Disclaimer: The series Naruto and all of its characters do not belong to me. I am merely borrowing them for the duration of this story, and receive no profit from it.

Chapter One
The Redhaired Gunslinger

The dirt from the street had long since claimed it's place on the saloon floor, caked between the cracks and corners of the room. The bartender barely looked around, sitting behind the bar, eyes closed and leaning against the back wall. The only sound to be heard was the creaking of the door as the wind blew against it, the harsh breathing of the three men inside, the clink of glass against wood as drinks were raised and then lowered.

The boy had been sitting like that for a while now: stiff, still as a statue, silent as death. If not for the movement of his hair, the rise and fall of his chest, he could have been mistaken for stone. It amused Deidara that even with three weeks familiarity, the boy still acted as if at any moment he would be set upon. He supposed it couldn't be helped.

"Stop staring," Sasuke said suddenly, slanting his eyes at Deidara.

A corner of Deidara's mouth quirked up. "Why?"

"It's annoying."

Deidara chuckled. "Everything annoys you. Deal with it."

The boy huffed, but otherwise stayed silent. Deidara leaned back in his chair to watch the entrance.

It had been a few months since he had been here last. Though he had no reason to believe that his contact had left town, the organization was known to keep their people moving. It was possible he had been sent elsewhere. He could only hope.

Mostly, because it would be irritating if someone like Kisame showed up instead.

Screaming hinges caused Deidara to straighten in his chair. He grinned.

The red-haired man looked surprised to see him. He returned the grin before sauntering in their direction.

"Deidara, long time," he said as he sat down.

The blond shrugged. "Not so long."

The man glanced briefly at Sasuke. "I take it you're looking for Itachi." Deidara nodded.

Sasuke frowned. "How did you know that?"

They ignored him.

"About time," the man said.

"Took me longer to get here than I thought it would."

"Hmm." He turned to look at Sasuke. "Boy, go get me a drink."

The boy's look of apoplectic rage amused Deidara to no end.

"I am not a servant!" he hissed in Japanese.

An amused smirk crossed the man's lips. "And I don't have to tell you two where he's at, either."

Sasuke spluttered, before snapping his head to Deidara. His glare could have melted ice. "He prefers whiskey," Deidara added helpfully.

Sasuke just stared at him, stunned, before wrenching himself out of his seat and storming to the bar. The bartender, who had been watching their table silently since the man's entrance, nodded slightly to the redhead. The man returned the gesture before turning serious eyes on the blond.

"You've been out of the city for three weeks, Deidara. Three weeks. Che, I thought higher of you than that."

He shrugged. "It was hard to get around without anyone noticing. Especially with the boy."

The man cocked his head to the side, observing him. "Itachi knows you have him."

Deidara titled his head back, smiling. "Good."

The man frowned. "They're looking for you. I've been issued orders to kill on sight, and capture the boy."

The blond tensed, watching him. "Anyone else in town?"

"No. Lucky for you."

Deidara relaxed. "Yes."

Sasuke's return halted anything else the man wanted to say. He slammed the cup down on the table, before seating himself. He sat there, upright and rigid, fuming. "Who the fuck are you, anyway?" the boy snarled.

"Sasori," the man replied lazily. He picked up his cup, smirking at Deidara before taking a drink. He looked back at Sasuke. "So, you any good with a gun?"

The boy narrowed his eyes at the man, and then sneered. "I don't need to be."

Sasori cocked an eyebrow at him, looking at him as one might someone very young, and very stupid. "Is that so?"

The boy stared back, challenging and proud.

Deidara peered at his nails. He noticed, with a frown, that one of them had split a bit down the middle. He tried to tear it off.

A chair scrapped against the floor, and then a gunshot went off near his ear. There was an exclamation, a clang, and then the sound of something heavy striking wood. The blond looked back up.

Sasuke was ghost white and standing, cradling his right hand, staring at the redhead in horror. Sasori was still sitting, and the sound of metal against wood as he placed his gun down on the table was much like the sound that the small, bladed weapon across from it had made when it fell.

"Stupid child, you're not going to get anywhere with that attitude." And Sasori drained the last of his whiskey.


"Make yourselves at home."

It had been Sasori who had decided that they couldn't go forward without Sasuke knowing the very basics of gunfighting. Bad manners, he called it.

"Besides," he said, "it's not like they'll ever let you close enough to actually use those pretty weapons of yours. I'd rather not send you two over without a chance. Deidara still owes me ten bucks."

"It's always about the money with him," Deidara told Sasuke sadly. "It's as if he doesn't trust me."

"I don't trust you," Sasuke pointed out.


So now the duo stood at the threshold of what could only nominally be considered a home. Deidara went inside and flopped down in an armchair. Dust and dirt exploded from within it, settling upon the pile of dirt already present. It was only through sheer will power that Deidara did not sneeze. He was afraid he'd miss out on Sasuke's expression if he did so.

The boy had not bothered to enter the house. He remained standing, stiff at the door. It might have been the dirt keeping Sasuke at bay, but Deidara was pretty sure it was the smell.

"You live here?" Sasuke asked Sasori incredulously.

Sasori shrugged. "I try not to."

The boy stared at him, aghast. "I can't sleep here!"

"Suit yourself, then. Watch out for the coyotes, though; those will be the ones who look like wolves."

"Look like foxes to me," Deidara muttered.

"Why would I need to worry about these... coyotes?" The boy asked, looking at the two men in confusion.

"Because you'll never make it back to town before dark," Sasori said. "Even if you did, no one would actually put you up. You look too much like a Chinaman."

Sasuke's expression hardened, and he made as if he were leaving. But then he stopped, and suddenly flushed. "I... I have no outdoor gear."

He looked as if it had killed him to admit that.

Sasori turned to frown at Deidara. The blond smiled back.

"He didn't think he'd need it," Deidara said.

Sasori exhaled slowly. "Che." He turned back to Sasuke. "Well. As I see it, you have two options: sleep out with what you've got on, or borrow a set of my gear."

The boy looked at Sasori for a moment, before reaching in and grasping the door handle. He closed the door. Deidara snickered.

"The place isn't that bad," Sasori said darkly, stomping into a different room.

"Yes, what is that lovely smell my nose detects?" Deidara shouted merrily in the direction Sasori had gone.

A long string of curses was his only reply.

The blond relaxed in his chair, head turning towards the window. A finger drew pictures in the dust on the arm of his seat as he watched the sunlight fade outside. He didn't mind the dirt, though he found it odd. Sasori was not one for filth.

The sounds of movement drifted through the home to him.

He looked around the room. The room was almost uniformly brown, the color enforced by the layer of grime present on everything. For a moment, he imagined it was sand, and not dirt, but then his eyes caught on a reflective surface, and he lost that train of thought. He stood up, and walked over to it.

It was a picture.

Deidara used the cuff of his shirt to wipe the dirt off of the glass. A Japanese woman looked out at him, the bodice of her dress low, her face covered by too much make up. But she was smiling, and her eyes were kind, but her pale skin looked worn. He traced the line of her face.

He cleaned the frame up as best he could, and then placed it back where he had found it. He returned to his chair, and stared at the picture until the light had finally faded away and there was nothing left but the dark.


The targets had been set up on the fence posts closest to the house. It wasn't more than twenty paces away from the porch, and when Sasori had Sasuke stand in the middle of that distance, the young man immediately took offense. There had been a small row about that, with Sasuke refusing to move unless the distance was increased. Sasori had ended that by aiming at him and telling him if he didn't move his ass he wouldn't have an ass to move.

It was after Sasuke had done what he was told to do that the current issue came up.

"You actually have to hold a gun to learn how to use it, boy."

"How do I know that thing won't infect me with anything?" Sasuke snapped, and then scowled. "And my name is not boy."

The cleanliness issue.

"Your name is whatever the fuck I say it is until you've earned otherwise."

Sasuke's scowl deepened.

Deidara wasn't sure where Sasuke had decided to spend his night. All he knew was that he had found the boy sitting outside the door, when he had stepped out for some air shortly after sunrise. The boy had been fixedly staring forward, but turned his face towards him when he heard the door open. They had stared at each other for a moment, Sasuke without expression and Deidara with entirely too much, and then the young man had told him not to worry about his breakfast because he had already made his own. Deidara had shrugged, stretched, and gone back inside.

Neither of the two men had emerged again until after noon.

Deidara now sat in an old wooden chair Sasori had managed to dig out of the house. He watched the two from underneath shade of his large hat and porch awning. Sasori and Sasuke glared at each other. It was obvious, from the convulsive tightening and relaxing of his grip on the weapon, that the redhead was close to breaking point.

"It's clean," Deidara yelled finally. Wouldn't do to let Sasori blow the little idiot's brains out.

The boy glared at Sasori for a few moments more before straightening. "You could have told me that sooner," Sasuke snarled at Deidara, and then snatched the gun out of Sasori's hand.

The dry look Sasori shot Deidara still looked distinctly annoyed, but the blond wasn't too worried now; if it came down to it, he knew how to avoid a fight, and if Sasuke wasn't fighting against Sasori, the redhead would do nothing. He knew how important the boy was.

Sasuke set himself up in front of the targets, and then glared at the redhead.

"Any more complaints?" Sasori asked sourly. Sasuke remained silent. "Fine."

He walked up behind the boy, and placed both hands on his shoulders. Sasuke stiffened.

"What are you doing?" Sasuke snapped, a panicked edge to his voice.

Sasori ignored him, and moved him slightly to the side. "Your feet need to be further apart," he said sternly.


He stepped away and in front of Sasuke. "Like this," he said. He moved himself slightly, and looked back at Sasuke expectedly. Deidara wondered if it would be apparent to the boy that in his current stance, the redhead had his feet firmly planted on the ground.

Sasuke looked at Sasori, warily, and then took one step back.

Sasori started rubbing at his temple. He glanced back at the porch a moment, before looking at the dark-haired young man.

"Do you know what a gun does, at least?" He asked him.

"It shoots... things," Sasuke said, unsure.

Sasori stared at Sasuke. Several expressions crossed his face, before settling on horrified disbelief. He looked up, and then he looked down. Finally, he looked at Deidara.

"Months," he said.

Deidara shrugged and smiled.

end of chapter one

Author's Notes: First off, I'd like to thank those who reviewed and rec'd the prequel to this fic; I am so very, very appreciative, there are just no words. I am always deeply grateful when someone leaves me a review. Any kind of feedback is always well received, and I just appreciate those who take a moment to let me know what you think.

I don't know how long this WIP will be, but I do know where it is headed, and how it ends. This isn't usually the case with things I've written in the past, so I'm hoping this means that this fic will one day be finished. I sincerely hope those who read it now and like it will still be reading when it's done.