This is my first serious KisaIta fic. I have recently fallen in love with this pairing, for reasons I have not yet discovered. My portrayel of Itachi in this fic is not the usual portrayel. In this, he is not the mass-murdering psychopath his mask led us to believe, but he is the caring older brother that he truly was. I feel that I failed in portraying Kisame accurately, but I tried my best. Any constructive criticism is welcome.

It upset Sasuke to see his brother blaming himself for their losses. It wasn't Itachi's fault. It never was Itachi's fault. Yet Itachi always felt the need to shoulder the responsibility for their problems.

Their father's death wasn't his fault, and nor was their mother's. Itachi couldn't have known that his father would snap and kill both himself and his wife before setting fire to their home one day while Itachi and Sasuke were in school. Neither could Itachi have anticipated that the family company would be sold off in the wake of Uchiha Fugaku's suicide, leaving them destitute and forced to rely on the state to survive. It was only lucky that Itachi had a sum of money saved up, in case of emergencies, or they would have been packed off to an orphanage, and perhaps even separated.

Instead, they were able to stick together, with Itachi buying a small flat for the two of them.

Unfortunately, Itachi had been forced to drop out of college. Sasuke had been horrified when Itachi had revealed what he had done, but a single strained glance from his stressed out brother had quelled his protests. Truly, Itachi was under enough pressure as it was, and he didn't need Sasuke adding to it. But Sasuke hadn't been able to keep his mouth shut when, a few years later, his older brother had begun taking seedy jobs to support them both while Sasuke attended college on a Psychology degree.

Sasuke wasn't stupid. The people Itachi was associating with weren't exactly respectable members of society. A drug dealer, a tattoo artist who owned a strip club, a known mafia boss...

And now, apparently, a pimp.

It was obvious what Itachi intended. When he had worked with the drug dealer, he had dealed drugs. When he'd worked with the tattoo artist, he had worked as a barman. When he'd worked with the mafia boss, he'd been a killer.

Now he was working with a pimp, it was all too clear what Itachi was going to do to himself.

It hurt Sasuke to be so loved. Sometimes, he'd rather that he was hated, just so that his brother wouldn't do all of this for him.

"Don't do it," he whispered, biting back tears as he slumped to his knees before Itachi, wrapping his arms around his brother's waist, "I don't care about Christmas,"

"Sasuke," Itachi murmured soothingly, carding his long fingers through Sasuke's dark hair, "I must,"

"You don't have to!" Sasuke screamed, the tears spilling over as he sprang to his feet, "I don't want any fucking presents! I don't want any of this shit!"

"Language, Sasuke," Itachi admonished calmly.

"You won't be telling your "clients" that when you're whoring yourself out!" Sasuke bellowed back, wincing as soon as the words left his mouth. Itachi was silent, his eyes fixed on the dark sky outside of their window. Yet Sasuke could tell that his words hurt. It took a trained eye to tell, but Sasuke had years of practice.

"Aniki-," Sasuke began with a small sob, his chest tightening with yet more guilt. When he looked up, Itachi smiled at him.

"Don't worry, little brother," he said, "I won't be...."working the streets", as they say. I will be perfectly safe,"

"Don't fucking lie to me!" Sasuke said venomously. His words could barely be understood through his tightly clenched teeth, "If you do this, aniki, you'll ruin your life. You'll get diseases and you could die,"

"Small concerns, I assure you," Itachi said with a ghost of a smile. Desperation clawed at Sasuke's insides like cold fingers as he tried to come up with a deterrent, any way he could get Itachi to cease this madness and get a job as a waiter or something...

But waiters weren't paid well, and, try as Sasuke might, he could not deny that they needed the money. Sasuke's college fees had decimated Itachi's savings, and they needed to pay for their utility bills, not to mention rent and food. But Sasuke would rather freeze and starve and get kicked out of college and lose his goddamn home than let Itachi become a male prostitute.

He had to think of a way. Itachi was at the door almost. He was devastatingly handsome in his black shirt, jeans and knee-high boots, his dark hair in a ponytail. On most men, Itachi's thinness would be unpleasant. But it suited him. Sasuke felt yet a another pang of guilt as he realised that Itachi's constant refusal to eat so that he could pay for Sasuke's education had taken its toll. Was there nothing Itachi wouldn't do for his little brother?

Sasuke bit his lip until it bled. Itachi would have no trouble getting clients.

I have to stop him! he thought. But how...?

"I'll leave!" he shouted suddenly as Itachi's hand froze on the handle of the door. The room was silent but for Sasuke's ragged breathing.

"Would you really do that to me, little brother?" Itachi asked, his voice dead. It scared Sasuke more than anything else that had happened tonight.

"If-If it would stop you from doing this to yourself!" Sasuke shot back. Itachi remained quiet for a short while. Sasuke began to tremble. He fought back the urge to growl. It was so cold in there. They didn't have the money to put the heating on.

"Would it be possible for us to come to a compromise?" Itachi spoke suddenly, still facing the door.

"That depends on the compromise," Sasuke said calmly. It felt so wrong to rage when Itachi was doing so much for him. It was yet another thing to add to an already overwhelming list of things he felt guilty for. He would pay his brother back tenfold when he became a qualified psychologist. Even if it killed him.

"I will take one client, and one client only," Itachi said, "The highest bidder. I should fetch quite an exorbitant price. Adding my...virginity into the equation, I think we will be comfortable until at least February,"

Sasuke nodded, his finger nails gouging the skin of his palms. He knew he would have blood under his nails, and the wounds stung.

Sasuke relished the pain. He now understood what those religious nuts thought they were going when they hurt themselves in payment for their sins.

"Go on," he said.

"In return, you will stay," Itachi said, "And you must remain enrolled in college until you finish your degree,"

"Ok," Sasuke said softly. What choice did he have? Itachi wasn't going to change his mind about this, and at least he had been willing to compromise to allay his brother's worries. Truthfully, Sasuke didn't want Itachi to become a prostitute at all. But Itachi was too stubborn, and this was better than nothing.

"Alright," Itachi said, opening the door. The frigid night air rushed in. Sasuke shivered.

Itachi paused in the doorway. The streetlamps made his skin glow orange and gave his hair a ruddy glow.

"Itachi?" Sasuke asked before his brother could leave.

"Yes?" Itachi said lowly. When Sasuke didn't answer straight away, he turned around. Under the streetlamps, his eyes appeared red. It was disconcerting. But his eyes were soft in a way that Sasuke's could never be, and Sasuke wondered at how truly lucky he was to have a brother like Itachi.

"Choose him carefully," Sasuke said, lifting his head determinedly, "And make sure he knows I'll force-feed him his own eyeballs if he hurts you,"

Itachi's ghost of a smile was answer enough.

The door shut with a creak and a soft click. Immediately, Sasuke scrambled over to the cell phone his brother had bought him in case of emergencies and typed in his friend's number on speed dial. His hands were fumbling so much that twice he had to retype the whole number. Finally, he did it correctly and the soft rings could be heard in his ear.

"Hey, Sasuke, what's up?" Naruto asked enthusiastically. Sasuke gulped.

"Sasuke?" Naruto asked, sounding concerned.

"Naruto, could you come over?" Sasuke asked, trying to keep his voice steady. His efforts were futile.

"Shit, what's happened?" Naruto screeched, sounding panicked, "Did you get kicked off the course? Is it the landlord? Has something happened to Itachi? What about-?"

He stopped as Sasuke let out a shaky breath and sniffed.

"Shit, what's wrong with Itachi?" Naruto guessed correctly. A sob escaped Sasuke's mouth.

"Are you crying?!" Naruto screeched.

"Tell anyone and I'll turn your balls into ramen," Sasuke growled, feeling much better for threatening Naruto. There was a pause.

"I'll be right over," Naruto promised. Sasuke didn't reply. He had already thrown his phone at the wall.

Itachi listened to the sound of the phone hitting the cheap plaster wall with a sigh. His eyes were closed as he composed himself before walking down the stone steps that led to their second floor apartment.

He wasn't supposed to be meeting the pimp until 8, so he had an hour to get there. He needed that hour if he was to walk there. He'd had the foresight to grab his worn but cosy coat on the way out, and he pulled it tighter around his body as a chill wind blew by.

He was cold. And it wasn't because of the frigid weather. The numbness that have stolen over him during the past few years had nothing to do with the chilly air. He would have liked to give up and just go to bed until the landlord came and threw him out for not paying the rent. And if it wasn't for Sasuke, he would have. But his brother was his responsibility, and Itachi would not fail. And so he pressed on.

There was a woman in the doorway of a bar, smoking a cigarette. She sent him a flirtatious look, but he pretended not to notice as he swept past. He would not sully himself any more than he had to. The mere thought of what he was about to do made him feel unclean. He resolved to take a nice hot shower when he got home, as a small indulgence. They would certainly have the money to pay for the bill, at any rate, and it would be nice to relax for once, even if the price was an undesirable one.

Itachi was also looking forward to paying for Sasuke's next college fee in advance, aswell as providing Sasuke with some Christmas presents and decorations this year. He hadn't been able to do more than put up a small tree and make a decent Christmas dinner last year. Yet it had been enough for Sasuke to be happy. He had fallen asleep against Itachi's shoulder with the barest of smiles upon his lips as they watched a DVD Itachi had bought on the way home from his latest job.

The sight had made Itachi's heart ache.

His inability to provide for the brother he loved was the reason he had allowed himself to sink so far. If it was for Sasuke, he would do it, no matter the price.

Itachi paused at a house with lights twinkling in the windows, a Christmas tree partially visible. The snow was packed up to the top step of the house, and a child had made a snowman outside, sticking its own mittens and hat on the snowman and using a potato for a nose. That was how Christmas should have been for Sasuke. Not spent worrying whether Itachi was going to be able to afford to get a turkey for them this year.

As Itachi travelled, he noticed that the houses were getting larger and more elegant. The sounds of drunken revellers and traffic faded away until he was alone in the ritziest neighbourhood in the city. This was where the elite lived- the wealthiest lawyers, the business men, the sports personalities.

He had lived here too, once. Back during a time when everything had been so simple and idyllic.

Itachi shook his head. It would not do to dwell upon the past.

He had memorised the address he had been given, and soon found the house he was looking for. Even so, he was taken aback and had to double check that he had chosen the right house. It was more of a palace than a house. Itachi hadn't been in a mansion for so long that he'd almost forgotten what wealth looked like.

With a glance backwards, Itachi walked up to the front gates that lead to the driveway. He had expected that he would have to gain entrance to the mansion before searching for the pimp, but the pimp was already waiting for him.

"Deidara," Itachi greeted stiffly. He thought he was justified in thinking that the blond, effeminate man looked more like the wares he advertised than the pimp he actually was.

"Just in time, un!" Deidara said brightly, "I thought you wasn't going to show up, un,"

"I need the money," Itachi stated. Deidara nodded. That explained everything. That phrase always did.

"So how many clients should I put you down for then, un?" Deidara asked. Itachi tried not to wince at the man's annoying habit of attaching that noise to end of every sentence.

"This one only," Itachi responded stiffly, "I do not wish to make my brother think ill of me. That is, I do not wish to make my brother any more upset that he already is,"

"He didn't want you doing it, un?" Deidara said, as though he had expected it. Itachi remained quiet.

"Well, un," Deidara said, clapping his hands, "This here is the house of Hoshigaki Kisame. I'm sure you've heard of him,"

Itachi inwardly grimaced at the thought. A celebrity? Deidara had neglected to mention that minor detail.

"He's got cash to burn, and he's paying us to keep quiet, un," Deidara said with a wide grin, "Afterall, we can't have football fans knowing that their icon pays for sex, un,"

"What does he expect of me?" Itachi said, wanting to press on and get this over with. He didn't care what football fans would think. He had never been interested in sports anyway, apart from martial arts when he was younger.

"He didn't say, un," Deidara said with a frown, "I though that, with the money he's offering-"

"How much would that be, exactly?" Itachi asked, wondering whether he wanted to risk it.

"Twenty-thousand, un!" Deidara said, almost bouncing with excitement. Itachi nearly fainted onto the snowy tarmac.

"That amount is unprecedented," he said. It seemed almost too good to be true. No other prostitute, no matter how high-class, (although Itachi felt that no hooker could possibly be defined as high class) had been paid that much before, as far as Itachi was aware.

"I know, un," Deidara said, "He laid that offer down as soon as I showed him a picture of you. How could I refuse him, un?"

"Is he clean?" Itachi asked. He wasn't jumping into bed with somebody who carried diseases, no matter how rich they were. Contrary to what he had said to Sasuke, he did value his life. Afterall, who would look after Sasuke if he died?

Deidara sighed and rolled his eyes, producing a slip. It was the results of Kisame's tests, which showed that he was clear of all mild venereal diseases aswell as the more serious ones, such as HIV.

"Thought you might say that, un," Deidara said, "I got him to take tests. I always do. It's why I'm so successful. My whores don't die on me. You can thank me with a quarter of your cash, un, since you're a friend,"

"Agreed," Itachi said, signing the contract that Deidara was waving in front of his nose after a quick glance to make certain that everything was in order. The amount of money that would be going into Itachi's almost depleted bank account would set him and Sasuke up until the middle of next year at least, if they were careful enough. Itachi would continue to work, of course, to bring in more cash that would benefit himself and his little brother. And he wouldn't spend more of this money than he needed to. At most, he was planning on spending around a thousand dollars this month, to give Sasuke a good Christmas for the first time in years.

He would have to do the work he was getting paid for first, though.

He followed Deidara past the security staff and up the long driveway. All of the lights were on, bathing the snow pale yellow. Deidara rang the doorbell with a grin while Itachi hung back, unsure of what to do.

A maid opened the door. To Itachi's surprise, she wasn't a young blonde French thing with a tiny skirt and a feather duster in her belt. Instead, she was middle aged and kind-looking, with an apron on over her jeans and a hair net over her mousy hair.

"Are you here for Mr Hoshigaki, dear?" she asked kindly.

"Yep," Deidara said, "He said to be here for 8, un,"

"What's the reason for your visit, then?" the woman asked gently.

"There isn't one, really," Deidara shrugged with a winning smile. The lady smiled, ushering them in and closing the door. Immediately, Itachi felt warmer. The maid took his jacket for him, and Deidara's long black pimp coat. According to him, he was "keeping with tradition". Itachi thought it was hideous, and had made sure Deidara knew that.

"I'll just fetch him for you, then," the maid said, once their coats were neatly put away in the coat closet near the door.

"She reminds me of my old mom," Deidara said with a grin as soon as she had left the room. Itachi ignored him. Nerves were beginning to set in, and he was afraid that he may balk and not go through with it. Then there was the fact that she reminded Itachi of his mom, aswell, and that was something he didn't want to talk about.

The maid soon returned with that pleasant smile still fixed upon her face.

"He's in the living room," she said, "If you gentlemen would just follow me?"

Itachi was secretly shocked that she didn't mistaken Deidara for a woman, as was the norm for most people. Deidara seemed pleased by that fact as he followed her inside, Itachi walking at his side. Allowing Deidara to walk in front implied that he was the leader. Itachi didn't want Hoshigaki Kisame to think that he was the average whore who just pan died about after their pimp like a wronged puppy.

As they entered a spacious room, Itachi was immediately struck by the festivity. There was a real tree in the corner, decorated in blues and silvers. From the ceilings hung garlands, which appeared to have been made out of real branches. Blue velvet bows and indigo baubles decorated them, with the occasional snowdrop making an appearance between the green needles. As a nice accent, there were frosty-blue baubles bigger than Itachi's head hanging in between the garlands, reflecting the dancing flames of the fireplace.

"Same colours as his football jersey," Deidara sniggered quietly. Itachi realised that he was right, at the same moment that he realised that Kisame had been in the room the entire time, and they had not noticed him. They did when the 6,4" muscular black footballer rose from a plush leather loveseat, putting away the book he had been reading. Itachi had never seen him without the blue make up he smeared himself in before games to make him look like his namesake before. The gill tattoos were present, though, as was the dyed blue hair.

"I was beginning to wonder if you would show," Kisame said with a grin. He was wearing a black suit with a navy shirt, Itachi noted with surprise. For some reason, he had expected a robe or something.

"Hoshigaki-san," Itachi said as he bowed in the traditional way, his Asian roots showing through. Deidara thought Japanese sounded cool, and so had come up with the name "Deidara" for himself, because it sounded Japanese. Itachi didn't even know what his name was previously, and, frankly, didn't care. However, he knew that Kisame was Japanese from hearing his name, and expected him to understand Japanese etiquette.

"Itachi-san," Kisame said, replying in kind before launching into full, slightly accented Japanese, "You don't need to speak so formally, considering our intentions,"

"I am aware," Itachi responded, also in Japanese, "But I prefer to be polite,"

"That's why I was never any good at living in Japan," Kisame grinned, "All of that dancing around and bowing and trying not to scandalise everyone is irritating,"

"Wow, Japanese is so cool, un!" Deidara interrupted before Itachi could reply. Itachi would have rolled his eyes, had he not been so polite. Kisame had not such reservations.

"You're easily amused, you know that?" he said, causing Deidara to pout. Itachi once again wondered how Deidara had become a pimp rather than a prostitute.

"Yeah, yeah," Deidara grunted moodily, "Just sign this and I'll be off, un,"

He produced the same rolled up contract, which Kisame signed without even looking at it. Either he was stupid, or he had already looked the contract over.

"Well, have fun, children, un! No sex after ten, and no crazy orgies, un!" Deidara said, taking the contract and practically skipping out. Itachi felt his cheeks redden slightly at the chuckle that earned from Kisame. Itachi sincerely hoped that Kisame hadn't intended for any orgies to happen, because Itachi wouldn't have been able do it.

He was drawn out of his musings by Kisame unzipping a suit bag and pressing the suit it contained against Itachi's body.

"Should fit," he grunted, to Itachi's confusion.

"What are you doing, Kisame-san?" Itachi asked.

"We're going out," Kisame said with a grin, "Put the suit on,"

"If it is not presumptuous to ask, may I enquire as to where we are going?" Itachi asked warily.

"A friend's gala. Well, I say a friend, but I don't like him much," Kisame answered, frowning. Itachi still hadn't put the suit on. He watched Kisame settled back down onto his loveseat.

"And why would that be?" Itachi asked, admiring the suit. Kisame had provided a thin, stylish black tie and a pale purple shirt with it. They would look good with the suit, Itachi decided, and he and Kisame would match quite nicely.

"He's a bit of a pervert," Kisame said, "I don't trust him. Don't stay with him alone. He'll probably try to drug your drink or something. Fucking politicians,"

Itachi nodded, accepting that answer. He didn't want to pry any more than he already had. He respected other peoples' privacy, as did most Japanese people.

"We are going to a gala," Itachi said slowly, stroking the material of the shirt. It felt like silk. It probably was silk.

"Yes," Kisame replied, sounding amused. He was a very attractive man, Itachi decided. When he wore that stupid paint, he was frightening. But, with his ebony skin on show, he looked much less like the demon shark he acted as during games, and more like the man he truly was.

"You paid," Itachi said, stumbling over the word.

"Oh, I'll get to that eventually," Kisame said, "I hope. Did you actually think that I would pay you twenty thousand for one time?"

"I did wonder whether it was too good to be true," Itachi conceded, inclining his head slightly.

"Well, what I really wanted was someone to take to this thing," Kisame shrugged, "The original price was two thousand for a one time thing. Prostitutes aren't generally good conversation, and I wasn't planning on keeping some whore around,"

"How am I different?" Itachi asked, unable to help himself.

"Deidara told me about you...and your brother," Kisame said, pouring himself a glass of something alcoholic from the bottle that was sitting on the table. Itachi stiffened in response.

"Do not pity me," he said, "I wouldn't like you to. But I will take your money regardless. I have little pride left, and I will relinquish it all for the sake of my brother,"

Kisame was silent. Respect gleamed in his dark eyes. He had discarded his white contacts, and Itachi found his dark eyes oddly captivating.

"If there was an award for the best brother, you'd take it," Kisame said, "Does your brother know how lucky he is?"

"I'm doing what I should be doing," Itachi said, stating the truth. Anybody who didn't care for their younger siblings wasn't worth their own skin, in his opinion.

"You're willing to sell your ass for your little brother. Not many people would go so far," Kisame said. Itachi nodded, averting his gaze as he began to slip out of his clothing to put on the suit. He made sure that his front was to Kisame, so that his long hair could shield his chest from view, and the faint bumps of his spine weren't on show. He wasn't dangerously thin, but he had lost enough weight for it to be noticeable.

"Besides," Kisame continued as Itachi buttoned his shirt, "Deidara said you were a genius. If you're not worth talking to, I don't know who is,"

"Deidara often exaggerates," Itachi explained, struggling with his tie. He had never worn a tie. Even the expensive private school he had attended had never forced him to wear one. It was a minor act of rebellion, and nobody reprimanded him for it because he was Uchiha Itachi.

"He told me your IQ," Kisame said, smirking when Itachi didn't answer, still fumbling with his tie.

It should not have been so difficult to do something so simple to most people. How many times should he wrap it around? And which bit when through which loop?

Huge dark hands overlaid his thin ones. Itachi stopped abruptly, lifting his gaze to Kisame's face. The man towered over him, but, strangely, he didn't feel at all intimidated.

"Need some help?" Kisame asked.

"I've never done this before," Itachi said in defence, letting Kisame tie his tie for him. Kisame "hmm-ed" answer. When Kisame stepped back, Itachi fixed the silver cufflinks and put on the suit jacket. But his hair was now a mess.

"Do you have a brush?" he asked. Kisame produced a comb.

"I knew you had long hair," he shrugged as Itachi fixed his black locks into a ponytail with a thin black elastic. He then slipped on the shiny black shoes Kisame offered him, which were still in their box and smelled new.

Finally, they were ready to go. Kisame offered Itachi his arm, and Itachi hesitantly slipped his own arm into Kisame's. He felt rather self-conscious about the size difference between their arms, but he reasoned that it was highly unlikely that he would see the people at the gala ever again, so their perceptions of him didn't matter overly much.

They walked out into the brisk night air, Kisame leading Itachi to the garage where he, like the majority of football players, kept a number of expensive cars. Itachi was dreading getting inside a big ugly hummer, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Kisame didn't even own one. Instead, Kisame opened the passenger door of a sleek black aston martin and gestured for him to climb inside. Itachi thanked Kisame quietly and slipped into the vehicle, almost falling asleep in the comfortable grey leather seats.

As they drove, Kisame was mostly silent, letting Itachi relax. They went past numerous houses decked out in lights, wreaths and snow, and Itachi found himself planning what decorations he would be buying, and whether Sasuke would get annoyed if he bought him an ipod and new clothes.

The thought of his brother's predictable tirade made him smile to himself.

"What's so funny?" Kisame asked, taking a left turn.

"I am imagining Sasuke's reaction when I buy him an iPod for Christmas," Itachi said truthfully, " I know he wants one so that he can listen to those angry songs he favours,"

Kisame chuckled, turning up the heat.

"And what will you be buying yourself with this money?" Kisame asked, appearing curious. He took his eyes off the road for a moment to glance in Itachi's direction.

"I don't think I will buy anything," Itachi responded after a silence. He hadn't actually thought about it.

"Why not?" Kisame asked, looking bemused.

"I can't afford to waste that money," Itachi explained. At Kisame's silence, Itachi turned to look at the man. They had parked up while they had been talking, and Kisame was staring at him. Itachi couldn't pick out his expression, because it was dark in the car, and Kisame was a black silhouette, like a cardboard cut out.

"Are you some kind of a saint or something?" Kisame asked finally. Itachi had no answer. They regarded each other in silence for a moment. Then Kisame opened the car door and let himself out before going round to open Itachi's door too. Itachi stepped out, watching rich people walk past, jewels gleaming at women's throats and men wearing suits which probably cost more than the rent for his and Sasuke's apartment.

Linking arms again, Itachi walked with Kisame to the entrance of the mansion, walking up the marble steps before stepping through the doors onto the veined marble floor of the hall. The place screamed wealth, and Itachi had the feeling that he wasn't going to like Kisame's "friend". Certainly, Kisame's house screamed wealth, but it was in a more refined, modest way, like a world-class athlete receiving accolades for their achievements with humility. This mansion seemed to go out of its way to throw status and money in people's faces. Itachi hoped that the house wasn't a reflection of the owner.

There was a butler by the door, dressed in the traditional butler garb one would expect to see in those films adapted from mystery novels. He offered to take their coats, to which both Itachi and Kisame declined politely. Itachi was a little bemused, as he wasn't even wearing a coat, and neither was Kisame.

"Maybe we can avoid actually talking to him," Kisame muttered out of the corner of his mouth after an hour of standing around and mingling. Itachi had, several times, seen people sneakily take pictures of himself and Kisame, and he knew, with utmost certainty, that they would be in the newspaper soon. Itachi kept a straight face, although he was laughing on the inside.

"Perhaps," Itachi said doubtfully in response to Kisame's earlier, wishful remark as Kisame led him over to a waiter, who had a tray filled with champagne flutes. He plucked two from the tray and handed Itachi one, who didn't drink it.

"I can hope, can't I?" Kisame grumbled as two men nearby began to mutter to each other, shooting glances Kisame's way. Kisame was easily one of the most famous guests in the room, and more and more people were starting to recognise him, despite the lack of blue face paint. It wouldn't be long before Kisame's friend honed in on him and came over to talk.

"Aw shit," Kisame muttered, "He's coming this way,"

"Want to hide behind me?" Itachi quipped dryly. Kisame, despite his annoyance, sniggered. Itachi smiled too- but it abruptly dropped from his face when he saw who was coming over.

"You are friends with Ashi Orochimaru?" Itachi asked, his fingers tightening on his glass.

"Bad blood?" Kisame asked, his eyes fixed on the figure who was currently making his way through the crowd, his pale brown, almost yellow, eyes alight with malice. Itachi glared back hatefully.

"Fucking bastard," he growled to himself, causing Kisame to choke on his champagne.

"Is that what you sound like in bed?" Kisame asked once he had recovered, grinning salaciously.

"I think we are both wondering that, Kisame," Orochimaru said with a wide smile.

"And one of you may continue to wonder," Itachi said coolly, taking a sip out of his champagne to calm his frayed nerves. Of all the people he could meet, he hadn't expected this....

"Would that person happen to be Kisame?" Orochimaru said, his voice alive with laughter.

"Certainly not," Itachi responded icily, to a chuckle from Kisame. Orochimaru smiled.

"A pity," he said softly. Itachi moved closer to Kisame in response. He had never felt comfortable around Orochimaru. There was something decidedly dirty about his gaze and the way he acted. Itachi remembered the arguments he'd had with his father over making Orochimaru their legal guardian should he die, knowing that Orochimaru would not hesitate to snatch the Uchiha fortune for his own ends. He had been right.

"How have you been, Itachi?" Orochimaru asked, stepping closer. Itachi was comforted when Kisame wrapped a large arm around his shoulders.

"Living a life of poverty, having been forced to drop out of college to care for Sasuke and with no reliable means of income," Itachi replied, his voice glacial, although he made sure to appear nonchalant as he spoke, "And yourself?"

An ugly look crossed Orochimaru's face, but he quickly quashed it. Itachi wasn't afraid, though. Kisame would not allow anything to happen to him, he was sure. And Kisame was more influential than Orochimaru. If Orochimaru tried to do anything to Itachi or Sasuke, he would lose a lot a of support when Kisame publicly proclaimed that he no longer backed the immoral politician. Itachi rather wondered how he was so sure of this, but he put it down to gut instinct, which had never led him wrong in the past. Even concerning the slippery snake that was Orochimaru.

"Oh, I'm doing well," Orochimaru said easily, sipping his own glass of red wine.

"Great," Itachi uttered sarcastically, with a tight smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, "I am pleased to hear that the money you earned from selling off Uchiha Corporation has served you well,"

Orochimaru's cheeks flushed blotchily, until his sallow face looked like raspberry ripple ice cream. Itachi pretended not to notice and sipped his drink, feeling much better at having managed to upset Orochimaru.

"Tell me," Orochimaru said in a voice of honeyed poison, "How did you meet Kisame? I had no idea that he was into...slumming,"

"Did you not?" Itachi asked, "He certainly seems to be around you a lot- the lowest of the low,"

Orochimaru smiled a terrible smile, his long tongue sneaking out to trace over his thin lips. Itachi did not need to fake his grimace of disgust.

"How is Sasuke?" Orochimaru asked in a meaningful tone. Hatred, long forgotten, bubbled up in Itachi's stomach like acid. In a single motion, he grabbed Orochimaru by the collar and yanked him forwards until they were face to face. To the average onlooker, they looked as though they were two embracing friends. That couldn't have been further from the truth.

"One day, I will kill you for what you have done," Itachi vowed, "And I do not make idle promises,"

Orochimaru pulled back as though burned while Kisame laid a calming hand on Itachi's shoulder.

"Maybe we should leave," Kisame whispered to Itachi, stopping down and brushing Itachi's bangs out of the way with one gentle hand so that he could speak directly into Itachi's ear. Itachi shivered.

"You couldn't possibly leave yet, Kisame!" Orochimaru said loudly, pretending to look shocked, as though he hadn't nearly wet himself out of fear, "We haven't even eaten dinner yet!"

"Is it poisoned?" Kisame muttered to Itachi as Orochimaru swanned off, loudly announcing that dinner was about to commence. Itachi struggled to keep a straight face.

"He is much more subtle than that," Itachi admitted.

"I was hoping to escape so I could have an Indian takeaway tonight," Kisame grumbled, watching as the guests began to follow Orochimaru into the huge dining area, "I don't do this posh shit,"

"I too would prefer not to eat snails and fish eggs," Itachi agreed. With a glance at the dining room, which was packed, Itachi startled Kisame by grabbing the man's arm and pulling him away. Orochimaru had his back to the crowd, and didn't see them leaving.

"Where are we going?" Kisame muttered in Japanese, on the off chance that a stray guest would hear him.

"To get an Indian takeaway," Itachi responded in kind. The "duh" was left unsaid, as Itachi was much too polite to say such things. Kisame didn't reply for a moment.

"I love you," he said. Itachi, to his mortification, felt his face flame, and didn't respond. However, in the light spilling out of the mansion, he was fairly certain that this was answer enough. It certainly seemed to please Kisame, if his sharp-toothed grin was anything to go by.

"I need to return to Sasuke by 11," Itachi said as they walked back to the car, leaving the bright lights behind. It was much dimmer here, and Itachi felt less like somebody was shining a spot light in his face.

"It's...," Kisame said, checking his watch, "9:40 now,"

"I very much doubt that I will be able to give you what you paid for in that time," Itachi told Kisame worriedly. His concern became more pronounced when Kisame stopped walking. He wondered whether Kisame was going to call this deal off. Itachi highly doubted that he had what it took to blackmail people in an ordinary situation, but he was certain that he would be able to put aside his moral code once again in order to provide for Sasuke.

"You gave me what I paid for," Kisame said, as Itachi continued to watch him. He strode forward, causing Itachi to tense.

"I was under the impression that you were paying for sex," Itachi said as Kisame's large hand cradled his face. Itachi closed his eyes.

"I paid for good company at this stupid gala," Kisame said. His voice was quiet and soft for one who had a reputation for savage, animalistic displays on the field.

"This was not worth twenty thousand dollars, Kisame-san," Itachi said, bringing his own hand up, as though to push Kisame's away from his face. But he didn't. His fingertips gently rested on the broadness of the back of Kisame's hand, "I cannot, in good conscience, accept that sum of money,"

"As they say in England, I guess that's tough shit," Kisame said with a sudden bright grin. Itachi blinked. It was rare for him to show any signs of shock, but Kisame had struck him speechless.

"Kisame-san-," Itachi began, but Kisame covered his mouth with one hand. Or, rather, he covered the majority of Itachi's face with his hand.

"Let's make a deal," Kisame said, interrupting him. Ordinarily, Itachi would have been annoyed at the complete lack of respect, but, in this instance, he found that he really didn't care, as long as Kisame continued to touch him. He hadn't had any friendly contact with anybody other than his brother in years, and he certainly hadn't had any supportive contact for as long as he could remember. It felt nice, like sinking into a hot bath after a long day's work.

"I may or may not agree to this deal," Itachi said, nodding for Kisame to continue nonetheless.

"I'll see you 10 times between now and Christmas," Kisame said, "Each time, I will give you two thousand. Does that sound fair?"

"Not particularly," Itachi said dryly, "I am unable to see how this arrangement benefits you,"

"Itachi," Kisame sighed after a split second of hesitation, "All of my friends are obsessed with football. That's all they want to talk about. When people talk to me- fans, family, whatever- football is the only thing they want to talk about. It's fucking annoying. I need a little company of the intelligent variety,"

He paused, flashing another sharp-toothed grin.

"I'm more intelligent than people think I am," he finished.

"But you are not getting you paid for," Itachi said, stumbling over the word slightly. This was a testament to how truly nervous he was about this part of the deal.

"Who said anything about not getting the sex?" Kisame said, looking innocently confused, although his eyes said otherwise, "I'll have that ass eventually. I actually think I'm getting the bargain. Sex with you on its own is worth more than twenty thousand in my eyes,"

Itachi did not know where to look at Kisame's words. Truly, he did not think he was that attractive. He actually believed that his looks had suffered somewhat over the past few years due to a stressful lifestyle and inadequate living standards. He knew he could still be considered relatively good-looking, but there was no way that he could have possibly been worth such a large amount of money. Sometimes, Itachi was jealous of his little brother for having managed to retain his stunning good looks while Itachi's had faded slightly. But that was to be expected. Itachi took care of literally everything in Sasuke's life, concealing their monetary problems to the best of his abilities and taking the most menial jobs to make sure Sasuke had a roof over his head and food on the table. Sasuke only had to concentrate on passing his degree.

"Your face has gone red," Kisame sniggered, snapping him out of his lamentations.

"Your language is vulgar," Itachi said haughtily in response. He couldn't be sure, but Kisame may have rolled his eyes.

"I've been told," Kisame said, opening the passenger door. Itachi realised only then that, during the course of their conversation, they had walked the length of the car park and were standing outside of Kisame's car. Itachi, embarrassed that he had been spacing out so obviously, climbed inside, biting his lip when his body brushed against Kisame's broad front.

"Thank you," he murmured with reserve in Japanese.

"Mmm, Indian food," was Kisame's response, "What do you want?"

"I'm not very hungry," Itachi said, not wanting Kisame to pay for him. He liked to be self-sufficient to a degree, and hated the thought of owing somebody something. That was why he hadn't wanted to take twenty thousand dollars from Kisame originally, but circumstance had forced him.

"You need fattening up," Kisame said, "You're eating something,"

Ah. So Kisame had noticed, had he? For some reason, it bothered Itachi that Kisame could see how thin he was. Itachi didn't ordinarily care what anybody other than his brother thought of him. Kisame was different. Itachi did care. It seemed unfair that the first person whose opinion Itachi had cared about since his parents had died had criticisms to make about his looks. It was a blow to his ego for sure. But he wasn't going to let it get to him. He had extraordinarily thick skin. The comments would slide off him like liquid off a cool glass.

But some liquids, like honey, were sticky, and wouldn't slide off no matter how much you wanted them to.

Itachi bit the inside of his cheek. Getting emotionally attached to this football player mere hours after they had met was slightly pathetic. It wasn't as though they would ever see each other again once this deal was completed anyway.

"Are you ok?"

"I am fine," Itachi responded without missing a beat. There. That was more like the real Uchiha Itachi.

"I wasn't trying to point out your weight when I mentioned it," Kisame said, to Itachi's shock, "I was just...concerned about your health,"

The football player's face was drawn into a tight expression as his hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. It was rather amusing that Hoshigaki Kisame, the most famous face in football right now, was getting embarrassed by this talk of feelings.

"That is alright, Kisame-san," Itachi said.

The night was quite beautiful. Even the street lamps were kind of beautiful when the car sped past them. The orange blobs blurred into one another as Itachi pondered how Sasuke was doing. He guessed that Sasuke had probably called Naruto over, who would no doubt be able to take Sasuke's mind of the issue of what Itachi was doing right now. Of course, how he would do that had Itachi wondering. Itachi had the feeling that their relationship was not of the friendship variety. How soon they realised that depended on-

"You're still sexy, you know," Kisame blurted out gruffly, "Tell anyone I said that and I'll kill you,"

They stopped at a quaint Indian restaurant that sold take out, and ordered a gut-busting amount of food. It was almost too tasty, and Kisame watched in disbelief as Itachi ate enough for three people, while making sure to keep a large portion for Sasuke. He didn't expect Sasuke to eat while he was out, as Sasuke normally tried to avoid doing so. Although Sasuke didn't know the extent of their poverty, he was still aware of their lack of money, and often, following Itachi's poor example, he went without.

"Your bowels will be screaming at you tomorrow," Kisame laughed as they sat in the car later. Itachi frowned at Kisame's crude comment.

The drive to Itachi's apartment was, surprisingly, disappointingly short. Kisame followed Itachi's directions well, and they arrived in next to no time.

Itachi looked up at the window of their living room and was shocked to see that the lights were out. So Sasuke had gone to Naruto's, had he?

Kisame parked his car, despite Itachi's warnings that he was taking a risk in such a neighbourhood, and walked Itachi up to his front door. Itachi carried the bag of Indian food in one hand, at his own insistence, and his clothes in the other hand. He didn't know when, but Kisame had put his clothes in the car. He was grateful that Kisame had had the foresight, and had thanked him quietly when he had opened the car boot to reveal Itachi's original outfit. He did wonder vaguely when Kisame had had the chance to put it in there, but he didn't really care, so he didn't ask.

Unfortunately, because both of his hands were otherwise occupied, he was unable to get into his own pocket to get his keys out. He had slid them into his pocket when he had changed into these expensive trousers, and he could feel the cold metal against his thigh.

"Kisame-san?" Itachi asked, beyond embarrassment. He couldn't believe he was actually going to ask Kisame this.

"Need me to get your keys, huh?" Kisame said, grinning at Itachi's nod, "I've done that so many times myself..."

He didn't exactly give Itachi warning before he thrust his large warm hand into Itachi's pocket, navigating around Itachi's cell phone and brushing against his thigh.

Itachi bit his lip.

Kisame's hand paused.

Itachi felt a surge of arousal.

Kisame smirked.

Itachi bit his lip harder.

Kisame groped his thigh.

"Kisame-san, have you located my keys yet?" Itachi asked, his voice slightly strained.

"The keys?" Kisame asked, "Yeah, I found them a while ago,"

"Then...," Itachi trailed off, frowning at Kisame with disapproval.

"Who'd pass up the opportunity?" Kisame grinned, swooping down and pressing a lingering kiss on Itachi's lips. Itachi's fingers spasmed as he wondered whether or not to push Kisame away. He settled for allowing the contact. He would have to get used to it eventually, anyway, as Kisame had revealed that he planned on taking what he had paid for eventually.

It was only as Kisame pulled away that Itachi realised that his eyes had closed on their own. He felt embarrassed that he had sunk into the sensation of warm lips so readily. Luckily, Kisame didn't comment on it, although there was something in his expression that Itachi couldn't quite place, and instead thrusted a wad of notes into Itachi's hand. If Itachi had counted them, he was certain that he would have counted up to $2000 in crisp banknotes.

"Thank you," he said in Japanese, bowing slightly. Kisame shrugged as though he gave $2000 to people who were almost strangers every day.

"I'll pick you up at 8 tomorrow," Kisame said, "There's a party going on at Black Sin,"

"Alright," Itachi nodded, "Is there any particular way that I should dress, or-"

"Keep your hands off my brother!"

Itachi closed his eyes as Kisame turned towards the new arrival with amusement painted all over his face.

"So you're the little brother Itachi told me so much about," he said, "Sasuke, was it?"

Sasuke looked shocked that Kisame knew his name, but stood his ground proudly, his chin lifted and his eyes flashing.

"Keep your hands off my brother," he repeated steadily, his hands balled into fists by his sides.

"Sasuke," Itachi warned, before Sasuke could do anything that would lead to life-long embarrassment for both of them.

"I don't care how famous he is, he's not touching you!" Sasuke growled.

"Sasuke," Itachi repeated calmly, "Go inside. Nothing will happen without my consent,"

"Like hell I'll leave you with him!" Sasuke shouted, resulting in a light turning on in one of the other apartments as the person who owned it came to see what the commotion was about.

"Uchiha Sasuke, go inside now," Itachi commanded in Japanese. It was a final warning, and one he knew that Sasuke wouldn't disobey. With one last look of burning hatred, Sasuke stiffly turned and walked into their apartment.

"If you try anything, I'll know," Sasuke said as a parting shot, slamming the door to the annoyance of the old lady in apartment 12, who shouted in a quivering voice to make her displeasure known.

"Cute kid," Kisame said as Itachi willed himself to sink into the tarmac.

"He's entirely against my decision to whore myself out," Itachi explained, trying to make light of the situation. Kisame sent him a sharp look.

"I don't think any whoring is going on here," he said slowly, "At least, not yet. You're just acting as my date. No sex involved,"

"There will be some eventually," Itachi said, "I refuse to take such a large amount of money from you without giving you the service you paid for in the first place,"

The silence after his comment stretched on until Itachi actually wondered whether Kisame had fallen asleep while standing up. The overhead light nearest to their apartment had blown out, and Kisame's eyes were shadowed by his brow slightly. Itachi didn't know if he his eyes were closed or not.

Then Kisame leaned towards him and pressed their foreheads together. It was such an intimate gesture, the kind of thing only a couple would do. Itachi's breath froze in his throat.

"We'll see," Kisame said.

By the time Itachi regained control over himself, Kisame was gone.