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A Fine Line Sets Us Apart

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Hi, Itachi.

The words were so completely innocuous, simple and unassuming. Weather was talked about with that same casual tone, nothing to jar, nothing offensive, but a menial indifference that slipped through the cracks. It was a greeting. It was nothing.

But it also was something. It existed. It was everything in that brief breath that shouldn’t be exhaled; it was everything in the voice that had been silent for years. It was casual because Shisui was struggling to make it casual, as if it was no big deal that he was standing here as an Edo Tensei while a crow called out its own greeting in the near distance. Perhaps it was even a little difficult to make it seem like nothing when the last time they had seen one another took place seconds before fingers pulled out his remaining eye and offered it like a birthday gift to the younger Uchiha.

Hi, Itachi.

The strings were in his head, the puppet-master’s control felt, but for the moment those urges and voices were silent; Shisui was himself, staring at the familiar face he knew so well with eyes he had no right; how was he even seeing at all when both of his eyes had been taken away? The face was older now, aged with hard choices, lined more, and that Mangekyou—well, he hadn’t seen that last time, but that was only because it came after, didn’t it? It came after the commitment, the rush of air, the crush of the rocks, the coldness of water and loneliness death. After all, death was the one thing you did truly alone.

But that foreign shocked look was there, too, another new thing that Shisui wasn’t accustomed to. The way Itachi’s mouth was slightly opened, as if he was going to speak and forgot the words. The way those red eyes widened and just tried to see through what just had to be a genjutsu, right? The small spasms of fingers that didn’t know what jutsu to bring forth as it toyed between incomprehension and guilt.

Can’t blame you there, buddy. Even I’m a little confused on this whole thing.

Because the last thing he remembered was the fear, the questioning, the apprehension. Not for his death, no; shinobi made peace with it when they began this life, had it trained out of them in the beginning of the academy while being taught the nobility of dying in battle, of sacrificing for a cause. That night, he solely worried for what he was leaving behind, the weight of this pain and duty he was forcing Itachi to face alone.

Their friendship (bond; it was deeper than simple friendship) was offered as reason not to stop him, but Shisui knew that if Itachi had said anything, had made a move, even his own reservation would have gotten the better of him. There would no way he could have completed this task.

How much of it was his own idea, and how much of it was a genjutsu that Danzo implanted during their fight, however? Did it even matter anymore?

That’s all done and over with. What's done is done, and what's dead is, well, not all that dead.

The genius. Shisui felt the smile curling at the edge of his lips, nostalgic and warm like the sun back when his skin could feel something other than the ashy dryness of deadened nerves. He remembered Itachi’s weight on his back as he carried him through the compound’s streets, and he wondered if he could still do that; he looked thin enough that Shisui might have to someday. Didn’t he ever eat? And with that same idea, judging by the darkened circles under his eyes, didn’t he ever sleep?

You must be driving Mikoto-san up a wall with worry. I bet every time you come over, she feeds you with as much omusubi and dango as she can make, and you’re an ungrateful son and don’t even eat it all. Oh, that angel’s poor heart when you break it.

He wished he could feel hunger in that moment, but there was only deadspace.

Shisui sighed with lungs that didn’t need to breathe, wishing that mixture of pain and fear would slip off of Itachi’s face already. It seemed so…out of place. Agonizing. It wasn’t something that belonged there, like dirt covered dango or sunset at noon.

It picked at the soul, and soul was all he had any more.

“Yeah, so sorry I didn’t get a chance to make myself prettier before coming to see you, but it was sorta an impromptu visit.” There were teeth this time when Shisui smiled, his eyes closing and his head cocking to the side; it was smooth and easy and something so characteristically alive that it was difficult to believe that he wasn’t.

The joke had no effect, but Shisui wasn’t surprised; they often didn’t. The urge to fluff that ponytail came and went; would he even be able to feel the hair? Touch it and experience that weight, that smoothness, the way it didn’t tangle up unlike his curls? (Secretly jealous? Him? Never!) How much point would there be, other than giving comfort to Itachi?

“Shisui,” he finally hissed, and the dead Uchiha’s smile softened, smoothed. Impossibly long eyelashes parted to reveal the black sclera beneath.

“Yeah.” Not a question, but a confirmation. It’s me. Promise.

“Who?” Brought you back? Did this to you? And secretly underneath: Am I going to kill for this?

“Don’t know.” A smooth shrug, the strings still not pulled and instead loose and relaxed in his mind. “I'm sure they’ll show themselves soon enough, but I think we have a few minutes until that happens.” So don't waste it with the stuff that doesn't matter. This might be your only shot.

The silence stretched open, threatening to devour them both; Shisui was used to it from Itachi, but not from himself. He took the moment to appreciate the other, unsure how this fragile reunion would linger in the comfortable limbo. How long had it been since Shisui had last seen him? How long would it be again? Years, he hoped. Decades and centuries until he had to see Itachi on the other side.

I just want you to live a happy long life. That's too much to ask for a shinobi, especially a gifted one; double especially for the son of a clan head, but hey, a guy can dream, right? I wonder how old Fugaku is; has he been pushing you too hard? Has he finally started to give Sasuke the attention he needs? Are things finally making sense, or did you get too much bullshit from my letter?

What sort of legacy did I leave you?

"Shisui--"

"How is everyone?" He didn't bother waiting, instead letting the silence die with the sound of his name. "Your mom? Your dad? Is Sasuke still giving hell to anyone who wants to steal his precious big brother away from hi--"

"Shisui--"

"-m. I mean, I get it; I'd be jealous if you were hanging around someone else, too, but let's be real, who else would you--"

"Shisui--"

"--want to be around?"

"Shisui--"

But the smile was slowly fading from his lips, drying up like a puddle in a desert. Something was happening. Something far away; he could start to feel it in the back of his skull, tickling like spider legs down his neck. It was a new voice. A new sensation. A new rebirth.

I don't have long. This is it. Tell him, idiot. Tell him while you still can!

"Itachi, I'm sorry." The odd eyes pleaded with the Mangekyou across from him, trying to get through that frustratingly impassable wall. His words were coming faster, faster, an avalanche that only moved quicker the more he spoke, as if spurred on by the momentum. "I'm sorry I left you alone like that; I'm sorry I made you carry this burden on your own while I--well, you know what happened."

Shisui noticed the almost horrified expression on his best friend's face. It's the memory. That's all.

"But I know I couldn't have left it with anyone else," he went on, words still falling from his lips with the same impossible speed. In the back of his head, he could feel the tightening of fingers, squeezing, the low hiss of an unfamiliar voice like that of a dream. It seemed to be laughing, almost...mocking, like it knew a punchline to a joke yet to be told. Doesn't matter. Keep going.

"You're the only one I could have trusted, the only one I'll ever trust, Itachi. The clan, the village, you're a good person, someone who can bring all these idiots together! You're it, and even if I'm not with you here, you know I'm with you in spirit, supporting you, behind you, hands at your back as we both hold on for the ride. You're my best friend, and Itachi, I--"

"I killed them."

The avalanche of wordssoundsconfessions stopped. In its place, confused silence rushed in, filling up the sudden nothingness.

Shisui blinked, curiously, uncomprehending. Killed them? What the hell was the idiot saying? Was it a joke? It had to be a joke. Or maybe he was talking about bugs, some weird infestation or something. Or rats. Or-- or snakes. Or--

"Huh?" Because grace wasn't his strong suit at the moment. Please be talking about bugs. Please, you idiot savant. Fucking please! "Killed who?"

The Mangekyou slipped away to the side. Remorse? Shame? Humility? Shisui couldn't tell; he wasn't sure he even wanted to. "Everyone."

Everyone. Did that mean his family? The clan? The village? Innocents, like the old ladies, the babies, the helpless? Was everyone gone? Did he kill Mikoto? Sasuke?

Was it a joke? A poor, tasteless joke? But Itachi didn't share any humor, let alone that kind of humor, and his body language screamed no. This was the truth. This was reality. Itachi murdered. Itachi destroyed. The genius, the exceptional brilliant light of the clan had--had--

His eye. Shisui gave his eye to the enemy. Itachi had his eye, and he handed it--he helped--the thing that could have stopped the revolt, and he gave it to Itachi and now--now--

"You're lying--" Shisui's voice broke, the words pointless but spoken because he so desperately wanted to believe in the lie himself. I trusted you. I trusted you! Over everyone, you were the one person I fucking believed in!

"You know that I am not," Itachi said, red gaze slowly seeking him out again. "I killed the clan."

A cracked and flaking hand snaked out to grab Itachi's cloak, not caring that fabric ripped in protest. The laughing in his head was maddening, mocking him, mocking both of them, and freedom of thought, of will, were the last grains of sand in any hourglass: fleeting. "Why?! Why?" This isn't how it was supposed to go! This wasn't the plan! What did you do?!

What did I drive you to do? Why wasn't I there to stop--

The tanto was in his hand. How it got there, he didn't know, it didn't matter anymore. Betrayal and guilt burned, clutching at a heart that stopped beating years ago. Itachi looked expectant, almost grateful; Shisui look torn and terrified.

I don't want this! Don't make me do this!

But the voices in his head started to sound too much like his own, and soon he couldn't tell which was his and which was the master of the Edo Tensei.

Punish him!

And the blade swung.