Countless Stars: My Existence in Life

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto, Masashi-san (although a certain Uchiha may disagree and claim the blond for himself). The only things I own are the concepts and ideas of this story.

Warning: May be triggering for character death, angst, and mentions of violence.

Note: There is a point of view change at some point in the story, for those who don't catch it. And thank you Riuolo for beta-ing my chapter! She's really awesome

~0~

Chapter o4 ~ Family

~0~

Chimes rang in the air as the sun slowly started to rise above the horizon. Blue eyes opened wearily and looked at the clock on the night stand beside him. He moaned, covering his head with a pillow as the noise of screaming children reached his ears. He had not been able to have a decent night of sleep at the orphanage since a new group of orphans were brought into the home. The blond sat up from his bed. He wanted to be well rested for the first day of his third year at the academy, but he guessed it was just too much to ask. He made his way into the bathroom—narrowly avoiding a collision with the younger residents as they ran through the hallways early in the morning—and washed himself, splashing his face with cold water to wake up him up.

"Naruto, hurry up or all of the breakfast will be gone!" He heard the caretaker of the orphanage yell through the hallway as he dried himself with a towel.

"Okay, granny, I'll be right there!" he replied, hastily dressing himself in the bathroom before carelessly tossing his pajamas into his room as he made his way into the kitchen. The place was swarming with children and his appetite was gone. He reluctantly grabbed a toast and slathered it with a light layer of butter and strawberry jam before making his way out the door. The caretaker greeted him at the door with a smile and a paper bag for his lunch.

"Happy birthday, Naruto," she said kindly before handing him his lunch.

Naruto smiled and grabbed the bag. "Thanks and see you later, granny! Don't set a plate for me at dinner; I'll be sleeping over at Sasuke's!" he said as he made his way out the door before walking to his usual meeting place with the Uchiha, munching on the toast. Sasuke would say something if he didn't eat breakfast, so he always ate whether he was hungry or not.

The blond felt himself smile as he began to think about his relationship with the young Uchiha. It had been two years since they started the academy and Naruto's eighth birthday was today, coincidentally. Sasuke had made such a huge fuss about his birthday in the passing week that Naruto constantly blushed whenever his friend brought it up. Since their first meeting three years ago, the Uchiha made it his business to invite Naruto to his birthday and then have a bigger birthday bash for the blond, because the orphan had never experienced a true birthday before. Birthday celebrations at the orphanage consisted of a pat on the head from the caretaker and rocks as presents from the rest of the orphans. Needless to say, he hadn't had a pleasant memory of his birthdays until he met Sasuke.

Sasuke, his best friend.

"Naruto, stop zoning out or you're going to walk into something!" The said boy looked up just in time to narrowly avoid a telephone and frowned before turning to the source of the voice. He met dark eyes and a smirk and pouted as he approached his friend.

"You know, Sasuke, you could've warned me earlier. What if I didn't turn in time and got seriously hurt?" he nagged. Sasuke laughed and ruffled Naruto's hair before walking in pace besides the blond.

"I didn't think you were daydreaming until you were nearly face-to-face with the pole. Pay attention next time or you'll really get hurt!" he chided and the blond blushed before grinning happily.

"Even if I didn't, I always have you to count on, don't I, Sasuke?" He smiled at the said boy, who returned it with a smile of his own.

"Yeah, you can count on it, Naruto. Now hurry up and let's go before we're late."

"No! Sasuke, we can't be late on the first day or Iruka-sensei is going to kill me!" the blond said, quickening his pace to a run. "C'mon slowpoke, I'll race ya!" Sasuke laughed and ran after Naruto, determined to catch up.

"You're on."

~0~

Heaving the garbage bin over the dump, Naruto became mesmerized by the freefall of the rubbish. Blue eyes followed the last of the falling trash before he sighed. He placed the bin back to its place before heading back to the class to pick up his belongings.

Lately, he had been feeling strange towards Sasuke.

Every time the Uchiha smiled, his heart would start racing and his face would feel hot. Naruto lightly smacked his cheeks as he felt his face heat again and shook his head; what was wrong with him? The blond pondered if he was coming down with a cold, but shook the thought off. It only happened when he thought about how pretty Sasuke looked when he smiled. Not that he'd ever tell his friend that. Sasuke never enjoyed being called pretty and would always give the cold shoulder to anyone who did, including his own mother.

The thought of his friend ignoring him caused his heart to clench painfully; he'd never want that situation to arise ever, no matter what the circumstances may be.

"Oi, Naruto! Why are you walking so slow? I've been waiting forever!" The said boy looked up and saw Sasuke waiting by the classroom door, both his and Naruto's things in hand. "Hurry up or we're going to miss mom's mini doughnuts!" The blond received his backpack from his friend and the two began to walk to the Uchiha compound.

"You know Sasuke, you could've helped me with my chores. We would've gotten home faster," Naruto said, giving his friend a pout. Sasuke grinned before grabbing the blond's hand and quickening their pace.

"And throw out the smelly garbage? No thanks," he said playfully. Naruto shoved him lightly with his free hand and Sasuke let out a laugh. But in the back of his mind, the Uchiha took note to help out his friend next time.

That is what friends are for, right?

"So, what'd you get me for my birthday, Sasuke?" a curious voice asked, bringing Sasuke out of his thoughts. Dark eyes met blue and the Uchiha pretended to think about the question before turning back to Naruto.

"Sorry, I can't tell you or it'll spoil the surprise."

Naruto frowned before sticking out his tongue, obviously displeased at the fact that his curiosity was not sated. "Stingy," he whispered before throwing another face at the boy. Sasuke merely shrugged; he wasn't going to fall for the blond's tricks again, especially since he didn't want to spoil this surprise.

He was sure Naruto was going to love it.

Sasuke's pace quickened as the gates of the Uchiha compound came into view and he tugged on his friend's arm gently. "Naruto, we're almost there! Come on!" Naruto merely laughed at his friend; the dark-haired boy seemed to be more excited about the blond's birthday than himself.

The two made it past the gates and rushed into Sasuke's house.

"Tadaima!" "Shitsureshimasu. Excuse me for the intrusion!" exclaimed both boys simultaneously. They hastily took off their shoes and slid into their slippers before beginning the trek to the kitchen.

"Sasuke-kun, I hope you're putting your shoes in the getabako where they belong!" Mikoto's scolding voice came from the kitchen. The two boys looked at each other sheepishly and made their way back. They carefully arranged their shoes, placing the articles inside the wooden cabinet. They made their way into the kitchen where Mikoto had prepared a snack consisting of different flavoured mochi and sencha. Naruto sat down and grabbed a pink-colored rice cake and munched on it happily, taking sips of the green tea in between. Sasuke opted for a green-colored mochi and chewed on it slightly, savouring every bite.

"Happy birthday, Naruto-chan," Mikoto said warmly. She gave Naruto a hug from behind and a kiss on the cheek before going around to her son and giving him a smooch, as well. "Okaeri-nasai," she said to Sasuke before turning back to Naruto. "We're going out to eat today, so what do you feel like eating?" she asked. She looked at the blond who seemed to be giving her question a thought before she remembered something.

"Oh, but no ramen," she added hastily, laughing at the obvious pout the blond made. Ever since Itachi had introduced the blond to the infamous Ichiraku ramen bar, the little boy had been craving it daily. Unfortunately, it worried Mikoto as it was all the child would ask for. It made her heart ache to say no to Naruto, but health always came first and by no means was ramen a great source of nutrition. Sasuke laughed at his friend's displeasure before attempting to regain his balance as Naruto kicked his chair.

"Stop laughing, it's not funny," the blond muttered, crossing his arms in a huff. The young Uchiha continued to laugh and Naruto couldn't help but join in. He reached for another mochi and chewed on it thoughtfully as Mikoto repeated the question.

"Can we go have some yakiniku,then?" Naruto asked. Mikoto hummed in thought for a moment, unconsciously kneading out some knots in Sasuke's shoulders before nodding in agreement.

"Sure, barbeque sounds fine. Otousan seemed to have been craving some meat lately, as well," she laughed out before lowering herself to the boys' eye level. "Sasuke-kun, is that all right with you?" Her son nodded and she smiled, making her way to the sink.

"You boys can go play now, but make sure to come downstairs by 18:00 so we can get to dinner on time!" The boys nodded as they made their way out the kitchen. Sasuke stopped suddenly at the doorway and Naruto looked back, his gaze curious.

"Go on to my room first," Sasuke said, motioning for the blond to go ahead. Naruto just gave a shrug and made his way into the familiar room and, once he was out of earshot, the Uchiha turned back to his mother.

"Mama, can I give Naruto his present now? So he can practice with it before dinner?" Mikoto looked at her son, cringing as she saw Sasuke's pleading eyes. It was rare for Sasuke to plead, but he had been giving her these begging eyes more often, especially when it was concerning Naruto. And damn it, she was just weak to those eyes! She gave a sigh.

"All right, Sasuke. But be careful! I don't want you two to get hurt before dinner," she warned. A smile appeared on her lips as she saw her son's face light up before it disappeared out of view and she gave another sigh.

"Boys will be boys," she whispered to herself, a serene look settling on her features.

~I~

"What is it, Sasuke?" Naruto asked impatiently. He had been sitting around in Sasuke's room as the said boy shuffled through his closet in search of Naruto's present.

"Oh just wait, Naruto! You're going to love it," Sasuke said excitedly. He had planned a few months ahead of what to get his friend and saved up money from his weekly allowance to buy it himself. He was proud of his gift as it was the first gift he bought without the aid of his family members. He spotted the present in the corner under all the gift-wrapping materials and couldn't help the grin that set on his face. With a huff, he pulled it from underneath the piled items and winced as the items landed on the floor with a loud thud. He quickly shut the closet door and turned around, gift behind him.

"So, what is it?" the blond asked again. His curiosity was eating away at him and he couldn't take it any longer. He was almost tempted to reach for the present that he knew Sasuke was hiding behind his back, but kept himself in check. Sasuke bit his lip to keep himself from laughing at Naruto; the blond wore such an agonized look on his face and the Uchiha reminded himself how impatient his friend could be.

"Happy birthday, Naruto," he whispered quietly, handing the blond his present. Naruto stilled for a moment as he eyed the wrapped box and smiled. He took it cautiously, as if it would shatter with the most sudden of movements and observed it quietly. It was clumsily wrapped in kunai adorned orange paper and his smile grew wider; Sasuke had wrapped it all by himself. The blond felt himself tear up as the thought touched his heart before hastily wiping his eyes. He didn't want to be made fun of as a cry baby right now. The Uchiha watched as the blond simply looked at the gift and swallowed nervously, nudging his friend.

"Hurry and open it." Naruto gave a nod and sat down, placing the present before him. Carefully, as to not rip the wrapping paper, he peeled off each piece of tape and began to unravel the gift. He held his breath as he recognized the polished box and opened it slowly, rubbing his eyes in disbelief. No way, he thought.

In the middle of the orange papers was an antique looking box, polished and adorned with uchiwas, the Uchiha clan's emblem. And lying in the box was a set of basic weapons for shinobis; it consisted of a full set of kunai, shuriken, and tantō. Naruto picked up the tantō with care and looked at Sasuke before looking back at the weapon. This short double-edged dagger was rarely used by genin, as it was a weapon used purely for close combat. Genin were still inexperienced and usually relied on their basic shinobi skills, aside from the ones passed down in their clans. It was a weapon that was more popular with the elite shinobi of the village; the ANBU. He set the blade down before running carefully running his fingers across the set of kunai and shuriken, noting that they were of somewhat high quality and closed the box gently. Sasuke watched the blond's motions, unconsciously holding his breath and fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. The two remained in those positions for a moment, a calm silence blanketing the room before Naruto let out a breath.

"Thank you," he said warmly, looking up to meet his friend's gaze. Sasuke's breath caught once again as he was met with a smile that simply emitted pure joy and happiness and felt his heart flutter wildly. He blushed madly and looked down at his feet as his mind focused on only one thing; Naruto looked breath-taking. He smiled and sat down in front of his friend, happy that it was him who made the blond so happy. Naruto watched Sasuke sit down and took his hand, their gazes meeting once again.

"Thank you," he repeated and Sasuke's smile grew wider.

"You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it."

The two sat in another moment of silence as their emotions caught up with them. They both looked away as their cheeks flushed and sat staring at the floor before hesitantly meeting each other's gazes.

"So, do you want to practice with it?" Sasuke asked quietly. He was afraid that if he spoke too loudly, their precious moment would shatter before his eyes. He let out a breath of relief as he saw the smile grow brighter on Naruto's face.

"I'd love to," the blond replied.

~B~

Dark eyes looked over items as the teen-aged boy moved about the busy market street. He stopped at a weapons shop before remembering that his little brother had purchased a weapon set for Naruto and continued on his hunt for a birthday gift. Itachi would not be satisfied with a mediocre gift.

It had to be amazing, something the blond would treasure forever.

He roamed the streets for a couple of minutes before his eyes caught sight of a humble thrift shop that seemed to be cramped between two large antique stores. He ignored the store owners from the neighboring stores as they attempted in vain to lure him in with their best sales voice. The light jingle of a bell was heard as Itachi made his way into the thrift store, his eyes searching the shelves immediately for anything useful. The store was neat and tidy inside; small, but it seemed to contain things of value despite its humble appearance.

"Can I help you, young man?" an elderly man asked as he made his way out from behind the counter. Itachi shook his head, looking around the store some more.

"I am just looking for a gift for a little boy who is precious to me. Forgive me for sounding rude, but I would like to search for this present myself." The man seemed to nod in understanding and made his way back to the register, giving Itachi his space. The teen looked around, his eyes observing all the details as he was met with authentic miniature wooden statues of the previous hokages. He continued his search and found many amusing things that he was sure Naruto would enjoy, but he moved on; the items he found just weren't what he was looking for. He passed by a shelf that held stuffed animals before a flash of green caught his eye and he stopped, turning back.

And then he saw it.

It was a small little thing, roughly the size of a person's palm. It was a green coin-wallet in the shape of a frog with bulging eyes and the mouth as the pouch. Itachi picked it up, weighing it in his hands. It was perfect and Naruto would love it. He knew from the moment that he saw it that this was the gift he would get. He held onto the purse before looking around the store to see if there was anything else he could buy in addition to frog pouch. Not seeing anything of interest, he made his way to the counter where the elderly man waited patiently and placed the frog on the glass. His eyes continued to roam as the man calculated the purchase before his eyes landed on a small keychain. The keychain was small and circular, roughly the size of a quarter. On the side he was looking at was a swirl mimicking the shape of a whirlpool. He unconsciously reached out for it, lifting the keychain and palming it. He then turned it around and his eyes widened by a fraction as saw the image on the other side.

It was a fox with nine tails and Itachi remembered when the village was attacked by the Kyuubi when he was six. However, contrary to his memory, the beast on this keychain didn't seem feral and instead held a calm and wise look on its face. It was sitting in a position that made it appear elegant and regal as its tails seemed to adorn it. But what seemed to interest Itachi most was the fox's gaze; even for a carving, it seemed to look into the depths of one's soul. He ran his thumb around the edge of the accessory, frowning slightly as he felt a jagged edge that wasn't noticeable before. He shrugged and decided to carve it into a smooth circular shape when he arrived home and placed it on the counter as well.

"Do you want the accompanying piece?" The elder's voice startled Itachi and he gave the man a questioning look.

"Pardon me?"

"There's a keychain that goes along with it; a pair of two, if you will," the man said, pointing to where Itachi had picked up the accessory. Dark eyes followed the finger and his gaze found another ornament resembling the one he just found. It, too, had a whirlpool and he grasped it before turning it around. He was surprised at the sight of the raven on the back of the item and his fingers ran across the engraving as he thought to himself. This, too, had a jagged edge, similar to the first accessory. The Uchiha looked up as the man handed him the keychain with the fox on it. He attached the two rough edges, surprised when they clicked in place. The outer bordering trimmings created a lemniscate, the symbol of infinity. He looked at it in awe before the man's voice drew him from his thoughts.

"These two trinkets represent entwining souls; in one way or another, the recipients of these two keychains will forever be joined in destiny." Itachi looked at the two ornaments for a moment, thinking to himself the words that were just spoken to him. He closed his eyes as he made a decision before placing them both on the counter, next to the frog-purse.

"I'll take them both, please." The store owner nodded and calculated the items before Itachi handed over the money for his purchase. The Uchiha bid farewell to the owner noted that the sun was setting. He clicked his tongue in displeasure and quickly made his way back home.

His mother would give him hell for being late and he feared nothing more than his angry mother.

~0~

It was almost sunset when Itachi arrived at the gates. He quickly made his way inside, putting his sandals into the getabako and adorning his slippers before he made his way into the house.

"Tadaima," he called out and his mother greeted him as she exited the kitchen.

"Okaeri, Itachi-kun. You're awfully late today," she said as she took her son's bag from him. She quickly set the bag in front of the door to his room before heading to the living space where Itachi was sitting drinking a cup of tea. She sat before him and waited patiently for her husband to make his appearance; at this rate, they were going to be late for their reservation!

"So, what did you get Naruto-chan, Itachi?" Mikoto asked to spend the time. Of course she was curious, but if she didn't occupy her mind she'd get angry. And an angry Uchiha, Mikoto was not something Naruto would like to see on his birthday. Itachi merely smiled and continued to sip his tea quietly, ignoring his mother's silent tantrum. He would not satiate his mother's curiosity nor involve himself in the storm that was to come. His father should handle that all by himself.

Mikoto pouted as her son was obviously ignoring her and silently berated him for it. He's getting too smart for his own good. Why couldn't they remain cuter for a little longer? she asked herself quietly. The sound of the front door being opened was heard and she immediately jumped up.

"Okaeri!" she shouted as Fugaku made his way into the living space, a little shocked at his wife's outburst. He quickly glanced at the clock and let out of a sigh of relief; he wasn't late. He looked at his wife who seemed to be slightly jittery before glancing at Itachi who merely gave him a shrug and continued to sip his tea.

"Sasuke-kun, Naruto-chan, we're going for dinner now!" Mikoto yelled and immediately the two boys came running, a grin on both their faces. Sasuke approached his father who ruffled his hair before turning back to Itachi and his wife.

"Are you guys ready?" At their affirmative nods, he made his way back to the genkan, chuckling as he heard Naruto's excited chants of "Yakiniku, yakiniku!"

This is exactly what a family should be like, the father thought and he turned to the blond who was putting on his shoes. Naruto, sensing the elder's gaze, looked up and grinned and Fugaku nearly felt his heart stop.

He looked exactly like Minato in that moment.

He shook his head to rid himself of the thoughts of the past and mussed Naruto's blond locks, ignoring the weak protests. "Hurry up, family, or the owners will yell at us for being late to the reservation time," he said as he opened the front door. Fugaku took a deep breath of the evening air and let it out, eyes wandering to the stars in the sky.

Don't worry, Minato. I'll take good care of your son. He looked behind to take another glance at Naruto before turning back to the sky. For as long as I live, I'll try my best to be the father you wanted to be for him.

~0~

Cricket chirps echoed in the cool autumn night, the calm sounds interrupted by a loud belch. Sasuke made a face while Naruto laughed it off, stretching his hands in the air. He turned to look at the parents behind him and smiled.

"Thank you very much for the dinner, Uchiha-jisan, Uchiha-bachan! It was the best yakiniku I ever had!" The couple smiled at the blond, slowing their pace. Naruto continued to walk backwards with the ever-so-bright grin on his face before Itachi scolded him to turn around in case he'd get hurt. He pouted but complied and reached to take Itachi's hand while taking Sasuke's in the other. They walked slowly and were blanketed with a comforting silence. Naruto sighed in happiness; he couldn't have asked for anything more on his birthday.

His attention was peaked when Itachi gave him a slight pull to the right. He looked to see that they were straying from the usual path to the Uchiha compound. He glanced back at the parents out of curiosity, only to see them give him innocent smiles before he turned to Sasuke.

"Ne, Sasuke, where are we going?" he whispered, as to not catch the attention of the other three. Blue eyes watched his friend shrug and he frowned; not knowing secrets was a great weakness for the blond.

"Mama and papa said that we were going to take a long walk today because the weather was nice," Sasuke replied, sending Itachi a quick look. He hoped that his voice didn't waver because he didn't want to give anything away. After all, his parents had spent a lot of time thinking about what they would give to Naruto; it wouldn't be fair to spoil the surprise. At this, the young Uchiha's mood seemed to deflate slightly. He didn't know what his parents were planning and he didn't enjoy being kept in the dark as much as his friend did. But because his parents asked him to keep it a secret, he would do it for them, especially since they asked for his help.

~0~

Healing quickly was something I was quite talented at. I've been through several months of abuse from the villagers and even when I had a rock thrown at me at the academy two years ago, I recovered pretty quickly. But it was all thanks to Sasuke and the support of his family.

Nobody could replace them.

They treated me like family and I loved them so much for it. They made sure to include me in everything whenever I was over and Sasuke made the biggest effort to make me comfortable, no matter where we were.

So why was my heart pounding so painfully, then?

I recognized this street a few minutes ago when we made the turn. At first, I didn't think much of it because Sasuke said that we were going for a long walk. I can trust him, not only because he's my best friend, but because he's never lied to me before. But my curiosity started to eat away at me and I just couldn't help but feel wary. This path is one I take daily; a path full of ridicule and shame. The only positive thing about this road is that at the end of it, I can meet my best friend and his smiling face.

I squeezed Sasuke and Itachi's hands tighter as this worrisome feeling continued to eat away at me. I started to drag my feet in an attempt to slow the pace as with each step, things started to become clearer and clearer.

This was the way back to the orphanage.

I peeked at the Uchiha couple from the corner of my eye and they were both smiling at me. I quickly turned away, my face feeling hot and eyes beginning to water. I thought I was sleeping over at their house instead of the orphanage tonight. Why were they sending me back? Did I do something wrong at dinner? Were they made at me for asking for yakiniku?

Why were we going back to the orphanage?

I held onto the siblings' hands tighter and huddled closer to Sasuke in an attempt to comfort myself. No, they weren't going to throw me away. I believe in them, I trust them, they're like my family. But despite this continuous mantra I kept repeating, it didn't help ease my anxiety one bit. As we stopped in front of the orphanage, I could've sworn my face fell and I couldn't help but glare at the sign adorning the outside gates.

Konoha Peace Orphanage; A home for children who wait for their new, loving families.

"Mama, what are we doing here?" I heard Sasuke ask and I felt him let go of my hand. I panicked inside; this was it, they were leaving me. My best friend and his family were leaving me. Just because they felt like family didn't mean that they were my family. Immediately my heart seemed to slow as Sasuke wrapped an arm around my shoulders, drawing me closer. I let go of Itachi's hand at that point and wrapped my arms around my friend's midsection, the beat of his heart soothing my nerves ever-so-slightly. I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath.

Don't worry, Naruto. They won't leave you, I kept repeating to myself, trying to assure myself.

"Naruto-kun, can you introduce us to your caretaker?" I heard Uchiha-bachan say. I lifted my face to see her kind eyes and I nodded. Hesitantly, I removed myself from Sasuke's warm embrace and reached for Mikoto-san's hands. She reached out and entwined her fingers in my own and, with another deep breath, I approached the steps to the orphanage.

"Granny, I'm home!" I shouted. I could hear the children's excited screams come from the dinner table and soft shouts of, "Now eat your dinner, children!" before I saw the face of my caretaker appear in the hallway. She seemed surprised to see me (and believe me, I was surprised to be here) and stepped a bit to the side to see who was behind me. I immediately let go of Mikoto-san's hand and moved to the side to give her and Fugaku-san view and access into the building.

"Uchiha-san, this is my caretaker. Granny, these are Sasuke's parents," I said, my voice cracking slightly. I felt a hand grasp mine and turned to see Sasuke smiling warmly at me. I couldn't help but smile back.

Everything is going to be all right, I told myself. Sasuke is here.

I felt a hand placed on my shoulder and looked to see Mikoto-san crouch down to my eye-level. "Naruto-kun, we need to speak to your caregiver for moment. Can you go show Sasuke around?" I nodded and tugged on Sasuke's hand, before turning to Itachi.

"Ita-nii, do you want to come look at my room?" I asked, shuffling my feet. I saw him shake his head with a smile and frowned. Did Itachi see me as a bother?

"Mother and father need me for something, so I can't. But maybe next time when I'm not busy you can show me your room," he said with a smile. Immediately I felt better and made my way to my room, Sasuke in hand.

We made it to my room, which was decorated with a pale blue wall paper. There were several pictures I drew of Sasuke, his family, and myself covering the walls of my side of the room. I blushed; I never expected that Sasuke would see them. I sat down on my bed and watched as he looked around the room and sat down next to me.

"I like your pictures," he said and, if possible, I flushed even darker.

"Thanks," I replied and hugged a pillow to myself, hiding my face from Sasuke. We sat in silence for a few moments before the question that has been nagging at me this entire night decided to voice itself.

"Sasuke, why do you think your mama and papa brought us here?" I saw him shrug and I returned to burying my face in the pillow. Slowly I felt my eyes close due to drowsiness and I leaned against Sasuke's shoulder. I felt him hug me closer and I sighed, shutting my eyes to let sleep claim me.

After what seemed like an eternity, I felt myself being shaken and peeked an eye open. I sat up and yawned, looking to my side to see Sasuke sprawled over the bed and yawning as well. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as Itachi placed a suitcase before me and pointed to it.

"Wake up, sleepy. Tell me what things are yours so I can help you pack." At this, all traces of sleep disappeared from my body and I looked at him curiously. Pack?

He seemed to understand my curious gaze but said nothing further. He walked to what he assumed was my dresser (which it was) and started to gather the clothes inside and fold them neatly into the luggage. The door to the room creaked open and Fugaku, Mikoto, and granny all walked in with smiles on their faces. Immediately, the elderly lady came and gathered me in her arms.

"Oh, Naruto, I'm so happy for you." She squeezed the air out of me and I pushed against her in protest, but questions were still up in the was I packing? Why was she happy for me? As soon as she let me go, I looked to the Uchiha couple who smiled at me. I returned a nervous smile and Mikoto approached me, grasping my shoulders in her hand.

"Naruto, from today on you're going to live with us."

Wait, repeat that, please?

My eyes must have gone wide from shock as I saw her laugh at me. Mikoto gave me a big hug before making eye contact with me again. "We've adopted you; starting today, you're officially a member of our household. So hurry and pack!"

I felt numb and I just looked from her smiling face to Fugaku, who held a similar look of kindness. He didn't say anything but just nodded at me. I turned to Itachi, who was concentrating on folding my clothes before I turned to Sasuke. He seemed to be just returning from the realms of sleep and he was startled at the amount of room at the people. He noticed his brother packing away some of my clothes and turned to his parents, gaze questioning.

"Mama, what's going on?" I sent him a smile as I passed him to help Ita-nii pack up my things. I was still in disbelief; I couldn't believe that I finally had a family. I heard Mikoto-san explain to Sasuke the situation and suddenly found him hugging me tightly.

"Naruto, I'm so happy for you!" he cried, repeating the same words the caretaker had uttered. "You finally have a family now; we're your family now!" I'm not sure if it was because these words were repeated so often in the few minutes that passed by or if it was because it was Sasuke that said them, but it finally hit me.

I had a family now.

Immediately, I felt the tears gather in my eyes and I wiped them away in vain. Before I knew it, I started to weep loudly, my voice letting out a pained cry. I felt myself become encased in warm arms and I heard the door close, but it didn't matter at that point.

This was my family now.

~0~

I was finally settled into my new room, which was right next to Sasuke's. It was decorated in a warm, earthly orange color that reminded me of the dark clay mud near river banks. All my pictures that I drew of my new family were already adorning the walls. My bed sheets were a soft blue and my bookshelf was filled with some of my favorite books; this was the best present I could ever ask for. I couldn't thank Mikoto and Fugaku-san enough. My room was the ideal picture of perfect. Honestly, what more could I need?

I heard a knock sound and after a soft, "Come in" Itachi entered with a bundle in his hands. I was surprised to see him, as I thought he already went to sleep. He held out his hands and I instinctively reached up to take the package from him. I smiled at him, feeling happier when he returned the gesture.

"Happy Birthday, Naruto," he whispered. He gave me a soft kiss on the forehead and I blushed before my eyes traveled to the package I was holding in my hands. It was neatly wrapped and my hands stopped, hesitating, before taking a firm grasp of the ribbon. I neatly separated the wrapping paper and smiled when I saw what lie inside. To be honest, my cheeks were beginning to hurt because of all the smiling I've been doing today.

It was a soft-looking, green little frog. It had a zipper for a mouth and I picked it up, a little startled as something fell from its side. I fiddled with what looked like a keychain hanging from the frog's zipper mouth and looked at it intently. There was an emblem of a wise-looking fox on it with a whirlpool on the back; it was beautiful. I opened the pouch to find a small note inside. Taking a quick glance at Itachi, who seemed to be staring intently, I unraveled the wad of paper and began to read.

To Naruto, who has become a precious member of our family.

May all your memories from this point out be priceless treasures. I hope all your dreams will come true on this special day. Use this money pouch to save for whatever you wish; I hope that it will go towards something you will treasure forever.

I felt slightly light-headed as I became overwhelmed with emotions. At this rate, this family would give me a heart attack of happiness. I quickly gave Itachi a heart-full hug, squeezing tightly.

"Thank you so much, Ita-nii. I'll take good care of it, I promise." I felt him return the hug and give me another peck on the forehead before he stood up and walked to the open door. He turned and gave me a smile before bidding me goodnight.

I sat in the same position for a while, just looking at the pouch and the keychain before looking at my surroundings. Pinching myself to make sure it wasn't a dream, I placed the frog on top of my dresser before reaching for a pillow. I hugged it to my chest before walking out of my room into Sasuke's and saw him lying down. Slowly and quietly, I crawled into bed besides him and I felt him shift in his sleep.

"Naruto?" he questioned, rubbing his eyes before looking at me. I smiled at him sheepishly and plopped down next to him, snuggling closer.

"I just didn't want to sleep alone tonight. Is it okay if I sleep next to you, Sasuke?" He smiled at me and drew me closer, before settling in his covers to get comfortable.

"Of course it's okay; we're family now." And with a heart that was about to burst of happiness, I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

~0~

Dark eyes observed the sleeping boys in the room quite sadly. If he could change what he was about to do, he would. But life wasn't fair at all; this was necessary to prevent another war.

"Captain, we need to proceed with the mission." He narrowed his eyes at the sound of the voice and quickly turned to glare at his subordinate.

"Do not tell me what we need and don't need to do," he whispered angrily. He looked back at the boys before taking a glance at his watch. After a few seconds, the hour hand 'clicked' to twelve and it was midnight. He motioned at the team to head in.

"Proceed and be as quiet as possible," he said, staying back. When he was given this mission, he was shocked. Grinning bitterly, he remembered the mocking faces of the council members. They were such savages, thinking of no one but themselves. They didn't care about the people that were hurt in the process to cover their tracks. As long as they were clear, they would do anything to achieve it. He agreed to this mission on one condition only.

His team would carry it out, while he remained on look out.

The council agreed after some dispute, but the damage was already done on the captain. What was the term?

He was guilty by association.

He clenched his teeth as he watched his team infiltrate the neighboring building where Uchiha, Fugaku was located and caught up to them as they made their way inside. He tried but couldn't tear his eyes away at the struggle that ensued inside. Clearly, the clan leader lived up to his name as he managed to take out half of his team before he was caught by a paralyzing senbon. The man pulled out the poison-covered needle and gasped for air before falling to the floor. He watched the rest of the team approach the man and left his post to enter the room. He gazed at Fugaku with sad eyes and his heart clenched painfully every time he heard the struggling gasp for air.

It was when he met his father's eyes that he nearly felt his heart stop.

The guilt of the mission began to eat away at that moment and the images of a smiling Naruto and Sasuke filled his head. He heard his mother's laughter and felt her warm embrace. He remembered his father's praises and harsh reprimanding before being encased in a hug. And then, after all those thoughts, only one image haunted him.

His crying family.

In his mind, he saw his family crying in pain, his mother, his brother, and Naruto. He shut his eyes as the image of a desolate Naruto kept invading his mind, and closing his eyes didn't help in keeping that image away. It was awful timing for this mission to take place.

"I…Itachi." The said man was drawn from his thoughts and he looked at his father with tear-filled eyes. They would not spill, he would not allow them to spill, but inside he was screaming at the unfairness in this world.

"I'm sorry," Itachi whispered. He looked away as a team member came up to the dying man and forced a katana through Fugaku's flesh, piercing his heart. A lone tear made its way down his face and Itachi let out a silent sob as his father took his last breath.

I'm sorry.

~0~

Out of all the things that could happen to me, I couldn't believe it was this.

It was raining and I was soaked, but I didn't give much thought to it. I didn't even care that it had been the happiest day of my life yesterday, because…

It was because today was the worst day of my life.

My heart felt like it had been torn in two and I couldn't help the tears that were falling. I look to the picture of the stern-looking man with kind eyes before looking over to Sasuke, whose fists were clenched. My heart hurt even more as I watched the tears fall from his eyes and I felt helpless, because I didn't know what to do to stop them from falling. I looked back to the picture and didn't bother to wipe my own.

As soon as I gain a father, I lose him. Is this God punishing me for the sins I have committed in my past life? Was I someone who was not meant to experience happiness?

My dreams of experiencing happiness with the family I always yearned for was short lived.

It was discovered today that Fugaku was killed in his office in the neighboring building. Mikoto was in shock and Sasuke hadn't spoken the entire day. The funeral was arranged immediately and it had begun to rain halfway through the observance. My voice betrayed me as I let out a cry and I felt someone gather me in their arms. At that moment, I didn't care who it was and pulled them closer, wishing for any human contact.

This couldn't be true. If I could have it, I would take back my adoption just to have Fugaku live.

After what felt like an eternity the arms around me disappeared. The crowd emptied and the rain slowed into a soft drizzle. Mikoto had returned inside after all the guests had left, probably to rest from the shock that she had received. Itachi left with his mother and also looked worse for wear.

But Sasuke looked sickly. I turned to my friend who was still in the same position. He hadn't spoken at all or even uttered a single sound since we were first delivered the news. I pulled him inside to get him out of the rain and he put up no resistance; it was as if he was an empty shell.

I gritted my teeth and entered the house before dragging him into his room. I grabbed a towel from the linen closet and dried his hair before handing him some dry clothes.

"Sasuke," I winced as my voice broke. I couldn't be sad right now, I had to stay strong for Sasuke. "Sasuke," I repeated. "Please, dry yourself and change into these and go to sleep. Okay?" I turned to leave to my own room and shut the door behind me gently. I slowly walked to my room and approached my bed, drying myself and changing into another set of clothes before gathering a pillow to my chest.

Slowly the tears began to fall and I screamed wildly into the pillow I was holding.

Why, why, why, why, why?

Why did this have to happen? Why was it Fugaku-san? Why was it my precious family?

I cried and continued to cry until I felt that I had no more tears to produce. I lay down on my bed, rubbing my itchy (and probably swollen) eyes. I looked out the window at the moon before I sat up and faced the wall that was dividing my room from Sasuke's. My heart clenched as I thought about my friend, who had still yet to utter a word. He had cried silently and hadn't talked no matter what I did.

Slowly, I stood up, grabbed my damp pillow, and made my way back to Sasuke's room. I let out a sigh of relief as I saw that he had changed. His back was to the door and I approached him quietly, wincing at the creaks the floor was making.

"Sasuke?"

I was met with silence and I crawled into bed with him, just like the previous night. "Sasuke, I'm lonely. And cold, and my heart hurts…" And I wish Fugaku-san was still alive.

Suddenly Sasuke turned around in the bed and pulled me closer, burying his head in the crook of my neck. I felt it become moist with his tears and suddenly he let out such a pained cry that I felt my own eyes water. He continued to cry and I let him, rubbing soothing circles in his back as I let more of my tears fall.

We remained in that embraced position for the remainder of the night, crying out all the pain our souls were feeling at that moment.

-Chapter o4 ~ Family ~ End-

Chibi Chidori's Nonsense:
Um…Please, don't hate me. I cried writing this chapter.
P.S.
To avoid discrepancies; I know Naruto's frog pouch was a clip and lock one, but for story purposes, I changed it to a zipper-mouth instead.

Thank you for reading! Reviews are always appreciated and welcomed; please let me know what you think of the story!