Shisui was sitting calmly on a cliff, watching the waterfall. Things were only getting worse and there was nothing he, Itachi or anyone could do about it.
"I take it things didn't go well?" He stared at Itachi without even turning back. Itachi could only sigh.
"I'm sorry. I did everything I could, but the only thing I could accomplish was to delay the plan." He responded with a shame in his tone. Not that he thought his father would actually listen to him, but it still upset him.
"This is a coup by our entire Clan. We always knew it wouldn't be easy to dissuade them. Their will to let this happen is much stronger than we anticipated. That said, delaying the plan is still a great result." Shisui comforted his friend.
"And how about you? You said you were going to try and find some allies."
"I'm afraid it's not going well. For better or worse, they're part of the Uchiha Clan, so their bond is strong." He quietly said.
Itachi sighed in sadness and tiredness as he looked down. He didn't like the situation at all, nor could he understand them. His own clan members were willing to start another war just to be recognized? Did that make any sense?
"Oh, come on. Don't give me that look." Shisui broke Itachi out of his thoughts as he stood up.
"Remember, this is you and me we're talking about, Itachi. So don't worry. It'll be fine." He smiled as he put a hand on his shoulder.
Itachi smiled slightly in return, appreciating the comfort but still worried.
"That reminds me. What happened to that girl, Uchiha Izumi?" Shisui awkwardly changed the topic.
Itachi blinked and tried his best to act normal, but Shisui saw a blush on his friend's cheeks.
It had been only a month since they kissed. Since then, they decided to keep their relationship a secret from everyone. His parents would definitely not approve since Izumi wasn't a 'true' Uchiha, and he had enough enemies. He also wanted to keep her away from Danzo, whom he did not trust one bit.
"It's usually hard to figure out what you're thinking, but I guess this, at least, is pretty easy." Shisui mused, analyzing him.
"Hmm? What do you mean?"
"Go take a look in a mirror." He said, a playful smile spreading across his face.
"I ... don't have an opinion on her." Itachi tried to lie.
"And yet, the minute I said the name 'Izumi', you looked like you had a pretty strong opinion."
Itachi didn't say anything and just looked down, his cheeks blushing in embarrassment. Shisui softly laughed as he made Itachi look him in the eye.
"Look, we don't know what will happen in the future, but no matter what happens, protect her. Take care of her, and make sure you are happy with her." He said.
Itachi nodded strongly. He would do everything in his power to make sure Izumi was happy and alive. Although, he wasn't too sure he would be with her to make her happy. He was the source of unhappiness and danger. Yet, he wanted to be with her for as long as he could.
"In any case, you keep an eye out and work from the inside. I'll work on finding another way ..." Shisui said seriously.
" 'nii-san!" A happy voice shouted from the forest.
Itachi and Shisui both turned around and saw Sasuke approaching them. How did his little brother find their secret place to meet?
" 'nii-san! Hey! I've been looking practically everywhere for you." Sasuke stopped to take a breath, but his eyes suddenly grabbed another person with his brother.
"Oh, um ..."
"Yo." Shisui smiled warmly at Itachi's little brother.
"Shisui-san!" Sasuke happily beamed.
"Sasuke, what are you doing out here ...?" Itachi was asking him, but he ignored his older brother and turned to Shisui with excitement.
"Hey, what were you two talking about? I wanna know, too!"
That caught Itachi off guard. He secretly exchanged a look with Shisui. He didn't know what to say to his innocent little brother. How could he explain the horrible things that were happening?
"You're still too young to know about that." Itachi smiled, hoping the answer would convince his brother.
"Aw! What's that about? I'm not a part of the group now ... Ow!" Sasuke was pouting, but Itachi poked him on the forehead with his index and middle fingers to comfort him in his own way.
"Forgive me, Sasuke. Maybe next time." He smiled sadly. Sasuke scoffed under his breath and rubbed his forehead.
" 'nii-san, you always say that ... Aw." He muttered as he looked down at his feet and stayed quiet.
"Good grief." Shisui laughed at the brothers' conversation.
"What a horrible Onii-san to leave Sasuke out of everything like that. Alright, Sasuke. I'll tell you, then." He said as he patted Sasuke on the back.
"Really? You're the best, Shisui-san!"
Itachi blinked and decided to stay quiet to see what he was gonna tell the kid. He knew it was nothing like the truth, but what was he gonna tell him that he had that smirk on his face?
"You see, we were talking about two things."
Shisui took a deep breath and looked back to Itachi, who was confused. He sat down on the ground and grabbed Sasuke in his hold to whisper something in his ear.
"First of all, did you know your brother has a girlfriend?"
Itachi blinked in surprise to hear what Shisui was saying. While he appreciated not telling Sasuke the actual thing they were discussing, this was just as worse! Sasuke made a confused expression and looked at Shisui, who was grinning from ear to ear.
"What's a 'girlfriend'? Is it food? A weapon? Or a new Jutsu?!" He innocently wondered. He heard that before in the Academy from the girls who followed him around, but he had no idea what it really meant.
"It means that your Onii-san has found a girl he loves. He wants to spend the rest of his life with and have children with her." He simply explained.
"Shisui!" Itachi almost shrieked.
Sasuke turned back to his brother, who was extremely nervous. He had never seen him like that. He almost looked like an actual human, not the silent hero he knew him to be.
"Is that true, 'nii-san?"
"What? ... No, he's just joking, Sasuke."
"Then why are you blushing?" He asked, pointing at his cheeks.
Itachi froze as his face turned more red. He took deep breaths to calm himself down. Sasuke just stared at his brother, and Shisui laughed.
"See, Itachi? Your Otouto is a lot smarter than you." He mused.
"What's the second thing?" Sasuke suddenly asked as he turned back to Shisui.
"Hmm? Oh, right! Come here." He whispered to him in secrecy.
"We were talking about which one of us is stronger, me or your Onii-san."
"Huh?" That grabbed Sasuke's attention.
"I mean, I know I'm a lot stronger than he is. But he just won't accept the truth." He fake-sighed.
"Tell me, Sasuke. You know the truth, don't you? That I'm a lot stronger than he is ..." Shisui was saying, but Sasuke immediately stopped him.
"No, you're not!"
"It's true that you're strong, but 'nii-san is still way stronger than you!" He defended his brother.
"Oh, really?" Shisui played along.
"But I mean, I'm older than he is, so I only think it's natural to assume that I'm ..."
"Age has nothing to do with being a Shinobi."
"But you know, don't forget I have the Sharingan."
" 'nii-san has the Sharingan, too. So he won't lose to you, Shisui-san!" Sasuke strongly stated as he turned back to his brother.
"Isn't that right, 'nii-san?"
That caught Itachi more off guard more than Izumi being his girlfriend. When Shisui laughed, he figured out what he was doing. He wanted to comfort Sasuke in a way that he will be able to surpass his older brother if he tried. That age has nothing to do with skills.
"Shisui ... You ..."
"Hey, 'nii-san! Go on, tell him. You're stronger than Shisui-san, right?" Sasuke asked Itachi, almost demanding.
"Th-that's ..." Itachi stuttered.
Shisui stood up as he glanced at two brothers. The bond they shared was deeper and stronger than anything he had ever seen. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't envious of that. His father died not long after the last Great War since he had already lost a leg and was injured. After that, his family was basically non-existent.
"It's great to be a family. I can't help but feel that way every time I see these two ... I won't allow the Clan's schemes to destroy things like this. No matter what I have to resort to." He promised himself as he touched his eye.
"Shisui." Itachi's voice brought Shisui out his thoughts.
"I think we're gonna head back now. It's almost time for dinner, and we don't want to be late ... I also have to prepare for tomorrow." He added carefully.
"Oh, that's right. You have a mission, don't you?"
"Yeah. I don't think it'll take too long. I should be back in a couple of days."
"Okay. Well, do your best. I'll do what I can from my side." Shisui vaguely said.
Itachi nodded as he started to walk away. Sasuke ran to keep up with his brother, but he turned back and waved at the elder Uchiha.
"Shisui-san, see you later!"
"Yeah!" He smiled as he waved back at the boy.
No matter what I have to resort to ... I will put a stop to it.
Itachi and Sasuke were walking calmly and quietly together. Itachi was too wrapped up in his own thoughts that he didn't notice his little brother struggle to start a conversation. That was always the thing with Itachi. No one knew how to read him.
"Hey, 'nii-san?" Sasuke finally broke the silence.
"What is it?"
"What's your girlfriend's name?" He curiously asked.
Itachi almost jumped up where he was and yelped. He swallowed hard and tried to act normal, but for whatever reason, when it came to Izumi, he found himself to be an ordinary man who was unable to hide his emotions.
"There is no girlfriend. Shisui was only kidding." He lied for everyone's sake.
"You're lying, 'nii-san!"
"I won't tell anyone, not even Otou-san or Oka-san. I promise!"
Itachi sighed as he looked at his brother. His innocent black eyes were shining with curiosity and happiness. While, of course, he didn't want to share his Onii-san, he was still happy that someone was there for his brother to make sure he still smiled.
"Izumi ... Uchiha Izumi." He finally said as he sighed.
"Izumi-nee-san? I think I like her already!" Sasuke happily chuckled.
"Well, if she's your girlfriend, 'nii-san, isn't she ' 'nee-san'?" He simply asked.
"I suppose so." Itachi smiled at his innocence.
"But Sasuke, please, you cannot tell anyone about Izumi. She may be in danger if people find out ... even Otou-san or Oka-san." He added carefully to make sure he realized the danger.
"I won't tell anyone. Promise." Sasuke swore strongly. He would do anything for his brother.
Itachi nodded in appreciation as they both fell silent. He knew that no matter what happened, he could count on his brother to keep his word. Not that he ever imagined having this conversation with anyone, let alone Sasuke.
"Is school boring?" He asked to change the subject
"No, it's not. But …" Sasuke mumbled, staring at the opening in his can.
Itachi had a pretty good idea of what his baby brother was thinking. He had felt the exact emotions when he first entered the Academy.
"Is it that your skills and thinking are too different, so things aren't going too well with your friends?" He guessed.
It had been like that for Itachi. He had been able to do everything better than everyone else, so the other students in his class had seemed very much like children. Their way of thinking, and the way they faced things ... They had been too childish. Itachi wasn't arrogant about his skills, but it was the truth. To him, they were like children.
He hadn't been able to talk with them with the same sense of values. He wondered and hoped if it wasn't the same for Sasuke. He felt like his brother shared the same awkwardness he did when it came to interacting with people. He didn't like it.
"I don't especially want it to go well or anything. I mean, those guys, their Ninjutsu and their schoolwork are just totally no good." Sasuke said in annoyance.
"What about Naruto?" Itachi suddenly asked.
He was surprised. He didn't know why he had said Naruto's name. The child with the golden hair who was the same age as his little brother had simply popped into his head. He didn't even know he remembered the name until he said it.
"Huh?" Sasuke's eyes widened at the unexpected name that came out of his brother's mouth.
"He's a total disaster, no matter what they make us do. And he's always finding a reason to bug me. He's super annoying." He stated in frustration and annoyance.
Apparently, 'annoying' was Sasuke's new favorite word. It didn't mean anything bad, or at least, he didn't mean anything bad by it. It's just, anything he didn't find interesting, he categorized as annoying.
"So, Naruto bugs you?"
"I don't think about him at all, but then he'll come over to me, and start complaining and stuff."
Itachi smiled when he remembered his first meeting with the blonde boy. Naruto did nothing but boast about being the Hokage and surpassing every Hokage before him to make everyone acknowledge him. He felt sorry for the poor child. He was the true victim of the Kyuubi's attack 7 years ago. His suffering only began on that day as the Kyuubi was trapped inside of him.
It wasn't fair how everyone treated him like he was a monster. Itachi felt angry at the unfair treatment of the boy. He wished his little brother wouldn't be one of those people who treated Naruto like that. He wanted them to be friends. Deep down, both Naruto and Sasuke had a lot in common. Maybe more that Itachi and Sasuke.
The picture of both of them together was oddly fitting for Itachi to imagine.
"He comes over to you because he's curious about you. Be nice to him." Itachi softly told his brother.
"I can't be nice to a kid like that."
"It'd be nice if you could someday," He said, placing the palm of his hand on Sasuke's head.
"There's totally no way!" Sasuke shouted in stubbornness as he shut his eyes tightly and wrinkled his nose up.
Unconsciously, Itachi burst out laughing at the funny expression. His little brother relaxed his face, and also started to laugh. It's times like this that Itachi wished there would be nothing more to deal with. No coup, no Kyuubi, no war, no death.
Just him, Sasuke, Shisui, Izumi, and his parents ... maybe even Naruto.
The warm evening passed peacefully as Itachi was brought back to reality. He knew that that future would only be an impossible dream ... unless some sacrifices were made.
The words for this chapter:
- Onii-san / 'nii-san: Older brother
- Otouto: Little brother
- Oka-san: Mother, mom
- Otou-san: Father, dad
- Kyuubi: Nine Tails