Hey there, peeps. It's me again, bringing you another mediocre attempt at masterful writing. Oh well. Hehehe. Anyway, this is a Naruto FANFIC, therefore, I do not own anything. Please, don't doubt it. It's all true. Aside from that, yes...I warn you...there will be minor, mentioned amounts of slash until you meet the two main male characters. Then it will be very OBVIOUS slash and bisexuality. Don't like, don't read. My poor Dusk, he's suffering. He really won't wanna read this. Hehehe. Sorry, love.

Anyway, this is a Itachi x Sakura x Deidara fic. Hehehe, I love them. See AN at the bottom for more.

Until then. Enjoy. (hopefully)


Chapter One: …Seven…

Growing up in the underbelly of a crowded city wasn't, perhaps, the ideal lifestyle most parents would want for their children, but that was the life Haruno Sakura had been born into. Sera Sera. There wasn't much for it.

Konoha, a busy city even in the supposedly slow month of April, sat right in the middle of Fire Province; that was the truth of it…though Konoha was not the capital it might as well have been for the ever increasing population it harbored. Sakura, as a child, had learned in school that Konoha had been a small village which suddenly blossomed into life with the world wide Industrial Revolution. The city had grown by leaps and bounds then, evolving into a stirring metropolis of industrial progress. Only in later years of that "wonderful era" did Konoha begin to develop its sordid collection of criminals and cutthroats.

Of course, the text books in elementary schools were only limitedly forthcoming with information about her home, but Sakura's parents, ever firm believers that knowledge was power, armed her to the teeth. Their city, from the beginning of the 1920's, had become the breeding ground of crime, thievery and murder for all the neighboring provinces. The government officials were corrupt, the police were corrupt…hell, even some of the physicians and teachers had taken to doing odd, back-alley jobs to pay off debts and the like. Honor had become a four-letter word in those days. Of course, it was all "discreet"; no one mentioned a word of it in public…it was dangerous to even breath a sentence of complaint in the supposed safety of one's own home. The walls have ears, her parents used to say. Sakura hadn't believed them back in those days. Back when she thought the world was all blue skies and smiling faces.

How wrong she was. Sakura's parents were murdered in a back-alley hold-up when she was twelve years old, leaving her alone…cold…an orphan among the filth, muck and sin of the city. She learned quick enough what it took to survive.

Gangs were family in Konoha; just like any other family, people came into her life and passed from it in intervals. She lost friends in the gang wars, the battles for territory. Territory was important to the underworld urchins; territory meant respect and opportunity. Opportunity meant wider-range of pockets to pick, fruit stands to pick from and garbage-cans to loot. It wasn't an ideal living condition, but all in all, what choice did Sakura really have?

Jumped in as a knuckler by her thirteenth birthday, Sakura learned the trade secrets with poise and dignity; her mentor, the seemingly all knowing twenty-four year old Kakashi, was the leader of the small but well organized gang she called family. A gentleman of good breeding who willingly went bad, Kakashi boasted that he'd picked a thousand pockets and mastered a million ways to break into an abode. Sakura didn't believe that at the time.

Not until Kakashi began passing on his wealth of information to her. He seemed to take a fancy to her, even taught her the art of forgery, his secret but lucrative hobby. He taught her how to conceal herself, make herself blend it…a decidedly difficult task considering she had rosette hair of a very unusual shade of pink. Kakashi gave her tips in breaking and entering, pick-pocketing and even some memory games, to help her with detail recognition. "Don't want you forgetting the proper order of things after you've looted someone's belongings, no?" He gave her odd little hints and always in that same lazy tone, like he wasn't teaching the very nature of corruption to a child. Oh well.

Sakura grew in age and beauty; Kakashi's gang grew in infamy. The other petty units that had once stood on equal footing were falling behind them; more often then not, decimated in numbers by starvation, lack of work and territorial battles, they would come to Kakashi, begging to be merged in. More often then not, provided they passed her leader's test, those former enemies would be inducted into the growing order of Sakura's family.

At fifteen, with the help of some fellow family-girls and friends of the trade, Sakura dabbled in prostitution; it seemed easy enough. She handled small things usually and only with experienced and well-trusted customers. Kakashi-sensei, as she called him, would stand for nothing less. He insisted, through Sakura's protests, that he didn't think her incapable of handling herself, only that he didn't want her wasted on such a self-destructive path in their world. "You have talent girl; it doesn't necessarily have to begin and end with you on your knees for a few coins." Again, a wry little smile and a flash of onyx eyes; that lazy tone was back, but the underlying meaning was clear. Sakura didn't dabble much more into that field of expertise but kept the lessons well in mind. All tools were good tools.

Her sixteenth birthday came and went; Kakashi threw her a small party at the gang's main dig-in. Only well-trusted friends were invited; Sakura enjoyed herself immensely, because, contrary to what it might have seemed like, living as she did was actually quite…enjoyable. That wasn't to say she didn't occasionally have a flash of nostalgic regret…regret for her parent's death, but she was happy. She wasn't depressed, not by far…and she had friends. What she did from day to day wasn't a routine, more like a reaction. She did what she needed to do to accomplish whatever goal needed accomplishing. She had food, shelter, company…and her health. That was all she needed. She was a thief, true…and that went against everything her young, idealistic, peace-loving parents had stood for. However, nearly everyone in this city was a crook of some kind…crooks stealing from crooks to save their own hides…nothing shameful there. Sakura knew her parents loved her. They would want her to survive, even if it meant pursuing this type of existence.

And now it was April and Konoha was flooding…again. It flooded nearly two or three feet in their part of town every time it rained, but thankfully, Kakashi's gang, Seven, had moved their dig-in up onto a slightly slopped hill. The old abandoned warehouse was a cavern of wide open spaces and hidden trapdoors that led to twisted escape hatches. They were well secured into their nifty little abode. Kakashi-sensei, Sakura thought proudly, had always seen to it.

The rain pattered down onto the warehouse's tin roof, but the speakers that blasted music from the corner of the spacious "living room" managed to drown it out mostly. Sakura would have preferred the sound of the rain today…sometimes, when she thought too much, it made her just happier to listen to the sounds nature intended her to hear. There was never enough real nature in Konoha. Sakura noticed that a long time ago.

She was reclining on her bed, a cozy, well broken in cot pushed into the farthest inside corner of the warehouse. Separating her space from that of her nearest neighbor was a low, horizontal book shelf, recovered from a burned out library; Sakura used it to store her precious, eight-volume collection of books and a few other knick-knacks she considered special to her. Her shoes, all three pairs of battered boots, were pushed under her bed and all her clothing and gear was stored in a trunk at the foot of her bed, locked with a pad lock. She trusted her mates…just not that much.

Her jade eyes stared up at the roof…or rather, the underside of the railed catwalk that bordered the entire interior of the warehouse. She was aimless, listless…restless, really. The rain meant there would be very few pedestrians on their end of town which meant slim pickins' in the way of business to be had. That was alright though; Kakashi sensei had it broken down to a science and insisted if everyone did what they could during all the good, opportune days they had every month, there was no need to be out scavenging and looting in the rain. Good ol' sensei, Sakura thought in amusement, Kakashi knows best.

Ah, but what to do for the rest of the day? Sakura was pondering that in intense concentration. She'd risen early that morning, as she always did, and rose with Kakashi to do a little round of the old hand-to-hand warm ups. Had to keep in shape. Sakura took pride in being able to handle her own in a fight. She liked the ability to defend herself. She honed it.

But the rest of the day, she and the other gang-mates hadn't done much at all…a welcome change for most, of course. The day-to-day life of a thief, if he had no security at all, was always hectic. Rest was always welcome. Normally, Sakura would have been her perpetually cheerful, if strong-spirited self, sitting on the couches, munching on dime-store bag-foods and rocking out to the anthems of the thrice-damned. But today…

…today something just wasn't right. Something's off, Sakura thought slowly, something's coming this way.

"Hey Sakura!"

Jumping slightly, Sakura rose on instinct, her hand sliding smoothly under her pillow, her lean fingers wrapping around the hilt of a dagger she kept there; what the hell? But then sense kicked in and she retracted her hand, attempting to pass the previous movements off as a stretch while she regained the façade of composure. How the hell did he sneak up on me like that, she grumbled inwardly.

The too-pointy teeth of a leering blonde were the first thing Sakura saw, then came the slanted, but clear blue eyes of her gang mate. He wore low-slung jeans that had never really fit right and a faded t-shirt that used to be some obnoxious shade of orange. A blue bandanna, tied across his forehead in a ridiculous manner, proclaimed his allegiance; blue was recognized city-wide as Seven's representative color. Gang colors. Declarations of Allegiance. Oh the subtle poetry of the underworld, Sakura thought.

Plopping himself down onto the end of her bed, Uzumaki Naruto, fellow orphan and gang mate shot her a toothy grin. "Sakura-chan, you'll never guess what happened." He gave a sort of smothered, male-giggle and winked at her.

Sakura promptly cocked a pink eyebrow at him, "Oh? And what happened Naruto?" She said this with the tone of someone who has been dealing with it for sometime; long-suffering Sakura, that was her. Naruto was her own age, but acted, more often then not, half it.

Naruto giggled again, "I got kissed! Hehehe. By a guy!" More giggling as he observed Sakura's reaction.

The pink-haired girl's eyes narrowed, "Oi? And which guy was this?" She was already getting a sort of idea…and she was fairly sure if anyone else found out, she'd have an angry girl-mate on her tail in no time.

But Naruto was glowing, and as he leaned forward in a conspiracy-like way, he whispered, "Sasuke-kun."

Sakura gasped abruptly and blinked in muted shock; Naruto continued to giggle, rocking back and forth on her bed like a small child. It was apparent he was on cloud nine.

Sakura, on the other hand, was looking around the room, calculating. Where is she? Where's Ino? Sakura's occasional friend but perpetual rival Ino adored Sasuke…if she'd found out about Naruto kissing him…

And then Sakura shrugged nonchalantly, letting the tension in her shoulders ease away. Fuck it, Sasuke and Naruto could deal with Ino on their own. It wasn't going to bother the rosette-haired girl a bit. Instead, she allowed herself to smile for Naruto and whispered some quick words of congratulations. Sasuke, once her crush, was Naruto's best friend…best mate in the entirety of Seven. It was obvious to Sakura that they were an awesome team…but as lovers? Who knows? Love comes in all shapes and forms. It wasn't like they'd be shunned though; Kakashi's second in command, Iruka, was in the habit of sharing a bed with their leader. Sexuality was different in Seven; the family ties ran deep. Seven was a unit. A world unto themselves.

Sakura smiled and shrugged her shoulders, attempting to feel happy. Oh hell, it was all bust. Seven was a family, true, but there was a lot of love here. Camaraderie. Romance. Quite of few of her mates had lovers with Seven to whom they were wholly devoted. Kakashi-sensei and Iruka, of course; now Naruto and Sasuke. There was Ino who cared for but didn't want to acknowledge her lover Chouji; and the cousins, Hinata and Neji, who were closer than the outside world would have labeled appropriate. There was the slightly older couple of Lee and Tenten, the two of them being a year of two older than Sakura herself and then there was the two single but flirtatious gentlemen…Shino and Kiba. Other than that…well...Kurenai, Asuma and the strange, ex-gym teacher Gai were all single, but they were Kakashi's friends first and foremost…not really part of Seven but they were occasionally in and out of the warehouse. Good souls, Kakashi had called them. Trustworthy individuals who could be trusted to keep their secrets. Sakura withheld judgment on those three outsiders until further notice.

Naruto and Sakura continued to talk but the girl was on automatic; her thoughts had taken a stray turn again. She was slowly being left behind. Her mates and her…they were growing up, true…but she wasn't maturing. Even Naruto, childish spirit that he was, was moving on to sexual experiences and love. Where am I in all that? Sakura's thought blurred a little bit. She didn't remember the rest of her conversation with the blonde, but suddenly Naruto was smiling and waving bye as he walked across the room. Sakura faraway gaze watched him absently as he sauntered over to the couch and collapsed onto a bouncy cushion with Sasuke, his arm thrown haphazardly over the back of the sofa. Cute, but cutting. It actually hurt somewhere in the region of her heart.

The rest of Seven's active members were all piled around the couches, sipping soda or something stronger to keep the rain's chill off their bones. Hinata and Neji had somehow managed to procure a large pepperoni pizza and the pieces were being auctioned off at the price of a shouldered chore per slice. Not a bad deal really.

But suddenly Sakura was just too antsy…too restless. She actually found herself looking upward at the roof---at the skylight. She wanted to go outside. Just for a bit. Some fresh air, rainy and chilly or not, would clear her head.

Slipping off her cot, Sakura melted into the shadows that grew under the catwalk. No one would see her, of that she was sure. But just in case….Sakura slipped into her most trustworthy pair of boots and grabbed her black jacket. It would shield her from the rain…and from sight, hopefully. Throwing it around her shoulders with as much care as she could, the pink-haired girl tip toed her way toward the opposite wall, moving behind her mates with stealth. It's not that she was sneaking per say, she just didn't want to answer a dozen stupid questions about her outing. Screw it, she wanted to go for a walk! Gliding through the darkness, Sakura finally reached the doorway and slid the locking-bolt out of place, slipping out into the night like a shadow.

And with no one the wiser.


Author's Note: Okay then, mates. Listen up. This WILL be continued. I'm determined to turn this into a multichatper story. So yeah...Grrr. Anyway, I realize that some people may or may not like these pairings. Tough. I like the pairings dammit.

If you don't like it, please don't flame me. All that good stuff about if you can't say anything nice and whanot. So...anyways, I'd like to give credit where credit is due. Akkiru of Deviantart, I applaud you. Her piece inspired this fic...though I'm sure this isn't what she had in mind. Hehehe. Oh, and shoutouts to LoneGothic, because me and her had the same idea in the works...surprise, surprise, she got hers out there first. Congrats. Sspt, I'm running with the assumption that both Akkiru and LoneGothic are female. Forgive me If I'm wrong. Hehehe. blush

Anyway, that's about it. See you in Chapter Two, where we meet the boys. heheheeh.

-erena g.t. rose.