Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Owe
Author's Notes- Total crack, sorry, and possibly some sort of cry for help. There's at least one time paradox in there that I'm aware of D:. Feedback is very much appreciated.
Disclaimer- I don't own any of the recognisable characters or concepts. No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
- - -
The scene. A jagged shard of black rock, spiking from dark, heaving oceans to pierce the skies. At the top, an enormous, crooked black tower, a single light glowing in the uppermost room. The camera moves upward, sinister strings playing in the background as lightning flashes, and zooms in through the lit window..
- - -
..into a cosy bathroom, tastefully decorated in rose and creams. At the centre, vanilla-scented candles surrounded a bath full of fluffy pink bubbles and scattered petals. A single yellow rubber duckie bobbed and floated serenely in the scented waters.
Akatsuki's sole female member entered, glancing around the room, looking for a disturbance that may signal an intruder. She noticed that the toilet roll had been hung in the incorrect overhand manner, and with a piercing cry, leapt upon the laundry basket and flattened it with a single blow. The basket exploded, strewing the bathroom with assorted socks and underwear, but no hidden ninjas.
She removed a lacy bra from her head, eyes narrowed with suspicion. She glanced around once more, and then with the true stealth and speed of the ninja, managed to get from underneath her robe into the bubbles, without revealing anything at all. Sometimes, it was difficult being the only girl in a criminal organisation well-accustomed to infiltrating forbidden places to obtain important information, like.. say, whether someone happened to be a natural bluenette.
Because of this, she was generally on quite good terms with Deidara. At least he had the decency to also have long pretty hair, and came equipped with three extra orifices (at least, that was what Kisame had reported on the last count, although previous estimates ranged anywhere from two to ten spare mouths), which meant after she had Bitchslap no Jutsu-ed most of Akatsuki into next week, she'd sometimes have a break while they tried setting up cameras in his bathroom for a change.
However, her amicable feelings all changed when she was washing her hair and noticed that her special, chakra-infused Sweet Strawberry Surprise conditioner had once again mysteriously disappeared.
Her razor had also gone the same way. She sighed. Deidara was blonde, it wasn't like he even needed to bother. Now, blue stubble, on the other hand.. she raised one elegant leg above the foam and examined it critically.
"You could plait that," she mumbled to herself. There was a sudden scuffling from the window, the unmistakable sound of a Peeping Tom making a sudden run for it. Which, at the top of a twenty-storey hidden fortress atop a jagged black cliff, set out at stormy impenetrable seas, is not a terribly bright idea. Her lips thinned, as she hurled the rubber ducky like a throwing knife. There was a cheerful squeak as the duck bounced off something, followed by a hopeless scream, and some minutes later, a very distant splash.
- - -
Feeling much better, she emerged from her room in a three-inch thick quilted dressing gown and fuzzy slippers, a towel on her head and her face lightly plastered with moisturiser. Whistling merrily to herself, she went back into the main building, enjoying her temporary, total lack of sex appeal. Hidan may or may not have surreptitiously made the sign of Jashin in horror at the vision in quilted satin that came padding by in bunny-shaped slippers.
Into the kitchen. Kakuzu was there, looking stricken with horror.
"We're behind on the rent," he said abruptly.
It was unfortunately true that Akatsuki's ultimate, top-secret hideout was, in fact, rented. There just weren't that many prime locations for top-secret hideouts, and the cost of buying land inside a dormant volcano or five miles out to sea on top of a precarious bit of rock was quite mind blowing. Plus the cost of hiring labour to build the damn place was ruinous. Every quotation Akatsuki had been given (one small fortress, hidden spike pits and falling boulders, cavern for extracting tailed beasts, en-suite bathrooms and tennis court) had went the same way, with the foreman sucking his teeth thoughtfully and informing Kakuzu "Eeh, that'll cost ye,", shortly before he found himself unexpectedly lacking his left lung, a ventricle or two of his heart, and sixteen inches from his small intestine.
The logical answer, as suggested, was to do something villainous. Pick up Hidan and use him as a blunt weapon to batter the landlord to death. Blow the landlord up. Eat him. Steal his vital organs. Poison him. Make him think he's a chicken. Turn him into a puppet that'll never ask for rent and stop bitching about blue hair dye staining the sinks.
"Do you have any idea what that'll do to our credit?" Kakuzu hissed, looking faintly maniacal. "Behind on the rent, and murdering the landlord- we'd never get our damage deposits back," Kakuzu's eyes narrowed at Deidara. "If he hasn't already taken care of those."
"Kill someone and claim the bounty?" Deidara suggested, nervously.
Kakuzu's eyes narrowed murderously. "Good idea. I hear the Hidden Village of the Stone is offering-"
"Bake sale," Tobi, Akatsuki's number one fan/errand boy, chirruped.
Kakuzu thought about it. They did need quite a lot of money. Deidara regularly caused severe structural damage to everything short of perhaps a diamond-walled workshop, and that was one expense he was not willing to make. Pein had a huge hospital bill after someone told him it would be really cool and edgy to pierce his medulla oblongata. Hidan had recently bought into some new cult movement that mostly involved buying expensive mail-order crystals to cleanse the air.
And the hats! Not one member of Akatsuki seemed capable of remembering that hats cost good money, and shouldn't be casually thrown aside as soon as they got into a fight. Kakuzu had started threatening to sew the damn hats to their heads, which had worked quite well when they had kept losing mittens last winter.
Anyway, a bake sale did have certain advantages. Cheap raw materials, minimal effort, quick return and absolutely legal. No need to murder their way out through law enforcers, or pay huge bribes, and that made a refreshing change.
At that moment, Itachi and Kisame came stumbling into the kitchen, back from their mission. They were dripping what looked remarkably like slimy bits of amphibious digestive tract all over the floor. Kisame slipped on a piece of something's oesophagus, lost his balance and dropped Itachi. Itachi bounced off a chair, landed hard on the floor, and after a moment or two's contemplation, gave a monotonous "Ow."
"Ow," Itachi said by way of answer, which was perhaps all he was capable of, at the moment. His eyes were somewhat crossed, which made the Sharingan look quite a bit less sinister than usual.
"Two Tsukiyomis, one Amaretesu.. and I think he got an eyelash in there on the way back," Kisame offered. Itachi was now fumbling around trying to find his glasses, still making the occasional, monotonous "Ow,". Wearing glasses was definitely a sore point. No matter how hard that Kabuto kid tried, no amount of menacing flashing could ever really make glasses that intimidating.
Still, at least Itachi got to have a seeing-eye shark instead of a Labrador.
- - -
Pein had okayed Operation Make Lots of Money By Any Means Possible, particularly once Kakuzu had gone hysterical over the cost of having digestive tract shampooed out of the carpets and started doing what he generally did anyway- attempting to kill pretty much everything in sight. Some hours later, the kitchen was filled with the delicious smells of baking.
Kakuzu's hand detached itself, flew across the room and stealthily retrieved a freshly baked cookie.
"Who," he asked a minute later, spitting noisily. "had the bright idea of making plaice-flavoured cookies?"
Kisame tried to look inconspicuous.
Zetsu's brownies, surprisingly, weren't half-bad, despite the unusual savoury flavour. None of them had dared to ask what the special, secret ingredient was. Deidara's cupcakes were charred beyond recognition, as was everything he ever cooked, or indeed, went near. Deidara did hold that unfortunate belief that pretty much anything was better with a healthy dollop of lighter fluid on top.
Along the same lines, Sasori poisoned most things that came into his immediate vicinity. The weapons were perfectly understandable. His toothbrush, less so. Though to be fair, if Deidara had never borrowed it, no one would have ever known. For his part, Deidara blamed Kakuzu's brutal monopoly over the dental hygiene budget and its flagrant disregard for the more orally-abundant members.
The next day, the first of many Akatsuki stalls was set up in Konoha. Understandably, it took perhaps fifteen seconds for every ANBU squad in the area to begin hearing rumours..
"The disguises, Tobi!" Deidara hissed. ANBU members would be able to look through most disguise jutsus, which meant they had decided to resort to old-fashioned methods.
Tobi looked horrified. He knew he'd forgotten something. He began patting his pockets hopefully, wondering if he had anything in there.
"Tobi will disguise you, senpai!" he promised tearfully.
A minute later, Akatsuki were cunningly disguised. Hiruko was now wearing lipstick and false eyelashes. Zetsu was wearing a bunch of daffodils for a hat and ferns for a veil, passed off as merely an unusually mobile, unusually sentient sort of plant. Deidara was holding a small, black plastic comb in front of his face in hopes it might be mistaken for a toothbrush moustache. Itachi was wearing his reading glasses and hiding behind an open copy of the latest Icha Icha novel- Icha Icha Super Upskirt Panties Girl Action. They had run out of ideas by the time they had got to Kisame, who had simply Sexy no Jutsu-ed, hoping that no one would want to get close enough to the naked shark chick to realise it was a jutsu disguise.
The first ANBU member boggled. He was pretty certain it was Akatsuki. On the other hand, he was trying to imagine what his superior might say when he reported that Itachi Uchiha was in the village, selling cupcakes, wearing reading glasses and reading Icha Icha Super Upskirt Panties Girl Action. He had a feeling the answer would involve a kindly expression and offer of a week's paid holiday.
"We're having a bake sale," Itachi said in his usual, completely humourless voice, looking up from Icha Icha Super Upskirt Panties Girl Action. There was a very long silence. No one said anything at all. The ANBU member nodded weakly, and decided to hand in his resignation and pursue a less headache-inducing career. Like.. say, being a guinea pig at a migraine medication factory.
Five minutes passed. The busy streets were parting like the Red Sea around the Akatsuki bake sale stall, until-
"Fatty-kun at ten o' clock," Deidara hissed triumphantly from behind his comb.
Chouji's eyes lit up at the sight of the stall. There was an ominous rumble, causing several people to look at the skies rather than the excited, chubby boy racing through the streets.
Pein's partner gave Chouji her most charming smile. "Delicious cupcakes! Would you like to try plaice, human or.. what are those again, Deidara?"
"It hasn't got a title yet. It represents the world after I blew everything up," Deidara said, examining the nearest cupcake critically. "If the world was made of cake. it's very post modern, yeah?"
"Plaice, human, or hint of apocalypse," Her smile was now very strained.
Luckily, at this point Tobi came merrily along, giving them a smile so sunny they all saw it clear through his mask. He was carrying a tray of the most delicious-looking cupcakes they had ever seen, expertly iced and decorated. "I used my Strawberry-Vanilla Cupcake no Jutsu," he said proudly.
"Do you have any useful techniques?" All they had previously seen from Tobi was his ultimate Running Away no Jutsu.
"They all look so delicious!" Chouji clasped his hands together dreamily. "I can't choose! I'll take them all!"
Fifteen minutes later, Kakuzu grudgingly handed over their entire takings to pay for Chouji's medical bills.
- - -
"Pretty, pretty flowers," Zetsu was singing to himself in a slightly cracked voice. "Get your pretty, pretty posies here."
He was sat behind a new stall, festooned with flowers. Hot pink tropical orchids were entwined around the till. Fluffy roses nodded in the breeze. Hanging baskets overflowed with forget-me-nots. Deep purple flowers spilled from pots on the floor. The air was filled with the exotic scents of a thousand rare and beautiful flowers. Some people would argue that you couldn't sink much lower than being an S-class, exiled, cannibalistic, mass-murdering criminal. Those people had clearly never seen an S-class, exiled, cannibalistic, mass-murdering criminal reduced to selling flower arrangements.
Zetsu cut off a length of glittery pink ribbon and began working on his tenth flower arrangement of the day. "Bad," he scolded one of the flowers, slapping it as it stealthily tried to take a bite out of his hand. Normally he encouraged such behaviour from his flowers. In fact, Zetsu normally acted like the most obnoxious of parents, praising his little darlings every time Deidara ran screeching from the kitchen, attempting to prise off the potted pansy that had just clamped onto his ankle and was now growling at him, or every time Tobi appreciatively sniffed a flower and ran around in circles screaming "It burns, it buuuuurns!" after discovering that particular species spat acid.
The flower pulled back, sulkily closing up its petals. Zetsu melted, glanced around surreptitiously, and gave it a quick hug.
He looked up at the sound of throat-clearing, and saw his third customer of the day.
"Umm.. I'd like to buy a flower arrangement, please."
A bashful looking pink-haired girl was now standing there, eyes lowered and twiddling her fingers awkwardly. He'd seen her earlier with a blonde boy- that boy, the Nine Tails that Itachi and Kisame had just failed to acquire. His eyes lit up gleefully.
"Is it for a boyfriend?" he asked, twitching as he forced himself to wink in a cheery, friendly sort of way. She blushed deeply, and nodded. Zetsu grinned, and began busily making an arrangement with the special flowers he had behind the counter.
Sakura held the arrangement at full arm's length. Yes, the flowers were kind of pretty, but every one of them also appeared to have a blossom-full of razor sharp little teeth that kept snapping at her in a worrying manner. And she'd really prefer some nice ferns or baby's breath instead of these slimy, waving tentacles that kept surreptitiously sneaking out in the general direction of her windpipe. And that glowing green pollen they kept exhaling kind of seemed to make her lungs shut down.
Perhaps she had allergies.
- - -
"Deidara's Demolitions Department!"
"No. It's the middle of the day, Deidara, no one will see them anyway," Kakuzu took down Deidara's sign and made a few changes. It now read "Deidei's Glitzy Parlour of Glamour". Swirly text underneath gave the prices for manicures, makeovers and haircuts. It was a fairly smart move- Akatsuki were, after all, renowned among criminal organisations for their stylish taste in makeup and accessories. The saucy hair accessories, the edgy piercings, the eyeliner, the surprisingly immaculate nail polish that never, ever chipped, even though they were a bunch of criminals who spend most of their days kicking and punching things until they stopped moving.
Ino paused in front of this new stall, intrigued. It was quite an improvement on the flower stall moving in on her business. Then she saw Deidara, and their eyes narrowed simultaneously. The skies darkened, and there was an ominous crack of thunder in the background.
"Nice hair," Ino gritted out. "'Harmonious Honey Haze', right?"
"Yours too," Deidara muttered, murderously clutching his scissors. "'Charming Champage Rain', yeah?"
They stared each other down for a long minute.
"On second thoughts," Ino said. "Having a ponytail at this age is kind of childish. And the colour is so dated. And really, who wears side fringes any more? Give me something more modern."
"More modern. Yeah," Deidara said, twitching. He couldn't help noticing that if he mixed together the blue hair dye with Pein's hair gel, and added a dash of perm solution, he had the makings of some pretty good amateur explosives.
"What nice hair you have," he said, running his hands through it.
"Bitch," his left hand-mouth added in a whisper, followed by a mumbling, gnawing sound. Deidara surreptitiously dropped the clump of hair to the ground, kicked it aside, and made a note to give Ino a side parting.
"So," he said, stiffly. "Been anywhere nice on your holidays?"
- - -
Sakura was on her way to find Sasuke, when she noticed a shifty-looking woman in a trenchcoat, dark glasses and an enormous, wide-brimmed hat, sat on top of a pile of cardboard boxes. She quickly looked away, too quickly to notice the hastily formed hand seals, or the whispered "Porn no Jutsu!"
Sakura continued down the street. She looked up, puzzled, at the sight of Temari and Shikimaru noisily making out, already down to the absolute minimum of clothing needed not to be arrested. Strange, she thought, and hastily carried on her way. It wasn't like them at all.
Then she saw Tenten and Hinata in a similar state, wrapped around each other in the middle of the street with apparently no concern for the people around them "OH, Hinata!" Tenten cried out, throwing her head back like a porn star. Didn't see that coming, Sakura thought warily, and stepped around them.
Tonton and Pakkun? Something very weird was going on.
Then Sakura stopped dead in the street. There, in front of her, gloriously naked save for a few wisps of cloud, were Naruto and Sasuke, wrapped around each other. They were writhing under a pink glowing spotlight, heavenly music playing in the background as the world went into slow motion, Sasuke's hand going lower as they-
-disappeared in a puff of white smoke. A hand fell on Sakura's shoulder, making her jump. "Quite discerning taste in porn, I see," the woman murmured in her ear.
"Er- not really," Sakura stammered. "It just surprised me-"
"Oh," the woman sighed, sadly. "Then I supposed you won't be interested in these.." she patted the pile of cardboard boxes next to her. The top one was open, showing a tantalising glimpse of what looked like an older and very naked Sasuke in the shower.
"I can't get you Sasuke," the woman frowned. Yet, she mentally added, making a note to invade the Hidden Leaf village again, armed with cameras. "But how about Sasuke at eighteen- I've got Itachi solo, with Kisame, Deidara.."
Sakura's eyes lit up and she began rummaging through the boxes. They were full of video tapes with various trashy, poorly censored covers. 'Kisame's Wild and Wet Adventures', with Kisame in the most sleazy-looking swimming costume she had ever seen. 'Convent of Sinners: Confessions to Jashin' left Kisame looking perfectly decent compared to Hidan dressed as a nun, sprawled provocatively over an altar. 'Flames of Passion: Great Fireballs Technique' made it clear that Itachi didn't wear special asbestos-based clothing. 'Zetsu's Garden of Tentacley Love' did exactly what it said on the box. And 'Deepthroat³'– well, they all had wondered about Deidara's extra mouths.
Sakura raced off, her arms full of every Itachi tape that had been on sale. The woman counted out her money and smirked, removing her hat at last. Her blue hair rippled down her back.
See, it wasn't so much on principle that she objected to the rest of Akatsuki trying to put cameras in her bathroom. It was just that they failed so very miserably at doing it well.
- - -
There were the distant sounds of children screaming. Sasori's puppet show clearly wasn't going down well either. Maybe it was because he skinned real bunnies, puppies and kittens to make his puppets. Or perhaps it was the scene involving clouds of poison gas and hails of needles. Or it could have been the fact that Punch and Judy were very clearly puppets made using missing ninja from this very same village, despite 'Punch's' comical fake moustache and the socks shoved down the front of 'Judy's' dress.
Sasori, for his part, was seething. Particularly when the rest of Akatsuki would come wandering over to ask if they could hide out inside Hiruko for a while, or what Sasori thought was the going price for a cupcake these days, or how many rabid petunias it might take to capture a Ninetails. Or when one of the braver children tugged on his sleeve and asked gee mister, why d'you look so grumpy?
His C.V. clearly said master of puppets, not pastor of muppets.
- - -
Hidan had been spectacularly unhelpful, and spent most of his time wandering around, shaking collection tins at people and asking them if they had seen the light. He'd managed to collect some spare change, mostly thrown at him to make him shut up already, and then spent most of the afternoon by Zetsu's stall. This came in handy when Deidara came running along, looking a bit charred around the edges.
"I think we need a clean-up at my stall, yeah?" Deidara said, out of breath. There was a distant whumph, and a rain of nail polish began to spatter the ground in purple globs.
"Mmm," Zetsu said contentedly, disappearing into the ground as Hidan took over his stall. Deidara was the only member of Akatsuki considerate enough to barbeque his victims first.
Deidara was sad. Until then, his stall had been quite the success. In fact, he was beginning to wonder if he'd perhaps made the wrong career choice. So long as people gave him artistic freedom, this was almost as fun as blowing an entire village and all its occupants to the skies. Apart from the mullet he'd given Ino out of spite, everything seemed to go down surprisingly well.
Kakuzu clenched his hands as the rain of purple nail polish continued, and there were the distant, familiar sounds of what appeared to be an angry mob forming.
"Now, now," Tobi said, looking alarmed. "Deidara's heart was in the right place-"
Actually, that was a flagrant lie. Thanks to the enormous mouth occupying his chest, Deidara's heart was actually several inches off to the side.
- - -
After Chouji's hospitalisation, Itachi and Kisame had been put to work on another stall. It had been difficult for them to quickly think of any profitable skills they had that did not involve murdering everything in sight or sending people on hallucinogenic trips to other dimensions.
It was for this reason that Kisame was now wearing Akatsuki's menacing red and black uniform, together with floatie armbands and a cheerful, dinosaur shaped rubber ring. The sign advertised swimming lessons. For some reason, surprisingly few parents were taking them up on the offer.
"Did you know your brother is being eaten by a rampaging petunia?" Kisame asked conversationally, just to break the awkward silence, and then went quiet as Itachi glowered at him.
Kisame, for his part, was rather hurt by the lack of attention their stall was attracting. He gave his most sunny, cheerful grin as several families headed past. They recoiled in horror. He couldn't help thinking how much easier it would be to capture customers if they were just missing a limb or two. Still, it was kind of hurtful that on the one occasion he offered to do some good, no one had any faith in him.
"It's because you're half shark," Itachi said, tonelessly.
"Ah," Kisame said, shiftily looking from side to side. "Yes. So I am."
He thought back to that unfortunate episode when Deidara had burst into his room over something or another, and had spotted the giant tank in Kisame's room. A large haddock goggled at Deidara from inside, then dived and hid among the plastic plants and novelty castles that decorated its home. Kisame had managed to pass it off as being food. "Sorry, mom," he had whispered afterwards, very quietly, once Deidara was gone.
Kisame's musing was interrupted by the sight of a small boy running past with what looked like a large petunia clamped determinedly to his head. A muffled "Chidori!" came from inside the plant, as the boy determinedly swung his fist at it. Sparks flew. The petunia growled back, and clung tighter, wrapping its stem around his neck. The rest of the flower arrangement was dragging itself determinedly after him. A daisy finally caught up with him, sank its teeth into his ankle and began slowly climbing up his leg. A distraught looking pink-haired girl was chasing afterwards, sobbing out apologies.
Kisame saw the Uchiha symbol on the back of the boy's shirt, clamped his hand on Itachi's head and forced his partner safely under the table. Not so much to avoid the usual, violent family reunion, but more to spare Itachi the shame of seeing the Uchiha clan's only remaining hope for the future being bested by an unruly flower arrangement.
- - -
For his part, Kakuzu was having fun selling off various possessions he'd harvested from the rest of Akatsuki. He'd raided the hideout earlier for pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down. Then he'd eyed his ring. Yes, that'll fetch a bob or two, he had thought, nodding and adding it to the rest of the collection.
His stall alone was remaining when the rest of Akatsuki finally showed up, all looking very dispirited except for Pein's partner, who appeared to have sold everything she had brought with her.
"Excuse me?" someone sounded confused. "I bought this from the stall, earlier, and well-"
Sakura was holding Kakuzu's ring.
Pein's head hurt too much for all this. His partner, his beautiful blushing flower, had kept coyly smashing him down several streets with a well-placed jutsu, every time he approached her and her stall, always surrounded by hordes of excitable women. He had concluded that doubtlessly she was raising money selling some mysterious, feminine things that they were all too shy to let men see, and had decided to respect their modest, ladylike ways.
He rubbed his forehead and surveyed the chaos. The craters in the street, the shark in a bikini, the hordes of screaming children. The Hokage sporting an afro, the scattered cupcakes, the screaming masses fleeing from hordes of vicious flower arrangements. And he decided that nothing, nothing could possibly be worse than this.
"Welcome to Akatsuki," Pein gritted out.