Preface:

This is the story I mentioned in my last update of Bonds — the majority consensus that I got across the sites on which I post was that readers would prefer to see this put up immediately but with irregular updates as and when chapters are written, so that's what I'll be doing! It will not affect the posting schedule of my main two stories, and may vary between a rapid slew of updates and periods of silence. With that in mind…

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, it belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.

Birth

Sakura smiled up at her parents as they left the restaurant, her stomach pleasantly full. She let out a yawn, prompting her father to laugh and ruffle her hair.

"Tired, sweetie?"

"Mm." She nodded.

"Too tired for ice cream?"

The five-year-old's eyes widened. "Nooooo!" She shook her head vigorously.

Her mother lightly slapped her father on the arm. "Don't tease her, dear. You know she's never too tired for ice cream."

"Yeah!" Sakura puffed out her cheeks and glared up at her father.

"I'm sorry, honey." The man shook his head, still smiling.

"Hmph." The little girl turned her head away and closed her eyes. She heard her parents chuckling, and her mouth twisted into a pout.

The pout became a wide smile when her father swept her up in his arms.

"Come on, you. Let's go get some dessert."

"Yay!" She wrapped her arms around his neck and made herself comfortable.

The ice cream shop wasn't far, and it wasn't long before Sakura was happily devouring three large scoops of strawberry ice cream. She closed her eyes to savor the taste, enjoying the feeling of the treat melting on her tongue.

As hard as she tried to make it last — and as careful as she was to limit how much she ate per bite, having had far too many experiences with brain freeze in the past — all of the ice cream vanished in a matter of minutes, and she was left staring forlornly into her bowl.

Sakura sneaked a peek at her parents — they were distracted with their conversation, the words flying over her head. She surreptitiously raised her bowl to her mouth and ran her tongue along the interior, carefully gathering up every remaining drop. It seemed that she had gotten away with it this time — her mother insisted that she had to be more ladylike, and that meant she wasn't allowed to lick her plates and bowls. It was totally unfair, and a waste of good food!

She caught her father's eye and he winked. So she had been noticed… And here she thought she'd been properly sneaky! At least he would cover for her. He was the fun one.

"Ready to go, Sakura?" He asked.

"Mhm!" She hopped to her feet and raised her arms. He laughed and picked her up.

"You're spoiling her, dear." Her mother sighed, but she was smiling.

"Oh come on," her father complained. "How much longer am I gonna be able to carry her like this, huh? I've gotta enjoy it while it lasts!"

"Ya'll always be able ta carry me, Daddy!"

"I wish, sweetheart." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "But you're growing up, and soon you'll be too big for me to hold, even if you inherit my height."

"Then I jus' won' grow up!" Sakura pouted.

"Sakura!" Her mother chided. "You'll need to be independent someday. You see, Kizashi? This is exactly what I meant."

Her father rolled her eyes. "She's still a child, Mebuki. Give her time."

"C'n we go ta the park?" Sakura butted in.

"I thought you were tired?" Her mother asked.

"M'not," Sakura yawned.

"We can go to the park tomorrow, okay honey?" Her father gently bounced her in his arms. "You can barely keep your eyes open, and it's getting dark."

"'kay," she mumbled.

Her parents traded a smile.


Sakura fell asleep on the way home, but woke up as her mother opened the door.

And that was when it went wrong.

Her mother collapsed with a scream and a spray of blood, courtesy of the sword held by the surprised burglar. Her father attempted to avoid the man's next strike, but Sakura's weight slowed him enough that he was wounded. A second mad flail from the assailant scored a line down Sakura's face, biting deep into her left eye. She cried out in pain as she fell from her father's arms. A moment later, his body collapsed next to her.

Sakura glared up at her parents' killer, sobbing from the pain in her face. Was this how she was going to die?

The man's eyes, previously focused on Sakura, snapped up at a sound behind her. He immediately collapsed, and Sakura felt herself being picked up.

Her rescuer was small, and she was amazed that he had the strength to carry her. As she watched, his eyes changed from red with black pinwheels to a solid onyx. He frowned as he surveyed the bodies on the ground before him, eyes pained.

"I am sorry that I was so slow. There is nothing that can be done for them."

"No," Sakura whimpered. "Yer lyin'!"

He closed his eyes.

"Yer lyin'!" She screamed.

"I need to get you to the hospital. This will be disorienting."

The world swam, the wind pushing against her forcefully, and they were at the hospital.

The woman at the desk inside took one look at Sakura and yelled for a doctor. The girl found herself being poked and prodded by a variety of medical personnel, a strange gel eventually being applied to her face before it was covered with a wrap. Her eye never left the face of her rescuer, who remained silently at the edge of the room.

When the doctors were done, he moved up to her bed.

"She will live, Uchiha-san," the lead doctor assured him. "However, her eye…"

"I suspected as much." The boy — Uchiha-san? — seemed to sag for a moment before regaining his perfect posture. "Thank you for your assistance." He offered a deep bow.

"It was no trouble, Uchiha-san." The doctor left the room. Sakura was now alone with Uchiha-san.

"I can only offer my condolences for your loss," the boy murmured. "And another apology for my failure."

He bowed to her and turned to leave. Sakura's hand shot out and grabbed his.

"D'n't go," she begged.

The ninja looked down at her and nodded. Using his free hand, he pulled out a small pad of paper from his bag, from which he tore two pieces. A pen made an appearance, and a pair of notes were scribbled. His fingers blurred, and a raven appeared in a puff of smoke.

"Could you please take this to my father?" The boy held out one of the folded notes. "And then this one to Kiyoko." The other was passed to the summon as well.

"Of course, Itachi-san." The bird inclined its head in response to the ninja's grateful bow and took flight, swiftly making its way out of the hospital.

The now-named Itachi sat down on the stool next to Sakura's bed.

"I will be here when you wake," he promised.

Sakura gave him a tremulous smile as her eyes fluttered shut.

True to his word, he was there when she awoke, still holding her hand.

AN:

To get it out of the way, this is not a Sakura/Itachi story — he's an older brother, not a love interest. The pairings for this story are very much decided, and very, very far into the future. Don't expect to see any romance between small children, please, because it's not happening.

Puppy love? Crushes? Sure, that stuff is a normal part of growing up and might or might not make an appearance. But no actual, serious dating or romance of any kind will come until our protagonists are considerably older. And since we'll be following them through much of childhood… Yeah, if you're just here for romance, you might wanna go. If you're here for a badass tomboy Sakura and her similarly awesome pals, feel free to stay. Don't expect any characters to get the so-called 'bashing' treatment, either. That stuff's boring and I have no interest in perpetuating it.

Other details:

I won't be using a ton of Japanese in this story, because I don't speak it (and my best friend, who does speak some Japanese, A) hates Naruto and B) would probably kill me if I used Google Translate). From what I've seen honorifics seem to be considered obligatory in this fandom, so I will be using those, insofar as I understand them.

This is a massively AU story, with many changes to the history of the world, how abilities work, the nature of chakra and bloodlines, and so on. If something looks different from how you know it, that's because it is. Either it's something that I'm deliberately AUing or something that I was genuinely mistaken about (it has been some time since I read most of Naruto, after all — it's kind of a long series) but included, in which case it is now a part of the AU. I will not be changing such things — since it's already an AU, I might as well go all out. Don't expect a lot of the fanfiction staples, because things are different. No Wave arcs here!

We'll generally be seeing things alongside Sakura, so if you're looking for a story starring a crudely-spoken, rough-and-tumble Sakura, you're in the right place! That said, as we add more primary characters we'll occasionally have chapters focused on them, and that will cover a wide range of personalities.

Don't think that Sakura and her friends will be having an easy ride, no matter how confident they may be. Young people tend to be a little overly assured of their own invincibility… Figures like the Akatsuki are significantly more threatening than they were in canon. It will take everything that our protagonists have and then some to take them down.

Smaller threats? Sure, some of those will go down pretty easily. It's no good to deny your protagonists any simple victories to celebrate unless you're writing much more of a downer story than I intend to.

If you're familiar with the overall tone of my main pair of stories, don't expect that from this (if the categories didn't tip you off already). While it can and will get dark, the overall tone is going to be much more light-hearted. I'm a pretty optimistic person, so anything I write will have some kind of current of that, even if it's not always visible from the surface. This one? It's surface-level… Most of the time, at least.

As a concluding piece of trivia, this is actually one of two drafts of the first chapter. The other one stayed light and fluffy and didn't end with Sakura as an orphan with some nice new trauma! I ended up going with this one because I had more fun with its followup chapters, which I'll be posting over the course of the next day or two.