Sculpting for Dummies
An: Ok, had a little trouble with a plagiarist since last I updated, so I'd like to take a moment to address the issue of copying this fiction, or any of my other works. I don't mind if people print out/save copies, quote lines, or post links to the story. That's cool (and kind of flattering as well. Strokes my ego.). Copying and pasting my story and claiming it at your own work is not cool. Claiming that I'm plagiarizing YOU: really not cool. Don't do it.
And just so people know what's legitimate and what isn't, here are the places where I have my stories under the pen name demonrubberducky
-livejournal, under the pen name demonrubberduck
-aarinfantasy forum, under the pen name llama63
If this fanfiction appears on any other site under any other pen name, chances are it's NOT me, and you might want to be a good fandom citizen and let me know (I'll give you a theoretical internet cookie or something. Not cake, because it's a lie).
I know this seems really tedious and unnecessary, but it's actually been an issue this past week. I apologize for this really long author's note, but I felt it needed to be addressed. Now, without further ado, here's what you've been waiting for: the epilogue.
Thanks once again to 4eversleeping for beta-reading for me.
Deidara and Tobi stay in Thorn village. They aren't deliriously happy there, but neither are they miserable. They have their problems, of course.
On some days, Deidara becomes overwhelmed by the monotony of village life. He breaks whatever pieces he is working on, screams, and storms out of his studio. He goes out into the forest and destroys a good chunk of woodland before his frustration is vented. (The villagers, although initially shocked by this phenomenon, nevertheless cope with it. If nothing else, they never have to worry about chopping firewood for the winter, with the debris around.)
Other times, Tobi gets fed up with Deidara's stubbornness and selfishness. He takes a mission, sometimes for a week, other times a full month, and stamps out of the gate in a fury. The artist is quiet and tense during his absence. He snaps at anyone who tries to comfort him, and the villagers learn to give him space. Tobi always returns to Thorn in half of the expected time, throws himself into Deidara's arms, and begs for his sempai's forgiveness. Deidara grants it…eventually.
The mouths in his palms interfere with work on his potter's wheel, so Deidara lets the extra orifices grow shut again. He still uses his chakra for traveling and attacking Tobi, but no longer tries to live as a ninja. He's an artist first and foremost, and he finds he really doesn't miss the way of a shinobi. Clay feels more natural in his hands than kunai and shuriken, and the only person he uses chakra on is Tobi; everyone else who pisses him off can be deterred by a cold glare. The artist likes that he isn't constantly fighting for his life, and that the biggest threat he faces is the persistent romantic advances of his customers at fairs.
Most days, Tobi won't venture out of his home without his mask. Still, he tries not to wear it when interacting with small groups of people. He finds he can't manage in a crowd without it, but he makes progress, and no one seems offended by the covering. For Halloween, a few village children dress up like him (Deidara snorts with laughter when, not being able to see out of the single tiny eye-hole, they stumble or run into walls. "They're getting into character, un," he sniggers.)
Despite the imperfections, the two former Akatsuki stay in Thorn. They make pottery and escort travelers and occasionally give in to the children's pleading for a ride on a clay bird. They fight with each other, then make up with minimal explosions. They travel to art shows and fairs to sell their creations and to take a break from the quietness of the village. And though they sometimes look longingly at the horizon and fantasize about more exciting places and adventurous lives, in the end, they always return home.
Sasuke chases Itachi. Naruto chases Sasuke. Others get dragged along on the hunt, but they drift in and out of it, following more in support of their comrades than in pursuit of the one being chased.
Itachi makes sure to stay one step ahead of his little brother. He and Kisame avoid the younger Uchiha rather than engage him. Itachi doesn't reveal to his partner why he takes measures to keep Sasuke alive when it would be so much easier to just kill him; Kisame assumes it's a sibling thing. The blue man thanks the gods he was born an only child.
Sasuke follows his brother. Every once in a while, his Hebi teammates get fed up with running around; they break formation, head to the nearest inn, and declare a vacation. Sasuke doesn't join them. Every time he reaches the breaking point, he looks forward, and thinks about his mission. He looks backwards, and focuses on the blond he knows isn't too far behind him, and finds the strength to keep going. The sooner he defeats Itachi, after all, the sooner he can let Naruto catch him and take him home.
Naruto sees glimpses of Sasuke all the time even when he isn't in sight. Even Sakura and Kakashi are growing weary of the endless quest to find their teammate, but Naruto refuses to give up. He hasn't really lived in Konoha since Sasuke's departure, and he doesn't plan on returning there without the Uchiha beside him. Home wouldn't be home without his rival there to annoy him. The chase is tiring, but lucky for Naruto, he's always had the best stamina of Team Seven.
None of the three men know what will happen when the running stops. To them, if doesn't matter. Knowing that someone is following and having someone to pursue wholeheartedly gives them all the purpose they need. As for the future, they plan to deal with it when it comes. Until then, the chase is everything.
Kakashi hurries to Thorn Village the first free moment he gets. With him, he carries a sealed envelope with Tobi's blood test results. He greets the two former Akatsuki, gives Deidara a quick look-over, and sensing nothing, drags Tobi out of the house to talk.
When they reach the privacy of the back yard, Kakashi hands him the envelope and tells him what it contains.
"Kakashi, listen," Tobi says to him gently. "I don't know if I was Obito or if I wasn't…but I'm not anymore. I can't be your old teammate." He hands the envelope back, unopened. "But if we can start over, I'd like to be your friend."
The masked man slips off his mask. Kakashi scrutinizes the face underneath. It resembles Obito's face…but it also resembles Sasuke's and Itachi's. An Uchiha face, definitely, but it lacks the baby-fat that Obito carried. An Obito-grin decorates his lips, but Kakashi hasn't seen another Uchiha smile that broadly to know if it is an Uchiha or purely an Obito smile.
Kakashi hesitates, then tugs down his own mask. He bites his lip nervously as Tobi meets his eyes, but the other man doesn't comment. Instead, he extends a hand. Kakashi takes it and shakes
"Hi, I'm Tobi. It's nice to meet you," he says.
"I'm Kakashi. The pleasure's all mine."
Kakashi drops in to check on Deidara and Tobi when he can. There is no pattern to the visits because there is no pattern to his irregular schedule. The villagers give Deidara and Tobi warning when they see the Konoha ninja at the gates so the artist has time to mask his chakra before Kakashi ever sees him.
The silver-haired man focuses more on Tobi during his visits anyways. He checks to see that the villagers are safe and healthy, that Deidara isn't rampaging around, then he seizes Tobi. They talk for hours, about Konoha and the Uchiha clan, about the ongoing search for Sasuke, and about the various books they like to read (most start with Icha and end with Paradise, but a few legitimate works of literature worm their way in as well).
Tobi enjoys Kakashi's presence for two reasons. First of all, he enjoys having a friend. Second of all…Deidara never quite gets over his suspicions about Kakashi's motives. Every time he hears Kakashi is in town, he drags Tobi into the bedroom and doesn't let him leave until Tobi is so sated that he couldn't cheat if he tried. Despite Deidara's show of mistrust, Tobi never complains.
Kakashi wonders a little why Tobi always seems so content in such a boring village, but he guesses that after Akatsuki, maybe peace and quiet is desirable.
After his first return home from Thorn, Kakashi opens the envelope that Tobi didn't want, and looks at the contents. He doesn't tell anyone else what the results were, but underneath his mask, he smiles. He stops spending three hours at the Memorial Stone every morning; instead, he stops there, says a quick prayer for the departed, and moves on.
The remaining two hours and fifty-five minutes he puts to good use at the Konoha Academy, spying on and pestering a certain chuunin sensei that works there.
Iruka smiles every morning when Kakashi appears at his workplace, although he hides the expression before the jounin can see it. He won't admit it aloud just yet, but he enjoys the attention the man gives him. Whenever Kakashi finally gets up the courage to ask him out, Iruka plans on saying yes…but until then, he doesn't mind teasing the man a little. It's rather amusing, watching an elite jounin skirt around the issue like a nervous Academy student trying to ask their crush to the end of the year dance.
Iruka finds Kakashi attractive and he's pretty damn sure Kakashi feels the same way about him, and the hesitant flirting they're engaged in is promising; however, there's a line between playing a game and wasting time. The chuunin promises himself that if Kakashi hasn't made an actual move by the New Year, Iruka will pounce on him at the New Year's party.
He has the countdown to New Years marked on his calendar, and every morning when Kakashi comes in, he smirks and crosses off another day.
The villagers aren't stupid. They knew from the start that two ninja settling down in a small border-village like Thorn must have something to hide, and after the Sound attack, putting two and two together isn't very difficult.
They know that Deidara is that Deidara, but they also know that he is the one that saved their lives. Deidara and Tobi are Thorn's private heroes, and the villagers protect them in return.
There isn't much they can do, at first. They send over food, because it is painfully obvious that neither ninja can cook a nutritious meal. They turn a blind eye when they hear blasts and see smoke rising from the clay studio. They send a messenger to tell Deidara and Tobi when the Konoha ninja drops by. It isn't much, but they're happy to do it.
Deidara and Tobi never even know that the hunter ninja arrives one day. He meets with the village elder and asks about a clay-worker who might be 'the dangerous S-ranked criminal'.
The elder shakes his head. "Oh dear," he tells the hunter. "Everyone makes that mistake. It's dreadfully troubling for our Deidara." He guides the ninja to the studio and they peer through the window.
"Deidara is a family name, you understand. That Akatsuki fellow is the black sheep of the family, giving the rest of them- good folk, masters of pottery- a bad reputation," the elder lies.
The ninja observes the artist inside. The man resembles the photo in his Bingo Book, but there are some differences. The artist's hair is pulled into a simple ponytail and his face is older, more serious than the boy the hunter is searching for. The hands, when he washes off the clay covering them, lack the characteristic mouths.
"You can speak with him if you need to, but he finds mention of his horrible cousin terribly upsetting," the man explains. The hunter shakes his head. He's traveled across the continent following the unfounded rumor that the Akatsuki member might have survived the blast that wiped out an entire forest. He saw the destruction of the blast, and he's convinced the man is dead; even if he wasn't, he really doesn't think the self-proclaimed artist would be in a village like Thorn. The elder implies that if the hunter speaks to the potter inside the studio, the wispy blond will become hysteric. The hunter weighs his options, trying to decide if questioning him is worth the headache.
"It's not necessary. Sorry for the trouble." The man leaves, and the villagers breath a sigh of relief.
They never bother finding out the crimes that Deidara was wanted for. What happens outside of the village doesn't bother them, and they don't begrudge their hero a second chance.
If you ask any villager in Thorn who their favorite artist is, every one of them, old or young, replies, "Deidara."
Among the piles of paperwork that clutter her office, Tsunade finds a memo that declares Deidara of the Akatsuki officially dead. She reads the details, that he was killed in an explosion during a battle with the missing ninja Uchiha Sasuke.
She flips though the reports that Kakashi has filed, detailing the prosperity of Thorn Village with the trade revenue from Deidara and Tobi's artwork and the general state of wellbeing surrounding them.
Tsunade doesn't lie about the proclamation. She just doesn't bother to correct it. If she did, she'd have to explain how she knew, and that would create entirely too much paperwork. There would be an investigation, which would require overtime, and Shizune keeps the Hokage locked in her office too long as it is.
The pigtailed woman balls the memo up and tosses it in the trash. "To second chances," she murmurs, and takes a swig of sake.
Tobi fixes Deidara doll and the Tobi doll. Both are rather ragged and scarred, but his loving stitches piece them back together. He harasses Deidara until the other molds the heart into the proper shape, and places it inside.
Instead of a thin red thread to bind them, Tobi finds a braided red curtain cord and ties them firmly together.
"Not very subtle, un," Deidara remarks when he sees it.
"Neither am I, sempai," Tobi reasons.
Deidara snatches the dolls from him and shoves them into the back shelf of his storage room. They reveal entirely too much for him to allow anyone else to see them.
"You're a fucking moron, un," he tells Tobi once the dolls are safely hidden.
"I love you too, sempai," Tobi replies.
Deidara smacks the back of his head with his palm. "Shut up, un," he commands.
"I love you, I love you, I loooooove you," Tobi sings. He dodges Deidara's second attack and dances just out of arm's range. Deidara turns to leave.
"I hate you, you loser, un," the artist mutters to himself.
"What was that, sempai? You hate me? You didn't seem to hate me when Kakashi was here last week." Tobi smirks at him. A blush starts to creep across Deidara's face. "I seem to recall someone dragging me into the bedroom and doing naughty things to me before he'd let me go visit."
Deidara keeps his eyes trained on the door. "Che. You think that was naughty?" He whispers. "You haven't seen anything yet."
The blond disappears into his bedroom. He leaves the door cracked open.
"Yet…" Tobi repeats with elation, and follows his sempai inside.
AN: The end! Finally, finally, the end!
If you read the side story, there's a final chapter of that to be released soon. But other than that, this story is over!!! Thank you everyone for the reviews and the wonderful feedback you've given me. I enjoyed writing this for you.