Usual disclaimers apply.


x by Ebony x

"There'll be a storm tonight," Itachi had told him earlier that day, when Sasuke mentioned it had been ages since the last rainfall. "And if not tonight, tomorrow." His lips had twisted quietly in displeasure as he muttered, "hopefully not tomorrow…"

Sasuke didn't ask why, or how Itachi knew. But sure enough, he could feel the air thickening as the day went on. Soon it was too warm to stay cooped up inside, so he wandered outside onto the porch. Itachi had been sitting there almost all day, with his legs hanging over the sides and into the voluptuous garden below. Vacant dishes left out from lunch and a dark jacket occupied Itachi's right, so Sasuke took hesitant steps to the space by his brother's left instead.

The sharp scribbling of a pen, the fluttering of pages – Itachi snapped his notebook shut, a split-second movement that startled Sasuke for a moment (just a moment).

"What were you writing, Nii-san?" he asked eagerly once he was certain his voice wouldn't shake.

Itachi gave a small shrug and paused. Usually this would mean he wouldn't be saying anymore (and Sasuke didn't mind, not really, because his brother once told him "timing is everything", and when Itachi told him it would be the exact right time then, wouldn't it?). However, this time his lips twitched upwards after a beat had passed them by, and his shoulders relaxed.

"I was just… getting some thoughts down while I have the time. I'm heading out again tomorrow morning."

"Another mission?" Sasuke asked.

"Yes… Oh, that's right." Itachi turned away for a moment, reaching his slender arm out to grab the discarded jacket. He took it in his lap and searched it, checking the left pocket and then the right (he had always been forgetful about the simplest of things) before he produced a lengthy rectangular box, tied across its middle with a small piece of red ribbon. Its black surface shone in the sun, the glare leaving dark spots across Sasuke's eyes.

"Here," said Itachi quietly, holding it out to him. "I got this for you."

"Thank you," Sasuke said, trying to keep his tongue from stumbling over his words. He took the smooth box in his hands and pulled the ribbon. It fell away easily, and he took off the lid. Inside was a thin tube, presumably made of the same black material as the box.

Another strange gift, Sasuke thought. Whenever Itachi had to go away, he would make sure to bring back a present of sorts for Sasuke. A small collection had taken up residence on his shelves, consisting of painted stones, candies, books, a china doll with black eyes that never closed, small boxes with all sorts of trinkets in them, and soon this…

"It's a kaleidoscope," Itachi told him.

"I know," Sasuke said, though really he hadn't. He heard Itachi let out a wispy breath that sounded the tiniest bit like laughter.

"Here, Sasuke, I'll show you how to use it."

They were sitting just inches apart then, comfortable spaces left between shoulders and thighs heavy with sweat on that late summer afternoon. Sasuke let Itachi take his hand, lifting until the dark tube became level with his right eye.

"Now look through."

The scene before him disappeared all at once - the fence on the edge of the garden that hid their yard from the rest of the world and just beyond that the tops of other houses in the Uchiha complexes being crushed by the expanse of sky and pale clouds that were skirting the horizon. All of it was gone, good-bye, and in its place was shining pattern of colour and shape, a glorious abstraction. At first Sasuke's eyes were unable to figure out what he was seeing and couldn't hold onto the image, but as Itachi began to turn the tube and the dazzling pattern changed, they stopped trying and just took it for what it was.

"What's doing that?" he asked eventually after pulling his head back from the device.

"It's a simple trick," Itachi told him. "Just mirrors, and pieces of coloured glass and things. You hear them clinking when I spin it, don't you? The image is just the light coming through them, and the mirrors repeat the picture.

"I guess you could call it an illusion. Pretty as it is, it's not completely real. But it's still beautiful, isn't it?"

Sasuke nodded, a response almost automatic. "Thank you," he said again. And, "but you have to go away again…" he added.

The afterthought turned everything sour when it reached his lips, leaving a taste like spoiled milk.

"It's what I have to do," said Itachi. He said nothing more of this, simply raising the kaleidoscope once more so Sasuke could peer into it (shining, shining, shining, so bright in his eyes!). He felt Itachi lean a bit closer, the side of his thigh grazing Sasuke's smaller one and his chest touching Sasuke's back briefly (a shock of heartbeat, oh!). Evasive distances became closer and farther at uneven intervals, but were never really as far or short as they appeared.

They stayed like that for some time. Sasuke wasn't even aware of the lack of wind, or the void-like silence that had captured the yard until the clouds that had previously been so far away were overhead in place of the washed-out blue sky, and droplets were appearing on his skin. From somewhere within the house, Mikoto's voice could be heard calling for them. A chill swept Sasuke as the rain began to pour down upon them, though they were at least partially protected by their roof.

Had the stifling warmth of their golden afternoon really disappeared so fast? Sasuke had been so caught up in the moment, the attraction of the image in his kaleidoscope, that he had barely noticed what was happening around him. He looked to Itachi for answers, but Itachi was looking at the sky.

"Ah," Itachi murmured. "Finally."