Title: These are cold black days and You're fading away
Character's: Kisame Hoshigaki, Itachi Uchiha
Rating: R (to be safe)
Warning: minor violence, minor character death
Summary: Itachi is an odd creature and Kisame is his friend. At least Kisame likes to think so, it's hard to tell with someone like Itachi.
Notes: Thank you Hokuto, you are an awesome beta reader.
Regarding the age difference that is mentioned later and the timeline: according to the database Itachi is around 18 when he appears first in the manga. Kisame is roughly 30 years old. The story itself takes place two years after the massacre which Itachi spent training under Tobi, who is still posing as Uchiha Madara at this point.
Kisame is by no means a liar. He has no patience for lies and he can usually count on detecting them at a frightening pace. But even he is loath to admit to himself that he underestimated Itachi, when he first met him. The fateful encounter happened in a nondescript bar somewhere next to a trading route. The room was brimming with laughing men, drinking and discussing their life with strangers. Most guests were merchants, retiring from a busy day, or their guards, grateful for a few hours away from the dull travel.
The barkeeper didn't even raise his head, when Kisame entered. He only handed out the drinks and left it to his doormen to keep trouble outside. Since Kisame looked forward to a meal and a drink, he doubted he would need to slice any of the guests today.
With a wide smile on his lips, he sat down in front of the person who had arranged the meeting.
"Tobi, a pleasure like always," Kisame said and stretched his legs. He had traveled hard and fast to reach this destination, so he took the first sip straight from the bottle when Tobi placed it in front of him. "But may I get to know the reason, why we're meeting like this? You don't often go out in public."
"It was necessary this time," Tobi said, and Kisame saw the red eye gleam behind the mask.
As a trained shinobi Kisame followed the cue to look in the direction his boss pointed at. His gaze landed on a boy at the back of the bar, hidden by the shadows. Yet nothing seemed to escape him. With a morbid fascination Kisame realized that the boy must have had his eyes on Kisame ever since he entered, without alertingthe predator to his presence.
Kisame Hoshigaki narrowed his eyes. Huh, interesting.
"Don't even think about it," Tobi warned him in a serious voice that made even a hardened ninja like Kisame shiver. "You will need him alive."
On a few occasions he was forced to remember that this was Uchiha Madara himself and not just the
Tobi persona his boss used so convincingly.
"Who is this?" Kisame asked, ignoring the dangerous spike of chakra from the boy. He didn't bother to look at Itachi and focused on Tobi instead. "And why I can't kill him?"
"He is your new partner," Tobi stated with a amused voice. "And he is Uchiha Itachi. You have heard of him?"
"Indeed I have," Kisame whispered. Of all the people he wanted to meet, this name excited him the most.
After he had received the news of the massacre of Konoha's best warrior clan, the encounter was bound to happen. The world a surviving missing-nin lived in was big, but reliable contacts were far and in between. To meet Uchiha Itachi as a possible partner and not as opponent on the battlefield was a surprising twist of fate.
Kisame glanced back into the corner, but the other shinobi was gone. Again, without Kisame taking notice of it. He was ready to credit the young boy for it, but first he wanted to see if Tobi was willing to offer information about his relative.
"My new partner, you say?" Kisame played the role of an older shinobi, feeling superior. "What am I supposed to do with someone who hasn't even reached manhood yet? Is he old enough to shave?"
"No, he isn't a man. Instead Itachi has progressed to monster," he said, like it was a fact and not a claim. The deep timber in the other man's voice told Kisame that he was now speaking straight to Madara. "You would do well to remember it, Kisame."
The next moment Tobi was gone, probably to prepare the boy for the meeting tomorrow. Kisame just shrugged and dug into his meal. Dawn would show who Uchiha Itachi really was.
Like always, Tobi proved to be right. Or at least he hadn't been wrong yet.
Kisame discovered that traveling with Itachi provided some amusement at least. Working for Akatsuki often meant traveling over the continent, searching for information. Remaining undetected was a requirement for now and Pain had forbidden them to collect intel by kicking doors open.
"Wait until someone opens the door for you," he said.
Itachi had taken charge of planning their moves after after receiving this advice and never handed the reins back. Currently they were hiding by the shore, finally away from civilization since the first time they met. To reach the town where a contact was waiting, Itachi had declared they had to go off-road. Kisame had just shrugged, but silently agreed. Official paths to travel among countries served to keep merchants away from shinobi battle grounds. People like them, high class missing-nin with a huge amount of chakra at their disposal, stood out like a sore thumb. All it took was one skilled eye of a shinobi to detect another.
Traveling through untouched wilderness was the smart option, but not often a comfortable one.
A thick fog had swallowed most visibility and Kisame had expected it would make Itachi uneasy. Yet his partner – Kisame really couldn't call him boy anymore – had taken it in stride. Like Kisame he listened to the sound of the waves to navigate.
While Kisame was usually a person who liked to talk, certain moods called for silence. He wouldn't have been able to work with a noisy partner. Filling a peaceful comforting silence with unnecessary chatter wasn't Kisame's style. He preferred to keep things professional while he was working and as a shinobi it demanded the ability to keep your mouth shut.
Learning to communicate without words was the next step.
Perhaps it's not as bad as I thought it would be, Kisame thought, and tried to imagine the next months.
What he saw was a temporary partnership based on mutual interest. Neither of them spoke as the pair traveled on, and only small ripples on the water remainded to show that they had been there at all.
A major difference between him and Itachi, Kisame discovered, was their age and their land of birth. Twelve years apart meant a lot, when you worked as a shinobi. In his life Kisame had seen a lot of blood and death. Slowly the years had smoothed the edges, sharpened his teeth and swallowed his guilt. Reaching a stage, where your sleep wasn't hunted by nightmares anymore, implied you had become less than human.
Kisame had left behind his psychological troubles a long time ago and accepted his bloodthirsty nature as part of himself. As something he always had carried with him. If this distorted some memories of his childhood, Kisame was willing and trained to accept this lie for his peace of mind. Watching the Uchiha writhe in his sleep forced Kisame to remember that Itachi hadn't sunk to this level yet.
Small whimpers left Itachi's mouth and from Kisame's viewpoint sitting with his back against the wall of the inn they were residing in, the distress was clearly visible on Itachi's forehead. Kisame considered retreating to the balcony of the room they had rented, but it was the dead of the night and far too cold outside. Also Kisame didn't feel nostalgic enough to enjoy the view of a small town harbor.
"I hope this won't happen to frequently," he whispered to himself.
Enduring nightmares from sleeping comrades was a byproduct of the life of a shinobi and custom demanded that they ignore cries, silent sobbing and bad dreams unless they attracted too much attention. Since Itachi barely made a sound and Kisame only noticed it because of his excellent hearing, he chose not to act or comment on it the next morning.
Not even when Itachi jerked awake a few hours later.
"Sasuke," he muttered with his first breath in the waking world. Then he realized where he was and his face became an impassive in the next moment.
He stared at Kisame, as if he was challenging him to say something.
"Awake, princess?" Kisame said and smiled. Reaching for his sword, he said "I was ready hours ago. It's time to slaughter someone, I have an itch to scratch."
If the Uchiha was grateful for the conversation, he didn't show it.
"Fine by me," he said. "Let's go and kill someone."
Years later Kisame would know that Itachi rarely bothered to announce his kills. Sure, he left his share of bodies lying around, but unlike Kisame he didn't comment on it. Bragging about a special kill or claiming he wished to murder at the next available moment was up to Kisame.
Around Itachi the bodies just tended to drop without a warning.
For a certain amount of time, Kisame feared that Itachi didn't kill. That he was one of those people who valued human life and refused to take one, unless he was defending himself. His fears were unfounded.
Kisame watched in delight at how Itachi chose to interrogate.
"Did you truly believe we wouldn't notice you were leading us into a trap?" he asked the contact that had alerted the authorities, his fingers wrapped around the man's bared neck.
"Please, I … I had no choice," the man claimed, just moments before he began begging for his life. "Don't kill me, please, I have family - please don't -"
With a snort, Itachi threw the man into the air, kicked him hard enough for Kisame to hear ribs cracking and caught him again before he touched the ground.
"I don't care," Itachi said through his teeth. He was seething, simmering with anger. "You wished to do something patriotic for your country after you realized you were dealing with an enemy you couldn't make money off it."
"No, I … I didn't," the thug tried to say, but Itachi wasn't listening.
It was the first important mission he had seriously failed. While this wasn't grave in and of itself, life in Akatsuki … was sixty percent chasing false leads, Tobi would sneer at him again, claiming Itachi wasn't ready to work alone or without supervision.
"You," Itachi said with a smile that made the thug piss himself, "will do nothing but bleed."
Later the authorities found more blood and organs splattered on the walls than were left inside the body. Local residents told them about horrifying screams and quickly news traveled around that Uchiha Itachi wasn't to be trifled with.
The sole person enjoying the ruckus was Kisame, who grinned for days.
"Everyone tells me you are some sort of benevolent person," Kisame said to Itachi, while swinging his bottle. "I don't get it, where they get this idea from. You. You are, you know..."
The shinobi let out a sharp grin and gestured at Itachi, who was just as drunk as him. But he showed it less, only the impassive mask on his face had vanished to be replaced by some sort of wild, menacing look in his eyes.
"You. You are, you know...," Kisame struggled with the slur, "Others don't see it but … you are a greedy son of a bitch."
Itachi carefully raised one eyebrow and took another drink from his sake.
"Oh? Not really a word I would use to describe myself," he answered, his voice dry as a piece of sandpaper.
Kisame laughed. Less because of what Itachi said. Lately he had discovered that sake and certain kind of sweets made Itachi open up. Dango served as a tool, for instance, to keep Itachi brooding for days. A constant supply made his partner easier to live with.
Alcohol in turn, unearthed a shrewd humor Kisame hadn't known Itachi even possessed.
"Yes, of course," Kisame argued. "I watched you fight. That's greed."
"For blood," came the comment and Itachi was drunk enough to say it in a dreamy tone.
"Sure, you are...," he said. Sharp teeth showed as Kisame asked the waiter for more beer.
Usually the Uchiha was good at playing the concerned citizen, at being the sagacious ethical person Konoha had theoretically raised him to be. But if you spent enough time with Itachi, you were bound to notice how bloodthirsty the man could be on occasion. Others threw fits of anger, Itachi slaughtered anything dumb enough to wander past him.
Kisame suspected a deeper reason, not just the urge of a sociopathic man leaning towards cruelty. He might have encouraged the image of a man sick of being bound by rules and searching for power, but Kisame knew Itachi was too skilled to fall into a trap like most arrogant murderers did.
No, Itachi didn't kill for pleasure. Kisame suspected the Uchiha thirsted for blood out of frustration.
"Too dumb to live," he had said once to a corpse.
Kisame counted it as his good deed of the year that he pretended not to have heard the bitterness in Itachi's words.
Yesterday Kisame would have told you he had forgotten feelings like fear or shame. He was a shinobi, a refined tool of destruction. A weapon made to kill and to slaughter. The man hailed as the Monster of the Hidden Mist or as the Tailed Beast without a tail.
How exactly had he gotten into this?
"Mama, the man is blue," a boy shouted. "I want to be blue. Paint me like this."
"Yes, me too. Me too," a small girl with pigtails joined in.
A third child was currently hugging Kisame's legs.
"What are you doing?" Kisame wanted to know, but no one answered him.
They had wandered into this town without a disguise, because it was preparing a festival. Kisame had expected to be ignored when he and Itachi had agreed to meet with an old acquaintance of the Jinchuuriki they were looking for. The woman was a retired kunoichi and smart enough to tell them what she knew as long as they met in public.
Which usually meant a bench in a park or a table at a restaurant. Not a playground full of children, who were enamored with the blue man for some reason.
"Help me," Kisame demanded.
But his partner didn't look like he was ready to offer a way of escape any time soon. Instead Itachi was laughing hard he was crying tears.
"Bastard," he muttered.
It would have been less humiliating if the woman hadn't known who Kisame was exactly and if Tobi hadn't been watching from the shadows.
"No, no. Please," the girl begged. "Please, don't do this."
Her dress was torn and she was too busy to fight off the man above her to even care about her bare breasts. In the next instant she screamed as Samehada cut the pig into fine ribbons, leaving blood everywhere.
Kisame stood amidst whores in a small half-lit room. He shook his head and gave the girl enough time to scramble away. He wasn't popular with women, they preferred Itachi. But he would never lower himself to such a base act.
He kicked the corpse for good measure. His face turned sour when he discovered that the man was a shinobi.
Just this moment, Itachi entered the room, fastening his belt.
"We have to go," Kisame announced.
Itachi looked at the blood and the dead body, then to the frightened girls.
"Doesn't matter. We were leaving anyway, since we got what we wanted."
Yeah, Kisame had satisfied his thirst for beer and Itachi his rare need for intimacy. Soon the night had swallowed them. As soon as they had stepped outside, Itachi led the way to the forest. Sometimes it surprised Kisame how well the Uchiha could navigate in darkness.
An uneasy silence stretched between them.
"Did you have to kill him?" Itachi asked.
"What? Didn't you finish her off?" Kisame wanted to know.
It would be hilarious. Something he could tease Itachi with for weeks. Judging by to the glare he received, he had hit the issue spot on.
After a moment he explained: "My mother was a whore. It was the only work she could do, looking like a fish and all. Many found it exotic."
Underneath his feet a branch broke off, when Kisame put too much force into his next jump. He was glad that the moonless night hid his face and whatever emotion it showed right now.
"My mother also served shinobi," Kisame explained further. "Since they were so much stronger than her, it wasn't always easy. But any decent ninja can use an illusion to make it at least pleasurable for the whore he's fucking. The man back out there just got off on her screams."
The road took them far away from the town and Itachi didn't comment on Kisame's family history. He still had to add, with a amused smile on his lips: "You saved the girl then. If it happens again, I would almost believe you had a heart."
Kisame said nothing, but he did notice that Itachi avoided brothels after the incident.
Surviving as a missing-nin, as a traitor to your country, you either had a lot of luck and strength to fight until you were the last man standing or you controlled the situation. Despite appearances and bad habits, Kisame belonged to the latter. Still, his paranoia pales next to Itachi's.
The man noticed things Kisame was blind to and the success rate of their missions depended a lot on the Uchiha's observational skills. Encountering old comrades while being snowed in, however had nothing to do with control. It was just bad luck and due to the fact two high-class shinobi were bound to run into other people of their occupation in places of great interest.
In their case it was a castle high in the mountains of Yu no Kuni. The weather had been vicious and even hardened shinobi hesitated to fight through a snow storm. Especially when Kisame and Itachi had nowhere else to go for the moment.
Pain hadn't contacted them in weeks.
Kisame was currently losing badly against Itachi in a game of chess in common room the owner had opened for them, when his partner looked sideways and cursed.
"Crap," he said and quickly looked back onto the board.
Kisame noticed a quick hand motion and Itachi's face vanished under his long black hair.
"Hide your coat," Itachi whispered.
They had already taken their headbands off, like they often did when they encountered civilians. The coats followed, when it became apparent they would have to wait with the other guests. As missing-nin they didn't want to be remembered by something trivial as red clouds.
Kisame followed Itachi's advice swiftly and made a show of moving his next pawn. It took control and experience not to turn around to see, who had entered the room.
Who are we dealing with?, he asked by tapping a quick code onto the wood, pretending to be bored.
Itachi obviously struggled with remaining still, because Kisame saw the tension his partner's body. He too finally tapped his answer on the board.
Jonin. Konoha, came the message. After a pause, One-eyed Dog.
Kisame hissed in annoyance. He remembered Hatake Kakashi.
This was bad luck indeed.
Kisame moved his chess pieces, attacking one of Itachi's knights. A stupid move regarding the game, but it got the message across.
The former Anbu of Konoha understood and reciprocated by avoiding Kisame's assault. He moved the knight as far away as possible.
No. Return. Too much attention.
To reinforce the message, he stole several of Kisame's pieces from the board, leaving him far too exposed to be comfortable with, if they were recreating a battle plan.
Kisame moved his queen, telling Itachi to trust in their abilities to survive the battle against a single Jonin.
In the end Itachi choose to use words, albeit in a very different voice. Kisame guess he didn't want to take chances with an old comrade from the ranks in the same service.
"No," Itachi spoke under his breath. "It's not his strength. We could take him. But he is clever enough to get word out before he dies. We can't risk it."
As much as it angered him, Kisame nodded. If they were discovered, Pain wpiöd have to send a different team and no team was close enough to support them. The weather had delayed them already, and Kisame wasn't willing to lose eight months of tracking down a source to finally lose their target because they had been spotted by a single Jonin.
This was the downside of their freedom. The Hidden Villages were far better connected. Their strength in numbers was useless as long as they didn't know Akatsuki existed.
Itachi breathed a sigh of relief, when Kakashi's chakra finally left his range. It was certainly not the first time he had run across a ninja from Konoha. But the Copy-nin had taken him by surprise and seeing his Sharingan drove a dagger through Itachi's heart – even if he had seen the eye only for a short moment while Kakashi was shaking the snow from his headband .
For three hours Itachi had been tortured by looking at Kakashi's profile, hoping he wouldn't recognize him. Strange thoughts had run through his head during the time. How he could talk to Kakashi without revealing himself, for example. Even after Kakashi had finally left and Itachi had retreated to the quarters he shared with Kisame, the idea of learning something – anything – about Sasuke caused him nothing but grief.
Talking to Kakashi was a risk he couldn't take, using the Mangekyou Sharingan and possibly give away his secret weapon - an edge in battle he needed - outright ridiculous.
And yet it had hurt to watch Kakashi depart, when the storm settled a few days later. Offering Konoha his life, his family and his happiness once had been hard enough. To see what he had lost and rejecting the temptation to tell someone his story - that was much harder.
He was just glad he had Kisame as his partner. Kisame had lived trough this tragedy far more often than he and knew how not to care about the past. One of the same reasons Kisame wouldn't understand Itachi's motivation behind all of this.
"Itachi," he heard Kisame say, when they left the cold behind them and were moving further away from Konoha with every step. "Let's go."
The additonal 'kill something' hung unspoken between them. Of course, since they both knew that bringing death was akin to eating or sleeping for them and in the end the loss of another soul's life didn't matter. Itachi could live with a little blood on his hands. If he hated himself in the future, so it be. But he wouldn't have to. He could always hate Kisame instead. The shark was made for eating others to survive.
That's why he had asked Madara to be paired with him.
(Itachi's soul was stained and he had only his mind to keep him from going mad.)
The story was written for Akatsuki20 during the Naruto Fic Festival. It surprised me myself to be able to write so much about Kisame, but I throughly enjoyed the experience.