Title: ironically, now
Summary: Sasuke wants to be back in Konoha, she had thought. Right. And I'm a unicorn.
Dedication: to my glitterface, also known as Admiral Cinnabar on this site.
Notes: I can't believe that I agreed to write from Sasuke's perspective. He's really irritating to try and, like, understand. I don't know how Naruto does it all the time, and he's the reason this chapter took like three times as long as the other two to write. I just made him very sarcastic, brooding, and nuttier than a truck full of pistachios. *Throws up hands.* Tell me how badly I failed.
When the ANBU opened his cell, Sasuke felt nothing but powerful relief. He had been trapped in the buzzing hell of the secure prison for exactly a year now, and sick of it was the most understated way one could describe his feelings. He was only ever allowed out for two hours a day of chakra-free training, and once-monthly visitors. Only ever Naruto and sometimes Kakashi came. There was no one else.
Sasuke's prison stint hadn't been as horrible as it could have been, he supposed. There was always clean bedding, fresh food, and lots of space given to him. That didn't mean that he was trusted or given a long leash by any means. As one of the most powerful Sharingan users ever born into the Uchiha Clan, and certainly the most powerful alive, his guard was a blind tokubetsu jounin who was probably a sensor. His chakra was sealed twenty-four/seven, and his cell, an underground block of solid stone buzzing with electricity, could be locked down remotely with chakra-draining metal doors. Ibiki had explained every nuance of the cell's defenses to him the moment he was deposited inside-or so he said. Sasuke doubted that all of the information was true. The more intimidating half probably wasn't; no one wanted a prisoner who knew exactly how his prison's most powerful traps worked. The bits about the inside of the room were most likely true, with the "explanation" getting less and less accurate as the outer layers of protection were described, finally being replaced with outright lies as the layout and traps of the rest of the facility were outlined.
He, personally, would have been so radically outlandish and menacing in his speech to the prisoner that it was almost a threat and the intel he "shared" was so far off base that any escape attempt would be flagrantly misinformed, but he knew that Konoha wouldn't want him doing something stupid enough to permanently injure himself. So they told him exactly where not to stick his fingers, or the bars would electrify him with more force than a Chidori and probably stop his heart. Then poor Shizune would be dragged out of her regular duties to save his hide as the on-call medic for classified cases and that would just be so pointless for all involved, wouldn't it?
Sasuke agreed. If he was going to be released later anyway, what was the point of trying to break out? Good behavior would only speed that outcome. As an escapee and missing-nin, he would just be hounded by the Elemental nations all over again anyway, and there wasn't like he had somewhere he pressingly wanted to be.
Sharing that thought with Ibiki during his interrogation sessions only garnered him a skeptical look, but it was the truth. Now that he had killed Orochimaru (hopefully), Itachi, Danzo, and Madara, he was running out of targets for revenge-crazed quests. He did still have the rest of the council on his hit-list, but they were old and might die suffering without his intervention. Poisoning them and making it look like an accident was much less messy and less likely to get him killed in the process. He could stay in Konoha, restore the Uchiha Clan and kill the elders.
Coincidentally, Sasuke might have forgotten to share this little idea with Ibiki, even throughout the course of his interrogation. Planning on murdering village officials was not a great tool for reintegration. His interrogators were overtly suspicious of him as it was. They were probably right, he thought wryly, in their worries that he was going to infiltrate and the tear Konoha apart from the inside in a mad quest for VENGEANCE. At least this time, he was trying to be subtle about it.
The fact that he hadn't mentioned VENGEANCE at any point during his meetings with the Yamanakas and with Ibiki seemed to make some of them uncomfortable. Not Ibiki, obviously, because even if Sasuke had thrown a senbon at his eyeball it would've bounced off the sheer wooden blankness of his poker face, but the second Yamanaka who performed the Mind-Body Switch on him (the first had been too inexperienced and therefore unable to handle whatever it was he'd seen in Sasuke's mind) always asked about it.
Sasuke was supposed to be absolutely unable to lie to the Yamanaka in his head, but the Sharingan has more uses than seen on the surface, especially in the mind. When asked about the Elders, his benevolence was palpable...and very fake. Sasuke took the artifact that represented his thirst for VENGEANCE, a bottle filled with oily-red acid, and hid it.
It always struck him as a strange metaphor that a liquid represented his thirst. This would never have occurred to him before the Konoha prison, but with entertainment so hard to come by, it was something that he puzzled over for lack of something else to do.
For Sasuke, discovering his own mindscape was both fascinating and unsettling. It was mesmerizing in its angular shapes and red-black-white intensity, but the form it took was painful.
The Uchiha Compound was twisted out of shape in his mind, his perceptions overlaying its reality. His memories of the time before were all on neat little shelves in his childhood room, when he was safe and everything was okay.
The day of the massacre was the toy chest with the Uchiha fan, the one that got stained with blood. Whenever he thinks back on it, he muses that it represents innocence lost. In his mindscape this was so; though each day of his life before was a single individual item on the shelves, and the emotions that they held were on the shelves opposite them, the chest was close to brimming with the memories and emotions of a few scant hours.
The days after, still in Konoha, are in his parents' room. He slept there after the massacre.
Those are full of his mother and his father at night, screaming for his parents, for help, for Itachi, but the days are Team Seven. When the Yamanaka ran a hand over it, he could feel the corresponding shiver and rush of nostalgia, but that was not what the man was looking for. The days with Orochimaru were in the cellar, and innocuous vegetables were replaced with suspect syringes and vases half-full of dead flowers, snakeskins and swords and everything, in short, that holds a day in the dark.
This, his wanderings with Hebi, and the days of Madara were what the Yamanaka wanted.
Traveling with Hebi wasn't fun by a long shot, but Sasuke did have the occasional fond memory, and monotony was a large improvement over Orochimaru. There were many, many, strange objects: little teacups, enormous sacks full of unidentifiable lumps, a live bird, frozen in the eye of the imagination.
The thing that the Yamanaka was looking for turned out to be in one of the first shelves. It was one of the things that felt the strangest to see, in fact; the tattoo had been on his body for so long that seeing it shifted back to a scrap of paper was a nasty shock.
Silently, he had allowed the interrogator to pick it up, turn it in his fingers, and scratch it with his nails. Though he was giving control to the Yamanaka, it was his mind, and Sasuke had felt the way that the memory was read. Of course, that was all it was; a memory, one with none of his actual emotions attached. It was still a very personal invasion, but it was like showing a video to someone, rather than truly allowing him into the moment. It was full of none of Sasuke's pain.
Honestly, the worst thing about the cell was that Sasuke had been given so much time to reflect, and so many painful things to reflect on. Seeing the contours of his mind, even (especially) as shifting and unstable as it was, with new items in new forms and traps scattered randomly throughout, was an eye-opening experience.
Even Sasuke's physical form was different: in his mind, he was younger, with a lighter form and thinner lines. His hair was long and spiny, pulled back in ponytail at the base of his neck. When Sasuke saw his mind-self's face for the first time, reflected in the glass from a fragment of mirror, it was not cold and ancient, but young, soft, and plastered with emotions.
Nevertheless, something in the desperation of the eyes and the rage of the mouth reminded him of Madara, the tightness at the jaw of Fugaku, the frail shoulders drooping under the weight of the world of Itachi. It was irritating to see that even after so long, Sasuke still perceived himself as an amalgam of others. His subconscious was creating an image of all the others that he had looked up to or wanted to be. Sasuke was the tool of his family. Nothing more, nothing less.
That didn't mean it didn't bother him. Dammit, he wanted more than that. As a child, his father was always pushing him to surpass Itachi. Sasuke, the less skilled and less brilliant, was more vulnerable to clan manipulation. They had been trying to shape him into their perfect weapon. Itachi, as they had discovered to their detriment, was too much of a wild card to ever truly belong to the clan.
Then Itachi himself had taken Sasuke away from the clan's influence, but only to shape him into a 'just' killer. Itachi had wanted death at Sasuke's hand, but only because it fit his twisted ideas of karma. Sasuke would have been just fine never seeking the power that Itachi had pushed him towards, but with the murderer of his family provoking him whenever he was at his weakest, Sasuke had become exactly what Itachi wanted him to be.
Finally, with the blood of his brother on his hands, Sasuke had been free of relatives to ruin him.
Or so he thought. It turned out that there was always another, the voice in the shadow, the puppet master, the one pulling all the strings. And Sasuke had wandered right into his web.
Now, thought Sasuke, standing and facing the ANBU, there were finally no more relatives. He was the last of the Uchiha clan. Sasuke was the shadow in the dark. Of course, he thought broodingly, someone would always be pulling his strings, but he had at least learned to recognize it. After all, it had happened so often.
In this case, Sasuke decided, it would be Naruto who manipulated him. Sasuke could feel it when Naruto, intentionally or not, got him to do something he hadn't even considered previously. It was aggravating, but knowing if you're being used gives a small measure of freedom.
Freedom was his prime interest at the moment.
The ANBU, a cat-faced male, dismissed the blind tokubetsu with a curt word. "Turn," he said to Sasuke. Sasuke did so warily, uncomfortable presenting his back to an unknown shinobi, but all the ANBU did was grab his hands brusquely and bind them together with chakra-infused metal cuffs. After this was done, the ANBU spun Sasuke back around by a shoulder. Without preamble he said, "I'm going to have to bind your Sharingan. Please submit calmly."
Producing a thick sheet of sealed paper, he placed it on Sasuke's face without another word, stretching from the top of his right ear to the top of the left, reaching down to almost touch the tip of his nose, plastering across his cheekbones. It made a sheer wall over his eye sockets, and blinking, Sasuke could feel his eyelashes scrape up and down against it.
Holding the paper in place with one hand, the ANBU obviously made some sequence of handsigns with the other, because with a painful jolt the paper attached itself to his face, closing down Sasuke's vision with an electric and disorienting suddenness.
"This seal prevents the passage of chakra. Your Sharingan will no longer be accessible, and neither will normal sight. Your eyes are now totally outside of your chakra and your nervous system, cutting off signals from the brainstem and also blood flow. The seal also engages stasis, but should you exit my presence this will disengage, and you will be permanently blinded."
Having said all this in two quick breaths, the ANBU placed a hand between Sasuke's shoulder blades and pushed, steering him out the door and into what his nose told Sasuke was the dank hall outside of his room. From there he was steered rapidly down so many flights of stairs, around so many corners, and through so many doors he was, as intended by the ANBU, hopelessly lost.
At one point there was a ride in a slippery elevator, which made Sasuke more uncomfortable than any other part of the journey. The ANBU must be very well trained, or perhaps have some kind of kekkai genkai if he was able to display no outward signs of discomfort or even heightened awareness even while trapped in what was, basically, a coffin on a chain. His hearing, increased by the lack of his sight, detected the grinding of metal on metal of the chains; the minute scrapes of the walls against the stone shaft, and the gentle, modulated breathing of the ANBU beside him.
When the elevator halted with a swift jerk, sending vibrations through the metal floor, Sasuke had to stop himself from lunging towards the doors and punching them until they gave way. Cat ANBU, unconcerned, walked leisurely to the back of the elevator, the two steps it took clanging hollowly. Perhaps another hand sign was made, or a seal deactivated, because the doors ground apart. Sasuke almost made his bid for freedom right then, and damn the probably fatal consequences, but Cat ANBU laid a restraining hand on the metal cuffs, which released a warning bolt of tingling electricity.
Sasuke gritted his teeth, but bore it. It was no worse than the least painful failed Chidori. Proceeding out into what smelled like yet another tunnel, the ANBU towed Sasuke by the cuffs to a flight of stairs, then another tunnel, through two doors, and then along a much less stuffy tunnel that might have been a hallway to a small chamber where he rotated Sasuke and unsealed his eyes. Sasuke remained grimly silent. Thoughts of vengeance bubbled up briefly, but he reminded himself that no, he could not kill this guy, even a little, and reintegration would not be conducive to rampant murder. He had to stay calm. No more uncontrolled rages.
He'd never bothered with restraint like this before. But with the seal fully recharged, Sasuke's head felt clearer than usual. Each emotion was still there, burning or churning or heavy as lead, but they were carefully compartmentalized, a ninja skill that Sasuke hadn't until recently cared to learn.
It's funny that these days Sasuke spends a lot of his time lost in his head.
The ANBU calmly led Sasuke by his bound hands down a much dryer, less musty-smelling hall, into a chamber at the end. Again, the man must have made some kind of handsigns, because the sealed piece of paper gave another jolt, disengaged itself from his face, and fluttered to the floor, like some kind of octopus releasing its suckers. In the brief glimpse that he caught, Sasuke's practiced eye noted several subtle reinforcement of the walls in key locations, as well as what was probably an emergency buzzer to call in backup. There was a table and two chairs on either side, indicating that this was an interrogation cell of some point, possibly nonviolent. He was cut off from more investigation rapidly.
"Close your eyes again," commanded Cat ANBU, pulling out an ordinary length of fabric. Sasuke tamely allowed his eyes to be covered once more, internally wishing that his Mangekyo could shoot fire.
He was towed once more down a few short halls, and although he should have been bored, it was more new outside stimuli then he had experienced eight months, so his every movement was stilted by wariness and his nose made small noises as he tried to take in every hint about his surroundings that he could. There were now other people in the area; the scent of their sweat and the sound of their breathing came from all sides. Some seemed to be in cells, and others were obviously guards or wardens on some kind of errand. Each he was passed Sasuke coiled in readiness, preparing to scrape off the blindfold and Sharingan any attacker into submission, and each time the unknown person walked on without issue.
Finally, finally, he was pulled through yet another doorway and into the room beyond, the ANBU delicately maneuvering him into a chair. The cloth was pulled aside, his bound hands undone. Blinking in the harsh fluorescent light, Sasuke didn't fail to see who sat across from him.
"Meet your parole officer," said ANBU Cat, amusement oozing into every nuance of his voice.
Hatake Kakashi wrinkled his eye happily at him, waving his Icha Icha paradise in a vague gesture of benediction. "Yup, that's me."
The ANBU continued with his briefing, droning on about how he would be staying with Kakashi in his apartment, how they would be bound together by a seal, and how Kakashi had the ability to say when he would be ready for missions again, but all Sasuke could focus on was fighting back the rising instinct to activate his Sharingan.
Notes: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sasuke is a pain in the ass to write. Also, I have been a whirling ball of stress and homicidal tendencies since finals started in December, with no actual reason to update this late other than I couldn't be bothered and Sasuke is a little bitch when you're trying to get inside his head. So combine those two facts and this is for sure not my most quality work, not to mention the weird shenanigans I pulled with tense. But whatever; leave me something anyway!
Le plug: my beta, shadowrallen on this site, helped me clean up this chapter! Go read his stuff!
(However, I'm kinda looking for a new one. shadowrallen is a temp, if that makes sense. Anyone?)