Warning - well actually, I don't have a warning. Sorry this chapter took so long. Also I'm sorry to say that there's no tentacle rape. Anyway, enjoy the drama that unfolds, lol

Sasori consumed food pills like a man possessed. Kisame needed chakra and a lot of it... unfortunately, the quickest way to supply him was to devour food pills. How many had been in his pouch? Ten, twenty? If he still had human flesh, it would be bloated like a water-logged corpse. Thankfully, the clean and efficient mechanisms that composed his being converted the potentially fattening energy into pure chakra. He checked his body. Yes, still slim. Still fifteen. Still exactly the same, of course. Everytime he did something stupid like this (which wasn't often) a small part of him writhed in despair, shuddering at the fact that he no longer had a body to display the reprocussions. I'm in my thirties, this inner self mourned, and I haven't eaten, pissed or taken a crap since I was a damn teenager! Sure this body looked real enough, even down the sizeable cock, but it was all just a facade. If he went to a brothel and buried said cock in every mouth, pussy and ass he could find, he wouldn't feel a thing. His dick, along with the rest of him, was little more than an artistic statement. 'Look at this friggin masterpiece,' the statement said. 'Gaze upon the glory of my genius!'

Now as he gazed down at the 'glory' of himself, he realized the statement was pretty fucking stupid. Deep inside, he knew he'd made this body realistic in a feeble attempt to retain his humanity. The encased heart which composed his being could fit itself into any puppet in his arsenal - he could very well walk around as one of his roughly formed, ragged battle drones. This grey eyed, red haired model just seemed, at the moment, like a pathetic cry for help. He was clinging to his increasingly vague memories of what he'd looked like before the transformation, holding onto his humanity even while he rejected it. Pathetic, pathetic!

I'm going to alter this model when I find the time, he suddenly decided. I'm going to remove this ridiculous cock. In his mind, it sounded like a step in the right direction. Why should a puppet have a cock? He'd never piss out of it, impregnate a woman by it, or even feel pleasure from it. It was useless. All it ever did was remind him how good it had once felt to be a virile male. That and it scared the hell out of poor Deidara.

The thought of Deidara snapped him back to attention. Here he was indulging in morbid introspection while his partner was bawling his pretty eyes out and his comrade was potentially drawing his last breath. He abruptly rose from the porch and headed for the house, shooting the beautiful coastline a baleful glare before going inside.

X X X

Still trapped in his memories, Kisame shuddered inwardly. He'd killed his mentor, broken his lover's heart, and had managed to get kicked out of his village all in one fell swoop. After running himself ragged into the heart of the wilderness, he was more lost than he'd ever thought possible. Loss of direction, loss of purpose, loss of motivation. To say it was a dark time in his life would be a huge understatement. It was, in a way, the end of his life. And when he'd finally stopped running to rest, part of him had hoped his life would literally end. Which form death would take, he couldn't have possibly cared less. His last thought for falling asleep had been along those lines. Hypothermia... arrow in the back... giant centipede...

Doesn't matter... It doesn't fucking matter...

He'd barely fallen asleep when he was awoken by a dry, rustling sound, as if something large was slithering over a patch of leaves. Giant centipede? he wondered as he reluctantly opened his eyes.

Goddamnit, this thing is even worse, he told himself as he focused on the strange creature emerging from the ground that looked like a hybrid between a human being and a venus fly trap. Its face was baffling - half ebony, half stark white with unmatching yellow eyes - and as it fully emerged, he noticed that this abomination was wearing an incongruously sophisticated cloak. Finely woven, tailored to fit, dyed black with ornate red and white flowers... or were they clouds? Either way, he had no idea what the hell was standing before him. An aristocratic swamp monster? He edgily rose to his feet and curled his fingers around Samehada's hilt, bracing for what he assumed was going to be a very interesting battle.

"Woah there, what're you doing?!" the creature yelped in a light-hearted, almost goofy voice. "I thought Madara told you we were coming!"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Kisame growled, unholstering Samehada and poising himself to attack. "And whaddya mean, 'we?' Who's with you?"

"Damnit, what an idiot," a different, more serious voice growled. The black side of the thing's face didn't seem to have a mouth but Kisame was sure the voice was coming from it. "My other half is a moron. He forgot to introduce us. Our names are Black and White Zetsu... we're seperate entities but we share a single form, most of the time. So just Zetsu will suffice."

"Zetsu?" Kisame echoed, ignoring the ridiculous explaination. "Oh, right. Madara mentioned you before he left me hanging at the crimescene." He relaxed his guard only slightly and scowled. "I didn't have time to tell him in person because I was too busy getting chased out of my village," he snarled, "but I don't want to join your stupid organization. Akatsuki, was it? I've just lost everything important to me and the last thing I care about right now is casting a genjutsu on the fucking moon!"

"Yah, well, things obviously didn't go as planned," White Zetsu replied with a shrug. "Sorry about your... um... life."

Kisame cursed under his breath, furious. "You're sorry?" he seethed. "I'll make you fucking sorry! Get the fuck outta my sight before I hack you to pieces!" A few of Samehada's spikes burst through its binding as if emphasizing the threat.

Zetsu took one small step back then shrugged again. "My orders are to protect you," he stated in a blunt voice that could have belonged to either half. "So I'm afraid I can't." Where he'd seemed intimidated just a minute ago, he now appeared to be completely unruffled by Kisame's hostility.

What's up with this weird bastard? Kisame wondered as he freed Samehada from the remainder of its bindings. Is he really part plant? And will I be fighting one target or will he split into two? All he knew for certain was that he didn't want to be protected by anyone - whatever fate had in store for him, he'd handle it on his own. Also, he'd been itching to use Samehada in a battle so this was a perfect opportunity. The sword seemed eager too - its spines were shivering with anticipation.

Unfortunately, he found himself with no one to battle. Zetsu sank into the ground before he could even take a swing and wouldn't reappear no matter how many taunts he threw out. After about five minutes of shouting every curse he could think of and stabbing uselessly at the ground, he grudgingly sheathed Samehada, grating his teeth with frustration. His body ached with the desire to fight - it was the bloodlust equivalent of a painful erection.

"Are you done?" Zetsu's voice came from above him; he tilted his head and spotted the man emerging from the trunk of a tree, too far up to hit with any kind of melee attack. "Because as much as I'd enjoy battling you, we don't have time for it now. Ao is hot on your heels with half of Kiri's population for backup... he'll be here within an hour."

Kisame mustered the most vicious snarl he could conjur, his blood boiling with un-quelled rage. "Good," he sneered. "I'll finally get to fight."

Zetsu's strange face was a grim mask as he slid down the length of the tree trunk and landed silently on the ground. His ability to travel through earth and wood was like nothing Kisame had ever seen before - 'one with nature' didn't even touch it. "I can't allow that," the being stated. "Like I already said, it's my mission to protect you."

It took Kisame a vast amount of restraint not to grab Samehada's hilt. He'll just hide again, he told himself, his hand twitching at his side. "Then go back to Madara and tell him to mind his own business," he grated. "I obviously don't want your help!" He shot the man an icy glare then turned on his heels and started walking away.

What happened the last time I turned my back on someone? he forced himself to remember. Oh yah. Zabuza almost killed me.

Just as he was planning to turn around, a mass of roots suddenly coiled around his ankles, stopping him in his tracks so abruptly that he went crashing to the ground. Stunned, he groped for Samehada but before he found the hilt, more roots shot out and encircled his wrists, yanking him back upright with enough force to give him whiplash. His heart was pounding with adrenaline as he desperately tried to wrench free, even using his teeth, but the few roots he managed to sever were quickly replaced by more until he was covered with them, unable to move a muscle. The short struggle left him drained - blood from several scrapes trickled down his tightly bound arms and legs, mingling with dirt, and his head was spinning so bad from shock he couldn't even see straight. It took him a second to focus enough to realize that the roots were coming from the black half's arm and torso, protruding from his now unbuttoned cloak. A low, feral growl rose in his throat as Zetsu took a few steps toward him; he could feel blind fear gripping at his mind, nearly overwhelming him before he forced it away.

"Madara praises you as an assassin yet you have worse instincts than a genin," Zetsu chuckled. "I have no idea why he values you so much... maybe it's your ability to blindly follow orders?"

Kisame shook his head, appalled. "Let me go," he growled. "I'm done being of use to anyone."

"Madara doesn't seem to think so," Zetsu replied, his uneven eyes glinting. "His plans are often baffling but in the end they work in his benefit. Some say that ocular jutsu wielders are prescient at least to some degree. So perhaps he sees your retarded ass slaying a bunch of jinchuriki with, you know... retard strength. Either way, it's not our role to pry. We were created to serve Madara's will, so we've little choice but to do just that." Kisame sensed a hint of bitterness in the creature's tone.

"Stop calling me a retard," Kisame grated, still struggling even though it was useless. "Even Kiri shinobi are politically correct to some degree!" He snapped at a root that was strung near his mouth, severing it neatly. "And I repeat, let me go!" he shouted. "I don't give a fuck what Madara is predicting, nor could I care less about killing anyone for his benefit!"

"And we couldn't care less about your opinion," Zetsu sneered. "This is just another mission. Our job is to make you dead to the world so that's what we're gonna do, no matter how much you object." Kisame watched in horror as Zetsu's body seemed to go to war with itself - it writhed and convulsed, its strange flesh stretching gruesomely, until finally it split in two. White and black were now seperate, although the two beings looked even more alien than before, half of their bodies composed of plant matter shaped roughly into human form. This was much more obvious in White Zetsu, who had somehow wound up naked, although Kisame noticed with some relief that he had no genitalia to cover up. Nonetheless, he had to bite his tongue to quell another onslaught of fear when the creature approached him. The clouds had parted for once and its stark white body was nearly blinding in the raw morning light.

"Don't worry," it chuckled. "This won't hurt." The way it was said reminded Kisame of medics before they inserted an I.V. or started sewing up a wound. Medics were fucking liars because it always hurt. Every single time. Kisame bit down harder on his tongue and averted his gaze, loathing the fact that he was afraid yet knowing at the same time that his fear was justified.

When he felt a hand slide up under his shirt, cold as the frostbitten earth under his feet, he clamped his eyes shut. He didn't want to see whatever this monster was doing... didn't want to see the expression on its face, didn't want to see the black half mouthlessly grinning in the background, didn't want to see his own pathetic self strung up in these god-awful vines like a fly caught in a spider's web. He wanted to be safe in Kiri... with Mei, with Zabuza, even with the bastards that had raised him at the orphanage. Anywhere but here. His breath caught in his throat when the hand slid up his abdomen, slowly, so slowly, and finally slid to a stop on his chest, over his heart. He could feel his pulse pounding frantically against the cold palm and chilingly rigid fingers, radiating heat and fear, beating wildly beyond his control.

"It's almost over," White Zetsu consoled. "I just need to get the feel of you."

Kisame rolled his eyes even though they were closed. Several dry retorts flickered over his tongue but his breath was still caught in his throat like a piece of food lodged in a glutton's windpipe. He was paralyzed with terror. Ever since he'd joined the ninja academy as a sullen kid, he'd been praised for his lack of fear, his nearly suicidal devotion to his missions. He'd always thought himself to be the most fearless shinobi from a village that was already infamous for its lack of emotion. But then again, he'd never encountered a foe like this before. His enemies, while frighteningly strong at times, had always been human beings. This thing that called itself Zetsu tore at the fringes of his sanity - it wasn't human, it wasn't natural, it was a fucking plant, somehow instilled with the semblance of an intelligent mind. He might as well have been frozen by a tractor ray from a flying saucer. That's how alien it was. When he opened his eyes to slits, he noticed that the vines encircling his wrists were pulsing, expanding and contracting like muscles... or veins.

He closed his eyes again, even tighter than before.

"Done," White Zetsu said curtly. He withdrew his hand, much more quickly than he'd placed it, from under Kisame's shirt. Eyes still shut, Kisame could have sworn he'd felt that icy touch grow warmer and the fingers more pliant. "You can open your eyes now," it said. "Fucking pussy."

Kisame's tongue loosened enough to spout a retort. "Don't call me a pussy," he grated, "when you don't even have a fucking cock, you abomination!" His eyes snapped open with the statement, fixing to glare on said abomination, but he found himself staring into a mirror. Well, it wasn't quite a mirror - the Kisame Hoshigaki before him wasn't bloodied and bound up by pulsing roots, nor was it nearly hysterical with fear and rage. It was a placid image, the blue lips curved into a benevolent grin, the frightening orbs that composed the eyes softened with sympathy. It was an expression, a pose, that he had never even tried to make in his violent lifetime.

The lips moved and said "I copied you, that's all. Just takes a moment of physical contact." It was Kisame's voice, Kisame's lilting, cynical growl... a scoff formed into words. But it was White Zetsu's demeanor, his 'mind,' behind those words. Now Kisame had seen about a million transformation and/or doppleganger jutsus in his lifetime - his own, those of his comrades, those of enemies trying to mimic him in sabotage attempts - but even the most skilled imitations were nothing compared to this living, breathing replica the Zetsu had somehow made itself into. The clothes were exact, down to the tear on Fuguki's pants that he'd neatly stitched up, and there was a barely visible smattering of dark blue freckles on the muscular shoulders, evidence of his own weird defense system against sunburn. Yah the freckles were definitely there, along with old battlescars, one or two frazzled, color-bleached hairs caused by an assassin's traumatic lifestyle, the bulge in the crotch of the pants that betrayed a monstrous 'demon shark' cock. It was all there.

"Well, whaddya think?" the doppleganger chuckled. "Do I look like an asshole?" He checked his hairless blue arms, examining them. "Nevermind, don't answer," he sneered. "It was a rhetorical question." The benevolent grin on his face was so incongruous with the grade school insults, Kisame almost burst out in laughter.

But he didn't - he managed to compose his hysterical emotions enough to voice his thoughts again. "Why in the hell are you imitating me?" he snarled. "To piss me off?"

"We already told you," Black Zetsu replied from the background. "We're going to make you dead to the world. My counterpart's transformation jutsu allows him to copy you down to every last cell... and he'll stay that way, even after death. If slain, his mimic body will bleed, convulse with death throes, even go through rigor mortis and eventually decomposition. No medics have ever seen through this technique. It's the ultimate form of sabotage - irrefutable proof of death." He laughed dryly. "Believe me, no one will be chasing you after White Zetsu makes an ass out of himself and 'dies' while pretending to form handsigns," he mused. "Your buddy Ao will probably march home and tell the whole village that Kisame Hoshigaki was the easiest battle he'd ever fought." He sauntered up to the doppleganger and ruffled its blue hair in a bizarre display of affection - Kisame swallowed thickly when he saw his imposter blush shyly and lean into the caress.

"Yah, I'm not much for fighting," White Zetsu confessed, finally pulling away from his jet-black twin. "I don't even know the basic signs... boar, ram, tiger, whatever... it's too tiring to memorize."

Kisame shook his head, positive he was glowering with more intensity than he ever had in the past. If glares were daggers, both Zetsus would be the victims of a brutal stabbing. "If anyone's going to die, it'll be me," he seethed. "I don't want you freaks doing it for me! My life is fucking meaningless now and you wanna take away my last right as a human being? My right to die?!" He struggled with renewed vigor and actually managed to break several of the roots before Black Zetsu retaliated by wrapping more around him until he was cocooned, his arms pinned so tightly to his sides that he genuinely wondered if they'd been squeezed to mush.

"I don't know how many times I have to repeat myself to be clear," Black Zetsu growled, enunciating the words clearly as if he was speaking to someone who was learning a second language. "We don't give a fuck about you. Your opinions, your morals, your rights as a human being... they're all about as meaningful to us as a stinking pile of dogshit. We're on a mission, understand? And what's our mission?" He glared at Kisame as if expecting a response, like a teacher waiting for an idiotic student to finally come around. When the swordsman didn't answer, he sighed and said, "you know already. We're gonna make the shinobi world believe you're dead. And believe me, believe me, when I say that your opinions don't factor into it at all."

The roots tightened even more around Kisame's body until breathing became difficult and blisters of color began bubbling up in his vision. He could feel Samehada's spikes digging into his back, piercing his flesh like some awful acupuncture. When the roots encircling his neck squeezed harder, he found himself looking through a narrowing, pitch-black tunnel. "I thought you were keeping me alive," he choked with the last of his breath.

"We are," Black Zetsu responded - his voice sounded very, very far away. "I just don't know how to do a sleeper hold so I'm strangling you til you black out. Sorry."

As he fell into a terribly painful unconsciouness, Kisame still had his wits about him enough to note the utter lack of sincerity in Black Zetsu's apology.

X X X

He awoke to a throbbing headache, worse than any he'd ever given himself from drinking. His body was numb and it tasted like a small animal - a mouse, maybe - had crawled into his mouth and died. It wasn't that stagnant 'I was wasted and slept with my booze-reeking mouth open' taste. No, it was the taste of death. Not that Kisame had literally tasted death before... but taste and smell were the same thing and he'd smelled it more times than he cared to remember. That nauseating odor festered away in ransacked villages, seeped from shallow graves, clung like fog to slaughtered shinobi who'd been left to rot where they'd fallen. So he knew all too well what it was. And since there wasn't a dead mouse or anything in his mouth, he could only conclude that the reek was coming from within his own body.

He tried to spit out the taste but found that he had no saliva - also, his throat hurt so bad that trying to hawk sent stars sliding over his vision. When he attempted to reach up and feel his neck, his arms did absolutely nothing. They felt like they'd been stabbed by a million pins, like they'd fallen asleep and would never wake up. It was the same thing with his legs. Horrible, agonizing pinpricks.

No wonder I taste like death, he thought deleriously. I'm dying.

"Wow, you're awake," a rough voice chuckled, floating through Kisame's haze of excruciating consciousness like something from a bad dream. "I was beginning to think I'd strangled you too hard cuz you've barely been breathing for three days straight. A coma, maybe? I'd say you turned blue from oxygen loss but, uh..." The voice trailed off, seeming to lose interest in its own train of thought.

With great effort, Kisame opened his eyes. Even his face felt like it had fallen asleep - the small exertion of willing his eyelids to part seemed more strenuous than the worst training Fuguki had ever put him through. His searing headache magnified tenfold when light hit his pupils and for a long, horrible time, all he could see was stark white. He wondered if this was what birth felt like - opening unused eyes for the first time to the harsh reality of the world. If this current experience was anything similar, it made sense that people couldn't remember being born. It was fucking traumatic.

"Hmm," the voice grumbled. "Seems like you're coming around alright. I guess I'l let your ridiculous sword heal you the rest of the way. Honestly, I was hoping you'd just die so I could eat your useless ass." A distant curse, a slithering sound. "I haven't had a meal in weeks," it lamented, "and I've always wondered if you taste as good as you look. Like maki."

Kisame swallowed painfully and tried to focus on the source of the voice. All he saw was a black shadow, its form confusing and nowhere near human amidst the blinding light. When he attempted to speak, nothing came out of his throat... not even a whisper.

"Unless you have amnesia, you should recognize me as Black Zetsu," the shadow sneered. "My other half and I rescued you from Kirigakure's wrath and now you're free to do whatever you want. Although I'd highly suggest you join the Akatsuki, at least to repay your debt. We went through a lot of trouble saving your life, you know? A blood debt isn't something to be taken lightly."

Vague images flickered through Kisame's mind, resembling something akin to memory. He saw himself wrapped in vines, paralyzed with terror, furious that his life was being taken into someone else's hands. "I don't owe you shit," he managed to mouth - no sound came out but his lips were able to form the words. "You... and your twin... and Madara Uchiha... you're fucking bastards and I hope you all rot in hell."

The shadow flickered and seemed to withdraw. "Whatever," it snorted. "Hell is other people. Especially insolent brats like you." It flickered again, twisted, then was gone.

Kisame tried to shout a curse, tried to get up and chase down the asshole, tried to pound his fists against the ground in rage, but nothing happened except an amplification of pain. Furious, he ignored it and continued to struggle until the pain became sheer agony. The last thing he heard before blacking out was an inconsolable wail of despair, screaming like a siren in his skull. He knew the moan wasn't coming from his lips - it was sounding from deep within his consciousness.

X X X

When he awoke, there was no pain. No tingling of his face and limbs, no burning migraine, no nothing. For a minute, he felt elation. I'm really dead this time, he marveled. Now I can finally get some fucking rest. But when he became aware of a familiar, spiny form clinging to his arm, he knew what had happened to him. Samehada healed me, he realized. Goddamnit. He opened his eyes and sure enough, there was his sword, curled up beside him with its hilt twined around his forearm. Glumly, he brushed the hilt away and sat up to survey his surroundings. What had been blinding light the last time he'd tried to focus his eyes was now the interior of a wrecked cabin. Embers of a fire glowed in a blackened hearth, pots and pans lay in disarray amongst what must have once been a kitchen, and a cold breeze drafted in from gaping holes in the remains of the roof. This had obviously been someone's house at one point in time... but judging by the amount of dirt, leaves and dust all over everything, it had been ransacked years ago. Peaceful as the Land of Water was these days, no amount of law enforcement could entirely prevent bandit hoardes from pillaging remote communities.

It was just a fact of human nature.

It was also a fact that Black Zetsu had started the fire that was still smouldering in the hearth - the pile of wood next to it was eerily symmetrical and showed no signs of being split with an axe. He could almost see the logs pulsing like the vines that had restrained him. Revolted, he shivered and forced himself to look away. He'd rather freeze than use that bastard's weird... whatever is was... to warm himself.

However, he wasn't above further ransacking the house for a few provisions. As much as he loathed the fact that he was still alive, he couldn't deny that he was cold and hungry as hell. Suicide or whatever emotional hangover was to come would have to wait. So he rummaged around until he found a singed, hooded cloak, a passable bedroll, and some dried food that was miraculously still edible. After that, he strapped Samehada to his back and made himself scarce. He wanted to be nowhere near this place if Black Zetsu decided to come back and check on him. Unfortunately, he had absolutely no destination, nor did he have an agenda. As he trudged out into snow-blanketed forest that lay beyond the house, he realized he didn't even have a clue where he was. If he had been lost after fleeing the village, he wasn't even sure what to call this sense of displacement. There wasn't even a word to describe it... it was just a feeling of... nothingness.

He wandered around in the wilderness for an immeasurable amount of time, drifting aimlessly until he lost count of the days. The sun rose and set, it rained, it snowed. The moon got thinner then fatter in the sky. The provisions he'd gathered from the house sustained him so he was surviving... but that was about it. With all of Kirigakure assuming him to be dead, he felt like a ghost, haunting the lands that had once been his home. He probably looked the part, too - he'd lost weight and his tattered cloak clung to his gaunt frame like a death shroud. The one person he'd seen since his 'death' had been a civilian out on a hike - the man had literally pissed his pants then run away screaming, probably going straight home to tell his family there was a demon on the prowl. Perhaps the guy had been right. After all, what were the qualifying factors for a demon? He was sure he had a few points here and there that labeled him as something terrifying and inhuman.

Why in the hell did Zetsu have to save me? he often wondered. By all logic, I should be dead. The Zetsus (and Madara) had definitely overstepped their bounds by keeping him alive. I want to embrace death, he thought bitterly. But they made me *cheat* it instead! Every time he found himself near a cliff, he gravitated to the edge and considered jumping, gazing down and trying to envision what his body would look like smeared over the ground below. Only two things stopped him - the first was an engrained belief that suicide was cowardly unless it was commited to prevent interrogation by an enemy village. The second was a strong sympathy for Samehada - if he died, the poor creature would be left out here in the middle of nowhere, lost and all alone.

In his wanderings, he passed though lands he'd never explored before - formidable mountain ranges, eerie swamps, barren strips of coast. Deserted villages dotted this unfamiliar landscape, relics from the wars that had once scoured the land. Every time he spotted one of these ruins, he spent a while roaming through it, wondering miserably if it was his birthplace. There was no way to tell... what could he possibly go on, after all? If his hometown had a distinguishing culture or architectural style, his short time seeing it as an infant was absolutely no help. But still he explored, hoping that maybe, one of the villages would contain a clue that clicked in his mind. He knew that it was pointless (what would he gain even if he found the place?) but he did it anyway. It's not like he had anything better to do.

And indeed it was pretty pointless, until one night when he finally found a clue - and not where he'd been expecting to find it, either. The sky had been dumping a load of freezing rain onto the miserable land below it for the last few days, so he'd found a cave to hole up in until the storm blew over. He had a small fire going and a pot of soup simmered in the embers - the pot was yet another item he'd scavenged, along with an ancient bag of rice. He was actually kind of proud of the soup, which consisted of rice, a few wild mushrooms and herbs, and a salmon he'd caught from a nearby stream. It was quite possibly the most delicious thing he'd ever cooked and he was sad that there was no one around to share it with. Antisocial as he was, he had begun to long for human contact. He missed Mei the most, aching for the feel of her body against his, even for the sound of her voice - hearing her egotistical banter would be way better than this damned silence. And as for Fuguki? It was still a blank place in his mind, a void.

Luckily, he had Samehada to keep him company. The more time he spent with the creature, the more he bonded with it. It was a lot like having a dog - it was playful, always digging around in snow or scooting up tree trunks, and equally affectionate, wagging its tail contentedly when he gave it a pat or cleaned its spines. He was fairly certain that it was the only thing keeping him sane. On this particular night, it was snoozing in his lap, occasionally thumping its tail against the cave floor when he ran a hand over its spines. He'd always assumed that the spines would cut him up if he was careless but he knew now that there was no way Samehada would ever hurt him. The weapon was gentle as a lamb, contradictory as that sounded. Needless to say, he was shocked when it suddenly started retching, threatening to shred his legs to ribbons as it convulsed. Horrified, he wasn't sure what to do so he merely sat back to give it some space and hoped for the best. He also wasn't sure what the creature could possibly puke up - it ate chakra, not food. Maybe it had eaten something anyway? Was it going to puke up a disgusting dead animal, right here in the cave?

It retched a few more times, its spines quivering, then opened its mouth and hacked up a scroll, which landed on the ground with a wet splat. Kisame stared dumbly at the scroll as he gave the sword a consoling pat. "Poor thing," he muttered. "How long has that been in you?" He reluctantly reached over and picked it up, wrinkling his nose as he shook off the drool. There was a note tied around it; he carefully untied it and held it up by the light of the fire. His heartrate increased the second he saw the kanji - it was Fuguki's penmanship, written in a code that he only used with Kisame. His mouth felt dry and his hands were shaking slightly as he slowly began to read:

Dear Kisame,

I planted this note inside Samehada because I knew you would become its new master upon my death. Therefore, if you're reading this then there's no doubt I have paid for my crimes and am suffering my penance in the afterlife. It's also likely that you were the one Yagura sent to assassinate me and I can only imagine the toll it's taken on you. Please don't tear yourself up over it... death is a fair punishment for my betrayal and I assure you that if you were the one who delivered it, I died happy.

Since it's unlikely that you and I shared any meaningful last words, (I was probably an asshole right up to my last breath) I am writing down all the things I was never able to tell you aloud. First and foremost, I am truly sorry for the way I treated you all these years... you were the only person that meant anything to me and I used you like you were little more than a whore. I never should have bribed you with money, nor should I have taken your innocence the way I did. I know that words won't mend all the harm I've done to you but unfortunately, a written apology is all I can give you. Believe me, I would give you my very soul if I could!

I also have a confession, one that's been on the tip of my tongue for years. Hoshigaki Kisame, I fell in love with you the moment I laid eyes on you. I still love you, I always will. If I could turn back time, I would give you a diamond ring instead of a roll of cash. I would wed you, support you, share my home and my life with you. I've dreamt of this obsessively for years upon years, knowing you were the only one meant for me and wanting nothing more than to wake up next to you every morning for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I was too much of a callous bastard to ever make that dream a reality. I can only promise you one thing - if and when we meet in the afterlife, I'll make you mine for eternity, if you'll have me. I hope you live a long and happy life but know that when the time comes, I'll be patiently waiting for you. And... while I doubt that souls have the same appearance as living men, I'll make sure to lose some weight.

Yours forever,

Suikazan Fuguki

P.S. Since my fate as a traitor is sealed, I commited one last crime for your sake. I broke into the Mizukage's private logs and found a scroll that may pertain to your origins. You'll notice that the wax seal is still in place - curious as I am, I want you to be the first to read it. I hope it gives you some peace of mind... because your mind is most definitely in pieces, my dear!

Kisame shook his head and turned the piece of paper over his hands, almost expecting there to be more on the back. There wasn't. How poetic, he thought blandly. Never knew the old fuck had a penchant for writing. He snorted and folded the paper up, thought about pocketing it, then randomly tossed it into the fire. It turned to ash immediately, far too quickly for him to change his mind and retrieve it. And so went Fuguki's sad legacy, his final words literally going up in smoke. Whatever, he would have wanted it that way, Kisame told himself. That's probably why he grabbed for Samehada before I killed him... he got embarrassed and wanted to tear it up.

He reached up and probed at his face, wondering if it would be wet with tears. He was vaguely irritated to find that it was dry. Such a dramatic confession should have made him start bawling... shouldn't it have? Fuguki poured out his heart and all I can give him is irritation, he mused bitterly. If he could see my reaction, he'd probably be pissed. It's not entirely my fault though... after all, he's the one who trained me to be an emotionless piece of shit.

But he wasn't truly emotionless. No shinobi was. He was still waiting for a reaction to this whole mess, dreading it but also timidly hoping for it. He wondered when it would hit him. Would he be alone, out in the middle of nowhere like he was now? Or would there be people around to gawk at him and sadly shake their heads with a mixture of fear and pity? It was impossible to say. All he knew was that it was going to happen eventually.

Well fuck, maybe it'll happen right now, he ventured as he picked up the scroll Fuguki had stolen for him. Depends on what's in here, I suppose. The scroll was entitled 'Civil War Clan Battles' and bore the stamp of the Second Mizukage, who'd been ruler during the vicious civil war that had ravaged the land around the time of Kisame's birth. So Fuguki thinks I came from a clan, he mused. Bullshit. My mother probably fucked a shark and concieved through some feat of bestiality prowess. He opened up the scroll to discover that it was a summons - there were two handprints and a symbol, and some kanji that read 'MIZUKAGE ONLY.' Hmm, so this is some pretty top-secret shit, he marveled. Fortunately for him, he was highly trained enough in sabotage to know how to thwart almost any kind of top-secret barrier. After a few practiced twists of his fingers and palms, a book appeared in a little puff of smoke.

The book was black. It looked exactly like a bingo book.

Cautiously, Kisame picked it up and began to flip through it. Indeed, it was a bingo book, except the book was for entire clans instead of individual people. Each page had a picture of one male and one female from a specific clan, along with a map of their location and a description of their loyalties. Obviously, the book was outdated - he recognized several clans that he knew for a fact had been obliterated during the war. One he was certain of, a band of badasses that used stealth paired with mirror-ice kekkai genkai. Women and children had been spared from the conflict and who knows where they were now. Pretending they weren't badasses, probably.

While pirates, vigilantes and bloodthirsty psychos had caused a lot of death during the civil war, clans had been a big factor. They were small in number compared to the hoardes of bandits that had ravaged the land but their abilities had made them highly dangerous. The Land of Water had been house to a lot of tribes who possessed crazy powers, kekkai genkai or otherwise. Hell, it still was to this day, just not nearly so much as before. There was still some clan running around who used their own bones to attack. Kisame had never encountered this clan but he had a weird imagery in his head of barbarians ripping bones out of their bodies, shouting battle cries and bleeding all over the place. From what he'd heard, he wasn't far off the mark.

Bemused, he flipped through the pages. Here was a clan that could launch village-devastating missiles out of ice, the forms taking the shape of whales and just crashing into what the fuck ever they hit. There was a clan who seemed to be inbred Uchihas, using a hackneyed form of ocular justsu to paralyze their opponents just long enough to hit a vital point. And here was a band of people, jutsu be damned, who were simply obscenely good at fighting. Clans upon clans upon clans. And every single one of their profiles were exed out, that callous cross over their faces proving that they had been exterminated. Kisame was shocked at the sheer number of exes - the book was about fifty pages long and each page represented the death of a civilization at the hands of Kirigakure. No wonder this is top-secret, he thought. It borders on genocide. The most disturbing thing of all was the fact that many of the clans' loyalties were labeled as 'neutral.' Apparently during the war, Kiri hadn't wanted to risk even the possibility of these tribes siding with the enemy - the Mizukage no doubt had thought it just as unwise as leaving a bunch of dangerous weapons lying at the rebels' feet.

But still, he brooded as he looked at profile after profile, couldn't he have tried negotiating?! The Second Mizukage had died when Kisame was still just a kid so he hadn't known him personally but from what everyone said, he'd been a paranoid and vicious man. This horrible book was substantial proof that he'd been told the truth.

And then something caught his eye that made his heart skip a beat. There was an exed out profile with his own face on it! Gills, dark eyes, a ragged shock of hair... it looked exactly like him! It wasn't until he did a double-take that he realized this picture wasn't actually him - the man had tribal tattoos on his neck and chin and his hair was wilder than Kisame's had ever been. The female next to him also had gills and her tattoos looked almost invasive on her round, pretty face. Both of them looked angry and slightly embarrassed, as though they'd been caught doing something debaucherous right before this daring photographer had snapped the shot. Either way, these two could have been Kisame's identical twins. Or my parents, he thought deleriously, remembering that this book was at least twenty years old. He'd never encountered anyone that looked even remotely like him and to see these two wild-eyed doppelgangers gave him such a start that he felt a sense of vertigo, as though the cave floor had vanished beneath him and he was in free-fall.

He blinked a few times, trying to find some stability, then forced himself to focus on the text. It read:

Demon Shark Clan

Population - 46

Loyalties - neutral

Below the stats was a lengthy, nearly illegible paragraph that stated: 'Mass Kirigakure casualties despite prior poisoning of clan's water supply. The few still well enough to fight devastated our ranks with a combination of suiton and inhuman strength. If not for the poison, there's no way we would have defeated them! I realize that poison is a cowardly way to achieve victory but they had to be dealt with and there is little room for moral integrity in this war. Ironically, their own fierce morals were what got them killed - they were neutral to the extreme, adamantly against any involvement in the war. They also reminded me (repeatedly) that their island technically wasn't even part of the Land of Water. I had to research a map to find that this was indeed true. But I have no time for technicalities and I am also very suspicious of neutrality. How do I know for certain that they won't side with the rebels the second I turn my back? And god, their strength could level Kirigakure! I have spared other 'neutral' clans, at least their women and children, but I took no chances with the Demon Sharks. They are now corpses buried in a mass grave. The only survivor was an infant - he lived solely because he wasn't weaned and his mother's breast milk wasn't yet poisoned. Also, I'm not too keen on infanticide. Children old enough to remember the carnage and thirst for revenge were dealt with but this newborn will be none the wiser. He'll be placed in Kiri's orphanage and then in the ninja academy, where I'm sure he'll excell and eventually become an asset. It'll be a long-term investment but those sentimental dicks from Konoha do have a point - children are the future! I also took one of their swords (I had my troops burn all but one of the things) in hope that a Kiri shinobi will learn to use it. Fearsome creatures, and their ability to merge with their owners into water-breathing monsters is probably one of the most terrifying things I've ever witnessed. I doubt this ability goes outside the clan. We shall see. -Second Mizukage'

Kisame leaned back against the cave wall as he mulled the paragraph over in his mind, trying to sort out the Mizukage's weird combination of facts and cynicism. His first thought was similar to his previous thoughts - genocide! The word rang repeatedly in his skull like an ominous churchbell. Genocide, genocide, genocide! He conjured up a textbook definition he had memorized in the ninja academy:

genocide - the deliberate extermination of a specific race or clan. Religion and fear of the race are driving factors although causes ultimately vary. The only proven fact is that genocide inevitably increases during times of war. This pattern has been seen repeatedly since the dawn of the shinobi world.

The description didn't clarify anything for him. Infact, all it did was give him a chill. Religion, fear, war... those just sounded like excuses! How could anyone justify commiting such an atrocity?! He rubbed his arms, trying to make his goosebumps go away, and peered warily at the map on the page. His chill intensified, raising the hairs at the nape of his neck, when he saw the clan's island - it was a place he knew well, a waypoint for shinobi returning from the mainland. Almost tropical in its lushness with a little seaport that he'd always assumed to be a Kiri spoil of war... conquests such as this were almost as common as the defunct, abandoned villages he'd visited in the past few weeks. Yes, he knew this seaport all too well. He'd been there many times before, docking his ship at the pier for a quick meal and a night's rest. The stone buildings that composed the village were far too ornate to have been constructed by pragmatic Kiri shinobi and their interiors had clearly been disgorged - painted over, hollowed out, signs of their previous inhabitants eliminated. What had once been a meeting hall was now a bar that served sub-par sake. Former residences had been transformed into barracks. So on and so on.

And just beyond the village, in an eerily fertile patch of field, was a single unmarked tombstone. He'd always known the stone marker represented a mass grave - hell, he'd seen a million of these sites in his travels. Relics from wars, no more, no less. And standing before that particular grave, he remembered he had felt nothing. Not even a twinge.

Although, he recalled, the one time I went there with Fuguki, Samehada had been fitful. Clawed the shit out of his back until he bound it up tighter. Perhaps the sword had sensed some remnant of its old clan's chakra, rotting away under all that dirt and vegetation.

He glared down at the page for a while longer then firmly clamped the book shut. It all made sense. There was no doubt in his mind that it was true. The rebels didn't kill his family... Kiri did. He had questioned older shinobi about the civil war and their response had often been a shrug or a long, awkward silence. Now he knew why - they were instructed not to tell him the truth. No one would want a wrathful, berserk Hoshigaki Kisame flooding Kirigakure with water shockwaves and slicing through citizens with his razor-sharp katana like so many sticks of butter. Hell, they'd been so cautious that no one had even told Fuguki, who'd known pretty much every dirty secret. And he doubted that many people knew about the massacre anyway - this book (and the crimes it verified) was extremely top secret.

So who could he be mad at? The Second Mizukage? The man, vicious as he may have been, was dead. There was no point in having a grudge against a corpse. Could he be mad at the few surviving shinobi who knew about this? Of course not... they were just following orders. Kisame himself would have done the same, morals be damned. Could he be mad at Kirigakure itself? No, no way. All villages did terrible things to defend themselves. So... where to direct the accusation that simmered on the tip of his tongue?

It came to him like a mean slap in the face. Human nature. Still glaring down at the horrible book, he could almost see the agonized faces of untold millions slaughtered during wars, cut down for some stupid cause or another. Good versus evil, right versus wrong... those were just bullshit justifications for the murderous nature of mankind. War was a farce to disguise humanity's inherent flaw - self destruction. And in the same vision, he saw the futility of stifling this flaw. The perfect example was Kirigakure right this fucking second, festering with violence spawned from enforced peace. He saw Zabuza's face twisted with homicidal jealousy... he saw homeless derelicts stabbing each other in the streets over the last swill of shitty sake... he saw men beating up their wives because they had nowhere else to direct their rage... he saw himself assassinating his fellow shinobi to enforce this pathetic excuse for peace.

A fragment of conversation floated into his mind from his conversation with Madara. He hadn't thought much about the interaction - until now, he'd been too wrapped up in his own terrible turn of events to contemplate much of anything - but suddenly it was urgent to recall it.

"You say you'll create a world of truth," he had interjected during Madara's long, seemingly insane rant. "But how do you know what truth is? You may be old and experienced but you're still susceptible to prejudice. Are we all supposed to believe whatever it is you consider to be right and wrong?!"

"That's not how the genjutsu works," Madara had quickly responded, unruffled by the question as if he'd been expecting it all along. "Tsuki No Me will make us see the truth in everything... the thoughts in each other's minds, the deepest secrets buried in our souls. In a way, we will all become one. Lies, along with other reservations humans hold against each other, will be impossible because our species will gain a total mingling of thought. Our conciousness will merge and become somewhat of a hive mind." Madara's mouth suddenly scrunched down at the corners, forming a suprisingly vulnerable frown. "You must think I'm insane... but you don't understand," he'd muttered. "There's no other way to avoid violence, I swear on my life. If there was, I'd gladly take it."

Kisame had dismissed the explaination as the rantings of a madman - he'd even thought Madara would look damn good in a straightjacket - but as he thought about it now, he realized that the speech actually made a lot of sense. It was like a gear clicking into place in his mind. Extreme and terrifying as it seemed, Tsuki No Me was possibly mankind's only hope of redemption. Knowing the truth in everyone's minds would stop violence, no doubt about it. How could you kill a man if you knew him as well as you knew yourself? Murder would be as self-destructive as suicide!

No war, no lies, no groping around in the dark to understand other people's thoughts. No sabotage, no assassinations, no political upheaval. The list went on and on to infinity. All the things Kisame hated about the world would be gone, replaced by a vast and all-encompassing empathy. In such a reality, he wouldn't have to fight anymore. Hell, maybe he could even get married and settle down like a normal human being. Maybe he could finally rest.

A snort of laughter escaped his lips, sounding loud in the small space of the cave. "Fine," he chuckled. "I guess I'll help you after all, Madara. It's not like I have anything better to do."

Bemused, he glanced down at the bingo book again then tossed it into the fire, watching the pages curl up and turn to ash. He'd already seen what he'd needed to see on those pages... there was no need to keep the damned thing around or even tell anyone about its contents. The fact that his clan, amongst so many others, had been brutally exterminated for the sake of 'peace' wasn't something he cared to share. He and Samehada were the only survivors from a culture that had been lost in the bloody pages of history... but no one needed to know. It would add a depth to his character that didn't really exist - after all, he didn't feel much about the event itself. He didn't even want to revisit the island that he now knew to be his homeland. As he'd told Fuguki so many times, he'd been too young to remember anything about it. What would be the point? He could stand over that same mass grave again and feel exactly what he'd felt before. Absolutely nothing.

No, the depressing truth of the bingo book had already served its purpose. It had been a catalyst for a profound, terrifying revelation that he almost wished he could un-learn. Tsuki No Me, if it ever actually happened, would change mankind as a species. Humans would... evolve. Even if everyone retained the same shape, they would no longer be the textbook definition of 'human.' To say it was extreme was an understatement. But as much as Kisame uttered the words heaven and hell (mostly hell) he didn't believe there was a god out there who could swoop down and save humanity from itself. Divine intervention, along with religion in itself, was bullshit - more lies concocted by manipulative assholes. So the only answer to this cannibalistic flaw in mankind was obviously intervention by mankind itself.

To put it bluntly, Tsuki No Me was the only way.

X X X

Things happened very quickly after Kisame's revelation. He was initiated into the Akatsuki a mere day later by Zetsu, who'd told him where to go and what to do. Apparently, he'd been spied on this entire time because he hadn't seen Zetsu at all until after muttering "fine, I guess I'll help you after all, Madara," in the privacy of his tiny cave. An expert in stealth himself, Kisame couldn't begin to unstand how he'd been overheard. The Akatsuki obviously possessed abilities beyond his realm of imagination.

"Go to the Land of Waves," Zetsu had clarified, pointing to a port on a map. "And look for two weird assholes wearing gay robes like mine."

And then several more rules were laid down, the most important being: don't tell anyone, even your fellow Akatsuki, that Madara runs the organization. Reveal this, or Tsuki No Me, and we'll all have worked for nothing. We'll also cut your fucking tongue outta your mouth and shove it down your throat while we slowly dismember you.

Okay, fine. Who did they think he was anyway? If he was good at anything, it was keeping secrets.

And then he found out that he really was part fish, just like the description in the bingo book. On his way to the Land of Waves, his crappy rented boat had capsized during a storm, dumping him into the freezing ocean. After a few minutes of being helpless and getting hypothermia, Samehada had taken the initiative and merged with him, turning him into something so fucking weird he couldn't even look at himself for a while after it happened. Webbed hands and feet, fins that shredded his cloak and shirt, a monstrous tail... it was like becoming a werewolf, only sharkier. If not for merging with Samehada's mind, he probably would have gone insane. But the creature's dull sentience was in that body with him, wordlessly telling him what to do... which was pretty much to breathe water, eat fish and swim around. After being called a dumb animal all his life, he finally could sympathize with the insult because he spent god knows how long being fucking stupid before he learned how to share Samehada's consciousness and not be overtaken by it. During that time, he learned that he was cold-blooded in this form and while the freezing water didn't kill him, it made him feel sluggish until he dove deeper for warmer currents. He also learned that he really liked to eat raw fish, bones and all. Luckily, he finally snapped out of it and headed for the Land of Waves.

By boat, it was a three day journey. He made it there in one.

And what happened after that? His memories were becoming more disjointed, no longer the lucid drama they had been for a seeming eternity. He finally had his nervous breakdown, for one. Dulled by Orochimaru's venom and a possible ass-fucking, his mind had finally succumbed to all the woe whirling within it. But he had recovered and buried the woe even deeper than before, so deep that over the next decade, nothing had managed to uncover it.

Images and scenes flickered through his consciousness, bits and pieces of his lifetime with the Akatsuki. There was Zabuza traveling with Haku after trying to kill Mei, more stoic and dastardly than ever... there was Mei herself, slapping him in the face then fucking his brains out during a chance encounter in the Land of Fire, her Mizukage hat getting crushed under their bodies... and then there was Itachi, a million fucking times. Itachi shooting him a dark glare in a bar while he hit on women, Itachi giving him a backrub that was too long to be considered anything but foreplay, Itachi brushing up against him in a way that couldn't possibly be accidental. Ten years of Itachi Uchiha wanting to fuck him. Ten years of Kisame ignoring it.

No wonder he did that to me in the Land of Earth, he realized. Ten years of unrequited love... how did he stand it for so long? Then he had a second revelation, even more shocking than the first. Wait, I'm actually thinking. Am I awake?!

"Fuck," he rasped. Sound miraculously came out of his mouth and with it, the dreams and memories that had plagued him vanished. He opened his eyes and found himself in a room, lying on a bed. It took him a while to focus clearly but when he did, he saw Samehada bristling fiercly beside him, its hilt twined around his arm and its teeth clenched on what looked like someone's shoulder.

"Ugh, finally," muttered a weak voice. "You have no idea what a pain in the ass this was."

Kisame looked up to find that the bitten shoulder was attached to Sasori, who was looming over him with one hand shakily grasping the headboard of the bed. Just as he was trying to think of something to say, the puppetmaster simply... dissasembled. The eyes went blank, the head fell off the neck, and one by one the parts fell until Kisame found himself in bed with a bunch of artificial limbs.

*AUTHOR'S NOTE* Oh my god oh my god oh my god, I finally finished this stinking, hellish chapter. I wrote the whole thing - pages upon pages - and deleted ninety percent of it because it fucking sucked. I went into the whole history of Kisame's clan in explicit detail then realized that neither I nor my readers probably give a damn about a bunch of made-up characters. I also had tentacle rape and cannabalism but it was just too fucked up, even for me. So this version was difficult to write. I lost my inspiration for almost an entire year. Sorry about that, for those of you who have been waiting for a new chapter. Also, sorry there was no sex. Believe me, you're better off without the tentacle rape. I'll fit some sex into the next chapter. And thank fucking god, I won't be writing another flashback! Oh and last but not least - don't worry, Sasori will be alright.