A collection of brief, largely unconnected stories about Itachi and Shisui. Some will be short, others long. Quite a few will be AUs. Basically I've written too many of these and they have to go somewhere. I hope you'll enjoy reading them.

my tongue remembers your wounded flavor

. . .

Seven years ago Shisui stood at the edge of the training ground holding his hands out to Itachi in twin fists. The chilled sunlight of the afternoon sheathed him in a glasslike brilliance. That winter, he was the only brother Itachi would admit. "Pick one," he said, an out-of-the-blue request. "What is it?" Itachi asked, but Shisui just shook his head. His expression was as cold as the light that struck it, betraying nothing.

A sudden unease stirred within Itachi, breaking the surface of something he couldn't place. What had he done to deserve this? Why was this choice suddenly being forced upon him? What unimaginable number of things could be held in your hand – a pebble, a mini-bomb, the willing hand of another? Confusion gave way to irritation, he gave his honest answer: "I don't want to choose."

"Come on, just do it," Shisui cajoled. The pushy confidence in his voice just made Itachi angrier. He didn't want Shisui to throw him off balance, didn't want to yield to him that privilege anymore. Didn't Shisui understand what he was doing? Didn't he know you ought to fear choices? Choices had power. Choices mustn't be taken so lightly, and even at ten Itachi knew that, so why didn't Shisui? Why didn't he know anything?


Shisui's eyes, which in those days could still manage the shock of indignation, narrowed in resentment. "Fine," he grumbled, stuffing his unopened hands into his pockets. He was not used to being rebuffed, and would never be. Relieved from the burden of choices, Itachi was filled with remorse. This was the downside of his personality. "Wait," he said in contrition. "I'll choose." Shisui shook his head adamantly, unkempt bangs fluttering over his eyes. "Forget it."

"Shisui, I will choose."

"I said forget it, okay?" Shisui snapped, still not looking at Itachi. "Let's just go back to training, or it'll be dark before we're done." He walked away without another word.

. . .

That was to be the end of it, and if Shisui seemed to receive him with a noticeable coolness in the following days, it soon passed like most childish grudges with all their tempestuous agony and bloodless carnage. They remained friends, and grew up as such. But though he had done nothing wrong – though nothing right either – Itachi found himself constantly returning to the mystery of his denied choices. What had Shisui held in his hands that day? Truths or jests? The older he grew, the more ludicrous the possibilities became, evolving into strange binaries. Silence or music? Tenderness or brutality? Hope or despair? The obsession tapered away as the years passed but from time to time he would be startled by a sudden reminder – the sight of Sasuke's small hands, for example, closed in eager fists. It was all rather pointless. Likelier than not Shisui himself had forgotten all about it. Still, he wondered. What had Shisui held in his hands?

. . .

All through the siege of summer they fought, until they had laid waste to each other and lost it all. By now Itachi had forgotten much. He no longer wondered what Shisui's hands had held, sweetness or bitterness, reunion or parting. The future they had dreamt of was now the past, and different. He couldn't remember it anymore, that vaguely unimaginable situation. He was learning to unlearn his fondness for Shisui anyway, his warm human smell and the unconscious gnashing of his teeth in sleep. All this was preparation for a number of unavoidable tasks, made so that he wouldn't slip on smooth river stones. Wouldn't howl when the first clod of dirt hit the casket, making a cold music. Would feel only the tremor of his calm heart striking the hours tracing the ending's slow descent. Time had taught him a thing or two.

. . .

Seven years later, with a country between him and the past, Itachi saw from the edge of his balcony a curious sight. His hair had grown longer since that summer, his bones leaner, and his heart had begun a new countdown, stuttering toward another ending. Amegakure, buttressed, scavenged, policed, was a nation of endings. These weeping alien skies rife with dampness and longing seemed painfully appropriate. He had, until that moment, been mentally counting the drops rining like teeth on the battered tin roofing. It had become a way of managing the days.

On the street corner below, two children of similar age faced each other in the pale mizzle. In this city of scabbed streets and sunken avenues, their presence seemed unthinkable. The girl held out before her two tightly closed fists in expectation. "Pick one."The same unreasonable demand, delivered with the same frosty expression. Itachi let his gaze drift to the boy, and was afforded with the strange luxury of seeing his own emotions playing out on another's face, the fretful childish pique that fluxed through your body like a spanking, goaded blood welling from a cut. He saw eyes that mirrored his skepticism.

Under a scrutiny unknown to him, the boy sucked in a longsuffering breath – raised a finger and pointed. A choice, made. The coil of muscle within Itachi's chest flexed against the ribs of its cage in unwilling anticipation. The girl did not speak, her face masklike and unaffected. Her companion frowned, opening his mouth in impatience. The charade lifted then by way of an impish smile, and with an elfin giggle that leapt right across the years, the child opened her fist to reveal a bright red drop of candy, glowing against the white of her palm.

Now those smallish figures blurred away behind the hardening rain, so quickly lost it was as if they had never been, nothing more than ghosts from another age. Still Itachi did not move from the railings, gripped by an agonizing levity, like the empty room morning poured into. He knew now that it was he who had not understood the power of choices. This was a rending he must yield to. He grieved then as he never had before – for Shisui, for himself, for a truncated love in luckless numbered days, a nothing that was something or maybe just the after-ache of it.

. . .