Shinobi are not meant to have children. They are wed to their battles and their jutsu, and there is little room left in lives lived on blade-edges for the softness and clinging neediness of childhood.

She's born literally on the battlefield, her kunoichi mother muffling her labor-pain screams with a filthy, blood-soaked rag tied round her mouth (it had once been part of her teammate's uniform – but he had no need for it now). Her hands are white-knuckled, clenched around her katana, praying in between the waves of unimaginable pain that her team can keep the enemy occupied long enough for her to complete this ordeal.

When her baby is born, she claps a hand over its mouth to stop its yelling, smearing the reddish birth-fluids over the tiny face. Gasping with the remnants of pain and exhaustion, she ties the umbilical cord, then snatches up a kunai from where it lies embedded in the chest of an enemy-nin, and uses it to saw away at the thin thread of flesh between herself and her newborn. It is a testament to her blade-skills how neat the cut is.

And then an enemy-nin is leaping at them, shrilling a Kumo battlecry, and she fights with her wailing child pressed to her breast. She ignores a body shouting for rest, screaming with pain, and delivers the killing-blow with the same kunai she used to cut her baby's umbilical cord. The arc-spurt of blood from the nin's severed throat splatters across the baby's face, a brighter thicker red than the bloody fluids of her birthing, and instinctively she licks her lips.

Her first nourishment in this world is the blood of a slain enemy.

Shinobi had no time to have children. And when they did, their children had no time to be children.

The first clear memory he has is of his father – his father, and training. They are in a dojo, and the wood is smooth and warm beneath his bare, soft feet. The roof and walls of the simple but well-built structure seem to stretch into infinity, to his baby-eyes perspective. Early-morning sunlight glows dimly behind the rice-paper doors.

Hizashi is teaching his tiny son the very rudiments of Jyuuken. His hands are gentle and his voice is soft, but that does not change the fact that he is showing Neji the beginnings of a killing dance.

Shinobi have short lives. They have little time to be children, and they're lucky if they have any time at all to be parents.

The day his father dies is the day something inside him dies. Everything he knows of security and warmth and love is snatched away from him, and his entire world is left bereft. He grieves in the Hyuuga way – silently, without tears, standing straight and tall and proud. He grieves as an adult does.

She cannot remember her mother. She's told that her mother died in hospital after a mission, that she died with honor, that she's a heroine to the Village. Her name is scribed on the Memorial Stone. But she was too young to remember, and she never visits the Stone, and she does not use the name her mother gave her.

Shinobi do not – cannot – tolerate weakness. A child with only a child's powers would be at the mercy of any passing shinobi – and shinobi have little mercy.

The Konoha Academy is one of the best-guarded locations in the whole of the Hidden Village. This is not only because, as the Hokage so often says, the children are the future of the Village. It is not even mostly because of that.

It is because they mustn't allow outsiders to see what goes on in those blocky, square-walled rooms and long, well-worn corridors. They wouldn't understand – no one who hadn't gone through his own version of the Academy would understand, and they would make a very great fuss.

For civilian children aren't expected to know the things shinobi children know (and they aren't called children, they're called genin or pre-genin but not children, not usually) and they aren't expected to have the calm and reserve and self-competent independence shinobi children have.

Civilians wouldn't understand the necessity of teaching nine-year-olds how to kill from cover, or from the open, or while pretending to be someone's friend; they would not understand encouraging small girls to raise poison to a high art. They wouldn't understand a crowd of children dissecting human bodies, more often and more thoroughly than older students at civilian institutions dissect frogs, and why sometimes using live bodies from Konoha's prisons is recommended.

And they wouldn't understand the young people that this Academy of death-dealing and shadow-moving produces.

They would look at the two of them and smile, seeing a close friendship, two small children playing games. The truth is nothing so airy. Their games are small training exercises, done in between the heavier training because even exhaustion and trembling limbs will not stop them from improving. They are not friends; they are allies – no childish attachment, but a practical, adult analysis of how they could use each other to mutual benefit.

They use each other to survive, to grow, because they have to.

Shinobi have no childhoods. They were young once (they usually never get to grow very old) but they were never children.

…or so they tell themselves

And yet, despite their lives of missions and blades and gentle death-touches – despite considering themselves and being considered as full adults since they were thirteen years old – when he kneels on the muddy ground and cradles her limp body to his thin, still-not-full-grown chest, the wail he raises to the heavens is pure heartbroken child.

I am a soul outside of death and birth.
I see before me and afterward I see,
O child, O corpse, the live dead face of thee,
Whose life and death are one thing upon earth
Where day kills night and night again kills day
And dies; but where is that Harmonia?

-Tiresias, Algernon Charles Swinburne

It's kind of angsty, but the ironic thing is that is the intro to a more comedic series. Yesh.