“What?” Kisame asks, bewildered.
Kakuzu doesn’t even bother to glance up at where his newest bounty is sprawled on the sofa, massive sword propped against the wall beside him. “He’s mine,” he says flatly, making careful note of just how much raw metal Sasori requested. It’s far more than he’ll get, but if he hasn’t learned that by now he only has himself to blame. “Hands off.”
“Yo.” Zabuza grins, all teeth, and offers Kisame a lazy salute. He’s more mummy than missing-nin right now, Kakuzu thinks, casting him a narrow glance. Entirely bandaged, bleeding through already in a few spots, but Kakuzu managed to get the worst of the wounds stitched closed before he actually bled out.
“Zabuza,” Kisame says, and Kakuzu’s never seem him look quite so taken aback, even if humor is already starting to bleed back in through the shock. “You part of all this now?”
Zabuza snorts, then winces, and Kakuzu kicks him in the ankle in reprimand. “Me? Fuck no. Grumpy ass over here decided to drag me home with him.”
“You didn’t complain when I was scraping you and your apprentice off the bridge,” Kakuzu says, unimpressed, makes a note not to allow Sasori any more high-quality metals unless he can prove he’s used everything that he requested previously, and rises to his feet, tucking his book into his pocket. “You’re lucky Konoha nin are easily distracted, and that your bounty was high enough to justify the risk.”
Kisame chuckles, and Kakuzu doesn’t like the way his eyes are lingering on the other Swordsman, bright with something that’s probably…gooey. Kakuzu hates nostalgia and squishy feelings like that. They’re bad for business. “Got in over your head again?” he challenges.
With a loud scoff, Zabuza flips him off, then winces again. Kakuzu isn't surprised; he pulled a small armory out of Zabuza’s skin in order to patch him up, and more of his body than not is an open wound right now, even with a week to heal. “I survived,” he retorts, tips his head at Kakuzu. “Thanks to him.”
Luminescent eyes flicker to Kakuzu, and Kisame stares for a long moment, that faintly unnerving grin on his face. “Yeah,” he says finally. “I see that.” And then, to Kakuzu, “Want a hand?”
“I'm fine,” Kakuzu says shortly, and tells Zabuza, “Back to bed. You’ve had your free time.”
Zabuza rolls his eyes. “If you keep shoving me into bed I'm going to get ideas,” he says pointedly, but when Kakuzu gets an arm around his back he hobbles to his feet, hissing faintly. “I want to see—”
“Your apprentice is asleep,” Kakuzu tells him sharply. “And I'm not dragging you all the way to the other end of the base because you're feeling lonely.”
“Fuck you,” Zabuza retorts, but his grip doesn’t waver as he balances himself carefully against Kakuzu’s shoulder, then looks at Kisame. “We’ll have to have a match soon.” His grin is full of anticipation. “Haven’t had a good once since you fucked off from Kiri.”
Kakuzu snorts. “We’re not counting the Konoha nin who left you half-dead?” he asks flatly.
“Konoha nin don’t count, they're spineless fuckers,” Zabuza says dismissively, and opens his mouth to keep going.
“No matches until I'm sure you're not going to damage yourself,” Kakuzu says. “Your bounty only says alive and I'm not letting you rob me of that for a spar.”
“Yes sir,” Zabuza says, lazily threatening, but his eyes are sharp. Something curls in Kakuzu’s gut, equally sharp-edged, and he thinks of the way Zabuza tried to kill him the moment he woke up the first time, half-dead and still ferocious, kunai between his teeth and sword between Kakuzu’s ribs. He’d stared at Kakuzu with burning eyes even as he collapsed over Kubikiribōchō’s hilt, legs and fingers’ grip failing him, and it hadn’t even been enough to slow Kakuzu down, but—
Somehow, the fact that Kiri didn’t put out bounties on their missing-nin, not wanting to take work from the Hunter-nin, hadn’t seemed like such a terrible thing after seeing that look. Frustrating, aggravating, but—waiting for Konoha to update its enemies list with a bounty for Zabuza wasn’t such a chore, after that.
“Bounty?” Kisame asks, almost a challenge, and he’s still standing in the doorway, looming like a statue. No overt threat, and Kakuzu looks him over carefully. A fight between them would be closer to a fair match than he usually likes, given Kisame's reserves. The cause, though, is a little concerning; he hadn’t thought Kisame had enough loyalty to his countrymen to want to defend Zabuza, but—this sort of looming can't be anything less.
“I'm waiting,” he finally says. “For Konoha to post a higher one, seeing as only Kiri is otherwise out for his head.”
“The trials of being unpopular,” Zabuza says, showing teeth in a grin, but there's a fine tremble running through muscles that aren’t up to standing. Kakuzu steps forward, half-expecting Kisame to stop him, but the man gives him one more long look and then shifts aside, pulling the door open for them to pass through.
“Thanks,” Zabuza says, nodding to Kisame, and then lets Kakuzu haul him up the corridor. The last free room on the other side of the base—or at least the last of the ones fit for human habitation—is currently occupied by Zabuza’s apprentice and all the medical equipment needed to keep him stable, and Konan had taken one look at the prizes he dragged home and declared them Kakuzu’s problem, so that leaves Zabuza spending most of his time flat on his back in Kakuzu’s bed. He’s less aggravating than Hidan, at least, so it’s not quite as much of a trial as it could be.
Zabuza groans loudly as Kakuzu lowers him to the mattress, one hand pressing to the largest wound in his side. The bandages are already red again, and Kakuzu sighs loudly in irritation but turns to get the first aid kit. As someone who went toe to toe with Hatake Kakashi and threatened a team with two valuable genin, it will likely be high, and Kakuzu doesn’t want to miss the payoff when this requires far less work than hunting Zabuza down through the Elemental Countries.
“You're a hassle,” he tells Zabuza, carefully edging the wrapping far enough from his skin that the slice of a kunai will cut through it.
With a wince, Zabuza peels the fabric away, dropping it over the side of the bed. “Wrap that a bit tighter and I’ll make it up to you,” he suggests.
Kakuzu pauses. Shinobi are no strangers to using their bodies as payment, and it’s something some of them tend to trade on regularly. Most people don’t offer it to Kakuzu, though, even at their most desperate. Too monstrous, he thinks a little sourly, and it’s a reality he certainly doesn’t mind, but—other people grate sometimes.
“Really?” he asks, more to see Zabuza waver than because he wants to check for consent. He leans over his supine body, sliding a hand up his shoulder and letting his threads creep out from under his skin. They curl around Zabuza’s arms, stark against the bandages, and at their touch he jerks his gaze down. Kakuzu braces for the flood of bitter satisfaction at the horror, readies himself to scoff in the swordsman’s face—
Nothing. A look, a raised brow, and then Zabuza’s eyes slide back up to meet Kakuzu’s. “Yeah,” he says, and tips his head. “You’ll be doing most of the work, but I'm down to fuck if you are.”
Kakuzu thinks of that look again, the way Zabuza stared at him as he fell, the grip of his hands failing. I could take his heart, was the first thought, because Zabuza’s Suiton is famously strong, and his ability with the Hiding in the Mist technique is unparalleled and also endlessly useful. But Kakuzu already had a Suiton heart, and no need for another.
“You're a fool,” he says harshly, leaning down. Fingers with a faint tremor to them find the edges of his mask and pull it down, and Zabuza laughs, a smirk spreading over his face.
“And you’re fucking hot,” he says. “Saved my life, too. What’s that worth in that book of yours?”
“More than you're worth so far,” Kakuzu tells him. “Don’t think this will change the fact that you're a bounty to me.”
Zabuza snorts. “I’ll just have to prove I'm worth more sucking your dick than whatever amount Konoha offers,” he says, cocky confidence with that same light of a dare in his eyes, and pulls Kakuzu down into a burning, bruising kiss.