So AU Karin uses honorifics because in modern-day Japan, they're pretty much unavoidable. I'll do research to try to make this as accurate as possible, but chances are, there will be some Western-isms thrown in just because they're easier for me to write about (such as Naruto shaking hands with Karin). Karin's last name is also Senju (she'll find out she's also Uzumaki much later on).

Silken pink hair and eyes of jade; a gleaming manicure and a seat next to the hottest guy in the class. I knew this type.

I sat myself right in front of the boy she'd clearly marked as her quarry. I hadn't gotten a good look at his face yet, but I wanted to sit in front of him. Just to figure her out. Just to know what made her tick and why he was hers. If he was hers, and why.

Ebon-haired and pale-skinned, with an angular, aquiline face. I remembered everything – the sting of my back against the alley wall slick with rain, a dark shape tearing my jacket from me, the ragged, misty breaths of a desperate man ghostly white in the dim afternoon. And then a swift punch that connected, and he was on the run. A pale hand that reached out in the dark, which I took without hesitation. On my feet, he gave me a thick, expensive-smelling leather jacket and I took it. I was not accustomed to taking things; I don't like to help or be helped – I don't like debts. He walked me to the bus stop and I sent him home. In the shivering lamplight of the bus shelter, he held me as I cried. The money was gone; a beating was certain. I sent him home.

"You're…" And he remembered too, and the silence between us reverberated with the kind of wonder that only those who are inexplicably reunited know.

"Hello!" She was cutting in, the pink-haired one. Figures. "I've never seen you here before."

"I've transferred." That's all I was going to say; I wasn't here to make friends. My foster parents had received funds with explicit instructions that they be put towards my high school education, or else. That was how I'd been able to transfer into this school, one of the best and most expensive in the city.

I turned around and faced the front of the class, taking in the nondescript whiteness of the room, the dull shine of the walls in the indefatigable light of the fluorescents. I was a blemish on the great white face of this place.

The teacher arrived and we all fell silent. That's how it was for the rest of the day; there wasn't time for us to talk and we only had two classes together. At the end of the second, I caught up to him afterwards. "Hey, I think I know you. Do you remember when—"

"I have soccer practice; meet me after," he said shortly. He was rude; I had gathered as much from his general silence when others tried to engage him in conversation, as the pink-haired girl had done on several occasions. I didn't mind rude. I could deal with rude.

I sat on the bleachers and watched him play. On the field, there was nothing but him and the ball; he had almost total disregard for everything else unless forced to do otherwise. A sandy-haired boy who grinned more often than almost anyone I'd ever seen was often neck and neck with him as he raced down the field. Seldom did he manage to steal the ball from him, but sometimes, he did. And when he managed, he'd punch the dark-haired boy on the shoulder, and he'd brush him off, though not as forcefully as I'd imagined he might.

When practice ended, the blond boy was the first to leave the field and walk past the bleachers, and he stopped and looked up at me on the way out, his blond hair dark and wet with sweat. "Hey, you're that new girl, right? Senju-san?"


"I saw you watching him the whole time."

"Who?" I feigned ignorance, probably successfully (lying wasn't something I was new to), but I could tell he didn't believe me.

"Uchiha Sasuke." He said it without bitterness, and he grinned. "Everyone always does."

"Hey," I called down to him. "You were right there with him. I don't know much about soccer, but you're good, for sure."

"Just not as good as him…ah, but that's not the proper way to greet someone. I'm Uzumaki Naruto!" He held out a hand to me. It seemed a bit strange, given that I was all the way up on the bleachers, but his irrepressible good nature was obviously the reason, and I couldn't help liking him for it. I made my way down to him and shook his hand.

"Nice to meet you, Uzumaki-san." Sasuke had made his way over to the bleachers by now and stopped when he reached the two of us.

Naruto's eyes narrowed the moment he came to a halt and he smirked knowingly. "Oh, so you know her like that, then."

"Piss off, Naruto." It was said tiredly and without real conviction. Clearly these two were friends, of a sort. The kind of friends who were constantly at each others' throats trying to one up each other, but friends nonetheless.

"Pffft, whatever, see you tomorrow, man." Naruto jokingly wiggled his eyebrows at me and walked off with a decided spring in his step. Sasuke sighed. We waited for the rest of the team to make their way off the field, and it seemed a very long while. The late afternoon sun shone gold in the dark green of the turf and slanted through the slats of the bleachers, casting striated shadows on the concrete beneath my feet. The well-manicured field barely stirred in the breeze. I nervously tugged at my cartilage piercings as I always did whenever feeling out of place.

"I still have your jacket," I said suddenly, before I could check myself. He raised an eyebrow, nonplussed. "The jacket you gave me that night."

He didn't seem to know how to react to this, looking down and away, pensively scratching the nape of his neck. "I'm the reason you're at this school," he said matter-of-factly.

"What do you mean?"

"I paid your tuition."

It was to be two surprises in one day, then. "You mean you're also the one who gave my foster parents the funds for me to come here? But…how did you find me?" We'd never known each others' names; there hadn't been time between the shock and the weeping.

"I…" He shifted uncomfortably where he stood.

"Come on, you have to tell me. You can't just say you're the one behind it without explaining why. And I—I never forgot you. It was knowing that there are people like you that has kept me going." I flushed slightly at this; divulging this kind of information was something I seldom did as a rule, but he was different. He had saved me.

He took this in for a moment, eyes widening a bit, nodded slightly, and continued.

"I remembered your hair…" His upper lip twitched slightly, perhaps out of embarrassment. He didn't seem the type to enjoy admitting that he remembered anything in particular about anyone. But it's not as if my hair was easy to forget. "I knew I'd seen you somewhere, and I finally remembered that it had been on the news the year before – that you'd lost your family in a fire and had no living relatives. I…leveraged some contacts of mine into finding out where you were in the social services system. It took years, but I finally got to you and I used some of the money from my parents' estate to ensure your transfer." Again, the twitching of that upper lip.

"I don't even know what to say. There's nothing I could say that would ever be thanks enough, but thank you. Thank you. Thank you." I smiled at him and felt a nagging lump in the back of my throat that could only prove to be embarrassing for both of us, so I turned to walk away. I heard him say, "You're welcome," to my retreating back, and I couldn't help but ask what I'd been waiting to ask for years. I turned to him.

"Would you walk me all the way home? I won't make you leave me at the bus stop this time." He scratched the nape of his neck again and wouldn't meet my eyes, but he nodded, and went with me.

He had known me at my most vulnerable, and his impulse had not been to cast me aside, but to draw me in. A hand's breadth between us, we walked all the way back, and the strident gold of the afternoon gave in to the murky purples of twilight, blurring the sharp edges of the city into a grey morass.

"You can leave me now." We had reached my block. I didn't really want him to see the state of my apartment complex, so I figured it was best to send him off. No need for him to pity me any more than he obviously did already.

He hesitated, and I cuffed him on the shoulder, rather like Naruto had done during practice, I noticed, and smiled. "You've come far enough. I'll see you at school." He nodded and smiled slightly, though again, it could have just been a twitch of his upper lip. I watched him walk around the corner past the dingy corner store that always had a few misplaced grocery carts gleaming in the humming fluorescents around the entrance.

After walking the half block to my apartment, I was fumbling for my keys at the entrance to the complex, when I felt a cold hand on my shoulder and heard the distinct click and hiss of a switchblade at my throat.

"Girlie," my assailant breathed in a simpering voice. My own breath caught in my throat. "You'll stay away from him if you know what's good for you. This is your first and only warning. He's being groomed for the yakuza, and you don't want any part of that, surely." I said nothing, and he slipped into the shadows, but not before I caught a glimpse of a distinct mop of white hair.