Requested Itachi x (female) Haku for AmicableAmi from my drabble collection- Prodigals' Album.Sorry my dear, but I don't do gender switches either. I know, I know... sucks, doesn't it? But, I did try to do a friendship fic. Well, a fic where both requested characters happen to be thrown in. XP Sorry for the disappointment. Another request, maybe.

This doesn't really count as a one-shot, does it? Heck. What an inanely long title for such a short piece.

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Vindicated Redemption

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Itachi died.

It happened quite fast, with no lingering melodrama or solemn last words. Clean, swift and almost painless- just the way Itachi liked to finish his victims. He was almost pleased his brother emulated his style.

So this was what it was like to die. He watched what had been his body stain the ground beneath it red and wondered why he didn't feel any different. The same numbness, the same detachment, even as he watched his brother break down for the last time. But at least the bitterness had faded a little, and his past didn't weigh so heavily on his shoulders anymore, because there was no future for it to fight with.

"It's a relief, isn't it?"

A boy was suddenly beside him, gentle hands folded across his lap as he knelt by his side. Itachi would have felt surprised, but somehow it didn't matter anymore. Ironic how things like that seemed trivial when you were dead.

"Did you know you were going to die?"

He did, but his old habits didn't and so he stayed silent. For a while, they just watched as the inky swirls reasserted itself on his brother's skin as he screamed at the body before him. A silent film- the colours all in dull black and grey with the crimson smearing out the soundtrack. Itachi didn't need to follow his brother's lips to know what they were screaming. Sasuke had always been a good student.

"He's grown stronger." The boy's words were quiet and clear in the empty silence."I thought he would." There was a pause, then the boy tried again, "He was there when I died."

This got Itachi's attention, as anything concerning Sasuke's strength always had. "Did he kill you?", he murmured, and the boy seemed genuinely pleased by his response. A face framed by dark brown bangs moved at the corner of his eye and waited patiently for him to acknowledge it's presence, which he did with a glance.

A smile answered immediately, the warm honesty in the boy's brown eyes both disturbing and ironical at once. Figures he'll find in death what he couldn't in life. "No, but he was a good fighter," the boy was telling him now, "He was a genius when I met him, I think. Is a genius. He discovered and mastered his blood limit during the fight."

Itachi's mouth twisted in a faint smirk. "A genius," he deadpanned, then brought his gaze back up to the said genius. His younger sibling, who had finally regained enough control to perform the seals which would close up the Sharingan's secrets to those who desired it. Uchiha's overshadowed little prodigy, and Itachi felt the old bitter pride for his little brother. "Forgotten genius." He murmured, half to himself. "Even he has forgotten that."

He turned to the listening boy, finally weary of the empty silence in whatever world he was in now.

"You aren't Death." He stated flatly. His task, planned for seven years all the way till this moment, was finally completed and he just wanted to get this whole transition period over with. Prayers were for the foolish and weak, but he hoped where ever he went from here, his family would not be included. He didn't think he could bear explaining his life to those who raised him.

The boy shook his head, smiling gently. "No, I'm not. I was once like you- once alive, once with a precious person." His voice grew whimsical as he continued distantly, "I had hoped I would be the one to see my precious person when he died but..." A slight pause. "But I was chosen for you."

Itachi stayed silent.

The silence hung in the air, and the boy -young, quiet, almost too unassuming- dropped his eyes to the broken fragments of a mask he toyed with on his lap. "My name is Haku," he said softly, and brown eyes smiled up again, so pretty they could have been a girl's. "When you die, you don't go... away immediately. Someone comes to greet you. They send someone who would be best to see you, to help you. I've been waiting for you. You can only go when you see the person you're supposed to. The one who met me when I died told me this, and now I tell you."

"I don't know anything about you," the boy named Haku admitted, "except the man who killed you was your brother, and he was one of the last people I met before I died. But if there's anything I can do to help..."

Help? No, he couldn't help. He just felt tired, drained. When it's all said and done... And everything had already been said and done. It had been a long time since he let himself feel tired.

"How many men have you killed? And why?"

His voice were low, but the boy caught them and shook his head slowly. 'I... don't remember," he told him.

((You don't want to remember))

"I didn't want to kill them..."

((But you had to))

"I spared all I could."

(( ... I didn't))

"But, sometimes, we can't change what we have to do, no matter how much we want to. I regret it." Itachi watched the boy expressionlessly, and wondered how he could still smile so sweetly and talk so freely if he really did regret it. But then again, there were ways to kill, and there were ways to kill.

A movement in the background caught his eye, and he turned to see his younger brother standing over his corpse. Swirls of black curled almost lovingly around his arm and face before retreating out of sight, but Itachi didn't miss the shudder it forced from Sasuke. His little brother reminded him of him, he realized. Drained from power and carved with gashes, with eyes that bled red staring dully into the distance.

((Ways to kill, indeed...))

The boy was still waiting. Itachi hesitated. "I've never regretted," he said, and marveled at how believable the lie sounded, even to himself. "There was nothing left to regret."

Haku nodded. "I understand."

((Do you? I don't...))

"He's still young. The curse seal can be restrained, if he learns how." Itachi said suddenly, breaking the stillness. The lack of consequences freed the tongue, and the last few worries that plagued him aired themselves for once. "He'll live on, if only to defy me."

The boy smiled and gestured vaguely. "And he has friends. And precious people to live for." His tone was earnest, and Itachi wondered if he really believed what he was saying. Friends had been scarce and not long-lived in his experience. Haku continued encouragingly, "I think there's a girl waiting for him, too."

Itachi was amused, almost. "He's done better than I thought, then."

The boy suddenly wavered, as if a ripple had passed through him. Brown eyes looked faintly surprised, then realization dawned. "I'm leaving now. My time is up." To Itachi's surprise, he looked genuinely regretful. "I hope I can see you again, Itachi-san."

The past Sharingan Master didn't bother questioning how his name was known. Instead, he dipped his head formally in acknowledgment. There was nothing left to say, really. The boy was right, ironically. Regrets were a waste of time; what was done was done. The more he didn't dwell on the matter, the better. He'd paid enough for it in life, he could at least be free from in in death.

"How did you die?" He asked politely and without much interest, more fascinated by the way their surrounding faded till he could no longer see his brother's crimson staring through him, and how the boy shimmered and grew blurred with each minute.

Haku smiled wistfully. "I died protecting my precious person," he said softly, eyes clouding over. "It was worth it. Maybe he even remembers me sometimes. Maybe I'll get to see him soon... And you, Itachi-san?"

Tired black eyes watched the the younger reflection of himself fade away before answering. Years of planning, of patient manipulating and waiting in the background in everything he did. Had it been worth it?

"Yes." he said shortly, "It was worth it."

The boy was no more than a ghost when he turned to him, but he could still make out the gentle smile and broken fragments of the mask. Was this what even the most powerful of shinobi would become when the stage curtain was finally drawn? It was better than he'd thought.

A thought struck him suddenly. "How will I know who to go to for my turn?" he asked, raising his low voice so the boy might hear him better.

The translucent shell of the boy rippled again in a ghost breeze, and the boy's answering reply was lost in it. But Itachi could still see him mouth out the words, see the sincerity in the smiling brown eyes before they finally blurred and faded. He wondered why he wasn't surprised by the answer.

Such a sweet, trusting boy. Young, yet obviously powerful- it was a pity he didn't live long enough to develop his potential. Or maybe a blessing; the boy was almost too kind for his own good. Prodigies all died young, it seemed, unless certain sacrifices were made.

But Itachi had never been one to dwell in self-pity, and so he sighed, ran his hand through the raven hair that he no longer had, and started on his journey in the faint imprint of his new world. There would be no where else to go till his turn to send another off came.

Seven years of waiting- he could be patient for a while longer. And this time, maybe their reunion would be less painful, and he would finally be able to say all those words he'd always wanted to say.

((It's been a long time, Sasuke.))

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And thus from Prodigal's Album, I learn...uploading 8 chapters in one dayisn't the smartest thing to do when wanting feedback. Shizter. Oh well.

Anyways, still a little too stilted and pretentious for my preference, but what can one do. Feedback, over and out.