Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to its creator and publishing companies
Summary: His family is dead, his brother is a murderer, his heart is missing. They call him a genius.
For weeks, he'd been in a daze. Wake up, eat, go to classes, come home, eat again, go to sleep. He spent most of his time sleeping, because then he didn't have to worry about coming out of the daze and thinking. If he started thinking, he didn't know what would happen. He pointedly ignored the silence of the house, the emptiness of the town, the pity-filled stares of people. When he was spoken to, he never really listened to what was being said, usually because it was something he didn't want to hear.
He always feel asleep easily, sliding into sleep like falling into a cool, dark lake. His grades fell, he stopped studying and practicing.
He couldn't remember what it felt like to smile. His whole life was taken up by sleep.
Until one night, very late, he woke up.
There was a hole in his chest, was his first vague thought. Then he wondered why he'd woken up. Probably because he had a hole in his chest.
He sat up slowly, dark eyes dull even in the bright moonlight coming through the window. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt, and looked down.
He couldn't see the hole. He turned on a light, but there was only his smooth, unmarked body. No hole, nothing.
But he could FEEL it. A chasm of emptiness, right in the middle, pushing out and making it hard to breathe. Suddenly he was furious, so angry he couldn't make sense of his thoughts. Itachi had cut out his heart, but didn't have the decency to leave a mark so he could prove it. The thumping in his chest, the pounding of his blood--it was all an illusion. It had to be, because his heart was gone. It wasn't there. He'd know if it was there.
He screamed then, furious and agonized and horrific. He screamed for everything that was gone, and would never come back, and could never be found. He screamed for himself, for the future he had wanted and Itachi had stolen. He screamed for the brother he had loved and admired, and who had betrayed them all. He screamed for blood and vengeance for his clan. He screamed until his head pounded, and he could see bright, painful flashes of light in his aching eyes.
He howled out every feeling he'd been sleeping away. When that wasn't good enough anymore, he punched every hard surface he could find until his knuckles were raw and bleeding. He smashed everything that reminded him of his brother. He ripped and tore and destroyed until he was too exhausted to do anything else.
The boy that went to class the next day was very different from the one who had been there the day before. He was hard, cold and sharp, but somehow shining in such a way that caught everyone's attention while holding him apart. He trained and studied and won his way to become the strongest graduating genin of his class. They called him a genius.
He called himself an avenger.