Chapter 2

Itachi sat perched in a tree outside Yamanaka Ino's window, concealed in the shadows of night. Sharingan eyes stared into the room, intently watching the little blonde girl as she curled up tightly on her bed, sobbing. She was still crying, even after so much time had passed. It was difficult to tell whether or not she was asleep because she was still murmuring her thoughts. Based on the way she spoke, however, Itachi deemed it plausible to say that she was asleep.

For a long while, Itachi carefully listened to her sleep-talk, analyzing her thoughts on the day's happenings. At the beginning of the night, all she talked about was her hatred and jealousy of Sakura and her woes of loosing Sasuke. But then, as the night progressed, she began to talk more and more of Itachi. "I'm sorry, Itachi-kun, sorry I made myself look so weak in front of you. Sorry I crushed your beautiful flower. You're so much better than Sasuke-kun...Please...why won't you ever talk to me? Am I that horrible? Aren't I good enough for you to acknowledge?"

Her little plea halted, and Itachi took the time to dangerously answer her. "You simply have not spoken anything worth answering. I acknowledged you, Ino-chan. I know you're there." Although he spoke in his softest voice, it still seemed like it was cutting through the silence. Itachi had expected someone with trained ears to pick up the sound of his voice, but apparently this way not so. "You are not alone, Ino-chan. You have not been left behind."

That was when Ino began to stir. "Nngh...Itachi-kun, is that you...?" the little blonde sat upright and looked out the window, rubbing her left eye, and strained to see.

Itachi pressed himself deeper into the shadows, warily keeping himself out of Ino's field of vision. What would happen if the girl went back and told her parents she had heard someone outside her window? Itachi analyzed every possible situation and its outcome and decided that it would be best to reveal himself. Slowly, he crept into the moonlight, carefully balancing on the tree's branch.

This was enough for Ino's sharp eyes to detect. "Itachi-kun," she breathed, leaning on the window-frame and carefully sticking her head out. The moonlight shined down on her porcelain skin, making her evergreen eyes seem ocean blue. They were large with surprise. Her mouth was slightly parted, holding still the remnants of his name.

Itachi was silent for a long moment before answering, "Hai. It is me."

"W-what are you doing here?" Ino stuttered. She seemed to be unsuccessful in making him out completely. "And why don't you come into the light, where I can see you?"

Her voice was too loud for his preferences. Wincing at the octave, he calmly ordered her to speak quietly before explaining, "I can't risk someone seeing me. No one must know I was here. Do you understand, Ino-chan?" Ino nodded numbly, eyes wide with some sort of amazement. "Good. Now, you must understand that you cannot speak of this to anyone else. It will get me into a lot of trouble. Do you understand?" His voice was velvet smooth and very convincing, based on the awe in Ino's large eyes.

"H-hai. I understand, Itachi-kun." Her voice was barely above a whisper, but easily detected by his trained ears. "Can you hear me at this volume?"

"Perfectly," he answered, barely loud enough for her to hear. "You?"

Ino scrunched her nose in displeasure, murmuring, "Barely. Can't you speak a little louder?"

"Fine," he murmured, his voice now slightly louder. He could see that he would never be able to say no to this girl.

"There, that's better." Ino whispered, satisfied. "Now, what are you doing here?" She folded her arms in suspicion.

He had already prepared himself for that. "I'm on a mission."

"Why aren't you doing anything, then?"

"I completed it. I'm on my way home now."

"Your clan's house is on the other side of the village."

Damn, she was good. With a sigh, he admitted, "I wanted to see you." Already, he was unable to keep anything from her. And he hated it.

This was not what Ino expected, because she gasped softly in surprise. "R-really?" she stuttered, her beautiful eyes wide with surprise. Obviously, she did not have the skill to hide her emotions. "W-why?"

"I don't know," he admitted. With a pride and ego as insurmountable as his, Itachi was not going to admit that he feared for her wellfare. "You'll see me again tomorrow," the Uchiha told her as he turned away. "I'm going to bring Sasuke to the park again. I expect you to be there."

"Why? Sasuke-kun's going out with Sakura now."

"I'll be there." With that, he jumped off in the direction of the Uchiha estate.

Odd sensations wrapped themselves around Itachi's heart as he walked Sasuke to the playground the next morning. It was a feeling similar to that of what he felt before a mission. His heart beat in a similar way, only faster and more urgently. Although he expertly hid these feelings from Sasuke, Itachi was unable to stop them from attacking his heart. He was...nervous. Excited. They were not feelings he experienced on a normal basis.

So why was he feeling anything at all?

Itachi took his usual spot against his tree in the playground, hardly able to breathe. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, mentally scolding himself. He had met Ino only yesterday, and already he was anxious to see her again. Never before had he been so anxious to see someone. Never before had he cared about one event so much.

Taking in another breath, this one smaller than the last, Itachi willed the nervousness and anticipation away. He was an ANBU, after all, and so this was no great task. Almost immediately, he was back to his normal thought mentality.

With his anticipation under control, Itachi opened his eyes once more and watched his little brother as he located Sakura and took her hand in his. They moved off to a little clearing and sat down, playing alone.

From behind, someone whispered his name. "Itachi-kun." It was Ino.

Itachi's heart went into double-time at the sound of her voice, though he expertly hid it as he looked over his shoulder at her. "Ohiyo, Ino-chan." He replied courteously as she took a seat beside him.

"Good morning, Itachi-kun!" Ino giggled, her bubbly voice music to Itachi's ears. She put a bouquet of flowers on his lap, explaining, "I put these together for you before I came here."

The elder Uchiha studied the flowers in his lap for a moment before replying, "Domo arigato. They're…beautiful."

Ino smiled. "You're welcome." She rested against the tree and began, "Sooooooo….What's up?"

Itachi inwardly groaned, remembering Ino wasn't one for silence. At the same time, he realized he had asked her to come to the playground. That alone obligated him to talk to her more than usual. Continuing his inward groan, he replied, "Nothing. I skipped a mission to come here."

The little girl's eyes widened in amazement. "You must be a great ninja," she reasoned softly.

"You've heard of me," Itachi said flatly. It wasn't a question.

Ino nodded once. "My father speaks very highly of you, alone with every other ninja I know."

Of course. He was practically a celebrity – possibly even more famous than the Hokage. Itachi somberly nodded. "Everyone knows of me, although I do not know of all of them. It is very tedious."

Ino blinked, confusion across her adorable face. "What's 'tedious' mean?"

Itachi chuckled at his own ignorance. He had forgotten that Ino was only eight years old, and that she would not know such big words. "Please excuse my rudeness. 'Tedious' basically means 'troublesome.'"

"Oh, okay! I get it." She giggled as she rubbed the back of her head. Damn, she was adorable. No wonder he was unable to deny her. After a short silence, Ino began, "Hey, Itachi-kun, let's go on the swings!"

"I can't. I'm supposed to be - " Itachi's voice cut itself off as his eyes flickered over to where Sasuke had been. Almost twenty minutes had passed, and in that entire time, all of his attention had been fixed on Ino. Anger bubbled within him as his onyx eyes searched the playground for Sasuke. Never before had he given one thing all of his attention; normally, he was always alert, always completely aware of his surroundings.

Not today, apparently.

"He's over there," Ino said offhandedly, gesturing to her right. Itachi followed the gesture with his eyes and, sure enough, Sasuke sat in a sandbox, building a sandcastle with Sakura.

Itachi frowned deeply, angry with himself for being so careless. If that had happened during a mission...his teammates could have died. The same thing could have happened to his younger brother, and he never would have known. How foolish.

"Don't be so mad," Ino murmured as she leaned against the tree.

Itachi shook his head. "You don't understand how important it is to be in charge of someone. Especially a sibling who is younger than you. Anything could have happened whilst my attention was away from him."

Ino smiled fondly. "You're a good brother, Itachi-kun. No wonder why Sasuke-san wants to be just like you when he gets older."

He picked up on the lower-level honorific she had used on Sasuke. Before, it had been Sasuke-kun. Now it was -san? Itachi wondered what that meant. He ran the possibilities in his mind. The most likely possibility was that Ino liked Itachi more and Sasuke less.

The thought made him smile.

"Wow," Ino breathed, breaking his thoughts and calling his attention, "Itachi-kun...You look so beautiful when you smile!" She moved hair away from his face. "Why don't you smile more?"

Their eyes met, and Itachi was awestruck at how beautiful Ino was. His mouth watered, and for once in his life, he was confused. Itachi was overwhelmed with the urge feel her lips with his.

But she was just a girl; eight years old. And he was a teenager; six years her superior, at fourteen. There was no possible way that she would be feeling the same urges as he. Itachi had a feeling he just truly his puberty.

Lost in her eyes, Itachi lost his infallible sense of logic. He closed his eyes and leaned forward slowly.

His lips connected with hers and, for an instant, it was wonderful. Then Ino began to struggle against him, disconnecting the kiss and roughly pushing him away. She jumped to her feet and wiped off her mouth with her right hand, glaring at him angrily. The little blonde was panting slightly as a tear rolled down her cheek.

At the sight of her tears, Itachi's rational mind instantly reappeared. "Ino-chan," he whispered, unable to believe that he had committed such a heinous act, "I'm so sorry. I never meant to - "

Ino cut him off. "I thought you were different! You're so much stronger than everyone in the village, so much smarter...People look up to you! Everyone loves you! All they ever do is talk about how excellent you are. But in the end, you're no better than anyone else. You're a disgusting pic who thinks only of himself!" She ran away before giving him a chance to respond.

Itachi stared at the Yamanaka's back as she ran away from the playground for a second time. He was too shocked to call out to her or move. A hollow feeling dug itself into his core, settling there and freezing him from the inside out. His mind was literally frozen; no thoughts were being processed, no neurons connecting. All he saw or heard, over and over again, was Ino's response to the kiss.

He was not sure how long he sat there. But when Sasuke finally jarred his consciousness into action, the sun had already set. Hadn't they arrived at the playground at noon? "Aniki, aniki," the younger chanted, "Aniki, c'mon! We have to hurry home or we'll be late for dinner. Nii-san? Nii-san, what's wrong with you?"

Finally, he was able to sum up a response. "Oh, yes. Time to go home." He stood, trying to act normal, although he knew there was no explaining that episode.

They walked silently for a while, slowly, before Sasuke asked, "What's going on between you and Ino-chan, Nii-san? Earlier you both seemed to have fun, and then later she ran away in tears. What - ?"

Itachi cut him off. "None of that, ototo." He said nothing else.

The rest of the way home was silent. Sasuke happily ran up to their mother and hugged her whilst Itachi stealthily moved off to his room. He had no appetite for dinner.

Itachi went straight to bed, hating himself, hoping to sleep until dawn.

Of course, he was not fortunate enough to sleep all the way to the next day. His eyes flickered open at what he thought to be midnight, the moon high in the night sky. He sat upright and yawned silently, realizing that he had slept in his clothes.

Thoughtlessly, Itachi sat upright, looking out his large window. Ino flashed through his mind, bringing tremendous waves of guilt along with her. Frowning at the emotion, Itachi slipped through the window silently and made his way to Ino's house.

Once there, Itachi perched on the tree outside Ino's house and peered into her window. His excellently-trained ninja ears easily picked up the sound of her automatic breathing, of her sleep-talk. Listening carefully, Itachi barely breathed as Ino whispered in her sleep, "Itachi-kun...I really do like you. Why...did you have to do that? Boys aren't supposed to do that to girls. Why...?"

Itachi closed his eyes, wishing he could close his ears. He wanted to apologize, to soothe her erratic subconscious, but the words were locked inside, behind impossible barriers. Slowly, the words leaked out of him, although no sounds were produced. "Ino-chan, I'm so sorry I did that to you. So, so sorry..." His lips were moving, but no sound cascaded from them.

He did not have the courage or strength to make his voice audible. Hating himself all over again, Itachi turned away and silently left.


Hai - Yes/right

Domo arigato – Thank you very much

Aniki - Respectible term for an older sibling (can be male or female)

Nii-san - Respectible term for an older brother

Ototo - Younger brother

Aww, I feel bad for Itachi-kun :( But things will work out in his favor. Ino can't resist :)))