He was free. Sasuke was finally free from the cursed bondage called revenge. It was like his chains had been broken and his curse had been lifted. He had killed his brother years ago, and almost immediately afterwards, the pieces of his broken life had fallen into place.
He was married now, with the sweetest wife and son anyone could ever want, and needless to say, people considered his life perfect, and so did he for the first few months. But the life he now lived was far from the ideal one that people pictured him having. Sure, he was satisfied with what he had and had everything anyone could ever want in a family, but it always felt like something was missing, like a part of him had been taken away without his permission, leaving him with an empty feeling inside.
So here Sasuke sat now, his mind focused on these thoughts and staring into space at nothing in particular. Normally, he never had the time to actually sit down and think, nonetheless dwell on these thoughts, as his five year old son, despite his good intentions, would always pester him to read a story to him. But tonight, his wife had taken their son off somewhere and he was left alone in the house, now filled with disturbing silence.
Why? Sasuke thought. Why does it feel as if I've done something wrong? Why am I filled with so much regret over something that was supposed to be done and was inevitable avoiding?
He mulled over these thoughts for a while before three sharp knocks resounded from the front door, interrupting him from his contemplations.
Cursing the person under his breath, he got up from his seat at the kitchen table and wrenched the door open. Just as he was about to open his mouth to give his visitor a well-deserved tongue lashing for disturbing him, he stopped himself before the first word came out. Nobody was there.
He stuck his head out the door, looking around into what little sun was left of the receding daylight, and felt a light breeze come through the doorway, ruffling his hair slightly. That was strange. Today was supposed to be pretty calm with no winds whatsoever. He shrugged and started to close the door, attributing the knocking to his imagination under too much stress.
"Hello, little brother."
Sasuke's head snapped around behind him and his face paled. There, calmly leaning against the back wall, was his elder brother.
"What are you doing here?" Sasuke demanded. "I killed you years ago!"
No reply presented itself.
Out of frustration, Sasuke reached out and tried to grab his brother by the collar of his cloak. As he reached for him, his hand met nothing but air, and yet, to his amazement, his brother was still standing there. A low chuckle escaped the elder Uchiha.
"Foolish little brother," Itachi stated. "I'm already dead. There's no point in trying to kill me again, is there?"
Sasuke withdrew his hand and put it to his forehead.
"It's finally happened. I've gone mad. I killed him; he can't be here. He should be gone. He should be…" His muttering was frantic; feverish.
"That's always been your problem, little brother. You deny yourself of the truth," his brother responded.
"Shut up!" Sasuke shouted, clutching his head. "I killed you! You can't be here! You have to be a figment of-"
"Your imagination?" his brother finished for him. "Yes, you could say I am something your mind conjured up; an apparition of sorts. After all, the only reason I still exist here is because you haven't forgotten about me. So my question to you is, why haven't you?"
Silence reigned for a few moments.
"You know, I tried. I really did try," Sasuke said softly, returning his hands to his sides. "I tried to forget you, but you plagued my dreams every night. You still wouldn't leave me alone, even after I killed you."
He plopped himself down into the chair he was originally sitting in, exasperated, and put his head in his hands. Without prior invitation, Itachi got up from his place against the wall and sat down in a seat across from his younger brother.
"It wasn't me who was plaguing your dreams," the older of the two said. "It was you torturing yourself that made my image appear."
"I hated you, you know," Sasuke said, changing the subject. "I really, really hated you."
"I know," came the reply.
With a sigh, Sasuke got up and started to make himself some tea, something he usually did to help relieve stress.
"You never answered my question," Sasuke said. "Why are you here?"
"To find out what's irking you," Itachi said back.
"And why would this be important to you? The last time I checked, you were not the kind, caring type."
"And you're right. I'm not. But because your mind is bringing up images of me, I am the one that will get no peace. I do not wish to be in this world forever just because you refuse to let go of the past. So tell me, what's on your mind?"
Again, silence stretched out between the two. Finally, the younger Uchiha spoke.
"Big brother," Sasuke started, "if you could start all over, would you still have done it?"
Sasuke waited patiently for his elder brother's answer as he continued with making the tea. He knew his brother always thought before speaking.
"That's something I really can't answer, little brother," Itachi replied after some time. "What's done is done, and it can't be changed, no matter how much one wants it to. Would you have still hated me?"
"Why ask questions you all ready know the answer to?" Sasuke spat bitterly, tightly clutching the cup he was pouring the tea into. "Of course I would have still hated you if you had gone on your 'killing-spree' again. Do you even realize how much you fucked up my life?"
He unconsciously passed his brother a cup, and then asked himself why he had done that. Surprisingly, his brother took the cup of tea into his hands, almost as if trying to gather the warmth from it. Sasuke then briefly wondered how his brother's apparition could hold a solid object.
"What if I didn't?" came the sudden reply.
"What if you didn't what?" Sasuke asked, snapping out of his meaningless thoughts.
"What if I hadn't gone through with it? Would you still have hated me then?"
Sasuke sighed once again before sitting down in his previously occupied seat.
"No, I wouldn't have hated you. I'd still have envied you, but no, I wouldn't have hated you. I would have still kept offering you my friendship instead of just the required brotherhood."
"Friendship," Itachi repeated softly. "It never really served any purpose to me besides just needing it to obtain the Mangekou."
"Would you have accepted it?" Sasuke asked.
"Before or after Shisui's death?"
"Before. You were a lost cause after that event."
A rare sigh escaped his elder brother.
"Yes, yes I would have."
"Did you ever consider Shisui as a friend?"
There was a pause before he answered.
"I don't quite remember, to be honest with you."
Sasuke looked at him incredulously.
"But didn't you say that the only way to obtain the Mangekyou was to kill-"
Itachi raised a hand, stopping his younger brother in mid-sentence.
"I remember the requirements quite well, little brother, but the times before killing Shisui were quite faint in my mind after starting that whole chain of events that was to come afterwards. If it was any indication, I was quite sick to my stomach afterwards."
Sasuke opened his mouth to reply, but no words would come. For some reason, he just couldn't bring himself to ask the question. There was another long pause before he tried again.
"Did you…" He trailed off. He swallowed before continuing. "Did you ever consider me as a friend?"
"Did you consider me as one?" his brother asked back.
"Yes, yes I did. You were my only friend at that time. But what about you? Did you forget about me too, just like you forgot about Shisui?"
Itachi closed his eyes and leaned his head back.
"No. No, I didn't forget you. I could never forget you then, no matter how much I told my brain to." A bitter laugh escaped his lips. "You were the only one I remembered."
"You were my brother. I couldn't forget you, not if you were still alive out there, because whether you believe it or not," Itachi looked at him then, "you were my friend back then." A bitter tone of irony hung on his words.
The two brothers stared at each other for a few moments until the sound of footsteps could be heard coming from around the house.
"Well, it seems your wife and son are home," the elder Uchiha said, stating the obvious.
"How do you know I have a wife and son?" Sasuke asked, curious.
Instead of answering though, Itachi leaned across the table, and using two fingers, like he had when they were younger, flicked his brother across the forehead.
"Ow!" the younger Uchiha responded. "What the hell was that for?"
His brother let off a soft chuckle.
"Sometimes," he began, "older brothers just know these things."
The elder brother's image began fading away then.
"Wait!" his brother cried, standing up from his seat quickly and knocking it over.
"Why should I?" Itachi's image replied. "It seems you've gotten everything off your mind, so there's really no point in me staying in this realm any longer, is there?"
"Little brother. Let me go. I'm dead; a figment of your imagination that you conjured up out of your grief. I was never really here in the first place." A rare smile escaped him. "I don't expect to be seeing you any time soon."
And with that, he raised his hand in parting and then the rest of his translucent image disappeared.
And just as soon as
his brother's apparition disappeared, so was the mental burden that
was once weighing down upon him, and a single thought ran through
Sasuke's mind: "Because whether you believe it or not, you
were my friend back then…"
A/N: Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. :)