Uchiha Itachi was a child prodigy. You wouldn’t know it to look at him these days, because who looks for certifiable geniuses in the back workrooms of public libraries, but it was true.
If one were to compile a file folder of information on the blank-faced Uchiha, (such as the one Pein very well may or may not have tucked away in one of his desk drawers), the information, flat and dull as the expression worn by its subject, would probably be listed as follows:
Uchiha Itachi. Age 20. Graduated (with honours) from secondary school at the age of 13. Top of his class; top marks. Talented musician and artist, and particularly skillful athlete, principle focus in the martial arts...
And so on and so forth. It would, however, neglect to mention the fact that all his achievements came to him as effortlessly as breathing, as naturally as swimming for a fish: as if he had been born to do it.
It would also neglect to mention the fact that his father had been all for sending him off to the best, most prestigious university in the country immediately following his graduation from secondary school--there had certainly been a considerable number of institutions that had wanted him--but for some unknown reason, Itachi had refused them all, insisting on being allowed to take some time off to travel a bit, which his parents (chiefly his father of course) had only reluctantly allowed. Another fact that would be overlooked by those files would be how, on his return from his journeys abroad, he seemed different somehow--more adult perhaps, and quieter still than before: more withdrawn and unreadable, his smiles becoming nearly nonexistent instead of merely uncommon.
Nonetheless, the filed papers would report, on his return home, Itachi had attended the university his father had selected, going through his first year with his major undeclared, but with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and some of the highest marks the college had ever seen. He double majored in biology and political science (the fields his father had been pushing him towards), graduated after only two years, and by the age of 18, he’d earned MAs in both as well as a PhD in Molecular Biology.
And that is where the file’s information on Itachi’s past would end. But of course, there is much more to a life than such incontestably sparse data can adequately express. Quite often the Uchiha genius’s mind turns towards his own personal compilation of thoughts and memories and feelings--yes, Itachi has feelings, though the very idea would astonish some and evoke a snort or a disbelieving laugh from others.
The current focus of his brilliant mind is seated at one of the many study tables across the room from the Circulation desk—the farthest possible table, one next to a window—and though he has his back turned to Itachi (a move that is reflexive, but not entirely unintentional), his spiky black hair and the lean build of his body make his figure unmistakable.
There was yet another often-neglected fact: Uchiha Sasuke, Itachi’s younger brother. “The lesser Uchiha” certain ill-natured relatives and not entirely friendly acquaintances had taken to calling him when he wasn’t present, though they didn’t necessarily take care to ensure that he was out of earshot. (And like most subjects of such a nature, it had a grain of truth to it, which was why it was so cruel.)
Uchiha Sasuke, fifteen years old, straight-A student, top of his class; captain of the basketball team, the soccer team, and the martial arts club at Van Arbor High School; tall, strong, undeniably handsome, school heartthrob, Homecoming King four years running, nationally ranked in five different forms of martial arts; and, despite all that, still largely overlooked, even by Itachi; constantly giving his all, trying his hardest and throwing himself into everything he attempts, and yet his accomplishments, impressive though they may be, are doomed to be eternally overshadowed by those of his older brother.
Sasuke deeply admired him once, Itachi knows, and to a certain extent he still does, but there is resentment there now as well, as the admiration slowly turns into frustration.
And yet, Itachi does nothing to mend the gradually-widening gap between them, makes no effort to acknowledge either the existence or the efforts of his younger brother--he has his reasons for behaving as he does, and he owes no one any explanations. Their only contact occurs when Itachi picks him up and drops him off at school (their parents both work long hours, and Sasuke is still a few months away from having his driver’s license, thus he is forced to ride with Itachi); the long hours that Sasuke spends at the Akatsuki Public Library nearly every weekday always pass without so much as a glance shared between the two, though Sasuke is not sparing with the dull sideways glares he shoots Itachi’s way, and Itachi’s gaze lingers on his brother quite a bit more than anyone with any sense of self-preservation would dare to mention.
As usual, Kisame is sitting beside Itachi as he checks in books at the front desk, the hulking, blue-skinned man waiting for the phone to ring and perusing a Sicilian cookbook, a new addition they’d just received through the mail earlier that day. There is something undeniably soothing about Kisame’s presence, subtle and steady as the hissing whisper of ocean waves washing up on a sandy beach, something that allows him to be sincerely concerned without being smothering or intolerable. His calming presence relaxes Itachi, which at times causes the Uchiha prodigy’s mind to drift from the present task of processing books back to the past events shelved away in his memory; its current selection occurred on a night a little over two years ago that would have been forgotten, labeled as unimportant and utterly nondescript but for the event that happened on it: a dinner.
The entire family is gathered around the table--not unusual, since his mother liked to have everyone share at least one meal a day, and his father tried to oblige her in this--but as has been the case for the past few years, they are all largely silent. Mikoto might ask Sasuke about his day at school, Fugaku might inquire as to whether Itachi has decided on the next step in his impressive academic career, but neither Sasuke nor Itachi says a word more than is necessary; they are alike in that, at least.
Thirteen-year-old Sasuke is not really eating tonight, is merely rearranging his food on his plate and picking the breaded layer off his tonkatsu; he’d had a jujitsu competition that evening, and once again their father had been too preoccupied with work to bother going. Itachi notices this (both his father’s seeming lack of interest, and the hurt lurking in Sasuke’s dark eyes as a result), but he doesn’t attend the matches either. Their mother is the only one who does; in all of Sasuke’s ten years of taking various martial arts and playing various sports, Mikoto has never missed a single game or match.
The semi-tense quiet has been filled with naught but the clank of dining utensils for an uncomfortably long period of time when Fugaku finally speaks.
“I heard that you received confirmation of your acceptance to the Iryo Medical Institute today, Itachi.” He gives his older son a rare smile, which Itachi ignores, focused as he is on his meal; across the table, Sasuke makes a particularly forceful jab at a piece of meat, the shadow of a frown thinning his eyes and mouth.
“I talked with the Dean earlier today,” Mikoto jumps in when Itachi fails to respond, just a half-beat too slow to prevent the pause from being awkward. “She’s quite excited at the prospect of having Itachi at their institution. She said she actually hopes he’ll specialise in neurobiology or diagnostic medicine so that she can have him in a couple of her classes.”
“Hmm,” Fugaku grunts, giving an approving nod and turning to the subject in question. “But let’s leave that decision to Itachi. Do you want to be a diagnostician or a neurobiologist, son?”
Fugaku merely nods once more. “I understand--I always believed that you would be a surgeon of some sort, after all—”
“You misunderstand me,” Itachi interrupts, his voice quiet but unshakably firm. “I have no intention of becoming a doctor.”
Fugaku blinks, Mikoto pauses in the middle of raising her cup of tea to her lips, and Sasuke’s eyes flicker up from the mercilessly ravaged pork on his plate to settle on his brother; there is a moment of silence around the table broken only by the hushed sound of Itachi’s chopsticks clicking against his rice bowl.
“Itachi—” Fugaku begins, the lines on his face deepening as he frowns, but Mikoto cuts in quickly in an attempt to save the peace.
“It’s alright, dear,” she says, smiling gently first at her husband, then at the elder of her two sons, who still hasn’t looked up from his meal once since he began eating. “Itachi must have decided that he wants to be a lawyer instead, just like me—”
Fugaku is scowling in earnest now, and though his father’s gaze is not directed at him, Sasuke reflexively shrinks back a bit, seeking to make himself as small and unnoticeable as possible; Itachi alone seems unaffected, and continues steadily eating his rice.
“What is this, all of the sudden?” Fugaku mutters at last, his voice a deep, gravelly rumble, brimming with threats and authority. “You’ve always said that you were going to go to medical school and become a doctor.”
“That’s always what you wanted to hear,” Itachi replies calmly, setting down his empty rice bowl and reaching for his tea. “Would you honestly have listened if I had said anything else?”
Fugaku expels a pointedly huffy breath, but Itachi’s words have an uncomfortable element of truth to them that he can’t fully deny, and which he therefore opts to ignore instead. “Well, I’m certainly listening now. So tell me then, what do you want to be?”
Itachi, who is in the middle of taking a long sip of tea, takes his time about the process, then lowers his cup just a bit. “A librarian,” he says placidly over its rim, and then he goes back to drinking his tea.
Fugaku barks a short laugh at that. “You don’t have the qualifications to be a librarian. You would’ve had to go to library school,” he says, with more than a trace of scorn underlining those last two words.
At that Itachi does look up from his meal, fixing his father with a cool, bland gaze that is nonetheless impossible to look away from, for all its emotional vacuity. “I have taken all the necessary classes online. Proof of my graduation, and my receipt of my MLS degree came through the post last week…” To any who were unfamiliar with Itachi, the slight narrowing of his eyes and the barest trace of contempt tingeing his final few words would have gone unnoticed: “…I received full marks for everything, as expected of your son.”
This subtle jab does not go unnoticed by Fugaku, however, who spends the next few seconds turning red and visibly working to control his temper. “This is absolutely preposterous,” he sputters after a moment, voice trembling with a mixture of rage and disbelief. “Do you have any idea of what you’re doing, Itachi? Wasting a mind like yours by placing yourself in such a mundane position--it’s more than unbelievable, it’s downright absurd. You’ll be depriving the medical world of one of the finest minds of the century,” he continues, already warming to his subject, “and all to—to stamp books and repair bindings and do numerous other things that any high school dropout could do in their sleep!” The Uchiha patriarch shakes his head disbelievingly. “I can’t understand it, Itachi, and what’s more, after all these years, I can’t accept it. You have so much potential--don’t you want to make something of yourself? Don’t you have any goals, any aspirations? Don’t you understand how much your mother and I have sacrificed to get you to where you are now? To just turn your back on all of that—it’s childish and irrational and I won’t stand for it, not from any son of mine!”
Fugaku continues on at length in a similar vein, his voice steadily rising, while Mikoto simultaneously tries to calm her husband and reason with Itachi, who remains utterly unmoved. And throughout the entire exchange, Sasuke cringes in his seat, staring down at his largely uneaten meal and wishing he were somewhere else.
When objections and demands and threats and at last even various appeals that he see reason or at least explain himself all fail to elicit the faintest response from Itachi--not the slightest bat of an eye, not a single twitch of remorse--Fugaku whirls and storms out, Mikoto, expression deeply worried, close behind. In the stunned, heavy silence that follows, Sasuke looks for some sign of emotion, some sign of caring in the implacable face across the table; Itachi just keeps eating, behaving for all the world as if nothing has happened at all.
It comes as no surprise when Sasuke attempts to confront him about this later that night.
Itachi can hear the footsteps coming down the hall, and he knows who it is in an instant--too light to be his father, too firm to be his mother--and he pauses, allowing Sasuke to approach him, but does not turn to acknowledge his brother’s presence, and he speaks the instant before Sasuke stops behind him, the instant he hears him drawing a breath to speak, before he can say a word.
“…Why are you angry at me, Sasuke.”
It isn’t quite spoken like a question. Itachi doesn’t really ask questions, and on the rare occasions that he does, he always seems know the answers already, yet another thing about him that Sasuke finds infuriating.
“Back there, at dinner--what the hell was that all about?” The younger Uchiha does a poor job of hiding his emotions, and even without turning to look, Itachi can see the anger that clouds his features, the confusion, the jealousy, the…yes, there are the hazy beginnings of hatred resonating there, jangling maddeningly along the edge of perception, grating on his nerves, paining his sensitive ears; Itachi knows the sound well. “Why would you waste your talent like this? You know very well that Father has always been proud of you—” (so much so that he’s hardly even noticed me: the words are unspoken, but their echo is there, and Itachi hears them nonetheless) “—so how can you do something like this? Go against all their expectations, against everything they’d hoped you’d be?”
“Is that all.” Another stillborn sentence, another lifeless delivery of what should have been an inquiry.
Sasuke grits his teeth at his brother’s bland tone and shakes his head hard, fists clenched at his sides as he glares at the floor and mutters, “This is just stupid. You’re so smart--this is a total waste of your abilities. You could do so much more, and you know it, too.”
“I see.” At last he turns to face his brother, finding the young teen’s features set in the projected half-sulking glower. “So tell me...” Itachi’s gaze is flat, his face expressionless, and yet there’s the slightest suggestion of a challenge in his toneless voice, in the way he’s holding his mouth, how his eyes are narrowed uncaringly. “…What are you so upset about.” Suddenly he’s a blur of fluid motion, and Sasuke chokes in the middle of his startled gasp as Itachi’s hand closes around his throat, picking him up and slamming him backwards, pinning him against the wall.
Why Sasuke wants to ask, why are you doing this, why are you hurting me, why did you change, but his windpipe is nearly being crushed and all the air has been forced out of his lungs. Itachi can easily read the questions in his little brother’s crumpled expression, though he offers no explanation. Instead he leans in close, lips nearly brushing Sasuke’s ear, the faintest of smirks twisting the corners of his mouth upwards. “I think you’re being rather ungrateful,” he whispers, his already normally-quiet voice falling to a hissing murmur.
All at once he releases his grip; Sasuke collapses in a heap on the floor, coughing and clutching at his throat, but though his eyes are watery and moisture-blurred, the expression he turns up towards Itachi is anything but weak. (Still, he flinches just noticeably when Itachi locks eyes with him, though he sets his jaw and does not look away.)
“After all,” the older brother says slowly, dark eyes narrowing to chips of jet as he surveys the sullenly slumped figure before him, cold and pitiless and indifferent as ever. “I’ve given you a chance to be the good son.”
- Feeling: contemplative
- Hearing:"For You" - The Calling