"It is a symbol," Sasori said. "A symbol of our strength, as well as our unity."
"It's nail polish," Deidara said. He glanced up at Itachi and Kisame, who were watching him, silently. "You guys don't actually expect me to wear this shit, right?"
Kisame grinned. "Oi, Itachi," Kisame said. "How about we just rip those fingernails off?"
Deidara threw his things in the corner, then sat heavily on the bed. His new room was less than inviting. The walls were gray and the wooden floor was cool from the draft coming in through the cracks in the wall.
Slowly, Deidara pulled out the small vial of nail polish and held it to the light. Purple. Deidara crossed his eyes. The fuck did he join again?
There was a knock on the door. "What?" Deidara said.
The door opened. Slowly, Sasori maneuvered himself inside, his large body just barely fitting through the door frame. "There is a meeting," Sasori said.
"I just got here," Deidara said.
"Get your things," Sasori said.
Deidara glared, then threw on his cloak. He had only managed to paint two of his fingernails.
Apparently today was the rare day all of the Akatsuki members were gathered in person, and as such, was a cause of some celebration. "Thank God," Zetsu said. His white half was speaking. "I hate doing projection techniques!"
"Projection techniques?" Deidara glanced back at Sasori, who was ignoring him and picking up a bowl of rice from the table.
"It is when we project our chakra across great distances; it is a means to communicate." Zetu's dark half nodded toward Deidara as if in greeting. "You are the new member?"
"Yeah," Deidara said. He wondered silently how the fuck a plant could talk, much less have two voices. Before he could comment further, Zetsu sank into the ground, disappearing into the floor.
Deidara glanced around him. It was a fucking freak show. In the corner, one member was impaling himself with some sort of stick, while his partner was plucking the stitches in his arms. Beside them, Sasori ambled with several plates of food stacked up on his arthropod's body, pieces of rice falling onto the floor as he walked.
Deidara's eyes swept across the room, toward Kisame and Itachi. Kisame was easily the tallest Akatsuki in the room; he towered over his partner, leering menacingly in the shadows. In comparison, Itachi looked delicate, almost feminine, entirely out of place with the freak show surrounding him.
Deidara groaned, inwardly. He had been bested by the shortest fucking Akatsuki in the room.
"What's wrong?" Sasori said. His eyes slid upward to meet his. "You are not eating."
"Hmph. As if I'd want to eat this shit," Deidara said. "Probably fucking poisoned. Hmph!"
Sasori rolled his eyes, then ambled toward the table.
The door opened. The members looked up, faces catching the light as their Leader walked into the room.
But Deidara wasn't looking at the Leader. He was watching the kunoichi following after him.
"Oi, who's she?" Deidara asked. Sasori glared.
"She is our Vice Leader, Konan," Sasori said.
"Huh," Deidara said.
Deidara didn't know half the fuck of what they were talking about; something about jinchuuriki, he wasn't sure. His eyes wandered as the other Akatsuki members listened solemnly, stone still and watching as their Leader stood at the head of the room.
Deidara was impressed by the number of piercings their Leader was sporting. Maybe he'd look good with a few nose piercings, too.
"Pay attention!" Sasori hissed. Deidara glared.
"We have a new member," the Leader said. He nodded toward Deidara and motioned for him to come to the floor. "Deidara of the Rock."
"Yo," Deidara said. The other members stared.
"He specializes in explosive techniques and is the newest partner of Sasori no Danna; treat him well. He will be integral to our newest plans."
"See that?" Deidara said. "I'm fucking integral." Sasori ignored him.
Deidara puffed his chest and glanced back at the kunoichi, Konan, and flashed her a pointed grin.
Konan ignored him, too.
The one good thing about being an Akatsuki, other than getting to use his art, was the money. Shit. Deidara loved the money. He could fucking roll around in it, make a bed and sleep in it, he had more money than he knew what to do with.
The other members dealt with their money all differently: Sasori liked to keep spare notes tucked in the crevices of his puppets or stuffed in each of his hollow legs. Kisame gambled and Hidan used it in his sacrifices; Konan used it to buy more nail polish.
Deidara wasn't sure what the fuck Zetsu did with his money. The fuck could a plant buy, anyway?
As for himself, Deidara was smart: he kept his money in several secret accounts, all under different names and all accessible from different parts of the country. And once a month, he'd furtively send a check to his little sister, who was still living in Iwakagure. He made sure to send the checks under different names, so that she wouldn't know they came from him.
If she knew they came from him, she'd probably burn the checks and stomp them on the ground. Deidara knew she was pretty stupid that way.
One morning, Deidara woke up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and swinging his feet over the bed. His feet landed squarely in the middle of a huge puddle in the middle of the room. "Shit!"
Deidara jumped back. His room was flooded. It had rained the night before, and rainwater had seeped through the cracks of his shitty room.
"This is fucking bullshit!" Deidara said. He had spent the better half of the morning bitching to Sasori, who was busy trying to ignore him. "My fucking room is flooded, and what the fuck am I supposed to do with that?"
"Wear boots," Sasori said. Deidara glared. Behind him, Hidan laughed. Kakazu walked in, puzzled. "What is he complaining about, now?" Kakazu asked.
"The brat can't stand rainwater," Hidan said.
"Because I can't use my explosives! They're wet!" Deidara said.
"Whatever," Hidan said.
"You should use another room," Zetsu said. His lighter half was speaking. "Itachi and Kisame are away on a mission; you could use one of theirs."
"Kisame would eat him alive," Dark Zetsu said.
"Then he should use Itachi's," Light Zetsu said.
"What? No fucking way!" Deidara said.
"He should use Itachi's. Then he will not complain as much."
"Then it's settled," Sasori said. "Move into Itachi's room."
"No," Deidara said. Sasori's eyes narrowed.
"Boy. Either you sleep in there or you stop complaining. Because if I hear one word from you, I swear I will slit your throat and find someone else in your stead," Sasori said. He leaned closer, beady eyes glaring. "It has happened before."
"Fuck," Deidara said.
Deidara set his satchel of explosives squarely on Itachi's desk, and silently surveyed the room. Like his, Itachi's room was bare: gray stone walls and a cold wooden floor. There was a blanket folded neatly at the foot of the bed, and on the nightstand, a few small papers stacked neatly under the lamp.
Deidara frowned, and started undoing the sheets to the bed. There was no fucking way Deidara would use the same bedsheets as Itachi used. He threw them in the corner, then replaced the sheets with his, which were still soggy at the ends from dangling over the water on the floor.
After Deidara was finished tucking in the bedsheets, he stood up and paced a little, wondering if he should just say 'fuck it' and go to Kisame's room. Then he remembered Kisame could probably eat him, and decided he should probably just stay here, for now.
Deidara flounced onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling. It's been a while since he and Sasori had been on a mission, and Deidara was hoping they would be called away before Itachi came back. The last thing he would need was the fucking Uchiha walking in on Deidara sleeping in his bed. Fuck that shit, Deidara thought. Briefly, he contemplated sleeping outside, except that it was still raining, and Deidara didn't like the rain. It was what got him here in the first place.
Deidara leaned over, then pulled open the little drawer in the nightstand. Again, there were a few small papers, mostly hotel invoices and a few miscellaneous items: a hairband, a few senbon, a paring knife. Deidara frowned and began pawing through the papers when his hand felt something sticking out from the corner of the drawer.
Deidara sat up, then carefully pulled the drawer out. There was a false bottom. Curious, Deidara emptied the things onto the bed and tapped the bottom open.
There, taped to the wooden plank of the false bottom, was a small photograph. It was faded and the edges were bent. Squinting, Deidara pulled it out and held it up to the light.
It was a photograph of a man and a woman and a small boy. They were smiling. Beside them, a younger man stood, but the face had been scratched out roughly. Deidara frowned.
"It is a picture of my family," Itachi said. Deidara jumped.
"Fuck!" Deidara said. He jumped out of the bed, throwing the photograph on the covers. "You're supposed to be away! The fuck are you doing here?"
"It is my room," Itachi said. "And we completed our objectives early."
They stared at each other for an uneasy moment. Deidara fidgeted, slightly. "Oi, I wasn't snooping. I'm only in here because Sasori told me to, he said he'd cut my throat if I didn't-"
"I know," Itachi said. He moved past Deidara, setting down his pack and shrugging out of his cloak, which was heavy and wet with rain. "Sasori already spoke with me about this particular arrangement. I cannot say I am pleased, however with your ability, I realize it is important to keep your clay dry. You cannot ignite your chakra otherwise."
Suddenly Deidara wished it could be as simple as just leaving his clay in Itachi's room, but they both knew Deidara's chakra was just as tempermental and easily smothered by the damp as any other explosive. Deidara would have to stay here, as well. "You can have my room," Deidara said, lamely.
"I would rather not," Itachi said.
"Hmph," Deidara said. Slowly he gathered up Itachi's things and started replacing them back in the drawer. "I wasn't looking," Deidara said. "Honestly I don't give a shit, I was just bored."
"I see," Itachi said.
"This is your family?" Deidara asked. He was caught; he might as well go for broke, now.
Itachi stared at him, stonily. "It is," he said. His eyes flashed red.
"And this guy? Is this you?" Deidara pointed to the man whose face had been scratched out. "Because if it is, that's pretty fucking creepy."
Itachi's eyes narrowed.
"Maybe I'll stay with Sasori," Deidara said.
If Deidara wrote to his sister, his letters would read like this:
I just joined a criminal organization where most of the members are either plants or monsters or fucking psycho, and now I'm rooming with the guy who made me look like an ass in front of everybody else. By the way, it keeps fucking raining. I'll never get my own room.
But Deidara didn't write letters. His sister wouldn't give a fuck about his suffering. His sister would rather forget that Deidara was alive.
Deidara was all set to move back into his room and deal with the leaking piece of shit walls when he realized his bedsheets were still tucked firmly into Itachi's bed. So Deidara slunk back, pissed off and defeated, his room now with rainwater up to his knees and fucking Itachi back early from his mission.
Deidara was about to push open the door when he saw Itachi sitting heavily on the bed, his eyes lowered and turning over the photograph in his hands.
Deidara was a lot of things, but he wasn't stupid. Even if he hated the guy, he wasn't the type who would burst in on an obviously private moment. God knows Hidan and Kakazu did that to him more than once, and Deidara hated the insensitive pricks. Slowly he moved back, then quietly shut the door.
"You take too long!" Sasori said. Deidara glared as his partner stood irritated at the forest's edge, fingering a kunai and glaring dangerously.
"It was difficult," Deidara said.
"Because you were not prepared; you wasted your time and mine," Sasori said.
"Hmph," Deidara said. His arms ached and his chakra reserves were low. He was pissed off that he'd have to get lectured on top of it.
It was still raining. Rumor had it that the Leader was the one making it rain: someone had been trying to infiltrate the Akatsuki hideout, and to better manage the periphery, the Leader cast his special rain jutsu around the cave. Of course, that just meant Deidara's room, and now Hidan and Kakazu's, would remain flooded and molding.
Zetzu, of course, loved the rain. Yet another reason why Deidara couldn't stand the fucking plant.
For the most part, Deidara was just beginning to tolerate the Uchiha. He was a good roommate: he was clean, he didn't snore, and most of all he didn't pry into Deidara's business. Deidara appreciated that. Plus, after seeing him with the photograph, Deidara began to suspect Itachi's past was similar to his own.
Deidara had been chased out of the Rock. All he had wanted to do was further his art, but because the jutsu was forbidden, he was forced to become a missing-nin. It was less than ideal: he would have rather had his art help the village, but he supposed helping terrorist organizations wasn't so bad, either. Especially since he could see his art go off with a bang.
His sister, of course, was ashamed of him. He didn't blame her, really: if he were her, he'd be ashamed of himself, too.
Deidara frowned, picking at the sleeves of his cloak. He had a fucking good gig going: he was making money and he was using his art. So why the fuck was he so depressed?
Sasori was not very sympathetic. "You think too much," Sasori said. "You don't spend enough time training."
But Deidara couldn't help it. Sometimes, during those rare moments when he was thinking too hard, he'd turn over a ball of clay in his hands, absently kneading it against the table. Its weight was soothing to him, and occasionally he'd let his hand take up the clay, rolling it around in the mouth of his palm.
The air was damp. Normally, Deidara would set off a small explosion just to make himself feel better, but the clay had taken up the surrounding moisture, and it was rendered unsuitable for detonation; it smoldered under Deidara's chakra, black smoke wafting out from Deidara's palm.
It was just as well that it didn't burst. The Uchiha probably wouldn't appreciate his room being on fire, anyway.
Deidara was sitting with Kisame, who was chewing on a dango and staring up at the sky, when Deidara asked, "So what's your partner's deal, anyway?"
Kisame squinted. "What do you mean?" Kisame asked.
"I mean, the shit with his family. You've seen the picture, right? What happened? Did they throw him out?"
Kisame stared. "You don't know?" Kisame said.
"What?" Deidara said. Kisame's mouth stretched into a lazy grin.
"He fucking killed them," Kisame said. "All of them. He slaughtered his whole clan."
Deidara stared. And stared. And his hand tightened into a fist.
He got the story through starts and spurts: that Itachi had slaughtered his kin just to see if he could do it. "All the strongest shinobi, and he killed them all," Kisame said. There was a touch of pride in his voice, as if Kisame was pleased to have such a badass partner all to himself. "Fucking wiped the floor with them, and you know what? He's got a little brat of a brother running around, and he's gonna steal his eyes, too."
People have accused Deidara of being selfish, of killing people for the sake of his art. But before he left Iwakagure, Deidara had never intentionally killed anyone outside of his missions. He only wanted to learn the jutsu, nothing more.
But Itachi? Sparing his little brother just to steal his eyes?
"The fuck is wrong with him?" Deidara said. Kisame grinned.
"Who knows," Kisame said. "Maybe you should ask him yourself."
It was then and there that Deidara decided he hated Uchiha Itachi. He humiliated him, yes, but he also made a mockery of his entire clan. That to Deidara seemed fucking unconscionable.
Deidara managed to effectively avoid Itachi for the next few days. Thankfully, the Uchiha slept irregular hours and was hardly in his room, only coming in to grab a change of clothes or replenish the items in his pack. Deidara had unrolled a small mat and pushed it against the wall, but still, the room was horribly cramped. Deidara wondered if maybe Itachi had gotten claustrophobic: god knows Deidara was feeling it, even when he was sitting there by himself.
He couldn't bring himself to confront the Uchiha, not just yet. Deidara wanted to make sure he was prepared, should anything come out of it.
Deidara was sitting cross-legged on the floor, scratching out another check for his sister. This time the check would be from one Akihiko of the Rock. Deidara concentrated, writing slowly so that his handwriting wouldn't be too obvious.
"Who is that?" Itachi asked. Deidara looked up and glared.
"Fuck off," Deidara said. Itachi watched him, catlike and curious, before setting down his things.
"You will be relieved to know Kisame and I are going on another mission," Itachi said. "Hopefully by the time we get back, your room will be restored."
"Hmph," Deidara said. He scratched the kanji out vehemently, glaring at the paper. "Maybe I should just stay here and keep annoying you. Hmph."
Itachi said nothing. Quietly he sat on the bed and began folding his clothes. "She probably knows those checks are from you," Itachi said. "You should probably think about dropping the pretense."
Deidara's head shot up. "What did you say?" Deidara said. Itachi tilted his head.
"The woman you are always writing to. Perhaps you should think about checking your accounts, just to make sure she is actually taking your money."
"Teme!" Deidara stood. "What the fuck do you know about it, anyway?"
"Enough to know that sometimes it is easier to cut the ties; anything else is only foolish," Itachi said. Deidara gritted his teeth.
"You would say that; you fucking killed your whole clan," Deidara said. Itachi seemed surprised, but he quickly rearranged his face into a hardened mask.
"There are only murderers in this room, Deidara-san," Itachi said. "I find it ironic that you should sit and pass judgment on me."
"You killed everybody, and for no fucking reason!" Deidara said. He shot up in Itachi's face, glaring. "I do what I do for my art. Nothing else. But you? Fuck! I've heard of some fucking insane-as-shit reasons, but yours is the fucking tops."
"Careful," Itachi said.
"Or what? You're gonna use your voodoo on me?" Deidara said. "I don't like you," Deidara said. "Unlike you, I know what family is. So if you even think about saying one word about my sister, I'll-"
"What?" Itachi said. "Blow me up?"
He was mocking him now. Deidara glared.
"I am leaving soon," Itachi said. He slung his pack over his shoulder. "Do not stay up."
They were sparring under the gray-dark sky, the rest of the Akatsuki members giving Kakazu and Hidan a wide berth. Deidara hung back, pushing wet strands of hair out of his eyes and watching, silently. With his scope, he adjusted his sight, focusing on Kakazu as he impaled Hidan's chest with his spear. Hidan grinned good-naturedly-Deidara could almost hear him mouth the words, "If I could die, I'd be dead!"-while the other members stood, black cloaks wet and heavy with rain.
"You see?" Sasori said. He had crept up behind him, his wooden body damp and creaking, slightly. "They are happy because they train. You would do well to learn from them."
Now the Akatsuki gathered, a throng of black cloaks circling the rock. Sasori grunted, then slowly walked toward them, his heavy body swaying under the rain.
The nail polish was starting to chip. Deidara absently picked at one dark-tipped nail with the edge of his thumb, frowning and thinking about unity, and all the things the word should mean.
That night, Deidara stood in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at his reflection. His face was pale and his eyes were rimmed with black circles, and he wondered silently were he to see his sister, if she'd be afraid.
Fuck this shit, Deidara thought. He should go and fucking train.
Deidara was in the shed, furiously trying out his new technique, when the door opened. It was their Vice Leader, Konan. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Experimenting," Deidara said, which was true: Deidara was working on a technique that he hoped would kill Itachi. "I'm experimenting with different levels of chakra; I want to see how well they control the blast."
"I see." Konan's body rippled, like paper folding and unfolding in front of him. Silently, Deidara wished she were his partner instead of the their Vice Leader. She was more of an artist than Sasori could ever hope to be. "There is a mission," Konan said. "We need you to capture the jinchuuriki of the Sand; Sasori is from Suna and knows the terrain. And with your particular talents, we think you should be successful."
Deidara pressed the clay hard into the table, then rose to meet her eyes.
"When do we start?" Deidara asked.