Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or Naruto.

Merry Christmas!!!

The Final Illusion

5/31/08 – 12/25/08

Team Kakashi stood nervously in the crowds, waiting impatiently for the return of the ANBU squad that would be escorting Sasuke back. Yet, it wasn't Sasuke's return that was causing the entire village to rise in uproar.

It was the truth of the Uchiha Clan...and Uchiha Itachi.

According to the reports, it wasn't the ANBU squad who had found Sasuke. It was Sasuke who had found them, agreeing to return to Konoha on three conditions – all of which had been granted by the council after much deliberation.

In Kakashi's opinion, the Elders really had no choice in the matter. Once the truth behind the massacre of the Uchiha Clan had been revealed (despite their attempts to hide it by sweeping their involvement under a rug), they had lost all power and influence over the village.

The injustice of the situation had the entire village in an uproar, and he had no doubt that Sasuke would seek retribution in their blood. If the Elders thought that simply clearing Itachi's name and reviving the Uchiha Clan would be enough to quell Sasuke's bloodlust, then they were idealistic fools. Sasuke had devoted his entire life to avenging his clan. If he had been willing to kill his brother, who he had loved and admired, what was to stop him from seeking revenge on people he didn't even know?

Kakashi was brought out of his musings with the arrival of the ANBU squad. The whispers, the cheers, and the murmurs in the crowd immediately began as soon as Sasuke stepped through the gates. Beside him, he could feel Sakura and Naruto trying to push to the forefront in order to greet him.



Sakura slammed her fist into Naruto's head, shooting him a warning glare that had him cowering in response. "Sasuke-kun," she repeated, moving out of the crowds to stand in front of him. A second later, she felt Naruto join her side. Swallowing the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat, she murmured, "Welcome back."

Sasuke's eyes lowered as he answered, "Hn."

Sakura smiled, feeling that things were finally going to go back to normal. The three of them (four, including Sai) would be together again. They would be able to go back to being Team Seven.

"T-Teme," Naruto greeted, trying to hold back tears. It was great to have him back again. "So typical! You can't even come back without having to be escorted home by the village's top ANBU!"

"Y-You look good, Sasuke-kun." Sakura shyly continued, her cheeks tinting a light pink. Besides her, she heard Naruto mutter, "Not again!" Jabbing him in the ribs in warning, she continued, "Sasuke-kun, are you going to be –" she flushed when Sasuke suddenly turned away, ignoring her.

"Hey," Naruto growled, seeing the hurt look on Sakura's face. "Sakura-chan was talking to you!" Seeing Sasuke heading towards the ANBU, he quickly latched onto his wrist and shouted, "Don't walk away when somebody's talking to you! How can you be so mean to Sakura-chan?"

Sasuke easily shrugged off Naruto's hold and shot him an irritated glare.

"Teme, you –" Naruto growled, beginning to feel his own ire rise.

"Uchiha-san," an ANBU cut in, drawing everyone's attention to the pretty, young woman he was trying to hold up. "She looks a little ill. Should I bring her to the hospital and call Tsunade-sama?"

"I'll take her," Sasuke answered, pulling the woman into his arms.

Naruto blinked owlishly at the sight. "Is that your girlfriend?" he asked, eyeing the young woman with interest. "She's a little…um," he made a motion indicating that she looked a little fat, "Isn't she?"

The glare that Sasuke shot him was instantaneous.

"What?" Naruto squawked.

"Shut up, dobe," Sasuke sneered. "Kagome's pregnant."

Despite the ruckus the crowd made, Sasuke's comment seemed to echo through the village. For a moment, there was silence. However, the silence didn't last long. Once his words sunk into their minds, the peace was broken by a two simultaneous shrieks of "WHAT?"

Sakura could feel her heart squeeze in pain as she eyed the woman with mounting envy. Feelings her eyes water, she quickly bit her lips and turned her eyes downward. She didn't want this…She hadn't expected it.

"Is she carrying the Uchiha heir?"

"Will she be living with you?"

"When and where did you meet?"

"When is the child due?"

Sasuke gritted his teeth in irritation.

"Did you meet her in Otogakure?" Naruto asked, silencing the crowd with the question that many of them wanted, but feared to ask. When Sasuke didn't answer, he repeated his question. He would stand by whatever choice Sasuke made, but he had to make sure that the woman wasn't working for Orochimaru.

"No," Sasuke finally answered, eyes clouding with pain. It almost made Naruto wish he hadn't asked. "This is Higurashi Kagome." he continued, tightening his hold on the woman who seemed to be on the brink of unconsciousness. Facing the curious crowd with a dark scowl, he quietly finished, "She's my brother's wife."

"…What?" Naruto blinked.

Sakura's eyes widened with shock. Itachi's…wife? She watched with mixed emotions as Sasuke carefully carried the woman away from the crowds (which quickly parted without question) and towards the hospital.

For a long time, no one spoke.

None of them had expected that.

Hiding behind a potted plant, three curious heads peeked out from behind the long leafy branches and stared into the Higurashi girl's hospital room. They could barely make out the outline of Sasuke's form, sitting dutifully by the girl's side, whispering something to her that none of them could hear.

"Is she really Itachi's wife?" Naruto asked, scrunching his forehead.

"What is Sasuke saying to her?" Sakura asked, twisting the branch in her hands so hard it snapped.

There was a moment of silence before Sai broke in. "Why are we hiding again?" he asked, not seeing the point of it. If they wanted to see the two, why didn't they just go in and talk to them?

"Because we're not supposed to be –" Naruto stopped mid-sentence when he suddenly noticed that Sai was missing. Looking around, he shrieked and quickly jumped out from his hiding spot when he noticed Sai standing next to the door. "Knock and I'll kill you," he threatened. "We can't let Sasuke know we're here! If he knew we were spying on him, he'll –"

The door slammed open.

"Shut – Up – Dobe!" he snarled, eyes burning with crimson fury.

The door closed again.

Naruto blinked. What…? Why? What did he do? Turning to Sai, he pointed an accusing finger at him and hissed, "Sometimes, I really hate you."

They never tried to visit again, but every time she passed by the hospital on the way home, Sakura couldn't help but wonder if Sasuke was still sitting there by himself, quietly watching over his brother's wife. It was stupid, but she was jealous. Never in all her years had she seen Sasuke so worried about another human being.

Yet, even knowing she was Itachi's wife, she couldn't stop the slight twinge of envy that twisted her heart every time she remembered the look of intense worry on her Sasuke's face when he held the woman in his arms – the woman no one knew anything about beyond her name and status as the Uchiha Matriarch. Yet, without even speaking to her, people seemed to have already accepted her as a member of the village.

Was it because she was Itachi's wife or because she carried the heir?

Sighing, she realized that it was pointless to speculate too much about the woman when she wasn't even awake. Giving the hospital one last, longing glance, she sighed and turned. She had promised to meet her teammates (which included Team Gai) at Ichiraku Ramen. She could think about Sasuke later.

"Ne, you don't have to hold me so tightly." a soft, gentle voice drifted to her ears. "I'm pregnant, not injured."

Sakura stilled and looked back over her shoulder.

"Hn, I'd rather not risk you tumbling down the road." Sasuke snorted. Yet, his tone was devoid of his usual derision. "Earlier, you mentioned that you were hungry. Is there something you wanted to eat?"

"After eating hospital food for three days, I'd gladly eat bark." Kagome said, bringing amusement to her companion's face. "But, since you offered, I think we should go get oden."

"Oden?" Sasuke asked, raising an eyebrow. "Keep in mind, you're pregnant."

Sakura's heart pounded erratically as she stood rooted to her spot.

"Exactly, so we should eat whatever I want." she gave him a look, telling him that her decision was final. "You should be glad my cravings aren't as strange as some others. Or would you rather make me a tuna sandwich with strawberry jam and orange ice cream? Actually, now that I think about it…"

"No," Sasuke broke in, "No…We'll get oden."

"I knew you'd see it my way."

"Women…" Sasuke snorted as he helped her down the rest of the stairs.

Sakura's heart twisted as she listened to them bicker playful. Before now, she hadn't even known Sasuke could bicker in a playful manner. Usually, when he bickered with Naruto, it ended up with one of them injured. But now, seeing him so at ease with his brother's woman, she couldn't help but wonder and fear if…if there was something more between them. No, she told herself before her thoughts could get too far. No, she repeated. Sasuke was only being nice to her because she was his brother's wife. He was only treating her as he would a member of his family.

"I can walk without your help, you know?"

They were getting closer to her now. Sakura wondered if Sasuke would even notice her there, and if he did, would he acknowledge her presence?

"Stop whining and acting like a child."

"Spoiled sport," Kagome pouted. There was a moment of silence before she spoke again. "But, speaking of children, have you thought of any names? I've considered a few, but I want to hear your opinions first."

"Tch, I haven't thought about it."

They were only meters away from her now, and she felt her heartbeat quicken when Sasuke finally looked up and saw her. For her, time seemed to stop as they locked gazes. Sasuke… Opening her mouth, she tried to call out to him, but her voice was gone. Her throat felt tight as tears welled in her eyes.

He was back. He was really back. Even though she had known, it had all seemed like a dream. But now, seeing him only a few feet away from her, she knew he was home. He had come back to them.

"Goodness, you're going to be a father soon, you should be thinking about it." Kagome gently admonished, oblivious to the fact that the arm around her shoulders had tensed and tightened.

"I-I...." Sakura stuttered, finally finding her voice. "You..."

The child…was his?

Finally noticing the pink-haired girl standing near them, Kagome smiled in hopes of putting her at ease. "Poor girl," she quietly voiced, drawing Sasuke's attention back to herself. "She looks like she's been traumatized by something. Do you wonder if the nice medic-nins would be able to cure her?"

"Hn," Sasuke answered, disgruntled.

Sakura mentally shook her head to clear her thoughts. No, she couldn't jump to conclusions. She had to make sure. She wouldn't believe it until he confirmed it himself. "S-Sasu…" The words had barely left her mouth when she found herself silenced by a dark, seething glare.

Sakura shrank back as she reflexively lowered her eyes to the ground. What had she done? Why was he so angry? Was it because she had heard the truth about the child – that it was actually his and not his brother's? Then, why had he kept it a secret? What difference would it have made if he had told them the truth?

"Koi, do you know her?" Kagome asked, curious now. They were acting a little strangely.

Sasuke's jaw clenched as he coldly bit out, "No."

Tears welled in Sakura's eyes as she bit her bottom lip to keep from crying out.

"Are you sure?" Kagome asked, raising an eyebrow. "She's looking at you pretty intently. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were cheating on me." she teased, smiling prettily as she giggled at the thought.

"Let's go." Sasuke murmured, steering them in the opposite direction. "I don't want you associating with people like her."

People like her? What was that supposed to mean? Sakura felt tears roll down her cheek as she stared at the couple's retreating backs. She was his teammate! She had loved him! Didn't it mean anything? Now, he couldn't even bring himself to acknowledge her – not even as an acquaintance.

"Goodness, it's not like she's going to attack me." Kagome snorted, but allowed Sasuke to lead her away. "It's not like mental instability is contagious either. You should be nicer to people like them."

Clenching her teeth, Sakura closed her eyes as she tried to ignore the throbbing pain near the vicinity of her heart. Why did it have to hurt so much? Clutching it as if hoping to soothe the pain with her hands, she dropped to her knees and cried, allowing the tears to trail down her face and splatter onto the ground.

It hurt.

It hurt so much.

Naruto was at a loss.

They, as in Team Kakashi and Team Gai, had agreed to celebrate the completion of their latest mission at Ichiraku Ramen. However, they had been forced to wait for over an hour before Sakura – tearstained and dirtied – finally showed up.

Neji had took one look at her and immediately felt out of place. Naruto and Lee, however, had been appropriately concerned as they alternately questioned her for details. It had taken a good amount of coaxing and threatening (the one who had caused her tears) before she finally murmured one broken word – the name of Uchiha Sasuke.

"S-Sasuke?" stuttered Naruto, confused. "What…What did he do now?"

Sakura mutely shook her head, continuing to cry, but refusing to answer.

Thus, Naruto and Lee (with the reluctant help of Neji and Sai) found themselves spending another hour at Ichiraku Ramen, trying to simultaneously pry the reason out of their tight-lipped companion and comfort her at the same time. However, as time passed, both Naruto and Lee were exhausted and Neji was more than just a little irritated.

And Sai…Well, Sai had mysteriously disappeared sometime ago.

"Sakura-chan…" Naruto trailed, unsure of what to say. What else could he say? He had been talking non-stop for the last hour! He was –

"Excuse me; you're that girl from before, right?"

Naruto squinted. The girl looked familiar…Had he seen her before?

Sakura tensed.

"You're Uchiha Itachi's wife, correct?" Neji asked, noticing the way Sakura had immediately tensed at the sight of the other woman.

The girl smiled radiantly. "Yes, that's correct."

Sakura's fist clenched, angered by her response. She was not Itachi's wife! How dare she? How dare she lie to their faces? If she was Sasuke's wife, then she should just say it! Was she ashamed of Sasuke? Was that it? Was that why –

"Oh!" Naruto finally said, hitting his palm. "I remember now! You're that fat – I mean, pregnant woman that Sasuke brought –" Naruto's mouth snapped shut when he felt the air charge with energy.

The girl – Kagome, he remembered – had turned deathly pale.

"S-Sasuke?" she whispered, hands shaking as her eyes darted wildly around as if trying to sense his presence. "Where is he?"

Sakura stilled, feeling her tears dry as she stared at the girl in bewilderment.

"A-Are you lost?" Naruto asked, flinching when he found himself pinned by a pair of angry blue eyes. "If you're looking for him, we can help you locate Sasuke –" The words died on his lips as he narrowly dodged a deadly, chakra-charged fist. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" he cried, clutching his chest to stop his rapidly beating heart. That was dangerous!

"Miss, please calm down. We mean you no harm!" Lee tried, drawing the girl's attention. "We'll bring you to Sasuke –"

The girl's eyes glowed with fury. "Katon: Goukakyu no Jutsu!"

Nearby civilians screamed as the giant fireball tore down the streets.

"Kuso!" Neji hissed as he ran after the fireball, hoping to stop it before it could cause any real damage to the village.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Naruto screamed, reluctant to fight a pregnant woman (who also happened to be Sasuke's sister-in-law). However, he was not going to stand around and watch the village be destroyed either. "Stop it! I don't want to fight you! If this is about Sasu –"

"Don't!" Sakura shouted, drowning out Naruto's words. "Don't say his name!" Dodging a deadly punch, flinching as the chakra-infused fist cut off a good chunk of her hair, she loudly added, "Well, move it, Naruto! Don't just there! Lee, come on! We have to stop her! She's out of control."

Naruto nodded, determination settling across his face. Bringing his hands together, he shouted, "Taju Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!"

The woman stilled as her eyes began to glow with a strange pink.

It wasn't until they began exchanging blows that they discovered precisely how dangerous the woman was. Despite her gentle smiles and friendly demeanor, she was as deadly as the man she had married.

"She's a formidable opponent." Lee commented, growing more and more exited as the battle wore on. "She's exactly what I had expected of a wife of a genius!"

Naruto, however, was not the least bit amused about the situation. "Don't hurt her!" he shouted when he realized one of his clones had managed to get past her defense. He didn't know much about pregnant women, but he was sure that it couldn't be good for the baby if the mother was injured.

Thankfully, upon hearing the order, the clone immediately turned and retracted his fists before it could land a punch. Naruto sighed with relief and thanked his luck stars. He didn't quite understand what had caused her to attack them in the first place. However, until she gave them a valid reason to fight back, he was reluctant to do anything beyond restraining her.

However, Sakura must have sensed his reluctance to fight Kagome because she immediately shouted over the ruckus, "Naruto, you can't hold back! She's going berserk. I doubt she's even conscious of her own actions right now. If you don't do something to stop her, she will destroy –" She grunted in pain when her moment of distraction left her wide open to attack.

Feeling as if she had been hit with a chakra-charged boulder, Sakura let out a little shriek of fear as she flew back from the impact. "Oomph," she grunted, crashing into Lee, who had managed to catch her before she made impact with the building.

"Are you all right, Sakura-san?"

"H-Hai," she shakily answered as she regained her footing. Without waiting to catch her breath, she charged back into the fray. Noticing Kagome was busy dealing with Naruto's clones; she quickly charged her fist with chakra and slammed it into the ground, causing it to split open down the middle.

Kagome lost her balance.

Naruto's eyes widened as he screamed for his clones to halt before they trampled her underfoot. However, despite the clones' attempts to stop, the momentum continued to carry them forward. Kuso, he hissed. Even if Sasuke didn't kill him, he was sure Itachi was going to haunt him for the rest of life if something happened to her!


Naruto fell back in relief as Sasuke easily mowed through his tide of clones as if they were paper. Well, he was a little put out, but his relief easily overpowered any other feeling. For a second there, he had really thought –

"Sasuke-kun, watch out!" Sakura screamed, feeling her heart jump to her throat when she saw Kagome's hands pierce through his heart. No…No! Eyes wide, she felt her voice lodge in her throat.


Sakura dropped to her knees, weak from relief.

"Come out here!" Kagome screamed, spinning around wildly as she alternately clenched and unclenched her fists in anger. "You can't hide forever, you damn coward!" Her breaths were loud and heavy as her eyes blazed with uncontrolled emotion. "I swear, on my honor, I will kill you…Sasuke!" His name was spoken with such hatred – such unbridled anger that everyone immediately stilled.

Stopping mid-jump, which caused him to crash to the ground, Naruto's eyebrows shot up to his hairline in confusion. "Huh?" he asked.

"What?" Lee echoed, skidding to a stop.

"Eh?" Sakura blinked. She wanted to kill him?

Words died on their lips when they realized Kagome's screams had been replaced with tears, salty crystals that streamed down her unnaturally pale face in bitter rivers. "I'll never forgive you." she hissed, chest heaving with emotion, "You monster!"

A pregnant silence followed, broken only by her choked sobs. She was breaking down, shattering into pieces as her mind swirled with dark memories that she had tried to suppress. She could recall every detail – every wound – every drop of blood as clearly as if she was seeing him now.

His broken body.

The blood on the ground.

Eyes dead and lifeless.

Her chest burned and her heart ached for a man that she knew she would never see again. "How could you?" she whispered in anguish as she dropped to her knees and tightly wrapping her arms around herself. "He was your brother." Yes, his brother. How could he? How could he bear to do it?!? Thoughts, broken and scattered, flashed through her mind. Yes, he was his brother. He wouldn't…he couldn't…How could he?

The silence was stifling. Yet, no one dared to break it.

Sensing the depth of her pain and anguish, Naruto felt sick as he stood at the sidelines, watching the scene as if it were some sort of show. He felt helpless, knowing that as each moment passed, the woman spiraled deeper and deeper into madness.

"…love you…I love you…I love you…"

She was crying, begging an invisible specter that none but her could see.

Clenching his fists, Naruto gritted his teeth. He couldn't watch anymore. Why wasn't anyone doing anything? Couldn't they tell she was in pain? That she was suffering? He couldn't understand how anyone could love another that deeply, but he didn't need to understand. He just wanted – no, needed – to ease her pain.


Naruto stopped, unaware that he had even moved.

Sakura watched quietly from the sidelines, unable to summon the energy to do anything else. She watched because she was unable to tear her eyes away as Sasuke knelt behind Kagome and gently wrapped his arms around her like a cocoon.

"I'm here," he whispered, laying his chin atop the crown of her head. "I'm here," he repeated as he ghosted his fingers over her cheeks, wiping the tears away. "I'll never leave you." Burying his face in her neck, he breathed, "I love you."

Kagome's shoulders shook as she leaned back against him, wrapping her arms around his. "Baka…" she cried, hiccupping. "S-Stop making me worry all the time." She turned, burying her face in his chest. "I love you. I love you! Please, let's just go home. I don't want you going out there again. Just…Just forget about your mission, about your clan…about…about Konoha." she pleaded.

"…Hai," Sasuke answered, eyes dulling with sorrow as he gently smoothed her hair in a comforting gesture.

"Don't think about your brother anymore," she continued to mumble incoherently as she burrowed her face deeper into his chest, clutching his clothes like a lifeline. "You have me now…and our child."

"H-Hai," he repeated as he gathered her in his arms.

"Take me home…I want to go home, Itachi."

A sharp gasp caught his attention as he cradled Kagome's head against the curve of his neck. Turning his head, his Sharingan eyes pinned Sakura with dark, warning look that seemed to glow eerily in the night, making it appear even more demonic than usual.

"What's going on?" she asked; her voice pleading as she ignored his warning.

His eyes flared in anger.

"Why –"

Sasuke's hand quickly moved to Kagome's neck, hitting a pressure point that immediately caused her to slump against him in peaceful sleep. She smiled as she curled in his arms, unaware of the turmoil that clouded his mind.


"Don't," Sasuke whispered, lifting his eyes so that they knew he was addressing them – all of them. "Don't…" he repeated.

"I-I don't understand." Sakura whispered. She was holding back her own tears.

"That day," he said, staring straight at them, "The day I killed my brother…" His face tightened. "The one who should have died…was me." Ignoring Sakura's protests to the contrary, he continued, "I was foolish. I know it. If I suffer, I deserve it. I brought it on myself. But Kagome," his eyes softened as he gazed at the woman in cradled in his arms, "Kagome has and continues to suffer because of me."

"I-I don't –"

Sasuke looked up, his eyes narrowing. "Kagome may never be able to accept my brother's death. She loved him too much."

"You can't bring back the dead, Sasuke-san." Lee said.

"No," Sasuke agreed, eyes lowering to Kagome again.

Sakura swallowed. Even before, she had never seen Sasuke in so much pain. He had always been angry – full of vengeance. But now…Now, all the anger and vengeance was gone, leaving only guilt, remorse, and…and...

"You're right; I can't bring back the dead. But," he paused, contemplating how much he should reveal to the three. "My brother can live through me."

Sakura froze, tears slipping soundlessly to the ground.

"That's – That's stupid!" Naruto shouted, grabbing Sasuke by the collar of his shirt. "If you do that, you'll only be deceiving Kagome. Imagine how she would feel if she ever learned the truth! She's confused now, but that doesn't mean she'll always see Itachi in you! And I doubt Itachi would want you spending the rest of your life as the life he had given up for you."

Sasuke slapped Naruto's hand away from his with a resounding crack, adding enough chakra to it to make it sting. "I don't need you telling me how I should spend my life!" he snarled.

Kagome moaned, shifting uncomfortably as she was jostled.

Sasuke immediately stilled.

"I-Itachi…" she murmured, clinging desperately to him. "Take me home. Take me home…" she begged as tears leaked past her closed eyes. She twisted and turned in his arms, unable to find peace.

"Shh, we're going home." Sasuke promised, tightening his grip around her. "I'm taking you home…"

Kagome quieted again.

"Sasuke-san," Lee protested. He understood what Sasuke was trying to do, but he agreed with Naruto. While a noble thought, it wasn't a permanent solution. In the end, it would only hurt them both.

"I don't plan on staying in Konoha." he stated, his tone booking no room for argument. "We're leaving this place once I finish my business here."

"Y-You can't!" Sakura protested, finding her voice. "You'd be labeled as a –"

"Where?" asked Naruto, relaxing his stance. Of course he wanted Sasuke to stay. However, he also knew that it would be a wasted effort.

"The cabin in the Northern Forest of Tea Country," he answered.

"W-Why so far…?" Sakura asked, her voice trembling. He had just come back! Why…Why was he leaving now?

"I came back to clear my brother's name." Sasuke answered.

Sakura jumped. She hadn't realized she had asked that out loud.

"Tea Country was her home. Nii-san promised that they would live there after he completed his mission. He had built that home for them." Sasuke paused. "Of course, he had never planned to actually keep that promise." Moving his hand to Kagome's stomach, he continued, "He had hoped that their child would have been enough reason to keep her going. But…"

"But he overestimated Kagome-san's strength and underestimated her devotion to him." Lee softly concluded.

Sasuke nodded.

"Itachi was a fool." Naruto said bitterly. "And you –" He stopped, noticing the glassy sheen in Sasuke's eyes. You were the greater fool. Sighing, he ruffled in his hair in frustration. "Stay safe." he said instead, unable to say those final words.

Sasuke nodded, acknowledging that he heard.

"Send a message if you ever need help." Lee added. "We'll be there."

He nodded again. Knowing there was nothing left to say, he gave them one final look before leaving, knowing that they would keep his secret. Even if they did not agree with the way he had decided to handle the issue, they would respect his decision. No one would disturb them.

Kagome would have the life she wanted.

The child would grow up with a family.

And for as long as she wanted, Itachi would always be by her side.


Author's Notes: Whew…that took forever. I started planning this at the end of May and it's December now. By the way, Merry Christmas!!! Hopefully, I made this story clear. I confused myself a couple of times. :P The pairing was a little hard to define too. Though, I think the main reason this measly 18 page had taken me so long to write was because I wasn't sure what I wanted either. Even now, it's a little obscure.

Sasuke's decision may or may not have been based on guilt. His decision could be love for Kagome…or it may have been the residue, brotherly-love and respect that he had felt towards his brother, making him feel responsible to fulfill his promise. Or it could have been all of the above.

Itachi wasn't actually in the story, and not much was revealed. He may or may not have loved Kagome. That's up for speculation because he ultimately chose to place his mission (and his brother) before her. The background between him and Kagome is also left out (mostly because I'm too lazy to write a full length story out of it).

As for Kagome…well, if it wasn't clear, she was driven insane by Itachi's death. She sees Itachi in Sasuke, but the name "Sasuke" itself is taboo. As Naruto (and many others view it), Kagome's mental instability was driven by love for Itachi. However, her love wasn't unselfish. I'm not saying she doesn't love him, but she may not have loved him as purely as Naruto and Sasuke believed. She loved Itachi, but she may have loved the ideal that he presented even more. She was selfish in that she wanted Itachi to drop everything for her. Though, of course, it could be interpreted however you want.

Anyway, in case I bore anyone, the notes above were mainly directed to Fuyu Kitsune, who proposed the challenge. Her challenge is below:

1. Kagome/Sasuke/Itachi – it doesn't have to be romantic, but there has to be a deeper sort of connection between the three characters and the actual events in the story. What is mean is, the relationship between the characters should be the driving force of the story.

2. If possible, Itachi's presence should be felt in the story without him actually being there.

3. If there is romance, it should be presented in a more…I don't know how to say this without it sounding weird…selfish way. For instance, the feeling of love has to be strong. But, there must also be a selfish reason why Kagome is in love with a character.

4. The story must show character depth. Perspective would be a plus, meaning that characters see a side of the situation that may or may not necessarily be true or accurate. Of course, it's not necessary to include this if you don't understand what I mean.

5. I like it bittersweet. Call me weird, but I've always found bittersweet stories to be more powerful than simply sweet or bitter. Surprise me.

Well, I don't know if I accurately met all the criteria. But, I tried my best. Now, I would like to hear how far off (or close) I was to the challenge you had in mine. Of course, I would also love to hear what everyone else thinks. :P