A/N: Disclaimer on Skillet's song "Falling Inside the Black". Although not one of my best chapters, I hope it'll suffice. I guarantee future chapters would be more thrilling and misery-ridden. Happy New Year!

Chapter 10: Repudiation

"So far, nothing you have done has earned you that title, Itachi."

Words. It was ironic how words, when fitted together, produced such incredulity.

Brother?

The title was so foreign to Sasuke that he couldn't even begin to grasp its meaning.

Brother?

It was comical, extremely laughable and unequivocally absurd.

With each string of thought, Sasuke stumbled back. Had the world stopped moving? Why was chest suddenly frozen cold? Perhaps this was the end of him, of the wholeness of his sanity and everything he thought he knew about life.

Further and further he staggered until he realized the shock screwed tightly on his face when he nearly tripped over the short leg of a dark brown davenport. It caught him off guard, and his body launched forward and collided against the door. His hands slammed against it, causing it to shut upon impact. "That's impossible," he mumbled as if speaking to himself. "Why are you telling me lies?"

Had it been so entertaining to screw with his mind? The lucidity that Sasuke treasured so much?

"I would never lie to you like that, Sasuke." The blatancy of the reply made the young boy want to gag.

His head whipped around, turning an incredulous look onto the man who had picked himself up, arm raised in a ruse to comfort him. Hah, comfort, the boy fumed silently. "Are you fucking with me?" he spat, eyes sharp with harsh judgment. "What is your problem?!"

The question struck Itachi with great intensity like a whip crackling against his mental barriers, prompting him to drop his hand albeit forcefully. If Sasuke hadn't known better, he would have describe the look on the man's face as positively apologetic. But he wouldn't get sucked in another lie again; emotions were fleeting, they were mentally conjured for comfort.

"What the fuck is your problem?" he reiterated, stringing his words together slowly as if such a condescending action was necessary to get the question through Itachi's mind. "You use words to communicate, you pompous ass, not fictitious names and perverse ways."

Sasuke had expected anger or hatred, emotions that ran his blood cold at the mere thought of what it ended in, but if anything, the guilt struck harder across the man's face. His acting skills must have been superb because Sasuke felt a twinge of pity pushing forth his morality. He remained resolute, however, shoving against it twice as hard.

Such intrusive questions that he had tossed into the open. It was so easy to avoid confirming certain truths by obscuring them with fitful banter and accusatory statements.

"If you are my brother, why couldn't you just tell me you were when we first met? Why couldn't you just tell me who you were?" demanded Sasuke. Damn, it came out anyway. Meeting the man's eyes, he had to suppress a small shiver that raked through his body, nearly jumping back as though he was expecting an attack at any moment.

"I'm not good with words" was the impromptu reply as if it served as an explanation for the physical and mental torture inflicted upon Sasuke.

What, in God's name, kind of an answer was that?

His tone grew dark. "You were doing just fine when you were impersonating an officer."

He wasn't sure if it was the words he uttered or something else, but Itachi flinched, bringing a hand to massage his temple. The man had also shifted his weight to his left leg and had turned slightly away as if the glare of the light over them was producing some sort of a migraine. Sasuke was so focused on the man's actions that he failed to hear what he had uttered when he dropped his hand.

Narrowing his eyes, he continued to watch him carefully. "What did you say?" he snapped, irritated at his short attention span.

"You would have known that I'm not good with words if they hadn't taken you away from me," Itachi whispered. "Do you know what it's like, Sasuke, to lose your only anchor in the world? I've endured so long just for you."

"That's a load of crap, Itachi," Shisui said, interrupting Sasuke who had opened his mouth to retort. He lowered the gun he held to his side, but his grip did not loosen on it. "You don't think I see how manipulative you can be, how manipulative you are?"

The Uchiha glared at the man, a look of pure hate strewn across his countenance. "This is none of your business," he hissed, ready to gauge the man's eyes out and slit his mouth in half.

Judging by the snarl that Shisui returned and their calculating glares directed at each other, Sasuke noticed that no attention was placed on him. Quickly, as if guided by his reflexes, he made a preemptive move and lunged for the gun. The force of his body slammed against Shisui's, surprising the man whose grip loosened on the metal artillery. He fell forward in Itachi's direction, landing at the man's feet seconds after Sasuke's body hit the ground hard, the epicenter of the pain erupting somewhere near his hips.

Ignoring the discomfort and the bile that felt like an increasing hindrance in his stomach, the teen greedily latched onto the gun and pushed himself onto his feet before either of the occupants could regain their composure. Despite such a bold move, he hadn't thought of a plan B.

Sasuke had never handled a gun before. In fact, he had never seen one before, and the sight of him holding one made his body quiver. If he was forced into a corner, with no way out, would he be capable of killing to save himself? The thought of blood spilt because of it, the mere thought of violence, repulsed him. And so, he did the one thing he could think of, the one thing that he should have done since the very beginning.

He ran.

They're both fucking crazy! his mind screamed at him. Same eyes, same behavior, same unrepressed anger. They'd obviously known each other for years, judging by the way they threw words at each other as if they knew what made the other tick. He had been caught in a fucking game of good cop, bad cop.

Fuck benefit of the doubt. Fuck the blood trickling down his bare thighs. Fuck the lies, the deception, the tender words that meant nothing to him. Brother or not, he would be better off alone.

Even if he was wrong, two acquaintances like that would be more inclined to spare each other in the end and kill Sasuke, himself.

"Sasuke!" a panicked voice called when he yanked open the door and rushed for the stairs he had saw earlier. Ignoring the screams for him to stop, he hobbled down the stairs in sets of threes, sucking in deep breaths as a way to abate the pain spreading throughout the lower half of his body.

The voices behind him grew louder, and in an attempt to keep a greater distance between them, he leaped down the last flight of stairs and landed awkwardly at the foot of it. He panicked then, turning left and right, not sure which path led to an exit. In a fit of frustration, he took a right and was granted hope when he saw the parlor.

Skidding to a halt at the double doors, he noticed that they didn't have knobs. The doors didn't have knobs. The teen screamed in his mind as he rattled at the doors; he cursed his fate, the situation he was tossed into, and the man who was paranoid enough to approve of such a ludicrous arrangement.

His hurried glance caught the sight of a window opposite to the parlor. He stuck the gun in his coat pocket and made an attempt to pry it open before he noticed that there was nothing to pry open. The window was latchless. Frustration and anxiety flared within him and without much time left, he lifted a decorative, stone-based lamp up from the table and with what strength he had left hurled it at the large window.

His intent had been to shatter the window, but his action only caused the lamp to fall back listlessly onto the floor.

What the fuck?

There was no crack; there wasn't even a scratch. The only damage present was inflicted upon Sasuke because he had drawn unnecessary attention to himself. The teen ducked into a dark hallway, opposite to the way he had came from, knowing full well that the commotion could and would draw a crowd.

His trembling hands fumbled for his gun and clutched it tightly to his chest. He was out of options.

Tonight I'm so alone

This sorrow takes a hold

Don't leave me here so cold

Never want to be so cold

Itachi was beyond alarmed as he called after his brother. Shoving Shisui aside, he chased after him. He felt sick. The thought of losing Sasuke due to his indiscretions, to his stupidity, was enough to kill him.

"Sasuke, stop!" he hollered, jumping down the stairs. "Dammit, dammit!" the Uchiha screamed, as if he was berating himself. At the end of the stairwell, he caught a glimpse of a few droplets of blood and heaved a shaky sigh at the sight.

He could hear a few pair of footsteps following behind him, but he had no regard for them. Sasuke had disappeared from his view, leaving him frantic and unpredictable. Itachi's hands unconsciously slid into his hair, tugging at its roots in a desperate attempt to keep calm. Ever since Shisui locked him out of his own room, his migraine had been beating mercilessly against his right temple and now with Sasuke running around, potentially hurting himself, Itachi was being driven mad.

"You," he barked at Shisui, "take the left hallway. I will take the right." Shisui immediately obliged to the command, knowing that anywhere outside of the mansion at this hour would be more dangerous than Itachi himself. This left R4 with securing all the exits.

As if making sure he had no audience, Itachi confirmed that everyone had parted ways with a turn of his head before he removed his foot from the evidence he had hidden. Sasuke had left behind a trail of blood, one that extended in the direction of the main parlor.

"Otouto," he muttered worriedly, following the specks, "where are you? Don't leave me alone again."

Alone. If he wasn't in hysterics, he would have laughed at his own statement. Uchiha Itachi, commanding chief of the police force, was afraid to be alone.

Twenty-two-month-old Itachi had just woken up from a half hour nap. The task of getting himself to fall sleep was difficult already, and his efforts were wasted because he never slept more than he intended to.

Cheeks rosy red and black hair tangled in knots, he rolled over onto his belly and proceeded to lift himself up onto his feet using the bars that surrounded him in his crib. His head barely reached over the top of the crib when he succeeded in the task.

The toddler surveyed the room, eyes brimming with tears as his stomach gurgled loudly. Minutes passed, the plastic clock with little, red numbers on it ticked away as if taunting him, and Itachi began to cry.

It had been hard to keep the tears in and even harder to stop them once they began to pour. This time was different though; the tall man with dark brown hair didn't show up and neither did the gentle woman with long, black hair.

Baby Itachi cried for hours.

-H.J.-

Three orphanages in two years. Itachi had expected to be tossed around like a puppet quicker than at such a slow pace.

The giggles of children much younger than him rang around him, prompting him to close his eyes and lean his head against the tree behind him. From his sitting position, he could feel the wary looks he was receiving from the caregivers and assistants as if they were ready for any fit or ridiculous behavior that Itachi was going to throw their way next.

He had only been here for three days, and his tactical mind was already conjuring ways to be kicked out of this orphanage. Located three towns over from Konoha, this little place was nestled on the outskirts of a city he didn't care to know the name of.

Itachi was thinking along the lines of setting the kitchen on fire when he heard rustling and the unmistakable sound of someone approaching. It was odd, he thought, as his demeanor often caused people to move away from him.

Arms still folded across his chest, his mind settled on not paying any attention to the newcomer, but when silence lingered around him for the next aggravating seconds, he opened his eyes and saw the most angelic boy in his entire existence.

The boy looked at him, smiling shyly as he wrung his hands behind his back. "What's your name?" he asked, and Itachi had to heave a shaky sigh at the familiar, childish voice.

"My name is Itachi," he answered with a smile, unfolding his arms.

"I-ta-chi," the ravenette boy enunciated, as if tasting the name on his tongue. His face was ponderful for a few seconds as if digesting the information. The ravenette then giggled heartily. The laughter was contagious and elicited a chuckle from Itachi.

"What is your name?" the Uchiha questioned, when the giggles died down.

"Sasuke," the boy uttered, reverting back to another shy smile.

The older ravenette's heart skipped a beat, but he didn't allow that to stop their conversation. "That's a beautiful name," Itachi said sincerely, watching in amusement as the boy's cheeks turned pink. Smiling lovingly, he patted the spot next to him. "Would you like to sit with me, Sasuke?" he asked.

The boy obliged with another giggle, settling himself down on one of the roots of the tree next to Itachi.

"What, pray tell, is so funny?" the Uchiha asked, combing his hand through his bangs. It was windy today; why wasn't Sasuke wearing a jacket? Despite such, he couldn't help the smile that spread across his face as the giggling continued.

Closing his eyes, Itachi cherished the laughter. It was so genuine, full of carefreeness and innocence, nothing like the fake one he wore often when he lied through his teeth. When it became silent, he opened his eyes and before him was a single dainty, yellow daisy. "What's this?" he asked with pleasure, gently retrieving it from the boy.

"It's a flower. I thought I'd give it to you because you're pretty, too," Sasuke explained. Before the baffled Itachi could even begin to think of a response, one of the caregivers called Sasuke's name from across the yard. The boy shot up from his spot immediately. "It's time for me to go in," he said, leaning over and enveloping Itachi in a brief hug, before he waved goodbye and ran off.

'Otouto,' Itachi mentally acknowledged. 'I've found you.'

He supposed he didn't need to set the kitchen on fire anymore.

The next afternoon Itachi waited for Sasuke in the same place, but the boy never showed even when the same caregiver that had taken Sasuke previously gathered up all the children and went inside. The day after that, his Otouto didn't show up once more. Itachi, worried and disappointed, went looking for him, but wasn't successful in his search. On the third day, he realized that the boy had been adopted.

Alone, once again, and in a fit of rage, Itachi burned the entire place to the ground.

Your touch used to be so kind

Your touch used to give me life

I've waited all this time

I've wasted so much time

Further and further into the darkness Sasuke went. With his body plastered against the wall, he moved as quietly as he could, feeling the bumps graze his back as he passed by each locked door.

He had learned a few things in his time of fear. One, knobs didn't exist in this terrifying place; at least, the doors he came across by far were all designed to be identical. Two, the windows were bulletproof. And three, this place was like a maze riddled with protective measures to ensure that nothing could get in or out without a key.

Sasuke was startled out of his thoughts when he caught a glimpse of long, black hair. At the same time he realized that it belonged to Itachi, something gave away behind him and he felt himself falling backwards into a room.

Balancing himself before any permanent damage could be caused, he noticed that the door he was leaning on had been left ajar. Quickly as to not draw any attention to himself, he closed the door as quietly as he could.

Sasuke held his breath as he heard footsteps growing louder. Please just go away. Please just go away. He had chanted in his mind, eyes squeezed tightly shut in fear.

The footsteps stopped suddenly, and Sasuke's eyes snapped open, stomach twisted in a tight, unbudging knot. He heard his name being called and bit his bottom lip as his heart thumped painfully against his chest. If the man caught him, Sasuke wouldn't live to see another day. He knew it didn't matter if he had the gun or not; his lack of experience coupled with Itachi's brute strength and skill could easily work toward Sasuke's disadvantage in almost every situation.

After a minute or so, the footsteps were heard again; this time, however, they were moving away from the hallway. Exhaling an inaudible sigh, his clammy grip on the gun loosened slightly. It was only then, a moment out of peril's way, did Sasuke notice the room he was in.

Stuffed animals adorned every shelf in the room. Some laid in a row upon the book shelves and others were sitting quite fondly on the furniture. There wasn't anything special about the room, except for the oddly infantile vibe it gave.

Despite such observations, two specific things caught his eye. First and foremost, there was a window in the room, and this one had a latch. Hope flourished and he jumped at the chance, which led to him noticing the second thing: a six-by-eight picture frame that was propped up next to the window.

Lo and behold, the picture depicted a boy who was about five years old cradling an infant in his arms. With great difficulty, he drew his gaze away from the frame and swung open the window. A barrage of thoughts flew through his mind, causing his hands to tremble as he hoisted himself up the sill. The resemblance was undeniable, and the brief possibility that Itachi could be his brother flitted through his mind.

It's too late now, he thought, casting one last glance at the photo that rested innocently next to the sill. Who knew what mysteries it would unravel? he thought somberly.

Gripping tightly onto the gun that he was too afraid to release, Sasuke gave one last fleeting glance around the godforsaken place and jumped into the bushes below.

Don't leave me alone

'Cause I barely see at all

Don't leave me alone

Kakashi Hatake took a slow, calculating glance around, assessing the pristine condition of the room. As he made his rounds, he took his time before he settled near the mantelpiece and swiped a finger across its surface. Not a speck of dust, he noted.

He squatted down onto the floor for a good measure, but squinted when his visible eye became aware of the small detail embedded in the carpet. He smoothed two fingers over the substance and lifted it up to his clothed lower face, smearing the contents with his thumb. They rolled together for seconds at a time before the silver-haired detective unearthed his mask slightly, revealing a perfectly unblemished nose, to take a whiff of the substance.

Dirt, he automatically recognized.

And it was still slightly wet.

"Send this to the lab," he commanded. "I want the forensic botanist to examine it."

I'm falling in the black

Slipping through the cracks

Falling to the depths can I ever go back

Dreaming of the way it used to be

Can you hear me

The breeze that blew against his heated skin was welcomed. He hadn't known that being free could have been so invigorating.

By now, the blood on his thighs had dried and become crusted, and he was sweating despite the harsh wind. After minutes of running past endless masses of green and brown, though, Sasuke realized that his initial escape had not been as uncomplicated as he had thought. There were no roads or paths to take since none had been paved, and the teen, escaping one gigantic problem, was faced with another one.

Who the fuck builds a mansion in the middle of a forest?