Faster, faster, faster...

Jump, duck, side-step, jump, flip, jump, duck, jump, flip, jump, pause...

A lone figure stood in the middle of a wood, looking left and right, panting heavily, sweating, exhausted. Then...

Jump, side-step, flip, jump, duck, jump, stop...

I made it... Sasuke thought as he stood in front of a small and quaint looking home. Finally... I can rest... He held his hand up then hesitated at the last minute. What if... ... what if he won't take me...? what if he shuts the door in my face...? Will he laugh at me? laugh at my predicament? I-... Shaking his head of doubt, he brought up the courage and knocked. Three short, strong knocks. While waiting, he took in long, deep breaths, placing a hand over his racing heart. He winced as deep breathing gave him a sharp pain. From where? He really was too exhausted to find out.

He looked up to see the door open slowly. He tried to register in his mind what he saw. He saw Itachi, his brother... He was holding something. If Sasuke was less exhausted and more awake, he would see that the 'something' he was holding was a small child. However, his eyes only saw Itachi.

"Aniki..." He whispered before the darkness claimed him, taking him to oblivion.

The second Itachi confirmed that yes, his little brother was indeed at his doorstep, he put the little blond boy he was holding down on the floor. "Chiki-chan... would you go get your mama for me?" He said in a soft tone. The little boy nodded before dashing off to find his mother.

Once he was out of sight and ear-sight, Itachi turned back to Sasuke was a sad look in his dark eyes and a frown evident on his mouth. His eyes quickly scanned and made note of all the scratches and bruises that he had decorated around his body. First thing's first, he thought as he gently picked Sasuke up and carried him to the living room. He paused for a bit, then decided that he should wash Sasuke up first. Then the boy would feel better when he awoke and relax. Looking cleaner and smelling nice never hurt either.

Itachi turned the water on in the tub and made sure it was warm enough before proceeding to pull his Otouto's shirt off before adding to his mental note of more injuries and a very large, and disgusting looking bruise on his left collar bone. His frown deepened as he saw the mixture of yellows, greens, and browns that reminded him of a leaf in the fall.

"What happened...?" Itachi was startled to hear the small voice of his wife at the doorway. Itachi looked up at the blonde with an uncertain and slightly scared look in his eyes. He watched as he scanned all of the injuries of the young man.

"Deidara."

That snapped the blonde man from his growing sadness that he felt for Itachi's brother. He gave him a small smile, slightly amused at that almost pleading look his husband gave him. Almost pleading. Deidara found it very cute and would tease him endlessly long after this matter is solved. Right now, however, Itachi needed help cleaning up little Sasuke.

It was pretty cold, and the fact that he had no clothes on could have helped slightly. His body was shivering, but from the cold, or the fear, yes fear that he was experiencing. He wished it all would stop, but it all just started.

How did he ever get into this predicament anyhow?

What did he do?

Why was it like this?

How was it that-

Ahh! He ground his teeth together, his pride-as diminished as it's become-wouldn't allow him to cry out. Even though regular people would be sobbing, struggling, outright wailing if they were in the same position. He had thought about it, the pain was that great, but it just-Ahh! nnh!-would appear just pathetic to be found like that. Plus it would prove that he really was weak, though everyone knew he wasn't, he always was the pessimist, always finding his errors and never his upsides.

Oh my- Augh! So unbearable! Tears welled up in his eyes, though he would never allow them to fall-also a thanks to his pride. He did, however, allow his breathing to quicken, and his face contort into that of great pain, and his body to curl in on itself.

A deep, sadistic laughter was heard, it's voice terribly mocking. "How do you like that?" He knew the smirk was there without even looking. That haunting smirk mocking his position. OH HOW IT HURTS. His breath hitched every time he felt it, a vain attempt to ease the pain. He was so close to letting out a strangled whimper of pain. His control was waining, and he wasn't sure how he was to deal with it. Ahhhh! He bit the inside of his cheek to divert his mind to the now throbbing cheek of his.

"Danna... he's starting to shake, and his breathing is shortening, un." Deidara was sitting on the couch that Sasuke was currently lying on. He had a worried look on his face and was anxious for his husband to come back in the room with a washcloth and blanket. He wasn't sure what to do. He knew Itachi's little brother was very sensitive to everything, and the smallest touch he received could affect him in many ways. The slightest movement that Sasuke did, especially in his sleep, would explain what he was feeling. However, to Deidara's dismay, he knew none of those little movements, or guestures that Sasuke ever would do.

Though he was willing to learn from Itachi who would undoubtedly know how to read his brother. Itachi loved his brother very much. He always had very deeply. Even their time in the Akatsuki, Itachi would always be checking up on Sasuke. He knew how fragile Sasuke was, and he always worried about him. He knew that the ending of the clan pointing to Itachi hurt Sasuke even more. It hurt Itachi too, to be blamed for the death of his family. His father he didn't feel so much remorse over, but the rest...?

Deidara shook his head as Itachi was walking quickly to the couch, a bowl in hand, and a blanket in the other. He tossed the blanket over to Deidara and kneeled on the floor at Sasuke's head. Brushing away the hair in Sasuke's face, Itachi wrung out the excess cold water into the bowl and placed it on his forehead.

While he was doing that, Deidara took the liberty of unfolding and folding the blanket around Sasuke, slowly and carefully. He pulled it all the way up to the boy's neck, and smoothed it around him with care. He didn't know how Sasuke would react to that, but he always felt better and more secure when someone did that to him. He smiled slightly when Sasuke stopped his shaking and looked towards Itachi.

The said man was currently still bent over his little brother, stroking his hair back away from his face repeatedly. The boy was lying on his side, facing that of his brother in a calm, but not yet peaceful slumber.

Deidara watched as he saw Sasuke twitch under the blanket, then shifted, curling his body around himself slightly. Then his eyes fluttered open. He looked at Itachi's face, his eyes moving around, studying his older brother's face for the first time since they were young, looking at him curiously as he did years back. Sasuke then brought his hand up to his brother's face, touching his cheek with his fingertips.

"Aniki...?" came the soft whisper from the smallish looking boy.

Itachi gave a slight smile and rubbed Sasuke's cheek with his thumb. In return, the boy gave a small smile of his own and leaned into the touched, closing his eyes as he did so. After a moment, Sasuke reached out with his two hands, sandwiching the hand that was previously stroking his hair, and pulling it down to pillow it under his head. He looked up at his brother with an expecting look. Waiting for something Itachi would say, just like old times.

Momentarily forgotten, Deidara thought this as a good time to go check on his eldest son, soon-to-be older brother. He smiled a fond smile and rubbed his large stomach. Soon, he would have another little baby, he and Itachi would parent another little child. He was so excited! Five years ago, he never would have guessed that the man that he had feelings for would return them. He chuckled lightly at the memories. He was so scared when he realized he loved Itachi. It scared him to think that he had fallen for one whom he thought really could care less if he hated, or loved him. Though, as time wore on, and he admitted to himself that yes, he loved the man, he loved him so much it hurt. It hurt to think the one he would always look at secretly in the night, where the moon alone saw him. Saw his heart aching over what would never be... of what he wanted, but could never have.

Little did he know that the one he watched was awake.

During his time in Akatsuki, Itachi never 'slept'. He would always be in this state where his body would rest, but his mind would be fully aware of what was going on. It was like this when he was in the ANBU as well. It was a way to keep fully aware of your surroundings, and rest.

Though Itachi would always know when and where Deidara would be, he wasn't sure why. He knew Deidara was watching him, but his brilliant mind couldn't think of the reason. The thought was troubling. He would spend much time pondering about it, and never came up with an answer.

Eventually, albeit reluctant to not figure something out, he went to Deidara for the answer. Though, his blonde teammate's answer to his question was merely a shocked expression, and a light pink fluttering across his cheeks. Itachi felt something then. It had made him want to smile, yes SMILE. However he knew not why, so he forced the want down and focused on Deidara for his answer.

Deidara, having come up with a solution of -not- telling Itachi, bowed low from the waist, apologized for the trouble, and walked away.

Deidara was snapped from his memories when he reached where he was headed. He paused, Does it usually take this long to get here...? He shook the thought off and knocked on the door that was presently closed.

"Chiki-chan? Can mama come in, un?" He called softly, knowing his firstborn was stunned at the sudden arrival of some bloody, exhausted man that looked like his papa. How shocked, was what Deidara wanted to know. He wanted to soothe his little baby of his fears.

The door opened to a boy with long black hair, fading to blonde at the ends, looking up to him with eyes inherited from Deidara widened with confusion and fear. "Mama..." He whispered before launching himself on his mama's leg. He wanted to be in his mama's arms, but he knew that with the baby coming, it would hurt mama and the baby, and he didn't want to do that. Papa had told him that he needed to be a good boy and help mama any way he could, and to do so with a smile, or mama would think he was troubling. He felt his mama's hand ruffle his hair and he looked up to see the smiling face that always made him feel better.

"Let's sit in your room, ne Chiki-chan? Mama's too fat to stand up for too long, un." Mama said with a wink. Chiki smiled widely at mama's wink. "Mama!" he giggled, "You're not fat!" He grabbed mama's hand and dragged him over to the little bed that was neatly made every day. "You have baby!" he gently poked his mama's big tummy before laying down on the tummy facing him with a grin that made Deidara want to just hug him tight.

"Ne, Chiki-chan... you know who papa's talking to right now? The one who came to the house a little while ago, that looked like papa, un?" Deidara thought that a simple approach would not alarm his little 4 year old. He smiled when his baby rolled his head to the side in thought then nodding with a triumphant smile looking at his mama again. "Good. Now, that man is actually your uncle, un. Your Tooji-chan, un." He winked again at that.

Chiki frowned. There was just something that didn't fit. Yes, he was happy to know that he had an uncle, and he was excited to get to know his papa's brother... but something was just off. Ah! so that was it! "Mama...?" He started, frown still in place. Deidara, afraid that his son didn't approve of the sudden mention of another family member, studied the little boy, trying to figure out what he thought. However, a blessing or a curse, Chiki had inherited Itachi's ability to not reveal what he was thinking. Deidara waited for the little boy to continue. "...How come papa never mentioned that he had a brother?" he finished with a little pout. Deidara smiled at the cute scene. "I don't know, love... you'll just have to ask papa, un."

Deidara lie down on the bed of his son. "Ne, Chiki-chan, let's take a nap first, un. Mama's sleepy, and papa's still talking to Tooji-chan, un." Chiki giggled when his mama pulled him down to lay next to him. Chiki sat up for a moment, pulling his blanket up so mama wouldn't get cold. He tucked his mama in who was looking at him tiredly with a smile. "Chiki-chan, you're such a good boy, un." he yawned, "'night, love, un." Chiki snuggled into his mama who snuggled into the bed, and they both fell asleep.

Silence...

Neither of the two moved or talked, they just basked in comfortable silence, studying each other's face, as if it had been years since they had last seen the other. Using his other hand, Itachi brushed strands of his little brother's hair out of his face, and rested his hand atop the younger's head.

Finally, he opened his mouth to say what had been running through his mind ever since he saw Sasuke outside his home in a wreck.

"Sasuke... what happened?" He watched as the boy's eyes went from content curiosity to self-loathing and fear. He let go of his Aniki's hand and pulled himself away from the man, scrunching himself to the back of the sofa, and averting his eyes to the cushions. Itachi noted from the corner of his eye that his feet started to fidget and rub against each other. He saw the tears threatening to spill out of his eyes, and his face scrunch up into one of sorrow.

To say he was worried was a serious understatement. Ever since the two had gotten on friendly terms again, Sasuke had been getting stronger and stronger, physically and mentally. He would be able to figure things out with much more ease, and body always moving gracefully. To see him in such a state was worthy of much worry. It would take a lot to break Sasuke like this, and Itachi dreaded the explanation that was to come.

Sasuke visibly swallowed, then took a stuttering breath and said the inevitable-

"H-he... he... r-raped... m-m-me..."

Itachi was surprised. He was more than surprised. He was astounded. How could someone take advantage of his brother so? How could they? How dare they? Surprise melted into anger. He felt his eyes bleeding to red, he closed his eyes and took a few breaths to calm himself. He had to deal with this rationally, and responsibly. He needed Sasuke to explain to him the entire story, and then he would take the necessary actions. Maybe he could kill the one who dared touch his little brother. Either way, the person would pay. Dearly.

He pulled up the broken boy and cradled him in his arms. A sob sounded from the boy and Itachi rubbed the boy's back as he started crying. Rubbing soothing circles around his lower-back, the best place to coax one who was in an emotional wreck. He started to sway slowly side to side in rhythm to his circles. He waited for the boy's sobbing to slow… then stop. He kept the circles running, he kept swaying, and he held his little brother-his broken little brother- to him, protecting him from the other evils of the world, despite the fact that Sasuke was a fit ninja, at the moment, anything could get to him; right now his shields were down, his guard was let down, he let his emotions spill, he let them go.

As painful as the subject was, Itachi had to know, he had to find out what happened to his baby brother, he needed to i shield /i him from what may come next, he needed to be ready to comfort, and most importantly, he needed to know how to handle the situation. As much as it hurt him to do, he needed Sasuke to tell him.

"Who…?"

Nothing.

Itachi knew his brother had been listening, he knew the boy wasn't asleep, if he was, his breathing wouldn't be so erratic, he wouldn't be clutching his brother's shirt like a lifesaver, and he most certainly would not be crying in his sleep. Sasuke never cried in his sleep. Sure he whimpered and sobbed, but tears never made their way down. They waited until after he was awake and aware before spilling down his pale face.

So if he was awake… why wasn't he answering? Yes, Itachi felt the slight stiffness Sasuke's muscles had, he felt-more than heard-the breath hitch in boy's throat. It must have been someone he trusted, someone who was close to him. He would never have been taken advantage of otherwise. There was only one person Itachi could think of that was even remotely close to Sasuke; only one person who could worm their way past his stoic attitude, his icy comments; one person who could have him drop his shields even for a slit second; a person who Sasuke would trust enough for anything.

Naruto.

Naruto was the only one Sasuke knew, the only one who knew him. Naruto was the only possible explanation for the whole ordeal. Naruto was the one person whom Sasuke trusted with his life. Naruto was the only person in existence who was strong enough, and only one daring to do that to the Uchiha Sasuke.

Now they only question was why?


Do we like, minna-san? R&R as always.