for jade — try to shake this disease. ;;christmas request o4

(a/n) It's...kind of short. D:

You can ignore it when you bring your hand away from your mouth, and the coughing leaves bright speckle-splatters of red in your palm.

You can shrug it off when your stomach lurches, and you violently reject your breakfast of water and protein paste, the acerbic bile foaming over your chapped lips as you dry-heave at the base of a tree.

You can deal with it when you lie semi-conscious every night, every sip of air that goes into your gradually deteriorating lungs bubbling when you breathe as if you were not breathing air but seawater. Drowning.

But all it takes is one seething glance from those eyes to penetrate your soul like acid, reminding you that you put that hatred there. You ripped the life out of those eyes long ago. You burned him out.

Like a vaccination. This may hurt now, Sasuke, but I promise you, you'll be stronger for it in the end. And maybe that means you'll never have to live like this—choking the pills down dry and praying the medicine takes before you vomit again, because the worn and ulcer-shredded walls of your stomach can barely handle soft foods anymore. Your lungs slowly dissolving. Drowning in your own blood.

See, the problem of the Mangekyou Sharingan is more than just encroaching blindness, although that part is very scary. Literally, the trait has been inbred so much that it is no longer a bloodline limit so much as a genetic disease. The vast reserves of chakra that build up in the eyes of a Mangekyou user swirl in tight but erratic patterns, different from the natural flow of the body's chakra. The resonance of those erratic patterns eventually begins to disrupt the body's natural chakra flow. This causes small pockets of stagnation to form, like tidal pools on a beach or areas of standing water near a river. Or tumors.

It's like cancer.

These little stagnant, festering pockets of bad energy eventually get shaken loose and reintroduced to the regular flow, poisoning the healthy chakra. The user's chakra eventually becomes toxic to his own body, attacking vital, chakra-producing organs like the heart, lungs, and stomach. Oh, and of course the eyes. Can't forget those. Actually, once the eyes become completely useless, they can't store chakra anymore and the disease would go away.

Except that the afflicted would long be dead by then.

This is the trade-off for power. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but what kills you slowly makes you even stronger still. For a time. Until your bones start to go, joints aching at night as your very marrow is attacked by angry, energy-depleted cells. One exhumed skeleton you found in the morgue of an old clan stronghold was literally filled with tiny holes.

You can survive, though.

You didn't have to live with this. This wasn't even in the original plan. That plan was to kill every single member of your family. Every single one. Including yourself, when you were a great enough distance away from the village and forget about Konoha, forget about Konoha and Akatsuki and Madara and ANBU and missions and honor and life. Forget about pain. Just oblivion.


But when he was sprawled on the floor after your second or third use ever of the Mangekyou (and already, already you could hear the clock ticking, ticking, ticking down the time before your first bloody cough, first light-sensitive migraine headache, first sudden head rush and momentary loss of coordination), when he was insensate and vulnerable and so, so easy to kill, you looked at him and couldn't even unsheathe your ninja-tō blade. You couldn't do it cold. You couldn't do it in the heat of the moment, either, when he charged at you with all the pure and untainted righteous fury of his eight years, and all it would take was one well-placed kunai to keep him from—well, not from killing you, but at least wounding you—even then, you couldn't do it.

This, you're talking a different kind of cancer.

Who knows when it first started growing. Maybe when you'd come home from Great Fireball practice with Shisui, singed and angry because he was going off to the Academy and you still had another year of clan training, when you snuck into your baby brother's room and talked to him in his cradle, talked about big things and little things until you were tired and forgot your anger and fell asleep curled up on the floor.

Or maybe the first time he said your name, chubby young fingers clutching at the ends of your hair as he giggled and repeated, "Iiiii-tash'! Iiiii-tash'!" over and over, long before he learned "tou-san" or "kaa-san."

Or maybe the first time he ever threw a shuriken properly, when he looked up at you with shining eyes and you tried to smile but couldn't quite do it right because you didn't want to think about him throwing one at an enemy.

Maybe every time he looked at you with pure innocence and admiration, or stayed up late training when he thought you weren't there to see his young attempts to surpass you, to make your father proud. Maybe that's when you started to realize it was too late.

For a shinobi, there is no malady more deadly than love.