A/N: I just had the sudden urge to write something about Itachi and Kisame that wasn't yaoi. I rather like this story, actually. It's one of my best, I think. Anyways, the following fan fiction takes place right after . . . you know what, I think you're smart enough to figure it out yourself.

Prologue

Walking down an empty dirt road, I suddenly heard a strange noise, causing me to stop in my tracks. I turned my head at the sound and saw a lone man sitting hunched over on a bench in the park that was a little ways over to my left. Without thinking, my feet started moving again, leading me over to where the stranger sat. As I walked closer I noticed that the "man" was really not much older than a boy. Sixteen years old at the most.

His head was tilted downward looking at something on his lap, his long black hair cascading down around his face. He seemed rather out of it in the way that he held his slumped posture, making a sniffling noise every few minutes. I don't quite know why (considering my cold heart and all), but I suddenly felt a pang of sadness for the boy.

Slowly, I made my way over to the park bench.

An Emotionless and All-Knowing Killer

Staring down at the headband that I held I my lap, I felt hot tears burning behind my eyes. Just as I was about to let one fall onto the cool metal plate, a sudden thing placed itself awkwardly on my shoulders.

"Hey, kid," a husky voice said next to me, "you alright?"

At the impromptu voice (and contact), I stiffened. Slowly, I raised my head to look at the person who had spoken. My eyes made contact with two pitch-black, beady orbs, even darker than my own. The very next thing I noticed was that this odd, extremely tall stranger had pale blue skin and what looked like gills on the side of his head.

I blinked once, dispelling all instincts of crying, and answered coldly, "I'm not a kid."

The man chuckled, exposing a set of razor-sharp teeth. Almost shark-like. "Well, little man--" I frowned. That wasn't much better. "--how old are you, if you don't mind me asking?"

I stared blankly at him with dead eyes before I looked away, deciding to respond. ". . . Thirteen."

Obviously, the stranger had been expecting a different answer because he began a fit of [rather loud] laughter, a barking sound. "Wow," he finally managed. "Only thirteen? Has anyone ever told you that you look a lot older?"

I raised an eyebrow, amazed that a random person had decided to start a conversation with me. "Yes," I answered in a bored tone, choosing to shift my gaze to the setting sun.

When I made it apparent that I wasn't going to talk anymore, the man awkwardly shifted his sitting position and removed his arm from around my shoulders. Finally. He cleared his throat before he said, "So, er, you a very stoic bo-- I mean, little man, aren't you?"

"Hn," I grunted in affirmation, wishing he would just go away and leave me to wallow in my self-pity.

After a few more minutes of silence the stranger made a surprised, "Oh!" reaching for my lap. "What's this?"

"Hey!" I instantly shouting, recoiling from his turquoise hand.

His face turned a beet red as he realized what I had just accused him of attempting. "NO! I wasn't trying to-- I mean, I know it looked like I was abou to-- I'm not a-- you're just a-- I was just reaching for your headband!" he sputtered, stumbling over his words.

"Sure," I muttered sarcastically, cautiously relaxing my muscles. Slowly, I released my death-grip on said headband and tossed the worthless thing over to him. "Look at it all you want, I don't need it anymore," I mumbled gruffly.

The shark-like man curiously took the headband and turned it over in his hands, inspecting it closely. "Konohagakure, eh?" he asked.

"Not anymore," I mumbled quietly.

The man looked up at me, studying my face as closely as he had the headband; I didn't turn to meet his gaze. After a few moments he looked down at my old village's symbol, and then back up at me again, a lopsided grin decorating his features. "Well, you know what you do to your headband after you leave your village, right?"

It was a rhetorical question, and I didn't answer it. Instead I watched as someone I have never seen before today took out a knife from his pocket and handed it to me along with my headband. I stared blankly at the two objects in his large hands.

With a small, patient smile, the man gestured upwards. My eyes flickered upwards and, for the first time that evening, I noticed that this man also had a headband, indicating that he was a ninja from Kirigakure: The Village Hidden in the Mist. However, there was a deep slash going through the village symbol.

I blinked once, registering that this stranger was also a criminal, before taking the two objects from him. "You know," I said slowly, watching the dagger sparkle in the twilight, "most adults, when confronted with a thirteen year old who claims to have left his village, would have simply just told the kid to back home. Not encourage him to further separate from his home."

There was a short silence where the man was speechless, most likely because that was the most I had spoken all evening. After he recovered, though, he grinned, showing his sharp teeth again. "Well, I'm not most adults--" I silently nodded in agreement. "--and you're not most thirteen year old boys," he finished. As an afterthought he added in a soft voice, "Do you want to go home, little b- man?"

I shook my head bitterly, my loose hair getting into my face. I had meant to tie that up. "I can't," I choked out, holding back tears at this extremely saddening piece of truth.

As I continued to look at the objects that I was now clutching in an iron grip, I wondered why I had just told the man that--

He had concern in his voice,

--I wondered why I hadn't just grunted 'hn,' and left it at that.

genuine concern.

I then realized that--

He was trying to comfort me,

--that this man,--

in his own odd way.

--this total stranger . . . I trusted him. He had me feel . . . secure. He even managed to amuse me for a few moments--

Just like me and otouto.

--A reluctant smile slowly spread across my face as I realized that the roles were reversed for a change. No longer was I the older brother, but instead the younger one, being comforted when he was sad by strange antics. It felt kind of . . . nice, actually.

Suddenly, two strong arms wrapped around me, snapping me out of my musings. When I attempted to push off the bigger man he simply said, "No one should have to carry the burden of a murderer, especially not a child."

At that remark I stiffened and withdrew any of my attempts to force him off. I just let him hug me, my eyes wide with shock. "H-How did you know?"

"After any human kills another being for the first time, they become affected. No matter how cold-hearted they think they are."

After a small pause, I hesitantly returned the embrace, and then hugged him as hard as I could. I wanted so badly to say 'thank you,' but my pride wouldn't allow it. Seconds afterwards the man pulled away and stood, peering up at the sky. "Well, I gotta be going. I'm already late." He then turned and grabbed a giant sword before hoisting it up onto his back (how had I not noticed such a big thing propped up against the side of the bench?!). He turned to face me again, a lopsided smile on his face. "You should really put your hair up. It's way too long to be loose," he advised, taking a strand of leather from his pocket and tying up my hair himself. However, he didn't do a good job because the ponytail wasn't very taught, causing it to hang limply over my shoulder.

He smiled at me, smaller this time, and lifted my chin up with his forefinger to look him in the eyes. "You'll be alright, ki- I mean, little man--" I smiled unconsciously at the nick name. "--don't you worry about a thing."

He then promptly turned around and started walking of to whatever event he was late for. When he was almost out of earshot he yelled back, "Oh yeah, you can keep the knife!" I didn't respond, just watched him with an unwavering gaze as he melted into the darkness of night, seeming to take all the light out of the park with him.

As I looked back down at the knife I held in one hand and the metal embedded cloth that I held in the other, I felt sad. Sadder than I was before the stranger had mysteriously appeared. But, oddly, it was a happy sort of sadness. A lone tear rolled down my pale cheek.

Mistake, a part of me nagged. Never get close to people; you'll never know when they decide to turn on you because you'll be too blinded by useless feelings 'trust' and 'love.'

I rolled my eyes in annoyance, more tears coming down. Shut up, I told myself. I'm too young to worry about mistake, I jested, chuckling a bit. Leave that for an older, smarter me.

As my silent inner war continued, I plunged the knife down as hard as I could and dragged it across in a straight line, smiling through my now many tears.

Epilogue

I stood with my employer in a clearing located in the middle of a remote forest, waiting who was supposed to be my next partner (seeing as my last decided to be reckless).

There was no danger of that with this new one, though. He was said to be a genuine prodigy; a genius who could interpret a person's every move, a mastermind who could analyze what makes a person tick in mere minutes and then use that to his advantage with his genjutsu techniques. Despite all of that, however, he was most widely known for what had first began his criminal streak at the young age of thirteen. The man, then boy, had single-handedly killed his whole clan.

As a particularly strong gust of wind broke through my thoughts, I head a monotone voice that was remarkably familiar. "Pein-sama," it said, acknowledging th person standing next to me. The auburn man nodded once, signaling for this newcomer to step forward.

Curious, I leaned forward slightly as the figure walked out of the shadows of the surrounding foliage. As soon as he was completely visible in the sunlight, I let out an inaudible gasp.

His hair was the same dusty black as I remembered. However, instead of hanging down around his face it was tied up in a not-so-tight ponytail hanging over his left shoulder. He had become taller and, if possible, even paler, his white skin practically illuminated by the sunlight. Also, in the five years since I last laid eyes on him, the stress lines on his face (barely noticeable before) had deepened dramatically. Lastly, a deep gash went through his Hidden Leaf headband that looked fresh, but I knew better.

"Little man," I breathed.

His head twitched in my direction before his coal black eyes grew wide and immediately swirled into a startling blood-red. "You!" he hissed through his teeth, his fists now clenched.

I recoiled a bit at the evident hatred in his voice. How different his demeanor seemed. No longer was he a semi-depressed and curious child, but an apathetic and all-knowing killer. His doujutsu (sharingan, they called it) sent an involuntary shiver done my spine as I realized that he must have had this ability during their first meeting. I kept a calm front, though, and smiled warmly at the boy. He scowled in return, his crimson eyes holding nothing but the emptiness of a true ninja.

"Hoshigaki Kisame, this is your new Akatsuki partner, Uchiha Itachi: a natural-born killer."