"That's just Fluffy, Danna," Deidara protested, reaching out for Itachi only for Sasori to hold him out of reach. "Give him back, un!"

"I don't recall telling you that you could have a pet," Sasori said coldly. His grip on Itachi was painfully tight, and Itachi stifled a mewl of pain. "Get rid of it."


"Get rid of it," Sasori ordered again, tossing Itachi roughly in Deidara's direction. Luckily, the blond managed to catch him; if he hadn't, Itachi would have hit the tiled wall surrounding the bathtub, and that might have been enough to do him in while he was trapped in this fragile body.

Deidara started to protest again, but Sasori stormed out of the bathroom before he could hear any of it. Finally Deidara sighed, rubbing gently behind Itachi's ears. "Looks like this is it, Fluffy," he said ruefully. "Danna's not in a mood to be reasoned with, un."

Itachi tensed a little as Deidara stood up. So far Deidara had made no effort to harm him, but now that he had been ordered to dispose of the cat, Itachi wasn't sure what to expect.

"Here, you might as well finish this off, un," Deidara said, retrieving the stick of dango with his free hand. Itachi quickly snatched it with his paws and began eating again, not caring how messy the fur on his face was getting.

While Itachi was occupied with his favorite food, Deidara picked up one of the complimentary towels and headed out of the bedroom.

"Deidara…" Sasori said warningly, not looking up from the scroll he was reading.

"I know, I know! I'm getting rid of Fluffy just like you said, un!" Deidara retorted, slamming the door as he left the hotel room with the cat in his arms.

It was cold out now, and rain began to fall as Deidara walked behind the hotel to where the dumpster was. Itachi had finished the dango by this point, and looked around curiously, wondering what Deidara was up to.

"Wait here just a second, Fluffy," Deidara said, setting the towel down in the lee of the dumpster and depositing Itachi on top of it before climbing up on the dumpster itself. Itachi watched him in some confusion. What on earth is he doing?

It soon began to rain even harder, and Itachi could hear Deidara nearly slip several times as he pulled the heavy dumpster lid open. "There we go," Deidara exclaimed finally as the lid banged open. "I'll just be another minute, Fluffy."

The angle of the rain was changing, and Itachi curled up in a ball as water began to soak through his fur. He had always hated being wet, and in this form it would be difficult for him to dry off. At least he wouldn't have to worry about his illness worsening, as it had yet to affect him ever since he had woken up as a cat. That thought, while slightly reassuring, didn't make Itachi any more comfortable at the moment, though.

"Okay, all set, un!" Deidara announced, jumping down from the dumpster. "Come on Fluffy, let's go."

Before Itachi could even get up, Deidara had scooped up the towel with him still on it and deposited him in a large cardboard box. "Now, I've just got to find somewhere out of the rain to put you…Better hurry up, Danna hates waiting, un."

Itachi sniffed at the box, but to his relief it didn't smell too bad even though Deidara had pulled it out of a dumpster. The sides of the box were too high for him to see much, so he didn't have any way of knowing where the blond was carrying him. I hope he doesn't take me to a pound…

After a few minutes, Deidara stopped, and there was a jolt as the box was set down. Itachi looked up as Deidara leaned over the box. "You should be okay here for a while, Fluffy, since it's out of the rain." Deidara reached down to scratch Itachi's ears again, making him purr. "I'm going to miss you, Fluffy," Deidara said after a minute of petting Itachi. There was a slight hitch in his voice, and he sniffed a little. Is he crying? Itachi thought. It was hard to tell, since Deidara was already soaking wet and water was dripping down his face from his sodden hair.

Ordinarily, Itachi wouldn't have cared, but the younger Akatsuki member had been surprisingly nice to him over the past few days. Mewing softly, he nuzzled Deidara's hand in a comforting gesture.

"Bye Fluffy," Deidara said finally, standing up. "Hopefully somebody nice will find you, un."

With that, the blond explosives expert turned and walked away, leaving Itachi sitting in a cardboard box under the awning in front of a store.

Well at least I'm on my own again now, Itachi thought. I should get back to work on finding some way to fix myself. But, he decided, curling up in the towel Deidara had left for him, I should probably let that wait until the rain stops.

The rain stopped a few hours later. Itachi was fast asleep, however, and did not notice this. What he did notice was someone tripping over his box and knocking it over. Itachi yelped as he was thrown onto the side of the box in an undignified heap, tangled in the towel.

"Owww," the guilty party grumbled. "Who put this box here? It's blocking the way into the grocery store!"

Oh good, not a pound, Itachi thought as he struggled to free himself from the towel.

"Are you okay?" a girl's voice said. "I know you're hungry, but you should at least look—kitty!"

Not another cat-loving blonde, Itachi moaned inwardly. No sooner had he gotten loose of the towel and stepped out of the box than the girl snatched him up and held him close.

"Look, Chouji, isn't he darling?" the girl said, holding Itachi up so that her friend could see. "And he's so soft!" she cooed, rubbing her face against his fur.

By this point, Itachi had gotten a good look at his latest pair of captors. And they're from Konoha. Could this get any worse? Wait, I should know better than to ask that by now…

"What's up?" another voice said. Itachi knew the particulars of this team, and since Chouji and Ino were currently with him, this must be Shikamaru.

"I found a kitty!" Ino announced. "And we're going to keep him!"

Not if I have anything to do with it you're not.

Shikamaru seemed to have the same idea. "No way, cats are…troublesome. There's hairballs, and kitty litter, and you have to remember to feed it and everything. That's way too much work. Besides, what if it has kittens?"

Itachi's mental commentary choked off as this statement sank in.

"Shikamaru," Ino said dryly, "I'm pretty sure this is a boy cat."

Darn right it is, Itachi grumbled to himself. Now let me go before this gets any more embarrassing.

"Whatever," Shikamaru said. "We're not keeping a cat."

Ino pouted.

"That's final."

A single, glistening tear coursed its way down from one of Ino's blue eyes. "Pleeeeease?"

"Okay, okay, fine!" Shikamaru conceded, sounding a bit panicky now that he was faced with a crying girl.

Ino beamed, the tears vanishing instantly. "That's wonderful, Shikamaru! Now, I wonder what we should call him…"

"We can decide on the way back to Konoha," Chouji said as he exited the store with a straining shopping bag full of snacks. "Let's go."

Itachi squirmed in Ino's grip as the three ninjas (plus one cat-shaped missing-nin) headed towards the road leaning towards Konoha. The blonde girl had a surprisingly firm hold on him, however; most Konoha shinobi learned quickly how to keep a cat from getting away. Itachi thought about scratching or biting, but decided hurting the girl wasn't worth it. I'll just wait until I get a chance to sneak off. How hard could that be?

[A/N: Hey readers! I've got a super important S-rank mission for you: seek out embarrassing cat names for poor Itakitty. Go forth!]