Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Both younger and older siblings have many trials they must face. While Itachi loved being a big brother, sometimes he wished there had been someone older than him to take a load of his shoulders. Sasuke, who also wouldn't ever want to reject his position in the sibling hierarchy, did sometimes wish that there was a little less to deal with as the younger.
Younger Brother – Comparison.
Sasuke was used to hearing his parents – scratch that, the entire village – sing Itachi's praises. After all he was a talented Shinobi with exceptional skill and, from what Sasuke had heard from squealing fans, absolutely gorgeous. Sasuke had nothing against his older brother being congratulated on a mission accomplished or the villagers' remarks that Itachi was a perfect role model. What he couldn't take was the comparison.
One day, as he had been walking to the academy, Sasuke had run into one of his aunts. He stopped to talk to her and his aunt had casually stated that by Sasuke's age Itachi had already awakened his Sharingan. The comment meant little to Sasuke at first but then….she had looked directly at him as if to say,
'Where is your Sharingan?' She had then proceeded to ask how Sasuke was finding the Academy, how he was faring in his classes, greeting every reply from Sasuke with a comment of what Itachi had been doing.
"We often practice throwing shuriken-"
"Oh, Itachi was very skilled in that and since he had already mastered it he practiced his sword technique while the other children were having a shuriken lesson."
"I perfected the Fireball Jutsu-"
"Itachi was mastering his change in chakra nature at your age; he'd long since accomplished the Fire Style techniques."
"I can hit 98% of the kunai I throw dead on the bull's-eye-"
"Itachi had 100% in that class."
'Of course he did,' Sasuke had thought sourly and quickly made the excuse that he would be late for class and hurried off to the Academy. On that day Sasuke had thought he would only have to endure his Clan's reminiscence of Itachi's flawless activities at his age but even at school he was being compared. There were a few older teachers who had taught Itachi during his Academy days. Luckily Iruka, Sasuke's Sensei, was not one of them. However that did not stop Sasuke from overhearing conversations from other teachers.
They weren't exactly subtle. After lessons or during a lunch break, the teachers would mill about in the corridors for a little while. Sasuke had been walking down one such corridor and couldn't help but hear his name mentioned. It was impossible to ignore; he had to know what they were saying about him! Casually, Sasuke had slowed his walk a little so he could hear a little more of the conversation between Iruka Sensei and Ebisu Sensei.
"…is in your class, right?" Ebisu was saying.
"Yes, Sasuke's in my class. Why do you ask?" Iruka replied.
"I'm just wondering: Itachi was already a Genin by Sasuke's age, no? Do you think Sasuke is going to be ready for Genin status soon as well? We need to know how many are taking the graduation test by next Friday." Sasuke's eyes narrowed. More people talking about him and Itachi? He slowed down a little more, blending in with the crowd of students so as not to get spotted.
"I haven't really decided yet. Itachi may be one of those once in a century prodigies, you know? I don't think it is right to put that kind of pressure on Sasuke just so he can follow in his brother's footsteps…"
At the age of eight, Sasuke wasn't sure how exactly to take this. Was Iruka Sensei showing compassion and just trying to help Sasuke out by keeping him in the Academy for a while longer? Or was it because he thought Sasuke came nowhere close to Itachi in their capabilities? Sasuke felt inferior, so inferior right then. He chewed angrily on his lip, stewing on everything that had been said to him that day.
It wasn't at all unusual for people to make comparisons between him and Itachi. Off-hand things about how they looked so much alike were commonly brought up and it was even becoming regular for Sasuke to get some sort of comparison to his brother on a daily basis. And every time it was to rub Itachi's undying perfection in his face.
Sasuke managed to get through the rest of the day at the Academy without any more overheard conversations about him and Itachi. By the end of the day Sasuke was feeling a lot better about everything and stayed behind a while to practice his kunai handling skills.
When he got home, a little later than normal, Sasuke was hoping he could have peaceful evening, maybe spend some time with Itachi. Even though Sasuke hated being compared to his big brother it didn't mean he hated Itachi. In fact Sasuke adored him.
However it seemed his parents were determined to compare the two. Sasuke's Mother, Mikoto, was going through some of Itachi's old clothes, checking to see if anything would be suitable for Sasuke. Sasuke offered to help, seeing as he had no homework to do, but Mikoto waved him away. As Sasuke returned to his bedroom, he heard his mother utter under her breath,
"Itachi was so much taller than Sasuke at his age. Hardly any of these clothes will be any good just yet…"
It was a statement, it didn't really mean anything. In all actuality Itachi had been taller than Sasuke was at eight years old. Sasuke had always been a bit smaller. It was fact. That's what Sasuke tried to tell himself as he silently bristled at the comment. He quickly got over it, engrossing himself in a book he had found at the library until Itachi and his Father, Fugaku, returned home.
Sasuke had been so into the book he was reading he hardly heard the front door open and his Father and brother walking in.
Fugaku was often absent-minded, constantly thinking about missions, Itachi, the Clan's future and a whole host of other things. He did manage to notice that Sasuke, who would usually come to greet him when he returned home, had not appeared. He made a quick stop to Sasuke's room to check he was okay and openly scoffed at the sight before him, snapping Sasuke out of his reading daze.
"What on earth are you doing with that?" he asked, nodding his head towards the book clasped in Sasuke's hand. Sasuke wondered if that was the question Fugaku had meant to ask; most of the time, if not all of it, the answer to that question in reference to a book would be 'reading'. Sasuke was saved from having to rummage for an answer that wouldn't seem like back-chat when Fugaku spoke again.
"Books are not the best thing to focus your attention on, Sasuke. If you must read, don't waste time on fictional works, read something of the non-fiction variety, something where you actually gain valuable knowledge by the end of it. Think about your brother, for instance. He doesn't do a great deal of reading and what he does read are dedicated to educating people. That is why he is such a talented Shinobi," Fugaku finished and left Sasuke, going to change out of his gear and into something cleaner.
Sasuke looked at the book in his hands. It was a fictional book, actually intended for a slightly older audience than himself (he had snuck it out of the 'teen' section, after all. He guessed it was rated for older people because of the excessive amount of blood) and Sasuke had been enjoying every word of it.
Now…he wasn't sure if he could finish it. Dark thoughts began to cloud Sasuke's mind. Perhaps the reason he and Itachi were compared so much was because that, really, everyone wanted him to just be another Itachi? Was that what he was supposed to be? An Itachi-clone? Mikoto called everyone down for dinner and Sasuke, with a heavy heart, trailed downstairs to eat with his family.
It was a quiet meal, both Itachi and Fugaku tired from their missions, Mikoto busy thinking about her own mission tomorrow and Sasuke too glum to talk much. He helped to clear up from dinner and went straight to bed, still feeling blue.
After about an hour, Sasuke heard someone knock on his door. He had been lying awake, trying to get interested in a book about how weapons were crafted but it just wasn't working for him. Glad for the distraction, Sasuke marked his page and bid whoever it was to come in. He was a little shocked when his older brother, Itachi, entered. Sasuke had expected him to retire early as well, as he was clearly exhausted from whatever he had been doing that day.
"Sorry, you weren't asleep, were you?" Sasuke shook his head and Itachi, closing the door behind him, walked into Sasuke's room and sat on the bed with him. "What are you reading?" Itachi asked and picked up the book, reading the title and smirking to himself. "Weapons craft? Really? You like reading this?"
"No, not really," Sasuke answered truthfully. It was the most boring piece of text he had ever read but Sasuke chose not to elaborate to Itachi on that.
"I've tried reading it before and I hardly got two pages in when I gave up. I'm impressed you've got this far," Itachi said, tapping the bookmark. Sasuke was probably less than a sixteenth of the way through but Itachi did seem genuinely impressed. Normally Sasuke would have been pleased to hear this but with his current misery he just shrugged.
"Sasuke, you seem sad today. I just wanted to check that everything was alright?" Itachi asked, setting the book back on Sasuke's blue duvet. Sasuke nodded, not meeting Itachi's eyes. How could he talk to his brother about how he hated being compared to him? Surely that would be taken as a slight on Itachi's behalf.
Itachi sighed and reached down, gently lifting Sasuke's chin so they were looking at each other. "Okay, now say that everything is fine while looking me in the eye, and then I'll believe you." Sasuke couldn't do it. He could never lie to Itachi, not while looking him straight in the eye.
So he resigned to shaking his head, or moving his from side to side as much as he could with Itachi still holding up his face. "So you are unhappy. Want to talk about it?" No, Sasuke did not want to talk about it. But he knew Itachi would not be content until he got an answer, and would probably try to coax the answer out of him all night if he had to.
"It's just…everyone always compares me to you. They say how you were much better than me at my age, and I should be more like you." Itachi had let go out Sasuke as he was willing to look at him of his own volition now and he remained expressionless as Sasuke told him. Sasuke thought he saw a spark of something in his eyes for a moment but it lasted less than a second, like a shooting star streaking across the sky.
"Hold on now, Sasuke. I was never better than you at any age. Never have been and never will be." Sasuke cocked his head, confused. Of course Itachi was better than him. He always had been.
"What? But you are-"
"No, I'm not. I will never be better than you. When people are telling you about what I was doing when I was eight, do you know what they're really saying, even if they do not realise it?" Itachi didn't wait for a response. "They are saying that I am different to you. I was doing different things than you were when I was eight, but it doesn't mean I'm better. And you know something else? I would never, ever want you to be just like me."
"Really?" In Sasuke's young mind, a world filled with people who were as strong and caring as Itachi sounded like the perfect world.
Itachi nodded, laughing a little at Sasuke's surprised question.
"Yes, really. Can you imagine what the world would be like if it was filled with only one type of person? It would be as boring as this book!" Itachi said, thwacking the innocent book partly for emphasis and partly out of hatred for it. "It's our differences that make us special and what draws others to us."
"So it's better for me to keep being me?"
"Exactly. Whenever someone starts comparing us, remember that two people can never really be compared and that your differences, be they bad or good, are what you use to become a great Shinobi." Sasuke smiled, feeling almost as if every bad thing that had happened that day had never took place. He hugged Itachi, happy that his brother cared about him enough to cheer him up in times like this.
"By the way Sasuke, were you reading that book to try and be more like me?" Itachi spoke into Sasuke's soft black hair, who nodded a little hesitantly. "You shouldn't read it; it's terrible and hardly any use at all. I don't care what Father thinks – if I need to quickly make a weapon I'll improvise."
Sasuke laughed quietly, for it was rare to hear Itachi carelessly slur their father in such a way. Itachi stayed with Sasuke for a little longer and then left with the excuse that he needed a shower and to get some sleep himself. As Sasuke slept, Itachi pondered on what Sasuke had said and sincerely hoped that Sasuke would never have to become exactly like him. Sasuke did not deserve such a fate. His little brother was absolutely perfect as himself.
Welcome to anyone reading this for the first time and welcome back to anyone who is revisiting. This story is about a different fate that befalls the brothers. I hope you enjoy reading and I'd love to hear what you think.
Thanks for reading,