Note: All characters mentioned in this story are based off of the Manga, Naruto. (Unfortunately, I've only watched one episode of Naruto-anime so don't ask me what's going on in there.) I did not create or name any of them, only the words you see below.
Warning: If you do not know Uchiha Sasuke's past or about his family, and his wayward sibling, I must warn you this contains spoilers on them. I reread that part of the Manga several times to make sure I was on-point with what I'm talking about... though I did make do with a few liberties. (And seriously, I had no clue what genre this belonged to. If there was one for Psycho, this would probably fit in there better than Drama, because nowadays, for some reason, Drama equates to Melodrama in my head, and in no way is this any where near a melodrama.. so uh... yeah! Enjoy!)
It would be wrong to say that Uchiha Itachi is enamored with the dead, but he knows that the dead won't betray him the way the living can, and has. Sometimes, Itachi dreams that everyone in the world had died and only the ghosts remain to keep him company. Sometimes, those dreams make him smile and sometimes they make the scars beneath his bloodied eyes ache with the memory of their birth...
Of Boys and Monsters
by Blue Jeans
No one will see this but a dead man: Uchiha Itachi is human. No one pities him but the dead, yet that is also a path he has chosen for himself. Even though most people know that Itachi is, in fact, biologically a man, very few acknowledges him to be more than a monster and even less will forgive him for not being able to be more. No one knows Itachi but a dead man, and if he could speak he will tell you what Itachi's greatest weaknesses are and why it was once so easy to love him. But that man is quite dead and his lips are sealed, so no one will ever really know.
Itachi gives all his secrets to the dead. The living rarely interests him, but that too was his decision. After all, he was the one who chose power and freedom over companionship and a cage. He doesn't really regret it, though sometimes, when he looks at the progress his brother is not making, he wonders if some of the sacrifices he had made thus far were worth it. But then, Itachi rarely have those moments because he had chosen what he did to be where he was. The key that he used to unlock himself out of the destiny others had set for him may have been in the stale and stagnant blood of the Uchiha clan, but he knows that he had never failed to give them anything they didn't want, not even in the very end. After all, proving that he was the best required the death of someone. They just never expected that he would turn his blood-dropped eyes on them.
Since birth Itachi had always been treated like a prized falcon. The family made sure to place a hood over his eyes when they weren't training him, so that he could be controlled in the dark. Such was how things were run before his brother was born. Sometimes Itachi envied the simplicity that Sasuke was brought up in, the easy smiles and easier attachments Sasuke placed upon the family members was like another life and another world that Itachi could never have and would never be a part of. But his younger brother's constant need to please always made Itachi that much less amused and that much less attached to the other.
Still, the family did not observe Sasuke's every move as they had done to Itachi, all of his life. It was expected. He was, after all, the oldest and the heir. They took note of Sasuke's desire to chase after him with passing smiles of approval and pleasure. "There goes the younger one," they would say fondly. "He won't ever be as great as Itachi-san, but it's cute how those brothers interact." In this manner, the women from the lesser houses would laughingly whisper their gossip to each other when the hours dragged too long in silence.
"Your sons are well raised," the men would admiringly tell his proud father. "We have high hopes for both of them." Itachi knew they didn't really expect much out of Sasuke, though they humored him and loved him as they would never do for Itachi.
But it was okay the way things were. Itachi bore the weight of it all without apprehension. His father's overwhelming pride, his mother's worried expressions, the Elders' constant approvals and fears, and the entire clan's hopes and expectations didn't seem to move him, much less discomfort him. Everything was working out, even though his relationships were tenuous at best and there were less than a handful that cared about Itachi on any personal level. He never complained and bore it with the grave air of honor his parents had taught to him since youth. Itachi knew that many disapproved of his cold mannerisms and was often uncomfortable in his presence. The fact that he did not wear desperate, useless emotions upon his face to be read by his enemies made him formidable and more feared then liked.
He had always had the most talented playmates the Uchiha clan had to offer, though most of them barely tolerated him and some even hated him. He sparred with the best of the family on a daily basis, and through rivalry, he found a limbo of companionship in their constant envy and expectations. Those most admired in the Konoha village, bearing the Uchiha name, flocked to him with words of wisdom though it was only because it was his destiny to one day rule over them all. He was a privileged youth, Itachi was not fool enough to doubt that in the least, and though they did not trust him much and liked him even less, he was exactly what they had hoped for. But then, in their search for the ultimate power that will ascertain their rule, the Uchiha clan became the conductors of their own destruction.
At age two he met the man that would make him a legend. Itachi doesn't remember the encounter, but his mother had once told the story to a friend when he had grown older and was within earshot of the conversation. It was one of the few times in his life that Itachi had ever actively gone out of his way to seem curious. Apparently, he had told the man that he wanted eyes like the bloodied ones he had seen the other bear, since Shisui was over to challenge his father to spar. Everyone had smiled happily at his young words, calling his fascination ambition, though Itachi doubted that he knew what that had meant.
He awoke his Sharingan in the heat of battle at the age of eight. He had his first kill using it at the age of nine. By that time, he had lost sight of its importance and didn't want it anymore. "It's a curse, Itachi," that most important person once told him when he was discovered to have been huddled away in the bushes, unsure if he should cry or die and unable to do either. "But you know, it is also an honor, right?" The other went on to say when he was stopped by those familiar hands from gauging his own pupils from out of his head. He had looked up into those eyes that he had come to trust with blood-stained cheeks, but in that moment, Itachi discovered he did not know what honor was.
When he was twelve, he was already a part of the ANBU elite, that much sought after position that made him that much better than before to his father and the Clan. His position was due partially to his unprecedented talent and partially to his father's political position. The Hokage respected his ninja abilities, of that there was no doubt. But often, after a mission, the Third would take him aside and speak to him about mundane little things, and Itachi knew that the Uchiha clan was not the only one keeping an eye on him. He wasn't sure why the old man was doing it as he knew Father would never let word slip out on his son's mental instability, but he bore it with a silence he learned made others both fear and respect him as they wondered on how aware he was to what they truly meant when they spoke their false words to him.
Itachi had little trouble adjusting to the life mapped out for him since birth, none that impaired his astounding progress, that is. He knew what was expected of him and he, despite his genius, hardly fought against those expectations. He was taught to aim for power though he did not lust for it. He rarely felt that he lacked it though he knew the Elders doubted theirs over Konoha, and soon enough, over him. Yet, he had also felt no need to act out on any of their doubts or his knowledge, not since the incident that Shisui promised to share with no one. But all that would soon change just two days after his promotion to ANBU Captain.
"A traitor from our clan?" Itachi looked up from the scroll before him with an impassive gaze, though his brow raised a bit in a show of surprise. "If it must be dealt with, why not send the police force after whoever it may be. I doubt bringing him or her in will be much trouble." His father did not reply and Itachi sighed silently at the other's obvious nervousness. "Who may this be then, Father, to warrant such unrest amongst the Elders."
"Itachi," his father finally faced him with a grave expression etched in his dark eyes. "There have been rumors while you were away on your last mission. Things... came up. The traitor is Uchiha Shisui, son." Itachi watched with a bland expression as he processed the words. His father rarely spoke to him in such a tone of voice. "The Elders wish for you to retrieve him and the scrolls he stole from the archives."
He knew the delicacy of the situation, and he promised his father he would see to it personally as they had planned it. They sent him out alone that night, saying how they did not wish for anyone else to realize what had gone on, smearing it on thick that he was obviously capable enough to bring in one man. He tracked Shisui down rather easily, which surprised him even less and confirmed whatever suspicions he might rather have not considered, though he did suspect them all. The older man was waiting for him at a familiar spot by a familiar river. He did not even attempt to act out what he did not feel when he reached the clearing, nor did he hide his presence as he made his approach.
"You knew it was a setup," Uchiha Shisui greeted him as usual by getting straight to the point. "What did they tell you, hm? That I stole some forbidden scrolls? That I wanted to become a Missing-Nin? I told them that you would know, but they insisted on the lies."
"Aa," Itachi paused to stand beside the other man, eyes turned to the statues of the great men of the past, overlooking the village from a distance. The familiar faces were faces of dead men who had lived and were buried with their secrets, their sins, and remembered only by their victories - all but the Third who remained alive, even after the attack of the Kyuubi. He wondered then how he would be remembered, and if he would live long enough to know how it would feel to be in the body of a man. He wondered if killing someone felt differently when you have grown older, but couldn't fathom such things mattering much.
"Why did you come then? I wasn't sure if you would." There was a very slight note of regret in the other's voice. For once, in all the time that Itachi knew the man, he had finally found a crack in Shisui's armor and that crack was called Death. It was a crack above Honor and above Pride.
"It was expected of me." Itachi answered without hesitation. "Were you expecting another answer, Sensei?" Itachi looked from the corner of his eyes to see the other man was smiling that fake, deluded smile that never made anything alright and was no better than lying.
"You are my last student, Itachi," the older man bent and picked up a pebble when he said no more. The stone was hurled into an already disturbed river and they watched it fade and drown. The rush of the water should have deafened him a little, but Itachi heard each word clearly. He remembered the first time he was taken to this place, how he had looked a bit awed at the history laid before him, just above the trees. Who were these men, he had wondered at that time as he looked up at the stone faces of past heroes. Who are they to lead us and then judge us in the after-life? Now, as he stood there, he wondered if those men had bloodied their hands while their teachers and family-members looked on expectantly. He wondered if the people who were closest to them had sought out their destruction just to see the limits of their strengths as his own clan had done time and time again.
"What is this, Shisui, really?" Itachi finally asked the man softly, "Why this?"
"You have read the writings in that secret place. I have shown you the source of our greatest secret, Itachi," his older teacher, the one man he had ever called friend, wore the strangest smile. "I think you know what must be done tonight. Think of it only as a test of your... limitations, hm?"
"A test?" Itachi looked to the moon but knew there were no answers there, "Is being the captain of ANBU not enough that they will need to test me still?"
"You know the answer to that, so don't ask such stupid questions." Shisui picked up another rock and this time he hurled it at Itachi. He dodged, luckily not at the last moment, because it exploded and pushed him further than where he had planned to land, leaving his left ear ringing in the aftermath.
"It is a measure of your capacity," his sensei's kunai was at his cheek, the cool edge tracing the scar tissue there. Itachi remembered the other always did favor the left hand more than the right. "If you do not make it through this one though, I will have to finish what you started those years ago, Itachi-kun." Itachi heard the blatant, empty warnings.
"Did you go through this test too, Sensei?" he fought back with words as easily as he fought back with actions. He could feel his insatiable hunger for knowledge boiling sadistically as the wounds beneath his eyes throbbed with remembered pains and unspoken thoughts, vivid things that existed still and lived in that dark place within him. He was searching, always, for that -something- that the Clan had never been able to give him. In that moment, Itachi decided to put away the thoughts of nagging doubt and closed his heart to the emotions that would distract him if he was not careful. "How did it work for you?" Shisui wore that pained smirk that warned against any possible failure. "Do not show me mercy, friend. I will kill you if you do."
"Have I taught you mercy, boy?" the older man had laughed in that stilted way that was both mocking and sad. "I would not have done my job well if you know such a thing, even by name." Even as they danced a grim little jig with weapons aimed at vital arteries and strategically placed explosive tags that were always prepared to blow off a limb, it was still very surreal as Itachi fought off the urge to use his eyes. It angered Shisui, because they both knew what the Clan really wanted to happen that day, by that river and by Itachi's already bloodied hands. Still, he was curious, and even if Itachi would never admit to it out-loud, he had wanted to push the boundaries further and further just to prolong the inevitable.
Itachi fought with everything though, because it was Shisui and only with this man would Itachi ever do anything in the name of -honor-. He ignored the burning sensation beneath his eyes and the blood coated world he lived in as the battle prolonged, and then he felt it, the convergence of the inevitable. Itachi knew, later, there would be memories that will haunt him, that this night was a lesson in regret, but all of that would have to be dealt with when the battle was over. "You do not need to die this night, Shisui." Itachi said words he will never say again to another soul.
"Then I would have failed the Clan," his teacher, his friend, and the closest thing he would ever truly have to a brother, said to him. Itachi let lose a soft sigh that would be swallowed by the angry river and the untouchable skies before he opened his cursed and gifted eyes. The Sharingan was a red reflection. Mirror to mirror they had stood, facing each other. For, perhaps the last time - before Itachi's own, future death - he was pushed to the edge of a limit he never knew was there until that moment. "You were always a fool," Shisui told him when the blood-haze left and he found that the power he awakened in all its terror had made the other slash away at his own wrists. "You'd want me to tell you it's a curse, I know." Itachi, for once, could not stop his eyes from blinking, as if he could lose those bloodied eyes if he just closed them enough times. He could not stop the bile rising from within at the vivid memories created by himself, by Shisui, a horrid mix of fantasy and reality that left him standing but barely. Those thoughts rested at the edge of his throat as he watched this person stumble before him with a ludicrous smile of triumph tinged with fear. That expression held remembered anguish from some distant past while the emotion called Honor that Itachi had never understood, wretched the life out of Shisui like a boy would ripe off the head of a doll.
His closest thing to humanity slid weak fingers against his skin, reaching towards his Sharingan eyes as if amazed by the sight of them. Shisui's blood marred his now impassive face as Itachi morbidly wondered on how the other could still be standing. Bloodied hands clutched at his shoulders and looked up at his unmoving features that knew the end and reflected it back at Uchiha Shisui without fear or judgment.
Over the rush of the river, Itachi heard the blood-stained blade fall uselessly to the ground. He was tempted to ask why Shisui didn't just cut out these damned eyes that he never wanted or asked for but everyone else prized so much. "There," his Sensei laughed a gurgled laugh as a crimson finger tenderly traced one scar while looking with a bit of awe into his new-found eyes. The laugh was a bloodied one too, one that could no longer move him. Shisui finally turned from Itachi, gently pushing him away after staining his cheeks red with blood, a tribute to the past. With a stumbling walk, the other then knelt by the riverbank where they had spent so much time together when Itachi had been younger. "How symmetrical, boy," Uchiha Shisui commented humorlessly and then died with an ironic smirk on his face as he pitched face first into the Nakano River. It left Itachi feeling as if all the emotions he had ever known or was taught floated down the river then, drowning in the roar of the currents.
He went home that night drenched in the cold waters of the river that could not cleanse him from either the power-high of utilizing the Mangekyou Sharingan or the bloodied feel that left a stain in his mind. His eyes were emptier after that night and he became more distant then before, though no one could have imagined such was possible. He saw the world a bit more differently, and when his brother came to him, he wondered how naively foolish the other was, how easily Sasuke could and would be manipulated. He watched his father carefully hide the pride in his eyes for his second son while plotting Sasuke's doom with that loving look. The desire to desecrate the Uchiha Clan's hopes and dreams and their bid for power rose like the bile he could not disgorge that night not too long ago.
"Teach me, brother! Teach me!" Sasuke would beg of him, everyday, with that wonder-lust that would one day destroy everything if the boy was not careful.
Itachi would laugh like he had once before, though now the sound was hollow. But Sasuke did not notice as Itachi regarded him with empty, calculating eyes. The child could not hear any more than he could see that he was being measured - a perfect tool, someday. "Forgive me, Sasuke. Another time," Itachi would promise, but unlike before he finally had intentions to fulfill it. He wanted to teach Sasuke the lessons that surely father would never want his youngest child to learn.
What would you like for me to teach you, Sasuke? Itachi sometimes wanted to ask. Would you like me to teach you how to live with the expectations you so seemed to despise? Would you like me to teach you how to be the perfect tool? Would you like me to teach you how to deceive your closest friend to kill himself? What would you like for me to teach you, Sasuke? Would you like for me to show you the real world that desires you because you are so very easy to use? If I asked you these questions, how would you react?
Itachi went on to be the captain of the ANBU, and watched the clan he was once destined to lead turn upon him. The Elders do not talk about how one was to obtain the Mangekyou Sharingan and he expected no less of them. He watched his crippled inheritance put their hopes upon him, watched as they tested to see how much of him they could use and control, and upon discovering that they could not, tried to dispose of him. He wondered what they would do if they discovered how damaged he truly was, how he did not learn any of their honor or to covet their glories. He wondered if they even suspected that he had planned their destruction on the eve of Shisui's last breath. He watched and wondered about the future of their clan, wondered at the stagnation he saw. He no longer ignored the pathetic excuses they used daily to strut in their police uniforms around Konoha, as if with their small powers they could rule the world. Itachi watched the children laugh and play, watched them bully others in the ninja academy and simper in their inherited power as if they were kings, though they did not earn such rights.
Itachi watched his brother struggle daily in his shadow. Watched Sasuke tie the strings of the clan upon his fingers and toes and watched his parents fawn over the fool who could not think beyond power, beyond the cage of the Uchiha name and the blood running in both their veins. In one night, he was no longer their prized falcon with a hood to cover his eyes. They had successfully ripped it off with their desperate attempts to once more control the one who had the potential for the power of the Mangekyou Sharingan. The Elders had wanted to no longer fear their tenuous positions of power in their small village. This way their blood-eyed children can be rulers in the playground and their parents can be rulers of the Council. This way, in his shadow and his future greatness, they will try to control what they themselves could not obtain on their own. Itachi was going to give them all that they desired for and more.
He was going to destroy them with the power they had sought after as proof of their success.
"Why are you doing this Itachi?" his father had asked him. He knew what the other really wanted to ask was, why did you not take the easy way out? Why did you let them incriminate you when all you had to do was act normal and deny the crimes? Itachi also knew what the other wanted to ask beneath those questions were: Why are you such a monster, Itachi? Why are you so different from the monster I wanted to create in your place? Why can I not control you as easily as I do your brother? "You would have ruled the clan and Konoha, even!" Itachi did not feel a need to answer. He did not want to rule over people who were fools and parasites. He did not want to rule at all.
"Maybe, I'll give -you- one last chance at doing this right," Itachi mused as he slid his blade into his father, oh so softly without even a need to use the Mangekyou Sharingan. They were, indeed, weak and fat on powers and legends they will never obtain in the lifetime given to them. They did not deserve to see what they had obtained, though he had obtained it for them.
"Mother! Father!" his little brother's panicked voice cuts through the dead of night just as Itachi sheathed his weapon. Itachi smiled. It was a smile that scared his father. Here is your clan's possible redemption, Itachi wanted to say, but found that there was no need to voice such thoughts.
"Sasuke," his father cried out weakly, alarmed. "Don't come in!" Those would be his father's last words as fear would be this man's last remembered emotion before death.
Itachi watched the supposedly powerful man who made him what he was die before his eyes as easily as anyone else would in the village. He would never understand the surprised look in his father's eyes when he had slid his blade into the other man's belly - a slow death as the other deserved - or why the man had called him a -monster- so aghast, when he was a monster that they had created. In their fear of losing the little control they had obtained in the decades they lived in Konoha, his father and the Elders had made him the ultimate weapon and then made him destroy the only scabbard that might have been able to control his edge. When they had realized that now he was just a naked blade with a mind of his own, they had tried to dispose of him. It didn't surprise him in the least, especially after his own father had gone to the Elders and agreed that he was disposable. After all, they had Sasuke now and Sasuke had proven time and again how much easier to control he was than Itachi would ever be.
Sasuke, his little, fool of a brother. A perfect Uchiha Clan child his younger brother was, one who would never wonder outside the circle of the prestigious House of the Uchiha blood-line. Sasuke would no doubt one day live to become the bully that lived off of the Uchiha name, a man who would kill and spoil to nothingness in Itachi's shadowed -honor-. Then, when Sasuke would have close to the power that Itachi possessed, the Clan would make the other lift the punishing blade and whisper reassurances into those ignorant ears so Sasuke would finish what they could not. And his poor, foolish brother would cry such guilty tears before moving on, because it was what was best for the clan after all. It would be the -honorable- thing to do since Sasuke would certainly fail to see past whatever lies the Elders will chose to feed to him.
Sasuke, after all, was not Itachi. The child was not someone who could face his own monstrosity and live with such a truth. He doubted Sasuke could ever do it. No, Itachi -knew-, Sasuke will smile the same stupid smile that Shisui always gave him and say things like, "But you know, it is also an honor, right?" Even though Itachi never saw honor in any of the things he did, especially in the name of the Uchiha Clan.
There is one gift and one curse in Itachi's life. There is a name he uses for both because to him they are synonymous, and Uchiha Sasuke is the name he employs. The younger boy bears the same signs of potential that Itachi had bore all of his life. Itachi feels strongly for Sasuke, though he knows no one will call what he feels for his little brother to be love. It amuses him how everything turned out the way it did, but as he watched Sasuke struggle so for the things he had learned so quickly and easily at an earlier time, he cannot help but doubt if Sasuke would be able to give him what he really wanted. It aggravates him at times, because Itachi champions efficiency and his doubts always spawn displeasure since it is often proof that someone is obviously being inefficient.
Itachi would not deny that he had often wondered if Uchiha Sasuke really was his end looking back at him with all the adoration and hatred that only a little brother could have. He wondered how this imperfect boy that embodied everything he was not - that he hated about the Clan - and everything the Elders had once hoped he would be, was ever going to grow up into a man who will be able to destroy him. Shisui must have wondered the same thing that day, when Itachi had gone to his side in curiosity, with an adult expression on a childish face. Did Uchiha Shisui think to himself, "-This- is the runt that's going to be the death of -me-!" It was a nice thought though Itachi knew that it was more likely that the other simply look at him and saw the monster he would one day become. Shisui would have that smile too, if that was the case, that emotion his Sensei often spoke of and Itachi never understood: The honor for being a part of his -creation-. Even to this day, when no one is listening or watching, Itachi would look to the sky as he had once done and ask the dead the questions he could not ask them while they had been alive.
But the dead do not have answers for Itachi, though he still asks them anyway. He's curious if his brother would turn out differently, or if the Uchiha curse will trap Sasuke forever as the power hungry fool that the other was continuously proving to be - past, present, and possibly future - under the Uchiha's guiding fan. Itachi is no different. He did not lie to Sasuke when he said he was testing his capacity the day that they now call the Uchiha Massacre. But, he was also testing the capacity of his Clan that day as well, wanting to see the supposed strength of the strongest clan that Konoha had to offer. He was far from impressed, but he was not surprised by what he discovered since he had been observing them all since he was but a child.
Uchiha Itachi is not like Uchiha Sasuke except in the blood-line they share. He has long ago accepted that he is a monster, and even he no longer believes in his humanity. He enjoys the company of the dead because they do not hold the answers to his salvation so they rarely disappoint him. The living does, a boy by the name of Uchiha Sasuke has all the answers in his bloodied eyes and his bloodied hands, and manages to disappoint him whenever their paths cross. If he turns out differently than the Uchiha curse had mapped out for him, then Itachi doesn't really mind dying by the other's hands. If he fails, Itachi also does not mind killing Sasuke for the failure with the same blood-dropped eyes that Sasuke now desires as much as the dead clan once did. Either way, Uchiha Itachi was no longer a tool and he is not the only monster in the family, he passed that honor to his brother.
"Cling to your pitiful life," he advised Sasuke, "and someday, when you have the same -eyes- as me, come before me." And when that time comes, Uchiha Itachi will get to test his humanity, and see what monsters he could create with such powerful eyes.
Okay, I had this great idea. Then I had to actually write it and it became a frustrating idea, which turned into a difficult idea, and now I don't even know how great of an idea it was to begin with, especially after the –major- editing I put it through. By major, I mean stuff got moved around (some from the start of the story to the end of the story), things got deleted, things got separated, and other things got added. The title changed four times because the story changed on me throughout the entire process!
Man, if you got what I wrote, I applaud you! Itachi was a hard bastard to write, and I tried REALLY hard to stay in character, though I doubt I succeeded. Balancing amongst calculating, cold-as-hell and slightly on the sociopath scale (though I do not believe him to be insane or a mad-man in most sense of those types of words), I had to make it all actually make sense…
It was -difficult- in every sense of the word (especially since, for some reason, my mind kept equating Shisui's name with Sushi... don't ask, I don't know why and believe me, it made writing a serious story ten times more -difficult-, as if it weren't already!)! And damn you Geno Calamari for making it seem so simple that I just had to go and try it out for myself! I mean, the stupid voice in my head was like "How hard can it be?" I am so jealous now that I know the answer to that question! ARG! This is all your fault!