Disclaimer: Not mine
Hiruzen looked up as a cloaked figure dropped to one knee before him, their face concealed from the surrounding Anbu. He sighed and then inhaled deeply from his pipe before dismissing them, this was a meeting to be had in private. "You have a report?" he asked, and the kneeling figure pushed back their hood to reveal long black hair tied back in a low tail and pale skin.
"Akatsuki has begun to seek out the jinchūriki, so far they are avoiding those with close ties to the Villages."
"Seeking to remain hidden?" he asked, and the younger man nodded.
"They are not yet ready to be revealed. Though, there is talk of perhaps targeting Naruto-kun soon, with the chūnin exams to be held in Konoha, infiltration would be easier."
"I see," Hiruzen sat back, feeling tired.
That was always a risk with the exams, too many people in and out for the Village to be fully secure. Jiraiya was also hunting for more information on the group, because while Itachi was their spy, it wasn't always possible for him to send a report in time. The best time to get spies into another Village was when they were hosting the exams, everyone knew that, but it wasn't usually to target their Jinchūriki. There was no real way to increase security though, not with it already heightened for the exams. If Kakashi didn't enter the team then he could send them out of the Village, a long-term courier mission perhaps? Would it be easier to protect them within the Village or by having them absent and therefore harder to find? But if found, Kakashi was powerful himself, but against at least two S-ranked missing-nin and with a team to defend?
"Is my brother on his team, Hokage-sama?"
"He is, Kakashi is their sensei. From all reports, they are a very good team. Their third is a girl from a civilian clan, but Sasuke sponsored her in the Academy when her parents tried to remove her."
His brother had what? That had not been in any of the status reports he'd been sent, then again, that could be risky information to reveal. It was…good though, surely that meant he was tied to the Village. He had wanted his brother to hate him and love Konoha, it seemed the plan had worked. He had feared his brother would never again be happy, but the glimpse he'd caught earlier seemed to prove he'd been wrong.
"Have you seen him?" Sandaime-sama asked, and Itachi paused before nodding slightly.
"He seemed happy." Itachi hesitated but it was why he'd come. "Rumours are spreading of Danzō's death."
"It's true," the Hokage nodded.
He was really dead then, not something Itachi had expected or planned for. It didn't change anything as far as he was concerned, but did it change things for Sasuke?
Kakashi watched the kids train, seeing the way Sasuke was lagging a little. It wasn't incredibly obvious, but he'd been keeping a close eye on them since taking them on and was slowly picking up on their tells. He doubted anyone else could tell, the other two covered for him very smoothly. They always worked so hard, it wasn't a bad idea to take it slower now and then, so he lowered the days' training.
"Naruto, stay a moment," he called once they were done, and thankfully the blonde stayed behind.
"Is Sasuke alright?" he asked, seeing Naruto blink at him in surprise. "You've been my team for a few months Naruto. You're all very good at hiding things, but you've still got tells. Sasuke seemed…drained."
Naruto hesitated before running a hand through his hair, the spikes swaying wildly. "Nightmares," he finally muttered.
"Bad?" Kakashi asked carefully.
Naruto snorted. "His family were massacred, what do you think?"
"Ah." Good point. Maybe he should book Sasuke in for a mental evaluation, he was doing better but professional help was meant to be good for you.
"He's fine, just tired. We woke him up before they got really bad and Sakura shoved one of those sleeping teas down his throat. We all get nightmares," he shrugged.
That was true, he doubted there was a shinobi anywhere with any sanity left who didn't get nightmares. But even Sakura? He would have thought after her first kill, they hadn't really been in any dangerous situations yet, unless you counted death by cat. That made him wonder…just how bad her parents had been once she'd shown she was serious about becoming a ninja, it was the only reason he could think of. Naruto having nightmares wasn't really surprising, not with his childhood.
Sasuke looked at them and they nodded so he slipped out of the house, heading for where he could sense the familiar presence. It was risky, but he wanted his brother back, even if he couldn't come home yet. He felt a shadow clone form, henging into his appearance, even with them being at human and hidden behind seals. He moved towards where Itachi was hidden, sensing his frustration at the seals, smirking slightly.
He landed lightly on the branch behind his brother. "Niisan," he called softly.
Itachi spun in shock at the sound of the familiar voice, older than the last he'd heard it but still very recognisable. Standing on the branch, was Sasuke. But how? He'd been so careful to ensure no one would sense him, he couldn't be caught in the Village. He wasn't ready for Sasuke to confront him…but there was something off…no anger or hatred in the dark eyes that stared at him. Had he not done enough to make Sasuke hate him? He didn't want to have to torture him again, he didn't.
"It's okay Itachi," Sasuke told him, and Itachi watched in horror as Sasuke activated a fully mature Sharingan only for it to change to the Mangekyo Sharingan.
Before he could do anything, he was caught in the genjutsu.
Sasuke saw the horror in his brother's eyes and felt bad for causing it. Itachi had no reason to think he would have the Mangekyo, he was meant to have been safe in Konoha after all. Though, technically seeing his parents die could have been enough to activate it. Good thing he didn't realise Sasuke had the eternal version, how, not even Naruto and Sakura could work out. His physical eyes, which had technically been Itachi's, could not have come back with him. Yes, Sakura's seal was there, though de-powered, but eyes? It seemed Naruto's Seal had been a lot more complex than even Naruto had realised, could it have sent them further back if his eyes and her seal hadn't come back too?
He waited for Itachi to see the horrors Akatsuki would bring on the world, his own death and then resurrection with the Edo Tensei, fighting together against Kabuto…Sasuke's death and meeting the Sage, Kaguya, the end of the war…the brief peace, and then the world ending, Edo Tensei being used again to bring back those powerful or smart enough to maybe find a solution…all the death until it was just the four of them, then their leaving. Itachi had not been one of those they had planned to bring back, smart in a different way to what the Kage's were looking for…but Orochimaru had claimed there had been a mix up in the samples, something Sasuke hadn't believe. Despite the fact that Sasuke had killed him, the Sannin had seemed almost…protective of him which had been weird after the years planning to take his body.
Was it cruel to make Itachi watch all of that? Maybe, but Sasuke wasn't doing it to be cruel. His brother was stubborn, all Uchiha were, he had to be shown that his way wasn't going to work. Akatsuki could not be allowed to get their hands on even one of the bijū.
Itachi blinked and then stared at him.
Itachi could do nothing as he watched events unfold. It was an illusion, he knew that, but how could Sasuke create one so detailed? Seeing his brother twisted by Orochimaru…his own death and what it had driven Sasuke to…how could Sasuke know any of it? Seeing him with adult versions of his teammates, missing an arm and with a Rinnegan! Time travel…it was insane and yet…his mind spun with too much information even as he felt the technique end.
He blinked, finding he was still in the tree, unharmed, Sasuke hadn't taken advantage of his complete vulnerability then. Sasuke's eyes remained the Mangekyo…or eternal? But then they faded to their natural darkness, eyes too old for the body they were in and…weren't quite the shade he remembered. As if they weren't Sasuke's eyes…but how could they be his when he definitely still had his own.
"Sasuke," he swallowed. He didn't know what to think, what to believe, and that was very rare for him.
"Do you understand?" Sasuke asked softly.
"Time travel is impossible."
"Never underestimate an Uzumaki," his brother shrugged slightly, lips moving into the ghost of a smile. He took a step and Itachi stayed still, not sure what his brother was doing, almost flinching when a small hand touched his face. "You're warm," Sasuke whispered, voice trembling.
Why wouldn't he be warm? Ah, the last time Sasuke would remember touching him would have been when he was brought back from the dead…did those bodies feel dead? And yet the illusion had shown Sasuke and Naruto touching him. That his death had been used to turn Sasuke against Konoha, that had never been what he wanted for his brother. Had he done the wrong thing? Not in killing the clan but in how he tried to break their bond. So, it appeared he believed what he'd seen, no matter how insane it had been.
If it was true, then Akatsuki had to be stopped as soon as possible. And the current 'real' leader wasn't Madara but Obito. Itachi had some very vague memories of a boy, somewhat an outcast in the clan, and then the fallout of his death with Kakashi returning with a Sharingan. He'd learnt a little more of him from Kakashi while part of his team, but he very rarely spoke of his dead teammate. He had been saved in the future, only to die in battle protecting Naruto and Sasuke.
Naruto fought the urge to pace, everything felt calm so it had to be going well, right? Sakura leant against his side and he breathed in deeply, taking in her calming scent. He hated having to sit around and wait, but he also trusted Sasuke to do whatever he had to, to come back and hopefully with Itachi on their side. Sakura was itching to get a look at him, to finally work out what disease he had and hopefully cure him or begin researching a cure.
With Itachi on their side things would be easier. He could be their eyes and ear in Akatsuki since the Sandaime would surely never clear his name with how involved, even if only after the fact, he'd been. Sometimes he wished he could forget all of the bad or questionable things he'd learned and go back to when he'd thought of Sarutobi as the closest he had to family.
And then he grinned as two familiar signatures headed for the compound.
Itachi stared at the ceiling, not quite sure how he'd gotten where he was, lying on a futon in what had once been his bedroom, a genin leaning over him with green glowing hands. Kisame would think he was insane for letting a child work on him, but Sakura had been Tsunade's apprentice in the future, had surpassed her teacher even. If anyone could heal him, it would be her. And while he wasn't interested in being healed for himself, for Sasuke he would do it.
Seeing it all, he understood why they hadn't gone to the Hokage, so many of his decisions had made things worse eventually. They had been the ones to kill Danzō, poison mimicking a heart attack. He hadn't known about all of the Sharingan the man held, only Shisui's. He still missed the older Uchiha, things would have been better if he had been the one to live.
Kakashi was relieved to find Sasuke back to his normal self, the nightmares must have passed and let him catch up on his sleep. That was good. The chūnin exams were coming up in a few months and according to the normal rotation, they'd be in Konoha. It could be a good learning experience for them, though they might even pass. They had the bare minimum missions to be put forward, but it'd look better if they had more. And maybe some combat experience beyond sparing as well.
All three looked at him, waiting, and he smirked beneath his mask.
"Feel up to another C-rank?" he asked, chuckling at their excitement.
The timing was perfect! Of course, there was still no guarantee they'd be given the Wave mission, there had been other C-ranks available at the same time after all. But given the mission brief, Sakura thought they had a good chance. If Kakashi was thinking of entering them in the exams then they needed actual combat experience and bandits were a good place to start.
Gaara watched everyone and everything, using his sand to spy. It was strange, to have memories of a time that hadn't come yet, to no longer have a voice demanding blood in his head. But Shukaku was not his mother and was now quiet, because of their new seal and what they had seen. The Ichibi had no desire to end up sealed in the statue to become part of the Jūbi again, and Gaara didn't blame him for feeling that way.
His siblings were wary of how he'd changed in such a short time, Kankurō more than Temari. She seemed happy to have him less murderous, reaching out, and he wanted to reach back but it was hard knowing how, what to do.
It was being kept very quiet, but he had managed to find talk of the upcoming chūnin exams in Konoha…and a meeting with Orochimaru. It would be good to see Naruto but he would not be a weapon for Suna, not anymore. He was more than the biju he contained, even if his father refused to see it. No, if it came to a fight then he would fight for Konoha and ensure his siblings were safe.
If Kisame didn't know Itachi as well as he did, he wouldn't have noticed anything. But he did know his partner, they had bonded over their pasts with their villages. Something had changed while they had been apart, but Itachi hadn't said anything. He seemed…lighter somehow, like a burden had been taken from him, but what could it be?
Short but Wave will get its own chapter. Hope you liked the brotherly reunion. There was no way Sasuke wasn't going to get his brother back on their side at the first opportunity.