The next two years passed without any major incident. There was a hush from the surrounding villages, whispers of people in strange black and red cloaks. What they were after was anyone's guess. Sasuke's face never appeared in the Bingo Books. His name never crossed the lips of enemy Shinobi when talking of tracking missing-nin. It was no secret that he had left the village, but the usual ramifications seemed to be at a standstill. Tsunade's doing, no doubt. Sasuke Uchiha had simply vanished into smoke and Konohagakure had nothing more to say on the matter. Itachi's face soon vanished from those pages and rumors of his fate swirled. Some say he had been captured and executed, others that he was a spy for Konoha and had returned home. The Hokage had made good of her promise and gone public with Itachi's innocence in the massacre of the Uchiha clan, but not all those who heard believed it. Sasuke could almost understand it. Who would want to believe that such a noble , powerful village had such rot under their very own feet?
Sasuke followed Orochimaru into the dark, just as he always suspected that he would. Orochimaru was a tool. A necessary and useful one, but a tool all the same. When he had first met Sasuke in the forest and marked him, Sasuke had wrestled with the thought of joining him and taking advantage of the power he offered. At that time, Itachi had not been seen in years and Sasuke's hatred for him was festering like a rotting wound. He had wanted power. Wanted the power to face his murderous brother and bring him to his knees . He wanted to grind him into the dirt, until nothing but ash remained. He had been willing to do whatever it took to reach that goal. Naruto had stopped him, refusing to let him throw his entire life away and for a time, Sasuke had allowed himself to remain. Then-...then they found his brother, and Sasuke's entire world imploded.
Discovering that everything he had known was a lie, again, was almost too much for Sasuke to bear. He had briefly considered climbing up to the top of Hokage mountain and dipping forward and letting gravity take care of the rest. He had dreamed of it for days after seeing the memories of his brother's defilement and mutilation. His screams and Shikeru’s smug whispers ringing in his ears. He thought he was going crazy. It was only the fact that Itachi was still breathing that prevented Sasuke from going through with it. Itachi was the only string that held together Sasuke’s fraying mind. He was broken, barely even a shadow of his former self, but when he smiled up at Sasuke, so adoring , so sweet, Sasuke found that he would burn the world down and dance on its cinders for just a moment of Itachi's happiness. His brother was in that smile and Sasuke would do anything to keep him. Sasuke found himself harboring a new goal; to bring Itachi back and avenge his death. For truly, that was what Danzo and Root had done. They had murdered his perfect, noble brother and left his husk behind. Sasuke loved this husk nonetheless, but he did not delude himself into accepting that this was all he would ever be. Not if Sasuke had anything to say about it.
He had lingered for sometime, supporting his brother in hopes that something would click. All those hospital visits and physical therapy appointments that only highlighted that Itachi had suffered and suffered greatly. Sasuke had been allowed to believe this horrid lie, and to discover that there were people who had suspected or knew the truth...It was too much. After hearing the elder's excuses and confronting Shikeru once more, Sasuke began to plan. Danzo had sealed Itachi's eyes and possibly his sanity with a stolen Sharingan. He had used the very eyes he had killed for, to further subjugate his brother. That alone was enough to have Sasuke frothing at the mouth; Danzo had cheated, as he always had done. Itachi had proven himself to be the superior adversary and Danzo could not allow that.
Itachi had been stubborn. He had managed to hold himself together for years. When Shikeru had shared his knowledge with Sasuke, Sasuke had been so proud to hear about Itachi's tenacity. The little boy who had looked up to his big brother had simmered at the surface, delighted to know that Itachi had refused to look down and away from his abusers, had walked down those halls, straight backed and stone faced even naked and mutilated. He hadn’t allowed them to see any weakness. Sasuke had found the Root hideout and he had walked those halls his brother had been dragged down, he had stood in the cell that had been his brother's personal hell and he had hated . Father's skull had stared at him, a silent accusation of why he was so foolish? Why had he failed so terribly? If Danzo had not died, that cell would have ended up being Itachi's tomb and Sasuke would have lived the rest of his life, hating and alone.
Luckily, Sasuke had options. Orochimaru had never truly given up his desire to have Sasuke join him. For a time, Sasuke had resisted him, ignoring any signs that Orochimaru was watching and waiting. He resisted until finally accepting that what he sought could not be found while tied to the village. He had to go beyond it to reach his goals. Orochimaru offered Sasuke something that the village never would or could. Danzo had used a stolen Sharingan to seal Itachi’s eye. The eye had been destroyed upon the discovery of his body and it’s twin was gone, likely forever. Those eyes had been the key, but if Sasuke could gain that same power, maybe he could use it to free his brother once and for all.
Sasuke had considered taking Itachi with him that night. He had watched him sleep, curled underneath the covers and safe. No one could look after him like Sasuke, no one could care for him the way that his brother did. Sasuke would have died before he let any harm befall his brother again. With Sasuke at his side, Itachi would be safe. Yet, Sasuke hesitated. He couldn't bring himself to take Itachi from the border of Konoha.The village was the reason he was even in his position, but Sasuke knew that bringing him outside the walls would only endanger him. He knew better than to trust Orochimaru around his brother. The man was a predator who did not hesitate to lunge at the throat of those he deemed vulnerable, Itachi was not his to prey upon.
There were good people here, despite the rot; people that Sasuke could trust. Kakashi cared for Itachi. He would not abandon him even if Sasuke defected. He wasn't that type of person. Itachi trusted Kakashi and he had gotten used to his routine. The idea of dragging him into the wilderness to follow a mad man was implausible. He would not be safe with Sasuke, not with what Sasuke was doing. He would be safe with Kakashi, though. The village walls would ensure that. Tsunade could be trusted too. Itachi would be left in safe hands, until the time came where Sasuke could return for him and bring him back for good. That was what Sasuke used to justify him walking out the door that night, bereft of his brother.
He hated to leave him, hated the thought of abandoning Itachi, but it was for the best. There was nothing he could do for Itachi right now, but it would all be worth it. He would come back for him and everything would be okay. Itachi would understand, Sasuke would not abandon him forever.