I don't know how this happened. I can tell you about the events, but the why and the how -- those you're gonna have to work out on your own. Or not.
It started like this: there was a car crash. Our car was crushed by a semitrailer. My parents died. My sister died.
I survived, or, well - most of me survived, for a little while - and the last thing I remember was listening to the doctors at the ER talk about "hypovolemic shock" and something about trauma and - well, it didn't sound good. I was swiftly hooked up to a million softly-beeping machines and loaded up with fluids and -
I wasn't sure if I was dying or not, but I was on a lot of drugs and the doctors were a little oblique about it, and I was in such a state of shock that I barely remembered what they'd told me anyway.
I still have no idea what happened to me.
Last I knew I was twenty-three, driving away from my university graduation with my parents and my sister and being mercilessly teased about how, with my shiny new literature degree, I was now fully qualified to work at a fast-food chain.
When I next woke up, a tall woman in a lab coat was flashing a light into my eyes and calling me Sasuke.
Look, I've read some of Naruto - not all of it, for god's sakes, do you know how long that thing is? - but it definitely wasn't my first thought. Sarutobi Sasuke is one of the most famous fictional ninja ever, and all I could think was that she was talking about one of the Sanada Ten Braves.
It was strange, though, I didn't feel... well, I didn't feel sick, just kind of exhausted and headachey.
"I'm afraid what ever technique Itachi-ta - Uchiha Itachi," the doctor corrected herself, looking a little disturbed even as she kept checking my vitals, "What ever technique was used on you has done some damage, Sasuke-kun," she informed me.
I blinked once, slowly.
"Sasuke-kun, I will need some confirmation that you understand what I'm saying," said the doctor hesitantly.
Did I understand the words? Sure. Did I understand the meaning? Not... so much. "I do," I said. "Where am I?"
It was definitely not the hospital room I'd fallen asleep in.
She looked briefly relieved. "Konoha General Hospital. You've been unconscious for some time, Sasuke-kun. How much do you remember?"
Konoha General. What?
"I..." I thought hard. The crash came to me then: the yowl of tortured metal, screams and breaking glass, heat and pressure. It had been so loud.
And everybody except me had been declared dead at the scene. "Oh," I said softly. "My family's -" I stopped.
"Yes. You're more or less up to date, then," said the doctor, whose bedside manner needed some work. "Now, with regard to the technique used on you," she went on, "I've never seen anything like it. There's been a serious alteration in your brain patterns, but it doesn't seem to have affected its normal functioning. Your chakra, however..."
There was a pause. "Chakra is made of mixed physical and mental energies," she said slowly, "and unfortunately it seems that yours are now... misaligned, a little. What the effect of that might be, we can't say for certain, but it could definitely have an impact on your futu- Sasuke-kun, are you listening to me?"
I wasn't, not really. I heard her, but honestly I was busy puzzling over what the hell kind of hospital seriously talked about chakra like it was a real thing. Alternative medicine was an alternative to medicine, and hospitals din't usually have traffic with that sort of stuff. A lot of this conversation seemed to indicate that I'd been kidnapped by rabid anime nerds, but it seemed a little too well organised.
Also, who on earth would bother?
I got out of the bed and nearly fell over because the floor was much, much farther away than I expected. I'm... you know, I'm only about five foot six, but suddenly, inexplicably, I was...
I wobbled on my bare feet.
My tiny, bare, prepubescent feet.
"Sasuke-kun?" the doctor repeated warily.
"I want to see outside," I said, and even I could hear how strained I sounded.
There was an uncertain pause, and then the doctor sighed and came around to me. "All right," she said patiently, and helped me over to the window.
Outside, the birds were singing and the air was surprisingly fresh - it didn't taste like city air, that was for sure. The buildings I could see were worn but very sturdy, and all had roofs of scuffed tile, and most of them were connected by a series of power lines that seemed to cross and hang with no real purpose or direction.
It was a walled city, nestled in the shadow of a mountain. And... I could see Hashirama's nose looming to one side of the window.
My 'rabid anime nerds' theory was getting thinner and thinner by the second. I looked down at my hands on the window sill.
So... the Naruto universe, huh. I was suddenly fiercely annoyed at myself for reading A Room of One's Own instead of more fun, bullshit manga.
Seriously, what the hell was the point of Virginia Woolf in a stylised fuedal Japan with anachronistic technology and magic using ninja? Ninja are magic, your argument is invalid.
I looked down. My hands were tiny. Sasuke's hands were tiny.
I was Sasuke.
A shadow leapt from rooftop to rooftop out in the village. I watched it until it dropped away between buildings.
"I'm fine," I said quickly.
"That's what I was trying to tell you," the doctor said, resting one hand one my shoulder. "You're not quite fine. Your mental energy has grown exponentially and far, far exceeded your physical energy, which... it's very rare, Sasuke-kun, we haven't documented it well. You may struggle with some kinds of chakra manipulation."
I nodded. "I understand," I said.
The doctor looked like she was expecting a different reaction, but... really, what could I say? I felt like screaming at her - I'm lost! I'm stuck! What the hell am I doing here! - but she wanted to talk about chakra manipulation. Even Sasuke, right now, surely - surely he'd be more focused on the massacre, and -
My brain was awhirl with confusion.
I rubbed my wrists uncertainly. They were so little.
I struggled to think of the physical feats Uchiha Sasuke had performed in the manga. Could he really...?
I rubbed my forehead, feeling confused and anxious.
Some of this must have communicated itself to the doctor.
"Come back to bed now," the doctor ordered, pulling me away from the window and its captivating, terrifying view. "We want to keep you for observation for a little while, but you should be able to go home in a day or so."
I went obediently. It was probably a good thing I wasn't Sasuke, because my doctor evidently had all the empathy of a pile driver. Sasuke - and I - had little in the way of a home to return to, since everybody either of us loved was dead.
I wasn't very good at understanding all this.
If anything, the nurses seemed relieved when, a few hours later, I started crying and couldn't seem to stop.
It wasn't me mourning my own parents and sister, even. I was just lost, and alone, and terribly afraid. But the nurses saw a boy coming out of a massacre able to think about it clearly enough to cry.
Stupid girl, I thought. Who's that going to help?
I was there for another day.
A quartet of clucking lady nurses - or, as I determined from listening to them, recently qualified assistant nurses - came by to coo at me.
"Poor thing," murmured one of them.
"It's an absolute tragedy," said another, peering at me from the doorway and clicking her tongue. "And Itachi-taichou always seemed so quiet and respectful!"
They were really rude. I took a deep breath. Did they think they were being quiet? They were not being quiet.
I had no idea what to do - did I tell them off? Did I ask them to come into the room properly? Talk to them? Ask them to leave? - so I just stared at my callused little hands and pretended I couldn't see the onlookers.
It was ten minutes - ten objectively short but subjectively interminable minutes - before an even, amused male voice sounded over the top of them, "Don't you have actual work to do?"
There was a startled yelp and a chorus of responses ranging from apology to complaint, and then the mass exodus of the group from the corridor. Once they'd left, I could see a ninja in the doorway. He was fit, shorter than the men I was used to but well-formed, and he had honey-brown hair and sharp eyes. There was a pleasant kind of angularity to his face.
I'd have found him attractive, except, oh yeah, I hadn't hit puberty yet.
Unless this body was only attracted to girls? I was used to being attracted to girls, but I'd miss men. Was sexuality even physical? Was it -- like, some kind of metal thing only? A mix of both?
That was a weird thought.
...I was just going to avoid thinking about that one. At least until it became relevant. That was years away, hopefully. I was still trying to figure out the answer to the terrifying question: How Do I Penis? It was just... there. Flop. So weird.
The ninja's wrist was strapped and bandaged for support, hinting at some kind of injury, and his stance made me wonder if he was favouring his leg or his ribs or something.
It took me a few seconds to recognise him as Shiranui Genma, mostly because he didn't have a senbon between his teeth. I wasn't sure if Sasuke was supposed to know him or not. After a moment, I stayed quiet. At least if I pretended not to recognise him I could blame it on trauma induced memory loss.
"Uchiha Sasuke?" he asked, even though he had to know who I was, which I suppose answered my question. We must be strangers.
It turned out he was there to escort Sasuke home - an off-roster jounin doing odd jobs for the Hokage until his wrist healed, apparently - and I ended up just getting dressed in the clothes he tossed onto the bed and following him.
He didn't say anything while we walked. A lot of the people outside on the street followed me with their eyes, and sometimes conversations stopped all together and resumed, faster and more hushed, after we'd passed. I'd have to have been an idiot not to notice.
The Uchiha district was like its own little village. Its own... empty... little village. I looked around. There was room for a few hundred, which seemed like... a lot.
A lot of dead people.
Itachi was one seriously messed up kid.
"Is..." my voice was a bit rusty. I hadn't spoken much in the past two days. "Is this all mine, now?"
Genma scratched his chin. "More or less," he said vaguely. "There's probably a trust or something, I don't know the details."
I nodded. A trust. It made sense, but I'd need to investigate it.
Genma paused outside the steps of one of the larger houses.
It looked like this was the clan head's house. It was very traditional, very minimalist and elegant. There was a pond, with little rocks situated around it in a way that probably had some meaning I was missing. I could almost sense the presence of rice paper divides and tatami mats beyond the walls.
At least the traditional architecture would let a lot of light in.
"You don't have to stay here, you know," Genma said slowly. "If you're worried. But there's almost no chance of Itachi getting back into Konoha, so..."
I blinked in surprise, and then shook my head. That was the last thing I was worried about, although I probably should have considered pretending I was. Of course Itachi wasn't coming back to Konoha.
"No," I said, "it's fine."
I don't know what he was thinking, watching me with my eyes fixed on the house. I probably looked horribly lost.
Because I was, dammit.
"If you're sure." Genma hesitated for a second, but then he turned and walked away.
I stayed where I was for a few long minutes, trying to process.
Over the past days, I'd decided that I had probably died, back in my world. I didn't know much about medicine, but words, them I understood. Now that I could think clearly, I could figure out what those doctors had been talking about. ...and I had a sneaking suspicion that 'hypovolemic shock' had really meant I'd been dying of blood loss.
So. Probably dead, which meant no going back.
I scratched my head.
The house loomed.
"Okay," I muttered to myself.
Sasuke's house had been left more or less as Itachi had left it. Somebody had gone and removed all the bodies, and most of the blood had been scrubbed clean, but there was still furniture overturned and walls with slashes in them from somebody's sword. There was broken crockery in one room.
The bedrooms were ...hard. Harder, somehow, for how little the violence had reached them.
They looked undisturbed, waiting for their owners to return and bed down for the night.
Itachi had made his bed before he'd left, I noticed.
I stared at it for a while.
Slowly, I crept into his room. The bedding was clean. Everything was put away in its place. Itachi at thirteen was more organised and better-kempt than I was at twenty three, apparently.
Looking at the closet, I didn't think he'd taken much with him. There was almost no personality to the room, really. The two books on his shelf were Konoha codes of practice and a history of the noble Uchiha clan, both of which I suspected had been picked for him, not by him.
It was very... clean.
Sasuke's room disturbed me. He was a very young boy, although judging from the materials in his room he was probably clever for his age.
I couldn't stay in here. Staying here would mean immersing myself in the person I'd replaced. I swallowed. What was left? The master bedroom? No. God, no.
Eventually I decided on Itachi's room.
I took the stuff I'd need from Sasuke's room - books, notes, homework, clothes, blunted practice weapons - and I moved them into Itachi's. Then I closed up Sasuke's room and left it.
It was very clean in Itachi's room, but... clean was good.
Clean was okay.
With that thought in mind, I turned my attention to the rest of the house. Some things needed to be cleaned up and thrown away, and others needed to be fixed. Food in the refrigerator desperately needed to be thrown out, and it occurred to me that I should probably go through the other houses in the compound and at the very least dispose of the rotting food, which would almost certainly attract vermin if I left it too long.
I didn't relish the thought of clearing it all out, though.
But, still, somebody had to do it.
And given that everybody else was dead, I supposed that somebody was likely to be me.
I wondered if Sasuke would have. He wasn't very old - I woudn't have had the discipline at his age. I'd have curled up in bed and ignored the issue until it went away.
I stared at nothing for a while.
This was also a relatively good way to familiarise myself with the clan compound. Since I was stuck being Sasuke, I was going to need to know what Sasuke knew - or at least not make it obvious what I'd forgotten. The trauma of losing his family could account for a lot of personality changes, but I wasn't sure if it would work to account for semantic memory loss...It was best I try, anyway.
It was strange. I always thought that Sasuke seemed terribly popular in the manga, but nobody came to visit me. It was just me and the empty Uchiha compound.
On my fourth morning in Konoha I got up with the sun and went running. Despite the odd sandal-shoes and the strange environment, it felt blessedly normal. This, at least, was something familiar to me.
Of course, I expected to jog for about five kilometers, until I was sweating and shaking and I couldn't think anymore, and then stumble gasping through a cool down walk back to my house. That didn't quite turn out as I'd expected.
Uchiha Sasuke could do this literally for hours.
I wished I had an MP3 player, because apparently I could have just rolled out of bed and run a marathon without even feeling it the next day. Not only that, but I was fast. That marathon? I was pretty sure this body could do it in two and a half hours.
And, good god, Sasuke had been unconscious for a few weeks, thanks to Itachi's torturous genjutsu.
I gave it an hour and sailed back to the house at an easy jog. My body's physical conditioning was ridiculous. I wondered if all ninja kids were like this?
And adult ninja, at the peak of their training... they must be better.
To be able to move tirelessly, to rely so completely on your body - if I'd been having second thoughts about continuing with Sasuke's career choice, I wasn't anymore.
Yeah, I totally wanted to be a ninja.