Enemies are made
When Sakura arrived at the school, she noticed that the scattered groups of students were all furiously gossiping. As she walked through the school gates towards the library, she picked up phrases like, "And they're new here!" and, "I hear they got expelled!"
Sakura was left feeling disgusted by her peers' preoccupation with new people and delinquency in particular. She was already quite aware that there were new students arriving, she just hadn't been told it was today. Fantastic, she thought, and if they were previously expelled then we're sure to get along! Why were there never any well-behaved new students?
Her phone bleeped at her from her pocket. She pulled it out and stared at it dubiously. Technology was mostly a mystery to her, so the new phone she got last Christmas still confused her. That and it seemed semi-sentient, given that it often called people on its own, often allowing them to listen in on her obliviously practicing a speech for Student Council.
She had a text from Shikamaru.
He, as one of her only friends, was an invaluable source of aid, especially in cases of social etiquette that completely baffled her – such as the time he gently advised her against requesting that the school took steps to prevent all the underage drinking that took place at weekends. Apparently the students would revolt if their ‘clubbing time’ was affected. Sakura could never understand her fellow youth. One day in the near future, at least sixteen percent of them all would put down a bottle, stare at the mirror through bleary eyes and think, how I wish I had listened to the Student Body President!
‘There’s a situation at school that will make your head explode,’ Shikamaru’s text read ominously, yet she could picture him saying it cheerfully – he always found her amusing, even when she was being deadly serious. ‘The interwebz are buzzing. If you have time, check school website. Beware, you will encounter plenty of ‘LOLOLOL’s and possibly even a reference to ‘noobz.’’
She fired off a stern text, made slow by her clumsy manoeuvring of the buttons. ‘If your last, rather unintelligible text was referring to the new students arriving today, I am offended you assumed I was not already aware of it!’
A group of girls passed by. Sakura noted at least twelve dress code violations altogether and had to force herself to keep walking, not to stop and start issuing detentions there and then.
The school itself was new, barely six years old. It was built in a way that screamed money, ostentatious decorations and a ludicrous amount of water fountains. Sakura disapproved on the whole, considering it a waste of the school’s budget. Not that the budget was a problem. It existed based on charitable funding of happy parents and others. Sakura had happened upon a letter from the headmaster thanking the Uchiha family for the library block they had paid for as thanks for one of their children’s A-grade averages.
She stood outside the library, frowning up at the inscription above the door. Uchiha Library. In another display of wealth, the school had arranged for cherubs, nymphs and other assorted naked mythological creatures to be carved around the inscription. Sakura thought the nudity set a bad precedent for the library, personally. It said den of vice as opposed to place of learning.
She headed inside, feeling warm air flush over her as she entered through the automatic doors, chasing away autumn’s chill. She found herself in an extremely large room, filled with more books than one could read in a lifetime. There were plenty of places to hide from irritating students, which was why Sakura adored it. She particularly enjoyed curling up in a disused, darkened corner with a good book.
The librarian on duty today was Shizune, a small dark-haired woman in her late twenties. Sakura liked the woman because they had similar, business-like dispositions and a tendency to overreact.
Sakura reached into her bag and pulled out the library books. There were some privileges to being president. She was allowed to take out more books than other students, a rule she gleefully obeyed.
Shizune looked up with a smile, "Morning, Sakura! Busy day today."
Sakura looked up sharply at the lack of questioning inflection at the end of the sentence. Shizune knew she was going to have a busy day, she wasn't asking.
"Why will it be busy, Shizune?" Sakura asked, carefully stacking the borrowed books on the counter.
"You didn't know?" Shizune asked.
If I knew, why would I ask? Sakura wondered, irritated.
"No, I didn't." Sakura said, smiling politely.
"Those new students. There is a lot of paperwork to get through because of them, and you were volunteered to help. I can't believe they didn't ask!"
"Why would they?" Sakura said gloomily. Paperwork. Joy, "They knew I'd do it anyway."
She pointed to the red sash she wore. Gold letters were emblazoned on the fabric, declaring her to be the 'Student Body President.'
"Yes, well," Shizune looked somewhat disapproving, "I’m going to medical school and I know the affects your hard work is having on your health, it could be –"
"I know, Shizune," Sakura interrupted, having read many a medical text for fun, "I promise you my diet and exercise more than makes up for my busy schedule."
Not true. But there was no point in needlessly worrying the woman who provided Sakura with the much-loved books.
"Well, if you're sure. What would you like to take out today?" Shizune gave her a professional smile.
Sakura shrugged, "Surprise me."
Her pocket beeped at her. Another text from Shikamaru. ‘Ah, but do you know who the new students are?’
First lesson, typically, was Maths and Sakura was so very, very late. I arrived over an hour early, Sakura seethed to herself whilst running down the hall, but because of some law-breaking brats I am now fifteen minutes late! Where is the justice in that?
She knocked courteously on the door. The glass panel in the door revealed that the entire class was staring at her. Fantastic. She straightened out her clothes and fixed a scary, no-nonsense grin on her face.
Kurenai looked up and gestured for her to enter.
"Sakura," She observed, blue eyes fixed upon her, "Tardiness is not like you."
Sakura, out of breath, pointed at her sash.
"Official business, hm?" Kurenai said, her smile becoming a little mocking. Sakura was aware that Kurenai disliked a student having so much power.
Little did she know, Sakura never used her power for evil. Except that one time. But it was Ami and she had really deserved it.
Sakura sat at her desk, once again keenly aware that the person who was supposed to be sitting next to her had asked to be moved and now there was just an empty seat beside her, mocking her.
She wasn't evil. She wasn't spiteful. She didn't emanate a powerful odour. So why did every student she meet try to avoid her? She had a few friends but she got the impression she was mostly disliked by the majority of the student body.
Kurenai began speaking again and Sakura immediately started to pay rapt attention, hand automatically seeking out a pen to write down what the woman was saying.
The room was silent besides the soothing sound of Kurenai’s voice and the quiet scratch of pens.
The door crashed open with a bang.
A redhead sauntered in. He had kicked the door in, despite the rather handy doorknob, as the door now lay awkwardly on its broken hinges.
Sakura’s mouth opened in outrage at this blatant act of vandalism, and turned to Kurenai, in the hope that she would punish the newcomer accordingly.
The teacher had looked shocked at first but as she focused on the redhead her expression changed subtly.
"Sakura, would you mind attending to the class in my absence? I will only be five minutes at the most. You," Kurenai pointed to the redhead, "I will speak to you in the hall."
Kurenai stalked out of the room, followed by the strange boy.
Sakura, jaw working furiously as her anger grew, pushed back her chair and stood at the front of the class. She was not supposed to teach her fellow students, she was not an acceptable substitute for a teacher by any means. She had been asked to attend to such duties before in the past, her position in the school and her reputation leading the teachers to trust her. Still, she hardly felt qualified.
The class, who had begun murmuring the moment the door had been kicked in, immediately paid attention when Sakura cleared her throat.
Though she detested her steely reputation, it did give her a certain pull amongst the students. Uzumaki Naruto, for one, stopped pulling Tenten’s hair the moment he noticed Sakura’s glare focused on him.
Sasuke was watching her expectantly, pen poised to write notes. Ignoring the flutter in her stomach at the sight of her crush watching her, Sakura grabbed the teacher’s abandoned textbook and read aloud.
Thankfully, it was nothing complicated and the class asked very few questions.
Sakura was getting into her stride now. Inuzuka Kiba had been chatting quite merrily to his neighbour, the ever-silent Shino, who was managing to ignore him quite admirably. Nevertheless, Sakura sought to make an example of this one before he undermined her authority and the class lost respect for her.
She stopped lecturing and slowly began walking up to Kiba’s desk. He didn't notice at first, still chatting away.
Sakura brought her book down on his desk, making a satisfying thwack sound. The whole class jumped, but none more so than Kiba. He nearly fell out of his chair.
"Inuzuka-san,” Sakura said coldly, "Do you have a problem with my teaching?"
For a moment, Kiba looked up at her and Sakura could see the rebellion in his eyes. Why should he have to answer to a fellow student? For the record, she completely agreed with him.
Then Hinata – one of Sakura’s few friends – elbowed him.
"No, Sakura." Kiba gave her a mischievous grin, looking her up and down in her frumpy, ill-fitted uniform, "No problem at all."
"Good," Sakura said, her tone clipped, "Eyes up here, if you will. If I hear you interrupt my lecture once more I will see to it that you do not see daylight again, is that understood?"
A little over the top, but the students appreciated drama. Yamanaka Ino herself looked riveted. Sasuke looked slightly amused.
Kiba looked cowed, which was most important. Sakura had always believed bad apples should be rooted out first to stop them spoiling the others.
A quiet coughing sound from the doorway alerted her to Kurenai and the redhead’s reappearance. From the look in Kurenai’s slightly impressed eyes and the boy’s stare, they had witnessed Sakura’s reign of terror.
"Give you much trouble?" Kurenai asked, her mouth curled up in a faintly amused grin.
"Nothing I could not handle, Kurenai-sensei." Sakura said respectfully, and sat back down.
"Now, please introduce yourself for the class' benefit." Kurenai turned to the redhead.
He looked mutinous but obeyed. "My name is Gaara."
Sakura waited, wanting to jot down a few details about the newcomer.
He looked at Kurenai. She looked impatient, "Tell them about yourself!"
"No." He said tonelessly. This brought a few titters amongst the students. Gaara was pale, his light green eyes ringed with smudged eyeliner. He glared at the class. Sakura noticed they immediately fell silent. He was lithe, the black hoodie he wore swamped his frame, but the two fists clenched by his sides looked hard and as if they could do a lot of damage. He tipped his head back and looked at the class, his gaze assessing.
Sakura wrote down: Gaara, nothing to tell. First act as student, damage classroom door. Did not appear to be punished. Perhaps verbal warning?
"I suppose that will have to do." Kurenai said wryly, "Sit next to… Sakura, the pink-haired girl with the red sash."
Just sometimes, Sakura wished she could be less conspicuous. Were there any other pink-haired girls wearing red sashes? No.
Gaara walked past her desk, every inch of radiating tension and danger. He threw himself into his chair so hard it nearly toppled back. He kicked his desk until it wobbled and fell.
Sakura, tidy by nature, reached out to break the desk's fall.
As she did so, she looked up and met the new student's eyes. He was glaring at her incredulously. So was the rest of the class. She couldn't understand why. Was there a rule against letting falling desks fall, like letting sleeping dogs lie?
Almost defiantly, Sakura pulled the desk upright. Unable to resist, she straightened it.
She pulled back and grabbed her pen, ready to transcribe the teacher’s words once more.
Sasuke, sitting a few rows in front of her, turned around to stare.
Judging by the silence, Sakura had just done something very, very stupid. Well, Sakura shrugged to herself, she didn't care either way. She pulled the top off the pen and tried her best to ignore the incredulous stares from the rest of the class.
"Sakura, that was so brave!" Hinata said tremulously over lunch.
Sakura looked at her questioningly and began to eat her sliced apple, chewing with care.
"Standing up to the new boy!" Hinata elaborated.
"When did I do that?" Sakura asked blankly.
"He kicked his desk but you stopped it falling. Everyone's said he's very violent and dangerous, no one else would have dared do it!" Hinata said, pale eyes wide.
"There is a difference," Sakura said, more interested in her sliced apple than the rumours of schoolchildren, "between bravery and ignorance. I had no idea he was considered some fabled figure of delinquency."
"You still would have done it if you'd known." Hinata said loyally.
Sakura smiled back at her friend. Hinata had a quite nervous disposition. She also had a tendency to fidget and wring her hands, her default expression a grimace.
Since joining this school, the only friend she had ever made and kept was Hinata. Ino didn't count. It was occasionally quite lonely, but Sakura saw no reason to complain. She was the reason she had so few friends, so she could not really moan about it.
Sakura had done her best to improve the school’s menu, knowing exactly how vital the students’ diets were for their development at this early stage in their lives, but unfortunately, she had no say in the decoration of the canteen, merely the contents within it.
Given the choice, she mused, she would put in large windows for extra light, replacing the old, permanently dust-streaked ones. She would get rid of all the little tables and have long dining tables instead, to force the isolated cliques to sit with each other and in doing so, bond.
"O-oh, Sakura, I was thinking of starting a study group!" Hinata squeaked almost incomprehensively, face colouring, eyes fixed just over Sakura’s shoulder.
"A study group! Hey! Can I join, Hina-chan?" An obnoxiously cheerful voice said from behind Sakura. She didn't need to turn to know that it was Naruto. Only he butchered Hinata’s name so affectionately.
And where Naruto went…
…Sasuke closely followed. He leant over Sakura’s shoulder to stare at her lunch. She nearly blushed herself. She and Hinata made quite the pair of blushing lovelorn fools.
"How nutritious, Haruno." Sasuke murmured.
"I try." Sakura replied crisply, pretending her heart wasn't pounding like a drum in reaction to his proximity.
"So! Saku-tan! Can I join this study group?" Naruto’s tanned face joined Sasuke’s pale one in staring at her.
Sakura nearly rolled her eyes. "Ask Hinata. It was her idea."
Naruto looked a bit intimidated by her frostiness, but Sakura wasn't out to make friends with the likes of Uchiha or his underlings. Though she adored Sasuke, it was owed to her ridiculous hormones and she was quite confident her little crush would be forgotten by the time she was post-puberty. God, she couldn't wait to be free of raging hormones.
People like Sasuke and Ino were the reason she worked so hard in this school.
"Can we sit with you, Hina-chan, Saku-tan?” Naruto asked eagerly, clutching his pizza.
Sakura merely shrugged to indicate her neutrality, counting on Hinata to insist otherwise.
She was saved from having to sit with the boy she liked by a light touch at her elbow. It was Moegi, a younger student, "Sakura, Kakashi-sensei wants to see you." She said softly.
Sakura looked mournfully at the remains of her lunch. "Oh well, I shouldn't have expected to be able to eat it all, anyway."
She gathered it up and threw away her rubbish neatly.
Naruto looked a bit relieved to see her go, "Oh, OK, Sasuke and me will keep Hina-chan company!"
Sasuke watched Sakura go with those irritatingly unfathomable dark eyes of his.
"Thing is, Haruno," Kakashi said, lazily sprawled out on a chair, "There is a lot of paperwork to do. And we teachers are busy." He indicated the staff room, in which Anko was playing hangman with Genma.
"Thing is," Sakura mimicked the teacher, "paperwork isn't exactly in my job description. I already do about a hundred things I'm not technically meant to."
"But Haruno!" Kakashi said mournfully, "The Student Body President is supposed to be generous and hard-working!"
"I am." Sakura gritted out.
"You'd be doing us a huge favour…" Kakashi wheedled.
Sakura snatched the papers from his hands and glowered at him, "If this takes me till after four I demand to be paid."
"Deal!" Kakashi said cheerfully, already going off to join Anko and Genma in their game.
Sakura fumed silently, carrying the boxes of papers Kakashi had pointed out to her. She would have to do it in the library. Ridiculous, utterly ridiculous and probably illegal.
She spotted something on one of the papers. Gaara, it said. Sabaku no Gaara was scribbled in the margin. So. He was the reason she was forced to do all this paperwork. She dumped the box on a seat in the corridor and tried to catch her breath.
Then, to her disbelief, she spotted the source of all her troubles. Save the hormone related. That was Sasuke.
This was Gaara.
"Right." Sakura said to herself fiercely. She grabbed the box and stormed over to Gaara. He was with two other teenagers. There was a distinct family resemblance in their facial features, despite their different hair colours. Sakura guessed siblings or cousins.
"You." She pointed at Gaara, having put the box down. He looked at the finger she was pointing at him, his expression quietly murderous. Refusing to be cowed, Sakura actually moved nearer to him, accusing finger now inches from his chest.
"Your hair. Hair dye violates the dress code, including highlights or lowlights or whatever it is you have," The finger pointed to his blood-red hair, “Your shirt needs to be tucked in. Your collar is a mess. Where is your tie, exactly? You would have been provided with one. You are wearing completely the wrong sort of shoes." Sakura ranted, straightening his collar as she went and poking his chest to indicate lack of tie.
The supposed siblings had looked increasingly terrified as her rant went on. The girl's eyes kept flickering from Sakura to Gaara and back.
"And you!" Sakura switched targets and honed in on the brown-haired sibling, "Face paint is most certainly not allowed in the corridors. If it is for Drama class, keep it in Drama class. All stage make up and costume must be removed following the termination of class."
The girl had begun to smirk the moment Sakura had focused on the older boy. The smirk vanished as Sakura bore down upon her.
"Your hair, is it bleached or natural? You are not allowed to expose your stomach. Your skirt is entirely too short, are you using it as a belt? And why on earth have you left two buttons undone at the top?" Sakura pulled the girl's top down and buttoned it up for her, her wrath increasing with every second.
As she pulled at the top, a packet of cigarettes fell out. Sakura just stared at them for a moment, inwardly raging, and then looked up to silently demand an explanation.
"They aren't mine; they're my boyfriend's, honest!" The girl said hastily.
"Then why are they on your person?" Sakura said slowly, confiscating the cigarettes, "No cigarettes on school grounds. That is four cases of dress code violation and one harmful substance confiscation on your part," Sakura turned to the oldest boy, "You only had one violation. Well done. And you," She turned to the youngest. His eyes were so cold they were difficult to look at, "You have six dress code violations."
Refusing to be intimidated by the glaring redhead, Sakura added, "That all adds up to detention!"
"That's not fair, it's our first day!" The oldest complained.
Sakura took a step towards him, "Be warned," She said in a low voice, "I am in a very bad mood today. Yes, it might be your first day. But that does not change the fact that you received a letter indicating the rules of the school months ago, does it not?"
She bent down and picked up the box of paperwork, "And I have all this to sort through, because of you three!"
The girl looked more amused than angry the moment Sakura started staggering under the weight of the box. The oldest immediately went to help her with her heavy burden, but Gaara shook his head.
"You have no idea what you are dealing with." Gaara said. The threat was explicitly stated. Sakura could file it down to report for later. If only she had access to a pen.
"I'm dealing with students," Sakura panted, "As is my job. I expect to see you all looking more appropriate by tomorrow."
Gaara leaned closer, so their faces were almost touching, "You do not want to make me angry, little girl."
This would have impressed her more if he were taller than her by more than a few inches. Little girl, as if.
"Haruno?" Sasuke said, sounding surprised.
Sakura swivelled on the spot. "Uchiha-san? What is it?"
She expected a report that the toilets had been flooded again, not the look of concern on Sasuke’s face when he saw who she was with.
"Are you alright?" He asked, subtly nodding at Gaara and the others, the cause of his alarm obvious.
"Oh, yes, definitely," Sakura lied, "Just off to do some paperwork."
Sasuke came over and grabbed the box, lifting it out of her arms with enviable ease.
"Then I'll help." Sasuke said firmly, his eyes on Gaara, looking almost predatory.
"Oh, there's no need –" Sakura tried to protest, but Sasuke had already started walking off to the library.
Sakura was left in slightly awkward silence with the three siblings.
"I'm sorry about if I seemed a little… aggressive just now." Sakura said apologetically, making sure to address her apology to the two marginally nicer siblings, e.g. not Gaara.
"I've never been scared of a Student Body President before!" The older boy laughed.
"I'm Haruno Sakura, it's nice to meet you." She gave an awkward wave.
The older girl barely inclined her head. Gaara completely ignored her.
"I'm Kankuro," The older boy said, “I see you’re in my little brother’s year. Take care of him, yeah?”
"And I'm Temari, the girl you physically assaulted earlier." The girl raised her eyebrows.
"I'd hardly call it assault, more like aggressive buttoning." Sakura shrugged, “It’s my job to maintain control and –“
"Haruno," Sasuke said, reappearing in the doorway, sounding aggrieved, "Let's go."
Sakura smiled at Temari and Kankuro and went to leave. As she passed through the doorway she heard Gaara say quietly, "So, her name is Haruno Sakura."
Ignoring the chill of foreboding that little statement made, Sakura joined Sasuke and walked away from the oddly threatening sibling trio.