Sweet Waters
Itachi. Spoilers up to chapter 225.

There's something about the air in Konoha summer that makes you think about killing everyone around you.

Could be the heat.

During summer, water is more welcome than flame, even in the Fire Country. Ninjas who are not on missions often visit any body of liquid in order to swim, which raises the count of ear infections dramatically; the medical clinic is full of teams careless enough to jump into the nearest river that appears, without checking on its conditions first.

Those who are not so lucky to have free time must sneak off when they can. Work lasts year-round. Child or adult, the lines blur. Teams engage in escapades despite the calendar month, training themselves endlessly to be launched into a maturity labeled chuunin, jounin. Anbu.

Age does not matter. Only talent.

Passage to adulthood is different in all the clans. The Uchiha consider fire to be their trademark. They expect only physically matured individuals to be able to handle the chakra strain of the Great Fireball jutsu and center their entrance around that, which in your mind means that anyone can be an adult whenever they use it.

That logic is accepted by the rest of the clan, so you have not encountered difficulty. The gateway of prodigies has been broken in by Hatake, and before him, Orochimaru.

Now you.

Power is envied. Encouraged. Children are hurried into maturation. Store mission orders alongside lunchboxes. Double-wrap your kunai before you've lost your milk-teeth.

Your parents should have been pleased when you graduated the Academy so young. You should have snacks attached with a note from your mother at the least, bidding you good luck upon your task, love waiting for you at home. Instead, the only surprises which wait inside your meals are those supplied by the medical teams, rations which are assigned for maximum caloric value with a minimum of fuss.

Today's medkit has been packed by the Yakushis, clever-fingered as always. You eye the contents as you are examining the sweetened dumplings left for lunch. The Nakano river burbles in the background, attendant on your afternoon.

Certain pills are too harsh on the stomach if they are taken without fodder to pad them. Application of recipes varies from generation to generation; the Yakushis have favored coconut coatings, rolling the medicines in bundles of rice gelatin and then dusting the outer layer in snowflake shreds.

By habit, the Yakushis supply extra foodstuffs for every medkit they store. Practical pills are taste-sorted. Blood clotters, cinnamon. Chakra enhancers, citrus.

The Yakushis have a knack for concealing even the most bitter taste underneath a mask of sugar.

Even if they are not needed during expeditions, most Anbu consume the snacks. The taste is sweet. It lingers in your teeth on missions, and your tongue works at the flakes jammed between your gums and molars until the tip becomes numbed. The aftertaste is chemical. A flavor undefined.

Something, Kabuto had said, that tastes like murder.

You ignored him and all his pointless poetics.

There are three dumplings packed for lunch. Shisui had eaten the first, automatic, accepting his meal. The second, he had offered to you while you lay back and counted off the calls of forest birds, piping in the leaves overhanging the brook. When you'd waved it away twice, Shisui had given in, and eaten the extra share.

Cottonball clouds. Buttercup fields.

"Don't you want the last one, Itachi?"

The clouds move in slow waves across the sky.

"No. I'm not hungry."

"Suit yourself."

The problem with death is everything, when you really think about the subject. With the Uchiha clan so well-versed in investigative work, bloodline dedicated to policing the Village, you already know half a dozen of the warning signs that point to homicidal interference.

Blood vessels burst behind the eyes. Skin scrapings beneath fingernails. Bruising on the body. Shapes.

Water washes away fingerprints, bloats flesh until it is fat and swollen, encourages decomposition as river-creatures each take their nibble. Dark marks linger, spreading out spiderweb trails of mottled purples and blues into pale moonflesh.

Criminal foreplay makes for too many ways to determine murder even if the culprit can take forever to find.

You sit up, fishing for a scroll out of a side pocket. When you find that you have none, you roll over. Shisui looks at you, wondering, and then you stick out your hand.

"I want to write something down."

"Okay." Placated by the satisfaction of a lunch-full belly, Shisui pulls a tube out of his own supplies. A length is torn off and handed over, unquestioningly. Pen next, from the set of two. "Are you looking forward to next week's missions, Itachi?"

An inclination of your head, that could have meant anything save enthusiasm.

Shisui pulls himself over with an elbow, hair dangling in his face as he grins conspiratorially. "Want to get paired up together?"

Another stroke of your pen, and you find yourself pausing to laugh. "Me, with Shisui Uchiha? Shisui of the Mirage, Shisui of the Sharingan Eye?" Even in your dispassion, you are surprised to hear underlying bitterness. "Don't you think the clan would have better placement of their resources than that?"

Shisui has sobered when you spoke. His mouth is a thin line, serious. "You're as good as I am, Itachi. That's the problem. We're both some of the best the clan has to offer." Exhaling a breath of coconut-flavor, Shisui smoothes the length of his body in a stretch against the riverbank. "The very top. So what we are... that's what the Uchiha are all about, isn't it?"

You think about the taste of medical supplies while propping one leg up. Shisui kneels by the river. He braces his own page against his leg as he scribbles, also writing now that you've started, pausing periodically to tip his pen against his mouth in thought. Report details, maybe, or a to-do list to pack.

With the Sharingan activated, you can watch the pattern of his chakra rolling over his body. Boiling fire. It cloaks his limbs, responding to each miniscule shift of muscle tissue. Shisui is a living mass of energy. His chakra, practiced and trained, flows in a torrent of lava around where he sits.

It takes so little effort to match that energy with your own. Copy. The Sharingan art of illusion, hypnosis; you fall into it as if into the Nakano itself, and it meets you with a rush of hot water that burns less and less the more you use it.

The river of the Sharingan tastes like Yakushi sweets.

When you are finished writing, you roll up the pen and stick it inside the paper to keep it from being misplaced.

The drugs in the dumplings leave Shisui's muscles unresponsive. In slow-motion, his eyes roll up to you. The whites beg explanation. One hand grips your wrist, but there is not enough strength to perform more than a baby's paw, and then his fingers are already loosening.

The sun beats down, warm. It bakes you both as you twist Shisui's body around, and plunge his head into the river. Shisui is too weak to fight; his knee presses against yours, but the grass is only crushed where you both kneel, rather than ripped out in clumps. No dirt clods torn up. Countless means of tracking are rendered useless by the drugs.

Clouds reflect themselves into the river as you shatter the surface of the waters. You watch them snap into white fragments around the nimbus of Shisui's hair. The strands mix with the riverweeds, animated by the futility of his struggles, and you keep your hands submerged in the currents until the waters are peaceful once more.

When you are finished, you roll Shisui's body over and search him for the paper he was writing. One edge is crumpled. Shisui's face drips cold liquid onto your leg, and your wet fingers blot the page.

After you finish reading, you slide one of the notes into his pocket.

There are coconut flakes left inside the lunchbox. You do not empty them out, but leave the shell of the meal aside, in case Anbu investigations will find it later while they are trawling the banks. The Sharingan hum beats against your ears when you bend down to adjust the placement of the lunchbox, and just for a moment, you think you almost black out.

Birdcalls melt seamlessly together in the air around you. Shisui didn't have a chance to scream. Nothing has been disturbed in this Konoha summer afternoon.

The Nakano river runs onwards, and you lean back and listen to its flow.