Disclaimer: Even after standing all day in the rain, just to enter into negotiations with Kishimoto, the moment he heard my proposal, he had seceruty remove me. Thus, it remains that I do not own Naruto.

Another rabid plot-bunny outside of my usual work attacked me just today. I have no idea what inspired it, but it seems like an interesting plot line that I don't think anyone has used before. Let me know what you think. It's the first time I've written this particular character, so I'm interested to see what people think of how I've portrayed his childhood... as little of it as can be see here. The tense is also different... I'm not sure if I like writing in present tense, but this story seemed to demand it of me. Go figure.

Warning: Violence, mild spoilers through current manga chapters. (Chapter 388)

Meetings of Fate

R. Winters

The eight-year-old takes a shaking step backwards, wide eyes taking in the carnage around him.

Sensei lay sprawled on the ground at the base of a large tree. The wide puddle of blood around him, and the unnatural hanging of his head, were testament to his death.

The boy rips his eyes away to stare at the second form, possibly even more horrible than the first. The brown haired boy—he'd known him for only four months—was collapsed in a heap, his arm on the other side of the clearing and his neck nearly severed completely. There wasn't as much blood around him, but only because it painted the entire clearing.

Again, the boy tears his eyes away. The girl's hair is matted with blood—usually it's blonde, so light that it's nearly white. Her shoulders moved slightly with shallow, shaking breaths. How long before they, too, stopped? The rings protruding from her back guaranteed that it wouldn't be long.

A dry laugh issues from the only other figure still standing and the boy's eyes immediately snap towards him, wide and fearful.

The stranger has a familiar resemblance, although the boy knows he's never seen him before. It's only that he shares similar features with his great uncle; his dark hair falling in long, ragged spikes around his pale face. His eyes are horrible and the boy tries not to look at them, but finds himself staring despite it.

They're the red and black of the Sharingan, but in a pattern he's never seen before, like the cogs of a wheel. They're cold and cruel and just the sight of them causes the boy to shiver in dread.

"Well?" The voice is a smooth baritone, and if he weren't so terrified, it would have even sounded pleasant. But with the memory of how the man had appeared, decimating his entire team as though they were nothing, keeps him from feeling any comfort in it.

"What are you going to do?" The man asks, and the boy wonders if he is really being given a choice. "Run," he urges, "Like the pathetic weakling you are."

The boy's hands curl into fists and he doesn't move. He's not sure if he can move. His arms are shaking so much that he's afraid they'll fall off and his legs are heavy beneath him. Instead he stares at the frightening eyes with his own wide, black orbs.

"W-why?" He manages to choke out, unable to understand what is happening.

The man makes a flippant gesture—shrugging a misplaced spike of hair off of his shoulder. He grins—the boy hadn't realized his expression could become any scarier. "Let's just say… I've had a bad day."

The boy can't quite wrap his mind around this concept. Sure, he'd had bad days—a lot of them since that whining infant came to live with them—but to kill a party of strangers simply because of something like that? How could anyone be so heartless?

"If you won't run," the man interrupts his thoughts again and his voice lowers a notch before he finishes, "I'll kill you here."

The boy shivers again—he can see his death in those terrible red eyes and he knows the man will go through with it. Whatever caused him to spare him in the initial slaughter, it obviously isn't anything like affection.

He still can't find the strength to move, and he doubts it would matter if he could. This man… he was so powerful that he'd be able to kill him in a heartbeat, even if he tried to get away.

The frightened voice of his teacher, shouting for him and his teammates to get out of here, echoes through his mind. Sensei had sensed the man coming a second before he appeared, and the impossible fear in his voice had been the first sign of trouble to the three Genin. Of course, they hadn't had time to run.

He found it difficult to believe that his teacher was dead. Sensei was the strongest person he'd ever met—possibly even stronger than his father—for him to have been killed like that… so easily… it was unbelievable. Unacceptable.

These thoughts flash through the young boy's mind and before he realizes what was happening, the stranger had disappeared in a blur of motion. Only then does he find the strength to move, all at once.

His body reacts to his commands instantly—he wasn't called a prodigy for nothing. A flash of light, glistening off a blade, was all that warned him of the impending attack.

There's a loud crash as metal meets metal and pain lances up the boy's arms at the force of the impact. He grits his teeth and narrows his eyes, forcing his arms to remain stiff and hold the threatening kunai at bay.

With a sharp movement of his wrists, the boy breaks the lock of weapons, knocking the man's hand away.

It was a simple yet effective move; one he'd spent hours perfecting in the Academy. He's shocked that it works on this man, but doesn't allow the thought to linger.

When he looks up to find the man's face again, he sees a smirk.

I'm being played with, he realizes with a flash of insight, He could have easily killed me, but instead he allowed me to block him.

Again, he wonders why, but he doesn't voice the question this time. Instead, he tightens his knuckles around the kunai, bringing it in front of him, where he can use it to quickly react to whatever the man will try next.

"I see some fight still lives in that clan," the man comments, deep voice amused. In an instant the amusement was gone and his face is hard and stony, "But it doesn't matter. I will put an end to your disgrace of the Uchiha name."

The boy couldn't believe it—this man obviously had no idea who he was! To say that he was a disgrace!

Underneath his pride and indignation, the barb cut. A part of him, that he'd been trying unsuccessfully to bury for the last three years privately agreed with the assessment. He'd done everything he could to prove himself to his clan and his parents… but it still hadn't been enough. They still felt the need to raise up another child, as though he wasn't good enough for them.

Anger—towards his parents, and the bumbling child they called his brother—bubbled up inside of him to join the anger he already felt towards this arrogant stranger.

He didn't fight it. Instead, he took advantage of the adrenaline his rage provided and turned it against the stranger. He'd show him, and everybody else who doubted him, that he was a true prodigy. He wasn't going to burn out, he'd just keep getting stronger.

He lunges forward, not waiting for an attack, striking out with his kunai and spinning around the slash aimed at him in return.

His indignation doubles as he realizes the man is still playing with him. If anything, he'd become even slower than before. It rankled the boy to be taken so lightly.

They traded attacks for a short time, neither of them hitting home, until the boy, breathing heavily, finally leaped away, taking a moment to recover his strength. Even though he could see them coming, it was hard to dodge so many fast attacks, and the man was so strong that every time he was forced to block, the weight of the attack bore down on him hard.

Panting, he looks into the stranger's face again, into those strange, cruel eyes.

As suddenly as their eyes meet, the man is no longer in front of him.

The eight-year-old doesn't have time to wonder at this sudden change in pace, because an instant later an elbow has collided with his face, causing pain to blossom and blood to pour from his nose and flood his mouth.

He gasps, but isn't given any mercy. Just as quickly as the first blow had fallen, others follow. He was still flying through the air from the elbow blow when a fist tugged on his hair, pulling him into a knee to his gut, followed up by a series of rapid punches raining down on his ribs and abdomen.

His back finally smashes into a tree, stopping his out-of-control trajectory, and the boy crumples, coughing as pain racks his body.

He couldn't think for the pain. He knew he was no longer being hit, but the sharp pains that struck him with every movement of his lungs and every beat of his heart seem to belie that truth.

Even before he could recover, strong fingers clamp around his throat and lift him from where he'd collapsed, driving him harshly back against the tree again, feet dangling helplessly at least a foot above the ground.

Fear resonates through his being, drowning out even the massive pain. He couldn't breathe and his body shook sporadically with strangled coughs that couldn't expel air past the constricting hand.

Blearily, he opens his eyes, looking up at the face looming in front of him, slightly out of focus.

The cog-like eyes spin slowly, and dark eyebrows are drawn together in a fierce scowl.

"Those eyes," the man growls—he could barely understand the words. "Those repulsive eyes. What a mockery, that someone like you could awaken them."

The words seem to echo around in his head, but he couldn't understand their meaning. The only thing he can understand is that he is going to die. This man is going to kill him. His parents had been right to seek to replace him.

Weakly, his hands find their own way to the man's wrist, shaking fingers clutching at it desperately. In response, the cold fingers tighten further, digging into his soft skin with bruising force.

The boy gags, certain that the man is going to crush his esophagus. Vaguely, a part of him took the time to wonder how long it would take for the Hokage to realize something very wrong had happened on their C-Rank mission. How long would it take for the villagers to find their bodies?

His vision was fading to black and the pain was slowly ebbing when he was suddenly dropped. His body made itself known again with a flash of white pain that momentarily overtakes the boy.

He wastes seconds, shuddering and gagging on the ground, coughing up a lungful of blood and gasping for the air he had been denied.

The scraping of metal against leather woke him to his surroundings again and his eyes rise, even as his chest continued to force painful coughs through his throat.

The man was holding a short sword, poised above his head, bare inches from his face. His cog-like eyes are cold and dispassionate. The boy suddenly recalls that that same sword was what had removed his teammate's arm from his shoulder, and nearly split his head from the rest of his body.

The blade rose a few inches slowly, and then flashes down towards him. He watches its arc, his hands coming up all on their own.

The boy lets out a hiss of pain as the metal slices into the sensitive palms of his hands, clapped together on either side of the thin blade, halting its movement centimeters from breaking into his head.

Somehow, he felt invigorated, like a second wave of adrenaline had hit him. His coughing had stopped.

Slowly, the boy rises, bleeding hands still clamped around the blade, pushing it up ahead of him.

The man's eyes watch him, and he watches the man's eyes. He expected to see fury or cruel amusement. Instead, he saw something like wonder.

Confusion dances before the boy's mind as he pushes the blade away from himself and jumps back, landing in a stagger with a pair of kunai in his hands again.

It hurts—the rough fabric around the handles dig painfully into the cuts on his hands—but the pain was like a fog around his legs. It was there, but he had pushed it from his mind.

"Who are you?" His voice came out rough and strangled from his abused throat, abrasive to his own ears.

The man straightens, returning his sword to his sheath. The boy doubted he needed it to kill him, anyway.

"I am the epitome of power, boy," the man states boldly, "The last great thing to come from that decrepit clan."

It took long seconds for the gears in the boy's brain to turn over this new information. "You're an Uchiha," he accuses at last. He'd suspected before—that face and those eyes—but he couldn't understand why an Uchiha was attacking another Uchiha, or anyone from Konoha at all. There was also the matter of the eyes themselves, like none he'd ever seen.

"That isn't a normal Sharingan," he adds, even though his mind reasons that finding out why he was being attacked is probably more important than the strange anomaly the man's eyes present.

"No," the man agrees.

The boy's jaw clenches. He was still fooling around with him, avoiding his questions as though they were trivial. This man, who was stronger than anyone he'd ever heard of before.

"Would you like to see how they work?" The man asks, before the injured boy could voice his indignation.

The boy doesn't respond, hands tightening around his kunai.

"It's not something I offer to many," the man says lightly, "You should feel honored."

The boy hesitates. He was curious about his eyes. Was there some special ability that he could use them for?

Of course, he isn't a fool. He understood that the offer was to use whatever ability they had on him. It was more of a threat than a gift.

But… if he could learn from the experience… if he could master the power of this stranger… he'd be stronger than anyone else in the clan. They would realize it, too. His parents would realize what fools they had been in ever thinking they needed a second son.

Boldly, the boy set his face in a determined frown.

"Show me," he demands.

The man smirks and the cogs began to pick up speed, the black blurring inside the red.

A frightening sense of power emanates from him and it takes all of the boy's self control not to look away. He would learn this power, and one day he would emanate such strength, too.

Or he would die here.

There was no other choice.

Seconds pass as an eternity in the small, still clearing, the man and the boy facing each other stoically, red eyes locked with red eyes.

Abruptly, the silence is broken by the ragged, blood curdling scream that rips out of the boy's throat.

Red and black eyes continued to spin as the man watches, still smirking, until the boy collapses—first to his knees, and then dropping face first to the ground, eyes white as they roll back in his head.

His bad mood was gone in the aftermath of the confrontation, and his head was nearly buzzing with excitement.

The boy had shown a strong potential—a potential of the likes he hadn't seen since his own youth. To not only activate the Sharingan, but mature it to its second level in the space of only a few minutes, and at such a young age. He was impressed.

Calmly, the man turns his back on the bodies littered in the clearing, slowly making his way out. He'd have to keep an eye on that boy. Things could become interesting.