Whatever It Takes

Chapter Thirty-Four

Things had changed more than either one of them remembered.

Sasuke was mature now, although every now and then his childish side would make an appearance. It would mostly be around Itachi that he would allow himself to be that way. Other times it was around Ghost, the pet dog that he still had around. Now that Ghost was older though, he was usually outside with another village dog, and his puppies of his own. A large dog house had been built for them, and Sasuke was rarely allowed to go visit him, but whenever he could, he would still sneak out.

Itachi was still as silent as ever, but his thoughts were even deadlier than before. If he had not learned self constrain, he swore he would have massacred everyone in the palace, and left himself and Sasuke alive.

Amazingly though, through all these changes, both of them were getting to know each other once more and falling in love all over again. So, no, that was not an issue. Sasuke and Itachi worked out perfectly together. In fact, the one that was the current problem was Orochimaru. The man was desperate for marriage, and he was willing to do and say anything to get his way before the rest. It irritated Sasuke that Itachi wouldn't say anything against the snake like man. He would just look away.

When Sasuke cornered Itachi and asked him what his problem was- if he wanted him to get married to Orochimaru- Itachi had simply said that he wanted to see him play again. He wanted Sasuke to come up with a way to get rid of Orochimaru before the first week of courting was up. That request was followed by a heavy make out session, before both of them had to go their separate ways. It was all done in a timed way so that they wouldn't get caught.

Sasuke had accepted Itachi's challenge, of course.

As much as Sasuke hated it, part of it would be actually having to talk to Orochimaru. Too bad he had nothing interesting to say. "So you just decided to be a knight and fight?" Sasuke asked. "That's it?"

Orochimaru softly smile, nodding his head, "That it" he then paused and his eyes widened a little, "Wait, what do you mean is that it? I worked hard to get where I am now,"

"Baron of a land, but yet nothing more interesting to show, at such an old age at that. Forty?" Sasuke smirked.

Orochimaru had the audacity to blush. "Age is not everything,"

"To be honest, Orochimaru, I think that when it comes to me being a young healthy nineteen year-old and you being forty, age has to count for something. If I wanted to do something, would you be able to keep up?"

"Why prince, what did you have in mind?"

"A sword fight," Sasuke said. Orochimaru's face fell, nearly comically.

"But you're a prince!" Orochimaru snapped anger clear and evident in his eyes. "You are not to get your hands dirty and besides, me fighting you, it could get out of hand and I could end up hurting you. I don't think that it's something that-" he fell silent when the blade of Sasuke's sword was placed as his neck. Orochimaru didn't know whether he wanted to hit Sasuke until he learned that he was a prince and not a ratty old thing, or respect him for having such balls.

"Just shut up," Sasuke glared at him, and headed to the training field. Orochimaru wanted to bash him. He badly wanted to teach Sasuke his place. To show him that he needed to be cherished, but instead, all he got to do was follow the young raven haired prince and fight him.

To say that he was amazed by the young prince's skills was the least of it. He was blown away by Sasuke's stamina and power. At the end of the day, Orochimaru was sore, and limping nearly everywhere. Sasuke's persistence for sword fights every day was taking a toll on Orochimaru; Not only because of his old age, but because of past painful hurts that reminded him of where he had broken bones and he found himself nearly being rendered useless.

Simply trying to keep with Sasuke's walking and fast talking was enough for him to make him keel over and want to die.

He couldn't do it anymore.

So he told Tsunade and Kushina that he was finished. That there was no way that he and Sasuke would work out. Everyone else was feeling the same, as every way Sasuke had made himself be difficult, but they were not ready to give up. Before Orochimaru left, he gave Kabuto a look that told him to stay and try. After all, Kabuto was younger, he was only in his thirties, and he would be perfect. His page would be the one that would make it through.

If Kabuto won Sasuke's heart, things could get really interesting in their marriage. Especially since then Orochimaru would have both of them. Kabuto pursed his lips in a displeased way as he watched Orochimaru walk away. The man was then escorted out of the palace. No suitor that was no longer going to participate was allowed to stay. They all had to go when they lost the game. As for Kabuto, now it was up to him to get Sasuke and win.

"Hah! I won. That was easy," Sasuke smirked as he and Itachi got to sneak off again. Itachi looked at him with a serious look on his face. Sasuke dropped his smirk and pouted, seeing as Itachi was not saying anything. "Did you hear me!" He called, loudly. This made Itachi turn away from him and Sasuke closed his mouth, scared that someone might have heard him. "Are you mad at me or something?" he asked.

But Itachi didn't say anything.

Instead he pulled Sasuke to him, and kissed him. Sasuke thought about complaining and pulling away but when Itachi's tongue seared across his lips, only a moan escaped and his pliant mouth opened for him. When their tongues touched it was like a burst of energy. Sasuke's arms wrapped around Itachi's neck and pulled him closer, tightening them so Itachi would never stop kissing him. But when the kiss was over, Itachi moved his mouth away from Sasuke's, gently caressing his waist as his lips moved to Sasuke's ear. "You did well, for making Orochimaru go away, but there is still more of them. And lately I'm really pissed off at that Hyuuga,"

Sasuke moved his lips to kiss at Itachi's neck. He didn't care about anyone other than Itachi. "I'll get rid of all of them," Sasuke said. "But they have to decide to leave. My dumb uncle said that he knew that if I was the one allowed to chose, I would make them all go away and just keep you. This is true, honestly," Sasuke smiled.

Itachi chuckled. "Life would really be easier that way, wouldn't it?"

Sasuke nodded his head. "It would,"

For a moment, the both of them shared in comfortable silence. But there was still something else that was bothering Itachi. Something that he felt him and Sasuke still needed to talk about. "Sasuke," he started, catching the boy's attention back to him.

"Sasuke!" someone else called. Both of them stiffened, and Sasuke pushed Itachi away from him. When they saw that it was just Suigetsu, the both of them relaxed. They wouldn't think that anyone in the royal family would be awake this late at night, as their meetings usually took place during this time. After the announcement of all his suitors, each had been given their own room. Everyone always seemed to go to sleep early as well.

"Suigetsu, what's wrong?" Sasuke asked. Suigetsu looked from Itachi to Sasuke. His eyes were filled with tears. He had just been outside, with all the servants. The guards had been there as well, joining them for the late night bonfire.

"That ugly Kidomaru just announced his engagement to Kisame in front of everyone." Suigetsu looked down. The tears were flowing again. He was trying so hard not to cry, but he was unable to believe or comprehend how it was that his heart was breaking even more than it already had. "Heh, it completely ruined my appetite. Can you believe them- those bastards?" Suigetsu tried to laugh it off, tried to pretend he wasn't crying, but that didn't make the pain hurt any less. Sasuke and Itachi shared a look. This was starting to get ridiculous really. Not one of them understood what Kisame was thinking, but whatever it was, not even Suigetsu wanted to attempt to get through to him.

"Why don't you just tell him how much it bothers you," Itachi offered.

Suigetsu scoffed, and shook his head. He was not going to talk to Kisame for shit. Anger took a momentary lapse in his sorrow. "I made my feeling clear to that bastard, if this is what he wants, then so be it. It's not like he said he liked me anyways, I'll get over it," with that he turned to leave.

"He's not going to get over it," Sasuke said, and turned to Itachi.

Itachi smiled at Sasuke. "Maybe not," he said, "How are you feeling?" he suddenly asked, concerned about Sasuke. He knew when it came to Suigetsu, Sasuke troubled himself a lot. It was his best friend after all. But there was also the issue that they were not together yet, and they still had a lot to overcome to prove their love to everyone.

To tell the truth, both of them didn't really feel like proving anything.

They both knew how they felt.

Enough was enough when it came to others, and letting them make their decisions. Sasuke moved to hug Itachi close to himself. He really just wanted to be able to share any time he wanted with Itachi, without having to hide. "Will things ever get better?" he softly asked.

Itachi nodded his head."They will," Itachi pulled back slightly and pressed his forehead to Sasuke's. "I'll make sure that everything gets better," he said. For some reason Sasuke couldn't help but to believe Itachi's every word.

If he said things were going to get better than they were.

That is why the next day, midmorning, he was humming to himself as he looked through his clothes. He was feeling really mellow for some reason. Maybe it was the warm bright sun, or the fact that today he didn't have to get near any other man. Tsunade was all giving them a class in proper manners and cleanliness after she saw how messy their rooms were. Itachi on the other hand, seeing as his room was clean was given the duty to prepare a fun lunch for the royal family, including Tsunade. So maybe the fact that he was going to get to eat some of Itachi's cooking was another thing that had him feeling good.

When he was done picking out his clothes, he closed the closet door and turned around to see Suigetsu on the floor curled into himself. The white haired man had been sulking there since yesterday. For now Sasuke let him be, and he walked into the bathroom. He showered and changed clothes in record time before he walked outside and placed on his jewelry.

That was when Suigetsu sat up, showing his tear stained face, the heavy bags under his eyes, and the miserable look on his face. "You know Itachi is right, you have to tell Kisame how you feel if you want to move on,"

Suigetsu huffed, "I did tell him how I feel," he croaked, and frowned at how bad and broken his voice sounded. It wasn't supposed to sound that way. It didn't sound like him anymore and Seuigetsu couldn't help but to hate the weakness found there.

He should really just get over Kisame, after all, it was clear that the man didn't feel anything for him. Nothing for him.

"Tell him again, just to be sure that he really got it," Sasuke encouraged. "Reiterate your feelings to him so that he really understands"

Suigetsu pursed his lips. As much as he wanted to agree with Sasuke, he couldn't. It was as if he had lost his voice, and there was a reason for that. "Earlier today I went to the kitchen." He said, "Itachi was there, and he was talking with Kisame since Kisame was blabbering about his engagement," Suigetsu sighed, "and Itachi asked him if he was sure if he wanted to marry Kidomaru, Kisame said yes. He asked him if he was the one that he loved, and again, Kisame answered yes. And I thought to myself, I love him so much but he loves someone else…shouldn't I be happy that the person that he loves said yes to him and is now gonna marry him, and cherish him for the rest of his life,"

"Even though it was you who was dreaming of Kisame one day realizing how much he loves you, and that you could be the one to take care of him," Sasuke asked as he walked over to Suigetsu and crouched in front of him.

"Yah," he nodded his head. "God, I am so pathetically stupid." He threw himself back and Sasuke smiled.

"Well, just relax okay," Sasuke said, "Since you are not going to tell him how you feel ever again, then at least, let's get you to stop wallowing and get you a date,"

Suigetsu didn't want to, but the encouraging look on Sasuke's face made him nod his head. He got up, and Sasuke shoved some clothes his way. He went to go shower, and then both of them headed down stairs to wait for lunch. It seemed like they were not the only ones looking forward to Itachi's lunch as they came down stairs and found Naruto, Kyuubi, and Nakoru there. Naruto was cooing at his child like always. "Hey look baby, it's your uncle," he gestured to Sasuke and the small baby kicked his feet, giggling, and reaching his hands out to Sasuke.

Sasuke rarely carried the little thing, but it seemed to liked being carried by Sasuke. But that was mostly so he could pull his uncle's hair. So Sasuke always scowled at him, and was reluctant to take the babe into his arms, but Naruto and Kyuubi always encouraged him to. So when Sasuke took Nakoru in his arms, he restrained from cursing when he pulled his hair. "I swear your child doesn't like me," Sasuke grumbled, before he smiled.

Nakoru was pretty cute.

"What are you talking about, he loves you so much," Naruto grinned. Sasuke rolled his eyes and tried to pry Nakoru's little fingers out of his hair, after he spent so much time combing it so it would look nice for Itachi. Oh well.

"I think he just likes my hair," Sasuke said.

"You do have nice hair," Naruto commented.

"Now you know where Nakoru gets it from," Kyuubi teased making Naruto blush and glare at him. Sasuke shook his head with a sigh, and bounced the child a little and looked him in the eyes. Those large blue eyes that would look at Sasuke with such innocence, it was so weird. Even Suigetsu cracked a smile as he cooed at Nakoru.

"Look at him," Suigetsu said, smiling, "He's so sweet,"

"Yah, he's going to grow up to be a little heartbreaker," Naruto grinned, feeling proud of his child. The baby started to babble off in his baby talk and Sasuke handed him over back to Naruto. The baby went with his dad and gamily smiled.

"Is it almost going to be time for lunch?" Suigetsu asked, trying his best to remain happy and keep his thoughts from turning dark.

"We could already go in," Kyuubi said, and then gestured for all of them to follow him. They went into the dining area, where it had been set up so they could see Itachi cook the meals. Itachi was at the center, still preparing the food so it would be ready for cooking when the royal family all came to sit down for lunch. On one of his sides was Yuri who for just right now was helping to wash the dishes and set them out. Kisame was also there, and he was cleaning the fat from the meats that Itachi had already sliced through.

Naruto and Kyuubi quietly went to sit down, but Suigetsu placed a hand on Sasuke's shoulder to keep him from going. There was a hesitant look in his eyes, but Sasuke patted his back and urged him to go.

"Come on, be tough," Sasuke said. "Act like nothing is wrong,"

"But…"

"Trust me,"

"I'd bet you wouldn't be able to act like nothing was wrong if it was Itachi," Suigetsu harshly whispered and Sasuke punched him.

"Pull your frilly little panties together and stop being a coward. You know I would go ballistic and confront Itachi if he ever did that, but this is your choice, so suck it up," Sasuke whispered just as harshly and headed towards the table. Suigetsu felt stung, but did as Sasuke said and went to go sit beside him.

Soon enough they were joined by the king and queen. After them followed Tsunade, the last person that was going to be joining them. Suigetsu took a deep breath and Sasuke had to keep himself from ogling Itachi.

"Well, we are ready to eat." King Minato said, "What have you prepared for us, Itachi?" he asked.

Itachi bowed slightly to the king, "Why don't we take a look," he said. Itachi then introduced several meats, and cooked rice to everyone. Kisame walked around, allowing each one of them to take some of the food as it was cooked. He was a bit surprised to see Suigetsu there, but didn't say anything nor did he look at him much. He smiled and joked, but Kisame could still remember what Itachi had asked him earlier that day.

Was he in love with Kidomaru or was he in love with Suigetsu?

He wasn't handsome, nor was he averagely the best looking in anything. He was always judged in his looks. No one ever asked him out when he was younger. For someone to tell him that they loved him the way that Suigetsu had- it seemed so unreal. And then his mind would go back to how Suigetsu's body had arched against his, and how it had responded to every one of his touches, so actively and greedy…and then he had to shake his head.

That had been a long time ago, and he was sure for reasons that all had to do with Sasuke. Sasuke had been a little brat back then, always doing things to get his way. That is why he was not convinced.

Now Sasuke was more mature. In fact, even Itachi seemed even more mature- his mind was as sharp as a laser. It was almost scary how much both of them had changed. The lunch was over almost as soon as it had started- at least that is how it felt to Kisame whom blinked at the now nearly empty table. No one else was there except for Sasuke and Suigetsu. Suigetsu didn't seem enthusiastic about the delicious looking desert, and seemed to push it around for a while.

Sasuke got to his feet when Itachi walked over to him, and the boy stole a kiss. For a second there Kisame saw a spark of the old Sasuke there. Kisame sighed when he saw them kiss, and turned away from them.

"I'm going to make a plan to make Suigetsu get over Kisame," Sasuke whispered and Itachi rose and eyebrow at him. He was not sure how Sasuke came up with so many ideas, but he simply nodded his head and let him go.

Sasuke then grabbed Suigetsu's arm and dragged him out of the kitchen. Itachi watched them leave and then turned to Kisame. "So, when are you and Kidomaru planning to get married?" he asked. Kisame didn't pause in his cleaning as he shrugged his shoulders.

"We haven't decided," he honestly said.

"You should probably decide soon," Itachi said, "Do you have any plans laid out at all?" he asked as he started to help to clean. Kisame nodded his head, allowing a toothy grin to take over his face.

"Well, Kidomaru is a guard right now, but we decided that he was going to talk to the king about promoting me at the same level as guard, He said that I have enough experience in taking care of Sasuke, so I'm hoping it will work out,"

Itachi frowned, "Does the king not see it as wrong that somehow Sasuke and I were sort of...doing things behind practically your back?"

"The king doesn't know much about what happened. He still thinks that you and Sasuke got carried away while training and that as his teacher you might have influenced him min some way and made him think that he was in love," Kisame shrugged while Itachi stared at him, wondering how the King had such odd notions in mind.

"I'm pretty sure he could have talked to Sasuke and cleared up that I had no influence in him,"

"Other than the fact that he was in love?" Kisame grinned, "Sasuke bawled his eyes when you were gone, but still that was not enough to convince him that his feelings were real."

Itachi went back to cleaning as he said, "I guess bawling one's eyes out means nothing around here," with that he picked up the plates and took them to the kitchen. Kisame paused what he was doing and stared after Itachi, confused. When Itachi returned he tried to ask him what he meant, but Itachi evaded answering him. It got frustrating to the point that Kisame decided to drop it. He was happy after all.

So he finished helping Itachi and went to look for Kidomaru- he missed him already.

But things really got twisted, two days later.

Sasuke was in the living room with all of his suitors, and he was talking to them. Itachi was part of the group as well. Tsunade was looking over them with a sharp eye. The tea in the middle had already gone cold, but no one touched it. It was almost scary to even make a move. Suigetsu on the other hand was seated in a chair far off, watching the tension that was in the room. Kisame found it nearly amusing as he watched everyone. He couldn't help peaking in to see what was happening, and Kidomaru huffed after a while that it was boring and left. "God, this is fun." Kisame muttered.

Soon enough, Sasuke started to feel bored and every now and then he would start falling asleep. After the third time that he nodded off, he got to his feet and walked over to Tsunade. "This isn't fun." He hissed.

"Well, what do you want me to do? I am not going to leave you alone with any of them," Tsunade hissed.

Sasuke scowled, "I would only want to be left alone with Itachi," he whispered.

Tsunade sighed. "And then there is the issue that you are so attached to someone that you haven't seen in years now," he muttered.

"I'm going to my room,"

"You can't," Tsunade hissed, "You have your duties to do and one of them is to be a good host. Order more tea, and spark a conversation,"

Sasuke glared at the woman and trudged back to the living room. He told the maid that was station there to replace the tea and get them a new hot pot. He then sat back and sighed, "Do you all agree or not, that Tsunade is scary?" he asked.

Many of them enthusiastically nodded their heads, agreeing with Sasuke but freezing when they caught the blazing glare from Tsunade.

"By conversation I didn't mean for you to try and get others to agree with you on things you think about me!" she hissed at him, and pulled on Sasuke's ear. Sasuke cursed. The others all laughed nervously while Itachi's eyes flashed red, and he had the urge to rip Tsunade's fingers off of her hand one by one.

Before anyone knew it, Itachi was up and he was pulling Tsunade's hand away from Sasuke's ear, and pushing her back. Tsunade was surprised, and stared at Itachi in awe. Kabuto, Neji, and Sai all swallowed hard, but smirked a bit in thinking that Itachi was now going to be in big trouble, and more than likely out of the competition now. "You" Tsunade started but was cut off by Itachi.

"Shut it, nothing gives you the right to place your hands on Sasuke like that," he snapped at her and Tsunade felt herself be reprimanded, almost like she was a small child. "I would never allow you to get away with hurting him,"

Sasuke got to his feet, and grabbed Itachi's hand. "It's okay Itachi, I'm fine," he gave Tsunade a look and the woman glanced at the other men who seemed to be waiting for Itachi to get in trouble. But no matter what way she saw it, she just couldn't be mad at Itachi for sticking up for Sasuke. After all, training Sasuke and being around him had made her sort of fond of him and almost considered him like a son-almost-

"Sit down both of you," she said instead, keeping calm. She was impressed, to say the least. Out of everyone here, the only one that stood up to protect Sasuke was Itachi. It was sweet, but also shocking. Itachi didn't seem like that kind that would protect anyone. He was always so silent and seemingly cold- so she really was shocked, pleasantly so. Everyone else was so scared of her, but Itachi had stood up to her and even placed aside any fear that he might have had—although she really doubted that Itachi even held any fears- in getting disqualified for opposing her.

To say the least, Tsunade was starting to see what it was from Itachi that Sasuke loved so much. Now she couldn't keep her eyes away from Itachi. For the rest of the afternoon, she watched Itachi closely. And she started to catch all the little things.

From Itachi's stares to Sasuke to his slight fleeting smiles. He always made sure Sasuke was looking at him before he let any emotion really cross his face, and Sasuke discretely returned the gestures as well.

"Well hell, I don't think Minato would succeed in proving anything here then," Kushina giggled when Tsunade told her what happened earlier that day.

"I know, can you imagine that?" Tsunade smiled widely. "It will really be interesting to see what else goes on between them. Something tells me that Sasuke played with Orochimaru's mind to get him to drop out,"

"Oh God, you have no idea how glad I was when he dropped out. He's just so old." Kushina made a face, "what was Minato thinking on that one?"

"I honestly have no idea,"

"Who do you think will be the next one to go?" Kushina asked. She and Tsunade had started to bet.

"I say Kabuto," Tsunade said.

"I say Neji, this is his second chance. Might as well get him out early and make him realize he lost a long time ago," Kushina giggled again.

"We'll just have to wait and see."

As the two women were talking, Sasuke was plotting. And what he was plotting was something he had in mind and Suigetsu had agreed to some time ago. So with one last push and insistence from Sasuke, Suigetsu finally decided to place the plan in motion. The first step was to catch his prey's eye. I'm doing this to get over Kisame, just to get over him and find new love. I'll just do this, Suigetsu thought to himself as he rushed down the stairs, and hurried.

As he was going, he bumped hard onto an uncommon person. That person happened to be Sai. Suigetsu gasped. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I should have watched where I was going, but I was in a hurry," he said, helping Sai up to his feet. Sai offered a smile.

"It's alright," Sai said.

Suigetsu looked down and picked up the parchment that had fell on the floor. In it, there was a gorgeous painting of the Konohan sunset. Suigetsu starred at it with admiring eyes. "Wow, this is so beautiful," he gushed. Sai blushed, and looked at his painting. He didn't think it was that big of a deal. And no one had ever commented on his painting- a little hobby of his that was usually kept secret. "So gorgeous,"

"Thanks" Sai nearly stuttered.

"I didn't know you painted."

"That's because I never said anything about it before," Sai was still blushing, feeling proud. It felt good to have his work praised and Suigetsu looked like he really loved it. Handing back the parchment, Suigetsu made to excuse himself.

"I ah…have to go now do…something" he looked down. The sadness that flashed in his eyes made Sai stop him.

"Wait, wouldn't you want to come and see some more of my paintings?" Sai grasped Suigetsu's hand, and looked at him pleadingly. "I have so many of them that I'm sure you will enjoy," and that coaxing smile on his face was all that more alluring.

"But Prince Sasuke…" Suigetsu started, his eyes darting to the side, where he wanted to go. Sai registered the name, before shaking his head and tightening his hold on Suigetsu's hand. Sai couldn't care about Sasuke right now, much more than he did about Suigetsu's comments and praise to his art.

"He can wait. I insist, please." Sai gave him a puppy dog look. Suigetsu stared at him for a few seconds wondering what to say to get out of this, but in the end he simply nodded his head, and went off with Sai.

A part of him fearing what was going to happen next.