"...Naruto?" Sasuke called out into the empty room.
No reply came back.
Before he got a chance to register any emotions, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he spun around to see the least person he was expecting to see.
And Sasuke let out a breathless voice.
"W-why are you here...?"
Chapter 35: You have the eyes to see
Even with the dark hoodie covering half of his face, I knew who he was. I felt the fear as a tremendous aura of his presence made itself known after it had been hidden until I turned around to face that person.
"Why... am I here?" he repeated my question.
If anything else hadn't been enough of a proof, his voice definitely gave me the hundred percent sureness that this was the person I was supposed to fear, supposed to hate, and supposed to kill...
But even after years of the build up of these emotions, this person's existence was just too great that it shook my whole body.
The shake was from fear, but if all in honesty, it was from hatred as well.
"To see you of course, my dear brother..."
I couldn't bear to watch him take the hood off his head to become stared at with his murderous glare of his.
Before he was able to even make a move, I charged at him and gave him a punch to his face, screaming his name.
Surprisingly, Itachi didn't block my attack and he neither pulled an attempt to dodge it.
That wasn't all to what was weird about this.
Something wasn't right, and I couldn't stand how off the atmosphere felt. What was making me so much at unease?
Then I heard Itachi laugh while lying below me.
"Is that all you have to the murderer of mother and father?"
All rage came flooding back like lava from a volcano inside me running down my whole body, catching on fire.
I couldn't stop the surge of hatred filling every inch of my mind and before I knew it, I was continuously beating the face of my older brother's until his hood came off making my molten lava freeze at an instant.
Itachi's eyes were bandaged and that fearful murderous eyes that once belonged to those empty sockets, were gone.
I instantly figured out what was going on and felt the dread of what I've done as well as feel the regret that hit me real hard.
"W...hat... did you do..." I found myself croak.
My cheeks felt wet and Itachi knew this too, because the tears fell upon his face, and he stretched out a hand to reach my cheek and wipe the tears.
"Forgive me, Sasuke..."
Those words triggered to recall all the memories from what had happened that night at in Orochimaru's underground hideout lab.
Naruto's screams and Orochimaru's growls were heard with sounds of fists colliding with each other too. I was only able to just listen to the fight painfully as I was bound to the wall without vision.
Then I heard the dreadful sound of a strangled voice.
Naruto was dying and I was able to do nothing.
All I could do was strongly wish for someone else to come save us both.
And then there was a loud crack.
It was the sound of the cave walls splitting elegantly unlike Naruto's dramatic party entrance filled with large explosions and crumbling sounds of the aftermath.
I knew only one person who could do it so.
"Youuuuu...." I heard Orochimaru snarl before a short fight was heard and an inhumane snarl before everything became deadly quiet.
I heard the newcomer's steps, walking towards my way.
I visibly flinched when I felt his face beside mine but what I heard from the familiar voice was unexpected.
"It's okay, Sasuke. Your friend is unconscious but he's still breathing."
The soft, slender fingers that feathered across my face was a gentle touch which reminded me of the longing past I once had, making me tremble and bring heat to my eyes.
"Forgive me, Sasuke."
That was the last straw. I couldn't help it as tears just kept sliding down one after another. The voice was too gentle, the soft was too warm, and it was just everything I missed so much even though these emotions had been wiped away from the exact person who was bringing at back right now.
I probably knew deep inside that I was longing for the return of his return so bad that it hurt.
My voice cracked when I tried calling out his name.
I then suddenly felt all the binds come loose and I fell too the ground.
Before I had time to stand up, I felt a sharp pain at the back of my neck and then his ask for forgiveness once again.
But this time, his voice was shaking so badly that I could tell he was crying.
And then I slipped into unconsciousness.
"You...why did you do this to me!?" I couldn't help but scream at his face as I grabbed a fist full of his front.
I was mad at him for making me feel hatred towards him, making me beat his face, making me feel regret and remorse... controlling me like a puppet without it's own accord!
"You needed something... to release your anger, to blame someone, to concentrate a purpose to live. I couldn't leave you behind as young as you were, thinking that it may have been your fault and leave the solitude to take over your life, becoming careless with your own life," Itachi explained with a slight pained expression.
"Well now that you're here and made everything clear, you better start atoning what you did!" I growled, although I knew he had already done more than enough for forgiveness. I didn't need anything else from him.
Just... just for him to be by my side now, and fill in the blank periods of the whole time he was gone.
"I already did, Sasuke. I signed a contract with Doctor Tsunade..." Itachi stated with a small smile.
And the next line of words made my blood freeze and my world topple upside down.
"I won't go to jail but instead be used as a test for an experiment, to save Naruto at all costs. Whatever organ he loses, she will transplant mine into Naruto. I want my life to have a purpose and reason for existence."
My fingers slackened grip off Itachi's front completely.
Those words were something I shot at Naruto as well, so I couldn't help but understand so well how he felt.
...but this was too cruel a reality, because this meant, that the more Naruto fought to live, it dragged Itachi towards death.
The more the vital organs Naruto needed, Itachi would provide him, giving Itachi a slow and painful death, depending on which organs start to dysfunction first within Naruto.
"Because he seems to be very important to you. I wouldn't be cruel as to making you choose between him and I. He is more worth living than I am," I heard him say as I lay on top of him, breaking down, crying against his shoulder.
I felt a warm hand pat against my back which reminded me of the past where he'd used to hold me gently when I got too afraid of the dark at night or when I got told off by father. He had always been the source of refuge for me.
He was always, as childish as it sounds... my hero.
Whatever he did, he excelled at and his kind nature always made me admire him, be proud of him, and love him.
This seemed to be the word of the day for me.
I just couldn't help repeating that word as I continued to cry within my brother's arms.
"I can't live... without you..."
"Don't be stupid. You'll have Naruto."
"I don't want to only have Naruto..."
"Don't be selfish, Sasuke. In life, you can't get everything you want. Sometimes you get tough choices and can choose only one between two choices. That's how it is."
I know... I know that but...
"I'll be here for awhile, so, introduce me to your friend, okay?" Itachi asked.
"Yeah..." I replied weakly.
"Yeah, I'll do that."
"Hey, Itachi nii-san!"
"Naruto, you're too loud!"
Two boys came rushing in to Itachi's private hospital room, one rushing to the patient's side in a rush, while the other, exasperated as he rolled his eyes and shut the door behind him.
"Look! Look! I found lots of this on the ground and on the trees today!" Naruto excitedly cried as he showed a rather cute looking pink looking flower with 5 petals.
Naruto heard Sasuke snort and muttering something about being stupid to ask a blind man to look at something he can't.
"That would be called 'Sakura', the cherry blossom," Itachi smiled, and answered for him.
"Ehh!? How did you know!?" Naruto asked, greatly bemused at Itachi's knowledge even without the visual looks of the object.
Itachi let out a chuckle before he replied.
"Because it's spring. And in spring, the most common blooming flower that also scatters across the village grounds would most likely to be Sakura."
"Heh~~~," Naruto nodded with acknowledgement and a twinkle in his eyes.
It was Naruto's first time going out to the village in spring, and he hadn't seen these flowers before, so he was acting like a child staring at awe at everything new he saw.
"Hey, hey! Itachi nii-san! Sasuke taught me how to keep flowers pretty even after picking it out and leaving them for a looooooong time! I can even make a bookmark out of it!! It's called...um... ah! Washibana*!"
"Oshibana!**" Sasuke immediately corrects with a sigh, leaving Itachi to chuckle.
"Anyways! I'll make one for you! I'll find a four leaf clover and do it too so then you'll get better soon!" Naruto announced excitedly.
This made both Uchiha's smile with a hint of sadness that Naruto couldn't pick up.
"Yeah, that'll be great. Thanks, Naruto," Itachi said.
The Uchiha brothers hadn't told Naruto that Itachi was the source of Naruto's life. Naruto was getting better and better with his newly transplanted organs and his body didn't seem to reject the foreign organs either, since Sasuke's blood in him was neutralizing the side effects that would've highly likely to have happened.
Naruto was told that Itachi had saved the two from the underground hideout where Orochimaru had been experimenting with his own body in such inhumanely absurd ways that somehow he had succeeded in turning his body part-snake.
On the other hand, the corpse that Naruto was fighting with was supposedly Orochimaru's assistant who had been manipulated like a puppet even after his death.
Naruto would probably have had realised that something wasn't right with his opponent, if he wasn't too consumed in rage to the point that he had no memory of it.
After feeling Sasuke calling for help, Itachi was brought to the place, just like how Naruto instinctively felt Sasuke's SOS too, since Itachi and Sasuke shared the same blood.
Although Itachi was already in a no-return stage of a disease that will eventually lead him to death so he was to be hospitilized here in this hospital with the other two boys.
Of course, the last bit was a lie, but Naruto wouldn't notice it, because Itachi was a master at hiding his presence, therefore it was natural that his organs had less presence than Sasuke's like how Naruto felt it running through his veins.
All three knew that Itachi had not long to go, but they acted indifferently, because they knew that Itachi would've liked that the best.
Feeling the intrusion, Naruto suddenly told the brothers that he'd get something to drink.
"Naruto's starting to notice it, is he?" Itachi asked as Sasuke walked closer towards his older brother and sit down beside him.
"No, not about his transplant. But about your death, maybe," Sasuke sighed, rubbing his face.
"I keep telling you to not make that face, Sasuke," Itachi scowled.
"What face?" Sasuke retorted, and both shared a chuckle.
Itachi had good instincts like Naruto, and was able to guess most of the visuals without the eyes.
But sometimes, Sasuke would mask his face expression with a calm tone in his voice that Itachi wouldn't realise how painful Sasuke's face looked.
"Love you nii-san..." Sasuke murmured, pressing his face against Itachi's hand as he held tightly with his own, bringing a smile to Itachi's lips.
"Love you too, Sasuke."
All this time, the two didn't realise that there were a pair of eyes staring at the two of them from the small crack of an open door with the newly acquired skills to erase his presence as he stood...
...listening to the whole conversation.
3 weeks later, Itachi had fallen to a sleep of eternity and was given a proper funeral with a tombstone as equally as great as to how brave he was sacrificing his life for another.
Sasuke stood there until the sun was setting and was daring to hide completely behind the mountains on the western side.
"Let's go, Sasuke."
Naruto tugged on Sasuke's sleeve but he didn't budge at all.
Naruto tried calling again, but Sasuke wouldn't reply.
He only did when Naruto started punching his arm continuously as he loudly called his name over and over again.
"...leave me alone."
Naruto frowned at this and then growled, punching Sasuke in the face, to the ground.
Before Sasuke had any emotion to register, he felt warm arms gather his upper body and a feeling of ease somehow soaked through.
"I know... I know Itachi sacrificed for me," Naruto whispered, and Sasuke's eyes widened with shock.
The warmth leaves Sasuke's body as Naruto pulled away from him standing up.
"So I have a full responsibility to be in place of your brother!" Naruto demanded loudly.
He then stretched out a helping hand to Sasuke who was still down on the ground in front of their brother's grave.
"I'll be your brother from now on, Sasuke."
Sasuke bowed his head down low as he felt the tears stream down his cheeks and he blindly stretched out his arm to get pulled up by Naruto.
Death is not unwelcoming, as it comes to knock on everyone's door one day, and it's a natural, unavoidable part of a sequence in life.
But it's natural to be afraid of it, and to grieve in loss of another.
But you know, there's always someone out there to help you get through it.
So don't close your eyes, and look around at the people beside you.
Because you have the eyes to see the people who care for you.
*oshibana ??= press-dried flower
because hana/bana can both me flower or nose, depending on the kanji character.