Chapter 4:

The fat on the bacon was already sizzling when Sasuke entered the expansive kitchen, his eyes half closed as he rubbed his messy hair blearily. He'd clearly been drawn in by the promise of Itachi's cooking. Itachi smiled slightly at him, proud that Sasuke had restrained the impulse to get utterly plastered the previous night. He liked to ignore the fact that Sasuke was too busy glaring at Kisame to go to the bar, and had nursed one whiskey all night long. Kisame, however...

Itachi had watched with exasperation and embarrassment as Kisame, like the typical testosterone-fuelled athlete, had participated in a drinking contest on a truly epic scale. Itachi's winces as Kisame crushed cans on his head went largely unnoticed. Kisame had won, but he'd been nearly incapable of standing by the time they had to go home. Of course, being Kisame, he had refused to leave until he'd serenaded Itachi with Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing". Amid the laughter and catcalls, Itachi and Sasuke were left to drag 300lbs of muscle to Kisame's very nice car, while Kisame had one hand placed on Itachi's backside. Sasuke's threats did not act as any form of deterrent, and Kisame had laughed drunkenly while they got him into the back seat and buckled him up. It was only lucky that Itachi knew how to drive, even if he didn't have a license. He'd hoped fervently that they wouldn't be pulled over that night, because he knew he'd have been arrested on the spot.

By this time, Itachi had been so tired that he could barely remember getting Kisame to bed, or even how he'd managed such a task. Kisame was not the easiest drunk to deal with. Not only was he essentially a muscular skyscraper, but he seemed to lack any semblance of propriety when intoxicated, and had groped Itachi more often Itachi could count.

"Don't bend down. You might not like what I do," he'd quipped when Itachi had picked scattered clothes up off the floor, reminding Itachi that he was dating a man.

Itachi had slept in only his boxers, collapsing into bed as soon as he'd sluggishly tugged his socks off and slipped between the sheets. He had woken up at about ten and had decided that making breakfast for a hungry, hung-over Kisame and a perpetually grumpy, easily-angered Sasuke was probably a good idea, as it would keep the pair of them happy. Itachi was honestly starting to feel like a parent where those two were concerned.

A full fry-up seemed perfect. Sasuke would get his daily intake of tomatoes, and who didn't like pumping themselves full of fat and calories in the form of a full English?

"Black pudding aswell, Itachi?" Sasuke yawned, watching Itachi finish cooking the bacon as he added the mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and black pudding to the pan aswell.

"Why not?" Itachi responded.

"I don't have a problem with it," Sasuke said with a nonchalant shrug, "I just didn't expect this guy to have a fridge with anything more than beer and a hunk of mouldy cheese in it,"

"Perhaps you need to give him a little more credit," Itachi suggested.

"Itachi," Sasuke said flatly, stealing a chunk of tomato. Itachi hid a smirk as Sasuke's eyes watered furiously at the heat.

"This guy had a drinking contest last night and groped you in front of everyone," Sasuke continued once his mouth no longer felt as though somebody with a flamethrower was sitting in it, "And you don't even want to know what he said to that Hanley guy's girlfriend about you. Why is it so surprising that I see him as a guy who never grew out of his university days?"

Itachi didn't entirely register Sasuke rhetorical question. As Sasuke snuck a hand towards the pan with the intention of stealing more tomato, Itachi rapped him on the knuckles with the spatula.

"What was he saying to Hanley-san's girlfriend about me?" Itachi asked while Sasuke petulantly sucked his smarting knuckles.

"Hm?" Sasuke said cagily.

"Sasuke," Itachi warned, tipping the contents of the pan onto two plates.

"Don't make me say it," Sasuke complained. Itachi's flat look stated that, yes, Itachi was going to make him say it. He sighed.

"He made some...comments about your body, and...I'm not saying anymore. This is awkward enough as it is,"

Sasuke's face was awfully red, so Itachi dropped the subject and decided to see if Kisame remembered saying anything pertaining to Itachi's body when he took Kisame's breakfast up. If the comments were anything less than innocent (which was likely, as this was Kisame), Itachi would not think twice about refusing to feed him.

Balancing a steaming plate on one hand, he left Sasuke to devour his breakfast and silently trudged up three flights of stairs. Kisame's bedroom door was ajar, so Itachi nudged it open with his elbow, the soft sound of snoring reaching his ears. Shifting his grip on the plate, Itachi slipped into the room and walked to Kisame's bed, promptly feeling a very red flush stealing down his face as he realised that, sometime in the night, Kisame had apparently decided that it was too hot for boxers, and was now sleeping in the nude.

Itachi, oddly, wanted to tell him that it was the middle of December, so there was no excuse for his behaviour.

He didn't, though, and placed Kisame's breakfast down on a silver table by the bed, pushing an alarm clock out of the way. Kisame grunted in his sleep and shifted, the thick duvet slipping even further to reveal more flesh. Itachi's face felt hot.

"Kisame," he called, keeping his eyes on the falling snow outside the window. Kisame incoherently grumbled something and continued to snooze. Itachi was worried that, if Kisame didn't wake up soon, Itachi would soon be seeing parts of his pseudo-lover that he wasn't quite ready to see.

"Kisame," he called again, kicking Kisame in his exposed ribs. He knew it wouldn't hurt much, as he wasn't even wearing socks, so it was probably the shock that made Kisame sit up abruptly with an exclamation that turned the air blue.

"Itachi, rule number one of dating me," he groaned, one hand covering his aching eyes, "Don't do shit like that when I'm hung over,"

"And rule number one of dating me," Itachi responded, placing Kisame's breakfast in the man's lap, "Don't allow yourself to become so intoxicated that you wake up with a hangover,"

"Well, I can't argue with the wife," Kisame said, beginning to dig in. Itachi brought his elbow down onto Kisame's blue hair.

"What was that?" he asked flatly.

"Nothing," Kisame winced, silently eating his breakfast with his head down. His head was clearly sensitive due to his hangover, and Itachi could cheerfully say that he didn't feel guilty in the slightest.

"We don't usually have training on Sundays, but I do today," Kisame announced as he swallowed a mouthful of bacon, "I think they want to talk to me about you. So I won't be back until tonight,"

Itachi frowned, but didn't complain. It annoyed him that Kisame had rarely been in the mansion he called home since Itachi's and Sasuke's arrival, leaving Itachi to his own devices. Sasuke was already climbing the walls, proclaiming that he'd already memorised his psychology text books and there was nothing on the television to occupy him. But Sasuke was going to escape to class tomorrow, while Itachi would be stuck in this very nice prison with nothing to do but cook and bathe. He was starting to feel like his own mother, and that was a very depressing thought indeed.

"What's with the frown?" Kisame asked, gesturing at Itachi's face with his knife.

"Don't wave around sharp objects, Kisame," Itachi said exasperatedly, "You should know that from your pre-school days,"

"I was never a model student,"

Itachi dragged his eyes over Kisame's dyed blue hair, tattooed face and roguish grin.

"I would never have guessed," he proclaimed flatly, taking Kisame's plate from him and placing it on the spindly silver table while he brushed crumbs off the bed.

"Aw, Itachi made a funny!" Kisame said teasingly, seizing Itachi's wrist and dragging him onto the bed, mussing Itachi's hair. Itachi twisted in his grip, attempting to grapple his way free, but Kisame must have been bionic or something, because Itachi may as well have attempted to wrestle an orca for all the good that his efforts did him. All the while, he was sharply aware of Kisame's lack of clothing, and his own proximity to Kisame's naked flesh. He felt a mixture of desire and dread with every near miss of Kisame's crotch, feeling both buoyant and as though his stomach had plummeted through the floor at the same time.

"Kisame!" he finally shouted as the brute somehow rolled Itachi onto his back and then knelt above him, fingers tickling Itachi's ribs mercilessly. The discarded duvet was bunched up in front of Kisame's crotch, much to Itachi's relief, but he almost cringed at the thought of his brother innocently walking into the room to find Kisame's bare ass pointed in his direction.

"Aren't you cute?" Kisame asked mockingly as Itachi squirmed, forcing back the unmanly giggles and snorts he was apt at making when tickled. Sasuke was the only one who knew about that particular weakness, and ruthlessly exploited it.

"No answer?" Kisame asked with a grin, "I know you're dying to laugh. Come on, let it out!"

His fingers, quite by accident, brushed along Itachi's bared midriff, which had been revealed by Itachi's wriggling. Itachi immediately, much to his horror, let out a snort of laughter. Kisame's look of comprehension caused Itachi's eyes to widen.

"Interesting," he mused, attacking Itachi's belly. It trembled and clenched as Itachi valiantly tried to hold back, but, ultimately, the dam broke, and Itachi was soon an uncharacteristic laughing mess as Kisame's fingers assaulted his unprotected stomach. He tried to pry those hands off, but Kisame was strong, and Itachi was almost weak with laughter.

"Ki-Kisame!" he yelped, "Y-You realise that you are naked, I-I hope?"

"I'm hoping to traumatise your brother," Kisame stated, chuckling as Itachi's trembling hands tried to prise Kisame's fingers away. Kisame, having had enough fun for now, climbed off a breathless Itachi and, still naked, sauntered into the bathroom. Itachi's eyes followed him, even as his face assumed a colour appropriate to that of a strawberry. Kisame had a tattoo on his back, Itachi observed as he turned over on Kisame's bed, facing away from the bathroom. Kisame would definitely come back out of the bathroom without clothes on, and Itachi didn't think he would be able to handle seeing Kisame's naked front when his back had caused such a reaction. He really was a prude, he noted with vexation.

Kisame's bed was toasty warm. It was only now that Itachi realised that his toes were freezing, and the rest of his body was a little chilly too. The maid hadn't come in today, and it was likely that she was the one who turned on the heating in the morning. When she wasn't in work (which occurred only on sick days, holidays and Sundays, according to Kisame), it was likely that Kisame turned the heating on himself. As neither the maid nor Kisame had flicked on the heat, Itachi realised that the large house was a little chilly. It couldn't hurt to get under the covers for a while...

He dug his toes into the warmth as he pulled Kisame's thick duvet up to his chin. It smelled like Kisame's breakfast, sweat, alcohol and deodorant, with a hint of something that permeated the whole mansion which smelled like Kisame. Or did Kisame smelled like his house? Itachi didn't bother figuring that out, knowing it was pointless, and bundled himself up in the duvet more tightly. If Kisame came back suddenly, Itachi would act haughty, as though he hadn't done anything strange by commandeering Kisame's bed.

The bed really was warm. He could feel his feet warming up already, and smiled, closing his eyes.

"What are you doing?" Kisame chortled when he returned. Itachi sensed, from the direction and proximity of his voice, that he was standing directly beside the bed near Itachi's head. For that reason, Itachi didn't open his eyes.

"I'm stealing your bed," Itachi told him, "Could you put some clothes on?"

"Sorry," Kisame said, although he certainly didn't sound it, "My exes never minded, so I guess I've fallen into a bad habit,"

Itachi asked himself why he felt suddenly cold as their conversation turned towards the topic of Kisame's previous lovers, and then he decided he didn't want to know, and that perhaps it was best that he ignored the issue.

"It's not polite to talk about your exes with your current partner," Itachi said, "Is that not the cardinal rule of dating?"

"Yeah, but, we're not really dating, are we?" Kisame asked, sounding confused and awkward. Itachi, feeling as though the bottom had fallen out of his stomach, could picture him scratching his blue head. He had forgotten that their relationship was purely a business transaction. He smiled wryly to himself. They'd been so convincing that Itachi had tricked himself.

"Itachi?" Kisame asked, and Itachi realised that he hadn't responded to Kisame's question.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Move over,"

"Ah," Itachi said with a smirk, "The whole idea of theft is that I do not relinquish ownership to the original owner. Meaning that my answer is no, unfortunately,"

He smugly burrowed further under the covers until only his nose and upwards was visible, breathing the scent of the duvet. Kisame, far from being offended, was laughing loudly.

"Aren't we in a playful mood today?" he said. Itachi ignored him and closed his eyes, only to open them again when the duvet was snatched from him.

"Move over," Kisame said, already sitting his bare ass on the bed. Feeling disgruntled, Itachi refused.

"Not until you put on some clothes," he insisted.

"Alright, alright," Kisame said placatingly. After a beat, he said: "Done,"

Reluctantly, Itachi rolled over into the middle of the bed, not quite ready to give up the warm bed just yet. Kisame's bulk settled down next to him and lowered the blissfully toasty covers back over them again. His forearm had come to rest on Itachi's thigh, but he didn't move away, and Itachi didn't force him to.

"You are not wearing anything, are you?"

"I lied," Kisame admitted. Itachi scooted closer to the wall, but Kisame followed, in a blatant effort to annoy and embarrass Itachi. It was working.

"Kisame, put some clothes on!" he said, scandalised.

"I don't think I've heard you have such a tantrum before," Kisame sniggered, poking Itachi in the side.

"I suppose you find it unbearably funny?" Itachi asked, a tad dryly. Kisame's response was more laughter.

"We're both guys, Itachi," he said when it became clear that Itachi didn't really share his amusement, "I don't know why you're so upset,"

Itachi couldn't answer that question. He was Japanese, and, in his country, it was common for families to bathe together, which is often what Itachi and Sasuke had done as children until they'd moved to America, where it was considered to be a bizarre practice. Added to that, there were many traditional onsens in Japan, which Itachi had been to back when he was rich out of respect for his Japanese blood, and out of curiosity. Nevertheless, the idea of a naked Kisame was one that sent hot blood rushing to his cheeks, and to other, lower places.

"Kisame!" Sasuke bellowed angrily, interrupting the flow of Itachi's thoughts, "There's an albino freak here to see you!"

He stalked into the room without knocking, throwing the door open so that it slammed against the wall and bounced off again. He blinked slowly, his text book dangling in his lax grip. Itachi only then realised what it must have looked like. Him and Kisame were in the massive bed. Itachi was lying on his back with his long hair spread across the pillow as Kisame leaned over him, clearly lacking clothing.

"Where's your bathroom?" Sasuke asked finally, looking ill, "I need to puke,"

"Who is here?" Itachi asked, climbing out of Kisame's warm bed with regret. He made certain that the duvet covered Kisame's lower body as he slipped out, not wanting to give Sasuke a heart attack at the age of nineteen.

Sasuke visibly relaxed when Itachi emerged fully clothed.

"I don't know," Sasuke said, looking annoyed at the reminder of this individual, "He says he's your nephew,"

He looked at Kisame, who groaned, uttering several choice swear words that had Itachi's lips twitching, despite his disapproval.

"He's definitely annoying enough to be related to you," Sasuke said.

"His name's Suigetsu," Kisame explained, leaning over the side of the bed to grasp the boxer shorts Itachi had folded last night, "If he pisses you off, feel free to punch the little snot,"

Sasuke looked more than pleased at the prospect. This probably meant that Itachi would end up having to stop Sasuke from maiming two people now, rather than one. It was going to be challenging. Let it never be said that Sasuke didn't have good aim. He'd once killed a dog that had attacked his cat when he was eight by throwing a letter opener at it, with unerring accuracy.

Kisame pulled his shorts on while beneath the covers, proving that he did intend to listen to Itachi's concerns about his habit of walking around naked, and climbed out of the bed, stretching. Itachi's eyes were immediately drawn to Kisame's impressive upper body, and he was only drawn out of his observations when Sasuke smacked him on the arm.

"I suppose we can't leave the little bastard alone for too long," Kisame said, displeased, "He'd probably break something,"

Suigetsu, it turned out, was an albino, as Sasuke had claimed. His skin was incredibly pale, although he wore contact lenses that, along with his lank dyed hair, gave him a distinct resemblance to a fish.

He was in the hall, standing on a table to poke at the blue baubles that hung from the roof as he sucked on an enormous rainbow lolly. Itachi raised an eyebrow. Kisame groaned. Sasuke snorted mockingly.

"Heya, big guy," Suigetsu said, not even embarrassed that he'd been caught in such a position. He leapt off the table, and stood in front of Kisame, grinning. He was rather short in comparison, and weedy.

"Ma sent me here for the holidays. Hope you don't mind," he said, licking his lolly.

"She didn't think of asking me?"

"She thought you'd refuse, for some reason," Suigetsu said, with a wide grin. Itachi and Sasuke stared at those teeth, which had been filed to sharp points, "And she's heard things,"

"What things?" Kisame asked, although, from his tone, it was plain that he knew "what things" his sister had heard.

"Oh, just a few rumours at first," Suigetsu grinned, watching Itachi and Sasuke, "But then there was that interview in that magazine, and Ma wanted to know more. She's upset you won't answer her questions,"

"So she sent you, hoping you'd piss me off so much that I'd either cave, or beat you black and blue and get arrested?"

"Indeedy," Suigetsu quipped. If Kisame was a shark, he was a piranha: all teeth and smiles and deadliness, yet with none of the bulk of a shark. His eyes roved over them again.

"Hello there," he said to Itachi abruptly, "You must be my uncle's elusive lover. So this is where you've been hiding out then?"

He looked Itachi up and down pointedly. Itachi gripped Sasuke's arm to stop him from punching the toothy brat in his smug face.

"I have to say," Suigetsu said, "My uncle knows how to pick em. You Asian?"

"Yes," Itachi said coolly.

"Thought so," Suigetsu said, "They tend to find themselves lacking in the penis area, but they have the best asses, eh?"

He licked his lolly again. Itachi was nearly wrestling with a very homicidal Sasuke by now, and was actually tempted to let go.

"Yes, because I'm sure those tight trousers are concealing an anaconda," Itachi said dryly, looking down his nose at Suigetsu's crotch pointedly. Rather than flying into a rage, Suigetsu grinned.

"Ok, you pass," he chortled, "That was a nice comeback. Cold, but nice. Seriously, though Asians have the best asses. It must be the martial arts and kickass ninja shit. What's you're name, sweetie?"

Sasuke glare could have frozen Suigetsu and then boiled him in his skin in an instant.

"His name is Sasuke," Itachi said, "Don't anger him. He has very good aim, and I'm afraid that the Psychology text book he is holding is hardback and is rather heavy,"

"I can dodge," Suigetsu shrugged indifferently. In an instant, he was on the floor, holding his head.

"Sasuke," Itachi said.

"I don't deal well with idiots," Sasuke said, "You know that, Itachi,"

"Wait, don't tell me- It was the "sweetie", right?" Suigetsu said, standing up and rubbing a sizable bruise on his head. Itachi sent Sasuke a disapproving look.

"Hey, is this bruising?" Suigetsu said, gingerly pressing the sore spot. Itachi beckoned him forwards, refusing to go to the little hellion himself, even if he was injured. He drew his thumb over the spot and looked into Suigetsu's eyes, checking for signs of concussion. Fortunately (or, in Sasuke's opinion, unfortunately), there was no further damage than a swollen bruise, and the swelling was impossible to notice in light of the teenager's already overly-swollen head. Itachi drew away immediately.

"You're fine," he said shortly, "Where did Kisame disappear to?"

Sometime during their conversation (or, rather, exchange of insults), Kisame had wandered off. He probably thought he was funny, leaving Itachi and Sasuke with his relative.

Suigetsu wasn't listening.

"You know...," he said with a leer that made Itachi take a very quick step backwards from him, "If this thing between you and my uncle doesn't work out-,"

"You'll certainly be the last person I call," Itachi said, walking out of the hall in an effort to locate Kisame. He found him in the living room, wearing a pair of loose track pants as he drank a glass of raw eggs and read a book. He still wasn't wearing a shirt.

"Your nephew is flirting with me," he announced, "I left him with Sasuke,"

"Poor Sasuke," Kisame sniggered, downing the eggs. Itachi almost grimaced, but restrained the impulse to do so...barely.

"You realise, I hope, that we'll have to keep this facade up even when at home now," Itachi pointed out, seating himself on Kisame's legs. Kisame looked up at him.

"Yeah," he said, not seeming overly concerned. He placed his glass on the table and looked at Itachi properly.

"So you're moving into my room, then?" he asked. Itachi nodded.

"We'll also have to let him catch us doing things that couples do, so that he doesn't become suspicious," Itachi explained. Kisame nodded.

"Yeah, I figured that out the moment he got here," he said, "It's not a hardship for you, is it?"

It was a genuine question.

"No," Itachi said quietly, "Not at all,"

Kisame grinned at him and returned to his book, leaving Itachi to sit on his legs and feel morose about that fact that he was living a lie. A lie that he desperately wanted to be true.

"Oh, Uncle!" Suigetsu's sing-song voice cooed, "Where have you escaped to?"

Itachi heard footsteps outside the door, but paid little attention to them; Kisame was staring at him strangely, and kept glancing at the door. Just as it began to slide open, Kisame threw his book aside with a loud thud. Itachi was about to reprimand him about his treatment of the book, but he couldn't get many words out past Kisame's tongue as it was thrust into his mouth when Kisame hauled Itachi into his lap just as Suigetsu walked in.

Itachi froze, his hands braced on the couch arm on either side of Kisame's head, tasting a hint of raw egg on Kisame's tongue. Despite this, the kiss was pleasant. He felt his face heat up, his skin tingling, as his pulse beat an unsteady rhythm. There were gentle fingers in his loose hair, the palms of each large hand cradling his cheeks while Kisame sucked Itachi's tongue in a way that had Itachi's fingers trembling as they clenched on the leather sofa.

"Oh. Found you,"

Itachi pulled away with a wet noise that, far from repulsing him, made him want to dive back in and kiss Kisame again. But he didn't. Instead, he turned his attention to Suigetsu, who was grinning like an old man at a strip club.

"What do you want?" he asked rudely. He wanted Suigetsu to think that he was angry that they'd been interrupted. Which he was.

"Your brother tried to strangle me, so I decided to leave him alone," Suigetsu said, cleaning his nails with a toothpick, "He is your brother, right? He's like you, only more manly and pissy-er,"

Itachi nodded and stole Kisame's book to avoid speaking with the teenager. Kisame pinched his thigh in retaliation. Evidently, he didn't much like being left to deal with his nephew alone.

"If you guys ever want a threesome-,"

"We won't," Itachi answered before Kisame could. He never really knew what Kisame would say next, and he didn't relish the thought that Kisame might give his nephew false hope of a sordid arrangement.

"What happened to that Blackville chick?" Suigetsu asked Kisame, "You told Gran you were in love with her,"

"That was to get her off my ass about settling down," Kisame snorted darkly, "Anita was obsessed. I kept her around for a while-,"

"For the sex?"

"For the sex," Kisame admitted, "But then she bugged my phone, so I got rid of her,"

"Women aint worth the trouble," Suigetsu declared, gesturing expansively as Itachi did his best to keep that voice from penetrating his brain, "Hookers are worth the money...and the medical bills for STI treatment,"

He was now fiddling with a silver framed photograph that sat on the mantelpiece, so he didn't notice the way Itachi tensed, fingers crinkling the pages of the book he held in his grasp. Kisame didn't notice, either. This affected Itachi more than it should have. The book dropped into his lap as he absentmindedly scratched at his wrist where a faint rash was developing. It had been coming on for a few days, and it was something he'd had since his childhood. It was simply a bizarre nervous reaction that arose from Itachi being placed in stressful situations. Itachi had always been nervous as a child, because he was so concerned with living up to his father's expectations, and that was when the itchy rash had begun to develop, particularly during the run up to exams.

His wrist was a blotchy red when Kisame grasped his hand, halting his movements. He didn't care overly. Suigetsu's use of the derogatory term for one who is paid to have sex with another had brutally driven home the reality of his current occupation. He'd tried to sugar-coat it to Sasuke and to himself, but he was really no better than those girls who stood on corners in the orange glare of streetlamps, clad in hotpants and boots even in glacial weather.

"I know what you're thinking," Kisame snarled into Itachi's hair suddenly as Suigetsu obliviously kept up a steady stream of inane chatter. His hand tightened around Itachi's wrist, "Don't. You did what you thought you had to, and I can respect that,"

He linked his hand with Itachi's and squeezed it softly. Of course, his softly still made Itachi wince slightly, but it was the thought that counted. And, anyway, that strength was highly arousing.

"I suppose I did not realised exactly what I was doing," Itachi whispered back cryptically, trying to keep Suigetsu from overhearing anything that would lead him to the truth.

"If it's any consolation, there's no such thing as a virgin whore, so you're pretty safe in that regard," Kisame told him seriously, his voice so quiet that Itachi had to strain his ears to catch those words. They immediately reassured him, which was odd, as Itachi would have been unconvinced had another said the same thing to him.

"I'm going to make breakfast," he said, getting up off Kisame's legs where he had been sitting the entire time, "Do you want anything before you leave for training?"

"You mean you haven't eaten yet?" Kisame asked, eyes narrowed and arms folded across his broad chest. He was able to make Itachi feel guilty with an ease that Sasuke could not.

"I'm going to now," Itachi said to Kisame, who had sat up to glare at him.

"Make me some too, sugar," Suigetsu grinned, reclining on the sofa. Kisame kicked him off and stretched his legs out again, preventing the teenager from sitting back down. The book Itachi had taken from Kisame hit Suigetsu dead in the middle of the forehead. He stared at Itachi with slack-jawed shock. His suspicion didn't abate even when Itachi put on his best look of innocence.

Nevertheless, Itachi did make Suigetsu breakfast, ignoring the way Sasuke, who was sitting in the kitchen, fumed over this. He supposed that some of Sasuke's ire could be attributed to the fact that Suigetsu had joined them in the kitchen and was now pestering Sasuke unabashedly. Apparently, Itachi's lack of interest had led him to return his attentions to the more volatile brother, in spite of the higher risk of dismemberment. Itachi knew the consequences were going to be disastrous, and quickly hid Kisame's knife block in the cupboard beneath the sink, along with the meat cleaver and mallet.

" single?" Suigetsu asked Sasuke bluntly.

"No," Sasuke said. Itachi threw a smirk over his shoulder. Sasuke was single, but was obsessed with his best friend, Naruto, who still hadn't cottoned on to Sasuke's connection with his previous girlfriends' decisions to break up with him. For all intents and purposes, Sasuke was as good as married to the lively teenager, who was annoying at first but always managed to worm his way into peoples' hearts.

"Yeeeeees you are," Suigetsu grinned, poking Sasuke in the arm.

"Don't touch me," Sasuke retorted frostily. Suigetsu backed off, but that grin seemed painted on.

"Ok, say I believe you," he said, "When do I get to meet this lurve machine?"

Sasuke's eyebrow twitched and Itachi hastily forced down laughter at the thought of Naruto being a love machine.

"You don't," Sasuke said.


"Look, do you want me to bludgeon you with the salt shaker?" Sasuke finally snapped, shaking the little glass and metal container. Suigetsu, appearing scared, backed off immediately, leaving Sasuke to brood in silence.

"I've invited a few friends over tonight," Sasuke announced after he had stared at the red-flecked marble counter top for a while.

"Did you ask Kisame?" Itachi asked as the omelette sizzled behind him.

"Tch, no," Sasuke snorted, "He's out all day anyway, right?"

"How many friends have you invited over?" Itachi asked.

"Just Naruto and Karin," Sasuke shrugged, "They can keep secrets, and they won't tell the world that we're living here,"

Itachi opened his mouth to reply, but stopped short when Kisame walked in. He had his duffle bag slung over one massive shoulder, despite its size. He walked to Itachi's side and allowed the bag to dangle from his hand, as though he was holding nothing more than a generic satchel.

"I'll be back before six," he promised, "What's for dinner?"

"Why do you assume that I will be making dinner?" Itachi asked, leaning back in his chair so that he could look Kisame in the face and quirking an eyebrow. Suigetsu sniggered something that sounded like "You're in the doghouse now!"

"Because I can't cook for shit, and your cooking is amazing," Kisame grinned. He had placated Itachi, and he knew it.

"Imma write that one down," Suigetsu declared, "Sweetie, you got a pen?"

"If I did have one, don't you think it would be in your forehead by now?" Sasuke replied, clearly angered. It was very easy to see the difference between a Sasuke-Naruto argument, and a Sasuke-anyone else argument in situations such as this. Sasuke and Naruto were never really aggressive (at least by their standards), and their fighting was flirty and comical- whereas a fight between Sasuke and anyone else was certain to leave Itachi scraping up bits of the victim for days to come.

"Ah, kids, eh?" Kisame said mockingly. Sasuke glared sullenly, and picked up his book, perching his glasses back on his nose. Itachi could see Suigetsu had several things to say about Sasuke's glasses, all of which had something to do with sex and were not appropriate for the breakfast table, and he therefore gave Suigetsu a warning look. Luckily, the teenager had decided that he'd pushed his luck far enough already this morning, and remained silent.

"Well, I'm going," Kisame said, planting a lingering kiss on Itachi's surprised lips, "See you later,"

Itachi saw Sasuke's fingers tighten on the book as Kisame left but didn't say anything. He collected the omelette from the pan, ensuring that it was perfectly cooked, and slid it onto a plate which he then gave to Suigetsu.

"I can't stand that guy," Sasuke finally said when he, clearly, couldn't contain himself any longer, "Why does he have to do that shit to you?"

"We're dating," Itachi said tersely, beating some eggs.

"Oo thud ge uth oo i," Suigetsu said through a mouthful off egg, tomato and spinach. Sasuke looked disgusted, and a yelp of pain told Itachi that he'd smacked Suigetsu over the teenager's appalling lack of manners.

"In English, please," Sasuke sneered.

"You should get used to it," Suigetsu said, "That's nothing compared to what I saw this morning. They were practically grinding on each other on the couch,"

Itachi froze, nearly dropping the spatula. Suigetsu sniggered to himself with apparent amusement, but his expression transformed into a worried one when Sasuke shoved his chair back with an ear-splitting screech and stalked out with murder in his gaze. Itachi waited for until he'd had his own breakfast, hoping Sasuke would cool down in that time, and turned the cooker off before going to look for him.

He didn't find him, even when he looked in all of the rooms in the house, but there was a terse note on the mantle piece that Sasuke had evidently written in great haste. It was also evident that Sasuke had been furious, judging by the way the jerky, spiky characters were nearly gouged into the page, and the terse nature of the letter.

Itachi, I'm going to see Naruto. This house is getting to me. You can explain yourself when I get back. Love Sasuke.

"Aww, damn!" Suigetsu said, on his tiptoes as he looked over Itachi's shoulder while still eating his omelette off the plate he held, "He wrote it in Chinese!"

"It's Japanese," Itachi replied.

"Whatever," Suigetsu said, "The point is I can't read it,"

"I think that was the reason he wrote it in Japanese," Itachi sighed, feeling a headache coming on. His fingers lingered on the characters that spelled "Love Sasuke". He smiled. So Sasuke wasn't as upset as he'd appeared. Which meant that he would have cooled down a lot by tonight.

"I'm going out," Suigetsu announced abruptly, patting his full belly fondly, "Don't wait up for me, honey,"

"You really wouldn't know what to do if I did wait up for you, would you, little boy?" Itachi smirked. Suigetsu gaped for a while and, upon realising that he had no appropriate comeback that didn't involve him blustering about his bedroom skills, he turned and walked briskly out with a sullen pout on his face.

The remainder of Itachi's day was very quiet with all three troublemakers out of the house. It began snowing again as he sat on the sofa in front of the fire, reading a thick book while an old gramophone played Christmas songs from his grandparents' era. Itachi would never have dreamed that Kisame would have owned something like this, but he was pleasantly surprised when he found it in a cupboard whilst looking for a book to read, and had immediately decided to use it.

By the time Itachi looked up, it was dark, and he discovered that he'd missed lunch and it was nearing dinner time. Walking into the kitchen, he flicked on the lights and decided to get a quick snack before he started on dinner. As he munched on a jam-smothered bagel, he looked through the cupboards and fridge for ideas of what he could make for dinner. He found a beautiful beef braising steak at the back of the fridge that was due to expire the next day, and decided to use it, as he abhorred wastefulness.

It took him a while to decide what to do with the steak. Finally, a picture on a cookbook gave him an idea, and he set about making a plump, crisp beef and onion pie.

He'd just made honey roast parsnips to go with the pie when Sasuke walked in. His cheeks and nose were ruddy from the cold, and, despite his thick woollen hat, his hair had little snowflakes trapped in it.

"Naruto, you little fucker! That's my fucking mince pie!"

Ah, there was Karin's sweet meek voice now. He had missed it so. She stormed in as Naruto leapt into the room with a cackle of glee and hid behind Itachi, sticking his tongue out.

"Naruto!" she roared as he made a show of licking the little pie in front of her.

"Naruto-kun," Itachi sighed, "Please act your age,"

"I can't help it if she's hot when she's angry," Naruto cooed, batting his eyelashes. Itachi could tell that he was joking, but Sasuke's angry, hurt face told him that Sasuke had taken Naruto seriously.

"Indeed?" Itachi snorted, "I thought you said her glasses made her look like Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter,"

Naruto tittered and gulped as Karin seemed to blow up like a pufferfish, clearly filling her lungs with air so that she could shout as loudly as was possible. Sasuke, however, brightened visibly as he began to pull his thick winter clothes off.

"In the coat closet, Sasuke," Itachi instructed as he began to mix the gravy, before Karin could begin screaming obscenities. He would have preferred to make the gravy from scratch, but he had no meat juices to use, so he had resorted to using packet gravy. He hated processed food. Who knew what the manufacturers put into it.

"Where's the coat closet?" Sasuke asked.

"I'll show you," Itachi said, leaving the kettle on the counter and taking Naruto's and Karin's coats from them.

"Thanks, Itachi!" Naruto chirped, "What's for dinner?"

"Learn some manners, you little twerp!" Karin squawked, smacking him.

While Naruto protested against his abuse, Itachi led his brother into the hall and opened the closet, showing Sasuke where he could put his clothes.

"What happened between you and Kisame this morning?" Sasuke asked, making a face when he mentioned Kisame's name, as though it physically sickened him to say it.

"We have to maintain our cover now that Suigetsu is here," Itachi explained, his chest feeling tight at the thought of everything being an act.

"I'm not stupid," Sasuke said, "I know that you have to maintain your cover. But Suigetsu made it sound as though you were enjoying it a little too much. I don't want you to get hurt when he dumps you for a blonde and plastic supermodel,"

Ouch. It was interesting that Sasuke's comment had physically hurt. There was a sharp ache in Itachi's chest. He wanted to deny Sasuke's words, but he knew they were true. Itachi wasn't what he used to be. His hair was still sleek and beautiful, but his eyes were tired, and he had deep creases beneath them that he knew no amount of anti-wrinkle cream or eyelift cream would be able to erase. And he was skinny. He wasn't blond, or curvy, or pretty. And, soon, Kisame would realise that, and he'd get somebody who was all of those things, knowing that he could afford an expensive piece of arm candy. Certainly, Kisame wasn't exactly attractive in the conventional sense, but he had money, and that would get him any woman (or man) he wanted, regardless of his looks.

Itachi had been starved of any kind of human contact for so long that it seemed cruel to hand him an opportunity to feel the love of another and the support that Sasuke couldn't quite give before ripping it away. But he knew it was inevitable that this would be what happened. Kisame didn't love him, and Itachi didn't love Kisame. They'd only met recently, afterall. But Itachi was confident that he cared for Kisame in a way that was too close to love for his comfort. Kisame was the first person to actually view Itachi with more than sympathy or derision since his parent's deaths. But he knew, with utmost certainty, that Kisame didn't see Itachi as anything more than good company and a convenient way to announce his sexuality. Itachi bit his lip.

"Itachi, are you ok?" Sasuke asked, grabbing his shoulder harshly, "You're clutching your chest! Are you ok?"

Itachi nodded jerkily. Why did he have to get upset here and now? He'd been through worse. He was a survivor. He hadn't let anything make him cry before, not even his parents' deaths and Sasuke's sad eyes as he'd asked why kaa-san didn't come to read him a bedtime story anymore. Yet he now felt hot wetness welling up, blurring his gaze. A droplet escaped, dripping down his cheek.

"Itachi!" Sasuke called, sounding scared, "For fuck's sake, Itachi, snap out of it!"

Itachi's cheek stung as Sasuke slapped it. He was brought out of his panic attack swiftly, arriving back on earth with a bump.

"I'm fine, Sasuke," he replied as Sasuke looked horrified by what he'd done. He gently touched Itachi's reddened cheek, remorse bright in his dark eyes. The touch reminded Itachi of Kisame's.

"What's wrong, Itachi?" Sasuke whispered.

"It is nothing, Sasuke," Itachi said quietly.

"Tell me what's wrong!" Sasuke said, his voice rising slightly.

"I suppose the truth hurts," Itachi explained hesitantly.

"I didn't mean- I- well, plastic blondes seem to be his style, rather than genuinely attractive people!" Sasuke stumbled, "And you are attractive! All Uchihas are attractive! Even crazy Uncle Madara back in Japan is attractive, and he's over 80!"

"I don't want to be attractive by other peoples' standards, Sasuke," Itachi explained dully, "I want Kisame to find me attractive,"

"Hm, yes, I can see that," Karin said musingly, circling Itachi as she inspected him. Sasuke hid his eyes behind his hand, as though he didn't want to see what she was going to do next. She had popped up abruptly, and it was clear that she'd been listening to their conversation. For how long, Itachi dreaded to learn.

"Karin, how long have you been listening?" Sasuke hissed with a look of a snake poised to strike.

"I came to see what you were doing about right around the part about plastic blonds and your hot family," Karin grinned toothily. Sasuke visibly relaxed.

"You're not keeping anything from me, are you, Sasuke?" she pouted. Her devotion was a habit she still hadn't grown out of since the days of her obsession with Sasuke, and she had only recently stopped pursuing Sasuke as she began to notice the signs of Sasuke's attraction to Naruto. Itachi supposed that her devotion was a little more real now. It was the devotion of a friend, rather than the fickle loyalty of one with a raging crush.

"If I was, why would I tell you?" Sasuke answered. Karin scowled, turning her red eyes to Itachi and pasting a wide smile back onto her face.

"You know, Itachi," she said sweetly, "I could help you make the most of your assets,"

If her tone wasn't enough to put him on edge, the cheeky slap she dealt his backside most certainly was.

"Are you flirting with my brother?" Sasuke asked, apparently disturbed.

"Tch, no!" Karin retorted, her hands on her hips as she stared Sasuke down, "He's gayer than a bunch of pink monkeys around a maypole. It would be pointless,"

She waved her hand dismissively, with a smug smirk. Sasuke scowled. The only thing he missed about Karin's obsessive love for him was her previous habit of agreeing with everything he said and her obedience in all matters.

"If your gaydar's so great, why didn't you realise that I'm a flaming shirt-lifter?" Sasuke asked with a smirk. Karin's smile slipped off her face like a bird slides down a window after an unfortunate collision. She pouted at the floor, a sharp glint in her eye.

"Anyway," she said with a scowl, returning to Itachi, "I could make you yummier than triple chocolate fudge cake. I just need you to give me the go ahead,"

"I don't want to change myself drastically," Itachi said slowly, embarrassed that he was close to complying. Sasuke also seemed to be exasperated by the thought, as his low groan suggested.

"I don't want to change you much," Karin snorted, shaking her head, "You're perfect the way you are. I just thought about spicing up your wardrobe a little, and maybe getting you a piercing or tattoo, just to make things interesting,"

"Piercing?" Itachi said uneasily.

"Yes," Karin grinned, "Oooh! Through your tongue! You'd look so hot!"

She squealed to herself, leaping into the air with a dreamy look on his face. Itachi recoiled, as did Sasuke.

"Absolutely not," Itachi stated, causing her to falter and slump dejectedly.


"No," Itachi said, "Kisame would sooner laugh at me because I could not speak coherently than find it attractive,"

"He could kiss it better," Karin said coaxingly, making kissing noises. Itachi flushed a little despite his best efforts.

"Please?" she said, "His ex-ex-girlfriend had a tongue bar, and he said he liked it in an interview!"

"I don't like tongue bars," Itachi said, "I'd rather not feel cheap,"

"Maybe you should try it," Sasuke put in, "If Kisame likes it, then...,"

He trailed off, but it was clear what he would have said had Karin not been there: Then he might want you.

It was a tantalising thought.

But Itachi wasn't going to change himself for Kisame. If Kisame didn't feel more for him than vague interest, that was Kisame's problem, not Itachi's. He knew Kisame thought he was at least attractive, but he didn't exactly ignite much passion in Kisame, whose attentions were teasing at best.

"Honey, I'm hooooome!" a familiar voice called.

"Don't touch the gravy," Itachi replied to Suigetsu.

"Shit," Itachi heard Suigetsu mutter before the teenager wandered into the hall, likely in search of the other occupants of the house.

"Where's Uncle Kisame, sweet thang?" he asked Itachi, wrapping an arm around Itachi's waist.

"Move that hand before I break it," Itachi said without skipping a beat. Suigetsu looked like he was debating whether Itachi would follow through with his threat for a moment, and apparently decided that his attentions were going to provoke Itachi to do at least some harm, and quickly withdrew his arm.

"He should be home soon," Itachi continued, leading them into the kitchen, where Naruto was eating a bag of M&Ms as he watched the flat screen TV that was sticking out of the ceiling.

"This house is amazing!" Naruto gushed, spraying chocolate down his front. Karin wrinkled her nose, but Itachi caught Sasuke smiling a little. Sasuke found some strange things endearing.

"Seriously, Itachi, why didn't you fuck a rich guy before?" Naruto demanded, obviously under the impression that his words were not offensive in any way.

"Perhaps that is because I am no gold digger?" Itachi suggested dryly while Karin dealt a neat blow to Naruto's blond head.

"Ma said that you complained when Uncle bought you an Indian takeaway once," Suigetsu sniggered, "You should be draining my Uncle's wealth! What is wrong with you?"

Itachi didn't dignify that remark with a response. Instead, he opened the oven door and peered inside, smiling at the perfect golden pie with satisfaction. He retreated from the oven and pulled the boiling potatoes off the stove prior to draining the water from them with a colander. He then set about making creamy mashed potatoes to go with the rest of the meal, frowning when he realised that the old gramophone had stopped playing a while ago.

"What time is it?" he asked Naruto, who was flicking through the channels and still managing to salivate at the meal at the same time.

"Five to six," Naruto replied, "When's dinner?"

"When Kisame returns," Itachi said, exasperatedly letting out a deep breath through his nostrils.

"Which is now," Suigetsu grinned, "Evening, Uncle! How went the training?"

Itachi looked up so quickly that, for an instant, he feared he'd damaged his neck. Kisame pushed open the door, letting in a blast of winter air and a flurry of snow flakes, with his duffle bag on his shoulder and a sheen of sweat covering his visible skin. Itachi, noting this, immediately scowled. That fool was going to catch pneumonia if he didn't get warmed up soon.

"Hot shower. Now," Itachi commanded, gesturing towards the hall imperiously. Kisame rolled his eyes, but his grin showed that he wasn't chagrined.

"Yes master," he said with a wiggle of his eyebrows that made that comment incredibly suggestive.

"Kisame," Itachi warned, telling himself that the hint of red on his face was caused by his proximity to the oven. Suigetsu guffawed loudly, while everybody else attempted to avoid getting involved.

"I'm going!" Kisame said on his way to the door. He turned to Naruto, who was red with the effort of forcing down laughter.

"I don't even get a hello,"

"Hello, Kisame," Itachi ground out, trying to summon the will to be annoyed, but finding that it was impossible.

"No kiss?" Kisame asked, pouting disturbingly. Itachi's disturbed expression sent him into spasms of laughter that made Itachi's stoic lips waver.

"Come here," he said.

"I don't know, I really need a shower...," Kisame said seriously. Slamming down his potato masher, Itachi marched around the table. With one hand on the back of Kisame's neck, he yanked the man's face down to his level and frustratedly crushed their lips together in a kiss that was anything but playful.

Itachi wasn't certain where his aggressiveness had come from, but he chalked it up to his uncertainty about his importance to Kisame, and his concerns that Kisame would soon decide that he no longer required Itachi's assistance and would drop him like a bad habit.

With that thought, he decided to enjoy this while he could, and deepened the kiss until he felt Kisame's teeth against his lips and Kisame's tongue in his mouth. Nearly shivering with pleasure, Itachi leaned closer until he was flush against Kisame, the scent of sweat and mud filling his nostrils. He would never have thought that something like that could smell nice.

A nervous cough broke the silence. Itachi then realised that they had an audience, and pulled away immediately, avoiding looking at the teenagers who were crowding the kitchen as he tidied his hair. Kisame whistled cheerfully as he retreated upstairs for his shower.

"Young love," Suigetsu sighed, unable to restrain the impulse to make a smart remark. Repeated yelps told Itachi that somebody had taken it upon themselves to convince him that his comments were unwanted.

"Crazy ginger bitch!" Suigetsu shouted.

"It's red, you hideous albino!" Karin shrieked back.

"I don't certain light-,"

"Finish that, and I'll beat you into a pulp, Naruto!" Karin screamed.

"Sorry," Naruto apologised quickly. Sasuke didn't comment, and Itachi thought it was likely that he had merely rolled his eyes.

"Are you girls finished?" Itachi demanded, thrusting cutlery into their hands with such force that he was surprised none of them lost fingers.

"Sorry," Karin muttered. Suigetsu grinned.

"We'll eat as soon as Kisame gets out of the shower," Itachi told them, glancing at the clock, "Sasuke, set the table,"

Sasuke didn't seem to happy with this arrangement, but he dutifully placed the knives and forks in their proper places and then went into the living room to wait until dinner. Itachi put the parsnips in a pyrex dish and slid them into the warm oven to keep warm, while he put a towel on top of the mashed potatoes.

"Suigetsu wants to know if there will be pudding!" Naruto called.

"I haven't made any," Itachi called back as he slipped into the living room and settled himself into a chair.

"Awww!" Naruto moaned.

"Shut up!" Karin said, punching him in the arm. Suigetsu sniggered, and Sasuke brooded.

All is right with the world, Itachi thought dryly as he turned the gramophone back on.

"Boring!" Naruto yawned when the old Christmas songs came back on.

"It's not boring, idiot," Sasuke said, harshly cuffing Naruto on the back of the head.

Naruto and Sasuke began to squabble like children, prompting Karin to shout at them, which prompted Suigetsu to make a remark, which prompted her to squabble with Suigetsu. Feeling a headache forming, Itachi turned and stalked out of the room with determination. Kisame was taking too long, and dinner was going to be cold by the time he got out of the shower. The fighting wasn't helping.

"Kisame?" he called, rapping his knuckles on the door, "Are you finished?"

"I'm busy," Kisame called back, his voice just discernable over the sound of the shower.

"Doing what?" Itachi asked, "You have been in there for three quarters of an hour!"

"Jacking off," Kisame answered honestly. Itachi's cheeks flared colourfully.

"Dinner will be cold soon," he said.

As he hurried down two flights of stairs, he thought that he should have realised that Kisame would be sexually frustrated. He supposed that he should have been glad that Kisame was being faithful (if it was possible for Kisame to be faithful to him when they weren't even dating), but he only felt guilty. If Kisame didn't have a lover, Itachi should have become his lover, but he hadn't thought of that option.

He would have to consider it. No, there was no question of whether or not he should. It was a question of when. He didn't want to become intimate with Kisame if the man didn't see him as a real lover, but he'd have to. If not, Kisame would eventually slake his lusts elsewhere, and Itachi couldn't let Kisame go to another. He couldn't. It didn't matter that their relationship was a farce for the media. To Itachi, it was all too real.


I know, I take a long time, don't I? Well, to be honest, I was stuck in a rut when it came to this fic, and I'm not sure if I'm really out of it. Nevertheless, I hope you all like.