Characters: Madara, Kakuzu.
Notes: The Lord Uchiha and a prospective employee meet near the ocean. The ending cuts off somewhat abruptly, but I think I might like it. What do you think?
Madara does not like the coast. It is a place of meeting, a conjunction of many things often enemies to him. Clear air, and wet. The Uchiha clan loves fire and being hidden, so near the water is not the place for him. Madara does not like the coast and the coast does not like him, which is why he comes here. A thing forced to struggle to grow, fighting for ever foot and fingerhold, can never afford weakness; here, by the sea, is a good place for him to struggle.
He finds himself a flat rock for a seat, and props his fan so it shades his sunburned face from further injury. The wind off the water is strong. It throws his hair into his face, whips the black strands until they snap fiercely at his skin. The bird on his wrist shifts and bates. Madara turns his wrist and the gyrfalcon flaps before regaining its footing on his glove.
He props his elbow on his knee. The tiercel is large and heavy, cocking its head one way to watch him with an eye that's dark against the silvered feathers. He watches its throat pulse with every indrawn breath. A nervous bird, but it settles quickly enough on his hand.
With the fan propped, his other hand is free to catch his hair and quell it. He twists it into a tail and simply pulls it over his shoulder and holds it so it no longer thrashes at his face. The bird bows and wags it tail, fighting for balance in the strong wind. It hunches its hawkish shoulders, streamlines itself against the hard gusts coming off the ocean. Madara watches his bird as it reaches up one jessed foot to scratch hard behind its right eye. “Hungry, I hope,” he murmurs. “I am as well.”
A shadow falls across the barnacled rocks at his feet. Madara had been aware of the other man’s approach for some time, and Kakuzu hadn’t even tried to conceal himself. Now the man stares down at him with those remarkable inverted eyes. “The Lord Uchiha, talking to birds?”
“He can’t understand me.” Madara pushes to his feet, take the fan in his free hand, loosing his hair to toss like a live thing once more. “I wasn’t speaking to him.”
Kakuzu stands, silently, and watches Madara rise. Madara taps the fan against a rock and, saying nothing, turns and begins to make his way down the beach.
The other man catches and keeps pace with him easily. Kakuzu is a large man, a bigger man than Madara’s ever met, and what’s more, he knows how to put all that bulk to good use. He has size and, more importantly, finesse on his side.
Madara wants that finesse for his own.
Neither one of them says anything for a long while, accompanied only by the rough breathing of the sea, the sometimes-whistling wind. Madara stays silent because he doesn’t want to speak first, and Kakuzu - silence is his ground state, he barely notices it. In the end the falcon makes the first noise. A long, harsh cry, and then it bates again, falling off Madara’s wrist and hanging upside-down, caught by the jesses.
Madara props the fan against his shoulder, slides the slack through his clenched fist, shortens the ties until the bird can clamber back to its perch on his hand. He can feel the uneasy flex of its talons, even shielded by the worked leather of the glove; the tiercel flares its narrow wings, hunches and cries “kek-kek-kek-kek” into the gusts of air that still plague them. It would be calmer, with a hood, although perhaps still ill at ease from the strong, dark aura of the man pacing alongside them. Still, Madara keeps its vision free, because he likes those eyes, those round, perfect, obsidian eyes, to see everything that there is to see.
“Your bird dislikes the ocean,” Kakuzu observes, and Madara laughs. An opening, finally.
“So do I,” he says, because he is too impatient to be silent, and impatience has not done much for him, but Kakuzu already knows what he wants. “Tell me your answer.”
Typically, Kakuzu keeps his own counsel for a while longer. Madara watches him impatiently, looks past him at the long plane of the sea, the sky so blue as to be unreal, the long tufts of cloud smearing across the water. The sun is so bright it hurts his eyes, and the wind is ceaseless. It turns his fan in his grasp, wants to snatch it away from him. His gyrfalcon shifts and shifts.
“I wonder why,” Kakuzu says finally, “you feel it best to select madmen and traitors to march under your banner.”
The whip-crack of his laughter is sharp and swept hurriedly away by the sea wind. “Madmen,” Madara laughs, hearing his own melodrama and loving it. “Madmen and traitors. They’re the only honest men. Psychopaths, sociopaths, zealots and sadists. Those are exactly the kind of soldiers I want. If no one else should take them, why shouldn’t they come to me? I know how to use them.”
Kakuzu’s quizzical sidelong glance says everything. Madara turns his arm, holds the bird in closer to his torso, shielding it from the wind. “You don’t like the thought of showing your back to a lot of bandits?”
“I don’t like the thought of showing my back to anyone.”
Madara lilts a whistle to his bird before answering what’s a fair sentiment. “For you, then, the most unsubtle madman I can find.”
He’s read Kakuzu well enough to recognize his suddenly shuttered eyes as a sign of amusement, and smiles himself, swinging the fan briskly. “In truth,” he says, “I don’t fear betrayal. Tell me, do you know how a bird is trained?” He swings his wrist around to show his companion the young, mantling tiercel.
Given Kakuzu’s silence, he takes it the man hasn’t learned.
“We call it seeling.” Madara smiles to himself. Shows his smile to the world. “One takes a curved, round needle, and stitches the eyes shut by putting the thread through the lower lid and then taking the thread round the head to pull the lower eyelids closed.”
Silence, a moment, and then, “It sounds a delicate act.”
“It is.” Madara brings the bird close again, enjoying the sight of its piercing hunter’s glance up towards him. Not trust, but familiarity, and fealty. “The second eyelid can be damaged by a careless worker, and, oh… many other things can go wrong. You must take care not to damage any part of the eye. Without their eyes, a hawk is of course worthless.”
Oh, how he knows the truth in those words.
“A large risk.”
“The gain is also great. You see.” Delicately, Madara buries his fingers into the chest feathers, scratching gently at his bird’s keel.
“A loyal hunter?”
Madara huffs, almost a snort. Not quite. “Loyalty is against their nature. They know who their masters are. That is all.”