Itachi often found himself watching his little brother. Akatsuki rarely needed him, so he had a lot of free time to fill, in which he usually sought out Sasuke to see how he'd progressed. Tonight he found him training alone, repeatedly punching a post over and over again until his knuckles split and bled.
Itachi sat in a tree, high above his little brother, watching him. It was dark. Itachi couldn't help remembering that right about now a few months ago Sasuke would be tucked up in bed with his loving mother reading him a story, his world still intact, his brother still his hero. But those were dangerous thoughts. Itachi narrowed his eyes and activated his Sharingan, observing Sasuke's movements.
But it appeared that Sasuke had been thinking something similar to Itachi. He looked up at the moon, knuckles spilling blood onto the grass. He glared upwards at the sky in challenge, and raised one bloody fist in a silent promise. Itachi could almost hear the words Sasuke was thinking. I will get stronger, and I will kill you.
There was no mother to gently scold Sasuke for coming home late, no brother to expertly clean his wounds, no father to pat his head in pride.
Itachi had never seen such a dark expression on his little brother's face.
Slowly, Sasuke packed up his weapons into a little bag and hauled it onto his back, wincing at the weight of it. He made his way back to his new flat where he lived alone, to bathe and dress his wounds and go to bed. He was a tiny little figure, slowly trudging home. Itachi closed his eyes. What a monster I am, he thought.
He was about to leave when something caught his eye.
A young girl, about Sasuke's age, was peering around a tree. She was too young to have a chakra signature, which was why Itachi hadn't noticed her before.
She waited until Sasuke had gone, then ran up to the post he had been attacking. Itachi watched in bemusement as she picked up a bandage Sasuke had forgotten and put it in her bag, but not before beaming at it like a proud mother hen. Her young face was chubby, her cheeks were pink from the cold and her eyes were large and green.
It appeared Itachi had missed one person who cared about Sasuke.
He dropped down from the tree silently, hand on his kunai. He removed it, shaking his head. There was no point in killing an innocent little girl who was likely to never affect Sasuke's life.
She was busily wiping the post down, removing all traces of Sasuke's blood.
Itachi raised one eyebrow in question. Did this little girl watch Sasuke train every night and clean up after him? If so, why?
There was no harm in asking, providing the little girl didn't recognise him. He walked towards her, making sure he made as much noise as a civilian would.
Her head snapped up and she took a step back as he approached.
Her eyes widened in alarm.
He held his hands up slowly, showing his lack of weapons. It was a shinobi signal that showed a stranger they meant no harm. To a little pink-haired civilian girl, it looked as though he was trying to grab her.
Itachi covered her mouth with his hand, gently. He could not allow her to draw attention to himself.
"Don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you." Itachi said quietly. The little girl's heart was racing, "See?" He let her go slowly.
"Who are you?" She asked in her childish voice, rubbing her mouth.
"No one important." Itachi replied, "Who are you?"
"Haruno Sakura." She said trustingly. Itachi realised it was probably his physical similarities to Sasuke that had gained her trust so quickly.
"How old are you?"
Sakura thought about it, and then raised six fingers with a wide, toothy grin, "Six!" She proclaimed.
"Are you an Academy Student?" He asked.
"Yes!" Sakura grinned, "Watch me! Watch what I can do!" She squealed.
She flipped over and walked around on her hands, "I learnt this today!" She said breathlessly.
Itachi tugged her upright. He could not converse with her when she wasn't the right way up.
"Do you know that boy who was here before?" Itachi asked, his dark eyes narrowing.
"You mean Sasuke-kun?" Sakura's face suddenly turned bright red, "He's the best in my year! He's really smart and strong!"
"Wow," Itachi said tonelessly, "You must like him very much."
"I do! I love Sasuke-kun." She said sincerely, her eyes shining with emotion, "I want to marry him some day!"
When he had returned to Konoha to check on his little brother... he had not expected to find this. If Sasuke ever returned this girl's affections, would that hinder his progress? No... Itachi mused, she would be a ninja like him. If anything, Sakura might be good for him.
As he looked into Sakura's apple-green, innocent eyes, he felt a surge of anger. When he was two years younger than this little girl, he had witnessed the Third Shinobi World War, which had changed him forever. Would this girl be called to fight, aged six, with her innocent, trusting nature? If so, would she stay as a cheerful little girl, or would she be forced to mature beyond her years, just as he and Sasuke had done?
He had graduated from the Academy just one year older than what Sakura was now.
Was it a blessing to be a genius? Would Sakura grow up being used by everyone around her? Would Sasuke?
Itachi despised war, and the ninja way.
"He likes tomatoes." Itachi said to Sakura, reminiscing about his past.
"What? Who does?"
"Sasuke." Itachi replied, "Most boys his age do. Give him some tomatoes, and he will like you for it."
"Really?" Sakura beamed, "Great! I'll make him a bento. My mummy taught me how! She said I'm good at it!"
Itachi patted Sakura's head, almost smiling when she pouted. Almost automatically, he poked her forehead, just as he used to do with Sasuke.
She covered her forehead with her hands and glared at him, "Are you making fun of my forehead?" She said indignantly.
Itachi said nothing, just quirked an eyebrow.
"Everyone thinks I have a big forehead. Ami... Ami calls me Forehead Girl." Sakura said tearfully, "And then everyone laughs at me."
Sighing, Itachi bent down until his face was level with hers. "Don't cry, Sakura-chan. Ninja don't cry, do they?"
Sakura just sniffed, tears welling up in her eyes.
Itachi removed her hands and examined her forehead. It wasn't that big at all. Kids were cruel.
"No," He said thoughtfully, "It isn't too big."
Sakura blinked, "Really?"
"No. It looks average sized to me. You just ignore the other kids. They're jealous."
"Jealous of what?"
Itachi poked her forehead once more, "I bet they have ugly foreheads, don't they? Don't worry. Yours is fine."
It was obviously the right thing to say. Sakura's face flushed with pleasure and she beamed at him.
"Thank you! Hey! You never said how old you are!" Sakura said indignantly.
"Me?" Itachi said slowly. There was a gust of wind that sent the leaves rustling, "I'm thirteen."
"Wow, that's old. Are you a genin?"
Itachi nearly laughed. By rights he should be a genin, at home with his family, no dark conspiracies or murder plots.
Instead, he was a murderer of his own kind.
"Hmm," He said noncommittally, "I am a ninja. I can help you with some techniques, if you'd like."
He was taken aback when she shouted, "Yes! Yes, please! Please teach me!" Her bright eyes were eager.
What would this little girl think of him, if she knew who he really was, what he had done?
She'd think him a monster. And she would be right.
But perhaps this was a chance to do something right. To teach this child how to survive. To keep the light in Sasuke's life alive. It was the least he could do for his beloved little brother.
"Fine," He closed his eyes, resigned, "I'll teach you."
Just a little plot bunny that wouldn't stop biting me XD hardly an original concept, Itachi meets young Sakura after the massacre, but I really wanted to put my own spin on an old tale :) It's very short because it's just the prologue, the length of my chapters is normally double this!
If Sakura had Itachi whispering in her ear about Sasuke, I think Sakura and Sasuke wouldn't have clashed so much: she'd know not to bug him, she'd know what he liked and didn't like, etc.
Btw, did everyone in Konoha know who killed the Uchihas? Just wondering if Sakura would know Uchiha Itachi was the killer or not...
Will be ItaSakuSasu when it's more appropriate and legal XD I get very squicked by Itachi loving VERY YOUNG Sakura.
Quick poll for fun: Should Sakura be taught how to be more skilled as a ninja by Itachi, or should she remain canon-level skilled?
A) Yes please, she should be stronger than in the manga.
B) Maybe just a few techniques.
C) No, keep it canon-compliant.
D) Other! Let me know!