exchange | by kwizten

His suspicions are confirmed.

It is meant to be a simple mission. The kidnapping of Haruno Sakura, the baiting of the Kyuubi, the manipulation of Uchiha Sasuke – a simple plan, albeit uncreative, but one that gets the job done.

And then, very suddenly, things aren't quite as simple anymore.

It has only been a week since Sakura's successful kidnapping, and Kisame is already beginning to notice. The way she flips her hair over her shoulder, the softness of her legs beneath that torn yukata, the length of her neck diving down down down into her collar, the curve of her body just shy of delicate.

Time flies as his eyes and thoughts devour her, and all of a sudden it is a month after she has fallen prey to the Akatsuki.

But he is not the only one watching her now.

He frowns every time he catches them glancing at each other from the corner of their eyes, every time he pins her to the wall by her throat with the bullshit excuse that she needs to be punished for her fiery temper. Kisame's jealous gaze notices each tiny brushing of their fingers, every flush to her cheeks, and forces himself to turn away before the sting in his chest becomes overwhelming.

He considers it a blessing that the remaining Akatsuki members – even Tobi, of all people – do no comment on the growing relationship between the Uchiha and their prisoner. It is bad enough that this strange infatuation is ever present and constantly stifling, and any discussion about it would make it all the more real, all the more painful. His developing feelings for the medic-nin are no secret to anyone but Sakura herself, and perhaps it is best that way because these feelings are surely unrequited. After all, Sakura is a prisoner, although she is too wild to shut up and act like one. She is the student of the Godaime, a legendary Sannin. She is a tiny, fragile slip of a girl who actually helps people – and he is a giant, dangerous beast of a man with an appetite for blood and a sword to match. They are irrevocably different, and pursuing her is pointless.

Itachi, on the other hand, is a better match for her. He understands her references to people and places in Konoha, understands her desperation to see the sunlight instead of this claustrophobic, underground tunnel of a base. His cold, immune attitude is the perfect contrast to her loud, feisty one. And above all, they have a mutual love for the person most dear to them – the great Uchiha Sasuke himself.

At first it is clear that Sakura hates Itachi more than the others. This comes as no surprise, what with all he has done to Naruto, who is her best friend, and Sasuke, who she had loved so very dearly until Itachi decided she was going to love him instead. Yet somehow something between them has flourished, blossomed in this cold, dank cavern despite the lack of smiles and affection and kindness. Kisame does not know how her relationship with Itachi eventually came to be, exactly, but he supposes that the saying is right, and there is indeed a fine line between love and hatred.

He also doesn't know how far their relationship has progressed. No one has ever seen them in an intimate position, has heard them so much as flirt. Regardless it is clear something is going on between them, and Kisame hates it. Instead he focuses all his energy on hope, refusing to believe that that relationship is set in stone. After all, there is no physical evidence, no proof of any deeper relationship, and this is the only thought that keeps him going, that keeps him from beating Itachi to a pulp – if such a thing is even possible.

And then it happens. And all forms of hope are flushed out of him with a gust powerful enough to shake him.

It is late at night. Except for Zetsu, who keeps to himself, Pein and Konan, who are away monitoring Rain, and the traveling duo of Hidan and Kakuzu – most of the other Akatsuki members are still awake. Deidara and Sasori drink in the kitchen and debate over art, and Tobi pesters them at a volume meant for a battlefield. Kisame leaves them be, finding little reason to stay awake if Sakura isn't there to join them.

Barely any alcohol in his system for once, he stalks through tunnel after tunnel in hopes of getting some much-needed sleep. He slaps his hand over his face tiredly, rubs away the headache caused by Tobi's incessant rambling – but then he passes a tightly closed door and drops the hand as though he has been burned, frozen in his tracks.

Itachi has always been the reclusive type. He has never been one to spend time with the other Akatsuki members if he doesn't have to, so Kisame never thinks twice about his whereabouts. As for Sakura, she babysits the drunken members once in a while, but also likes taking walks around the underground base, it being the only form of exercise she is allowed. Kisame has always believed that these two people keep to themselves – he has never once thought they would spend these nights together.

He barely hears them at first, but after some time of motionlessly lurking outside Itachi's bedroom door, it suddenly becomes so very clear to him. Somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind, he thinks to give them some credit; they are doing a very good job at keeping things quiet, after all.

He breaks out into a cold sweat, his eyes wide and mouth parted in shock. It doesn't take long for the soft moans and sweet sighs to settle into his mind. His body tenses into a different form of uneasiness – a creeping, telltale shiver overwhelming him like a disease. His mouth sets deeply in a twisted downturn, his eyes glazing over the door with a depression that could also be called jealousy.

An animalistic urge within him threatens to pounce, to break down that door and stop Itachi from touching the petal-haired kunoichi that doesn't deserve to be his. He wants to rescue her, because she can't have possibly known that she isn't meant to be with Itachi, she just isn't. He wants to hold her and hide her away in his own room, never again to be seen by that blasted Uchiha who can't keep his hands to himself.

But he can't do it.

The sounds seep to the other side of the door and into Kisame's unwilling, defiled ears. He can't move away, can't flee to his room and pretend he's never heard the very obvious lovemaking between his partner and the girl he loves. He is frozen in front of that wretched, cruel door, shaking with anger and passion and jealous and every other emotion he cannot describe but knows he feels.

Itachi doesn't deserve her. But then, neither does Kisame. He has no right to stand in front of someone else's room and listen to what is supposed to be a very private encounter.

She whimpers. How dare she, how dare she make that sound because of that damned Uchiha. That Uchiha who has always been able to have whoever he wants, whenever he wants them. And for him to choose Sakura–

But then there's Kisame. As if any sane girl out there actually wants him. Because why on earth would anyone choose a blue shark of a man instead of a cool, handsome prodigy like Uchiha Itachi? Sakura could have chosen him, he knew she could have. If only Itachi hadn't made it a point to win her over, if only Itachi hadn't been so persistent, if only Itachi had just left her alone, if if if only.

But even then, he wonders, would Sakura have been able to open her heart to him at all?

He is shaken out of his self-pitying thoughts at the soft bumping sounds against Itachi's futon. His ears pick up the almost unearthly sound of Itachi's own groaning, perfectly – goddammit, so perfectly – harmonizing with Sakura's.

Kisame scowls. He backs away from the door much too slowly, his skin quivering with the poison of bloodlust and heartbreak. He wishes it were him in there. He wonders what she looks like, if her rosette hair is sprawled over the pillows, face flushed, eyes glazed over in passion. He wonders if she is fully bare, or if Itachi has been too impatient. He wonders why Itachi is the one who gets to know all these answers, what it was that made him deserve this.

He hears her gasp, her breaths almost strangled and caught in her throat, and it is so very clear what is happening. Seconds later, Itachi has a similar reaction. Kisame can't handle these after-sounds, the panting and loving words passed between the two, and out of nowhere he feels like a bullet, a jolt of energy within him bursting at the seams and electrifying him enough to scare him back to his quarters like a child. As quietly as he can, which he is certain cannot be that quiet at all, he bursts into his room and shuts the door as quickly as possible. He tries to block out as many sounds as he can, but it is pointless because they keep swimming through his head, swimming swimming swimming, dizzying him into a fit of emotion.

He falls to his knees, his large blue hands grasping his head tightly, nails digging into his callused skin enough to make him bleed, bleed a dark red color that he is certain his blood is because he is human, he is. Like everyone else, he is prone to the same emotions, the same heartache that anyone else can possibly feel, and yet he can't imagine anyone feeling worse.

All is lost.

Surely Sakura has let Itachi do this to her. She is powerful, powerful enough to stop him if she wants to, but she doesn't – she lets him go on and on and on. He tries not to think about it, but he can't help but wonder how many times they've done this before, how many times they've been together, how long Kisame has denied the relationship between the two when it is just so fucking obvious what has been going on, that he doesn't stand a chance.

If only he could have the power to weep, but instead he is a member of the Akatsuki and cannot find the tears. So he can only sit there, sit and replay the sounds in his head, putting pictures to words, and wish, just wish, that he can find a way to shut everything out for good.

She couldn't be more clueless.

"Ugh, I swear," Sakura growls, "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 whines, "is wrong with this conversation, yeah? Just because you have nothing to say about it—"

"Hey," she scowls, "at least it's better than saying the same thing over and over. Sheesh. Talk about a broken record…"

"No point in trying, Haruno," Kisame speaks up, his usual arrogant tone deeper and more serious than usual. It has been only twenty-four hours since he'd passed the door that he wishes would just burn and blow up into a thousand pieces or more. He downs his saucer of sake, in desperate need of a pick-me-up. If he drinks enough, he thinks he can pass out properly, and after yesterday's sleepless night, he can really use the rest.

A whole day has passed and he has yet to make eye contact with her. He is lucky enough to avoid Itachi, who even now is currently in his bedroom, alone this time, thank god. If anyone has noticed Kisame's strange behavior, no one mentions it out loud. These are members of the Akatsuki. They have better things to do than keep up with the romantic triangle centered around their very own prisoner.

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

Kisame can pratically hear her weak smile, and he so wants to look at her doing it, but he knows that once he looks there is no stopping. Even after witnessing the awkward events the night before, he can't stop his heart from pounding whenever she's around. If anything, he wants her more than ever. He refuses to give her up to Itachi, he refuses.

But in front of everyone? No, he can't. And she is so obviously taken with that bastard Uchiha, to the point that she would reject him soundly with excuses so genuine he couldn't be mad at her for it. In any case it would be foolish to confess to her after everything that's happened, everything he's witnessed.

"And what's the point of that?" she sighs. "Even if you try to talk about something else, everything will always lead right back to art."

"Tobi likes art!"

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

Sakura throws a look at Sasori. "See what I mean?" She stands with a roll of her eyes, walking right past Kisame who shivers because he can almost, almost feel her brushing against him, but of course she doesn't and he is just fooling himself, as always. He knows the others have seen his reaction to her, but he refuses to look, instead focusing on the cup that is once again full of clear alcohol, already dulling his senses.

She stands beside the counter for a while, hearing water flowing from the tap in the sink.

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

Deidara snorts 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 doesn't hear Sasori's response, but even if he had, he doubts he would care. The alcohol is making him dazed, his senses diluting. Sakura finishes whatever it is she was doing, and is now walking back to her seat at the Western-style table. Her footsteps sound five times louder than they really are, and he is already off balance because of it.

Then, of course, she has to go and make it worse.

Kisame jolts, his chair suddenly pushed a little forward. "Oh, sorry!" Sakura cries, having bumped into it on her way back, and Kisame can't help it, can't help but look up in shock at her face, twisted in surprise like his, a standard Fuji apple in her hand. He is right; he can't find it in himself to look away now that he's glanced at her again. He blames it on the alcohol for having made him lose control – and it was going so well before.

He had been depriving himself of looking at her. She is lovelier than he remembers her being yesterday, that pink hair still swaying against her shoulder blades and those green eyes the color of glass bottles, so full of the life Itachi has given her.

Everyone is watching him again. The sudden noise of the screeching chair has made the others look up, and now that he's acting like an idiot again, they watch him stare. She is as clueless as ever, sitting back down and taking a bit of that apple, that damned fruit that makes her look even more delectable than the snack itself.

"Quit crying, Tobi," Deidara bares his teeth at the masked Uchiha, ignoring the sudden intensity surrounding the blue-skinned Akatsuki. After all, Kisame's problems are his own, and the Akatsuki is hardly a family that looks out for each other.

"He's upset because you're hitting him," Sakura says matter-of-factly, like her lips so the juice doesn't drip. Of course she doesn't notice Kisame watching her, not like everyone else does. And even after she finishes cleaning herself up and continues munching away, he keeps staring at her mouth, the mouth he knows Itachi has been lucky enough to bruise.

Everything she does excites him. He tightens his hand around his cup, looking away to pour himself yet another drink, but he loses his concentration and lets the sake overflow. He doesn't utter a sound, and Sakura has turned to look at the others and doesn't see his slip up. Paying no notice to the other members at the table, he tilts his saucer back and swallows the vile rice liquid, which burns although he is used to how strong it tastes, but then again everything always burns and repels him and stops him from getting what he wants.

"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 wants to go back to his room and pass out, but he also doesn't want to leave, not until Sakura does because he rarely gets to spend time with her anymore, not since Itachi forced her to be distracted by him instead.

He doesn't have to wait long for her to retire to bed. It seems like days as he watches her finish her midnight snack, core and all, and she quickly sucks on her sticky fingers and wipes them on her yukata, the yukata that is black with red clouds and sharply contrasts to her hair and eyes, but still she looks so beautiful because there is no way she could look anything but, not to him.

"Whatever," she responds to someone's remark – whose it was, he doesn't know. He has stopped listening to the conversation by now, focusing all his attention on what really matters. She stands again and still he can't tear his eyes away, which is a bad sign because surely he is losing his mind, to the sake if anything, and he can't trust himself when he isn't thinking straight. "I'm going to bed. Night, everyone."

Everyone stops their debating and childish fighting momentarily to say their surprisingly civil goodnights, but he keeps silent and just watches her walk away, his blurry eyes glued to every single part of her, none of which is meant for him because she is walking away now, probably to Itachi's room where he will be allowed to taste the Fuji on her tongue.

It is minutes later, and Deidara, Sasori and Tobi continue their conversation, Kisame still staring at the empty doorway through which Sakura has made her exit. He keeps hoping and hoping she will walk back into the kitchen and decide not to see her boyfriend or whatever he is to her, but she doesn't come, not even after Kisame finishes his bottle of sake and shoves his cup away.

He can't find the words to say anything when he finally gets up to head to his own room, but he is still hesitant to do so because he will have to pass Itachi's quarters yet again, and he thinks he will probably die if he has to deal with that heartbreak again. A master of drunken perverseness, he doesn't sway or topple over, but instead walks in a straight line towards the black tunnels that ultimately lead him to his quarters. He is unfocused and doesn't notice he is being followed until he is already halfway down the hall.

"Well?" Kisame turns around slowly, scowls at the familiar eye scope and crooked grin that isn't even a grin anymore, and turns back around so as not to face the disappointment on the kid's face. He hasn't even taken a single step before the blonde continues, "You have to tell Itachi."

"I don't have to do anything," he finally says, one of the few things he's dared to speak all night. His speech isn't slurred, but cool and collected, even though those are the last two things he's been feeling as of late.

"You think he doesn't know, un?" Deidara narrows his eyes as though the gravity of the moment has pulled down his brow, and Kisame decides the look suits him because he is a member of the Akatsuki, and all members need 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 says nothing because he cannot. He says nothing because he knows Deidara is right, because he knows Itachi must have sensed him on the other side of his bedroom door last night and enjoyed putting Kisame in his place. And when Pein decides to give Itachi and Kisame a mission again, nothing will be right and Kisame will end up distracted and fucked up even more than he already is, and Itachi will do away with him quickly so the shark will just leave his precious Haruno Sakura alone.

Deidara continues calling out to him, but Kisame ignores him and walks away at his slow and steady pace that is not quite fast enough to miss that ruddy door entirely. He makes sure to focus intensely on his own thoughts to avoid hearing anything else, and it works like a charm.

Again in his room, he collapses onto his futon and allows the darkness to overcome him.

He becomes protective.

It is days later, and Zetsu has taken Sakura out for a bit of fresh air, something she hasn't had in ages. At first the others had been nervous about letting her out into the open, but soon they remember it is Zetsu who is babysitting her, and she of course wouldn't dare put herself at risk of becoming his dinner. All the same, Kisame is certain she won't run, not with Itachi waiting for her inside.

He never forgets what Deidara has told him, not even years later when everything blows over, for the most part. He decides to finally confront his stone-cold partner while Sakura is out, because he knows he wouldn't be able to take it if she overhears, not when he is so positive what her answer to his confession would be.

He is sure Itachi is prepared for him, knows he is coming for a visit, but that doesn't matter, not anymore. By the time he gets to the bedroom door and finds himself haunted by all the trouble it's put him through lately, he can't even bring himself to touch it with his bare fingers. He kicks it in a knocking rhythm instead, ignoring the blazing fact that he will still eventually have to touch it if he wants to go inside. Itachi says nothing in response, but Kisame knows he is there. He looks down and lets himself in.

The room is dark, as every other room in this dungeon of a hideout is, except it is even darked than usual, the only light coming from the blood red gaze of the Sharingan. Kisame doesn't even care to know if he's under a genjutsu or not. He has only come here to talk, after all.

"Mind a light?" he says coolly, not waiting for the answer that refuses to be said, and instead flicks on a light switch that makes the two tiny bulbs on the ceiling flow faintly. It is silent for a moment, and he is at loss of what to say next. Itachi has always made him a little uncomfortable, even though they are partners. But luckily he doesn't have to say anything at all.

"This is about Sakura," Itachi says rather than asks.

"Yes. I love her."

Itachi doesn't shy away, and Kisame feels a dread as heavy as being submerged into an icy lake, even that shouldn't be such a big deal for a shark-man like him. "I don't care," the Uchiha glares smoothly, and Kisame takes a step back, expecting the emotion but not expecting it to be said out loud.

"She's just your toy," he says bravely, much braver than he feels because he is still in the same room as the Mangekyou and doesn't want to push it. "Why should she stay with you?"

The Uchiha prodigy does not respond, be he isn't expected to. He blinks once, twice, three times at his partner, who flinches at the intense stare but refuses to back down because once he gives up, there is no turning back. If he cannot prove how much he deserves her, Itachi will never give her up, and he will be left alone for good because he knows he can never find anyone who is half the woman she is.

His blood begins to boil. It isn't fair, it isn't fair that Uchiha Itachi – the assassin, the spy, the double agent who murdered his very own family – it isn't fair that he gets whatever he wants and Kisame is stuck with all the leftovers, if anything at all. He can't imagine how Sakura has fallen for someone as insufferable as him. But he can show her, he can show her how wrong she is to pick Itachi because he can never make her happy, but Kisame can, he knows he can, if only she gives him a chance.

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

"That's right," Itachi confirms in a way that makes Kisame hate him, that makes him want to slice and shred him with the Samehada that has been left wrapped up and in his room. "I intended for you to know."

"Why?" His voice doesn't sound like his own. It is strangled and defeated, and he knows it is pointless to have come here when the only thing he'll gain is more jealousy than he is prepared for.

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

The shark growls. "Is there a problem with that?" He slouches defensively, not defending from an attack but instead from the words that are certain to destroy him. "She isn't yours."

Itachi smirks in that way of his, the way Kisame hates more than ever. "You're wrong."

He is outraged, losing his composure immediately. "What the hell did you just say?" he cries. "She isn't some fucking piece of plastic with your name on it! What makes you think she belongs to you?" He yells because he knows the answer, because he knows Itachi is right and he does have her, whether he likes it or not. Itachi remains silent, an he takes advantage of it like a true shinobi. "Does she love you? Has she ever said she does? You don't actually believe that she could, do you? A bastard like you, who couldn't care for anyone other than himself?" He is whining, he knows, throwing a fit like a child who can't get the toy he wants, but Kisame couldn't care less because Itachi isn't moving or showing any reaction at all, allowing himself to be a verbal punching bag for the weak words that mean nothing. "You're just using her. You couldn't possibly love her. You think this is funny? You think you can just use her like a fucking whore—"

Although Itachi hasn't so much as blinked, he has to have been affected because currently Kisame can no longer breathe. Itachi looks livid, angry, as though he could very easily slice him in two, which he probably could. If anything, Kisame does not expect this.

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

Kisame gasps for breath, but does not struggle under his partner's hold. He doesn't know why he is letting himself get strangled, but he doesn't care. The pain in his neck distracts him from the pain of other things. "Don't tell me," he sputters lowly, "don't tell me you actually love her too."

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

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

"She doesn't love you." The shark's eyes widen, not because he is suffocating, not because Itachi has so obviously avoided the question, but because he has to hear the words that have been spinning in his head for months now, words he knows are true but damn it he never wanted to admit them. "She never will love you. It would be wise to stay away from her."

"Damn it…" Kisame squeezes his eyes shut, tries to disappear, wishes the darkness would just swallow him whole and blind him forever so he won't have to wake up and accept this truth, the truth that Sakura can never be his, that they will never be together. "Damn it! Damn it!"

It is then that he realizes he is insecure. He, a loud, dangerous member of the Akatsuki. He has allowed his own partner to get the better of him. He can hardly remember why he approached his partner in the first place; he wishes 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 wants to disappear. He wants to shrivel up and hide in a closet so no one will have to waste their pity on him.

His prayers for the end are not answered, but this is probably for the best. Itachi releases his throat and he slumps against the wall, his skin now the palest of blues, still nothing near the smooth color and flawless complexion of a normal human being. He pants for breath, the breath he doesn't want to take but does anyway because he cannot help himself. He just wants to rest, to let his heart settle so he doesn't have to think about his problems anymore, doesn't have to think of the pink-headed Sakura who has plagued his thoughts for months now, even before her kidnapping, back when she was just a means to an end for their organization and its plans.

"Get out," Itachi's deep voice rings in his ears, and suddenly Kisame remembers the way his partner had sounded when sighing in passion, in the melody of the song that was Sakura's cries, the cries he so desperately wants to keep for himself. His eyes dart to the futon in the corner, to the strands of pink hair that lay on the pillows, and he bolts, running out of Itachi's room and straight to his own like a coward.

This is the room where he finds his solace now, where he catches his breath, where he thinks of Sakura and how much lovelier she would be if she were on his futon and tangled with his own limbs. This is the room. This is the godforsaken room.

She succumbs without warning.

That night, there is a knock on his door.

Kisame curses under his breath. How dare anyone try to intrude, how dare anyone try to interrupt him from feeling sorry for himself. He's been in his room for hours now and has missed his meals and the usual sake, but he doesn't expect anyone to be worried about him. He thinks he deserves to wallow in his own remorse without a disturbance.

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

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

He stares, his livid expression now morphed into surprise. He can't imagine why she's even bothering. In any case, she shouldn't know where his room is located, and she should be with Itachi right now, shouldn't she? But it doesn't matter – she is here and that is all he cares about, all he's wanted.

"Haruno," he starts, voice dry, and he clears his throat to try again. "What do you want? Need something?" His voice isn't kind, isn't soft, but there is a tenderness in his gruff tone that he's sure she notices.

She nervously plays with her fingers, linked in front of her at the waist, but there is a look in her eyes he has never seen before. There is unease and confusion, the strongest emotion easily the utter power and confidence in her stare. Her eyes dart around the room, and she doesn't look exactly pleased. "Could I come in?" she asks once she regains her composure.

"What for?" He wants to slap himself the second he says it. After all this time, after all he the pretending and dreaming and craving, and here he is pushing her away. He is as ashamed to deny her as he is for pursuing her in the first place. He is a shinobi, an S-class nin, and yet he is unguarded, his emotions getting the better of him. As an apology for his brashness, he moves to the side and holds the door open for her, allowing her into his sacred, treasured, comfort of a room.

And she is in his room.

"Look, I'm sorry if I'm intruding—"

"It's fine."

"It's just that—" She pauses to swallow, using the awkward silence to her own advantage. She turns away and walks around the room. It is mostly empty, but she seems more interested in her surroundings than in their conversation. She has something to say, he can tell, but it is hard for her. She strolls around the room's perimeter, slowly and with a critical eye. He watches her sneak a glance at Samehada in the corner, the bareness of the walls, and at last at the futon lying in the middle of the room, the only white thing in the darkness.


"Itachi had a talk with me today."

So that's it, then. Kisame pales; his partner doesn't know how to keep a secret. There is no doubt about it – Itachi has told her everything. The only thing he can't understand is why he waited so long to tell her. That damn Uchiha. He should've known this was going to happen, that he couldn't have hidden his love for her forever, that Itachi will do anything just to get rid of Kisame once and for all. "…Ah, did he?"

She nods slowly, just a slight inclination of her head that he barely notices. She won't make eye contact with him, and instead just walks and walks around and around. And still he finds her stunning.

"Why didn't you say something?" she asks softly. "Why didn't you just tell me?"

"What would you have done if I did?" He sounds braver than he feels, his heart beating uncontrollably, his brain barely functioning because his life is over: she is going to reject him properly now and that will be the end of it. There will be no hope left. Itachi has already won.

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

He doesn't know why he listens to her. He doesn't know why he doesn't just deny everything and sends her back to Itachi. Maybe it has to do with how close she is, how his demon-like senses easily pick up her scene, the hypnotizing aroma that is simply Sakura. He doesn't know. But he does as she asks:

"I love you, Sakura."

Before he has time to think, time to berate himself about how stupid he is being, she leaps at him. She pulls him down by his shirt, black like everything else, and crashes his mouth to hers in a single movement.

He can barely breathe, and he loves the feeling. His eyes widen, poring through the darkness at the light this is her pink hair, and he stops thinking. His mind shuts down and all he knows is her. She is there, she is right in front of him, and she has kissed him.

Nothing in the world could possibly matter.

He pushes toward her, his eyelids drooping as he moves closer and closer still, kissing her back with as much passion as he can muster because this is his chance, this is his chance to win her affection. He has never tasted anything so divine. Her frail hand releases him, grasping instead at his jaw. With a blissful sigh into her mouth, he raises his large, rough hands to frame her face and hold her tighter. It is much too soon when she pulls away, but he cannot stop the foolish grin rising past his cheekbones.

"Sakura, I—"

"How much do you love me, Kisame?"

"You have no idea," he rasps, still holding her close. "I couldn't say." Because words can never describe how he feels for her, and with his muddled mind and foggy disposition, it is too difficult to try.

"And what," she says, staring straight into his beady eyes that he knows are nothing compared to Itachi's glistening ones, "what would you do…for one night me?"

His grin slips. She is looking at him and she is completely serious.

But…but she is the one who kissed him. She should be more excited, should be smiling stupidly like he is. "I don't understand."

Her eyes dart away from his face, fidgeting and stealing glances at the door behind him, reaching around him to click the lock shut. Even afterwards, she stares longingly at it, as though this is the last place she ever wants to be. "I want to make a deal with you," she mutters once she gets the courage to look back up at him.

His grin has been completely wiped off his face by now. This is not how he imagined this scenario, not how he imagined the aftermath of their first kiss. She looks uncomfortable and seductive at the same time, her mouth curved into a pout and her cheeks flushed.


Her tone is shaky and strong all at once, and he is not prepared to hear her response. "I'll give you myself for the entire night. You can do whatever you wish to do to me, but in exchange I…" She gulps and straightens her mouth into a straight line. "I want you to forget about me."

Kisame's fingers spread apart, his muscles growing tense in complete and utter shock. "What?" he asks more to himself than to her. She does not repeat herself. He doesn't know how to feel. He is excited, ecstatic, overwhelmed because she is offering herself to him willingly – if it can be called willingly – and he can have a piece of what he has always wanted: her on his futon, his and not Itachi's. His blood is already beginning to rush through his veins, his blue face tinting a sickly red as all his dreams and fantasies rush back to mind – and they can all come true right now.

But then again, she is only offering this for a single night. When it is over, they will never be able to speak about what has happened between them. They can never be comfortable around each other anymore, and he will be forced to watch her live the rest of her life with Itachi or someone else, someone who isn't him, but because he will have tasted the forbidden fruit, he will have the knowledge, the memories of being intertwined with her body and having her all to himself for this one night. And in the morning, everything will be over for good. It is only going to hurt more if he touches her again. But still, here she is, giving herself to him like a wrapped up gift, and he isn't sure he will ever get a chance like this again.

His desire for her drives him insane. He knows he can never be happy with her, that he can never go a day without mourning the loss of this one person, this one girl he has ever been capable of loving. But somehow it doesn't matter to him, not when she is right there, staring at him and waiting for him to answer. He wants her so badly, so he gives in because he needs one more taste. One last taste.

He stays silent, but his eyes tell her everything. He knows she understands. She gazes into his eyes because he refuses to look away, and without breaking contact, she reaches behind his head and unties his defiled hitai-ate. It falls to the floor with a clank as he leans closer to her, his mouth parted with longing, and she unties her black and red yukata, lets it fall open.

His eyes ravish her form, completed bare underneath the clothes he does not push off her shoulders, his large hands instead stroking her flat stomach and trailing to rest on her hips. He relishes in the silky feel of her skin beneath his heavy fingertips, and he steps closer to her until he is able to push her back to the center o the room, lying her onto his futon, which has never felt quite so soft.

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

He'll tell her he forgets, but he knows it'll be a lie. Perhaps she knows this as well. He can't forget her even if he tries, but he won't tell her that because she doesn't want to hear it. She doesn't even want to be here. She doesn't want him at all. But he has her, and all because she offers. For this one night, she will belong solely to Kisame.

He climbs on top of her, leaning close and allowing his gaze to linger on every inch of her. Her rosette hair splays out beneath her head, transforming into a halo that temps him until he strokes the tresses in captivation. He rests his forehead against hers, all his pent up love and desire flowing through his gaze like a river, and he just stares, stares because he needs her to know just how dear she is to him.

With the hand caressing her hair, he tilts her head back, pressing his thin mouth against hers so tightly that she groans in protest – he misunderstands this groan, or perhaps pretends as though he does, instead thinking of it as a moan of pleasure. His other hand gropes her wildly, dancing up and down her body before he pauses and cups the back of her neck. Probing her mouth, he tries to taste all he can so he will be unable to forget the flavor, and his actions grow a bit rougher as she begins to respond. He is certain she is only kissing him back because she knows he wants it, but he tries not to think about it. In his mind, he pretends she actually wants him closer.

"Sakura," he moans into her softly. Like Itachi, he doesn't want to make much noise. On this rare night, he wants no interruptions.

She bravely tugs on his clothes, and in moments they are both completely bare. And now she looks frightened, but he pretends not to see the gleam in her eyes, the gleam that is the opposite of desire. Instead he places open-mouthed kisses against her throat so he doesn't have to look at her expression. He bites and tears at her skin like every other shark ever would, doing whatever it takes to leave his mark even though he knows she will just heal it away in the morning. She reluctantly strokes his blue, chiseled chest, and a shiver rakes up his spine deliciously.

Passionate sounds leave him often, plenty more than she makes, but he knows she is trying. He sometimes steals glances at her face, and is pleased to see that she does eventually begin to enjoy it, at least a little. Whatever the case, whether she is imagining the Uchiha down the hall or just letting herself get caught up in the moment, he keeps moving. Her body is hot under his touch, and eventually she reaches around him and rakes her nails against his back. He leaves chaste kisses against her shoulder, and feels her leave soft ones on his in return. She is kind-hearted, doing what she doesn't want just to sate him.

It isn't long before Kisame cannot help himself anymore. He needs her too badly, craves her too much. Crushing his lips to hers again, he strokes her flushed cheek tenderly.

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

She seems surprised, her eyes snapping open and boring into his. She asks no questions, but does hesitate. But he is desperate. He can't go any further if she can't say it.

"Please, Sakura." Her hand stops moving against his hip, grasping onto it anxiously. He knows what she's thinking, but doesn't linger on the thought. He doesn't want to think about Itachi at all, not now.

Stalling, she reaches up to kiss him sweetly, running a few fingers through his hair to distract him. When she is finished, she can't meet his eyes, can't lie straight to his face, but still reluctantly obeys with shifting eyes.

"I love you, Kisame."

He doesn't care how false it is because she has said it. Just hearing it once is all he needs. When she is gone from him forever, he can always drift back to this memory, the memory of how beautiful and soft and perfect it sounds coming from her.

He takes her for the first of many times. She is obedient and sweet, the purest kunoichi he's ever known although he's heard proof otherwise. It isn't until later in the night, when the sun begins to rise outside the dark, windowless base and Sakura is finally allowed to drift away to sleep, when he lets himself remember his misery, burying his nose into her hair and pulling her close to his chest.

And he realizes he isn't quite ready to give her back to Itachi.

His stubborn grip does not subside.

Weeks later, he learns Itachi had been the one to suggest the night in the first place. Kisame never asks him why – he'd made the realization on his own – but he guesses it was meant to get rid of him.

It makes a lot of sense then, why she had been so hesitant to sleep with him. Although he tries to deny it, he knows she has already fallen in love with Itachi. It is a good match, since Itachi is in love with her too.

Despite it all, Kisame cannot get over her. If anything, he has fallen even deeper down the pit that is her indifference. He has gone back to calling her Haruno because he has no more right to refer to her by name; that familiarity only belongs to Itachi now.

He had been right: it had hurt when she ran back to him, but there is nothing he can do about it. And now it's been months since that night; now everyone acknowledges the seriousness of her and Itachi's relationship. Kisame doesn't stand a chance anymore. Maybe he never did.

He knows he can never fall out of love with Haruno Sakura, but he won't go after her anymore either because he'd promised, promised her and Itachi and himself that he'd get used to how everything works out, but he can't help but play with the idea in his head that she'll leave her present lover and run back into his arms, his bed. It is a fool's wish, but then again, Kisame is a fool.

One morning, he enters the kitchen where Deidara and Sasori sit, Tobi bouncing around and protesting loudly. He pays no attention to the masked boy, but then notices Sakura and Itachi from the corner of his eye. He turns to them and stops in his tracks.

She is holding a bag and putting it around her shoulders, dressed in her usual shinobi attire instead of the Akatsuki outfit Pein's given her, and although Itachi watches indifferently, Kisame catches his downcast glimpse lurking beneath the Sharingan.

"Hey," he asks the room, "what's going on?"

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

Speechless. He'd guessed it was something along these lines, but also does not want to believe it. Even though he can't go near her anymore, stands little to no chance no matter what the circumstance, he feels the jab deep in his chest. He doesn't know how to live without her nearby, doesn't know how to survive in this bunker without knowing she is just down the hall. He knows he should be happy, happy that she gets to see her friends again and go back to being a kunoichi and to get away from Itachi finally, but somehow this hardly makes the emptiness go away.

"Leaving?" he breathes, staring straight at her. She looks away, unable to meet his gaze, but Itachi can only glare back at him like the passive villain he is.

"The Kyuubi and Team Hebi haven't come for her," Sasori says monotonously, as though kidnapping her hasn't just been a waste of time, as though she has just been on vacation instead of being kept prisoner by a band of murderers. She's wormed her way into everyone's lives somehow, miraculously, and is leaving unscathed for reasons none of them care to explain.

"Yeah," Sakura says, teasing and serious at the same time as she glares mockingly at the puppet master, "because Tsunade-shishou isn't stupid enough to let anyone come rescue 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 squeals.

Kisame would have laughed at the everyday conversation, but his heart isn't in it this time. He can't stop the frown in his brow as the others chit chat like this is a casual and temporary parting.

While they're all distracted, he looks up to meet the scarlet gaze of the Sharingan, which haven't left him since he walked through the door. He doesn't have it in him to look away, but he does stiffen at the Uchiha's calm disposition.

Itachi is the first to let his eyes stray, but only because Sakura has begun talking to him, asking him to escort her out the base, and Kisame knows she is going to share a sweeter goodbye with her lover once they are away from prying eyes. He can't help but let the swarm of jealousy devour him, so he turns to run away and flee back to his room where he can pretend once again that she is with him.

"Bye, Kisame-san," she calls out to him. She's said it to everyone else as well, but he doesn't hear any of it. He peeks over his shoulder just in time to catch her eye, but she turns away and lets Itachi lead her away, never once looking back because she has no desire to see him again, because she knows he still loves her. She simply doesn't want him to think of her any longer.

Within a moment, she is gone.

He walks back down the corridors, the appetite from before ghosting away like a whisper. He'll miss her, miss her far more than he's used to, more than he's missed her since their fleeting one-night affair. His room has always been his solace, the place where everything has worked in his favor, but this time everything simply reminds him of her. He slinks to his futon and sulks.

After all this time, he still loves her. He's kept his promise and left her alone, but the nagging in the back of his mind, the thought of her and Itachi together outside, still eats at him.

He doesn't know how long they'll last, if they'll love each other forever and find a way to make things work, or if they'll move past this and look back on it as a less-than-casual fling, a stage in their youth. The larger part of him wants their relationship to fail miserably, for them to break up and be apart forever, but a small chunk of his conscience, the human bit of him deep within the beast, hopes just a little that they will make it to the end.

Because when it comes down to it, Itachi makes her happy. And he can only hope for Sakura's everlasting happiness in exchange for his.

They have made their exchange.

A/N: Kisame/Sakura isn't exactly a popular pairing, but that's a shame because Kisame is adorbz (not this story's version of Kisame obviously, because he's kind of a creep). In any case AkatsukiItachi/Sakura stories can be sooo cliché, and I figure it's time to mix it up and give an alternate perspective for once. Also all them Akatsuki blokes are alive in this story because they are much too gorgeous to die...clearly.

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