Work Hazard: Chapter 7
“There are other factors you need to be aware of. The same day Kisame was killed... Sasuke told me he'd met a man named Kakashi.” Hyuuga Neji's cool, professional tone.
“Why was I not immediately notified?” Itachi's voice sounds deadly in its forced neutrality. It filters through the fog around Sasuke's consciousness. It's the first thing he's aware of.
“He's been in the school for a few days now and he doesn't seem to be causing trouble. Hasn't been following Sasuke around, he just seems to be zen with everything.” Naruto's higher pitched voice breaks through clearly and Sasuke wants to wake already.
“That does not answer my question, Uzumaki. If you let known hitmen get close to my brother, then what am I paying you for?”
Sasuke can feel Itachi's hand on his head, petting his hair in that pattern which belongs only to his brother. A groan escapes the boy as the fog covering his senses clears up a hint. Enough for him to understand.
“He's waking up, I think.”
Black eyes slowly blink open and Sasuke sees the vague outline of Itachi's face hovering over his. He feels... woozy. There's not really any other word for the dizziness and the urge to throw up. Just above Itachi's face, Sasuke can see a (falsely) concerned Naruto.
He immediately shuts his eyes again, the room spinning out of control. Foolish, foolish, foolish. A sinking feeling curls in Sasuke's gut and though he just woke up, he feels so weary, tired to his very bones.
Like anyone would willingly be a friend. What were you thinking? You know better.
The second time Sasuke wakes, he's thankfully alone. He knows Itachi isn't far, but that's alright. Itachi's presence is always comforting in its cool rationality. It's comforting to him anyway. To others though...
There's no one Sasuke has met who hasn't been afraid of Itachi and what he could do. He supposes that they're right to be scared. After all, Itachi is a genius. He's cold and remote and he doesn't understand, sometimes, the things that Sasuke tells him about compassion.
Sitting up and rubbing at his eyes, Sasuke sighs as he remembers the last conversation of the sort. Itachi always needs to have things explained to him when it concerns feelings and emotions. Despite his genius brain, Itachi doesn't understand people in love. Sometimes Sasuke feels like the adult in the relationship, using small words to describe how two people can be in love and care for one another even if they're not linked by blood. He feels he's not the best person in the world to explain these things. What does he know of love after all? More than Itachi, but that's not saying a lot.
“So they just meet and feel 'attracted' and then decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together. That's just silly.”
“There's usually more to it than that, Itachi! I can prove it.”
“Really now. Go ahead, foolish little brother who believes in love.”
“Shut up with that name! And I will prove it. You care about me, right?”
“Of course, Otouto.”
“I ask myself that question each and every day. I can't excuse it.”
“I'm not some thing you have to apologize for! And if even your great understanding of behavior and your magnificent brain power can't explain it, then I guess there's room for people less... insightful... to get confused.”
“... I suppose so.”
Itachi had been smiling that proud little smile then. He'd poked Sasuke's forehead and said he was 'annoying' in that warm tone that Sasuke knows is his and his alone.
Sasuke knows that Itachi will always protect him in any way he can, that he'll always be there to love his little brother. Sometimes Itachi doesn't know how to say the words, but Sasuke knows. It's a little unfair, Sasuke thinks, that no one else in the world will get to know about Itachi. He thinks his brother is worth knowing. Only Sasuke knows of Itachi's wickedly dark humor, that he explains things very well when he can be bothered with it. Only Sasuke knows that Itachi always licks between his teeth when he's thinking and that his left pinky twitches when he's really annoyed. Only Sasuke knows that Itachi dislikes pools enough to avoid looking at them when he can do so without raising suspicion.
But Itachi... Itachi will never let anyone else know about him, will never let anyone see his smile. Sasuke is all Itachi has. And the boy feels possessive of that exclusive love just as much as he feels its weight. He worries, sometimes, about what Itachi does without him, who he becomes without someone to remind him that he can feel.
A creaking noise alerts Sasuke to the fact that Itachi is being courteous about announcing his presence. The boy turns his attention to the dark-clad man standing a few feet away and Sasuke can't help smiling at him, that slightly adoring grin that's just for Itachi.
“How are you feeling, otouto?”
Sasuke takes stock of his condition and nods, “I'm okay.” He wants to say something else, but it slips from his mind as he notices the distance Itachi is forcing between them. The man has yet to come closer than those five feet. Sasuke frowns and stands on thankfully stable feet. “Itachi? What's wrong?”
His brother's expression is completely closed off and Sasuke's frown deepens. He walks closer to Itachi and when he notices the slight twitch of his brother's hand, he realizes what this is about.
“You're angry,” Sasuke accuses softly. “You're angry at me. What did I do? It's not like I asked for that bitch to drug me. I just... Itachi?”
Said man has just moved closer to his brother and Sasuke now has to look up into his emotionless dark eyes. Anyone else in Sasuke's shoes would be running for the door right about now. But Sasuke knows his brother. He knows Itachi is never going to hurt him, but the step closer is enough for Sasuke to pause, questioning him.
Even as Sasuke opens his mouth to ask what's wrong yet again, he feels Itachi's hand on his shoulder, just above the bandages. He shuts his mouth and stays still as Itachi unwraps the bandages, taking in the wound. Next, the wrappings around Sasuke's throat are taken off and his chin gently lifted so Itachi can have a look.
When Itachi is satisfied, he wraps his little brother in a hug, assuring for himself that Sasuke is alright, that he didn't get himself killed. Itachi knows that it's irrationl to show such useless concern. The wounds are superficial and there's no reason why Itachi needs to feel the boy's breath against his neck, needs to feel both their hearts beating together. He's made peace long ago with the fact that he would be irrational when it comes to his little brother. It's the only weakness he allows himself.
“I'm sorry,” The words are softly whispered into the crook of Itachi's neck. It's heartfelt and gentle and something inside Itachi eases at the words, some tension he hadn't even been aware of.
“It's alright. You're alright.” There's a small, subdued smile on Itachi's lips as he releases his brother with a chaste kiss to his forehead.
“Yeah... I've missed you, though. I'd like having you around more often.”
Itachi sits on the bed that Sasuke just deserted and tugs his brother down to sit by him. “It can't be helped, now. I can't trust anyone else to protect you from this man.”
“I can protect myself just fine, Itachi.” Sasuke's tone is bordering on defiant and arrogant.
“Is this...” Itachi's hand lightly brushes the wound on Sasuke's neck, “what you call protecting yourself?”
Sasuke turns his head away from Itachi's scrutiny and he mumbles, “I'm still alive, aren't I? You're already paying one... two bodyguards to keep track of me.” Teeth grind together as Sasuke tries to dismiss the betrayed feel that curls in his gut.
“I want you safe. I can't let someone use you against me, Sasuke, do you understand that?”
Sighing, Sasuke nods, “Yes, nii-san. I understand.” In the calm that comes with the reminder of Itachi's love, Sasuke suddenly remembers something and reaches into his pocket, thankful that the pants haven't been changed or searched and emptied. He grabs a hold of the large ring and holds it out for Itachi.
The man looks at the ring with an eyebrow raised, but doesn't make any move to claim it.
Sasuke takes his brother's hand and holds the ring into his palm. “It's Kisame's. He would want you to have it.”
Itachi's eyes grow cold as he feels the metal pressed into his hand. He replies in his deadly, silent tone, “I do not want a token of that man's failure.”
“He's dead, Itachi. What's it going to change?”
“He failed to protect you. He was foolish, careless and he does not deserve to have his memory kept honorably.”
It's times like these that Sasuke truly understands how inhuman Itachi can be to anyone other than him. It cuts the boy, making him look at his brother in that less than favorable light. It clashes with what Sasuke needs to believe about his brother.
Right now, he needs to believe that Itachi would never say that about Kisame. He knew Itachi would say that, but hearing it breaks something inside Sasuke that he doesn't think he can glue back together.
“How can you say that, Itachi? Kisame loved you. He would've done anything for you, and he did. He gave up his life to protect me, because of you!”
“If he was protecting you in hopes of getting something in return, he was worthless and must pay for that assumption.”
“He wanted you to look at him! He just... he just wanted you to love him.” Sasuke can feel the unwelcome tears in his eyes. His anger stops them from escaping.
“Then he was twice the fool for thinking that I ever would.”
Those words ring empty in Sasuke's ears and he swallows past a suddenly dry throat. “Sometimes, Itachi, just sometimes... I really hate who you pretend to be.”
“I don't pretend anything, Sasuke. I am who I am. If I were any stronger, I... would hurt you.”
Unable to hear anymore, Sasuke stands up and away from his brother. He grabs the first shirt his hand touches under the watchful eye of his older brother. Putting it on, he levels a somewhat hurt, pleading look at his brother, “I need to be alone for a while. I'll come back.”
“Very well. I love you, otouto.”
“Yes, I know. I...” Sasuke shakes his head a little, “I'll see you soon.”
And he's gone out of the door and into the darkness of the night. Itachi stands, then walks to the next room where Neji and Naruto are awaiting orders. “Uzumaki, follow him.”
While perusing through Sasuke's file from the school, Kakashi relaxes back on his seat. His feet are on his coffee table and the TV drones on in the back. At this time of the night, the only thing on TV isn't suitable for children.
Kakashi figures there's got to be something fundamentally wrong about reading up on a school boy while listening to the moans of women getting screwed halfway into next week. He thinks there's something wrong about finding little Kakashi in a 'predicament'. Again.
It's not that he's turned on as such by bad porn and school records. Men sometimes get hard-ons for no specific reason. Sometimes they get hard watching bubbles pierce the surface of an aquarium. What they're doing and what their dick is doing are two completely different things.
Kakashi suspects that his second brain is wanting to screw the perfect student bent against a school desk like that little whore in the porn movie. But he's getting good at not acknowledging thoughts from Kakashi number two. He'll eventually forget he even had them and his cock will return to its flaccid worm-like state.
The boy has perfect grades. Not just good, above average or great grades, perfect ones. It's not possible for a kid to get perfect scores on everything. Not unless they work their butts off studying and that kid has a too-good body to be spending all his time huddled over books. So maybe he's more than just really smart.
Like you ever doubted that. The boy quoted Blaise Pascal for fuck's sake. That's French.
Suddenly, Kakashi decides he's had quite enough of this reading material. He's had enough of thinking about Uchiha Sasuke. Putting aside the file, Kakashi stands and grabs his winter coat. He remembers to shut the TV and wipe the remote clean of fingerprints.
He doesn't mean to stay in this hotel room eternally, so he might as well erase his traces as he goes. When he leaves the room, it looks the same as when he arrived, no hairs on the professionally made bed, no soap in the shower, no papers, cigarettes or anything else to give away his presence.
Kakashi grabs his suitcase and goes down to the underground parking lot. He starts the car and the soothing purr of the engine immediately has Kakashi relaxing his tightly-held shoulders, smooths his facial features into something neutrally detached as opposed to intensely focusing on looking detached.
Turning on the radio, Kakashi listens to the first notes of the almost hypnotic song 'Precious' by Depeche Mode, then he goes for a drive.
“I know you're there, moron.” Sasuke's words are dully violent, like the promise of an explosion in an otherwise completely peaceful tone.
Naruto picks up on the underlying threat and he inwardly sighs, knowing that acting like an idiot will only get him deeper into trouble. Sasuke won't buy that anymore.
He steps out from behind the corner of the alley where he followed Sasuke and holds his hands out to show that he has no ill intent.
“So how much of it is a lie?” The words are wielded sharply, like deadly weapons. “Are you even an orphan or were you just going for the sympathy factor?”
“Shut up, bastard! I didn't lie!” Naruto growls angrily at the assumption and takes two threatening steps closer to Sasuke.
“So you're really 'just a student'? Bullshit. You're bullshit, Naruto.” Bitterness drips from Sasuke's words and he just feels so stupid for believing that a normal student would befriend him. Even under that strange pretext of a rivalry.
Before he can stop himself, Naruto seizes Sasuke's collar and slams him against the wall, angrily snarling. He doesn't have the time to say anything. Sasuke grabs a hold of his wrist and glares at him, adding, “How much is he paying you? Did he promise you that chance with the FBI you can't shut up about? Is that what he had to give you for you to annoy me all day long?”
Naruto's eyes are locked with Sasuke's and it's in that glaring contest that Naruto truly understands a very important fact about Sasuke. He's alone. He's like me.
Fingers release the fabric of Sasuke's shirt and Naruto sees how much of a betrayal Sasuke believes this to be. He knows he hasn't done anything wrong, so he won't apologize for it, but he didn't mean for Sasuke to be hurt by his actions.
Naruto just says honestly, “Yes. Itachi will give me his support so I can get into the FBI despite my origins. My orders were to stay undercover, even from you. I could have watched you from afar, but I guess... I just wanted to get to know you...”
Sasuke shakes his head and slides a hand over his collar, smoothing the shirt. His gaze is just as cold as Itachi's when he next makes eye-contact with Naruto. “I'll talk to Itachi. You'll have his support and recommendation within the next week. Until then, you're fired.”
Stunned, Naruto stares at Sasuke for a second, then closes his still-opened mouth. That's when the blow comes, too fast for Naruto to dodge. He finds himself on the floor, nursing his sore jaw and glaring up at Sasuke's retreating back.
When Kakashi spots the familiar dark shape of a boy with unruly black hair and hurt black eyes leaning against the hard brick wall of the cinema, he tells himself it would be a very dumb idea to stop. A very, very dumb idea.
Kakashi parks the car.
He goes up to the boy and steals his cigarette from his lips, taking a slow drag. He swears he can taste the boy's mouth on the stick.
“Need a ride?”