I'm done freaking out, and now I'm just excited...though what I just wrote sort of depressed me.
Sorry if it doesn't make sense, haha.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, because the Uchiha have ridiculously spiky hair (except Itachi).
An Eye for an Eye
Warmth oozed through the bandages and soaked them through — the thin binding clung damply to his skin, his cheekbone, his forehead. A hand briefly flew up to the empty socket that used to bear his eye, now all but a hollow, bloody cavern messily dressed with hasty first-aid. He had been running for quite some time, but his well-conditioned lungs hardly burned. He didn't feel a thing as he sprinted through the back forest, nimbly melding with the shadows quicker than any other shinobi.
He paused, by a small dip the Naka River made in this corner of Konoha, forming a shallow pond. The young man addressed his hazy reflection, shivering with every ripple of water. Efficiently, he tore the bandages from his head, rolling them up into a wad and discarding them in an old weapons pouch. He unraveled a new set of wrappings, quickly dressing his wound. It hurt more than he'd expected, but he convinced himself that the harsh air running into the gaping hole of his eye was soothing, rather than sharp.
The young man stood, running a hand through his messy black hair before making sure that the bandages were tight. Then, once more, he set off at a run, careful to leave as few tracks as possible while flashing through the forest with the speed that had gained him the name of the Leaf's Body Flicker. A simple glimmer — the light flashed — and he was gone.
The Uchiha compound was deadly silent when he padded to his home. Silently, he slipped through the doors and crept silently, so as to not awaken any sleeping members. It was still early in the morning; the sun had hardly begun to stretch its wavy arms across the sky, and the night would reign for at least another hour or two.
The young man set for his father's private study — there was something he needed to retrieve.
Luckily for him, the boy's father did not keep his office under lock and key, and thus it was immediately infiltrated. A hesitant flutter of guilt intruded the boy's heart, but he swallowed it down thickly and promised to no one in particular that he was working for justice. Just as his father had taught him.
The scroll he sought was found within five minutes, and he was carefully tucking it into his pack when the deliberately loud falling of footsteps froze him to the spot. Apprehensively, the young man withdrew his hand from his pack, making sure the scroll was pushed to the bottom of all the contents, and he turned.
A sliver of light from the hallway illuminated the boy's left side, in direct view of his father.
"It's late," the boy's father said, despite the early morning trills of the songbirds. The words indicated that he'd been worried for his son; where had the boy gone so late? Had he been injured on a mission?
"My apologies, father," replied the boy, almost hoarsely. He cleared his throat; he needed resolve to continue this, and a worried glance from his father should not shake his resolve.
"Don't apologize, child," the older man said gently. He pushed the door to his study open and shuffled towards his son — the two were face to face, now the same height. The boy shifted, attempting to melt into the shadows and shrink away from his father. Then:
"Tell me, and I will listen."
The boy's breath faltered.
The old man could smell the wind and the Naka River on the child, but he could also smell the blood. It was rank and sharp, and there was a suspicious dampness to the air. He'd heard his son the moment the young man had set foot in the house. At first, he wanted to surprise the boy and tell him his sneaking skills required some work, but the boy's nervousness cut him off at first sight.
The old man knew, very well, that one of his scrolls lay deep in his son's backpack. He also knew that his boy had not been on a mission last night, but rather a battle for something much more important. All of this, the elder Uchiha sensed with a single current of air breaking the even sense of peacefulness in his home.
"My apologies, father," his boy told him. His posture was stiff, almost wary. The old man disliked this greatly, for it hurt him that his boy was guarding secrets from him. It was also unlike him to apologize in such a formal, obedient way; this was a boy of the wind, not one tied to the post with chains and shackles.
"Don't apologize, child," the old man admonished. He may have grown old, his once unruly black hair fading to a deep gray that swept across his head roguishly, but his eyes were sharper than an eagle's. Nonetheless, the boy's ability to blend with the darkness was uncanny, and he slid the door open to light up the room. The hallway light bled into the room, unveiling his son. The old man shuffled to him solemnly.
He saw, quite clearly, the source of the blood. His son, ashamed, turned away from him, shifting again to the shadows. The old man yearned to tell his son that the shadows would provide no friendship for him; only darkness, in both the literal and figurative sense. It was the darkness that would forever take his boy and swallow him whole.
But the old man knew his boy was too strong to fall prey to such a monster. He was the eagle, flying high above the earth and bathing in the sunlight.
An eagle with a secret clutched tightly in its talons.
"Tell me, and I will listen."
The boy knew his father told the truth.
But even so, his voice caught in his throat and he wanted to cry blood.
"I need your scroll, father," the boy began. He did not reach to retrieve the scroll; perhaps he feared his father would confiscate it.
"I see." But the young man's father was far more concerned with the boy's well-being over the scroll. An aged, calloused hand cupped the boy's right cheek, a thumb slipping under the loosening dressing. As hard as he tried, the man could not help but have his face fall at the sight of an empty socket. The boy winced, and his father's hand dropped from his face. "But, my boy, can you see what you're doing?"
The boy was not sure if his father was trying to make light of the situation, or tell him something grave. He dropped his head.
"Head up, Shisui," his father whispered. "Lift your head."
The boy obeyed, one eye prickling with tears threatening to spill over. His nonexistent right eye was a ball of furious chakra, spinning and sobbing invisibly. His father's hand lifted to touch his cheekbone, then his temple, beside his hollow socket.
"My boy is strong, isn't he?" marveled the old man, smiling gently at his son. "So strong."
The tears dissipated, leaving a solemn boy before his proud father.
But was a proud father one that allowed his child to fall to his death by his own hand? Was a proud father one that childishly fought back tears and watched his son go?
What am I?
"Who took the eye?" was the inquiry, quiet but expected.
The boy shook his head.
His father asked one more time, firmly.
"Danzo," came the weak reply, "Danzo took my eye."
The older man's face dropped, almost imperceptibly. Danzo, was it? The old miser finally took the offer, didn't he…
"What did he do with it?"
"I don't know." The touched his other eye warily, before allowing his father to take his hand. The small squeeze of his fingers was oddly comforting, a stable pillar of support. He knew, then, that whatever situation he leapt into, his father would be there.
His father would always love him.
The man who had taught him all his values and all his honor was standing before him, in what he realized was a farewell.
His father knew.
"He, well, took the eye, and then tried to get my other," the boy continued.
An eye for an eye, thought the old man.
"Danzo, if I die, take my eyes. I know you would do good with them. Make a peaceful village. Be the change you wish to see in this world."
And Danzo was a man who would do anything, use any method, for the sake of this village. At the moment, Kagami just wished that his old friend had chosen a different way — on that didn't involve dragging his beloved son into the darkness.
But the sun shone brightly on this corner of the Uchiha clan, and Kagami knew that his eternally bright reflection would soak into his son, no matter what happened.
And it seemed Shisui would be the one to make a peaceful village. He would correct the wrongs that this clan had forever been doomed to follow through on.
"Make a peaceful village. Be the change you wish to see in this world."
The boy faltered again.
"Make me proud."
Maybe the meeting had been too short. Maybe he should have made Shisui stay longer. Maybe, if he'd tried to look at the bigger picture — "Everyone has a dark and light side," Hashirama-sama had once told him — or perhaps if he'd analyzed the situation better, he could've prevented this — "The village is full of dangers. My job is to protect the people, and if possible, prevent conflict," Tobirama-sama had said — and then the shadows would recede, and all could go on like it had been.
But Hiruzen never forgave himself, and Danzo fell prey to the shadow monster that had always slithered around his silhouette since childhood. He'd drifted away from Koharu, and Homura was all but a figure in the Hokage Tower, so far away that he couldn't possibly imagine the distance. Everyone else was either dead or hardly seen in Kagami's life.
Happiness, or perhaps, a balance, had somehow been found.
But it was not a full happiness, Kagami knew, because in the end, there was an inevitable sacrifice.
Someone had to die.
And it so happened that "someone" would turn out to be his own son.
Uchiha Shisui would continue on, and at first light, commit suicide by drowning himself in the Naka River.
Half an hour prior, he stood at the riverbank, a hand on Uchiha Itachi's shoulder to steady the younger clan member. Shisui took a breath, then pressed his fingers into his left eye. This time around, he flattened the urge to vomit and abort his intentions, because the pain was excruciating, but he dug out his eye nonetheless. Surprisingly enough, it had not hurt as much as when Danzo had gouged out his right one with a kunai. This way, Shisui had a choice — he knew what he was going to see, and what he wasn't.
The scroll was pressed into Itachi's hands — "Seal my eye in here, and when the time comes, use it wisely," the young man advised — and then he backed up.
"Shisui!" exclaimed Itachi, grabbing his best friend's hand before he slipped over the edge. "Wait, please!"
"There is no way to stop the coup d'état anymore," Shisui said. "A civil war will break out in the Leaf, and the other countries will take advantage of our weakness. It will lead to another world war."
Briefly, he explained to the younger Uchiha the events that occurred after Danzo had pinned him by the Forest of Death and the mountains. Itachi almost refused to listen, but Shisui silenced him with a final resolve that threw itself forcefully out into the open.
"You're my best friend," Shisui said. "You're the only one I can ask this."
His heel grated over a tumbling rock, and the edge of the bank began to erode.
"Please protect the village, and the Uchiha name."
The earth broke away, and he threw himself into the river.
Itachi's step wavered when Shisui's father stepped into the open. His sword was poised in front of him, glinting dangerously in the moonlight. He could, no he had to, run his sword through the man at that moment.
But Itachi's arms quaked; the semblance between father and son was overbearing.
The old man plucked a pendant from the folds of his robe, revealing a necklace bearing silver tomoe in the form of rings.
"This was Shisui's," he said. "Take it so that he can always travel with you."
Kagami watched the boy's lower lip quaver; the sword tip dropped.
"Do not hesitate," Kagami ordered. He reached over, grabbed the hilt of the sword over Itachi's hand, and looked him in the eye firmly. There was no stopping, at this point. He'd watched, in silence, the majority of the clan killed. The souls that floated away were anguished, confused, pained. The masked man stalked purposefully through the chaos, collecting eyes left and right.
If there was anything Kagami wanted, it was to die peacefully so that he could join his son and now-deceased wife.
If there was anything he wanted at the moment, it was for Itachi to carry on their dreams and values, no matter what the cost. He knew that the young first son of the clan head held a dangerous fate on his shoulders. But he also saw the determination in the boy's eyes; painfully similar to Shisui's. Slowly, almost sadly, Kagami slipped the pendant over Itachi's head.
Kagami ran himself through the sword, ignoring the sharp, metallic tang of blood gurgling in the back of his throat. The boy watched in horror as the older man pushed himself off the blade and kneeled.
"Do not hesitate," Kagami repeated.
Itachi did not move.
"Protect those who have faith in the village, and entrust your will to someone who will carry it on for you. Shinobi are people who endure to achieve their dreams."
Itachi fell forward, trying to catch the man who now peacefully rolled onto his back, anticipating a hovering death.
"Never forget those who are important to you."
Hands tightening around the handle of his sword, Uchiha Itachi concentrated on the coldness of the pendant against his collarbone. Its solidity gave him strength, surging through him like a tidal wave.
Never forget those who are important to you.
And he would forever wait for the day to tell the one he had tortured the most with fate, "I will always love you."
He almost imagined that there were hands pulling him to his feet, pushing him forward, propelling him high into the air. He walked on nothing, fell on nothing, floated on nothing. There was nothing.
No, there was a pleasant clearing, one that seemed to stretch on forever. The tall grasses cushioned him, a cradle of green that clung to him gingerly.
I left him with wise words, the man thought rather triumphantly, sitting up.
"You did," came the unexpected reply. A warm, tanned hand reached out for him and pulled him to his feet.
"You've done well," another voice called.
The voices were airy; he could not place them, and the hand that had helped him up had disappeared. He knew exactly who they were — one a forever-smiling hero, the other an icy man of few words — but they were nowhere to be seen.
"Thank you, father."
It didn't matter that he couldn't find them, though. Here was all he needed.
"What's his name?" asked the man, rubbing his scarred chin casually.
"Shisui. Uchiha Shisui." The new father was absolutely ecstatic, his newborn child cradled securely in his arms. At once, he began memorizing every dip and dimple on the child's face, ingraining the eyelashes and the chubby cheeks into his mind.
"He'll be a splendid ninja!" exclaimed a third member of the group, smiling widely at them all.
"Hiruzen, don't you have paperwork to do?"
"Oh come on, Danzo, give me a break once in a while, will you?"
"You are such a child."
Kagami ignored his two comrades, too overcome with an unprecedented joy. He continued smiling and rocking his baby in his arms.
On a whim, Kagami unhooked the pendant of silver tomoe from around his neck and delicately strung it around the baby, like a small chain. May this pendant grant you safety and power, Kagami thought. From your father.
"Oh, Kagami, is that your baby? I heard the labor had some difficulties," came a familiar voice. Kagami found a slight joy in the fact that the usually snide voice lacked its sharpness today, and instead, harbored a curious fondness.
"Yep. His name's Shisui."
"Shisui?" Koharu peered at the baby. "Uchiha Shisui."
"Has a nice ring, doesn't it?" Kagami grinned.
"It sure does," Koharu murmured, a finger touching the baby's tiny hand. The child gurgled, most likely dreaming of sweet blue skies in his dreams. "He'll be a great shinobi, like his father." She was almost wistful, and Kagami changed the subject. It wouldn't do to make anyone unhappy.
"I hear the Yamanaka clan is holding some kind of event?"
"Something like that." Koharu nodded.
"Let's get the old group together."
"And what, go out with a bang?" interrupted Hiruzen, snorting with laughter.
"You are the Hokage," hissed Danzo. "Can you at least act your age?"
"Never," Hiruzen replied, flashing a familiar grin. "Let's go!"
"Lift your head."
"Please, don't ever tell Sasuke—"
"Do I look like I'm a man who breaks his words?"
Itachi glanced up, warily.
"Do not hesitate, Uchiha Itachi."
"Now go, child."
Itachi, on his knees, bowed low before the Hokage. For this village and for his name, he would protect both with his life. And he would protect his precious little brother, the last thing left of a life he used to live.
"Never forget those you love, Itachi," the Hokage added, just as the boy reached the door.
"I won't, sir."
Itachi returned, once, to solemnly bid the Hokage a final farewell on a rainy day before a demolished Konoha. He hoped that, someday, he could die a death as honorable as the old man had. Looking to the sky, he wondered if there were any souls in the air.
The water was cool, a rush of calm soaking into his very essence and soothing his fearfulness. He had struggled to stay completely prone, fighting the instinctual urge to thrash and reach for air. The river engulfed him in a grand tumbling of currents; he'd chosen a place generally free of boulders, so that he could drift to his end without impedance.
The water filling his lungs was not painful, not here, not with his final decision sweeping away all distress.
The water that washed over his empty eye sockets was rejuvenating, almost comfortable. Everything was cool and fluid, filling in all the empty parts of his body, for he no longer inhabited it. His heart had long since wrenched itself free, cutting off a corner for Itachi, for his father, and for his village. For a peace he wished to create in a world of accursed hatred.
The rest of him floated away, a physical existence in the Naka River, the lapping of water pushing him downstream, while his soul dropped its weights and began to emerge from the body. A flicker of light, a trick of the sun, and the soul had pulled itself free from all earthly bindings. It rose into the air and followed a fallen leaf to a place unknown.
A man sat in the shadows, and waited.
He waited for a long time, but he believed that what he was waiting for would eventually come. Perhaps it had been the crow; a messenger to deliver him news, to send him a sign.
He sat, patiently, a hand encircling the moon.
He had nine fingers, the tenth broken. When the tenth finger healed, he let go of the moon, and it floated gently into the air. Perhaps the time had come, and he'd waited long enough.
Peace had arrived.
A crow called a harsh warning to no one in particular, hopping on prickly black talons through the underbrush. Its voice was grating, almost scathing to the ear. But it turned its head, and the gleam of its eye shone red.
The crow disappeared into the shadows, the flutter of its wings dissipating in an illusion.