A/N: Yes, I know, it's another one of those gosh darn time-travel fics. The majority I've read follow an overpowered/awesome/unusually intelligent Sakura/Naruto on a fix-it journey and the few Sasuke-centric stories I've seen follow a Reformed!Sasuke, Sasuke trying to prevent the massacre, etc.
This fan fiction is a parody of sorts: as a whole, it's not meant to be taken too seriously and it's not an overpowered/godlike/wish-fulfillment fic (it's the opposite, in fact). It could be seen as a story where Sasuke (half-heartedly) attempts to carve out a better future, albeit the term "better" here is highly subjective and involves a lot of wanton destruction.
WARNING: It starts out lighthearted but vacillates pretty heavily between drama and humor (hence the genre categorization). This is not a bashing fic. That being said, Sasuke is plucked in time during his most, hateful, volatile, destructive state of mind. So yes, during the course of the story, he will seem selfish, he will seem resentful, he will seem hateful. At times, it might look like he's getting worse, but by no means is bashing him the point of this story. Things often get worse before they get better, and some people have to hit rock bottom before they start moving up. In canon, Sasuke represses and denies having emotions that come across as weak —things like regret, hurt, loneliness, a desire for acceptance. Since TABA is almost exclusively from his point of view, reading between the lines is necessary: it's going to be a long journey before he gets around to acknowledging them in himself. If you can't stomach the portrayal and want to write it off as bashing, you have a right to do so. YMMV. Sasuke (and Kakashi) have been and continue to be my favorite Naruto characters, even though I definitely feel that at times the manga does not do them justice.
Spoilers up to chapter 489 in the manga. I'll try to avoid huge A/Ns after this, by the way. Whew.
Sasuke's eyes were pinched shut. He was gripping the edge of the bathroom counter with a fervor, so tightly that the veins in his hands protruded. Making a conscious effort to slow the rapid pounding of his heart, he took a moment to picture himself.
Sasuke pictured himself looking into the mirror. In his mind's eye, he saw a young man on the cusp of adulthood. He would be toned but not overly muscular, pale but not vampirish, who possessed a refined facial structure and delicate features that, he assured himself, were most definitely not feminine. He'd have red, brightly spinning Sharingan eyes and excellently styled black hair—although without Karin invading his personal space with obsessive reminders to keep it properly trimmed, said excellently styled hair may have deteriorated somewhat. Possible split-ends aside, Sasuke should have been presented with the sight of an otherwise perfect specimen of masculinity upon gazing into the mirror.
He opened his eyes.
He was smaller than he should have been, and shorter, with soft features and a youthfulness that was characteristic of a prepubescent boy. Sasuke's hair was still exceedingly fashionable, but that knowledge did little to comfort him as he stood in the old bathroom of his former residence at the Uchiha compound.
There was no use in denying the facts. Sasuke Uchiha, sixteen year old missing-nin and S-class criminal, was back in Konoha, trapped in his twelve year old body and stuck four years in the past.
Earlier in the Past? Present? Future?
Sasuke rubbed the bandages covering his eyes lightly in an effort to stop the unbearable itching that he couldn't seem to reach and fidgeted with the edge of his shirt. After fruitlessly trying to fall back asleep (unfortunately, there was only so much one person could sleep in a day), he had resorted to pacing in his room for the last two hours. Patience was no longer Sasuke's strong suit, and hadn't been for some time. When were these damned eyes going to be fixed? He wanted to be in top form, he wanted to fight Naruto, he wanted to wipe out Konoha, and he wanted to do it all. Right. Now.
Knowing Madara was around the hideout somewhere, Sasuke resorted to wandering through the base blindly and he had just finished memorizing thirteen distinct wall textures from feeling his way through the halls when he heard voices.
Stealthily creeping towards the sounds, Sasuke identified at least three distinct voices, two of which he immediately attributed to Madara Uchiha and Kabuto. The third voice was unknown to him, but he spoke in raspy tones, as if hoarse from age... or perhaps from years of chain-smoking. Who was he to judge?
Madara was speaking, "-still don't see how this would be of any use to us."
"How could a time travel jutsu not be of use to us?" Kabuto responded after a brief pause.
The unknown voice spoke up. "C'mon, just think of the possibilities! You'd be able to go back in time, right past wrongs. Change the future. You're still having some difficulties capturing the jinchuriki, right? It's easy. Go back in time and catch them off-guard, when they're unable to defend themselves."
"I can't even begin to count the ways in which that hypothetical scenario is implausible. And pointless," Madara drawled.
"Yeah, yeah. How about this, then? Travel back to your fight with Hashirama Senju at the Valley of the End. How does the title Uchiha Madara, The First Hokage sound? It's music to the ears, I tell ya!"
"Have you not heard of the grandfather paradox?"
"Totally irrelevant. The jutsu doesn't send a duplicate of yourself, it just throws your mind and soul into the past."
Sasuke had stopped sneaking towards them and was listening in with increasing confusion.
..the hell were they talking about? Time travel? Were they joking?
He continued to stand there for several minutes, silently eavesdropping. No, they weren't joking. Madara, Kabuto and someone Sasuke hadn't met were very casually standing around discussing the hypothetical possibilities and ramifications of traveling through time, as if it was a perfectly logical plan B in the event that the whole Ten-Tails plot didn't work out the first time around.
This was possibly the most inane, insane hypothetical conversation Sasuke had ever unwittingly happened upon. Kabuto and Madara were clearly crazy, but that wasn't exactly a revelation at this point. Anyone stuck in a room with them for more than twenty minutes would have figured that little tidbit out, so why was this so surprising? Honestly, the things Sasuke was willing to put up with for power. He should get a medal when this was all said and done.
Sasuke realized the conversation had ceased, at least momentarily, and he felt the probing interest of several sets of eyes on him. The three men had likely noticed his presence much earlier, but hadn't deemed him interesting enough to interrupt their epochal discussion on time travel.
"Oh, hello, Sasuke. Shouldn't you be recovering?" Kabuto inquired, his voice overly polite and airy.
Sasuke didn't bother responding. He was glaring in Kabuto's general vicinity from behind his bandages, but the effect was obviously lost on them. When the three men realized Sasuke wasn't going to speak, Madara redirected his attention back to Kabuto and continued the debate Sasuke had rudely interrupted.
"This man is clearly lying. I of all people am familiar with space-time jutsu, and what he's proposed is ludicrous."
"Not necessarily," Kabuto rebuked, stopping to allow Madara to continue.
"It's impossible to change time. If I were to use that jutsu right now to travel back a half an hour earlier and kill Higurashi,"—Sasuke figured that must be the name of the unknown man—"He would not have been able to teach me the jutsu in the first place and I therefore would not have been capable of traveling back in time to kill him."
Kabuto chuckled. "Yes, if there were two copies of you; however, we have already established that only the mind would be sent back. The 'you' in question would already know the jutsu and would not need to be taught it again."
Sasuke imagined Madara frowning from behind his mask. "That wouldn't matter. If I killed Higurashi and prevented myself from being taught, it should follow that my future mind wouldn't know the jutsu in the first place. Knowledge doesn't sprout from thin air."
"Ah, but Madara, you are assuming that the future and past yous are from the same timeline. If we were limited to one reality, then you would be correct. But what if there were an infinite amount of alternate timelines diverging from one another at an infinite amount of points?"
Madara was quiet for a moment. "So rather than traveling backwards in time, one would in actuality be traveling to an alternate reality located at an earlier point in history, before the timelines diverged. Interesting theory, but it begs the question: what happens to the original timeline? Would the person who skipped through dimensions cease to exist in their current reality or would they leave behind an empty husk of a body, devoid of a soul?"
"Who knows? If a single soul existed in an infinite amount of realities, it's possible that someone could jump to an alternate dimension while leaving the original one completely intact. They probably would not even be aware of the occurrence and assumed the jutsu failed completely."
Madara scoffed. "How incredibly useless. Higurashi, what are you doing?"
The man in question had been strangely quiet throughout the debate and Sasuke had been too distracted by the absurdity of the conversation to pay him much heed. Weren't these people supposed to be planning a war?
"There!" Higurashi cried out, and it didn't occur to Sasuke to be suspicious until he felt an immense force of wind rush towards him. It blew him off of his feet and left his whole body burning as a surge of adrenaline rushed through him.
The last thing he heard before losing consciousness was Higurashi cackling, "Oh, whoops! My hand slipped! I was aiming for the potted plant next to him."
When Sasuke came to, he found himself lounging in an incredibly comfy bed, listening to the irritating peal of an alarm clock as sunlight poured into the room from every direction.
The blaring alarm sounded eerily familiar, Sasuke absently noted as he opened his eyes...
Sasuke was a bit embarrassed to admit that his initial reaction to the whole situation, once he fully acknowledged the circumstances, was relief that his bandages were nowhere in sight and that his eyes were blissfully itch-free. This was quickly followed by disbelief, denial, fifteen minutes shouting "Kai!"repeatedly, overwhelming feelings of panic and powerlessness, and finally a rage-filled tantrum that left the bathroom looking like Naruto had stayed over for the weekend.
Thirty minutes later he was back on his bed, sitting hunched over with a dazed expression on his face. He held a calendar loosely in his hand and glanced at it occasionally as if hoping the date and year would magically change the next time he looked.
According to the calendar and confirmed by the date on his alarm clock, today was the day he would be tested and graduate from the Academy.
It couldn't be real. There must be some mistake.
If it was true, if Sasuke had really gone back in time courtesy of Madara's insane house guest, then everything he'd accomplished... leaving Konoha, breaking his bonds, absorbing Orochimaru, killing Itachi... joining Akatsuki, becoming a missing-nin, killing Danzo, his alliance with Madara... none of it would have happened. Everything he'd sacrificed and diligently worked so hard to accomplish was gone. Erased.
As Sasuke stared listlessly at the balcony across from him, it hit him like a knife in the gut that Danzo was still alive. Damn it. After all that trouble, that bastard, that bastard was still walking around with those Sharingans stashed away in his arm. That was a slap in the face to Uchihas everywhere. Well, all two of them, at any rate. Where was Madara in this time period, anyway? Had he joined the Akatsuki yet? Sasuke hadn't bothered to learn...
A second later, his back straightened and he exhaled sharply. Itachi. Itachi was alive here, somewhere.
A myriad of emotions tore through him—elation, hesitancy, confusion, anger—before finally settling on his personal favorite, resentment.
What did it matter if Itachi was still alive? It didn't change anything. Konoha had still ordered Itachi to wipe out their clan. His parents were still dead, Itachi was still living in exile and Sasuke had still grown up without a family. Itachi might have a physical presence in the world, but he wasn't living—not really.
Just the thought of Itachi was enough to bring Sasuke's blood to a boil, and the quietly seething anger that was always present in the back of his mind came rushing out. His entire life was ruined because of Konoha. Itachi had been ordered to murder his family, all in the name of peace—peace that Itachi himself would never get a chance to experience. Sasuke had to grow up with the images of his dead, bloodied parents seared into his mind and had his entire childhood tainted with the knowledge that the brother he idolized and cherished had betrayed them. All for the sake of the happiness of others, others who didn't do anything to deserve it. No, what they deserved was to understand the wrongs done to the Uchihas, and to feel the wrath and pain of his unwavering hatred.
Sasuke's brooding was interrupted by his alarm going off for the tenth time that morning. Annoyed, he picked it up and chucked it at the balcony window, which let out a satisfying crack loudly upon impact and nearly shattered the glass.
He was going to be late for his academy test if he didn't leave in the next five minutes. Sasuke debated skipping the event in favor of spending the rest of the morning sulking, but eventually decided that it would make a lot more sense for him to go out and investigate. After all, this could still be an elaborate ruse, right?
It was not an elaborate ruse.
Upon leaving the compound, Sasuke headed warily through the streets of Konoha, using a large bandana to completely cover his hair, just in case Madara's version of a prank involved casting an age-reversing jutsu on people and dumping them in their old houses in the middle of enemy territory.
That possibility was discarded, however, as soon as he stepped through the doors of the Academy classroom. Upon entering, a heady silence greeted him. Iruka was standing at the front of the classroom behind a large podium. To Sasuke's left, the aisles were filled with students, their unwavering gazes fixed on him.
After a moment, Iruka smiled hesitantly. "Nice of you to join us, Sasuke. Is everything alright? It's not like you to be late, especially on a day like this."
Sasuke stared at him.
No, everything was not alright, as a matter of fact. His eyes darted towards the academy students. His classmates. They looked just like he remembered them...
His eyes locked onto a mass of bright pink hair at the back of the classroom—Sakura. As soon as the girl noticed Sasuke staring at her, she blushed prettily and held a up hand to her face. Sasuke looked away and continued to scan through the crowd until he saw orange. Naruto was grinning cheekily and laughing at some private joke, probably inordinately amused that Sasuke was late.
"You can take a seat anytime now, Sasuke," Iruka followed up, giving Sasuke a questioning look.
The utter surrealness of the situation left him momentarily stunned, and all he could manage was a slight nod as he mechanically walked towards the nearest open chair and sat down. Inwardly, Sasuke was reeling.
The student sitting on his right—whose name he couldn't remember, if he ever knew it at all—took one look at him and whispered, "Nice... bandana, Sasuke." He looked away and snickered quietly to someone next to him.
An unremarkable girl with mousey brown hair on Sasuke's left glared at them and immediately jumped to his defense. "It's much nicer than your stupid ponytail!" she seethed. She took the opportunity to scoot closer to Sasuke, who had narrowed his eyes and was looking angrier with each passing second. "I think it's... dashing," she said. "It's very brave of you to try something new."
Sasuke sneered inwardly. He should have just used a henge... wait, why hadn't he used a henge? For some reason using ninjutsu hadn't even occurred to him...
As soon as Iruka cleared his voice and began speaking to the class, Sasuke glumly ripped the offensive piece of cloth off of his head.
"We are now about to begin the graduation ceremony. When your name is called, proceed to the next classroom. Your text will be on the Clone Jutsu," Iruka announced. "First up: Akimichi Choji."
The student in question gulped audibly and hobbled down the isles, quietly following Iruka out of the classroom. Loud chattering broke out immediately upon Iruka's exit, and Sasuke did his best to tune them out and appear as unapproachable as humanly possible.
He was back in the past. He was twelve. Itachi was alive.
The words kept repeating themselves over and over, but his mind was having a difficult time accepting that this wasn't some disturbingly detailed nightmare.
One thing was absolutely certain: Sasuke needed to get back, and he needed to get back immediately. What had that man been called? Higurashi? If that was even his real name, Sasuke cursed silently. What a wonderful time for him to have been functionally blind. Sasuke had no idea what Higurashi looked like, where he was from, or who he associated with. Madara hadn't been familiar with the man, so Kabuto must have introduced the two of them... but Sasuke somehow doubted that the Kabuto in this time frame would know him.
Maybe he should try looking at the circumstances from a different angle. The situation—if it was, in fact, real—could be a blessing in disguise. What better way to destroy Konoha than from within? At this age, he was basically a favorite of the Hokage, his teachers, and every female he'd ever met. He was pitied by some due to his familial situation, but pity was an easily exploited weakness. With his skills, it'd be a cinch to take out Konoha's Councilors. They'd be completely caught off guard, not expecting a lethal strike from a twelve-year-old boy with no ulterior motives (and he could figure out what to do about the rest of Konoha afterwards). Perhaps he'd leave Sarutobi alive, since he hadn't agreed with the plan to annihilate the Uchihas— at least long enough to get him to clear Itachi's name. Or maybe he should just come up with evidence of the Uchiha conspiracy and do it himself. Somehow... he'd work out the finer details later.
Focusing his attention back to the present, Sasuke glanced at Naruto once more, who seemed to be exceedingly nervous about the upcoming exam. What an obnoxious kid. It was outright offensive how far along he had come. Almost rivaling him, Sasuke Uchiha. Sasuke, the best in the class, and Naruto, dead last. Was Naruto's potential really so much greater than his own?
Sasuke settled on glaring at the back of Naruto's head for the duration of the period. The object of his attention didn't seem to notice, so Sasuke figured he must be used to waves of hostile energy directed at him. Eventually Naruto's name was called, and the blonde-haired boy exited the classroom to take the exam, forcing Sasuke to find other forms of entertainment.
For some reason, he didn't remember class being this boring. Sasuke tried to think back to this period of his life...What did he do at this age again?
Let's see... Train. Think about training. Think about killing Itachi. Train some more. Wish that people were less annoying. Wish that less people were in his way, holding him back from training. Eat. Sleep. Dream about training... Dream about killing Itachi...
Well, that wasn't going to be very helpful. He really couldn't remember much of anything else.
Sasuke deftly hopped out of his seat, trailing after Iruka and into the next area. The new classroom was almost entirely empty, save for Iruka and some other unimportant teacher he barely remembered. In front of them was a table filled with genin-level ninja headbands.
Iruka sat down, and both teachers looked at him expectantly.
A clone jutsu? Pathetically simple. Sasuke recalled summoning at least four last time around, but at his current level, he could easily blow Iruka away with-... wait a second.
Sasuke was gathering his chakra, but faltered slightly, frowning. He made the appropriate hand seals and hastily cried out, "Bunshin no Jutsu!"
Four clones appeared on either side of him.
"I'm impressed, Sasuke. Congratulations, you've-"
But Sasuke didn't hear him. He fumbled with his chakra once more, repeatedly trying to control it and went cold as a heavy, sinking feeling burrowed down in the pit of his stomach.