“Tell me what it is you desire most.” Itachi asked him. The two ANBU looked at each other without the masks on. Obsidian bore into warm pearl and the Hyuuga hesitated, unsure of how to answer.
His hand moved to the marking on his forehead, the one he hid behind bandages. It was night, the assassin’s playground, and Neji looked up at the stars. Briefly, he closed his eyes.
The words held more than one meaning. Freedom from his caste, freedom to be open about his choice of lover, freedom to be himself. The porcelain mask he wore was only the physical, many more lied underneath.
“That’s it?” the flat baritone of his captain and lover made him start. Frowning, Neji frowned in slight confusion.
“You ask as if I had merely asked you for a stick of gum or something else simple.” He sounded slightly upset and hurt. He knew the Uchiha was not trying to make light of his situation, Neji was merely sensitive about situations he could not control.
“That is because,” something flashed in those dark depths and the Hyuuga found himself instinctively taking a step back until he was backed into the base of the tree they were perched on. A small smile graced the prodigy’s lips as his hands moved through a strange series of signs Neji had never seen before.
Then those powerful hands rested on his chest and lips met his. Stiffening, the other male tried to push his captain away. The others were right there, what in the world was he...
“The solution is simple.”
Metal slid through skin and muscle. White eyes widened in shock and pain. Slowly, Neji looked up at Itachi’s impassive face before his hands hovered over the blade sticking out of his chest. Blood bubbled on his lips and spilled over, dripping from his chin.
“Why?” was the only word he could muster as black began to close in on him.
“Why?” it was repeated with genuine curiosity “This is what you wanted. The only true freedom, Hyuuga Neji...is death.”
The blade slid out and Neji knew no more.
Gasping, Neji bolted upright, his hand reaching out and grabbing air. The room was dark; he could see nothing, not even the hand in front of him.
That question was quickly answered when pain lanced through his chest. With a strangled cry, the Hyuuga bent over, his hand clutching his injury. An injury that had been given to him by his lover.
A supposedly fatal injury.
How am I...?
Fear and confusion hit Neji hard as the light cut on to reveal Uchiha Itachi. Quickly, white eyes scanned the room, missing little. They were in some sort of log cabin, a small one from what he could tell. He had been resting on a futon and was dressed in little more than his ANBU issued pants and bandages. Fingers scratched at the tingling wound and a dark brow rose from the man who had tried to kill him.
“If you pick at it, it will take that much longer to heal.” Itachi smiled, that strange smile he only gave him and one other from a long time ago. His younger brother, who had also supposedly died years ago through mysterious means. Now the Hyuuga was beginning to wonder.
“What did you do to me?” genius mind working rapidly now that he was over his initial shock; he was aware of the fact that Itachi had not meant to kill him after all. Whatever jutsu he had performed before he had sliced him with the blade and the fact that he was alive proved that.
He had never truly believed the strange rumors surrounding the ANBU captain, about how he had killed his clan, including his younger brother. Had denied the suspicion surrounding the strange attacks that had taken the life of his cousin who had been lovers with the younger brother.
No, he had believed them, his heart just hadn’t wanted to. He had preferred to live in denial than to deny himself the heated gazes and gentle touches. The soft whispers and the way the other male felt inside of him. The sense of true freedom and power he had felt being with someone like Itachi had been too much, and so he had denied the obvious.
Itachi’s smile disappeared. “I put you in a sort of stasis mode. It made it so that your injury would not actually kill you but you would appear to be dead. You were...are...the final piece of the puzzle, my Neji.”
“I don’t understand. I...” shaking his head, he put a hand through chocolate brown locks. “The others. Your clan, your brother, my cousin...”
“The Hyuuga council...” Itachi supplied, smiling thinly at Neji’s shock. “Out of all of them, only three I did not genuinely kill. You are one of them.”
“Why?!” He ignored the pain in his chest from shouting. “Why did you do it? How were you never discovered? Where are we? Just...who are you?” the last was asked weakly because he felt like a fool. He had been tricked, they all had been tricked, and he...he...
“When you have recovered, I promise I will tell you everything.” Slowly, Itachi stood, grabbing a small hand mirror. “What was the question I asked you before I asked what it was you wanted most?”
Still reeling, Neji began to respond. “You asked me...” then he stopped, for his mind began to work once more at what it was Itachi was truly trying to say to him.
“Neji, do you believe in me?”
“That is...a rather strange question to ask after five years, Uchiha. I would not be with you if I did not believe in you.”
“Hn. I pray that is so.”
Itachi stopped walking. The two stared in silence for a very, very long time. With a sigh, Neji closed his eyes and smiled.
“I am not known for lying.” Obviously, this was much bigger than he could fathom but Itachi claimed he would tell him everything. So he would believe him. He was not dead and while Itachi was one to play mind games, Neji knew with one look that they were not a game. He opened his eyes and started.
Itachi had closed the distance and the mirror was in front of him. With trembling hands, Neji’s fingers trailed along the fading cursed seal along his forehead.
“I am the one,” setting the mirror down, Itachi framed his lover’s face in his hands. “who would do anything for the ones I love. That is who I am, Neji. Enjoy your freedom, my love.”
Their lips connected and the Hyuuga decided that for now, he would dismiss the outside world and the truth. For now, he would bask in his ‘free’ moment for as long as he could. He loved Itachi but he was a realist: Freedom wasn’t ‘free’ and true freedom...was an illusion.
And Itachi was the master of illusions.