I hope you guys don't mind this going kind of slow. I know where I want to go with this, but I'm having trouble getting there.

Kisame was able to find clothes, a few shirts and pants, a bath robe, pajamas, underware, shoes and socks; food and medicine. It was all more difficult than what he had thought. Most of the problem was the boy's weight, what might not fit, what foods and medicine would kill him, and, of course, the pharmacists were of little help. He could not give them all of the information they needed. How could he when all he knew was that the boy was extremely underweight. That in itself was suspicious; they couldn't afford that in the best of times and with the boy, there was no room for error.

When he returned to the suite, he found Itachi still sitting with the boy, who was now awake and fairly alert given his condition. Itachi introduced them, telling Sasuke that Kisame was his "friend", that he would be helping him care for him until they found a safe place to put him. Sasuke, looking exhausted, said hello. His voice was shaky, cracked. It was a far cry from the proud, eager voice he had heard only months before.

"How are you feeling, Sasuke?"

The boy yawned. "I-I feel better," his eyes lifted towards Itachi, a small, tired smile crossing his face, "I-Itachi is taking care of me."

This small comment brought a small smile to both Kisame and Itachi, which brought a larger smile from Sasuke.

"Sasuke," Itachi leaned down, "it's time for your bath, remember?"

Sasuke nodded. Itachi uncovered him, while Kisame took out the pajamas and underwear. He would ask Itachi about Sasuke's condition after they put him back to bed. But it was unnerving seeing him like that. He wondered how Itachi, with his own health problems, was holding up.

XXX

Undressing Sasuke was too easy. There was no blush on the boy's face as Itachi pulled off his shirt. He did not attempt to cover himself or turn away from Itachi.

Bathing Sasuke was too easy. He didn't mind Itachi touching him, wiping him, scrubbing him. More than once Itachi washed his more "private" areas; Sasuke said nothing. In fact, he was enjoying himself immensely. The water was warm, Itachi was gentle. All he had to do was lay there in the tub. It was nice.

Itachi was calm. What had Orochimaru done to Sasuke? He was sure to get in between Sasuke legs, fearing any infection that might occur because of his squeamishness. Sasuke didn't say a word, just smiled in that relaxed, complacent way.

"Are you comfortable, Sasuke?"

"Yes," he sounded as if he were ready to fall back to sleep. Itachi squeezed a small dollop of shampoo into the palm of his hand, and then proceeded to massage the gel into Sasuke's scalp. Sasuke took this without comment, just as he had done with all of the other of Itachi's actions. He did as he was told and kept his eyes closed.

"Sasuke," Itachi began to rinse the boy's hair of the shampoo, "what did you usually do when you were with Master?"

Sasuke, seemingly drugged from the warmth of the water, from the sweet scent of the shampoo and the soap, shook his head. "I…um, I-I think I had a lot of naps?"

"Are you tired often?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I-I feel sleepy a lot. And I feel like I'm sick, but Master said I'll be better soon."

"That's good," Itachi unplugged the drain and gathered up the towels. "Alright, Sasuke, bath time is over." He pulled the small boy out of the tub. "Once I get you dried off, you can have supper, okay?"

It was easy, very easy, to dry the boy off. It was easy to touch in whatever way that was "needed", without a look of shame or embarrassment. Was he used to this? Did Sasuke somehow find this all to be "normal", or at the very least not uncommon? A fear that had been festering in his gut for past three weeks crept into Itachi's already tight chest. Sasuke, nothing more than a sex- toy to a pedophile. Nothing more than a sex-toy to a pedophile he had willingly and forcefully gone to, like a child led away from its mother by the promise of candy-

He saw the bruise, just beginning to heal into a dark purple with developing yellow edges, which blanketed Sasuke's rectum. Of course, Itachi had assumed, had hoped, that it had been dirt or shit. It was a bruise. Along Sasuke's back, now clean from grime, ran long, narrow, red scratches, from his shoulders to the base of his back. And, of course, there were more bruises. Some small, some the size of a man's long hand. But it was the first bruise that almost made him snap.

XXX

Sasuke just barely fit in the clothes Kisame had found. Though they were comically too big for him, Sasuke, not used to being such nice presents, loved them, especially the soft, warm, teal pajamas. He also loved the beef broth Itachi made for him. He loved the tiny cherry tomatoes Itachi cut into even smaller bites. He especially loved the chocolate milk. He thought it was nice, sitting at the table with Itachi and Kisame. He didn't know that such quiet dinners were abnormal; he only knew that he preferred this to…He liked this.

He couldn't eat as much as Itachi or Kisame. A small bowl of broth, a few slices of the tomatoes, half of the glass of milk was all his shrunken stomach could handle. He was beginning to feel tired again, he realized as he rubbed at his eyes, which drew the attention of the ever attentive Itachi.

"Are you feeling tired, Sasuke?"

He nodded sleepily and yawned. His limps felt heavy and a gentle haze seemed to settle over his vision. He was barely aware of Itachi gathering him up in his arms and carrying him back to his bed.

"Did you like your dinner, Sasuke?" he felt Itachi tuck him into the soft blankets once again.

"Yeah," he opened his eyes to find Itachi sitting on the mattress beside him. He felt himself smile. He didn't find that odd, to smile; Itachi made him feel safe. "It tasted good."

"Good," Itachi ruffled his hair, still gentle and calm. "Tomorrow we will try a little more, alright? You need to get your strength back."

"Okay," he yawned and curled onto his side. Itachi adjusted his blanket so that it covered his frail body. It seemed to only take seconds for Sasuke to descend into a deep, peaceful sleep.

XXX

"What are you planning, Itachi?"

They were alone; the dinner all disappeared from the table as though it had always been so clean. It was quiet, though each had their ears attuned to detect even the slightest change in the environment. Itachi wished he could turn off his sense of hearing; he could close his eyes, cover with a blanket, not eat and keep his mouth shut, cover his nose with a rag, but he could never stop hearing the beating of his heart, of his blood struggling to make its runs, of his eyes moving and teeth clicking. Or maybe he was making that up.

"We can't keep him, I know that," it was empty. "We do not have the time to care for him."

"I didn't see any suitable hospitals when I was shopping."

"We will take him to Konocha," he said, definite, calm and sure as he always was, though Kisame could detect that trace of a sigh that came from his lips.

"It's the right thing to do," he stretched, suddenly tired from the long, confusing day. "We're no doctors. You're sick enough most of the time. What would I do with both of you?"

Itachi nodded, but Kisame knew they would have to get rid of him soon. For Kisame felt he could see some of the truth bubbling in that nod, the way Itachi's shoulders slumped just a little bit, how his eyes slanted forward to the table, away from Kisame.

Kisame was not shocked when he heard the door to Sasuke's room open and the boy stagger to come out. He was crying, his hands balled and held to his chest.

"Itachi?" his voice shook, it always shook Kisame realized.

Itachi was out of his seat and by the boy's side in a fraction of a second, his right arm rubbing his back and his left stroking his cheek.

"I-I-," he buried his face in Itachi's chest and gripped at the sides of his shirt.

"Shh, what's the matter, Sasuke?" he continued to rub his back gently. "Did you have a nightmare?"

But Kisame saw the brown liquid that puddled at the boy's feet. "Um, Itachi?" He motioned to the floor and couldn't help but feel something close to pity at the horrified expression on Itachi's face.

"Sasuke," the boy seemed to hold tighter to his brother's shirt, "did you have an accident?"

"I'm sorry!" he turned his face up to Itachi, "I'm sorry! I-I had a nightmare. I-I didn't want to make a mess! Please don't get mad! I thought you went to bed and I was going to clean it up with soap! Please don't get mad!" he quickly buried his head back into Itachi's chest, his cries renwed, his grip tighter.

Itachi kept rubbing his back in that soft, gentle motion, just as their mother had done for him when he was sick.

And Kisame pitied him.