“Oi, anyone gotta quarter?” Deidara asked, scowling into his wallet before checking his pockets again. “I wanna get a soda from the machine, but I’m short,” he added.
Kakuzu sniffed. “Don’t look at me,” he grumbled.
Hidan leered and rummaged in his pocket, withdrawing a quarter and flicking it at the blond. “Here; you owe me.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Deidara muttered, waving a hand.
“Hey—Isn’t that the quarter you owe me?” Kisame asked from where he sat with Itachi. The two of them were playing poker and so far Itachi was winning. Though not by as much as he’d like.
“Fuck you.” Hidan growled. “You stole my wallet. Then you spent the money in the wallet. Then you had the balls to put an IOU note into my wallet. You. Owe. Me.”
Blue Boy leaned back in his chair to look at Hidan. “There was only ten dollars in there!”
“Doesn’t change a damn thing.” The junkyard guard paused. “In fact. Pay up. Now.”
“No,” Kisame said, and smirked.
“Honestly, you two are ridiculous,” Kakuzu said, though if he were in the same position as Hidan, he’d be saying the same thing… or rather, he’d be taking it out of Kisame’s hide.
Deidara rolled his eyes and left the office to go to the soda machine out behind the small building, while Kisame sneered. “Shuddup,” he said, though his good mood was hardly dampened.
Hidan was glowering at Kisame. “You better fucking pay me back, you blue-skinned freak! Or I’ll kick your ass and then sell off your fucking organs.”
“Ha!” The teen slapped down his cards face up and Itachi blinked. Kisame held out a hand of wriggling fingers and his friend reluctantly handed over a few dollars. He turned back to the argument. “If you could kick my ass, and if you knew how to properly harvest organs, you’d need them for yourself!”
He counted the bills in his hands, conscious of Kakuzu’s lingering stare. “Anyway. Here’s your ten.” Kisame tossed the folded bills at Hidan. One by one. Each aiming at a different location by the boy’s chair.
“You’re a fucking dick!” Hidan snarled, but lunged for the money.
Deidara walked back in and snagged a dollar bill. “Ooh, lookie—”
And Kakuzu snatched it away, smacking Deidara upside the head in the process. “That’s a waste, and I’ll gut you for it if you try it again,” he said firmly, and handed the bill to his best friend.
“Dick,” was Hidan’s thanks.
“Cunt,” Kakuzu retorted simply.
Deidara rolled his eyes and sat back in his spot next to the poker game. “Hey, who won that round?” he asked seeing the cards had been shuffled again.
Itachi stared at him, picked up the cards, cut the deck again and dealt the hands. “Are you in?”
Raising both hands, the blond backed down. “No, thanks. You saw what happened when I ask for money.”
Kakuzu sniffed. Hidan smirked. “Bitch.” Kisame wasn’t sure who had said it that time.
There was a lull for a while as they played another round of cards, and Hidan stuffed his money in his wallet. Kakuzu eyed the Poker game with rapt interest, until Kisame started edging away from him as if worried he might try to steal their money (he wouldn’t; that wouldn’t be proper monetary management). Deidara bickered a little with the others…
And then Hidan’s cellphone went off. Without missing a beat, Kakuzu snagged it from the desk and flipped it open. “Hello?”
There was a pause, and Hidan quirked a brow, mouthing ‘who the fuck is it?’ Kakuzu ignored him, hummed noncommittally, and shrugged. “Yes. What do I get? Hmph. Fifty. Tch. Fine, twenty-five, nothing less. Deal.” He handed the phone to Deidara, who blinked rapidly, then lifted it to his ear.
“Uh… hello?” He grinned. “Well, long time no talk! … one question? Yeah, why are you calling me on Hidan’s phone? … WHAT!?”
Hidan scowled. “Who the fuck is calling my fucking phone?” he demanded.
The blond snickered. “It’s Sasori.”
Kisame looked at Itachi. “Did Kakuzu just make twenty-five for handing the phone over to Deidara?”
His poker partner silently shrugged. Possibly. Sounded like it. Plausible? Not really. Ask him, not me. Idiot.
“It’ll cost you,” Kakuzu said without turning.
“What?!” Kisame exclaimed.
“Shhh!” Deidara glared at the Blue Boy. “I’m on the phone, un! Shut up, Kisame!”
“Stupid, money-brained, rebar-up-the-ass, friggin—Gah!”
Deidara smirked, and nodded to whatever Sasori was saying. “Uh huh. Oooh, yeah, it’ll be a bang!” he said excitedly.
Deidara only used that expression when explosives were involved. What could he be talking about? Hidan couldn’t figure it out.
“Yeah, yeah, I can ask ’em, un.” The blond snickered. “Oh, right now? I guess…” He lowered the phone, placing his hand over the receiver. “Hey, the Akatsuki guys are having a party, and Sasori heard that I’m into fireworks, so he called to ask for me to help out… He also said that you guys are all invited, plus dates.”
Kakuzu sniffed; he’d already known.
“A party?” Hidan asked, eyes narrowed. “Why the fuck are they inviting us?”
Deidara shrugged, then put the phone to his ear as it buzzed slightly. “Oh… yeah. Kay. I’ll let them decide, and bring anyone who wants to. Talk to you later, un.” He hung up the phone and passed it back to Hidan, who stuffed it in his pocket. “It’s Friday night, for anyone that wants to go.”
Itachi drummed his fingers on the table.
Kisame caught his eye and lifted his brow. “Anyone know how good their parties are?”
“Who cares, un!” Deidara scuttled over to his backpack. “I’m going to be doing art! Of course it’ll be good!”
Itachi looked at Kisame and shrugged. “Nothing else to do that night.”
Kisame snickered, “Hidan may not want to attend on account of…” he trailed off as Hidan stood up from his chair. “Yo?”
“Your fucking shriveled nuts, Blue Boy.”
“Ah. I guess we’re going then.”
Deidara cheered and then started in about fireworks, while Hidan scowled and Kakuzu smiled smugly. Kisame was smirking and egging on the albino, while Itachi just thought… who to bring? He smiled.
The next afternoon after school, Itachi snagged the phone from the hallway and slipped into his room, closing the door. Sasuke wasn’t home yet, probably still trying to get away from Naruto. He grinned. Kisame and Itachi had run into the group of younger kids at the entrance of the school as they were leaving.
Kisame had immediately slung an arm around Shikamaru’s shoulders and started chattering away non-stop about picking up girls. It had been amusing to say the least. The victim’s face had turned a bright red as the younger boy tried to convince Blue Boy that he had no idea what he was talking about. And no, he wasn’t interested in picking up boys either.
That last comment had gotten an incredulous look from Kisame, who then started snickering. Much to Shikamaru’s dismay, the teen simply continued on talking. In a loud and enthusiastic voice. One that managed to snag everyone’s attention. Only, there were three people who were not paying attention.
Itachi had managed to snag Sakura a little ways away from the group and had begun his own campaign. He asked her how Sasuke was doing in his school work.
Sakura had given him a wide-eyed stare at first and then asked him why wouldn’t he ask Sasuke, and why the sudden interest?
The older Uchiha had grinned. “One, Sasuke would never answer me honestly.”
At this, Sakura opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off.
“He wouldn’t admit to me if he was having any troubles. Thus why I am asking you. You are his classmate. You help with his assignments.” Sakura blushed at the reminder of her earlier embarrassment. Itachi went on. “And second, you are the one who wants me to get along with him more. Which entails, me being interested in his life.”
The pink-haired girl jerked. “You mean, all these rants I’ve heard from Sasuke-kun about you being more of an annoyance, is you being nicer?” She looked stunned. “Because of me?”
He chuckled and noticed that Naruto off to the side was glaring. Perfect. “You had a fresh view on our situation. I decided to take the advice. And I have been giving him compliments.” He smirked. More of an annoyance indeed. Ah, his brother was amusing.”How he chooses to take them is not within my control.”
Something seemed to click in Sakura’s mind. “You know it’s confusing him!”
She frowned. “So you’re doing it just for entertainment? It’s just play?”
Itachi tilted his head for a moment. No, no it wasn’t. He answered truthfully, “For entertainment yes, but that doesn’t mean I will compliment him for nothing. What I do say to him, be it a praise or otherwise, I will not lie.”
He watched as Sakura took in what he had said. A smile blossomed and she stepped forward. What is she—Itachi almost stepped back as the small girl wrapped her arms around his waist.
All chatter around them died.
Sakura mumbled something into his shirt and he looked down. “Sakura-san?”
“… thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Itachi looked up straight into the purpling face of Naruto. And smirked. “You may want to let go though. I think your friends want to talk to you.”
Sakura stiffened and abruptly let go, but didn’t move away. She kept her face averted to the side, but he could still see the bright flush of her cheeks. “Oh God… ” She glanced to the side at Sasuke. “But, you wanted to talk about Sasuke-kun?”
Itachi shook his head and placing his hands on her shoulders, he turned her around towards her friends. He stooped to speak into her ear. “I’ll call you later.”
“O-okay,” the girl whispered.
The older boy gave her a little push and watched her stumble towards her friends. He straightened and caught the eye of Kisame. “We’re leaving.”
Kisame grinned and patted Shikamaru on the back. “Think about what I said, man.”
The two of them walked off the school grounds with Kisame laughing. They could clearly hear Naruto loudly question Sakura.
“What was that about?!”
Flipping the home phone up in the air, Itachi grinned. The chances were good that Sasuke would have been the rant victim of Naruto after that display. Which meant, he had perhaps an hour until his tired and confused brother made it home.
He caught the phone one-handed without looking and rifled through some papers in his nightstand. Sakura had given his mother her house number when Okaa-san had driven her home a few nights ago. He grinned. Okaa-san had returned that night and had simply, without a word, placed the paper into his hand.
Finding the same slip of paper, Itachi lay back on his bed and dialed the number.
The phone connected and began to ring.
“Hello?” An older female voice answered the phone. Itachi’s eyebrow went up. Her mother then.
“Good afternoon. Is Sakura-san home?”
There was a pause, then the woman continued. “May I ask who this is?”
He smiled. Ah, gatekeepers. “Hnn, this is Sasuke’s older brother, Itachi.”
The phone was suddenly muffled, and a couple voices mumbled for a minute. Then: “Itachi-san?” Sakura was back on the phone.
He laughed. “Are you ashamed of me, Sakura-san?”
“Wha-what? Excuse me? What are you talking about?” Sakura asked, sounding surprised. “Why on Earth would you have that impression, Itachi-san?”
“Your mother and I were just introducing ourselves to each other,” he said smiling.
“Oh…” She fell silent for a moment. “No, I just…” She stopped, then started again, as if embarrassed. “Um… so you wanted to talk to me about something?”
“Hnn.” He glanced at the clock. “Sasuke has never brought you over before to my knowledge, nor my mother’s. And, the visit was for the sake of school as opposed to—” Itachi paused. “—otherwise. Is he having troubles at school, enough that he needs help?”
“Um, no, not that I know of… He started taking on some extracurricular stuff recently,” she explained. “I think he figured out that two heads are better than one; we usually finish quicker than if we were alone, and he had a lot on his plate before he took up the extra cred stuff. I don’t mind helping, though. It’s fun to study together.”
“Ah. So, no troubles. Good.” His brotherly obligations were neatly fulfilled then. Itachi moved on with his own agenda. “Would it be too troublesome for me to borrow you from my brother for an evening then?”
Silence. Then, “Uh… Um… b-borrow? A-as in… like go somewhere? Together? As in… Oh… Like… like a…” She stopped, and seemed to be unable to continue, so Itachi smoothly helped her out.
“There’s a party this Friday night. I know it’s short notice, but I would be honored if you would come with me.”
“A… party?” she said, and then coughed. “I… I don’t know, Itachi-san… I really… I don’t know…”
Itachi glared at the ceiling, then shrugged. “Is it my company that you object to?”
“Oh! No, no, that’s not it. You seem like a very, er, nice person, really,” she quickly reassured him. “It’s just… I don’t know you.”
Chuckling, Itachi took it in stride. “And what you do know of me is from my delightful little brother. I understand. Would you like to know me personally?”
“Uh… What do you mean?” Sakura asked, caution creeping into her tone. She’d gone down a ‘know me personally’ road before… and she didn’t want to again. But maybe Itachi meant something different; she hoped so. She could only give him the benefit of the doubt.
“I mean, I am interested in you, Sakura-san,” Itachi paused to let that set in. The girl was silent on the other side and he went on. “I would like to know you. Nothing more for now. If you’d prefer, I could take you out for coffee. The party is not important.”
There was a brief pause before she made a soft sound—like clearing her throat—and spoke. “Uh, well…” She paused, and sighed. “Coffee, huh?” Another silence, as if she were contemplating the thought. “Well… I mean, how about we… Coffee would be nice, Itachi-san.” She couldn’t remember the last time a guy had asked her out for coffee. To just sit and talk and get to know one another…
She smiled. “I would like that, actually. And then, I mean, after… if you’re still willing to take me, and I’m still willing to go, maybe a party wouldn’t be so bad…” She shook her head. “I just don’t know if I want to go to a dumb party. I won’t know anyone, you know?” She realized she was rambling and stopped.
“Excellent.” Itachi frowned, thinking of her doubtful tone about coffee. “If you do not like coffee, Sakura-san, I’m sure I can find a place for tea. If that is to your preference. As for the party. If you are willing, we will go. If you do not enjoy your time there at the party, it is a simple matter of leaving.”
He turned over onto his stomach and checked the clock again. “True, the party is invite only. However, you would be surprised at who shows up at these events. You may know someone.” Itachi rolled his eyes and muttered. “If anything, the entertainment will be good. Deidara has been ranting all day about how perfect his firework show will be.”
“Fireworks?” Sakura asked, sounding less hesitant. “Why would Toji-san be doing fireworks?”
“Why—” Itachi blinked. She didn’t know? He laughed. “Don’t let Deidara hear you ask that. Ever.” He grinned, rolling to his back again. “Let’s just say that things that go boom and flash pretty colours are his passion. The louder, the brighter, and the bigger, the better for him. And if you’re asking why is he doing the fireworks for the party, he was asked by Pein.”
“Oh… Then is he good with explosives?” she asked curiously. Her eyes narrowed, and her tone became shrewd. “Say… was it him that blew up the top floor boy’s bathroom last year?”
“Yes, he is good.” Itachi said, smirking.
Sakura chuckled. “Okay, don’t answer, Mr. Mysterious,” she said, and shook her head. “Well… I guess that’d be interesting, at least… Sasuke-kun says he’s annoying, though.” She grinned. “Then again, he says all of your friends are annoying. His own friends too… Hm… I’m seeing a pattern here.” She laughed, and grinned. “Sorry, rambling.”
“I will not lie, Sakura-san. If you want the answer, you should go to the source. Ask Deidara when, or if, you go to the party. Or any other time.” He smiled. “I caution you though, once he starts talking about his ‘art’ it will be hard to stop him.”
Itachi sat up in bed. The front door of the house had slammed. Perhaps Naruto had not ranted for as long as he had expected. “When should I pick you up for coffee then?”
“Oh, well… I’m free uh… tomorrow afternoon? I mean, I’d say today, but you probably don’t want to wait until I finish tutoring…” She paused, and sighed. “Aaah, Naruto… Well, my ‘student’ is here, so I should hurry this up…”
His eyebrows went up. “I can keep myself occupied if need be. Call me when you’re finished tutoring and ask me again then.” He could hear Sasuke coming up the stairs. Itachi grinned.
“Oh… well… Okay, then, I guess. I’ll call you around five, then, is that alright? Sheesh, Naruto, I’m on the phone! Shut up—uhhg. If you don’t get your blond butt in that room I’ll—Naruto! Uhg, Itachi-san, I’m sorry. I’ll call you back when this moron has left, okay?”
“Perfect,” Itachi purred into the phone. “And Sakura-san? Thank you.”
A pause, then, “For what?” she asked, surprised.
“For agreeing to the coffee date.” he said. “For agreeing to know me, despite all that you know of me from Sasuke.” He smiled and walked over to his closed bedroom door, where his little brother had stopped to listen. “For giving me a chance to know you.” He swore he could hear Sasuke’s teeth grinding from the other side.
“O-oh, well, you’re welcome—NARUTO!”
A male voice then spoke on the other end. “She’s busy, good-bye.”
Itachi grinned. “Good-bye.” He lowered the phone and opened the door. “Hello Sasuke.” He greeted the boy. “Excuse me.” He stepped past his speechless brother and returned the phone to its cradle in the hall, then went on to the kitchen. A snack would be nice about now. It was too early for a victory feast.
“Oi!” Sasuke said after a minute, following his brother to the kitchen. “Was that Sakura?”
Putting the cereal box down on the counter, Itachi turned. “Yes.”
The younger boy crossed his arms and frowned at his brother suspiciously. “And you’re going on a date.” It wasn’t really a question.
Itachi raised an eyebrow.
Sasuke frowned more. “What are you doing? It doesn’t make sense. Is this part of your vendetta against Naruto for that Miz Uchiha thing? ‘Cause if it is, and you’re sitting here planning on crushing us all, I will not let it happen,” he said firmly, defensively. He really hoped Itachi hadn’t been being nice to him just to turn around and crush him… that would… well… He would be pissed.
The other eyebrow went up to join the first. “I am getting to know Sakura-san because I want to and because she allows it. The ‘vendetta’ is a separate matter.” Itachi leaned back against the counter. “And it is a private matter between me and Naruto.” He tilted his head and snorted. “Even if the prankster had assistants.”
Sasuke scowled. “Fine,” he relented after a minute. Itachi hadn’t ever lied before, but he’d certainly with-held details. The younger just hoped this wasn’t one of those times. “I have homework,” he added, and turned away.
“Hnn.” Itachi smirked. Amusing indeed. He faced the counter and lifted a bowl from stack in the cabinet.
He would have to call Kisame and cancel their poker game tonight. Shaking out the cereal into the bowl, Itachi snorted to himself. Perhaps it would was a good thing to jilt his poker partner for the night. Lately, the taller teen had been winning their games…
He narrowed his eyes. Kisame’s winning streak began shortly after Kazuku had suggested playing for money.
On the way back into his room, Itachi noticed the hall phone was missing.