Some demons never leave, Sasuke will think when he is older. Some lurk in the deepest darkest shadows of the mind and rest until they grow so strong that it overwhelms you. They creep in at the edges of every thought, every heartbeat, every breath.

They consume you until they are a part of you.

They consume you until you yourself become a part of them.

(He is an avenger.)

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black water

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He refuses to refer to his clan's death as a massacre. Not only is the word thrown around too carelessly in a world based on violence and war, but it sounds messy and his brother is too meticulous and efficient for something like that.

He prefers a more significant word. One that sounds clean and bloodless, but is quite the opposite. Something like annihilation. Extinction. Extermination.

He sighs and turns over in his hospital bed.

When he had woken up, he had thought it was a dream. He frowns. No, not a dream. A bad, dark, twisted nightmare that had shattered everything into pieces too sharp and fine to put back together.

Then he had felt the slice on his shoulder and heard the whispers of the nurses and walked the ghost path of his own home and he had realized. He had realized that it had been real.

He had broken down in his house, in the room where the bloodstains hadn't come off and someone had sketched chalk lines of his parents' lifeless bodies. It had been raining, the world had gone black and dead like his heart and his eyes.

He had come back to the hospital because he simply had nowhere else to go back to. He had no home.

The nurses had come to check on him and had seen the rainwater that clung to his very skin and had asked him soft questions that were filled with stinging pity. They stopped asking things when they noticed the drops running down his cheeks were not rain.

He remains in the hospital now. He hasn't eaten much, hasn't had much of a desire to do anything other than to just go numb. He's been here for a whole week, but at this point… at this point, he thinks he is beyond caring.

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They set him up in an apartment with the necessities and come up to check on him once in a while.

One day, the Hokage, smiling, tells him he will return to the academy soon. Sasuke doesn't see the point.

What use will he have for fighting if he's not in competition with his brother?

But he nods.

It is later, when he is lying on a bed far too stiff and cold to be his old one, that he thinks of his scar. He rolls up the short sleeve of his sleeping shirt and stares at it with dull doll's eyes.

It is thin and not too long but still there, even paler than his skin. It will fade with time.

He wonders why no one ever healed it, never did anything other than that bandage that had been on his shoulder the day he woke up.

It makes him a little nauseous when he figures out all of the medical staff must have been helping in the search for survivors and transport of bodies.

It had been an unimportant, miniscule cut. But now it is a very, very large reminder.

The scar will fade with time, but the memories will always be there, fresh as red blood.

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Sasuke does not have nightmares. He refuses to. There is nowhere to go to when he wakes up, and no one to call for in the dead of night when monsters seem most real and take a human shape.

Instead, he does not go to sleep. He lies in bed at night and thinks, thinks long and hard and sadly about his phantom family and their downfall. He thinks of his mother's kind words and his father's cold disapproval and his brother's perfection and does not dream does not scream.

That would make him weak, and he'd be thrice damned before proving Itachi right.

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The grief is still so raw when he returns to the academy and that only makes it so much worse.

The old days there are just a sad, fond little memory that still makes his heart swell with dark, grim depression and the big chunky aching feeling of loss. He does not talk to anybody, does not raise his hand at all, puts little to no effort into his work.

He sees no point.

His classmates talk about him behind his back. They're still young, Sasuke thinks. They're still young but he is too grown up by now. And that's why he can finally see their naivety and ignorance and blind, blind hope for a future full of glory.

His classmates don't seem to care that he is only a few feet away when they bring up the topic of his family's fall from grace. It makes his eyes burn and his chest hurt and he leaves before he's supposed to, and his teacher does not follow him, out of pity.

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He never, ever considers killing himself. He does, however, wonder how he can just stop existing, vaporize up into the sky. Stop thinking, hurting, hating.

How he can just stop missing his brother.

He is old enough to figure out there is no permanent solution for that.

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The lake is his haven. The lake is his solace. The lake is his escape.

He comes here every day after he leaves class, not just because he has nothing better to do, but because it is a place of warmth and pride and good memories, like his father's first and last act of acceptance.

The dock is a symbol of his determination. He had practiced and practiced here until his face was raw and burnt, just to prove himself.

He looks into the slowly moving water, smiling softly, gripped by memories, seeing his father and mother and wondering wondering wondering like he is still a child.

The smile is lost as the image of his reflection warps into the emotionless face of his brother. The fire that had died, in the pit of his stomach, flares up into new life, he sees sparks behind his eyes and can smell the choking smoke.

He jumps into the lake, and the splash and floating descent is cold, but the new, hot, burning fire inside overpowers it all, and in the black water he forges a promise.

It is a fitting place, this symbol of determination, to convince himself he will destroy his demons.

He is only eight years old, but he is thirsty for blood.

(He is an avenger.)

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He decides to close himself off from everything, not put on a mask but the whole shell of a disguise, cut off his emotions to become the perfect killing machine.

To kill his brother, he must first become him, and he knows this, but only in his deepest darkest subconscious.

Because he refuses to believe he is anything like that traitor.

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It is ironic, he thinks then, when he leaves the first people to care for him in a long while and becomes an emotionally dead bloodthirsty traitor himself.

He thinks of the bridge builder and sacrifice and the exams and companionship and the surge of protectiveness and the crushed expressions of Naruto and Sakura and painpainpain and doesn't know exactly when it came to this.

He pretends to convince himself that bonds are better when severed.

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He never considered exactly what to do after his brother was dead, and when it happens, when he finally kills Itachi, the black-blooded traitorous bastard, he wakes up in an unfamiliar place and just feels so dull and hurt and done with life.

Then, then, his world breaks, it fucking breaks again, and he's right back where he's started, on a path of revenge, held up on puppet strings by his own family.

He cries for the first time in the longest time, he hasn't cried this much since he returned to his house after the massacre, and it just feels so unfamiliar. And he can feel it, he can feel it when the fire just dies out and all that's left is ashes and soot and a deep echoing emptiness.

His demons had nothing to do with Itachi.

His demons are his, and he is theirs.

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-PM-