"Did you boys enjoy your ramen?" Kakashi asked as he, Naruto, and Sasuke walked back from Ichiraku's Ramen Shop. Naruto nodded his head vigorously, jumping up and down as he walked.

"Yes! Yes! It was so good!" The blonde exclaimed. Sasuke was less enthusiastic, but he nodded and looked up at Kakashi.

"Yes, thank you very much for taking us." The raven-haired boy said politely. Kakashi smiled down at him, but the look in the older man's eyes was sad.

The truth of the matter is...Kakashi wanted nothing more than to be Mikoto's husband, and also...he wanted to be Sasuke's father. Itachi's father. He wanted to be there for them, and protect them. He knew that by now, Itachi was old enough to take care of himself, but Sasuke had so much growing up to do. He had so many things to learn...and Kakashi wanted to be the man to teach him. He wanted to be the one this boy looked up to.

He wanted to be the one that Mikoto woke up to each morning. He wanted her to gaze up at him with sleepy, loving eyes. He'd often imagined making her breakfast in bed, and her face would be so delighted, so happy...she would be happy with him...but it was not to be.

Once the trio turned on to road that Mikoto's new house was on, Kakashi stopped and turned to the boys. "I told your mother I would drop you boys off here. Make sure you go right in, and wash your hands." He leaned down and ruffed both boy's hair. "And tell Itachi I said hi, okay?"

Sasuke nodded. "Will you come over tomorrow and pick us up? Why aren't you coming inside?" He sounded nervous. Kakashi was silent for a moment, before he turned to Naruto.

"Naruto-chan? Will you go on ahead of us? I need to talk with Sasuke-kun. It's kind of a secret." The Jonin asked politely. The blonde looked skeptical for a moment, before smiling softly. He nodded, squeezed Sasuke's hand tightly, before taking off down the road.

Once the blonde boy was out of ear shot, Kakashi knelt down and put a hand on Sasuke's shoulder. "Your mother and I...we had a little bit of an argument earlier today. I didn't want to say anything to you...I didn't want to upset you." He explained.

The nervous look on Sasuke's face intensified, and he reached up quickly and grabbed Kakashi's wrist, squeezing it tightly. "Well...you have to apologize! You have to make it all better!" He sounded desperate, like his whole world depended on Kakakshi and Mikoto fixing whatever happened. Suddenly, the young boy lunged forward and wrapped his arms around Kakashi neck, hugging him tightly. "I don't want you to go away, too! Don't do bad things and disappear like Father did!" He cried into Kakashi's neck. Kakashi felt his heart break in two. He lifted the sobbing boy up in his arms, and slowly walked towards Mikoto's home.

XxX

Mikoto heard a knock on the door, and she deduced it must be Sasuke...but why would her son knock on his own door? She opened it slowly, and was shocked when she saw Kakashi, with her son in his arms. Sasuke was crying, and when he turned to look at his mother, he had tears streaming down his face. Mikoto was shocked, and she reached out to take him. The young boy shook his head, clinging to Kakashi.

"Mother, why are you mad at Kakashi? Please don't be mad at him! Don't make him go away! He's sorry for whatever he did! Please don't make Kakashi go away!" The boy exclaimed, finally turning to look at his mother. His face was soaked in tears.

"Sasuke..." Mikoto whispered. She looked up at Kakashi, whose exposed eye was filled with regret. Mikoto returned his gaze with one of anger. She calmed herself for a moment, only long enough to take her son and place him on the floor.

"Sasuke-kun? Please go upstairs to your room and play with Naruto-chan. I need to speak with Kakashi-san." She said, her voice sweet and calm. Kakashi knew better. Sasuke did as he was told, sending one last scared look at the Jonin before running up the stairs. Once Mikoto heard the bedroom door close, she pulled Kakashi into the kitchen by his vest, and shoved him against the counter.

"Whatever happens between us...which will be nothing, believe me...you are NOT going to involve my children! THEY'VE BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH!" She screamed. fisting his dark blue shirt with both her hands. She was so angry, she was shaking. Kakashi felt a sinking feeling in his chest, and he began shaking as well...but this was due to the fact that he was now crying.

Everything was going terribly wrong! He only wanted to be there for this family...to be a part of it, to be accepted by them. But all he had managed to do was ruin things...to make Mikoto hate him. All he wanted was her love...he truly wasn't worthy of her...he wasn't good enough for her.

"I'm sorry...Uchiha-san..." Wall all he could manage. That angry look in her eyes, and the knowledge that it was directed at him, made him sick to his stomach. He had to drop his gaze to the floor, and after a few moments, he found his voice again.

"Mikoto...I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to upset him. I was only explaining why I couldn't come inside. I didn't expect him to care...like that...I didn't even think he liked me all that much. But I can't lie. I covet the fact that he got so upset...because that means he cares for me. He doesn't want to lose me...I care for him too! I don't want to lose him! I...I love him as though he where my own! And I...I love you! I won't deny it any longer! You can hate me...you can hit me, I don't care!" He gently wrapped his fingers around Mikoto's wrists, and continued before she could respond. "But my heart is aching! And I'm angry...angry that Fugaku was such an evil man...and he stole your love! He took for granted the one thing that I want most in this world! I want nothing more than to make you happy! To watch you smile and laugh! To be here for you and protect you! Like a good man should! I want to be a father to Sasuke...a mentor to Itachi! I just want...I just..." He hung his head. "I apologize, Uchiha-sama. That was out of line. I-"

"Kakashi? Please...don't say anymore." Whispered a now tearful Mikoto. She leaned in and rested her head against Kakashi's chest. "Just hold me..."

XXX

"Sasuke, why are you crying?" Naruto whispered as his 'husband' came into the room. The blonde had been sitting on their bed, playing with his stuffed frog. He clambered off the bed and ran to the other boy. Sasuke wiped his eyes, smiling slightly.

"It's nothing, Naruto-chan. Kakashi and Mother had a fight and it made me nervous. I don't want to lose Kakashi like I lost my Father...it's silly grown-up stuff, I guess..." He trailed off, gazing at the other boy. He was in his pajamas, which consisted of boxers and an oversized T-shirt. Sasuke grinned. "Naruto-chan...you're so cute!"

Naruto blushed, dropping his gaze to the floor. "Shh...no!" He replied, before running back to their bed and hiding under the covers. Sasuke followed him, laughing. He dived onto the boy, tickling him through the covers. Naruto laughed out loud, thrashing around. To distract the slightly older boy, he leaned up and pecked a kiss onto Sasuke's lips. The Uchiha boy froze, before leaning down and kissing the blonde again, but this time, it lasted much longer. When they both pulled away, their faces were a little red, and they were breathing heavy. Sasuke was the first to speak.

"N-Naruto-chan. Let's...snuggle each other." He whispered, laying down and pulling the boy against his chest. Naruto nodded, cuddling up against his 'husband'.

"Why do you want to snuggle with me, Sasuke?" The younger boy asked curiously. Sasuke thought for a moment, before hugging the boy even tighter.

"I think it's because..." He began, whispering in Naruto's ear. "...I love you! And I know I love you, because when I'm near you, nothing hurts. I'm not scared of anything, and I'm always happy. I think that means that no matter what happens to me, as long as I have you, I won't be upset or grumpy. And nothing will go bad because we really love each other. The only reason Mother and Father weren't happy like this is because Father didn't love Mother. But you love me, right Naruto-chan?"

Naruto nodded, looking up at Sasuke with big, blue eyes. "Yeah! I love you...more than ramen! And more than Gama-chan! And...I get this floppy feeling in my stomach whenever I see you or when you look at me when we're in school. And everytime someone is mean to me, I don't care because you're my Sasuke AND my husband! But...uhm..." Naruto trailed off, looking down at his hands, which he had curled under his chin. Sasuke saw the look in his eyes. It was uncertainty. Naruto was nervous about something. It had been the same look that had been in his eyes when Kakashi told him he'd fought with his mother. The raven haired boy pulled back to catch Naruto's gaze.

"But what? What's wrong, Naruto-chan?" He asked. The blond nibbled on his lower lip as he thought of a way to word his thoughts.

"All those...girls in our class really like you. And some of them a-are really pretty! Like Ino-chan and Sakura-chan...and it's more normal for a boy to like a girl...so sometimes I get really jealous when they hug you and stuff. But it's not just jealousy. Sometimes if feels like I swallowed an ice cube...and other times I feel like I want to cry. But not sad cry...it feels like when you try to tell someone something but they can't understand you but you really really need them to understand you and then you start crying...and I...I dunno..." He looked up at Sasuke, and those frusturated tears were in his eyes, just like he had described. Sasuke was taken back by the confession. Naruto was...jealous of the girls in their class? Did he think Sasuke would rather have one of them? He leaned down and kissed Naruto's forehead.

"Don't be silly, Naruto-chan. You're my wife, and I love you. I always will. No silly girls are going to come in between us...ever!" He whispered. Naruto looked up at him again.

"Do you promise?"

"I promise, with my whole heart!"

XXX

"I-I'm staying here tonight?" Hinata's voice was quiet as Itachi handed her one of his old sleep shirts to wear. They had been playing in his room since after she had her snack, which mainly consisted of her sitting on his floor, hugging one of his old teddy bears. He had sat on his bed, watching her closely.

"Yes. That's okay, right? You might be...staying with us for a while!" He tried to smile through the panic that was rising in his throat. He and his mother had come to the obvious conclusion that Hinata was being abused at home. Their main goal, tonight at least, was to keep her in their home, away from the complex, and whoever might be abusing her. They needed to get her to talk...to admit who it was that was doing these things to her...and exactly what they were doing. He knew he had to start with those scars...but he would do that, tomorrow. Tonight, she deserved to have a calm, relaxing night. He imagined she hadn't had one of those in a long time.

"I-I don't...have to go home?" She sounded breathless, like she didn't quite believe what she was hearing. Itachi picked her up and set her on his bed, looking her dead in the eyes.

"No, Hyuuga-hime. You don't have to go home tonight. My mother will call Hiashi-sama and tell him you are staying here. You can have dinner with us, and we'll but a futon in here for you to sleep on. Is that okay?" He explained. She was staring at him with with wide, opal-colored eyes. She was silent for what seemed like a long time, and then she finally spoke.

"Th-Thank you...so much." Her tiny voice held so much relief, that Itachi felt it in his chest. He smiled at her, reaching out to poke her tiny nose.

"How about I run a nice hot bath for you? I'll get you all set up in there, and you'll be nice and clean for dinner. I believe Sasuke and Naruto already ate, but I'm sure they'll be down for dessert!" Itachi asked as he walked across the room and into his bathroom. He turned his faucet on, and let the hot water start to fill the porcelain tub. He folded a clean towel and set it down right next to the tub, and when Hinata walked in, he took his old nightshirt and placed it there, too. He went into his cabinet to grab some shampoo and bubbles, but when he turned back around, the sight shocked him. She had taken off all of her clothes, right in front of him! With reflexes only an ANBU could possess, he grabbed the night shirt and wrapped her up in it.

"Hyuuga-san!" He exclaimed, shocked that the shy girl would do something that indecent. "You shouldn't take your clothes off in front of strangers, especially if they're a boy!" His voice was scolding, and she flinched away from him, terror in her eyes. He immediately covered his mouth.

"I'm very sorry I raised my voice, Hyuuga-hime! You scared me is all. Why don't you have a problem being naked in front of me?" He questioned, knowing that it had to have something to do with her abuse. She dropped the night shirt, and climbed into the bath tub. Itachi averted his gaze as he set the shampoo and bath soap were she could reach it.

"Father makes me take baths with Ko all the time. He's your age." She explained softly, like it was commonplace.. Itachi felt like he was about the vomit, but he fought it off. Her own father made her take baths with Hyuuga Ko? Itachi knew him. He wasn't fifteen, like Itachi. He was twenty-four.

"Why does your father make you take baths with him? Does Ko ever...t-touch you?" He couldn't keep the tremor out of his voice, and he cursed himself for it. She didn't seem to notice though.

"Father says I should get used to being naked with Ko-san. He's going to be my husband when I turn sixteen. But father won't let him touch me before then. He looks at me like he wants to though. Like he's hungry." She whispered the last part like it was a secret.

Itachi's grip on reality was slipping. He felt dizzy, and nausous. "Excuse me, Hyuuga-sama. I'll be in my room when you're finished." He nodded politely to her, before leaving the bathroom and closing the door. Once he was out of earshot, he dropped to his knees, angry tears falling down onto the wood floor of his room with muffled plaps. He clenched his fists, anger coursing through him like wildfire. It threatened to consume him...consume his mind. But he had to think of that little girl in the other room. Scared...alone...without a soul to confide in. Without an advocate. From this day forward, he would be that advocate.