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Come Dawning Light

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“A voice in your head either means you are dipping a toe into insanity

or you are blessed with the only thing that will keep you sane.”

 

 


Red. All he could see was red, like Itachi’s eyes. Like the blood on Itachi’s blade. Like the night sky that was dyed by his clan’s life. Itachi cut mother down, again and again, and he screamed until his throat was raw. Mother’s lifeless eyes looked at him, and all of a sudden the world around him morphed into blurry lines, like his vision couldn’t keep up with the speed of what was going on.

 

Something weighed at the back of his mind, so unfamiliar that his thoughts went numb and nothing registered.

 

Gued arai kun?

 

He looked around as it happened all over again, watching the event unfolded as the tape played on. His cousin’s chill scream reached his ears, and Sasuke slapped both hands over the side of his head in a pathetic attempt to block it out. He could remember how it went by now—could recite the exact order in which Itachi went about killing them. He started with beheading Aunt Miko, went on to stab Niece Saori in the gut, rounded the storage at the end of the street to Uncle Sakurada’s house, and then dragged his pregnant wife out of hiding to kill them both in front of the genkan. Sasuke knew the order. He didn’t need to go through it again, but the sound pierced through his palms anyway.

 

And so he screamed, too, hoping that his own voice would drown out the dying voices of others.

 

Tammai kayab mai dai? Rong tammai?

 

The strange thought that bubbled from the cloud of panic and fear almost went to deaf ears. Sasuke’s thoughts collided with each other into a jumbled mess that couldn't be understood. But those words terrified Sasuke even more.

 

He couldn’t understand his own thoughts. He couldn’t understand what they meant. Was Itachi messing with his mind so much that he couldn’t think?

 

"Okaa-san…Otou-san…Nii-san, why?" He whimpered despite knowing that the corpses at his feet were not going to rise up to smile or scold him like they used to.

 

Pasa yipun.

 

Another body dropped in front of him. Their head rolled over to the tip of Sasuke’s feet. Aunt Asako’s bloody face stared back at him. Itachi threw the rest of her body to join her head.

 

Sasuke didn't want to look. He didn’t want to watch any longer, but what he wanted wasn’t what his body did. He continued to stare at the severed head, the memory of Aunt Asako’s blown wide eyes engraved into his memory, printed over memories of her dimpled smiles and gentle brows.

 

"No! Nonono, no more!"

 

He curled in on himself, tucking his knees close and trying to bury his head in them. His hands that still cupped over his ears trembled.

 

Ya kao ma!

 

A high-pitched voice in his head screamed meaningless words. He didn’t know if it was screaming at him, at Itachi, or at the bloody scenes around him. He didn’t care because his brother was standing over his family’s dead bodies with his blade catching moonlight in red glow.

 

Sasuke squeezed his eyes shut as another gut-wrenching sound of blade piercing skin started anew. No, he had enough. Why did he have to watch? Why was Itachi prolonging killing him? All he saw was red. All he heard were screams. He wanted to stop seeing, stop hearing.

 

Something warm splattered onto his cheeks. Another body fell to the wooden floor, limp. And the next thing he saw was darkness.

 

He welcomed it with opened arms.

 

Ya lab na!

 

 

{————————————————————}

 

 

Consciousness came slow and steady, like small waves that reached the shore in rhythm, brushing by and retreating experimentally. His eyelids were heavy, and his limbs even heavier. Coming to the surface feels like fighting against an enemy that pushed gravity onto his very bones, but eventually, after floating in and out of consciousness, Sasuke managed to crack his eyes open.

 

Everything was out of focus for a while, a blur of white and some blue, but he immediately knew where he was. The antiseptic smell was so distinct even to him who rarely ever went to a doctor. He was at a hospital.

 

Why am I here?

 

He thought languishly, looking left and right as the world came into sharpness. He stared at the white ceiling and saw red. Memories from before came rushing at him like a wild flood as his body involuntarily shivered.

 

Father and mother were gone. Itachi killed them.

 

‘Foolish otouto.’

 

Bloodbloodblood, so much red, Aunt Asako lifeless body, cousin Shingen’s blown-wide eyes.

 

‘...test my strength.’

 

His chest constricted into itself as strangled noises escaped from the depth of his chest. Flashes of memory that he tried not to linger on for too long, lest remembering the gruesome details, rushed by in his mind. Mother and father was gone, along with his uncles, aunts, nieces, and everyone that he held dear.

 

His clan was gone. All of them. Everyone whom he shared blood with were gone. How come he was still alive? Why didn't Itachi send him with them?

 

‘...you are not worth-’

 

Sasuke quickly slammed the door to his memory shut. Right.

 

He felt lonely, like there was no place for him is this wide world, which was a strangely taxing feeling. He had never felt lonely. He hadn’t had friends, but he’d had his clan, Shisui-nii, Itachi-ni–Itachi. Just Itachi now. As of today, he had no one. It was too much for him to comprehend.

 

...lo

 

...ello

 

…hello

 

Sasuke snapped out of his thoughts and looked around. A nurse probably noticed that he was awake and came to check. Except there was no nurse. In fact, there was no one in the room.

 

What.

 

Oh good, it seems like you can hear me. The same voice said again.

 

The door to his room opened, and the nurse stopped in her tracks when she saw Sasuke sitting up on the bed, awake. With quick steps, she approached him, picked up the clip board next to his bed to quickly jot words down, and said something.

 

“Hello, Uchiha-sama. How are you feeling? You have been unconscious for quite a while. I'll notify your doct—”

 

Uchiha-san, you are holding your breath. The voice observed.

 

Sasuke went stiff. He watched the nurse’s lips intently, but her mouth didn't match the words that he heard. The woman’s voice turned into a dull background noise as another tugging voice called him again. Sasuke couldn’t hear what the nurse said anymore, too occupied by the other voice that sounded much closer to his ear, like he was listening to his own voice.

 

He might have nodded blindly at whatever the nurse was saying, because she gave him a soft, sympathetic smile and walked away.

 

The room was quiet for a short moment, and Sasuke finally let out his breath that he had been holding the whole time the nurse was talking.

 

Uchiha-san. Please don’t panic.

 

The voice came back, and Sasuke was starting to doubt his sanity. Why was he hearing a voice that didn’t belong to him? He must be delusional. Did this mean Itachi broke him?

 

You're not delusional...nor broken.

 

He almost scoffed. Oh good, the delusion can hear his thoughts and was telling him he wasn't delusional. Not insane at all.

 

I'm not a delusion, Uchiha-san.

 

Then what are you, Sasuke rolled his eyes, annoyed at the unknown voice that was trying to convince him into believing its nonexistent existence. He wasn't expecting an answer. Again, a proof that it could hear his thoughts was thrown at his face when it replied.

 

I'm...I suppose I'm a, uh, living consciousness.

 

A living consciousness. Sasuke pondered on the words, can his mind talk to him with words that he didn’t know?

 

Livin–ah, sentient consciousness. Sentient was the word I was looking for. Excuse me, Uchiha-san, Japanese is not my native tongue.

 

His imagination was so creative. Or Itachi's long-term genjutsu was being creative.

 

Right, how could he forget? Itachi could make him watch that hell a hundred times over. He sure can make him go crazy with a delusional genjutsu. This was his plan, and Sasuke was absolutely not going along with whatever this voice was trying to say.

 

I–Uchiha-san, I wasn't sure what a genjutsu is, but I'm pretty sure I'm not it.

 

"Like Itachi would have his technique admit to being a genjutsu," he muttered under his breath.

 

The voice made a strangling noise that came out like a frustrated kettle whistle.

 

I’ll have you know I take offense being associated with a murderer.

 

Before Sasuke could retort with even more sarcasm, a man in a white gown walked in with the same nurse trailing not far behind.

 

“Good afternoon, Uchiha-sama, I am your doctor Yoshida.” The man introduced himself with a careful smile. He was a middle-aged man with a beginning stage of wrinkles around his eyes and glasses that looked oddly nice on him. “I am going to ask you a couple questions. Please do your best to answer.”


Yoshida was, in fact, not Sasuke’s doctor. Every Uchiha either go to Uchiha doctors who work at the hospital or the ones who specifically treated patients in the compound. Father said that sometimes their illnesses are a result of a sharingan mishap. No one knew the sharingan better than the Uchiha themselves. There was no need to go to Konoha Hospital when they can go to an Uchiha clinic a couple blocks away from their house.

 

Sasuke stared at him mutely, before realizing that Yoshida was still watching him for affirmation. He nodded.

 

“What is your name?”

 

“...Uchiha Sasuke.”

 

The doctor nodded. “How are you feeling?”

 

How was he feeling? Like crap?

 

Sasuke settled with “Tired.”

 

Ah, standard questions for head trauma. The voice commented with some amusement.

 

Sasuke watched the doctor carefully, without alerting the man that he was searching for anything in particular. Yoshida’s face didn’t show any reaction to hearing the third voice. His suspicion was confirmed. It was all in his head.

 

Yoshida nodded again. “That is understandable. Normally, I would ask if you remember what happened before you wake up here, but I don’t think that is necessary right now.”

 

Sasuke thought that Yoshida didn’t ask because he wouldn’t know how to react to the answer. After all, it wasn’t everyday that a patient came in with an experience of a massacre. He had an inkling feeling that the doctor was just trying to make things easier for himself, but he was grateful not having to recall that night nonetheless.

 

“You’ve been unconscious for almost two days.” He sent Sasuke something that might have been an encouraging smile and flipped the thin stack of paper that was clipped to the clipboard in his hand. “Aside from a couple scratches and bruises, you are physically well enough to be released.”

 

Sasuke’s shoulders slumped in relief. As much as he admitted to being through a traumatic event and very much should stay in the hospital, the building wasn’t a place that he was fond of. There was no privacy here, too many prying eyes. His head was a mess, his emotion was a mess, and he preferred drowning himself in despair in solitude.

 

The doctor wasn’t done, however. He flipped to another page. “But the ANBU informed me that you’ve experienced genjutsu for a prolonged time, so Yamanaka-sama is going to assess your mental well-being before your release.”

 

No shit.

 

Sasuke almost dropped his jaws. An alarm in his head blared loudly. If Yamanaka went into his head, he was more likely going to be confined to the hospital forever. What was with hearing a delusional voice? He quickly reigned in his expression when he realized that the doctor was still looking at him.

 

But if Yamanaka found whatever this voice was, the man could get it out. Fewer risks of having anything from Itachi in his head.

 

Like I said–

 

“I will inform Yamanaka-sama that you woke up. He will probably come by in the afternoon. Until then, please rest up, Uchiha-sama. If you need anything, please call the nurse.”

 

Yoshida left with the nurse, who carefully closed the door behind him. Sasuke waited for a few seconds, listening to the sound of retreating footsteps, before pushing the blanket off his body and shifted over to sit at the edge of the bed, facing the open window and letting his feet dangling in the air. He looked through the glass and saw that it was still bright out.

 

It was peaceful, no trace of the tragedy that happened in his home was present anywhere his sight could see. People went about their day. He saw some genin team following a jounin down the road a block over, said genins kicking and clawing at each other in a play fight, their faces plastered with a big grin.

 

Sasuke bit his lips, anger bubbling in his chest. His clan was gone and everyone continued on as if nothing had happened. As if they didn’t matter. It was so unfair that he had lost everything in a single night while these people lived without a care, blissfully ignorant.

 

Oddly, the voice also quietened down. He heard some mumbling sounds, but it was so quiet that he couldn’t catch the words. Sasuke didn’t want to think that it was trying to dissect his head, but then recalled that it seemed to be able to answer his monologue like it could read his thoughts before.

 

If he guessed correctly, the Yamanaka whom the doctor referred to must be the Yamanaka clan head. Ino’s father. Sasuke couldn’t think of anyone else who would have clearance high enough to assess an Uchiha main house second heir—clan head now.

 

Yamanaka was going to tamper with his mind and find that there was a piece of Itachi’s genjutsu in him. He almost couldn’t decide which one was worse, having a residue of Itachi’s technique remained or being marked unfit on his profile, which would surely come if he found whatever was talking to him.

 

Should Sasuke try to prevent it? He could make it so that Yamanaka would find the entity without the man marking him mentally compromised. Hopefully.

 

Sasuke settled back and contemplated. The upside of accepting help from Yamanaka was that Sasuke could get rid of this unknown parasite. Itachi’s work or not, it was better to wade out anything foreign from his head. Who knew what effects it could have after a while?

 

But the downside was that he risked being held back from graduation, which Sasuke couldn’t tolerate. He has always been inferior to Itachi in every way that mattered. Ninja skills, knowledge, manners, you named it. He didn’t graduate early like Itachi did, so that was already a loss. If he graduated even a day behind his regular schedule, he’d be a failure.

 

Being held back absolutely could not happen. He would not fall behind that cruel man, consequences be damned.

 

Now, back to the problem at hand.

 

Did you hear what I was thinking? Sasuke reluctantly thought to himself, feeling crazier by the second.

 

If you mean hating on the people outside and continued refusal to believe that I had nothing to do with your murderer of a brother, then yeah.

 

That was confirmed, and he wasn’t happy that he was right. Did this mean Itachi can know what he was thinking through his genjutsu?

 

You seemed awfully fluent for a non-native Japanese speaker, he pointed out doubtfully.

 

Practices do wonder, the voice remarked with indignation, like he had insulted it by doubting its ability, before adding, I spent three years in elementary school studying Japanese after all. If I can’t at least build up from there and hold a proper conversation, I’ll be pissed.

 

What was it talking about? Elementary school, like a civilian school?

 

It’s a school for children from around age six to twelve.

 

Sasuke continued to stare out of the window, his mind whirling to process the information and make sense of what was going on.

 

You said you’re not Itachi’s genjutsu. Then are you his ally? He asked despite knowing that he could be talking to himself.

 

Like hell– The voice stopped in the middle of the sentence, before making a scoffing noise. No, I wasn’t his ally. I knew nothing about him until two days ago.

 

Did it just catch itself swearing and attempt to play it off like those adults who slipped up around children?

 

One point against it being Itachi. The older Uchiha would never swear. Not even in a fake identity.

 

Also, it said two days ago? That was the night of the massacre, but that didn’t make sense. If there had been anyone else in the compound, Itachi would have killed them too. Maybe it met Itachi earlier that day before the massacre, but that didn’t explain why it suddenly appeared in his head. Shouldn’t the voice be...he didn’t know, in its own head?

 

How did you know him?

 

I was with you when you watched him, uh...kill, yeah.

 

If you are saying you managed to escape Itachi, I don’t believe you. Sasuke hated to compliment his brother-turned-murderer for anything, but his skill sets were without doubt better than some ANBU out there, if their inability to protect his family in time was any clue. There was no way he missed a civilian.

 

I was in your head.

 

Yes, and Itachi was also in my head. Sasuke immediately retorted before the words caught up to him. Wait a minute. It was in his head when he was stuck in that genjutsu hell?

 

Yes, the voice grumbled, now sounded a little more mindful when the topic came up, not a pleasant experience.

 

How? Since when? How was it in his head without him knowing? How had Itachi not found it?

 

The voice didn’t answer for a few seconds, and Sasuke was about to ask again when it began, I...don’t know? I was pretty sure I was in my home, working on an assignment and then going to bed when suddenly I was in your head with a maniac standing over me...over you.

 

Did it seriously think he would believe that?

 

Unfortunately, that was the best answer I had.

 

Stop reading my thoughts. Sasuke wasn’t sure if he could mold his thinking into a growl, but he sure tried.

 

I can’t. The voice sounded a little more exasperated. Your thought was just...there. And it was loud too, I can’t just say I don’t want to hear it and then it’ll be gone.

 

Of course you can. You can pretend my thoughts don’t exist or something. Or just don’t listen to it.

 

I tried. When your brother ran rampage, I wanted to drown out your frantic thoughts screaming at me, but I still hear it. If I had a body, I’m sure my ears would have bleed.

 

But his thoughts were his!

 

Feeling a surge of possessiveness over something that should be solely for himself, Sasuke wanted to scream at it, to give into frustration and treat this conversation like a verbal fight. He felt like the last thing that were his got stolen away. He wanted to be mad, but he couldn’t, because the voice was calm even when the volume raised a little. It was difficult to fight when the other side was neither offensive nor defensive.

 

Instead, he thought with all the force he could muster to put into mind words. He is not my brother.

 

The voice didn’t agree or disagree, but he could sense acceptance from somewhere at the back of his head. Not only could he hear an imaginary voice, he could also feel its emotion? This was one league of an illusion.

 

An annoyed rumble tugged on his mind. Sasuke ignored it.

 

You said you were at home before miraculously appeared in my head. Where is your home? Are you even from Konoha?

 

The voice hummed, I’m from a country called Tai. That was what you call us in your language.

 

Since it was a country, then… Tai no Kuni?

 

Just Tai. Or the more formal name is Tai Oukoku. Do you know it?

 

Oukoku? So not a country, but a kingdom? Sasuke had never heard of it.

 

I have never heard of Konoha either. Where is it in Japan?

 

Where is Japan?

 

The voice came to a halt. It whispered in a low voice. You have got to be kidding me.

 

Now, that was the rudest the voice had been so far. Sasuke felt a vein in his temple begin to pulse. What?

 

You don’t know Japan, but you speak Japanese. The voice took on an edge of incredulity, before returning to a calm state that it had been, which in turn calmed Sasuke down a little. Say, is Konoha a city?

 

Konoha is a hidden village in Hi no Kuni. Full title Konohagakure.

 

The voice went quiet again, but this time he felt a wave of something akin to panic reaching up his throat. The feeling wasn’t foreign to him. He had his share with Itachi feeding his mind an images of him killing his parents until his lungs constricted and begged for air, but this time it was the source that felt foreign. Instead of a mind-clouding rush and ringing in his ears, it came from the same place where he felt the voice’s emotion earlier.

 

Oi, what–

 

He almost bent over when another surge coursed through him. His throat squeezed into itself and suddenly it was hard to breathe.

 

Uchiha-san.

 

The voice came back. Sasuke panted, his lungs let up a bit and he was able to suck in breath again. He deeply inhaled, suddenly feeling in need of air, before exhaling.

 

What was that?

 

It looked like a panic attack to me, but I wasn’t sure.

 

You weren’t sure? That wasn’t me.

 

The voice was confused. Uchiha-san, I didn’t have a panic attack. I was just thinking a little too frantically.

 

But that wasn’t me.

 

The voice paused as if in thought. Maybe the state of my thoughts affects you physically.

 

Great. Even more things to worry about. How was he going to explain suddenly having difficulty breathing for no reason? Yamanaka was going to throw him to a therapist. Wasn’t it great?

 

Who’s Yamanaka?

 

Sasuke pondered if telling the voice who Yamanaka Inoichi was would be beneficial to him. The more he talked to it, the less he thought it had anything to do with Itachi. If it was Itachi, it would make so much sense that he had no choice but to accept whatever it said, not this ridiculous explanation that left him with more questions than answers.

 

And now he had to deal with appearing sane enough for Yamanaka to clear him.

 

He had a vague idea what therapy was. It was the session where he had to talk about things he preferred not to talk about to a stranger and hoped that they wouldn’t take advantage of his weakness or share it with other people. He had heard that they had some kind of ethical practices, but those things only did so much when they were strangers. Trust didn’t come from spewing career rules. And he couldn’t risk rumors about an Uchiha main house kid being messed up in the head going around.

 

His best choice here would be to prevent Yamanaka from discovering the voice.

 

Said voice seemed to have been following his line of thoughts and more or less figured out that Yamanaka was some kind of professional who worked with psychology. What’s wrong with him finding me?

 

Aside from the obvious that I would have to go to therapy and be the talk of the town about how all Uchiha aren’t right in the head? I might not get to be a genin, and he will get rid of you. Sasuke explained. He want it to be gone, but he didn’t want to risk having any indication on his file that would came back and bite him in the ass. He had things to do. Very important things, like killing his own ex-brother.

 

The voice sounded hopeful. He can get rid of me? As in he can send me home?

 

He’ll extract you and send you to T&I, most likely.

 

The voice didn’t need to ask for him to guess that it didn’t know what T&I was. Sasuke debated whether to tell it, before reasoning that there was nothing wrong with it knowing. T&I was a well-known department that even civilians knew what their general jobs were.

 

Torture and Interrogation. They’re going to get information out of you, like what you’re doing in my head and stuff.

 

Torture is illegal, the voice huffed.

 

Not here.

 

How is he going to torture me anyway? As far as I know, I don’t have a body. I’m stuck in your head as a consciousness. It’s not like a psychiatrist can talk to a voice in someone’s head and drag them out or something. It doesn’t work like that.

 

Sasuke wasn’t sure how Yamanaka mind jutsu worked, but he had heard that they could go inside people’s minds and dig up whatever dirty secret they had. That was why a lot of them worked in T&I. For the Yamanaka, I’m guessing that it works exactly like that.

 

The voice went quiet for a long while. Sasuke almost thought with some hope that it was somehow miraculously gone, like how it miraculously appeared. Yamanaka is not a psychiatrist, is he?

 

He can be, but that’s not his main job. He’s a shinobi.

 

A shinobi as in a ninja, the voice was flat, like the idea of someone being a shinobi was beyond its understanding. A buzzing sensation emerged from the back of his mind, becoming more prominent by the seconds, almost like when he was unable to breathe a while ago. The buzzing never went beyond that this time.

 

Freaking- The voice started, before cutting itself off again, mindful of the language in front of a child. Sasuke didn’t want to be treated like a child and he made sure to project as much irritation into his emotion as he could, but the voice studiously ignored him.

 

After a minute of no reply, Sasuke left it to sort out its own thoughts, while he did the same with his. He recalled everything he knew about it so far. Provided that it was truthful, Sasuke amended.

 

The voice wasn’t from Konoha. It was from somewhere that Sasuke had never heard of, and the place was a kingdom, not a country. He was pretty sure that all lands on the continent were either a country or a hidden village. None of them call themselves a kingdom.

 

It was a civilian, but seemed to have no knowledge of anything shinobi related. This part was where he was stumped. What kind of civilian didn’t know at least something about shinobi? Maybe the place she was from didn’t own a hidden village. Sasuke tested the reasoning in his head and frowned. Unlikely. Having a hidden village or not, they should at least have heard of shinobi.

 

Then there was the thing with Yamanaka. Should he let something that could be Itachi’s ploy stay in his head and try to graduate without it corrupting his mind, or should he let Yamanaka deal with it and risk being held back plus maybe gotten sent to T&I himself? Both choices weren’t ideal.

 

‘...same eyes, come to me...’

 

He had to kill Itachi, right? It was his duty as the last of his clan to avenge their death. Then if he was held back, he would have to wait even longer to fight Itachi.

 

Sasuke gritted his teeth. It was confusing. None of the choices he had was good, either too risky or too detrimental to his very, very vague plan of future. And he was tired. So, so tired.

 

Sasuke jumped when the door to his room was opened. A blond man walked in, and Sasuke’s eyes bulged. Didn’t the doctor say Yamanaka Inoichi would come in the afternoon? It was only—Sasuke stole a glance at the clock, losing track of time while in his own thoughts—eleven.

 

The man looked at him with sad eyes. “Good morning, Sasuke-kun. How are you feeling?”

 

Why did people ask him the same question? Couldn’t they just see with their eyes? Sasuke hadn’t had a chance to look at a mirror yet, but if his appearance reflected even a tiny bit of how he felt, he was sure he looked like a ghost.

 

“Like following my parents,” he muttered quietly under his breath, annoyed at the question that screamed ‘I pretend to care, so pretend to give me a normal answer, please.’

 

Inoichi quirked an eyebrow. “Pardon?” Maybe Sasuke wasn’t being as quiet as he thought.

 

“Tired,” he dug up the same answer he gave the doctor before, and if Inoichi didn’t seem to buy it, it wasn’t important enough to care. He was so tired, and he was sure it wasn’t his body because he just slept for two days straight. The veins under his skin buzzed with energy that he hadn’t gotten a chance to air out with training. But he was having a hard time focusing. The white hospital room was melting away and his attention slowly slipped inward.

 

“I’m going to do some basic checkup, alright, Sasuke-kun?”

 

And they were basic. Inoichi first asked him simple questions like how his body felt, if he experienced dizziness or any unsteady floor, and if he had any memory lapse, in which Sasuke made his answer as positive as he could without outright lying. This man worked for T&I, right? He would know if Sasuke lied. So Sasuke hoped a white lie would do.

 

A muted hum spread through his mind, which by now Sasuke thought was a sign that the voice in his head was thinking, and thinking hard. Uchiha-san, I’m putting my fate in your hand right now. If you were me, would you want to be discovered by Yamanaka-san?

 

If he was a lost consciousness of some civilian—giving the benefit of the doubt, that was—who happened to get stuck in a messed up Uchiha survivor’s head after Itachi ran rampage? No. As much as the fact that Inoichi might be able to get him home went, it didn’t count whatever cruelty and gruesomeness T&I had going on in their cells. If their job was to get every drop of information out of enemy shinobi, then it wasn't something a civilian would want to experience.

 

Having been reading his line of thought, the voice slunk back and said—was that a pout he heard?—Okay then. Is he really going to get in your head?

 

That was a good question, a question which wasn’t answered by any of Inoichi’s explanations and assurances that had been going on for a while now.

 

“Sasuke-kun? Do you hear me?”

 

Sasuke blinked, just now realizing that he had stopped replying, and winced at his mistake. Spacing out wasn’t a good sign. But it was hard to keep two conversations going at the same time. Where were they at again?

 

Looking up from his fidgeting hands to Ino’s father, he wondered why the man hadn’t attempted to invade his mind yet.

 

“Are you going to get in my head?” He blurted out, and Inoichi halted his concerned inquiry in surprise and perhaps horror.

 

“I-get in your-No, Sasuke-kun, no,” he grappled for his words, opening and closing his mouth several times, clearly not expecting Sasuke to be blunt. He cleared his throat and schooled himself back to semi-calmness, but his voice still had an edge of shock to it. “I am not going to mind walk, Sasuke-kun. We don’t use it lightly, only with dangerous people who warrant such precaution.”

 

Sasuke translated the vague phrasing to mean that Yamanaka mind walking jutsu were for enemies and traitors, not commonly for medical use. That meant Sasuke wouldn’t be crazy—or as crazy as he actually might be—on medical paper. Which also meant that he was still on track for graduation, on track to dealing with That Man, whatever ‘dealing’ encompassed. He would think about that later, when his brain wasn’t in a rapid compression.

 

“I will not use a mind walk jutsu on you, Sasuke-kun,” Inoichi repeated again, more firmly, and looked right into Sasuke’s eyes like he was trying to convey the seriousness of his words.

 

“Okay,” he replied, deflating a little in relief and feeling the presence inside his head did the same. “Okay.”

 

There was a short silence, before Inoichi looked back at the paper he had been writing while talking to Sasuke. The conversation continued in a different direction. Instead of asking him for some kind of explanation or observation about his feelings and his condition, the man went on to lighter topics, like his favorite classes and his vacations.

 

When Inoichi closed his file and stood up, Sasuke tensed, expecting something to happen. He expected the man to go back on his words and rip his mind open, because if Itachi broke his promise with Sasuke, why would anyone keep theirs? But he simply rested his hand on Sasuke’s shoulders and said that the evaluation was finished. He was told to rest a lot, like that doctor had said. The hand squeezed, gently, not meaning to hurt, before he walked out the door.

 

Sasuke waited, one minute passed, then two, waiting for the man to go slam the door back in. When three minutes had passed and there was no sign of footsteps, Sasuke sighed and slid down from a sitting position to lie on his back.

 

Okay, he thought to himself while thinking back on his answers, that should at least prevent a big, red ‘insane’ on his file. Now what?

 

He wasn’t sure. Nothing in his life was a certainty anymore. He felt like drifting, his family, his clan, and his entire life were gone. There would be no one at the compound, or in his house, or lingering on the street in the district. He felt empty. A part of his soul accompanied his clan to their afterlife. They said a person’s identity was shaped by those around them. Their death took away some of his identity too.

 

Speaking of identity.

 

What is your name? He was getting tired of calling it the voice.

 

Call me Mei.