Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Naruto Shippuden. I do not own any characters, ideas, or any franchise that is clearly already owned by the producers of Naruto. Common sense, people.


It takes a strong man to force themselves to murder their entire family, torture their beloved brother, go under cover in an enemy organization that goes against all their ideals, endure hatred and fear, and pretend to be callous and indifferent for years on end without slipping into insanity. What if Itachi wasn't that man?

After so long undercover as a sadistic, genocidal psychopath, Itachi is losing himself. Is he the kind, loyal, peace-loving boy who hated war and loved his brother? Or is he really the crazy, murdering man who has no problem killing and only cares about his own life? Lately, he can't really tell…

Chapter Six: San [Three]

Far away, Itachi ran on the water, as fast as if he were running from his own demons chasing behind him. Kisame followed hot on his heels.

"So we just run away again?" Kisame demanded, not happy in the least. "We do a lot of that." This was the second time on this mission that Itachi denied him bloodshed. It didn't matter what circumstances it was; Itachi made the final call. It was a routine they were comfortable with. Itachi pulled them out, Itachi said no bloodshed, even in Konoha when they two of them could've taken every shinobi in the village.

"There's no rush for now. We'll get Naruto when the time is right," Itachi assured him, sounding nothing but confident. The quickest way to make people doubt you was to let them know you doubted yourself or the mission.

And Itachi didn't just doubt that mission–he'd just actively sabotaged it.

"Besides," he continued. "I thought it wise that we found somewhere to rest for a while, and recharge my powers."

Itachi hated admitting weakness but he couldn't help it. On top of Tsukuyomi, to have to use Amaterasu as well…it was more exhausting than I thought.

He didn't say it, but Kisame understood anyway, even if he wasn't happy about it.

Itachi deactivated the Sharingan and the rest of the run was quiet and uneventful. Itachi didn't allow himself to think about what had happened just then. He didn't have the time. He needed to rest up chakra so they could report to Pein and then he needed to find another excuse to get the hell out of Konoha.

Naruto was safe and Danzou had been warned. Naruto was being protected by a sannin and Sasuke was protected from Danzou and the village elders just a little longer. It was enough for Itachi. It was enough for now.

The Sharingan was not necessary for Itachi to use or sense chakra. It was times like these that he was glad for that. A darkness had settled over his vision, leeching everything of its color and very nearly its shape. He could hardly see where he was going. But the chakra…Itachi didn't need his useless eyes to sense chakra. Every living thing had chakra and all he had to do was sense for the chakra in the forest of trees to find his way.

It was like how he used to train blindfolded and had to dodge every attack. Others had called it an obsession with training back then; now, it was essential and without it he'd be dead.


While his chakra built back up, Itachi refused to sleep. If he closed his eyes, he would succumb to the torture that awaited him, the visions he'd shown Sasuke not twenty-four hours ago. He tried to put it off as long as he could. As if he deserved the right to peace of mind, after what he'd done.

Stop being a martyr, he scolded himself. It was necessary. It had to be done.

Kisame was definitely pissed at him. At first, Itachi thought Kisame would get over it since he understood that Itachi was weakened but it seemed Kisame had decided to blame Itachi anyway. Itachi eyed him to double check. Well, Kisame was definitely pissed but he hadn't said that he was pissed at Itachi, per se.

Itachi let his eyes drift closed, just for a moment.

He was surrounded in a red haze; the very same bloody nightmare he'd tortured Sasuke with. The streets, the skies, and even the moon were painted crimson. Bodies were strewn everywhere and Itachi watched, unable to move, a prisoner in his own body.

"You don't have enough hate," a malicious voice whispered in his ear. Itachi's eyes widened at a twisted version of his own face, looking startlingly similar to his father's. "Be angry, Itachi. Remember what they did to us, to our clan!"

Itachi jerked awake, eyes wide and darting around. Suddenly, the fire light was vivid and bright and he could see Kisame clearly across the campfire. His chest heaved. That…that was not what he'd shown Sasuke. He shivered just a bit, and pulled his body in tighter.

"What is it?" Kisame demanded grouchily. Itachi didn't answer at first. He was too busy discovering that he'd slept a whole hour by now.

"Nothing," Itachi rasped. It was a lie, but it was one Kisame let him keep. The shark-nin snorted and went back to ignoring him. Itachi didn't turn around to see what Kisame was doing. He tried to chase away the bitter aftertaste in his mouth. The dream was so wrong

For one, his father had never spoken those words to him. It was his mind parodying his torture of Sasuke because Itachi was, above all, a hypocrite.

Just your crazy head playing tricks on you, Itachi told himself. He should disregard it. Completely. If only he could forget…

Day came quickly, and Itachi felt strong enough to attempt the jutsu that would allow him to attend a meeting with Pein. He put it off for as long as he could, until Kisame said, rather irritated, "Are we doing this or not?"

With a quiet sigh, Itachi performed the necessary hand signs.

"Did you recover the jinchuuriki?" Pein asked first.

"No. We failed," Itachi said, speaking up. It was better if he spoke than Kisame. He could leave out details and mislead Pein easier, even if he risked being branded a traitor if things went south.

"Report," Pein ordered. Konan was with him, as always. However, it seemed that Sasori and Deidara were already dispatched because they were absent. Seeing as Hidan and Kakuzu were here, Deidara was a headache Itachi could do without.

"When we arrived at Konohagakure, the nine tailed jinchuuriki had already escaped the village. We had a small altercation with some jounin from the village–"

"Were any of them threats?"

Itachi considered carefully. What could he get away with? There was no escaping reporting Kakashi; the man was too prominent, too renowned a figure to ignore. Kakashi the Copy Ninja, one of the last Sharingan holders, Kakashi the son of Konoha's White Fang. Kakashi, the rumored child genius. That was unavoidable. But maybe he could discount Asuma and Kurenai, if he glossed over them.

"Kakashi Hatake was among the jounin," he finally answered.

"And a green beast," Kisame cut in, instead of staying silent as usual. "Who seemed to know an awful lot about the Sharingan. Or at least he thought he did."

Damn it. Itachi hadn't thought Kisame would hold that particular grudge. He added calmly, "Maito Gai."

Pein's eyes narrowed at the two of them and Itachi became worried. What had Pein noticed? Was it the mention of Kakashi? Did he know something about Gai? Or was it that Kisame had actually spoken and Itachi wouldn't have? Did he suspect him?

"Most of his information about the Sharingan is flawed as it was obtained through observation of Kakashi Hatake who is not a member of the Uchiha Clan," Itachi said. He made his voice sound condescending and disdainful. If he could throw them off, make them think that Gai was offensive only because of Itachi's Uchiha "pride", then he would.

"He seemed strong enough," Kisame put in and Itachi's eyes cut to him. Why wouldn't he let this go?

"Continue," Pein said. Itachi waited a beat for Kisame to speak, but when he didn't, Itachi continued.

"We pursued the jinchuuriki to a different town where we found him alone in a hotel room. I confess that I wanted to minimalize damage and refrain from creating a scene. Our operations already seemed to be compromised by the Konoha jounin," Itachi explained.

"Compromised?" Konan spoke up. "Compromised how?"

"Kakashi Hatake knew of Akatsuki and our objective before we entered the village," Itachi told them. Somehow, it felt like he was painting a huge target sign on Kakashi's back, but he couldn't stop. Not here. "It soon became clear that this information came from Master Jiraiya, the sannin, whom we encountered when we tried to capture–the jinchuuriki." Itachi had almost said 'Naruto' there. He was slipping up and Pein looked entirely unimpressed with the tale, especially by their failure.

"Jiraiya, you say?" Pein prompted. "Why was he present?"

"The jinchuuriki seemed to believe Master Jiraiya would train him," Itachi replied. Pein shifted now, head tilting and eyes meeting Konan's. Konan reacted similarly before both pairs of eyes were on Itachi again. Itachi glanced at Kisame, wondering if he would contradict him. This information hadn't been learned during the battle, after all, but by a contact Itachi had confronted alone.

"How did you escape Master Jiraiya?" Pein asked flatly.

"His immediate weakness seemed to be that he was easily distracted by women; a vice," Itachi said hesitantly. "We tried to use this to distract him while we captured the nine tails. He saw through it and nearly captured us in turn. The Amaterasu allowed the two of us to escape."

Zetsu made an interested noise in the background and Itachi internally cursed. Damn it. The plan was too flimsy. Surely, if he had been truly invested he wouldn't have used such an obvious plan. Did Zetsu see that? Could Pein tell that he'd used a distraction he hadn't wanted to succeed?

Which one of them reported to Madara?

"Did you injure him?" Pein demanded. "Did you bodily injure him?"

"No," Itachi admitted, shifting his stance a bit.

"Then, he is still a threat. Do not return for the nine tailed jinchuuriki," Pein ordered. "This is no longer your mission."

Itachi swallowed. Damn it all! Pein knew. Pein had to know. Why else remove them from the mission? Yes, it was wise to be weary of Jiraiya, but Pein's abruptness and sudden change in attitude obviously meant that he no longer trusted Itachi.

Where had Itachi messed up?

"Yes, Pein-sama," Itachi tried to keep his voice even.

"Dismissed." Pein disappeared first, brooking no argument. Konan regarded him silently for a few minutes afterwards before ending the jutsu and disappearing as well. Hidan laughed loudly from across the area and Itachi ended the jutsu. He had no desire to hear anything Hidan had to say. At all.

Kisame followed him soon after. Itachi could only presume that Zetsu left last, as always.

He leaves last because he watches all. He's Madara's spy.

But Itachi couldn't risk that. If it was Pein–or both of them–then Pein could take his new suspicions right to him. There was no doubt that Madara was having Itachi watched. That man trusted no shinobi, especially not an Uchiha.

Damn it…


Itachi wasn't paranoid, exactly. He was counting his blessings. For one, Pein had been so focused on his purposeful screw up with Jiraiya that Itachi completely glossed over Sasuke.

Sasuke could stay out of this just a little longer.

But Pein. Pein was a problem. If Pein really suspected him, then he had to be dealt with. 1) Itachi could regain his trust in some way or 2) Itachi would have to kill him.

Kill him. Killing him works better. Don't you want to tie up loose ends?

But how? Gaining his trust again meant Itachi had to go through another series of trials and missions without the slightest possibility of failure. It had been trying the first time around and with Itachi's deteriorating health, this time it might not be possible.

So kill him. Wipe the slate clean with his blood.

There was also Kisame to consider. He had to earn back Kisame's trust too. Kisame was starting to doubt him, at best. It wasn't good, especially since Itachi had to trust Kisame at his back for however many years it took to ensure Konoha's safety. And the way it was looking, Itachi would probably die before that happened.

How did Itachi gain Kisame's trust the first time? He hadn't actually done anything. They'd just gone on mission together and it happened naturally. Sad as it was, Kisame was actually one of Itachi's only true friends.

Is it true friendship if you plan to stab him in the back?

Itachi resolved that there was no way to gain Kisame's trust back. Kisame valued honesty above all, and Itachi was definitely not being honest. Before, he had never outright deceived him, but this was different.

So, kill him! He's a liability. Kill him now, quickly, in his sleep. Don't let him fight. Make it look like he was attacked when he went into town.

Itachi closed his eyes, trying to think.

Make it look like a former enemy, make it look like he was discovered as Akatsuki or an S-class criminal. It would be so easy.

Itachi shook his head. No, damn it! He wasn't killing Kisame. That would do more harm than good. Whether Pein suspected him or not, his partner suddenly dying when Itachi was on trial would definitely grab is attention. Itachi wanted to remain unnoticed–just a shinobi doing his missions.

"Hey," Kisame said, and yes, he was still very pissed off. "Go ahead without me. I'm going into town for…lunch."

Itachi stared at him blankly. "Lunch."

Kisame would probably kill someone today.

Itachi turned away from him, staring straight ahead. He wasn't going with him. Kisame left swiftly, offering no more words or explanations than his initial words. Itachi stared out at the town from the cliff he was standing on. From this height, he could clearly oversee the whole town.

He could save them. He could stop Kisame from killing them. It would be so easy for him. No one needed to die today. He could stop it.

You can't save anyone. None of them deserve saving. Itachi wanted to mourn. He wanted to feel sadness for them. Just because they aren't shinobi doesn't mean they're innocent. That was true. They're all probably as corrupt as the criminals they let walk among them. They don't deserve to live. Kill them! Kill them now!

Itachi's hand was clutched tightly on the handle of his kunai. It was all probably true.

Before they hurt someone who is innocent.

His feet were propelled into motion before he could stop them.


Itachi gasped in a breath, shutting his eyes. Damn it.

He just had to–focus. If he focused, he could complete his mission. First, he needed to deal with Pein. Pein was the biggest threat here. So, he traveled to the very edges of the town Kisame was probably massacring people in, and sent a messenger raven to his nearby contacts.

If he was going to fight Pein, first he had to figure out who the hell Pein was.

A/N: Sorry I took so long to update this one. Things have been going crazy with school and whatnot, so I might get delayed like this in the future, too.

Anyway, this is the last of the three part trilogy. It should probably even back out to loosely related one shots now.

Thank you to everyone for their support. I appreciate all of the favorites and my few reviews. And thank you very much for reading! Review and tell me what you think.