Kisame/Itachi. This is their partnership.
"How did it go?"
"Fair," says Itachi, seating himself by the campfire in a flurry of black cloth and sand. The conversation ends there. Kisame pushes a bowl of stew at him, and he spoons it down without pausing for the hints of meat that, judging by available wildlife and Kisame's indiscriminate approach towards cuisine, is probably scorpion. It has no poison that can harm them.
The stew is boiling hot, garnished with pepper and cloves that they had taken from a stone-paved village market before setting out towards the wilderness. Itachi had liked the hawkers there, with their dark skin and bells around the ankles, barking their prices and refusing to quail before Kisame's alien features at the prospect of a sale.
In the land of the Sand, the landscape shifts at every turn; little is constant. He'd returned to camp across the dunes as the crow flies, tugging on Kisame's chakra like a lifeline, and Kisame would have recognized his signature as well, known when to start the food simmering so that he would arrive to a fresh dinner. For every disadvantage of a teammate is a corresponding advantage, but Itachi can do better without warm stew than with some other burdens of their affiliation.
"Two days before we reach civilization."
He turns his head, and Kisame is staring at the fire, gnawing on a tail-shaped shell, unaffected to the eye. The line that connects them -- like the red thread of country superstition, for the ignorant -- contracts like a shivering beast.
/Nights in the desert sting like the desert's guardians/, Sasori had said while marking water sources on their map, nothing but his lack of emotion indicating uncut ties to his birthplace. The fire is insufficient to ward off the chill, and the stew disappears quickly despite the quantity, which doesn't bother Itachi, who has a fire within him to conquer a glacial age. But all men differ, in the end. All creatures differ.
This is their partnership.
Itachi rises from the sand, scattering it from the folds of his cloak and his hair, and walks over to Kisame, to cup his hands around the gills above Kisame's cheekbones: not too tightly, allowing them to flare before settling.
Kisame's eyes are pupilless and unreadable; his own, he supposes, as usual. When Kisame pulls himself up, Itachi lets his hands drop -- there is a head of height between them, and he has no intention of allowing his arms to sore -- but they walk together to the blankets, which Kisame had settled into two piles.
He pulls them together to make a soft mountain of fabric. Undressing goes quickly (ice before warmth, pain before acquisition) and once it's over they waste no time in burrowing in, moving in the silence of the fire's shadows. Kisame's skin is a shock against his own, and while he had never been accounted warm-blooded while dwelling in the abodes of humans, to Kisame, he thinks, he must feel a radiator. Everything falls in degrees.
Kisame is not particularly lustful, and Itachi tends to forget fleshly desires without a concentrated effort to remember -- girls braiding flowers in their hair to attract his gaze, Shisui's hand on his spine, unmoving.
Now they hold each other without force, balanced to find the equilibrium of indifference, which can generate heat while discarding danger; Kisame's cold hands slide down his body, seeking shelter, and he doesn't move them away. They brush across scars, some they know, some they inflicted, the older ones a mystery to all but himself, and Itachi returns the favor, discharging debts incurred elsewhere.
It takes some time, both of them unhurried, a few gasps audienced only by the sand-critters. Afterwards they drowse in each others' arms, as children would in a maze of lonely dunes, and Itachi breathes to the rhythm of Kisame's heartbeat, thinking that the tightest ties that had bound him have already been cut, and when the time comes to do it again, it will be like the wind of the desert, swallowing all anomalies.
He yawns, and moves closer, and sleeps.