Author's Notes: I know this isn't the update that you probably wanted, but this idea came to me a few days ago, and I just felt this overwhelming need to write it down. Hopefully, if I can get my act together, the last chapter of Laying Claim will be up by this weekend. I'm pretty far into the chapter, so there's a good chance. Now, about this one shot: I adore Itachi, always have. True, at some point I thought he was cold and heartless, but then he just kind of gets under your skin in a good way. After I found out about the Massacre, then I knew I liked him even more. It's really sad that we've been taught to hate him, when he is actually very noble. He's a good guy in the end, and that really hit me right here, you know?



Title: My Brother's Keeper

Rating: T (or PG-13)

Summary: Everything I've done has been for you, Sasuke.

Pairings: None

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Spoiler Alert: This story contains spoilers from Naruto manga chapters 139–149 and 384–404. You have been warned.



I walk towards your shivering body, backing you into the only wall left standing. You're afraid of me, I can tell. I've always been able to read you like an open book, Sasuke, even though you try to hide behind an emotionless façade. You look so vulnerable that it hurts. Only I have a miniscule amount of chakra left…chakra that you have no idea what I'm going to do with.

I'm dying. The blood coming from my mouth is not from an injury that you have given me. No, I've known for a long time that my health was rapidly declining. It's why I sought you out, so you could kill me and get the victory you so desired before Mother Nature could kill me herself. Not to say I didn't deserve this painful death, with my lungs on fire and my blood feeling like it had to force its way through my veins.

The cold look you've been giving me is deserved as well. I killed all of them—even Mother and Father—for reasons that I hope you'll never know. You should never have to know that the man you adored and revered was about to commit genocide far worse than what I could have ever done. You'll never know that I only just managed to spare your life by getting down on my hands and knees in front of the Hokage, begging for your safety. Killing my clan was going to be hard enough, but killing my brother?

You were so little then. I wish I could have told you so much, but you weren't able to understand the things I had to go through. You were so innocent that I couldn't bear you finding out that by thirteen I had killed more people than I could count, and I had managed to do it without feeling a thing. You hated that you weren't at my level when I was your age, but it was something I blessed. No one, prodigy or not, should ever have to kill a man at age eight. I know I monopolized father's attention and sometimes, not always, I did it on purpose. You started to get significantly better after he paid attention to you and taught you the Uchiha's jutsus. I was scared—terrified!—that if he saw the same potential and ambition that I saw in you, he would push you the same he did as me, and the childhood that I fought for you to keep would be over in a heartbeat.

Of course, the fate of your childhood was decided when I was summoned by the Hokage and three members of the Council. I had already been acting as a spy for the Hokage for some time, working as a double agent for the Uchiha family. You never knew about the Uchiha meetings on overthrowing Konoha, because I always made sure you were fast asleep in bed while they went on. You used to have this habit of getting up in the middle of the night to eavesdrop, and then I, the "big bad brother," would send you right back to bed. You used to come up with the funniest excuses why you were up in the middle of the night (the most memorable being that you heard a dying cat from the direction of the living room) which used to make me smile, and often times those moments with you were the best part of my day. You used to pout at me before getting under the covers grumpily. I stayed outside your room until I felt your minimal chakra even out in sleep, and it was only then that I rejoined the meetings, often getting scolded by Father for my absence.

I cried the night of the massacre, the betrayed look in your eyes ripping into my soul. I still remember how you looked at me. I still woke from nightmares of a tearful, "Why, brother?" echoing in my head. And then I made up that stupid lie…how you should hate me. I did want you to become stronger, but not like that. Never like that.

It was necessary, though. I knew that revenge would be on your mind, and you would have to be stronger in order to beat me. It's what I wanted, too, since I felt it would give you some peace. But, even though I fully planned on losing that fight, you had to defeat me with both of us using all of our strength. If I went easy on you during that fight, you would suspect something, and there was no way I was going to risk you finding out the truth. That had also been a good opportunity to tell you about the Uchiha's secret meeting room, where you could read up on the secrets of the Sharingan and how to utilize it to its full potential.

It was a great relief to me when you were put on Hatake Kakashi's team. I'd worked with him and he was more than competent, not to mention he possessed the Sharingan, so I knew he would be a good teacher for you. His quirks would soothe the hate you'd built, and I had hoped that he and your teammates would show you that you could still live somewhat normally, getting stronger to defeat me without hating your life every minute, like you should have all along. I don't think you realize how proud I was when I heard you'd finally earned the Sharingan in battle, or when you fought your way into the final matches of the Chuunin Exams.

I was anxious in those days, since Orochimaru had begun to move again. There were whispers of an attack on Konoha, but those were merely dismissed as rumors. I knew Konoha to be full of competent shinobi, so I thought you had been safe. My worst fears were confirmed when they told me of your Curse Seal. I nearly wrung the neck of the messenger who relayed the information to me, only managing to hold back to keep up my stoic reputation. That bastard was trying to get to me through you, and damn if it wasn't working. No one ever remembers seeing me as violent as I was in the next few days after I'd heard…I nearly slaughtered anyone who spoke to me in anger. I would get Orochimaru, I vowed.

He crossed the line when he killed the Sandaime, the only person who had allowed your life to be spared the night of the Massacre. The other three who knew the truth would have zero problems killing you and making it look like an accident. That was why, as soon as I heard, I informed Kisame we were leaving for Konoha. He didn't ask me any questions about it, but I knew he was quite curious. That was the first time I would return home in five years. I had to warn the three Councilmen that I was still a threat to them should do anything to you. I had to relay that I had no qualms about marching into the village that considered me an enemy, just so they would know that I wasn't the least bit hesitant about killing them should the need arise.

The familiar skyline pulled something in my chest, but I had a mission to accomplish. I told Kurenai-sensei and Asuma-sensei that I was looking for something, about to head off on my own and indirectly ordering Kisame not to kill anyone. It was then that Kakashi appeared, and it was then that I assessed how worthy he was to protect you. I knew of his skills and that, like me, he had grown in shinobi ranks at a young age, and was one of the most accomplished shinobi in the village. I had to make sure he knew how strong you needed to become to defeat me, Sasuke, even to the point of intentionally dropping the hint that it was only you who could defeat me because of our shared bloodline.

Admittedly, I punished the famed Copy-Cat Ninja on purpose by sucking him into my Tsukuyomi. If he couldn't even scratch me, how was he supposed to protect you from Orochimaru? I had put my trust in him to keep you safe until you were strong enough to protect yourself, and he was failing me. I forced him to see the results of his failure, not regretting sending him into the red and black inverted hell.

He was sharp though, deducing that I had gone to Konoha for you. I made up a lie, of course, about killing the next Hokage. For some odd reason, they never questioned me, which I was again disappointed in Kakashi for. What reason did I have to kill the Fifth Hokage?

I chased Jiraiya-sama and the son of the Fourth, knowing word would get to you that I was here and you would make sure to find me. You didn't fail me, and it wasn't long before I faced you. You had grown so much in five years, that being the first time I had really seen you. You were looking more like Mother as you grew, your features softer, your eyes richer with emotion, your hair just as unruly as it had always been. However, I saw the crazed hate in your eyes, which I had expected but hated all the same. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. We were supposed to grow up in brotherly competition, as each other's best friends, not trying to see who could kill the other first. Of course I could hardly blame you for your hatred, I suppose. I was hard on you that night for a reason, showing you the deaths of everyone you loved with the Mangekyou and telling you that you simply weren't worth killing. I had to get you to really hate me, to reinforce that I was the bad guy and had to be stopped. By the way you looked at me, I could tell I succeeded.

Your chidori was impressive, and I was satisfied that you were coming to master at least a few upper level techniques by this point. However, it wasn't enough. You were going to have to become stronger to defeat me. I drove that point home by grabbing your wrist, every ounce of me recoiling in horror feeling your bones snap in my hand. It was the first time in five years that I had truly felt like a monster.

I watched your Curse Seal unravel as you attacked me again. I felt little remorse as I knocked the wind out of you, because how dare you rely on Orochimaru's power like that? I had to teach you to be independent of him. Even then I was thinking about ways to undo the Seal on your neck, but I never actually discovered how to accomplish that until three years later. I loathed telling you to hate me even more, but I knew it was necessary. You needed to find it in you to kill your older brother, and if you saw me like I saw you, then my death was never going to happen.

When word reached me that you had flown to Orochimaru, I was furious with you. You had everything in Konoha. Good teachers, good friends, a much better life than I had ever been given. You had been happy there, steadily growing in the most honest way that a boy of your age should. And then you had sought out my personal enemy for help, something I'm sure Orochimaru had rejoiced in. He would teach you to become stronger, but his lessons would be dark and would also teach you to let go of anything human. I didn't want you to turn into me. Your emotions are your most powerful asset, Sasuke. I could have told you first hand how terrible it is to cease feeling…to numb yourself to a point where you could slaughter entire towns and feel very little in the process.

Over the next two years, I warred with myself. I knew of Orochimaru's intentions for you, that he would take your body to preserve his own youth. He would do it for power…and to spit in my face that he also possessed a Sharingan. I was conflicted, not wanting that to happen. Would I kill you if you allowed him to take your body? Could I do that to save you? It took me many a sleepless night to convince myself to trust you. I told myself that you would never allow him to control your body if it meant he could possibly sidetrack you from your mission to kill me.

It was two and a half years later that I found out you killed him, and I let out a relieved sigh in the privacy of my own bedroom. You were safe and that's all that mattered.

Only a few months before that, I learned how sick I was. It unnerved me that my own body was killing me. I hid it well from everyone in Akatsuki except for Madara. He knew, though how is still a mystery. I woke coughing blood, and realized that I would have to seek you out, since you were having such trouble finding me on your own. Don't worry, Sasuke, I had fully intended on allowing you to kill me before the illness did.

I showed you the stakes, that I could take your eyes to keep myself from becoming blind, but in that was an offering. I wanted you to take my eyes after I was gone, so you could destroy the army that Madara was building to conquer the world. I still wanted to believe there was some sense of justice in you…that you would never allow forces to decimate the village where you had grown up and where your precious people had lived. There were people who still loved you there, I want to tell you, if you would only go back. I sacrificed my freedom for your sake. You should be able to go back there…as the hero who avenged his family. But, in your eyes, I saw that you had no idea what came after this fight. You had lived for this moment alone, not giving a single thought as to what would come afterwards.

Your skills had me impressed. You saw through all of my genjutsu, matched me blow for blow every time, even nearly giving me a heart attack when I thought I'd accidentally killed you with Amaterasu. I pushed you, though, for one purpose. It was when you were exhausted that I pushed again, and then your body heaved as the Curse Seal activated and Orochimaru came from your neck. With Susano'o, he was easy enough to kill, and when I saw that the Seal was gone from your neck, I knew it was okay for me to die.

It was selfish of me to want to take your revenge away from you, to tell you everything so that we could act as brothers once more. But…I could never take away your happiness like that. For your sake, you had to kill me.

And you never fail to deliver.

I walk towards you, my darling baby brother, feeling the light giving out in my world. You had won. I had more chakra left than you, but it would not be used to kill you. This was the very last thing I could do to keep you safe…make sure that Madara never told you about me. The truth would kill you, I know. If you only knew how much I love you, then I know you would regret killing me, and it is no longer my wish to cause you anymore pain. I want you to be happy now. In fact, it is my dearest wish for you.

You're scared, I can tell. It calms me a moment, easing the pain a little as I know you still have some mark of humanity left in you. I was glad to know that your time hating me hasn't made you completely numb. You still feel very strongly. You can still live after this, really live as more than a shell of a human being. You can go and rebuild the Uchiha Clan like the saints you always imagined them to be, loving your children and showing them all the attention you wished Father had shown you.

You look so vulnerable that it hurts. I want to wrap you in my arms and tell you that I'm sorry for everything you've had to go through because of me. I want to tell you how much you've always meant to me, that I wish I could have been a better brother, even that I wish that I'd helped you with your shuriken practice more. But I can't do any of those things. You have to hate me for your peace of mind.

Only I have a miniscule amount of chakra left…chakra that you think I'm about to kill you with. However, if you could see inside my head you would know that killing you is the most horrific thing that I could do. Giving you a defense against Madara is the only thing I can do for you now, my very last gesture as your older brother.

Two of my fingers extend towards you, and you look at me with the same expression you did when you were five and woke up from a nightmare. You used to come to me to console you, waking me up from a deep sleep just so I could tell you it was going to be okay again. You saw me as your protector then, because between Father and I, I was the only one who wasn't going to tell you to man up and get over it. Now, if I have my way, you'll never know exactly how much of a protector I've been, or that I've thought about you every step of the way. You have guided me through everything I've done, even before the Massacre.

Everything I've done has been for you, foolish little brother.

My fingers press to your forehead like I used to do when we were younger. I'm sorry, I want the gesture to say. Maybe next time.

I feel the last of my chakra leave me as I transfer my eye techniques to you. I fall to the ground in hopes that you'll never know how much I love you.



Author's Notes: Ah, Itachi's final moments. I wondered what he was thinking then, even when we didn't know he was the good guy all along. Hope you enjoyed it, please review and let me know what you thought.