The lighting wasn't ideal, but he'd worked with worse.

The tire was unsalvageable. Another donation to the scrap heap collecting in the dimly-lit alleyway. This one was relic of a wayward gunfight; Suigetsu had taken the wrong road, insulted the wrong people, and barely made it out of the situation alive. The three bulletholes Sasuke counted in the tire were evidence of that. Suigetsu himself was okay, Karin was tending to him, and even if things could have gone a whole lot better, they definitely could have gone a whole lot worse.

That was always Suigetsu's problem, though, he reflected, somewhat pissed as he stubbed his cigarette out against the brick wall and let it drop carelessly to the gravel. He was too eager for conflict. And trouble was sure to come to guys like them, eventually, in a profession like theirs; but Sasuke resented Suigetsu's all-consuming need to go create some where it wasn't needed. He was hotheaded. Reckless. Overly competitive.

(He couldn't have chosen a better lieutenant.)

But since Suigetsu required patching up tonight and Sasuke didn't trust any of his other members enough to know what had happened that night, he was tasked with changing the flat and hiding any evidence of the gunfight. He knew that Suigetsu wasn't the only one jonesing for a fight lately, and he didn't want to give anyone else in The Hawk a reason to seek some kind of backwards-ass retribution against the guilty party.

They weren't quite sure who it was Suigetsu came into the altercation with. He was on a routine delivery – moving stolen car parts to a warehouse across town – and according to Suigetsu, he'd been ambushed by three men in a dark car. He'd gotten a few good shots in himself while they were busy firing, but their windows were bulletproof and he could do no damage. What with the parts delivered, he made a quick getaway, sustaining a slight graze to his bicep in the fight but nothing worse than that.

Sasuke didn't like not knowing who he was competing with, especially when Oto was already such a dangerous place to operate. He was a man who liked having all the facts, because only then could he plan a move with any kind of certainty. His first responsibility as leader of The Hawk was ensuring that all of his subordinates were safe, and despite his cold, somewhat aloof personality, it was a responsibility that he took very, very seriously.

Couldn't have been the Outer Ring, he thought with a firmly-set jaw, as he slid a new tire onto the side of Suigetsu's '67 Chevrolet Camaro. His muscles strained with the effort – it had been an especially trying day, and Suigetsu's chosen tires weren't light – as he considered his options. They're rivals, but I know Naruto. This isn't their thing. There's the Sand Sibling gang from Suna, but I don't think Gaara's interested in this territory. Some more lower level potshot up-and-comers, but I doubt any of them could've gotten the jump on Suigetsu…

No. Whoever did this is a big player. And we need to figure out what they're after.

Twirling the lugnuts in place with the lugwrench was like second nature to him; in no time, he had the tire set in place, and he kicked it for good measure. It didn't move.

The rest of the car was in pretty decent shape, except for a few nicks in the paint by the driver's side door. Sasuke knew it would raise suspicion among his own members if they saw it, so he made a mental note to take it by Juugo's in the morning for a paint job. Luckily, any bullets that had hit the Camaro had been deflected by the steel underlay.

Sighing, Sasuke yanked a tarp from the junk heap collecting by the side and threw it over Suigetsu's damaged car. The rest would have to be dealt with tomorrow.

Tired now, he took a seat on an overturned stack of crates resting against the brick wall. This grungy-looking alleyway was perhaps not the most ideal place to host his makeshift autoshop, but it was reasonably concealed from civilians and difficult to find, for any enemies. For the past two years, he'd been using it as a scrapyard, and it now boasted a huge array of spare parts, pistons, gasoline tanks, everything a young gangland king would need to keep a fleet of cars, trucks, and motorcycles running smoothly. He'd gotten very good at mechanics over the past two years. He knew of only one person with more skill than he had.

But there was no time to ruminate any longer on things long since buried, and people better left forgotten.

Instead, Sasuke was faced with a new problem: determining the identities of the men who'd attacked Suigetsu earlier that night, who they worked for, their motive for what they'd done. Sasuke avoided violence if he could help it, but he was not one to back down from a fight if attacked.

And this was an assassination attempt. Sasuke couldn't afford to take it lightly.

His eyes narrowed as he withdrew a cigarette from his pack of Marlboros. He would absolutely find the culprit behind the attack tonight, one way or another. The satisfying scratch of his match igniting against the brick wall behind him served as an exclamation point to his self-made vow.

Sasuke took a deep drag off the cigarette, relishing the way it heated his lungs from the inside out. He exhaled through his nose, watching the twin rings swirl into the sky with bored disinterest, his mind racing to plan his next move.

A far-off humming in the distance arrested his attention for longer than it ought to have. He had at least twenty men running patrols tonight in the area, so the tell-tale hum of a motorcycle engine shouldn't have captured his interest. But perhaps it was just because he'd been thinking of the Outer Ring tonight…thinking of Naruto…thinking of her…

Whatever the reason, he recognized the sound of the approaching motorcycle without having to look at it. He'd know that particular roar anywhere; there was only one person he knew, who could tinker with a motorcycle's engine and have it produce such a high-quality sound. Low and dangerous, but softer than the typical deafening thunder. His stomach clenched as he stood up off crates, dusted off his jeans, and turned his attention to a solitary rider turning down the alley.

Slightly, inexplicably disgusted with himself, he slid his hands casually into his pockets, one closing around the handle of a switchblade. In times like these – in an industry like his – you could never be too careful. Nonetheless, the thought of actually using the weapon on this familiar stranger made him uneasy.

"Does Naruto know you're here?" Sasuke asked dryly, pulling his face into a mask of honed apathy.

The rider disembarked smoothly from the bike and reached for their helmet. It was painfully obvious by the striking silhouette, even before the helmet was removed, that the person approaching him was a woman; he didn't need to watch the telltale wavy pink hair tumble down her shoulders to know that it was Sakura Haruno, but he watched her anyway.

"No," she replied, voice soft but strong. She was dressed for the slight chill in the air, in a slimming black leather jacket and ripped black shorts with her signature thigh-high leather boots. Her makeup was darker than he remembered it, concentrated around sharp, calculating green eyes, and her full pink lips weren't smiling. Sasuke could freely admit that she was the sexiest thing on the planet, but that didn't change where his allegiance lay. Or hers.

And it was no longer with each other.

"Then you shouldn't be here," he said flatly, stubbing out his cigarette. "How did you find me."

"You're not that difficult to find."

He considered pressing her harder for answers, but seeing her here was unexpectedly painful. Not to mention, the incredible risk she'd taken crossing into his territory with her status as a high-ranking member of The Hawk's Konoha enemy, the Outer Ring; she couldn't stay here another minute, for his sake and hers.

"Get out of here, Sakura," he murmured, knowing his blatant dismissal would hurt her, and choosing words to maximize the sting. She had to know she couldn't come here whenever she felt like it. He was out of her life, she was out of his. That was the hand life had dealt them, and the only hand he had to play. Contenting himself with this unexpected glimpse into a Sakura he no longer knew, he made to move past her.

She caught him by the elbow in a surprisingly strong grip, considering her size and delicate appearance. Her fingers dug into his arm as she threw a familiar glare up at him.

"All this time, and you won't even hear me out?" she said quietly. "I guess nothing's changed with you, then."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed and he yanked his arm away from her, snapping, "Does Naruto even know you're here?"

"Naruto doesn't own me," she snapped back.

He smirked, cruelly. "If that's how you choose to remember it."

Green eyes flashed fire in the darkness of the empty alleyway, and she said quietly, "I didn't come to rehash the past. I came to warn you."

"I'm not coming back," Sasuke said harshly, reminding himself fiercely not to say 'home.' "I don't care what stupid ideas the idiot has for 'getting the old band back together' but it's not happening. Get out of here before someone sees you."

"Listen to me!" Sakura hissed, ignoring his outright rejection. "Things are getting bad, Sasuke, they really are. And not just for us, but for you, too."

"Whatever shit the Outer Ring's gotten itself into lately is none of my concern." Sasuke yanked his arm away from her. "Quit trying to make it so. I'm not the only one out tonight, Sakura," he added, tacitly reminding her that as a known member of a rival gang, Sakura was endangering herself just by showing up. "Get back on your bike and go home."

"It's Madara, Sasuke!" Sakura finally exploded, unable to restrain herself any longer.

He froze, refusing to acknowledge that his eyes were wide. "You're kidding."

"He's twisting Naruto's arm," she went on earnestly, now that she had his attention. "He's trying to muscle us out of the city. It turned violent last week. Neji's dead."

The news was shocking, but Sasuke was never one to emote, even when the situation called for it. Choosing his words carefully, as he always did with Sakura, he said, "This is the life you chose to lead. Same as Neji. You can't expect any kind death or longevity here."

"You know damn well I didn't have a choice," Sakura hissed through clenched teeth. "That I still don't. Don't you dare hold that against me, not when you were there. Not when you already know. Neji was your friend, Sasuke. And your fucking uncle had him gunned down in the street like a dog last week, don't pretend like you don't care."

"I'm not a Ringer anymore!" Sasuke all but shouted, seizing Sakura by her slim biceps and shaking her. "What don't you realize about that? Accept it. Move on. Madara hasn't mobilized against The Hawk and until he does, this isn't my concern."

Even as he said that, though, he was struck by an epiphany. Suigetsu's attack earlier today…unexpected, out of the blue, and with no clues as to the culprit…there was no way that there was some actual, legitimate truth in Sakura's words, was there? To ignore the possible connection would be the height of foolishness, but it felt even more foolish to indulge in the idea that his own uncle, steeped in criminal activity though he was, could have orchestrated a blitzkrieg attack on his nephew's lieutenant.

Sakura's appearance here, her warning, the attack on Suigetsu…was all of it connected?

"I left to find help," she snarled. "I wasn't naïve enough to expect that you'd come back but I had to try. So I'll settle for giving you the heads-up instead, so I can lay my fucking head down tonight and say I fucking tried: once they take us down, they're gonna come for you. We heard it from three of his men directly, in the shootout. Warn your Family, don't say it came from me. And take your hands off me, Sasuke. You lost that right a long time ago."

He released her as though scalded, but she didn't move away. Instead, her leather-gloved hand slid up his stomach (setting his nerve endings ablaze in the process) and over his chest before she touched the simple metallic circle dangling from a chain around his neck. He clenched his teeth together but could do nothing against the all-knowing look in her stormy eyes.

For a few moments, nothing was said. Sakura's eyes, once shining and glowing and hopeful, were surprisingly dim tonight – maybe it was the shit-awful lighting in his not-so-secret alleyway – and for all her infamous beauty, she looked so tired. Like she'd seen and done it all at the ripe old age of 18, and had nothing left in life that could take her breath away. It was a look he'd seen on himself as well, and he found himself wondering, not for the first time, what had happened to her after his abrupt defection from Konoha and the Outer Ring.

Still, though, for all the weariness in her face, there was clarity in her eyes, and understanding. Her fingers danced along the feather-light chain he always wore beneath his jacket, and the tell-tale ring it held. The faintest hint of the saddest smile in the world played on Sakura's lips before she sighed and shook her head, letting her hand fall to her side again.

"Leave out the South Tunnel," he ordered her quietly, a departing piece of advice carefully concealed under feigned apathy and cool not-quite-detachment. "There's no one posted there tonight."

She nodded coolly at the tip and turned her back on him, piling her hair back under her helmet. "See you around," she called over her shoulder, the same words she'd used when they'd broken up two years ago.

He watched expressionlessly as she lifted one toned, slender leg and threw it over the side of her bike, straddling it like a master. With a quick rev of her engine, she spun an about-face and disappeared down the street, just as quickly as she'd come.

note.. the usual. bored. new story. i submit no excuse, besides the fact that i've been wanting to do a gangland sasusaku for awhile and now fuck it i'm just gonna do it.

this is a prologue. trying some new stuff this time around so i hope you stick with me and enjoy yourself. (and because i can't NOT write some fucking sex with these two versions of sasuke and sakura i'm working on, i'll have some of that later on. not here, though, since MA ain't allowed. my livejournal. later. LATER.)

spoiler alert.

anyway, hope you guys are having a good night. i'm not as drunk as i planned to be but stupid husbands can't hold their stupid liquor and whatevs lolz so i guess i'll just tuck in early tonight. be safe and have fun!

oh, and if you like this, let me know. and if you don't like this, don't let me know. and if you want to do shots with me, let me know where you live and i'll come over.

xoxo daisy :)