Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters do not belong to me...

Thank goodness I saved the first chapter of this! My story got deletedand everything after this is a rewrite so many apologies to all those who've read and reviewed this before; the upcoming chapters might be a bit different and might take a long time to be updated. Who knew that rewriting lost chapters is so hard - I'm trying my best but it never seems as good as it used to be ...sigh...

Actually, for all those who've read this fic before, if you've by any chance saved it, could you please send it to me at myemail address given on my profile page. I'llbe eternally grateful since I'm really quite upset at losing all my stories (ARGH!) so I'd be more than willing to take any fic requests in return...


The first time he saw her was at the empty training grounds.

It was late and the only sound besides the chirping of crickets was the rhythmic thumps of flesh against wood. Itachi trained his Sharingan on the slight figure hitting the training pole below him. From his vantage point in the tree, he could see that she was trembling from exhaustion, her knuckles bloodied as they pushed back the strands of damp black hair from her pale skin. She was fragile, hardly different from a child; Itachi could tell that regardless of how much she trained, it was unlikely that her skills would improve in significance. He crouched to leave but was stopped by a soft, tremulous voice.

"Who...who's there?"

The young man turned back to face her. It was unlikely that she could have seen him; the night was dark and he was hidden in the shadows. He also doubted that she could have heard him, since his sleuthing skills far surpassed any she could hope to achieve. He stood perfectly still, eyes narrowing as she lifted her head in his direction.

"I...I can see you. Please don't...don't hide."

A sliver of moonlight shone onto the empty field and Itachi suddenly caught a glimpse of the veins surrounding pupil-less white eyes. So she was a Hyuuga. No wonder she could see him.

Itachi materialized a few feet in front of her, ignoring her gasp of surprise. Judging from her age and appearance, she was most likely the Hyuuga heir. Hyuuga Hinata. Yet she was weak. That much was obvious. He mentioned it to her.

She flushed, wringing her hands before wincing when her fingers brushed over the torn flesh.

"Yes, but...but...I am training. I can get better..."

"No, you won't." He cut off her stuttering. "The blood limit is not strong in you. You will never be able to use the Byukugan as it is meant to be used."

"You're wrong."

Her quiet assurance had him raising an eyebrow. He had not expected it from such a timid mouse. Her fists were clenched as she took an unthinking step towards him, her pale eyes flashing with something indefinable.

"I can change. I can!"

As the girl raised her eyes to his for the first time, the pale orbs widened in recognition. Itachi watched the onslaught of emotions flit across her face. Fear. Shock. This was yet another of her weaknesses: she was too open, her feelings too close to the surface to be an efficient shinobi.

"You're scared of me."

It was an observation; she answered as if it was a question.

"No...no." She shook her head slowly. "Not you especially. Everyone."

"Do you know who I am?"

"Uch...Uchiha Itachi-san."

He considered the girl before him. It was surprising that she was still standing here in front, let alone conversing with him as if he was one of the townsfolk. Perhaps it was the underlying flash of determination he had seen in her eyes, or perhaps it was the incessant dull throbbing in his head. Either way, Itachi never found out what made him offer what he did.

"You will become stronger if I train you."

Silence dragged on between them.

"Uchiha-san is willing to train me?" Hinata blinked, certain that she had heard him wrong. "But you are a crim...a crim..." She couldn't bring herself to say 'criminal' without getting dizzy. As it was, she couldn't believe that she was standing here talking to him!

"Yes."

When it became obvious that he wasn't going to say anything else, Hinata fidgeted uncomfortably under his unwavering gaze. He was dangerous. He was a murderer. He was wanted by several countries. Why did he want to train her?

"Why?"

"I don't know."

She was relieved as she felt the suffocating weight of his stare lift off her. Peeking up from under her fringe, Hinata chanced a closer glance at his face. He was an older version of Sasuke-kun. The same dark hair, the same pale skin. But he was also different. His face was tired, making him seem older. With a gasp, she realized he reminded her of Neji nii-san. His gaze shifted back to her at the small sound.

"What?"

"Uchiha-san is like... like Neji nii-san. My...my cousin."

"How?"

"You are both suffering. Everyone...everyone says you're geniuses but that only makes you more different, more lonely."

In her desire to articulate her thoughts, Hinata almost forgot to stammer. Itachi didn't speak; he merely continued staring at her.

"I will train you. Meet me here tomorrow night."

Before Hinata could splutter an argument, he disappeared.