Notes: I'm having a lot of trouble writing nowadays. I can't get myself inspired on things I HAVE to write, like Treasure 12 or the ItaShi exchange piece, which are thus far both so idiotic I shock myself. Some of these are recycled from AU oneshots I've scrapped: "Vines", "Echo", "Smile", "Rules", "Prodigy", etc. A lot are of the "Encounter" universe. I also have, uh, a sketch for "Green".

Warnings: OOC, shameless frilliness, oft-repeated themes.

Disclaimer: I forget where I got these prompts. I'm assuming LJ, but I changed some. Naruto is Kishimoto's. And I quoted Neruda ("Happiness") and a song ("Wings").

Fifty Things

Fifty unrelated stories/drabbles to FEED the ItaHina fandom. Yes, FIFTY.

100 words apiece. Exactly.

(World: Canon AU)

1 Library

It is through dust motes and shelves of yellowing paper that she sees him first. He is deathly still apart from his eyes, spinning pinwheels as they pour over jutsu scrolls and soak up their secrets. Her tongue hesitates on a greeting – he's clearly busy – so she simply stares. Brilliance slides off him in waves, pools on the polished floor and rolls outward like warm globs of light. Something catches in Hinata's throat in a sharp, giddy way – probably a heart skipping upwards – and, for a moment, it's not gravity tethering her to the earth, but the sight of him.

2 Bells
(World: Canon AU)

The ringing bells send a flurry of pigeons rising above the rooftops, for a moment speckling the vivid sky with white beating wings and ivory ribbons. The new-and-only Mrs. Uchiha Itachi watches in unrestrained delight, fingers loosely entwined with her husband's, elegant white dress spilling over the temple grounds. It is not the most romantic gesture – nothing like roses or chocolates or candlelit dinners, but he's never had the stomach for those – but Itachi rather likes the crisp symbolism of birds in free flight for their marriage. He thinks of the branch seal, of oppressive clan structures, and of change.

3 Space
(World: Canon-compliant, maybe)

She stares too long at the empty space at the end of the table that beautiful sun-bright summer, surrounded by birdcalls, damp grass and wildflowers. But her nine-year-old heart pumps too loudly, her skin too clammy, and somewhere her soul is getting crushed with the heady realization that she will never walk here again, never hand-in-hand with Itachi. Itachi, who always leaned down a little because he towered over her, who had always been so kind – a keening sound crawls her way out of her throat as she fumbles to recreate a memory uncorrupted by a bleeding katana and betrayal.

4 Vines
(World: Twenties-Mafia AU)

Shafts of the Tuscan sun spill across the open fields of grapes, illuminating the smoky paths, tangling around the starling purple of the grapes on the vines, weaving shards of itself into the blue-black of her hair. Amazing, says the open-mouthed expression she wears. Two steps behind, the heir to the Uchiha Family treads expensive loafers into the reddish-clay, regarding curiously the Hyuuga hitman they sent over from New York. There was clearly some miscommunication – the Uchiha had expected a first-class sniper to aid their war, a merciless, death-dealing gunslinger, not this… pretty thing.

Turns out, no miscommunication had occurred.

5 Echo
(World: Witch AU)

Witch, witch, witch, the echoes run.

The vicious, faceless crowd prepares the stake and wood and firestones even before she was sentenced. Itachi watches them in their fevered frenzy, like slobbering coils commanded by a depraved machine, working to kill the white-eyed girl exiled to the woods, who protected their homes, healed their sick and returned their lost objects untainted – the witch he'd been summoned by the ruling Hyuuga to hunt, the woman who'd shown him – rather than the debasement of demons – the inexhaustible goodness of the human spirit.

Witch, witch, witch, the echoes run, and something in him despairs.

6 Smile
(World: Contemporary AU)

I'll find your smile, she says gently.

Something in the frail quality of it, in the crystalline determination of her eyes, cuts through the fog of overwhelming grief he'd been slogging through since Sasuke's – Sasuke, whom he loved above all things – death. He realizes Hinata doesn't mean it as repayment, not for having received Sasuke's heart, because that would be awfully presumptuous of her and he'd sooner grab Shisui and leave if she even implied such – but there's an earnest light in her face, making the stark paleness recede, something more than gratitude. His chest feels a little less tight.

7 Rules
(World:Affair AU)

He first notices her because she is Japanese. She's taking panoramic shots of the pyramids, kneeling, sand sticks like red rust on her white shorts. Itachi remembers he's in Egypt on forced vacation, to soak up the ancient glory, expand his culture repertoire, not to acquaint himself in the way that usually leads to a summer affair, beckoned by the cool, starry nights and spicy airs, beautiful hotel room architecture and ancient glories. He had rules on that. But she's terribly pretty, she's been sneaking glances at him for a while, so he's ready to break rules on this one.

8 Prodigy
(World: Canon Super AU)

"I don't think Hanabi even knows your face," says Itachi one night, shadows from the firelight dancing over his features.

"It is a small price to pay," Hinata merely shrugs, a shrimp in the imposing ANBU armor, delicate-boned hands fluttering over gilded metals and a chipped porcelain mask, but he sees her face, troubled, sad.

He recalls a starless night on the road to home after another ANBU operation when the veritable prodigy princess of the Main House flipped down from a tree-branch, and pleaded for a greater chance to die, to keep Hanabi's forehead unmarked a little while longer.

9 Cocoon
(World: Canon AU)

By the time Iwagakure launches the third volley of shots, Konoha is less a village and more a graveyard of splintered homes and splintered men. Survivors remain cocooned in shelters built deep into the earth and high above the trees, stunned, broken and angry like the razor edges of broken crystal. In the foggy mornings, Hinata reports to him – always numbers, great hoards of numbers – entire body split along lines of pain and confusion he aches to mend but can't.

The essential difference between the two of them is this: she is of a generation that had never known war.

10 Love
(World: Canon AU)

When you're young – like at fifteen, and meet him for the first time – love descends like a punch in the gut, like drowning in dark pondwater grasping at lines of light above and the silhouettes of waterlilies, like burning in empyreal fires being razed to the bone.

When you've lived long enough to be dying – like at thirty, and have lived half your life in his existence – love acts as the balm which cools the flaring sting of watching the white-death slowly leech him away, that which allows her to let him go, and keep him at the same time.

11 Question
(World: Canon AU)

"Why not Madara?" Hinata ladles the question to the table at large, as guiltlessly as she ladles out another picturesque dish she made in her suddenly vacant hours. Hands made for stabbing chakra scoops soup just as deftly, smelling lightly of the clean scent of herbs homegrown in the back garden. Itachi's wife is at home among these domestic things as she is on the battlefield. "It's a wonderful name… and appropriate as well. He is your ancestor. I know he'd been disgraced, but he did help in the founding of the village – please stop gawking, Itachi – you too, Shisui-kun."

12 Snow
(World: Fairytale AU)

In this once-upon-a-time, Snow White isn't unusually white, except in the eyes, and was often beet-red in fact. She had no problems with stepmothers, her father being the way he is, and she had problems with him instead. She still loved animals, especially foxes. In this once-upon-a-time, the prince didn't wait until his princess was in the stasis of half-death to come to her. Instead, he came bringing apples borrowed from the witch's tree to sessions where he corrected her stance, made seven dwarfed clones for her to spar against, and told her she was the fairest in the land.

13 Rain
(World: Science AU)

The rain beats in synchrony of the hum of the centrifuge, where cells are cradled into pellets in a bath of RPMI 1640 and dimethylsulfoxide. The media in the tube turns a lovely purple-pink color, an equally lovely pH – resembling the Saintpaullia ionantha. Those grew outside the conference building when she'd first grasped the concept of event horizon when she'd gravitated to the pull of his genius, a force greater than atomic energy, perhaps, as his voice more than his words sang out to the thing in her that wasn't made of quarks or charges, but something purer than that.

14 Rumor
(World: Circus AU)

There are rumors the circus is in town. There are whispers about the smashing girl on the flying trapeze, the one with the captivating eyes, they say she's in love with a townie, that handsome one from up the hill. There are murmurs he stole her from the highwire one night, and snuck her out through the elephant cages and house of mirrors and kissed her above the starlit sea, told her he loved her.

Gossip is spotlight brighter than most, blinding proportions, and people don't notice she's already slipped out with him between the popcorn, the peanuts, and masks.

15 Magic
(World: Contemporary AU)

The best magician of the decade is the slim, dark-haired young man called the Illusionist. And Hinata had adored him, that porcelain-masked phantom in a tophat, before he suddenly vanished in a flash of a cape, off the stages and seemingly off the earth. Years later, she sits at Illusionist's shrine and recalls the glitter-and-champagne-filled nights of her childhood, taffeta dresses and Mary-Janes, and performances larger than life. Her fiancée listens attentively – mouth curling slightly at corners – and remarks how funny she'd never mentioned this before. He turns an elegant wrist, and doves are exploding into the air above her.

16 Earth
(World: Canon-compliant, maybe)

When she is eight, the earth is ripped out from under her by a branch-member who'd been licensed to the ANBU. Massacre, he grits through his teeth, eyes unbelieving. Itachi, he continues, and her world shatters like a glass castle dropped from too great a height. Hinata gathers the pieces and holds on to their painful shards.

A decade, and Hinata stands in the way of Sasuke's march to Konoha.

Hate-crimson eyes accuse: you wouldn't understand.

The land trembles with rage, his and hers, dissolving out of its patterns, and she shouts, flinging those shards: I knew him too, Sasuke!

17 Red
(World: Anastasia AU)

The sun comes up red morning of the revolution – an appropriate color – it soothes the frost spidering across the palace grounds – some areas, trickles of melted snow runs pink. From a vantage point, past dirty panes of glass, Itachi watches the bodies hauled into army trucks, the looting of dead people's jewelry, the debauched victory. An entire family dead – it was almost enough to move him to tears, if not for the thin possibility of one princess surviving, somewhere in the unforgiving tundra of communism. He remembers the benediction of a royal smile, essentially unearned, and vows to find her.

18 Sleep
(World: Fairytale AU)

Some nights she is offered a reprieve from sleeping, and she spends it atop rooftop watching at ghostly half-moon travelling the star-studded sky. A hundred years of slumber, a century in stasis, waiting for a savior in someone she knew once upon a dream, how terribly romantic. In reality, it's a genjutsu of a most horrible nature, cast through the prick of a senbon needle, and virtually indestructible. Unless, probably, someone really tries. Some nights, the full moon takes on a shape of an unusual Sharingan eye and, in Uchiha Madara's voice, reminds her that Itachi is working on it.

19 Happiness
(World: Canon AU)

Laugh at the night, at the day, at the moon, laugh at the twisted streets of the island, laugh at this clumsy boy who loves you, quoted Itachi, one misty morning at the banks of Kirigakure as they stressed over diplomatic agendas. And Hinata did laugh, silver bells in her throat, pleasing Itachi to no end for taking it so literally. Because, when you're young and life's a golden path, happiness was an ANBU captain who was known to everyone in the four living generations as one of the high bars for sheer competence in shinobi society calling himself clumsy.

20 Hope
(World: World War AU)

Hope tangles audaciously in her chest like cobwebs cast along her ribs, stalwartly woven into complex starburst patterns too fragile to touch. It is a painful, foreign thing in the face of an earth choked with graves and a sky permeated by the crying of hysterical children. Hope refused to be plucked by the cold hand of war, whether in increments (bravery) or at once (happiness). There's fire in it, and purpose. And she keeps it close to her heart even as warplanes soar over the city – death flying overhead – as she waits for her soldier to march on home.

21 Hair

(World: Fairytale AU)

Hokage Tower is a tall peak of stone reaching for the sky, the type dragons risk to be slain for, with no doors and no stairs. It holds a girl, who submits to the Godaime-witch for her clan's insidious demand for better roughage (lettuce) in their issue-lunchpacks. Five hours – the introductions unfinished – sudden lockdown forces everyone to remain seated with the scum they abhor. Clever ideas aside, they scale down the high walls upon the chakra-enhanced-hair of Godaime's wigs, which breaks at the seventh braid, sending them all crashing. The girl fortunately lands somewhere nice, sexy and Uchiha.

The End.

22 Train
(World: Contemporary AU)

She sees him as she boards the train. He wears the crisp black suit like he was born in it, his tie red like blood bloomed across the stitchery, his hair and lapels flying with the autumn wind. Their eyes meet – for a second – the world falls away and they stand together on an endless void, eyes locked like hands clasped together. There is a vague apology in his. Something electric like recognition shudders through her, she breaks first, the train pulls away and he is already gone.

The next day, the gangland assassination of Uchiha Shisui makes national headlines.

23 First
(World: Canon compliant, maybe)

They said the first love is the most powerful, and Hinata didn't believe it, not until she sees the star of all her childhood fantasies and adolescent nightmares, lying in a swathe of his own blood, chin tilted up to heaven, cold, and gone. And there, love rears its raw-red and ugly head, raises accusing eyes, breaks her along the fault lines she thought had mended. They said the first death is the most terrible, and it's not – it was a flat, grey illusory mission that had gone without a hitch, worth only two days' nightmares – not compared to this.

24 Chips
(World: Las Vegas AU)

The chips fall on the table with clean, delineated sounds: chink, chink, chink. It breaks through the steady roar of confident voices, the high trills of slot machines, the gushing of wine bottles pried open. A number, and he's lost a grand.

It is unfair, Itachi muses as he sips sunshine-colored champagne, that some seventeen floors above, his bestfriend and girlfriend are making off with the heist of the decade, while he does the collaterals. But, then again, next month was Paris, the thieves' paradise, and he's contented.

Life's an intriguing game, after all, and he's been dealt his hand.

25 History
(World: Canon AU)

It is raining, and Hinata is marked with the caged bird, and the hand on her forehead is cold, old and shivering. Hinata is eight, and the sealing is over, and history has voted in favor of the strong. A cloying mist in the afternoon, and it seeps into the gauze. There are puddles blooming in the street, and the bandage obscures her vision, and Itachi catches her on his way.

But the hand at her shoulder crumples like dust in a desert wind, when he notices, when he realizes…

Itachi is thirteen, and he ponders the nature of families.

26 Enchantment
(World: Vampire AU – oh no you didn't)

He is pale, beautiful enchantment in ivory skin, black-winged capes, carved diamond edges, a study of light and dark and exotic slashes of lines. He is never too real, always weaving with the graveyard mist, never as real as he was in the open sunshine when he proposed her forever and didn't mean it so literally. But even after years upon years under the curse of blood screaming for blood, dedication is what she doesn't waver from, even as the open maw of a silken crypt waits for him with the tangerine sunrise, and he leaves her at another dawn.

27 Sky
(World: Pirate AU)

The endless expanse of sky, vibrant and colorful as an artist's palette, rose high far, far above them. Wood as sturdy as any under her palms, the magnificent roar of seawater, dripping sunshine, warms hands over her own, a voice in her ear – and this, this is how you steer a ship properly – this is the moment Hinata remembers the most, a few seconds where she wasn't the insane kidnapped idiot and he wasn't the resident notorious badass, a crystalline understanding that is encountered but once in a lifetime, and a shared happiness in the thrill of capturing new horizons.

28 Gold
(World: Hercules-like AU)

The gateposts, she notices, are made of gold, gold-woven chakra like nothing she's ever seen in her lifetime. The architecture, a fractured sort-of-Greek crisscrossed with more modern things – electrical wire, chrome-plated metals, lights of a city – Amegakure, the veritable Olympus hidden by the silver sheath of rain, closed to outsiders. But Itachi is welcome here, for he has a rightful place among gods, and she will not begrudge him that. She quietly turns away, footsteps without sound on the white marble, a strange need to cry in her throat – until Itachi announces he's already found his place, it's with her.

29 Green
(World: Contemporary AU)

Waves, sea-green and frothy, break along a Pacific shoreline that seems to go on to forever. The sand is warm and powdery under her bare feet, white as her dress fringed with eyelet lace, sparkling under the watery sunshine. Hinata imagines the hectic era of business and politics at home an ocean away, the rocks on which their ideals are forced to take root, to grow, or to wither. Then she forgets those bloody battles, because today is different. She trips over a sandcastle, Itachi runs a hand through wave-washed hair, Shisui fiddles with his phone, and life is perfect.

30 Paint
(World: Contemporary AU)

The house still smells like paint when they move in, like curtains freshly torn from their wrappings, floor polish. This scent she will always associate with uncertain hope. Arranged marriage – built as two sets of parents like architects built silver castles in the sky – has been better than she'd hoped. It is white-picket-fence perfect, utterly without the messy smolders of contempt. Her husband appears in the doorway – he fits there, yes – the shocking black hair, the sculpted cheeks –things to also get used to. He remarks on the solid foundation, and she thinks it's not the house he's talking about.

31 Pure
(World: Police AU)

Pure crack costs an arm and a leg, an entire future, one heart, sometimes two. When Hinata carries twenty-seven confiscated grams back to headquarters, she tries to forget the price, the bone-thin hands that paid it, the lilac bitterness bubbling along the grooves of her mouth. Uchiha Itachi, the genius from Homicide, sees the snow – it looks obscenely harmless, white frost on the table – and, almost sympathetically, pats her on the back. He says nothing, no forget-it's or you'll-get-used-to-it's, only resolution, a don't-back-down. It's the greatest tragedy in the world, and she must fight it every step of the way.

32 Sister
(World: Canon AU)

Hanabi's sister sits in her old room in the Hyuuga compound, what's left of it: calligraphy charts, dust-ridged ribbons, dried sticks of flowers. Hanabi stands by, not too close, because her relationship with Hinata is predominantly built on a childhood gilded with marble stolidity and half-hurt smiles. Besides, words of comfort have already been dragged out of her in the first months of war, given to total strangers, there is nothing left but a few senseless dribbles for her sister, the girl left behind by the legend.

Hanabi does not know it, but Hinata considers her presence more than enough.

33 Assistance
(World: Rebellion AU)

Three-hundred rounds of ammunition, a truckload of gasoline, the truck itself – assistance comees in many forms, his is always cloaked – daddy longlegs, they call him, the unknown benefactor. Some nights, there are two trucks, and the other is always – medical supplies, food and camo, government papers more useful than anything else – a different source, a different treachery on the inside.

On TV, a minister vows to weed out any traitors: bullet-hail in a back alley, heirs falling in the brackish mudwater, and the trucks stop coming. Betrayal also comes in many forms, but all accounts are settled the same way.

34 Proof
(World: Canon AU)

In the dead of the night, Hinata cold-bloodedly killed servitude. She dashed its own forehead against the rocks and let it bleed against the ground. In the morning, she buried the body in the incinerated earth of obsolete, bleached-bone traditions. In the twilight, walking the lavender shores, she went to meet the conspirator, handed back the finger-frayed scroll with sky-steep gratitude.

The last proof left, Itachi said, fingering the lithe sketch of the counter-seal, seeing his and Shisui's edits here and there, then he rends the criminal evidence to pieces and tosses them into the void of the Nakano River.

35 Shadow
(World: Peter Pan AU)

When he comes back for his wayward shadow (clone), she's ready to fly off the window ledge after him, because he's the permanent fixture of her childhood, he and that... fairy… of pixie-dust curls. He lets her follow, all the way to his secluded Kiri island base where they met cannon-birds and mermaids (sharkmen) in the lagoon, and the lost (missing) boys. She asks him all the questions – why, why did you do that and why didn't you take me with you – and he answers that she's his (Wendy) Hinata, and she deserves all the things his Neverland cannot grant.

36 Quiet
(World: Canon-compliant, maybe)

When Hinata is seven, she and Itachi sits at the bank of a slow river, a quiet unusual duo, conversations run like the water, a delicate woven flow of voice and silence. He tells her about the Yondaime Hokage – Hinata's never met him, because he'd commended his soul to Kyuubi, and she was born in the winter aftermath – with his words, the face on the mountain bursts to life in her imagination, a figure of distilled sky and sunshine, a protective spray of wings over Konoha, deep cuts of laughter. Hinata yearns to see him someday.

Someday she'll meet Naruto.

37 Chance
(World: Canon AU)

He's dying in a small, well-lit room in an out-of-the-way inn six miles and seven feet north of Sasuke. He dies, lying in an unfamiliar bed, dying of a wound meant for her, chakra spent, lungs dissolving away. She sits on a bright-yellow stool at his side, not quite knowing what's happening, but tears form tracks down her face anyway, because the world's unfair and he's dying a lesser death than he deserves.

Itachi thinks otherwise. I'll take a chance, take a fall, take a shot for you. You wouldn't understand, but I think it's a good way to go.

38 Leaves
(World: Canon AU)

Trees like monoliths. Crystal falls of light. Breezes like leaves and woodsap cast upon the air. His ever-beloved Konoha has not changed too much. Leaves rustling, twigs snapping, footsteps too heavy for shinobi. He melds into the shadows like glass in crystalline water, and they emerge – Sasuke's age, loud and proud – Hyuuga Hinata, hmm? You're far out, man, far out. Too rich, too gorgeous, too – and Itachi doesn't care to follow their ramblings any more than that. He almost smiles at an outcrop of memory – tiny clenched fists and an utterly heart-stealing face – yes, Konoha hasn't changed much at all.

39 Head
(World: Canon AU)

When Hyuuga Neji is deemed the new Head of the Hyuuga, Hinata visits for the first time since the marriage her father engineered as his last act of political maneuvering. They sit across each other, gossamer threads of a shared history strung in the space between them, the air smells of green tea and tradition.

This is unexpected, Hinata–

Hinata raises a hand, almost in alarm. The ring on her finger is small, distinctly Uchiha, and it catches in the light, a brief explosion of sparkles. In that blinding aria, he sees a smile. The sama dies on his lips.

40 Truth
(World: Canon-compliant)

When news of the jounins' encounter with Akatsuki flares across Konoha, there is general bristling, because Uchiha Itachi, they had loved him, worshipped him, and now he was an ugly rent upon the village's sterling history.

He killed his entire clan, world-breaking awful man, a dickhead for daring to return.

He's a missing-nin, Hinata tells herself, pondering on the porch steps.

He admits it. Her fingers trace stick figures in the dirt – one, two, three. The conjoined hands are familiar.

He killed Shisui. It's the painful truth, written in riverwater and a kaleidoscope eye, everyone says so.

She doubts anyway.

41 Travel
(World: Time Travel AU and she did it, ohmaigahd)

Time travel, like riding a frictionless spiral, was dangerous for anyone without her level of chakra control, honed by years upon years of senseless war, instantaneous shifts from chakra blade to scalpel, battlefield to injured-tent. One destination, like one frame in an endless reel, one chance to get it right.

Hinata calculates it perfectly.

She catches Itachi before he falls. Sasuke, too close to dying, does not notice. Jutsu of the future is fearlessly advanced, and even Madara does not notice the body is fake. Medical ninjutsu, even better.

When Itachi wakes, Hinata breathes in hope of averting Sasuke's war.

42 Wings
(World: Ghost AU)

And if dreams were wings, I would have flown to you.

She dreams, it's always of distance: roads leading to nowhere, stairways to the sky, tunnels, centuries. The ghost says it's unnatural, like he'd know.

The ghost carries airs and firestreams of the old, magnificent centuries. He walks with her – always solemn, subtly kind – sometimes there is regret, only sometimes, because he'd gotten to meet her, he says.

She thinks he's causing the dreams because, because she longs to see him alive, heartbeat, pulse and solid flesh, a breeze when he moves, warmth where he touches. Then she remembers, centuries.

43 Face
(World: Canon AU)

The way his eyebrows angle downwards, the unforgiving line of mouth, the stems of dark hair against cheekbone – her husband looks precisely the same, but Itachi's face is different today.

He sits at the table, reviewing ANBU files. He's wearing the silly-shirt they bought in Suna, and dinner is cooking away as always, but Itachi's face is different today.

"I've heard," he draws the words out carefully, "you almost died today."

As shinobi, every day dawns with the chance of dying. They know it, and accept it, and it's happened many times over, but Itachi's face is still different today.

44 Friends
(World: Canon AU)

The clans become friends one fateful night when a troop of Uchiha guardsmen intercepts the Kumogakure kidnapper, running with two Hyuuga eyes and god-swept victory. The guardsmen and their trussed-up catch returns to a hero's welcome in a compound illuminated by floodlights, indignation and reluctant gratitude.

Years later, a coup d'état, oiled by two bloodlines and old money, triumphs with phoenix wings over the present Konoha government. The delicate balance of power, thrown to chaos. In the middle of the night, heirs, figureheads both, walk hand-in-hand through streets cold and barren as ice-fields.

One day we'll fix it, Itachi promises.

45 Reflection
(World: Ragnarok – the MMORPG – AU)

Upon reflection, he's the one who should be the assassin, grown in the hot, endless sands, raised in the art of poison and imbibed with two-handed dexterity. His build, the swift dark looks, the shocking agility. She should've been the priestess, should've had sacrosanct words trumpeted into her soul and trained in the hallowed green fields of the capital city. But instead, she's the one at the frontlines, landing all the dagger-sharp, toxin-tipped blows, while he casts all the enchantments of support. There is an amusing turn of role-reversal somewhere, mutually acknowledged, joked about, but the partnership remains perfect anyway.

46 Falling
(World: Freedom Fighter AU)

Heroes, like Itachi, don't die on pedestals, they die in staccato bursts of gunfire, their lofty ideals scattered to the wind as old stardust and dead possibilities. Most people know this, if unconsciously, and say – falling is safer, really – because to fly is to soar to limitless heights, farther than the sky and farther than the stars, a wild burning careen, too easy to snuff. Hinata has watched a hero all her life, lived with him, loved him, had known crystalline joy and sharp-shattered despair, pitch-dark alleys, self-starvation, scum-of-the-earth and riotous crowds. Falling is safer, yet she keeps on dreaming.

47 Morning
(World: Canon AU)

Mornings come as fresh as crisp, green apples. Light drizzling rain paints the windows, there is hot coffee on the table, fruit; most days, Itachi's out the door before the coffee brews, but sometimes, when she peters into the kitchen, he is there, standing at the windows, shirtless and in pajama bottoms, forehead pressed to the cool glass, just looking over Konoha.

Love comes in many forms: the gracefully-prepared breakfast on the table, the tender undercurrent in his voice – hey, come over here, see what I see – his banner of protection over Konoha. Mornings such as these, she's grateful for.

48 Lost
(World: Contemporary AU)

They lost her baggage, somewhere out in the continents, and she walks away from the airport with only a backpack to speak of, no matter, as she told Itachi on the phone – I'm here, and I'll see you both when I get there. Through taxi windows, she sees the city skyline, a parade of lights set against the twilight sky, tall spires and girders, and thinks this, this is America and it's her entire future written on the material earth, corridors of opportunity so vast and there, there, it exists for the taking that it makes her want to weep.

49 Last
(World: Canon-compliant, maybe)

The last things Itachi gives her are Suna-seeds, in a sackcloth packet tied by a turquoise ribbon, the best of medicinal herbs, and her gratitude is in the last hug she gives him. His last words tell her to grow up well, and he says it with something akin to regret.

The last time she sees Itachi, and he's arguing with Shisui, his words are cool-controlled and yet it is more heated than anything she's ever heard, and feels like a star burst over her skin, pouring its prickly, electricity over her.

The last time she loves Itachi, doesn't exist.


My contribution to the fandom. It was supposed to go to fifty, but I… don't like that number.

Review! (Expansion to 500-words, or more, is a possibility. But I'm ditching the flowery language.)