Title: Clincher
Description: But at times like these, Itachi wondered if he really knew anything at all. Tobito theory implied.
Pairings: None intended
Rating: K+
Warnings: Potential manga spoilers
Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto (which I don't, sadly), the Kakashi gaiden would've been aired instead of hideous fillers, KakaSaku innuendos would be overwhelming, and Hayate would be resurrected to frolic with Genma. And perhaps Raidou as well...

- - -

The point where the clouds break

I'm sure you can see it

- - -

Itachi was perceptive. So, it was only a matter of time (a few scant seconds in reality) before the raven-haired nin was sparked with recognition. Really, it wasn't so difficult to see; even he, half-blind, could uncover just what lay behind the swirled tangerine – it's juices not so foreign despite not being grown in these parts where the ground was too cracked and parched to produce anything lively. But Itachi never liked to share, even in the faded days when an innocent, untainted boy called him "niisan", so it was only natural (perhaps too secondhand nature) to merely sit back with this rejuvenated insight while others fumbled about. It was quite amusing, if he were to be honest.

Itachi would admit, however, that he was just slightly disappointed that he was solo in this newfound discovery which, to the missing Konoha-nin, was a cheap attempt at a mystery; the clues blatantly in view. He wondered at times whether anyone else had come up with the solution which was blaring as bright as the swirled porcelain that attempted to hide the identity. At night, when insomnia glared from across the room, Itachi pondered whether the tangerine in question even knew what tree he had fallen from. In his ever-strategic, rational mind, Itachi would conclusively come to terms with the same, monotonous answer:

Probably not.

"Itachi-san?"

But at times like these, when his soliloquy was interrupted and he was forced to look deep within that lone eyehole, Itachi wondered if he, himself, really knew anything at all.

"Yes, Tobi-kun?"

The term of endearment was meant to mock, but no one really understood Itachi's wit to begin with and Itachi wasn't sure whether or not he was jeering this time around. As frightening as the revelation was, the Uchiha could not fool himself. It ceased to work all those years ago and he knew for a fact that it wouldn't work now. Itachi knew his mind.

Sometimes, he wished he didn't.

"Why do you hate your brother?"

Itachi paused minutely, the seemingly innocent question not expected, but not enough to throw the Akatsuki off-balance. He returned his stoic gaze to the wall, crimson eyes observing how the cheap wallpaper was peeling just slightly in the westernmost corner.

"I do not hate my brother."

And it was true. Itachi continued to stare intently at the decaying paper upon the wall, scarlet irises scrutinizing each flutter that reverberated from the slight draft that sent goosebumps erecting on his own alabaster skin. Itachi didn't notice the chill. From his peripheral vision, the raven-haired nin observed the slight pulling of fabric, the shifting of a cloak to be wound tighter around a solid body. Itachi pretended to be oblivious of the incessant slide-show of coal eyes so much like his own that stubbornly flickered behind his corneas.

"Then why does he hate you?"

A silence filtered into the room, residing closely with the bitter draft – whispering softly, sending tingles prickling across both their skin. It wasn't uncomfortable silence nor foreboding. Itachi liked to think of it as recollective and hoped slightly that the nin beside him thought the same. To the Akatsuki's chagrin, his hands trembled just so – a mere thousandth of a millimeter – but there all the same. He could feel the lone eye just beyond that opaque abyss watch silently as Itachi's fingers briefly jittered to their own accord.

Neither made comment.

Itachi blinked. It would be dawn soon, the pinkish hues of beginning sun would lazily fade to existence, only to be overtaken by its older brother. He wondered for just a moment if that's how his own kinship thought. Itachi could hear the controlled breaths beside him, each measured accordingly, trying not to shatter the soft quiet that had befallen them. The former Konoha-nin knew that the anticipation was sawing off the other's nerves, what with the nin's exaggerated personality. He inwardly smirked, though the scene was much too familiar to him – another innocent, impatient boy coming to mind.

The larger Akatsuki shifted tentatively, but Itachi continued to stare at the murky, yellow wallpaper. He tried to be ignorant that the sight was blurred, but Itachi did not receive the gift of fooling oneself. He wish he'd acquired it over time.

The fading moon painted acrylic greys across the rotting floorboards that groaned in agony during harsh winter nights. The dun shadows stretched languidly, reminding Itachi softly of the numerous markers that were now corrosive with age and of another man's locks that still haven't found equilibrium with gravity. They stretched and melted into the wooden cracks and knotholes, vanishing suddenly down chasms to never reappear again – but only until another insomnia-blackened night where Itachi's shadowed eyes would blur with faded memories. Itachi spared a glance at the waiting nin, picturing those silver strands that had long since melted into the cracks of masked nin's mind, still not rediscovered and rid of its cobwebs.

It was nights like these, when his twisted solace was broken and he knew deep down that he didn't have to search endlessly in that lone hole to find something similar to his own misery, when Itachi wondered if he and him weren't so blatantly different.

Itachi closed his tired eyes to the sun's yawn and tried (and failed) to pretend that the quiet words that left his mouth were merely pretty nuances and not something so much deeper.

"Because there is nothing left to love."

Then again, Itachi couldn't fool himself.

-o-o-o-

A/N: I feel the need to explain this piece because everything is very subtle and not everyone may pick up a few things.

Tangerine equals Tobi
Another man's locks and silver strands equal Kakashi
Coal eyes and innocent boy equal Sasuke

In one of the paragraphs, Itachi is comparing headstones ("markers") and Kakashi. I was trying to convey that each of them has lost something: Itachi in the literal sense and Tobi in the figurative. When Itachi goes on to say that the "silver strands" have melted into the cracks of Tobi's mind, still undiscovered, I was basically stating that Tobi has forgotten about Kakashi, i.e. doesn't remember him. I know I'm kind of taking away from the story by explaining, but I don't want any one to be confused.

Don't ask me why I used an extended metaphor of "tangerine" for Tobi. I was just looking at his mask and was like "huh.. It kind of looks like an orange or something".

And if anyone didn't notice, I'm a Tobito conspirator which is heavily, yet subtly, implied in this oneshot. Bottom line: Itachi knows Tobi is Obito. How? Well, Itachi's perceptive...

Hope you've enjoyed! Lyrics at the beginning are from the Naruto ending Michi to You All.

- - H. 92