Author's Note: This pairing was actually suggested by Emma. I have actually never written a straight out slash fic. Some of my stories have guy/guy pairings mentioned, but mostly in a somewhat humorous manner. Itachi/Kisame isn't my favorite pairing, but I am familiar with writing both characters and it seemed like a good place to start.

Even now he hesitated to enter their room. The pause was a small one; just a split second before raising his hand and actually pushing open the door. The pause was a foolish one, because undoubtedly Itachi already knew he was there, and waiting that extra moment did nothing. The only problem with stopping was that it had long since become part of their routine, and Itachi was slightly paranoid. He had a right to be, of course, but on occasion Kisame just wanted to get into their rented hotel suit as quickly as possible and go to sleep (or eat, as the case was now). Except Itachi would probably kill him for it.

This wasn't quite as stupid as it sounded. Yes, his partner likely would cut him in half if he didn't wait before entering their room, but it wasn't so much that Itachi was psychopathic (because he was, but then, so was Kisame) that it was their routine had circumvented several assassins, and most of them didn't watch their targets close enough to catch every habit. Or rather, none of them did. If they had, either Itachi or he would likely be dead.

The suite was dark when he entered, because as was usual, Itachi hadn't bothered to turn on the lights. Kisame thoughtlessly stepped over their traveling packs at the end of the short entryway (thoughtlessly as in he knew they were there. Of course he did. They had been thrown there an hour ago and Itachi wouldn't have moved them) and placed their ordered dinner on the small table to his left. It was then that Itachi made his presence known, stepping out of the darkened hallway leading to the living room.

"Kisame."

With the voicing of his name, Kisame turned to face his partner. His eyes had adjusted to the lack of light by then, as much as was possible considering the sun had set almost half an hour ago and the shades were drawn, and as such he could just barely see the outline of the Uchiha's face. When a hand reached up and lightly caressed his left cheek, Kisame didn't flinch. This too, was one of their habits. Too often after missions, Itachi's weariness made it difficult to activate the Sharingan, and he had once told Kisame that the one thing all the assassins failed at in their henge was the texture of Kisame's skin, the roughness that they never could get quite right. Kisame's response was almost as good an indicator of his authenticity as the caress itself. No one could ever watch them close enough to notice everything, and they rarely touched in public.

After a moment, Itachi lowered his hand and moved over to seat himself at their table. Kisame followed, only pausing momentarily to flick on the lamp switch. Itachi might have no longer had any need for light, but Kisame preferred it to the darkness.

They ate in silence. Neither of them were talkative by nature, and today there was nothing to discuss. The mission had gone smoothly, unusual considering the dangerous nature of most of their assignments. No injuries. No witnesses. Their client had even paid up with no complaint.

The Uchiha ate slowly. It was one of the few things he did at such a pace, and only when they were alone. He used his chopsticks to maneuver the pork dumplings into neat rows, only using the utensils for their intended purpose and eating after this task had been finished. Itachi took a sip of tea after four bites, or sometimes three. It depended on how many spices the chef had put in the meat. The dango was ignored until his plate was empty, a habit, Kisame supposed, that had come from Itachi's childhood and wasn't worth bothering to get rid of.

The way the food was moved into an easily recognizable pattern was a relatively new change in Itachi's routine. The past six months or so, Kisame would guess, about the same time the degenerative effects of the mangekyou Sharingan really began to make themselves known. His partner preferred to not have to fumble for his dinner, or anything, really. It was why Kisame no longer moved anything after it had been placed in a specific spot, even if it was in the way, and why Itachi always arranged everything the same way, if possible. And why they hadn't eaten out in over a month. Restaurants were unknown territory, and while Itachi was hardly helpless without his Sharingan, both of them liked to be able to relax during a meal.

Going out in public was an irritation. Itachi hadn't liked crowds to begin with, and navigating his way through them made the Uchiha's heart rate raise more then any S-class mission ever would. So they tried to stay away from villages and towns, the only exception being the day after a mission, when spending the night in an easily defendable room made it easier to sooth their often still-tense nerves.

When Itachi rose from his chair and walked over to his bed, leaving his dango untouched, Kisame remained at the table and held his own cup of tea in his hands, watching his partner unknot his hair tie and rest it on the bedside dresser. The Akatsuki coat was similarly removed, folded neatly and laid over the back of the nearby sofa. Even without sight, Itachi still managed to be graceful. No hint was given of his disability. The Uchiha was too well trained to reveal weakness.

The sleeping habits of a shinobi were designed to leave as few openings as possible. A ninja was never without his weaponry, and always slept as fully dressed as possible. To be caught unprepared when one was at his most vulnerable was a mistake few shinobi lived to tell about. It wasn't an exaggeration to say that anyone who survived a month of the assassination corps was always with a kunai in hand, and former members were no exception. Kisame had lasted less than six months in the ANBU before getting sick of it and quitting, excellent pay or no, but even he had been bestowed with a healthy dose of paranoia and nightmares. Itachi, of course, had worn the trademark animal mask for over two years, and Kisame was convinced that was enough to drive anyone partially insane.

Itachi slept with a shuriken holster strapped to his left thigh and two small throwing knives grasped in his right hand. The hitai-ate headband was thrown to the floor, landing halfway under Kisame's bed and not the Uchiha's own. This particular tactic had a history to it, as last year a Leaf ANBU had managed to slip past all the traps and seals attached to the window and quickly spotted the scratched Konoha forehead protector hung on a bedpost. If Itachi had actually been sleeping in that bed, he mostly likely would have died, as a rather brutal mission earlier that day had drained almost all of his chakra. Unfortunately for the assassin, both Akatsuki had been too tired the night before to care whose bed was whose, and it was Kisame who had ended up being stabbed. Being much taller than his partner, what was supposed to be a fatal blow to the heart caught the former Mist-nin right below the ribcage. The Leaf ANBU had approximately two seconds to realize his mistake before Itachi slit his throat.

Itachi slept facing the wall. This was the sole deviation Kisame could think of from the normal ANBU-ingrained instincts the Uchiha so often personified. In the company of assassins, trust was the most foreign of concepts. It wasn't even trust in your comrades' character, so much as in their abilities. It didn't matter if the shinobi lying next to you was your best friend if they couldn't spot an enemy less than three feet away. Of course, for Itachi the issue of trust was somewhat academic. A good view of the room wasn't much use for the Uchiha protégé, as sight was often the least of his worries.

But tonight, even though the mission they had completed earlier in the day wasn't really worth talking about, Itachi didn't go immediately to sleep. Kisame watched his partner sit cross-legged on the bed as he stared out the window looking over the town. It wasn't completely quiet, as a shinobi hidden village might have been at such an hour. There was the usual background noise that came late at night from the bar across the street and a few people out for an evening walk. And still his partner looked, even though he could not see. Without the contrast brought by colors under sunlight, the Uchiha was nearly blind in the darkness.

"Itachi-san?"

"It is beautiful, isn't it, Kisame."

Kisame looked dubiously out the window. There was no moon, and there really wasn't much that could be properly observed. Just a normal, out of the way town, situated near the mountains and just beyond the edge of the forest.

"Are you referring to anything in particular, Itachi-san?"

"The darkness. Peaceful. It hides all the flaws that daylight reveals for all to see. At night, everything is perfect.

"I used to love the darkness."

Kisame waited a minute for his partner to continue. He didn't, which really wasn't unexpected. The Uchiha had never been one to talk when there was nothing left to say, even if it left his audience without the faintest idea of what he was talking about.

"Itachi-san, you should probably get some rest. We have another mission tomorrow."

His partner turned towards him. Even without the Sharingan, even slightly dulled by the cloudiness that lightened the irises, Itachi's eyes still managed to seem like they saw everything you tried to hide. It didn't matter; Kisame never concealed anything to begin with. "I know. I am not tired."

"You used the mangekyou-"

"My stamina has increased. One use isn't draining. Not anymore."

"But-"

Itachi closed his eyes. "You worry too much, Kisame."

Kisame stared at the cup of tea in his hands, now cooled enough to making the drinking of it unpleasant. ((That is because you do not worry for yourself.)) Itachi overextended himself on a regular enough basis that Kisame had grown quite used to carrying his partner around and standing watch over their camp until the other Akatsuki had regained consciousness. Kisame was convinced it was this and not the mangekyou Sharingan that had caused the Uchiha's eyes to deteriorate. Most elite shinobi abilities were a double-edged sword in one way or another, and Itachi had overused his. This hadn't been so much foolhardiness as ignorance. There were few precedents for the kaleidoscope eye, and most of the possessors of that particular capability had died young in battle. The permanent effects of the ultimate technique of the Uchiha were undocumented, and Itachi had paid the price.

Kisame set the tea on the table and walked over to his own bed, tossing his coat onto a chair as he went. Fastidiousness had always been more his partner's forte, and the one definite advantage of the Akatsuki coat (besides making a decent windbreaker) was that it was almost impossible to wrinkle. Or stain. Most likely because it had been designed by a former jounin who knew the pain of constantly having to replace clothes.

He pulled off his hitai-ate headband with a sigh and threw it after the coat before lying down, quickly secreting a kunai under his pillow. Old habits were occasionally a blessing. "You might not be exhausted, but I am."

Itachi looked at him with his usual unnerving gaze. If the Uchiha ever blinked, Kisame had never noticed. "You know we are close to Orochimaru's stronghold."

"Really?" Kisame had known that, once, but former comrades were beneath his attention, even strange ones like the snake sannin. He wondered why Itachi bothered.

"My brother joined Orochimaru. I wonder if he knows how close we are to him."

"I doubt it. He seemed pretty bent on killing you last time we encountered him. The brat would probably be here right now if he discovered our location." Kisame remembered the meeting with the younger Uchiha mainly because of that being the only mission failure in recent memory. Sasuke, the Kyuubi kid had called him, had rather resembled his older brother. Except he hadn't. Their facial features had been vaguely similar, but even when committing the most gruesome of murders, Itachi had never looked so outright psychotic.

Itachi nodded slightly. "You are probably right. Sasuke is not patient enough to lay so long in wait to attack. He would want to kill me outright." A slight smile, and the Uchiha's eyes unfocused, as if looking at something very far away. "Foolish little brother. He most likely will never learn the proper shinobi way on the path he has chosen."

A sentimental Itachi was a strange and rare sight, one Kisame was slightly uncomfortable with. "Itachi-san…"

"It is a funny thought, to realize I have known you as long as I knew my brother. He loved me, even though he constantly strove to surpass me. A childish ambition that our father fostered." The eyes never blinked. "You care for me as well."

The all-seeing eyes of the Uchiha. Even deactivated, they pierced through Kisame like a knife. It was never wise to lie to such eyes. Even so, it felt worse than choking up blood to say the one simple word. "Yes."

It was then that Itachi dropped his gaze, and Kisame could finally look away.

"It is good then, that you are not as frail as my family. My parents died when I cared for them in return, and Sasuke was quickly broken. You will not fracture as easily."

Their beds were only a few feet apart, and it was a simple matter for Itachi to reach over and touch the side of Kisame's face. This time, he did not remove his hand, and for a while, the only sound in the room was quiet breathing. In a distant corner of his mind, Kisame couldn't help but notice that even clouded over and sightless, Itachi's eyes were still beautiful.

"Itachi-san…" With the breaking of the silence, Itachi withdrew and lay down on his bed, not bothering with the blanket.

"Goodnight, Kisame."

Despite all the things Kisame found himself wanting to say, there was really only one response to that. "Goodnight."

Itachi slept facing the wall. Kisame no longer wondered why.