A/N: Not sure exactly where I was headed with this, but I hope it worked out. I haven't written these characters in a while, so forgive me if I'm a bit rusty. It's also 5am and I can't be bothered to perfect it. Well, hope you enjoy regardless.
Summary: Incredibly different circumstances can cause incredibly similar pains, to a mother who knows best. Follows Itachi's childhood in contrast to Sakura, as well as their affections for Sasuke pre-mass. Could loosely be considered SasuSaku, but is mainly gen. with some tidbits of Sakura's infatuation.
Mother knows best. But Is it intuition, estimation, a lightning bolt of luck, or rather, does she know the blinding pain of a succubus pressing against the walls of her womb? There is a spine-crackling tension in the latest months of pregnancy, where stable footing is unreachable and heels ache with her plump weight. It would be reasonable, then, to assume Mother knows pain best. But that's not quite it, is it? Because Mother does not know the flames of a fire licking her fingers like the devil, but the scream of a mallet shattering her heart to innumerable, misshapen pieces, or the prickling of a needle decorating her heartbeat with black pockmarks.
Incredibly different circumstances can cause incredibly similar pains, to a mother who knows best.
Shortly after his fourth birthday, Itachi learned the stench of death on the breath of a crow. A murder plucked the flesh of men he knew in passing, or because he was obligated to know them; but they also consumed men he did not know, whether they were of general unimportance (a shameful mindset) or bore the mark of another village. He learned the shady musk and mold, the rotted meat, the purged remains, and he would not forget the texture of the air on his tongue even when complete blindness overtook him in his last breath.
He took note of the fear pounding in his chest: for without fear there could be no courage. He also decided if there were few things he was obliged to hate, he would choose war in a heartbeat; and that was the second thing he utilized in his later years: if an Uchiha was destined to hate, then he would hate what bred hatred.
But at this time, he was a boy of four years old and witnessed the rage of a battlefield with his own eyes. He did not know to hate, or if he ever did hate, but he knew he could not cry, and he knew his father would have shamed him if he had not done so in the secrecy of his bedroom.
Shortly after her fourth birthday, Sakura learned of her acceptance into the academy. Her parents barely made the rank of chuunin in their youth, and there were little hopes of her surpassing them. There was a chubbiness to her personality, nor was she particularly graceful out of the playpen, and she had a greater fondness for singing (though not a greater talent) than killing. She baked deserts with her father every Sunday, finished with flour on the tip of her nose, and ritualistically stuck her tongue out at her mother whenever she tried to wash it off.
But there was a boy she held a particular fondness for, and she did not like being told she could not achieve something, so she fiercely decided she would be attending the academy for aspiring shinobi. Every day thereafter, Sakura watched that smiling boy from a distance with the temptation to share her homemade cookies.
She faced the scorn of older classmates who pulled her hair because it was an unpleasantly pink, pushed her off the swing-set because her existence peeved them, and laughed at her forehead because it was like the expanse of a wide valley in a tiny canyon. But she returned to her feet every time, and unwavering, she watched the boy with the temptation to share her homemade cookies-even if she watched him openly through her tears.
The Hokage assigned missions where he deemed best, and thus Itachi received them in abundant handfuls. Clan affairs escalated at an alarming pace, and immediately after reaching the rank of chuunin, he began enduring meetings and suffered the orders of striving for ANBU in whatever spare moments were offered to him. His only relief was in his afternoon strolls to pick up his younger brother from the academy, and if luck struck them, a game of tag or spar after dinner.
If he stumbled past the playground before dismissal, he would quietly observe the children at play. They ran as if they never saw death; but he did not begrudge them their joy, and instead savored their smiles. With spare change, he purchased two sticks of dango and ate slowly as he mused over the wonders of an academy teacher. But these were rare occurrences; if he was not killing, he was preparing for the next kill. That was the life of a shinobi. When walking Sasuke home, however, he allowed himself to wonder if that would always be the case.
Pressed to find a bride, but with no space in his life for marriage, Fugaku (privately) ordered him to stop wasting time escorting Sasuke around the village. He was to mingle with his lover, a young girl of meager importance to the clan, and though her company was pleasant, he found himself murmuring affections through his baby teeth-all lies, of course. Upon her request, he attempted a kiss to her lips, but there was nothing. No sparks would ever grace his heart if he resolved himself to this fate. When he consulted Shisui, he was pressed to find the part of his mind that held romantic adventure; but there was never a woman who caught his interest, and while his relationship with his fiancee was open until marriage, there was no person he would want to adventure with.
Mikoto possessed an open tenderness her husband lacked and, privy to much of Itachi's struggle, sympathized with her son. But despite her strongest pleas, clan business always ruled over family. There was little she could change. It was not until Itachi's twelfth birthday that Fugaku budged. With his recent promotion to ANBU, Itachi could not function without sparse time to himself, and though the wedding was not postponed-he would be married at fifteen-his bride would require much less of his time. Mikoto reasoned that she would begin teaching the child how to run an Uchiha household, as it was her duty to cook and clean, while Itachi ventured out to explore his social life.
Peaking into Sasuke's life proved much easier. His experiences at the academy were, according to his teacher, exceptional; however, his social life was non-existent. Several children approached him, but while he acknowledged them, he quickly flittered out on the basis that he had to train and could not waste his time with "meaningless" friends. He did not suffer the same fate as his older brother-the fate of a woman's obsession.
Instead of meddling, she waited for the ripe time of a childhood crush and, eventually, found it in a little girl whose eyes glistened like innocent emeralds.
Sakura confronted her father, not her mother, about her plan. She would not divulge much, and though Mebuki swore she was no eavesdropper, she picked fragments of her daughter's bold speech-an extra dozen of them, extra chocolate chip, extra big. There was a for whooo? and then a silence so still you could hear Sakura's cheeks fluster and burn. But Mebuki knew, as she had picked Sakura up from the academy whenever the opportunity struck, exactly who they were for.
Nevertheless, Sakura left for the academy Monday morning with a wooden box tied shut with a bright red bow.
She approached Sasuke upon arrival; but the bigger children pushed her aside before she managed to utter a word, and though her annoyance festered in her inner consciousness, she managed to thank the clouds her cookies remained undamaged. As lunch time came to a close and Sasuke finished eating his packed bento, Sakura shuffled her way to the bench he sat on alone. Before she reached her destination, however, the class clown pestered her about the "stuff in the thing", to which she stuck up her nose and walked passed him-only when the whistle blew.
Academy lasted for six and a half hours in total, but to Sakura it was an eternity of fidgeting and foot-tapping. Even the lessons could not capture her attention as they usually did. Her eyes were glued on a boy who didn't seem to feel them, but they were glued regardless and nothing more could be done. When the final bell clanged its metal clang and the children hurried out to the arms of their parents, Sakura forced her feet to trot the rhythm of Sasuke's steps, watching, watching, and watching until she could watch no more.
His eyes widened, but a loose smile marked his lips. It did not last long.
"I don't have time to talk to you. Nii-san and I are going to train!"
"-But I have something for you!"
He spun left and right, glancing around. Uncertainty flooded underneath his feet, threatening to carry him away, but curiosity kept him afloat. Breathing failed Sakura when Sasuke's eyes fell to the box she held, but though it was a begrudging hand that gripped the bow, it was Sasuke's hand.
She breathed. The ribbon fell to the ground as the bang of wood against wood filled her ears, but neither could be seen with her eyes, as they were forced to the blades of grass towards her left.
"Cookies?" he asked, a scowl in his voice.
"...Aren't you going to eat one?"
"Are they made of apples or tomatoes?"
"Ew, no way! Who puts those in chocolate chip cookies!"
"Whatever. I'll take it home."
And afterwards, when Sasuke could be seen walking into the distance with a dozen homemade cookies sliding back and forth inside her keepsake box, Sakura skipped the entire way home.
"Nii-san, do you want a cookie? Some girl gave them to me. They don't have apples or tomatoes."
"Yeah. You like sweets though, right nii-san!"
"Mm. I'll take one."
~Nom. Nom. Nom.~
"They're not too sweet. Perhaps you would like one, Sasuke."
"But I don't like chocolate!"
"She might ask what you think of them."
"Then I'll tell her they're not too sweet!"
"She has pink hair, too! Not that I care or anything..."
"Ah. Of course."
"Can we train now, nii-san?"
"One more cookie."
Incredibly different circumstances can cause incredibly similar pains, to a mother who knows best. But they can also set a fierce blaze of love, because what a mother knows best of all is the love given and received for their child, and in that Mikoto and Mebuki were the same, even if they and their children lived incredibly different lives.