Story Title: Lady Thief

A/N: Also to note... Free Fall people, FYI; the last chapter is done, it's going through it's beta stages. This is something I wrote from my down time during the intervals of Free Fall. Enjoy. This is... just plain fun. Bad Sakura equals good times.

Description: Some little girls' dream of beautiful, flawless jewels and usually someday is given a flawless token of appreciation from their dream prince on his white horse. But one little pink haired trickster steals said jewels from those spoiled little girls… ((Yes… this is an AU also in this Naruto's last will still be Uzumaki after his mother, because everyone knows him as this…))

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or the characters therein. I just like to torture them now and again for my own amusement… Nor do I own, Thief: Deadly Shadows, which inspired this plot or the word taffer, which comes from subsequent game.

Taffer: has several different meanings in the game. Derogatory word, could mean, thief, trickster, fool… depending on context or connotation.

Chapter 1: An Unfortunate Fortune

The child no older than eleven summers studied the large beautiful country estate that now belonged to the county. A nameless plague had swept through the countryside with a vengeance, taking many lives as it swept past the populace with dark unforgiving fingers, even though her parents were nobility they had not been exempt and had fallen ill with the debilitating sickness. Sakura's father had died within four days, her mother had followed the day after. Verdant eyes tilted towards the clouded sky through tufts of cotton candy hued bangs, her heart soaked in shades of gray, sadness in her heart for the loss of her security.

Hidden amongst the bushes, cautious green eyes watched with palatable fear as the servant's searched for her with dark intentions, each wanting to make a quick silver piece or two. According to the financial clerk that had come to her parent's home to go over their will had explained to the young girl that her parents had owed a great deal of debt and that the house would have to be sold off to make up for the outstanding balances they left behind.

He also went on to inform her in an emotionless manner that none of her remaining relatives wanted to take on the task of raising her. The clerk hinted none too subtly that her parents hadn't maintained good relations with either side of the family for reasons entirely unknown. It was then the girl remembered that she had met some of her father's family once in the past but thereafter upon meeting them was sent outside to play. They had never visited again and being the child that she was, the girl had never really given it another thought. As it was she rarely saw her parents.

The clerk had then told her that in the morning she would be taken to a working orphanage where she would be instated and unfortunately when she came of age, would have to make her own way in the world since there would be no inheritance waiting for her. A maidservant had then taken her to her room with softly spoken utterances of insincere condolences to which Sakura chose not to reply.

Locked snugly in her room. Her heart rebelled at the thought of being treated as a slave in the local orphanage. Sakura was educated enough to know that the man was going to sell her to that sweatshop that passed for an orphanage. Sakura found herself irritated with that whole conversation with the clerk. Just because she was a child did not mean she was stupid. Who really knew if her parents actually had any debt? With no family or friends to help her who was going to take the word of a girl her age.

She'd show them that just because she wasn't an adult that her brains were not made of dolls and doilies. Sakura quickly made the heartfelt decision to runaway. At first the thought of being caught and being punished crossed her mind, however she knew without a shadow of a doubt that if she was sold into that 'orphanage' as she suspected she would be, it would be far worse than any punishment any adult could mete out if she was in fact caught.

When her parents had passed away a couple days before she had heard the servant's gossiping about a beautiful green city, a large, rich village hidden in the leaves. Konohagakure. It sounded so amazing she immediately made the decision to run to that wondrous city. As soon as the decision became solid in her mind she made a quick plan and fortunately she had a copy of the key to her bedroom door and so it hadn't proven difficult to at least make it to the second floor of the large home. It had taken her all night to escape, sticking to the dancing shadows, slipping past unaware adults. Their inattentiveness had easily allowed the young girl to swipe a half a loaf of bread and bit of cheese.

And now she waited in the bushes patiently for nightfall once more so that she could slip away unnoticed. For she was certain the she was 'old' enough to make her own way in the world. Sleeping lightly in the bushes, Sakura waited anxiously until the crescent moon had risen high in the sky and she cautiously made her way to the dirt road heading directly west. Thankful that she had been attentive to most of her studies, she knew in which direction Konoha lay.

Fear gnawed away at her heart every step she took. It overwhelmed her senses and it did not give her the time to grieve the losses she just suffered. As she walked Sakura glanced down at her dress and muttered under her breath, "It would not do for anyone to realize I'm the child of a noble."

Small fingers grabbed at the fancy lace that adorned her dress and making quick work of the bows and knots, she pulled the material away. At second glance at the now drab pink dress she felt a little more satisfied by it's appearance. The white around her neck caught her eyes, and with a twist, the delicate collar around the top of her dress was gone. Now she might be able to pass as a servant's daughter if they didn't look at the make of the material too closely. Fortunately her dress was dirty enough to hide the richness of the knee-length gown.

Fatigue swept into her limbs as she noticed with vague awareness that the sun was beginning to rise in the distance, the golden rim speckling the canopy of the forest beside her with light. Sakura nearly jumped out of her skin when a super cheerful voice drew her attention, "Oy father, please stop. There's a little girl all by herself on the road…"

Sakura realized with dread she had been drawn so deeply into her thoughts that she hadn't even heard the wagon come up behind her.

The pinkette quickly came to the conclusion that running would be a bad idea. It would look suspicious. It would definitely make her seem like she was up to no good. She had gotten so far on her own already. Sakura knew that if she got caught, she wouldn't be able to escape again. So instead she turned to greet whomever it was that had spotted her. Maybe if she waved at them and acted cheerful they would leave her be.

"It's dangerous for a little girl to be walking the road alone," the super cheerful boy's voice admonished her.

Sakura studied the wagon curiously and the occupants. It was an open merchant's wagon. A young boy around her age with spiky blond hair and vibrant blue eyes peered down at her. The boy looked just like the man he accompanied and Sakura assumed that the adult male was probably his father.

The man spoke gently, "What are you doing out here all alone? It can be dangerous out in these woods… Where are your parents?"

Fearful green eyes met the man's her brain scrambling for some sort of viable answer, "My… my parents recently died from the plague… I'm trying to get to Konohagakure… to find my aunt…" Sakura was amazed at how easily the lie fell from her lips. She could hear her tutor's admonishment in her head and she tried not to visibly wince. Thou shall not lie.

The blond boy's eyes filled with understanding, "My mother was taken by the plague as well…" Sakura tilted her head when she thought she saw tears gathering in his eyes. She concluded that the loss must be fairly recent.

The boy's father studied the girl with concern. Her dress was tattered and dirty, dirt smudged her pale cheeks in thick streaks. Her hair was slipping from its braid. He stepped down off the wagon and made his way to the pink haired child. If he left her here, he would be leaving her for dead. It was at least a two-week's walk on foot to Konoha from this point, probably longer for a child. She didn't look more than eight years old, but by the intelligent gleam in her eyes he knew she had to be older. He was not about to leave a little girl out in the wilderness on her own. The thought of his son Naruto attempting the same thing left him feeling chilled.

Sakura's eyes widened, terror streaking through her veins like quicksilver as the man walked towards her with purpose filled steps. She berated herself for not running away. It was obvious that the man could tell she was lying. She was going to be taken back to the country estate and they were going to lock her up in that horrid orphanage for the rest of her life.

He surprised her by crouching and putting a gentle hand on her shoulder, "It's not much, but my son and I are heading to Konoha ourselves. If you'd like to hitch a ride with us you can…"

The kind tenor of his voice had her heart twisting with guilt at her lie but it wasn't an opportunity that she could pass up. She didn't know exactly how far Konoha was, and if anyone were looking for her it would be a lot easier for them if she were on foot. Obviously he wouldn't hurt her, she thought with a child's logic, after all he had a son of his own. He studied her pixie face and the way she seemed to be carefully considering it, the way her green eyes peered into his thoughtfully reminded him of something or someone he couldn't quite place. Though it niggled in the back of his mind, he couldn't identify the abstract thought and so he dropped it easily.

Slowly Sakura nodded, "Yes thank you. I accept." Her serious reply and her adult-like demeanor brought an amused smile to the man's face. He had already come to the conclusion that he wouldn't leave a helpless little girl out the road alone, however it was better for her to believe she had a choice in the matter.

The orange-clad blond boy scooted aside excitedly to make room for the girl. As she climbed in next to him he introduced himself, "I'm Naruto Uzumaki!" he jabbed an enthusiastic thumb at the man who climbed in and grabbed the reigns, "that's my father."

Naruto's father snuck a glance at his unusually enthusiastic son and supplied for the young girl, "Minato Uzumaki, you can just call me Minato if you like."

"I am Sakura," the pinkette nodded stiffly in greeting purposely leaving out her last name. If they were indeed merchants like she suspected they were, they would have undoubtedly heard of her parents.

As the wagon lurched forward with a surprising jolt the girl grabbed for the hand railing at her side. Naruto watched the strange girl out of the corner of his eyes for quite some time. She spoke not a word. Her face was pale and if Naruto didn't know any better fear painted her expression nearly every time a traveler passed their cart. He also caught her glancing back once and awhile, as if she was afraid that she was being followed.

After about an hour of this, the girl seemed to calm down a bit and it soon became very apparent that she was exhausted. Every time her eyes would shut, they would snap open with every pothole or nook the wagon ran over. Naruto turned and offered shyly, "It's really hard to sleep like that. If you're tired, you can sleep on my shoulder. I won't mind."

Sakura felt so exhausted from the last couple of days, she smiled gratefully at the blond, "Really? Thank you Naruto."

Minato snuck a glance at the two of them and his heart softened at the girl's trusting acceptance of his kind-hearted son. His son reminded the older male so much of his late wife that it made his heart ache. Sakura slept nearly all through the day and Naruto didn't budge an inch, even though his side started to ache, allowing the girl some peaceful respite.

They stopped in a small village and Naruto's father announced, "We'll stay in an inn tonight."

Sakura was amazed when the inn that he paid for was a very well to do establishment. The pinkette said nothing about it however and instead helped Naruto haul their belongings up to the room for the nightwhile his father had the horse stabled for the duration of their stay. The pinkette gazed around the richly decorated room in wide-eyed curious wonder. It had a little room to the side with a double sized bed she was sure she and Naruto would have to share. It even had it's own washroom. Being the daughter of a noble Sakura knew that this was a room that would draw far too deeply into a merchant's pocket.

When his father returned Sakura couldn't help but ask, her childish curiosity getting the better of her, "Forgive my rudeness. But… I was under the impression that you were a merchant family…"

Naruto's huge grin matched his father's. The handsome man crouched down and met her vivid green eyes with his own vibrant blue orbs, "That's… exactly the impression we hope to give…"
Sakura tilted her head her confusion evident, "I don't understand…"

Naruto supplied brightly, "Even if you're rich it's stupid to show the whole world that you are… especially when you're traveling."

The pinkette was at a loss for words, "But… why would you hide your nobility?" Having been raised in a noble family herself, the thought of pretending one wasn't wealthy was a foreign concept to her.

"Traveling the roads with your riches on display isn't a good idea out in the country. Bandits are a lot more likely to attack you," Naruto's serious blue eyes bore into hers, "If they think you're poor, more than likely they won't bother you."

Sakura remembered tearing off her ribbons and lace so that she could pass for a servant's child just incase anyone was looking for her. The girl nodded in understanding, "I see… I never thought about it that way before," but then she directed her green eyes towards the adult, her precocious nature asserting itself, "If you're trying to hide your identity… why would you rent a room like this? Don't you worry that the innkeeper might sell you out?"

"Normally yes," Mr. Uzumaki patted the child's head, "however I've come through here many times and this one knows me very well… my family is a powerful one… and he wouldn't want to deal with the consequences should he choose to betray my confidence…"

"Oh," Sakura responded softly, "You two are too nice… to be nobles."

Mr. Uzumaki laughed and handed her a set of clothing, "Speaking of merchants. Make sure to clean yourself up before we leave in the morning and wear these."

Sakura glanced at the drab gray garments and then glanced up at him smiling, "Thank you… I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay your kindness…"

Naruto looped an arm around the girl's neck playfully, "Don't worry about that sort of thing Sakura…" he paused and then added happily, "Let's go down and order something to eat."

Mr. Uzumaki watched the two children leave with a smile. The grin faded away however after they were gone and his blue eyes took on a tinge of sadness. He hadn't seen Naruto behave so cheerfully in months. Of course he too was still aching inside at the loss of his beautiful vivacious redheaded wife. Maybe it was good for Naruto to have someone else to worry about other than his self. He didn't quite believe her story about her aunt.

No one in their right mind would let a child travel alone without a guardian. If she didn't have any family in Konoha perhaps he would just take her back to the estate and have her become an apprentice to one of the servants. If the contact from another child around his age helped Naruto through the grieving process, then he would do his best to accommodate that.

-o-

They traveled for several days, always stopping at an inn and sleeping well for the night. Sakura easily made friends with the extraordinarily kind Naruto and his father. Sakura hated to admit that she effortlessly grew attached to the exuberant boy whose blue eyes reflected sadness when he thought she wasn't looking. Sakura realized she enjoyed Naruto's companionship and his sincere demeanor. The pinkette thought if she were to have a brother, she'd like him to be just like the kind blond.

She still couldn't half believe that the Uzumaki's were nobles and that Naruto was a lordling. He was not pretentious in any way and he always made sure she was taken care of first before he tended to his own needs. She had met quite a few boys of noble birth and they were usually quite full of themselves.

It amazed her that they were not only very nice people but what she found even more bizarre was that Naruto's father actively listened to his son's opinions and seemed to enjoy spending time with him. Sakura was sad her parent's were gone, but it was more of a distant ache at the sudden loss of security, then for actually losing them. They had let various hired nannies raise her and she had hardly ever seen them. She had always followed the golden rule of her parent's estate: Don't speak unless spoken to.

When company was invited over, her mother dressed her up like a little doll and loved to show off her darling young daughter with her exotic pink hair. Once the visitors left, she was sent back to her room and usually wouldn't see her parents for weeks at a time. It was almost like living with strangers. She actually missed Naoki, one of her nursemaids more than her parents.

When Naruto's father bought him another shirt in the shade of orange, declaring that he knew it was his son's favorite color and that he knew that Naruto would love it. The little girl came to the startling realization that she hadn't even known what either of her parent's favorite colors was and she highly doubted they knew hers. It definitely wasn't pink that was for certain. There was a warmth and love that the two shared Sakura was certain she never experienced. The thought made her feel even more bereft.

On the ninth day Naruto announced excitedly after spotting familiar scenery, "We're almost there Sakura! I can't wait. I miss Cookie's famous ramen…"

Sakura's heart sunk in her chest but she didn't let it show on her face, "Oh… that sounds really neat. I bet it's delicious."

The boy nodded avidly, "Yup! And I'll make sure to bring you some after you find your aunt…"

"My aunt?" Sakura's face blanked for a moment and then she realized her mistake when Naruto turned curious eyes towards her. She rubbed the back of her head sheepishly and smiled, "Oh yes… my aunt of course! That would be delightful Naruto…"

Sakura's heart hurt even more. She should never have allowed herself to get attached to the boy. And by the look his father was giving her, Sakura knew that he had caught the small nuance in her demeanor up but he said nothing. The pinkette knew that at some point that she'd have to give them both slip, which she was loathe to do but she couldn't risk getting caught. Who knew if that clerk had people out searching for her? It was times like these she loathed her unique pink hair. It was like a beacon that announced to all, "I'm right here."

As they passed through the city gates of Konoha Sakura forgot her turmoil for a couple minutes and gazed around with astonished wonder. The sprawling city was huge. It was much larger than she had ever imagined. She could see the noble lords and ladies walking through the streets in their bright rich clothing along with the servants and caravans. It was springtime and the trees were bursting in bloom. Myriads of pink and white blossoms littered the pavement. The scent was lovely and the hustle and bustle was fascinating to the young country girl who had never seen such a thing in all her life.

"Konoha is beautiful," Sakura murmured softly.

"It's the best city ever," Naruto agreed with the girl puffing up with obvious pride.

A guard greeted them, "Welcome back to Konoha High Lord Uzumaki."

High Lord? Sakura's eyes widened at the title. She had been taught by one of her tutor's that in cities such as these, that the high nobles such as Naruto's father ran the city on a board with members. Typically four noble families, one for each section of the city, north, east, west, and south ruled the city.

They were the High Lords. They were reputed to have very old, distinct bloodlines and as long as they served the city well and it prospered, they were highly respected by the populace by both the rich and poor. Sakura imagined the Uzumaki family would be popular, she could imagine Naruto's father making decisions for the better of the city and not himself.

Sakura glanced to the side. The streets were busy, she quickly noted. Naruto and his father turned to greet the guard. Naruto chirruped happily, "Hello Mr. Yakamura."

While the both of them were busy with the guard, Sakura slipped silently off the side of the cart and quickly melted into the crowd. As soon as she was in the street, the girl started to run until she found a shadowed alley to hide in for a time incase they came looking for her.

Meanwhile neither Naruto nor his father noticed Sakura's quick getaway. The guard queried, "Did you hear the news about Lord and Lady Haruno?"

"It's been quite a while since I've seen them at any gathering…" Lord Uzumaki shook his head, "They seem well situated in the country."

"I heard from my cousin who served in their house that they passed away two weeks ago from the plague. Shortly after the clerk came to deal with the estate, their daughter ran away… her name is Sakuya or something like that… I think… apparently she's still missing and there's a reward for her return. But… my cousin says there's a rumor that the clerk took all the monies from the estate under the excuse that Lord Haruno had heavy debt… and was planning on selling the poor girl to that orphanage out in Kyoto… well I shouldn't really call it that… a sweatshop more like," Mr. Yakamura shrugged his wide shoulders, the gossip easily flowing off his lips.

At this information Naruto whipped around to look at the sweet pink-haired girl who had became his friend so suddenly, worried for her. Naruto had the feeling previously that she was from a noble family as well just from the way she spoke and acted. He would never let that clerk person take her away to a place that sounded that horrible. When he discovered her seat was empty Naruto interrupted the conversation between his father and the gate guard, "Father… she's gone…"

High Lord Uzumaki turned, his blue eyes wide. The girl must have run away for fear that they would send her back. He had the feeling she was a noble's daughter by the way she spoke and carried herself. She was far too educated to be a servant's child. He'd have his informants check out the situation with Lord Haruno's estate. He couldn't believe he didn't realize it before. Sakura was the spitting image of her mother except her mother's hair was red and not pink. She had her father's vibrant green eyes and now he knew why that every time he looked at her she had looked so familiar.

Meanwhile he grabbed the arm of his panicking son so he wouldn't bolt off the cart into the city alone as he seemed about ready to do, "Captain Yakamura, we had a child with us. A little girl possibly ten years old, pink hair and green eyes nearly impossible to miss. She seems to have wandered off…. Send the watchmen out to retrieve her if you would… it's of the up most importance. Make sure to bring her to my estate once she's been found."

The captain bowed to the high lord, "But of course my lord. I shall send out my men immediately…"

After the man walked away Lord Uzumaki urged the old carthorse forward. His son buried his face in his sleeve, his small body shaking, he was obviously crying, "Why'd she run away from us? Did she really think we'd let anyone hurt her?"

Switching the reigns over to his left hand he wrapped an arm around his son, "Sometimes Naruto when people are afraid they don't always make the wisest decisions. I don't think Sakura ran away because she didn't trust us… but because she was afraid."

Naruto pulled back from his father and puffed out his chest, his eyes puffy from tears, "But I… I wouldn't have let them take her away…" The blond boy hated the thought that Sakura was afraid and alone.

"I know son," Lord Uzumaki sighed softly blue eyes colored with worry, "once they find her, they'll bring her to the estate and we'll try to help her any way that we can."

The blond nodded, rubbing his eyes with curled fist, reminding his father that even though his boy was growing up with a good sense of honor he was still a child.

-o-

Sakura peeked out around the corner of the alleyway to make sure she wasn't being followed. She waited a good while before she slipped out and began to walk amongst the populace. Verdant green eyes were wide with wonder as she took in the sight of the fancy shops and well stocked vendors lining the streets.

"HEY! YOU THERE!" a gruff male voice shouted above the din of noise.

Instinctively Sakura turned her head and her eyes widened into saucers when she saw the guard pushing his way towards her. Fear filled the pinkette and she froze for several moments. They had sent people after her already. Did the Uzumaki's finally learn who she was and was out to get her? Was there a reward on her head or something? Why would the clerk even bother with her disappearance? He more than likely took all the money from her parent's estate anyhow, she thought sourly.

As he drew closer, Sakura's eyes darted back and forth before she eased into a fast sprint, her thin legs pumping as quickly as they could carry her.

"HALT! Someone stop that little girl!" the guard commanded forcefully as he roughly cut his way through the crowd pushing a few citizens aside as he did so.

Sakura ducked as a young man, who was dressed in noble clothing made a grab for her and ended up slamming into a fruit stand for his efforts in a disgruntled heap. Her tiny size afforded her a great advantage and she used it well. Sakura maneuvered agilely through the crowds at breakneck speeds.

The guard chasing her yelled again this time a bit desperately as he spotted a familiar face, "Lord Itachi, please stop that girl!"

Sakura glanced back to ascertain the location of the guard and was relieved when he seemed to be falling behind. However the moment she averted her attention away from the path she was running, she found herself heaved into arms that wrapped around her like steel bands.

Desperately she flailed her small fists hitting her assailant's arms uselessly as she demanded, "Let me go…!"

"Did you steal from one of the vendors? Konoha law is not lenient on thieves, even if they are children," the cool voice behind her had her turning her head and looking deeply into cold, nearly emotionless eyes. He didn't look much older than her, fifteen at most she surmised and a young lordling to boot. Raven bangs were swept away from his eyes, and his hair was tied into a ponytail that was tied at the nape of his neck. High aristocratic sharp cheekbones gave his heritage away much more so than even his rich clothing.

"Good! Keep a hold on her! High Lord Uzumaki wants her," the guard said as he began to draw closer.

Sakura stilled completely in his arms. Lord Uzumaki wanted her? Did he know that she was a run away. Panic filled the girl once again and she felt rage fill her at the cruel derogatory remark from the male behind her, "You've got a lot of nerve to cross High Lord Uzumaki… what did you do taff?"

The pinkette acted on instinct and buried her teeth in the boy's arm and bit until she tasted blood. The male gave a surprised yelp and his arms loosened. Sakura wrenched out of his arms, fiercely angry tear filled verdant eyes bore deep into his own. He would never forget the look in the girl's eyes for the rest of his days. She smacked him across his face fairly hard for a child her size and stature, "Don't assume you know anything about me!"

"You bit me!" the young lord Itachi's eyes widened as blood dripped out of his sleeve and onto his hand appalled and angry at the waif's brazen attack on his person.

Sakura yelped and dodged as he grabbed for her again and offered one last parting shot before she ran away, "You're the taffer!"

The pinkette didn't even bother to glance back and when she found another darkened alley, she ducked into it, slipping into the shadows and was nearly invisible to the naked eye due to the drab gray coloration of her clothing. Sucking in a breath, she pressed herself against the brick and mortar and didn't release it until that rude lordling and the guard passed by.

After she were certain that she was gone, Sakura slid down into a sitting position and there alone in the shadows she finally allowed herself to cry. Tears of sorrow, regret, and for the comfort of a trustworthy friend streamed down her pale cheeks. Naruto's face swam into her vision and she roughly cast it out as hurt and anger filled her at the thought. If he or his father hadn't sent the guards after her then everything would have been fine. It was many hours until the girl finally moved from the spot.

Over the next few days Sakura found herself eating from the trashcans of the restaurants and residents, choosing to remain in the darkened alleys. Posters had been placed all over the city with a sketch of her face and description. A reward was being offered for her capture and so she couldn't dare show her face. This stopped her from going anywhere and trying to find some kind of work for fear of recognition. She had been so afraid when the guard had chased her she didn't want to attempt it again. She couldn't even move around freely in the day anymore. As time passed the promised reward grew higher and higher.

After a week or so of skulking in the darkness, she could smell herself and it disgusted her. She longed for a bath. She longed for fresh food. And she was slowly starving to death. The restaurant realized there was something going through their trash and they began to chain the lids down with iron locks, assuming that it was animals or varmints going through the bins and so had to move on. She also learned to be careful which residential bins she raided because there were other homeless about who had claim to certain territory.

The first couple days weren't too bad, she ate just enough not to starve, and she would wash what she could in the old rain barrel. Even if it was a bit stagnant it was better than nothing. It wasn't long before the resident in the alleyway who 'owned' the territory she was found her going through one of his favorite bins and immediately tossed the girl out after hitting her several times with his walking stick muttering unintelligible words under his breath.

Bruised and bloodied, pink hair matted to her skull, she sat against the wall at the edge of one of the alleys. Sakura held her stomach as it grumbled savagely for food. From her position she could smell the freshly baked bread that came from the stand across the street. Perhaps she was torturing herself but it smelled so heavenly that she couldn't help but revel in the ambiance of the scent. When it grew dark, she would try to find something, even if she had to steal to do it she would do what she had to survive. She doubted with the way she looked now anyone would recognize her. Sakura had hardly recognized herself when she had stared into her reflection in the rain barrel; her gaunt, bruised features and dulled green eyes stared back at her.

Finally when the moon climbed the sky and ethereal shadows danced across the street Sakura emerged from the alley. Instinctively she moved in the shadows and avoided the light. Carefully she watched the adults scurrying home, crouched next to a set of stairs that led into a well to do residence. Sakura realized that she'd have to steal something from someone since all the vendors had packed up and gone for the night. She couldn't put it off any longer. She needed to eat, or she'd die. It was as simple as that, and she had come to peace with the realization earlier in the day.

Suddenly Sakura's head shot up when she noticed a beautiful busty blonde woman walking towards her. At her side, a coin pouch jingling with it's contents at her side teasing her with the promise of better days. Licking chapped lips, the pinkette waited, ignoring the tiny voice that was her conscious. Stealing was wrong. She knew that. But to her mind, stealing was far better than starving to death. The girl smothered the annoying voice with those firm thoughts.

When the woman walked by Sakura began to trail behind her, crouching and ducking in the darkness. The night shadows danced over nearly hopeless green eyes as the girl drew ever nearer to the oblivious adult. It seemed the lovely blonde wasn't aware of the waif-like child following her and Sakura didn't hesitate spurred on by hunger and desperation when her hand shot out and grabbed the bag with shaky fingers.

The girl was startled when the woman immediately halted her slim hand snaked out faster than Sakura even could visibly see. They covered her own and held her immobile with surprising strength so that the girl couldn't even attempt to run away. The woman muttered, "You must be new in the territory if you're trying to steal from me honey…"

The busty blond turned, her honey brown eyes widening when she realized the one that had followed her was actually a child. Tsunade could see anguish and hunger reflected in the child's eyes and was aptly reminded her of herself once upon a time. The girl was bruised and bloody. Even though Tsunade held her there, the girl's hand only clenched tighter around the bag, desperate not to let go. In Sakura's mind, if she released her hold on the coins, she wouldn't make it till the next night.

"You're pretty good for a kid… you've got good instincts," Tsunade told her softly, heart softening despite herself, "Was that your first attempt?"

The green-eyed waif did not choose to reply, her quiet refusal to let go of the bag and determination cemented something in the blonde woman. She held onto the girl's hand firmly and looked deeply into her eyes, "Do you want to learn how to survive the streets on your own?"

Distrust marred the child's features. There was a hardness reflected in her eyes that should not be in one her age. Slowly the girl nodded, "Yes…"

"Good… well first of all, let go of my coin purse. We'll get you something to eat straight away… alright?" the woman's typically hard brown eyes softened even further as she made a simple promise to the girl, wordlessly ignoring the stench that drifted her direction as the night breeze picked up.

Slowly Sakura's fingers released the bag and side-by-side they walked down the street.