Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Stargate SG-1. They are copyright of their respective owners.

Warning: Possible spoilers.

Puppets and Strings

If Sasori was to name one characteristic that he artistically possessed, it was imperturbability. Nothing pierced his porcelain mask. He was the puppet master, Sasori of the Red Sand. He guided the events around him with his strings, not the other way around. He always planned ahead, and his preparation never allowed unforeseen events to corrupt his plans.

He even had plans for the future beyond his normal life span. To compensate for this encroachment, for the invisible chaotic enemy of death, on his artistic visions, he turned his gaze upon himself. He reformed his body into his puppet to fulfill his artistic dream of immortality, using his own art upon himself. It became his ultimate artwork—immortalizing himself by immortalizing his body.

The one part of his body that he had failed to puppeteer was his heart. It led to his undoing, but at least it had been artistically ironic—the one organ that he failed to immortalize, the fickle, easily-perturbed heart, caused his demise. Regardless, his realization of mortality in his final moments refused his soul passage to the next realm and whatever awaited him; he couldn't pass on with his dream, his life, incomplete.

However, when Sasori opened his eyes again and stared at the corporeal world around him, he discovered his soul more unsettled than he had foreseen himself being. Even if through the exploits of another, even if it was solely to fight at someone else's beckon, he had finally obtained the immortal body he had dreamed of. He could fight without fear of death's falling scythe, because no injury could bury him. He had finally achieved his dream.

Yet, even when he felt the familiar weight of strings at his fingertips, the glorious feeling of control in his hands—ultimate and blissful control, personally and upon others—the sickening feeling of being swallowed, an internal sinking, was ever-present. He knew the cause; he refused to acknowledge it, hoping it would disappear if he ignored it. After all, the puppet master existed to control the puppets.

It was impossible that the puppet master could be controlled by another.

Yet his opponent, Kankuro, a puppet master himself, forced these unspoken thoughts to the front. His enemy's words rang in Sasori's ears, forcing him to face the one thing he had refused to acknowledge: loss of control. Kabuto was controlling him, not Sasori's personal desires.

It was the one crack in Sasori's mask of imperturbability—that innate fear that he had finally lost control.

For a puppet master, control was everything.

Control constructed the puppet designs. It hid the secret weapons and released them at the twitch of his fingers. It injected the poisons. It laid the traps. It turned friends into enemies.

Loss of control was death for the puppet master.

The artistic irony was that death was the one thing a puppet master could not attach strings to and manipulate, however hard he had tried to. His fight with this uncontrollable entity led him to transform his parents' dead bodies and his living one into puppets, his attempt to immortalize themselves in the living plane. It was his act of defiance to his lack of control, to prove that death, the unconquerable, could be conquered—to prove that he was in control… even if he wasn't.

Death always proved its superiority in the end, snatching the reins of his control away at the one unplanned moment, that second where his mask cracked. Kankuro had forced Sasori to acknowledge that he had once again lost control of the strings when Kabuto resurrected his soul from death—and a puppet master is no longer a puppet master when they have become the puppet.

Sasori chuckled to himself as he allowed his body—no, he reminded himself, the puppet body that made him the puppet instead of the master—to crumble away. He felt no sorrow in his second passing—after all, he chose to pass on.

He chose death.

He snatched control away from he who sought make a puppet of the puppet master, once again regaining control of his decisions.

As the world faded, Sasori sighed contentedly. No one could control him now.

Not even death.

For the puppet master, it was a blissful feeling.

Unfortunately, death chose that moment to poke his reforming mask of imperturbability as his spirit rose, free to pass on, now that he had no regrets.

Light surrounded him. He raised his arm to block the intense rays as an ethereal voice greeted him, "Hello, Sasori."

Sasori squinted torward at the fuzzy figure of a woman, the sinking feeling of loss of control that death had brought nagging at him. He ignored it, once again hoping it would go away. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"

She smiled at him. "My name is Oma. We have been waiting for you."

Sasori looked at her, trying to gauge her words. "Did I not finally die? How are we having this conversation?"

Oma only smiled again after a quiet laugh. "You are indeed dead. However, when you released yourself from the Edotensei, that which bound yourself to the world of the living while you were dead, you Ascended. Welcome to the world of the Ancients."

As she spoke those words, Sasori finally acknowledged he had once again lost control of his situation. He would have screamed if his mask of imperturbability, officially cracked in many places now but still attempting to hold strong, would allow him.

"But am I not dead?" Sasori ventured again, trying to regain control of his situation.

Oma nodded. She replied, "Yes, but this is a different plane than the souls of the departed normally enter. The souls of ancients attempting to escape death reached this place. I believe you found this place because you sought similar goals."

The words sank into Sasori, and a little of the control he thought that he had lost he found in his grasp again. He smiled.

Perhaps he would turn death into his puppet after all, proving himself the real puppet master he knew himself to be.


Oma turned around, indicating for Sasori to follow her.

Sasori nodded, but as he began to follow, a frightening thought suddenly struck Sasori, sinking into the pit of his stomach. "Oma?"

"Yes, Sasori?"

"Does this mean Orochimaru is here, too?"

Oma was quiet for a few minutes. "No. We kicked him out of our club after he broke the rules too many times. He's not allowed to return, and we took away his powers as an Ascended."

Sasori breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. One Ascended ninja is enough."

Oma laughed. "Sorry. We actually have a small village for you guys. After Kabuto started his Edotensei, we figured that we would have a lot of guests. You're actually the second here. Sai's brother arrived before you."

Sasori cursed. It looked like Kabuto had taken his control away from him after all.

A/N: Did no one else think of Stargate SG-1 and the Ascended when Kabuto thinks how Sasori and Sai's brother had "fully ascend[ed]"?

I apologize if I seriously messed up Oma's character. I haven't watched Stargate SG-1 in a long while, so I feel out of touch with her. I gave up characterization in the omake, though. It was just something funny that popped into my head as I was writing the ending. I was almost tempted to end this fic before the whole ascended part, since it started focusing more as a reflection of Sasori's loss of control and his acceptance that allowed him to pass on and release himself from the Edotensei, but I decided to see it through it in the end. If you want to personally move the Omake marker to when the Ascension section begins, you are free to do so. I was tempted to.

Anyway, enough of my commentary and yay for crack endings. Please R&R, and I hope you enjoyed it!