Characters: Sasuke-centric. Also, Itachi.
Genre: Introspective, gen.
Warnings: None (honestly, I'm not warning for spoilers for this. This was over 100 chapters ago, now . . . . )
Summary: "Sasuke tastes salt and knows that Konoha will go to join Itachi soon. See how they like dying for someone else’s cause." Introspective on Sasuke's decision to destroy Konoha.
The word should describe the thing.
Otherwise, it’s meaningless chatter, inane, like all the things Naruto and Kakashi and especially, especially Sakura used to say. Konoha was a village of talk, all of it pointless. No, a name ought to mean something.
It can’t be Team Hebi anymore, then; Sasuke is no longer a friend to snakes. That name refers to a different time, a long-ago time when he had wanted to kill a good man. It must have been long ago; he goes numb even thinking about it.
Itachi is dead, now; Orochimaru as well. Sasuke won’t live in a house with either again, and all those memories, every fondest dream of the past nine years . . . He’ll simply rip those pages out of the book, start again.
The sea ripples a thousand shades of cornflower-slate-jade; its spray mists Sasuke’s face. There are white birds skimming over the waves, and they are more free and unencumbered than any human.
Sasuke is beginning to remember things now, like an animal coming out of hibernation. He hadn’t even noticed it before, or had barely noticed it, but for most of his life he’s only had the one true memory. The rest were dampened, played in dim colors and soundless, and he had thought them meaningless for that; it’s only now that they start to quicken again. Breakfasts and dinners. Arguments, reconciliations. Itachi brushed his hair with a brush with horsehair bristles; he ate sweets and smelled like dust.
That night, there was — sap-slow in Sasuke’s recollection — one lone tear that cut its way down his face when he turned to look back at his brother. He had thought he was dreaming, to see that, and then it had vanished from his memory altogether. But he should have known that it isn’t really so easy to mistake such a thing: it had been the night of the full moon, then, and that one tear had glinted brightly, seemed to be cast in silver.
Sasuke curses himself, and he thinks the sea is cursing him back in all its churning. His own tears and the sea spray both taste like salt: one cold, one warm. There is a new space — or else an old one reborn — opening up now, big and dark; it wells up behind his eyes. Wave after wave. The gulls wheel and skip.
It makes him wonder why Itachi decided to do everything backwards. — To die while he was alive; become a fake, and something not quite human, something that could be easily hated and destroyed. — To not come alive again until after his death. Alive-dead; dead-alive. Like something folding in on itself an infinite number of times.
He wonders about what happened during those dead years. His own snake-years, but what were they for Itachi? He was resolved, Sasuke knows that, but he also suspects that resolve has limits. His brother must have sometimes wanted to go home, scrap the whole thing. Start over again, recant everything. Sleep in his own bed, like he used to. Gather mushrooms and wild blackberries in Konoha’s deep, sweet-smelling woods.
. . .Home? What home? It was a home that hated him. It would have rejected him like a body rejects blood of the wrong type. Konoha was selfish. Still is. Konoha is fat and happy while Itachi is dead.
Sasuke tastes salt and knows that Konoha will go to join Itachi soon. See how they like dying for someone else’s cause. That will be justice, of a sort, and justice is something firm and heavy, something that makes a comforting iron weight in the mind. And besides. It would ironic if the Land of Fire didn’t burn.
No, Sasuke isn’t a snake. Sasuke is something new, now; something with wings. And at any rate, Orochimaru was a pathetic shadow of a shinobi; his fantasies of destroying Konoha were just that. There’s nothing good or noble or strong that crawls around on its belly. He knows that he won’t repeat Orochimaru’s mistakes. He won’t let the years run by him while he skulks in the dark, fiddles endlessly with one experiment after another, dreams of a revenge that won’t ever take shape.
No, Sasuke is a bird. Not one of the gulls, though; they’re enjoying themselves and they care about nothing. It’s that sort of mindlessness that he really cannot stand. But Sasuke, Sasuke has a cruel beak and uses to put it to. Sharp eyes, only just opening.
This Sasuke is the one that sees the future. Other things, too.
Like the way that when the waves swell and break down there on the shore, every glint of sun or foam on the water looks like a tear that was once made silver by the moon.
We kept repeating it, truth, truth, and believed the word was more closely than ever our concern, truth, as if it were some animal with small eyes which lives in the dark and is timid but which one can surprise and catch, to possess it for all time. Just as we'd possessed our earlier truths.
-- Christa Wolf