Disclaimer: Everything Naruto belongs to Kishimoto. I just sneak into his playground every so often.
Summary: In their final moments before death, the members of Akatsuki experience one last vision of their past, their present, and what could be.
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for the manga up until this point. Later chapters should spoil into the future until all the Akatsuki members die. Warning for character death, naturally, and maybe some implied yaoi if you're really looking for it.
Author's Note: I just couldn't let Akatsuki go without one last goodbye. This part is Sasori. I'll post the others as I think of ideas.
Chapter One – Sasori Dreams
Sasori stood on a sandy plain and felt the wind blow through his hair. The desert stretched out for endless miles all around him. It had been an age since he'd stood in his true form in the open like this, and even longer since he'd felt any such sensation. His hair had been fiber carefully rooted into wood for years, artificial and lifeless and devoid of touch. He had been free of the ability to feel the evening air on his cheek for what felt like a lifetime; free of the chill and bite the wind brought with it, as well. No pain and no pleasure, or at least very close to it. It had been his perfect world for almost as long as he could remember.
Somehow, though, this newfound ability to feel didn't disturb him, and he didn't wonder how it was possible. In this moment, as he watched the sun set over the desert, he was perfectly at peace with this memory of a human existence almost forgotten.
"Not so eternal, yeah?" came a low voice from beside him.
Sasori didn't have to look to identify the speaker. Years spent working closely with any one person naturally put them into perfect harmony with each other, no matter what the differences between them were. He and Deidara were partners, and so they worked as one, even when their personalities pulled them in opposite directions. It didn't trouble Sasori now like it had when they were first partnered.
"The sunset?" Sasori asked. His eyes flitted to one side to see Deidara shrug beside him.
The golds in the sky transformed into reds and purples, and Sasori looked away rather than acknowledge the change. His gaze focused on his own hands instead, slowly taking in livid flesh on what should have been lineless, perfect puppet limbs. There were creases in these hands, lines of wear and age.
Sasori studied them, suddenly fascinated by their infinite complexity, beyond anything that even a master artist like himself could create. He had never known hands like this. His own had been traded in for artificial and antiseptic limbs long before he'd reached an age when any imperfections would show.
"Mirror?" Sasori asked, absorbed by curiosity for this new form. Dimly in the back of his mind, it seemed strange to him that flesh should intrigue him now, after all these years. He hadn't thought about what it had been like for over a decade now, and he'd almost forgotten his old concerns that his still-beating heart left him far too human and vulnerable.
"Here." Deidara held out one hand before him, and instead of the explosive clay that usually emerged from the mouth there, a silvery reflective substance pooled in Deidara's palm instead, thick like quicksilver but as clear and pure as any mountain lake.
Sasori gazed at his reflection in Deidara's palm as the sunlight faded all around them. He knew the face there, yet he didn't. "I'm a man," he whispered almost reverently. His imperfect hand came up to explore features that had grown up in a way that Sasori never had. "I'm my own age."
"It happens to everybody sooner or later," Deidara agreed.
Sasori's fingers encircled Deidara's wrist and brought the mirror in his palm closer to his face so that he could see himself better. His skin almost burned with the heat of Deidara's flesh, too long unfamiliar with human contact. He froze for a moment, waiting for the inevitable heartbreak he'd come to associate with human contact from his childhood.
Instead, there was nothing, just the wind, the steady warmth of Deidara's skin, and familiar grey eyes that blinked up at him from the mirror. He'd known those eyes once, so long ago.
Fingers trembling slightly on Deidara's wrist, he really looked at himself for the first time.
"Father…" he breathed in disbelief.
And it was his father he saw, not the puppet he'd created so long ago in his father's image, but his actual father. With a sudden stirring of something deep inside, he realized that his father had never left him, because he was here, right now, in Sasori's reflection. How could he ever have been alone when his father had been hidden inside him all this time, just waiting to reveal himself?
It was a trick a master puppeteer should never have missed: one being concealed within another.
"That's what human frailty is, I suppose," Deidara commented philosophically, reading Sasori's expressions perfectly in that uncanny way he sometimes could. "The pain blots out all reality."
Sasori smiled slightly to himself at the thought. "This is why you find art in impermanence," he finally understood. There was a sort of ethereal beauty to it all.
"Well, that and it's fun to blow things up, yeah?"
Sasori's smile widened. He looked up from the mirror to his partner of many years. It suddenly occurred to him that he'd been alone for such a long time that he hadn't even noticed when the loneliness had ended. Deidara was many things, but he'd never left Sasori alone; that was certain.
"You know, brat," Sasori said slyly, "I may actually miss you."
Deidara smirked. "Don't get all weepy on me now, Master."
Sasori looked at his hands once more. They were dimmer now, the edges becoming softer as the light was fading. "It seems I won't last, after all. Does that mean I was never an artist?"
"Hmm," Deidara said thoughtfully. "I'd say you're even more beautiful for having finally faded away."
"I think I understand," Sasori agreed as the darkness encroached around him.
"And you did go out with quite a bang."
"I did, didn't I?" Sasori smiled to himself as the world went black. "Thank you."
"My pleasure, Master Sasori." Deidara's voice was fading now, as if he were moving away impossibly fast.
"But don't forget," were Sasori's parting words, "I still hate waiting."
The distant rumbling of Deidara's full laugh accompanied him into oblivion.
Thanks for reading, and comments are always appreciated.