A/N: This story takes place in an AU where there are no ninjas. It's the "ordinary world". ItaSasu in later chapters.
This fic is dedicated to IWuffCupCakes, for being such a good friend and for helping me out with some awesome plot ideas :D
Chapter 1: The Fire
A loud crash was heard from the kitchen, making Sasuke start to cry for the third time that morning.
"If you want to leave, then go ahead! But the kids are staying with me!"
"I would rather die than leave them with you!"
Childhood hovering above them, making everything feel so bright. But everything was not as it should be. Itachi knew it already from the beginning, long before his sibling was born. Something was wrong, not just on the surface but in the pillars of his parents' relationship. Something was falling apart.
His little brother's oblivion was very peaceful sometimes. Sasuke stretched his chubby arms up and said: "'Niki!" in a request of being held. He stopped crying when Itachi lifted him up and patted his hair. Sasuke was always very distressed whenever their parents argued, but Itachi tried his best to distract him.
Their mother's upset voice from the kitchen: " – And how did she get into our lives? Can you answer that? I thought this was a relationship between us!"
Their father screamed something back and Itachi covered Sasuke's ears. The little child looked up at him with big, black eyes that were very confused. Sasuke moved his hand and wondered what his Nii-san was doing. Itachi sat down with him on the floor in Sasuke's room and started to sing a lullaby to him. But it was harder than usual to get the little child's attention. Sasuke was distracted and distressed and both the brothers flinched when the sound of breaking glass reached them again.
Itachi gave up on the lullaby and pressed Sasuke firmly against his chest. So many days he had stayed home from school because he didn't know what would happen to Sasuke if he left him on his own with their parents.
Some days everything was perfect. Their father was at home and their mother was overjoyed, she smiled and was so kind. Other days Fugaku had left the house without explanation and Mikoto switched between crying and cursing. When he came home, they could scream at each other for hours.
Itachi felt as if he and Sasuke became invisible those days. The two-year-old was left in his care, and he knew that if Sasuke crawled out to his parents and cried, he would most likely ended up being slapped by his father. Therefore it was his job to take care of his brother, although he was just like any eight-year-old. Sasuke was calmed by his presence and played with his fingers, humming on a song Itachi had taught him.
Itachi could hear his parent's accusing words to each other and he felt physically sick inside. It was so hard to be in the same house as them when they started fighting. He was no longer overwhelmed by the guilt and shame he felt every time, he had started to shrug it off now. But Sasuke was becoming more and more aware of the situation and Itachi feared that he would be just as hurt inside as he already was.
He buried his face in his baby brother's hair and breathed his sweet scent as he closed his eyes. If he tried really hard he could be somewhere else right now, together with Sasuke. Somewhere when love was putting the family together again and he could be just a tiny bit better so that his parents would stop fighting. At least for today. At least long enough for Sasuke to fall asleep without crying due to the loud shouting.
Suddenly Mikoto burst into the room. Before Itachi had time to react, she snapped Sasuke out of his arms and pressed him tight to herself. He could see tears running down her cheeks and Sasuke squirmed, distressed by his mother's upset state. Fugaku entered the room a second later and Itachi became angry – would they continue fighting in here, the only safe place Sasuke and he had left? But the thing that happened next shocked him throughly.
Itachi watched with wide eyes as Mikoto hastily stroked his cheek and kissed his forehead, mumbling "I love you", before she rushed out of the house with Sasuke in her arms. Fugaku held out an arm and prevented Itachi from following her. "You stay here."
Itachi turned against his father with rage boiling in every fiber in his body, but the man cut him off: "Let that whore escape with her kid. We will never see them again. You're my son, the only kid I have."
When Itachi had pushed his father aside and rushed out through the front door, the only thing he saw was a disappearing cab, taking the half of his family away from him.
Eleven years later
Saying that the city was big was not an exaggeration. Konoha was a business town, filled with sky-scrapers and swirling highways that could take you anywhere. This town had so many inhabitants from all corners of the world. Here so many families lived, and here so many came when they wanted to start a new life. An ever gray sky painted the background of the scenery.
Here was one of Konoha's smaller comprehensive schools, a "safe" little place for special students. But one would have to search for a messier and more disorganized school, and many of the pupils had not any special talents besides a competition instinct through thick and thin. Nothing was as fun as drive their teachers crazy. The school building was old and worn out and within its walls so many couples had broke up, being locked into their cupboards or found the meaning of their existence.
Sasuke angrily turned around in his school bench. "Naruto! I know that you've stolen my pencil! Give it back right now! And - shit, where are my keys? This is not fun!"
"Search for them," Kiba suggested bored.
"So troublesome", Shikamaru muttered.
"Seriously, give them back!" Sasuke complained.
Suigetsu grinned at the blonde boy in the other end of the room. He had been involved in the conspiracy to – once again – steal Sasuke's keys. Their teachers said that they behaved like toddlers, but the young teens didn't care. Suigetsu took a sip of his water bottle that was all bitten and marked by his sharp teeth.
Karin looked up from her book and blushed as red as her hair when she saw Suigetsu, sitting nonchalantly on his bench with his white hair gleaming in the light from the lamps. Ino had turned her chair against Sakura and they were engaged in a heated discussion about makeup, while Hinata shyly looked at them from behind. Iruka's lessons were always the messiest ones and it had become a sport for the students, like rabbit hunting, to drive him as crazy as possible. And the students weren't saving their tries; the classroom already looked like a war-zone although the class hadn't even started yet.
"How I am supposed to get home? Give me my keys right now!" Sasuke shouted.
Naruto threw a rubber across the room and Karin got up and yelled at him when it hit her glasses with enough force to crack them. "Naruto, you baka! These doesn't grow on trees, you stupid idiot! Do you know how much it will cost to repair them?"
In the same moment Iruka entered the room. He sweat-dropped at the scene in front of him. His students didn't notice - or didn't care - that he tried to get their attention over and over again.
"Everyone, calm down! Karin, stop hitting Naruto –"
"He broke my glasses!"
When Iruka himself got a rubber in his face, he gave up on the reprimands. "Suigetsu, step down from the table! Ino, Sakura, the class has started, would you please stop talking. Shikamaru, put your headphones aside –" No one was listening to him.
"I guess I'm glad that I won't be their teacher anymore", he mumbled to himself.
Everybody froze and started at their most appreciated teacher.
Naruto broke the silence. "What?"
"You've been our teacher since first grade!" Kiba shouted. "You can't just abandon us!"
Sakura and Ino sniffed and Hinata's lips trembled. Sasuke didn't know what to say or do.
"Why are you leaving us? What a drag."
"Well, I felt that it was time for me to move on. Kakashi will take over my classes – you guys know him, don't you?"
"We had him in sex ed", Sakura remembered and shivered. "And in the P.E. lessons", Ino added.
"He will take over for me", Iruka said. "But you'll get a new math teacher."
The whole class let out a collective groan.
"Why can't we have Rubber-head-sensei in all classes?" Naruto asked angrily.
"Kakashi does not have the time. Or the proper education for that", Iruka said. "It's time for you to get used to some new manners. You don't have many years left to high school. Now, on with the lesson. Can anyone tell me how to calculate angle x if angle a is …"
"Hey, hey, Iruka-sensei! Are you gay?!"
Iruka ignored the giggles and Naruto's question. "What have I said about talking without permission?"
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Naruto does everything without permission. That idiot."
"Sakura-chan….!" Naruto lowered his head.
Iruka was rather tired by now. "For being a bunch of thirteen-year-olds, I must say – you are rather stupid." His students gaped and gasped at the accusation. Iruka smiled warmly at them and spread his arms. "Give me a hug, all of you."
When his students glomped him a moment later, it was with sentimental and mixed feelings he thought about them. He had followed these twenty eight pupils since they were kids and for the most of them, so much had happened. Sakura and Karin had been so shy that they barely dared to open their mouth, and now they were just as loud-mouthed as Naruto. Shikamaru had gotten a lot better in school – Iruka was the first teacher to discover that he was a genius although he was lazy. Iruka also remembered the big development with his worst student Naruto. Naruto's parents, the wild Kushina and her husband Minato had done everything they could to make him behave. And Naruto was rather good at doing his homework nowadays. Iruka wondered if it would change when he wasn't there to encourage him anymore.
His eyes almost watered when he thought about his beloved students. Sasuke was the most talented one he had ever had, the best student in the school - and Iruka often wondered what made the boy so ambitious. He had never seen Sasuke's father and he knew what had happened. Geniuses like Sasuke usually didn't have such unstable family relationships as he had.
Iruka hugged them all and looked at those crazy, wild, loud-mouthed and brave kids.
"I will miss you guys", he said. "And I'm sure your new teacher will love you."
"You liar, Iruka-sensei!"
Iruka's left eyebrow twitched. Those brats was already mocking him again – but no matter what, he knew that he would miss them anyway. "Just don't try to scare away the new one the first thing you do."
"Promise, Iruka-sensei!" Naruto said, grinning with a look that clearly said 'trouble'.
Sasuke scratched his pen against his writing pad and tried to shut out the sound of his friend's voices.
"This school is so damn boring! I wish something fun could happen for once! Like, the principal's got a heart attack or the school could be on fire!"
"Don't start with that again, Naruto", Kiba groaned.
"Hey, Sasuke." The said person looked up at his friends. Suigetsu chewed at the end of his pencil. "How come you always get all answers correctly on the tests? When you say that you never study!"
"He study when he thinks no one else is around", Kiba grinned.
"Stop it already! I'm trying to do my work here!" Sasuke snapped. He once again tried to concentrate, but his thoughts flew back and forth and he couldn't collect them.
"Why are you at such a bad mood, teme? Stop being so boring and join our conversation!"
"It's not a conversation", Sasuke hissed. "It's just two losers talking to each other."
"Hey, stop being so mean!"
Sasuke abruptly stood up and collected his things. He threw the load of pink love letters some people had left on his desk at the bin. Then he left the room without another word.
"Sasuke, come back here!"
Suigetsu looked after his best friend who disappeared and then moved his gaze to Kiba, who looked rather guilty. Naruto shrugged but his gaze was locked at the door where Sasuke had disappeared.
"What's with him?"
"PMS", Suigetsu said jokingly. Kiba glared at him. "It must have been something we said."
"Like, 'two losers talking to each other'. Seriously, it's not like Sasuke to be so sulky."
"Maybe he has problems at home", Naruto suggested.
"Yeah, maybe his mom refused to buy any more tomatoes."
Sasuke was sitting depressed locked into one of the bathrooms of the school. He scribbled on the wall and listened on his music player on the highest volume possible. That way he could effectively shut out the rest of the world and all the things he just didn't want to think about. Things he couldn't think about. He could become one with the music, and turn the volume up until his ears ached. Days like this he didn't know what to feel or do, and strange thoughts could hit him.
He half-heartedly considered to inflame the bin. Maybe Naruto was right – they needed some kind of fun to enlighten the ever so grey days here. Everything was the same; every day was exactly like the day before.
He wished that he had something to hold on to, some memories to enjoy himself with. He had no fun at all, but he didn't want to change that either. He had nothing planned after school and he rarely hang out with his friends. He felt that he didn't fit together with them, even if he knew them quite well. But he was used to feel half, as if he had something inside of him that had been cut in two. And now he couldn't find the other piece.
He had never had any dreams or plans for the future, it wasn't important. Everything was just repeating itself, like a melody that played over and over again. There was nothing that interested him enough to make him have it as a hobby, nothing that could make him really excited. His friends called him 'emo' but he thought that that was an exaggeration. Just because he had black hair and often felt depressed it didn't mean that that was his style. Sasuke felt that he didn't have the strength to take it any longer.
Everything was just painful clichés about the true, perfect love or the day when everything would be fine. It was not that Sasuke wanted to die or felt suicidal; it was just that he missed the right feeling. He didn't feel like living. But he still needed to come home every day. He needed to show his mother that he still was there, that he was alive. Otherwise her fragile being would collapse, he feared. He was the replacement for everything in her life – the husband she never had and the other, happy children she never had.
It was completely quiet in the small bathroom and outside of it, until he suddenly caught the sound of an alarm and moving feet outside of the door. Sasuke's gut tightened for a moment until he realized what it was.
He relaxed again. So boring. Fire drill again? Didn't they have any better thing to do with their time? He snorted. Well, he wasn't going to put up with that stupidity. He was going to stay where he was.
"Easily-scared idiots." He turned the volume up another bit.
When the sound of feet started to fade away and the alarm still was on, he became really annoyed. Turn it off for God's sake, some people are trying to feel depressed here!
He broke his pencil a couple of times and then used the pieces to paint the sink all grey. He scribbled nasty words on the brick wall, just fed up with everything. Fuck this world and fuck them all. He became more and more angry, and soon the floor was filled with broken pieces of his pencil.
Damn it. Damn it. Sasuke bumped his head against the wall and then kicked the sink a couple of times. He hated this school, he hated everything. Why did his mother even bother giving birth to him? Everything was just so unnecessary.
But at least, he had this little hide-out. Here he always sat when he wanted to be alone. Here he could be himself, and here he didn't need to pretend.
Sasuke suddenly noticed how warm the air was. Maybe he should consider leave his hideout and go to some random store instead of sitting here like a depressed teenager. When he heard the faint sound of fire trucks he finally got up. It wouldn't hurt to just check the surroundings, right? Considering that the whole building must be evacuated.
He started to unlock the old door but of course it refused to open. Then a strange smell reached his nose.
It smelled... burnt, as if someone was smoking. But that couldn't be. The teachers hunted smoking students every day and no one was allowed to do such an activity in school. Now Sasuke was trying actively to open the door, just for the sake of it.
But the door was firmly closed. Maybe some other students had played a prank on him and put something in front of it.
He felt the smell clearer and something small and tiny started to flutter in his chest, rapidly growing to something cold and hard that had a very obvious effect on his heart and lungs. He heard a distant noise and a faint crackle that was coming closer. The door knob was warm. With pounding heart, Sasuke kicked the lock a couple of times before the door burst open and he stumbled out into the corridor, wondering why he had made those efforts to escape from one rotten place to another.
Then he realized.
Thick smoke everywhere. He couldn't see more than a couple of steps ahead. An overwhelming warmth that burned his eyebrows.
Shit, how had he not noticed?
He had to get out of there. Right now. He automatically crouched near the floor and started to cough. Damn it, really! What had he done? What, how, why –
Sasuke covered his mouth and tried to not inhale. He got up and searched wildly for the exit but all he saw was smoke. The panic was spreading rapidly through his body now, it was controlling his movements and ruling his body. His rationality had shut down completely. Instead of remembering the closest exit, he ran around like a scared animal. These boring corridors now seemed like a labyrinth of death. The smoke forced him down on his knees again as he started coughing, louder and louder. Every time he tried to breath, another cough shook his whole body and cut his air supply off.
Then he could see it. Two things.
The fire. It was traveling in sparkles by the smoke and spread faster and faster by each minute.
Then, the other thing. He saw something there, far away. His eyes were stinging from the heat rising rapidly around him and made it harder to see. But someone was there among the smoke. A firefighter? Another unlucky student? Sasuke started to shout and reach out for help. But he couldn't talk anymore, he was stuck and his throat was dry as a desert.
I am caught. There is no way out. I won't make it. There's not enough air –
"Everyone, keep calm. Collect your stuff and leave the building in a human manner -" Kakashi's bored voice tried to reach out to the worried students, without bigger success. Everyone had risen violently from their chairs the moment they heard the fire alarm.
"I think the school's on fire!" Naruto announced happily. He and the rest of the class left the school and gathered some hundred yards away from it, shuddering in the cold rain. The school was evacuated and fire fighters were keeping everything under control. Or so they had been told.
"What a drag..." Shikamaru muttered. "Just when it rains…"
Kiba smiled gleefully. "You did this, Naruto, didn't you? I owe you a favor. Now we won't have that test on Tuesday."
The blonde beamed with pride. "It was easy. I just put some matchsticks in a waster-paper basket and voilá, school will turn into ash!"
"You're so unbelievable childish, all of you", Shino said emotionlessly. "Don't you realize that this will pay back. Why; because we will be moved to another school. And why would it pay back? Because this will ruin our grades and destroy our already microscopic chance of getting into high school and then –" No one even looked at him.
They gathered students stared at the large building from which thick smoke rose and sailed towards the sky. Kakashi was standing with a list in his hands and made sure everyone was safe.
"Hey, where's Sasuke?" Suigetsu suddenly spoke up and looked confused around. Shikamaru shrugged.
"Probably sulking his ass off in his ordinary hideout", Naruto began. "Which is… "
The knowledge hit them like a flash of lightning.
"Shit!" Kiba gasped. Suigetsu's eyes widened.
"The school…" Naruto whispered.
"What are you standing here for? Do something!" Kiba shouted and rushed to their teacher.
And so, the hero of the day wasn't the hero anymore.
"How the fuck could you, Naruto? Do you realize that he might die? That you might end up fucking killing him?"
Kiba and Shikamaru were harassing their blonde friend who looked as if he was about to throw up from shame. Suigetsu was too worried for his friend to be standing there and pick on him and Kakashi had to focus all his attention on him to keep him calm.
"Calm down, Suigetsu. They are searching for him right now and I'm sure they will be here any moment. Sasuke isn't the type to stay in a burning building just like that."
That really made the situation better. Not.
The rumor about Sasuke's absence had spread amazingly fast, and everybody was torn between worry and overwhelming curiosity. Most of the students had already left the area but Kakashi's class stayed. The grey-haired man already had enough with Sasuke's friends and the girls, but it didn't become better when he suddenly was overturned by a woman in his own age.
The black-haired woman was panic-stricken. "Sasuke!" she gasped. "Sasuke, where are you?" She turned towards Kakashi. "You, have you seen my son? Has anyone seen him? They say he's missing!" Mikoto had been on her way home from work when she saw the fire trucks. They lived near the school and as soon as she went there to see what was going on, she had heard about the missing boy.
"Everything will be fine, Mrs. Uchiha", Kakashi said when he recognized her as Sasuke's usually very quiet, reserved mother.
Some firefighters eventually came back. "We found nothing. No trace after a human being. But we will make another search of the second floor –"
Mikoto looked wildly around and suddenly started to cry. "I – I – I can't lose him! I can't! Sasuke! Where are you?"
Kakashi shooed off some girls who came asking for the umpteenth time what was happening and told everyone to calm down, without success. Black smoke continued to well up from the roof and the sirens from the fire trucks continued to slice the air.
Sasuke's eyelids fluttered and he mumbled something inaudible. Everything was slowly coming back from nowhere, darkness and light mixed and soon there was lighter than ever before. He tried to open his eyes, but the whole world was spinning awfully, so he figured that he could just as well close them again. He felt something like soft fingers stroking hair from his forehead, before the touch disappeared. Beneath his palms he could feel soft grass. The overwhelming heat and the suffocating smoke had vanished. And then, he heard an unfamiliar voice:
"It's time to wake up now, Sasuke."
To Be Continued
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