A/N: There will be more music references here, though the only ones that are actually pertinent are the Naruto themes and the Phantom of the Opera, so don't worry yourselves over it.
In other news, I love writing the Sandaime Kazekage. He's hilarious.
Oh, and prepare for WAFF. If you empathize with characters a lot… you may want to get a handkerchief. Or something. Because you'll probably cry.
"Can you make any other instruments?"
Sasori glanced up at the Sandaime Kazekage. "Why do you ask?"
The puppet shrugged, face unconcerned.
Sasori had eventually gotten around to fixing the Sandaime's face, allowing him to express emotion, if not quite so wide a range as when he'd been alive.
"I'm bored." The puppet deadpanned. "I've learned the language, and now there is absolutely nothing to do. Puppetry doesn't interest me, and developing any of my techniques further than they had been when I died would likely result in the nearby landscape being destroyed, or at the very least your workshop. I need something to do."
Sasori nodded, only partly paying attention as he carefully engraved his personal scorpion onto the back of a new puppet. It was, oddly enough, a dancer puppet, specifically a life-sized ballerina, with small springs and elastic cords in the joints to hold it in whichever pose it was moved into. After all the fuss Deidara had made about the violin, he'd decided on revenge by rival art. Sure, she'd probably love this birthday present, even if she didn't consider it true art, but it would make him feel better, and that was the important thing, right?
"If I were to make an instrument for you, and I'm not saying I will, what would you like?"
The answer was said with such quickness and surety that it actually made Sasori pause for a second. "What?"
The Kazekage shrugged. "It's really easy to make them sound terrifying. Same thing goes for pianos, but they're pretty similar to play, so it's not that big of a deal to learn."
Sasori stared at him. "That is… extremely childish."
"Do you have a point?"
Ginny stared at the man that was in her brother's workshop.
Well, she said he was a man. But honestly? He was a puppet.
"Are you going to keep staring?" The Kazekage found it rather cute, how the girl squeaked and quickly hid behind her brother at his words. He also found it amusing that said brother looked exasperated and fond, rather than annoyed.
"Daddy said to never trust anything if you can't see where it keeps its brain." Ginny recited, her gaze having dropped nervously to the ground.
The Sandaime Kazekage chuckled, leaning back a little as he did. "That's usually a good policy. Then again, I have a head, don't I?" He tapped his temple, a hollow drumming emitting from the wood. Thankfully, his lack of a brain didn't actually make him incapable of thinking. Though it may have been to blame for his terribly difficult time learning this infernal language called English.
(The facts that he could already speak it fluently after only several months and that the language was generally considered a difficult one to learn were discarded in irritation and puerility.)
(Especially since he only learned it so quickly because there was absolutely nothing else to do down here.)
Ginny nodded, but bit her lip and glanced at her brother. He pushed her forward, "Don't be shy, imouto. He's just an old wooden man."
Let's see, he couldn't call himself by his title yet, at least, not around the girl, and he didn't like his real name, like, at all, so… "Tell you what, you can call me Sanka, okay?"
Ginny scrunched up her nose (Aw~!), and looked back at Ron. "That means, um…"
"Participation, or joining." It was an odd choice, but… oh. Sandaime Kazekage. Well, it worked, he supposed.
"Oh." She turned back to the Kazekage, face held in an adorable mask of determination. She stuck her hand out, and looked him right in the eye. "I'm Ginny."
The Sandaime was calm on the outside, smiling slightly as he shook Ginny's hand. On the inside, he was squealing over this adorable kid. She was just so cute~!
Ron was seven, and the girls were six, when Serena Lovegood passed away in early November of 1987.
Sasori found Deidara on the roof the day after the funeral. The Weasley house was taller than her own, and thus preferable to use as a perch of sorts. Deidara had possessed that habit long before Sasori ever met him in the first life, and she still possessed it in this one. She liked to stand and sit on things to make her higher up. Tree branches, rooftops, windowsills, they were all fair game; she even occasionally sat on the dinner table instead of a chair, just because she liked being up off the ground as far as possible. Sasori attributed it to her love of flying, or maybe it was the other way around. She held no interest in Quidditch, but the brooms were as close to her old ways as she could get without arousing suspicion.
She didn't answer, or even move, but a flicker of chakra, so very, very slight, indicated that she had heard him. She was hugging her knees to her chest tightly, her chin tucked in behind them as far as her nose would allow, just staring at the rising sun.
"You know, you'll catch a cold if you stay out here in your pajamas too long." Sasori settled down next to her. His legs were crossed, and his chin was resting on one fist, the elbow of which was, in turn, resting on his knee.
"Don't care, un." Deidara's voice was muffled, and she barely blinked as she kept staring out at the horizon. She had hardly moved at all.
She did, however, show signs of life as she felt the coat settle around her shoulders. She jerked, her head turning quickly towards the man, the boy, the shinobi that she'd known for longer than she had technically been alive. Said boy had his free hand up, though he didn't even glance her way, and faintly glowing strands dissipated as he relinquished his control over the article of clothing that he'd just loaned her.
"Well, you should care." He stared at the horizon, the beginnings of a smirk showing signs of growing on his face, if only barely.
She just sighed, moving back to the position she'd occupied before, tugging the coat closer around her shoulders.
They stayed like that in silence for several minutes, watching the sun as it came up and hearing a few roosters crow.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Sasori muttered.
"No." Deidara shook her head, and repeated the phrase in Japanese. "Iie."
Sasori nodded, and waited a few more minutes. And outlet of air alerted him when Deidara finally let go of the barriers she'd been holding up.
"It's just," She gulped, switching languages to try again. "It's just… she died doing what she loved, right, un? Experimenting with charms. And she even went out with a bang, un. So…"
Sasori finally understood what was bothering Deidara so much more than he had expected. "You miss her even though she died the way you did, and still want to?"
Deidara nodded, the tears and sniffles now building. "I shouldn't, un. I'm a shinobi, through and through. I shouldn't be so sensitive, un. I shouldn't be crying because someone died as art, un. I shouldn't be crying over a woman that was a… a replacement at best, un! I shouldn't!"
"But you do and you are." The words were accompanied by a pair of arms that settled around the young blonde's shoulders.
She leaned into the hug, still sniffling. "Why, yeah? Why do I care so much, danna?"
He was quiet for a few seconds. "Brat… Gaki… What were your parents like in your original life?"
Deidara shrugged, small shoulders just bony enough to dig into Sasori's arms a little. "My mother died in childbirth, un. Dad died on a mission during the war when I was two. I don't remember them at all, un."
"Really?" Sasori adjusted his hold on her. "Who raised you?"
"I was raised by my cousin for a few years, and she's the one that taught me clan techniques and things, un. She had a lot of issues because of the war, though, like PTSD and stuff, so I became a ninja earlier than most, un. Then Onoki decided to take interest in me, and I got stronger and stuff, but because I was so close to the Kage I saw what the inner-village workings were like, un, and I think the clan chakra had a tendency to drive people insane, and you already knew about my pyromania and depression and stuff, un, and, and…" She trailed off and sighed.
Sasori felt the girl furl in closer to him. He let his head fall down a little, refusing to sigh as he felt his body try. "I get it, brat."
He fished around for the right words for a few seconds. "Serena and Xenophilius, they considered you their daughter. I suspect that they would have so continued even if you had revealed everything about who you once were. They loved you unconditionally, and raised you as their own. You never knew your mother, and don't remember your father, so they took those places and became that for you. You consider them your parents just as much as they do, even if you are somewhat in denial."
"I'm not in denial, un." Deidara muttered into her arms, which had by this point gravitated up to rest on top of her knees.
"Deidara…" Sasori hugged her closer, as odd as it may have felt. He knew it would help, and it had to. They couldn't have Deidara running around in an unstable state of mind, not with the power she had. "Listen… Just think about it, even for a minute. Just think of the word parents. Mother. Father. What do you think of at those words?"
Deidara was silent and curled up closer in on herself and closer to Sasori as well. It was all the answer he needed. "See? You consider them your parents, or at least very close to being such. It's nothing shameful to miss your mother, and you still have your father. Spend what time you can with him, and enjoy it. You were always the type to live each day as if it were your last, after all."
Deidara sniffled, and the sniffle grew, until she was silently sobbing into Sasori's lap, clutching him like an anchor to life. And with that moment, that action, the line between "Luna" and "Deidara" was blurred even further than it had been before.
Ron and Ginny were the youngest Weasleys. They were expected to be close by the others. But as the youngest, they were also expected to be naïve, innocent, and behaved.
The irony of those descriptors is obvious in concerns to our darling little puppeteer. But the little girl? Ginny?
Occasionally, Ron took pleasure in the knowledge that he was the only one that was aware of his sister's habit of sneaking out in the early morning to filch Bill's old broom and practice flying around. Of course, he kept an extremely close eye on her when she did so, ready to catch her with chakra strings should she fall (he could handle her wobbling around on occasion… he was raised as a shinobi; he wasn't going to overreact… at least, that's what he told himself). He was proud of her, though, as she was now capable of sneaking around and hiding herself from the family in the early hours of the morning.
Still, the concept of a flying broomstick… there was probably a book that described the basic charms and designs somewhere in Diagon Alley. And he could improve on the aerodynamics, particularly if he brushed up on the concept with Deidara, used as she was to flying around on those clay birds of hers…
"We have to tell her soon, yeah." Deidara mused out loud, several months later. She was sitting next to Sasori on the rooftop again. It was extremely early in the morning, just early enough for it to be light but for people to still be asleep. "Well, not have to, but it would be nice, yeah. A good idea."
"Japanese, brat." Sasori admonished her.
"Well?" Deidara stubbornly pressed the question.
Sasori looked away. Deidara knew what this meant, a near instinctual understanding after knowing her partner all these years. "You don't want her to know, un?"
Sasori shot her a venomous look, but it ended just as quickly as it started. Deidara held his gaze evenly. He sighed. "Of course not."
Deidara scuttled over the roof, only a foot or so, coming closer to Sasori to steal another hug. If it was possible to gain an addiction to hugs, then Deidara had done so. Sasori had taken years to get used to hugs at all, but that process had been sped up and completed over the past several months, when Deidara, oftentimes in that airy but teary state of mourning Luna, came to him for comfort. By this point, Sasori had no trouble giving and accepting hugs… at least, so long as they only came from Luna or Ginny, or occasionally his mother.
The Sandaime Kazekage had found that out the hard way.
(It was weeks before Sasori actually came back and fixed the… problems he had caused.)
"It's… she's innocent. This world is innocent, in comparison to our own."
"Not as much as we'd like to think, un." Deidara muttered. "Not everywhere is as well-off as Britain. You've reminded me of that often enough, un."
Sasori glared at the top of her head. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."
Deidara huffed. "I know, un, but…"
"I don't want her to know what we were. What we did. The morals here are so different from what they were back home, and…"
"You don't want her to think badly of you, un." Deidara finished up for him. She pitied him. Ginny practically idolized him, and anything that changed that… Deidara didn't think he would be able to handle it if Ginny suddenly began to hate him.
"Of course I don't." He grumbled. "I mean, yes, I've told her plenty of stories about our old world, but, but…"
"Remember what you told me about my parents?" Deidara bit her lip. This was still a sensitive topic for her, but she had to remind him. "She's your sister. You love her, and she loves you, and that love is unconditional. She will continue to love her even after you tell her. And you've told her so many stories about the shinobi world that imagining her brother as one will probably make her adore you even more."
"And when I tell her just which side I was on?" Sasori growled, glaring at Deidara. She smiled softly, and her gaze distanced itself, as if staring past him into the sun. Sasori realized that the influence of the Lovegoods, of Luna, of Deidara, of her strange, distant, possibly delusional aspect was now in plain sight.
"That part can wait, and even then, all it will do is prove to her that you are human, not God."
Ginny squealed and wrapped her arms around her older brother. "Really? Really, really, really, really, really?"
Ron was Sasori. Sasori was Ron. They were the same person. He, neither of him, either of him, whoever, whatever… he had not expected this reaction from Ginny. Not at all. He blinked and turned to look at the blonde girl next to him in askance.
Deidara—Luna?—stared back at him, bemused. Even she hadn't thought that it would go this well.
Ginny's eyes seemed to sparkle. "My nii-san's a ninja!" She began hopping up and down, and clapped her hands as six-year-old girls were prone to do.
Deidara coughed, looking pointedly at the girl.
"Luna… wait, Luna-chan! You're a ninja too?" Ginny ran up to her and grabbed her hands, switching to the Japanese babble mid-talk. (Wait, they were ninjas! And ninjas spoke Japanese! So that's why they taught her the… awesome!)
Deidara nodded. "Well, I was, but we already explained reincarnation to you. Oh, and the puppet-man that you know as Sanka? He used to be the Sandaime Kazekage…" She offered the last bit slyly, smirking as she watched Ginny grow yet more excited. The girl probably wouldn't be able to take much more before she exploded from excitement.
Ginny bounced in place for a second before rushing into the next room of the underground workshop. "Sanka-san! Sanka-san!"
Deidara leaned against Sasori, both of them resting against a low work table, her arms crossed. "That went better than expected." She mused.
"I know…" Sasori muttered. He felt so much more relieved now that that was over. There was still some lingering dread for when they told her about being Akatsuki later—at least a few years, they decided—but he felt much better than he had before, overall.
"You do realize that it would probably be a good idea to tell your parents about Sandaime, right?" Deidara's tone was conversational, but there was a smirk on her face. Her head was tucked against Sasori's chest so he couldn't actually see, but he knew her too well to think otherwise.
"…What." Sasori pushed Deidara away from him, looking right into that pale blue… d*** it, she was doing the haze thing with her eyes again, the one that she knew made him feel uncomfortable.
"Well, you'll have to do it sometime, right? Especially if Ginny ever slips up and says something." She reasoned, which was at odds with the dazed look on her face. From the other room, a simple melody played from the organ that Sasori had gotten around to making for the Sandaime. An apology gift, he called it.
(The Sandaime just called it a 'get out of my hair, you immature dingbat' distraction, but Sasori denied that with every fiber of his being.)
"Stop looking at me like that." He looked away from her. It was bad enough just seeing it, but knowing that behind the innocent, wonderland look there lurked a psychotic terrorist bomber that had been a criminal for at least ten years by now… that just made it so much worse.
"So what are you going to do about telling them?"
"I won't tell them." He crossed his arms and glared at the wall. Deidara just rolled her eyes and wandered away to go watch Ginny and Sanka.
Unfortunately for Sasori, boredom was a powerful thing.
It was a strange sense of humor, Sasori decided, that Agent Diamond had.
He stared down at the papers in his hands. They were sheet music. Clusters of paper, one after another, all in folders, and sorted even further inside with simple paper clips.
It was theme music.
For everyone in the Akatsuki.
With a note that Diamond herself was especially partial to Hidan's, Orochimaru's, and Kakuzu's, for whatever reason.
Well… there was a violin part to many of the songs… and the Orochimaru theme seemed to have a part for the organ, so at least it would do something to keep Sanka occupied…
Sasori leafed through a little more, and then reached something new. The sticky note said that it wasn't theme music, along with a rather horrific little fanged smiley face.
E. S. Posthumus
Phantom of the Opera
Well, he'd heard of the last one, but who were these first two?
Another sticky note caught his eye.
The violin parts are interesting and the music keeps you engaged (don't worry, we edited out the bad words in the Gogol stuff for Ginny's sake), and some are difficult to master, so… well, we figured we'd give Ginny a little something more interesting to practice.
The writing turned blockier, and Sasori raised an eyebrow.
"We" did nothing. This is all on you, Di.
Agent Diamond/The Blood Mage
Jashin, God of… I don't even know anymore…
Right… It was almost hard to take them seriously at this point.
Endless refrains. And he sang along, too.
Sasori couldn't even work on his puppets as much as he wanted to anymore. All he ever heard was the endless repeating of the organ and the lines.
There was no phantom (only a ghoul in the attic).
There was no opera (bar the one that Sanka seemed to hallucinate into creation).
There was no need for this travesty.
But it was there anyway.
And over again.
Let it be known that the Sandaime Kazekage was a fan of the Phantom of the Opera. A really big fan.
Ron was eight, and the girls were seven, when the first secret broke.
Arthur Weasley was neither a quiet man nor a loud one, but he was most certainly a genuine one. He was carefree and honest, and though he was often strapped for cash, he dealt with it as best he could. He had a loving family, and his oldest son would soon be off to work at Gringotts. His youngest son was a bit strange, but he seemed to be far more intelligent than he let on at times, and every child genius had a tendency to have a quirk or two, right? Ron also spent most of his time with his younger sister and Luna Lovegood instead of asking for male playmates his own age, but that wasn't too odd.
Arthur Weasley was also a slightly peculiar man, prone to thinking and doing strange things on occasion, particularly if they raised his hackles about his rather acute fixation on muggle culture. However, he was not so strange as to ignore a change in something he thought immutable unless he chose to change it himself, such as the status of noise in his workshop.
Music. There was music emanating from what appeared to be the floorboards, somewhat dark and dreary, one that he had heard his children sing along to on occasion. He found a door that hadn't existed in the back of his workshop before, one with strange markings on it.
Arthur knew how to check for Dark Magic. It was surprisingly common in his line of work, despite many people's claims that only Aurors had need for such skills. When no sign of any magic whatsoever, dark or otherwise, showed up on his scans, he came to the conclusion that the designs on the slightly-smaller-than-average door were probably mere decorations. Of course, this didn't mean that it was certain, but he lowered his guard slightly and opened the door. He went slowly, wand held out in front of him and ready to cast a spell if need be. He prepared to find anything and everything on the other side of the door.
He found that his idea of anything and everything was sorely lacking.
"The Pha~ntom of the Opera is the~re… inside your mind!" This was followed by yet more minor chords on… was that an organ?
Arthur straightened slightly in surprise, taken aback as he was by the strange sight in front of him. The room was dark, and he could hardly see anything, barring what the single lamp from the ceiling shone down on: a man playing a large, imposing organ. He could only see the "man" from behind, and even then, he could tell that those hands were not natural from where they dodged out to the side to hit notes. Every joint was delineated harshly; every movement was accompanied by a series of clicks and clacks, those of wood colliding against more of its kind.
Arthur came up behind him, stepping as softly as he could to prevent any noise from emanating from his footsteps. He drew his wand up to the back of the man's chest, and softly whispered. "Stupefy."
It didn't work.
The man on the organ was gone, the music stopping harshly in the middle of a measure as a cloud of smoke dissipated from the spot (the result of something called a shadow clone, Arthur later learned). There was a soft footstep behind him, strangely muffled. Arthur spun around, hand held out straight so that his wand pointed directly at the man's heart.
Only it wasn't a man.
It was a strange creature. Humanoid, certainly, but it, he, seemed to be made of wood. Like a puppet, almost, Arthur thought.
"Whoa. Just, just whoa, man." The creature's hands came up, and his accent was distinctly foreign. There was an Asian shade to it, though it seemed to be tinged with both American and British as well. The words in particular seemed more suited to a teen from the other side of the world (what did they call that one muggle-heavy area… SoCal?), though his expression was, pardon the pun, wooden. Unmoving.
What was it?
"Now, how's about we both just kinda… lay down our weapons right 'ere or something, a'right?" The man took a step closer, but Arthur kept his wand trained on its chest.
The eyes rolled. "Dude, if I wanted you dead, you would be already. Seriously, man, it's like I'm not even—"
"What are you?"
The wooden man blinked at him, likely a motion done in surprise rather than necessity, and then began to chuckle. "You know, I've wondered that myself. Like, a lot. I think," He held up a hand here, "And don't get me wrong, 'cause stuff gets a little loopy sometimes, I think I'm supposed to be called a human puppet. If I'm translating right."
Arthur didn't relax. "A human puppet?"
"Dude, totally!" And the grin was back in full force. It was almost infectious, and would have been, had the situation not been so serious. Arthur shifted his weight a little as he realized that the strange man was more than prepared to launch into a long, rambling explanation concerning his circumstances. "So, I'm actually from a place called the elemental nations, right? And there, there are ninja villages, and I used to be in charge of one. But then one of the guys workin' for me went a little psy~cho~! And he decided to kill me. Then he did this creepy thing and replaced most of my body with wood and steel and stuff, and I was dead for a while and don't really remember what he did with me, but I'm pretty sure it was mostly just fighting. And then I woke up and saw a god and a crazy little demon chick, and they told me that they were going to put my soul into the puppet that was probably all that was left of my body, because the demon girl was bored and thought I could amuse her."
There were several seconds of silence, and then the wooden man suddenly gave him a double thumbs-up and a cheesy grin, ducking his head down between his hands and squinting his eyes in a way that Arthur just knew was meant to either irritate him or draw him into some sense of unwanted camaraderie. And then the moment was gone and the man was strolling towards him, his body angled in just the right way to convey that his intent was to go to the organ, not Arthur, or at least the seat beside him.
"Stop." Arthur didn't want the man moving any further. His story was ridiculous, and Arthur really ought to call the Aurors in as soon as possible on this anomaly. An enchanted muggle puppet would have been within his jurisdiction. A possibly possessed one was not.
One eyebrow slowly came up, and the voice became a derisive drawl. "Really…" The puppet snorted. "Remember what I said? Sandaime Kazekage. The Third Wind-Shadow. Ruler of the Village Hidden in the Sand, Sunagakure no Sato. In other words, the most powerful man in a self-sustaining government run mostly on the power of its shinobi, of its ninja. I was the leader of a village of trained assassins, man!"
Arthur was sweating now; he could feel beads of the liquid starting to roll down his back. This was…
"Seriously, dude, I wasn't kidding!" The man, some sort of Wind-Shadow (was that supposed to be some kind of dark creature?), returned to his earlier joviality, and then he was suddenly next to Arthur, clapping a hand on the redheaded man's back. When had he…?!
"If I really wanted you dead, the door would have been trapped! Or, like, I would have been waiting with a knife or something, but really, man, lighten up, will ya?" He laughed again, a sound that would have been full-hearted if not for the tinny quality that it gained from his wood and metal body.
"Why are you here?" Arthur decided that it would be best to ask relevant questions while playing along.
"You mean in this basement?" The creature, man, puppet, whatever, shrugged. "No idea, it was here when I arrived. H***, it's where I woke up." He scratched the back of his head. "Then those kids showed up, and I had to come up with some kind of name or something, but I really hate my real name, and I can't just have them call me by my title, so I kind of just spliced something together with that and went with Sanka. Does that sound alright to you? I mean, I thought it sounded a little funky, but I'm not really all that sure about it…"
Arthur's brain rebooted. "Wait, kids?!"
A/N: Lovely little cliffhanger, eh?
Thank you all so, so much for the reviews. I don't know what it is that I'm doing that makes this story so much more popular than my others, but I'm definitely going to keep doing it.