A fairly short little oneshot I've been writing on and off for a couple of months. Written because I wanted some practice with Kisame's character, and also because ritachi wanted some KisaIta moments, which I have so far been unable to provide in my current fic Pretense. Basically, it's a glimpse of the Kisame-Itachi partner/friendship relationship (not yaoi!), with perspectives from both sides. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Ownership of all and any things Naruto denied.
End in Sight
End in Sight
He jolted upwards onto his elbows, the mattress sinking under his spasmodically arching back. Stars of agony were flashing in his vision, obstructing his already fuzzy view of the ceiling. Needles were roving mercilessly in his eye sockets, the pain spiking more intensely every second.
It was difficult to remember a time when he had liked mornings.
He rolled smoothly off the bed, making out the rumpled sheets and visible head of his partner in the next cot. Trying to focus was akin to having bullets shot into his gaze, so he made his way to the bathroom, refusing to walk any faster or slower than usual. His shoulder brushed the doorway as he strode in, and he couldn't deny the miscalculation, however slight.
He leaned over the sink, feeling the chips in the metal with his fingers but unable to visualize them. His reflection blurred in the mirror, every feature that had once been a detail melding back into two unforgiving, burning spots of crimson. He hated the colour red more every time he looked at himself.
An excruciating twinge brought him back to the immediate problem, and he twisted the faucet with a quick wrist flick, cranking the temperature to cold. He cupped his hands, waiting for them to fill, then splashed the handful onto his face. The freezing water felt like acid. He repeated the process until the unbearable fire in his sight had faded to a steady smouldering.
Outside the bathroom, two small white eyes surrounded by a wrinkled sea of blue skin were wide open, their bulky owner hefting himself into a sitting position. He tossed the covers off unceremoniously, reaching toward the blinds. He had pulled them up halfway, the room illuminating with a generous contribution of sun from the newborn dawn, when he heard the water running.
He let them drop back down.
The elements swirled ferociously around the battlefield, nature hardly separable from war as thunder crashed in harmony with the clash of steel and the wind howled accompaniment to the screams. He dodged another blow, wondering if he was fighting a person or a natural disaster. At this speed, in this desperate wilderness of combat, it was impossible to tell.
Uchiha Itachi hated battles. He didn't hate violence, but he hated battles. He wasn't a thrill-seeker, and exhilaration died with experience anyway. There was nothing he liked about this frenzied mêlée - he disliked even, or perhaps especially, the fact that it was leaning heavily in his favour. The difference between a slaughter and a fight, for Itachi, was that a fight posed a challenge. This was supposedly a fight, with his criminal partner backing him, each taking on the appropriate share of enemies. But there was no challenge; the entire scenario was a well-oiled machine, each function performing perfectly as it should.
If that was the case, he would win. But he knew that already, a dispassionate knowledge learned from a past that was a textbook.
Lightning blazed, not on the borders of the horizon as they usually did, but seemingly directly in front of him. An impromptu firework of flaming sparks shot up from the stricken tree, eclipsed immediately by a blinding flash. He blinked rapidly, successfully erasing the hampering lights from his line of vision, but the stress on his eyes caused a flare of agony that would not recede so easily. His mind lost precious seconds as it grappled with the repercussions of pain, and he paid for the time as he felt metal skim his shoulder.
Blood seeped into the ripped edges of his cloak, corroding the stitches in the fabric, as he hurled a handful of kunai in return, their flight clipped and deadly precise. He heard, very faintly, the soft thud of a body hitting leaves.
"Who's not dead yet?" The naturally loud tone was somehow a source of calm amid the storm, as was the weighty presence of Hoshigaki Kisame as he landed at Itachi's side. Rainwater dripped from the shark-nin's teeth as he bared them in an animalistic grin.
Itachi concentrated, and, sensing no other threats in the vicinity, confirmed. "It is finished."
"Ah, well," Kisame said, mockingly regretful, "it was fun while it lasted."
Kisame's narrow nostrils flared as he sniffed, detecting a rare tang through the smoky scent of burnt tree stumps and frizzy vibrations in the lightning-infused air. "Itachi-san..." he said, turning to face his partner, round white eyes jumping a little closer to his wrinkled brow, "you're bleeding."
Itachi said nothing, simply raising his head a bit higher so that rain bounced off his forehead and into his eyes, blurring the world even more. When he closed his eyelids, he could feel that constant pain pulsing behind them, veins straining to bring blood to his spent optical nerves. He deactivated his Sharingan slowly - it was harder each time, as if his body just wanted to go blind and be done with it. Neither he nor Kisame had ever needed to state the obvious before, but things were changing. He was changing.
In those deadened black orbs, Kisame could see the tiredness and despair that a numbed mind and body couldn't feel, and he looked away in silence.
Kisame finally admitted to himself that yes, he'd really believed Uchiha Itachi was invincible.
It wasn't all that strange a misconception; a prodigy since birth, the favoured heir of one of Konoha's most prominent and powerful ninja clans, a cold, resilient heart and a silver shield that hid its stains so well. But still, Kisame was a harsh criminal and a harsher man, and he figured he knew about as much about death as anyone who hadn't personally experienced it could. Enough, anyway, to know that no one could escape it. But he'd lost that objectiveness a long time ago, and had been fooled by those cunning, killer eyes.
His partner didn't look any more peaceful in death than he ever had in life; he was muddied, scarred, bloodied by battle. His outline was impressed into the gritty terrain, flattening it into a dry, red mess underneath him, his thin arms tattooed with dozens of bruising, battering designs drawn in deep under the pale skin. His smooth black hair, no longer tied back, was rough and filth-encrusted as it splayed out on the ground.
He looked old and careworn as he lay there, all the premature wrinkles on his face plain to see, emphasized by the sun's bright light, sweat evaporating on his brow where it had dripped from his forehead protector, every muscle from the neck above strained as he must have fought his last breath.
And then, of course, there were his eyes, never leaving him alone.
They were still open, full of the black that had become so much less familiar than the red over the years. Blood, a darker shade than the scarlet irises he remembered, created tainted tear streaks down his sallow cheeks. They were slitted against the pain, its lingering traces still evident in that narrow, blank gaze.
Kisame was crouching by the body now, bending over and staring unabashedly into those eyes, as nobody had ever dared to do during that tragic, violent lifetime. He half-expected them to begin to swirl into crimson, to ensnare him in their deadly trap and wring out his mind until only sodden rags were left. But they were perfectly still, unblinking, no longer needing to conceal the secrets that didn't matter anymore. No longer needing to fight.
Kisame hadn't said goodbye once in his life, and he wasn't about to start now. He didn't fly by night; he stuck around for those last meetings with the rare things he cared about. But he never said the words, stopped even thinking them after a while. Leaving was a guarantee for someone like him, and for someone like Itachi too. But the silence was more awkward than it ever had been when his partner was alive.
"That's it, then..." he said, then paused. "...Itachi-san."
It was a bit more closing, at least, to a life with so many dawns and dusks and long, long nights, and he felt stronger for it, in a way that all his muscles and training couldn't do. He raised one large hand and carefully, clumsily, closed the frail lids over those two sunken eyes.
It was time, he decided, to give them a rest.
A/N: Ah, Itachi. That guy has about as much knowledge, or caring, about what's good for him as his little brother does. And it seems to me that Kisame was one of the few things in his life that he didn't maim or twist. He fell pretty hard, but we all knew it would happen.
Anyway, before I fall into another death spiral of angst, please leave a review! I would appreciate knowing if you think I kept them in-character, Kisame especially, as that was one of my main aims in writing this. Thank you very much! :)