Love is Blonde

By Maria Szabo

Chapter One

(Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belongs to Kishimoto Masashi and his publishers. This is a work of fanfiction, and no profit is being made save that of enjoyment.)

It was the searing hiss that alerted him, as he stood in the darkening meadow listening to Tobi natter on about where the others could be. Deidara felt it coming towards his head. The chakra knife screamed as it split the air around it. He was able to dodge it, but barely. His nerves were tingling as he took a defensive pose and scanned the area around them.

"Team! Fan out!"

He heard the barest whisper of a deep male voice. An adult, then? And the youthful voices that murmured in reply—that could only mean a jounin with a training team.

His fingers flew in a jutsu and he faded into the background against the rocks. It was just a common jutsu from his home village, one of the first that the children of Iwagakure learned, but it was surprisingly effective. He only hoped that idiot Tobi had taken cover somewhere. He would not be held responsible if that jerk was exposed.

It wasn't long before the team came into view. Two? No. Three. That was okay, then. He could easily take down three if he needed to, even without using one of his explosives.

"Anything?" A tall, well-built bearded man crouched on the ground, a roughly serrated chakra blade in his hand. The other knife must have been his.

"Not here," a huge, towering boy shrank down into a more compact form. "How about you, Ino?"

A graceful figure leapt into view from the cover of the forest. "Nothing here, either. Sensei, are you sure you weren't imagining things?"

"I'd rather over-react than not act," the big man growled, "but I could have sworn I heard somebody talking." He stood, dug into a pocket on his vest, and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. With a practiced hand, he tapped the end until a single stick came into view. From another pocket, he pulled a pack of matches and struck one on the sole of his shoe, causing the flame to spurt and sputter. He quickly lifted the match to the cigarette trailing from his lips and let it ignite the tobacco. Inhaling deeply, he let the smoke come drifting from his mouth in the midst of a shallow sigh.

"My headset has been acting up all day today, though, so it might be that I picked up a stray signal." He unhooked a small wired device from his ear and peered at it suspiciously. "Ah, well, it probably was nothing, then. We've been patrolling for hours. Let's take a break for a few minutes, shall we?"

"No problem." The chubby boy immediately reached into his backpack and pulled out what looked to be a pack of chips. One quick tear and he was munching away.

"Chouji!" the girl exclaimed, "Asuma-sensei said he was going to treat us to barbeque after we got back! Can't you wait?"

"No," replied the boy, shortly, not slowing in his pace of consumption. "I'm hungry now."

"Ino," warned the large man. "Don't start. We got the rest of the patrol to get through."

She was a real beauty, that girl, Deidara thought appreciatively. She'd retrieved a small comb out from the pack situated on the curve of her luscious rear and was running it through the ends of her pale blonde ponytail. A few pulls, and then she replaced the comb in her pack. "It's just that we got this boring patrol, while Shikamaru gets to proctor at the exam…"

The man laughed. "Trust me, it's not all that interesting. Lots of paperwork, that sort of thing. Personally, I'd rather be out in the field."

"But he gets to meet up with some of the ninja from other villages…"

"Well, who knows? We might run into some of the foreigners ourselves, out here. The teams are still arriving for the new Chuunin exam, you know. We just have to make sure they don't go poking around where they have no business."

"But we're having to do that every day for the next week!" The beauty wandered dangerously close to where Deidara was hiding, and took a seat on one of the fallen rocks. Almost within touching distance, he thought, and then wondered why that made any difference.

"You're upset because we're going to miss seeing the finals, aren't you?"

"Not to mention the opening ceremonies today. No wonder we haven't run across anything." She shrugged and leaned down from her seat. Her hands pulled at some flowering weeds that were growing nearby. "Speaking of opening ceremonies, weren't you supposed to be taking Kurenai-sensei there tonight?"

"That's personal, you know that…"

The chubby boy paused in his eating to smirk. "You were, weren't you?"

"Brats." The man went a little red. "Okay, yeah. But she'll understand. It's not my fault we pulled the short stick for this patrol. She knows that." In spite of his words, the man sounded a bit uncertain.

Some delicate blue blossoms, a few green leaves, and a bit of lacy white weed found their way into the girl's hands. She deftly wove them into a bouquet, stopping every now and then to view her creation with a critical eye. After some further adjustments, she nodded and pulled out some nearly-invisible twine from her pack, the sort used to set traps. She wrapped the twine around the stalks and knotted it.

"You men are so clueless," she complained, and rose from her seat, again coming so close that Deidara could catch her scent, a heady mixture of roses, lilies and sweat. She walked over to the large man and presented him with the fresh bouquet. "Give her these when you get back. That'll help, trust me."

"Ino…" the man's voice sounded exasperated, but he took the bouquet.

"I know, I know. It's none of our business." She turned to share a smile with her chubby teammate and her eyes flew open. "Chouji! Don't you dare leave that trash on the ground!"

The boy laughed and folded his empty bag into a small square, which he placed in one of his vest pockets. "I wasn't going to. Do you wanna finish the patrol now?"

"Let's go," the girl agreed. She turned back to her teacher. "Sensei, it's almost the end of our shift. Chouji and I can take it from here."


"Flowers don't last forever, sensei. Love doesn't either. You should give them to her while they're fresh!" With a cheery wave, she leapt into the treeline of the forest. The boy laughed and winked at the man, then leapt after her.

"You kids…" the man finished his cigarette, dropped it and ground it under his heel. He took a long look at the little bouquet. "Guess I don't have a choice, huh?"

He sprang up into the trees, but went another direction.

A few minutes later, a figure burrowed itself out from underground. "That was a close one, hey, Deidara-sempai?"

"How the hell did you know I was here?" He should still be invisible.

"Saw you," replied Tobi. As usual, his tone varied between fawning and disdain. The newest member of Akatsuki brushed the dirt from his cloak. "Wasn't that hard."

"Sure it wasn't, yeah," Deidara muttered. He released the jutsu with a quick hand-seal. Tobi had been one of Zazu's underlings, not his, so he wasn't completely familiar with what his new partner was capable of, except perhaps annoying people to death. "You heard what those leaf-nin said?"

Tobi nodded. "They'll be patrolling this area for the next week or so. Doesn't seem like there's a lot of them, though, does it?"

"Use your head. Orochimaru tore this place up three years ago, yeah? Took a lot of them out, is what I heard. It takes a while to recover from something like that, yeah." He should know. He'd left Iwagakure half in ruins, back when he ran off. It had taken them years to fix the damage.

"So what are we going to do? We're supposed to rendezvous here with Itachi-san and Kisame-san before we head for the Land of the Mists. What if we get caught by a patrol?"

"Don't be such a pussy. We won't get caught. And if we do…" his right hand opened to reveal an abstract little clay bird, "it'll be their problem, yeah."