She was… normal.

That was Deidara's only real thought on Yamanaka Ino.

The girl was surprisingly normal. The only thing about her that really differentiated her from other kunoichi was probably the lack of pupils. And the rack. Most teen girls didn't have that kind of chest.

Of course, Deidara didn't have much time to think on the girl, seeing as Itachi was awake and currently trying to either "convince" the girl to help Deidara or decide on whether or not using his Sharingan to tear apart her mind and dig out the techniques was worth the moral dilemma.

Later, when he had time to think on it, Deidara would find the thoughts curious in the same manner as he did the guilt over the massacre.

Eventually, Konan came and told Itachi to leave so that she could try her own hand at convincing the young Konoha kunoichi to help.

Itachi was very… introspective, Deidara found. He still couldn't seem to figure out what was the truth behind the massacre (though he told himself that he'd have it figured out by the time he got out, if only so that he had a goal in this to keep him somewhat sane), and it was only made worse by the fact that Itachi never seemed to forget about it. It made Deidara's head hurt, in a roundabout sort of way, that he constantly felt that niggling thought in the back of Itachi's head. The guilt was always there. It was annoying.

A piercing scream hit Itachi's ears, which Deidara had learned were extremely sensitive due to having to compensate for Itachi's near-dead sight without the Sharingan.

Itachi stilled, dozens of thoughts running through his head at a speed which left Deidara groaning in exasperation, and then turned and strode to the room where Konan and the young Yamanaka heir were.

"Konan? What appears to be the trouble? I was under the impression that we were not to torture her."

Konan looked up from Ino, who was on the ground and clutching her head, crying, bawling.

"I simply showed her a memory in a genjutsu. I believe I was overly heavy handed, however, as more of my emotions and reactions from the experience were included than I planned."

Itachi nodded, not asking what the memory involved. However, his thoughts were instead racing along tracks for what the memory could have been. If the girl's mental stability had been compromised, then Deidara's health could be as well.

Deidara felt sick (sort of, considering he was just a… mental representation of himself? Ugh, this was so confusing) from the options that Itachi considered as possibilities for the memory that Konan had employed. They ranged from morbid to downright disgusting, and Deidara couldn't even fault Itachi for thinking them because they were unfortunate but very real occurrences in the world. Of course, Deidara didn't think that many of the things Itachi considered could have actually happened to Konan and still have her end up as she had today, but it was still a matter of principle to consider them at all. Besides, it wasn't as though Itachi actually believed the theories he was coming up with, after all. He just considered them because it was better to consider everything.

o.o.o.o.o

Itachi meditated fairly often, and it was a strange experience for Deidara.

The "world" grew blanker, and calm. The first time Itachi had meditated, Deidara had realized that this was the only way he would ever actually see what Itachi's head was like. When Itachi slept, the world was either too dark to see or portraying the dream. When Itachi was awake, the sensory input was just too much to even try to look around. But when Itachi meditated…

The lighting was white, clinical, and harsh. It covered everything, and "everything" happened to look like a small village, the Uchiha compound from Itachi's garbled memories. The strange thing was that the "village" itself was not clean. It was bloody, and there was a small canal full of thick red liquid bubbling along. Deidara was in the one clear spot, in his little box-cage, the one spot where the hardened ground wasn't covered in blood.

Deidara had a theory, actually, that the blood was the representation of Itachi's guilt. Whenever Itachi spent a longer time than normal time thinking about the Uchiha Massacre, or about his brother, or if he killed someone on a mission… there was more. It moved more slowly, dissipated at a slower rate. The blood would disappear, yes, but it went slowly, and it was never completely gone.

That was why Itachi meditated in the first place.

The most interesting thing to Deidara, though, wasn't the strange creation that was Itachi's mind, but the fact that Itachi himself appeared… and was completely oblivious to Deidara's presence. It wasn't as though Deidara purposely tried to make himself difficult to see. He was in a huge, empty box in the middle of a clearing, a box that was glowing purple. Deidara was the most visible thing possible, like Frank N. Furter or Mr. Two Bon Kurei in the middle of a Westboro Baptist Church meeting. And he was banging on the "walls," screaming his head off for Itachi to notice him and get him out.

And yet Itachi, on the few times that he opened his eyes when he was in his own mind, seemed to look right through Deidara. It was as though Deidara didn't exist to him, and Deidara couldn't figure out why.

o.o.o.o.o

He didn't want to believe it.

Deidara wasn't stupid. He may act like a dumb blond on occasion to mess with people, but he wasn't stupid. He could piece things together easily, but….

Well, he was also rather prone to deluding himself and entering into denial.

It was a good thing, in this case, that he couldn't deny the things that he wanted to.

Itachi cared about Deidara, in his own strange way, and Deidara couldn't convince himself that it was a lie. He felt Itachi's worry. He heard Itachi planning ways to deal with him once he woke up. He saw Itachi pull up the covers or do something else that would help and, and, and…

It was just too much. He couldn't help but tell that Itachi cared, and he hated it.

How the h*** was he supposed to hate Itachi when he could feel that Itachi cared, cared for the only Akatsuki member younger than him.

o.o.o.o.o

Deidara was curious when he learned that Itachi would be watching Ino's first attempt at finding out what was wrong. The girl looked ragged and worse for the wear, miserable really. Itachi was partially there to keep a watch on her, as was Sasori, and make sure she didn't try to pull a suicide technique, and take Deidara with her.

Ino glared at everyone in the room, but it was weak and she flinched when Sasori moved.

She didn't speak as she turned to Deidara's prone body, slowly going through a few hand seals, disgust marring her admittedly rather pretty face.

Deidara was more focused on the fact that seeing himself lie there was just so strange. His body was paler than it had been, and he seemed to be losing mass, which was to be expected under the circumstances.

"Shintenshin no Jutsu." Ino whispered, and then collapsed.

Itachi caught her as she fell, his mind pulling up images of prior incidences working with a Yamanaka. He knew the jutsu, and Deidara could sort of feel the information behind it. It was only a few fleeting glimpses and impressions, but it was enough to understand that she would be possessing Deidara's body, or at least trying to.

Itachi laid her down carefully, not wanting to give her a concussion, given what her job during her time there was.

Deidara was subject to the strange sight of watching his own body move without his influence.

Ino, possessing Deidara, slowly blinked Deidara's eyes open, not moving otherwise. After several seconds, Deidara's body was up in a sitting position, a vaguely disgusted look on his face. There were crackling noises as Ino took the initiative to stretch the body out and get into a more comfortable position (Deidara noted with distaste that Ino seemed to be particularly wary of his hands), and then close the eyes and, supposedly, focus.

Fifteen minutes later, the tension in Deidara's body dissipated, leaving it looking strangely lifeless, Ino's frown still marring his face.

Over on the other bed, Ino woke up, repeating the process of stretching out the kinks in her too-still body.

"Well?" Sasori demanded.

Ino shot him a dirty look and huffed. "You were right; the mind is gone, and the soul might be too. I shouldn't have been able to take control as easily as I did, or hold it that long."

"We already knew that." Sasori growled, standing up with a hand hovering over a scroll on his belt.

Ino clenched her jaw. "No, you didn't. You assumed. I can actually know for sure." She got off the bed that Itachi had laid her on, still glaring at Sasori. "And unlike you, I can figure out where the soul actually went, given enough time."

"You don't—"

"How many times do you think a younger clan member has to be found after messing up the jutsu their first time using it? How different do you think it is?" Ino seethed. "I'm not happy about having to do this, but if I have to, then you are going to treat me like I'm actually worth something to this operation. I'll do the job, and if you think for one second that I'll put up with being treated like I don't know what I'm doing, then I'll have to ask you to leave before you end up making the situation worse. The mind is a delicate thing, and you're not exactly helping your partner by pushing me around like an Academy student."

Sasori did not look happy. Deidara tried to ignore Itachi's thoughts on the subject, and just focus on the standoff in front of them.

"…How long will it take you?" Sasori finally asked, clearly unhappy with having to do so.

"Two months, tops. He's not a Yamanaka, so it will be more difficult to find him, not to mention that the method of exit was extremely different, but I can do it." Ino flipped her hair back over her shoulder and crossed her arms, and for a second, just a second, there seemed to be a gleam of pride in her eyes that hadn't been there since she'd arrived at the base. "Getting him back will happen after I find him, but it still won't take more than two months altogether."

"You better not waste my time." Sasori shouldered his way past her and out of the room.

Deidara let his mind stop resisting and just drifted along to Itachi's thoughts once more.

o.o.o.o.o

A/N: This story is shaping up strangely, but I like it. It's actually going to take Ino less than two months to get it done, but she's overestimating for safety.

I'm not going to transcript things that aren't actually important to Deidara's mental state here, and Ino's kidnapping is included in the "unimportant" area.

Ja ne,

Phoenix