Hello folks, I've returned with a second installment. Again, dedicated to the lovely and wonderful ita-chi-uchiha!

Once again, rated M for sex and language.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, but I do own this silly headcanon.

SOUTHERN JOY

CHAPTER 2

Shisui found it morbidly ironic that the only person who knew about his romantic relationship with Itachi was Sasuke. Although his was a silent acknowledgement, the twelve-year-old pursed his lips sternly whenever they moved in too close a proximity, shot fleeting glances when they trailed away to the Nakano together, and all in all stiffened like he smelled something bad when Shisui enters the room.

"Your younger brother is like…your older brother," he once attempted to explain as the issue bothered him more and more. Itachi stifled a laugh, raised his eyebrow, asking for him to continue. "He's scary. And protective."

Itachi paused to consider this. "Did he say something threatening to you?"

"No."

"Then it's nothing to worry about. Sasuke never liked you in the first place."

Shisui flinched. "Ouch. He's basically my brother-in-law."

At that, Itachi could only smile and shake his head. Time flew quickly; in two years, he would be twenty. That much closer to death. Like Fugaku and the many Uchiha heads before him, Itachi would be married off to a distant relative to increase the chances of having an offspring capable of awakening the Sharingan. His dwindling lifespan could either cancel or hasten the tradition. Shisui could only hope for the latter; there was no way in hell that he would be able to have Itachi's hand.

But that, like many dark things, remained unsaid. Still, Shisui couldn't ignore the darkening bags underneath his eyes and how he tried to keep his hands smooth even though they were as rough as any other ninja's. Time, he thought, was running out.

Now, if any, was the time.

Knee deep in the Nakano River, skipping stones (and ultimately failing, for his mind was distracted), Shisui delved his hand into the cold water and extracted a smooth, white, oval pebble that fit perfectly in his palm. He turned to Itachi, who lounged on the riverbank reading a scroll intently. "Hey," he said, splashing at him to get his attention. Flushing slightly, he held out the pearl-like rock. "Will you marry me someday, Itachi?"

Itachi looked up from the scroll, rather irritated that the parchment was now wet. He sighed and pushed it aside. "What is it?" he asked, shaking the water from his hair. The words didn't register right away, but when they finally sunk in, he paled, blinked furiously, blushed and moved his lips, unable to form words. "Shisui, I…"

"You?" Shisui prompted, unable to take his eyes off him. A flustered Itachi was a rare and beautiful sight.

A smile graced his face, wearied yet serene, genuine, and purely Itachi. "Of course I will. You only have to ask." Kicking off his sandals, he joined Shisui at the rocky riverbank, and accepted the engagement rock. "This is unconventional," he commented, laughing.

Smirking, as Uchihas do: "Spur of the moment."

Smirking back, only as Itachi could: "Though inevitable?"

"I'm not one to spew shit about destiny," he said, folding his hands over Itachi's and leaning his forehead against his, "but this is a very special exception."

Itachi's eyes flicked upwards, soft, dark, and glinting. "I love you."

Lips tingling for a kiss, they closed whatever distance remained.


Fugaku-taichou,

This petition may sound radical and ridiculous, but I implore you to hear me out. I am requesting your permission to take Itachi's hand in marriage.

In disbelief, Shisui giggled half drunkenly and scrapped what must have been the thirtieth scroll tonight. The sad, twisted truth was that he'd marry Itachi no matter what the clan decreed, and that if Itachi wasn't terminally ill and intended for some strange anonymous female, they wouldn't think matrimony necessary in the first place. They were perfectly content – and admittedly thrilled – with messing around in the shadows, underneath bridges by the Nakano, stealing meaningful looks, and sharing midnights-to-dawns together instead of resting up for their assigned missions.

But there was something in Itachi's urgency when he was with him. There was something in Shisui's unwillingness to lose him to death or to any other. There was something, and they were going to go through hell and back to rid themselves of it.

It all began with this letter that Shisui couldn't bring himself to seriously write and send.

Hand knotted in his curls and playfully flicking the pen between his fingers, he stared at the blank page, vaguely reminded of his test-taking days at the Academy (Itachi finished first every time, would turn his paper over, and select an object in the room and dissect it with his eyes while he would take his dear old time, occasionally nodding off, effortlessly daydreaming). This process, as simple as writing a formal essay complete with a precise thesis, was all about how he loved and deserved Itachi. The former was easy. The latter, well…

What had he done to deserve him? Two years had passed, their intertwined joy as effortless as the river flowed south, and he still couldn't fathom why. He ignored that great pink elephant called 'Sickness' that thumped around behind Itachi, eating off the dust particles he'd leave behind, growing morbidly obese. He was so goddamn obvious about how he felt about him – he's cried in his arms for godssake – and yet he could never admit it to himself how he felt. Shisui lead him on for years like a clueless short-skirted school girl, all starting when he casually kissed him during their Academy orientation. Hell, the night he finally did confess his feelings, was the same night he fucked Anko.

Shisui could only hope he could make up for it somehow.

"Shisui."

The unused pen fell, unnoticed from his hand. Instead of writing like he ought to – especially since he did a botched-up, distracted job patrolling today – he was brooding. How productive.

"Shisui," Itachi repeated, weakly.

He turned around, blinking the multicolored fuzziness from his tired eyes. "Itachi? I'm sorry, I was trying to – when did it get so dark?"

Itachi, clad in his ANBU uniform, neither removed his shoes nor closed the door behind him. He kneeled behind him and grasped his sleeves in his gloved hands. As Itachi buried his face in his shoulder, his Crow mask, painted and cold, kissed Shisui's cheek. His hair smelled unromantically of gore – a scent he knew all too well. Silently, Shisui turned and cradled him to his chest, tightly, to quell his trembling.

This happened too often for Shisui's tastes.

Shisui carried the uncharacteristically submissive man – his hair, so damn long now, brushed against his bare arms – and gently laid him on his bed. Bending over him, he kissed every inch of his exposed skin, from the heavy bags under his eyes, across his salty lips, to his iron tasting fingers. "Shh," he hushed repeatedly, at a loss for any other concepts of consolation.

"I don't want to do this anymore," Itachi managed, beginning to hyperventilate. His hands gripped at the roots of his hair, scratched off his forehead protector and swabbed at sweat beading along his temples. His eyes were wide with reliving. "I killed a man…I killed another man…"

Shisui, resting his forehead on Itachi's to keep his eyes focused on him, responded lightly, "You don't have to anymore. Just give me the word, and you won't have to anymore."

If he begged for the end of his shinobi life, he would change his mind by the hangover morning, and they both knew it.

That night, like many others before and after, his whimpers – a noise that simply didn't sound right, simply not the seemingly-stoic-but-incredibly-tender boy Shisui knew – submerged themselves in kisses and the little space between skin and fingernails. He struggled to be gentle with Itachi, who protested with raw desperation, bold love bites, and those red eyes. His knee lifted and pressed against his groin, teasingly, a challenge. Flinching and moaning, Shisui fumbled with the ANBU uniform, unstrapping the armor gauchely, craving fiery flesh.

Dexterous as he was, Itachi single-handedly unbuttoned and unzipped Shisui's slacks, and pressed his cold fingers tantalizingly against his lower stomach. His eyes burned as he looked up at him, testing Shisui's patience. Rearing back, Shisui pulled his shirt up and off, keeping focused on the heavily breathing man under him.

"Sure about this?" he asked, not because it was their first time, but because Itachi was an enigma unto his own self.

At this hesitation, Itachi's eyes narrowed and his back arched. He plunged his hands, deep, into the crotch of Shisui's pants. "Just do it," he growled, hand encasing his cock.

Sense kicked Shisui painfully in the ass. "I can't – not again, Itachi, you always get like this—"

"Stop talking," he insisted, sitting up and yanking Shisui's pants down lower, exposing him, hardened.

Gulping in uncertainty and lustful anticipation, Shisui's head fell back as Itachi's lips closed around him, warm and wet. He clenched at his long hair as Itachi moved up and down his shaft. Watching each other with their Sharingan eyes, the fight sucked – literally – from Shisui, his tongue circling his head – he shuddered as Itachi withdrew, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth.

"Fuck – Itachi – you—"

A hand snatched a fistful of curls, tugging him down into a kiss of soaked in saliva, blood, and precum. Itachi squirmed underneath him, and by the sudden feeling of warmth and the hard rod he felt underneath his hips, Shisui deducted that this fucking idiot was going to go all the way whether he liked it or not. He wasn't certain what it was but – Itachi was hot, rough and begging – better than crying and quivering, right?

Right.

Unable to control himself any further, Shisui seized the back of Itachi's hair and neck, and flipped and hauled him like a clawing kitten closer to the bedside table, where he fumbled in his drawers for lube. In the meantime, Itachi laid, face down, knees on the floor and elbows, on the bed, splayed like some broken doll, and hair wild. "Fuck," he murmured at the sight, while messily coating his shaking fingers in the lubricant.

He shuddered as fingers slid down to his ass. Kissing his shoulder blade to soothe him, Shisui prodded at the small bud waiting to be penetrated. Visibly, Itachi's lower back tensed as one finger pushed inside him, probing for the prostate. The instant his hands snatched the sheets, habitually muffling his pleasured reactions – when he didn't quiet himself, the very sound of his low voice hitching and his labored breaths could get Shisui off – he added a second finger.

"Get on with it," Itachi hissed between moans, turning his head sideways and glaring at him as if he were a mortal enemy.

Knowing better than to mess with him, Shisui withdrew his wet fingers and dispensed lube along his cock. "If you're going to be that way, Itachi," he responded roughly, one hand gripping Itachi's hip and the other guiding himself into his ass. "I won't go easy on you."

With a thrust of his hips, he was in – fuck – that tight closing – Shisui – deep, that he felt buried in him – don't you dare – and Itachi bit his knobby wrist – stop – and Shisui pulled out and – again. His animal instinct kicked in – is that really – from the pure dominance of watching Itachi writhe underneath him – all you've got?— crying out at every plunge. "Shi – Shi," he moaned (like a boy, he was eighteen, but he was like a boy), raising his head only to have Shisui shove him back down, tearing at his scalp and hair as Itachi tore at the white sheets.

He moved, faster, wanting more than anything just to see his back string up like a bow as he comes. In lustful disbelief, Shisui stared down at the penetration, seeing stars and double images of his dick sliding in and out of Itachi and his hands biting smiles into his hips. Itachi moved in a stunning paroxysm, feral yet somehow submissive, all beautiful bones arching underneath his flushed, sweaty skin. When he tilted his head back, jaw open, eyes wide, Shisui knew to thrust faster, aiming for that spot that drove him absolutely crazy.

Leaning over, with only Itachi's hair separating Shisui's chest from his back, he trapped Itachi's hand in his and breathed into his ear, hips working. Their closeness and friction burned; their breath like vapor. Itachi said some incoherent things, stifled by the bed. "I love you too," Shisui laughed shakily, teeth against his ear.

Then Shisui slammed into him. His drunken eyes slid to the back of his head, vision otherwise disjointed by his rushed and confused doujutsu. Somewhere underneath him, Itachi moaned aloud, shuddering in pleasure from his legs to the tips of his hair. His voice softened to an awed breath, then to a satisfied purr as Shisui's seed filled him.

Shisui's body fell limp, forehead beside Itachi's, saliva trailing from his mouth and cum on the sheets. "Fuck," was all he managed, as usual. He rolled off him, allowing Itachi room to properly breathe, and stared at him in loving disbelief.

Body damp in all sorts of bodily fluids, Itachi kept his face buried in the tousled sheets and his hands, with veins as blue as the ocean, clenched. His breaths, slow and deliberate, still trembled. Shisui, already burdened after his release, wearily recognized the situation. Pulling the tired man to him, he kissed his forehead and stroked his spine in vain attempts to pacify him.

There was blood on the sheets, too.


Fugaku-taichou,

I know this is insane and totally against Uchiha tradition. I know you're probably going to refuse. But please, for Itachi's sake, hear me out with an open mind.

I am fully aware of Itachi's fate to be betrothed, and doubly aware of his illness. While I respect the discretion of the clan, I want to also respect his short life. I beg you: do not add to his troubles with this arranged marriage. He has already walked the rough path of a shinobi against his will. Now, let him reach his own goals in the short time he has left.

We – Itachi and I – are also asking you of a second favor. I want to marry him. With your consent and blessing, I promise to make him happy for the rest of his life.

I love Itachi. Even though there isn't a damn thing I can do for him, and even though he's far too good for me, I love him, and he loves me in return. I have adored him since my Academy days, and we have been together for two years. I don't want to plague you with poetic comparisons and examples and whatnot. The proof, if you need any, is in my words and in our eyes. If you know anything of your son's nature, whatever he loves, he loves fully.

If you can find it within you to disregard our gender and social roles – if you can grant your son this happiness, I will be eternally grateful.

- Uchiha Shisui.

For the fifteen minutes Fugaku took to read the letter, Shisui remained frozen in his bowing position, fully prepared to bash his own head through the tatami mats. Mentally, he read and reread the letter a million times, and wanted to vomit all over it and restate his case. Everything he said was probably wrong. Right now, Fugaku could be debating whether or not to have him decommissioned, exiled from the clan, and separated from Itachi. Or worse, he could be considering punishing Itachi.

Shisui heard the rustle of paper. "You may look up, Shisui," Fugaku commanded stiffly. Not a good sign. Heart pounding, he straightened his back and kept his hands tight at his knees, fully prepared to pummel the clan head. He was met with a puzzled, calculating gaze.

"So what gave you the idea," Fugaku said slowly, gesturing to the scroll that sat neatly beside him, "that I was going to marry Itachi off?"

The question caught him off guard. Had he misjudged Fugaku's intentions? "Prior experience, generalizations, taichou. You married Mikoto-san when you were as young as twenty."

Head inclined, he chuckled. "Prior experience, generalizations…are we talking about Itachi, or another man?"

"I – so – I don't…?" Shisui felt ashamed, having been one-upped in the subject of Itachi by the likes of Fugaku.

The lightened atmosphere darkened with Fugaku's expression. "I wouldn't do that to my son. And it's offensive to me, as a father, that you would consider that idea." Shisui held his breath, waiting for the next verdict. "On the other hand, I cannot allow this marriage."

"And why not?" Crestfallen, he bit back the curses bubbling in the back of his throat.

"Because it would be a scandal, Shisui. You two are cousins, two excellent shinobi seen and associated with each other as brother since – as you say – your Academy days. Not to mention your gender. If public should learn that the eldest son of the head Uchiha family is not only homosexual, but incestuous – and soon, terminally ill. The clan has endured enough rumors concerning our doujutsu and heritage. Our clan reputation will suffer. Itachi will, as well...No argument from you? You're full of surprises today, Shisui. Call Itachi inside. You are dismissed."

Wordlessly, Shisui bowed and slid open the door. Keeping his face perfectly neutral, he beckoned Itachi into the room and stood there, insides like ice. Promptly, he fulfilled his urge to ram his head into something and cursed a string of curses as expertly as a drunkard hiccups and slurs.

He didn't have much time to wallow in his sadness. Shortly after, Itachi opened the door, basically excreting a dejected aura. "What, exactly, did you write in that scroll?" he asked, sternly.

With great effort and greater stupefaction, Shisui raised his forehead from the wall. "What do you think?" I wanted to marry you, dumbass.

"I know that," Itachi replied curtly, borderline venomous. "But do you know what he just asked me?"

Shisui countered just as crossly. Two could play at that game. "I'd be delighted if you told me."

"He asked me if I wanted to quit being a shinobi. He was concerned that I was pushing myself. He was concerned that I was, and I quote, 'troubled.'" Itachi stepped closer, dangerous, and genuinely angry. "Care to explain yourself, Shisui?"

This wasn't unlike him. Itachi was a pacifist, a lover, a sensible, fluent, meditative man. Anger only suited him in the bedroom, and even then, it wasn't like this. Shisui closed his eyes, scanning through the letter to find this incriminating sentence; once he remembered it, his forehead kissed the wall again. "I'm sorry, Itachi."

At that, Itachi stepped back and receded into himself, breathing to calm down. "I told him I wasn't going to quit. He was relieved, but asked me not to push myself, and is probably considering removing me from ANBU in a few months." Looking away from Shisui, he continued to speak as if to himself, "Otou-san normally would never have given me the choice."

Tentatively, Shisui dared to speak to him again, "He's being surprisingly lenient. As lenient as Fugaku-taichou can get, but…"

Itachi leaned up, turned his head and kissed him, briefly. "Thank you for trying."

"I thought he was gonna fucking murder me."

"Mmn," he agreed, nestling his face in Shisui's shoulder. "Maybe another day. Keep on your toes, Shunshin no Shisui."

As usual, Lady Luck frowned on them; Fugaku exited what was nicknamed his 'torture chamber' and spotted them, embracing. They turned, caught his eye, and derived the same chill. "Just this once," his face read like a large-lettered decree, "Just this once, and never again."


"Good morning, Mikoto-san, Sasu-squirt-chan." Shisui yawned his way into the kitchen, habitually ruffled the little Uchiha's hair and kneeled beside Itachi's vacant spot. Sasuke and Mikoto exchanged apprehensive glances; Shisui often slept over, but given the recent events, it wasn't the best idea now. Nevertheless, they refrained from commenting. Shisui pointed his chopsticks at Sasuke, who leisurely finished up his bowl of rice. "When I was your age," he slurred, merely half awake, "I was already out completing today's quota of missions."

Sasuke scowled. "There's no point in going early. Kakashi is always late."

Shisui choked on his fish. "You've got Kakashi for a sensei? You're a lucky motherfucker. No offense, Mikoto-san."

She laughed halfheartedly – through the years of knowing him, she never acclimated to his informal cursing. In comparison to the civil Itachi, Shisui was a hugely rebellious character, indeed. "None taken," she said, switching off the faucet and joining the two at the table. "What are you doing here so early in the morning, Shisui?"

"For one," he explained between mouthfuls, "your food is excellent. For two, Fugaku's asked me for a little out-of-town errand."

"For three, you slept with my brother last night," Sasuke added, gravely casual.

Shisui pursed his lips, stifling a distressed chortle. "I wasn't aware you were old enough to learn about the birds and the bees, Sasu-chan."

"Tou-san told me to keep an eye on you two."

"What are you, his little minion?"

"I'm Itachi's little brother."

"Oh really? I wasn't aware."

"So I want what's best for him."

His resentment and pent up frustration sent his hand flying into the wooden table. The silverware wobbled, and the morning birds outside quieted like an absorbed audience. "And it isn't me, is that what you're going to tell me, you little fuck?"

Mikoto slapped him straight across the face, hard and unforgiving, with the power of a dormant kunoichi. Now, he lived a life of little surprises, but this one topped them all. He loved Mikoto as his own mother, and could now only watch her with large black eyes, like a child who just recognized his sin. "Shisui, do not speak to my son like that. If you would only hear us out, there would be no need for this anger."

Clearing his throat and readjusting himself to the traditional seiza, he said, "Forgive me, Mikoto-san."

"And to Sasuke?"

Feeling like a five-year-old, he included a lackadaisical inclination of his head for an apologetic effect. "Sorry."

Sasuke, whose groomed teenage ego contentedly basked in this turn of events, smirked cockily. "Finally ready to listen?"

"Only if you're not a brat about it," Shisui retorted, wondering how this little devil spawned from the same gene pool as the ever courteous Itachi.

Promptly ignoring that quip, he sustained, "Kaa-san and I talked about it yesterday, after tou-san told us about the situation. He likes you as a shinobi, but as a person…well, we agree on that point." Mikoto shot him a reprimanding glare, to which Sasuke cleared his throat unrepentantly. "He's forbidden you two from seeing each other – uh – romantically, anymore."

"How does one stop seeing someone," Shisui paused for dramatic effect, "romantically?"

Sasuke and his outrageous spiky hair bristled. "Here are some suggestions: you stop feeling him up under the dinner table, you stop giving him these lovey-dovey looks, maybe you can even stop fucking him—"

"The point is," Mikoto interjected, playing mediator, "We both want Itachi to be happy. If he's happy with you, then we won't report anything to Fugaku. Only as long as he's happy. Understood?"

Disregarding the twerp's presence, Shisui bowed deeply to the matriarch. "Understood, Mikoto-san."

As if in confirmation, the door slid open. Half-clad in his ANBU uniform, Itachi strode in, bemused but silent, wished his mother good morning, and began eating. The three watched him, allured, saddened, or awed by his presence, as everyone was. Diffusing the lingering awkwardness, he said to no one in particular, "I've received summons from the Hokage."

"Another big mission?" Mikoto frowned, anxious.

He nodded, and folded his chopsticks over his barely touched meal. "I've no appetite. Gochisousama."

When he left, he left a persistent weight and a nervous butterfly flutter in their hearts.

Broken from his trance, Shisui hurriedly swallowed the last of his breakfast and stumbled after him. "Hey – uh, gochisousama, Mikoto-san – see you later, Sasu-squirt-chan – wait." Itachi stood at the exit, mask strapped to the side of his face, katana sheathed at his back, black hooded cloak draped over him. "What're you summoned for?" he asked, stunned by his urgency.

"I don't know yet," he responded blankly. "Top secret."

Shisui stepped closer, rubbing his hands along Itachi's tense shoulders. "Don't be like that. I'm worried about you." He kissed him – fuck Fugaku, fuck Sasuke. "When you come back, we'll hit that new restaurant. Tea and dango. My treat. Don't miss out.

He returned the kiss, eyes fluttering, edgy, and damp. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."


It didn't take long for Shisui to find The Legendary Sucker – a name he suspected encompassed more than just bad luck. After all, he moved more quickly than any of the Uchiha, and the instant he discovered her whereabouts from a giddy gambler, he teleported to said casino bar. She sat, hunched over, with a younger woman and a pig as a companion.

"Hey, nee-chan," Shisui occupied the seat beside her before any other starry-eyed man could snatch away the opportunity. Casually, he waved the bartender over for more sake, deciding the violent kunoichi might be more amenable when drunk. "It's time I cashed in on some of that debt."

At the mention of 'debt,' her partner whipped out what must've been a financial notebook. Apparently Tsunade was in no mood to be dealing with monetary issues; with her super-human strength, she smashed her glass of sake in her fist. "Go away, you little weasel."

Shisui had to laugh at the myriad of ironies.

"Gold is cheap," he responded, undeterred by her frightening response, "Heritage – now that's what's important."

Her companion – named Shizune according to the reports – seemed incredibly eager to exit the bar and find occupation elsewhere. It was a wonder how the two ever cooperated, as Tsunade once again acted on an opposite instinct. The heritage talk, as Shisui predicted, drew her in. "What are you blithering about?"

"The Senju owe the Uchiha a great debt."

She raised her chin and scrutinized him, searchingly, while he stared confidently back. "You're handsome enough to be an Uchiha, I suppose. Bitter enough, too."

"With all due respect," Shisui said, working that silver tongue of his, "the Uchiha would not normally ask one of the Senju clan for assistance. But you – you and this case – are a special exception, Tsunade-sama. It will be a great favor done for so little a cost. Should the venture be successful, we will, in turn, be in your debt." Maybe he was exaggerating a tad, but what Fugaku didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

Tsunade glared at him, unable to process his words with her stupefied mind. "Quit talking in circles. What do you want?"

"The eldest son of our main family is terminally ill. The medic-nins and doctors of Konoha have done all they could, but could not identify the disease, nor cure it. He has two years remaining, give or take. My taichou, Fugaku-sama, has sent me to ask you to heal him, or at least preside over his treatment. He – Itachi – is a brilliant shinobi, and will, if given the chance, change the dogma of the Uchiha for the better. He loves Konoha, and holds no grudge towards the Senju. This will benefit more than just our clan." He slipped from the bar stool and knelt on the filthy casino carpet, smelling the smoke and embedded on the floor. "It is also my personal request that you return to Konohagakure to see to him. I beg of you. Such sentimentality is ill-fitting on a shinobi – but I'm sure you of all people, Tsunade-hime, can understand…understand how I feel."

Her amber eyes slid away from him. "Get up, get up, my back hurts just looking at you," she said, focusing intensely on her drink. Shisui contemplated ignoring her order, but chose not to piss her off any further. Cautiously, he seated himself again, and downed a well-needed glass of sake.

"So here's my proposition," Tsunade said, finally done with contemplating. "Pay for my drinks, and I'll go back to Konoha with you."

Shisui couldn't suppress his skepticism. "Just pay for your drinks?"

"Yes. Then we're even. Uchiha or Senju, a life's a life. I always knew half of your clan was flaming gay, anyway."

Then she ordered another drink, and another, and Shisui berated himself for questioning the gravity of her negotiation.


Tsunade enjoyed a discreet homecoming celebration upon her return to Konoha, as her patient was absent. Needless to say, Fugaku was furious that his sickly son was sent on some foreign mission for weeks. "If you want the truth," Minato explicated gravely to his old friend, "Itachi requested to be sent on this mission himself." The Uchiha head left the office in an over-the-top harrumph, knowing fully that he could do nothing against the Hokage. Shisui petitioned him in a friendlier manner, but received sad pity in return.

"I'm sorry I dragged you over here," Shisui joined Tsunade at yet another bar, because he literally did pay for all her drinks. "I thought he'd be back by now."

"What did you think I've been doing, sitting around? Tch." A manila file of x-rays, ultrasounds, charts, and blood results were spread at the table before her. Itachi's name was neatly printed on the top right margin, his photograph and profile, ranging from ages thirteen to eighteen, was clipped on corresponding sheets. "Handsome boy," she remarked.

Shisui beamed, proud that Itachi was his. "Yeah. Yeah, he is." He craned his neck to get a better peek at these confidential files. As involved as he was in Itachi's daily life, he kept most everything concerning his check-ups and physical well-being to himself. "Have you found anything out yet?"

Tsunade shook her head. "No. But it's not a completely new sickness. It's been seen and investigated before – some great shinobi in the past have experienced similar symptoms." With her finger, she traced lines that read, pulmonary hemorrhages, irregular heartbeat, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, hypertension, three myocardial infractions... "It's not a very visible disease. I'd bet many knew they were going to die and kept it hushed until the very end."

Shisui snatched the papers from her. "Since when did he have three goddamn heart attacks?"

Impatiently, she retrieved her files and smoothed out any crinkles. "I assumed you were fully aware of his medical condition. So I assumed wrong."

"That fucking idiot. Always acting as though everything was rainbows and shit. I'm going to fucking kill him."

"And here I thought you were charming!" With an exasperated grimace, Tsunade slammed the folder shut definitively. "If you're going to let your emotions get in the way, then get out. It's hard enough to make a diagnosis – harder with a panicked boyfriend floating over my shoulder. No wonder he kept tight-lipped about everything."

Shisui only gaped at her. Tsunade might as well have punched a hole through his chest. As if he didn't already feel like a total fuck-up – now a drunkard gambler with a history of loss was telling him he had issues. What had he done wrong? What did he do, what didn't he do? He rubbed his face, slapped his cheeks – like his cousin Obito did, before he passed – and rejected the bartender's offer for a drink.

"Tsunade, what should I do?"

"Dropping the honorifics now, boy?"

"Please."

She tched again, sighed, and looked him square in the eyes. "Be there for him. Know and accept that he's dying. And do not – do not – let yourself die."

At that moment, against the protests of the bartender, a flustered Sasuke rammed into the bar, shouting sentences composed of utter nonsense save these words: sick, hospital, Itachi, now.


"Put him on morphine—"

"Where did the Yondaime say he was—?"

"Amegakure. Investigating some rebel group—"

"Was he injured—?"

"His heart is fibrillating—"

"Shisui, get out of the room—"

"But—"

"Nii-san—!"

"Get AB blood—"

Shisui, Sasuke, Fugaku, and Mikoto, all shuffled into the waiting room, the first, unfeeling and speechless, the second, bewildered and confused, the third, seething and in disbelief, the last, wide-eyed and weeping. Civilians and shinobi alike briefly paused while passing them, curious as to why the famous Uchiha family gathered like poetic ravens. Mikoto curled up on a chair, beside her husband. Shisui paced and Sasuke stared blankly into space.

"What happened?" the youngest was the first to speak. "Nii-san, what happened to him?"

His parents exchanged looks, crushed. From the moment of Itachi's inescapable diagnosis, they dreaded the day they had to inform Sasuke. He adored Itachi so, almost to the same degree as Shisui. "Sasuke," Mikoto said, gently, slipping from her chair to hug her son close. "Your nii-san has been sick. Very sick. For a long time now."

Sasuke struggled from her grasp, tears forming in his eyes (he's grown so much, but he's still just a boy, after all). "Don't baby me, kaa-san. How long has he been dying? How long has this been kept from me? How much time have you wasted instead of trying to cure him?

Unable to keep himself in check, Shisui lifted the boy by his collar, shaking him. "Fuck, shut up, Sasuke! Do you think you're the only one scared shitless? Huh?"

"Shisui, let go of him!"

Sasuke, the rascal, bit his hand, kicked at him, and wrenched away, down the hall, out of the hospital. "Fuck you!" Shisui screamed after him, throwing a chair as if it could stop the fast-footed boy.

Before any of his rage-filled antics could attract more unwanted attention, Fugaku yanked him by the curls into a chair and promptly cast a genjutsu on him. When Shisui blinked, he was in his own apartment, complete with furniture, appliances, all his useless shit and all his picture frames . Even in his disorientation, he could hear Fugaku's voice boom: "Smash things up here. When you're calm, leave dispel the illusion."

When Shisui's body, limp in the hospital chair, began shuddering and screaming, Mikoto hugged him to her chest and wept with him, as if he were her own son.

Even after Shisui reduced the illusion of his apartment to rubble, burned and tore every picture of his worthless face, de-feathered every pillow, and splintered every piece of wood, Itachi's emergency treatment was still ongoing. He awoke, lying across three chairs on a dozing Mikoto's lap. Fugaku, blank-faced and weary, stopped pacing when he noticed Shisui regained consciousness.

"Find Sasuke," he said, weakly. Shisui, after having the anger numbed out of him, only nodded and obeyed.

It was nighttime – the ideal summer evening. Were Itachi not strapped onto a stretcher, they'd be lounging along the Nakano, humming with the cicadas and soaking their warm toes in the soothing water. The lantern-lit walkways, filled with lovers and off-duty shinobi, now only looked like a colossal labyrinth, lacking in a beginning, end or destination. Countless dango and tea restaurants. The scent of them made him sick.

If I were a snot-nosed twelve-year-old shit, where would I be?

When he found him, it was by pure accident, coincidence, and luck. Shisui thanked the gods that Namikaze Naruto inherited the boisterously loud voices of the Uzumaki. Breaking into a jog, he followed the obnoxious voice to Ichiraku Ramen, where Naruto, an unfamiliar pink-haired girl, the masked Kakashi sensei, and Sasuke sat. They appeared to be waiting for the blonde to finish consuming his tenth bowl of ramen; Sasuke, who was for the most part, quiet, looked contemplative.

Shisui planted his hand firmly on his cousin's shoulder. "Hey. Your parents are worried."

Everyone in the party turned their heads towards the new development. Shisui was uncharacteristically calm, while Sasuke looked prepared to gnaw his head off. The big-mouthed Naruto squealed through the noodles in his mouth: "Isth this your brudder, teme? He cud hibs hair!"

"Nah," Shisui shook his head, though flattered that the kid entertained that horribly wrong idea. "I'm not as good looking as the guy." The stars in the pink girl's eyes told him differently. He found Sasuke's teammates amusing enough, but this was family business, after all. "Come on, Sasuke."

The kid's eyes sank to his hands, his team, and then finally, Shisui. "I'll go back when I can."

Unsure of what to make of this, he insisted, "Itachi would want you to be there."

Kakashi coughed, though he kept his droopy eye trained on his perverted novel. "Sasuke, I know it's difficult, but go support your family. We'll swing by in the morning to see how everything is. Right, Naruto, Sakura?"

Despite being totally oblivious to the situation, the two agreed enthusiastically. Sasuke conceded to his sensei and walked with Shisui, who, over his shoulder, mouthed a thank you to the strange masked man. They moved in silence (not the same as Itachi's silence, immaculate and serene, not fragile like this), the bad blood visible in their slouching postures.

"You know," Shisui said hesitantly, "Itachi loves you. Probably more than he loves me. Hell, he'd annihilate the whole clan if it meant saving you. Me, included."

"Yeah. Yeah…I know."

"You know?"

Sasuke scoffed. "Nii-san is ridiculous. He's perfect, but he's a weird idealist. He never really…"

"…Makes sense? Tell me about it."

He laughed, nostalgic. "When we were little, he used to make me collect cat's paw prints. I don't really get why but – but it was fun, and he'd act all impressed with me whenever I succeeded."

Shisui chimed in, finding his mouth running like a bad leak. "Did you know he has to tie his hair back a certain way? I don't get how he does it, but he gets pissed whenever I try to do it for him. I 'do it wrong,' apparently."

"He still pokes my forehead. I don't understand it. People pull ears, cheeks, pinch noses, whatever, but he pokes my fucking forehead."

"You know, when I first met him, I thought he was a girl? And he totally played along."

"I keep telling him he looks like a girl, with his hair like that."

"The guy's a stickler for appearances. He flipped a shit when his ANBU tattoo nearly got infected."

"No kidding?"

"He's a neat freak."

"'I'm sorry, Sasuke, next time, okay?' Blergh."

"And he's a real pain in the ass when he acts all mysterious."

"He's a liar…"

"He's Itachi."

"Yeah…Nii-san."

Upon their return to the hospital, Fugaku and Mikoto still hadn't left the waiting room. Shisui tugged Sasuke back before turning the corner, and pressed his finger to his lips. "Tsunade's talking to them," he whispered, cupping his ear to eavesdrop. Intrigued, Sasuke imitated him.

"…critical condition. He should quit being a shinobi while I conduct his treatment…Yes, he'll remain at the hospital…No, I don't know what, exactly, is wrong with him. You'll speak to him in a second. When he regained consciousness, he wanted to speak to the Hokage immediately, probably about the mission…"

The hurt look on Shisui's and Sasuke's faces meant the same thing: they eached wished Itachi asked for them first.

But when the family was finally permitted to visit Itachi, Shisui stood back and let Sasuke tackle him first. Shoulders shaking, and small even in comparison to Itachi, he scolded his brother for "Being so stupid" and "Keeping secrets" and "Going to the hospital instead of shuriken training him back when he was seven." Silly shit like that. Everyone else could only smile in relief.


Although he was due to spend two weeks at the hospital to recuperate, Itachi protested his retiring ANBU, and, after much arguing with Tsunade, managed to maintain his status as a shinobi. Fugaku wanted to strangle his son such a rash, life-changing decision, claiming that Itachi could possibly survive until twenty-one if he'd just put down his katana. Mikoto relayed his response sadly: "He would rather die on the battlefield than waste away on a hospital bed." The sentence was oh-so terribly Itachi.

As promised, Sasuke and Team Seven visited in the morning, armed with red apples and redder hydrangeas. Shisui later learned from Kakashi that "Naruto was utterly bewildered by Sasuke's change in attitude around Itachi" and that Sakura thought (ridiculously) "Itachi cute, but Sasuke cuter." Nevertheless, Sasuke's team got on incredibly well with Itachi. Along the course of his recover, he'd often ask his otouto to bring Naruto along, claiming that his hyper-activeness energized him.

The third day of visiting hours, Shisui's private visit was unluckily intercepted by Itachi's ANBU buddies, all unmasked and casually dressed. Having worked in the organization for five years, he'd grown attached to everyone he collaborated with, despite his age. Shisui stood like a sentinel at the door, and turned to leave when Itachi's rich voice, laughing at a joke a man named Tenzou cracked, permeated through the walls.

The fourth day was specially reserved by Mikoto, who sat at his bedside skinning more apples for him. "Kaa-san, can I have dango instead?" he asked with a Cheshire smile.

"Bad!" Mikoto scolded, just as jokingly, "You need to watch your blood sugar now."

As true as that was, when Shisui finally visited him on the fifth day, he brought a secret stash of dango and a pitcher of iced tea. "You're a life saver," Itachi grinned, extending his hand for a stick of his favorite flavored dumplings.

Shisui leaned back, far from his cousin's grip. "Ah-ah-ah. It's an apologetic plate. Let me apologize first."

Laughing: "Okay, go on."

Bending to a perfect ninety-degree angle and offering the plate of dango, Shisui said:

"I'm a fucking idiot. I'm more worried about you dying than I am of you, in general. I've worried you by worrying about you so damn much. I want you to be happy; I want you to enjoy life, but I've treated you like a delicate child. It should be fucking obvious that you're not a goddamn brat because you fuck like an incubus and you're too beautiful for your own damn good and you've always been the smartest guy around and you've somehow made me realize that your dick is better than all Konoha cunt added together. Sometimes I just don't fucking get you, cause you throw around these meaningful looks with those terrifying eyes of yours, and I wish you'd just say how you felt instead of just supposing that I knew what you mean. Like – don't make me fuck you if you're just going to be upset after it – I don't know, shit like that really gets to me. Thing is, I know we're not perfect – I love to think we're perfect but that's beside the point – but I want to get as close as fucking possible so I can make you the happiest person and, maybe, maybe justify all the little shitty things I've done, like when I thought you were a girl when I first met you, and when I couldn't convince your fucktard of a father to let me marry you. I'm sorry I just called your father a fucktard, too. I know you'll be gone soon, but let's just forget about it for now and just be you and me. And we'll get married someday, I promise, even if it's in the afterlife or another life or hell, or wherever the fuck we go. The point is, I love you to death, hell, heaven and I will love you for all my life."

Itachi half laughed and half coughed, but fully smiled. "God, Shisui, you need to learn to organize your thoughts a little better."

Looking up from his bow, Shisui smirked. "I'll work on it."

"Give me the dango. And a kiss."

Because Shisui was always something of a backwards child, he kissed Itachi first.


I was planning on making the ending much sadder than this but…aw hell, I just couldn't write Itachi's death. I chickened out as an author! But I hope this ending is satisfying enough. These two just give me so many feelings.

To clarify, I wanted Fugaku to be less of an asshole as normally portrayed, and actually give a shit about the wellbeing of his son. The mission Itachi was on concerned Nagato in Amegakure. Itachi's disease is awesome-older-brother-itis.

You have no contracted a disease called you-must-review-itis. So do it! Thank you for reading, and keep checking back for more fanfiction.