Disclaimer: The characters, items, places etc of Naruto are property of Masashi Kishimoto. These objects are used without permission for entertainment only, not for making money. No infringement is intended.

Warning! Alternative Universe DeiItaDei- this means it is set in our world, not Konoha and is about the eventual homosexual pairing of Itachi and Deidara with the dominant role primarily being Deidara's, but occasionally Itachi's. It is also Itachi centric the vast majority of the time.

Because it is AU, I've had to do a little character tweaking (explosions in the real world? Poor Deidara would be arrested!) here and there but hopefully I've done alright. Finally, I like to write emotional relationships more than physical ones, so if you're after pages of gratuitous smut you're going to be disappointed. Sorry!

I'm in the UK so when I say college, I don't mean the type in America- I mean the kind that's like school only less hours and optional that we have here. Hopefully that makes sense!

If any of the above offends you, please hit the back button now. Otherwise, please enjoy :)

The Preferable Path to Perfection Is You

By Nanaki Lioness


If Uchiha Itachi could name one thing he hated, near the top of the list would be interruption. It wouldn't be right at the top since at least it was recoverable from, but he certainly wasn't very fond of it. He'd been casually staring out of the window, tapping a hand lightly on the desk as his teacher droned on about something he could probably read in a textbook somewhere, when a timid knock on the door had pulled the class's attention to it.

"Come in."

Itachi glanced over with mild irritation to see what the cause was, seeing a blond student he vaguely recognised as being in a year or two below him enter the room. He turned his attention back to the window- he probably had a message to deliver. He was conversing with the teacher, who nodded a few times before turning his attention to the curious class and clapping his hands.

"Alright, the art department would like to borrow one of you."

Itachi sighed and went back to tapping his pen. Nothing interesting, then. Art was one of those subjects he saw absolutely no use in- what good was a degree in art compared to a degree in something more stable? He simply couldn't understand the possibility of attempting to make a living from such a flighty area of expertise.

"Choose who you want then, Deidara."

Itachi remembered the name as it was spoken- Deidara was one of the college's most fanatical art students, forever doing ridiculous things in the name of his subject when he'd joined only a year earlier. One of his more famous artistic works had involved Deidara's misinterpretation of an assignment to do something to 'brighten up the college'. The poor teachers had expected students to plant flowers or paint something to hang on the wall- Deidara had taken to painting parts of the outer college wall in fluorescent pink and yellow paints and earning himself a suspension despite arguing he'd been following the guidelines given.

"I'll take him."

Itachi noticed the hand being pointed was aimed in his direction, and he raised an eyebrow in question at the blond. This was new- he and Deidara hadn't spoken before.

"Come with me," Deidara beckoned with one hand.

Itachi wanted to ask if he really had to but he was too polite for such an act, simply nodding and gathering his things into his bag. Slinging it over his shoulder, he nodded a goodbye to his teacher as he followed Deidara out of the room.

"What do you need me for?" He asked, his soft voice reverberating through the silent corridor as they walked.

"I want to draw you," Deidara replied, giving him an enthusiastic smile.

Of all the things Itachi had been expecting, that was the last one on the list.

"Why me?" He eventually asked, pushing the door in front of them open and holding it for the younger man to pass through.

Deidara shrugged, accepting the chivalry with a smile of thanks. "You look interesting, yeah. I like interesting."

"I assure you I'm really quite plain."

Deidara ignored his self observation, leading him into the art block and into an empty classroom. Shutting the door, he glanced around the small room as if deep in thought.

"I want the best lighting," he remarked after a moment. "Sit by the window."

Itachi did as requested, putting his bag on the floor and seating himself directly in front of one of the large windows at the side of the room. Deidara, who was setting up an easel in front of him, gave him a nod of agreement to stay there.

"Can you relax, yeah? Just look natural."

Itachi had thought he was already looking quite natural but relaxed his stance a little and picked up a nearby paintbrush, inspecting it far more closely than he ever expected he might inspect such an object. The white bristles were worn and stained slightly blue in hue, with the wooden handle clearly having seen better days. Typical college equipment, he noted as he dropped it back on the desk- overused and under-replaced.

He stayed quiet for a while, glancing across to see Deidara sketching on the easel with fire in his eyes. It was almost like he was lost in his own world, seeing nothing but paint and Itachi.

"You enjoy it?" He asked, genuinely curious.

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't."

Apparently Deidara wasn't in the mood to elaborate on his passion, leaving Itachi to glance back down at the paintbrush and twirl it on the desk. He'd been bored in his class but at least he'd had something to do on the horizon when the teacher finished talking, even if he hadn't really had the need to listen.

"Uchiha Itachi, yeah?"

He glanced up as Deidara spoke his name, forming the syllables inquisitively as though they were stuck to his tongue.

"Yes," Itachi confirmed with a small nod.

"People say you're a genius. They say that you're good at everything you do without putting in any effort, yeah."

Itachi thought about that for a moment, eyes narrowed slightly in contemplation. "People like to flatter me," he eventually settled with. "To say I don't exert any effort would be a lie."

"You look like the type of person who would be pretty perfect."

Itachi frowned at him, taking that as an insult. "Excuse me?"

"I'm not insulting you," Deidara quickly added, noting his reaction. "I mean- it just radiates off you. You're dressed well, your hair is tidy and you looked really bored when I came into your class- typical perfect genius, yeah."

"If you're trying not to insult me, you're going to have to try harder."

Deidara sighed in frustration, lowering his pencil for a moment. "I just told you you're presentable and smart, yeah," he finally came up with. "Why are you taking it as an insult?"

Itachi didn't have a response to that. It was a sensible question but he turned his attention back to the window- no-one could force him to voice his answer to it. He wanted people to believe he was flawless, so why did Deidara pointing it out make him feel terrible?

"Everyone says I'm a ditz and that I'm stupid," Deidara told him, putting his pencil back to the paper. "No-one really understands what goes on in my head, yeah. I don't expect you to get it."

Itachi turned his attention fully back to the window, unwilling to speak any longer on the topic. He didn't open up to people- his younger brother had had the most luck getting him to come out of his shell but that was because he was persistent, not because Itachi actually wanted to. He wasn't about to start pouring his heart out to some random stranger.

"Am I going to have to paint this with a blue border?"

"If you wish."

Deidara laughed at that, shaking his head with a sigh. "You really don't get it, do you? I'm saying you look sad. It doesn't suit you, yeah."

"I'm not sad," Itachi shrugged, glancing back over. He wasn't entirely sure if he was lying, though. He was as unreadable to himself just as often as he was to the people around him but he rarely let it bother him- as long as he continued to excel where he wanted to, he didn't care for much else.

"You can't fool me," Deidara commented flippantly, stopping momentarily to look up and meet Itachi's eye. "I'm an artist- I can see these things."

He didn't push the matter, simply putting his attention back on the picture he was drawing. Comfortable silence enveloped the room and Itachi welcomed it- he'd been unhappy with where the conversation had been heading. All he could hear was the scratching of Deidara's pencil on paper and he tuned in on it, finding it almost melodic.

How bad of an afternoon was it going to be, really? All he had to do was sit and do nothing and he didn't even have to care about looking bored. He laid an elbow on the worn, scratched table and rested his chin on his palm. He could get to like art, he decided.


Around two hours later, Itachi had reversed his decision. Sitting doing nothing had got boring very quickly, and Deidara definitely hadn't been in a talkative mood once he had really got going. It had left Itachi sitting in near-silence, watching the clock tick by and wondering if Deidara was anywhere near finished.

How long did it take to sketch and colour a simple picture? He glanced across to see Deidara still at work with a paint palette on one hand, occasionally stealing a glance up at him before continuing.

He frowned, his back aching from sitting on the uncomfortable stool, shifting and trying to get more comfortable. He was getting restless from staying in one place with very little in the way of stimulation- he got bored at the best of times and this artistic venture was starting to try his patience.

"Don't move."

"I've barely moved for nearly two hours."

He was ignored.

It was a reasonably hot day and the sunlight streaming through the large window was making him warm and quite irritable. He picked up his bag from the floor, rifling through it for water and finding none.

"Stop moving, yeah?!" Deidara told him sharply.

Itachi dropped the bag back on the floor, sighing as he did so. "Are you nearly done with your silly picture?" He remarked, resting his elbow on the table and laying his head on his palm. He tapped on the table with his other hand, noticing Deidara staring at him like he had just grown a second head. Feeling that he should elaborate in case he had been too impolite, he did so. "I'd like to get some water."

Deidara lowered his paintbrush and glared at the elder man in such a manner that Itachi wondered if he should bitten his tongue after all. "Silly picture?" He echoed incredulously, finally finding his voice. "Do you have any taste at all, Uchiha?! You don't understand art, do you?"

Itachi tuned him out, glancing out of the window instead. He wasn't usually so ill-mannered but really, he was quite fed up with posing in the sun like some kind of lazy cat. He rubbed the exposed skin on his right arm gently and feeling it burn slightly beneath his touch- it had been taking most of the sunlight. He would not be impressed if he ended up sunburnt- and he would burn, since he'd never once been able to maintain a tan on his pale skin and therefore never tried.

"Art is never silly. I don't like this kind of art very much but it has its place sometimes, yeah," Deidara protested again, throwing a clean paintbrush at Itachi to get his attention. It bounced off of his arm, earning the younger man a curious glance as the brush clattered to the floor. Itachi made a move to pick it up but a yelp from Deidara froze him in place, half raised from the stool and hand outstretched to the floor.

Deidara stalked towards him, pushing him back into a sitting position and retrieving the paintbrush, setting it back down on the side next to Itachi carelessly. He then grabbed a nearby cup and filled it with water from the classroom sink, setting it down next to Itachi with a slam.

"Art is expression!" Deidara ranted at him. "There's some water."

Itachi stared at the water, eyes narrowed for a moment before speaking. "Is the water from that tap even safe to drink?" He questioned.

"How should I know?"

Itachi inspected the cup it was in closer, seeing dried paint around and inside of it as Deidara stalked back to his painting. "This cup is used for water to clean brushes," he pointed out after a moment. "Are you trying to poison me?"

"Just sit still!" Deidara snapped at him in frustration, paintbrush sliding furiously across the paper. "If you move much more I'm going to have to start over. I'm almost done, yeah."

Itachi relented at that threat, turning his attention back to the discarded paintbrush he had been looking at earlier. Who in their right mind took such an incredibly useless and tedious subject like art?

He glanced up at Deidara, getting the answer to that question. Mildly eccentric head cases took art, that's who.

Deidara stepped back after a few minutes, inspecting the picture in front of him before stepping over to Itachi. "I need one more thing, yeah," he remarked, taking the paintbrush out of Itachi's hand and putting it down on the side again. "One finishing touch."

He leant forward and pushed his lips gently onto Itachi's, kissing him softly. Itachi stayed locked in the kiss for a moment, his mind working overtime to try and process what the hell had just happened.

After a few tense moments he held his hands up to push Deidara away- Deidara beat him to it however and broke away, stepping back to his picture and grabbing his paintbrush quickly.

"Perfect," he declared to himself. "Perfect, yeah."

"What..." Itachi stopped, swallowing as his voice was hoarse- his throat was drier than it had been previously. He swallowed again, unwilling to test the water he had been given. "What was that?" He finally articulated.

"That was a kiss," Deidara replied casually as though it had been the most natural action in the world. "I'm done, yeah. You can look now."

Itachi slipped off of the stool, eyes narrowed in thought as he padded across the room to inspect the picture. He licked his lips as he did as if to remind him that yes- that really had just happened.

The picture of him that confronted him was very good, Itachi noticed- no, it was excellent. The first thing he took note of was the pink tinge on his picture-self's cheeks, glancing across at Deidara as his knowledgeable mind worked out why he had been kissed.

"I thought it would be a nice touch," Deidara said by explanation, shrugging. He didn't even look awkward, Itachi realised, turning his attention back to the picture.

The Itachi in the picture was smiling just slightly too. He wondered briefly when he had smiled but, well, he'd been sitting there for an age and he probably had at some point. He realised with a start that it might have been after the kiss, pushing the thought away as quickly as it rose.

"It's good," he eventually settled with. "Was it what you needed?"

Deidara nodded, giving him a brilliant smile.

"What was your assignment?"

"Assignment?" Deidara repeated, looking confused and cocking his head to one side. "I didn't have an assignment- I had an afternoon off and needed a way to fill it, yeah. I didn't feel like going home."

He gave the elder man a quick wink, packing up his art supplies and humming softly to himself. Itachi watched him, blinking slowly and feeling quite uncharacteristically dumbfounded.

"You can go now," Deidara prompted.

Itachi grabbed his own bag, heading to the door without another word. As he reached it and put one hand on the doorknob, Deidara's voice floated behind him and stopped him.

"You taste like cinnamon."

Itachi's hand faltered and he turned slowly to face Deidara.

"I never thought you'd be one for sweet things," Deidara continued, not looking at Itachi as he packed his things away. "I was surprised."

"Cinnamon cake," Itachi finally spoke. "My brother visited with a cinnamon cake he made yesterday and I took a slice for lunch. He hates sweets but he knows I like them."

"Mm," Deidara hummed. "Tell him it tastes good, yeah."

Itachi put his hand back on the doorknob, turning away. "Yeah," he replied, eyes narrowed slightly as his mind still attempted to process the events of the last few minutes. "I'll tell him."


Author's Note: Deidara is pretty much the most fun character I've ever written and he contrasts Itachi so well- basically, I'm having so much fun with this it should be criminal ;) I hope you're enjoying it too!