Red Eye Secrets

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Otogakure was sickeningly, unbearably easy to infiltrate.

If Itachi were one for showing emotions, he would have sneered. As it were, he simply continued on his way, bypassing the guards of the village border without a flicker in their awareness.

Here was here to see his brother. No, not to kill him, but to check up on him.

Three years…had it really been so long? Sasuke had been weak the last time Itachi encountered the boy.

Not enough hate…

His little brother hadn't even had enough strength to kill the Kyuubi jinchuuriki when he was helpless. Sasuke would never have the power to defeat him. This though, Itachi did frown at.

Ah, there was Sasuke's chakra now…but it was feeble, even more so than he remembered. The Akatsuki member took on a slight burst of speed sending him through the trees to the area where his brother's essence sputtered.

'Alone. Good.'

Itachi reached a clearing, traced with so much chakra residue it nearly hurt his eyes to look. Mangekyo Sharingan scrutinized the area coolly, finally settling on a prone form at the far edge of the trees. The entire surrounding area was littered with rock fragments of all sizes, cold and sharp-edged under the cloudy sky. Itachi easily recognized the devastating aftereffects of the Chidori.

'So he's been practicing, good. But never good enough.'

Itachi leapt from the tree, alighting soundlessly on the ground to make his way over to Sasuke's unconscious body. As he came closer the elder Uchiha saw no wounds on the younger, leading him to believe Sasuke had passed out from chakra exhaustion.

"Foolish little brother."

Sasuke didn't even twitch at his voice, and Itachi's frown deepened slightly. What good were his brother's shinobi skills if he couldn't even sense the presence of an enemy while asleep? Itachi disregarded the fact that he lacked his usual radiating killer intent. Sasuke should be able to detect him nonetheless.

Itachi examined the boy at his feet, red eyes lighting with disapproval at the thick purple rope tied around the boy's waist. Really, even Itachi could tell Orochimaru had no sense of taste - how could his brother stand to wear that thing?

He supposed he should be thankful Sasuke was taking his words to heart, concentrating on his training and not his appearance. 'And how far has that gotten you?' Itachi thought as he crouched down next to the boy. The answer was saddening; Sasuke went to Orochimaru on the promise of strength, even knowing that the Snake Sannin would one day soon take his body for the man's own - then use it to kill Itachi.

"But it won't be your hatred that would defeat me, Sasuke."

Unbidden images of the night he'd left his little brother, crying and tortured mentally clouded his vision for a moment, leading right back to the reason he was here.

'One day if you are strong enough I will die, and only then will you be able to defeat him,' the thought made Itachi shiver slightly, pulling his cloak tight against a nonexistent chill. It was only by focusing on Sasuke's face that he kept from drifting away. That face in repose was so relaxed and almost childlike, harking back to the days when the boy had been an innocent child, free of the corruption of blood. But behind that pale skin a dominant chin was emerging, and Itachi could imagine eyes cold as steel, denoting the boys growth into a man.

'Soon, soon…'

Before he realized what he was doing Itachi reached out, pushing long ebony band so similar to his own out of his little brother's face. His purple-painted nails bore sharp contrast to the boy's ivory flesh, Itachi noted with bored curiosity. He scanned the boy further, noticing the exposed chest and developed muscles underneath. Sasuke had apparently inherited the Uchiha skin, which could attain many scars but never show it, along with the physique for speed that all Uchiha had.

Then Sasuke's eyelashes fluttered and Itachi's hand instantly pulled away to form a single rapid hand seal. Black eyes, milky with sleep, met his own but no alarm showed. Itachi sighed, slight relieved that his quick genjutsu had worked perfectly - he hadn't planned to stay so long and actually talk, but…this might be his only chance to be near Sasuke as he once had, before his little brother plunged that pretty Chidori through his chest, or some other such gruesome demise.

"Hello, little brother." Sasuke's head turned toward him slightly but the boy didn't move, too exhausted to twitch more than a few muscles.

"This is a dream?" It was phrased as a question, but with Itachi's genjutsu on him the elder knew the younger wouldn't believe it was anything but.

"Yes. You'll remember none of this."

Sasuke's eyes slowly slid over his face, and Itachi forced himself not to move. He had Sasuke in the perfect position to actually have a conversation without attempted murder, but that could easily change. Itachi's genjutsu was a weak one, allowing Sasuke to keep most of his senses. He pulled from his thoughts to see his brother's eyes now resting on one of the fragments of rock by Itachi's feet.

"I still can't kill you. I'm not…not strong enough," Sasuke's fists clenched hard, tight and whiter on already pale skin, "Some…some days I don't think I will be." If Itachi was surprised at the boy's sudden attempt at conversing he didn't show it, simply raising an eyebrow.

"If you work and strive and hate enough, someday you will be," Itachi said, pausing to contemplate what he was about to say, but shrugging because the boy would never remember. "Beside the fact, it is not me you should be concentrating on."

Sasuke's eyes cleared just enough to worry him, Sasuke just stared wide-eyed and Itachi was forced to suppress a familiar fluttering in his chest as the boy gazed at him.

"Who then?"

Itachi allowed a hint of a smirk to touch his lips, "Uchiha Madara. He is the reason I destroyed the clan, why everything has gone so horribly wrong…" Even under the genjutsu Sasuke was shocked, gaping at him in astonishment.

Then Itachi felt approaching chakra signatures far at the edge of his senses. With a flick of his hand he started to put more chakra in the genjutsu, lulling the boy to sleep. Itachi spoke to save his little brother any reply, "You should go back to sleep, foolish little brother. You've exhausted yourself."

His heart gave a residual thump when Sasuke actually, kami forbid, smiled at him.

"Stupid Itachi, I am asleep."

The chakra was closing in as Itachi stood to leave.

"Aniki."

Itachi froze at the word, slowly turning back to Sasuke who stared up at him, eyes still dark and cloudy. Somehow Sasuke managed to sling his arm upwards, barely catching the other's painted fingertips but hanging on nonetheless.

"I…still hate you, but I wanted you to know…that I miss you," it was just a flutter and a breath over the boy's lips, but it still made Itachi's heart burn and pound. In a swift movement he crouched once more, leaning close to the other's face so he could hear Itachi's whisper.

"I missed you too, little brother."

A instant of hot breath passes between them before Itachi pressed slick lips to Sasuke's dry ones, his tongue ghosting over the boy's mouth to leaving one lasting impression of impassioned heat.

Before Sasuke could react in his hazy state Itachi was gone and the genjutsu lifted.

Sasuke lay there for a moment, stunned. But then he wondered why he was crying and angrily dashed hot tears from his face. Uchihas did not cry.

Sasuke was further dismayed to realized that not only were his muscles stiff from exhaustion and sleeping on the rock-strewn ground, but his purple belt had somehow disappeared. His face felt hot as he looked around for something to replace. He flapped his open haori a bit as his eyes settled on a thick red strip of cloth.

'How did that get there?'

Then he was distracted further by Suigetsu's impromptu entrance into the clearing.

"Sasuke-sama, Orochimaru-sama wants to see you!" Sasuke looked up and nodded at the other man.

"Hai, I'm coming." He grabbed the strip and hurriedly tied it around his waist.

The memory of what had just occurred would burrow into a crevice in his mind, dismissed for now, but never truly forgotten…

He would remember the day Uchiha Madara died.


A/N: Because I couldn't concentrate on Un Coeur Gris and wanted to give my dearest beta EmpyrealFantasy a Christmas gift. Written in 20 minutes and left to stew for days. XD I already have an idea for a sequel, believe it or not... Review please!