"Walked away, heard them say:
Poisoned hearts will never change"
(AFI, The Leaving Song)
The gates open, letting the shinobi in after a successfully completed mission.
Being on duty the following day Sasuke declines his team mates' proposal to have dinner together, the reddish sunset light forcing him to squint as he walks towards the Hokage's office.
Konoha wasn't damaged by the war. Its traces are not on its buildings; they are on its people, who lost comrades and loved ones.
Naruto was not appointed Hokage as he expected. Tsunade was not allowed to resign.
The Five Kage Council, a permanent institution representing the Shinobi Alliance, needed her experience and symbolic value as a Senju clan heir.
Building a new world means collaboration, transparency, mediation, which translates into perusing documents, approving changes and attending endless meetings.
Tsunade carries out her job with surprising patience although it's not a secret that she plans to leave everything in Kakashi's hands as soon as possible.
Naruto is not yet suited for a role that requires diplomatic skills and attention to details.
He voiced his protest on more than one occasion, calling the current Hokage 'ungrateful granny', and defining the next in line a lazy pervert, but in truth he is happy.
His childhood dream can wait a few more years.
He is a jounin now, the girl of his dreams finally returns his feelings, and his best friend is back.
Sasuke's goal, becoming Hokage and change the system, hasn't even entered the village.
After all, despite being pardoned because of Naruto, Tsunade and even Gaara's intercession, he was still considered an international criminal, disciple of the man who destroyed Konoha, affiliated to the terrorist organization that destroyed it again.
His former classmates laughed when he announced he would become Hokage, not realizing what it meant for him.
Unlike them, he didn't care about power or acknowledgment.
He simply wanted to change things so that no one would live what his brother had gone through.
He fought side by side with those people. He needed to achieve his goal and honor Itachi.
He risked his life. Everybody did, against the only man who had defeated Edo Tensei.
Sasuke had imagined his brother doing the same, defeating the jutsu, defeating death, staying by his side -but he had felt ashamed, after.
In that cave Itachi himself had accused Kabuto's jutsu to profane souls.
Sasuke's desire meant disrespecting his memory, which, in the boy's mind, was the worst thing he could do.
Madara was winning against the whole shinobi alliance, the past Kage with their superior techniques, Naruto with his endless Kyuubi chakra supply, and Sasuke, with his newly developed Enton and his perfected Susano'o.
The boy was fighting alongside everyone but he had a different plan.
The Senju chakra that Hashirama had given him would grant him Rinnegan's god-like power.
He would use it to build a better world and destroy the old one, getting rid of everything old and wrong, people included.
He knew that others wouldn't approve but he didn't care.
He wasn't afraid of being feared or hated. His brother had suffered the same fate.
Besides, he had already lost everyone –the one –he loved.
He should have waited for the Rinnegan to activate, instead he engaged on a one-on-one fight against Madara.
His recklessness almost got him killed by the Uchiha patriarch.
Not even his unrelenting will to survive and make his brother's dream of peace come true was enough.
Kabuto's providential arrival saved him from certain death.
In truth it was Itachi who had saved him, once again, by giving the former spy a second chance.
It had always been Itachi.
The medic-nin explained that Madara had found a way to pollute the First Hokage's chakra, still too weak to blend to Sasuke's. The few remains he could save, he added, would stay dormant in the boy's body for a long time.
Sasuke's plan crumbled but he had no time to dwell on his failure; there was a far to fight.
A tragic one, but not the worst, for in Sasuke's mind losing the war, freedom, his life, was nothing, compared to having lost his brother.
Nothing was as tragic as having killed his brother.
He could only cooperated with everyone until he and Naruto, biting back the pain from multiple injuries, backed up by Kakashi's strategic mind and the support and powers of Sakura and everyone else, were finally able to put an end on Madara and his crazy dream.
When Sasuke woke up, days later, he was in a hospital room.
His former team was there.
Like he had already done once, he jumped out the bed, ready to fight again.
Rinnegan or not he hadn't changed his mind. He wanted justice.
He had promised to defend Konoha in Itachi's name.
Not the Hokage. Not the elders.
He dared Naruto to kill him because he had no intention to stop otherwise, but his friend did something unexpected: he refused to fight.
The blond was uncharacteristically calm when he simply told him: "We defeated a god together. We'll settle this as well."
He, too, wanted a world where no one would have to experience loss and loneliness, pain and discrimination like both of them did, he added.
When Tsunade rushed to the room there were no visible wounds to heal, but the truth about how cruelly the Uchiha clan was annihilated, narrated by the broken voice of its only survivor, hurt her more than words could express.
Had Dan been alive, had he been Hokage at that time, that atrocity would have never happened.
He would have found a peaceful solution. He was a man of peace, just like the young one that Danzo had forced to destroy his clan for the greater good and the sake of his little brother.
The woman's voice was still shaken but her look was determined when she assured Sasuke that justice would be done.
The boy trusted that look, hoping that it would not be another failure.
It wasn't: the elders were exiled and the truth was publicly disclosed.
A shrine for the victims of the massacre was built in the Uchiha cemetery.
The name of the one who suffered the most was engraved in bigger, golden letters.
Despite Sasuke's contribution to the war the other Kage did not trust him, especially the Raikage, who wouldn't forget that he had tried to kidnap his brother Killer Bee.
He was allowed to work for the village under constant control.
He wasn't allowed on long term missions and was banned from the Land Of Lightning and other countries.
Humbly, the young Uchiha accepted every condition.
He had no choice in the matter and no other place to go.
He was tired of living a rogue's life, always traveling and hiding.
Having valiantly fought in the war as well, Team Taka was allowed to stay. Despite their lack of discipline they accepted to be enrolled as a new three man team. They were tired of their old life too.
Team 7 became Team Yamato after the new leader, that Kakashi kept calling Tenzo for some unknown reason.
Sasuke was not teamed up with any squad.
Usually he worked with the silver haired shinobi and different ones every time.
The council feared that his dangerous, rebellious nature could rub off on his comrades if they fraternized too much.
Especially Naruto, who fiercely defended him, wasn't allowed to be in his same team.
Tsunade fought just as fiercely against this disposition, defining it a lack of humanity towards a child who had lost himself because of them all.
He had lost everything because of the system, she reiterated, throwing a scroll on the ground after Ōnoki defined him a time bomb, a potential Madara who had to be put on a tight leash.
She disclosed the truth about the Uchiha massacre.
She pointed out how Konoha, that she represented, was responsible for those deaths and how the never-ending hostility between nations had triggered the fear that a civil war in the Leaf would have attracted enemies like vultures to a wounded man, so that for the past rulers the only solution had been severing the limb instead of healing it.
Tsunade accused the Tsuchikage himself, with his past war actions and shady politics, to be just as guilty as Konoha of forcing a boy to slaughter his clan so that his younger brother would be kept alive, and to infiltrate a terrorist organization –the same one he resorted to in more than one occasion.
She blamed the Raikage's inflexible mindset and the Suikage's indifference towards what happened outside her borders, to be just as guilty as the Leaf for not listening to said younger brother's rightful and understandable protests.
Certainly Uchiha Sasuke had committed crimes but the first crime had been committed against him, his brother, his family and his clan.
This, just like his contribution in the war, couldn't be ignored or dismissed.
If they exploited his strength and discarded him like they had done to Itachi where was the change they were trying to achieve?
Despite her eloquent and heartfelt speech they didn't budge from their position and Sasuke was pardoned with a long list of restrictions.
He should be thankful that they didn't seal his chakra, the Tsuchikage snarled.
Tsunade was mortified for her failure with the Council, but her hands were tied.
She expected the boy to throw a fit of understandable rage when he was notified the terms of his probation.
She expected him to do what he had done in the past, when he attacked the Kage during their meeting.
Instead, the young Uchiha nodded calmly as she spoke, only asking if was allowed to have a lodging of his own, having been in a sort of unofficial home arrest at Kakashi's place since he got out of the hospital.
He even thanked her when she guaranteed that his house would be ready in a few days.
The war and the silent, unbecoming fear of dying or losing precious companions, brought shinobi closer to each other; now that peace is finally achieved everyone enjoys eating together after missions.
Someone even tries alcohol, ignoring the three ninja prohibitions and their young age.
They survived a war after all.
Even Sasuke sometimes hangs out with his comrades, but most of the time he is away on mission.
He is always available as a last minute replacement or as an extra man in a squad.
He still doesn't use honorifics, his defiant look may come out uncalled for, but it is never followed by words or actions. He is a good shinobi, respecting comrades and superiors, never complaining no matter the task.
He is silent, detached, effective.
A perfect shinobi.
Almost like him.
His respectful and cooperative behavior is positively regarded, but he is neither trying to win the Council's trust nor to impress anyone.
Tiring his body and wearing out his mind is the only way Sasuke knows to deceive himself into not thinking.
He doesn't care about being on probation.
He doesn't care about not being allowed to have a team.
He doesn't care about himself at all.
He made it.
He killed Danzo. He would have killed the other elders too but Tsunadedidn't want him torepeat the same actions of the past.
She begged him to trust her, for he was not alone anymore. She promised to put them on public trial and make sure they would receive the punishment they deserve –not a fast death that would make them victims, but exile, guilt and shame –so that everyone would know the truth and Sasuke wouldn't be marked as a criminal again.
He accepted. Not that he minded being considered a criminal or anything else.
The only thing that mattered was that to obtain justice.
Konoha's discrimination has been exposed.
Now Itachi has a tombstone with the words "Hero. Shinobi. Brother." engraved in it.
Finally his name has been cleared of the infamy, so much that Sasuke feels that the only way to honor his brother's sacrifice is to become perfect like him.
Even if he is not perfect.
Even if he can't even stop thinking. It doesn't matter how many missions he accepts; there is no fatigue that makes him forget the one he loved and hated, sought and killed, found again and lost, this time forever.
"…I understand, but it seems impossible. Can we trust this intel?"
From the closed door in the Hokage's office Kakashi's gruff voice is barely audible.
"Considering the cause I'd say unexpected, not impossible."
Sasuke waits for Tsunade to finish the sentence.
Entering the room he is greeted by an uncomfortable silence.
Did he interrupt something? Not his problem, he thinks.
When he is over delivering his report, Tsunade gestures him to stand at ease.
"We all have seen how powerful Juubi's chakra was, during the war."
She pauses, remembering all their comrades whose lives ended in a single moment, when the Ten Tails hit the Tactical Unit.
"There is more than its destructive power: somehow the chakra streamed underground, causing what scientists in the whole alliance are calling 'singularities'."
Kakashi straightens his back and closes his book.
"Our scouts spotted someone in a farm outside the Land Of Fire, between Takigakure and the Mountain's Graveyard territory."
Sasuke knows the area.
He remembered how Itachi cried after the massacre, as he was leaving him, he resolved to avenge him, sitting on those huge bones jutting out from the soil.
He got Itachi's eyes transplanted –how he had wished Itachi appeared through them - in the hideout of the man who pretended to be Uchiha Madara, in that secluded territory.
The Hokage sighs, before speaking again. "They claim it's…Uchiha Itachi."
Sasuke doesn't suppress a glare that reminds his former sensei of older times.
The familiar sensation of cold yet burning rage fills his heart. How dare they speak about his brother?
"It's a hoax. My brother is dead and buried."
Despite the posthumous honor he received his body, his burnt arm, his empty sockets, are returning to the elements in a nameless grave.
No matter how unaffected he tries to sound, it hurts to say it out loud.
The Hokage's tone becomes softer.
"It's not the first time I've been receiving similar intel from other countries. I don't know what to think about this yet, but as a medic nin I cannot deny that our training includes infusing chakra to a dead fish to revive it. And Juubi's was no ordinary chakra…", she trails off.
"…a farm outside the Land of Fire, between Takigakure and the Mountain's Graveyard territory?"
"Yes. I'm forming a team to investigate further. You're free to join it, but if you don't want to be involved I underst…"
This time Sasuke doesn't wait for her to finish talking.
She should stop him; when his brother is concerned the boy becomes completely unpredictable.
Things change and yet they stay the same, she thinks.
When she first saw him she was told that after having heard that the elder was near, he had rushed in search of him, he had fought him despite the difference in strength, ending up wounded and catatonic.
He isn't even allowed to go on solo missions. Nevertheless, she lets him go.
She would do the same if someone saw Dan.
Author's notes: The title of this fanfiction comes from a song by Dead Can Dance.
I've been playing with this idea since a long time, writing a draft of the first chapters but never uploading them. My first inspiration came from a doujinshi called Kondo No Hikari by Maco. The universe she created, although only a sketch, suggested the basic idea for this fic. I even contacted the doujinka to see if it was ok for her,before I started writing. When Sasuke's revolution intent was revealed I had a bad feeling that he would never had justice and that the end would be bad for him. Expecting a shallow talk no jutsu solving his problems, a mild punishment and a cheesy ending, I was working on this story, imagining a plausible scenario where a little attempt of justice would be done, but also all the inconsistencies of a flawed system that I knew wouldn't change. The ending came out in all its awful un-glory and the disappointment made me write What He Wanted.
For this universe I want to do justice to all characters, not focus on the negative traits that canon had highlighted. So, Naruto really wants to help the one he considers his best friend, and he really wants to make things better because he considers Sasuke's pain and loneliness similar to the one he felt too, Sakura is an individual that can move on from childhood crushes, Tsunade, a woman who knows what it's like to lose everyone you love, is a strong woman and a passionate leader, strong but also compassionate.
As for everything else...I don't want to spoil you anything.