The only life is bugs and moss. Everything else is death and decay.
But once in a while, like on this foggy morn, a pair of sandals scratch against the dirt roads until they stop, shift uncomfortably, and stay in place. On the wall is a mural, one in the shape of a giant red fan. It remains intact and distinguishable, though the many years have worn it away to a dull red. A crack runs through the middle. The dark, gray stone wall is blotched with water stains and cracked with the weight of everything.
Perhaps out of the strange humor that fate tends to have, or maybe someone had just unknowingly carried a seed from the forest on his or her clothing until it discarded itself along the road, there appeared a rosebush from the rocky soil and forever remained.
A pair of legs crouches as a fingers glides along the tip of the flowers. The roses are blood red.
They are what the fan once was.
The day he is born is the day he starts digging his grave.
He is still young, still fresh. And for this reason, his mother believes that maybe he can save himself because she knows she can't.
He does not see any of this nor will he ever remember it. His eyes are still closed and his tiny mind, his mother thinks, can rest for the time being. At least let him enjoy that. She is dirty, sweaty, and filled with love as she holds her youngest son in her arms and stares down into that pink face of his, knowing that she would have called him ugly if it were not her own.
She glances to the side. She glances at her life. Her husband is standing at the side of the bed, an emotion in his eyes. She knows this emotion. It is one of the few he will show. In his eyes lies pride. And they look at the baby sternly. And for a moment, Mikoto can't help but feel jealous. She holds the baby closer to her so that she can feel his small breaths and she looks down at her object of envy. Because Uchiha Sasuke has a long life ahead of him, filled with meaning and accomplishments. And she doesn't.
Next to her husband is her eldest son, standing on his tiptoes to sneak a peak as his younger sibling. Mikoto coddles Sasuke closer, selfishly keeping him to herself though she desperately wants to share this new gift with her son.
Her husband pats Itachi on the head and sighs deeply. "You will be a great older brother."
She notices that he does not compliment her—no their—newborn baby. They will come to notice that it is because Sasuke is hers and Itachi is his.
"Sasuke," her husbands says next to her. But he is not looking at her nor is he looking at his newborn son. His eyes are on Itachi and he sets a heavy hand upon that child's shoulder. The heaviest there is. "Your little brother's name is Sasuke."
Later when her husband is retrieving some coffee from the cafeteria and Itachi is fast asleep on a lone chair, head leaning against the wall, she holds Sasuke closer and looks straight into his eyes, imagining that they are open and looking back at her.
"Sasuke," she says, a small smile on her face. "Your name is Sasuke."
On that day, Uchiha Sasuke's parents walked along the wet soil and tested the earth for softness.
There is a moment when they are not Uchihas. They are just Itachi and Sasuke.
They are only brothers.
A mother kneels by her garden, dirt slimy in her hand as she fills in a hole. She leans back to stretch and runs an arm on her sweaty forehead. Taking a peak at her sons, she realizes that this is how it should be.
Sasuke, having recently learned how to walk, wobbles around on his legs, falling over because he is so ready to run when he has not yet mastered the walk. His older brother is following closely behind, merely staring at him as he tries to move faster than his chubby little feet will take him. Each time he falls on his little bottom, his older brother is there to gently encourage him to continue without using words. Sasuke figures that the way Itachi squeezes his fingers as he gently lifts him up is his way of saying that he's there.
Sasuke follows a butterfly, tripping over his plump toes as he chases the golden bug. He refuses to get up without Itachi's help. He will allow his brother to guide him. Because, Sasuke later figures, that is what little brothers do.
But when he falls, his older brother is not there.
When Uchiha Mikoto sees her husband emerge from the house, she sadly looks at her youngest son, whose chubby cheeks have puffed up in cheer and eyes swelled in adoration. She isn't surprised when her husband simply beckons Itachi to follow him and the two of them leave the garden, leaving Sasuke sitting alone in the grass.
She takes off her gardening gloves and smoothes out her dirty skirt. As she steps towards her baby who is looking around like he is lost, she feels that the grass is crisp as the blades stab at her feet. When she picks up her son, he starts to cry and thrash in her arms.
When she looks back at the empty garden, she realizes this it is not how it should be, but this is how it is.
One day a stray, small kitten finds itself on the Uchiha's front porch.
Sasuke watches it with a small smile as his mother bends down and runs her hand along the kitten's ears, scratching lightly at its triangular ears. She softly purrs herself, comforting the small black kitten that is staring at them with wide eyes. Sasuke can't help but notice it has incredibly clear, gray eyes—so different than his. They bring him into the house, his mother saying that they can't just leave him. The poor thing.
She gathers a bowl of milk as Sasuke sticks his small finger in front of the kitten and wiggles it around, grinning when the kitten spreads himself out on his back and swats his paw at his finger.
"Momma," he says when his mother comes to where Sasuke is lying on his stomach, playing with the kitten, and crouches as she sets the bowl down on the floor with a small clink. Sasuke pulls his finger back when the kitten jumps up and starts to lap at the milk, looking as if he would fall in the bowl any minute.
"Is it a boy?" he asks, tilting his head to look at her.
She smiles and shrugs her shoulders, settling herself on her knees. She runs a hand through Sasuke's hair and musses it up more, but Sasuke doesn't seem to notice. "Why don't you check?"
Sasuke presses his cheek against the floor and takes a peak under the kitty. He brings himself back up when he does see that it is a boy, and he sends a serious nod towards his mother as she giggles. But there is nothing funny about this. When the kitten is done eating, he takes the kitten into his room and sits on his bed, kitten in lap. The kitten curls up into a tiny ball and Sasuke is scared to move, afraid that if he makes the tiniest movement, the kitten will scurry away. He lifts his hand over the kitten and moves it up and down, pretending to pet him. The small feline's breaths are even as his chest moves up and down. Sasuke realizes he feels something swell in his chest.
His mother just laughs when she sees him with the kitten and says, "You really love him, don't you?" Sasuke answers by rubbing the kitten's belly. "Looking over him like that all the time." She smiles. "Sort of like your little brother, ne, Sasuke?"
Sasuke nods in agreement. Yes, like his little brother.
He shows Itachi the kitten when his brother gets home, the kitten hiding in his small arms. Itachi just looks down at his brother and the animal in his arms. "You shouldn't bring strays into the house."
"Momma did," he corrects, slightly bouncing the kitten up and down. He had seen many women with small children doing this, and he copies their movements expertly.
"Hn," is what his brother says and he leaves. Sasuke runs back to his room, shielding the kitten away from the world. Good, he thinks. All mine then. Later that night, his mother and father have a talk. His father leaves the room looking rather angry. His mother stays behind, picking at her nails with her teeth absently as she sighs heavily, her breaths cracking every now and then. Sasuke knows this is not good news. He runs into his room and wraps his blanket around his kitten.
"Don't cry," he tells his kitten, poking his whiskers. He sniffles and tries to comfort the kitten as the small animal tries to lick the tears rolling down his cheeks. "Please don't cry. I'm going to love you, and never forget, because brothers are there to look after each other. Don't cry, okay? Okay?" The kitten just stops and stares.
The next morning mother and son walk through town, son holding a small blob of black fur in his arms.
"You're going to smother him, Sasuke," she scolds him.
He just glares at her. She doesn't understand the logic. Maybe if he holds on tight enough, he won't have to let go.
The kitten is asleep when they reach a small building that Sasuke never knew existed. He determines this is a scary place and a sad one too. He looks at all the animal's faces, the big brown eyes that cry out for him. There are old and young, big and small, and if Sasuke could, he would take them all home with him because he knows how they feel just by the way they look at him. His mother nearly has to pry the kitten from his arms when the man working at the pound asks for feline. Sasuke looks away, pretending that the small tear leaving his eye is not there.
"Why did we have to leave him there?" he asks when they are walking back, hand in hand.
He wants to know what happened to his little brother. He wants to know what happened to all those little brothers sitting in those tight cages and wonders how people can so easily exile them like that.
"He is not wanted," his mother explains softly, keeping her eyes straight ahead.
Sasuke guesses that this makes sense. Little brothers usually never are.
They are sitting close to each other and she drapes an arm around his small shoulder as she flips through the photo album on her lap. Sasuke rests his tiny head against her body and listens to her breathing, trying to match hers. His eyes scan over the pictures of relatives he guesses, and he's far to small to even care about them. But he looks over at his mother and he can see her smile, a sad smile.
"Look Sasuke," she says, tapping her finger against a picture of a young woman, smiling at the camera. Her arms are in the air as if she is presenting something magnificent. Her smile is so wide that Sasuke thinks that if he knew how to count past ten, he would be able to count her shiny teeth. He guesses that she is dancing to no beat, swinging any which way she likes. Looking back to her smile, he can't help but curve his own lips. "That's me. Before I knew your father."
He is surprised when she says this and he looks at the picture harder. Yes, he can see that dark, dark hair. Those high cheeks. Those dark eyes. But the smile is still foreign. His mother never smiles like that. And she is so young and she is so vibrant and he realizes that he forgot his mother is just another person.
She flips the page before he can say anything and she sees that same girl holding a small bundle of a baby in her arms. He knows who it is, but his mother affirms it when she breathes, "Your brother."
Sasuke is in awe when he looks down at the small baby. The small baby whose lips crunch as if he is about to cry. The small baby that has a small patch of black hair on his head. That small baby that is just a baby and still not Uchiha Itachi. He does not even notice that his mother's smile has slightly died.
"Such as small baby," his mother muses as she leans into him to rest her head against Sasuke's hair. He can feel her warm breath as she exhales and can sense her smile as it pulls against her lips. "So small. Smaller than you were Sasuke."
"Me?" he asks, turning away so that the warm spot where his mother had breathed on him is now cold.
She nods with a small smile, pushing small rebellious strands from his face. "Tiny little thing," his mother continues. "I was so scared that one day he would just break, just snap. I never wanted to let him go. I used to hold him so close."
"Smaller than me?" Sasuke asks, still amazed by this simple fact.
"Yes, Sasuke," she say, smile slowly fading. "Smaller than you." She looks back to the picture and runs her finger along the torn corners. "Your father hated it—the way I snuggled with him whenever I could. It's just hard to not be able to keep your baby from everything hard in the world. I just wish that I could live all the horror in the world so my son can live in peace—so my sons can live in peace." She shrugs, trying to expel these thoughts, because now it doesn't matter. "It seems so long ago."
Sasuke doesn't even know that this is a special moment for her. He just continues to look at the picture. He looks at that baby, the baby that is supposedly his older brother. And Sasuke takes pride in the fact that the baby is about to cry and that he and his older brother were once on the same level. Even better, his older brother was once weaker than Sasuke had been. And at the time, Sasuke thinks this can only mean one thing.
One day Uchiha Sasuke will go farther than Uchiha Itachi will ever go, though he can't lie and say that that does not scare him.
When the Uchiha brothers are older, they both realize, they love hating each other.
Sasuke determines that Itachi is too perfect for his own good. And he wants that. He needs that. He practices throwing shuriken and doesn't stop doing laps until he vomits into the grass, his small, lithe body shaking from the overly brutal conditioning. But he doesn't care. He can't care. He is an Uchiha and damn it, he plans on being one of the best.
After his brother of course. Because now he knows no matter how many times Uchiha Sasuke vows to himself that he would surprass his older sibling, the back of his mind won't let him believe that. He knows Itachi will always be the best. And he will always be the little brother of the genius, the leader, the protégé.
He will always be a little brother.
At the dinner table, they are always quiet. Sasuke eyes his brother however, thinking that his brother doesn't notice his intense observations. He sees the scars on his hands and arms and can't help but want them burned in his flesh. He wants the pain. He wants the painful reminder. He wants to hurt. He just doesn't know that he already is.
After dinner, Itachi disappears into his room as usual and his father shortly leaves after. Now it is just Sasuke and his mother. As it should be, his mother thinks. She dries the dishes after she washes them, humming a soft song that is the soundtrack to Sasuke's life, because later when he trains, when he gets ready to sleep, when he just wants to give up, he hums that small tune until he can feel his mother within him. Because that is the only way he knows she is still there.
"Some cake for your thoughts?" his mother asks as she sneaks him extra dessert when she sees his troubled, young face hidden in his hands.
He looks up and takes his hands from his hair, making the dark strands stand here and there in a way that makes Mikoto want to laugh and muss it up either further. But those games had ended long ago. Now, she knows, that no matter how much Sasuke enjoys the silly attention, he will not admit it. Because, he had told her numerous times, I'm not a baby. She never tells him that he will always be to her.
"Does Father hate me?" is what he asks, being so blunt and to the point that for a moment she is taken back.
She hides this surprise and mumbles, "Silly boy."
"Am I doing something wrong?" he asks, tiny fingers wrapping themselves around a silver spoon as he cuts through the cake.
She tilts her head as she scans his face, thinking of how soft his cheeks must feel. "Wrong?"
He sighs and drops the spoon, looking away from the cake. "Father never wants to talk to me."
Instead of telling him the cold hard truth, she decides that she will lie. She does not tell him that he is, in fact, the son that her husband barely notices. She does not tell him that she must sit through her husband's rants about Itachi and his progress when all she wants to do is talk about Sasuke. She loves Itachi. He is her son. Her baby boy. He always will be. She loves Sasuke too, but even more, she can relate. She finds that they are both sitting on the back burner.
And misery loves company.
"He never talks to anyone," Mikoto says, taking Sasuke's small hand into her own. She grazes his knuckles with her nails and for a second she can see that Sasuke is perhaps content, but he soon pulls away and scolds her.
"I'm too old for those things."
But she disagrees. He is never too old to be her son.
"You know how your father and brother are," she sighs standing up to finish the dishes. Sasuke stabs his spoon into his cake. "They barely talk. They can keep it all inside like that."
It is then that Sasuke begins to understand his mother a little bit better. She begins to do this a lot. Starting a conversation with him, letting it stem into much more, and she begins talking to herself. Or at least that's what he figures. Because when she talks, she does not look at him and she smiles softly to herself as she runs her fingers through her hair, remembering past memories that he has never known.
Sometimes when it is late at night and Itachi is away on duty, he stays awake and thinks about the things that his older brother is doing. He imagines him running through the trees with great speed and agility. When an enemy approaches, Sasuke can just see him rip through them without a second thought, the blood spattering across the grass like art in motion. Thoughts make him restless and he can't help but step out of his bed, thinking that a walk to get a glass of water will help him calm down.
The first time he passes Itachi's room and senses that someone is in there, he is curious. He steps towards the room, pretending that he himself is on a secret mission. He must remain graceful and agile. He must be like Itachi.
And that's when he hears his mother's cries. Through the small crack through the door, he can see her hold up a small shirt, fit for a baby, he guesses, and hug it closely to her person. He sees the dim outline of the fan on the back of the tiny shirt, but his mother doesn't even look at it. She does not sob annoyingly. They are silent tears, meant only for her. But she sniffles and he is sure that if he were close, he would be able to see those tears stream down her face. She suddenly stands rigid as she takes a deep breath, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. She folds the small shirt and puts it away in the drawer, a drawer that Sasuke had explored many times when his brother was not home. The drawer that contained most of the things from Itachi's childhood- if one could call it that. When she closes the drawer, she lets her hand linger on the handle.
He can barely hear her whisper as she says, "I used to hold you so close."
He is jealous. Not because his mother is showing Itachi affection, but because his mother and brother once had a close bond of some sort. And Sasuke has had nothing.
At times like those, his mother is a different person. She is a human. But her demeanor changes quickly, becoming the dutiful wife and mother that she had willingly become once she married his father.
"There are people who can do that," she now sighs, emptying scraps of food into the garbage from a plate. "But I guess there are those like you and me who need to be talked to. Just so we know that someone knows we are alive."
Sasuke stands up from the table and leaves the room.
From then on, he is determined to talk as little as possible.
His eyes are set on Itachi and maybe even his father. But if there is one thing he does not want to be, it's pathetic. And that's why he can't be like his mother.
This is when Sasuke digs his fingers into the thick earth and lets it ooze through his fingers. The rocks scratch him and he secretly hopes that they'll scar. He doesn't seem to notice that his blood mixes with the dirt.
One day Uchiha Sasuke purposefully cuts himself with his brother's kunai.
It was his brother's first kunai, the one given to him by his father, therefore tradition to cherish it and keep it safe. Numerous times he had knocked on his older brother's bedroom door, only to have Itachi open it and look blankly at his younger sibling. Like the many times before, Sasuke asks him if he can see it. Itachi nods, letting Sasuke into his room. Sasuke is surprised that his older brother keeps it at the bottom of a drawer and lets it get dusty. But it has been kept clean lately, courtesy of Sasuke.
Itachi studies a scroll as Sasuke climbs onto Itachi's bed and holds the kunai carefully in his palm, as if it would shatter under the slightest pressure. His eyes are wide as he turns it, the light bouncing off the glittering metal extraordinarily. He lifts a finger and traces the edge of the blade, noticing it is quite dull.
"Can I sharpen this?" he asks one day.
Itachi doesn't even look, but Sasuke can see him purse his lips. "Hn."
So Sasuke sharpens it until he is sure that it is as razor-sharp as the day it was given to his older brother. His father would have been proud. And maybe he would have expressed that pride if it was Itachi that had sharpened it.
At dinner, Sasuke continues to look at Itachi's scars. He determines he needs some.
So, the next time he looks at Itachi's kunai, he presses the blade against the skin of his open palm, mesmerized by the way his flesh gives way to the blade, separating as the metal weapon snuggles itself into a tight crevice of a cut. Blood drips from the cut and runs down his finger. He follows it with his eyes, enthralled by the way it drips onto Itachi's clean sheets.
"Sasuke," he hears and he glances up with shock at his brother who is standing before his own bed, looking down at his younger sibling.
Not a word is exchanged as Itachi wraps his fingers around Sasuke's hands and together they pull the kunai from the wound. Sasuke, disappointed that he wasn't able to see his blood on the weapon, leaves the room that night feeling proud of the small cut on his hand.
And during the next couple of days, he picks at the scabs that try to form until the skin that grows back is light, pink, and wrinkly. He smiles.
Later he tells people that the scar is from intense training with his brother, nose held high in the air and chest puffed out in confidence. Everyone tells him how lucky he is to have someone so great train him.
They needn't tell him. He already knows.
Everyone tells him how luck he is to have Itachi as an older brother.
He can't help but agree. He can't help but disagree.
But Sasuke knows that Itachi would not be so wishy-washy and would confidently know what he felt without second-guesses. So he decides he has to choose. In the end, he chooses to hate his older brother because he figures that that will make him stronger in the end. It becomes all that he knows how to do.
Because he loves to hate and hates to love his older brother.
"When will I get mine?" he asks his mother one day when he arrives at home for lunch and stuffs his face with a rice ball.
"You'll get yours when the time is right," his mother answers, leaving him still at a loss. He shoves the last of his food into his mouth and bids his mother goodbye.
She asks him what's the hurry. He doesn't have to be back at the academy in another half an hour. He reminds her that he can use that free time to train. And she sadly smiles at him when he looks at her seriously and says, "No pain, no gain."
A couple days later, he stumbles upon a rare moment. He walks into the kitchen and sees his father standing in front of the wide-open fridge, fashioning a stern face. Sasuke does not know what to say. Sasuke does not know what to do. And then he applauds Itachi for something else: how he can keep his cool by their father.
Sasuke sits at the table, making a lot of noise so that he is sure that his father knows that he is there. Though, he is sure he needn't have done that. His father is a great man—he probably sensed him coming a mile away. Sasuke sits quietly and attentively, hands crossed, waiting for his father's orders.
When his father turns around, however, he is surprised that he opens his mouth to talk. "Sasuke."
Sasuke's head snaps up quickly, showing him just how proud he is that he is an Uchiha, and more importantly, his son. In his peripheral version, he can see something in his father's hand. And this is it, Sasuke thinks. This is his gift from his father. And it's all his.
"Want a tomato?" his father simply says, throwing the small vegetable his way. "Good for the eyes." Sasuke catches it as his father leaves the room, eyebrows arched in confusion.
He is disappointed, to say the least. Disappointment, actually, is putting it lightly. But his father had given him something. Something that he hadn't given Itachi.
As he bit into that tomato, he decided that he had never tasted anything so good.
That night as Sasuke passes the small garden outside, on the way to his room, he sees his parents sitting calmly. Surprised, Sasuke stops and observes this phenomenon, burning it into his memory. He can hear his dad whisper lowly and his voice is so low, so mysterious that he can't make out the words. But he hears his mother. And he gets so frustrated with what she is doing.
"He's getting restless," she sighs, turning fully to her husband that is running his tongue along his teeth lazily. "You know that. He only wants your acceptance."
His father mumbles something incoherent and from that day on, he grows so frustrated every time he thinks about all the possible things that his father could have said that he throws tantrums. Age makes no difference. Knowing that those words could have been positive, could have been proud makes him so mad. That was all he had ever wanted. And he would never know if he had gotten it.
"Just do it soon," Mikoto says as she places her small hand over Fugaku's.
Sasuke burns with jealousy as his father gathers his mother's hand into his own and looks straight at her. "Tomorrow."
And Sasuke is so mad that the next morning he does something that makes his mother shake with shock.
As he walks into the kitchen in the morning, his mother turns from the stove that she is cooking over and smiles sweetly at him. So sweetly that he would have ran to hug her when he was smaller because that was the smile that had taken away all his troubles. But, now, he tells himself that he won't fall for her enchantments. He looks her straight into the eye and gathers his hands into balls of fists.
He can see his mother back away with confusion, eyes wide. As her back hits the counter and her hand goes back to catch her stumble, her hand falls straight into the flame of the stove and she then stumbles forward, mumbling curses to herself. Then it is silent and Sasuke can hear movements. It is then that he finally looks around the kitchen, surprised to see his brother at the small kitchen table.
He looks back to his mother who had gathered herself in the middle of the kitchen, burnt hand held close. He knows this face. Her lower lip quivers as her nostrils flare. He doesn't even flinch as she brushes past him, running. And he decides he likes that.
He looks back to his older brother who stands from the table and disposes of his plate in the sink. And for once in a long time, Itachi fully looks at him and gives him a look that Sasuke cannot decipher. It feels like an eternity has passed as Itachi walks past him to leave the kitchen, eyes red as his stare digs through Sasuke. And Sasuke is left alone in the kitchen. He shrugs and grabs a tomato from the fridge.
He knows she deserved it.
It is no surprise that that night his father gives him his very own kunai. But his isn't as shiny as Itachi's. It isn't even that sharp to begin with. And in the back of Sasuke's head, he can't help but think that his father had just pulled it from his supply and called it a day. Sasuke would have never thought that he would put his first kunai in the same place Itachi did, in the bottom of a drawer, but he does.
One day, Sasuke decides that he's not going to take this lying down.
He knocks on his older brother's door. And Itachi lets him in, but this time Sasuke surprises him. He offers him a deal. Sasuke's kunai for Itachi's. In the end, Itachi nods and Sasuke leaves his room smiling, holding Itachi's—no his—kunai in his hand.
And it is so special. Because the kunai that his father had given Itachi had been given a lot of thought and no doubt handed with pride and grace. Sasuke smirks as he imagines Itachi put away the kunai Sasuke had traded him. And Sasuke can see the dull edges and greasy handle. And he is glad that it is no longer his.
Uchiha Sasuke sits on the ground and digs into the mud, finally pushing away mounds of dirt, using Itachi's kunai, given to him by their father.
"What do you think happens after you die?" Uchiha Sasuke asks his brother one day while he sits on Itachi's bed, watching Itachi read a scroll. As usual.
"Nothing happens," Itachi mumbles back, eyes scanning over the scroll on front of him. Sasuke shifts and lays himself over his stomach, head resting in his hands. He can hear the rain pound against the roof and the spring drizzle smells so good, so clean that he could for once skip training and just take a nap.
"Nothing?" Sasuke asks, disappointed with his brother's answer. He pulls his hands from underneath his chin and lets his arms hang over the edge of the bed while he digs his face into a pillow.
"What do you believe?" Itachi asks, surprising Sasuke. After hearing this, Sasuke's head shoots up from the pillow and he looks to his brother who is still looking at the scroll. But his excitement fades because he doesn't quite know what to say. He's never believed. He's only followed.
"I don't know what to believe," Sasuke says. "No one has ever told me what happens."
"Sometimes, Sasuke," Itachi says as Sasuke watches as his brother's eyes leave the scroll and scan the wall in front of him, "you need to think for yourself."
Then his eyes go back to the scroll and Sasuke lets his head fall back onto the pillow. He doesn't sigh though he would like to. He supposes that his disappointment has flooded the room, drowning both him and his brother in expectations. So after a couple moments of silence, Itachi speaks.
"Father once told me that the dead become spirits. And they live in everything around us."
Sasuke's eyes widen as he imagines his father saying that to him. "Everything? Like trees?" Itachi nods. "Flowers?" Itachi nods.
He finally rolls up the scroll, finished. As he puts it away, he talks. "Father said he believes our family become water spirits." He stands up from his seat and opens the door, signalizing Sasuke's time to leave.
"Why water spirits?" He pulls himself away from his brother's bed and makes his way for the door and Itachi is waiting by the exit, ready to answer his question.
"Because rivers make their own path, waves crash persistently over the restraining sand, and ponds hold bountiful life and potential."
Sasuke doesn't even look at his brother as he says these things. Instead, he closes his eyes, imagining him and his father standing by a lake. And proudly, he would turn to Sasuke and tell him about these water spirits. And intelligently, Sasuke would understand.
He pauses at the door, still curious. "How do you know if you're dying?"
"You'll hear a ticking clock," Itachi replies back without a pause. "The last seconds of your life are the loudest."
Itachi closes the door behind Sasuke and he is left to his own devices.
A few times, Sasuke fills the bathtub as high as he can. He pushes his head under the ice cold water and opens his eyes, not caring that the freezing temperatures sting his eyes. Once he walks down to a small river, careful not to fall in. The rain that is tapping against him, he figures, is too small. It'd be nearly impossible to find a spirit in them. Typing a rope around his waist and tying the other side to a tree to make sure he will not get caught in the current, he dunks his head under water and stays there until his lungs are pounding, begging for air. He knows he won't die; he doesn't hear the ticking clock. He stays under there until his vision starts to narrow as his head grows light.
He tries to search for them, but they are never there.
Uchiha Shisui drowns a week later. Sasuke thinks it's fitting.
Uchiha Sasuke concludes that girls are annoying.
They are around the age where girls are supposed to be stupid and annoying and boys are supposed to have diseases and cooties. But these rules don't seem to apply to Uchiha Sasuke, because like his brother, they are in a league all their own and rulebooks don't apply here. There are two girls that particularly take an interest in him and everyday they push and shove, yell and insult, a clash of blonde and pink. Sasuke wants to tell them that they are wasting their breath, time, and energy on someone who does not deserve it. But he does not say this out loud because there is a part of him that likes the attention and revels in it, letting it lull him into a false feeling of being wanted.
"Get over it, Five-head," the blonde one blurts, her hands on her hips. "Sasuke would never want you. You're too weak. Too pink."
He has to agree. She does look kind of stupid with that hair.
"Who asked you, Pig?" the pink-haired one asks, head pivoting back and forth as she pushes her butt out with an attitude that Sasuke thinks he sort of admires. "And look at you. You're loud and obnoxious and plain stupid. You're not a blonde for nothin', you know."
He has to agree. She does look kind of stupid with that hair.
One day, Sasuke shares his observation with his mother, telling her that girls are too much trouble and should just keep quiet and leave him alone. He has better things to think about. His mother just smiles at him, making him feel belittled because she offers him the smile that tells him he's missing something. And whoever said that what he doesn't know won't hurt him is downright dumb, because the feeling of not knowing is the worst feeling in the world.
"You say that now," his mother says softly. "But when you're older, you're going to be the one chasing after those girls."
"As if," Sasuke snorts, crossing his arms stubbornly, and mumbles, "Itachi doesn't run after girls."
His mother takes a slow sip of her tea, and he sees her lips smile against the china. He furrows his eyebrows at this smile, not knowing what has sparked this sweet sign of happiness. The small teacup clinks against the tiny plate his mother sets it on and she rests her elbow on the table very unladylike and sets her head in her hand.
"I wouldn't say that," she says, smiling mischievously at Sasuke. "Want to know something?" she asks, leaning into her youngest son.
He nods quickly, simply craving to know more.
"I sometimes catch Itachi sneaking some flowers from the garden," she says, turning to look out the window. Sasuke follows her gaze with his own eyes, but cannot see the garden. In his head, instead, he imagines his older brother as he tiptoes out of the house and into the garden, slowly picking a tulip from his mother's garden. But he decides that this picture isn't right. It doesn't really fit.
"You see, Sasuke, boys only get girls flowers when the girl that they love is giving them a hard time," his mother explains to him, biting her lower lip as her cheeks rise from her sly smile. "It seems like even Itachi has a weak spot."
Sasuke doesn't tell her that this is highly unlikely.
"Who is this girl?" Sasuke asks, angry at this new obstacle that has come between his brother and him.
His mother only shrugs and wraps her hands around the small teacup. "Whoever it is, I wish her luck. Bless her soul."
Then he imagines Itachi with this girl as he gives her the flowers and her face lights up in joy. He studies Itachi's face closely in his mind as his dark, red eyes look down upon this girl. How she can resist and give her brother a hard time is beyond him. This girl-- whoever it is—must be worthy of attention. She must be strong and determined. It is no wonder why his brother finds her interesting.
He gets mad and jealous when he thinks about this girl, but can't help but want to laugh at the thought of Itachi picking flowers.
It is only when his mother leaves that he notices he is smiling mischievously too.
One day while Sasuke is walking home from the academy, the silly pink-haired girl that he knows stares at him at whatever chance she gets, walks up to him. There is a small blush on her face, but he sees determination as she thins her lips and notices that she gathers her courage as she breaths deeply.
"Uchiha Sasuke," she says, sounding very business-like. "I am going to marry you one day. Plan your life accordingly."
Then she runs, leaving a very shocked Sasuke. At least he will never have to pick her flowers.
Soon they both learn that Sasuke is not good at plotting.
And as the story goes, his brother must be to do the things he will do.
The grave is knee-deep and dirt brushes onto his kneecaps. But he grabs a shovel into his soft hands and lets them become callous. Later he will count the blisters with a smirk.
The days after the massacre are cloudy to Uchiha Sasuke.
He remembers his clan's broken bodies as they litter the streets, becoming trash in their own kingdom. He remembers his brother's eyes and the things he tells him, though Sasuke makes sure not too think about it too long. He remembers his parent's warm, pure blood as it drenches him when he hugs their lifeless bodies and he curses his brother for taking them. As his tears mix with their blood, he curses his parents for leaving. He is so mad at his mother as he holds her, rubbing his face into the cold crook of her neck. He is so fucking pissed that he calls her bitch over and over until his throat goes dry and even then he says it in his head. But that voice softens in his head as he strokes her hair and looks over her blank face that stars back at him hauntingly until he calls her what she has always wanted her sons to see her as.
"Mother," he whispers once as he brushes the hair from her face. He begins to wipe her cheeks, pretending that she is crying, because he is sure that if she were alive right now, she would be sobbing hysterically. "I love you. Don't forget, okay?" And he holds her close for a while, repeating, "Don't forget."
He cries harder when he sees his father lying on the ground, face down. He does not even lift his father to look at his face because he does not want his father to see the disgrace that Sasuke has become. He stays at his father's side for a long time. So long that he enters a world all his own, one dancing on the fine line between consciousness and sweet dreams. But Sasuke's mind will not let him enter his dreams and will forever give him nightmares instead.
The next couple of weeks he can barely remember.
But he does remember that he will not let anyone wash his parent's dried blood of off him. He wants to hold onto them as long as he can. He just can't let go.
He does not feel shame as he cries in a bed that is not his own. He does not feel embarrassed as he screams and shouts his father's name in the middle of the night, begging him to notice him. He does not feel humiliation as he yells for his mother, hoping that she will tuck him in just one last time.
What he remembers the most and what truly scares him is that as he lies in bed, staring straight at the ceiling, he can't help but notice that he still thinks about his brother and what he is doing.
What he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.
Because Sasuke knows he still needs to be like his brother and he knows that he will do anything to achieve that.
There are theories.
The old women in Konoha like to whisper among themselves. Having too little to worry about and so much time on their old, wrinkled hands, they give a mysterious, supernatural life to the event. From their cracked, thin lips spill a story of a young boy, a good boy. So close to perfect. But where there is good, there is the temptation for evil. An evil spirit must have been searching for a long time, they say. A dark, cloudy mist of evil stalked through Fire country, bloodthirsty and ready to strike again. The perfect candidate: Uchiha Itachi. Slowly, the demon took over, killing him from the inside, thus letting his own blood stain his eyes. By the time the old hags reach this part of the story, they just shake their heads and gulp, because they all know what happens next.
The younger men in Konoha spit to the ground after a long day of training, hands on their hips in a tired stance, and shake their heads. They barely speak of it, but they all know they wonder how someone like them—someone who trained, who ate rice balls, who had a family, who sat with them during breaks—could do such a thing. But then they think that he is not someone like them. Because who could he be but a monster? The younger men theorize that evil starts at birth. Uchiha Itachi was born a monster.
The smaller children at first say little to nothing. They look upon Sasuke with curious eyes, but cannot sympathize. After a few months go by, they stare at his back in class, because for some reason, they must think that he cannot feel it. They whisper to each other on the playground. They create rhymes, and sometimes, sing them along while they jump rope.
Poor Mother Uchiha
Her son didn't behave.
Poor Mother Uchiha
Her son dug her grave.
Instead of playing cops and robbers, they play Itachi and family—though they will never admit it out loud. They all know the roles and they secretly play. Mostly they fight over the part of Itachi. Then comes the part of Sasuke—the boy who lives.
Poor Father Uchiha
Of his son, he was proud.
Poor Father Uchiha
He had never screamed so loud.
Sasuke only walks along, hands clenched in his pockets. A few brave children ask him to play, they will even give him the part of Sasuke. He doesn't even answer, just turns and continues to walk. Even if he did want to play, he would have preferred a different part. The last stanza of their rhyme they try to keep away from Sasuke's ears. And they are successful until a brash boy, one who will always carry a brutish sneer on his face, fights Sasuke. They roll around in the dirt, sending their fists flying. Once they are separated, the boy keeps his eyes on Sasuke and spits as he screams the last stanza mockingly.
Poor Little Brother Uchiha
What is he to do?
Poor Little Brother Uchiha
Big Brother is coming for you.
Sasuke freezes and runs home. His nightmares become more real, and it is not a rare occurrence to wake up and roll out of wet sheets.
They continue their game until one boy comes crying to the playground and they all gather. He cries in fear, saying he saw the Uchiha. The Uchiha is watching. From then on, they go back to cops and robbers. When the Uchiha's name is mentioned, they gasp. To the smaller children of Konoha, Uchiha Itachi is a not a person. He is a story, a fairytale, a legend. He is just another Boogie Man.
The women in Konoha wrap their arms around themselves and share one word with each other concerning the subject: terrifying. The expecting mothers start spiritual meetings and take extra parenting classes. They'd be damned if they'd let their children slip into the deep pits of hell. The woman who carry their small children on their arm stare at their infants as they sleep in their cribs. They wait for the one second where the child will open his eyes, turn their heads towards them, and smile with a possessed grin. Because then they will know what kind of child this is. The women in Konoha are terrified as they stare upon their children, and don't know whether or not they will end up like Poor Mother Uchiha: killed by their own child.
There are those few who simply say that the boy went crazy. Had a few too many blows to the head, or he was born demented. Such scum should be put away, hidden from society. And when some say that this is cruel, they point to the Uchiha district and say, "That is not?"
Then there is the theory that Sasuke should be moved to another village. He is not safe. None of them are if he is around. So once again, Sasuke is left as the burden. The old women who spoke of evil and demons one day lengthen their tale. They claim that a dark soul wanders at night, searching once again. He flows with great speed and grace while his red eyes shine dangerously. They stare at Sasuke like an unwanted bomb. Because one day, they figure, this will all blow up in their faces, again.
He continues to train, continues to practice, never forgetting to look over his shoulder. When it is dark, he listens closely and jumps into fighting position over the tiniest of noises. When he reaches his room, he searches it until he knows it is just him, his bed, and the creaking wood. But he can still sees those eyes, and somehow he knows that his brother is waiting, that Sasuke himself is waiting, that the world is waiting.
Sasuke is sure that the beads of moisture running down his cheeks are from the rain. And he pants frantically as he pushes the shovel into the mud, lifting away loads of dirt. It piles up beside the grave and now he realizes that he will have to climb over this mountain before he takes his last breath on his dark dying day.
Big Brother is coming for you.
He hates his team.
He hates everything they do, everything they say, everything they stand for, and everything they are. Sometimes while he spars with Naruto, he imagines himself losing control and plunging a kunai right into the side of his head and watching as the blood would flow marvelously from the wound, trickling down his hand to the scar that is slashed across his palm. With Sakura, he imagines himself older and stronger. He sees himself push her away once again, and he supposes that she would just die of heartache. He wouldn't even have to bother. It'd be a waste of energy if he did.
He can't lie and tell himself that he doesn't enjoy her attention. At the end of the day, he likes to think about the things she said about him, whether she knows he heard it or not. For once, someone has noticed him. For once, someone has called him strong. Someone has given him their affection. And that's when he realizes he also hates her attention. Because it's not coming from someone worthy.
What good has she ever done? What strength does she posses? What will she accomplish throughout her life?
And his answer is always the same: nothing. And that's why, he determines, she doesn't matter. She can't matter.
Sasuke holds onto his brother's words for years to come. He repeats them in his head over and over until he does not even realize what is going around him, and all he can hear is his older brother's voice over his parent's cries.
"Hey bastard," Naruto says one day as he stuffs ramen into his mouth. Sasuke eyes the dripping noodle falling from the corner of his mouth with a look of disgust.
"We're friends right?" Naruto asks, mouth full.
Sasuke does not even blink as he thinks. He even channels into his feelings to determine whether or not him and this boy sitting in front of him are friends. He figures he doesn't need them. He'll never need them. "Sure."
Then Naruto smiles.
And Sasuke concludes that this is the boy he will kill to get his eyes.
He looks down into the grave to make sure that there is room for two.
When he sees his brother the first time since that fateful day, he does not even believe that it is him.
He had long become some distant memory, maybe even borderline fantasy. For so many nights, Uchiha Sasuke had thought about his brother and what he had chosen to show him—the way he looked so tall, so foreboding as he stood before his kneeling parents, the way the blood splurged so beautifully from their necks, cascading into a waterfall of red, the way the whole village smelled of copper and sickness. He had thought about it over and over, so much that it had become more or less a dream. And Uchiha Sasuke sometimes wonders if that is all that life is.
He cannot take the moment for granted. He knows he cannot.
"Sasuke," his brother says.
"Uchiha Itachi," he says.
All he wants to do is cry. But he doesn't. He doesn't even acknowledge the few words exchanged by them. Instead he scans his brother and tries to memorize everything, because as much as Sasuke hates to admit it, his brother is still an Uchiha. He realizes it's funny how he can hate something, but then love it so much more. His fist sizzles with a blue fury and he can feel every bit of hate, love, and any other emotion he had stored away for this very moment flow to the tips of his fingers. His nails dig into the scar on his hand, just to remind him how much pain he is feeling.
He yells at him. He fucking lashes out. And he doesn't even care. Because now he can see his mother's tear-stained face and now he can hear his father's yells, the pitiful cries that Sasuke was sure he'd never hear from his father. And it kills him, cuts him down even further.
He doesn't like to admit it, but he knows he should thank his brother for making him that much stronger.
"I've survived!" he yells at him, pulling away his collar because he is so fucking pissed, so fucking confused, so fucking everything that he is choking on the thin air alone.
He lunges at his brother, runs so fast that he for a second believes he's running on the dense air. For a second he can see it as he lifts his chidori charged hand, aiming straight for his brother's heart. He figures it is about time his brother's heart was crushed. He is so close, so very close, but Sasuke should have figured.
There is no winning with Uchiha Itachi.
Without wasting too much energy, his brother merely catches his wrists and deflects his attack. Sasuke knows it has always been this easy for him. The wall crumbles to pieces beside them and Sasuke for a second is his young self, relieved that his brother, the boy who had picked him up when he had fallen down, had not been tragically caught in the blow. But then he looks into his brother's eyes and he is put back into reality. His chidori fizzes away into nothing. And it is silent.
"I have no interest in you right now."
Sasuke thinks his heart had died a long time ago, so he is confused when he feels something break in his chest as hard as his wrist when his brother snaps it like a twig. And Sasuke thinks that that is the story of his life. He knows that it is the story of his life. Because even if he did somehow succeed in killing his older brother, the talk of the town would be the death of Itachi and not of the triumph of Sasuke.
He ends up bruised and battered on the floor and he hears the clicks of Itachi's sandals coming toward him. He hears the ticking clock and believes this is the end.
But it is not. It will not come that easy.
Uchiha Sasuke is just a boy, and like every boy his age, he has thoughts, feelings, and hormones.
The first night he has a wet dream, he dreams of Ino. For her age, he can say that she is quite developed. The dream is foggy and hazy, and he can barely keep his eyes open because he is so relaxed. Ino appears and she sways her hips and Sasuke wonders when he began to notice such things. Her hair is down and when she sits next to him on his bed, it falls over him. He thinks it smells like vanilla and even though he did not tell his body to do this, he grabs her and pulls her over him, crashing his lips upon hers.
She begins to fumble around with his pants and he can't do anything but close his eyes, sigh, and lay his head back on his soft pillow and allow her to do her job. She hardly speaks, but when she does, it is not Ino's voice coming from her mouth, it is Sakura's. And she tells him over and over how strong he is, and that the world lies in the palm of his hands. He just puts a hand over her mouth and tells her to shut up, because really, he doesn't want to listen to her lies.
The dream continues and Sasuke dreams of things he never thought he would. But the feeling is so relaxing and exciting at the same time. It goes higher and higher until he wakes in bed, jumping up into a sitting position, sweat on his forehead. That morning he burns his sheets, getting rid of the evidence.
He doesn't need another thing telling him how pathetically weak he is—so weak that he cannot even control his own body or thoughts.
Everyone just looks at him after it happens. And he hates it.
Sure sometimes he loses his cool and gives into the urges, but never around anyone. Sure sometimes he cries out and grunts, the pain too much to handle. Sure sometimes he just wants to punch that stupid Anko in the face when she looks at him. She is sympathetic, curious, but most of all jealous. And Sasuke doesn't know why, because how can you be jealous of what he is? But he hides it well.
He doesn't call Naruto an idiot anymore. It just isn't even worth it. He doesn't indulge in Sakura's comments, giving her a hint of one. It just doesn't matter. He trains by himself whenever he can. He is by himself whenever he can be, because he doesn't need anyone else.
Even when Sakura cries onto his shoulder, asking him to tell her what to do, because if he hurts, she hurts. And he feels sorry for her, because he is hurting so much. He thinks of his mother, what she would do when he cried because of the monsters that would come at night, but now they both know that monsters walk around all time—day or night. He cannot do what his mom did, no one can ever do what she did, but he tries to come close.
He puts a hand on her shoulder and she stiffens, and looks up at him with a tear stained face. He can feel her warm breath and wonders why his is so cold.
"Go home and wipe your eyes," he says, because she looks dead with her black makeup running down her face.
"Wipe them for me," she whispers, leaning closer. "My tears."
He doesn't say anything, but stares.
"I'll wipe yours," she continues after a few seconds of silence.
"I don't have any," he answers.
"Yes, you do," she answers quietly and his lips turn to a frown. And he watches as she leans in, closer and closer. He thinks of how he is moving towards warmth, closer and closer. And she kisses him on the lips, not annoyingly aggressive, but not too delicate either. He pushes her away so that she falls back on her butt, and she looks up at him, tears flowing once again.
"Sasuke, please," she starts. "I love you."
He is clenching his hands, moving his feet into a fighting stance, because that is all he knows how to do.
"I hate you," he hisses and she shrinks, breath cracking from her tears. "I hate you."
"N-no. No you don't."
"Yes, I do," he says, breathing deeply as he composes himself. "Don't ever touch me again."
"Don't even look at me," he warns, and turns away, anger too loud in his mind to allow his ears to hear her cries.
He becomes more or less a ghost, and floats about, minding his own business, hoping that everyone will do the same. Because this is no longer a show.
Still, he squints under the spotlight, which never seems to go away.
He knows that life is just a game of chance.
You're dealt the cards and what you do with them is up to you.
He knows it's chance that he was born as an Uchiha and not some lowly civilian, looking upon the ninja with eyes wide with amazement. He knows it's chance that he was born after his brother, and sometimes he wonders how different it would be if he was the one who came along first, but tries to forget about it. Because what good is thinking about something that hadn't even happened?
He knows it's chance that he's put on a team with people he most definitely hates and he knows it's chance that made him realize that maybe he doesn't hate them—but dislike them for sure. He can never love them. His mother once told him that you can't love someone else if you can love yourself. And this is why it is impossible. He knows it's chance that he happened to be the strongest, the one most desired during the chuunin exams.
He stares deeper into the mirror, thinking that perhaps if he glares hard enough, it could show him something different. But it never does. He brings his eyes away from their own reflection and looks to the mark on his neck, the mark of Fate. He grips the edges of the sink. Fate had offered, and he would surely take.
Life was just a game of chance, but Sasuke never let that stop him, because if he did, he would have folded along time ago.
He shakes the dice in his hand and blows on it for good luck before he throws it into the muddy hole. The earthworms slither around it.
He thanks her, knocks her out, and lays her on a bench.
Because, really, what else was he supposed to do?
Uchiha Sasuke likes to think that he will always come out on top, even though it feels like he comes out on the bottom.
When he fights Naruto, he sees that he is stronger than he realized, and he wonders when this happened. But Naruto is fighting for a lost cause and it matters little to Sasuke that he's wasting his time. He might as well gain some knowledge from this fight. He is a worthy opponent to practice on.
So they fight like fire and water, and spread and flow so fast that if someone who had happened to catch a glimpse of them would have thought it amazing. They balance on logs, facing each other and Sasuke likes to think that this is symbolic.
Because the same thing is holding them up. And Sasuke splits the wood in half underneath him and breaks the one underneath Naruto because he is sure the same thing will bring them down.
The fight gets heated, much like the fire that Sasuke throws at Naruto. Something takes over Naruto and Sasuke sees something he has never seen before in the boy. A boy because that is what Naruto will always be. What is this boy? What is this raw energy coming from him? And Sasuke feels better because he knows if Naruto were just Naruto he'd wouldn't even be alive and standing.
But then another thought hits him. Would he kill Naruto if he had the chance? He likes to think so.
Sasuke knows he also has something on his side, and he feels the mark burn against his neck. It changes him, from the inside out. He does not think of brothers, friends, and love. He can only think of enemies, weaklings, and hate. And he shows Naruto just that.
He knows Naruto will never understand. Because Naruto will never know what it is like to have everything taken away from you.
Naruto is not able to stop him and it is for the best.
Uchiha Sasuke has come out on top, although it doesn't feel like it.
Orochimaru looks sick, just like everyone else in Sound.
They are pale, lanky. When he sees Orochimaru, he remembers the forest, but soon forgets it. He sees his bony face, bony fingers and realizes that Orochimaru reminds him of a skeleton. Those hard bones make him look old, dead, but they still keep him together, still keep him standing.
He meets Kabuto and realizes he is the only one who looks semi-alive. His silver looking hair shines in the sunlight when they train, just like Kakashi's. And Sasuke tries to cover it with dirt and blood because he shouldn't be thinking of such things. There comes a day when Sasuke can take out the medic and his hair becomes brown, though a couple of specks of silver shine through. Kabuto just lifts himself up, pushes his glasses back and smiles while blood seeps through the corner of his mouth.
"Very good," he says with a nod.
Sasuke stays still, ignoring the pain shooting from his twisted arm.
"I will inform Orochimaru of your progress."
"Enough," Sasuke says. "I have no time for this. I will begin training with Orochimaru."
"I'm sure he'd have it no other way," Kabuto replies. "Let me heal that arm."
And Sasuke extends it to him, because what would he be without bones?
Nothing but a bag of flesh, dumped into a pool of mud.
The first time Sasuke fucks a girl, he does not feel low.
He likes the way she willingly lays under him, allowing him to do whatever he likes. He likes the way she does what he tells her to do, and even the way that she screams and cries, because finally, someone else understands that pain and pleasure go hand in hand. When he is done, he says nothing as he falls besides her, swearing under his breath. She falls asleep and he leaves.
She doesn't expect him to be there in the morning; he doesn't expect her to care about him.
Sasuke does not feel low after sex. He feels renewed and excited. Sometimes he holds the girl tightly after they fuck, because there is so much adrenaline going through his veins that he would just like to rip the whore apart. He thinks of Itachi, the way that he would have sex. This makes Sasuke pull the girl's hair and she hisses, trying to slap his hand away, but he doesn't let go.
He then thinks of Sakura, which has become a usual occurrence recently. He thinks of her crying and he tells the girl now under him to shut up. And he lets go and leaves, angry that he let himself get so carried away. He returns to the compound and shuts himself into his room to meditate. He imagines Sakura, her hair, her face, her ass. He thinks of how soft her lips might have been if he had just—
He leaves the room to train, to clear his mind.
Sasuke does not feel low after sex. But he feels low after he thinks of the past.
He still has his ball and chain.
And he thinks that he just might dig the grave wider to make room for three. Because even if Sakura wants to walk away, he will never let go. He has to make room for three because he is sure that Sakura will fall with him.
He hates what his life has become, or maybe he always hated what it has been.
He desperately wants to leave Sound, but where would he go? Back to Konoha? He is not stupid or naïve like Sakura and Naruto are. He knows Konoha will not welcome him back with open arms. They will not pardon him. He has worked with one of their greatest enemies, plotted to make him stronger. They will not look upon him with a sympathetic smile. Those days have been long over. But they will wrap their arms around him only to drag him off and tie the rope around his neck. And the floor under him will disappear along with him. He is dead if he goes back to Konoha. He is dead if he leaves Sound.
He cannot leave Sound. That is the conclusion he has come to. But everyday in Sound is a day closer to losing himself. His body will become Orochimaru's. He will be nothing but a distant memory. A once loved son, a desperate brother, an esteemed teammate, and a lost cause, a failure, an avenger. He is dead if he stays in Sound.
He walks amongst the trees, stick in hand as he swats away at the dead leaves on the ground.
He is a dead man if he stays, he is a dead man if he leaves.
He drops the stick and continues on.
He is a dead man walking.
Years have passed. Everything has changed. He has changed.
Years have passed. But why can't he remember a thing?
He has cut that chain and has thrown the ball away.
Now he is his own man, and nothing can stop him. It was perhaps Fate's doing that had them meet once again. Naruto, the dumb fool, still stands, mouth open in surprise. Sakura is behind him, tears already clouding her vision. And he thinks that they haven't changed a bit. He offers cruel worlds to the both of them and they, in short, tell him he's crazy. He thinks he'd rather be that than weak, like them.
He jumps towards Naruto and puts a hand on his shoulder, and no, the memories do not come back. The sweet words, the warm feelings, the talks, the actions, the things that had made them family, they do not flood back. They do not wash over him. He does not let them carry him away.
He stands his ground like a stone.
"Sasuke, come back!" Sakura yells.
He carries a rock over to his grave and sets it down in front, because he hopes one day, someone will care to remember him.
Uchiha Sasuke feels he is closer when Orochimaru is dead.
He has never been this close, and it is almost scary. He forms his team, the best team that the current situation allows. They are twisted, sick. Just like him, he thinks. So they should get along. They don't.
In fact, they remind him a great deal of his older team, and he isn't sure if he likes it or not. On one side, he realizes how incredibly inefficient they were, and downright annoying. And that is a good thing because he does not miss them.
"Sasuke," she says, smiling so that her cheeks lift her glasses only the slightest, but he notices.
On the other side, he realizes how incredibly dysfunctional they were, but somehow managed to stay together, stand together—something that he could never do. And that is bad.
The two men on his team give him a look, but he just jumps to the trees, leaving the others confused, and most of all, curious.
He drops his shovel and looks upon his work, determining that there is no more room and he will not make any.
It is a strange occurrence that he runs into Sakura.
It is a strange occurrence that they don't even share a couple words before she jumps at him, and even though he thinks she might attack him, he lets her tackle him, just for kicks he thinks. Just for kicks. She lands on top of him and he just stares at her, his eyes swiveling. She shakes her head, and he nods.
"What are you doing?" she asks. "Won't you block?"
"Won't you strike?"
They both know she will not, especially in such a position.
"I'm not the same as I used to be."
He disagrees because he can see that pouting lip of hers.
"You don't have control of me any longer."
He leans forward and kisses her, just to clarify that he really does. She responds well, just like all the other girls—yes, just like the rest—and he pushes her underneath him. The night goes by pretty quickly, just as quickly as they move, because they feel that they must make up for lost time, and they don't know how much is left to do that. When the night sky begins to lighten to a dark navy, they lie next to each other, making sure not to touch.
"I still love you," she says, and he doesn't like this, because he's not used to this.
He says nothing and she doesn't expect him to. But after a while he does and says, "Leave now." He begins to get up but he feels her hand on his arm. He looks back at her, angry. Because she is just like the rest, so why is she touching him?
"Leave now before I kill you," he hisses and pulls him arm from her, and she makes a face as if she'd been burned.
"I'll always love you!" she cries after him when he is fully dressed and is about to jump away.
"Don't bother," he says.
He picks up the shovel, because his work is never done, and fills in part of the hole, because Sakura, he decided, is just another girl—another girl who will still be standing when he falls.
A couple of years pass and he's finally made it.
He stands, vomit gurgling in the bottom of this throat. He had pushed himself all the way here, but what if he was to fail? Uchiha Sasuke can't even look at his brother without feeling sick and he wonders for a second, if he is willing to just give up, to just lie down and be done with it. But even then, the world would not let him die, because when has the world ever been forgiving?
Big Brother has come for you.
They are almost like children again as they fight and Sasuke cries, not because he hates his brother, but because he loves him.
He sees his father, watching from the distance, proud but worried look on his face. And what is that? Even a sense of relief? And beside him is his mother, purely worried and nervous, because her little son is dancing on that fine line, and once you fall, there is no going back. She calls for him and cries for him. He tries to ignore her calls, because damn it, he cannot be distracted.
Him and his brother are badly beaten, but they struggle forward. Itachi is smiling, Sauske is crying. It is something that they have both saved for this moment.
Sasuke manages to lodge a kunai into Itachi's neck, but his older brother launches himself forward, burying a kunai into Sasuke's chest. And they both stumble back and fall onto their knees.
Sasuke listens as his brother chokes and drowns in his own blood.
As Sasuke pulls the kunai from his chest, he realizes his weakness. He looks to his father and mother, not even noticing their odd blonde and pink hair. He looks back at Itachi, and his bastard brother has the nerve to say goodbye. But his brother soon falls backward, eyes closed. And Sasuke allows himself to fall backwards. Above him he can see swirls of pink and blonde, and he would smile if he could, because for some reason he is feeling light. He feels wetness and thinks they must be his mother's tears as she cries his name over, and over, and over. He thinks his father was wrong about the spirits. He can see them, but they are not in the water. They are not even in the dirt. They are in the sky.
Kakashi watches the scene from the side as two of his former students rush to their teammate's side.
He sees the bodies, brother next to brother, and can't help but notice that they both never looked so alive.
And Uchiha Sasuke rests.
Changed some things here and there.
Part II- Itachi coming soon.