Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-sensei. I own nothing but this small piece.
Itachi had just arrived home from school one day when his mother assigned him the task of taking his three-year-old little brother out to play. Considering it was almost summertime then and he would soon graduate from the academy, he accepted the request with little hesitation. He didn't really understand why Sasuke's eyes always lit up whenever he saw him, but he was glad he didn't have anything to complain about his sibling. He knew some of his classmates did not like theirs very much, what with annoying screams and all. Sasuke, however, was quite obedient and cute.
If cute was ever the right word for an Uchiha, that is. His father would be livid if he ever found out Itachi had been calling Sasuke cute in his mind. Still, even Fugaku had his daddy moments, and nobody – nobody – could resist little Sasuke's charm.
After spending an hour watching his brother run around with his peers, Itachi picked the little bundle of joy off the ground and proceeded to carry him home. Sasuke's laughter rang through his ears like music, and he couldn't help but let a small smile grace his lips.
They passed by a dango shop on the way home, and he noticed the dark-haired boy on his back staring longingly at the stand. Itachi himself was quite fond of dango, so moments later they were walking with dango sticks in hands, Sasuke chewing off his treat happily.
"Onii-chan, this is really yummy!" His little brother giggled excitedly, and Itachi knew he would gladly take the boy out for dango more often if it meant he could make Sasuke smile. Homework and missions be damned.
A couple of years went by, and Itachi found out he was slowly running out of time for his brother.
He had trained himself to exhaustion ever since his graduation to live up to Fugaku's expectations. He had been labeled a prodigy, a genius, and his father only pushed him harder because of it. His mother no longer asked him to watch over Sasuke, and it saddened him more than it should. Itachi had to resort to buying the little boy some dango after a mission, and even that had been scarce. He hardly came home sooner than midnight, and all the shops had been closed by then.
One rare occasion that he actually managed to accompany Sasuke to train, the boy sprained his ankle and they ended up staying inside the usual stand for the treat.
"I missed you a lot, aniki."
Itachi had to blink a few times after the sentence flew out of his brother's mouth. He blinked a few more, realizing he had also missed Sasuke just as much.
"Forgive me, Sasuke." A phrase he had been hearing himself say a lot lately. "I have missions."
"I know." Sasuke said quietly, munching on his dango. "I just wish we could…"
"…Never mind." The smaller boy quickly finished off his plate and looked away.
"Do tell me, little brother. You know you have never been able to hide anything from me before."
"I just… I want to… " Sasuke seemed to have trouble finding the right words to say, so Itachi just patiently waited. Several minutes later, he blurted out, "I wish we could go out like this more often, nii-san. Just… just you and I. Like we used to. I mean, I know you're busy, but…"
You have no idea how badly I want the very same thing, Itachi thought, but decided to keep it to himself. He didn't want to disappoint Sasuke more than he had already.
"It's getting late. Let's go home." He motioned Sasuke to get on his back. His little brother must have sensed his uneasiness and said nothing more on the topic. The silence stretched on until the Uchiha mansion's gate appeared in front of them, and he could feel Sasuke tighten his grip on his shirt, clinging to him like some sort of lifeline.
Had Itachi known it would be the last time he got to hold his brother like that, he would have broken the silence and told Sasuke what he really wanted. But he didn't.
As Itachi fled from their house four months later after slaughtering his own clan and leaving Sasuke behind, tears of regret mixed with blood streamed down his face, and the only coherent thought on his mind involved afternoons, dango, and his little brother's brilliant smile.
Itachi had been there when Sasuke refused to eat the dango sticks Sarutobi had bought him. Later on, he found out through the Sandaime's letters that the boy had been avoiding every dango shop in the village like a plague and began to hate sweets in general.
The Hokage had asked him if he knew the reason why. He wrote back, Sasuke liked dango because of me.
He never heard about Sasuke and dango again from the man, but he knew that Sarutobi understood he didn't need another reminder of how broken he truly was.
Itachi sat perched on a tree, watching his twelve-year-old brother sharing lunch with his teammates from afar. He hadn't seen Sasuke for a long time, and it seemed the boy had grown quite a bit over the years. He was no longer the little boy Itachi has always remembered. His features had sharpened and his eyes had darkened. He looked haunted, and Itachi knew it was because of him.
The pinkette – Sakura, if he heard right – was offering his brother a dango stick. He saw Sasuke shake his head and continue with his onigiri. He had thought the girl would stop her attempt and mind her own business when just a second later, the blond boy sitting across from Sasuke took the treat from her hand and shoved it in the dark-haired boy's mouth, shouting something about Sakura-chan and politeness. That made his eyes widen a little in amusement. Considering his brother's hatred towards dango, it would not end well for Naruto. However, as the pink-haired girl punched the blond square in the face and sent him flying a few meters back, Sasuke just stayed silent and finished the rest of the dango. Naruto was back on his feet in no time and started whining about the bruise on his cheek while Sasuke just smirked and called him a dobe.
His brother just smirked. And he just ate a dango stick – the very treat that could remind him of Itachi.
What happened during the years he had been gone?
But then Itachi saw a small glint of warmth in Sasuke's eyes directed to his teammates, and he understood. Something akin to jealousy flared up in his chest, but he forced it down and swallowed it whole like a bitter pill.
He had lost the right to treat his little brother to dango and make him smile. Now somebody else was doing all of it in his place.
Itachi walked away from the scene and pretended it didn't hurt.