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You'll Break

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When Sasuke was younger, his brother had taken him into the woods whenever he was training. Those were his favorite days-Itachi would wake him up early so he had time to get ready, and then he helped Sasuke walk to the nearby clearing. He showed Sasuke how to throw a shuriken or kunai, and he was always gentle, sometimes insultingly so. When they weren’t in the woods, the two brothers usually went to the park or the village or anywhere out of the house. Sasuke distinctly remembered the day he sat and watched a group of children his age climbing a tree, and begged Itachi to join them. His brother just shook his head. “You’ll get hurt,” he responded quietly.

When Sasuke was seven, he asked his parents when he would start at the ninja academy. They both stared at him in silence for a long, long moment before Mikoto gently said, “Honey, you can’t go. You’re too… delicate.” Sasuke looked from one to the other, then stood up. “I didn’t wanna go anyway,” he muttered, walking out of the kitchen with his head down. Later, Itachi found him crying in his room. “Why am I delicate, nii-san?” Itachi just sighed and pulled Sasuke onto his lap-carefully, as if he were holding a glass doll. “You have a medical condition that makes your bones very… frail. You know how easily they break.” Sasuke nodded grudgingly-yes, he was all too used to falling down and breaking his hip, rolling over in his sleep and cracking a rib, kicking a wall and shattering his foot.

Itachi explained that Sasuke’s condition was called “osteogenesis imperfecta”, and it was the reason he needed braces on his legs and rails around his bed, and why he could never be a ninja. A few weeks later, Sasuke was reading in his room when he heard screaming down the hall. He poked his head out the door and yelled for his parents, scared and confused, but no one answered. Not long after, Itachi walked up to him. It was dark, and he couldn’t see his brother clearly, but Itachi’s chest was damp when he hugged Sasuke tightly. “I have to leave now, okay? Stay in here. Don’t leave for any reason.” He left then, and Sasuke did as he said, too afraid to move.

The next morning, a man he’d never met before found Sasuke curled up next to his bed. He picked him up roughly, and Sasuke yelped as his arm snapped. The man saw his sclera flash electric blue and nearly dropped the child, then took him to the hokage’s office while he cried. In the coming weeks, Sasuke spent most of his time in the hospital, his arm in a cast, asking for his family and getting only sad stares in response. No one would tell him where they were. Finally, a nurse explained that Itachi had killed the Uchiha clan out of nowhere, and Sasuke was the only one left in Konoha. When they released him from the hospital, he was placed with a “foster parent”-a pretty young woman who fussed over him constantly, treated him like an infant, and made him wear pull-ups “just in case” after he wet his pants just one time. (This seemed terribly unfair to Sasuke-he had been distracted and tired, it wasn’t his fault!) Her name was Kurenai, and Sasuke eventually grew to love her despite her constant smothering.

He grew up with Kurenai, listening to her talk about her experiences as a kunoichi, and playing with the dolls she kept getting him despite his weak protests. Truthfully, he thought they were pretty, but at twelve he insisted he was much too old for dolls. He was excited for Kurenai when she was put in charge of her own squad, but he watched the graduating shinobi enviously when she took him to meet them. She had her hand between his shoulders, like always, and he walked slowly due to the cumbersome leg braces. Kurenai had fussed over him more than usual that morning, worrying that he’d fall down or someone would bump into him at the graduation, but he was excited to go. They stood in the back of the classroom next to a large man named Asuma, waiting to meet the shinobi on Kurenai’s team. Sasuke watched the students quietly, holding Kurenai’s hand.

The students on her squad were fascinating to Sasuke-two boys and one girl, who were his age but could do things he would never be able to in a million years. Kurenai introduced them to Sasuke, and they seemed just as interested in him as he was in them. That night, he thought about how nice it would be to join them… or maybe join that other squad, the one with the cute pink-haired girl. She had smiled at him, but it wasn’t the usual “oh you poor cripple” smile-she met his eyes and grinned. He blushed and looked away, making Kurenai chuckle behind him.