He'll drop it in a few weeks. It's not like someone that young could be serious...

Sasori walked in front of his partner. That way, the brat couldn't look back at him. The last thing he wanted to see was the blond's face while they were walking. He probably could have been handling this much more maturely, but considering that they were on a mission, this would have to do for now.

Danna...I love you, un. Even now, the words still rang in Sasori's head. Sure, he was flattered, but he couldn't help but feel Deidara was acting too much on his emotions. They were S-ranked criminals...how was a relationship supposed to work out when the both of them were insane? The worst part for the redhead, however, was that he had actually considered it.

Deidara had said absolutely nothing since his poor excuse for a confession, and the redhead could only assume it was because he was scared. The boy was still terrified of his partner, but somehow managed to have the guts to tell him he was in "love." How was that supposed to work?

Six months passed, and Deidara had yet to mention anything about his interest in the puppeteer. For that, Sasori was more than grateful. He could safely assume that he had gotten over this poor excuse for a crush. Granted it was probably because the redhead had done whatever he could to shoot their relationship back to the way it had been when he first joined the Akatsuki. They were getting into fights more often, Sasori found himself losing his temper, and all had returned to normal. Or...as normal as it could.

"I...can't believe you would be that stupid," Sasori hissed, grabbing a handful of the blond's singed hair. If anything, they were on far worse terms than before, actually. After working together for so long, they both knew how to piss each other off. "What the hell went through your poor excuse for a brain?"

Deidara winced and tried to pull away. "I didn't mean for it to backfire, un..." he murmured. While working on his explosives during their mission, the bomber had accidentally set off one of the smaller bombs. Normally, it wouldn't have been a problem...but normally, he wasn't working on his explosives around Sasori. He'd build them, but he had never actually needed to do anything more than that with the puppeteer present.

"Like that matters. It doesn't change the fact that it still happened," Sasori growled. "Brat, you could have gotten us both killed." The last thing they needed was to hinder the Akatsuki's numbers. Trying to conquer entire countries with a ten member organization was hard enough. The last thing Pein would need to worry about was losing two of his most useful workers because of a stupid explosion.

"Shut up, un." Deidara warned him, glaring with his one visible eye. "The only way that explosive could have killed someone was if it were inside of them, un." Very early on in their partnership, he had established that he absolutely despised that excuse for a nickname. And at this point, that was probably the only reason Sasori still called him it. Not once in nearly a year had he heard his own name from the puppeteer's mouth.

Sasori scoffed and opened his mouth to say more. Before the words came out, Deidara slipped a kunai out of his pocket and sliced his hair off. Without a chance for the redhead to grab onto him again, the younger Akatsuki member shot out the door.

Five hours, and Deidara was still nowhere to be found. Sasori looked out the window for at least the dozenth time in the past twenty minutes. One glance at the clock was enough to bring him to his feet. He groaned and bolted out of the room. They should have been on their way back to the base by now. Thanks to the brat, he was going to be more than late.

With such a small village, only a few minutes of searching was enough to tell him that Deidara had made it quite a distance from the room. Those who had seen him had said he left hours ago, giving the bomber plenty of time to escape. Sasori cursed as he weaved in and out of alleyways. Why was he so stupid? He should have gone looking for Deidara as soon as he left. By now, he could have been in a completely different village.

Most of the older Akatsuki member's searching had led him to just outside the rundown village. From where he was, a large number of scorch marks caught his eyes. And considering Deidara's mental state when he ran, the redhead had no doubt it would lead him to his partner.

Sure enough, Sasori found the bomber situated behind a large statue that had been reduced to nothing more than rubble. Thankfully, he must have thought only going a few miles outside of the village would be enough to hide from the redhead.

Rather than being emotionally distressed, Deidara seemed merely annoyed. Every so often, he would curse as he tried to hide a huge chunk of missing hair, as if that was the most frustrating thing going on.

"Brat, what are you doing?" Sasori growled, standing on top of the rubble so he could look down at the blond.

At the sound of his partner's voice, Deidara didn't even bother to look up. "What, un?" he replied with a question. It was if him running away wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Sometimes he'd go outside and stomp around for a bit, but he'd usually come back with a stupid grin on his face. This, on the other hand, was something new.

"We were supposed to leave two an a half hours ago."

The blond shook his head. "No, you were supposed to leave two and a half hours ago. I, on the other hand,a m staying here, un."

The puppeteer rose a brow. "Oh?"

"You aren't working with anybody, Sasori." That was the first time he had heard Deidara actually use his name in...who knows how long.

"Brat, Pein expects you back, so-" The blond was on his feet with a bomb in his hand. Just by looking at it, he could tell that it was strong enough to kill someone from a hundred feet away. Standing this close, his body would get completely demolished.

"Tell him not to, un. I'm finished with the Akatsuki." Sasori felt his jaw drop, but quickly regained his composure. What? Surely the brat wasn't serious.

"You can't just quit Akatsuki," the redhead stated flatly, frowning at the younger man. Deidara made no indication that he was kidding. Rather, he pulled out a kunai as well.

"Watch me, un."

"Brat, I'm going to have to kill you. Neither of us wants that."

The blond could only laugh. "Sasori, are you kidding me, un?" he practically shouted. For a moment, the redhead was speechless.

"What?" Was all he managed to get out.

The loud hyena laugh came from the blond's mouth, and he stumbled backwards a bit. "You lying son of a bitch, un!" he screamed, a wordless screech erupting from his body after he finished speaking. Was he honestly supposed to believe that? With Sasori constantly beating on him, how could the puppeteer say with such a straight face that he didn't want to kill him?"

"Hey-" he began again, only to be cut off.

"Damn it, danna, I tried to so freaking hard to get you to like me, un," Deidara whispered, frowning. He was close to completely losing it. As much as he hated to admit it, it hurt. This was far more painful than he had expected. He was not about to let Sasori know that, though. For all he knew, Deidara was completely collected, and didn't care about what was going to happen next. "What did I do wrong, un? Before we have to fight, at least tell me that much, un," he said, practically begging.

Sasori shook his head. What was he supposed to say to the kid? 'I've been a douchebag for the past few months because you said you were in love with me'? Yeah, that would go over real well. Especially since he'd then have to give an explanation as to why he was acting like such a jerk. "What the heck are you talking about?" he asked as softly as he could manage.

"Da—" Deidara caught himself just before he said his partner's previous title. "Sasori...I can't, un. Just kill me, if that's what Pein ordered, un." When the puppeteer did nothing, all Deidara could do was let out a frustrated sigh. "Well? What's the problem, un?"

"Brat, I'm not going to kill you."

"You've never had a problem attempting to before, un."

The redhead sighed. "Pull yourself together."

"I hate you, un!"

Sasori sighed heavily. "Right." Before Deidara could say anything, his partner had him in a head lock. "Is that why you tried so hard to make me like you?" he said, trying his best not to smirk. A quick glance at the bomber was more than enough to see his now burning face.

"Shut up, un!" he hissed, violently struggling in Sasori's grip.

"You're being completely irrational, brat."

Before Sasori could say anything more, Deidara kicked him in the back o the legs, sending him to the ground. "Sasori, I am not in the mood to put up with you. Either fight me, or get the hell out of here. I'm not going back to the Akatsuki, un."

"Fine."

"Well, un?" Deidara's hand drifted down to his clay pouch, freezing when Sasori got up and made no move to attack.

"Take off your shirt, Deidara," The blond shot him a confused look. "Go on, I'm not going to kill you." Doing as he was told, but left his fishnet on. He placed the article of clothing in Sasori's extended hand, not sure what to expect.

"What are you—Ow, un!" Deidara screamed, jerking backwards. Blood seeped from a fresh wound on his arm, and Sasori grabbed him before pressing the shirt against it. Once the fabric was thoroughly soaked in the metallic liquid, he took a kunai—presumably the same one he had used to cut the blond—and tore the shirt apart. "Un?"

"Get out of here," Sasori demanded.

"What, un?"

"I'll just bring this back to Pein and say you're dead," Sasori began, frowning slightly. "He'll run a blood test, and I'll make up a story to go along with it," he murmured.

"But you just-" The puppeteer held a hand up, motioning for his former partner to stop. Complying, he held perfectly still as Sasori approached him. He ran a hand through the blond's hair and shook his head.

"Good luck, Deidara," he murmured, clapping the younger boy gently on the shoulder. "Don't get yourself killed.

Too dumbfounded to speak, Deidara began forming silent words with his mouth. Sasori was...letting him escape? This didn't make sense...the rules set up for the Akatsuki were nonnegotiable. How did he expect to get away with lying to Pein?

"Oh, also..." Sasori muttered, leaning closer. Deidara moved to step back, only to be seized by the shoulders. "I haven't hated you for years, brat." The redhead gave Deidara a quick kiss on the forehead before turning to leave. What the hell was that supposed to do? "Just thought we'd end this on a positive note." Really, he didn't want the kid to leave. But how was he supposed to say that without leading him on? Deidara was still young and foolish, and could very well twist anything Sasori said to make it sound the way he wanted.

Pushing any negative thoughts about this aside, he tried to focus on something far more important. He was going to have to think of something brilliant to tell Pein. Usually, some sort of body part was needed to prove they were dead and with-

"Danna, un!" Sasori spun back around. Had he gotten his title back that easily? It surprised the puppeteer much more than it should have. Although Deidara was shouting about how much he hated him only moments before, Sasori could tell that he wasn't serious. But still...what did the blond want now? "Don't leave, un."

What do you propose I do, then, brat?" Sasoi hissed. Instead of a verbal response, Deidara rushed towards the puppeteer before throwing his arms around him. "Get-"

"Why are you doing this, un?" Sasori tried to push the blond off of him, but he wouldn't budge. "Why won't you tell me, un?"

Sasori shook his head and frowned. "Deidara, I'm sorry," he apologized, but said nothing more. This was getting much deeper than he would have liked. "Just...go. You wanted to leave, didn't you?"

The bomber pursed his lips, saying absolutely nothing. Yes, he had convinced himself that he wanted to leave, but that was only because he was convinced that Sasori hated him. And what was the point of sticking around if he was just going to cause trouble? It would inconvenience Pein a bit, but wasn't that better than having two people that could barely work together? "Just tell me, un..."

"What's there to say?" Sasori asked innocently.

The last thing he expected was for Deidara to laugh bitterly. "Danna, you're screwing with me now, un," he spat, pushing his partner back before attempting to swing at his head. "I told you I loved you months ago. Since then, you've been treating me like dirt, un." He paused for a moment and sucked in a shaky breath. "You're just trying to hurt me now, un."

The puppeteer sighed. This wasn't good. "Deidara, you can't fall in love with me."

"Evidently I can, un."

"No. I will not let you fall in love with me," Sasori stated.

"Then why did you just-"

"It was nothing, brat!" he finally shouted, causing the blond to jump ever so slightly. Had he been in a human body, his face probably would have been burning by now. The two of them stared at each other, completely silent. So much for ending this well. Sasori sighed again before heading back to the motel.

It wasn't until Deidara was gone that the puppeteer realized how much time he spent with his former partner. The brat wasn't there to bother him while he was working, he had no one to talk to while he was walking around, and he hadn't gotten into an argument with anyone in almost a week.

How was it that Sasori found himself actually missing him? Yes, he had considered the bomber a friend, but business came first. He should have been able to forget about him just like that. There was never a problem severing connections...

But on the other hand, even his grandmother hadn't been that close to him. Sure, he was always at Deidara's throat, but at least half of the time they got along. Even though their conversations always ended up in arguments, they were enjoyable before that. And even though the brat had a poor view of art...at least he seemed to have a bit of respect for most famous painters and sculptors.

Sasori threw his bag down on the bed and clutched Deidara's bloodied shirt in his hand. He still hadn't thought of anything to tell Pein, and he could only hope that the Akatsuki leader wouldn't ask why he hadn't brought Deidara's body back with him.

He pushed the door to Pein's office open, holding the torn cloth casually in his hand. When Deidara didn't come in behind him, Leader said nothing, but motioned for the redhead to sit down. "...How was the mission, dare I ask?"

Sasori took a deep breath before holding the shirt out. "We had a fatality. This was all I could find." Pein nodded.

"Did you kill him, Sasori?" he inquired, eyeing the puppeteer suspiciously.

"No, there was an ambush." That part was true...or at least partially. "Deidara caught caught in the middle of it, and it was sheer numbers that took him down." Sasori clutched the shirt tighter in his hands. "I apologize for being unable to help him."

"I don't have time to find another partner for you. Will you be all right with solo missions for a while?" The redhead let out a relieved sigh. Thank goodness he wasn't asking about the bomber. He nodded, and Pein began tapping his fingers on his desk. "This is quite a blow to the organization. The kid was pretty powerful." Sasori nodded again, agreeing with everything his leader was saying.

"It'll be hard to find someone just as good," the redhead murmured. And that was the truth. He knew very well he wasn't going to be able to find another person like Deidara. The brat was insane, temperamental, and barely thought before he did anything, but when he needed to be, he was useful. Not only that, but entertaining when he wasn't getting on the puppeteer's nerves.

Pein continued tapping the desk. This was the last thing he needed right now. He was being swamped with paperwork and fools that could very well endanger the Akatsuki. Any other time, he would have been able to replace Deidara with no problem. Even if they weren't as skilled, Sasori would be able to make due until he found someone better. This was just down right inconvenient. "Submit the mission report, and I'll see what I can do. It's going to take a few weeks at the least, though."

"Of course, Pein. Take your time." With that, Sasori put the shirt down so Pein could do some tests on it, and left.

Weeks passed, and still no new partner. Sasori had gone on several missions, each one just as lonely as the last. It had gotten a bit better as time went on, but he still kept forgetting that Deidara was gone. On multiple occasions, he found himself talking to the air, confused when he wouldn't get a response. When he turned to say something snide, he saw that no one was there and remembered that the bomber had left.

Thankfully, he had heard nothing about him, which meant that he was safe from getting killed by the Akatsuki, at the very least. He didn't dare try to get in contact with the blond; that would just put the both of them in danger. Besides, his former partner probably didn't want to hear from him ever again.

Sasori sat himself down at what used to be Deidara's desk and pulled open one of the drawers. He might as well get rid of this stuff. There was no way for the blond to come back and get it, and it'd need to get cleared out before his new partner came in. He pulled a handful of papers, glancing at a few sketches of potential bomb designs. Another handful, and Sasori felt something wooden brush against his fingers.

Gently pulling whatever the item was out, the redhead found himself staring at a marionette he had been working on a few months ago. It was supposed to be a small design of a potential new body, but he had lost it only weeks after he had began to work on it. He had the basic body shape, along with facial features carved on. Attached to the marionette's hand was what looked like a clay arm. Just as carefully, Sasori pulled out the rest of the clay, revealing a sculpture of what looked to be a spitting image of his former partner. The two were linked together, and he could only stare.

Deidara had to have done this when he was in the middle of his teenage crush nonsense. S-ranked criminal or not, he was still only seventeen or eighteen years old. That was still young enough to do stupid stuff like this, right? Thankfully, the blond had been too embarrassed to let anyone see it. Sasori shook his head and placed it on the desk. The miniatures of the artists stared at Sasori, and he laughed softly. It was childish. Something children did when they thought they were in love.

And yet he found himself missing Deidara even more.

Approximately five minutes later, Sasori found himself with a packed bag knocking on the door to Pein's office. The Akatsuki leader allowed him to enter, but the puppeteer only stuck his head in. "Yes, Sasori?"

"I'm going to go find a new partner."

"Solo missions becoming to monotonous?" Pein asked, not bothering to look up from his paperwork.

"Something like that. I'll be back in a few days. A week tops."

Two days later, Sasori found himself in Iwagakure. The only reason he decided to check this village first was because Deidara would probably expect him to go here last. Or at least that's what the redhead thought.

With a working hat covering his head and his cloak pulled up to hide his face, no one bothered to question him. After hours of searching every inch of the village, he was more than ready to move on. Sasori ran a hand through his hair, spun around, and slammed into someone who was practically running by him.

"Ah!" They stumbled back, tripping over their own feet before falling to the ground. A large straw hat covered their face, but the puppeteer could see a mass of blond hair draping over their shoulders. Wait, was it blond? Upon closer inspection, it seemed more like brunette hair, but it was too dirty for him to tell.

"Sorry," he apologized softly, extending his hand to help them up. Rather than accept it, they pulled away and quickly jumped to their feet. Not even a moment later, a tall, black haired man was in his face.

"Did you just shove him?" he hissed, ready to start a fight. Great. This was the last thing Sasori needed.

"Nah, just bumped into him," the redhead said with a shrug. He tried to walk past the two, but the taller man blocked his way.

"Lying isn't going to get you anywhere. What're you doing in this village?" Sasori took a deep breath and reached for one of his scrolls.

"Are you trying to start a fight?" Sasori inquired, not bothering to answer the question presented. "Because I'll probably wipe the floor with you in under a minute."

The man laughed. "You're an arrogant son of a bitch, aren't you?" he said loudly, pulling a handful of kunai out of his pocket.

Oh, for the love of all that's holy... "I could say the same thing about you," Sasori said, smirking. In one swift move, his had was off, and his cloak had been opened just enough to reveal his face. "Tell me, have you ever fought an S-ranked criminal?" The taller man paled, and he took a step back. The boy he was defending, however, stepped forward.

"Don't you dare, Sasori." The straw hat came off, revealing a face he knew all too well. One blue eye glared at him, while the other was covered by a scope. Just like when he was back in the Akatsuki. The only difference now was his face was much more hollow, his hair was full of dirt and grime, and his eyes were tired and full of hate.

"...Brat, is that you?" Sasori murmured, letting his hand fall from the scroll. Deidara, on the other hand, was prepared to attack.

"What are you doing here, un?" he hissed, swinging at the redhead. Expecting to stop him, Sasori threw his hands up, only to have the bomber's foot connect with his side. He stumbled and crashed to the ground. Not wasting a second, Deidara pinned him down and pressed a kunai against his heart container. Even now, the puppeteer still refused to call him by his real name.

"I thought you didn't particularly care for this place. Mind telling me why you're living here now?" Sasori looked around, only to find that the taller man had long since taken off. Just the sight of an S-ranked criminal was enough to make most flee.

"I don't, un."

"I just came here to talk."

"To who, un?"

"You, idiot." Deidara laughed, sounding more hurt than anything else. "I fail to see what's so funny." The blond shook his head, waving one of his hands in the air.

"This better be good, un," he said, picking himself up off of his former partner. Without giving him a chance to protest, Sasori grabbed the bomber's hand and dragged him into an abandoned building. Pieces of wood had been poorly nailed to the window, giving them just enough security to talk without anyone seeing them.

"How've you been?" Sasori asked, not really sure what he was doing.

When Deidara laughed again, he could only stare at him, amused. "Why the hell do you care?"

"Who were you just with?"

"An old friend, un. What's it to you?" the blond spat, smirking at the puppeteer. This was beautiful, actually. When they were working together, Sasori never bothered to ask him questions like this. How stupid did he think the bomber was? "It's not my boyfriend, if that's what you're thinking, un."

Sasori couldn't help but smirk. "I didn't." An uncomfortable silence swept over the two, as they tried to look anywhere but at each other. "Would you consider coming back to the Akatsuki?" Deidara had to cover his mouth to silence himself. The redhead was about to send him into hysterics.

"I hate you, Sasori. And here, I'm free to do whatever I want, un. Why would I tear off my wings to go back to that hell hole, un?" The words stung, but the puppeteer managed to keep his bored expression.

He took a deep breath and looked straight at Deidara. "Do you?" the blond's eyes widened, but he said nothing. Just stared, waiting for Sasori to change the subject. To say something...anything. But they both stared at each other, completely silent. It wasn't until five minutes had passed that either of them dared to speak. "I was going to clear out your stuff last week," Sasori continued, placing his bag on the ground so he could open it.

"So, un?" Although he sounded like he could care less, Deidara couldn't help but watch the redhead intently as he opened the bag. Wordlessly, the puppeteer pulled a few scrolls out of his bag and dug around until he found what he was looking for. Out of the bag came the marionettes he had found in Deidara's drawer. Almost immediately, a dark blush covered the blond's face. "Oh. That, un."

"When did you-" Before he could get the question out, Deidara was shouting nonsense. Half of the words were unintelligible, leaving Sasori to try and guess what he was saying. "Deidara!"

At that one word, the both of them froze. Deidara from shock, and Sasori because he didn't want the bomber to go into hysterics again. "Did you just...say my name?" The redhead nodded, still staring straight at his former partner. Once he had managed to process what had just happened, the blond's composure shattered.

He let himself slump to the ground, and he buried his face in his hands. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. But no matter how many times Deidara told himself that, his heart was still pounding, his face was still burning, and he was still cursing himself for being in love with this man. At this point, there was no explanation for it. He tried to find reasons why, but none came to mind. And with that in mind, he still couldn't let go.

Sasori moved silently across the room and wrapped one of his arms around the former Akatsuki member. As gently as he could, he grabbed a handful of Deidara's hair and tilted his head back so he would be forced to look at the redhead. "I'm sorry, Dei," he murmured, removing his hand from the blond's shoulder so he could grab his hand. The hand mouth tried to bite at him, but he ignored it. "I missed you."

The puppeteer inhaled sharply before making his next move. It was going to be dangerous, considering that Deidara was still bouncing between emotions. Since he had left the Akatsuki, he had grown even more unstable, and had gone from only slightly insane to no hope of return. "I missed you, too, un," he managed to whisper, eyes taking in every detail of Sasori's face. Not waiting for Deidara to say anything else, the redhead pulled him forward before trapping him in a forceful kiss.

Even after years of working with him, the bomber still wasn't prepared to taste wood rather than skin. Nevertheless, he kissed Sasori back, forcing his tongue into the older man's mouth.

When they broke away, Deidara found himself breathing heavily, face even more flushed than it had been before. He was only given a moment before being pulled into another kiss, which was followed by at least four more. "Danna...I..." he stuttered, unable to say anything. All he could do was gape at Sasori. The whole thing just seemed so unreal.

"Come back to the Akatsuki."

"Don't you have a new partner, un?" Deidara whispered, clutching the fabric of the redhead's cloak between his fingers. It had been weeks since he had left. Surely Pein would have replaced him by now.

"Leader's been too busy to bother." A small smile crossed the bomber's face. "Will you?" Deidara nodded quickly before being trapped in another kiss.

Things were far from being fixed between the two; it didn't take much to figure that out. And Deidara knew he was crazy for accepting Sasori's apology so quickly. But even with the pain, it was better than sticking around in Iwagakure, waiting for the anbu to find him and try to end his life.

Sasori pulled the blond to his feet before moving to get his bag repacked. Now all he needed to do was weave a good enough story to get Deidara back into the organization.