling as if her head was in the clouds.

He wondered just how many males at the school would realize how beautiful she really was if she smiled like this for them and refrained from flying off the handle with that quick hot temper of hers all the time. Itachi smirked to himself. He would make them see just how beautiful, and then he would make it clear that he had already marked her for himself. That would show all of those idiots tat constantly made her life a living hell. They'd regret it soon; he'd see to that.

"Be careful, Itachi," she teased. "People will think you're a nice guy."

His smirked widened, and he wondered if Sakura would have said that if she had been able to read his thoughts. He doubted it, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.


Her voice was so soft, Itachi almost didn't hear it. Sakura had never thought she would be thanking him of all people, but things were changing now. Things were changing for the better.


She didn't need to elaborate; Itachi understood. He opened his mouth to reply, but Sakura suddenly spoke again. She eyed him in an almost teasing manner.

"And don't you dare say 'curiosity'," she murmured.

Itachi chuckled quietly, smirking down at her. "But that is my reason," he said playfully. "Curiosity and a bit of something else."

Sakura smiled. 'Something else' referred to that same feeling of warmth in her chest. That satisfied her, so she would let it slide for the time being. In the future, though, it wouldn't be enough. She expected a straight answer from him sometime soon, but until then, she'd enjoy their brief moments of deep understanding. It would be alright for now, but not forever.

She hadn't realized she'd been laughing until Itachi asked her what was so amusing. She just kept smiling and shook her head. For now, she'd hold her feelings dear in her heart and nurture them. Until the time came that she could admit them verbally, she'd keep them close. She would prepare herself to say those three simple yet so amazingly strong words.

But it was enough just to be close to him like this. Not for long, but for now. Just for the time being.