Authoress' Note: Rewriting the first few chapters. Not only did they have quite a few typos, they seemed oddly... simplistic, compared to the later chapters! ^^; And after all, this IS my baby!

Alright, here we go~ *takes a deep breath*

Chapter 1

It was not possible for Hidan to hate anyone as much as he hated Kakuzu. Of this, he was entirely sure. After all, there couldn't have been anyone as selfish, as tainted, as dark, as Jashin-damn-his-soul fucking annoying as the ex-Takigakure shinobi. Perhaps the only ones that could compare were the pacifists of Yugakure; and that was only because their weakness and lack of action had made Hidan feel restless, anxious. This, of course, led to the only perk of working with Kakuzu: he could kill. Anyone was free-game, they said. Anyone but his partner, or the Jinchuuriki. And of course, there were no objections to beating the living shit out of either of them - or himself.

And yet, at the end of the day, there was little satisfaction. No explanation was made apparent to Hidan. He could not figure it out - why he felt this way, like there just wasn't enough. There was a feeling, like Hidan needed more... or something different entirely...

Whichever one it was...?

Well, there was no way to know that...

A torn landscape, broken and frayed, made it more than obvious that a battle had taken place. Yet it was the blood that showed who won. Although, perhaps a clearer sign was the masked and hooded man standing in the middle of it all, with a disapproving look in his eyes...

"I told you not to go crazy on this one, Hidan... they won't even recognize him now..."

Kakuzu was annoyed, that much was obvious. His complaints were receiving no recognition, forgetting respect, as Hidan laid on the ground, impaled, blood pooling beneath him. His off-shade pinkish eyes snapped open, glaring up at the much older man. He himself did not seem as annoyed - only slightly bothered. He actually felt rather relaxed at the moment, despite the awkward position his body was in.

"You know, when you tell me that, it just makes me wanna go ufurther/u." he informed, matter-of-factly. "I mean, fuck, what was I supposed to do? Hold back? Jashin-sama would have never forgiven such a lack of devotion."

A scoff came from Kakuzu as he looked away from Hidan, shaking his head, wanting to hear no more of the bigoted, religious prattle. He examined the body of their bounty carefully, looking for some miniscule detail that could prove the dead man's identity. Hidan's scythe, however, had done far too much damage, slicing almost every feature into ribbons of flesh and muscle, shaved bone particles visible in some raised sections along the cheekbone, below the eyes. Kakuzu could even clearly see the jaw bone running to the chin through a shaved, disconnected part of their profile. Hopeless.

"You're going to pay back somehow for this one." Steadily, his voice was growing into an enraged growl as he dwelled on this setback. "This is a huge reward you're costing me."

"Hey, listen, I don't give a shit about your money!" Hidan snarled, snapping his head to follow the miser. Kakuzu's complaints were beginning to grate at his ears, screwing up his concentration. "Will you just shut the hell up and let me finish this?!"

Regular routine; regular Kakuzu and Hidan. Hidan let out a yelp as Kakuzu grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, pulling him up. A wet, slippery, sucking noise hit Hidan's ears, creating less of an impact and sensation than the disturbance that had made it, the forced change of position inside of him. He shuddered as the object he was impaled upon slid, cool and slick against his steadily beating heart. He had little chance to relish in the feel and the pain of it, however, as tendrils of thread snaked from Kakuzu, stroking and dancing along Hidan's throat. Another shudder, less pleasant this time. Hidan's skin was incredibly sensitive, finely tuned through training so that he could fully enjoy every sensation of pain. The snaking thread tickled in a way that gripped that twitching muscle in his chest. A mental consideration of 'huh' went through Hidan's head for a second in confusion, before he pushed the whole thing aside. He glared up at Kakuzu, fully aware of the increasingly sharper sensations as the tips of the tendrils raked at his skin, threatening to pierce it. "Go ahead." he said daringly. "You'd just have to put me back together afterwards."

Cold stares were the only form of conversation between the two after that. Hidan began to finally relax, feeling the threat had passed. It was only then that the threads abruptly changed motive, sewing into his lips. A muffled grunt was extracted from the Jashinist as Kakuzu dropped him back down onto the pike, the hard material rubbing against Hidan again internally, making him jolt. Acting as though nothing had happened, ignoring Hidan's death glares, Kakuzu turned back to his bounty. Examining the mauled face, he muttered to himself inquisitively, finding it to be the only stimulating conversation.

"If I sewed it back together, maybe..." he murmured to himself. Hidan's restrained growls, like Kakuzu's previous annoyance, fell on a deaf audience. Kakuzu, of course, currently wanted it no other way.

The walk back to the base was an uncharacteristically quiet one. Kakuzu took the chance to enjoy it before it was inevitably interrupted; which of course, would happen any minute now. Said event was soon announced by the sound of Hidan's scythe slicing through flesh - flesh that was obviously on Hidan's person. And that was finally exaggerated upon by the following comment grumbled incoherently by Hidan:

"Rr, FRUCK..."

Kakuzu looked back to his partner from the corner of his eye, bored. They had started moving again a few hours ago, and of course, Kakuzu had failed to remove the stitches. And as Hidan attempted to do it himself, it eventually led to Kakuzu's endless amusement.

The only tool Hidan had on hand was his scythe, and thus was the tool of choice for his solution. Kakuzu had foreseen disaster from that moment, considering how iBIG/i the damn thing was. The size, of course, made it hard to control in such a situation. He had slipped, instead, cutting a large slit into the flesh wall of his cheek that kept his jaw from hanging sloppily. This did allow him speech, though it was limited.

"Kakruzu! Firx th' dram thirng err-ready!"

Feigning ignorance, Kakuzu looked away, giving little care to Hidan's plight. As far as he was concerned, the silver-haired Jashinist was finally receiving his just desserts. Of course, though, it became hard to ignore the man innocently when he became so worked up that he began emitting this odd, stifled, snorting noise. Kakuzu turned quickly, in rage. "Breathe through your NOSE, idiot, before you suffocate!" he hissed, as Hidan choked on his own blood and saliva. "Even better, why don't you just shut up?"

"Fruck 'oo!" Hidan growled, deciding internally to stop trying to cut the stitches off. At this rate, he figured bitterly, Kakuzu would just have to give him more, just to keep his jaw on. Blood, hot and sticky, was dripping down the side of Hidan's neck, intermixed with saliva. Kakuzu gave him a look of disgust, but made no attempt to fix anything. That, he decided, was not the current pressing dilemma, despite what Hidan may think of the inconvenience. Adjusting the bounty's corpse over his shoulder, Kakuzu kept on walking ahead. Hidan strode to keep up with him, but did not speak another word, knowing enough to know that it would have been a useless attempt. Once he caught up, he merely stayed alongside the man, wiping the blood from his neck. Kakuzu did not give him another look – not that he expected him to. That was only to be expected. Still, though…

Hidan did not mind Kakuzu's lack of speech (that much), that wasn't the problem. Yet as they continued, he was annoyed, nonetheless. His reason for annoyance was not that specific, seeing as he did not miss the insults, for he was entirely sick of these. Rather, he was annoyed about the whole entire fact that he was being ignored so blatantly, like he did not even exist. That was oddly one of his biggest peeves. Pride was hurt in the same way that an enemy's is, if you refuse battle. It was a blunt form of non-recognition, which, in Hidan's mind, was a most unbearable thing to go through. He did not ever want to lose his existence, of all things. No, that would be too much.

By the time the two had gotten back to the Akatsuki base, the day had left almost entirely, leaving everything dark and cold. Despite his immortality, Hidan was indeed tired, fatigued both from the battle, and from walking for so long. And still, Kakuzu had not undone the stitches.

He wanted these damn things out. Still, lacking in weapons, at this point, Hidan resorted to using his own hands. His fingers pulled at the stitches, first experimentally, then yanking roughly. His lips were also pulled forward harshly, the skin threatening to rip before the stitches ever allowed themselves to be severed. A sick, wet, sucking sound made his attempts obvious as Kakuzu heard them. Kakuzu glared back at him, at the slit cheek that had stopped bleeding a few miles back. Though the skin was still severed, the wound was closing. That didn't, of course, stop the situation from being funny as hell.

"You know, I'm not going to take those off until after the report." he told Hidan, who glowered ferociously, unable to respond without looking like a fool. His tongue lapped up saliva that he then swallowed down forcefully, trying not to look like a mentally-challenged, drooling moron. As they approached the meeting room, however, Hidan became a bit more anxious.

"Hay're, Kakruzu…"

A vague glance backward and a grunt showed that Kakuzu was listening, while on the inside he was containing laughter. Hidan's loose cheek flapped comically whenever he tried to speak. It gave Kakuzu a sense of accomplishment, though he had not directly done the damage. Hidan continued nervously, hiding it with casualty.

"Yer-oh, yer shud perabry firxis bifur ree tark ter Reader-sama…"

"Keep your mouth shut and things should be fine." Was all that Kakuzu had to say, after the time wasted to listen to what Hidan had to say. Hidan glared at him, growling. Quickly looking away, he brushed away the spittle that had leaked out when he had spoken. His following silence was almost deafening, it seemed, in comparison to his usual ranting.

He was still tired. Nodding off, eyes sliding closed, he kept himself awake by continuing to yank at his stitches. His mouth was starting to go dry, he realized, with a bitter annoyance. He licked the roof of his mouth in an attempt to ease the discomfort. He'd be drinking like a fish when all this was finally fixed. And by Jashin's name, he was going to kill Kakuzu next chance that he got.

Walking into the room, the pink irises of Hidan's eyes widened, adjusting to the pitch-black darkness. After a few blank moments, the shaky, transparent image of Pain appeared, only the ripple-patterned eyes fully visible on the shadowy form of the projection. Hidan stood to the back of the room, trying to get away with saying absolutely nothing. He was saved momentarily from that at least as Kakuzu spoke up, going immediately into the report.

"We only received half of the estimated pay." he said first, bitterness evident in every syllable. "They could barely recognize the bounty. Hidan had managed to mutilate the face pretty badly, left him in terrible shape. They weren't going to pay full price, they said, for such shoddy work."

Hidan bit back a spiteful response, continuing to stand there quietly. He knew this was the exact reason Kakuzu had not removed the stitches. Pain was staring critically at the Jashinist, and Hidan could only hope that the stitches were not as visible in the nearly-pitch black. The scythe was gripped tightly in his fist, shaking with the urge to stab Kakuzu in the back. He knew that at this position, he could hit at least two of his hearts. His anger only grew as Kakuzu continued the report, berating Hidan every chance he had. The raven-haired man seemed to go on for hours before Pain spoke up.

"Hidan… you're being uncharacteristically silent today…"

Hidan gave a grunt, still refusing to speak. He would have remained as such if he hadn't heard the scornful chuckle from Kakuzu. At that point, he snapped, finally. "Shurt th' fruck up, Kakruzu!" he snarled, ignoring the sneaking feeling that Pain was smirking at him, mocking him. Paranoia, he tried to assure himself. Just because he and Pain hated each other in general, as Pain was a heathen, a false God. And Hidan, in Pain's opinion, was an idiot. But still. How could that make Hidan know for sure that he was mocking him? He couldn't even see his Leader's face. Paranoia, he repeated to himself, gritting his teeth. Pain spoke again, voice stern per usual, biting. Sarcastic, Hidan thought, with a sense of outrage.

"I'm assuming the bounty had nothing to do with your current state." the man stated, eyes shifting back to look at Kakuzu for an explanation. Another one of his smug laughs came from the man's throat before he continued.

"I was trying to shut him up. It worked fairly well, until he managed to cut his mouth open. Idiot managed to botch that as well…"

A feeling of frustration was welling up inside of Hidan at Kakuzu's words, at the way he talked like Hidan was not even there. He wanted so bad to retort, to scream at him. But still, he had no way to do so. Damn it, how long was Kakuzu going to keep these stitches on? Hidan tugged at them again, giving himself something to do.

Oh, he knew Pain was laughing. He just knew, SOMEHOW…

In a voice like he was scolding a small child, Pain spoke again to Kakuzu. "As frustrating as your partner may be, Kakuzu, please refrain from taking such restrictive actions next time." There was no care for the seriousness of the situation, no concern. Only a patiently piercing voice. Biting, biting, always biting like a cold winter frost. And Kakuzu's voice, cold, deep, like a frozen-over Earth. All Kakuzu had to say now was, "I like it better this way."

By Jashin's name, Hidan hated these bastards.

His patience thinned to nothing, Hidan was no longer able to stand being in the company of either of the two. He left the room, not even giving the courtesy of dismissing himself, nor of waiting for his partner. He was striding down the hallway towards his room, towards the comforting presence of personal space. Already, he could feel the violent insanity fading, waning away that need to kill, to hurt. But the frustration in him was building, a strange pressure in his chest threatening to come out, and he felt sickened by himself for it.

What upset him most about Kakuzu was not how much the man hated him, not how much he tortured him, not any of that. He only dwelt on those blatant acts of ignorance. Because the only thing worse than a life lacking in death and destruction was a life with no standing existence.

"To return to the problem at hand, Kakuzu, this is getting tiresome. I had assigned Hidan as your partner in the hopes that you two would work as a compatible pair." Pain was ignoring the fact that Hidan had left so abruptly. It rather seemed to Kakuzu that he had been waiting for it, for the chance to speak to Kakuzu alone. Allowing things to go where they may, Kakuzu sighed before replying.

"The unfortunate thing being that there was a flaw in your logic." Kakuzu pointed out, bemused. "Just as he loses it when I tell him to hold back, the fact that I can't kill him only creates more stress."

"Then aim that at your bounties, rather than your partner. This type of hostility within my organization is only asking for hassle and inner turmoil." The way he spoke, it was hard to tell if he was angry or not. For all Kakuzu could tell, he could have actually been pleased. Not that Kakuzu particularly cared. He knew that as long as Pain was treated with respect, there was nothing to worry about. Well, there hadn't been thus far, at least…

"What am I supposed to do about that?" The question came in a low growl from Kakuzu. The very idea of having to restrain himself around Hidan made Kakuzu twitch with impatience and bloodlust. But Pain would not respond immediately to his question. He only watched quietly, no sound except the flickering crackle of the projection. It was the sound of quiet consideration. When at last the elusive man spoke again, his words were not at all what Kakuzu had been expecting.

"I'm going to make a deal with you; a bet."

He took a double-take at first before replying. "A bet?" repeated Kakuzu, raising an eyebrow. ""Why this, all of a sudden now? How does a bet have anything to do with what we are talking about?"

"It has everything to do with it, Kakuzu." Pain replied patiently. The way he was eyeing Kakuzu made the man feel uncomfortable. Like he was building something larger in his mind, something more than a simple bet. "What… what kind of stakes are we talking about here?" Kakuzu asked him hesitantly, trying not to sound too interested yet. "What terms?"

"The stakes are simple enough; money." Ah. Now Kakuzu understood that look that Pain as giving him. He knew what effect that one sentence would have. He knew it; he had already reeled the man in. Kakuzu was practically licking his lips with anticipation, but dared not to say yes, not yet. He was a business man; he knew the drill by now. It may have been hard to look disinterested, but Kakuzu pulled it, speaking slowly, with great caution. "How much, exactly?"

From there, they exchanged words quickly, their conversation becoming a complicated waltz. "It all depends, Kakuzu." Pain said, backing out discreetly. Kakuzu's eyes narrowed.

"On what?"

"On how well you do."

"Meaning what, exactly?

"It will become clear when it begins."

Kakuzu was beginning to snap. Time was money, and the amount of time this whole thing wasted had Kakuzu becoming impatient. He hated this beat-around-the-bush style of negotiations. Pain, on the other hand, seemed to be fully enjoying it. Pain did not laugh necessarily, oh no. He never showed his feel of satisfaction; he was an emotionless God. But his eyes said it all, the rippled pattern seeming to shine sinisterly. Kakuzu held his tolerance, simmering silently.

"Just tell me the terms, Pain." He growled, abandoning any respectful title. At the moment, it did not seem as though Pain cared. He did not need Kakuzu's respect at this moment. This reaction was enough to compensate for it.

"I want to see how long you can last." He said, still vague, only for a moment longer. "How much you can take. How long you can take until the both of you break."

"'Both of us'?"

"You and Hidan."

A silent tension built between the two. Kakuzu was both speechless and angry beyond belief, reaching beyond rationality. The way Pain spoke insinuated cooperation with the Jashinist, and Kakuzu would never stand for that. He was still not even sure of the full terms, and already the idea had become upsetting to him. There had to be some kind of joke to it.

"What exactly is it you wanted us to do?" There was rage in both his eyes and his voice. Pain heaved a sigh, sounding weary, though Kakuzu still got the feeling that he received full enjoyment from this. Bastard… if it were either allowed or possible, Kakuzu would have torn him apart. But as someone who had fought so long for immortality, and achieved something so close to it, he knew better that to put it all to waste, putting his life in the hands of an enraged God.

"You're already losing it, Kakuzu." Picking up easily on the man's rage, Pain continued to somehow taunt him with such nonchalance. "Should I even tell you? Will you even be able to stand it?"

This time, Kakuzu refused to grace Pain with any response. He watched Pain, and Pain continued to watch him. "It's nothing beyond your capabilities, Kakuzu. Only an experiment, to test and build the teamwork and compatibility between you and your partner."

A bold-faced, lie, Kakuzu knew.

"Why not do the same to the others then? Why only us? There's the new team you could test instead. After all, Tobi and Deidara…"

"… work well together, the both of them. They may bicker, yes. But both have managed to work well together. I don't want any more questions on them. My reasons are undisclosed as to why I cannot choose them, and it is not required that you hear those particular reasons. You and Hidan are thus the best available pair suited to my purposes."

Bullshit, utter bullshit. But still, he thought about it. Kakuzu honestly thought about it. He felt like a toy, a simple plaything in his Leader's hands. This fact angered him the most. Kakuzu was not the type to be used, that seemed more befitting of Hidan. Yet at the same time, this promise of compensation… it seemed almost TOO good to pass up...

"… so when you say the pay depends…"

"You want to know how to receive the most profit?" Pain interrupted, seeming to read Kakuzu's mind. A frightening thought. "I knew that would catch your interest. Do you agree than, Kakuzu?"

Still, Kakuzu gave no response. But the glint of greed in his eyes was answer enough…

~End Chapter 1~