notes: Dark Kunoichi was the 100th reviewer of Deity, so I offered her a request. I ended up with 'Deidara and Itachi, AU' and the art nerd inside of me had a blast. Enjoy!

As They Seem

by Ebony

"There is no truth. There is only perception."

(Gustave Flaubert)


Deidara knows Itachi, but he doesn't know Itachi. Sure, he's talked to him a bit during the one painting class they have together and at various parties (the ones he can remember and the ones Itachi actually attends). Clipped greetings, "Horrible weather we're having", a quick discussion on surrealism that ends before it can turn into a debate. It finishes there, simply, and that's the way Itachi is with just about everyone.

The only one who really does know Itachi is Kisame, but Deidara thinks Kisame is a little "out there" so he doesn't worry about it. His classmates, strange as they are, would probably consider Deidara himself "out there", but he's out in a different place than Kisame and Itachi are – maybe further, maybe on the other side of wherever the rest of the people are in. Whatever; it's just a stupid expression.


It doesn't really matter to Deidara that he doesn't know Itachi, because Itachi seems like the kind of anal person who makes schedules out of everything, who needs to have everything in his life perfect and orderly in order to survive. When he wakes up, when he eats, when he goes out and when he studies – fuck, the guy probably schedules his orgasms, knowing the exact amount of time it'll take him to jerk off.

And what the Hell kind of life is that? Deidara thinks.

Oh well; it's not his, so it's not something he's planning to dwell on. It was just a thought that came out of his swirling mind earlier while he was painting. Always, things will get like that, like there's a whirlpool opening up in his mind and the contents of his brain spin around, crashing into each other in the background while he focuses on the canvas in front of him. He holds a thin paintbrush between his lips while he squirts some more paint from the tubes scattered around him, soon replacing the brush with a smouldering cigarette.

Of course, it's still a bit surprising that someone like Itachi is attending the same little arts college he is. Itachi seems too fine pressed, too predictable. His work portrays that too. Itachi's very talented, no doubt about it, but all the art Deidara has seen of his seems like it's trying too hard to be Renaissance. It's predictable, stuff everyone's seen before and to Deidara, art should be anything but predictable. Art is about experimentation, new things, forcing people to wake up from their dreary lives and look at what's around them. A pretty picture – and it doesn't matter what kind, photorealism or impressionism or 'modern art' (an overused expression, and sometimes a synonym for 'crap') – is worthless if there's nothing behind it.

Anyone, with practice, can paint a pretty picture. It's much harder to actually paint a good one. However, not many people like the good art because – well, you've probably heard this before but no one does a lot to change it – they're comfortable where they are in that dreary world and don't want to wake up all of a sudden and have to change. They like the ostensible predictability and stability they've built around themselves, like the fences surrounding house after house in sprawls of suburbia.

Deidara grew up in one of those wonderful little houses, and he knows for a fact there's no one in the world who actually has a perfectly stable life, no matter how good things seem. When he was just little, he would hide in his mother's closet and listen to her exchanges over the phone – night after night, she'd call everyone in the neighbourhood to gossip despite living within walking distance of each other. He was fond of his mother, of course, his mother who smelled of the foods she made for him and always half-covered her mouth when she laughed with a diamond-encircled wrist. But he pitied her as well.

"Oh," she'd say sweetly, "Oh dear, are you sure he's cheating on you? You saw her… okay, okay – no, honey it's not your fault… Oh, don't start worrying about me at a time like this. I haven't been drinking, I promise you, dear. Maybe I'll come over tomorrow, we'll see. Hey, did you hear about …"

And on and on and on it went. When the phone calls were all done, she'd pour herself another glass of vodka, or wine, or whatever she'd grabbed first. She'd drink until she sobbed, and sobbed until she passed out, and that's when Deidara would climb out of the closet. For a while he would watch her sleep, not daring to touch her, though he knew she wouldn't wake (and he wanted to). Dull lamplight fell over her, all shiny satin pyjamas and long waves of sandy hair, puffy eyes and cheeks flushed deep, and that was a very beautiful ugly thing right there. He would watch her until he heard the click of a key in the door downstairs and then make a dash for his room before his Father came upstairs, exhausted from work.

Night after night after night, for years in his mind.

One time – he must have been eleven or twelve, somewhere in there – he interrupted her while she was making dinner, demurely sliding a piece of paper to her across the counter.

"What's this?" she had asked him.

He looked away to avoid her smile. "We did this in art today, yeah."


"It's just a sketch, but I really like it and–"

"Good for you, honey," his mother purred, glancing at it for just a moment or two. "Why don't you go hang it up in your room?"

She dismissed it, using the exact same voice she did when he brought home finger paintings from kindergarten, only this time she didn't even offer to put it on the fridge. Why can't she see it? he wondered. Doesn't she realize what this is?

There, on the paper, marked out as in an HB pencil drawing of some place he had put together in his head, was an escape – one she obviously had no interest in. Did she not want to be saved? Maybe she didn't believe she could. All he knew, as he stared at her from across the dinner table that evening, is that if he actually wanted out of this place they'd all been trapped in, he wasn't going to be able to take her with him.

That was where it started.

Deidara moved out after a bad fight with his father just before he graduated, and worked full-time for a year before he could afford tuition for an art-oriented college a few towns over. It wasn't as far away as he'd wanted it to be, but that was the only place that accepted him and he was desperate to go somewhere.

So here he is now, perching on a stool with a cigarette dangling from his lips as he surveys his painting. It's mid-February and as Sasori grumbled earlier, the painting studio is "fucking freezing". They've both got winter coats on and aggressive punk music is blaring from the speakers. The studio does have heating but it doesn't work too well and the cold still manages to get beneath their skin, so deep their bones hurt. Sasori's fingers have turned a bright pink that almost rivals the red of his messy hair.

"I'm surprised the pipes haven't frozen by now," he mutters while washing out his brushes in the sink. "Why the Hell did I even take this course? I could have taken another sculpture course instead, and you know where I would be right now? In the Sculpture Studio. Which has heating that works all the time."

"Stop whining, yeah?" Deidara shouts from the other side of the empty room (they're the only two who stayed so late tonight). The clock on the wall reads just after midnight. A voice inside of him mentions all the places he could be right now – a party, a bar, in bed – however, its pleas are dismissed with one look at his nearly finished painting. Sighing, he lets the ash from his cigarette tumble to the ground, and picks up his brush again.

"I'm leaving, Dei! I can't work like this!" he hears Sasori call. "You can stay in this fridge you like, but I'm going home to bed!"

"See ya!" calls Deidara, but the door has already fallen shut behind Sasori. Deidara flinches as the CD skips. Sasori's right, he thinks; the studio really is too cold to be painting in and the temperature is making his paints a little hard to work with, but he wants to stay. He's on the verge of something, he can tell (or is that just his general lack of sleep closing in on him?). All he needs is one brief rush of creativity, of an idea, of something, and he knows he can finish, which would be a good idea, considering the painting is supposed to be finished for a class two days from now.

Standing empty, the studio seems a lot smaller than it does during the day while jam-packed with art students. In warmer months, quite a few of them paint outside, but no one is masochistic enough (and they're all art students, so that's saying something) to do such a thing during the winter. There is a nice view from where Deidara is, though, if he looks past his easel and out the large windows that cast rectangles of artificial light onto the snow, trampled with footprints (a pity). Smoke lilts from the end of his cigarette into the thin air, slowly unwinding.

Deidara stares. His eyes want desperately to close and sting from the smoke, but he keeps them steady as he surveys his work. He stares and he stares, and he doesn't notice someone has turned off his music until a voice breaks the silence. The blond sits up abruptly, but before he can twist around to confront whoever has disturbed him, he feels a sharp burn against his fingers. With a sharp intake of breath, he spreads his fingers wide and watches a stub of a cigarette fall – he must have been to far into his thoughts to realize it had been close to burning him for quite some time.

"Told you," says someone behind him, sounding something between amused and smug. It takes him a moment and a glance over his shoulder to place the voice – Itachi. The young, dark-haired man (also clad in a winter jacket) is unfolding an easel a few metres to the left of Deidara, close to the window, and tilted so Deidara can't see the image he's working on.

"The Hell are you doing here?" Deidara grumbles, rubbing at his injured fingers. He'd been hoping the pain would wake him up a little, but no such luck.

"Painting," replies Itachi simply.

What else would he be here for?

"It's kinda late, yeah."

Itachi doesn't even glance at him this time: "Then why are still here?"

Deidara turns back to his own easel without a word, irritated at the presence of another in the studio. And it wasn't just that someone was there, it was because that someone was Itachi, and Itachi had his brushes organized in a holder and his palette was arranged in some order as opposed to just globbed on wherever. He keeps sneaking looks over at Itachi from the corner of his eye - of his good eye, that is. He was born half blind in his left one, and usually lets his long bangs fall over it to hide the fact.

He keeps up these fascinated (and involuntary, he tells himself) looks, though he's still trying desperately to grasp some sort of focus on his own work – a bright vermillion city under a violet-clouded sky, with bodies in various shades of grey writhing in its streets. Maybe he should glue some cigarette butts on, he thought briefly, but he probably shouldn't – everyone is doing that sort of thing these days. He's known in his sculpture class for blowing up his works after they're finished and then reassembling the pieces to hand in, but that wouldn't work with canvas. Would it?

For once, Deidara's glad he's been forced to work in oils – his acrylics would be drying up already, turning into a sticky and stubborn mess.

And here is where an itching curiosity gets the better of him.

"How do you stand it, yeah?" he blurts out, aware of how loud his voice sounds in the vacancy of the studio.

"What do you mean?" Itachi asks after a moment.

"You're so…" Deidara searches for the right word – none of them seem to have the right connotations. "Orderly," he tries. "Everything about you is too…"

"Organized, and clean, and diligent," Itachi fills in, like he's rehearsed those very words many times before. "That's what you were thinking."

It's not even a query, but Deidara answers anyway. "Sort of, yeah."

"And you wonder how I can stand myself, knowing I'm like that?"

"No, I just mean," Oh, what does he mean? "I mean I don't know how you make any sort of progress if everything is always the same, yeah. When it's so predictable and uneventful – don't you just get bored of it? How can you get any inspiration from that?"

"Predictable," Itachi repeats carefully, as if he's considering it. Two vague smiles appear – one on his pale face, illuminated by the glow of fluorescent lights, and another in the out-of-focus reflection in the window, a ghost hovering above the snow.

"You think I'm predictable…"

Deidara watches Itachi's hands as they dip his brush into his cup of water and trace rapid circles to rinse the paint out, as they dry themselves on a towel he brought with him (though some bits of paint still cling to his nails obstinately). Every small motion they make is deliberate and (here Deidara wanted to think 'graceful' but instead he decides on) controlled, even when they hang at his sides as he comes a few steps closer to Deidara. His disposition uses this to become slightly intimidating, but even though Itachi has a few inches on him, Deidara doesn't care.

"Explain to me," says Itachi quietly, the right corner of his mouth sliding upwards, "how I'm 'predictable'."

It's obviously a challenge, and Deidara doesn't think twice before accepting.

"It's because you're so orderly, yeah," he explains. "There's really no variation to it – everything you do is that way." He pauses a moment to try and collect it into the right words. "I guess the nature of you is predictable. How you do things – how you paint, and how the notes you take in class are colour coded, and that sort of thing. Habits."

"So by 'no variation' you mean I'm always the same. And that's why I'm predictable."

Deidara nods, and Itachi seems to find this funny.

"Because you're not orderly and I am," he says. "You measure my self against yours. Because you feel your recklessness and your lifestyle is not predictable, full of whim, and mine is ostensibly not, I must be the predictable one. Of course, that's only your view of things. If you asked Kisame if I was predictable, he'd probably shrug, and tell you 'Sometimes'. If you asked my dead father, he would say 'Yes', but for much different reasons than you have, and if you asked my younger brother, he would say 'no', pause, then say 'no' again. It's all just perspective.

"There isn't one true answer for that sort of question, however… I personally think most, if not all human beings are terribly predictable. But it's not a matter of if they're predictable in comparison to yourself, it's about getting under their skin and figuring them out that way. It's actually much easier than one might think."

"Well, you just admitted to being predictable then, yeah?" Deidara asks after a moment. Puffs of smoke leave his lips as he talks, drifting up to hover around the fluorescent lights before fading completely.

Itachi refuses to answer directly, still wearing that impassive half-smile. "Let's conduct a small experiment here…"

In one quick motion, the dark-haired man closes the gap between them, one hand taking a firm hold of Deidara's shoulder and the other swiping the cigarette from between his lips – it falls to the ground, where Itachi smothers it with his foot. At first Deidara assumes this is a threat, and instinctively begins to raise his arms to fight Itachi should he attack. However, Itachi is still and though his grip is strong, it's not quite threatening. And then when he glances up at that ashen face, Deidara releases just how close they are to each other – just how close Itachi's mouth is to his.

"The Hell are you doing–"

"–yeah?" Itachi finishes for him. "Why don't you tell me, if I'm so predictable."

Deidara squirms a little. "Feels like you're going to kiss me…" he mutters while he tries to avoid looking directly at Itachi's face.

"Mmhmm. And?"

"This is stupid," he scoffs. "You're just doing this show me you're not predictable. But that's kind of predictable in itself, yeah."

Itachi nods. "So then which am I going to do? If I was being my same old orderly self, I wouldn't do anything more, would I? However, if I do, it's still expected because my self is trying to prove a point – one of the stern beliefs I have, that I live by, that define me as 'orderly'. Both outcomes, with those explanations, are just as 'predictable' from the point of view we're using right now and because you're convinced of me being as such, it doesn't matter what I do because you'll find it characteristic of me anyway. Or at least that's what you'll tell yourself.

"You seem the type – to me, this is – that considers your life a collection of random events that have happened to you, and that everything you do is equally as random. You do what your instinct tells you. Does that mean you are spontaneous by nature? Or are you just different in your patterns and habits – your predictability. Late night trips to the store for a food you crave, the eclectic clothing you wear, the artwork that you create – all of this follows a set of rules of what you are, and can be predicted if–"

Itachi's words stop instantly as Deidara closes the distance between them completely and puts his mouth to Itachi's savagely. The soft buzz of the lights above them rings in his ears as he pushes his tongue into Itachi's mouth. It's a rough kiss, a loud and distracting one, and Deidara thinks that it doesn't really suit Itachi at all but he can feel the dark-haired man start kissing him back anyway, hand still cupping Deidara's shoulder.

This goes on unquestioned for a few minutes (violent kissing, jerky caresses) until Itachi finally forces him back.

"You taste like an ash-tray," he mutters, raising one hand to wipe saliva off his face.

Deidara shrugs. "And I suppose that was my self trying to prove to you that I am predictable, yeah? Or was it just a fast and… and pleasurable way of shutting you up?"

"Whichever you prefer," Itachi tells him nonchalantly. "Humans are good at fooling themselves."

The blond opens his mouth again, as if to snap at Itachi, but that train of thought is instantly run over by another one and he turns back to his canvas. Inspiration blooms in the front of his mind and a renewed energy shoots through him as he grabs an abandoned brush. It's incredible every time he feels it, that burn, that need to create. That lovely little escape of his. He smirks, and covers the tip of his brush in paint.

He's so caught up in it that he barely feels Itachi's slender fingers running down through his ponytail. "I'll go get us some coffee," says Itachi, slowly departing. Then Deidara is alone in the studio once more, his silent reflection his only witness and all there is to define himself against.