You can tie my hands to the walls
But you can't tie my dreams to this place
(White Lies, E.S.T.)
Sasuke is where everybody wants him to be: in Konoha.
With the battle and the arm he also lost the urge to fight. He's had enough of traveling. He's tired of chasing and being chased. So tired that even if he meant every word about starting a revolution, being the Hokage and build a new era, he had wondered, though only for a moment, if he would be able to really accomplish such tasks all by himself.
He was lonely. Meeting his beloved brother again, being praised and protected by him, fighting by his side as an equal for the first -and only- time, and finally being told the truth before losing him again, this time forever, left him vulnerable.
Joining the battlefield, where his old comrades were fatigued and scared but together, praising and protecting each other, only added to the excruciating pain for the loss of his most important person.
He felt so lonely that suddenly Naruto's words, although the same as the previous time, didn't sound childish and shallow anymore.
He is brought to Konoha Hospital.
The room he shares with his rival is always crowded. People come and go to see their friend and savior. They are nice to him too. Soon he feels part of the group, even if he doesn't talk much and he glares at those who come too close.
Sakura visits almost every day. He doesn't throw away the apples she gives him, but he doesn't listen to her stories either.
Kakashi is the Sixth Hokage.
His first official act is signing Orochimaru's permanent exile. Even if he helped during the war the Sannin had destroyed Konoha and killed Hiruzen, he can't be pardoned. Team Taka is asked to choose between him and a new life in the village, as Leaf shinobi.
Unexpectedly they all choose their former master.
They all agree that they have no roots there, nor someone to stay for, as Karin adds with a tinge of regret.
Sasuke has something important to stay for, instead: rehabilitating Itachi's memory.
He has already told the truth about him and the massacre to as many people as possible –those were the only times when the usually silent Uchiha Sasuke became talkative–but it's not enough.
He wants everybody to know. He wants a memorial. He wants to face the remaining elders and ask them how they managed to sleep at night since that day they forced a 13 years old boy to kill his whole clan. He wants to hear their apologies.
Nevertheless, none of this happens. Kakashi explains it would create chaos and disorder, which cannot be allowed in the aftermath of a war.
Besides, Itachi didn't want it to be public, Naruto reminds him.
He adds that Konoha is his family. Team 7 is his family.
They are alive, right beside him, and they love him as much as his real family did.
The blond cannot forget that Itachi entrusted him with Sasuke's care. He wanted his little brother to live in the village, surrounded by friends and comrades.
Sasuke insists, more and more vehemently. Kakashi lets him talk, but his answer is firm.
He is in charge of the village now; he cannot treat him differently only because he has been his pupil. So he forces the boy to consider the facts.
The massacre would have never happened if the Uchiha clan had not planned a coup. As horrible as it may have been there was no better option. Itachi himself, a prodigy and a genius, had agreed for the same reason.
His brother had willingly decided to stay in the shadows to protect the village. The acknowledgment of the truth would mean dishonoring the clan, destroying everything he had worked for.
The system is already changing, although less dramatically than how he wanted. Besides, Kakashi adds with a stern voice, the last Uchiha is in no position to claim any rights.
The list of his crimes is long. Just like Orochimaru, even if he had been undeniably essential to win the war it doesn't mean he has been pardoned. His friends may have forgiven him despite the pain he had always put them through, but what he did, to them, to the village and to the whole ninja world, was still there.
He must look ahead, not behind. Instead of focusing of what the others can do for him he should ask himself what he can do for the others, and start fixing his errors. This is what Itachi wanted.
Kakashi's speech reminds him of his father's scolding, severe but for his own good, as Itachi and his mother used to say, and suddenly Sasuke feels like the little child he had been, facing his Uchiha Fugaku, chief of Konoha Police, fearing his authority, and desiring to make him proud.
The copy ninja suggests him to leave for a while and come back when his journey of redemption has cleared any doubts on his resolve and loyalty.
Sasuke decides to see with his own eyes how the world is changing for the better. He will help where needed.
He apologizes to Naruto, thanking him for everything. From saving him to letting him live in his dirty and cramped house. He was alone and starved of love –they both were –while now he thinks he is starting to remember what being part of a family means.
The blond gives him back his old forehead protector. He kept the promise made to Itachi. His brother is leaving, but he will come back.
Sakura begs him to bring her along. It is not the first time she says she'll renounce to everything she worked for, just to follow him. She doesn't understand that he's not going on a leisure trip.
He's not starting an adventure; there would not be a place it in for her anyway.
Her pleading look though reminds him of his childhood, when he was constantly seeking his brother's attention. He didn't imagine that his beloved brother was spying both the Hokage and the Uchiha, trying to stop a coup d'état, losing his best friend for the cause, and sacrificing everything for his future. He was too young and ignorant to understand why his brother always kept him away.
Unlike the child he was, Sakura is not so young and she's not ignorant anymore.
Her feelings for him are not a mystery. His aren't, either. He has never been interested in her.
Not romantically. Not even as a comrade, for most of the time they had been in the same team.
Now that he has come back he has learnt to feel gratitude towards her, who forgave him for every single time she had been mistreated. Like Naruto and Kakashi, she, too, is family.
Something close to a little sister craving for attentions.
That's why he makes a gesture he has only received: he pokes the girl's forehead saying he will come back.
It's not exactly what his brother used to tell him. Itachi tried to spend time with him, but he was called back to more important matters almost every time, so he would jokingly poke his forehead, promising to make up "next time". It was his gentle way of keeping him at distance, of shielding his little brother from the terrible situation he was living.
It's not that he cares or wants to protect Sakura, unlike Itachi did to him. He surely doesn't love her like Itachi loved him, like he loved –and loves- Itachi.
Kakashi said he should start giving back to his friends, show them gratitude. This is the right moment to do it.
Not having received much kindness in his life, he can only imitate Itachi's, even if it doesn't have the same meaning.
His brother entrusted him to Naruto to make him live in Konoha, surrounded by friends and comrades. It's what he wanted, and he cannot fail him.
Itachi was perfect. Therefore, he acts like him.
It was about time, says Naruto, the Seventh Hokage, when Sasuke's journey of redemption is over.
He traveled so much. He traveled so alone. He's tired and lonely.
He saw the world and its people, parents, friends, sisters, brothers –brother –and he was always alone.
He looked for team Taka and Orochimaru, but he never managed to find them. The world was bigger than he expected. His route had been set with indications to guide him, even after he had taken some wrong turns, after all.
Konoha is bigger and more prosperous than ever. The atmosphere is different too. Shinobi look more relaxed, almost happy. After all the deaths they want to think about life, they all say. That's why many of his friends and comrades are married.
Kakashi, who retired early but is still a precious advisor, tells him that it's time to settle down like the others.
That there is someone who has waited for him since he left the village –to kill his own brother and learn too late that everything he knew about him was a lie. To change his path and destroy the village that turned his brother's life into living hell and made him miserable –in spite of all the times he mistreated her.
She deserves to be loved back. It's his responsibility to make her happy.
His redemption journey may be over, but he still has to make things right with the ones he hurt the most, adds Naruto.
It's weird to hear him talk like this, not only because he was the one always in love with Sakura, when they were younger. He's the Hokage and his words sound like an order.
Itachi would have wanted him in Konoha living a normal life, which is also made of this.
He never paid attention to girls. He had no time for petty thoughts. He was an avenger.
He only thought about his brother.
He only thought about his brother.
This is for him. This is what he wanted, Sasuke tells himself when he asks Sakura to marry him.
She is confused, and delighted, even if there is no holding hands or kisses under the moonlight.
Sasuke is not that kind of person anyway. He finally accepted to stay with her. He will be hers forever, that's all it matters.
The Seventh Hokage rebuilds the Uchiha shrine as Konoha's tribute to his lost family.
There is no secret room underground. And the truth is still unknown to most of the people. And those who know have no interest in it.
During the ceremony on Sasuke's an old memory reappears: his father, saying that marriage was a serious thing that has nothing to do with love. His mother, half jokingly scolding him for his words. Itachi, bowing his head. He had been betrothed and he had no right to object. In a week, they would all be dead anyway.
Kakashi's speech was not so different, the young men muses. He owes Sakura happiness, and he owes Konoha peace. This way he can do what's expected of him and get something in exchange.
The restoration of the Uchiha clan. Didn't he say he wanted it?
Sasuke is bound to the village not only as a shinobi but also as a husband and a father.
If the massacre hadn't been forced upon Itachi's shoulders this is how he would live too. Even if Sasuke has no clan to lead, and his daughter would change her name when married.
Nobody cared anymore about keeping the bloodline pure and strong, in the aftermath of the war, when everybody only wanted to live, and love.
If Itachi had lived, if nobody had been killed, he would have been a wonderful clan leader. His wife would have had the same blood. His children…
He doesn't know why the thought of his brother with a family makes him so uncomfortable.
Is it because he's afraid that, as even Naruto did, Itachi would not be close to him anymore if he had a family?
Is the thought of his brother being intimate with someone disturbing?
Sakura is a mother and a housewife now.
She's mature; she doesn't complain when Sasuke volunteers to patrol borders and outer areas, meaning he'll be mostly far away from home.
She doesn't smother him with her undying love when her husband is more silent than usual.
She doesn't even ask what's wrong. She wouldn't listen anyway. She never did.
He wouldn't answer. Or would he?
Would Sasuke tell her that suddenly when he was alone in the woods he felt like his was one of those dreams where one sees himself falling down a precipice knowing it's not real but still being terrified, not being able to save himself and not being able to wake up either?
But he is awake, and things are painfully clear.
He's bound to the village and to a woman he never cared for.
He's thrown away his ideals. He's living a lie.
The friend who promised to change the system with him –if he stopped rebelling –is the symbol of that same system, and the only thing that has changed is their friendship.
Naruto gets angry at him for talking like that. Is it because Sasuke is disrespecting him, or because he doesn't love Sakura?
With a stern look the Kyuubi vessel says that the Hyuuga clan could be dangerous, if unsatisfied. Their heiress married to the Hokage was a peaceful way to keep them loyal to the village.
Not all revolutions are violent and chaotic. Some are slow paced, and make almost no sound.
Sasuke wonders when Naruto has become so pragmatic. So much to give up on his special person and chose a more convenient one.
That wasn't his idea.
The sixth Hokage Hatake Kakashi had been smart.
He had forced into the Uchiha the idea that the truth about Itachi was not as important as Konoha's safety.
That he had to redeem himself for having tried to change things, even if it was so that no Uchiha massacre would happen again.
He knew it was useless to fight against Sasuke. He was too strong. He also knew it was a risk to put their trust in him. He was too unpredictable. The only way to manage him was to weaken him, or, since that option was out of his reach, to make him feel weak.
His former sensei was Anbu. He was a keen observer and a fine strategist, and just as he knew Naruto's need to be constantly acknowledged he knew his loneliness and his need to stop running.
Kakashi guilt-tripped him into becoming the person he wanted. Someone who wouldn't be a liability for Konoha, the same village for which he turned Naruto and Sakura into pawns.
The Copy Ninja loved Konoha more than his pupils.
Danzo died claiming he always loved Konoha, and Kakashi is exactly like him.
Both manipulators, one hid in the shadows and killed swiftly, leaving a trail of blood, the other hid behind a mask of lies, and killed slowly, leaving a trail of minds and hearts unable to properly function anymore.