Disclaimer:Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. There's no way I'm making money from this and absolutely no way I'm affiliated with the creative process of this series.
Author's Notes: Spoilers up until the end of the Chasing After Sasuke arc. Don't want to know how that ends, don't read this story. Thanks to Kilerkki for betaing. See link in my profile for beautiful art by gear-chan for this story.
It has been one year. Uchiha Sasuke is eight years old.
He tells the woman who comes to make his meals that he is all right. He's going to go to bed early and go to school in the morning. She protests that, perhaps, she ought to stay with him.
Sasuke puts on the smile he uses to fool her. She's the only one who sees Sasuke smile, and she doesn't know that it's fake. He'll be fine, he repeats, and she leaves, secretly relieved that she won't have to spend the night in the Uchiha compound.
Sasuke waits until he's sure she's gone. He gets up from the table, putting his dinner dishes into the sink. She'll clean them up in the morning when she comes to fix him breakfast.
He snuffs out the incense sticks that the woman brought. She thought it would help him, perhaps, if she showed that she too mourned his losses. He doesn't want her to play-act at mourning. Sasuke doesn't burn incense for his family.
Mother hated the smell of incense. Sasuke remembered her sneezing, her eyes watering whenever her nose caught it in the air. She never could stand to be in the same room as an incense burner.
Sasuke leaves the kitchen and goes through the house, room by room. He shuts the windows, closes all the curtains. It is done in silence except for his breathing and his bare footsteps on the wooden floors. The house is slowly but inexorably saturated in darkness.
The last room is the room. These curtains he leaves untouched, allowing moonlight to spill through and puddle on the cold wood floors. He shuts the doors behind him, pressing his small back against them momentarily, trying to draw strength from their solidity. The doors have no strength to lend him.
Sasuke slides to the floor and begins to cry.
It has been two years. Uchiha Sasuke is nine years old.
She doesn't offer to stay this time, the woman who makes his meals. He's glad that she doesn't, and he's glad that she only comes once a day now for dinner instead of for breakfast as well, like she did last year. Next year he knows he'll be on his own, and that's all right with him because he is used to being alone.
She leaves quickly, her own warm home waiting on the other side of the dark Uchiha gates. Sasuke waits until he knows she's gone and then gets up from the table. He places his dishes carefully by the sink and then drags a stool over to the counter because he's still too short to wash the dishes comfortably without a boost in height. The water he fills the sink with is so hot it hurts when he plunges his hands in, but he quickly washes, rinses, and dries the dishes with a towel before putting them away.
His chores done, Sasuke again walks through the house. With windows closed and curtains shut, the house is completely devoid of light. Even the room is dark, because this year it's so cloudy not even the moonlight can filter through. But it's not the same without light, so Sasuke rummages through the house until he finds two candles and a book of matches.
He doesn't know what's so special about the candles, but he remembers that they were supposed to be for special occasions. Father had given them to Mother on her birthday and she had hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, saying that they were wonderful.
Sasuke takes them back to the room. He sets them in the center of the floor where the moonlight should have been. A single match lights both wicks and sheds a flickering light on the floor. It's not the same, but it's better than nothing.
Sasuke watches as the candles cry, white wax dripping down onto the candlestick holders and eventually overflowing onto the floor. He cries with them, his tears mirroring the dripping wax.
It has been three years. Uchiha Sasuke is ten years old.
She doesn't come anymore, the woman who took care of him. Sasuke tells himself he doesn't care.
Sasuke cleans his dinner dishes with the hottest water from the tap. He's tall enough now that he doesn't need a stool anymore. He dries the dishes, letting the soapy water slowly drain away.
In short order the light from the half moon is blocked out of the house except in the room. Sasuke enters the room and opens a drawer in the cabinet along the back wall. He takes out the two white candles he purchased earlier that day to remember his parents. He sets them on the ground and searches in the moonlight for the match box he put in the drawer.
Instead of matches, his hand closes on a long, slender box. It is made of a dark wood that looks black in the moonlight. The clan symbol is carved into the lid. Sasuke traces a finger along the familiar fan with butterfly delicacy before gingerly flipping open the lid. There is a note inside.
Congratulations on your promotion to chuunin. We're proud of you and know you'll continue to uphold the honor of our clan.
At the bottom is Father's signature. Sasuke's eyes drink in his father's handwriting. The strokes are bold and firm. Beneath the note is a set of senbon glittering in the moonlight. It is a promotion present.
And then Sasuke can't breathe. He can't remember who the senbon were for. He can't remember . . .
Within moments Sasuke is out of his house, a lantern swinging wildly in his right hand. He searches frantically through the empty streets, trying to chase down memories.
Who ran that produce stand? He can't remember. Sasuke can dimly see the face of the young woman. She gave him strawberries in the summer whenever she saw him heading off to the Academy in the morning. He loved strawberries. What was her name? Misa? Misako?
Sasuke turns down another road. There. His cousins had lived there, hadn't they? Mother had been so proud of her nephews, twins who had made jounin at the age of . . . they had a little brother his age . . . Reito. Raito?
Sasuke can't remember.
He walks down every street, looking at every house, every store. With every step the weight of his selfishness grows larger. A single light flits through the dark streets, swaying in the moonlight. It has been a long time since a lantern came down these streets, a long time since an Uchiha paused in front of these doors.
He has forgotten the clan.
Sasuke returns to theroom. The lantern has been dimmed, and he removes a senbon from the wooden box. Delicately, carefully, he takes one of the white candles and begins to carve a word into the smooth surface. Wax snowflakes flutter in the air, melting in the puddle of moonlight on the floor. He finishes the first candle and begins on the second.
Sasuke lights the candles and places them in the center of the room. He watches as the wax drips down the candles, slowing down whenever the drips run across one of the strokes in the word Uchiha.
Sasuke sits and watches the candles until their flames die. In the silence he makes a new vow to place beside the one he made three years ago. A vow to create intertwines with a vow to kill and they breed together in his mind.
It has been four years. Uchiha Sasuke is eleven years old.
He skips school today for the first time. He walks to the main gates of the Uchiha compound and finds that the merchant delivered the two crates on time. Sasuke carries the crates, one at a time, to his home and sets them carefully on the porch next to the slender wooden box with senbon inside.
He found the clan's record scrolls last week. Mother had always been so studious in keeping them. Names, births, deaths, promotion dates, marriages, addresses, everything could be found in her tiny, neat script. Four years ago there were two hundred and sixteen members of the Uchiha Clan, ranging in age from three weeks to ninety-seven years.
Sasuke uses a kunai to pry open the lid of the first crate. The white candles inside are a little longer than the length of his palm. He takes two out and uses them to anchor the ends of the record scroll he needs. The next candle he holds carefully in his left palm and with his right hand begins to carve a name with slow precision. Uchiha Kazuma. He sets the candle down gently and grabs the next. Uchiha Misuzu.
Three names later and the small family of candles is complete. Sasuke sets the senbon down carefully and gathers the five candles in his hands. He takes one last glance at the record to double check the address and then sets off.
They had a small house. Sasuke enters and reverently removes his shoes although there's no one to demand or appreciate the courtesy. He moves to the large window that faces the street and places the candles gently on the windowsill. Then he puts his shoes back on and heads back to his porch and his task. It is well into night when he finishes.
Under the light of the waning crescent moon, Sasuke moves from house to house. He lights the candles in each house. Before each set of candles he kneels and offers two prayers. A prayer for forgiveness. And one for the strength he will need to fulfill his two vows.
It has been four years since the Uchiha district had so many lights. To Sasuke, the two hundred and fourteen candles are like souls waiting patiently, silently, for him to keep his promises.
It has been five years. Uchiha Sasuke is twelve years old.
He is unconscious in the hospital, the encounter with him leaving Sasuke with broken limbs and mind, reliving the night. Sasuke whimpers in his sleep and no one can shake him awake and say it is nothing more than a bad dream.
It has been six years. Uchiha Sasuke is thirteen years old.
Kabuto does not question Sasuke's request. He rifles through a few boxes and hands the boy two candles. From his weapons pouch, Kabuto pulls out a single senbon and holds it out. Sasuke takes it, equally silent, and heads to his room.
With great care, Sasuke begins to carve characters into the unblemished candles. There are two names, one on each candle. Two names which he had never carved into candles before.
Uchiha Itachi.Uchiha Sasuke.
There is no moon tonight, and it is fitting that the last two Uchiha, the darkest two, should receive no additional illumination from heaven.
Sasuke strikes first one match and then the second. He must light both candles at the same time; he can't let either have an advantage over the other. Small orange flames kiss the two wicks and then the candles are burning on their own. Sasuke blows the matches out and then sits down to watch the candles burn.
He has to see which candle will sputter and die first.