Carefully climbing out of the tree and falling down the last few feet, Deidara landed on his butt right next to the person that had just spoken up to him. He seemed a lot younger than Deidara had first expected. Somewhere around his little brother's age probably, so in his early teens. The white furry thing was indeed a dog like Deidara had thought after the bark. Quite big as well.

Slowly he raised himself up from the ground, rubbing his sore butt and glancing up at the teen. The boy's teeth were quite sharp, some of them sticking out between his lips. His skin was even more tanned than Deidara's and then he had some remarkable tattoos right under his eyes. Deidara's mother would've killed his little brother if he had gotten a tattoo, but something told the blonde that this was not an ordinary teenaged boy. His clothes looked too dirty and ripped for that.

'So what were you doing up in that tree again?' the boy asked, a slight lopsided smile on his lips, baring more of those sharp teeth and his eyes staying right on Deidara's form. Somehow the eyes held some intelligence, even when the boy's face didn't quite match it. But the teen was waiting on some kind of answer, as if he didn't fully trust Deidara.

Blue eyes moved through the woods again, feeling like he was being watched. But he couldn't find anyone. Not that he had a keen eye or something like that. 'I wanted to know when these woods would end and felt safer up in the tree than down on the ground. So I spent the night there, but I'll be on my way soon again.' His eyes then snapped down to the boy, eyeing him suspiciously. 'And why are you here? There isn't much around.'

The smirk changed into a happy smile as he petted the large dog on his head. 'Ah, you know. Just walking the dog. Right, Akamaru?' The dog barked as a reply and it made Deidara raise an eyebrow. Strange bond those two had. And walking the dog through these woods. Seemed very unlikely. But before Deidara could even question him, then teen spoke up again. 'You have very blue eyes, you know that?'

And there was the hint. The tone that was used. The dark eyes that had narrowed as they stared up into Deidara's eyes. The stiffness he noticed in the teen's body as if he was very on edge. This boy knew his benders, but his blue eyes wouldn't be a sign enough. That was why Deidara was questioned. But it wasn't like Deidara would give out that information so quickly. He had no idea where this boy had come from and what he would do with the information. 'And you have a very big dog,' Deidara replied plainly, staring down at the beast called Akamaru. Someone could seriously ride that thing as if it was a horse.

The smirk was back and Deidara could see the eyes challenging him. This teen was up to something and it seemed his personality was just as playful as his dog's. 'He is, isn't he? His teeth are quite huge as well. Some people already needed stitches after being bitten by him.' That was more a threat. Probably a way to lure him out. Because if that thing did attack him, then Deidara surely would use his bending skills and win easily. That was what this boy was afraid of. That he actually formed a threat for the teen. But then he must be protecting something. Otherwise it wouldn't have mattered that he was bender. There was something around here that this boy was protecting.

'Well, then you better keep him under control.' Their eyes were still locked, but the smirk had disappeared from the teen's lips. Now it was more a contest of who would look away first, but neither of them wanted to give up. Deidara didn't trust this situation at all and he felt very unsafe. Something was going on here and he needed to found out what.

Rustling from the side eventually made Deidara look away, suddenly seeing another boy, looking the same age as the first one, but missing the dog and the weird tattoos. 'Just give it up, Kiba. Your strategy is obviously not working,' came the lazy sounding voice from the other. The other's dark eyes then snapped towards Deidara, gazing at him a little longer. He looked very tired, as if he was about to pass out. 'So are you a water bender or not?'

Well, that was unexpected. And Deidara still wasn't sure if he should answer that question. He had no idea what they were up to once he had given the answer. So Deidara started to glare at the newcomer, ignoring the boy named Kiba. 'Why do you want to know?' Of course this question kind of implied that he was, but without a straight answer, you could never be sure.

The lazy one sighed and wiped a hand over his face, rubbing the tiredness off. 'Look, we are not going to attack you or anything.' The murmured reply of Kiba said that he should speak for himself. Hostile little dog boy. 'Kiba here is a dog trainer and Akamaru is his dog of course. They make quite a strong team. And I am an earth bender,' the teen said plainly.

Now that was easy and it would be strange if Deidara didn't answer his question now, especially with the way the teen was staring at him expectantly. 'I'm a water bender. But I have no business here. I am just traveling through,' he added immediately, making sure the teens knew he wasn't here to cause harm or whatever he could actually do here.

'Strange route to take then. The only place you can reach here is the fire country,' Kiba said confused and the other just rolled his eyes, turning around as if to go somewhere else.

'You really are stupid sometimes, Kiba,' he said, before glancing at Deidara over his shoulder. 'You can freshen up in our camp if you'd like. We are just a bunch of kids really, but at least we have enough stuff to get by. You're probably hungry as well.' And as if it was a sign, Deidara's stomach then choice to respond. 'As I said and breakfast will be served any time. That is if Chouji doesn't eat everything.'

First Deidara was a bit reluctant, unsure of where this was even going, but he was really hungry and he didn't have anything left that he could eat. Hopefully this Chouji guy didn't eat everything. Falling into step behind the teen, he could hear Kiba and Akamaru following right behind him. They were still very careful around him, but it wasn't so strange. They were letting a bender into their home and apparently they were all still very young. Especially if they really were all just kids, as the teen had called them.

'I'm Shikamaru by the way,' the lazy boy said over his shoulder, the dark eyes locking with bright blue. He was trusted enough to share names.

But Deidara waited a moment, staring into Shikamaru's eyes and then just decided to respond. It didn't really matter anyway if they knew his name or not. 'I'm Deidara,' he said, looking away from those dark eyes again.

'Nice to meet you, Deidara,' Shikamaru replied and then they just walked on in silence.

Deidara had no idea where they were going. If they were moving away from the path or just walking beside it. If he was walking back and will lose a lot of what he had walked yesterday or if they were actually moving forward, walking towards his goal. The trees were just too clustered and the sun still didn't really light up the forest enough. Maybe he just should've stayed on the path. Then he wouldn't have met these teens and he would be much further already. He didn't even know how far away the fire country was.

And then the trees seemed to thin out and Deidara was sure they would get to the path now. Then he would just flee into, hopefully, the right direction and continue his trip. Unfortunately he was way of. This certainly wasn't the path. It was some kind of weird village, huts build out of stone, looking rather messy. But it was a crowded place. He could see a lot of teens running around and some even younger than that. They really were just children and it didn't seem there were any adults around. How did they all get here?

'Home sweet home,' Shikamaru said, smiling a little as he stood at the edge of their grounds. Kiba was already moving forward, Akamaru running towards something even faster. Must be where breakfast was served since that hut seemed a little bigger than the rest. 'I built most of it throughout the years,' the lazy teen suddenly started to explain. 'It might seem odd to you to see so many kids without parents, but we didn't really have another choice. As Kiba said the path through the forest only leads to the fire country. This means we live very close by. Our families suffered from that fact and we are all actually orphans. But we didn't want to leave the place where we grew up, so we decided to create our own town and live deep in the forest, it protecting us from the fire benders. They avoid going in too deep, afraid of getting lost and burning the whole thing down is not the smartest move.'

That story was quite remarkable and it scared Deidara a little at how ruthless the fire benders apparently were. Because why would they have killed all of these kids' parents? There was not much reason for it, right? Although he didn't know the full story and he doubted Shikamaru did. He must've been very young still when his parents died since he was talking about years. Would the teen be the only earth bender here then or would there be more? Maybe other benders?

'Let's get something to eat,' Shikamaru then announced, starting to walk towards the place most kids had now disappeared in. Apparently the earth bender didn't expect an answer to his story. It was just so that Deidara would understand why they were here, so that he wouldn't judge and he wouldn't now. The situation was a lot different from what he had anticipated on. He thought they could all just be runaways, not wanting to be dependent on their parents and things like that.

Now that Deidara had a better few of the camp as he followed Shikamaru, he let his blue eyes wander around. It was messy, very messy. It just showed that kids really needed someone to look after them. It just wasn't clean and he was pretty sure they wouldn't have much water to clean off with. Deidara wouldn't need it as a water bender. He could easily just wash himself with a bit of it, but none benders had it a lot more difficult. Dirty clothes were hanged out, as if they needed to dry, but it was futile since they weren't even washed properly. Pots and pans laid scattered, used in places they probably shouldn't have. And then the animals. Of course a village like this would attract a lot of wild life, but apparently they were well fed as well since most just slept around the camp and looked rather fat. Rats weren't supposed to be pets, not when they were this big and scary looking.

'Just find a place to sit and someone will come by with some food,' Shikamaru said as they reached the hut, walking off to sit in his usual place probably and leaving Deidara all alone in the doorway, unsure of what to do now. Shouts of all the kids reached his ears, busy with stealing each other's food or throwing it at each other because it was fun.

Deidara was definitely not staying long. He would go crazy in a place like this.

Characters Masashi Kishimoto

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