Conflux - The point where two rivers meet and merge into one larger river.
Rating: K+ (some language)
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Story notes: Unbeta'd. Deidara-centric, peripheral DeiSaku and SasoSaku.
It was funny how Deidara never minded waiting. He liked being able to sit back and relax under the warmth of the afternoon sun, or perhaps feeling the wind in his hair as he flew through the sky on one of his avian golems. Perhaps it was why he never really bothered himself with planning ahead or devising stratagems for impending battles or missions. Where was the fun in taking calculated risks, when the risk part was the only part that made him feel invigorated? There was no sense in wasting precious down time by making himself paranoid planning seven steps ahead of imagined foes, mere shadows on the winds of an uncertain future. He preferred to wing it, much to his partner's dismay.
Sasori never had the patience for relaxing. Deidara could have rolled his eyes when he pestered Itachi about the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, knowing the redhead would want to line up a feasible plan of attack in case of a confrontation. Sasori was the type to put most of his eggs in one basket, a policy that usually worked for the ex Suna nin because of his meticulous planning for loopholes and caveats. As far as Deidara was concerned, it didn't matter where he put his eggs—they were like to break and spill their sticky contents all over the place, anyway. Better to smash them himself than see them trampled on by unpredictable forces.
Sasori had been around a lot longer than Deidara, though, and the blonde was not one to shirk the older ninja's advice and warnings, even if they usually made him bristle. Deidara liked to think that he was better at picking up the slack when Sasori's plans were lacking (they were never lacking) or when things went down the drain (he couldn't remember a single time in their acquaintance that Sasori had been wrong about anything mission related).
Delusions of grandeur, yeah, he thought bitterly.
"He's the one who screams and charges in first," Itachi's hologram said, his voice as hollow as a whisper of the wind.
And then they were alone in a dark, damp cave. The sound of stone grinding on stone filled the cathedral-like cavern, a queer organ filling the church hall.
It made Deidara wince.
After three days of standing, Deidara's feet felt like they might fall off. He was tired, having lost about thirty percent of his chakra to the sealing, but he'd toppled armies on less before. There was no need for him to fear the impending confrontation with the angry Konoha shinobi chasing the Kazekage. He had to scoff at the thought of shinobi rescuing the ruler of a foreign village. No wonder Sasori thought so little of Suna—they couldn't even produce the means to retrieve their own leader. Or maybe it was simply that they didn't care about him. Not that he gave a shit either way.
With a muffled whoosh and a satisfied sigh, Deidara sank down to sit on the Kazekage's unmoving corpse. It was soft and gave a little under his weight. All it lacked was a back to lean against.
He could feel them outside, standing around as if biding their time. He knew Sasori felt them, too, if his irritation was any indication.
"They're slow," the redhead said through the monstrosity that was his disfigured puppet armor. "If they're coming, I'd prefer they hurry it up."
Deidara never liked Hiruko. It was grotesque, ungainly, the complete opposite of his birds. The real Sasori was much easier on the eyes, almost alarmingly so. He looked for all intents and purposes a charmer when he allowed his carved lips to smile faintly. But Deidara supposed Hiruko was a better representation of what was in Sasori's mutilated heart than what was on his face. Fitting.
He turned to look at his partner, hunchbacked and staring intently at the giant boulder standing in between them and their pursuers. He looked almost too intent, even for Sasori. Despite his complaints, he seemed rather resigned to wait for the intruders. Deidara narrowed his eyes, suspicious.
"What's wrong, Sasori no danna? I thought you hated waiting on others, yeah."
Hiruko shifted slightly, metal gears grinding and wooden puppet parts clacking, filling the cavern. "Ah, I hate it."
Something was weird, that was for sure, but Deidara was not inclined to press the issue. Unlike Sasori, he was just fine waiting. He tried to rub his left arm and grimaced when his fingers grasped air and loose fabric. The Kazekage had ripped it off, now that he thought about it.
Guess I forgot.
A shift in the atmosphere made him narrow one blue eye in the direction of the blocked cave entrance. Someone had removed the seal.
"Looks like they figured it out, yeah."
And then the world exploded before his eyes.
The boulder, taller than a ten-story building, shuddered under a colossal pressure. Spider web cracks gave way to sharper, angrier crags, veins crawling from the core of the rock to its surface, as if wanting for air. In a split second, the boulder split and cracked and all but burst, sending a rain of rocky chunks, rubble, and dust down. It was a fantastic sight. One minute it was there, imposing and unshakeable, a seemingly permanent thing, and the next it was just…gone. Obliterated. Smashed to smithereens.
Deidara felt this pulse quicken in excitement, a smile tugging at the corners of both of his remaining mouths. This. This.
When the dust cleared, Deidara nearly gaped at the sight before them. Standing in the midst of destruction, in the eye of the storm, stood a young girl with fists clenched and panting slightly. Her hands glowed blue, in contrast to what he now noticed was pink hair. But most noticeable of all were her eyes, blazing and bright like emerald fire. She was smiling.
Deidara chanced a look at Sasori, unwilling to believe that the older shinobi could possibly be unaffected by such a display of explosive artistry in his purest form. Through Hiruko, he stared wide-eyed at the girl, almost transfixed in a way Deidara had never seen him look before. It was gone almost as quickly as it came, but his eyes followed the kunoichi as she tentatively stepped inside the cavern, clearly having caught the older shinobi's attentions.
This, Sasori no danna. He would always wonder after the fact if she'd managed to convince Sasori when Deidara never could.
Her companions followed her inside.
Deidara wondered for a second if she was the Jinchuuriki, or if it was one of the other crew of motley shinobi she'd brought with her. He voiced as much aloud.
And no sooner did he pose his question than a wave of hot, turbulent chakra wafted over him like a blanket on a summer day—too hot and smothering to be at all comfortable. It was coming from the blonde boy.
"You bastards! I'm gonna fucking kill you!" the boy shouted.
"The one who screams and charges in first," Sasori said in Hiruko's low, raspy voice.
"That's what it looks like, yeah."
"You son of a bitch!" the Jinchuuriki screamed. "Where the hell do you think you're sitting?"
Deidara almost felt like laughing. This was too easy. "There's no mistaking it," he said to Sasori, ignoring the screeching blonde. "He's the Jinchuuriki. Itachi described him pretty accurately when he said he'd be the first one to charge in screaming, yeah."
Sasori seemed not to pay him any mind. Instead, he was looking in the direction of the girl who had smashed her way into their hideout and some old crone. Maybe he was more affected by the assault than Deidara originally thought. Interesting.
"Gaara, how can you be asleep at a time like this?" There was desperation in the Jinchuuriki's voice, like he knew the Kazekage was dead but didn't want to admit it.
He's a child. There is no room for children in the shinobi world.
"Stand up! Gaara, hey, are you listening?" The Jinchuuriki made to approach them, and Deidara was half tempted to smack the dead Kazekage's face just to prove to the kid that his precious friend was dead. It might spare them more pitiful bleating.
He gave into his urge. "You get it, don't you? He's been dead for a while now, yeah."
This seemed to get under the kid's skin, because he outright demanded that Deidara return the Kazekage's corpse. What good was a corpse to anyone? Not even Sasori could make much use of corpses. From what Deidara had gathered over the years, his partner required live specimens for his human puppet technique. He chanced a look at the Jinchuuriki's pink-haired companion. He was mildly relieved that she wasn't the Kyuubi container, since it would mean he'd have to kill her in a completely un-artistic way.
When the blonde Jinchuuriki tried to rush them, a shinobi whom Deidara immediately recognized as the Copy Ninja, Hatake Kakashi, stopped him. A pity. Deidara seriously wanted to blow the kid up.
"Sasori no danna," he addressed his hunchbacked partner. "You might get pissed at me for saying this, but I'm going to fight this Jinchuuriki."
He didn't say it because he truly, above all else, wanted to fight the blonde kid, but because he knew Sasori wouldn't let him have his way so easily. And Deidara wanted to break him out of whatever daze he seemed to be in—it wasn't like the puppet master to be so silent at a time like this.
"We each get one Jinchuuriki," Sasori reminded him. "Don't get cocky, Deidara."
Here we go.
"With art, it's necessary to seek greater and greater stimulation. Otherwise, your ability to appreciate it will dull. I've heard rumors that the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki is pretty tough. He'll be the perfect vessel for my art, yeah."
Sasori turned to face him fully, commanding attention without even trying. He had always had a tendency to shift focuses around himself, carrying an air of authority that could not, would not be ignored. It was like he could capture the light in a room, like it shined only for him. He was a universe unto himself, and Deidara felt like he was always dancing somewhere on the edge.
But never within.
"You call those explosions art?" He said it as if they had never been down this road before, just like every single time they argued. It was as if each time Deidara defended his position, Sasori was at a total loss as to why he held those beliefs, like they were so utterly wrong and imperfect that they bordered on madness.
"Art is something beautiful that gracefully endures the test of time. True art is infinite beauty."
Deidara smirked. "Infinite beauty? Danna, I respect you as a fellow artist, but art is something that blooms brilliantly for a single instant before withering away, yeah."
Hiruko narrowed mechanical eyes at him, and Deidara knew he'd pushed the right buttons.
"What did you say? Deidara, you obviously have no concept of true art."
"No, that would you be you, danna."
"True art is infinite beauty."
"You're being ridiculous! True art is transient beauty, yeah."
The Jinchuuriki, screeching at them in frustration, attempted to invade their world with a giant shuriken aimed at Hiruko's head. Deidara didn't even bat an eyelash, knowing Sasori would not stand for such an intrusion in the middle of an important conversation.
He didn't disappoint.
Hiruko's long, stinger tail deftly deflected the giant projectile as if it were merely swatting flies. The Jinchuuriki was undoubtedly so furious that he wasn't even thinking straight.
"Are you trying to piss me off?" Sasori asked.
Deidara sighed dramatically. "See, that's why I warned you this would piss you off!"
"You should know well what happens when I get angry!" Sasori wagged Hiruko's poisoned tail at him menacingly.
Deidara stood up, his full height allowing him to tower over his partner. It was almost comical how he appeared to overshadow Sasori, although he knew that Sasori outclassed him in terms of skill. Deidara gazed excitedly at his remaining palm, grinning at it.
"True art…" He released the small bird he'd been discreetly molding. "To me, true art is a blast!"
The bird grew to a size large enough for two or three people to mount it, landing gracefully next to its master.
"True art is completely different from your silly puppet shows."
Knowing Sasori as well as he did, Deidara predicted a violent retaliation for deciding things on his own like this. He commanded his winged beast to scoop up the corpse of the Kazekage in its clay beak and jumped high into the air, narrowly avoiding Hiruko's poisoned tail in the process.
Sasori had always been predictable, and Deidara could read him like an open book. He knew Sasori would respond to his challenges against eternal art just like he knew Sasori would try to injure him if it meant fighting the Jinchuuriki himself.
Deidara liked to think he was the more spontaneous and clever of the two.
"Later, danna," he called to Sasori, ignoring the latter's glare.
You better follow me, Kyuubi Jinchuuriki.
The hotheaded Jinchuuriki did not disappoint. Throwing a glance over his shoulder—the one still attached to an arm—Deidara saw the blonde and the Copy Ninja following him. Through his scope, he could make out Sasori still concealed within Hiruko's stunted form, getting ready to face off against the old crone and the unnamed girl who'd reminded him that people could be beautiful, too.
I hope danna doesn't turn her into one of his puppet freaks. What a waste, yeah.
Deidara didn't have to worry about that in the end, as it turned out. A couple weeks later, when both of his arms had been reattached and he dared to return to the abandoned hideout in River Country, he could not ignore the strange tumbling in his stomach. Whether it was fear or anticipation, he couldn't tell.
The immense cavern, or what was left of it, was in shambles. The roof had completely caved in, making him think Sasori must have ended up using his favored Third Kazekage puppet. Alarmingly, Deidara found the remains of hundreds of puppets strewn haplessly about like forgotten toys. If Sasori had used his Red Secret Technique, that must mean he had to use himself in the fight.
Sasori's true body was nowhere to be found.
"Done in by some old bat and a girl with pink hair. Guess you were getting soft, Sasori no danna, yeah."
Gazing down upon the destruction from his aerial vantage, Deidara couldn't help but remember the awesome destructive power of that girl's bare fists. How much of this damage had she caused? How much had Sasori's Third Kazekage puppet caused? Everything melted together until it was indiscernible, inseparable.
He had been expecting it to be a big hoax. There was no way Sasori could have lost to that unlikely duo. And yet, the evidence was stacked heavily against the ex Suna nin in such a way that Deidara could see no other explanation.
"So much for eternity, yeah."
He wanted to say 'I told you so.'
He wanted to say that his own vision of ephemeral beauty had triumphed over Sasori's foolish ideals of infinite beauty. For Sasori was dead, gone forever, and Deidara was probably the only person in the world who would remember him as something other than just the monster.
I bet she'll remember you.
Sasori had a way of commanding attention, after all.
That girl… She showed up again at the end of his fight with the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki and the Copy Ninja. At first, Deidara had been mystified to see her and the old woman still alive. It was insane to think that Sasori lost a battle. Sasori did not lose, because he always knew what he was dealing with. Deidara was meant to die young, not his partner.
That night after the battle, after Kakuzu had finished sewing his arms back on, Deidara pulled an unopened egg carton from the fridge in the Akatsuki hideout and smashed it on the floor with all his might. The gooey clear and yellow insides oozed out from between delicate white shards, staining the carpet. Planned or not, eggs cracked all the same regardless of who smashed them and why. When Kisame asked him what his problem was, Deidara just shook his head.
He reached into his pouch for some clay, the mouth on his hand chewing ravenously. He thought about the last time he ever saw Sasori, about the look in his eyes when that pink-haired girl smashed through their last defense. Had she smashed through all of Sasori's defenses, too?
He knew. He didn't know how he knew, but he did.
"That's cheating, danna," Deidara whispered, a bitter smile playing at his lips. "I know you're a sucker for a pretty face, yeah."
Sasori must have seen what Deidara had seen in her. He could picture it so easily, as if he'd witnessed it himself. Deidara never would have guessed that some nameless, unimportant girl could bring his partner, his mentor, perhaps the closest thing he'd ever had to a friend in the most bizarre and twisted way to his knees. Sasori was a universe unto himself, but even the greatest artists want for inspiration.
Deidara almost wished he had let Sasori take on the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki instead.
They were more alike than they seemed. They disagreed on whether true art was eternal or ephemeral, but they agreed that, above all else, it was always beautiful and it was always remembered. And what is art if not beauty imagined, created, destroyed?
Deidara uncurled his fingers, letting the tiny clay scorpion fall to the earth. His jutsu forced it to grow to a thousand times its size, and when it hit the rocky earth it set off an incredible explosion full of light and heat. The moment lasted for only half a breath before imploding in on itself and releasing a fat column of smoke. It was his final one-up on the puppet master.
Sasori was probably rolling in his grave at this queer funeral in his honor, but a smaller part of Deidara liked to think that this one time Sasori might appreciate it. To be remembered was all that the puppet master had ever wanted. It was all any artist ever wanted. And if not, well…
"I'll see you in the next life, Sasori no danna. You can yell at me then, yeah."
Author's note: Consider this a small consolation while I try to get my act together and get the next chapter of IPB out. I absolutely love DeiSaso partnership, friendship (sort of?), rivalry, whatever. I have written (and will write) several times about Deidara from Sasori's point of view in IPB, so I wanted to explore the other side of the relationship. I may do something similar for Sasori and Orochimaru in the future…
As always, reviews are love and they only take, like, ten seconds out of your busy lives! I would love to hear your feedback, be it positive, negative, concrit, or general squeeing. Oh, and this is a stand alone one-shot so there will be no further updates.