There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.
He is seven when images bathed with the stains of ink and blood, the color of his clan’s pride, a grim reminder of a family he will never see again — become a recurring nightmare. He remembers being perfectly content and happy one day and then his life thrown out of axis the next. In his young, impressionable mind, it never once occurred to him that the world could do that, just hurl itself off of its pedestal, spin out of control, break into shards, and spear the pieces into the bodies of his cousins, aunts, uncles. He remembers the cold, lead weight sinking into his stomach, and his short legs running towards their house. He does not slip off his shoes in his hurry, his heart pounding so hard in his chest that it hurts, and when he reaches his parents’ quarters, the first thing he sees is the pool of blood on the floor, his big brother standing over the bodies of their parents — unresponsive, cold, lifeless — he screams.
Acid rises up his chest, and his throat hurts, his chest hurts, Sasuke tries to swallow back the bile, but he couldn’t, and finds himself doubling over on his knees and heaving.
He pleads his older brother, not believing that his nii-san would do this, not in a million years, and Itachi only tells him that he is pathetic and weak, not worthy of the effort of killing.
The memory of the death of his entire family is replayed into his mind over and over again, half a million times, that it feels like an eternity, until he is nothing but a broken husk of trauma and grief.
He wishes for nothing but to die with his mother and father, but he wakes up in a bleak hospital room two weeks later — an orphan, the last scion of the Uchiha.
One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive.
Sasuke is twelve when he receives a forehead protector, the metal emblazoned with the sigil of Konoha. He is a full-fledged shinobi now, a far cry from the pathetic kid who couldn’t even throw a kunai right at the center of the target board. He is one step closer to get strong, strong enough to defeat his brother for all of his crimes against their family. He gets stuck in a team with a pink-haired fangirl and a ramen-obsessed loud knucklehead, their sensei is a lazy idiot who couldn’t be bothered to show up in time to their training and is unashamed in reading porn in public, and he couldn’t do anything but endure their ridiculous antics.
He never liked them that much, he couldn’t allow himself to — what use would sentiment be in his pursuit of power? But when two rogue enemy-nin show up in surprise on their way to the Land of the Waves, he throws himself without thinking in front of Sakura, arms laid out wide. When the masked boy throws ice shards towards Naruto, he shields his teammate with his body. Sasuke is an idiot, and Kakashi had instilled enough teamwork gibberish to the three of them, and he thinks that it doesn’t matter if he dies now, as long as his comrades are safe.
When he returns into consciousness half an hour later, Sakura is crying and hugging him so hard that his lungs feel constricted. She smells like strawberries and flowers his mother loved, and for the first time in a long time, he feels a surge of relief and ease. Strawberries and flowers mean that he is alive, and warm, and breathing.
He tells her that she’s heavy and still, she continues to hold him. He lets her.
Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.
In the forest of death, he and Naruto are passed out and he wakes up to Sakura beaten within an inch of her life, and he gives in to the dark whispers in his head and snaps the Sound shinobi’s arms out of their sockets.
She embraces him again, asking him to stop, to calm down, to come back, and the dark marks splayed on his skin retreat to the snake bite on his neck. He is ashamed, and angry, and defeated — for Sakura to be this hurt from trying to protect the team because he wasn’t strong enough — lits a candle of self-resentment inside of him.
And so he trains, and he trains, and he trains. Kakashi tells him that he should rest once in a while, but Sasuke ignores the advice and continues practicing the Chidori, the sound of a thousand birds becoming a constant ringing in his ears.
Two months later, Sasuke and Naruto face off each other at the hospital rooftop. There’s nothing but the crinkling chirps of chidori and the heavy whirling of rasengan, and Sasuke’s anger and spite. Seconds too late he registers pink hair running in between the two A class jutsus, and his eyes widen in shock and panic.
It is the first time that Kakashi arrives in time, throwing both Naruto and Sasuke far apart. Had he been a millisecond too late, Sakura would have died.
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
The Sound and Sand shinobi begin their attack in the middle of his fight against Gaara. He is annoyed, not because of Konoha being in danger, but because his match is interrupted. Impulsively, he chases Gaara down to the outskirts until they reach the forest. His team follows him, and he watches as Gaara strikes Sakura down as if she is nothing but a speck of fly, and he yells at Naruto to go after him and protect their teammate.
He soon passes out of chakra exhaustion, but not before witnessing Naruto summon a giant toad the size of a large building and defeating someone as monstrous and powerful as Gaara.
Sakura thanks him for saving her that day, and without meaning to, his fists tighten. He swallows the bitter resentment in his gut, and it stews inside of him, along with his feelings of inadequacy and envy.
He tells her that it was all Naruto.
Do you really think it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you there are terrible temptations which require strength and courage to yield to.
Sakura stands there, on his way out of the village gates, looking at him as if she knew what he was going to do. She tries to stop him, embracing him from behind, and he is used to it by now that he only waits until she lets him go. She tells him that she’ll do everything to make him happy here, that every day would be fun, and for a few seconds he muses the thought of actually staying. Of training, and doing missions with Team Seven, and trying other ways to unmask Kakashi. But Itachi’s words burn at the forefront of his mind. He is still weak, and unworthy, and pathetic. Orochimaru offers him power that he could not acquire in this stifling village, power that would help him with his revenge. His family is dead, dead dead dead, buried six feet under, and he has to become stronger to avenge them, it’s his duty, it’s all that he lives for. She bargains with him, asking him to take her with him, that she loves him, and there’s a lump at his throat, and something embarrassingly close to warmth in his chest at her earnest words.
He can’t take her with him. It is stupid, and dangerous. The weight of his ambition is his to bear alone.
He tells her that she’s annoying, tells her he’s thankful, and knocks her out.
Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.
Traces of the kyuubi become apparent in Naruto’s anger and distress, and Sasuke uses the foul energy of the curse mark, transforming into a monster of his own. He tries to kill Naruto, again and again, and the loud idiot fights back, spouting off nonsense about teamwork and loyalty and friendship. Naruto doesn’t get it. He may be an orphan just like him, but he never had anyone to begin with, he never experienced what it feels like to lose everything, all that you love, in a blip. Naruto doesn’t know what it’s like to feel worthless and weak every single day, he doesn’t know what it’s like to have Itachi’s ghost following him around, or the way people either treat him like a prize or a victim, or the fact that the Konoha views him as nothing more than the key to breeding the Sharingan bloodline.
In the end, both are chakra exhausted, but he succeeds in pummeling a hole through Naruto’s chest with his last chidori. He considers killing Naruto off right then and there, to get eyes as powerful as Itachi’s — he knows that the Kyuubi heals Naruto at an accelerated rate, and if he leaves Naruto like that, the idiot would chase after him again.
In the end, he doesn’t kill Naruto. Killing his closest friend would mean submitting to what Itachi wants, and he is more than that. Conscience and cowardice are the same things, and Itachi was right, he is weak, and sentimental.
Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.
It is raining, the day that Itachi dies.
He is chakra exhausted and at the end of his rope. His vision is blurry, his strength is waning, and Itachi walks slowly towards him, bloody and calm, his gait loud in the silence of the clearing. Sasuke thinks that this is the end, this is all that he could do, and that he is going to see his family soon. Just as he thinks that Itachi moves to take his eyes from him, Itachi’s hand approaching his face, he is met with the light thud of Itachi’s finger poking his forehead, Itachi’s face etched into a gentle smile. The smile of the older brother that he lost when he was seven. A smile he sorely missed, yearned for, a smile he grieved.
I’m sorry, Sasuke. There won’t be a next time.
I’m sorry, Sasuke. There won’t be a next time.
I’m sorry, Sasuke. There won’t be a next time.
When he comes into consciousness, a man who calls himself Madara tells him the truth about the Uchiha Massacre. Anger, shock, disbelief, and sorrow rip through him like a flood. In his young, traumatized constitution, he is sick and tired, the world that he believed in is hurling itself off of its pedestal again, spinning out of control, breaking into shards, spearing its pieces to his chest, and mind, and soul. There’s an anchor weighing down his chest, suffocating him, there’s a burning sensation at the back of his eyes, at his throat, at his stomach, and everything is dizzy, everything is a lie.
It is raining, the day he promises to himself that he will destroy Konoha.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.
He accepts the red and black coat of the Akatsuki. He doesn’t know or care about what they’re planning to do with the eight tails, but Madara assigns Team Taka with the mission, with the tone of a commander that does not take insubordination well. He attacks the Kage Summit, because Madara refuses to leave him alone, and because there is no point to anything, and might as well. He feeds the hollow ache in his lungs with rage, and becomes a testament to how anger makes you stronger. The world has taken enough from him, and it’s time to give back in return. By the time he kills Danzo, he is lightheaded with the sweet bitterness of fleeting satisfaction, because it’s not enough. Konoha is systematically corrupt, forged on lies and the death of his ancestors, the death of his parents, the death of Itachi. Its people do not deserve to live when his family is buried six feet under the ground. They do not deserve anything but pain, just as he had suffered.
He is half blind but he sees the pink of her hair all too clearly. He is only slightly shocked when Sakura, of all people, tries to kill him. They are enemies now, after all. And Sakura is a reminder of all things that he hates, because she has living parents, and life has not been cruel to her, and she loves and is loved by Konoha.
The only way to become truly strong is to remove all bonds and strive in its absence. He moves to kill his former teammate in retaliation, and attacks Kakashi in his frenzy. Such is the life of the shinobi, you kill or be killed.
War has always been the grand sagacity of every spirit which has grown too inward and too profound; its curative power lies even the wounds one receives.
You don’t ever have to forgive me, and no matter what you do from here on out, know this… I will love you always.
A quiet stillness settles inside of him, a resolution that he didn’t know he needed. In the middle of the battle, he becomes a turncoat and jumps into the fray beside his old team. It is night, and there are hundreds of others around him, and yet the first thing that his eyes catch is the ridiculous pink of Sakura’s hair, and before he realizes, he’s calling out her name.
They all pause in their astonishment at his presence, and he ignores all of them. Most of them.
He stands side by side the fangirl he used to call annoying, and the ramen-obsessed loudmouth he used to call useless. When they perform the three-way deadlock, he feels a glimmer of nostalgia. Team Seven is finally back.
I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains; I invented a brighter flame for myself.
It is sunny, the day that he and Naruto face off each other again, like an inevitability that’s etched in stone. He first deals with Sakura, because he knows that if he doesn’t, she’s going to jump in between them recklessly, and this time, she’ll die.
In the end, they both strike the other with the most powerful chidori and rasengan they could muster in spite of the exhaustion that came with fighting a goddess. They both lose consciousness, and when they wake, they are bleeding out of the ghastly remnants of the arms they used to have. The east wind blows his hair gently, and he sees Sakura in tears, hair mussed, clothes tattered and dirty, and yet still ridiculously pretty, against the light or otherwise.
As she leans over him, he recognizes the faint tint of strawberries and flowers of her shampoo, and he almost laughs. Strawberries and flowers mean that he is alive, and warm, and breathing.
His eyes soften, and he tells her he’s sorry, and she tells him to shut up.
There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.
He is eighteen when images bathed in pink and green, the color of spring, of her hair, and of her eyes — become a recurring dream. He remembers nights in which his dreams are plagued with other things, things that he’d rather not think about, and he finds that this change is preferable, while extremely frustrating. Because everything was normal one day, and then he realizes that his life is thrown out of axis the next. In his obsession with revenge and power, he’s forgotten that he is just a man, subject to the wiles annoying members of the opposite gender. It never once occured to him that the world could do that, just hurl itself off of its pedestal, spin out of his control and rotate around a girl.
He blames Kakashi, for forcing him to move into her apartment. Not that Naruto’s disgusting excuse of a flat was any better. But it was part of his probation, half a year of a semi-house arrest with a trusted war hero. He may have been invaluable during the war, but the rumors of his stunts as a former international terrorist still lurk behind the suspicious stares of people he do not know, or care about.
She is there when he wakes up, and she’s there when he goes to sleep.
Three months after the war, and his month of detainment in the T&I, three months after he came into his senses and stopped trying to push his remaining loved ones away, he sees her drinking sake in the living room. She invites her to sit with him, and pushes a cup filled with alcohol towards him. It’s strong, and his throat stings with a pleasant burn. He doesn’t say anything for a while, until she decides to take over and begins filling him in to everything that’s happened since he left — how she begged Tsunade to take her in as an apprentice, how she trained all day and studied all night, barely getting any sleep, because Tsunade was demanding, and only expects the best from Sakura. She tells him about Sasori, about the missions with Sai and Yamato, about how her Team Ten’s sensei died fighting Hidan and Kazuku, and everything else in between their fight in the Samurai Bridge until the war.
He takes a long drink before he tells her about his childhood, and then his family, his training under Orochimaru, and then the truth about Itachi. It takes a while, and when he’s done, she looks up at him, tearstained and beautiful. Without giving him a moment to compose himself, she latches on to him and embraces him tightly, the way she used to when they were genin, and he lets her. She breaks free from him after a while, probably after half an hour, he doesn’t know, or care — and the warmth stays.
The weather outside is perfect, the night that he kisses her. It is slow, and tentative, and she lets out an adorable whimper. He kisses her like a man giving in to temptation after years of resisting, and he says her name like a prayer as his lips weave a path on her neck to her collarbones. It escalates from that, and it drives him insane how responsive she is, but he forces them to stop, because he doesn’t want it to happen like this, not when they’re inebriated. She stands up and offers him her hand, and leads him to her bedroom, and tells him that they’re just going to sleep instead. She whispers to him, drunken and giggly, that he smells like winter. He tells her she smells like strawberries and flowers.
In the morning, he sits on the kitchen table, nursing a coffee. She sits across from him, reading a medical text he knows would take him hours of puzzling to understand, and her hair is thrown into a messy bun, and there’s a splat of coffee on the collar of her shirt.
Without thinking, he reaches over and cradles her face, looks at her wide eyes before kissing her, recklessly and desperately. His mug tips over and spills all over the table, and she makes noises in complaint over that, and he kisses her harder to distract her from the mess. They are both breathless, and he thinks about all of the days in the future that he could have this.
He thinks that this is growing up.