Of Strange Habits and Clay
Note: written for dear Sharingank with love. Can be interpreted as either platonic or romantic.
Of Strange Habits and Clay
Tobi glanced over from where he was sitting, watching Deidara skillfully mold the clay in his hands into birds and fish, placing them on a wooden shelf above his bed.
The look of concentration on his face was intense, the blue of his visible eye smoldering like a flame as he smoothed his clay-caked fingers over his sculptures, his touch precise and unusually tender.
Tobi admired it all. He admired his senpai's ability to concentrate like that, his ability to make 'art', his ability to excel at everything he did, and his ability to bring beauty into the most mundane of things.
In Tobi's eyes, Deidara was a genius. And to Tobi, he felt as though something as rare and wonderful as his senpai ought to be taken care of, watched over, and tended to. Geniuses only reached their full potential under the support and care of others, Tobi thought. He wanted to be the one to help his senpai reach his full potential.
And at the moment, there was an issue of concern Tobi was eager to discuss with his partner. He'd discovered another one of Deidara's alarming habits a few weeks earlier, and it had been troubling him ever since.
Deidara was brilliant and admirable, but he was also testy. It seemed that everything Tobi did or said irked him, and often times Tobi kept his mouth shut despite his concerns, in fear of being reprimanded for being such a 'useless idiot'.
The timing was perfect, Tobi realized, watching Deidara grin with his tongue between his teeth, eyeing his sculpture with approval. He seemed as though he was in a good mood.
He took a deep breath, steeling himself, then hesitantly spoke up.
"Deidara-senpai?" Tobi said reluctantly. "May I talk to you for a moment?"
"You're talking to me right now," Deidara said, without looking at him. "Don't ask stupid questions, un."
"Whatever. What do you want?"
"I was wondering…um, do you have bad dreams at night?"
"What the hell kind of question is that, Tobi? Are you practicing to be a psychiatrist?"
"No, I was just wondering," Tobi said sheepishly, tracing circles on his bed. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
"Of course I don't, stupid. And for your information, I only have good dreams…about art, un." Deidara said the last part with a grin, finally facing Tobi with a clay sculpture of a lizard cupped in his clay-caked hands.
"That's lovely, Deidara-senpai."
Deidara made a disinterred "un" before returning his attention back to his clay.
"Why'd you ask such a dumb question, anyway?" Deidara suddenly asked, without looking up.
Tobi hesitated, and his silence prompted his partner to look up, his brow furrowed in annoyance.
"It's…" Tobi said falteringly, scratching his head. "Because…Deidara-senpai…"
"Spit it out, un."
"Because you cry at night." Tobi blurted.
Deidara stared at him for a long time, unblinking, his face completely devoid of expression. Tobi wilted beneath the intense gaze, turning his head to look out the window into the pouring rain.
The silence was long and awkward, and just as Tobi began to fear that he'd offended him, Deidara finally spoke, his tone flat.
"I don't cry."
Tobi looked at him worriedly.
"But I've seen it. You…don't make any noise. There are just…tears."
"You watch me while I sleep? You're a freak, un." Deidara said in disbelief.
"No," Tobi said, flustered as he waved his hands. "I just noticed on my way to the bathroom!"
Deidara eyed him suspiciously for a moment before returning his attention to his clay.
"I don't cry, un." He repeated resolutely.
"When you saw me," Deidara interrupted, sounding irritated. "I wasn't crying. I was unconsciously leaking body fluids, un."
"…isn't that the same thing?"
"No, stupid," Deidara said in exasperation, dropping his fish sculpture to look at him. "Some people drool in their sleep, don't they?"
"And some people piss in their sleep, don't they?"
"I suppose, but"—
"And me, I just happen to cry when I sleep, all right? It's the same thing as pissing or drooling, except there's liquid coming out of my eyes instead of my mouth or crotch."
Tobi winced as Deidara glared at him.
"Does that answer your question?"
"You just admitted to crying, Deidara-senpai."
"No, I didn't, un."
"Yes, you did. You just said 'I just happen to cry when I sleep.'"
"Shut up, Tobi."
"I said shut up."
Tobi fell silent and Deidara glared at him once more before turning his back to him, now pounding the clay lizard into a pulp.
"I was just worried about you, Deidara-senpai."
"Why?" Deidara snapped. "You gay or something?"
"I just think you're cool."
Deidara paused his abuse on the clay, lifting his head slightly. Tobi watched him apprehensively, prepared to bolt if Deidara decided to throw one of his bombs his way. His partner was just as notorious for his spontaneity as he was for his explosive art.
Tobi gulped as Deidara slowly turned to look at him.
He still looked annoyed, brow still furrowed into a scowl, but the electric blue of his visible eye no longer resembled a flaming torch. It looked like water, Tobi decided, staring back at him. Warm water, calm and bottomless.
"You think I'm cool?" Deidara echoed.
Tobi nodded earnestly, hoping against hope that his next words wouldn't offend him.
"I think you're the coolest person I've ever met, Deidara-senpai. You're smart and talented, and I wish I could be like you," Tobi blurted. "And…I want to be your friend, so…I was worried about you, since you were crying in your sleep and all."
"I mean, unconsciously leaking body fluids." Tobi corrected himself hastily.
The look on Deidara's face became unreadable, his mouth pressed into a thin line as he toyed with his clay, breaking off chunks and mashing them back together thoughtfully. Tobi watched with bated breath, fingers crossed beneath the comforter.
"This is how Sasori-danna must have felt," Deidara suddenly remarked offhandedly, gazing thoughtfully at his shelf of sculptures.
Tobi waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't. He merely stared at his creations, looking unusually subdued.
"You must miss having him for a partner," Tobi said suddenly, gazing back out the window, feeling Deidara's stare settle on him again. "From what I've heard of Sasori-san, he was brilliant and powerful. You must have admired him."
"He thought I was an idiot, un," Deidara said with a twisted smile. "We had different ideals about art. But that's not something you'd understand."
Tobi nodded slowly, sounding calm as he spoke.
"I know. The best I can do is watch over you, Deidara-senpai. You think I'm an idiot, too, right?"
Deidara gave him an odd look, perturbed by his calmness.
"Hey, don't sound so calm about me putting you down, stupid. What's wrong with you?"
"I don't mind it," Tobi said, turning to look at him. "Not if it's you, Deidara-senpai. You are my superior, after all."
"You're a freak, un. Who likes being called an idiot?"
"I don't like it," Tobi admitted. "But I don't mind it."
Deidara gave him a long, curious look, looking intrigued by something as he rolled the clay between his hands. Tobi watched his hands, fascinated by the way his fingers deftly molded it, turning it from something mundane into something beautiful.
"You like this?"
Tobi lifted his head at the question, finding Deidara watching him with a contemptuous look on his face.
"It's a piece of crap. I could do something ten times better, un."
"I would like that ten times better, then."
Deidara smirked and suddenly tossed him the clay. Tobi caught it on reflex, looking at Deidara curiously.
His smirk widened.
"Go on, make something. Let's see if you have any talent. You probably don't, but I'm bored."
Tobi looked at the clay unsurely, the pliable substance feeling odd and alien in his awkward fingers. Slowly, he began molding it.
Deidara watched him attentively, his mind processing thoughts like rapid fire as the shapeless mold slowly began to take shape.
Bird? No. Fish? No. Horse? No. Dog? No. Frog? No. Cat? No.
Tobi paused long enough to remove his black gloves, then picked the clay up again, using his fingernails to carve in little details. Deidara watched curiously, perturbed that he couldn't recognize the odd object Tobi was molding.
He finished five minutes later, holding the sculpture like a chalice within his hands as he glanced up. Deidara could practically feel his smile through the mask.
Wordlessly, Tobi got up and walked over to him, presenting him the clay sculpture.
Deidara lowered his eye to it, then blinked.
A little effigy of his head grinned back at him, the pony tail and expression and facial features more or less identical to his own. The lines were carved a bit crudely and the molding needed some work, but it was rather decent.
Deidara slowly took the sculpture from Tobi's hands, staring at it expressionlessly for a long time.
"I know it's not that good," Tobi said sheepishly, scratching his head. "But I tried."
"Why did you choose me?" Deidara questioned suddenly, raising his head. "Why did you make a sculpture of me?"
Tobi looked away, as if embarrassed, shuffling his feet awkwardly as Deidara waited impatiently.
"Well," Tobi said awkwardly, fiddling with his fingers as he glanced at him sideways. "It's because…Deidara-senpai is my inspiration."
The blonde blinked, looking somewhat surprised before glancing down at the sculpture again.
He was quiet for quite some time, turning the sculpture this way and that, seemingly scrutinizing it. Tobi got more and more nervous with each passing second, wondering whether his crude artistic portrayal had offended him.
But Deidara didn't look angry.
He almost looked pleased.
"So you think I'm cool, huh?" he asked suddenly, grinning as he looked up.
Tobi nodded, relieved.
"Great. Go get me an orange. I'm hungry, un."
Tobi blinked but then straightened, eager to please.
"Of course, Deidara-senpai. Should I peel it for you?"
"I can do that myself, you know. I'm not handi-capped."
"Right," Tobi said sheepishly, backing out the door. "Sorry!"
Then he was gone, his steps fading down the hall. Deidara listened to his steps fade till only the gentle pattering of rain was audible inside the dim room.
He chewed on his lower lip thoughtfully for a few seconds, staring at the door before he suddenly stood up, deciding he wanted to leave the stifling humidity of his room.
He took a few strides towards the door, but then paused.
The bright, electric blue of his visible eye stared unwaveringly into nothingness for a few seconds, intense and thoughtful. Then he blinked, slowly turning to stride back to his bed.
Carefully, he set the small sculpture down on the wooden shelf, shifting his fish and bird models to obscure it before he extinguished the lamp.
Then he backed out of his room, his gaze shifting away from the shelf and into the dim hall as he slowly closed the door behind him.