Warning: AU Alternative Universe, talk of character death and angst, angst, angst- you get the idea.
This fic has been smoothed over for grammar and spelling, but it is the first draft. There's a good reason for this and that is I attended my first funeral last Friday for someone who died far too young and was very important to me and my family. This is my coping method. I express myself best when I write and had no wish to edit whatever came to my mind regarding my own grief.
The funeral I attended inspired this, but this written funeral and the one I attended are not the same one- there are many differences. I had no intention of writing the same thing I have just been though. I have also learnt in such a situation that comfort will come from places you don't expect, and that even the strongest people can break. It was a tough lesson to learn and is reflected here.
And We all Fall Down
By Nanaki Lioness
"Come on, Sasuke. We need to do this."
Sasuke looked up from his spot where he had been half-drifting in and out of sleep on the sofa, eyes widening as he took in the smart form of his brother. He was wearing a full jacketed suit with a plain red tie, hair pulled back neatly as always. He looked as though he was set for a job in an office, though Sasuke knew better.
"I know," he whispered, pulling himself to a stand slowly. "Let me get changed."
"I'll call the taxi."
"Aren't you going to drive us?"
"I can't drive us, Sasuke."
Sasuke didn't question him, but he got his answer when they were standing by the front door waiting to leave and neither could bring themselves to step over onto the porch. Itachi had grabbed Sasuke in a tight hug and Sasuke could smell the whisky on his brother's tight breath.
"I've never been to a funeral before," Sasuke admitted softly as they walked up the garden path side by side to the waiting black cab.
Sasuke had had no questions to field on the subject, which he was glad for since he wouldn't have got his answers anyway. The taxi driver gave them a sympathetic smile as they got into the back of the cab, glancing over his shoulder before driving to the destination he had clearly been filled in on without a word.
It wasn't a long distance. Fifteen minutes or so- the longest fifteen minutes of Sasuke's life to that point, though he knew he was set to experience longer. They arrived far too quickly, Itachi paying the fare and giving a generous tip- or perhaps he just hadn't cared to count the notes he had hastily shoved forward before getting out of the car.
They weren't the first to arrive on the grounds of the church. Members of their extended family they both knew and didn't know, along with family friends and work acquaintances- many, many people stood before them in a sea of white, black and the in-between.
Naruto was running towards them, his blond hair a stark contrast to the dark suit he was wearing. He didn't stop running until he was in Sasuke's arms, tears in his eyes as Sasuke stood numbly and let himself be embraced.
"I'm so sorry," Naruto whispered in his ear. Sasuke still stood without a word, eyes flicking up to Itachi instead. He was standing with his fists clenched, face melancholy as he scanned the crowd of people before them seemingly searching for someone.
"Itachi, we're here, yeah."
Itachi turned behind them to see Kisame and Deidara, both dressed equally smartly and both equally dismal.
"How are you holding up?" Kisame asked, one hand brushing Itachi's shoulder gently before falling to his side. Deidara was less subtle, concern etched plainly across his features as he gripped Itachi's arm tightly.
"I've had better days," Itachi replied impassively, causing small laughs all round before the silence reigned once more.
"Cousin Shisui's here," Sasuke pointed out. Naruto had let him go and was standing to his side biting his lip nervously, clearly ready to comfort the younger Uchiha- or even the older Uchiha- if needed. "Look, Itachi."
"It's been a long time since I've seen him," Itachi replied, indicating by his words that he had noticed the person in question. "He looks different now."
They stayed on the concrete pavement for what felt to Sasuke like an eternity until something caught his attention. A sharp intake of breath from Itachi, both Kisame and Deidara coming to life immediately to put hands out to him for it- Sasuke turned and focused his attention where his brother's was currently being held and wished he hadn't.
A hearse. Two hearses, in fact. Creeping slowly through the gates of the church, people standing on the road slowly edging off to let them come by. Sasuke was thankful they were already out of the way because he didn't think any of them could move right then.
Sasuke carefully averted his eyes as each hearse drove past, feeling them blur as he did so. Naruto had a hand on his arm but he barely felt it, desperately trying to keep his composure in check but losing the battle.
Naruto took him back in his arms. Sasuke let him, eyes once again straying to his brother and feeling his heart leap into his throat when he observed his usually passive sibling watching the two vehicles with eyes that spoke of heartbreak. Itachi swallowed, his jaw trembling as Deidara kept one hand on his arm and Kisame kept one on his shoulder. Both looked as though they wanted to move to embrace him, but neither did.
Sasuke could handle many things, but the sight of his brother so close to breaking he couldn't. He closed his eyes, sending tears down his cheeks as he rested his head on Naruto's shoulder and just tried to transport his mind to a much happier reality. Not the reality where he was at the funeral of his parents. Not the reality where Itachi had become his older brother and both parents rolled in one in the space of a day. Not the reality where so many people sent him pitying looks or brushed a hand across his back, shoulder, arm, wherever.
He wanted his life back. His life, however, was currently being transported inside the small church by pallbearers and the other part of his life was standing a few feet away, just as broken as he was despite his act.
"Come on Sasuke."
Sasuke hated how tight his brother's voice was as he put a hand round his shoulders, prying him from Naruto and walking him towards the church. Sasuke didn't dare risk a glance up to see him.
They didn't hesitate in the entrance and nameless people parted to let them through, all knowing who they were even if neither sibling knew them. A gentlemen in a long jacket and suit guided people to seats, a solemn look on his professional face. He glanced at both Sasuke and Itachi, eyes flickering in recognition as he directed them to the front row.
It was only when they were seated together- Sasuke had gone to the end of the row so he was sitting by the wall- did Sasuke glance up at the two coffins side by side on an elevated platform. A framed photo of their parents taken two years before at Itachi's twenty first birthday greeted him and promptly broke him completely, tears blurring his eyes as he dropped his head almost to his knees and cried bitterly- though quietly, as the room seemed to beg it.
He felt a strong hand around his shoulders- Itachi, of course. Itachi, who had been Sasuke's strength through the whole ordeal, and was continuing to do so even now when they were faced with the most difficult challenge of all- saying goodbye.
Itachi gave him no words- Sasuke knew there were no words to give. He couldn't say 'it's alright' because it wasn't, and he couldn't say 'it'll be okay' because it wouldn't be.
Shisui was the one who managed to seat himself next to Itachi, giving him a weak smile as he sat down.
"Hey Itachi," he greeted softly. "Long time no see."
"Shisui. How are you keeping?"
The conversation was far too casual and normal for such an environment in Sasuke's eyes, but it helped him bring his head up and stifle the tears slightly. His blurry vision caught the coffins and he diverted his eyes immediately to the stained glass windows around them.
Music was playing in the background. Sasuke recognised it, but he couldn't place where from- nor did he want to know. It had been playing since they'd walked in and he'd paid it no heed then and no intention of doing so now.
Itachi's arm tightened around his shoulder before dropping away. Sasuke risked another glance at him, taking note of the slight reddening around his eyes as the only thing that suggested Itachi wasn't alright. He frowned slightly- his brother had been telling him all week that keeping the grief locked up was a bad thing, that crying was something he shouldn't hold back and now here he was, clearly doing that very thing.
Silence descended on the already quiet room as a man in long, dark robes headed to the front of the church and stood upon the podium there. Sasuke's breathing hitched, mirrored by Itachi next to him as they realised the ceremony was about to begin.
The man's voice was soft, deep and sympathetic- it was the perfect mix for such an event, soothing and kind as though he was trying to chase away the grief drenching the room. Sasuke couldn't focus on what he was saying and really, he didn't care- not because he didn't love his parents, but because he didn't want to listen to how they were gone. He wanted to hear the sounds of his mother cooking dinner in the kitchen or the sound of his father's proud voice when he or Itachi did something worthy of praise.
He wondered briefly if he would ever forget those things. Their voices, their smile- maybe not the latter as the photo in front of their dark coffins showed them happy and smiling. He hoped that somewhere on a home video they had their voices and he was gripped with the sudden need to know if they did.
Sasuke wasn't concentrating hard on the words of the ceremony but he heard 'Itachi' on the edge of his hearing and glanced up. Itachi stood up next to him and approached the podium, and Sasuke felt his eyes tear in recognition. He was speaking some words- he had asked Sasuke a few days earlier if he had anything he wanted to add, but Sasuke had shooed him away and told him no.
Sasuke scanned the people behind them over his shoulder to spot Kisame and Deidara- they were standing at the back by the door as all the seats had been taken, but neither seemed to mind. Naruto was at their side, glancing down at the floor with tears on his cheeks.
"It is with great regret that I address you today-"
Sasuke snapped his attention back as his brother began to speak. His tone was clear and his voice steady and almost professional, but the cream paper he was holding shook like a leaf in the autumn winds. Sasuke's heart broke for him, seeing for the first time the power of his projected strength. Not a single other person in the room would have guessed the man before them had knocked back a double whisky to even get dressed as Sasuke had found out in the taxi on the way there when he had questioned the scent of alcohol.
". . .Mikoto and Fugaku were respected in their working environments and dearly loved in their home environments. . ."
Sasuke wanted to listen, but all he could focus on Itachi's tone. The professional attitude was beginning to slip- only slightly, but it was. Sasuke wanted to scream at him that this was their parents' funeral and that he didn't have to act as though he was giving a speech at a work ceremony, but he kept his silence until his brother returned to his seat a couple of minutes later.
Sasuke reached across and put a hand on Itachi's knee, surprised when his sibling grabbed it with enough force to hurt and held it tightly for a few long moments before he let it drop.
The robed man had returned to his post and continued with his speech, but Sasuke's attention was back on his brother. Even Shisui on the other side of him had put a hand across to his shoulder, murmuring something Sasuke couldn't hear. Itachi stared straight ahead and ignored whatever it was, eyes straying to what Sasuke knew was the coffins.
"I need a drink after that," Itachi muttered dismally, eyes snapping back to the robed man. Sasuke pitied him in that moment, knowing it wasn't the drink he wanted but the sense of euphoria that came with chasing your troubles away with an alcohol-induced haziness. Not the best way to deal with the circumstances, but it was a way.
Sasuke risked another glance over his shoulder, seeing that Kisame had a hand around Naruto's shoulders now. The two of them barely knew each other, yet the elder man had stepped up to give comfort where it was clearly needed. Naruto wasn't looking, eyes tightly closed as he leant against Kisame's chest and scrunched the smart blue shirt beneath him up in his hands.
Kisame's other arm wasn't inactive- Deidara had attached himself to it as he swayed slightly unsteadily on his feet. Whether it was heat, stress, grief- Sasuke didn't know, but he kept his balance and simply leaned closer to Kisame for it.
A sharp sound to his side engulfed Sasuke's attention back. He recognised it as a sob- a sound that hadn't been missing from the church, but it originated somewhere he wasn't expecting.
Itachi had lowered his head near his knees just like Sasuke had done, shoulders shaking as he clutched at the fabric around his knees. He was clearly attempting to suppress the emotion but sobs spilled from his throat anyway, light and barely there but present none the less. It took the last remaining hold Sasuke had on his composure and snapped it in two, leaving him to curl up to his brother's side and sob hard enough for both of them.
It didn't take long for Itachi to bring Sasuke to his chest and keep him there, his own grief once again under control. Sasuke felt awfully selfish, knowing his tears had come above his brother's, wishing to explain the tears this time were born of empathy.
The pallbearers were moving once more, bowing to the coffins separately before drawing curtains across to hide them from the view of the room. Sasuke gasped as they did so, holding one hand out that was quickly caught by Itachi and brought back down again.
Just like that, the service was over. Soft music once again flooded the room and the pallbearers asked people to rise to a stand and follow them out respectfully. Sasuke noticed two things immediately- one was his row was the first to be instructed to leave, and the second was Itachi wasn't moving.
"Go on," he heard his brother murmur to him, pushing on his back to indicate he needed to stand and move. Sasuke didn't want to without his brother, unsure if he was going to stay complete without him at his side or whether he was going to fall into shattered pieces. Naruto rescued him, beckoning him gently as he appeared with Kisame and Deidara at his side.
"Itachi," Deidara whispered, anguish on his tone. "Oh, Itachi..."
Sasuke didn't know why the blond's voice held such a sympathetic, painful tone but as Naruto attempted to practically drag him from the church Sasuke stopped him and glanced over his shoulder. He choked on a sob as he witnessed what his brother seemed to have been shielding him from- being swept up in Deidara's arms as he sobbed harshly, face contorted in grief.
Sasuke turned around and kept walking, falling into Naruto's embrace just as easily outside in the fresh air and bright sunshine. The tears fell silently this time as his hearing picked up the unmistakable wretched cries of his brother, echoing in the church along with Kisame's voice gently coaxing him to head outside when he felt he could.
"I hate this," he muttered to Naruto, his voice thick and pained.
"I know," Naruto whispered back, holding him tighter. "I know."
It was a couple of minutes before Deidara appeared in the doorway, his eyes glossy and his cheeks and the chest of his white shirt soaked. Sasuke didn't have to ask why. Itachi appeared behind him on Kisame's arm, being held tightly against the taller man's chest as he was physically walked through the doors.
Sasuke broke from Naruto's grasp and walked to his brother to fall into a new one, ignoring the doors shut softly behind them. They had been the last to leave and now the service was over, life had to move on. Another family would be brought in to grieve. The coffins would be cremated. Their coffins, the ones they had just stood and mourned by.
Itachi was shaking so much Sasuke was surprised he could stand- though technically, he was leaning against Sasuke and barely standing at all.
"The flowers you asked me to get are in my car," Kisame murmured softly in Itachi's ear. "Want me to get them?"
"I'll come," Itachi replied, his voice raw as he gripped Sasuke tightly, kissing him roughly on the side of the head before letting him go. He wouldn't meet Sasuke's eye but the younger Uchiha didn't blame him, unsure he wanted eye contact when they were both so broken anyway.
Deidara was sitting on the wall nearby with his head in his hands, shoulders trembling. Kisame patted one hand on them before leading Itachi away through the crowd of people. They turned the corner, Sasuke trailing to watch. He didn't let his brother out of his sight, even if Itachi wanted to leave it.
Kisame's blue car was parked nearby and he led Itachi to it, letting him go to open up the boot. Itachi was on his knees in an instant and Deidara, who had finally flanked Sasuke, took off running towards them. Sasuke could hear Itachi's heart wrenching cries even at his distance and he ducked around the corner again to sob into his own hands and pretend he couldn't hear them.
"Lovely service," Shisui told him moments later, collecting Sasuke in his arms with a tiny sigh. "You were a little kid when I saw you last, Sasuke. You've grown."
"So have you," Sasuke sobbed back, thankful for the attempt at normal conversation.
"Time's passed, the bastard that it is," Shisui replied, stroking the back of Sasuke's hair gently in comfort. "It's the only thing that's going to heal you and your brother though, little one."
"I'm not so little anymore," Sasuke remarked. "You just pointed that out."
"Ah, so I did," Shisui sighed, letting Sasuke go and giving him a weak but pleasant smile. "It's nice seeing you again, even if the circumstances are terrible."
With that he was gone, but Sasuke felt just a little bit better for their interaction. A glance around the corner told him Itachi was heading back his way, walking on his own this time with two bunches of flowers in his hands. One was a beautiful bunch of pink roses and another of white lilies. Sasuke smiled just slightly- he and Itachi had picked them out together and he knew the tag inside had both their names adorned on it. They had signed it together in the shop a few days prior.
Kisame and Deidara also carried flowers- only one bunch each, but Sasuke didn't expect them to have more. They were here mostly for Itachi's support, and perhaps the mourning of Mikoto's Sunday lunches. Sasuke smiled to himself at his own tiny flicker of happy memory.
He held his hands out to receive one of the bunches- he didn't care which- and walked silently with his brother at his side to the small gathering of flowers nearby. Together, they laid them side by side and stood back to admire the collection. Sasuke could feel Itachi shaking at his side, aware that he wasn't doing much better himself.
"Cousin Shisui said time's a good healer," he whispered as he felt Itachi's arm around his shoulder.
"Shisui is a wise man," Itachi replied, his voice steady but his eyes tear-filled.
"Will we ever feel better, Itachi?" Sasuke asked after a moment, feeling his composure slip away as Itachi's arm tightened around him.
"Eventually," Itachi whispered. Sasuke noticed the tears his brother was silently shedding hit the ground below them, but only because his eyes were focused on their shiny black shoes. He closed his eyes instead.
Eventually. It wasn't quite the answer he had been hoping for, but the only answer he'd truly wanted was one that couldn't happen.
"You did well with your speech."
There was Kisame's calm voice once more, standing at Itachi's side.
"Thank you, Kisame."
"How did you get here?"
"Drinking this morning?"
Itachi laughed shortly- the sound a little out of place, but welcomed. "Yes."
"I'll give you guys a lift to the wake. You could have asked for a lift here."
"Thank you, and I know."
Sasuke found himself being led away, opening his eyes so he didn't stumble. Itachi's arm was still around his shoulder, cheeks damp but and eyes red but no longer crying. Sasuke watched him dry both swiftly and knew those would most likely be the last he would see from his brother. He knew Itachi well.
Once again, Naruto was running full force up to him, but he didn't launch into a hug this time.
"I'll see you there, okay?"
"Need a ride?" Kisame offered.
"I have one- thanks, though."
"No problem, kid."
Naruto smiled a little, clapped Sasuke's shoulder and took off again, leaving them to get inside the back seat of Kisame's car. Itachi declined the front seat for Deidara and they were off, driving off of the church grounds and heading for the rented hall about ten minutes away.
The drive was made in complete silence, but each member of the car wanted to reflect on what they had just witnessed so it didn't matter to any of them. Kisame parked as close as he could get to the entrance and offered each of them a drink once inside.
"Just one for you," Itachi warned Sasuke, who scowled but didn't argue. Now was not the time to argue about petty things.
"Double absinthe," he joked when Kisame asked what he wanted. Kisame rolled his eyes, ordering him a JD and coke instead and telling him to shut up and like it.
His smile vanished slightly when Itachi asked him for a double vodka without a trace of mirth in his voice. He honoured the request, handing it over to find it knocked back in seconds.
"Go easy," Kisame warned his friend. "I know it's a tough day, but just think about your little brother."
Itachi looked sombre and nodded, averting his eyes to the floor.
"It was a nice service," Kisame spoke when they were seated in the corner out of the way, raising his glass. "To Mikoto and Fugaku."
Deidara echoed his sentiment and both Uchiha siblings murmured their own more personal variants. Sips of drinks were taken, Naruto arrived, and the world began to feel just a little more normal. Or, perhaps, it might have been the alcohol. Sasuke found himself smiling just a tiny bit once more as Itachi smirked at one of Deidara's bad jokes, his eyes dry and his composure once again in place.
The world really might be alright in the end, but for now while it wasn't Sasuke would cling to the tiny snippets of happiness in the sea of grief.
Author's Note: Rest In Peace, T. I'm sorry you and my brother didn't get the life together we all hoped you would. I'm sorry it was your funeral and not your wedding. I'm sorry, full stop.
Sorry if it's all over the place. It wasn't really written for anyone else's eyes but I thought that it might help someone else like it has me, and that would be worth posting it for. The same apology extends to characterisation- if it's off, that's why. I did try regardless. People who are grieving act very different to normal anyway.
Thanks for reading.