Disclaimer: Skylight does not own Naruto and its characters. Too bad.
Somewhere in Time
Uchiha Itachi did not believe in fate or destiny or miracles. At an early age, he was already trained to kill people. Hailed a genius by his clan and by the rest of Konoha, his abilities were utilized in the interests of the village he had sworn to protect by the Hokage he had sworn to serve. At the peak of his career, he was instructed to annihilate his own clan.
His. Own. Family. Including the little brother he loved more than anything else in the world. Life was cruel.
Everything had been planned out. He would wipe out the entire Uchiha Clan in one night and be branded a traitor for saving the Hidden Leaf from an uprising by its police force. Konoha did seem to have a habit of hating whoever managed to save it from total destruction. Take Uzumaki Naruto, for example.
What threw a wrench into the whole mechanism was a little girl with a flower in her hand. Just when Itachi had committed himself wholly to his mission, Yamanaka Ino decided to be brave enough to come into his life.
He had been walking home from the ANBU Headquarters when she dashed out of her family's flower shop and handed him a single stalk. It was a quiet street and his guess was that she only summoned the courage to approach him for that very reason.
"Why?" he had asked her.
"Because you need it," she said simply.
How the legendary Uchiha Itachi would need a flower was beyond anyone's guess but when he looked into her cornflower eyes, he saw a keen perceptiveness beyond her age. There was a genius beyond her years cloaked behind her deceptive lashes. She looked at him and she knew without asking.
He knelt down to her level and looked her in the eye. "I'm about to do a very bad thing."
"Everybody does bad things," she replied softly. "I do bad things, too."
What he was about to do, though, was beyond her childish scope of bad. She could lose a classmate from his actions tonight.
"Otousan says a ninja must do bad things for Konoha," she continued. "It hurts him every time. You're about to do it, too, aren't you?"
"Yes." The word seemed to hitch in his throat and the Uchiha prodigy could only bow his head at his burden.
"I won't think less of you," she reassured him. "I'll know you did it for Konoha."
Itachi smiled a little at that. Suddenly, he was desperate for anyone to redeem him and this child before him shone the light on his existence.
"Thank you, little one."
She beamed at him. "Ino. My name is Yamanaka Ino."
Yamanaka Ino was a patient person, despite her loud and obnoxious projections. She waited for her father to come home after every mission – staking out in the living room with a pack of marshmallows – ever since she was three. Her mother finally gave up on the thought that her daughter would go to bed in her bed whenever Yamanaka Inoichi was not home and brought the tatami to the living room to share her daughter's vigil.
But nobody knew she also waited for Uchiha Itachi to come home either and nobody was supposed to know.
At a young age, Ino was trained to safeguard her mind. She was a Yamanaka, a mind walker. She was meant to invade the thoughts of others, use them to her advantage without compromising her own.
"Picture this out, hime," her father had told her. "Your mind is a most precious jewel capable of doing great things. Things that may not be in the capacity of your imagination right now. Of course, people would want to take control of it. So you have to guard it. Like a fortress guarding a princess from an evil dragon."
Gradually, the precious jewel in her mind morphed into Uchiha Itachi on the fateful day of their talk. She had been horrified to find out that he had killed his entire family that night but unlike anyone else in the village, she knew much, much more. More than Uchiha Sasuke, the lone survivor of the Uchiha massacre, perhaps. It was that knowledge she tucked into the depths of the fortress of her mind.
Uchiha Itachi had sacrificed his family for Konoha.
Konoha would never understand. Her parents would be horrified that their daughter was even near the mass murderer on the day of the crime. Even Haruno Sakura, her best friend – who was not-so-secretly in love with Uchiha Sasuke – would hate her for taking his side simply because her beloved Sasuke hated his older brother.
So she tucked Uchiha Itachi's last real smile into the very depths of her heart and guarded the secret ferociously.
Hence, when the bottle pointed in her direction and the other girls of the class grinned conspiratorially, she knew the question they were about to ask and she knew she must lie.
"Soo…who's your crush, Ino?"
Kami, Sakura…forgive me…
Sakura's crestfallen expression condemned Ino to the fiery pits of hell. There was so much sadness in her face that Ino thought she would sink back into her pool of self-pity despite her efforts the past few months. Ino silently wept for hurting her friend and wished she could take it back, take the hurt away because she knew what Sakura would think – that Ino would win, of course, and that she did not have a chance because Ino was pretty and did not have a wide forehead to go with it.
But Sakura turned the tables on her when she declared war on her best friend for the love of Uchiha Sasuke. Ino could not count the tears she cried in secret when Sakura returned her ribbon and sacrificed their friendship for Sasuke. She would prefer Sakura over the Uchiha "prodigy" anytime.
But she would sacrifice her best friend for Uchiha Itachi.
"Everybody does bad things. I do bad things, too."
The pink-haired girl may be touted as the one who took the first step to break their friendship but Ino knew she was the one who ultimately led their bond to ruin.
Itachi met with Ino one last time before his deciding battle with his younger brother. He was older, tired, but still the most beautiful thing in her eyes. She was colder, faster, but still the child he gave his heart to for safekeeping. She was tired of all their secret rendezvous. He was tired of life itself.
"Don't talk," she murmured, the tears starting to leak from the corner of her eyes. "I know what you're about to say."
He clutched her like a drowning man would latch on to a life raft, his hands desperately digging into the fabric of her shirt, into her skin. All around them, her long hair was a waterfall of pale gold released from its restricting bonds. She grew it long for his sake, because he liked to run his fingers through it. Sasuke would not notice hair on a female's head even if it disappeared but Itachi was practically addicted to her tresses.
"I'm scared," he admitted quietly before his lips descended on her own.
"I won't think less of you," she replied.
He smiled sadly at her words. "You never did."
"I never could."
They had made love so many times before but always where nobody knew them. A kunoichi of the Leaf should never consort with a feared member of the Akatsuki. Many times, they came together in haste, always looking behind their backs, always afraid someone would catch up to them. Impassioned in the night but gone before sunrise.
This time, Itachi made love to her with exquisite slowness, drawing out her pleasure and his in slow, tantalizing strokes. His hands and tongue were all over her body, lingering where she gasped and her eyelids fluttered close in sheer bliss. Just when she thought she had been very sensually overloaded, he plunged into her and drew her to another level of pleasure altogether.
Their bodies moved in the age-old rhythm of lovemaking, their lips fused in sweetness, their hands gentle and caressing over scarred bodies that were no less beautiful. Ino felt herself explode in a starburst of pleasure just as Itachi surged in her, letting her ride wave over wave of physical bliss.
The sun was rising over the horizon when they finally dozed in each other's arms, like two spoons that fit perfectly together.
"I'm so sorry."
"Please, don't be," her voice was quiet in its acceptance. "We were everything that meant anything."
He held her closer to his nakedness. "Are you happy, Ino? This is all I can give you."
"Then it is all I will take." Hot liquid dripped from her eyes into his arm. "Because it is all I ever wanted."
Nobody would know how Uchiha Itachi, murderer of the Uchiha clan, met an innocent flower girl on the streets of Konohagakure no Sato before he slaughtered his family. Nobody would know how Yamanaka Ino, loyal kunoichi of the Hidden Leaf, lay in the embrace of a missing nin, a member of the Akatsuki. Nobody would know how they parted ways wishing that things could have been different for them but nonetheless thankful that somewhere in time, their paths met and they were given the chance to live and to love, however briefly.
It was more than any ninja could ask for in a lifetime.