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Continually Adapting (to Stay Alive)

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Shisui & Kakashi


 

There shouldn’t have been anything there.

Kakashi stripped out of his ANBU blacks as he walked to the bathroom of his tiny apartment. The clothing was left behind like shadows of his ghosts, there to linger on the peeling wood floor for him to pick up and deal with after he was cognizant again.

The blacks didn’t show blood, but his skin was marked with it in some places. Not his own. Not this time. The blood of his targets had soaked through his arm guards and the left side of his clothes, leaving a drying smear of red on his skin. He grimaced slightly as he ran his fingers over the blood. Tacky, still, but not yet fully dried.

Just inside his bathroom, where the light was brighter than any other room he had, he saw something darker under the blood. Kakashi grabbed a cloth, dampened it in the sink and then wiped away the blood. Was it a wound? Cloth that had torn off and stuck to his-

He stopped, staring at the words written on the inside of his arm.

Hello soulmate!

No.

I’m sorry I didn’t find you earlier! But my cousins were writing on their arms to see if they had a soulmate and convinced me to try too.

Absolutely not.

They’re pretty jealous because my words faded away to find you but theirs didn’t! Haha! I told them that I had a soulmate. I always knew it. And it’s you!

Impossible. It as impossible.

I hope we get to meet soon, wherever you are. That would be the best thing! Even if we don’t meet soon, I’m glad I discovered you today. You see, today is my birthday!

Kakashi closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, the words had already begun to fade. The message took up most of the space on his left arm. It had been covered by his armor during the mission and the return home. He hadn’t seen it at all. He didn’t know when it had showed up. This morning? Yesterday? The day before?

How long had it been there?

He ran his fingers over skin marked only in blood now, pale under the red. Without the words visible like slashes of black ink on his arms like the symbols of a crude and winding seal, Kakashi could almost believe he never saw them.

Almost.

He gave up staring at his skin and went to shower instead. The water ran hot for a few minutes before turning lukewarm and then cold. By the time he stepped out, shivering, he’d put away the words in the back of his head. Drying himself off, he resolved to never put ink to his own skin -any supposed soulmate of his would be better off without him- and went, his hair still damp, to bed.


He went two days without seeing another mark. His mission report was given. He had no injuries to recover from so he was put right back into the available shinobi pool. He spent that time resting, training and eating as much rich Akimichi food as he could stomach.

On the third day, Kakashi rolls out of bed to find more writing scrawled down his arm. It’s just as quick and is accompanied with the drawing of a cat’s face and some little shuriken stars.

Today my favorite cousin also tried to write on his arm. I turns out that it vanished away too, which is so unfair. He’s four years younger than me and he can do almost everything I can do. I mean, I love him, he’s really adorable and nice, and I’m totally his senpai, but I want some things for myself ya’know?

Maybe I should get a cat? Do you like cats?

Kakashi makes a disgruntled noise and flings his arm away from his sight. They were absolutely not made for each other if this so-called soulmate wanted a cat.


The next message is three times longer than the first. It scrawls up Kakashi’s arm, stops over his shoulder, follows an arrow across his collarbones to continue down his right arm in handwriting that is only slightly different than the left side. It’s a detailed account of an argument had with their mother about, of all goddamn things, some fish that went missing out of the fridge.

The mother set it aside for some special dinner situation but discovered it missing. She blamed his soulmate, who sounded more like a whiny child than anything, but said soulmate insisted it wasn’t them. The argument went round and round, detailing who was where at what time until it was finally concluded that the family ninja cat had broken into the fridge and ate both fish. They found her sleeping in the sun, swollen belly and fish heads and all.

Stupid fucking cat, the message concluded. How do you feel about dogs instead?

Kakashi still didn’t reply, but it did make him smile a little. Dogs were much better.


Weeks passed, time passed, marked only by the acceptance and completion of missions and the scrawling messages that wound their way across Kakashi’s limbs at the hand of his soulmate.

Juvenile jokes were found down his calves. Riddles swirled around his wrists. Rhymes followed the line of his veins on his inner arms.

His soulmate rose early, always writing good morning on his palm or the back of his hand for Kakashi to see. When they succeeded in a new jutsu or won a difficult spar, his arms became nearly black with the excited exclamation points and the long cheers of self-congratulation or gloating.

There were complaints, tiny ones, wedged into hard to see places as though his soulmate was attempting to hide the words from them both. Kakashi finds curse words littered across his thighs, once, an angry rant that only made sense when he held his legs together and read them like the pages of a book.

Sometimes there is a day or two of silence, but there is always something to find.

Kakashi reads everything silently.

He never writes back.


For a month solid, Kakashi got no words, just pictures.

Shuriken. Sticks of dango. Simple flowers. Leaves. Bugs of all kinds with incredible accuracy- Kakashi’s skin stings from where he slaps at the spider on his shoulder. Cartoon dog faces that become realistic ones. The simple drawings are childish and crude, but the more complex ones, the ones that look realistic, have the touch of an actual artist- or at least someone who drew from life incredibly accurately.

Kakashi’s lounging alone in a tree, watching the vines crawl up his arm, budding into small flowers like a classical painting, when he sees some words tucked into the curve of his wrist, hidden under a leaf.

I’m not supposed to tell you this. I don’t know who you are still. You could be from an enemy village.

But I wanted to explain all the art. It’s to strengthen my eyes. I finally awakened the Sharingan and I have to use it to make it stronger.

Kakashi’s skin goes cold at the words. His heart skips, stutters, clenches in his chest.

He pulls the cloth back down over his arms to protect them from his sight. Hugging his knees to his chest he squeezes both eyes shut -even though one is covered already- and hides his face against his legs. His breath comes short and sharp, pants that make his throat hurt but at least that way he’s still breathing.

He still feels utterly numb when he finally leaves his perch in the tree- it’s been hours since the sun went down- and he resolves to take the first mission he can get his hands on in the morning.

Kakashi had nightmares of falling rocks and caves all night.


My cousin scolded me for telling you about my eyes.

Blood splatters across the ground. There are six heartbeats in a circle around him but this one, this one, is fading.

He still glares at me. Says that it was extremely foolish.

A hand sign. A flood of chakra. The ground opens up, closes again and there are four heartbeats left.

But I don’t care.

Pain like fire sears across his shoulder but it is just a blade skimming across his skin. Close enough to cut a slice off the top and send blood down his shoulder and his arm.

I know that you won’t betray me. I believe in you.

His blade is white and made of chakra. It cuts through one body and plunges into the chest of another. Kakashi stares into brown eyes as the life fades out of them. Two heartbeats left.

Not believe in you like you’re a legend or a myth or something not real I mean… sorry rambling again. You probably get sick of all my writing don’t you.

He ducks to the side, avoiding a line of kunai aimed at him. Paper flutters attached to their rings and he flings himself forward, hits the ground, rolls and is back up in time to have the tags explode at his back and light up his assailants. One has their arm up to block out the light. Then they don’t have an arm at all.  One heartbeat left.

But I’ll keep doing it! And the drawings too! I won’t stop until you tell me to, I guess. Ugh. Sorry. Sorry. I don’t mean to be like this but…

There’s just enough chakra left in him, just enough time, for lightning to spring to his fingertips. Birds scream in the air and Kakashi empties his mind’s eye of the image of a flock of birds he once saw spread across his leg in the early morning light. Someone had been unable to sleep and saw migrating birds at sunrise. Kakashi barely slept anymore.

What I mean to say is. I trust you. To keep my secrets.

Kakashi’s hand goes in one end and out the other of the ribcage and he watches someone else die so closely that he can feel their breath stirring against his exposed ear. The corpse falls from his bloody arm with a wet thump and there are no heartbeats left but his, erratic and jumping and crazed.

You’re my soulmate. I love you.

The words have been gone for over two days, but nothing has come to replace them, yet, and Kakashi can’t get them out of his head.


It’s a light skinning, he wants to say to the Hokage when the man’s inquiry about his shoulder sends Kakashi to the hospital. But he doesn’t. He simply nods and obeys.

The place reeks of cleaning agents, old blood and death and Kakashi wishes, not for the first time, that he could convince an Inuzuka vet to take care of him as well as his dogs. He sits impatiently on a bed, one leg drawn up to his chest with his good arm curled around it and the other stretched down with his toes just resting on the floor. One medic came in and made noises about his field bandaging while they took it off and cleaned him up. Another came in to watch for a while, saying something about a choice between accelerated healing and a skin graft.

His answer was simple, “Whatever will get me out of here the fastest.”

They exchanged a look, replaced the bandage on his arm and leave him there alone.

He’s just starting to fidget hard enough to think about leaving and chancing it. He knows the signs of infection. He can tend his own wounds and damn the scars. It wasn’t like anyone was ever going to see his body anyway.

It's not like he'd actually ever meet his soulmate.

Instinctively, he looks down at his bare arm, the injured one. The medic had him remove the protective cloth he wore on it while they tended his arm. There’s a curling image coming into being near his elbow, a little unusual for a placement from his soulmate, but there it is. He moves his other hand to cover it only to discover more marks coming to life on his fingers.

Hastily, he tugs off the other arm guard and watches as black ink blossoms, simultaneously, on both limbs.

The drawings are completely different from each other. His right arm is a curled up cat. His left arm is careful geometric patterns.

His soulmate doesn’t draw cats. His soulmate never draws patterns.

Living things, yes. Dogs. Birds. Plants. People too. At least parts of them that make them impossible to recognize. Never just line after line and squares and circles and-

The angle is wrong. He has to turn his arms to get a clear view of the cat and the lines go around the hand and the fingers in an odd way as if-

Someone is holding his soulmate’s hand, their arm, and drawing on them.

Kakashi’s foot slips as he lurches off the bed and goes to the small counter where the medics keep a few supplies. He finds a marker and roughly yanks off the cap. His hand shakes as he finds a blank space, untouched by those crawling triangles and he writes his first words back.

Who is this? What are you doing? Stop. Stop!

The lines stop. The drawings sharpen and then fade as he stares at them. A neat hand replies and now he knows, knows , for sure, that someone is writing on his soulmate’s arm. The words are angled wrong. He has to bend his arm back, put that hand on his shoulder to read the words: I apologize. I know how much my son cares about communicating with you. We thought that it would be acceptable to draw for him.

Why? Kakashi jerks out the words. What happened to him? Where is he? What’s wrong?

He was on a mission, comes the measured reply. He received significant wounds to his abdomen. He’s resting now and has been for several days.

The last message Kakashi got was nearly ten days ago. (You’re my soulmate. I love you.) How did he not notice the absence of words, of pictures? Why hadn’t he missed it? Had he simply not checked? What was wrong with him? His soulmate as unconscious from a gut injury and-

His soulmate was an Uchiha.

Are you in the hospital? He asked. His feet were already taking him out of the room. Instead of escaping out the window, though, he fled into the hallway. What floor? What room? Where are you?

There is no immediate reply. He cursed under his breath. Of course, of course, they would hesitate now. He knew his soulmate was an Uchiha but his soulmate knew nothing about him. They didn’t know he was from Konoha as well.

Kakashi finds a medic, young by the look of them, and grabs them by the front of their shirt. “There’s an injured Uchiha in this hospital. Unconscious. With a gut wound. Where are they?”

“I can’t just give out patient information like that-” comes the expected reply.

Kakashi shoves his hitai-ate up and stares at the man with both his eyes. Leaning in, he repeats, “There is an injured Uchiha in this hospital. They’re unconscious. They have a gut injury. Tell me where his room is right now. Or else.”

The man’s eyes are focused on his red and black one and it's spinning, spinning, spinning tomoe. There will be hell to pay- escaping medics is one thing, threatening them is another. The medic stutters over the words, though, like he just can’t help himself.

Letting him go, Kakashi puts his forehead guard back into place and takes off down the hallway. He’s up the stairs and on the right floor when a small message curls across the back of his hand.

I’m sorry, it says. But we do not trust you.

Outside the door is a man Kakashi recognizes, speaking to a medic the doesn’t recognize. Neither one matters right now. They catch sight of him and what a mess he must be. Half in ANBU uniform, blood darkening the bandage on his shoulder, black ink fading from his arms and with a panic that’s risen so high in his throat it’s like another pulse point beating furiously in time with his carotid.

The medic calls his name to stop him. The man - Uchiha Clan Head- his brain tells him and he tosses the information away, raises a hand to stop him. Kakashi ducks under it, opens the door and steps into the room.

“What do you mean you don’t trust me?” He says, has to say, to the startled woman, rising from her seat beside the bed. Another person, a little girl?, turns around from another chair to stare at him in surprise. “He can trust me and I’ve never spoken a damn word to him!”

He points to the figure on the bed.

His gaze follows the line of his arm and falls on the person, the boy, in the bed.

Curly black hair, damp with sweat around the temples. Pale skin flushed ever so slightly at the cheek. His head is turned slightly towards Kakashi, as if he, too, looked to see the commotion of the opening door but his eyes were closed. His arms are on top of the sheets and they are marred with black ink. Words run around each other, waiting to be read by the boy when he wakes up and not fading until that moment. His thin arms pen him in on either side and Kakashi sees at once how small he is, thin and pale and feverish and dying.

“Hatake-san!” That’s the medic. He recognizes her voice from the hallway but it is distant thing. “You can’t just barge into a patient’s room like this!” Also distant but lower, not to him, clearly, “I’m so sorry Uchiha-sama. He’s notorious for escaping the hospital. He’s never done anything like this before.”

“What’s his name?” Kakashi breathes out the words, eyes still pinned to the barely visible rise and fall of that small chest. “What’s his name?”

It’s the girl who answers, small and unsure. “Shisui?” She stands between him and the bed, the only person between him and his soulmate, and she is smaller even than him. Smaller and weaker and staring up at Kakashi both wary and determined. “He’s my brother, Shisui. What’s your name?”

“Shisui,” he says, ignoring her question. Still water.

How it fits him, lying there, barely alive.

Kakashi feels the hand reaching for him before it makes contact. He escapes from it, quick footsteps bringing him around the girl to the head of the bed. He turns to see the medic has summoned reinforcements. Security? Other medics? He doesn’t know. Doesn’t really care.

Instead he looks to Fugaku, the clan head, standing just inside the doorway with a heavy frown. With one hand, he gestures to Shisui and says words that seem to shear away his skin and leave him vulnerable and bleeding better than any blade can. “Shisui is my soulmate.”

Then he brings the marker to his arm and in broad, bold strokes, wrote his own name.

There are several sharp gasps as the ink fades from his arm and appears on Shisui’s. Kakashi leans against the bed until the edge of the frame bites into his leg. He looks briefly to Shisui’s mother, or at least the woman beside his bed, as she had gasped the loudest. She stares at Kakashi with open shock, her hand rising to cover her mouth.

Fugaku is less obvious in his surprise. His brows are lifted. His frown slightly lighter. “I don’t think removing Hatake-san from the room will be necessary, Nanami-san.” He said at last, “It seems that he and I have some things to discuss after I finish my conversation with you.”

The medic frowns but defers to his words. Both of the security team send Kakashi sharp, curious looks before they leave. Nanami clears her throat, “Shall we continue the discussion out in the hall, Uchiha-sama?”

Fugaku shook his head. “In here will be fine. Keiko, please take your daughter home. I will visit you tonight about your son.”

Keiko, Shisui’s mother, looks like she’ll argue for a moment but instead sighs and bows her head. “Yes, Fugaku-dono.” To her daughter she murmured, “Come along dear,” and ushered her out of the room.

Kakashi leans harder against the bedframe. He wants to reach out to touch Shisui’s skin but, at the same time, is terrified to.

What if he is too hot? What if he is too cold? What if his skin is papery and dry, showing his illness that way?

What if his fingers go right through the arm and touch nothing but the illusion of his own sick mind?

“Go on,” Fugaku said to Nanami, “What is Shisui’s prognosis?”

The words fall around Kakashi as the woman picks up from a discussion he’s not heard the beginning of. He finds his eyes can’t stay on them but focus instead on the black on Shisui’s arms. The jagged lines of his own handwriting, sloppy, desperate, maddened. These will be the first words that Shisui sees from him.

Somehow, Kakashi couldn’t see it having happened any other way.


The medic is gone when Fugaku approaches him. Kakashi pulls his eyes up from Shisui -he was counting the breaths, frowning under his mask at their shallowness- and looks at the man.

“Well,” Fugaku says. “This is one way to meet your soulmate, I suppose.”

Kakashi bobs his head. He says nothing.

The man regards him with those unreadable black eyes. Are Shisui’s black? Kakashi assumes they are, but they might not be. Are they as unreadable? Kakashi fears they will be, but hopes they aren’t.

Finally, Fugaku sighs, “Well, I suppose it could be a worse match.” He runs a hand over part of his face and says, inexplicably, “You could be a shinobi from Kiri after all.”

Kakashi shifts uncertainly.

“Shisui has been in the hospital for five days,” Fugaku says finally. His eyes have left Kakashi and settled instead on Shisui. “He seemed to be recovering fine on the second day when he suddenly spiked a high fever and then slipped into a coma. They’ve been monitoring his temperature and keeping him hydrated as best as they can but…” The words trail off and Kakashi is quick to fill them in with the worst option available.

But you might have come too late to ever meet your soulmate.

Kakashi’s fingers dig into the side of the mattress. Fugaku’s gaze flicks to his hand and then he turns away, saying. “His mother is sure to visit again tomorrow, but her chair is empty now. You’re injured, Hatake-san. Rest as best as you can tonight. Keeping a vigil is hard enough. You need not make it worse on yourself.”

With those words, he nodded and left the room.

Kakashi, alone with Shisui, looked down at him. He lifted a hand, not to touch him, but to put his palm an inch away from the boy’s lips.

His chest moved so slightly, Kakashi was having trouble seeing it happen.

But there was the puff of breath, hot from his mouth and warmed by the proximity to his skin, and Kakashi knew he still breathed.

The chair wasn’t as comfortable as a bed, but as Kakashi had no plans on sleeping either way, that hardly mattered.


Keiko steps into her son’s hospital room with worry already etching lines into her furrowed brow and without her daughter. The little girl was with a friend that morning, as Keiko had wanted to see both Shisui and Hatake alone.

Fugaku had sent her a message the night before that Hatake had remained behind when he left Shisui’s side. He had written it as if he expected Hatake to be there when she arrived the next morning, but Keiko wasn’t so sure.

Why stay the night now, why care about Shisui now, when he hadn’t bothered to reply to her son’s words for nearly a year?

Keiko turns on the light as she enters. The door falls shut behind her with a little click. Both of these actions stirr the person sitting beside the bed. Grey hair- a spiky mess- lifts up and a tired eye blinks at her.

Hatake sits in the chair beside Shisui’s bed. One leg is drawn up to give his folded arms somewhere to rest and his chin is on his arms. He looks at her for a long, silent moment before turning his gaze back to Shisui.

Walking to her son’s bed, Keiko touches his cheek, his forehead. Still slightly damp. Still to warm. He had a fever and yet the medics claimed no infection in his belly. Pulling over the chair her daughter had used yesterday, Keiko sits and takes Shisui’s hand in hers. She looks at her son’s face as he rests, holding his hand, and begins to talk to him.

“Kaname is doing well in her training,” she said. “Her teacher says he has never seen a steadier hand than hers and that if she continues to cultivate her talent, she will be as remarkable to the world Yamagata-san.”

Shisui’s hand is lax in her own. The grip she has become so used to since he was a little boy is nonexistent. His whole arm feels almost boneless. “She’s still painting, even now. She says that when you wake up… when you wake up  you will want to see what she’s been working on.”

Keiko has to stop for a moment. She holds Shisui’s hand so tightly that her own knuckles turn white. Lifting it up, she rests the back of his and against her cheek. “Oh Shisui,” she whispered.

“His hand.”

Keiko jumps at the sudden voice. Hatake had faded to the back of her awareness, like a shadow in the corner of the room, and she had forgotten his presence. Blinking, she looked up to see him standing now, leaning over the bed. “What?”

“His hand. Show it to me?”

Confused, she held out Shisui’s hand, palm down.

Hatake made a noise in the back of his throat and motioned for her to flip it over. She did so and gasped.

There was a small purple patch at Shisui’s wrist, like a bruise was forming under his skin. Had she done that? Had she held him so tightly that-

“Poison,” Hatake breathes out the word. His hand reaches towards her, toward Shisui’s, but stops just shy of it. It trembles. He pulls back, as though afraid to touch Shisui. “It’s a poison. I know that one.” He takes a step back. “I have an antidote.”

Then he is at the window.

The curtain flutters in the morning breeze as Keiko, frozen, stares at her son’s wrist. Her shock lasts only a second, though, before she’s up and in the hallway, shouting for a medic.

Poison, she thinks, no wonder he’s still sick!

And they had all missed it. Her. The medics. Fugaku. Everyone.

Everyone except Hatake.


There’s a heavy, fuzzy blanket pressing down on Shisui when he wakes up. He feels cold and hot at the same time and damp from sweat. Did he fall asleep under the kotatsu?

His eyes are gummy. His tongue thick like he’d slept for a long time. How long was he out? He struggles to reach up a hand to rub at his face, but his limb refuses to obey and simply flops over like a dead fish.

“Mama!” Kaname’s voice cuts through the fuzziness and Shisui manages to pull open an eye. “Mama, he’s awake!”

“Shisui!” That’s his mom and her voice sounds as excited as he’s ever heard it.

He gives out a little whoof of air as his sister flings herself at him and hugs him. “Kanaaa,” he groans, “Lemme breathe.”

She doesn’t get off him, though, and Mom doesn’t start scolding her either. In fact, he cracks open his other eye to see his mom stroking his face with one hand and holding one of his hands against her chest.

“Oh Shisui.” And those are tears on her cheeks. What the hell happened?

Kaname is clinging too tightly for him to sit up, so he makes due with looking around. He’s definitely not in his room and also definitely not anywhere at home. It takes a moment, and Kaname’s knee digging against his side, for him to remember.

“Ouch!” He says and Kaname yelps, pulling back with wide eyes.

“Sorry, sorry!” She exclaims, tears in her eyes now. “Niisan, I’m sorry!”

Shisui pushes himself up with one hand, the other still being held by his mother, and gave his sister a smile. “It’s okay. Your knee is pretty sharp though. You don’t wanna put a hole in your big bro, do you?”

For some reason, Kaname starts to cry.

“Kaname,” he tries to wipe her tears away but they just get worse when he does. “Kaname, I was just joking… C’mon…” He looks helplessly up at his mother, who is also in tears.

“Don’t you dare joke like that,” she says, her face pale and serious. Shisui stares at her. He can’t remember ever seeing her look like that. “Don’t you dare, Shisui.”

“Mom…” He’s at such a loss. Kaname is still crying, now clinging to him again, and his mother is holding his hand so tightly that it hurts. Uncomfortable, embarrassed, he looks away from her only for his eye to catch on something black.

There are words scrawled up his arms, written as though each slash were made with the tip of a kunai, not a marker. Shisui’s eyes grow wide as he reads them all jumbled together.

Who is this? Where is he? Where are you? What are you doing? Stop. What happened to him? Stop! What room? Why?  Are you in the hospital?  What’s wrong? What floor?

Hatake Kakashi

The last, the name, is big and bold on the arm he has around his sister. He stares at the words, forming them with his mouth in silence. He knows about Hatake Kakashi. Not just because the ninja is known for his skills as a shinobi but because he is infamous in the Uchiha compound. He has a Sharingan eye, from a dead teammate, and the elders have never forgotten that he simply took that power without really earning it.

As the words, as the name, begins to fade, Shisui understands.

His soulmate is Hatake Kakashi.

“Is he here?” Shisui asks his mother. She blinks at him like she doesn’t understand and Shisui tries not to be angry but they’re just crying and not telling him anything and he doesn’t care. “Is he here? My soulmate? Is he-”

Shisui stops suddenly, catching motion out of his peripheral. Shabby grey hair and a face mostly covered with a mask move into his field of vision. Shisui struggles to get his hand from his mother, to escape the arms of his sister. “Lemme go. Lemme go!”

Kaname gasps as he pulls free. His mother makes some sort of startled demand as he finally yanks his hand free of her. He’s a shinobi, after all, and she isn’t, never was. He doesn’t so much as escape from his bed as fling himself off of it. His soulmate is there and Shisui trusts him.

Arms catch him before he hits the ground. Kakashi’s visible eye is wide, so wide. It’s hard to tell with his face hidden away, but Shisui has heard the stories. Kakashi isn’t so much older than him, after all, only five or six years at the most, and there’s just a bit of that youth left for Shisui to see in him. “It’s you,” he beams up at the teen. “It’s you and you’re here.”

Shisui wraps his arms around Kakashi’s neck and hugs him as tightly as he can stand. Kakashi holds him up with strong arms that show no sign of dropping him. Held so close, though, Shisui can feel the slight tremor, the barest trembling, that quakes Kakashi’s body.

Lifting his head, he meets Kakashi’s gaze and grins. “Hi,” he says. His cheeks hurt from smiling so much. “I’m Shisui.  Your soulmate.”

A long pause and then Kakashi takes a deep breath and lets out a sigh. “....Kakashi.”

Shisui pulls himself up enough to kiss the top of Kakashi’s exposed cheek. “I love you,” he says.

Kakashi’s arms tighten around him but he doesn’t say a word. That’s all right, Shisui thinks as he hugs him again, grinning to himself, I’ll do all the talking for us.


 

Itachi & Kisame


 

The script that appears on Kisame’s wrist is neatly written in a careful hand.

Hello. It reads, My cousin asked me to write to you, to see if I could. How are you?

The words are long since faded by the time he’s thought of the perfect reply.

Miles and miles away, Itachi pauses in his post-training stretching to admire the drawing that comes into being on his skin. It’s a shark, with gleaming black eyes and sharp teeth. It grins up at him, expectantly.


Shisui writes words to his soulmate, the one who never writes back, as if he were writing in a diary. Itachi sees him, tongue trapped between his teeth, as he works on a winding message that takes up both arms. It is lucky for Shisui that he is ambidextrous, Itachi thinks. It must not be so lucky for his soulmate though. Maybe it annoys them. They never reply to anything, but Shisui is stubborn.

Itachi’s soulmate always replies to him. Itachi draws birds with painstaking carefulness on his pale limbs. He gets grinning sharks in return, always. He wishes he could make them stay a little longer.


The weight of his hitai-ate is odd and oddly familiar.

Itachi debates how to inform his soulmate that he has become a shinobi. A shinobi of Konoha, no less.

Carefully, he draws his largest bird yet, a raven, on his thigh near his knee where he has the most space. The hitai-ate rested around the bird’s throat, the metal bare except for the Konoha leaf.

The shark he gets in return has the hitai-ate of Kiri clenched between jagged teeth.


Itachi practices drawing sharks on paper before he ever sends one to his soulmate. When he does, it takes two days for him to get a reply. It’s a strange one, making him frown as he looks at it.

His soulmate has drawn back a bird and a shark. The shark has a large sword with it and the bird is resting on the shark’s head.

They both wear the Konoha hitai-ate.


Usually, at dinner, Itachi’s father doesn’t talk about his work.

Home is a place to escape those things. Home is the place you rest after missions, after training, after long days policing the streets and doing paperwork.

Today, though, his father keeps sighing and rubbing his face so his mother, so polite and kind, asks him what the trouble is.

“We took in a defector at the gates,” he says after a long sip at his tea. Itachi watches his father calmly, curious. He never talks about his work, after all. “Not just any defector, either. This one is from Mist and he’s one of the seven swordsmen.”

Father sighs heavily. He sets down his cup and arches an eyebrow to his wife. “He claims he defected because Kirigakure is practically a criminal state and that he knows his soulmate is here, in Konoha.”

“His soulmate?” Mother adjusts Sasuke on her lap. He’s old enough to be awake at dinner now, but not yet for solids. He chews on a wooden spoon, dark eyes seeing everything but understanding only very little of it. “Did he say who they are?”

“He doesn’t know.” Father shakes his head. “They apparently never speak, just send pictures. I don’t know who could possibly be the soulmate to someone like him…” He pauses, sees something on Mother’s face that Itachi can’t translate and waves his hand a little. “He’s quite tall with dark hair. His eyes are oddly colored, he has what appears to be gills, and his skin is blue. And his teeth, Mikoto. He has teeth like a shark.”

Itachi blinks, long and slow, but his parents don’t see the thoughtful expression that crosses his face.

That night, in his room, he writes words on his skin for the second time.


Father’s hand is heavy on his shoulder as they walk to the Hokage’s tower together. He had been with his team, training, when his father appeared and said he needed to go see the Hokage.

Itachi holds his anxiety close to his chest and his hope even closer. People glance at them, a little curious here, openly suspicious there, as they walk by. Itachi ignores their faces the same way his father does. He keeps his chin up, his expression neutral and his eyes forward.

In the Hokage’s office there are many ninja. There is the Hokage himself, sitting behind his desk. His ANBU guard are half hidden in the shadows, more obvious today than Itachi has ever seen them. There is also the blond haired Yamanaka clan leader, Inoichi, and, if Itachi remembers correctly, Morino Ibiki.

There is another man, sitting, with two guards flanking him.

This man is very tall. His skin is very blue. He looks at them entering the room with an arched eyebrow and a grin of shark sharp teeth. Itachi blinks at him and then up at his father.

He is led towards the line of shinobi that face the Hokage in a semi-circle. The man with blue skin laughs, softly, and shakes his head. “He’s gotta be, what, five? Six?” Father glares at the man, but Itachi nods his head.

“Seven in June, Nin-san.”

“Kisame,” the man says. “Hoshigaki Kisame.”

Itachi nods. He’s about to answer, to introduce himself, when the Hokage clears his throat. “Fugaku-san,” the old man says. “You wished to perform the test yourself?”

Father’s hand squeezes Itachi’s shoulder tightly for a second before he nods. Itachi looks up at him, not afraid, no, but for the first time wondering if his father was afraid. He was very pale. “I will.” He steps forward and takes both the container of ink and the brush from the edge of the Hokage’s desk.

“Son,” he says to Itachi, “Hold out your arm.”

Itachi does so, presenting his inner arm. His heart hammers in his chest, but he refuses to let anything show on his face. This is it, he thinks, this is how we will know.

His father writes on his arm. Itachi doesn’t look at the message. Instead he turns his head to look at Hoshigaki. The man has turned his arm and is holding it up. He’s still grinning, broad and sharp and smug.

Black ink appears on his arm as if by magic. A guard steps forward and, as the message finishes rising to he surface and sharpens, he reads it aloud.

“A man should be upright, not be kept upright.”

Itachi looks to his father. As he watches, the world for the man shifts, adjusts, and then settles again. When he lets go of Itachi’s hand to return the ink, his grip was firm but no longer sharp with fear. He bows his head slightly to the Hokage. “Those are the words I wrote.”

“So you’re Itachi.”

He glances over to Hoshigaki, his soulmate, and gives a little smile. The man laughs, shaking his head. “Can’t believe it. I thought you had to be at least thirteen to have the connection work.”

“There are some exceptions,” Father murmurs as he steps back to Itachi’s side. His hands are now kept to himself. The fear is is definitely gone. Itachi shows more curiosity, then, letting his gaze flick up and down Hoshigaki. His skin is definitely blue but he wore cuffs on his wrists like a prisoner.

“Thank you, Fugaku-san,” The Hokage interrupts again. “We will be taking this connection into consideration as we finish processing Hoshigaki-san. You may take your son and go.”

“I understand,” Father says. “Itachi. Come with me.” He turns to leave.

For the first time, Itachi does not readily obey. His Hokage and his father have both spoken, but it is Shisui’s voice, bright and eager that he hears in his head. When I meet my soulmate for the first time, I’m going to hug them and tell them I love them!

Itachi is not one for hugging, or even whispering ‘I love you’ to anyone but his little brother, but he can’t go. Not quite yet.

Quick steps bring him to Hoshigaki’s side. At first the words stick in his throat but then he picks up Shisui’s shining courage, his stubbornness to be with his soulmate, to show his love. Shisui still writes words, after all, even though he only gets silence back.

Hoshigaki’s arm is warm  under his fingertips and he leans in towards him. Obligingly, the man tips his head down so Itachi can whisper into his ear.

“Be good,” he murmurs, “So they will let you stay here. I don’t want you to leave me, Hoshigaki-san.”

“Okay kid,” Kisame says back, chuckling. “I’ll do that.”

Nodding, Itachi pulls away. He joins his father and walks out of the office. He can’t help but smile. He likes the sound of Hoshigaki’s laughter.


Itachi doesn’t see Hoshigaki again until Shisui’s birthday.

Shisui’s mom throws a party for him the day before his birthday so that he can spend the day with his favorite people. This, of course, means Itachi and Kakashi.

Itachi still gives considering glances to the older boy, not quite sure of him yet. Shisui trusts him, but that’s because Shisui is trusting. And because they are soulmates. Kakashi is very quiet, but not in the same way Itachi is.

He seems distant, like he’s not quite awake, not quite there, not quite paying attention. He’s taken up reading a book when the three of them are walking somewhere. Shisui talks as though Kakashi’s listening to him, but Itachi isn’t so sure he is.

They’re having lunch beside a river, the three of them sitting on the edge of a bridge with their feet dangling over, when footfalls alert them to company.

Shisui leans back, munching a rice ball held in one hand and then waves. “Cousin Yoshi! What are you doing here?”

“Escorting this man,” their cousin says dryly, gesturing to the man beside him.

He’s tall. He’s blue. Shisui excitedly greets him. Itachi stares.

Hoshigaki arches an eyebrow. “Hey kid. Sorry it took so long for them to vet me.” He grins that shark grin that Itachi missed so much.

“‘Tachi?” Shisui asks his cousin, but Itachi ignores him.

He knows Shisui will forgive him that. Sometimes Shisui ignores him for something Kakashi does too. It’s the same thing. And they’ll always have each other as friends and cousins.

He gets to his feet and walks over to Hoshigaki. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do until he’s got his arms around the man. Mumbling into his side, he says, “You missed my birthday.”

“Sorry kid,” Hoshigaki says. He pulls back and then crouches down so they’re almost at eye level. “I’ll make it up to you, okay?”

“‘Tachi?” Shisui calls again. “Who’s that?”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Itachi hears Kakashi say. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Hoshigaki pats the top of Itachi’s hair and says, “Mind if I join you for lunch? I’m starving.”

Cousin Yoshi has left by the time Hoshigaki settles down on Itachi’s other side.

He catches Shisui giving him that same sort of cautious, considering look that Itachi gives to Kakashi. Shisui meets his gaze and flushes in embarrassment. Pushing at Itachi’s shoulder, he mutters, “I’m just looking out for you, ‘Tachi.”

Itachi shrugs and leans against Hoshigaki’s side, offering up his own lunch to be eaten. If he’s hungry, he can always steal some from Shisui. Shisui, in turn, will steal from Kakashi.

Kakashi will steal from someone else if they all run out of food and want more. He was kind of rude like that. But Itachi didn’t mind anymore.

At the end of the day Hoshigaki carried him home on his back, the way Shisui used to do, the way he thinks he’ll do one day for Sasuke, and when he dropped him off, the man asked him to call him Kisame.

Itachi smiled up at him, his fingers curled in Kisame’s hand, and said he would.