"When one has not had a good father, one must create one." Friedrich Nietzsche
The waiting room of Chiyoda General Hospital was rather sparse when Fugaku arrived. That was for the best, really, there was no reason for a scene. A young man with dyed blonde hair, how disgusting, was pacing back and forth, looking nervous but certainly not sick. A child was chewing on a candy bar, looking a bit bored as her mother fiddled with what looked like a broken wrist. An elderly couple were nearly asleep in a corner. Although he felt foolish for bringing Sasuke here, to such a common hospital, the doctor who usually tended the residents of the upscale Ichibanchou neighborhood had refused to see them. This had irritated Fugaku greatly, but the fool of a man didn't budge, and so he'd been forced to take Sasuke to this… place. To an emergency room full of people who could easily be carrying all manner of infectious disease, and could be polluting them at that very moment. It couldn't be helped, though. Perhaps it would do Sasuke good to be continually reminded that what he had done was wrong.
The automatic doors had opened for him, letting the morning air into the sterile building with him, and he alerted a nurse that he would need her to bring a wheelchair to his car. He spoke with a very eerie calm, and the woman, who was young and nervous, suspected he might be in shock. He certainly wasn't a paramedic, and only they were ever that calm when bringing someone into an emergency room. She complied and quickly darted outside, unfolding a wheelchair, pushing it up to Fugaku's Lexus and peering inside. In the backseat was a young man, couldn't be much older than her own baby brother, and he looked awful. His face was swollen and blue with bruises, both of his eyes closed in what was either unconsciousness or perhaps the trauma was so great that they'd simply swollen shut. One of his legs was twisted in a direction it was not supposed to go, and there was a decent amount of blood down the front of his shirt. She didn't say a word as she scooped his dead weight into the wheel chair, glaring a little when the man offered absolutely no help in doing so.
When the patient was settled into the chair, she found a smear of browning blood running down her white uniform and she grimaced a little – oh, why had she taken this job, knowing how dearly she hated blood – but her attention was diverted when the man opened the front door of the car and ducked inside.
He looked at her, glaring in a way that made her blood go cold, but she held her ground. "Sir, you can't leave! You have to fill out some paperwork!"
"Fill it out for me. I'll fax you my insurance card."
She looked stunned. "No, sir. You… you have to come inside. You brought him to us; you are legally responsible for him."
Fugaku sighed, checking his watch before nodding. "I'll park my car and be right in."
And before she could object, he was off. He could have left right then, of course, but that would have been dishonorable, so instead he found an empty spot in the parking lot and headed inside. The nurse he'd been speaking to was now behind the reception desk, and Sasuke was gone entirely. Good, he supposed. The boy was quite unsightly in his current state, needed a decent cleaning up, but then they'd be able to go home and everything would be alright in time.
He crossed over to the nurse and she handed him a clipboard full of paperwork to fill out. It really was a shame their usual doctor wouldn't see him, he thought bitterly. He never asked any of these stupid questions. In fact, he didn't ask questions at all. He'd take whoever was sick or injured, patch them up, prescribe something, and send them on their way. But this was simply inconvenient – questions about medical history, allergies to medication… it would take ages. He had things to do, but he supposed that, for Sasuke, he could take the day off.
He filled out the forms, as quickly and deliberately as he could, and returned them to the desk, eyes narrow.
"Are we done, then?"
She shook her head. "No, I still have a few questions for you." She stood up and opened the door to the office, where a couple of other people – nurses and future patients – were quietly talking to each other. She picked up a second clipboard and flipped through the first ten or fifteen pages without writing anything, until she hit the page she was apparently looking for. "The boy you admitted – ah, your son. Sasuke. He is unconscious and has sustained serious physical injuries. What caused them?"
Fugaku shook his head, sighing. "A car crash, unfortunately. He's been learning how to drive, and took his brother's car out for a practice session this morning, without me. Scared me to death when he called me to come get him."
Her eyes narrowed. "He called you. Alright." She made a few notes in her clipboard. "Do you know anything about the other driver?"
"I don't. He couldn't speak once I arrived, so I took him straight here."
"So the car's still there?"
"I think so. I'm going to have my eldest retrieve it later."
The nurse blinked. "But shouldn't you leave that to the police, or… something."
"The other vehicle involved had already left, but I'm more than happy to make a police report. I don't really see why, though. I'm only concerned with my son's safety and health, for now." He paused briefly. "He will be okay, won't he?"
She seemed to relax at that, although he couldn't tell what her tension had really been there for. "I think so, mister…" she glanced at the clipboard again "Mister Uchiha." She smiled kindly. "He's being examined right now by some of our best medical personnel, but he could be in for a while. Would you like to take a seat in the waiting room?"
His expression hardened a little. "I can't, actually. I'll be back as soon as possible, but I must alert my wife immediately." At the nurse's bewildered expression, he added "this isn't something I could tell her over the phone. She's a bit frail. I will be back as soon as I can. Please telephone me if there are any updates in his condition or diagnosis."
"…Yes. Yes, sir, of course. Thank you."
He sighed and turned around, looking at the fastened doors that led into the rest of the hospital. It had been a necessary thing to do, of course. He knew that, and one day, Sasuke would know that. It really did break Fugaku's heart to do this. He took absolutely no pleasure in causing harm to anyone in his family, especially his secondborn. Sasuke really was a treasure. Not the model son that Itachi was, but very special in his own way. But he was following Itachi's path, it seemed. He'd have to have a talk with Itachi about that. The Uchiha family did not keep secrets, not so long as they were living under his roof. And he was going to do whatever he could to protect them. They were family, after all. And that's what the head of house did.
The housemaid was on her hands and knees when Fugaku returned to his home, working on getting the unsightly bloodstains out of the carpet. The house needn't look awful when his wife came home from work, of course, so he'd set Miss Choi to work immediately. As usual, she didn't ask questions, and was assaulting the carpet with an odd concoction of ammonia and laundry detergent. Blood was impossible to remove once the stain set, and he'd had to replace the carpets in an entire hall once before because of it. No point in doing that again. He made his way upstairs, not to the floor he and his wife occupied but up to the third, where Sasuke resided. Untouched for several days except by the housekeepers, it seemed devoid of its usual life, and he frowned deeply at that. It wasn't right. Itachi's floor had a very typical air of lifelessness, but not Sasuke's.
He walked at a rather leisurely pace down the hallway, opening the door to his youngest son's bedroom and taking a look inside. It was, as usual, immaculately clean and orderly, courtesy more of their housekeeper than Sasuke himself. If Fugaku knew better, he would realize how this room genuinely did not look like it belonged to a teenager. Not because of how clean it was, but for little details. The fact that instead of posters on his walls, he had high quality photography and art. No corkboards full of photos of his friends, concert ticket stubs, and happy memories – no, only the sort of décor Fugaku would approve of. No leaning tower of rock CDs. No game controllers splayed out over the floor. No food.
But despite how inconspicuous the place looked, Fugaku knew what he was searching for. It would be in a shoebox, or maybe a plastic tub about that size, and it'd be buried somewhere where Sasuke expected him not to look. It saddened him that he had to resort to this – breaking his son's trust like this, but the child was out of control. He was making all of the wrong choices, and he simply didn't have the natural talent to get away with it. Itachi had the natural talent. It was how he could get a degree in Philosophy, of all things (damn that Shisui, he was a rotten influence) and was still highly successful. Itachi was brilliant, but he was cold. No, it was worse than that – there was cold, and then there was Itachi. Fugaku had often lain in bed at night, wondering where he'd gone wrong with him. The signs had already begun to show themselves before Sasuke was even born, and by then, Fugaku had made up his mind. It was a lack of discipline. He and Mikoto had doted on him too much, told him too often that he was perfect and a genius, and he'd gotten a big head about it. A complex that remained to this day.
No, he hadn't made that mistake with Sasuke. He'd taken the same route of discipline that his own father had taken with him. At the time, Fugaku had – of course – deeply resented his father for the pain he'd had to endure. But it was all for the best in the end. Just like Sasuke's disciplining had been. The boy was not cold and emotionless like his brother, but he was making a lot of mistakes lately. Fugaku couldn't help but call into question how he'd been raising his second born.
There were plenty of places it could be hidden, so he started with Sasuke's chest of drawers, perhaps buried somewhere underneath a pile of socks. No, not there. Then, another obvious place, under his bed. Not there either. Sasuke's bed was too low to the ground for anything to fit there, really. Nothing under the mattresses either. Miss Choi would straighten up the mess he was making after she was done with the stains, he supposed. The closet took a little more time, since it was a walk-in, and he checked some places several times over just to make sure. But no, it wasn't in here. Fugaku seriously doubted it would be in the bathroom, but opting for the idea that his son might surprise him, he took a brief look around there as well. And once again, nothing. In his search, he'd found quite a few things Sasuke probably hadn't wanted him to see (such as a collection of photos under his mattress that he assumed his son masturbated to. Each glossy print of blonde haired, blue eyed models was now in the garbage chute) - but none were what he was specifically looking for.
There weren't really any other places in the bedroom to hide it. And for a few moments, this puzzled Fugaku. Perhaps he'd given Sasuke too little credit, but something felt wrong. He knew Sasuke had to have one. He sighed, taking his leave and shutting the door quietly behind him. The hallway's decorations were far more imaginative than the artwork his son had chosen to put up – far classier too. There were a couple of unused guest bedrooms on the floor, back when there had been a need for them. Mikoto used to have wonderful parties, every New Years, and it was a custom to stay the night in their manor. But those days were in the past, and it had been a long time since anyone had slept in them.
If anyone had known what was going on, this would have been the pinnacle. This would have been the moment when Sasuke, as damaged as he was, was spared. It would have been Fugaku turning around, walking back down the stairs, and leaving the path of wreckage behind him, but destroying no further. And that almost happened. It was painfully close to happening. But instead, he had stopped, realization dawning on his features as he remembered the remodeling. Of course, the remodeling! Sasuke had picked up a rather useless hobby in photography, and had asked for some birthday or another to have his own darkroom. The smallest, least slightly bedroom on the floor had, in turn, been stripped of all the things that made it a bedroom and remodeled for an ideal darkroom. And as a general rule, only Sasuke was allowed inside. Not even the housekeeper ventured in, for fear of accidentally destroying the child's work. That was where it would be. Fugaku could have kicked himself for wasting all that time – time is money, after all.
He walked briskly down the hallway to Sasuke's darkroom and opened the door, flicking on the lightswitch. It wasn't as if he didn't care about ruining Sasuke's photographs, but the boy had been gone for days; it wasn't likely he had any sensitive film just lying around in here. And if he did, Fugaku would replace it. The photos were a necessary loss, at this point.
Unlike Sasuke's bedroom, there weren't a lot of places it hide it, and Fugaku located it almost immediately. It wasn't a shoebox, much to his surprise; it was actually a very nice box. Decorative and expensive. He expected Sasuke had found it somewhere in the house and taken it, and no one had noticed the change. They had so many things, and Fugaku and Mikoto spent so little time at home these days, he wouldn't be surprised. Not wanting to stay in the room much longer, he took the box with him and turned off the lights on his way out, hoping he hadn't ruined too many photographs. His son was talented. It was a useless hobby, but Sasuke was good at it.
He took the stairs up to his office, shutting the door behind him as he entered in a very authoritative way. No one would interrupt him if the door was shut, and he expected that this would come as an uncomfortable shock to him. Not unlike the way he'd felt when he saw that boy kissing his son. He sat behind his desk, staring at the intricate designs that covered the box before pulling the lid off, eyes narrow.
Inside was a rather large collection of items. There was a thick stack of developed photographs, bound together with a piece of rubber band, and the photograph on top (a shot of that foreigner kissing his son's cheek) gave him an idea of what the rest of them were like. Scraps of trash – receipts, movie ticket stubs, and notes written in such poor Japanese Fugaku could hardly read them - littered the box to every corner. Underneath the stack of photos was a very tightly bound wad of envelopes, each with their type written address on the front, and Sasuke's name at the top. There was no return address. There were a couple of little trinkets, too, including a set of cheap matches with the letter HAIGHT ASHBURY written on them, although Fugaku hadn't the slightest idea what that meant. All of these interested him, certainly, but what interested him the very most was a black, leather-bound book laying on top of everything else.
Sasuke had a diary.
Well, that would certainly make quick work of finding out the truth. He hated that he had to invade Sasuke's privacy like this, but if the contents of this box were any indication, his son had been lying to him for a very long time. Some of the postal stamps on the letters dated back years, and all were international from Korea. It didn't take a genius to figure out who Sasuke had been writing to. He sighed, trying to quell the anger that filled him. So many lies. Why his son felt so compelled to lie to him, he had no idea, but it made him absolutely miserable to know that there was nothing sacred in this house anymore. He opened the book and flipped through it, noticing that it was a relatively recent purchase because the entries only dated back to sometime in April. And there weren't a lot of them that were particularly telling, either. Sasuke seemed to question things – especially philosophical concepts – far more than he did anything else. Which was all fine and good, but it wasn't what he was looking for. He was looking for an explanation to all of… this.
He flipped to the last entry, looking it over.
Things feel different now. I don't long for any justification of myself, and I don't see faults in things anymore. Everything just seems… clear. Almost clean. For the first time in ages. Maybe I'm seeing the world through rose tinted glasses again, but it's nice. I don't think I'm going to bother writing in this anymore. If there is an entry after this, it's because I'm unhappy again. Until then, I'm taking the advice of someone I care about. I'm going to live my life while it's happening. And if I have to suffer for it, that's okay. Happiness is the best revenge.
Uzumaki Naruto was officially a wreck. He'd sent Sasuke something like fifty text messages, and called him nearly twenty times, hoping for any response. None came. At first, he hadn't really been that worried. If Sasuke's father was really pissed off, he might have taken away Sasuke's phone. So Naruto sent him a couple of emails. Again, no response. Okay, he'd thought. Maybe Fugaku took away his computer too. Maybe he'd taken away everything, and Sasuke was just sitting alone in his room, doing homework because he was so thoroughly grounded that there was nothing worth doing. But no. That wasn't it. Something was seriously wrong. Sasuke knew how much this would freak Naruto out, and he knew that his boyfriend would feel a certain compulsion to let him know the situation. And Sasuke was crafty. He'd find a way. And the fact that he hadn't found a way weighed like death itself on Naruto's shoulders.
He was so. Worried.
Unfortunately, his own life was supposed to be going on. After he'd dropped his suitcase off at home, he'd immediately caught a bus to the Haight Ashbury to start helping out with the Halloween festivities. He'd been given the task of decorating – a task he would have normally been delighted to do, and vocal about said delight. The lack of exuberance was seriously worrying Minato and Kushina. They'd expected Naruto to come back from the trip in almost annoyingly high spirits, with plenty of pictures and souvenirs and lots of kisses and hugs because they were so tight-knit. And Naruto just wasn't suited to be parted from them. Instead, their son had entered the store with his eyes down, and had taken to his task with all the enthusiasm as if he'd been told he had to wash a week's worth of dishes. Kushina, who was re-beading her jeans, kept glancing at her husband, a silent debate waging between them on who would ask first. Unsurprisingly, Minato lost.
He swept out from the kitchens, where he'd been decorating Halloween themed sweets, his apron smeared with frosting and a streak of orange cream on one of his cheeks. "Hey, kiddo."
They'd been in Japan for a while now, but they always spoke in English to one another. Naruto looked up from the glow in the dark spiderwebs he'd been pinning up, eyes almost comically big and morose if it weren't for the fact that there was something seriously wrong with him. "Hey."
"You know we're here for you, don't you?"
Kushina was nodding fervently behind him. "Yeah, dearheart. We love you, and we've got your back."
Naruto looked from one to the other, a bit confused. "… well, yeah." He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and his parents blinked, obviously not having expected that reaction. They'd spent enough time with their teenage son to know that he was very emotional. Not depressive, really. Just emotional. When he was happy, it was an ecstatic happiness that no one could take away from him. But when he was sad, the sky really was falling and the world really was about to end.
Kushina couldn't seem to contain it anymore. The tension was too thick, and she wasn't known to be the most patient of people. "Did something happen with you and Sasuke?"
Naruto paused, meeting his parents penetrating, concerned gaze before shrugging. "…kinda. I mean. It's not like we directly got in a fight. But." He wasn't sure if this constituted breaking Sasuke's trust, but he couldn't help it anymore. The nervous pain in his stomach and the tears of just not knowing were too hard to fight back anymore. He didn't know when it got this bad, but he was literally worried sick. "It's like. Sasuke's family is rich. Did you guys know that? I mean, Uchiha is apparently a huge company out here, and I didn't really understand why, because it's not like you ever see Uchiha branded anything. But they're the company that owns all the sub companies and names that everyone does know. Y'know? So they're really. Really rich. And they've got this image they have to protect because of it. And Sasuke's got this scary-as-shit brother named Itachi, who's gonna be the next head of the company out from their crazy father."
His parents didn't interrupt to ask where he was going with this, but both sat down in bean bags, knowing this wasn't going to be a short story. "So Sasuke's always been really concerned about his image. I can't just go to his house. Did you know that? Like, his dad hates me. And it's only his dad too. Even though Itachi's scary, he actually has my back. He caught me and Sasuke making out once and he was all don't you dare hurt my brother and don't you dare let my father find out, and it was really cool. Because I thought he was going to out us. And when Sasuke described his dad as not approving of homosexuality or me or whatever, I thought- I thought it was the normal kind of disapproval. The kind that could be changed. Then I realized it wasn't. And so I thought it was the other normal kind of disapproval. The kind that can't be changed, and if the douche found out we were together-together, he might disown Sasuke. So when Sasuke was all 'let's keep this shit on the DL', I was like 'no problem'. But okay."
The blonde took a moment to catch his breath. "Friggen Sasuke seems like. Legitimately scared of his dad. Like, scared-scared. And I thought it was the image thing. That maybe his dad was like Malfoy's dad in the Harry Potter books. All COME DRACO, WE ARE RICH AND HAVE SIDED WITH THE DARK LORD. OUR BLONDE HAIR IS QUITE ILLUSTRIOUS. But it seemed worse than that. And so. This friggen field trip finally rolls around. And I'm all FUCK YEAH, NO REASON TO HIDE ANYTHING. And, bless his soul, Sasuke seemed to be on the same page. So the trip itself was fine until we went to the hot springs. And he's fucking. God, Mom. I can't even."
He was crying now. He couldn't help it. Kushina put a comforting hand on his back, and Naruto took a moment to steady his voice out, wiping his eyes. "He had bruises. Like, bad bruises. And I didn't bring it up right then because we were around a lot of other people and I knew he'd hate me for it if I made a scene. So I waited until we got back to the room. But he got high – which, by the way, was fucking hilarious – and he was all 'Oh, don't mind the bruises, I have aenemia and I trip a lot in track' which I didn't buy but he kept grinding on me and I couldn't stay focused. OH, AND. AND. He admitted to doing painkillers. Like, a lot." His parents' eyes widened at this. "YEAH. I KNOW, RIGHT. And I was just too happy during the weekend to put emphasis on the problems. When it was so obvious. And so the end of the trip comes around and we take the bus back. And Sasuke's dad is there. But he'd said it was going to be his ridiculously gay cousin, and so I was all GONNA GIVE YOU A GOODBYE KISS like an idiot. But his dad was there and he saw. And just. I think Sasuke's dad is beating him. And I think that this might be the line. I've tried calling him so many times, and emailing, and texting, and he's just not responding."
He wiped his eyes again, the brilliant blue now very bloodshot. "And.. ugh, I didn't even mention this. Ages ago. When Sasuke was freaking out about getting caught more than anything. He said something like 'Don't get me caught, my dad will kill me'. And he didn't say it we do in English. All, oh, my dad's gonna kill me for not doing the dishes. He used, god, what was it. I don't know exactly. But it was way too serious, in Japanese, for him to be joking. And the look on his face? God. I don't even know. I think I seriously screwed up."
Kushina and Minato stared at their son for a moment before looking at one another.
"What can we do, Naruto?"
Itachi had known something was off that morning. He was grateful for those instincts, passed down to him from father to son, along with the shrewd, calculating cruelty he was so known for. Few people saw anything past that. His cousin – and lover, Shisui, was one of them. But Shisui had had something of an awful morning. A telephone call had awoken both of them out of their peaceful sleep to tell Shisui there was a family emergency in Korea. Normally, a 'family emergency' would involve the rest of Itachi's family too, since they were first cousins, but it concerned Shisui's father's side. A rare occurrence indeed, considering the man had walked out on his aunt and cousin only a year or so into their marriage. As Itachi watched him disappear through the door, he'd calmly wondered if Shisui's father had finally drunk himself to death, or maybe done something honorable like hung himself. After all, Itachi hadn't known what it felt like then – what it felt like to truly hate one's kin, especially one so close. That was hours ago. Shisui had left Sasuke a text to inform him Fugaku would be picking him up, and Itachi had gone off to work, ready to barrel through a long shift before perhaps joining Shisui in Seoul.
That had been then. If he were the emotional sort, he might long for then, because then was fairly innocent. Then, he'd barely been thinking about Sasuke. It had registered, of course, that his brother would be returning to the manor that day. But it wasn't as if he and Sasuke ever spent a lot of time together. He loved his brother deeply, more intensely than he loved anyone else, but there just wasn't time. Then, he wouldn't have felt any guilt in telling himself that. Because there wasn't time. Sasuke never allotted himself more than fifteen minutes a day of waking free time while in the Uchiha mansion. Between athletics and academics, the boy was working himself to death, desperately trying to compare to Itachi in something. Itachi remembered the day he saw his brother give up on beating him at everything. The light that had flickered out of Sasuke's eyes was akin to watching an animal get run over on a highway.
Quick. Painless. Dead.
That was then, he reasoned. Now began at approximately 11:30. Itachi had actually received the call a little earlier than that, but he'd been working, and only bothered to return it once he was safely on his lunchbreak. The number wasn't one he recognized, and it had gone to his personal phone, not his work phone. He'd suspected it was a telemarketer, or maybe someone calling about a bill he'd forgotten to pay. Uchiha Itachi had, of course, never forgotten to pay a bill, but anything was possible. Instead, he was patched through to Emergency at Chiyoda General Hospital. The woman on the other end had calmly explained that a man named Fugaku had checked in his son, Sasuke, for injuries sustained during a car crash. Fugaku had then left, saying he was going to get his wife, and that had been well over an hour and a half ago. And try as she had to get in touch with Fugaku, he had not answered his phone.
She then went on to explain that Sasuke actually had an established medical file there, although sparse, and that his emergency contact was his older brother Itachi. And would he please come to the hospital, as his brother – legally a minor – had been in the emergency care unit unsupervised and unconscious for two hours now.
That would be about when now began.
Now had continued through Itachi's drive back to the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo, knuckles white and clenched onto the steering wheel. It had continued through him parking, shaking a little with his anger, andnd it had continued as he walked through the doors of Chiyoda General, his demeanor so much more threatening than Fugaku's had been that the nurse who called him thought twice about letting him in. Doubt means don't, she'd told herself sternly, but the boy has no one right now. His father could be a drunkard, or could have forgotten about him entirely. That thought was too sad for her to bear, and she buzzed the doors open, joining Itachi's side and speaking rapidly.
"He was lucky, considering it was a car crash. He doesn't have any severe head trauma, despite the bruises to his-"
"May I see the charts?" Itachi's voice was so steady, and so frightening.
"Are you medically trained? You won't really be able to interpret them if you aren't…"
"I am a doctor." Not a lie, really. He had a doctorate in Philosophy. "I'd like to see the charts, please."
The woman nodded and led him to the room where they'd been keeping Sasuke. Since it was the middle of the day and there was no inclement weather, there was actually some free space in the ER, enough for the boy to get his own room instead of a bed stowed away in the hall as he was pushed from Point A to Point B. "Alright. Here are the charts, and he's in there. Unconscious, obviously. His Primary is around here somewhere, and he's being monitored by a couple of nurses. I'm just on the reception desk tonight, so I'll just… go." Another Uchiha trait: the ability to make anyone feel smaller than the most insignificant bug under his gaze. He took the clipboard and opened the door, fully taken in his brother's appearance.
He looked terrible. His face was bruised a myriad of colors, ranging from black to a rather sickly greenish brown, and both of his eyes were swollen three times their usual size. His wrist was in a small splint, resting limply against the mattress, and one of his fingers was wrapped in a tiny brace for it. Obviously broken. His gaze raked down him, to the massive cast on his left leg, before back up again, to the bruising all over his exposed chest. Itachi couldn't stare at him for very long without feeling a wave of incredible nausea, so he crossed the room to take a seat next to him, underneath the light. The chart was hardly difficult to interpret, he thought bitterly. It detailed his father's account of what happened in a drawly scribble, obviously quick notes taken by the admittance nurse. It detailed the extent of his injuries – leg, broken in two places. Two broken fingers. Severe bruising on the face and arms. Sprained wrist. Sprained left ankle. Minor head trauma resulting in loss of consciousness.
There was something very missing from this report, though, if Sasuke had been in a car crash.
He sighed, looking over at his mutilated brother, regret sending a fresh wave of nausea through him that was difficult to manage.
Consciousness felt strange.
In unconsciousness, there's nothing. No dreaming. No awareness. You're out like a light, and then you're on like… well. Maybe more of a dimmerswitch. But when Sasuke came back into consciousness, he didn't feel aware. He only noticed that he was. The painkillers he'd been administered intravenously gave him the dull, calming sensation of being drunk. Everything felt warm and a little heavy, not unlike sleep. What was alarming was that he couldn't see. It didn't hurt to try and open his eyes, he was only aware that he couldn't do it. The heart monitor attached to his temple began to beep at a more rapid pace as he began to panic. I can't see. He clenched and unclenched one of his hands. Am I blind? He doubted it. He could see the back of his eyelids. Blind people couldn't see anything. "…can't see." He spoke in less than a whisper the first time he tried, clearing his throat before trying again. "Somebody. I can't see."
Itachi was back at his side again, his expression ice cold, reaching out to lay a hand on his brother's forehead in a way he hadn't done in years. It was comforting, he supposed, since the heart monitor seemed to slow down slightly. "Your eyes are swollen."
"Swollen… shut?" That was a stupid question. Sasuke would have kicked himself if he weren't so disoriented. But Itachi didn't give that one an answer.
"How do you feel?"
The younger of the two paused for a moment to consider this. "Drunk. And… sore. Heavy. Tired. A lot of things."
"That's to be expected."
For some reason, it only occured to Sasuke then that that voice belonged to his brother. It was something he'd known, but it hadn't properly digested. But his brother was here. And here, it occurred to him, was not where he usually was after something like this happened. Typically, the family doctor would come to their house, patch him up as he saw fit, prescribe some painkillers, and leave Sasuke in his room. In fact, almost everything related to his treatments were done in his room, except stitches, which were done in a guest room because he didn't want blood on his bedspread or carpet. But this was not his room. This room smelled clean. Not that his own room didn't smell clean, but this was a very different kind of clean. The air smelled incredibly sterile. And the bed he was in, it certainly wasn't his own. He could feel something attached to his left arm, and he realized it must be an IV. Probably where he was getting the painkillers that numbed out whatever damage his father had done. "This is a hospital. Where's the usual doctor?" He'd never been to a real hospital before, that he could remember. Maybe his parents had taken him when he was young for vaccinations, but he could never remember being in one before now.
Itachi didn't say anything for several moments, and Sasuke tensed. "Are you still there?"
His brother's voice was cold. Low. "Is there a usual doctor?"
That question surprised him. "…yes. Doctor Yakushi. Father always called him for us."
Itachi looked him over, eyes narrow. Even in his sickly childhood, he'd never seen any such man. And he'd had a very sickly childhood. Instead, he'd been taken to a doctor's office. Surely Fugaku hadn't been asking for house calls. They were terribly expensive and it wasn't a sterile environment. His lips thinned to a barely visible line, although completely invisible to his brother. "How did you get hurt?"
Sasuke's heart skipped a beat. And not in any romantic way, either. It was a lurch in his chest because he realized he had no idea what to say. Fugaku was well within his rights as the head of household to discipline his children. He knew that. His father reminded him so. But Fugaku also gave him stories. He gave him one lie to tell when people asked how he got hurt, because some people didn't believe in disciplining their children. Some people believed it was perfectly okay to just let their children run amok, and that's how criminals are made. He'd been told this from a young age. But he didn't have a story. "Accident." It was all he could come up with, and he hoped Itachi would take it. Or give him something to work off of. "What's the damage? I think they have me drugged, because I'm not feeling much pain."
Itachi didn't take the bait or the change of subject. He spoke with an eerie calm that made Sasuke deeply uncomfortable. "What sort of accident, Sasuke?"
The heart monitor's beeping picked up speed dramatically as panic flooded him. "I.. I don't want to talk about it."
"I understand." The breath Sasuke didn't know he'd been holding finally escaped him in a deep exhale. "You've been through… a considerable trauma."
"Is my leg broken? I remember that hurting."
"Two places." His brother's voice was clipped. Frightening.
"What else? A few fingers, obviously." The bulky braces on each broken one would make writing impossible. "And… my wrist?"
"Sprained." A pause. "As I said. The damage is considerable."
He knows. "When can I go home?" I need to speak with Father.
"That is an excellent question."
"One I would like an answer to."
He was so uncomfortable. His brother's gaze was penetrating. Even if he couldn't see it, he could feel it, and it was unbearable. It felt like he was under a massive spotlight. But for a moment, that tense feeling disappeared. Beside him, Itachi was looking at the charts. "According to the MRIs taken, you received minor head trauma from your… accident. If the integrity of your memory is in jeopardy, I suggest you inform me immediately." Sasuke said nothing. "After all, memory loss is associated with severe head trauma almost exclusively. If you legitimately have zero recollection of the event that brought you here, I should say you need further testing, for the damage to your brain would be far worse than anticipated."
If he could squirm, he would. He didn't know what to say to make this line of questioning stop, and he didn't know the story. He was a good liar. He'd been doing it for years. But if Fugaku had already told someone what had happened to him – which was likely, considering he was in the hospital – and he contradicted the story, it would be obvious one (or both) of them were lying. "I have some recollection…"
"Is that so."
Sasuke nodded, trying to be ambiguous. "I remember something hitting my face. And… a lot of light."
Itachi's eyes narrowed. "That's very troubling. That sort of memory loss following a car crash is… very serious."
Finally. "Yes, it was bad. But I'm sure the memory will come back."
"I'm sure it will." His brother spoke evenly, and in a deadly calm. "Perhaps I can jog your memory. Can you recall where you were when the accident occurred."
"That's very troubling. Do you know what I find equally troubling?"
Sasuke said nothing.
"Of all your extensive injuries, not included among them are any damage to your neck. Disregarding the fact that it seems fantastically unlikely that you were expected to drive yourself back from your...school-related outing. Your story is completely implausible, and impossible to corroborate if you did not hit your head on the steering wheel, which would have inevitable resulted in corresponding injuries that you, Sasuke. Do not have."
The intensity in Itachi's voice was frightening. The difference between water at room temperature and water boiling. Sasuke lay there, incredibly still, panic taking him over before he finally managed to choke out "I'm not lying."
They were silent for a while. Itachi simply watched him, trying to figure out what he was protecting, and Sasuke turned his head away, trying to isolate himself from this. He knew his brother was still in the room, of course. He could feel Itachi. He could feel his gaze. His love. His anger. They were brothers who had spent too many years pretending they weren't close. Sasuke, who had spent too many years pretending like he was entirely independent. But he wasn't. Of course he wasn't. He was seventeen. He wouldn't legally be an adult for another three years, not in Japan. In the eyes of the law, he was a child. And in the eyes of his family, he was an infant.
"Was it someone from school."
Sasuke would have blinked if he could. "What? No. No, of course not."
At least that was sincere, Itachi thought bitterly. He peered into his brother's face, searching for something. The bruising was terrible. Even if Sasuke managed to open his eyes at some point today, it would take ages for the black eyes to vanish entirely. His nose was swollen too, although it hadn't been broken. "Then who, Sasuke."
"It was an automobile accident."
"It was not an automobile accident."
"Where is Father?"
"What does Father have to do with this?"
Panic threatened to seize Sasuke again, but he held it down. "Nothing. I just want to see him. Hear him."
Itachi didn't miss the way his brother's voice inflected as he tried to sound casual. Innocent. He didn't understand. What was Sasuke protecting? Sure, he wasn't around as much nowadays, but that didn't change the fact that Itachi knew Sasuke better than anyone else. He knew without a doubt that he was lying, but some innocent part of him, the fraction that wanted to have faith couldn't help but question why. And where was this going, if anywhere? It couldn't have anything to do with pride, or Sasuke would be more… sour about the whole ordeal. But he wasn't. He was nervous, on top of a haze of calm, but he wasn't angry. "Why is that?"
"Because I've been away. Because I was in a car accident. Because I thought I was going to die. I don't know why I want to see him, but I want to see him. Why can't you understand that?" (I'd like to thank the Academy.)
"What car were you driving?"
The question caught Sasuke completely offguard. "Er- Mine. The one Mother gave me."
"And how did it get to the school?"
"I don't know. I think someone dropped it off for me and then took the bus home." That sounded stupid just coming out of his mouth. No one in his family had the time available to do that for him. Or the care to do it. "Maybe Shisui. He was supposed to pick me up."
"I find that unlikely, seeing that he left for the airport in his own car at around four this morning."
Sasuke seized his chance. "Why did he leave?"
"He left before I arrived."
"I didn't ask when, I asked why."
Itachi bristled, snapping at him without meaning to. "The implication being that I do not know why, little brother." And as quickly as the anger had come, he smothered it with a practiced hand, trying to calm himself. Sasuke looked uncomfortable, even a little frightened. It was the expression he wore most of the time they ever spoke to one another. Not unlike the expression he wore when he spoke to their father.
"Call Mom for me, please."
Itachi nodded, ignoring the fact that Sasuke couldn't see it, and left the room, his phone in hand. The call was brief, and he wasn't surprised to learn Mikoto had no knowledge of Sasuke's car accident. He didn't bother telling her how he got hurt, as he didn't know himself, although he was relatively sure someone had attacked him. He certainly didn't do it to himself. Self-harm had been something Sasuke dabbled with in his very early teens, during the movie from Korea to Japan, but that phase was long over now, and nothing Sasuke had ever done then held a candle to how he looked now. The boy did have a certain affinity for hurting himself on accident as well, but Itachi couldn't remember ever seeing him look like this. When he was done, he returned inside, the nurse who'd been changing his brother's IV crossing him at the door as she took her leave. He imagined his brother was regretting waking up, now, but had no intention of relenting the line of questioning as he took his seat next to Sasuke again.
"What did she say?"
"She's on her way."
"Did she say how long it would take? Or if Father was coming?"
Itachi looked him over for a moment, briefly considering lying to him. There was a part of him that still pictured Sasuke at five years old, regardless of the kiss marks that covered his exposed throat. He still saw the tiny child with his round face and big eyes, knees skinned and waiting for him on the front porch for him to return from Primary School. A part of him that still wanted to bully him, just a little. Not in a mean way, but a brotherly way. He assumed that part of him was just yearning for a time when nothing was this bad. When he could undo some of the wrong choices he'd made, and could prevent Sasuke from making some of the mistakes that now defined him. "Twenty minutes. And she did not mention Father."
Itachi leaned close to him then, his eyes almost on fire. If Sasuke could see them, he wouldn't have lasted nearly as long as he had under the pressure. "Sasuke."
"Mother is not going to believe you crashed your car this morning, seeing as she is currently driving it to this hospital."
Sasuke's mouth went very dry.
"So who. Was it. You can tell me now, or I can figure it out myself. But the consequences for the person you are protecting in your silence will be all the more severe every minute I spend looking for them."
"So figure it out! I can't tell you who did it."
"So you admit that it wasn't a car accident?"
"I admit nothing."
Itachi crossed his arms, his eyes glinting with an almost manic anger. "Was it Uzumaki?"
Sasuke was taken aback. "No. No, he-" And he nearly said he loves me right then, but that was too much. Too personal to share with his brother. Itachi wouldn't understand it. Just because Itachi was okay with it didn't mean he'd understand. As far as he knew, his brother had never had a girlfriend. What could he possibly know about love? Like that. He wouldn't get it. "Just no."
"Prove it to me."
"I can't prove it to you!" Sasuke sat up, despite express orders that he shouldn't move at all, and was greeted with pain that was intense enough to crush through the haze of his painkillers. He relaxed down again, teeth gritting together. "I can't prove anything, but do I really come off as some kind of battered woman? We've only been together for a couple of months. If he did this to me, I'd set you on him without question."
"You are protecting someone, who obviously has no such intentions in the reverse. There are very few psychological conditions that resemble this sort of behavior other than battered person syndrome."
"It's not Naruto!"
Itachi steadied his voice, eyes narrow. "Then who is it?"
Sasuke was breathing hard now, his heart monitor beeping angrily to match his pulse. But he took a moment to calm himself, the way his brother was calm. A couple of the nurses had almost peeked in to make sure that he wasn't crashing, but the look on Itachi's face, full of anger that wheeled on them, had kept everyone from entering. He was like his father, in that way. The ability to mold anyone into doing what he wanted without saying a word. "What is it." Sasuke finally breathed, "about I can't tell you that you do not understand."
His older brother's voice was deadly. Calm.
"The part where you're still speaking."
Sasuke seemed to consider this for several moments, and he bit his lip. It seemed, at this point, the only part of his body not bruised. "Things would change if I told you."
"Life is change. That is the reality of things."
"Do you think the change could be good?" He hated the idea of disrespecting his family. And his family name. But what if he could live in a place where it was totally okay to have Naruto as a boyfriend – or anyone, as a boyfriend? Naruto's family was like that. Yes, they were commoners, and foreigners. But maybe Sasuke's life could be that way. Maybe his children's lives could be that way, if his own couldn't. In his father's beatings, he'd begged. Begged for forgiveness. Begged for the forgiveness of his ancestors. Swore that the moment he could, he would break up with Naruto. Made promise after promise so it would stop. And promised Fugaku he'd be good. And he wanted to be good. He'd wanted to be good when he moved to Japan from Korea, leaving Gaara and his life behind. Would Itachi's vengeance be enough, really, to change generations of thought?
"Change is inherently neutral."
No. Of course it wouldn't be.
"Then there's no point in telling you."
"Sasuke." There was no hint of fraternal love in his voice. Only an anger he was trying to stifle. "Whatever change you are trying to prevent has already begun. It began the moment you were checked into this hospital. You won't stop it now. Whether the catalyst is this very moment, or three hours, or three days, or three years from now, it is already too late to prevent that time from arriving, be it immediately or eventually. That is a fact."
And he said it before he could even think to stop himself. He was positively swollen with anger, fists clenched and trying with all his might to open his eyes. It wasn't going to happen, and every attempt stung with pain, but he tried. "What happened to me is something that has never and will never happen to you because you can do no wrong. Do not speak to me as if you understand, because you don't."
Itachi just stared at him. Something was stirring in side of him, frothing rage and apprehension and suspicion and even vague understanding. He regarded his brother, his own stomach tossing angrily and his eyes so narrow. "Make me understand."
"I've said too much. But you know who it was."
The silence was deafening. And just like that, Itachi knew. The conclusion was obvious. He calculated it all in his brilliant mind, and turned it over once, twice, even three times to make sure he didn't leave anything out. No, it was agonizingly clear. He looked over at his brother, fists clenching as he tried to doubt himself. Wanted to doubt himself. "Say it."
Sasuke should have tried to fight him more, but he'd fought enough. He could blame it on the drugs coursing through his system, but it wasn't that. It was just that he wasn't up for it anymore. He was tired. He was done. And the change that had already been coming was now a steamroller on top of him, crushing his body to a fine powder until there was nothing but mind left. His mind. More beautiful than his father ever gave him credit for. Or anyone, for that matter, with the possible exception of Uzumaki Naruto. He gave up on trying to open his eyes and sighed, nodding.
It would probably be the last time he would be able to refer to him so casually.
Unlikely as snow in the summertime did Uchiha Itachi then lean down and kiss his baby brother on the forehead. His temperature was up, but the nurses would see to that, and without a word, he swept out the door. Sasuke had expected this, and did not bother to call out after him. The air felt alive with Itachi's anger, literally buzzing with it. True, genuine rage. And as the young man glided down the hall, he was unrecognizable even to his mother, who was being directed to Sasuke's room. She didn't notice it was her eldest son until it was too late to call after him, the hair on the back of her neck standing up with her tension.
She entered her youngest's room, heart going cold and the heat of Itachi's anger disappearing in the wake of her terror. Fear for the life of her child.
"Sasuke, my darling. What happened to you?"
oh god the sheer amount of drama that has suddenly crashed on this fic is amazing. But this chapter has been a long time coming. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, and thanks so much to my beta, Corseted Camellia, who has been absolutely wonderful to work with. I hope my interpretation of Fugaku as an abusive parent was forgiveable. I didn't want to write him as some unforgiving monster - that's how a 12 year old writes, and I'm not 12 anymore. The cycle of abuse is much more complicated than "because fugaku is a bastard", and I wanted to do that justice here. I can't promise when my next chapter will be out b/c it's going to be long and I have a lot to do this month (such as but not limited to, returning to school). In the mean time, please review!