Peace, Love and Fucking Great Unicorns

Author's Notes- I dunno, I was getting frustrated with Itachi's yoyo-ing characterisation causing a massive backlog of fic to build up on my computer, so I went away and wrote some crack instead. Feedback is very much appreciated!

Disclaimer- I don't own any of the recognisable characters or concepts. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made.

This fic doesn't reflect my actual opinions of freedom fighters, neo-pagans, animal rights activists, or.. er, non-neurologically mundane equids.

It was a beautiful sunny day as Pein completed work on his masterpiece. Unaware of what was about to happen, all of Akatsuki were out being very evil indeed..

Itachi and Kisame were standing on a hill near Konoha, brooding and lurking as best as they could despite being dramatically silhouetted against a beautiful blue sky rather than the preferred thunderstorm or ominous red sunset. Kisame was currently looking through a pair of binoculars.

"Ah, kind of spiky, at the back? Yes, I see the Sharingan now. Aww, you were never so cute at that age-"

"Is he alone?" Itachi asked, squinting through his own binoculars and blissfully unaware he was scrutinising a large toadstool.

"No, he's with about four others-"

"Does he appear to be attached to any of them?"

"I can't tell. We can't kill the jinchuuriki, and the other boy is new- the pink haired girl?"

"Yes, she will suffice. I will kill that one," Itachi lowered his binoculars, squinted some more at the fuzzy blob that was Konoha, and set off down the hill towards the group. Sasuke would regain his hatred.

"You really are fucked up beyond all recognition, you know that?"

"Be quiet, Hidan."

"Jashin would sentence you to eternal damnation. Do you know how fucking hard it is to go to Jashinst hell?"

"I will not ask you again, Hidan. They're coming-"

"-seriously, if I'm calling you scum, it's time to start- Kakuzu? Kakuzu? Oh for fuck's sake, not again-"

"-Give me all your lunch money!" Kakuzu leapt out from hiding, waving Hidan's severed head to illustrate his point. The school children screamed and scattered in a dozen different directions.

While it was a lovely summer day everywhere else, the Akatsuki hideout was perpetually surrounded by a dark and stormy night, something a good meteorologist would put down to the exceptionally high levels of pure evil in the atmosphere. Pein was in the highest room in the tallest tower, in his secret jutsu preparing laboratory, working feverishly throughout the eternal night. Instead of a drooling hunchback, Konan was serene and lovely in a lab coat, passing and dissecting things as required.

"Eye of unicorn."

"One medium-sized kitten, trimmed."

"Half a pound of candyfloss."

"A teaspoon of magical fairy dust. Are we out of fairy dust? Very well, substitute with some of those sprinkles Tobi likes to bake cakes with."

"I need half a pint of concentrated sunshine, stat!"

At last, they were finished. Konan stripped off her bloody gloves with a professional snap. Pein patted his creation lovingly. "If this works, there will never be any conflict again."

Konan frowned. She thought they had been there before. Maybe. Most of Akatsuki tended not to focus on the eternal peace part, and more on the extremely bloody and violent means that Pein condoned as a way of getting to that particular end.

"I will test it on our own members first," Pein said, with a distant and godlike expression as he stared out of the window into the perpetual storm. "And if it succeeds-"

A flash of lightning lit him up dramatically.

"-eternal peace, forever!"

As it took effect, a beautiful rainbow arced out across the sky from the tower window. The storm disappeared as the sky filled with a serene white glow, a gentle rain of sparkles falling into the troubled seas.

Jeff really loved donkeys.

Not in a perverted or unnatural way, as it happened. Jeff genuinely was a very good and decent man who just really liked donkeys. This was a very good thing, as he had hundreds of them living on his farm. Most of them were old. Many of them were lame. Some of them were going a bit blind. A few even had Asperger's Syndrome.

He was currently pottering around his sanctuary, taking care of them all.

"Sorry, Mildred," he said to one of his favourites, as he offered her a turnip. "We've had to cut back on the carrot budget recently."

Mildred spat her turnip out in disgust. Next to her, Wilma's blanket was getting very threadbare. And poor old Rupert would have to see a dentist before long. Jeff sighed, and shuffled back to his office in low spirits. The donkey sanctuary would have to close soon, unless there was some kind of miracle. And that was very unlikely. No one else seemed to understand his love for old, sick and autistic spectrum donkeys.

A sinister looking man was already waiting in the office, beady eyes glowing over the mask that covered most of his face. Jeff flinched, and ducked behind a sack of discount turnips. This man had the unpleasant look of some kind of debt collector, and the sort that favoured crowbars over letters with a lot of angry red font. But his donkeys were counting on him. He took a deep breath, and went over to greet the man.

"I would like to make a donation to your cause," the stranger said, dropping a heavy sack on Jeff's ancient desk. It instantly collapsed into splinters.

"I'm sorry," the man said, in consternation. "I'll make sure to replace that for you."

There was another dull thud. A second sack joined the first. And a third. A fourth. Through the open top, Jeff could see a glimmer of gold.



"For.. the donkeys?"

"Yes. Is this insufficient? I've already signed up to sponsor Mildred and Rupert, of course, but if there's anything else I can do-"

"No," Jeff said, hesitantly reaching out to touch the nearest bag as if he thought it might disappear. "Are there any interest rates on this?"

"No," the stranger said, and turned to leave. "Consider it a gift."

The small part of Kakuzu's essentially evil personality that could not be touched tried to console itself by reminding him that a sign next to the Donkey Sanctuary did say that donations were tax-deductible. Meanwhile, Jeff's eyes shone, and he gave the nearest sack of turnips a vindictive kick. "Hurrah, it's carrots for tea tonight, Mildred!"

In a small, quiet church near Konoha, it was time for confession.

Father Bernard walked quietly through the deserted pews and entered the confession booth. He sat in silence, eyes closed, enjoying the peace and waiting for the troubled souls to approach him and absolve themselves of sin. After a moment, he heard the door open. Someone climbed in, cursing loudly as they tripped over the prayer books on the floor. He said nothing, waiting for them to share whatever troubled them. After a moment, they did.

"Forgive me father, for I have sinned."

"How long has it been since your last confession, my child?"

"Seriously, this is the first time ever and I'm a lot older than I look, so I hope the seats are a lot comfier on your side than they are over here, because your ass is going to be so-"

"Please, my child! This is a house of God!" Bernard admonished, closing his eyes in resignation and making himself a little comfier. He had a feeling he might be here for some time.

"Yeah, sorry about that," the voice said. "So, where do I start?"

"Why have you stayed away from the Church so long?"

"I've been up to some seriously evil shit, Father," the stranger said morosely. "I used to follow the teachings of Jashin."

"Heaven help us!" Bernard clutched his crucifix. "But you have seen the light, my child?"

"Yeah, it was a sort of rainbow, pink glow, gave off a load of sparkles and butterflies and shit?"

"I believe it is normally a metaphorical light, my son, but who can say how our Lord chooses to manifest himself to you?" Bernard shook his head, slightly baffled. "Are you ready to start your confessions?"

Strictly speaking, aerobic respiration was something Hidan did out of habit rather than need. Still, it was essential for talking. He took a deep breath, and began.

Sasuke had been living a fairly normal existence since coming back to Konoha. Naruto, Sai and Sakura had succeeded in dragging him back in a semi-comatose state and he had more or less forgotten about Itachi's entire existence after he had awoken.

All that came back as he woke up early one morning, and found Itachi sat across the room staring at him intently.

"Hello, Sasuke," Itachi said, regarding his brother over steepled hands. "It has come to my attention that even if I had your best interests at heart, some may say that I have still ruined your entire life."

Sasuke made a thin sort of wheezy noise.

"Perhaps," Itachi said, slowly. "I could have gone about things in a better way, one that allowed me to remain at home, as the family figure you appeared to crave," he paused. "Would it be too late if I offered to train with you now?"

Sasuke leapt out of bed and charged at Itachi, Chidori sparking up in his hand.

"I am glad to hear it," Itachi said with a thin, sombre smile.

In the middle of a formerly peaceful tropical jungle, there was a military compound. In the middle of the compound, there was a beautiful and ostentatious palace made entirely out of solid gold, cocaine, and the skeletons of all the slaves who had died building it. In the middle of the palace, a self-styled Evil Dictator was twirling his moustache thoughtfully and wondering what evil deeds he might do today, just as an enormous explosion rocked the compound.

"My beautiful drugs!" he cried out, as an enormous cloud of cocaine foomed four hundred metres into the atmosphere. "My beautiful army!" he screamed a second later, as the next bomb demolished the barracks.

His second in command came running in. "Sir! The compound is under attack! Our walls have fallen! The locals could overthrow us!"

"But you told me we crushed their spirits!" the Evil Dictator snarled, turning on his second in command.

"We did, sir! But now, they have found a hero!"

"A hero?" the Evil Dictator said in disbelief, as another bomb took out the entire left wing of his palace. "You're telling me this is the work of one man?"

"Sir! Yes sir! But he's- he's unstoppable, sir! Argh-"

The man was cut off as Deidara leapt straight through the window in a shower of glass and small projectile explosives.

Pein's bomb hadn't actually changed Deidara all that much. He was still a wild-eyed lunatic with a self-destructive streak and a penchant for blowing things up. The only difference in his appearance was a manly covering of soot, a manly bandana, a belt of C1 bombs and a single manly scratch on his cheek (obtained after single handedly terminating an entire army a few miles over). However, he had now been upgraded from 'terrorist' to 'freedom fighter'. His reasons in court would be less "I did it because it made me feel big and clever, your honour" and more "I did it to free my country from a reign of terror, you capitalist pigdog"

Kakuzu was wandering through a community centre in Konoha, hopelessly lost. He had got rid of his material goods. But there was still the whole overwhelming urge to kill everything in sight to take care of.

He followed a trail of print-outs with arrows on, and peered around the open door at the end. An energetic looking older lady beckoned him in eagerly. "Come in now, don't be shy! The class is about to start."

Kakuzu took a seat.

"Today," the teacher said. "We're going to try and make a copy of this beautiful vase, suitable for holding flower arrangements in, if any of you have also signed up for my other classes!"

She plopped a large blob of clay in front of Kakuzu, unaware that any Akatsuki member had a certain classically conditioned response to someone giving them a large blob of clay. Some moments later, he padded out of the now empty room, leaving a trail of bloody, clay-caked footprints behind him. Things went much the same in the next room (Jazzaerobics), the room after that (cake decorating) and the third (salsa lessons). It wasn't until the fourth room that he finally found what he was looking for.

"Anger management? Come right in, there's a seat free at the back," a cheerful looking young man said. His name was Graham. At the youthful age of twenty seven, he had tired of his previous occupation (salesman for a mobile phone company) and had entered the world of motivational training. He was currently pioneering a new program to help people control their anger.

Kakuzu sat down next to a large, unhappy looking young man.

"Lovely," Graham said enthusiastically. "Let's begin, shall we? My name is Graham-" he turned to write this on the board in chalk. "and I'm here to teach you all about our exciting new course, HUGS." he wrote this on the board too. "This is a simple four-step program that should help control the anger that may be preventing you from getting ahead in life! Now, shall we start with some introductions? You, there, at the front."

A middle aged man in a suit stood up bashfully.

"My name is Jim. Sometimes when people criticise me, I get really angry and don't consider taking what could be good advice. Just yesterday, I was.. uh, giving a presentation and my colleague told me I make good points but sometimes I talk too fast. And I, uh, told him that I didn't think that was the case and that his presentation lacked enough slides anyway."

Jim sat down, blushing. A thin, balding man stood up next.

"My name is Alfred. I get angry, and sometimes it causes me to say things I regret. Just last night, I told my wife she can't cook as well as my mother!"

There were gasps all round. Alfred sat down, holding his head in his hands in shame. Kakuzu stood up.

"My name is Kakuzu," he said. "And sometimes when I lose my temper, I kill everything in sight."

"Why do you think that might be, Kakuzu?"

Kakuzu considered it. "I think I don't like other people very much."

"Good, we'll work on that later! Now you, at the back."

"My name is Jugo," Jugo said unhappily. "I'm a former laboratory experiment with an enzyme present in my blood that causes me to transform into a hideous abomination against nature and go on uncontrollable killing sprees."

"Now, no excuses here!" Graham admonished. "It's very easy to blame everything else for our own nasty tempers. Spouses, colleagues, our unnatural biological makeup. HUGS is about taking responsibility for your own life, and that includes your anger as well."

Graham turned to the board and began pointing to the letters. "HUGS. Four easy lessons to control anger. The first we'll begin looking at is S, for stop and think about where you're going. Then, we'll move onto G, for get yourself away from the triggering situation if S fails. Later, we'll move onto U, for you and your role. How might you be to blame for what you perceive as others' mistakes? And finally, H is for can't you just give them a hug, the natural conclusion to our course!"

He picked up a tape recorder and placed it on his desk. "So, stop and think about where you're going next time you feel that urge to just lash out at your nearest and dearest. Count to ten, and you'll find your anger naturally subsides before you say something you regret. Of course, it's not so easy to do this at the time," he chuckled knowingly. "A good thing to do is to learn a piece of text- some poetry perhaps, or a personal mantra- and recite it to yourself when you feel your temper beginning to rise. So if you'll turn to page ten in your course book, you'll find some sample texts that we can learn and recite in times of anger."

Eighteen hours later, Hidan finally emerged from the confession booth, dissatisfied. He still felt a need for redemption, but this wasn't quite the religion for him.

He found what he was looking for in the rotund form of Willow Moonblossom.

She was not particularly willowy, and the only thing lunar about her was her round, pleasant face, but the name had not been given to her by cautiously optimistic parents, but taken by choice after she had become a witch at the age of forty three and Hilary Newton-Barnes had lacked certain etheral qualities. Where nature had failed to come through in making her fit the part of a fay-like manifestation of womanly power, Willow made up for it with a lot of henna, flowing skirts and t-shirts with wolf prints on.

"We are performing a summoning," she said, as Hidan joined the circle. "Skyclad, if you would."

Hidan initially thought this might be the religion for him, but had began to lose patience after spending thirty minutes kneeling stark bollock naked in a circle of candles, ribbons and bits of twig, listening to Willow recite. He persisted anyway, drawn by the prospect of summoning. He had previously summoned up ten different incarnations of Janish, including the Many Headed Blasphemous Beast, the Leperous Whore, and the ever-popular Bipedal Goat.

As the reciting reached its peak, there was a flash of light, a gentle summer breeze swept around the circle, and the witches gasped in awe. Hidan peeked cautiously.

"What the cunting hell is this?" he said in disgust.


"Sorry, what in the sacred-portal-of-feminine-power-ing hell is this?"

In the middle of the circle, a beautiful unicorn had appeared. It was a pure, blazing white from the tip of its pearly horn to the end of its delicate hooves. A mysterious wind blew its silky mane around it like a banner woven from pure moonlight. It tossed its head nervously, watching them with lustrous, dark eyes. A soft and milky light seemed to emit from it, along with a faint scent of honeysuckle and a gentle warmth, like standing in the first spring sunshine.

Hidan reached out.

"No!" Ravenflower shouted. "Unicorns only let virgin girls touch them!"

The unicorn looked at Hidan. Hidan looked at the unicorn.

"Fucking pervert," he said.

The last coherent thought to go through Hidan's head before it was ground thoroughly into the floor was that even the prettiest, sparkliest unicorn was still essentially fourteen hundred pounds of pretty, sparkly unicorn.

"Good, so now we all know to get ourselves away from provocation if stopping to think about the situation fails! Now, we're moving onto U, and examining how you may be to blame for what we see as a natural reaction to the provocation of others. Let's re-examine some of the situations in which we have lost our tempers. Mr Kakuzu, perhaps you could give us an example of the last time you got angry at someone?"

"It was with my partner, Hidan," Kakuzu said flatly. "He sacrificed a virgin to his heathen god using my bed as the altar."

"Good!" Graham said enthusiastically. "Now, let's look at this another way. It's very easy to say oh, Hidan shouldn't go around sacrificing virgins all over other peoples' beds! Oh, Hidan only does it to aggravate you. But perhaps it wasn't Hidan's fault. Perhaps your interpretation of events lead to your anger. Mr Kakuzu, do you think perhaps that you and your own defensive feelings about your homosexuality lead to you misreading the situation?"

"I meant work partner, you idiot. I'm not-"

"See now, you're already getting angry! No one here's getting judgemental, are we people? It's U, Mr Kakuzu, all you and your interpretation of events-"

Jugo was fast enough to grab Kakuzu as he attempted to leap over his desk and go straight for Graham.

"Stop, Mr Kakuzu! Stop, and see if these feelings of anger naturally dissipate! Recite with me now- I had a little pony, his name was Dapple Grey-"

Tsunade was larger than life in many ways. She had famous beauty, legendary strength, boundless talent, remarkable force of personality, enormous knockers, and great big Hokage-sized hangovers. The last were the reason for many of the strange laws that had been passed in Konoha over the last few years. For one, there was a mandatory sale on all pain-killing products between the hours of 8am and midday on weekend mornings. For another, there was a long list of banned substances during those same hours, with fried breakfasts appearing three times on the list. And for a third, the death penalty theoretically existed for any sentence beginning with "Do you remember.."

Sakura recognised her mentor as being heavily hungover on this particular morning, and so did not hold much hope for the lesson that she had promised.

"Eh?" Tsunade said, looking at Sakura blearily as her student found her hiding in a consultation room where she had been quietly curled up on an examination bed, nursing her hangover. "Is it that time already? Fine, follow me.."

Sakura followed Tsunade down towards the morgue. Tsunade heaved open a freezer, reached in and rested a frozen bag of kidneys against her head with a relieved sigh, before fishing around with her other hand and pulling out a sack. She tipped it out on the nearest table.

"We found this outside the village. If you could just determine the cause of death for us-"

Sakura stared.

She couldn't say for sure without a full autopsy. But at a casual guess, she'd say it was something to do with being hacked into about thirty pieces.

"Do an autopsy," Tsunade mumbled, putting the kidneys back in the freezer and sloping off back towards her office. "And mount the bits for my new apprentices." she closed the door behind her, leaving Sakura with a table full of jumbled body parts.

A shame, really. He was quite pretty, Sakura thought, standing the silver haired man's head on end at the top of the table as she began to count out the bits and pieces. She examined his frozen look of horror, and wondered what it was he had seen coming for him.

Over in a now-liberated tropical jungle, a wide-eyed war orphan was tugging on Deidara's sleeve. "Thank you for saving our country, mister."

"No problem, yeah?" Deidara said absently, busy with the rightful president's beautiful daughter who had just been rescued from the overlord that had terrorised her country, and was very, very grateful about this.

"Are you free?" a large tropical flower asked, as it suddenly blossomed into Zetsu. He was wearing a Meat is Murder tshirt and enjoying a chickpea cutlet burger. "How do you feel about the imprisonment and torture of hundreds of thousands of helpless little animals?"

Deidara thought about it. "Do you want something blowing up?" he asked, very slowly.

"I don't condone violence," Zetsu said smugly, and paused. "But yes, actually I do."

Something very strange had happened to Hidan. After being trampled, hacked up and having his brain ground into the road, before being scooped up any which way and left in a freezer for an entire night, his spirit had decided to jump ship for now. It hovered vaguely above the freezer, uncertain what to do with itself. Normally, it would have gone straight to Jashin for disposal. However, followers of the Goddess were reincarnated.

Somewhere in a salt factory, a slug looked down at itself and began to scream.

Meanwhile, over in Konoha, his corpse was slowly defrosting. Sakura scooped up the gravel-filled brain as it began to acquire the texture of a strawberry roughie, and jammed it back into his open skull. She didn't notice the gentle woosh of Hidan's soul returning some minutes later.

Hidan's eyes opened, and then widened. "What the fuck are you doing to my body?"

Sakura screamed and dropped her saw. Besides her, Hidan's neatly trimmed and mounted organs were sorted into a "to save" pile and an "unwanted" pile.

"You're.. you're-"

"Immortal, yeah," Hidan said impatiently. "Now what the hell have you done to me?"

"I was just performing an autopsy," Sakura said defensively. "It's all still here."

"Then put me back together!" Hidan shouted as best as he could when his lungs were floating in a jar of formaldehyde.

"How?" Sakura asked.

Hidan rolled his eyes. "Seriously, anything will do. Glue and staples and shit. Is that gum you're chewing? I kept my head on for six hours with a piece of gum once."

Sakura went to find the wire they used to mount skeletons with, and came back to the table. "What was it that killed you?" she asked, curiously. "I can tell it was about fourteen hundred pounds, a quadruped and an ungulate, but I can't work out what sort of animal did all that impaling."

Hidan was silent for a moment. "It was a fucking unicorn, alright?"

"And what's this substance present in your blood?" Sakura asked. She turned the microscope on, and a giant, heart-shaped molecule drifted serenely in the slides. Hidan's blood cells were at the far end of the slide, cowering away from it.

"I don't know," Hidan said moodily. "Something happened this morning, and now I can't be evil any more. I keep feeling this, like, urge to find religion and stop hurting people and shit like that."

Sakura made a few notes. "It hasn't stopped you swearing, though?"

"Swearing is wrong?" Hidan opened and shut his mouth a few times. "Oh.. oh... bum."

"Interesting," Sakura said, continuing to write. "Morality appears to be affected by context and social norms-" Her eyes glazed over, and she turned back to the slide. "And your cells appear to be naturally resistant to goodness. Look, they're fighting back."

Three of Hidan's blood cells were cautiously surrounding the heart-shaped molecule, while a fourth was wiggling back and forwards in some sort of complicated dance to distract it. As the heart-shaped molecule flowed towards the dissident, a white blood cell sprang out from hiding and began engulfing it. Some seconds later, it had disappeared. The white blood cell sent out a burst of signalling proteins that told any other nearby cells to "fucking bring it!" if they thought they were hard enough.

"According to this titre, the levels in your blood are falling so fast that they'll probably disappear altogether within a few hours," Sakura said, with a small smile. "I'll work on something to suppress your immune system and prevent that."

"Ha!" Hidan said triumphantly. "Good luck with that, seriously."

Inside Tsukiyomi, a sketchy Sasuke was fleeing in terror from an army of Itachis, all soberly pursuing him through the nightmare landscape, trying to talk to him about issues that may beginning to cause him some consternation at this difficult age.

"You may have begun to notice girls," Itachi said, looming over Sasuke once again. "Or perhaps you have a preference for boys, which is also normal. While I am incapable of forming normal relationships myself, I have read many good books on the subject-"

The horror did not end after three days inside the technique. Itachi was now sat squinting at a television screen, controller in hand, as he attempted to play Super Adrenaline Speed Racers 3 with Sasuke. Astonishingly, Sasuke was still winning despite his controller being sat unplayed on the floor in front of him, as he was still tied up to prevent him from constantly attacking Itachi in the middle of their bonding sessions.

Over in Graham's anger management class, two very unfortunate things happened at once.

The class had finished the HUGS lessons, and now all had their eyes shut as they listened to a tape playing the soft and soothing sounds of nature at them. Currently, it was the sound of rain in the tropical rainforest. Everyone was focusing on the sounds and picturing themselves in a happy and peaceful place. Jugo was smiling blissfully, imagining himself skipping through a sunny meadow of beautiful wild flowers, accompanying the happy little singing birds with his own majestic baritone. Kakuzu was bitterly imagining himself in a giant pile of money, far away from anyone else in the world. And then the tape changed over to the second track, Songs of the Deep.

Jugo's eyes flew open with shock. "These whales are in pain!"

"Mr Jugo!" Graham said reproachfully. "No interrupting, if you please!"

The gentle lowering sound of the whales began again. To anyone else, it was the peaceful song of contented whales drifting around, eating some krill, and whatever else whales did. Jugo, on the other hand, heard something very different.

Help! Why is this recording crew sticking harpoons in me? Oh god, stop the pain! Where's my Norbert? Oh, whatever did we do to you humans but make such beautiful music-

At the very moment that Jugo began to transform, Kakuzu's (or rather, Kakuzu's, plus six other non-consenting donors') bone marrow finally manufactured enough white blood cells to finish shaking off the effects of Pein's mysterious jutsu.

"STOP!" Graham shouted, as the two of them began to lose their temper. "THE POETRY, MR JUGO!"

"I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD!" Jugo bellowed, the curse seal spreading as he picked up a large desk and shattered it. "THAT FLOATS ON HIGH O'ER VALES AND HILLS!"

"Skip S, Jugo! G, get yourself away from the situation!"

With a tormented cry, Jugo threw himself straight through the third floor window. Kakuzu, however, lacked Jugo's intrinsic morality and dislike of hurting people.

"U, Mr Kakuzu! How are you reading this incorrectly?" In despair, Graham skipped straight to the last lesson and held his arms open. "Hug, Mr Kakuzu! Wouldn't you rather just have a hug instead? Oh God, what are you doing with my pencil sharpener? Mr Kakuzu-"

Tsunade's hangover was only just beginning to wear off when Sasuke came charging through the village, determinedly followed by Itachi, followed by most of a baffled ANBU squad. She felt the headache beginning to return, and sat down, holding her aching head in her hands. And just then, Sakura came out of the hospital, followed by a young, silver-haired man. Tsunade's jaw dropped.

"Isn't that..?" Shizune began.

Tsunade nodded. Yes, that was the corpse she had given to Sakura. The corpse that had been mangled under an estimated fourteen hundred pounds of very pissed off something, hacked up into about thirty pieces, ground into the road, bled-out and stuffed any which way in a freezer for twelve hours. It was now following Sakura around, gesturing angrily about something. Probably the fact that she'd put the knees in backwards, but apart from that-

Fuck this. Tsunade was retiring.

The rest of Akatsuki were beginning to shake off the effects too.

Half way over an evil dictator's palace he was about to bomb, thereby releasing an entire country from his tyrannical rule, Deidara turned around and dumped a load of C3 over Friendly Jeff's Donkey Sanctuary instead (fortunately, with the money that Kakuzu had left them, Jeff and all his donkeys had all fled for warmer climates, and were relaxing on a tropical beach at the time).

Zetsu had been sat in a commune, mellowly strumming on a guitar for the amusement of an audience of former laboratory bunnies and beagles that he had just rescued. Before the last notes of Kumbaya faded, the commune was strewn with the partially-eaten corpses of friendly little animals and animal rights activists. Zetsu spat out a dreadlock, and disappeared into the ground.

Somewhere in a swimming pool, the members of the Little Nippers Splish Splash Splosh swimming group began to scream and get out of the water as fast as their little dinosaur shaped floaties would let them.

"Fuck yeah!" Hidan said with glee as his immune system overcame both the anti-evil substance and the suppressant Sakura had got him with (he had just caught the first ever cold of his life too, and was in the throes of a giant man-sulk at the time). He made his way out of Konoha and back to the Akatsuki hideout, bringing his hostage along with him.

Sasori (who had been unaffected, having no blood) sighed upon seeing Deidara alight on the roof. He had been enjoying being one of only three remaining members of Akatsuki. Within a few hours, they were all back with two exceptions.

"Why isn't Itachi back yet?" Kisame asked.

"He mustn't be resisting the effects," a tied-up, hostage Sakura said. "It's almost as if he isn't naturally ev-"

Tsunade's day wasn't made any better by the capture of Itachi Uchiha, and, some minutes later, a little clay bird fluttering into her office and disappearing with a small boom after dropping a message on her desk.

If you want your medic nin back, we will exchange hostages at the Valley of the End. Our contact will be wearing a yellow trilby and carrying a copy of the Financial Times. He will also be the large blue sharkman in the Akatsuki uniform.

She let Kakashi take care of it. He showed up some hours later at twilight, and approached a large man who was wearing a yellow trilby and carrying a copy of the Financial Times, sat on an incongruous park bench that had appeared out of nowhere.

"Excuse me, do you know where I might buy an inexpensive pair of elastic-sided Wellington boots at this time?"

"You could try the 24-hour Wellington boots shop," the man said, helpfully. "They have a very good selection at very reasonable prices. It's just over that way."

"Thank you," Kakashi said, and looked around. He saw another man wearing a yellow trilby and carrying a copy of the Financial Times. This one was standing with his back to a tree. Kakashi appeared on the other side and muttered his question without looking around.

"Sorry, mate," the man muttered back. "My secret question is 'I hear the primroses are magnificent in Amegakure at this time of year'. I think you're looking for that one over there."

Kisame waved his copy of the Financial Times. He was sat on another park bench that had mysteriously appeared from nowhere, and was carrying a large and furiously wriggling suitcase. "Sorry," Kakashi apologised, and went over to talk to Akatsuki.

Everything worked out in the end. Konoha exchanged Itachi for Sakura, and an antibody she had produced that quickly restored Itachi to his natural level of moral ambiguity. It wasn't until later that night that someone noticed Kakuzu had never shown up.

Somewhere, far away, two oddly shaped silhouettes were disappearing into a lovely sunset. The first shadow was very large and four legs. The second shadow was quite large, had a lot of wavy tendril bits, and also had four legs.

"When I were a lad," Kakuzu said mellowly, as he looked around the pleasant countryside. "All this were fields, you know."

"It still is fields," Jugo said, and then paused politely. "But perhaps they were nicer fields."

"Yes," Kakuzu agreed contentedly. "They were."

"Should we stop for the night?" Jugo asked. Kakuzu agreed that was a very good idea. With absolutely no arguing or bickering, they put up a tent, built a small fire and gave Mildred and Rupert their nosebags and a friendly pat each. "So what shall we do tomorrow?"

Kakuzu flicked through the chapter of suggested recreational activities in the HUGS tutorial that he had gone back and retrieved from the corpse-strewn room after his natural love of money meant he was unable to leave without getting his money's worth from the course. "How about finding shapes in clouds?"

"Yes, that sounds like a good idea," Jugo agreed. Pony trekking had done wonders. Neither of them had tried to kill anything else in hours. And now, they sat peacefully watching the sun go down and toasting marshmallows.

"Do you think that Mildred and Rupert miss the other donkeys?" Kakuzu asked, after a while.

Jugo turned to the donkeys and began to make some strange honking noises at them. The donkeys hee-hawed back. "No," he reported. "Rupert says his nose peeled in the sun, and Mildred.. well, Asperger's, you know. She doesn't like being around too many other donkeys."

Kakuzu patted Mildred affectionately. She took a large chunk out of his arm. He felt the familiar urge to kill everything in sight rising again, briefly-

"U, Kakuzu!" Jugo said helpfully. "What could U have done differently?"

"Sorry, Mildred," Kakuzu said. "I will try to be more tolerant and understanding of your neurological differences in the future. I hope we can work together to solve our communication difficulties."

Mildred gave an agreeable hee-haw. "She says it's quite alright," Jugo translated, and paused. "Amazing, isn't it? Who would have thought HUGS really works?"