Two chapters this summer! :) I really got back into this fic now I have the time to. Please read the author comments at the end.



Rumble. Crash. Silence.

Kakashi sat gravely, head in hands whilst he thought over the previous few hours or so.

Maybe he should have seen this coming; Sasuke's breakdown, it had been a long time. Too long.

Must he associate pain, fear, anxiety, for weakness?

He had always been like that, never wanting to admit when he was scared, keeping it in until the very last minute and resulting in so much stress his brain couldn't take it.

Itachi though, the 'sighting' of Itachi...that was sudden. As a child Sasuke had many nightmares of his brother, claimed he saw him in the dark when he was trying to sleep, running into Kakashi's room terrified, claiming his brother was chasing him. A child's imagination is limitless; he was always 'seeing' Itachi. Sasuke was an adult now though and to be so convinced was...worrying to say the least.

Kakashi was sure Sasuke still dreamed about him, still carried the paranoia but he had Naruto to reassure him now that Kakashi wasn't there. To be this frightened despite that...well, it was certain to put strain on any relationship. Sasuke had always carried trust issues.

The silver haired man picked up his phone, let the cool of it chill his clammy hands, before ringing for Naruto. It rang three times before a sudden flurry of voices could be heard and some harsh cursing.


"Naruto, it's Kakashi."

"Kakashi! Hey! minute...SAI SAY ONE MORE THING ABOUT MY DICK AND I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL RIP YOURS OFF!" Kakashi heard a foreign voice chuckle and then it was quieter, Naruto came back, voice flustered. "What's up?"

"Where are you?" He asked; lying back on the couch, judging from the background conversation it probably wasn't a good time to talk, though he was a little curious as to the subject of commotion.

"Oh! I'm at my new job! You wouldn't believe my co-worker – he's a complete NUT! A fucking perverted one! All he seems to wanna talk about is my dick! If I didn't need this job so bad I would have punched him already..."

"Seems like fun." Kakashi mused, smiling a little and glancing toward the stairs out of habit. As a child Sasuke would sometimes sit at the top out of sight because he was too afraid to be away from Kakashi but too stubborn to say so.

"Fun my arse! The job is great; looking after plants and all that but this Sai guy...ugh...OH yeah what did you ring for? I escaped to the store room but I have to get back to watering soon."

"This probably isn't the best time to talk, what time do you finish work?"

"Seven...Is it about Sasuke?" Naruto's tone turned dark and Kakashi sighed.

"How ever did you know?" He smiled sadly.

"I'd come round after work but I really need to be with him, he's going through that paranoid thing y'know? I need to talk to you about it but he doesn't like being in the house alone. I really didn't wanna work this morning y'know but I had to. I told him to go out but he might be home again by now...he'd probably in Starbucks actually..."

"He's with me." Kakashi interrupted, "Upstairs, sleeping."

"Sleeping! How?"

"Not willingly I assure you."

"That long has he been asleep? I'll come round after work."

"About an hour, sure, I was going to ask you to." He sighed again, rubbing his eyes. "Anyone would think we were talking about the baby."

"I know...and he calls me a baby." Kakashi could practically hear Naruto's eyes rolling.

"I'll see you later."


The call cut off and Kakashi tossed the phone to the opposite couch, taking a look at the clock: five fifteen...he had work to do.



Pain stared at his various computer screens gravely. Each contained information relevant to Akatsuki's current aims, different people, their enemies, partners.

Of course, when information was being found on them, he knew. He knew little Sasuke Uchiha understood more than he told, knew what Kakashi Hatake was up to, the both of them were as bad as each other. He knew everything the police thought they knew about them, and more.

Not that he was bragging, they had made several misjudgements in the past, Gaara Sabaku being one of them, but they learned from them. Tightened security, strengthened partnerships, became impenetrable. Of course he knew the goals of all members were different, none of that mattered. His goal was all that mattered.

"They are suspicious." He spoke, voice calm but hoarse, Konan was at his side with herbal tea immediately, taking note of the way her friends ribs could be seen prominently though his skin.

"They are foolish." She murmured.

"No...some are clever." He blinked slowly at a picture of Naruto, then again to Gaara, Sasuke... "They have all experienced pain. We must underestimate nobody."

Konan nodded. "Nagato..." She stared sadly at his body. "I will get your medicine."

Pain was silent, eyes taking down information from the screens. "Where is Itachi?" He asked.

"Gone for a few days." She replied quietly.

Pain bowed his head silently and she left.



Several folders circled Kakashi, sat cross legged on the floor, photos and information spilled out of them and he poured his eyes over each.

Sasuke was not the only one capable of hacking.

He stood, stretched and heard keys jangling in the door to the house. He quickly tidied his information away and rubbed his sore eyes.

"Kakashi?" He heard Iruka call and hurried from his office quickly, putting a finger to his lips when he saw the man, who nodded and apologised quietly, mouthing a 'why?' towards him.

"My little raven flew back home for the day. He's asleep upstairs."

"Sasuke?" Iruka asked, putting his coat and teaching files away.

Kakashi nodded and watched the man, noting his hands were covered in poster paint; there were yellow splodges of it in his hair too. He smiled, walking over and picking some of the dried flakes out.

"Wha-oh...yes we were painting today, some of the children were far too excited." Iruka chuckled fondly, playing with his hands absent mindedly while Kakashi raked his fingers through the hair. "I'm guessing there's a reason Sasuke is asleep upstairs?" He asked cautiously.

"Hmm...he isn't feeling too well." Kakashi hummed. Iruka nodded silently. "I mean the kids a nut case." He added, after noting the sober attitude that had feel upon them. Iruka hissed his name and turned to hit him.

"Don't say that!" He scolded, teacher mode activated. Kakashi smiled.

"I was kidding." He leant forward, picking more paint out of the wispy bits of hair around his face, wiping a smudge off his cheek. Iruka sighed, Kakashi feeling the breath waft over his palm and wrist.

"Nevertheless..." The smaller man mumbled, gathering himself and swatting Kakashi's hand away to get a cloth from the kitchen sink and wash his hands properly.

The silver haired man watched him go and stretched once more, picking up the hairbrush from Iruka's work bag and following the man.

Iruka sighed when Kakashi removed the hair tie and began brushing more paint out. "Would you leave my hair alone? I can brush it myself..."

"But it's shiny~!" Kakashi sang, gathering it in bunches and waving it about above Iruka's head, gasping when the younger man splashed water at him from the sink and wiping his now wet arms across the smirking face. Iruka yelped grabbing the hairbrush from Kakashi and smacking him in the stomach with it, laughing when the man retorted by tickling his sides.

"Y'know, I think I'll come back later."

Both men jumped and turned to see Naruto stood in the kitchen doorway, keys in hand and mildly disturbed expression on his face. He turned and Iruka started flapping, Kakashi rolled his eyes and grabbed the blonde by the head, steering him to the kitchen table and ignoring the groaning coming from the boy.

"It's not my fault your father acts like a child Naruto. It must be those children he teaches, he's picking up bad habits."

Iruka threw the hairbrush at him, wiping water from the worktops and floor in disgruntlement. "I live with a child of a man!" He insisted and Naruto nodded nonchalantly.

"And a pervert of a one." He agreed, yowling when Kakashi hit him with the fallen brush.

"Tea Naruto?"


Naruto looked to Kakashi questioningly when Iruka's back was turned and Kakashi shrugged for a moment, looking tired.

"Iruka, I'm borrowing Blondie for a moment."

Iruka nodded. "I thought you would."

Kakashi took him into his office and Naruto looked round, smiling fondly at the photos along the wall; a small knot forming in his stomach at all the ones of his mother and father who he didn't remember.

"Naruto, he's seeing him again." Kakashi began, snapping Naruto out of it.

"Yeah, he told me he had."

"He'd not seen him since he was a kid." the silver haired man exhaled slowly and Naruto could see how tired he was. "I don't know what to believe; this time it's different...the incident last month proves how clever Akatsuki are. I don't want to go telling him he's seeing imaginary things when there's no evidence that he is but likewise...him knowing Itachi could be in the next room is...destructive to say the least."

"I know..." Naruto perched on the desk edge, letting his finger wander over the wood grain. "I don't know what to tell him apart from that I won't leave him." He clenched his fist and sighed. "I thought this baby could be good for him, and it was, but then it all turned bad's making things harder."

Kakashi agreed, flicking some yellow paint of his arm. "I'm going to talk to Gaara and Jiraiya. I really don't know what to do about Sasuke's sightings right now because of how he's been in the past and how little we have to go off...I don't like it though. If Akatsuki have their eye on him at the moment then..." The man's head hit the desk lightly and he rolled his forehead along the cool surface. "I really don't like this...something is wrong. Either way, if it's going to happen I can't even say you're any safer staying here than at home...and even if it was safe under top priority protection, nobody will allow that with such little evidence."

"So it's wait around until someone gets hurt." Naruto mumbled bleakly, hands clenching in his trouser fabric.

"I don't like it either," spoke Kakashi. "I can't protect you all on my own... though I can damn well try."

"I know." Naruto kicked his chair lightly and stood. "I'll keep an eye on him." His eyes flicked back to the photographs again, looking at his mother's long red hair and subconsciously playing with his own shocking blonde crop.

"Naruto...this goes for you too." Kakashi warned and Naruto brushed the subject off.

"Don't worry about me."

Kakashi grumbled and stood. "Let people worry about you."

"I'm fine!" Naruto insisted and paled when Kakashi stormed over, yelping when he was put into a headlock and noogied harshly.

"Children should listen to their guardians." Kakashi sang, ignoring Naruto's spluttering of 'sadist', 'child molester' and 'bastard'.

They stopped when Iruka knocked on the door and asked Kakashi to check on Sasuke, thinking he'd heard him moving about upstairs.

Kakashi let Naruto go and made for the stairs, shaking his head at how stubborn the boy was about letting people in. Almost as stubborn as Sasuke but in a totally different sort of way. "Stupid kids." He mumbled and opened the door to Sasuke's room, immediately frowning when he noted the boy and baby were still deep in slumber.

Every nerve in him picked up suddenly and his fists clenched, he slowly looked around the room - everything was as he'd left it. With a prickly feeling he checked all the cupboards, the window (was still locked) and underneath the bed. Everything was fine, absolutely no sign of life but for the sleeping pair. He backed out and shut the door slowly, travelling along the landing and glancing into the other rooms.

He found a pile of books on the floor by Iruka's dresser, some from the pile still on top of the desk near the very edge. Part of him sighed with relief, picking them up. Iruka often left books haphazardly about his room and caused avalanches...

He let his fingers drift over the books covers, the prickly feeling still hadn't left. If Sasuke had seen Itachi then...

Even little things that would normally cause no fuss were now becoming suspicious.

Had Iruka left those books so far near the edge? For how long? Could they have fallen off now after being there all day, utterly fine?

"Itachi and your bloody mind games." He put the last book back and pushed them to the back of the dresser, leaving the room and looking down the hall to Sasuke's door. It was still shut as he'd left it. He glared at the surrounding space, as if daring anyone to jump out and surprise him. He refused to let anybody hurt his son.

He was tempted to wake the boy and bring him downstairs but scolded himself for thinking so. If he began getting paranoid it was like one sick person looking after another. Kakashi needed to be rational for everyone's safety. If Itachi was sneaking around, he'd have had plenty of opportunities to hurt Sasuke already. Kakashi fists clenched at the idea. So if he hadn't so far, he wasn't going to, yet. It wasn't like Akatsuki to do anything serious quietly, they weren't afraid to pull stunts right in full view of the public eye. They could easily disappear again after, somehow they always slipped away. It wasn't in their interests to suddenly kill a sleeping boy.

Kakashi swallowed the lump in his throat and breathed slowly before returning downstairs, letting Iruka know it had been some fallen books.

"Oh, I must have left them too close to the edge, I'm always doing that when I'm half asleep." Iruka nodded, tying his hair back up into the usual ponytail. Kakashi didn't miss the bleak look Naruto gave him.

Sasuke's eyes opened slowly and at first he couldn't make sense of himself or his surroundings, brain still too bogged down by the heavy sleep he'd much needed. It wasn't until he heard the baby coo that his memory came back to him and he sat up suddenly, rushing her into his arms and backing up to the wall the bed was pressed against, staring around the room like a meerkat that had spotted an eagle.

The room was empty. He searched furiously with his eyes for any signs of change since he'd fallen asleep there, but was frustratedly too tired to remember. He strained his ears to hear noise and exhaled in relief when he heard Iruka and Kakashi arguing about something trivial downstairs, ears pricking up when Naruto's voice joined in.

Why is Naruto here?

"Kakashiiiiii..." He groaned hoarsely, needing a drink, he rose from the bed and opened the door with a shaking hand, feeling invisible hands and faces sneaking up behind him all the way. The deserted landing was full of shadows and haunts.

Footsteps coming up the stairs caused his heart to thud against his ribcage, he pulled the baby close, but calmed when he saw blonde hair come into view.

"What are you doing here?" He asked, a little too harshly, coughing after and straightening up.

"Nice to see you too," Naruto grumbled. "Can I not visit my own dad now?"

Sasuke glared suspiciously and Naruto glared back as if challenging him to fight it; however Sasuke just sighed and let things be. He needed coffee.

"Well I came upstairs to pee so..." The silence hung around and Sasuke rolled his eyes, walking past him and to the stairs, Naruto ruffled the baby's hair along the way before walking into the bathroom. Sasuke hung awkwardly at the top of the stairs, able to see the bottom from where he was and also the bathroom. The living room was only 12 steps away but it looked a lot further...he didn't want to leave Naruto up here alone...but would be mocked if he stayed.

He made his way down a few as slow as possible, still not able to be sighted by his father in the living room, keeping an eye and ear out for the bathroom door as he went. He waited until he heard the toilet flush and the sound of a towel flapping on the metal towel rail before quickly darting down the stairs before the door swung open.

Naruto stared sadly along the empty hallway; half hoping Sasuke would still be waiting there.

Guess his concern stretches only for the baby... He thought bitterly but shook it off, mentally telling himself off for being so selfish.

He descended the stairs.

A few hours later and Naruto found himself in the same position he's found himself for the most of this month – alone.

He flicked through a few channels, his arm draped lazily over one eye as he gave half a glance to the channels, picking one for background noise and dropping the remote with a sigh. He let his eyes wander shut.

Sasuke was back in his office again, with the baby, wouldn't let Naruto in, wouldn't let Naruto out. So here he was, lying on the sofa, worrying.

"When did I get to be such a pushover?" He mumbled to himself, glancing to the clock on the wall, 9pm. "I hope the baby is asleep."

The baby...our baby...

He scrunched his nose up in irritation and rolled over with a frustrated growl. It was good Sasuke felt so powerfully about their child but...

Does he even get that it's my baby too...

Sasuke was pushing him out.

The blonde thought about getting the baby and taking her upstairs to her cot where she belonged but honestly couldn't be bothered with the drama it would cause. He wanted to be with her for a change, give her space, let her get used to her bedroom, cuddle her without having to worry. If he even suggested leaving her alone upstairs, Sasuke would freak out.

Of course, if Sasuke was not seeing hallucinations then he had every right to be worried, everybody did. It was entirely possible for Itachi or any of Akatsuki to be sneaking round and yes, they had personal issues with the organisation and quite a history of problems with was terrifying.

Sasuke had done this before though. 'Seen' things before. It was difficult to tell what was real and what was not, especially with his obsessive personality.

"Fuck Itachi Uchiha! Fuck him to hell! Hasn't he done enough to hurt everybody? Why the fuck should he turn up now and ruin everything...does he even need a reason...the fucking psychopath..." He rubbed his eyes angrily. He wanted peace. He wanted people to pay for hurting his loved ones...he wanted his friends back alive and his boyfriend back to his grumpy, secretively-cuddly self, he wanted the baby to have her parents back because her new ones were doing a fucking lousy job of it.

"Shit." He sighed, kicking a pillow off the couch. "Stop thinking."

"Didn't know you could think."

Naruto looked over the pillow quickly to see Sasuke stood at the foot of the couch. For a second, it had sounded like his Sasuke, the snarky one...but this looked very much like the one he'd seen cowering atop Kakashi's staircase, clutching a baby girl to his chest in paranoia.

"You'd be surprised what I can achieve Uchiha." He replied grumpily, played along. For a second it looked like Sasuke would fight back verbally as usual, maybe comment on his achievements including cleaner and gardener and not a lot which Naruto might add 'taming an Uchiha' to the list and Sasuke might smirk, do that cute nose scrunchy thing he did when he was embarrassed or annoyed and throw a pillow at him.

None of that happened. Sasuke 'hmm'ed and quite cautiously stepped closer. Naruto, wanting to hold the man, do anything to soothe his wrecked body and calm his fluttering heart, stood, reached out to him. He touched Sasuke's face lightly, held his arms around him, slowly, gently, like sneaking up on fish in a pond, moving your hand close, close, closer, until you move too hastily and it darts away into the murky water.

"Do you wanna cry?" Naruto whispered, Sasuke looking down at the floor, face still in Naruto's embrace.

"I don't cry...what use does it do?" He replied slowly, Naruto stroked his cheek with his thumb, softly. Smiled, sadly.

"You may not physically produce tears but trust me, you cry. It cleanses you..." He pressed their foreheads together and felt the warm, barely there wafts of Sasuke's breath cover his face, dance across his lips softly. Sasuke's mouth was open and Naruto pressed an almost kiss to it, placed his lips upon his boyfriends, lightly as possible, let his eyes close on the blurred picture of Sasuke's trembling eyelashes.

"Naruto." He hushed softly, Naruto felt it though his lips, tasted his name in Sasuke's sugar breath on his tongue and Naruto's forehead creased as he willed back tears of his own. God he just wanted this man to feel safe.

The raven seemed to want to say something else but the tensing and relaxing of his muscles told Naruto he wasn't going to say it. The blonde kissed his cheek softly and drew away, whispered a 'stay' to his partner and cautiously walked towards Sasuke's office, watched carefully all the time. Sasuke saw him pick up the baby's Moses basket, maintained eye contact there and back to the couch, where the blonde placed it next to.

"Sit with me." Naruto commanded, pleading look to his eye and Sasuke slowly, after a few minutes of staring at the floor, sat, looking to the Moses basket. "Put her in it." Sasuke just looked at it. "Please, she's sleeping, let her rest. We're right beside her." Naruto placed his hands upon the child gently, hurt when Sasuke visibly tensed, he pushed the anger down inside him, Sasuke was sick, he didn't mean to do that...

As if sensing the blonde's thoughts, Sasuke let go of her slowly, unsure, as if it was something he didn't know how to do, like a child learning to walk. Naruto lifted her over into the basket, making soft 'shushing' sounds when she fussed, babbled but didn't cry. She fell straight back to sleep when Naruto laid her down and covered her legs with the silky blanket.

Before Sasuke could begin to worry, Naruto took his face again, ushered him with as much care as the baby to lie down beside him on the couch. Tiredly, Sasuke relented, let himself be pushed down, felt Naruto embrace him tightly from behind. He was on face level with the basket's woven sides; he let his fingertips trail over the wicker weaving slowly. Naruto sighed behind him, hot breath trailing down his pale neck. Sasuke shivered, felt the prickly feeling of sleep teetering dangerously close, threatening to knock him over. Naruto kissed the junction of his neck firmly, sucked it and Sasuke's vision grew blurry. His toes wanted to curl when the blonde let his teeth glide over the spot he'd just been kissing, softly let hands wander over the bony surface of his hips and to the velvety dip just inside them. The raven made a small noise of satisfaction as Naruto's tongue licked a hot trail along the curve of his ear, fingers dancing over his stomach, making him shudder.

It was then, with a pained expression, that Sasuke grabbed the hands and whispered 'stop', his eyes on the Moses basket in front of him. He couldn't concentrate on the basket when Naruto did things like that to him, couldn't fight off the relaxation or the threat of sleep, couldn't still the ache in his chest or the warm distraction.

Distraction. Distraction.

"We can't do this sort of thing in front of her." Sasuke excused, holding Naruto's hands still.

"We were hardly doing anything." Naruto said with a low, tired voice. "She's a baby, she doesn't understand it anyway, it's not like we're scarring her, she won't remember anything from these years of her life. Oh, and she's asleep and you might have been too if you'd just let me..." He stopped himself after noticing his tone turning bitter, he wriggled his hands free from Sasuke's grip and wrapped his arms round his middle tightly, unwaveringly. "Sleep, Sasuke." The blonde knew Sasuke was making excuses, didn't want to lose control, didn't want to be distracted or lose sight of the baby.

She's right can see her...

I'm right here...can you see me?

Sasuke was asleep an hour later, no longer able to fight it, the wicker basket and the sound of Naruto's soft snores were the last things he was aware of before subconscious got him.



Gaara stared down at the small family in front of him with an ambiguous expression. A small baby was staring up at him from a wicker basket, large chocolate eyes enquiring. He lifted a pale hand and gave one small wave. She opened her mouth and smiled at him and his mouth twitched up in the corners.

Her fathers looked rather worse for wear; both had exhausted faces, grey hollows under the eyes; Sasuke's more prominent than Naruto's. He narrowed his eyes at the raven man, it was not the baby keeping Naruto awake at night; it was this man and his attitude to her. Naruto was showing signs of a much younger, more lost Naruto that Gaara had often calmed in the orphanage.

Silently he walked closer, taking note of the possessive grasp of his friend upon his boyfriend. He gave a look of irony.

They thought I had issues.

He smiled to himself and gently shook Naruto's shoulder, sighing when the blonde just mumbled nonsense and snuggled closer to Sasuke. Gaara roused him slightly harsher and weakly Naruto's eyes opened, looking in confusion for a second before realising what was happening.

"Oh. Hi." He said, voice thick with exhaustion, the motion of him moving to sit waking the raven, who for a moment was calm but upon noticing Gaara's unexpected presence he choked on his voice a little, flying from the couch and scrambling for the baby immediately.

"Sasuke! Sasuke it's ok! For god's sake it's Gaara!" He leapt for his boyfriend, trying to calm him, stop him from running but Sasuke pushed him away, rather violently, Naruto fell to the couch. "Sasuke!" Naruto yelled, but he'd ran into his office, door shutting with a slam and silence falling back upon the house.

Naruto sat for a moment, stunned, then let his head fall back on the couch, hands coming to clutch his head, palms mauling his eye sockets as his chest rose and fell in frustration.

Gaara walked to his friend and pulled his hands from his eyes, massaging his palms gently with his own fingers, watching his friend's tired eyes fall shut. He kissed each palm and gently ran hands down the blonde's arms and to his face where he massaged the tension from his temples. Naruto sighed and leaned into the touch, calming down quickly.

"You're always good at this." Naruto whined gently when Gaara massaged down around his neck and shoulders. "I think clearer with you around." The blonde opened his eyes, seeing his friend crouching above him and smiling as he imagined the lonely red haired child sat on the swing-set. He pulled Gaara down on top of him with a grin and hugged him tightly, squealing like a child and falling with him back into the seat cushions. Gaara could feel Naruto's smile in the skin of his cheek but could feel the sadness behind it in his body. Naruto was a physical person and so Gaara hugged him back tightly, snuggled into him and let Naruto feel that breath across his neck; let him be relaxed by the playing of fingers in his hair. Naruto needed physical comfort, warmth, and Sasuke wasn't giving that to him. Gaara was always there.

"It's aching." Gaara spoke softly.

"Sorry." Naruto replied, moving his leg out of Gaara's crotch and laughing to himself. Gaara slapped him in the head lightly and pressed their foreheads together to prevent Naruto avoiding him.

"Here." Gaara placed his hand on Naruto's chest and his expression softened. The sad smile hadn't left Naruto's face but his cheek muscles were trembling.

"A lot of places ache these days." He said softly and stroked the dark lines beneath Gaara's vivid green eyes. The redhead raised a hand to wipe the tears that had started falling from blue eyes.

"Let them ache." He said, hugging the blonde close again and feeling the shudders as he cried into his shoulder.

On a better day Sasuke might have been jealous of the cuddling going on outside his office door, it had taken him quite a while to get used to Naruto and his friend's...'touchiness'. Every time Sasuke would get sour about it, Naruto would laugh in his face, stating his and Gaara's relationship was 'as het as it gets', Sasuke could only roll his eyes. It was true though, Gaara was asexual, they could have kissed, and they occasionally did, but it wasn't at all romantic and it had taken Sasuke a while and a few fights to get used to that. They were odd beings around each other; the raven could see a different side of Naruto when he was with Gaara sometimes. They seemed to speak a unique language of sorts. Their eyes would soften a little, as if they were somewhere else. Sasuke was jealous of that connection, he knew Naruto and Gaara had grown up together and experienced each other's hardships from a young age. He was jealous of their unique connection. It wasn't a sibling relationship and it wasn't romantic but it somewhat transcended friendship...they were soul mates? It hurt Sasuke's head thinking about it.

Today he wasn't jealous; he was confused, angry, embarrassed. When he'd woken up, Gaara hovering over them, baby not in his arms, restrained by Naruto's, unable to make sense of things in his sleepy state...he'd just panicked. He could see it was Gaara, he could hear Naruto shouting at him to be calm but the panic overrode every conscious action. He just had to get away from the situation, with the baby, right there and then.

So he did.

And now he was sat behind the door feeling like the biggest idiot on earth.

The baby was crying.

He wanted to cry.



A short silence followed where Gaara rose up a little and stared his friend in the eyes, an unspoken conversation went between them, before the redhead stood and grabbed Naruto's coat, walking back and tossing it to him. The blonde stood, sheepishly and looked to the door of the office before sighing.

"Sasuke!" He yelled through the door, putting on his brave-face. "I'm...Sasuke let me in."

The door remained closed and Naruto's hand shook in frustration. "Sasuke open the door or I'll just leave the house."

The door opened and Naruto walked in, an odd silence went between the two and Sasuke glared at the coat Naruto was wearing. " can come with us...or stay here."

The raven looked at him with attempted blankness but Naruto could see the little flicker of pleading behind the dark eyes. His chest tightened.

To Naruto's surprise his partner walked past him after a moment, finding the baby's pram and his own coat. Naruto looked to Gaara with a face of surprise, who simply smiled back at him.

"I'm not going to follow you." The raven said quietly.

"Huh?" Naruto blinked as Sasuke spoke.

"I'll walk into town with you two but...I'm going my own way after."

Instead of questioning the odd behaviour Naruto just nodded, going to heat a bottle in the kitchen while Sasuke put the baby's bonnet and gloves on.

The blonde wasn't quite sure what to think when Sasuke left with the baby some way into town; he just let him go with an awkward 'see you later' and a fleeting grimace at the ravens skinny frame as he walked away.

"Breakfast," Gaara said quietly, touching Naruto's shoulder and bringing him back to earth.

"Yeah," He let the image of Sasuke go and followed the redhead into town, where they were seated in a tiny corner café. Gaara lead the way into somewhat normality as they waited for their orders.

"How is your father?"

"Same as usual, a complete panicky mummy who still thinks I'm five years old." Naruto answered with a smile, thinking fondly of his father. He didn't find Iruka's nature annoying mostly, he'd grown up with it. It drove Sasuke a little insane, Kakashi was only a little less anxious but he was better at hiding it. "I think him and Kakashi have something odd going on's a little gross." He added, remembering the tickle fight he'd walked into in the kitchen. "They're like a married couple." He shook his head, thanking the waiter as he laid two cups of tea on the table.

Gaara nodded modestly with a wry smile and Naruto kicked his shin under the table. "Hey, hey!" He kept nudging the redhead. "You know something don't you! What has that pervert said about my dad?"

"He speaks of him frequently," Gaara informed, sipping his tea, Naruto trying to do the same but finding it to be the temperature of Mordor and ending up fanning his tongue with a napkin soon after. "He has noted on several occasions that your fathers work trousers are quite...becoming."

"He's made comments on dad's ass?" Naruto groaned, sticking his tongue out further in disgust rather than the burning sensation.

"Yes. Amongst other things, he has a vast range of vocabulary." Gaara nodded, and drank his tea with the asbestos mouth he possessed.

"I don't even wanna know." The blonde rolled his eyes, poking the raised surface of his tongue and wincing.

Gaara nodded to the waiter as he brought them breakfast and Naruto ate happily, thankful it wasn't a thousand degrees. "We're doing our best to find them." The redhead said; expression a little more serious.

"I know you are Gar-Gar, it's ok." Naruto grinned with woeful eyes. "These bastards are pretty good at slipping away I know."

"We're good at finding them too though."

"You most certainly are." Naruto agreed, remembering back to a time when Gaara's team had caught a previous Akatsuki member, Orochimaru. It was one of the biggest police achievements to date; Gaara had done it mostly himself back when he was only a trainee police officer. Needless to say he'd been promoted pretty quickly after. Unfortunately sometime after that, Orochimaru got away again, though many assumed him dead, nobody had heard or seen him since and he wasn't in Akatsuki any more.

"Naruto." The blonde looked up as Gaara said his name and blinked at the expression there in the black ringed eyes. The atmosphere in the café changed. It was obvious what he wanted to say was not to be heard or understood by anybody but Naruto. He watched as the redhead debated whether to speak or not, something inside of him slowly unwinding, prickling fear niggled behind his eyes. The redhead took his hand gingerly and the touch was enough to send the winding feeling into a clear pool of fear. They hadn't broke eye contact, Gaara was speaking to him though this silence and deep in those green eyes Naruto could sense the worry, the fierce protective longing behind them. Those irises twitched and Naruto's hand was squeezed so lightly nobody but them would have even noticed. In moments like these they noticed nobody but each other, onlookers saw them looking to each other in silence but to them a whole conversation was taking place. It was one of those special ways Gaara talked to him that he loved the redhead for.

Right now though, the conversation only worried the blonde. Gaara was saying 'Sasuke could be right.' He was saying 'I think Akatsuki are in the area.' He was saying 'I'll do everything I can to protect you.'

Naruto's stomach lurched and he broke the connection slowly, drank some of his tea, that had turned cold without him knowing. It swirled around in his stomach nauseatingly.

"I know it's not about preventing belief in what may be true but have you talked to Sasuke about therapy? Just for the anxiety."

It's damaging and I'm worried for your family.

"If I mentioned the word he'd freak out. Therapy is for weaklings, or for idiots who can't control their own emotions, for little kids, for lesser beings, or some shit like that...that's what he thinks...insecure bastard." Naruto grumbled, suddenly less hungry. "He used to get therapy as a kid for similar things, I don't think he liked it...or rather he wanted to like it but he still saw it as a weakness, depending on something like that."

I want him to get help. If Akatsuki could be around he has to be able to think to protect himself.

"You could both use help." Gaara told him and Naruto played with the cutlery, irritated.

"You gonna be another one to tell me not to shut others out and to let people help me and to stop taking things upon myself and shit like I've never heard it before or-OW!" He rubbed his head after Gaara hit him with a spoon.

"Of course not. You can't keep things from me, you never have. You don't shut me out, I wouldn't undermine you like that so please do not insult me by taking my advice like everybody else's."

Naruto's chest tightened with guilt as he noted Gaara's slightly irked expression and regretted what he'd said. "Gar...I didn't mean-"

"I am aware."

"...I think we work better without words."

A few minutes later when his friend tapped him on the hand he stood, waited wordlessly as the bill was paid and followed out into the brisk air where he had little time to think before he was pulled into an embrace and kissed firmly upon the lips, in the middle of the street.

It had been a while since Gaara had kissed him and while his body flooded with the warmth it brought him, deep down he was a little sad at the underlying cause of it. Gaara was as worried as him; he was scared of losing those he loved, he was feeling a little hopeless, he didn't want things to teeter ever so slightly off the edge of the cliff they were holding up together and collapse into chaos.

"Isn't it nice when you're so used to people staring that it doesn't bother you any more," Naruto whispered to his friend, their foreheads still pressed together in the middle of the street as people walked past looking questioningly.

"It somewhat bothers you."

"Not because they're looking-"

"But because the world is so unused to love and acceptance that they have some kind of self taught reason to need to stare." Gaara finished his sentence for him, smiling, holding Naruto's face in his hands with all the care of a mother holding her newborn child.

"I've missed kissing you." Naruto breathed quickly, softly, so softly it could be mistaken for any normal breath.

"I know." Gaara replied, equally soft, leant forward and kissed his friend again, allowed the blonde to deepen it, allowed his own head to be taken in broad hands. The feeling of control, of knowing how to help people, knowing where he was at with the world and being able to control the fate of his loved ones, had been taken. Naruto longed for that normality again, he was good with change, fabulous with it, but when his family's safety was being smashed to pieces...he needed to be in charge of something, anything, somewhere familiar, where he knew where he stood. Gaara was his familiar.

He wound his fingers in red hair firmly, unrelenting, deepened the kiss, felt tears fall from his own eyes and pale thumbs rub across his scarred cheeks to catch them. Those hands were always there, always firm, never changing, always giving. He choked a sob into Gaara's mouth unexpectedly and the redhead pushed the crying face gently into his shoulder, wrapped his arms around the man and kept them there firmly. Blocking out the world from Naruto's eyes, making sure all he could see was the dark fibres of his coat, all he could smell was the homey spices of his jacket and all he'd hear was the pulse running next to his ear.

Around them, the world went on staring.


Starbucks was bright, airy, loud...from the moment he'd walked in he knew she wouldn't be here. He knew she only had one break all week after she'd scolded him for commenting on it. Why did he care though? Why did he come here hoping she'd be sat in her usual chair, circling her newspaper?

He sat in his own usual chair, staring at the one she would be in next week, fed his child, held her. It was dark by the time he moved again, the baby was asleep.

Why am I so fucking weak...?

The Starbucks employees found an untouched latte on the familiar table again that week.


When Sasuke was five, he had a habit of sleeping in his older brother's bed.

"Nii-san..." A pair of small pale legs trembled in the doorway to his brother's bedroom. Five year old heart, thudding, with the aftermath of his short journey from room to room. A very long journey for a five year old with an over-active imagination and a terrible relationship with anxiety. "Nii-san!" He whispered loudly again, into the dark surroundings of Itachi's room, voice cracking as his eyes welled up. His back felt exposed, still open to the hallway as he clung to the sliding doors, his father had taught him to respect other's spaces, to never enter without permission. He jumped a mile when thunder struck, illuminating the pitch black room and Itachi's silhouette.


It was all the boy needed to run, terrified, from his place at the door and all but throw himself into Itachi's bed, should the under-the-bed-monsters grab his ankles along the way. Should the hall shadows follow him as he tried to escape to safety.

It was ten minutes later that Sasuke stopped crying; his brother cradled him to his chest protectively. "Nii-san...I'm sorry." He apologised meekly, Itachi combing fingers through his damn hair.

"It's fine Sasuke." He spoke calmly, always calmly, a few moments silence and the volume of rain increased, pelting the windows and rattling external sliding doors. Sasuke took on the foetal position as close to his brother as possible. "One day will have to be brave without me."

"I will Nii-san, I promise." Sasuke sniffed into his brother's nightclothes.

"One day...because..."

Sasuke thought it odd, how his brother was talking tonight, as if it were difficult to speak. Often, on these nights, Itachi would tell stories; he would talk or sometimes sing until Sasuke fell into sleep. Other nights he was silent, simply there. Tonight, something was wrong, it made him uneasy.

"Because? Nii-san?" Sasuke looked up, and jumped a little at his brother's expression, his eyes were as pained as he'd ever seen them, the large moon reflected in them, making them almost doll-like, scary.

At once Itachi smoothed his expression, made small hushing sounds and moved his thumbs across Sasuke's cheeks, which were once again being covered with tears. The five year old hiccupped and Itachi cradled him. The older boy began to sing quietly, like a small lonely bird lost in the night, and Sasuke fell asleep some time later.


This was predictable, all too predictable. The quaking belly of the outside sky, rumbling warnings. The dark moonlit labyrinth of the house, cold silver shards of light bouncing off the stairs to make clean cut shapes of shadow all around the room. It was maddening.

This time there was a child melded into his chest, this time he could hear his own heartbeat pounding in his hears in a truly insane manner. This time, he, was an enemy, not a cure.

One day...because...

Because? Nii-san?

The door creaked when he pushed it and the sound caused an uneasy feeling that ran from his fingertips, electrically, down to his feet, which then curled in on themselves in repulsion. His partner's silhouette lay restless in the bed.

Thunder struck.

Sasuke broke.


Awoken by a hand on his wrist, Naruto found Sasuke lying next to him, baby sleeping in his arms, desperate look in his eyes. The blonde trod delicately, it was an uneasy fear, with uneasy memories. He took the quilt and covered them with it, touched Sasuke's face gently.

"Sound asleep." He whispered; smiling at the baby, who despite the loud lightning crashes, slept on. "Such a good girl," He stroked her head fondly, watching Sasuke's body unwind a little in the momentary lapse of lightning, momentary flutter of peace, tiredness overtaking him. "Sasuke...put her in the cot."

The raven remained still, showed no signs of releasing her.

"It's right here." Naruto reached over him to touch the basket, right beside the bed. "I'll roll on her if she stays here; it's dangerous to keep young babies in the bed with you."

Gently, gently, Sasuke sat, raised her to the basket and laid her down.

Gently, gently, Naruto pushed Sasuke down onto the bed, ran hands over rigid arms, lips over tensed jaw line, eyes never leaving the baby basket.

Thunder rumbled and spilled into a crash.

Gently, gently, Naruto began to sing.

Soft, non-rushed, a lullaby, right across Sasuke's skin. Right into his temples, fingers combed through unkempt hair. Right across eyelids, guiding them shut as he tempted his lovers head into a more natural position. He sang, with his heart, smooth and quiet, over pale lips. Felt them part. Sang into a trembling mouth, massaged every sensitive spot on Sasuke's scalp with his broad fingertips.

Gently, gently, a soft hiss escaped those lips and Naruto caught it, guided his own over the waiting mouth, providing distraction.

Often on these nights, nights filled with thunder, they would wake in the middle and fuck one another until it was over. More times than not, it was hard, rough, primal, enough to challenge the thunder cries. Sometimes, it was staggeringly, painfully gentle. They rumbled into orgasm as patiently as the purring thunder, felt waves shock through them with every flash of electric light.

Tonight was one of those in-between nights.

Given different circumstances, Naruto would have flipped Sasuke over right then, dug his fingers into all the erogenous zones that existed on Sasuke's cranium. He would have pulled those dark locks, pushed into him and rocked as deep and hard as the bed could take, tantalisingly slowly, scratched grooves into the space behind his ear and just above the hips.

Tonight he was far more cautious, the quaking inside the raven hadn't yet stopped and there was obvious evidence of a fierce inner battle warring beneath those waxy eyelids.

Naruto let his tongue run hot over the weathered skin beneath him. Sasuke lay, submissive, as he was on these nights. Naruto ran fingers firmly into his hairline and clenched his hands, pulling the pale skin taught as he writhed above him. An anguished whine left the raven's mouth and Naruto ate it up immediately, dug his nails into the scalp and sucked the bottom lip hard, left it swollen.

Sasuke was forgetting, relaxing, exhaling with cautious flutters of arousal. Completely raw, open, fucking gorgeous.

Naruto became hasty, ground into him harder, grunted into pale collarbones in frustration. It had been long, too long. An incoherent noise left moist lips as he bit the pale neck beneath him; arched his hips forward, hands grasping, muscles tender. He gripped the thighs beneath him, one in each hand, and squeezed right at the top, in the warm patch of sensitivity. Nail marks formed as Sasuke spluttered a gravelly moan from deep in the back of his throat. The blonde could feel Sasuke beneath him, itching to move, boxers damp. A rough tongue rushed over a nipple relentlessly and he thrust, slow and hard, hips to hips.

Thunder clapped loudly in the dark, and Naruto took Sasuke's wrists and pushed them into the mattress, biting the shell of his ear and receiving a broken gasp and bodily shudder.

Close. So close.

He could feel the pleasure coiling, voice rumbling in his heated chest, deep and low like the gathering thunder outside. He could feel the cock beneath him pulsing.

Gently, gently, he whispered nonsense into the red-bitten ears he loved, drunk in pleasure, rolled his hips. Felt a sharp jolt tense in Sasuke's body.

Close. So Close.

Thunder crashed, and Sasuke broke.

Entirely in a way Naruto didn't expect.

When he found himself suddenly alone on his side of the bed, Sasuke sat up looking frazzled and terrified, scrambling closer to the basket, he thought he'd been dreaming.

The almost-release still throbbing painfully in his body proved he hadn't been. Full of testosterone, of unspoken resentment, of helplessness, he couldn't help but feel anger well up inside him.

"What the fuck?" He glared, wincing at his own tone, at the flinch in the body across from him. "Sasuke, why?"

Silence. Rumble. Crash.

"I can't...we can't...I can't, I can't, I can't!" He bit out, clutching the basket. "The baby..."



The anger in the word shocked Naruto silent.

Rumble. Crash.

He watched as Sasuke picked up the little pieces of inner barrier from all around him, built up his shields again, layered himself in lies; spoke again not as Sasuke but as the person who invaded him when things got tough.

"Not in front of her. It's wrong." He said it carefully, calculated, reeking of fake belief.

"You've never been a good actor."

Silence. Rumble. Crash.

He wanted to pull Sasuke from the cot. Push him into the bed and bite, scratch, fuck some sense into him but he knew it wouldn't work. He was angry at himself for even thinking it. Angry at himself, at Sasuke, fuck even angry at the baby for 'causing' this. Angry again for thinking that.

"You're fucking everything up!" Naruto hissed, fists trembling. "Everything! You need me!"

"I don't need you!" Sasuke bit in retaliation, twitching, crazed.

"You fucking idiot! Who the fuck got you living your fucking life again! Who fucking loved you even when you walked out on them! Who fucking NEVER walked out on you! Who isn't right this minute!" He was stood, red anger boiling in his head and honestly he was scared by the fierceness of it. Only once before had Sasuke enraged him so; and last time Sasuke disappeared.

"This isn't about you!" Sasuke roared, stood, the baby woke, threatened to cry.

"It's NEVER about me is it?" The blonde stepped closer, ignored Sasuke's mad repetitions for him to stop talking. "She's the only thing fucking keeping you here isn't she! She'd the only thing that matters now! Do you even know my fucking name any more?"

The punch was expected but still, the sheer force of it meant he took a good hit to the face and met the floor with a thud. The baby wailed in her cot, before Sasuke could get to her, Naruto threw himself up, grabbed the man by the shirt and threw him into the wall. He grunted when a knee came to his stomach but pressed his weight to the raven and restrained him, thankful for the extra weight he carried.

"FUCK! Let me GO! Fuck...she's crying! Let me go!" Hands tried to grapple for the baby but Naruto had them pinned, head-butt the raven hard, ignored the dizzy pain and kept the face pinned there.

"Is this what you want?" He growled, voice trembling, tears burning the tender skin of his cheek. "To be my enemy? After all I've done for you?" He pushed Sasuke's face harder with his own, ignored the garbling about the baby. Fuck, this hurt him to do, to hear the madness in Sasuke's voice, the pleading that he kept hidden. He was saying hurtful things right now, things he'd regret, that he didn't mean to say. Fuck they hurt. "This is what he wants!" Naruto sobbed, pushing Sasuke's wrists hard and gasping as he tried to lunge forward.

"Please..." Sasuke begged. "Please!"

"She's my baby too, do you know that?" Naruto whispered.


Naruto punched with all the force he'd been hit with before. He threw the raven to the ground, grabbed him again, threw him out of the door and manhandled him to the spare bedroom. All the way ignoring the frenzied kicking and lunges, all the way feeling his chest restrict painfully.

"Fuck!" He sobbed, throwing Sasuke into the bedroom and remaining by the door as his lover fell to the ground, half dazed from the punch and madness. "I know you've been through a lot Sasuke but even for you, this is fucking selfish." He wipes his eyes furiously. "I don't trust you around our daughter at the minute. If you still want to live in this house and be part of this family you can fucking prove it to me!" He hated himself. He absolutely hated himself right now.

He slammed the door and locked it from the outside before Sasuke could get near him again. Ran back to their bedroom and pulled the baby into his arms. "Shhh, shhh, I know...I know...daddy's not well baby...I know...we're bad parents...god I know..." He slid to the floor with her, trying to ignore the screaming coming from down the hallway. "God Haku...Zabuza...god I'm sorry!" He choked, weeping into the fabric of the baby blanket.

He heard sobbing from the room down the hall and his chest shattered into a million pieces.

Rumble, crash, silence.



The house the next day was like the wreckage after a hurricane. Naruto still hadn't found those fragments of self he'd lost. He didn't think he'd find them for a while. His cheek and stomach and head stung, his hands quaked. He had drifted in and out of maddening nightmares and painful alerted wake.

Sometime around 3 a.m., the room at the end of the hall had gone silent.

Naruto wanted to give the baby to Sasuke, leave the house, drive a million miles away and walk off the edge of a fucking building.

All that talk of trust, of never leaving, and he'd subjected Sasuke to his deepest fear. He's left him in a locked cage, in the dark, fearing his brother and without anybody to save him.

Six a.m. came like an angel, with the sun just rising, washing the moonlit night away. Six a.m. and Naruto called Kakashi. It only took his voice and Naruto was sobbing, ridden with guilt. He tried to explain but all his could mange was the word help, and eventually Kakashi said he was on his way and hung up.

He was too scared to walk into that bedroom. He was too scared to face Sasuke right now.

Kakashi was stood in front of Naruto half an hour later, rocking the baby gently in his arms. Naruto was sat on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest; he'd been silent for a while now.

"I'm sorry." He whimpered eventually.

"Come with me." Kakashi replied, voice steady, though Naruto saw the grave expression in his eyes, the tension in his arms.

They stood facing the door Sasuke was behind and Kakashi unlocked it slowly, swallowed and sighed before he pushed it open.

Naruto's heart leapt down to his feet as he saw Sasuke, lying on the floor, curled in the foetal position, facing away. He wasn't moving. The blonde tried his hardest to remain composed but was struggling.

Kakashi whispered at Naruto to stay where he was, walked forwards slowly and knelt in front of Sasuke. His father's expression didn't give much away but Naruto knew it couldn't be good.

"Sasuke," He said gently. "It's your father."

Nobody moved; Sasuke remained still, if Kakashi wasn't so composed he'd have sworn the man was dead.

"Your daughter wants to see you." Kakashi's voice was so gentle like a mother speaking to her newborn baby. The man laid the baby down gently next to her still father; she babbled baby nonsense and Naruto saw Sasuke's shoulder twitch.

Kakashi watched his son reach out and touch the baby's hand. His expression was blank, his eyes...they were dead.

"Your dad wants to see you too." He pressed softly, laid his hand near to Sasuke but didn't push it further, didn't push the trust boundary. "I'm here."

After a patient few minutes, the eyes moved a little and focused on the hand, slowly reaching and taking it. Kakashi sighed with relief, wiping his eyes quickly and composing himself. "You're safe. You're in this room, I'm here, your baby is here, nobody else." He reassured, stroked Sasuke's hair softly, watched as some life came back to him, he rolled onto his back stiffly.

"Dad..." A tear rolled down his cheek and Kakashi caught it with his thumb.

"I know...I know, son." Kakashi exhaled.

Naruto simply stood, absolutely perplexed, completely wounded, Sasuke, his Sasuke, was crying.

He felt like a criminal. The absolute worst.

Soft unspoken and low conversation went on, Naruto couldn't make it out.

Kakashi motioned for Naruto to come over and he came slowly, as if it were difficult. He knelt like Kakashi, who told him not to speak.

He could tell Sasuke was aware of him kneeling there but he didn't meet his eye. Silently he carried on crying, eyes full of hurt, just holding his daughters hand.

Naruto was shocked but absolutely relieved when Sasuke sat, head hung, reached out to him and pulled him as if his life depended on it. Kakashi picked up the baby as Sasuke clung to Naruto desperately and Naruto held with equal force, sobbing into his shoulder. There were so many things he needed to say but all he could manage was 'I love you' again and again in a desperate mantra.

"Don' that to me again." Sasuke choked and Naruto sniffed loudly into his shoulder.

"Never again! Never ever again Sasuke I'm so sorry!"

"I deserved it...but just...not again...please."

"Never." He brought their foreheads together. "Never. I promise."

"You...are the only one...I need you...I won't let him take you..." Sasuke's breath fell short and Naruto clung to him woefully.

"I won't leave you. I was right here all night. I would not have let you leave I swear."

"I know."

"I'm sorry."

"Me too."

Kakashi stood, with the baby, touched a hand to Sasuke's shoulder. "She needs feeding. I will be downstairs, I'm going nowhere, follow me down when you're ready."

Sasuke nodded hesitantly and Naruto was surprised when he didn't turn to watch Kakashi leave with her. His gaze was focused once more to his lap, where he worried his hands together. His confession came so small it would have been impossible to hear under normal circumstances.

"I need help."

Wow, this took a turn for the dark right? I sobbed while writing the last part ;A; A lot of questions will be hoepfully answered in the next chapter, as well as Naruto, Sasuke's and Kakashi's thoughts about the turn of events in this chapter. Also guys, I really need your help in terms of reviews. I don't care for numbers but I mean it when I say feedback matters. Even if it's only three words or something even if it's not proper feedback, even just letting me know you like the story is fine, don't be intimidated. A couple of words can mean the difference between me feeling compelled to write a next chapter or me sitting on Tumblr all day becuase I feel like nobody cares about this fic anyway. Feel free to ask questions, make acusations, whatever :)

Thank you to those who costantly review, I wouldn't have kept writing this without you guys3