Author's Note: For kytha.
0) Kisame hadn't really wanted Itachi as a partner. Mostly because the first time he had laid eyes on the Uchiha, what ran through his head went something like, "No, hell no, no fucking way." He liked kids. He really did. But having to work with a thirteen year old was a bit much. Thirteen year olds thought they were immortal. Thirteen year olds had no idea of their own limitations. Thirteen year olds ran headlong into explosion traps and got blow into itty-bitty pieces that Kisame would have to pick up and try to put back together, usually with little success. Thirteen year olds had, in the past, been something Kisame hadn't had to deal with. There was a reason he had never bothered taking on a genin team. The reason being, the genin team itself.
Not that Kisame verbalized any of his thoughts. Whatever else was said about his clan, they had always placed an emphasis on manners. Meaning telling his teenage partner that he didn't want him went a bit against the grain. So, in the end, Kisame had smiled, introduced himself, and held out his hand to shake. Itachi, in turn, had stared at him impassively, stated his own name once, and walked past the former Mist-nin into the safe house the Akatsuki had set up for the occasion, leaving Kisame with his hand extended and wondering why he even bothered.
1) The third mission they were assigned together, one of their targets turned out to be a master of genjutsu. Kisame had thought this might turn out to be a problem, but the illusionist had the misfortune of choosing Itachi as his target. Upon sighting the thirteen year old shinobi, the genjutsu user had grinned cockily, ran his hands through a series of seals, then met the Uchiha's eyes.
The screaming had gone on for three minutes before Kisame finally took pity on the man and broke his neck.
They were safely away from the scene of the battle and making their way through the woods when Itachi deactivated his bloodline limit. Five seconds later, he tripped on a tree root and hit his head on a small boulder lying on the ground. Kisame had crouched beside his young partner, saw the way Itachi's eyes weren't focusing properly, sighed, and thrown the Uchiha over one shoulder before continuing on his way.
Itachi didn't come back to his senses for almost ten minutes, and the first thing he said, predictably, when he noticed the position he was in, was a demand that Kisame put him down. Kisame did so. Then Itachi said he felt perfectly fine and could walk on his own. Kisame said no, I don't think that's a good idea, Itachi-san. Itachi had glared at him in reply, the first honestly sullen teenage glare Kisame had seen out of the boy in their month of acquaintance.
That Itachi's next action, about two minutes later, was to put a hand to his mouth and double over was also somewhat predictable. Concussions often did make one somewhat nauseous.
Despite the fact that Kisame still couldn't believe he had been assigned a partner so young that he didn't know his own limitations, he didn't take this out the Uchiha. Holding the boy's hair back as he puked his lunch out onto the ground was the least he could do, really.
They didn't end up moving on until the next day.
2) The first time Itachi had gone drinking with Kisame, the Uchiha was fourteen years old. While this was years below the legal drinking age, Kisame had always thought allowing children to kill people but not consume alcohol was stupid anyway. He therefore didn't have any particular qualms about buying Itachi a cup of sake, even when the teenager had a sip and promptly proved this to be his first drinking expedition by making a face.
No, Kisame had no qualms about buying Itachi a cup of sake at all. Or two cups. Or three. It was when the Uchiha got to four and started swaying in his seat that Kisame sighed and tugged the sake cup out of the fourteen year old's hand. Itachi had reached for it, his arm shaking slightly as he did so, and said in a low, uncharacteristically guttural voice to give it back. Kisame had said no.
Itachi had glared at him (or rather, about six inches to the left of Kisame's head), his eyes a little red, though for once it wasn't from his bloodline limit. He had then promptly fallen out of his chair.
That was the second time to date that Kisame ended up carrying Itachi somewhere. Also the second time he had held the teenager's hair back as he puked in the bushes. It was almost becoming routine.
3) Itachi's eyes had started growing weaker almost from the first instance he had used the mangekyou Sharingan, and despite the Uchiha's restraint in later years, Kisame knew it was only a matter of time before Itachi's vision went completely. He also knew exactly how much Itachi's vision meant to him, i.e. nearly everything.
He was, therefore, not nearly as surprised as he should have been when he returned from the market one evening after picking up their dinner to walk into their hotel room and find Itachi sitting on the bed and holding a kunai to his throat. Kisame immediately dropped the groceries- luckily startling Itachi just slightly in process- and had his hand around the kunai blade before the Uchiha managed to do anything more than nick himself.
The pain of the sharpened edge digging into his fingers and palm as Itachi strained against his superior strength was negligible, really. Kisame had felt far worse. And even when Itachi stopped trying to pull the kunai away from him, Kisame didn't move away.
It was then that Itachi looked at him. No glare was forthcoming. The Uchiha had stopped trying to glare him into submission years ago.
It wouldn't have been very effective, anyway. Itachi's eyes were clouded, and Kisame knew the Uchiha couldn't see. "Let go, Kisame."
Kisame's grip tightened. "No, Itachi-san. I don't think I will."
Itachi continued to look at him. "A blind shinobi is useless. I will never let myself be useless."
Kisame grinned, faintly. "And I would never have a useless partner, Itachi-san. Now let go."
4) Seeking out one of Orochimaru's hidden bases and finding a scroll on chakra-enhanced hearing had been, in Kisame's opinion, sheer genius. It didn't really matter if the genius had been his or Itachi's. Either way, after a month of using the hearing ninjutsu, Itachi wasn't nearly up to his old standards, but he was still more than a match for most jounin they came across. Good enough that Kisame didn't worry much at all when he left Itachi at their camp to go into town to get supplies.
Most jounin, unfortunately, wasn't nearly all jounin. Most jounin, for instance, didn't have the Sharingan and four years of tutelage under the snake sannin backing them up. When Kisame finally returned to their camp, it was nearly too late.
Five years ago, the gap between the two Uchiha brothers had almost been laughable. But while Uchiha Sasuke had done nothing but improve since their last encounter, Uchiha Itachi... had not. What Kisame came across upon his arrival in the small forest clearing was his partner on his knees, one arm hanging useless by his side as blood dripped from his fingertips, his dead eyes, now empty instead of just clouded, staring blankly at nothing. Across from him was his brother.
The younger Uchiha, in the moment before his final attack, actually looked triumphant. He believed he had already won. His grin quickly shifted to surprise when he moved to cut Itachi's head off and found Kisame's Samehada in the way.
That surprise cost him. It hardly took any effort on Kisame's part at all to shove Uchiha Sasuke back, knocking him off balance, then slam him in the temple with Samehada's hilt.
The younger Uchiha dropped like a stone.
As Kisame stood over Uchiha Sasuke's unconscious form, Itachi behind him pushed himself to his feet with his good arm. "Kisame. Let's go."
Kisame remembered how this young man had been the only member of the Uchiha Clan Itachi had spared in the massacre ten years ago. How Itachi had spared him again, five years ago, for no reason Kisame could see. How much stronger Uchiha Sasuke was now. And how he couldn't be sure that he'd make it, if (when) this happened again.
The Samehada wasn't a killing weapon, and Itachi was already turning to go when Kisame sheathed it and pulled a kunai out of where he had secreted it in his arm guard. Itachi only stopped when he heard the sound of Kisame kneeling on the ground. "Kisame. Leave him."
Kisame grabbed Itachi's younger brother by the hair, and watched the way the teenager's head lolled back. He was older than Itachi had been, the first time Kisame had met him. But still a child.
Kisame liked kids. He really did. But in the end, that didn't mean anything at all. "No, Itachi-san."
There was quite a bit of blood afterward, and even washing his hands in the stream didn't get all of it out from underneath his fingernails. Itachi didn't talk to him for a month. Kisame could never bring himself to care.
5) Itachi coughed blood when he spoke. It stained his lips red, dribbled down the sides of his mouth. "Kisame... I'm going to die, aren't I."
Kisame looked down at his partner. Or at least, what was left of him. Only a few tendons were keeping the Uchiha's left arm attached at the shoulder, and there really wasn't anything stopping the his organs from spilling out onto the ground.
The attack had been brutal, graceless, and neither of them had seen it coming. Kisame supposed that in the end, the Kyuubi's reputation as the most fearsome of the Bijuu had been well deserved. In something less than two minutes, the Nine-Tailed Fox had managed to tear the sole remaining Uchiha to shreds. Than it had left, without bothering to finish what it had started. Kisame distantly wondered where it had went, but not with any sort of concern. The demon had already done its worst, after all.
"Kisame... I'm going to die."
Kisame kept his fingers wrapped around the only one of Itachi's hands that still had feeling in it. When he replied, his voice was even. "No, Itachi-san. You're not going to die."
Kisame had been raised to be polite under all circumstances. As a result, he had always been something of a compulsive liar.
Itachi knew this. But he smiled anyway. And for the first time since Kisame had met him, almost twelve years ago, Itachi's eyes were clear.
Kisame burned his partner's remains the next day.