.

.

Black clouded the edges of his vision, and Itachi struggled to open his eyes.

"Nii-san." Sasuke was crouched in the corner of the cave; there was a fire going, and dimly Itachi could see the lines on Sasuke's face.

"Sasuke." Itachi coughed, then curled up into himself, his hand on his chest. Sasuke moved quickly, grabbing Itachi by the arm.

"Don't strain yourself; you're still healing," Sasuke said.

"I don't understand..." Itachi swallowed, could still taste the blood at the back of his throat. "This is foolish, little brother. You forget that I am your enemy."

Sasuke ignored him, tossing a branch into the fire. "I know what you did," Sasuke said.

Itachi coughed again, his fist against his mouth. "Of course you know what I did; everybody knows what I did--"

"I know that you were under orders."

Itachi stopped. He looked up at Sasuke, who was watching him with tortured eyes. "Nii-san," Sasuke said. Tears in his voice. "Why did you let me hate you?"

And Sasuke began to weep. He sagged, his shoulders shaking. Slowly, Itachi pushed himself upright, then pressed a hand around his brother's back. The muscles in Sasuke's body loosened, and soon Itachi found himself gripping his brother, hard.

"Forgive me," Itachi said. He hugged Sasuke, tight. "Forgive me..."

The darkness curled around them, shapes of shadows engulfing them both.