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“If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now.
For wheat is wheat, even if people think it is a grass in the beginning.”
- Vincent Van Gogh.

“They’re late,” Deidara stated. He looked around the classroom, surveyed the table with its empty chairs, and frowned. Black leather jackets, which were embroidered carefully with a red cloud, had been thrown lazily on the back of the vacant chairs. The lack of people and their loudness was almost unnerving to Deidara, or at least strange, considering there were usually complaints about the noise generated from the clubroom. Irritated – and craving any form of attention – he found himself talking to Itachi, the only other member of the Akatsuki who had shown up. “Why are we the only ones here?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know.” Itachi admitted. “What’s the time?”

“It’s…” Deidara pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket, “Ten minutes past three. So club activities started ten minutes ago, yeah?” Deidara waved his phone in the air. “Nobody bothered to text me to say why they’re late!”

“It has been only ten minutes.” Itachi pointed out. “Is something wrong, or has Sasori’s impatience rubbed off on you?”

“I’m not impatient, yeah! I’m just bored, there’s nothing to do.” Deidara grumbled as shoved his phone back in his pocket. Usually, he would preoccupy himself with his sculptures, but today he had left his modelling clay in the art classroom, an action he was currently regretting. The classroom was only a short walk away, but Deidara was unwilling to move from the chair, having decided that it was too hot to do anything but mope around.

Retrieving the clay would irritate him more, he had concluded, as it was little compared to the enticing explosions that he wished to make. The soft putty in his hands, the smooth texture of the material, and the dryness once the clay had settled, all of this would confirm one fact: that Deidara was unable to create his true vision of art.

He groaned. His trail of thoughts had worsened his mood, and the unbearable heat was adding to his misery.

“If you’re bored,” Itachi spoke, prompted by Deidara’s groan, “Why don’t you study?”

“Fuck off Uchiha.”

“Okay, okay, I thought it would be a good use of your time.” Itachi admitted in defeat, and Deidara stuck out his tongue on impulse, despite Itachi being blind. The damn Uchiha was too much of a goody two shoes, and Deidara wondered why he was in the Akatsuki, considering it was comprised of lazy rebels. “Then could you please shut the curtains for me? This room needs cooling down. Just let a little sunlight through, so the room isn’t too cold.”

“Fine.” Deidara muttered as he stood up and sauntered towards the window. He reached for the curtain, adjusted it so light still streamed through a small gap, and then his gaze landed on the city before him. “The view’s nice. It’s a perfect summer day.”

“It is?” Itachi asked. “What does it look like?”

“Well,” Deidara’s eyes danced over the view as he described it in awe, “The mountains are far into the distance, and the heat can be seen in the air. The sky is a light blue, and below the mountains, yeah, the city lies. It’s all the same grey, but the sun makes it shine. Past that, there’s the boring courtyard… but the greenery that surrounds it, and the sun and the skies, all make me think of summer.”

“Is that so?” Itachi replied. “Sounds wonderful.”

Deidara silently agreed as he returned to his chair, opting to sunbathe and rest whilst the room was still quiet. He closed his eyes as he let the warmth of the summer sun glide over his pale skin. “I’m going to nap now. Wake me up before Leader comes, or he’ll have my head, yeah?”

“Alright,” Itachi said. “I will.”

The room then fell silent, with Deidara attempting to sink into a deep sleep as Itachi silently read the Braille imprinted on his coursework. Immersing himself in the silence, Deidara fell into his thoughts; of art and brief moments, of the sky lit up with an array of bright, beautiful colours that left spectators yearning for more, and of appreciation and recognition. One day, and Deidara hoped that day’s arrival would be swift; the world would be joined in looking up at the sky and desiring his art. Deidara's pursuance and passion was fuelled by this dream, which he desperately sought to craft into reality.

“Sasori’s entering, Itachi.”

“Thank you for letting me know, Sasori.” Itachi smiled.

The exchange caused Deidara to open his eyes, and he glanced up to see Sasori, who was looking down upon him with his usual, uninterested expression.

“Good afternoon, brat.” Sasori said.

“Ugh, I wanted to wake up to a cool explosion.” Deidara muttered, and Sasori scowled. “Since you’re here, are the others on their way?”

“They’ll be here in a minute. Hidan’s taking too long to scream at the headmistress, and I got bored of waiting.” Sasori walked behind Deidara, pulled his jacket from his chair and shrugged it on as he sat. “I hate waiting.”

“Hidan is screaming at the headmistress?” Itachi repeated.

“Yes, about the school festival. You know how we all skipped it last year and bought alcohol with the funds?”

“I heard about that from Kisame.” Deidara grinned, “Wish I was a year older so I could’ve been there, yeah.”

“I almost forgot that you’re only a first year.” Sasori replied, and then grimaced. “I’m glad you and Hidan weren’t high schoolers last year. You would’ve enjoyed that alcohol too much.”

“That’s very true,” Itachi remarked. “Although I didn’t have any of the drink. Leader’s orders.”

“Leader’s orders? What’s that about?” Deidara asked.

“Alcohol is forbidden for Itachi because he gets drunk after one shot.” Sasori explained.

“I have more self-control than that.” Itachi said.

“No you don’t. When we did buy the alcohol, Kisame secretly gave you some of his and minutes later, you were screaming the lyrics to Dancing Queen.”

“I can’t remember drinking that, and I really didn’t know I was that bad of a drunk.”

“Well, you are. I probably still have footage of that, Kakuzu recorded it.” Sasori smirked. “Deidara, do you want to see Itachi drunk as fuck and singing Swedish pop songs?”

Deidara smiled. The colours of the room seemed brighter now Sasori had arrived; the gold of the sun’s rays and the brown of the oak table no longer merged into one, and Deidara discovered that he was captivated by how the light made the room glow.

It was as if Sasori’s presence caused colours to bloom.

He wondered why Sasori had that effect: Deidara assumed it was because he respected his fellow artist and enjoyed his company. They somehow clicked, and Deidara debated about art with him, as the talks were enjoyable and enlightening, and through those discussions, Deidara quickly learned that Sasori’s art was an insight into his guarded soul. Although Deidara had little interest for dolls and puppetry, seeing Sasori immersed in his art stirred up something within him, something that usually only appeared when he was expressing his love for explosions.

Unable to put a name to the feeling, Deidara simply shrugged it off.

“Deidara?” Sasori watched Deidara, before he sighed and took out his phone. “Itachi, he didn’t respond to my question and he’s just staring at the table.”

“Perhaps something is wrong? He was bored and tired earlier.” Itachi offered.

“Hm. He wouldn’t usually pass up on a chance to see you embarrassing yourself, so something must be wrong. Deidara?”

“Something wrong, yeah?” Deidara said dreamily to the table. The gold of the sun was glorious, and reminded him of his brief, beloved art.

“That’s not me you’re speaking to, I’m not made out of wood, even if you do like to call me Pinocchio.” Sasori scrolled through his phone, “You don’t usually spend your free time staring at wood. You look upset. Is something wrong?” He paused for a second and then raised his voice. “Deidara!”

Deidara was thrown back into reality, and all he could see were the patterns inscribed on the table. Suddenly realising that he had been staring at a piece of furniture, he slowly twisted his upper body so he faced Sasori. “Yeah?”

Sasori turned and stared at Deidara, and Deidara held the gaze, unable to tear his eyes away.

“So?” Sasori asked after a minute.

“What?” Deidara gulped; surprised that Sasori had waited so long to speak.

“I said that you look upset, and I asked you a question. Is something wrong?”

“Oh,” Deidara blinked. He was repeatedly getting lost in his own thoughts today, perhaps it was the heat getting to his head? “No, not really, I was just thinking about something. It’s nothing, yeah.”

He wasn’t sure why he had zoned out like that, for him to do so was rare, but whenever Sasori was around, Deidara felt a sea of calm wash over him. There was something about Sasori that was therapeutic, something about the colour of his eyes and the deep red of his hair, and Deidara found himself relaxing at the sight of Sasori’s smile.

“Hm.” Sasori returned to scrolling through his phone. “If that’s all, I won’t press you any further.”

“Thank you,” Deidara said, grateful for Sasori’s concern and consideration. He knew that those unfamiliar with Sasori would think of him as unfriendly and unkind, but he also knew that despite his cold personality, Sasori was thoughtful, and that he kept his distance when needed. Too much fuss was sometimes overwhelming for Deidara, and so he was thankful for Sasori’s quiet support. “You know, if I look upset then you should cheer me up, yeah!”

“Was that an order, Leader?” Sasori sarcastically replied.

“You made me wait for you to arrive, and you hate making others wait. So, by your own life principles, you have to give me some compensation, yeah.” Deidara declared, knowing that Sasori was too prideful to not rise to the bait. Sasori scoffed in response.

“I have never stated I had to give compensation.”

“Aww, come on,” Deidara insisted. “A little something to cheer me up!”

“You don’t look like you need cheering up. However,” Sasori paused as he carefully chose his next words, "I hope your sadness is as fleeting as your art."

Ah, Sasori.

“So, you admit my work is art!” Deidara smirked as he tried to calm his racing heart. “Thanks, Sasori!”

That wasn't fair at all.

“No. I was just trying to cheer you up, like you said, brat.” Sasori objected. “Why’re you getting so flustered when you asked me to say that?”

“Because you said the word art!” Deidara countered and pointed at Sasori accusingly, as he had a habit of dodging the word as often as he could. “I finally got you to admit that my work is art, yeah.”

“It was a slip of the tongue.”

“I think what’s more surprising is that he attempted to cheer you up, Deidara.” Itachi chimed in.

“I didn’t want to look at his miserable face. It was an eyesore.”

“That’s an excuse.” Deidara said. “I even told you I wasn’t upset. You were just worried, yeah!”

“Tch.” Sasori reached towards his bag which he had placed on the table, “Perhaps I was. I’m not heartless, and you were clearly troubled by something.”

“I was just lost in my thoughts, and I know you’re not heartless! Maybe.” Deidara teased.

“I’m not heartless. Why, I’ve been supporting you,” he stopped and then smirked, “My junior.”

“Junior?!” Deidara repeated. “You act like my superior, when I’m only a year younger than you!”

“That still makes you, by definition, my junior. Brat.”

“You added that brat to rub it in my face. You’re definitely rubbing it in my face.”

“In any case,” Itachi chuckled to himself. “I think you successfully cheered Deidara up, Sasori.”
“I’ve done my duty.” Sasori retrieved his sketchbook from his bag, which Deidara easily recognised. “Now Leader can’t complain.”

“You had ulterior motives for cheering your best friend up?! Too cruel, yeah.” Deidara laughed anyway, as the conversation had washed away his worries.

“You asked me to cheer you up.”

“I shouldn’t have to ask.”

“I would’ve done something even if you hadn’t asked.” Sasori opened his sketchbook and took a pencil out of his pocket, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to sketch out my newest pup-”

“All the Akatsuki are entering, Itachi!” Hidan shouted as he slammed the door open, causing a loud bang to resonate throughout the room. “Except for Deidara because he wasn’t there and Sasori because he had a hissy fit and ran off- Oh, the artists are here.” Hidan turned to call to the people behind him, “Van Gogh and DiCaprio are here!”

“And nevermind.” Sasori closed his book and Deidara snickered.

“DiCaprio? Did you mean Da Vinci, yeah?”

Hidan shrugged.

“I do appreciate you letting me know who is coming in so I’m not surprised when someone starts talking however… that doesn’t really work when you slam the door open.” Itachi said. “Anyway, welcome. What happened with the headmistress?”

“It’s bullshit!” Hidan’s voice became even louder. “Fucking bullshit! Damn that Tsunade!”

The rest of the Akatsuki filed into the room silently as Hidan continued his monologue of complaints and curses. He watched the other members take their seats, and then trudged to his own, his fingers tapping the oak table impatiently as he grumbled to himself. Sasori and Deidara exchanged a look of despair, the Akatsuki being quiet was never good news, and once everyone had settled, Pein spoke.

“We’re being forced to participate in this year’s festival.”

Deidara groaned loudly, threw his head back and stared at the ceiling. That meant less time to work on his sculptures.

“Well, I suspected something like this would happen, considering our actions last year.” Itachi admitted.

“It’s a shame, I was wondering which ABBA song you’d choose this year, Itachi.” Kisame said, and Itachi chuckled in return.

“What do you mean by forced, yeah?” Deidara asked.

“We will be expelled if we don’t turn up.” Pein replied. “Konan and I can’t risk being expelled because, as third years, we are currently applying for universities. I won’t allow any of you to have a black mark on your records, so we will all be participating.”

“For not attending a festival?! Isn’t that a bit harsh, yeah?” Deidara cried out.

“It’s not that surprising, considering we did steal and get away with it last year. None of us were old enough to buy alcohol last year either. This is our punishment.” Itachi hypothesized.

“How did Leader even let you do something illegal?”

“We did it behind his back.”

“Figured, yeah.”

“I wondered why the teachers did nothing last year. So this is what they were planning.” Kakuzu said as he folded his arms. “Jiraiya most likely stopped Tsunade from giving us a worse punishment.”

“This is barely a punishment, as all students have to participate in the festival anyway. This is a warning that we shouldn’t repeat our actions.” Itachi said. “I don’t know how Jiraiya convinced Tsunade to not punish us further, but I’m grateful.”

“Having your Dad as a teacher truly has helped out the Akatsuki, Leader!” Tobi stood up and saluted.

Pein cleared his throat. “Agreed. Now that we’ve explained that, we must come to a decision. We can either run a stall, run a cafe or put on a performance. Let’s hear your ideas.”

“An art stall!” Deidara chimed in. This was the perfect opportunity to present his art to the masses, and his mind was filled with images of students adoring his sculptures. “Clay sculptures!”

“Puppets.” Sasori interjected.

Deidara shook his head. “I respect your art style, but I’d rather do sculptures, yeah.”

“Hm. I wouldn’t want to make anything other than puppets. An artist becomes disheartened if they aren’t creating with their best art form.”

“I agree,” Deidara nodded as he spoke. “However, we can’t put your puppets on display.” He smirked, “You’ll scare someone!”

Sasori could not help but respond to Deidara’s obvious taunting, “My puppets are not frightening at all.”

“They look like you’ve made them out of humans, yeah.”

Kakuzu reached down from underneath the table, pulled out a large jar, placed it on the table in front of the duo, and unscrewed it whilst speaking. “Put a coin in.”

“I forgot about that thing!” Deidara stared at the jar, as if he could break it with his mind.

“What’s been placed on the table?” Itachi asked.

“The art jar.” Kisame chuckled. “The one that Deidara and Sasori have to put a coin in every time they start talking about art. It’s already half full.”

“How long have we had that again?” Zetsu asked.

“Two days.” Kakuzu grimaced.

“They’re not made out of humans.” Sasori spat as he dropped a coin into the jar.

“Really?” Deidara sarcastically asked.

“Well, of course.” Sasori shrugged. “That would be against the law.”

“Please tell me that’s not the only thing stopping you from making human puppets.”

“Perhaps we could do a stall that shows off various art skills? Wood crafts, clay moulding, paper folding?” Konan suggested.

“Everyone must be involved.” Pein rubbed his temples with his hands. “Only three of us would be interested in that. Now that I think about it, 10 is far too many to run a stall, so I’m dismissing that idea.”
Deidara sunk in his chair and sighed loudly. There goes that idea.

“Maybe something about sewing?” Kisame reached behind his back and pulled his leather jacket into view. “These are very well made, and they’re the whole reason why people recognise us on the school grounds.”

“As the person who made them,” Kakuzu said. “No. I don’t trust half of you with a needle.”

“I believe a band is the best idea.” Zetsu stated. “Sasori plays the bass, Itachi plays the trumpet, Hidan plays the drums, Konan plays the keyboard and Deidara sings and plays the guitar. Everybody not playing an instrument can work on the admin, the lightning and the stage. All we’ll need to do is play one song, and then we can leave.”

Murmurs of agreement were heard from around the table.

“I… I forgot that you know everything about everybody… Scary!” Tobi put his head on the table, his arms over his head, and pretended to cower in fear. Zetsu rolled his eyes.

Hidan picked up a pencil from the table and started to tap the edge of the wood. “It works! Let’s fucking do it!”

“You just want to make as much noise as possible, yeah!” Deidara yelled.

“Are there any objections?” Pein asked as he scanned the faces in the room.

The room fell silent, except from Hidan tapping on the table.

“That confirms it. We have a couple of months to prepare. I’ll let Tsunade know of our decision, and pray that she doesn’t object.”

“We have plans to stay at mine tonight.” Sasori added. “If you bring your instruments to mine, we can practice then.” He pulled out his phone once again. “I’ll let my Grandma know. Not that she minds the noise anyway.”

Deidara beamed. The idea of a band had suddenly appealed to him, and the thought of spending hours with the group planning and practicing was suddenly perfect. Perhaps that’s what he truly desired, not recognition but company, and the laughter and inside jokes that grew from a friendship circle. Music was an art form too, and art created with company was always the most magnificent.

“But what do we name our band?” Hidan asked.

“I think that’s fairly easy.” Itachi replied. “We’re a group of rebels being forced to create a band. We’re The Bandits.”

“The Bandits…” Pein paused, and then chuckled. “I like that. The Bandits it is.”

---

The living room of Sasori’s home had been prepared for the arrival of the Akatsuki. A thin, sand coloured blanket had been laid down on the floor where the group sat – the dining table only seated 5 – and bowls of curry had been placed down, alongside cutlery and canned drinks. The instruments, as well as Sasori’s medical books and other assorted household items, had been stacked neatly against the back wall. For the second time that day, a room Deidara was in was golden: the colours of the sunset seeped into the room, reflecting off the framed quotes and photos that hung on the walls.

“Hey, you know, we didn’t even decide on which song we’re gonna play.” Hidan said as he shoved a spoonful of curry into his mouth. “Let’s do that type of Finnish blood-thirsty death metal!”

“Let’s not.” Kakuzu replied.

“Ah, I thought about this earlier on. I have a suggestion for a genre.” Itachi spoke. “Kisame, would you…?”

“Sure, sure.” Kisame, on cue, stood up and walked over to retrieve Itachi’s trumpet case from the back of the room. He gently placed it next Itachi, opened the case, and placed the instrument in Itachi’s outstretched hands.

“Thank you. Now…” Itachi positioned the trumpet in front of his mouth, took a deep breath, and began to play. The room was filled with the lively tune, and the clear notes cut through the air.

“Hey, that’s jazz, right?” Deidara excitedly proclaimed. “What a great tune!”

Itachi finished playing and set the instrument down on his lap. “It’s short, lively, and doable with all our available instruments. I’m also a big fan of this genre, especially of Ray Charles.”

“That would mostly work,” Zetsu confirmed. “Except that particular song’s a duet.”

“I’m not singing both parts on stage!” Deidara complained. “That’s embarrassing, yeah.”

“Deidara, you’re the only singer?” Sasori’s grandmother, a frail-looking lady who was surprisingly full of energy, walked into the room. She was grandmotherly in every sense of the word; generous, kind, and she always provided a safe place for any Akatsuki member, whenever it was needed. Deidara had been Chiyo’s guest numerous times, and she never complained, instead treating each and every guest as if they were blood related.

The Akatsuki were immensely grateful for her continuous hospitality.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“But my adorable Sasori sings too!”

Sasori swore.

“Oh?” Deidara leant closer to Sasori whilst smirking. “He does, does he?”

“Yes.” Sasori sighed. “I do.”

The thought of spending hours together with Sasori filled Deidara’s mind, and he realised that the duet would be their first art collaboration together. He swallowed in anticipation, and he was taken aback by his desire to hear Sasori’s singing voice.

Deidara shook his head, as if the action would make his thoughts disappear. He was confused by his newfound curiosity, and why it always seemed to involve Sasori.

“If you’re uncomfortable with it, we won’t force you.” Konan said.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll sing. I never said that I sing because Deidara was already designated as the vocalist. Also, I wasn’t swearing at the idea of singing. I was swearing at Grandma calling me adorable.”

“But you are!” Chiyo and Deidara replied in unison.

“I will poison you.”

Hidan dropped his spoon into his now empty bowl and spoke. “Now we’ve chosen our song, let’s get started!”

“Yeah!” Deidara agreed as he jumped to his feet. The prospect of singing with Sasori was all he motivation he needed. “Sasori! You need your bass guitar!”

“Yeah, I’ll go get it.” Sasori stood up.

“Sasori…” Chiyo started.

“Yes?”

“Is that the bass guitar we left in our old house?”

Sasori swore again.

Hidan burst into loud laughter, “You did what?!”

“No,” Sasori sharply turned on his heel. “We packed it, right? Isn’t it in the attic with the other things from our move?”

“I remember donating it, because you specifically told me you didn’t want it anymore.” She recalled.

“Do we need a bass guitar?” Deidara asked. “Sasori’s already singing, hmm.”

“We don’t need one,” Itachi said. “But it would be preferable if we had one. The song wouldn’t sound the same.”

“I’m getting one.” Sasori scowled. “When you make art, you make it properly.”

“You don’t have a job,” Kakuzu pointed out. “The funds we have aren’t enough, either.”

“I’ll get the mone-” Sasori was interrupted by the sound of the front doorbell, which rang throughout the room. He exchanged a confused glance with his grandmother, before he scowled and sulked towards the front door.

“So moody!” Chiyo cackled. “I don’t know where he gets that from! His parents were never like that.”

“Thank you for cooking for us.” Itachi took the opportunity to give a polite remark. “It’s delicious, as always.”

“Don’t worry about it!” Chiyo waved his polite remark off. “I’ve always believed that food is to be eaten with friends and family. I know Sasori prefers the company, too. He’s been lonely since his parents’ death.” She bent down to pick up the books stacked on the floor, ones of herbal medicines and toxins, and her voice became softer. “Knowing him, he hasn’t said it, but he’s been studying hard lately to be accepted into medical school. He never used to study. The simple joy you all have given him with your friendship has meant so much to him.”

“We are truly glad.” Konan stated the sentiments that were felt by all the Akatsuki, and then the room fell silent. The group were conscious of the tragedy which had hit Sasori’s family, as it was evident in his everyday behaviour, from the flashes of sadness and sorrow which sometimes appeared across his fair face, to his sworn loyalty towards those who refused to leave him. The incident had undoubtedly shaped Sasori, as Chiyo sometimes spoke of a gentle and generous young man, who saw beauty in every aspect of the world, and although this behaviour was still evident within Sasori, it was masked by heartbreak.

“Hey,” Sasori walked into the doorway, his words breaking the tension that hung in the room. “Which one of you has a pink haired girlfriend?”

“Can it be me?” Hidan called back.

“No. And make some room, we’ve got another guest.”

“Itachi?” A teenage girl walked into view from behind Sasori, and she nervously scanned over the living room as she fiddled with the hem of her blouse. She seemed to be full of both determination and sadness, and she nodded at Sasori before taking another tentative step into the room.

“That voice… Sakura?” Itachi asked.

“Ah, yes, sorry I… I forgot to say.” Sakura replied, her voice laced with nervousness.

Deidara couldn’t blame her; to an outsider, the Akatsuki were a group of dangerous, heartless criminals, despite the fact they hadn’t done anything to deserve that image. It was probably the leather jackets.

“That tone of voice… is something wrong?”

“It’s…” She took a deep breath, pushed back her shoulders and raised her voice. “It’s your brother, Itachi! He’s in trouble, and I need your help.”