Kisame often wonders when it was that he fell for Itachi. Was it love at first sight? The sight of Itachi drenched in the blood of his family was an intoxicating one, certainly, but did Kisame's heart know then that Itachi was…special?

Perhaps it was one of the times Itachi saved his life with a lightning-fast technique, or he saved Itachi's in turn with a swing of Samehada. Itachi is breathtaking when he fights, after all.

When they first had sex, did he love him then? As he grasped at heated flesh, was it love that drove him on? He can't be sure. Was it different, then, than it is now? Is he more tender, more interested in Itachi's pleasure than his own?

Itachi sleeps soundly beside him, scrunched up like forgotten paper, serene and deadly and so, so beautiful. Kisame strokes his hair, sure that it never used to be like this. When did it change? When did they stop being partners and become lovers?

He is no less of a ninja than he ever was – love doesn't deplete his chakra or weaken his sword arm – but he is different. He can never tell if that's good, or bad, or even what the difference is.

Tenderly, gently, he trails a finger down Itachi's back, making him squirm and snuffle in his sleep. He smiles – smiles – and leaves for the bathroom. The shower is hot on his skin, and it makes him think of Itachi. Everything makes him think of Itachi, now. His memory serves him a breakfast of filthy scenes, of public lovemaking and private, secret kisses. Itachi's hands on his shoulders as they rock together, sweaty and exhausted and so together it makes Kisame's chest ache.

He hears feet padding beyond the shower curtain and sweeps it aside for Itachi, his arms finding their usual, comfortable position around his lover's waist, his chin resting in quickly dampening hair. It's an embrace that could last forever, and they break it from necessity, not desire.

They kiss as they wash, stolen pecks between soaping themselves up and letting the suds wash down the plughole, until they're clean again. Kisame favours flopping down on the bed and letting the air dry him while Itachi towels his hair vigorously, ripping a comb through it without ceremony. It's an everyday thing that still fascinates Kisame, those rippling black locks forming from wet black tar, drying slowly, so slowly.

Itachi rests his damp head on Kisame's equally damp chest, fingers toying with the scant hairs on his stomach. Was Itachi always so affectionate? Kisame remembers embraces, but were they like these embraces, these pure, comfortable moments they share?

He closes his eyes and feels Itachi against him, notes every point at which their skin meets, at which Itachi's drying hair brushes him, and where Itachi's fingernails rest against him. He is sure he never used to care or think about such things, but the inescapable fact is that he does, now.

The minutes stretch by, the world clattering along outside their window as Kisame thinks more deeply than he ever has before. He has given up telling himself that he isn't in love – if he isn't, why is he so afraid of seeing Itachi dead and broken at his feet? – but now how it happened, and why, are what elude him.

He strokes Itachi's hair absently and finds it dry and silky against his skin. Funny, Itachi usually knows exactly when it's dry, and that's when they leave. Has he fallen asleep (more evidence of trust that Kisame hopes he deserves)? His eyes flick to the mirror on the opposite wall and meet Itachi's deep gaze.

They stare into the mirror, into each other's eyes, then slowly move apart, unfolding and taking up their various possessions. Leaning on Samehada, Kisame takes Itachi's chin and kisses him softly. Itachi responds in kind, his steady hands on Kisame's shoulders for a few brief seconds before he pulls away, glances around the room, and hops out of the window.

Kisame hesitates, still troubled. Has it always been this way? Has Itachi always been the most beautiful thing in the world, or has he grown into it, over the years? Has he always loved him so dearly, loved every bit of him, every inch, every cell, every atom?

Itachi's face appears at the window, cocked, questioning. Kisame shakes his head and follows his lover, his questions unanswered, for now.