A/n; thanks for waiting and thanks for the support. some characters might be OOC. this chapter opens up more questions than answers; please allow me to expand the story. still slow-burn but there's a huge progress. I can't reply to all since hospitals have limited net, but I appreciate the support! thanks a lot!


CHAPTER THIRTEEN

~O~

Who'd have thought this is how the pieces fit

You and I shouldn't even try making sense of it

I forgot how we ever came this far

I believe we had reasons but I don't know what they are

Don't blame it on my heart, oh

Love moves in mysterious ways

It's always so surprising

When love appears over the horizon…

~o~

.

As expected, things didn't settle down after their kiss.

Photos exploded like fireworks everywhere they look—from Entertainment and Business sections of newspapers and gossip channels of television—the two were practically the celebrity couple people talked about.

Naruto braced himself when he received the call from Deidara that their photo has been the talk-of-the-town, and he was actually prepared for the worst. His University life is filled with drama since his break-up with Sasuke anyways that he started to get used to it—or at least try his best to filter it out—by the time they feast on his relationship with the older Uchiha.

Having no choice, he changed his number and all his contact information, ignoring pretty much everyone except those he trust in order to get semblance of peace.

Of course, Itachi is helping him in every way possible: sending bodyguards to him along with a van to take him wherever he needs to go, buying out photos, suing everyone who tried to print misinformation against Naruto and keeping his silence in the issue no matter how much the world bombards him questions.

At first Naruto refused Itachi's offer to protect him—seeing as it would be overkill to use money on something that would eventually die down on its own like every gossip out there—but soon as he saw how many people were waiting for him outside the campus and his work, he decided to just accept his fate. Not because he is concerned about himself; but because he doesn't want to cause Itachi more problems than he already have.

Sure, he was having trouble, compared to Itachi's worries though? His was nothing. He's a nobody with nothing under his name; Itachi on the other hand is different. Something like this could make or break someone like him. Naruto would not be able to forgive himself if he ruin Itachi's life somehow.

While it is true that Naruto was willing to wear a mask until they are ready to 'part ways' in a way, he can't help but feel the anxiety building up. The hardest part for him was how the public perceived him – from a delusional orphan to a gold-digging whore. It doesn't matter how much money Itachi was willing to spend just to save Naruto's dignity, people are still free to talk about him in their Social Media accounts. Smear campaign was thrown at him like mud. There's even a 'Save Uchiha Itachi from the grasp of the Evil Blond' group.

However, that was just one of his worries.

Itachi and him dating are known to the public, and at one point the line was blurry for the blond. They exchange emails, text and phone calls throughout the day, that sometimes their conversations are pretty mundane and domestic. The only difference between them and real loversis that they don't have sex; they pretty much do everything else.

Sleep on one bed some times, care for each other, syncing their schedules, giving gifts, having dates and making the other one somehow a priority even on busy days.

At least that's what Naruto thought.

He was a bit sad, however, when he realized Itachi was acting the same. He greeted Naruto in the morning, ate breakfast with him whenever he can, said his goodbyes and usual greetings when he came home. Nothing much has change with the man while Naruto was having a hard time processing what was going on between them. Sad that despite their seemingly closer relation, Itachi wasn't flustered at all by Naruto's presence. It felt like the older brother was caring for his younger one, or is it?

This confused the blond. There were days when he can't look at Itachi because his feelings got too much to process, but Itachi was unfazed. Is he not attractive enough? Then what has happened between them at that parking lot? And when he got home after a fight with his family? A momentary slip of confusion? Heat?

What's worst was how their kisses replayed over and over inside his head. It gave him sleepless nights. Taking over his mind adding to the stresses he's going through. Does Itachi feel the same way? Did he feel pleasant and nervous around the blond too? Naruto kept asking questions like this before they go to sleep. Even if there were days when he went to bed first, the moment he wake up, Itachi was the first one he'll think of.

Was it a sense of comfort? It certainly is for Naruto. His worries and sadness lessens on the days Itachi was besides him. He wondered if it is the same with the man too. It certainly doesn't help that he kept on thinking about Itachi whenever he is not occupied with anything.

Though thinking about it won't do much for him, so like the usual, he went on his day doing what he's supposed to do. Taking classes, ignoring the snide comments from gossipers, having lunch with Sai or some of his friends that don't really care about the rumor, minding his business till it is time to leave the campus and start his job.

At work, everything remained calm, if not peaceful. His bosses are friends with Itachi and knew the truth between them, so they don't ask much questions except asking how they are. They were nice enough to give Naruto some working space away from public view since some of their guests are actually coming to them to gawk at this said man who captured the hearts of the elusive Uchiha brothers.

"What are you spacing out for?" Sasori noted one day that Naruto sighed for the umpteenth time and lightly chuckled soon as he realized Naruto was glancing over his phone. It was early evening and the clients they were supposed to see was down to two. Nothing much to do but relax and prepare the items for tomorrow. "He'll call you later; I'm sure of that," the redhead added.

Blushing, Naruto hid his phone in his back pocket and started tidying the materials scattered all over Deidara's desk. "What are you thinking? I'm not waiting for Itachi to call!"

"Oh ho? Did I mentioned anyone's name?" Sasori teased.

"A-anyway! I'm done for the day, so I'll go home now. Anything you need?"

Sasori checked his schedule once more and nodded, "No. You're done for today. Ah! But, if you can come over tomorrow an hour earlier, that'd be great."

"Tomorrow? Uhm, sure. 'Don't have classes tomorrow, but what's this about?" Confused, Naruto asked. They don't have deliveries scheduled and no client to cater to, unless someone booked just now.

"Yep. It's a surprise though ~ dress your best!" Deidara butted in out of nowhere and looked extremely pleased with himself. Naruto know that look. That look can't be good.

"Oh… okay. Tomorrow, then."

As he walked outside, his bodyguards are already on standby. There wasn't that many people waiting for him at the entrance; knowing that they won't get any comment from the man, they'd already learned their lesson and just take photos and leave him alone.

No wonder celebrities have sour attitude towards fans sometimes, Naruto said to himself. The constant flashes of cameras hitting your eyes, constant self-reminder that you have to look and act your best, constant yelling near his ears – it was all too tiring for him, and it isn't that big compared to what Itachi has to go through.

From what Naruto heard from Kisame, Itachi received numerous invitation to be interviewed right after the photos have been leaked. That and the paparazzis swarming over him.

If that is not enough, during their meetings, stockholders tries to take advantage of the situation and asked him about his personal life. Some of them genuinely shocked and happy for Itachi, since he has been aloof and unapproachable to anyone, while others are looking for ways to get under his skin or gain his favor. Some even tried to give Itachi gifts addressed to Naruto while others have tried to slip in marriage proposals since they knew now that he is 'in the market' and have started to date again.

It's funny, Naruto thought, that people are really fueled by self-interest and greed. Talk about being shameless. Not that he can actually say this out loud. For all he know, he might be overstaying his welcome and is actually a hindrance to Itachi's daily life. Thinking about it pangs him a bit.

.

While Naruto was lost in his thoughts reading the latest issue about them on the internet—despite his better judgment not to—he was startled by a phone call.

"Hi, Tachi. How's your day?" A smile present on his face that he caught just now. Why was he suddenly being giddy?

"I'm fine. I heard from security that you're headed home. Did you have dinner yet?" It sounded like Itachi was in his office, playing classical music. Naruto recognize the song, Franz Liszt's La Campanella.

"Hm? I was thinking of cooking since it's been a while. Are you headed home too?"

"I am. Can you make my portion too?"

Naruto suddenly felt happy, and nodded even if Itachi could not see. "Yes! Any request?"

There was a small paused and Itachi 'Hn'ed' before he answered. "Anything you want. There's something I'd like to talk about too."

Suddenly sounding serious wasn't exactly something to worry about, for the said man has always been that type. But Naruto is different; Naruto can sense something was off.

"Oh. Okay. Then, see you." He did not stop fidgeting after the call.

.

.

Not long after, Naruto arrived at their home, greeted by his adorable dog, which lifted his spirits. Choi had a sitter during the day to avoid the great accident he caused a few days earlier; AKA the day Choi decided they don't their expensive China plates.

"How've you been, buddy?" Naruto happily accepted the face licks the dog gave and listened to the sitter as he detailed what 'mishaps' that had happened to them.

Without asking for it, some of the securities sent the sitter home, making sure he isn't halt by the paparazzi waiting nearby.

It was always like this everyday for Naruto.

Now that he has been used to it, his movements and decisions are always calculated and careful—something that is so out-of-character for him, for he was known to be headstrong.

Itachi was the deciding factor.

He had to hold back a lot of times because he cannot shame Itachi. He owed the man a lot and doing this was nothing. Of course Sai, his tactless friend, pointed out that Naruto is started to be super dependent on Itachi and at some ways, he cannot refute the observation. But, aside from staying at the man's place, everything else was up to Naruto.

He wanted to own a place and start a new life, some thing he skipped over during his younger years. Chances are, he would not be able to do so, not until the problems – or should he say – their lies finally reached its end.

"Alright, buddy. Let's go and prepare dinner." The dog happily followed Naruto, wagging his tail as they go. Oblivious to the fact that his owner's mood changed a bit.

Naruto slapped his face to stop himself from having dark thoughts. He needed a change of pace since this whole kissing fiasco has turned him upside down. Though he was kinda grateful. His worries are petty now compared to having pains remembering his broken heart. That made him happy.

Desperate of a mood changer, he started to do what he does to relax.

Cooking. Yes, cooking has always been a healthy 'happy time' for him. He was confident with his skills since he's been doing it for himself and Sasuke for a long time. Uchiha's were known for being picky-eaters after all; it is an accomplishment if you get them to eat anything you prepare. Unlike Itachi who would try anything and be polite if he did not like the taste, Sasuke would just straight-up say how horrible it was. This kept Naruto on his toes which greatly improved him. Another thing to be grateful for.

"Since Tachi doesn't like eating meat that much, let's make something light." The main dish was fish and the rest was light soup with asparagus as starter. The dog remained to his side, looking up, wondering if Naruto would give him some of the end cuts of whatever.

Naruto received a text that Itachi was fifteen minutes away. Enough time for a quick shower while the rest of the meal was in the oven.

Choi followed him too, watching as his human quickly shampoo and rinsed his hair. Naruto opted to dress-up; a simple buttoned down shirt in dark blue together with black slacks and boat shoes. He gave up on his hair after a few combs. No matter, he said to himself. It being unruly gave him a relaxed aura.

He was nervous, understandably, since Itachi wanted to talk to him. Whatever is the matter?

He heard the dog whimpered and ran outside, assuming Itachi was home already. Naruto hurried downstairs and smiled back at the dark-haired man beaming at him.

"Something good happened at work?" Naruto went to the kitchen, while Itachi and Choi rummaged the fridge for drinks.

"Not really. I was just happy to see your face. The shirt suit you," he said, making Naruto blush.

"Oh? Right! I forgot you're the one who bought this." Good thing he had the excuse of taking the fish out of the oven or he'd really looked like he just felt ecstatic about the compliment. He had a tinge of pink even to his ears.

The dinner was ready in no time and while he waited for Itachi to wash his hands, Naruto tried to pick the wine that complimented their meal the best. For this aspect, he is thankful that Deidara is a wine-harpy.

"Everything's looks good," Itachi said, noting the aroma of the lemon zest from the sauce of the fish.

They ate quietly, Naruto too nervous to speak while Itachi savoring the meal.

"Problem?" Naruto asked first, unable to hold it in anymore. Despite his silence over the course of months, Naruto has always been known for being too loud.

"What?" Itachi got confused by the question, "- what gave you that idea?"

"You sounded serious earlier? Are you breaking up with me? Well," - Naruto fidgeted in his seat again - "technically, we're never a couple. But if you announce that we should break up then-" Itachi raised a hand, effectively stopping Naruto.

"I made you anxious, I'm sorry." Itachi smiled.

"Oh… I lost my cool back there." He felt the blush consuming his face once more so he drowned it down with wine. What the hell was that? He inwardly berated himself.

"It was about Sasuke. I don't want to open the topic soon since we're having such a nice meal." Itachi rested his utensils to the side and dabbed a napkin on his mouth.

"Sasuke? What about him?" He knew it. He knew there was a reason he felt so nervous about this.

"We all know he filed for divorce against Sakura and is trying to settle it amicably if she accept his terms, but there's also one issue I think you should know." The look on Itachi's face worried Naruto. If other people saw this, they would think nothing's wrong, just the usual stoic Uchiha.

"And?" He still have food on his plate and such a pity he already lost appetite. He's too nervous and scared to be honest. Sasuke from the stories of their friends, seemed so… unstable.

"He's been trying to buy out from our stockholders."

"Is he trying to fight you for your position?"

"Ha. I supposed you know him best," Itachi chuckled and drank the remainder of his glass.

"Why though?"

"Hn. I can hazard a guess why; but I'm sure he can't if he's alone. You know Sasuke's real worth. He won't be able to buy stocks with a few millions." Itachi scoffed. It was obvious he was holding back on something. Naruto did not dare to ask.

It's true that Naruto knows how much savings Sasuke has. He'd actually heard his accountant for the yearly reports and he saw whenever Sasuke and his people audit his money. Of course, Naruto wasn't that interested in these things.

For one, counting numbers makes him dizzy. He also knew his place; it would not be good if he care too much about how much his ex was saving. That does not concern him. As long as they paid their bills and filled their fridge, Naruto's only concern is how much his money is by the end of the month by doing various part time works.

Though Naruto isn't a complete moron. He knew Sasuke could be worth a few millions including his trust funds. He supposed that won't be enough if he wanted more shares than Itachi. After all, their company has always been listed in top 10, if not 5, of the biggest companies in Asia and Central Europe.

"Tachi, are you okay?" The blond asked after an uncomfortable silence.

Itachi looked straight at him and soften his gaze, "I made you worry again. I'll be fine."

"Hmm. Okay, if you say so."

Itachi stared at Naruto, noting the blond's hair grew longer. "It felt like, even though I see you everyday, it's been a long time since I've seen you… how weird."

"Oh. I know what you mean." Naruto chuckled. It's funny, he thought. Itachi's seemed to be saying what Naruto felt.

"You do?"

"I do."

"Hn..." Itachi wanted to ask Naruto about his meeting with his brother the other day, but was too… afraid to ask. It isn't like him to be uncertain of his… feelings.

"Ha." Itachi drank from his glass and muttered, "Actually, I am most certain of my feelings, it's just that, I don't know what I'll do with it..."

"Huh? You lost me there for a second—are we talking about Sasuke?" Naruto stood up and took the bottle and offered Itachi more wine. It just felt like the kind of night where they both needed to drink.

Itachi looked at the tanned hand that was pouring a drink for him. When Naruto was done and was about to sit down, Itachi held that hand for a few good seconds, confusing the blond.

"Tachi?"

"Hn. Yes, I supposed we're talking about Sasuke." He let go and drank from his glass as if nothing happened. Naruto felt it though; the lugubrious tone from the man's voice.

"Do you think I'm an idiot, Tachi?" Naruto asked as he huffed and downed his drink when. He lost his poise for a second that Itachi had to laugh. He liked this kind of Naruto… a lot.

"On the contrary, I think you're too perceptive that I'm afraid all of my secrets will spill out."

"Then… why are you hiding something from me? It concerns me, doesn't it? I know you're worried about me, and I thank you for that. But it's always obvious when it's about me; you have this..." - he waved his hand as if trying to find the right words to say, but could not explain it well. Instead, Itachi finished his sentence for him.

"As if I'm trying to burden myself by carrying the world over my shoulders?"

"Yes. That."

"Shisui often told me that." Itachi's lips turned up, smiling for a fraction of second. If you're not observant and quick enough, it is the kind of smile you'd miss.

"Well… you shouldn't do that, really. I think, rather than being deceitful, saying the truth would be better… no matter how hard and awful it is."

"That is so like you to say so..." Itachi commented.

"Is that bad?"

"Hmm." Itachi shook his head and unraveled his hair tie. His dark locks fell on his shoulders. Naruto gulped a bit and he does not know why. Perhaps Itachi looked too good with his hair down?

"People like you who are brutally honest are like… the Sun? I supposed I could compare you to that. Like basking under the sun."

"Sun? That's kinda deep. I don't want to be philosophical here."

"Haha. See? So brutally honest. Bright, fun to be with. I'm glad you're starting to be how you've always been, Naruto. Smiling, being loud, and having fun suits you the best."

Naruto felt embarrassed, and sad even. "Sounds like you're trying to say goodbye."

"Didn't I say before? No matter what happens, I will be here for you. There's no goodbyes between us, Naruto."

"Then… I guess I'll believe you."

"Yes, you should. I maybe secretive and calculative, but I never lie, at least not to you."

"Never?" Naruto asked, summoning to courage to look at Itachi's face.

"Never." The man answered with full confidence.

"Can I ask you questions though? Milking the fact that you never lie."

"Questions? I guess you have many… Hn, I supposed so. Go on." Itachi felt amused at the situation. Was Naruto having a permanent blush on his face? Is he drunk? Embarrassed? Maybe both? Itachi thought it was kinda cute.

"You're not in trouble, are you?"

"...I'm always in trouble, but nothing I cannot handle, Naruto. You do not need to worry."

"… How about Sasuke?"

Itachi felt stung and momentarily lost the ability to reply. He find it comical that Naruto had this ability to stupefy him. Not many—no. There's probably no one but him who can do so.

"He is."

"Oh." Naruto fell silent.

"You don't have to hide the fact that you're concerned about him. It's not like it's against the law to care for your ex. He's horrible, yes. But he is someone important to you." Itachi leaned back on his chair. He felt the need to drink a stronger liquor.

"I hate him though." Naruto muttered under his breath.

"Do you?"

"Still my turn to ask."

Itachi raised his hand as if mocking surrender, "Alright. Anything else?"

"Hmm… I wanted to ask this for a while, but I was afraid to hear the response..."

Itachi had an idea about what could it be that the blond wanted to know. He knew.

"Is it about the kisses?"

"Uhm… wow. This is awkward..." Naruto fanned his face with his his hand. He was so uncomfortable that he had to hug himself.

"I felt jealous that you cried about Sasuke. I kissed you at the parking lot because of that sudden emotion. Do I regret it? Yes, a bit. It was uncharacteristic of me, and I've put you on the spot."

Naruto fell silent once more and nodded, before he asked another question. "And the other times?"

"Hn..." Itachi paused for a bit when he heard the query. He liked the conversation. At last, he could clear things between them. "I kissed you that night when we were broken on the floor because you are like that for me…"

"Like what?" Naruto was confused.

Itachi stood up and dragged his seat besides the blond. Naruto panicked a bit and tried to stand up, but Itachi placed a hand on his shoulder, prompting the man to sit down. Itachi was so close to him; he felt the man's heat through his touch. And though they were sitting side by side, Naruto could see through peripheral vision that Itachi had a playful smirk on his face. Is he drunk? Naruto asked himself and tried to remember how many glasses Itachi had.

Itachi then linked their fingers together, and leaned closer to Naruto, whispering in his ear. "You make my blood boil, in a good way. You trouble me, and excite me. You throw me off the loop. Living with you this long was not part of my plan and it tips off the balance in me. You… you're the source of my comfort and discomfort at the same time. Do you get it?"

"I… ah!" Naruto felt goosebumps all over, especially around his nape. Itachi was aggressive and sort of… different. Did he flipped a switch?

"You what?" Itachi brushed a hand on the man's chin, that made Naruto squirmed in his seat. He wanted to run away but his knees felt like jelly.

"I… get it already, Tachi." Naruto whimpered.

Itachi was about to tease Naruto more, but he noticed the man scratching his neck looking like he was really having a hard time so he held himself back, like how he often do everyday for the past few days.

"You should have seen you face." Itachi moved away and let go, sporting a smirk on his face, making fun on the blond.

"You meanie ~" Naruto jabbed Itachi's side and composed himself by drinking a glass of water.

"I think we need to clear up. Are you ready for desserts?" Naruto asked and Itachi just nodded, focused on his wine.

"You had enough of that, don't you think?"

"My last one for tonight. What's for dessert?" Itachi asked absentmindedly. Naruto unaware of the turmoils boiling inside him.

"Just ice cream I bought earlier with Sai. They have it on sale."

"I'll pass the desserts then."

"Okay. Are you resting now?" Naruto asked as he scooped his portion not so far from Itachi.

"I'll stay; we haven't had a proper conversation in a while and I'll hear all the stories about Choi. You texted me earlier about the lawn mowing incident. I got curious."

Naruto laughed and looked at the dog resting on one of his beds. His eyes were on them as if knowing they were talking about him.

Naruto took his bowl of ice cream and sat beside Itachi. He looked far more relaxed than he was a minute ago. Itachi was somehow happy yet sad. For now, he just enjoyed the moment while he listens to the blond's story.

He's a patient man… or at least he's supposed to be.


~Few days later~


Itachi is a patient man; he'd always been methodical. Sasori and Deidara, along with the few people who have seen his 'other side' noted how punctilious he is, borderline OCD. He never missed a beat and always one step ahead of things that they've joked around how he can see things with that dark eyes of his. Almost as if his eyes can read people's thoughts and manipulate them to think whatever Itachi wants them to think.

A few years back when Sasori and Deidara were dealing with small illegal Arms trade overseas, Itachi showed up in their motel room armed with nothing but himself, clad in black coat. He was cool and calm, as if pulling the two in a trance.

Itachi revealed he had people followed the two for a few months and knew they were dealing with dangerous people. He also knew the two were in trouble and could not get out of the it, so he made a new one for them. In exchange, they had to 'work' with him and his 'hidden organization' he started.

They knew him from their University and that he often appeared prim and proper. To say they were surprised that Itachi had an association with weaponry, arms and ammunition procurement and other similar things—though 'legal'—was an understatement.

Since then, they've been fascinated with the man. Wondering what ticks him off, and following his every move. They were, however, heartbroken to learn that he was attached to someone.

And by attached meant he could not see and notice other than his Shisui. The man was the opposite of Itachi, from what the two have gathered.

Shisui was an idealist. The type of person who would join a picket line and shout on the streets. Shisui was the type of man who would influence people around him and has no problem handling the unpredictable.

In some ways, Sasori and Deidara knew he complemented the enigma that Itachi is because he was the complete opposite. Shisui wore his heart on his sleeves while Itachi stayed a few steps behind, observing before he strikes.

That changed dramatically when they learned of Shisui's death not long after they met.

By then, Itachi has been aloof to anyone.

And yes, over the years they had a physical relationship with the man; however, they never once touched his inner self. Nobody could.

Several months ago, they learned from Kisame, another one of their 'associates', that Itachi has taken care of a man younger than him.

His name is Naruto, and he is the ex-lover of Itachi's younger brother.

Kisame told everyone one day when they had gathered to their 'secret meetings' that Itachi was running late because he had to take care of the man in the hospital.

Of course the two were curious about him.

Although Itachi could be considered 'morally good', he never took care of anyone personally. He had a lot of people who could do that for him. Naturally, they got agog about 'The kinda cute blond with cerulean blue eyes', as Kisame described him.

Obviously, they had met him a few times, but he wasn't striking enough. Not even enough for them to remember his face. There was a talk among them that Sasuke Uchiha's partner was a nobody and a simple man; not a threat to anyone.

Itachi then requested their 'infiltration expert' to watch over Naruto in secret after the fact, stating the that his Uncle, the bane of Itachi's existence, could use Naruto and Sasuke against him.

There weren't many questions when Itachi planned something, because he was a slim chance he is wrong.

And he wasn't.

.

"Itachi's late again. Not like him." Zetsu's voice was raspy as usual, drinking his strong personal concoction of liquor back at the bar of their meeting room.

Sasori and Deidara were playing pool, not minding the gentlemen near them. They knew Itachi would be late; he already messaged he'd be.

"What do you know, Kisame-san?" Tobi, not far from Kisame who is sharpening his knife, asked the bulky man.

"He said he'd be late. You know what I know; we're in the same office."

"Isn't it difficult to play as the trusted Chief Assistant, Un?" Deidara really wanted to know. He knew Kisame respects Itachi and had to be 'inside' for their plans to move, but how can Kisame work so diligently for Itachi?

"Not really. He pays handsomely, and I had a lot of fun doing office stuff. Make me feel like I'm actually a good person." Kisame finished that one with a laugh.

"Yes. Just a feeling though. You're not exactly a good person. You and me." Zetsu said, pointing his gardening tools set on the floor.

"Haha! How's Choi by the way?" Kisame asked.

"Fucking annoying dog."

"Why? I thought he's kinda cute." Sasori joked.

"He often comes to the garden while I'm doing my thing. It's kinda hard to plant 'bugs' and watch over the house when he comes to play." Zetsu coughed and drank his concoction again, making Deidara who saw the greenish thing he just drank, gagged a bit.

"I apologize for being late." Itachi came inside the room, as the guards behind him closed the door. He placed his smart phones near the entrance where everyone's were, and turned it off for security.

"It's fine." Sasori stopped playing and offered the man a beer to drink. They pulled up a chair one by one and focused on the enveloped Kisame handed to them.

"Madara is on the move. He's been meetings with stockholders and trying to make them on their side. According to our Intel, he just took my brother to one of their meetings and asked investors and stockholders to place their trust in Sasuke instead. Something about their ten year plan for the company." Itachi started.

"How about the thing with the shipping company? The merger with Hyuga?" Tobi asked.

"So far, Madara is oblivious about the fact that I own that company and is using a dummy owner that is Neji Hyuga." Itachi scoffed at how stupid Madara's team with reading the fine prints and voiced it out loud.

"Well, it's not as if we were not purposely making it difficult for them, Un." They all chuckled.

"It's been years since Madara has dipped his hands and be outright challenging towards us. What do you think made him move like this?"

"Since he was the one who introduced me to this world, he could not accept that fact that I don't want to do it his way. He was never about how to procure something legally; he's all about how to obtain it at all cause. The time when he was intercepted at Jordan, things went south with him. We all know in exchange for his freedom, he ratted everyone else. Including The Orochimaru. I'm interested in money, so I could buy out the company and earn for whatever reason I have. I'm not interested in going to jail, hn."

"That may be true, Itachi, but what about your brother? Aren't we going to save Sasuke?" Kisame expressed his concern. Of course he would, he often see Itachi's brother.

"About that… I already asked someone closely working with Sasuke to do something for me."

"Who?" Zetsu wondered.

"I can't reveal him without his permission. That'd had to wait for a while."

"But what is Madara planning to do with Sasuke? Use him as front man? You know… since Madara isn't actually welcome to come back to the bidding. No one actually trust him anymore. He can only do small jobs, not even worth five millions the most." Sasori asked.

"He is interested in Uchiha Corp.. The company is one of the top, yes? If he get his hands on it – money laundering, and using its resources to purchase, say, investing on manufacturing and declare it as 'metal company', then he'd have the upper hand. Look at the thing he's doing with the shipping lines. He already loaded some of the contraband using the company's name. Good thing this was well documented and we're working for someone undercover. This could well blow up on our faces." Kisame said.

"Thanks to Itachi's foreseeing."

"Am I a clairvoyant? Ha! Madara is just predictable. Looking back at his dealings when he used Akatsuki's name back in Baghdad, he didn't erased his traces well enough. That gave me a lot of headache to clear up." Itachi pinched his nose bridge. His headaches are getting ridiculous.

"He's smart to not show up in all of his dealings and use aliases. He'd be dead by now." Zetsu said.

"Yeah. What about your Father?" Deidara asked.

"My father is a womanizing idiot. I am ashamed that he is; though he is lesser evil. We can't really tell if he's unaware of Madara's underworld life or not. But if he is, then he's doing a good job. All I want is to sell or disband Uchiha Corp. and start a new one for myself. Uchiha family has done enough damage, starting from my Grandfather. Look at Madara and the things he's doing, really." Itachi does not like speaking much, but he had to and that was making him annoyed.

"Heard a pretty funny story, actually. Know his assistant? Yeah, that guy said Madara was actually often mentioning something like 'I bet Itachi planned on stealing Naruto from you from the start' to Sasuke. A few bottles and the idiot started talking. Something like, Madara even had people follow Sakura, convincing Sasuke that she was in cahoots with you. No wonder the kid starting to look so fucked up these days. He might plot to kill you and kidnap Naruto." Kisame smirked.

"Un. Way to go, Madara. He knew exactly how to control your baby brother." Deidara added and laughed a bit.

"Funny, but if you think about it, Sasuke never experienced hardship in life. Dear brother protected Sasuke for years, not letting his family totally pollute the man. And then BAM!" - Sasori slammed the table for effect - "his one true love was taken away by the man he could not beat. Then it was planned? His brother stole his love? Revenge! To the death!"

"Spill Itachi's blood! Cut his penis, un!" Deidara added.

They all laughed except Itachi. He knew this was not a joking matter. Sasuke really might plot something drastic and no matter how many times he tried to talk to the man, he just won't listen.

His little brother is easily swayed by emotions and Madara knows how to play that. He just have to trust that someone he assigned to looked into Sasuke's dealings in secret and keep an eye out.

"That's why I'm making sure Naruto isn't kidnapped. Fuck, Madara might kill Naruto and make Sasuke a vengeful spirit and frame Itachi up. When that happens, we're all screwed. Just this week, I saw a few wiretapping materials around the fence and GPS tracker in Naruto's bike. Not good." Zetsu shook his head.

"That and also, Itachi likes Naruto. The earth could burn to the ground if someone harms him." Sasori smiked and everyone looked at Itachi, waiting for him to refute but he didn't.

"Make sure Naruto's safe." In fact, when Itachi said this, they all had to clear their throats or do something else. Itachi looked so void of emotions than usual, something you don't see everyday.

And when you do, you keep your mouth shut.

Itachi is morally good, but had dark demons. Never mess with him. And now they know, never mess with Naruto. That was a silent warning.

"Alright. Moving on." Kisame clapped his hands.

"Yes. L-let's move on. Itachi-san isn't actually happy about this." Tobi replied.

"Next agenda – The Government of XXX just banned the shipment of ammo to their XX port. We won't have any problems considering we already finished the last of the batch. However, the next time we have an order, and I projected they would, we would have to find a different route, or cancel the contract altogether." Kisame reported.

"Let's vote. I am in favor for canceling the contract. The profit is not enough for the effort." Itachi looked at the files in front of him and sighed. This was giving him headaches for days now. "There's a rumor going on that some of the government officials were selling the guns to its militia. That could put us in hot water." Itachi added.

"But we're arms dealing; we shouldn't care about where they'll use it. Do we care when we sell people trucks of soda? Are they going to feed it to kids? Old people with diabetes? No. We don't. I vote fuck them. I can search for a different delivery port, and I have contacts with people from XXX to escort the commodities safely." Sasori said. It was his 'account' and he was the first one who suggested the client—damn if he lost them.

"One vote for canceling the contract. Sorry, honey. I just don't want to deal with the backlash. They've been getting heat from Interpol. Let's keep this 'legal', un?"

"Ha! Betrayed by my own husband. You traitor!" Sasori hissed. Deidara kissed him on the cheek as an apology.

"Third on canceling." Kisame said.

"I'm for continuing. Fuck the police." Zetsu said dryly.

"Yeah~no. We really should care about the police. I'm for canceling." Tobi commented.

"How about you, Conan?" They addressed the pretty lady on the video conference call, busy getting a tan besides the man full of body piercings.

"We're for canceling. We also know some of the back dealings they were doing. That country's government are full of corrupted people."

"Then it's settled. We're canceling the contract. Moving on to the next agenda. Our friends from XX are asking if we could donate a few manpower and money to build their small hospital for-"

Itachi raised his hand, effectively cutting Kisame. "I'll give five million."

"Two for me." Sasori said and Deidara just nodded.

"Two hundred thousand, fifty laborers and medical equipments they need." Conan said.

"I'll give fifty thousand." Tobi said and looked down. He's not really willing to give more and was a bit embarrassed to admit.

"I'll give a hundred thousand" Kisame said. "Should be enough to fund for the next few years. Moving on to next agenda..."


~o~

Heaven knows love is just a chance we take

We make plans but then love demands a leap of faith

So hold me close and never never let me go

'Cos even though we think we know which way the river flows

That's not the way love goes, no

~o~


Their monthly meeting took two hours to finished and by the time they were done, it was already two in the morning.

Itachi reached his home around four, all too tired and ready for a good rest. Choi whimpered a bit when he turned the knob, but he was already in his kennel and Itachi has been sporting a headache so he did not mind the dog much.

"Anything unusual around here?" Itachi asked the Chief Security that gave his last report for the day.

"Nothing, Sir. Everything's in order. Naruto-sama was taken home by his friends Sai and Iruka. I called the doctor and had him checked. The doctor said he suffered from social anxiety and had a panic attack. She gave him medicines to relax and sleep. The maid offered Iruka and Sai tea but they refused. They said they had to get back to the party."

"What time is this? Why wasn't I called?" Itachi was irritated. He tossed his tie on the couch nearby.

"Your phone and Kisame-san's was unreachable, Sir. We had to take actions ourselves."

"And what of the securites that were assigned to Naruto?"

"They lost Naruto mid party."

"Fire them all. Give me a new team tomorrow and submit their background reports first thing in the morning." Itachi barked orders. This time, he let the dog out because he could not stand the whining.

"Roger. Anything else, Sir?"

"Strengthen and secure the internet connection around the house. Have an IT team come tomorrow afternoon. No, wait. Contact Kisame or one of my secretaries and have it scheduled. The earlier, the better."

"Understood."

Itachi went upstairs after the conversation, wanting a quick shower before coming to bed. He had hoped to see Naruto before he goes to sleep, but seeing as the man took medicines, he thought I'd be best to just see how he's doing later.

When he was done with the showers, he took Choi back at his kennel and went back upstairs. He then noticed Naruto's bedroom lights were on, and his door was partly opened.

"Knock. Knock."

"Oh, Hi! You just came home?" Naruto asked, sitting on his bed as he rested his glass of water on his night stand. He switched to lamp light, dimming his room.

"How are you feeling?" Itachi asked, noting the man looks alright than he thought he would.

"Exhausted. I'll tell you everything tomorrow. For now, can you… can you stay with me?"

"Of course. Gladly." He closed the door behind him.

Itachi went under covers and laid besides Naruto. The fact that he was beside him made his head swim with a lot of thoughts.

So it wasn't just him who was aware with his feelings for the blond. His associates are aware of it too. Was he that obvious?

"Something on you mind?" Naruto asked as he turned off the lamp and went under the covers too. His feet was touching Itachi's.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Hm?" Naruto rolled to his side so he can look at Itachi's through the dim of the light shone through his blinds cracks.

"When you left Sasuke, you were pretty much still in love with him. So why did you do it? You could just take him, force him not to listen to my family and marry you instead. Live in a different country with just you and him. Ask for my support. Why didn't you?"

"Uhm. Wow. Okay… where to start.

"I guess part of me wanted to save myself. I love Sasuke, but I was painfully aware of what he was doing behind my back. At times I question my sanity; why am I allowing this? And the answer always come back to, 'Because I love him and I want to be with him'.

"Then it got too much. I think Sakura was just a representation for me. I hated her, but she was just a part of the problem. I told myself, she was the last straw. That because I knew her and she was a friend, I could not believe they'd betrayed me. But thinking about it now, that wasn't really the case."

"How intriguing…" Itachi commented.

"Yeah. It wasn't because Sasuke cheated on me with someone I personally know. It's because I've allowed him to think that I could still forgive him. That after all the things we went through, there was just no way I could not forgive him and take his hand, live in a different country and be married. Love did not made me stronger, like all those books and romance movie said. It made me… weaker. It made me dependent on other people. On him. And when he was gone, I felt empty. Like, I could not go on because there was nothing left of me.

"I'm glad I didn't die… It's a struggle but I'm glad I didn't. Now I just have to find my broken pieces and fix it. Or try… or just learn how to function with broken parts. Haha."

"Then what do you think of me, Naruto?"

Naruto was silent for a while, he looked like he was finding the right words to say. "I… I like being with you. I am at peace. Like, I have a lot of things to say, things to complain, I want to shout at something and break stuff. I felt like this a while ago. I woke up dizzy and wanted to just… punch stuff. But then I saw your face… oh, God." Itachi thought he heard Naruto sobbed so he pulled him close to him. He could smell Naruto's fragrant hair. He rubbed the man's back while he waited for Naruto to calm down.

"I'm like that too. I'm always looking forward seeing you. You consumed my thoughts, and right now, even though you're sad, I am happy that I am the only one who sees." Itachi whispered in Naruto's ear.

"That's scary, Tachi. Are you a sadist or something?" Naruto chuckled, enjoying the soothing back

rubs.

There was a pregnant pause between them before Naruto spoke, stopping Itachi from dozing off.

"You asked me before in the parking lot, if I want to go out with you for real. The deal is on the table?"

Itachi froze a bit. Indeed he asked Naruto that, but he was not himself. Which was why he tried to be normal as possible.

He could, and he should.

He could not have Naruto. It would be too risky, and would break Sasuke's heart. At the back of his mind, he still think that Sasuke could turn his life around for good if he does settle down, and do things peacefully. Have a serious talk with Sakura and settle their differences. Sit down with their parents and repair what was lost between them and Naruto.

And Itachi would be happy to support them. Let Naruto be happy in someone's arm.

Sasuke is technically a better person, remove his cheating ways. Itachi lives in the dark and his plans is an intricate web. The tangled web of plans it took years to do and no matter how intricate it is, one strong wind and it could ruin everything.

Strong wind that is Uzumaki Naruto.

He could turn him down, and he should.

"Yes."

"..."

"…"

"Then… please take care of me. We'll take things slow, if that is okay with you. I mean… if it is okay with you that we'll take things slow. Like… me discovering my feelings and all. I just… it didn't seemed right me staying with you like this and not defining our relationship. I feel like I am cheating myself. It felt wrong kissing and other stuff when we're not… you know... and-"

"Shhh. I know. I know. It's better to be real, see our compatibility, work our differences than to wonder, right? I understand, Naruto. Dating to see how things turns out sound right for us. No need to rush things. I need to be slow too." The last part was serious.

"Uhm… but I do… sort of… like…"

"I like you, Naruto. Let's worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Sleep."

"Huh!" Naruto was surprised to hear those words from Itachi.

"Tachi? Doing Carp dem or something?" he hovered on top of Itachi, using his elbow to prop his head up. Itachi thought it was kinda cute that Naruto's fringe almost covered his eyes now.

"It's 'Carpe Diem' and yes; so unlike me. Being with you makes me weird."

Itachi brushed the fringe off Naruto's forehead and tugged him back to the crook of his shoulder. Naruto happily rested there, his medicines kicking in again.

"If I am allowed to have one thing… do one selfish thing..."

"Did you say something, Tachi?"

Itachi dozed off and did not answer. Naruto soon followed him.


a/n; song is Love moves in Mysterious ways, Nina's version