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not quite what it seems

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There's something rather endearing about having Itachi- clan-killing, kin-slaughtering Itachi of the Sharingan- asleep on his shoulder, thinks Kisame. It brings back all the warm, fuzzy feelings that a childhood in Kiri hasn't quite beaten out of him.

He decides that he likes these warm fuzzy feelings, and that he wants to keep them. There are plenty of people who would kill him for saying that, but he doesn't care.

Kisame closes his eyes and decides not to wake Itachi. Really, Itachi's weight on his shoulder is more comforting than Kisame would care to admit.

When was the last time either of them had touched someone, or been touched in a nonviolent context? Kisame doesn't know. What he does know is that the faint pulse of Itachi's body heat and the rhythm of his breathing feel like a lullaby and a balm on his frayed nerves.

It's dangerous, he knows, to get this comfortable around anyone, especially on a mission.

Especially in the Akatsuki.

Especially with Itachi.

But it feels nice, and Kisame figures that even though Itachi would never say anything, he might need it too.

---

Over the next few days, Kisame starts to realize he was probably right. Itachi doesn't talk any more than usual, but he stays closer to Kisame, and he seems less... frozen. Less closed off. Kisame can't quite put his finger on what changed, but he's pretty sure it's a good thing, at least from his point of view.

They stop to rest on their way to collect a bounty for Kakuzu, and Kisame fights off a smile as Itachi curls up next to him as he sits on a sun-warmed boulder, relaxing.

Itachi Uchiha is dangerous, he knows.

Itachi Uchiha could kill him with a glance.

But Itachi Uchiha is also curled up an inch from Kisame's leg looking like a cat passive-aggressively begging to be pet, so Kisame decides to take a chance.

He reaches down and runs a hand through Itachi's hair, gently untangling his ponytail from the oversized collar of his robes. Itachi tenses, but doesn't resist.

Kisame continues stroking his hair, and by the time he's established a steady rhythm, Itachi looks like he's melting into the rock, completely boneless and relaxed.

Of course, it could always be some sort of weird genjutsu.

Kisame is pretty sure it's not, though, and he keeps back another smile as a soft hum vibrates through Itachi's body. He really is like a cat, Kisame thinks, and he's purring. How cute.

Eventually it stops, though, and Itachi suggests in that quiet voice of his that they continue with their current objective. Kisame agrees, of course, even though he would rather sunbathe all day and just listen to Itachi's contented little hum. It's much nicer.

Kisame knows it's not really a thing he can ask for, though. He doesn't even know if Itachi knows he's doing it.

That makes it even more endearing, thinks Kisame as they continue on their weary road. Clan-killing, kin-slaughtering Itachi of the Sharingan, really just a touch-starved cat. Wouldn't that be something.

---

Eventually, they get tired of sleeping in the woods as they wander aimlessly between missions, so they find the nearest small town and get a hotel room.

Kisame gets a few funny looks, but no more than any other shark man with a giant sword would, so it's okay. The people in this town have probably never even heard a whisper of the Akatsuki, and the lack of notoriety is refreshing.

"I'm going to get something to eat," says Itachi once they put their supplies in their room, a plain little space with an armchair and a queen-size bed.

"Mind if I come with?" asks Kisame.

"Not at all," says Itachi, as if he meant it as an invitation anyway. "I don't mind where we go, as long as it has dango. I'm not very hungry."

"You never are," says Kisame, knowing full well how strangely fond of Itachi he must sound. Itachi doesn't seem to notice, although it's difficult to tell with him. He just nods once and holds the door open for Kisame, who has to duck to fit through the doorframe.

The two of them wander through town for a while in comfortable silence before finding a suitable-looking restaurant- rather small, with a warm, inviting atmosphere. Kisame manages to squeeze himself into a booth and Itachi sits down next to him, even though there's more space across the table.

Kisame orders soup and Itachi orders dango and they eat slowly, relishing a quiet night out without all the screaming and blood and death that usually follows them around.

Itachi's shoulder bumps lightly against Kisame's, and then again, and then Kisame gets curious and looks over and realizes that Itachi has moved about three inches closer to Kisame than where he had started out. Funny, how that happens.

They finish their meal and Itachi pays the restaurant proprietor with the proper amount of bills and a rare, fleeting smile that Kisame will probably treasure as long as he lives, and then they step into the warm night air again and Itachi is still so close that Kisame's hand keeps brushing his as they walk.

"Hey," says Kisame.

"Is something on your mind?" asks Itachi in reply.

Yes, thinks Kisame. You're on my mind. You've been on my mind all week, you and your soft hair and your dark eyes and your stupidly cute little cat-purr sounds.

He doesn't say any of that, though.

"I suppose," is what he says instead, and Itachi looks at him questioningly.

"It's been nice lately," says Kisame. Itachi nods slowly.

"Yes," he agrees, his hand bumping against Kisame's again. He keeps staring at Kisame like he's trying to say something with only his eyes.

He's like a cat, expecting Kisame to read his mind. It's sweet, but Kisame is not a mind reader. He's not a telepath. He's a giant bipedal shark, and he is not equipped for the subtleties of a mostly silent, strangely mysterious Uchiha.

"What is it?" asks Kisame.

"Well," says Itachi, turning away slightly so his eyes are just out of Kisame's sight. He can still see the slight blush on Itachi's pale cheeks, though.

"You've been acting rather strange," continues Itachi. "Although, so have I."

"Strange like this?" asks Kisame, putting an arm around Itachi and feeling his breath hitch as Kisame pulls him closer.

"Yes, like that," agrees Itachi, sounding a little bit lost for words.

"Well, do you mind?" asks Kisame.

"No," says Itachi.

"Then I'll keep doing it," says Kisame, feeling like he's won a battle he didn't know he was having.

"Do as you wish," says Itachi, but he still sounds breathless.

They get back to their hotel room and Kisame throws his cloak over the back of the armchair, watching as Itachi does the same. Itachi lies down in bed, eyes fixed on Kisame, expectant- like a cat, thinks Kisame out of nowhere. Like a cat. He climbs into bed, leaving a space between himself and Itachi. A space that Itachi can close if he wants to.

"I was lucky to have ended up with you as a partner," says Itachi.

"Thanks," says Kisame.

"You give me your allegiance and respect without expecting anything in return," says Itachi, still staring at Kisame like he's looking into his soul.

"Oh," says Kisame.

"You don't have to," says Itachi.

"It's fine," says Kisame. Itachi nods, accepting Kisame's unsaid offer. He hums quietly and shifts closer to Kisame, who takes the invitation and throws an arm over him, feeling Itachi's contented purr vibrate through his body.

"For what it's worth, I think you're a pretty good partner too," says Kisame after a little while.

"Hmm?" queries Itachi, opening one eye to gaze sleepily over at his partner.

"I don't think Hidan or Deidara or Kakuzu or Sasori would take too kindly to being pet," says Kisame. Itachi lets out a short little huff of breath that Kisame thinks is a laugh.

"You like that, huh?" he says.

"Sure," says Kisame.

"Me too," says Itachi, closing his eye again. "Goodnight, Kisame."

"Goodnight."

---

The more time goes by, the bolder Itachi gets, appearing out of nowhere to lean against Kisame's shoulder or drape himself across Kisame's lap whenever there's a spare moment.

It's kind of funny, Kisame thinks. It's also pretty darn cute. Clan-killing, kin-slaughtering Itachi of the Sharingan, silently imploring a giant shark for cuddles. Not that Kisame really minds. Like, at all.

The only thing he's a little nervous about is the other Akatsuki finding out- what would they think? A group of the most feared criminals in the world, finding out the truth behind two of their members, Itachi "soft kitten" Uchiha and Kisame "cuddly shark" Hoshigaki?

Nothing, it turns out. They all have themselves in similar predicaments. Kisame finds this out for himself when he happens upon Hidan using a very annoyed Kakuzu as a pillow as he recovers from being stabbed multiple times through the heart, also by Kakuzu.

It's a strange sort of relationship they have there, thinks Kisame.

Then again, nothing is a surprise anymore, not even Sasori letting Deidara draw little stars and hearts and comets in a freckle pattern across the face of one of his puppet bodies.

In the grand scheme of things, thinks Kisame, Itachi purring and spending hours curled up in the sun isn't that weird.

---

"I hate to say anything positive about the Uchiha jerk, but that's pretty cute, un," says Deidara, nodding at Itachi, who is asleep against Kisame's leg.

"You can't have him," says Kisame. "But yes, he's cute." Deidara sighs exaggeratedly.

"Well, that's just not fair," he complains. "My partner's a puppet, he's not comfy at all."

"Do you want to keep drawing on my puppets or not?" asks Sasori menacingly.

"Of course I do," says Deidara. "Jeez, don't take things so personally, un."

After a second, he adds "Kisame... is that Itachi purring?"

"Yep," says Kisame with some satisfaction, petting Itachi's hair and watching him curl a little closer with a contented sigh.

"Man," says Deidara, sounding slightly envious. "That's... adorable, un."

"Nothing I can't do," says Sasori, his tone cutting as close to indignant as his emotional range allows. Deidara grins.

"Your ultimate puppet body can purr?!" he asks.

"My body is perfectly designed to convey a multitude of emotions..." starts Sasori haughtily.

"...That you can't actually feel," Deidara finishes for him. "Well, at least you have attention to detail, un."

"Of course," says Sasori, sounding a bit proud and a bit miffed. "I am an artist, Deidara."

"Are you?" asks Deidara, and they launch into a long and extremely tedious discussion about art that Kisame doesn't care to listen to. Instead, he throws his cloak over Itachi and leans back, resting one hand in Itachi's hair and the other by his side.

The most dangerous group of criminals in the world, Kisame thinks to himself. Who would've thought. He looks down and sees clan-killing, kin-slaughtering Itachi of the Sharingan asleep on his leg looking like he hasn't got a care in the world, and smiles.

He's always liked cats, really. It's not so bad.

 

~end~