Itachi couldn't believe the depths of his father's betrayal to Konoha. He never would have imagined that he was in league with Orochimaru. He found it sickening and ironic at how many ties the Uchiha had made with Akatsuki even before he was forced into murdering his clan. The tainted Uchiha blood surely did run through his veins, didn't it? There were detailed plans arranged between the two and it appalled him to know how far his father was capable of going simply to bring down Konoha. Despite finding this new information, there was no relief in the knowledge that he took his father's life, along with so many other brethren. Their screams still haunted his dreams, their blood still remained stained on his hands. That look of pure shock in their freshly deceased eyes would always stay with him. Perhaps that was his punishment for what he had committed; to live on and remember every face and continue in the cycle of pain he caused.
Itachi rose from his seated position, still in the deserted office that was once his fathers. He found it no surprise now that Sarutobi-sama finally agreed to approve his mission that fateful night. If they hadn't been aware of Fugaku's careful plans, they were made aware once they took possession of everything in their estate.
He sensed his younger brother's return from "re-introductory teamwork training", and quickly pulled out yet another scroll that needed to be researched. Sasuke quickly made his way towards the office, knowing that his elder brother and clan leader would be there reading.
Itachi kept reading the newly opened rolled document and acknowledged his brother with, "Good afternoon Sasuke."
The younger Uchiha nodded and asked, "Find anything more?"
"Just a few obsolete educational guides. How was your team meeting?"
Sasuke scowled, "They think that everything can just go back to being the way it was before I left."
"Foolish," Itachi commented.
"Tell me about it," Sasuke said in a sarcastic voice, "but they act like nothing has changed. Everything is different."
Itachi finally glanced up and stared at his brother, sharingan activated, "I meant you, Sasuke. Tell me, when was the last time you trusted someone?"
"I trust you, brother, only you."
"Yet I am the one who has hurt you the most."
When would the day come when his older brother would stop blaming himself for everything that happened, "Stop dwelling on the past, that was not your fault Itachi, I know tha…"
"Regardless of how it happened, I am still the one that inflicted pain upon you. Naruto is the one who has always been there for you, through everything whether or not you realize it. Not everything has changed Sasuke."
Sasuke was silent a moment, thinking of what his brother was saying. It was true, Naruto never gave up on him, no matter what he did or how dark he became. Finally he sighed and picked up another scroll and started reading it. Then he smirked and experienced an unfamiliar feeling in his chest. He looked up to see his elder brother opening yet another scroll of his own and perused its contents. Sasuke simply watched him and realized what it was that he was feeling. Happiness. He was happy that he could be here with Itachi. He had spent his life thinking the worse, having his most precious person ripped away from him was torture. And now here Itachi was right in front of him, calling him out on his selfishness like a little child. He was happy because this is what family was. Sasuke knew that it wouldn't be possible if it hadn't been for Naruto intervening. He owed Naruto everything, but it would be a cold day in Tsukuyomi before he would admit it to the hyperactive blonde male.
"Hinata will be joining us for dinner tonight," Itachi again glanced at his brother, "she will provide our meal."
Sasuke raised a brow and fully looked at his brother's face, "I thought you didn't want a wife."
"I do not," he agreed, "I will; however, abide by the lady and the Hokage's wishes."
"Why waste time," Sasuke shrugged, "Just send her away." When Itachi did not answer Sasuke commented again, "At least we get a meal out of it."
Itachi nodded once and rose from the desk, "This concludes all of the family scrolls that Konoha absorbed. We will need to rewrite many as the information they provide is inaccurate."
Sasuke agreed, "Let's start on that later, come on let's train."
Hinata was a nervous wreck. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy cooking, but she had no idea what either Uchiha brother liked. It was written in her dna, she enjoyed pleasing others, so she wanted this evening's meal to be special. At the grocery store she picked up ingredients for dobin mushi soup with its hint of lime; and steamed rice on the side of beef teriyaki and vegetable tempura, and would make sweet-filled daifuku for dessert. It was a meal she was comfortable with and shouldn't take too much time if she prepared enough ahead of time.
She had given the prospect of their dinner a lot of thought the previous evening once she returned from her first outing with the newly established Uchiha clan head. Though he angered her, she realized that he was doing her a favor. Itachi had made it obvious that he considered her quest for temporary freedom selfish. In her heart, she knew that he was right. But she wanted this time, needed this time to prepare herself mentally. Her heart still needed to heal after accepting that Naruto was never going to look her way, she just wasn't good enough. With her years of pining after an unrequited love, and experiencing the highs and lows of war first hand, she was grateful for the time this "courting" allowed her.
A few hours later found her dressed in a plain white yukata with a dark gray obi wrapped neatly around her waist. She had packed her necessities into an old wicker basket and set out towards the dark, desolate Uchiha district. It wasn't hard to pinpoint the main house, as it was the largest building in the center of the dreary land. The path was quiet, too quiet, even though it seemed she could hear whispers of forgotten voices in her mind. Knowing that this district used be alive and thriving sent chills down her spine, as it reminded her of just whom she would be making this dinner for.
She was a fool, she realized. Who was she to think she could use this man for freedom?
"You are early," a smooth baritone voice said to her right.
Hinata glanced up, not at all surprised to find the new Lord Uchiha suddenly walking beside her. "I can come back later, I am sorry for…"
"There is no need for apologies," Itachi waved her off and allowed a small silence between them as they continued walking towards the main house. "I can appreciate punctuality." He would ignore the fact that he specifically told the girl that he would fetch her when he was ready. As long as she didn't keep him waiting there was no problem. Besides, he figured she would need additional time to prepare the meal.
She nodded once and the silence continued to stretch, "I um, well, I hope that you like beef," she asked with a small side glance upwards. She could see how tall he truly was now that she was side by side with him.
His eyes shifted down towards her face, looking directly into her opal-iridescent eyes, "I am sure that I will enjoy whatever you have to serve us."
She blushed and quickly looked away from his face. Once they arrived to his home, he led the way to the kitchen and left her to her preparation and cooking. Itachi then went into his private quarter and quickly showered, as he wanted to rid the sweat coating his body after an intense training session with his brother. He was hungry, so perhaps it was good that the little girl arrived as early as she had. Had he been another man, he might have been agreeable and taken advantage of this situation. The Hyuuga heiress was a beautiful, soft woman. She would be an easy conquest should he truly want her. She was weak and needed a strong spouse to support her. The future state of the Hyuuga clan had the potential for crumbling if her hand proved not firm enough.
Eventually he was seated at the head of the low table, sitting cross-legged on a comfortable, plush pillow and sipped his traditional greet matcha tea silently. A freshly showered Sasuke had already downed his first two cups and wiped the residue away with his hand. He must have been parched after two training sessions in one day; still though, he should have shown decent manners towards the girl.
Hinata's meal was actually quite good, Itachi enjoyed the refreshing lime soup especially. The beef teriyaki was cooked expertly and her presentation throughout the course was impeccable. So the girl did have some good qualities to her. Must be the product of her well-bred training.
As for herself, Hinata enjoyed her meal as well. Though they had mainly dined in silence, both Uchiha brothers ate everything that she placed in front of them, which satisfied her.
"Well Itachi," Sasuke said looking towards him, "If you marry her at least we will be in good health."
This caused Hinata to lightly blush. She was seated across from Sasuke on Itachi's left and tried to avoid his gaze.
"Sasuke is right," Itachi said speaking to her, "the meal was very good."
"Th-thank you," she said with a nod and poured more hot water in the cast-iron tea kettle to allow the powdered matcha to blend.
"You know," Sasuke eyed her, "I do remember you Hinata." He paused until she glanced at him and made eye contact before continuing, "My memory is solid and I usually don't forget a face. I remember that you were always the weakest one in class so I never paid much attention to you."
She felt the sudden sting to her pride, but in reality he was right. She swallowed and held her hands together in front of her on the wooden table, "Yes, it took a while before I came into my own; thanks to my sensei, teammates and comrades, I was able to grow into a true kunoichi."
Itachi felt the urge to smile, though he was annoyed at Sasuke's attempt to goad his guest. The way she handled Sasuke's direct method of intimidating her was smooth.
Sasuke simply shrugged, "Guess I didn't give any thought to the insignificant back then," he waited a few seconds and added, "apparently I still don't."
Hinata blinked and rose from her position. Quietly she refilled each of their cups yet again with the freshly brewed tea. Then she gathered each of their plates to take into the kitchen to wash them and re-gather her belongings into the basket. Before she left for the kitchen; however, she replied, "I believe that you do pay attention Uchiha-san. You are, after all, a shinobi of excellent caliber. Somehow I doubt that little passes your notice."
As she excused herself Itachi didn't even try to hide his smirk as he took in the angry yet intrigued look on his brother's face. They shared a glance and then Sasuke again quickly inhaled his hot cup of tea, stinging his cheeks a pale shade of pink in the process.
When Hinata returned Sasuke scowled at her. Not only did she come back after previously having the last word, but she returned with sweets. Ew.
Taking Sasuke's look into consideration, Hinata addressed him, "Does Uchiha-san not enjoy daifuku treats?"
He sarcastically responded back, "Uchiha-san doesn't do sweets. Period."
"Sasuke," Itachi said with a firm voice, "that is enough."
"Tch, whatever. I'll be in the study if you need me," he said pushing away from the table and plate filled with the sweet dessert she had set in front of him. The meal was good, but that was all she was supposed to be here for. He remembered her, oh yes, he knew her quite well. The shy stuttering failure of a genin who hopelessly followed Naruto around everywhere he went. What was she trying to accomplish by setting her sights on his brother? He just wanted people to leave them alone and be a real family for once in his life.
Itachi kept his gaze on Hinata, the girl only looked down towards her plate, her eyes had taken on sadness and rejection. He would not apologize for Sasuke, that was just how his little brother operated and she would have to become used to his ill-mannered ways if she was serious about considering marriage. He understood part of Sasuke's frustration. Sasuke viewed Hinata as yet another outsider trying to weasel a way into their family. Another fangirl was the last thing either brother wanted to deal with. But clearly she was not one of those people.
"Thank you, Lord Itachi, for allowing me into your home and kitchen. I will prepare my things and be on my way."
Itachi just looked at her for a few key seconds and after he finished eating his current piece of dessert he asked, "Why don't we go for a walk?"
She sent him an uneasy smile and nodded her agreement.
They walked on in silence, the skies growing darker and darker in color as clouds began to roll in. The path that Itachi led encircled the Uchiha district in its entirety. The majority of the walk was held in silence with just a few verbal sentences spoken here and there along the way. Once the air grew chilly enough, they concluded the easy walk and made their way back towards the main house.
Hinata quickly finished gathering her belongings and started to excuse herself.
"Hinata," Itachi caught her attention just before she could close the front door, "you may choose our next outing."
She hesitated and shifted the large basket in her hands, "Actually, Lord Itachi, I planned on telling my father that I was ready to accept a suitor of his choice."
Itachi merely looked at her, a little surprised at her sudden declaration. Here they had only met up twice and already she was coming around to her reality. He nodded and went to bid her a good evening, but she spoke up again.
"I am sorry for wasting your time, please excuse my impudence," she said with her head slightly bowed.
"There is nothing to excuse," he said smoothly, "the meal was delectable and the company pleasant."
She smiled bitterly to herself and again turned her eyes downcast, "I am glad you were able to enjoy it."
He nodded, "Would you care for me to escort you home?"
"Oh, you don't have to do that, but thank you for offering." And with that, Hinata turned her back towards him and started to make her way through the compound. She stopped and tensed her body when she felt a firm hand on her shoulder. Looking quickly over her shoulder she became caught up in blazing red eyes.
"What changed your mind?"
She began to breathe noticeably heavier, feeling vulnerable with Itachi's relentless gaze on her. "I uh," she fought through a stutter, "I, you were right. I am just being selfish. And I shouldn't use you like that, I apologi…"
"…You are not using me," he interrupted her. "I agreed to Lady Hokage and your terms."
Hinata's eyebrows clenched together as she was trying to think everything through. She was confused because it…it almost sounded like…like he was willing to see this thing through. But why? Why would he be agreeable to something like that? Didn't the newly instated Uchiha Lord have enough to contend with? She turned fully to face him, his hand dropping from her shoulder in the process. His touch was surprisingly warm, unconsciously she supposed he would be cold all over. This man, he was certainly an enigma. "I don't understand, Uchiha-sama, you mentioned that you had no interest in taking a…"
"I did say that I didn't want a wife and that still has not changed," he told her in his ever calm voice. "That does not mean that I would not take a wife, perhaps our time together can reveal something of worth."
Was he speaking in riddles? "I," she felt so tongue-tied, "will you meet me at the Memorial Stone in four days time? I have a mission and will not be back until then."
He nodded once, slowly, and walked away from her.
She stared after him thinking she had gone crazy and was imagining their previous conversation. Hinata had a sinking feeling that her suitor developed another agenda and was now in turn, using her for something he wanted. Maybe her father was correct in that using the Hyuuga was taking a step into Konoha elite society, but she got the notion that Itachi Uchiha wouldn't care about something like that. Then again, maybe he did, after all she barely knew him. He was a genius and the way he thought, she knew she could never comprehend. So maybe he was being truthful when he basically told her that he wanted to see if he was marriage material.
Either way, this was an odd date indeed.
A/N: Just wanted to say thx to everyone that's reviewed/favorited/etc. *LaClem*