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A Shark Hidden Inn the Leaves

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Itachi closed his eyes and retraced his steps from memory. The inn was not large. He did not need to see it to navigate it.

His fingers made a soft, barely noticeable hiss as they brushed over the wall, so faint he had to strain to hear it over the sound of the wind and the rain.

The storms had been hitting them nearly hourly for the last week, and Kisame had agreed immediately to Itachi’s suggestion that they wait for the weather to clear before continuing. Itachi suspected Kisame’s agreement came from concern--Kisame worried too much over Itachi’s health--but for the opportunity to rest his eyes, Itachi allowed it.

Lightning flashed and thunder cracked, echoing through the empty hall, and Itachi winced, the light too bright even through the shield of his eyelids. A damp draft chilled his toes and he sped up, stretching out his senses to find Kisame’s chakra. Using his partner as his compass for blind navigation was so easy that Itachi tried not to rely on it, but he was tired, cold, and frustrated. Kisame would not notice, and tomorrow Itachi would return to using his other senses.

The inn had twenty rooms on two floors, all overlooking a wildly overgrown garden. Kisame had taken the largest room, closest to the garden’s vibrantly green pond, and Itachi had taken the room next to Kisame’s. It was easier to stay close. Safer. Itachi had never gotten lost, no matter how painful or useless his eyes, but the thought had lodged itself in his mind, and refused to let him go.

The wind shrieked around the inn, rattling windows and sending drafts dancing over his skin. Itachi shivered, warmth from the bath fading. His footsteps became surer as Kisame’s chakra became more distinct, uncertainty leaving him.

The sound of the wind died down, leaving only the soft hiss of his hand on the wall, and the creak of the building settling around him. Itachi’s mind twisted the sound, turning the groaning timbers into someone’s restless footsteps on the floor above. His mind was playing tricks. The largest chakra signal above him was that of a family of mice.

Itachi stopped in front of Kisame’s door, opening his eyes long enough to find the edges of it. Kisame’s chakra flickered, silently welcoming him, and Itachi squinted to find the door’s handle. Kisame most likely knew how bad his vision was becoming, but Itachi would fake it until he died.

“Kisame?” Itachi directed his gaze toward the core of Kisame’s chakra, his partner a blurred blob of grey and black in against a patch of light-coloured floor--a futon? Most likely a futon, Itachi decided. Lightning flashed, and Itachi ignored the sudden ache behind his eyes.

“You figured out the hot water heater?”

Itachi nodded. “I left the bath full, if you’d like.” As much work as the heater had been to find, he hoped Kisame would use it.

“Thank you. I might use it later.”

Itachi hesitated in the doorway, realizing that he had nothing else to tell Kisame, but hoping--

Kisame’s head lifted, a paler oval of grey topped with deep blue, and Itachi thought maybe he was curious. Confused that Itachi was lingering.

“That is all,” Itachi added awkwardly, exasperated by his foolishness. Kisame was not as tired as he was, but that did not mean he wished for Itachi’s company. Itachi stepped through the doorway and slid the door shut, faintly embarrassed by his own impulses. He was tired, as poor an excuse as it was.

Itachi did not sigh--Kisame would hear--but he made no attempt to conceal his footsteps as he went back the way he’d came, finding the room he’d claimed as his own. The door caught on the tracks, and Itachi jiggled it, trying to coax it into moving.

Someone sighed, and Itachi slid back a step, chakra gathering in his eyes as he looked toward the sound, finding a blurred figure between himself and Kisame’s door.

Lightning flashed, and Kisame’s name died on his lips. There was no one in the hallway. Itachi blinked, his eyes burning and raw. Just to be certain, he checked the other way as he searched for foreign chakra in the soft cloud of Kisame’s that enveloped this half of the inn. There was nothing. The red world of the sharingan was as empty as the real one, and Kisame was the only person he could sense.

Itachi let the chakra gathered in his eyes fade, and entered his room for the night, the door sliding smoothly on its tracks. Wet tracks beneath his eyes showed up as smears of black on his wrist when he dried them. The blood was nothing new, and it did not distress him.

He walked the room with his eyes open, squinting as he took in the futon in the middle of the room, his unsealed pack moved to the side to accommodate it. Kisame must have found the bedding while Itachi was blindly fumbling around the bathhouse.

Itachi knelt by the futon, finding the edge of the blankets by touch, the colours too similar to distinguish. The sheets were soft and clean, and he almost smiled, pleased by the discovery. Kisame worried too much, but Itachi would forgive him that flaw for the sake of clean sheets.

There was a book in his pack. Itachi had not read it in months, too wary of Kisame questioning how close he must hold the book to read it. In a room to himself, though, there would be no one to see--and if he finished it, maybe Kisame would stop asking him if he would like to pick up a new book while they were in town. Itachi wasn’t thirteen anymore. He didn’t need Kisame trying to keep him entertained on long trips--though come to think of it, he’d hardly needed that when he was thirteen.

Itachi lit the old-fashioned lamp with a spark of fire from his fingertip and opened his pack, finding the book where it was buried under spare clothes and whetstones. His bookmark must have fallen out at some point, but Itachi remembered the last page vividly. He’d read it about thirty times before he’d given up on being able to actually see it without squinting.

Kisame’s chakra shifted, the floor creaking as his partner left his room, heading toward the baths. Itachi tracked Kisame’s progress with half his attention as he squinted at the pages, searching for the last one he’d read. The text blurred and twisted as he tried to read it, finally resolving into something readable once he had it embarrassingly close to his face.

His hair slid forward, blocking the lantern’s light, and Itachi sighed in frustration, safe in the knowledge that there was an entire building between him and Kisame. He hooked the lantern with his fingertips and dragged it closer, flipping the pages with his thumb. The pages brushed the tip of his nose as they turned, but at least the text was crisp enough to read.

He found the entry on Suna’s native species of birds, the sketch of a Southern Killjay as familiar as his own name by this point, and slid under the covers. A whiff of--Itachi’s nose wrinkled, and he paused, suddenly uneasy. He breathed in, scenting the air, but the sourness didn’t return.

Itachi slid under the sheets, enjoying the fresh, cool linens on his bare feet. It’d been three weeks since they last slept indoors, and it’d been raining for most of it. Itachi stretched out, his spine cracking loudly, and felt a faint hint of pleasure that startled him with its existence.

***

There was something about this place that Kisame didn’t like.

The roof was sound, the walls were whole, the windows are tight and uncracked. The inn was damp inside, but no more than expected for the amount of rain that had been pounding this mountainside.

Everything was clean. Usually a good thing, but given that the place was abandoned, it was downright weird that there wasn’t any dust or mould. Kisame slid his finger along a counter, frowning when it came up clean.

Kisame rubbed his hand against his cloak, cleaning off the non-existent dust as he wandered toward the baths. There could be a caretaker who lived nearby.  A caretaker was a good explanation--it made sense. The rain could have washed away the caretaker’s tracks. Kisame’s uneasiness was probably just exhaustion and boredom tying him up in knots.

He caught himself peering down the empty hallway again, searching for something he couldn’t put a name to, and sighed in irritation. They were alone, and that was unlikely to change until the storms finally passed. And if something had managed to hide from two S-Class ninja, they were fucked anyway. There was no sense worrying about it.

Lightning flashed, painting the hall in pale white, the shadows seething furiously as thunder rattled the timbers. The air tasted metallic on his tongue, and Kisame sped up, gritting his teeth to keep them from aching.

He slid through the door at the end of the hall, rushing to the wooden bench in the centre of the room and dragging it in front of the door to wedge it shut.

Thunder rumbled, low and laughing, and Kisame stared at the bench and wondered what, exactly, he was trying to keep out.

“...odd,” he murmured, suddenly aware of the nervous sweat beading up on the back of his neck. Kisame was no stranger to paranoia, but it had been a long time since he’d been so spooked by nothing.

There were three tubs in the room, each large enough for six men. Itachi had filled the one closest to the back wall, leaving a dimmed oil lamp on the ground next to it. The water was still steaming, as Itachi had promised. Kisame spent too long staring at the tub, his paranoia fading slowly into confusion. There was nothing here. The inn was abandoned.

Nevertheless, he went to the lantern first, twisting the knob until the wick burned brightly. He lifted it high as he searched the room, straining his ears and searching the shadows like a fearful genin. The wire handle was slick in his hand, and the only thing he could hear over the rain and wind was his own heartbeat.

The baths were as empty--and clean--as the inn. Buckets, towels, washing cloths, and soap lined neatly organized and recently dusted shelves, all of them bone dry except for the ones that Itachi must have used. The floor was well-worn slate, probably a fetching shade of blue-grey in better light. Thin, damp lines and gleaming water droplets marked Itachi’s footprints from after he’d bathed.

Kisame tilted his head as he studied the footprints. They ran from the bath to the wall, then tight against the wall to the shelves. The lines of water droplets grew much less frequent--Itachi must have grabbed a second towel for his hair. Then a barely visible mess of footprints near where the bench had been before they disappeared altogether as Itachi dried off and got dressed.

It looked like Itachi had walked into the bench, as unlikely as it was. Maybe Itachi hadn’t found the lantern until after he had bathed? The room would be nearly pitch black without it, only the thin sliver of light from the base of the doors to the gardens to brighten it.

Kisame set the lantern down, his nerves jangling like a fist full of coins. He unbuttoned his cloak, hanging it on the hooks for used towels, and stood there, his shoulders bared, eyeing the doors to the hallway. The bench was wedged firmly between the wall and the door--to open it, the door itself would have to be removed. Still, it looked damned suspicious.

They were alone. Itachi’s chakra sensing was uncanny in its accuracy--if another breathing creature was within half a kilometre, Itachi would know where it was, what it was, and what it’d had for lunch last week. Itachi had said there was no one around. They were alone.

Kisame jerked off his mesh and shirt in one move, his eyes locked onto the door. On some level, the thought that he was playing murder chicken with a door confused him, but confused or not, he was determined not to lose. “I left my sword  behind,” he said, trying--and failing--to sound worried about Samehada’s absence.

Nothing happened, and Kisame frowned contemplatively. It was possible, of course, that Kisame’s paranoia was baseless--a bad case of mission nerves. Maybe the food had been off. He stripped, kicking his pants to the side as he stood naked in front of the door, daring it to act.

If a room could suck in a breath, this one did. Kisame’s frown deepened, and he broke eye contact with the door, hoping to provoke it. A cool draft curled around his feet, a faint golden mist by lamp-light. “I am unarmed. Naked and defenseless,” he said, casually speaking to the empty room as though narrating his life was an entirely normal hobby of his. “I’m practically helpless.”

The itching sense that someone was watching him moved, slinking closer, and Kisame’s frown disappeared, chased by a surprised smile. No one ever fell for that! “Super, super helpless,” he added encouragingly, watching a somehow substantial nothing meander across the room.

It circled him, so close he swore he could feel it breathing. Oh! A tiny voice whispered near his hip, so startled that Kisame nearly laughed as he went for its throat. His hand flew through nothing, and the wind wailed like a dying cat, setting the steam and mist dancing around him.

Kisame was struck by the sudden conviction that he was alone, whatever had been there now gone. He flexed his fingers, drawing warmth into them, and studied the door that was just a door. “...Interesting.”

***

The wind howled again, tree branches lashing the inn’s walls and windows. Itachi waited for the sound to die down, barely breathing as he listened for...something. He wasn’t sure what. He’d read half a page in the last hour, jumping at every sound and shadow, his concentration shattered by the strange, impossible sense that he was not alone.

The sharingan showed him nothing to justify the feeling--no detail out of place, and no hint of foreign chakra. Itachi rolled onto his side, closing his aching eyes. It was not the first time he’d been beset with paranoia with no visible cause, but it was no less annoying for its familiarity.

He was not afraid. His eyes and his ears and his skin might lie to him, but the sharingan could not, and by his eyes, Itachi was entirely alone.

He was frustrated. If he were not alone he could simply kill the interloper and return to his book. This irritating figment of his imagination was both impossible to ignore and strangely persistent. Meditation had only strengthened the figment’s existence, and Itachi had given up on that as well, his irritation growing.

Kisame was too far away to hear Itachi speak, his chakra still centered in the baths. The thought of Kisame enjoying the hot water pleased Itachi for some reason he couldn’t quite grasp, but more importantly--

“Fuck off,” Itachi muttered to himself, the curse awkward in his mouth, but suitably bitter once spoken.

--Kisame could not hear him whine.

“I just want to read,” Itachi added, painfully aware of how sullen he sounded. If Kisame ever heard him talking to himself, Itachi would never live down the embarrassment. “Go away.”

“But I just got here.”

Itachi launched himself out of bed like a startled cat, his shoulders scraping the ceiling at the height of his arc before he landed in a crouch, his eyes blazing and three seals into a genjutsu.

“Jumpy?” Kisame’s voice asked, coming from the middle of the room. Notably absent was Kisame’s chakra, body, and scent.

Bewildered, Itachi stared at the point where his ears insisted Kisame must be.The chakra gathered in his hands dissipated into nothing. “Kisame?”

“Who else would be here?” Kisame asked, the tone of his voice slightly off. Not as off as him being invisible, of course, and yet...

Itachi lowered the chakra levels in his eyes until his vision went soft-edged, details slipping away into blurred shapes and colours. As his sight faded, Kisame’s shape formed, precisely where Itachi’s ears had placed him.

“How interesting,” Itachi said, his mood brightening considerably. What kind of strange genjutsu was this? He dabbed up the blood trickling from his eyes, and squinted at the false image of his partner.

Kisame was wearing all grey-blue from head to toe, in a tone that matched his skin precisely. Itachi was quite certain that Kisame possessed no such clothes, which made this genjutsu even more odd--to have so little chakra as to be imperceptible, and yet make such a beginner’s mistake in dressing him.

If Itachi had such a genjutsu, he would never be so careless. “You are not Kisame,” he told the apparition, because there was no point in playing along. “Who are you?”

“Why would you say such a cruel thing?” Kisame’s doppleganger asked. It smiled--or bared its teeth. Itachi saw only the splash of white teeth in Kisame’s face.

“Because it is true,” Itachi replied, circling the genjutsu as he tried to sense the chakra of the caster. “This is an interesting genjutsu, but you have the details all wrong.” In truth, Itachi could not see the details, but the clothing was such a rookie mistake that he felt confident in his statement. Kisame would never wear something so tight.

The genjutsu was silent until he’d circled it completely. The blur of white teeth flashed again, and it stepped forward, sliding into Itachi’s space, one hand outstretched to touch him.

Itachi twitched away, offended on Kisame’s behalf--Kisame would never be so rude! “Where are you hiding?” he asked, a hint of anger in his words in spite of his efforts to stay calm.

“I’m not hiding,” the genjutsu purred in Kisame’s voice and Itachi jerked back, his instincts screaming in outrage. “I’m right here in front of you.”

It stepped into his space again, reaching for him with Kisame’s hands, wearing Kisame’s skin--oh--Itachi jerked back, ungraceful and horrified as he realised that the genjutsu user had not gotten Kisame’s clothes wrong so much as they hadn’t bothered with them at all. “Kisame--” Itachi strangled the urge to protest such an egregiously wrong detail, deeply embarrassed by his loss of composure.

Itachi threw a kunai straight into the genjutsu’s eye, and used the distraction to slit the abomination’s throat, blushing furiously in mortification. The genjutsu was more substantial than most, false-Kisame’s skin solid under his kunai, the cartilage in his throat resistant to his efforts to split it.

Kisame’s face stared at him from inches away, one white eye wide and startled, the other replaced with the leather-wrapped handle of Itachi’s kunai, and Itachi’s heart twisted in a split second of horrified doubt before he remembered that this chakraless husk could not be Kisame. And that Kisame would never.

He had expected Kisame’s form to be insubstantial, or for it to shred like paper when he attacked it. He had not expected Kisame’s body to stare at him as it gurgled and collapsed, blood spurting from the ragged wound in its neck. The details disappeared with distance, but the corpse did not.

Itachi watched the genjutsu die, his blush slowly fading as naked Kisame turned into Kisame’s naked corpse. There was nothing salacious about a naked corpse. He was suddenly very grateful that Kisame was nowhere near this. The very thought of him seeing--well. It hadn’t happened. No use in thinking about it.

Itachi nudged the body with his foot, intrigued  by the capacity and potential of the genjutsu. In better hands--his hands--it could be an exquisite tool. It would fool any who could not feel chakra, and it was so impressively detailed! Very like a clone, but entirely without the telltale chakra.

He crouched by Kisame’s form, ignoring the rapidly spreading pool of blood. Smooth, human skin jiggled when he prodded it, exactly as he’d expected it to, and Itachi dragged his finger over the corpse’s damp skin. It even smelled like the soap from the baths. He activated his sharingan, just to be certain, and the blur of Kisame’s form dissolved into the tightly woven floor mats. The wetness around his feet, and the warm, limp corpse remained when he searched for it with his hand, but they were not visible.

Itachi’s eyes burned as he cut the chakra flow to them. Kisame’s false body reappeared, and Itachi poked it again, enthralled by the accuracy of the genjutsu. The blood was shiny and red where it was puddling around his feet, and it smelled so real that Itachi was impressed. Had it not been for his sharingan--and Kisame’s chakra glowing like a second sun on the other side of the inn--he might have thought this real.

The caster most likely expected him to believe this was real, given that the genjutsu had not popped like a soap bubble when Itachi had slit Kisame’s throat.

Itachi would play along. “I was wrong. Poor Kisame,” Itachi said, for an audience he wasn’t sure he had. “You were too good. Too kind. Too--” Itachi bit his lip, trying to emulate the expressions of grief he’d seen others use. “--Oh Kisame,” Itachi concluded solemnly, struggling and failing to come up with a more fitting eulogy.

Expression of grief completed, Itachi rose to his feet, ignoring how his pants stuck to his knees, sticky with genjutsu blood. Would it be suspicious to head straight toward Kisame’s chakra? ...did he care?

He considered it carefully before deciding that since the genjutsu user had clearly discovered a way to hide their chakra, it would be best to act as though he believed he truly had murdered Kisame. They could be watching, still.

Itachi tugged the thick comforter back over to the bed, avoiding the bright red stains on it as he put the scattered linens in order. The blood wasn’t real, but it was realistically unpleasant. Itachi squinted as he searched for his book, hoping that it had survived him tossing it aside in his surprise.

A dark blur near the door looked to be about the right shape and Itachi picked it up, checking for torn pages and cracked spines before he realized that it was not his book. He narrowed his eyes until the title resolved into readable words. Flowers of Fire Country?

Kisame would read anything he got his hands on, but Itachi had thought he was reading a rather melodramatic history of the Second Shinobi War. Kisame could have finished it and had this one in his pack, but why would Kisame have brought it here?

Itachi traced the book’s worn edges, his eyes twinging fitfully at the very idea of activating the sharingan. It was good to be paranoid, but it was only a book.

Itachi set it aside.

***

Kisame sank into the bath with a deep, grateful sigh, his eyes sliding shut with pleasure as the heat sank into his bones. He’d muttered something ungracious when Itachi had brought up fixing the boiler, but this was one Itachi’s better ideas. It’d been almost three weeks since they’d stopped at an inn, and longer still since he’d had a bath house to himself.

The storm outside raged, loud and unrelenting, drafts slicing through the drifting steam and flickering the lantern light. He probably should have stuffed a towel or two under the doors to the outside, but it was too late now. He was comfortable.

He hadn’t seen such an endless series of storms since the last time he’d visited Kumo during spring. The perpetual rain in Ame was just rain--it was rarely interrupted by anything as energetic as lightning or wind. Itachi, predictably, was utterly miserable in so much wet and damp. Even Kisame’s fondness for water was being tested.

The muscles in his back relaxed slowly, the loss of tension as sweet as a kiss, and Kisame gave a low, satisfied moan, as pleased by the privacy to do so as he was by the sensation itself. He was rarely alone these days. Itachi was clingy--no. Kisame shook his head, disagreeing with his own thoughts. Itachi was hovering.

His partner was subtle, but Kisame wasn’t an idiot. It’d been months since there’d been as much as a wall between them, and it didn’t matter how effortlessly Itachi maintained the pretence that it was all a coincidence, the line of that being plausible had long since passed.

He watched the lamplight flicker through the steam, absentmindedly making lists for the morning. They both needed to do laundry, and dry out their cloaks before mould started growing on them. He probably could convince Itachi to use his fire jutsu in the name of laundry. Definitely if he brought up the Suna mission.

They were down to the last few cups of rice, but Kisame was pretty sure he’d seen sealed casks of something in the kitchen, which could useable if he was lucky. Better old rice than no rice.

Kisame frowned, and added tea, salt, and spices to his looting list. They could survive off of fishing and hunting for months yet, but Itachi would stop eating if that was the only thing on the menu. Idiot kid.

His knee ached sharply, like it was scolding him for his thoughts, and his ears caught a sound that didn’t belong to the storm. Kisame looked up, and caught sight of something in the shadowed corners for a heartbeat.

“Back again?” he asked it, tilting his head as he tried to make out the shape in the shadows. It was a person, of that he had no doubt, but the shape of it did not quite match what his mind insisted it should.

Kisame tried dispelling the genjutsu, his chakra surging through him in a tightly contained wave. The shadow remained firmly in place. “It’s a little odd, you know.”

For an absurd second--a trick of his mind, surely--Kisame felt like the shadow agreed with him. Minds played tricks when they were tired, and Kisame was exhausted. The storms had made sleep difficult.

Kisame stood, water sloshing around him, and grabbed the towel he’d hung by the bath. The air was cold against his wet skin. Kisame watched the shadow as he dried off, trying to find the outline of the person his brain insisted was there.

He wrapped the damp towel around his hips, and reached down into the tub to pull the drain. Itachi had already bathed, and if their strange guest wanted a bath it would have to draw one for itself. “You going to come out?” he asked. “It can’t be comfortable in that corner.”

In twenty-odd years of missions and training, no one had ever believed his attempts to be friendly. Kisame figured it was his face that put them off and accordingly worked harder at sounding friendly, but his efforts had never borne fruit.

The shadow rippled, and Kisame saw--and didn’t see--large, dark eyes, and a face twisted in fear before it melted back into indistinct shadows.

Interesting.

Kisame tried dispelling genjutsu again, and still the shadow remained, the edges of it as hazy and faint as the steam clouding the ceiling. He sighed, combing his fingers through his wet hair as he thought. Normally he’d be pleased. A good fight was the perfect way to end the day, but fighting nearly naked...

There was a knock at the door, nearly startling Kisame out of his skin. He looked at it, surprised to see the bench still jamming it shut. He’d forgotten that he did that. How strange. “Yes?”

“Kisame?” Itachi called his name through the door, and Kisame relaxed, glad that it was his partner and not a very polite ghost. “I believe there is someone else here. May I come in?”

“Sure--” The shadow was gone when he looked for it again, replaced by an entirely normal shadow from a pile of towels. A trick of his mind?

Kisame frowned, and went to move the bench.

Itachi slid the door open as soon as he heard Kisame on the other side. “Kisame?” He squinted through the darkness, studying Kisame for a few long seconds before asking, “Where are your clothes?”

“I was in the bath,” Kisame answered, tugging Itachi inside so he could close the door. The hallway was nearly freezing compared to the warmth inside, and Kisame, as Itachi had pointed out, was not dressed for any sort of weather. “You ran into something, too?”

Itachi’s eyes looked even worse than they had earlier, the whites bloodshot even by the dim light of the lantern, and undried blood tracks on his cheeks standing as evidence that he’d been using the sharingan again. “You saw--who did you see?”

“Nothing, I felt their presence. You saw someone?”

Itachi smiled. “I slit your throat.” His eyelashes were spiked with blood, and his smile looked like someone was holding a kunai to his neck...hungry.

“Ah--” Kisame took a step back, wanting a little more distance between them. “What happened?”

“He was not you,” Itachi added, a reassurance that did nothing to help. “I knew it wasn’t you.”

Kisame started looking for his clothes, giving Itachi the silence he needed to actually get to the point.

“...he wasn’t you,” Itachi repeated, and Kisame’s stomach rolled uneasily. There was something off about Itachi’s voice. He glanced up and found Itachi smiling, and every hair on his neck stood on end.

“How’d you know?” Kisame asked. He grabbed his clothes and moved further away, wanting some distance. Itachi had been acting a little odd earlier, but Kisame had put it down to exhaustion.

“He wasn’t right.” Itachi’s smile grew as his gaze drifted down Kisame’s body. His eyes snapped back up to Kisame’s face, over-bright and excited.

Kisame stepped into his pants and jerked them up to his hips, keeping the shield of the towel until the very last second. Kisame twisted his chakra, searching for genjutsu, and found nothing. Whatever was in front of him was real. “Tell me what happened, Itachi.”

Itachi looked confused, then sullen and resentful. “Kisame.”

“Itachi,” he replied, trying to remember the last time he’d seen Itachi show this much emotion and coming up with never. “You came to tell me what happened, right?”

“...right.”

“Where were you?” Kisame prompted him, sticking his hands into his pockets and popping the latch on the needle set he’d gotten the month Itachi turned fifteen. He smiled, and was relieved when Itachi lost some of the strange tension in his body language.

“In the room,” Itachi replied, “I had a book, but it was boring.”

“We could head to a bookstore in the next town if you want,” Kisame offered before his brain caught up with his mouth. Itachi had spent the last four months insisting that he was fine, and he’d get around to finishing that book eventually. Kisame had almost bought him a pair of cheap reading glasses at the last town out of pure spite.

“Whatever.” Itachi licked his lips, his eyes focused on Kisame’s mouth with worrying intensity.

That still wasn’t right. Kisame used kai, the hair on his neck rising when Itachi didn’t seem to notice Kisame’s chakra flickering. “Then what happened?”

Itachi did not seem to find it strange that Kisame was leading him through describing what had happened. “You came in.”

Kisame, on the other hand, found it very strange. “How did you know it wasn’t me?”

Itachi hesitated, his eyes flicking to the right as he thought about it. “You...the details were all wrong.”

“Which details?” Kisame pressed, studying Itachi and searching for the flaw that would tell him this wasn’t his partner. He couldn’t find one, beyond the obvious behavioural changes. It looked like Itachi. It moved like Itachi.

“I know you,” Itachi said, his voice dropping down into an inviting purr, as he hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his pants, casually tugging it downward.

Kisame eyed his partner, amazed that Itachi had managed to be even more frightening than he’d been in Kisame’s nightmares. “You okay?” Kisame asked, still hoping he was misreading this, and Itachi just had a sore throat.

Itachi cocked his hip, obviously hard behind the cloth barrier of his pants, and winked, slow and deliberate.

Itachi had never said a word about why he’d murdered his clan, but Kisame’s theory was psychotic break. Specifically, a psychotic break Itachi was entirely unaware he’d had.

Kisame’s mind calmed as he freed a needle from the case, pinching it between his fingers to keep the tip from brushing against his skin. Kisame had moderate immunity, but this was not the time to test it.

This was not what he had expected psychotic Itachi to be like. Kisame was not convinced that this was Itachi at all, but Kisame was loathe to use deadly force until he was very, very certain.

The needles were dipped in oil from the grey salt moss, native only to Kiri. It would dull Itachi’s reaction times, numb his extremities, and, if Kisame was lucky, put him to sleep. If Kisame was not lucky, it would simply paralyze him.

He kept the stolen antipsychotics in his pack. Itachi would have to be immobile before Kisame could force those down his throat.

“You are you, aren’t you?” Itachi breathed, closing the distance that Kisame had put between them. “My good, kind Kisame...”

He had never expected to actually use any of this, he’d just wanted the relief of having a plan to stop Itachi without killing him. Kisame lifted his hand in a slow, casual movement designed to set off Itachi’s mental alarms, and flicked the senbon the instant Itachi’s eyes found and focused on it. Kisame’s aim was better with dodging targets--

Kisame let out a startled curse when the senbon sank into Itachi’s chest, perilously close to Itachi’s heart instead of the thick, safe muscle of Itachi’s shoulder. Itachi had not dodged--Itachi always dodged.

Itachi tilted his head, his eyes blazing to life. “Kisame. How unfriendly.”

He was not a medic. If the needle had hit Itachi’s aorta, or worse, his heart...“Don’t move. I need to remove that senbon before it goes into something vital.” Kisame moved slowly, hoping Itachi would listen even in the grip of madness. “Just hold still--”

Someone knocked on the door.

Itachi’s head twisted one hundred and eighty degrees to glare at the interruption.

“Holy fuck,” Kisame remarked, thoroughly distracted from the tiny trickle of blood dripping out around the senbon he’d planted in Itachi’s chest.

“Kisame?” Itachi’s voice was muffled by the door. “There’s someone in the inn. I can’t sense them, but they appear to be using genjutsu.”

“...oh?” Kisame eventually managed. He used Kai, because there was never a wrong time to use Kai.

Itachi’s--clone?--stayed firmly real, its neck twisted like a wrung towel. Slowly, its head twisted back, Itachi’s face stretched by a crooked smile, sharingan glowing in the pits of his eyes.

“Itachi?”

Both answered, and Kisame’s skin crawled at how creepy it was. It was like a horror movie or some shit. “You sure it’s a genjutsu?”

“Should I come in?”

“Tell him to stay out,” the thing wearing Itachi’s face said. “We have...so much to talk about.” It’s face twisted, the unfamiliar smile suddenly wicked. “He’s so cold to you, sweet Kisame. I could make you so much happier.”

Kisame took a step back, indescribably repulsed. “Please do,” he called out to the door.

He could kill the thing, but false or not, it wore Itachi’s face. Killing it would be...

It would be funny to see Itachi’s expression when he saw his doppleganger.

***

Kisame was not alone. Itachi had been expecting that, based on the muffled conversation he’d heard behind the doors.

He activated his sharingan for a split second, just long enough to see the second form disappear, leaving only a senbon hovering in midair. “It is not real,” he told Kisame, frowning as he considered the issue. Genjutsu could not hold up a senbon. “And you are most likely right that it is not genjutsu.”

“You are no fun at all,” the thing said, its voice sullen.

Itachi stared at it, trying to make out its features. He’d thought it’d be a clone of him, given that the other had been of Kisame, but though the shape of it looked right, the voice sounded nothing like him. “What are you?”

The thing laughed, and disappeared.

There was a faint sound, which Itachi assumed was the senbon planting itself in the wooden floor.

“Well. That was weird,” Kisame said, amused for some reason Itachi didn’t understand. “You ran into one of those as well?”

“Yes.” Itachi nodded toward where he’d heard the senbon fall. “There was no senbon in the one I saw. I do not know if that is significant.”

Kisame bent down to take the senbon, picking it up with the care that Itachi would expect if the needle was poisoned. “It’s mine. I wasn’t certain it wasn’t you, and I didn’t want to risk it.”

Itachi nodded, absent-mindedly wondering when Kisame had started carrying senbon. “It did not sound like me.”

“It was close enough that I wasn’t about to kill it,” Kisame said. “You killed the one you saw?”

“I--it was clearly not you.” Itachi looked around, studying the room like he could pick details out of the blurred haze of nothing. “Very clearly.”

Kisame chuckled, picking a puddle of black up off the warm brown floor, and pulling it down over his torso. Itachi was fairly certain it was his shirt. “What’d it do?”

“Nothing,” Itachi said too quickly, looking toward the door and the dimly illuminated hallway beyond it. “These things lack chakra of any kind. I am unfamiliar with any jutsu that can create such an effect. Do you know of any?”

There was a pause, long enough that Itachi was tempted to use sharingan to read Kisame’s expression, before Kisame said, “They aren’t clones? Or puppets?”

“I don’t believe so, no.” Itachi looked at Kisame, letting hope creep into his expression. Kisame rarely begrudged him such emotional displays, but Itachi still did not like to use them on him. “I would like the jutsu for myself. They use it poorly, but it could be quite useful.”

Kisame adjusted something about his clothing, and hung up a towel on the wall.  “I could see that. You would want to avoid killing the caster once we find them?”

“Only until they use it again,” Itachi replied. “And only if convenient, of course.”

“It’s no trouble, Itachi.” Kisame’s voice was fond, and his teeth flashed brightly against his skin once he was finished speaking.

An emotion struggled in Itachi’s chest, taking longer than usual to disappear. “Thank you.”

***

The lamp cast Itachi’s face into light as he turned away, and Kisame saw the blood. There was too much to be just from his eyes, and from the way it was splattered... “It did not disappear?” he asked.

Itachi looked at him, asking for clarification.

“You have arterial spray on your face,” Kisame said, gathering his still damp cloak and draping it over his arm. “Did the one you saw not disappear?” There had been no trace of blood on the senbon when he had picked it up.

“Ah, no, it did not. It appeared in my room after approximately a half-hour of it watching me. It wore your body, but failed to get several of the details correct, and it behaved unlike you. I attacked, assuming that you would dodge, but an imposter most likely could not.”

“And it didn’t dodge?” Kisame felt himself smiling as he took the oil lamp from the shelf Itachi had left it on. This was most certainly his partner.

“It did not,” Itachi confirmed, grabbing a towel from the shelves along the wall, weighing it in his hand, then replacing it. The washcloth he found to the right of the towel, he kept. “Was it better at impersonating me than it was at impersonating you?”

“Not particularly, but it was not a genjutsu and I thought capturing it would be useful,” Kisame lied, faintly embarrassed by his sentimental actions.

“That is good thinking,” Itachi replied, turning on the water in the nearest shower, and holding the washcloth under the stream to wet it. “We should search the inn again, I think. I can still feel no chakra other than ours, but perhaps we will find something new.”

“Is there anything in the gardens?” Kisame asked, watching Itachi scrub the blood from his face. “Someone could be hiding their chakra as an animal’s.”

Itachi rinsed the cloth under water, then folded it in half, and in half again. “There is nothing in the gardens.” He pressed the cloth against his eyes, holding it there as he looked. Kisame could feel Itachi searching if he concentrated, though his chakra could not sense living things with anything like the precision that Itachi could.

“Nothing?”

“Not even birds,” Itachi replied, his mouth turning up in a small, satisfied smile as he removed the wet cloth from his eyes.

Kisame returned Itachi’s smile, amused at their quarry’s mistake. “Search there last?”

“You don’t want to go back into the rain?” Itachi asked, his voice lilting into entirely false surprise. “I thought you liked rain.”

“It’s better in small doses.” Kisame drew a spiral in the air, the universal sign for search in-to-out, and repeated it when Itachi squinted at him, clearly unable to see. “Itachi...”

“Yes, I know,” Itachi muttered, looking away as a hint of colour rose to his cheeks. “But the light is poor.”

“It is,” Kisame agreed, rolling his eyes, safe in the knowledge that Itachi couldn’t see worth shit without his sharingan. He understood Itachi’s reluctance, but Kisame was fairly sure their enemies would still respect Itachi if he wore glasses.

“I will use the sharingan if necessary,” Itachi added, his defensiveness melting away, replaced by an apologetic uncertainty that set Kisame’s teeth on edge. “But my eyes are...they hurt.”

“It’s not a problem,” Kisame replied, leaving ‘until it is’ unsaid, because Itachi knew that. “I can be your eyes for tonight.”

Itachi nodded stiffly, though Kisame was fairly sure he was relieved. “Thank you.”

 

***

The baths were located at the end of a long hallway with windows facing the lonely road on one side, and large doorways into the restaurant on the other. Off of the restaurant, sliding doors led to a surprisingly spacious kitchen, and a pair of expensive glass sliders led into the dark, wet gardens.

“It’s strange how well kept this place is.”

Itachi kept his silence. Kisame was saying it for Itachi’s sake, though it was unnecessary. Itachi had used the sharingan in this room when he was searching for the boiler and would remember it for the rest of his life. Six tables, each with a withered floral arrangement, and six stacks of chairs at the edge of the room. Two paintings of mountains (quite well done) and one of a tree on the edge of a lake. A single red cushion under the table furthest from the door.

His vision had been the bloodstain on the floor for far too long and Kisame had finally brought it up. He had saved Itachi from having to broach the subject himself, and yet...Itachi was upset about it. How foolish.

Kisame paced the aisles between the tables as he searched the room, leaving Itachi at the doors, watching for movement in the hallway.

The wind whistled around the inn, the sound rising like a scream before fading into the endless rain. Itachi closed his eyes, searching for foreign chakra again, and found the family of mice on the upper floor missing. It was strange how empty the world felt without the dozens of tiny chakra signatures he’d come to expect. Even the desert had more life than this.

“The mice on the second floor have disappeared,” Itachi reported. “It seems unlikely that the other guest went mouse hunting.”

Kisame pointed toward the glass doors and asked, “Do you see that?”

“I don’t,” Itachi replied, doing his best to sound something other than bitter about it. He was fairly sure he failed.

Kisame was quiet for a second, looking back at Itachi before he returned to looking into the garden. “There’s handprints on the glass. They’re appearing as I watch.”

“How many?” Itachi asked, squinting at the door. He was almost certain that no one was behind the glass, which meant that smears of mist appearing on it a jutsu of some variety.

“Twenty of them, now, with more appearing.” Kisame sounded confused, which was fair. Itachi was as well. “You ever heard of anything like this?”

Itachi shook his head, and activated the sharingan just long enough to see that the handprints were real, and that they were being made in a complete absence of chakra. His eyes throbbed painfully, reminding him again that overuse was a terrible choice. “It’s just hand prints. What’s the point?”

“...distraction?” Kisame eventually offered.

If it was, whatever was doing it should have attacked them as soon as Kisame said that. “Is it still making fog hands on the doors?” Itachi asked.

“It is--”

“Get out,” a voice whispered, interrupting Kisame. “Get out!”

Something moved beyond the entrance to the kitchen, a shadow in the shadows that gave Itachi the impression of too many long, spindly legs.

Kisame moved first, darting after the shadow with the enthusiasm of a hunting dog. Itachi followed on his heels, the lantern handle squealing as it swung from his hand. The shadows moved like living things, swaying in time to the lantern in his hand.

“Nothing,” Kisame said, and again it had to be for Itachi’s benefit. “Stop the lamp?”

Itachi stilled the swinging lantern with a touch to the base, watching Kisame because he couldn’t trust his own eyes to see through the gloom. The kitchen was the kind of empty that made Itachi itch to search it--hiding spots in every cabinet and behind every counter, and filled with mysterious objects that could be converted into weaponry with ease.

Itachi caught himself watching something he couldn’t see stride between him and Kisame, a whiff of something foul following in its wake. Itachi’s kunai went straight through, thumping into far wall, and his lantern went out.

The doors to the restaurant slammed shut with a bang behind them.

Itachi relit the lantern with a whisper of flame, as Kisame shoved his hand straight through the oiled paper panels in the closest door, then pulled it free of its tracks and tossed the entire door into the restaurant. “A civilian child could escape that,” Kisame pointed out.

Itachi stared at the presence he could feel, yet not see. It lingered in front of the garden doors, watching them unhappily. “If you give me your jutsu, I see no reason not to let you live,” Itachi offered.

“Leave this place,” it answered, it’s voice so guttural that it barely sounded human. “And never return!”

Itachi sighed, honestly disappointed that the other guest was not willing to be reasonable. “I want the jutsu,” he repeated.

“But before you leave--!” Thunder interrupted, so loud that the hanging pots and pans shivered in its wake. “--make a sign to warn others that the only thing waiting for them in these halls is Death Itself!” the thing finished, and then bolted into the gardens, passing through the doors in its way.

“We could just head back to bed,” Kisame suggested. “They seem too stupid to be dangerous.”

Kisame was suggesting they lay a trap for it inside the inn, and that was a good, solid plan, which Itachi would have agreed to if it weren’t for the jutsu and his own nagging curiosity. “You aren’t afraid of death itself, are you?”

Itachi counted Kisame's heavy sigh as a win.

***

The garden was wild and overgrown, in strange contrast to the inn. Bushes grew to the lowest branches of the trees, their leaves black in the storm-brought darkness and silver when lighting lit the sky. The path was too narrow for them to walk side by side, the thick plants spilling over the barely visible flagstones.

The shadows that had led them out of the inn were gone, or hidden by the constant movement of the leaves. Itachi tapped his arm, telling Kisame to lead, and he turned, looking down at Itachi just in time to see his face lit white by a spectacular flash of lightning. Rain was diluting the blood from his eyes, streaking it down Itachi’s cheeks.

Itachi blinked rapidly, his eyes narrowed against the glare and the rain.

“You want to go grab the hats?” Kisame asked, because they did a great job of keeping the rain off.

Itachi shook his head, unable to talk over the thunder. The last of it died away, and Itachi looked at him, squinting slightly. “We should hurry. I can feel it getting away.”

Kisame shrugged. Rain didn’t bother him like it seemed to bug Itachi. Well, not after a hot bath and a chance to dry off, both of which he’d had. If Itachi was good with it, then so was Kisame. He started walking, following the single path deeper into the inn’s gardens. Itachi fell in behind him, close enough that Kisame felt the feverish edges of his chakra.

Branches fell like curtains above them, forcing Kisame to push them aside, rain pouring down his wrists every time he brushed against another one. He hesitated for a second, seeing something almost human in the shadows, and Itachi stumbled into his back.

“You alright?” Kisame asked, trying not to laugh as Itachi scrambled back a step. “Need me to hold your hand?”

“No,” Itachi said, a hint of irritation making it past his formidable reserve. “I apologize. I was not expecting you to stop.”

Kisame grinned, and didn’t say anything more. He’d pushed his luck enough.

Water poured down in sheets, plastering his clothes against his skin. Rain rattled the leaves above them, as loud as thunder when the wind sliced through the mountain valley. It was unbelievably wet and loud, and Kisame was not sure of the wisdom of searching for anything in this weather.

A flash of pale skin in the darkness caught his attention, and Kisame lunged after it, kunai in hand and his teeth bared in a cheerful smile. The bushes dragged against his shirt, one scraping against his jaw hard enough to draw blood.

The vegetation opened up abruptly, and the path fell out under his feet. Kisame landed on his feet, knee deep in a pond, and staring down a copy of Itachi. He whipped the kunai at it, rolling his eyes when Itachi didn’t even seem to see it. As if his partner would be so incompetent.

False Itachi fell, kunai sunk to the ring between his ribs. The pond splashed up around the body, the pond water lit up like gleaming diamonds by a flash of lightning. Kisame blinked away the sunspots, watching the false Itachi bob up to the surface of the shallow pond, its face startled and oddly, faintly luminous.

Itachi stepped out onto the water, then twitched a little, staring at the new corpse of himself. “Kisame?”

“They never get your eyes right,” Kisame called over his shoulder, stepping onto the surface of the water, and turning to face Itachi. “I think we’re on the right track--”

Itachi’s eyes were the burning scarlet of the sharingan and he was studying the pond under Kisame with an increasingly distressed expression.

“What is it?”Kisame asked, as Itachi’s chakra rolled against his, unbalanced by some strong emotion.

“Those flowers--” Itachi pointed to the the far side of the pond, at a cluster of bone-white lily-like flowers. The centers of them glowed, luminous in the darkness, and the rain that dripped off them shimmered with that same light as it fell into the pond below. It was pretty. Given the expression on Itachi’s face, it was also poisonous.

“Are those--they are swamp lilies, are they not?” Itachi asked, barely audible over the rain. “Kisame--” he looked at Kisame, his eyes glowing red and entirely unreadable. “I have seen one before.”

Kisame tilted his head, taking in the long, white petals on nodding flowers, and the glowing pollen dripping from them. “You’re certain?” he asked, because--what else could he say? “Did the water touch you?”

Itachi looked down, and Kisame saw the spattered yellow droplets that covered his feet. The rain splashing into the pond had tainted him as well, though how much of it would seep through Itachi’s sandals and socks was another question. “Kisame. We should return to the inn.”

“I can leave,” Kisame offered. “If I get far enough away--”

“Then you will return, driven out of your mind and twice as dangerous.” Itachi released the sharingan and pressed his hand to his eyes, his mouth twisted into a grimace of pain. “You are my partner. I would see you survive this.”

The flowers swayed, drowning in rain, and the false Itachi’s corpse glowed with their pollen. The real Itachi held his wrist, offering something Kisame would never ask of him.

“Itachi. Return to the inn without me. I will take care of this on my own.” Kisame tugged his wrist free of Itachi’s grip, fully prepared to do the right thing for once in his life. He couldn’t ask this of Itachi. Or, more accurately, he’d have to be facing something a great deal worse than death before he’d consider using Itachi so.

“You would not leave me to deal with this alone,” Itachi said, and Kisame had the impression that he truly believed that Kisame wouldn't. “And I will not leave you. That is what teamwork means.”

“It really isn’t,” Kisame replied. “It’s more of a battle thing, I don’t stab you in the back, you don’t stab me, we’re good teammates.” Konoha was different about teams--really different--but Itachi had always respected Kisame’s views on the subject.

Itachi frowned. “Teamwork is a mutually supportive social framework. If it ceased to exist outside of battle, it would be worthless inside of battle.” He studied Kisame with narrowed eyes, and then added, “Given the rest of Akatsuki, should you choose death tonight I will bathe myself in this fucking pond rather than be reassigned to a new partner.”

“You--wait, what?” Kisame stared at Itachi, wondering if his partner have been replaced with another meatsack clone while he wasn’t looking. Had either of them mentioned Akatsuki in the last few days? He didn’t remember doing so. “Itachi, are you alright?”

“You remember that I was almost assigned to Orochimaru, don’t you?” Itachi asked. “The rest of Akatsuki is no better. I will not return without you.”

A fresh wave of rain poured down, seeping through his clothes to chill his skin, and Kisame was struck by the humiliating realization that he was hard, and that Itachi was hot. “Deidara--”

“Is a moron. You--you are my friend, Kisame.” Itachi’s eyes were wide and so very pretty. “Are we not friends?” He tugged on the edge of his collar, exposing pale white skin to the rain.

“...yes?” Kisame licked his lips, his teeth scraping the top of his tongue. What did Itachi’s skin taste like? “Are you certain?”

Itachi nodded, his hand firm on Kisame’s wrist as he led him back down the path. “There is no one I’d rather have rape me,” he said, most likely trying to reassure Kisame in his own, very unique way. It was probably a joke, Kisame hoped

A minute ago, Kisame would have torn himself away in horror. Or protested, or walked away until Itachi stopped making him want to kill the people who had taught Itachi that teamwork meant that kind of bullshit. “Itachi--can you even rape the willing?”

“The Uzushiogakure Treaties suggest that the answer to that is yes,” Itachi answered, looking up to Kisame, a smile hinted at the corners of his mouth. “But you do not need to worry about it. I will take care of you.”

There was a flaw in this logic. But Itachi smiled at him, a little amused at his dramatics, and Kisame couldn’t remember what it was.

 

***

Itachi hurried Kisame through the gardens, leading him back toward the lantern swinging under the porch eaves. His partner was silent at his back, a huge shadow that would be reassuring in any other circumstance. As it was--

Kisame made a sound, half-lost to the wind, and Itachi prayed to gods that he really didn’t believe in that he was remembering the rumours about swamp lilies correctly. If he didn’t, Kisame would most likely die.

The inn’s abandonment, the overgrown garden, the lack of anything living in it--those things made sense with a patch of wild swamp lilies growing. One of the most potent poisons ever developed, swamp lilies were most frequently found in the wetlands and bogs surrounding a very slow and winding river in southwestern Fire Country, that no one went to without very, very good reason.

They were an aphrodisiac. A true one, but a frequently deadly one. Rumours said that they’d been the pet project of the Nara clan, decades before Konoha had been more than a glimmer in the first Hokage’s eyes.

The mechanism of death was generally self-harm. Itachi knew no more than that.

Kisame’s wrist was hot under his hand, and Itachi felt for his pulse, adjusting the genjutsu to account for his actions. Kisame was still arguing that Itachi should let him go fall on his sword or some such nonsense. As if Samehada would do more than scratch him.

He grabbed the lantern as he passed it, and dragged Kisame into the kitchen, heedless of the puddles they were leaving. “Kisame, strip.” The command echoed through the genjutsu, and Kisame reacted strongly enough to shy away from Itachi in truth as well as in his mind.

Itachi was unsure if he was pleased by Kisame’s emphatic resistance to the idea of fucking him.  The longer Kisame argued in the genjutsu, the more he was leaning toward being pissed off about it. “You are covered in swamp lily pollen. Do you want me to be poisoned too?”

Kisame shuddered under Itachi’s hand, his shoulders sinking in defeat. Itachi stepped away, pleased with Kisame's obedience.

It was child’s play to have Kisame’s actions occur outside his mind while maintaining the genjutsu. Itachi turned away to give Kisame some privacy as he activated the sharingan, searching the kitchen for ideas.

His knowledge of sexual relations was academic, and abbreviated by his youth during the standard lesson set. His parents had insisted it would not matter when they pushed for his early graduation and promotion.

Something hit the ground behind him with a wet slap.

Itachi stared at the wide, steel sink like it held answers for him. It was ridiculous to blame his father for his lack of knowledge. It was unlikely the Academy or Genin lessons included anything even remotely applicable to this situation.

If Itachi only blamed Fogaku when it was reasonable to do so, he would have gone insane long before now. Silently, passionately, he thought, this is all your fault!

Another wet slap of soaking wet clothing hitting the floor, and Itachi closed his eyes, calming his unruly emotions. A twist of the genjutsu, and Kisame heard Itachi’s words as if they came from within his own mind. “Maybe there’s something useful in the kitchens?” Itachi said carefully, trying to mimic Kisame’s accent. He failed, almost certainly, but it was nothing more chakra couldn't fix.

“Itachi--fuck. This is wrong. This is so wrong--”

“Wrong or not, it’s better to be prepared. What if you don’t?” Itachi interrupted. It was a touch cruel, perhaps, but they didn’t have time to agonize over the morality. Kisame could die. Or something. Itachi didn’t know, and he disliked that immensely.

Kisame hissed, and something else fell on the ground. “Itachi--grab--is there oil? Or something similar?”

He changed Kisame’s perceptions again, and replied with his own voice, “Dish soap?”

“No. That won’t work--they have to have some kind of oil. What kind of kitchen doesn’t?” Water splattered against the floor and Kisame sucked in a breath of air.

Itachi did not look. Didn’t listen to the sound of Kisame scrubbing the glowing yellow pollen from his skin. He lightened his grip on Kisame’s mind, allowing Kisame’s thoughts to direct the genjutsu actions, and stared out the window. He tried to pretend that he was somewhere considerably less embarrassing, but Itachi wasn't able to manage it. Kisame's breathing kept breaking his concentration.

Kisame’s chakra rolled through the kitchen like the storm had come inside with them, rippling against Itachi’s skin and soul. Itachi had never felt it as anything but deep, still water.

The genjutsu strained and nearly broke, and Itachi jerked his distracted attention back into the false world he’d made for Kisame, just in time to hear himself say, “I wouldn’t fuck you with a ten foot pole, sharkbait.”

“Is what other people might say to you. But I am fond of you, so please fuck me,” Itachi said, dragging control away from Kisame. How had Kisame gotten from looking for oil to that in thirty seconds? Itachi frowned, testing the genjutsu quickly for flaws and finding it perfect.

Itachi studied the sink, aware that he should be watching Kisame’s reactions in order to properly maintain the illusion, but very reluctant to actually do so. Kisame did not like people looking at his body. Also, he was naked, which Itachi was far more uncomfortable with than he’d ever admit.

“Itachi--” Kisame’s voice rasped out of his throat, rumbling across Itachi’s skin like a shot of sunlight. “--you’re just a kid. I can’t.”

“We have killed people together for nearly five years. I don’t see how this is worse.” Itachi picked at a sliver of what looked like onion, dried to the countertop long ago. “You know I am not innocent,” Itachi added, enforcing the words with chakra to make Kisame believe them.

“Are you really trying to convince me that you’ve--Itachi, we both know that’s not true.” Kisame laughed, so affectionate that it almost took the sting out of his words.

Itachi’s shoulders slumped, heat rising across his face as his composure failed him. He must have misjudged how much chakra the genjutsu needed.

“Itachi, can you not put me under genjutsu? There is no need for you to volunteer your body,” Kisame suggested, “I can’t believe you’re even...suggesting...” his voice trailed off, and suddenly the chaotic movements of his chakra went still. “Itachi.”

Kisame snapped Itachi’s genjutsu with a shrug of his massive chakra coils.

“...yes?” Itachi replied, ruthlessly strangling the urge to turn around. The failure of his genjutsu was not life-threatening, no matter how frantically his heart was beating. Kisame would not hurt him.

Kisame said nothing, and Itachi nudged the soap so that it was parallel to the edge of the sink. It was a weakness to obsess over the thoughts of others, but Itachi could not stop himself.

***

“It was a good genjutsu,” Kisame said, uncertain and hating it.

Itachi nodded, his hair shiny and wet in the lantern light. Kisame wanted to bury his fingers in it. He wanted to tug it to the side and expose Itachi’s pale neck. He wanted to strip Itachi’s clothes off and pet him like--Kisame’s mind stalled mid-metaphor, because he wouldn’t pet a cat like he wanted to pet Itachi.

He settled for licking his lips. “The idea was good, but more likely to be successful if you had told me before you put me under.”

Itachi nodded again.

Kisame was so aroused that he could think of nothing else, and only a fool would deny Itachi’s beauty. And yet... “If you don’t want to do this, please say so,” Kisame said, covering himself with his hands less for modesty than for the excuse to touch himself. He needed--no, he wanted. Kisame closed his eyes, fear settling into his throat like a rock. If he hurt Itachi he would never forgive himself. “I will not hold it against you if you kill me instead.”

Itachi's answer came in a genjutsu. Kisame felt the illusion fall into place, sensed Itachi’s chakra linking into his.

“Kisame, you are under my genjutsu.” Itachi’s voice came from everywhere, calm even now. “You can do no harm to me.”

The inn’s kitchen looked the same when he opened his eyes.

Itachi did not. His partner was perched on edge of the enormous butcher block island, watching him solemnly. “Kisame?” He’d lost his shirt and hair-tie, and his now-dry hair fell across his shoulders like it was begging Kisame to touch it.

“This is alright?” Kisame asked, hesitating even now. “Itachi--”

Itachi’s voice echoed though the genjutsu again, adding, “I have trapped you in your body, Kisame. You will not move or speak outside this genjutsu.”

“I am nothing but a hint of Itachi’s chakra prodding your imagination,” illusionary Itachi told him, as he uncrossed his legs in deliberate invitation. “What I am now is what your mind has made.”

A genjutsu where the victim’s mind provided the details, then. They were difficult to cast and  even more difficult to maintain, but Itachi was a genius of genjutsu. However...

Kisame looked at Itachi, sitting on the countertop and waiting for Kisame, and wondered what the hell was wrong with his imagination. Itachi was beautiful, but so were sharks. Kisame had never considered fucking either of them.

“Why you?” Kisame asked, more distressed than he’d expected to be at the thought that his mind had picked Itachi as a--a sexual partner instead of literally anyone else. “Does Itachi even know what sex is?” He sure as hell didn’t notice the vast majority of the jokes.

His conjured version of Itachi stared at him disdainfully, channeling his partner’s personality with unsettling accuracy. “It is your mind, Kisame.”

Maybe Itachi’s face was the only one Kisame knew well enough to picture like this. Kisame couldn’t quite make himself believe that, but this genjutsu might be his best chance to keep himself from attacking Itachi in truth. Kisame could not break it simply because he did not like what it showed him about himself.

“...I’m not going to be able to look him in the eye for a month,” Kisame muttered in resignation.

“Aren’t you going to touch me?” Itachi asked, looking Kisame up and down and giving him a tiny smile. “I want you to.”

Itachi shivered when Kisame’s hands wrapped around his waist, his eyes wide and his lips parting around a soft huff of air. “Kisame, please--”

Kisame was unspeakably grateful that Itachi was not watching this. “Shh,” he whispered, his face hot with confused and embarrassed arousal. “Itachi, just--”

Itachi kissed him, awkward and inexperienced in a way that was entirely incongruous with Itachi, but exquisitely enticing for it. Kisame buried his fingers in Itachi’s hair, feeling like the worst kind of monster when Itachi’s arms came up around his shoulders, hands that could eviscerate him somehow uncertain when it came to embracing him.

Kisame pulled away, staring at the pale pink blush along Itachi’s cheekbones. He knew that Itachi had never done anything like this, and apparently he liked that.

“Kisame, what should I do?”

...he liked it a lot. Kisame prayed that Itachi was telling the truth about the genjutsu, and that his partner would never have an inkling of Kisame’s sick fantasies about him. “Just--” Kisame tangled his hands into Itachi’s hair and pulled him closer, his stomach doing strange things when Itachi leaned into him in return.

“Yes?” Itachi asked, his lips warm under Kisame’s ear. He wrapped his arms around Kisame, returning his embrace, heedless of the wet trails of pre-come Kisame was smearing on Itachi’s naked stomach.

Kisame closed his eyes, breathing in Itachi’s scent, and cursed himself as both a pervert and a fool. Itachi was so warm and eager in his arms, blatantly a product of Kisame’s imagination, and drugged or not, Kisame would never be able to resist this.

“Hey Itachi?” Kisame asked, needlessly getting his attention. There’s one thing--one thing he’s always wanted to do. This deep in his own mind, he might as well.

Itachi leaned back until he could see Kisame’s face, letting Kisame’s arms hold him up with perfect, thoughtless trust that told Kisame far more than he really wanted to know about himself. “Kisame?”

He’s so turned on that it’s hard to take a full breath, but now that he’d thought of it, Kisame wanted something else far more than he wanted to fuck Itachi. “Uh--”

Itachi looked faintly baffled and a little worried, and Kisame’s heart tripped into his ribs. He shouldn’t do this. It was ridiculous. ...but what were the chances of him ever getting to do it for real?

He was blushing so hard it hurt, but the only audience was his own mind. Kisame reached up carefully, and tucked a loose lock of Itachi’s hair behind his ear. He had to clear his throat twice before he could say, “You know you’re really beautiful, right?”

It was exactly as satisfying as he’d imagined.

***

Itachi bit down on his knuckle to keep silent, his composure utterly ruined. Kisame thought he was what? He whirled around to face Kisame, his resolve to allow Kisame his privacy shattered by the phantom sensation of Kisame’s hand brushing his hair back.

The lantern light gleamed off of Kisame’s skin, every ridge and valley of his body lovingly highlighted in gold and shadow. Rain and sweat streaked his back and sides, trickling down legs that Itachi had never realized were quite so long.

The gill slits in Kisame’s shoulders gasped and fluttered, mimicking the tremor running through him. Kisame’s arms braced him against the cabinets, his elbows locked and veins rising though his skin like tree roots.

Kisame had two cockes. Not one. Two.

Itachi’s sharingan saw all of those things in a fraction of a second, and it would remember them for the rest of his life, no matter how quickly he closed his eyes.

Inside the genjutsu, Kisame kissed him again. In the kitchen, Kisame shivered and sighed. Itachi opened his mouth to Kisame’s tongue and circled Kisame’s naked body, memorizing it from every angle.

Kisame seemed even taller naked, as though clothes took something away from him. Kisame’s dual erections were huge, hard, and wet at the tip. Dripping onto the stone floor.

He studied Kisame’s face, examining the expression of pleasure that softened its familiar angles. Kisame looked...

Itachi backed away, something shrieking inside his head as he realized what the dull ache in the pit of his stomach was.

 

***

 

Itachi melted against him, leaning into every caress like he couldn’t get enough of Kisame’s hands. He clung to Kisame’s shoulders, short nails digging into skin, hands perfectly positioned to snap his neck before Kisame could even begin to react.

He can’t help but to scrape his teeth down Itachi’s perfect white neck, marking it with parallel red scratches. Kisame licked the scratches after, half-apology, half-pleasure at the unsteadiness of Itachi’s breathing. “Itachi, may I--”

“Yes,” Itachi answered, the word almost echoing through the dimly lit kitchen.

“You don’t even know what I was going to ask,” Kisame pointed out, tugging on the bandages winding around Itachi’s thigh. They dissolved into nothing under his fingers, reality bending like a dream.

“Genjutsu,” Itachi reminded him, his nails digging into Kisame’s skin, eight little pinpricks of pain. “You cannot hurt me.”

“Maybe I just want to hear you consent.” It rang with more truth than Kisame expected, a fear exposed in a joke, even if only to himself. His blood is on fire, and his body hungers for touch like it never has before, but Kisame is not that monster.

Itachi laughed, a single startled exhale of air. “I--you do not need to worry about that. Truly.” His face hid a thousand emotions, more than Kisame could begin to guess at. “Kisame, please, I need you.”

Itachi’s mouth was warm and wet around his fingers, and Kisame shuddered as he imagined Itachi’s slick tongue slicking over the underside of his cock instead of his hand. Itachi sucked, his cheeks hollowed out as his tongue curled around Kisame’s finger, sliding over the sensitive webbing at the base.

Pleasure jolted down his wrist, and Kisame made a soft, pleased sound. Fuck Itachi was hot. “Come on, let me--” Kisame’s free hand cupped the front of Itachi’s pants, and Itachi moaned around Kisame’s fingers, his thighs spreading wider in eager encouragement.

Itachi was hard behind the thin fabric, and he squirmed when Kisame pet his cock with long, firm strokes from base to tip. His eyes were bright and wide over his stuffed mouth, and he blinked, once, before his pants dissolved into nothing under Kisame’s hand.

“The perks of genjutsu,” Kisame said, curling his fingers around Itachi just to see the look of sweet bliss on his face. “Do you like this?”

Itachi nodded, sucking on Kisame’s fingers, his tongue wet and soft and making Kisame’s nerves sing all the way up to his elbow. Itachi’s eyes widened pleadingly as he tilted his hips forward, and how could Kisame refuse him?

A string of saliva connected Itachi’s soft pink lips and Kisame’s thick, calloused fingers, shining in the lamp light for a second before it snapped and fell back against Itachi’s jaw. “You’re gorgeous,” Kisame told him, grinning like a shark when Itachi covered his eyes at the compliment.

“You’re ridiculous,” Itachi replied unsteadily, hooking his leg around Kisame’s hip and dragging him closer. “And I want you.” Itachi’s cock fit between Kisame’s like a blade siding into a sheath, flushed nearly red and throbbing in time to Itachi’s heartbeat. Itachi’s hand dropped from his eyes to his mouth, two fingers sliding between his teeth as a makeshift gag.

His cock felt so good between Kisame’s, delicate soft skin over an iron-hard core, and if there’d ever been a better analogy for Itachi then Kisame couldn’t think of it. He rolled his hips, watching the skin of Itachi’s knuckles whiten between his teeth, absurdly pleased by the faint sound that Itachi was incapable of holding back.

***

Itachi bit his lip as Kisame stroked him inside the illusion. The tactile sensation from the genjutsu was like being touched through layers and layers of cloth, barely even noticeable if Itachi didn’t concentrate on it.

Sweat trickled down his face, counterpoint to Kisame’s phantom hand on his cock, and Itachi drew in a breath that felt more like a sob than a sigh. This wasn't the worst day of Itachi's life, because the day he murdered most of his family was going to have the top slot for pretty much eternity, but Itachi thought this day could maybe be number two.

“It’ll be easier if you come first,” Kisame told Itachi inside the illusion, and Itachi struggled again for the concentration to distance himself from the genjutsu. Again he failed, barely managing to keep himself from sliding deeper.

He had not expected this.

Kisame’s cocks stroked his, and Itachi’s stance widened in truth and in genjutsu. He closed his eyes, breathing like he’d run for hours.

Kisame was supposed to fuck the shadow of himself, not--seduce it.

Itachi’s nails dug into the wood counters, splinters peeling up in tiny cylinders. Kisame’s teeth scraped over his neck, and Itachi tilted his head to give Kisame better access, his mouth falling open. Fuck, it felt so good. Why was Kisame so good at this?

He had almost gone back to his room for his book.

His cock twitched behind the useless shield of his pants, the featherlike touch of Kisame’s mouth on his almost sending Itachi over the edge. Itachi closed his eyes and tugged at the flow of the genjutsu, making the illusion of himself come for Kisame. If Kisame would just stop--Itachi could endure this without humiliating himself. If Kisame would just slake his lust--

Kisame’s hand left wet streaks of Itachi’s saliva on Itachi’s inner thighs, and Itachi’s eyes flew open, his breath caught in his lungs as Kisame pressed a single thick finger into him. What the hell is he doing?

Itachi muffled a groan, so close to the edge that he didn’t dare move, the sensation of Kisame’s finger entering him somehow even stranger than Kisame’s fingers in his mouth. “Just fuck it already, Kisame,” he hissed, the sound of his voice shockingly loud.

Kisame couldn’t hear him, Itachi had made sure of it. Another phantom finger joined the first, and Itachi strangled the high-pitched sound of frustration he wanted to make, shoving himself away from the cabinets and pacing the long aisle.

Movement didn’t make the intangible penetration any less strange or distracting, Kisame’s slick fingers impossibly vivid and real.  Itachi’s wet hair slapped against his shoulders, the storm raged outside, Kisame panted like an overheating dog, and Itachi could concentrate on none of those things while Kisame used his fingers to fuck an illusion.

His footsteps echoed, doubling back until it sounded like Itachi was being followed by an army, the wet swish of his clothes and the tap of his feet growing louder and louder as Kisame worked his fingers deeper into Itachi. His concentration was on the genjutsu, on keeping the false world around Kisame complete. Itachi had none left over for stealth.

“You look so pretty like this,” Kisame said, adding another finger. “You’re relaxing so well, Itachi.”

He stumbled and nearly fell, shooting a furious look toward Kisame’s frozen form. The fingers were to relax him? Fucking Kisame, always so--so solicitous and nice. Itachi was illusion, and could not appreciate Kisame’s efforts. They were pointless! Worthless!

Itachi shoved his fingers through his hair, excruciatingly aware that this entire situation was his own damned fault. If he’d just maintained the genjutsu properly--kept the distance right--then he wouldn’t be in this mess.

His mouth tingled, the ghostly touch of Kisame’s lips against his so nebulous that Itachi ached for the lack of pressure. His mind felt like it was melting inside his skull, worthless for the first time in his life. Itachi was certain there was a way to fix this, but he could not--

Lightning snapped across the sky, so close that thunder walked in the same boots, and Itachi screamed his frustration, whirling to face Kisame. His partner, his friend, his.

Kisame didn’t react as Itachi approached him. Too busy finger-fucking a fake, like he wanted it more than he wanted Itachi--

His body hurt for the delicate nothing touches, hungering for something harder and stronger, Kisame’s hands pushed into his skin until bruises bloomed under them. Itachi took a shuddering breath as Kisame’s fingers disappeared, replaced by the head of one of Kisame’s thick cocks.

Kisame’s teeth were bared in a grimace, his tendons and veins rising out his skin, his gills flared wide. Inside his head, Kisame smiled reassuringly, like--

Itachi could not think of what Kisame’s smile reminded him of. Whatever it was, he hated it.

The illusion’s body opened for Kisame, and Itachi snarled, dragging his nails over his forearm to claw off the light touch of Kisame’s hand. It was a lie. His body was not stretching around Kisame’s cock, Kisame was not staring into his eyes, and this was not his. It should not affect him so!

Itachi pressed his hand over his stomach, Kisame sliding deeper inside him in spirit alone. He staggered back a half-step, his lower back banging into the edge of the counter, and nearly cried as Kisame took him in hand and stroked him. It wasn’t enough!

His back arched, and Itachi’s arm slid against Kisame’s slick wrist, the contact jolting Itachi out of the confused haze.

Kisame’s nail polish was chipping again. His nails were so much wider than Itachi’s.

Itachi tugged at the genjutsu, stealing Kisame’s sense of touch before he lifted Kisame’s hand, holding it between his. Itachi swallowed hard, his mouth dry as a Suna well.  Itachi had never in his life felt small, but Kisame was so big. Both of Itachi’s hands could barely cover Kisame’s, and each of Kisame’s nerveless fingers was as thick as of two of his.

“I’m sorry,” Itachi breathed as he stared at the cock he could feel splitting him, distant as a dream. His nerves felt like razor wires strung too tight inside his skin, vibrating with every breath he took.

He could twist the genjutsu again to make Kisame’s body act out the scene in his mind. It would be a betrayal of Kisame’s trust. More than he already had by lying about the genjutsu.

Itachi shuddered and dropped Kisame’s hand onto the countertop, every line of it committed to his memory. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered, sick with wanting, his honour and convictions weakening with every passing second.

You’re so good,” Kisame told a fake, his voice unspeakably fond.

Itachi closed his eyes, a flood of tears spilling down his cheeks.

***

 

Thunder rolled through the kitchen as Itachi squirmed silently under him, his eyes wide and desperate as he stared up at Kisame.

“You’re perfect,” Kisame said, stroking Itachi’s cock, trying to soothe the coiled tension he could feel in every inch of him. “You’re doing so well--”

Kisame fucked Itachi in short, slow thrusts because he could no more resist the tight heat around his cock than he could stop his own heart, but Itachi’s tears left him sick, made his hands shake as he tried to ease Itachi’s pain.

Itachi arched under him, trembling helplessly when Kisame went too deep, the remains of his earlier release dripping down his stomach. “Kisame,” he gasped, fresh tears dripping from his black, blind eyes. “Kisame.”

“Itachi, you’re okay, you just need to relax, I promise it’ll be okay--” He was a monster even inside his own head. How could he want this? He would break the genjutsu in a heartbeat if he thought he could control himself, but Kisame knew he wouldn’t. If the genjutsu broke--

Itachi sobbed, the sound echoing through Kisame’s skull like an accusation. “Sorry--”

“Don’t be sorry,” Kisame cut him off, curling his hand around Itachi’s dick. Itachi’s body was just as aroused as Kisame’s, his cock hot and slick in Kisame’s palm, hotter than it’d been before...before?

Kisame shook off the odd sense of deja vu, flinching as his mind proved him with an image of Itachi’s face, blood painting triangles beneath his eyes and his lips bloody and swollen. It wasn’t real.

Itachi curled off of the wooden counters, burying his face against Kisame’s throat and clutching his shoulders so tightly that if this wasn’t genjutsu, Kisame was certain that he’s be sporting bruises in the shape of Itachi’s fingers. “Kisame.”

Itachi’s skin was so hot against his. Kisame stroked Itachi’s back, his hand sliding wetly over sweat-slicked skin.

The rain was falling again, and Kisame couldn’t remember when it’d stopped. The wind sounded like voices, each raised in a cacophony of misery. Itachi writhed, tightening around Kisame’s cock like a vice as he panted, the sound almost lost in the storm. “Kisame, it hurts.” Itachi whispered, his form flickering. “Please, I don’t know how make it stop--”

Horror welled up in him, visceral and instinctual on a level Kisame had last felt when his hands were red with his squad’s blood. He can’t want this of Itachi. He can’t.

Itachi flickered again, his face bloody and his hair clinging to his shoulders in thick wet clumps, and he was--why was he on top of Kisame?

Kisame had undergone genjutsu training as a genin, as a chunin, and as a jounin. The signs and sense of genjutsu had been drilled into him until he could recognize and remove them in his sleep. It was a habit more instinctual than conscious.

His chakra shredded the genjutsu the instant it faltered.

Itachi blinked at him, his eyes a burning, bloody red interrupted only by the darkness of the sharingan’s commas spinning around unnaturally wide pupils. The genjutsu tried to weave itself around him again before Itachi snapped it entirely, managing to look convincingly guilty under the fucking rivers of blood staining his eyes and cheeks. “Kisame.”

“Itachi?” Kisame tried Kai again, half-convinced that the genjutsu was just layered, because--

His partner put down the kunai with shaking hands. “Kisame,” Itachi tried smiling, and did it poorly enough that Kisame winced. “I...can’t explain.” His shoulders twitched in a minute shrug, and a fresh stream of blood spilled from the corner of his eye.

“The poison’s affected you,” Kisame said, because Itachi didn’t actually need to explain to Kisame why he was straddling Kisame’s unconscious body and grinding himself against Kisame’s cocks while he puppeteered Kisame’s hand into jacking him off. He might need to explain the kunai, but Kisame wasn’t ready to ask.

“...It has?”

Kisame closed his eyes, lust punching him in the stomach as the pollen pulsated through his system. Itachi’s wide-eyed look of horror was not attractive, regardless of what his cocks thought. “Do you have a better explanation?”

Itachi shook his head, and Kisame was struck by the certainty that there were real tears in all that blood. “I’m sorry?”

“Not as sorry as I’m going to be,” Kisame said, certain he would be right, and even more certain that there was nothing he could do to stop it.

 

***

 

Kisame rolled Itachi onto his back and settled over him, forcing Itachi’s legs apart with his knee and shoving three of his fingers into Itachi’s mouth. “Get them wet.”

Itachi rolled his tongue around them, trying to cover them with spit in spite of still not being convinced that this was necessary.

Kisame pulled his fingers free, and speared Itachi knuckle deep on two of them.

He’d been gentle with the genjutsu. Itachi remembered that clearly as he swallowed a sharp sound of protest and lay very still as a bolt of pain raced up his spine to the base of his skull.

Kisame’s fingers spread open inside him and Itachi shivered, his eyes drifting closed as a deep, raw ache spread from where Kisame was stretching him. Kisame had gone slow, had kissed him and caressed him when he’d thought Itachi wasn’t real.

The contrast was distinct.

A third finger shoved in next to the other two, and Itachi’s breath hitched in his chest.  He worried--he thought that Kisame might be angry with him. The genjutsu had been failing from the start, Itachi hadn’t even realized that he’d been poisoned--and he’d used Kisame. He’d--

Kisame hitched one of Itachi’s legs over his shoulder, and his fingers slid deeper inside Itachi, splitting him apart in another sharp blaze of pain. “You’re too tight.”

Itachi nodded and tried to relax, grateful that the poison did not allow his body to soften in response to the pain. He did not want to fail Kisame again.

“Itachi, you’re never going to take a cock like this, relax.” Kisame’s cocks brushed against Itachi’s bare thigh, and Itachi suddenly wondered if Kisame intended to take him with both of them. “Come on, you can do it,” Kisame encouraged him, hooking his fingers inside Itachi and pressing upward against--it had to be a nerve, to feel so raw.

“No, don’t tighten up--” Kisame sighed as though Itachi had disappointed him, and Itachi winced, wishing he was better. Kisame nudged the same spot inside him and Itachi’s breath escaped in a startled rush of air, a starburst of sensation radiating outward from Kisame’s fingers. “You like that?”

Itachi nodded, hoping it would please Kisame and tilted his hips upward, trying to seem eager. “Please?”

A quiet laugh rewarded him as Kisame stroked him, his fingers pressing upward like he was trying to reach Itachi’s cock from the inside. It felt strange, an odd tightness building inside him, spreading through his hips and upward into his cock. He was certain that he was clamping down on Kisame’s fingers, but this time Kisame did not seem to mind.

“You’re close,” Kisame warned him, and Itachi cracked an eyelid, unsure of his meaning. Close to what? It was hard to think over the rising tide of electricity under his skin, the stretch of Kisame’s fingers inside him becoming bearable, then interesting. “Just a few more.”

His breathing grew unsteady as the Kisame’s fingers gentled, rolling instead of prodding. It felt less like pressure and more like pleasure now, tension coiling down to the centre of his core. “Kisame--”

It hit like a punch, the impact felt in his bones. Itachi melted into the stone floor under him, pleasure flooding him like water and come spilling from his untouched cock. His hole pulsed around Kisame’s fingers, and Itachi cried out in protest when Kisame removed them.

“I’ve got something bigger for you.” Kisame gathered Itachi’s semen and slicked one of his cocks with it, grinning when he caught Itachi watching. “Now you’re interested.”

“Both?” Itachi asked, wondering how Kisame decided which one to use. Did he take turns?

Kisame’s mouth went tense, the way it did when he was trying not to laugh. “You sure about that?” He switched his hand to his other cock, smearing it with Itachi’s come as well.

A sharp ache of want changed his answer in his mouth, “Yes,” falling out when it should have been No. Itachi wanted Kisame in any way he could get him. There was no way this was going to happen again--once the pollen wore off, Itachi would probably never want it to happen again.

Kisame released his leg, and slapped the side of Itachi hip. “Hands and knees.”

Itachi rolled over, letting Kisame manhandle him into position, his knees spread and his ass in the air, his wet hole completely exposed to Kisame. The vulnerability almost made him reconsider--this position limited his ability to fight back immensely--but hunger for Kisame’s cocks won out. Itachi needed them.

Something slick and spongy pressed against his hole, and Itachi dropped down to his elbows, his cock twitching between his thighs.

Kisame’s hand gripped Itachi’s hip, holding him in place as he slid the tip of one into Itachi’s slick hole, then pulled it free to test him with the other. “Neither is big enough?” he asked, sounding terribly entertained. “You need two cocks to fill you up?”

Itachi nodded, rocking back on Kisame, trying to--fuck, he didn’t know. He needed more. “Please?” Suddenly Kisame was sliding deeper inside him, far deeper than his fingers had reached, and Itachi let out a choked cry of pleasure, pushing back onto Kisame’s thick cock. “Deeper--”

“One orgasm and you loosen right up,” Kisame said, holding Itachi’s hips in place to keep him from fucking himself on Kisame’s cock. He left Itachi cruelly empty for a second before he pressed both cocks against Itachi’s hole.

Itachi braced himself, his cock jumping eagerly as Kisame finally started pushing himself into Itachi, splitting him in tiny thrusts that worked his twin lengths a little deeper every time. The dull ache of stretching too far, too fast was barely noticeable under the surging pleasure of Kisame’s skin against his.

Kisame dropped down over his back, his chest hot against Itachi’s back. The head of one cock sank into Itachi, and Kisame laughed at how Itachi writhed for more. “You want this bad, don’t you?”

Obviously,” Itachi bit off, his patience rapidly dwindling. He pressed himself into Kisame, sweat dripping off him, so hot that he felt like he was dying. He was almost startled when his body finally gave way, Kisame’s second cock joining the first and opening him a few inches deeper before Kisame regained control.

Fuck, you’re tight.” Kisame’s teeth rasped over his shoulder, sending sweet shivers down Itachi’s spine to where Kisame filled him. Kisame rolled his hips experimentally, and Itachi couldn’t stop the breathy sigh he made. It felt so good.

“I could fuck you forever,” Kisame whispered in his ear, and Itachi nodded eagerly, his words stolen by Kisame sinking into him inch by sweet inch. How had they made it so long without Kisame using him like this? Kisame could have been fucking him since the day they met, and Itachi wouldn’t have missed out on his double cocks for all these years.

He could feel Kisame filling every empty space inside him, opening Itachi in a way that no one ever had before. If they died like this, then Itachi would die sated, regretting only not having done it a thousand times.

The first light of dawn spilled through the windows--

Kisame bit down, marking Itachi as his forever--

Itachi came in a shuddering mess of confusion and helplessly stupid arousal--

And Kisame came inside Itachi.

Itachi covered his face with his hand.

Kisame’s bite ended as rapidly as it’d begun, blood spilling down from where he’d bitten into Itachi.

“Shit,” Kisame breathed.

Itachi nodded jerkily in agreement, acutely aware of Kisame’s cocks buried inside him.

***

Kisame propped himself up on one hand, his cocks slipping out of Itachi at the same time. Itachi’s hole took a few seconds to fully close, a trail of his come spilling out behind him.

Kisame nudged Itachi to the side, out of way of the come splattered on the floor, and caught him when he collapsed.

“You going to survive?”

Itachi nodded, curling up on his side. He seemed...okay, Kisame decided, surveying the damage. Not great. Probably okay. Kisame was relatively sure he hadn’t broken him.

Relieved, he looked out the windows and did a double take. “Itachi, how long have the corpses been watching?”

Itachi raised his head and squinted at Kisame through bloody eyes. “What?”

The rotting faces behind the window looked toward the heavens in unison, and dissolved into pure blue light. “Thank you!”

Itachi stood, his legs as shaky as a newborn deer’s and squinted out the window. “The clouds are clearing up?”

The rain slowed, then stopped, the silence disconcertingly loud. “Rain stopped,” Kisame added unnecessarily, still staring at the window. Did he imagine that?

“My eyes hurt,” Itachi said and then tripped while standing still. He looked awful. Between the blood from his eyes and the blood from where Kisame bit him, he looked like he’d murdered someone at an orgy.

“Only your eyes?” Kisame asked, pulling himself to his feet using a cabinet as a crutch. “I’m surprised.”

Itachi frowned at him. “What was that about corpses?”

“Nevermind. You want a bath?”

***

“Kisame?”

“Yeah?” he replied, nudging Itachi’s hand away from the wet cloth covering his eyes. “Leave it. You need to rest them.”

“I want to see.” Itachi’s face tilted toward him. “Please?”

Kisame polished off the dregs of his tea as he thought about it and reluctantly decided that Itachi was more that old enough to make the decision for himself. He was probably only asking Kisame to be polite. Kisame’s tongue flicked against his teeth, like he could still taste Itachi’s blood between them. “Up to you, kid.”

“You haven’t called me that in a long time,” Itachi noted, lifting a corner of the washcloth enough to look at Kisame with one eye. He didn’t use the sharingan, at least. “Years.”

“Ah, well. Maybe I like to drink denial with my tea.”

“Even after--”

“Shhhhhhhhh,” Kisame hushed him, because things were going so well. They didn’t need to bring up last night. Ever.

Itachi closed his eye, and let the cloth settle back over his face. “I can still see,” he said. “...good.”

“About that...closest major town is...eh, Tanzaku?” Kisame guessed, his head giving a sharp, warning twinge when he thought moving to grab their map. “Is that right?”

“No, Amegakure is the closest.” Itachi touched the cloth again before he thought better of it and left his poor eyes alone.  “What does it matter?”

“You want to take a detour, see if glasses will help?”

“I’m pretty sure I’m going blind. I don’t think glasses will help,” Itachi replied, and it was a shock to hear him say it so plainly.

Kisame shrugged before he remembered that Itachi couldn’t see it. “Can't hurt to try, can it? If you could see without it, you’d probably use the sharingan less. And you can’t tell me you haven’t been bored out of your mind the last few months.” 

“You knew for that long?” Itachi’s smile was wry but genuine. “I’m glad.”

Kisame thought about and discarded the idea of telling Itachi that he’d been squinting at things for months even before he’d stopped reading at night. Instead, he poured himself another cup of tea, and caught himself staring at the fingerprints Itachi had left in his wrist. “It doesn’t make you any less dangerous,” he said, and he was absurdly pleased when Itachi’s smile widened.