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To Teach You (Nothing Like A Zombie Apocalypse)

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There's sunlight in Hidan's eyes. It lights on the roofs of hundreds of stationary cars, glinting prettily with the dawn. He's climbed to the roof of a semi, hoping for a good look ahead at the lay of the land. Technically, they have the satellite images for that: new movemet data three times a minute, and whoever's monitoring can see for kilometers when something moves that shouldn't.

Hidan prefers his own eyes. He trusts them.

"You're not moving," Deidara's voice says in his ear. It's still too goddamn loud, a little squeaky. There's been something wrong with the signal for weeks. Sasori's been working on fixing them, but he seems baffled by the sudden changes - and they can't wait any longer.

They're down to instant noodles and whatever weird stuff Zetsu can grow, and they have stores of that, but Hidan keenly remembers that weird time six months ago when his mouth started bleeding. Scurvy is serious fucking business, so they need some goddamn food. If not food, then maybe, like, vitamins.

They're almost out of toilet paper. They used old newspapers for a solid month once, and at this point chemically softened toilet paper is an amazingly high priority for all of them. But especially for Konan, who is completely terrifying in a snit.

Worse still, Itachi needs this weird linezosomethingorother medicine if he can get it. It's basically the only reason Hidan's even braving a real city in the first place - there's other, less densely populated, places he could go for the other stuff. He's not saying he likes Itachi, but he's dead clever and it'd piss Hidan off to lose him to this stupid bullshit lung thing.

He prods at the earpiece, trying to adjust it so the squeal is less noticeable but Deidara's voice still comes through.

"I'm fucking looking," Hidan rolls his eyes. "Is that okay with you, asshole?"

"Sure, fine, whatever, yeah," says Deidara, sounding peeved. "I'll just stare at this map and wait for you, then. The only zombie moving out there's one in the water, and it's going in the wrong direction."

From what Hidan can see, that's pretty much true. The cars on the bridge certainly don't move. They've been abandoned for at least a year, when the outbreaks became really unmanageable and sensible survivors fled the cities - although if any vehicles on the far side of the bridge are still in working form, Hidan might take one when he leaves. He can abandon it long before any noise draws zombies back to their safe house, and get ahead of any pursuit so he doesn't have to run stupid evasive manoeuvres.

He glances down into the water, trying to see what Deidara's picked up, but the water's a dull green-grey and he can't pick out more than uncertain shadows.

Hidan takes a deep breath and gets moving.

The cars are mostly silent, but occasionally the sound of shifting metal comes to Hidan on the breeze and he stills and tenses and glances warily for any pursuit. Usually zombies make those grating moans, but he's seen ones with their throats bitten out before, and it only takes one bite.

Cities are dangerous hellholes now. There are plenty of places that are dry enough for a zombie to last years without decomposing enough to render it safe.

Hidan catches sight of a child-zombie following his movements from the back seat of a car. It can't break the windows - if it had been able to get out, it would have by now.

"Hey," he says to Deidara with a really hard grin, "there's a kid stuck in a car here. Dressed up in cow spots. Think it ate mummy?"

Deidara makes a disgusted sound. "It's immobile," he says, because as gross as Hidan is, Deidara's pretty much inured to it by now. It's not going to stop him from doing his job at least.

"Yeah, it is. Don't worry about me, it's old and I think it can't get out. You know what they're like when they get old: no eyes, no lips, all skinny with the squishy bits burst out, stinking up the place," Hidan adds cheerfully.

He skirts closer to make sure that's true and his hand drifts toward the machete in his belt. That machete's pretty much Hidan's BFF at this point. Guns are too loud, and while he knows Konan and Nagato like their crossbows, knives don't need reloading.

The car window shows evidence of filthy hands scraping at it, and Hidan peers in until he can see where the stuff beneath the skin's long since liquefied and spilled out in a wash of fluid and gasses, staining its synthetic cow-spotted clothes. Its eyes were likely too moist to last long, and having shrivelled so dramatically are no longer recognisable. Now it's just a hungry thing, staring sightlessly as Hidan confirms it's trapped and walks past.

It can hear him. Maybe even smell him. Zombies are weird shit.

"Yeah, it's stuck," he tells Deidara, relaxing his shoulders.

Initially he thought it was a sign from Jashin-sama, that everybody was turning and ripping into one another, but now he's not so sure. The people who are still around are hardly the ones Jashin-sama would save if he could, and the zombies don't suffer. They're not quite dead and they're not really alive, but they are stupid. Too stupid for feeling that much. Too stupid for a lot of things.

He doesn't think this is what Jashin-sama would do, if it was his will. He thinks if Jashin-sama was going to enact this kind of apocalypse, he'd make it so they at least knew who they were eating. Mmm, baby sister's sweetbreads taste fucking fine.

And, well, maybe that doubt makes Hidan impious. Jashin-sama is, after all, divine and thus impossible to understand completely. Any plans he has are by nature ineffable.

At this point it doesn't matter much. Basically, you can't sacrifice a zombie and that's fucking disappointing. (He'd know. He's tried.)

Deidara clicks his tongue, causing the ear piece to squeal unpleasantly again. "At the end of the bridge detour right. There's movement. It's either a small zombie or a big dog."

Hidan grunts his acknowledgement, even though doing that kind of leaves a sour taste in his mouth. What he'd like is to cut its head off and stomp on the skull until there was nothing like a zombie left inside.

Unfortunately, skulls are actually pretty percussive, and sounds do tend to draw them out. If he doesn't want to get swarmed, it's best to get in and out with as little noise and confrontation as possible. It's shit, but practical.

(And Hidan can be practical. Don't listen to Kakuzu, he's full of shit.)

Deidara guides him through the city, an all-seeing set of ancillary eyes dedicated to winding their way around obstacles - blockades made from all sorts of materials in the last days of a doomed city, for example - and avoiding zombies. One or two wouldn't be a problem, but once they get into the city proper it won't be one or two. It will be tens. Maybe scores. And if Hidan's really unlucky, hundreds.

Jashin-sama's cutting them a break this time, though, because Hidan makes it to the supermarket without seeing more than one more zombie. It's at a distance, and the zombie is a rasping, limping thing, dragging its leg behind it.

There's a second there where Hidan squints and can make out the part where the ankle is torn, foot wagging awkwardly as it sort of... stumps toward him.

He doesn't need to outrun that one - he outwalks it, and quietly. It's to their benefit that the zombies are shit communicators.

The supermarket's huge, and it poses its own logistical problems.

"I'm plotting an evac course," Deidara says, almost as soon as Hidan has broken in. "If you see movement, just get out of there, yeah."

"Would you calm the fuck down," sighs Hidan, although it's at least a little bit comforting to know that between his own strong legs and Deidara's watchful eyes, any zombies he does encounter are unlikely to catch him.

The place is dark and smells of rot the whole way through, so there's no telltale dead-person smell to tell him whether or not he's about to get chomped on. The fresh produce section is a sticky black mess and the 'frozen' one's only better because it's behind big glass doors. The building's power supply hasn't been connected for a long while.

There are long, dragging trails of brownish old blood on the linoleum but that doesn't actually mean anything - the annoying part about zombies is that they don't really stop moving around. Whatever made those marks could be long gone or still stumbling aimlessly around the aisles.

Despite that, Hidan can hear an arrhythmic thumping and moaning on the big, metal EMPLOYEES ONLY door at the back of the shop, and something's thrashing in the aisle where they keep the pet food - when he peers in, it's only half a zombie, blackish blood leaking from its thoracic cavity while it squirms ineffectually.

He watches for a few moments, then reports this to Deidara, adding, "Where do you think the rest of it is?"

"Can you just get the supplies and get out of there?" Deidara hisses, because he's a complete wuss about shit like this. Honestly, Hidan's the one in danger; Deidara hasn't even left the safehouse.

"Fine, fine."

Having checked that there's nothing obviously about to leap out and eat him, Hidan makes a beeline for the toilet paper, stocks up, and then grabs toothpaste, small bottles of soap concentrate and a significantly greater number of tampons than he'd ever expected to need in his life before heading for the canned goods.

His supply bag's too big and too goddamn heavy for most of their number to carry if they need to really run, which is one of many reasons Hidan's a better choice for these sorts of supply runs than most of them - Kisame and Kakuzu usually trade off with him, and together they make it work. Sort of. Mostly. Nobody's dead yet, okay?

The canned food's among the only reliably edible stuff still hanging around, so Hidan ends up scooping an enormous proportion of them into his bag. Basics first: beans, fish, mixed vegetables, neatly stacked to fit into the bag; then whatever canned soups are still on the shelves. Zetsu's garden isn't delivering yields high enough to feed all of them without supplementing - yet, anyway. He seems pretty certain it will eventually.

...although Hidan's not exactly thrilled by the prospect of eating the weird shit Zetsu grows forever.

"Don't forget milk," Deidara says suddenly into his ear. His earphone squeaks unpleasantly, and there's a muffled comment from somewhere else in the room - "Fortified with vitamin D," adds Deidara, sounding very like he's rolling his eyes. "Doctor's orders."

Their doctor's a veterinarian, which basically tells you how gross and desperate life has gotten. He doesn't even specialise in mammals, let alone people. As far as Hidan knows - which isn't very far, because Orochimaru's a cagey bastard - he dropped out of real medical school during a paediatrics rotation and never looked back.

On the one hand, Hidan finds that fucking alarming; on the other, well, Itachi's not dead yet. Yet. They can all pretty much tell it's only a matter of time.

Powdered milk isn't far, and Hidan does take the time to squint in the dim lighting and determine that, yes, some of it's got added vitamin D. He dumps it in and moves on. Staples aside, this is the fun bit - instant coffee and candy. It's not nutritious, but when your staple diet is weird shit from Zetsu's garden, canned fish and beans? A little processed sugary crap goes a long way.

And in that general line of thought, there's not a lot of room in the bag, not enough to waste on a lot of frivolities, but there's a whole shelf of shitty best sellers and those things are basically weight for weight in gold right now. Hidan squints at his bag, grabs two, and then licks his teeth and puts one back. He keeps the one that looks like absolute tripe from the cover, because at least that'll get them into so-bad-it's-funny territory.

There are a couple of other items that they could do without but don't want to: things like batteries, plastic-packed socks and underpants, bleach and a tub of peanut butter the size of Hidan's head, but soon he's done and heading out of the huge dim store. He can actually hear Deidara breathe a sigh of relief when he gets outside.

"Okay, turning east - that's right, for you. That one with the messed up foot that you passed before's picked up some friends and he's still following your trail, so -"

"Right," Hidan agrees, for once without arguing, and takes off through the city.

With Deidara painstakingly directing him away from obstructions and moving zombies, the whole business has the capacity to lull him into a false sense of security. The city seems abandoned. Every building stands basically empty, some with smashed windows and sagging, open doors - but others are tidy and clean and look as though they're just waiting for the suits to return on Monday morning.

There are more cars in the street, standing ominously empty, and Hidan can see stains, long and bloody, leading to and from most of them. There are no zombies tucked away in the back seats of these cars, no tiny bodies with shrunken eyes. That was probably a fluke.

He takes the roundabout way to the pharmacy, which is boring, but Deidara's paranoia beats the alternative.

The pharmacy's a huge one, a sprawling thing that takes up three floors on the outskirts of town. There's a peeling sign in the window advertising their compounding services. The doors aren't as easy to get past as they'd been with the supermarket, so Hidan has to resort to a noisier method of entry - he wraps his hand and punches a window, unflinching at the crack of glass. He can feel the pressure of sharp shards, but there's no blood - which is good, because zombies pay a lot more attention to the smell of fresh blood than humans might.

The sound is loud - too loud, probably - but it can't really be helped. It shouldn't take as long anyway - in and out.

"I heard that," hisses Deidara repressively.

"The headset would be really inconvenient if you were deaf," Hidan snipes back.

"What the hell are you doing in there?"

It's dark inside too, but that's pretty much expected. The first floor looks like some kind of - beauty shop, or something, in the dark, full of aerosol containers and hair products and, Hidan doesn't even know, fucking lipstick or something.

"Hey, princess, you need -" he pauses, glancing at the products, "-concealer for dark bags under your eyes?" He pauses again, thinking of Deidara's weary expression and hard stare. He's different from when Hidan first met him, that's for sure. "Hell yes you do, panda-boy. Come on, should I get this green one to balance your-"

"Oh, fuck off," Deidara finally interrupts. "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"

Hidan snorts because, hah, what mirror? He's pretty sure the only person who still has a mirror is Orochimaru, tucked away in a compact somewhere, and nobody is that desperate to see their face.

He discards the idea of grabbing the makeup just to spite Deidara. If he has room for it in the bag, he should stock up on something useful.

"You got an escape route for me?" he asks as he jogs up the unmoving escalator.

"If you can get out of the building, yeah. How many floors up are you?"

"Just one," says Hidan, but one is, unfortunately, pretty much always enough to complicate shit.

The next floor's more promising, if only because he can make out the big 'PRESCRIPTIONS' sign over the counter in the back. Good sign.

"Shit," Deidara swears into the headpiece. "Shit, Hidan, get out of there!"

"What?" Hidan jerks to a stop, tense and wary, halfway between the escalator and the counter. He listens, but he can't hear any scraping or groaning. Nothing to explain Deidara's sudden fright.

"The satellite connection's not... doing the thing, yeah!" Deidara's voice rises. "I can't see anything."

Not doing the thing, Hidan thinks, a little hysterically. That's Deidara all over, isn't it?

He takes one deep breath. Another. His heart rate slows - not much, but a little. Enough that he's nervous, not actually panicking. He can't hear he death-rattle of a zombie's indrawn breath, though, and Deidara had said the satellite images were clear right up 'til then, so - he must have a couple of minutes, at least.

Hidan glances up to reassure himself that there's a back exit - two entries on the ground level, a fire escape up here and at least one window. Yeah, he's got at least a couple minutes. Good. Okay. He can still get this done.

"Danna!" Deidara wails, voice crackling in Hidan's earpiece.

"Jashin fucking wept," Hidan swears right back in his ear, flinching away from the noise. "Take it off, idiot!" There's a clatter and a thump on the other end and Hidan is actually alone.

His gut clenches nervously. His throat's dry. It's okay, he was basically alone anyway. It's not like Deidara would have been able to help if he'd been in real trouble. He just doesn't have anybody talking to him anymore.

Or listening to him.

"Fucking stupid," he mutters, and shakes it off firmly.

Hidan digs through the stock left in the back, keeping up a count in his head even as the radio silence eats at him. One minute. Three. Six.

He doesn't have Deidara rattling the list off to him from the screen, but he does his best to collect whatever catches his eye as familiar as he searches for Itachi's linezowhatever: epinephrine, because Zetsu's allergic to every kind of tree nut; antihistamines because everybody hates pollen; aspirin and paracetamol, and then some morphine because he can't remember if Itachi's meant to be taking it or not; lidocaine and -

"Shit, what is it -?" Diphen-something, something they really do need because of Zetsu's dumb allergies. He can't remember the full word and he doesn't know where it's going to be.

Hidan swears under his breath and then, because the soft sound of his own voice is steadying, trails off into a familiar prayer. Jashin-sama doesn't care if he gets torn apart by zombies, but it's familiar and comforting all the same. It reminds him that getting torn apart by zombies is hardly the worst thing that could happen. It'll be shitty, it'll be scary, but Jashin-sama will welcome his sacrifice. Deep breaths.

Faith is more important than survival, and Hidan used to know that - he used to know it not just intellectually, but with every nerve, every bone, the knowledge like something dark and comforting settled in his belly. He used to throw himself into conflict and danger without thought. Sometimes it's hard to remember how to be faithful when so much of his thoughts are focused on survival. It was easier when everybody around him had differences of opinion, different ideals and philosophies, but now...

Now they all agree with each other, almost all the time: survival is key. Everything else can come after. It's harder to remain unswayed in that sort of atmosphere, and Hidan feels guilty when he remembers to. He feels like a traitor. He doesn't like it.

He stumbles across the antibiotics almost by accident. The label linezolid very nearly leaps out at him, and he dumps a bunch of packages straight into the supply bag. He throws in others at random, because: hey, antibiotics. Orochimaru'll find something to do with them. Then he vaults over the counter and begins digging through the first aid shit still lingering around.

This is more familiar territory and Hidan does it almost on auto-drive, holding the supply bag open with a strap over one shoulder and sweeping in stuff in as he goes: tape, sealed dressings, saline, antiseptic, pressure bandages, gauze, gloves, lighter, alcohol strips, steri strips, iodine pills -

"-dan," comes from his ear piece, making him jump.

"Shit!"

"Hidan?"

"Shit. Yeah, fuck, yes. I'm here. Warn a guy," he mutters, breathing deeply. He feels like he's about ready to leap out of his skin.

"Danna fixed it, yeah. You're gonna get surrounded if you stay any longer." Deidara's voice sounds strained, which is never a good sign. Deidara's high strung, but he doesn't sound like that unless they're really fucked.

"Yep," Hidan agrees, and zips and velcros his bag shut before swinging the strap across his other shoulder - the strap runs diagonally across his chest, and there's a dorky little waist strap, so he can run if he needs to.

It's looking like he'll need to, because even as Deidara's talking, he can see the movement of something outside the window, down upon the street.

He swallows. That's... bad.

"Fuck," he mutters.

"Hidan?"

"They'll be here before I can get down," he predicts. Maybe that sounds defeatist, but he knows what he's looking at. There's a lot of them. In those minutes that Deidara's images went down, what probably looked like regular aimless zombie wandering had turned into a targeted shuffle: stumbling body upon stumbling body heading for him.

He starts swearing and doesn't stop.

They heard the glass breaking. He's sure of it.

Deidara's quiet, which is weird, because he should be swearing at least as much as Hidan is right now.

"Shut up," he says into Hidan's ear after a second. "Shut up, Hidan! I've got an idea, if you don't mind doing something a little dangerous."

"They're going to be on the fucking doorstep any second." He can, in fact, hear the scraping of glass even now, and he begins to move shit to barricade the escalator. They're not great with stairs, as a rule, but it's not like they can't climb them, given enough time. "How much more dangerous can this possibly get?"

"Um," says Deidara, and remains tellingly silent.

Hidan feels a slow smile creep over his face. "Really."

"Okay. You'll need ether - I don't think they'll sell it publicly but it should be there somewhere. It doesn't matter if it's out of date. And then cleaning supplies, right? Read them out to me, I'll tell you which. And filter paper - you know those little -"

"I know."

"- right. And then those packs they sell for camping."

"That's it?"

"That's it, yeah." Deidara sounds positively gleeful.

Hidan takes a deep breath. "This had better fucking work."

"It will, as long as you don't mess it up."

Hidan snorts at that, but he is careful to follow Deidara's instructions to the letter, even as he hears the sounds of stumbling downstairs. He thinks of the makeup being knocked all over the floor and wonders if he'll be seeing zombies with lipstick smeared on their faces.

His heart speeds when he can hear the telltale echo that means at least one zombie has found the escalator up. "Dei-"

"Almost done," he promises.

"I don't have time for 'almost' here," he snaps back.

"They're slow, you'll be fine," Deidara says, and it sounds soothing, even if Hidan's pretty sure Deidara is a) full of shit and b) has no way of knowing what's actually going on inside the building. He must be able to see the zombies gathering outside, but there are limitations to the technology they're using.

"Alright, come on, are you still listening to me?"

"Yes, I'm still fucking listening. There's not much else to listen to." Unless you considered zombies good company, which Hidan emphatically did not.

Listening to Deidara is how he ends up on the roof of the building, staring down nearly fifteen meters to the ground. "Well, even if your plan goes to shit I guess I can jump," he mutters. There's a solid chance of that drop killing him, at least.

"You'll be fine," says Deidara with way too much good cheer. "Got your bomb?"

"Yeah." Sure, Hidan has his bomb. It's not small. And it won't cause a small bang. He's been cautioned against moving too much while carrying it, which would be more worrying if it wasn't still a better death than being ripped up and eaten by zombies.

Hidan's plans for today have changed from make it home and take a nap to choose which way to die is least shitty. Since he's contemplating it anyway, he's pretty sure he'd prefer the explosion to the fall, but he's still open to alternatives that don't involve dying.

Deidara's plan is to hurl the makeshift bomb in another direction, basically any other direction, and hope that the distraction's light and sound draws the zombies away. Given their attraction to loud noises and warmth, it's probably not a bad plan. If it works, he'll probably still have to kill a couple, but he can do that - a couple is fine. Ten or twenty zombies is... less fine. And he hasn't even counted the number down there right now, but it's definitely more than that.

He knew coming to a city for this bullshit was a bad idea.

The dangerous part is that the kinds of explosives you can make in a pharmacy with minimal time and effort are, as Deidara put it: "A tiny bit unstable, yeah."

There's a good chance it will blow up while Hidan is throwing it.

So he's hesitating, because while he's pretty sure death by explosion is both the coolest and the least shit way to die of the given options right now, he definitely isn't sure he's ready to do this on purpose.

"It gets less stable as it dries out," Deidara admits in his ear, and Hidan takes a deep breath.

"Right." Still he hesitates. "I'm gonna pray for a second," he says awkwardly, and then doesn't wait to hear Deidara's no doubt deeply exasperated response before he pulls out the ear piece and kneels.

It only takes about fifteen minutes, but when he finally gets back to his feet Hidan's hands are steady and his pulse is almost back to resting. He can still hear the groaning zombies, but none of them have made their way far enough up the fire escape to cause him trouble yet and their voices no longer bother him.

He follows Deidara's plan.

The explosive he's made is a small, slightly damp, powdery thing. It smells weird, but Hidan struggles to think of it as something prone to actually exploding. It seems innocuous. Maybe poisonous, but not... not whatever Deidara thinks.

He's still careful when he throws it. Nobody knows bombs like Deidara.

It sails away on the air, loosed from his hand, and Hidan exhales noisily. It takes a second, but then he feels the impact with every nerve.

The whole sky lights up, black and red and glorious, and a fraction of a second later comes the scream of tortured metal. Hidan can smell it: burning cement, heady fumes, scorched rubber and thick smoke.

It's beautiful. "Holy shit," he says, feeling the stream of hot wind and smoke on his skin.

He can hear the tinny yelling from his earpiece where it sits discarded upon the roof and he puts it back in.

"Hidan?" Deidara sounds increasingly pissed off, and Hidan can almost picture the expression he's making: gnawing on a thumb, glowering at his screen, torn between irritation and - well, more irritation. Deidara mostly shows concern through violence.

"That was huge," Hidan says.

"Yeah," Deidara agrees, and Hidan realises he can probably see it, a giant mess on the satellite images. He hopes he can still see the zombies, because otherwise Hidan's going to be flying blind when he tries to get out of here.

He can see, when he peers over the edge again, that the distraction is working: heat, light and sound have done their job and now there are stumbling dead wandering off in that direction, following their senses without reason. A couple seem confused at best, but Hidan checks the fire escape and grins.

There're only two left trying to climb it, milling in confusion. He waits until the zombies who are leaving have gained some distance, and then he climbs quietly down. His footsteps are almost impossible to muffle, but the crowd will be hard pressed to get back to him before he hits the ground - and once he's on the ground, he can outrun them easily.

The two on the fire escape don't post much problem, either: he kicks one over the edge with a boot to the chest and watches its landing. Its jaws still work, which is dangerous, but at least one leg is broken and it's not going anywhere fast. The second zombie isn't positioned correctly for just booting overboard, so Hidan pulls his machete and cleaves through its neck.

He laughs triumphantly, because fuck yeah, and also because there's always something weirdly amusing about the dismembered heads: they still snap and chomp, but they can't move or moan.

Cheerfully, Hidan kicks the head off the stair well like a soccer ball. He's put a lot of strength behind the kick and he can't help a distinct giggle when it smacks into a brick wall with an ugly splat.

"Stop laughing like an idiot and get out of there already," says Deidara tiredly, as though he's the one who's been in mortal danger today and he's just too weary of Hidan's shit.

There are zombies who hear him moving and turn, but none are close enough together or coordinated enough to bar his path. They're really only dangerous in large groups, or when they get the drop on you. Hidan slips past one set of ugly, grasping hands, and takes off at a slow but steady jog. It's not a fast pace, but it's significantly faster than any of the zombies can move.

Humans, generally, are only as good at tracking as their brains allow them to be: they're not like dogs, sniffing out prey with single-minded hunger. They might be able to smell, to hear or see, but unless they can apply reason to their senses they remain incapable of truly tracking much of anything. Hidan knows that as soon as he's out of earshot, there's almost no chance of the zombies following him home.

He's pretty much home free now, even though Deidara's instructions have become terse and serious. No matter how he needles, all he gets is a sharp, "Turn left at Singleton Street," or "No, double back."

Eventually, however, he does return to the bridge . He sees the same zombie child listening to him, decaying face with nostrils flaring, and he ignores it just the same.

It's a long walk - and Hidan means a really damn long walk - home. He covers the first hour at a steady, ground eating jog and then slows to a walk. If any zombies managed to follow him over the bridge, they're way too far behind now to follow him.

That's lucky, because he's dead tired.

"Anything?" he asks Deidara when he's caught his breath a little.

"Not zombies, yeah. There's a girl on a bike about fifteen Ks east."

"No shit?"

"Yeah. I think she's -" there's a pause while Deidara squints, evidently contemplating something carefully. "Oh, she's collecting something. Something green. Food or fuel or something?"

"Huh," says Hidan. He didn't realise there were others out here - not this close to their own location. It's not a bad location, for what it's worth: close to a clean water source, isolated, surrounded by trees and grass and shit. "What are you even doing looking that far out?"

Fifteen kilometers is a long way for looking for zombies, and well past the usual range Deidara'd be checking in this kind of landscape.

"The image dropped out, yeah! Better to get a bigger picture in case it happens again."

Well. Maybe. Hidan doesn't think it's necessary, but news of other people is interesting - especially since one person who's made it this long might well be indicative of a whole group...

"Probably better not to bother her," Deidara says, although he sounds wistful.

Hidan can understand that, because he's getting real fucking sick of seeing the same people every day, but they don't need more strain on their resources. Even if they did want to contact her, that would mean Hidan running for another hour - and fifteen kilometers is running, not jogging, which is just, no, fuck no - just to catch up with a girl who may or may not be of any use to them.

"There's no way in hell," he tells Deidara.

"I wasn't seriously considering it."

"Yes," says Hidan, "you were. An' I'm telling you, no way in hell."

Deidara clicks his tongue, and Hidan can hear him cover the mouthpiece and talk to somebody else who must be back there.

"Danna says she might have stuff to trade, yeah," Deidara says cheerfully. "I'm gonna post on the forums and see if she answers. If she's got seeds and stuff, maybe Zetsu can grow something that's not that... weird... blue stuff."

Hidan makes an assenting noise in his throat. As long as he doesn't have to travel any farther, he doesn't really mind - and Deidara's absolutely right that they'd all be happy with Zetsu growing pretty much anything else.

(All of the food he brings them is, technically, perfectly edible, but Zetsu left to his own devices grows a deeply, deeply weird collection of things. Most of them Hidan had never seen before, but as soon as his little green house was operational, Zetsu began to insist that they'd meet the vast majority of their nutritional needs if they were careful.

On the other hand, nobody is as disturbed by the things Zetsu swears are food as Deidara is, and if Hidan has to hear one more argument about what is and isn't a potato the zombies will be the last of their worries.)

He listens to Deidara waxing fantastical about what things this person might have to trade with them. His ramblings eventually branch into skills and items that are absurdly unlikely - she's a neurosurgeon, she's a military pilot, she's a mechanical engineer, she's an expert in controlled explosives and they're going to have babies with weirdly coloured hair -

Hidan makes a gagging noise. "Or: she's a weakass little girl with no supplies and no skills and she's alive through dumb fucking luck," he suggests.

"Lies!" Deidara squawks. "She's gotta have some skills, yeah! I bet she's awesome."

"Before you start plotting out your gross heathen little family tree, maybe you could see if she even has a fucking internet connection."

They continue on in this fashion while Hidan walks home, and it is a long, long walk. On top of his jog to get here, there's another three hours of trudging over the ground with a heavy bag on his back. He gets to listen to Deidara the whole goddamn way, and about twenty minutes in he starts praying aloud out of sheer self defence. It annoys Deidara spectacularly.

When he's only an hour or so out from home, he takes a deep breath ant tells Deidara to just get the fuck off the line, he'll be fine from here. And he will, because they haven't sighted any zombies out this far in weeks - and Deidara plainly reported nothing moving for literally miles. Nothing is going to catch up with Hidan between here and home, unless it's like, a fucking hyper aggressive racoon or something.

"What if-"

"No," says Hidan. "If you won't fuck off I'm just taking this thing out."

Deidara huffs and complains, but he does as he's told and Hidan gets to move in peace.

It's way, way later that Hidan can see the palisade of their safe house, complete with what's basically a tree house that forms a lookout just behind it. By the time they'd had to make a spot from which to keep watch, they'd all been tired and sick of trying to build things - not one of them had ever tried to build something like a palisade before, and while the designs Itachi and Sasori came up with were fine, putting them into practice was...

Well, Itachi still refers to it as 'a longer than average day'. Most of the rest of them refuse to think about it for too long.

The phrase that comes to Hidan's mind is 'absolute shit, I can't believe we fucking did that'.

Nothing like a zombie apocalypse to teach you new skills.

From the bit of orange he can see, Pein is probably on watch, and as he comes closer Hidan can make out his figure, pale face and strange purple eyes, and that he's reading an old paperback with a broken spine and looking up every few minutes to check the perimeter.

It's impossible to tell when he sees Hidan because he doesn't react at all, but he has the tiny doorway built into the side of the palisade uncovered and unobstructed by the time Hidan gets there.

"No problems?"

"No," says Hidan tiredly. He looks at the sun, and Pein follows his glance. Hidan's been out almost all day, started moving before dawn and he's back now at mid-afternoon. It's growing overcast, and if it's going to rain Hidan's relieved to get home before then.

Pein looks him up and down, doubtless noticing the blackish blood on his arms.

Hidan smiles, showing his teeth. "Well. Nothing major."

Pein nods, hesitates for a moment, and then returns to his lonely watch and his book. Hidan continues on to the house on his own.

The safe house itself isn't big enough. That's tragically very obvious. There's ten of them in all, and the house itself has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, an open plan living-kitchen area and a laundry space that has rapidly become the infirmary. It's big enough for a decently large family, but not for ten adults. It looks like at one point the original owners had intended for there to be a garage, since there's a paved area near the end of the dirt road that leads up to the house, but it has no cover. It might be a reasonable place to set up something if they manage to get the right materials, but for now it's just empty space. Even Zetsu hasn't pitched his greenhouse there - apparently it needs to have big-ass stakes dug into the ground to hold up the frame.

There's plenty of other space between the house itself and their palisade, and a lot of that's taken up by Zetsu's gardens - the shit that doesn't need to go in the greenhouse (apparently growing plants is serious damn business, if you want to eat them - who knew?) all lives there, and woe betide anybody who steps on it. Or, sometimes, over it. Or near it.

It doesn't matter that he doesn't seem to be present: Zetsu knows. He always knows.

There's no well on the property, not yet, but Sasori and Itachi have put their heads together, tiny genius nutcases that they are. Both of them have ideas about 'uncontaminated groundwater' and 'recycled materials for lining the excavation space' and other bullshit that Hidan's not listening really hard to. The bottom line is: Sasori and Itachi are working on it and that means that pretty soon they'll have water and they won't run the risk of getting sick from it.

None of that matters right now, though, because Hidan is finally at their own fucking door and he thumps on it thunderously until Kisame opens up.

"I heard you the first time," he says, but there isn't anything even like heat in it, and Hidan unbuckles his bag and heaves it over his shoulder. There's a sudden cessation of pressure in his chest, an expansion of his ribs and lungs. He never really notices how heavy the supplies are until he gets home and takes them off.

Kisame takes the bag off him before he can dump it on the ground, grunts at the weight of it, and shuffles off to heft it onto the rickety table in the middle of the room. It's one of the very few pieces of furniture that were in the house when they arrived: pale wood, four legs, faintly uneven.

Hidan slumps onto a seat - by which he means a chunk of wood from a felled tree. They really are not expert carpenters here.

He feels like jelly.

"Don't tell me if I missed anything," he says, tipping his head back against the wall and closing his eyes.

He's not sure if he loses time like that or if Orochimaru is just really sneaky, because a new voice intrudes and when he opens his eyes the man's just right there like magic.

"Did you simply take all of the antibiotics?" he asks silkily, long, pale fingers sifting through the haphazard assortment of medications.

Kisame, true to form, has nicked off with the codeine. He's almost certainly gone to mother-hen Itachi into taking it, as though the kid's eight and not eighteen.

"Piss off," says Hidan.

"Mmm," murmurs Orochimaru, peering at something in the bag. He makes an approving noise, slightly disturbing and deep in his throat, and scoops up the medicines and medical equipment before disappearing in a swish of fabric and the slithering sound of his long hair shifting.

Kakuzu appears not long after. "What's been taken?" he demands in his low, growling voice.

Hidan cracks an eye open. "Medical shit."

Kakuzu grunts and goes on to empty the bag, toss it to the floor and order and count the supplies returned. He is extremely thorough.

"You do know that we're going to have to eat it at some point, yeah?" Deidara points out, peering in. Then, "Hah, you've got soot in your eyebrows," he grins. It's a wide, teasing smile, a little too inviting.

Hidan remembers the explosion and raises his hand to his face - but it's got zombie blood on it, which is gross. "Bath," he mutters, heaving himself to his feet.

Kakuzu glances sideways at him, looks him up and down, sniffs once and imperiously hands him a package of clean socks. "I'll remember," he says, sounding put out.

"Wow, Kakuzu," drawls Hidan, "interrupting your count for me?" he raises his eyebrows, pauses to see if he's got a rise out of him, then continues: "You're an unexpectedly nice guy, deep down, aren't you?"

Kakuzu scowls violently and makes a lunge to take the socks back, but Hidan's already out of his reach.

"Don't spend it all in one place, yeah!" Deidara cackles after Hidan's retreating back.

Hidan's too tired to punch him right now, but he'll get around to it eventually. He always does.