Author's Note: Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this, either. Done on request from trancekuja
There was something wrong with this Uchiha's head, Deidara was sure of it. Not to say that he was the only one- even Itachi had his moments- but at least the older Uchiha kept most of his psychosis under control and Kisame was around to protect the rest of the world from the fallout after one of those breakdowns. Uchiha-bo didn't have anyone, no one to counterbalance the instability when the boy pressed the tips of his fingers into his temples and closed his eyes as if to protect everything from the sight of his blood-red eyes. No one at all, really, on the same level on him, what with Orochimaru acting the part of teacher (albeit an impatient one) instead of comrade and as for that four-eyes Kabuto… hell, Deidara had only met the man once and even he knew the Leaf traitor was far more of a snake than Orochimaru could ever be.
Of course, having spent most of the past two and half years training in Otogakure, stability had never been much of an issue with the little Uchiha seeing as if he ever lost it, Orochimaru was around to take the kid out before he did any serious damage, but the boy had practically zero experience with higher-level shinobi missions and Orochimaru wanted that rectified before the three years were up for reasons known only to himself, so the snake sannin had called in a favor. Which was why, Deidara thought sourly (as he flexed his new arm and wished that the damned thing had some feeling in it) he was here now, watching Uchiha-bo sulk in the dark brooding sort of way his older brother had perfected years before, what with the "staring-off-into-the-horizon" with his eyes narrowed and his arms crossed and the "most-definitely-not-shooting-Deidara-glares" every few seconds. It was almost demeaning. Deidara would have protested it, had protested it, in fact, but before he had gotten through the first sentence of his ill-worded complaint, Rei-sama had sent him one of those amused looks he was famous for (at least among the different members of the Akatsuki) and said, "I thought you would be pleased, Deidara. Working with the younger Uchiha will do much to take your mind off your recent… loss." Deidara hadn't had much to say after that, but he was beginning to get a pretty good idea of why Sasori-danna had hated it so much whenever Rei-sama got it in his head to toy with his subordinates.
Besides, Rei-sama couldn't have been more wrong. The little Uchiha's dark eyes, dark hair, childish impatience, even his glare, forced Deidara to continually compare the kid to his former (even after a month, that still hurt) partner and find him… wanting. He was supposed to be the impatient one, damn it, the one who had to be constantly told to relax, to stop being so tense already, the target would arrive soon and complaining wouldn't make him come any faster, not this Itachi wannabe who either had to be going to the worst hairdresser in existence or really overdid it on the gel. The kid, Sasuke, was annoying. He never said anything if he could help it, and when he did, it was either condescending (at eight years younger than Deidara, the brat should have known better than to pretend to be the demolition expert's superior) or cold, but cold in a deliberate sort of way, not Itachi's style of cold where he truly didn't care what you were saying, which was just stupid, because it just made it obvious how inexperienced Sasuke was. You couldn't fake things; it was too obvious to anyone with any experience at all in reading people, and Deidara, with years of experience dealing with a man who wasn't human enough to use the normal sort of body language, could see through Sasuke like translucent glass. It was almost pathetic, really.
"Why hasn't he arrived yet?"
Though it wasn't pathetic enough to make listening to the little Uchiha whine at all entertaining. "He'll get here when he gets here, un," Deidara said for what felt like the thousandth time.
The corner of Sasuke's eye twitched, and almost on cue he raised his right hand to his face and started massaging his temples. However, this time around his Sharingan failed to flicker, so he wasn't about to lose it. Yet. Deidara was really getting tired of having to slap the kid awake from his periodic dazes. It could have been the training Orochimaru had put the little Uchiha through, but Deidara was more inclined to think that Sasuke just naturally had a few screws loose.
"You really shouldn't do that, un."
Sasuke glanced up from his perusal of the ground with a glare. "What?"
"Press into your temples so hard. You're likely to hurt yourself doing that, un."
The little Uchiha's snort conveyed exactly what he thought of Deidara's suggestion, but he lowered his hand back to his side just the same. Deidara went back to flexing his arm. This was the routine they'd fallen into, one Deidara didn't particularly like. Their personalities didn't clash, exactly, but they weren't in the least compatible, for all of Rei-sama's talk of a close-range Sharingan user and a long-range bomber being the ideal fighting partnership. Both of them were too used to being the younger in a working relationship and not accustomed enough to dealing with someone whose patience was as minimal as their own, and so they avoided making contact of any sort whenever possible. The quiet between them just made Deidara miss Sasori more keenly. There had been silence then, too, but the comfortable sort, where Deidara knew he could say something, anything, at any time and not expect a stare of incomprehension in return.
Deidara hated this. He wanted Sasori-danna more than anything, but Sasori was dead and a decent explosion would have been almost as good just then, but he couldn't have that either, because Rei-sama had ordered him to keep the little Uchiha under control, and keeping the kid under control meant keeping enough of his respect that he'd take a threat seriously, and somehow explosions just didn't enter into that equation. So he sat there, and flexed his arm, and wished he hadn't been chosen as Sasuke's babysitter. He wished he hadn't lost his arm to the copy-nin. He wished for a lot of things, because without an explosion to keep him in the moment, to distract him from the hellhole that was currently his life, there wasn't much else to think about but how he'd been screwed over recently. And Rei-sama wanted him to control Sasuke. What a fucking stupid joke.
A shift in Deidara's peripheral vision alerted the bomber to the little Uchiha's change in position. The kid was moving towards him, was actually crouching to sit beside him, on the sun-heated rock that kept out the chill that the coat couldn't (when the thought then occurred to Deidara that an explosion would warm things up nicely, he knew that was the signal that his own psychosis was starting to spiral; never a good sign when everything he thought about started to lead back to blowing something up), and then Deidara momentarily lost sight of Sasuke as he sat directly in Deidara's blind spot on his left before Deidara turned his head to look the little Uchiha in the eye. "You want something, un?"
Sasuke met his gaze evenly, his pupils still dark (thank someone on high he still hadn't lost it yet; in Deidara's degenerating state of mind he didn't think he was in any condition to deal with a raving shinobi with an activated Sharingan). "Our target will be here in about fifteen minutes."
Deidara had enough experience with Itachi to know that even without the Sharingan, the Uchiha clan had better than average eyesight, so with the knowledge that they had some time to relax before I-Stole-From-A-Rogue-Shinobi-Organization-And-Am-Going-To-Regret-It-Very-Soon arrived (though honestly Deidara would only feel better after he had blown the guy to itty-bitty pieces), he put his hands behind his head and lay back on the warm stone, reveling for the moment in the lack of tension in the air now that they had a definite timeline to go by. "That's good, un."
Sasuke stared at him for a moment before crossing his legs and turning his attention somewhere in the direction of their approaching victim. "This man we are about to kill… he is not a shinobi."
"No," Deidara agreed with the little Uchiha, "But his bodyguards are. Three jounin, seven chuunin." Sasuke still looked unsatisfied, so Deidara kept on talking. "I get the first attack in, but you can clean up the survivors, so you get to fight the stronger shinobi, un. Happy now?"
By Sasuke's expression, it was obvious he wasn't. "This mission is a waste of my time."
Deidara shrugged, still lying down. "Everything is a waste of time, un. So you should just enjoy it while you can, else dying will seem even more pointless." Sasori hadn't lived by that belief, and he hadn't died the right way. Of course, the only other person that lived by that particular creed besides Deidara himself was Kisame, and most of the time even he didn't do it right. Came from associating with Itachi so much, Deidara supposed.
The next look Sasuke shot him was one of confusion. "You believe life is pointless?"
Deidara wasn't really in the mood to explain his anti-nihilist philosophy. "No, the actions themselves are pointless. What you get out of them isn't, un."
Of course the little Uchiha had chosen now to start getting talkative. "There isn't anything more to it, un."
Sasuke nodded understandingly in the sort of way that meant he didn't really understand at all, but as long as he was willing to let the subject drop, Deidara didn't really care. And… well… at least the discussion had gotten his mind off his Sasori-danna, if only for the moment. Sasori had never wanted to talk about philosophy. Just another point where the puppeteer and the Uchiha differed. They waited in silence until the time their target arrived.
That night, after Deidara's mind had dragged itself back from the brink and he could finally start concentrating on the moment again (the moment this time being a rather elaborate sculpture of a scorpion), Sasuke decided to continue their earlier discussion. "I don't believe actions are worthless."
Deidara glanced at the little Uchiha, though his hands never stopped in their molding of the scorpion's tail. "Why's that, un?"
Sasuke never took his gaze off the fire. "Actions bring closure. What you feel about the action is secondary."
Which explained why the kid seemed to have no qualms about killing his own brother. If he thought murdering Itachi was the proper action, what did it matter what he felt about it?
However, even if the kid was entitled to his opinion, it was a stupid one. "You're wrong, un. It is emotions that bring action about, not the other way around."
Sasuke finally brought his eyes up to meet Deidara's own; they gleamed red in the firelight. "So you're saying if I do this…" and he reached over to touch Deidara on the cheek, "It's because I find you strange and uncomplicated in all the wrong ways, and not because it will startle you and make you stop bothering with that ridiculous sculpture?"
Deidara laughed and leaned close. "You'll have to do a lot more than that to startle me, un. And my sculpture is not ridiculous." At such close range, the little Uchiha's eyes weren't actually black, but brown with some muted red surrounding the edges of the cornea. "It is beautiful. All temporary things are beautiful, un." Which was why Deidara found death so unattractive. Death was the one permanence, and permanence was ugly. What was the beauty in something that never changed, like Sasuke's eyes were changing now, the red becoming more prominent, the brown darkening to the color of charcoal. "No one does anything without emotion behind it, Sasuke. For instance," and Deidara placed one hand on the Uchiha's chest, Sasuke's now red eyes shifting their gaze downward, "When I push you so," and Deidara gave a shove with enough strength behind it to cause Sasuke to fall roughly backwards onto his hands, "It's because I find you distracting, and I want to finish my sculpture tonight, un."
Seemingly not offended at all by Deidara's rejection, the Uchiha smirked and turned his gaze back to the fire, the Sharingan retracting as he did so. "What is that thing, anyway?"
Deidara returned his attention fully back to the scorpion, created out of clay and Deidara's intent. Just then it was incomplete, but not for long. "A tribute, un. To one who believed in even less than you do, and died because of it." Belief was, after all, the thing that kept people alive, be it in a higher being, themselves, or other people. Deidara himself believed in impermanence, which meant he was more likely than most to live forever because impermanence was almost as constant as entropy. Sasuke, on the other hand… his belief was likely to end in his own death, one way or another. To always be around those who had faith in so little… it was almost depressing. But at least that lack of belief meant that Deidara had finally found something Sasori and Sasuke had in common. The discovery wasn't as comforting as he thought it would be.