I know it's been such a long time since my last update! Sorryyyyy! I've been super busy with school (and will only get busier). So when a little fic jumped into my head, I forced myself to finish writing it, even though I really should have been asleep over an hour ago...whatever XD. Hopefully this'll tide you guys over until later when I can pick up Hiwaya, Belonging, To Myself, Imperial, and the Shatter series...and all those oneshots...and...gah. Yes uh...so, enjoy!
Disclaimer: As always, I do not own Naruto, nor am I deriving any sort of profit (monetary) off of this series. Reviews are emotional profit, but I doubt that has any bearing legally...
Chapter 1: Fortuitous
The chant burning in her ears, the rose-headed little girl flung herself over the low wall that divided the practice yard from the forests skirting the village, heedless to pain as tall grass sliced her bare legs open when she sprinted away. The mocking laughter of the other children followed her like an unwanted ghost as she made her getaway. Tears streamed down her childishly round cheeks as a sob forced its way past her lips, she was beyond caring though. All she wanted was distance between herself and her tormentors.
Blinded by her tears, she didn't see the kunai pouch until after the ground came up to give her a hard kiss, knocking the breath from her lungs and rattling her brain so that she just lay there dazed as she gasped for air.
Dry grass scratched her cheek as her small fingers clenched the dirt and her breaths shuddered and coughed and mewled in pain. Her tear-glazed eyes focused uncomprehendingly on the kunai pouch that had caused her to hurl headlong into the ground.
It wasn't until a pair of dark, regulation boots appeared in her line of vision that she realized she had intruded on someone's training. Lifting her glass-green eyes to the owner of said boots, the full weight of her actions crashed down on her; the obsidian gaze that stared back was utterly familiar to her, even though she didn't know the preteen personally.
That pale, taciturn demeanor and the dark, shuttered eyes that seemed to see everything and reveal nothing; whoever he was, she knew he was Uchiha, clan of clans among the Konoha shinobi.
The little girl clamped her lips shut to hold in sobs, swallowing a hiccup and turning her already red face completely crimson with her efforts. She aspired to be a kunoichi one day, and being seen in front of one of the qualified, hitai-ate wearing, members of a high-ranking ninja clan while she cried was more shame than her little heart could have withstood. So she forced herself not to make a noise as she mastered her emotions and surreptitiously tried to scrub the salt from her cheeks.
For his part, the older boy seemed unconcerned, sparing her hardly a second glance as he retrieved his kunai pouch, checked to make sure nothing in it was damaged, and returned to his target practice.
The girl, sitting up gingerly to ease the pain on her aching ribs, watched in awe as he sent kunai after kunai into the trunk of a dead tree that was already pitted with many welts from previous sessions. When he sauntered to the tree to retrieve his kunai, with surprising grace for a boy who could have only been eleven or twelve at the most and in that period where most would have still had lingering traces of awkward puppyish-ness in their actions, to tug the deeply embedded blades from the wood, it was like a spell being broken. The rose-head shook herself mentally and carefully, quietly, attempted to slink away. She knew that, while the boy would probably notice her departure, he probably wouldn't care to stop her.
She was wrong.
Before she could take two steps, a sharpened kunai whistled through the air and thunked into the tree beside her.
But when she turned to glance at the boy, he was calmly putting his kunai away and flicking shuriken through his fingers instead. Puzzled, and her childish curiosity piqued, she took another step forward.
And again, a shinobi weapon, this time a shuriken, thunked into the tree at her side. A clear warning.
So she wouldn't be allowed to leave unless she wanted to get hurt. But he wouldn't hurt her if she stayed. A small frown wrinkled between her young brows. Why was he doing this?
A question bubbled to her lips as she swiped a hand across eyes that were done streaming now that something else had caught her attention. 'What do you want? Why are you doing this? Why aren't you letting me leave? Why, why, why?' As if feeling her strangely intense gaze, the dark-haired turned with a sharp eyes.
A small nose wrinkled in surprise at the curt order, in a tone she would have bridled at from anyone save her parents.
Surprise widened her eyes. A true shinobi, a real ninja of Konoha, was letting her, a little six-year-old girl, to watch as he practiced. Giving her permission, flat out ordering her to do it.
In all the time she had been yearning to become a shinobi herself, she had only been able to watch the older boys and girls practicing when she could get away from her parents and other children at school. And even then, she'd had to be careful not to be obvious, or give them any reason to chase her away. They had never let her just watch in plain sight, or instructed her to do so.
So she crept closer with care as she kept her eyes trained on the boy, noting the curve of his fingers as he went through drill after drill with sharp precision born of long practice. It wasn't until after he'd started running through his drills a second time that she noticed him performing them more slowly, the gestures a little more exaggerated. Realization flared in the pit of her stomach; he was showing her the moves needed for her to perform the drill herself. She didn't have any shuriken of her own, and wouldn't for years to come if her parents had any say in her purchases, but the movement of fingers and snap of the wrist was something she could mimic.
Her small, chubby digits imitated the older boy's clean lines, forming gestures that had none of his practiced ease, but all of a child's unthinking determination.
From the very corner of his eye, the boy watched, noting where she went awry and where she did well.
This was unusual for him; he wasn't the type to offer help – how many times had he put his younger brother, who was the same age as this pink-haired little thing if he was any judge, off when Sasuke begged him for training – but somehow he'd felt…compelled.
Maybe it had been his unusually light mood. He'd been promoted from genin to chuunin not too long ago, and today his father had looked at him with approval during the early morning spars that all young Uchiha shinobi participated in when home at the compound. Maybe it was the mission scroll inside his kunai pouch, the one that held details for his first B-ranked mission, to act as an escort. He had always enjoyed guard missions over the ones that required him to play on the offensive. Maybe it was just the prospect of onigiri for dinner, which his mother had promised him that morning.
For whatever reason, he found himself pausing in his routine and, before giving himself a chance to analyze the reasons behind his actions, strode to the girl at the other side of the clearing.
It was obvious that whatever had put the tear marks on her face made her wary; her face seemed unused to the suspicion and fear that chased each other across rounded features that would someday grow into the sharpness that adulthood brought. But she showed surprising courage as she stood her ground, watching him approach, though she dropped her hands to clasp them behind her back as soon as she noticed his intent.
He thrust a hand under her nose, demonstrating the correct grip using a real, sharp shuriken, and then fixed her fingers when she mimicked him and curled her fingers in the double-knuckled pose he'd used.
"It feels strange," she muttered trying to force her hands into the right shape. As a six-year-old, she didn't have the same control over herself as he did.
'And,' he thought somewhat belatedly, 'She doesn't have the same pre-training you got.'
Her words brought him back into the present, and he glanced down to find the girl's eyes darting from his face to the shuriken in his fingers with all the surreptitious longing that she couldn't hide.
His words obviously stung her; she drew back from him with a little jerk, as if the single syllable had become a needle that pricked her. The wrong reaction. He hadn't meant to hurt her feelings, only stop her from reaching for his shuriken. Sharp as they were, he didn't want her to take off a finger attempting to imitate him. Her movements were still too unpracticed to be handling actual weaponry just yet, though it was obvious by the way she watched his shuriken that her desire to be a shinobi would get her into weapons training at the Academy before too many years passed.
"I meant that you couldn't use these shuriken, not yet anyway," he said by way of explanation, a first; when did Uchiha ever explain themselves to anyone else who wasn't Uchiha? "But…"
The girl's ivy-hued eyes snapped from the sharp shards of metal in his hands to his face at the contemplative tone in his voice. She was surprised when his eyes flickered from her to the sky, and then back.
"It's getting late," he informed her, jolting her with the sudden change of topic that made her feel as if a door was being shut in her face. "I have a clan meeting I must attend, and perhaps your parents will be looking for you."
So he wanted to get rid of her.
Feeling upset by the sudden change in the older boy's demeanor, she tried not to let her emotions show as she took a step back and nodded. She shouldn't have expected the short time of watching and learning shuriken throwing to last; she was six, after all, and this boy was a full-fledged ninja. He probably had plenty of better things to do than indulge the desires of a little girl.
That didn't mean his sudden air of dismissal didn't hurt.
So it was with surprise that she met his even gaze when he followed up with, "Will you be able to come here tomorrow?"
She goggled, her tiny mind flooding with sudden pleasure at the possible prospect of another session of…whatever it was that had happened today. "Y-yes!"
"I have to leave on a mission, but be here tomorrow morning. I can give you shuriken you can practice with."
It wasn't until she was done gaping in awe when he suddenly disappeared from sight in a puff of smoke, a shinobi move she had only seen adults perform before, that she realized that she had no idea of his name. And he was already halfway home before he noticed that he had never asked her for hers.
But mystery and unknown names could hardly stop the little pinkette from spending the entire night practically squealing with glee every time she considered the possibility of practicing with actual shuriken; she had spent hours folding and refolding her hands into the proper shuriken hold until the stance felt comfortable, even as her fingers ached. She was tired by the time she made her way back to the clearing, having been unable to sleep for more than an hour at a time because she kept waking up to check her bedside clock to see how much longer she had to wait.
Her feet had wings as soon as her mother let her out to play the next morning, giving several people reason to wonder what had gotten into the short little rosy-haired girl that shot through the marketplace like a pink streak as she made a beeline for the forest grove, her heartbeat loud in her ears with nervous anticipation.
She was not disappointed.
There on the ground by the tree that was marred with two deep gashes, one from a kunai, the other from a shuriken – and how well she knew how they'd got there – was a small bag. With all the impatience of children her age, she fumbled with the knot and opened the bag, mindful that it could hold sharp shuriken.
Instead, there were a dozen disks of wood in three shades, four pale birch disks, four of amber cherry wood, and four of darker oak, each with a perfect hole at the center and weighted with lead cores distributed around the disk, birch being the lightest while oak the heaviest. Three grades of shuriken weights to train her hands to them, in smooth, worn wood that wouldn't cut her. She marveled at how pretty they were, though she couldn't have known the skillful craftsmanship that had gone into their making. On one side of each of them were kanji, spelling out a name.
She didn't actually know who he was, but, with lips moving as she sounded out the syllables he probably used to pronounce his name, she could guess that he was the one from yesterday. The one who had let her stay and watch him practice.
A little bubble of gratitude tickled her, a happy laugh falling from her lips as she fingered the gift with glee. The sandpapered wood felt sleek against her fingers, worn with the touch of another's hands before hers. Sending a birch practice-shuriken thudding against a nearby tree, she gave another laugh to the cool morning air.
"Thank you, Itachi-san!" she called, though she knew he probably couldn't hear her. "I never got to tell you my name, but I'm Sakura. Thank you for yesterday!"
High up in the tree canopy, Itachi watched as the girl set to imitating his drills from yesterday with cheery determination (and, admittedly, a sort of painful lack of grace that would hopefully be smoothed out with practice). He had skipped breakfast to get here early, taking instead a few of the onigiri his mother had made the night before as a morning meal before he had to muster up for the mission he had been given. Glancing down to catch the delighted grin on Sakura's little face below, he had to admit it had been rather worth the loss of a breakfast.
That distinct hair, the color of cherry blossoms just opened, curled in the wind, noticeable even at this distance.
With an uncharacteristic little smile, Itachi slipped out of the tree's comfortable fork where he'd been waiting for the last half hour and turned towards the village gate, headed for the meeting place his team used. Below, a six-year-old sent a cherry wood shuriken thudding against a dead tree in the clearing that had, until now, been a practice target for only one.
This isn't finished yet, though I was planning on turning it into a threeshot so it won't be long. This first, fortuitous meeting, will grow into something more in the next two chapters, which will take place when Sakura is ten and then possibly fifteen or seventeen. At the moment, there isn't romance unless you squint for it, but I'm marking it as romance for future chapters. Hopefully you guys enjoyed it ^^
Tsuzuku means "to be continued".
Your reviews fuel, and feed, the muse ^^