Three-chapter fic, POV Itachi, spoilers. Written during the release of Naruto ch. 213. Further chapters of Naruto may prove this fic worthless.
* * *
They say that victors are the writers of history.
But in reality, it is built only by the survivors.
* * *
How did it begin?
With my brother.
Sasuke stole a number of my kunai once. I didn't notice until I had to reach for them during a mission, used up all of my leg stash and was fumbling for my hip pocket. Sloppy of me. I normally check my equipment beforehand, but those were my spares and I hadn't expected to have to resort to such measures.
The target died anyway. It just took longer.
I came back looking for the weapons in my room and found him waiting there, trying to learn what looked like a juggling act with the blades. The scrape of the door being pulled back startled him; my brother jerked in surprise and sliced his own finger. Three of the kunai slapped to the ground. One stuck in the floor, point-down.
"Too bad," I informed him, politely. "Those are the poisoned ones. You've got five minutes left before your heart stops."
Sasuke's eyes went wide as circles before he jammed his finger in his mouth, trying to suck at the wound until his cheeks bowed inwards from effort.
I didn't bother to close the door, just walked in and dropped my scrolls on the bed along with the Anbu mask.
"Foolish little brother."
My kid sibling was never very good at surviving.
He just didn't have the reason to. No one was telling him yet that he should be more like me instead of like himself, become someone already graduated from school and well into service for the Anbu before puberty had a chance to kick in fully. Sasuke looked up to me. Given time, he might have been resentful of the difference between us, but he was still young enough to have only admiration. Not hate.
And Sasuke didn't expect me to lie. Not until he realized--ten minutes later, no sense of time on his part, very ineffective--that I was calmly unbuckling the equipment pouches from my legs and arms, sliding off the flak jacket and frowning at a strange stain near the collar. He was alive. I wasn't screaming for a doctor. Mother was calling up the stairs for us to come down to dinner.
Sasuke slid the finger out of his mouth, the pad wrinkled from spit, and eyed me with confusion.
Not good at surviving at all, my brother.
I'd forgotten to recoat those kunai after cleaning them two days ago, anyway.
* * *
With the field medic.
The Yakushi family was the best. They were Konoha's pride. Trainers of Anbu for dissection lessons, corpse-hunters who'd have to perform on the field with limited time and limited resources to dispose rogue ninja. Everyone knew the Yakushis. Who could forget them after the anatomy lessons, the pleasant-faced Yakushi matron taking away the girls to one room after asking someone to bring her a cucumber?
They dressed like no one with an ounce of self-respect should. The full-body work suits might have been designed to keep blood and other toxins away from their own flesh, but the bright fabric was so puffy and clumped that they resembled overweight ducklings.
I felt bad for anyone who had to wear those things, especially when the weather was hot.
Air conditioning had been piped into the clinics anyway, so I'm sure they didn't care. Even the waiting rooms were chilly. Fans spun overhead, circulating the smell of chemicals into the summer-humidity seeping in from outside, snow in the winter. I'd had more time than I wanted becoming familiar with the mix.
The first time I was exposed to prolonged hours in the clinic was a summer day, hot and wretched with its own moisture. An Anbu had been discovered from my own team, dead; he'd had few external wounds to match the way his body had bloated dark purple, so the verdict had been poison. As patrol leader, it was up to me to answer questions.
My morning had been wasted watching the Yakushis and their assistants bustle in and out of the autopsy chamber, yellow fabric flashing in various states of disarray while the medics hurried to pull on their bulky uniforms over more normal clothes.
I looked around for magazines to read.
All the good ones must have been stolen.
The Yakushi's boy exited the dissections room at a quarter past noon, shedding creaks of his heavy apron while he bore an instrument tray in his hands. He fumbled when he set the towel-draped burden down on the nearest table. The instruments protested their poor handling by mob-clattering, rattling defense of their own rights in sanitized metal tongues.
He ignored them. Pawed his facemask down.
The nametag on his apron said Kabuto.
"Uchiha?" Having my nod, the teenager continued. "Where did you find him again?"
"Field past Mitashi River," I intoned. "Six-fifteen in the evening. Yesterday. Position prone, rigor mortis already lost."
Since he wasn't one of the actual medics working on the corpse, Kabuto hadn't been required to wear the full duck-suit. Instead he'd been dressed in a thick rubber apron that had smears of dark color across the front; I wasn't sure if those were antibacterial washes, or liquids from some other part of the Anbu fatality.
Kabuto pulled off his mask with a snap of elastic and sent it flying across the room like a rubber band. It impacted the wall with an imperceptible thump, fell to the ground.
"No other tracking signs around him?"
"Just a few footprints. Deliberately concealed, two travelers."
"And the rest of the Anbu think it's the Mist refugees you've been hunting earlier?"
Kabuto set down his fingertip on the tray and slid it to the side, skewing the instruments as he did. They collected like driftweed in the corner. "My father says it looks like ingestion, judging from the internal damage to the stomach lining. Strange thing is, we can't figure out what he might have eaten without suspecting anything was wrong."
I watched Kabuto's lack of reaction, utter relaxation under the topic of foul play.
"Your father's really good at this."
The medic's boy stood there in silence for a while, looking as if he was hypnotized by the play of sun on the wall. It rippled through the blinds of the waiting room. Slatted forms of light, external intrusion to this world of air conditioning.
In the room behind us, I heard the clatter of gurneys shifted. The corpse was probably being further negotiated. If the dissection was taking this long, they must be stripping the flesh as carefully as possible to search for further evidence of treachery.
Just like a fillet. Fishbones.
I tried not to think about it.
"Want to get lunch?"
Kabuto's takeout consisted of a container of cold noodles. The upraised happy face on the top proclaimed a standardized Thank You Very Much.
I chose yakisoba.
"My treat," Kabuto proclaimed at the ramen bar while we were standing, peering at the menu. "I've got enough in allowance."
The cook poured our orders straight from the pans into the trays. I could feel the heat of mine even through my gloves when I accepted the box. "Your parents must like you," I replied, neutral, already starting to walk away and look for a place to sit.
"I was real lucky." Kabuto popped the styrofoam lid to doublecheck the pepper content, and grimaced at the chirp of the foam latch. "Not everyone gets picked up by such good people."
The hill by Ichiraku Ramen gave visitors a scenic overlook of several meadows in exchange for a hefty climb up the incline. Travel effort didn't matter to me and Kabuto gave no comment, so we both slogged up the slope. The top was covered with small flowers; whites and yellows, petals undisturbed by the winds.
The range was private enough, and that was the important thing. I didn't need extra guests.
Kabuto made a face at the noodles hanging from his chopsticks during some of that time. I suppose they reminded him of intestines. He offered them to me with a flick of his diningware; I declined, chewing methodically on my own meal and thinking about what stage of progress the medical examiners must have reached by now.
Afterwards, the lids of his lunchbox closed, Kabuto worried his thumbnail across the styrofoam. The grooves left behind were in long arcing loops, like the path of a snaketail in the sand. Eventually they dead-ended in the face stamped in the center, coming against the raised barrier of the outer circle with a mouse-squeak thump.
This didn't deter him. Kabuto's hand made the slightest jump over the facial wall and proceeded to dig tiny x-marks over the divot-eyes of the face. Once he'd creased deep trenches into the optics, he resorted to methodical cross-hatchings to cover the rest of the oval surfaces.
It was a destruction performed with the same exacting attention to detail as a doctor might an autopsy. Rightful for the Yakushi eldest. Kabuto stood to inherit the business once he got old enough, even if he didn't display outright talent to his family.
"Do you think there'll be trouble?" The boy's voice was absent-minded while he worked.
"No. Maybe," I corrected myself, hypnotized by Kabuto's patient obliteration of the happy face on his lunchbox. "I don't think anyone will notice us."
Kabuto glanced up from his lunchbox-corpse then, settling his grey eyes on me with a cool humor. "I meant, with the Anbu poison."
The wind picked up. It threw dandelion fluff between us both with the same irreverence of a child scattering toys. Pollen confused the air. I smelled lunch and metal-oil and formaldehyde, all mixed in with flowers.
Kabuto saw my nostrils flare as I tried to track the scents. I think he smiled.
Then the breeze shifted. The medical boy made a face when a large clump of dandelion-dust stuck itself between the lens of his glasses and his cheek. He reached up with his hand to flick it away. I took advantage of the moment to look down.
The face on the styrofoam had been completely flattened by Kabuto's fingernail, smeared down to an indistinguishable mess. You would have needed a skilled imagination to guess there had been features there at all.
When I reached out and touched the gloss-crushed surface, the plastic foam was perfectly smooth.
"I'll take care of the trash for you here. Think you can go first, Uchiha?"