A/N This is a short chapter, but it's been so long I thought I should give you something.

Itachi woke up the next morning at a little past five. He sighed and sat up in bed. He didn't usually get up until six, but his sleep had been horrible. He kept waking up in cold sweats due to nightmares about his brother.

Itachi got out of bed and walked through the darkness of his bedroom to his dresser. He pulled out clothes for the day and slung them over his shoulder before continuing into the bathroom. He wasn't sure why, but he didn't want to use his personal bathroom. He wanted to use the one that was situated in the hallway.

"So cold…" Itachi muttered to himself as he walked down the freezing hallway. "Stupid Izuna not putting the heater on again…"

Itachi's shower was a short one. He had never been a fan of wasting things, much less water. He dressed in the bathroom before he left to go downstairs into the living room. His footsteps were almost non-existent as he crept along the corridor, not wanting to wake his uncles. However, he was in for a rude surprise when he entered the living room.

Sasuke was lying on the couch, wearing nothing but a shirt that was too large for him. The younger's eyes were wide and staring at the front door, almost as if he were pondering the best way to escape from his current living conditions.

"Sasuke…?" Itachi whispered, not sure how to approach the boy. He didn't want to startle his brother, but such an abused boy would be frightened much easier than a normal one would.

Almost as if Sasuke read his brother's thoughts, his eyes snapped over to Itachi, wide and fearful. His body began to tremble and small whimpers escaped his lips.

"…Have you been here all night…?" Itachi whispered again, not knowing what to say.

"…" Sasuke's trembling increased ten-fold at these words.

Itachi ran a hand through his hair in frustration. He didn't know what he could do about the situation, but what he did know was that he was unwillingly making it worse just by being near the traumatised child.

"…I'll leave you alone, Sasuke…" Itachi spoke in a soft tone before he turned around and went back up the stairs.

However, just before Itachi was completely out of earshot, a small whimper of 'nii-san' caught his attention. A small smile crossed his face, and as much as he wanted to go back and embrace the smaller boy out of joy, he knew better.

-XX-

Breakfast didn't go well that same morning. While Madara woke up at six and came straight downstairs to check on Sasuke, Izuna refused to get up until breakfast was ready. But now, as all four Uchiha sat around the breakfast table, the air was thick with tension. With Sasuke's wary eyes scanning his three family members continuously and Izuna's usual aggressive morning attitude, Itachi didn't see much hope for their morning to be problem-free.

"Why don't you eat something, Sasuke?" Madara asked in his soft tone. He wasn't happy watching his nephew just sit at the table.

Sasuke turned to face his eldest uncle with a confused look on his face. Though his lips parted, no words came from them.

Madara sighed. He reached out and grabbed Sasuke's spoon, dipping it into the boy's cereal. Without another word, he lifted said object up to Sasuke's lips. He wasn't surprised when his nephew closed his mouth.

"You've got to eat something, Sasuke…" Madara placed the spoon back down into the bowl.

"Just leave him…" Izuna mumbled as he nibbled on his toast. "Just a waste of time trying to feed him…"

"Izuna…" Madara growled in a warning tone.

It was Itachi who took the most offense to this. "And it's a waste of time trying to get you to care about someone other than yourself! Shut the fuck up, Izuna! You wonder why I hate your guts! You grew up without any sort of hardship in your life – the only thing you had to worry about was whether or not your parents would catch you and brother fucking! How about you try living in his shoes?! Someone like you wouldn't be able to handle it!"

Sasuke started to cry at Itachi's outburst. He screamed loudly when Madara reached out to him, but he didn't protest much when he was pulled onto his uncle's lap and enveloped in a hug.

"Both of you!" Madara hissed as he placed his hands over Sasuke's ears. "Get the hell out if you're going to fight! Go! He doesn't need this!"

Itachi sent a murderous glare at his younger uncle before he stormed off to his room. When he slammed his door closed behind him, he grabbed the closest object and threw it against his wall. He let out a shout of anger as he kicked his wardrobe, angrier than he had been in quite a while.

A few hours had passed and Itachi spent them fuming, breaking whatever he could get his hands on. He ignored the knock at his door and didn't even look when Madara entered the room.

"Are you okay now?" Madara asked in a soft tone.

Itachi shook his head. His hands shook as he turned to glare at his uncle. "I hate your brother. I fucking hate him."

Madara sighed. "I know he's hard to handle, Itachi, but I've spoken to him about it. Sasuke is sleeping on the couch downstairs if you want to see him."

"I can't trust myself to not get angry again if I see Sasuke," Itachi explained.

"It's understandable." Madara moved to sit down on the bed beside his nephew. "I've always wondered something, Itachi; why have you fuelled your anger and hatred towards us for so many years? Why could you forget everything else except for that one thing?"

"I was lonely," Itachi hissed as he narrowed his eyes at his uncle. "You knew that. You only – to use your words – fuelled my loneliness by denying me a basic human right; to know my own sibling. How was I supposed to feel, Madara?"

Madara sighed. "…We only wanted to protect you and your brother… Please, forgive us, Itachi…"

Itachi shook his head. "I may forgive you in time, but I will never forgive Izuna…"

Madara nodded after a few seconds. He frowned before he stood up. "I'll leave you to your thoughts."

Itachi couldn't have been more relieved when his uncle left.