Summary: Itachi thinks that maybe after everything that's happened - just maybe - it will be alright.
Warnings: Serious stuff going down here people, get your hanky. (Not so serious now that we're at the end :)
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto does.
Author Note: Last chapter folks! Also, I signed up for a Naruto Big Bang for the summer of 2010. Ought to be fun :D And you'll get a completed Naruto fic that's over 20K at the end of August/beginning of September! If anyone wants to go see what that's about, go to: community. livejournal. com /bigbangttebayo and check it out.
"Chuunin, eh?" Iruka's voice interrupts Itachi's thoughts and he looks down to see Naruto's guardian leaning against the base of the tree that he's in.
"I'm proud of them."
"Wasn't saying that you aren't," Iruka walks up the side of the tree and sits beside him, swinging his legs back and forth. "You're worried about Sasuke though."
Itachi raises a single eyebrow. He doesn't need to ask his question out loud.
"You know," Iruka leans back and stares at the sunlight that's streaming through the leaves, "Naruto doesn't know that I know he was raped."
Itachi blinks and cocks his head to the side. He certainly hadn't been expecting this from the rather plain teacher, "I see." He doesn't. Not really.
"It's hard enough to know that Naruto doesn't trust me enough to tell me, but to have to hide that I know about his past hurts. You, at least, get to give comfort to your little brother and tell him that you know and that you love him and that you'll never let it happen again." Iruka looks at him with dark brown eyes and the darkness that Itachi sees in Iruka's eyes isn't from the physical color but from the weight of his knowledge.
"He will tell you."
"But when?" Iruka asks, "After I've let him know that I know without actually telling him that I know?" Iruka shakes his head and closes his eyes, turning away, "For all that I like you, Itachi-san, I envy you."
Itachi can't stand that, can't stand to know that someone envies him for something like that, "My brother, my Sasuke, was raped. Almost twice! Don't you dare envy that I know of it!"
It's the first time that Itachi has raised his voice in a long time but it doesn't seem to startle Iruka.
"And my little brother, my Naruto was raped god knows how many times while he was homeless." Iruka hisses back, getting up close in Itachi's face. Itachi flinches backwards. Not because of the proximity of Iruka, but because of his words.
"Iruka-san-" He trails off and his shoulders slump. "I apologize."
He knows the pain of knowing that a younger sibling has been assaulted like that and knowing that there is nothing that he can do. He's apologizing for marginalizing Iruka's pain because he knows how much it hurts and he never should have insinuated that Iruka's pain is less than his.
Iruka looks away and settled back down. The brunet chuunin shakes his head and his eyes skim over the empty playground of the academy.
"I also apologize for my outburst." Iruka bows his head.
Itachi nods and doesn't need to say anything. He understands what Iruka feels, just as Iruka understands how he feels.
A chakra pulse interrupts both of them and they turn from each other to see Naruto and Sasuke tumble into the training area that they were overlooking.
"H-hey!" Naruto grouses at Sasuke, tugging his sleeve out of his friend's hold, "What was that for?"
"You were bugging Sakura," Sasuke says, pointing a finger in Naruto's face, "I thought you weren't going to bring up her fangirl crush on Shikamaru's intelligence."
"I didn't say anything like that!" Naruto exclaims, rolling his eyes.
Itachi blinks. Sasuke and Naruto, talking about 'crushes'? That is- surprising normal for six year olds. He wonders when their other team mate had told them that she liked Shikamaru.
Iruka pokes him in the shoulder and Itachi frowns at the older chuunin. His fingers flicker in a bastardized form of ANBU signals and asks if Itachi knew that the children were already in the 'cooties' stage.
Itachi answers back in the same manner that he hadn't known.
Naruto smirks at Sasuke, "Do you l~ike her?" He singsongs and bats his eyelashes at the Uchiha.
Itachi's little brother looks taken aback and he shakes his head in denial. "What? No! What is wrong with you?" He scoffs, "She's Sakura."
"Yeah. And?" Naruto shrugs his shoulders, "I like her hair. It's very soft."
Sasuke thinks for a moment before nodding slowly, "It is nice, isn't it," He drawls out.
The boys continue talking to each other as they wonder out of the training area on their way to the Memorial Stone. Itachi licks his dry lips.
Whatever it is that the boys have been through, it seems that they are recovering.
"Naruto still has nightmares," Iruka speaks quietly, "He tries to hide them from me, or tell me that they're from a mission, but-" He shakes his head, eyes dark with sorrow, "I know what they're about."
Itachi understands. "Sasuke showers twice a day," He lets Iruka know how Sasuke is dealing with his trauma, comparing Sasuke and Naruto's reactions.
"Naruto isn't really obsessed with how clean he is, but I came home two days ago to find that he'd organized the book shelf. Everything was in alphabetical order by the author's last name. I don't know if he was always obsessive about where things are placed, but I found him counting our plates yesterday and putting them in the shelf in order of size."
Itachi wonders if Naruto's obsession with order is a response to not having a home for over a year, or if it's a response to his own traumatic assault.
He thinks that it's probably not the trauma because he knows that Sasuke isn't particularly interesting in order, just in being clean.
"Did Suna send their usual missive about not accepting anyone into their village except for participants and jounin sensei's?" He asks Iruka. Iruka hasn't really dated since Naruto kicked his boyfriend out of their house but Itachi has seen him having lunch with one of the girls from the post office.
"Yeah. Akiko-san said that they were going to be sending out copies to all the families with members that were participating." Iruka shakes his head and absently cleans his fingernails with a kunai, "I told her that there was nothing in my mail about it and she scoffed and said that I wasn't related to anyone."
Itachi wants to call Akiko a bitch, but keeps quiet. He already knows that Iruka hasn't planned another date with her because he's using the suffix 'san' instead of 'chan'.
"Have you officially adopted Naruto?" He asks instead and gets a negative response. "Why not?" Itachi knows that Naruto would love to belong to a family and he knows that Iruka would love to be able to legally claim his little brother.
"Sandaime-sama prevaricated but never actually told me why Naruto didn't have the option of being adopted." Iruka glances subtly at the Hokage Monument then back at Itachi, "I have a feeling that it has something to do with his blood family."
"I see." There isn't any other response that he can give to Iruka about that, considering that he knows - because he has been inducted into ANBU and their secrets - that Naruto is the son of the highly revered Yondaime and if it ever came out that the boy was allowed to take another family name instead of the Namikaze name, there would be riots.
Naruto may not be well liked by the general populace because he holds back the Kyuubi, but they understand that he is just the container. If it were let out that the Container was also Konoha's hero's son? Chaos. If he weren't given the Namikaze name at that point, Itachi has no doubts that there would be rebellions.
And not just from the Uchiha clan.
Not that the Uchiha clan was going to rebel now, but he knows that his father was a friend of Minato Namikaze and he knows what his father would think if Naruto were to take any name other than his mother or father's.
It would not be pretty.
But he can't tell Iruka that. He thinks that Iruka has already figured out who Naruto's father is anyway, given the look that he'd given the Hokage Monument.
Sakura comes racing through the training ground, pulling Naruto and Sasuke behind her, shouting something about a new comic and the boys are laughing with her and then chasing after her on their own.
Itachi thinks that he's never seen his little brother so happy before. Not before and certainly not after what had happened to him.
A smile comes to his lips and he sighs very quietly. Iruka touches his arm gently before flickering off towards Konoha so that he can be home before Naruto goes looking for him to ask him for money for the comic.
Itachi watches the disturbed butterflies flutter around the field before slowly settling back down.
There is probably a metaphor that he could apply to the butterflies and his little brother, but he thinks that maybe it doesn't matter and that if he can just keep doing whatever it is that is helping Sasuke, then Sasuke will continue to get better, to heal- to settle back down into what his life was before it happened.
He thinks that he's glad Sasuke made friends with Naruto and Manabu. It's good for Sasuke to have someone who understands what he's been through. He thinks that he's glad that Sasuke's made friends with Sakura as well because he needs someone, needs a child, who is normal - more average than himself - that he can learn how have fun from.
It makes him doubly proud that Sasuke has forged on to become one of the youngest shinobi in the history of Konoha and will soon be one of the youngest chuunin in the history of Konoha. He's six and the only ones who come close to his age while having the potential to be chuunin are Sakura, who's on his team, and Naruto, who is a year older. His sensei was also chuunin at six.
The rest of the Uchiha might not be on friendly terms with Kakashi, but Itachi can only see Kakashi's dedication to his friends and to the Uchiha clan with how he honors Obito.
He thinks that from Kakashi's reaction to finding out about Sasuke's past, Kakashi is the best one to have been chosen for Sasuke's jounin sensei. He can't think of anyone that would have been better.
He decides that he's thought about this enough for the day and that it's time to go home because Sasuke will be home soon from the bookstore and he's likely to have brought his team mates with him.
Itachi wants to spend as much time as he can with his little brother before he leaves for over a month to go to Suna for the chuunin exam.
He will always be there for his brother and that is a promise that he will never break, no matter what.