Happy late Valentines, from me to you^^

Chapter 29 - Blood Relations

"Jiji," Naruto whispered as the old man fell down with blood and guts pouring out of his stomach. He was a complete stranger yet he'd struggled to help them escape. No one had ever done something like that for him.

The one Naruto had bitten just a few hours ago went down. Somehow the old man had worked up enough strength to grab his ankle. Blue eyes were wide as they met the fading light in brown eyes. Run, they pleaded.

There was a lesson to be learnt here, a lesson Naruto would only gain words for later in life, but now was not the time.

"Naruto..." Sasuke's voice was small, urgent and fearful as he tugged on his friend's arm. Only one of the men had been tripped and the other was advancing on them fast. With a last glance in the old man's direction Naruto let himself get pulled away into the woods.

The forest was a territory they were familiar with and with their small size they were easy to lose sight of.

"Shit!" They heard exclaimed from behind as Sasuke lead them into the underbrush and put some trees in the way of their pursuer's line of sight.

"Ieyasu, stop playing with the dead guy and help."

"He won't fucking let go!."

Naruto tugged his head down beneath his shoulders trying to ignore the angry yelling and just focused on following Sasuke without tripping too much. He tried not to think of the fact, that there was a dead old man lying back on the road. He didn't have breath to spare for crying. They had to get away, get home; they didn't even know where that was!

The greenery rushed past and branches whipped their faces. Sasuke took them on a zigzagging path between the trees. All the while he desperately held onto the other boy's wrist. Naruto was all he had right now in this world that was only fear and blurred greenery.

Knives stabbed at their lungs and pain shot up their legs from the exertion, but still they kept going for what felt like forever. Stopping was not an option. The weather mocked their desperate get away by sending happy rays of warm evening sun through the canopy above.

A muffled 'eep' from Sasuke was the only warning Naruto had, before the Uchiha's stumble over a tree root sent them both tumbling down a hillside. After several occasions of near contact with thorny bushes they landed in a heap on the bottom. Naruto slammed onto Sasuke's stomach and with a wheeze he relinquished his iron grip, before the blonde tumbled a few feet further because of his momentum.

"Ouch," Naruto groaned as he sat up and touched a hand gingerly to his forehead; he'd hit something hard on the way down. "Sasuke, you okay?"

No response.

"Sasuke?" he asked in growing alarm and moved to where the raven had curled into himself on the leafy ground. He lifted him into an upright position and forced the boy's hands aways from his face only to be met with a huge sob and tearing bloodshot eyes.

"They killed that guy! Just like that, they..." he ended with a distraught wail.

Naruto felt his own eyes watering and his lower lip tremble.

"You're making me cry too," he sniffled.

"I'm not crying," Sasuke sniveled and furiously wiped the tears away, "Uchiha's don't... cry..." He swallowed thickly and bit his lower lip to keep it still, inadvertently ending up holding his breath as well.

This was all too much for little Naruto. He wanted to go home where most people only looked at him coldly. He wanted this day to never have happened; for the old jiji to never have died. Everything was just so horrible and now Sasuke was crying!

With a choked up sound of distress he threw his arms around his friend, immediately feeling the other latch on to him in return.

"Well, isn't this cute," a dreadfully familiar voice drawled from the top of the hillside.

Both boys tensed instantly and looked up to find the two men who'd abducted them; they didn't look happy.

They scrambled to their legs, but they weren't fast enough. Now that Takeshi and Ieyasu had found the runaway brats they weren't about to let them out of their sights again.

Takeshi grabbed a sobbing Sasuke by the hair and tore him from Naruto's hold.

"Remember me, brat?" he sneered in the boy's face delighting in the panicked struggling. Frantically the Uzumaki reached forward to get his friend back, but Ieyasu lifted him into a chokehold from behind.

"We warned you, didn't we?" the man whispered in the blonde's ear, "that there would be pain if you tried anything?"

Naruto felt his stomach turn into knots remembering the indifference with which the old man had been murdered, and he shook his head wildly not wanting to think his fears to end.

Ieyasu met the eyes of Takeshi and nodded. His lips split into a menacing grin in reply. He would enjoy this, no one bruised his face without consequence and he was good at holding a grudge.

"Sasuke!" Naruto screamed in horror as Takeshi started with a kick to the boy's stomach. So loud was he, that he masked the Uchiha's own pained whimper. He couldn't watch this.

"Oh no, you will watch this," Ieyasu whispered cruelly and turned the boy's head back towards the violence, "you will watch this, because it is all your fault..."

The rest of the whispered words of warning and threats were drowned out, only one sentence remained; it was all his fault. His very first friend was getting hurt and it was all Naruto's fault.

Through a haze of tears he watched Sasuke spit out a bloody tooth. Why was this happening? He didn't understand. What had he ever done? What had Sasuke ever done? Darkness spiraled in on his vision, like a maelstrom sucking him up, yet he could still hear every sickening hit.

Suddenly there was the sound of dripping water. It wasn't raining he thought confusedly. Looking down he found himself kneeling on a hard concrete floor up to his thighs in water. What? Feeling his breath hitch in fearful anticipation he looked back up again. A pair of huge menacing red slitted eyes met his fearful blue from behind the bars of it's cage. An enormous maw split into a pointy toothed grin and Naruto felt his heart punch blood through his overworked system.

"I will kill them for you, if you let me." Red bubbling liquid made its way past the bars and advanced on the young boy.

"I..." Naruto hesitated getting up and retreating a step. He didn't understand what this was or what was happening. The angry liquid was nearly upon him. Flee, his instincts told him, nothing that looked like molten fire could be good. He had just taken another step backwards when;

"Don't you want to save your friend?"

Naruto froze. Sasuke. He would do anything. Fearfully the jinchuriki reached out. His small fingers were moments from touching a rapidly growing bubble. Red eyes lit in triumph, slitted pupils dilated; just a little further.

"That's enough, Takeshi," Ieyasu demanded letting go of their target to physically stop his partner, "we don't want to cause any lasting damage."

Naruto dropped to his hands and knees on the forest floor. He took in a startled breath at the sudden reentrance to reality. Confused he looked up expecting to see those hateful red eyes, but thoughts of the caged creature flew from his mind as he realized he was free to go to Sasuke. Disoriented he stumbled to where that evil man had left the dark haired boy.

Those kidnappers had no idea how close to disaster they had been.

Oo o oO

'I have never felt so much pain,' Sasuke thought as he stared up where the darkening evening sky peeked through the greenery. He didn't think there was a part of his body not hurting now. His tongue tasted blood from the bleeding hole where he used to have his upper left incisor and his right eye was nearly shut from swelling.

It hurt so much yet he felt an almost disconnection with it. Every hit had served to cement just how powerless he was. When Itachi had been his age, he would have sharinganned them into a genjutsu.

Normally thoughts of his own shortcomings would have thrown him into despair, but he was just so emotionally exhausted and his capacity for tears emptied that it didn't really matter. They could hardly hurt him anymore than they already had.

Instead the thought of Itachi brought a calm certainty forth in him. So when Naruto being an emotional tornado of anguish crawled into his vision, he tried to convey that feeling to his friend.

"Sasuke, I'm so..."

"Naruto," he interrupted the boy's tearful apology in a lowered voice. Grabbing the blonde's upper arm he hoisted himself into a sitting position and took a moment to focus on watery blue eyes.

"My brother will come for us."

Oo o oO

Back on the road Sakura had caught up 15 minutes later from her rendezvous with the gate guards and filled them in as they ran.

"Not much to say we didn't already know or guess. The guy owning the stall is an old man named Satoshi. He's been trading with Konoha for years, usually he comes with his son, but today he brought two big guys he claimed were his nephews. The guard said that aside from their size they looked harmless enough, not too bright. The old man wasn't acting unusually so he was probably unaware of what was happening."

Sakura took a moments pause before continuing.

"It's rather unlikely those two men were acting on their own. They will probably split from the old man at some point to meet up with whomever stood for the planning."

It took Itachi only a second to process the information.

"Hana, will the dogs know if they've left the cart?"

Knowing a half assed "most likely" would not be appreciated she took her time to consider. It would mean the scent had been grounded again. They should still be able to follow it in the air, but it would be much stronger on the ground.

"They should, but you should probably still let Shiru back on the ground. He's fast enough to keep up and we'll be better covered that way."

The very moment his name was mentioned Shiru was ready to go and as soon as Itachi loosened his hold, he leapt onto the ground and took point like a silver streak of lightning.

It wasn't long before Shiru gave an urgent yip and the other two caught the scent as well. An apprehensive shudder slithered down her back.

"Blood," she whispered. Hana didn't even know she'd said it aloud, until she saw her two companions tense up.

Looking at Itachi it was possible to discern how the information was changed into action. From the tense and sudden halt, to the deep intake of air as his overworked mind realized just what that implied and then the explosion of chakra enhanced movement that made him flicker from sight.

Sakura looked about ready to follow her in her own mad dash, but she somehow managed to only raise her speed a little, being conscious that Hana couldn't match the two chunin's top speeds.

Of course Sakura had to be the thoughtful one. She was making it hard to dislike her and that was annoying. It had been much easier when she had responded to her taunts.

They found Itachi crouching in front of an obviously dead man (considering the pool of blood). To make absolutely sure he was gone Sakura went to do a scan.

"I'm assuming this is the Satoshi the guards told you about," Itachi remarked lowly as he followed the three nindogs with his eyes. They had jumped into the cart a little way down the road and were mightily interesting in an empty sack.

Looking up from her examination she followed his gaze, "it seems a safe enough assumption."

Itachi had calmed down considerably she noticed, it probably wouldn't last long, but for now the relief that it hadn't been any of their boys' was enough.

"Cause of death; trauma to the abdomen, most likely from a kunai at close range. Rigor mortis is already setting in, the only possible explanation is that there was a struggle wherein he literally gave his all, though it can't have taken long. A man of his age with such a severe wound would have bled out in minutes."

"The tracks also indicated a struggle," Itachi remarked, "someone fell flat on his stomach right here." He touched the ground in front of the old man's outstretched arm and suddenly Sakura could see it as well; the imprint of something heavy having hit the ground. How Itachi could say with such certainty it was a person, she would never know.

With a small prayer of apology for leaving him as he was, she shut his eyes and stood up. They didn't have time for a burial or delivering him to his family, their focus had to be on the ones still living.

"He's still warm, I'd say we are at max 20 minutes behind."

Itachi nodded and looked to Hana, "what are the Haimaru brother's saying?"

"It seems the boy's escaped in that direction," she said pointing north, "but they were followed by the two men whose scent we've been following not long afterwards."

"The trail isn't straight at all so I sent Tatsu ahead, Hagane and Shiru can find him without following his exact path. I thought that would be faster, " she ended uncertainly, but she was happy and her stomach fluttered at the 'good thinking' she received from Itachi before they were off again.

Oo o oO

Sarutobi clenched his pen tightly as he futilely tried focusing on paperwork. Half an hour ago what had been another normal day at the office had been urgently interrupted by a clearly distressed Uchiha heir. Sure to the untrained eye he just looked a bit jittery and on edge, but for Itachi who never fidgeted or seemed to undertake a single movement without a clear cut purpose it was akin to a panic attack.

The boy had proceeded to give the Hokage news that nearly had himself in a panic attack. Naruto was like a second grandson to him and he wanted nothing more than to find the culprits himself, but as Hokage he was stuck in Konoha.

While he thought it most likely Naruto had just been grabbed because he was with the Uchiha, the abduction of a jinchuriki could be a ploy to make high level shinobi (or maybe even the Hokage himself) leave the village and he couldn't take such a risk. He had to have faith, that Itachi and the team he'd sent would bring both boy's back safely. Sarutobi didn't want to be the one standing between Uchiha Itachi and his little brother.

In his own personal opinion though the chunin hadn't been fit to undertake a search and rescue mission in his state. He feared the Uchiha would do something reckless, but detaining him hadn't been an option, as the boy had been smart enough to send a clone; he would like to have a word with Fugaku how an eleven year old knew the shadow clone jutsu.

Abandoning his paperwork he contemplated whether there was anymore he could do, he had a vague feeling he'd forgotten something. The second team had left long ago, messages had been sent to the border patrols to be on the lookout and security levels had been raised. What did he forget?

The sounds of chairs scraping and protesting in the antechamber were the only warnings he had before the doors slammed open.

"Uchiha-sama you can't just," Kenta one of his chunin secretaries protested as he followed the couple at the heels trying halfheartedly to stop them. It was obvious he was intimidated and not by Fugaku as per usual, but the kind Mikoto whose face was a mask of 'don't mess with me, I'm a mama bear.'

The Hokage knew what he'd forgotten and he prepared himself to be yelled at.

Oo o oO

In a clearing beneath a hillside there was an unnatural silence; as if something had happened not too long ago to scare away the animal life. The forest floor was screaming at Hana that a small body had repeatedly hit it.

When Itachi stiffly bent down to pick up a child's tooth with trembling hands from a spot of dried blood and spit, Hana hastily decided not to tell him that her dog's knew it belonged to Sasuke.

Itachi had only scared her once before in her life, and that was when they'd been very young and she hadn't known better, but she was scared now.

Itach who was usually so calm and collected, who if he'd had the choice himself would never hurt a living creature, that Itachi was shaking with malicious intent, and she wouldn't be surprised, if he somehow knew intuitively it was his brother's tooth he held in his clenched right hand.

A hand on her shoulder literally made her jump and she received an understanding look from emerald eyes for her effort. The other leaned in closer with a whispered advice;

"You better tell us where to go now, standing still is the worst thing we can do right now." They both looked at the boy who seemed moments from exploding and Hana felt herself agree wholeheartedly.

Sakura couldn't say she was unaffected by what they had found back in the clearing. What kind of sick bastard would beat up a six year old? She felt her anger try to break free from its shackles, but with Itachi on a rampage they hardly needed her to loose her head as well.

Oo o oO

Ryoga was getting impatient. By his estimation Ieyasu and Takeshi should have been back half and hour ago with or without the Uzumaki. Of course several things that didn't mean trouble could be the cause for their lateness. Still Konoha despite it's complacency in these relatively peaceful times was one of the most powerful shinobi villages for a reason; mainly it's rather competent shinobi and he was not particular interested in a battle he couldn't win.

This whole undertaking had been a calculated risk, where he'd put his faith in Ieyasu and Takeshi's incompetence to make them inconspicuous. They were academy dropouts and so not even worth missing nin titles, but their few years in academy training had given them a grasp of chakra use, something they'd slowly developed into an advantage against common crooks, even if they couldn't execute the simplest jutsu.

Koiichi, Zura and himself were regular missing nin, albeit not of high enough profiles to call for active hunting – though to be on the safe side they mostly hid their headbands from sight. It made their group perfect as odd job mercenaries in the underworld. Their existence was just about earning money. Nothing was beneath them and this opportunity was just too good to pass up, even if they didn't yet have a buyer.

It was another ten minutes before the two idiots arrived.

"Finally," Ryoga exclaimed when they entered the cave they used as temporary base. Then he got a good look at what they'd brought, two boys one more beat up than the other, but both looked liked they'd taken a tumble down a hillside.

"What is this?" he asked feeling his blood reach boiling point.

"This is the one boss," Ieyasu said, pushing Naruto forward, "you see his sister..."

"What part of my instructions didn't you understand?" he exploded in a rage, "are you color blind? I asked for an Uzumaki!"

Oo o oO

Naruto and Sasuke had been carried the last stretch of the way for the sake of speed. Silence had reigned supreme and the blonde boy had retreated to his thoughts. He was scared, but Sasuke seemed certain his brother would come. Naruto wasn't so sure. It was possible people didn't even know they were gone yet and what if, even if someone did come for them, they only came for Sasuke?

It was a terrible thought for him. Sasuke's presence was the only thing that made this even remotely bearable. If Sasuke was gone he would be all alone, but was he so selfish as to wish the other boy would continue to share his misery?

Sasuke didn't deserve this, it wasn't even him they were after, but Naruto didn't want to be alone; it was dark and cold and hurtful and...

They had arrived. Naruto was pushed forth and he barely noticed his surroundings. In his misery nothing really mattered and the yelling went completely over his head, except for one word; Uzumaki.

Nobody had ever put any significance to his family name before. Hokage-jiji had always brushed him off, when he'd gotten close to the subject. He'd learned not to ask. It hadn't kept him from wondering though, and for the moment everything was pushed aside for the sake of one question.

"Do you know about the Uzumakis?" Naruto piped up hopefully.

The boss' face split into an unkind grin as he advanced on the boys. Naruto's apprehension returned with every step. He felt Sasuke tensing beside him.

"The Uzumaki," the man began ominously, "are known for their great chakra capacity, longevity and their aptitude for the sealing arts."

He was now only a few steps from the kids.

"Basically it makes them the perfect jinchuriki and therefore quite valuable on the black market. There's just one little problem..."

Reaching out, he grabbed and twisted his fingers into the yellow spikes before lifting. Wide blue eyes found the narrowed eyes of his kidnapper, short legs kicked out in panic and his small hands went to his head, where he clung to the hand lifting him by his hair only.

"Uzumakis are known for their red hair," he spat while giving the young blonde a firm shake.

Naruto gritted his teeth against the pain. His hopes crashed like porcelain into a thousand pieces. It was stupid of him to have believed for even one second, that a nobody like him could have descended from a clan that awesome.

"But that's what we were trying to tell you boss!" Takeshi whined, "his older sister has pink hair so we thought, maybe if one of the parents was a blonde."

Oo o oO

There was a moment of silence before Ryoga put Naruto back on the ground almost gently. His angry grin changed to one of triumph - until Sasuke snickered, the stupidity of these people overwhelming his sense of self preservation.

"You think Sakura nee-chan is related to Naruto!"

All eyes were suddenly on Sasuke an he immediately clamped up, regretting speaking up as the leader's face grew steadily redder.

"And who might you be?" he asked in a deceptively calm voice, looking closely at the beaten up boy for the first time. Sasuke stared defiantly into the hard steel gray eyes that glared at him.

You can't hurt me anymore than you already have, he thought at him while he tried to keep his knees from shaking.

I will find a way, those eyes seemed to reply and Sasuke had to look away.

This man was different from the two that had kidnapped them. He had this distinct edge to him and it was only because Sasuke belonged to a family of powerful nin he realized what it meant; this man was a trained shinobi.

"He's just someone who happened to interrupt," the comment that saved Sasuke from more scrutiny surprisingly came from Takeshi, "and they've learnt what happens if they misbehave."

The man seemed about ready to explode once more on his incompetent underlings, when he suddenly deflated.

"Guard the entrance," he mumbled waving them off with a worried frown, "I need to think."

Oo o oO

The trio watched the entrance to a small cave from their hiding place in a tree deliberating what the best cause of action would be. Right in front of the cave was a relatively open grassy area, making it near impossible to sneak in without the two goons on watch noticing.

Just flat out storming the enemy would be crazy as they had no idea what awaited inside. A frontal assault would also be tantamount to asking the kidnappers to hold the boy's necks at kunai point. No it had to be more subtle.

Waiting for back up would be the smart thing to do, but it was obvious to Sakura, that was not an option for Itachi. He was restless and it was only the dense foliage that saved them from discovery, he was simply unable to remain still. She was waiting with bated breath for what he would decide to do and whether she would have to try and stop him.

"I'm letting myself get captured."

Hana looked at Itachi in horror and opened her mouth to protest, but Sakura silenced her with a hand on her arm and a look.

As a prisoner Itachi would not be seen as a threat and it would give him an opportunity to see the inside of the cave and decide on a cause of action, even if they tied him with ninja wire he still had his sharingan. Of course only if everything went well.

It was based on the assumption that they took prisoners, that they didn't recognize him as an Uchiha, that they didn't hide a small army inside, that they weren't high level shinobi. It was desperate, dangerous and left too much up to chance. It was also the only thing they could do beside waiting for back up.

"We'll back you up, no enemies will come from out here," Sakura promised.

Itachi looked at her and she saw the gratitude in his gaze for backing him even in this insane endeavor, because he knew, just as well as her and Hana, that it was insanely risky. He would never have taken such a risk on an actual mission, but this was about his little brother and he was therefore to emotionally involved; and maybe Sakura was too involved as well for letting him.

He stood up and moved away from their position to find a place to implement his plan.

"How could you let him do that? He'll get himself killed!" Hana hissed at her and shook her hand off her arm.

"Have a little faith, he's Uchiha Itachi..." she said jokingly to mask her own worry, but the Inuzuka was unimpressed.

She glared at Sakura.

"He isn't acting like himself, you should have stopped him. You could have stopped him," she whispered vehemently, "if anything happens to Itachi, I blame you."

Green eyes widened in surprise at the underlying threat and a few things clicked into place, this aggression towards her and that single minded focus on the boy, she started to realize what Hana's problem with her was. Could it be that she was in love with Itachi?

Sakura could certainly relate to feeling inferior and the frustration of not being able to stop the boy she was in love with from doing something stupid, but Hana had to relax, it wasn't like Itachi was walking into Orochimaru's waiting arms... Her mind froze at the thought, there had been no indication, but they didn't know what was in the cave and an Uchiha had been kidnapped...

Forcefully she expelled that thought, they would have to deal with it if it actually became an issue. Chances were Orochimaru was not involved, even so reinforcements were coming. It would be all right. Itachi would not let himself be defeated with his brother on the line.

Oo o oO

"How were we supposed to know they weren't related?," Takeshi grumbled to his partner as they stood watch.

"Just shut up and keep your eyes peeled," Ieyasu hissed back.

"But seriously how?"

A glare shut him up, for a moment.

"What was that?"

"What was what?" Ieyasu replied annoyed.

"I think I heard something."

"Probably just the wind."

There was another rustle and this time Ieyasu couldn't deny it, because he even saw the fleeing shadow among the trees. They didn't need a signal both had seen it and they were off in pursuit.

It wasn't long before they had the boy in clear sight and then he tripped over a tree root sending him flat on his stomach. They were not about to question their good fortune. Before the boy had gotten properly back on his feet, Takeshi grabbed him by the throat, lifted him clear off the ground and slammed him into the tree that had tripped him in the first place.

A breath of air was forced passed the chokehold and wide dark eyes looked up at them.

"Another kid," Ieyasu exclaimed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. He looked at the boy vaguely noting the resemblance to one of their prisoners, but not putting too much into it (people with dark hair and eyes were all over the place).

"Look at him," Takeshi said in delight as he kept the pressure on the boy's windpipe, "he's shaking in fear."

Ieyasu looked closely and saw that yes, the kid's entire boy had this fine quiver. He noticed something else as well, which he remarked on offhandedly;

"He's also turning blue."

Takeshi looked at him in disappointment, but loosened his hold a bit.

"Does it matter? He's just an intruder."

"Just saying. I for one am not doing anything the next long while without explicit orders from the boss."

The man almost pouted, but acquiesced to his unspoken suggestion and let go of the boy, while they looked in their packs for something to tie him up with.

Oo o oO

Itachi fell to the ground coughing, trying to get air back into his lungs. He gingerly moved a hand to his throat, he was certain, he would bruise. It had taken all of his willpower to keep from retaliating. When the man had first grabbed him, his body was screaming twenty different ways to incapacitate these two without them even knowing what had happened.

He had to suppress every instinct to fight back, it was a battle unlike any he'd ever had. After all he'd been training his entire life, every second he was bombarded with several ways to fight back, fighting was so ingrained in him. It certainly didn't help that these were the people, who'd taken and hurt his little brother, he wanted to hurt them so badly. He had been trembling from the effort, he still was.

The back of his head had taken quite a hit and the pain was such a novel feeling that it helped him focus. Normally he wouldn't ever let anything hit him, he was faster than that and so he hadn't quite realized how frail he actually was. He was just a kid, that man could have broken his skull if he hadn't been sadistically intending to choke him to death.

In a pure physical contest he didn't stand a chance against these brutes. It was a good thing for Itachi, he had no intention of trying to best them in arm wrestling.

He struggled a bit perfunctorily as they tied his hands behind his back with some rough rope.

He didn't need to make any effort to look scared. His system had been running on adrenalin for a while making his eyes wider, his skin paler and his breath quicker than usual without him even knowing. It was good because he had enough trouble with his inner struggle.

Oo o oO

Ryoga was at a loss, this was bad. They had abducted two useless kids from Konoha. He glanced at the back of the cave where he'd ordered them to sit. Trouble was sure to come now, but should they just leave the kids and hope no one would follow them once the kids were safe? Or should they grab the kids along anyways?

There was still the option that they could get someone to believe the blonde was an Uzumaki and still get a profit and if everything else failed there was sure to be some sick bastard who'd pay to get his hands on a pair of pretty boys; blonde hair and blue eyes weren't exactly common and the dark haired one could almost go for a girl under the bruises. But was whatever profit they could turn this into worth possible repercussions from Konoha?

His considerations were interrupted by the two goons responsible for this mess. He turned to them, ready to chew them out properly, then he almost swallowed his tongue at what or rather who they brought. Trouble had already arrived.

"We caught this kid sneaking around."

Oo o oO

Ryoga didn't know what to say, he was shocked speechless so he turned to the one thing he was really good at; yelling.

"What are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think he is?"

At the confused expressions (it was just a kid after all), he exclaimed in frustration and rising panic:

"He's the Goddamn Uchiha Itachi!"

"Indeed," the captive remarked with a cold smile as his bindings fell uselessly to the ground. The wide eyes of his would-be captors were fixed on the rope at his feet but quickly rose to his face when he started advancing.

"I generally dislike kidnappers," Itachi said almost offhandedly, eyes gradually turning an ominous red and his voice turning likewise serious, "but when my own little brother is among the victims, dislike is a great understatement."

Ryoga fell unconscious with a horror filled scream as the sharingan enhanced genjutsu assaulted him. Itachi felt he was being too kind.

Ieyasu and Takeshi just stared in disbelief not quite understanding what was happening. They were academy rejects, good for passing as civilians but with that basic understanding of chakra that gave them an edge among regular people. What they were not prepared for was a lightning fast prodigy. One moment he made their boss go down with a stare, next he disappeared from their sight

Itachi didn't hold back. His vision was a red haze and the blood rushing through his ears made him deaf to their pain. He had too much pent up rage and he cruelly went for those soft spots on their bodies that would hurt like hell; he kicked them in the balls.

They went to the ground writhing in pain. When Takeshi was the first to recover and get back up to try an escape, he got a kick to the back of his right knee for the effort. The crunching sound echoed sickly off the cave walls and he fell back to the ground with a wail.

Seeing this Ieyasu wisely stayed on the ground. He could tell those madly spinning red eyes were just looking for an excuse to cause more bodily harm. He didn't quite understand what was happening, but what he did know was that this was positively the most frightened he'd ever been and all that from a kid. No that couldn't be a kid; it was a demon.

Takeshi hadn't gotten the message yet, he was still trying to crawl towards the exit. At that point the sharingan had made a connection, Itachi hadn't made earlier. That man's knuckles were bruised from hitting someone, his little brother was beaten up, it wasn't a farfetched conclusion he'd come to.

He halted the man's advance by stepped on his outstretched fingers. Frightened the bully looked up; he didn't think pain was funny when he was the one receiving it. He was mesmerized, he couldn't tear his eyes away from those spinning red orbs. Then Itachi did something he never thought he could make himself do – he broke another person's mind.

Such a fragile thing the mind was, it hadn't taken more than a good wrench and it had shattered into a thousand pieces. The thoroughly mind numbing pained scream that resulted finally cut through his red haze of anger.

He took a step back in horror looking down into the empty orbs of what had once been a person. Now it was only a living shell.

What had he done? He was terrified at his loss of control. He didn't even realize he'd stopped breathing. Darkness was encroaching on his vision from the lack of oxygen. What had he done? He shouldn't have. No matter what, he shouldn't have. He was not like this. He didn't enjoy violence. But he'd felt so angry. Breaking him had been so satisfying. He wasn't like that. He wasn't like this.

"Aniki!" The happy relieved yell was the only warning he had before he found himself with his arms full of Sasuke. He held on with a ferocity only matched by Sasuke himself and buried his head in his brother's shoulder while the boy did the same to him.

Itachi held on feverishly because Sasuke filled the emptiness and held his sanity together. If anything had happened to Sasuke he wouldn't have been able to piece himself together, but he was here alive and warm.

Pieces of himself that he didn't know had been frozen thawed, and he suddenly felt more tired than he ever had before. His knees gave way and he sat down suddenly.

"I knew you would come," Sasuke whispered tearfully into his neck, "I knew it, but I was so scared."

"Me too... me too."

Itachi breathed slowly for the first time in an eternity.

Author's note

I'm a terribly moody person and for that I apologize...

Anyways next chapter will focus on Naruto's and Sakura's resolution in this mess (wanted it to be in this chapter, but then it'd had to be longer and I can't write on this chapter anymore!). Don't know when that update will be, studies are busy, but hey at least this doesn't count as a cliffhanger! I think?

I there's any glaring mistakes or parts that seem unnecessarily strangely formulated, don't hesitate to tell me^^

About that unusually fast onset of Rigor Mortis

Basically I read about this drug that used to be used as a weight loss medicament that uncouples the energetic gradient created in the mitochondria without using it for anything- so you waste a lot of energy and therefore lose weight - the reason it's not used is that that energy waste is basically heat and you burn up and die. Here comes the interesting thing, a person who've died from misuse of this drug has rigor mortis setting in already 10-15 minutes after death. Rigor mortis technically sets in when the muscle cells have no more energy in the form of ATP, in the case of the drug that's because it has all been wasted as heat, but it made me thinking that in a universe such as this with chakra basically being a form of energy, if a person really gave it his all, he could use up all of his muscles energy at an accelerated rate and rigor mortis would set in earlier :D