For Staraz, who wanted something to do with Sakura's birthday. This is part one and part two should follow soon.
I know Madara doesn't technically exist but hundred year old senile madbrush Madara is much more fun for a comedy story than sad obsessive perpetually-friendzoned Obito.
"What's all this shit?" demanded Hidan as nervous looking junior ninja delivered yet another parcel to Sakura at the rec room table.
"Slow today idiot? It's Sakura's birthday in a couple of days," answered Kisame, rolling his eyes.
Hidan scowled, "Jashin-sama disapproves of celebrating birthdays."
Sakura and Kisame shared a sceptical look, "Why?" ventured Sakura.
"He thinks that the mother does all the work when a baby is born, so why celebrate the baby?" he answered with the fanatical tone that often accompanied his lessons on Jashin seeping into his voice.
Sakura leaned back in her chair, "I suppose, but if the mother wants to celebrate the kid being born that should make it ok right?"
Kisame cut in before Hidan could answer, "Don't try and use logic on the religious nut, like that's ever fucking worked."
Hidan scowled but Sakura nodded and returned to sorting through the parcels piled on the desk. Pein would probably have something to say about Konoha having the Akatsuki's postal address, but it was nice to know she hadn't been forgotten.
"What the hell is all this?" asked Kakuzu as he appeared in the doorway, closely followed by a glowering Deidara.
"It's Sakura's birthday," Hidan and Kisame said in unison.
Deidara perked up on hearing this, "Hell yeah, I love birthdays! How old are you, yeah?"
"It's not polite to ask a woman her age, you idiot," Kakuzu tutted, rolling his eyes at the younger generation.
"Thanks Kakuzu, that's really sweet!" beamed Sakura, making Kakuzu scowl harder, "But I'm only going to be twenty-one, and it's in my Bingo Book entry anyway."
"Twenty-one? Fucking hell," muttered Kisame.
"I bet you can't even remember being twenty-one can you Kakuzu, you old scrote?" snickered Hidan.
Kakuzu gave him a withering stare before moving over to the other table, evidently having decided that Sakura's birthday was of little interest.
"What's up with you Goldilocks?" Hidan asked, seeing that Deidara was back to sulking again.
"That asshole doesn't appreciate art, yeah?" he said, pointing at Kakuzu who looked up from his work to roll his eyes.
"I appreciate art, Deidara," Kakuzu's careful emphasis made Deidara's face turn to thunder.
"You son of a bitch! I'll kill yo -" Deidara's lunge towards Kakuzu was cut off by Pein clamping a hand on his shoulder.
The Akatsuki were so used to their boss appearing with no warning to catch them in the middle of something stupid that this barely phased them. He was flanked by Itachi and Itachi's great-great-grand-something Madara.
"Ooh presents!" trilled Madara in an excited voice.
There was a beat of silence as everyone gave their crazed overlord an assessing look.
"Your birthday, Sakura?" asked Pein blandly, showing that like Kakuzu he really wasn't interested either.
"She's only going to be twenty-fucking-one," said Kisame in an aggrieved voice.
Pein clearly shared Kisame's sentiment as he grimaced, "Really?"
"What's the matter with that?" asked Sakura, "'Tachi was what, thirteen, when you met him?"
"Yes," Pein agreed, "but you can't tell me anything about Itachi is normal."
"Well, no one can say that."
Itachi pouted slightly and Kisame smiled fondly at him.
"Anyway, what's going on here?" Pein asked, gesturing to Deidara who was still fuming.
"That bastard wants to start selling my art!" Deidara cried, pointing an accusing finger.
Kakuzu shrugged to say that was pretty much what was happening. The others shared a look as they tried to work out why this was annoying Deidara so much.
"So people want to buy his art?" Pein asked, sensing, as Kakuzu obviously had, a financial opportunity in the making.
"Not yet," he said as Deidara spluttered, "no one really sees it and stays in any condition to buy."
The others nodded and smirked at each other – as ridiculous as Deidara was most of the time his stuff did the business.
"But I have several contacts in the art world anxious to find the next big thing. I think Deidara's art could make us some healthy profit margins once it takes off."
"Sounds like he's appreciating art, Deidara," said Kisame.
Deidara shoved both hands into his hair, a sure sign of frustration, "Hell no! All that fucking philistine cares about is making money! True art is fleeting and ephemeral – that's what makes it beautiful. You can't just shove it in a gallery or some greedy bastard's house!"
"Fucking snore, seriously!"
Everyone turned to Hidan in shock.
"You fucking hypocrite!" said Kisame in a tone of complete disbelief.
"Oh my god, no self-awareness."
"As riveting as this conversation is," Pein cut in, his tone showing that he felt it was anything but, "Itachi, scan those parcels, just to be on the safe side."
"No one in Konoha is going to send anything dangerous, they're not that stupid," Sakura scowled at the thought of Itachi looking through her presents before she got a chance.
"Well, let's not say things we can't prove," drawled Pein.
"Why haven't you opened them yet?" demanded Madara in an eerily childlike manner.
Sakura gave the crazed old man a look, "It's not my birthday yet, it's the day after tomorrow."
Pein winced at her tone that was veering dangerously close to disrespectful. If Madara lost his temper and murdered her he was going to have a terrible time with his heartbroken minions.
Thankfully Madara hadn't noticed as his mad brain was already whirring through ideas, "Let's have a party!"
The others had the self-preservation not to gasp in horror but they couldn't quite keep the looks of terror off their faces. Sakura had the sense not to ask what was happening while Madara was in the room and instead managed to paste an interested look onto her face.
"Yes, a village party! Let's say ... a traditional theme! On the night of Sakura's birthday! Won't that be so much fun?" his tone dropped alarmingly, leaving them in no doubt that it had better be fun or it would be asses on the line.
"Yes!" they all chorused dutifully.
"Good! I trust you'll make all the arrangements Pein dear?"
Pein nodded stiffly. Madara smiled manically and swept from the room humming to himself.
Hidan waited until he was sure his boss was out of earshot before sinking down in a chair and covering his face, "What the fuck did I do to deserve this?"
Kakuzu resisted the childish urge to fling his pen hard enough to lodge in Hidan's head and took a deep breath, "I can think of several fucking things, you colossal idiot."
Hidan didn't even react to the jibe, merely shaking his head in despair. Deidara's rage at his art being used commercially had been forgotten and he slumped down against the wall to sit on the floor. Kisame had his arms folded with one had covering his face. Even Pein was rubbing his eyes and looking incredibly weary. Itachi looked as blank as usual but there was a spark of uncertainty in his eyes.
Sakura looked around at all of them, "Ok, so what's wrong with having a party?"
There were several groans from the men.
"Hopefully no one outside the village has ever heard about the infamous masquerade ball three years ago – Madara ordered everyone to dress up and have a party with masks and everything –" Kisame started.
"Course we didn't know that Lightening had planned a fucking invasion. With everyone in masks we had no fucking idea who was who or what the hell was going on – that was a fucking song and dance, seriously," finished Hidan.
"Or how about when Madara tried to make everyone try Halloween?" asked Pein.
"What the hell's that?" asked Sakura.
"Some western festival he heard about – it's like O-Bon, supposedly it's the day spirits are closest to the living, but really it's an excuse for people to dress up in stupid costumes, give sweets to children and get drunk," he said.
"Doesn't sound too bad."
"It wasn't. Until Madara got drunk and forgot that he'd organised it and started attacking people dressed up as ghosts. It took us all night to restrain him and we had to compensate the traumatised villagers," sighed Pein.
"So you think something awful is going to happen with this party?" asked Sakura, trying not to snicker at the mental images of Madara combating people in sheets.
The others nodded, "Something always goes wrong when you try to make people have fun. It's bound to be something stupid too. I'll put the village on general alert. Do you have a kimono here Sakura?" asked Pein.
"Nah, I didn't think I'd need it to be honest," she answered.
"Konan will take you to the maker she goes to. She spends an extortionate amount on them already so please don't encourage her. Go get ready men, I have a suspicion the next few days are going to be very long indeed."
Konan was in her element as they entered the old shop across the village from the base. It was clearly the most traditional of kimono makers and Sakura could smell the silks, dyes and paints that went into creating what were essentially works of art. The tiny old man who appeared when the bell over the door tinkled brightened up considerably on seeing Konan.
"Ahh Konan-sama! What can I do for you today? Oh what a pretty young thing you've brought with you!" he said, smiling kindly at Sakura.
"Sakura here needs a kimono for tomorrow night," replied Konan, moving to settle herself in one of the chairs along the wall.
"Ah yes, yes. You and your organisations have given us many parties," he said in a carefully measured tone that had the two of them smirking, "which bolt do you like best my dear? Normally I would have one made to your specifications but I'm afraid we simply do not have the time."
He gestured to the bolts of fabric that lay in shelves along the wall and walked alongside Sakura as she tried to choose.
"Oh I don't know, whenever I've had a kimono before it always has some variation on the cherry blossom theme because people are painfully witty and original," she said as she walked.
"You can't have cherry blossoms now! They're a spring design," the old man said in a scandalised tone.
"Thank god, which one do you suggest?"
The old man hummed and disappeared down a rack off to the side, reappearing with a bolt of dark navy shot through with white pinstripes and some falling leaves in white where the hem of the kimono would fall.
"Someone with your colouring is interesting enough, it should always be iki with you," he said, withdrawing a tape measure with a flourish.
Sakura flushed a little, making Konan smile. As a powerful kunoichi it was nice to be made to feel feminine once in a while. It was why she came to this kimono-maker in particular. Mr Bekku had been doing this job for near fifty years and had a knack for clients of a more fearsome nature.
With an agility that belied his age and size Bekku measured Sakura, deciding that she was of an average height and would fit their standard kimono pattern. Konan had only purchased a new one a few days before and Pein had forbidden her from spending any more money until the next financial month.
Konan picked her obi for her while Mr Bekku manoeuvred the massive bolt into his workshop so his assistants could begin the work and was pleased when the owner praised her choice of the light gray as matching the ensemble perfectly.
When Sakura reached into her bag to pay Bekku Konan stopped her, "Consider this a birthday present from Pein and I, also as an apology for whatever will go wrong during Madara's ridiculous party."
"I couldn't! I mean that's an expensive kimono and it's kind of my fault there's even going to be a party," Sakura protested.
Konan just smiled and manoeuvred her out of the store, Bekku promising to have it cut, sewn and ready by the next day.
"I'll pay you back, technically I'm on a Konoha mission so Tsunade sends my pay over," said Sakura as they walked back through the village.
Konan laughed, "Don't be ridiculous Sakura, you've given me and Pein, though he won't admit it, so much more than a kimono's worth of entertainment recently."
"Alright. What are the others up to by the way? I haven't seen any of them all day."
"Well they should be out preparing the village for whatever is going to happen tomorrow, but I suspect Hidan and Deidara will be shirking their duties to get you presents. You might even get a little something from Kisame – he is awfully fond of you," answered Konan, smiling.
"Are they good with presents? Or am I going to have to do that face where you pretend to love something but it's literally the hardest face to pull?"
"Well, I can't really tell you – before you came along they could hardly go two days without a massive fight much less buy each other birthday gifts. I suspect Hidan's idea of an appropriate gift won't be as appropriate as he thinks but you should be ok with Deidara and I'm sure Kisame's will be lovely."
"What's the likelihood that Deidara's present will explode somehow?"
"Well, I wouldn't put it past him would you?"
"Why are you hovering 'Tachi?" Sakura asked, leaning away from him as he stood behind her chair.
"Don't call me that," he groused, "Pein said I had to scan these presents."
"Fine, this'll be pretty boring for you though."
The rest of the Akatsuki were piled into the room but were only giving her a polite amount of attention as several of them weren't all that interested beyond the chance to snicker if she got something stupid.
"Open mine first!"
"Hidan, weren't you all, 'ooh Jashin disapproves of birthdays' the other day?" Kisame pointed out.
"Shut the fuck up fishy, and open my goddamn present bitch!"
"I don't think you've really got the hang of this 'birthday' thing Hidan ..."
"You shut the fuck up too."
Sakura laughed, and pulled his parcel to the front to stop him causing any trouble. It was very well wrapped, and she said as much.
"Jashin gets presents on his high days and holidays – if they're not wrapped right he fucks you up, seriously."
"Jashin has issues in a big way, yeah?"
Hidan glowered as Sakura hastily pulled open the parcel to head off any arguments. Inside was a scroll, closed with a seal that would activate it once it was broken. She looked at him to see if she should open it straight away and he nodded. Despite the fact that visions of something horribly embarrassing kept popping into her mind she broke the seal and unrolled the scroll. It glowed, revealing that it had something sealed inside. Reaching in she pulled out a long handled mace ending a spiked ball with cruelly pointed ends.
"I talked to Jashin and he said you don't have a signature weapon so he suggested this!" Hidan explained happily as Sakura gave it a few experimental swings.
"Only someone who doesn't have a physical presence would want to make her scarier than she already is," said Kisame as the others shook their heads.
Sakura grinned, "Thanks Hidan, that's pretty cool – and uh, thanks Jashin?" she said to the air, shrugging and trying not to smile at how elated Hidan looked at seeing that she liked it.
Placing it gently on the table so it wouldn't roll off and land on anyone she started opening her other gifts from Konoha. The Akatsuki commented and criticised as she did so. The self-help book entitled 'How to Deal with the Criminally Insane' from Sai received a few comments, including that most of them wondered how many copies it had sold. Naruto sent her some instant ramen in a flavour that seemed to be specific to Konoha (from a throw-away comment in a letter to him ages ago) and said that he'd helped pick the aforementioned book, and to remember the phrase 'stranger danger'.
"Stranger danger?" Pein asked.
"Yeah, it's what kids are supposed to shout if someone they don't know tries to take them anywhere," Sakura replied, flicking through the book.
"That has parallels I suppose," he said.
Tsunade had packed several medical scrolls and a list of the plant types and knowledge she was to steal should she come back to Konoha in the near future. Yamato had wrapped one of his wood carvings featuring the remains of Team Seven throwing victory signs and bearing a banner with 'Come Home Sakura' on it. Kakashi had sent a hastily wrapped bottle of her favourite perfume, the post mark on it much later than the others and it was a miracle it had arrived on time.
"That's a nice present," Konan commented, opening the top to smell the fragrance.
"He has a crate of them in his cupboard that he thinks I don't know about – means he doesn't have to think every year," Sakura scoffed.
"How is that man such a good ninja? He's the laziest bastard I've ever heard of," asked Kisame.
"Only in his personal life," Sakura felt she had to defend her mentor as she did love that perfume a lot, "Who is this one from?"
"Me! Itachi helped too I suppose," answered Kisame while Itachi glared.
"Aw thanks Kisame, you shouldn't have!"
Opening it revealed a soft leather roll with heavy-duty clasps holding it closed. Rolling it out she laughed aloud as she saw the personalised cooking utensils – several knives for different tasks, a few types of spatula and some nice cutlery. The handles featured little red clouds on a black background to remind her of them if she was ever away.
"You can't learn to cook with crap tools," Kisame declared, pretending that it was a purely practical gift rather than something she felt was very thoughtful.
"I chose the design," said Itachi, eager to be included.
"Thanks 'Tachi, these are great."
She opened a few more presents from the rest of the no-longer-Rookie-Eleven and various other ninjas from around the village, including a disgustingly cute teddy bear from a still love-struck Kotetsu that was soundly laughed at by the Akatsuki.
"Didn't you get Sakura a gift Deidara?" asked Pein when she had finished and was busy separating the paper from any tape so it could go into the village's recycling programme.
Deidara merely grinned at her, the slight maniacal edge convincing her that it would in fact be something that would explode, "Course I fucking have, yeah. But you have to wait to tonight to get it."
Pein gave Konan an unimpressed look as she sighed happily at the sappy romantic Deidara had become. He was going to have to send them all on a re-training course to get them back to the ruthless killers he was used to.
Hidan scowled at Sakura's interest but couldn't help preening a little as she swept up the mace and headed off towards the training grounds for a quick go with it before she had to get ready for the evening's 'entertainment'.
After destroying several training dummies and traumatising an entire squad of Rain ninja Sakura had declared the mace a success. Pein forbade her from using it within the boundaries of the village and secretly signed her name to the anger management seminar that the academy was giving in a couple of days. Hidan simply watched the carnage unfold with a bright eyes and a love-struck grin that probably didn't help the Rain ninjas' mental states.
She wrote all her thank you notes from the onsen where she and Konan debated how the men were going to look.
"I don't think you'll be surprised to hear that Kisame always looks best, except for Pein obviously but that's because I dress him."
"Kisame is weird – I've seen him destroy people, and laugh all the way but actually he's an artistic and sensitive soul."
"Well, I think sensitive is maybe a bit far – but he certainly has many layers that most people don't see."
"It's hard to see them when he's shaving bits off you and stealing all your chakra. What about the others?"
"Well when it comes to traditional dress there's no one more suited than Kakuzu, he always wears kimonos that are probably older than most of us but he does pull them off. Deidara has a bit of a weakness for brightly coloured obi that don't go with the rest of his outfit. Itachi usually looks alright but again, that's because Kisame dresses him. Hidan usually uses it as a chance to advertise Jashinism and he's always got his chest out."
Sakura laughed, how did she get involved with these crazy people again? Tsunade wanted all the information she could gather on these guys but how on earth was she supposed to catalogue this?
Mr Bekku had worked wonders and her kimono was a work of art. Konan had a couple of employees that were skilled in tying obis and the two of them were dressed quickly, leaving plenty of time to do their hair and makeup. Konan seemed very pleased to have another girl around to do these things with rather than the several warped men she was surrounded by.
Madara wasn't present in the foyer where they'd all agreed to meet before heading out into the village. They'd figured that there would be safety in numbers for whatever was going to go wrong. Kisame had attempted to be positive and say that maybe life was going to throw them a bone – they'd have a pleasant evening, have some food and share the good times with the villagers.
"Not fucking likely," Hidan, dressed in black with a large Jashinist crest on the back of his haori, had said.
"When was the last time we caught a break, yeah?" Deidara was also in navy that looked amazing with his hair but it was slightly ruined by the thin navy obi lying low on his hips.
"Hidan got his leg ripped off last week," Kakuzu reminded them, his old fashioned kimono would have looked ridiculously archaic on anyone else.
"That just meant we had to put up with his incessant whining," said Pein, his outfit subtly matched to Konan's.
Kisame just rolled his eyes and reached over to tug the sleeve of Itachi's black kimono crested with Uchiha fans to smooth out a wrinkle that had developed in the fabric.
"You look great, yeah!" Deidara grinned at Sakura, who did a small spin in place to show off.
Hidan grabbed her hand and dragged her out of the door telling her that he was the perfect arm candy for the night and the others followed trying to laugh but actually getting slightly nervous about what would be waiting for them.