The Gap You Left

For the fiftieth day in a row there was silence. Silence was everything in their home, only interrupted by his mother´s muffled sobbing or his parents shouting, whenever Mikoto felt awake enough to blame her husband for the loss of her child. Sasuke doubted she cared if he could hear them or not but at least Fugaku tried to veil their broken relationship from him. To bad he was mostly hearing every word their shouted at eachother.

For fitieth days in a row, he ate dinner with his father alone. Silence accompanied them. There was nothing to say between them.

In reality there was a lot to say. So many unspoken words in this family, that his heart ached with every breath he took. But when he looked at his father´s tired and absent expression or he observed his mother´s broken frame, he knew he had to deal with it alone.

He wondered whether his parents forgot that he was still there. That there was still someone who needed them, for whom they were supposed to be there. He doubted it.

Whenever he come home to greet his mother, even offering her comfort and she escaped from his presence. Or whenever, he went through his grandfather´s brutal training on a daily basic and nobody noticed that they were forcing the last bit of innocence and softness out of him. All to form him for a role he was never supposed to play.

Light footsteps were heard and interrupted the silence suddenly. Fugaku placed his chopstiks on the table, his body tensed and his eyes wandered to the kitchen door.

Sasuke´s body tensed as well. He feared to meet his mother, who was only a shadow from her old self. He feared a new fight between Mikoto and Fugaku too and he feared another breakdown of her.

When she wasn´t locking himself in his brother´s room, than she was wandering through the house like a ghost. One of the reasons why he hardly left his room when he was at home. The only expections were to dine with Fugaku, which became a daily ritual between them. He only agreed to it because he hadn´t the heart to reject him. He saw it in his father´s eyes how broken he really was and how much he suffered under his wife´s allegations. Somehow he wanted to offer him at least a bit comfort this way.

His mother entered the kitchen with slow and shaky steps. She looked straight ahead, not even taking notice of her surroundings. Her hair was a mess and she was still dressed in her nightgown. The nightgown was already grubby, because she was wearing it for days now. His grandmother came over often to take care of her. Forcing her to shower and eat, trying to bring her back to sense.

She lost her mind, Sasuke thought and he didn´t even felt ashamed for thinking so. Because it was the truth.

She headed to the sink, filling a jar with water. She still took no notice neither of her son nor of her husband.

Fugaku still looked at her, with the pained expression, he had learned to hate on him. His father shouldn´t look this way. It was wrong. He was supposed to look strong and serious, not like the broken man he actually was.

"Mikoto!"

He had been so consumed in his own thoughts, that he hadn´t noticed the pill box in her hand and how she tried to swallow one after another. She couldn´t sleep without sleeping pills any longer but normally there were closed off from her. He had no idea how she got them without asking someone, but fact was she couldn´t estimate how much she could take anymore. She was a danger for herself.

Or maybe she want to kill herself, Another terrible thought, which let the blood froze in his veins.

"Don´t touch me!" Mikoto screamed, when Fugaku touched her shoulder lightly.

"What are you doing? You can´t take so much pills simultaneously." His father said calmy but he could tell how shaked the man was. "Give it to me. I´ll dose it for you correctly."

She pulled her hand, filled with the pills protectively, to her chest and stepped back. "Stay away from me you murder!"

"Give me the pills!"

"Get away from me! You´re the murder of my Itachi!" She screamed hysterical, her eyes wide open as if she wasn´t in her right mind.

"That´s enough! Give me the pills!" Fugaku shouted and Sasuke´s heart started to beat faster as he watched with horror in his eyes the scene in front of him.

"I don´t take commands from you! You childmurder! You killed your own son!"

His father moved forward and grabbed her wrist forcefully, twisting it that she opened her fist and the pills fell to the floor. Mikoto screamed like a animal and Sasuke restisted the urge to block his ears with his hands. When Fugaku let go of her, she fell to her knees and curled himself together on the ground and cried. A second later, Fugaku stormed out of the kitchen, leaving him alone with his frantic mother.

For the fiftieth day in a row, he felt helpless. Seeing his once so beautiful mother in this state teared his heart apart. Pulling his own shock and pain aside, he kneeled next to her and stroked her back, while he pushed down his own tears. And while she cried and cried, he wondered whether she had really tried to kill herself in front of them, or if it was just a mistake. Maybe she wanted to punish Fugaku for what she thought he did to their son.

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Everyone loved Itachi. Not only every single member of his clan but the whole village as well. It came so many people to his funeral, that Sasuke had wondered from where they all knew him or in what art of relationship their had to his deceased brother. It wondered him, had he always seen him more as a loner. Otherwise, he had been a genius, somone who gave anything to fulfill his obligations as a shinobi. He had done anything people expected him to do. He had been fantastic. So perfect in everything he did, that nobody could imagine that something could ever happen to him. The thought that someone could ever beat him, hurt him or worse kill him never crossed his mind. And seeing now, how devasted everyone was, it became clear no one did.

Fugaku had suggested Itachi for the dreadful mission, which should cost him his life. And Sasuke knew how guilty his father felt.

His brother´s death broke their parents and left them in deep sorrow. But how was he feeling about it.

Fifty days passed since then. Fifty days where so much changed for him that he found hardly the time to mourn about the loss of his older brother. Or maybe he wasn´t allowing himself to mourn.

After the hate and resentment his unstable mother handed out to her husband, Sasuke felt he was the only one who could keep them together somehow. Mikoto acted like insane and it scared him and his father was suffering silently, not only under Itachi´s death but under the blaming of his wife too. He felt so sorry for him.

As for Sasuke, he mostly thought all of this was just a bad dream. Sometimes he thought that his brother was just out on a long term mission and would return someday safe and sound. He was used that Itachi was never around, always busy with missions or clan meetings. So why should it be different now?

But then he came home and saw his mother´s hollow expression and his father´s silent suffering and he knew it was true. There was no older brother who would return home anymore.

Some days later his mother left their home too. She had another mental breakdown and was brought to the hospital. Maybe some distance to the Uchiha district was good for her. He just hoped she would get better soon.

But when he passed by their parents bedroom that night, he heard his father´s sobbing and he had the feeling as if his heart broke into pieces.

Fugaku used to be a proud man and it seemed that Itachi death changed everything and everyone. He wanted to comfort his father, be there for him. But he couldn´t bear to see him like that and so he ran back into his room, trying the whole night to block out those muffled sobs coming from the hallway.

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Sometimes he hated Itachi.

Not the art of resentment he holded towards him when he was younger and the older boy broke one of his promises. It was more bitterness he felt now. Resentment for being left behind. And hate for being put in Itachi´s place, a role which doesn´t belonged to him but he was forced to play now.

He was the Uchiha´s only heir now and the elders of his clan, especial his sadistic grandfather made sure he was prepared for it. The training was almost unbearable and the lessons he received in general knowledge were exacting too. His grandfather wanted to form him into the perfect heir and Sasuke gave his best to be fit for that role. He often wondered whether Itachi went through the same trainings drill. Probably not, he was too gifted.

Maybe this was one of the reasons he couldn´t think too often about his brother. He was too busy and found hardly a minute to do anything beside his education. The elders made sure of it.

How he wished that his father could take a part in his training and protect him from this terrible drill. But Fugaku had other things in his mind right now and he understood it.

"I don´t train a weakling but our futur leader!" His grandfather barked, voice echo inside the training dojo. "Get up!"

Sasuke fought himself back to his feet, his legs shaky and every muscle in his body ached. But he stood. Only to lie on the ground some moments later, after a aimed kick to his rips.

He saw the disappointment in his grandfather´s eyes and the man began to compare him constantly to his brother, he felt the anger raise inside him.

"If he is so great, why is he dead now?" Sasuke spat out, directly at his face. His voice filled with bitterness and hatred.

His grandfather slapped him so hard, that he tasted blood and almost lost his balance. Looking at the older man´s emotive expression, he realized that even he grieved about Itachi.

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Itachi Uchiha

Sasuke´s eyes were fixed on the engraved name on the naked, cold stone in front of him. His grave was placed in the middle of the Uchiha´s cemetery. He came often here, mostly to remember himself that his brother was indeed gone. He still wasn´t convinced whenever he left this place.

Imagine Itachi dead was something he just couldn´t, no matter how hard he tried it. As a child his brother was a hero for him. His role model, the most strongest shinobi on the entire world. And he wasn´t the only one who believed so. Alone the thought that someone was able to harm his brother was absurd.

Standing before his grave let him realize how wrong this was. Itachi was never supposed to lie here. Not at that young age. He was only eighteen years old when he died. He should live the life he was born to. Having a bright future as the Uchiha´s clan leader and as one of the greatest shinobi in Konohas history.

The boy couldn´t understand it. It felt as if the world was rotate in a different rhythm now. Or if the world just stopped moving at all. Alone the thought that life could continue without his brother was ridiculous.

His life was devasted too. Only two months ago he had trained for the coming chunin exams, had completed missions with his team and learned under his sensei. Now he was no member of team 7 anymore. He was the Uchiha´s precious heir and would live in a cage until he was deemed fit enough to take over his father´s role.

"Thanks to you the life we all knew belongs to the past." He said before turning around and leaving this sad place.

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Days passed and than weeks. His life didn´t become any less complicated. He trained most of the time and ate dinner with his father in the evening. Like all the time before, there was only silence between them. Fugaku wasn´t speaking of Itachi neither about Mikoto. And Sasuke didn´t ask. The last thing he wanted was to worsen his condition. Fugaku worked again, probably to distract himself and perhaps because the clan demanded it from him. But he spend every evening at home and Sasuke knew his presence could offer him at least a bit comfort.

Comfort was what he wanted to give his parents so badly, that he forgot his own pain.

On his only day off, he visited his mother in the hospital. She was doing better, even if she still wasn´t speaking and was still receiving sedatives. At least she managed to smile at him and it let him feel happy, even if it was just for brief moment.

"I wish father would come and visit her..." He told his grandmother after one of his visits.

"You know your mother can´t handle his presence yet."

"It´s not his fault. I´m sure they can made it together if they try..."

"Sasuke it´s not your place to care for your parents. They have to do it from alone and be there for you. Not the other way around."

He said nothing, just left the hospital. His parents were supposed to be there for him but they couldn´t do it right now. So it was his job to keep his family together. At least the rest of his family.

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"We used to come here all the time."

His cousin Shisui told him and his gaze wandered into the distance. His expression seemed thoughtful and he knew he was thinking of Itachi.

The Surrounding was amazing. The cliffs were the highest place in Konoha and you had the best view ever here. It was a beautiful place.

Sasuke followed his example. He looked at the present sunset, wondering why he took seldom time to admire such beauty more often. It let him feel as if nothing else matterd. That only the moment mattered.

"When we were kids, we used to hide here whenever Itachi wanted to escape your father´s trainings program." Shisui chuckled to himself. "He could be quite a brat at that time, you know."

He tried to imagine his brother as a mischievous child but he couldn´t. He only knew him as the dutiful and talented genius everyone saw in him.

"You should know, he wasn´t so perfect like anyone thought. He had his weaknesses like anyone else too."

"No he wasn´t." Sasuke agreed. Because otherwise he would still be alive. He added in his thoughts.

"He was my best friend. He was like my brother." Shisui continued. "That´s why I feel the same like you."

But honestly Sasuke didn´t knew what he really felt or what he was supposed to feel. But he liked listening to his cousin. He used to be so close to Itachi, that he got the feeling to learn more about him whenever he listened to Shisui. But it let him realize too, that there wasn´t the chance anymore to be his brother. That indeed Itachi´s presence in his life belonged to the past.

"But I meant never as much to him as you. You were the world to him. He spoke of you all the time. Of course you´re his precious baby brother. "

Suddenly he saw Itachi before his eyes. How he smiled, how he walked, could hear his soft voice in his ears. Sasuke´s chest hurt and his eyes stung. When he rubbed his eyes with his fist, his hand became wet and he understood that he missed his brother terrible.

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Itachi once told him that he loved to go on long term missions. That he loved to see the world outside and it gave him the feeling of freedom. A freedom he didn´t owned inside their clan. As the heir he was bound to great responsibilty. But being the genius he was, he was allowed to serve in Anbu beside his obligations as the heir. And he was allowed to leave the village on a regular basic.

Sasuke still knew how he had envied him at that time. Compared to Itachi, his world had been small and tight. He was just an academy brat and hardly left the Uchiha district, especial not the village. He had wished to live a life similar to his brother when he would be older.

Now his world would stay small and tight forever. After what happened to his brother, it was the main concern of the clan to keep him safe. He was the only left son of Fugaku and that meant he would live a life only for his clan. His mere existence belonged to the Uchiha.

"I never wanted this life for you." Fugaku told him one night, when he patched up Sasuke´s trainings injuries.

"I know..."

They were sitting on the porch, the dark night sky right above them. His father continued to wrap a cool bandage around his bruised fist. It used to be Mikoto´s job but she wasn´t the mother he once knew.

"How is your mother doing?" Fugaku asked after a long pause.

"She is doing better. You should visit her."

His father said nothing and he knew what the answer was anyway. He saw it in his eyes that he still feared Mikoto´s reaction, feared the blame she would put on him once again.

"It´s not your fault what happened to Itachi..."

Sasuke waited so desperately for an answer. That his father wasn´t blaming himself for it but the silence was enough for him to understand.

"I don´t blame you, so don´t blame yourself!" He said.

Suddenly Fugaku´s hand was placed on his head, ruffling through his dark hair the same way he used to do when he was little.

"Sasuke... My precious little Sasuke... What would I do without you now..."

Sasuke wanted to answer but before he could find the right words, his father stood up and headed inside.

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"If children who lost their parents are called orphans, how do you call parents who lost their child?" He asked his cousin one day, when they were sitting in the grass, talking about anything and nothing at the same time.

Shisui thought about it for a long moment. His questions were never catching him of guard or surprising him. He took the needed time to answer him roundly. This reminded him on Itachi. Maybe his cousin and brother were more similar than he ever thought before.

"There isn´t really a fitting word to call them. Maybe because parents are supposed to die before their children. It´s at least what the nature want. But I guess this don´t fit for us shinobi. Here can everyone die, no matter how old or talented..."

"Do you think parents can get over the loss of a child?"

"They will Sasuke. Someday they will. Even if the pain will probably stay forever."

But if the pain would stay forever, was it even possible to reunion as a family again? Or was the gap Itachi left just to big.

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He don´t know how many days and weeks passed when Mikoto was released from the hospital. She stood just on day in the door, when he returned from training and hugged him so fiercely that he was shocked for a short moment.

But then he felt the hope raise inside him. If she was here, it must mean they could be a family again. That she forgave Fugaku and that it was finally Sasuke´s turn to be weak. He had enough of being strong all the time.

She looked better, so much better now. Sure, she was skinny and pale and pain was still present in her eyes, but she was back to life and that was all what mattered.

"I´m sorry for leaving you on your own so much. I wasn´t myself. I´m so sorry Sasuke..." She said.

And he shook his head. "I understand mother. You don´t need to apologize. I´m alright."

No he wasn´t.

But he had to be alright all the time. And his mother was back now and this meant they could at least be a family again and things between his parents would be alright again. But her next words hit him so unexpected that he almost asumed he had heard her wrong.

"I´m here to pick you up. I´ve bought a small house on the edge of the district. We´ll live there from now onwards."

"But... But this is our home..."

She shook her head. "Not anymore. This place holds to many painful memories."

If the memories were the only reason he would accept to move into a new house, if it meant his mother would feel better, he would happily agree. But a terrible suspicion raised inside him.

"What is with father? Will he come with us?" He was scared of the answer.

Mikoto placed her hands on his shoulder. "Please understand Sasuke, I can´t forgive him for what he did. It´s better we go seperate ways now."

His heart broke once again. He fought the urge to cry as he stepped back.

"No..."

"Sasuke please..."

"I said no!" He yelled and stormed out of the house.

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"I can´t chose between you!" He yelled at his father, not understanding how they could demand this from him.

Fugaku stood with his back turned towards him. Even without looking in his face Sasuke knew how hard this was for him. He could imagine how it must pain him that Mikoto really left him. She did not forgave him for something he couldn´t be blamed for.

"No one is asking you to chose between us. We´re still your parents and we´ll care both for you. The only difference is that we won´t live under the same roof longer." His father eventually said.

"But why? I don´t get it. Is this all about Itachi?"

Finally Fugaku turned around and looked at him with these sad and tired eyes of his. Before all of this happened, his father´s expression was always strong and confident. His eyes always full with life. Now he was only a shadow of his old self. Sasuke realized that Fugaku was in his own way broken. Maybe even more broken as Mikoto, who began slowly to recover.

"Itachi´s death left a gap nothing can close again. The wound is still too much open. We all have our own way to cope with it. You´ll stay close to your mother. She needs you more than I do."

That´s not true, He thought but he said nothing. Instead he nodded. His parents chose this way and he wouldn´t make it for them harder as it already was.

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Itachi was never supposed to die.

The year before his death, Sasuke hardly interacted with his brother. He had just graduated from the academy and he was busy with training and missions. Itachi was either busy with clan business or went on long term missions, so he was sometimes away for weeks.

It was normal for him that his big brother wasn´t around him often. When they both grew up, a part of their earlier closeness disappeared. It hadn´t bothered him at that time. But it bothered him now, where he would never have the chance to be near his brother again.

For the first time since months he entered Itachi´s old room. It was probably a visit to say goodbye. It was his last night in his old home for him. Tomorrow he would move together with his mother into the new house.

Not sure what to do or how to react, he observed the room carefully. Nothing had changed here, it still was like Itachi would return home any second and all of this was just a dream. The room even smelled after his brother. Even the clothes he last wore, laid on the top of his bed.

He tried to fight the overwhelming memories but he saw him so clearly before his eyes that he practically ran out of the room.

The pictures never left him alone for that night.

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Time passed again. For a long time now, Sasuke gave up to count the days, weeks or months which passed. He grew taller and stronger, he mastered one jutsu after another and his life went on. But the feeling of emptiness and pain, he carried inside his heart,stayed day after day.

He wondered if death was supposed to hurt so much. If it was supposed to torment the bereaved so much. To leave people behind so devasted.

"Everyone will die some day." Shisui told him.

His cousin stepped more and more into the role of an older brother. Someone he could talk to about things he would never tell his parents or someone else. Someone who cared for him and tried to understand how he felt.

Sasuke was glad about it, but resented it at the same time. A part of him knew that they comforted eachother in a way. The other part told him Shisui was trying to step into the role which once belonged to his older brother. Another part felt guilty because it felt as if he was trying to forget him.

"He wasn´t. Itachi was never supposed to die."

"Everyone is supposed to die. Itachi was just so terrible young..."

"It´s not fair..."

"The shinobi life isn´t fair Sasuke. He died as a Konoha shinobi, he protected our village and our clan. This is something which can happen to all of us."

A shinobi died for his village.

A shinobi was what Sasuke was too.

If it was so natural that shinobi died on missions, why was everyone making such a big deal about Itachi´s death.

Because for them, Itachi hadn´t just been an ordinary shinobi. He had been their family. He had been his brother.

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The new house was smaller than the one he grew up in. It felt strange living here, almost as if he wasn´t really belonging here. This place holded no dear memories. It was hollow. Not like his old home, where saw his whole childhood before his eyes everytime he visited his father. Fugaku who was still living with the ghosts of the past.

Mikoto was better now. Still broken in her own way but she tried to be a mother for him again and tried to get over her son´s death in her own way. Losing a child was horrible and Sasuke knew she would never truly get over it.

When he returned one day from a long day with training, he found her sitting in the livingroom, flicking through old photo albums. Tears were present in her face but she quickly wiped them away, when she noticed him standing in the doorframe.

"Come here to me." She ushered him and he followed reluctantly.

Sitting next to her, his eyes wandered to the album in her lap. To the photos from his and Itachi´s early childhood. Sasuke couldn´t remember those days but he knew his family had been happy at that time.

"He was so excited about being a big brother." She pointed towards a picture, where a very small Itachi was holding a black haired bundle with red face. "It was taken shortly after you were born."

It was the moment where it became clear how close their bond really used to be. Itachi had been a part of his life, someone who was there, since the day he was born. The emptiness he felt everyday was the pain about the loss of his big brother.

"I can´t believe he won´t come back..." He said and regretted his words at once. He didn´t wanted to bother his mother, not when she was still on her way to recover.

"I know. I feel the same." She said, her expression so sad that it hurt just to look at her.

"You know, father is feeling the same as you. His pain is as real as yours."

He didn´t knew why he said it, maybe because he just couldn´t accept the fact that his parents seperated this way. The boy looked at his mother, praying for a reaction. A reaction where she wouldn´t put all the blame on Fugaku again.

"If a loved person dies, many things can change Sasuke."

"But he was your son. Something what should connect you both, not seperate you from eachother. Itachi would never wanted this!"

"Sometimes the destiny hurts you so much, you´ll not recover. Itachi´s death hit us too hard and our marriage couldn´t survive this."

His mother stood up and hurried out of the room. He stayed back all alone.

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Fugaku was getting better too. He took his obligations as clan head and police chief more serious again and was mostly absorbed in his work. It was probably a good distraction for him and it helped Sasuke not to constantly worry about his father.

Also Fugaku had overtook the lead of his training again and Sasuke was finally redeemed of his grandfather. At the same time he could spend time with his father, which meant a lot to him.

On some days, he visited him at home. At his old home. Nothing changed there. His room was still unchanged like Itachi´s was. As if Fugaku was still waiting of the return of his family. His brother couldn´t come home but he knew how much his father longed for his and Mikoto´s return. It let him despise his mother a bit, for not even giving their family another chance.

What really surprised him was the fact, that Fugaku obviously holded no grudge against his wife. He would always ask about her, inquire how she was doing.

Although his parents weren´t living together anymore, they were still married. He was smart enough to understand that they didn´t divorce out of consideration for the clans prestige. A divorced clan head was something, nobody would tolerate.

"Itachi and you, were always my whole pride and joy." Fugaku told him one afternoon, when they were sitting on the porch drinking tea together.

Sasuke said nothing, waiting for his father to continue, to say more so that he would get a insight in his feelings.

"I´m a shinobi, I fought in two wars. I´m familiar with death... But the death of your brother tore my heart to pieces. A part of me died together with him..."

He felt tears stinging into his eyes and he lowered his head when he said; "A part of our family died with him too."

The next thing he felt, were Fugaku´s strong arms when he pulled him into a firm embrace. Sasuke returned the hug, almost clinging his arms around his father´s neck when he cried silently into his shoulder.

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More months passed so quickly, that Sasuke almost not realized that his brother was almost a year gone. He tried to cope with his new everyday life, tried to become a good heir for his clan and to spend equally much time with his mother and father. Meanwhile he even tried to accept that his parents would not reconcile ever again. They were both living their own lifes now.

If work was helping Fugaku to distract himself, it helped Mikoto as well. She had opened a small cafe with some employees outside the Uchiha district. The money for it donated his grandparents. She was getting better with her new task, at least it helped her not to think constantly about Itachi.

Sometimes he caught her crying in the middle of the night. They always ended up hugging eachother, and Sasuke waited patiently for all her tears to dry up. They talked a lot about Itachi lately, remembering all those nice things about him and the lump in his chest became only bigger and bigger.

Sometimes he caught Fugaku sitting in his brother´s room. Holding one of his clothes or other belongings in his hand and staring straight into nothing. Sasuke would sit next to him and lean his head on his shoulder until his father would awake from his shock, until he came back to his senses. The lump in his chest became bigger.

When the lump became so big he had the feeling to choke and the pain in his heart was tormenting him terrible, Sasuke knew not why but his legs carried him almost automatically to the cemetery.

Standing before Itachi´s grave let him once and for all realize that his brother was irreversible gone. Death. Something from the past. Not even the flashbacks and memories he holded to dearly would change that.

He saw all this pictures of his older brother once again before his eyes. Remembering their childhood. A bond only they both had shared with eachother, because he had been his only sibling.

Itachi poking his forehead.

Itachi carry him piggyback.

Itachi teasing him until he would freak out.

Itachi comforting him after a nightmare.

Itachi teaching him how to throw shuriken.

Itachi telling him stories.

Itachi, his brother, who was dead and would forever leave this gap in his life.

And then the tears just fell. All the tears, he had tried to terrible to push down all those months, when he wanted to be strong for his parents. And he had repressed what his brother really meant to him. Now they were running down his cheeks. He sobbed heavily, letting all the pain out, he closed of inside him.

He fell to his knees, touching the cold and naked gravestone and said over and over the same words.

"I miss you!"

"I miss you!"

"I miss you!"

And he would miss him forever.

FIN

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