...

exchange
by kwizten

Rating: M (to be safe) for language and lime
Disclaimer: Masashi Kishimoto owns.

...

His suspicions are confirmed.

It had been a very simple mission: kidnap the infamous Haruno Sakura for the single purpose of baiting both the Kyuubi and the newest threat to the Akatsuki, Uchiha Sasuke of Team Hebi. It was simple, albeit very uncreative, but it got the job done.

Leader-sama had failed to mention anything about the dangers of love.

Just one week after Sakura's successful kidnapping, Kisame began to notice just how amusing she really was. His mind began to betray him more and more as he started to notice the way she flipped her pink hair over her shoulder whenever Zetsu annoyed her, and how nice her legs looked from underneath the short yukata Pein ordered her to wear.

One month after her kidnapping, he also noticed that he was not the only one who was paying more attention to her. He could not help but frown each time he saw them glancing at each other from the corner of their eyes, and he grew to detest Itachi every time he pinned her to the wall by her throat with the excuse that she needed to be punished for her fiery temper. Kisame's jealous gaze noticed every tiny brushing of their fingers, every slight blush that she would have when he spoke to her with his smooth voice, and he would force himself to turn away from them so he would no longer have to feel the sharp tugs at his heartstrings.

He considered it a blessing, though, that the remaining Akatsuki members did not comment on the growing relationship between Itachi and Sakura. If they did, he would be in trouble. His developing feelings for the medic-nin were no secret to anyone except Sakura herself, but no one, not even the obnoxious Tobi, said a word about it.

Kisame would always mentally berate himself. Sakura was a prisoner, although she was too wild to shut up and act like one, and she was the student of the legendary Sannin and the Godaime, while he was an S-class nin who – unlike Itachi – did not originate from Konoha. She was a tiny, fragile girl who wanted to help people with her medical skills, and he was a giant, dangerous shark-man who couldn't care less about killing someone, however defenseless they may be. They were different, and pursuing her would be pointless. At least, that's what he tried to believe.

Itachi, on the other hand, was a better match for her, he tried to convince himself. He understood Sakura when she spoke about people and places in Konoha. His cold, immune attitude was the perfect contrast to her loud, feisty one. Most of all, he could directly relate to her through his brother and her ex-teammate, Uchiha Sasuke.

At first, it was clear to everyone that Sakura hated Itachi the most because of all he had done to Naruto, who was her best friend, and Sasuke, who she had loved so very dearly until Itachi decided she was going to love him instead. Kisame did not know how her relationship with Itachi came to be, exactly, but he supposed that the saying was right, and that there was indeed a fine line between love and hatred.

Kisame also didn't know how far along their relationship had progressed. No one had ever seen them in an intimate position, and no one had ever heard them flirt. Regardless, it was very clear that there was something going on between the two. Kisame hated it. He continued to hope, refusing to believe that their relationship was set in stone. There was no physical evidence, no proof that Itachi and Sakura had a deeper relationship, and it was the only thought that kept him going, that kept him from beating Itachi to a pulp – not that he could, of course.

That was why it was even harder for Kisame to bear when he turned in for bed.

It was late at night, but most of the other Akatsuki members were still awake. Zetsu was keeping to himself in his quarters, which were farther away from all the others. Pein and Konan, as usual, had left the current hideout to monitor the Rain Country, and Hidan and Kakuzu were traveling, as they never stayed in one place for too long. Deidara and Sasori debated about art in the kitchen over a bottle of sake, Tobi bothering them with his loud voice. Kisame had been with them, but he found little reason to stay awake when Sakura wasn't there too.

Barely any alcohol in his system for once, he went past tunnel after tunnel in hopes of getting some much-needed sleep. His hand was slapped over his face, rubbing away the headache Tobi's incessant rambling had given him, but as he passed a shut door, he dropped it, frozen in his tracks.

Itachi was always reclusive and rarely ever spent time with the other Akatsuki members if he didn't have to, so Kisame didn't think twice about his whereabouts. Sakura would babysit the drunken members once in a while, but liked to take walks around the underground base, as it was her only form of exercise. Kisame always believed the two to keep to themselves. He never once thought they'd spend the nights together.

He could barely hear them at first, but once he stood motionless in front of Itachi's bedroom door, it became so very clear to him. He had to give them some credit; they were doing a very good job at keeping things quiet.

Kisame broke out into a sweat, his eyes wide and his mouth parted in shock. It didn't take too long for the soft moans and cries of each other's names to settle into his mind. His body tensed into a different form of uneasiness. He frowned at the door, his eyes glazing over with a depression that could also be called jealousy.

The animalistic urge within him threatened to pounce, to break down that door and stop Itachi from touching the pink-haired kunoichi that didn't deserve to be his. He wanted to rescue Sakura, because she couldn't have possibly known that she wasn't meant to be with Itachi, she just wasn't. He wanted to hold her and hide her away in his own room, never again to be seen by that blasted Uchiha who couldn't keep his hands to himself.

But he couldn't do it. The sounds kept seeping to the other side of the door, into Kisame's unwilling ears. He couldn't move away, couldn't run to his room and pretend he never heard that very obvious lovemaking between his partner and the girl he loved. He was frozen in front of that wretched, cruel door, shaking with anger and passion and jealousy and every other emotion that he just couldn't describe but he knew he felt.

Itachi didn't deserve her, but then again, who was to say that Kisame deserved her either? What right did he have to stand in front of someone else's room and listen to what was supposed to be a very private encounter?

He heard Sakura whimper. How dare she, how dare she make that sound because of that damned Itachi! Itachi could have whoever he wanted. He didn't take a single one of them. He just had to choose Sakura. And Kisame? What sort of insane girl would actually want him? No one had ever shown interest in him before. Why would anyone choose a blue shark-like giant of a man instead of a cool, handsome prodigy like Uchiha Itachi? Sakura could, he knew she could. If Itachi hadn't made it a point to win her heart, if Itachi hadn't been so persistent, if Itachi had just left her alone — no, even then, would Sakura have opened her heart to Kisame?

He was shaken from his self-pitying thoughts at the soft, bumping sounds that were most likely taking place on Itachi's futon. His ears picked up the almost unearthly sound of Itachi's own groaning, perfectly – damn it, so perfectly – meshing with Sakura's cries.

Kisame scowled, backing away from the door much too slowly, his skin quivering. He wished that was him in there, not Itachi. He wished it was him who was making her soar, not Itachi. What did Sakura look like in there? Was her rosette hair sprawled over the pillows? Was her face flushed, her eyes glazed with passion? Was she fully bare, or had Itachi been too impatient? Why did Itachi get to see her like this, and why couldn't Kisame?

Sakura gasped, and it was clear what was happening. Seconds later, Itachi did the same. Kisame couldn't handle the after-sounds, the panting and loving words passed between the two, and he finally felt a jolt of energy inside him, electrifying him as he bolted like a child to his quarters. As quietly as he could, which he was certain could not be very quiet at all, he burst into his room and hurriedly shut his door to block out as many sounds as he could, but it was pointless because the sounds kept swimming through his head, swimming, swimming, making him dizzy with a fit of emotions.

He fell to his knees, his large, blue hands grasping his head tightly, his nails digging into him almost deep enough to make him bleed, bleed a dark red color that he was certain his blood was because he was human, he was. Like everyone else, he was prone to the same emotions, the same heartache that anyone could feel, but he could have sworn he felt it even worse.

All was lost, all was lost. Surely Sakura had let Itachi do that to her. She was powerful, powerful enough to stop him if she didn't want to keep going, but she didn't stop him, she let him go on and on and on. How many times had they done this before? How many times had they been together? How long had Kisame denied the relationship between the two when it was just so fucking obvious what was going on, that he didn't stand a chance?

If Kisame had the power to weep, he would have, but he was a member of Akatsuki and couldn't find the tears within him. So he could only sit there, sit and replay the sounds in his head, putting pictures to words, and wish, just wish, that he could find a way to shut everything out…for good.

She couldn't be more clueless.

"I swear," Sakura sighed, "I've heard enough!"

"Tobi thinks it's funny, Sakura-san."

"Either way, you'd think we could talk about something else, once in a while."

"And what," Deidara whined, "is wrong with this conversation, yeah? Just because you have nothing to say about it—"

"Hey," she scowled, "at least it's better than saying the same thing over and over."

"No point in trying, Haruno," Kisame spoke up, his usual arrogant tone deeper and more serious than usual. It was just last night, just twenty-four hours ago, that he had passed that door that he wished could just burn and blow up into a thousand pieces or more. He downed his saucer of sake, in desperate need of a pick-me-up. If he drank enough, he could pass out, and after last night's lack of sleep, he could really use the rest.

He had yet to make eye contact with her all day. He was lucky enough to have avoided Itachi, who was currently in his bedroom, alone this time, thank god. If anyone had noticed Kisame's strange behavior, no one mentioned it aloud. These were members of Akatsuki. They had better things to do than keep up with the romantic triangle centered around the stubborn Konoha girl.

Sasori, as always, was rather polite. "If you'd like, Sakura-san," he said monotonously, "we could change the subject."

Kisame could practically hear her weak smile, and he so wanted to look at her doing it, but he knew that once he looked, he wouldn't be able to stop. Even after witnessing the awkward events the night before, he couldn't stop his heart from pounding whenever she was around. If anything, he wanted her more than ever. He refused to give her up to Itachi, he refused.

But in front of everyone? No, he couldn't. And she was so obviously quite taken to that bastard Uchiha, and Kisame didn't doubt that she would deny him. She would hate and reject him if he ever confessed to her, and he would be foolish to do so after everything that had happened, everything he had witnessed.

"And what point is there to that?" Sakura sighed. "Even if you try to talk about something else, everything will always lead right back to art."

"Tobi likes art!"

"You idiot," Deidara glared at him. "You don't know the first thing about art, un!"

Sakura threw a look at Sasori. "See what I mean?" She stood up with a roll of her eyes, walking right past Kisame, who shivered because he could almost, almost feel her brushing against him, but of course she didn't and he was just fooling himself, like he always did. He knew the others had seen his reaction to her, but he refused to look up, instead focusing on the cup that was once again full of the clear alcoholic drink that was already dulling his senses.

She stood beside the counter for a while, and he heard water flowing from the tap in the sink.

"Of course Tobi knows about art!" the high-pitched voice protested.

Deidara snorted into his sake. "Give me a break. I'm sure the most you know is about crayon drawings and colored pencils, yeah."

"It's still art! Isn't it, Sasori-senpai?"

Kisame didn't hear Sasori's response, but even if he had, he doubted he would care. The alcohol was making him dazed, his senses diluting. Sakura had finished whatever it was she was doing, and she was walking back to her seat at the Western table. Her footsteps sounded five times louder than they really were, and he was already off balance because of it. Then she just had to go and make it even worse.

Kisame jolted, his chair suddenly pushed a little forward. "Oh, sorry!" Sakura cried, having bumped into it on her way back, and Kisame couldn't help it, he couldn't help but look up in shock at her face, twisted in surprise like his, a green apple in her hand. He was right; he couldn't find it in him to look away now that he had glanced at her. He blamed it on the alcohol for having made him lose control over his actions. Damn it, and he was doing so well!

He had deprived himself from looking at her. She was even more beautiful than he remembered her yesterday, that pink hair still swaying against her back and those green eyes still so full of life, life that Itachi had given her.

He knew everyone was paying close attention to him again. The sudden noise of the screeching chair had made the others look up, and now that he was acting like an idiot again, they watched him stare. She was clueless as ever, sitting back down and taking a bite of that apple, that damned fruit that just had to be juicy enough for her to look even more delectable than the sweet food.

"Quit crying, Tobi," Deidara bared his teeth at the masked Uchiha. Just because they were all keeping an eye on Kisame, it didn't mean that they had to stop their ranting. All Akatsuki members knew how to multitask.

"He's upset because you're hitting him," Sakura said matter-of-factly, licking her lips so the juice wouldn't drip. Of course she didn't notice Kisame watching her, like everyone else did. Even after she finished cleaning herself up, he kept staring at her mouth, the mouth that he knew Itachi had been lucky enough to taste and bruise.

Why was it that everything she did made him so excited? He tightened his hand around his cup, looking away to pour himself another drink, but he lost concentration and the sake overflowed. He didn't utter a sound, and Sakura's eyes were closed so she couldn't see it. Paying no notice to the other members at the table, he tilted his saucer back and swallowed the liquid, which burned although he was so used to how strong it was, but then again everything was always burning and repelling him and stopping him from getting what he wanted.

"I wouldn't hit him if he wasn't being so damn stupid, un."

Shit, if Deidara could just shut up for a second or two. Tobi especially. Kisame just wanted to go back to his room and pass out, but he didn't want to leave, not until Sakura did because he rarely got to spend time with her anymore, ever since Itachi forced her to be distracted by him.

He didn't have to wait long for her to leave. It seemed like days as he watched her finish her apple off, core and all, and she quickly sucked on her sticky fingers and wiped them on her yukata, the yukata that was black with red clouds and sharply contrasted to her hair and eyes, but she still looked so beautiful because there was no possible way she could ever be ugly, not to him.

"Whatever," she responded to someone's remark – whose it was, Kisame didn't know. He had stopped listening to the conversation ages ago. Sakura stood again and still Kisame couldn't tear his eyes away, which was a bad sign because surely he was losing his mind, to the sake if anything, and he couldn't trust himself when he wasn't thinking straight. "I'm going to bed. Night, everyone."

Everyone stopped their debates and childish fights momentarily to say their goodnights to her, but Kisame kept silent and just watched her walk away, his blurry eyes glued to every single part of her body, none of which were meant for him because she was walking away now, probably to Itachi's room where he would be allowed to taste that delicious green apple on her mouth. It was minutes later, after Deidara, Sasori, and Tobi had continued their conversation, and Kisame was still staring at the empty doorway in which Sakura had made her exit. He kept hoping and hoping for her to walk back into the kitchen and wasn't with Itachi like she was last night, but she never came, not even after Kisame finished his bottle of sake and shoved his cup away.

He couldn't find the words to say anything when he finally got up to head to his own room, but he was still hesitant because he would have to pass Itachi's yet again, and he thought he could probably die if he had to deal with the heartbreak again. A master of drunken perverseness, he didn't sway or topple over, but instead walked in a straight line towards the black tunnels that would ultimately lead him to his quarters. He was unfocused and didn't notice that he was being followed until he was halfway to his room.

"Well?" Kisame turned around slowly, scowled at the familiar eye scope and the crooked grin that currently wasn't a grin anymore, and turned back around. He hadn't taken a single step before the blonde continued. "You have to tell Itachi."

"I don't have to do anything," he finally said, one of the few things he dared to speak all night. His speech was not slurred, but cool and collected, although he wasn't feeling either of those things whatsoever.

"You think he doesn't know, un?" Deidara narrowed his eyebrows very seriously, and Kisame decided the look suited him because he was a member of Akatsuki and all the members needed to take things seriously once in a while. "If you don't tell him first, he'll use her against you. He'll flaunt her around until you can't take it anymore, yeah."

Kisame said nothing because he couldn't. He said nothing because he knew Deidara was right, because he knew Itachi must've sensed him on the other side of the bedroom door the night before and enjoyed putting Kisame in his place. And when Pein decided to give Itachi and Kisame a mission again, nothing would be right and Kisame would end up distracted and fucked up even more so than he already was, and Itachi could do away with him quickly so the shark would leave his precious Haruno Sakura alone.

Deidara kept calling out to Kisame, but he ignored him and just kept walking at his slow and steady pace that wasn't going fast enough when he passed that ruddy door. Kisame made sure to focus really hard on his own thoughts so he couldn't hear anything else, and it worked like a charm.

Again in his room, he collapsed into his futon and allowed the darkness to overcome him.

He becomes protective.

It was days later, and Sakura was taken by Zetsu for a bit of fresh air, something she hadn't had in ages. At first the Akatsuki was nervous about letting her out into the open, but they remembered it was Zetsu who was with her, and she wouldn't dare put herself at risk of getting eaten. All the same, Kisame was certain she wouldn't run, not with Itachi waiting for her inside the base.

Kisame never forgot what Deidara had told him to do, not even years later when everything had blown over, for the most part. He decided to finally confront his stone-cold partner when Sakura was out, because he wouldn't be able to take it if she overheard his confession, not when he was so positive about what her answer would be.

He was sure Itachi knew he was coming, but it didn't matter to him, not now. When he had gotten to the bedroom door, he remembered how much trouble it had put him through lately, and he couldn't bear to touch it with his bare fingers. He kicked it in a knocking rhythm instead, trying not to remember that he had to touch the door anyway if he was going to open it. Itachi said nothing in response, but Kisame knew he was there, so he looked down and let himself in regardless.

The room was dark, as every other room in this dungeon of a hideout was, except it was even darker than usual, the only light coming from the blood red gaze of the Sharingan. Kisame didn't care if he was already under a genjutsu or not. He only came here to talk.

"Mind a light?" he said coolly, not waiting for the answer that would not come and instead flicked on a light switch that made the two tiny bulbs on the ceiling glow faintly. Kisame didn't know what to say next. Itachi had always made him a little uncomfortable, although they were partners. Luckily, he didn't have to say a thing.

"This is about Sakura," Itachi said rather than asked.

"Yes. I love her."

Itachi didn't look away, and Kisame felt like he was being submerged into an icy lake, but that shouldn't have been such a big deal for a shark-man like him. "I don't care," the Uchiha glared smoothly, and Kisame took a step back, expecting the emotion but not expecting it to be said aloud.

"She's just your toy," Kisame said bravely, much braver than he felt because he was still in the same room as a Mangekyou and didn't want to push himself even further. "Why should she stay with you?"

The Uchiha prodigy didn't respond, but he wasn't expected to. He blinked once, twice, three times at his partner, who flinched at the intense stare but refused to back down because once he gave up, there was no turning back. If he could not prove to Itachi how much he deserved her, Itachi would never give her up, and Kisame would be left alone for good because he could never find someone as wonderful as his lovely Sakura.

Kisame's blood began to boil. It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair that Uchiha Itachi got whatever he wanted and Kisame was stuck with all the leftovers, if anything at all. How could Sakura ever fall for someone as insufferable as him? He could show her, he could show her how wrong she was to pick Itachi because he could never make her happy, but Kisame could, he knew he could, if only she would give him a chance.

"I know what you've been up to," he said, referring to the intensity of the relationship between his partner and the blossom-haired kunoichi he had grown so very much in love with in such a short time.

"That's right," Itachi said in a way that made Kisame hate him, that made him want to slice and shred him with the Samehada that was wrapped and kept in his room. "I intended for you to know."

"Why?" His voice didn't sound like his own. It sounded strangled and defeated, and he knew it was pointless to have come here when the only thing he would gain was more jealousy than he could handle.

"Because," Itachi said, "you watch her too often."

The shark growled strangely. "Is there a problem with that?" He slouched into a more defensive position, not defending himself from an attack, but instead from words that was certain to destroy him. "She isn't yours."

Itachi smirked in that way of his, the way that Kisame hated more than ever before. "You're wrong."

Kisame was outraged, losing his composure immediately. "What the hell did you just say?" he cried. "She isn't some fucking piece of plastic with your name on it! What makes you think she belongs to you?" He yelled because he knew the answer, because he knew that Itachi was right and he did have her, whether he liked it or not.

Itachi remained silent, and Kisame took advantage of it like a true shinobi. "Does she love you? Has she ever said that she did? You don't actually believe that she could, do you? A bastard like you, who couldn't care for anyone other than himself?" He was whining, he knew, throwing a fit like a little child who couldn't get the candy he wanted, but Kisame could care less because Itachi wasn't moving or showing any reaction at all, allowing himself to be a verbal punching bag for the weak words that meant nothing. "You're just using her. You couldn't possibly love her. You think this is funny? You think you could just use her as a fucking whore—"

Although Itachi hadn't so much as blinked, he had to have been affected because currently Kisame couldn't breathe. Itachi looked livid, angry, looked as though he could very easily slice Kisame in two, which he could. If anything, Kisame did not expect this.

"I don't think you quite understand," Itachi muttered into his ear.

Kisame gasped for breath, but he did not struggle under his partner's hold. He did not know why he was letting himself get strangled, but he didn't care. The pain in his neck distracted him from the pain of other things. "Don't tell me," he sputtered lowly, "don't tell me you actually love her too."

The commas in the Sharingan continued to spin, Itachi's wordless threat hanging in the air and choking Kisame even more than he physically was.

"Well?" he roared as best as he could, his voice raspy and old. "Do you or not?"

"She doesn't love you." The shark's eyes widened, not because he was suffocating, not because Itachi had so obviously avoided the question, but because he had to hear the words that had been spinning in his head for months now, words that he knew were true but damn it, he didn't ever want to admit it. "She never will love you. It would be wise to stay away from her."

"Damn it…" Kisame squeezed his eyes shut, trying to disappear, wishing the darkness would just swallow him up and blind him forever so he wouldn't have to wake up and accept the truth, the truth that Sakura could never be his, that they could never be together. "Damn it! Damn it!"

He was insecure. He had allowed Itachi to get the better of him. Why had he approached his partner in the first place? He wished he hadn't, because nothing had prepared him for this sudden breakdown, this sudden loss of hope and faith and beauty in the world. He wanted to disappear. He wanted to just shrivel up and hide in a closet so no one would have to torture their eyes and waste a breath on the pathetic being that was him.

His prayers for the end were not answered, and Itachi released his throat so he slumped against the wall, his skin now the palest of blues, but it still wasn't anything near the smooth color and flawless perfection that was the skin of a normal human being. He panted for breath, the breath he didn't want to take but did anyway because he couldn't help himself. He just wanted to rest, to let his heart settle so he didn't have to think about his problems anymore, didn't have to think of the pink-headed Sakura who had plagued his thoughts for months, even up to now when he was certain she could never love him, just like that blasted Uchiha had said.

"Get out," Itachi's deep voice rang into his ears, and Kisame was immediately reminded of the way his partner sounded when sighing in ecstasy, in perfect harmony with Sakura's cries, the cries that he so desperately wanted to keep to himself. His eyes darted to the futon in the corner, to the strands of pink hair that lay on the pillows, and he bolted, running out of Itachi's room and straight into his own.

This was the room where he found solace, where he caught his breath, where he thought of Sakura and how much more beautiful she would be if she were on his futon and tangled with his body. This was the room. This was the godforsaken room.

She succumbs without warning.

That night, there was a knock on his door.

Kisame cursed under his breath. How dare anyone try to intrude, how dare anyone try to interrupt him from feeling sorry from himself. He'd been in his room for hours by now and had missed his meals and the usual sake, but he didn't expect anyone to be worried about him. He thought he could wallow in his remorse without anyone bothering him.

It was because of this that he stormed across the dark room and slammed the door open, an enraged look on his face that could only make a person pity him. "What do you—"

"I'm sorry," was the shaky reply. "I hope you don't mind me coming here."

Kisame stared, his livid expression now morphed into surprise. Why did she even bother? How did she even know where his room was? It was late by now, so why wasn't she with Itachi? But it didn't matter – she was here and that was all he cared about, all he ever dreamed of.

"Haruno," he started, his voice dry, and he cleared his throat to try again. "What are you doing here? Did you need something?" His voice wasn't kind, wasn't soft, but there was tenderness in his gruff tone that he was certain she noticed this time.

She played with her fingers in front of her nervously, but there was a look in her eyes he had never seen before. It was filled with unease and confusion, but the strongest emotion was easily the insane power and confidence in her stare. Her eyes darted around the room, and she didn't look exactly pleased. "Could I come in?" she asked once she had regained her composure.

"What for?" Kisame wanted to slap himself. After all this time, after all he had pretended and dreamed of, he had pushed her away. How could he hesitate at a time like this? Didn't he want her there? He was a shinobi, an S-class nin, but he was unguarded and let his emotions get the better of him. As an apology for his brash question, he moved aside and held his door open for her, allowing Sakura the entrance into his sacred, treasured room.

She was in his room.

"Look, I'm sorry if I'm intruding—"

"No, it's fine."

"It's just that—" She paused to swallow, and she used the awkward silence to her advantage. She turned away from him and walked around the room. It was mostly empty, he knew, but she seemed more interested in her surroundings than in their conversation. She had something to say, he could tell, but it was hard for her. She strolled around the room's perimeter, slowly and with a critical eye. He watched her sneak a glance at the Samehada in the corner, the bareness of the walls, and last at the futon that lay in the middle of the room, the only white thing in the darkness.

"Haruno—"

"Itachi talked to me today."

So that was it, then. Kisame paled. His partner didn't know how to keep a secret. There was no doubt about it; Itachi had told her everything. The only thing he couldn't understand was why he waited so long to tell her. That damn Uchiha. He should've known this was going to happen, that he couldn't hide his love for her forever, that Itachi would do anything just to get rid of Kisame for good. "Did he?"

She nodded, but it was such a slight inclination of her head that he barely noticed it. She wouldn't make eye contact with him, just kept walking and walking around and around. She was stunning. "Why didn't you say something?" she asked softly. "Why didn't you just tell me?"

"What would you have done if I did?" He sounded braver than he felt. His heart was beating uncontrollably, his brain barely functioning because his life was over: she was going to reject him and that would be the end of it all. There would be no hope left. Itachi had already won.

She didn't reply, nor did she look at him. She walked the rest of the way around the room for the fourth time and stopped directly in front of him. His giant form towered over her delicate one, covering her in shadow. "Why don't you tell me now?"

He didn't know why he listened to her. He didn't know why he didn't just deny everything and send her back to Itachi. Maybe it had to do with how close she was, how his demon-like senses could easily pick up her scent, the hypnotizing aroma that was simply Sakura. He didn't know. But he did as she asked.

"I love you, Sakura."

Before he had any time to think, any time to berate himself about how stupid he was being, she leapt at him. She had pulled him down by his shirt, black like everything else, and crashed his mouth to hers in a single movement.

Kisame could barely breathe, but he loved the feeling. His eyes had widened, staring into the darkness that was lit by the pink of her hair, but he didn't think. His mind had shut down because all he knew was her. She was there, she was right in front of him, and she had kissed him. Nothing else in the world could possibly matter.

He pushed toward her, his eyelids drooping as he moved closer and closer still, kissing her back with as much passion as he could muster because this was his chance, this was his chance to win her heart. He had never tasted anything so divine. Her frail hand released his shirt, grasping instead at his jaw. He sighed blissfully into her mouth, raising his large, rough hands to frame her face and hold her tighter. It was much too soon when she pulled away, but he couldn't stop the foolish grin that flew to his face.

"Sakura, I—"

"How much do you love me, Kisame?"

"You have no idea," he rasped, still holding her close. "I couldn't say." Because words could never describe what he felt for her, and it was too difficult to even try.

"And what," she said, staring straight into his beady eyes that he knew were nothing compared to Itachi's glistening ones, "what would you do for one night with me?"

His grin began to shift downwards. She was looking at him, and she was being completely serious. She had kissed him, hadn't she? Why wasn't she as excited as he was? Why was she not smiling stupidly like him? "I don't understand."

Her eyes darted away from his face, fidgeting and stealing glances at the door behind Kisame, reaching around him to lock it. Even afterwards, she stared longingly at it, as though this were the last place she ever wanted to be. "I want to make a deal with you," she said once she had gotten the courage to look back up at him.

His grin had been completely wiped from his face. This was not how he imagined it to be like after their first kiss. She looked uncomfortable and seductive at the same time, her mouth pouting and cheeks flushed. "A…deal?"

Her tone was shaky and strong all at once, nothing preparing him for what was to come. "I will give you myself for the entire night, and you may do to me whatever it is you wish, but in exchange, I want you to forget about me."

Kisame's fingers spread apart, his muscles tensing in complete and utter shock. "What?" he asked more to himself than to her. She did not repeat herself. He didn't know how to feel. He was excited, ecstatic, overwhelmed because she was offering herself to him willingly and he could have a piece of what he had always wanted: her on his futon, his and not Itachi's. His blood had already began to rush through his veins, his blue face tinting red as all his dreams and fantasies came back to mind – and they were all going to come true.

But then, it was only for a single night. At the end of it, they would never be able to speak about what had happened between them. They could never be comfortable around each other anymore, and he would be forced to watch her live the rest of her life with Itachi or someone else, someone who wasn't him, but because he had tasted the forbidden fruit, he would have the knowledge, the memories of being intertwined with Sakura's body and having her all to himself for just that one night. In the morning, everything would be over for good. It was only going to hurt more if he touched her again. But still, here she was, giving herself to him, and when was he going to get this chance ever again?

His desire for her was driving him insane. He knew he could never be happy, that he could never go a day without mourning for the loss of the one person, the one girl he could ever truly love. But somehow, it didn't matter to him, not when she was right there, staring at him and waiting for him to respond. He wanted her so badly, and he gave in because he needed one more taste. One last taste.

He was silent, but his eyes said everything. He knew she understood. She gazed into his eyes because he refused to look away from them, and without breaking the contact, she reached behind his head and untied his scratched hitai-ate. She let it fall to the floor with a clank. As he leaned closer to her, his mouth parted with longing, she untied her yukata, still black with red clouds, and let it fall open.

His eyes ravishing her form, completely bare underneath the yukata that he didn't remove from her shoulders, his large hands stroked her flat stomach and trailed to rest on her hips. He relished in the silky feel of her skin underneath his heavy, callused fingertips, and he stepped closer to her until he was able to push her back to the center of the room, lying her onto his futon, which felt softer than ever before.

"In exchange, I want you to forget about me."

No, he could never forget her. He wouldn't even if he could, but he wouldn't tell her that because she didn't want to hear it. She didn't want to be here. She didn't want him. But he had her, and she offered. For this one night, she would belong solely to Kisame.

He climbed on top of her, leaning close and allowing his gaze to linger on every inch of her. Her rosette hair was splayed out underneath her head, casting a halo around her that tempted him until he began to stroke the soft, pink tresses, captivated by the beautiful girl below him. He rested his forehead against hers, all his pent up love and desire flowing from his eyes as he stared at her, stared because he needed her to know just how dear she was to him.

With the hand that caressed her hair, he tilted her head back, pressing his thin mouth against hers so tightly, she groaned in protest, but he didn't understand and thought it to be a moan of pleasure. With his other hand he groped her wildly, moving up and down her body before he held onto the back of her neck. He probed her mouth, trying to taste all he could so he would never forget it, and his actions grew just slightly rougher when she began to respond. He was certain she was only kissing him back because she knew that's what he wanted, but he tried not to think about it. In his mind, he pretended she actually wanted him to be closer.

"Sakura," he moaned into her mouth softly. Like Itachi, he didn't want to make too much noise. On this rare night, he didn't want to be interrupted.

She bravely tugged on his clothes, and within moments, both bodies were completely bare. She looked frightened at that point, but Kisame tried to ignore it, placing open-mouthed kisses against her throat so he wouldn't have to look at her expression. As he bit and tore at her skin like every other shark would, doing whatever it took to leave his mark that he knew she was just going to heal away the next morning, she reluctantly stroked his blue, chiseled chest, causing a shiver to go up his spine deliciously.

He made more passionate sounds than she did, but he knew she was trying. He sometimes stole glances at her face, and he was pleased to see that she was enjoying it, at least a little. Whatever the case, he kept moving. Her body felt hot under his touch, and she eventually reached around him to rake her nails against his back. Still leaving chaste kisses against her shoulder, he felt her leave soft ones on his in return. She was kind-hearted, doing what she didn't want to just for him.

It wasn't long before Kisame couldn't help himself anymore. He needed her too badly, craved her too much. Crushing his lips to hers again, he stroked her flushed cheek tenderly.

"Sakura," he whispered like a true lover, "tell me you love me."

She seemed surprised, her eyes snapping open and staring into his. She didn't ask questions, but he felt her hesitation. But he was desperate. He wouldn't be able to go any further if she couldn't tell him.

"Please, Sakura." Her hand stopped moving against his hip, grasping onto it with anxiety. He knew what she was thinking, but he didn't linger on the thought. He didn't want to think about Itachi at all, not now.

Stalling, she reached up to kiss him sweetly, running a few fingers in his hair to distract him. When she was finished, she couldn't meet his eyes, couldn't lie straight to his face, but she obeyed reluctantly, her eyes shifty. "I love you, Kisame."

He didn't care how false the statement was because she had said it, and just hearing it once was all he needed. When she was gone from him forever, he could drift back to the memory, the memory of how beautiful it sounded coming from her.

He immediately took her for the first of many times that night. She was obedient and sweet, the purest kunoichi he had ever seen although he knew she was far from innocent. It wasn't until later in the night, when the sun had begun to rise outside the dark, windowless base and Sakura was finally allowed to drift off to sleep, when he let himself remember his misery, burying his nose into her hair and pulling her closer into his chest.

He wasn't ready to give her back to Itachi.

His stubborn grip does not subside.

He had realized, weeks later, that Itachi had been the one to suggest his night with Sakura to her. Kisame never asked him why – he had made the realization on his own – but he guessed it was to get rid of him. It made a lot of sense, why she had been so hesitant to sleep with him. Although he tried to deny it, he knew she had already fallen in love with Itachi. It was a good match, since Itachi was in love with her too.

Despite it all, Kisame couldn't get over her. If anything, he had fallen even deeper in love with Sakura, who he had started to refer by her surname once again. He didn't have the right to refer to her by first name. That privilege only belonged to Itachi.

He was right: it had hurt once she ran back to him, but there was nothing he could do about it. It had been months since that night, and everyone knew the seriousness between the Uchiha and the kidnapped kunoichi. Kisame didn't stand a chance.

He knew he would never fall out of love with Haruno Sakura, but he wouldn't go after her anymore because he promised, he promised her and Itachi and himself that he would get used to how everything worked out, but he couldn't help but play with the idea in his head that she would leave her present lover and run back to him. It was a fool's wish, but then again, Kisame was a fool.

One morning, he entered the kitchen where Deidara and Sasori sat, Tobi bouncing around and protesting something in a loud voice. He didn't pay attention to what the masked boy was complaining about, but then he noticed Sakura and Itachi from the corner of his eye. He turned to them and stopped in his tracks.

Sakura was holding her bag and putting it around her shoulders. She was dressed in her usual shinobi attire instead of the Akatsuki outfit Pein had given her, and although Itachi watched her indifferently, Kisame caught the downcast glimpse hidden behind his Sharingan.

"Hey," he asked everyone in the room, "what's going on?"

"Isn't it obvious, yeah?" Deidara smirked arrogantly for knowing before Kisame even did. "Leader-sama's decided to let the kunoichi go."

Kisame was floored. He guessed it had something to do with that, but he didn't want to believe it. Even though he couldn't get near her anymore, he felt the jab in his heart that protested against her leaving their base for good. What was he supposed to do without her? How was he supposed to go on, knowing she wasn't just down the hall from him? He knew he should've been happy, happy because she was going to see her friends again and go back to being a kunoichi and wasn't going to be around Itachi anymore, but he couldn't help it because he just didn't want to miss her so much.

"Leaving?" he breathed, staring straight at her. She looked aside, unable to meet his gaze. Itachi could only glare at him, being the passive villain he was.

"The Kyuubi and Team Hebi haven't come for her," Sasori said monotonously.

"Yeah," Sakura said, teasing and serious at the same time, glaring mockingly at the puppet master, "because Tsunade-shishou isn't stupid enough to let anyone come get me, not when I can take perfectly good care of myself."

"This coming from the girl who cried when she saw Zetsu for the first time, un?"

"I didn't cry, you idiot."

"Is Sakura-san going to hit Senpai before she goes home?" Tobi asked loudly.

Kisame would have laughed at the everyday conversation, but he couldn't stop himself from frowning given the circumstances. As the others talked, he looked up to meet the red gaze of the Sharingan, which hadn't left him since he came into the room. He didn't have it in him to look away, and his face hardened at the Uchiha's calmness. Itachi was the first to let his eyes stray, but only because Sakura had begun talking to him, asking him to escort her outside the base, and Kisame knew she was going to share a sweeter goodbye with him once away from the prying eyes. He couldn't help but let the familiar feeling of jealousy overflow his thoughts, and he turned to storm away and back to his room where he could pretend again that she was there with him.

"Bye, Kisame-san," Sakura called out to him. She had said it to all the other members too, but he didn't hear any of it. He looked back over his shoulder just in time to catch her eye, but she looked away and let Itachi lead her outside, never once looking back because she didn't have any desire to see him again, mostly because she knew he still loved her. She didn't want him to think about her anymore.

In a moment, she was gone. Kisame walked back down the corridors, the appetite he had before now disappearing. He was going to miss her, miss her more than he always had since she had spent the night with him. His room was usually his solace, the place where everything worked in his favor, but this time everything he saw reminded him of her and he couldn't concentrate. He sat on his futon and sulked.

After all this time, he still loved her. He had kept his promise to her and had left her and Itachi alone, but it was nagging him in the back of his mind that they were both outside and together right at that moment. He didn't know how they would last, if they would love each other forever and find a way to make it work between them, and although he wanted their relationship to fail miserably and break them up forever, he also wanted them to make it to the end.

Because when it came down to it, Itachi made her happy, and he could only hope for Sakura's everlasting happiness in exchange for his.

They have made their exchange.
fin.

...

Author's Note: Been meaning to type this up for a while. I know Kisame/Sakura isn't a popular pairing, but that's a shame, because Kisame is adorbz. Also all them Akatsuki blokes are alive in this story because they are much too gorgeous to die. Clearly.

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