Deidara hates sleeping.

It's a waste of time, time that could be fed into the ever-hungry maw of his artistic drive, time that isn't spent coming up with new designs for this models and refining his (in his opinion) already perfected ninjutsu. Time is streaming by, fleeting, precious and passing and parlous, beautiful in its mutability and ephemeral nature; he hasn't too terribly much of it, no one does really, so letting any of that priceless sand slip through his fingers unspent is a staggering blow.

Sleep is a weakness; it leaves one defenseless, completely open to attack, and in Deidara's line of work, that sort of weakness is often fatal. He'd slept a lot more when he'd first joined Akatsuki than he does now--because of the change in partners, because he's gotten more neurotic, because his view that art was transient has been irrefutably confirmed now, and he loathes the very thought of wasting time and not completing everything he wants to complete, not fulfilling all his dreams and desires, not attaining absolute perfection.

A more trivial but no less true reason for his recent lack of sleep is his new partner. Tobi is always around, always just a little too close, always watching Deidara, and while it's flattering at first, before long the blonde can't help but feel a subtle sort of chill sometimes when Tobi goes from obnoxiously overbearing into sudden silence, can't entirely ignore the underlying sensation of slowly being weaved into a perilous entanglement by a seemingly innocent but ever-attentive spider. More than a few times, Deidara has snapped awake in the middle of the night to find that mask turned his way, Tobi sitting calm and upright and maybe asleep but probably not since Tobi usually snores when he sleeps, probably just sitting there and staring and watching and waiting for something, a level of observation which crosses the clearly-marked line between devoted and disturbing.

But the primary reason for the blonde artist's aversion to sleep is because he might dream--he usually does when he finally succumbs to sleep--and the visions that play themselves out in his mind's eye are vibrant and violent and vivid, and when he awakes, he remembers every minute detail of that time spent careening unchecked through his own twisted psyche. While he's awake, he's in control and can keep himself from dwelling on withered pasts and broken futures, can keep himself focused on the all-important now and the transitive glory of his art; but when he closes his eyes and gives himself over to sleep, his subconscious slips cleverly through all the many barriers he's constructed to keep it in check, and his mind wanders through places he'd just as soon never become aware of, events he wishes away in vain, faces he longs to surrender to the flames of forgetfulness.

He dreams of the future, and those dreams are not always so bad, because he knows his ultimate destination, what the concluding scene of his life will be, for he's already chosen his fate, and now all that remains is for him to do his utmost until he finds the right location, the right hour, to unveil his magnum opus, his greatest work, his final masterpiece.

He dreams of the present only rarely, but that's more than enough, because he deplores dreaming of his work only awaken and find it incomplete, though that annoyance is tempered by the inspiration he often receives from those dreams--a subtle change in a figure's structure, the addition of another pair of wings, the simplification of a complicated set of lines.

He dreams of his past the majority of the time, of his childhood years and the place of his birth, the adoration and admiration he received along with the avoidance of eye contact and the social stigma associated with those who willingly turned themselves into something abnormal, frightfully twisted and chillingly unpredictable and certifiably unstable, and all the more delicate and deadly for every one of those. Most often, though, he dreams of the click of joints, the whir of internal gears, the rich smell of highly-polished wood and machine oil, and the slow drip of bitter poisons from the viciously slender tips of needles.

He scarcely spares a thought for Sasori during his waking hours; but the instant sleep closes over him, the redheaded puppetmaster appears with disgusting regularity.

I told you I would live on forever, he half-whispers with that familiar, almost careless air of superiority that always irritated the hell out of Deidara. And then he smiles, the expression faint but smug and more than a little condescending and always very, very cold. As long as you remember me, I'm not really gone, am I?

Whose art wins, Deidara? Whose art wins?