Wild West AU

Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, Sasuke is the sheriff and Itachi is the gunslinger he is sworn to bring in and set to dance at the end of a rope.

He takes his duty seriously. There is no excuse for what Itachi has done, continues to do.

On Christmastime, Sasuke saddles his horse and rides up in the mountains to the little cabin his father built so long ago.

His brother is already there, stoking the fire. He brought dinner. Sasuke sits beside him, and then they talk about their parents. About the past. They dance around talking about each other, about the two of them, but it's there in every gap.

At the end of the night -- dawn, really -- when Sasuke is drifting toward sleep, Itachi drapes a blanket over him and whispers a number in his ear.

This year I have reached twenty-three kills. Four for self-defense, nineteen for revenge.

Every year, Sasuke knows that the time draws closer when Itachi will tell him, "I have killed them all," and in the morning he will still be there, waiting for Sasuke to bring him in.

Every year the day after Christmas, Sasuke wakes feeling the gun underneath his pillow, and he plans the way he will shoot his brother and bury him here, at their father's cabin. Because as the sheriff he is sworn to execute an assassin.

As Itachi's brother, this is all he can give him, one day a year. A quick death and a deep, undisturbed grave.