To lose your freedom, is losing yourself.

The world passed by in swirls of color as the car sped down the cobblestone roads; Itachi had to squint his eyes as he watched the scenery fly by. He would need time to adjust to the sunlight, though he knew it shouldn't take too long, for both he and Sasuke were used to needing to adapt to change swiftly. The peace he felt during the ride was vanquished when the car came to a stop; muscles rigid with the instinct to run, Itachi forced himself to remember he had to remain calm for Sasuke's sake. If something were to go wrong there was no telling what may become of them both; or what may happen to the kingdoms should the treaty fall to ruin like everything seemed to in the past.

Kurama's hand clasped tightly around Itachi's wrist as he dragged the neko out of the car and up the stairs that led into the mansion; intricate spiral designs were carved into the door and Itachi vaguely recalled it being the symbol of the Uzumaki clan. A nostalgic sense of déjà vu erupted in Itachi's mind; wistful memories threatened to make themselves known, but before they had a chance to dig themselves in too deeply Itachi had crushed them. They no longer served him any purpose; though still he bitterly recalled how it seemed like only yesterday he had been sitting in his own room, soft sheets welcoming him into a slumberous embrace.

The mansion wasn't overtly extravagant; only three stories high and the colors were whites and soft burgundies. It had an air of warm comfort to it; this was something that hadn't been a part of Itachi's life in quite a long time. Even in his own home when he was a child there had seemed to be an unwelcoming aura; as if secrets lurked in the dark recesses of the home, waiting to lash out at Itachi when he walked past. There wasn't much time to appreciate the interior of the home, as Itachi was whisked past it all by Kurama, who didn't appear to have the patience to lag around for too long. He led Itachi up the staircase, barely giving the neko a chance to catch up if he stumbled. Instead the only reaction given was a sideways glance, lips curled into a smirk as if he hoped Itachi would fall.

The two came upon a dark wooden door, where Kurama clicked it open and tossed Itachi inside. Itachi nearly lost his balance, but he caught himself before he stumbled to the floor and straightened himself up. This appeared to regale Kurama, judging by the Cheshire grin that adorned his expression. Itachi was graceful even when being stripped of that forsaken pride that gleamed so obviously in his eyes. The redhead stepped closer to look down on Itachi- for the raven was a couple of inches short than he. The moment was taken to truly take in Itachi's appearance; he had long dark hair that reached about to his shoulder blades. Kurama raised a hand up and undid the tie that Itachi used to keep his hair up, allowing the soft tresses to flow about his shoulders. Itachi's jaw tightened in annoyance, but he bit his tongue in order to withhold an acidic statement.

Kurama sneered down at the irate Uchiha; he wasn't intimidating, Kurama didn't fear anything and he especially wouldn't fear a neko. Itachi's appearance was too docile. It was clear that the Uchiha was athletic; but as most nekos were, Itachi was lithe in build. The neko race was built for speed and agility, thus their bodies tended to be slender with lean muscle. With a disgusted tisk, Kurama moved his hand away from Itachi's hair. He had doubt that this wretch could defend himself against even the weakest of opponents. After all, his entire clan had been wiped out within a blink of an eye, the pathetic family died out so easily. With the power-hungry cowards that they were, Kurama had been surprised they survived that long. Itachi's long raven hair contrasted with his ivory skin, and his soft eyes put him off as a simple beauty that anyone could shove around with ease.

Itachi was capable of proving Kurama wrong in seconds, if was given a chance to raise his health. Poor diet, lack of sleep and shelter in the hostile environment had caused it to decline steeply. Yet simultaneously, living on the run had raised his health and skill in numerous ways; his mind was sharper, more trenchant and cautious. His endurance and stamina had increased greatly over the years; the will to survive did incredible things to you. Itachi was perfectly competent at defending himself when it came down to it; but against someone like Kurama? Time would be needed to replenish Itachi's strength and energy; for now he needed to be patient. There was the biggest difference between Itachi and Sasuke. Itachi was one of the most cunning minds in his kingdom; sharp as a blade and quick to outwit anyone.

Sasuke was the more physical of the two; designed to fight. While Itachi preferred not to resort to violence, Sasuke had no qualms with knocking someone out; whether in self-defense or in order to get something he needed. There were plenty of greedy people in this world that could afford to feed two starving kids; Sasuke wouldn't feel guilty stealing from people like those that sneered down at the poor as though they were simple dirt stains on the roads. The Uchiha brothers were prodigal young men, and their life on the run had hones certain skills. Experiences that you never knew you may one day need had come in handy several times for them.

Itachi had assumed that by now he would have gathered enough chakra to attempt an escape; or to at least set his brother free, once given a chance to be alone; yet his body felt drained and still sore, not yet healed from the altercations of before. Stunned, Itachi's fingertips brushed across the leather collar digging into his throat; it was a chakra absorption device, it sucked all of the energy from Itachi's body to prevent him from mustering the strength to fight or perform any attack. Chakra was extremely rare to find in children these days; those that possessed the ability were trained diligently in how to focus and use it properly to fight. It had been used for war. Without it, Itachi and Sasuke were vulnerable to their captors. Like a deer trapped in a lion's jaws.

"You have such pride in those eyes of yours. Where's your famous Sharingan?" Kurama circled around Itachi, eying him critically. His crass and satirical nature perturbed Itachi and put even further on edge. Kurama had been well known on the battlefield; a skilled and merciless fighter without inhibitions. Itachi knew he had to watch his step, lest it be his own blood that stained the carpets of this home.

Kurama came to a stop behind Itachi and twirled his long fingers through Itachi's hair. The act had seemed innocent enough until the redhead jerked his hand, yanking Itachi's head back at a painful angle that caused the young man to grit his teeth. Instantly, as if trained to do this, Itachi cleared his expression; he was unwilling to give Kurama the satisfaction of knowing he had caused Itachi any pain. "I will not waste my energy on you." Itachi seethed, his infamous pride slipping through the cracks. Kurama was nothing but a child eager to have a new toy, and Itachi wasn't interested in playing games. Especially not one as twisted and unfair as this. People were not trash or toys to be ruined until there was nothing left in the ashes remaining.

"You're a condescending little wretch, aren't ya?" Kurama sneered. Already he was plotting how to destroy the moxie that Itachi had left in him; it wouldn't suit to have a pet that was so ill mannered, now would it? He shoved Itachi towards the right corner of the room, using enough force to ensure that Itachi smacked into the wall with a painful clack. "There's your bed, kitten." Kurama folded his arms as he awaited the reaction he knew was coming. Oh yes, he was going to have fun with this one.

Itachi aimed an odious glare towards Kurama, the icy aura emanating from him permeated the room with a chill. Few people respected nekos despite their status as one of the more powerful races. Their appearances weren't threatening.

Few people seemed aware that looks could be very deceiving.

The mansion that loomed in front of Sasuke was nearly daunting in size; in truth, he could barely recall the home he had lived in before the disaster. Seemingly, his mind had erased such memories to prevent Sasuke from dwelling on them. Now, he wondered how anyone would have need for such a big home; it seemed like a display of arrogance and pride to him. Naruto waited patiently by the door as he watched Sasuke take in the view of his new home; though he seemed unimpressed. Flowers lined the yard surrounding the mansion, splashing color across the scene. Bitterly, Sasuke envied the comfort Naruto must have had his entire life. The spoiled prince had likely never any want for anything in his short life. The blond appeared so vivaciously cheerful; and why wouldn't he be, having everything he could ever need right in his palm?

Sasuke stalked past Naruto on his way inside the mansion. The interior of it was even more florid; paintings and other varying artwork adorned the walls and corridor, a marble statue of the infamous demon that had once ruled this earth was what greeted Sasuke when he entered the home. The carpet was a rich red color and it was a relief under Sasuke's bare feet, a welcome change from the gravelly ground. Sasuke would have been a liar if he said he was unimpressed; but, lying was indeed a habit the neko had. An obsidian glare was shot at everything in Sasuke's vision as he followed Naruto up the stairs, almost hoping he could burn the entire place down with a simple look. Why did these people have so much when others had so little? Sasuke recalled the sickly children and elderly back in his own kingdom, and disgust wrenched his stomach.

Naruto rolled his eyes at Sasuke's embittered expression; yet how could he blame Sasuke for being angry? The poor thing had had his rights destroyed and his life sold away as a slave. Not that Naruto had any intention of treating Sasuke as such. Slavery was deplorable, in Naruto's mind; it was beyond unreasonable and unnecessary to waste a living being in such a way, as if they had any less rights than someone else. Naruto had fought for this opinion since he was little and had witnessed a female slave being beaten in the streets. He had wept to his nanny about the injustice, and had simply been told the woman had only been a slave. As if the girl deserved that treatment, as if she had any less reason to be respected.

Naruto hoped to change the world and end the slavery that poisoned it so freely.

A small glance was sent in Sasuke's direction; he wanted to speak to the neko, but he doubted he would get any response. After all, Sasuke hadn't spoken since getting into the car. He let the raven inside the bedroom and shut the door behind them, closing off the rest of the world for a few minutes. Sasuke cast a scrutinizing look around the room; it was comfortable and simple, though it was bright. Balefully, Sasuke noticed there was only one bed; the only other furniture within the room was a desk and a dresser. An angered look adorned his expression as he turned to face Naruto. "Why do I have to sleep on the floor like your dog?" He demanded. The floor might have been luxurious compared to the ground and trees Sasuke was used to sleeping in, but he still didn't take this lightly. Even in the years he and Itachi had fended for themselves, they still chose where they slept.

Naruto's eyebrows raised in surprise at Sasuke's cold question, having been caught off guard by it. He actually hadn't given any thought as to where the neko was going to sleep, because really, he hadn't given much thought to this entire ordeal at all. It had fallen onto him out of nowhere, and he really had no choice other than to accept. The current ruler of Sasuke's former home had included the two princes in the treaty as it used to be a custom to offer slaves as compensation; and the ruler of the Hiruma Ōkoku had been unable to refuse. "You don't, I don't care if you sleep on the bed." Naruto replied with a small laugh. He couldn't help but to find Sasuke amusing; he was a cynical, sharp-tongued creature.

Sasuke glowered in disbelief that Naruto actually expected Sasuke to trust him enough to sleep in the same bed, he knew better than that. "I'm not sleeping in the same bed as you." Sasuke grit out through a clenched jaw. He had no doubt if he got into the same bed that Naruto would attempt to kill him at some point during the night; or try to perform some other heinous act on him. Sasuke wasn't a fool. Naruto had been idiotic in suggesting they share a bed, as if they were familiar in some way instead of Sasuke being a slave. A growl rumbled in Sasuke's chest as he thought of the awful word.

Raising his arms in defeat, Naruto shook his head. He wasn't going to force Sasuke into doing anything. "Fine, fine! I hope the floor is comfortable, then!" The blond smirked, two could play that game if Sasuke wanted to be difficult. Sasuke's black ears flattened against his skull in a disapproving way that Naruto couldn't help but to find almost cute, though that hateful glare sent his direction made him think better of it.

"Usuratonkachi." Sasuke hissed the insult. Naruto arched a brow at the derogatory name, but instead of taking offense he simply reached out and ruffled Sasuke's hair; he risked his hand to do that, but Sasuke needed to learn to relax a little. Naruto wasn't here to be his enemy, but it was apparent that he had to prove that to Sasuke. He grinned when Sasuke violently swatted his hand away and spat a curse at him. Well, it was better than actually attacking him, maybe they were making some kind of progress?

Sasuke stormed towards a far corner of the room and leaned his back to the wall as he sat down against it, scowling at the ground. A thought intruded Naruto's mind, and he laughed aloud at it.

Sasuke was a true cat, unimpressed by everything.

Harsh rays of sunlight filtered through the window, thus Sasuke was pressed as far into his corner as he could get in order to avoid it. He couldn't stand this land's light, it was painful. How anyone survived in it was beyond him. Really he could barely stand this land itself; its burning sun and selfish people held a special place of loathing for Sasuke. When his kingdom was starving and struggling, the Hiruma seemed to be flourishing. Alone with his brooding thoughts, Sasuke raised his wrist and brushed his thumb across a scar he had received taking a nasty slip down a cliff. It was impossible to believe, but he wanted to go back to that day; to the spot in his memories, away from this cold reality. Naruto had gone to get something to eat, and Sasuke was grateful to be away from the boisterous idiot for a few minutes. Loud sounds bothered Sasuke to no end, and there didn't seem to be any off switch on Naruto.

Sasuke used to live luxuriously as well, and he had lost it all. It was taken from him, and the years he had been forced to live like a street urchin he would never be able to get back or forget. As he sat in that room, Sasuke regretted ever complaining about that life; because at least on the run he had his independence. Now he had nothing, he had even less than when he was on his own; he was nothing but a slave now, and that was exactly what everyone wanted him and Itachi to be. If they couldn't have the two of them dead, then they would all see to it that the Uchiha were sent to hell in a different way.

Sasuke didn't understand why his family had been despised so strongly. His only answers had been the vague whispers within the cities he and Itachi passed through in disguises; murmured lies of violence and anger. The teenager had a feeling Itachi may have known; if he did, he kept Sasuke shielded from it. There had always been inky shadows that guarded secrets in that house; things Sasuke had been too young to understand, when his innocence protected him. Nothing could have justified what had happened, nor what was happening now. Sasuke grit his teeth as hatred poured through his veins; he had sworn to hunt down whomever had destroyed his family, perhaps now he had a chance. He was certain the culprit lived in this kingdom. They had stolen what little freedom he'd had left! It wasn't fair that they roamed free while he and Itachi were caged!

A midnight colored tail swished in distress as Sasuke delved deeper into his thoughts. He hadn't been separated from Itachi like this in years; they only left each other if they needed to quickly escape somewhere; they would split up to make it difficult to track them down. Now he had no way of knowing if his brother was safe; or if they would even be allowed to see one another. Sasuke winced as he shifted slightly, his body fiercely protested any movement because of the earlier violence and attempted escapade. How could they have been so foolish? They should have known they couldn't outrun an experienced hunter; they should have hidden! Holed up somewhere until it was safe. Such a stupid, simple mistake had such a hefty price.

Sasuke rubbed his forehead as a torrent of "what ifs" swirled through his thoughts. There was no point in dwelling on all of that now, was there? The past lay in the ruins. A weary sigh escaped pink lips; Sasuke was so sore and exhausted he could barely keep his thoughts straight. A sudden click alerted Sasuke to the door opening and his head snapped up; several years of paranoia did not die out with ease. Naruto stepped into the warm room holding a bowl of rice and vegetables; the door was shut with another click, and Sasuke's eyes shot down to the lock. A litany of curses were internally muttered as he caught on to the fact it was a chakra based lock that required a minute amount of chakra to be expelled into it; he assumed all of the locks in the mansion were the same. His hope had been to break out tonight and escape with Itachi, but now Sasuke's only hope was to outsmart someone into letting him outside. Perhaps Itachi would have an idea of his own concocted.

Sasuke kept his familiar, toxic glare on his face as Naruto approached him. The blond only returned a smile as he knelt in front of Sasuke and set a bowl in front of him. "Here, eat. You're starving." Naruto stated with a glance across the prominence of Sasuke's collarbone and the unhealthy exhaustion in those onyx eyes. Sasuke eyed the bowl suspiciously, certain it had been tampered with. He was within their grasp now, why not just kill him and be done with it? It would be like crushing a fly at this stage. Sharp teeth bared in a growl and Sasuke opened his mouth to tell Naruto to throw the bowl out, but the growling of his own stomach cut him off.

The scent of the food had gotten to Sasuke. It had been so long since he'd last eaten; and even then, the meager meals he and Itachi scrapped up were never enough. Sasuke begrudgingly glanced at the bowl; there was no visual sign of a poison, and it was beckoning him to inhale it all; thus Sasuke took a tentative bite. His eyes lit up at the delicious taste; with his famished body Sasuke didn't bother with self-control, he wolfed down the food in mere seconds, not even giving it a chance to cool off. His stomach rumbled in protest, unused to such warm and rich food.

Naruto was grateful that Sasuke decided to eat, he was unhealthily thin and it worried Naruto that the raven would become seriously ill if not fed properly. The slender body was athletic, lean with muscle; yet Naruto knew Sasuke probably never had enough to eat. Disgusted by the thought, Naruto pursed his lips and stood up to busy himself with a few papers at his desk. It wasn't right that there were people that didn't have the necessities when others had far too much. It was unfair and something needed to be done about it, if you asked him. With a shake of his head, Naruto sighed; perhaps with the war over, things could change. They could at least begin to repair the broken kingdoms and heal the people within. It would take several years, but at least they could start.

Naruto decided to drop the dismal thoughts and simply focus on Sasuke for now. The dresser door was pushed open as Naruto rummaged for something to wear to bed, and something for Sasuke. He didn't have much that would fit the neko, who was a few inches shorter than he was and much more lissome in build. He had a few new clothes that he decided could just go to Sasuke until they could purchase something in Sasuke's size. Naruto turned around to face said Uchiha, and was surprised to see the food entirely gone. Sasuke was leaning against the wall, with a much more peaceful look on his face.

"Did you even chew anything?" Naruto teased, earning a narrowed look from Sasuke. Merely snickering in response, Naruto picked up the empty bowl and turned around to take it back to the kitchen. Upon opening the door he was graced with the fortunate sight of his brother as Kurama strode past. "Oi! If you're heading to the kitchen, take this back." Naruto grinned innocently as he handed Kurama the bowl. The redhead sighed playfully, though his gaze shifted over Naruto's shoulder.

"Don't you already have a slave? Have him take it." The insulting words made Sasuke stiffen. An acidic retort bubbled up in his throat, but before he had the chance to open his mouth, Naruto cut him off. It was probably a lucky thing, as Sasuke would have likely only gotten himself in trouble, which wasn't necessarily a thing he needed right now.

"Don't say that, he's not any different than we are. Besides, he's hurt." Naruto frowned deeply. He and Kurama, despite being siblings, were two vastly different people. Kurama enjoyed the servants, whereas Naruto couldn't stand the thought. Naruto didn't understand why Kurama had been so eager to see the Uchiha brothers enslaved, or why he wanted to treat them so cruelly; the two hadn't done anything wrong, they didn't deserve any of this.

Kurama had always been sadistic, as evidenced by his time on the battlefield; but Naruto didn't believe that warranted such a lack of empathy for other people. Before Kurama could form a reply, Naruto had shut the door in his face; he heard Kurama curse at him in irritation, but he didn't care to listen. In favor of pretending that encounter didn't happen, Naruto remembered what he had been doing previously. He headed towards the small door to the left of the room and opened it to reveal the adjoining bathroom.

Sasuke was annoyed with Naruto; he was indeed hurt, and he was annoyed that Naruto had been able to pick up on it. Sasuke was perfectly capable at disguising his emotion, and he'd always been great at hiding his injuries as it was something he had been taught; it frustrated him that Naruto could so easily see through his façade when no one else had ever been able to. Dark ears pricked up when they heard the sound of running water. Soon Naruto came back and picked up a shirt and pair of boxers on the bed; the clothes were new, thankfully Naruto had an older friend that loved to sew clothes. He would have given Sasuke pants, but none of them would fit the frame of the Uchiha. "Here, you can wear this to bed. I'll get you some new clothes soon, okay? I started the shower for you so you can go ahead and clean up."

Naruto would have actually preferred to take a look at Sasuke's wounds and patch him up a little, as it was obvious the Uchiha was suffering. Somehow Naruto doubted Sasuke was going to allow him to get close anytime soon. Sasuke already mistrusted him as it was, and Naruto didn't want to push his limits on his first night here. Genuine sympathy welled in his heart for the neko as he knew he and his brother had to have been through hell. How long had it been said they were missing, eight years? How the two had managed to survive that long was beyond Naruto's comprehension. Sasuke was trying to put on a brave front, but it was obvious to Naruto he was hurting and afraid. That act may have fooled anyone else, but Naruto was too in tune with emotion to be tricked. Sasuke was rigid and he kept reaching up to bite his nails or he would chew on his lip; there was concealing it.

Sasuke snatched the clothes out of Naruto's hands on his way to the bathroom; once inside he locked the door, just as an extra precaution. The mirror startled him; a wild looking creature stared back at him, skin bruised and marred and bones prominent. Sasuke reached up and touched his face, fingertip tracing a cut that dragged across his right cheek. No wonder Naruto had seemed so wary- Sasuke looked like he'd fought a wild animal. Sasuke's reflection scowled; it wasn't his fault he'd had to fight to survive. Had things been different perhaps he would look like Naruto; colorful with life. Regrettably, Sasuke would never know how different things could have been. Clothes were stripped and dropped to the floor to reveal a battered body, covered in dark marks, dried blood and dirt. The bruise on his stomach had grown, and when he pressed on it a flare of pain burst.

Sasuke snarled in rage for those that had done this to him. When he was a bit younger, perhaps only a couple of years ago, Itachi had questioned why Sasuke seemed to hate everyone so much. With their life as it was, Sasuke felt that question had been naïve on Itachi's part. In their world, everyone was against them. Sasuke couldn't recall anyone aside from his older brother that hadn't either physically or mentally harmed him in some way, aside from their beloved mother. Sasuke figured if you never trusted or cared for anyone then it was impossible to be hurt. Sasuke's jaw clenched and he decided these thoughts needed to be drowned. He stepped beneath the warm water and a startled shudder jerked through him. Sasuke hadn't bathed in anything other than frigid rivers in years; the soothing flow of the water across his sore body was an immense gift.

Raven hair clung to his face as it grew wet and he swept it back out of his eyes. Several bottles adorned the shelves, but Sasuke couldn't really make much sense of the flamboyant words and designs painted across them. He simply picked a bottle that read two-in-one and doused his hair with it. As he washed his hair a torrent of blood, dirt and other grime was chased down the drain by the water. Soon, suds followed it. Sasuke was careful as he washed himself, cleaning the wounds and hissing as a stinging sensation lit up his nerves when soap entered open cuts. Without the dirt clinging to him, Sasuke looked nearly made of marble; living in darkness granted a pale complexion. Hesitant to step out and face the world again, Sasuke reluctantly sighed as he turned off the water, sad to see it stop.

Stepping out of the shower brought an unwelcome chill to his body and Sasuke soon had himself wrapped in a fluffy towel. He stared at the mirror a few minutes, simply basking in the softness of the towel before he actually bothered to dress. The shirt Naruto had given him fell to just below his thighs, and though this irritated Sasuke he was only grateful to have clean clothes. They were much more comfortable than his dirty, torn ones. Sasuke brushed his dark hair back as he exited the bathroom, when the cool air hit his skin it caused goosebumps to rise on his arms. Naruto looked up from a book when he heard Sasuke and smiled when he saw how much better Sasuke looked now that he was clean, though the varying wounds were still glaringly obvious.

Blue eyes lingered a few moments, though Naruto hadn't noticed until Sasuke spoke up. "What the hell are you looking at?" Sasuke seethed as his arms wrapped around himself protectively. Naruto snapped to attention when the choleric neko berated him.

"A smart-ass neko, apparently." Naruto replied in good humor. The reaction amused him further, as all Sasuke did was huff and stalk away from him to sit in the corner once again. A chill filled Sasuke's veins as he settled in the cold and uncomfortable corner. Still stubborn however, he refused to get onto the bed with the prince; he wasn't risking his life tonight. Drowsily Sasuke pondered how long he would be here; a week, a month? Would he be killed before he got out? That inconceivable thought made Sasuke close his eyes, and send a prayer to any god that might be listening to an unfortunate soul.

Naruto went to take his own shower and left Sasuke to his brooding. Nimbly rising from the floor, Sasuke darted to the lock to see if it might give; he cursed at it when the door did not release him from the room. The window was tested for the hell of it, but there was no such luck; Sasuke heard Naruto opening the bathroom door before he could consider clawing a hole in the wall, and he dove back into his corner. Naruto tossed the old clothes into the bin, having not noticed the frustrated neko's panting from his excursions around the room.

Nervously rubbing the back of his neck as he got into bed, Naruto decided to try one more time. "Y'know, you can sleep up here. It's gonna be freezing down there." Naruto offered a reassuring smile despite the unfriendly circumstances. Sasuke sent a disbelieving look Naruto's way; he doubted the prince had slept on a floor in his life. Sasuke had slept from the rocky ground to paved roadways; this was a night in luxury in comparison. "I'm staying here." Sasuke snapped, resolute to his decision no matter Naruto's opinion of it.

Mildly annoyed with Sasuke, Naruto simply rolled his eyes. "Fine, stay down there. But when you start freezing to death, just get in." Naruto conceded in allowing Sasuke his wish because it seemed getting the Uchiha to agree to anything was like pulling teeth. Sasuke scoffed at the thought of it getting too cold. It was the Hiruma land, how could it possibly be below freezing if the sun was constantly scorching the land?

A flicker of a shadow caught Sasuke's eye right as he finished that thought.

Thinking he had daydreamed it, Sasuke blinked his eyes; now there were more shadows. Darkness was indeed shrouding the room. Panicked, Sasuke jumped up and looked out of the window to see the setting sun. "Why is it setting?" The question came out far more infuriated and distressed than Sasuke had intended as he jerked his head to face Naruto.

Confused, Naruto stared at Sasuke for a second, as if the raven should already know. "The palace is set right on the border, where the sun and moon rise and set in their travels." Naruto explained, though he wanted to question why Sasuke hadn't known that, he realized soon enough that the neko likely had been too young to be taken to the border before his parents' deaths. Few people were ever taught the sun and moon had setting cycles; when you lived on the border, you passed around both the sun and moon; giving the appearance of a day and a night.

A sinking feeling ate away at Sasuke as the shadows danced across the walls. In his kingdom, there were plentiful lamps to illuminate the world; and the moon and stars provided sufficient brightness. Complete darkness suffocated the neko; and as the room became enveloped in the inky shadows, his heart began to race. It was a phobia from childhood; when he heard yelling at night, when the guards would hiss threats at the child they thought slept; to the night his parents were killed. Even when Sasuke had faced total darkness, he had been with Itachi, who normally made a fire or brushed through Sasuke's hair to assure him he was safe. The darkness seemed to bring catastrophe wherever it pervaded.

Arms wrapped around himself, Sasuke struggled to slow his breathing as to not alert the other boy in the room that he was anxious. He fought to stay calm and to not lose his control, but it was a losing battle. Long tendrils of cold shadows lashed out at him, trying to drag him under. The temperature dropped significantly as the night wore on. Finally, as much as it humiliated Sasuke, he couldn't stand it any longer. He stood and silently padded to the bed Naruto was passed out in. Sinking into the sheets, Sasuke sighed inaudibly as he relaxed into the softness of the mattress. Unable to recall when he'd last slept in a bed, Sasuke basked in the soothing creature comforts.

Curled into a ball as far from Naruto as he could get, Sasuke's tail restlessly swished as he stared into the inky darkness. Slowly, his eyes would drift closed and he would fall into the first deep sleep he had slipped into in an unbearably long time.

There was something warm burrowed against him. Half asleep, Naruto leaned up slightly to glance down at the source. A smile adorned his expression to see the fast asleep neko beside him. Sasuke had rolled over and was laying on his side now, his expression peaceful and relaxed; such a far cry from his usual scowl. Naruto covered Sasuke with the blanket before he too lay back down, exhaling slowly through his nose as he recalled how suspicious and antsy Sasuke had been. He hoped to change that, but how could he prove to Sasuke that he was safe, that not everyone was out to hurt him?

How could he judge the Uchiha for something he knew all too well himself?

The unfamiliar brightness of the sun awoke Sasuke, lazily drawing him out of slumber. The slight weight and warmth of the blanket made him furrow his brow as he glanced down at it. He hadn't covered up last night, had he?

Slowly he widened his eyes to look up at Naruto, who was facing him. The blond must have done it. Pursing his lips, Sasuke got up and out of bed before Naruto awoke. He didn't appreciate being babied- he didn't need that, especially not from the bane of his existence. Sasuke knew better than to accept help from someone without expecting a price, everything had a cost in this world. Not that Sasuke should care.

After all, he had already sold his soul to the devil.