Kisame pulled a key ring out of his pocket and allowed the metals to noisily jingle together as he moved to unlock the door. Every part of the gesture made Sakura uneasy, and she kept glancing down the empty streets, half expecting to see hordes of crazies mounting the sidewalks after them, like wild animals to the call of a dinner bell. As soon as he pushed the door open however they were greeted by two men, pointing shotguns directly in their faces.

"Oi, Kisame, yeah!" said one of the men after a few agonizing moments of tension and confusion, as both parties struggled to make out silhouettes against the darkening evening sky. Upon closer inspection, the two strangers put down their guns down and fist bumped Kisame instead, once he was recognized as a friend.

Out of all of their high school gang, only Kisame and Itachi had decided to go to the local college. Itachi for Business, and Kisame for Athletic Training. Itachi was blessed with a full ride based on his natural smarts, and Kisame had a full ride on an athletic scholarship. The scholarship was technically for baseball, and although Kisame was pretty good, his secret passion was for swimming - and he was one of the best on the Konoha Swim Team.

Every holiday and almost every weekend however, the two would take the short trip to hang out with their best friends from back home. Since almost everyone in their backwater hometown sucked, and the schools were filled with street fights and gangs, in junior high their leader Pain decided to start his own gang – the Akatsuki – to be a sort of anti-gang thing.

Then in high school after Itachi's parents died... he signed up with Pain's crew, much to the dismay of his mentors and guardians – particularly his teachers, who always thought of him as a genius with 'too much promise to be wasting his life like that'. But Itachi had his reasons.

"Kisame, Itachi..." said the other man with red hair, greeting the two as they entered. "But, who are they?" he asked, pointing a thumb the two girls who followed after them, still trembling from the idea of having guns directed at their foreheads.

Sakura rolled her eyes at this man however, tired of everyone speaking about them as if they weren't there. Before she could respond however, Itachi spoke up.

"Relax Sasori, they're with us," and with that the man shut up and they all followed the blond haired one down the stairs into the basement. Once they were there, Kisame walked over to the other side of Sasori, and together the two lifted up the creaking floorboards, revealing a ladder leading into a hidden chamber.

"Come on," said Itachi to the two girls as he disappeared below. But did she really feel safe being cooped up in a bolted floorboard with a bunch of guys she hardly knew? Ones with guns for that matter?

Sakura wasn't one to just follow some stranger into a car, or even follow said stranger into a creepy basement hatch. But she sure as hell wasn't going to go back outside. With a deep breath and a reassuring smile towards Rin, she gripped her friend's trembling hand and they both ducked underneath the floorboards, covering their mouths from the dusty air and smell of mold.

Although Sakura wasn't going to admit it anytime soon, she recognized Itachi from one of her University math classes. He was only one of the most gorgeous guys in her class (whole university?) and all the girls around her were constantly whispering about him. Except for her of course. I mean, he was attractive and all, but she learned her lesson the hard way back in middle school that the type of guys she was interested in didn't appreciate fangirls.

A few moments later the girls fully descended into what looked like a relatively spacious living room with stone walls, a carpeted floor and with nothing but a little, flickering light-bulb hanging from the ceiling to shed some light on their panicked expressions. Sakura imagined that it would be a freezing place to live in during the winter months.

As soon as their bare feet made contact with the crunchy carpet below, they were greeted by eleven pairs of angry eyes, all directing their curiosities at her and Rin as if they were tasty prey that had just descended down the staircase from heaven (hell?).

She swallowed a lump in her throat. A tall, orange haired man with a bunch of facial piercings looked to be in the midst of a heated discussion with their Itachi. He didn't seem too happy at the appearance of the two girls in the cellar either.

"The four week food rations are only for eleven people. What the hell are we supposed to do with two extras?"

"We might not be trapped here for four weeks," Itachi explained carefully, glancing around the crowded room, aware of all eyes on the two girls he brought home with him. "But if that's your biggest concern, they can eat my rations. I don't care."

"You're going to split it with them?" asked Pain, squinting his eyes at his comrade. Itachi nodded.

On principle, Pain didn't like giving in to people's demands, but he remembered the reason he started Akatsuki to begin with. "It's settled then," the leader said, spinning around to face his new guests with a look of disdain. "Welcome to the Akatsuki House." He threw his arms up in the air in a mock symbolic gesture and turned on his heels to exit the room behind a large black curtain, but not before uttering a hushed warning towards his raven-haired underling. What seemed to be the only other female in the 'house', a pretty looking blue-haired girl, followed quickly after him.

"Don't mind him," whispered Itachi to his guests after he made his way back over to them. "The fact that he didn't put up much of a fight is a good sign."

Sakura didn't know if she should be relieved by this news or not by this, but didn't have much time to think about it because the people in the house began introducing themselves, once angry expressions gone and replaced by intense curiosity.

"Hi!" said one guy shattering the awkward silence. He was wearing an eye patch and the skin on the adjacent side of his face had some scars, but they didn't look recent (Sakura noted). "My name is Tobi! Umm, just so I don't freak you out later, I suppose I should tell you now that I have split personality disorder." Sakura blinked as the strange man quickly moved from herself to Rin, not giving her a second to respond. Rin for some reason, seemed to have a pained expression on her face.

"It's nice to meet you," Rin said in an oddly stiff way. The pair locked eyes for a second-too-long before the next pair moved up - the two men who had greeted them at the doorway with guns. Sakura would have to pester Rin about that odd encounter later.

"I'm Deidara, hn, and this is Sasori."

Sakura nodded as they moved on.

Then two identical twins came up. "Hey, I'm Shiro!" said one, frantically shaking her hand. He honestly reminded her of the guy Tobi from before. His twin just nodded to her, saying "I'm Kuro. Don't mind my brother," he shook his head, obviously embarrassed, and then moved on. Sakura noted that the only real thing different about them was their hair color, and apparently their personalities. Other than that they looked like carbon copies of each other.

"Great, I think you've just about officially met everyone," said Itachi, relieved that most everyone seemed to be accepting of them. That would make it harder for Pain to kick them out later.

He pointed to the corner of the room where two guys were still sitting, not bothering to get up and greet the two new girls. "That's Hidan," Itachi said, pointing to the silver-haired teen who only nodded to her and Rin, and then smiled at them both in a sick way that made Sakura feel uneasy.

"And that's Kakuzu," he said, pointing to the man beside Hidan who seemed to be sleeping, although it was hard to tell because he was wearing a hoodie that covered most of his face and body. "You already met Pain and his girlfriend Konan," he pointed towards the black curtain they had disappeared into. "They all aren't too bad once you get to know them," he promised, smiling at the girls.

With the exception of Hidan and Kakuzu they all sat down and got to know each other a little bit better, trying to find a way to kill time and their boredom, and it became quite apparent to the girls after awhile that all the guys in the Akatsuki House were in some sort of gang together. Great.

But in all honesty as Itachi said, they weren't all that bad. The 'group' Akatsuki (or 'community response team' as Tobi had put it), were somehow prepared for something like a zombie apocalypse to happen, because the room was stocked with guns, ammunition and food.

They were down in the basement for what seemed like hours, laughing and almost forgetting the situation they were in, when finally some sound of activity from above could be heard. A loud explosion sent ripples throughout the underground lair, shaking the guns lining the walls. Even the eternally sleeping Kakuzu jolted awake and drew his gun out from his jacket, peeking his head through his hoodie. The black curtains were flung back in a swift frenzy and Pain took curt strides across the room with Konan dutifully by his side.

"There was an explosion on the surface," he explained. "Itachi, Kuro, come with me," he ordered, and immediately the two jumped up and followed him, climbing up the stairs to the above basement and then ground floors.

What was going on?

The members of the cellar spent the next few minutes in silence, sweating with guns cocked and loaded before the three started climbing back down, to everyone's relief.

"The rioters," Pain announced. "They made it to our street." Sakura could not help but let fear grip at her heart. "They must have gotten hold of some sort of dynamite because the blue house down the road exploded - that was the explosion we heard just a few minutes ago - and they are looting the place as we speak. It's best we don't make any noise from now on," he said gravely. "Let's all get some sleep. We have a full day ahead of us tomorrow." Someone pulled the string off the hanging bulb, and with a small click all light was extinguished from the area.

Sakura placed her arms around Rin's waist comfortingly, and the two shuffled over to where she remembered a couch was. It was a surprised to find somebody already laying on it however.

"It's ok," said Itachi's familiar voice coming up from the couch. Sakura couldn't see anything through the darkness, but soon some blankets were being placed in her arms. "You two can sleep here. Get some sleep and we'll check out the above situation in the morning."

But Sakura could not sleep at all, even snuggled up next to Rin on the lumpy sofa. The screams and sounds of chaos above were too close, and too alarming.

…...

Sakura jolted awake from her half-sleep state hours later from a nightmare, and glanced over at her near-dead cell phone. 5:04 AM. Eyes now adjusted to the faint light however, she glanced around the room. Kuro and Shiro occupied one of the other couches, and the rest were scattered about, wrapped up in sleeping bags or blankets on the floor - Kakuzu still in his usual spot. Sakura glanced down and noticed Itachi right beneath her, one blanket tangled around his body. He had slept next to them apparently. How cute.

She did her best to get out of the couch without waking Rin. Check. Next was to step over Itachi. Check. She then decided to explore the rest of the hideout until everybody woke up. For safety purposes, she reasoned.

All in all, besides the living room she found the black curtains directly led into a tiny kitchen with a huge, stocked pantry. Next, a bathroom, then two smaller rooms – both stocked with every weapon imaginable. She ran a hand along the walls in one of the rooms, feeling the cold, hard metal. And then something caught her eye from across the room. Picking up a medium sized baseball bat in her hands, she smiled at the heavy coolness of it. This she could use.

Her valiant thoughts of zombie slaying, kendo style, were interrupted however when a light flickered on. She shouldn't have been surprised to turn around and find none other than Itachi himself standing in the doorway, staring at her with his usual unreadable expression, but she was. He made her feel as though she had just been caught doing something dirty.

"You're lucky I'm the one who found you here," he growled at her, still half asleep. "You shouldn't be snooping."

"I-I just," she stammered, placing the bat back down in its corner. "I just wanted to see what was all down here. I was curious! For all I knew, you all could have been some freaky necro cult or something."

It was too early for Itachi to hide his smirk so he wore it with pride and closed the distance between them. "I see you found us out. That's too bad. Now I wonder, will you still stay with us now that you know our secret? Or would you take your chances outside with all the real undead people?"

Sakura's cheeks flushed the same color as her hair, if only because of how close Itachi was. Pretty soon she was pressed up against a wall, with the butt of an AK thrust painfully into her lower back.

"What?" she said uneasily, ready to conjure up some of her old Kendo training if need be, to grab Rin and escape. But Itachi had already let her go and was laughing.

"A necro cult? Please," he said, rubbing the sleep away from his eyes. "I need coffee before you start throwing accusations like that at me."

Sakura blushed again, but this time from slight embarrassment. "Don't be a jackass! Put yourself in my shoes… Or better yet, put some clothes on!" Seriously, would it kill Itachi to keep his shirt on in the presence of a lady? He only blinked at her, unashamed of the fact he was standing in front of her with nothing but a pair of boxers on. "Rin and I are on edge after everything that's happened…"

Itachi sighed, deciding he probably should be more sympathetic or whatever. This girl in front of him probably grew up in an upper middle class home, in a relatively safe neighborhood. Itachi wasn't, however, one to apologize for his actions.

"Anyway, why were you snooping around here? Isn't there a saying about curiosity and how it can kill cats?"

"I think I deserve to know if I'm stowing away with some gang members, even if you aren't all up to something culty. I'm pretty sure gang members can kill me too."

"You think we are in a gang?" he asked, now immensely curious in all of her assumptions about them.

"How else would you have all this," she said, pointing around the room towards the weapons and ammo. "Unless you all were up to illegal business deals."

Itachi's stare changed for a moment. "Are you scared of us?" he asked.

Sakura had to think about this one - checking the deep pit of her uneasy stomach. "No," she responded after a while, not completely lying. At least, she would rather be in a compound full of relatively kind gang members than back at her apartment filled with the crazies.

Itachi nodded and then sat down. "Well then, since we are both up, we might as well hang out."

And then proceeded their talking. It was actually kind of nice for the both of them to have some intellectual discussions for a change. Itachi was really only able to have great conversations with Obito - but he came around only every so often - and sometimes Pain, but as leader he was always so busy.

Topics ranged from University, to government and politics, to psychology and philosophy, to post-modernism and the age old-god and religion questions, particularly Buddhism and Christianity.

Regardless, throughout their conversation Sakura was able to conclude that Itachi was both deep, and depressing in his world views.

"I am simply the sum of my experiences," he was telling her. "I believe we each get to create our own meanings in life. But that doesn't change the fact that we have no purpose in this otherwise meaningless existence."

Sakura scratched her head. "So you're an atheist?"

"Perhaps if you asked me if I believed in some sort of supreme being or arbitror?" Itachi responded back, eager for her to keep up on his wavelength. "Or if I believed there are any absolutes at all? My answer, of course, would be - maybe. Maybe one day we'll get to find out. But for now, man will continue to create their own realities, and I will continue to -"

"Watch from your ivory tower?" Sakura interjected, almost causing the corners of Itachi's mouth to rise yet again. But only almost. "And maybe," she continued, mocking the way he said it earlier, hard-bound and determined to stop his monologue that was beginning to make her head hurt. "Maybe one day I'll get you to smile from all the way up there. You know, with the rest of civilization down here."

"I don't think that I'm better than you," he said truthfully, noting her wit. "If you think that your ideas about the world are better, then by all means prove me wrong."

But before Sakura could open her mouth to attempt to do just that, Deidara's head popped through the black curtains, eyeing them both suspiciously. It was then Sakura realized that Itachi still hadn't bothered to put a shirt - or pants for that matter - back on since he woke up.

Just the thought of what they might look like - him half naked and her in her camisole and shorts sitting so close together on the floor of the otherwise empty weapons room set the tips of her ears ablaze. She tried desperately to think of some way to explain that it was not what it looked like, but failed.

"Oh, Deidara! I-I-I."

"Hate to break you two love birds up," he said talking over her. "But Pain is calling a meeting. Now."


A/N

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for all of you followers and reviewers! I honestly wasn't going to update this for a while longer, but since I saw these nice reviews I thought I should give something back to show my appreciation. *heart*.

Someone from the comment section noted *Itachiwithhisshirtoff* so I thought I'd add some more of that here in this chapter for the kicks and giggles. ;)

I hope I didn't bore people with the Itachi/Sakura dialogue at the end there. I felt it was necessary to portray Itachi's character. Plus, it was fun for me to try and get into his head for a little bit. The dialogue was originally about 3x the length, but I cut a lot out because I wasn't sure how interested people were in that, so let me know.

Oh, and FYI the next chapter will revolve around split-personality!Obito and Rin, so watch out for that!

(My Life Update: This year was my first time making Thanksgiving dinner by myself, and it was a huge success! I had some friends over who were stuck at school for the holidays as well and we feasted. Anyway, that's my life and I'll be spending the rest of the weekend gorging on leftovers and writing a 15 page research paper.)

Thanks for the reviews again, everybody! Have a great weekend y'all.