I do not own Naruto!

This story takes place in an AU where the Uchiha coup, and therefore the Uchiha Massacre, never took place. I have taken some artistic liberties and filled in some of Kishimoto's blanks with some of my personal fanon, bear with me. This story will contain spoilers up to the most recent manga chapters; you've been warned!

Chapter One

Twelve year old Itachi Uchiha had just been inducted into the secretive ranks of Konoha's ANBU. Even at his young age, he was already a well-known Jonin, feared by the enemies of the Leaf. He had made the decision to join ANBU because he believed that it was there that he could do the most to defend the village. His entire outlook on life had been shaped by something his best friend had told him years earlier: A true shinobi is defined by self-sacrifice, protecting the village from within its shadow.

Itachi had taken the ANBU oath and had been formally inducted by the Third Hokage. He was now not only the youngest Jonin in the Leaf's history, but the youngest ANBU operative as well. He was still only probationary however. A veteran operative had been assigned as his sponsor, a sort of mentor who would teach him the basics of how ANBU operated and eventually determine whether or not he was ready to work on his own. It was tradition for the sponsor to give a new operative their first mask, and to apply his ANBU tattoo once he had proven himself.

Itachi stood up as the door opened. He immediately recognized the operative who entered despite the cloth mask covering half his face. He was even more feared a shinobi than Itachi himself.

"You're my sponsor, Kakashi-sempai?"

"That's what they tell me. Apparently they think prodigies should stick together, whatever that means."

"I'm honored, Sempai."

Kakashi Hatake was a legend, but beyond that, Itachi had his own connection to the Copy Ninja. Kakashi possessed an eye, a Sharingan, that had been given to him by a member of the Uchiha clan, Itachi's cousin Obito, the older brother of his best friend. Itachi and Shisui had looked up to Obito, and his death had been a massive blow to them both. Kakashi had been both Obito's worst rival and best friend, so he was well known to Itachi.

"Apparently the way this is supposed to work is that I give you a mask," Kakashi said, "So I picked this up."

He tossed the white mask to Itachi, allowing him to get a good look at it. It seemed that Kakashi had a sense of humor after all.

"A weasel?"

"Oh, is that what it is?" Kakashi asked nonchalantly, "Anyway, you'll be wearing that any time you're on duty from now on."

"Yes, sir."

"And don't call me 'sir' either. I'm your sponsor, not your commander. We have a mission in the morning. I'll be evaluating your performance. If you meet my standards, you'll earn your tattoo. If not, you'll stay probationary until I decide you're ready, they pass you off to a new sponsor, or you get sent back to the Jonin Corps." Kakashi explained.

Itachi had to wonder just what Kakashi's standards entailed, but he only gave a nod.

"Be at the gate at sunrise with supplies for at least a week."


With his induction complete, Itachi rushed home to change into civilian clothes. There was somewhere he wanted to be. Itachi made it to the Academy just in time. He saw his little brother walk out the main doors and caught his attention with a wave. Sasuke's face lit up and he ran over.

"I thought you were gonna be busy, Aniki!"

"Do you think I would miss picking you up from your first day of school? Come on, you can tell me about your day on the way home."

Sasuke eagerly chattered about his first day at the Academy as the brothers walked toward the Uchiha Compound.

"My instructor's name is Iruka-sensei. He said we're his first class."

Itachi knew Iruka Umino. They had graduated the same year, though Itachi was five years younger. Iruka was still young himself, but he was a born teacher, so Itachi was confident that Sasuke was in good hands.

"Who else is in your class? Do you know anyone?" Itachi asked.

"Sort of. Your friend's brother is there."

"Kiba? That's good. Who else?"

"Um… I don't know anybody's name yet. There was this one kid who was asleep on his desk the whole day, and one with creepy bugs all over him."

"Must be an Aburame."

"Oh, and there was this one noisy kid who kept telling everybody he's gonna be Hokage."

Itachi smiled, "Maybe he will, you never know. So, did you have fun?"

"Yeah… I'm kinda nervous about tomorrow though. Iruka-sensei said we have to take a… an attitude test."

"An aptitude test. You don't have to worry, just do your best."

"Did you have to take it?"

"Yes, I did."

"What was your score?"

Itachi hesitated. He was one of only a handful and students ever to achieve a perfect score on the Academy's initial aptitude test, but if he told Sasuke that, it would only set a standard that would crush him not to meet. Their father's expectations were a heavy enough burden.

"I did pretty well, but don't worry about my score. Just focus on doing the best you can. You'll do great. We can celebrate when I get back from my mission."

Sasuke's face fell, "You have to leave?"

"It's my first ANBU mission. It might take a week or two, but it's important. I'm sorry."

"I know it's important, I just… I was hoping you could help me with my homework and stuff."

"I'm sorry, Otouto. As soon as I get back. I promise."

Well, there is Chapter One. I know it was short; the following chapters will be longer. Please Review!