TaikoHawk:: Hello and welcome to my newest fic (as of June 15, 2010 that is). A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE before we begin. This fic is about Uchiha Itachi, set in the third-person limited view. That being so, there will be a lot of thinking and logic and all that good stuff, because that is the way Itachi is. Please don't complain of lack of action, or stuff like that. Itachi is not one to just jump in, fists flying. You must be confusing him with Naruto (though how you could do that, I've no idea...). He will spend time thinking over his situation, what he can do, and then he'll make his decisions. This isn't to say there will be no action, because there most assuredly WILL BE. You just need to wait for it.
Disclaimer:: TaikoHawk does not own rights to Naruto or Naruto: Shippuden. She just likes to correct Kishimoto's mistakes... er... I mean... she just likes to play around with the characters.
Perchance to Dream
Chapter One—To Die
Itachi sat on a fallen log at the side of a small river, listening with half an ear to the soft sounds of its waters and contemplating his current position. It was an interesting one, to be sure. Interesting and also curiously frustrating. He was not, after all, accustomed to having his will thwarted. Generally, he planned so far ahead, and so conscientiously, that in the end his desired outcome was achieved. He didn't leave things to chance or, if that was unavoidable, he planned for several contingencies. Never did he set his sights on one path; one never knew exactly what might happen, so it was wise to make sure to have several different choices that would all give the desired results. Always plan for detours.
But this detour…
Itachi had to admit, he never imagined he would be displaced so far. If things had gone according to plan, he would be dead now, his little brother having finally achieved vengeance. But instead…
Itachi's eyes lowered to the surface of the river, picking out the distorted reflection of his face among the ripples of flowing water. Rounder than he remembered from his last encounter with a reflective surface. And because of the roundness, the dark lines under his eyes were far less prominent than they had been. It was the face of a child.
Well, that made sense, since he was a child. Again.
Interesting and curiously frustrating.
It had been a shock to wake up after expecting to be dead—a shock magnified by the fact that he had woken up almost eleven years before closing his eyes that should-have-been-last time. His finely honed shinobi instincts and discipline had nearly been overwhelmed, truth to tell. In his drive to mold Sasuke into the tool of justice and vengeance, Itachi had never taken the time to consider might-have-beens. He'd never allowed himself to indulge in thoughts of what he might say, were he to have the chance to face his family again. So when the opportunity came unexpected, he was caught flatfooted. That, also, was a shock. Uchiha Itachi was always ready, never caught off-guard. Except when he was, apparently.
It had been hard to figure out how to act around his mother again. How had he spoken to her? How had he reacted to her replies? What did he say and what did he not say? It was hard not to stare at her, drinking in the familiar lines of her face. It was hard not to prostrate himself at her feet, begging forgiveness.
It had also been hard to rein in his reaction to his father. In some ways, Itachi still blamed his father, had never forgiven him. It had been Fugaku, and the Uchiha Elders, who had made the decision to step onto the path that had led to their destruction. The destruction that Itachi had had to shoulder. On some levels, Itachi blamed his father for what had happened, even though it had been Danzo and the Council who had given the order to kill the Clan, and his own hands that had done the deed.
Seeing them, being with them, it was difficult. Itachi felt the drain it exerted on his psyche acutely, and knew he wouldn't be able to properly analyze his situation as long as he was surrounded by the distracting influence that was his childhood home. As long as he was within the bounds of the Uchiha Compound, his mental capacity would be compromised. Which was why he was sitting, alone, in this secluded grotto in one of the forested parks of Konoha.
As long as he marshaled his thoughts and kept them on the task at hand, rather than dwelling on this sudden, unexpected, painful, restoration of his home and his family, he might be able to figure out what was going on.
So far, as he saw it, there were three possibilities.
First. This was a genjutsu. Point: it was intricately detailed. Explanation: it was a high-leveled genjutsu, of the type that was connected and fed by his memories and what his subconscious mind believed he should be seeing. Refute: he had learned to see through such illusions at the age of 8. As well, with his fully-developed Sharingan, it was essentially impossible to trap him in any level of genjutsu. Conclusion: this option was exceedingly improbable.
Second. All of what had happened previously to this moment had been either dream or itself a genjutsu. Point: Itachi had never heard of a genjutsu that had lasted for years. Explanation: it wasn't necessary for it to, actually. Didn't his Tsukuyomi compress days' worth of experience into mere seconds? So perhaps what he remembered—killing his clan, joining Akatsuki, fighting his brother in that final battle—weren't true memories. Refute: there was no logical purpose he could see to showing him such an illusion. Why give him false memories of the Uchiha betrayal, the massacre, and his descent to nukenin status? As a warning of what may happen? As a distraction, to keep him occupied while enemies did as they would? But there had been no attacks, no enemies doing anything. Everything was as Itachi remembered it should be, in this time. Conclusion: The idea of his memories being the genjutsu was illogical. Point: the option includes the possibility of what he remembered being a dream. Refute: Even though his normal vision was now restored to him, Itachi still had his Mangekyo Sharingan, and that was not something he had had as an eleven year old the first time around. Nor was it something he could spontaneously get from a dream. Conclusion: this was also highly improbable.
Third. This was a machination of Uchiha Madara. Point: Madara had some control over space and time through his Mangekyo Sharingan. It was possible that Itachi was here, in the past, because of Madara's ability. Refute: the question from the previous option came back—"For what purpose?" Why would Madara, who had not trusted Itachi and was, in fact, wary of the younger Uchiha, bring him into the past where Itachi could use his knowledge of the future to thwart Madara's plans? Itachi could see Madara coming back himself to correct his mistakes, or make better decisions. There were so many little things that Madara could have done differently that would have increased his successes, made his plan more solid. Turn left here instead of right. Use this jutsu rather than that one. Kill this man instead of ignoring him. Madara would come back, if he thought it could benefit him. But why bring Itachi with him? There was nothing to gain from that. In truth, it was a danger to Madara and his plan. The man was crazy, not stupid. No, if Itachi was here, it was because Madara hadn't intended him to be.
That actually made a certain kind of sense. The last thing Itachi remembered was lying near death after his fight with Sasuke. Perhaps Madara hadn't realized Itachi was still alive (though admittedly barely) when he'd activated his Mangekyo. Perhaps Itachi had been an unintentional hanger-on.
But that brought up more questions. Questions like: Had Madara activated his Mangekyo so close to Itachi that it had affected him as well? And if so, why had Madara done it so close? And why had Itachi awoken in his old room, in his old home, in his eleven-year-old body? He wasn't by any means an expert on Madara's Mangekyo, but he was fairly certain that it didn't work like that. Traveling had never caused Madara's age to change; it was how he had stayed alive so long. Besides, thinking about it logically, if you became the age you were supposed to be each time you time-skipped, then if you skipped ahead, say, two hundred years, you'd be the impossible age of two-hundred-some. You'd likely die instantly upon arrival. But Madara was jumping liberally through time and aging at a normal pace.
Conclusion: Option three was currently the most likely.
Itachi's breath caught. He hadn't allowed himself to think that when he'd first woken—there had been the very real possibility that what he was experiencing wasn't real, but after analyzing things, after discarding those ideas… Believing that option three was the most likely explanation for his situation meant that he was going to relive his childhood, starting now. Starting at age eleven. Starting with his Clan still alive, his family still with him. Starting before the Clan had committed completely to its plan of military coup.
He could change things.
The possibility took his breath away, robbed him of his famed composure. Here was opportunity. Here was redemption. A second chance at his own mistakes and decisions. His hands where they rested on his perch tensed, crumbling half-rotten bark away from the fallen log. He lifted his hands away, holding them in front of his face and observing how they trembled.
He could try again. He could, perhaps, change the fate of his Clan, of his brother. He could change his own fate. He could better protect Konoha.
But the opening was so vast, the opportunities numerous. Where could he begin?
No, he was getting ahead of himself. First, take stock of all assets.
:I am Uchiha Itachi, eleven-year-old Jounin of Hidden Leaf. I contain the knowledge of my nukenin twenty-two-year-old self. I possess the Mangekyo Sharingan. I possess the knowledge of what may happen in the future. I possess knowledge of many of the enemies Konoha might face in the coming years.: He paused. :Perhaps, if I explain myself, I could acquire an ally in the Sandaime Hokage. At this point, I was not so completely intertwined in the politics of the village, and he is not relying on me yet to spy on the Clan. But he trusted me before, and perhaps will again…:
Itachi tensed suddenly, breaking off as he sensed a chakra signature moving toward him. He stilled completely as he realized who exactly it was. He blinked and visibly tried to compose himself. What could you say to a friend you had killed, once upon a time? How did you face them?
Itachi stared at the river in front of him and tried to come to terms with the fact that he was about to come face-to-face with his best—perhaps only—friend, whom he had murdered, in his other past.
"Here you are," Uchiha Shisui's voice, exasperated and good-humored, announced his arrival. "Mikoto-obasan asked me to come find you."
Though somewhat more distantly related, Shisui was accepted enough by the Head family to address Itachi's mother as 'aunt.' And, apparently, accepted enough to be sent out to fetch her errant son home. Itachi swallowed, finding himself unable to turn to face his friend. He stared at the river.
What to do? How to act? This was more than a person should have to deal with.
:Breathe,: he reminded himself, :You are eleven. Shisui is your friend, your Clan is alive. This is where you are.:
With an effort, Itachi settled. A part of him was appalled at his wildly fluctuating emotions, and his inability to master them, to keep them from affecting him. But another part was saying 'after fully expecting to die, you woke up eleven years old again, with everything you had lost restored to you. Of course you are going to be off-balance.'
Then there was the tiny voice at the back of his mind, which was chanting softly the mantra: 'You could change things. You could change things.' He sank himself, for the time being, into the promise of those words.
"Shisui…" Itachi said, presently. Just like it had been when he'd first woken, it was a shock to hear his own voice so high and young.
"Itachi," Shisui mimicked. He walked over to stand at Itachi's shoulder. "What are you doing here? Thinking?"
Itachi tilted his head slightly, a vague agreement. It was a common thing for Shisui to find Itachi quietly sequestered somewhere in Konoha, thinking over one subject or another.
"Well, what was it this time? The emptiness of existence? The purpose of suffering?" Shisui moved to stand in front of Itachi, propping a fist on a hip and smirking. Itachi masterfully controlled his reaction to seeing his friend(almost brother)'s living face, and glanced up seemingly casually.
"Not quite," he said, perhaps a little dryly. He stood, dusting off his back. "My mother needs me to come home?"
"Well," Shisui admitted, "she was the one who sent me, but she said it was because your father wished to speak to you."
Itachi didn't let his sudden tension show in the face or body. Talks with his father had never been particularly enjoyable.
"I see," he replied blankly. Shisui slung an arm over the shorter boy's shoulders and started walking him back in the direction of the Uchiha Compound.
"Ah, you sound so enthused, Itachi-kun!" he said, too cheerfully.
"Father cannot possibly have anything to say that I do not already know," Itachi said. It was funny, because it wasn't true because he had lived this already. It was true because he knew his father so well that he could predict everything the man would say in any given situation.
"Bow to filial piety, and accept your lecture," Shisui laughed. Itachi grimaced mentally.
The lecture he received from his father was one of the ones Itachi had received so many times he had it memorized pretty much word for word. "I am proud of what you have accomplished at such a young age, truly you are my son, etc. etc. You bring honor to the Clan; you must work harder to raise the Uchiha name further, and so on." Itachi sat formally, not moving a muscle until his father finished, at which point Itachi bowed and murmured some vague statement that said nothing at all. Without really hearing anything his son said, Fugaku nodded and dismissed Itachi.
The Uchiha heir was just stepping out on the long, traditional porch that wrapped around the house when he heard the rapid clatter of his brother's entrance. Sasuke was home from the Academy.
"Onii-san!" came Sasuke's childish cry, and the six-year-old hurtled out of the house, looking for Itachi. Their father, stepping out of the room where he'd been lecturing Itachi, frowned at his younger son.
"Sasuke. It is not becoming of one of the Uchiha Clan to run and shout in such a wild manner," he admonished. Itachi watched his brother's face fall at the reprimand.
"Sasuke, come here," he said, and was pleased when Sasuke's expression brightened and he walked quickly around their father to Itachi. Once he was close enough, Itachi automatically reached out and poked Sasuke in the forehead with two fingers. He felt his heart constrict at the painfully familiar gesture, and at Sasuke's painfully familiar response.
"Ouch! Onii-san!" Indignantly rubbing his forehead, Sasuke scowled up at his brother.
"Did you have something you wished to tell me, Otouto?"
The question evaporated all negativity from Sasuke's bearing, and the boy beamed up at Itachi: "We learned how to throw shuriken and kunai today, and Sensei said I did well because I already knew how!"
"You remembered from our practices?" Itachi asked as he surreptitiously herded Sasuke away from Fugaku.
"Yep!" Sasuke nodded. "Sensei let me practice on my own while he taught the others."
"No one else knew how?"
"Well," Sasuke made a face. "Some of them did, from other Clans. But I was the best."
"That's good, Sasuke," Itachi said. It hurt, somewhat, to have this relationship with his little brother back again. He hoped, prayed to whoever might listen, that he wouldn't have to shatter Sasuke like he'd been forced to in the other-past. "And how well did you do on your own?"
Sasuke grimaced. Clearly that was a question he had hoped no one would ask. Evasively, the six-year-old replied: "I did okay…"
Itachi regarded his brother with amusement. "Would you like to show me what you remember?"
Sasuke's eyes went big and his face lit up. It was rare to have his big brother offer to spend time with him; usually the older Uchiha was too busy with other things. "Yeah!"
"We won't have much time; supper will be ready soon," Itachi warned. He could hear and smell the evidence of cooking coming from the kitchen.
"Okay! I'll go get my kunai!"
Sasuke scurried off, apparently already forgetting his father's admonishment about running. Itachi smiled.
Supper was its usual affair, strained sporadic conversation overlaying the general low-level tension caused by family members who held different world-views. As he had anticipated he would, Itachi came to the conclusion that one of the main stumbling blocks for his plan would be his father. Too caught up in the fallacy of Uchiha Supremacy and the promise of increased glory, he wouldn't take kindly to Itachi's trying to keep the Clan where they were, standing-wise. But Itachi wouldn't let that stop him. He would keep his Clan alive, and loyal to Konoha. The alternative didn't bear thinking about.
He would begin to implement his plan after supper; time was short, he had only a few short years before things would—if left untended—come to the point at which eradication of the Uchiha Clan became reality once again. Itachi also did not know when, or if, Madara would appear again. Itachi would have to act quickly…
He glanced casually at his mother, who was sitting deceptively demurely, eating small bites of rice with graceful movements. Itachi could see formal training in her motions, in the way she interacted with her surroundings. He could also sense the organized strength of her chakra. His mother had once been a kunoichi. Even though she had never admitted it, the evidence was there. And Itachi suspected she had had considerable skill. If he could get her to see his view, she would be a valuable ally.
Itachi thought that she would be receptive to what he had to say to her. Back… Back in the other-past, before he'd struck her down she had looked up at him and, meeting his eyes with her own tearful ones, said with quiet anguish: "I failed you as your mother. Forgive me."
Uchiha Mikoto placed a bite of fish in her mouth, chewing apparently serenely, but Itachi could see the shadow of grief and regret at the back of her eyes.