There were many things people said about the afterlife. Many claimed that a white light came to claim you and you were taken to the heavens. Many believed in reincarnation; the ability to live multiple lives on and on until the spirit was mature enough to become one with the heavens. Many believed that for a heaven, there was hell; the home of demons.
If one were to ask Uchiha Sasuke, he would claim that the afterlife felt like nothing. There was only darkness, emptiness. No up, no down, no left, no right. No air, simply the sensation of constant freefall and your own thoughts.
He thought a lot. He thought about his life, his actions and decisions. He thought about Itachi constantly, his brother who had given up so much for a village not even worth protecting. His entire clan had to die because the powers that be were too afraid of a civil war. How many of his clan could have been saved if they had simply allowed the Uchiha to revolt? It would have been a costly battle, many would have died, but in the end, even if his clan had lost, they would still be alive.
What about Madara? A voice would ask every now and then.
What about him? A senile old man that hadn't had the good sense to die when it had been his time. Fuck him. That bastard had, basically, killed his own clan with his asinine ideas of world domination.
What about Orochimaru? The power you gained from him.
Who knew? Better yet, who cared? Had things been different, had the clan been allowed to live, had Itachi not been branded a traitor, had Sasuke not have had to experience the brutal slaughter of his entire clan by his brother, he wouldn't have even needed Orochimaru in the first place. Itachi had been stronger, Itachi would have trained him and more than likely he would have come out more powerful than he ever could have under the dead sannin's tutelage. Fuck him. Fuck Kabuto too, that sick son of a bitch who had desecrated his brother's corpse for his own twisted gains. He had thoroughly enjoyed destroying that bastard, had taken great pleasure in the deed.
No one fucked with the Uchiha. Period.
Sometimes he would hear a voice in the darkness that was not his own. Itachi's, he assumed. Either that or he was insane even in death.
"This was not what I had wanted for you brother."
He knew that.
"You were the one strong enough to end the Uchiha curse, to make us something better."
He knew that…now. Death gave a person a much clearer head than in life. He understood what Itachi had wanted, he understood that Madara had used him. A part of it had known it from the beginning and hadn't cared. He had been angry, he had wanted blood, he had wanted someone to suffer the way he had suffered, he had wanted someone to blame for Itachi's death – for all of his family's deaths. Madara had made it easy for him. The enemy? Konoha. All of those happy bastards who led happy lives and took everything they had for granted. They had things he would never have, things that had been savagely removed from him at a young age and for what?
The Uchiha wished he could find Danzou in this void, he'd kill him all over again using slow torture and lots and lots of pain before sending him into oblivion.
So how did he feel now? Tired, perhaps. He had hoped that with death he would have been reunited with his clan yet all he had was darkness. Was this to be his hell, to float forever in a sea of nothing? Not that he wanted to look at Itachi, to see the disappointment there. He knew it would be there, because he had done the very thing Itachi had implored him not to do. It hadn't been his brother's fault; he hadn't known that Sasuke had been hanging on to sanity by a small thread, one that was severed upon his death. Madara had taken advantage of it and Sasuke had allowed it. It had been easier to simply give into madness, to lash out at the world for the completely fucked up hand it had dealt him. It was easier to hate than it was to love, it was easier to fight recklessly and risk death than to live a meaningless life.
Was he still angry? Did he still hate? Had he been enraged or happy when he and Naruto had killed each other? Did he feel a sense of peace? The words Itachi had imparted to him after he had taken his brother's eyes…did he understand them now? Of course he did, otherwise Madara would still be alive. Itachi had always been thorough in everything he had done, including keeping a part of himself within his own eyes in case Sasuke did the unthinkable. Everything his brother had done had been to protect him in one way or another, even after death.
Sasuke would never be the sort of man Itachi had been. He hadn't the strength. Or rather, could have been, since he was dead and all.
Now the Uchiha were truly dead and while it hadn't been Itachi's intention for him, seemed like the best choice. He had only been able to break the 'curse' at the end, when it had already been too late. He hadn't understood the full truth until then. What did it matter? How did one man restore a clan and change it for the better? How was that possible? How could he have lived a normal life, returning to the land of his birth, when that land had so thoroughly betrayed him? It didn't matter that it had only been a few people, it didn't matter that no one else had agreed with the decision because it wouldn't bring his family back.
It was better to die than to live at this point; he had nothing else to live for. Now that he was dead, now that the tendrils of insanity no longer held him, he knew that even if he had lived he wouldn't have been able to live the life Itachi had wanted for him. Even now that he no longer held his blood thirst and no longer cared about the fate of Konoha and its people, it was not as if he would have, or could have, returned. He would have been branded a traitor for defecting to Orochimaru, even if the snake was dead. Itachi's wish for him had been unrealistic, how could he have thought that his little brother would simply return to an empty existence simply because he had wanted it for him?
What am I? Came the thought. Who am I now? What is my purpose? What do I feel now?
"You were stronger than you believed." Itachi's voice again. Why could he hear him but not see him? "If you were given a second chance, what would you do little brother? Who would you become, now that you've realized what you truly should have done?"
Surely he was going mad from the void or perhaps his insanity remained? A second chance? Those were words someone like Sabaku no Gaara spouted, not his brother. A second chance at what?
What would be waiting for me?
"Your future. Our future."
Light erupted from all sides, eliminating the darkness and the numbness to bring pain to his eyes. It burned his skin until blood poured from the wounds, strange since he was being burned and not cut. His chest, gods it was so excruciatingly painful.
What the hell is this?
"Your second chance."
Dark grey eyes opened, unseeing, his mind screaming as the pain increased and intensified until he thought he would die all over again from shock. His body felt heavy, so damn heavy, and he couldn't think properly. There was only pain.
"He's awake." A voice, one he couldn't recognize. It sounds muffled and very distant. He still couldn't see. "Put him back under."
Darkness reclaimed him, except this time he understood it was not the darkness of the void but the darkness of his own mind.
I'm not dead anymore.
Itachi, what the fuck am I supposed to do? Live? For what? I have no life, I have no future, it died when the clan was slaughtered. There is nothing, I am nothing.
"No." the voice of his brother stubbornly repeated. No, there was something, something Itachi would not tell him. Sasuke could feel his brother's spirit as he pushed him back into his now worthless body.
The Uchiha panicked. Itachi, don't do this. He pleaded, begged even. I would rather remain in this empty void than go back there.
"Living without meaning or living in a void, what is the difference then, Sasuke?"
"You were meant for more than this." There was a small pause "This is the last gift I can truly impart to you, little brother. Live and do what you were truly meant to do."
Pain lanced through his chest as he snapped back into consciousness, gulping in air as if he had been drowning. Dark eyes open and move wildly in an effort to deal with the pain as well as determine where he was. It was too difficult to think or move; he hurt everywhere. He tried to scream but his throat was too raw, too thick for any sound to emerge. Fingers dug into fabric and his body jerked harshly a few times before he was finally able to settle, his breaths harsh. He could feel something on him, cool and…comforting?
Someone is touching me.
Quickly growing angry, the surviving Uchiha tried to focus his gaze on the individual who dared to put their hands where they didn't belong. Images were still blurry and his eyes were still moving rather rapidly around but eventually he forced his body to cooperate with his mind.
At first it looked like a purple blob and he had to blink his eyes repeatedly until the film coating them receded. As he was finally able to focus he felt that same cool pressure on his forehead and his eyes narrowed. It was a female, not a very tall one, with long dark purple hair that came down to her lower back. Her body was covered almost from head to toe in baggy clothing, so he could not determine her weight or real size. The girl's skin was pale, paler than his, but it wasn't until her eyes met his that he knew who she was.
Hyuuga. With his excellent memory he knew her to be Hyuuga Hinata, the heir to the Hyuuga clan. She had been in his class back at the academy, a meek, shy girl with no self-esteem which had directly affected her abilities as a kunoichi. Her cousin, Neji, had been a person he had wanted to fight at one point and beyond the basic knowledge of who the girl was he hadn't given much care or thought towards her. The Hyuuga was obviously older and looked less like a twelve year old girl, but he did not forget faces or names. Besides her growing out her hair and hiding an obviously developed body she looked practically the same. That meant only one thing.
How is this different from hell, Itachi?
He opened his mouth but no words emerged. Her white eyes looked over him and he couldn't tell if she was honestly looking at him or through him. It was extremely unnerving. Quickly her gaze snapped away and she bent her body slightly, pressing a button.
Half of the bed began to smoothly shift so that he was sitting up. He could hear the sound of beeping machines. When he looked at her again she was putting something cool against his lips. Cold water drifted down a grateful throat as he swallowed and when she moved to pull the glass away he actually growled at her. The girl's eyes widened in surprise at his reaction but she put the glass back to his lips and did not remove it until emptied.
"Where am I?" the words emerged but they sounded harsh, as if he had swallowed sandpaper and washed it down with gravel. He sounded the same way he felt, like shit.
"Konoha…" her voice was soft, gentle. For some sick reason it reminded him of his mother, even though her voice had never been that high or that soft. Her eyes also hadn't been white.
Closing his own eyes he swallowed spit "Kill me."
The Hyuuga gasped and he allows his eyes to drift back up to her face. She looks appalled by his request and yet she does not turn from his piercing gaze. Perhaps she had matured; he was sure in the past she had been unable to do such a thing.
"I-I can't do that." When he continues to stare at her she does eventually turn away and begins to fill his glass with water once more.
Even his chuckle sounded like shit "Scared?" Sasuke taunted, giving her a humorless smirk. "Never killed before?"
Her body went very still. She stood with the glass of water in her hand, pitcher in the other. Slowly, she set the pitcher down and moved back to him. He couldn't read her emotions which was strange; he had been sure that the girl had always worn her emotions within those huge, weird eyes of hers.
Sasuke did try to take the glass this time but found his body unresponsive to his commands. Annoyed by this, he doesn't notice the emotion that flickers on her face.
"Are you scared to live?"
He jerked away from her as much as he can, ignoring the pain lancing through his chest and the rest of his body, spilling water on himself. Quickly she removed the glass and tries to grab a towel to dry him off somewhat.
"Fuck you." It is said with as much malice as he can muster, because this girl has officially pissed him off to the point that he actually wanted to physically harm her. He wanted to grab her by the neck and ask her if she was scared to die. The Uchiha wanted to lash out at her, scream at her, something, anything.
He decides that he hates her, he hates her because they both knew the answer to her question and it enrages him that he truly is afraid to live and he has always prided himself on never being afraid of anything. He hates the fact that she so clearly saw that weakness in him and instead of being angry with himself for having such a fear, he finds it easier to simply place it all on her.
Instead of lashing out at him or crying or anything a girl should have done, she merely smiled thinly at him. It was not a smile that reached her eyes and he could tell it was one that bordered along the lines of pity. He found himself hating her even more.
"Would you like some more water?" she asked, as if he hadn't just told her off a moment ago. Her expression seems sad, although he never remembered it looking like anything else when he had been younger. The Hyuuga didn't look at him but she held the glass in her hand all the same.
The Uchiha wanted to tell her to piss off, he wanted to tell her that he didn't want or need her pity. He wanted to hurt her, this girl that had everything he didn't; this girl who was looking down at him as if he were some sort of kicked puppy.
"Why am I here?" he asked instead, understanding that he needed to better understand what was going on around him. Chasing the girl away would leave him ignorant, something a shinobi couldn't afford.
Realizing that he would not accept any more water from her, the girl set the glass back down and began to check his vitals.
"You were brought here after Sakura-san brought you and Naruto-kun back from the dead. Tsunade-sama also helped, as well as Ino-san and Shizune-san." Still she could not look at him and he found himself uncaring. He hoped she stayed uncomfortable. He hoped she died, cause didn't matter.
Sasuke evaluated the situation based on the small amount of information given. So he and Naruto had both died; just as the blonde had promised. Unfortunately, Konoha had no limits to the amount of meddling they did in people's lives, for they had brought both of them back from the dead.
And now he was here, the last place he had ever wanted to be. Death was preferable to this hell.
"I am a prisoner here." It was not a question and she didn't treat it like one.
"Y…yes." She hesitated "Naruto-kun is still healing, along with many others. Hokage-sama hasn't decided what she wants to do with you s-so…"
Catching on, Sasuke decided to test his bonds by trying to move his arms and legs. Like before, he found that he couldn't move them. The initial thought had been that he was simply too injured; now he knew. He looked down and sure enough there were long black tattoos along his arms and he was sure they were around his legs as well. Tsunade didn't know what she wanted to do with him, but escape wasn't one of those. His arms and legs were sealed, he couldn't move.
Of course, he wasn't considered a genius for nothing. He decided to make the girl feel as uncomfortable as possible while still gleaning information from her "So, how the fuck am I supposed to take a piss?" he demanded and as expected, her face turned a bright red and she looked very uncomfortable.
Hyuuga made a series of hand signs and placed one hand on his arm and one on his leg. The seals were still there but he felt the pressure lift from his limbs. Without hesitation his hand snapped up and around her neck, jerking her down to his level. The girl let out a strangled cry, delicate hands gripping his large hand as he choked her. With a smirk he squeezed.
"Still an idiot." He muttered, his eyes burning holes into hers. Sasuke wasn't going to kill her but he definitely wanted her to suffer a little for the humiliation he had suffered earlier. "Are you always so trusting?" As a further intimidation tactic he began to activate his Sharingan.
Thousands of hot needles pierced through his brain as stars burst through his vision. The girl forgotten, his hands delved into his hair and pulled, the pain more intense than the pain in his chest. He let out his own strangled cry and deactivates his bloodline limit, blinking back tears as the pain quickly subsided and turned into a dull throb. He laid there, panting, eyes wide with shock and disbelief. Once he regained his sense of self he turned his full attention back to the girl who looks alarmed but not frightened as she should have been.
"What. Did you do to me." The Uchiha demanded "What did you do?" despite the pain in his throat he was able to somewhat shout at her, wanting to grab at her again but she had backed a safe distance away.
Instead of answering she turned her back to him and walked over to the far wall. He almost yelled at her again – he didn't like being ignored – when she turned and began to walk back to him, a mirror in her hands. Snatching it from her when she held it out for him he quickly looked at himself and started.
On his forehead was a seal that looked almost identical to the Hyuuga seals used on their branch members. There were a few differences, one being that it was blue instead of bright green and there were two extra symbols that rested above and below the center mark that looked like diamonds.
They sealed him. They fucking put a seal on him. With more force than he felt his body held, he threw the mirror against the wall in front of him, shattering it. Cold black eyes snapped to the girl but she didn't move, didn't even flinch. The Hyuuga merely looked down at the ground, silent.
"Did you do this?" he hissed. She slowly shook her head.
"W-when they had been able to d-determine that you would live my father and Tsunade-sama developed that seal."
Remain calm. She's willing to give information, get as much as you can and then kill her. "What does it do?"
Although her head was down he could see her bite her lip before those pale eyes rose to meet his dark ones "I-it works like the branch seal i-in that if you're killed it will render your Sharingan useless to the enemy. T-the extra symbols were made exclusively for preventing you from using your bloodline limit."
"Kill me." It was not a joke. This truly was hell, for he knew the branch seals couldn't be removed even if the Hyuuga wished to do so and as long as the remaining seals stayed he had no access to his true power. Uchiha Sasuke was completely and utterly helpless and under the full control of Konoha. He was now bound to this village; the cursed seal alone was enough to secure that. If he left, it would only take tracking him and activating the seal, turning his brain into jelly. "I'd rather die than live like this."
For some reason, tears sprung to her eyes. It angered him because it was more pity and it meant that she would not oblige him. They would not kill him and he was too proud to take his own life. This was what Itachi had brought him back to, this was his future. What future was there in this? What sort of life was he supposed to lead now?
"I-I'm sorry…" she actually sounded sincere. "I…I can't do that."
"Can't, or won't?" he snarled at her "Get the fuck out then. Get out! You were worthless then and you're worthless now; just get the fuck out."
Actual pain emerged on her face and she looked as if he had just slapped her. Once more their eyes met, his cold gaze to her warm, watery one. Even after all these years she was still weak and pathetic, allowing even someone like him to get under her skin.
Then he watched as her hands balled into fists and her eyes hardened. She blinked back her tears, took a deep breath and let it out. The girl actually raised her chin at him, looking every bit the aristocrat she was bred to be.
"No." Although her voice hadn't raised and it still held that softness to it, there was finality to her tone. "I have my orders so…I will see them through. I-I won't run away j-just because you want me to."
This time he smiled at her, teeth and all, in an almost feral grin "You won't be able to do your job if you're dead; which is what will happen if you come near me again. Did you forget what just happened five minutes ago?"
Instead of looking frightened or alarmed, she maintained her stubborn calm "Uchiha-san, please look at your arm."
How he hadn't noticed it before he had no idea, because when she said that he actually tried to move said arm and found that he could not. Looking down he saw dozens of red marks beginning from his wrist and ending at his bicep. His eyes widened in obvious shock, when the hell had she…
It had been when her hands had moved on top of his. Because he had activated the Sharingan he hadn't been able to see her fingers locking up his chakra points at the same time. The pain from activating his bloodline limit had overridden the pain of her attack.
The shy, sniveling, pathetic little twelve year old he had known had grown up to become an actual kunoichi. She had allowed him to believe that she would be too weak to strike and then struck when the opportunity had presented itself.
"I underestimated you." He admitted "It won't happen again."
The Hyuuga nodded, genuinely understanding. Her strange calm and kind demeanor was off putting; he could rile her up but he couldn't frighten her. Then again, if she was main house it meant that she knew how to activate his seal, so of course she wasn't genuinely afraid of him.
Once again she did something extremely strange. Walking back over to him, he watched as chakra-filled veins surrounded the corners of her eyes, activating her own bloodline limit. Then, with a speed he didn't remember her possessing, she unlocked all of the chakra points she had just blocked. The Uchiha just stared at her.
She said nothing, instead she continued her work, removing his old bandages to look over and treat the huge raw mangled flesh that had once been the left side of his chest. Well, that explained why it hurt like hell.
Unlike any other female he had ever encountered or dealt with, she was utterly professional with him. No lingering touches, no blushing, if anything she looked detached. The salve she put on his wound did not look like standard hospital issue and his suspicions were confirmed when he smelled the obvious herbs she had used to make the concoction. It burned like hell but he refused to give her the satisfaction of seeing him any more uncomfortable than he already was. Quickly she bandaged him with fresh wraps and offered water to him one last time and looked uncaring when he declined.
"Please try not to move very much," she informed him "I'm not an actual medical ninja, although I have knowledge in medicinal herbs and as heir to the Hyuuga clan I know about the cursed seals. Please let me know if you need to use the restroom and I will help you there and back; you're still very weak from your ordeal."
"So what?" he sneered "Why do you care whether or not I'm comfortable?" If what she was saying was true than the only reason she was in the room was because she held the power to destroy his mind should she choose to. She was a guard, there to make sure he didn't get out of line; that was all.
Once more she smiled at him and it was sad. Unbelievably so and pity did not swim just beneath the surface of those milky eyes of hers.
"Because you're a precious person to the person that I care greatly for and respect." She answered honestly "And because I believe in second chances."
"Then you're a fool."
She didn't disagree with him "And even though you are who you are and you've done what you've done…there are people who still love you dearly, who still care for you and wish for your happiness. I-I believe that…if you hadn't been worth the effort they wouldn't have done all of this. S-so I also want to wish for your happiness, b-because you are not a special person to so many people for no reason."
"I see them. I see them all laughing, laughing at me!"
"I suppose it's easy to spout some bullshit like that when you have everything." He spat, yet he found himself unable to look at her. Suddenly he found himself feeling very tired. He wished he was back in the void, because at least the void didn't have white-eyed girls calmly and sincerely informing him that they believed he was truly important and worth giving a shit about. "I suppose it's real easy to hold some sort of unlimited love or some shit in your heart when you've never lost anyone important to you." He said the last part low, his anger turning him cold. He hated her, he really hated this girl. People like her didn't exist, shouldn't exist. People like her were killed before they could reach a decent age, killed or their personalities warped and twisted. Like his had been.
This girl was possibly the purest female he had ever encountered.
She completely and utterly sickened him.
Are you doing this, brother? He thought angrily. What do you think this will prove?
Of course, he was met with cold silence. Itachi apparently no longer wished to speak to him. Live and do what he should have done? What the hell did that even mean? Live what life? Without his clan, he had no life, he had nothing. He neither wanted nor needed anyone or anything. Why didn't his brother just let him stay dead? Was this some sort of punishment?
"I haven't…experienced much loss," her soft voice brought him out of his thoughts and he looked back up at her. The Hyuuga wasn't looking at him, her gaze was off to the side and down. "And my hardships…are nothing compared to yours. I will never be able to relate to you or truly understand how you feel; I don't think anyone can. They're holding out their hands to you, hoping that you'll let them fill the void in you. It's not…replacing what you've lost, they just want…to be important to you. Because you are precious to them and they love you. They'll always love you b-because to them you…you are their family."
Had she said this to him a year ago, he might have laughed in her face. No, he would have laughed in her face as he punctured a hole in her chest with the Chidori. Unfortunately, many things had happened to him after he had taken his brother's eyes, including Itachi's last attempt to save his brother before he had been killed by Naruto. Unfortunately, as much as he didn't want to admit it because he knew the truth – he understood in death what he hadn't in life – her words affected him. Because Uchiha Sasuke was a highly intelligent young man, he began to understand what Itachi was trying to tell him.
So he ignored it. He denied it and locked it away, refusing to acknowledge it, refusing to accept that his brother wanted him to live his life in the place he hated more than anything. He refused to accept that this girl held the same faith in him that Itachi seemed to, because the notion was ridiculous.
Living in Konoha wasn't a life, it was hell. They would take him and use him, they would force him into submission and if those greedy bastards had anything to say about it, they would be more than happy to allow him to impregnate as many women as he wanted because who wouldn't like to start from scratch and completely control the Uchiha and the Sharingan? Was that what Itachi wanted? To have the clan restored and completely under Konoha's thumb?
This is not life brother, this is hell. An insufferable hell.
x x x x
AN: This story takes place two years after chapter 487. Sequels to this story are 'Autumn Light' and 'A Fan in the Sun'. There is one lemon scene in Chapter 21 for those who wish to avoid that sort of thing. As this fic is a little over 2 years old and unbeta'd at the time of writing this, one of the biggest things you'll see grammar-wise is improper usage of verb tenses. So far, no one has been too terribly turned off by this. I'll be going back and fixing things here and there as time goes on, but nothing major will change.