Not Sick Chapter 1
Not as Planned
There are a number of ways to enter a room.
Some are designed to fill people with awe, to make them stand up and take notice. Others are meant to inspire fear, to make someone back away and keep their distance. It would be near impossible to list them all.
But while they might seem endless, there are three that are the most memorable.
The first - and consequently most common method - is to enter the room as if you don't have a care in the world, though those who choose this route are often the people who care most.
It requires taking on liquid like movement, a smooth boneless stroll that allows a slow sliding entrance into the room. Hands in pockets, head held low, shoulders slumped - it makes for an unnoticeable picture. Feet seem to wander aimlessly, but always manage to end up where their owner intends to be. It's a walk that the casual observer dismisses without second thought.
The savvier watcher is instantly wary, on guard. No one walks with that much carelessness unless they mean to. It's a carelessness that hides a truth.
Such observations are often correct. The cause of such behavior is usually something as harmless as being self-consciousness about their choice in clothing. That being said, it's only the savvier watcher that will catch the exceptions, and it's the exceptions that are most dangerous.
Another method, one that contrasts sharply with the first, is the dynamic entry. This is the kind of entrance strongly favored by the brighter people. The social butterflies. By those who seek to make it very clear that they own the room they've walked into. They'll burst in, the air around them crackling with excess energy - and with every movement they make they announce themselves.
Maybe they call out to a friend or even a person they've never met before, though such a call is often times much more along the lines of a battle cry. A yell of greeting that declares presence.
They immediately sweep any prior conversation or interaction under the carpet to be forgotten and ignored, directing all attention to themselves. It's an art that creates an atmosphere for those easily caught up in the storm - to bask in.
In short, they're obvious, loud and attention grabbing. And unfortunately, this occasionally ties in with rude behavior.
But only occasionally.
The least common - and least welcome - entrance can be colloquially referred to as a 'stalk'. One strides in, casting glares about, just daring anyone who glances at them to try something, try anything, because they're the people filled with anger. The kind of people spoiling for a fight. They need to let out that niggling mixture of rage and despair that hides their deep-set fear. A mixture of emotions has been weighing down their soul, and they can't think of a better way to do that than by ruining someone's day.
They walk in long strides, eating up the ground, stomping like gravity has tripled its influence over their soles. It's a scene not to be missed.
And then you'll feel it, as they enter the room - a palpable stink of petty anger and malice surrounding them. Swirling about like a hurricane waiting to take its next victim. It permeates the air and gives it an undeniable pressure; it prompts everyone to do their best to just look away, to make it someone else's problem.
It's a rather potent generator of the bystander effect.
Sasuke Uchiha is well known to be a genius. Given that, it shouldn't be surprising that he managed to pull off all three at the same time.
When he walked into the bunker that day, his stride screamed of purpose. There wasn't doubt in a single observer's mind of what he had come there for that day. His presence was overpower. It filled every corner of the room, driving away all ambiguity.
It was odd, then, that though his stride was purposeful, it also held that looseness that denoted a careless lethality. His arms hung freely at his sides, and his cloak swirled around him. Every step was chosen with great care as he stalked across the room. He was fluidity in motion, like water sliding down a frosted pane. His forehead, wrapped in bandages, was unwrinkled, his face showing little.
He didn't throw glares about. Kept his gaze fixed dead ahead, onyx eyes betraying nothing. Yet, the air around him was unnaturally still, like the calm before the storm. Beneath his cloak his shoulders were tensed like steel cable, wound tight. And his intent practically steamed into the air. It wasn't anger that leaked from him, nor was it malice.
It was a sense of pure death.
The sound of a knife sliding between vertebrae, the muffled puff of a final breath, the heat of a crematorium and the chill of hell: all bundled into a package of distilled hate.
The entrance was, quite simply, impressive.
It was rather unfortunate then for Sasuke that his older brother cared little for such theatrics.
Though he was not above them himself, because while there are many ways to enter a room, there are just as many ways to present yourself to a new arrival. And they are all as subtly important to establishing power as the next.
Having the higher ground helps. Having a throne - even one plain and without ornamentation - helps even more.
Itachi Uchiha had both.
Of course, a throne is only as useful as how you present yourself as you sit in it. A man who cowers in his throne, who curls into its depths as others approach, only looks smaller for it. His own position, his own seat of power, dwarfs him.
Itachi did not cower. Itachi had never cowered. The idea of shrinking away from anything from a notion completely alien to Itachi.
So Itachi sprawled in his throne. While Sasuke's looseness was nearly betrayed by his eager tenseness, Itachi's stance only betrayed complete and utter ease. His feet were crossed in front of him, one hand cradled in his cloak, the other propped in the air. Fingers curled inward like a lion laying down its head. His spine was straight, flush against the back of the throne. It was a posture as natural to him as breathing.
Itachi had never hunched.
For Sasuke, the worst was always his brother's face. Sasuke, though his features were schooled, still held a kind of promise in his eyes. A miniscule frown at the edge of his mouth that only those familiar with him could detect. Itachi's, by contrast, was empty. There was no hint of emotion in his face. His features were perfectly maintained; a blank wall would be easier to read. The only bit of life in him was in his eyes - though dreadfully empty, there was still a glimmer of interest there… and disdain.
In short, his entire being, even in repose, carried that subtle hint; danger simmered just below the surface.
It was unfortunate for him then, that Sasuke cared as little for this presentation as his brother had for Sasuke's own.
And so, for the first time in three and some years, the brothers Uchiha stood in the same room, facing each other with little but hatred between them.
The fight began before Sasuke even realized it. Itachi had snared him with his Sharingan - the powerful doujutsu spinning rapidly - as soon as he'd entered the room. But even within the genjutsu, Sasuke was anything but helpless. His own Sharingan was now filled with even more raw power than his genius brother, and it spun counter webs of cold chakra even as it was clouded.
What followed only took a minute of time in reality, but for the brothers, it seemed as if nearly ten had passed.
"That Sharingan…" Itachi spoke with the kind of familiarity that made the dull hate Sasuke maintained for his brother throb. "How much do you truly see with it, I wonder?"
Sasuke smirked, even as he strode forward.
"How much do I see?" he shook his head. "I see your death, Itachi."
The older brother shifted in his throne, undetectably tensing for the fight to come. His lips curled upward ever so slightly. An expression that could be mistaken for a smile.
"My death?" he said with a hint of mirth in his voice. He clearly found the idea laughable. One hand came free his cloak. "Well then, Sasuke. If it is my death you see..." He stood up.
"Show it to me."
Faster then most thoughts could comprehend Itachi was behind Sasuke. The younger boy swung out blindly, aiming for Itachi's head. Three years had changed him greatly. He wouldn't have noticed Itachi's movement back then.
Itachi's arm came up in an instant and stopped the strike cold, but Sasuke had been ready for that: in fact, he'd planned for it. His katana whipped over his head, aiming to bite into Itachi's shoulder and cripple his arm.
It was not to be.
Itachi's hand shot out in a blur of speed and caught Sasuke's wrist in an iron grip. Once more, he was frozen mid-attack.
In response, Sasuke's knee came up.
A blow aimed at his brother's groin, but Itachi caught that too with his own knee. Sasuke's shin rattled from the harsh impact.
A kunai flipped out of Itachi's sleeve into his blocking hand, and he drove it at his brother's head, attempting to buy himself a moment to disengage.
The katana shifted, and the kunai rang off of it. Sparks shot into the air, and Sasuke glared from behind the trembling steel.
Itachi took a moment to reassess his opponent. That had been… unexpectedly skillful. Or quite lucky. Either way, alternate methods were required.
So Itachi released the katana.
And before Sasuke could even think about striking, Itachi's hand flashed forward and seized his brother by the back of his cloak. Dragging him forward and off balance.
Then he launched himself into the air.
Sasuke swung, a wild blow meant to deter his sibling, but Itachi ignored the fruitless action. Spinning sharply about, Itachi's heel shot out and struck Sasuke square in the face, knocking him back several meters.
The Uchiha grit his teeth even has he fell, his katana flying out of his hand, before Itachi planted another foot in his chest and pushed. He kicked him clean across the room, continuing the motion to execute a flawless backflip simultaneously. During which a second, seemingly negligent kick flung Sasuke's sword into the ceiling, where it stuck fast.
Itachi flowed to the ground, his cloak settling around him once more as Sasuke hit the concrete and bounced like a sack of tossed sandbags.
Which is to say, poorly.
As Itachi watched, Sasuke rolled to his feet, settling into a familiar stance even as he skidded backwards, not all his momentum spent. His hands flashed through signs that the Sharingan had embedded in the clan-killer's memory, and internally Itachi winced. It was as if Sasuke hadn't improved at all since their last meeting.
Dancing lightning wreathed Sasuke's hands, and he raised his head, staring at Itachi while his tomoe whirled madly. Making eye contact, he yelled and broke into a dead sprint, covering ten meters in barely a moment.
It was all Itachi could do, even with his unmatchable control, to keep from rolling his eyes. This? This was the best Sasuke could do? His mind rolling with disappointment, he leapt into the air, handily avoiding the one-hit-kill as Sasuke blew by beneath him.
He found Sasuke waiting for him on the ceiling, his face stretching in the kind of grin that would give small children nightmares.
Itachi's Sharingan minutely widened. 'Unexpected,' he thought in surprise.
Sasuke's katana - abruptly regained - made a sick shlick noise as it plunged into his brother's chest, shattering one of his ribs, popping a lung, piercing his heart and exiting from his back in a spray of blood, nicking his spine as it did so. Itachi gasped as his chest cavity rapidly filled with blood, and plunged back towards the ground, Sasuke atop him the whole time.
They both landed with a very final thud against the cool floor.
Sasuke kept his sword lodged in Itachi's chest, unwilling to risk his brother escaping. Besides, if he removed it immediately, blood loss would take his brother prematurely… and he needed a word with him first.
"This is your last chance, brother. The last chance you'll ever have. Why did you really leave me alive? The truth. Out of all the clan… why me?!" Rotten bitterness tainted Sasuke's every word.
Itachi didn't answer. Instead, he gave his brother a small, undetectable smile.
"It seems you've become… strong, Sasuke."
His hand, quavering as the life left his body, reached up towards Sasuke's face, index and middle finger extended. Sasuke's eyes widened. The motion, so familiar, and rooted in better times, startled him. He could hear Itachi, could see him now below him. The Itachi that had been a brother to live up to, an Itachi that hadn't murdered everyone important to him.
But the fingers didn't touch his forehead, and the apparition didn't speak. Instead, the hand pointed to his right.
'Foolish little brother. Look over there,' a voice echoed in his head.
'I'm not what you should worry about,'
There was Itachi, seated in his throne, staring back at him.
Sasuke's head snapped back to the figure beneath him, even as the shadow clone dissolved in a puff of chakra that manifested in a swarm of red-eyed ravens, cawing and swirling about. He was left kneeling, his blade stuck into the ground, with little to show for his efforts.
He looked up, and met his brother's eyes again.
The Sharingan spun, and the world spun away with it.
A katana burst from Itachi's chest, spilling blood across his lap as he lurched, the metal gleaming in the dim light of the bunker.
Though Sasuke couldn't see it, Itachi gave his little brother a bloody smile, his brilliant white teeth be-speckled with dark liquid. It was the first time he had truly smiled in three years.
'Now that… is much better.'
Sasuke's genjutsu had been magnificent. Itachi had been wholly convinced his brother was standing before him, consumed by his hatred and unwilling to act decisively in light of Itachi's own illusion. His brother had thrown exactly what he had expected to see in his face. making him believe it entirely. He'd fallen for it… completely.
It had been a long, long time since he'd fallen prey to a genjutsu.
His smile widened as blood trickled down his chin. Sasuke, still hidden behind the throne, was speaking to him.
"I've avoided hitting any vital areas. So Itachi, tell me… WHY WAS I LEFT?!"
'Foolish little brother. Live. Cling to your pathetic life. Fear me. Hate me. And when you have the same eyes as me, come before me.' Itachi's own words, spoken a lifetime ago, came to him, and his mouth hardened.
Sasuke, unsatisfied with his brother's silence, pushed the blade forward a few inches. He twisted it slightly as he did.
"Why?" He demanded.
If there wasn't a meter of very sharp steel piercing his lung, Itachi might have sighed. His brother was still far too concerned with the 'why'. Thinking too much instead of concentrating on the now. He should have been focused on the fight.
Disappointed, though glad that Sasuke had made some progress, he dispelled the illusion.
Sasuke realized it in an instant. Before the clone had even begun to melt into crows and the chair fade away, he spun about, a chidori crackling in his hand. Except it clearly wasn't the chidori, because instead of rushing his brother, Sasuke pointed at him and a beam of lightning shot forward, straight for Itachi's face.
Itachi cocked his head to the side and lightning flashed by. It missed his face by centimeters and blew through the stone of the throne, leaving a clean hole. If it had been true lightning and not pure chakra, he would have been left with severe flash burns.
He raised an eyebrow.
"I can see, Itachi! This isn't the same pair of eyes I had when you humiliated three years ago!"
The shattered wrist bones twisted together, liquid fire in his veins. It had all been useless. The curse mark, with which he had effortlessly crushed a sound-nin. Useless. The chidori, which had drawn blood from an invincible opponent: useless. His speed, which had kept him alive against the rage of a living desert. Useless.
There was a voice in his ear, a voice he dreamed about, a voice he despised with the entirety of his existence. A voice he had dedicated his life to silencing.
A voice that wasn't even strained as it held him against the wall, grinding shattered bones and crushing his trachea.
"You don't have enough hate." It sounded so amused. Perhaps it was. Sasuke did his best not to understand the minds of the insane. "And you know what, Sasuke? I'm beginning to think…" It came closer. Its warm breath, the breath of a murderer, brushed his ear, and he felt as if he would vomit.
"You never will."
The voice was wrong, though. Itachi had been wrong.
Sasuke had more than enough hate now.
He flew at his brother. An arm flashed out, and Itachi ducked. It cracked against the stone of the throne as he kicked out and took his brother in the gut. Sasuke's breath left his lungs in a single huff of air and he doubled over. But even as he curled in pain he lunged, and his forehead crashed into Itachi's face, snapping the elder brother's nose.
Itachi started, blood pouring down his face, and lashed out with a flat hand strike to his brother's solar plexus. It sent Sasuke hurtling backwards into the wall with enough force to crack the toughened concrete.
The younger Uchiha slumped, momentarily insensible, and Itachi rose from his seat, straightening out his nose will an audible snap as he did so. The flow of blood stopped, and Sasuke dimly raised his head at the sound.
"Well done, Sasuke," Itachi said, stepping forward. "It would seem you've finally learned the power of hate." As he took the final step down the short flight of stairs, he gave his brother a grim look, Sharingan flashing. "But it's still not enough."
Sasuke struggled to his feet, glaring.
"Do you truly want to know why I spared you, Sasuke? Why I killed everyone else and left you alive to suffer a miserable existence filled with hate and fear?"
Sasuke was silent. For a moment. Then he spoke.
"I know you didn't kill everyone. You couldn't have."
Itachi only stared at him in silence, an eyebrow raised in response. Sasuke answered the unspoken question.
"Even you, Itachi, couldn't have killed the entire Uchiha police force alone. When we spoke that night, you said that if I awakened the Mangekyō, there would be three with its power. Which means that there is another Uchiha with the Mangekyō Sharingan. Who is it?"
Itachi had stilled once more, completely unreadable. "Is, Sasuke? Don't you mean was?"
"No. I know you didn't kill him. Which means that he must have helped you that night. No true Uchiha would have stood by as his family was slaughtered. So, after I kill you, I shall kill him too. So tell me, who is it?"
Itachi said nothing. He just watched Sasuke with calculating eyes before giving the Uchiha equivalent of a shrug, which translated to his shoulders invisibly twitching. "I suppose there's little harm in you knowing. His name… is Madara Uchiha."
Sasuke froze, his eyes wide with realization.
"Yes. The ruler of the clan, before the days of the Hidden Leaf. He was the first to awaken the Mangekyō Sharingan. He and his brother Izuna. They killed those most important to them and gained a terrible power. When you were young he returned to the Hidden Leaf, and sought me out."
Itachi smiled the smile of a madman, and Sasuke balked as his brother took a step forward, his hands coming up, palms raised.
"He explained to me a plan he had. A plan to purify the Uchiha, to destroy the arrogant and navel-gazing fools that the clan had become."
Itachi's smile vanished, but the indifference replacing it was worse. "Uchiha, he told me, should not be concerned with village politics. Of gaining more influence amongst weak ninjas in a weak village. They should be trying to increase their personal power."
Sasuke choked, his throat clenching but nothing emerging. Itachi continued.
Those two words dragged Sasuke back from his shock.
"But… that still doesn't answer my question, Itachi!" Sasuke yelled, starting off quietly but his voice steadily gaining in volume. "Why was I left?!"
Itachi, maintaining constant eye contact, spoke in a heavy, slow voice.
"The Mangekyō Sharingan is a powerful tool… but it has a price. Once awakened, it moves steadily towards darkness. It's visual prowess fades, and in the end it becomes nothing."
Itachi shook his head. "Sasuke, I have been using it only when necessary for merely eight years, and yet it has almost completely taken my sight."
Sasuke started at that. Itachi was nearly blind? Why would he reveal such a weakness to him?
His brother continued.
"There is only one way to keep the Mangekyō Sharingan from complete darkness. Madara was the one to discover it, of course."
Something pretending to be humor leaked into Itachi's eyes. "He was always the first."
Then, he continued.
"When his sight was taken from him, he desperately fled the darkness, and in his madness, stole his younger brother's eyes. They gained new light in him, and he was left with a Mangekyō Sharingan that would never lose its visual prowess. And that, brother, was the Eternal Mangekyō Sharingan."
A surge of chakra flew from Itachi, hitting Sasuke squarely.
Yet another genjutsu. He saw a vision, a man laid on a tatami mat as another leaned over him. A hand groped out, like a worm from a hole. And as Sasuke watched, horrified, it settled over the leaning man's face. The forefingers and thumb circled his right eye.
"Forgive me, brother."
There was a horrific squelching noise and the kneeling man began screaming. The genjutsu vanished, and Sasuke stepped back, completely horrified, while Itachi watched him intently.
'That is the legacy of my clan?' Sasuke thought.
"That is the legacy of our clan, foolish little brother." Itachi unknowingly echoed Sasuke's morbid thought. "Many Uchiha throughout the ages have tried to gain the infinite power of the Eternal Mangekyō, but many failed sacrifices have made it clear that it can only be attained by the sacrifice of a brother's eyes."
He took another step forward. "Thus, it is the destiny of all Uchiha siblings to live with a future of hate. Of fratricide. For one will always gain unspeakable power, and leave the other with nothing but empty sockets."
"That, Sasuke, is why I let you live."
The younger Uchiha reeled. "My whole life… you let me live… told me to grow powerful because-"
Itachi's face stretched, nightmarish. An impossible parody of his normally stoicism. His mouth went up, and his eyes widened, leaving him with a hellish grin. Madness flickered in his Sharingan, the ragged pupil itself spinning with the tomoe around it.
"You are my spare, Sasuke!" he roared. "Yours are the eyes that will deliver me from darkness! And today, I will claim what is rightfully mine!"
The world cracked, falling apart like a shattered glass pane as Sasuke fell to his knees, gasping with the shock of foreign chakra retreating from his body. The genjutsu was gone. Itachi had dismissed it.
He looked up, and in a fit of déjà vu found Itachi staring at him from his throne, having remained there for the whole of their 'fight'.
"You see now, foolish little brother. Why I have brought you here. Why I blinded you with hate."
Sasuke clenched his fists and rose to his feet, but Itachi kept talking.
"You've come here before me, alone. You have abandoned all of your friends and comrades; and you didn't even have the sense to kill them before you did. At least then, they would have empowered you. Now, you have no support. Now, there is no one who can save you. Not even yourself. Without the Mangekyō Sharingan, you stand no chance against me."
Sasuke's hands came up, reaching for the bandages wrapped around his forehead. As he slowly undid them, he spoke.
"Didn't you just say, Itachi, that the Uchiha should live to increase their personal power?"
Itachi silently nodded.
"And that is what I have done. I have become more powerful than you know, Itachi. My friendships have made me strong, I know that. I'd be an idiot not to recognize that. But severing them… cutting the bonds I made… it required much more strength to do that!"
The bandages fell to the floor, forgotten. Sasuke's Sharingan blazed.
"Now, I don't need anyone's help! I can kill you myself! I don't care if I'm your spare, Itachi! I don't care if the only reason you kept me alive was for my eyes! I'll show you what a mistake that was!"
Lightning crackled with the sound of a thousand chirping birds, and Itachi sighed. "This again, Sasuke? The same tricks-"
The lightning streamed from Sasuke's hand, flowing towards Itachi in a solid wave of electricity. The elder Uchiha leapt up and forward, flying over the bolts of deadly chakra.
Sasuke had been ready for this. A summoning scroll - wrapped around his right forearm - popped shuriken into existence between his fingers, and he sent them upwards in a hail of gleaming metal, his arms working faster than normal eyes could follow.
Of course, Itachi had no normal eyes. His Sharingan whirled madly, tracking every single one of the incoming stars, their paths as clear as day to him. Ten shuriken of his own fell into his hands from a hidden sleeve within his cloak.
"Kage Shuriken no Jutsu," he murmured, and then flung the ninja stars. There was a puff of smoke, and ten shuriken became twenty times that number mid-flight.
Sasuke had thrown around three hundred shuriken. A mere two hundred shuriken thrown by Itachi flew down to meet them, and the air was filled with an unbelievable din as the stars clashed together, throwing sparks everywhere and ricocheting with abandon.
Not a single one struck either of the Uchiha brothers. Itachi's throw had deflected all of the shuriken that would have hit him, sending them flying away into the walls and floor of the bunker. More than once, a star struck one with then fell into another, rendering all of them useless.
"Nii-san! Will you help me with my shuriken?" A familiar motion, an eager smile; a tap on the head, an adorable frown. "Not now, Sasuke. Maybe next time, okay?"
Through the deafening noise that would have made a dozen ninja-tool craftsmen weep, Itachi kept coming. Falling towards his brother. His shuriken expended, Sasuke fell back, buying himself a couple meters as his hands sped through signs.
"Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!"
The grand fireball roared from Sasuke's pursed mouth, incinerating any lingering shuriken and ready to engulf Itachi. The elder Uchiha grimaced, his Sharingan writhing as three tomoe morphed together into a single sickle-like shape.
Divine flames and blood flooded from Itachi's right eye, and a whirlwind of black struck the fireball as he fell into it. The unnatural flames burned a hole straight through the heart of the conflagration, an eye in the storm, through which Itachi fell.
Sasuke's eyes widened as his brother burst from the firestorm unharmed and seemingly cloaked in black fire, his fist cocked back. The Amaterasu put itself out, whipping away in an instant, and Sasuke desperately jumped back, trying to dodge to telegraphed punch.
He made it barely a foot before Itachi landed and struck in the same motion, hammering his fist into Sasuke's cheek. The younger Uchiha was sent airborne with the force of the blow as Itachi sunk to the ground, tiny flames licking at his cloak and metallic ashes, a reminder of the shuriken hail just moments before, settling around him. Sasuke's cloak, torn from his body by the powerful punch, fluttered to the floor in front of Itachi.
Itachi rose as Sasuke smashed to the ground.
Absently, he reached for the clasp on his cloak, about to undo it… before simply reaching down and sweeping the flames off the hem with his hands. The fire guttered itself out on the cold floor of the bunker. As it did so, Sasuke rolled into a handspring, getting back to his feet. He stood panting, his cheek already forming an impressive bruise.
Itachi turned his head fractionally, staring at him. Sasuke stared back fiercely, meeting his brother's eyes without fear. Both of their Sharingan spun lazily. Exploratory threads of chakra wove through the air before others severed them.
Ordinary genjutsu had no place in the fight anymore, Itachi saw. Sasuke was in his element now, and destroyed any attempt at an illusion before it started. And a Tsukuyomi was not necessary, at least not yet.
Itachi took a step forward. In response, Sasuke unsheathed his sword.
In the moment it took the blade to clear its scabbard, Itachi charged. One hand was forward, curled like a claw, aimed for Sasuke's face, and the other went behind his back, steadily making hand signs. He didn't want his younger sibling seeing them.
Sasuke swung, the blade not yet fully removed from its sheath, and the scabbard was flung forward, cloaked in lightning. Itachi weaved, though not enough as it tore a substantial chunk from one of his sleeves, baring his left arm. As he did, he jumped forward, his right hand sweeping down.
Sasuke met him in the middle, blocking high with his left hand and driving his katana forward with his right. It punched through Itachi's gut, spearing him. The mass-murder wavered, dissolving into a flock of crows. From out of his shadow, cast low by the dim light of the bunker, another Itachi stepped.
A kunai in hand.
Sasuke blinked. He'd never seen someone kage-conceal a person, much less in the shadow of themselves. He hadn't even bothered to track Itachi's shadow with his Sharingan.
His hesitation nearly cost him his arm. Itachi thrust forward with the kunai, hoping to stab into the joint and disable the katana-wielding limb. Sasuke frantically parried with his suddenly free left hand, bringing it down and knocking the knife off course, before grabbing the hand that had held it and swinging his sword down to take it off.
Itachi dropped the kunai and kicked it as it fell, imbedding it in Sasuke's thigh. The younger Uchiha flinched, and Itachi used that opportunity to knock the sword away from him.
It was flung deeper into the bunker, far out of Sasuke's reach. Itachi moved in, his hands a blur as he did his best to pummel his bladeless brother. Sasuke defended himself, diverting or blocking most of the blows, and landed a solid punch on Itachi's gut.
The elder brother fell to his knees, his breath stolen, and Sasuke brought his foot up for an axe kick. As it fell, Itachi seized it with his right hand and shot up, sending Sasuke cartwheeling backwards.
Sasuke spun away, and he caught a flash of Itachi weaving more hand signs. What little he saw told him all he needed to know. It was some sort of clone jutsu.
Sasuke rolled out of his cartwheel and both brothers settled, aching from their brief spar.
"Taijutsu is pointless, Sasuke. You won't be able to beat me with that," Itachi said.
"And I've neutralized your genjutsu, Itachi. Your greatest weapon is gone!" Sasuke yelled back, as he reached down and yanked the kunai from his leg. Blood spurted, before a touch of katon-infused chakra sealed the wound.
"That, Sasuke, is a foolish misconception." Itachi's voice, always level, came from directly behind Sasuke.
He spun, his newly acquired kunai held high, and decapitated his brother with the lightning infused edge. As the body slumped, Sasuke noticed something strange about its chakra. When it melted into a puddle of water, his suspicions were confirmed.
'A water clone? Why not another shadow clone?' thought Sasuke. He turned back around to face his brother again, but the man was gone.
'Where-' thought Sasuke for a moment, before being cut off by his own screaming instincts. He glanced up, and found Itachi perched upside down on the ceiling, his cloak falling down around him like some obscene flower.
There was no time to dodge. The kunai came up, but Itachi fell like a meteor, kicking the small blade away and smashing Sasuke to the floor, crushing his diaphragm under a knee. His hands pinned Sasuke's to the floor, and the younger Uchiha was left helpless and wheezing, unable to move, locked beneath his brother.
Itachi bent forward, his eyes spiraling. The sickles of the Mangekyō Sharingan emerged again, and he looked deep into Sasuke's eyes, their faces nearly touching. Sasuke's vision was fill with crimson and black, and he felt faint with fear. But not so faint that he couldn't spit in his brother's face.
Itachi spoke without irritation, his voice like a blade wrapped in bandages. "Enough of this."
Oh god not again. Ohnonononononooooooo-
Blood splattered across polished wooden paneling. It would never come out, nevernevernevernever, the blood was there to stay, it would be there until his parents came back and they were never coming back because he had killed them killedthemkilledthem. In the night in their beds without warning. Out in the middle of the entrance hall their mumbled screams bouncing off the walls. He'd dragged the bodies out there for Sasuke to find vomit building in his throat.
He'd waited till he'd seen Sasuke coming home and then cut their throats there so the bodies would be fresh, be warm, a gift to his foolishlittlebrother. And Sasuke had arrived. His screams had torn a hole in Itachi's heart and he could never fill it nevernevernever. He'd be empty for as long as he lived. Sasuke had come home and he'd seen the fear in his brother's eyes. Heady off its scent and he couldn't wait just couldn't wait until the little idiot's eyes were ready because he was going to rip them right out of his squawking fool skull.
Not right this was all wrong. Red sky, blood moon, trees made of crows, squirming and cawing and rotting. Worms and maggots no ground no earth just death and decay, grinning skulls and nibbling rats.
Not real not real notrealnotreal.
Sasuke woke up.
The Tsukuyomi blew apart like so many leaves in the wind, like a window exploding, and Sasuke was awake.
Itachi flew backwards, straight into the air as if propelled by a cannon, as Sasuke's hand shot from his weakened grip and took him straight in the chest. Blood poured from his left eye, dripping down towards Sasuke, like crimson rain.
His chakra pulsed, quivering, distorted and wracked. Sasuke's Sharingan took it all in. His brother hit the roof and bounced, falling back down towards Sasuke, still stunned. With his katana missing, Sasuke took the next best option.
He spun to his feet, kicking the murderer with all of his considerable strength dead in the chest before he could hit the ground.
Itachi sailed across the room, smashing into the throne on which he had waited for his brother. The chair was wrecked with the force of the impact, sending up a great cloud of decades old dust.
When it settled, Itachi was once again sprawled in the throne. A sprawl that was nothing like the imperious way he'd been seated when Sasuke had entered the room. This was the sprawl of someone who was barely managing to staying conscious as they slumped in their seat. He struggled to his feet, holding his face and by large his left eye, as if trying to cradle it.
"Impossible," he slurred his words; something that Sasuke had never heard him do. "Impossible. No one could have broken the Tsukuyomi."
Sasuke smirked, "That is the power of the hate that you gave me, Itachi. With it, nothing is impossible."
Itachi, trembled but slowly regaining his poise. He stared at Sasuke with one eye, blood leaking from under the hand that hid the other.
"Perhaps I have underestimated you, little brother. To break the Tsukuyomi…" he straightened, his trembling ending as the old Itachi, the one with a glacial face and imperious eyes, returned. "I will have to end this quickly."
Even as he said this, Sasuke watched him with whirling red eyes. His brother's posture may have improved, but his chakra was still rolling and unstable.
'He's unsettled. The backlash of chakra from the Tsukuyomi breaking has hurt him.'
He now had the upper hand in this fight.
But Itachi, Sasuke knew, was still extremely dangerous no matter how weak he seemed. Even as he spoke, the air around him changed, becoming charged with dreadful finality. His mouth, and its permanent semi-frown, became even more severe.
Itachi burst into action, weaving signs with impossible speed and sprinting straight at Sasuke. Sasuke gave him no time to get closer: he reached for the summon scroll wrapped around his left hand. Two fūma shuriken burst into existence, and Sasuke hurled them at his charging brother, one high and one low.
Itachi hopped, going almost completely horizontal and shooting between the two oversized shuriken as they whirled above and below him. A flawless dodge.
Not good enough.
Sasuke pulled, and the wires he had attached to the shuriken broke them apart in an explosion of hurtling steel. Foot long blades pounded themselves into the concrete walls of the bunker, and a single one struck Itachi in the upper thigh. He crashed to the ground, his grace destroyed by the painful injury. Sasuke laughed.
"That Tsukuyomi has ruined you, Itachi! You can hardly fight!"
He began weaving signs as his brother clumsily rolled to his feet, yanking the blade from his thigh as he did.
"Perhaps you'll have more luck with this! Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!"
Sasuke's fireball emerged once more, and Itachi leapt straight into the air and over the fireball, completely avoiding the wash of deadly flames. Sasuke jumped towards him, more hand signs forming as he did.
As his brother cleared the fireball and came into view, Sasuke yelled, relishing the suprise on Itachi's face.
Itachi saw the lightning coming and with a burst of chakra propelled himself up, above the attack. Sasuke shot by below, and the chidori punched a hole in the roof of the bunker.
Itachi, falling once more, landed on Sasuke's back and jumped off his brother, residual momentum allowing him to leap out of the newly made hole and into the light of day. Sasuke followed him a moment later.
Sasuke found the roof of the bunker more enormous than he'd imagined. Three massive stone slabs, dozens of meters tall, two side-by-side and another taller one across from them, formed an enormous set of standing walls. The roof seemed only more massive by their presence.
Itachi had retreated farther away from the hole, waiting for Sasuke to emerge. When he did, his frown became even grimmer. He spoke as Sasuke landed, something that sounded suspiciously like regret echoing in his voice.
"I had hoped that it wouldn't come to this, Sasuke. I would prefer your eyes intact, after all - but you leave me no choice." Both of Itachi's eyes, still in the sickle-like shape of the Mangekyō Sharingan, suddenly strained; painful looking cataracts spontaneously formed in them.
He looked to be in agony, but breathed out all the pain with a single word.
Crimson chakra tore out of Itachi's body, forming into an imposing skeletal figure around him. Ribs became sheathed in flesh, and flesh clothed in armor. The warrior towered over Sasuke, a massive shield held in one hand and glowing eyes staring at him from beneath a low helm crafted in the image of some kind of monstrous demon.
Sasuke took a step back.
"This is Susano'o. The ultimate technique of the Mangekyō Sharingan!" Itachi's voice emerged from within the massive construct. Sasuke could vaguely see him within, masked by the whirling chakra.
"Katon: Goukakyuu no Jutsu!" Sasuke fired a fireball straight towards the voice. The rolling chakra flames smashed into the Susano'o and whirled away, leaving behind nothing to mark their touch.
'Hmm... Not good.'
Susano'o moved. An enormous fist came down, intent on crushing Sasuke. Moving quick the younger Uchiha dodged back. It hammered into the roof of the bunker, breaking yet another hole into the inner chamber.
Sasuke sprinted away, towards the edge of the roof, intent on using the cloud of dust to mask his retreat. He needed time to come up with a plan to beat the armor.
He didn't get it.
Sasuke felt the invocation and dived forward. He didn't see anything pass him, but when he looked back, the forest around the bunker was on fire, alit with unnatural black flames. He ran on even as he felt an invisible heat pursuing him.
The forest to his right was constantly being caught in Itachi's deadly gaze as dark flames moved from tree to tree, consuming it in a black death. The heat, even from some distance, was nearly unbearable.
This wasn't working. He'd be caught soon enough. Time to change tactics again.
The lightning jutsu smashed another hole in the bunker, and Sasuke dove through. Once more inside, safe for a moment, he desperately assessed the situation.
Low on chakra. His brother shielded by incredibly potent armor. The forest outside completely on fire, cutting off any escape attempt.
'Wait.' Sasuke's thoughts caught on that. 'The forest is burning. The heat- it's perfect. I just need to help it along a little.'
He looked up, and found the Susano'o staring down at him though the hole he'd made.
He rolled to the left and the hand that would have crushed him swept by, making a palm print in the floor. As he dodged, black lines raced over his skin, originating from the cursed seal on the nape of his neck. His skin turning a sickly shade of purple, and the whites of his eyes went black.
His Sharingan remained amongst the changes, the only mark of familiarity in the suddenly alien face. As he regained his feet, he faced the roof, making hand signs.
"Katon: Gōryūka no Jutsu!"
A stream of flames, shaped in the image of a dragon, burst through the roof of the bunker effortlessly and shot into the darkening sky. It narrowly missed the Susanoo, giving Itachi a fantastic view of his brother's technique.
The Susano'o, and Itachi with it, paused, staring at the outpouring flames. It shifted its stare back down through the newly made hole at Sasuke.
"You'll have to aim better than that, Sasuke," Itachi's voice was almost puzzled.
Sasuke just smirked, before running through the hand signs again.
"Katon: Gōryūka no Jutsu!"
The jutsu burst from the roof five more times, shooting into the sky like a pyromaniacs most wonderful dream. Each cleanly missed the Susano'o.
"If you are trying to weaken the roof, Sasuke, that will not work. The Susano'o has no true weight, being a chakra construct. You should know that."
Sasuke fell to his knees, the marks of his curse seal receding. "I know that, brother."
And then he collapsed, seemingly unconscious.
Only he wasn't. Sasuke heard the hum of the Susano'o, ever present, recede a little. Then entirely.
The sound of footsteps filled his ears. Unsteady footsteps. Itachi was coming closer. He'd been fooled by the gambit, his Sharingan telling him (correctly) that Sasuke was nearly entirely out of chakra. That Sasuke's system barely had enough to pull off an intangible bunshin. Itachi was coming to take his eyes. Cautiously, but it wouldn't be enough.
"Perhaps this technique will look familiar to you, Sasuke-kun. It certainly helped me the night we met."
Sasuke used the substitution that Orochimaru had taught all those months ago, when he'd still been the man's apprentice. He created a raw chakra copy of his body, a skin from which to slither, and simultaneously utilized a shunshin to get to the roof through one of the many holes.
The technique had tricked him once, in the Forest of Death, and now it tricked Itachi. He could tell, because the Susanoo didn't reappear and tear the roof to shreds looking for him.
He had barely three seconds to make it to the tallest point around before the substitution melted into slimy raw chakra. That point was the top of the hundred-meter tombstone-like slab of concrete adorning the roof of the bunker.
It took him four. When he was there, he looked back, and found Itachi staring up at him from far, far below. It had begun to rain.
"You're out of chakra, Sasuke. This battle is hopeless. Give up and give me your eyes." Itachi's voice reached him easily despite the distance.
Sasuke couldn't help but laugh. "You're right, brother… I am out of chakra, yes. But Itachi, you've handed me my victory. Look up!"
The sky, once cloudless and blue, was filled with baleful black clouds and turbulent winds. The weather had rapidly taken a turn for the worse. The intense heat of the Amaterasu filled forests and the shocks of Sasuke's fiery dragons had formed instant storm clouds. Lightning danced among them, crackling in anticipation.
"I don't need chakra for this jutsu, Itachi! It brings down the rage of the heavens upon whomever I wish! I merely direct it."
Itachi flinched back. Even from so far away, Sasuke saw it. He was glad that his Sharingan would remember that flinch for the rest of his life.
"This is Kirin!"
The Susano'o began to rise again. But even the Mangekyō Sharingan isn't faster than lightning.
"Now, vanish with the thunder!" Sasuke flung his arm down, and an enormous bolt of lightning came with it. Guided by what little chakra he had left and leeched from the clouds, it swept down in an instant and struck Itachi as the Susanoo sprung up around him.
There was a clap of thunder, a wash of pressure, an intense smell of ozone, and the bunker exploded in a hail of concrete, dust, and static, flattening the trees around it for hundreds of meters.
Sasuke fell, his footing vanishing in an instant. He landed amidst the ruins, lumps of concrete and charred earth below and around him, and crumpled to his knees, before slowly falling totally prone.
Managing to pull his head up he found his brother lying on a sizable piece of debris not too far away, still as the stones around him.
Blood poured from the traitor's eyes, his mouth hanging slack. His red and black cloak was torn to shreds. It had fallen open, forming a cross-like shape as what remained of the arms stretched to the sides.
Itachi was dead.
Sasuke lay his head back down.
His eyes, the Sharingan fading from them, slowly closed: exhaustion, no longer held back by unhealthy amounts of adrenaline, was finally taking consciousness away.
For a moment, he luxuriated in the silence, the relief of his brother's death. Rolling over, he stared up into the sky. The artificial storm clouds, their purpose now spent, were slowly were breaking up. The sun peeked through, and the warmth of it began to lull Sasuke into an exhausted sleep. His family had been avenged, and now he could rest.
'It's finally over.'
There was a wet cough.
"So, this is the death you were trying to show me?"
Sasuke's eyes snapped open. His head came up. Soon, the rest of his body did too, lurching to his feet.
Itachi, still lying flat on his back, had turned his head to look at him. His eyes were open, but they saw nothing. The pupils were so torn and dimmed that they blended into the rest of the hereditary Uchiha onyx eyes, making them a blank slate. There was a small smile on Itachi's face.
To Sasuke, this was the most unbelievable thing he'd ever seen. He had almost expected Itachi to survive the Kirin, really. His brother was one of the best shinobi the world had ever seen. But to see him smile…
To smile like that, at him, at Sasuke…
He couldn't understand.
Itachi didn't move, but he still spoke. His words were ragged, the voice of an old and dying man. "I'll admit, you have become strong, Sasuke. Far stronger than I thought you would in such a short time. I am impressed."
Sasuke tried to flare his curse seal, to pump more chakra into his weakened body, but Itachi stopped him. Not with a blow, or a jutsu, but with mere words.
"Stop, Sasuke. There's no point. Even with the Susano'o-" he choked, coughing up blood that smelled like smoke, and Sasuke stopped, the curse seal receding. He wanted to hear this.
Itachi regained his voice, the blood flow ceasing, "Even with the Susano'o, I am already dead. That was a fine jutsu."
Sasuke couldn't believe what he was hearing. Itachi was complimenting him? The man who had killed their parents was telling him 'well done'?
Impossible. It had to be.
He stared at Itachi, indecision and confusion overpowering him. They were aided in no small part by exhaustion. He could barely keep his feet.
Itachi broke Sasuke's paralysis as easily as he'd caused it, "Come here, Sasuke. There's something I need to tell you."
Sasuke's feet carried him forward. He wasn't sure if he was in charge of them or not. He reached Itachi, and leaned down before his dying brother. A memory flashed before his eyes. Izuna, leaning over his sickly brother Madara, much as he was doing. He banished it with a thought. Itachi was in no condition to take anyone's eyes. Not anymore.
"Sasuke. I am very proud of you."
"You have surpassed all of my expectations."
'No. No… this is impossible.'
"I know now that you have the power. It is up to you to defeat Madara. You must end the cursed legacy of the Uchiha, and lead our clan out of the darkness."
Sasuke stared down at his brother. A single tear formed in his eye: the turmoil in his mind could not be contained behind a façade much longer.
"Sasuke…" Itachi was struggling to form words. His right hand twitched, and slowly rose from his side. Sasuke instinctively flinched away, but it continued regardless. Slowly, the index and middle finger extended.
Itachi's fingers pressed against his brother's forehead, the touch so light Sasuke could barely feel it.
"I'm sorry. There won't be a next time."
And with that, Itachi died.
Sasuke stared at the body beneath him for what seemed like an eternity.
'He was your brother.'
'He killed the clan.'
'HE WAS YOUR BROTHER.'
'Your revenge is complete.'
'Was it worth it?'
Tears leaked from Sasuke's eyes, though his expression remained unchanged. The clear sky mocked him by not joining in.
Even after all the pain Itachi had put him through, all the fear and hatred, all the years of isolation and training, after making him leave all comfort behind in his quest to become strong enough, after trying to take his eyes… Itachi was still the only family Sasuke had left. And in killing him, Sasuke had become truly alone.
He felt an intense pain in his eyes.
'Surely I'm not crying that hard?'
It couldn't be the Sharingan. He was completely out of chakra. But… it felt so like it…
Sasuke glanced to his right, wincing through the pain in his eyes, and found a puddle of water there, a memento of the brief storm that had killed his brother. He scrambled over to it, and stared within, fascinated.
His eyes had changed. The Sharingan had indeed activated, but it looked nothing like it usually did. The iris had turned a pitch black and a bright red shape, like two six pointed stars. One within the other, sat within its darkness. A small trail of blood had run from his left eye, making its way to his chin.
The Mangekyō Sharingan.
Impossible. Itachi had been that dear to him?
Sasuke didn't know whether to laugh or keep crying.
And when he heard something behind him, he became even more confused.
It sounded just like Itachi. Which was impossible, since Itachi was dead.
"Those are fine eyes, Sasuke."
The world exploded, a sliver firestorm running down everything in its path and wiping the universe clean.
Sasuke woke up.
Itachi was sitting on top of him, a knee pressed into his chest. Sasuke's hands were pinned to his side: duplicates of his brother kneeling on his forearms rendered them helpless. Sasuke barely notice this.
'No. Fake. False. Dead. This can't be happening.'
"Give up, brother. You have to listen-"
Sasuke screamed, and Itachi flinched back.
Mocking him. His brother was mocking him.
He had never left the Tsukuyomi. His escape, the battle with Itachi, his victory: It had all part of Itachi's genjutsu.
He'd given him an illusion of victory. And why? So Sasuke could taste revenge (empty revenge) before he was defeated?
He'd never thought Itachi could be so petty.
Sasuke snarled, curling his fist under one of Itachi's clones. A chidori sparked in it, and the clone popped, driven away by the sudden electrical current. His curse seal burned, and black lines shot out across his skin. Snakes sprouted from his back, painfully pressed against the concrete below him, and he fought with all his strength to get his brother off of him.
"Sasuke, please!" Itachi shouted. "You must-!"
Sasuke stabbed him.
Had it been anyone but Itachi, it would have been a fatal blow. The chidori flew at his side, a strike that would incinerate his kidney and bleed him out in seconds. Itachi's left hand shot down, knocking the spear of lightning aside, but it still grazed him, opening up a painful, cauterized slash along his lower back.
Itachi's eyes immediately gained a calculating look... one that then morphed to unmistakable sorrow.
"Please forgive me, Sasuke," he said, and then his right hand darted forward and settled over Sasuke's left eye.
Sasuke shouted a useless denial.
The fingers pressed in.
There was a popping noise, wet and too loud. Half of Sasuke's sight went suddenly, abruptly, horribly dark.
He screamed. He had never experienced anything like this pain before. Burning agony swept through his head, and he screamed again. The world had become red and black, the color of his Sharingan, and his vision swam.
He saw Itachi flinch above him, saw the hand draw back. It was clenched, covered in thick red blood. Itachi fumbled into his sleeve and withdrew a jar, filled with a murky yellow fluid. He screwed the cap off and dropped the eye (Sasuke's eye) into it. It sunk straight to the bottom, staring back at him. Seeing him.
A Mangekyō Sharingan. His Mangekyō Sharingan. He recognized it.
He felt sick. Whether from the pain or something else, he didn't know.
"Please forgive me, Sasuke."
The same thing again, the same dead voice. Sasuke glared as hatefully as he could with a single eye.
Itachi paused momentarily, "The Tsukuyomi?"
Sasuke just snarled like a wounded animal, expecting his brother to finish him.
Itachi surprised him by actually answering, "I needed you to awaken the Mangekyō Sharingan. I had hoped my death would do. So I showed you it."
"An illusion," Sasuke growled, blood running from his empty socket. "A lie."
"Reality is what people think it is. Everyone lives in their own mirage, bound by beliefs and vague concepts. What you saw was just as real as anything else you have seen. It did happen. You were marked forever by it. Your new eyes are proof of that. Can you really call it a lie, then? An illusion?"
"I am so sorry for this, Sasuke. But soon, you'll understand."
Itachi began to reach down once more with a claw-like hand.
"Why be sorry, Itachi?!" Sasuke began struggling once more, but Itachi's hold was too firm, and the pain in his head distracted him. The younger Uchiha began laughing maniacally, the hopelessness of the situation leaving him with little else.
The hand stopped before his eye. He could see nothing but it.
At that moment, Sasuke believed that he'd never hated Itachi more.
Had his brother been telling the truth as he died in the fake world?
Did it even matter?
"You're getting what you want, right, brother?!" Sasuke shouted, uncaring of the ferocious pain in his eye socket. "Your 'light'?!"
He bucked, his chidori reigniting, but Itachi held his hand in an iron grip. "Get off of me! Get off! I'll kill you! I'll-!"
The world went grey, and Sasuke went slack.
He couldn't see Itachi's face, but from his voice...
Itachi sounded sad. It made no sense.
More mockery. More lies.
"Foolish little brother. If only..." Itachi sighed. "We are each others spares, Sasuke. I suppose it was always going to end like this."
And then Itachi did the impossible. He laughed. A choked, painful grunt of a laugh, but a laugh nonetheless.
"But don't worry, Sasuke," he said.
"Soon enough, you shall see."
Then Itachi's hand dug in, and Sasuke knew no more.
AN: Heh. Were you expecting that?
I hope you weren't. I tried pretty hard to keep the reveal hidden, though there were a couple hints.
Now, I want to make something real clear before we continue. Not Sick is not an anti-Sasuke fic. Or an anti-anyone fic, really. I don't bash people. Sasuke just got incredibly unlucky (plot-wise) here. In addition, this is not a Mary Sue fic about Itachi. He's incredibly smart, rather good at killing people... and messed up beyond belief in more ways than you could count. So don't expect a godlike Itachi here: I'll be presenting him as a person, flaws and all.
Most importantly: despite his actions here, Itachi is as close to his canon characterization as I could bring him, with one very important divergence (hint: it's in the title). Read on, and I promise you won't be disappointed.
This is going to be a hell of a trip. I hope that you'll be willing to take it with me.
Till next time. Serendipity out.
EDITS MADE: Chapter is more cohesive now. Itachi's speech has been modified to line up cleaner with later actions. All is well.