Equinox – an Itachi & Sakura story
By: MitsukiShiroi

Disclaimer: Naruto and all its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto.

A/N: I should be working on Dreamscape and not breaking my promise to make that my last fiction, but this one bit me in the behind yesterday while I was trying to fall asleep and it still stuck with me in the morning, so I figured I'd indulge a little.

This is an AU fiction. I wanted to try something new with Itachi and Sakura and this is how it turned out!

Chapter I – Autumn

"Do you know? The speed at which a cherry blossoms falls… is 5 centimeters per second. At what speed must I live to be able to see you again?" – 5cm per second

Locking the door to her home, Haruno Sakura inhaled the fresh scent of the fall morning's crisp air. Clouds scuttled across the sky and the sun would break through in bursts, as she made her way to the crowded main street. Spiraling leaves fell in herald of the coming winter and her thoughts drifted to the ceremony she was about to attend. Jounin, at long last.

She couldn't help but smile brightly to herself while checking her new uniform and flak jack to see if everything was still neat and tidy. All her hard work had led to this very moment—all the crying and the days she spent in the hospital, after overusing her chakra in her enthusiastic efforts to learn a new move as soon as she could were now forgotten.

The chilly autumn wind raced through the main street of Konoha, multitudes of leaves whorled into frenzied tornadoes all around her. Gold, scarlet and deep brown were summoned for transitory dances before being deposited once more on the sidewalk. She looked before them in awe while tying her hair in a high ponytail. Autumn had always been her favorite season. She always thought it was like the world began anew—leaves would slowly fall from the trees, leaving the forests around Konoha barren, then snow would descend for a long period of time and cover everything in a pristine white blanket. After that would be the start of a new year, when the first buds would appear on the trees and the flowers in the fields surrounding the village.

"Sakura-chan!" she could hear a familiar voice ringing out.

She turned around and faced the blond-haired boy that came bounding toward her with a big grin plastered on his face. "Naruto," she said in greeting as she waved a little.

"Good morning!" he said when he caught up with her, quickly enveloping her in a bear hug. He laughed when she protested and let go of her. "What, jounin don't hug?" he teased.

"Not this one!" she said while whacking him gently over the head.

"Where is that teammate of ours anyway?" Naruto said as he rubbed his head, while quickly searching the perimeter. "I thought he'd be with you!"

She shrugged. "I haven't seen him yet. You know how he is. He'll turn up at the ceremony hall looking calm and collected and think we're the nutjobs for assembling so quickly hours before it even began."

Naruto chuckled, his electric blue eyes excited. Because of his departure from Konoha a couple of years back, he had missed several opportunities to reach Chuunin and by the time he had returned, every single one of them had advanced in rank. He had been the only Genin and though he never admitted it, he had worried about it. His dream of becoming the Hokage was put on hold while he strived to become stronger.

The first Chuunin exam he participated in after returning to Konoha turned out to be a huge success and he was promoted to the next rank. Just in time too. They had left for an A-Rank mission, regarding scouting out a renegade group called Akatsuki in the River country and the Sixth Hokage had been so pleased with their performances and reports when they returned that all three of them had been promoted to Jounin. The insight and fighting prowess of their team was slowly but steadily becoming renowned all around Konoha as they were referred to as the new Legendary Three.

Though it had been hard for her to come to terms with her newfound popularity, and it had been twice as difficult on her dark-haired teammate. Naruto had thrived in the love of the townspeople. Having been alone most of his life, rejected and outcast, he had shed tears of happiness the first time people came up to him to compliment him or just to say hello. He was being acknowledged, even without becoming the Hokage and yet, and that was all he ever really wanted.

"Earth to Sakura?" Naruto said, waving his hands in front of her face. She blinked momentarily as she realized that she had been completely spacing out while Naruto had been sharing a story with her.

"Sorry Naruto," she said quickly. "I'm afraid my head was elsewhere."

She missed the fleetingly sad look in his eyes. "That's okay. It wasn't a very interesting story anyway." He laughed a little and she smiled.

They turned a corner and came face to face with a tall, stone gate that led to the Uchiha district. In the years since the horrible tragedy that took place within those walls, the place had become run-down as its owner had decided to move elsewhere, not being able to live with the memories that haunted him ever since that day. It had become Konoha's black sheep—all three Hokage that had been active since the massacre couldn't find it in their hearts to tear down the district, nor would they ever get permission. And so it had stayed exactly how it was found, a relic of that past.

"Did you see Uchiha?" two boys who were headed in the opposite direction whispered. "He's going to be at the ceremony! Can you believe it? He's one of the best shinobi around!"

Naruto huffed at that and Sakura laughed as she grabbed the collar of his vest and dragged him with her. "Come on Mister Jealousy, we're going to be late for our own ceremony."

"I know someone else is going to arrive even later than we are," Naruto sighed.

She couldn't help but smile. "He probably will be."

Naruto was right. As they arrived in the Hokage's Administration building's annex for the ceremony, they were told to wait a little longer as the Hokage himself hadn't made an appearance yet. "Told you," Naruto said.

"He's never going to change," Sakura shook her head.

As she surveyed the waiting chambers, Sakura noticed that only half of the shinobi required to be attend at the formality were present. She chuckled a little. Apparently most shinobi had caught onto the Hokage's habit of being late for almost everything, especially meetings, and arriving with a silly excuse.

"We should've arrived later too," Naruto said, his tummy growling. "I could've had something to eat before coming here."

"Out of cup ramen?" she laughed.

"Yes." The look of despair Naruto shot her was both hilarious and endearing at the same time. Sometimes it was still hard to believe the boy she had grown up with was twenty years old now. It felt like forever since she had seen the squinty eyed, loud boy for the first time as he ran toward her to profess his undying love and ask her out on a date.

With a small poof of grey smoke in the middle of the chambers, the Sixth Hokage entered the room quietly. His lone eye crinkled in a somewhat apologetic smile, he raised his hand to the rest of the room. "Sorry I'm late. It seems I got lost on my way here."

"That's a lie!" Naruto and Sakura bellowed at the same time as they pointed at their former teacher.

With affection did she look at Hatake Kakashi, the Sixth Hokage, dressed in his ceremonial robes as he readjusted the hat on his head. His mask had been swapped with a crimson one to go with the red robes he had received when he was appointed Sixth Hokage. Though Sakura thought there was nobody who would better serve as the Hokage, apart from Naruto perhaps, Kakashi looked utterly out of place as he was being escorted by Shiranui Genma to the hall.

She watched as his white cloak billowed with every step he made, the vermillion colored kanji that spelled out "Sixth Hokage" on his back rippling with every move he made. None of the other Hokage had embroidered their position on the back of their cloaks, except the Fourth. Perhaps it was a tribute to his fallen teacher.

Genma looked over his shoulder while he chewed on his senbon and surveyed the dozen shinobi around him. "What are you waiting for? A written invitation? You should've gotten those already."

With a start, the shinobi idly sitting there stood and quickly followed their Hokage.

"I have to get used to seeing him in his ceremonial clothes," Sakura said before sighing.

"He looks ridiculous," Naruto said with a trademark pout.

"He's the Hokage," Shikamaru's lazy voice sounded from behind them. They turned to see the Nara shinobi walking behind them, his hands pocketed as he sighed.

"Could you take Asuma seriously if he was promoted to Hokage?" Naruto raised an eyebrow as he grinned. Shikamaru pondered over it for a second, undoubtedly going over all the memories he had of his laid back teacher back in his Genin times.

"No," Shikamaru answered honestly, rubbing a hand over his face. "Definitely not."

"I didn't know you were promoted, Shikamaru," Sakura said. "When did this happen?"

"Oh, the Fifth and Sixth been trying to force it down my throat since I became a Chuunin," Shikamaru shrugged. "I've been refusing because it's too troublesome but my old man forced me to become a Jounin anyway, so here I am."

Naruto laughed. "That's Konoha's laziest shinobi for you. It's 'troublesome' to become a Jounin."

"Is anyone else up for promotion from the Konoha Twelve?" Sakura asked, belatedly noticing she hadn't asked anyone else.

Shikamaru nodded. "Ino, Kiba and Hinata," he counted. "After this ceremony, all of the Konoha Twelve will be Jounin."

"Feels like ages ago since that first Chuunin exam," Sakura sighed as they entered the hall.

The left and right side of the ceremonial hall were filled with places for the audience—older Jounin, the village elders, special Jounin and some seats were for ANBU members, if they wanted to scout for new blood in their ranks. The other side of the room had been opened too,the Daimyou and other important business people entered through there, eager to see the new batch of Jounin. These promotions always served as another way of upholding Konoha's military strength. Most of the contractors had their eyes set on several shinobi during the Chuunin exams. For them to pave their way through the ranks to Jounin would only be beneficial for them.

To the far back of the hall, between the places for the Konoha shinobi and other important people, were three seats. Kakashi sat down on the center seat. The other three seats were occupied by Koharu and Homura, the village council elders. Genma took a place behind the three of them as he signaled for them to be seated on the cushions that were laid down before the Hokage. Nine places, Sakura counted.

Half of the group behind her split off and sat with the public, while the others walked to their designated seats. Sakura took a seat in the front row, placing herself beside Naruto and keeping one place open for the third member of their little gang.

More people walked into the room and soon, most of the audience's seats had been filled. Sakura could feel a slight tap on her shoulder and turned to see Ino's smiling face. "Hey, forehead girl," she said sardonically. "I didn't think we'd be promoted at the same time."

Despite recognizing Ino's jibe for one of affection, Sakura couldn't help but sneer just a little. "My, Ino-pig, you probably bribed someone to get here, didn't you?"

Just as Ino was about to reply, Sakura noticed her dark-haired team mate walking in. "Over here!" she mouthed, waving at him.

He stood in the door opening for a moment longer, surveying his surroundings before noticing Sakura's waving arm. His dark eyes remained blank as he made his way to the center of the room and sat down beside her. "Hello," he said.

"Yo, Sai!" Naruto said, a little too loud. "Where were you?"

"I'm on time, aren't I?" Sai asked, a little dumbstruck.

Sakura sighed. "It's normal for teams to go to these sorts of things together," she explained, clamping a hand over Naruto's mouth. "That's what we do."

"Oh," Sai replied, still looking a little blank. "I'm sorry."

Sakura couldn't help but laugh a little inwardly. Though having been a part of their team for years now, Sai had been trained by Danzou to be an ANBU Root member and as such, had been forced to throw away every emotion he had and adopt a blank look on life. Live for the mission, that was all he could think of until he ran into the both of them and decided he liked those human emotions, even though it was hard for him to understand them all.

Having made the decision to quit Root, Sai joined their team as a full-time member and seeing as he didn't officially rank as a Konoha shinobi, he was forced alongside Naruto to participate in the Chuunin exams and wait until he got his promotion for Jounin.

Though he had started out as a temporary replacement for… she couldn't even think of his name anymore without hurting, Sai had turned out to be an invaluable member of their team. So she smiled at him before her gaze was sidetracked by the ANBU members that had just arrived.

Six of them sat in a neat little row just in front of the other Konoha shinobi, all wearing their vests and masks. Some of them were watching the nine Chuunin that were about to be promoted, creeping her out a little as they watched her every single move behind the patternedporcelain of their masks.

Though ANBU members were typically anonymous and covered by cloaks with hoods, being in the comfort of their own village and selected members of the shinobi community, it seemed they didn't have to hide their identities as much as they usually did. One of them, she could easily recognize. His coffee colored hair hung loose and framed his mask which resembled a hawk. The Hyuuga clan's crest was stamped on the right side of his white vest, the yin yang a dead giveaway. She could almost feel his piercing pearl white eyes on her as he scanned her quickly and nodded briefly.

"Is that Neji?" Naruto whispered in her ear.

"Pretty sure it is," Sakura replied in kind.

"These are all ANBU captains," Sai said quietly. "Recruiting is part of their jobs."

"Do you recognize any of them?" she asked.

Sai shook his head. "Apart from the Hyuuga and Uchiha standing out, I wouldn't know. Root was completely separated from ANBU as a whole."

'Uchiha?' she thought as she scanned the members again until she spotted a familiar symbol. 'That's him!'

He sat in the middle, back straight as he looked forward and didn't once glance into their direction. His raven hair was half hidden by the weasel mask he wore. The white vest hugged his lean chest perfectly and she couldn't help but admire his ANBU tattoo and the way the dark lines contrasted starkly against his pale skin. The Uchiha logo was stamped on his vest in exactly the same place as Neji's Hyuuga symbol had been.

Surprisingly, she couldn't keep her eyes off of him. He had been gone on missions around the border for a long time after the massacre had taken place and as such, seeing the Uchiha member was extremely rare.

Apparently, he had begun to notice her scrutiny as he turned his head toward her. Feeling caught red-handed, she nodded and watched him carefully as he seemed to tilt his head a little and return the nod.

She released a breath she didn't know she was holding as Kakashi demanded attention from the room by raising from the chair. Looking around her, the last of the Chuunin had arrived. She gave Hinata an encouraging smile as she turned back to her former teacher while he hurried through an obligatory little speech and had them all come up to him to receive their new uniforms, while some of them had gotten a small scroll with theirs.

"Haruno Sakura," one of the village elders called out and she stepped forward, feeling immensely proud of her achievements. She walked to the Sixth Hokage and smiled as she noticed the crinkle of his eye. Even though he had long since stopped being her teacher, he was still proud of his former students. "Congratulations Sakura. I knew you could do it," he whispered quietly as he handed her a new uniform and to her surprise, a scroll. "Open it when you get home," Kakashi instructed with a nod.

She bowed deeply and walked back to her seat, reveling in the applause she got and smiling brightly at her friends. As she sat down again, Hinata was called out and Sakura noticed she hadn't gotten a scroll when she returned to her seat. Kiba on the other hand, did get one.

Still busy contemplating the meaning of the scrolls, Sakura almost missed the next name called out: "Murano Takumi."

Confused, she glanced at Naruto as the both of them looked around to see 'Takumi' stand up. Much to their surprise, Sai stood from his place and calmly walked to the Hokage, accepting his clothes before shaking his head when Kakashi tried to offer him a scroll as well. With a deep bow, he walked back to his place and sat down.

"Your name is Takumi?" Sakura and Naruto both whispered in surprise.

"I told you before, Sai is a fake name," Sai simply said as the next person was being called. Shikamaru stood and walked to the Hokage.

"Takumi," Naruto rolled the name in his mouth. "Doesn't suit you."

"Sai is fine," Sai shrugged.

"Sai it is," Sakura said. "Why didn't you accept the scroll?"

Sai raised his eyebrow and just signaled at the ceremony. More curious than ever, she watched how Shikamaru and Naruto both received scrolls and sat down again. The ceremony ended with Ino, who hadn't gotten a scroll, and after a round of applause, they stood up and shook the hands of the Konoha shinobi and the Daimyou and other guests who had attended.

Last to come up were the ANBU Captains, who had formed a tight formation and walked past the nine shinobi, congratulating them and offering them words of wisdom as they passed. As Neji reached Naruto beside him, she could hear the blond and the Hyuuga bickering friendly about something and Sai had left her side, apparently recognizing one of the captains as he walked over to say hello, leaving her alone.

Just as she was about to walk away, an ANBU Captain pushed through the crowd, shaking one of the hands that were extended to him quickly. 'Uchiha!' she thought, panicking as he made a beeline toward her.

He extended a gloved hand and as she shook it, she could feel the heat of his body soaking into her hands. "Congratulations," his soft, velvety voice sounded muffled by the mask, but it was still clear enough to make out the words. It felt strange to look at someone's masked face and not seeing what was underneath it.

"Thank you," she said, trying to sound as calm as she could. The man standing before her was a legend—a shinobi as powerful as the Hokage, maybe even more so, yet he had refused to position when it had been offered to him. Though she was a Jounin, presumably the same rank as this man, she couldn't help but feel like a Genin all over again in his presence.

He relinquished his hold in her hand as he looked her over one more time. "You were trained by Tsunade, correct?"

She simply nodded. "That's right."

The Captain nodded and tapped on the scroll she was holding with two fingers, coming in a little closer. "Think about it. We'd be honored to have you."

'Honored to have me…?' she thought with confusion as the Uchiha took a step back and bowed slightly. She returned the bow and when she looked up, he had vanished; only a few stray leaves from his teleportation jutsu remained.

Confused, she stared at the scroll again, keen on opening it. But Kakashi had warned her to wait and for some reason, she thought it would be prudent to blindly follow his orders on this one. She put the scroll in her kunai pouch and walked out with the rest of the group after shaking another Captain's hand.

"Sakura," Ino came up to her and whispered. "Did I just see you talk with Captain Uchiha?"

She looked at Ino who looked positively jealous. Apparently he hadn't congratulated every single one of the new recruits. "Oh yes, he did."

"Ohh, the way you're saying that as if it's the most normal thing in the world!" Ino hissed, obviously peeved. She sighed and shook her head as if she tried to clear her mind. "Listen, Shikamaru, Chouji and Kiba planned a party for Naruto's birthday at his place. Sai is going to distract him so we can finish setting up."

"Naruto's… birthday?" Sakura blinked as if she couldn't comprehend what Ino had just said.

"It's October 10th. It's Naruto's birthday today," Ino said, eyeing Sakura.

Feeling like an absolute idiot, she thought back of what had happened not an hour ago. How Naruto had been gleefully talking to her about something and she had completely missed everything he had said. 'That's okay. It wasn't a very interesting story anyway.'

Smacking herself in the head for missing this, she looked at Ino. "What else needs to be done?" she asked, eyes wide.

"Chouji was putting up stuff with Lee. Kiba was going to help them out after the ceremony and Shikamaru and I are going to help out. Hinata will take care of the cake, so all you need to worry about is to get there in time and get the man a present!" Ino said, patting her shoulder. "It's at Naruto's place, around 16:00. We'll be inside so just knock on the door!"

She nodded and quickly jogged away. "Shikamaru, let's go! We have a mission!"

"A mission?" Naruto called out from behind Sakura as Shikamaru walked past her with a knowing look in his eyes. She smiled and nodded slightly. "Who goes out on a mission after being promoted!"

"We can have our own little party, Naruto," Sai piped in, effectively stopping both Sakura and Naruto from walking. "What is that place you like so much again? We can have lunch there."

"Ichiraku Ramen!" Naruto was distracted in an instant. "Oh yes, Miso ramen. Let's go!"

"I can't!" Sakura said hastily as he grabbed her hand in an attempt to drag her along with him. "I have things to do." Wracking her brain for a last-minute plausible excuse, she looked at Sai, hoping he would have the sense to stall for her. Apparently he hadn't counted on her leaving the three of them so he stared back at her, not understanding. 'Idiot!' Inner Sakura exclaimed.

"The Sixth asked if I could do some volunteer work at the hospital after the ceremony today," she lied through her teeth, knowing that if Naruto would confront Kakashi with this, she'd immediately be caught. But she trusted Kakashi's sense more than Sai's in this regard and hoped that he would cover for her, if only a little.

"Is that so?" Naruto said, absolutely bummed out. Not only had she completely forgotten about his birthday, she was unable to even come celebrate their new promotions as a team. 'Sorry Naruto,' she thought as she dashed off, waving at both men. 'I'll make it up to you tonight!'

Sighing in relief, Sakura finished packing the medicine pack she had made for Naruto. Inspired by the medicine pack Kakashi always seemed to carry around with him that was filled with really everything she could ever need for first-aid, and the fact that she wouldn't be around Naruto as much as she used to be to heal him, she figured this would be a practical gift for him, along with a dinner at Ichiraku.

As she was about to slip the pack into her kunai pouch, her fingers brushed the scroll that still sat there, waiting for her to open it. Having completely forgotten about it, she pulled it out and eyed it briefly before opening it. Her eyes skimmed over the delicately written kanji and she read the whole thing three times before she finally got it. "It's an invitation for ANBU," she said softly, almost not believing what she had read.

'Sai refused since he didn't like to be an ANBU member anymore, he said so… Shikamaru for his tactician's mind no doubt, Naruto because he was turning into an amazing all-round Shinobi, Kiba because of his tracking skills… me because of my medic training?' Her thoughts flew to the Uchiha captain.

'Think about it. We'd be honored to have you.'

Still not being able to believe her luck, she read through the scroll again, which cordially invited her to enter ANBU. Their first meeting would be the very next day, early in the morning. If she refused to join, she could ignore the invitation and live her life as a Jounin. But ANBU… An elite group that worked directly under the leadership of the Hokage. Naruto would definitely accept this—in fact, she knew nobody invited would turn this down, except perhaps Shikamaru.

"Hokage's Administration building, room seventeen at six am," she repeated to herself. Nodding, she hid the scroll in her futon and dashed out of her house, already running late. Images of herself as an ANBU plagued her mind during her walk to Naruto's house. To wear the white vest and be considered the elite, the crème de la crème of the lead shinobi, it seemed like a far off dream to her and yet, now within her grasp.

She reached Naruto's house quickly, happy that she didn't live too far from him and as she knocked on the door, Kiba immediately opened it up. "You got one too, right?" he said, voice well below a whisper.

"Yes," she answered, surprised.

Kiba grinned. "Gonna go for it?"

As she looked into Kiba's proud eyes, she found that they reflected what she was feeling on the inside. How on earth could she possibly refuse?

"Yes," she said calmly, though she wanted to scream it from the rooftops.

"Good!" he said as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and led her inside the house.

She smiled at the gesture, realizing how close all of the Konoha Twelve had become during the recent years. They'd been through so much—Orochimaru's plan to destroy Konoha, the death of the Third and the Fifth Hokage, both within the short time span of a few years. They'd grown up together and were forced to become full-fledged ninja together. It was only natural for them to bond as they were.

Thus, Sakura, with a big smile on her face, helped Shikamaru hold Chouji back from the delicious looking cake Hinata had brought with her when she arrived. She laughed as Shikamaru complained about how troublesome birthday parties were and she teared up when Naruto returned from his lunch with Sai only to find his closest friends awaiting him with presents and cake and tissues as they noticed he became teary eyed.

They spent the evening playing games and taking pictures and giving Naruto his first alcoholic beverage as he was finally able to legally have a drink. They laughed when he spat it out and fed him some more, which culminated in him sitting next to Hinata and hitting on her, as well as the poor Hyuuga heir fainting as he came a little too close to her face. Naruto had panicked and shook her while Kiba fanned her a little and the both of them wondered why on earth she would always faint while in Naruto's vicinity.

With a smile still etched on her lips, she said goodbye to Naruto, Shikamaru and Chouji, who'd been the last ones to stay there through the long night. Even Neji had made a quick appearance, gifting him with something but he had warned Naruto not to open it just yet—only when he found himself alone, prompting the other guests to laugh their asses off as they questioned what on earth the Hyuuga had brought. She had never seen Neji blush before but she was sure his face would have worked as a light house.

She entered her little apartment and went straight for bed, programming her alarm clock to five am. As she opened the window, Sakura inhaled the fresh scent of the Konoha evening and thought to herself that everything seemed perfect.

The moment she laid down in bed, Sakura immediately drifted off to dreams of ANBU and a captain with the Uchiha logo on his chest.

She arrived at the administration building early in the morning, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she climbed the stairs to the third floor. Yawning, Sakura couldn't help but feel a bit nervous as she walked through the long hallway and reached room seventeen. She shivered despite her warm Jounin uniform and knocked.

"Come in," a voice called.

She entered and spied a table in the middle of the room. Naruto was standing there and looked over his shoulder in surprise when he saw her entering. "Sakura!" he called out. "I didn't know you got an invitation!"

The two ANBU members at the table were rummaging through the papers as she closed the distance. "Good morning," she said to Naruto and both ANBU members. They nodded in response.

"Haruno Sakura?" one of them asked.


"Left door," he said, handing her a file as he signaled to a wooden door on the left side of the room.

"Uzumaki Naruto?" the other ANBU member asked.

"Yes!" Naruto said, grinning.

"Left door."

Naruto grabbed his file and smiled at Sakura, circling around her as he quickly ambled to the door. Sakura couldn't help but laugh a little—she was absolutely sure he hadn't slept very much and had to have had a hangover from all the liquor he had been forced to consume, but nothing seemed to stop his energy. Naruto was through the door before she could reach it and as she entered, she found a simple room with scrolls adorning the walls and three seats in the middle of the room.

One, was already taken.

To her complete astonishment, Shikamaru sat in the left chair and looked at the both of them. "Yo," he said simply.

Naruto started laughing as he sat down beside the Nara clan's member. "I can't believe it. Are you lying to us? You didn't want to become a Jounin but here you are as an ANBU member?"

"Ugh," Shikamaru said, pressing a hand against his head. "You wouldn't believe how troublesome my parents are. My mom especially. When she found out I got offered to join ANBU, she badgered me until I said yes."

"Now that's the spirit," Sakura laughed with Naruto. "Glad to know we only have people who voluntarily joined."

"Number one coward, was it?" Naruto said, grinning still.

They went still as the door opened behind them and the three of them turned around.

There, in the doorway, stood the Uchiha. Dressed in the same attire as the previous day, he had now added a midnight blue colored scarf to his ensemble and a katana that was strapped to his back. "Good morning," his deep voice sounded.

"Good morning," all three of them greeted.

"Welcome to ANBU," he continued as he closed the door and circled around them. He stood still in front of the three of them and observed them momentarily. "From today on, you'll be part of a special branch of the Leaf ninja. All of you and your comrades have been hand-picked by the Hokage to join these special forces. From today on, I will be acting as your squad leader. Any questions?"

The three of them sat dumbfounded. The idea of a legend leading their squad was breathtaking. Vaguely, Sakura realized she would've probably had the same reaction to Kakashi, had she had any idea of who he was before he stepped into her life.

Taking their silence as a reply to his answer, the Uchiha captain continued. "First, let's introduce ourselves."

"Can you start us off, Captain?" Shikamaru answered. "Introducing ourselves is such a hassle without knowing what you want us to say. Your name would be useful."

Naruto grinned beside him and Sakura couldn't help but laugh a little herself. Surprise came when their squad leader chuckled briefly. He reached behind his head to loosen the strings that held his mask in place and unconsciously, all three of them leaned forward a little as the squad leader grabbed the edges his mask and pulled it away slowly.

Beneath the mask was a pair of the most beautiful midnight blue eyes she had ever seen, framed by long lashes. Deep tear troughs lined his face and made him look a little older, although on the whole, Sakura was certain he was maybe five years older than the three of them. His lips were thin and one side was still up in amusement, though it faded slightly with each passing second. She couldn't help but notice how incredibly handsome he was when the mask was fully pulled away from his face and his raven bangs framed his handsome features.

"My name," he said, his dulcet, deep tone embracing the air. "Is Uchiha Itachi."

A/N: Chapter rewritten on 27-07-2013.

Ahh, cliffhangers. This won't be a long story, if I chose to continue, four chapters at the most, but I love exploring this other side of both Sakura and Itachi and I hope you do too!

An immense thank you goes out to Miss Illusii for her beta work and suggestions!

Let me know what you think!

See you next time

Mitsuki Shiroi