"Foolish little brother, you never did believe me, did you?"

"I did too Nii-san, I did I did!"

"Sasuke... you're lying..."




"Foolish little brother…"

Amazing the effect they had. He couldn't help but marvel at the ability those words had to make him freeze, make his heart skip a beat then begin racing. To make his eyes widen, widen and search, scanning… and come up empty. Empty, because there was nothing to see.

He'd been afraid of it once. When he heard those words he would freeze altogether, fall to his knees in his bedroom doorway, afraid to move and reluctant to admit it. Terrified Itachi would come out of the darkness, eyes blazing in the Sharingan. But that had been years ago. Although, years didn't change the fact that he heard them. (Did he?) Only at night, after that same reoccurring nightmare that made his blood run icy and cold sweat coat his body. As he walked out of the doorway, convincing himself he would not hear it this time, this time he would be safe, the words would drift out of the darkness. (Or was it from behind him, whispered in a slightly mocking tone? He could feel Itachi's breath, soft and warm on his skin.) Teasing?

His eyes would dart down both sides of the hallway, searching - indeed, just as they did now - for a figure in the darkness, a flash of the red clouds he knew decorated the cloak Itachi now wore. (Was that really what he was searching for? Maybe he was looking for Itachi in the clothes he used to wear, or even-) He could feel his heartbeat quicken, was aware of the cold terror that brushed him with icy fingers. (even the ANBU uniform, vest, tattoo, mask dangling from one hand and perhaps a bloodied katana in the other. The uniform he wore the day he killed their parents.)

"So very foolish…"

He was shaking, he could feel it, and indeed, when he lifted his hand before his eyes (close, so he could actually see it through the inky darkness) he saw his fingers to be trembling.

"It's…" his voice was trembling too, it was hoarse and rasy and he could barely hear it, as if it was swallowed up before it managed to travel the scant distance between mouth and ear. "It's my… imagination." he whispered. It wasn't very convincing. "My imagination." He repeated it until his voice no longer quavered, until he actually began to believe himself. (Until he actually began to believe his lies.

He placed a foot into the darkness and felt as if it had been a bucket brimming with icy water instead. The chill spread through his body and he was shivering (or was he trembling from earlier?) cold and wishing he didn't have to do this, didn't need to do this. (Why was he doing this? What was he trying to prove to Itachi, who wasn't there to acknowledge him anyway?)

"I can beat you Nii-san," he called to the darkness. (Why did he continue to use that name?) Was it his imagination or did the darkness flicker just then? (Everything was his imagination. Itachi wasn't there, remember? Remember Sasuke?)

"Only your imagination little brother? I'm offended…"

Another step forward and he was immersed in icy water, immersed in his fear. He had to prove to Itachi (what? Prove what Sasuke? Just what are you trying to prove?) that he could do this. He had to prove that he was not governed by his fears (his childish fears) and that he refused to be his brother's plaything, obeying him even in his absence.

"I can beat you Nii-san. I will defeat you one day," he vowed to the darkness.

"But not now, isn't that right?"

(Isn't that right Sasuke?)

"I will defeat you," he repeated, challenging the darkness with his gaze, now the bloody red of the Sharingan.

(Lies.) "I will defeat you and avenge my clan!" (Itachi is no longer a part of your clan?)

"I will defeat you and avenge my clan!"

His heart was racing, he could feel it thudding against his ribcage, beating out a tattoo he would never see. His breathing was quick and shallow, almost erratic (afraid?) and he forced himself breathe deeply, calming himself and taking another few steps into the darkness.

(How far will you go Sasuke?)

Another step; he could feel the darkness pressing in around him, filling every crack and available space. Why did it feel like he was suffocating?

"How far will you go Sasuke?"

(How far? Very far)?

"Foolish little brother…"


Sasuke froze, pausing in the middle of a step. His eyes darted down the hallway, searching, scanning… again coming up empty. Nothing there. "It's my imagination." (Then why are you talking to it?) He had to prove himself.

"Not to me Sasuke, surely? I know what you are already."

(Child. Coward. Weak.)

"Prove it," he whispered. "Prove I'm a coward, that I'm weak, just a child."

(Afraid of darkness.)

"I will defeat you," he said, only to find that his voice had returned to the hoarse, frightened whisper of before. His words were losing their convincing tone. (You Don't believe your lies A step backward into pressing darkness - was Itachi there? (In his ANBU uniform, vest, tattoo, mask dangling from one hand and perhaps a katana in the other.) Waiting?

A breath on his neck, warm and soft. He whirled to find nothing, no Itachi, no nothing. (Your imagination, remember? Remember Sasuke?)

"Only your imagination Sasuke?"

(Only? How far Sasuke? How far are you going? Very far?)

Not far at all.

(Oh? Why is that Sasuke? Could it be that you're a coward?)

"That's right, run away…"

(Like a coward.)

"You're not strong enough."

(Brave enough.)

"Could it be that you're afraid?"

(Coward. Weak.)

"Foolish little brother…"

(A coward after all?)

Can't see you, can't see me.

"I killed them Sasuke."

(Killed them all. But not you.)

"Do you know why?"

(Why Sasuke? Why?)




He fled. His back to the wall he was safe, in his room he was safe, protected, untouchable.

Breath, warm and soft on his neck, warmth at his back as well. A hand, familiar slender fingers caressing his skin…

"Not even worth killing…"