ItaSasu AT: for Shirayuki no Mai:

A Brother's Love

Theme Songs:

"Kryptonite," by 3 Doors Down

"Totemo Itai Itagaritai," by VY1 and VY2

"I said I love you, Otouto."

"W-What?" Sasuke blinked, dumbfounded. "When did this-"

"When I told you about my past, Sasuke. I realized my true feelings for you."

His younger brother still couldn't speak-his jaw was slack-and he looked at him crazily. Itachi kept speaking, knowing all too well in his heart that even though Sasuke was shocked, he was taking it better then he thought he would. "When I stop the Edo-Tensei," he explained softly, "all my memories will be erased permanently. Everything of you, little brother, regarding me will also be erased."

Shock tore through Sasuke's heart as it beat rapidly. No! No this couldn't…possibly be true! His older brother…gone? And everything he had learnt so far about his brother…how he had left him to struggle….with the concept of hate and confusion… to then come back and confess after all these years of being separated! "N-no!" Sasuke choked on words that would not come. They wouldn't escape the recesses of his mouth. "This isn't happening…this isn't-

Itachi cradled his younger brother's cheek in his hand, stroking it with his thumb softly as the tears overflowed, running down his cheeks. "Shh…" he comforted gently, his thumb becoming more insistent as more tears threatened to flow. "You'll always be my baby brother…Otouto...and I'll always love you." Leaning to kiss his brother softly on his tainted pink lips, he felt Sasuke's hands grip his auburn tattered cloak tightly, shaking madly. Faint scars were etched into his perfect tanned face, and Itachi frowned softly as his eyebrows creased in worry. But not wanting to add more sadness to his bucket list, he gasped as he felt his younger brother Sasuke's lips part slightly in want, his tongue exploring his mouth.

Unused to such intimate gestures, the kind Uchiha let go with a chuckle, as Sasuke moaned softly in frustration and pouted. He pushed his sleeves up past his elbows and looked away, hurt. "Itachi," said Sasuke, "why did you push me away? I want…I want more. Before you leave, I…"

"Sasuke." Sasuke looked into his brother's black eyes, mirroring his own. "I don't want to cause you any pain than I already have. But you're right. Just leaving it at that won't be enough."

Sasuke felt his hands being pinned above his head as Itachi kissed him more firmly this time, as a lifeless Kabuto stood near them, fighting his own denial in an endless cycle. Itachi placed soft, tender kisses on Sasuke's neck, on his collarbone, trailing downwards as they touched the edges of his shirt. Sasuke's eyes widened in surprise. Now Itachi was taking the initiative! Lifting it up, he placed a firm hand on his chest and moved it softly over his brother's nipples. Sasuke's breath caught in his throat. "We shouldn't," he gasped, fumbling for words. "Kabuto will know-"

"He won't know, brother. Until Kabuto finally realizes, he will never escape from the Izanagi." Sasuke shivered and trembled as Itachi's free hand cupped his chin. "Look at me," he said sternly. Sasuke bit his lip with his teeth hard, but refused to look into Itachi's eyes. As much as he wanted this and as much as he was telling himself that it was wrong in so many ways, he couldn't face the fact that in a matter of minutes, Itachi was going to be abandoned and forgotten from his memory forever. When Sasuke didn't respond, his jaw clenched, Itachi sighed. "I know you don't want this," he said.

"I do-"

"Then why are you resisting me, Otouto?"

Sasuke's black ochre eyes stared at Itachi's for a moment, before flickering away to stare at the walls surrounding them, covered in water that still dripped off from Itachi's suiton attack earlier. "I…" Sasuke hesitated for a long moment. "I just…I'm new to this, Itachi." He shook his head furiously as he closed his eyes, a blush gracing his thin, pale cheekbones. "I don't want you to think I'm not interested in you, the way you are in me," he said. "But with everything going on, I…I'm not sure what to do, or how to act. I acted wrongly earlier. I'm sorry, Nii-san."

Itachi took a step backwards as Sasuke sunk to his knees, his back grazing against the rocky wall. He'd taken it too fast, too soon. Then again, Itachi had never given much thought to being in love. Love was forbidden to a shinobi. As kind hearted as he was, Itachi had never fully appreciated love in any way. It wasn't the word that put him off. But he tended to be unemotional; passive in his words and actions. But the only ones he had truly cared for, was Sasuke his little brother and Mikoto, his mother and his best friend Shisui. Itachi did love Sasuke, but not in that way. He just wanted Sasuke to abandon his feelings for him so he could love Naruto instead, like he wanted him to.

His face was grave, solemn when he took a few paces forwards and stopped, a breath's away from Sasuke's forehead, as he bent down with his hands on his knees. "Sasuke. I want you to promise me something."

"What is it, Nii-san?" Sasuke asked quietly.

Itachi took a breath he didn't need and paused, thinking. "I want you to come back to Konoha. To our village."

Sasuke's eyes flashed in anger. "You want me to go back to the village that betrayed you-that betrayed us? Why should I even set one foot in the gates of-?"

"Because I want you to," Itachi answered. He sighed. Oh, he knew he was expecting that. His little brother's temper always flared when he was angry, even if he was asked to do a just cause. But he didn't blame him; after telling him the true story of what happened after Madara Uchiha did, Itachi knew Sasuke had been burning with hate for their village. He wanted to set it on fire. To burn it. To desecrate it to the ends of the earth. With all his heart, Itachi wished that Sasuke would change. Perhaps after all, all he needed was (a rather firm); nudge in the right direction to go down the right path. If he heeded Itachi's concerned words, then maybe Sasuke wouldn't be so consumed by hate anymore. Nothing made the older Uchiha worry more than his little brother's wellbeing. He loved him. If something…anything ever happened to him, Itachi would be beyond devastated.

Depression would follow if news of his brother possibly dying would surface.

But the one who would be the most inclined to take a suicidal leap was his best friend and rival, Naruto. Naruto, year after year, had tried to convince Sasuke to come back to Konoha. But what if it wasn't Konoha that Sasuke needed to come back to? What if it was him? What if it was Naruto, himself?

What would Sasuke do then?

Continuing, Itachi spoke. "The real reason why I want you to go to Konoha, is because someone special wants you to come back home."

Sasuke's anger fell quickly. "Naruto…"

The name hung in the air awkwardly as Itachi nodded. "Yes. He wants to bring you home where you rightfully belong. All this time you have been afraid, Sasuke."

Sasuke's pride flickered in his chest as he bared his teeth. "Afraid? I've never been afraid of anything." He laughed bitterly.

Itachi frowned. "Don't lie to your brother, Sasuke. I know you have been afraid." Before Sasuke could cut him off, he quickly spoke again. "You're afraid of what people will think of you. You've been thinking of going back to Konoha to live a peaceful life with Naruto and your team, but you know people will not welcome you as they once did; now that you are a missing nin. With the war still raging on, you are caught in the middle. Naruto is out there, saving people's lives on the battlefield, while you are here having a discussion with me." He waited silently for Sasuke to let his emotions pass. "Don't treat this talk with me as futile, brother. I simply just want you to finally acknowledge your feelings for Naruto."

"Feelings? What are you talking about?" Sasuke narrowed his eyes.

Itachi's eyes softened. Ahh. The brilliance of self-denial. Sasuke, you play the role brilliantly. "You know what I am talking about, Otouto. Deep inside your chest are feelings you have never admitted to."

"I-I don't love Naruto," Sasuke spluttered. "Where did you get that crazy idea from?" he demanded. "I demand to know what in your right mind caused you to say that!"

"I can sense you love him," Itachi replied, softer than before. "You just do not how to get past your pride. It is holding you back from saying how you really feel." At this, Sasuke snorted in amusement.

He thinks I love Naruto? Sasuke thought. Itachi doesn't know…he'll never know. He can't read my mind with Genjutsu. He can try, but he can't! I'm not naïve, either. But I'm certainly not going to admit to loving Naruto. Not in front of my brother.

"Whatever." He tossed his head and lifted his chin stubbornly. Then, taking a chance he said, "But what if maybe I said that I did love him? What would you say then, Nii-san?" Sasuke asked, giving him a curious look.

"Why, I would be very happy for both of you." Itachi smiled.

Sasuke looked a little doubtful. He pouted, which made his older brother laugh.

"You don't seem to be very happy about the whole situation," he mumbled. "I think that you're just over exaggerating again."

"Dear brother," Itachi said, "do not worry about me over exaggerating anything about you. You are my precious, dear brother and I will always be here for you."

Confusion crossed Sasuke's face. "But why can't I love-"

"Because I will not be here to show you the affection and desire you deserve," Itachi said simply. "Naruto can fill that empty space inside your heart, Otouto. He'll be there to love you and laugh with you. I will be in a grave soon, watching over you in the sky. I won't be here with you."

Sasuke's eyes filled with tears. "This isn't fair!" he sobbed, clutching at his chest as his heart thudded painfully. "How am I supposed to fall in love with Naruto when…when all I've done is push him away? There's no way he'll love me!"

Itachi tilted his head to the side and sighed in relief. Thank goodness. He finally admitted to loving Naruto. That's what I've always wanted to hear you say, Sasuke. All this time, I've only wanted the best for you, to succeed me. And now you really will succeed me, little brother. Itachi watched Sasuke shakily get up as he put a hand on the wall to steady himself, coughing. "Just do what comes naturally," he replied honestly. "You'll find a way to show Naruto how much you love him, Sasuke. I'm sure that Naruto wants to tell you that he loves you too-I know he will say he loves you when he next sees you. It's been too long for both of you."

Poking his brother with his signature caring move in the forehead with his two fingers together, he smiled warmly. "I-Itachi…don't…don't leave me! I don't know what to do without you! I don't know what to do-what to say…I-I don't know! P-Please don't!" The younger Uchiha male began sobbing uncontrollably as Itachi pulled him into a tight hug, stroking his back softly.

"Sasuke…" Sasuke's tears leaked into Itachi's auburn cloak, his face shadowed as the cave grew dark to match with Sasuke's sadness. "I'm sorry," Itachi replied helplessly. "I want you to be happy, Sasuke. I don't want you to be upset about me leaving, I…"

"You said I had to promise you something and I will." Sasuke sniffed and rubbed his leaking nose and eyes with his long sleeve, dangling past his long arm. "I promise you Itachi, that I'll go back to Konoha with Naruto. But I…" He hesitated and bit his lip forlornly. "I want you to promise me something, too."

"What is it, Sasuke?" Itachi whispered his grip tighter on his little brother, not wanting to let go.

When Sasuke spoke, his voice was soft and unrecognizable and very husky. Itachi had to strain his ear forward to hear him. "I want you to promise me that you'll always be watching over me and…Naruto," he added shyly, wiping his tears away from his eyes. "Can you do that, Nii-san?"

He's grown up. My little brother's…grown up at last… The thought left Itachi with a warm, happy feeling in his stomach. Itachi nodded politely and put a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Of course I can," he promised. Dignity fluttered in his chest as honour surfaced inside him. "I will do everything I can to make sure you and Naruto are safe, Otouto."

Sasuke gave him a warm smile and embraced his brother softly before looking up at the roof of the cave. "The storm clouds are coming." His tone grew serious. "Maybe you should stop the Edo-Tensei before something happens." He didn't know that the Hokage's were fighting Madara, but Sasuke could only guess that the foreboding atmosphere meant that something was way out of their league, and it was coming closer.

"I don't want to leave you here, brother. But it seems I do not have a choice in the matter." Sighing softly, Itachi gave Sasuke a soft kiss on the forehead and took off Kabuto's glasses as he walked closer near him. "There. The Edo-Tensei should have disappeared. It seems Kabuto has finally realized to trust…and be himself now."

Sasuke almost jumped for joy. But then, something happened. Itachi's limbs and cloak was disappearing as pieces of paper representing his clothes, fluttered away by the second. "I-Itachi?" Worried, Sasuke ran over to his brother and tugged on his sleeve desperately, tears forming in his eyes. "W-what's happening, Itachi? Please don't tell me-"

"I'm leaving," Itachi said sadly, glancing down at his arms which were slowly fading, unusable anymore. "I won't be here for much longer."

Sasuke's lips trembled as bit by bit, his brother…his own flesh and blood, began to disappear into the thin, cold air of the cave, paper fluttering. "I-Itachi…"

Itachi felt Sasuke touch his face gingerly with his hand as tears fell from his eyes. He didn't want his brother to see him so affected by emotions, but he couldn't help it. He was slowly dying…wasting away…and he would never be able to see his brother in this form again, or tell him how much he loved him. "Sasuke…thank you for letting me be your brother… and take care of Naruto…I trust you…"

With his words spoken, Sasuke watched as Itachi disappeared in the air, the last pieces of paper that was left of his brother floating through a hole in the cave, where a beam of sunlight shone through upon Sasuke's skin. Biting back regretful tears, Sasuke activated his Sharingan and walked out of the cave, leaving Kabuto alone. Sayonara, Nii-san…I'll…miss you… The rain clouds rumbled ahead as a cold and frosty wind blew his black hair in front of his face, and he held his long fringe with a steady hand, his free hand by his side clenched. Staring out into the open battlefield, cries of anguish and shouts from fifty kilometres away pierced his ears, and he adjusted his footing before he ran towards the most precious person on the earth, Naruto. I'll find you, Naruto! I'll come back with you to Konoha! He blinked as rain poured heavily down his face, streaming off his chin. I love you, Naruto Uzumaki!