Author's Note: Uh... yeah. This didn't turn out like I thought it would. This story is a companion fic to Blind Eyes, but it isn't a sequel, as it takes place before, during, and after that fic. It's also kind of weird, but that always happens when I try to write Itachi, so whatever.

Sometimes at night, Itachi listens to Kisame sleep. He used to look at the former Mist-nin under the moonlight, watch his chest rhythmically move up and down under the blanket, but when Itachi's eyesight failed, he came to realize that listening to Kisame breathe can lure him back to unconsciousness as well.

He has been medically blind six months. He can still see blurs moving in daylight, see colors. Make out outlines occasionally, even after the sun has set. Not truly blind. Darkness doesn't greet him every time he opens his eyes. Not yet.

Still, in a fight the difference is moot. Blurs don't tell him if it is a kunai moving towards him or a fist. Colors aren't much more informative. So he keeps his Sharingan activated, and spends battle watching the way chakra moves under his opponents' skin, the differences that come over the patterns after their throats are slit. The chakra fades slowly, even after they are dead, most of the energy leaking out alongside their blood, making it shimmer in small puddles on the ground.

He doesn't use the Sharingan outside of missions or other circumstances in which he finds himself in combat. Kisame assumes it is because his bloodline- the mangekyou, more specifically, though the three pinwheel version too, to a lesser extent- is what is causing Itachi to lose his eyesight, and by limiting use of the Sharingan, he is staving off complete blindness as long as possible. And Kisame isn't entirely incorrect. Sometimes Itachi thinks it would be nice if he didn't have to negotiate his way around crowds in the few cities they visit by shadowing his partner, whose larger size causes the way to part, but it is better than the alternative.

However, that isn't the real reason. Failing eyesight is bad, but the Sharingan is worse. Not true sight at all. It isn't only that with his bloodline activated, the colors bleed out of his vision, leaving only red residue behind. That doesn't bother him. He has been seeing everything is various shades of blood long before the cumulative effects of the Sharingan caught up with him, and color has little meaning. It is that the Sharingan gives him the eyes of a god, who can gaze upon life itself. But gods' eyes do not see the way humans do.

He used to appreciate the feeling of vertigo standing at a high elevation gave him, looking down at trees and valleys hundreds of feet below. It gave him a feeling of calm, to know that he could so easily hurl himself over the edge, that nature at least could kill him, if no mortal is up to the task. Now at best he sees blobs of green, distant blurs of something moving beneath his feet. At worst there is nothing but an infinite number of chakra patterns, too uniform to hold his attention for long. Most trees are the same in that way. So are most humans. Disparities in the physical are something only Kisame notices anymore, as Itachi's normal eyesight is no longer up to the task. The differences in chakra between one person and the next are too minute for Itachi to be able to tell them apart.

There are exceptions, of course. Differentiating between a demon's container and a normal human with his Sharingan is the height of simplicity itself, easier than it would be for one without his bloodline. The jinchuuriki's chakra possesses a foreign stamp, indistinguishable from the immortals' inside of them.

Then there is Kisame. His is the only chakra pattern Itachi looks upon often enough to have its every irregularity imprinted in his memory, enough so that even without his partner's unusual height, he can pick out the former Mist-nin in a crowd.

But that is it. Life, for the most part, is the same, holds the same quality, and only its placement enables Itachi to tell the differences between one species of animal and the next. There is nothing in a human's chakra pattern that says this is a man. Nothing unique or special. Nothing that makes them better than a beast.

Itachi had slit his father's throat while his Sharingan had been activated. Fugaku's life leaked out much the way a tree's did when its sap was being tapped. To Itachi, it had felt about the same.

Back then, he hadn't put much stock in any sense but that of Sharingan sight. The screams had barely registered. Unimportant. Listening to Kisame breathe at night, Itachi is aware that he no longer thinks that way. The Sharingan is useful, but unlike the true five senses, it divorces him from humanity, unable to tell one life from another. Once he had appreciated this. Now it seems like a curse.

They don't often venture into heavily populated areas. Itachi is aware that this is solely for his benefit, but as Kisame doesn't mention it, he doesn't either. Still, after arriving at the hotel they have chosen for the duration of their stay, Itachi rarely leaves their room. That is also something Kisame doesn't mention, as he places Itachi's dinner on the table or hands him a stick of dango that the former Mist-nin had purchased from a vendor who owns a stall across the street. Itachi bites into the balls of rice dough automatically, the sweet stickiness of it lingering on his tongue. He wonders what it would be like to lose his sense of taste along with his vision.

Itachi moves a hand across Kisame's face as his partner sits next to him, noting the way his fingers catch on the former Mist-nin's rough skin. Without the Sharingan, it is the easiest way to tell the man from an assassin. The last Leaf hunter-nin who had tried to get close to Itachi by impersonating his partner had frozen at Itachi's touch. That was the first sign. Kisame had stopped flinching at the gesture months ago.

The assassin's skin was smooth. Itachi had finished the dango the not-Kisame brought him- at least the hunter-nin had done that much research into their habits- as the would-be killer lay bleeding on the carpet, his organs spilling out from where Itachi had slit open his stomach.

Kisame had blinked in the doorway at the sight. "Left a bit of a mess, did you, Itachi-san?"

Itachi had wordlessly held out a hand, into which another stick of dango was promptly placed. The other used ten inch wooden spear rested, powdered with rice flour, on the nearby table. Itachi didn't normally indulge like that, but he had figured an assassination attempt was worth at least one night of double dessert.

Kisame had promptly disposed of the corpse as Itachi consumed the second sweet. The carpet had been beyond saving, but an apologetic grin by Kisame as Itachi stood quietly nearby, along with the money that would provide for a replacement, smoothed over any problems that might have arisen.

No one else has skin quite like Kisame's. As Kisame sleeps, Itachi gets up from his own bed and crouches by his partner's. He runs his right index finger along the former Mist-nin's bared shoulder, the skin there resembling sandpaper as much as on the man's cheek. Sometimes Itachi needs the reassurance that he isn't imagining where he is, and who he is with. If he is captured, Konoha might very well try and fool him this way, delude him into revealing information he would otherwise never voice, but Itachi knows that they would never be able to get the skin quite right.

Kisame doesn't stir. Itachi returns to bed, but his eyes remain open. He stares sightlessly at the ceiling, and wonders what it would be like to lose his sense of touch, and whether it would be a decent trade off if it meant he could see again.

During the times, far and few between, they aren't trying to complete a mission, they often end up at a beach. Itachi doesn't care either way, but many of the port towns off the main road are sparsely populated, so it is a decent compromise between their varying tastes. Itachi doesn't swim- he can, but he has no taste for it- and stays on the sand, sitting on a towel under an umbrella as he looks at the wide expanse of blue. The ocean is the one thing that doesn't suffer from lack of detail, the one sight that Itachi can fully appreciate. He listens to the waves. The smell of salt is strong here.

Itachi realizes with some surprise that he is enjoying himself.

Kisame likes to swim, but is never out more than an hour or two. He returns soaking wet and bearing two cups full of shaved ice with flavoring poured over the top, one of which Itachi takes, along with an accompanying spoon. Kisame sits next to him on the towel.

The first mouthful he takes is followed by a raised eyebrow, and a question after Itachi has swallowed. "Watermelon?"

Kisame shrugs, not particularly apologetic. "Sorry, Itachi-san. There were out of strawberry." He then takes a bite of his own cherry, which Itachi finds distasteful. Artificial in the odd tang it leaves behind. Kisame laughed at him the first time he said so, and Itachi hasn't repeated it since then, though his opinion remains unchanged.

Itachi looks down into the cup, and then scoops up another spoonful. As he brings it to his mouth, the smell permeates his nose. Sweet, a little cloying, but not bad. Not as bad as cherry, for example.

He finishes off the flavored ice. Kisame returns to the water, though Itachi knows he will return before the sun sets, and they will go to dinner at a seafood place they have dined at once before and Kisame has decreed acceptable. This is rare praise. According to Kisame, all seafood inland is awful, and even near the coast it is rarely cooked properly. Itachi takes him at his word. Personally, he can't tell the difference. Fish all tastes the same to him.

The smell of watermelon flavoring lingers, but is soon overpowered in Itachi's nose by the sharpness of the ocean breeze. He sits under the shade of the umbrella as the wind tangles his unbound hair, and wonders if he would like the ocean less if his sense of smell were to disappear.

Two months after Itachi became blind, he was wounded on a mission. Badly, horribly, near fatally, to hear Kisame tell it, but in truth Itachi barely recalls anything of the incident. Just a strange burning in his chest, and when he had looked down, Sharingan activated as it always was during assignments, there was a line of red that glinted with the now long familiar spark of life, a line that extended downwards further and further the longer Itachi gazed upon it. It was only in retrospect that Itachi realized that the lifeblood he had seen trickling down his torso was not that of an enemy. At the time, it had hardly seemed possible. Surely even if he wasn't able to tell the glint of one life from another, he would be able to recognize his own. But he wasn't.

Then his Sharingan eyes retracted, but everything had remained drained of color, had stayed dyed only in varying tints of red, though his vision went blurry. It stayed that way, scarlet and undefined, as he collapsed, though at the last moment the scene finally faded to a single shade of black. That was all he remembers. Not even in retrospect can he recall feeling pain.

He had awoken to find he couldn't see. He had listened to the drip of a saline pouch somewhere above his head for several moments as he waited for the fog in his mind to recede. The next thing he had done was ask Kisame, quite calmly, if that meant he was now truly blind. It had never occurred to him that Kisame might not be there to answer, and of course, his assumption was not made in error. Kisame was next to him, sitting on a chair by his bedside. Kisame had even been polite enough to notice Itachi was awake before any words were said, so the former Mist-nin wasn't surprised by the question, hadn't bothered Itachi with inane inquiries that Itachi wouldn't want to respond to. Kisame had just said no, you're not blind Itachi-san, you just have some cloth over your eyes because the drugs the medic gave you makes your pupils sensitive to light. Reassured by this, Itachi had fallen into a better sort of sleep, one that might have been partly aided by a soporific but at least hadn't been forced upon him by the limits of his body.

The medics were competent. He was released from the clinic's care less than two weeks later, with bandages wrapped around his chest under his coat and Kisame signing the name of a person that didn't exist on his release forms. Fortuitously, the establishment accepted cash. It would have been unfortunate for them if they didn't. As missing-nin, Itachi and Kisame couldn't afford to leave signs of their presence behind.

Once on the beach, a few weeks before the time Kisame had given him watermelon shaved ice instead of strawberry, he had leaned over and kissed his partner on the lips. After a moment's pause that could not be quite called hesitation, Kisame had kissed him back. The taste of cherry had lingered in Itachi's mouth for hours, though for once he hadn't minded.

Itachi has long come to terms with living in a world that he can no longer see. But as he listens to Kisame's rhythmic breathing at night, hears his partner shift in his sleep, he wonders what it might be like if that sense, instead, had abandoned him. If he would give up moments like this, if it meant his vision would return.

But the question is pointless, and Itachi doesn't ask himself of it often. He knows he would prefer it if all five senses had remained intact, instead of his sight being eaten away by ignorant overuse of his god's eyes. But at the same time, he knows that he'd rather have this existence than any other. After all, if he was someone else, he wouldn't have Kisame's nearby presence to let him know when it is alright to sleep.

END