Not so much a coherent fiction of any kind - more a sequence of random scenes inspired by random things that maybe one day I will try to put together into a more coherent form. For now think of it as the Diary of a Bored Ninja, since that's laughingly what I call it. Anecdotes may range from pre-Akatsuki to post-Itachi.=== 001: "You're too thin, kid," he'd observed one night, lazily resting back against a rock and watching Itachi throw kunai obsessively at targets roughly scratched out on tree trunks. It was something he remembered his Sensei telling him, once, after observing him critically while he sparred with another student. “Eat more, Kisame.” Only from him it had been an order – one that had required an immediate response – an apology and a promise of correction. From Itachi, there had been no response, not even a flicker – no break in the maddeningly even thud of the kunai as they embedded themselves into the wood before being pulled out and thrown again. And Kisame was pretty sure he had never been that thin, or even that Itachi had been that thin three months ago when they first met.
He'd cooked, the next night, instead of relying on the hard rations that they had brought from Amegakure or seeking out a village where he suspected Itachi would evade the issue altogether in favour of silently withdrawing to his room until the morning. If Kisame were honest, it was the first time he'd done so for years, since raw meat suited him just as well and was twice as easy. But he doubted Itachi would appreciate being given half a rabbit with the skin and the fur still on, so he quietly pulled out the nested metal pots that he had forgotten why he carried, carefully skinned and gutted the rabbit, and rigged a makeshift pot-rest from stones. He worked slowly, relying almost entirely on faded memories of watching his Sensei prepare meals while they travelled, and it had surprised him just how much he remembered – even if he was sure he was half as efficient and not even a quarter as skilled. Still, the resulting stew of rabbit and roots was edible, if plain, and he managed not to burn the rice. If Itachi had noted the new behaviour he did not comment on it, but he accepted the food when Kisame handed it to him without a word but with a pointed air that said, in a fair imitation of Itachi's own meaningful silences, “don't fuck with me, kid.”
It wasn’t that Kisame cared whether he chose to eat – not exactly. If the Uchiha kid was determined to starve himself then Kisame wasn’t about to stop him or even ask why – it was no skin off his back if his new partner didn’t work out. At least if it didn’t this would only be his first - not like Kakuzu, who’d already lost two to “accidents” in the course of his missions.
It didn’t even matter much to Kisame how old he was – this wasn't the Academy, and he wasn't the kid's Sensei. In Akatsuki they were partners - equals - even if the thought of that made him laugh whenever he considered the diminutive Uchiha. It made it hard for Kisame to imagine him wiping out his entire clan in the space of three hours, even if he'd seen for himself Itachi's prowess with weaponry. But what did matter to Kisame was that while they were out on this reconnaissance mission - any mission - away from the relative security of Amegakure or any of the hidden Akatsuki hideouts, his partner was fit enough and rested enough to watch his back.===
=== 002: It had taken Kisame another two months to elicit an opinion from Itachi on anything other than a mission, and when it had come, it had been over something so inconsequential as tea.
"This tastes like sludge," was the abrupt verdict from the other side of the fire in response to one of Kisame's admittedly perfunctory attempts at making the beverage. Hot and wet and with an inappropriate remark about its similarity to women was Kisame's only requirement from tea, and if Itachi had always held a differing view, this was the first time he had made it known. Hearing his voice at all was half-a-shock, and Kisame simply watched in silence as his partner emptied the contents of the cup into the embers of the fire, the look of distaste that flickered briefly over the teenager's face the closest Kisame had yet seen to animation there.
"Are you Uchiha always so fucking ungrateful?" His rejoinder had been more amused than angry, but to his disappointment it only earned him a moment’s glare that was just this side of openly angry before Itachi retreated almost immediately back into silence – back inside that wall of marble which he rarely took more than a step away from at a time.
The next night Kisame had filled the pot of water and placed it over the fire to heat. Then, he'd pulled out the packet of tea from his pack and tossed it in a perfect arc across the fire to land squarely in his partner's lap. To his credit, Itachi didn't blink - he just sat there, looking down at the small paper packet as if he was unsure where it had come from or what its purpose was. Then slowly, unblinkingly, he'd raised his head to look at Kisame. For once, it was neither a glare nor one of the blank expressions that indicated that as much as his body was in one place, his mind was elsewhere. To Kisame, this look was equally unreadable, the red and black of his partner's eyes faded to monochrome in the moonlight. If Itachi was either amused or offended, he couldn't guess. But at least it was different kind of silence, and as far as he was concerned, different was good.===
=== 003: The village was a small one on the far edge of River Country, and the single boarding house offered only a few dingy rooms each with two or more bunks and little else. Not that he and Itachi were picky, particularly - except for location. And it was exactly that which had led to them taking one room between them instead of the more usual two, the owner having informed Kisame, after much deliberation, that the place had only one room at the end of a windowless corridor on an upper floor.
Kisame had just nodded, signing the register with a name he made up on the spot and paying over the night's rent in advance. As expected, the room was pretty basic, although it did at least have the benefit of its own bathroom. Other than that there was little in it save for the two bunks and a low table between them.
Not that either the lack of furnishings nor the break from their normal preference made any difference. After sharing a plain but adequate dinner ordered from the noodle bar next door, Itachi had settled back on his chosen bunk with a cup of mint tea and a book he had produced from his travelling pack. Kisame, meanwhile, had showered and then gone out to find his own entertainment.
Itachi hadn't even looked up from his reading when Kisame left, and Kisame hadn't bothered to interrupt him, pausing only to lean Samehada, hilt upwards, just inside the door.
By the time he returned to their room at dawn, Itachi was already awake - had been all night, for all Kisame knew. The younger man was fully-dressed save for his shoes and long black cloak, seated cross-legged on the narrow bunk, watching the door. The quiet, complicated knock had received no response, as expected, and after waiting for the the precise, agreed time, Kisame had entered, keeping his hands in view and halting to grasp Samehada's hilt in a by-now-automatic gesture of identification. For his own part, it took only a moment for him to listen - to check below the surface for the unmistakeable sound of Itachi's laboured breathing - to be certain that this was exactly who it appeared to be and not an assassin sent to impersonate his partner and catch him unawares.
"You're late, Kisame-san."
"I'm never late, kid."
He paused only to hold out his unmarked palm in confirmation to his partner before heading to the bathroom and that cold shower he'd been thinking about since waking an hour earlier, sticky with sweat and sex, in a strange room and to the questionable comfort of a rickety bed and a badly-stuffed mattress. The woman had been draped over him, still fast asleep, her long red hair trailing in damp strands across his chest and her face pressed into his collarbone. He'd fucked her again before he left, just for good measure, and this time from behind, since his back still throbbed from the scratches she'd inflicted on him the night before.
She was still pretty enough in daylight, he decided - even after sweat and rough sheets had stripped her face of the garish paint that had accentuated her eyes and lips. Her waist was so narrow that his fingers could have almost encircled it, and the pale skin of her hips under his hands reminded him of the porcelain dolls that he had seen for sale in a toy shop in Amegakure.
As a mark of his appreciation he took care to make sure she came before him, even though he was in a hurry. After their exploits of the night before, it didn't take long - her hands gripping the blankets until the knuckles whitened and she moaned incoherently, any words that might have formed muffled by the pillows and the pool of red hair that covered them.
Kisame smiled at the memory of it as he shrugged off his clothes; at the surprise on her face when he'd actually paid what she asked and not tried to haggle down the value of her company for the night. She'd earned whatever he paid her, he figured, given his preferences and their comparable levels of stamina - and it wasn't the safest way to make a living, probably less so than being a kunoichi. He could have snapped her neck in a heartbeat, or sliced her throat open with the knife that had never been out of his reach all night, though kept concealed in one way or another. He wondered how long it would be before someone else did - it wasn't as if most villages cared enough about the welfare of the back-alley whores to avenge their deaths.
But it wasn't his concern, and the memory of her was already fading - the red hair tangling itself up with blonde and brown and even pink; her face blurring into those of a hundred other women in a hundred other villages he'd passed through in the last seven years. And he washed it all off in water cold enough to sting when it touched the welts that her fingernails and teeth had left on his back and across his ribs - washed off the smell of her, of himself, and of the village.
He stayed in there maybe longer than was necessary, just because he knew this would be his last shower for a while, just as the woman had been his last, and the sake with dinner before that. They were headed into Fire Country, and from now on they'd be living outdoors and undercover of the trees, Itachi having deemed the risk of his being recognised by any wandering Konoha shinobi too high to show themselves in the villages along the way.
His partner had not moved when Kisame emerged from the bathroom - he was still seated on the bed and in exactly the same position, but now his eyes were closed, although whether he was meditating or simply dozing, Kisame had no idea. At any rate, Kisame didn't disturb him, instead silently pulling on a fresh pair of pants and rolling up the clothes he had been wearing, securely buckling them into his pack to be washed later. He didn't bother to look for a fresh shirt - the Land of Fire was as hot as its name implied, and the air drier than he usually liked. The heavy cloak would be stifling enough in the heat without adding to any discomfort. The rest of his belongings he double-checked and re-packed, remaining turned away from Itachi out of habit - they had long since become used to according each other the respect of even the most cursory kind of privacy whenever possible.
The ice-cold fingertips that brushed abruptly over skin and half-scabbed scratches on his back were unexpected, and Kisame's hands stilled instantly on the buckles of the pack. He could have said that Itachi's silence had surprised him, but that would have been a lie. Itachi was always silent. Like death. Not that Kisame feared for his life - although he did half-expect a trick - but still, he didn't look back over his shoulder or make any attempt to reach for his knife.
“I hope she was worth it, Kisame-san”
Itachi’s quiet voice rarely carried any inflection, and today was no exception. But after five years, Kisame had learned to listen beyond that - beyond the words and into the silences - at the things that Itachi didn't say or didn't do as much as much as the reverse. And this morning, there was that sense of something vaguely amiss in the silence - or rather in the unexpected lack of it. - in the fact that Itachi had even bothered to make remark on a subject that he usually ignored. Generally, his interest in Kisame's conquests went only so far as the amount of ammunition they provided for some amusement at his partner's expense during a long journey or a longer night. And the occasions on which he engaged in physical contact with anyone other than that which was absolutely necessary were even rarer.
But they were about to enter Fire Country, somewhere that - to Kisame's knowledge at least - Itachi had not returned since the night he had slaughtered his clan. Since he'd walked into Amegakure and into Akatsuki as a skinny kid concealed behind the uniform of an ANBU and the swirling red and black eyes that were a more perfect weapon than anything Kisame would ever possess.
And of course there was always the possibility, although an unlikely one, that the words were a threat and the touch even more so. He turned - slowly - only half-watching Itachi and slipping on the striped arm coverings and the yellow ring that he'd left rolled inside them the night before. Those same eyes were just a plain, onyx black now, but no less unreadable for all that. If the kid did have any concerns about going back to the village which had put a death sentence on his head, they didn't show in any deepening of the lines on his face, or in any worsening of the underlying breathlessness that Kisame was always aware of.
"If I'd known you were so interested, Itachi-san, I'd have asked if she had a sister."
Kisame felt, rather than saw, the abrupt half-glare that the remark earned him, and there were the beginnings of a smirk as he settled the hitai-ate back in its customary place over his ears, lookng down at Itachi and making no effort to conceal his amusement.
"Hn. Her sister is probably also her mother."
Itachi's voice was still flat, but Kisame's smirk broadened at the jibe, and at the minute upturn of Itachi's lips that would have been all but unnoticeable to anyone else. Their verbal sparring was too familiar now to bring with it any real offence, and more than anything it signalled that everything was normal - usual - regardless of whatever had almost-possibly-perhaps-not happened a moment ago.==