Pairing: Itachi + Chibi Sasuke
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Minor Angst/Fluff/Sap

Their footsteps were lost in the magical sounds of the thick forest around them. Amongst the harmonized cacophony of birds, trees and wind, they seemed to walk on air, although the dull sounds of dead leaves crunching beneath their sandals was a reminder that they were merely human. Their shadows danced upon the hard earth, one long and lanky, the other short and slight. For each long stride the taller took, the shorter had to do a double skip/step to catch up. His breath was coming out in rather harsh gasps, but he was doing his best to keep it to himself. He didn’t want the taller to get a wind of just how tired he was becoming, after all, he had wanted to follow in the first place.

Green shadows from the leaves around them danced upon his young features as he lifted a hand to wipe the sweat that was falling into his eyes. He swayed a bit and steadied himself quickly as he sensed the older boy glancing around.

“Are you tired?” came the soft question that had a hint of amusement within its tone. “Do you want me to carry you?”

“No…no!” he said vehemently as he shook his head and walked faster to catch up. “I’m fine. I just need to…argh!”

He had barely seen the overgrown root and his foot had gotten tangled within it. Now flat on his face, reluctantly inhaling the sharp and dry smell of dead leaves, bark and rich soil, he struggled to hold back his tears of mortification at being so clumsy. He closed his eyes and inwardly counted to ten before he was sure he could look up without looking like a fool. He finally lifted his head and grinned sheepishly at the boy that was now staring at him with almost no expression on his handsome visage.

“I’m all right,” he said quickly as he staggered to his feet. He winced as his legs buckled a little. He saw that he had scrapped his kneecap and he was sure it was going to hurt if they walked any longer.

The older boy gave a small nod of acceptance before turning around to continue as if nothing had happened and for a moment, the younger was glad that nothing else had been said. He wasn’t sure he would have been able to handle being chastised for such a thing.

At first glance, one could tell that the two boys were clearly related if not brothers. While the older one walked with a confidence and swagger that could make others envious, his younger brother would, every now and then, dart a look of absolute worship and adoration at the broad back that faced him. From his vantage point, his older brother, Itachi, looked like a walking god. He idolized Itachi and had made it his personal goal to best his genius sibling when he grew older.

“Almost there, Sasuke,” Itachi said quietly as he walked over several fallen tree trunks.

“O…okay…” said Sasuke as he eyed their surroundings with faint wariness. Just where was his brother taking him? He was sure that today he would get a chance to see Itachi practice, but Sasuke was sure that they had long passed the familiar section of the woods that was usually reserved for such things.

The foliage here was much thicker and greener. The trees seemed to be a million feet high and it was close to impossible to see the sun now. Only mere streaks of its golden hue poked through the swaying leaves as if to remind them that it still existed. Sounds of animals that he had never heard before reached his ears and Sasuke could feel a chill of reluctant fear creep up his spine. Tiny goose bumps broke out on his skin and he swallowed tightly as he tried to catch up to the disappearing figure of his brother.

But his knees were beginning to hurt even more. Each step he took was a lesson in tolerance and he had to bite his lower lip to stop himself from crying out in pain. He eyed his legs, noticing with dismay that they were trembling with an effort to remain standing. He wanted to sit down – to rest a little, but he was afraid that if he said such a thing, his brother would look down on him and consider him weak and not qualified to be a good ninja. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and chided himself for acting like a baby. He was seven years old and he could deal with this!

Deciding that he was finally ready to walk again, he opened up his eyes, only to gasp in surprise and growing dismay. Itachi was nowhere to be found. Panic, like a shocking douse of cold water, shot from somewhere deep in his stomach to his pounding heart and to his mouth, which opened to scream out his brother’s name.

Instead, a whispered croak of his brother’s name escaped his lips as he leaned against a tree to compose his thoughts. His brother couldn’t have gone far. When Itachi realizes that he was no longer behind him, there was no way that he wouldn’t be looked for. He sank to the ground slowly and tried to will his aching legs to stop trembling. Wrapping his arms around his torso, Sasuke eyed his surroundings with growing trepidation. He wasn’t sure of what the time was, but he had a feeling it would be dinner time soon. He could already see the sun’s hue change from brilliant gold to a burnt orange.

He’ll find me…he has to…

But what if this was a test? What if Itachi was trying to make him find a way out of this place? He couldn’t disappoint his older brother now, could he? He stumbled to his feet again and gave a small cry of agony as his knees flared with pain again. But gritting his teeth in determination, he began to walk towards the direction he assumed Itachi must have gone. The eerie sounds of unseen animals caused him to pull out his kunai from his back pocket. He would kill anything that tried to attack him; there would be no doubt about that.

For how long he walked, he had no idea. Time seemed to slip by as he stumbled and fell and picked himself back up again. His senses were already becoming attuned to the sights and smells around him and at one point, he was sure he had picked up the fresh smell of water. Hoping his senses weren’t deceiving him; he began to walk as fast as he could. His body ached in a million and one places. His clothes were slightly torn from pulling away thorn filled branches that had blocked his path. His mouth felt as dry as the desert and his stomach growled with hunger. He felt something warm and wet upon his cheeks and thinking it had begun to rain, he realized with embarrassment that he was actually crying.

He wiped his face quickly and tried to make the tears stop, but they seemed to have a mind of their own. He was afraid – alone and afraid. He wanted his brother again and he wasn’t ashamed to admit his defeat now. He would rather deal with a thousand taunts than to die here in this place.

“Bro…brother…” he sniffled as he dropped to the ground on swollen knees. The tears fell harder and he wished he could curl into the earth and never get up.

“Brother!” he wailed helplessly before succumbing to his weariness. He fainted upon the cold earth and remained as still as death.

He was swaying gently – on something warm and strong as he slowly opened up his eyes. For a moment, his blurred vision could only make out dark things around him, but the familiar smell of the person he loved more than anyone else in the world assailed his senses. The soft sensation upon his cheek was his brother’s hair and his arms were holding on tightly to the strong neck that he knew so well.

But his joy was quickly overshadowed with dismay at having failed Itachi and lowering his lashes, he whispered softly. “I’m…I’m sorry. I couldn’t find you…”

The older boy smiled to himself. “Stupid brother,” he said softly as he continued to walk through the streets of Konoha towards their home.

Sasuke blushed and buried his face within Itachi’s hair. His brother’s soft laughter echoed around him as he wrapped his arms even tighter in pleasure. No other words needed to be exchanged between the two boys for they had somehow established that unique unspoken communication that only seemed to work for siblings.

Itachi was proud of him today and for Sasuke, that was more than enough to make up for his weakness within.

~The End~

Naruto Fiction

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