This is my first Naruto fanfic. I realize that its another one of those Sasuke defeats Orochimaru and Itachi and returns to Konoha stories, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the twist I'm going to put on it. What will that be? Well, you'll just have to keep reading to see. This is a Sasu-Hina romance, so if you don't like the pairing, then don't read or flame.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. If I did, well, it wouldn't be called Naruto for one. And Neji and Itachi would make many more appearances than they do. So no, I don't own Naruto.

Hn-- regular stuff

"Hn"-- talking

'Hn'-- thinking

Hn-- flashback

'Hn'-- thinking inside a flashback


Prologue

A shadowed figure leapt from branch to branch, passing swiftly as the wind through the trees. His smooth brow was furrowed and his obsidian eyes were clouded in thought. It was obvious that the focusing of chakra to his feet was purely instinctive. His mind was clearly a thousand miles away and his body was operating on autopilot.

Sasuke Uchiha, for it was he, mulled slowly over the events that had shaped his life since he left Konoha eight years earlier. He had trained for several years under Orochimaru, learning all the sannin could teach him. When the man had attempted to convert him into a container for his evil soul, Sasuke had killed him. He then proceeded to track down his older brother, Itachi. The young man's eyes darkened as he recalled the last sight of Itachi's bloody body before it was obliterated in a ball of fire. The secrets of the Sharingan were too precious to leave lying around for anyone to stumble upon. That thought ignited a surge of memory of a night that had forever changed his life.

FLASHBACK

Sasuke was running as fast as his little-boy legs could take him. He had stayed late at the academy to practice, and it was now after dark. His mother would be furious with him for coming home this late. The sector of the Uchiha compound through which he ran was deserted. He thought he felt eyes on him, but when he looked around, there was no one there. It slowly dawned on him that something was wrong.

"It's too early for everyone to be sleeping," he murmured, looking around at the dark houses.

Sasuke again began to run, a feeling of foreboding welling up in his heart. He skidded around a corner and froze. Carnage met his eyes. Kunai and shuriken everywhere, blood…bodies.

"What is this?" he whispered, starting forward, hardly daring to breathe. His legs quickened until he was racing, trying to flee the scene before him. However, the deeper into the Uchiha compound he ran, the worse it became. He slid to a stop in front of two familiar bodies. This couple had spoken with him on the way to the academy this morning, assuring him that he would become a great ninja. At the realization that they were dead, another thought struck him.

"Father…Mother…" he said.

Had this massacre reached his own home? Were his parents and older brother safe, or were they…Sasuke shoved the thought away and darted toward his home. He slid the door open and stepped inside, fearing what he might find. All was dark, he could see nothing.

"Father? Mother?" he called softly, "Are you here?"

He paused to remove his shoes and bag, and then stepped farther into the house. He checked the kitchen: empty. He stepped inside, looking around. The sound of a body hitting the floor reached his ears, causing him to gasp. Stumbling, he ran toward his parent's bedroom. He reached for the handle of one of the doors, when he heard the sound of another body falling.

'Someone's in there,' he realized.

His body froze with terror and he had to open his mouth to drag in breaths.

'Move,' he told himself.

His foot slowly stepped forward, trembling.

'Move,' he repeated.

His hand lifted toward the door.

'Move!' he commanded, placing his other hand on the second handle and pushing the door open.

It swung back with an eerie creak and there, lying in a patch of moonlight that came through the window, were the bodies of his parents. His father lay overtop his mother, as though he had tried to protect her. Judging by the blood pooled around them and the limpness of their bodies, he had been unsuccessful.

"Father! Mother!" he cried, heedless of the fact that their murderer might still be in the room.

He dashed forward, but stopped as the doors shut behind him. There was the sound of footsteps in the darkness behind his parents. Slowly, a form stepped into the light. Sasuke backed away, breaths coming in short gasps. He paused as the figure stopped, only his face still hidden in darkness. This man was familiar. At last, he turned his face to the light, and Sasuke recognized him. It was Itachi, his older brother. The man's crimson Sharingan glinted in the moonlight as he stared down at the little boy, but Sasuke's fear was subsiding slightly. Itachi was an experienced ninja. He would know what to do. He could fix whatever had gone wrong.

"Brother," he whispered, then gathered his voice, "Brother, Father and Mother were…who did this?"

A shuriken flew past him, embedding itself in the door behind the boy. He stared for a moment, stunned, and then winced in pain as his shirt ripped and he felt blood oozing from the cut the metal star had carved into his arm.

"Brother, what are you…" he whimpered, clutching the wound.

Itachi stared back at him wordlessly, expression revealing nothing. They matched gazes for several long moments—Itachi impassive, Sasuke growing more terrified by the second.

"What are you doing, brother?" Sasuke asked.

"Foolish little brother," the man stated, closing his eyes.

Sasuke shivered, sure something terrible was about to happen. Itachi opened his eyes and said quietly, "Mangekyou Sharingan."

The world around Sasuke froze and then reversed colors. The sky above him was the color of blood, the clouds black. A man collapsed in front of him, then a woman. Sasuke tried to run, but…

'My legs,' he thought.

Two more people fell dead, then another, then more than he could count. Shuriken flew through the air, blood splashed. Sasuke screamed in agony, trying to block out the sight of his clan being massacred.

"Stop! Brother! Don't show me this!" he cried.

More bodies collapsed around him and he saw Itachi, watching him.

"Why," he moaned, "Why do you do this, brother?"

He saw men rushing toward Itachi to stop him.

"No…" he whispered.

They grew closer to the unmoving man.

"No…" he repeated.

Itachi barely moved and the men went flying backward, all of them dead. Sasuke screamed again, the sound pure agony. Suddenly he stood in his parent's room, watching Itachi loom up behind them.

"Father, Mother!" he tried to warn them.

Itachi raised his sword.

"Don't, brother! Don't do that to Father and Mother," he cried.

The sword lifted, then came down. Blood went everywhere.

Sasuke cried out and fell to his knees. The world had returned to its normal colors. The Sharingan faded from Itachi's eyes, returning them to their natural shade of onyx. Sasuke fell to the floor, breathing heavily. He was exhausted from the mental attack, his body shuddering from the images his brother had forced into his mind. He lay on the floor, gasping, as his vision blurred.
At last, he mustered enough strength to ask, "Why…why did you…"

He could not finish, but Itachi understood.

"To see what I was capable of," the man stated.

"What you were capable of?" Sasuke repeated blankly, "That was it? You killed everyone for that reason?"

Itachi closed his eyes and answered remorselessly, "It is important."

Sasuke struggled to get to his feet, anger growing within him and replacing his terror. With a wordless scream, he surged to his feet, running toward his brother. Itachi met his charge with a fist. He let the boy crumple to the ground, where he lay gasping for breath. Sasuke raised his head to see the bodies of his parents, now lying so close to him. Tears welled up in his dark eyes before overflowing down his cheeks. His rage evaporated. Itachi stepped closer and Sasuke cringed backwards.

'I'm scared,' he thought.

He pulled himself to a crouch, then turned and fled, an involuntary wail escaping from his lips. He flung open the doors, not looking back. Itachi stood still, watching him run with just a hint of disapproval in his eyes. Sasuke paused just long enough to slip into his shoes, then continued racing along the streets of the Uchiha compound toward Konoha, away from the carnage around him and his older brother, who had caused it. Tears still streamed down his face.

"Don't kill me!" he screamed.

There was the sound of footsteps in front of him and the boy slowed, gasping in breaths. Itachi stood in front of him.

"Don't kill me," Sasuke whimpered.

"You are not even worth killing," Itachi replied, "Foolish little brother. If you wish to kill me, hate me, detest me, and survive in an unsightly way. Run. Run and cling to life."

Sasuke's trembling had grown worse throughout Itachi's speech. He stared at his brother in wordless terror, barely comprehending what Itachi said. The man vanished, leaving him alive, though a far different child than he had once been.

END FLASHBACK

Sasuke brought himself back to the present with a shake of his head. His clan was at last avenged and the young man had done it his own way, rather than following the path Itachi had set for him. However, these facts brought no peace to the young Uchiha's mind, not like he had thought they would. He had set his heart on his next goal: rebuilding the Uchiha clan. It was for this reason that he was now returning to Konoha after being gone for eight years.

He was drawn from his thoughts as he recognized the area he was now passing through. He was near Konoha; this was the area Team 7 used to train in. Sasuke found himself expecting Naruto to jump out and challenge him to a fight in his overly-loud, obnoxious voice. The young man brought himself back to reality. His twelve years in Konoha seemed to be another lifetime. He was a different person now, and likely his former teammate was too…if he was still alive. Sasuke dismissed that thought with a smirk. Naruto was far too stubborn to let himself die.

His steps slowed when he encountered the boundary where forest met Konoha's wall. He assessed their defenses and quickly determined that he could slip in without notice, but that would not engender the trust necessary for him to find a wife. Also, he wanted the Uchiha clan to be reestablished in Konoha, not some other hidden village. This was the place generations of Uchiha had lived and died in; it was where they belonged. The only way he could accomplish that goal was to again become a shinobi of Konoha.

Sasuke followed the wall around to the main gate, stopping on a tree limb directly in view of the guards who manned the gate. They both started when they saw him and one immediately vanished, going to warn the Hokage, he assumed. The other guard pulled out a kunai and prepared to defend the gate should the Uchiha attack. The young man was mildly amused to see how the guard did not meet his gaze, instead focusing on his feet and hands to predict his movements. Had Sasuke wanted to, he could have trapped the man in an illusion with a single gesture, but again he reminded himself that he needed to regain Konoha's trust. The young man remained perfectly still until, a few minutes later, a group of ANBU surrounded him. Keeping his Sharingan deactivated, he slowly reached up and pulled out his katana. The masked black ops of Konoha stiffened, clearly ready to take him by force. Sasuke allowed himself the slightest of smirks. They would certainly be surprised by his next actions. He tossed the Japanese sword to the ground, and then added the pouches that held his other weapons to the small pile. He spread his hands and called out, "I wish to speak to the Hokage."

At a gesture from the leader, one ANBU member collected his weapons, while another two placed chakra-draining restraints around his wrists. Sasuke's eyes darkened, but he kept his emotions under firm control. Surrounded by ANBU, Sasuke Uchiha set foot inside Konoha for the first time in eight years.