Part Eight

The first several days were a blur. A painful blur, full of headache and muscle aches. Medicine was working for long enough to allow him some sleep and an occasional meal, but that was all. Doctor said that he had to stay in bed, although how he imagined Sasuke would get out of it and why would he want to do it in the first place was a mystery to him. His body felt as if it was falling apart.

It was usually a little better during the day. As soon it would start to get dark, Sasuke was feeling worse. It would be so good if he could just sleep through it all… But lying all the time was painful, too.

Wednesday morning, a knock startled him out of the light slumber. Sasuke almost formed the words no, I'm not hungry, but it wasn't his mother, it was Itachi. He straightened in his bed, prompting himself up on the pillow and took the glass of water from the night table without saying anything.

This was the first time Itachi walked into the house since that day when he had a huge fight with their parents, about his sexuality and education choices. That was…. Five years ago. It was the first time in five years that Itachi came back to the house, and it was – presumably – because Sasuke was sick.

"How are you feeling?" Itachi asked. He had a plastic bag in his hands, but Sasuke couldn't make himself look at it to see what's inside. He was too busy watching his brother's face. Maybe there were no obvious lines of worry on it, but he was worried.

"Better now." Sasuke said, honestly. A little ashamed when it came out like that, he added. "The medication is kicking in."

"What are you taking?" Itachi asked Sasuke gestured at the pile of bottles that were on the edge of his writing table. Itachi scanned through the vitamins, prescription pills and several brands of paper tissues with the eyes of an expert. How many sick kids he had to nurse, Sasuke wondered.

"So it's not too bad." Itachi said. He had to know it wasn't too bad, Sasuke was allowed to wait it out at home. He was just making conversation.

"I had a high fever." Sasuke offered to meet the effort.

"Mother told me. She also told me that you had fun last weekend."

Sasuke closed his eyes for a moment. If that would make them talk more often, he could get drunk every weekend. "That wasn't fun."

"Then why drink at all?"

What are you, the inquisition? Sasuke wanted to demand. This is the kind of conversation he expected to have with his father, not Itachi. Wasn't he regretting it enough already? There was no need for that point to be made. Sasuke clenched his jaw and refused to answer.

Itachi's expression didn't change. "She also said that Naruto helped you home." Stubbornly, Sasuke looked the other way. "Supposedly, it was some time after midnight. Well after Home's curfew."

Startled, Sasuke glanced at his brother. "That – that's not fair."

Itachi gave him a smile that was a little cold. "When one wants to talk to you about anything real, the choices are rather limited. It's blackmail or torture."

About anything real? No one asked about anything real. Sasuke would be very eager to talk about Itachi coming for dinner once a week, if he really didn't want to live in the house. Sasuke getting drunk once on a random party was not important.

"Why would I care if Naruto got in trouble?" He grumbled, knowing perfectly well that he didn't want that to happen. He didn't want Naruto connected to the entire thing in any way.

"Because you owe him one after he dragged you home when you couldn't stand on your own?" Itachi answered with a question.

And it was a good point.

"And upstairs to bed." Sasuke finished for him. It was so much fun to see Itachi's eyes flash shortly in surprise. "Mum apparently showed him the way and he brought me here."

"Apparently? Don't you remember?"

Sasuke remembered quite a lot, after several days in bed, feverish and with nothing else to think about. He remembered Naruto taking his shoes off and talking about porn and Itachi. "I remember showing him the door to your room and waking up with my socks on and a horrible headache."

"Was there a reason for you to drink that much?"

Was there a reason…? What, like – was he upset about something?

"No." Sasuke answered. Itachi kept looking at him expectedly. "Neji was talking too much, I was bored."

And Lee kept filling up his glass. And Naruto kept dancing.

And then Naruto left.

Itachi nodded, even though he didn't get the real answer after all. He opened the plastic bag and picked up something that was near the top, wrapped in old paper.

"Talking about Naruto, he sent you this."

Sasuke looked suspiciously at the wrapping. He couldn't say what it could be, and he didn't reach for it, so Itachi took the paper away and left a ceramic white bowl on top of his covers. They both stared down at it.

"Something symbolic?" Itachi asked, wondering.

"It's a freaking soup bowl." Sasuke snapped, unable to look away from it. "With a crack on it."

There was a crack, dark and thin, cutting the white ceramics in almost perfect halves. Or what was really odd was the thing still holding together.

"So there's no story behind it?" Sasuke glanced up at him. Itachi sounded vaguely disappointed.

What the hell was he expecting? Naruto probably grabbed the first thing that was under his hand. Sasuke – and the rest of contains of Itachi's plastic bag – were probably lucky that the thing was washed.

They should trash it and call garbage people to pick it up instantly. "Could you put it away, please?"

Itachi picked it up again and put it on Sasuke's desk. It was probably okay for the moment, though it didn't matter, because Sasuke got sidetracked. Itachi was closing his coat, preparing to leave.

"Are you going to come home again?" Sasuke asked. There was clear anxiety in the words, but for once Sasuke didn't care. Itachi had picked up the time their father was at work to come, he could do that again. If he really wanted to.

"I don't know. But I will call you to check on you."

That was not much of a comfort. Feeling like a small child, and not caring about that either, Sasuke sank back into his pillow and muttered, "Whatever."

Itachi gave him one of his rare smiles before walking out.

Sasuke fell asleep wandering about it all, happy that Itachi came to see him, happy that he apparently talked to their mother – even if it was about something so stupid. Hours later, he woke up with a gasp, dreading that he was only dreaming it all. After so much time, how realistic was to believe Itachi came home just because he was a little sick?

But the freaking bowl was standing at the top of his desk, glittering on the winter sun, mocking all Sasuke's insecurities.

***

Later that afternoon, the fever came back, though it wasn't nearly as high as it was on several days before. His mother carefully wrote it down, after talking thermometer from him. Sasuke was watching her move to take away the tea mug, with eyes heavy and barely open. She glanced several times at the stupid bowl, but she wasn't asking anything.

"Mum?" Sasuke said, sounding half-asleep even to himself. "Is dad angry with me?"

Startled like he had sworn at her, his mother froze and widened her eyes. "No, of course not."

But you're not asking why I would think so, Sasuke thought. "Don't lie to me."

She looked at him for a moment longer before putting the tray on the desk and sitting on the edge of his bed. "I'd be lying if I said he is happy about..." She sighed, and glanced away. "He's not."

So much about getting out of the closet. Wasn't it lucky that Sasuke was so stuffed with medication and heavy-headed from the fever he couldn't panic properly?

"Maybe it's normal to learn on your own mistakes, but those lessons does not erase the mistakes. Itachi barely said two words to me earlier, not matter what subject I tried." She paused, her eyes tracking a pattern of Sasuke's sheet. "And you live here with us, but you are so distant. We can't reach you. You won't talk to us. We feel like we lost both our sons the same day, like you are just waiting to leave this house so you could start your life."

She smiled, her eyes full of tears. Guilt and confusion and misery tied Sasuke's tongue. He could not answer, so he kept staring at her, as she brushed hair of his face. "There is so little that we have left. Your father is maybe not happy, but he will not do anything to compromise it."

She stood up quickly, as if she was afraid she said too much. Or like she didn't want Sasuke to watch her cry, maybe that was it.

Was he really so distant? He wasn't often in the mood to talk… But when they would ask questions, they were mostly unimportant, stupid things. They never wanted to talk about anything that mattered. He had tried, but they never wanted to talk about Itachi.

"Take that thing with you." Sasuke said when she stopped to pick up the tray before heading out.

She cleared her throat. "Itachi brought it for you?"

Yeah, sure, because Itachi was that insane these days. "He brought it. Naruto sent it. I've no idea what for."

She picked it up, looking it carefully from all angles. Using her finger, she traced the crack from the both sides, small smile on her face. Finally, she announced, "It's a soup bowl."

...And you needed two minutes of staring to figure that out? "It's used and it has a crack."

"I doubt he had in mind for you to actually use it." Sasuke opened his eyes that were starting to slide down again to look at her. Then why did Naruto send it, so Sasuke could throw at people through the window when he was bored? His mother must have noticed his confusion and disbelief, because she explained, "Chicken soup is known to help sick people recover. You got a soup bowl. I think that the message is clear, Naruto wants you to recover."

"The message would have been clearer and saner if it was verbal." Sasuke muttered. Naruto's mind was definitely not a place he'd feel comfortable at. She was probably right, though.

Was she also right about Sasuke? Was he the one who had a problem communicating? But they just had a conversation. She told him that they are regretting what happened with Itachi and don't want to make the same mistake twice. They were talking... But Sasuke had a fever and was on medications. Maybe that had something to do with it?

Thinking and analyzing despite the heavy fog in his head, Sasuke fell asleep and had bad, troubled dreams without managing to find a single answer.

***

Fever and shakes left his body permanently after the first week, and then he realized why the doctor felt the need to warn him to have a lot of rest. He was bored. The days were short, but the nights were long and cold. Nothing on television was holding his attention. The books were tiring him in the beginning. When he was started feeling good enough to study, it was a relief.

There were no more meaningful conversations with his mother. Itachi called every two to three days, but he didn't come again. Sasuke had spent several afternoons with his father in the living room, playing chess - because, of course, chess was a good excuse not to talk too much, you had to think and plan. They were oddly tied most of the time.

He got a couple of messages and phone calls from people from school. He even answered a few of them, he was that bored. No one said anything about what had happened on Lee's party. Hinata came by several times, even with Hanabi once. She was glowing with happiness. Who knew some honesty could be so liberating? Sasuke wasn't feeling any better because his parents, even though his father was dead silent about it still, knew the truth about him.

It was well into the winter break when Sasuke was officially better, even though he was feeling healthy for a long time. School, even with all those people that will certainly look at him oddly after everything, sounded like heavenly escape.

And that was before things went to hell.

***

It was dinner time, and his father was not home yet. Even Sasuke was starting to get worried. It was getting late – they always ate dinner late, but he was really late. It was dark outside for hours. And it was so rare for Fugaku Uchiha not to show up for dinner, especially without calling to announce it. It would not be weird for him to go out without his wife occasionally, but not without telling her about it.

Sasuke watched his mother as she walked nervously around the kitchen. It was more obvious than ever how close his parents were; his tiny lateness made her panic. She called the station and they told her that her husband left in usual time. She was starting to get seriously afraid. It was nearing nine o'clock, and he couldn't think up anything to say to her. What could he say? He knew nothing more than she did, so Sasuke had nothing to reassure her with.

When the front door finally squeaked open and banged closed, Sasuke only had a moment to tense at the harsh sound before he noticed how his mother instantly relaxed and smiled in relief. She turned on the stove to heat up the diner before Sasuke's father even entered the kitchen.

But it wasn't good. It was obvious from the man's face as soon as he walked through the door. He was mad. He was so mad, his face was red. And he wouldn't look anywhere near Sasuke as he set at the table in dead silence.

"Is there something wrong?" That wasn't Sasuke, though he wanted to know as well. Instead of answering, his father pulled out of his pocket a piece of paper, folded in four so it'd fit. When he offered it across the table, Sasuke's mother reached for at the same time when Sasuke, but his father held her arm to stop her. Sasuke didn't want to unfold it. Whatever was it on it, it couldn't be good -especially because his father was still holding his mother assumingly so she wouldn't take a look on it from a side.

But he had to, so Sasuke ignored his shaky fingers and looked at what's on paper. It was a drawing, a sketchy kind of drawing, in very familiar style. Two bodies were entangled in it, naked. Two male bodies. Maybe if he saw it somewhere else, Sasuke would be impressed with the detail, amazingly well done anatomy, erotic poses… But he was too busy panicking. One of those figures had Sasuke's face. It was a drawing of him having sex with someone.

"Haven't I been good to you?" His father's voice startled him, so Sasuke snapped his head up. "I didn't want to make the same mistake as I did with your brother, so I let many things slide. But this," It was obvious what is he talking about, but he hit the paper violently with his finger anyway, "Is simply too much. It was more than enough to deal with having both sons deviant, I cannot tolerate one of them showing it of in such disgraceful manner."

"I didn't know about this." Sasuke said. His voice wasn't shaking… But his entire body was. This was what he was afraid the most – and worse. This was his nightmare. He got up and purred himself some water, hearing his mother say behind him, "What is it on that paper?"

She didn't get an answer. Her husband ignored her to ask Sasuke, "You didn't know someone was watching you?"

Sasuke cringed, not quite looking back at his parents. Some people get birds and bees sex talk. He was having a 'no, dad, I have no intention of becoming a porn star' talk. It was unpleasant. His neck felt hot. "There was nothing to watch."

He looked up at his father and found only doubt and disappointment there.

"At the place I found this… There were quite a few of – of these." At least he wasn't voicing them, Sasuke was grateful for that. But even hearing in his head 'there were quite a few pictures of you having sex' felt like punch in the face. "You gave no consent for them to be done?"

As he already said, "No."

"You were not… posing?"

A flair of anger rose in Sasuke's chest. "Of course not!"

"The level of detail is…"

"I didn't do anything!" His voice was gaining in strength, so Sasuke made an effort to lower him down. He couldn't yell at his father, even if he was hurt and insulted. He couldn't do what Itachi had done. "I barely know the guy who did them; I only met him once – no, twice."

"Was one of those times when you came home wrapped around another boy?"

The edge of the counter was hurting him already, but Sasuke pressed further back anyway. He wasn't out so badly. There was no way he was having this conversation. What was he supposed to say? He wasn't actually remembering the part of the party after Naruto left – with Sai, who was without a doubt the one who drew that picture. Maybe they got back. And Naruto had said that Sasuke didn't do anything compromising – in public. But maybe he meant where people from school couldn't see. Maybe he got back with that guy and was then helped him find a good angle.

Sasuke got angry at the very thought, but he couldn't make himself quite consider it. His memories of that evening were hazy at the very least. But Naruto wouldn't do something like that.

He seemed to have stalled with the answer for too long, because his father was angry enough to hit the surface of the table strong enough to draw his attention. When Sasuke focused on him, the anxiety and nightmarish uneasiness blended with spots of fear.

"I was not the only one on in that – that dump of an apartment." His father said, on the edge of yelling. Sasuke stepped a little toward the door, not able to stop himself. His father rarely yelled. His father never yelled, not really. This was so bad. "We were on a raid based on a tip about someone distributing drugs from that place, three patrols. And when we got inside, it was like we were there to investigate illegally made pornography, because that," He poked at the paper Sasuke had left on the table as if the thing made itself. "Is pornography – and I brought home the mildest picture of them all."

Which still wasn't Sasuke's fault; no matter how guilty he was feeling. He did not give his consent for that stupid prick to draw him naked and he couldn't exactly predict and stop people from having fantasies.

"My colleagues saw them!" Sasuke's father finally crossed the border and raised his voice. "So tell me, what I am I supposed to say to them tomorrow, when they start to whisper behind my back – again?"

That flame of anger that was dancing high in Sasuke's chest dropped lower and left a hot trail. That was what it was all about? What the other cops would say?

"Tell them," Sasuke said in the voice that was finally shaking, "Your two deviant gay sons are a better deal than whatever is that they've got. I have nothing to be ashamed of."

But he was ashamed, the guilt and misery were eating on what was left when the angry flame got out with the words. His mouth was dry and he couldn't look at his father. But he caught the movement when his father rose up suddenly and flinched badly.

Sasuke registered his mother widen his eyes and say, "Watch out!" before he registered pain in his hand and pulled it from the hot burner, taking the pan with him. It was too late; once pain started to register it just kept rising up, blurring his sight. Sasuke clutched at his arm, over the burn. There was food everywhere; it fell out of the pan on the working surface and all over the floor.

His mother was next to him in an instant.

"Bring me the first aid kit from upstairs." She said, but she was obviously talking to her husband, who walked out without a word. "Let me see."

That part was obviously for Sasuke, but he shot her a glare. "Don't touch it."

The very thought of something even brushing over the swelling skin was extremely unpleasant.

"Don't be a baby." His mother snapped, and pulled on his elbow to look. "It's pretty bad, put it under water."

He did as she said. The cold spray felt like blessing after the hellish burning. Sasuke sighed in relief, his eyes clearing up.

"I'll bring a towel." His mother murmured when she saw that he won't die instantly. He didn't answer, just watched her walk out of the room quickly.

Sasuke was left alone in the kitchen. His brain unlocked finally. His father saw that picture! He was naked and… Alright, so maybe his privates were not drawn but that wouldn't be realistic anyway. It was that way his face was shown that Sasuke was suddenly feeling embarrassed about. He could see it clearly in his head still, the blush, closed eyes and light frown… His father saw that!

Sasuke turned the water down. He had to get rid of that thing before his mother gave into curiosity – or insanity – and looked at it. He grabbed it from the table and walked as quietly as he could out through the hallway and the front door, just stopping shortly to slip his feet into his shoes. The big garbage can was near the gate, so Sasuke walked to it and stuffed the thing inside.

He turned to get back to the house and halted. There were lights everywhere. There was a light on in his room; he could clearly see it fall over the side yard. His father must have been in there, what was he doing in Sasuke's room? Looking for more proof of deviation? And when he was supposed to retrieve the first aid kit, of all times?

It seemed as if Sasuke getting hurt didn't help with his father's anger. Sasuke didn't want to go back inside. He didn't want to deal with his angry father and spend the entire night arguing and being afraid he would end up like his brother, out of the house forever.

He turned and walked out through the gate. He will spend the night at Itachi's and deal with all that crap in the morning.

His hand was starting to hurt again, but the cold wind was helping with that. His hand was the only place the cold was feeling good, he was freezing. He was without his jacket. It was one of those freezing January evenings; the half-melted snow was uneven and turned to ice, very slippery and awkward.

The otherwise not very long trip to Itachi's apartment stretched. The cold wind was pushing him into a hurry, but his lungs couldn't keep up after the pneumonia and laying in bad for so long. And speaking of pneumonia – it probably wasn't the best idea for him to walk at night, in the winter, outside, without warm cloths.

The lobby of Itachi's apartment was blissfully warm. Sasuke rushed inside, using the spare key he knew where Itachi kept. Inside of the apartment, with the heating on, it was too hot after that hurry to get there. Sasuke was feeling slightly disoriented, but he could smell the shampoo and hear the sounds of the shower from the bathroom as he walked further in. So Itachi was there. He should have knocked, but it wasn't like he was barging in the bedroom or something.

Just when he thought about it, the door of Itachi's bedroom opened in front of him. Sasuke stopped, cursing inwardly – damn it, Itachi had company, he really should have knocked. Out of the room, a girl walked out, wearing nothing but loosely tied bathrobe.

Startled, she widened her eyes at him. "Um."

Sasuke was just as much in loss for words. Was Itachi borrowing his place to some friends? Who was that girl?

"I'm sorry." He said. "I am…"

"Sasuke, yes, I know." She finished and smiled. She closed her bathrobe completely on what seemed to be automatic movement, but Sasuke was grateful regardless. "Your brother talks about you all the time."

"And who are you?" Sasuke asked, feeling a little bit more comfortable because of her warmth and politeness.

"Ah," She smiled again, a little sadly this time. "I guess he wasn't mentioning me much. I'm Konan. His girlfriend."

With the part of his brain that wasn't repeating 'girlfriend' over and over again like it was foreign word he was trying to memorize, Sasuke wondered if it was only the dim light from Itachi's aquarium or was her hair really blue. He realized that she held her hand up to greet him properly. Sasuke meant to take it, he really did… But instead, he stepped back. He couldn't deal with it right then. He couldn't have another fight, not right then; not with Itachi – and there was no way he wouldn't yell for this. What was the point of the last five years, if Itachi was not really gay? What was the point of everything?

"Sorry. I'm in a hurry."

He was almost running out before he even finished. After him, she said, "No, wait, Itachi will be out in just a minute!"

Sasuke didn't want to see Itachi. The memory of the coldness outside was still fresh, so when he saw Itachi's coat hanging in near the door, he grabbed it. He could still hear voice of Itachi's girlfriend; she was probably alarming Itachi in the bathroom about Sasuke walking in, so he hurried down the stairs.

The cold wind hit him harder than before, or so it felt. Sasuke put the coat on. He should go home, he knew that. But he didn't want to, not yet, so he dived into Itachi's pockets while rushing down the sidewalk. There should be a few places open still, it wasn't too late. The town's open time restriction was until one in the morning. He can sit there for a bit and think about everything – if he found some money.

Fortunately, he dug up Itachi's wallet and his keys. Looking the markings, Sasuke realized that he had Home's keys. For a wild moment, he wanted to throw them away, just to spite. But he didn't give into it.

In the winter, it was rare to see people out on the streets, but there was quite a few of them in the cafes and bars. After thinking a moment about it, Sasuke decided to go to a place where they were selling alcohol, though nothing short of time travel would do much for his mental state. He had a great moment of amusement, daydreaming about going back to the first night on the field trip and suffocating Naruto with a pillow.

He was the last one to get out of the bar and it was only because they were closing up. He was ordering water with drinks, wetting the paper tissues and keeping them on his burned hand. It still hurt. Alcohol didn't give him the strength to go back home – or the will to go back to Itachi's, but he had to do one or the other anyway. Or he could – a thought that he was amusing himself with while sitting alone in the corner and trying very hard not to overdo the drinking again – he could go to the Home. He had the keys. As long as he was careful, no one would know – Sasuke knew his way around it.

It felt somehow like he would be going to Naruto, but… That wasn't exactly what he would be doing. He could go up to Itachi's office. He could sit there. It would be warm.

He was just fooling himself he was only thinking about it, Sasuke realized. He was already walking in that direction. He just couldn't deal with anything that night. A few hours for thinking surely wouldn't hurt.

The light was dim on the ground floor of the Home, left just so it would be obvious that the building was not a private property. Sasuke could see the light on a single window on the second floor, all the way to the right. It was where the offices were. Whoever was on duty that night, they were probably in that office – which would be on the same floor as Itachi's.

Sasuke unlocked the entrance door anyway and walked in quickly. He kept his step as light as possible as he climbed the stairs to the first floor, second – and further up, without even checking if he could sneak into Itachi's office.

It was very clear where he was about to end up from the moment he had decided to use the keys, but Sasuke still hesitated before knocking on Naruto's door.


A/N: It's my birthday in a few hours! That means you have to comment. XD

Okay, that definitely doesn't mean you have to comment, but hehe. I just wanted to point it out. =D

I hope you had fun and please don't eat me alive about Itachi. ^^' Or anything else, really; posting this chapter made me nervous for several reasons I won't bother you with.