AN: Thanks for the reviews for last chapter, I appreciate and cherish each and every one. I usually reply to signed reviews, answer questions and what not without giving too much away. Kisses readers! :MUH:

Chapter 2

Somebody ran away saying 'fast as I can'…

Sakura Haruno hated her school and hated her so called 'friends'. She missed going to her old school and wished she went to Tobirama High School with her only true friend, Ino Yamanaka. But when her mom married into a newly established wealthy family, she yanked her out of her old school and placed her here. In this boring high school with kids who thought the world revolved around them. So what if their Mommies and Daddies bought them a new car for their birthdays? Or they were able to get into the local clubs free of charge by dropping their family names? Really, they were nothing compared to those who attended Leaf Academy. They were the best of the best. Students there hailed from the most elite and wealthiest families. Her mom wanted her to go there. She didn't want to, but she was rather helpless against her mother. She always felt guilty if she even thought of disobeying her, or telling her that she rather go to Tobirama High.

Her visit with Ino left her feeling depressed and homesick. The house she was living in now was nice and big (compared to the apartment they used to live in). Her Stepfather was from a well known family, but he was Fifth Son. His four older brothers had families and children of their own so there was no way he could inherit the cosmetic company. He was shuffled off to management in one of the department stores owned by the one of those Elite families, Bakugan Empire. Her mother always tried to get in good with her in-laws but to them, she was only Fifth Wife, of Fifth Son. Her Step-grandparents were always kind to her, something Sakura loved. When she would visit for their monthly family get togethers, they always had a present for her. But they also had presents for their other 'natural' grandchildren as well. Some of her step-cousins were mean and often tried to exclude her from their cousin-get-togethers. But the rest were nice, particularly the step-cousin closest to her, Sai.

Sai was a quiet young man who liked being alone. She would watch secretly as he managed to sneak away from the rest of the cousins, clutching an ink stained satchel against his chest. She followed him one time and found him sitting against a blossoming apple tree in the vast emerald back yard of Haruno Manor with a fierce look of concentration on his face. His short dark hair was falling beautifully into his pale face and his lips were pursed neatly. Sakura's hear would beat a little faster every time she saw him. He was so very handsome. When he saw her, his dark eyebrows shot up in surprise.

She awkwardly asked him if she could join him in getting away from all the family chatter. Even though her mom had been married to Kizashi Haruno for over six years, she never really felt like she belonged in his family. Even after he adopted her and made it official, a part of her was sad as well. She knew her mom well. She was ambitious and manipulative and her marriage was just a stepping stone for her to enter the world of the Elite. So she felt guilty about it, about calling him "daddy" when he was so blind to her mother's carefully pulled strings of manipulation. She felt like she was lying to his whole family and Sakura Haruno didn't like to lie to anyone. She confronted her once on it and her mom looked at her like she had betrayed her.

"You think I don't love him? That I only married him for his money? I'm doing everything in my power to lift his status so his family won't look down on us anymore! So what if he's Fifth Son? He's worthy of their recognition so don't you ever think that about me again!"

She didn't say anything more after that and did everything her mother wanted her to do out of guilt. She warned her to not associate with Sai, but she always had a minor spark of rebellion deep inside and ignored that rule. She liked Sai and was interested in what made him different than the other cousins.

Sai agreed and she settled next to him, keeping a polite distance when she asked what he was drawing. He showed her his sketch pad. She looked over it in admiration, wondering how he came to inherit such a talent. Later, she would find out that he was a bastard child. His father, Second Son had met his mother in Earth Country at a Starving-Artist Conference. Like the First Son and the Third Son, he was a victim of an arranged marriage (something her mother told her to be prepared for).

Marriages in the Elite world were not love matches, but rather business arrangements and treated as such. Sai told her that when his mother gave birth to him, his father and his wife were there. He was the son he had been waiting for. Second Son's wife had two daughters, but in Fire Country there was a strong son preference. Not even an hour old and he was whisked away and brought to Fire Country to be raised as Second Son's heir. She asked him what happed to his mother, and Sai looked away, lost in such sad thoughts.

"My father said he bought a Gallery for her in exchange for me."

A pang of sorrow hotly hit her at his wistful expression. "Have you ever met her?"

Sai gave a little smile and shook his head. "My father and mother said she can't have anything to do with me. It was part of the contract in exchange for the Gallery." He shrugged. "That's what they said anyways but…"

"But?" Sakura pressed gently.

He looked at her with soulful eyes. "One day I'll go and find her and ask her myself."

After that, Sakura wondered how many of her step-cousins were like Sai. A product of the Brothers and their mistresses. It was a side of the wealthy that she never really thought about. If she married, would her husband have a mistress too? Would she need to raise his offspring if he acknowledged them? Her mom would say that it was the price a woman had to pay to be married to money. Sakura's heart felt heavy. She wanted to be married to someone who loved her and would never cheat on her. She didn't want to raise his children from other women. Just looking at them would be a reminder that she hadn't been enough.

She looked at Sai and saw that his mother kept him at a distance. His older sisters didn't really talk to him. Only his father really acknowledged him and accepted him for who he was. She wondered if Second Son really cared for Sai's mother. Maybe he loved her more than anyone at one point and his acknowledgment of Sai was the only thing he had left of her.


Every time she and her family had to go to Leaf to meet at the Haruno Estate her mom was usually busy with other things. She was planning to start a new skin cosmetic line that specialized in creams, soaps, body lotions and things like that. She wanted to go the All Natural route since it was the 'in' thing right now. So while she was meeting with her chemists and sales reps, she had some free time. Her Step-Dad would slip her some money and tell her not to be long. She would always visit Ino first. After, when her mother came and whisked her away she found some free time again the next day.

She went shopping alone, browsed some shoe shops and small boutiques until her arms filled with bags. She was mindlessly walking along and taking in the sights if Leaf when someone rudely bumped her and sent her bags flying. She closed her eyes and waited for the sting of her fall, but instead someone caught her in warm, strong arms.

She opened her eyes and stared into dark ebony ones. She let out a sound that was a mix between a gasp and a squeal. SO embarrassing! He cocked a brow and set her on her feet.

"Are you alright?" He asked, bending over and picking up her things that scattered on the ground. He was dressed in expensive looking dark wash jeans and a black shirt that had a few buttons down the front, just below the throat. His hair was black, short in the back and long in the front. He was…so yummy! Yummy like Sai.

"Ah—yes!" She exclaimed, wincing mentally at the screech in her voice. "I wasn't watching where I was going I guess…"

He handed her the bags he gathered. He was about to say something but his phone beeped and he glanced down at it. He cursed and offered a little smile. "Be careful." He said before dashing away while he fervently dialed a number. "I'm on my way right now!" He exclaimed, hailing a cab and climbing in.

She watched him disappear down the street and Sakura's heartbeat stopped thumping wildly in her chest. It took a few moments before the loud bustling sounds of the capitol brought her back down to earth. Her bags felt heavy now and she managed to hail a cab. When she got home her mom was on the phone and her Step-Dad was in office, going through some papers.

"I'm home." She called out, stepping out of her green and white speckled flats. Her mom gave her a little smile but returned to her phone call, yelling about shipping dates and whatnot. Sakura trudged to the second story of their town house and threw all her bags on her bed. She couldn't stop thinking about that guy…that dreamy guy who saved her from falling face first in the dirty sidewalks of Leaf. She wished she knew his name, she wished she could run into him again. She groaned and buried her face in her pillow. She wished that they didn't have to leave in the morning!


Sasuke…was acting weird. Ino stared unabashed at him while he walked beside her, his whole expression more stoic and blank as ever. But his hands were shoved in the pockets of his expensive light blue jeans and his shoulders were a little rounded. She stopped at a crosswalk when the light turned but Sasuke didn't stop. She squealed and yanked his arm back hard making him stumble in surprise.

"Sasuke! Watch where you're going!" She scolded, pressing hand to her chest to calm her hammering heart. "What is up with you?"

He looked irritated and looked up and down the road. "Nothing. I'm just…tired."

Tired? He didn't look tired at all. Maybe he was tired of walking her home to school. Or tired of them hanging out. The thought stung her bad. "Then go home. I can walk home myself." She said angrily, and stomped off the curb, across the crosswalk. "Carless idiot." She muttered, wondering why her eyes were starting to water. She threw back her head to toss her hair from her face and to stop herself from really tearing up. He didn't follow her.

She quickened her steps. Maybe she was right about him growing tired of her. The past few days he was growing more and more distant from her and was snippier than usual. She got used to his sarcastic humor awhile ago, now he was just being mean.

It took about fifteen minutes to reach her house. The two story town house model was white with hanging plant boxes in the downstairs windows. The white picket fence braced her mother's gorgeous prized rose bushes and the front yard was lush with emerald grass. Her keys jingled against the door. As soon as she entered, she knew she was alone. Her mom usually had the TV on when she was home (even though she wasn't watching it) and her Dad was on graveyard shift so he would be coming home late.

She grabbed some bottled water from the fridge and read the neat little post-it note her mother left telling her she went to Main Crossroads for some groceries. She left upstairs to her room and slipped out of her school uniform. She looked at her brown school bag lying on her bed and stuck out her tongue in distaste. Homework sucked and Sasuke wasn't here to help her with it. She looked at her bottled water on her nightstand. Main Crossroads huh? She hadn't been to that jumble of a shopping district in a long time. Maybe she would go and surprise her mom and then they could do something together? The spa was always nice and she was in need of a new color for her nail she thought, looking at the pink sparkling tips.

She grabbed her purse after dressing simply in shorts and purple shirt that hung off of one shoulder. As soon as she opened the door, she gasped in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

Sasuke raised a brow. "Going somewhere? Why did you stomp away like a spoiled child?"

Ino scowled and pushed him back off the porch to lock her door. "I don't want to hang around you if you're in a bad mood." She huffed, walking the short distance to the side walk to escape the neighborhood and get to the bus stop. "You said you're tired so go home and sleep so you can be nicer." She waved absently at him to shoo him away. She heard him sigh behind her.

"I'm not in a bad mood." He muttered, catching up with her.

Ino 'hurmed'. "Yeah right. These past few days you've been acting more jerkish than usual. I get that you're not a very happy person, but your emo mode is so tiresome."

"Emo mode? I've just—"

She groaned out loud, completely cutting him off. "See there you go again, yelling at me like I'm not right here besides you!" She reached the main street, by a newsstand and walked to the crowded bus stop. He caught her arm to stop her.

She pouted and looked up at him through her lashes. He looked uncharacteristically nervous and he tightened his hold on his arm. "I'm…sorry." That completely took her off guard. Sasuke never apologized before. She didn't even imagine that phrase was in his vocabulary. "I'm really not in a bad mood it's just…" She spotted the bus rumbling up the hill, but Sasuke yanked her back to him when she went to move. "I'm talking to you!"

"It's just what?" Ino snapped, trying to get herself free of his fingers. "Sasuke let go right now!" She demanded.

His brows furrowed. "No." Ino blinked up in surprise. "I need to talk with you and I can't do that if you keep trying to get away from me!"

She sighed and stopped fighting him when she saw the bus roar away. "It had better be good then! You just made me miss the bus—mlf!"

The sudden pressure of his lips on hers made the scathing words on her tongue dissolve. His warm hands were on her cheeks, holding her head in place. She gripped his shirt senselessly, to stop her jelly legs from giving out on her. Shock still permeated her mind, it wasn't until he maneuvered her against wall of the bus stop that her blood began to pump again and she began to think in more rational terms. Like he tasted really yummy and warm, and that she was kissing him back with as much vigor as he was putting into this unexpected surprise.

Someone whistled a cat-call and that rude noise almost broke the spell they were under. He pulled back from her, his dark eyes fluttering open and boring into hers. They were breathing hard, and her lips throbbed in a thrilling way. "You get it now?" He asked her in a husky, shaky voice.

"Yes." She whispered back, heady with delight and desire.

His lips quirked. "Good." He said, sounding too pleased before he leaned back down and kissed her again.


Itachi was passing by when he saw. Their father had instructed him to pick up Sasuke and bring him to the office. He had a good idea on where to find his little brother. Every other day, Sasuke would be at Ino's helping her with her homework. Sasuke thought of it as some kind of charity work on her behalf. At least, that's what he told Itachi, but Big Brother knew better. He saw the path those two were headed too and his suspicions were justified when he saw them kissing on a public street.

He lowered his sunglasses and looked on with unhidden softness in his expression. When they broke apart finally, he saw the warm glow of a blush on both their cheeks. Those little hesitant smiles they gave one another was just too cute. His little brother finally landed his first girlfriend.

Like Itachi, Sasuke often avoided being involved with the opposite sex due to their family influence. There were too many shady women to have a real relationship with and in their world, arrange marriages were the norm. Sasuke was the younger son, so most of the pressure was off of him. But Itachi…he was eldest son and was expected to marry whomever his father decided was a good match for the Uchiha Empire. He had come to terms with that expectation long ago. If Sasuke was happy and spared that kind of fate, Itachi would forever be willing to accept his duty as eldest son. Still there were times when he wondered what things would have been like if he didn't have to sacrifice his hopes on a love match marriage.

His parents had been arranged to marry but Itachi knew there was no real love between them. Just duty to their families and their sons. That's what held them together. That and the critical public eye. People like his parents didn't divorce no matter how unhappy they were. It was the price they had to pay for fame and fortune. That's why his mother didn't blink an eye when she found out that his father had a string of mistresses at the very start of their marriage. That's why his father tolerated his mother's only lover, a childhood boyfriend that Itachi met twice on occasion named Gino Tomoru.

"Pull up alongside here." He instructed his driver/assistant, Kisame Hoshigaki. He pulled his cell phone from the breast pocket of his expensive tailored suite and dialed Sasuke's phone. From here, he saw Sasuke look down at the number with a frown. Ino looked down too and her face brightened even more before she took Sasuke's cell and tapped the screen to answer.

"Hey Itachi!" She cheerily said, ducking under Sasuke's arm to get away when Sasuke demanded her to give it back.

"Ino, how are you?" He smiled over the phone, watching her dodge and twirl from Sasuke as he attempted to get his property back.

"Good! Are we still on for Sunday?" Sasuke scowled at that and huffed before stuffing his hands in his pocket.

"Always. May I speak with Sasuke?"

She giggled. "Sure. I'll call you later okay?"

"Alright." And she handed Sasuke his phone back. He snatched it roughly from her hands with a peeved little glare at her innocent expression.


"I'm down the street. Father wants a meeting." He saw Sasuke look down the sidewalk, spotting the sleek black car.

"What for?" He asked, annoyed.

Itachi sighed. "Who knows? Please hurry." And he hung up. Ino spotted him and waved and he smiled back through the window. She was so bright and bubbly. A good match to balance out Sasuke's arrogance and short temper.

Since Sasuke knew he was watching now, he brushed a kiss on Ino's cheek and murmured something to her before joining him in the back seat.

"Hino Dining please Kisame." The car pulled away and Itachi leaned back in his seat, stretching his legs. "So…"

Sasuke smirked and cocked a brow. "So…"

Itachi copied him, smirking. "About time you finally made a move. I was getting worried that you were going to chicken out all together."

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "I'm not totally hopeless, contrary to what you may think."

Itachi raised a brow. "Were you nervous?"

Sasuke flushed a little and cleared his throat. "Yes, I thought she could hear how hard my heart pounded." He admitted softly.

Itachi gave his brother a long look. He was happy, and for that Itachi was happy. "I'm glad for you. I like Ino."

"You wouldn't be having standing Sunday dates with her if you didn't." He almost snapped. Ah, him and his mood swings, Itachi thought fondly. Itachi raised a brow.

"Careful Sasuke. You sounded a little jealous right now." He lightly teased. Sasuke's mouth tightened ever so slightly. "Don't be." Itachi soothed.

"Will you stop?" He asked, looking across the seat at him.

Itachi's brow arched again. "Meeting with her? Probably not. Really Sasuke, it's only been what? An hour since she became your girlfriend and you're already acting like this? Don't you trust us?"

Sasuke flushed guiltily and tore his gaze from him to look out the window. "I trust you." He murmured grudgingly. Itachi couldn't help the small twinge of envy that came when he thought about this new relationship, but Sasuke was his beloved little brother. He would never do anything to cause them any trouble, but he wasn't going to give up spending time with Ino either.


Two weeks after she and Sasuke started dating she started noticing how possessive he was becoming. When they walked together, he always had to be touching her somewhere. When admirers walked by and stared at her, he always slipped his hand into hers and pulled her close. It was cute at first, thinking Sasuke was just doing that because he wanted her all to himself. She didn't mind it really, but after a while she was beginning to think that he had some trust issues with her. And that hurt her feelings. It made her angry too. Like the time he asked her to stop sparring with Neji and Lee when they went to taijutsu class. And to wear more 'suitable' clothes when they went to practice.

"No, I don't think I will." She told him earning a heated glare. "Loose clothes get in my way and I can't move right. And I can't always spar with you and Tenten. I need variety and Lee and Neji give me that."

Sasuke sighed loudly. "Guy needs to obtain more students."

Ino hung on his arm and looked up at him through her lashes. "What if I ask some friends of mine to join? You can ask some of yours too. It'll be more fun with more people."

He seemed to think it was a good idea. "How many other friends do you have?"

Ino frowned. "We'll I have these two I grew up with. They're my best friends. Our Dads knew each other since they were kids and they never lost touch."

"So your families are close?"

Ino nodded with a 'umhum'. "One of them is out of the county right now, interning in Wind Country. Me and Choji are supposed to meet him in the airport the day after tomorrow."

Sasuke slowed his steps. "This Choji, he's a guy?" He asked suspiciously.

Ino just mentally rolled her eyes. Here we go again. "Yes, Shikamaru Nara and Choji Akimichi are guys."

"Don't you have girlfriends?"

Again, Ino sighed in exasperation. "Of course I do, but Choji and Shikamaru are my best friends. You might as well get to know them. They'll always be a part of my life." Sasuke 'tched' and tightened his hold on her hand. "What about you? Do you have a best friend?"

His lips quirked. "Yeah. He's a complete idiot, but it's tolerable. His name is Naruto."

Ino's eyes widened and she stopped dead in her track. "Naruto? As in Naruto Uzumaki? That Naruto?"

Sasuke smiled down at her and lifted a brow. "Yeah, do you know him?"

She squealed and jumped up and down. "Of course I know him! He's the hottest teen actor I've ever seen. I loved him in that drama, "Love Me, Kiss Me". I dragged Shikamaru and Choji to go see his latest movie premier! His mom is sooooo pretty too! Do you know her? I can't believe you know him!"

Sasuke looked amused. "Should have known you would be one of his squealing fangirls. He has a girlfriend you know!"

Her eyes widened. "He does? Who is it? Do I know her? Is it that actress in that one drama "Flower Rock Stars"? They looked like they had some chemistry on screen." Oh she loved the latest gossip on Naruto Uzumaki!

"No, she's not an actress. Matter of fact, she's Neji Hyuga's cousin."

Hyuga, Hyuga….gasp! "Hinata Hyuga? Heiress to Hyuga Electronics?" She all but screeched up at him in disbelief. Oh my gods, Sasuke's friends were all so rich and famous! And she, Ino Yamanaka was his girlfriend! This was all so overwhelming. "Serious? Are you going to ask them to come to taijutsu practice then? I would love you forever if I could meet them!" She begged, tugging on his arm. "Sasuke pretty please?"

He sighed dramatically. "We'll see." But she knew he would probably do it. Who could really resist her super duper pout and tempting batting of her eye lashes? Sasuke could sometimes because he was the ultimate ice king, but she had her ways of thawing him.

They entered the Taijutsu Academy and went their separate ways to change into their workout clothes. She took great pleasure in dressing in a white tank top and dark blue shorts that she rolled down a bit. Tenten was exiting the bathroom with her duffle bag in long workout pants and a sports bra. Her rich chestnut colored hair was pulled from her buns and up into a ponytail. She learned that Tenten was into sports and photography. She loved surfing and rock climbing and loved traveling all over the world to take pictures and meet new people. Her parents were into event planning and made a thriving business out of it. Tenten said that they were inching their way into the advertising business.

"Hey girly." She greeted happily, opening her locker and stuffing her bag inside. "Is Sasuke here with you?"

Ino smiled and nodded. "Of course. Like he'll let me be here alone when Neji and Lee are here." She muttered the last pat a bit darkly. She sat down next to the older teen and began pulling off her shoes and socks. "But Tenten, is there something going on with you and Neji?"

Her pretty russet eyes widened in shock. "What? Of course not!" She said with a little laugh. "Neji…he's hot but he's…not really my type. He's too uptight and logical. We knew each other since we were like ten and I used to idolize him but after a while, I realized how rigid that guy is!"

They laughed together. "Okay, but what about Lee? Anything…interesting about him?" She teased. Tenten grinned.

"He has a lot of energy…don't you help but wonder?" Tenten leaned in and raised a brow.

Ino gasped. "What! No!" She couldn't get over that green jumpsuit he wore! He was a walking fashion crisis.

Tenten nudged her with a finger. "Imagine him without his clothes on and block out his haircut. You'll see just how cut his body is." She said mischievously and they left to the mats. To her surprise, Ino was actually doing just what Tenten suggested. She blocked out that bowl haircut and caterpillar eyebrows and ignored the puke green leotard. He was standing proudly in the middle of Sasuke and Neji. Her eyes wandered between the three and a gasp caught in her throat.

"See? Too bad you have a boyfriend." Tenten's voice whispered to her ear. The broad shoulders, the slim waist, the contour of lines over his body…She wondered what he looked like under that horrid garment. He was even a bit taller than Sasuke if she really looked at him.

"Greeting my lovely youthful students!" Guy's crow broke her from her thoughts on Lee's chiseled frame. Lee obediently took the head spot in front of their sensei and the rest followed. She stood next to Sasuke and Neji and Tenten fell beside Lee in the front.

Guy was standing proudly in front of them, his legs apart with both hands on his waist. His smiled was blinding as always. "Today we have a special guest visiting from a rival dojo! My eternal rival! Kakashi Hatake!" He and Lee applauded loudly and Ino tip toed a little to catch her first glimpse of their visiting guest. He was about Guy's age, maybe a little younger with spiky white hair and dark eyes. He was lanky in body type, tall with a hard build. And he had a dark blue ninja mask on. But even without seeing his bottom half of his face, she could make out the lines and planes of his face and a little part of her warmed with attraction.

"Welcome my dear friend! My students are most pleased to meet you!" Guy clapped Kakashi hard on the shoulder, causing him to stumble forward a little under the force. "Kakashi here is merging with our famous Rock Shell Dojo as our new weapon's master! Today, we will begin the ancient art of Kendo! After sufficient skills are learned, we will move on to Kenjutsu. Prepare students! Let your youthful fighting spirits burn brightly with anticipation!"

There were some "yosh"s chorused and Kakashi looked to be smiling under his mask. He gave a lazy salute and introduced himself. Needless to say, she was distracted for the rest of the session. Sasuke made sure she stayed by his side the whole time, and would block Kakashi from talking to her. After, when they dressed and left practice she managed to finally say hello. He was a nice enough guy, who seemed a little scatter brained. Totally different from earlier when he was teaching them the history of Kendo and introducing them to the uniform they had to wear.

She left outside when she knew Sasuke would be finished dressing. The last thing she needed was for him to go into his domineering boyfriend mode. It was a cool evening and lights from the district sparkled in the distance, against the inky night sky.

"Ready?" She turned to see Sasuke dressed and ready to go. They walked hand in hand, stopping at a few street food stands to get some fried fish sticks and slushies. Unknown to them, someone watched close by.


Sami Haruno had to do a double take when she saw the blonde girl. Ino Yamanaka. Sakura's best friend. And she was grinning widely at the youngest Uchiha heir. The one Sakura told her about running into back in Leaf. The one she wanted for a son-in-law. To have an Uchiha heir married to her daughter would be one big step into the world she clawing to reach.

Her small business was finally gaining some interest from prominent people. She even had a meeting with a manager from the Uchiha Empire when she visited Leaf. She had been ecstatic and nervous and made sure she had the best of her facial products to present. They wanted to do a test run to see if her products would sell in their department store. After all this time, after five years of being nothing but Wife of the Fifth Son, she was finally coming into her own. With her husband's name and her head for business, her family would finally be out from under his older brothers. If it succeeded, this could catapult her into the elite society. But she knew she had to be careful. Fugaku Uchiha wasn't going to be easy to handle and even if she did make some kind of impression on him, it would take everything she had to keep it. That's why, she had to work behind the scenes.

She heard through the grapevine that he was actively looking for marriage matches for his older son. Sami knew capturing Itachi Uchiha would be out of the question, but capturing Sasuke Uchiha was another matter. Even if he was second son, a match with him would set any family up for life. And Sakura was a pretty girl, smart and well liked. Sami groomed her to be the kind of wife an Elite would want. She made perfect grades, played the harp and piano. She did a lot of volunteer work and did what she was told. She even won over her husband's parents the first week after their marriage.

She had plans on entering the Medical field as a pediatric doctor. Out of all the Haruno grandchildren, Sakura was the best one and she was adopted. She was innocent in the ways of the world, living on the dream that she would fall in love and live happily ever after. But Sami knew that was never going to happen for her. In Fire Country, no matter how much prestige, fame and fortune a woman had, it was always the men who were favored. Women had to do the best they could in this world regardless.

Sami was an example. Her mother died when she was five and her father raised she and her older sister by himself. The house she grew up in had been a shack and she had to face the shame of the villagers when her father would go into debt and leave his daughters to fend for themselves. Mebuki, her elder sister took it with ungodly patience, but Sami could never be like that. She hated the way she lived, hated how her clothes were always hand-me downs and her shoes had holes in them. When her father was in jail or had been run out by the village gangs, they starved and she and Mebuki had to beg for food. They had to live off of people's pity and arrogance.

So she studied hard and made the best grades she could so she could get out of the hellhole of their hometown fishing village. As soon as she graduated, she left her father and sister and got a job as a secretary in the city. She was attractive enough to catch the eye of the nephew of the company and they dated in secret until his father found out. Then she faced the fact that even though her lover Leto had claimed his undying love and promised that nothing could tear them apart, he had been a fraud. He cowered from his authoritative father and claimed that she had been the one who seduced him. She had felt so betrayed. Then Leto's father had sent men after her to run her out of her home and job. They had almost killed her but Sami was a fighter. Years of living in fear of her father's debt collectors had calloused her against the beatings. But her home had been ransacked and her year worth of savings had been stolen so she was forced to go back to her pathetic fishing hometown.

Her sister had welcomed her back, but not her father. He had tolerated her return and pressed the issue that he wouldn't be able to afford both his daughters now, so don't get comfortable. But she hadn't planned on staying longer than she needed. And she didn't, she left a month later when another job became available in Leaf. With her schooling and job experience she managed to land another secretarial job, this time in Haruno Cosmetics. Things were going well for her until one rainy night someone knocked on her door. It was Mebuki. A pregnant Mebuki and she looked worse than death. She had let her pathetic looking older sister in and asked why she was here.

"He's after me and my baby." She moaned, falling weakly to her knees.


Mebuki had long golden hair and jade green eyes. She had always been the sweetheart of the village. She had suffered as much as Sami did, but she always thought that things would get better. Sami had tried to persuade her into going to school with her, but Mebuki had declined saying that she would be sad if she knew their father was all alone back in that withered shack they had called home. Sami didn't know where that sense of loyalty came from. After everything that man put them through, how could she stay with him?

"He's our father. I promised mother that I would always be there for him." She would say. Sami only had faint memories of her mother since she died when she was five. But she had remembered how things had been much better when she was alive. She had felt loved and cherished.

Mebuki clutched her belly. "Sami it hurts so much…" She moaned. Sami had wanted to call for an ambulance but Mebuki vehemently opposed.

"He'll know where I am and he'll take me away!" She cried, pale as death and racked with a cold sweat.

"Who? Mebuki tell me!" She had cried in desperation, shaking her sister by the shoulders. She had never seen her older sister like this before. Mebuki had always had this kind of silent strength. When they were in their most desperate times, it was what Sami had leaned on. Mebuki would comfort her with a hug or smile and then Sami had felt that she would be able to get through another day of hunger pains.

"His name is Kazuhiko Kaguya." She groaned out and dropped her head back to deal with whatever pain she was in. "Father…" She began sobbing. "Father arranged for us to be married and that bastard had wanted to take our marriage bed before we were even married! Sami you were right, you were always right. I wanted to keep my word to mother and take care of father but he…he…let Kazuhiko do what he wanted!" She was inconsolable now with long heartbreaking sobs shaking her whole body. Sami felt her bitterness rise and tears dropped down her cheeks. How could that bastard do that to Mebuki?! She had always been his favorite!

"Did he follow you here?" She demanded, getting up and running to the window to draw the blinds closed. She couldn't see anyone on the dark street, lit with glowing sidewalk lamps.

"No, but he'll find me. He always does." Sami turned to her weakened sister. She saw that she was breathing hard, clutching her sofa cushion with clenched teeth and her whole body seized.

"You're not…" She began, forcing a step forward.

"It's coming. I can feel it." She whispered.

"Mebuki you have to let me call the ambulance! I don't know what to do here!" She cried out in panic, keeling by her sister.

Mebuki shook her head, her face pale. "There's no time! I can feel it!" Sami scrambled, but in twenty short minutes she and her sister both heard the first cry of the baby. Gods, there had been so much blood and water. It had put off the idea that childbirth was a beautiful thing to her. It was stress and fear and helplessness.

"It's a girl." Sami said, wrapping the red faced child in a clean flat sheet and handing her to a panting Mebuki. Her little niece looked so fragile and delicate. She had soft pink hair, slightly curled with dampness. "What are you going to name her?"

Mebuki was gazing softly down at her new daughter. "Remember when mother took us into Leaf for the Cherry Blossom Festival?" Sami nodded. She did remember that. Laughing and eating all kinds of food and sweets. It had just been them, the girls. "That was the happiest day of my life. It was so beautiful there with petals falling on us like scented snow." She stroked the newborn's small cheek with a knuckle. "Her name is Sakura. The memories of her conception will always be horrid to me, but the memory of her birth is like that festival memory. One of the happiest…"

Sami had felt her sister's love radiate over all of them. Which made her wonder what had happened to make her leave. A few days after, she had gone to get some baby supplies. She had only been gone for like an hour before she came home to a quite apartment. She ran into her room and saw little Sakura wrapped tightly in a blanket with a note place by her side.

"Raise her to rise above us all." She read out loud. Mebuki had left just as mysteriously as she had shown up. She had left Sakura with her! She searched her whole apartment and there was not even a trace that Mebuki had been there. So there she was a twenty year old woman with a newborn to care for. Whatever the reason was for Mebuki's departure always haunted her and life with an infant wasn't a walk in the park. When she had asked for some time off from her job, people had been surprised. They automatically assumed that she had been pregnant and that the father had just ran off. Many of the office girls had sympathized with her plight. The real reason was hid behind that lie. Sakura was her daughter and her father had run off with some bimbo and left her by herself. So she raised Sakura as her own and stayed as a secretary for ten years before catching the eye of Kizashi Haruno, Fifth Son of Haruno Cosmetics. And it wasn't an accident either. She had to work and used all of her feminine charms to seduce him.

She still wanted what she had always wanted. Wealth, power, prestige and stability. Sami Haruno could never truly love any man. Her father had spoiled that idea for her. But she had meant what she said to Sakura the day her daughter confronted her about her manipulative ways. She would honor Kizashi like a good wife was supposed to do. With her help, he would rise above his family. She would do as Mebuki asked and raise Sakura to rise above them all. And Ino Yamanaka would not stand in her way.


Sakura stared in shock at the letter she just received and then up to her mother's beaming face.

"I got accepted into Leaf Academy?" She was stupefied. She knew how much tuition that place required.

"You'll start this coming year. Congratulations!" Her mother gushed and enveloped her in a hug. Sakura's senses became overwhelmed by her mother's perfume. She was shocked by this…and saddened. She had really wanted to go to Tobirama High School…