A/N: Huge thanks to my two betas, Dorku No Renkinjutsushi and Ricchan. Any idiocy left in this fic is my own mistake. Thank'ee for your help!
WARNINGS: This fic supports the Tobito theory, that when Kakashi and Rin left Obito, Zetsu found him (with amnesia) and raised him to be Tobi. There's also a medium amount of angst from Itachi, but no to the emotastic level. However, Tobi does not angst. Tobi is a good boy. Finally, for those hoping for Uchihacest, all I can offer is subtext.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Naruto or its characters. Kishimoto does. I only own this fic.
Fear of Novelty
Sometimes, Itachi wondered how Sasuke was doing. He didn't want to know about how strong he was getting, or if he'd activated the Mangekyou Sharingan yet, all things that Itachi really should have cared about but often didn't. He wondered if Sasuke was still in Konoha. If he was successful on his missions. If he was – Itachi didn't know what came over him when he thought this – if he was doing well, despite everything that had happened.
Sometimes Itachi wondered if Sasuke wanted his brother back.
"Itachi-senpai?! Hey! What are you doing here?"
"Shut up, idiot!" Kisame shouted. "And put your hat back on! Don't you know where we are?"
Tobi stopped running, still some distance down the road from Itachi and Kisame. "I don't know, Kisame-san," he said, perplexed. "Isn't this a forest?"
Deidara came up behind Tobi; Itachi couldn't see his face beneath the hat, but his voice sounded greatly aggravated. "I'm sorry he's an idiot," Deidara said; he shoved Tobi's hat down on his head. The bells jangled loudly. "He thinks there's something wrong with his nose, un. If he ever shuts his mouth, he thinks he'll die of suffocation."
"No I don't. That'd be stupid," Tobi said. Itachi wondered if he was really that oblivious.
"I know, un," Deidara said flatly.
The odds against four members of the Akatsuki meeting this far from their hideout were phenomenal. It didn't help that they were in the northern regions of Fire Country, traveling on a crude dirt trail through an enormous, uninhabited forest. Yet Itachi and Kisame had run into Tobi and Deidara traveling the other way. It was almost impossible. "What are you doing here?" Itachi asked.
"We're heading to Rice Field Country, un. Leader told us to see if we could find Otogakure before it moved again." Deidara tipped his hat back to give Itachi a suspicious look. "What about you, un?"
"Hunting a missing-nin at Kakuzu's request, to exchange for a bounty," Kisame said, curling his lip. "As if we don't have better things to do."
That, Itachi knew, was a lie.
"Aw, I'm sure he's just busy," Tobi said. He tilted back his hat so it was almost falling off his head, completely revealing his mask, to look at Kisame and Itachi. "Maybe we can help later. Right, Deidara-senpai?"
Itachi sensed Kisame tense up, and fixed his own eyes on Tobi, ready to attack.
Deidara didn't answer Tobi's question. In fact, he looked ready for a fight as well. "Nice try. Kakuzu would never trust someone else to get his money." He pulled out a kunai, to Tobi's bewilderment. "You'd better talk fast, un."
Kisame and Itachi relaxed. This wasn't the first time they'd run into potential Akatsuki imposters. So far, no fakes had seen past their tricks. "Leader gave us a mission in Waterfall Country," Itachi said. "We don't plan on sharing any more details than that."
"C'mon, you can trust us, Itachi-senpai!" Tobi said. Deidara elbowed him sharply.
"Shut up. It's because of you we almost had a fight, un," Deidara said.
"We what?" Tobi said. "When did that happen?"
"Never mind, un."
Itachi tipped his head back to see Deidara and Tobi better from under the brim of his hat. "Why are you traveling through this forest, then?" Itachi asked. While living in Konoha, Itachi had been on several missions in this area, which was how he knew his way through the area. As far as he was aware, neither Deidara nor Tobi had ever visited this part of Fire Country.
Deidara shrugged. "The idiot said he knew the way, and he lost the map. I can fly us out of here if we get lost, un."
"We won't get lost!" Tobi said. "Besides, I memorized the route we were taking, so I can take us back the way we came. See?" He pointed at his single eyehole as if that explained everything. "And I have been here before, Deidara-senpai."
Itachi was mildly surprised, not that it showed. Most of the time, it took him more effort to contort his expression into displaying an emotion than it did to just leave his face blank. He asked, "When?"
Tobi turned to Itachi. "I don't remember, Itachi-senpai," he said, "but I know how to reach Earth Country from here. Rice Field Country is just east of that."
"Just east of Earth Country?" Deidara exploded. "You're hopeless, un! We're heading in completely the wrong direction!"
"I'm sorry! What did I do?" Tobi asked frantically.
"Rice Field Country is west of Earth Country!"
"No, it isn't," Kisame said. He chuckled. "You might want to trust Tobi-kun on this one, Deidara-san."
In the end, Kisame had to give Deidara an impromptu geography lesson. While they talked, Itachi walked a short distance away, gesturing for Tobi to follow him. Something about Tobi's sudden geography knowledge seemed odd to him.
"Yes, Itachi-senpai?" Tobi asked. Itachi could practically imagine him beaming under that mask.
"Tell me, Tobi-kun. Which way is Earth Country?" Itachi asked, then stopped, thinking the question too easy. "No. Which way is Iwagakure?" Finding the location of the Village Hidden Among Rocks would require even more precision than simply pointing towards its country.
"Um…" Tobi looked around the forest a moment and took off his hat to scratch his head. "It's… that…" His voice sounded far away. Slowly, he lifted one hand to point. "That way. No," he barely twitched his finger to alter the direction it was pointing, "that way. Right, Itachi-senpai?"
"Yes." In fact, it was much better than almost anyone else could have done. If Tobi could walk in a straight line in the direction he was pointing, he would just barely miss Iwagakure. He'd be able to see the walls of the village easily to his right. But the only way Itachi knew that was because he had used his Sharingan to memorize a thousand routes, and could navigate them all in his mind. How had Tobi done it?
"Where is Konohagakure?"
Barely hesitating this time, Tobi turned. "That way." Perfect. Itachi calculated that he was pointing straight through the center of the village.
With each question, Tobi's aim was perfectly accurate, until Itachi said, "Amegakure?"
Tobi's body stiffened, and he slowly lowered his arm. "I don't know. I've never been to Amegakure," he said. "I'm sorry, Itachi-senpai. I try to be a good boy…"
"That's fine, Tobi-kun. You did very well." For a moment, Itachi wondered why he'd bothered to say anything. He didn't care about Tobi's self-esteem. Deciding it didn't matter either way, he asked, "How do you remember the directions?"
"I don't know," Tobi said. "I always had a really good memory."
Tobi tilted his head down, and Itachi figured he was thinking. "I don't know that, either. Maybe it's because I can't remember most of my past, so my brain's compensating. That's what Zetsu-san said."
"Hmm." Tobi's abilities were unusual, and very rare. The only person Itachi was aware of with those abilities was he himself. He hadn't been aware that Tobi was an amnesiac, either. "Tobi-kun. Let me see your face."
"What?" Tobi was immediately defensive, on his feet and backing away from Itachi. His left hand flew up to shield his mask. "No! Zetsu-san said I can't show anyone."
Itachi didn't care. "Tobi, remove your mask. Now."
"I can't! Zetsu-san…"
At that moment, Deidara jumped to his feet, shouting obscenities, and kicked at a crude world map Kisame had helpfully drawn in the dirt. "Some teacher you are. I don't need your help, un!" he yelled. Deidara stomped over to Tobi, and grabbed his wrist. "Come on, un," he said, grabbing Tobi's hat and shoved it back on his head before tugging him off the path and into the woods. "We can find Rice Field Country ourselves!"
"Deidara-senpai, I think this is the wrong way!" Tobi protested. They were still arguing as they drifted out of earshot.
"They're not going to be working together very long, are they?" Kisame said. It sounded like a joke, but he wasn't smiling. He stood up, brushed a little dirt off his coat, and they set off once again towards Waterfall Country. "What do you think, Deidara kills Tobi first? Or Tobi gets himself killed before Deidara has the chance to do it?"
Itachi considered the question for a moment, and then shook his head. "I doubt Tobi will let himself be killed. His sight is too good for that."
"That's high praise, coming from you," said Kisame, and shrugged. "Either way, they probably won't be working together for long, huh?"
"We'll see," Itachi said, "sooner or later."
Itachi wondered, sometimes, what Sasuke would do if he found a third Uchiha alive. After all, it was quite possible that Itachi had missed someone; the Uchiha clan was quite large. Would Sasuke welcome him, as a new brother? Or, by now, was the entire Uchiha clan so dead to Sasuke that he wouldn't even acknowledge that another relative was alive? Would he see the third Uchiha as another Itachi?
Itachi wondered if he wondered about Sasuke because he was trying to figure out how he himself would react. Itachi understood his brother's mind more easily than his own. No one understood Itachi. Not even himself.
Sometimes that scared him.