Chapter One:

Beauty is the Beast

Drip...Drip...Drip...Drip-

Water continues to dribble indiscriminately from the slightly rusty faucet as I stare at my reflection in the mirror, perpetually adding to my mounting irritation.

I huff out a sigh, and the image in the mirror parts its lips in a silent mimicry. It shadows each movement as my right hand wanders idly to long, golden locks wilting haphazardly over my shoulder. It was dull, in my opinion. Not ugly... just plain, and dreadfully long.

I used to love my hair. I once thought it was my best physical feature.

But he...Sasori...

"When are you going to cut off that ridiculously long mop on your head you call hair? It only makes you come off as even more of a brat."

I take a deep breath and look up—away from my hair—meeting the gaze of drab, lifeless, blue-gray eyes.

Unlike my hair, I've always hated my eyes. They're my father's eyes. The eyes of a cold, heartless-

Knock! Knock! Knock!

My thoughts are disrupted by a harsh succession of knocks, followed by a familiarly gruff voice.

"Deidara, get your transvestite ass outta the bathroom already! I gotta fucking take a piss!"

Within an instant, the fire in my eyes returns and I let out a low growl. "Just a minute, Hidan!" I shout back in a mock sing-song voice. I flush the toilet and take one last glance toward the mirror before turning to the door and yanking it open. I was, of course, met with the (somehow always cocky) scowl of an impatient Jashinist. Meeting his frown with my own cheeky smile I purr, "I thought patience was a virtue, un, even in your twisted religion." His eyebrow twitches visibly and he opens his mouth, no doubt preparing a small tirade for my blatant jab at aforementioned (incredibly sadomasochistic) religion, so I just stick out my bottom lip a little and widen my (ugly) blue eyes. Immediately, the zealot's mouth slips shut once more, something other than annoyance hazing its way into his magenta eyes.

I take the opportunity without hesitation.

"Hidan, you know I don't like being called a transvestite..." My sickeningly sweet voice sounds disgusting even to me, but it works on my idiot of a best friend. He mumbles something unintelligible and shoves past me into the now vacant bathroom.

I feel a triumphant grin spread across my face when I hear the door slam, directly followed by something along the lines of, "...lucky I like blondes so much..."

Eventually my feet begin carrying me in the direction of my room, though my mind wanders along a different path completely.

I've known of Hidan's little crush on me for years, and had I cared about anyone's opinion but Sasori-no-Danna's, I may even have felt guilty for using it to my advantage. That being said, he didn't really stand much of a chance with me to begin with.

Sure, there was once a time when I might have fallen helplessly for any man who gave me a second glance—a time when I could still feel my beating heart. A time when I could still feel anything. It may as well just have been a dream. I can't remember what happiness feels like, or pain for that matter.

Maybe that's why I'm so hopelessly hooked on him.

I blink, shaking myself out of the daze I'd allowed to envelope me. My hand clenches into a fist and rises to the door before me automatically. We may share a room, but Sasori is a firm believer in privacy—not that I can see a logical reason for it. Sasori is not kind to me, nor does he respect my views on art. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the time he is a downright jerk. But if there's anything we do have between us, it is trust. We've made our loyalty to each other as partners known on numerous occasions, no shortage of them somehow involving dire circumstances and explosions.

Lately, however, he's added an element of secrecy to our fragile excuse of a relationship. This started only a few months ago, which happens to be when I finally realized my love for him. Once I'd noticed the minute, yet ostensible (in my eyes), decrease in directness and increase in the thickness of those carefully constructed walls between us I felt so... Well, I felt. I wasn't sure what to call it at first; all I knew was that it was definitely not pleasant.

"Are you going to just stand in the hallway all day, Brat?" A velvety smooth voice sounds from the other side of the door. Were I not an S-ranked ninja I might have jumped.

Making sure my dull fringe properly covers my left eye, I turn the knob and push quietly into the room, making a beeline for my lumpy, messy bed.

"Morning, Danna." I force a smile, finally turning to face him.

He, predictably, was not looking at me. Instead his chocolate brown eyes were trained on the wooden limb of a currently dismembered puppet. My smile falters when I get no response, and disappears completely when I realize his attention is entirely focused on that damned piece of wood in front of him.

I fall gracelessly backward onto my bed with a yawn, and the old mattress squeaks in protest. Slipping easily into our customary routine, I opt to pester the redhead until I can get those beautiful eyes to focus on me instead.

"Danna, un."

The mildly abrasive sound of sandpaper on uneven lumber was my only answer.

"Danna…." I whine this time.

Still no vocal response, but I saw his left brow twitch vaguely in irritation. Which clearly meant I was getting somewhere with this.

Thus, every minute or so, I repeat variations of his name in that same whiny tone. For the record, I have about fifty times more patience than Sasori. And though that isn't actually saying much, it's plenty enough to ensure my eventual victory in this little battle of wills. As expected, about five minutes later I hear the distinctive clank of a heavy puppet appendage being laid carefully across the cheap (courtesy of Kakuzu) metal of our shared desk. My right eye slips open to peak in his direction, and is graced with the sight of muddy brown eyes, pale skin, and crimson hair. Though his face, as per usual, remains impassive.

"Brat..." He begins in that threatening (sexy), deep voice he tends to use when annoyed. I lean up onto my elbows and quirk a pale blond brow, feigning ignorance. Unfortunately, he knows me all too well.

"Don't give me that look. How many times have I told you not to bother me while I'm working?"

Ignoring the first part, I sit upright completely and tilt my head to the side. "Hmm... I vaguely recall you mentioning something like that, un... perhaps..."

In actuality my brain is mostly void of any useful thought process. I can feel it again. My heart, beating. No—pounding, because he is looking at me. For a short moment I comprehend how utterly pathetic I am, but the thought dissolves when he opens that lovely mouth again.

"I am entirely aware that you are entirely aware what I'm talking about."

With a tight voice he adds, "My patience is wearing thin with you, Deidara."

That last part catches my attention and I blink, unsure of whether I should be extremely worried or extremely elated. In fact, I'm not even sure I heard him right at all. Sasori has not said my name since the beginning of this whole "privacy" thing. Come to think of it... he's not said my name once since I joined the Akatsuki.

I've always been "the Brat."

Though all this flashes through my mind in only the span of a few seconds, all that comes out of my mouth is, "Huh?"

Afterword, there is a brief moment of wariness on my part. The redhead looks as though he is about to act upon either one of two extremities: stand and scold me, or…or kiss me. What? I physically shake my head at the absurdity of such a notion, and to my astonishment he does neither.

Suddenly I am infuriated. I recognize the bitter fire immediately.

I know it is inexplicable, unreasonable, and utterly pointless. But it is new, and bright, and I can feel the wicked, angry heat building within me. Needless to say, I am ill-equipped to handle it.

While Sasori has taken this time to go back to work on his damned puppet, seeming to forget of me completely, the rage has boiled to an extreme and bubbled to the brim of my heart. I stand abruptly, wordlessly. He does not react, which is fine because a second later I slam my open palms on the cold, hard desk he works upon. Sasori actually seems startled by this, but I ignore it.

I am not myself. I am not Deidara, the Brat. I am not Deidara, the incredible artist. I am not even Deidara, the hopelessly-in-love, angst-ridden rogue ninja. No, I am possessed by the beast that has been lying dormant within my pitiful heart since I was twelve, and it has fangs and claws and it is so hideous that I subconsciously get the urge to vomit; this rage is so preposterously overpowering, so ridiculously pure and beautiful that for a moment in my insanity-stricken mind I am reminded of an explosion—of my art.

My own voice startles me when it murmurs in a low, deathly calm manner, "What, Danna, am I not even worth your insults anymore?"

He says nothing, only stares back at me with slightly wide eyes. My muddled brain never toys with the idea that maybe he is too startled by the sudden change in temperament to respond. Instead, his silence further fuels my anger.

"Don't you fucking ignore me anymore, you selfish ass!" I growl, leaning closer to him as I speak.

He makes a visible effort to control every feature on his face so as not to betray any emotion or thought—God forbid—and states simply, "Brat, calm down."

Unfortunately for him that was the wrong thing to say; seriously, it was as far as possible from anything that would have been acceptable at the moment.

My vision goes white, and then black, and then I open my eyes to find that my hands are tightly clutched on the collar of his cloak, and he looks much less composed than before. This almost seems strange to me, because he is Sasori, and he is always composed.

I must have had a questioning look on my face, because his hand twitches as if to move, though he thinks better of it and instead whispers,

"You're crying, Brat."

The tone he uses only serves to baffle me further, because there is some kind of emotion behind it, and that makes absolutely no sense. He is a puppet, after all. He may be my Danna but he has never liked me. To him, we are merely partners in crime.

It takes me a minute in my distraught state to actually grasp the words he'd spoken.

My right hand is off his collar and at my cheek in a flash, and sure enough the flesh there is wet. It is as if a switch is flicked, and I am astonished. My Danna watches me carefully as I stumble backward, away from him, my eyes glued to the wetness on my hand all the while.