Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine.
Notes: To those of you seeing/noticing this for the first time, hello! I hope you enjoy this Alternate Universe, in which there will be mafia and urban fights and various messes with familiar faces and characters in quite unfamiliar situations. To those of you who thought this story was discontinued, I don't blame you - but I'm hoping to get another chapter (and more) up, schoolwork permitting.
This is not an Alternate Universe where the mafia is some glorified, friendly organization. Many things are still idealized (especially where familiar characters are involved), but "mafia" or yakuza, to use the Japanese term, will not be any organization that you'd brag about... especially if you were a civilian. (So, no, a Sakura in this universe will not be squealing with delight over how cool someone's criminal past is.)
This is also not a real life Alternate Universe, but a combination of Naruto, miscellaneous inaccuracies about Japan, and personal invention. (I am even aware that "Akatsuki" means "dawn" instead of "Red Moon," but I like the fan-given meaning.)
TL;DR: Basic premise is, Itachi leads a (fairly) legal life for once, while Hana and the rest of the typical "good guys" are mostly gangsters. Their shared past is another matter.
The phrase "going through hell" had always sounded excessively optimistic to Hana. It implied that you were in a transitional state, as opposed to stuck.
Getting shot, beat up, and entangled in her brother's latest scrapes was going through hell. Wearing a dress with corset ribbing half a size too small to a formal party was a much more accurate approximation of loitering in the Fiery Pit.
And that's the last time I let Anko buy me a dress, thought Hana. Although she had been a helpful mentor for the thirteen-odd years they'd known each other, Anko had a notoriously esoteric sense of humor. Hana could practically hear her merry cackle.
"You're attending that massively boring event at Red Moon? Aw, wittle Hana's growed up while I wasn't looking!"
Hana had rolled her eyes, too busy rummaging through the limited variety of clothes in her closet to conjure up a witty retort. Chujo, the middle brother of her three gigantic, fairly old grey-furred dogs, decided that Hana wasn't paying enough attention to him and pawed at a laundry basket. His activity upended various shirts, socks, jeans, and underwear onto the worn floor carpet. Hana eyed the heap of dirty clothes.
"Damn it, Chujo!"
Having received the desired bit of attention from his mistress, Chujo trotted out of the room.
"So, I'll take a stab at what's put you in panic-mode." Anko stretched on top of Hana's bedcovers with a grin of benign malice. "You don't have anything to wear."
"Of course I have something to wear," Hana growled, more to convince herself than to contradict Anko. A few months ago, she had taken advantage of a sale in the town mall and bought something black and dressy. It had gone straight into the tiny closet.
Her nose wrinkled. The collective pile of clothes and the stuffy closet didn't exactly smell fragrant. Her fingers snagged on a bit of silky fabric. "Gotcha!"
She brandished the pair of dress pants for Anko's inspection. They were dark, silvery grey, not black as she'd remembered.
Anko feigned a yawn. "Gawd, Hana, you can't go around on those. Good grief. What are you, a fifty-year-old spinster?"
Hana folded the offending article over her arm. "Oh, stop it, Anko. I saw some celebrity on a magazine cover wear a pair just like these." To her eyes, the pants looked decent, even though the overhead light illuminated a few specks of unattractive lint.
"Yeah," Anko snorted, "a year ago."
"I'm not buying a dress just for this." Hana laid the pants out on the bed and crossed her arms. "You know as well as I do that I'm not going there to have fun. It's an assignment."
"Yes, I know, the typical Operation: Stake Out a Lecherous, Rich Fat-ass. Honey, if you don't want to look suspicious loitering around an old pervert, you had better look invisible – which is impossible – or like you'd dangle off the arm of a pimp." With that, Anko rolled to her feet and stalked to the living room. She returned seconds later holding the large, flat package she had carried on entering Hana's apartment. "I have just the thing. Wouldn't fit me, as I've had one too many bean dumplings, but…"
Hana listened to the older woman's sadistic laugh, and swore never to touch whatever lay inside that box.
That resolution had worked out nicely.
Squaring her shoulders and standing straighter than she ever had before donning that blasted wine-colored dress, Hana moved into the large room.
A number of socialites and smaller-fry business moguls had arrived before her. They clustered near the impressive, giant arched windows of the Red Moon Hotel, or around the long table of cheese, crackers, and caviar. Nevertheless, the bulk of the finger foods looked untouched, as the majority of invitees had yet to show up. Early evening light slanted in through the windows. The golden light of the crystalline chandeliers overhead melded with the cooler blue hues from the sky outside.
A waiter in a smart silk vest paused at her left, offering a selection of drinks from his tray. Hana gave him a discreet shake of the head. She still hadn't caught sight of her target for the night, a Deidara-san with long blond hair and blue eyes. She'd been told that he was quite striking, but abrasive with the ladies. He was only in his early twenties, although Hana knew that Anko liked making derogatory generalizations too much to change her favorite moniker, "senile f – ers," for the rich and famous.
Clearly, he hadn't made an appearance yet. Hana decided that she had time for a few crackers and caviar, which she almost never had the chance to sample. The thin slices of salmon also looked tempting.
Her stomach moaned. Earlier in the day, she had been unable to get out of the dress and have a proper meal. All she could do was watch Kiba devour her umeboshi bento box. Now it was a task on its own just to breathe smoothly. Maybe she should have opted for the numbing effect of alcohol after all.
"Could I interest you in a piece of smoked salmon?" asked a deep, rough voice.
Hana turned to face the man who had addressed her and found that she had to tilt her head back significantly to meet his pale, bleached-blue eyes. His face was familiar to her, even though she hadn't read up on him, only on her assignment. The smile on the lower half of his face made him look like a friendly shark.
"Have you tried any yourself?" Hana responded, narrowing her eyes and widening her mouth in a smile. She could already see from the perfect arrangement of the slices that the man had not.
"If I'm the first, you must be second," he declared. His obvious enjoyment of the fish amused Hana into complying. He held out his hand. "Hoshigaki Kisame."
"Inuzuka Hana," she said, watching his reaction. She needn't have worried – her family name could have been discarded tissue for all the attention it garnered. The Inuzuka weren't the most important players in this game. That was why she even received these assignments - she could present a bland, innocuous front.
"Well, now that you're here," said Kisame, "Whom are you hoping to see?"
Hana didn't miss a beat. "Why do you think I'm here to see anybody? Is someone interesting going to arrive?"
They moved to a window as Kisame's gravelly laughter rang out. "Most enterprising young ladies seem to find my business partner interesting."
She gave him a polite frown. "I'm sorry, I don't know who that would be."
"You don't know because I'm much less talked about, but you'll recognize his name. Uchiha Itachi. Ring a bell?" He smirked at the look of comprehension on Hana's face.
She recovered. "Oh, him."
Kisame flagged down a waiter. This time, Hana claimed one of the slender glasses offered to her. "That's all you have to say?" Kisame observed her as she took a casual sip. "You don't have any questions concerning his eating habits and whereabouts?"
Hana had plenty of questions. For one, why had Itachi become almost sociopathic after his eye surgery? For another, why had he betrayed everyone in the Konoha yakuza? But these weren't questions that she could put to Kisame.
"How do you find your work?"
Kisame emptied his drink in one draught, smacking his lips. "I can't complain."
"Would you prefer to work alone, now that you've worked with Uchiha-san?"
He shot her a mock-wary look. "You aren't a reporter, are you?"
Her mouth quirked. "If I were, I would be asking harder questions."
"True. Well, I'd have to say, either way is fine, but I prefer having him around during negotiations. I have trouble staying awake for some reason." If Kisame had said this in a confiding or even mildly flirty manner, the effect could have been alarming. However, he delivered it as a simple statement of fact.
"Alright," said Hana, "you've told me that your business parter will attend this event. Who else is coming, Hoshigaki-san?"
He seemed to wince at the mouthful. "Please, it's Kisame."
He rubbed his chin, looking thoughtful. "Red Moon's founder, of course – Pein. Everyone on the board of trustees…that would be Itachi, me, Konan, Hidan, Kakuzu, Sasori, Deidara, Zetsu, and Orochimaru."
She couldn't ask him for more on Deidara at once, as he had mentioned the name in the middle of a list. "And do you usually arrive first?"
"Hell, no. I'm skipping the meeting upstairs that Itachi and the others are attending for formality's sake." He grinned toothily. "Don't look so shocked; I'll wager Orochimaru isn't there at all, and Hidan's coming late on account of evening mass."
Hana raised an eyebrow. "A religious businessman?"
"He's a nutcase. Don't ever let him corner you."
She breathed a laugh. "Duly noted."
A waiter took their empty glasses and paused to let them view the replenished tray. Hana declined, while Kisame chose another. "Kakuzu, now, he's Hidan's polar opposite. In his past life, he was probably the Minister of Finances. And yet they collaborate from time to time."
"I've heard of Kakuzu," Hana said, remembering part of a recent news report. Men that wealthy could go by only their first name, if they were so inclined. "He orchestrated another hotel opening down by the river."
"So it is only me you haven't heard of," said Kisame.
Hana seized the opening. "I wouldn't say that. I know next to nothing about some of the others you mentioned. For instance, I've never heard of Deidara."
"Consider yourself lucky." Kisame drained his second glass with as much aplomb as he had his first. "That kid commissioned an enormous building in Suna Square, didn't like the result, and blasted it himself. But I expect not everything makes it to international news."
"You can't convince me that he's a complete lunatic, Kisame-san. How would he have become a member of the board of trustees?" Kisame snorted in apparent amusement. "Perhaps he was having a bad day."
"Then his young life must consist of a series of bad days." His sharp, white-blue eyes flickered past Hana. "Would you look at that. The meeting must be over." He restored his attention to her, smirking faintly. "Itachi doesn't usually thank me for introducing ladies to him, but I don't think he'd mind you."
Hana surprised herself by laughing. "You know how to compliment a girl, Kisame-san. Even so, I'd rather not test his patience."
His smirk widened. "Too late. Itachi!"
R&R if you have thoughts. I am reuploading these and adding the horizontal bars because I've felt renewed inspiration to continue.