So here's chapter 8! Yep…now, I know I said I would have this updated sooner, but, you know, winter break has been kinda crappy for me. Now, not at all like, "death in the family bad", but just, you know, not the best. I own nothing.

Sasuke had been in and out of sleep the whole day. His skin glistened with sweat, his chest heaved up and down. His hands gripped at the blanket that covered his withering, jerking body. Itachi lay asleep, peaceful, beside him, while Kisame did his best to quietly calm and sedate the child. It had been hard enough to convince Itachi to take the pills, he did not need for him to come awake while this mess happened.

"It hurts!" the child was awake, tears down his face, "I-it-uhg-h-hurts!"

"Shhh, I know," he wiped a wet clothe across his forhead, "It will be alright in a little bit. Let the medicine work-"

"Where's Itachi?" the boy's eyes were clouded, his cheeks rosy and his voice scraped raw.

"He's right here," he motioned over to the sleeping form no more than a foot away.

"No," he struggled a bit under the strong hand, his eyes wide, "where's Itach?"

It was then that Kisame remembered the small doll Itachi had insisted on buying. He frantically scanned the small area from his spot beside Sasuke, who grow more erratic with every wasted second now that he remembered his doll.

"Where is he?"

"Don't worry, Sasuke," he slid over, digging through the blankets and coats that had accumulated across the bottom of the tent. He remembered taking the thing from Sasuke when he had begun his seizing, but where had he thrown it? Sasuke rolled onto his side, his eyes now bright with tears just waiting to drop down his cheek. He was scared and cold, achy with a fever that would not relent. He knew Itachi was sick, that disturbing him would only make him sicker. What if Itachi died? he wondered. He curled up tight, his chest painfully full as his tears slid down onto his pillow. He didn't want to be alone. What if Momma never came back?

"There!" he did not notice Kisame's triumphant smile as he pulled the cat doll from a pile of dirtied sheets. It was such a simple thing, really, to find the little doll, in such a week as this, this small victory was projected three folds by the pile failures that sat beside it. His heart sank to his knees, then, when he saw how little it meant to the boy, who laid curled in upon himself like a dried, fallen leaf.

"Sasuke," he presented the doll proudly, despite the heaviness of his heart, "look't what I found."

The boy did look up, his dark eyes black in the dim light provided by the battery powered lamp. He did not reach up for it. He seemed to barely register Kisame fold it under the crook of his arm. Kisame felt his forehead as he had done several times already that day. While it was warm and slick with sweat, it was no different than when he had felt for it earlier that day.

"Sasuke," he gave the boy a light shake, his fear of another fit out-weighing any fear of Itachi's wrath at his brother's death, "how do you feel now? Don't you want your doll, Itachi?"

The boy nodded, tears fresh on his pink cheeks. His arm tightened around the remembered toy, a whine stuck in his throat. "I-Itachi?"

"Yes, see? I found him, he's safe. Is there anything else you want?"

He shook his head, his eyes suddenly focused on the face that stood out in the dim light of the tent. "Is Itachi going to die?"

"No," Kisame said without hesitation. He had already thought over the question for many years and had come to the conclusion long ago. "He's just sick. It's just bad luck that you'd both be sick at once, but Itachi will be fine." It sounded so simple when he said it out loud. Sasuke's disposition, however, was left unchanged. His right hand had found its way to his mouth; he began to suck his thumb, Itachi's namesake still held tight close to him.

Kisame fought the urge to knock the finger out of the boy's mouth. All he wanted, more than anything in the world, was to make this all go away. Though it was less maddening than a simple annoyance, it still itched its way into his skin. He patted the boy's soft hair, giving him a toothless, thin smile. The boy stared ahead, the sucking loud in the silence of the tent.

XXX

Itachi awoke to Sasuke positioning himself to lie beside him. It was dark in the tent, though Itachi could not say what time it exactly was. He did not make a sound as Sasuke wrapped his arms around his chest, his heart thumping fast as a rabbit caught in a trap. He could hear the boy's sharp breath, his tremors and shakes still present and strong. He could feel the heat from the tears as they soaked into his shirt. Itachi kept still, his breathing even as if he were asleep. Sasuke needed his rest and he would be up all night-or was it day?-if he woke up now. So he laid there, quiet as he could will his broken body to be until he was sure sleep had over-taken him.

Outside, the air was cool. Kisame sat not far off nursing a small fire. By the stars, Itachi saw that it was just past midnight. Kisame gave him a toothless smile as he stood-it felt good to stand-beside him.

"I was afraid you weren't waking up," his voice was quiet. "Just my luck to have both of you bed-ridden."

Itachi nodded, suddenly very tired. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Just the whole day."

Itachi stretched his tired limps, still not wanting to sit on the dry grass. "How has he been?"

"His fever's down, no seizures in a while," Kisame sipped from a bottle he had kept hidden until now. "Nope, he was just worried about you, mostly."

Itachi nodded again, his eyes focused on the dancing flames of the fire. "Thank you."

"I don't know what you're goin' ta do," he took another sip, "but I can't keep doing this."

"I know."

"No, I don't think you do. We're taking him back."

"That was always our plan for him."

"I'm sure it was, but I just want to make sure you know you had better stick to it. Ya don't have anyone but me, Itachi. You're all alone, same as me-"

"You're drunk," honest surprise.

"Yeah," a gulp, no need to hide, "yes I am. Because I realized something, Itachi. I realized that you're using me, 'cause I can't go no where's else."

He looked up, his beady eyes wet with drink and smoke.

Another gulp. "You-you're the only one I like. And you know that, don't you? Yeah. I don't want to be alone either!" Another gulp before throwing the empty bottle far into the darkened woods. "S-so what're ya goin' to do? Stay with me till ya dead, then leave me alone." His voice, unsteady as the wind that tickled past the tops of the high trees, was soft. Itachi forced his ears to take in every single last word.

He was silent.