Subtle Matter

By: firefly

Note: I have no idea where this came from, but, like always, the idea of thinking up interactions between two people who've never spoken in canon was too fun to resist. Fic is comprised of vignettes based mostly on 52 Flavours themes, is mostly general/psychological, and random without any real order or plot.

Enjoy, and reviews are always love.

Subtle Matter

I have all these thoughts, and I'm pretty sure they all contradict each other.

Their furniture is mismatched. He's seated sideways in an armchair near the stairs and in typical juvenile fashion, has no regard for etiquette. His back is against the armrest and his legs are propped up on a marble statuette Tobi salvaged from an abandoned antiques shop. In one hand he loosely holds his rosary, gaze half-lidded and unfocused in a way that signifies a state of mind verging somewhere between resigned boredom and restlessness.

Konan spares him a glance when she enters the room and doesn't pause in her stride towards the stairs when he looks at her from the corner of his eye, jaw tightening in either resentment or wariness.

He doesn't like the way she ignores and brushes past him, as if he's something to be trodden over. Though he doesn't know why he wants her attention, he feels like he deserves it, and that in neglecting him like this, she is basically treating him lower than shit. At least a person looks out for shit at the risk of accidentally stepping in it.

When she draws near, he considers his next move, realizing the regular approach won't work. Where he usually holds a propensity for irritating others to get their attention, it's different with her. The thought of seeing those perpetually cool eyes gazing down at him with haughty indifference—or worse, contempt—is enough to make him uncomfortable.

For some strange reason or another, her opinion of him seems to matter, and it is for that reason he relaxes his jaw and tilts his head back so he's looking up at her.


She pauses on the second step, holding onto the railing and glancing down at him expressionlessly. It's the first time he's spoken to her and the first time she's looked at him for longer than a second, and for a moment he can't think of anything to say, surprised at how easily he has her attention.

Hidan flounders before he remembers. He's got a cut. He's always got a cut somewhere. And he's seen her use those slips of paper as something like bandaids on Itachi, Deidara, and Kisame.

Casually, he drops his rosary against his stomach and reaches up with his palm facing outward. In the centre is a deep and painful-looking wound, a result of him stabbing his weapon into his hand to spill the blood necessary for drawing his seal. Before he raises it, he clenches his fist so that the healing skin stretches and cracks open again, so when it's facing her, there are fresh rivulets of blood seeping through the lines in his palm.

"You mind?" he asks, in a frank and unhesitating sort of way that is nonetheless a question and therefore an anomaly. He never asks Kakuzu to help sew him back together, resorting only to beseeching tones when he has no choice. But here, he doesn't tell her and is perplexed when she acquiesces so quickly and silently, a thin sheet of paper peeling off the side of her neck and drifting down to seal seamlessly over the wound.

He pulls his hand back and flexes his fingers to see if the paper will hold; when it does, she doesn't wait for him to respond and continues on her way. He tilts his head back against the armrest again and watches her disappear over the top step and into the hall, brows knitted in indignation despite the fact she has helped him.

She didn't say a word, and without a word, she could have pasted his head back on and it wouldn't have meant a goddamn thing.

"Frigid bitch," he mumbles under his breath, slouching lower in his seat and feeling oddly like a son spurned by a mother too dispassionate to pander empathy or a kiss to make it better.

Another grey day in the deep blue world

His stamina is ridiculously high and he reminds her of a firecracker, blazing bright for days on end and culminating in a tremendous burst of energy before his body literally shuts down and forces him to recuperate. On those days he sleeps like the dead, fourteen hours at a time, and spends the rest of the day lying about the headquarters in a state of irritable lethargy.

Sometimes he takes up residence in the den where she practices new forms of origami. The vast array of shapes she can make aren't preternaturally present in her jutsu; she has to determine, through trial and error, each new shape and incorporate it into her technique before being able to form it without her hands.

For now she's practicing conical structures to act as projectiles and Hidan is in one of his moods, scowling at her from where he's sprawled on a sofa.

"Fucking hell, you're second-in-command and you seriously have nothing better to do than fold paper?"

"Would you like to learn?" she asks courteously.

He snorts in derision. "Hell no. What good use is that girly shit to me?"

"It quells boredom."

There is no point in convincing him further because she doubts he has the patience for the craft. But he watches her anyway and eventually reaches over and grabs a sheet of paper off the table. She can hear the paper folding and creasing and she vaguely wonders what he's doing with it until the answer comes in the form of something embedding itself into her hair.

When she reaches up and pulls it out, she realizes it's a paper airplane. He's snickering because he knows she must be annoyed despite her lack of expression, and though it's at the expense of her dignity, at least he's in a better mood.

The Scent of a Soul

Each of them has a distinct smell. He doesn't try to notice it—he simply can't help it. The effluvium is overwhelming.

Zetsu's overpowering odour of dirt and ozone is cloying; Deidara's stench of sulphur and explosive residue makes his head hurt; and Kakuzu's reek of mothballs and cheap detergent is enough to make his eyes water.

So whatever money he makes he spends on high-quality soaps, shampoos, and colognes to mask those smells and because he hates the stink of blood that saturates his skin after every sacrifice. The taste he can handle, but the smell reminds him of slaughtered pigs which are the most fucking hideous things on the planet, as well as the used tampons he'd have to empty out of waste baskets in the washrooms back home after shinobi were put to work within the burgeoning spas and tourist attractions.

From what he's gathered of Konan, he deduces that she has no smell, attributing it to the fact that both her clothes and body seem to be made out of paper and that she wears no perfume. He thinks she must be doused in a sort of aether, the pure air of the gods undetectable to mere mortals. It's a sacrilegious thought but it's just a thought, one he entertains idly when amidst the fog of chemical and earthly odors inside the hideout, he can, on occasion, detect wisps of something intrinsically pure and unearthly seeping through the haze.

Ownership of such fragile devices

"Fucking gay," he groused, when he'd first heard of the elements making up the uniform.

It's cumbersome to keep up with maintaining the black lacquer on your fingernails when your weapon is a massive scythe that results in daily wear and tear of the hands. Besides that, he can never get the polish on without smudging it onto his cuticles and it drives him insane when he underestimates the drying time and it gets all over his cloak and bed sheets.

So when he sees Konan painting Deidara and Tobi's nails for them, he decides he'll spare himself the agony and indulge her inner girly girl, because seriously, women just love doing this sort of shit.

Deidara gets up and leaves a moment later. Hidan saunters over and shrugs off his cloak, dumping it in the corner so the polish won't get anywhere near it. Then he shoves Tobi out of the way and casually takes his place, plopping himself down on the seat and holding his hand out.

Konan makes no reaction to him jumping the line and merely continues. The polish is chipped in places so she takes her time scrubbing it away with acetone. The smell hurts his head but he doesn't care. That stupid ring, that stupid nail polish, that stupid cloak—none of it matters, but he'll pretend he cares about the state of his nails if it gives him the excuse to be in her presence.

He thinks it's that aether again and that it has an addictive, inebriating effect. It's like an elixir that settles his nerves and saps the cynical, draining thoughts he has about the state of the world, like an overdose of painkillers without the side effects, and he enjoys it despite the concern the entire thing might be blasphemous.

But he finds comfort in the fact that she's so goddamn untouchable and otherworldly, since it makes him think his reaction is restricted to being near her and her alone. Hell, it's probably a form of genjutsu, he reasons, since he doubts all women have this effect.

Besides, what can he do? She's his boss's partner and would and could probably kick his ass if he tried to make her stop that demonry or whatever the hell she was doing.

She pauses after she finishes to put the applicator back in the bottle, then blows gently on the polish. It feels like ice and his eyes drift shut momentarily at the intoxicating surfeit gusting over him. When the feeling subsides and he's left with a peculiar sense of emptiness, he thinks he can understand why she thinks she's an angel of god, even if she is wrong.

A trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour

Kakuzu had been around long enough to see what Hidan is doing and is vindictively amused.

His partner is still too young and naive to realize that, inevitably, the mind takes it upon itself to form temporary obsessions and infatuations with things diverging from all things sensible. In most cases it's a person, though the intent is not always of a sexual nature.

Konan is different from other women because she is stronger than Hidan, does not give him the time of day, and carries herself in a way to suggest she is above mere mortals. Kakuzu has no idea what his partner wants from her, though, but because Hidan is immortal and deluded enough to consider himself her equal, Kakuzu decides it must be what all little boys want from their mothers, sisters, teachers, and babysitters—

I can tie my shoe laces. I can count to ten. I can wipe out a village of heathens just as well as you can. Pay attention to me, praise me, and acknowledge me.

Grace coming out of the void

Hidan can tick off the types of women on his fingers. There are whores and bimbos. There are floozies and sluts. There are geeks, harpies, witches, bitches, battleaxes, and broads.

There are women like that in excess, rife with insecurities, jealousies, conniving attitudes, and gossipy mouths. Anything beyond that is a rare find, something prone to be misunderstood by those not perceptive enough to appreciate it.

"Konan-chan is so aloof, Deidara-senpai! I think she needs to open up some more."

"I don't care, un. Leave her alone if you know what's best for you."

"But she's too reserved." A pause. "I don't think she should keep her emotions bottled up like that."

Hidan rolls his eyes as the conversation drifts over to him. He knows Tobi is an idiot, but it doesn't take a genius to understand that the kind of woman Konan exemplifies is practically extinct on this crappy planet and is thus worthy of respect simply for how rare she is.

Not that he gives a shit. But even Hidan can appreciate the quiet, unobtrusive presence and grace of a lady. And Konan is one fucking classy lady.

The Swagger of a Champion

He doesn't know it, but when he struts into headquarters with a cocky smile, brimming with stories recounting his conquest of the heathen masses (which he relates with gusto to his only audience, Tobi), Konan looks at him and has the words 'young buck' come to mind.

How unfortunate, she thinks in passing, catching a glimpse of his hands animatedly conveying his enthusiasm. He could have been happy and sane if fate had just been slightly kinder. He could have been popular and successful, a heartbreaker, the boy all the girls went crazy for, but he chose martyrdom by joining their organization.

She doesn't show it, but in those moments she passes by the room he's telling Tobi his stories in, she sees what he's sacrificed and respects him.

I'm a wanderer trapped in a maze

It's a pity his working memory is restricted to matters solely concerning Jashin. If he'd paid closer attention to his predicament on his first day in the Akatsuki, he might have developed a better perception of her.

Six months ago, he's traversing the long and winding corridors of the Akatsuki hideout, wondering where the hell he's going and growing frustrated because there are no distinct markers on the bare, concrete walls to guide him. The infrastructure of the place is shoddy and he has to duck repeatedly to avoid hitting his head on low-hanging bare bulbs and watch the ground to steer clear of the obtrusive water pipes.

He's about to consider breaking a hole in the wall to find his way to his room when he notices movement ahead of him. He squints and takes a few steps closer, then blinks when he realizes it's a white butterfly careening gently down the hall in front of him.

"How the hell did you get in?" he wonders out loud as he follows it, recalling the fact that the massive hideout has no windows. It leads him through the labyrinth of halls and stairways, and just as he begins to lose patience again it pauses before a door, fluttering its wings and circling until he reaches forward and opens it.

It's dark inside but he can make out a single bed and sparse accommodations, including the new cloak that's been laid out for him on the dresser. At the sight of it, he forgets all about the creature hovering about his head and disappears inside.

If he'd paid any attention at all during the geography and biology lessons in his academy days, he would have remembered that white butterflies didn't exist in the northern hemisphere, nor could they survive in such conditions.

But he doesn't remember and never will, missing the insect's transformation into a crane as he shuts the door and it flies away.

Charisma: a form of voodoo

There is bewitchment in his smile. Somehow, somewhere, he learned how to manipulate his features and speech in a way that guaranteed—no matter how vile or unappealing his words or actions were—an inability in people to harbour permanent malcontent towards him.

Kakuzu fell victim to it first. Though he lashed out at his partner occasionally, he never left him incapacitated, caving to the former's beseeching pleas and charming smiles. Konan didn't know whether Hidan's antics made the Falls nin relent out of disgust or genuine pity. Either way, the effect worked in the Jashinist's favour.

Deidara, who he tormented relentlessly with insulting nicknames, did nothing more than offer grudging retorts when the slightest mistake from Tobi was capable of eliciting violent reactions. Itachi was distant yet respectful, Kisame found him endlessly amusing, Zetsu tolerated him, and Pain, above all, endured his blatant insolence and insubordination.

Konan can see the intangible witchcraft that seems to undulate around him, then feel how palpable it is when he flicks the paper flower out of her hair in passing and she can do no more than muster slight annoyance.

It's a dangerous ability, she realizes, looking warily after him.

He doesn't need Jashin or his seal to put them under his spell.

The isolated, the dispossessed, the incommunicado

Sometimes she thinks Kakuzu is not a good choice of a partner for Hidan, after all. The Falls nin is far too wizened and cynical a man to entertain the fancies and optimism inherent in those so young. As a result, their opinions clash often enough to provoke distemper and restlessness in the Jashinist.

It must be incredibly difficult, she thinks, to keep one's faith when those around you denounce you for it. The realization engenders a sort of admiration in her for his will and spiritual fortitude, but at the same time she can see that the lack of conversation and like-mindedness is slowly killing him.

Hidan's temper has gradually worsened till he appears constantly on edge, prepared for retaliation as if he's expecting the next person going by to deride him for his beliefs.

But then at times he seems to slacken and all the verve deflates out of him, and the way he looks up, surreptitiously and quickly when someone enters a room, lips parting in anticipation (in hope?) of replying to a question—it reminds her of a stray dog hovering outside the pack, waiting to answer a call of invitation.

She feels sorry for him, in a way, but at the same time she has nothing to say. So like the others, she merely walks by him, ignoring the way he glares dejectedly at her back when she leaves the room.

The need to hold still

There's a long, rectangular mirror affixed to the wall outside the meeting room. She doesn't know who put it there, but whenever she passes it by, she finds herself stopping and turning towards it to check her reflection.

Why they maintain a sense of vanity, she can't explain. Preoccupation with aesthetics is unnecessary and seems wasteful when one's goal is world domination, but she nonetheless pauses to check if the paper ornament in her hair is sitting right and if she's smudged her eye shadow.

Sometimes Hidan will be there before her, smoothing his hair back and meticulously examining his face for any unsightly bumps or bruises sustained from the last mission. She comes up beside him, keeping a distance of at least four feet between them before she checks her own reflection. She can tell he's paused what he's doing and that he's staring at her reflection, too.

It doesn't occur to her to wonder why. She honestly doesn't care and ignores him for the most part. When she's done, she turns away and finds him examining the healing stab wound in his chest with indifference, then notices something in his hair.

He looks up when she raises her arm and goes completely still when she reaches out and touches his head. Before he can ask her what the hell she thinks she's doing, she pulls her hand back and drops the black thread that was caught between the silver strands.

Then she leaves, inwardly contemplating that she could have left it there. But that would have made him look unkempt, and that, for some reason or another, would have looked wrong.

Above the thunder

He's pissed as hell. His room and the hallways are pitch black and the only things he can use as a guide are the thunderclaps. The storms are a frequent occurrence in River country, literal manifestations of Pain's moods.

This time, the storm comes in the midst of one of his rituals, so not only is he blind in the dark when the lights suddenly go out, but he's dripping blood all over the goddamn place and it's disorienting the hell out of him.

He somehow manages to stumble to his door and yank it open, voice reverberating off the cavernous walls and into the inky blackness.

"Enough with the fucking rain! If this happens every damn time you get depressed, get that shit checked out 'cuz it's fucking abnormal, you hear me? I swear to Jashin if it happens one more time—"

The tirade ends abruptly when something slaps over his mouth, cutting off his voice. Before he can react, he hears a match strike and the spark instantly diffuses into a small glow a mere two feet in front of him.

Konan raises a finger and holds it meaningfully to her lips for several seconds.

"If you value your limbs," she murmurs after lowering the finger, eyes narrowing, "you will not speak until the storm is over."

He tries to speak anyway, but the paper seals tightly over his lips and she disappears in a flurry of butterflies before he can force her to remove it. It doesn't budge no matter how much he scratches and tears at it, and giving up, he returns to his room to wait out the storm in seething silence.

Eventually, the thunderclaps fade and the lights flicker back on. By the time the paper gives away and drifts serenely to the floor at his feet, he's had time to think and doesn't feel half as angry anymore.

Her warning, he realizes, was more for the sake of preserving his limbs rather than out of concern for Pain, and the thought pacifies him a little.

He stoops and retrieves the paper, turning it idly between his fingers before scrunching it into a ball and tossing it over his shoulder.

Despite her unorthodox means of showing it, at least now he knows she gives a shit.

The house of the butterflies

It's rare to see Konan fight and even rarer to see her use her jutsu to slice or impale her victims to death. Hidan used to think it was for pragmatic reasons since she'd probably want to avoid getting blood on the paper.

But he comes to realize it's simply because she doesn't find any joy in it.

She snuffs them out like candles, burying them in an avalanche of innocuous white paper that smothers their mouths and noses and blocks out the light. It's almost merciful, like putting an invalid out of his misery by holding a pillow over his face.

When he sees her do this, cliché terms like black widow, femme fatale and other bullshit like that come to mind and just don't fit.

She's not an angel or a healer, the latter of which is typical of most female shinobi. She's a specialist on recognizing the lost causes and relieving them of their sick, futile, mortal lives.

She's the queen of euthanasia.

The cruelest month

Somehow, Tobi knows their birthdays. It's a mystery as to how he found out in the first place, but they don't question it and most of them react with resigned acceptance when he brings them a cake and sings them a song.

Hidan's birthday is in April and he's one of the few who runs away, threatening and cursing Tobi as the masked man chases him with a boxed cake, insisting he blow out the candles. Hidan's tried attacking the idiot, but for some reason his attempts either seem to miss or go right through him. So he runs, dashing through the twisting halls until he loses him. As soon as the first door comes into view, he yanks it open, darts inside, and slams it shut behind him.

"Can I help you?"

Hidan stiffens and turns around, finding Konan sitting at her vanity table and staring at him with a blank look on her face.

"Uh, shit. Yeah. Lemme hide out here for a bit."

"From what?"

"Swirl-face. Idiot won't leave me alone."

"I see." She turns her attention back to her mirror and takes the pins out of her bun, letting her hair fall loose. When she picks up her hairbrush and doesn't say anything else, he takes it as an invitation to make himself comfortable.

Never one for respecting boundaries, he drops his scythe and strolls over to her bed, dropping down onto it and not caring if she minds. She doesn't react anyway and continues brushing her hair. He watches her for a while, lying on his side with his head propped up on his hand. Her inattention irks him, probably because she doesn't think he's worth talking to or that he's a temporary nuisance that will leave sooner if left unprovoked.

Well, fuck that.

"You know, I'm starting to think you ignore me on purpose."

She doesn't even glance at him in the mirror's reflection. "I have nothing to say to you."

The way she says it isn't rude or condescending. It sounds like she's stating a fact and it irritates him.

"Why the hell not?"

She meets his gaze in the mirror's reflection. Her brush strokes are slow and methodical.

"Shall I humour you?"

His glare is fierce. "Don't talk down to me, damn it."

She lowers her eyes contemplatively. "When I speak to you, you get angry." Setting her hairbrush down, she begins pinning her hair up again. "When I don't speak to you, you get angry."

She picks up her eyeshadow palette and brush and meets his gaze in the mirror again.

"What exactly do you want from me?"

His jaw clenches and his eyes narrow, but he can't think of anything to say without compromising his pride so he shuts up.

They continue to sit in silence as she proceeds to apply her makeup, tweeze her eyebrows, and apply a fresh coat of black nail polish, during which she considers the fact that she is lying to him.

The things she wants to say are constantly burning at the tip of her tongue.

You're impudent and too emotional. You're too attached to ritual and sentiment. You're not as empty as the rest of us, and that makes you both dangerous and vulnerable. You don't belong here.

But knowing such words would serve no real purpose, she bites them back and instead decides to say something in the hopes of bringing him out of his sudden dour mood.

"How old are you today?"

He looks up from the bedspread, brows knitting at the inquiry. "What the fuck do you care?"

"It's just a question," she replies smoothly, pursing her lips and adding a transparent sheen of gloss.

Her interest is nonexistent and the entire conversation is hollow and meaningless. But someone in this miserable hellhole besides that lunatic Tobi, whose sincerity he's seriously beginning to question, is finally taking interest in and talking to him.

He should be angry for what is an obvious display of patronization, but he's so tired of the bleak, grey walls and perpetual silence that he can't help but answer.

"Twenty-two," he mutters, wondering why he feels embarrassed.

Konan finishes her routine by clipping the flower ornament into her hair, gazing thoughtfully at the tabletop.

It makes sense to hear it. Such eager, zealous youth. Still just a boy. An energetic little boy eager to please a god to whom he gave himself completely. It was somewhat profound, even romantic to have such steadfast loyalty from someone so naturally mercurial.

When she gets up to leave without saying anything else, he throws her a disgruntled look and rolls onto his back, crossing his arms behind his head as if attempting to provoke some kind of response out of her for ruining her folded sheets.

She ignores it, pausing at the doorway. "Close the door when you leave."

"Aren't you gonna wish me a happy birthday?" he asks sarcastically.

She steps into the hall and doesn't bother lying this time. "It would make no difference."

And yes, the way you look at me

Maybe he thinks she's blind, Konan muses. Or maybe he thinks her apathy towards him is a reason to assume that whatever he does in her presence will go unnoticed.

But she sees it.

The glares, dejected looks, curious glances, intrigued stares—she's seen them all and can't help but wonder what he's looking for.

"He has a weird, creepy little crush on you," Deidara informs her after Hidan exits the kitchen upon her entering. When Konan gives him a blank stare of incredulity, he nods sagely to himself. "These things happen to men at some point. Purely chemical, un."

She thinks Deidara fancies himself an armchair psychologist and decides to humour him, asking if the same thing happens to him. A moment later, she briefly wonders about the rest of the men in their group when he tells her it's a juvenile phase, one he grew out of a long time ago.

Konan considers this. "But Hidan is older than you."

Deidara snorts before raising his cup to his lips. "Only physically."

I feel about average

Often times he's tempted to drop everything he's doing, turn towards her, and scream:

Bitch, do you think you're better than me? Think I can't feel the way you look down on me, like I'm just a fucking peon?

But he doesn't because that will only reinforce and acknowledge the fact that he fears he's lost control over his life. And so every act of defiance, whether it's an insolent glare, insult, or blatant disregard for orders, is a way of silently saying:

I'm more than that.

But he feels that she sees right through it—through his flimsy attempts at maintaining some vestige of autonomy in a world where his fate rests with those above him.

He knows she sees right through it.

And it's not a good feeling.

Oh little sparrows, mind your place

The others think he's crazy—crazier than them at least for the way he keeps trying to get Konan's attention when she only has eyes for Pain. But then again Hidan is immortal, something not even Pain is capable of, so when the Jashinist grabs her wrist to stop her leaving before he's had his say, they both disparage and envy him because they know he'll get away with it.

"You piss me off way more than I let on, you know."

She doesn't respond, nor do her fingers or wrist twitch in the slightest at suddenly being caught in his grip. Instead, she merely gives him an apathetic look and lowers her eyes pointedly to her hand.

Her skin is unnaturally smooth. Almost frictionless.

But it's all a deception, because a few seconds later after he's let go and she's disappeared up the stairs, he feels the stinging sensation and raises his hand into the light to see it streaked with bleeding paper cuts.