Disclaimer: I do NOT own Naruto. I DO own Youshi Garukin (although, let's face, nobody would want to!) Ai Mizuri remains the sole property of xEMOtIoNaLLyCOnSTipaTEDx-
A/N: Okay, first of all, the answer to the challenge was: (drum roll please) Mikoto Uchiha! It's given away by Kaisuke's urge to call the voice Grandma.
I would also like to thank Princesse Hatake, for my favourite review of this story and some extremely insightful ideas. If anyone is ever stuck with something, you should seek the wrting genius of Princesse Hatake, and all will be well again!
The Missing Chapter - Sharingan Showdown
"You're positive it's him?" demanded Sasuke as he and Youshi burst through the east gates of Konoha.
Youshi turned his head slightly toward Sasuke and gave a half glare. "Just how many Sharingan users do you think are out there?"
"Hn" snapped Sasuke deciding to now ignore the other man. If he couldn't answer a simple question without getting defensive then Sasuke had no urge to talk to him. It wasn't as though Youshi was one of Sasuke's favourite people anyway. He saw the way he looked at Sakura when he thought no one was looking. Sasuke made a mental note to have serious words with Youshi about that. After he'd dealt with his brother though.
After several hours of running through thick forest, they came upon a group of three small ruins and a growing clearing. Sasuke stopped in his tracks and brought his Sharingan to life.
"This is where he was last sighted." whispered Youshi as the two men dropped into a crouch amongst the tree branches and leaves.
Sasuke turned to face Youshi, the index finger of his left hand held to his lips as his right pointed over to several bushes at the edge of the ancient ruins.
"Is it him?" whispered Youshi, his whisper growing even quieter and his crouch more tense. There were very few people who could make Youshi nervous but the Uchiha's were definitely on that list.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed angrily while Youshi's widened in fear.
Itachi, closely followed by a rather shocked Kisame, emerged from the only ruin that still had its roof. Itachi's Sharingan blazed in the growing light as he turned and locked glares with Sasuke.
"I was being to wonder if you were ever going to show up." smirked Itachi. He waited until Sasuke, and Youshi, had leapt down from the canopy before continuing. "A little birdie has been telling me how strong you've gotten, Little Brother. I must admit, I'm glad you survived Sound. That was not the death for an Uchiha!"
"You'd know all about that!" snapped Sasuke.
"I suppose I deserved that." Itachi grinned and chuckled slightly.
"You deserve more than just that!" hissed Sasuke.
"Now, now Little Brother." smirked Itachi. "Temper is one thing neither of us should be losing right now."
"You can't tell him what to do!" shouted Youshi.
"KEEP OUT OF IT, WORM!" bellowed the Uchiha brothers as one.
Youshi instantly shut up and stepped back slightly making sure he was well out of either Uchiha's reach. He glanced around for a safe (ish) spot to watch from and soon leapt up on to a nearby tree branch.
"Should we wait for your little pink haired friend? Or is that blonde loud mouth waiting for your signal?" sneered Itachi, scanning the edges of the clearing as he spoke.
"We came alone!" Youshi called out.
"Nice friend you've got there." Itachi smirked, giving a nod of mocking thanks to Youshi before turning to grin at his younger brother. "Tell me…" started Itachi as he glared up toward Youshi before dropping his gaze back down to Sasuke. "…is he trying to get you both killed?"
Sasuke didn't reply. He couldn't help butt think that perhaps his brother was right about Youshi but shook the thought from his mind and dropped in to a fighting stance. His body language making it clear that the time for talking had passed.
Itachi smirked as, he too, lowered himself in to a ready stance. "Very well then. Let us begin."
Kisame stepped forward but quickly drew back at the deadly growls coming from Sasuke and Itachi. "Keep out of this, Kisame." hissed Itachi.
They charged as one, fists and feet clashing and sending each other crashing backwards, Sasuke in to a tree and Itachi into the wall of the closest ruin. They were both back on their feet in less than a second and charging again.
"I can see my little birdie was right!" grinned Itachi, letting several kunai loose at his brother, who dodged them with ease and sent several flying straight back at him. "Your skills are impressive, Sasuke. But their not going to be enough to save you!"
Sasuke launched several shuriken speeding toward his older brother, inwardly cheering at the hiss of pain they caused as the blade sliced in to Itachi's left leg. The hiss quickly turned to a roar of anger as Itachi charged at him, gripping his upper arms so tightly they were sure to bruise, and slammed him against yet another tree.
"You're still too weak, little brother." smirked Itachi. "Let me end your suffering."
Before Sasuke had the chance to speak, Itachi called out the one jutsu that still terrified all who heard its name.
Sasuke cautiously got to his feet. The ground beneath him felt shaky, distorted, off balance somehow.
"Welcome back, little brother." came Itachi's voice from seemingly nowhere. "This world has missed you."
Sasuke glanced around, his Sharingan blazing, trying to find Itachi. Instead of his brother, he found his worst nightmare, the memory that still caused him to wake in a cold sweat.
His mother and father being cut down before him, hiss entire family laying in deaths shroud all around him. Their silent voices screaming in his mind for vengeance, their blood coating the ground so thick that Sasuke feared he would drown in its flow. He saw his younger self, crying out for his mother, for safety, for somebody to help him.
Sasuke struck out wildly, the anger and fear quickly getting the better of him. Never in his life had he been so afraid as he had that day and it was beginning to build within him once more.
He turned away from the scene, but an even more terrifying one greeted his eyes. Naruto and Kakashi were chained to large rocks and were being beating to death by a version of Sasuke. Sasuke closed his eyes trying to escape, desperate to escape before…
Sasuke's eyes snapped open. NO! screamed his voice and mind as one. Sakura was being held down by several of Itachi's men. Itachi himself was tearing at her clothes, stripping her bare. Itachi opened his own trousers and knelt down between Sakura's held open legs. He forced his manhood inside of Sakura, thrusting deeply and painfully within the pink haired girl as she screamed out for Sasuke to save her, begged him to make Itachi stop.
The world Itachi had created began to tremble and shake. A deep growl erupted form somewhere within Sasuke's throat before escaping the man as a burst of pure hatred.
Suddenly, there was a hand on Sasuke's shoulder, calming the fury and stilling the mans movements before he could charge at his brother for what he was doing, before he lost all control of himself to the rage of seeing his Sakura being violated.
Sasuke turned, ready to kill the interruption, only to freeze at the sight that greeted him.
"Sakura?!" he gasped, eyes their normal black, mouth hanging open in shock.
Sakura smiled up at Sasuke. "None of this is real, Sasuke-kun. I'm not here. I'm not in any danger. He wants you to loose control. If you do, he will win."
Another figure appeared on Sasuke's other side, also resting their hand on his shoulder and whispering calming words. This person shocked Sasuke more than Sakura's sudden appearance had. "M… Mother?!"
"Listen to Sakura, my son." his mother said with a smile. "You know the truth. Sakura is safely under Naruto's protection. She is not the image you see your brother toying with. You have nothing to fear in this world. He can not beat you here if you do not fear what he shows you. That is the power of the Mangekyo. Fear. You have nothing to fear from images that you know love you in true life."
Sasuke nodded, understanding. He bowed slightly to their images as Mikoto and Sakura stepped away from him and vanished in to nothingness.
Another image came to Sasuke's mind. A small wooden kunai with a heart carved in to the handle, attached to a cord that hung around his neck. A gift from Sakura, a sign of her love for him.
Sasuke closed his eyes as he raised his hand to his chest, felt the tiny wooden dagger hiding beneath his top. "You are the weak one, Itachi." he announced as he opened his eyes once more, Sharingan blazing and tomes spinning wildly. "To think that I would be afraid of you, afraid of this!"
Itachi stood up as the image of Sakura exploded into smoke beneath him. He had not commanded it to go. He glared over at his little brother and felt fear for the first time in his adult life.
Sasuke looked like he was glowing. The strength and power in his chakra expanding all around him. Itachi tried to brush off the growing feeling of dread, the feeling that perhaps he had pushed his little brother a little too far with this one.
"I am not afraid of you." said Sasuke, his voice low, a deep threat carrying in the words. He raised his head and locked gazes with his, more than a little startled, older brother.
"I AM NOT AFRIAD OF YOU!"
The world around them exploded! The images cracked and shattered before falling like broken glass, smashing against the ground like a thunder storm.
Kisame and Youshi both gasped in fright when Itachi and Sasuke seemed to explode with light. Kisame, who was still on ground level, quickly leapt up into the nearest tree branches to escape form the blast wave that sent both brothers flying in opposite directions.
Sasuke crashed into the base of the tree Youshi was crouched in, almost knocking the man out of his hiding place.
Itachi was sent crashing through the wall of the building he and Kisame had originally been waiting in.
Kisame leapt back down and raced over to his friend. "Itachi!" he yelled. "Itachi, are you alright?!"
Itachi coughed, some blood flying from his lips. "He's stronger!" he gasped. "He broke out of my Mangekyo!"
Kisame's eyes widened. "How? How is that possible?!"
"It's not meant to be!" Itachi said coughing up some more blood. "But he did it anyway!"
Kisame took a defensive stance between his friend and the coming threat that was Sasuke. Itachi struggled to his feet and gripped his friend on the shoulder. "No, Kisame." he said quietly. "This is my fight. I started it many years ago, it's time I finished things."
Kisame was left with little choice but to watch his friend cross the distance between him and Sasuke. Kisame had a bad feeling about where this fight was heading but tried to shake it off. He tried to convince himself once more that no-one could ever beat Itachi, even if the doubt now instilled by Sasuke refused to budge.
The battle raged on for the rest of the day and long in to the night. Fire jutsu's, kunai, shuriken and anything else that came to hand was launched at each brother, only to be deflected or destroyed by yet another, close to hand, defence.
Itachi and Sasuke were both bleeding badly, wounds appearing on every inch of exposed skin and weapons tearing through their clothing to make even more.
Several tree were now ablaze, thanks to Sasuke's Chidori while other where flattened after multiple weapons strikes.
Itachi staggered back as Sasuke stumbled forwards. Both men were extremely unsteady on their feet. Their moves were becoming sloppy as their energy started to run out. Itachi gripped a rock tightly in his hand and used what little strength he had left to launch it at his brothers head.
Sasuke staggered slightly on his feet, his death-like grip on his katana the only thing keeping him on his feet. He glanced down in time to see to rock flying towards him but not enough energy to get out of the way in time.
The rock collided with his chest, a crack resounded deep within him, letting him know that at least one of his ribs had just been broken.
"It's time to end this." Itachi said, struggling to get enough air into his badly broken body. Sasuke, gasping for breath himself, merely nodded and staggered closer to his brother. Sasuke raised his katana, ready for the final strike.
Kisame yelled out, racing to get to his friend's aid in time, desperate to save him. He raised his own sword. He was going to take Sasuke's head clean off for what he had done to Itachi.
Kisame quickly closed the distance, his rage growing with each step. He swung the sword, ready for the kill.
Kisame staggered backwards. The blow to his chest knocking the very breath from his body. His eyes locked on to those off his attacker and widened. "I… Itachi? Why?" he gasped.
Itachi had thrown himself in front of Sasuke, protecting his brother with everything he had left. Sasuke was gasping for breath, and going in to shock, behind him. He tried to turn, to comfort his brother, only to realise what he had truly done.
Itachi's eyes slid down his own body. Blood was seeping out from almost everywhere but that wasn't what had him smiling. "It's over." he said as his eyes locked on to the katana that was wedged through him, Sasuke's katana.
With strength that he wasn't even aware he had, Itachi pulled himself clear of the katana and slowly sank to his knees. He met his brothers eyes, black locking with black. "Forgive me, Sasuke."
"Why did you do that?!" Sasuke demanded, his strength vanishing as he too dropped to the ground, his knees hitting the cold ground hard, sending shockwaves through his already traumatised body.
"It wasn't Kisame's fight." Itachi struggled for breath, for strength that was leaving him all too quickly. "No matter how much you hated me…" he coughed up a mouthful of blood as he collapsed to the ground. "…you're still my little brother."
"Some family we make." chuckled Sasuke as he too coughed up blood and winced in agony.
Itachi struggled and wriggled and desperately tried to reach his brothers side. His strength gave out less than a foot away from his goal. He locked gazes with Sasuke again and gave his little brother a weak glare.
"Don't you dare die!" cough, gasp. "You're free now. Free of me, of the rage." gasp, wheeze. "What would Mother say if we both showed up at the same time?" wheeze, cough, choke, gasp. "Go home Sasuke. Home to Sakura."
Sasuke gasped and struggled for breath as his brother smiled at him, a genuine happy smile. Itachi fought desperately to keep his eyes open, to fend off his impending death for just one moment longer. "I saw what happened in there. I saw who saved you."
"I love her." whispered Sasuke, his own death looming in on him.
"Then live for her." Itachi whispered back. He reached out to his little brother, grateful that Sasuke reached out to him too. As soon as their hands touched, Itachi used what little strength he had and sent the tattered remains of his own chakra into his younger brothers body. "Live for her."
Sasuke felt the surge of Itachi's chakra burning through him, healing just enough of his injuries to stave off death. He watched as Itachi's body slumped and his eyes became to close for the final time. "Itachi!" he gasped. Itachi barely managed to keep his eyes on his brothers as he heard the words he had longed for ever since that awful night. "Itachi, I forgive you."
Itachi went in to deaths waiting arms with a smile on his face. Sasuke's body slumped as consciousness left him, drawing him into the darkness.
"Is it over?"
Youshi leapt down from the tree he had watched on from and made his way over to Sasuke and Itachi's still body's. He scanned Sasuke's body and found a weak but fighting heartbeat while it was clear that Itachi had gone to the grave.
"Their dead." he announced, a grin growing on his face.
Kisame made his way over to his fallen friend and gentle picked up his body. He glared at Youshi when the man turned to walk away. "Aren't you going to take his body for burial?"
"Why should I? It's not like we were friends." chuckled Youshi.
Youshi turned just in time to see Kisame charge. He had no time to get out of the way and barely enough time to defend himself.
Youshi soon found himself beaten and bloody and begging on his knees at Kisame's feet. "You led him to battle hoping he'd die, didn't you?!" snapped Kisame. "WHY? Why would you do that?"
"He had something I wanted." coughed Youshi, struggling to get to his feet only to be knocked back down.
"They were right!" snapped Kisame. "You're nothing but a worm!"
A single punch sent Youshi in to unconsciousness. A single punch filled with rage and hatred and betrayal.
Itachi had been Kisame's best friend, had always spoken so highly, so passionately about his younger brother. Kisame had seen the brotherly bond with his own eyes, Itachi had given his life, his last piece of chakra to save the little brother he loved so dear and this thing had led Sasuke to battle hoping he would die. This thing had betrayed everything the Itachi had been striving for, what he gave very life for. And for what? Jealousy!
Kisame spun around, ready to attack whoever had dared stop him from killing the worm. He froze at the sight that greeted him but only for a moment. Only long enough for his mind and feet to agree and send his rushing towards the interrupter, who caught him as he stumbled and helped him stand again.
"Ai!" he gasped, gripping her tightly in a desperate embrace. He loved this woman more than life itself and had been lost without her. He knew that she didn't feel the same but she didn't ridicule him for his feelings either, nor did she announce them in front of the others and bring him shame.
Now, she returned his embrace, knowing that he needed help to ground himself, to regain control of his emotions.
"Kisame, is Itachi…"
"He's dead." wept Kisame, knowing it was safe to show this side of himself to Ai. "They both are." Kisame pulled back slightly from Ai and looked her in the eye. "Itachi gave his last pulse to save Sasuke but he died anyway."
Ai let go of Kisame and made her way over to Sasuke's body as Kisame continued. "And that worm wouldn't even take him home for burial."
"That's because he's not dead." announced Ai, picking up the faint heartbeat within Sasuke's unconscious form. She rose from her knelling position next to Sasuke and turned back to Kisame. "If Itachi wanted Sasuke to survive, we must honour that. Send a messenger bird for help. If he doesn't get medical aid soon, Itachi's sacrifice will be for nought."
Kisame, refusing to allow the last act of his friend to be in vain, instantly summoned a bird. He ordered it to find medic chakra and drag them to Sasuke if need be. As soon as the bird was back in the air, he turned back to Ai, only to gasp in shock at seeing her lifting the unconscious worm on to her back.
"What the hell are you doing?!" he demanded. "Why are you helping him?!"
Ai, once she had Youshi secure, turned to face Kisame. "He's a Garukin. Not a family you want to have a grudge against you. If he doesn't come home, all of Japan would be sent against the Akatsuki. That's not something I can allow to happen."
As Ai turned and began to walk away, Kisame raced over to her and gently took hold of her elbow. "We miss you, Ai. Konan misses you. I miss you." His eyes locked with hers as he continued. "If you ever need us, you know what to do."
"Thank you, Kisame." Ai said but before she turned away again, she kissed Kisame's cheek and locked eyes with him once more. "Tell my sister that I miss her too, that I'm doing all I can to keep her safe."
Kisame nodded and watched on until Ai was safely away before turning back and picking up Itachi's body once more. He walked over to the tree line but waited, hidden in the shadows of the tree line, for help to arrive for Sasuke. He had a feeling that his friend, even though he was no more, would want him to make sure that Sasuke was going to be alright.
"It's biting me!" screamed Karin as the large bird grabbed at her sleeve yet again.
Suigetsu tried his best to fend off the bird while trying to control to overwhelming urge to laugh at Karin's distress.
Juugo noticed something attached to the birds leg and grabbed it, tearing the small note in his hurry to read it. "It's a messenger bird!" he shouted.
Karin snatched the note from him and tore it even more in her rush. Suddenly, she screamed again and grabbed the bird. "Take me to him!"
The bird instantly released its hold on her and took off in to the air, Karin following closely behind it. Suigetsu and Juugo raced after her. "What's going on?!" demanded Suigetsu as the two men struggled to keep up with the suddenly frantic woman.
"SASUKE'S IN TROUBLE! HE'S DYING!"
No more words were exchanged as the three friends raced to the aid of the man who had saved all of their lives more times than anyone would ever be able to count. It was their turn to repay the favour, and they refused to fail him!
Kisame smiled slightly when he saw three people burst through the tree line and race to Sasuke's side. The woman was clearly a medic-nin of some sort, as his bird was guiding her the most. The two men with her took up defensive positions around the medic as she worked on Sasuke's wounds.
"Your brothers in good hands now." Kisame whispered to Itachi's body as he turned and walked away from the scene. "Let's hope that whatever you gave him was enough."