[A/N: Just so you know I'm not dead, here's part of a one-shot I've been working on. Hopefully I'll be able to update some of my multichapter fics within the next couple of days.]
Itachi's first thought, when he woke up, was that everything around him was strangely large.
His second thought, as he caught a glimpse of himself in a nearby puddle, was great Kyuubi I've been turned into a cat.
Backing away from the puddle, he looked around in confusion. The last thing he remembered was heading towards Fire country, where he had been going to fight his brother. There was a rather large blank space after that, in which something must have happened to cause his current predicament.
Itachi could still activate the fundamental form of the Sharingan, he discovered, although it did little to help him find out what was going on. He didn't seem to be trapped in a henge or any kind of genjutsu.
Another pressing question was, where was he now? From his now much shorter vantage point, he couldn't recognize the forest he was in.
Itachi was so distracted by the trees that he didn't register the heavy footprints coming up behind him as a threat until he was unceremoniously grabbed around the middle by a pair of large hands.
Yowling, Itachi scratched at the hands, trying to squirm around so he could get a good look at his captor. Whoever it was, they were both strong and bulky, and Itachi soon gave up struggling as whoever had grabbed him clutched him tightly to their chest. Never mind freedom, he just wanted to breathe at the moment.
"What's that, Juugo?" a girl's voice said.
"It's a cat. I found him, look."
Itachi fought the urge to panic as Juugo held him out at arm's length for the girl's inspection. Normally he wouldn't be scared of a four-foot drop, but he wasn't very big right now, and he still couldn't work this body quite right.
The girl reached out to rub behind Itachi's ears, which felt much better than it should have and Itachi purred a little despite himself. The light glinted off her glasses, and Itachi stared curiously at her red hair, wondering why on earth she couldn't keep it brushed on both sides. "He's kind of cute," the girl said.
"I'm going to call him Kitty," Juugo announced, hugging Itachi close again. Itachi rolled his eyes. Kitty, honestly?
"What is that, Karin?" another voice said, and Itachi froze. It couldn't be…
"It's a cat, Sasuke," Karin replied, somehow managing to make such a simple statement sound flirtatious. "Juugo found it."
"Can I keep it?" Juugo asked.
Sasuke stalked past, barely sparing Itachi a glance. "Fine, just keep it out of my way."
Itachi stared at his brother's back for the rest of the day.
It was rather odd sitting in front of a campfire while listening to several people blithely discussing how they were going to kill you, Itachi soon realized. At least Sasuke seemed all right, although he acted rather apathetic about everything that didn't involve Itachi's death. The teammates he had gathered, while a little on the odd side, were definitely tolerable. Itachi did find Suigetsu a bit disturbing, though, with the fangs and the sword and the bloodthirsty aura. It was one thing facing down homicidal ninjas while one was astronomically above their level, but it was quite another when one was small, unable to use jutsu, and in the form of a cat.
A ragged strip of fabric suddenly dangled in front of Itachi's face. Backing up so it wouldn't hit him on the nose, Itachi looked up at Juugo, who was waving the strip of fabric at him, a hopeful smile on his face. No way, Itachi thought, laying down again. I may be stuck in a cat's body, but there is no way I am playing with cat toys.
"He doesn't want to play, Karin-san," Juugo said after a minute or so of fruitlessly waving the fabric around.
"Maybe he's hungry," Karin suggested, not looking away from Sasuke.
Juugo began rummaging through the packs, followed by Itachi. Maybe there's dango.
There wasn't dango, of course. Nothing had been going right for Itachi lately. Itachi stared unhappily at the strips of dried meat before resignedly starting to chew on one. He was hungry, and he had to eat something; the dango would just have to wait until he got his real body back, whenever that was.
Karin wandered over eventually and began rubbing behind his ears again. Itachi firmly told himself not to enjoy it, that he wasn't a cat and he shouldn't be reacting like that, but he still ended up pressing harder into her touch and purring. "Aww, aren't you a good kitty?" Karin cooed in a saccharine voice, scooping Itachi up in her arms so that he faced her. Suddenly she frowned. "That's funny. Your cat's eyes are red, Juugo," she remarked. "They're kind of pretty."
Before Itachi could quite register what had just been said, he was grabbed by the scruff of the neck, yanked out of Karin's grip, and held face to face with his brother.
I'm going to die, was Itachi's only clear thought. He had been resigned to it for years, of course, but this was such a stupid way to go!
Sasuke's own Sharingan whirled as he inspected Itachi with narrowed eyes. Itachi did his best not to squirm in the uncomfortable grip.
Finally Sasuke relaxed, although he still held Itachi in his arms. "Karin, do you know whether Orochimaru ever did any experiments on cats?"
After the unexpected reprieve, Itachi found himself the subject of a great deal of his brother's attention. This was nice, but rather nerve-wracking, as well. He enjoyed the chance to be close to Sasuke without having to fight with him, but the knowledge that if Sasuke put the correct two and two together and figured out who he was Itachi would be dead before he could say meow wasn't exactly comforting. For the moment, however, he tried not to worry about that.
Luckily, Orochimaru had performed experiments on cats, which Karin confirmed, and Sasuke seemed to be believing that explanation for now. Currently, Sasuke was carrying Itachi as Sasuke's team, aptly named Hebi, travelled in search of…Itachi. I'm right here, you know, Itachi thought absently. Lot of good that does, though.
"Check again, Karin," Sasuke said after a few hours. "I want to make sure we're still headed in the right direction."
Check? Check what? Itachi thought. Then he noticed the odd fluctuation of Karin's chakra. Oh great. A sensor. He tried to discreetly escape from Sasuke's grip and failed. I just hope Kisame remembers where I told him he could find my will…
"Um, Sasuke?" Karin said after a few seconds, with a nervous giggle. "Itachi's chakra is…coming from your cat."
Itachi promptly found himself being held roughly by the scruff of the neck again. Farewell, cruel world…
Sasuke smiled maliciously as Itachi wriggled in his grasp. "Well, what do you know…you know what, I think I like you this way."
That definitely did not bode well at all.