I glance sideways to the hunched figure that walks beside me. He moves incredibly graceful for having been stuffed into a puppet, then cloaked beyond recognition. I've tried for an hour straight now to start a conversation and to no avail. Normally he'd at least humor me for the first five minutes, giving me a "humph" or a grunt to let me know that he heard me, but today I haven't even managed to get a "shut up, already" out of him.

"Sasori-danna, you never told me where we're supposed to be going, un. Or what we're doing either!" I cry.

Silence answers me. I rest my case.

I sigh and glance around at the thick forest that my danna has led me to. I know where I am from the various times that Sasori-danna and I have been on missions here for the akatsuki. We're in Hi no Kuni, Land of Fire, but something tells me that this isn't our final destination. I've learned that every time we get closer to our final destination, Sasori-danna hushes me more often, and is more alert, completely aware of his surroundings.

I reach my hand in my pocket and one of my mouths finds a piece of clay. I concentrate on forming it, anything to take my mind off of the pounding of my feet and the stinging of the branches on my bare face and hand. Sasori-danna glances over at the noise of my hand-mouth chewing and then looks back to the road.

After a few moments I hear the first words out of him since we left HQ, "Just don't blow anything up, we're supposed be moving in secrecy."

I frown, "Sorry, Sasori-danna," and then grin, letting the mouth reveal a small bird, which I promptly deposit in my pocket.

He looks sideways, his head still pointed in the direction we're headed and I'm not sure what he's looking at: me or the road. I look away and he sighs looking back to the road.

He stops momentarily and after a few more steps I realize he is behind me now and stop, "What is it, danna?"

He produces a puppet hand from beneath his cloak and hands me a picture; "We're looking for this man. We're not sure what name he'll be using, since no one has been able to tell us the same name. He's a traveler, and a crook, and his last known sighting was in Sunagakure."

I look at him and for the first time I realize what might be wrong, "Isn't that where you used to live, Sasori-danna, un?"

He growls, snatching the picture away from me, "It is."

I frown, jumping back when he violently takes the picture. I open my mouth to speak, but the look in his eyes tells me to stay quiet and so for the first time with my Sasori-danna, I quickly shut my mouth, staying silent. The look that crosses his face is almost thankful, if I didn't know better. That quickly disappears though, as he turns and continues walking. I fall in pace with him and return to my earlier activity of forming the bird, taking it from my pocket and adding some finer details.

What seems like hours later, though I'm really not sure how long it's been, we finally stop at a border made of brush, beyond which I can see sand, and he turns to me, "We're about to enter the desert, and it's about noon. The heat can be deadly here, be careful."

I roll my eyes, "I'll be fine, un, I'll just fly!"

He rolls his eyes in turn, "If you feel tired, at all, I want you to land. I can't afford having you sick, or dead."

I throw my bird and with a simple seal it's large enough to fly with. Ignoring what he just said, I turn to him, "You want to fly with me too, un?"

He shakes his head, "I'm not repeating last time."

"I caught you, didn't I, un?" I cross my arms over my chest.

"Yeah, after a fifty foot drop," he scowls.

I laugh, "That was fun though, un!"

"Not for me, I'll walk," and with that he starts.

I jump up on my bird and with ease take off, mumbling to my bird, "We don't need Sasori-danna to have a little fun, un. We can do flips without him all we like!"

I look down and see my Sasori-danna as a little speck, hobbling along across the sand. I try to stay at his pace, but with his puppet weighing him down and the sand not allowing an easy passage I fly ahead.

For a while the flight is fun, as I flip around in the wind, free as a real bird, and watch Sasori-danna scowl at me from at least a hundred feet below. I laugh and sit down by the bird's neck, allowing the wind to push my hair away from my mechanical eye. I feel the breeze as it softly passes over my face, only a sting here or there as some sand lands in a wound from the trees, but that brushes away with ease.

Strangely, I start to tire. I look at the sun, seeing if it's close to the time when I should land and find Sasori-danna so we can camp, but from where the sun is, it looks like it's only been an hour or so. I frown, standing once more, but on wobbly legs. I stretch them, trying to get them to wake up, but they only falter more. I look down to my hand and I can see it's tinged red from the constant exposure to the sun. What was that Sasori-danna had told me? Something about being tired…

My bird falters and I quickly have to pull my wits about to catch it. I shake my head, and this time, when I lose concentration, I feel a jerk in my stomach, as if I am falling. That falling sensation continues, almost like I'm flying without the bird, until I jerk, and everything goes black.


I watch as the bird falters, and I stop. The bird has now flown well ahead of me with my numbskull partner. The bird's wings droop again, but this time, they do not pull back up, and I watch as a small figure crashes to the ground, followed closely by the bird.

I release myself from Hiruko with a few simple seals, storing him back in his scroll, and taking all that I remember from my time in Suna, I dash to the crash site as quickly as possible. When I reach it, the bird is in shambles, but my partner seems to be in one piece, lying awkwardly with a leg trapped under the giant wing of the bird.

Walking carefully on the sand near the fall, feeling the unstable mess slip under my feet, I kneel at Deidara's side. I hover a hand over his mouth, and rest the other in a fleeting touch on his chest. He's alive, and his breathing seems unhitched. I try to lift the bird off of his leg, and even in his sleep the pain registers, bringing a cry to his lips. Letting the cable in my stomach unwind, I heave with the cord as a balance, and manage to roll the bird off of Deidara before it is claimed by the sand, swallowed into the depthless pits below us.

I pull his body toward me and rest a hand gently on his forehead. He's burning up, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was from a fever. He could have heat sickness… or it might just be exhaustion. I'll have to wait and see.

Draping his unconscious body of my shoulder, I slide down to the side of the dune that now has shade, seeing as how the sun has nearly begun to set. Resting Deidara against our packs, first I remove his cloak, making a pillow of it, and laying him back on the cool sand. I run some water over a few cloths from my bag and dab them over his forehead, brushing away sand and sweat. Leaning further down, I run my hand over his leg, and find a small place where the bone seems to have broken. Pulling the left leg of his pants up, over the wound, I inspect it a little further before popping the bone into place, then replacing the pant leg. A whimper forms in his throat and he shifts in protest. Better now than when he wakes up. Finally, I run a few sips of water down his throat, before pulling my cloak around me, and waiting for him to awaken.

My waiting finally pays off hours later. Staring at the moon in its midnight position, I hear a low groan from beside me. Looking over, I watch as Deidara turns over, onto his left side, and instantly curses, sitting straight up and retching.

"I told you to stop flying when you felt tired," I scold quietly as his stomach heaves, not knowing if he's heard me or not, and hoping he hasn't. I feel better now that I've said it, even if he didn't hear me. It's not always a bad thing to be determined; it just hurt him in this case.


My wits come about me again, but suddenly I'm no longer flying. I feel sand beneath my hands and wonder when that got there. I try to think. I was flying. I felt myself getting tired. I felt like I was flying, only not really on my bird, more like a dive. Everything went black, and now here I am. Then it hits me: I fell. Shit. I hope danna isn't mad.

I try to roll over on my side and pain shoots up from my left leg, and gnarls my stomach. I curse and sit up, feeling my innards do flip-flops, as everything within them seems to come up my throat and out my mouth. Someone says something, but I don't register what. Eventually, even my hand-mouths vomit whatever they can, staining the sand around us various colors, before turning it black with blood in the moonlight.

With the blood, my danna is at my side, steadying me. Maybe he was there all along and I didn't notice him until now. I can't remember.

Once everything in my body that can escape has escaped, my Sasori-danna gently lifts me away from the mess and carries me and my cloak, which has been behind me apparently, to a cleaner spot near the bags.

He resettles me on the ground, and with my body listening to what I want it to do again, I glance up at him. I watch as he pours some of our precious water onto cloths and being uncharacteristically kind, he cleans off the mess on my face that I know is there from being sick various times.

Finally he finishes, tossing the cloth aside for now and wetting a second one. This one he rests across my forehead.

"You should be alright now," he comments, "You woke up, and that's the hardest step."

I groan out, "What happened?" even to me my voice sounds strange, "I'm sure you saw, danna. What happened, un?"

He hushes me and opens my mouth. I wince when he touches my tongue and I watch as he comes away with what looks like a black liquid in the moonlight. It looks just like blood.

He sighs heavily, "You fell. The heat got to you and you got sick. You passed out and you fell with your bird on top of your left leg. It was broken, but I fixed it in you sleep, I'll need to bandage it, but I decided to let you decide how. I could put a splint on it, or I could bandage it normally, but you'd be immobile for a long time. I would prefer using the splint, but if you think you could fly in a couple of days, I'm not completely against a normal bandage. Oh, and it looks like you bit your tongue, so try to talk in only a few words if you have to. It seems to have stopped bleeding a while ago, there's still some dried blood on it though."

"Okay, un," I nod, "and you can splint it."

He nods in turn and pulls a few bandages and bits of wood from one of the packs before turning to my leg and quickly bandaging it up.

"Try not to move for a while," he comments.

I nod in understanding and he places a canteen to my lips, "Rinse and then you can drink a little."

I turn my head away briefly, "How much water do we have, un?"

"Enough," he presses it to my lips again, "enough for you."

I shake my head in protest, "No, un. Not if there isn't enough for you too."

"Stop talking and just rinse and drink. I'll be fine, this is my territory, my desert. She won't let me die," his voice raises with all but the last sentence. The last sentence is confident, but it almost seems sad as well.

I still turn my head, but this time he forcefully turns be back and parts my lips over the canteen enough to let a little water leak in. I open my mouth a little more and rinse as he commanded before he gives me a few sips of water and takes a single sip himself. I think he only took the sip to please me, though, but he still took it.

I lie back on my makeshift pillow and for a while watch the stars twinkle above us. The moon seems bright when your eyes adjust to the darkness, it can seem almost blinding. And the stars, so inviting in the sky above. That's why I like flying at night the best, but Sasori-danna doesn't usually like that, he always likes to keep me in check, at his side at night, as if something might happen if I leave his side even for a moment. I've noticed this for a while now, ever since we became partners, he always seems to watch me most at night, making sure I'm always there. I've heard rumors of how Orochimaru abandoned him in the middle of the night one night, and that's when the snake left the akatsuki, but I don't believe that, and that certainly wouldn't cause Sasori-danna to watch over ME.

"The first time I ever came into the desert, my father was with me," I turn and see Sasori-danna. He's staring at the sky, like I had been, and while it seems he's talking to no one, I know he's speaking to me. He continues after a pause, "I know I shouldn't tell you this, speaking ill of the dead is bad, and could be a sin if you say it in public in this desert, but I think the sand turned a deaf ear on me long ago… I was five. My dad decided it was time for me to come out and look around, to take in everything around us, to know the desert, just in case. We each had enough water for days, but we only planned for it to last a single afternoon. My father always said to be prepared for the worst. That was the only time the worst seemed to happen," he pauses to laugh and looks down at me, smiling in a sad manner, "until now." Another pause, in which his gaze heads for the skies once more, and, "We got a little lost, and that night we got separated. I didn't know where I was going, or where to head. I walked for three days, without any luck. Finally, on the fourth day, just when I had run out of water, when the sun hit noon, a few men that had been searching for me found me in the shade of a dune. It was this dune. Don't ask me how I know… I just do. This dune saved me, and now it will save you. It will save you as a last favor for me. If it had planned for you to die, I wouldn't have found you today, it would have just swallowed you when you landed. This dune wants you to live. The Suna wants you to live, Deidara." He looks down at me and smiles, the first friendly smile I've seen. It's also just now that I realize he's taken off Hiruko, which is, to me, an honor, since even at HQ he'll leave it on unless he's secure in his room with no one around.

I can't find it in me to smile, "Sasori-danna…"

He chuckles again, "Don't look so glum, Deidara, you're supposed to be the perky one. I later learned that that is something they do in Suna, a sort of coming of age, or at least in my family. My family has been doing that to the men for ages, and I was the only one not to make it back in a day…"

"You're not a tracker, danna…" I whisper, "You're an artist, un, like me."

He smirks, "You think that's why we got paired together?"

I shake my head and grin, "I just don't think Leader wanted to break up the happy couple of Kisame and Itachi, un."

For the first time ever I finally hear my danna let go to his inner child, the thing that he has suppressed through indifference and killing, and I hear the child come out in a laugh, a laugh that is pure, a laugh that even I have lost as I've killed. Inside my danna there is still the pure child that tried to bring his parents back all that time ago. I remember when he told me about his parents. Even then, when his voice cracked just a little, he couldn't find it in himself to admit any pain, he couldn't even cry.

As the laugh dies, the smile remains on his face, and I watch as he removes the cloth from my forehead.

"Try to get some rest, we've got a long walk ahead of us," as he speaks the smile on his face fades to a smirk, but I look into his eyes and still see that child.

I chuckle, "I'm not tired, to tell you the truth, un."

He shrugs, "Try to sleep any ways."

I frown, then sit up. Instantly everything but his eyes lose their joy, and he's on the defensive, "Deidara, lay back down."

I shake my head, and kiss his cheek, "I wanted to thank you, un."

He seems to have frozen with that. It's almost like he doesn't know what to do or say. Maybe he doesn't. I move to lay back down when he takes my arm and pulls me back to him, kissing me gently on the lips. A simple brush of skin, but it's enough to make me freeze. I watch as his eyes close for a moment and seconds last eternity. Eventually he pulls back though, not having done anything more than brush his lips over mine. His eyes open and yet all I can do is stare, watching him in disbelief.

"You're welcome," he whispers.

Taking a few seconds to recuperate, I finally manage a nod and a smile. Lying down in the now chilled sand, I turn my back to him and lightly reach a hand up to touch my lips. My first kiss, and it's from danna…

Suddenly, I feel a presence at my back, and then another blanket covers me. I hear the sand shift behind me, and then an arm drapes over my side, carrying yet another blanket.

"Danna…?" I whisper.

He hushes me and then whispers back, "You're still sick, and the desert can get surprisingly cool in the moonlight. I don't want you getting worse."

Not that he can't have me getting worse, he doesn't want me getting worse. He does care about me, in his own little way.

I gently caress the hand that has folded over my stomach, tracing miscellaneous patterns across his skin. He scoots closer, so that my back is almost against his stomach, and I scoot back to close the distance.

"Deidara…" the word comes out as almost a sigh, "you don't have to… I know… I'm not like everyone else."

"Either is Kisame," I point out, "but Itachi doesn't seem to mind, un."

He shakes his head, "But that's different… I mean… I'm—"

"Perfect," I cut him off, "You're perfect, danna. Perfect for me, un."

He smiles. I can't see the smile, but I know it's there. His arm tightens in a caring way around me and I halt my hand for a moment to squeeze his encouragingly.

"Get some sleep, Deidara," though demanding, his voice is softer than before.

I nod, "Good night, danna."

He nuzzles into the back of my neck, "Good night, Deidara."

I grin inwardly. I knew my danna liked me, I knew that he cared about me, despite what he wanted to show. My danna has always seemed so closed before… I guess all he needed was to face his past, with someone there to help him.