Written by: ahnigurL ©
c", The last chapter! Nooooooo! We're through already? Nooooo, we can't be through yet? Are we? Looks like we are.
But before we start with the very last chapter, I want to say thank you to all these people:ChaosAnge1
ilocanoheero ((thanks for constantly reviewing… you're ilocano? pinoy? me too…)
THANK YOU SO MUCH, GUYS, I LOVE YOU ALL! Thanks for taking the trouble to review and for supporting my story! XP If there are people whom I forgot to list on, please pardon me! I just tend to get forgetful, and well, I can't remember all of you, can I? XP
Now, on with it…
At the Bottom of Everything
"Ja, Sasuke-kun! Mata ashita!(1)" Sakura waved cheerily, walking off towards her house. Sasuke simply sighed and nodded his reply, making Sakura giggle. Naruto frowned at Sasuke and Sakura's (non-existent) exchange.
"Ano sa, ano sa, aren't you gonna say goodbye to me too, Sakura-chyaaaaan?" Naruto pleaded, pulling out the 'yaaaa' part to make it more believable.
Sakura sighed and rolled her eyes. Not wanting to feel her other teammate to be left out, she nodded. "Alright, ja, Naruto, and don't eat too much ramen or you'll be sick."
"The dobe doesn't get sick from ramen," Sasuke spurted out.
Sakura's face turned blank. "Oh. Yeah. I forgot."
Naruto fumed. "SAA! ENOUGH TEASING ME!"
"Gomen ne, Naruto-kun," smiled Sakura. "We were just joking, ne, Sasuke-kun?" she said, turning to Sasuke.
Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "Who's joking? I'm telling the truth, ain't I?"
"GRR, SASUKE, I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIGHT RIGHT NOW!" Naruto screamed into Sasuke's ear.
Sasuke stood still for a moment, before tilting his head to the side and rubbing his irritated ear.
"Naruto, you're not supposed to fight, you're teammates, hear me? TEAMMATES!" Sakura screamed into both of the boys' ears.
Now, Sasuke was left rubbing both of his ears. "Dammit, will people please STOP SCREAMING!"
"Oh, gomeeeen, Sasuke-kun!" Sakura gushed. "Are you okay?"
"Mou…" Naruto whimpered. "Aren't you going to gush over me too, Sakura-chan?"
Sakura snapped at Naruto sternly. "You were only shouted at once. Sasuke got twice. Stop complaining."
Sasuke sighed. "I'm going," he said, swatting away Sakura heedlessly. "I have things to do, obviously unlike the two of you."
With that, he turned his back on them and walked off towards the direction of the Uchiha Prefecture nearby, leaving his two teammates standing dumbly behind him, staring at his Uchiha-Crest-emblazoned back.
"Am I dreaming?" Sakura muttered, pinching herself. She cringed when her nails bit into her skin sharply and made her bleed from the sheer force of her fingers. "Apparently not."
"Did he…" Naruto choked. "…just decline a fight?"
Sasuke grumbled as he let himself into the old house. Naruto and Sakura would probably bombard him with questions tomorrow morning as to why he declined to fight and why he headed for the Uchiha Prefecture when his apartment was the opposite way.
He would never admit it out loud, but he still had a small place in his heart that wanted to go back and live inside this huge old house. It was dusty and unused, and he was pretty sure that the bloodstains were still on the walls and the floor of the main hall.
Yep, still there, he painfully thought, as he walked, cringing, past the wide open doors of the main hall. It was never closed. Ever. Even when they were still all alive. It was customary for it to remain open, a symbol that the clan was open.
He screwed his eyes shut and forced his mind to forget and push back all the visions that were popping back up into his head. He did not want to relive it again. Not again.
He let his feet carry him to where he wanted to go. He blindly ascended the stairs and proceeded past the empty guestrooms of the house, until he reached two particular parallel rooms which were situation right after a turn in the hallway.
He reached out and touched the sliding door towards his old room and slid it open slowly, disturbing the dust settled on corners and sending them fluttering down to the floor. The room was untouched and looked as if it was just yesterday when he had slept in it. The bed was unmade, the blankets the same way he left it when his aniki had woken him in the morning for the sakura festival and helped him bathe and dress into his haori and hakama.
His eyes turned very slowly towards the room across the hall, on his other side.
He tentatively reached up, resting his hand lightly on the shoji. He took a deep breath and pushed the shoji open, peering into the darkened room. Much to his surprise, the window was opened. He approached it. It was open, yes, but dusty. Very dusty. The dust did not seem disturbed to him. Apparently, this window had been open since 4 years ago, since the genocide.
He sighed. He had not noticed it.
He looked around the room, reminiscing memories as he ran past several things and points in the room, pleasant warm memories that filled his body with a feeling long gone.
He screwed his eyes shut.
A ninja is a tool. A tool does not cry.
As he reopened his eyes, they landed on the unmade, dusty bed. The sheets had stains of mixed blood and… what was that? Semen?
He frowned, remembering the last night.
And I had actually enjoyed it.
His aniki had not bothered to change sheets or at least rub the stains off a little, as if he wanted to leave a reminder for his little brother after he finished what he had planned.
Sasuke sighed. His eyes roamed the room once more, before he turned slightly towards the door and he started to plod softly out, not wanting any more of the overwhelming memories and feelings crashing down on him like colossal waves threatening to capsize his resolve and make him destroy his own barriers, the very barriers that his painful experiences with the only person he had ever loved has built.
It was an excruciating task he had to do, come back here every year to freshen his memory and remind himself of what had been past. He, after all, needed to retain some humanity in him too. Some good memories to calm his inner demon. Or else, he'd go mad. He can't afford that, not before he's killed his brother. Not before he's performed the task his aniki had set him to. He did not want to disappoint him.
And after all these years, I still have these feelings for him, eih? Pathetic me. Maybe I really am a foolish little brother. It's either I'm one great coward not wanting and being able to live away from him, or I'm just one heck of a good and foolish little brother.
He sighed. Throwing one last forlorn and (somehow) wanting glance at the bed, he turned his back and made to step out.
But as he turned his head, his eyes caught a sliver of something white in contrast of the dark colored wallpaper and bed sheets. He frowned and looked back again.
He trudged towards the beside table, where a white piece of paper stuck out of the unevenly closed drawer. It was like it was rushed.
He pulled on the paper and it slid out smoothly. He stared blankly at the smooth, glossy paper, and the scrawled hiragana and kanji(2) message on it. Itachi's handwriting.
He could not be mistaken. It had to be. He had memorized every curve and flit of his handwriting even before he had learned how to read. He had spent several hours poring over Itachi's study notebooks and handwritten files, staring at the letters thoughtfully even if he did not understand what it said.
Even now, he could still remember clearly the images in his mind. It was etched firmly into his mind.
Come to think of it, his handwriting had turned a bit like Itachi's.
Not a bit.
But this was definitely not his. First off, it was dusty, meaning it had been there for a long time. It had kanji, so it meant that he did not possible write it when he was small, because of the simple fact that kanji was not taught at the academy until a child is 9. And second, he did not even remember seeing this thing! How could he write something he did not remember?
But it had kanji… Itachi knew that he could not read kanji back then. Had he intended him to read this when he had grown up and could understand kanji?
Sasuke snapped himself out of his reverie and read through the message cramped into the small space.
When you're reading this, the Uchiha Genocide is probably already accomplished by none other than me. I understand you will be angry at me, and I will accept that. In fact, I will accept nothing less, Sasuke. I will accept nothing less from my little brother.
When we meet again, you will get all the explanation you want. But for now, just be the child you were before, the child that followed my orders obediently… the child I loved.
Keep this picture, and do what I told you to before. Keep this picture as a reminder of what you were before. I do not want you to lose all of your innocence. This is what this is all about, Sasuke, you and your innocence. That's what I worked for to protect.
I will be looking forward to the time when we meet again, Sasuke.
I just hope that it is not in the battlefield.
Remember, little brother… I will expect nothing less.
Sasuke read, reread, and reread the message for countless times before he the essence seeped into his brain and it finally managed to digest what the message said.
Sasuke had been pulled into a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts; he was confused, angry, sad, happy—he did not know! He simply did not know anymore.
Sasuke turned the paper around, searching for any other indications or messages, but was shocked by what he found that he almost dropped the paper.
Printed on the glossed side of the paper was a Polaroid picture. It was a picture of him and his brother. Itachi apparently had held the camera high and took a picture of them with one arm, while his other arm encircled a younger version of Sasuke and held the child tightly to his naked chest. Sasuke had been blissfully asleep and unaware; his stubby arms around his aniki's torso and his head snuggled comfortably against the crook of his aniki's neck. What more, there was a smile curving on Itachi's lips. A soft, loving smile.
Sasuke stared wide-eyed at the picture.W-what…
His hands shook so much, he dropped the picture.
"Aniki…" he groaned, clutching his head in his hands. "…what are you doing to me? What did you make me see?"
He crumpled to the floor, kneeling, while tears streamed down his eyes. His whole body racked with sobs.
Outside the window, and unbeknownst to the crying Sasuke, Itachi stared into his old room. He had this weird impulse to visit the old house and he just found himself in the gardens. It seemed his body acted on it's own accord. When he was about to step inside from the back door, he felt Sasuke's familiar aura approaching and found himself rooted to the spot.
Luckily, a cold draft woke him up and he managed to close the back door and hide in the forest, masking his aura. Sasuke was too caught up he did not notice the disturbed dust patterns.
As he looked on, his body, his hands, his arms itched to hold his otouto, to pull him into his arms, to hold him close and make him stop his crying just like what he had done long ago, just like when he was still a child.
He still had love for his brother.
He still held those feelings.
I should, because the feeling's the reason why this all happened.
He wanted to hold his brother like he had done so long ago. He wanted to hold him close, the person that he had not seen or held for a very long time.
He even wanted to go back in time.
The elders had planned to take over Konoha long ago, and had planned to include Itachi in the very front of their plans, because he was the very best of the whole clan. Itachi had refused outright, saying that he had more important matters to attend to, like the upbringing of his brother. He did not approve of the way his father constantly threw Sasuke off like he was just dust on his shoulders. The Elders were enraged, but they could not tame the fire in Itachi's resolve. No one managed to tame him. (And besides, being the leader was too much work. He was too lazy.)
As such, the Elders sought more persuasive manners. They had tried bribing Itachi. Of course, they failed. Itachi had said that he wanted nothing more than his otouto in this world. They had tried forcing Itachi, but that obviously would not work, seeing as Itachi's head was harder than diamond. They tried threatening Itachi of death in the hands of his 'best friend' Shisui, but he had managed a powerful comeback against the Elders that managed to keep them at bay for quite some time: he murdered Uchiha Shisui brutally right in front of their eyes, and then created an illusion using his newly earned Mangekyou Sharingan. They had all thought the murder was a dream. The next day they would find an illusionary Shisui who had apparently attempted suicide.
That kept the Elders at bay. That showed them how serious Itachi was. He did not want a part in any of their plans, and that was final.
But the Elders were hard headed as well! They tried their last resort: they asked Fugaku and Mikoto to kill Sasuke.
Now, that crossed the line.Sasuke…
"Gomen, otouto, but it had tobe done."
…maybe in our last battle, I will manage to hold you close for one last time.
"Live to hate what you have learned to love in order to live further, otouto. Remember that."
"Ani—ni… aniki…" Sasuke sobbed, touching Itachi's smiling face on the picture.
You told me to hate, aniue...
His next words were so faint, it was fainter than a whisper.
...and Iwanted so much to do as you said, to be a nice younger brother, demo...
He closed his eyes. "Happy Birthday."
...this is the one time that I won't be able to follow your orders.
Sasuke picked the picture up and stared at it intently with glazed eyes.
Gomen ne, aniue, but I won't be able to hate you.
Outside, the leaves rustled as a shadow disappeared.
I won't be able to hate you, because I love you too much to even try to.
Two figures, one huddled inside a dark and dusty room, and the other one leaping away to a vague destination, had one single thought crossing their minds.
At the bottom of everything, we're still brothers. At the bottom of everything else... we still serve as each other's haven... each other's sanctuary.
(1) Mata ashita -- See you tomorrow.
(2) Kanji -- Kanji is the Japanese term for the Chinese characters they integrate into their writing. It is a little different in meaning and in use from Chinese. There are three Japanese writing styles: Hiragana, the original and most basic; Katakana, the writing used for foreign words; and Kanji, or Chinese characters. They often use all three if needed.
c", waaaaaaaahhh! It's FINISHED! Waaaaahhhh!