Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, any characters therein, or the lyrics used.

Those Who Follow


Those who are dead

are not dead

they're just living in my head


Mikoto tries to comfort him.

It's only natural; he is her son, after all. Her first child, the boy she loved even as he took her life. She had always tended to him; that he was a child in nothing but body at young as four years old meant nothing. She was always there to help him (even when he didn't need it) and offer solace (even when he didn't want it).

Mikoto is dead, but this fundamental piece of her has not changed.

Now, she rests a nonexistent hand on his shoulder.

Itachi does not feel it. He does not see it. But he knows it's there. And if he were a person who thought that he didn't deserve the extra guilt, guilt that the invisible (kind) touch adds on, he would wish for it to go away.

As it is, he makes no such wish.


Fugaku glares at him.

It was the same when he lived. Other fathers would rage, expressing their anger and disappointment (fear) through raised voices and fists. But Fugaku was never like that. His anger, his disappointment-he voiced them clearly through long, cold looks.

The sensation of hard eyes fixed, unmoving, to the back of his head was unnerving to Itachi at first. Now it is just one more reminder, a reminder of the true meaning of loyalty-loyalty to peace versus loyalty to kin. Loyalty to the greater good versus loyalty to the few individuals that make up one's family.

Itachi made his choice.

And for that, he constantly senses his father's deep disapproval. It is disapproval that Fugaku never felt for his older son in life, and he is making up for it now.


Shisui watches him.

When he breathed, he was capable of communicating much with one look. But his talent in this differed from Fugaku's in one crucial way-versatility. Where Fugaku's silent expressions perfectly communicated his unhappiness, Shisui's could say anything.

Itachi became adept at reading these expressions over the years. Shisui could get many things across without speaking a word. Things like amusement. Glee. Seriousness. Optimism. (Love.)

That much has not changed, and even though Shisui no longer has a body, Itachi can still feel the immense hurt and anger radiating from his ghost. And he is still capable of reading the other boy's emotions when they are etched in silence.

Why didn't you tell me?

Ghost or no, he knows Shisui will never forgive him. And this, Itachi feels, is only fair.


Sasuke screams at him.

The boy is not dead, but ghosts do not have to be. They can be memory; they can be still-living, like the man who accompanies Itachi throughout the slow days and nights.

Sasuke is both, and yet he is still a ghost, following Itachi.

Day and night, he howls his agony and hatred inside of his elder brother's mind. He screams questions that can never be answered (Why?). He swears to carry out the revenge that he was pushed toward. He makes promises drenched in blood and pain.

And then, sometimes, he cries.

At those times, Itachi almost feels that would give anything for Sasuke to start screaming again.


Itachi never used to believe in ghosts.

Even now, he doesn't know whether those that follow him are dead spirits or the beginnings of insanity, like blackness creeping over the vision of a dying man.

It doesn't matter one way or another. Ghosts are ghosts, memory or something more, and Itachi drags his with him.


In the end, these fragments of people he loved (loves still) help steady his resolve. Because every day, they remind him.

The first three remind him of what he has chosen, what has been sacrificed.

And the fourth one reminds him why it was worth it.