The trip back was a very quiet affair.
After making sure that all of the arrangements for Sasuke and Naruto's release were secured, Shizune provided them a car that would take them back to the Uchiha's apartment. Naruto and Itachi took the back seat, still holding hands, leaving Sasuke on the passenger's seat.
Naruto chose to stay quiet for the rest of the trip. Leaning against the cold glass of the window, he entertained himself by watching the scenery outside, which consisted of large, square buildings illuminated by the streetlights. It wasn't amusing or entertaining—it was duller than a dead fingernail and made Naruto dizzy—but it provided him an ample amount of distraction so he didn't have to think of things that hurt him.
Naruto stilled when he felt the sudden addition of a weight on his side. He tilted his head a little and saw that the little boy was slumped against him, sleeping, which was understandable with Itachi still recovering from his previous bout of fever.
Itachi's mouth was slightly opened, letting some spit escape to the side. Naruto gently wiped it on the collar of the sleeping child's jacket and brushed the long strands of hair that escaped the ponytail. With him sleeping like this, Itachi looked like the child that he was supposed to be: a child, which was a fact that the blond sometimes forgets with how the small Uchiha acted. It was easier to think that he was an adult in a child's body rather than the reality that Itachi was a child, gifted with a mind years beyond his age—decades, even, but still a child that was biologically and physically five.
I wonder how Sasuke looks like when he's asleep. An image of a closed-eye, scowling and drooling Sasuke popped into his mind, making Naruto snicker a little too loudly. Sasuke gave him a glare through the rear view mirror, sensing that the blond's reaction had something to do with him in a ridiculous situation. He could add almost mind-reader to the list of the qualities of a super Uchiha. The car started to slow down until it came to a full stop; they arrived at their destination.
Naruto shook Itachi gently to wake him up. "Itachi, we're here. Wake up, kiddo."
Itachi dazedly made his way out of the car, his face almost landing in the pavement if Sasuke had not caught him quickly. Protests on being lifted and carried promptly turned into soft, childish snores.
"We better get inside quickly. It's cold here outside," Naruto commented. Sasuke nodded as they all made their way into the building. The doorman welcomed them, opening the doors. When they reach the elevators, Naruto offered to carry Itachi while Sasuke attended to entering the number that will let them ride. Seriously, rich people and their obsession with tightly securing of their worldly possessions.
"Well?" Naruto raised one eyebrow at Sasuke.
"Elevators don't open themselves, you know. Unless, there's a lady dressed in a white nightgown with eyeball-less sockets waiting for you so she could scare you to death," Naruto said, shivering at the picture on his mind. He has to stop watching those Thai horror movies Shizune eagerly lends him. "Maybe we should take the stairs. You only live on the fifth floor right?
Sasuke sighed in defeat, reluctantly handling his sleeping son into Naruto's arm.
"Don't worry daddy dear. I won't let your son get dropped, scratched or to be touched even by the tip of a mosquito's leg. Even a minuscule speck of dust won't touch the top of your precious son's beanie hat." Naruto teased. "Really, you have 'I-don't-give-a-shit-'s-worth-for-anything' face but you're still a lil' softie when it comes to your son."
The black haired man gave him a glare as a reply before proceeding on entering the code for the elevator. They quickly reached the floor Sasuke and Itachi occupied; the black-haired man quickly opened the door and let Naruto enter first.
Naruto headed straight for the living room and plopped down to the sofa, face down. His body felt so heavy and his head was starting to hurt too. The blond turned to lie on his back, shielding his eyes from the light by placing his arm on his forehead.
"This sofa is stiff, like Sasuke's hair."
"If you don't like it go lie on the floor. I bet the wood is a lot more comfortable than where you are right now," Sasuke said sarcastically. He threw something towards Naruto that landed on his face, making the blond sit up.
"Wha—clothes? Why are you giving me clothes?" He asked, the puzzlement clearly shown on his face.
"You're not going to sleep in those filthy clothes."
"Are you trying to imply something, Uchiha? Are you telling me that I'm stinky?"
Used to the blond's outbursts, Sasuke just rolled his eyes and turned around. "There's a bathroom down the corridor. Take a bath or drown yourself, I don't care, as long as you get out clean and alive."
Naruto pulled in a deep breath and exhaled, before calling out to the other man. "Sasuke! I'm sorry for dragging you into something troublesome again. And for keeping you away from your son's side."
Sasuke didn't pause or turn around but the blond heard him reply with his usual 'hn'. Naruto felt that the grin on his face now was real, unstrained and natural. Collecting the clothes, he stood up and walked towards the bathroom, where a bath was already prepared with towels neatly folded on top of a chair and toiletries arranged. An unopened toothbrush was on the sink.
He guessed this was Sasuke's way of apologizing.
Finishing with scrubbing and washing his body, Naruto slipped into the bath, the warm temperature of the water slowly soothing the tension of his muscles. He filled the tub with soap bubbles, making the room smell like a mix of refreshing tropical fruits.
Naruto rested his head against the edge of the bathtub and closed his eyes. A scene from his childhood flashed.
His mom was going to be very furious.
Naruto held back the sniffles and wiped the whole of his face against his arm. He was dirty and tired but he didn't want to go home until he found that thing. The boy crawled on his knees, his hands parting down the blades of grass as he continued searching.
Just to his added rotten luck, his archenemy—which means his greatest rival, a word he learned from his father while they were playing videogames—Uchiha Sasuke appeared, standing on the field a few feet away from him.
"I'm not a dobe!"Naruto glared at Sasuke. "Students are supposed to be with their parents right now." At the mention of parents, the blond started tearing up again. He hastily turned away and furiously rubbed his eyes against his arm.
"Coming from a rule-breaker and a squirt like you, that's unbelievable. What are you doing crying and crawling here? You look like a kid who lived underground with all of that dirt."
"Shut up, Sasuke-baka! I'd rather live underground with the moles than get mom really mad at me." This time, Naruto couldn't stop the tears and pitifully sobbed. "I don't want mommy to get angry and throw me out and make me live with the mole people! Waaaaahhh!"
"Hey, stop wailing! Seiously, stop it." There were hands on his shoulders, gently shaking him.
"I c-can't st-stop..hic…b-cos mom will n-ver forgive me…waaahhh!"
"Can you shut up for a minute? Shut up, and then explain so I'll know how to stop you from screaming your lungs out."
In between the hiccups,stuttering and wiping a runny nose, Naruto managed to tell the black-haired boy how he was forced to play shadow tag with his classmates and lost the item during the game.
"And those guys didn't even help me look for it!" Naruto said angrily."It was their fault: I was always 'it', even if I step on their stupid shadows."
"What did Kushina-san give you anyway?" Sasuke asked.
"A key chain...a fishcake key chain my mom made just for me."
"How do you expect us to find something that small in a ground as wide as this?" Sasuke rubbed his temples.
"Us? You're going to help me?" Naruto's smile was so bright when Sasuke threw his bag on the ground and wordlessly started searching for the lost item along with the younger blond.
They found it two hours later, lying directly underneath the spot where the black-haired boy tossed his school bag. The two went to the blond's house and arrived at a fuming Kushina, worried Minato and a very stressed Mikoto. Sasuke took the initiative of explaining—added a few inputs of his own on Naruto's irresponsibility—while the blond had his ears thoroughly boxed by his own mother and simultaneously lectured by his father on the dangers of cute kids going home late and inconveniencing others.
Naruto laughed at the memory. He could still remember how his mother went to his room afterwards, embracing him tightly as she gently stroked his hair. He could still see her beautiful face stretched out in a wide smile, her long, red hair and her warmth and alive. If he could just have another hour to see and be with her again, he will gladly give up anything.
The blond let himself slide into the bath tub slowly and stopped when it reached the top of his mouth. He blew the bubbles, watching as they fly away, landing back to join their soapy, bubbly comrades.
He missed her so much.
: : : : :
Sasuke woke up around three a.m to the call of nature. After relieving himself and washing his hands, he went to Itachi's room to check up on his son's condition. The sight of Itachi trembling, sweating profusely while wrapped in his blankets sent him into panic. The temperature of his son almost burnt his hand when Sasuke placed the back of his hand on his Itachi's forehead. He went out of the room in a dash for the phone, cursing loudly when he stumbled on the decorative items his mother brought to 'add a little more color'.
"What's with early morning racket, Sasuke? I never thought that lawyers were so busy they wake up even just after less than two hours of sleep." Naruto yawned and stretched his arms as he pulled the door of the room he was staying in close.
"Itachi's temperature shot up. I think I need to bring him to the hospital or have the doctor visit him here orboth." Sasuke nervously combed his messy hair back as he lifted the phone off its cradle and started dialing. "He would certainly get mad at me for doing this..."
"Hold your horses. You don't have to send him flying to the hospital; bringing him there might make it worst. Where's Itachi's room?" Naruto asked in a steady and calm manner. Sasuke lead the other man to his son's room.
Naruto softly pried the covers away from Itachi's shivering form, placing his hand on the boy's forehead and his neck to measure his temperature. He grabbed the digital thermometer from the bedside table
"Give me a towel." Sasuke handed the blond a striped green-and-white microfiber towel, watching as Naruto stripped the boy off Itachi's jacket and pajama tops, and wiped the layer of sweat covering his son's body. He grabbed the digital thermometer from the bedside table to gauge the child's actual temperature.
"It's 39 degree Celsius…Itachi's really burning up. Fill an ice bag with a three pieces of ice cube, and then bring me a small basin of cold tap water."Naruto said. Helpless, Sasuke just complied with Naruto's command and brought the requested items as quickly as he could.
When he came back, Itachi was wearing an old shirt a size larger, which Sasuke remembered as one of the boy's favorite shirt. Itachi wore it a lot of times until its collar loosened and color faced with so much washing. It was a gift from Sakura on their child's fourth birthday, sent from a foreign country the black-haired man could not remember where his ex-wife was stationed as a nurse. He was going to throw it out when his mother interfered, telling him that it wouldn't harm his son to have his mother's gift. Sasuke agreed, on the condition that they wouldn't let the boy know where it came from. He couldn't stop the sardonic smile on his face at the irony of it.
"You continue wiping him down, then place the ice bag on his forehead. That should cool him down." Naruto said. "I'll go fix him something light so he could take his medicine...how about onion soup? D'you have supplies and everything, since I know that you don't cook."
The black haired man looked at the blond with doubtful eyes.
"Yes, I cook and I'm damn good at it. Desperate times pushed me into learning." Naruto's eyes became distant as if he was seeing something beyond the room's ceiling. "All those expired canned goods and moldy plates that moved..." The blond shuddered as he took his leave.
He checked his son's temperature after a little while and was relieved to see that it dropped significantly. Itachi was a very healthy child so Sasuke could literally count the times his son had gotten ill with the fingers on his two hands. During those times that the child had contracted an illness, it was his mother who looked after Itachi due to Sasuke being busy with law school and part time jobs. This was only the second time the black-haired man had the chance of taking care of his sick child so Sasuke only had a vague idea on how to look after a feverish child.
Being a single parent, either you're a mother or a father, was hard since you have to fill in the role of a father and a mother. He never reconsidered remarrying but on times like these, Sasuke wondered if he was depriving his son of a chance to have a more normal life, a more normal childhood if Itachi had a mother figure.
Naruto returned with a steaming bowl of food he set on a plastic tray Sasuke didn't remember owning. The black-haired man took it from him, nodding at Naruto as a simple gesture of thanks. The blond just shrugged his shoulders, leaving the room quietly. Out of curiosity, he tasted the light, creamy looking soup with small pieces of what appeared to be bread; it didn't taste bad. If he was being honest, it was delicious.
Itachi was still sluggish when Sasuke woke him up so the older man had to feed him, which took about fifteen minutes with his son dropping off at certain points, almost letting his face land on the soup. After taking the medicine, Itachi was out like a light, back to slumber land. He stacked the empty bowl, glass and empty pitcher on the tray and left the room, heading for the kitchen where Naruto just finished cooking something that smelled so great it triggered his hunger. With all of the hustle last night, he wasn't surprised.
"His fever might come back. We should take turns staying by his side until we are sure it's completely gone." Naruto said, placing the plate of mixed fried rice with corn, peas and carrots. Sasuke didn't even know he had those things in his refrigerator. After placing the tray and its contents on the sink, he grabbed two bowls and two pair of chopsticks from one of the cabinets, giving one of each to the blond. They took their own portions and ate in a companionable silence.
Naruto took the first turn while Sasuke did the dishes. The rotation continued until nine, when Naruto woke Itachi for breakfast and medicine, took his temperature, and then let the boy get back to resting.
"His temperature is almost back to normal. There had been no further increase so I guess it's safe to say he's clear. Whew." Naruto let himself fall to the sofa. "This is seriously one uncomfortable sofa. I'm going to get stiff neck and a sore back just from sitting here."
"Again, the floor is very available." Sasuke pushed his glasses up as he read the file on his laptop again, not bothering to adjust them when it slipped lower. His employer offered to buy him a new pair but he declined because he was used to adjusting his eyeglasses when it slips.
"You're actually using them?"
"The glasses." The blond pointed to the said item.
"No, I'm just wearing them so I could look smart and impress people," Sasuke said sarcastically. "You bought these so you know I need them." Even though he had an almost perfect vision, his eyes easily gets strained with reading so he uses glasses to minimize it.
"Yeah. I bought them and you're actually using them. I didn't expect you to actually use them."
"Why shouldn't I? As I've told you, I actually need to use them."
The glasses were a gift from the blond for Sasuke's birthday way back in college. Sasuke wasn't sure how Naruto knew what brand and prescription he wore because it fitted him perfectly. He got so comfortable with it he didn't bother changing or buying another pair even though a lot of had commented on how loose it was on him due to its age. At the pleased grin on Naruto's face, Sasuke considered getting new ones just because he could.
: : : : :
Thankfully, it wasn't the middle of the night so there were no strange sounds or exaggerated shadows to trick him. Itachi went on with his business, washed his hands, wiped them down and left for his bedroom, wondering if Naruto was still around; it was past four in the afternoon and Itachi spent most of the day sleeping so he wasn't sure if the blond stayed. He felt disappointed that he wasn't able to spend more time with Naruto.
Itachi decided to forgo sleeping, deciding to watch a movie. He made a detour to the kitchen to see if there were any snacks available or any leftovers from the blond's cooking. To his surprise, he found Naruto sitting by the table comfortably dresses in one of Itachi's father's t-shirts, peeling off one large prawn.
"I thought you went home," Itachi said, eyeing the number of grocery bags surrounding the blond, the items spilling out, on the table, countertop and on the floor. He had never seen these many bags purchased in one shopping trip.
"Sasuke was embarrassed with your empty cupboards and expired goods covered in dust so he dragged me in an impromptu shopping trip to the supermarket, then to the nearest department store," Naruto explained, gesturing to the objects lying on the different parts of the Uchihas' kitchen. "Sasuke was called to the office so I volunteered my services for dinner. Man, you're recovering and its Saturday and all he could think about is working still."
Itachi shrugged his shoulders. "It's normal for Dad to take priority of his work. Living in the city is expensive—bills to pay, food and basic necessities plus the cost of raising a child, and there are emergencies to consider," He told Naruto, short of rude.
Itachi wanted to show Naruto that he understood his father perfectly and that it wasn't his father's choice why their circumstances were like this. He wasn't one of those sniveling, tantrum-throwing kids that the blond probably thought he was. Maybe Itachi was reading too much into Naruto's words but he couldn't stamp down the irritation at being treated like a child—a burden.
He was not a burden. He was trying not to be one.
Itachi felt his eyes stinging and to avoid embarrassing himself, he stomped out of the kitchen and headed to his own room. He dove under his blankets and buried his face on his pillows, angry tears pouring out of him. He felt so stupid, stupid and a child and he was acting like a hormonal teenage girl with his emotions out of control. This is why Itachi hated being goddamn sick—he didn't care if he used one of those words that he wasn't supposed to use.
The door let out a small creak as it was pushed open, followed by footsteps that stopped at foot of his bed.
"Hey, I'm sorry if you thought that I was insinuating that Sasuke is an irresponsible father; I'm not." Not receiving any answer, Naruto continued. "I totally didn't mean to make it sound like that. I'll leave after I finish cooking so you won't be upset anymore, okay?"
"I'm not angry." Itachi removed the pillow but didn't get out from under the covers. "I'm not angry at you and I know you didn't mean it like that. I think I'm reaching puberty because I'm becoming emotionally unstable."
Naruto laughed. "I don't think it's that. You're years away from that period but whatever. So apology accepted?"
Itachi sniffled and wiped the tears off his face. He was such a baby; now he can't get out of because he felt so embarrassed. The bed dipped and Itachi felt the weight of a hand on his back.
"So? Am I forgiven or what?"
"Then stop sulking and get out. Or are you still feeling unwell? Maybe you should just rest."
"I'm fine. And I'm not sulking."
"Yes you are."
Itachi flipped the covers off, sat up holding his shoulders square and straight. " .." He enunciated each word to give more emphasis. It would have turned out convincing if Itachi didn't resemble a ruffled chick with his tear-stained face and pout. Naruto held his laughter at bay.
"I grew up with Sasuke and I just could tell you all of the times he hid under his covers when he's pissed or sour or just being moody. And your face..." Naruto snickered a bit. "You look so much like him."
Somehow, Itachi could not imagine his father in the same position like this, making a fool out of himself by projecting his own issues at others. Remembering why he was here in the first place made Itachi want to duck under the blankets again, which he just did. Today seemed to be 'humiliate-yourself-Itachi' day and somehow, it just had to happen with the person Itachi was planning to impress and win-over.
"Why are you hiding?"
"Huh? I don"t hear ya."ad and enthusiastically wrapped in large, warm hug. He could feel the vibration of Naruto's laughter; hear him say "you're just cute". Itachi removed the blanket covering his face to protest but halted when he saw Naruto smiling openly at him.
"I'm ashamed because I acted like a jerk. And I was supposed to say sorry first."
He lets out a not squeak—because Itachi didn't do squeaking—when he was lifted off the bed and was suddenly enveloped in another hug.
Itachi was relieved when he saw that Naruto was laughing again, which was a sign that the blond was back to his normal self. For him, there was no expression that suited Naruto perfectly other than a smile. Naruto smiling reminded Itachi of clear blue, blue skies; open, honest and carefree. Despite that Itachi preferred Naruto to stay that way, there was a part of him that was glad that he was able to see the other part-hurt, vulnerable.
Itachi wanted to learn more about Naruto.
(t b c)
Thank you for the continued support guys. The reviews are just wow. I've never thought that this story will be very loved by you wonderful, wonderful peeps Each word you leave makes me feel proud and happy even though I haven't been very responsible lately.
I apologize for my epic failings in updating T.T. I've been very, very busy with transferring to a new uni and part time job and other little things.
I'm not really contented with this chapter but this file had been festering in my doc manager for five, six months? I'm not sure. Wanted's 2nd year mark passed like a blink. I was keen on not publishing this until I got a head start for the next chapter so you guys won't be left hanging but I realized that I'm not very good with planning. Le sigh.
Thank you again and I hope I'll be much. much earlier for the next chapter because my goal is to finish my stories before 2012 ends. :)
And yes, I accept fanarts :) Please don't be shy XD