Part 4

Method in His Madness

At last awake

From life, that insane dream we take

For waking now.

'Easter-Day' (1850) l. 479

I gathered all the things I needed for a shower up in my room. I really needed one after so many hours of sweating as I sat, unable to move. As the better organized one, Sasuke collected what he needed faster. I heard him when the door of his room opened and closed and, a couple of seconds later, I heard him enter the bathroom.

There was no hurry, my mind was still hazy and disbelieving and my body kinda stiff, so I did a couple of squats, trying to shake it all off. I didn't like that Sasuke was alone, now more then ever. There was no telling what was he planning to do after what happened that night, but I knew what I was planning to do. I wouldn't leave him, not even to sleep alone.

I smiled as the door of the bathroom opened again and picked up my things quickly. It wasn't just so I'd catch Sasuke walking out all wet and fresh, I really wanted a shower. But the hallway was empty.

I thought of how weird that was. I'm pretty sure I heard the door open. Was it possible he was in his room already? But wouldn't I hear his bedroom door, too? Goosebumps crawled up my arms, and it wasn't from the cold. Maybe I'd ignore doors opening on their own another time but not when I was starting to believe the place was haunted.

I didn't want to barge into the bathroom uninvited and compromise whatever little ground Sasuke and I found ourselves sharing, so I quietly walked to the door and listened. I could hear voices inside and the water running. It couldn't be whispering because I wouldn't be able to hear that at all. I couldn't be sure to whom the voices belonged.

Should I knock? Call? But what if Sasuke was already in his room and it was someone else inside? I didn't really want to barge in on Orochimaru in pink negligee, talking to himself in the mirror, even if that would scare him half way to death. Then again, Orochimaru was in the other part of the house and there was another bathroom there. What would he be doing here?

Something banged inside and I panicked: what if Sasuke wasn't too young after all? There was no thinking after that, I opened the door and pushed inside the bathroom. It was blindingly white, or was the hallway so dimly lit, and the sudden change startled me. Sasuke was standing with his back to the sink. He glanced at me as I stormed in but it was only for a second before he turned his wide, confused eyes back at the man standing in front of him…

Itachi? What was he doing, why wasn't he turning to look back, why was he even here?

"Itachi?" I finally asked hesitantly when no one else spoke.

There was no answer and Sasuke moved a little bit to the side, as if he was trying to move without disrupting his brother. His eyes were still fixed right in front of him. I blinked and recognized fear.

Two careful steps into the room later, I was close enough to see Itachi's profile. He had his eyes shut and his forehead was wrinkled and sweaty, like he was in a lot of pain. I stepped forward to him, meaning to ask what was wrong, if I could I help him, but then Sasuke's annoyingly slow movement burst as he almost jumped to grab my reaching hand.

"Don't, something's wrong…"

He had started saying, but then Itachi opened his eyes and he moved too. Sasuke's hand was violently ripped away from my wrist as Itachi stood between us, facing his brother.

"Don't let him touch you." Itachi said, in an odd, shaky voice, titling his head just a little so I would know he was talking to me. "You have to go - you have to go before he burns you."

"What?" I asked, utterly confused. "Burns me - what?"

Itachi stepped back, forcing me to retreat a little and Sasuke leaned back on the wall. I was talking to Itachi, but my eyes were staring next to the wall where Sasuke stood with his hair wet and a towel around him, looking like he couldn't decide if he should scream or slide down the wall.

"Just trust me. " Itachi told me again, but I couldn't. I didn't understand anything.

"Okay." I forced out somehow. "Okay. But he's trapped in the bathroom. He can't do anything. Can't we – call someone?"

There was no answer. No one moved. I kept looking at Sasuke, at his face and, ghosts or not, insanity or not, there was no way I would believe he would hurt me, much less burn me. Not one single muscle moved on Itachi. He seemed determined to stand between me and his brother. He seemed determined to protect me.

I said to calm him down. "Orochimaru is here. He surely has some drugs on him. We can put Sasuke to sleep if he's that dangerous."

Itachi straightened a little. I almost sighed in relief. But when he moved, he also raised his right hand and I finally saw what Sasuke was so afraid of what was he staring at and backing up from. Itachi was holding a knife.

"I have to take care of this, there's no one else."

I was too stunned to think, to process what he said, but when Itachi lunged in, I moved on some reflex and pushed him, as hard as I could, to the side. Fortunately, Sasuke didn't waste time. He was in the middle of the room, almost next to me, when I spun around.

Itachi didn't fall down, he just crashed into the sink. When he turned to face us, I stepped back thinking. His face, his eyes, that blank look he was giving to the wall before, was now directed at us, the both of us. It was like – like he wasn't there anymore. Like Itachi's body was a puppet doll, being moved around by someone who wasn't in there.

My mouth felt jammed as I retreated another step and bumped into Sasuke's shoulder. His skin was very cold, from the shower and fear as his brother reinforced the grip he had on the knife. No one was moving so I opened my moth to say something. Anything to say…

"Kakashi!" My voice was too loud, so loud Itachi halted and blinked, but it felt better than anything else in the world, so I screamed again. "Kakashi!"

That was all I had the time to do, before the knife glittered high above out heads. I didn't notice when Sasuke put his hand on my shoulder, but when he pushed me away from him, it was with so much force, I stumbled and fell on the side. Itachi ignored me, completely focused on his brother again. From the floor, the only thing I could do was mime what Sasuke did to me first time we had a fight; I arranged my weight quickly and kicked Itachi in his knee, using my heel.

Because of the adrenalin, fear, I used enough force to feel and hear the bone breaking. It was too loud, horrible and for a moment, I wanted to puke. Itachi was falling down in such irrational silence, like watching a slow motion scene without the music on the background. His face was blank, eyes open wide, and I couldn't do anything but stare at him.

Sasuke tugged at my sleeve. "Come on, get up, we have to go…"

I let him help me up but my gaze still on Itachi, who frowned and reacted on Sasuke's words. I was being as good as dragged backwards, and I still couldn't take my eyes off Itachi's; not now when his dark, empty eyes were looking right at me. It almost felt as if he was trying to force some of his emptiness into me…

I shuddered violently, all the fright caught up with me, as Sasuke shut the door behind us. I was barely aware we were already in the hall, I only snapped out when Sasuke turned to me.

"You okay?" The knob under Sasuke's hand turned and when he failed to open the door, Itachi banged at them from the other side. I didn't even manage to answer when steps echoed behind us, up the stairs and turning around the corner.

"Naruto? Naruto, what happened?"

That was Obito and, even though he was talking to me, he was walking around to reach Sasuke.

"He tried to kill us." I said, every word scratching my throat sore from the screaming. Maybe only when I said it, it dawned on me. No, Itachi wasn't trying to kill us, he was trying to kill Sasuke. He was trying to stab his brother.

"He tried to kill me." Sasuke echoed my thoughts. "He had a knife, he wanted to carve out my eyes…"

Itachi finally remembered that the door opened from his side and he yanked it towards him. Sasuke seemed to be expecting it. He stumbled a little anyway, but Obito helped him by grabbing the knob. He still looked confused and lost, the gesture was clearly automatic.

"Naruto?" I felt Kakashi's hands trying to turn me to face him. I couldn't, I couldn't stop looking at the door. Itachi was still trying to yank them open. "Who is in there? Who attacked you?"

"What?" I answered unhelpfully, so Kakashi used more force to turn me to himself. I blinked and looked at his worried face, at Orochimaru standing behind me, and I got angry. How did we get this all so wrong? I saw it, didn't I? I saw Itachi acting weirdly, but I never bothered to think about it seriously. Was he planning something like this weeks ago, when I found him lurking outside of Sasuke's room? "What the fuck do you think? You were trying to lock up the wrong fucking brother!"

Kakashi glanced around him, as if he was surprised that Itachi wasn't somewhere next to him. Orichimaru retreated further behind him. I didn't care, so I didn't say anything.

"That's Itachi?" Obito asked shakily. In response, the door banged, but Itachi was still quiet in the bathroom.

"Yeah." Sasuke answered his uncle. "I was showering and he walked inside and started talking nonsense. He had a knife. Said he had to cut my eyes out."

"What?"

Obito was really shaken up, but he was still holding the doorknob.

"Naruto?" Kakashi asked, squeezing my hand.

"Yeah, yeah." I told him, guessing right he wanted confirmation from someone he believed more. "I was waiting for my turn in the bathroom, and I heard the door open so I…" I shock me head to myself – they don't need every detail, I can tell them later. "He had a knife, and he was attacking Sasuke. He could've hurt me but he didn't want to, he was warning me off – and he was trying to kill Sasuke."

Not very eloquent but Kakashi nodded. "You two, go down to our room. We'll take care of this."

He was talking to Sasuke, too. But Sasuke was now staring at the doorknob, much like I was staring at Itachi before and not moving. He was shaking in his towel, it was really late and very cold in the old house. I didn't wait to be told twice, I didn't want to see Itachi's eyes ever again.

"Come on." I said when Sasuke didn't move even after I took his forearm and pulled. "You need to dress – they'll take care of it."

Sasuke forced his arm out of my grip, and threw me a glare, but he moved. I followed him down the stairs, all the way to Kakashi's and Obito's room and watched him dress into his uncles cloths that were too big and too bright for him. Sasuke wasn't complaining.

Neither of us talked as we listened to the noise upstairs, wondering what was going on. I knew Kakashi could handle it, but I was still worried. Itachi was clearly out of his head, completely crazy. That look… and that knife. He was trying to kill his brother. Why? Becaue he though Sasuke was crazy? What a fucked up family.

At some point while I was pacing the room, Sasuke found his way under the covers. It was rather cold, so I closed the window and went to bed myself. There wasn't a whole lot of space, but Sasuke was lying at one end, clearly leaving me a side, so I crawled under, dirty cloths and all, without asking for permission.

Sasuke sniffed. "You stink."

"I saved your life." I snapped at him, gathering a blanket around me. "I can stink all I want."

Sasuke didn't answer, and so we watched the ceiling and waited for some news. The sounds the others were making upstairs were too low to make out what was going on.

"You didn't save my life." Sasuke said after a minute. When I looked at him, he was staring in the ceiling, expressionless. "He wouldn't have hurt me."

I thought about Itachi's eyes, blank and dark. About the knife in his hand. Sasuke was in denial. There was no way he could have gotten out of that bathroom on his own without al least being severely hurt.

"Right." I answered, not wanting to point that out. Itachi was his brother. I was angry and scared but being attacked by your own brother was much worse. "Well I'm not leaving you here alone, even if I have to go to the bathroom."

Sasuke tore his eyes from the ceiling to look back at me, a small frown between his brows. "I didn't say I wanted you to go."

"No, you told me I stink." I snapped.

Under the blanket, Sasuke turned to face me, putting his cheek under his gathered hands. "Just because my brother… I didn't forget why you stink."

He closed his eyes before he finished the sentence. I couldn't find anything to answer, so we stayed like that laying next to each other in the silence until Kakashi came in some minutes later.

"Sleeping?" He asked opening the door. His clear loud voice would have woken us up if we were sleeping.

"Is he okay? You didn't hurt him, did you?" Sasuke asked, sitting up in the bed already. "I didn't know what happened, but I'm sure he didn't mean it…"

Kakashi raised a hand to stop him. "He wasn't even resisting when confronted him. Orochimaru gave him something and he is asleep upstairs in his room, locked up. There's nothing to worry about."

I let my head fall down at the pillow, in relief. That was good to hear.

But it wasn't enough for Sasuke. "And what now? What will you do now?"

"You will talk to your uncle in the morning about that. Get some sleep now; I just wanted to make sure you are okay."

"Fine." I told him through a yawn. Damn, but cradling someone and then fighting against an armed man in a bathroom surely knew how to exhaust people. "You know what would make it even more fine? Cocoa."

Kakashi quietly snickered and closed the door. I think both Sasuke and me were asleep before he came back, but in the morning, there were two mugs of cold cocoa on a tray next to my side of the bed. It made me smile and determined to start the last day of visiting the Uchiha country house as pleasantly as possible, given the circumstance.

***

They packed Itachi in a car, so drugged they had to help him get to into the backseat, and took him away. Kakashi wanted to stay, but that just wasn't going to happen. Obito was going out of his head, completely freaking out, poor guy. Orochimaru, thank God, left with them. So it was just Sasuke and me, staying alone in the house. We only had one car. There was no way we would all fit. So the deal, that Kakashi would come the next day to pick us up, was the best we could come up with on such short notice.

I had to keep an eye on Sasuke in the meantime.

I wasn't afraid. I mean, I've been living with Sasuke in the same house for so long already. He had never given me the uneasy feeling Itachi was. I wasn't afraid of him, but I was afraid for him. He hadn't been well for so long and maybe dealing with what happened the previous night could just be the one straw that broke the camel's back

He looked at the blank walls for far too long now when no one but me was around. He just sat and stared, no longer into space, a book or his own knees, but into the walls. He must have been seeing something there again. Or was expecting to start seeing something again. I tried asking, but he just shook his head in a manner that left me with doubt if the gesture was refusal to answer, or the answer itself.

His words kept haunting me. He has no eyes… The ghost had no eyes, how can you watch something with bleeding holes instead of eyes for so long, and remain so stoic? I would never be able to do that. I'd go insane. I think that the only way you could get away with your sanity intact would be if you were already crazy.

The change made me wary. Sasuke openly flinched when I dropped my fork at breakfast, which was something I've never seen him do before. He was so careful with Itachi and Obito around. It felt as if I was only then seeing the real Sasuke; he rubbed his eyes often, which made them even redder, and he slouched, like a guilty person, all the time now.

The day was rainy. It wasn't hard, just drizzling constantly, the sky cloudy and the wind loud in the trees. I had been sleepy all day but I wanted to stay awake and keep an eye on Sasuke. More and more often, he'd turn from the wall to watch me back out of the corner of his eye, deep frown on his face but silent. I thought it was better, but it made me a little uneasy. Maybe the ghost changed the spot? Maybe it was behind me now?

But no, that wasn't it. Sasuke was looking at me and somehow, that wasn't making me feel any better.

We weren't talking. I wasn't feeling like it. Sasuke obviously wasn't feeling like it, either. The day was long and filled out with nothing but rain, silence and heavy thoughts.

When the evening came, I realized I was a little afraid of Sasuke. Not just freaked out of the ghost thing and the empty house, but not willing to go near him at all. For the first time, I realized the redness of his eyes was more visible at electrical light. When I was near him, at the table or in the living room, or wherever, I could see every little single red line in his eyes, they were even purple and violet on the edges. After noticing that, I did my best not to be too near.

And there was something else lurking around my mind. How did I know he wasn't the one who attacked Itachi? After all, I got there late. Maybe Itachi took the knife from him. He was warning me, wasn't he? So okay, he wasn't very lucid about it, but if he was attacked… I just had no way to be sure, and I was alone with the guy in the house. It was scaring me.

Around ten in the evening, I couldn't take it anymore. I started walking around the house, just to be away from Sasuke. I'd start climbing the stair, my favorite part, go down to the part of the house where Orochimaru stayed, walk by Itachi's room and then to the hallway Sasuke's and mine room were in, down the stairs into the kitchen, carefully not going into the living room where Sasuke was and then repeat all that again. It was keeping me alert, I was thinking. If Sasuke snapped on me, I'd be ready.

On the seventeenth or maybe the eighteenth walk, I saw the knife laying in the kitchen and I took it. Better me to have it, than he, right? Who knew what Sasuke would do with it if he found it.

I was somewhere half way up the stairs when I heard steps behind. Not even thinking about it, I ran back down and saw Sasuke at the door.

"Where are you going?"

He turned back, the deer caught in the headlines look on his face. Maybe some fear, too. It looked like he was realizing I was onto him and was running away. He didn't even answer me, he just ran out. I followed him to the door and stopped. I was worried about him but I was mostly happy for the moment that he was out of the house. I mean, if he was out, then I wasn't in danger.

I stood at the door and looked into the darkness. I couldn't see which way Sasuke went. It was raining harder by then; everything was really dark and wet. The wind was crashing into the windows of the house, making shattering noise; it was crashing against my face too, so I closed and locked the door and had dinner.

I fried some sausages. There were good, too. But with a forkful of goodness half way to my mouth, a thought occured to me. The village was not very far. I doubted Sasuke went there, among too many people – he was such a loner, after all, but maybe some unfortunate soul was out there, lost in the dark.

He could hurt someone. And it would be my fault, because I was so eager to get rid of him. I let him go. I should have stopped him. If something happened to anyone, it would be on me alone, because Sasuke clearly wasn't responsible for his actions.

I had no choice. There was no one else, after all. We were only ones there. Sasuke was too much of a danger, and I had to take care of him. Wasn't that what his brother would do? Stop him before he became responsible for someone's death, before he smeared his hands with blood. Better me than him, right?

I took the knife and walked out. The wind, so cold, so strong, it was messing with my steps, it was messing with the little very vision the dark and the rain were leaving me. I had to be careful, but I had to hurry as well. Sasuke had a head start. I had to catch up.

My steps were heavy, but I was getting through as fast as I could. I looked into every angle of the yard I could think of, under the table, behind the fence. Once my eyes got used to the dark, it wasn't that bad. Sasuke was not there. He was somewhere further away.

Next to the river, maybe? He was always there before. It was worth checking out.

Sasuke wasn't there. He also wasn't near that tree on the edge of the field of clover, either. I walked a long time around the meadows and around the trees, avoiding the branches that were bent by wind to snap back in my face. I couldn't find him anywhere.

Maybe he was crazy enough to go to the village, after all. I had to find him. But I went out without a jacket and I was wet. It was probably better to go back to the house first and change, and then try the village.

The lights seemed the same to me when I went through the little gate. There was no was of telling if Sasuke was in the house or not. But he ran out, why would he be back? Especially if no one was there.

I was careful when I walked in. Something moved toward the kitchen, so I yanked the knife out and stepped closer. It was already too late, when I looked back on the noise behind me, it was only to see a shovel landing on my head. I had only enough time to think: I was right to be afraid.

***

The sheriff was around again. I wanted to tell him, I really did. But he wouldn't have believed me, just like Mother didn't when she was alive. No one wants to believe that the child, innocent little Izuna, is capable of such things. I don't understand it. How can't they see it? How can't they feel it?

I could feel it, I could always feel it. I loved my little brother when he was a baby. But later, he started scaring me. His eyes started getting red, we all saw that. Almost every time he was sent out to take care of cattle or was playing with the dogs, he had red eyes by dark. That couldn't be normal. Both of my parents knew it wasn't, that was why they were always worried. But I know the truth. I am the only one willing to admit that there is something horrible wrong with my brother, something dark and insane, hiding just underneath his happy smiles and too bright eyes. He could snap every second, and even though I know it and I'm being very careful, others don't. One of these days, the sheriff might come to out house never to go back.

There is no one but me. We are alone for so long already, I am he one who feeds us, takes care of the things. I am the one who found a way to keep us under a safe roof out house when the local authority had sent some people to take us to the orphanage. So I have to be the one to deal with this, too.

I've been staling for too long. I can't take it anymore. I can't sleep at nights, thinking about how he pretends to smile at me in gratitude, about his red eyes. It's like he's been somewhere very hot, like he's holding the fires of hell in his eyes. It is just a matter of time when he will stop trying to fool me and try to drag me to that hot and red place with him.

I had to take care of my little brother. There was no one else, no one else understood. And I will have to take care of it now.

I have to prepare things. I have to dig a hole in our basement first.

***

"Naruto?"

I opened my eyes to see him leaning over me. His eyes were so horrible up close, red and dry. And that flat expression, not a flicker of emotion in them. Only a fiend could be so blank.

I had to make sure he doesn't hurt anyone. But when I tried to move, I couldn't. I was tied to a chair, so tightly, just trying to move carefully was painful.

"What are you think you're doing?" I demanded, angry. He tricked me. After all the planning, after all the careful thinking after all these years of knowing exactly what he was, he tricked me. Knowing about it wasn't very helpful against evil.

"You scared me." He straightened up. I saw my knife past him on the table.

"I scared you? I would never hurt anyone." I said. I let out the part where I had to hurt him. I had to stop him. It wasn't as if I liked it. It was just something I had to do.

He put his hands in his pockets. "Well, I hated how you were looking at me the entire afternoon."

"I'm just trying to take care of you." I told him. That part was true, after all. "Who else is there?"

"I don't need you to take care of me." He snapped angrily, showing with that flash in his red eyes just how much he did need someone. It made my skin crawl, the fire in his eyes. What if he wasn't just evil? What if he was… a devil? What if he could burn me somehow just by looking at me?

"But I have to." I tried to reason with him. "Now when mother is dead, there is no one else. Not that she knew about you."

He frowned. "My mother died when I was little. So did yours."

That doesn't matter.

I nodded my head. "And it's just you and me now. Untie me, please?"

He shook his head, still frowning. I hated it. I was afraid. He had me at his mercy. What would he do? What if killing me wasn't the only thing he had in mind? What if he decided to do much worse? How could I be so stupid and let him outdo me?

"No. I don't like it how you look at me. It reminds me of how Itachi was looking at me last night."

Who?

That doesn't matter. He's danger. You must take care of it.

"I was keeping an eye on you, that's all." I said. "I'm older, I have to take care of you."

He opened his mouth, but nothing came for a moment. On the second try, what came out was a quiet, almost awed, "You think you're my brother."

A tiny flame of hope flickered in me. Maybe he forgot who I was. Maybe he won't hurt me now when he remembered.

"I'm not sure if I like it that you almost forgot who I am." I told him, managing a real smile.

He shook his head again, letting his wet hair fall into his eyes. "You are not my brother, okay? Naruto? Do you even know who you are? Or who I am?"

The smile slipped off my face again. He was just fucking up with my mind, the little devil. Playing on my emotions. Well, it worked once, but it won't work twice, I was sure of that.

"That is just not nice. I'm the only family you have, and you should have proper respect for me! Untie me this moment, or I will lock you up for a week!"

"You are not my fucking brother!" He seemed really upset. I knew better. And I was tired of playing. "He went back to the city this morning and he would never try to lock me up!"

"That would be enough, Izuna! This has to stop. I always knew you are no good, but this is unacceptable. I have to take care of you. You have no one else. Let me go right now!"

He wasn't moving though. Nothing was working. Damn it!

"What did you call me?"

"What?"

"My name, what did you call me?"

He was playing with me head again. If I was any weaker, I would have thought that he honestly forgot his own name. No harm in telling him, I guess.

"I called you by your name. Izuna. Did you forget it?"

He was shaking his head again, but there was no vocal answer. He asked instead, "What's your name?"

Again, no harm in telling him. He might let me out, if I make him trust me. "Madara, of course. You really don't remember me? I'm your brother."

I used the gentlest voice I had, but all he said before practically running out was. "Shit. Fuck."

"Watch your language!" I yelled after him, automatically. He didn't answer.

I had no idea where he went. I couldn't see or hear anything. But when he came back, he had an open box with him, full of papers. He seemed excited, all flushed. It was probably something bad. His evil plans, instructions he was getting from someone? I narrowed my eyes.

"This is all the documentation left from my grandfather." He said. I had no idea what was he talking about, but it was without a doubt something to confuse me. "Official papers, letters, things like that. I went through them once or twice when I was younger."

He was babbling, and mostly to himself, not me, so I didn't say anything.

"I knew that name was familiar… Izuna. Izuna Uchiha. That was my grandfather's little brother. He disappeared without trace when he was a boy." He made a face. "I remember my grandfather telling stories about how long and how hard he was looking for his brother. I can't believe it. You were right, I'm not crazy at all."

He smiled at me. I looked for the evilness in it, but I couldn't find it. He was such a good actor.

"And neither is Itachi. And neither are you. This fucking house is haunted."

I had no idea at all what was he talking about.

"Alright." I said, trying to take advantage of his good mood. "Untie me and we can talk about it."

He took out something from the box, ignoring my offer and let me see it. It was a photograph.

"Is this you?" I nodded. He pulled out a small weird mirror so I can see my face. "Well, this is how you look like now."

It wasn't me at all what I saw, but the blond hair, blue eyes with even bluer circles around them… It looked kind of familiar. I took my eyes off the face. It was some kind of trick.

"You are trying to trick me." I accused.

"Your name is Naruto. You live with your godfather, Kakashi, who is dating my uncle – who was, by the way, I think, also a victim like me once, when my father tried to kill him and ended up in mental hospital."

"You are trying to confuse me." I told him, but the truth was, he already managed to confuse me. A tall man with a lot of gray hair danced just on the side of my vision.

"You have an annoyingly persistent protective side and you slurp your soup. But you're not a bad kisser."

"Oh," I groaned. "That's just sick and horrible."

Something in me wasn't agreeing with that statement. Yeah, kissing your brother was horrible, but kissing him, kissing Sasuke… That wasn't horrible at all.

"Yeah, I know." He said. "I literally have to wait until you're done with your soup to be able to eat mine. We'll have to do something about it."

He was smiling and it made me happy. I didn't see him smiling like that, so relived, so happy. Why was I afraid of him? No one who smiled like that couldn't hurt anyone?

But what if he is just trying to trick you…? I couldn't finish the thought, because Sasuke put his palms on my cheeks and kissed me, hard, on the mouth. Seeing that smile so close left me with no choice but to smile back.

"I'm an amazing kisser, as I'm sure you can tell." I told him when he let me inhale properly. "I think you hit me too hard, I was dreaming I was planning to bury someone in the basement."

"Actually, I believe you are possessed." Sasuke said, looking at me carefully. "Or you were."

That had me speechless for a moment. "W-what?"

"I think my grandfather was crazy, and he believed his little brother was evil. He killed the kid, buried him – where did you say, in the basement? – and now they are both haunting this place. But the kid was not trying to hurt anyone, though you were right. He wanted something. He was trying to warn me I was in danger."

I wasn't sure I was following. But Sasuke looked so sure, so relived. So I said: "Okay."

"When I was younger, when my mom died, we came here for a couple of months, Itachi, father, uncle and me. The day before we had to leave, my father, after many weeks of weird behavior, attacked my uncle with a knife. Itachi was big enough to help, and my father died two years later, in the mental hospital. The doctors proclaimed him cured long before that, but he insisted on staying, so he would not endanger anyone. He wasn't crazy, though. He was possessed by his father's ghost."

"His father wanted him to kill his little brother, like he did?"

I was staring to get it. It seems like Sasuke's grandfather wasn't happy with killing his brother. His own son also had allergies… But he never did anything about that on his own. Maybe the doctors told him about it, so he knew it wasn't some evil manifestation. He couldn't kill his own son when he knew that the kid was just sensitive on animal hair.

But he couldn't let go of it, not really. Maybe it was guilt that made him come haunt the house. Maybe he was wandering the hallways, reliving what he did so many times until he lost what was left of his mind, until he forgot everything but that moment of his life when he killed his brother. Then, one day, someone appeared. Someone with red eyes to scare him anew.

And maybe I had a wild imagination.

Sasuke was saying, "Yeah. He seemed to be reliving what he did through his son and later through Itachi – and you." He frowned. "I don't get that part. Why you?"

I offered the obvious answer, "Because no one else was here?"

"I guess."

I thought back on the dream I had, on the feelings behind it. Things that were going through my head were not very clear, but the emotions were strong.

"It's not about blood relation, it's about the responsibility." I said. Sasuke was still frowning. "He didn't kill his brother because there was sign in the sky tell him to do it, he killed his brother because he believed the kid was evil and will snap every second and do something horrible."

"But he wasn't." Sasuke told me, slowly.

"I know that." I rolled my eyes, feeling ridiculous in doing that still tied up to a chair. "But it was what your grandfather believed. And after they were left alone, it was his responsibility. He was the one who had to take care of his little brother. He was the one whose fault would have been if the kid snapped and did something horrible."

"Which he wouldn't have." Sasuke snapped. I had to roll my eyes again.

"I know, Sasuke. I'm not defending him. He was obviously completely crazy." When Sasuke's dark eyes stopped flashing, or at least softened a little, I continued. "The point is, he was feeling responsible. And I was feeling responsible for you, because you weren't well and we were left alone. Like Itachi was feeling responsible for you when you were seeing things."

Or at least, that is how I thought things must have happened. Sasuke had a reaction on the kitten I put into his room, his ghost thought he was in danger because of it with his older brother also haunting the place, so he started showing. Maybe Sasuke was the only one who could see him with a reason, after all. But instead of researching about it, Sasuke thought he was going crazy. Itachi worried which made Madara relate to him and use him to try to get rid of the "evil.".

I was willing to bet something very similar happened to Obito and Sasuke's father.

"I wasn't. It was a real ghost." Sasuke said, with much more satisfaction then the statement deserved it. Ghosts were still creepy, even if that particular one was trying to help him. If anything, knowing they had methods and reasons made me even more scared.

Not sure if he realized it, I said, "It was because of the allergies."

"What?"

"That is what gave your grandfather the idea his little brother was some kind of devil. He was getting red eyes every time he played with dogs, of taking care of the cattle. I don't think they had any idea the kid was allergic."

Sasuke raised his hand to rub his eyes while I was talking, as if trying to rub the redness and the reason he was in danger out of them.

"Thinking back," He said after a moment, "I saw the ghost for the first time that night after you let that cat into my room."

"Um." I said, really, truly sorry. Looking back, I was the one responsible for everything bad that happened that summer. "I'm really, truly sorry about that."

"Well, we have to get out of the house." Sasuke said, and stood up from where he was kneeling in front of me. He took the knife from the table. I didn't like it.

"But – what if it takes over again?"

Sasuke was already cutting the duct tape. "I have the knife. You are clumsy."

"I am not!" I said indigently, amazed with how he can find the way to completely insult me while making it sound like a reassurance.

"And besides, you don't have that empty look in your eyes any longer. That might have not been as obvious on Itachi, but it was very disturbing on you."

I felt around a little. He hadn't sparing any strength when he tied me up. My wrists hurt and the skin where the tape was fastened burned.

Thinking about what exactly he meant, I told him. "It was obvious on him, too. I saw it. I was just too busy thinking about you to pay it proper attention." I muttered the last part. If only I didn't, if I said something to Kakashi…

Sasuke took my hand to yank me out of the chair. "We'll just go out, okay? No holding back. We'll wait for Kakashi in the village."

I agreed and we walked right through the door. It wan't raining too hard outside but we picked up our jackets from the hood behind the door anyways. It was cold. I was still wet from earlier. Watching over the fields swallowed by thick blackness, I shuddered. I had wandered through them, through that darkness all alone without even noticing that I was wet. I had been looking for Sasuke. I had been trying to find him so I could stop him from doing horrible things to the villagers, I had been trying to kill him. With a knife.

Sasuke crossed a deep mud first and turned to make sure I won't have problem. He wasn't upset with me, though he had the right to be. Maybe it wasn't exactly me who was trying to kill him. But I know who he was then. I knew who he was, I remembered him sleeping on my shoulder and how determent he was not to end up like his father, and I was still trying to kill him.

When we reached the mostly even road that led to town, we walked side by side, both deep in thought.

I don't know what Sasuke was thinking about but I was fighting the guilt. I couldn't make up my mind about if it was my fault or not, and I was too tired to think about it properly, so I tried thinking about something else. I didn't quite make it.

They better take out that corpse, if it was still in the basement. That poor boy, killed like that, while his crazy brother got married and later had kids. Had grandkids, told them stories. It was just awful.

When the rare lights from the town were close, the last of the daze was wearing off. I felt relief, quickly followed by anger.

I was used, that ghost used me. It violated me. I couldn't believe the shit I was thinking and feeling. How could I believe all that crap? Looking back, it had no sense. But it was so logical then, so normal. I think I got a snapshot of how craziness looked like. I was, for that one day, crazy. I was slipping deeper and deeper. Where it took Madara Uchiha years, and Itachi months, I took me only one day to get. Was I that weak? Or was Madara's ghost getting desperate because Sasuke was leaving the next day, probably never to come back?

I guess I will never know.

The bus station was empty and cold, even inside. When the dawn came, Sasuke and I were napping in turns uncomfortably, leaning on each other on a bench. It was warmer that way. I held my arm around him when it was his turn, trying to used the free corner of my jacket to make him more comfortable and thinking about what can I do to make up for what I tried to do to him.

I came up with nothing, but thinking about the redemption made waiting for Kakashi while listening Sasuke's restless mumbling bearable. I settled on the hope that I will manage to find a way when I was rested and far, far away from the Uchiha county house.

End


A/N: Aaand, it seems like I can't finish a story without leaving it somewhat open, with space for extras and sequels. That's not very likely to happen, but I still… Heh. XD

I'm sorry I couldn't post it the way I promised, one chapter a week. Next time I try to finish first and post later, I will also have it beta'd before I start posting.

To all of you who came this far – thank you very much for reading and I hope you enjoyed this story!