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Model Mishap

-Prologue-

"Everything will be just fine..." He had told her. "I'll be back in a month..." Had been his words. Reckless and uncaring of life now that she thought back on it.

"I don't like this, it isn't safe." Was her reasoning, her pleading. "I don't want you to go with him. This man is a stranger to you..."

"For the kind of money he's paying me," He slammed the top half of his suitcase shut and left his room. Walking for the door. "I think that fact is totally irrelevant." She had been stupid enough to fall for that line.

"At least tell me where you're going." She put a hand on his shoulder to stop him as he walked past-in a rush to get out the door. "I'll be worried to no ends if you don't give me a clue."

"I..." He had began. "Can't tell you."

"Why?" She questioned. "Don't you trust me?"

"It's not that," His chest heaved as he let out a sigh. "It's not that at all."

"Then what's keeping you in the shadows?" She pried. Now she was glad she had done all that annoying digging. If she hadn't, then she would never have known.

"It's not safe." Was all he said.

"Dangerous?" Her eyes went wide. "No!" Thinking back on it, she wished she had objected more passionately. "I don't want you going. Mom and dad would never want–"

"They're gone." He stopped her from saying too much. "I have to take care of you now." It was then that he went to the door, and when she should have cuffed him to the heater to force him to stay. "And this the only way I know how to do it."

"You can't take care of me if you're dead." She didn't think she would actually eat her words someday...

"Look around us." His tall form suddenly turned to her, his arm flailing out to gesture his hand at the apartment around them. A apartment that was, at beast, a hole in the wall. A apartment that needed a paint job worse than she needed air to breath, needed the pipes of the plumbing fixed, the dent in the wall filled. The cabinets were mostly empty and void of food, the furniture questionable to sit on. She lowered her head. "We need the money. We're suffocating ourselves here. The cockroaches won't even come near this place!"

Her lower lip started to quake, understanding all too well. Understanding their situation-they'd die if they stayed here any longer. And she understood his situation. His responsibility. And hers as well-she could pull her own load from time to time.

"Dad left us in debt up to our eyeballs when he died." The tone of his voice was bitter and she felt a tear on her lashes. "His gambling habit was his hobby and our downfall...damn him."

She turned her back and put her face in the palm of her hands. "Please don't say things like that." She didn't cry, not really. Just shed a single tear. The only tear she had left.

She heard him release a aggravated breath and throw down his suitcase and walk over to her. She wished he would have stayed then...that he wouldn't have left her all alone. "I didn't mean it." His hands grabbed her shoulders and whipped her around into a warm embrace. "You know how I feel about everything..."

"Yes," She nodded and swallowed. "But, you don't have to do anything rash to make up for our loss." He released her and rolled his eyes, turning on his heel and shaking his head.

"You'll understand when you're older." He picked up his case, slung his jacket over his forearm and headed for the door.

"But–" Now, she felt stupid for not finding any more words to stop him.

"Keep the doors locked at all times, even if you're just going out to do laundry." His hand was on the knob of the cracked and splintered door. "You remember where the gun is...and how I taught you how to use it?"

She swallowed and nodded. She hated guns.

"Good..." He hadn't seemed like he wanted to leave her. She hadn't wanted him to. He looked to the side, at the floor and opened his mouth to say something-but, nothing came out.

She stood like a doll on display, watching with big eyes, her hands in her lap. Her thin body appearing frail in the fluorescent light of the bulbs. Still wishing he would stay.

"I'm leaving now," He twisted the knob and shoved the door open. "The rest of our money is in the bank and you've got your job at the coffee shop. Don't waste what little money you've got, understand?"

She simply nodded again, obedient.

"You've got a good head on your shoulders, girl. Make sure you use it." She smiled back, now she wished she had ran to him and hugged him til he turned blue. "I'll be back in a month."

"Wait..." She called as he stepped over the threshold. And this...this would be the part that played out in the end. What would become her future, her obsession. "At least...tell me his name. I'll be so worried if something happens to you and don't know who to get in contact with."

He stared at her for a moment. Contemplation deep in his green eyes. Actually thinking about telling her the truth. He had taken a hard breath and looked her straight in the eye. "Hatake." And that name was final. It was all he was going to tell her and she knew it. "And don't repeat even that little tid-bit." He warned. She blinked and felt suddenly awkward. She didn't like secrets.

"Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Akira." She smiled gently and waved. "I love you!" She called out as he left the apartment then. Heard his footsteps echoing down the hall. Gone. Forever.

And here she stood, in the very same place. Four weeks later. Her door open and staring at the badge on the uniform of cop. His stiff hat held nervously in his hands, wringing it like a rag.

"Ms. Haruno, Sakura?" He stuttered.

"Yes?" She was a bit apprehensive. It wasn't everyday a cop came to her door.

"I have some...sad news for you," Oh, god...no...please, no... "You...may want to sit down–"

"No," She said hastily. "What is it? Tell me now." She clenched her teeth-wanting to take that statement back. If it was what she thought it was then she didn't want to hear it at all.

He slowly nodded and swallowed the lump in his throat. Beginning his speech that sounded strangled and over practiced. "I regret to inform you that yesterday evening...that the body of your brother, Haruno Akira, was found in the river. A fishing boat..." He paused and took a breath, stealing himself in the face of the girls silent blankness. "A fishing boat snagged his body in their nets sometime around five p.m. An autopsy will be performed to determine time and cause of death after we've acquired your authorization and signature. We will...urge you to go to the morgue first to identify the body to make sure there was no mistake."

She stared at him. Empty. Void. Numb.

Was she awake? Was this real? No, it couldn't be. God wouldn't take away the only happiness she had left. That would be...too cruel. It would be like punishment for a crime she had never committed.

"Ma'am?" He asked, taking a step forward. Taking in her paleness-fearing she may be on the verge of fainting. "Would you like me to call a counselor for you? Our department offers..."

"No." She mumbled. "That won't be necessary." She smiled then, knowing this was just a silly nightmare. A weird dream that was a product of her tangled nerves and worried mind for his safe return. He had said it would be dangerous. So, this was only her imagination at work-conjuring up the worst possibilities.

"...Would you like me to leave a number for you to contact?" He asked apprehensively. "You will have to see the body, ma'am. And I strongly urge you to identify it soon, before...well, before it starts to–"

"Yes," She nodded and went to the kitchen, pulled out a pencil and scrap paper. "Right here." She handed it to him. "Go on, jot it down." She smiled brightly. And he looked at her with a sickly puzzled expression. "Well, what are you waiting for?" She poked him impatiently with the eraser end of the pencil.

He took it and wrote down the information, casting side glances at her that she found odd and annoying. But, she needn't worry. She'd wake up soon and she'd laugh at her stupidity and then go into the kitchen and eat cheesecake.

The man gave her back the paper and writing utensil. "Are you sure you're–"

"I'll be fine," Her pink head nodded reassuringly.

"Yes, ma'am." He put his hat on his head slowly, still eyeballing her. "My remorse to you and your family. You're in my prayers." He turned then paused when he heard her mumble,

"What family..." The officer watched her with stomach churning pity at her current state of mental health. He was beginning to see her situation. The hauntingly unpleasant behavior she was displaying. He debated staying with her, watching her for a few hours to make sure the girl didn't do anything rash or stupid to herself. But that was not his job. He had already done his job, and he wasn't getting paid to do anything more. It wasn't in his jurisdiction to comfort grieving, lonely girls. Not at all...

He didn't bother to think about what it would have been like for him. If he had lost his wife and children. His brothers and sisters. Friends and family. To be stuck in a heap of a living space. All alone. People who had everything didn't bother to ponder over losing their treasures.

That made it worse for people who didn't have anything. For what little they did have in riches, was soon lost. Because there was simply nothing else for them to lose except the meager spots of happiness here and there.

He offered his condolences once more then left. His footfalls echoing down the hall, just as Akira's did four weeks ago.

She laughed as she turned to her room. Her eyes feeling heavy and hot, burning for some reason she didn't understand. Did dreams always get this sad? They did when her parents died. When their plane crashed on its way back from France. When she thought about the pain they must have suffered, the fear, the dread. And then her and her brothers loneliness afterwards. They had faced it together and made it through the mourning. Barely ready to face the world again. No money and no relatives. He was only twenty three...

She clutched the paper with the number the officer had given her in her palm and staggered into her bedroom, listening as it crumbled and crinkled in her hand. And, truth be told, she wasn't sure if she was breathing as she lay down on the worn, faded covers. The mattress screeching in protest. Her body feeling exhausted and strained. Her head throbbing with terrible thoughts running through her mind. Her heart didn't seem to be beating and she was cold. So very cold.

Her fingers clutched onto the blankets around her and rolled over, pulling them with her to surround her body. A sick feeling of madness floating in the room. What had happened to her life? Where had it gone and why was she here? Why was she alive and everyone else that meant anything to her supposedly dead?

Eighteen and all alone in the world...no family. No aunts or uncles. A grandfather that had died of cancer three years ago and a grandmother that was unsound and lodged in a expired nursing home. Her other grandparents in the same situation as the others. Six feet under in a graveyard-she took them all flowers every month and talked to their headstones. As she did with her parents.

She closed her eyes and decided with a finality that this was the stupidest dream she had ever had in her life...

When she awoke she didn't know what time it was. But, it was dark. And even colder than before-though, she couldn't tell if that coldness was coming from deep within her chest or the broken heater.

She drew the cover closer to her body-over her head-and began to tremble. A sudden nausea hitting her like a flood. Her mouth frowned as her head began to pound like there were a thousand little Indians drumming in her skull.

The paper lay in her hand, searing her skin like a brand.

And she simply stared at it in disbelief.

She had thought it had been a dream. It had to have been a dream. It was too terrible to be real. To have the only thing that mattered to her heart snatched away in a moments notice.

But, the numbers didn't lie.

Her face contorted suddenly. Her mouth in a ugly twist of pain, her nose scrunched with tautness. Then, she couldn't see. Everything was a haze of water behind her lashes. The darkness of the blankets covering her was like the emptiness in her heart. When she had thought there were no tears left in her eyes, she had been wrong then. For, it seemed, she still had a few million left.

It wasn't fair. It was never fair for her.

A loud wail escaped her throat. A wretched sound that scraped off whatever paint was left on the walls. Her body convulsing with the overwhelming sobs. The pain. The loneliness...the memories.

And nobody on this earth cared. Not about her...not about her brother and not about her life. She'd be lucky if God himself even knew she existed. Lying here, suffering like a wounded animal.

No...She squeezed the paper tighter.

Not anymore. No more would she sit in the shadows and let the world destroy her life one piece at a time. Because...the last piece that was left for the cruel world to take was her. She was the only thing she had left. Herself. Her strength. Her willpower.

He had told her she had a good head on her shoulders...and he told her to use it.

And use it she would.

And revenge would never be so sweet.

And that night, the next day and for the rest of the week she lie in bed. Grieving. Not caring to call her school or her boss at the coffee shop. Only leaving the apartment once to see his pale, blue corpse. The ugly and disturbing finality that locked her heart from the world.

She clung to one thing, one name.

The one thing she remembered to be the most important words he had told her the night he left. The last time she had seen him alive.

The name he had told her in complete confidence. The one that led her to take out every penny they had saved in the bank for the soul purpose of vengeance. To start her on her journey.

That name...

Hatake.