This fic is dedicated to my older brother, who got in a car wreck today at four a.m. I don't think I've stopped crying since...I'm so worried, and I wanted to distract myself.

Madara led Sasuke into a room set aside from the rest of the Akatsuki base. Sasuke was trying hard not to faint or burst into tears, as he prepared for the worst.

A figure was laying out on a bed, concealed by a white blanket. Sasuke took a deep breath and approached it before pulling the covering back.

Madara watched Sasuke warily, awaiting his reaction.

Itachi's body lay perfectly still, lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling. He was dressed in a white funeral shroud, his dark hair no longer held back in its usual ponytail.

Sasuke began to tremble. He fell to his knees, buried his face against his brother's chest, and sobbed.

"Nii-san," he moaned, his voice muffled against the fabric, "Why didn't you just tell me?"

He looked up at his beloved older brother, at those blank, unseeing eyes. Sasuke reached a hand out and closed them. With Itachi's peaceful face and now-closed eyes, he didn't look dead. Merely sleeping…as if he would open them again at any minute.

But, in his heart of hearts, Sasuke knew that Itachi was gone. His soul had flown beyond the cares of the mortal world. Sasuke's tears began to flow anew.

"Come back," Sasuke sobbed. "Nii-san…Nii-chan…please…come back! Don't leave me! I can't live without you! Why…why did you lie? You looked after me…you protected me…why didn't you just tell me the truth? I would have believed you!"

Sasuke was on the verge of hysterics. He climbed onto the bed and gathered Itachi's body into his arms, pressing his tear-stained cheek to Itachi's ice-cold forehead, holding his stiff, cold hand and shaking hard.

"Nii-san…please…come back…"

Madara watched this, seeming detached and indifferent. But inwardly, he knew exactly how Sasuke was feeling. He walked up to Sasuke and patted him on the shoulder as he wept.

He knew all too well the pain of losing the one you loved most...the one who loved you the most. After all, he had lost his own brother once...