As always, all source material belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.

Chapter Eleven

Itachi made his way toward the Uchiha Compound. Each step felt harder than the last. He expected a heavy guard at the gate, instead, he found Shisui and Hana dragging corpses out of sight.

"What the hell are you doing?! You can't be here!" he exclaimed.

Shisui had a fresh bandage on his face. He looked Itachi directly in the eye. His expression was one Itachi had seen only once before.

"This is my clan too. I'm just as responsible for them as you are." he said, "Am I just supposed to wait here for Danzo to try again?"

"But… Shisui…"

"Do you remember the stuff we used to talk about when you were a kid? About it being a shinobi's duty to serve the village from the shadows? I'm no hypocrite. It's easy to be a shinobi when doing your duty means money and glory. The true test is when doing your duty actually costs you something. I'll be damned if I fail that test. We're both Uchiha. We'll do this together."

Itachi realized reluctantly that he had no grounds to argue with Shisui, but Hana was another matter.

"This has nothing to do with you, Hana." he told her, "You can't throw your life away like this."

"I'm not throwing it away, I'm just taking it a different direction. You guys are my pack. I can't let my pack walk into the fire without me. It goes against everything in my blood."

"What about your family?"

"They're my pack too, but they don't need me right now. You do."

"You know what's going to happen in there. There's no coming back from this."

"Don't act like I've never killed before, Itachi; you know damn well I have."

"Hana… Please. I'm begging you."

"Normally the puppy dog eyes might work, but not tonight. I'm doing this, and you can't stop me."

Itachi rubbed a hand over his face, defeated, "Can you do one thing for me then?"


"Go in ahead of us. Be very, very careful not to be seen. Find Sasuke, and get him out of here. Take him to Kakashi."

"What do I tell him?" Hana asked.

"Whatever it takes to get him out of the Compound."

"I'll take care of it."

"Thank you."

Hana and the Haimaru Brothers entered the Compound, and Itachi turned to Shisui.

"Last chance to change your mind."

Shisui ignored him, "I'll start on the North end of the Compound, you start South. We'll sweep our way in. You know the spots to clear."

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Itachi asked one more time.

"No, I don't want to do it, but I'm going to. How many times do I have to say it? Let's go."

"Don't forget the eyes."

And so the nightmare began. The first person Itachi came across was an older man that Itachi had called his uncle as a child though there was no direct relation. It took every bit of will Itachi had to kill him, but after the next, and the next, and each one after, numbness began to set in. He moved from building to building, striking silently, alerting no one to the horror that was occurring around them. Halfway through the bloody gauntlet, Itachi came face to face with none other than his would-be fiancée, Mariko Uchiha. She looked him over, gore-spattered and grim with a ninjato in his hand. She understood what was happening.

"Senju lapdog." she snarled, "You were never worthy to call yourself an Uchiha."

"You could run." Itachi found himself saying, "You could leave the village and never come back. I wouldn't stop you."

"I'm not a coward and a traitor to my own kind like you" she said, then spat in his face.

Itachi drew his ninjato across her throat, a quick death. He had never intended to marry Mariko, never even particularly liked her, but he had never wanted any harm to come to her, much less by his own hand.

Finally Itachi reached the last house; his own. He took a deep breath and slipped inside through his own bedroom window. He stepped into the hallway and checked Sasuke's room. He was relieved to find it empty. It seemed Hana had been successful. Itachi moved from room to room, finding each one empty until he reached Fugaku's study. When Fugaku and Mikoto saw their eldest son, they came to same conclusion Mariko had.

"So you've made your choice." Fugaku said.

"Just… Turn around. Get on your knees… Both of you." Itachi ordered, unable to look them in the eyes.

Fugaku and Mikoto did as they were told.

"You'll always be just a pawn to them, Itachi." Fugaku said.

"I was always just a tool to you." Itachi pointed out.

"You might be right. I'm in no position to argue. You've chosen your side, now follow through."

Itachi took a long, shaky breath and moved to stand behind his mother.

"Take care of Sasuke." Mikoto said.

"…I-I will."

Itachi knew what he had to do, but his body would not cooperate. He loved his mother, no matter what she had been complicit in. His hands shook violently, and he could barely keep his grip on his ninjato.

"I didn't raise a coward, Itachi." Fugaku said, "If you're going to do it, then do it."

"…I'm sorry."

"We chose very different paths, but I was always proud of you."

Forcing himself to act before his resolve gave out entirely, Itachi drove his blade through Mikoto's heart, then just as quickly dispatched Fugaku. They fell together in a heap, and Itachi's will broke. His ninjato clattered to the floor. He braced himself against the wall, trying not to hyperventilate.

Itachi heard someone enter the house. He moved for his weapon, but it was Hana who appeared. He had hoped to spare her from the carnage, but the kunai in her hand, and the bloody muzzles of the Haimaru Brother's proved that to have been a foolish hope. Itachi slumped against the wall and slid to the ground, still shaking. Hana knelt down beside him.

"We need to go." she told him gently.

Itachi managed to nod. Hana picked up his ninjato and wiped the blood from the blade. She handed it to him, and helped him up.

"You got Sasuke out?" he asked.

She nodded, "He's safe."

"We have to find Shisui." he said.

"He's outside. I found him at his mom's place, so he's… pretty much like you."

"I... I have to do something first." Itachi said, looking at his parents' bodies.

Hana understood, "I'll do it. You've been through enough."

Itachi shook his head, "They're my parents. It's my responsibility."

He took a kunai, and with bile rising in the back of his throat, he destroyed Fugaku and Mikoto's eyes. He knew he was keeping them out of Danzo's hands, but he could not help but wonder what kind of monster this made him.

Shisui was sitting on the ground outside with his head between his knees. He was pale and bloody.

"Come on, Shisui. We've gotta go." Hana told him.

Shisui slowly collected himself and stood up.

"We should do a sweep of the Compound to make sure we didn't… miss anyone." Itachi said, his voice wavering.

Hana shook her head, "There's nothing alive here besides us. I'd smell them."

"Okay… Then I guess this is it."

Retrieving their packs, Itachi, Hana, and Shisui made their way toward the village's main gates. The guard booth, normally manned by a pair of Chunin, and more during the Exams, was empty. There was, however, a form slumped on the ground against the wide open gate. As they got closer, Itachi recognized the unfortunate corpse as Juro Hurai, the ANBU operative he had sparred against several days earlier. He had not been dead long.

"Is that the guard?" Hana wondered.

Itachi shook his head, "No… It's a message."

"What message? For who?"

"For me. I'll try to explain later, but we can't stay here."

As I warned you last week, Fall of the Guardian will be going on hiatus for a few weeks while I move in and get settled in my new apartment. Expect new chapters sometime in September. Thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated.