It was hopeless. Sasori would never find Deidara out here, in pitch-black night, with rain and tears blurring his vision. The red head leaned back, panting heavily with exhaustion, trying to get hold of the tree behind him. He had been running all the time, using a huge amount of his chakra to control Hiruko in order to look for his partner, but all in vain. If only…

Sasori was startled out of his thoughts when he noticed that he hadn't grabbed the rough bark of a tree, but something soft and muddy instead. He didn't dare to breathe when he turned around and found that his assumption had been right. He had leaned against a clay sculpture, the eagle he had seen before, which was slowly being melted by the pouring rain. And under one of its wings, there he was, sitting on the dirty ground, curled up in a ball and shaking with cold, his face buried in his hands, his wet blond hair sticking to his face.

"Thank God, you're alive!"

Two cerulean eyes met Sasori's, dull and empty, as they had been in his imagination. The red head froze at the sight.

"Are you hurt, Deidara-chan?", he gasped, voice trembling with fear.

He couldn't tell if the face of the blond was wet with rain or tears or blood. Deidara didn't reply but buried his face in his hands again, as if unable to return the look. Sasori bent down to him and grabbed his shoulders, slightly shaking the trembling figure. His heart was racing, on the one hand because he was glad that he had finally found his partner, on the other hand because he was afraid something could be wrong with him.

"Answer me, Deidara", he yelled, "you hurt?"

A choking sound escaped the throat of the blond, a mumble between sobs, muffled by his arms which he had wrapped around himself. Sasori couldn't tell if it had been a yes or a no or any reply at all, but he could tell that Deidara was exhausted, so he picked him up bridal style and pressed him tightly against Hiruko's chest. He never moved without his guarding shell in the open, he only felt comfortable inside of it, but right now he wished he could feel Deidara's arms wrap around his own neck instead of the puppet's.

The eyes of the blond were closed shut when he was laid down onto the bed. He had passed out during their way back, his light frame getting limp and motionless in Sasori's arms. The red head now frantically checked his partner's body, but apart from a few minor injuries, he was unharmed.

"Thank God", Sasori mumbled to himself and breathed a sigh of relief.

He got out of Hiruko and quickly sealed his puppet into a scroll. He wanted to see Deidara with his own eyes, feel his breath on his own skin, touch him with his own hands. He brushed some of the blond strands out of the boy's face, playfully twirling the soft hair between his fingers before they made their way down, gently stroking his cheek once again. Deidara was so beautiful. Sasori couldn't understand why he had wanted to run away from him before. All he wanted now was to be near him, to hold him in his arms, to hug him tightly against his chest.

Finally, Deidara budged, his eyes slowly fluttering open. It obviously took him a few seconds to realize that he was lying on a bed, under some woolen blankets.

"Sasori-danna", he smiled when he became aware of the red head bending down to him, "you've finally come for me."

The puppeteer could barely withstand the steady gaze of the deep blue eyes. They weren't empty anymore.

"You look different, danna, un", the blond said.

Of course. He hadn't seen him before, only Hiruko. Sasori never showed his face to anyone, not even to the other Akatsuki members. He had been betrayed so often in his life he had decided not to reveal his identity to others anymore. But with Deidara, things were different.

The blond was still smiling at him, his eyes full of admiration.

"You're beautiful, Sasori-danna, un", he said, voice almost a whisper. The red head's heart had been racing all the time, but now it started to beat even faster, almost painfully pounding against his chest. Their faces were so close now Sasori could barely stand the tension any longer. He had never felt that nervous before. With his eyes closed, he slowly bent down to the blond, planting a shy kiss on his lips. He could feel Deidara's arms wrap around his neck immediately, the touch sending an anxious shiver down his spine. His counterpart apparently appreciated what he was doing, so Sasori deepened the kiss, gently forcing his tongue into his partner's mouth. He moved closer to him, supporting his weight with his arms in order not to crush the small blond beneath him. The world seemed to stand still. The movements of their tongues, slowly exploring each other's mouth, were so gentle, so careful, yet a bit fearful the other one would pull away the next moment.

"You don't hate me, do you, Sasori-danna, un?", Deidara asked when they had broken away from each other, a faint smile on his face.

The puppeteer only shook his head, unable to speak, overwhelmed with emotions. He hated the fact that he had given the little blond the impression he wasn't liked. A sparkling tear ran down Deidara's cheek, but it seemed to be a happy tear, as the smile was still on his face. He pulled the puppeteer closer, tightening the grip around his neck.

"Sasori-danna, un", he whispered into his ear, "I love you."

Sasori froze, but then a comfortable warmth started to spread throughout his body, making him feel all dizzy inside.

"I love you, too, Deidara-chan", he said, wondering about how easily the words could be spoken when there was no doubt about them.

Why had he been that cold before? Why had he been unable to express his feelings towards the blond? Had he been too blind to see that Deidara was in love with him? No, he had known it. He had known it for long, but he hadn't believed it. People had always been interested in his skills, his techniques, his puppets, but it was the first time someone was interested in him. He had almost forgotten what it felt like to be loved.

"Do you want some tea?", Sasori asked out of the blue. They had been lying on the bed for a while, not talking, just watching each other.

"I'd love to", Deidara replied, "I'm a bit cold, un."

Sasori got up and put the kettle on once again, with the blond following him into the kitchen and wrapping his arms around him from behind, looking around curiously.

"Now I see why you didn't want me to come with you, un", he said, nestling his head onto his partner's shoulder and watching him arrange two cups on a serving plate. The red head turned his head in surprise.

"You do?"

He himself didn't know why, how could Deidara know the reason for his stupid behavior?

"Yeah", he chuckled, causing Sasori to smirk. The puppeteer could tell from his voice that something funny was likely to be heard from the blond. He was never in a bad mood for long, and he was always being silly, even if things were serious.

"Because your place is a mess", Deidara continued, pointing at the red stain on the carpet.

"Baka", Sasori laughed. He was a very tidy person. He loved to arrange his furniture at right angles, and everything was always in its right place, apart from some books on the table and some puppets in need of repair on his workbench. The cup on the carpet was the only messy thing.

"I dropped that because of you", Sasori said.

"Me?", Deidara asked and blinked.

"Yes, when I saw your bird come down", the red head explained while pouring hot water into the cups. Suddenly, he turned around and looked straight into Deidara's eyes.

"Please, don't do something like this ever again."

Sasori's voice had become oddly serious.

"I already told you, I couldn't bear it if something happened to you", he whispered, "especially if something happened to you because of me."

Deidara cast down his eyes again. "I'm sorry, danna", he said, "I promise I'll never endanger myself again…"

Two blue eyes were giving Sasori a pleading look.

"But you have to promise something, too, un."

The puppeteer could feel Deidara's grip tighten around his waist as he continued.

"Please promise that you never leave me again."

"Oh, Deidara-chan…"

Sasori tilted his partner's head up, pulling him into a passionate but gentle kiss once again before he answered.

"You are the most precious thing in my life. I will never leave you, and I will never let you go. I promise."