A/N: Although this starts out looking like a Kakuzu/Mei story, trust me, Kakuzu does not see it that way. To him, it's just business relations, and she's a friend with benefits 8D There will be more Kakuzu/Hidan as the story progresses...
Also, this is my first time ever writing Mei. To be honest, this version of Mei was inspired by an rp. It is not my intention that any of the characters come out as errr... slutty, but given the AU setting, I think it is fitting.
That being said, do not expect any of the characters to be expressing their love for one another anytime soon, or at all With professionals, it's always 'no strings attached'.
Kakuzu dipped his foot tentatively in the steaming water and contemplated walking away from it all. But Damian tugged at his leg, smirking up at him from below amidst rising clouds of steam. Kakuzu stared hard at him for a few moments before finally relenting.
"Cheer up," the man said, moving to the side to let Kakuzu in. "We're only here on business."
"Ridiculous place to be conducting business," Kakuzu mumbled, closing his eyes as he leaned back against the smooth rock wall of the bath, letting his body adjust to the searing temperature of the water. When he opened his eyes, he exhaled slowly, eyeing Mei in the distance at the opposite end of the artificial onsen.
She was basking in the therapeutic waters, sipping on a margarita as she spoke to two of the representatives of the agencies she was looking to pick her next top model from. One slender hand slipped behind a representative, resting against the colder rock ledge, steadying her in her position. Feeling eyes on her, she casually turned to look in Kakuzu's direction, turquoise meeting emerald.
Kakuzu sent her a lopsided smile, himself leaning further back into the wall and bringing his arms up to rest against the ledge as well. She only flicked her tongue out and dragged its tip against the rim of her glass, tipping it slightly in his direction before taking in another sip.
He accepted a mojito that was offered to him by one of the employees of the hotel and brought the glass up in front of him, tipping it slightly in her direction, returning the gesture. He took a sip. Mei sent him a smile from behind her glass, now pressing her tongue flat against the cold, smooth surface and licking up the side. She lifted herself an inch in her current position, exposing a hint of a nipple above the waterline. Kakuzu raised an eyebrow; she only smiled, eyelids settling to half-mast in a sultry expression.
"Getting distracted again?" Damian chimed in, nudging Kakuzu in the side and flashing a grin.
Kakuzu broke off eye contact with his boss and concentrated on his drink. "No. She just told us to get started with work here."
His partner sighed. "Of course she did." Terumi Mei, with all her charms and personality, was one tough woman to work with. There was no slacking off, and Kakuzu and Damian usually had to pick up from where she left off before she turned her attention to a new good-looking young man.
Both managers now turned their attention to the models socializing at the East end of the spring. Kakuzu scanned the twenty or so young men and women in the distance and was ready to dismiss them all of being not worthy of a second glance… until a particular model with silver hair, perfect physique, and a rather long beaded necklace caught his attention.
This young man didn't seem to want to socialize with the others in his group. Instead, he was leaning against the wall to the far corner of the East end, arms outstretched against the ledge, lazily scanning his surroundings. Kakuzu noticed how, even when he seemed to be standing in the shadows, he demanded attention. He couldn't really pinpoint what it was about this model that caught his eye, but he certainly did stand out from the rest.
Kakuzu leaned in to whisper to Damian, eyes still fixed on the model. "What about the one with the silver hair?" He nudged his chin in the direction of the subject.
Damian's gaze followed Kakuzu's line of sight. He nodded. "Demands attention already. And he's not even doing anything."
"Hn. Unlike Deidara." Kakuzu frowned in Deidara's direction, watching as the blonde surrounded himself with fellow models, basking in his self-proclaimed notion that he was a masterpiece. Deidara had started off well, and to be honest, he still was extremely good at what he did. The only problem with him was his attitude; it was beginning to grate on the managers and finding him work was beginning to become a chore since he'd begun insulting their clients about the lack of artistic vision they had in their ideas for photo shoots. Deidara was high maintenance, and he wasn't bringing much profit to the company… Except that when he did agree to a photo shoot, he managed to bag a whopping good sum. But the company couldn't survive on the very infrequent funding he brought it, and Kakuzu made it clear that he wasn't too excited about this new 'development'… at all.
Presently, they were interrupted by Nigel, who, squatting down behind them, greeted them with: "Are you two done making a decision?" It wasn't the warmest of greetings, but it was to be expected with Nigel.
Nigel was an intern, only twenty years old and fresh out of college. He also happened to be the agency's latest addition to their management staff. But being a rookie shouldn't undermine his capabilities. He was a keen strategist and very good with intel. Kakuzu considered him an asset to the team, and had been grateful to Mei for letting the boy work with them. Running background checks, conducting employee screenings, drawing up marketing strategies, and accessing top secret information about rival modeling agencies were all part of Nigel's job description. Perhaps the last bullet-point on his list wasn't written in ink on his contract, but Kakuzu held it was an unspoken criterion. In Kakuzu's opinion, Nigel was perfect for the job. Damian, however, wished he came with a slightly less sour attitude.
Damian turned halfway to flash Nigel a smile. "Someplace more interesting on your mind?" The smile, of course, was never returned.
"I don't see either one of you interviewing the potential models. I didn't sign up to come spend 'family time' with the rest of you. If you have work for me, I'll have it done. Otherwise, I don't see the point in me sticking around."
"And what does any of this have to do with the two of us coming to a decision?"
Nigel frowned. "If you'd come to a decision sooner I wouldn't be obliged to stay here any longer."
"Key word, Nigel," Kakuzu said, stopping to take a sip from his drink. "Obliged."
At this, Nigel pursed his lips, letting them form a thin line across his face. Of course he knew he had no say in the matter. If they wanted him there, he had to be there, regardless of whether there was any work for him or not. He'd been bored out of his mind for the past half hour already.
Kakuzu only went back to sipping his mojito, a hint of a smile playing on his lips as he heard the rustle of Nigel's shorts when he stood up behind him.
"Find out who the guy in silver hair is," Damian added before Nigel turned to leave.
Nigel had been on the verge of stomping off in a huff, but stopped, back turned to the two men in the bath. "His name is Hidan. Aged twenty two, works for Yu & Co. Been on the job for three weeks, so he's a rookie. No family or other affiliations. Nothing remarkable about his profile; he doesn't even have a complete portfolio." With that, Nigel left them.
Damian chuckled, turning back into the water and leaning against the rock. "And here I thought I may help him feel useful. That kid is something else."
Kakuzu agreed. "At least we can be sure that 'stressful work load' wouldn't be on his list of grievances in his letter of request for retirement."
"I still don't understand how you manage to put up with the killjoy."
"What's there not to understand? He gets the work done, I can deal with that."
"Yes, but his attitude…" Damian glanced in Nigel's direction. The intern seemed to be clicking his nails in an attempt to subdue his frustration at the lack of productive work.
Kakuzu took another sip out of his drink, letting the alcohol cool his lips before it went down. "Just a minor complication that can be overlooked. If he's bringing in the money, we shouldn't be having any more concerns."
Damian chuckled, glancing sideways at Kakuzu before shaking his head. "You're always about the money, aren't you?"
"It's good to stay focused. Besides, that's what we were hired for, weren't we?" Kakuzu now redirected his gaze to Hidan, their new potential pick of the season. Twenty two years was rather old to start a modeling career. Kakuzu wondered what the man had done before this. Nigel hadn't let them in on the details; he had a habit of only providing them with pertinent information while he withheld the rest. Nevertheless, Kakuzu was confident that he would receive a complete background check on the man by tomorrow morning, latest. Nigel couldn't pretend he wasn't bored for too long.
Hidan seemed to have felt a pair of scrutinizing eyes on him, because soon the manager found himself staring right at the model. Kakuzu used this opportunity to take into account the shape of the man's face, trying to picture how it would look like in their latest project. From this distance, it looked like Hidan didn't even require any make-up: his skin seemed perfect. This was a plus-point, and Kakuzu mentally ticked it off in his head. He appreciated the shape of his nose, his neck, and soon his gaze followed the contours of the man's body down to his chest, eyes skimming over the well-toned muscle that stretched out under the sun, creating perfect shadows in the natural light. Yes, this man was perfect. Kakuzu could see the profits rising in the company's account already.
Just then, in the middle of his calculations, he felt a hand caress him under the water, just below the navel and across to his hip. It was Mei. Kakuzu could see that she was a little more than just 'buzzed' after her drinks: the glazed look upon her turquoise eyes told the story.
She pressed up against his side, leaning against his shoulder for support. "You've decided," she said. "You've got that look." She glanced over to the group of models, wondering which one he'd chosen.
Kakuzu smiled to himself. She could read all of his expressions by now. "The one with the silver hair."
Mei turned her attention to said model and smiled. "Mm. He's perfect." She loved how the sunlight played against his skin. He would be a good face for their company, she could tell. "Your judgment has always proved to be of great benefit." A perfectly manicured fingernail made a slight scratch on his chest. "Would you call it a gift of intuition or simply talent?"
"I was always under the impression that you hired me for my talent, Mei." He moved some of the fiery hair that now clung wetly to his chest.
"Oh, of course I did." She gave him a sultry smile. "I hired you for your many talents."
Kakuzu laughed. "Yes, I do recall my resume listing out more than just a few."
A chuckle. "Always so literal."
"We are talking about my professional talents, I presume?" Kakuzu knew full well what she was on about, but let their banter drag on.
"You presume correctly. You are professional in everything you do." And Mei would play along.
"Even in talents not listed on your resume."
At this, his features broke into a smirk. "I am sure that is not why you hired me."
"No, but I had a feeling it would be that way. Let's call it… a woman's intuition."
"Indeed. You have all the intuition. I have all the talent."
Mei arched one perfect eyebrow and turned to look at him. Her expression conveyed disapproval, and at this, Kakuzu found himself chuckling. "I believe that statement may have been slightly biased."
Her smile was back. "Only slightly?"
Presently, she brought her leg over Kakuzu's, straddling his thigh. The fact that she was naked seemed to reinforce itself when he felt her soft, wet flesh press against his skin. Her hands drew sensual circles on his chest under the water, occasionally dipping down to stroke his length. She appreciated how big he was with a low moan, eyelids now once again at half-mast. Kakuzu raised an eyebrow. "Mei?"
"Mm. I suppose I'm a little drunk."
"I can tell…"
Kakuzu felt the water swirl to his left, letting him know that Damian had waded off to find a less intrusive spot.
Finding it not the best place to be subject to such behavior, Kakuzu looked around, conscious that they weren't alone and that this was far from being professional. They had come here to pick out a potential fresh face to their list of very successful models, and here they were, behaving like a pair of lusty teenagers in a public place. "Mei, this is not professional." He reached under water and pulled her wandering hand away from himself.
She pouted. Using his thigh as leverage to push herself up by a few inches in the water, she pressed her upper body firmly against his chest, hands now resting against his pecs, thumbs caressing the hard muscle she found there. She craned her neck upwards, nipping at his chin, begging for a kiss.
But Kakuzu knew what that would lead to, and hesitated. His hands gripped her waist firmly, keeping her from getting full access to himself. He looked down at her, biting his lip softly to try and keep calm in the situation, mind trying to come up with as many exit-ways as possible.
Mei's eyes seemed to be begging him for a kiss, relentless in their silent pleading. Oh come on, just a little one, they seemed to say. Kakuzu tried looking away, tried focusing on anything other than Mei. But her encroaching touches and the feel of her thighs pressing – literally squeezing – against his was amounting to a little too much build-up for his own good. So, leaning in, he dipped his head and kissed her. It was a short, quick little peck on the lips, but that was all he was giving her. For the moment. Kakuzu knew she would want to continue this soon.
Mei angled her chin just a little higher, trying to reach him as he pulled away, wanting his lips to linger on her own for just a little longer. That had been too quick.
Tactfully evading her advances, Kakuzu turned to where the tables stood near the patio of the changing area. Turning halfway, he snapped his fingers once and called out: "Andy!" The man came running towards Kakuzu and crouched down beside him, alert to the incoming command. "Sir?"
"Get Miss Terumi a towel, and help her to her room, please."
Andy nodded, and ran off to bring back a towel, and also another pair of hands to help him get Mei out of the water.
She let the men hand her the towel, which she managed to wrap around herself, the majority of it under water and sticking to her skin. Perhaps this really wasn't the best of places to have her way with Kakuzu, she figured. "Tell Damian to talk to the boy when he gets a chance." Grabbing Andy's hand, she hoisted herself out of the water.
Kakuzu turned. Damian? Why Damian, when it was his job to interview the newcomers? "But—"
She cut him off. "You know where to find me."
Kakuzu could only watch as she left puddles in her tracks on her way back to the hotel, the wet towel sticking to her and accentuating those curves as she walked. Of course she would always have her way; she was his boss. Groaning, he turned back, arms going to rest on the rock wall behind him as he leaned against it once again, immersing himself in the water for a few more minutes of relaxation. Glancing to where Damian had waded off to, he noticed his partner talking to the boy – Hidan. Apparently Mei had sent Andy to convey the message to Damian while on her way inside. She must have suspected that Kakuzu wouldn't have obeyed right away. He gritted his teeth. She knows me too well.
As he watched, Damian waded off to the shallower end of the onsen, grabbing a towel to wrap around himself as he eventually stepped out the side of the bath. With Damian out of the picture, Kakuzu now focused his attention on Hidan, who, he found, happened to be looking straight at him. One of his elbows rested against the rock wall behind him, hand drawing lazy circles on the surface of the water. And when he caught the manager's gaze, he held it for a few moments, sending a very sexy smirk his way.
And for some unknown reason, Kakuzu felt his skin break out in goosebumps…
Damian sought out Kakuzu, following him to the bathing station where they had left their clothes. He found him wrapped in a towel below his waist, moving from shelf to shelf, and pulling out the basket that each one contained, trying to discern which shelf held his clothes. Damian eyed him for a few moments before stepping into the narrow space to join his partner. "Kakuzu."
Kakuzu only glanced sideways at him, still occupied with trying to find his clothes. Presently, he had a basket tilted towards him and was sifting through its belongings. Discovering that none of it were his clothes, he slammed the basket back inside, moving onto the shelf above.
"Took me a while to find mine as well," Damian said, crossing his arms against his chest and eyeing the thirty or so shelves in front of him. There was another set of identical shelves behind him, which Kakuzu would have to sift through if he happened not to find his clothes in the first thirty. That would take some time, he thought, sympathizing with his partner for his predicament.
"Bastards," Kakuzu mumbled, tossing the clothes and slamming the next basket into back of the shelf. "What were they trying to achieve when they decided to move our belongings?" He paused, taking one step back to look up and glare at the rows of shelves he still had to go through. Turning around, he noted how the opposite wall was full of shelves as well. "This is like trying to find that one particular safe deposit box in a strongroom!"
"Hmm, I wouldn't know. Haven't been inside one," Damian said, grinning.
Kakuzu only rolled his eyes. He ran his fingers back through his hair, exhaling slowly, forcing himself not to give into the temptation of tearing down the wooden compartments that now stared back at him almost mockingly. The long narrow space did resemble a strongroom. But sifting through the thousand of safe deposit boxes would still have been an easier task than this, Kakuzu thought. At the bank you were given a serial number. "What did you want?"
"Just wanted to let you know that I spoke to the new model."
"Did you think it would be of interest to me to listen to information I was already aware of?" There was no hiding the fact that Kakuzu was very annoyed – not only because he couldn't find his clothes, but also because it had been Damian who had been asked to speak to the model first.
Damian was well aware of the reasons for his partner's hostility. "Apparently, Mei asked me to do the talking. I would have asked you had I had a choice in the matter." This was far from the truth, obviously, and Damian felt like an idiot for having said that when he saw the scowl on Kakuzu's face.
"Of course you would have, like you did every other time before this."
At this, Damian frowned. "Look, that was only twice before. And you were out on a business trip. It's not often that I get the opportunity—"
Kakuzu cut him off with: "Well, this time I was clearly not on a business trip." Everybody at the agency was well aware that it was Kakuzu's forte to interview any newcomer, be it a model or a custodian. He had a gift for making the most economically beneficial decisions and picking out people who would contribute sufficiently to the agency. It was common knowledge that if Kakuzu interviewed you, you would have to be ready to impress him with what you would give the agency in return. It was an unspoken rumor among the staff that if a newcomer were to successfully overcome the hurdle of impressing 'the boss', they would find that working their way to the top of their careers henceforth would be a breeze.
Kakuzu was well aware of his status at the agency. Needless to say, it filled him with a sense of secret pride that he was the main reason behind the prosperity of the company. He filled the shoes of the agency's manager, while Damian fit more into the frame of manager for the models. Damian specialized in finding work for their models, grooming them and teaching them the tricks of the trade, training them to succeed in their careers. While he earned a fair share of the company credit, Kakuzu claimed a larger portion because he was responsible for initially picking out the models and clientele. Damian worked within the boundaries Kakuzu had picked for him. And this fact irked Damian quite a bit.
"You seemed busy enough," came the snide remark.
Damian had to take a step back, however, as Kakuzu slammed his fist against the frame of one of the shelves, turning now to lay that dangerously cold emerald glare on him. "You really shouldn't be speaking of Mei like that." Damian understood that it was a threat and, although riled up himself, decided not to push the subject further. Despite the slightly unjust conditions, he didn't want to lose his job just yet.
Damian was in the process of leaving when Hidan walked into the shelved area. He managed to squeeze past Damian, but stopped in his tracks in between the two men. It didn't take him more than half a second to feel the heavy atmosphere in there. As he watched, the taller, dark skinned man turned back to the shelves, hastily rummaging through them, while the lighter skinned, curly haired man who had spoken to him earlier at the onsen (and whom he knew as Damian) placed a hand on his shoulder. Hidan glanced to his side, eyeing the hand resting on his shoulder. He wasn't a big fan of physical contact from strangers…
"Kakuzu, this is Hidan. As you are aware, I have already spoken to him, but I figured it would be best if you talked to him as well. We can talk about his contract later." With that, Damian released his hold on Hidan's shoulder, and turned to leave, walking out of the bathing station altogether.
Hidan eyed Kakuzu, grinning to himself as he watched the man slam basket after basket in a futile attempt to locate his clothes (and control his anger). It didn't take Hidan more than five attempts before his found his clothes, though. "Why don't you try the fourth row over here?"
Kakuzu quirked an eyebrow, turning to face the opposite wall of shelves Hidan seemed to be talking about. He glanced over at the man, using the moment as an opportunity to take in his physique. He could now see below Hidan's pectorals, and the towel the man wore hung dangerously low on his hips, perfectly sculpted abs and pelvic region tempting the viewer to hook a finger into that skimpy fabric and take it apart. Kakuzu quickly averted his gaze and nodded, going to look into the baskets on the fourth row. Hidan let a smirk grace his features at Kakuzu's reaction.
It took only three attempts before Kakuzu found his clothes. He shot a suspicious glance at Hidan then. How had he known exactly where to find them?
Hidan caught the look and chuckled. "What's that look for? T'was only a suggestion. Found mine on the same row, so figured yours might be there as well. Seeing as how you haven't had any luck with that side…"
Fair enough, Kakuzu thought. "Hn." Bundling up his clothes under his arm, he made his way to the exit… only to be stopped by Hidan who had now sandwiched himself between Kakuzu and the doorframe. Kakuzu raised an annoyed eyebrow, looking down at him, silently demanding an explanation.
Hidan only grinned. "Damian told me I had to speak to you. That right there didn't seem like conversation. So. When's it gonna be?"
Fighting the urge to hit him, Kakuzu took in a deep breath. Yes, he still had to hold a conference with Hidan. What a bother. "Will you be available tomorrow morning at nine?"
"Nine? Yeah, sure." He could do nine. He was glad it wasn't earlier; he needed his beauty sleep.
"Then meet me at our office down on 34th Street. You know where that is, I presume?"
"Good." Kakuzu stared down at Hidan, waiting for him to make a move. But it seemed as though Hidan did not entertain any thoughts of doing so.
Hidan didn't. He quite liked his current spot, sandwiched between Kakuzu and the doorframe. The thin fabric that made up their towels did little to hide the fact that their hips were a little too close to each other's for comfort. Well, Hidan wasn't really complaining. He could feel how big Kakuzu really was behind that towel, and a slight movement in the guise of trying to adjust to the position confirmed his initial assessment. Hidan moved again, rolling his hips slightly into Kakuzu's, passing it off as unintentional. He had to bite back a groan – there certainly was a lot of man down there…
Kakuzu felt Hidan's every movement and stiffened. And when Hidan brought a hand down to the knot on his towel in an attempt to make sure it stayed on, Kakuzu panicked. One hand went to keep his own towel in place as he stepped away as quickly as possible, making as less physical contact as he could manage when squeezing out of there.
Hidan couldn't hide another smirk that spread across his features as he watched the other man walk out of the room in long, hurried strides. And when Kakuzu was safely out of the way, he closed his eyes and leaned against the doorframe, letting his head fall back slightly. He let one hand travel down his neck, dragging it further down to his chest, abs, past the knot on his towel, and finally, parting his legs about two inches from their current position, grabbed his crotch.
A slow, satisfied smile broke out on his face…