Thank you so so much for the awesome response for last chapter!

I love you all!:))

And I realized that a lot of you are missing Akane & Kaoru, but worry not! They shall be back next chapter, I pinky promise!

And thanks to everyone who wished for my asthma to get better;)) You're lovely!:D

Now, without further ado:


"You WHAT?!"

Sakura jumped back in surprise, but even Izaya's shock couldn't wipe the excited grin off her face. "I passed, sensei!" she exclaimed, grin widening. "Look!" and like a little child, she got into Izaya's personal space and waved her newly-tattooed arm in his face.

Izaya, to his credit, did not let this rare cute moment throw him out of his 'angry-mode'. "When I said 'be safe' I did NOT mean for you to sign up for the goddamn ANBU Exams, and I definitely didn't mean for you to pass!"

The rosette's smile slowly faded. "So… you're not happy?" she asked, only half-faking. "You're not… proud of me?" she saw Izaya falter, but before he had a chance to reply, something tackled Sakura to the ground and her face was smashed against someone's rather generous cleavage.

"Well done, kiddo!" a voice yelled in her ear, arms wrapping round her waist and hugging tightly. "Ibiki just told me the news! I'm so proud! I always knew you could do it!" by now, Sakura knew that the person holding her down was Anko, and she quickly hugged back, grateful for the praise.

"Thanks, Anko-chan." She replied, voice muffled by Anko's… ehem. "Now, could you please detach yourself? I can't breathe."

The woman drew back, but kept her hands on Sakura's shoulders, grinning. Yet, her grin faded when she noticed that the rosette's eyes were glistening more than usual. "Are you OK, kiddo? What's wrong?" she asked worriedly, her soft side showing through the usual tough mask.

Sakura decided to play it up a little, seeing as they had already attracted the attention of most of the bar, and she wanted to see Izaya suffer a little. So she drew closer to Anko, thin arms wrapping round the kunoichi's abdomen and pressing her small frame as close as possible, trying her best to radiate the 'kicked puppy' vibe. "Izaya-sensei doesn't approve." She finally murmured, voice coming out just as small and hurt as she wanted it to, so much so that she inwardly wondered if she should perhaps switch careers.

Anko, unaware of Sakura's little scheme, immediately stilled in her arms, muscles tensing. "Oh?" she asked, tone so polite Sakura held back a wince of pity for her sensei. "Hey, Hatake?" she called over the rosette's shoulder. "Come over here and look after the kid for a bit while I kick my boyfriend's ass, will ya?"

Before Sakura realised what was happening, she was being passed from one set of arms to the next and pulled to the bar while her sensei was being dragged away from it by a very, very angry looking Anko, and to the chorus of playful jeers and cat-calls from the other shinobi who'd overheard their exchange.

Once the pleas and whines of her sensei faded into nothing but background noise, Sakura turned to see her temporary babysitter, stunned to see the awfully familiar gravity-defying hair and navy face mask. She rifled through her memories till she remembered that he was, in fact, Team Seven's sensei, and he looked familiar because she'd met him on that mission to Wave, and seen him around the ANBU HQ the few times she'd ventured there.

"Hello, Hatake-san." She intoned politely, nodding in acknowledgement.

"Hello, Sakura-san." He replied, smiling, though his eye strayed briefly to her new ANBU tattoo. "So, ANBU?" He murmured, more as a statement that a question, putting his orange book away.

"Don't act like you weren't expecting it, Hatake-san." She retorted. "Besides, if you still wear the jounin vest, why do I see you around the ANBU HQ so often?"

Kakashi chuckled at the girl's bluntness. "Let's say ex-members get a bit of special treatment." Sakura realised he was going to leave it at that, but she was too curious.

"That can't be it." She replied. "I went on a mission with Yugao recently, and she had been an ANBU who hadn't officially quit, yet she still had to retake the test?" it came out sounding more as a question than as the statement she had intended, but she saw a spark in Hatake's visible eye and knew that she was getting somewhere. "So, I guess what I'm trying to say is; what makes you so special?"

The Copy-nin chuckled. "You can't just resign from ANBU, Sakura-san. Just like you never just stop being a shinobi, you never really go back to life before the elite." Not for the first time, Sakura cursed the fact that shinobi love to speak in riddles.

"I don't understand. Yugao had to take the test again just to be allowed into the HQ, even though she had been a part of the elite before. She said she had been forcefully demoted back to jounin and made to retake the test."

"Yugao's case was… special." He started to explain, hesitating slightly. "She did not wish to leave ANBU – but the Hokage thought her psyche had suffered after being the one who found her lover dead. The ANBU are elite, they cannot have anything that holds them back or gets in the way of completing missions, or they will lose their lives: whether on the battlefield, or by the hand of their commander, it does not matter. I, however, chose to leave of my own accord, going against the direct wish of my superiors. They allowed me to take on genin teams as a jounin instructor, however only under the promise that my abilities could still be called on when necessary. Thus, that is why I am allowed to wander in and out of the HQ at my convenience." He summarised, fake eye-smile directed at Sakura to take the edge off his words.

The rosette snorted. "Is the Village really that low on talented ninja that it needs to make deals like the one you described?" she asked, disbelief evident in her voice.

"Keep in mind that Konoha was still recovering from the Nine Tails' attack. There was a need for the elite to complete missions, but not enough of the elite who would qualify."

"Are we still recovering?" Sakura asked dubiously.

He didn't give a direct answer, but his silence was answer enough for Sakura.

"On a bit more of a cheerful note, how is life as one of the elite treating you?" he asked, and Sakura could not help noticing that he was talking to her like to an age-old friend.

"I can't complain." She replied honestly, smirking. "I have not been on any missions yet, as the Hokage still hasn't added the fourth member to our team, but from what I had seen so far, it will be just as challenging as I expected." She couldn't fight off the excited grin. "Although I do still get lost sometimes in the many corridors of the compound." She admitted bashfully.

Kakashi chuckled. "It does take a while to get your head around the structure, I'll admit. It is mostly an underground base, as the ANBU require more privacy and facilities than Chunin or even Jounin. That's what it means to be elite." He paused. "Although it wouldn't hurt if they had a map somewhere." He added as an afterthought.

"Indeed." The rosette murmured back, and they settled into an unsteady, albeit surprisingly comfortable silence.

Meanwhile, in a little village in Wave Country, two teens sat together, comfortably perched on a tree, legs brushing every so often. The taller one was engrossed in a book, occasionally puffing out some air to blow his way-too-long fringe out of his eyes, while the other one had a sketchbook in his lap and was trying his best to capture his friend's concentrated expression on paper, sighing time and time again when a part didn't go like he wanted it too and he had to rub it all out and start again.

"Am I really that interesting to draw?" the taller teen drawled lazily, though there was a certain fondness in his voice. "I could have sworn you have hundreds of sketches of me already."

His companion chuckled. "Oh, you have no idea." He replied with a teasing grin. "But what's a man to do when you're the most fascinating and prettiest thing to draw in a hundred mile radius?" he added a wink for good measure.

The taller brunette shook with laughter, finally raising his eyes from the book to look at his friend. "Flattery will get you everywhere with me, darling." He shot back, mirroring the wink.

"Oh, I know." the other teen boasted, grinning broadly. "But it's the truth. You are the prettiest thing to draw here – everything else is obscured by this damn mist!" he exclaimed, throwing his arms up in the air dramatically, somehow – the older teen had no idea how – managing to keep the sketchbook on his lap.

"That's not true. There are many more beautiful things here, you're just too lazy to look for them. Here, look." He tossed his book at the other and got up, climbing a little from where he was sat to pluck a little white flower from its branch. It really was beautiful, with its white, bell-like structure and thin, golden antennas on the inside, each topped with a dark gold star. "Draw this. This specie doesn't exist in Konoha."

The redhead looked the flower over and sighed. "Nah. It lacks life. It's beautiful, sure, but it's not the sort of beauty I look for. Plus, it's lonely." He looked up at his companion, and a little mischievous grin formed on his face. Leaning forward, he tucked the flower into his friend's hair, and leant back to admire the result. "There." He stated, radiating self-satisfaction. "Now it's beautiful."

The other teen laughed, a fond smile appearing on his face. He rose and moved to sit beside his partner, not caring that they were slightly squished as he laid his head on the other teen's shoulder. "You know, every day, I grow more and more reluctant to get back to Konoha. I have really enjoyed this so far; no missions, no drama, no killing… and… I've been thinking…" he paused, unsure, wringing his hands nervously, till the redhead hummed encouragingly and gently grabbed one of his hands to hold in two of his.

"I've been thinking that I've never been happier." He blushed, realising how he sounded. "I mean, I've never been so relaxed, and I've never lived life like I have not a single care in a world; it was always 'do this' 'do that', 'help him', 'kill her', and this is so – refreshing! I don't have to listen to anyone, I can go wherever I wish, I can be with whoever I want. I've never had that kind of freedom before." He sighed, deflating, eyes falling to the hand the redhead was playing with, smiling gently when he realised he was playing with the silver ring around his finger, the exact copy of which sat on his own hand, glinting slightly in the misty sun.

"I'd like to think that you listen to me, occasionally." The redhead replied, smiling reassuringly to show that he was joking. "But I understand what you mean. Though I personally have nothing against staying here for a while longer."

"But the Hokage–!"

"The Hokage knows it was never just because of some stupid crush, Kaoru! She knew there was always more to it. She didn't let us go just because you turned on your charm and said a few pretty words, she knew that in order to ever be able to use us again, we'd have to come back willingly. Why do you think she didn't give us a time-limit?" he left the question hanging, before he sighed. "Frankly, I don't want to go back because I'm dreading to see what became of Sakura. We didn't exactly leave on the best of terms, and I don't think she'll be all too happy to know that she'll have to share my love and attention." He winked, grinning madly.

The brunette blushed again and whacked his friend round the head. "Idiot." He muttered, but with no small degree of affection. "I guess the only way we'll really know what happened will be to go and see it ourselves, ne?"

Akane sighed. "I really hate it when you're right." He replied, but made no move to get up, instead choosing to burrow his face even deeper into Kaoru's shoulder. "but let's not move just yet. I'm comfy."

The older teen laughed, and shifted a bit to get more comfortable. There was nothing wrong with procrastinating just a little bit longer.

"Ah, Haruno, I see you've already met the fourth member of your team." Ibiki Morino's voice startled her as she walked into the HQ, Kakashi a few steps behind. She turned to face the scarred man, one eyebrow rising in question.

"Fourth member, Morino-san?" she inquired politely.

"Yeah, Haruno. Hatake here is your new member." The man replied, visibly irritated. Sakura's eyebrow rose even higher as she turned to face the Copy-nin beside her who was grinning sheepishly.

"And yet you didn't see it fit to mention this little fact?" she asked sarcastically.

"Now, now, kid; I'd be a bit nicer to him if I were you – seeing his obvious seniority and experience in the ranks of ANBU, not only is he going to be your team's Captain, but also your babysitter for the next couple of months." The T&I Head replied, smirking.

At that, the rosette paled. "Excuse me?" she asked, casting a hopeless look at her teammates, who looked just as shocked as she felt. "Why can't Haichi be my guide? Or Yugao?"

Haichi sent her a little grin, nodding in agreement. Yet, before she could nod back, or acknowledge, Ibiki's face was suddenly very close to her own, all traces of the previous smirk gone as he glared at her. "Because I said so." He hissed. "Would you like to know anything else?" he asked sarcastically, never easing up on the glare. When Sakura remained silent, he smirked. "Good. I didn't think so." And he walked away, leaving the newly completed team to stare at each other in awkward silence.

"Well, that man can be a real creep when he wants to." Haichi stated off-handedly, gazing at the place Ibiki disappeared to. The sudden observation made Sakura snort as she felt the tension leave her shoulders, while Yugao rolled her eyes fondly, though she too appeared more relaxed.

"It'll be nice to work with you again, Kakashi-san." She said casually, nodding at the Copy-nin.

"Likewise, Yugao-chan." Kakashi replied, and Sakura caught the surprised look on the older kunoichi's face. Apparently she wasn't expecting the –chan either.

With a jolt, the rosette realised that she was the only one who hasn't spoken yet. So she said the first thing that popped into her mind. "Spar?" she suggested.

There was silence as all three turned to face her, and just as she was about to take back her words, they walked past her with;


"I don't see why not."

"Hm. This might be fun."

And as she stood in place, too surprised to move, Haichi came back and grabbed her by the elbow. "You coming, Sakura-chan?"

And all she could do was nod, and follow along.

It turned out that it was probably the best idea she could've had to fully diffuse the tension between the four of them. At first they sparred in twos, making sure everyone had a go with everyone. Sakura discovered that Haichi was a genjutsu specialist, and a very skilled user of seals, which made it very difficult for her to get to him, even after she broke the various illusions he tried to ensnare her in. The spar ended in a draw, when Sakura finally got past one of the seals and managed to point her chakra-covered kunai at his heart, while he rested his tanto on her jugular. They broke apart and happily declared it a draw, and Haichi congratulated her on being the first one to successfully discover and break free of all his genjutsu.

Sakura's next spar was with Yugao, and she was moderately pleased with the result – while the kunoichi was a talented kenjutsu user, much more so than Sakura, as shown in her proficiency with Hazy Moon Night, as well as Dance of the Crescent Moon, she lacked the sheer speed Sakura had at her disposal, making it hard for her to land a strike, even though she got very, very close very often. Too often, if Sakura was being honest with herself. So she exploited the speed difference and snuck under the older kunoichi's guard, holding a tanto to her throat, much like Haichi had done to her.

Finally, the last spar with the Copy-nin. Sakura knew she would not win; he didn't get his name recognised across all five shinobi nations for no reason, after all. Yet, all she was looking for was improvement, and the satisfaction of forcing the Coy-nin to go all out. She got both, which made her a very, very happy person, even though she soon ended up pinned to the ground, arm pinned painfully behind her back and a kunai at her throat.

"Ease up, Kakashi! You rarely get that close to anyone!" Haichi chuckled, helping the rosette up and grinning when she thanked him.

"Yeah, well, I don't normally go against people with a suspicious proficiency in Juuken and some forbidden taijutsu style." He replied, rubbing a sore spot on his arm where the rosette blocked a chakra point.

"I thought you're friends with Gai? Wouldn't you have copied all of his jutsu already?" Yugao asked dubiously, eyebrow raised.

"Apparently not this one." He grouched, frowning. Sakura almost snorted at the comical expression on his face; it was so uncharacteristic of him that she couldn't help but laugh inwardly.

Suddenly, there was a noise from between the trees, and just as all four's hands jumped to their kunai pouches, Neji emerged from the trees, looking clearly worn-out and fatigued, yet his hair still looked perfect, not a single strand out of place.

What hair product does he use?! She thought grumpily.

"Sakura!" the Hyuuga exclaimed as he walked towards her.

"Boyfriend?" Hiachi asked teasingly as Neji drew nearer.

"Close friend." Sakura muttered back, then smiled as Neji grew close enough to embrace.

"Definitely a boyfriend." She heard Yugao mutter, at which Haichi laughed. She drew away from the Hyuuga and smiled up at him.

"How was your mission?" she asked, ignoring the quiet cat-calls and whistles from both Yugao and Haichi. Kakashi just stood in the background, observing the two of them, which she also decided to dismiss for the moment.

Neji sighed. "It wasn't that bad. But the Nara is honestly starting to annoy me. His laziness almost got us killed. Again. On a B-Ranked mission." He sighed again and ran his hand down his face, seemingly forgetting about the fact that Sakura's team was right there, a fact Sakura wasn't going to remind him of any time soon, as she was rather enjoying the awestruck, shell-shocked looks on her teammates' faces at seeing the Hyuuga drop his composure. "How about you? Any interesting missions while I was gone?" he asked good-naturedly, smiling crookedly.

"No, none. Though I did get to see Izaya get his ass handed back to him on a silver platter by Anko." She replied, smirking in satisfaction. "And I got my ANBU team finally sorted out." She nodded at the three adults behind them. Neji finally seemed to realise that they were not alone, and thus schooled his expression into the typical Hyuuga-Aloofness and inclined his head in acknowledgment.

"Good morning." He muttered, then looked at the three in a way that made even Sakura feel small. "Are you done here?" he asked, not impolitely.

When it seemed like none would reply, Haichi stepped up. "Yeah, sure. Go ahead, kiddo. See you later, Sakura-chan!" he waved at the rosette, then, as if unable to resist, leaned down to whisper conspiratorially into her ear. "What did you do to get that pole out of his arse?"

The rosette grinned, but lightly slapped him on the face for good measure smirking when he pouted. "Now we'll go."

And she shunshin'ed away, dragging Neji with her, leaving the three adults staring at the place they disappeared in wonder.

"Well, who knew the Hyuuga could be tamed?" Yugao murmured.

"What did your teammates say just before I came?" Neji asked, eyes still trained on the ceiling of his room, arms folded comfortably behind his head.

"When exactly?" the rosette replied from beside him, laying in the same position. She was stalling and she knew it, and from the amused snort Neji let out she realised he knew.

"I think you know." he murmured teasingly, eyes closing in relaxation. Sakura decided that it was a testimony to their friendship that he was comfortable enough to let his guard drop completely. She smiled fondly.

The rosette relaxed and sighed. "They thought you were my boyfriend." She murmured into the silence of the room. It was quiet for so long that she grew worried she'd officially scared her best friend off, so she propped herself up on her elbow, just in time to see his lilac eyes lazily open. Yet, when they focused on her, she knew he was anything but sleepy.

"And are you so completely opposed to that idea?" he asked instead, expression unreadable.

"What?" Sakura scoffed disbelievingly. "I don't think we're on the same page here, Neji-chan." She replied, grinning, though even she could tell she looked nervous.

"Oh, I think we are." He muttered back, mirroring her position, a small smile on his face. "Would you be totally opposed to the idea of me being your boyfriend?"

This was one of the few moments in her life when Sakura found herself genuinely speechless. She couldn't figure out if the Hyuuga was joking or actually serious. "Are you… Are you – propositioning me, or is this just –"

"Purely hypothetical?" the teen supplied, grinning. He sighed and shook his head fondly. "Whatever makes you feel more comfortable." He reassured, though the smile never wavered.

"So, purely hypothetical," she started carefully. "I… I don't know. I don't really know the difference; I mean, when would you stop being best friends and become –" she paused, unsure. "Become…"

"Boyfriend and girlfriend?" he finished for her, yet again, not even trying to hide his amusement.

"Yeah, that." The rosette waved him off, then paused, thinking. "Wait, it's actually called that?!" at his nod, she sighed dramatically. "God, people are so uncreative!" Neji snorted amusedly from beside her, and she felt herself relax. "Anyway, back to the matter at hand." The atmosphere once again became serious, though not as much as before, and Sakura felt relaxed enough to speak her mind. "I don't honestly know the 'requirements' of dating. I mean, I barely grasped friendships, and you're suddenly asking me about more than that? Unless you have some instruction manual for me to use, I'm in the dark here."

At that, the teen actually threw his head back and laughed so hard his whole body shook, and the rosette took a moment to commit that scene to memory. "Well," the Hyuuga started once he calmed down. "I'm not overly sure myself. I mean, I was brought up to the whole 'courting and marrying to preserve the bloodline' speeches, but since I started getting more out-of-the-Village missions, I have had time to form my own opinion." He paused, sighing. "I think you should only get into a relationship if you're comfortable around the other person. I think the fundamentals of – of dating are being there for the other person through thick and thin, having similar interests, supporting them, lending a helping hand when they need it, accepting them, being comfortable enough with each other for physical contact and closeness… also the general ability to have fun with that person." He finished, and Sakura didn't realise when, but at some point through his speech, they ended up propped up on their elbows, facing each other, barely a pillow's width separating them.

Sakura thought over her friend's words, actually entertaining the idea that he brought forth. "Then… going by what you'd said… Haven't we been dating for at least four years already?" she asked teasingly, finding entertainment in the entire situation. The Hyuuga chuckled, ruffled her hair, ignoring her squeak of indignation, and laid back down, staring at the ceiling again. "I guess we have." they shared a laugh, then lapsed into a comfortable silence, and soon fell asleep.

And that was that.

Or so they thought.

"Should we wake her up?"

"I don't think she got the memo that we'd be having training in the morning."

"Are they cuddling?"

"Haichi, you pervert! Get out!" a sigh. "Kami above, men."

"Hm, I do think Jiraya would classify that as cuddling."

"Not you too!" a groan. "Go on, shoo! We'll just train together, and if she decides to join you'll be able to tease her for this."

"Fair trade!" a chuckle. "You got yourself a deal!"

Another sigh. "Poor kid."

After that, many would expect that Sakura and Neji's relationship to complicate, or become awkward. But no. They grew even closer, and Sakura's team soon learnt not to bother looking into her house when they were needed for a mission, but to simply go to the Hyuuga Compound and take her from there.

It was on one such mission when the rosette got her first glimpse of what it meant to be in ANBU; their assignment was reasonably simple: locate and destroy a suspected base of Orochimaru's. However, what seemed simple ended being anything but – the snake had left some of the failed Curse Mark experiments there to delay them, and they did more than just delay. Sakura was the least wounded, as she had been assigned the duty of making sure none of the monsters got out. Yet, even though her job was considerably the easiest, she still suffered from a broken arm and multiple third-degree burns and even more scratches. But she just grit her teeth and carried on, destroying monster after monster, mask and uniform becoming so blood-splattered she couldn't see the original light grey of the armour. The fact of the matter was that the things that hurt the most were the pained groans and screams of her teammates. When it comes to 'normal' shinobi, when a dozen of six-foot-something, cursed monsters comes at them at the same time, they are screwed; Sakura discovered that if you're in an underground base surrounded by at least two hundred of said monsters, ANBU or no, you're still screwed.

Finally, after what seemed like hours underground, exhausted, drenched in blood and surrounded by corpses, the rosette was fetched by Yugao and dragged outside. Upon closer inspection, Sakura realised that the older kunoichi was barely managing to stay on her feet.

"Are you OK?" she asked worriedly, reaching out to help steady the woman.

"I'll be fine." Yugao snapped, slapping her hand away and wincing at the movement.

"Where are Haichi and Kakashi?" the rosette questioned, worry marring her features.

"Haichi's setting up explosive seals around the place, and Kakashi's making sure none of those creeps somehow survived." Sakura winced when the meaning of her words actually registered and was suddenly thankful for being the 'baby' member of the team. She wouldn't want Kakashi's job, so regardless of how much of a douche he may be to her, she was grateful that he stepped up. She was snapped out of her musings by Yugao's hiss of pain. "You wouldn't happen to know any medical ninjutsu, would you?" the kunoichi asked, probing a deep wound in her side.

Sakura shook her head sadly, no. "I know some basic first-aid though… I could patch that up for you?" she pulled off her mask and put down her tanto, crouching down next to the woman. Yugao stayed silent, scrutinizing her, then sighed. "Alright. Thanks." She added grouchily.

The rosette set to work, patching the wound up and trying to bandage it so Yugao could still run comfortably. Or, as comfortably as one could with a foot-long gash in their side. Later, Sakura would never admit if questioned, but she let her guard drop as she set to the task, trusting the older kunoichi to notify her if anything was coming their way. What she did not realise was that Yugao was not only losing a lot of blood, but also chakra exhausted, so her senses were duller than usual. And that was enough.


Quicker than she could blink, the ground right next to them split, and two more monsters emerged, roaring and ready for attack. The rosette panicked, realising her tanto and weapons' pouch was at least three metres away and she could not fight without leaving Yugao vulnerable or worsening her injury. In the split second she had to process that information, the beasts were upon them, so she concentrated her chakra, threw her hands up and prayed. The ground shook, colours exploded from under her shut eyelids, the noise like earth itself was being torn apart ripped through the air… and then, nothing.

Carefully, she cracked one eye open. Right beside them, on the other side of a thin chakra dome she apparently created, stood Kakashi and Haichi, both staring at her in a mixture of amazement and horror. And around them – Sakura's heart stopped.


The forest around them had been levelled with the ground in at least a 100 metre radius, only a few smouldering boulders left standing and the two attackers were a mere pile of ash a couple of metres away.

"I believe you have some serious explaining to do, Sakura-chan." Haichi stated, grin still intact.

Well, damn.

Sakura smiled.

She was happy.

Finally happy.

A year had passed since that mission. She had explained what happened, how the level of destruction was possible; Yugao had healed, and they destroyed three more of the snake's bases after that one. Kakashi's team was slowly piecing itself back together so he was rarely seen around the HQ or had time for the missions, so the Hokage agreed to allow them to take any Jounin or fellow ANBU members not yet assigned to a team along with them. Sakura was grateful that her teammates didn't question why the extra member ended up being Neji Hyuuga more often than not. Whenever that happened, Haichi would just send her a teasing look and Yugao would smirk knowingly.

It also happened that Kakashi was their team Captain, so with him gone, they had no idea who to assign to the position. Which was why the rosette was surprised when the white cloak was handed to her by no other than Ibiki Morino one day. "Morino-san?" she asked, having grown slightly closer to the T&I Head, but he just smirked and walked away. From then on, she was the unofficial Captain, more by coincidence than talent or seniority. But she didn't question it. As much as she hated to admit it, she had enjoyed the first, awestruck murmur when that knowledge spread round the HQ.

"Tied with Uchiha Itachi."

And that was good enough for her.

For now.

Other than that, her, also unofficial, courtship with Neji had reached one Hyuuga Hiashi's ears, and, to her surprise, the Clan Head had no objections. "You already spend every free moment together. And it wouldn't be too much trouble to push a second futon into Neji's room, Sakura-san. You just have to ask." And when she choked on her tea, the Hyuuga just gave her the closest he could form to a smirk, and left the room.

As such, she had basically taken to living with Neji, then spending the time between missions lazing around in the HQ's common room or library. It was there, as she sat with Haichi and Yugao, playing shogi with Haruka-chan who often went on missions with them as the team medic, that a chunin appeared at the doorway, a frown on his face.

"Haruno Sakura-san?" he asked, eyes scanning the room, unsure who to settle on. Sakura sighed, putting on her mask and tightening her cloak. "Here." She called, raising her hand.

The chunin did a double-take, but didn't react verbally. "The Hokage calls for you." He informed her.

"Hn. Do you know what she wants?" she asked, not really expecting an answer.

"It's about your old team." He replied, and Sakura's heart stopped. Her guts turned to ice and she sucked in a shuddering breath. If the Hokage wanted to see her personally, then that could only mean one thing.

They were back.

Oh no. she groaned inwardly. Not now.

But then, a malicious smirk stole over her face beneath her mask, and she set her jaw in a hard line.

It's show-time!


Also, I got fed up of putting the little acceny thingy on Yugao's name so yeah xD

Please leave your thoughts and comments in a review or a PM!:D

Much love!

(P.S. Akane and Kaoru are coming back next chapter!;))

-Invincible Shadow