Paying a Compliment

By: firefly

Note: written for the lovely frostious as a birthday present. Happy birthday, dear!

Paying a Compliment

After a hundred years or so, Kakuzu thought broodingly, walking with his eyes narrowed into an annoyed glare. You'd think you'd get used to this kind of crap.

On either side of the road they traveled, people stopped and gawked, shamelessly pointing and mumbling to each other at the two strange men who'd decided to cut through their village.

What's worse was that Hidan was on full, non-stop rant mode, relaying with great passion and detail (again) his encounters with clerics of some "fucked up" religious denomination in the Cloud village.

"And then he says to me—'my child, you are misguided'—and I was all like 'fucker don't you go insulting Jashin', because normally I'm all right with monks and shit but then he looks at me like I killed his damn dog or something and says 'Jashin is a heathen god' and then I was all 'oh no you didn't' and just went all righteous fury on his ass because seriously, what the fuck. Insult my religion? My religion? Oh my God—"

Kakuzu took a few slow, deep breaths to calm himself, rubbing the bridge of his nose till it ached. All around them, the villagers stared, and not just because they were dressed strangely or because Hidan was using curse words they'd probably never heard before, but for a reason Kakuzu had grown all too accustomed to.

The Falls nin glanced askance at Hidan, wincing slightly at his volume before glancing at the nearest house.

Two teenage girls stood on their porch, gawking at the Jashinist, and a few houses down from them, an old lady and her middle-aged daughter stared at him as if he was the personification of Adonis.

And, as always, Hidan was completely oblivious, continuing his tirade in complete ignorance of the multitudes of swooning women (and in some cases, men).

Really, it wasn't all that surprising considering the small village they were in. The population had to be lower than two hundred and it was located in such an obscure, remote region that Kakuzu doubted they'd ever seen foreigners before. All the men he'd seen of the village so far were fat, old, and hairy as hell. It was no wonder the women were smitten; Hidan must have seemed like God.

And me, Kakuzu thought cynically, all too aware of the alarmed, frightened looks passerby shot him. I must be the Devil.

"—that guy had balls, though, I gotta hand it to him. You don't find faith like that nowadays, seriously. But hey, you should know that better than anyone, huh Kakuzu? Blaspheming shithead—"

Before Kakuzu could turn around and knock Hidan's head off, the religious man abruptly stopped talking. Blinking at the sudden silence, Kakuzu stopped and turned to see some skinny, bespectacled girl standing in front of Hidan, holding out a basket with her head bowed, her face glowing bright red.

"Please take these!" she blurted, visibly quaking. "A-As a token from me, t-to help you along on your journey."

Hidan blinked and took the basket from her, staring at its contents.


She nodded vigorously, nearly giving herself an aneurism from the force of her blush when Hidan gave her a bemused grin, still oblivious as hell, the utter jackass—

"Hey, thanks."

"Y-You're welcome…" she mumbled faintly with a dazed, euphoric smile on her face, staring after him as he continued walking.

Kakuzu stared at Hidan as he caught up, still looking faintly bemused but clearly pleased, a chocolate-chip cookie wedged between his teeth.

"You know, despite this place being a little shithole in the middle of nowhere, I kinda like it," Hidan said after he'd finished his cookie. "These people just give shit away like we're royalty, or something."

"We?" Kakuzu said flatly as he continued walking. "You mean you."

"Yeah, but, what's up with that? The people in Cloud village treated us like shit."

"That's because we kidnapped their jinchuuriki."

Sometimes, Kakuzu wondered if anything that wasn't Jashin-related even registered in Hidan's brain.

But more than anything, it was this that bothered the Falls nin the most, every time they cut through small villages. A few minutes later, two girls—twins—ran up and shoved more baskets in front of Hidan's face, practically begging him to accept their offerings. And as oblivious as always—the idiot—he took the gifts and left them in a flailing mass of squeals and hormones.

This. This bothered Kakuzu more than anything else. Not because Hidan received more attention, more googly eyes, or more compliments than the Falls nin did, but because he received things for free.

Hidan got things, without asking to and for doing absolutely nothing simply because he was pretty.

And the moron couldn't seem to realize just how amazing of a gift he really had, couldn't seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation, couldn't fathom just how insanely lucky he was to not have to pay for these little commodities.

"Kakuzu, you lazy bastard, hold one of these."

The ungrateful little asshole.

"Hold them yourself," Kakuzu retorted, keeping his brisk pace. "You're the one who accepted to take every single one."

"What are you, retarded?" he demanded, struggling to keep up. "Why the hell would I say no to free food? Of course I accepted them!"

"Then stop bitching."

"How about you stop being an asshole and help me out."

Kakuzu suddenly came to an abrupt stop, nearly making Hidan run into him from behind. He could feel the beginnings of a migraine coming on, a sure sign he was about to explode and kill everyone and everything in sight, something he couldn't quite afford if he wanted to keep a low profile.

Instead, he decided he needed to stay far away from Hidan for a few good hours to give himself time to calm down. Yes, that sounded like a good plan.

With that thought in mind, Kakuzu slowly turned around to face his partner, knowing exactly what to say to spare himself Hidan's presence for at least an hour.

Instead of telling him flat out to get lost, Kakuzu feigned a slightly concerned, narrow-eyed look as if he'd noticed something strange, leaning forward to scrutinize Hidan's face.

"What the hell are you doing?" Hidan demanded, suddenly uneasy with the way his partner was staring at him. "What, do I have something on my face?"

"Hidan," Kakuzu said somberly, with as much dismay as he could muster. "I think your hairline is receding."

Of all the things he'd seen in his extensively long life, Kakuzu had to admit there was nothing more priceless than seeing Hidan freeze and drop everything, the blood draining out of his face as his mouth fell open in utter horror.


Kakuzu nodded, glancing away as if the sight was too embarrassing to look at. "It's all right. Just put on a hat and no one will notice."

That was the last straw. Without a word, Hidan turned tail and abruptly ran off in a desperate search for a mirror. Kakuzu stared after him, a slow vindictive smirk curving his lips beneath the mask.

After Jashin, there was one thing Hidan treasured and dedicated himself more to than anything else in the world.

His hair.

Kakuzu cringed to think upon the sheer amount of money that went into Hidan's hair care products, all too aware of the time and effort the religious man put into keeping his coif healthy and pristine. Telling him his precious hair was abandoning him to male-pattern baldness was like proving Jashin didn't exist. It was unfathomable.

And in truth, his hairline was perfectly fine. Kakuzu just wanted to get away from him.

Satisfied, the Falls nin took up the baskets and set them on a nearby bench, sitting down next to them. The people on the bench next to him shot him alarmed looks before hastily getting up and departing in the opposite direction, much to his annoyance.

Granted, he'd grown used to the odd looks after so long, but it was still somewhat disconcerting to get such frightened responses when he was nowhere near as bizarre-looking as Kisame or Zetsu.

You know why people avoid you? Deidara had once asked him while nodding sagely. It's not because you're ugly, Kakuzu no danna, not at all. It's because you're scary as fuck, un.

Although Kakuzu had been somewhat mollified that he held a much higher intimidation factor than Hidan, he still begrudged his partner for getting special treatment simply because he had a pretty face. Kakuzu couldn't remember ever getting the same kind of treatment, couldn't remember ever getting anything for free. He'd had to work his ass off for the wealth he'd accumulated, and the fact that someone like Hidan got things thrown at him for something as insignificant as looks just irked him to no end.

Closing his eyes, Kakuzu took another deep, slow breath, willing himself to be calm. Hidan wouldn't be back for a while, and there was plenty he could do to distract himself till then.

A moment later, he was contentedly scribbling figures on an income statement, lost in a comforting world of numbers and figures, and after an hour and a half of sitting there, taking no notice of passerby or time, he felt himself returning to a zen-like state of calmness.

At one point, he'd glanced up at the feeling of being watched, blinking momentarily at the sight of a little girl standing with her mother at the bazaar across the street, staring at him with wide, awestruck eyes.

He merely shook his head and went back to work, paying no attention to the way she continued staring until her mother finished and they departed.

After two hours had elapsed, Kakuzu finally put his work away and stretched, cracking his back and neck with a satisfied wince, feeling much, much calmer than before. All that was left to do was wait for Hidan to get back so they could leave, and he much preferred the prospect of traipsing through the mountains after they'd left the village. At least over there, no one would gawk or run.

The corner of his right eye twitched slightly at the thought, and he lowered his head to scowl at the cobbled sidewalk, berating himself.

You're too old to care about this sort of bullshit, he thought tiredly, toeing a bottle cap on the ground. Maybe I'm finally going senile.

The fact that this thought gave him slight comfort was even more depressing, and he sighed and leaned back against the bench, closing his eyes. People passed by where he sat, taking no notice now as the sun slowly began to sink and he was mostly obscured in shadows. The din of their laughter and conversations sounded vague and far off, a mere hum in the background as he concentrated on the cool breeze, fingers slack by his sides.

Old, senile, bitter, and scary as fuck. A winning combination.

Ignoring the cynical voice in his mind, he finally dropped his guard and let himself doze there, eyes closed, head bowed slightly towards the ground. Eventually, most of the street emptied as the sun sank behind the houses, casting a dim, amber glow throughout the neighbourhood, light enough that the street lamps remained dark, but dark enough that people began heading home.

Kakuzu expected to be woken by the enraged shouting of Hidan once he'd returned, or even by an attempt on his life. He definitely didn't anticipate opening his eyes to a faint tug on his cloak.

He blinked, staring blearily in the dim light until he felt another, firmer tug on his cloak. Sitting up abruptly, he looked around in faint confusion when he saw no one, but then felt another tug and lowered his eyes.

The little girl he'd seen at the bazaar now stood by his side, hardly reaching his knee and clutching a fistful of his cloak. She stared at him, eyes widening when he looked at her, her mouth dropping open into that awestruck expression from before.

Well, Kakuzu thought blankly, staring back at her. This is new.

She couldn't have been more than four years old, her black hair up in two pigtails and wide blue eyes fixed on his face. Her enthralled expression almost looked comical with cheeks still chubby with baby fat, and his brow furrowed slightly when he realized she was alone.

He vaguely wondered where her mother was, and was about to tell her to get lost until she spoke.


"…what?" Kakuzu said, wondering why the brat didn't run away.

She merely smiled at him, looking sickeningly adorable.

"Where is your mother?" he asked impassively, glancing around for her.

"In the store," she replied innocently, taking a step closer. "Mister, I wanna tell you something."

At her earnest expression, he relented and sat up straighter, unsure whether he felt more awkward or annoyed.

"What is it?"

She looked embarrassed, then, and glanced around as if looking for eavesdroppers before she shuffled closer, whispering.

"It's a secret."

Kakuzu said nothing and merely stared at her.

She seemed to be waiting for something and a perplexed expression overtook her juvenile features when he remained silent. She tugged on his sleeve.

"I havta tell you in your ear!" she whispered with the utmost urgency. "It's a secret."

Now Kakuzu was feeling distinctly uncomfortable, and when he felt uncomfortable, he tended to get annoyed. He half-contemplated getting up and walking away, but then remembered that Hidan wouldn't be able to find him. Then he half-contemplated telling the kid to buzz off, until he realized that would probably make her cry. Loudly.

Sighing in resignation, he glanced around before awkwardly leaning down to her level, wondering why she didn't run when he stared expectantly at her.

She grinned, and a moment later she moved to his right side, cupping her hands over where his ear was beneath the head covering and putting her face close, whispering delightedly between her cupped hands.

"You have really pretty eyes."

Kakuzu blinked, brow furrowing in bewilderment when she quickly pulled away and circled back to face him, holding her fist out. Wordlessly, he extended his hand, and a moment later she dropped a vivid green marble into his palm, the glass sphere still warm from her grip.

"Bye," she said, then abruptly turned away and ran off.

Kakuzu stared after her, utterly confused, and then glanced back down at the marble in his hand. Whatever remaining sunlight that brightened the neighbourhood refracted through the green sphere into brilliant, emerald-coloured shards across his palm, and for a long time all he could do was sit there and stare at it, until the sunlight faded and the shards disappeared.

You have really pretty eyes.

The marble reflected his vivid green irises as he raised it to eye-level, a faintly amused smile tugging at the corners of his lips beneath the mask.

A moment later, he leapt up and flipped over the bench when Hidan's scythe cleaved straight through the wood, smashing into the ground from the violent momentum and sending the baskets toppling onto the dirt. His partner stood there, clutching a bag of herbal hair remedies and panting for breath, looking absolutely infuriated.

"What do you know," Kakuzu said nonchalantly, staring at him. "Your hair grew back."

Hidan didn't say anything. He merely let out an enraged scream and retracted his scythe from the ground before lunging after Kakuzu with it.

Kakuzu dodged and delivered a swift kick to Hidan's backside, sending him toppling into the bushes before he turned and took off, well aware that Hidan would chase him until he passed out from exhaustion. By that time, Kakuzu thought, leaping across houses, they'd be well out of the village and deep into the mountains.

"Get back here, you lying sack of shit!" Hidan screamed, not too far behind. "I'm going to rip out all five of your fucking hearts, set them on fire, then feed them to Zetsu!"

Kakuzu ignored him, content with fingering the marble in his cloak pocket, the small ball warm in his grip.

It was absolutely worthless, really. The most he could do was sell it to some snot-nosed kid for ten cents, and what would that be? Merely another ten cents in a sea of millions.

No, he planned on keeping this little trinket, trivial as it was.

For the first time in more than a century, someone had paid him a compliment, someone tiny and insignificant and ridiculously naïve, someone who had no idea who he was or what he was capable of. Someone had given him something, something materialistic and tangible—not because he'd worked for it or earned it or coveted it—but simply because…

You have really pretty eyes.

Kakuzu decided he would not sell this marble for as long as he lived.