Hello everyone! So, I know it's been a while since I've updated, and I won't give you any excuses. I'll only say that I was unable to update, and that I'm sorry. I hope you can forgive me.

I'd like to give a capitalized THANK YOU to everyone who has faved/followed, and another capitalized THANK YOU to everyone who has reviewed. Your reviews make my day, seriously.

So, a reviewer suggested to me that I shouldn't give you too many hints about what is about to transgress in the story, as it kind of ruins it with the whole spoiler thing. So, I've decided not to do that, because I don't want to ruin anyone's reading experience with this. Thanks to that person, for telling me, by the way!

Here is the tenth chapter, and I really hope you like it!

I hope this isn't so bad you go into a coma from banging your head on a desk.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. If I did, the Akatsuki would still be alive.

Chapter 10

Tenth Day of Christmas


On the tenth day of Christmas,

My true love sent to me,

Ten Akatsuki Workers,

Nine Photographs Taken,

Eight Horses a Galloping,

Seven Snakes a Slithering,

Six Mistletoe a Hanging,

Five Christmas Trees,

Four Christmas Carols,

Three Purchased Books,

Two Disapproving Parents,

And His Douchebag Brother Itachi.


The caterers had arrived early that morning, all carrying their own large boxes filled with various spoils. The party planner had been scurrying about, prattling about guest lists and seat placements and how the entertaining room decorations needed to be straightened out a little more.

Lillian had been shoved aside by some of the caterers, who had taken up residence in the kitchen and had been cooking for hours.

Mikoto had spent most of the day wandering back and forth between both the party planner and the caterers, giving her opinions on various things.

To Naruto, it was a warzone.

Although the Uchiha's could navigate easily around ice sculptures and flutes of champagne balanced on silver trays, Naruto could only clumsily evade.

Sasuke himself had been on edge all morning. He knew Itachi was going to pull something today, but not knowing what was making his nerves frayed.

What made him even more uneasy was the way Itachi had given him a random hug when he had emerged from his bedroom in the morning. Sasuke had been half-asleep, and when Itachi had glided away, he had had to question Naruto, who was standing beside him at the time, if he was dreaming. He hadn't been, which meant that Itachi was in such a good mood that he had spontaneously decided to hug him, despite the fact they were both displeased with each other.

He had not seen Itachi since then, and Sasuke knew that his brother must have been making sure the arrangements for the guests bedrooms had been seen to.

He had tried to take a peek at the guest list, but the party planner was having none of it, shooing him away whenever he ventured close.

So Sasuke had forced himself to wait, and the closer the time crawled to when the guests were to arrive, the more visibly distressed he became.

Naruto massaged his boyfriend's shoulders with a near bruising grip, trying to rid Sasuke of the tenseness that had taken up residence there. "You need to relax." Naruto said soothingly, rolling Sasuke's skin expertly. "Everything is going to be fine tonight."

"I need to speak with Itachi." Sasuke groaned. "And I know he's plotting something. I have a feeling this is going to turn into a public fight."

"Should I make some popcorn now?" Naruto joked lightly. "Calm down, babe. I'm sure that Itachi isn't planning to set you up with anyone."

Sasuke snorted, turning to eye his boyfriend teasingly. "That's what you were worried about?"

Naruto's shoulders slumped. "Yeah." He admitted.

"Itachi won't try and set me up with anyone." Sasuke told his paranoid boyfriend, rolling his dark eyes. "Although he hasn't said anything, I know that he thinks I'm safer with you than with anyone else. He doesn't dislike you for any particular reason, Naruto. He just hates you because you're my boyfriend. He's determined to hate you."

"When did you come to this conclusion?"

"Last night." Sasuke shrugged his shoulders. "He won't introduce me to anyone with the ulterior motive of having us go into a relationship. He'd prefer if I was never in a romantic relationship for the rest of my life."

"That's what I don't understand." Naruto said, a little exasperated. "Most people will become romantically involved in their lifetimes; it's a part of being human. But Itachi wants you to be forever alone. Has he ever been in a relationship?"

"That is up for debate." Sasuke said. "None of us, not even Mother or Father, know if Itachi has ever been romantically involved with someone. We each have our suspicions, but..." Sasuke trailed off thoughtfully. "I think he may have been, once."

"Do you think that's why he doesn't want you to be with me?"

"No," Sasuke snorted. "Not at all." He glanced at his phone, and his eyes widened with slight surprise. "We should start getting ready. The guests should start arriving soon."

Naruto's bottom lip jutted out in a pout. "Can't we just stay up here for the whole night and have copious amounts of sex whilst everyone is distracted?"

"And have Itachi become curious about our absence and walk in on us?" Sasuke countered. "That isn't an intelligent idea."

"Fine..." Naruto conceded petulantly, still pouting. "But do I really need to get all dressed up in a suit?"

"Just a dress shirt and some slacks." Sasuke started sorting through his gigantic suitcase, pulling out a blue blouse and some dark coloured pants. He stripped out of his casual jeans and hooded jacket and pulled them on.

Naruto tried to not get an erection. The trip was almost over, and when they were in Tahiti, he and Sasuke could have hot beach sex whenever they wanted. It was such an appealing prospect...

After Sasuke was dressed, he got down on all fours and began sorting through Naruto's pile of unworn, neglected clothes that he had strewn all over the place when he had been looking for his phone charger days prior.

Sasuke had told Lillian she was not permitted to enter, or clean, their room. Awkward questions would be raised if the elderly woman saw some of the questionable contents of Naruto's suitcase.

Sasuke had told him not to bring the handcuffs, but he still had. "Here," Sasuke tossed Naruto a pair of slacks and a white blouse. "Wear that."

Naruto walked off in the direction of the bathroom, and the door shut behind him.

Sasuke collapsed back on the floor, head in his hands. He was so anxious...


When the first two guests had arrived, their arrival had not been announced by Lillian or Itachi, and their presence had not been signified by a cordial greeting.

What Sasuke and Naruto heard, was a loud explosive noise that seemed to have shaken the entire house. In a panic, Sasuke had scooped up Cocoa and ran downstairs behind Naruto, only to see the oddest pair of people either of them had seen in a long time.

One of them was rather youthful looking, with a cherubic face and blood red hair that was not unlike Gaara's. In his arms he was balancing an assortment of what appeared to be wooden puppets, and he was looking surly and overall unhappy.

Besides him was the source of the noise, a somewhat feminine looking man with long blonde hair and sky blue eyes. His arms were crossed and his hip was cocked. He was wearing a smug smirk, and Naruto and Sasuke both noticed the odd tattoo that adorned both of his palms.

Mouths?

Both of them thought.

And in these palms seemed to be some unique form of a plastic explosive.

"You brat," The redhead huffed, and his voice was deeper than the two men had expected. "Must you always try and destroy everything?"

"I was just making art, un." Like the redhead, the blonde's voice was different from how they had imagined. It was masculine, and not high and girly like they had first assumed it would be.

"Please refrain from making art in my family's home." Itachi was standing in front of them, looking completely unamused. "Such antics are better suited for the office, Deidara."

The blonde 'Deidara' made a grunting noise.

He blows things up in the office?

Sasuke thought.

Does Akatsuki engineer new and unique explosives and weapons?

"Who are these kids, un?" Deidara questioned, smirking directly at Naruto and Sasuke. "Do you two want a demonstration of my art?"

"How dare you even refer to your obscene and disgusting explosives as art." The red head snarled, and both Naruto and Sasuke shivered. That guy was scary.

"Calm down, Sasori my man," Deidara said, not effected in the slightest by the deadly glare he was on the receiving end of. "Why don't you go play with your wooden toys?"

Sasori snarled again. "You brat, these fine wooden specimens are not toys! Of course you'd mistake puppets for toys; you know absolutely nothing of true art, or true beauty."

"I thought I specifically had written in the invitations that neither of you were to bring your art-weapon hybrids to this home." Itachi said coolly.

Deidara averted his eyes, but Sasori stared back, unabashed. "I cannot leave my masterpieces behind. They are a part of me."

"Issues..." Naruto attempted to cough subtly, and failed.

The red haired Sasori looked at Naruto with a blank face, but he was still intimidating.

"You arrived early." Itachi continued to speak. "I'm afraid you will have to entertain yourselves until the other guests arrive."

Deidara moaned in irritation. "I knew we shouldn't have caught such an early flight. But Mr. Punctual couldn't stand waiting for a later one."

"It was bad enough it was delayed." Sasori grumbled.

"It wasn't delayed." Deidara said in a loud outburst, throwing his arms up in the air. Naruto and Sasuke had the feeling he had said this many times before arriving at the Uchiha home. "Your watch is just early!"

Sasori glared venomously at Deidara, and Sasuke got the impression the red haired man was contemplating poisoning him.

Sasuke wasn't aware of how right that assumption was.

But Itachi was, and he put his pacifism to good use. "You both have separate rooms to relax in, and they have been prepared. Would you like me to show them to you?"

Sasori near sagged in relief. "Separate rooms?" He repeated for clarification.

"Yes. They are each close together, but are, indeed, separate."

"Lead the way." Sasori commanded. "I've been spending too much time with this brat. I need some peace and quiet."

Deidara didn't argue, but he did look a little put out. "Well I need some time away from you, eternal artist, yeah!"

"Like a married couple..." Naruto whispered in Sasuke's ear. "Your brother certainly works with some different people."

When Itachi had described the guests who would be coming as 'unique' he had never realized how fitting the word would be.

I wonder if all of the other guests will be like this.

Itachi turned on his heel and began heading for the rooms that had been prepared. The lower floor of the Uchiha household had a multitude of spare rooms that were well suited for the number of guests who would be attending.

Deidara and Sasori followed after him like ducklings, and Deidara's smirk widened when he walked straight past them. "See you guys later, un."

"Holy shit..." Naruto breathed when they were out of sight. "Look at this!"

Sasuke looked in the direction of his boyfriend. The taller man was leaning down, looking at a small charred piece of clay. "What is it?"

"I think it was an explosive." Naruto was miffed. "How does your brother even know people like that?"

"They must be his colleagues." Sasuke assumed. "He wouldn't speak with such familiarity to acquaintances, and he mentioned an office."

Well, this is going to be an interesting evening. If I'm lucky, maybe the house will blow up and I won't have to speak with Itachi.

It was inevitable, and not even an explosion would change that.


One thing became clear over the next few hours.

The Akatsuki employees travelled in pairs.

The next to arrive was a dysfunctional duo with the names of Kakazu and Hidan.

Kakazu was extremely tall, taller than even Naruto and Itachi, and was a shrewd individual, only claiming he had decided to attend the party due to the lack of expenses.

Itachi had explained he was the treasurer of the Akatsuki.

Hidan had slicked back silver hair and tended to go into religious rants that were filled with swears and insults. He refused to shake Itachi's hand, and even went so far as to call him a 'prickly bastard'.

The next two to turn up did not seem as close as the others. Zetsu and Kisame.

Zetsu had conversations with himself, and Kisame revealed shortly into their introductions, that the strange man usually worked alone, and he himself was Itachi's partner in the organization.

"Well, your kid brother looks very much like you, Itachi." Kisame had said, in his strangely accented voice. His skin seemed to have an odd bluish tinge, and neither Sasuke nor Naruto could tell if the gill like markings on his cheeks were birthmarks or tattoos. "I can't say I'm surprised though. In the photographs in your office he looks exactly the same."

"What photos?" Sasuke had worked up the nerve to ask.

"He has a fair few of them." Kisame gave a wide grin, displaying sharpened teeth that were not unlike Suigetsu's. "All of when you were a child. Your features haven't changed much."

Sasuke didn't know whether to feel insulted or not. "There are only photos of me as a child?" Sasuke had frowned. "Not when I was older?"

"Funnily enough, there isn't." Kisame had said, shrugging his impossibly wide shoulders. How had he even fitted through the door?

Itachi had then told Kisame, in a very scary tone, that he should follow Zetsu to their rooms.

Kisame had just smiled, no doubt used to the treatment. "Good to see you, Itachi. I missed your monosyllabic manner." And then he had heeded Itachi's unspoken warning and followed after Zetsu, with a comment of 'Getting to know' Sasuke later at the party.


The last two guests who arrived were what Naruto would later call the 'Piercing couple'. The man had bright orange hair and a multitude of piercings on his face. The woman was breathtakingly beautiful, with blue hair, stunning amber eyes, and a labret piercing. Her face was expressionless and relaxed, and she spoke on the behalf of 'Nagato' who stayed silent throughout the customary greetings.

Her voice was as beautiful as her body, and Sasuke wondered why the woman was not a professional singer or a model. She also seemed very devoted to Nagato...

Naruto just thought that if he wasn't gay and with Sasuke, he would have been all over that sexy ass in a second.

"That's everyone." Itachi told Sasuke and Naruto when Konan and Nagato went in search of their rooms. "The party should commence soon."

And when it did, Sasuke and Naruto wished they had never left their room.

The entertaining room was flawlessly set up, and the hired staff travelled around with expensive trays of alcohol and the caterers watched as the guests ate from the buffet table with nervous expressions. Zetsu was gobbling up everything in sight, murmuring all the while about how tasty the staff looked, for some reason.

Konan had slipped into a purple dress, and her hair was adorned with a origami flower. She and Mikoto were conversing quietly.

Sasori and Deidara were arguing.

Kakazu and Hidan were arguing.

And Kisame was heading in Naruto and Sasuke's direction.

"I was very interested to see you." Kisame said in lieu of a greeting, staring at Sasuke. "Itachi only ever smiles when you are brought into a conversation. I did think you'd be a little warmer though. Itachi speaks of you like you are the most adorable child on the planet."

"I'm neither adorable nor a child." Sasuke said tersely, mortified. What had Itachi been saying to this man about him? It was odd for him to be so talkative...but then, Kisame had said he only really spoke more than a sentence when Sasuke was mentioned.

"Honestly, Itachi never mentioned your age, so I was expecting someone younger." Kisame divulged. "I was also expecting someone more...open."

"What exactly does he say about me?" Sasuke questioned, sincerely hoping it wasn't anything embarrassing, but needing to know anyways.

"About how proud he is of you." Kisame said bluntly.

Sasuke's chest suddenly felt very painful.

"He blabs about your achievements to anyone who will listen, although he does think you're capable of more. I inferred this, though."

Naruto noticed that Sasuke had become rather pale, and changed the subject hastily. "So, how long have you known Itachi?"

"Ever since he began working for the Akatsuki. Our CEO thought he would be an asset to our company, and entrusted him to me. However his skills far outshone mine eventually and we're partners now. At first, I disliked him immensely, but I learned to like him eventually."

"Yeah well, I'm still working on that." Naruto chortled. For some reason, he felt he could trust Kisame. He seemed like a humble sort of person, despite the obvious imposing presence he had. "How long has Itachi been working for Akatsuki?" The question was meant to be a bridge to a new subject, but the answer Kisame gave shocked both Naruto and Sasuke.

"He joined up in his teens."

Sasuke blanched. "But, Itachi told me he joined when he was older..."

Kisame suddenly looked awkward. The sort of awkward when you had accidently revealed something you didn't know was a secret.

"Kisame, are you enjoying yourself?"

The giant man jumped at the unexpected, bland voice. "Yes I' am, Itachi."

"That's good. You should go try and placate Hidan. Kakazu and he have been goading one another for a while now, and my mother does not wish for a fight to escalate."

Usually Kisame would not be tasked with such a job, but it was obvious Itachi had wanted to find an excuse to make him leave. "Very well..." Kisame agreed, but he still shot Itachi a somewhat confused look before walking away.

The atmosphere was tense, as Sasuke glowered at his brother with a mixture of befuddlement and anger. Naruto was contemplating following after Kisame to give the brothers some privacy, but his own curiosity got the better of him and he remained where he stood. "Kisame," Sasuke began in a deceivingly light tone. "Just told me you started working for Akatsuki when you were a teenager. Is it true?"

That would explain his frequent absences when he became a teenager.

Sasuke thought, reason finally dawning on him.

"Kisame is not misinformed." Itachi said, expertly dancing around the question. "Dinner is being served."


Ten Akatsuki members, Mikoto, Naruto and Sasuke sat at the long, not often used dining table. It was set impeccably, and mouth watering food was spread across the expensive tablecloth.

Fugaku was absent, having deliberately decided to work late that evening to avoid the party. He had never quite approved of Itachi going to work for such a questionable company, and wanted to forego meeting the 'weird' people he worked with.

Dinner was not quiet, and the Akatsuki members tended to talk over one another. The only member who made an effort to be somewhat polite was Konan, and even she had some very unladylike moments where she forewent courtesy and snapped at other members in a fearsome display. "Sasori, stop baiting Deidara with your 'true art' comments! He is courteous enough to grudgingly accept your views, so stop being an uppity idiot and do the same!" She then settled back down, gentle expression back on her face. "Will you pass the pepper, Deidara?"

Deidara hastened to pass her the pepper, expression a mixture of contrite and thankful. "Yes Konan."

Sasuke then suddenly realized that Konan must have been the mother of the organization.

"What's wrong with you, Blue?" Hidan gave a deranged smirk, stabbing a piece of meat overly hard, making a crack in his plate. "Are you menstruating? Or do you need to get laid that badly?"

All conversation halted, and Konan reached over the table, pulled the origami flower from her hair, and cut him so hard on his wrist that beads of blood fell from the extreme paper cut. "You bitch!" Hidan cursed, furious.

"Shut your mouth, you rude, uncultured swine." Konan daintily sprinkled pepper on her meal.

"Maybe they ought to be serving you chocolate." Hidan snarked, before falling silent.

The rest of the meal was eaten comfortably, and Sasuke chose to ignore the way Deidara occasionally elbowed him in the stomach purposely. For some reason, the man didn't seem to be fond of him and Itachi.

Has Itachi wronged him somehow?

After dinner, the group relocated into the entertainment room, where a giant screen had been erected. Itachi then coughed pointedly, and walked to the front of the crowd. He fiddled on a computer, before pulling up what seemed to be a slideshow.

Judging by the lack of surprise anyone showed, Naruto and Sasuke assumed that they knew this had been planned.

Anxiety suddenly returned to Sasuke. So far, Itachi had not cornered him, and he had a feeling Itachi was finally about to pull something.

"I'd like for my little brother to come join me up here." Itachi instructed, and Sasuke numbly walked forward to him, face pallid and legs feeling like noodles. There was a small amount of practiced applause, and Naruto knew right at that moment that they'd been set up. "Leader," He then addressed Nagato. "I'd like for you to come here as well."

The orange haired man nodded his approval before joining them. The man stared unblinkingly at Sasuke, and Sasuke shrunk. "Sasuke Uchiha," He started, in his deep monotone. "It is my pleasure to announce, that your application to join our company has been approved, and I'm eager to employ someone with your amount of skills, and your intelligence."

"But, I didn't apply..." Sasuke stumbled over his words. "I never..."

"Itachi did so in your place. He said you were too shy to do so on your own. But working underneath him, your confidence should improve."

"I did not consent-"

Konan applauded, prompting another round of clapping. Naruto gave the woman he had previously admired a wounded look. So she had been roped into this as well?

He now understood.

Itachi was trying to pressure Sasuke into joining Akatsuki. And if things continued as they were, Naruto knew that there was a chance he may succeed.

He felt completely betrayed, and when he looked to Mikoto for support, he could see she was conflicted.

Did she know about this?

Naruto was so tempted to freak the fuck out, but knew Sasuke had to handle this matter without his help.

"You will be a great asset to us." Nagato offered his hand to Sasuke.

Sasuke instinctively shook it, but Naruto did not waver in his decision to standby. He knew Sasuke was reacting in a shocked state. Once the initial surprise faded, he would confront Itachi.

Naruto hoped.

He really did.

Because watching these dignified, talented people accept Sasuke into their midst, made Naruto feel small and unworthy. Sasuke fitted perfectly into this crowd, as if he were made for it. And although Naruto always thought Sasuke belonged in their usual group of ragtag friends, he was now unsure.

There was more applause, and Hidan began to snicker loudly. "That kid is such a pussy." He stage whispered to Kakazu. "I knew he would fold."

Naruto bristled in offense, but did not respond on Sasuke's behalf.

He couldn't fight Sasuke's battles for him.

But he did wonder, why exactly had these Akatsuki employees travel so far for this? Why would they bother?

They must care for one another more than the let on.

Naruto realized.

And they must be power hungry, and see potential in Sasuke.

"As your elder brother, and your new boss," Itachi's voice was tinged with self satisfaction, and a small smile was curled at his lips. "I took the liberty of seeing to some arrangements for you."

"...Arrangements?" Sasuke felt detached, as if what was happening around him was a dream.

Itachi walked back over to the computer and changed the blank screen in the slideshow. A high scale apartment popped up. It was all large windows and squeaky tiles, and overlooked a vast city. "Merry Christmas, little brother."

"That's mine...?"

"I took the liberty of purchasing it for you. It's in the same building where my own apartment is."

This is ridiculous.

Naruto fumed.

How dare that bastard do something like this! It's cruel!

There was more applause.

"It's relatively close to our workplace, so catching a taxi each morning, or driving, will not be necessary."

"I-"

"He's speechless." Itachi said with a small, victorious smirk.

"No doubt he's taken with your generosity." Nagato said. "Congratulations."

Konan clapped again.

"I have much to go over with you." Itachi told his younger brother, grasping both of his shoulders with his black painted fingernails.

Now that Naruto thought about it...all of the Akatsuki members fingernails where painted with black nail polish.

"I..." Sasuke blinked slowly. "You..."

"Why don't we give them some space?" Naruto spoke up, glaring at Itachi menacingly.

This entire evening was structured, and you relied on numbers and unfamiliar faces to pressure Sasuke.

Naruto hoped that once the area was cleared, Sasuke would come back to his senses.

Nagato shrugged and left the room, Konan gliding alongside him like a guardian angel.

This prompted the others to do so, although Hidan and Deidara did seem interested in staying to see the inevitable freak out.

Mikoto lingered in the doorway, biting down on her bottom lip and looking very distressed.

Naruto did not have it in him to be sympathetic. Not when he knew that the woman must have had some inkling of the events that were to transgress.

Itachi gave Naruto a glare. He had not countered the blonde man into the equation.

Sasuke was still shell shocked, but when Naruto grasped his hand, his eyes became focused, and his expression so stormy that Naruto expected the sky to fall on them. "You..." He rasped, resentful. "You...I can't believe..." He shoved Naruto away and got up in Itachi's face, and although he was smaller than his brother, he still looked plenty tall. "That you would do this to me!"

"Do what?" Itachi asked, his expression calm. "Give you the opportunity of the lifetime? Purchase you a luxury apartment?"

"I didn't ask you to do either of those things!" Sasuke spat. "You went behind my back!"

"Oh, well, doesn't that sound familiar?" Itachi's pitch lowered, and he was matching Sasuke's glare with equal power. His composure was gone.

This was the confrontation Naruto had been waiting for. The confrontation that Sasuke had been dreading, and the confrontation Itachi had been trying to avoid.

"What are you talking about?" Sasuke snapped. "Since when have I ever gone behind your back about anything!?"

"Why don't you take a look at your boyfriend and tell me?" Itachi snapped right back. "Or, why don't you remember the time you went off to that sick fuck Orochimaru? Even after I warned you against it?"

"That's ancient history! And you said you trusted me!"

"I do trust you!"

"If that's true, then why do you lie to me all of the time?" Sasuke's voice was suddenly tinged with hurt. "Why do you deceive me, big brother?"

"I-"

"Your work partner, Kisame, told me you started working for Akatsuki when you were a teenager."

Itachi didn't look surprised. "Kisame always did have a big mouth."

"Why did you start working for them so early? And why did you lie to me about it? Are they the reason you..." Sasuke choked suddenly. "Why you..."

Naruto pulled Sasuke to him, kissing the top of his head. "What is it?" He was confused. What had Itachi done that made Sasuke so upset? "What did he do?"

"We shouldn't talk about this!" Mikoto's voice was hysteric. She had ventured closer from where she had been lingering. "What Itachi did, it's in the past!"

"It's not if it's in the forefront of Sasuke's mind! And the issue is unresolved!" Naruto snarled, making the mother step back at the aggression. "Look at him! He's shaking!" And indeed, Sasuke was. He was shuddering and Naruto could tell that Sasuke was genuinely haunted. "What did you do!?" Naruto all but roared at Itachi, his own protective instinct bursting forth from the cage it had been trapped in for the past days. "He's never fragile like this!"

Itachi's face was pained, but he did not back away, nor did he become intimidated. "Do you really want to know?"

"Of course I do!"

"No," Sasuke shook his head violently. "No, don't tell him."

"Why?" There was such misery and guilt on Itachi's face. "Why not, little brother?"

"I don't want his opinion of you to be tainted." Sasuke said softly. "I have never wanted that."

"So you've been keeping some big secret from me merely because you don't want me to see Itachi in a new light?" Naruto growled at Sasuke, but did not release him. "Sasuke, that's just..."

"I don't want you to know. Don't you trust me?"

"How can I trust any of you?" Naruto asked with a bitter laugh. "You Uchiha's, you're all emotionally constipated and secretive. I've had enough of it."

"That just proves he doesn't belong with us." Itachi said, looking at Sasuke beseechingly. "He's an Uzumaki, not an Uchiha."

"If he was an Uchiha our relationship would be incestuous, you dolt." Sasuke insulted. "Since when did you decide who belonged with us and who didn't?"

"It's always been unanimous."

"Then why do Mother and Father like him now?"

"Mother is misinformed and Father is a fool." Itachi said, without any hint of apology. "I know what is best for you-"

"And what makes you think that?"

"Don't change the subject!" Naruto near shouted. "What the fuck are you all keeping from me!? What did Itachi do!?"

"We shouldn't-"

"I don't-"

"Why are we even-"

"Just tell me!"

"Very well." Itachi conceded, looking world weary and miserable once more. "He has a right to know, I suppose."

"Itachi, please-"

"Sasuke," Itachi put a finger on his little brother's pleading lips. "The guilty must profess their sins and mistakes, correct?"

"But you don't need to-"

"I do." Itachi sighed. "Come with me, Naruto."

Naruto deftly followed Itachi as the elder man headed for the doors. Itachi grasped the handle, and pulled the door inwards.

Naruto let out a yelp of surprise when nine Akatsuki members tumbled into the room, all evidently having been listening to the confrontation.

Konan sat up from where she had been sprawled out atop a spluttering Sasori. She smoothed down the creases in her dress. "We'll be retiring to our rooms for the evening."

Nagato, who had barely stumbled at all, nodded in accordance to Konan's words.

"Hey, the party hasn't even really started!" Hidan protested. "We haven't even had any blood sacrifices, or done any praying!"

"This isn't one of those parties." Kakazu said. "Nevertheless, I would like to enjoy some more of the free refreshments..."

"This party is kind of lame, yeah?" Deidara said. "We should all make it better, un."

"I'm going to polish my puppets." Sasori was unamused. "And then sleep some of my migraine off."

"That's right, go mope around with those travesty's of yours, un."

"You disrespectful little-"

"Why don't you two go actually practice using paper for your art?" Konan interrupted the fighting, eyes cutting.

The two men looked in different directions stubbornly.

"Origami bitch." Hidan cussed, just wanting to join in on the fight.

"Don't make me cut you."

"Try me, Blue."

"This squabbling, though entertaining, is getting annoying." Kisame contributed.

"You want to fight as well? Mr. Gills?"

"Pfft, hahaha."

"What are you laughing at, Blondie?"

"Don't call me that, un!"

"Do not needle the brat, Hidan."

"Go fuck Pinocchio, Sasori."

"Your rashness is, as ever, completely irritating, Hidan."

"Shut the hell up you blasphemous, money obsessed pig."

"Shit is about to go down here tonight, yeah!"

"Alright, who tagged me in that status on Facebook? I gave my Grandmother the excuse of being unwell to avoid spending Christmas with her, and now the old bag is going to know I lied and came here instead."

"It should say who tagged you, Danna."

"This infernal social networking site, I have no idea how to navigate it! You damn brat, signing me up for this!"

"Dei has you wrapped around his finger, doesn't he?" Hidan mocked. "How sweet..."

"Do not go there." Konan warned. "I won't be mopping up the blood that will be spilt."

"Obviously not, these rich Uchiha snobs have a freaking maid."

"You use such profanity for claiming to be a holy man, Hidan."

"Want me to rip off your wooden dick, Sasori? I'll stuff it down Dei's throat. It'll be right at home there, won't it?"

"Don't be mean to Danna, un! Only I can insult him like that!"

"Enough." Nagato said in a quiet, yet demanding tone.

Silence fell, although Hidan was still muttering swears under his breath.

"Itachi needs some privacy to sort out some matters. In the meantime, we should all retire to our rooms."

"But Leader-"

"That includes you as well, Hidan."

"I don't have to listen to some piercing obsessed fuckwit who probably has a cock ring!"

"Speaking of cocks," Konan's pretty face was emotionless, but her eyes were fiery. "I'll rip yours off if you don't listen to Pain, Hidan."

Pain...

Was the only thought that travelled through Naruto's mind. He had been watching the Akatsuki members squabble and snarl, but his mind had been too occupied by what Itachi was going to tell him to really take much notice.

Obviously deciding not to test Konan any further (and Naruto thought this a wise decision on the silver haired man's behalf) Hidan stormed away, the other Akatsuki workers following after him, before trickling off in different directions.

"Thank you." Itachi said to Nagato. He and Konan had stayed behind. "I thank you for making the trip."

"If Sasuke works for us," Nagato said. "It will be worth the hassle. Good evening." He then turned on his heel, and walked off, Konan trailing behind him, ever the guardian angel.

Itachi gave a heavy sigh, and led Naruto in the direction of his bedroom.

The walk seemed absurdly long to Naruto, but in reality, was quite fast. Itachi seemed like he was marching to the gallows for a swift death, and wanted to get it over with fast.

When they did enter Itachi's room, the elder man gestured to the lounge. Naruto plopped down, and watched with a cocktail of anxiety, interest and anger as the man rifled through his desk. When he finally walked away, Itachi was holding a manila folder.

What could possibly be inside of that?

Itachi sat across from him, and ran his fingers along the edge of the folder with sad resignation. "I know Sasuke never wanted you to see this. But, I believe if you do, you may understand a little more." He offered it to Naruto, and Naruto took it with wobbly fingers.

Naruto took a deep breath before gently opening the folder. Immediately, his eyes widened. He leant forward, and examined the extensive list of injuries. "One broken wrist, three fractured ribs, one clavicle fracture, one broken leg, severe scale four bruising, abrasions and cuts..." Naruto trailed off. "What is this?"

"Keep reading."

Naruto did so, and read even the smallest details. Naruto let out a breath of shock. "This is a medical report." He gulped, feeling bile rise in his throat. "...Evidence suggests that patient Sasuke Uchiha was a victim of severe domestic violence." Naruto hastily filed through the next detailed pages, until he came to a set of photographs that had obviously been taken with a police camera. "Sasuke..."

The Sasuke in the photos was nearly unidentifiable. He looked like a human punching bag rather than the attractive male specimen he actually was.

But Naruto didn't doubt that it was Sasuke, because he remembered. "He told us he was in a car accident." Naruto swallowed thickly. "I remember everyone being confused, because no one else in your family was injured, despite the fact that you were all apparently in the same vehicle. I remember some parents being suspicious..." Naruto swallowed again, feeling short of breath. "I remember my mother defending you all when Sakura's mother and father pointed out the holes in your story." Naruto looked down at the photographs, feeling sick to his stomach. "Please tell me if was a car accident." Naruto pleaded. "Tell me that this isn't..."

Itachi looked equally as sickened.

"You did this?" Naruto asked, and his voice shook with barely repressed emotion. "Or was it your father?"

Itachi's silence was his admission.

"You..." Naruto looked up, the bloodlust he was feeling displayed on his face. "You beat him."

"I did."

"How can you say that so calmly!?" Naruto snarled. "Why the fuck did you do it!? And why the fuck did no one take him off of you abusive assholes!" Because he knew, that Mikoto and Fugaku knew, what Itachi had done. There was only one way this incident could have been swept under the rug after the blatant evidence and the medical and police reports. "You three were in on this together! Did you take it in turns hurting him!?"

"No." Itachi said. "It was only me. They took no part in it, and they were not present when I hurt him."

"So that means you three came up with a scheme to keep this entire business a secret. To avoid the retribution you all deserved! To avoid..." Naruto shook his head in disgust. "...To avoid having your reputations sullied."

Itachi said nothing, letting Naruto rave.

"Fugaku used his sway at the police station to seize these reports..." Naruto said, coming to the correct conclusions easily. "And you paid out the nurses and doctors with bribes. I can't believe people like that, people who are supposed to help others, could be so corrupt."

"I told them to do it." Sasuke's voice made Naruto jump. He had been so caught up in his rage, confusion, and revulsion, that he hadn't noticed the other man's presence. Sasuke entered the room, and he sat besides his brother. "I approached all involved directly."

"Why would you...?"

"It was an accident." Sasuke said this firmly. "It was all an accident."

"No. An accident is when someone accidently uses the wrong toothbrush, or when some random chick gets knocked up. Not when a kid is beaten in pure brutality."

"It wasn't brutality." Sasuke crossed his arms, and looked Naruto directly in the eyes. "Itachi didn't beat me because he was angry."

"Then why?" Naruto directed the question at Itachi. "Why'd you beat him? Was it for fun? You sick fucking bastard!"

"Don't you speak to my brother that way." Sasuke hissed, but he was still obviously shaken from the reminder of what had transgressed when he was a child. "It wasn't like that. You don't understand."

"Then make me understand. Give me the justification." Naruto wanted to understand, but he doubted the excuse Sasuke made would be enough to satisfy him.

"It's hard to explain." Sasuke grappled. He knew that Naruto would not react well no matter what he told him. Why did Itachi have to tell him about what had happened? It wasn't fair, he thought. "He was only doing what was best for me."

"BEST FOR YOU!?" Naruto exploded, and Sasuke winced. He'd been expecting that. "So you're telling me, that he fucking beat the shit out of you only because he had your best interests at heart?"

"It's not like that – like Mother said, it was all an accident."

"I don't want your excuses, Sasuke Uchiha." Naruto pinned his boyfriend with a deadly glare, and Sasuke averted his eyes. "Your brother should stop being a spineless, disgusting, miserable, waste of-" Naruto blanched when a fist shot out, but was caught by the very man he was insulting with such vehemence.

"Sasuke..." Itachi addressed his younger brother. He was grasping Sasuke's fist gently, but Naruto still bristled seeing that hand touching his boyfriend. That hand had hurt Sasuke. Hurt him horribly. "Don't strike out at him. Imagine the predicament he is in. How would you react if he told you his father had beaten him the way I did you?"

Sasuke's arm became limp, and Itachi released it. "I don't like how he's talking about you."

"You can't say I don't deserve it, can you?" Itachi said with dark humour. "You hated me just as much as he did, once."

"That was short-lived, and I was more hurt than anything-"

"How hurt must he be feeling? Knowing what I put you through? Knowing you had to deal with it all on your own? Knowing that he could have done something, if only he had noticed?"

"I don't need help from you." Naruto said. He didn't like how understanding Itachi was being. He wanted Itachi to morph into the demon Naruto imagined him as, and give Naruto more of a reason to hate him. "I want an explanation from you. Not a second-hand one from Sasuke. I don't trust his judgement when it comes to things like this. Even when he's angry with you, he'll still stick up for you."

"I'll give you your explanation. But know this, no matter what you think of me, and no matter what you say, I still know what's best for Sasuke."

"Evidently," Naruto said sarcastically. "If by 'you know best' you really mean you know absolutely nothing, then yeah, I agree with you."

"Naruto-"

"Sit down and shut up, Sasuke." Naruto snapped. "Or better yet, go sulk somewhere else."

"I think you should leave us alone." Itachi seconded Naruto, but much more gently. "Would you, Sasuke?"

"I'd prefer if I remained-"

"Please?"

"I don't want Naruto to hurt you-"

Naruto gave a splutter of indignation. "Me? Hurt him? I'm not the abusive psychopath here, Sasuke!"

"Just go." Itachi instructed. "Naruto and I won't fight. We promise."

Naruto wanted to argue against this, but gave a nod. He knew that Sasuke would not leave the room otherwise.

Sasuke left, after sending both of them a few furtive glances, and Naruto lost all semblance of composure.

"I'm going to rip you limb from limb." Naruto promised savagely. "And then I'm going to make certain you endure the same amount of pain you put Sasuke through."

"You think that hasn't happened already?" Itachi asked rhetorically, sardonic. "I've experienced much pain."

"Who did you pay to beat you up?"

"No one. You should know Naruto, that not all pain is physical. I think emotional pain is much worse."

"You still deserve retribution-"

"And you'd dole it out to me self righteously? Do you have any idea what that would do to Sasuke?"

"Always manipulating a scenario so it will end in your favour, you're despicable."

"Do you want to know what my motives and reasoning were, or do you not? Because you can rant and rave at me all night, but we won't get anywhere."

"Tell me."

Itachi put his fingers in a steeple. "When I was a teen, I was scouted for Akatsuki. At first, I refused the offer to join, but eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I agreed to work secretly for them in return for payment."

Naruto snorted, and Itachi sighed.

"I know what you're thinking. My family is wealthy, obscenely so. However, neither Father nor Mother ever spent much of their money on Sasuke. Father refused to waste money on him, and Mother was not allowed by extension. Do not misunderstand; Sasuke never went without the necessities, he was fed well, had a bed to sleep on, and was looked after."

By you.

Naruto thought of saying.

"However, he was missing out on the things many children should have been privy too, toys and the likes. Until I took that job, all of the toys Sasuke owned were gifts from someone else, and he had to hide them from Father. Father was stern, and believed Sasuke should be spending time on bettering himself instead of playing. I knew though, that Sasuke secretly yearned to have the privileges of a normal child. The first envelope filled with money I received, I spent on toys for Sasuke. And although he was a little old for most of them, he still played with them with the curiosity of a toddler learning to play for the first time."

Naruto was caught up in the tale, almost as if Itachi was reading from a story book. He didn't doubt what Itachi said, because he remembered when Sasuke was a younger child, and how confused he would become when invited to play, or when he was playing alongside the others. Naruto had made fun of the seemingly perfect boy for this, and now cringed at his past self.

He also recalled one such instance he had seen Sasuke hugging a plush wolf and made fun of him mercilessly for it.

He now officially felt like scum.

He knew deep down it was unreasonable to feel like that, as he hadn't done so with malicious intent, nor had he known anything about the troubles Sasuke had.

But the mere thought, of sombre little Sasuke who was unable to even play with toys comfortably, made him feel awful.

"It's not fair." Naruto said mournfully. "Why has Sasuke been treated so harshly all of his life, why?"

"Because life isn't fair," Itachi said coldly. "No matter how much we wish otherwise. We can only try to make life more bearable for one another."

"So you joined Akatsuki to support Sasuke." Naruto said, deciding not to dwell. "But why did you keep it a secret?"

"Mother and Father would hardly approve, and Sasuke would feel horribly guilty if he knew I was working for a company for his benefit. He was so young back then, he was so happy to finally be getting the things he deserved to really pay attention. He only noticed when my absences became longer, and even then, he fully believed I was merely studying, or working a simple part time job."

"He never suspected-"

"He was a child, Naruto."

Naruto nodded. "Okay."

"Everything was going well for a while. I worked relatively long hours, but it was hardly tedious. Working for Akatsuki was challenging, and that was refreshing for someone like me."

Genius problems.

"But Akatsuki is a...different sort of organization."

"You're killing me." Naruto blurted. "What does Akatsuki do? You've never told anyone."

"If I did tell you, I'd really have to kill you."

Naruto shuddered. He didn't know whether Itachi was kidding, or if he was dead serious. Judging by the psychopathic behaviour of the ten Akatsuki workers that evening, he wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter. "It's real decent and noble for you to do the whole self sacrifice thing. But, I know you're Sasuke's hero. You don't need to press that with me." Naruto admired Itachi for the good things he had done for Sasuke, but he knew that Itachi had done many things that weren't good for Sasuke as well, and he wasn't about to be swayed. "But I'd really like you to justify why you hurt Sasuke, now."

"It's all connected." Itachi said. "You must be patient to understand."

"Fine, continue."

"As I was saying, everything was going well. Sasuke was happy, and I was happy because Sasuke was happy. However, it wasn't long until a snake," Itachi snarled the word. "Cornered me one evening. I still don't know what exactly he wanted, but I know he was willing to hurt me to obtain it. Of course I beat him badly, almost to the point of unconsciousness. I've always been a pacifist, but he said something that upset me dearly."

"What was it?" Naruto felt like a mixture between an interviewer and a psychologist.

"He said I should watch my back, because he was going to get his revenge, and kill whoever was closest to me."

Naruto shuddered for the umpteenth time.

"This became quite common over the next few months. I knew that Orochimaru would be in no physical condition to follow through with his threat, but I was still worried for Sasuke. However, the threats continued to come from many I was involved with. One man, he was elderly, with a surprising amount of strength, Akatsuki had slighted him in the past, and he'd been unable to extract his revenge on any of the members. He knew a surprising amount about Akatsuki, and when he learnt of my new role in the company, he decided I was a good candidate for his rage. So," Itachi's explanation quickened here, and Naruto knew the reason was coming. "He looked into my family. His search was comprehensive, and he vowed to wipe out all of them. He would be able to find an adequate excuse to do so, since Father had always been corrupt. Of course, Sasuke would be the easiest for Danzo to kill, and when I became aware of this, I suddenly realized how defenceless he was. As much as I tried to protect him, I knew I couldn't be with him personally all of the time. I'm sure you know, Sasuke has always been fit, and he was good at sports, but he was still hilariously weak."

Naruto bristled at the description. Sasuke had never been weak in his opinion. He was such a strong person, and Naruto thought the word should never be associated with him.

"Countering this into the equation, I contemplated many solutions over the span of a few weeks. During this time, I became distant, which concerned both Sasuke and my parents. When I eventually came to a conclusion," Itachi winced. "It was the wrong one. I decided Sasuke was too trusting, and that the only way he would be able to survive in this harsh world, was to experience hardship and learn to hate."

"That is majorly fucked up." Naruto said bluntly.

"I was misguided, and I was scared. And fear does horrible things to people, and affects their mindset significantly."

Naruto didn't know how to respond to that. Had he truly experienced that sort of crippling fear? He'd been scared many times in the past, and he still did become scared, but the fear of losing someone so important...that was hard to comprehend. Even the thought of losing Sasuke made his breath shorten and his palms sweat.

Itachi looked at the photographs and the documents, and he looked more miserable than ever. Naruto had never seen such a defeated expression before, and he felt slight compassion. "I understand a little more." Naruto sighed. "I will refrain severe judgement until you're finished."

"Thank you."

"Don't mention it. I'm still probably going to kick your ass."

"You know what happened next. I decided to commit the ultimate cruelty, and Sasuke suffered. Despite what I'd done to him, and Sasuke's resentment, he still refused to report me to the authorities. And even if he had, Father had already made certain that no one would ever know the ghastly truth of what I did."

"Sasuke changed in that moment." Naruto interrupted, not able to stop himself. "I remember how...angry he was. Everyone assumed it was because he was traumatised from the alleged car accident, but in reality, it was because of you."

"I said some awful things to him." Itachi's hands tremored slightly, and if Naruto had not been looking closely, he would not have noticed. "And although I felt horrible, I was determined to not give in to the temptation to soothe and comfort."

"Years went by..." Naruto continued. "He continued to become hateful, arrogant, and aloof. He eventually left our original friendship group, and begun to spend more time with Taka. And then...there was the street fighting." Naruto remembered. "And the dubious activities...he got into a lot of trouble, and I remember your dad being the one to put handcuffs on him after a bloody incident."

"Throughout all of that...I still treated him horrendously." Itachi admitted. "And I would have continued to do so. But one incident changed my mind set."

"Orochimaru..." Naruto guessed.

"Sasuke had become a supreme perfectionist, and believed that Orochimaru was capable of mentoring him. He didn't attempt to be secretive with his motives, but I was informed by Sasori that Sasuke was intending to seek him out. I didn't even know they had been introduced. I was so ignorant..."

"Wait, how did Sasori know?"

"They were colleagues for a time."

Naruto couldn't believe how convenient this all was. "Keep going."

"I knew Orochimaru had no good intentions for Sasuke, so I decided to step in. However, warning Sasuke was useless. He refused to listen to me, and I understand why. I didn't exactly have high credibility. In the end, I basically told him he wasn't allowed to associate with him."

Naruto scrunched up his face and shook his head. Sasuke had been a rebellious teen, and telling him not to do something had been a sure way to assure that he did do the aforementioned something.

"We both know how well that turned out. In the end, Sasuke disobeyed me, and he paid the price for it. Eventually, he was hospitalized for getting into a brawl with the snake, and I realized the error of my ways."

"I see." Naruto managed to say eventually. He had no idea how to respond. The explanation Itachi had given him did not exactly paint the elder man as an evil villain, more a gentle man with good intentions who made a terrible mistake. "And I guess that's when you and Sasuke became joined at the hip."

Itachi was unabashed. "Yes."

Naruto's palm met his face with a sharp slap. "I always thought it was odd. One day, Sasuke was all, 'I hate my brother, be in awe of my ultimate angst!' and then you were picking him up from school every day, and not allowing him to go to parties." Naruto would never forget Sasuke's fury over the Suigetsu pool party incident.

It had been the ultimate tantrum.

"After being independent for so long without me, Sasuke didn't react well to having me looking out for him again." Itachi seemed to have sensed the direction Naruto's thoughts were heading.

"I don't understand. You never explained anything to him, yet he still let you back in his life so easily...why?"

"Why doesn't he tell you that?"

"What?"

Itachi rolled his eyes, before standing up, heading to his partially closed door, and gripping the ear of a certain broody raven.

"Ouch!" Sasuke winced as he was dragged into the room. He was looking appropriately scolded and very guilty.

"How long have you been eavesdropping?" Naruto gaped.

"Since the very beginning." Itachi answered in Sasuke's place. He twisted Sasuke's ear. "It was obvious by how readily you left the room. Did you honestly think I would overlook how you left the door ajar?"

Sasuke shuffled on the spot, trying to alleviate the pain in his throbbing and reddened ear. "Let me go."

Itachi gave one final twist before letting go.

"That hurt, you bastard." Sasuke cursed, giving Itachi a sour look. "If you knew I was there the whole time, why didn't you oust me earlier?"

"Because I knew I would have to explain to you as well." Itachi said, voice cool. "And I was too much of a coward to look you in the face when I did so."

Sasuke laughed bitterly. "You've always been able to predict my moves so easily, huh, Itachi? Always stringing me along...manipulating the outcome to suit what you want."

Itachi's expression showed no remorse, and Naruto thought it odd how he could remain so in control in front of his brother constantly. "Now do you understand?"

"Not completely. And I think the fact that you explained to Naruto directly merely to escape doing so to me is despicable. How dare you..." Although Sasuke's fists had been shaking earlier in haunted fear, they were now shaking in rage. "How dare you shirk your responsibility like that! You say you know what's best for me, but you never even think about what I want!"

"Sasuke," Naruto said weakly. He supported his boyfriend's comments, but he knew that saying them in anger would have a negative effect on all of them. Now wasn't the time for angry exclamations and flying fists. Now was the time for reasonable conversation and resolutions. "He's not as selfish as you think."

"I know he himself isn't selfish," Sasuke spat at Naruto. "But his actions are."

"I know I made a mistake." Itachi distanced himself from his little brother, voice bland with a hint of steel. "I've admitted it. I know you forgive me."

"Whether I forgive you or not isn't the point!" Sasuke threw his arms in the air, usual composure absent in his distress. "I'm just sick and tired of you manipulating me! When I was in that hospital bed, and you cried in front of me for the first time, I forgave you instantly. When you told me you were only doing what was best for me, I believed you. And when you told me to trust you, and never go behind your back again, I agreed!"

"You deceived me with Naruto for months. Do you know how it felt for me finding out my little brother was in a relationship second hand?" Itachi's dark eyes matched Sasuke's glare.

"I imagine it felt like finding out how my big brother started working for Akatsuki as a teenager instead of an adult." Sasuke retorted coldly. "Now, we're even."

"Recompense..." Itachi said.

"I'm not going to quibble with you about revenge or any of that other shit." Sasuke snarled. When Itachi opened his mouth with a stern look, Sasuke glared with such ferocity Naruto was sure that if looks could kill, Itachi would be dead on his feet. "And don't you even think about giving me a lecture about my language."

"Can I just direct the conversation back to what you originally wanted to discuss?" Naruto interrupted timidly. "Why Itachi treats you like he does?" Naruto reminded Sasuke. "Cause I'd really like to know that myself."

"Naruto, if you'd kindly vacate the room-"

"If you've got anything to say you can say it in front of Naruto." Sasuke said to Itachi, gutsy. "I'm not going to repeat this later, and he has a right to know. Why do you treat me like a child?"

"Because that's what I want you to be."

The answer came quicker than Sasuke had expected, and he recoiled in surprise. "What do you mean, Itachi?"

Itachi sighed. "Exactly that, Sasuke. I treat you like a child because that's what I want you to be. I want that more than anything."

"But why?"

"Because I miss you having to crane your neck to look up at me, and I miss you relying totally on me, and I miss how I was the only man in your life."

"Itachi..." Sasuke's rage melted. "People change when they grow up. I'm an adult now. You have to accept that."

"I missed your transition from child to teenager." Itachi looked extremely sombre. "I was absent from your life for years, and I wasn't there for you."

"You don't know how to treat him." Naruto interjected quietly. "You never learnt how to treat him as an adult, and he still isn't an adult in your eyes."

Sasuke suddenly realized. Itachi didn't just treat him as a child because he was bigoted or mean, it was a coping mechanism for him, and doing so made him function better.

Some people smoke...some people drink...but Itachi just...dotes on me.

He needed to do it, Sasuke realized. Itachi needed to do it. Just like how Cocoa needed to be snuggled before bed, and how he needed to brush his hair twice a day.

Can I let him continue treating me like a child merely for his benefit, though? He still thinks he knows what is best, but what can I do or say to convince him otherwise? Can I really force him to stop doing all of this?

No. He couldn't.

Because Itachi would never change. And he wouldn't be Itachi if he just reclined back on his chair and let Sasuke run his own life.

Itachi would always interfere, he would always meddle, and Sasuke would always need to put his foot down, like he had figured out during this trip.

Such was the dynamics between the two Uchiha brothers.

Sasuke mimicked his brother and released a sigh of his own. "Well..." He walked towards his brother, and leant into the taller man's side. "You're here now. And that's all that matters."

"You're not going to yell at me more?"

"No." Sasuke sighed once more. "I understand."

"Then you'll move to the city and work for Akatsuki?" Itachi asked, entire being hopeful.

Naruto rolled his eyes, and prepared himself to listen for another argument. Why hadn't wearing earplugs occurred to him earlier?

"Yes."

Naruto blanched, and dug in his ear with his finger. Surely a wax blockage was what had made him hear that answer... "Did you just say," Naruto began disbelievingly. "Yes?"

"Yes." Sasuke didn't spare Naruto a glance as he responded, and that really pissed Naruto off. Was he so unimportant that his boyfriend couldn't even look him in the face? Did his input matter so little that Sasuke didn't even consult him before making life-changing decisions?

"You're shitting me, right?" Naruto asked, although he knew that Sasuke would never do something that cruel to Itachi.

"No." Sasuke finally looked at Naruto, and his face was blank. "It's a good idea."

"Since when!?" Naruto exclaimed.

"Itachi and I spoke about it not long after we first arrived here..." Sasuke said. "And he told me to think the idea over...and I have." Sasuke nodded decidedly. "Let's do it."

"'Let's do it?'" Naruto spluttered. "You want to relocate just like that?"

"Let's do something impulsive." Sasuke's eyes became big, and Naruto looked away so as not to give in to that pretty stare. "Let's do something completely reckless like we used to when we were kids."

"This isn't impulsive or reckless!" The volume of Naruto's voice rose. "This is planned! And this is madness!"

"This is Sparta." Itachi said, and Naruto barely managed to dodge the kick aimed at his chest.

"You fucking bastard!"

"Itachi, you aren't helping." Sasuke hissed. "And 300? Seriously?"

"Hidan is a fan." Itachi explained. "We watched it at one of our Akatsuki movie nights."

"Oh, that's just something to look forward to." Naruto said sarcastically. "I hope Akatsuki likes Titanic, Sasuke. I hope they indulge you like I did."

"What do you mean by 'did'?" Sasuke questioned. "Don't you mean 'do'?"

"Sasuke," Naruto snarled. "We're over!"

Sasuke didn't have a chance to open his mouth before Naruto stormed from the room.


Frustrated and hurting, Naruto jumped in the car and drove in the direction of the closest Inn.


Sasuke stomped to his room and sobbed into Cocoa's coat soon thereafter.


Itachi shared a glass of wine with his co-workers.


Okay, so there was a lot of drama in this chapter, and I hope you guys liked it. I know some of you must have been waiting for the big confrontation, and I hope it didn't disappoint, and I hope you all liked Itachi's backstory.

I also hope that I did the Akatsuki justice. I had never written them before, so I'm sorry if they seemed a little off. I tried to add some humour to their interactions, because I always really enjoyed watching them interact in the anime and in the manga. If you couldn't tell, I really love them. If only they hadn't died...

I'm sorry if this disappointed anyone. Please review and tell me what you think! And here's another big THANK YOU because I always kind of overdue it. Also, happy late Christmas! And happy belated New Year! I hope you all had lovely celebrations.