A/N: Bleck. I just couldn't write this chapter. IT. IS. TRASH.
(Out of curiosity, any of you think you have an idea of who the killer is?)
Disclaimer: Let's settle for the classic, I don't own it, because I feel very uncreative at the moment. (Quote is from Neil Young's Hey Hey, My My. Classic song, guys.)
f a d e
C h a p t e r S i x
It's better to burn out than to fade away.
the calm within a storm
I have one of those real distant memories from when I was around five or six. The type that is very fuzzy and very far away, and very hard to describe when someone asks you about it.
I hadn't been able to fall asleep; the downpour outside and random bursts of roaring thunder wouldn't let me. My dad wasn't home.
Working late, he had told my mom.
Yeah, right, she had said back.
This is really where everything starts getting vague.
I don't remember the time the front door opened. All I know is that it was past my weekend bedtime, which had been eight at the time. Eight thirty if my mom was feeling especially charitable.
It had seemed very late to me.
I also don't remember if my mom was waiting in the living room awake or asleep, or the exact words that were argued about when my dad finally stepped inside.
I think that was around the time my parents grew more distant towards each other. My father kept coming home later and later and later.
But that first night, while my parents were arguing, I do remember looking out the window, with my hands cupped over my ears to drown out the yells. I was going to see if the rain had stopped yet.
"So…where do we start?"
Sasuke finally turns to look at me, gaze blank, and I stare into his crimson eyes as long as I can before turning away.
I think it was an appropriate question.
"Start?" he asks back.
"Well," I say dumbly, feeling incredibly awkward in my skin and oddly nauseous, "We do have to start somewhere."
I hear him grunt, and feel him turn away from me.
"How am I supposed to know?" he eventually murmurs, leaning against the pole that helps support the slanting roof above the porch.
I feel myself wilt a little, and lean against the opposite pole, facing the street. "We should figure some stuff out first, I guess," I tell him helpfully. I trace a dark, wooden vein that runs through the surface of the old column with the tip of my index finger, biting my lip.
"Like…?" I hear him ask.
"Like," I say, then pause for thinking. I turn back to him "Like, who do you think…"
I gesture at his specter-like form, too afraid to say it.
"Killed me?" he finishes harshly.
I swallow the knot in my throat and nod.
A gust of wind, too cold for a breeze, brushes past us. My hair blows up around me before landing back against my shoulders and neck. My clothes rustle quietly and fall back against my pale skin, dotted by goose bumps.
Nothing on Sasuke moved.
"I don't know," he says, closing his redred eyes, which I am thankful for. He puts his hands behind his head, elbows bent, and lies down, feet resting on the step below him.
I bite my lip again.
"Who would have a reason?" I ask next, still not saying the word.
"I don't know," he says again, voice bored.
"Okay," I sigh patiently. "Do you have any… enemies?"
He snorts. I cringe.
He brings his hands back around and laces them over his chest. "Do I really need to answer that?"
I don't look at him, and instead scratch a small spot on my ear uncomfortably.
I hear him sigh.
"None," he says, and I turn just in time to see that he has opened one eye halfway, and is now looking at me. "That I'm aware of."
I cough a little.
"And… you, ah, your brother?"
He opens his other eye.
"Has nothing to do with this," he finishes for me, closing his eyes again.
I furrow my brow, then mutter, "Of course not."
It is quiet again, and we just sit there. Another car passes, an old gray model that I sort of recognize. An old woman is driving it, and there are groceries sitting in the back seats.
"Can I ask you a question now?" he asks me after a few more minutes of heavy, tiring silence.
"Uh," I say, blinking a couple of times. "Yeah. Sure."
He sits up and looks me in the face.
"What's your name?"
"You disappoint me." The dark silhouette leans back in the chair, candles flickering and making shadows sway in the dimly lit room, the air heavily laden with dust and cheap musky cologne. "Such a mistake… it's unforgivable."
"I'm aware of my error, and fully intend to remedy it."
"You better." Eyes flicker dangerously. "Or you will be replaced."
"Of course, sir."
Asuma and Kurenai get a tip from a reliable source and immediately drive to one of the elder Uchiha's usual haunts, hungry for information.
It's a shady bar on the dirtiest side of town, so stereotypically dingy and suspicious that it hurts. Kurenai gets her share of appreciative looks from dirty men with reddened skin and too few teeth, but the scowl on her face is discouraging enough to freeze fire. It makes Asuma slightly proud.
The boy (because he really is just a boy to them, even if he is over twenty) sits on a stool, his pale fingers curled around a glass that could be water or vodka.
The two detectives both slide onto the stools on either side of him, Kurenai on the right and Asuma on the left, and Itachi Uchiha lifts his head but does not look at them.
"Detectives," he greets slowly, voice deep, recognizing them from the body identification.
Asuma nods, a motion of greeting, while Kurenai moves straight to the point.
"We have some questions," she says, softly and not unkind, but straightforward because she is that type of woman.
Itachi knocks back the rest of his drink, it must be alcohol, Asuma thinks, and says no more.
"Where were you when your brother was shot?"
Itachi gestures to the bartender for another, eyes trained on the yellowed wall and cheap-framed advertisements with dispassionate eyes. "I assume," he begins, "that you think it has something to do with me?"
"— look at the family first, I know." Itachi knocks back another drink, blinking slowly and with purpose. He still refuses to look at the detectives, picking up his empty glass and staring through the dusty bottom of it, looking at the blurred colors of the bar top through it. "Our parents died quite some time ago, so I suppose…" He leaves the end of the sentence to hang in the air, as if it has no purpose.
Kurenai leans forward and crosses her legs. "…Your alibi?" she prods.
Itachi puts the glass back down and finally turns to look at her. "I was at home, of course."
Asuma asks, "Not at work?"
The boy turns to him. "Should I have been?"
Asuma gives a dangerous smile, toothpick hanging loosely. "What do you do for a living, Itachi?"
"I don't see how that's any of your business," comes the deep voice. He stands and turns the other way, slipping on a light jacket and closing his eyes. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go… funeral arrangements."
The crowd of dirty, rowdy men parts, making a path for the boy as he walks out of the bar. It becomes silent as a grave until the door finally swings closed with a bone-chilling creak.
Asuma watches him leave with narrowed eyes, chewing thoughtfully on his toothpick, and from his side Kurenai sighs, smoothing her hair.
"We didn't get nearly enough information," she states, sounding thoroughly frustrated.
"Hm." Asuma gets up to leave, and his partner follows. On the way out, his cell rings, and he answers it outside on the dreary sidewalk.
He turns to Kurenai after hanging up a short moment later.
"The lab has something for us."
I feel oddly unaffected by the fact that Sasuke does not yet know my name, and I feel my face get hot when he tests it out.
"Sakura," he says slowly. I nod. He continues, "Your parents lack creativity."
I think very nasty thoughts in my head, but only say, "Bite me."
He snorts. "Apparently the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
I stand up abruptly, and turn away because I can feel my nostrils flare, and I walk down the steps to stand on the walkway.
"Look," I say, "If we're just going to sit here and listen to you insult me the whole day, I really don't see the point of staying and listening to…"
I began to walk away somewhere in the middle of my tirade, but suddenly he is right in front of me, a true ghost, and I can feel my heart stop before I finish the sentence breathlessly, looking into his eyes, the deep ruby color of fresh blood.
He says nothing, and I have to take a step back because he is too close and it is unnerving, being so close to death.
"Don't," he finally speaks, and it sounds like it takes a large amount of effort. "Don't… leave."
I swallow. My throat feels thick with something I can't name. "And why shouldn't I?"
"I have an idea," he says simply. "I know someone we can go to, someone that can help us."
"Help you," I correct, recovering and still upset.
"Sure," he responds, unconvinced.
"Please tell me you've got something good for us Shizune," Asuma whines to the forensic scientist.
"Well, nothing totally concrete," Shizune says wandering over to them. "We had the murder weapon analyzed…"
She picks up a file and leafs through it shortly. "The serial number was scratched off of course, and there were no fingerprints, not even partials. All ballistics could do was match the bullets to the gun."
The two detectives visibly deflate.
"But," Shizune continues, "We also analyzed the note that was left with the weapon."
"And?" Kurenai asks, walking closer.
"The ink wasn't ink." Shizune lifts the original note up, carefully, with her gloved hands. "We examined it, and found out it was blood."
"Yes, unfortunately." She places the note back down, staring intently at the small, scrawled letters, thin and dark. "We took a small sample and compared it to the DNA database, but so far there are no matches."
"Just one good thing after another," Asuma quips sarcastically, and Shizune turns to stare darkly at him.
"Excuse Asuma, please," Kurenai says. "The Chief is riding us pretty hard on this case. The kid's deceased dad used to be a police chief himself. Plus the press is hounding us from all sides. It's a lot to handle."
Shizune sighs, waving a dismissive hand and smiling. "No worries, I know he meant nothing by it."
"I am still in the room, you know." Asuma lifts an eyebrow.
Shizune puts the file back down, ignoring him, and then turns back to the detectives with a grim expression. "There's one more thing," she says.
"What would that be?"
Shizune hesitates and then moves for the door. "I'd have to show you."
The detectives share a look and then follow the department head down the hall, and they arrive at the morgue, cold and filled with steel drawers.
Shizune goes to one in particular, and pulls it open, and the Uchiha boy's body is laying there on the metal slab, chalky and colorless, a faded version.
"But…" Kurenai's eyes rove over Sasuke, brow furrowed. She brushes a hand over his cold forehead, and Asuma winces, and she pulls her long fingers away quickly, as if she has been burned. "His wounds…."
Asuma walks a little closer from where he was hanging back, peering over Kurenai's slim shoulder, he's never liked seeing the bodies after they were labeled and thrown into storage, it seems too heartless to him.
"Where …are the bullet wounds?"
"Where are we going?" I ask for the millionth time, and for the millionth time Sasuke ignores me.
The sidewalks are crowed now, people out for lunch and scrambling for cover because there is a great black cloud in the sky that promises a wrathful storm.
We reach the subway station, and Sasuke leads me down the steps, and stops there, before we hit the densest part of the crowd.
"Do you have money?" he asks me, and when I shake my head he curses. "Then we'll have to sneak on."
My eyes widen, and I shake my head, and say, "No way am I going on the subway without a ticket. It's dishonest!"
"I don't care!" I lower my voice, in paranoia. "What do I do when the guy comes around to punch my ticket?"
Sasuke pinches the bridge of his nose. He can whine all he wants, I'm not budging on this. "Hide in the bathroom," he suggests through his teeth.
"Easy for you to say! You're invisible! You don't have to worry about getting caught!"
He glares flatly. "I would gladly switch places with you if I could."
I deflate. "But… I…"
I feel very, very guilty when we sneak onto the train to go and visit this mysterious person, and my stomach hurts out of nervousness or something else. I do as Sasuke says and hide out when the man with the hole-puncher comes around to check tickets, but the bathroom is very small and cramped, so Sasuke stays where we were sitting.
I return ten minutes later than he told me to, just to be careful and a little spiteful. The seats are hard and uncomfortable and I have to keep shifting so that my butt doesn't fall asleep.
It's pretty dead this time of day, so it isn't all that crowded, and Sasuke sits across the aisle from me. I look over at him every few seconds, where he sits, slumped, and notice the glow around him is a little stronger because it's more dim here.
One of the lights keeps blinking out, then on. I feel like I'm in some twisted horror movie.
I look at Sasuke one more time, get up, and sit down next to him.
"Hello," I say under my breath, glancing at the sparse other passengers.
"I…" A businessman and an older lady look up at me, and I cough and reach into the bag slung over my shoulder to pull out my cell. I hold it up to my ear.
"What are you doing?" Sasuke asks, sitting up and lifting an eyebrow.
"Hello?" I say into the phone. I see Sasuke roll his eyes and slump again.
"Yeah, I have some questions," I say into the phone. Sasuke looks at me, getting it.
"Like what?" he asks gruffly. The light flickers again, and he looks sinister and frightening with his pale skin and bright red eyes.
"Who is this guy?"
Sasuke thinks for a second or two. "My old guardian," he finally says, as if he has resigned to tell me the truth.
I pause and pretend to listen into the phone. I feel very stupid.
"And you're sure he can help?"
"Believe me," Sasuke says, giving a soft snort, "If he can't, no one can."
"Does he have a name?" I finally ask, because I will need something to call this supposed savior by.
Sasuke sighs. "Kakashi," he answers. "Kakashi Hatake."
I nod and slide the phone shut with finality.