This story stems from a discussion on the ffanbu livejournal a number of months ago regarding a theoretical alternate universe in which Iruka and Kisame met at Sea World (because Iruka trained dolphins and Kisame came to talk to the sharks), and fell madly in love because omgtheirlovewouldtastesogoodwithtartarsauce. I thought it would be funny to write that fic --- and was very disturbed when it didn't turn out at all the way it was supposed to. It hasn't seen the light of day --- until now.

Blood in the Water

Iruka loved his job. He really did. Sure, sometimes the tourists were obnoxious, and the pay wasn't that great, and cleaning fish guts out of his fingernails was a drag, but all in all, being a dolphin trainer was fantastic.

He smiled and leaned against the railing that kept curious tourists from inadvertently taking a swim. He'd just finished work, but Sea World was still open for another hour. So, he'd stored his wetsuit and headed out to the public side of the dolphin tanks, where he could just relax and watch these beautiful creatures he tended to.

A young male inhabited this tank. The dolphin, which Iruka had affectionately dubbed 'Naruto', leapt high into the air, letting the light of the setting sun glisten off his slick dorsal fin. Naruto had been a difficult animal to deal with, Iruka remembered. Orphaned and scorned by the rest of his pod as a calf, he had developed wild and unpredictable tendencies in order to attract the trainers' attention. He'd been isolated at first, in an attempt to curb his behaviour, but when that didn't work, he'd been secluded with two other calves, a male and a female. This seemed to work well, and Naruto had improved considerably over the last year. As much as Iruka tried not to play favourites, he genuinely enjoyed watching this young dolphin's growth.

But then, Iruka had always delighted in watching things grow. As a child, he loved to work with his mother in her garden, carefully watering the tiny plants, and trimming just enough and in all the right places in order to make them blossom. Those were the best memories he had of his mother, and he clung to them dearly.

He wondered sometimes, if he hadn't become a trainer, would he have been a farmer? Cultivating living things seemed to be his specialty, and the only other occupation he could think of that would require that talent would be teaching. Amusement rippled through him at the thought. No, he would have been a farmer. What would that have been like? To work a field all day, with only a scarecrow for company?

The dolphin teacher's musing was abruptly cut off as another shadow fell across the water beside his own. A tall man stood a few feet to his right.

"They're fascinating creatures, aren't they?"

Iruka looked around to see if the man could possibly be talking to someone else, but belatedly realized that his little introspective moment had taken longer than he'd thought. The area was deserted, save for this man and himself.

"Yes, they're absolutely beautiful."

A few moments passed in silence, and Iruka began to wonder if he should be leaving. There was something about this man that didn't quite sit right. He hadn't looked at Iruka. Instead, he was staring straight ahead at Naruto, looking almost ... greedy.

"They look delicious, wouldn't you say?"

Yes, this guy was definitely creepy. "I suppose, if you're a shark." Iruka contemplated making a run for it, before the man involved him further in a conversation he wasn't sure he wanted to have.

"Ah, the shark. I'm named after it, you know. 'Kisame' means 'shark' in Japanese."

"Really?" In a moment, Iruka forgot everything he'd ever been told about talking to strangers. "My name means 'dolphin' in Japanese!"

The stranger chuckled, his eyes still on Naruto. "What a coincidence ... let's see, that would make you, ah, Iruka."

Silence again settled between them, before it was once more broken by Kisame, who was still staring straight ahead.

"You know, the shark is the main predator of the dolphin."

"Besides man."

"Besides man. But unlike man, who accidentally snares dolphins in his nets, a shark goes hunting for dolphins. Usually a lone dolphin, one who has strayed too far from its group."

Kisame turned his head toward Iruka for the first time, his dark profile a sharp contrast to the setting sun behind it. Were those gills on the side of his face?

"A dolphin is a rare meal for most sharks."

Iruka's brain was screaming at him to run, get away from there, leave that eerie shark-obsessed freak behind. But for some reason, his legs weren't listening. He stood mesmerized, staring at the grey face in front of him.

"But it's worth the effort of the hunt, don't you think? Because nothing can compare to the scent of blood in the water."

Tomorrow morning, the police would fish what remained of Umino Iruka's body out of the dolphin tank.