AN: This story is inspired by the many many many Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese dramas I've watched over the years. The song quoted at the beginning of every chapter is "Princess of China" by Coldplay featuring Rihanna. Review and tell me what you think…


Chapter 1

Once upon a time somebody ran…

If anyone would have seen them together, they would wonder how the hell they got together in the first place. It was kinda a mystery for her as well. The first time she met him, he was a cold arrogant hard ass. He still was. His dark eyes looked at the world through the lens of noble disdain. He was born into an elite world of wealth and power. Of lies and secrets. And she, she would come into power one day. But when they met, she was just an average girl living an average life in an average middle class family. But, she had a penchant for getting into trouble. She was a bright girl with a stubborn conceit that made her both beloved and hated. And she was beautiful. So was he. So was his brother.

The night they met was one that would forever stay with her. She was alone, walking home a little drunk on happiness and freedom in the dark. A friend had talked her into going to one of the newer clubs being built on the waterfront of Fire Country's longest most abundant, River Senji. Tall, daunting and domineering buildings were replacing the ancestral homes of fishermen. Right now, she was passing rows and rows of these skeleton buildings that were perched on prime land. She looked absently at the stacks of wood and metal beams. The big trucks were empty and cold and there were huge mounds of dirt. Senji Front itself was a bustling city that sprang into existence almost fifteen years ago. Since it was close to the capital Leaf, it had been on a steady incline economically. Land here next to Senji River was as good as gold and many families were making their fortunes by building condos.

Her shoes made no sound in the raw, moist dirt and she was humming. Then, the shadows began moving and she stopped. She blinked a few times to make sure her eyes weren't playing tricks on her, but the shadows were moving. In the waning moonlight she saw that it was four men. Her good mood suddenly dissipated and unease snaked its way into her stomach. And here I am, alone. She looked around. Maybe if she screamed it would echo off of the unfinished buildings? She wasn't terribly far from the club, but she noticed that the bouncers had gone on break when she left and the steady stream of people that had come to the grand opening had trickled off two hours ago.

They cackled and sneered like hyenas, eying her in her clubbing outfit she talked her mom and dad into buying for her. It was really short, silver and blue sequins that hugged her body intimately. Her heels were open toed, showing off her perfect pedicure and her long honey blonde hair was pulled into a ponytail. She had heavy makeup on and she and her friend showered themselves with glitter when they were dancing to the pulsing clubbing music, so she was sparkling like a freakin' fairy.

She turned around quickly, her heat beating wildly in her chest like it was trying to escape. She heard the soft thunder of their footsteps behind her and she slipped off her shoes, blindly running into one of the buildings. She dashed up some stairs, tripping over a tray of tools and stubbing her toe. She hissed and looked frantically around, dashing into an open room that led into a cavernous darkness. Shit, now she couldn't see anything! She fumbled with her purse while she ran, grabbing her cell phone. Its light was like a cursed beacon, and she heard one the guys yell to the others that he saw her. She bumped into a wall and dropped her phone and it broke into two, its battery detaching itself. She gave it a longing look before deciding to leave it and save herself. She stopped short as a wall appeared before her. Panicked, she bit her bottom lip and pushed past the thick plastic curtains, into another area. She was completely lost and the loud thump of her heartbeat in her ears made it seem like she was deaf. It left her dangerously disoriented after each and every turn and stumble she took. Then out of nowhere someone grabbed her by the arm and yanked her hard to them. She screamed and struggled wildly, throwing her head back and butting them in the mouth. The hard sharpness of their teeth cut into the back of her head.

But the man took a fist full of her hair and gave it a hard yank and she felt some of it rip from her roots. "We got a fiery one boys!" He called out to them. One came forward, a wild look on his greasy face and she leaned back and kicked him hard in the chest with both her feet causing the one who held her from behind to stumble back into a wall of sheetrock. She managed to pry his arms from her waist. Her ribs felt bruised and his smell of cigarette and sake lingered in her hair. She was screaming for help as she ran. She lost her shoes somewhere and her purse was slipping off of her shoulder. One of them caught her wrist, but she twisted her arm and slipped away, falling over a heap of paint splattered tarps. He pounced on her, and she screamed, kicking at him and scratching with wild abandonment.

"I got her! I got her!" He was panting. His sour breath made her want to gag. This was not happening right?! This was some terrible nightmare or something! Her eyes were squeezed shut and she was screaming so loud someone had to hear her! He slapped her hard and told her to shut up, but she just screamed louder, with everything she had. Until her throat turned raw. Her fingers were in claws and she dug her nails into his arms, his face, anything she could touch. And then a miracle happened. The man was thrown from her. The suddenness of the weight pried off of her left her surprised and bewildered. She didn't allow herself to ponder this, instead, she sat up and scooted away. She covered herself, feeling naked and scared. Someone kneeled beside her and she cried out and tried to escape.

"Shhh, it's okay. Wait here okay?" His voice was deep and soothing and she felt better after hearing it. He wasn't one of them? He smelled like cologne, soft and male. So she huddled in a corner and watched as two shadowed men fought the other four. Fear was still with her, and amazement. Two against four was an unfair fight, but the odds didn't seem to matter to the new comers. They moved with unmatched skill and stealth, working together to dispatch the no-gooders. When they were done she was left alone, still huddling against the wall. She looked around before shakily getting to her feet and shuffling out, trying to find her way through this unfinished maze. She didn't care about where her shoes were, or where her phone was. She just wanted to get away and get home. To her mom and dad, to the safety of her room and hide. Maybe cry. She would shower until her skin boiled and she would burn her dress…

She didn't know where her saviors were, they left her to chase after the other four. She didn't care. She hated this place now, she hated how she felt. Exposed, vulnerable, angry, insulted and frightened. The moon was still bright and high in the sky and she walked a few steps before she fell to her knees, holding her arms and fighting back tears. She was so cold and she couldn't stop trembling. Thousands of scary thoughts netted her mind as to what could have happened if those two hadn't showed up. Would they have really…?

A warm hand landed on her shoulder and she sprang to her feet and furiously wiped her face, prepared for a fight. When she turned she saw a tall guy looking at her with warm dark eyes. "Are you alright?" He asked in a soothing voice. His long dark hair caught in the breeze and he had lines on his face. But it didn't take away from his beauty. Men shouldn't be called beautiful, but he was.

She managed a nod, wiping her palms down her cheeks to erase the rest of the tears that fell. She hated crying in front of people. "I thought it would be a shortcut—"

Someone 'tched' and the other person who came to her rescue sauntered up, hands shoved in his pockets. "You take a shortcut in the dark? Alone?" He bit at her, taking in her messy look from head to toe. He had short hair, long in the front and kinda spiked in the back. His eyes matched the older one, but were wider and colder.

"Sasuke." The older one warned with a little shake of his head. She already felt stupid for what had happened, she didn't need him shoving it back in her face.

She swallowed her pride, because really, she was grateful for what they did tonight. It was the only thing that saved him from a tongue lashing. "Please. I just want to go home." Her voice cracked and she hated it. She bit her lip to keep it from trembling.

"We'll take you. Our car is just around the corner." He must have seen the fear flash in her eyes because he gave her a comforting smile. "Or we can call you a cab."

She nodded at that. As she sat in the warm cab, her mind kept on wandering to the events of the night. Her parents were asleep when she was dropped off and she snuck in, making sure to avoid the creaking stairs as she made her way up to her room. She stripped out of her clothes as quick as she could and jumped in the shower. It was under the water that she cried and cried, scrubbing her body as hard as she could until she was red like a lobster. It was the only way to get the feeling of hard, crude hand marks off of her. The hot water warmed her from the cold, distant eyes of Sasuke, who berated her for her foolishness.


He sat in passive silence, looking at the environment slip past him as he rode in the back of his private car. His arm was leaning on the door, and he had a finger to his mouth. The windows were darkly tinted hiding him from the public while giving him a one way window. His phone rang in his pocket and he pulled it out, not looking at the caller id. Only a few people had his number and he knew who would be calling him.

"Yes Itachi?" His voice wasn't as low as his older brother, but it had a minor tenor in it. "I'm on my way." He scowled. "I don't know why you're making me do this. We could have sent her things to her through the mail." He rolled his eyes. "Yeah yeah, whatever." And he hung up knowing Itachi disapproved of ending a call without a proper goodbye. He was irritated and felt like Itachi's personal delivery boy. He had better things to do than drop off that girl's personal effects. How dumb could a person be, a girl like her walking alone dressed in next to nothing with too much make-up on? But, he was relieved that he and Itachi got there when they did and sent the other four running. He didn't want to think of what could have happened, and how it would get back to his father. Fugaku Uchiha was not someone who would take kindly to having his name attached to such a scandal. The buildings the girl ran in were crucial to his rise of power. It took five years for the project to begin and everything in the entire Uchiha fortune was on the line. And the girl's careless decision on a shortcut could have destroyed all of that.

"We're here." His driver said quietly, pulling gently alongside a quiet street. It was mid morning and the air was warm with summer. He grabbed the shoes and purse from the seat and waited for the driver to open his door. He looked up and down the street, taking in the small quaint little stores and banks that lined it. People were chatting happily around him, its buzz picking up his mood a little. His muted black loafers clicked against the smooth cement sidewalk.

Yamanaka Flower Shop was a clean place with a plethora of colors and scents. From fresh dirt, to water and flowers. The house plants were green and the breeze caught a few hanging chimes for sale just by the open door. A soft, distant 'welcome' greeted him and his dark eyes peered curiously at the small blonde sitting behind the counter. She didn't look up to see who entered the store, just stared absently at a fashion magazine opened in front of her. One he doubted she was reading. He sighed to himself and placed her things on the counter. The unnecessarily high high-heels, her dirty beige leather hand bag with her broken phone inside. Her blue blue eyes took one glance at the items before they flew to his face. In the light, he could see shallow bruises on her chin, by her mouth. She was wearing a pale blue long sleeve shirt despite the weather, and black jeans. She looked to be studying him for a moment before she forced a little smile and slowly stood up.

"Oh, it's you." She said, taking her things. He caught her wrist and she gave a sharp gasp and he let go. Her fake mood crumbled easily and her eyes glittered angrily. "What?" She snapped, drawing her hand to her chest, touching her wrist gently.

He raised a brow. "Let me see." He demanded, holding out his hand. "Let me see." He barked again, making her jump and hold out her hand. He pushed back her long sleeve shirt to uncover dark black and purple bruises in the shape of finger prints. He cursed. He never seen a girl so bruised before. If only they had got there sooner, if only….No. It was her fault for being so careless! "Why were you around that construction site? You should have called a cab or something. Or had a friend walk with you."

She seemed to recover. Her eyes hardened and she looked like she was taking deep breaths to calm herself. He saw her do it last night. He and Itachi saw the tear smudges down her cheeks, but she politely thanked them in a steady tone, masking that she had been crying. "I know that now. Thank you." She said, pushing her shirt back down over her arm. "Thank you for bringing my things as well."

Thank you. Thank you. Those words sounded so empty and forced. "Have you been to the hospital yet?" He asked. Her brow furrowed and she folded her arms.

"I'm fine. I don't need to go to the hospital-hey! You're not supposed to come behind the counter!" She yelled at him, backing into the wall, her blue eyes widening in panic. He pushed his irritation back when he saw that look. He had to be careful.

"Come on. Close early." He told her, grabbing her hand as gently as he could. Really, he just wanted to throw her over his shoulder but he didn't think the people outside would let that go. And she was clearly still upset and scared about what had happened and he didn't want to stress her more. He knew what he had to do. Itachi would have done the same thing. Besides, if he got her treated, then he would feel a lot better to know she wouldn't sue them or anything. Even though it was her fault. Even though he and Itachi saved her. Poor people like her would do anything for money. His father always told him that.

"What? Let go! I'm not closing early! I said I was fine!" But he shuffled her out of the door and into the car. His driver scrambled to get inside of the car after flipping the 'closed' sign. She sat away from him with her arms folded, moodily staring out of the window in defeat.

"Just cooperate with me okay? I'm doing this for your own good." He said gruffly, filling in the uncomfortable silence. "You should have gone to the hospital last night."

"I just wanted to go home. I want to forget that night ever happened." She said quietly, thickly.

He could understand that. Despite how annoyed he was with her decision that night, he could understand that. He was starting to feel a little guilty at berating her about it again. Her screams still echoed in his head and the feeling of rage strumming in his blood lingered. He remembered seeing her writhing under one of the four with her eyes closed shut as she tried to buck him off of her. He felt great satisfaction in kicking their asses. Really, what were those guys thinking? They could have killed her! Itachi called them the lowest of bastards and he had been vibrating with rage. He hand never seen his brother so upset. He didn't ask what he did with them when they got home. After the last was beat into submission and the girl was safe in a cab, he told Sasuke to go home without him. The next morning, Itachi called him into his room and gave him the girl's things and told him to check on her and return them.

The hospital they arrived at was not one of the larger ones, but that suited him just fine. The last thing he needed was to have the paparazzi take pictures of him and some unknown girl. But that usually happed in the capital, Leaf. There, he and Itachi were always in the spot light so he was pleased with the fact that the girl lived in a smaller town just outside the bustling capital. With a large 'donation', the nurses ushered them into a small private room and told them to wait until a doctor arrived. He didn't trust that the girl would stay, so he reluctantly waited with her, keeping a wary eye on the silent blonde as she sat with a pout on the sharply made bed.

"This is a waste of time. I have some bruises, big deal. I bruise easily." She muttered, looking down at her fingernails.

"Quit complaining." He shot at her, becoming easily annoyed. He was annoyed at Itachi as well, for making him do this. She glared back at him, her blue eyes smoking.

There was a tentative knock on the door and a petite doctor with sort black hair and friendly brown eyes came in with a few nurses. She introduced herself as Dr. Kato, but jokingly told them to call her Dr. Shizune because Dr. Kato was her uncle. "How about you undress and slip this on." A nurse held out a paper nightgown and motioned to the bathroom. Sasuke stood to leave, but the sharp questioning look from Dr. Shizune made him settle back down. He didn't want unnecessary questions arising.

A few minutes later, the girl emerged from the bathroom, clutching the back of her gown with a free hand. When she saw that he was still there, a light blush emerged, but was quickly chased away by a scowl. As soon as Dr. Shizune saw the bruises, she bombarded them with questions. They both awkwardly filled her in on what had transpired last night. She sympathetically clucked over the blonde and said a few choice words for the four men who had tried to rape her. "I hope they got what was coming to them."

Sasuke was sure they did. Itachi was dangerous last night and he didn't want to think about what had happened to them. "I'm glad your boyfriend got to you in time. I shudder to think what could have happened." One of the nurses said softly, gracing Sasuke with an appreciative smile.

"Mmmm. I'm a lucky girl." The blonde said, eyes dark with frustration at the assumption. Sasuke didn't correct her. It would have been too troublesome to explain who he really was to her. Besides after this, he and the girl would part ways and that would be that.

"A few deep bruises and a good knot in the back of your head. Other than that, you managed to escape the worst of it." Dr. Shizune said, jotting down something on her clipboard. "Here's a prescription." She tore it from her pad and handed it to Sasuke. "Make sure she takes all of it."

The girl left to get redressed and together, they left the hospital. "I'll take that." She grabbed the prescription from him and her eyes brightened. "Ohhh, look. Vicodin."

He grabbed it back. "It's a lose dosage. Don't get too happy about it."

The girl sighed and stopped in front of his car. "Look, I appreciate the trip to the doctors and all. You didn't have to, I told you you didn't have to." She said stepping back as the driver opened the door for her. "I'll pay you back for the trip. Somehow."

He slid in after her. "Don't."

She yawned. "My dad says to always repay my debts. You said it was my fault I got into this trouble." She murmured, rubbing her eyes.

Guilt hit him. "Not entirely your fault." He said, giving her a look. But she had cuddled to the door and was fast asleep. In the shadows of the car, he could see the dark circles under her eyes. He wondered how much sleep she got last night. His had been restless too that night so he could imagine how her sleep was. "Drive to the nearest pharmacy." He instructed his driver. He left her in the car for five minutes before returning. She was still asleep. After tucking the white paper bag with her prescription into his jacket pocket, he folded his arms and deciding to follow her suit.


Itachi Uchiha waited for Sasuke's private car to come around. He had sent him off early in the morning to tend to the girl from last night but he expected him back already. When he called the driver, he was surprised by Sasuke's reason for his tardiness. He was curious too. The car silently pulled next to him as he waited next to his large office building in the better part of Leaf Capitol. The dark tinted window in the front passenger seat rolled down. He leaned in and saw the girl curled against her door and Sasuke on the other end of the seat, closest to him with his head down, arms folded.

"How long have they been asleep?" He asked the nameless driver, opening the door and slipping into the front seat.

"About an hour and a half. He told me to drive around."

"Take us to Garden of Lanterns. Its Sasuke's favorite place to eat." He looked over his shoulder. "They'll be hungry when they wake."

Their steady breathing from the back seat relaxed him. He didn't get much sleep last night. Sasuke was still awake when he came back home at four in the morning. He had to take care of those four personally, or he would have dropped Ino Yamanaka's belongings off himself. He couldn't help but be concerned. She had gone through a traumatizing experience and he wanted to check on her. The fact that Sasuke was willing to help out pleased him and he was grateful for it. Sasuke didn't like getting involved with strangers and their problems. Itachi was surprised that he even took her to the hospital. He knew it was a long shot.

Garden of Lanterns was named for its ambiance. It was a good place to eat and always lifted Sasuke's mood. He turned around and shook his little brother awake. Sasuke jumped in surprise. "Itachi?"

"Hungry?" He motioned to the restaurant through the window. Sasuke looked at Ino.

"How long have we been asleep?" He murmured, checking his hair and smoothing his expensive clothes of invisible wrinkles.

"About two hours." He unbuckled himself. Sasuke tried to shake Ino awake and she frowned. He shook her again and she began whimpering before she screamed and cowered against the door. His gut twisted when he saw her trembling fingers cover her head in protection.

"Hey! It's me!" Sasuke said, a bit of panic in his usually calm voice. The quivering blond jerked awake. Sasuke scooted closer peering into her face with a little troubled frown. "You're okay."

Her eyes were wide, clouded with lingering fear. After a little, Sasuke offered a little smile. "Are you hungry?"

Ino leaned forward and looking at the soft lighting of the restaurant sign. "What kind of food is served here?"

Itachi admired the way she quickly masked her feelings, but he worried for her too. She was such a slight thing to be under so much troubling thoughts. "Come on. You'll enjoy it." He told her in a soothing voice. The front host recognized them immediately and took them to a private dining room where they would receive first class service.

Ino looked awkward, walking beside them dressed in black jeans and a long-sleeved pale blue shirt. The ends of her long blonde hair fluttered in the breeze and she tucked her long bangs behind her ear in an attempt to groom herself. "Could have given me some time to dress properly for this place."

Itachi gave her a comforting smile. "You look fine." He assured her. She smiled a little at that but he knew she didn't feel fine. She still looked tired and he didn't like the bruise on her cheek or the dark circles under her eyes. He politely pulled out her chair for her and settled across with Sasuke at his side. He relaxed, wanting a calming energy around them.

"Sasuke took you to the hospital. Nothing to worry about right?" He asked, taking a sip of his cold water.

"I'll be fine." She sighed like she had said it a hundred times already.

Physically maybe. Itachi wanted to destroy those men again when he thought about it. He was so disgusted by them. "That's good. If there is anything you need you can always contact me or Sasuke. We'll help you anyway we can." He wrote both he and Sasuke's personal numbers on the back of a neat business card and slid it to her across the table.

She gave a little smile. "Thank you for the thought." Her tone was polite, but he doubted she would give them a call for anything. He wished she would reconsider. He felt responsible for her for some reason. Maybe it was because she was the same age as Sasuke. He was and would always be responsible for Sasuke. Out of all his family, it was Sasuke he cared for the most. He had dutiful relationship with his father and a congenial relationship with his mother. He tolerated the rest of his clan. But it was Sasuke who his concern and love went to. And to a minor extent, Shisui, his cousin.

They ordered and fell into small talk. He learned that her family owned a flower shop. Her Dad worked for the government, in the torture-interrogation unit. Her mom ran the shop. She went to a public school and had an interest in fashion design. Sasuke looked to be bored with the conversation, but Itachi knew better. He was listening.

When they ate, the conversation dwindled. Both she and Sasuke were hungry, just as he expected. He saw her begin to relax around them. Even Sasuke let his guard down and chatted about his own schooling. He went to an exclusive private school and just recently returned from some trip abroad in Demon Country. No doubt their father's idea. Demon Country was big in architectural design. He was always looking for new ideas to bring to his condos next to River Senji.

It was a lighter mood when they left to drop her off at her house. She gave them a smile and waved goodbye before disappearing into her modest house, out of sight. After a small silence, Itachi flipped down the visor and looked at Sasuke in the back. "Have a good time?"

He shrugged carelessly with a smirk. "She seems alright."

Alright. That was more than what he expected so he was surprised. "When I can't check up on her, can you do it for me then?"

Sasuke scowled. "Why are you so concerned about her? You're going way beyond what is necessary. I doubt she'll sue us."

Itachi smiled. "Sue us? Has father's seedy ideals of the less fortunate wormed their way into your brain?"

Sasuke flushed. "She said she'll be fine. You shouldn't worry about her so much."

Itachi flipped up the visor. "I shouldn't, but I do." He murmured. Was that a bad thing? Sasuke was like their father in his arrogance, not one to be concerned for others. He didn't want that for his little brother. Sasuke was always the one who tried his hardest to please their father and latched onto everything that he said or did to be acknowledged. To Fugaku Uchiha, perfection was expected from his sons and he groomed Itachi from birth to take over their expansive business with that idea in mind. And Itachi was perfect in his father's eyes. He was everything his father expected him to be. Something Sasuke quietly resented, but strived to become. Itachi didn't want that at all.

"If you don't have time, I'll look in time for time just to keep you at ease alright?" Sasuke said softly from the back. Itachi hid a triumphant smile behind his hand.

"Thank you Sasuke."


That's where they began. Itachi was a busy person, but Sasuke promised. His check-ups gradually increased and that promise to keep his brother happy turned into more than that. She was the first girl he tolerated. Part of it was because she didn't know who he was exactly. If she knew that the second heir to the prodigious and insanely rich and powerful Uchiha family, was taking some time out of his packed schedule to walk her home after school, he didn't know what she would do. But she never pried into his life and only asked question about his studies. She went to a public school, so he felt inclined to help her out with her school work since he benefited from a more superior education.

Today, they walked side by side, with her eating ice cream and he drinking an energy drink. She stopped in front of a bus bulletin board with fluttering advertising papers. He followed her gaze, lifting a brow at the ad she was quietly reading.


She looked offended at his scoffing tone. "So? Considering what happened, getting some combat skills is a good idea." She smirked. He was afraid he had taught her that. Then her pale blue eyes narrowed. "What? You don't think I can do it?" She accused him, insulted poking out her pink full bottom lip in a pout.

He lifted a brow. "I didn't say that did I? Why are you so defensive? Do you think you can do it?" He shot back.

She ripped the flyer from the board. "We'll see if I can or can't won't we?" She said snootily and spun on her heel making her long blonde ponytail flutter in the warm sunlight. "I'm going home."

He watched her go with irritation clearly on his face. She was always looking for a fight these days. It took some time in the beginning to adjust to her mood swings. She was a bright and bubbly person, but she was also cocky and competitive. Her confidence almost rivaled his so they got along.

The next day, when he met her after school he took her in another direction. "Where are we going?" She asked suspiciously as they left a group of gawking girls by the front gates. He noticed that more and more girls lingered after school these days and the blonde told him that it was because of him. They wanted to catch sight of him when he came to pick her up. She bragged and said that her popularity had doubled since.

"You said you wanted to learn Taijutsu. I know a dojo where we can go."

Her face brightened and her blue eyes sparkled. "Really? You don't think is silly for me to do this?" She jumped in front of him and began walking backwards with her hands behind her back.

He rolled his eyes. "I never said it was silly. You put words in my mouth all the time."

She squealed annoyingly loud and was practically skipping besides him, her sunshine yellow hair bouncing down her back. The skirt to her school uniform seemed unnecessarily short and he was passing out glares for the men and boys alike who were eying her and all her bounciness. Did she always need to make a spectacle of herself? He had a reputation to uphold here and she was trotting along like a sugar crazed child, giggling to herself in her happy little world. He couldn't help the smile that tugged at his lips at her brainless delight.

The dojo was a small place that had too much green paint. Their mascot was a giant turtle. There was a large statue of one just outside the heavy diamond cut metal doors. He grabbed her hand when she hesitated outside.

"Hello?" He called out, looking around the large arena as he pulled her behind him. It smelled like pine and mint floor cleaner and the girl wrinkled her nose.

"Where did you find this place?" She whispered to him, sticking close to him like a static dryer sheet. Her brown school bag bumped against his leg and her fingers dug into his arm as she leaned in. He could smell her soft floral scent and absently wondered if it was perfume or her natural smell.

"Itachi told me about it." He muttered back, looking down the darkened hallways that lined the outside of the arena.

"He didn't say anything to me about it when we talked on the phone last night." She murmured following his line of sight.

He was extremely annoyed at her comment. He was aware how much those two talked on the phone at ungodly hours. Itachi always had one of his soft smiles on his face after he hung up. He asked her why she always called his older brother and she just rolled her eyes. "I like to talk to him. He's never too busy to talk to me unlike some people. And he never hangs up on me."

That only happened once…okay three times. But she knew he went to bed at eleven and still she called! And it's not like she said anything that he didn't hear before. Itachi probably wanted Sasuke to surprise her so that's why he didn't tell her about the dojo. He didn't know why heat suddenly rushed to his cheeks.

Then suddenly a smoke bomb went off. Sasuke pushed her behind him, on edge. "Dynamic entry!" Two voices called out from the expanding smoke, their twin poses, dark against the lime green painted walls of the dojo. "Yosh! Lee! We have new students!" The taller shadow crowed.

Sasuke lowered his arm of protection and the girl stood beside him, blue eyes wide with curiosity.

"Yes Guy-Sensei!" The shorter one crowed back. "We will demonstrate our youthful skills. Are you prepared for the most amazing experience in your life my new youthful comrades?"

Sasuke and Ino shared a look. "Are you sure this is the right place? Itachi wouldn't play a joke on us would he?" She whispered to him fervently.

Sasuke frowned. "I don't think he has a joking side." He sounded unsure himself. The smoke cleared and they stared at the whitest and more dazzling smiles they ever seen. It was appalling.

"Are they wearing green leotards?" Ino screeched, looking horrified at the skin tight suits. They had shiny black hair, cut in identical bowl-styles and the younger had massively thick eyebrows and bug eyes.

"Welcome youthful referrals to my fabulous and ever stylish dojo!" The elder strutted to them with his voltage-white smile. "I am Guy, but you," He hooked his arm around Sasuke's neck and pulled him close in some kind of forced-man-hug. "Must call me Guy-sensei! Lee!" Sasuke winced at the loud bellow, and managed to get free. He was afraid he would never get the smell of Guy's strong cologne off of him. "Get them their uniforms!"

Ino fainted when Lee proudly produced the horrid green leotards.


It took all her girly tricks to persuade Guy-sensei to let her and Sasuke wear their own clothes. She would never live down the shame if she allowed that nylon knit leotard touch her person. It had been three months since she and Sasuke started regularly attending the dojo. The first couple of days were hard. They were nice guys, but very passionate about their taijutsu lessons. She was still getting used to listening to their inane spouting's of 'youth'.

Itachi warmly chuckled at her impression of Lee with a hearty "Yosh!"

"Guy has always been like that. Ever since I've known him." He mused from across the table in the small coffee shop they usually met in. "But I would never send you or Sasuke to him if I didn't think you couldn't handle it. He's a good teacher."

Ino happily sipped her dreamy caramel and cream frappachino with a low hum in her throat. "A couple of his regular students have joined in. One of them is Neji Huyga! THE Neji Hyuga from the insanely rich and powerful Hyuga Clan! His uncle practically owns East Fire country!" She was dazzled by it. "He's sooo cute too!" She gushed. "But he's like Sasuke. Cool and arrogant. He and Lee have this crazy rivalry thing going on. And the girl Tenten, she's fun to hang around with. I'm glad I get to practice with her. Neji, Lee and Sasuke don't even attempt to go easy on me." She grumbled.

Itachi's brow creased in concern. "Are they giving you a hard time? Want me to go down there and set them straight?"

Ino giggled. "No. I have my ways in dealing with them." Her eyes flashed. "You should see some of the clothes I wear to…distract them." So what if she was smug about it? Guys flexed their muscles, she flexed her womanly wiles. Her suggestive tone made Itachi blush a little. It was so adorable when he did that because he looked a lot like Sasuke when he blushed. She liked making Sasuke blush and almost got one out of Neji when they were doing some impromptu judo. Sasuke had been angry about that and he and Neji went all out when Guy-sensei instructed them to spar. If she didn't know any better, she could have swore that Sasuke was jealous. But, luckily, she knew better. Sasuke would call her an annoying pain the ass. Nothing but friendship was established firmly between them, even then, it was a strange kind of friendship. Sometimes she felt he tolerated her because if Itachi.

A cool finger pressed against her forehead. "What's with the scowl?" Itachi asked, raising a brow. "You get wrinkles if you scowl like that." He teased, knowing all about how serious she took her vanity.

"It's nothing." Itachi looked like he wanted to nose into her business, but her phone rang and she tossed him an apologetic smile before sliding it open. "Hi mom."

"Ino! Where are you? Sakura is here waiting for you."

Ino frowned. "Why didn't she call?"

"Oh I don't know. I told her you were out with a friend, but she said she would wait. Come home soon hun. Love you bye."

Sakura was a childhood friend. They met in grade school, but then Sakura's family moved when her mom got married. They occasionally got together when her mom had to do something in bustling Leaf Capitol. They talked time to time, but were never as close as they once were.

"Do you have to go then?" Itachi asked when she shoved her phone back into her shoulder bag.

"My friend is in town for a few days. I'm sorry we have to cut our time short." She apologized, hating to the idea of just leaving. They always met on Sunday evenings for their coffee dates. It was special for her since she liked spending time in his company.

"You don't get to see her often?" He asked, taking her finished drink and throwing it in the trash for her. She linked arms loving the feel of his warmth through his thing long sleeved shirt of dark maroon. Today, he was dressed casually in black slacks and dark brown dressy lace ups. His hair was tied in its usual ponytail at his nape.

"She moved to Nanako Spring when we were in the fifth grade. Before that, we were the best of pals." She explained. "Her mom can be a real bitch. She treated her like a porcelain doll when we were growing up."

Itachi escorted her to his car, opening the door like a gentleman. Sasuke never does this, Ino thought. He just grunts a cool 'get in we're late'. "A protective mother?"

Ino frowned. "More like oppressive. Sakura will always look at the world with innocent eyes."

Itachi hummed low in his throat. "It's nice to stay in contact with old friends." He said and drove her back to her house in his sleek black sports car.

"Thanks Itachi. I'll make it up to you." She waved until he was out of sight. As soon as she turned to her house, the door flew open and a pink haired girl came careening into her arms.

"Ino! I missed you so much! How have you been?" She asked excitedly, her pretty jade eyes sparking with pleasure and delight. She was dressed the way her mother groomed her since birth. Demurely. So sweet Ino's teeth ached looking at her. It wasn't to say she wasn't fashionable, because Sami Haruno always dressed her only child in the best. Sakura looked like a church school girl. Long, but tailored dress of creamy off white. Lace and silk with matching pink ballerina slippers. Her pink hair was glossy and long with a ribbon in it. Yes, one look at Sakura Haruno and you saw the world as she did. Full of love and sunshine. She was protected and innocent to the evils of the world thanks to her overprotective mother.

Ino's mom, Yumi Yamanaka had tea and cookies waiting for them. She brightly greeted Ino with her warm loving way, a hard hug and kiss to her head. Ino always melted when she did that. She and her mom were close. All three of them fell into excited chatter with Sakura filling Ino in about how she was doing, and Ino doing the same. They always did that, she and Sakura. They always fell back into their old ways when they were still best friends. It was dark when Sakura's mom can and picked her up.

Sami Haruno's green eyes were a darker shade than Sakura's with light strawberry blonde hair pulled into an elegant knot and a black skirt suit that was perfectly tailored to fit her tall, curvy figure. She wasn't drop dead gorgeous, but she was a handsome woman in her own way. She graced Ino and her mom with one of her fake smiles (for Sakura's benefit) before whisking her daughter away. Sakura said she would call her tomorrow.

"I never liked that woman. She always seems like she's got something up her butt." Ino's blonde haired mom muttered when she closed the door. Ino giggled loudly.


Yumi shrugged her expressive purple-blue eyes glittering with amusement. "What?"

Ino just giggled some more. "Need help with dinner?"


When Sasuke wasn't walking Ino home, or going with her to taijutsu class or running errands for his brother or father, he hung out with his closest friend, Naruto Uzumaki. He and Naruto went to the same school. Naruto's father was a rising star in the political world and his mom was a well know actress. Naruto was loud and obnoxious and made friends easily. He told Sasuke when he got out of High School, he was going to Kirin Arts school to become an actor, just like his mother. He starred in some seasoned teen dramas already, so he was pretty well known to the public. He was dating the heir to Byakugan Electronics, Hinata Hyuga.

She was a quiet girl who still blushed foolishly every time the blonde idiot grinned at her or kissed her on the cheek. Sasuke wasn't sure she would ever grow out of that. The Hyuga Clan rivaled the Uchiha Clan in power and wealth. They had their hands in just as many cookie jars as the Uchiha. His father called them worthy adversaries.

They met in a private pool hall in Leaf. He had Kiba Izunaka with him (heir to Red Bran, a major dog supply and food company). Sasuke tolerated Kiba and considered him an acceptable acquaintance. He had roguish good looks and messy brown hair. Red clan marks in the shape of fangs ran down both his cheeks and he dressed in leather a lot.

"Hey Sasuke! Where have you been these days?" Naruto asked loudly, straightening and leaning against his pool stick when he saw him enter. Some blue chalk from its tip brushed his cheek. His blonde hair was styled in a carless spiked tousle and his blue eyes reminded him of another loud blonde. "Not a call or nothing."

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "I never call you."

The blonde frowned, his blue eyes sparking with his good nature. "I know! It's the thought that counts! What? Too busy in Demon Country to send a text even? A'yo'?"

He shrugged out of his sports jacket of coal gray and tossed it over a bar stool and unbuttoned his cuffs. "Yes, I was busy."

Naruto frowned. "Ass." He mumbled. Kiba, left them to sweet talk some girls that entered, giving both of them a hungry wolfish smile.

"I'll bust. It's been a while since I kicked your ass in pool." Sasuke said, grabbing his stick and leaning over the table.

Truthfully, he and Naruto were equals in pool. Sasuke enjoyed playing with him because it gave him a challenge.

"Hey Sasuke, does Itachi have a girlfriend?" Naruto asked out of the blue when they finished their third game.

He stopped racking the balls and glanced up at Naruto's innocent expression. "What? No." He said with a scowl. "Why?"

Naruto grinned. "I just see him around sometimes with a perky blonde. I swear I even saw him smile once. I've never seen Itachi smile before so it kinda freaked me out! So who is she? Do you know her? She looks cute enough."

Sasuke sighed. "She's just a…friend as far as I know." He felt the swell of bitterness rise in him. If Naruto has seen them together, then who else has? Were there rumors going around that Itachi and Ino were dating? The thought left him most displeased. "We met her a few months ago." He didn't entertain the idea of describing just how they met.

Naruto raised a brow. "Oh? So you hang out with her too? What school does she go to?"

Sasuke began to rack the balls again. "Why do you care?"

Naruto took a drink of his bottled water. "I care if you care. How come you won't tell me about her? Ashamed or something?"

Sasuke's temper flared. "I'm not ashamed of her! She's annoying and loud and totally…"

Naruto's chuckled cut him off. "Wow. I got a rise out of you huh? So that look in your eyes was jealously."

Sasuke flushed. "I'm not jealous of Itachi. Who he hangs around with is his own business."

"But you don't like it." Naruto pressed. "It took a few months huh?"

Sasuke felt uncomfortable with the way Naruto was looking at him. "A few months for what?"

He grinned. "For you to realize that you're beginning to like her."


Shisui Uchiha watched his favorite cousin settle in his plush seat, unbuttoning his jet black jacket at the waist to get more comfortable. They were seated in a private box in Ryoshi Theater, waiting for the opera to begin. He didn't really care for this kind of thing, but if it was Itachi who asked him, he always agreed.

A cute server girl dressed in a tight black cocktail dress asked if they wanted anything to drink and Shisui flashed a disarming smile that made her blush bright pink before he ordered.

"Water please." Itachi didn't even look up from his phone, texting someone with nimble fingers. Shisui watched him from the corner of his eye in interest. Whoever Itachi was texting was making his usually stoic cousin smile and that increased Shisui's curiosity. He had heard that there was a girl that Itachi was often seen with. She was seen with Sasuke too.

Perhaps there is a love triangle developing? Shusui thought with a grin, his imagination running wild with the thought. And Itachi and Sasuke would fight and make her choose, but she wouldn't be able to because she was in love with both. She would become heartbroken by the pain she was causing to both of them and in the middle of the night, she would disappear from their lives in the hope that without her there the brothers would be reconciled and eventually….fall in love with someone else….Ahhh I'm such a romantic.

"What are you smiling about?" Itachi's voice cut into his daydreaming.

Suisui let his teeth show with a grin. "You and the girl you're texting." He leaned into his cousin. "Tell me, what she's like. Is she hot? Are you falling in looove?"

Itachi chuckled and pocketed his phone. "She's a friend, nothing more, nothing less."

Shisui raised a brow. "Yeah right. She must be something if you're answering her texts back quickly. Come one Itachi…spill!"

Itachi had a secretive smirk on his lips. "She's…interesting. Bright and warm, innocent and cocky. She's the only one I see that gets Sasuke so worked up without even trying."

Shisui grasped eagerly on that bit of gossip. "So Sasuke likes her huh?"

Itachi's phone vibrated and he pulled it from his pocket without losing his smile. "He does, but you know Sasuke. He'll deny it until he's blue in the face."

Shisui chuckled. "Very true." He peered down at Itachi's phone's glowing screen and saw that the mystery girl he was texting had inserted a lot of different emotioncoms in her text that said "Enjoy your show and tell me all about it tomorrow."

"So you approve of her then?" Shisui lowered his voice when the lights began to dim. The cocktail waitress came with their drinks and he slipped a nice tip into her warm hands. Along with his number.

Itachi's smile softened as the light from his phone died down. "Of course I do."

Shisui gazed wordlessly at his cousin. Maybe I'm not too far off with that love triangle thing. Itachi was just like Sasuke…he's denying his attraction to the unknown girl as well. Itachi had a few love interests in his life before, but never got emotionally attached to them. None of them ever made him smile like that before. None of them ever made Itachi text back! Oh, he had to meet this girl to see what all the fuss was about…