AUTHOR'S REVISION 6.28.2010
There's a newly revised version of AFAIG. Please find it underneath the title 'As Far As Innocence Goes' without the word 'Original' attached at the front.
Thank you, aixyutin
17-year-old Uchiha Itachi was not pleased or impressed as he viewed his 12-year-old fiancée. He had more important things to do. Yet as small encounters alter his thinking, perhaps innocent Hyuuga Hinata carries a greater weight in altering fate than anyone had thought. Especially, when somehow, Uchiha Itachi became the instructor of Team 8.
She blushed when she felt his knuckles brush her cheek, which she shouldn't have because he'd done so before and she'd never blushed before. There was, however, a strange almost predatory expression in his dark eyes that almost frightened her and made her stomach clench. Despite her misgivings, she allowed his fingers to touch her face and did not move away when he loomed over her small frame. This was Itachi after all, and Hinata reminded herself there was no logical reason to fear him.
But when he began to lean even closer however, Hinata felt something like disgust and fear ripple through her. There were rules and she had an inkling of a feeling that he was very, very close to breaking one. There was something queer at work here, and although it wasn't unpleasant per se, she wasn't comfortable with it either.
Going by instinct, she bit her lip, and tilted her head slightly as she widened her eyes in the very picture of vulnerability.
"Itachi?" she said, acting as if she weren't totally aware of the strangeness of it all.
Act the unblemished innocent.
Much to her relief, the boy froze. In the next instant, he withdrew his hands and retreated out of her personal space. Hinata barely suppressed the urge to relax her shoulders (because that would give her away), and instead raised a hand to pat his wrist in a sisterly fashion.
"Are you alright?" she asked, eyes still wide.
"I'm fine," he said evenly. "Let's try that jutsu again."
Hinata inwardly sighed with relief.
She missed the taut, almost hurt expression that flashed over Itachi's face. By the time she glanced at him again, he was as unreadable as always.
As Far As Innocence Goes
Four Years Ago…
Itachi Uchiha had been more than simply peeved when he was informed by his father that he was about to meet his potential fiancée the very next day.
At the dinner table no less.
But he had not been surprised. There had been warning signs and Itachi was not one to ignore the logical obvious. Even if the prospect of having his future wife already decided for him was distasteful, even if it was mind-boggling and not just a little bit disturbing that the girl in question was the same age as his little brother…
Itachi Uchiha may have "only" been thirteen years old, but he had spent his whole life being honed as a weapon. Hence, while the average thirteen-year-old would have balked (and rightly so!) at the idea of meeting his future five-years-younger wife, Itachi only gave a small frown.
Well, perhaps he did sort of… obliterate his chopsticks.
Itachi had very much wanted to resist; he had wanted to scream, crack the table, trash the house, punch his father, and maybe just wipe out the whole clan in one blow. However, despite all his wants, the pragmatic side of his mind evaluated the situation with the same cool logic he was famed for. The fact remained that arranged marriages were not an uncommon phenomenon and often strengthened relations between the two families. This particular arranged marriage, of all the arranged marriages out there, had the potential to smooth over all Clan relations and politics for the next generation. It was the kind of political manuever that would ensure stability and peace for all of Konoha.
Peace; a goal that Itachi strove for at all costs.
So at the cost of his pride and rage, Itachi had consented reluctantly. His father had been noticeably pleased at his cooperativeness and had praised him excessively—Itachi only ignored his father's words and focused on finishing his dinner that he had suddenly lost an appetite for. Even without his chopsticks.
Sasuke had been very kind in getting him another pair of chopsticks. Like most good intentions however, the good intention was sort of moot however when he broke the second pair as well.
The next day, when he had prepared to leave the Uchiha compound (dressed in shinobi clothes because he hated yukatas) Itachi had been determined to keep a cool rational head.
He would not lose his temper.
Nonetheless, as he walked silently behind his father up the gravel path that led to the Main Compound of the Hyuuga Clan, he could not help but inwardly seethe. His father, though good-intentioned at times, was also a fool that was obsessed with the pride and prestige of the Uchiha Clan. And if there was something Itachi disliked, it was fools meddling with his life and holding more power than they were supposed to.
Initially, the idea of a Hyuuga-Uchiha union was simply ridiculous. Both families were notoriously antagonistic toward the other, and shared a blood feud that had been stewing for generations. There had been intermarriage among the lower branches in the past, but each time the marriage had always been met with strong resistance and disapproval by the family, and hence was an extremely rare occurrence.
The Hyuuga was a proud, proud old family with old influence, and old ancestry. Theirs was a heritage of aristocracy, lords, and noble samurai. The Uchiha family was an old family as well, but not quite so old, not quite so influential, and not quite as wealthy. They were, however, highly instrumental in the founding in Konoha and hence held immense local influence that at times eclipsed the Hyuuga.
The two estranged clans were, in essence, equal and checked each other's influence throughout history.
With the birth of Itachi, one of the greatest geniuses in the history of Konoha since Uchiha Madara, the Uchiha gained new esteem and prestige. The Hyuuga, on the other hand, had their genius rotting in the branch house while they were saddled with one of the most disappointing heirs in recent history. The irony was certainly not lost on Fugaku, or any of the other great clan heads throughout the country and it was the kind of humiliation that made the Hyuuga burn.
The once equal, perfect balance of power had been broken.
No surprise that the Hyuuga were so eager to throw away their useless, useless heir ever since a second far more promising daughter had been born. However, with the death of the Hyuuga Head's wife, the Hyuuga were simultaneously wary of the danger of having only one heir. Hence, for now at least for now, the eldest was still the official Hyuuga Heiress and her little sister was a "fail-safe". Nevertheless, the Hyuuga had been more than willing to enter a "semi-binding" agreement to promise their eldest to the Uchiha. Fugaku had also been more than willing to ensure an appropriate bride for his eldest; never mind that she was a weak shinobi. The girl had been brought up in the "right" environment, and the "right" blood flowed through her veins. With Itachi's genius, the probability of strong Uchiha offspring was high. It was a win-win situation on both sides. Everyone was happy… except for Itachi.
All he could do was pray that the girl wasn't a clingy, possessive brat. Or worse, a fangirl.
There was a warning and strained undertone in his father's voice. Itachi frowned imperceptibly, but kept his peace as they arrived at the entrance of the Hyuuga Main Compound.
Up close, it was even more impressive. Unlike the Uchiha, whom geared to the practical and had most of their buildings made from cement and concrete, the Hyuuga Compound had been built with beauty and rigid aesthetics in mind. The wood gleamed and in the air there was a whiff of expensive incense and pine. The whole structure had been made to intimidate and to impress.
A group of Hyuuga waited for them patiently at the entrance. Despite the similarities in their appearance, Itachi had no difficulty picking out the Hyuuga Head from the rest of his entourage by his noticeably bare forehead. He looked like the kind of man that would rather break than bend.
Not a prospective father-in-law.
Itachi did not fail to notice the little shadow hiding behind the tall Hyuuga head in an undeniably shy manner. It was difficult to get a clear look from his angle, but Itachi thought he could see the vague outline of a small girl with short hair.
At least she's not squealing.
"Fugaku-san, it's good to see you," Hiashi greeted formally, his mouth set in just the right not-quite-friendly-smile as he bowed as etiquette dictated.
"Hiashi-san, it's kind of you to invite us today." Itachi watched impassively as his own father gave an identical restrained but respectful bow.
'Antagonistic old fools,' Itachi thought bitterly as he himself executed a proper bow and said a proper greeting to the Hyuuga head. Without even turning Itachi could feel the pleased glint in his father's eyes, a glint that had long ceased to please him many, many years ago.
"Hinata, saw hello to Fugaku-san, and Itachi," Hiashi said. Itachi heard a squeak before the girl was literally dragged out front by firm hands. Unlike Itachi, who wore shinobi clothes, the girl was dressed in a casual-formal lavender kimono that had been carefully ironed of all creases and wrinkles. It was a simple kimono, but closer inspection revealed that it was made of the finest silk that money could buy.
Like her father, she had the iconic dark hair, pale skin, and white eyes of all Hyuuga. Unlike her father however, she seemed a lot softer and timid. Human features aside, the little-slip-of-a-girl really reminded Itachi of a mouse.
Now this is interesting…
If Itachi weren't quite so agitated and irritated, he would have admitted that she was sort of cute, in a sort of harmless mousy, doll-like sort of way. As it was, all he could think was the word 'mouse' echoing ominously in his mind.
And fangirls. Never, ever forget the fangirls. Those are an occupation-hazard in the life of Uchiha Itachi.
"G-Good afternoon, Uchiha-sama, Uchiha-san," the little girl stammered softly, clutching at her father's clothes tightly. She trembled under the attention, and for a moment Itachi fancied that she might just bolt; nonetheless, despite her trembling, the little girl managed to execute a perfect bow. Hiashi's face was devoid of any fatherly expression, and the hand he maintained on his daughter's shoulder seemed highly impersonal.
Poor girl, Itachi found himself thinking.
"Please," Hiashi said with an elegant yet reserved sweep of his arm. Fugaku tilted his head in acquiesce and they began to make small conversation as they entered the large compound. Itachi ignored them, more interested in the Hinata-girl that stumbled after her father.
They were soon invited into an airy and bright tatami-mat tea room. Bonsai trees and calligraphy scrolls were placed tastefully through the room and Itachi could not help but admire the rigid aesthetics of it all.
As the heir, Itachi had the privilege of sitting to the right of his father at the center of the table. Likewise, his little child-bride sat across from him, avoiding all eye contact and still hopelessly obviously nervous. Itachi would have been content to simply drink his tea and eavesdrop on the adults' conversation, all the while scrutinizing the girl in front of him, but no sooner had he taken a sip was he (discreetly) shooed from the table.
"Hinata, why don't you show Itachi the gardens?" Hiashi suggested blandly over the rim of his tea cup.
"I think that would be a good idea," Fugaku agreed. "Itachi is especially fond of koi fish, and I've heard you have a marvelous koi pond."
Hiashi gave a tight smile. "You flatter us."
Hinata fearfully glanced at Itachi, but obeyed. She stood up hastily while Itachi languidly rose with all the grace of a killer. Itachi narrowed his eyes slightly at his father's deceptively calm posture (honestly, how blatant could they be?), but had no choice but to follow the little girl out the room. As he left, he could feel the eerie sensation of bemused eyes boring into his back.
Itachi just barely resisted the urge to snort.
There was a stiff, awkward silence as they padded down the halls. While the girl walked with a stiff and upright posture, Itachi stuffed his hands into his pockets and glided casually behind. The girl swiveled her head once or twice to make sure he was following, but other than that she mostly avoided looking at him.
They were trailed by four or so silent maids, all dressed in a smart robe with the Hyuuga insignia proudly displayed on the back. The maids were an appropriate distance away, more than ready to serve their every whim while still maintaining the façade of privacy. Itachi had no doubts that anything he said would be reported back to their master, nor did he had any doubts that they were more than simply amused by the awkwardness of situation.
He could literally feel the other Hyuuga avoid them—despite the presence of four hundred other members in the main complex, not once did they chance upon a passerby. In the Uchiha house, people often stopped each other for quick cheerful conversations or a mere hello. Here, in the Hyuuga house, the Hyuugas melted into the background like well-trained shadows.
Itachi noticed the muted, but undeniable polish and sheen of old money and years of care in every corner of the house. Although there were no overtly ostentatious displays of wealth or power, Itachi's discerning eye could tell immediately that incense burned was of the finest and that the etchings on the overhanging ceilings were made by master artisans. Everything reeked of old money, old power, and old influence. It was a stark contrast to the Uchiha, who though admittedly very wealthy, tended to discard the extravagant, often superfluous tradition. Their house was neat, but not as refined as this.
Then again, Itachi mused, the Uchiha clan was known for their police force and influence in Konoha's localized area. The Hyuuga, though also heavily entrenched in the Hidden Leaf's shinobi system, were more inclined to wield enormous economical influence over a country rather than merely a village. Married Hyuuga princesses of every tier were scattered around the country, allowing the Hyuuga to claim ties to every great family out there.
"Uchiha-san." Although her voice was quiet, Itachi's keen ears easily heard her.
"Yes, Hyuuga-san?" he replied formally.
She stiffened and Itachi could not resist arching an eyebrow at that. Even Sasuke knew better than to show his emotions to outsiders.
"We're here, Uchiha-san," she murmured, staring at the floor. Itachi stared impassively at the extensive grounds covered in an assortment of flora. Like everything else in the house, the garden was impeccably tidy and neat, and Itachi could see ponds full of expensive rare koi. In the distance, he could even see cherry blossom trees. Pity they weren't in season at this time.
Although Itachi wasn't one for words, from the expectant and awkward silence he knew he was supposed to say something.
"I see." He said lowly, his voice as devoid of emotion as ever. Her shoulders drooped a little bit at this, and Itachi could not once again help marveling at the sheer emotion this slip of a girl was spewing all over the place. It was ridiculous easy to read her. She was eight for god's sake. No wonder why the Hyuuga thought she was useless. She was literally wilting in front of his very eyes, and he even hadn't meant to intimidate her.
"Do you want me to show you the individual flowers?" she finally whispered, barely managing not to flinch as Itachi continued to appraise her.
"That would be nice." He tried to be a bit friendly and give a small twitch of his lips, but it came out more as a grimace.
Nope, he wasn't imagining it. One of the maids had definitely snickered.
So began their tour. She continued to speak in that remarkably quiet, soft voice of hers and Itachi made appropriate comments and nods at the right moments. It was all so utterly scripted that Itachi was reminded of one of those bothersome Academy exercise he had done so many years ago. He was, however, nothing if not patient, and Itachi played along with the whole façade as he was supposed to.
It was only after they were seated in one of the pavilions overlooking the koi pond, a tea set in between them, did Itachi decide to break routine. The maids stood outside, and Hinata seemed far more relaxed when they were gone.
"H-Hai?" she squeaked out, her fingers coming up to poke each other. It was done so instantly, so instinctively that Itachi barely repressed the grimace that threatened to flit across his face. Such instinctual unthinking actions were what got good shinobi killed. He personally would never have let Sasuke develop such a bad habit.
"Do you know why I'm here today?" he asked bluntly. There was no point beating around the bushes, and Itachi was a bit curious after all.
The girl looked like she was about to have a heart attack. She opened her mouth and then closed it again before she began to blush deeply.
"Yes," she whispered. She avoided his eyes and focused on the tea cup in front of her. It was a very nice tea cup to be sure, but it wasn't that nice.
"Ah. And what precisely is that reason?" Itachi probed.
"I-I-…" Hinata sputtered. She forced herself to take a deep breath, before glibly plowing on. "Otou-sama wanted me to meet… my future husband." The last part was said so quietly, so softly that even Itachi almost missed it. She was hiding behind her bangs now, and Itachi could not catch even a glimpse of her face. Not that it mattered of course—her body language was as open and revealing as her face.
Itachi felt a bit sorry for her for a moment. She was obviously nervous, hesitant, and not a bit terrified. There was a naivety and innocence there that reminded him of his little brother, although there was a noticeable lack of resentment and hidden anger that was always subtly present in Sasuke. It made Itachi a little angry to see another one so sheltered while his own brother was trying to destroy his innocence, to become an ideal killer, just so he could attract their bastard of a father's notice.
It made Itachi suddenly have the impulsive urge to see her eyes. The adult ANBU captain side of him wanted to squash hit, but thirteen-year-old Itachi wasn't feeling so forgiving right now.
"That's right," he said softly. In one languid motion, Itachi reached out to tilt her chin toward him. Hinata jumped and almost resisted when she sensed his fingers, but he was faster and his fingers were firmer. For a brief moment his eyes gleamed with triumph as her face came into view. She made brief eye contact before she immediately flicked her eyes to settle on a point somewhere behind him.
"Look at me."
It was not a request, but as Hyuuga Heiress she had full right to ignore it. If anything, she should rightly take offense for his rudeness. Itachi was not surprised however to see her naturally obey to the authority of an ANBU captain.
Hyuuga eyes were famed for their utility, their ability, and also for their impassivity. Urban legend said that Hyuuga had white eyes; at such a close distance, Itachi could make out a pale almost lavender sheen. Urban legend also said that Hyuuga eyes were stony, impossible to read. That may have been true for the majority, but this Hyuuga's eyes was undeniably fearful and intimidated. The girl had huge eyes. However, Itachi could see the great awareness, the kind of awareness that came from every stifled child of a great Clan, and the distinct lack of innocence.
It told Itachi all he needed to know, and it made his adolescent anger abate.
Maybe she wasn't quite so sheltered after all.
"And how do you feel about this?" he asked, careful not to lean too close and frighten her any further.
Her eyes widened, and her eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement. It was actually quite cute, and it made Itachi feel slightly guilty for caging her so.
"How… I feel?" she echoed dumbly. Itachi arched one eyebrow and literally felt the fearful shudder pass through her as she cringed, fearing his possible irritation and displeasure. On the contrary, he was only amused.
She acted like such a civilian.
"How do you feel about the idea of marrying me in the future?" Itachi asked calmly and slowly, enunciating every syllable carefully and placing a distinct emphasis on 'me'. He leaned backwards to give her even more space, and was rewarded when she relaxed slightly.
"I—" she trailed off, obviously at a loss. Her hands had not stopped fidgeting, and it was really all quite annoying in Itachi's heartfelt opinion.
He patiently waited for her to speak, and while it was a long moment before Hinata finally found her words, he was rewarded with a hesitant but understandable and honest response. "I don't mind."
It was a polite response, but Itachi immediately heard the unsaid. Hinata Hyuuga was not any more enthusiastic about this engagement as he was—she was, however, aware of the importance of the situation and was willing to submit.
That was enough for him.
"Good," Itachi said coldly, withdrawing his fingers. Hinata immediately began to look down again and avoid his eye contact, but not before he saw a brief expression of hurt flash over her face. Despite himself, Itachi felt a sliver of guilt.
Mikoto Uchiha had been a stickler for politeness and the "proper" way to treat girls, and it applied to all girls in her opinion. Although Itachi had tried (fervently) to explain to her over and over that fangirls did not fall in the same category as the rest of humankind, she had forced him to treat even his most obsessive fangirls politely. Taking that into consideration, Itachi had a sinking feeling that if she expected him to treat rabid females with a certain degree of respect, then his mother would definitely be after his head if she heard how he treated his fiancée, who no matter how irritatingly timid , had been nothing but unfailingly polite and quiet.
"What are your hobbies?" he suddenly intoned, breaking the heavy silence.
Hinata whipped around her head in surprise and outright shock. Itachi stared back unflinchingly, refusing to let his embarrassment show. He grew increasingly more uncomfortable as she continued to stare at him with the same shock and it was only after he pointedly coughed did she recover.
"I… I like pressing flowers," she said hesitantly. For once, her fingers were not poking together and were splayed comfortably on the table.
"Ah." He took a sip of his tea, inwardly pleased with having diffused the tense situation. The tea was also quite marvelous; the Hyuuga certainly didn't cut corners when it came to creature comforts.
"… and… what are y-your hobbies?" Hinata timidly asked.
Itachi was surprised that the girl had the nerve to actually ask a question but refused to let it show. Taking his time to set his cup down, he inwardly debated whether to reply. He wasn't one for revealing unnecessary information about himself; however, this was his future wife talking, and it really was quite a harmless question. It wasn't as if Itachi had anything to hide either.
"I am fond of traditional teahouses."
Hinata blinked at this and unconsciously leaned close in surprise. Itachi however, was not unaware of her unconscious movement and leaned back.
"M-may I ask why, Uchiha-san?" she asked softly. Itachi raised an eyebrow at her formality and shrugged casually.
"I like tea."
"O-oh… I like tea too."
Hinata gave a shy hesitant smile and cheerfully stood to refill their cups. Her small hands were steady and graceful as they handled the heavy teapot.
Then again, shinobi training from age two would do that to anyone, even a failure.
"Thank you, Hyuuga-san," he said quietly. She beamed, and Itachi was quite disconcerted to realize she looked quite… pleasant…. when she smiled like that.
Itachi was almost, almost sorry when they had to go. The girl had been mostly quiet and he really had enjoyed the excellent tea and the koi pond. When they exchanged formal goodbyes, he sincerely tried to make an effort to be friendly and offered a small smile. Heartened by his attempt, Hinata had brightened and almost tripped in her hastiness to give a low, respectful bow. It was a bow that was really too low to be suitable for a Hyuuga heiress, but for the life in him Itachi couldn't begrudge her for it.
Perhaps the marriage wouldn't be as bad as he originally thought.
Later his father would ask, "What did you think about her Itachi?" He would, of course, keep a complete grip on his face and only tilt his head in a gesture of contemplation. Because truthfully, Itachi had not formed a strong opinion one way or the other.
She was pleasant to say the least.
And that was all.
The plot bunny that refused to jump out of my head... review? :) Even if it's only a "I love it", it means a lot to me. :)