Disclaimer: Kishimoto owns Naruto.

A/N: This was supposed to be a drabble. Then it snowballed and it's now something else. Reviews make me happy. :D

Six Feet Above

Deidara says he won't last, but that's not necessarily true.

Sometimes he can't remember which days are which. There is clay and birds and explosions and Sasori and art and after a while they all blend together in a tapestry of monotony. There's something ironic in that, but most days he doesn't bother trying to figure it out.

If eternity means living forever, Deidara wants no part of it. He is, after all, Sasori's partner; he has heard that barely-beating heart struggling to stop, seen the blank eyes awake long into the night and waiting for the ability to sleep.

But he thinks it's probably something else entirely, something about that dreary pattern of days and nights of constant spontaneity, something about his art (every time a bomb goes off, there is Deidara giggling like a little boy again), and he wonders if Sasori hasn't got a point about beauty after all.

Sasori says he won't change, but that's not necessarily true either.

His puppets are eternal, and consequently, so is he. But every morning when he climbs into Hiruko there is something different: the feel of the wood against his false nerves or the view from the beady eyes or the way the black cloak drapes over the puppet's shell. They're always tiny things, but Sasori is a master of his art and he sees.

Because he takes more time to think than his partner, he acknowledges irony. Though he would never concede it, Deidara does understand about art, if only a little. Eternity is a collection of those small incongruities, and none of them will ever happen quite the same way again. There's something strangely beautiful in that sort of fleetingness; the point where it melts into forever is indistinguishable.

And being Sasori and having forever for his thoughts, he wonders if they're not essentially the same thing.

Sasori claims Deidara doesn't need caffeine, but that is entirely false. Before his daily cup (or three, depending on how stressed he is), he's lethargic and obsessive and apathetic. Rather like Sasori, actually, but where's the fun in that?

Nevertheless, Sasori never tries to stop his partner from drinking it. Deidara has never stopped to think why, because he already knows the answer.

Deidara claims Sasori needs to drink coffee, but that is entirely false.

"Caffeine stunts your growth, but that's not really a problem for you, un," he says over the bubbling of the coffeemaker. Then he laughs, blonde hair not yet brushed falling around his face.

Sasori says nothing and thinks that there are some ephemera that last forever.

"Want a cup?" Deidara says this every morning. Every morning Sasori says no, except for once. He figures he might as well try it; see what it does to him. (If he turns into more of a lunatic than he is, he'll found a reason for his partner's insanity at last.) It's a little like finding your tolerance for poison.

Deidara passes him a chipped mug, sipping his own drink with his eye closed. (The other one stays open, since it's impossible to shut.) Sasori closes his hands around the cup, inhaling the steam even though he doesn't need to breathe.

He has built an entire nervous system out of chakra, and he feels the heat against his skin.

When it rains, Deidara goes outside to collect clay. It's not a haphazard thing, as Sasori thinks: if Sasori could only taste the feel of each different patch of dirt as his tongue runs across its sandy surface, surely he'd understand.

Deidara is fond of rain in general and thunderstorms in particular. The sky explodes in his face, poisoned lightning lashes reaching for him and everything else that lives. He tilts his head back, fogging up his camera lens and letting the cold water wash away the bitter tang of caffeine and clay from all three mouths that reach for infinity.

Sasori doesn't like rain much. Deidara tries to get him outside but never really expects it to happen.

In the desert, rain is fierce and harsh and rare and spontaneous and utterly beautiful. Sasori tries not to invent metaphors involving it, and he tries not to remember when it rained back home and his parents would take him by the hand out to watch it. He doesn't often succeed.

Rain is bad for the joints of his puppets anyway.

Deidara doesn't lie to Sasori unless it's about something important.

"What do you want out of living anyway, un?"

"To keep doing it."

"Mm. I'd rather go out with a bang, you know?"

He feels unclean saying it, because he knows it should be true.

Deidara asks too many questions, and Sasori, who hides everything with puppets and spies, reflexively answers with half-truths.

"Why do you want to live that long, un? Seems a bloody waste of time to me."


He feels uncomfortable saying it, because he wonders when it stopped being true.

Iwa still tells horror stories about Deidara to its children. ("If you don't practice your taijutsu, Deidara will drop a bomb on you!") Suna still shudders when it hears Sasori's name, for all the healing they've tried to do.

There are the people who say that having your name spoken makes you immortal, but neither Deidara nor Sasori is enough of a fool to believe that.

The morning before they set out for Sunagakure no Sato, Deidara drinks five cups of coffee in quick succession, downing one and pouring the next with frightening efficiency. Sasori sits at the battered wood table in Akatsuki's communal kitchen and waits for his partner to finish drinking. He doesn't say anything, tracing the fastest route to his old home across the scarred surface of the table.

"It's gonna be a bad day, un," says Deidara, halfway through his fourth cup. "Should be at least a little fun, though. And really pretty, un." They are trained shinobi; they can anticipate battles and blood through years of experience. (But Deidara is so young…)

Sasori can't help but doubt Deidara's intuition, and he wants to doubt his own.

It is a bad day (or week or month or year; time is meaningless for the timeless anyway), although it's not like Sasori could do anything about it.

When fetching the Kazekage, he'd removed his nerves. He hadn't taken that precaution in a while, and the numbness felt oddly disconcerting. He could blame his carelessness on that, he supposes, but he knows enough to blame it on the opposite.

Sasori the puppet was trying to live.

There are twin swords through his heart as he waits for a different kind of eternity.

Insanity can't be as bad as everyone says it is, although Deidara hurts too much to tell right now.

Kakuzu has him on tranquilizers (he probably uses them on Hidan but Hidan likes needles and Deidara doesn't and he doesn't know how that's important but what's important mean anyway?) that bring him off his high of caffeine and pain and despair, but Deidara doesn't think they're helping much because nothing that comes out of his mouth or his mind makes sense anymore.

what happened to the poison what happened to the puppets what happened to destroying a whole country and you can't even beat your grandmother goddamnit Sasori I was supposed to die first you bastard tell me the next time you leave like that why'd you want this for yourself anyway some use your art was some use outliving people is.

Tobi pats his hand and tells him it'll all be better in the morning, but when you've stayed up the entire night it's hard to tell when morning begins.

"What happened to Deidara after he left here?"

"I'm sure he got what he deserved."

"Really, sensei?"

"It's the truth; it's the way the world is supposed to work."

Forever is far too limited.