"Hello, Satomi-chan." Mikoto cooed to her third child, with Sasuke cuddled in her other arm, sleeping quietly for the moment.
'Satomi' blinked up through wide, blurry eyes that struggled to see anything at all, and quietly thought oh shit.
Her death was not a particularly odd one. She'd been listening to music, distracted by her phone, and the heel of her boot had landed wrong on the yellow studs at the edge of the subway platform at the worst possible moment. She'd traumatized a handful of New Yorkers in the process, and irritated thousands more with the delays caused by the police dragging her body out from under the train, already cooling.
(New Yorkers were rather focused on getting where they were going on time, and rarely cared about the causes or consequences of their delays.)
She'd floated around in something cold and dark for a while, and then found herself somewhere warm and equally dark, where she couldn't keep her train of thought for more than a few seconds before fading. She wasn't sure how long she'd stayed in either place, but then there had been pain and pressure and finally light.
It had taken a few hours to readjust, to stop crying and panicking and trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
Her ears were working well enough, but her eyes were, somehow, worse than they had ever been before. Her thoughts were drifting in and out of focus, and she had to struggle to hold onto consciousness. She took things as slowly as she could.
Fact one: she remembered falling into the train tracks, the blare of an oncoming train hitting her as her earbuds had gotten caught on a jacket button and been yanked out, and massive amounts of pain. Then nothing, for a while.
Conclusion one: she was probably dead.
Okay, not terrible. Annoying, because she'd been more than halfway done with college, but at least she'd missed her last finals, so, yeah, that wasn't awful.
Fact two: she was weak and disoriented and couldn't make her body move right.
Fact three: there was someone huge holding her.
Conclusion two: reincarnation.
She'd considered it a possibility before. She hadn't tied herself to the idea, because she'd been uncomfortable with believing wholeheartedly in anything she didn't have some kind of evidence for, but she hadn't dismissed it out of hand.
Remembering her past life in vivid detail was unexpected. Might fade in time. Might…
Her head hurt.
(Her brain was too small. She had a newborn's brain and an adult's mind. There wasn't enough room. It didn't fit.)
She went back to sleep.
It took her a few months of partial consciousness to figure out her name. People just spoke so fast, and it was… well, she could understand someJapanese, but minoring in a language and knowing it well enough to understand everything through hazy mind of an infant were two entirely different things. She'd read, once upon a time in a fit of boredom, about how long it took for a newborn's eyes and ears to reach the level of clarity needed to understand the world around them. She'd forgotten what those numbers were, but she was fairly certain that it cleared up by four months. Maybe.
(Within three months, she could see better than she had in her first life, even if it was still worse than she'd seen through her glasses. This wasn't saying much, considering how genuinely awful her eyesight had been, but it meant she could take in the world around her with something approaching clarity.)
And… and she couldn't think, which was honestly a large factor in not being able to recognize her own name. She couldn't even really stay awake for long, and usually just phased out and lets her instincts take over. It was easier, anyway. She didn't have to deal with thinking about the diaper or breastfeeding, for instance (awkward; so awkward). It hurt her head less, too, since focusing on anything for more than a few seconds lead to rough headaches that made her tiny body cry.
She had… four constant family members. She could recognize their voices within days, and there were a few people that came by once in a while. The core was a mother, a father, a young child, and a baby that appeared to be her twin.
"Sasuke," they called him, and she felt her heart clench because no. She fussed until they put her down in the shared crib, and wrapped her hands around the toy they'd gotten her, the little stuffed owl.
She stayed awake as much as she could, after that. She tried not to let herself sleep without sleeping, the haze that let her float through infancy without headaches. She checked names and faces and crawled outside until she saw the fans painted on the distant walls and and and
I don't want to be a ninja.
Sasuke was even more of a cuddler than Satomi was, at this age. Satomi had spent her short foray into adulthood casually sitting in friends' laps to the point where she'd been accidentally mistake for being in a relationship with at least five of them, so she wasn't shy about cuddling, but neither were most toddlers. This meant that the two of them quite comfortably slept in a single crib for a very long time.
(Six months, she guessed. There wasn't an accurate way to gauge time, beyond the terrifying, howling rage of the Kyuubi attack a while back. She was surprised it hadn't activated her Sharingan, since she could understand the fear in a way that Sasuke couldn't, but being less than a year old was probably pushing it. Their had to be some kind of age-related physiological requirement.)
She practiced making noises when she was alone, just her and Sasuke in the crib. It wasn't like he was going to tell, and having his surprisingly strong little arms wrapped around hers was comforting. She didn't get much time to practice (only a handful of minutes a day before the headache hit), but she did what she could. Serbian first, because she refused to forget that. English second, because she doubted she could forget that. Japanese last, because she was still learning.
(She doubted she'd ever get a chance to finish learning Spanish in this world, and dropped it with a mental sigh.)
"Strmo," she finally managed one day, inordinately proud of herself for stringing together a word built out of so many consonants with her tiny baby mouth. Well, she hadn't quite gotten the r right, and she was still stumbling a bit, but she had time to work on that. The headache was growing, but it was worth the triumph.
"Suh-tuh-mo." Sasuke repeated after her, which drew her to a halt. She stared at him for a second, then leaned forward to press up against him and go back to sleep. She'd think about this later, when she didn't have to worry about her head splitting open or her brain catching up to her and telling her that Sasuke, whose only language was supposed to be Japanese and whose first word was supposed to be something like a food or a family member, had decided to start off his vocabulary with a badly mangled version of the Serbian word for "steep."
Twins sometimes have secret languages between them, she decided the next day. They could pretend it was that. Totally. There was no way anybody would question the innate complexity of a developed language, and they definitely didn't exist in the universe somehow already to provide a source for the English-based loan words that even Konoha's Japanese had in relative abundance and thus cause people to question where she'd learned such languages at such a young age.
(Satomi wondered if the relative isolation was causing her sarcasm to get stronger.)
She could just… not talk around Sasuke unless it was in Japanese. That was probably safer.
"'Tachi," she said, making her decision. Her brother (and older sibling, which was novel) blinked at her in surprise as she crawled over and into his lap, ignoring his homework, knowing he would pull it out of the way before she crawled over it and ruined her onesie. It was the first (Japanese) word she'd said in front of anyone other than Sasuke, and she had plans to… do something. She wasn't sure what yet, but she figured she'd need to communicate with people soon. She sat with her back to Itachi's chest, pulling his arms around her like a cage to keep her safe, a warm little cradle of sorts.
She dropped back into the part of her mind that didn't hurt and hoped that the baby brain would absorb some language skills while she was down there.
She stayed down for a long time, only barely absorbing the life that went on around her hazy mind, the days and weeks blending into a monotonous roar.
She cried the first time Mikoto cut her hair.
For a child that cried so much less than was usual, the angry sobbing was different. Worrying, even.
"Satomi-chan, what's wrong?" Mikoto said, getting to her knees in front of her daughter. "It'll grow back!"
"Too short!" Satomi hiccoughed out, rubbing tiny fists against her eyes. The little curls dropped down nearly to her shoulders, a respectable length for a child of two. It had been longer before, but the uneven lengths had started looking a little silly, and Mikoto had chopped off a fair bit of it to make it look more uniform.
(The Uchiha clan as a whole tended to have three types of hair going around: the stiff, spiky hair that Fugaku had passed onto Sasuke (that Madara himself had once had), the silkier straight hair that Itachi had gotten from Mikoto, and the loose curls that cropped up here and there, like Shisui's, and now Satomi's.)
"It'll grow back, sweetheart." Mikoto said, hugging Satomi and sending a confused look at her husband. Out of all the things that could have made her cry, why this?
"Hey!" a voice called out behind her. Shisui. "What's all the fuss about?"
"My hair is short." Satomi muttered against Mikoto's shoulder.
"Here, let me take a look at you," effortlessly, Shisui tucked his hands under his little cousin's armpits and lifted her into the air. She stared back, looking absolutely miserable.
"You look adorable!" He finally said, smilling. "And hey, it's longer than mine!"
"You like short hair. I don't."
"You don't like my hair?" Shisui pouted at her, eyes wide.
Satomi's eyes narrowed in turn. "I didn't say that. Don't say I said things that I… um…"
Shisui raised an eyebrow, waiting. "Satomi-chan?"
"I lost my words." She deflated, swinging from Shisui's hands with a pout on her face.
Shisui laughed and dropped to the ground, sitting cross-legged with Satomi in the dip between his legs. "I'll take care of her for now, Mikoto-ba-chan."
"Thanks, Shisui. Itachi's going to be home with Sasuke-chan in about half an hour if you were wondering." Mikoto levered herself to her feet and left the room with Fugaku.
Satomi dragged one of Shisui's hands up on top of her head and stared at him with wide, wide eyes. "Kitty."
Shisui blinked, and Satomi made a meowing noise.
"You… want me to scratch your head like a cat?"
Satomi tilted her head and blinked. Shisui blinked again and gave an experimental scratch to the mess of loose curls on top of his cousin's head and sent a look to the heavens when she made a surprisingly realistic purring noise.
Why are you like this.
"Okay, Satomi-chan. You can be a kitty."
Mikoto was aware of the fact that some of her daughter's behaviors went outside the realm of childishness and straight into the realm of downright odd. Given that the girl was speaking fluently and already writing at the age of three, she let it pass. Itachi had been odd as well, and he was almost a chuunin despite his young age.
(She tamped down the fear that Itachi would come home damaged beyond repair someday soon. She was a shinobi mother. She wouldn't worry. She couldn't allow herself to worry.)
(Thank all the gods she had at least one normal child.)
What wasn't odd was the girl's apparently joy at getting to dress up. That, if anything, was as characteristic of a young child as any that Mikoto had seen.
"Hold still, Satomi-chan." Mikoto chided, moving to fix the obi. "Look, Sasuke's already done getting dressed, and he held still."
"But it's so pretty." Satomi kept twisting in front of the mirror to get a better look at the children's kimono she was wearing. "There's, um… light!"
"Glitter, Satomi-chan." Mikoto had hesitated to buy it, because that really wasn't traditional at all, but Satomi had seemed entranced by the garment. "Hold still."
"Aniki, when we going to go?" Sasuke asked, tugging on the fabric at Itachi's waist.
"Soon, otouto." Itachi muttered, putting a hand on top of Sasuke's head.
"Where we going to go?"
"The Hyuuga heir's birthday party is today." Mikoto said, standing up and brushing nonexistent dust off her hands. Her own garment hadn't even wrinkled while she'd dressed her children. "And as the children of the head of the Uchiha clan, you will be making an appearance."
"Play nice with the Hyuuga?" Satomi asked, tilting her head.
"Yes, dear. Now, let's go, or we're going to be late."
"Aniki," Sasuke tugged more insistently on Itachi's robes. "Aniki, up!"
Itachi picked up his little brother and saw the boy smirking down at Satomi. The girl narrowed her eyes at Sasuke, and then turned and ran as fast as she could in her new clothes to their father.
"Tou-chan, up!" She demanded, arms in the air and her eyes as wide as she could make them. When Fugaku did indeed pick her up, she immediately turned to Sasuke and stuck her tongue out. Sasuke, in turn, clung tighter to his brother.
"Let's go," Mikoto said, placing a hand on Itachi's back and pushing him gently towards the door, wrapping her arm around Fugaku's free one as she passed him by. "We'll be late if we stay much longer."
Mikoto knew children could be awkward around each other, or that they could come up with ridiculous games from nothing. She hoped for the latter, though she'd heard gossip that the Hyuuga heir was rather shy. If she was lucky, Satomi's disposition would stay sunny and drag little Hinata into playing, while Sasuke could stay with Itachi or meet Hizashi's son, who had the conspicuous forehead wrappings that signified a recently applied Caged Bird Seal.
She really shouldn't have been surprised when, after dinner, she found Sasuke teaching Hinata how to play Cat's Cradle, while Satomi braided a confused-but-trying-not-to-show-it Neji's hair. All the other children at the party were running around, taking part in various games, but her children had somehow stayed by the Hyuuga.
"Satomi-chan, what are you doing?" Mikoto asked.
"It's so soft." Satomi said, running her hands through it. "And long."
"Why are you braiding Neji's hair?"
"Fun," Satomi shrugged. "He did mine. Look!"
There were, indeed, small braids all over Satomi's head. They were carefully done, if very obviously the work of someone who was very new to what they were doing. Neji didn't seem to know what he was expected to do, but Satomi's bullish cheer had rolled past him and dragged him along, and apparently pushed Sasuke into Hinata in turn. From what Mikoto had seen, Sasuke probably would have played with the other children had Satomi not been there, and the two young Hyuuga would have kept to their corner alone.
"I see." Mikoto smiled and nodded in encouragement, then turned to Sasuke to ask about his and Hinata's game in turn. She could go back to the adult's section of the party soon enough.
She hated being a child.
It was nice to have all of the pressure gone (though it was only a matter of time before it began building again, if the world followed canon patterns at all), but it was boring and disgusting. She got a little praise for speaking so well, but while it was good for a child, she was consistently frustrated by the fact that she couldn't understand anyone around her nearly as well as she wanted to. It didn't help that she'd heard Fugaku and Mikoto speaking late one night about how slowly and oddly she spoke, despite her clear diction and complex sentence structure.
(It wasn't her fault she still had an accent. Or that she had to think and pick her way through the words to make sure she made sense.)
"Imouto," Sasuke poked her in the side. "You look mad."
"I am mad." She glared at the paper in front of her.
"Because kanji are awful, and I can't remember them." She painstakingly wrote in another one. Her learning rate had plateaued when she'd gotten to this point, and while her adult intelligence was still keeping her afloat, she didn't doubt that people would have 'questions' soon.
Sasuke thought over her answer. "Kanji are hard. And anyway, you don't need to know kanji if you're an awesome ninja!"
"You do," she said, continuing to glare down at the paper. "And I don't want to be a ninja."
"You say that a lot, but you still do the exercises," Sasuke pointed out. His own exercises were the little hiragana worksheets that children at four were supposed to be doing. He somehow hadn't gotten some sort of inferiority complex yet, which was good, but she doubted that would last.
"I'm an Uchiha. I don't have a choice." Satomi filled out another square. "And I'd still need kanji if I became a civilian."
"And what," Itachi's voice came from the door, sounding amused, "would you do if you were a civilian?"
"…accountant." Satomi finally said. She'd honestly disliked financial accounting back when she'd taken it, even if managerial accounting had been alright, but saying 'marketing director' or 'economist' or any of the other jobs she'd considered was impossible with her current vocabulary. "Or a writer."
Itachi looked genuinely surprised, but the look passed. "Why do you want to do that?"
"I like numbers. I'm good at them." Good enough that no one tried to teach her anymore, judging her fully competent for the next few years. They hadn't tested for much after she started making mistakes due to lack of practice, but she'd managed to prove herself relatively skilled. "And I want to work with money."
"And a writer?" Itachi settled himself next to her and took her filled worksheets into hand to look them over.
"I'm not good with words," yet, "But I like making stories."
She could plot, and characterize, and do a lot of things. She just didn't have the words for any of it.
"I see. Sasuke, what about you?" Itachi listened carefully to Sasuke's rambling about being a ninja and joining the military police while he finished looking over Satomi's work, pointing out a mistake or two, and then stood back up. "Kaa-chan sent me to call you down for dinner."
Sasuke scrambled to his feet and immediately ran to the door. Satomi immediately ran after him, yelling, "WASH YOUR HANDS!"
Sasuke skidded to a stop in the middle of the hallway as Mikoto stepped into the doorway to the kitchen. "Ah, I was just coming to get you." And then, as though she hadn't just heard the screaming, she said, "Have you washed your hands yet?"
Sasuke pouted and trudged back up to the bathroom. Satomi went to follow him, but was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. "Satomi-chan, I know you want to follow the rules, but you don't have to do it like that. Just tell me."
She blinked up at Mikoto with wide eyes. "That wasn't about the rules. His hands are dirty. I don't want ink in my food. Or in his. Or whatever he got on his hands when they touched the ground. Or his pants. Or anything else."
"I… see." Mikoto stepped back, letting Satomi slip past into the bathroom. Satomi saw Mikoto's face in the mirror, saw the troubled look on it, and turned her face back to the sink.
Her problems hadn't left with her reincarnation, and as soon as she was old enough to think properly, they'd returned full force. Better to let Mikoto and Fugaku know as early as possible instead of hiding it and letting them find out later during a less opportune time.
(She knew they'd already noticed her refusal to touch her face with her fingers during training. Training meant dirty hands, from sweat and dirt and other icky, icky things. That wasn't going to be touching her face if she had anything to say about it.)
And if she happened to overhear during dinner that there was a delegation coming in from Kumo soon, and asked for a sleepover with the Hyuuga? Well, that was just coincidence.
The sleepover couldn't last forever, of course. And when she and Sasuke came back home and ensured that security was relaxed at the Hyuuga compound again, Kumo struck. One thing led to another, and Hyuuga Hizashi went to his death.
She stole away later that night, going to the kitchen to get away from Sasuke and think. She could do that much.
She had been reborn into a position that granted her a fair amount of influence over the plot. She was still too young to do much about anyone's backstory, like the Hyuuga incident. She tried, and failed, there.
She was… she was also probably not going to be able to stop the Uchiha massacre. She would probably survive, since she was Itachi's younger sibling now, like Sasuke had and still would, but everyone else was…
She lay her head down against the cool wood of the table and breathed. Okay. So. She liked most of the Uchiha now. She was also four years going on five, and completely useless to stop anything on that front unless she did something incredibly stupid and told someone about her past life and how much trouble a massacre would cause.
She could save Shisui, maybe. She knew where the river he died in was, and two or three years was probably enough time to practice her chakra up to a level where she could walk on water and maybe drag him out before he drowned. He wouldn't thank her, but his survival was one of the few possible ways to delay the massacre.
(She doubted Obito would let it be stopped completely, but she could try.)
That wasn't likely to do much, though. She was…
"Naravno da ne mogu išta da uradim." She muttered. This wasn't the first time she'd tried to plan around the massacre, but it was the first time her incompetence had been so blatantly shoved into her face.
The only other option she really had was to follow in Itachi's footsteps and make genin before her baby teeth stopped falling out, and somehow raise people's opinions of the Uchiha and placate the clan into not initiating a coup in the process.
That was… also unlikely to work. Again, Obito. Also her own reluctance to hurt people and inability to do martial arts properly, despite her interest.
She was pretty sure that Sasuke's burgeoning inferiority complex didn't start until after the massacre, so that was helpful, but if she advanced too far and the massacre happened anyway, then she was pretty sure she stood a good chance of earning his ire for a very, very long time.
Still, risking Sasuke's anger was worth it if she could keep her new family safe. It was hard to spend years in their company when she was so helpless and not feel something for them.
"We don't want to share a room anymore," Sasuke and Satomi chorused, and it was clearly something they'd practiced.
Fugaku glanced at Mikoto, and then cleared his throat. "And why might that be?"
"She talks in her sleep and I can't fall asleep." Sasuke said, crossing his arms with a huff.
"He makes a mess and I have to clean it up because he's lazy." Satomi kept her hands folded across her lap.
"I thought you liked cleaning." Mikoto said, brow furrowed. Stalling for time, Fugaku thought.
Satomi pursed her lips. "I like things being clean. I don't like cleaning."
Well, that was… fairly obvious, but it was also the first time Fugaku had heard her put it into words. "And Sasuke doesn't clean?"
"Never." Satomi's eyes grew wide and her bottom lip wobbled a bit, and Fugaku would eat his own shoe if that look hadn't been practiced in the mirror.
"We really don't have the spare room," MIkoto said, trying to placate the two. "Can you handle it for at least a little while longer?"
The twins shot each other glances, pouting, and Satomi sighed. Sasuke muttered. "Yeah, I guess."
"Can you make him help clean our room, though?" Satomi piped up again, and Mikoto resigned herself to a long discussion about hygiene habits, again, and how Satomi's insistence on them was a little over-the-top, no matter how much she liked things being clean.
"Satomi-chan?" Itachi's voice came from the doorway, and she looked up from her homework to see him standing there with Sasuke and Shisui. "We're going to visit Nekobaa. Would you like to join us?"
Satomi's hands stilled, and she considered it. She, unlike Sasuke, hadn't actually met the cat clan yet. She was meant to have, of course, but she'd never actually been invited. After seeing her reticence to touch strays and neighbor's pets, Itachi had quietly assumed that animals were just another thing in a long list of issues she had with the world at large. He wasn't wrong, of course, but it stung a little to not even get an invite before.
"I… suppose I could." She finally said, after thinking long enough for Sasuke to start impatiently shifting from foot to foot. "What are we going to be doing?"
"Collecting paw prints!" Sasuke said, and his face was already flushed with excitement.
"Sounds fun." Satomi said, grabbing a hair tie and doing her best to quickly braid her hair. The curls had gotten larger and looser, to the point where the hair near her scalp was nearly straight, and the ones near the bottom were an inch or so around. "If rather invasive to their privacy."
"We're ninja, imouto." Itachi reminded her. "It is unfortunately part of the job."
"Right." Satomi made a face, then walked around behind Shisui and leapt up onto his back. "Onwards!"
"Aye-aye, ma'am!" Shisui did a salute at thin air, and then hooked his hands under her knees and started racing forward as she clung to his neck. She could hear Sasuke demanding to do the same with Itachi behind her.
Her only thought after coming back from the cat clan (and immediately calling dibs on the shower), is that it really could have gone better.
At least she didn't seem to have offended anyone?
Hiding in Nekobaa's bathroom had probably been a bit much, though.
Satomi was sitting in the kitchen when she heard something startlingly familiar coming from the TV that spit static more often than not.
She left the table with the picture she'd been trying (and mostly failing) to draw behind, edging over to the door and staring at the screen, where an old woman from rural Kumo was being interviewed, apparently with the help of a translator, because that definitely sounded like English.
"Otou-san," She scurried over to the kotatsu that Fugaku was seated at and clung to his side. "What's she saying?"
Fugaku glanced over at the TV, and then turned his attention back to the paperwork on the low table. "One of the minor languages. They exist in pockets here and there across the continent where the Warring Clans Era didn't wipe them out."
"Eh?" Satomi tugged on his top, demanding his attention as only a spoilt younger child could. "No, no, tell me more."
Fugaku gave up on the paperwork and turned to her. "A long time ago, there were various languages spread across the continent. After the Sage of the Six Paths discovered ninjutsu and passed it on, the people of the Nihon area, now known as Western Hi no Kuni, gained a lot of power very quickly, and began to overcome their neighbors in Chuugoku first, and then spread from there. Due to the presence of chakra, they subdued most of their enemies and occasionally picked up bits of their language, but mostly forced their own language onto everyone else. By the time chakra had been picked up by everyone else well enough for them to fight back against our predecessors, the language we speak now had become the default language of the continent, with people outside of Western Hi no Kuni learning it alongside whatever languages were native to their area, if they learned the latter at all. During the Warring Clans Era, these languages were destroyed even further, and large cities began to simply learn the general language without even bothering with the older languages. Now the old languages only exist in small pockets of rural areas, as a hobby to be learned by rich civilians or enterprising newscasters. Does that tell you everything you need to know?" (1)
Satomi stared at him with wide eyes, and then glanced over at the Kumo woman, and then back to Fugaku.
"What kinds of languages are there?"
Fugaku closed his eyes and sighed. "I don't know the details. We can get you a book from the library."
"Rude." Satomi sniffed, and while she didn't leave, she did make sure to leave some space between them when she sat down, facing out into the garden instead of the person she'd come to talk to. The platter with the two cooling mugs of tea, she set down in the middle.
There was silence for several seconds, and then, "Why are you here?" Why aren't you leaving?
Satomi glanced over for half a second, noting the white eyes that were steadfastly not looking in her direction, and shrugged. She was sure Neji could see it even without looking.
"You look like you could use some company that doesn't have any connection to what happened." And right now, that meant the whole Hyuuga clan. Neji's mother had died in childbirth, and with his father so recently gone, that left him with only his uncle to raise him, which was… going to be difficult.
"I don't need any company."
"Somehow, I doubt that." She picked up her tea, and inhaled the steam. It was still too hot to drink, but the vapors were comforting in the cool, crisp air of the November morning.
"Who sent you?"
"I sent myself, genius." Satomi turned fully and stuck her tongue out for a second, garnering a look of irritation that quickly smoothed back into the blank mask. She let her face soften again, and shifted to a more comfortable position. "Seriously, I worry about you."
"That's a lie and you know it." Satomi said, but didn't follow up on it, and neither did Neji. He took the tea from the platter, and they drank by the garden for a few minutes.
"You know that old saying, an heir, a spare, and a mare?" Satomi finally said.
"The heir to raise to take over, the spare in case something happens to the heir, and the 'mare.' Someone to marry off or turn into a breeder." She laughed, but there was something weary to it. "Can you guess where I'm going with this?"
Neji, bless his little five-year-old heart, furrowed his brow in thought. "…They're trying to make you get married?"
"Close. They're trying to get an engagement contract signed. The elders, that is, not my parents. They wanted to hold off until I made genin."
"Who?" Neji seemed a little more willing to talk now that the subject had changed, if only to keep Satomi from needling him.
"Oh, you're gonna hate this." Satomi smiled brightly. "You."
Neji's face was… well, 'rictus of horror' was as good a descriptor as any.
"Why?" He finally spluttered.
"Solidifying the Uchiha and Hyuuga clans' alliance, I guess. We're not heirs, so we can be married off to someone outside our clans, but we're closely related enough to the Clan Head that it's still somewhat prestigious to get our hands in marriage or whatever." Satomi shrugged. "However it's done, there will almost definitely be a couple clauses detailing how to end the contract."
Neji eyed her, "And how do you know that?"
"There's always a way out. Contracts can't be airtight; there has to be room for emergencies. With something like this, there's probably going to be a clause for mutual disinterest, ways in which shinobi duties might force us to break it off, and probably something about how to end things if one of us ends up being gay."
Neji tilted his head. "Ah."
"You sound like you want to ask something."
"…Do you think one of is going to end up—"
"You never know!" Satomi laughed and hid her discomfort, because, well, yes. Maybe not gay specifically, but she was going to break this off as soon as it stopped being useful, because wow, no, marriage was not in her plans, children were not in her plans, romance and sex were not in her plans, at all, ever.
(Especially not when all the people that were physically her age were children. She was a grown woman. They were… very obviously not.)
"Why are you not mad about this?" Neji asked, crossing his arms and hunching his shoulders like it would protect him from the contract that was almost definitely getting signed right now.
"Because we can break it off, and if anyone ever asks me out, I can just tell them I have a fiancé and then they'll leave me alone." She leaned over the tea towards Neji as she spoke, and she could feel how wide her eyes and grin were, but she didn't bring them back to normal, even after Neji scooted away from her, looking just a mite bit scared. "I have a great way to get of weird flirting when I get older!"
"You think that's going to happen a lot?"
Satomi scoffed, shifting back into her seat. "Please, have you seen how many girls flirt with Itachi? My mom is gorgeous and we all got a bit of that. I probably won't have as many problems as my brothers, but, hey, I'm a girl. Someone's eventually going to ask." And if I'm not lucky, they'll refuse to take no for an answer unless I say I'm spoken for. "And you're probably going to be kind of pretty too. Most of the Hyuuga are, so you'll get people being all flirty and stuff."
Neji made a face, like the very idea was insulting. "Ew."
"Yep. Ew, indeed." Satomi nodded sagely. "Besides, I don't want to marry you, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to marry me. We can just be friends. Forever, if we have to be."
Neji thought about that. "You're weird."
"And you're a jerk, so nyeh!"
The Academy was boring.
The thing was, she knew the math like the back of her hand (and a good ten years of schooling more). And she knew the hiragana and katakana they were learning as well. And the kanji they were learning for the next two years.
The history and culture classes were interesting, but she had the feeling she could pull an all-nighter or two like she had in college and learn it all in less than a week. Even without doing that, it was all structured for children to learn, which meant a lot of repetition.
(A disgusting amount of repetition, actually.)
There was, really, only one class that provided any sense of challenge. Taijutsu class took up at least half of the day, and while her adult brain made the other classes incredibly boring, taijutsu was…
She hit the ground with a squawking noise as Chouji swept her feet out from under her, and levered herself back to her feet after Iruka declared it Chouji's win. They made the seal of reconciliation, trudged off back to their respective corners, and turned to watch the next match.
(Which was Naruto vs. Sasuke. Of course it was.)
Satomi kneaded the heels of her palms against her temples, thinking. As it stood right now, all her teachers had noticed that she was at least a few grade levels ahead of the rest of the class in most of her book courses. She could feel them watching her with disappointment during taijutsu practice, when that intelligence didn't translate over to natural fighting ability.
They wanted another Itachi. Graduate in a year and go.
She tried, actually. Not the graduation part, because a single year was clearly going to be impossible, but the taijutsu spars. She knew the forms, had done them quite a bit, and was exercising more than she ever had in her past life, but… well, it was still something a bit new. The forms were different from the ones she'd learned in martial arts classes before, and this time, she was actually expected to use them and try to hurt her classmates.
Every time she did that, her brain cried out they're five years old, for pity's sake! Sometimes she powered through it. Sometimes she didn't.
"Alright, lunch time!"
Satomi and Sasuke almost always sat together during lunch, on a low wall at the edge of a small hill. Hinata occasionally joined them, but she often ended up getting pulled away into Ino's little group, always growing, more often than not.
"I need to practice more," Satomi finally said, picking at her lunch. "I keep losing taijutsu matches."
"I guess," Sasuke muttered, stabbing at his salmon with more force than necessary.
Satomi shot him a look. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Sasuke shrugged, and that was… that was so… passive-aggressive.
"Sasuke?" She tried softening her voice. "Are you mad at me for some reason?"
"You don't need to get better." Sasuke said. "You're already smarter than me, and now you wanna just leave and graduate early like Itachi did."
Satomi took a breath. Okay. "Are you mad that I wanna graduate early or that I'm gonna leave or that I'm doing better than you right now?"
Sasuke stabbed at his food. "Not mad."
A spike of irritation flashed through her, quickly smothered by the reminder that her little brother was five years old and entirely entitled to these feelings. "Sasuke, look at me."
He didn't, so she hopped down from her seat on the wall and crouched down on the ground so she could look up at him. "Sasuke, I'm smart. I'm not going to pretend I'm not. If I had my way, I'd be going to some civilian school to be an accountant or something right now. I don't get that option, so I'm going to be as good of a ninja as I can be, and that means playing at my strengths. But you? It's going to take you longer to get there, but you are going to be much, much more powerful than I am. I like to imagine that I'm going to be good. You, on the other hand, are going to be absolutely amazing."
She was tempted, so tempted, to just tell him she had memories of a past life, and that she was smarter than him for that reason and none other. That she was, in a number of ways, very much cheating.
"…You really think so?" He finally said, his voice very, very small.
"I know so." Please let that be enough. "I'm a logarithm of a ninja. You're an exponential."
Sasuke blinked at her.
"Graphing joke. I start out fast and slow down as I get older, and you start out slow but get faster and faster later on." Satomi smiled. "Trust me, if things happen the way I think they will, you'll be outrunning me by the time we're eighteen. Probably earlier."
"I'm gonna be a good ninja." Sasuke said, and nodded. The determined look on his face was adorable, enough so that Satomi reached out and pinched his cheeks. "Hey!"
"You're too cute." Satomi told him, taking her place on the wall again. "That'll cause you some trouble in a few years, but for now, you're adorable."
She patted him on the head, and for a few minutes, everything was back to normal.
"I'm going to eat your brains," Satomi gravely informed Itachi, her eyes wide and her voice solemn. She was sitting in his lap as he worked at the table, ear pressed to his chest and listening for the dull thudding of his heartbeat.
"I see. Might I ask why?" Itachi didn't look away from his paperwork. Damn.
"If I get turned into a zombie, then I'll eat you first. Zombies eat brains, and people's brains work better if they get a lot of oxygen, and if they get a lot of oxygen, they'll be healthier, and that means they'll be tastier. And you're really smart, so your brain probably gets a lot of oxygen, so it'll be tasty." She babbled. Itachi reached down and ruffled her hair, never pausing in writing with his other hand.
"And what about Shisui?"
"He gets to be a zombie, too." Satomi didn't even pause.
"He's one of the human survivors, trying to cut a path to freedom."
"Ah. Then I suppose you may eat my brains."
They sat in silence for a few more minutes, and then Satomi spoke again.
"Aniki, can you train with me and Sasuke later?"
"Only, you never say yes when Sasuke asks, so I figured you might if we both asked you." She looked up at him, eyes wide and a little glossy with unshed tears and caught the exact moment that he realized that oh, this was the expression he'd caught her practicing in the mirror once.
"Maybe later, Satomi-chan."
She rolled her eyes and thunked her head back against his chest. If she was lucky, maybe it hurt.
"Dance with me," Satomi said, apropos of nothing, staring at Neji with wide eyes. She'd been pushed up a grade into his class the month before, and that meant, of course, that she was spending her lunches with him. Sasuke was still a little difficult to deal with (an burgeoning inferiority complex wasn't the easiest thing to work around), but Itachi was keeping him mostly placated.
("I'm Itachi's favorite, so nyeh!"
"Well, I'm Shisui's favorite, so nyeh!"
"What? Why do you get to be Shisui's favorite?"
"'Cause we have the same hair, duh!")
Well, it was easy to keep him distracted with childish games.
"Here, stand up." She pulled Neji to his feet. "Now, put one hand here on my waist, and put your other hand in mine, and one, two, three, one, two, three,"
Moving Neji around was much like hauling around an obstinate donkey. He was, in fact, something of a stubborn ass.
"Why do you want me to do this, again?"
"It's fun, I'm bored, and nobody ever wants to dance with me unless it's, like, traditional stuff at festivals. And those are nice and everything, but they're rare and I want a little variety."
Neji narrowed his eyes at her, and she smiled widely.
"I'll dance with you!" One of the boys she barely knew called out, and, oh god, he was blushing.
Satomi closed her eyes, pursed her lips, and took a deep breath through her nose. She turned and grabbed Neji, hauling him around to be in front of her. A six-year-old was only useful against another six-year-old, but that was really all she was facing.
"Keep him away. Please." She muttered against his back, fingers pinching into the fabric. She did not want to deal with this. She especially did not want to deal with this while barely scraping three and a half feet in height.
Neji sighed. "I don't think she wants to dance with you, Hao-san."
"Aw, c'mon, why not?" He craned his head to look around Neji with what he probably thought was a friendly grin. Satomi smoothed her features out into as impassive and as cold an expression she could.
"I don't know you. Please go away." Her hands twitched in Neji's jacket. The boy was only six, for pity's sake, but there was a reason she hated being flirted with and five years wasn't enough for her to stop being twitchy and hiding behind her friends.
(She hadn't run off to hide in the bathroom, though. That was an improvement over the last time this happened, back in college.)
"She asked you to leave." Neji said again, a note of irritation entering his voice. Thankfully, Hao seemed to take the hint, pouting and going back to his friends, who were jeering, because children apparently started mimicking the bad habits of adults very young in life.
"Thanks." Satomi muttered, and after a second's hesitation, wrapped her arms around Neji's chest and pressed her face into his back. God, she hated this sort of thing.
(She'd never gotten a truly horrifying reaction to turning a man down when she was an adult, but being 'playfully' threatened with a loaded bow and arrow, or getting creeped on by a drunk twice her age… it was enough that she'd already started getting jumpy in this life too.)
(She hadn't gotten flirted with much in college, but what occurred was… not particularly fun.)
"I see what you mean about people leaving you alone more if there's someone else involved." Neji said as imperiously as a seven-year-old could. He might have been trying to avoid the subject.
"Sorry about using you as a human shield." Satomi muttered, even as Neji pulled her hands apart and turned around to face her, arms crossed.
"Try not to do it again?"
Satomi saluted with gusto she didn't feel. "I make no promises!"
Satomi started practicing near the Naka River as soon as she turned seven.
Seven, by Fugaku and Mikoto's standards, was old enough to let their children stay out past dark. Itachi had been a genin at seven, after all; the twins could be allowed a little free reign within the village itself.
No one asked, of course, and she didn't go every night. She varied it just enough that she could hope that if Shisui died, he would still do it here.
(That she could drag him from the river in time, because even if she knew she couldn't stop what Danzo did and what Shisui himself tried to finish, that she could maybe save him from the water.)
Tree-climbing was something she had seen people do, and seen explained in books, but had never been explicitly taught to do.
This, she decided after several hours of attempting to do it, was for a very good reason. That reason was that her chakra control prior to graduation was kind of awful.
(Better than Sasuke's was right now, and better than Naruto's would be as a genin, but still kind of awful.)
She didn't start with the tree-climbing, of course. She started small, with her hands, getting leaves to stick to her fingertips, and then her forehead, and moving to more and more difficult parts of her body, like her elbows and shoulders. Of course, it got more and more difficult each time, and by the time she got around to attempting to tree-climb…
Satomi stared at the ground after falling several dozen times. She was… pretty sure she didn't have a concussion.
"Of course it hurts." She told herself. "You fell from a tree and hit your head."
She didn't answer herself, because this was a lecture, and the lectured don't say anything when the lecturer does.
She heaved herself up to sit straight and focused on her own body. The headache was bad, but not awful. She could focus her eyes as well as usual, as far as she could tell. No nausea, and—
Satomi stood up and immediately leaned forward and rolled into a handstand, holding it for five seconds before she folded over backwards and stood back up.
No balance problems, either. So probably no concussion. That was good.
She looked up the tree at the kunai markings a few feet above her head. It was slow going. Very slow going. It made sense, of course, but it didn't change the fact that she was frustrated by how long it was taking her to master the skill.
With a sigh, Satomi began running through the stretches that heralded the end of her training most days. The stretches were normally a little boring, but there was always a small, intense thrill to doing them.
She'd never been able to touch her toes for more than a second before. Now she could lay her palms flat against the ground and bend her elbows without any discomfort.
It was kind of exhilarating.
Satomi began humming to herself, closing her eyes and trying to remember just how the score went to that particular scene, stood up straight, and…
Being a ninja meant having much, much better physical abilities than she'd ever had. Not just flexibility, but grace and balance and strength and oh so much more.
Dancing had been fun before, but now it was probably her favorite pastime.
Jump, turn, full side split, come together, land.
Yes, she thought to herself, definitely her new favorite pastime.
(With a dearth of internet and fantasy books and dystopian young adult literature, especially in English, the choice was much easier that it would have been once upon a time.)
She got moved up another year when the teachers determined that her taijutsu had caught up enough to her theoretical skills and chakra control. The practice she put into the ninja skills was certainly more than what she was expected to, but it wasn't as much as, say, Neji, who still kicked her ass every time they sparred, or Sasuke, who won nine times out of ten. It was the only reason, she thought, that might keep him from using her as a target for the superiority-inferiority complex he'd probably develop after the massacre.
Given the bags under Shisui and Itachi's eyes, and the nervousness that both boys hid under well-crafted veneers of cheer and pleasantness respectively, it was almost here.
There was a frantic energy in the air, one that kept her awake at night and made her shoulders hunch as the muscles tightened in an imagined cold. Even Sasuke started to notice, as much as she tried to keep a giddy face on.
"You're being even weirder than usual about the washing thing." Sasuke said one night as they lay on their futons. Satomi was staring at the ceiling, but she could feel her brother's stare from a few feet away. "And… I don't know, are you scared of something?"
There was a pause of several seconds.
"Yeah. There's something," She blew out a breath, trying to find the right words, "There's something bad coming. Soon."
"Do you know what?" Sasuke asked when she didn't continue.
Satomi's fingers clenched in the fabric of her duvet, many times thicker and warmer than Sasuke's blanket. "I… I have my suspicions."
"And a lot of people are going to die." She said in one great big rush, forcing herself to not stop. There was a whimper to her words. "Probably."
There was a shuffling noise from Sasuke's direction, and a few seconds later his futon was right next to hers. She turned to look at him as he spoke. "Imouto, can you see the future?"
"No." That was true. "I just… I'm good at finding patterns." Also true. "And I can get a look at things from outside the situation, because I'm not supposed to exist."
Sasuke made a face. "That's not true."
"It really, really is." Satomi pulled her hands under the covers and clutched the little owl toy tight to her chest as she dug the nails of one deep into the palm of the other, as hard as she could without breaking skin. Focus on the pain of the moment, not the stress of the future. "I'm happy to be alive. I like existing. But I'm not meant to exist."
Sasuke pouted. "You're weird, Satomi."
"Oh please, like you're the first to say that." She giggled, though. If there was one constant in life and death, it was people deciding she wasn't normal enough for them. Granted, she encouraged the assumption now as opposed to resenting it the way she had ten or twenty years ago, but it was still a constant.
Sasuke seemed to run out of questions for a bit, but he managed to ask one more just as she was slipping off to dreamland.
"So who's going to die?"
She managed to learn water-walking a few days later, shakily finding her footing on one of the small ponds that dotted Konoha's training grounds. It drained her more than tree climbing did, but that was to be expected. At least she had a very good motive for getting it right; she absolutely hated being submerged in water that was anywhere less than shower temperature, and a pond in a training ground was inevitably very, very cold.
"Count, two, three, count, two, three," She muttered to herself, moving through a simple waltz on the water. She'd gotten just walking down over the course of a weekend and several school days, but running or moving while focusing on something other than her feet was generally a recipe for disaster. A waltz took up more concentration than just walking, but not by much, so she could focus on both her chakra control and her—
"KYAA!" She fell through the surface of the water, losing her balance enough for the water to cover her head before she managed to find her footing on the rocky bottom and stand again. The pond only came up to about mid-chest, but that didn't mean much when any fall ended with her fully submerged anyway.
"For the love of god, why is this so difficult?" She reverted to English as she swept the water off her arms as best she could, trudging out of the water and back to the edge. She quickly deemed the exercise useless and stripped her shirt off, leaving only the training bra that Mikoto had started to insist she wear recently, despite absolutely no sign of any development on that front. She didn't mind much, as the scrap of cloth felt comfortingly snug and made her feel much less exposed than if she'd been completely topless.
Satomi turned to glare at the little pond, flexed her toes insider the little ninja boots (closed-toe, thank you) she'd gotten for her birthday a few months ago, and then took off at a run before she could change her mind.
"AaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" She screamed and kept screaming as she hit the water, sprinting across with only a thin layer of shaky chakra between her and the clingy depths, and made it to the other side.
Where she immediately made a hairpin turn and repeated the motion, moving too fast and concentrating too hard to let herself stress over how bad of an idea this was if she wanted to stay dry.
Three passes later, she stumbled as her foot broke the surface and her body followed suit, slamming face-first into the water.
Satomi came up spluttering, and a tiny bit of her brain finally broke through the little box she'd put it in and started screaming at her to go clean up now, did she have any idea what might have been in that pool, there were probably animals urinating in it all the time and she'd let it get in her mouth—
"You're worried about something." Neji said when she met him for lunch. She pursed her lips and focused on her food, wishing just a little that her lunches still matched up with her brother's instead of her friend's.
Probably best friend, actually. Huh. That was… not something she was going to think about too hard.
"I have a bad feeling about upcoming events." She said as vaguely as she could. "I don't have any idea of how to stop whatever's coming, nor of all the elements involved. Quite frankly, I'm worried for my life."
Neji, at eight, was still much more intuitive and insightful than most adults. That said, if he'd noticed what was going on with her, then the adults in her life probably had as well, "But you know what's going to happen."
"Not entirely, but…" She shrugged. "Like I said, I've got a bad feeling about the next few weeks. Can we please stop talking about this?"
Neji eyed her for several moments, and then nodded. He started in on weekend plans for a spar instead, mercifully leaving the subject alone.
Sasuke and Satomi were only two and a half months away from turning eight, and Itachi had a spare month left until fourteen. Satomi gnawed at the skin of the back of her hand as she considered the information. The massacre had canonically occurred when Itachi was thirteen and Sasuke was seven, which meant that it had occurred either somewhere in the next month, with Shisui dying very, very soon, or she'd changed the timeline.
She was being called another prodigy, already having skipped two grades and looking at a third with prodigal (hard-won) chakra control and genius (adult) grasp of theoretical concepts, with a bit of a letdown at the above-average taijutsu scores. Kunoichi classes were a bit more all-over-the-place, but she did well enough overall.
And being a prodigy was possibly enough to win the Uchiha just enough respect for them to consider the coup plan just a little bit slower. It would mean she had managed to keep her family alive just a little bit longer, but she wasn't exactly winning any awards for keeping her family alive. For most people, that was kind of a bare minimum.
"Nothing's happened. You keep worrying about nothing." Sasuke said from the doorway behind her, and then made a face when she turned around. He came over and reached to grab her right hand, pulling it away from her mouth. He made a disgusted face as he stared down at the numerous tiny bite marks that dotted it, never piercing the skin but always enough to hurt. "I thought aniki told you to stop that."
Satomi yanked her hand away and hid it under her left in her lap, refusing to meet her twin's eyes. "It's a nervous habit."
"A nervous habit," Sasuke said, in the voice he always used when he quote Itachi or Fugaku, "is playing with your hair or fiddling with senbon, not hurting your own body. A ninja shouldn't have any nervous habits at all, especially not ones that damage your main weapons."
He stared pointedly at her hands, and she clenched her jaw. Don't fight the small child.
She stood up abruptly and walked past him towards the door. "I'm going to train. I'll be back by dinner, but don't expect me before sunset."
Satomi felt Sasuke's glare on her back, but didn't let it stop her. She refused to be lectured by a child. Itachi was bad enough, and at least he had hit the double digits.
Training, she thought as she punched a training pole with wrapped hands, was a wonderful way to get rid of stress. It gave her all the pain she needed to focus and calm down, while also giving her a productive outlet that people would approve of instead of wondering what was wrong with her.
She stopped, breathing heavily, and stared past the post and out onto the glinting surface of the Naka River.
Uchiha had perfect eyesight. Even before their Sharingan awoke, they could see better than almost any non-doujutsu user. Only the luckiest civilian or clanless ninja ever came close.
Satomi saw a body in the water. She stayed frozen for a full second as the implications hit her, and then she took off like a rocket, hitting the water at full speed and pumping enough chakra into her legs that even if she fell through the surface, she'd be going fast enough that she could recover. Running on the river was harder than on the pond, but she'd practiced on both until she was sure she could do what needed to get done when—
He seemed to be unconscious, but as she grabbed the neck of his shirt and started pulling him back to shore, she thought she caught a tiny flicker of a pulse on his neck.
Shisui was laid out on the ground as soon as they reached it, and Satomi started in on chest compressions and breaths. She wasn't entirely sure what to do if there was a pulse but no breathing, but she figured the procedure for when neither was present would be better than just leaving him to die.
"C'mon…" She could feel the tears gathering at the corner of her eyes as she dove back to continue the rescue breathing. CPR wasn't even really forsaving people, just for keeping them alive until an ambulance came and there wasn't an ambulance coming for Shisui.
(She did her best to ignore the gaping maws where his eyes used to be, because if she looked too closely, she knew she would probably vomit.)
His body suddenly convulsed beneath her, and he retched as she rolled him onto his side, vomiting river water onto the muddy bank.
Satomi waited until he seemed done, and then threw herself against his chest, wailing.
"Satomi-chan?" Shisui asked, voice roughened by near-drowning. "What…?"
"I saw you in the water and I learned how to water-walk so I went over and pulled you out and your eyes are gone, Shisui!"
Satomi was currently balanced on the very thin line between acting like the child she was supposed to be and actual hysterical relief.
"Satomi-chan…" Shisui muttered, rubbing a hand through her hair. "Satomi-chan, you have to let me go back."
She'd known it was a possibility from the beginning. Shisui's death had been a self-sacrifice of a suicide in canon, and it was entirely plausible for him to continue wanting to die even after being rescued.
She had hoped he wouldn't, though.
"No," She said, shaking her head and burying her head into his chest. "You're too weak to move anyway."
"Satomi, you have to let me go back." Shisui didn't seem very happy about what he was asking her to do (of course not, the back of her brain said in a tone of voice that was best described as 'scalding,' as he was asking a seven-year-old child to enable his assisted suicide), but it wasn't stopping him.
"Don't you dare die." Not when it meant she was going to lose everyone she'd gained over the past few years. "Not now, not ever."
"Satomi," Shisui said, and then sighed and pulled his hands away from her back. She waited for him to try to push her away, but instead she just felt a movement against her back, and as the realization of what he was doing hit her, her eyes flew open and she scrambled backwards—
But it was too late.
"Genjutsu: Yūkyū no Te," Shisui said, and Satomi froze up, red clouding her vision as she tried to figure out how the technique worked. She wasn't thinking any differently, but she couldn't control her body either. A quick pulse of chakra showed that she couldn't break it either; it was too strong, and it was a control genjutsu instead of a sensory one.
Idle hands are the devil's playground, it seemed like forever since she'd heard the saying, literally another life, but apparently someone here had found it and liked it enough to use it as the name of a technique.
So Shisui was the devil. Cute.
"I'm so sorry, Satomi-chan, but even without my eyes, I'm still a genjutsu master," Shisui said, and then took a deep breath, struggling to sit up properly, his body failing even where his chakra wasn't. "Push me into the river, and leave me there until you know I'm dead."
And under the haze of the genjutsu, she complied.
When Mikoto opened her door to find her daughter on the other side, soaking wet and still sobbing her eyes out, her first instinct was to check for injuries, and then for anyone that might have been following the girl. She quickly dropped to her knees and put her hands on Satomi's shoulders.
"Satomi-chan? What's wrong?"
"H-h-he's d-d-dead!" Satomi hiccoughed, throwing herself into Mikoto's embrace.
Mikoto felt a shiver run down her spine, because there were only a handful of people that she thought would affect Satomi quite this badly by dying, and almost all of them meant quite a bit to Mikoto as well. "Who?"
"Sh-Sh-Shisui!" Satomi wailed, and then went into a long, babbling explanation about training and water-walking and resuscitation and then a genjutsu that only convinced Mikoto that whatever Shisui may have been planning in regards to the coup, he'd certainly meant for this suicide to be permanent, if he was willing to force an Academy Student to kill him.
She had to gather the Elder Council, but that could wait until her daughter was taken care of.
"It's the eye of the storm," Satomi said the next day, when she and Sasuke stayed home from school on a leave of absence for purposes of mourning, and he asked her if this was what she'd been worrying about. She was curled up next to him, leaning heavily into his side as he clung tightly to her in turn. "He's just the first."
"You knew he'd be there?" Sasuke whispered, and she was so very, very glad he wasn't blaming her for not saving Shisui.
"I had a feeling something important would be happening there." She not-quite-lied. "Somebody was going to try to die in Naka River. He wouldn't be the first. It's a common suicide spot. Common body dump, too."
Sasuke shifted to stare at her a little, probably contemplating the fact that she'd already closed herself off to the grief that he'd only barely begun to grasp and that had hit the rest of the family so hard.
He wasn't real, was the answer. It was what she kept telling herself until she'd calmed down and walled off the emotion. None of them have ever been real. They're just fictional characters, and there's always another story where the deaths never come.
Denial was a wonderful place to live.
Satomi paused as she wiped her face clean after the hastily-prepared funeral that night. She looked up into the mirror and stared at her own eyes, and then leaned in closer to get a better look. They didn't seem any different.
The fact of the matter was, the manga had always lied about the Mangekyo Sharingan. No one, save Sasuke, had ever killed the person closest to them to get their Mangekyo. Itachi had likely loved Sasuke more than Shisui, but simply blaming himself for Shisui's death (not even killing him) had been enough to bring about his Mangekyo. Izuna and Madara had both had Mangekyo, but they had been closest to each other, save Madara's interest in Hashirama, and had obviously gained Mangekyo without killing each other, given the fact that Madara had gotten the Eternal by taking Izuna's.
And Satomi, for all that she'd immediately distanced herself from his death, had been very close to Shisui.
She stared into the mirror a little more, and then pulsed a bit of chakra into her eyes, experimenting. Then a little more. Then enough to push the pathways to their limits, just in case.
Well, she shouldn't have been surprised. She didn't even have a normal Sharingan of any stage yet. She was pretty sure that having a fully developed Sharingan had to be some kind of prerequisite to have a Mangekyo.
She finished cleaning up and headed for bed, her insides curdling as she thought of the upcoming massacre.
For everything that he could and would be, Sasuke was still a child. A child that was determined to become a great ninja like his older brother and entirely too dedicated to training, but a child nonetheless. And children bounced back quick, so two weeks down the road, Shisui's death was a bad memory, but not much of a dark cloud hanging over them at every moment.
He stayed late at the Academy, in a huff because Itachi had refused to help him train, and he wanted to work on his shuriken throws. Satomi nodded along as Sasuke rambled about his plans for the afternoon, and then froze as a memory trickled down into her mind.
Sasuke had been the last Uchiha in the compound because he'd been staying late to practice at the Academy in canon.
"Something's wrong again." Sasuke said, snapping her out of her daze, and the look of worry on his face was something she didn't want to ever see again.
"I don't…" She gulped. "When we go back to the compound, let me go first."
Sasuke immediately scrunched up his face. "I'm the older one, though. If you think something's wrong at home, then I should be protecting you."
"I'm expendable. You're not." Satomi automatically responded. "Remember, I'm not supposed to exist."
"Stop saying that!" Sasuke shouted, shoving her shoulder. "You're my sister, okay? I don't care if you think you aren't supposed to be here or whatever. I want you to exist, whether you like it or not!"
He turned around and took off for the compound at a run. Satomi stood rooted to the spot for three full seconds before her brain caught up with her and forced her to start running.
Sasuke, unfortunately, was faster than she was, so when she finally got to the (bloody, putrid, already decaying) compound, she got there just in time to see Sasuke collapse, and Itachi turn his Mangekyo on her, pulling her into Tsukuyomi before she could even say anything.
There was a moment of disorientation before she could see again, in the red and black world of the genjutsu, and then she realized that, for once, she was looking down at Itachi. Itachi, who seemed very, very confused and alarmed.
"Well," She said in a lower voice than she'd used in almost eight years, realizing what had happened as she took in the mish-mash of clothing on her body, both current and from her death day. "This is awkward."
幻術:遊休の手 /Genjutsu: Yūkyū no Te/Illusion art: Idle Hands. Basically a temporary control-type genjustsu, with the name being part of the above-mentioned proverb, signifying the caster's control over the idle-handed victim. I figured that Kotoamatsukami was probably a signifier of some genjutsu talent on Shisui's part, but couldn't find a good replacement technique, so I made up a name and called it good. It's not actually good, but we'll pretend it is for my ego.
(1) Blame katakana. There are a lot of things written in katakana in Naruto, despite the fact that katakana are normally reserved for loan words (which there are also plenty of), and those words had to enter the language somehow, so you're getting my over-thinking of ninja linguistics, because I refuse to live in a world that somehow has only one language, because that's nigh-impossible. And yes, I did write that to draw on the completest IRL forcible mass language-erasure I know of, that of the indigenous people of the Americas, a comparison that will be drawn later in the story. As far as I am aware, a number of indigenous languages have been forgotten or fallen out of use in the United States due to the genocide in the earlier years, and the massive pressure to speak English in all professional contexts otherwise, as well as various human rights abuses over the years. I don't know as much about Canada or Latin America, but from what I've heard it's much the same. The Hidden Continent in this fic just got a bit less targeted genocide and a bit more general imperialism and oppression and later large-scale warfare with little care for collateral damage, and less current pressure for rural areas to speak the 'global' language. (If anything in this paragraph is offensive, please tell me and I'll do my best to fix it.)