When it was born, the whole family celebrated the health of their new son, and from that moment on, Itachi’s life was forever altered.
This was, naturally, a realization that did not occur to him for some time. At first life seemed to carry on as always, and Itachi – still seven in body if not in mind – fit the wants of the newcomer into his life as best he could. Both of his parents spent most of their time with it now, instead of him. That was something that didn’t require an effort to get used to.
However, it demanded too much attention, or so Itachi thought to himself. He knew better than to voice such thoughts, but he could not help feeling thus. His mother grew paler and more tired as the constant crying at nights kept waking her up. His father’s brow darkened whenever the scrawny little thing decided it should develop a cough. Who could have imagined that human babies would need to be fed so often? That they could get sick so easily? That they would be so weak and small?
When his mother took him into her room and urged him to peer into the crib, Itachi didn’t see a brother in there. That was no sibling of his. It was a pink lump of flesh that wiggled. He watched the creature curiously, failing to find in all those folds of skin any resemblance to his mother, his father or to himself.
“Isn’t he lovely, Itachi?” His mother murmured entreatingly, clearly alarmed by his impassive face.
Itachi glanced up at her, not knowing what to say. It wasn’t lovely. It wasn’t even tolerably human, and his parents had still decided that they needed him, even though they had Itachi.
I couldn’t have been as pathetic at that….
But a niggling voice told Itachi that yes, he very well might have been.
So when Mikoto tried to push that thing into his arms, Itachi didn’t know what to do. He stepped back, putting his arms behind his back. “I don’t want to.”
“Itachi, this is your baby br—“
“I don’t want to,” Itachi insisted, cutting her off.
His mother’s eyes were damp and unfathomably sad as she pressed the baby to her chest. Itachi’s face remained blank, but he felt something in him crumble when she turned her face away from him to wipe at her eyes. “Okay, okay, sweetheart.”
Itachi turned to leave, and only then did he notice that his father had been watching them from the door.
* * *
“One of us should have been enough.”
Shisui smothered a laugh behind a cough, earning himself a glare. “Come now, Itachi. Are you sure you’re not jealous of Sasuke?”
“That thing is not worth getting jealous over. I simply don’t understand why mother and father would want another child,” Itachi spoke slowly, plucking strands of grass from the turf on which he sat.
Shisui cocked his head to one side, studying him. “But Itachi, isn’t it good that your family grows bigger? Isn’t it good for the Clan?”
“The Uchiha line needs strong individuals. It requires talent and power.” Itachi stopped there, but anyone could have seen what he left unsaid. If I am all of that, why do they need another? It won’t be as good as me.
“A clan also requires more members with which to multiply, and a modicum of happiness to spice the breeding part up,” Shisui pointed out acerbically. More often than not, the complicated ways of his younger cousin left him cold and worried. Itachi was – undoubtedly – one of the most talented ninja of his age; but he was also clinically controlled and Shisui sometimes wondered if there was a beating heart beneath the cold façade. No seven year old should speak and think like that.
It made Shisui uncomfortable to be thinking these things of his friend. He was more than three years older than Itachi, and he could barely keep up with him in a fight. He was probably the only one who still could, and sometimes it seemed as though that was the only reason why Itachi liked him.
Shisui liked Itachi, as a member of his family, as a direct cousin, and as a defacto little brother. But sometimes… sometimes he found the younger boy unnerving.
“So you think this is about the perpetuation of our clan?” Itachi frowned darkly. “If he is less than perfect, then the clan will rely on flawed individuals for it’s survival.”
“Not all Uchiha’s develop the sharingan, Itachi, but all carry the potential, the gene itself. That’s how bloodlines survive.” Shisui patted the younger boy’s back, as affectionately as he could. “And your parents are both sharingan-users. It would be good for them to have more than one kid.”
“I still find it rather distasteful.”
Shisui snorted. “Distasteful. Good grief, Itachi, where do you get those words? Out of an encyclopaedia? This would be more self-evident if you stopped trying to analyze it scientifically.”
“Shisui, I am simply stating my thoughts on the matter.”
Shisui rolled his eyes. “It sounds more like you’re masking a jealous fit behind some excuse of a social analysis. Maybe you’d be less upset if you tried to get to know your baby brother.”
“Hardly. He’s a surplus member, and he will remain so until he proves himself to be at least as powerful as I am.” Itachi brushed his chubby fingers on his pants, leaving grassy stains.
Shisui watched him through guarded eyes. “Meaning, you’ll only accept he’s your brother if he can beat you?”
Itachi shrugged and Shisui didn’t know what else to say.
“Maybe you should try and make more friends, friends who have siblings… at least.” Shisui’s own brother had died during the Kyuubi’s last attack, a few months before Sasuke was born.
Itachi’s gaze was calm and cold. “I don’t need more friends, Shisui. I have you, and that’s more than enough.”
Shisui didn’t know why these kinds of statements made him so irrationally happy. Itachi was a strange little boy and his opinion shouldn’t mean so much to him. But those words effectively erased any unease Shisui might have harbored.
For a time.
* * *
When Sasuke was four months old, Itachi’s parents gradually eased back into their normal selves. It was clear that the baby was going to live and so, they could loosen up on their fretful ways towards their youngest child.
Itachi knew his mother had been weak during the pregnancy and that had made his father terribly irritable. Now, at least, his parents seemed to have moved beyond their impasse.
“Why do you want another so soon? Won’t that be dangerous, mother?” Itachi glared up at Mikoto with a look of profound dissatisfaction. He thought his mother – as a trained kunoichi - would be more careful of her health.
Mikoto blinked, a bemused smile curling around her lips. “Whatever do you mean, honey?”
Itachi sighed heavily. “I mean, why are you trying to have another child so soon?”
Mikoto’s frown puzzled annoyed Itachi. “Itachi, your father and I aren’t planning on having any more children for a while. Where did you get this idea?” Her smile was patronizing, a grownup’s smile to a small boy. Itachi tolerated such gestures from his mother because it was her nature to be so, but that didn’t mean he liked them.
“I saw you.”
Mikoto’s smile seemed to freeze in place. “You saw… us? Itachi---” and her voice was tense beneath her gentle tones. “What did you see?”
“I saw you and father, last night.”
“I heard you complaining. I wondered if you were hurt or if something was wrong with Sasuke. You weren’t really complaining, were you?”
Mikoto’s cheeks flushed a deep scarlet. “B-but… how…?”
“I hid. Not even father could detect me. He looked rather occupied though, so that might not be a fair indication of his ab---“ Mikoto’s arms crushed him to her chest. She was shaking and Itachi thought he could even detect the faint scent of fear on her skin.
“Oh, baby. Itachi, why did you---? How could you---?” Her arms smothered him. “You father must never know, do you hear me? Itachi, do you understand!?” She pushed him back, hands on his shoulders.
“Because it would humiliate him?”
“No, Itachi, because that’s personal. It would distress your father very much for you to have--- seen that.” Her lips were white as chalk, but a furious blush still stained her cheeks. “Oh.. heavens, what a child!” She seemed torn between laughing and shaking nervously. Beneath her nervous smile, Itachi could still sense true dread. It made him wonder about how his father would react in truth.
“So… if you’re engaging in sex--” and Itachi saw his mother bite her lip as he said that last word. “--- how come you say you’re not trying to have another child?”
Mikoto seemed frustrated as well as nervous, and maybe even a bit amused. “Itachi, sex isn’t just about reproduction.” Itachi had heard that before from his tutors, but he hadn’t quite gotten the point. “It… it feels very nice. That’s something you’ll understand when you grow up.”
“So you and father do that because it… feels nice?”
Mikoto seemed to wither under Itachi’s searching gaze. “Partly, honey. I… it’s something two people do when they love each other. Your father and I… we love each other very much. That’s just a way we have of showing it.”
Itachi gently dislodged her hands from his shoulders. “A way of showing love? Not because you want more children…? Right, I see. I see.” He sighed and smoothed his shirt. “I’m sorry I upset you mother, I won’t spy on you and father again.”
Mikoto covered her eyes with her hand and sighed, the corners of her mouth turned down. “Thank heavens, Itachi. Oh love… maybe your father was right.” Itachi raised a brow, feeling his belly clench in sudden – unexplainable – anger. “Maybe we shouldn’t have… oh well, that’s water under the bridge now.”
She patted his head lovingly and straightened the collar of his shirt. Itachi watched her quietly, feeling her nimble hands ghost over his neck and shoulders, moving up to fuss with his hair. He wanted to ask about what she’d been about to say, but he didn’t think she’d answer.
He saved that question for the future.
* * *
Itachi wasn’t enamored with the concept of an expanding family, but he decided to take Shisui’s advice at face value. At the very least, it would give him something to do. So it was that, rather than completely ignore the matter, he began to observe the baby’s progress. Soon, he found himself engrossed in it.
Sasuke learned to walk early, he learned to read on his own when he was two and a half and he began throwing stones at targets when he was three. The stones hit the marks flawlessly by the time he was four, and by then, the rumors of Uchiha Fugaku’s second genius son had spread throughout the village.
“He really is quite remarkable, isn’t he?” Shisui murmured, leaning his chin in his hands with an wistful expression. “You are very lucky, Itachi.”
Itachi watched Sasuke run around the garden, playing at whatever strange game had caught his fancy – doubtless from one of those folklore books their mother had given him recently. Sasuke was nimble on his feet and quite agile for a four year old. Itachi remembered being much faster at that age, but he knew that he was an exceptional exception, whereas Sasuke was more of a notable exception.
“He is not as bad as I had thought,” Itachi agreed.
Shisui snorted. “That’s quite the understatement. But it’s nice that you are getting to like him more. It’s… good to share family burdens.” Shisui’s smile wavered.
Itachi gave him a curious look. “Your parents won’t have more children?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“So it will be up to you to watch over the Nakano Shrine?” Itachi asked, still watching Sasuke.
“So it seems.” Shisui sighed. “I mean, I know it’s important and all, but I don’t get why my parents are so bent on it having a keeper all the time.” Shisui rolled his eyes. “My side of the family is full of bloodline fundamentalists.”
Itachi frowned vaguely. “Maybe there’s something important that needs to be kept.”
Shisui shrugged, eyes drooping with boredom. “Old family tree records, most likely.” He yawned and stretched his arms. “But if there’s anything worth looking at, I’ll give you a head’s up.”
“Isn’t that against the whole point of having a keeper?” Itachi questioned, voice level.
Shisui smiled thinly. “You’re the closest thing I’ll ever have to a brother now, Itachi. I need someone to get bored with while on duty. Besides--” Shisui got to his feet and dusted his knees. “--- if you’re such a ‘high and mighty’ example of the Uchiha breeding plan, you’re the perfect candidate to watch over rotting family scrolls.”
Itachi nodded, keeping his eyes on Sasuke’s antics. “If you say so.” He wasn’t terribly interested, but Shisui was his only friend. He might as well keep him company from time to time, when Shisui was given the official duty of looking after the family shrine.
“Well, I have to go now. You coming, or staying here to watch over the kid?”
“Of course,” Shisui scoffed humorously, before showing himself out Itachi’s house.
Itachi didn’t bother to wave goodbye. Sasuke was trying to climb a rather slippery tree and he was making good progress on it. Itachi hadn’t been able to climb that particular tree until he was a bit older than Sasuke was now, and that made Sasuke suddenly - terribly - interesting.
It had taken four years, but Itachi had finally begun to believe that the little lump was related to him, that it was a creature worthy of being called his brother. Sasuke was intelligent, a fast-learner of surprising skills and quick-witted replies—for such a young boy.
He was, however, radically different from his older brother.
Itachi knew now why his parents were so wary of him all the time. He could now clearly see how others felt towards him. They thought him strange, withdrawn, difficult--- inhuman.. The only person who didn’t think of Itachi as a freak seemed to be Shisui. Sasuke, on the other hand, was thought of as wildly intelligent and funny. Their aunts and uncles called Itachi ‘a disturbingly sharp mind’, but they said Sasuke was cute.. Cute, as if that were some kind of praise.
And Sasuke more than earned it, by running around the house and barreling into Itachi, or his mother, or his father, and hugging their legs with childish ferocity. Sasuke wasn’t good at speaking of love or affection – much like all the members of his family – but he had Mikoto’s knack for expressing it openly. Whenever Fugaku leant down to pick up his soon and ruffle his hair, Itachi felt something coil tighter inside his chest. His father had stopped giving those smiles to Itachi a long time ago.
Sasuke laughed out loud and collapsed on his back, panting. He had almost reached the top, this time. “’Brother? ‘Tachi?” He called, and Itachi went to him as he usually did, of the late.
“What is it Sasuke?”
“Do you think you could defeat the demon fox?” Sasuke’s breathless smile made Itachi’s insides warm up strangely. There was nothing guarded or careful in those black eyes of Sasuke’s and it made Itachi feel more at ease.
“The Kyuubi? I don’t know…” Sasuke had definitively been reading folklore books again.
“I’m sure you could. You’re the strongest ninja ever.” Sasuke struggled to his feet and sat in front of Itachi’s legs, still smiling. “I bet you’re even stronger than father,” he confided, and grinned nervously as if he’d said something bad.
Itachi shifted, unsure of what to make of those words. He settled for petting Sasuke’s hair as he’d seen their father do. Sasuke flushed and giggled childishly. Then he got up and went back to running around the garden.
Itachi walked back to his room with a strange feeling of lightness in his chest. He thought he might tell Shisui about this, to see what he made of it.
“No, Mikoto. Not again.” Itachi stopped as soon as he heard his father’s voice and registered the upset timbre with which he spoke.
“But Fugaku… the tests show he’ll be bored out of his mind, he could at least be skipped a few years---“
“No. I don’t want the same thing to happen again. Have you even looked at our oldest son, Mikoto? He’s different, strange.”
“He’s too smart for his age, I know but---“ Itachi held his breath, easing into the stealth tactics he’d learned from his tutors to crawl forwards unheard.
“Mikoto, I mean it. I want Sasuke to go to the Academy like any other boy. I want him to go through every single school year, so that he can at least make friends and meet other children his age.”
“Fugaku, if Sasuke is like Itachi, then none of the children will be his friends! Sasuke will be too smart, too grownup for them. It would be better to advance him a few years as the Sandaime suggested.”
Itachi heard his father snort derisively. “And have him paired up with children who will resent him for being too young and still smarter than them? No, Miko… I’d like at least one of our children to have a normal life. To go to school everyday instead of receiving endless private tutors, and to have a normal gennin team like all children do. What good have we done Itachi by advancing his skills? He can barely relate to other people. I won’t have that happen to Sasuke too.”
Itachi stepped away quietly when he heard his mother’s muffled sigh. He walked back out into the garden where Sasuke was still playing.
So his parents thought Sasuke was just as good as him? And they still wanted Sasuke to be normal? Itachi clenched his fists, unsure of why this made him so angry. It had sounded as though his father wasn’t proud of Itachi… Itachi was the strongest chuunin in the village and he was still only eleven. How dare he not be proud of Itachi?
The wanted normal? Then… Itachi would make Sasuke normal for them. He would be so far above Sasuke’s level, the kid would always by only above ordinary, and nothing more.
Itachi strode out towards the training grounds. He left Sasuke playing alone.
* * *
Of course, Sasuke then decided that he wanted to go out and train with Itachi. Itachi didn’t quite know what to make of Sasuke’s hero-worship, but he accepted it as – from his perspective- a well placed admiration. Fugaku would often frown when Itachi took Sasuke out with him and that, somehow, made Itachi want to be with Sasuke more.
“Brother, can you train me?”
Fugaku stood in the hallway, out of Sasuke’s line of sight. Itachi’s gaze locked with his father’s, a silent disagreement.
“Not today, Sasuke, I have a mission.”
Fugaku’s shoulders loosened slightly.
“Tomorrow?” Black eyes shone only for him, and Itachi frowned as something inside of him seemed to hurt. Fugaku was trying to catch his eyes again, but Itachi turned his face away.
Damn his father. Sasuke was his too.
* * *
“I’m so glad both of you came shopping with me,” Mikoto enthused, a sunny smile lighting up her pale face. Itachi gave her a patient look, more than used to his mother’s cheerful approach to just about everything done ‘in family’.
Sasuke walked beside them, a little hand tucked inside Mikoto’s thin fingers. He grinned cheekily and swung their joined arms as way of reply. Itachi shouldered the bags of groceries and watched the people in the streets watch them back.
There was something definitively envious in their gazes; envious, and full of admiration. Itachi judged it was a natural reaction. Uchiha Mikoto was a beautiful woman who belonged to a powerful clan and had two incredibly talented children who were – by Itachi’s standards – not ugly to look at. It was too perfect for words, when seen from the outside.
If only they knew what Fugaku thought of his oldest son, Itachi mused.
“Do we have everything we need, mother?” Itachi inquired, mentally ticking off items in his head. When his mother didn’t immediately reply, Itachi stopped counting and turned to look up into her face.
Mikoto’s eyes were fixed on a darkened alleyway, the red tinge of her sharingan making her look otherwordly. Itachi sucked in a sharp breath, surprised by the fact that his mother could look so feral. “Itachi, could you go and buy some warm buns from the lady across the street?”
“Mom?” Sasuke echoed, giving Mikoto a wide-eyed look.
“Go and bring them to me.”
When Itachi returned with the fresh buns, his mother had already stepped into the darkened alleyway with Sasuke in tow. The steaming buns smelled beautiful, an odd contrast with the odor of rot and garbage that rose from the ground around them. Mikoto was walking forwards slowly, pulling Sasuke with her.
Itachi heard a clanging sound and he saw something scuffle amongst the garbage, then stop. “Mother, what---“ as soon as he spoke up, the creature that had been digging through the rubbish leapt out with a frightened yelp.
Mikoto lifted one hand as an entreaty and knelt down, staining her expensive kimono on the ground. “Shhh--- Shh… It’s okay, baby. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Itachi craned his neck, mystified by what was going on, and he finally caught sight of what his mother had seen in the alley with her sharingan.
“Itachi.” Mikoto let go of Sasuke and stretched her arm behind her back, towards him. “Give me the buns.”
Sasuke held onto her skirts as Itachi deposited the oily paper in her hands. “Shhhh… shhh… it’s okay, come here. Yes, that’s it… come here.”
“Mom…” Sasuke murmured, unsettled. Itachi could only watch in silence.
The creature that crawled out of the shadows was not what Itachi had expected, but it was wild enough to give him a hint of who – of what - it was. Dirty blond hair stuck to a pale bruised face, wide blue eyes stared back at them with an air of confused hatred. Distrust warred with hunger in those feral eyes when Mikoto took out a bun and offered it to the little beast.
“Here,” she cajoled. “It’s for you.”
“Mom, who is he?” Sasuke whispered, and he seemed torn between fear and confusion.
“Shhh, Sasuke, don’t scare him.”
Itachi stayed rooted to the spot. He had to forcibly keep himself still when the boy lunged forwards and snatched the bun out of his mother’s hands. He scuttled back and devoured it in three big bites. The boy swallowed too quickly and Itachi heard the pathetic hacking and coughing of the kid as he struggled to get it all down as fast as he could.
“Oh… child,” Mikoto whispered, and Itachi heard the sorrow in her voice. “Here…” she insisted, offering another bun. “Have another.”
Blue eyes watched her warily, not as fearfully as before. He inched back towards her and stayed in the patch of light as he took the bun. He didn’t run off with it, but he leapt out of arm’s reach. Sasuke watched the other boy with growing confusion.
Itachi sighed. “Mother…”
“Itachi, you take Sasuke home. I’ll take this boy back to his house.”
The kid stiffened, mouth caught around a third bun. He looked about to bolt.
“Sasuke, go with your brother.”
* * *
“Who was he?” Sasuke asked, once they were back home.
“A war orphan,” Itachi replied, knowing the full truth was proscribed from being mentioned out loud.
“Oh…” Sasuke seemed to mull this over. “He seemed hungry. Don’t they feed orphans at the foster homes?”
Itachi shrugged. “Maybe he ran away.”
Or maybe – Itachi thought – they thought he was a monster, and they threw him out on the streets.
It made him wonder if his own parents would throw him out too, someday.
* * *
“Mikoto… we can’t take that boy in.”
“Fugaku, you didn’t see him. He was so hungry and tired, and bruised! He needs to be taken care of!”
Itachi settled back into his spot on the roof, where he could listen to his parents undetected.
“No, and that’s final.”
“No it’s not! We should do something, not just… let it go on like that. This is how monsters are made. He will grow up hating all of us, hating Konoha!”
“Mikoto!” His father’s sharp reprimand made Itachi’s fingers curl around the hilt of his blade. How dare he yell at Itachi’s mother like that? It was unseemly. “Even if I agreed to this, it’s impossible for us to take him in. The Council has received several requests of the same sort from smaller clans, and they too have been turned down.”
“But that’s because they only want to control him, not raise him!” She cried angrily.
“And what proof do we have of our intentions? No, they won’t let us take him in. They will simply bounce him around supervised foster homes until he is old enough to fend for himself.”
Mikoto’s breathing sounded choked and strange. “But Fugaku… he is only a little boy, he’s not a monster, to be treated in such a way!”
Fugaku was oddly silent and Itachi shifted uncomfortably on his perch.
“Are you sure this is the Uzumaki boy we are discussing?” Fugaku murmured, voice pitched oddly.
“It’s not fair! It’s not his fault that he was born that way, it’s not his fault that he is the way he is. It’s not--- he’s not a monster, he’s not, he’s---“ Itachi heard the rustle of clothes and then his mother’s sobs were muffled. He surmised that his father had hugged her and was pressing her against his chest.
Beyond that knowledge, Itachi didn’t know how to feel.
“Oh, Mikoto… of course it’s not his fault,” Fugaku whispered, and Itachi’s breath hitched uncomfortably.
“He’s not a monster, Fugaku. He’s just different.”
“I know, Mikoto, I know.”
* * *
“--- and that is what they said. What do you think, cousin?”
“What do I think? What do I think? I think your mother is worried about you, Itachi!” Shisui snapped, frowning darkly.
Itachi took in Shisui’s frayed appearance with considering look. “You seem strange, Shisui. Is something amiss?”
Shisui’s gaze locked onto Itachi’s face. Itachi sucked in a sharp breath, as silently as he could. Shisui’s eyes were troubled and full of something that was almost – almost – like distrust. He seemed to fear Itachi, all of a sudden, and Itachi could not piece the situation together in a way that made sense.
“Itachi, you may not see it, but you can be truly frightening,” Shisui whispered, leaning on the temple gates.
Itachi looked down at his feet, mulling over what to say. Shisui had never been like this to him. Shisui had never behaved like everyone else, until now. “People will always fear what they cannot understand.”
A sorrowful frown perched upon Shisui’s brow. “Itachi…”
“You’ve gotten stranger and stranger, ever since you became the temple keeper…” Itachi didn’t miss the sudden jerk of a muscle in Shisui’s jaw. “Did something happen, Shisui?”
“No, Itachi, nothing has happened.”
Itachi closed his eyes, hearing the lies in Shisui’s voice. He was surprised to find that it hurt, coming from this person in particular. Itachi had thought Shisui would never look at him like that. Not him, of all people.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Itachi offered, keeping his face as straight as was possible.
Shisui glanced nervously back at the shrine, then at him. “No, Itachi. There’s… nothing to talk about.”
There was something in that shrine that had made Shisui change. Itachi didn’t know what it was, but he vowed he would find out eventually. Shisui was his only friend – his best friend – and Itachi had no interest in losing that one particular bond.
Not unless it was for a good reason.
* * *
“Itachi-niisan, can I go with you today?” Itachi stopped lacing up his boots to look at Sasuke over his shoulder.
“Shouldn’t you study for your tests?”
“I already studied, and I have straight hundreds from last round of examinations. Please? Let me go with you? Pleeeeease?” Sasuke’s hopeful gaze worked its way under Itachi’s skin, curling up inside his ribcage. It was a distressing sensation.
Ever since that day at the shrine, Shisui had been avoiding Itachi more and more. Itachi still hadn’t found the reason behind this attitude, but it disturbed him.
Now that Shisui though him strange too, the only person who ever looked at him without fear was Sasuke.
“Very well, you may come.”
* * *
They trudged through the tall grass together, Itachi in front and Sasuke trailing behind with lighter footsteps. Itachi watched Sasuke curiously, noting how – at six – he could already see the beginnings of muscle and sinew through the baby-fat. Sasuke would grow to be interestingly strong, Itachi judged.
His body would be lithe and skilled, he was intelligent and fast on his feet, his aim was impeccable and he was constant. Sasuke would be a challenging fight someday, and Itachi felt a wash of hot curiosity over that fight, when it came. For now, Sasuke was but a boy. A boy who could have been as strong at his age as Itachi had been, if not for their father and his judgemental views.
One thing was for certain, Itachi had excelled at making Sasuke seem normal in comparison. It did not make Fugaku like his eldest son any better, but it made Sasuke strive even harder to become stronger. The more Itachi grew in strength, the more Sasuke felt the chasm and sought to diminish it.
Regardless of their parents’ hopes for Sasuke, it was Itachi who set the model and Itachi who inspired him. No matter how normal his upbringing was, Sasuke would always move out of the norm because he sought to be like him.
Sasuke was his to shape and unshape, a life that depended wholly on him and Itachi sometimes spent entire nights awake, wondering what to do with it. He liked the idea of a partner in his exploits, someone as strong and determined as him. He might still recover Shisui, but his cousin didn’t come close to the potential Itachi saw in Sasuke. Besides, Shisui had a girlfriend now, and they seemed to be drifting even further apart. Itachi didn’t like thinking about how that made him feel.
He much preferred thinking about what he could do for Sasuke.
If only their parents would stop insisting on making him normal and happy...
“Brother? Oh, brother look!” Sasuke grabbed the hem of his shirt and tugged. “Look, a tomato patch.”
Itachi turned his head and followed the line of Sasuke’s outstretched finger. “Wild tomatoes,” he surmised. They could only be wild, this far out into the countryside.
“Can we pick them?” Sasuke wondered, and Itachi saw him lick his lips thoughtfully. “They look ripe.” His smile, when he looked up, was as blinding as always. “Brother?”
Itachi felt winded, both by the smile and the gleam of wetness on Sasuke’s lips. “You wait here. I’ll get them,” he supplied, unsure as to why he wanted to indulge Sasuke.
The tomatoes were plump and red, just like Sasuke liked them. When Itachi placed the ripe fruit in Sasuke’s little hands his smile did odd things to Itachi’s insides.. again. But what truly kicked the breath from his body was the way Sasuke bit into the tomato. Juice glistened on his lips and dribbled down his chin. Sasuke tipped his head and licked his lips, then wiped some droplets off with his shirt.
Itachi stared, transfixed. When Sasuke bit into the tomato again a few seeds dribbled over his chin and stained his shirt. Sasuke made a face and lifted a hand to wipe the liquid off his face again. Itachi didn’t know why he moved, but he found himself clutching Sasuke’s hand to keep him from cleaning his chin.
Itachi’s hands shook. Sasuke’s eyes were full of trust. No one looked at him that way now. “Sasuke---” Itachi leaned down, unsure of what he was doing, but certain that he wanted to do it. When his lips found Sasuke’s he could taste the sweet acidity taste of the tomato. Sasuke’s startled breath fanned over Itachi’s lips, ghostlike and soft. Itachi licked the juice off Sasuke’s chin and then kissed his lips again.
“Itachi…?” Sasuke’s voice wavered on an edge of uncertainty. “What are you…?”
“Shhh.” Itachi remembered his mother a few months earlier, cajoling a beast to sneak out of the shadows. She had said ‘shhhhhh’ and it had soothed the animal within those blue eyes. “Shhh, it’s okay Sasuke. Open your mouth.”
“Don’t you trust me?”
Sasuke’s small chest heaved. Black eyes slid shut and Itachi felt his pulse quicken when Sasuke’s mouth fell open under his. One of Sasuke’s little hands gripped the front of Itachi’s shirt, the other still held onto the bitten fruit. He shivered when one of Itachi’s hands stroked the back of his neck.
Itachi pulled back and took the tomato out of Sasuke’s grasp. He bit into it, savoring the moisture on his tongue before swallowing. Sasuke took a huge gulp of air, and whined deep in his throat when Itachi kissed him again. There was something infinitely alluring in Sasuke’s soft trembling, in the way his breaths became faster and he seemed to squirm in Itachi’s arms.
Itachi picked the boy up and sat him across his lap. When Sasuke moved, his legs brushed against Itachi’s groin in the most fascinating way. Sasuke shivered and fisted both hands in Itachi’s shirt, staining it with tomato. Itachi could smell the sun and the grass around them, and the heat on Sasuke’s skin.
There was something both sweet and acid in Sasuke’s weakness, at that moment. It made the whole situation dearer to Itachi, it made him feel strong and full of something; it was suddenly lovely that Sasuke should be so young and small and weak. The way in which he clung to Itachi made him want to touch Sasuke all over.
“Why are we doing this?” Sasuke whispered against his lips, confused.
Itachi sought his mind for a good explanation, but nothing surfaced. “I don’t know. Don’t you like it?”
“I don’t know---” Sasuke’s tones were hushed, but he seemed to be on the verge of tears.
“Am I hurting you?” Itachi asked, vaguely alarmed.
“Not, but this is strange. Brother, I’m not sure I like this…”
Itachi kissed his neck, biting ever so softly over his pulse. Sasuke’s heart fluttered like a bird’s under his lips. “This is what people do when they love each other.”
Sasuke whined again and Itachi jerked him closer to his body. “Move your legs like that again.”
“W-what?” Sasuke struggled weakly, not quite wanting to break free, Itachi noted.
“Your legs. Move them--- yes, like that.” Itachi closed his eyes and for a very long while he held onto Sasuke as his little brother wiggled all over his lap. Itachi could feel his own breaths become shorter as heat curled in his pelvis.
But Sasuke was growing afraid, and that made him distinctly angry. He wasn’t hurting Sasuke. He loved Sasuke, and he was possibly the only person who could boast to hold such a place in Itachi’s life. Sasuke was the only truly interesting thing he had to look forward to.
“Itachi, this is strange. Let’s stop. You’re breathing funny.”
Itachi pulled back and gave Sasuke a long look. “Don’t you trust me, Sasuke?”
“You’re scaring me,” Sasuke whispered, and his eyes were terrible to behold. Itachi looked away and cursed, uncertain of what to do.
“I’m sorry, Sasuke. I just wanted…” What did he want? “… I wanted to do something special with you. Something that shows how much we love each other.”
Sasuke’s eyes were wide and dark. “But I love you so much, brother---- even though it makes dad angry.”
Itachi’s head snapped around to stare down at Sasuke. “What?”
Sasuke paled visibly. “Dad he… he says he doesn’t want me to follow you around, or to train with you. He says you…” Sasuke trailed off, watching Itachi’s face intently. “But I don’t listen to him!” Sasuke cried, suddenly. “I don’t. I want to be like you when I grow up!”
“Father doesn’t know what he is doing,” Itachi growled, clutching Sasuke to his chest.
Sasuke made a strange little sound, with his face pressed against Itachi’s chest. “I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be, it’s not your fault.”
“I love you, Itachi.” Itachi’s heart hammered in his chest and between his legs. “You’re the best brother in the world.” Sasuke leaned up to kiss him nervously. “And I do trust you, it’s just that… this feels funny.”
Itachi watched Sasuke and sighed. “Alright Sasuke, I can fix that. Turn around.” Itachi helped Sasuke turn on his lap, until that small back was leaning against his. Itachi’s hands moved forwards, stroking down Sasuke’s chest. “This might still be a bit funny at first, but you’ll like it, I promise.”
Sasuke nodded, still unsure of what was going on. “I believe you.”
“Good,” Itachi whispered. He let his hands roam lower, over Sasuke’s legs and then up and in between them. Sasuke tensed and let out a small squeak.
“Trust me, Sasuke,” Itachi coaxed, lifting the elastic band of Sasuke’s trousers to slip his other hand inside. Carefully Itachi gripped sasukes member in uncertaintendy, but when he felt sasuke start to squeal sighlently he knew he wanted this badly. Sasuke arched against him and let out a small groan. “Yes, like that,” Itachi insisted, when Sasuke’s hips rubbed against his own hardness. Itachi reached down, keeping Sasuke’s hips where he wanted them and helping the boy rock against him.
Sasuke was gasping, wordless cries of startled sensation as Itachi’s hand sped up. Sasuke closed his eyes and bit his lip, whimpering softly. Itachi tightened his grip on Sasuke's boyhood and moved his hips a bit faster, until Sasuke’s breaths had all but faded from his mind and everything splintered. Itachi gasped and clenched his teeth while reality became no more than the blinding white of pure sensation.
Sasuke was trembling against him.
Itachi groaned, surprised by the sudden feeling of satiated bliss. He took his hand out of Sasuke’s trousers. Sasuke arched and shivered. Itachi rubbed his palm over the front of Sasuke’s trousers until Sasuke jerked in his arms, gasping hoarsely. Itachi smiled when Sasuke whimpered in childish delight, hiding his face in Itachi’s damp shirt.
Sasuke had liked it, that much he had seen. But when it was all over, Itachi could still smell the tomatoes he had plucked, and Sasuke had gone dangerously quiet beside him.
“Sasuke?” Itachi questioned. He winced at the moisture he felt in his pants.
Sasuke’s shoulders shook and he pressed himself harder against Itachi. “Brother, what did you do?” He seemed torn between fear and awe.
“Didn’t you like it?”
When Sasuke looked up, Itachi saw unshed tears glimmering in his eyes. They shone just as brightly as the saliva on his lips. “I don’t think dad will be okay with this.”
Itachi’s face hardened. “Father can never know.”
Sasuke shivered and nodded. “I thought so. This was a bad thing to do.”
Itachi’s fingers clenched into fists. “It’s not a bad thing,” Itachi growled angrily. “I love you, I wanted this and you liked it. Isn’t that enough?”
Sasuke’s lower lip trembled as he nodded. Itachi hugged him, but Sasuke didn’t hug back and Itachi was suddenly left with the feeling that there were things that Sasuke understood differently. There were edges to Sasuke’s mind that Itachi couldn’t quite grasp and it was making them drift apart.
Itachi knew whose fault that was.
* * * (hehe stars xDDD)
“Itachi…” his mother’s voice was soft and worried. “Did something happen to Sasuke recently?”
Itachi didn’t even look up from polishing his kunai. “I don’t know, mother. Why do you ask?”
“He’s been acting so strange since last month…” Itachi looked up and saw that Mikoto’s eyes were set on him, pleading for an answer. Itachi watched her in silence, still polishing. He could see an accusation in his mother’s gaze and he felt it was uncalled for. They were at fault. If his parents had not tried to bend Sasuke to their will, Sasuke would not have been so troubled with Itachi’s love for him. Thankfully, Sasuke was gradually becoming used to it. Last night had been--- interesting.
Itachi held his mother’s gaze as coldly as he could. “He hasn’t told me anything.” Itachi lied easily, watching her face crumple.
“Your father is really worried that maybe…”
“Father thinks I did something to him?” Itachi demanded in a chilling voice.
Mikoto’s silence was answer enough.
“I’ll kill him,” Itachi hissed, anger boiling in his gut. “How dare he accuse me of anything?”
If Sasuke was acting a bit strange, it was because of them.
Mikoto let out a small sob, placing both of her hands on his shoulders. “Please, Itachi. Did something happen? Are you sure you can’t remember anything? Sasuke has become so different,” Itachi’s eyes narrowed at her choice of words. “And he won’t talk to us anymore.”
“I don’t know,” Itachi lied again. His mother’s eyes were frankly disbelieving and Itachi realized he was fighting a losing battle. They were certain he had done something.
When she tried to hug him, Itachi pulled out of her embrace. “Itachi…”
“I have to go.”
Mikoto sighed brokenly. “Oh, my son, I didn’t want it to come to this…”
“What do you mean, mother?”
“Itachi, your father and I think it might be best if you moved out.”
Itachi stopped in his tracks. So they were finally throwing him out, were they? Damn them. “Sasuke---“
“I think you should take some time away from him, honey.”
For the first time in his life, Itachi felt cornered. He waited for his mother to say something more, but she was painfully quiet.
They couldn’t take Sasuke away from him. No, they wouldn’t.
Sasuke was his to shape.
* * *
“So you see, that’s why I have to get Sasuke away from them.”
Shisui had gone very, very pale. “Oh, Itachi… you didn’t… please tell me this is a joke.”
Itachi frowned. “What do you m…” Shisui’s eyes had gone flat, like his father’s; like the eyes of all the other people who ever looked at Itachi, except Sasuke. “Why are you so horrified? It wasn’t terrible at all, Shisui. Sasuke liked it.”
Shisui closed his eyes, a look of profound anguish marred his features. “Oh, kami-sama… Itachi, what you have done…?”
Itachi curled his hand over a kunai. “Shisui---“
“We have to tell your parents.”
“No,” Itachi rasped, fingers tightening. “Never.”
“Itachi, this is serious. For how long have you two---“
“--- three months,” Itachi replied, gradually easing the blade from his satchel. “But I assure you, Sasuke is more than willing.”
“That’s besides the point, Itachi! The kid thinks the world of you! He loves you, you idiot! Of course he’d be will…Oh, Itachi… no…” Shisui sat back, watching Itachi shift his body into a killing stance. The kunai shone in the dim light of the Nakano shrine.
“I’m sorry, Shisui, but I can’t let you tell anyone. So I have decided to put a hypothesis to the test. I read something interesting on our family scrolls.”
“Itachi…” Shisui’s eyes were wide and amazed. “You didn’t---“
“I followed you yesterday. Now I understand why you didn’t want me to see those scrolls. Being my only friend certainly put you at a disadvantage.”
Shisui shook his head, mouth tightening into a thin line. He seemed to be incapable of understanding what was happening. “Itachi, you can’t possibly want to---“
“Shhhh,” Itachi hushed him quiet. Shisui’s eyes were impossibly wide. “I’m tired of this, Shisui. The elders of the clan prattle on about strength and power, but they fear it when they actually see it. Am I not everything they wished an Uchiha to be? Strong, determined, intelligent, skilled, dangerous.”
“Itachi, you’re acting like a monster.”
Itachi smiled thinly, an expression he rarely permitted himself. “Nonsense. I am everything Konoha wanted me to be, it’s just that you are all deluded. You see… you all insist you want certain things, but when they are given to you, it’s never in the way you wanted them. You and my parents call me monster because you can’t control me, and you’ll all make Sasuke weak just so you can keep him within your grasp. So he won’t be like me.”
“Good gods, Itachi, is that really what you see?”
Sharingan red stared back into Shisui’s eyes, deep and unfathomable. “It’s not what I see, Shisui. It’s the truth.”
“You’ll make Sasuke hate you, Itachi. Do you honestly want that?”
“If he is everything I think he will be, someday… he will thank me for what I am going to do.”
Itachi sighed--- and struck. Shisui didn’t even put up a fight. His eyes were wide and sad the whole time, they stayed on Itachi’s face until he stopped breathing. Only when Shisui’s body was found did Itachi feel a twinge of something, it could have even been loss.
But after that – and after the Magekyou sharingan - everything made much more sense.
Itachi didn’t hate his parents.
He didn’t hate his clan and he certainly didn’t hate Konoha.
In truth, the only thing he truly hated was the way in which they looked at him, as if justifying their own mediocrity. But he didn’t hate them. He loved Sasuke, of course. But he loved the possibility he saw in Sasuke’s future, more than the boy himself. Sasuke was delicious, but he would be perfect someday, when he was strong enough to offer Itachi a worthy challenge.
Itachi honestly believed Sasuke might, given the appropriate reason to actually wish for such strength.
No… Itachi didn’t hate any of his family, in the end.
He just didn’t care.
He thought he might like to actually care, someday.
* * *
And so it was that one dark night, when the storm was only just beginning to brew, two brothers stared at each other and one of them said:
And the other said:
“Because I loved you.”
And only one of them lived to tell the tale.......