Growing Up With Dreams

Pleasure & Pain

Growing Up With Dreams

Chapter Thirteen – Pleasure & Pain

Practice was something that happened consistently. Despite the daily catastrophe that was their lives, baseball practice was something that always calmed them and brought them together in a relaxed setting. Baseball season hadn't quite started yet as the air was still chilly and it was early in their third term, so they were confined to the school gym. The team didn't mind much though. They mostly talked, did some stretches and played catch, killing time. Most of the members had been there long enough that there was no need to do any team bonding exercises. They just had to stay limbered up for when the season did start.

So this lead to some interesting events!

Daisuke, with his messy forest green hair and muddy brown eyes, Captain as always, had been making progress with Yuuto again. Thankfully the teen hadn't pushed Daisuke away like before and was quick to start talking to him again but there was a certain tension in their friendship that they just couldn't seem to get over. And neither one of them wanted to talk about the kiss in the mall just yet.

He couldn't help but notice that Yuuto seemed to be closer to him now more than ever but there was a line he was afraid of crossing. Daisuke wondered what it was that was holding the boy back. What would it take to breach that subject?

He didn't know. He didn't think he'd ever know. For a fairly simple guy, Sakaeguchi Yuuto was frustratingly complex.

Naruto was playing catch with Yuuto, laughing at the funny faces he made when concentrating which led more to their laughing and poking fun than playing catch. So Daisuke was grinning, listening to them as he played catch with Gaara.

As one of the newest additions to their team, Gaara was doing really great as a newbie pitcher. The red head showed incredible potential, despite his dislike for sports in general and lack of drive to move into the Big Leagues. Even so, Gaara was a great addition to the team.

It just occurred to Daisuke then that he and Gaara never really did anything together. He usually only hung out with Ryder and Naruto and sometimes Hanai. Or it was the group for practice or group bonding days. For how long Gaara had been dating Naruto now and been a part of their small group of close friends, Dai was almost ashamed to realize he had never spent any time alone with Gaara as just a friend.

He decided to do something about it right then. "Hey, Gaara? Are you free after practice tonight?" he called as he tossed the ball to the red head.

Confused, Gaara faltered before he threw it back. "Uh… I think so… why?"

The Captain didn't fail to notice that Naruto and Yuuto were both watching their exchange now with curious looks. With a smirk, Daisuke tossed the ball. "Wanna go for coffee with me? Just you and me, I mean?"

"FUCK!" Yuuto swore loudly. He hadn't paid attention to the ball Naruto threw at him and it smoked him in the side of the face. All eyes turned to the brown haired boy. He flushed darkly, rubbing his face. "What?" he spat.

Everyone chuckled quietly and went back to what they were doing while Gaara just eyed Daisuke up carefully. "Can I ask why?"

With a shrug, the green haired boy answered, "I just realized you and I never do anything together even though we're friends… I thought it would be nice if we just went for coffee."

"Oh… well… sure," Gaara smiled faintly, failing to notice the glares he was receiving from Naruto and Yuuto.

"So, then Saya got the crazy idea to dress me up as a girl… Delilah… and Yuuto's family moved to the island a while after that. They had no place to go so they stayed at the Inn and that's when he got the biggest crush on Delilah," Daisuke flushed as he recalled the memory. It was strange retelling this tale to someone… Naruto and Ryder had always known so it was just natural for them to accept it… and it was devastating trying to explain it to Yuuto but then having to explain it to a complete outsider was… outlandish.

The look on Gaara's face though… Dai burst out laughing, holding his stomach. The usually stoic and quiet red head looked horrified. "D-don't… look like that!" Daisuke gasped between bouts of laughter. "You should see your face!"

"That didn't… scar you? For life?' Gaara questioned, not understanding how Daisuke was so ok with it.

Still chuckling, the teen wiped a tear from the corner of his eyes and tried to catch his breath. "No, not really… They didn't treat me like a girl and once I was done at the Inn, I was just me again… The only hard part was trying to keep Yuuto away from Delilah and stop him from hating me."

After a few beats of silence, "You're weird…" Gaara muttered with a tiny smirk on his lips. Daisuke smiled widely.

"Yup!"

The two friends didn't have a problem connecting during their time together. They sat at a coffee shop, chatting long enough for Daisuke's older sister, Saya, to call his cell phone. They parted ways feeling like they gained a new friend.

This however did not sit well with the impatient and jealous Naruto and Yuuto. The next day at school, Naruto confronted Gaara first thing in the morning, grilling him on what happened, what they talked about and what they did.

"Why are you so jealous, Naruto? I'm dating you am I not?" Gaara demanded, getting frustrated by receiving the third degree.

Naruto flushed and backed off a little, feeling guilty. "I'm sorry… I just… I don't want to lose you, you know?" the blonde scratched the back of his head nervously and offered a smile to his boyfriend. Gaara couldn't help but smile at Naruto's honesty.

"You're cute when you're jealous… but I promise I'm not going anywhere, Naruto… I'm yours," he blushed lightly and glanced away as he said this. But he meant it.

"Good…" Naruto grabbed Gaara's hand and pulled him flush against him, wrapping his arms around that slender waist. "I'm yours too," he whispered. Their faces were so close, their breaths mingled in the miniscule space between them. They both blushed darkly, eyes locked, bodies tense and hearts pounding.

Until now, their relationship had been innocent. Puppy love. Sweet and chaste. Holding hands, sitting beside each other, sharing food and talking on the phone secretly until the wee hours of the morning. Until now…

Naruto hesitantly closed the distance between them and pressed his lips against Gaara's, blue eyes closed, in what was their first kiss. Gaara hesitated only a moment before he sank into Naruto's inviting warmth and kissed back. This… this was amazing… this was… indescribable… their softness, the warmth, the content and happiness flowed through both of them. Naruto pulled back and looked at Gaara with a strange fire lit in the depths of those blue eyes.

He was hungry for more and Gaara was not about to deny him. They kissed again, more fervently this time. Pulling the other closer in a desperate attempt to meld their bodies together. They both wished it would last forever.

"Alright, break it up you two! Class is about to start!" Ryder chuckled and clapped Naruto on the back to draw him back to real life. The boys broke apart, faces flushed but giddy grins stuck in place. There was no mistaking it; they had discovered something new in their relationship. And Naruto wasn't about to stop this forward motion. He kissed Gaara one last time, a chaste, sweet, promise of more later.

The discovery of something new was so exciting and enticing that the two lovers could hardly contain themselves. Every chance they had, they slipped into a hallway, a locker room, a bathroom, to explore this new found territory. The more they explored the bolder and more encouraged they were. So entranced they were with this adventure, they hardly noticed their friends discomfort.

"Hormonal teenagers," Ryder complained at lunch as Naruto and Gaara snuck off to some secret corner to make out… again.

"You're just jealous," Daisuke teased, munching on some fries.

"Am not! It's just uncomfortable when we're all hanging out together, trying to talk, and all they can do is make googly eyes at each other and make out!" the silver haired teen scrunched up her face in distaste, making Moriko giggle.

"It would be different if it was happening to you, you know," the curvy girl pointed out, eating her fruit. Ryder flushed slightly and kept her mouth shut then, trying very hard not to think about what it would be like to make out with Moriko. They still hadn't even shared their first kiss.

Since the whole Kiba incident last week, Ryder had lost her fighting spirit, worried that at any turn, she would be exposed by her former friend.

But these were not the thoughts of the silent brunette sitting across from Daisuke. Yuuto regarded Daisuke with interest. What did Daisuke think about kissing? Public displays of affection? Was Daisuke jealous of Naruto and Gaara? What had pushed Naruto and Gaara into this new stage? Did something happen between Gaara and Dai? The thought made Yuuto's stomach knot painfully.

He didn't like that train of thought…

Later that day, close to the end of their after school baseball club, Daisuke was coaching Gaara how to throw a better curve ball when Yuuto had enough. He needed to talk to Daisuke. He made his way over, shaking with nerves and trying to steel his resolve, contemplating what to say.

"Dai… could I talk to you?" he asked quietly. The green haired boy looked at him in shock but immediately agreed, leaving Gaara to practice. The two made their way to a corner of the gym away from the others before Yuuto had the courage to speak.

"D-did… uhm… How did coffee with Gaara go?" he asked awkwardly, his brown eyes not meeting Daisuke's.

"Great. We just hung out, talked… it was fun," Daisuke answered with a smile, unsure of what Yuuto was driving at.

"That's all?"

"Well… yeah? What else do friends do?" Daisuke raised an eyebrow.

"I-I just mean… well… I don't know… but I wanted to tell you something and I found I've quite lost my courage to do so," Yuuto admitted, shamefaced as he kept his eyes on his shoes. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea?

"You know I won't judge you, Yuuto… you can tell me anything," Dai encouraged, confused by Yuuto's actions. This wasn't like the usually calm and sure teen he knew.

"I just… I didn't like it when you went out with Gaara… that's all…"

"Why?"

"Just… because…"

"But that doesn't make sense, Yuuto. I was only having a coffee with him… why would that upset you?" Daisuke pressed.

"Because I like you, ok!?" Yuuto exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air with his frustration, like Naruto was prone to do. Daisuke's face changed to a look of shock. "It was hard to see you go out with another boy on what looked like a date! I got jealous, ok? Because… because I like you…" Yuuto's voice trailed off by the end and his face was red. Now he completely avoided looking at Daisuke. He felt silly. He wished he could take back those words…

"Y-Yuuto… you… you like me?" Daisuke whispered, eyes wide as he stared at his long time crush.

"More than just a friend…" he admitted. Might as well, since the cat was out of the bag…

"So, you don't hate me then?"

"I can't hate you, Dai… I've tried but… I can't. The more I try to push you out of my mind, the more I think about you. The more I try to hate you for tricking me and kissing me, the more I realize I don't actually mind…" he paused to take a deep breath, looking Daisuke in the eye for the first time. "What I'm trying to say, Dai, is… would you go out with me?"

Daisuke's heart damn near stopped beating and Yuuto's was pounding a million miles a minute. Was this real? Was this happening? Yuuto had blurted out the words without actually thinking but it was no time to take them back now. Besides, he couldn't change the truth. He did want to be with Daisuke. More than he realized. More than he thought possible.

Silence stretched between them for a few beats. They stared at each other, searching for answers. "D-Dai?" Yuuto murmured, pink tingeing his cheeks. Suddenly he felt incredibly self conscious.

"Yes…" Dai snapped out of the reverie and blinked a few times. "Yes, I'll go out with you…"

"Oh, really?"

"Of course!" Daisuke suddenly smiled widely and in a moment of overwhelming emotion he threw his arms around the boy. "I'm so happy!" he murmured into Yuuto's neck.

"About time!" Ryder called in the background. Laughter could be heard as the two boys broke apart, red faced but happy.

"No kidding," Daisuke laughed, nudging his boyfriend in the ribs playfully.

The week had worn on and the weather started getting warmer. With warmer weather came the promise of baseball season. With the promise of baseball season came the eagerness for all the summer plans to make. Summer plans were always made in advance. Everyone wanted to do everything all at once so summer schedules were filled fast.

While Ryder had many ideal summer plans, a lot of them included the ever present and always beautiful Moriko. But with the thought of Moriko, Ryder was plagued with sadness. The silver haired teen felt if she were to actually make a move on her crush, to take them into a relationship status, Kiba would step forward and out her for what she was; a girl parading around as a boy.

The tomboy could only pretend to be happy for so long before it started showing on the surface, cracking her usually carefree demeanour. And she knew that Moriko had picked up on her trepidation. She hadn't meant to show it but apparently the brown haired girl had had enough. Despite Ryders' begging, Moriko made up her mind to confront Kiba about this chaos and threat over Ryders' head.

That's why she was hanging around after school that day, waiting to see the brown haired teen through the crowd of students. Finally she spotted him and made her way over. "Hey, Kiba!"

He turned the direction he heard his name called and spotted the short girl immediately. His shoulders dropped and he looked away but didn't bother to try and move away as she came up to him. "Hey."

"Kiba, could I talk to you for a moment?" she asked politely.

"I guess." He followed when she gestured to a picnic table nearby and sat down with a sigh after she did. "What is it?" The crowd of students thinned out in a hurry; all trying to get to clubs or go home. Being early March, it was still chilly so he shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and waited stiffly for her to talk.

"Look… I know you are upset about this whole thing. I just wanted to talk to you about it and make sure we were all on the same page…" Moriko sighed, facing him and giving him all her attention.

"Upset? I'm livid, Moriko… How are you ok with her lying and being something she's not?" he snapped.

"But that's just the thing, Kiba! She is being exactly who she is. This is her personality. She's a tomboy who loves playing baseball, going to the arcade, playing video games and eating pizza with the rest of you guys. That's never changed." It was important that Kiba saw the truth and, if not accepted, then at least understood.

"I think pretending to be a boy has fucked with her brain… she needs help," the teen muttered coldly, refusing to look at Moriko.

"I think pretending to be a boy has let her true side show and has helped her find herself as a person. But she is who she is supposed to be."

"You're just saying that so you can convince her to be like you."

Moriko paused at that. So… it wasn't just Ryder he had a problem with; it was with lesbians. "Just because I like girls, Kiba, doesn't make me any less of a person. I'm still like any other girl. I have feelings, I like being lazy, I have allergies… I'm no different so why do you treat me like I'm garbage?"

"Because it's wrong."

"So then you must hate Naruto and Gaara, Daisuke and Yuuto as well?" Moriko looked at the ground, her hazel eyes sad.

"No, I don't hate them."

"How can you dislike us so much and not them? They are just as gay as I am."

"It's different. They're my friends," he snapped, feeling defensive.

"So were we. Ryder especially. You've known Ryder just as long as you've know Dai and Naruto! So what's your problem, Kiba? What's so wrong with Ryder and me? Is it just because she turned you down? Just because you didn't get what you wanted? Because that's pretty pathetic!" Moriko snapped for the first time, losing her temper at Kiba's ignorant and narrow minded attitude.

He only huffed and turned his head away. The girl stood and glared down at her former friend. "Ryder is a mess because of you. You were good friends. She can't sleep, she hardly talks to anyone because she's so worried about you. Worried that you would betray her secret."

"How could I betray her? She's the one who betrayed everyone!" he stood too, glaring down the few inches at Moriko.

"She betrayed no one, Kiba. Get your head out of your ass for one second and look around! No one else cares what she is or who she likes! No one cares that she dresses as a boy. No one cares that she likes me and no one cares that she lies to the school to protect her secret. The only one who cares is you! You are the problem. You are the cause of grief. You are the one that has betrayed everyone and their friendship! Naruto and Gaara are gay. Daisuke and Yuuto are gay. You are betraying them. You are belittling your own friends because of something that is out of your control!" Moriko ranted, not afraid and not backing down. She was tired of having to try to walk on eggshells around Kiba. He needed to have his balls cut off and handed to him and so help her; she would be the one to do it!

"That's not-"

"You're the one with the problem. The fact that you can treat someone so different, just because of preferences that are none of your business and don't affect you what so ever, is just sad, Kiba."

Kiba closed his mouth for a change and looked away. Whether her words got to him or not, Moriko didn't know. But something seemed to change in Kiba after a moment. "I won't tell anyone about her but… Don't ever talk to me again, ok?"

It wasn't much of a question, Moriko knew. Just a half hearted threat from a submitting boy. He wouldn't say anything, she was sure. But she knew, with a surety that hurt her heart that Kiba would never be their friend again.

Temari was depressed. There was no denying it. This was odd as she usually was the last person ever to admit to being depressed. Usually she was a ray of fucking sunshine! Complete with double rainbows and butterflies and magical unicorn farts.

But not recently.

Cole's work visa had expired and he had to return to New York. For the half a year they had spent together, they had grown quite close. They did everything together and had learned a lot about each other. They even grew better in their languages. They weren't fluent by any means but they knew enough to communicate without too much confusion; even testing each other and speaking only in the others language. Cole would talk to Temari in Japanese and Temari would talk to him in English.

Their relationship had blossomed to more than just friendship and convenience. It was more that that. There was a connection on a deeper level, a bond between them that refused to be broken, even when Cole was saying good bye at the ferry.

Their parting ways was hard on both of them. And while Temari was fiercely independent and strong, she was uncharacteristically broken by his absence. She spent all her time at home or at work, immersing herself in something so she wouldn't have time to think about him being gone.

She worked herself too hard at the bar then came home to crash. There was no life left in her. As if Colby Lockhart had taken that fun, charismatic, playful side of her with him to New York and left her a hollowed out, sad shell.

And it was driving Kankuro nuts.

His sister was becoming a bit unbearable to deal with. She was moody, she moped around the house, and was honestly a bit of a downer to be around on any occasion. How could she let herself get like this? This was just getting ridiculous. What was so wrong with being alone and free? Staying home or working and being dedicated?

When Kankuro had brought this up with his good friends Yahiko and Konan, he ended up getting an explanation (and a smack in the head) that he hadn't wanted. Over coffee, the three friends discussed Temari's new mood change; anger.

"She is upset, Kankuro… you need to realize how lonely she is," Konan pointed out as she folded her napkin into a flower; something she always did to pass the time.

"But she's being unreasonable! She only knew the guy for 6 months and now suddenly she can't live without him?" Kankuro growled.

"Well, think about it this way; when Gaara started spending more time away from home, you felt really lonely. Like you were being left behind, abandoned, unimportant… She had finally found a best friend, someone she could share with and relate to, someone very important to her, and suddenly he's gone. She had a tease of a life she could have had. She had a bite of an apple, just to have it taken away and told she's not allowed to finish it," Yahiko explained patiently, sipping his coffee.

Kankuro had to admit that what Yahiko said made sense. But he just didn't understand why Temari was hurt so badly by this. And he said as much. Only prompting an annoyed Konan to pipe up. "Just think about it, dumbass… She lived a boring, lonely life before. All she did was work, go to school, and support you ungrateful brats," at this she pointed her stir stick at him. "She didn't know how unhappy she was because that's all she had ever known. Then, Prince Charming comes along, sweeps her off her feet, comforts her and shows her a good time; boom! She knows what happiness is. Then it all comes crashing down. It's pulled away from her and she's forced back into the life she had before, just to realize, it was never as fulfilling or satisfying as she thought it was. She's now incomplete. She realizes she's not happy." The blue haired woman folds Yahiko's napkin into a heart, not paying much attention. Yahiko was nodding vigorously in agreement. "Get it now?"

Kankuro guiltily chews his lip and looks away with a nod. "Yeah… I get it… I guess he wasn't so bad… He did take us to the movies. He even came over a couple times to make dinner with us and play video games. She seemed so… free," he sighed and stood up from the table. "Thanks guys."

"Anytime, chief." Yahiko smiled widely, his blue eyes sparkling and orange hair messy as always.

At home, Kankuro fidgeted in the kitchen of their small apartment above the bar, thinking and waiting for his sister to come home.

When she finally trudged in she looked terrible. Kankuro took a moment to inspect her and found that she looked dreadful. Like… haggard. Stretched thin like butter spread over too much bread. She had bags under her half lidded teal eyes, her blonde hair was messy and filled with static, falling out of the ties and standing on end. Her shoulders were slumped forward, her spine bent like she was carrying an invisible heavy load on her shoulders. The poor woman looked defeated. Two steps from a break down. And the expression on her face was what caught Kankuro's attention the most. It was tight and guarded, yet still so sad and lost, it was heart breaking. Never in his 21 years had he even seen his sister look so hollow and broken.

The moment her eyes focused on him and she offered a tiny, unconvincing smile, Kankuro firmed his resolve and knew that this was the right decision. "Temari… could I talk to you for a moment?"

"Sure, 'Kuro," she murmured, setting her purse down and trudging into the living room with him.

Once they were sitting down, Kankuro gently took one of her pale hands in his. Even though she was older by four years, she was considerably smaller. Her hand was dwarfed in his and it made him entertain the thought that, for right now, he was the older sibling. He had to make the first move here and reassure his sister and tell her everything was ok. Something that Temari had done countless times when they were growing up.

"Temari… I know with Cole-San being gone, you've been having a hard time dealing with it…"

"Kankuro, I don't need to hear it if you're just gonna tell me to get over it," the woman sighed and looked away. She didn't think she'd be able to handle his coldness at that moment.

"No, Temari, just listen ok? I know I've been selfish and cold and even a little resentful towards you and Cole-San. I was being really narrow-minded and I wasn't being the greatest brother," he shifted a little uncomfortably. He wasn't used to this sappy crap. And neither was Temari because she was giving him a 'what-the-fuck-are-you-on-about?' look. "Just… I've thought about it and I've realized that I was wrong to judge you both so unfairly. You were happy with him, Temari, and that's all I want to see. I want you to know, for whatever it's worth, that I'm ok with you being with him… I hope that you can forgive me."

"Oh, 'Kuro…" Temari's voice wavered, her expression softened and tears stung her beautiful eyes. "That means so much to me… thank you… thank you so much," she threw her arms around her younger brother and cried into his shoulder; the damn had broken. "You're so sweet…but I'm afraid it's for nothing. He's back in New York and I'm here… I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up about him… I know that… but…"

Kankuro held her tightly and shushed her. "It's not for nothing… There was a letter in the mail today… Cole-San is waiting on his new work Visa and should be back in a few months…"

He felt Temari go rigid and pull away. She looked into his face desperately, tears stopped, "Are you serious? He's coming back?"

Kankuro pointed at the letter sitting on the coffee table in answer. She snatched it up and read the terrible, childish and inexperienced scrawl of the guy still trying to learn the language. Like Kankuro had said, Cole promised he was coming back. He was just waiting for his new work visa to come through and then he'd be in the city for a year working on a new project. With a happy flush on her face, Temari read on as he wrote how much he missed her and her beautiful face and couldn't wait to hold her in his arms again. Then with a happy squeal, (the girliest she would ever be) she threw herself at Kankuro and laughed.

"This is so great! I'm so happy, 'Kuro!" She sat up again, "Thank you. You know I love you right?"

"Of course," Kankuro looked away uncomfortably. Seriously, he wasn't good at this mushy crap.

With a fond smile, she ruffled his brown hair and excused herself for bed, looking less like she wanted to die and more like she was going to burst with happiness. Well… Kankuro supposed his job as good brother was done. Just for tonight he would let her have this happiness before he told her it was her turn to do laundry.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized that there was something wrong. And not just something small; it was huge. Way more than he ever considered possible. He would never admit that to anyone, of course, but he could at least admit that to himself. He questioned himself. He questioned his actions and his thoughts and came to the conclusion that he was borderline delusional. And because he was able to figure this out, he naturally started to question what lead him there to begin with. When he followed this train of thought he started to see that part of the problem was his horrifying childhood. But much more than that. He smartly began to wonder, because his flaws were so obvious, who in their right minds would support him and this way of life?

One who was clearly very ok with letting him stay delusional and childish. One who saw the advantages of letting him believe these outrageous things. One who liked to assert control under the pretext of letting him 'choose' his path.

Sasuke truly began to doubt Orochimaru and Deidara because of this. The flaws in Sasuke's personality were large enough that anyone with a brain and keen eyes could point them out, much to the Uchiha's dismay. And Orochimaru only 'supported' and 'assisted' Sasuke and his point of view. Therefore, Sasuke logically came to the conclusion that Orochimaru was only using him.

For what reason, the dark haired teen did not know. But he was certain of this conclusion and it made him question himself. His very subconscious. Question everything he ever thought he knew. This left the Uchiha feeling incredibly self-conscious and vulnerable. Something he never liked being. He hadn't felt like this since he was a child.

With his entire life thrown into question and very few people for Sasuke to rely on, he fell back on his instincts. Instincts that he had been suppressing and ignoring for a very long time. Instincts that told him to seek out safety, comfort and understanding. That place where he knew he would always be looked after and accepted without being judged.

His big brother.

It had been so long since Sasuke talked to his brother, Itachi. So long, Sasuke almost felt ashamed. He should never have let it get this far. How could he have alienated his own brother? The only family he had left?

So, with a bit of trepidation, he made his way over to his brothers' house. He let himself in with the spare key hidden on the top of the door frame. Before he could call out to his brother, he heard hushed tones in the kitchen and the crinkling of paper. Curiously, the teen walked through the home and peered around the door frame into the living room. He recognized his aniki immediately, pouring over some topography maps and considering some notes and newspaper clippings he had off to the side.

He looked the same as always; straight, long black hair tied in a low ponytail. Intense and focused eyes, deep lines from the inside corners of his eyes to nearly the corners of his mouth. He was pale, refined and handsome as always. Especially in that light, button up shirt tucked into dark, neat dress pants, indicating he just came from his apprenticeship at the law firm.

The other man, pouring over the same maps and notes and even making more notes on a heavily used notebook, was incredibly familiar to Sasuke. That short, brown hair pulled into a high ponytail, those soft brown eyes, and that unmistakable scar spanning across the bridge of his nose… Was that… Naruto's Guardian? What was his name?

"We are so close, Iruka… I feel like there is just one thing we are missing… One last clue that could tie this all together…" Itachi sighed and ran his long fingers through his hair.

So it was Iruka. That was Naruto's guardian. What were they doing? What were they trying to 'tie together'?

"I agree. There's something we're over looking, I'm sure of it…" Iruka sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed, looking like he had a headache coming on.

"Aniki?" Sasuke murmured softly, almost afraid to break their concentration on whatever project they were working on.

Immediately, Itachi and Iruka whirled around to face the door frame and the timid looking Sasuke standing there. "Sasuke?" Itachi asked incredulously. "What are you doing here?"

"I just… I needed someone I trusted…" Sasuke looked away, examining a spot on the wall.

Itachi immediately crossed the room and pulled his little brother into a tight embrace. "You'll always have me, Sasuke," the man murmured.

And just like that, the wall broke. With one simple, sweet gesture, Itachi had crumbled the fortress Sasuke had built up around his heart. He wrapped his skinny arms around his brother and buried his face in his chest, feeling tears welling up in his onyx eyes.

Iruka smiled knowingly and excused himself from the Uchiha brothers. He knew they needed to talk and sort some things out and it was not a conversation for him to hear. He grabbed his coat and headed home, expecting to find Naruto and Gaara there as usual.

...

The dark haired teen sighed as he surveyed the island of Yumenoshima from the ferry. It wasn't that big or impressive. It was rather bland, actually. With only a lone mountain surrounded by marsh, flat land and some hills, it wasn't anything spectacular to behold.

"Don't look so stern, darling; it's not a good look for you and you'll get wrinkles on that pretty face of yours," his mother scolded him quietly. Well, she wasn't his real mother, but she adopted him when he was young. He supposed that's what other people would call a mother. But it wasn't a title he was willing to bestow upon this harpy of a woman.

But he still did as he was told and adjusted his facial features so they were smooth and relaxed. He didn't like the idea of moving to the island. Being from Korea, he would have much rather stayed there where he had a bit of a following and a crowd he fit into. Here, on this island, he would have no where to go, no one to turn to. Would anyone understand him? Probably not; they were all probably inbred country hicks who knew nothing of his…'condition' as Saiyoko, his mother, called it. The teen didn't know why she distanced herself or refused to acknowledge it for what it was; she was the cause of his problems to begin with.

"I already have a house ready and waiting for us, Sai. I think you'll really like it here. And you're enrolled in the High School for the start of the year next month. Things are going smoothly," she smiled robotically down at him. Her brown eyes were dead and the lines around her mouth were tight. She looked like she had a headache. With her black hair tied so tight on top of her head, it was no wonder. Sai figured he would have a headache too.

"Sure, Saiyoko… anything you say," he murmured, keeping his black eyes on the island growing ever closer. This sucked. This year was going to be painful. No matter what the Harpy said. Sai would never fit in, never belong and never have fun in a place like this. There was nothing here for the pale boy. Nothing at all that he would ever be interested in.

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