Characters: Itachi, Mikoto
Summary: "It's alright, Itachi. It's over now." She's wrong. He can't bring himself to tell her, but it has only begun.
Pairing: None
Author's Note: Obviously, this is pre-massacre, but after the discovery of Shisui's body in the river.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

He has stumbled away from the small room lit only with overhead floodlights, into the daylight and the bushes beyond, thick and concealing so no one shall spy him. Itachi has crashed away from what lies inside beyond the doors, throat convulsing and stomach twisting and turning as he throws up wretchedly. The smell of putrid, rotting flesh that has lain under water for days still rises noxiously in his mouth and nostrils. Shisui's face is no longer handsome, is anything but handsome, bloated and black and blue and purple, his once slightly hollow cheeks now full and teeming with colonies of blowfly larvae, maggots who gnaw steadily through the skin to find their way out. Shisui, needless to say, with his body bloated and holes in his cheeks, is not handsome anymore.

So they've finally found him. It took them long enough, two agonized days in which Itachi could barely breathe out of fear that he would be found out too soon, and that all would be lost. Two days, in which Itachi waited with fear and dread for them to bring his cousin home.

Two days that were all he had.

"Itachi?" A light hand settles on the middle of his back, and Itachi remembers his mother. Remembers that she saw him flee the room and followed him, brow drawn up, whether in concern or suspicion Itachi doesn't know anymore.

It's hard to remember some times, and hard to believe at others, that Mikoto used to be a kunoichi, before her marriage to Fugaku sentenced her to a cloistered existence, rarely allowing her to venture beyond the compound walls. But today and in the two days leading up to today, Itachi has been forced to come to terms with that fact. Mikoto viewed Shisui's bloated, rotting corpse with far more equanimity than he could ever have managed, has looked at him with searing suspicion ever since he came home two days ago and Shisui didn't come home with him, far more than Fugaku, absent father that he is, ever did.

She threatened, without ever having to say a word, to blow the whole thing wide open.

But now, regardless of whatever suspicion Mikoto entertains towards her elder son's activities, she seems to have softened in pity, as Itachi is barely aware of, but can hear his mother settling down in the bushes behind him, gently rubbing his back.

"It's alright, Itachi." Her light voice is soft and gentle, reminding him and perhaps herself as well that Itachi, nin and ANBU captain though he might be, is still a child. "It's over now."

Itachi shakes his head, barely perceptibly, and he knows Mikoto can't see it. He swallows, his raw throat sore and screaming. The taste left in his mouth is so foul that he's nearly sick again, but manages to push down his bile with difficulty, as the sun beats down on him from overhead, making his head spin.

He can't bring himself to tell her, and couldn't even if he wanted to, but it has only begun.