A/N: Chapters are at least 4.5k words. I average 5k and have max'd at 10k.
I have no intended pairings. The story's mostly manga-based. Shika's reborn as 'Kazuki Uchiha', so it takes him time to understand his past as Shika (because I don't believe that babies have the physical capacity to comprehend very much). The first major canon divergence starts at Chp6, with the intention of having everything go completely off canon by the Chuunin Exams.
Age 0 . Itachi sat on the porch steps, a large baby carrier in his lap. He stared down at the two babies bundled tightly next to one another in multiple layers of blankets and remembered the first time he had seen them.
Nobody had expected twins. It had been his father's turn to choose a name, and so the first twin had been named "Sasuke", but there hadn't been a name prepared for the second. He had been a little surprised that his parents had both asked if he had any suggestions.
He leant in closer to the baby carrier. Sasuke, on the left, had started to scrunch up his nose and fuss. The baby on the right remained still, face turned slightly away from his twin, half buried in the blankets. He had been quiet the whole night.
Kazuki – peaceful hope.
Itachi reached down to fold a corner of the blankets over Kazuki's exposed ear. A sudden sense of unease struck him and Sasuke started to wail louder. He hugged the baby carrier tighter to his chest and glanced at the night sky – a sea of black with interspersed specks of light. He wasn't sure what had spawned his sudden sense of anxiety.
Lightly bouncing the carriage, he ducked his head and whispered solemnly, "Don't worry, I'll protect you two. No matter what."
Sasuke continued to fuss, but for the first time that night, Kazuki stirred. His eyes peered open a split second before an inhuman roar split the evening's ambience.
Age 2. Itachi grinned helplessly at the sight of Sasuke, standing eagerly before him, almost vibrating with excitement.
"Nii-san! I brough' Kazu! Canwegonoooow?" Sasuke finished expectantly. He was standing on the very tips of his toes, hands behind his back.
Feigning ignorance, Itachi crouched down so that he was at eye-level with Sasuke. "Where is Kazuki?"
"Here!" With that, Sasuke promptly shoved a fistful of blankets that he had been clutching at Itachi's face. Peeking over, Itachi could see that the blankets had been used to drag around Kazuki, who lay curled up inside the pile, apparently dead to the world.
"Now can we go?" Sasuke huffed impatiently.
Before Itachi could reply, their mother interrupted, "Sasuke! Your brother has lots of homework! You can play when he's done!"
Itachi smiled gently at Sasuke's dejected expression before leaning back on his heels to say, "I can do my homework later. The assignment's simple!" He laughed when he heard Kazuki's muffled grumble under Sasuke's delighted shriek.
Age 3. Sasuke's level of energy was unnatural Kazuki decided. He watched his brother bound past the front door for the thirtieth time that night, eyes wide in a horrid attempt at nonchalance. With a sigh, he lifted his cheek from the table so that he could peer down at the homework their dad had assigned.
The problems didn't look difficult. He glanced at the page that Sasuke had abandoned on the table prior to his "bathroom break". With the exception of two, every blank space had been filled. He returned to his own sheet, which was still utterly blank.
He gazed at the pencil, which lay less than two centimeters from the page.
He returned his gaze to his paper and frowned.
Sighing again, he crossed his arms before him as a cushion for his head, and dropped his head. Too much effort.
That night, he was sent straight to his room without dinner. Did you even try? How do you expect to be an Uchiha when you can't even complete a simple worksheet?
He had meant to write enough to satisfy his father, but his father had burst in right as Sasuke went to take his thirty-second pass to the front door. The second he confirmed his twins had answered his summons, he bowled straight for Mikoto and pushed her into the kitchen. Kazuki managed to catch the words "Hyuuga", "kidnapped", "Kumo", and "treaty", before Sasuke drowned the rest out by shouting that Itachi was back from his escort mission. Hearing that, Fugaku had appeared in the doorway, noticed his blank worksheet, and started shouting.
From the tensed shoulders and the sudden loss of temper, Kazuki had guessed that his dad was simply worried about the Hyuuga kidnapping. Something that he was a little more rattled by than his father's lectures, which he had already long been immune. The Hyuuga kidnapping - the incident where Neji lost his dad and grew a stick up his ass. He felt denial creeping in, as it had for all the previous deja-vu moments in his life. But this time it was different. The suspicion that had always lingered at the back of his mind for as long as he could remember had finally coalesced.
He took a shaky breath as he stared up at the ceiling from where he lay on his bed. Because if Hinata was really kidnapped, then that would mean that his dreams were most likely not just dreams; because unlike the other events, the chances of this happening by chance were not very high.
He clenched his fists. And if his dreams were true, then was this time-travel or reincarnation or what? (And just who did he screw over in his past life?) Because he had been Nara Shikamaru and not Uchiha Kazuki and yet so much of everything seemed familiar, and if his fragmented… memories (if that was what they were) were true, then this meant that –
He raised his head and shifted his weight up onto his elbows just as Itachi poked his head in, "Are you alright? Father was being harsh, but he means well."
- that Itachi was going to massacre the Uchiha clan before he graduated from the Academy, –
"You look a bit pale. Are you sure?"
Kazuki returned a tired grin, "Un, I didn't sleep well last night."
Itachi laughed, "You're always sleeping. Here, I snuck some onigiri up for you. Hide it from father." Kazuki sat up as Itachi strode in to place a small wrapped knapsack on Kazuki's side table. Itachi then reached out and ruffled Kazuki's hair, "Sleep well tonight!" He turned to leave.
- that his brother was going to kill his whole family except for Sasuke, -
His brother paused at the door.
He gave a faint smile, "Okaeri… I'm glad you're back."
- and that he really wished he had made more of an effort learning the specific dates in Konoha's history.
With a soft thump, Itachi slid the door shut leaving Kazuki to stare miserably at the ceiling and reorganize his thoughts.
He had already tried to dispel any genjutsus that he could have been under as soon as he reached his room. He didn't really believe it was a genjutsu though. He had at least a year's worth of memories as Kazuki; he couldn't remember how or if he had died, but if he had been in a fight, no one would have had the time to put him under a genjutsu for a year – unless time dilation was involved. From what he remembered, only the Itachi had that sort of skill and inclination to use that skill. Additionally, if it was information, there were far more efficient ways of gathering information.
That meant that one. he was crazy (in which case, he was already screwed); two. some of his dreams just happened to coincide with reality; or three. he had limited "precognition" because of some …displacement in the universe through time travel, reincarnation, or something else. There was no point in considering option one, and option two…
Slowly, he formed the rat seal and watched a shadowy tendril dance out from beneath him. Slightly out of breath, he let his hands drop limply beside him, well, that left assumption three. He let out a sigh …how is this my life?!
Bright lights, an explosive force, and painpainpainPAINPAIIIN. Fingers broken, spread-eagled, skin melting, bloody grins and somuchdesperationASUMA-SENSEI! Horror, the village. …Disbelief and determined denial. Scattered shogi pieces, fallen cigarettes, tear stains and anguished cries, and still the desperation notfear just grows with the screams and paranoia and breathe, just breatheandCALMDOWN-!
Kazuki sat up with a choked sob, hastily stifled. Trembling, he muffled a groan as the pain in his head focused in his eyes grew. Driving the heels of his hands against his eyes, he struggled to regain his breath. Even as a part of him wanted to deny the conclusions he'd reached – to continue as he was, another part was cold with the certainty.
He needed a plan to move forward. Above all else, he needed a plan to address a potential massacre.
He wrapped his still-quivering hands together and pressed them against his mouth in an attempt to drive out the chill that had settled in his extremities. A part of him was reluctant to recall his dreams, which had rushed forth in a deluge after the day's realizations. The other part was attempting to face the daunting challenge of planning for at least the next two decades.
But these thoughts themselves were alarming, because they were just another reminder that he couldn't deny that these dreams were only dreams. Because, at his age, he shouldn't have such capabilities of forethought – and that knowledge, that level of self-awareness, was disturbing by itself.
Had Itachi been that self-aware? His arms were still shaking. Something was wrong. Actually, the exhaustion that he had thought was a remnant of his dream seemed much too apparent now. Distantly, he was aware that he'd dropped back into his blankets.
Itachi paused outside and looked down the hallway to the bedrooms of the twins. There it was – another hitched breath. A nightmare? He took a step forward into the hallway when he sensed Fugaku's chakra flare impatiently. He frowned, maybe it was nothing. He pivoted; he'd have to check on the two in the morning, before he met Shisui.
Itachi stopped at the courtyard on his way out. He could see his father's eyelid spasm as he oversaw the twins' morning cool down meditation. On the surface, both boys were sitting perfectly still, but then Sasuke would twitch and shift his weight. His hands were curled in the fabric of his trousers, fingers picking at the loose threads. Now and then, he would peek an eye open only to see Fugaku's stern gaze and hurriedly snap his eyes shut and scrunch his face up in determined concentration.
It was really adorable how hard he tried. Itachi switched his attention to the other boy and smirked. In sharp contrast, Kazuki was in a relaxed slouch, breathing deeply and calmly – undoubtedly, fast asleep.
Father still complained that he had named the other twin too well.
Fugaku's measured 'Please return safely' was echoed by Sasuke and met with silence by Kazuki.
As Itachi walked towards the compound's entrance, he heard Kazuki's yelp, "Oww!"
Shisui's landing was masked by the wind rushing through the leaves. The rustling whispers were loud enough to remind Itachi of the waves in Kiri.
Shisui greeted him with a frown, "Have you been sleeping? If you keep this up, those lines under your eyes will become permanent."
Itachi gave Shisui a faint wry grin, "It's good to see you too."
Shisui's grin twisted as he sat on the branch and gazed over the treetops, "…It seems like your worries weren't for nothing."
Itachi watched Shisui carefully, "So you see it too?"
Shisui sighed, "I never said I didn't. Did you know, before the Fourth died, there had been talks of raising the age restriction for graduating the Academy?" When Itachi said nothing, Shisui continued, "He was worried the village was pushing its children too fast, too early."
"Children like me…"
Shisui nodded and tapped his fingers against the bark. Yes. "But then he died and with the devastation that the Kyuubi caused, the village needed visibility – needed to show its strength."
"Do we still? I assume that's why they keep sending me out on escort missions."
Shisui nodded again, "It's been two years since, but the village has had a lot to rebuild. We've shown our strength – now we need to use it." Shisui rested his chin in his hand, half obscuring his mouth.
Itachi stared at Shisui for a moment, nonplussed. A mask? Kakashi's in ANBU? What does Kakashi joining ANBU matter? Is our clan upset that Obito's eye might be at risk?
"The problem is, no one wants to forgive and everyone wants to suspect." Shisui glanced at their clan symbol. "I suspect, everyone will want you."
Itachi blinked, "To suspect me or to want me?" Much as he missed the comfort of talking to someone who could understand and empathize with him, he could do without Shisui's cryptic communications.
The images were clearer this time; the pain, sharper. Protect the king. The smoke stung his eyes. Monstrous chakra – take care of your mother. Oyaji-0- … Was it the pain of tears? Dawning despair and settling resolve. Why was he here?
Half-awake now from the pain in his eyes, words came to him unbidden. Running away like this, living a life where I don't see through things… I don't want to live a complicated life like that either.
He cried silently, disoriented, in pain and unable to move from exhaustion. Dimly, he was aware someone had entered his room.
Itachi kept his eyes closed as he sensed a presence hovering outside his door, "Sasuke?"
He heard the door slide open followed by a quiet shuffle of steps. He rolled over and opened his eyes to see Sasuke peering up at him through his bangs, "Kazuki's having a nightmare."
Itachi flipped aside his covers and stepped into his slippers. Standing up he felt Sasuke's hand automatically slide into his own. Sasuke was too proud to find him if it wasn't a problem."Is Kazuki ok?"
As if that was a switch, Sasuke lost his hesitancy and began pulling Itachi down the hall. He answered in a rushed whisper, "His mumbling woke me, so I went into his room - but I couldn't wake him!"
Kazuki's door was already open when they arrived. Taking one look at the bed, Itachi interrupted Sasuke's run forward by grabbing the back of his shirt and swinging him around to face the door, "Wake up mother and father. Tell them I'm at the hospital with Kazuki."
As he began to gather Kazuki, blankets and all, he saw that Sasuke hadn't moved and was staring at him with large distressed eyes. He smiled reassuringly, "Go. It'll be alright."
Sasuke bit his lip, nodded, and ran off.
Barefoot, Itachi picked up Kazuki and leapt out the window. Why were his chakra levels so low? How had no one noticed?
"Oyaji…" Itachi tightened his grip at Kazuki's mumbled whimper and picked up his pace across the rooftops.
Age 4. "You can't play ninja with us."
Kazuki turned back to see a stocky boy's hopeful smile die. He was struck by the familiarity of the red swirls on the boy's chubby cheeks. …Chouji?! The kid wore a green turtleneck under blue overalls that he was now balling into tiny fists, "Why?"
"'Cuz whichever team you're on will defini'ly lose. You're too slow."
Kazuki frowned and turned towards the speaker, "But we've got odd numbers. It's no fun if one team has more players than the other."
"Having useless players is the same as having none at all."
Kazuki frowned in a half-pout and started to protest when he realized that the chubby kid had already left. He darted into the main street, but the boy was already long gone. Slow, my ass.
Five minutes in, he was already antsy and bored. He was pretty sure that the boy had been Chouji. Considering the fact that he tired much more easily than others (ever since the onrush of dreams had struck), he decided to let himself get "killed" and wandered off. He didn't know how he could miss someone that he had only met in fragmented memories.
Then again, team ten had been irreplaceable. Ino had been an angry harpy at times, but she had been his angry harpy, guaranteed to galvanize a team that was otherwise too languid. Complementing her, Chouji was their ground, the kind and steadfast roots of their team. He sighed again. If he wasn't a Nara, would their team still be formed? He frowned and made a note to look into his old clan.
Before he knew it, he found himself climbing the stairs to his old cloud watching haunt. As far as he knew, he was still safe from Sasuke's hovering tendencies there. As the roof came into view, he overheard the low murmur of a conversation. He paused for a moment, before shrugging. Now that he was almost there, the prospect of finding another spot to cloud watch seemed like too much effort.
Climbing the stairs, words gradually became more distinguishable, "…If you meet him, treat him as your best friend, and become comrades who will trust in each other more than anything else." Was that Chouza?
Reaching the rooftop, he spotted the boy who had left with surprise, "Hey you-!"
Startled eyes met his, "You're that kid!"
Remembering his manners, he pushed down his surprise and gave a small nod to the adult, who acknowledged him with a smile and stood up to leave. He studied the uncertain features of the boy as the kid turned to watch his father leave, and searched for something to say. Ambling over in a slouch, he introduced himself "I'm Kazuki... You're in my seat."
"Yeah," plopping himself down next to the boy, Kazuki continued, "I like to watch the clouds here."
"You came to stare at the clouds?"
He shrugged, crossed his arms behind his head, and lay down.
"What about the ninja game?"
"Heh, 'got tired of it, so I ditched them. What's your name?" He turned towards the boy who had started to smile again.
"Chouji! Akimichi clan's Akimichi Chouji!" Chouji beamed and pulled out a bag before settling down next to Kazuki. Crinkling the bag open, he proffered the bag to the side, "I got some snacks."
Kazuki felt tension, he didn't know he had, leave him. He was relieved that some things, at least, were a universal constant.
Itachi stood in the rain, just inside walls bracketing the main entrance of the compound. Part of him was relieved he and Shisui had finally devised some strategies. The other part was still stunned that tensions had already developed to this point. Things were escalating much faster than we had forecasted.
As heir to the clan head, part of his responsibilities included procuring emergency clan resources, including medical field packs, food rations, and commonly used weaponry. In the recent months, his father had been asking for higher numbers of these supplies. When he had asked, his father had said that these raised numbers were in preparation for when the village would start requesting the Uchiha clan to complete more dangerous missions. However, Shisui had reported that the majority of missions assigned to Uchihas had thus far been limited to inside the village.
If these numbers were raised in anticipation of trust that would never be given….
Now, the two of them were banking on Itachi's strength and appeal as a genius of the Uchiha and of Konoha. He hoped the recent developments from his last mission would aid their gamble.
Itachi turned to see Kazuki staring up at him with concerned furrowed brows.
"Why are you standing in the rain? Did you just get back?"
Itachi gave him a tired grin and deflected, "Why are you standing in the rain Kazu-kun?" Throwing an arm over the boy's thin shoulder, he pulled the boy against his side and started towards one of the main pathways.
Kazuki frowned, "I gave my umbrella to a friend, since he had farther to walk." He paused, and scrutinized Itachi with narrowed eyes, "Something happened on your last mission, didn't it?" Kazuki wasn't sure if he imagined Itachi's widened eyes, before a wide smile split his brother's face and caused him to take a small step back.
Itachi's grinned wickedly as he held Kazuki tight and ruffled his hair despite the squirming and flailing, "Aww, my little brother is worried about me." When he finished, several strands had fallen out of the pony tail that Kazuki had taken to wearing since a year back. Itachi laughed at Kazuki's disgruntled expression, "Where's Sasuke? Are you still hiding from him?"
Kazuki's pout became even more exaggerated, "He's so troublesome. He wants me to rest where he can see me, but then he wants me to train with him so I won't tire as easily and so he can beat you, and then he chases me all over the place and …" He sighed and dropped his head to his chest. "I'm glad you're back. You can deal with him."
Itachi laughed for what felt like the first time in a long time and ruffled Kazuki's hair again. Irritating his two brothers was just too easy. "I don't think I'll be home for very long."
Kazuki gaped at him, betrayed, "Aaah? You might be a genin, but you're eight and you've been gone for like four months, so you should have at least a month at home!"
Itachi raised his brows, impressed, "Oh? Why a month?" He watched as Kazuki grimace and blush. I've really missed your growth, haven't I? After watching Kazuki struggle to spit out an answer, he tugged Kazuki's ponytail, "Race you back!" and jogged off with a laugh.
"Eh? No fair!"
Using two fingers, Itachi stopped Sasuke's forward dash with a light poke to his forehead, "Sorry Sasuke, maybe tomorrow." He watched Sasuke's cheeks puff out with indignation. "Have you been taking care of your brother?" He grinned inwardly. If Kazuki only knew who had first set Sasuke on him.
Indignation forgotten, Sasuke nodded proudly, "He's still lazy though. Father's always after him to practice throwing shuriken. But if father doesn't watch us, he climbs up the trees and sleeps."
"Climbs the trees?"
"Yea, and father can't say anything cuz Mother said to let him sleep when he can." Itachi wasn't surprised. After the night Itachi had discovered Kazuki and taken him to the hospital, the hospital had only been able to diagnose Kazuki with extreme chakra deprivation. For the first month, Kazuki hadn't been able to stay awake for more than a minute and had been bedridden for another three months. He had only been able to stand when Itachi had left. None of the medical personnel could provide them with an explanation. Itachi suspected the doctors were hesitant to speculate on the health of an Uchiha patient.
Itachi frowned, "Does he still have nightmares?"
Sasuke shrugged, "I dunno, he doesn't wake me anymore, but he still sleeps a lot – especially in the library. I think he's just being a sleepyhead. Hey, hey can I see your sharingan? Father said you got it during your mission!"
So father has an Uchiha reporting to him in the mission center?
"Tomorrow. Go to bed – father still wishes to speak with me." Sighing exaggeratedly, Sasuke slouched off toward his room.
Once Sasuke had disappeared around the corner, Itachi headed back towards the kitchen, but paused with his hand hovering over the door handle when he heard Kazuki's voice, " – Chouji's dad said it's unusual for genin to be assigned so many back-to-back missions outside of the village, unless it's been requested."
"You may be young, but that does not excuse you from talking to outsiders about matters of our clan."
"I didn't! And anyway, you said that Itachi's gotten the sharingan. I know how you get the sharingan! Those lines under his eyes have only gotten worse; aren't you worried that-"
Itachi heard the resounding thump of a fist hitting the floor. Deciding he had heard enough, he slid open the door and feigned ignorance, pretending to only just sense the tension in the room. It wasn't too difficult. Kazuki's head was down, avoiding his father's glare. "Something wrong?"
Kazuki shook his head, while his father answered, "No, Kazuki was just going to bed."
Without looking up, Kazuki gave a quick bow, and brushed past Itachi with a whispered, "G'night."
Kazuki sat in his bed, looking over the mess of knotted rope in his hands. During his stay at the hospital, his family had assumed that he had taken an interest in lanyards to pass the time and improve the dexterity in his hands. In truth, he had been recording what he could remember. He had knotted a separate lanyard for every major event he had been able to recall, using colors to code in the minor incidents in each event. Currently, he was focused on modifying the lanyard representing what he could recall about the Uchiha Massacre.
He had initially focused on the logistics of a massacre. Aside from Obito and Itachi, Sasuke had been the last surviving Uchiha, which meant that somehow, the attack had happened quickly and en mass. Rumors and Sasuke had both identified Itachi as the sole instigator of the attack, which would imply that the Uchiha had been gathered together for some event, remote triggered traps had been set, poison was involved, or some combination of the above.
From his exploration around the compound, he had only detected a few harmless traps, designed as security measures. He had found nothing that could be remotely triggered to kill. He was still looking into potential counters to poisons, but progress was slow since he didn't know what type of poison was most likely used.
He wasn't very confident in his ability to counter everything Itachi could have conceived. Though he intended on continuing his research and explorations, he knew that if he were Itachi, he'd have contingency plans behind contingency plans. However, that only left countering the motivation of the massacre, which was where he was stuck.
He flopped backwards on his bed. It was just… he was missing so much information. Sasuke wanted to avenge his clan. But right after he killed Itachi, he joined the Akatsuki and declared his intent to destroy the village. Then again…
Kazuki narrowed his eyes; he still remembered the shocked confusion at Sasuke's sheer gall, jumping into the chaos with his declaration to become Hokage to change the village. As if we'd accept any of his changes.
… How did Sasuke ever become something like that? At least he had been fighting with them against Madara and Obito … who were both Uchihas.
Would he inherit the insanity that seemed to plague the Uchihas? No one really seemed to be insane now. Unless…, a conversation with his old man floated to the forefront of his mind. People can make mistakes in shougi, Shika, just like in life. But don't be so quick to dismiss moves as mistakes. Just because you do not see the motive, doesn't mean it isn't there.
He sat up and returned his attention to the lanyard.
To change the village.
Sasuke wanted to avenge his clan, so he killed Itachi. If he thought the village wronged his clan, he would want to destroy the village. But what would direct his rage towards the village?
He thought back. The hokages that had arrived in their battle against Obito hadn't seemed surprised by Sasuke's arrival. In fact, judging by the timing of the arrivals, Sasuke was the one who had brought the hokages. So did the hokages change his mind? But what could they have known…?
The third. Sandaime. He was the only one who could have known enough about Sasuke to say something of influence.
So the Sandaime was involved in a decision that, on the surface, could be blamed for the clan's demise? However, that still didn't explain Itachi's decision to kill everyone. He glanced at another lanyard lying to the side, the one for the Godaime.
He picked it up and started to add new knots when he realized that he had forgotten to add another incident to the lanyard timeline. Why did Itachi decide to attack the village after the Chuunin exams?
Finishing, he dropped the lanyard down. And was it really an attack? From what he could remember, Asuma had said that Itachi had easily taken down Kakashi in the presence of both Asuma and Kurenai.
He gathered the lanyards and colored rope. Tucking them under his pillow, he curled up beneath his sheets. Assuming Asuma's story was true, Itachi had been made captain of ANBU before the massacre. The next chuunin exams weren't for another year. Based on Itachi's fast progression through the Academy and the promotion rotations, it would probably take him another year to become ANBU. By then, he would be 11, so it would probably take another three or four years for him to be old enough for others to respect as a captain.
So I have at least four or five years. Probably.
Five years to solve four questions. Why would Itachi attack his family? How was he able to kill everyone in one night without detection? How was Itachi's attack connected to the Sandaime? What was the nature of the village or Sandaime's involvement?
A/N Continued: -'Oyaji' means old man. Writing 'old man' there just didn't seem to fit.
Shikamaru's name. It was hard to let go of his name, especially I like how it shortens to 'Shika'. Initially it was going to be Yasu, then Yuki, then Yukiyasu, (which were all chosen on the themes of peace and happiness - ideas that I think Itachi fought for), but none of them sounded right. I then considered Kazumi, but discovered that was a female's name XD
I did not fully appreciate how much of a genius Itachi was until I tried to vomit out all my plot bunnies in a coherent manner. Yeesh. Thanks for reading :)