…It doesn't hurt…

When Itachi first died, the world was only pain. He could only feel agony, misery; his eyes, his heart, from shrieking joints and burning flesh…everything hurt.

It hurt that he couldn't see more than a blur of indistinct colors that made up Sasuke's face. It hurt that he could only choke out an "I'm sorry Sasuke…this is the last time…" with his failing, raspy voice before he collapsed.

Sasuke.

His brother.

His lifeblood.

He kept him alive when all he wanted to do was die. He kept Itachi fighting, through illness and nightmares and paralyzing fear. When even his own body was against him, gnawing away athim, very slowly giving out on him, he kept fighting. He fought for that sweet little brother he knew. The brother he'd betrayed and hurt so much.

It was the only way to make it up to him. To let Sasuke kill him, to take the only thing Itachi had left to give.

He owed Sasuke that much.

Madara called him 'softhearted' and 'sentimental'- a fool, a silly schoolboy who couldn't let go of the past.

Itachi didn't care. He knew what he believed in.

The Hidden Leaf, and Sasuke.

Everything grew far away; Sasuke's panicked breathing was replaced with a loud ringing. The pain faded into nothing, and his pitiful excuse for vision went dark.

This death was nothing like that death.

Kabuto's Edo Tensei was failing, shutting down. And that meant that Itachi was shutting down as well.

But there was no pain. Not this time.

He felt warm, and peaceful. Light as a feather, in body and spirit. No regrets press down on his heart, weighing him down and crushing his soul. He is ready to die, this time.

He clutches the back of Sasuke's head, fingers tangling in soft, silky hair. He brings his face an inch from Sasuke's- this time, he can see his little brother clearly. He speaks, and his voice is smooth, deep, and perfect- he doesn't have to worry that Sasuke will not hear him.

"No matter what you decide from now on…I'll love you forever."

Everything is growing fainter. He is wrapped in a warm blanket, soft and gentle like a mother's love. He's almost gone now…

You don't have to forgive me…as long as you understand.

He's finally free of this wretched world of lies and regret. Of a world of dark and light, and so many shades ofgray. He never knew where he belonged in this world.

But now he doesn't have to worry. He believes in Konoha.

And he believes in Sasuke.

Don't make the mistakes I've made...don't forget your friends. Don't forget the price we pay for the world we live...don't forget...Because I forgot.

Do better than me. Make this generation a better one. Don't let it fall apart...

Don't make it be like last time.

~.~

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