Reality washed over Itachi like a bucket full of cold water when Sasuke poked him between the eyes.

The familiarity was welcomed, to say the least, if a bit odd.

"I do not suppose that you intend to kill me." Itachi found the words rumble out his throat almost unbidden. He'd lived the last ten years or so thinking that he would find peace on the end of his brother's sword. This entire episode had been surreal and Itachi still wasn't sure that this was not a fevered dream.

Sasuke huffed. "No. Not really."

What sort of response was that? Itachi cocked his head to the side and examined his blurry sibling. Sasuke seemed amused.

"Not even a little?" Itachi pried. "I did kill our family after all."

Sasuke didn't look impressed in the slightest. "Time and perspective have led me to believe that that is a spectacular load of crap." He drawled disinterestedly. "And besides, right now you look like about as much of a threat as a soggy kitten."

Itachi would have felt insulted, but he had never felt that his self-worth lay in his appearance or perceived power. He shrugged stiffly.

"And I missed you."

It was so quiet that if Itachi hadn't been paying close attention, he would have missed it. He tried to smile, but years' worth of conditioning made the gesture feel stiff and wrong.

Sasuke huffed again in amusement. "You're a dork."

Well, that was insulting. And where had Sasuke picked up this sort of language? Itachi vainly looked around the hotel room for 'Iroh-shishou', even though he well knew he wasn't there. That wasn't going to stop Itachi from blaming him for his little brother's extreme departure from manners, however.

Another poke, this time harder and to the chest.

"So why are you wheezing like that?" Sasuke asked with concern.

Itachi really didn't want to ruin the moment by telling his brother he was dying. He contemplated for a moment.

"Are you sure you don't want to kill me?" He asked finally, and Sasuke lightly slapped his head in retaliation.

"I think he's very ill." A familiar voice piped up from the doorway. Itachi nearly kicked himself for not noticing Iroh's approach, but for how undignified it would be.

"You don't say." Sasuke's hand dropped to his side, and Itachi felt rather awkward. It wasn't something he could deny. Lying to Sasuke would be both impractical and undesirable. At the same time, he was so used to hiding his disease that he found it hard to vocalize.

Silence descended upon the hotel room, and Itachi found that his mouth was uncomfortably dry. Would Sasuke just leave him here to decay? Would he take mercy on him and kill him like Itachi had asked?

Neither option was optimal, to be honest. If he had thought reconciliation with his brother was a possibility, he may have sought treatment.

"Guess we'll just have to haul him back to let Tsunade look at him, then." Sasuke said with an air of finality.

"All ten kilometers back to Konoha?" Iroh fake-gasped. Itachi felt his right eye twitch slightly. It was not his fault that Sasuke hadn't killed him before his lungs could no longer take the burden of running for long distances. He'd planned to be long dead by this point.

Again, in the back of his mind, a little voice whispered that perhaps the last-second plans of an overly dramatic thirteen-year-old should be treated as such.

Itachi suffocated that bit of logic with the ease of years of practice and waited as Sasuke paced around the room.

"Yes." Sasuke said firmly. "Let's go. I don't think I can sleep with you wheezing like that. You're like that horrible stray cat Mother used to keep around. I think the stupid thing had asthma."

Itachi lifted himself to his feet and shuffled behind them slowly. It was difficult to keep up with them like this. He could sense their chakra signatures, but he had to move slowly to avoid obstacles. Within a few minutes at a brisk pace, he could feel Sasuke stop short.

"Iroh-shishou?" the teen asked calmly, belying the irritation hidden underneath.

The man in question turned back to Itachi slowly and evaluated him. "Sasuke, if you do not want to be the only one in our party to reach the gates of Konoha alive a decade from now, I suggest we find a cart."

Sasuke looked at Itachi for a long moment. "Yes. I'll try to find one that doesn't smell like livestock."

That's it, people. Show's over. I still have other fics, and I think it's time I worked on them now. If you want to visit my Tumblr, you can request Omakes from Burdens, ask questions, etc. I'm posting short stuff over there, and doing the longer stuff over here. Because I'm from the internet, I guess.

Reviews are nice and make me feel less dead inside. :)

My Tumblr is deanofthevillagehiddeninthehills

Hope to see you there.