OK! Here it is again! I own nothing!

He was always achy and tired. His throat was scratchy and itchy, and his legs felt so weak and useless. He curled up into a ball on the cot, clutching the thin sheet to his body as he dreamed another of his mother holding him tight. He didn't notice the three men around him. One stood in front, carefully checking his pulse and temperature. The other two stood off to the side, both angry and loud, though this was not the fault of the boy. You couldn't blame the boy, who obviously couldn't help that he had come to them broken.

"That freak knew he was sick!" one said to the other. He took another drag on his cigar before blowing out a thick ring of smoke. He was nervous and shaking.

"What's wrong with him now?" the other asked. "He can't be this bad."

"His fever hasn't broken and it's been three days!"

"I can't do anything for him," the third man said. "I don't know what that man did to mask it, but this isn't a new thing. He's been sick for a while."

The boy groaned, his eyes opening just a bit.

"D-Dad-d-dy...?"

"Has anyone found the guy who sold him to us?"

"He's out of town! I've looked everywhere and he's not here! He must have ran out right after we got him!"

"Dada…wanna Momma," his eyes were hazy and glazed. He was covered in a sheen of sweat, with his head turned towards the blurred figures. "Mommy?"

Daddy didn't get up no matter what the grey haired man did. Sasuke sat beside the dresser, his legs sprawled out in front of him. He cried, tears streaming down his sunken cheeks, a mean, bright hand-print covering his cheek. The man had hit him when Daddy didn't get up. Daddy was sleeping, and Sasuke was hungry, sleepy. Daddy always gave him his bottle, but he hadn't yet. The grey haired man was kissing him as he pushed his chest up and down. Sasuke cried louder as the man yelled more and more. Sasuke wanted his bottle, he wanted Daddy to get up, he wanted the man to stop yelling. Sasuke weakly hit the ground, crying for his Mommy to come to and make it all better.

"Shut up! Shut up you little bitch!"

He didn't even notice the man until he had already kicked him hard in the chest, knocking him down onto his back before kicking him again.

"You did this! You did this!"

Momma! Momma! Momma!

"Momma! Momma!"

"What the hell is wrong with him now?"

"He's worthless! Do you know how much the meds will be?"

The boy was crying, clutching the thin sheet even tighter, his body spasming against the harsh memory.

XXX

The boy was just barely coherent as the men lead him to a rest stop some way outside of the town. The boy was shivering, whimpering, his arms wrapped tightly around his thin frame.

"Now just a little bit farther," the nice man behind him said, his grip on the boy's shoulders tight, just enough to lead him to the small shack. It was a small convenience store that sat in a small clearing near an intersection of road. The area was well travelled and the roads all seemingly the same, ensuring that the boy, who could barely stand for more than a few moments for falling down. "When we get there you we'll buy you a nice treat."

"Yeah, and then you can take a nap."

It was late into the night when no one would notice a sick orphan who had been left in the middle of nowhere.

"I wanna go home," the boy wanted his cot and sheet. He wanted his Daddy and his Mommy. His pajamas were thin, the pants just covering his knees and his shirt far too big. It fell from his shoulder, just exposing his bony chest.

"It'll be okay, kid. You'll be home in just a minute, okay?"

The nice men were taking him home. They were taking him to a little store where they would meet his Mommy, and she would take him home.

"Here we are," the man in front of him said as they arrived in the clearing that held the intersection and the store. The clearing was dark save for a small lantern that was kept lit beside the store.

The boy looked up hopefully, waiting for his Mommy to come and take him home.

"Where's Mommy?"

"She's, um, busy, kid. Now, how about we make you nice and comfortable, okay? He don't look so good, does he?"

"Yeah, you look pretty pale," the other man shined his flashlight onto the boy. "I think right over there would be good, don't you?"

He was sleepy, and didn't fight the men as they guided him gently over to the side of the store, helping him onto the cool ground.

"It's cold…Can I have my blanky?"

"Your Mommy will be here soon, okay?"

"Yeah, get some sleep, kid. Just sleep."

The boy didn't want to sleep, he wanted to wait for Mommy. One of the men patted his head, telling him what a good boy he was...Mommy would be there soon…it would all be fine soon…

The grey-haired man stood to his side as the men touched him. They held up his arms and opened his mouth, checked his eyes and patted his legs. He didn't feel so bad today, and the man hadn't hit him. But he was quiet and didn't want to look at anyone.

"And how old is he?"

"He'll be twelve in July."

"Hm, he seems a banged up. He's a little skinny too. We've got people who are into that kind of stuff, but I'm not paying for damaged goods."

"He was just being a little mouthy the other day, but we took care of that, didn't we Sasuke?"

He tensed and began to rock, back and forth. If he didn't say anything, no one would be mad at him.

"See? He knows what to do. Just keep him a little drugged and he will do whatever you need. I'm giving you a good price for him."

The other man seemed to think, giving him another look over. And then they said a few words and shook hands. Sasuke didn't see the grey-haired man after that.

XXX

The morning was hot, muggy and bug filled. They got into his ears, swarmed over his eyes and bit his skin. When he coughed, he spewed dead gnats all over his chest. He wanted to move and run away, but what if Mommy came? The nice men had said she would be with him soon, and what if she came to look for him? He didn't want to make Mommy mad or, even worse, sad. He didn't like being sad, and he wouldn't want Mommy being sad. He wrapped his arms around his knees and bent his head down to escape the bugs.

No one had noticed the boy huddled beside the side of the store. The was nothing there beside scraps of wood and forgotten hay, giving no one no reason to think his small cries anything other than the mewlings of the cats that favored the clearing and the scraps of the travelers that frequented the on their rest stops. By 11am the boy was far too exhausted to do more than nap and try and ignore the bugs, which had miraculously gotten better through-out the morning. By 1pm he had awoken, just coherent enough to know that he was not in his bed but not enough to know that he was no longer in his dream.

XXX

Shin and Gin were two men with a problem: they owed money to the mob. The two childhood friends had a small gambling problem that had only gotten worse with age, and now owed the mob sixty-three million yen. They had stopped at the convenience store on their way out of their last town in hopes of finding something suitable to eat with the meager amount of money they had managed to save just before their last get-away.

"Everything's too expensive," said Gin. He was focused on the energy bars after finding the potato chips, his usual favorite, too expensive. "Damn, how did this happen?"

He ran his hand through his thinning hair and tried not to let his friend hear the desperation in his voice, but it was Shin with the gaming problem. He just liked the horses sometimes…

"Shut up," said Shin. He had given up on the food and didn't even want to look at any of the brightly-packaged goodies. "We need to get out of here before any of them see us."

He tried not to look at the cashier, who was busy reading an orange covered book with great interest.

"What if that kid is in on it-?"

"Shut up, Gin!" he hissed.

He was two seconds away from grabbing Gin's arm and making their escape when the bell to the door rang, announcing its opening. The two men quickly looked over to the sound, each fearing the big, tall thugs that would surely come rushing in. They were ready to drop to the floor and crawl from their sight when they saw that the person who staggered in wasn't some giant, black-garbed thug, but a horribly pale boy in soiled pajamas.

"Daddy?"

Their ears perked at the boy's scratching, pleading tone. The boy staggered forward before seeming confused by a magazine rack. He spun it slowly.

"Hey, you okay, kid?"

The cashier, a young man with ruddy face, looked concerned.

"I can't find my Daddy…"

"You okay?"

The boy frowned and shook his head.

"My tummy hurts…"

It took Shin only a second to form his plan.

"Oh, what are you doing here?"

He carefully made his way over to the boy, grabbing him by the shoulders and looking him over. "You're supposed to be taking a nap! I'm sorry," he turned to the cashier, "but he's sick and we wanted him to rest outside while we got something to eat."

"Shin-!"

"Gin, take him outside while I get us something to eat, okay?"

XXX

Gin hadn't questioned Shin when he guided the boy outside. They waited under the shade cast by the forest that surrounded the clearing. The boy leaned against him, his body shaking slightly. His arms were wrapped around his thin frame, and Gin could see that he wouldn't be good for standing for much longer.

"Hey, um, you feeling alright?"

The boy shook his head.

"What's going on…?"

"Shin's figuring everything out, don't worry. What are you doing out here anyways?"

"I-I'm waiting for my Momma. S-she's coming to take me home."

"Y-You're waiting for your mother? Where is?"

"A-at work. M-my Mommy's a ninja."

Gin paled, but the boy didn't seem to notice. He seemed content to stand there thinking of his mommy, rocking slightly. Gin didn't even notice Shin as he exited the store, a smug look on his face and a bag filled with food on his arm.

"He gave us some stuff for the kid. How's he doing, Gin?"

But Gin didn't need to explain. The boy's legs seemed to give, and he would have fallen completely had Gin not grabbed him.

"Hey! Wake up!"

But the boy's eyes were half-lidded and blank. He was limp, yet light.

"Hey! Hey! Shin, what the hell are we doing?"

"Don't you get it, we'll make money off of the kid," he said as he dug into the bag, taking out a loaf of breath and, quite triumphant, before biting into it.

"How? What about his mom-"

"Look at that kid! You think he would look like that if anyone gave a rat's ass? He's a sick orphan somebody probably dumped here to get rid of."

Gin tried not to look at the kid as he gently laid him down on the grass.

"We'll go to the next town over and use this kid to get a hotel room-"

"Shin, he's sick. He said his mom was a ninja for crying out loud!"

"He's delirious! Look at him! He probably doesn't even know where he is! Now, listen, we'll use him to get ourselves a hotel room, then pimp him out-"

"What?"

"We'll keep him knocked out! He won't even know what's happening, Gin."

The boy was muttering now. He was smiling as he muttered. His eyes were still half-opened.

"Look at him, Gin. We'll be doing him a favor. He'll get a warm bed, food, and we'll get him medicine soon. It'll just be a few days and we'll have a little extra money."

Gin shook his head while he tried to think over the boy's quiet mutterings and soft moans. It only took Shin another five minutes.

XXX

It was not hard to find a hotel who agreed to take them in at a reduced price. Their nephew was very sick, after all. He needed a bed and proper rest. They told them they merchants on hard times, and that the boy-the poor, very simple boy-had recently lost his mother, their sister. No one else could care for such an invalid, so they did all they could. The owner was even happy to give them a free dinner and offered to tell them the name of the town doctor, but Shin declined on the basis that the boy was just exhausted and needed his rest. While Shin and Gin gorged on their large portion of rice and beans, the boy slept peacefully away, unaware.