A/N: Karin canonically only has eyes for Sasuke.
This is not that Karin, nor am I going to pretend that the plot would realistically fit into canon Karin's personality. That said, it was a lot of fun to write.
There are a lot of ships in this fic, but SasuKarin is endgame (and NaruHina happens along the way, but that's just background stuff).
The song that inspired this fic is Hell on Heels by the Pistol Annies
I'm hell on heels, say what you will
Karin eyed herself in the mirror. The dress was skin-tight. The lipstick was the same shade as her hair. The winged eyeliner was sharp enough to kill, and the heels were even deadlier.
She was, in short, absolutely fabulous.
I done made the Devil a deal
"You know," a sibilant voice came from the doorway. "When I took you in and taught you the tricks of the trade, this wasn't what I planned for you to do."
He made me pretty, he made me smart
Karin turned to face Orochimaru, smirk on her lips. "Oh, but Uncle, who would choose all that dirty politics when there are so many people to fool on their own? I only have to get a person at a time, not entire cities. Much less work."
And I'm gonna break me a million hearts
"Be careful, dear." Orochimaru stepped out of the doorway as Karin strides out, coat and purse slung over her shoulder. "You might just end up actually caring."
I'm hell on heels, baby I'm coming for you
"I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."
She'd planned on using what she'd learned to become a politician like Orochimaru had tried to teach her, she really did. She just… took advantage of existing patterns of society so often that it became a game. Dating was almost boring when she didn't try to get out of paying for everything.
Karin had never been rich, per se. She'd been a street rat for a while, and then she'd been one of many in Orochimaru's little foster home for delinquents and other at-risk kids. When Karin had proven that she could switch personalities on a dime when the situation called for it, Orochimaru had decided to teach her how to use that to the fullest. He'd taught her how to do her hair and makeup and clothes, how to pretty herself and how to talk circles around anyone. He'd thought that, maybe, he could get her into law school and then up to some level in the local government where she could put those pretty smiles and razor-sharp wit to good use.
Personally, she found biological research much more interesting.
(This wasn't much of a disappointment for Orochimaru. Biology was more fun than politics anyway, in his opinion.)
But the point was, for her, that she didn't really have the spare cash to pay for anything she could talk her way out of. If a richer date just happened to offer to pay for her dinner, who was she to say no? If he bought her a diamond bracelet or a car or a high-rise condo just because she happened to point out how pretty it was and smile a little, then…
Well, it wasn't like she was forcing any of them to buy her things. She was just very, very persuasive, and wanted an easy way to pay off some student loans while she worked on her degree.
Chōjūrō had been the first, and for that, he'd gotten off lightly. He'd been pretty and sweet, and when he'd seen her bite her lip and look worried at the check for their first date, he'd kindly offered to cover the whole meal.
And then he'd kept offering.
It wasn't like Chōjūrō was lacking for money. For somebody so young, he was remarkably high up in Kiri Corp's ladder, as CEO Terumi Mei's personal assistant. When Suigetsu had offhandedly introduced them at a bar, Karin had taken one look and decided, "Hey, this one's pretty cute. Might as well give it a shot."
He was just such a sweetheart about it. At no point had he even indicated that he expected to do, well, anything to pay for herself. Maybe Suigetsu had told him about her financial situation. Maybe he'd figured it out himself. Whatever the situation was, she'd clearly bagged herself one hell of a boyfriend. She'd almost felt guilty about it when the gifts and "let me take care of that's had only gotten bigger.
Key word: almost.
"You should really stop taking advantage of him like that." Suigetsu had told her as she was getting ready for a date towards the end of that relationship, lounging on her bed and watching her.
"You think?" Karin had pouted at the mirror, eyeing her (friend? Pseudo-brother? Jerk-next-door?) housemate in the reflection.
"He bought you a hundred and eighty dollar necklace for your birthday." Suigetsu told her wryly. "Which, again, not gonna blame you for trying to not pay for shit when this is our living situation, but unless you're planning to stick with the guy for the rest of your life, it's kind of a dick move to let him keep buying you stuff like that."
Karin frowned. "But I like getting expensive gifts."
It makes my life a hell of a lot easier.
"Then take advantage of assholes." Suigetsu shrugged. "Not freakin' Chōjūrō. He's, like, disgustingly nice. Date a jackass that there's no moral dilemma in swindling."
"Like you?" Karin suggested sweetly.
Suigetsu looked like he was about to get sick. Good.
(She and Chōjūrō broke up a week later.)
Deidara had come a couple months later, and for all that she'd considered the whole 'date an asshole so there isn't any guilt' angle, she hadn't expected it to be so much fun.
Because that was the crux of that relationship. Not understanding, or shared background, or anything deep.
Deidara was just a lot of fun.
He took her to fireworks shows and fancy dinners and smoky bars and art museums. He drove a car that had probably cost more than her house, once upon a time, but was now scratched and beaten (and probably had a few patched-up bullet holes, if she was honest). He was wild and angry and giddy in turn, and she loved every minute of it.
It didn't hurt that the sex was amazing.
(Seriously, though. She hadn't thought anyone's tongue was that good.)
Deidara had explained, very clearly and very early, that he knew exactly what she was doing when she gave him a cute little pout and maneuvered him into buying something for her. That didn't mean he cared, necessarily, because the relationship definitely outlasted that revelation and she sure as hell hadn't stopped getting him to buy her things, but it was an interesting dynamic.
He got her a car.
He got her a really nice car, actually.
(He laughed when she dumped him for his coworker and asked if there was a chance for a threesome at some point. Sasori's face had indicated no, but Karin had definitely mulled the idea over more than once.)
Kiba was, somehow, wilder than Deidara.
The air around him was less "dangerous, criminal, and hella smooth," and more "rough and tumble Mama's Boy that was probably in juvie more than once," but it was still something that caught Karin's attention. Kiba's mom and sister were both in some high-level government positions, but Kiba himself was…
Well, Karin never really figured out what he did for a living, but it certainly lead to a lot of money and a motorcycle, so she hadn't complained.
The motorcycle was his, of course. So were the leather jackets and the dog.
She wasn't sure how messy Kiba kept his life, because he still didn't seem to have realized that the credit cards he'd given her were still in use.
Sai was… not fun.
He was interesting. He was rich. He was intelligent. He was, in many ways, a very good suitor.
He would have been the perfect fling if he weren't so gosh-darn dull.
Sai was very, very bad at being social, and overall quite boring.
Karin was certain that he would be more tolerable a few years down the road, but at the moment, he was alternatingly dull and insulting. Even the air of mystery and danger around him (more 'undercover spy' than 'undercover criminal') wasn't really enough to keep her there long.
The condo was nice, though. He hadn't even taken out a mortgage on it, just bought it in full and handed it off to her. Finally moving out of Orochimaru's house was a relief, honestly. She was getting a little old to deal with the newest arrivals.
(Sai hadn't even asked for it back when they broke up. Karin just shrugged, kept her stuff there, and invited Suigetsu and Juugo to move into the spare rooms. She'd grown up with these assholes; she was keeping them with her.)
The less said about Hinata, the better.
Karin had actually tried to pay her own way through that one. Hinata was even nicer and sweeter than Chōjūrō.
Hell, Hinata had helped her find actually, DNA-tests-are-proof family.
(Karin ended up breaking it off for her own nerves and cheerily pushed Hinata into the arms of the cousin the girl had helped her find. Naruto would be good for her.)
(Nagato had his own issues and his own support system, and Karin was going to be keeping her distance on that front, thank you very much.)
By the time Ino happened, Karin thought she'd figured out the pattern. She'd figured out her type.
Other than 'rich,' obviously. That was a no-brainer.
No, Karin liked danger and prestige, mixed with either total sweetness or incorrigible self-assurance. Gender was more or less irrelevant.
So when Ino slid an arm around Karin's hip and introduced her to all the gossipy hens of high society, with a smirk on her lips and a secret on her tongue, Karin almost felt her knees give out.
She kind of wanted to drag Ino into a closet and make her scream, but that would probably be rude. Karin didn't want to stain the designer gowns, after all, and bodily fluids tended to stick.
(She didn't get much out of Ino, but that was okay, because Ino got a lot out of her. Mostly whines and moans and various other pleased noises, but that was a-okay with Karin.)
Karin dated Hidan to see if she could, honestly. A challenge to see if she could handle the guy that Deidara had described none-too-pleasantly on a number of occasions. A challenge to see if she could handle a guy whose very presence screamed 'danger' in a way that none of the others had.
One week, and she was gone, along with the deed to a parcel of land in a country she'd never been to, but would now be visiting pretty frequently since she apparently had a mansion and estate in the tropics now. Hidan was even more of an asshole than Suigetsu, and violently obsessive about his religion to boot, though thankfully never at her. She ended up calling Juugo to pick her up immediately before inciting the breakup to make sure there was someone there to keep her together in case Hidan's unpredictable temper rose. It didn't (it never had, not at her; she thought, maybe, that he only aimed it at strangers), but the worry was still there.
(She was pretty sure the deed belonged to someone else before Hidan, but she hadn't asked questions when he'd given it to her, and he hadn't offered an explanation.)
(Deidara told her the full story later, about how the whole thing had gone down just to piss off some guy called Kakuzu, who apparently had zero legal ways of getting it back now. She was glad they'd stayed friends, because Deidara was great to hang out with, and a very, very nice booty call to have on hand.)
Karin tended to research people before she approached them, to see who was ignorant enough or nice enough or just plain didn't care enough to stop her from mooching off of them for as long as she can. Sometimes, she chose the easy targets.
Sometimes, she set her sights on Uchiha Itachi.
…Okay, so it was a challenge and a bet and she may have had money riding on whether she could get him to agree to at least one date. That was about as much as she thought she'd be able to get, because she knew what this man was like. She'd had three exes that worked with him, and she was still on good terms with Deidara, at least, and Sasori didn't mind providing information if she offered up some juicy new gossip in return. Itachi was notoriously impassive when it came to romantic advances, but Karin was notoriously good at talking people into doing what she wanted them to do, so she thought it had a chance of going her way, at least for a little bit.
She tried approaching him at some high-society party, there as Deidara's plus-one (okay, so still-friends-after-the-breakup was actually a fabulous place to be), but got sidetracked before she even got a word in.
To be fair, she wasn't sidetracked of her own free will. Someone else did it for her.
Naruto was there, and apparently wanted to talk to Deidara, for reasons that Karin wasn't particularly interested in. She kept track of Itachi out of the corner of her eye, but mostly just focused on making small talk with Hinata. Apparently, Karin was going to be getting an invitation to an engagement party in the mail soon. That was… good, she decided. She didn't keep up with Naruto's life much, but he and Hinata seemed pretty happy together. Shame, though. She'd been betting on Naruto getting the cute redhead in line for the CFO position at Suna Inc.
"Naruto," a man with dark hair and pale skin slid up next to them. "Senju's looking for you. Apparently she wants you there to help tide over something between Nagato and Jiraiya."
Naruto made a face. "Come on, Granny doesn't need me for—"
"I don't make the rules." The man said, cutting off Karin's cute little cousin. "You know it's going to be easier on everyone if you just go ahead and do what she says."
Naruto stuck out his tongue in the man's direction, but nonetheless wandered off in the direction of a group of older men and women that seemed to be in some kind of awkward conversational standoff. Hinata followed him, with an apologetic smile at Karin, and a pointed look at the man that interrupted.
"Uchiha," Deidara said, a sneer on his lips.
"Deidara. I wasn't aware that my brother had invited you." The man's eyes didn't leave Deidara's.
Karin wasn't entirely sure what was going on.
This man was Itachi's brother. She knew Deidara and Itachi had, at some point, had some issue that lead to many a night of Deidara bitching, but she thought that had been finished. Apparently, Deidara rectifying his issues with Itachi had no bearing on his issues with… whoever this was.
Actually, he looked familiar. It might have been that she'd seen him in photos with Itachi, but something in her gut was telling her otherwise.
"Hi," She stuck out a hand and pasted on a charming smile. "I'm Uzumaki Karin. Naruto's my cousin, but I don't believe we've met."
Well, she did think they'd maybe met at some point before, so that was a little bit of a lie, but it wasn't a harmful one!
"Uchiha Sasuke." The man said, finally breaking the staring contest he had going on with Deidara.
(Deidara made an annoyed noise, but that came to a strangled stop as Karin's heel dug into his foot.)
"Charmed, I'm sure." Karin's smile widened a little, but Sasuke frowned.
"You look familiar."
Karin shrugged, trying to make the movement appear elegant. "Perhaps. I know a lot of people that frequent gatherings at this social level."
"But you aren't one of them?" Sasuke said, and that seemed to flip a switch in his head. "Orochimaru!"
Karin blinked. She hadn't expected… well, she hadn't had someone bring up her background in a while. It was considered impolite to bring up someone's previous low social class at something like this. Orochimaru was high class; his foster kids, on the other hand, came in such large numbers that even his wealth was stretched a little thin in caring for them all. He gave them a home, fed them, and provided them with a great education and health care and all that, but it was still obvious to anyone from the outside looking in that they were all former street rats.
"Yes, I'm one of his." She finally said. "Is that relevant somehow?"
"I…" Sasuke seemed flustered. Deidara seemed somewhere between annoyed and amused. "I was one of Orochimaru's students at the special program that Konoha University was hosting for middle schoolers a while back. I knew what he did on the side, with the foster homes, and sometimes I sort of… pointed people in the right direction."
Karin's eyes flew wide open, and she took a step back, smile dropping into an expression of sheer surprise. She hadn't thought about the night she'd arrived at the Oto foster system in years, but she remembered a small boy her own age, with pale skin and big, dark eyes walking her to the building. They'd run into each other at the public library and she'd accidentally mentioned not having a home anymore, and he'd told her he knew a place that could help. She'd been desperate enough to trust him, and luckily for her, everything had worked out.
They stared at each other for a few seconds, with Karin fully aware that the encounter had probably meant next to nothing to him, but had changed the course of her own life completely.
"So… I'm going to go ahead and leave you two alone, since it looks like you have a lot to talk about." Deidara said, with a thumbs up as meandered away, probably in the direction of the open bar.
Sasuke's eyes darted after him, and then back to Karin. "Boyfriend?"
"Ex, technically. We're still friends."
There was an awkward silence.
"You said you know a number of people at these events, but you're one of his, so how does that work?" Sasuke tried.
"I'm a gold digger." Karin deadpanned. "Serial-dating my way through the upper echelons of high society."
Sasuke got a look on his face, like he couldn't figure out if that was a joke or not. It made him look a bit like a stunned lemming.
"Is that a joke or—?"
Karin shrugged. "Take it as you will. I'm not trading sex for money, if that's what you're thinking. I just date rich people, and good sex is a nice bonus. I'm not mean about it, but I don't exactly say no to all the pretty gifts I get."
And she'd been a bit mean about Hidan and Kiba, but to be fair, Hidan had it coming, and Kiba hadn't even noticed, so she hardly thought it mattered.
Hilariously, sex hadn't come up once with Sasori. Karin was still of the opinion that the man was confused about what he wanted, and wasn't searching for romance so much as he was searching for a lab assistant.
"In any case, I'm somehow managing to pay my way through college, so I'm not too torn up about it." Karin shrugged.
"What are you studying?" Sasuke asked, seizing on the opportunity to talk about something relatively safe.
"Biochemistry and criminology." She wasn't entirely sure if there was a way she could combine the two, but she figured at least one of them would give her a plausible job in the future. "And you?"
Sasuke started walking towards one of the chair-and-tiny-table sets against the wall. "Law and electrical engineering, actually."
"So we've both got a science and a crime-related focus, then?" Karin said, taking a seat in the small, plush armchair. The velvet brushed against her fingertips, and she took a moment to imagine what it would feel like against her arms, had they not been covered.
Probably a bit itchy, actually. Scar tissue was oddly sensitive, and her arms and neck and upper torso were covered in fabric for a reason.
"So it seems." Sasuke said, sitting stiffly. He moved to brush back his bangs and the movement pulls Karin's gaze to his neck, which…
Well, she wouldn't have said no to leaving her mark there. That was one hell of a jawline, and his cheekbones? Yum.
For a moment, she debated throwing the bet and ditching the goal of Itachi for his brother. It wasn't like the older man would ever know or care, considering she hadn't even gotten around to meeting him yet. Sasuke was already interested in her, and she definitely found him attractive, not to mention the whole 'probably saved her life when she was a kid' thing.
"So what drew you to those subjects?" Sasuke asked, pulling her out of her thoughts.
"Orochimaru, actually." She said, and decided to keep talking and see where the night led. If he got boring, she'd stick to her original goal, but for the moment, she thought that was unlikely to happen. Besides, she figured she owed Sasuke at least one conversation.
Later that night, she collapsed on her bed (in the condo she'd gotten a year and a half earlier from Sai), and groaned.
"What's wrong?" Suigetsu asked from the doorway. "Break a nail?"
"No." Karin said, voice muffled by the pillow she was digging her face into. "I talked to a guy and now I have feelings."
She heard sniggering from Suigetsu and turned to glare at him. "Don't."
His laughter got bigger, but at least he didn't collapse to the ground and start howling like he had back during the Hinata incident.
"So you gonna avoid him or stick around or—"
"I don't know." Karin reached up and dug her hands into her hair, already kind of mussed. "He's awkward, but kind of nice? And he was the one that pointed me to Oto when I was a kid, so I kind of probably owe him my life, and we're in similar fields of study and we got into some really interesting discussions about policy extended regarding prison for first-time offenders versus rehabilitation, especially in concerns to juvenile delinquency and—"
"Get to the point."
"I told him right at the beginning that I tended to date rich people for the money and so even if he didn't guess it himself, he knows. So either I'm safe from manipulating him like I do everyone nowadays and ruining the relationship myself, or he's going to suspect my every move and ruining the relationship is still going to be my fault." Karin fell backwards onto her bed and glared at the ceiling. "And he's hot."
Suigetsu snorted. "This the Uchiha guy you were gonna go after?"
"His brother." Karin admitted.
"And you caught feelings." Suigetsu said, clearly gleeful. "Is this the end of the line for the ultimate gold digger?"
"Not on your life, princess." Suigetsu stuck out his tongue.
"Because you see me as a sister or because you're gay?" Karin asked, already expecting the answer of—
"Both, duh." Suigetsu came and sat down on the bed next to her, and then sprawled out, taking over all the empty room she hadn't taken up herself. "Seriously, though, what are you planning to do?"
Karin stared at the ceiling, as though it would somehow have the answers she was searching for.
"Give it a shot and hope for the best, I guess." She finally muttered. "The only other option is to stay away from him forever."
"Aw, lookit you, making the grown-up decisions." Suigetsu pinched her cheek.
"HEY JUUGO!" He yelled, grinning in Karin's face as she levered herself up onto her elbows, waiting for their last roommate to come into her room.
"Suigetsu, I swear to fucking god—"
"KARIN MET A PRETTY BOY AT THE PARTY AND NOW SHE HAS FEELINGS~!" Suigetsu jeered, rolling off the bed and scrambling to his feet as Karin lunged. He ran out the door with a whoop, and Karin dashed after him. They passed Juugo in the hall, and the man blinked in confusion.
After a few seconds, he just shook his head and sighed. "I live with actual children, don't I?"