Sasuke breaks and no one is there to pick up the pieces. [An ItaSasu ficlet.]
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...
- William Butler Yeats
Sasuke steps cautiously into view as the one called Kisame gestures to his hiding place with an expression that is part resignation, part weariness. The shark-man looks old in a way that Sasuke isn't prepared for. Orochimaru had told him of the Akatsuki and Itachi's partner in particular. Kisame is only thirty-five years old. He shouldn't be stooping like the Sandaime on a bad day.
"What is this about?" Sasuke demands, brandishing the scroll that was sent to him only a few hours before.
"Follow me," is all Kisame will say, and Sasuke decides that he can handle any ridiculous traps this exile from Mist can rig together and follows.
They move into the confines of a thicket and something red catches Sasuke's eye. A familiar shape comes into view, lying beneath a small lean-to of branches, and Sasuke is upon the shape in an instant, no longer caring what it is Kisame has to tell him.
Itachi's face is calm and Sasuke hates him for being able to sleep so calmly (or feign a sleep, he can't possibly be unaware of Sasuke's presence the utter /bastard/) when Sasuke hasn't slept a full night through since he was seven years old. Sasuke draws kusenagi from its sheath and nudges at Itachi's cloak with his boot.
"Get up," he hisses and his blood sings with anticipation and something very much like glee because finally, finally he's going to get the chance to finish what should have been finished long ago. The curse mark burns on his shoulder and Sasuke can feel the ripples of its power spreading across his back, and down his arms, swirling into patterns across his skin.
Itachi doesn't move and Sasuke has lost his patience and fists a hand in Itachi's cloak, jerking him up to an almost sitting position. Itachi's head rolls loosely on his neck and tips back, throat bared and stained with dirt.
"Get up," Sasuke yells, some strange feeling spreading in his stomach like a sickness, because even in a feigned sleep Itachi's body would not be this cold or this limp.
Kisame stands a good distance away, mindful of the reach of Sasuke's sword. Sasuke feels the man's eyes on him as he presses his hands down on Itachi's chest--/tight, tight and there's a crack which means he's broken a rib but it doesn't matter because nothing's moving, nothing at all which means/--and turns glazed blood-red eyes to Kisame, tomoe whirling frantically in their depths like pinwheels.
"Who did it?" Sasuke mutters, voice catching in a gasp as he says it.
"No one did it. His heart just stopped. Too many health-straining jutsus takes its toll on people-even people as strong as your brother was."
Kisame doesn't avoid Sasuke's gaze. Sasuke wishes he would, so he could accuse him of lying.
Instead, Sasuke turns and plunges kusenagi into Itachi's shoulders, each shoulder, one at a time, then through the flesh at his sides, his stomach, his thighs. No blood gushes out in spurts, though some gathers on the edge of Sasuke's blade and drips onto the grass. With a strangled moan, Sasuke slashes across Itachi's chest, digs his hands into the wound and shudders at the cold cold cold...
Sometime during this, Kisame leaves. Sasuke doesn't notice until later, when he is no longer heaving the contents of his stomach onto the ground beside Itachi's legs, or screaming incoherent things at the sky.
It's a lot quieter without the gagging and the puking and the screaming. It's so quiet Sasuke hears the blood thunder in his head like a pulse and thinks, for an instant, that Itachi is still alive and that it hasn't all been worthless years spent giving up /everything/.
The instant is over with before Sasuke can get a second breath to scream with. He swallows it instead and lies down beside his brother and waits for death to come take him.
Kabuto shows up first. Sasuke watches the medic take in the scene and the way Sasuke is practically underneath Itachi's body, arms wrapped around Itachi's chest inside the Akatsuki cloak, cheek smeared with Itachi's blood, now dried into a hard, black crust. Kabuto looks like he wants to take Itachi's body and examine it, but Sasuke's eyes are wide and red and his fingers clutch at Itachi's back, and Kabuto moves away without touching either of them.
Sasuke briefly wonders what he will tell Orochimaru and discovers that he doesn't much care.
Days pass and no one else comes and Sasuke decides that he is dead but he doesn't understand why he's still waiting for something. Itachi's body stiffens and then softens in ways that make it difficult for Sasuke to hold on to him. Eventually, Sasuke strips Itachi of his cloak and wraps himself in that, shaking out the bugs that have gathered to feast on Itachi's flesh. The cloak is much too large and Sasuke feels childish somehow, like he's playing dress up in nii-san's clothes. The Akatsuki clouds are large and red and hide the bloodstains nicely.
Sasuke sleeps inbetween bouts of counting the clouds and giving them the names of every single Uchiha clan member.
One day he opens his eyes to find himself in a bed with restraints around his hands and feet. Every so often, people come to scream things at him, or cry on him, or watch him silently. Naruto screams, Sakura cries, Kakashi watches.
Sasuke listens but doesn't understand what they tell him. He's dead, so why do they keep coming? When he asks for his cloak back, Naruto scowls and punches him in the face. Sasuke is astonished to find that he can still bleed.
A few weeks later, Sasuke is let out of the hospital and back into the confines of the Uchiha compound, where he walks in and out of Itachi's rooms until he becomes tired and slumps to the floor to sleep. Every day Naruto and Sakura come to bring him food, which he eats, and drag him out into the sunshine, where he walks--silent--beside them until they see fit to bring him back to his house.
At night Kakashi picks him up off the floor and puts him in his bed and stays in the room until Sasuke falls asleep again.
Naruto rips up every cloak Sasuke sews together from scraps of Itachi's clothing.
Sasuke allows this because it doesn't really matter. He's already dead.
His heart just stopped.