.disclaimer: don't own.

.chapter twenty one: the elastic clause.

"You have your results. Now what are you going to do with them?"

The words echoed in Sasori's mind as he returned home, hands clutched around the slightly bent envelope. His brow was furrowed as he hesitated in front of his own apartment, hand on the doorknob. Chiyo's words had been ringing his head the entire way home as he battled with himself, trying to make a decision, breathing shallow, heart racing, body shaking.

All he promised Deidara was to pass the exams and he did. As for what he did with the results they never discussed. He wasn't sure if Deidara expected him to quit or not. He knew that Deidara wanted him to quit but wanting and expecting were different. He, himself, wanted to quit but expected himself to continue; really, what was he supposed to do with these?

Quitting law now felt like such a waste, this was such an accomplishment.

Continuing law felt like a slow, painful death, dread heavy in his chest at the thought.

His brow furrowed and he sighed, hesitating a moment, giving himself one more moment of peace and quiet before he opened the doorknob and entered his apartment, eyes opening and an easy expression resting on his face, readopting the mask he had worn for so long, now worn for a different reason. Deidara was at the kitchen chopping up vegetables (he had missed the brat's decent cooking).

"Oi, danna. Where'd you go, un?"

"I… had to talk to Chiyo-baasan about something." Not a complete lie but it wasn't the whole truth and it made Sasori cringe to know he was lying to him. But Deidara accepted it without question and when the blonde turned away to check the boiling water, he slipped into his room and put the envelope in one of his drawers.

"Sasori no danna, you can't just disappear on me like that, un! You're going to help me make the food!"

When he came out, Deidara was still facing away and busying himself at the stove, rambling about something. The redhead swallowed, counting backwards from ten before he walked over to join him, temporarily pushing any thoughts of law out of his mind. He wondered how Deidara had done it, remembering how he had kept the secret about med school from him for a while.

Stealing a glance over his shoulder, Deidara instructed the redhead to dice the onions, the one skill that he had picked up. Nodding dumbly, he walked over to the cutting board, the onion and knife already set on it and began the task.

Always a silent person, he didn't expect Deidara to pick up on his change in mood. But, of course, the blonde did; he always knew when Sasori was in a bad mood somehow. It was easy to tell when he spoke but he wasn't; the blonde said he just knew, just like how Sasori could just tell things about him without asking.

"Are you all right, danna?"

"Fine," he answered shortly, swallowing, "Just… tired."

"I see, un."

He let the conversation drop but he knew Deidara didn't buy his answer but also didn't want to push for an answer that Sasori wasn't willing to give. A few minutes elapsed, a suffocatingly long silence, before Deidara broke it again. He had told Sasori that he assessed his bad mood in steps; the first step, asking him how he was, was a general assessment. If he didn't have an answer that he was satisfied with, he'd risk another question.

If Sasori was still obviously in a bad mood when giving the second answer, Deidara knew to shut up or he would get killed.

"Did you get your bar results, un?"

Sasori had asked him how he knew if he was in a bad mood or not with a single word and Deidara had smirked, saying that if he was all right he would give an answer, if he wasn't he would stay silent.

Needless to say, Sasori stayed silent and Deidara didn't say anything for the rest of that day.


It didn't count as sneaking out if it was his own apartment.

Sasori tried to appease himself with those words as he stuffed his hands in his coat pockets, looking down so that his scarf, the one Konan had given him, covered his nose as well as mouth. It was a cold March day, annoyingly cold, he thought with disdain, but still dragged himself out to take a walk. A few days had passed since he learned about his results and he was still no closer to reaching a decision.

Chiyo had left him alone and he still saw no need to go back to school (or ever, he thought dryly, did he have enough credits to gradate yet?) and still hadn't told Deidara. Just the idea of telling him made his stomach churn and he felt nauseated. He wanted to tell him and be honest but he was scared of the reaction. He felt that if Deidara knew, he would base his decision off of the brat's reaction when it was supposed to be his own decision.

If Deidara looked pleased or relieved, he would take that as the all right to go ahead with law; he would see it as Deidara not being angry at the idea of him quitting.

But if Deidara looked irritated, he would quit immediately; after everything he had put him through, making him upset again was the last thing Sasori wanted.

And that was why he couldn't tell him; he couldn't let a scowl or smile decide his future, especially from someone else. It wasn't a matter of staying with Deidara for however long; it was a matter of his own future. He had to make this decision by himself, for himself and he didn't want anything to affect that, knowing that the biggest influence right now would probably be Deidara.

He would want Sasori to quit law; the redhead knew that already, he had known that from the start. Deep down, Deidara wanted him to be happy and Sasori was beginning to understand that abstract concept of happiness that the blonde preached and practiced. He had quit medicine—good for him, really—and still had his family, still had what he wanted. Sasori was genuinely happy for him.

And it was true, his happiness did lie within the arts. He did want to pursue his passion of puppetry, to forget this whole ordeal of law, pretend he hadn't wasted the majority of his life on it. But he couldn't; a small part of him still wanted to do it, to continue with it because he was good at it and it would earn him a stable income, who wouldn't want that? He was still wary of his grandmother, even if she seemed to have changed, to be more indifferent, less strict; the idea that his grandmother would only be proud of him if he became a lawyer was ingrained in his mind and impossible to seed out.

So maybe he wanted permission from Deidara, sought an approval from him, the most important person to him, to continue law, an 'it's all right, I won't mind' from him because he still wanted to.

He knew he could do it.

He knew he could be an amazing lawyer.

And that was just the problem.

He let out an annoyed sigh and turned the corner, wondering vaguely where he was going. He wasn't very good at doing things without planning, he thought dryly, he still had to work on that.

"Watch the fuck where you're going, dumbass!"

He didn't even have to look up to know he had walked into Hidan.

How wonderfully coincidental, he thought and looked up at him, brown eyes narrowed to meet the annoyed magenta ones, thinking about the brat and here comes his best friend.

"If blondie wouldn't kill me, I'd kill you, you know. Thank your fucking god for that…"

Hidan's mouth was moving and he was talking, his speech slurred with vulgarities that made Sasori cringe. But it was like he didn't recognize that; all he did know was that he wanted to say it, to get it off his chest; someone had to know, someone, anyone. Even Hidan.

"I passed my bar exams."

The words were spit out suddenly without a second thought, cutting Hidan off mid-rant. The silver haired man blinked and stared at him, surprised etched on his expression. Sasori just continued to stare back at him, waiting for a reaction, for something.

Of course, this was Hidan, so he couldn't have expected much.

"Er… good for you?" he tried, scratching his head. All the annoyance from earlier seemed to have dissipated quickly, which Sasori found amusing. "Have you told Deidara yet?"


"Have you told your grandmother yet?"


"Great," he nodded, looking serious for once, "Blondie's going to be thrilled when he hears that you're officially one with that law shit—"

"Wait," Sasori cut him off again, red brow furrowed, "You… you think I quit?"

It was Hidan's turn to fall quiet again, eyes widening for a moment.

"…You haven't?"

"What makes you think I would?"

"Well, I don't fucking know… how about Deidara getting hit by a goddamn car?!"

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Everything, you dickshit!"

"Dick—how do you even think of those insults?!"

"Because that's what you are, you horse's ass!"

"A horse? What—"

"Wait, this isn't the fucking point!" Hidan reached up and ran his hand through his hair (surprisingly not completely slicked back today), obviously annoyed that he had gotten distracted to easily, "the point is that—"

"We're in the way," Sasori stated plainly and continued to walk, motioning for Hidan to follow him, "Can you talk and walk at the same time?"

"Of course I fucking can! Don't talk big when you're a small man!" Hidan growled as he whirled around and began walking with him, completely forgetting that Kakuzu was waiting at home for the cinnamon rolls he had forced Hidan to go out and buy. "Back to the damn point, I thought you decided to quit!"

Sasori gave him a side glance, frowning. "I didn't."

"Then what was your stupid promise to Deidara?!"

"To pass the exams."

"And you did, now you're supposed to quit-!"

"I never promised him that," Sasori answered coldly with such a menacing glare that Hidan flinched, "I promised him to pass, that was it. I didn't force him to quit medicine and he isn't forcing me to quit law. I know he nearly died because of this and I regret that; I'm glad he's alive. But I'm not basing this decision off of him—"

"It's not even about him!" Hidan said exasperatedly, with an 'are you stupid?' expression crossing his face, "It's about the fact that he wants you to be happy and, because of that, the rest of us do too! Do you know how fucking painfully exhausting it is to watch you be exhausted?!"

"Exhaustion is nontransferable."

"Shut the fuck up, smartass!" Hidan growled at Sasori's dry smirk, "What I'm saying is that we thought you would quit; that's why we were all cool with you taking that stupid, stupid test! We thought that, all right, you'll pass and then you'll quit; you passing was the last thing of this whole ordeal. And now you say that you don't know, that you're thinking about going back? What the fuck man?"

They stopped at a red light, waiting for the walking signal. The wind had picked up a bit and as Sasori found himself trying to stay warm, Hidan seemed perfectly fine, wearing only a jacket that wasn't even fully closed. Cold hearted? Sasori thought to himself with slight amusement and sighed, watching his breath form a cloud in the air in front of him before it vanished.

"…Do you want to do law?" Hidan asked when they began walking again, his voice quiet and calmer.



"A little bit," he admitted with a frown, "Law just… it's hard to give up something you've thrown yourself into. The brat did that but he did it before med school began. I'm not saying it was easy because that must have been excruciatingly difficult but so is this; I've been in law school, I've passed the exams; I'm nearly a fully licensed lawyer whereas he would have completed four years then gone onto residency. I…"

"…A goal," Hidan finished for him and Sasori looked at him in surprise, "It's been your goal your entire fucking life, hasn't it? And now that it's within reach you don't want to throw it away just like that? I get that."

"…Do you have goals?"

"What kind of a fucking question is that, you stupid fuck?!"

Sasori found himself chuckling at how Hidan could go from quiet and serious to loud and rambunctious within the time span of a few seconds. The silver haired man hesitated when he heard the laughter; Deidara was right (he rambled a lot when drunk) Sasori laughing was an odd thing to be seeing but it did light up his whole face.

"I mean, nothing like yours," Hidan shrugged, "I just… I don't know. I always wanted to be happy. Like Deidara, you know? And now… I am," he gave a small smile, "And now that I am… I don't want to let it go. I've got my goal. You're basically there, if you just say 'yes' to someone, you'll have it."

"With Kakuzu."

"Shut the fuck up," he growled and Sasori returned him with a smirk, "I'm just saying I know how hard it is. But… you have to reevaluate it. Is law still your goal? Or do you have another one? One that matters to you more now, one that you want more? If you tell me Deidara hasn't changed you then you're a fucking lying sack of ass; the kid changes everyone he meets."

The silver haired man fell silent again and Sasori found himself surprised at how philosophical he could actually be; he supposed there really was a side to Hidan that didn't know, a side that would make Deidara, arrogant Deidara, deem him worthy of being called his best friend.

"What I'm saying is… fuck," he reached up and scratched the back of his head awkwardly, "…You know what we want and you know what Deidara wants and, yeah, you're right, don't base your decision off of that. But… just… take a step back. Reevaluate everything. Do you still want law? Does it still matter more than your happiness? I know, I know, stability and all that shit is important but you have to consider your priorities. I'll tell you now, as long as you can say you're happy with your choice, Deidara will be too. That kid can wait a shit long time and he'll wait for-fucking-ever for you if he has to, until you grow old and wrinkly and retire. He has no problem with that."

They had reached another intersection and stopped. Hidan recognized that this was where their paths would split; he had to get to Kakuzu's and Sasori, well, he couldn't read his mind. He hesitated for a slight moment and then turned to him, an oddly tired and relaxed smile gracing his features.

"I don't know, man," he said with a shrug and Sasori watched him carefully, "Just… sit down and think really hard about this, all right? I don't know if you've got a deadline or not but… take as long as you need. This is a life choice. Your life choice and no one else's opinion matters. You're smart. You'll pick the right one."

Hidan fell quiet again and sighed, turning around to leave, but Sasori spoke again, for the first time in a while.

"Don't tell Deidara."

He saw a smirk and a two finger salute from the man. "Sure thing."

Sasori never thought there would be a day where Hidan talked logic into him. But as the silver haired man walked off, he found himself walking over to a bench and sitting down, just sitting in the cold, losing himself in his thoughts.

It was cold, it was quiet, it was peaceful. The park was never an active place when it was cold and it was early on Sunday; no one was out this early (it was amazing that Hidan was up.) He stared straight ahead and kept his hands in his pockets to try and keep them warm, closing his eyes.

Law. Grandmother. Life goal. Ever since you were a kid. You wanted justice, you wanted to argue, you wanted to right the wrongs. You wanted control, you wanted to be right; you wanted to matter, you wanted to be successful. You wanted to make her proud, to make her accept you, to show that you're not just a straight A student, that you're not just smart but you're intelligent. You wanted her acceptance.

No law. Yourself. Happiness. Freedom. Flexibility, liberation, relaxation. But what would you do? You don't know. But that's the beauty of it, it doesn't matter. You don't need to make a decision quickly, you don't have that pressure of law. It's all you and what you want; you'll be happy, you'll do what you love. Maybe you won't be as good as it as you were with law, maybe you'll realize that your puppetry skills have declined a bit. But you've got all the time in the world to improve them, to better them.

Happiness used to be irrelevant to you; happiness would wait until you retired, until after you worked hard for so long; you could only be happy after earning recognition from your grandmother.

But now happiness is relevant and you don't want to wait that long anymore. You had a taste of what it was and you want more.

But what do you choose?

Just how relevant is happiness to you?

Just how relevant is law to you?

One or the other, you can't have both.

Your life.

Your decision.

Your choice.

Your fate.

He didn't know how long he had been sitting there but when his eyes opened, it was warmer and people were milling around now. His limbs were stiff and sore from not moving in so long and he straightened up, stretching a bit when his eyes caught sight of a sculpture in the park, a new one that was recently brought in.

And then he knew his choice.


"Hey blondie, your boyfriend passed his bar exams."

Deidara blinked several times rapidly, hardly recognizing that Hidan had hung up. There had to be reason that someone dared to call him so early in the morning and Deidara was less than pleased to see it was Hidan. He had slid a thumb across the screen to answer it, mumbling a 'what' and expected some kind of a tirade.

But Hidan had just said that one sentence and hung up without another word. Deidara nearly dialed him back to both yell at him and demand him to explain but knew it was hopeless, that Hidan would either ignore him or yell the minute he did pick up. Sitting up in his bed he frowned, fully awake now when it hit him what the sentence had meant.

Passed? He had passed?

His first reaction was joy; his stomach lurched and he almost smiled. He kept his promise, he worked hard; all those hours, everything wasn't for nothing. He had succeeded and the success was sweet; it was over, he had passed, passed, and he didn't disappoint himself or anyone around him, he had continued to live up to expectations, that one huge test was now over.

But then his mood dropped and his expression soured.

Why didn't he tell me?, he thought bitterly, I had to find out from Hidan; does danna even like Hidan?

Picking up his phone, he was about to call Sasori, to demand an answer, never mind if Sasori explicitly told Hidan to not tell and letting Sasori know that he knew would get Hidan in a lot of trouble. He wanted an answer, why didn't you tell me, why couldn't you?

Surely he was trying to decide right now, he thought, and why wouldn't he let him help, give his input? They had been through all this together, Sasori had watched Deidara's anguish over his choice of med school so clearly. But now that it was the reverse, the redhead wouldn't allow his help?

He stared at his phone in anger for a few moments but as he repeated the question in his head, he found his anger simmering away. He understood, he realized begrudgingly and put his phone down, laying back down in bed, he understood why Sasori didn't tell him.

He didn't want any influence, knowing that Deidara hardly had control over his emotions. He would make it clear what he wanted and Sasori didn't want to be pushed to make a decision; he wanted it to come naturally, for it to be his own. That was how they differed; Deidara knew that Sasori could mask his emotions, even if he let slip something it wouldn't be strong enough that it would persuade Deidara and the blonde always knew deep down what his choice was. Eyes closing, Chiyo's words from earlier suddenly rang in his head.

"Point him in the right direction. You've changed Sasori into someone he doesn't completely know how to be: himself. Help him, Deidara. Please. Do what I never could for him."

He couldn't help but allow a small, lazy smirk to creep onto his lips. She asked him to help Sasori because he changed, a favor that Deidara had no idea how to accomplish when she asked but now was clear. Sasori had become someone independent, no longer focused solely on pleasing those around him, and he didn't know how to be independent. Chiyo couldn't guide him anymore; he resisted that and she couldn't do anything.

She was asking Deidara to help him be independent, to help him be his own person. And to do that he had to absolutely nothing; he couldn't call Sasori, let him know that he knew; he couldn't give his opinion because that would bias him, influence him. He had to make his own decision, his own choice as this new independent Sasori.

All Deidara could do was wait for him to come home (when the ringing of his phone didn't result in his door being thrown open and a pillow chucked at his head, he knew Sasori was out) and let him make his own decision.

His own choice had been difficult but he had gotten lucky with his outcome. He escaped a deathly lecture from Tsunade and he even kept Ino's relationship, all while quitting medicine, having Sasori, and being happy. He had his own happy ending, better than he had dared to hope for. But that didn't mean it was an easy decision to make; it was had. Even after Ino told him that she wouldn't mind if he quit medicine, he still had qualms about giving up what he was good at, what he knew he could excel at. It was hard to give up something like that, something that could make him financially stable, something that people would respect him for.

And yet he had been given an easy way out and even though it was hard to decide to take that choice, he still did. But for Sasori it was different; he didn't have his grandmother smiling at him kindly, saying that it would be all right. Chiyo and Ino were different, far different; while Ino was kind and flexible, Chiyo wasn't. She had a strict set of regulations that she adhered to and Sasori knew that; his quitting law definitely wasn't part of those regulations, of her plans. Maybe she would be all right, bend those plans for her grandson, but maybe she wouldn't; that was a risk Sasori would have to take.

What did Deidara want him to do?

Obviously to quit law.

He had been preaching it since they met, trying to live by his own words, to convince Sasori to join him. But he had failed time and time again and realized, by now, that he couldn't force someone to choose happiness; that person had to pursue it on their own accord.

I just want you to be happy, yeah? He thought lazily as he drifted in and out of consciousness, waiting to hear the door slam shut, for Sasori to come back. That's all.

Hours passed before the door opened and Deidara found himself tensing, hearing the sounds of Sasori hurriedly kicking his shoes off and stripping himself of his outerwear. Impatient as ever, Deidara mused as the door to his room flung open and he felt Sasori shake him, unnaturally energetic.

"Brat, oi, brat, wake up!"

He had made a choice, Deidara's heart leaped at the thought and he opened his eyes, looking at Sasori. And he was smiling; his eyes were shining, lips curled up into the widest smile he had seen on him yet and he couldn't help but smile back. "Danna…? Good mood?"

He wanted to hear his choice from Sasori himself, refusing to believe anything. The words 'I quit law' came out of Sasori's mouth in his mind over and over again and he just needed Sasori to say them so he could believe it and…


Sasori hesitated and took a moment to bow his head, as if laughing and Deidara couldn't help but smirk; it was odd to see Sasori this easygoing, this carefree, this happy. But he liked it; it made him happy. At the same time it was slightly unnerving to see the redhead this happy, but it made sense, after all. Law was part of the reason his emotions had been so repressed; he had spent so much time being the perfect student that he hardly showed his own emotions, had time to be himself and now that he quit—he had quit, right?—the emotions were coming out. But, at the same time, Deidara knew this was a one time thing.


"I… am in a ton of debt now."


Sasori was always one to catch him off guard.

But this, Deidara thought, was a completely different level. After Sasori had announced his current monetary predicament, the blonde shot up in bed and simply stared at him in awe, mouth gaping, unable to formulate words. Which, he knew, was unusual for him.

But Sasori in debt?

The idea itself was unfathomable; responsible, mature, frugal Akasuna Sasori was in debt? What kind of a crazy purchase had he made that would drain him of all his money? Deidara remembered walking into his apartment on the first day and looked around, instantly deciding that the kid was rich, having a good amount of money if he was able to live so lavishly like this.

"You're… you're in debt, un?" Deidara managed to sputter, eyes wide. Sasori was still smiling widely and that was beginning to scare him; he looked lively, energetic… happy.

Deidara's heart froze.

"Please don't tell me you bought a pony."

"…A pony, what the—"

"You can't blame me, if you were me looking at you right now, danna, you'd be scared as hell too-!"

"I didn't buy a pony," Sasori's smile slipped and he brought a hand up in exasperation (which Deidara found unfair as he should be the one sighing like that), shaking his head as if unable to believe he had to deal with someone like Deidara. He said nothing more, simply looked like he was lost in his thoughts of sighs of annoyance.

"So what… did you… buy?" Deidara asked slowly, as afraid of the answer he would receive.

The redhead removed his hand and looked up, a crooked smirk pulling on his lips, a smirk that made Deidara's heart skip and his blood run cold.

"The art store."


"You sold an art store to a lawyer, un?!"

Kakashi looked up when he heard the door to his office slam open, eyes catching sight of the apologetic shrug Genma gave, as if to say trust me, can't control this kid.

The silver haired man turned his attention back to the blonde in front of him, a familiar redhead appearing in view behind and gave him another shrug. Closing his novel, the male set it down on the desk, having a feeling this wouldn't be a short conversation, already heaving a heavy mental sigh.

"He had money. I had a shop."

"He's a lawyer, un!" Deidara growled again, gesturing behind him wildly, vaguely pointing in the general direction of Sasori, "He's not even in business-!"

"He's assured me that he has friends that will not let him destroy my art store," Kakashi glanced at Sasori who gave him an apologetic smirk, "What would you have preferred anyway? Selling this store and giving it another chance at surviving or simply closing it down, letting it go out of business?"

The blonde faltered at that and Kakashi couldn't help but give a small smile; though he and Deidara had never met face to face, he had seen the kid around frequently. He knew him as one of their best customers, frequenting the store on a daily basis, one of the few people that Kakashi didn't mind seeing loitering around. Running his eyes over the blonde, an eyebrow raised; he had been missing for the past few months, looking a bit weary before the disappearance. But he was glad that he was back; it was quiet around here.

"You sold it to a lawyer, un!" Deidara growled, repeating his only argument and the silver haired man simply gave another shrug.

"What's wrong with that?"

Sasori found himself wondering the same thing, not understanding why Deidara had such a negative reaction to this. He had thought that the blonde would like it; he was going to do what made him happy, after all, and the store wouldn't run out of business. It was a snap decision, one that Sasori had made without much thinking, going by instinct, much like how he had when he was at Deidara's bedside.

When he saw the statue he just realized that he was ready for change. He was ready to let go of his past, of his old goals, that his new goal, this new goal of happiness, was important to him than his old goal. Times changed and he changed along with them, Deidara undoubtedly playing a huge part in that. He didn't want law, didn't want recognition.

He wanted art. He wanted to breathe, live, see art; he wanted to do art, he wanted to be art. And owning the art store seemed like the most fitting thing; it seemed too coincidental that the store was closing just now as he had the opportunity to change his life. He had something to do, had something that he wanted to do just as he let go of what he was supposed to do.

This was something he never thought about doing, never prepared for. He was a law student, always in law; never once had he considered business, never had he thought about owning a store, even a small one like this. But that didn't matter; the store not only had art supplies but it also hosted events, the owners being judges. Sasori saw that as an opportunity to not only create art, to breathe the materials that he loved, but also to teach, to demonstrate.

A snap decision made rapidly without any thought, one that he may or may not regret, he had thought as he signed the check, glad that he had such excellent credit, but it didn't matter, did it? This was how it was to pursue happiness; he had to take a risk, a huge one, and hope, pray, wish for the results to be a positive outcome.

"You sold it to a lawyer!" Deidara repeated and Kakashi sighed, shaking his head.

"You've said that already."

It seemed that, lately, unpredictability was taking over his life. His confession; his reaction; his decision. He was beginning to lose control and didn't mind; he was letting things run its course, no longer steering his life, not bothering to think about the other options, letting fate take its course.

And unpredictability just continued to reign his life.

The blonde reached into his pocket, brow still knit and blue eyes glaring as he rummaged around and pulled out a checkbook, grabbing the pen on Kakashi's desk. Before Sasori could fathom what was happening, Deidara had signed, dated, and addressed the check, ripping it out and slamming it down on the desk.

"Half," he growled, "I'm owning half of this store. Danna's not getting all of it, un."

. The redhead had been rendered speechless by the sudden action, staring dumbly as he vaguely registered Kakashi pulling out the ownership forms and telling Deidara where to sign. He could see the events happening in front of him but heard nothing, confusion and disbelief taking over his mind. As Deidara slammed the pencil down and stormed on his heel, the feeling of the blonde's hand on his wrist, pulling him away was hardly registered. He hardly remembered being dragged to the coffee shop a few blocks away by Deidara afterwards, trying to remember if he even said anything. It was only after that the waitress brought their drinks to them that he found his voice again, snapping out of his daze.

"Where did you get the money?"

"What the hell was with your idea?"

Sasori's question was answered with another one and he scowled, glaring across the table of the coffee shop to Deidara.

"I'm practicing being impromptu," the redhead snapped back, "I'm pursuing my happiness."

"You got yourself into debt, un! I bailed you out!"

"I didn't ask you to, I would've made enough to pay it all off—"

"—danna, are you crazy, un? You—"

"—that's not the point, the point is where did you get the money?" Sasori interjected, his glare hardening. Deidara actually found himself flinching at the coldness and grumbled something incoherent under his breath, recognizing that he had lost and would have to answer him.

He didn't answer immediately, reaching out to take a sip of his cappuccino first, playing for time. Swallowing slowly, he averted his eyes. Money wasn't something he talked about frequently with Sasori; it was only brought up when it was time to pay rent or alternate paying for the takeout. Sometimes Sasori asked dryly where Deidara even found the money and the blonde rolled his eyes, knowing that he was asking out of sarcasm.

"Parents' inheritance," he answered lowly, continuing to avoid eye contact. He had briefly mentioned it to Sasori once, how he had the money put away, and they only discussed it that one time. The redhead had quietly asked how much and Deidara gave a wry smile with a slight shrug, answering that it was enough for him to live comfortably for quite a while; at least a few years. Sasori had raised an eyebrow, seemingly impressed, but let the subject drop. Money was always a vulgar thing to talk about, he had said once, and he could easily tell Deidara didn't particularly want to discuss his parent's.

Even now, he understood the silence to mean surprise, knowing Sasori wanted to ask more but couldn't bring himself to, knowing the blonde wouldn't want to talk about it. Yet he had a right to know, after all, Deidara thought and put his cup back down.

"I've been saving it for something big, something important, un," he gave a small shrug, finally looking up with a slight smile, almost an abashed looking one, "This counts as that, no?"

Sasori's frown deepened when he heard Deidara's words. That money was something Deidara didn't want to touch if at all possible; he wanted to save it, to never spend it. But he had signed away a large chunk of it without even hesitating, such a rash decision made so quickly. Sasori knew he made one too but it seemed different; the money he spent didn't have that sentimental value to him.

"You know that there's no guarantee, right?" he asked quietly, "That this might be a terrible idea, that you might lost everything?"

"Now you realize that?" Deidara asked dryly, giving the smallest of smirks and Sasori glared at him from across the table, "Yeah, un. I do. And I also know that the place is sentimental to me."

"Well, obviously—"

"No," he shook his head and cut Sasori off and when he looked up again, the redhead was surprised by his genuine expression.

"It was where I first met you, un."

a week later

"You bought an art store?"

"That's what I said too, un."

"I was also speaking to you."

Deidara scowled at Itachi's calm response, giving a glare to the Uchiha across the table, seated next to Kisame as he was next to Sasori. A week had passed since the purchase and the two had been riding on some euphoric high for the last seven days, refusing to think about more practical matters. A state of shock seemed to pervade their minds, the phrases "I can't believe you did that" and "were you crazy?" beginning to lose meaning, simply uttered for nearly no reason at all.

But a week of Chinese and nothingness passed, a week of isolation, of blank stares, of disbelief, of 'we bought an art store. We bought an art store. We, the ex med and ex law students bought an art store. These are the excellent decision making skills that college taught us.'

Sasori was the one to snap out of it first, suddenly turning off the television and picking up his cell phone. Deidara had watched languidly from his reclining position on the couch, interested but not enough so to ask what he was doing, simply picking up the remote and turning on the television again. The redhead had glared at him to try to make Deidara silence the television, but the moment Sasori greeted Itachi with 'Uchiha,' Deidara lunged at him and tried to wrestle the phone out of his hands.

Evidently, Sasori had won the struggle as the two were now sitting at a café across from Itachi and Kisame.

"Be civil," Sasori muttered and Deidara instantly tore his eyes away from Itachi to glare at Sasori.

"I tried, un. He's being an ass."

"He wasn't."

"He was!"

"And you two are going to run a business, huh?" Kisame asked skeptically, smirking with an eyebrow raised as they began arguing. The Uchiha simply sighed and picked up his espresso, taking a sip, eyes closed as if he was already exasperated. When Sasori had called him for business help, he wasn't surprised. But when Sasori added that it was his own business, Itachi nearly drew a stray line on his homework, which he had been doing up until that point.

"You bought an art store?"


"…Excuse me, but I must ask for your reasoning."

"…Will you just help me?"

And so, out of the kindness of his heart, Itachi found himself giving up a Saturday to meet with the two, dragging Kisame along with him. News of Sasori quitting law school had travelled quickly, yet it was found odd that the redhead refused to see anyone, something that Konan, expectedly, did not like. On more than one occasion had she tried to storm over to his apartment, but she was always held back by someone, being reprimanded, being reminded that Sasori would be much angrier than she already was.

His eyes flit open to watch them conversing a bit heatedly, the blonde and redhead's tempers matching the colors of their bright hair as Kisame simply remained mostly quiet, smirking at them. Putting down his mug with a slight 'cling' against the small plate, Itachi attracted their attention wordlessly, clearing his throat before he looked to Sasori.

"I will help you," he said quietly, "But you must do one thing for me first."

"I'll make the brat do it."

"What, un?!"

The lips of the Uchiha curled up miniscully into the faintest of smirks as he heard the door to the café open, a bell indicating the arrival as well as their voices. Sasori looked up and his eyes widened for just a moment before a scowl pulled at his expression, a glare directed at Itachi, who simply gave a small shrug.

"She forced me to."

"Akasuna Sasori!" Konan was the first to reach them and slam her hands down on the table, "We're going to sit down and have a nice talk!"

"Doesn't sound like it'll be very nice."

"Don't be sassy with me, Sasori!"

The redhead found himself wincing as Konan took a seat next to him, sitting uncomfortably close, her knee brushing against his. Instinctively, he moved a bit away, just an inch or so in order to keep his space. Konan raised an eyebrow but said nothing, knowing it was one of his pet peeves, but Deidara couldn't help but smirk as the others began pulling up chairs.

"Ah, danna, you want to be closer to me, un?"

"Shut up."

"No, both of you shut up!"

Konan's words garnered the attention of everyone at the table, eyebrows raised at the unusually angry tone of the peaceful girl. Her arms were crossed and eyes narrowed in a glare at Sasori, taking a moment to glare at Deidara but returned to focus on Sasori. The redhead simply frowned in return.

"Something wrong?"

"Yes, something is wrong!" she snapped, growling the words out, "You didn't tell anyone any of this!"

"You know now, don't you?"

"That's not the point!"

"That is the point."

"No it's not!" she cried exasperatedly, irritation only slightly alleviated to see Sasori flinch, recognition that Konan truly was upset finally registering in his mind, "We've been so worried about the two of you, you know! And then when Deidara quit med school we were happy when he told us because we knew that he'd be happy! But you? You quit law, you're one of my oldest and closest friends, Sasori, and you didn't tell any of us? You kept it a secret and suddenly spring it on us out nowhere, out of the complete blue? We were worried! We didn't know what you were doing, what was going through your mind, what you were going to do with those bar exam results! And then, suddenly, not only did you quit law but you also bought a business?!"

"Konan, you're overreacting—"

"You know, she really isn't."

The sudden interjection of the quiet Zetsu caught everyone off guard, especially his ex-roommate. As long as he had known him, Zetsu had hardly challenged him; they were similar (in a way) and usually agreed, the other male usually not bothering to argue with the stubborn Akasuna.

"We were worried about you," he shrugged, feeling everyone staring at him, "Ever since I moved out, you've been changing, man. Not that the change is bad, it's just… you don't change. You're the most stubborn asshole I've known, the most orderly, the most rule following. And then suddenly you change, start becoming more impromptu? It's fine, really, I even like it. But… don't keep us all wondering what you're going to do, all right? It's not what we're used to. Just because you're changing doesn't mean we are too. Douche."

"You have been acting differently," Itachi added in a quiet voice, "It is quite unpredictable."

As he listened to the words, Sasori frowned, not in irritation but rather understanding, all the words suddenly making sense to him. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms across his chest, eyes closing.

It was quiet as they awaited his response, not even Deidara broke the silence; even Hidan (who Konan had cold shouldered because she was jealous he was the first to know), who would usually try to lighten the situation or make it worse, was quiet. Sasori's change in demeanor made this wait even more anxious; not only were they scared of his possible anger but they didn't even know if they could expect answer. Sasori's predictability, his stability had been one of his safest traits, but now it was stripped away, in a good way, but right now it didn't feel good.

The silence seemed deafening and even the waitress seemed wary of setting down their drinks in front of them, having ordered earlier. When she scurried away, throwing an anxious glance over her shoulder, Sasori sighed again and looked up, eyes opening, something resembling a half, apologetic smile on his face.

"I'm sorry."

He had never apologized before, not in such a sincere, genuine manner and it caught everyone off guard. The smile resembled a smirk but he was being true, looking fatigued as another sigh was expelled from his lips.

"For not telling you," he shrugged, "You're right, I suppose. I should try to foretell you guys, not keep you on the edge, especially when that's not what's expected from me. But, please don't blame me. Blame the brat."

"…You started off not sounding like an ass for once, un…" Deidara murmured as a few laughs went around the table, the atmosphere seeming to relax slightly.

Sasori chuckled lightly and brought a hand up to run through his messy red bangs, the same apologetic seeming smile on his face. "I'll admit, I've changed a bit—"

"A fuckin' bit? I haven't even known you that long and I know you-!"

"Quiet, Hidan. Allow Sasori to speak."

"Fuck you, Kakuzu!"

"—ever since meeting the brat," Sasori continued, as if Hidan never interjected, "and thank you for worrying."

Silence overtook the table again, a mental 'tick tock' almost becoming real as they stared quietly.

"…That's it? That's all you're going to say?"

"Kisame, I'm sure it was hard for Sasori to admit his own faults."

"You make it sound like I'm as arrogant as you—"

"I'm not sure what arrogance you're referring to, quite honestly."

"Danna, you're nothing like Uchiha, if you were I would've blown you up in your sleep by now—"

"Explosives may prove to be illegal, Deidara—"

"Shut up, Uchiha, this isn't about you-!"

"Actually, it seems like it is—"

"Deidara, be careful, you know, don't say that kind of stuff in front of Sasori. He's not exactly sane himself."

"I'm right here, Zetsu."

"That's the point! The crazy don't realize how fucked up they are."

"Senpai, are you not going to eat your chocolate-?!"

"That's the first thing you say all day to me, un?! You ask me for my food?! You parasite-!"

"Deidara, don't kill Tobi. Not here. It'll be difficult to hide the body."

"Whaaat?! Pein-san, what did Tobi ever do to you?!"

"What haven't you done to me, Tobi?"

Konan couldn't help but stare as everyone began talking, bickering with each other, voices raising, each wanting to get his input in but no one wanting to listen. It was getting chaotic and she could sense dirty looks from the other diners but found herself smiling, laughing even as she looked at Sasori, noticing how he still looked the same when irritated: brow furrowed, eyes narrowed, lips curled down into a slight frown.

But the frown was lessened and there was an amused glint in his eye; he would talk a bit more, with a hint of emotion, no longer remaining the stoic puppet he used to be. She could see the change and it made her happy because he was happy; he was more relaxed, less controlled; more liberated, less caged; more himself, less a mold.

Her attention was caught by Hidan standing up, hands gripping the table in a way that worried her and she found herself springing up, telling them to calm down, they were in public, after all, so calm down! As she reprimanded them, chastising each and every one of them, frowning and flicking their foreheads, controlling all nine men with just a glare and a few words.

But every time she looked at Sasori, her gaze would linger and the redhead would recognize what the look meant and scoff, looking away in an abashed manner.

"Stop it," he would mutter.

She'd give him the shortest of smiles, of grins.

"I can't. You're finally happy."

few weeks later

"Tomorrow's the big day, un."


Sasori said simply the word before he elapsed into a silence, laying on the small bed next to Deidara. They didn't share a bed together—why would they?—but Deidara had barged into his room and laid down next to him, claiming he couldn't sleep. Sasori couldn't use the excuse that he had been sleeping because he wasn't; he had been wide awake, simply staring upwards blankly just as Deidara had been.

The last few weeks seemed to fly by and Sasori didn't even have time to think, never being able to engross himself in his thoughts. He supposed he had become accustomed to relaxation, to being able to simply do nothing except think, think about himself, about Deidara, about everything.

Think about how he had been a lawyer, how had been planning to be one, how he almost did become one, how he suddenly changed his career path without warning. Chiyo was completely fine with it, it seemed; when he had told her just a few days after the meeting at the café with Konan and everyone, she had stayed silent for a few moments.

"I'm going to quit law."

She said nothing.

"I'm… going run an art store. With the br—Deidara."

He fell silent as he waited for Chiyo's reaction, feeling his heart pound and his hands clench. After putting it off for so long, he finally dragged himself to his grandmother's apartment, having called her beforehand. She had called out to him, telling him to simply let himself in when he knocked, and was organizing papers when he walked in. As he sat down in the chair in front of her desk, he almost looked at the papers with a longing; in a strange way he almost missed law. He missed the security, the rigidity, the predictability, the logic that it offered.

But it was too late now, he reminded himself; these thoughts flitted through his mind so often and he had to erase them, push them out. He couldn't regret his decision, not now, it was done with. The redhead found himself freezing every so often and think about his life now, what he had given up, what he had chosen. He still wasn't familiar with this impromptu, sudden decision making thing he was now practicing, unaccustomed to a lack of security, of defined boundaries. He found himself worrying, not regretting, but worrying, wondering if he had done the right thing—had he?—and wanting almost to resume the safe path.

Yet, he would always reprimand himself, that was the point: to stray from that safe, predetermined path. He chose to quit law, to be more daring and he couldn't stop, not now, not everything had happened, everything that had led up to this.

Telling Chiyo was the last thing he had to do to completely let go of his past, he had thought. Chiyo was that one symbol, the one collection of everything he had been working for and once she knew, then he could move forward and no longer think about that, worry. She didn't have to agree, she just had to know, he told himself, and he had to be the one to tell her.

So he told her straight out in simple terms, not bothering to beat around the bush because no matter how much he had changed, that part of him was still constant. As he waited for her answer, he found himself growing anxious and clenching his hands in his lap, heart pounding. But his expression still betrayed no emotion, his self control still rigid.

What would she say?, he wondered, how would she react? Would she be disappointed? Angry? Amused? Shocked?

He had tried to prepare himself for everything but couldn't, knew it was impossible, that, just like he was learning, some things couldn't be predicted and he simply had to go along with it. A part of him still wanted to please her and that he had expected; he knew it would be unpractical to expect himself to simply let go of everything, to accept that it would take time and he would have to wait, no matter how much he didn't want to.


He nearly flinched when she said his name and it took him a few moments to look up, forcing himself because he didn't want to keep her waiting. The redhead didn't know what he was expecting, didn't know how to look, but even if he had he would have been shocked.

She was smiling.

The woman that always had a stern expression in his mind was smiling at him, looking so kind, so… grandmotherly that Sasori found himself at a loss with wide eyes, speechless.

No words were said but he didn't mind; she was gazing at him softly, with such kindness that he had never seen nor expected from her. There wasn't an ounce of anger or disappointment in her expression and he almost wished there was because he had been expecting for that, hoping for something predictable, something to prove that he still had a bit of control.

It felt like forever until she spoke, smile still lingering on her lips. He had said nothing, remaining quiet and stared at her.

"You've changed," she had said, "You're still changing. I've watched you from the moment Iwa Deidara moved in, you began to change. The Sasori that I had known all my life was no longer and, I have to say, I enjoyed it. I may not have said much, I may have continued to push you, I may have seemed to try to keep you on track with the path of law. And I'll also admit I tried to resist it at first, that I didn't like it. But I let you go soon; I continued giving you practice tests, continued talking about law to you. But that was to hope that you would realize you didn't want to do it; I wanted you to reach that decision by yourself."

The woman had hesitated for a moment, taking a moment to sigh, as if to recollect her thoughts before continuing.

"It was odd to not see you in lectures," she said softly, "I would find myself glancing at the seat you'd occupy and remember that you were studying, wondering if that was what you wanted to do. I thoroughly enjoyed you in my class, Sasori, which comes as a surprise because, quite honestly, I didn't like that you were never challenged. But… regardless of what I liked, of how proud I had been—"

The 'had been' stabbed at him but he kept a straight face.

"—you are my grandson, my family, the son of my son, and your happiness comes above all else. I had been proud of you for doing law, for doing so well, for exceeding expectations. Law had been something I had always envisioned for you because I knew you would succeed and you did more than I had thought, than I had hoped. You astounded me, Sasori, and I am not one that is easily astounded."

She fell quiet again and leaned forward, folding her hands and leaning against her elbows on the desk. Sasori's eyes averted, brow furrowing. She hadn't said it outright but from what she was saying, it seemed evident that she was disappointed, simply remaining polite, not wanting to be blunt. His hands clenched and he wanted to leave, to get away from there, to not remind her of how he disappointed her, how—

"—but what astounds me more is that you've grown into such a fine young man," her voice cut through his thoughts and he looked up, surprised, "I have taught you discipline and hard work, honesty and ethics. Yet you've learned how to be yourself, how to handle different situations, how to adapt; you've learned what I can't teach and you learned it so seamlessly, so flawlessly, incorporated it so naturally into your life. You've learned how to be happy, Sasori, and that's more important than anything. You're happy now, aren't you?" she asked, her voice growing quieter, "I can see it. I can sense it. The bags have disappeared, you're not as irritable, you're not as pale and sickly. You're happy."

Chiyo broke off and looked away for just a moment and when she looked back, her smile had grown wider and Sasori's eyes widened at her next words.

"You're happy. You've learned how to be yourself, you've discovered what you were meant to do, you've found what makes you happy. Sasori, I couldn't be prouder of you."

Ever since that day, Sasori felt more relieved.

It wasn't just that Chiyo knew, it was that she approved of it. That knowledge alone made him feel better, made him more relaxed; Deidara noticed and claimed it freaked him out sufficiently but his slight smile gave away his own feelings of contentment.

Preparations for the grand reopening of the store were going underway smoothly, the two finding a balance between relaxing and working, something that Deidara had to teach Sasori, who insisted on working all the time. The help of their friends were enlisted, the talents of everyone somehow having a use in this.

Kisame and Itachi, the business majors, took care of most of the paperwork. Kakuzu was handling finances, Zetsu handled the landscaping ("what landscaping?" Deidara had asked by Zetsu just gave him a dirty look.) Konan and Tobi were discussing what kind of a celebration they would have, how they would attract customers, Hidan was told to not mess anything up, and Pein aided in the organization of everything. And, surprisingly, they were having fun; they enjoyed this work, no one complained of it taking up their time, they had a good time.

The weeks had flown by and before they knew it, it was the night before the opening. Though their friends reassured them it would go fine, excellently, even, Sasori and Deidara couldn't believe them so easily, anxiety still clawing at them. Despite the carefree smiles, they knew that everyone was getting nervous, millions of hypothetical scenarios flurrying in their minds—what if, what if, what if?


"Of course not, un," Deidara answered dryly.

The blonde had watched a transformation in Sasori over the last few weeks; it seemed that after his meeting with his grandmother, he was becoming a completely different person. He was still Sasori, still impatient and easily irritated, but at the same time he was kinder and more relaxed. His smiles were still rare and smirks much more frequent, but his aura felt different. He wasn't as anxious, as strung up, as worried.

Deidara felt like he could finally breathe now. It was like everything had gone from a storm to a whirlwind, events flying by so quickly that he could hardly keep up. From Sasori passing to his quitting to his stupid, stupid but genius decision of buying the store, the blonde began to wonder if they had switched mindsets.

Everything was working out and he couldn't quite believe it.

He was free of med school and Ino still spoke to him.

He would be running an art store, finally being able to engross himself in that world, both in terms of managing the store and having time for his art, finally, finally being able to make a collection, to display it, to have his own art show.

He had fallen mutually in love with someone and that person was happy, that person was in love with him, didn't judge him, didn't shun him. Sasori had never judged and never given up on him; he forgave him when he didn't deserve it, continued to speak to him, continued to forgive.

It had seemed like such an improbable dream.

In high school, he expected to go to med school.

In undergrad, he expected to become a doctor.

And then he dropped out before classes even began, a sudden epiphany striking him, a whole new philosophy about genuine happiness overtaking him and he acted on impulse. He had been at his happiest then, poor, starving, dirty, smelly, but he had been happy, spending every last yen he had on art supplies, every waking hour on his art.

He had fallen more and more in love with his art, passionately so; every day was another confirmation that his choice had been correct, that screw expectations, the norm of society, the convention. Happiness was important, freedom was important; money was corrupting, expectations were pointless, he didn't need that; all he needed was art, his mind, inspiration, and time.

But then a turn of events landed him in Sasori's, and another turn of events landed him in med school again, back to the prison he had tried to escape from. He had been miserable but thought he could do it, told him that his happiness, though important, was second to family, that Ino was important, his family was the most important above all else.

And then he fell in love.

He fell into a deep, tantalizing love that left him speechless, breathless, unable to do anything but to think about him, about Sasori, no matter how he tried to resist, to remain independent. Sasori's happiness became more important than his own, the desire to remain with him, even platonically, almost overriding his desire to always have his family, his sister, in his life. He had tried to break away, to physically leave him, to hope that this would pass, that he would get his head straight again, his mind cleared, that it was over, he was rejected, he had failed.

But events kept turning, fate kept messing with him and he found himself unable to stop thinking about Sasori; he found himself getting hit by a car because of the damn redhead. But the accident proved to be good; it was what led to Sasori's confession, to liberation from med school, to peace.

He had attained his happiness.

He was free again, liberated from expectations of society and peers, again able to enjoy his art. It was just like earlier when he had temporarily become a hobo, except this time he had more than just art: he had a roof over his head, he had someone he was in love with, he had a consistent supply of food.

But at the same time, there was something missing.

Sasori's happiness.

He couldn't fully enjoy himself while watching Sasori struggle, watching the redhead agonize over his choice, wondering if he should choose law or art. Deidara could no longer tell him to pursue his happiness, even if Chiyo told him to help him be himself. The blonde knew Sasori had to make the choice himself, otherwise he would spend the rest of his life doubting his decision, wondering if he had done it merely for someone else.

Just a few months ago, Deidara would have never imagined this, unable to help but wonder 'what if' questions. What if he hadn't seen the flyer, what if Karin hadn't evicted him? What if he had given up when Sasori shut the door in his face, what if he had seriously moved out? What if he had stronger will power, what if he continued medicine?

He never expected to fall in love, it was the least of his problems, and he never expected that to catalyst all of this, to lead him to his happiness, to lead Sasori to his.

He never thought he would be the reason someone would change his life, he never thought he would be a force. The blonde had been told he had an influence, a presence, but never took it seriously, never until now.

When he closed his eyes he found himself asking if this was true, really, was this how his life was now? Had everything really worked out so perfectly? Even the imperfections seemed perfect; he didn't know if their business would prosper, Sasori was still a prick, he was still hotheaded, they still argued, they still couldn't agree on dinner. They had the same problems they did when they first met but they seemed more trivial now, mere nuances instead of genuine concerns, problems.

Thinking about that always led him back to his 'what if' questions, mind spinning. What if, what if, what if?

What if he continued medicine? What if he didn't just drop out but moved away?

What if he had never met Sasori?

That question was the one that seemed to consistently plague him, make him cringe, take his breath away. He couldn't imagine it; never mind falling in love with him, what if he hadn't met him at all? What if he hadn't met the most stubborn man in existence?

"What would you have done if we had never met, un?" Deidara asked softly, turning so that he was facing Sasori. He took the opportunity to ask, never having the time to ask before. But they were laying next to each other, bathing in the silence and Deidara almost felt bad about disrupting it, but he spoke in a soft voice. The redhead didn't answer for a moment, just stared up at the ceiling, and Deidara wondered if he had even heard him.

"Ah… law school," he answered, closing his eyes, expelling a sigh, "Bar exams… everything I did. I just… I would've taken my scores and gone and applied to law firms and continued. I'd probably still be as I was before I met you and probably give up art altogether."

"Huh…" Deidara commented and Sasori heard and felt him shift so he was looking up to the ceiling as well. He said nothing for a few moments, a pleasant silence pervading the air until he broke it with quiet words. The blonde could feel his heart racing, the next 'what if' question he always thought about floating in his mind. He raised his head so he could fold his hands behind his head and sighed. "…I'm almost sorry for interrupting your well planned out life, un."

"Don't be."

Sasori felt Deidara's eyes on him again and his own honey brown eyes closed, a sigh of contentment breaking past his lips before he turned to him, eyes opening, a small smirk pulling on his lips.

"You were my exception to my life," he said, uttering words that he had thought about but never formed, the words just tumbling out of his mouth, somehow flowing off his tongue elegantly, smoothly, "You were the only reason I would have the guts to quit and to pursue happiness, steer off the road of a life of being focused and being straightforward all the time. So don't be sorry that you interrupted it because you saved me."

He hesitated for a moment and just stared at Deidara, still wondering if this was a dream.

A year, no, just half a year ago, he'd never just be laying here, relaxing. He would be working, studying, planning out his future, thinking about his grades, about how to improve, how to continue to stay on top. His room would be full of law books and papers, materials for puppetry shoved in a corner or thrown out all together.

He wouldn't feel this lighthearted, this liberated. He would have that constant droning stress that he didn't even realize as stress anymore because it became so normal that he became accustomed to it, treating it as a normal mood. He wouldn't have time to smile or even think of something he liked.

If he hadn't met Deidara, at this moment he would be looking at law firms and applying, deciding which he would go to, which would help his future career the most. Talk to Chiyo, talk to professors, maybe have a celebratory lunch with a few friends but after that, right back to work. He wouldn't have declined to do anything with his scores, he wouldn't have bought the art store, something so risky in a completely different field from what he was studying.

What if Deidara hadn't met him?, he suddenly wondered; he had always hated 'what if' questions because, as a lawyer, he didn't speculate; he took the straight, hard, cold facts and used those. But he couldn't help the questions from filling his mind.

Well, for one, who knows if he would've been forced back into med school? Had it not been Sasori, Deidara probably could have kept up that lie for a bit longer but it would have to come out eventually. But he wouldn't be as stressed, wouldn't have been hurt as much if it wasn't for Sasori. Would he still be a hobo? Probably not, the redhead thought, Kakuzu or someone would have helped him, lent him a bit of money or given him a tent.

He couldn't help but smirk slightly at the thought; that flyer, that stupid flyer that he had been so annoyed changed everything. He hated to say that it changed his life, use such a cliché phrase, but it was accurate; that flyer, that one piece of paper, the one change that Deidara had seen it, changed his life.

It was crazy to think that this had all happened because Kisame and Itachi sent out a flyer that Deidara saw by chance. And then he called because the timing was perfect and he forced his way into Sasori's apartment, his life, into his heart. He came as a whirlwind and left the destruction of his past, of his strict rules, his lifestyle, paving way for a new future, for a new start. And at the same time, the whirlwind had changed; he had been tamed, been calmed a bit. He was no longer the naïve blonde that thought he could continue to live as a hobo; he was the naïve blonde that knew his original dream had been a bit unpractical, that he had get a job, couldn't continue to scrounge around. He still had that innocence, that determination, just with a bit of logic that Sasori. Likewise, Deidara invigorated him, reminded him of his youth, giving him a bit of himself as well.

But, Sasori supposed, it worked like that; he didn't ask for an exception to come along and to alter his life altogether, to change his viewpoint, to completely change him as a person. He didn't plan for a natural disaster to happen upon him, didn't expect one, didn't think of one. They came and went and luckily for him, his stayed.

He had never considered happiness—not in a serious sense. He knew the definition and could understand the appeal for it, yet never had a desire for it. He had been living a life of moderates, not being terribly depressed, terribly anguished about his predicament but certainly not ecstatic, overjoyed. He was fine, just fine, with it, could deal with it.

But Deidara wasn't. He was extremely dissatisfied, he was the one that took a leap. And that found its way to Sasori, that moderate feeling towards his predicament soon disappeared and he tasted happiness, freedom and grew addicted to it, craving more, wanting to be relaxed, to do what he loved, not what he was supposed to do. He couldn't imagine going back to his life of routine, of expectations, no matter how hard he tried. Thinking back, it was difficult for him to believe he had lasted that long—how many years had he wasted?

He chose not to think about that, instead focusing that now he knew what happiness was like, now could attain it. Deidara was the one to reveal that to him, the one to light that desire in him to seek out his happiness. Now he could breathe, he wasn't worried about being able to answer questions, being able to have the answers, being the one to impress. Studying was no longer a priority, impressing was no longer his main goal; he was now living for himself, not for someone else, not to fulfill someone else's wishes.

He was happy.

Chiyo was proud of him, she had said the words, words he never thought he would hear.

He fell in love.

He quit law.

He went out in the rain.

He hit someone.

He hit that same person again.

And probably again (Deidara did do quite a lot of annoying things.)

He was so angry he saw red.

He was so happy he found himself smiling.

He was no longer a robot, a puppet like the gift that was still perched proudly on his desk, now devoid of all his study materials and possessing only materials for his art. He had gone through his apartment and thrown out everything (Deidara wanted to burn it but Sasori was wary of the glint in the blue eyes.)

The redhead closed his eyes for a moment, allowing himself to completely relax, to calm down for the first time in a long time, to push away the thoughts of tomorrow's grand opening, to pretend that it was just him and Deidara right now, laying in bed together in the dark, the light of the moon being the only source and it cast a soft light on the two of them, creating gentle shadows.

Opening his eyes, he smiled at him, that rare, true smile that was only coaxed out by Deidara, the one that Deidara had first pulled out at the sleepover, that stupid sleepover for his birthday that Sasori had found so childish and naïve, and now was still only reserved for the blonde.

"You were my elastic clause."

.author's notes: oh my god I finished it. the longest project (word count wise) I've ever undertaken is now complete; I can't believe I originally planned for this to be eleven chapters. thank you all for reading, for being so patient with my updates, for being understand with sadistic cliffhangers, for being so encouraging and so motivating. I hope to start another SasoDei story soon, depending on when inspiration strikes me again. thank you again for reading this all the way through and any last words would be much appreciated!