Naruto and/or any of its affiliated work do not belong to me, but to its respective author and publisher. I own nothing par the story below.


When Itachi was four, his only memories were of black blood and the taste of iron in his mouth. It was a taste that made him want to vomit, to scream until his heart would stop aching—to just die. It crept into his senses, like a fog, and he couldn't stop it from happening.

And sometimes, he would look into his father's eyes—perhaps for comfort, perhaps for love…and what he saw would always remain in his mind.

His father's eyes were cold, unfeeling, uncaring of the death that surrounded them—unloving for his only child. His eyes—his soul was darker than the war itself. He didn't care what happened to the people—he wanted the power.

At that time, his father ceased being his father and instead became Fugaku Uchiha to Itachi.

So when bodies came in—bodies of nin he had seen before but never really known, Itachi had jerkily nodded and ask to be excused.

If he wasn't, his heart would be frozen, screaming, and he would play puppet until he was. If he was (when he was) he would go into his room, and might even (would always) cry over the people he had never had the chance to love. He knew most wouldn't mourn them—a nin must never show emotion, but he was still small, so he would be allowed, right?

Then, one day, the war was over. But Itachi was child, and couldn't understand why it was over, and no one tried to explain it to him. He wanted to know how it had ended, wanted to understand how he could ever stop it from happening again. He didn't know that. What he did know was that it was awful to live in this situation, and he never wanted another war to happen again. It was too cruel for everyone involved. People died and no one was left untouched. The world was ravaged and broken and no one could ever fix it; no one would try to reach out their hand to help.

If I can help it, he vowed in his childish heart, I will never let a war happen again. Not like this.

He was four.

And at that time, he could only think to himself, if only I had been born four years later.

When Itachi was five, his mother announced to the clan that she was pregnant. The clan members smiled and nodded in acceptance, and Itachi saw that her eyes, too, were softer. She was alive again, no longer the empty shell that she had so readily become during the war.

At this time, Itachi had loved.

He had loved her more than ever before; she was giving life. She was giving life to someone who had not needed to see the war—someone who could be innocent for longer.

And that child, whether nin or not, would be able to live without the bloodshed of the war.

They would be someone of hope to the village—someone to show that life was not yet over and that the world could continue again. The child would be the one to bring new life to the village.

The child would be hope, Itachi thought, and marveled at the possibility.

What he had not done was looked inside of his happiness and had had never tried to see the part of his soul that cried out in despair. Itachi didn't realize that he had longed so much to be the new, innocent child that was to come.

He had realized, however, that he would protect this child and everything that he meant to the Uchiha clan.

Sasuke was born. At the time, Itachi could not stop the quiet shivers of joy that danced across his heart and soul.

He enters the Academy then, with his head held high and silently he tells himself that he will protect Sasuke no matter what. And he believes that, and moves with that thought through school, surpassing, excelling and ultimately, achieving.

And then the Kyuubi attacks and Itachi can only bite back the tremors of fear, because he knows what can happen because of this. He knows war is going to happen again and no one can stop it.

But just as Itachi is about to break down, he sees his mother and her empty arms, and realizes that Sasuke is still in his nursery. And then his feet are moving before he's realized anything and the fire is burning at him and he wants to shout. He reaches the nursery and little Sasuke is there, not even crying but sitting and smiling at him.

The world stops for a moment.

The smile is telling him something; Itachi can see it, and Sasuke's smile is enough to tell him that the world is okay for now.

Flames lick his back and all Itachi can do is concentrate on that smile. Then Sasuke opens his tiny arms, looking for an embrace, and Itachi catches it. And Itachi is running, faster than he's ever run before, out of the wreckage. His instincts are telling him that he's not enough of a nin to attempt something like this yet, but Sasuke's smile is reason enough for him to keep moving.

They get out of the building, and Itachi can see the Kyuubi coming towards the compound. And then Sasuke tugs at his hair (that Itachi didn't even realize had slipped out of its bindings) and his mother is coming at him with tears down her face.

The rest of that night is a blur, but war doesn't start. Itachi is thankful for it, and trains harder.

And every time his body aches, he remembers that smile, and strives onward.

No matter what.

Itachi does not actually have permission to see Sasuke. Fugaku thinks that it could make him weak if he forms such a bond and he will not have that. Because Itachi has already graduated from the Academy (only a year after he entered) and Fugaku has already showcased that fact.

Look, the older man's eyes proclaim, look at my weapon. My child is stronger than the other runts of the village. This is proof of the Uchiha blood.

And Itachi, diverting his eyes, must wait until his father gloats. And when Fugaku is done, Itachi sweeps out of the room—waiting in his own room until it is safe.

Then, when all the lights are out and Itachi can feel the chakra of the other clan members sleeping, Itachi quietly leaves his room and enters Sasuke's.

Sometimes the infant is awake, and sometimes he is not. But nevertheless, Itachi quietly speaks to Sasuke.

It is the only time he can.

One year later, Itachi activates the Sharingan for the first time. But it is not during a mission, or even an attack.

It occurs when he confronts of Uchiha Madara. Itachi meets him through pure coincidence, passing by after a long mission. And when he sees him, he recognizes the utter fear that grips him and thinks this man controlled the Kyuubi.

Itachi does not try to talk to the man, but attacks him; the very idea that this man could come back to Konoha is enough to make his limbs move. In Konoha is peace. In Konoha is family.

In Konoha is Sasuke.

Madara doesn't kill him, merely semi-seriously fights him, and can only be described as amused when the Sharingan activates. And it is fully active, but Madara only laughs at him.

But Itachi doesn't say anything, even when Madara leaves; he knows he has just gained another weapon.

It is another weapon that he can use to keep Konoha safe from war.

When Sasuke is three, about to turn four, Itachi takes the chuunin exam for the first time.

Fugaku must have known about the late visits, Itachi realized; for Fugaku gave Itachi the largest incentive he had ever known.

If you pass the exam, I will let you speak and see Sasuke as you please.

Shisui Uchiha was Itachi's best friend, so to speak.

Itachi would speak to him, and not in the short, clipped tones he used for everyone else.

So when Itachi and he were placed on the same team for the chuunin exam, Shisui was quietly relieved. He didn't want anyone picking on the younger nin, for their own sake.

But when the nin entered the examination, he was so high-strung that Shisui himself was shocked. Itachi was a prodigy, one whom had overcome everything that came towards him with ease.

Shisui wondered, but never asked. He wasn't a good enough friend for that.

It disgusted Itachi that Fugaku would use Sasuke to this point, but he succeeded nevertheless.

One week before Sasuke was four, Itachi was a chuunin. And Itachi quietly told himself that Sasuke's birthday would be the day where Itachi first spoke to him, first made actual conversation.

Itachi caved in two days early.

After they had passed the Chuunin exam, Shisui had seen Itachi's reaction.

He had not relaxed. If anything, he had grown more edgy and Shisui had to wonder why. It was not as if anyone had expected Itachi not to pass the exam.

Ah, Shisui thought then. Itachi must be geared for some reward.

He did not know what kind of reward it must have been, but it was the first time Shisui had seen Itachi so flustered. It made him seem more human.

Sasuke was taken care of by a girl named Nami. She knew him as a rather chatty child; so surprise was freely given when Sasuke, full of pre-birthday jitters, stopped talking to her to run up to this taller boy. And when she saw him, she knew who Itachi was—any Uchiha you asked would.

She smiled at him, from across the room, and received a nod back.

Then, possibly the most tenderly she had ever seen, the older brother's arms gently linked around Sasuke's torso, and lifted him.

It was a moment that she should have never really seen; Nami should have known at that moment that Itachi would only really care for Sasuke—it was the way things were.

She knew they had never been together before. She knew it, deep inside her consciousness; but at that moment, the only thing she could think of was how much Itachi cared.

But at that moment, the only thing she could have ever felt for Itachi was love. Love for the boy who loved his little brother so much.

It was two weeks after the Chuunin exam when Shisui saw Itachi next.

The tension had lifted, he saw, and was going to approach Itachi when he was beat to it.

A tiny child, maybe four or five, ran at Itachi like a nin dog. His balance was a little off, Shisui noted internally, but if the toddler kept at it like that he would be very quick when he became a nin. But there were other things to worry about. Like Itachi possibly decapitating the child by accident.

So Shisui moved to intercept the child, but Itachi had already turned and—

Well, Shisui thought, that's a surprise.

Itachi had smiled.

Itachi realized that Sasuke's caretaker was watching him.

But he didn't care, really—so long as she took care of Sasuke properly, who really cared what she did in her free time? It was certainly not his intention to scare her away.

He knew that if she left, Sasuke would be hurt.

And he knew he would never let that happen.

"I like you." She said.

"I know," he replied.

Itachi didn't love her, he knew as he pressed his lips to hers. He didn't love her.

Itachi visited Sasuke every day now, Nami knew.

She knew that despite the butterfly kisses they exchanged, Itachi didn't love her.

Otherwise, he would have looked at her, right?

But he didn't, and Nami blinked tears away.

Sasuke loved Itachi, more than anything else. He wanted to be like Itachi, and then they could be together forever, right?

Sasuke loved Itachi.

And Itachi loved him back.

Itachi passed the jounin exam, and he was eleven. He was a prodigy. He was enough to make the clan proud.

He was finally old enough for Fugaku to tell him their clan's plans. That they were going to overthrow Konoha and carve out equality for their clan.

Itachi wished he had never known.

The Uchiha clan wanted equality. But if they tried, a war would break out. People would die again. And Sasuke's being born just after the war would lose its meaning.

Blood would stain everything for the selfishness of his clan.

With that knowledge, time stopped.

When it started again, he was in the office of the Third Hokage. And suddenly Itachi knew more than his entire clan did, knew that Konoha had already known what the Uchiha had thought was so well hidden.

With that knowledge, the many paths Itachi had once seen were suddenly two.

One, obey the clan and overthrow Konoha…

Or two, obey the Hokage and destroy the clan.

It swung in his mind, like a pendulum in a grandfather clock. Time was moving.


Shisui knew about the plan. He knew.

He was older than Itachi, had known for much longer.

So he had followed Itachi after the younger nin was told of the plan. He had wanted to make sure that he was alright. Maybe even reassure the younger nin. So he had followed Itachi.

And he had seen the Hokage talk to him.

He knew.

The elders had spoken with Itachi next. They knew that Itachi had been affected by the last war.

They knew.

So they manipulated him with their pale words and pulled on his strings.

Move, puppet, read their lips, move the way I want you to.

The elders had smiled and Itachi had shuddered under their added weight. He wanted to see Sasuke's smile again.

The pendulum swung faster.

Nami was two years older than Itachi.

She had always known about the plan, from gossiping older siblings. But she had never supported the plan, only accepting that it was the choice of the elders in the clan and that she had never really had a say in it at all.

So when Itachi came to her, in the middle of the night, with his eyes dead and his heart broken, Nami knew why.

And silently, in her heart, she was happy that Itachi had come to her instead of to Sasuke (even though she knew that Itachi would never tell Sasuke something that could hurt him so).

She wasn't enough, Itachi realized. She couldn't heal him.

So later, when Nami's words aren't good enough for him anymore, Itachi goes to Sasuke.

And his younger brother smiles at him again, that tiny happy smile, and hugs him around his waist.

The pendulum stops.

Itachi met with the Hokage, met with the elders. He agreed.

The Hokage told him to wait, that he would try to talk to the Uchiha clan to resolve this. The elders smiled their dark smiles and told him that he would save Konoha.

Itachi looked back at them, and knew that this would not end cleanly.

Fugaku smiles and Itachi realizes that his father and the elders are not so different after all.

Itachi enters the ANBU Black Ops under his father's orders.

Find out what you can about them. Fugaku says.

When Itachi goes to the Hokage to be officially recognized as such, the Hokage tells him that this is where it begins.

The idea was simple enough. Fugaku would assume that Itachi was a spy for the Uchiha clan, and Itachi would give information to the Hokage instead; the Hokage would give Itachi the information that was to be relayed back to Fugaku. This way, Itachi would be seen as working for both sides.

He was to become a double agent. He would betray everyone.

His path begins to narrow.

When Itachi gets registered into the Black Ops, Shisui knows that Itachi has changed.

Which side he plays for is still a mystery, but Shishui knows that there is more depth to Itachi than Fugaku realizes.

My son is the weapon that will lead our war, Fugaku had said.

Shisui could have laughed. Itachi could very well be the weapon that destroys them all.

But Shisui also watches, waiting for the sign of which side Itachi will join.

He watches.

Sasuke knows that Itachi has changed.

He does not talk as often now, nor does he smile.

But Itachi wants hugs more often, and Sasuke always complies.

He isn't sure, however, why Nami always looks like she wants to cry when he does.

Itachi never visits Nami anymore, and she knows that she is no longer good enough.

She can't stop herself from hoping, however; that's why she never resigns from her position as Sasuke's nurse, though she knows Sasuke won't need her for much longer. She also knows it will tear at her more whenever Itachi comes—but not to see her.

Never to see her.

And maybe the only reason he had ever gotten involved with her was because she was connected to Sasuke. Maybe he had only done it so that he could ensure someone would always be with Sasuke. Maybe she had never meant anything to the nin at all.

Her pride won't stop her from realizing these things, though she wishes it would.

But a good nin has no pride, because it would get in the way.

Itachi has changed, she realizes, or maybe she had never known him at all.

Fugaku watched his child grow and knows him the best.

He knows that Itachi is exceptionally talented; the boy was moving through the ranks more quickly than anyone had ever seen before, and this must be the gift of their ancestors to reach their goal. And Fugaku knows that their plan will succeed, because Itachi's existence is worth at least that much.

Fugaku watches, and then turns his attention to Sasuke.

Sasuke was not strong enough, and will never be as strong as Itachi, Fugaku thinks, but it is time for him to enter the Academy nonetheless.

It wouldn't do to have the Hokage suspect anything, after all.

Too many things are clashing now, and Itachi delivers his first pieces of information to Fugaku—things that are simply known, and that the Hokage has given him on a silver platter.

Fugaku is satisfied.

Shisui is not.

Shisui is being paranoid, he knows—but he cannot shake off the feeling that Itachi is following the Hokage, that he is betraying the clan.

Especially since Itachi has been speaking so strangely lately, contradicting everything he had said previously.

It was almost as if Itachi had given up on their clan, as if he had believed that their clan was wrong.

But Shisui laughed it off, and knew that Itachi would never do such a thing. They had Sasuke, after all.

Nami had resigned as Sasuke's nurse. She was fifteen years old, and Sasuke was old enough to keep himself busy.

She would pursue love, now.

Shisui followed Itachi to the Hokage's office, and knew that Itachi was a double agent.

He couldn't deny it any longer.

So he writes a note (a suicide note) and asks Itachi to meet him at the river during the clan meeting.

And he thinks to himself, I must be crazy, but knows that he must have been crazy to follow this plan for so long anyway.

Shisui knows about the Mangekyou Sharingan. He knows that he's Itachi's best friend (Only friend).

So he can at least help Itachi stop their clan. He can at least do this.

Itachi killed Shisui on a clear night, and the moon glows gently over the deed.

The next day, Itachi is talking with Sasuke, and Itachi sees how strained he has become.

Sasuke has set him as a goal—and Fugaku is doing nothing to change that.

Sasuke is starved for affection, Itachi realizes, so he sits with Sasuke longer than he usually does. But Sasuke cannot know what he is planning—he cannot ever know, or he will break.

Sasuke will undoubtedly break under the knowledge that the clan is trying to start a war.

So Itachi shields him, and will do so as long as he can.

Inabi, Tekka and Yashiro Uchiha never knew Shisui.

But the fact was that Itachi and Shisui were both missing for a meeting, and only Itachi had appeared alive the next day. And the arrogant prodigy was on everybody's nerves, so it wasn't like they were doing it alone.

Besides, Shisui had been watching Itachi. It was far too coincidental to be anything but murder.

Nami is about to approach Itachi when she sees Sasuke, so instead she sits behind them in an adjacent room and simply listens to their voices.

Itachi's voice is warm, and deep—

And loving.

So Nami sits there, listening but not disturbing with tears running down her cheeks.

She is happy, because she is sure that Itachi knows that she is here, and he has not sent her away.

Inabi Uchiha is the first to disturb the peace of the Uchiha compound.

"Is Itachi here?" he demands, in a loud and arrogant voice. "Come out now, we need to talk!"

Itachi glances at Sasuke and moves towards the entrance.

Sasuke follows, peeking from behind a corner.

And Nami, in the tiny room next to the area, continues to listen.

Itachi is frustrated, because what do they know!? They're planning to destroy the peace that we had lost so many to attain. What right did they have?

Itachi knew, rationally, that they were weak fools. They clung to their family, to their clan, not even considering what kind of repercussions it could have on the entirety of Konoha.

But this was not right. He was letting them know too much—his mouth was saying too much. He was defeating the purpose of his mission. He wanted to stop the war; he didn't want to create one himself. He had to kill these people, but on different terms—

Then, a quiet little part of him said, can't we just kill a few off now? You already killed Shisui.

And Itachi was horrified that he agreed with it.

Nami can't help herself from reeling in terror at this new side of Itachi…

And she realizes that the only reason she hadn't seen it before was Sasuke. Tears are running down her face, tears of fear now, and she wishes Sasuke would do something.

Otherwise the men in front of them would die here and now.

By Itachi's hand.

Itachi has drawn a kunai already, and his body is telling him to kill.

One shout stops him. It brings him to his knees.

And he realizes that it is Sasuke's and that the younger boy is crying.

Fugaku dismisses the other police, and looks at his son warily.

He has changed, Fugaku knows now. Itachi has changed.

But he has no idea why, so he passes Itachi uncomfortably and when he sees Sasuke in the corner, he watches him.

Sasuke, Fugaku realizes, may be stronger than he had thought he was. Perhaps it was Sasuke who would help them control Itachi, at the very least.

Nami cries to herself, for herself, and for Itachi.

Sasuke knew that Itachi's eyes were different. His Sharingan had been different, and…

Itachi had never looked that way before. Like he was sickened, and he hated the clan.

Itachi had never been that way.


Itachi screwed up.

He had never intended to show Sasuke that side of him.

It made him feel almost ashamed.

When he walked past Sasuke in the hall, Sasuke looked at him differently.

And Itachi kept walking, without a word.

Fugaku saw Sasuke, saw the possibility now, and showed him their family's most basic jutsu.

But he wasn't at Itachi's level.

He could not become as efficient of a weapon.

Nami waited in Itachi's room, and he let her be.

When he was ready to talk to her, she kissed him.

"I love you," He said.

Nami didn't believe him.

Itachi didn't, either.

Sasuke can finally do the jutsu.

Fugaku praised him for it.

But Sasuke is confused, because the 'become like your brother' has suddenly become 'don't follow your brother'.

Fugaku doesn't try to explain, and Sasuke's feeling of triumph doesn't last long.

Itachi goes to find Madara again. The elder Uchiha looks at him, at his eyes, and asks.

"What do you want, kid?"

Itachi looks at him. "I want you to destroy the Uchiha clan."

Madara smiles. "And?"

"No one from the village will stop you."

"At what price?" Madara asked.

"There are two conditions. One, you must not touch the village itself. Two, there is a child you must not touch."

"Okay," Madara agreed, "But I'm supposed to be dead."

"I'll take the blame for it."

Madara's Sharingan whirled.

The Hokage's negotiations had failed.

The elders had been expecting it.

Itachi was informed.

"Itachi, can we train today?"

The question was a common one, and Itachi turned. Sasuke was looking for reassurance that he hadn't changed. Itachi smiled.

"Forgive me, Sasuke. Not today."

Sasuke smiled back.

Itachi clasps his kodachi behind his back, and meets the Hokage's eyes.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Itachi?" The old man questioned.

Itachi's eyes froze.

"I must."

They meet just in front of the entrance; Itachi nods silently to Madara and they begin their separate paths of carnage.

Itachi notices offhandedly that the sky is a murky red.

Their blood is on his hands.

It looks like any other blood he has ever seen, and the smell of iron in the air makes him nauseous.

He has killed so many of their clan members; why should his parents be exempt? No—that was the wrong mindset, he told himself.

His parents were the ones who needed to die most of all. They were the core of this evil plan, the ones who had spread their ideas onto others like a virus. His parents were the ones to blame.

Nami looks up from her work and sees Itachi at the door—

And then she knows that she's going to die and all she can do is embrace it.

Madara laughs to himself, because he is finally destroying the weakened clan that submitted. He isn't sure why Konoha is letting him—

But who is he to let such an opportunity go by?

A smile graces his lips as he sees a small boy running.

The symbol of Uchiha is on his back, and Madara can practically see his blood running through the boy's veins.

But Itachi, on a pole across the street, meets his eyes.

Ooh, Madara thinks to himself, this must be condition number two.

Sasuke is hurting and Itachi yearns to hug him and fix everything. But he can't turn back now.

He's already killed their parents—Sasuke has seen him with their bodies.

And Sasuke is crying, hurting, screaming. Itachi needs to kill him. THe thought repulses Itachi; what kind of act would it be, to kill this child? Surely it would not be someone like him who could have the right to take the life of this person…

Not when it was Sasuke's smile that brought him back.

His throat stings as he harshly tears words from it, making his illusion perfect.

Sasuke believes him, he knows, and hurts because of it. But it is eternally better than having destroyed everything else the boy dreamed of.

Live, Itachi's lips say, in crueler and darker words. And when you are strong enough, tear off my protection. He leaves Sasuke then, with his head held high and silently he tells himself that he will protect Sasuke no matter what.

He has to.

The third Hokage does not tell any of the nin under him what is to happen. It is too cruel, perhaps, but Itachi must take the fall for his clan.

He was fully prepared to have Itachi simply leave; when the nin appears at his step, he looks him in the eye and knows that Itachi has changed.

What he doesn't expect is for Itachi to bow his head and beg.

"Please," he said, "protect Sasuke."

And, at that moment, the third knew that Itachi was not as strong as he thought.

The elders did not expect him to come back.

They had hoped their hands would be washed clean of the mess with his act. They should have expected Itachi, bloodstained and silent to threaten them next…especially when they finally heard of the living Uchiha.

They should have known that Itachi wouldn't let them touch Sasuke.

The boy was cracked, but not broken.

He would heal over time, they knew, but he would become their weapon.

The last weapon, not against the other villages, but against Itachi Uchiha.

His value would rise, of course, if he became a stronger nin. But as a child, his only value was a safeguard against Itachi.

Itachi loved Sasuke, after all.

It takes a month for Itachi to find the Akatsuki; he has only heard rumors of them previously. But he knows that if anything—anyone—is a threat to Konoha, it is them.

And when he becomes a member, Sasuke's killing him will no longer be a crime. It will be an accomplishment. Sasuke will be seen as higher in everyone's eyes—and he will be stronger, strong enough to protect himself.

He thinks, as he cuts of the arm of a member. One who is snakelike, pasty and far too power-hungry—Itachi sees him and knows what he covets, and knows that he will go after their eyes. But for now, Itachi must not kill him straight-away. The man will die, though; otherwise he could become a threat to Konoha.

Itachi throws himself wholeheartedly into joining the Akatsuki.

He thinks, if I do this, then Konoha will be safe.

Sasuke will be safe.

It's been four years since the massacre.

Four, long years.

Sasuke wants to be stronger, stronger—he's not strong enough to kill Itachi yet.

Itachi's body is falling apart—he needs more medicine so he can see Sasuke again.

Naruto's known Sasuke for a long time.

He was the kid alone on the swings, the kid who the girls liked, and the kid who he'd never talked to.

But the entire time, Naruto has thought that Sasuke's just a little bit arrogant and a little bit of a jerk.

As for now, Naruto thinks that he doesn't really know Sasuke.

But that's okay— they're rivals, after all, and not friends.

Sasuke is getting stronger.

He must be getting stronger. He must be strong enough, for Orochimaru has taken interest in him, and now he can kill.

He must be getting stronger; Sasuke thinks and grips his shoulder.

If not, why has he been living?

Another bitter medicinal drink is choked down, and Itachi bears it.

He must make sure he survives until Sasuke comes to kill him. He must make sure he is strong enough.

Silently, he tells himself that he will protect Sasuke no matter what.

The third Hokage died for his country.

And just like that, Itachi's safeguards began to crack.

Orochimaru is in pain, and it hurts, it hurts. His blood feels like it's on fire and it won't stop burning.

The third Hokage had succeeded in stopping him temporarily…

But Orochimaru would have the Sharingan soon enough, and then Konoha would fall.

Orochimaru swore it.

It's the first time Itachi has seen Sasuke in a while, and his brother has grown.

But the seal on his neck is something Itachi is not happy about, and he knows that Orochimaru had gotten to Sasuke first.

Itachi slams Sasuke into a wall, to prove his point—he's still putting on an act, he has to make sure Sasuke can handle it when he's gone. And then he throws Sasuke into an illusion.

He needs to make sure Sasuke knows that he needs to be stronger. Itachi needs to make sure.

He must protect Sasuke no matter what.

Kisame is excited.

Itachi is hurting this boy with his hands, when he is so more attached to using ninjutsu and genjutsu. He's taking the time to touch this boy.

Itachi's back is to him, but Kisame knows that Itachi isn't calm. He's not as efficient now, and his back seems smaller—weaker.

Kisame knows then that Itachi is weak, knows that this boy with Itachi's eyes is a liability.

He knows that Itachi loves, and Itachi wants to live.

If only for the boy.

The very thought excites him.

Naruto understands now why Sasuke is so determined to kill Itachi. He understands why Sasuke is so jaded, why he was so hard to befriend.

Sasuke struggled through it all alone.

But now he and Sasuke are closer, they're more than friends.

Sasuke is family to Naruto, and even though Itachi was a bad brother, Naruto won't be.

The elders understood what Itachi was saying when he appeared.

He was threatening them, telling them that they had not done well when they let Orochimaru taste Sasuke.

They understood that he was reaffirming what he had told them the night he killed his clan.

Sasuke left them, Naruto thinks.

Sasuke left them, and he could have killed Naruto; but he didn't.

Naruto knows that Sasuke will never be able to kill his brother.

Not if he couldn't kill Naruto first.

Sasuke is training, learning, and experiencing new things. He knows, more than anyone, that he has the ability to kill Itachi.

It is what he has lived for.

Naruto sees Itachi and knows that Itachi is formidable.

He knows that, but can't help the fury that's been building up.

This person, he says to himself, made Sasuke the way he is now.

This person is evil.

Itachi runs into the Kyuubi host enough times to know that he is temperamental, and that he is a friend of Sasuke's.

It is the very reason why he can never bring himself to just capture the boy.

Because capture would mean that the host would die, and Sasuke would lose a friend.

Itachi didn't want Sasuke to break again.

Sasuke looks across from where he sat.

Juugo. Karin. Suigetsu.

This was his new family, he thought to himself.

As he went to sleep, he didn't realize that he had recreated Team 7.

Itachi's body is breaking down, and he can feel death approaching.

Things have taken a turn he did not wish for, but Itachi knows how he can help Sasuke return.

All Sasuke has to do is kill Itachi.

It is all he has ever had to do.

Itachi doesn't realize that Sasuke is the only one who could have truly killed him, anyway.

Itachi is going to die today. He can feel it, and knows that Sasuke will finally be at peace.

He has made all of the preparations… even if, after he dies, Madara comes to bother Sasuke, the man will never speak. Sasuke will live unknowing, finally strong enough to stand up.

He will be hailed a hero for destroying Itachi, and would be allowed to return. He would walk his own path (even if he never saw the blood Itachi had spilt across the dirt). Sasuke would finally be free, of all family ties, and could believe in his clan; he could believe that they deserved to live.

Then, with a start, he realizes that the Kyuubi host is here, and stops his movement to the place where he will die.

The boy screams at him, shouting his hurts and anger.

Itachi smiles, secretly, and leaves.

"Sasuke is like a brother to me—And I'm a better brother than you ever were!!"

Naruto had said.

And Itachi believed him.

AN: Ah, this is an experimental writing style for me. Kind of choppy, I know. Comments?