CHAPTER ONE

15 Years Ago

When Itachi woke up, it was to darkness. His breathing raced and he desperately squeezed his eyes shut as if it would keep out the darkness in his mind. He forced himself to lie still, to breathe deeply. Within seconds he was calm again. It was another night where the nightmares got to him - where his mind pulled images of splattered blood and ninjas - men, women, children - all falling...and he blinked, trying to clear his head again. He tried to distract himself as he fell back to his bed.

So he thought about the warmth of a baby in his arms, the way his little brother prefered Itachi over his mother or father. The way the baby's eyes brightened when Itachi around. And closing his eyes, he finally found peace. But in the edge of his mind, he thought about his entry to the Academy tomorrow. Itachi could only sigh.

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"Hanako! Wake up!"

With a groan, the five year old Hanako Hyuga pushed herself up and took a deep breath, listening to the chirping outside noises. She felt like she had lied there for hours but the next instant her eyes flashed open and she was out of her room, running to the kitchen set of her home.

It was September, and the cherry blossoms' flowers drifted from the wind and casted a great carpet over the Hyuga Clan's household. Hanako and her father lived on the outskirts, a location that symbolized their distance from the Main branch of the family. As far as hierarchy went, Hanako and her father Hiraku Hyuga were at the lowest level. So low, that the kekkei genkai trait was so weak in Hiraku's daughter that it was non-existent.

An anomaly. Hanako Hyuga did not possess the byakugan.

The young girl was running, her pale blonde hair whipping behind her from the wind. Hanako's eyes – eyes so dark it melted with the pupil – were wild and excited. She was finally starting her first day at the Ninja Academy at the age of 5. Even without the Byakugan, it was without a doubt she had potential that was only encouraged by her jonin father's extensive training.

"Hanako, come on – you're going to be – oh. " Hiraku's pale eyes were wide with shock at his daughter's speed. He sighed and tousled her hair. While Hiraku had dark hair and light eyes, common traits of the Hyuga clan, Hanako was a spitting opposite image of he and his deceased wife. Sometimes, he wondered how Hanako was his daughter at all.

But looking down at the sweet smile, and the single dimple on his daughter's cheek, she looked so similar to her dead mother that Hiraku's heart ached.

Looking at Hanako now, she displayed no sign of trauma at the lost her mother. Nothing but the cries at night, and the dampness of her pillow every single morning hinted how badly the young girl missed her mother.

"Let's go, Hanako."

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"Irahime and Hanako Hyuga, middle row."

"Hmph." Irahime curtly looked away at Hanako with a faint look of disgust, and moved away from the blonde child. "We're not related," she reminded her sensei with an edge of bitterness in her tone. The teacher was distracted with studying the list but looked up anyway. He was momentarily confused when he looked at the two Hyugas – two completely opposite young girls. In fact, he thought, the other one doesn't even look like a Hyuga. Still…

"Just stand in formation, Irahime, we have to be ready for the ceremony. Hanako?"

He looked at the other girl, she was smaller than the rest of her class but the look in her eyes were century-old. If the sensei had thought that Irahime was bitter, it was nothing compared to the daggers that Hanako was shooting in the other direction. Even Hanako knew to not even dare to fight with another Hyuga member, not when her immediate family was on such a lesser scale.

Still, the anger in her eyes were ablaze.

She stiffly stood next to the other Hyuga girl, her eyes cold and staring indifferently in front of her as she waited for the opening ceremonies to begin. She didn't know how long she stood there, staring into nothingness until a name broke her out of it.

"Itachi Uchiha."

Hanako looked to the side, the voice breaking through her thoughts. Distractedly, she watched the dark haired boy walk to the line. Her eyebrows pulled together. She thought that he looked sad, and it wasn't just because of the growing tear troughs beneath his dark eyes, but it was the look in them. It was something she saw in those eyes that was similar to her. A loneliness and discontent for the world.

The buzz from the crowd silenced and Hanako looked up to see the elders.

"A new generation has risen this year to make this village stronger…" The Hokage had arrived and he was making his welcoming speech. Hanako drifted off again. She had an excusably short attention span. She was young, after all. Instead, she scanned the crowd in front of her, looking at the families. They were full of proud parents, parents with high standards, parents that who loved their children, and even parents who looked like they were too busy to be here.

But they came in two.

And hers did not.

Hanako gripped her chest slightly, her eyes falling to the ground. Hanako loved her father, but seeing him standing alone amidst the other families made her feel more alone than she ever had in a long time. Her mind constantly went around in circles of self-pity and bitterness and she did not notice that the ceremony was over and that her future fellow classmates had disbanded and joined their family.

"Hey."

It was a male voice that brought her attention back to reality. She looked up to see the dark haired boy, standing in front of her with a mildly confused expression. "It's over, you know," he said slowly, as if unsure of her mental capabilities. "You can go." Hanako opened her mouth to say something but the boy's attention moved to his father who was calling him. "Itachi Uchiha!" Hanako stared.

So he was an Uchiha. Her fist clenched and she stared at the boy in front of her. He stared back, black eyes sympathetic. He was about to say something, but then shook his head slightly and went off to talk to the Sensei with his father. She stared at his back, her anger growing until she was shaking with it - with rage and jealousy.

I bet he will unlock his kekkei genkai. And I never will.

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The afternoon sunlight poured through the window and spilled shadows over the class. Finally, it was over.

Sensei Uchiro stood in front of his now empty class, eyes closed and with a vein pulsing at his temple. So, he thought, this is my class. He had already figured out who were the gifted students and the trouble makers and everything in between. Some were easy, like the Uchiha kid who was obviously raised with his clan's high expectation. The boy, Itachi, would become great. Not long behind was a Hyuga, another powerful clan…

And that was where opposites proved true. Irahime was talented, of course - another example of strict clan expectations. Hanako, however…

His eyes squeezed shut at the thought of it. Her first day – before she even said a single word - she already claimed her position as his hardest student. He clearly remembered it. Uchiro had taken a step in the class and saw Irahime sitting in the direct front. And right behind her was Hanako, who had an annoyed expression on her face. The moment he suggested Hanako to move up, Irahime had let out a comment along the lines of she doesn't deserve to sit on this table.

Next thing he knew, Hanako was standing in front of the girl, stabbing a kunai down on her desk and splitting the world. The other Hyuga girl cried out, and he had looked down - and surely, his kunai was missing.

"That girl," Uchiro mumbled, leaning to his desk, "a five year old that could steal from me." He shook his head, but an unexpected smile pulled at his mouth. He would have been more impressed if Hanako didn't spend the rest of the class trying to escape the room. In fact, most of his students were fidgeting in their seats. Nobody seemed to enjoy each other's company. They hardly knew how to work together and God knows how crucial that is in the shinobi world.

He heard a sound erupt from outside. "Hm?" At the sound of his students playing a game cheerfully together, he formed an idea.

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"So, can anyone tell me what makes a ninja – especially of the Leaf, so strong?" Sensei Uchiro asked his class. Of course, Irahime's hand shot up immediately.

"Because we always put our mission first, it's the 4th Shinobi rule," Irahime said haughtily and shot a look at Hanako, who returned the glare with a sarcastically impressed expression. Uchiro chuckled.

"Well there's that, but it's also became we think as a team, move as a team and have the strength of the entire squad." Hanako perked up. "This is the first lesson I will teach you - how to act like a team." The class complained, all crying out about wanting to learn some amazing jutsu but the girl's dark eyes remained on him.

"Silence!" Sensei demanded. He shook his head but then looked up, shrugging theatrically. "You don't want this lesson? Just when I thought we could play a game."

"Huh? What game?!" He wasn't very surprised that the children would get excited about this.

"It's one you all know." He grinned. "Anybody prepared to play Ninja, Academy style?" An uproar answered him, and he settled them down with flicks of his hand as his eyes swept across the class, counting. "As you know, squads can range in numbers but ideal being 3 but there may be a team of four -"

Hanako did a quick analysis. She realized he would probably do it by surname, and immediately that would mean she would be in a team with Irahime. Oh God no. "Can we still do a three team squad? There will be 10 even teams and I'll be the partner team!" she volunteered. Uchiro raised an eyebrow and she grew nervous. "There's two-men team, right? It's common!"

"In that case..." Uchiro thought about this quickly. "Alright, since you volunteer, Hanako, you can team up with the last person." Last person? She ran through the names in her mind - the last being U...Uchiha.

Hanako looked at Itachi, who turned and looked at her too. He tilted his head and looked at her and she returned it with an eager smile. Thank God I got out of that one, she thought. He blinked, confused at her attitude and glanced at the front of the class.

"Alright, since we have that down – move out!"

"…" Crickets.

He laughed and scratched his head. Hanako's big black eyes stared at him, as all the other kids did. "Right, I forgot who I'm talking to here." He cracked his neck. "So the rules…"

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This is weird, Hanako thought, I'm alone with him. The two children were up in the trees, searching, hiding. She snuck a glance at him. He was a bit on the thinner side, with collar length dark hair and indifferent eyes.

"You're staring at me," he whispered, but his eyes never left the field. "Why?"

"Nothing," Hanako mumbled and turned back to look around. She heard laughter. It was clear that none of the students took this game seriously but despite Hanako's persistence, Itachi remained quiet and out of sight from Sensei Uchiro.

As time passed by Hanako could hear students being caught from below. Bored, she ended up watching birds and butterflies while Itachi was on guard, always watching.

Growing up, she heard many praises of the great Uchiha clan and their Military Police force. She thought the Uchihas would be like...powerful, eager to fight but right now, he just seemed like a bore – not wanting to engage in the game or anything. Didn't he want to come crashing down on the sensei and maybe try to swing a kick or two? What fun would it be to just sit and watch? What was he, a crow?

Itachi looked at her.

"What?" Hanako whispered. She was caught off guard when Itachi's mouth twitched. Was that...a smile?

"You were thinking out loud."

"Hm?" She blinked and then flushed red. His expression lightened until there was definitely a smile on his face. He shook his head, but she was sure he was amused.

"You can go and get yourself caught if you want," he suggested. And that was all it took for Hanako to jump down. Immediately, a dulled kunai flew right at her. It whizzed past her face and her eyes grew huge, staring at the sender – her sensei. She froze. In the next instant, a smoke bomb came down from the trees. She squeezed her eyes shut.

And then she was moving.

When she opened her eyes again, she was in Itachi's arms and he was sprinting away, far from their sensei. What was he even doing with a smoke bomb?! She felt tiny staring up at him, all scared and breathless. Gently, he landed and lowered himself so that the little girl could stand up. She tried not to sound defeated when she thanked him. A hint of a smile was playing on his mouth.

"So I'll play this your way then! What's the plan, captain?" she asked, feeling high spirited from the brief adrenaline rush. She wanted to forget her failed plan. He looked up at the sky and shrugged.

"Whatever you want," he said without a care in the world.

"I did that, and I nearly lost," she reminded. He didn't respond. Her face dropped in disappointment but then her eyes caught the movement of a swing set. "Itachi! Look!"

"It's a swing set," he said slowly, watching the girl, wondering why she thought it was so interesting.

"Yes," she said equally slow, appraising him now as well. "They're for swinging on…" She wondered if he had ever played on one before. She looked at him closely. Probably not. He was still looking at her as if she was insane. And then he blinked and caught on.

"We'll get caught for sure if we play in it."

"So?" She smiled, one dimple appearing on the side of her cheek. "You said we could do whatever we want."

He stared at her silently. There was a certain maturity in his gaze, like he was assessing her. Finally she sighed and slumped on the branch, keeping a hand on the tree. "You're a dream killer, Itachi Uchiha."

He raised an eyebrow, eyes wide. "And your dream is to swing on a branch?"

"My dream," she said slowly, a grin spreading "is to be stronger than the main Hyuga family." She swung her legs excitedly at the thought of it. That was what she wanted – to be stronger, to be better, to prove to everyone that they were wrong about her being weak merely because she didn't have the Byakugan. She was getting so caught up in that fantasy giggling and grinning like the little girl she was that she had to shake her head. "How about you?"

Itachi seemed surprise for some reason, as if he had never thought about a dream or goal. He sat down. "Hm," he said, "I haven't really thought about it."

"C'mon," she pursued, black eyes wide, "there has to be something."

"I guess I want…peace." He shrugged. "A simple life. No more countless deaths." She stared. She hadn't expected such a noble answer, especially when her own was to be better than others. She was quick to change the subject.

"Do you have your Sharingan yet, Itachi?"

"Not yet," he admitted, and then he moved to stand up on the branch. "But soon."

"We should train together!" Hanako shot up too, enthusiastically in the way children did when they were excited. "I mean, I don't have my Byakugan either. Maybe we just need to push each other!"

"Aren't all Hyugas born with it?" he asked curiously. She flushed.

"Well yeah! But it just means I'll be stronger when I do have it, since I worked harder for it." Or at least, that was what her father had always said. Again. And again. And again.

"That sounds about right," he nodded but he sounded distracted.

"So what do you say, comrade?" He looked at her curiously, still wondering why she looked so eager. Children at the Uchiha compound were never like this towards him. They were observant, on guard, hesitant...distant. And she...wasn't. "After this, we'll have some serious kekkei genkai training!"

And then Itachi Uchiha smiled – a real one, before warning Hanako that another kunai was flying straight at her head.


Hi, Naruto Fandom! How you doing? :)

Just a note, but I actually did not watch all of the Naruto episodes, nor did I watch Shippuden, rather I watched specific episodes and fell in love with Itachi's character. His complex personality and history made me itch to write a story in a different perspective of his life.

Hope you enjoyed this!