"Ready for this?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

Itachi wondered how he'd manage to be convinced into dressing up for their first day at their new college. He put a hand to his styled-up hair, yanking the tie out of it and restyling it into his usual low, loose ponytail. Deidara gave him a look of dismay, but didn't comment. Itachi inspected it in his rear view mirror, nodding in satisfaction before getting out of the car. The last thing he wanted was a headache, which was all the high ponytail was giving him.

Deidara had suggested they go shopping for new clothes (any excuse, Itachi had thought idly), and had promptly arranged it so they did so. Itachi's new therapist had said the trip might do him some good, too. He had only attended one session with her, but she had made it quite clear that attempting to do things that left him feeling a little uncomfortable about people's opinions of him was a good step in the right direction. 'The best way to conquer your fears is to face them' had already become a mantra in his mind, courtesy of her soothing voice.

Stanford College seemed to be much larger than the one he was used to, but that was alright- he would blend in easier. Deidara didn't seem to care about blending in, which was just as well as he stood out like red on white. A cute beret was perched on his head as he adjusted the scarf around his neck, brushing down the front of his new beige coat. Itachi had decided he was quite happy with smart shirts and jeans thank you very much- a trendy wardrobe was the least of his concerns.

That didn't stop Deidara forcing him to buy a single pair of skinny jeans however, which were currently thrown to the back of the wardrobe. Deidara was wearing his own pair proudly, giving Itachi a grin as they walked together through the college gates.

Next to his now-chic boyfriend Itachi felt quite plain in normal jeans and a blue shirt, but that was exactly what he wanted. Deidara's long hair was completely loose for once, giving him the appearance of being a rather attractive female at first. Itachi knew another reason he'd done it was to ease Itachi into being open about his relationship slowly- if people thought they were a girl and a guy, they wouldn't bat an eyelid.

As it was, Deidara might have girly hair, but he definitely didn't look like a girl overall- and especially not to the more observant girls in the college.

"How cute are they?" One murmured to her friends as they walked past, causing Deidara to spin around and give them a smile, slipping a hand around Itachi's waist.

"Taken, yeah."

They didn't wait for the reaction, walking side by side towards the unfamiliar entrance where they would have to part for their different classes. Deidara turned and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, bringing his lips close to Itachi's ear.

"You look great," he murmured.

"Look who's talking- you look incredible, Deidara."

"Save it for later," Deidara replied with a smirk, blowing him a kiss as he walked away. Itachi was left to stand in the strange hall, feeling a little lost until he retraced his own footsteps from a few days prior, when they had been treated to a tour of the college. He found his class quickly, slipping inside and approaching the teacher at her desk.

"Ah, you must be our new student," she remarked, standing and holding a hand out to him, which he took. "Uchiha Itachi?"

"That's right."

"Great- take a seat at the front here. It's a pleasure to have you- I've heard many good things about you."

Itachi hid his smirk as he sat down as requested. Had she now?

Once the class was in full swing and they were studying a map spread across the wall as a class, the new teacher turned to Itachi with a hint of pride in her eyes.

"I'd like to introduce Uchiha Itachi," he told the class. "Itachi, come up here please. Could you point out where the Seychelles are on this map?"

Itachi's eyes strayed to the right location immediately as he stood beside the large map. It had the places covered with white bits of paper, almost as though she had done it just in preparation for this little test of ability for him.

It was a simple question- one that most high school students would know the answer to if they paid attention. The teacher knew this, giving him a smile as he studied the map in apparent thought.

"I'm sorry it's so an easy question," she remarked. "But many people don't know these things, you see..."

Her voice trailed off as she followed Itachi's finger, where he was pointing confidently to a section of the map. He looked at her expectantly, not bringing his finger away.

"Ah- no," she murmured. "That's the Samoan Islands, Itachi."

"Oh, really?" Itachi asked, raising his eyebrows in surprise. "My mistake." He drew an imaginary line across the map with his finger to the real Seychelles. "This would be my second guess, then."

"That's correct. Well... Take a seat, Itachi."

The class murmured with a collective chuckle as Itachi retook his seat- laughing with him for showing the teacher up, rather than at him. She stood with her mouth half open, frowning at him as though she'd been told very different things about him than what he had just displayed.

Itachi simply locked eyes with her and said nothing. He had no intentions of being that student anymore- despite knowing the answer to the question, he wasn't going to let her get away with thinking the same as his last teachers. He was setting the bar for his success lower, so that even he himself felt more achieved when he did well.

He wasn't perfect Itachi anymore. He wasn't imperfect Itachi either. He was a mix of both- at least, he was trying to be, though he still struggled with it. Answering incorrectly hadn't been easy but then again, it hadn't been as hard as it once would have been either.

He was himself, Uchiha Itachi, just like he had told Deidara as they'd shared an intimate moment under the brightness of his inappropriately early Christmas tree. That was all, and that was beginning to be just fine with him.


Ad Finem

And yet again, we are done! I don't have any fun facts this time, but I do have an anecdote and a short snippet.

# If you'd like to read some of the SasuNaru side of things, I have a fic called 2fast2uchiha on my profile which can be construed as this universe now I've confirmed it. I've made some edits to it to link them up for definite, it was a bit vague before on purpose because the SasuNaru was vague here :)

# I wanted to write Itachi and Deidara's Christmas and include cameo from Kisame somehow, but just couldn't really work it in because the timeline for the fic didn't work out. As a result, this snippet was born and never expanded on. Since a couple of people mentioned they'd have liked to have seen Deidara and Kisame meet, I thought I'd share this anyway.

Enjoy! :)


Deidara meets Kisame

Nine pm on Christmas Eve night was an odd time for a doorbell. Deidara was confused when Itachi actually looked thrilled at the prospect, practically dropping the cup he was holding onto the table and making haste to the front door. Deidara trailed him into the hallway in time to see Itachi fling the door open and smile widely at their visitor.

The first thing Deidara noticed was how tall he was. He was at least half a dozen inches taller than Itachi, a grin lighting up his face as he saluted Itachi lightly. He was wearing a lot of blue- blue jeans, blue shirt, blue shoes even. Deidara could even see a blue tattoo on one of his dark skinned arms as he held them out invitingly.

"Surprised to see me?" He asked with a grin.

"Kisame!" Itachi greeted happily, surprising Deidara by willingly stepping into the hug that was offered.

"Did you think I wouldn't come?" Kisame asked, ruffling Itachi's hair- another action Deidara stared in shock at, since he wasn't even sure if he would get away with that. "I don't have long tonight, but I wanted to say hi before the day itself."

"I wasn't expecting you this side of Christmas," Itachi agreed as he was released from the embrace. "I knew when the doorbell rang that it had to be you though. No-one else would come this late tonight- come inside!"

Deidara watched the man gladly step inside, throwing him a curious smile when they locked eyes- blue on blue.

"Who's the blond?" Kisame asked, indicating Deidara.

"My boyfriend, Deidara. Deidara, this is my friend Kisame I told you about."

Kisame's eyes widened and he glanced between the two of them, finally raising an eyebrow at Itachi's proud grin. "I think you'd better explain what the hell happened in the last year, Itachi."

Once inside the living room, Kisame stared at the oddly decorated walls and then once again at Deidara.

"Please ignore the colour scheme," Itachi told his friend as he made his way to the kitchen. Kisame followed, snickering at the strangely adorned walls inside.

"What about the giant sad sun with googly eyes? Should I ignore that?"

"Especially ignore that, please."

While Kisame and Itachi shared coffee and caught up on life, Deidara furiously sketched. His eyes flickered from paper to Kisame and back to paper from his spot on the sofa, leaving both occupants of the table curious, but silent.

"So who are you?" Deidara finally asked when the opportunity arose, closing his sketchbook. "The guy that lives on a submarine, right?"

"Subma- what? Itachi, what have you been telling the guy?"

"Blame Sasuke," Itachi sighed, sipping his coffee.

"How is that little brat?"

"Doing just fine. He's taking driving lessons- Dad's trying to rebuild some bridges so there's a Skyline waiting in the garage for him if he passes first time. They have a bet going on, apparently."

Kisame whistled, raising an eyebrow. "Is that wise?"

"Absolutely not. I refuse to get involved in that argument." He set the cup he was holding down on the table, rising to a stand. "Deidara, can you please not do anything ridiculous to scare Kisame for the next two minutes?"

"As if I would," Deidara replied, looking hurt. Itachi raised an eyebrow at him before leaving the room, closing the door behind him. Deidara immediately jumped up and sat at the table, locking eyes with Kisame- Deidara's mildly steely to Kisame's curious.

"You've got to be something special," Kisame remarked, instantly melting part of Deidara's exterior with the compliment. "He wouldn't open up to just anyone."

"I'm persuasive," Deidara assured him. "Here. I drew a picture of you- I'm an artist, yeah."

"Artist?" Kisame hummed, sounding impressed as Deidara shyly pushed his sketchbook over the table. "Thanks- that's nice of you."

He opened the book, flicking until Deidara told him to stop. On the page was a sketch of Kisame, but something was off about it. The older man frowned, realising that he had been drawn as a strange shark-type man.

"You're a marine biologist, right?" Deidara noted, looking pleased with himself. "It's my representation of you based on that knowledge, yeah."

"This is what Itachi meant when he said that you shouldn't do anything ridiculous, isn't it?" Kisame finally said, eyes not leaving the page.

"This is tame. Do you like it?"

"It's... Different," Kisame finally settled on before closing the book and sliding it back across the table. "Thanks. How's Itachi been anyway? He tells me he isn't trying to be so perfect anymore."

Deidara grinned, relaxing slightly in the other's company and seemingly not noticing (or caring about, for once) the quick subject change regarding his art. "It's taken a lot of work and some therapy, but he's definitely relaxed a lot. He's so much happier for it, yeah."

"Good. Deidara, was it?"

"That's right."

"Deidara- did you have any trouble with Sasuke?"

Deidara's eyes darkened. "He's such a jealous brat, yeah."

"He certainly loves his big brother," Kisame chuckled. "He and I had some run ins over time. I hope you give as good as you get."

"Of course! I'm not going to let him walk all over me, yeah."

Outside the door, Itachi stifled a chuckle to himself. His reason for leaving was to listen in after all, and he was completely unsurprised the conversation had turned to his little brother. Regardless of that, underneath the Christmas tree were two presents- one addressed to Deidara and the other to Kisame. Itachi had yet to tell them that they may have been signed by a reluctant Uchiha that wasn't himself.


Author's Notes: It's a little rough but it was only a random scene. I just didn't want to disregard it :D Deidara's sketch is canon Kisame, since as I mentioned before, he's not a shark here.

This time I think I'll be leaving it there. I hope to re-visit the universe for the occasional one shot sometimes. I want to do a Christmas one/two/maybe three shot for them that involves them going away on vacation, but closer to the time! I've just started posting a SasuNaru/Uchiha sibling gen which is going to start eating my time I'm sure! Please check it out if you like the sound of that! :D

Thank you all so much once again for reading, reviewing, adding to C2s and favourites, etc! Without you guys, this second fic would probably have never been written :) I've enjoyed this so much- I feel a little lost without it. Hopefully you've enjoyed the ride once again, too!