He is back from the mission. Finally. And he is bored. Not really bored – there was a lot of fighting and killing, actually. Rather frustrated. He doesn't like missions that don't earn him any money, that is. Not at all.

Kakuzu opens the door and enters the hall, and seven pairs of eyes are directed at him. He can barely suppress a growl. He knows those looks. He knows those expressions on their faces. They have been waiting for him.

"What is it now again?", he asks, putting emphasis on the word again.

It's always the same. They need his help. Oh, how he hates it.

Pein makes one step forward.

"We have a patient for you", he says.

As expected.

Kakuzu lets his eyes wander across his mates, and a little frown appears on his face. None of them is wounded, not even the most reckless one.

"Who?", the miser asks lazily.

He isn't really interested. He doesn't like treating people who aren't part of their organization, and they know it.

"Your new partner", Pein says.

Oh, they're such a pain. Every time Kakuzu is on a mission, they recruit a new member in the meantime. Just because his partners don't stay very long. The last one died only a few weeks ago. An accident. An accident having to do with his throat and one of Kakuzu's kunai, to be precise.

"You must be kidding me", the banker says, not bothering to suppress a yawn.

He isn't really tired. He never is. He just wants to show how much he cares about others. Not at all, actually.

"You'll like this one", Konan now chimes in, adding a faint smile.

"Oh, really?"

Sarcasm is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Tastes so good on that old tongue of his, which is barely creating any words during the day.

"Really", Konan says, sounding oddly serious.

"You should take a look at him."

"Him", Kakuzu repeats quietly, mumbling to himself.

At least it's a man. Kakuzu does respect Konan, but he doesn't want to be paired with her. Or any other woman. Or anyone at all, actually, but it seems as if it couldn't be helped.

"Okay", the miser sighs, slightly angry about himself giving in so quickly.

"Where is he?"

"That's so kind of you", Konan says, and Kakuzu gets even angrier, because he knows she means it.

However, he follows the blue haired woman.

"You'll like him", she repeats while walking, "he's… different."

"Different", Kakuzu parrots, trying to keep up the mocking tone.

"Different from all your former partners", Konan says and opens the door to a small room on the right.

"You'll be surprised."

Not only is he surprised, Kakuzu is awestruck by what he sees. He blinks, once, twice, a third time, but the picture in front of his eyes remains the same. A kid, a fucking kid is sitting there, curled up in a ball, shaking. There is blood everywhere around him. On the couch he is sitting on, on the floor, even on the walls. Kakuzu can sense that his chakra is flowing through his system extremely slowly, and he knows very well what that means.

"C'mon", he drawls, shooting Konan a glare, "you can't be serious."

"What?", she asks, keeping that annoying smile on her face.

"This guy is badly injured", the miser growls.

If he says badly, he means badly.

"Close to dying, to be honest."

"Exactly", the woman says, her voice low and soft, "that's the interesting bit about him."

Kakuzu groans.

"I'm not treating half-dead people."

"Look at him", Konan snaps.

With another annoyed groan Kakuzu turns around and stares at the miserable figure on the couch. He is young, way younger than him, and a lot shorter.

Well, those are things Kakuzu isn't really surprised about. He himself is tall, maybe not as tall as Kisame, but taller than the others, and he is definitely the oldest amongst them.

But there must be a reason Konan is that persistent. There has to be something special about that boy, after all, and so Kakuzu takes a closer look.

He is pale, this little guy. Deathly pale. White. Even his hair is white. It is hanging down in sticky strands, tangled with dirt and blood and sweat.

His breath is coming way too slow and fitful, as if he was about to stop the next second, and he is bleeding profusely, thick red streams running down his shaking body. The wound on his chest is deep, deeper than Kakuzu thought at first, and looks really, really bad.

Oh yes, Konan was right. This is interesting. There are things that surprise Kakuzu, things he only notices now. This guy is close to death, seriously injured and almost unable to breathe, but for some reason he is still conscious, and obviously fully aware of what is happening around him.

His eyes are red, bloodshot, and they stare right into Kakuzu's green ones. They are flickering with fear, with pain, but also with –

"Who're you?", he asks.

His voice is shaky, yet strong, and even sounds a little angry.

"Your savior", Kakuzu says. He just can't help it.

"Go to hell!"

The miser raises an eyebrow, unable to believe his ears. Did this kid just yell at him?

"I want to help you", he says, although that isn't completely true. Yes, he is amazed by this little guy, by the fact that he is still talking. However, Konan is the one who wants to help him.

"I don't need your help", the boy huffs, straightening himself and glaring at the other shinobi.

The blood he coughs up is darker, almost black, staining his chin and throat with almost artful spots, and Kakuzu chuckles to himself.

"Oh, I think you do", he says when the small frame slumps down again. He watches the boy rest his head against the wall, obviously too weak to lift it again.

"Or do you want me to let you die?"

There it is, the strange excitement that seizes Kakuzu's body whenever he thinks about death. Yes, the others want him to treat this little guy, but he would prefer to let him die. He loves watching people die. All the pain, the suffering, the desperation – wonderful. And this time he wouldn't even have to do something. Killing without moving one single finger, that would be a completely new experience.

"I won't die."

There is a strange certainty in the boy's voice, as well as in his eyes, and Kakuzu lifts his head with surprise.

"No?", he smirks, slightly amused by the smaller one's self-confidence. He is barely in control of his body, but yet he thinks he is fine. What a brave kid.

"No", he says, "I'll never die."

Kakuzu raises his eyebrow again.

"Sure."

"It's true", Konan suddenly says.

Kakuzu now raises both his eyebrows.

"Are you trying to tell me this kid is immortal?"

This must be a joke. A really bad one. Kakuzu hates jokes.

"When we found him, he was already dead", Konan explains, "but for some strange reason, he started breathing again after a short while. We had a nice talk, and then Pein decided to bring him here. Right, Hidan?"

Hidan, then. Kakuzu isn't sure why, but somehow he likes the name.

"Immortal", the injured smirks, perfectly imitating the way Kakuzu spat out the word some seconds ago.

What an annoying little brat. Now the miser really wants to let him die. But if Konan is right, he is not going to succeed.

"What will happen if I don't help you?", Kakuzu speaks lazily. If this kid is convinced to be immortal, there is no need to hurry.

"Nothing", Hidan huffs, "I'll be fine in a few days."

The banker chuckles again. Oh my, it is so obvious that the boy is lying. He is in pain, probably in severe pain, and his heart beat is at a dangerously low rate, even though he is kind of nervous.

"This wound is not gonna heal", Kakuzu says, "if I don't treat you, you'll be bleeding for all eternity."

Hidan's voice is almost a whisper now.

"Would be very much appreci…"

His body convulses as he coughs up more blood, thick and black and gushing down from the corners of his mouth so quickly, so unremittingly, so – irresistibly.

This is the moment Kakuzu enjoys most. All energy vanishes, the body goes limp, and then there is silence – but sadly, not in Hidan's case. He is still drawing breath, if with much difficulty, and his piercing eyes are still open.

"What now?", Konan asks, "You gonna stitch him up or not, Kakuzu?"

The addressed snorts but finally reaches out for the boy, enjoying the fact that he can't defend himself right now. He pushes away his arms which are still wrapped around his small body, then roughly grabs his bright hair to tilt his head up and takes a look at his injuries.

Yes, this is bad, but nothing Kakuzu isn't capable of. He has attached legs and arms and hands back to their owners' bodies so many times – Hidan's wounds are nothing compared to that. Just a few stitches and he will be fine. If he can take the blood loss, that is.

Kakuzu sighs. He hates wasting his time and energy on treating people who die shortly after. Konan will have to come up with a good explanation if this should happen, now that she has told him Hidan is immortal.

The miser startles badly when the boy suddenly wraps his arms around his neck. His fingers are cold, ice cold, but yet their grip is somewhat strong.

For a short moment, Kakuzu doesn't dare to move. Maybe Hidan is just trying to get hold of something, but maybe he is clinging to him for a reason. Even though he doesn't admit it, he must be desperate for help, silently begging Kakuzu to ease his pain.

A strange feeling starts to develop inside of the banker, a feeling he hasn't felt for many, many years. Pity? Sympathy? Mercy?

"Lie back", he huffs, "I can't treat you like that."

He pushes the small frame, makes him fall down onto the couch. His black appendages start to snake out from under his clothes, reaching out for the tortured figure in front of him.

Hidan is almost choking on his own blood in this position, and starts panicking for a second. He tosses his head to the side and coughs once again, tries to spit away the liquid that is keeping him from breathing.

"Lie still", Kakuzu hisses, grabbing the other male's head roughly.

He can't concentrate with this delicate white body writhing beneath him. Hidan looks good with the blood spilled all over him, almost beautiful, and his desperate flailing gives Kakuzu a thrill.

For a short moment the miser hesitates, just stares at the younger one. He is wrecked, shattered, but yet there is not only fear but also a tiny bit of something else in his eyes, an expression Kakuzu can't interpret. Amusement? Pleasure? Lust?

Black threads finally pierce white skin, close the wound without care and rather quickly, making Hidan jerk with every stitch.

"Hurts", the older shinobi mumbles tonelessly, not really asking. He knows it does.

"No", is Hidan's answer, but Kakuzu can see that he is digging his fingernails into the mattress beneath him.

"Fine", he snaps, pulling even rougher. If the boy tries to play the brave one, this is what he gets.

Hidan cries out in pain, although he obviously really tried not to. His breath is rattling in his throat, blood sputtering out of his mouth with every gasp. He clenches his teeth, but can't keep himself from uttering a few more tortured moans while Kakuzu continues sewing. However, he doesn't pass out. He just lies there, trying not to move until the miser is finished.

"Well done", Kakuzu chuckles after the last stitch, and can't help patting the younger one's head.

"Now go take a shower or something", he says, "you can't run around like that."

Yes, he likes blood, but not in the house. It looks good on the battlefield. It looks good on an enemy's body. It even looks good on an ally's body from time to time. But it does not look good on the carpet. Carpets are expensive, and so Kakuzu intends to keep the ones they already have instead of buying new ones every other day. It's already bad enough Zetsu always ruins them whenever he is around at the lair for dinner. He really doesn't need this boy bleeding all over the floor now.

Hidan stares at the miser from below, still sprawled out on the couch.

"I… I can't move yet", he says between pants, trying to catch his breath. He looks extremely tired all of a sudden, tired and exhausted and worn out.

Kakuzu frowns at him. Oh, how he hates wimps.

"I bet you can", he huffs and roughly hauls him to his feet by the forearm.

The boy almost falls, and Konan shoots Kakuzu a glare.

"Don't push him", she asks.

"Why not?", the banker says, "He said he would be fine."

"And so I am!," Hidan snaps.

Although he is still swaying on his feet, he shakes off the miser's arm. His eyes are flickering again when he glares at the older shinobi.

"I would've been even without you", he shouts, "I told you I don't need your fucking help!"

His fucking help?

"You really shouldn't yell at me, you ungrateful brat", Kakuzu growls.

God, he is losing it again. He is calm usually, but he can't stand this kid, he absolutely can't. If only he was allowed to crash this shaky little frame, he would shatter Hidan to bits in no time.

"Calm down, you two", Konan says now, "there's no need to be that hating."

Kakuzu sighs. It is always like this. Konan always, always right, and she stays calm no matter what.

"I'll go and tell Pein that you successfully treated him", she says, "you take care of your partner in the meantime?"

She smiles at Kakuzu once more, and he gives her a snort.

Partner. There is no way he will accept this kid as his partner. Hidan might be tough, but judging from the bad injuries on his chest he seems not to be too experienced in battle.

The blue haired kunoichi turns around once again before she leaves the room.

"Kakuzu?", she says, and the miser looks up, "thank you."

If only she wasn't like that. If only she wasn't that lovable. If only she was as rude and unfriendly as the others. Then it would be way easier for Kakuzu not to do what she asks for all the time.

Once Konan is gone, the miser grabs Hidan's arm again.

"Come on", he says and drags him along violently, out of the door and through the hall.

He realizes that the boy is still bleeding, if only a little bit. A few red drops trickle down from his body and stain the floor he is walking on, and Kakuzu hates him for it. He stops in front of another door and pushes it open angrily.

"Bathroom", he spits out, unable to produce a whole sentence due to his anger, and shoves him inside.

Hidan frees his arm and turns around with a smirk.

"You can stop pretending", he says, "she isn't looking anymore."

The pale boy is caught completely off guard when Kakuzu crashes him into the wall the next second, roughly holding him in place with his hand around his throat. Oh, how he wants to squeeze it shut.

"If she wasn't around, I would kill you", he growls, desperately trying not to press down too hard. Pein and Konan will be pissed if he hurts him shortly after treating his wounds.

A faint smile tugs at the corners of Hidan's mouth.

"You didn't get it, did you", he says, "I told you I can't fucking die."

"I don't believe that", Kakuzu snaps.

Yes, he knows that it is possible to lengthen one's life span, but immortality is something the banker considers complete and utter nonsense. Some shinobi might appear immortal to their enemies, but most of them have just a good defense and a higher-than-average amount of stamina, as far as he is concerned.

"You need proof?", Hidan asks, "Come on, try to choke me, and you'll see."

Try to choke him? Does this kid think Kakuzu isn't capable of killing a pathetic little brat like him? His eyes are hazy, and the miser blinks. Is Hidan enjoying this?

"C'mon, do it", the boy whispers and closes his eyes, but Kakuzu has seen the expression that has been flickering in them for a second. Delight.

The banker loosens his grip and lets go of his counterpart, frowning at him. What the hell made him be like that? Where does all that pride come from? Why isn't he afraid?

Hidan coughs once again, and again a few red drops start dribbling down from his mouth, although Kakuzu is sure he successfully treated all his inner injuries.

"Go take a shower already", he says, "before you ruin the floor of this room as well."

Hidan can't keep himself from asking another annoying question.

"You gonna watch?", he smirks, exposing his blood stained teeth to the miser.

"No", Kakuzu huffs, "I'll wait outside."

And with this he slams the door shut.

Konan was right. This boy is different from all his former partners. Way more self-assured, bold, and cocky. Kakuzu hasn't been yelled at like that for years. Most people are rather scared by him. Even his allies don't dare to mess around with him. Usually he is calm, but he loses his temper very easily, and when he does, the urge of killing gets so strong he doesn't distinguish between friend and foe anymore.

The banker can hear that the water is turned on, and involuntarily he chuckles to himself. Yes, he has closed the wounds, but yet they will hurt like hell when getting in contact with the hot liquid.

He just hopes Hidan doesn't pass out in the shower. He really doesn't want to carry an unconscious, naked boy through the hall when all the others are around.

None of them is actually living here. It would be way too dangerous if all of them had their home at one and the same place. A lot of them have a bounty on their head, and there is no need to offer all of them to their enemies at the same time, if the lair should be discovered one day.

Pein and Konan share an apartment not far away from here, but the other members' residences are spread all over the country. Some of them, like Sasori, have their own hideout somewhere in the woods or near villages. Others, like Zetsu, travel around a lot. They just gather here from time to time when they have to talk about important missions and set up plans.

Or if a new member is to be recruited.

To Kakuzu's surprise, he doesn't hear one single cry of pain, and Hidan appears in the door frame a few minutes later without any blood on his body. He is topless, a towel loosely wrapped around his hips, and – damn, does he look good. Young, thin, fit, and the dark stitches across his deathly pale chest look just perfect.

His hair is wet and dripping, and appears almost silver in the gloomy light in here. Running one hand through it, Hidan gives the miser an unexpectedly awkward look.

"Where shall I go now?", he asks, sounding oddly shy.

Kakuzu growls. He has no idea where the boy could stay. There is only one bedroom in the lair. The one he himself intended to relax in after coming home today. It is a room most of the members use for recovering after their missions before actually going home.

The banker curses himself, and he curses Hidan, but even more he curses Pein and Konan and the others. Why the hell does he have to take care of that little brat? Why do they insist on him having a partner? Why can't he just go on missions alone, like he did all his life before he joined the Akatsuki?

Hidan rubs his eyes.

"Please, can you tell me where to go", he asks.

His voice is terribly whiny, and the usage of the word please makes him sound pretty tame.

The miser sighs. Hidan must be tired to death. He is just a kid, a teen, as far as Kakuzu can tell, who lost a huge amount of blood and was close to dying half an hour ago. Now his body is shaking with cold and exhaustion, and he can barely stand upright. His eyes are teary, as if he was about to cry.

"You need to rest", Kakuzu says, surprised at his own words.

He tries to fight the thoughts that start to come to his mind, but fails – he is beginning to worry about Hidan.

"And I need some new clothes", the silver haired says, pointing at the blood-stained pile he has dropped onto the bathroom floor.

The banker clenches his teeth. They don't have a stock of extra clothes hidden somewhere in the lair. He will have to give him some of his own. They are unlikely to fit, though. Hidan is so much shorter than him, and pretty skinny. But he can't run around naked either, so Kakuzu gives in once again.

He leads the boy to the room he himself intended to stay at for the night, and starts rummaging through the bag he has left there. He always leaves some clothes at the lair before he goes on a mission, because they often get shredded in battles. He is glad this wasn't the case today, otherwise he would need to ask one of the other members for help now.

The older shinobi can feel the boy staring at him, and it makes him angry again.

"Why don't you sit down, huh?", he huffs and points at the bed, and now Hidan really seems to be at the verge of tears.

"Don't fucking yell at me", he whines.

"I yell at you as much as I want", Kakuzu growls, "if you want to be my partner, you'd better get used to it."

He pulls some boxers and a shirt out of the bag, the only clothes he doesn't need himself, and turns around to Hidan, who has really sat down onto the bed.

"And stop swearing", he adds and throws the clothes at the boy.

The silver haired gives him a smirk.

"Fuck", he says.

Nothing else. Just fuck.

Kakuzu narrows his eyes, but before he can say anything, the cocky expression on Hidan's face has vanished. He looks all scared and shy again, obviously failing to play down his fear by acting cool now.

The miser sighs to himself. No wonder he is confused. Being carried to a creepy lair full of villains after nearly getting beaten to death on the battlefield must be somewhat frightening for a young guy like him.

His fingers feel around at his throat, and he starts shaking again.

"C… could you get me something to drink, Kuzu?", he asks softly.

The miser jerks. He hates nicknames. He never had one, and he never will.

"My name is Kakuzu", he snaps, "and this is no hotel. Why don't you get something yourself?"

Hidan casts down his eyes.

"I dunno where", he whispers, his voice as shaky as his hands now.

The banker groans. Right. He is the new member. New. That means, also new to this place.

"Please", Hidan asks, "I need to get rid of that fucking blood in my mouth."

Kakuzu stares at the frail figure on his bed, not sure if he feels amusement or pity when the boy suddenly chokes again.

"Damn, this is sickening", he whines, "I feel like throwing up."

What a pain. The miser can hear himself growl once again. He needs to get rid of that boy. Quickly.

Deidara is clever enough to leave the room when Kakuzu rushes in, but Konan stays. Besides Pein, she is the only one who isn't afraid of him.

"Are you two becoming friends?", she asks, giving Kakuzu a happy smile.

The miser is raging with anger.

"No", he huffs.

On the contrary, the boy is driving him nuts. He makes him feel like a babysitter.

Why? Why the hell is he doing what Hidan asks for? Because he likes him? Kakuzu can't stand him. Because he is his new partner? Kakuzu doesn't need a partner. Because he is a helpless little kid? Kakuzu usually kills helpless little kids.

"You should", Konan says, "since he's your new partner."

Oh shit, why does she have to repeat it over and over again?

"He's not", Kakuzu snaps, "I don't pair up with little brats."

"Don't call him that", Konan asks while the banker starts rummaging through the kitchen shelves, "he's an S rank shinobi."

"Sure."

Kakuzu has finally grabbed a bottle of water and spins around with furiously sparkling eyes.

"An immortal S rank shinobi, extremely skilled and experienced and the best partner I'll ever have."

"Exactly", Konan smiles, ignoring the sarcastic tone on purpose.

The miser only raises an eyebrow.

"He's younger than you", she continues, "but yet very skilled. Pein and I watched him on the battlefield, and saw some techniques that were even new to us. You'd be surprised."

"As hell I am."

Kakuzu is close to yelling. If it wasn't Konan standing in front of him, they would be in need of another new member now.

"Pairing up with him will make missions easier", she says, "your techniques complement each other, and so do your personalities. We didn't just pick him because he was the only one left on the battlefield, you know. Pein and I took a very close look at him first, and found him to be the best partner for you. He'll do you good."

Kakuzu snorts before he leaves the room.

"Sure. He's going to change my life."