A/N: I started writing this fic months ago, when canon!Sasuke hadn't gone all loony, so in this fic he's sort of normal. As normal as he can be, under the circumstances. As it is, I finally decided to start posting it here on and I hope you like it.
NO REVENGE IS AS COMPLETE AS FORGIVENESS
Sasuke sat quietly in a very hard, very uncomfortable chair before the Hokage's desk and was staring firmly at a spot somewhere slightly above and to the right of Naruto's face, but still close enough to give the pretense that he was actually looking at him. His onetime friend – now superior, captor, jailor – stared back at him, his blue eyes hooded and troubled. Slowly, Naruto's gaze moved to the person sitting behind Sasuke, eyes darkening even further before looking back at him.
"The Council and some of the clan leaders would have me kill you both." He said seriously.
Sasuke wasn't afraid to die. He had let go of that fear many years ago, so Naruto's words didn't worry him particularly. What made him bristle was that his fate would be decided by people whose pasts weren't any more virtuous than his own. So he remained silent, but lifted his chin defiantly – he wasn't going to cower, whatever the sentence.
"I am, however" Naruto continued "the Hokage. And you also have to thank Kakashi's influence and support, because the two of us managed to, after all, gain the upper hand in the argument about both your fates." He once again looked at the person sitting behind Sasuke.
"I won't execute you, and I won't send you in jail – at least, not in an actual jail. You will, however, be required to be tattooed with a seal that will monitor your whereabouts at all time, and you will remain in Konoha, permanently. Under no circumstances are you to leave the village, unless we're having a general evacuation of the whole populace. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Sasuke answered.
"And you?" Naruto looked at the man behind him again.
"Yes." Answered a soft, velvety voice.
"Good. Now, there's one other condition, and I am afraid that the Council and the clan Leaders were adamant about it – you both are obligated to return to the Uchiha compound. They don't want you living on the actual Konoha premises."
"They want us to return there?" there was alarm in the voice of the man behind him.
"Yes. There was nothing I could do. As far as I know, other than being very dirty, the compound is the same as when Sasuke moved out of there – nothing has been looted because people don't want to go in what they believe is a haunted place."
Sasuke's fingers clutched at the wooden armrests of his chair. Naruto couldn't make him go back to that place! He didn't want to go back, didn't want to come face to face with all the memories and nightmares those empty, bloodied streets provoked. Apparently his feelings were written all over his face because Naruto said:
"I truly am sorry, Sasuke. There was nothing more that I could do for either of you – you and Itachi are to remain to live in your old home – this is the only way I can actually keep out of jail, or worse, the executioner's block."
After Naruto informed them of his decision they remained in his office for an hour while they waited for Kakashi arrive and for Naruto to put the surveillance seals on them personally. 'If I put them I'd be sure that nothing else is added to them.' The Hokage had said apologetically.
Finally, Kakashi arrived. The Jounin was the same as Sasuke remembered him – masked, not very tall, well-fit, with a shock of pale hair above his forehead protector. The only difference seemed to be the little crow's feet that had begun to appear at the corner of his one visible eye.
"Hokage-sama." Kakashi bowed when he entered.
"Ah, here you are. Please, escort them to the Uchiha compound, Kakashi-san." Sasuke noticed that Naruto had dropped the "sensei" honorific. 'He needs to assert authority, especially considering the difference in age.' The younger Uchiha thought. Kakashi nodded and reached towards Itachi, who carefully got up from his chair and remained in his place until the Jounin got a good grip on his elbow.
For the first time since they got into the office, Sasuke allowed himself to look at his older brother – he too was so similar to what he remembered and yet so different – short, slender, with long, silken raven hair, heart-shaped face and cupid-bow lips. Gone was the arrogance, the cold, unflinching presence that dominated the entire room when Itachi entered. His eyes, once coal-black when calm, blood-red when he used the Sharingan, were now milky-white and unseeing. Sasuke felt a sick sort of satisfaction at the knowledge that the very weapon Itachi had used to hurt him so many times was now taken from him forever. That satisfaction, and the memory of the torture the older Uchiha put him through, were useful when he repressed the other feelings that twisted in his gut when he looked at his brother. After all these years of suffering, of obsessively chasing after him, he couldn't shake off the maddening need for Itachi to be pleased with his achievements, to make him proud.
At the moment, though, Itachi stood pliant in Kakashi's grip, waiting obediently to be led through the maze of corridors, stairs and elevators that filled the new Hokage tower.
"Do you have any luggage, Sasuke?" Kakashi asked.
The young man pointed to a relatively small duffle bag.
"He hasn't brought anything." Sasuke answered. Kakashi nodded and gently tugged the elder Uchiha.
"Let's go then."
After they left the office, Sasuke turned to Kakashi:
"I can find the compound on my own."
"I am sure you can, even with the new street plan, but these are the Hokage's orders."
Sasuke looked ready to argue, but Kakashi insisted:
"You are tired, hungry and Itachi here wouldn't be able to assist you in a fight. Believe me when I say that Konoha is full of people who want nothing more than to skin you alive and hang your hides out to dry. My presence would keep them at bay, at least for now. It'd be better if the two of you remain at the compound, at least for a little while – I'll bring you food and whatever you need every few days, at least until the general populace gets used to the idea of your presence."
"I am not afraid of anyone!"
"Please, Sasuke." Kakashi said softly. "Naruto took such a huge risk to allow you to remain free and unharmed, don't put him in a situation where he'd have to explain why the people he vouched for start street fights."
Sasuke glared at his former teacher, but finally conceded. Kakashi actually looked relieved.
"Thank you. Shall we go now?"
Once they left the Hokage tower, Sasuke saw that the sun had already set – a soft, pinkish glow quickly turning to violet twilight illuminated the street, the pedestrians looking eager to go home – to rest after a hard day's work, to have dinner, shower, to be with their families… Sasuke looked away.
Kakashi led them down the paved street, his hand firmly holding Itachi's elbow and from time to time warning him about steps and obstacles, waiting for the younger man to sidestep them. People didn't pay much attention to them, not in the growing darkness, other than the strange looks they got from time to time, the lone stranger noticing just who they were. Sasuke knew that by tomorrow at that time the whole village would know that they had returned and that the rumour mill would go into overdrive. He just hoped, despite the bravado he had demonstrated before Naruto and Kakashi, that there wouldn't be any lynching mob gathering before the compound.
"Why did you do it?" he asked quietly.
"What did I do what, Sasuke-kun?" Kakashi asked.
"Why did you defend us before the Council and the elders?"
"I had a friend, long time ago, who taught me to believe in second chances, among other things."
"I should thank this friend of yours then." Sasuke muttered.
"He was an Uchiha."
From the corner of his eye Sasuke noticed Itachi stiffening in Kakashi's grip and the Jounin hurriedly added:
"He died before either of you were even born."
"Oh." Itachi intoned softly.
Sasuke gave them both a thin smile.
They finally reached at the walls of the Uchiha district and approached the gates. The Uchiha symbol – a fan – painted on them was dirty, faded and cracked, not having been maintained for many years.
"It's a miracle that this part of the town didn't suffer any damage, other than a little random debree, when Pein attacked Konoha. Everything else was flattened. Complete devastation."
Itachi once again tensed in Kakashi's arms but said nothing. Kakashi let go of his arm and walked up to the gates, unlocking them by performing a complex series of seals.
"You can go in now." He said after neither Sasuke nor Itachi moved towards the open gates.
"Are we required to move in a certain house?"
"No. You can sleep wherever you wish, as long as you remain in the district. And as I said, you're not forbidden to roam Konoha, I just don't recommend it." He took out a small scroll and handed it to Sasuke "Sealed food and some clothes for the both of you."
Sasuke nodded, then walked up towards Itachi, gripping his forearm much more harshly than Kakashi had and tugging him forward.
His brother stumbled gracelessly for a moment before regaining his footing. Kakashi looked like he was about to say something, but he remained silent as Sasuke dragged his older brother inside, Itachi following him silently and without protest. The heavy doors slowly closed after them with a screech and a thud and finally they were alone.
Sasuke hadn't been alone with his brother ever since that fated duel between them, over a year before, a duel which neither of them had really won, and which they had both lost. So many things had happened since that day, so many lives had been lost.
There were moments when he wished that Madara, that bastard, hadn't told him the truth about Itachi's motives for killing their Clan. Things would've been so much easier – he would've gone on hating Itachi, and he would've killed him the moment he found out he was alive, there, in that healing ward in Amegakure – blind, defenseless, almost helpless. He hadn't been able to bring himself to do it, not with what he knew, and he couldn't do it now either. It didn't mean though, that he had forgiven him. The rage, the hate still simmered within him, always at the back of his mind, coming to the fore when he looked at him, now mixed with bitter betrayal. Itachi had lied to him, manipulated him, used him, hurt him… all out for some misguided goal to protect him. More often than not Sasuke asked himself if it had been worth it.
The night was quickly setting in, the first stars twinkling brightly above them, the full moon rising, tinged with red. The Uchiha district was as quiet as a tomb, the dusty streets glowing in the soft silvery light.
Sasuke turned to his brother to look at him and found him standing in the same place by the now closed gates, his arms wrapped protectively around his middle.
"Seems like we're back we started." Sasuke noted coldly. Itachi didn't respond. His silence infuriated Sasuke. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?" he asked sharply.
"Would it matter, if I say anything?" Itachi finally spoke quietly.
"No. Not really. I am not sure I can bear to listen to your voice as it is."
He reached and grabbed him roughly again, pulling him forward and dragging him down the street. Itachi almost fell over after he tripped but Sasuke pulled him up and kept dragging him.
"Where are we going?"
"I have no intention of sharing a house with you. We'll live separately. And I think I know just the right place for you." Sasuke responded. Finally, they reached a house that was painfully familiar – a large, wooden traditional home, hidden in the vegetation of an overgrown garden, its windows dark and gaping as hungry maws.
Sasuke paused before the closed door, feeling once again like a frightened seven year old about to discover that monsters were real. Only the monster was with him, outside of the house, not inside laying in wait.
He gripped the handle of the door and pushed it open, the moonlight illuminating a large, spacious room, the floor and sparse furniture covered with a thick layer of dust. Itachi must've recognized the sound of the doors because he was once again stiff in Sasuke's grip, trying to pull away.
"Sasuke." His voice sounded pleading. Good. Let him know what it was like. "Sasuke, please. I can't stay here." He tried to tug himself free again, but his body was too weak to struggle against Sasuke's superior strength.
The younger Uchiha turned and grabbed him with both hands and shook him roughly.
"I think that we established already that you will do whatever I say. I may not be able to bring myself to kill you, Itachi, but I haven't forgiven you either." His voice was low and angry. Itachi stopped struggling.
"Why can't you kill me?"
Sasuke's grip slackened a little.
"Because, Itachi, you want to die. And you want me to help you die. All my life, you have manipulated me, all my life I have, whether I realized it or not, done as you have wanted me to do. I am tired of dancing to your fiddle, brother. For once, you will do as I want. And I want you to stay in this house, among these walls, where you spilled the blood of our parents."
Itachi quieted down.
"This is a punishment then."
"Maybe. I don't know what it is. I know that I cannot… I cannot forgive you, and I know that you want me to." He reached and pushed away the bangs of soft raven hair that had fallen across Itachi's face. "Do you want me to forgive you, Itachi?"
"I am beyond forgiveness." Itachi's voice sounded hoarse and fragile at the same time.
"I am not asking you whether you can be forgiven, I am asking you whether you want me to forgive you." He shook him again. "Tell me!"
A small, animalistic sound escaped Itachi's lips.
"Then you will stay here. You will face what you have done… as I will try to face my own crimes. But I cannot bear you to be anywhere near me. Not now. Maybe not for a long time."
Finally, Itachi nodded. Sasuke let go of him.
"I'll come by later to bring you food."
He took a step back and watched as Itachi slowly turned and timidly stepped into the room, his feet leaving deep tracks into the dust, revealing old, rusty bloodstains. Father's blood, mother's blood. Making Itachi stay here sounded more like justice to him, rather than the manic, blood-thirsty need for revenge. Death would be a relief for his brother and he had no intention of helping him escape from his guilt.
'Yes, but this is your crime too, isn't it? All he did, he did it for you. Your hands too are soaked in their blood. So why don't you stay with him here?'
Sasuke turned sharply on his heel and left. 'Because if I do I'd be too tempted to take him out of this his house and bring him to a place where he wouldn't suffer like that." He answered bitterly.