Sorry for the long delay. We've hit busy season at work. I won't delay any longer.

Kakuzu kept his promise. He had allowed Kakashi to go free. All of his and Hidan's supplies had been packed into his bag and he lifted the still unconscious man into his arms. All that was left was for him to return to the base and inform their leader that the mission had been a failure. He knew that the man would be livid, but with a partner like Konan, he knew that Pein would do no harm to the injured pair. As Kakuzu made his way back down the mountain, he made sure that Hidan's cloak was secured tightly around him. The last thing the man needed was for his beloved to catch pneumonia with the state that he was in. Other than occasional deep breaths, the silver-haired man was deathly still and silent. Normally the shinobi's features were youthful and full of life. With the infection, all of Hidan's many years showed on his face and in his troubled breathing. In his entire life, Kakuzu rarely felt such deep-rooted sorrow. He felt as though all five of his hearts were breaking simultaneously. If the man in his arms were to never wake, he knew that he would soon follow after him into the sweet dark oblivion.

Despite the raging emotions inside of him, the trip home was uneventful. He had only stopped once when he had jostled Hidan and the man whimpered in his sleep. After changing his bandages, they set off again. When the base was in sight, Kakuzu sprinted towards it as though the beasts of hell were on his heels. He kicked open the door and rushed to get Hidan into the medical ward.

Konan jumped out of her seat when the pair came rushing in, "Kakuzu?! What the..?" She spotted the silver-haired immortal and immediately cleared the examination table, "Place him here." He silently obeyed her. She began removing articles of his clothing and gasped when she came to the bandages. They were carefully cut off of him and Konan shook her head sadly at the injuries that had yet to close.

Kakuzu sank to the floor as all of his adrenaline fled, "I don't know what jutsu he was hit with, but it was almost a week ago. He's been bleeding ever since. You have to save him."

She glanced over at him, "I'll try my best. It will take, at the very least, a few hours. You should report to Nagato. Tell him that I need to speak with him as soon as possible and then get some rest."

He stood, slowly made his way over to Hidan on the table and gently grabbed his hand, "You have to pull through this, you little shit." Kakuzu placed his hand back on the table and left the room.

With no distractions left, Konan got to work. Her first task was to get the bleeding to stop, but that in itself would be quite a feat. Hidan wasn't so much bleeding as he was oozing. The laceration was so badly infected that she doubted there was even a chance that a normal person would still be alive. The skin around it had blackened and it quickly became apparent to her that their opponent had laced his jutsu with a poisonous substance. Until she knew what that substance was, there was no helping Hidan.

Kakuzu was in Pein's office. The ginger man was staring him down humorlessly. He began to speak in a quiet monotone, "So you failed in the task appointed to you. This is unacceptable." The brunette kept his head lowered as Pein continued on, "I understand that your partner was injured, but after insuring his safety, you should have finished your objective. Instead you holed yourselves up in a cave like a coward. Cowardice is equivalent to treason in this organization. Do you have any idea how we deal with treason here?" Kakuzu flinched. He was fully aware. His last partner had been caught selling secrets and it was left up to Kakuzu himself to execute the man. It had been brutal and unforgiving because Pein had ordered it to be so.

The man in question was still watching Kakuzu, "I have no more use for you. I'm going to end your life and the life that you betrayed me to protect, but I do like a good game of cat and mouse. I'm going to give you a running start. For every year that you have worked for me, you'll get an hour head start. Let's see... 26 years.. 26 hours? That sounds fair. You have 26 hours to get the hell out of my organization. After that, well we'll see."

Kakuzu stood, towering over the man, "I have been nothing but loyal to you! Where am I supposed to go?! Hidan is in critical condition because of your stupid mission! This is how you repay our loyalty?"

Pein smirked caustically back at him, "You know, Hidan has only worked for me for 15 years. Don't make me revoke your hours. Tick tock little mouse." Kakuzu blanched. He turned and left, still seething.

The first stop he made was his and Hidan's shared room. He unlocked the drawer to his desk and pulled out a lock box. Never before had he ever imagined that he would need this. He took out a different key and opened it. There, inside the box, was all of his savings from gambling and bounty hunting. Hidan had relentlessly teased him about it, but Kakuzu had never fully trusted Pein. He knew that one day, the man would turn his back or blade on them. Pocketing the money, Kakuzu took a quick glance around the room. Nothing here held any importance. They needed to travel lightly if they were ever going to get away. He transported himself to the infirmary to gather Hidan.

Konan was busy with several books open in front of her when he came in. As Kakuzu moved to scoop his lover into his arms, she stopped him, "You mustn't move him now. I've just regulated his chakra flow to force the infection out and hopefully the poison with it."

Kakuzu scoffed, "It's not like I've got a choice. Pein's after my head. He's given me 26 hours as a head start. I just wasted one of them arguing with him, packing what little valuables I have, and now arguing with you. Unless you've got some advice on how to get us out of this mess, shut up and move out of my way."

She moved aside only to grab a piece of paper and hand it to him, "I was researching different poison users to find a cure for Hidan. There was no conclusive evidence, but this name should be a good start. I've listed his last few known whereabouts. You'll recognize him, unfortunately." Kakuzu's eyes moved to the paper. There, at the top, was the name Orochimaru.

Konan placed Hidan in Kakuzu's arms, "Take him and that bag over there. It's my travel kit of supplies."

He nodded and grabbed the bag, "Thank you. You've been a true friend."

She smiled lightly, "Go now, before he changes his mind and decides to kill you quickly."

Kakuzu turned and headed towards the exit and the only chance to save both of their lives.

Here's where I'm ending it. Add me to your author alerts because I'm going to start a sequel some time in January. Thank you all so much for your patience. After four years, Ashamed has reached its end.