Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
The first time Shisui swims in the Nakano river, he is four years old.
The water swirls around him, melding against his skin like a set of clothes that can not be worn. The water is shockingly cold (that only makes the thrill sing in his veins even more) and the feel of the current rushing past him is exciting.
Only when Shisui realizes that he is not a strong swimmer does he start to realize that he is sinking.
The river runs deep; it is nearly twenty feet to the bottom at the deepest point, and Shisui can not find the surface.
No matter where his desperate eyes search, Shisui does not see the surface of the water, nor a rock he can climb or a branch he can use to keep from being swept downstream.
The water drags down on him, like cold, clammy hands, and Shisui can not fight. Just before he passes out, he sees a face in front of him.
When Shisui wakes up, he is on the far side of the river, well beyond the bridge, on the flat bank. Obito-nii, his ten-year-old brother, is kneeling over him, distraught and soaked. He had dived, fully clothed, into the river after him.
Far from instilling a terror of the water in him, Shisui's experience makes him love the water all the more.
Shisui has always been a risk taker, and on that day, he becomes a child of the water as well.
The summer is blazing that year, the grass almost shriveling, and at sixteen, Shisui is a much better swimmer than he was as a four year old.
As he has done during every single summer of his life, Shisui seeks refuge from the heat in the cool waters of the Nakano. This time, he also seeks refuge from his troubled thoughts.
Itachi has been behaving oddly lately, oddly for him, and the Uchiha elders, Fugaku included, have assigned Shisui to watch him since the two are in each other's company so often, and it makes Shisui nervous.
The whole thing makes him nervous. The Uchiha police force's frequent staring matches with the ANBU Black Op.s, the aura of tension and something dark just barely being held back hovering over the village, the way the clans are dividing in to sects and oppositions.
Shisui is worried that someone in the higher levels of the government knows about the coup. All the signs point towards that, but none of the elders can see it.
Shisui has opposed the coup from the start. Quietly, but he has. There is no way the Uchiha clan, even as large and skilled as it is, can stand up to the whole might of the Konoha military force, and the Uchiha stands alone; it always has.
And now Itachi's acting strangely too. That just tops the cake, and Shisui can't help but feeling like something bad is going to happen.
Everything's going down in the summer heat, as the soaring temperature makes tempers grow short and normally reasonable men resort to the most drastic of measures.
It is nearing sunset, late in the afternoon. The sun no longer burns so brightly, as the shadows grow deeper and the sky gets redder and redder.
He slides out of the water like an otter, water falling from his body as he wipes his face off with the towel he's left on the bank and wraps it around his bare shoulders, intent on heading back to the Uchiha compound.
Small rustles from behind him alerts Shisui to the presence of strangers. He turns, and immediately bows low at the waist, his eyes widened.
"Honored councilors," Shisui murmurs, wondering what on earth they are doing there.
Mitokado Homura, Utatane Koharu and Shimura Danzo stand on the grass as though they have always been there, but they look out of place. All three are ornately dressed, more appropriate to haunt the rooms of statesmen as they play games with people's lives than to be standing next to a river where there is life free of their scheming.
"Shisui-san," Koharu speaks in a creaky voice that emphasizes her age. "We know that you have been assigned to report any suspicious activity on the part of Uchiha Itachi to the Uchiha elders. Have you done that yet?"
Shisui frowns; the wind catches cold on the water beads sliding down his back, on the hair plastered flat to his head. Momentarily, he wonders if he should lie.
But in the end, Shisui decides to be truthful, though he does not trust the three war hawk statesmen. "No, I have not."
"Good. Do not report any of Itachi's behavior to the elders of your clan."
Shisui's frown deepens; a killdeer cries sadly in the distance, again and again and again. "Why?"
"That is not for you to know," Homura tells him, his eyes glinting with a gleam that indicates that he does not think much of the teenager's line of questioning. "It is only for you to obey."
The young Uchiha lifts his chin. "And I won't obey unless you tell me why I should be disobeying the direct orders of my clan elders just because you tell me to."
Koharu glares disapprovingly at him, but Homura seems to take his words into account. Danzo says nothing, standing there silently as if he's watching some dramatic scene play out before him.
Homura pauses, then draws in deep breath as though he is drowning in the river beside him. He tells Shisui. Tells him everything.
When he is done, Shisui gapes, and stares. His heart nearly stops, and the water roars in his ears.
After a moment of floundering like a fish out of water, Shisui finds his voice again. "What you bastards mean to tell me," he growls, "is that you mean to slaughter every last one of us, and the best way you could think of doing it is to assign a thirteen-year-old boy, a member of the very clan you want dead, to do the deed? Am I missing something here?!"
To his utter horror, the three look at him as though he should consider it completely reasonable. Have they lost their minds? Shisui wonders shakily, running a hand through his hair. His heart stutters, and Shisui longs for the peace of the river, to rid his mind of such a nightmare.
"Why on earth shouldn't I just go to the elders and tell them what you're planning?" Shisui demands challengingly, staring them all down, bristling.
The red light deepens menacingly over Danzo's face as he step forward, a deceptively mild look making his muscles go slack. "If you attempt to do that," he says softly, "you will be dead before you ever return to the main house of your clan's compound. And perhaps you should factor this into your calculations. If you alert the Uchiha elders, your friends Itachi will almost certainly be killed."
Shisui flinches, and, with dismay, feels himself falling back to a defensive stance.
Danzo continues on his line of attack, softly and chillingly. "It must be an Uchiha who carries out the order, and Itachi is the best of the best. If it is not carried out, the village will be plunged into anarchy and violence. If you truly wish to help him, perhaps you would be willing to shoulder his burden, even help him carry it out?" It's a loaded question, absolutely poisonous, and Shisui hates him for even letting it touch his forked tongue.
The wind blows in his ears, reminding him of everything he can not abandon, can not outrun. Shisui shakes his head, his heart thumping out of shock and growing horror. "You've decided to exterminate us in a way that won't trace back to you. Congratulations, you're monsters." He looks up, with a gaze that is suddenly very cold. "Tell me. If you're willing to have over a hundred and fifty shinobi and civilians killed at the drop of a hat, why should you hesitate to kill me now that I know this?"
Koharu laughs, and Shisui is horrified that she's doing so. "For one reason, Shisui-san. You are close to Itachi. You are, by our observation, one of the few people alive whom he trusts. He confides in you, he tells you everything."
He never told me this, Shisui thinks sadly, looking down at his toes. Anger flares up inside of him. Is he expected to tolerate this? He lives alone, his brother and both of his parents dead. When he finally hears a creak at the front door one night, and knows it's Itachi, is he simply expected to simply never rise from his tatami mat and let his cousin kill him? Who can live with such a secret on their shoulders?
Koharu's voice is almost gentle. "You can help him, in whatever way you see fit."
The three leave Shisui to his thoughts. The still waters of the Nakano run deep and smooth, unaware of the turmoil that will play out beside them.
The heat has grown even thicker, the humidity near-unbearable. The fine-stemmed grasses, once so soft and green, are growing yellow and shriveling with the heat, and the air buzzes with laziness. In the sweltering heat of the afternoon, two Uchiha boys seek the refuge of the river.
Shisui can not say that he is buoyant with relief as he steps down the steep slope towards the oak tree on that side of the Nakano. Instead, he is grim but thankful that Itachi has finally sought him out.
It has been a fortnight since the councilors told him of the terrible order Itachi has been given, and Shisui has spent a fortnight tearing himself up inside wondering what he should do.
Shisui has decided that this afternoon, he's going to tell Itachi he knows.
Shisui is willing to do everything he can, to help his cousin and his friend shoulder his burden, to get through it. In the end, Shisui decides he may even be willing to help Itachi carry out the order, as Danzo suggested, though Shisui is determined that he will not kill Sasuke.
He is not particularly cheerful; in fact, Uchiha Shisui is unusually subdued. But the sounds of the river and the thought that he can finally do something has put some hope deep in him.
After tonight, Itachi is going to know that he's not alone anymore.
Shisui leans against the oak tree, casting sympathetic eyes over Itachi's increasingly thin frame. He hasn't been eating as much lately, and his bones are starting to stick out like sticks in his arms, his cheeks growing hollow.
Itachi is laden down with secrets, all the more horrifying now that Shisui finally knows what they are. But it doesn't have to be a secret that one alone must carry anymore, and maybe, just maybe, that will afford Itachi a little more peace of mind.
"You wanted to talk to me?" Shisui lets Itachi speak first, showing patience for one of the few times in his life.
Itachi stands beside Shisui, staring down at the river with incredibly lost eyes, as if he doesn't even see the water below. He stands as if lost in another world. "Shisui-nii," he whispers, voice small and hesitant, "have you ever been given an order you didn't feel right about?"
We're finally talking about it. Shisui steps forward, and doesn't notice that the ground under his feet is suddenly sodden. "Yes, I have."
Itachi shudders, and draws in the deepest breath of his life, like a drowning man preparing to take the deepest plunge. "I have been given an order that calls into question everything I have ever been taught to believe. It has preyed on my mind for two and a half months now, and I'm not sure I can do it."
Shisui opens his mouth. "Itachi, I know—"
But Itachi looks at him, and smiles, a sad, apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, Shisui."
"What—" Suddenly, Shisui realizes he can't move. He looks down, and there is water rising up his legs. It comes up in two arcs to bind his shoulders.
Panic crashes through his mind. His only instinct is to live. "Itachi, don't do this," Shisui whispers, staring desperately into his cousin's eyes.
Black eyes stare back that Shisui hardly knows. "I have to."
"Itachi, please! I—" The water wraps over his face, cutting him off.
As Shisui loses consciousness, he supposes it makes sense that it should all come back to water in the end.