A/N: Because for some reason I felt I ought to repost this.
Erebus on the Cusp of Dawn
by Hic Iacet Mori
The orange sun dips down, its flaming arms grasping as it slowly fades against the clouds. It is gone from your sight but it never truly dies—it rises on the other side, warm and bright, cheery as it waits for the time to return to your sky.
A month after his brother's death, Uchiha Sasuke was living.
His brother—they hardly saw each other but when they did, the years between them melted like shadows against the light, receding meekly into the crevices of a spotless mind. Neither distance nor time was consequential, and they simply became the quietly affectionate nii-san and the silently loving otouto—they had their differences, their disagreements as they grew up together and apart, but they were all each other had and they took care of one another as much as they could.
Uchiha Itachi was a physically distant brother, unlike when Sasuke was younger and he could pout his way to a piggy-back ride. They, however, had developed a deeper connection that transcended physical boundaries when they grew up. It came to the point that Sasuke didn't mind if he didn't see his brother for months on end—Sasuke had grown up fiercely independent under Itachi's guiding hand, and he was no longer an insecure, worshipful child who craved the constant attention of his idol. As long as he knew that Itachi would appear on the doorsteps one day—and he did so, at least once a month—Sasuke believed all was well with the world.
He never really knew what his brother was up to, but it was enough that Itachi visited him from time to time—still quiet, still affectionate, still alive. They spent those days together in companionable silence, talking once the sun began to set as they drank the tea their mother used to fix for them, the dying rays of the sun bathing their wooden porch with a deep bronze sheen. Once a beam of light had touched its plank, Itachi would begin his questions—he would ask him about school, about friends, about goals, about carrying on in the business of living, and Sasuke would give short answers to each. Their words were precise, concise, Itachi's tone indifferent while Sasuke's was bored, yet his eyes would speak of contentment at having his nii-san's attention on him again.
He had always sought his brother's approval, affection, and this had never changed—Sasuke had only become more subtle about it and it wasn't a great necessity in his life anymore. Itachi had told him once that he must please himself first and foremost, and Sasuke had taken it to heart as he did all his brother's lessons. One of them was the value of silence over words, of listening over speaking—like Itachi, Sasuke had become a tacit young man. Fact remained his brother was more tacit than he was, but it was enough that they understood each other in their varying displays of silence. Years of brotherhood could speak so much without the constraints of words.
When his brother was done with his interrogation, he in turn would ask his own questions. Itachi would answer when he could, falling silent when he couldn't—Sasuke knew his brother would rather be mute than lie to him. He had come to depend on his brother for truth and his brother loved him too much to withhold it from him. Besides, they were rarely around each other. It would be useless to lie and Uchiha never lied—especially not to those they cared for the most.
They were never demonstrative, never vocal of their inner thoughts and feelings, but the truth in Itachi's visits and the truth in Sasuke's contentment were enough.
And then, three months ago, Itachi stopped visiting.
And then, a month ago, a man from the police station appeared on his doorsteps, breaking the news that Uchiha Itachi, 25, was caught in the middle of a gang war and died.
He didn't even know the man's name.
Standing over his brother's headstone, he wondered faintly if the man had given it in the first place. And then his mind blanked out, fading into formless thoughts, as he continued on the business of living. A wind whipped past and he shivered. He closed his eyes.
It felt oddly hard and easy at the same time.
There were times that Sasuke barely felt he was alive. Life was too routine, too normal, too dull, that sometimes he thought a robot could take his place and no one would notice the difference. Sometimes he felt he was simply a ghost, watching the world turn through the eyes of a corpse, silently asking someone to cover his open grave. Sometimes he believed he was a puppet, living vicariously through his master with his simple ideals and simple goals, all artful shrouds of failed creations, failed dreams. Sometimes he thought he was walking in water, his world wrapped in monochrome silence, breathingbreathingbreathing as much air as he could before his lungs gave out, before he gave up, before he realized he was meant to walk on land—not onwater, never in water—before he learned it was futile to attempt to walk on air—to reach the clouds, to touch the heavens and feel the sun, feel life—before he choked, before he died.
Sometimes, Sasuke didn't believe he was alive.
When Itachi died, Sasuke didn't believe it either.
He still didn't believe it one month later, his eyes unseeing as he stood over his brother's headstone, just as he had done everyday after classes ended. There were only three important places in the world by his own reckoning—the house, the school, and Itachi's side, and it was quite convenient that the most important place was now a permanent location. It was quite near too, the Uchiha Cemetery. At least he could go there everyday and feel alive.
Uchiha Cemetery was a block away from the house Itachi had bought for them three years ago. He hardly visited the vast land in the past, dropping by only during his parents' birthdays and death anniversary to offer candles, food, flowers, and prayers. He was a mere child when they passed away, and though he would like to imagine they loved him very much and that he loved them as much in return, it was Itachi who acted as his mother and father even when they were still alive. It was Itachi who loved him most, it was Itachi he loved the most.
And so, he visited Itachi everyday. He didn't offer candles, or food, or flowers, or prayers—Itachi didn't need them, he had always been self-sufficient, and Sasuke doubted that a move to a new location would change that. Even if it's a permanent location because his brother may be dead but he wasn't really dead now, was he? It was too ridiculous to fathom, a dead Itachi. More so a ghost one. Just no. He didn't believe it. Too stupid and Nii-san isn't stupid shut up shut up the sun is going down hush watch.
Beside the white slab of marble, by Itachi's side, Sasuke sat and watched the sun set.
The sun was going down and it was peaceful, always so peaceful. As peaceful as the last round of green tea he and his brother had. As peaceful as the day they grappled for the last onigiri. As peaceful as the day they played shogi on the porch. As peaceful as the day a man appeared on his doorsteps, with a funny story about his brother caught in the middle of a deadly gang war. It was peaceful.
Itachi always made him feel at peace.
The sun had set and he stood up.
Sasuke felt nothing.
Watch the sun set with unseeing eyes, and the darkness it leaves behind will not touch the ice you have become.