Explosive Partnerships-

Character(s): Deidara, Tobi, mention of the other Akatsuki members.

Rating: T

Timeline: None

Summary: It wasn't a particularly special mission, but with Tobi as you're partner Deidara doesn't doubt something will go wrong… Unfortunately, this time, he's right. [Slight Deidara!whump and lots of fluff]

A/N: Hey, I'm sorry about the rant I'm about to give, but it's slightly relevant. :/

First off, I just want to clear up that I wrote this in waaaayyyy distant past of last spring, so, obviously, I had no idea about the writers 'we shall troll the fanbase' plot twist about Obito being Tobi. That said, if you were expecting any hints of Obito in this- there aren't any. At the time, he was still running around as Mr. Nobody and I was clueless about his actual identity.

Anyway, I always liked the original Tobi (who I still think is one of the most humorous characters in the show), and when this was written, I was missing him. So voila! I hope you enjoy.

I also apologize for beating Deidara up in this, but I can't say it wasn't fun. ;)

An explosion lit the night sky with ravenous hunger, flickering angry sparks onto the large field. Soon following, three went off as though in a chain reaction. Earth meddled snow, dirt, and blood mixed into an undefinable mess as it went flying into the air, only ceased in its flight with impacts into the extended limbs of tree trunks. Short yelps of pain broke lose as appendages detached themselves from bodies and drenched the ground in unsightly red.

From the carnage, smoke began to rise, hiding the sunset with its ashy rise through the ascension. A stutter of curses and a tinge of blond emerged from the darkened clouds. Slender hands also came out from under a cloak and proceeded swiping at the smoke as though he could wipe it away with the mere effort.

"Damn…." The blond, his hair held back in a ruffled pony tail, appeared from the scene of visible carnage. His cloak was drenched in blood, covering patches of the deep unrelenting black, but the prominent and symbolic red clouds were still visible. "That was less artistic then I would have liked, Un…."

He strode forward and approached a silent partner, who had been positioned away from the fighting safely under a tree. Orange peeked up in interest at his partners words; however, he did not rise to his feet.

"Tobi thought it was a wonderful show from here! Mist-nin certainly do look funny when they explode. They're colorful!" Tobi, as excited as ever, ascended from his 'hiding spot' by standing up to finally welcome his partner. His orange swirled mask stood out prominent in the winter land that surrounded them. It was almost like a smudge of vibrancy on a black and white canvas. His personality also seemed to match the description just as well.

"Hmhp. They were far too testy to fully take part in my art. Didn't stand still and enjoy it." Deidara paced over and sat down in the snow covered grass a little ways from his cohort.

Tobi straightened up and huffed, if he were without his mask, Deidara could imagine him puffing his cheeks up like a stubborn child. "Tobi was enjoying it. Those Iwa-ninja didn't see it coming!" The masked man struck a fist forward in his declaration, for emphasis.

"Whatever, un." Deidara relaxed back into an adjacent tree, trying to ignore the world around him for one blissful moment.

The week had been nothing but torture for Akatsuki Member Deidara. Early that Monday, to his chagrin, he had been directly ordered by Pein to go search down a group of rouge Iwa-ninja's who had been treading rather close to their hideout in the south. To protect it, Deidara had been sent out to eliminate them, an order he didn't have much quarrels with accomplishing. However, Tobi had been sent to accompany him and this 'simple' search and destroy mission had been harder than anticipated when their targets had decided to flee north. Deidara had never been one for cold places, considering he was from the Earth Village where it hardly even rained, let alone manage the temperature for snow. To claim this wild goose chase in cold weather was enjoyable for him would be asking for immediate death from one of his clay bombs. And to top it off, Tobi's chipper attitude hadn't changed one iota on the entire journey- not even a snow storm seemed to phase the cheerfulness.

Deidara sucked in a breath of the cool twilight air, ignoring the sudden urge to cough. Damn, had it always been this cold up in the north? Why would anyone in their right minds live in such a horrible place? He might as well blow everything up with a C4 as a gift of mercy for these people with miserable existence.….

"Hellooooo! Sempai? Anyone home?" Tobi's bright orange mask was up in his face as black gloved hands gestured the need for attention. Apparently, Deidara had been distracted by his own thoughts while Tobi had gone off on some kind of tangent filled one-sided conversation. This wasn't unusual, the moron could go on about nothing for long stretches of time. Deidara was surprised he didn't tune him out MORE often.

With the free invitation presented right before him, Deidara blinked, losing the distant expressing and swung a fist out, slamming it roughly dead center into his cohort's orange masked face.

Bull's eye, Deidara smirked to himself as Tobi, caught completely off guard, stumbled back and landed rather ungraceful on his rear end in a pile of blackened snow. Deidara would have paid money to see the surprised expression behind Tobi's mask at the moment, if he could. The idiot could be so gullible….

Tobi recovered from the initial shock faster than Deidara anticipated because soon enough he had pulled up his mask slightly and was rubbing an appendage under it. The ex-rock ninja suspected it was his nose. He hadn't put any chakra enforcement behind the punch, but Deidara knew it wouldn't feel very pleasant to have a curved ridged orange mask shoved harshly into his face.

Serves him right for wearing the idiotic thing… Deidara huffed as Tobi fumbled under his mask, obscuring all of his features from the chin up. That bugged Deidara. The man was completely and unnervingly perky, Deidara wasn't sure what the hell he would need to hide with a naïve personality like Tobi.

After a few moments, Tobi placed his mask back where it belonged on his face and turned back towards Deidara's direction. The blond could feel the gaze on him even if he couldn't see it behind the empty void of an eye hole on Tobi's face. And, for a millisecond, Deidara thought the goof might actually be angry with him, but only a moment of silence rested between them before the water works began.

"Semmmmpppaiii! That wasn't nice!" Tobi wined as he fell over on his side into the snow with a loud 'plop'. It reminded Deidara of a winy child that had resigned itself to understand that no matter what he did, he wasn't going to get what he wanted. Deidara scoffed at such a response. Why was it so easy to tie Tobi's personality to that of a three year old? What did Zetsu and Pein see in this man?

Clear blue eyes turned into suppressed rounded slits as Deidara glared at Tobi for a moment with a short inspection before turning his nose at him as though he were something unpleasant.

"It's what you get for annoying me while I was in the middle of thinking, Tobi. I've warned you enough not to bother me, un." Deidara huffed shortly as Tobi forced himself onto his feet, his sandals scoped up snow simultaneously. He brushed himself off, his Akatsuki cloak dampened with where Tobi's body heat had melted it. Tobi seemed clueless to any disturbance with his cloak though, focused only on responding.

"Seeeesh, Sempai. You're crabby right now… I don't know why since you're usually so excited about working with your art." Deidara bit his lower lip, containing the unflattering remarks that had flung themselves into his mind at such words. Tobi did know what his 'problem' was since Deidara had complained about this unnecessary detour to the north for days as they traveled and the temperature had begun to drop. Hell, it had even snowed about five hours ago. It was ridiculous and if Tobi actually listened to something besides what he wanted to hear, he might sound less ignorant as Deidara thought he was.

Deidara shifted himself to his feet, sucking in a quiet sniffle as he did so. This mission was truly irritating, once he got back to the hideout he wasn't going to talk to any of the other Akatsuki members for at least a week.

"Ready to go, Sempai?" Tobi asked innocently, apparently over the fact Deidara had just sucker punched him without apology. It reminded Deidara of a kicked puppy that kept coming back to its master with the same perkiness from beforehand. For some reason, Tobi's attitude managed to only piss Deidara off more. Or, maybe today it was just their circumstance? Deliberation on it didn't matter and it didn't help.

"Tobi…" He drew out slowly as he stretched his limbs out a little, noticing the stiffness he hadn't acknowledged before. "You really need to stop adding 'Sempai' to ever sentence. It's starting to piss me off."

"Ok, Sempai!" Tobi called back cheerfully as he pranced on ahead, away from the battle field and back towards the gravel road in the distance. Deidara, not really surprised Tobi had ignored his request, followed behind at his own rate. He trailed after his partner's tracks that left indents in the snow while he pulled a little clay and feed it to his left hand.

"Un." He trudged slowly as Tobi, now at the road, waved happily towards him. Deidara's mouth was only playing with the clay, chewing it softly for the moistness and the familiar feel of a task, but for a moment, he considered sending an explosive at Tobi. However, luckily for his partner, a strange ache that had appeared out of nowhere had settled over and he had no desire to waste any more energy on Tobi's exaggerated actions, no matter how satisfying it would be to dole out some pain.

He joined Tobi at the road and they continued on. Deidara hoped the chill that had settled upon him would fade as they got closer to inhabitable climates again. Tobi only chattered on, oblivious to the world as usual.


Night fell soon after they began to head out again. The moon was bright in the sky and illuminated the snow like a glossy blanket over the landscape. Tobi's orange mask gave off a sort of strange reflection every time he swiveled his head, which occurred often, because of Tobi's inability to remain still. The 19-year old Akatsuki member imagined his own long disheveled blond hair looked pretty pale in the eerie moonlight with such a moon glow. The stars didn't even shine for him tonight, revoking the chance to distract himself from his irritating fatigue by fruitlessly counting the small glowing dots.

"Seemmmpaii!" Tobi had been shattering away most of their journey, but Deidara tuned him out, since he was mostly babbling about idiotic topics that didn't capture his interest. He only acknowledged him when he got a little too annoying for his, and probably anyone's, tastes.

Deidara's feet crunched under thick snow, not happy in the slightest that his shoes were all wet, causing his toes to feel numb. The Akatsuki cloaks weren't being much of an insulator either, probably because Kakuzu had made them out of the cheapest material to save himself a buck. Damn cheap bastard, he had no shame.

"Sempai, listen to Tobi!"

Maybe, when he got back, he could complain to the leader about this. It really was ridiculous that he had to be tramping around with Tobi at such downward temperatures. It wasn't good him and it certainly couldn't be good for his clay. If it got too cold, he would have to have to start chewing clay with his hands, because he couldn't risk running around with no clay in his arsenal.

"Wah! Listen, please, Sempai!"

He drew out a long huffed breath, holding in a retching cough that was clawing at his chest for escape. He didn't get colds, coughing was a sign of weakness. He would be more willing to cut out his own lungs, like Sasori-danna had, before he even thought about hacking away like his body wanted him to. Trying to warm himself up, his mind drifted as he thought of his favorite blanket, scented of musky clay, which lay unperturbed at the foot of his bed at the hide-out. He dearly missed it like a lost friend at the moment.

"Please stop ignoring me, Sempai…"

A nice memory of a warm day in his old village fell into mind as he recalled the sun hitting his face and illuminating the world below him as he soared on his clay creation. He had been giddy looking down at the village that was his 'home'. After that moment, he had no inclinations other than to let the village become part of his art. Oh, how he could recall the inviting sensation o-

"Deidara-san!" Hands grabbed him by the shoulders, steading him upright from a slouch he hadn't even noticed he'd been in. Tobi was right in front of on now and for the life of him Deidara couldn't remember when Tobi had bridged the gap he had purposefully placed between the two of them; apparently, he' been too locked in his own little world for a moment.

Deidara stared at Tobi, realizing the situation at hand, though, his brain didn't seem very good at picking it up at the moment. He never even caught the fact Tobi had used his first name, which itself was a rarity. The ex-rock nin only retched away from Tobi, who'd been holding him grounded.

"Hands off, moron." He brushed Tobi's gloved hands away with much less force then he would have liked, but the taller man didn't seem to be intent on keeping the contact because his hands returned to his sides. Deidara would have given anything to see behind his mask at the moment because he might as well have been reading a brick wall as he stared down the orange mask in front of him.

"Deidara-san…." He stopped for a moment, in hesitation, and Deidara could see the tense position he had taken up under his Akatsuki rode on the way he folded in on himself, keeping all venerable appendages close. "Are you feeling unwell?"

There was a moment of chilling and distilled silence underneath the trees as the two faced off against one another. Deidara's face flew into one of surprise for a moment at the tentative question and from the rarity of anyone asking about his well-being. However, the open and stunned expression didn't last long blue eyes narrowed into malicious slits. Tobi took a predicted step back from Deidara, knowing he was about to seriously get chewed out.

"You idiot! Of course I'M FINE! Stop being-" Deidara didn't get to finish telling Tobi to stuff it before that underlying cough that had resided in his chest reared its ugly head. Unlike when he had had it under control with adjusted breathing and quiet exhales from before, his yelling and the combination of cold air caused him to gag on his words. Before he knew it, he was sputtering loudly as though trying to expel his lungs through his mouth. His chest burned with the lack of air as though laughing at him for trying to hold back this inevitable maelstrom. His balance was thrown off and he latched onto the nearest object to steady him, which, to his displeasure, happened to be Tobi.

His hands gripped Tobi's left upper forearm in a death vice as he tried to remain vertical as he coughed haggardly into his sleeves. He could feel mucus collect in his throat and he continued to hack helplessly, trying to retain balance within himself again. It was bad enough that this idiot was seeing him try to hack his brains out, but if he black out from something this stupid, he would be blowing himself up- Tobi right along with him. Screw the Akatsuki's rules about doing otherwise.

The masked man didn't say anything though, allowing his beloved Sempai to use him as a crutch. Deidara could feel a light hand patting his back slowly, not really helping, but there for moral support. If the rock-nin had not been so preoccupied, he would have punched the idiot in the face just for even trying such an act! Since when had he asked for such a thing? Moral support was beneath him.

After a few short minutes of antagonizing coughs, Deidara's chocking hallowed out to haggard breaths. Within moments of regaining some kind of composure, Deidara realized his golden halo of hair was clinging to his face as his forehead was pressed into Tobi's shoulder. He had been getting a rather nice view of Tobi's shoes.

Realizing his moment of lack of judgment and that he was broadcasting his vulnerability, Deidara sprung back, forcing Tobi away from him. He wavered momentarily, but he managed to keep his feet, although, Tobi looked poised to grab at him again. He didn't like that and he could feel the wave of pity coming of his comrade. If Deidara's mouth hands hadn't felt so numb at the moment from bitter cold, Tobi would have had a C3 coming at him. No one showed sympathy to him. No one. He didn't ask for it, he didn't want it. He didn't need it. It was just a cold, not the plague.

Tobi still looked uncertain as he shifting, looking lost at what to do. Deidara was glad he was confused and that he had enough sense to not be groping him with senseless hugs like he did on a usual day. It showed that his partner had some level of competence.

"Sempai… You really shoul-" Tobi began trying to make a comment in a low imploring voice, but Deidara cut him off.

"If you say anything more, I swear Tobi, I'll make your death un-artistic and as painful as possible!" The threat would have been stronger if Deidara's throat hadn't been betraying him. It came out slightly croaked, exaggerating syllables and sounds he hadn't intended to drag out.

Tobi froze for a second, tense, staring from behind his mask. Neither of them moved for a moment as the sound of a breeze traveled through the snow laded trees, making an eerie cacophony of sound. Tobi seemed to trying to come to a decision if it was worth bring up the subject he would like to broach or if he should just keep his mouth shut and change the already, and clearly awkward, subject. The senior member of the Akatsuki only glared down Tobi, looking pale, but still as threatening as ever. He was Deidara. He had lost two arms in battle against a jinjuriki and had still kept on fight, like hell he wouldn't go through on any threat he made.

However, the silent stalemate was brought to a rearing stop as they both tensed. Tobi turned in the direction of the road behind them as the two walked off the frozen dirt road into the shadow of the trees, their movements and thoughts synchronized.

Tobi backed up behind a tree, securing himself a safe place behind Deidara, who was also attempting to conceal his presence. "How many do you sense?" Tobi asked, for once, quietly, without much emotion.

Deidara froze, as though in thought, already digging his chilled hands into his pouch of clay. He ignored the exertion it took for his muscles to move to retrieve the clay. Not wanting to get it to blow Tobi up was one thing, but retrieving for necessity was another.

Deidara's blue eyes reflected in the blue light for a moment as they turned to look at Tobi and then switched back to the road in concentration. "About five, maybe six. Nothing I can't handle." Deidara state darkly, hoping the ninja's they sensed were just passing by and could be taken by surprise.

In the darkness behind him, Deidara could not see Tobi's orange mask nor had he ever seen an expression, but as he heard a loud huff of air, Deidara could tell Tobi was not happy with his statement. "But Deidara, I can help too..."

He drew out his words into a short whine like he always did when he wanted Deidara to listen or be attentive to him. But, despite his efforts, Deidara never did and it only made case to piss the ex-ninja off more.

"Tobi," Deidara swung around, ignoring another ach in his chest that requested for a short release. His blue turned into icy steel slivers as he turned to his cohort, poking him in the chest for emphasis. His words hissed out into an angry whisper. "You better damn well stay out of my way… or I won't hesitate to use my art on you!"
And with that, the temperature of the night air seemed to drop another ten degrees. Tobi withdrew away for him as though he literally had been shoved. For once, he seemed to be taking Deidara's threats very seriously, something Deidara appreciated.

The icy world was quiet for a couple moment as a shadow, from down the road, approached their position. The two slunk backward into the trees further. Deidara thought about climbing one for a moment, but decided scaling one of the slippery froze trees was not something he wanted to attempt presently. No sense of falling off and giving them away anyway if he could keep up a surprise attack.

They watched as three figures approached from down the road. The sound of the scuffing of shoes was rather loud and obnoxious as they tread over the muddy earth. Their conversation wasn't overtly loud, but they didn't seem to be trying to disguise their words.

"Slow down, no need to walk so fast!" One man said, his tone unburdened and ruffled, although, clear irritation seemed to linger in the way he stressed his syllables. Deidara couldn't see any of them clearly from the ground level, but he could see the darkened outline of the man and could tell he had quite a height difference over his companions.

"Shut up, Galdo! We were instructed to follow the main group and if someone hadn't forgotten which direction we were headed in, then we wouldn't be in a rush to get anywhere." The girl sounded much younger, but the way she carried herself and lead the faceless group easily identified her to be a ninja. No bright silver head band gleamed from her person though, at least not from a distance, so he assumed she was concealing it.

The third companion remained utterly silent as the other two bickered in front. He appeared unfazed by their words. Deidara almost smirked at their stupidity at being so loud in such a treacherous area. Although, he did wonder about the six chakra's he sensed earlier, but only three ninjas appearing. He blamed it on the fatigue he was feeling at the moment, messing with his own head a little. It didn't matter, judging by the outfits, they were a spin-off team to the deserters the ex-mist ninja's he had taken out earlier. They wouldn't be hard to handle at all if they were all like the others he had dispatched.

Without a word, Deidara zipped open his clay bag and stuffed his hands into the large pouches. Although they reacted slower than usual, his hands chewed heavily on the clay and seconds later spit out two beautiful clay birds. Without a thought, he tossed them into the night sky and his art soared through the air towards his targets. A moment later, an eruption blasted through the night in the spot he'd been aiming with the three ninja. He walked forward, Tobi remaining behind, until he emerged from the darkness like a shadowy demon. And despite his weariness and the stiffness that plagued him, Deidara cracked a sick smile under his yellow veil of hair. His laughter echoed in open joy as he seemed to relishes as smoke rose from his explosion, meeting the moon for the first time tonight.

"How enjoyable! My art thriving in such a retched place as this! At least now this landscape will see true beauty, Un!" He laughed a little bit deeper until a flicker movement stirred to his left. His face twitched into a stoic line as he took a step back and a large kunai swirled past his face into a tree behind him. The three ninja's from before appeared in front of him, and, although they looked a little haggard, they weren't in the condition Deidara wanted them in- splayed out on the ground in tiny pieces.

The short female, her features hidden by a ornate purple mask, seemed to prepared for a counterstrike as her hand was still extended from where she had thrown her kunai. Her two companions, who had previously both looked irked, now held impassive, almost obstinate, expressions. Their appearance was rather plain in comparison as they sported their black hair and worn Chunnin jackets.

Deidara smirked, despite his misjudgment in range. These three should have been dead… He hardly ever missed. "Damn, well, it seems as though you'll get to see a little bit more of my art before this is over."

He was poised to go into his pouch again for more clay when he froze. The back of his neck prickled as he felt a presence from behind- a looming shadow engulfed his own dim shade. He heard Tobi squeak something from a little ways behind as he jumped erratically to the side. A large man, who had appeared out of nowhere, slammed down into the ground leaving a large indent into the earth exactly where had previously stumbled from. The man was surely the size of Kisame at least, with bulging muscles to back him up. Three more ninja's materialized beside him, also wielding weapons.

Deidara crouched and dodged a couple more kunai's, landing on the ground a couple of feet away. His palms and knees pressed into the ground painfully as he stopped in his skid. He cursed himself for not following his instincts, realizing he might be in a little bit of a tight situation. He was reasonably tired and knew his body couldn't keep up with a long strenuous hand-to-hand fight and these guys seemed pressed not to allow him distance. His cache of clay was dwindling from his earlier battles and the second he lost all of that, he would be in trouble. This wasn't looking to be a fun fight and although on a good day where all of these ninja's would have been dead before they could even comprehend the situation, now he was staring down a lengthy battle.

The large dimwitted guy walked forward, detaching himself from his group of comrades. His bald head shinned brightly in the light and his beady eyes followed Deidara's movements like a hawk. "Ya might be Akatsuki, but ya shouldn't act so over competent in your skills. You might have taken out the rest of our group, but we won't go down without a fight."

Deidara stared at them dully, wishing he could will himself to give a snarky come-back, but the short stunt of happiness and adrenaline from his earlier had ceased and left him in a lulled and uncaring state. Couldn't they just save him some trouble and keel over already?

He rushed forward without retort, summoning two clay birds and a centipede from under his cloak. The world became a mixture of clashing kunai's and the bright excitement of exploding earth. Deidara pressed on, dodging, attacking, and sending back as many precise pieces of art he dared with his dwindling supply. He managed to dispatch two from that had come with the larger man, but the large man and the woman were quite elusive and their water style jutsu's were harder to avoid in this terrain where water, albeit frozen, wasn't hard to come by.

The thought of fleeing crossed his mind; however, he refused to back down from such pathetic ninja's and continued evading and attack back when he could. His cocky nature, which he usually employed to mess with his opponent's confidence, wasn't present because he didn't have the energy to nurse it as he traded blows.

What finally managed to catch him off guard and to slow him down for though was so disgraceful, so humiliating, that if Deidara had had the choice he would have just stopped existing all together. He had managed to kill off two more of the ninja's with some spare kunai's he had strapped to his belt. However, when the younger woman came in for an attack, Deidara had planned to kick out her feet from under her and deflect the blow that the larger man was aiming at him simultaneously. His body didn't seem to agree with that though because the moment he tried to go in for the dive something happened. It was an act he would never live down for as long as he lived. He coughed.

It hadn't been a very loud stutter or anything up to the standards like it had been before the fight. It was just a simple clear congested cough, probably occurring because his lungs had been sucking in chilling nighttime air in far too fast for far too long. But that one moment was all it took, and before he knew what was happening, a fist collided with his head straight on. Pain erupted everywhere and it felt as though he had run head first into a brick wall while he had been riding top force on one of his clay birds. He had never experienced a punch so hard, not even from that idiot blond jinjuriki, who had punched him a couple months prior in a fight.

Deidara felt stars explode in front of his eyes while the world spun widely. He sailed through the air and landed head first into the ground. Mud smeared his face and cloak as he hit the ground with intense impact, rolling over a couple of times before his movements came to a jerky and jarring stop. The world turned upside down, and then flopped a round a couple more times, making him lose all sense of direction. His felt disconnected from his body and his limbs didn't even seem attached as he lay on his back in the mud and snow. He thought his eyes were opened, but only faint light swam over his vision. Somewhere in his subconscious where his usual personality lay, it yelled at him to get up and fight, to show the world that his art was amazing, awe worthy, undefeatable! It was screaming at him to get back to his feet and to not let such weak excuses for humans defeat him, the great Deidara! But his body didn't seem to want to agree with his flustered mind.

He clutched at awareness, but it fell through his fingers like falling sand, and he wasn't able to retched enough in his frantic scramble. The last thing he was aware of was the feeling of the rough cold ground and the color orange as it shift through the shadows.


It wasn't a speedy return to awareness. In fact, it seemed to be a process in steps almost like growing up: the easiest came first. Deidara wasn't sure of much as his mind dragged itself out of a heavy daze. He couldn't sense anything- the only thing that returned was a sense of himself. He knew himself, who he was, and that he was alive. There was no pain and no thoughts beyond that. For a little while, Deidara was content on remaining there. Lost in no thoughts, but waylaid all the same.

It didn't seem to last for long though for the waking world was quickly drawing him back in, annoyed he had stayed gone so long. His next observation was that he could feel a little again, but only a little. He could feel a soothing heat radiating onto his chest and part of his face as though it were pressed into something warm. His fingers were cold and numb, lacking much feeling at that. It wasn't an uncomfortable cold- it was just chill enough to make his fingers buzz with the feigning of sleep. A distinct slow swaying motion was present, reminding him of when he was young, being pushed in the rocking chair his mother had kept in their small living space when he was a child and could remember such trivial things. Like the chair, the motion now felt like a slow monotonous even movement.

Consciousness seemed to pull at Deidara more with this motion, even though he began to resist. He found himself entertained by the indulging of memories. While his mind tried to focus on past thoughts, his sense of smell and his hearing returned, suddenly, as though some had flipped a switch on suddenly from out of nowhere. The scent of perspiration caught his notice right away, but he couldn't tell if it was his own or not by the point. His hearing picked up the sound of quiet scuffing, almost like….? Footsteps? Yes, they were footsteps and since Deidara knew they weren't his, it must be someone drawing near him?

He tried to fit the pieces together, but his mind wouldn't allow it. Fragmented thoughts returned, obscuring any chance he had at coming up with a complete idea on the situation. He merely existed, taking in the sounds and smells that had been denied to him before.

With the positive feelings returning, the negative ones seemed to draw in as well. The feeling of his body could easily be described as one big ache and he found the reason he couldn't seem to wretch his eyes open was by fatigue alone. His sense of chakra was screwed to hell. It buzzed low, dull and fragile, signaling chakra drain. He hadn't experienced it so low in a while, and he couldn't concentrate on it with his pounding head like someone had tap danced on it. His lungs didn't want to seem obedient to his wishes either, every other breath, he could feel himself coughing or wheezing into whatever his face was pressed into. He wouldn't complain though, whatever it was, it was warm.

Pain crippled him in his state, threatening to pull him back under, but he resisted. He wanted to know what was going on, where he was, why the world was continuously rocking. And with effort that seemed too farfetched for him just opening his eyes, Deidara pried them open.

For a moment, Deidara thought he was blind with all the surrounding darkness, but he quickly could still make out dark outlines- It was only night. A glowing, from above, casted an overhead light on him. His gaze focused on something dark in his vision, which blocked part of his frontal view. Deidara thought it was a blanket for a moment, but it shifted far too often and appeared to be moving on his account. His gaze shifted downward and found a splash of red emerged. He was slammed with a sudden deduction- it was the rim of an Akatsuki cloak collar. He lethargically turned his head right and he saw dark hair and a swirl of orange in his sight. A black band for the mask concealed an ear that Deidara knew was there. After a couple a moments of contemplation, Deidara realized what he was looking at. Tobi- stupid old, useless, Tobi.

He could hear the idiot mumbling to himself, his soft vocal cords vibrating onto Deidara from the close contact. "Oh, left or right? Tobi's not every good at directions. Which way was the town again?"

Deidara stayed still for a moment, until finally, completing his return to conscientiousness, his senses returned. And with them, his wit did as well.

His head lifted up in repulse from where it had been resting in the crook of Tobi's neck. That idiot was carrying him! That's what the swaying was… Tobi was literally giving him a piggy-back.

If his reflexes had been good and his head and lungs didn't feel wrung out, he would have sprung up and beaten the idiot for the mere audacity for such an indignifying act! They were Akatsuki! The literal incarnations of cool! Did this moron have any sense at all? He didn't care if he had lost all his limbs, he would drag himself by his teeth before he'd willingly allowing Tobi to carry him around like a sack of flour, like dead weight.

Pride seemed to grant him new strength and he shifted, angrily. He could feel Tobi's footfalls jerk to a stop and his body tense. All motion stopped, although Tobi's grip on his lower legs, where he was being supported, didn't weaver. Deidara's arms swung uselessly over Tobi's shoulder as Deidara attempted to regain control over them so he could punch the idiot in the face.

"Tobi? What. The. Hell." It wasn't yelling, his voice was too cracked and his head pounded to loudly for that, but the anger from the sudden embarrassment and wound from his pride were there. Tobi stuttered back to life at the weak sound of his voice.

"S-Sempai? You're awake!?" He sounded thrilled and terrified at the same time. Deidara struggled to pull away, but found he couldn't, only providing weak struggles against Tobi's grip.

"Obviously," He hissed the phrase out, secretly wishing he hadn't returned to consciousness. "Now put me down so I can kill you…" His threat was menacing, but in his state he knew it looked particularly tired and worn out so he knew it would only go so far.

Apparently it wasn't enough for Tobi, who wasn't looking at him at all. "No, Sempai, I can't. We're almost to the town. Just go back to sleep." It was as lightly and evasive as Tobi could get, and had ever attempted to be with him. He obviously didn't want a fight at the moment, but like hell Deidara would let this slide.

"I wasn't sleeping, dumbass! I was concussed! And I'm not doing anything until you put me down!" Deidara screeched as loudly as he could muster. The taller man didn't move an inch though and Deidara tried to pull away again, but found himself unable to break Tobi's hold. He cursed his weakness and monitored his fizzy and unusually low chakra reserve with growing irritation.

"I can't. You're ankle is twisted up all funny and you're out of clay. It will be faster if we do this." Tobi implored softly, begging Deidara to understand. Deidara blinked at that, acknowledging his swollen ankle for a moment in irritation before addressing Tobi.

"My ankle? How the hell did that happen, un?" Deidara snapped, letting out a loss cough at the snarky question.

Tobi mumbled his answer, but at their close distance, Deidara picked it up easily. "I think it happened when you hit the ground after that missing-nin hit you, sempai." Immediately, Deidara wanted to rebuff him with some more uncomplimentary words, but then the memories of the battle came back to him in one great stride. He had been losing and his prospects low towards the end; the missing-nin's pressing the advantages he had giving them. He had screwed up and left a wide opening and the large guy had taken his chances and hit him with one seriously chakra enhanced punched. Some jutsu must have been backing it up because it had stunned him enough to knock him into unconsciousness, which not even a normal chakra punch could accomplish. He was surprised he could literally feel his face at the moment. He could feel a couple of loosely applied bandaged on his nose. It didn't feel broken, but it had the tingling sensation as though chakra had been pooled around it to fix it. He figured it was Tobi, although, he had no idea the idiot had any talent with even simple medical ninjitsu.

Deidara blinked his anger on hold as his curiosity peeked. "What happened? How am I still alive?"

A cheeky answer replied to him. "I saved you, Sempai!" The phrase just confused Deidara more.

"You…? What?! You can't fight!? How could you…?" Deidara stopped, his headache flaring up as his voice had attempted to rise in his irritation. He pressed his forehead into Tobi's shoulder his embarrassment and pride losing out for the moment.

Tobi didn't say anything and he didn't seem to even move to assist in his usual over invasive way. Deidara could tell just by his stiffness that Tobi was on edge with the situation at, although, it was certainly strange to have the orange masked moron intimidated by him without a clay bird shooting his way.

Deidara lifted his forehead, his head clearing a little, even though it was still pounding. He let out a short huff, watching as his breath mist into the cold air. Anger seemed to dissipate from his body for a moment; empty indifference filled its place. That was unusual in itself for a person like Deidara. He put emotion into art as his work was an extension of himself. His master pieces were explosive, bright, and un-weighted. He loved his work; it was an extension of himself. However, at the moment, he felt ready to act like Sasori used to… on a bad day.

"Just tell me what happened, Tobi." Deidara breathed quietly into Tobi's shoulder with empty weariness. Tobi seemed to brighten at his word and where he had to stand taller, his perky voice returning to his usual volume.

"Tobi saved you! Tobi was being a good boy!" Deidara would have slammed his forehead into a wall to 'pleasantly' express irritation if he had had the energy to move more than the tips of his frozen hands. He could feel the tongues of both palms sagging out of his mouth, uselessly. The ability to form clay was far from possible at the moment.

"You've already said that…." Deidara groaned, expressing an exaggerated huff. Tobi was no doubt grinning like an idiot behind his thick mask and Deidara was glad that he couldn't see it for once.

"Oh, yeah, I guess I did." He laughed in the high pitched giggles that Deidara always found annoying. He could imagine Tobi putting his hands behind his head in his usual position if he didn't have his hands full at the moment. "Well, the ninja's were coming to get you, but I confused them with my special jutsu! They couldn't hit Tobi!" Deidara could feel the pride Tobi felt for himself just through the words alone. If he felt up for it, he would have pulled the words from Tobi and stomped on them with some kind of rebuttal. He didn't feel like it now. Instead, he just focused hazily on the dirt residing on the edge of his frizzed bangs.

"They couldn't hit me, you should have seen it Sempai! The three ninja's got confused and hit each other. Then, Tobi got him with some of the underground explosive clay you gave Tobi for emergencies!" Deidara blinked at his cohorts head, wishing Tobi would put him down again just so he didn't have to crane his neck to look at the orange mask.

"They…. killed each other? By accident?" The realization hit Deidara slowly, but that flare in his pride whipped up again, speedily. He had almost been killed by incompetent and loser ninja's that had been defeated by the most naïve ninja to ever be born, and certainly, the weakest to join the Akatsuki. He hid his simmering anger by exalting his pride.

"Of course you did, you used my clay, my art, you can't lose…." He paused a moment, eyes darting around the frozen world for an escape from this situation and to check for any witnesses. "Now put me down!"

Tobi, who hadn't moved an inch during the entire conversation, flinched again at the comment. His head shook slightly in a negative response. "No, Sempai. Tobi doesn't mind carrying you." His tone turned into a sing song melody that travelled along the trees. As usual, Deidara had to stifle the urge to kill Tobi. It was unlikely he could pull off such a stunt at the moment anyway.

Deidara sighed, knowing that there was nothing he could do to talk down his moron partner to putting him down and he was slowly losing what little energy he had. Placing his forehead back on Tobi's shoulder, Deidara closed his eyes in surrender.

"Fine, just walk, dammit. I'll kill you later then, un." He grumbled it under his breath, but with their approximation, the pyromaniac knew Tobi could hear him.

At his lethargic words, Tobi took his first steps and Deidara's world swayed again. He ignored the cold, the motion, and the sound of Tobi's humming some ridiculous tune that he picked up from god-knows-where!

He managed to drift off again with the delicate sway of the world and with a plethora of ideas of how he would kick Tobi's ass later.


Returning to conciseness wasn't as laborious the second time. No, instead, it was a rather spontaneous act. One moment, Deidara had been residing quite comfortably in a dark place between sleep and awareness- the only thing tangible being his own straggling thoughts and occasional memory, offering what little comfort they could. But within a moment, it was all retched away from his as though he had been standing on something solid, only to have it pulled out from under him the second he had learned to trust its stability.

Nausea hit him full force as though someone had punched him in his lower stomach. His mouth watered as sputtered coughs raked his body. Before he knew what he was doing, he forced himself into an upright potion off of a mat on simple carpeted floor.

If he had been less preoccupied, he would have noticed that he was in a new place- a simple room with two mats set up for sleep, only his currently disturbed. He would have noticed the chilled windows whispering quite invitations to watch the snowfall outside in the nighttime world. And he could have easily figured out he had slept through a sunrise and sunset, but, in his current state, he only found the strength to pull himself up from his mat in a desperate scramble.

Deidara's fevered and haggard eyes darted to an ajar door and immediately recognized a tiled floor and, without hesitation, flung himself through the thresh hold. His face quickly met over a porcelain toilet and he heaved what little was in his stomach. A rancid and acid taste lingered in his mouth as he dry heaved and his stomach continued trying to expel content that simply did not exist. An unspecified amount of time went on like this until he managed to gain some control and was left breathing hard his head hung to the floor. Slouching back against a nearby wall, his sweaty palms slapped the handle to the toilet.

The tempting call of the cold tiles touching his bare skin called him to remain where he was and he would have gladly contended to its will; however, the lingering sting of acid and churned food in his dry mouth drove him to drag himself to shaky feet to try and remove such a horrible aftertaste. He managed to grab hold the marble sink edge, wavering against it as he turned a faucet with unsteady hands, turning on a clear steam of water. His face met the water seconds later; cold icy liquid snaked its way down his throat, soothing it. Once satisfied, clearing his congested throat with a couple of deep coughs, Deidara straightened up into the dirty mirror, staring at his reflection.

Oddly, the first thing he noticed about himself was the absence of his forehead protector. Although, it shouldn't have been such a surprise, he removed it almost every time slept, when he wasn't on a mission. The fact that Deidara could not remember removing it himself disturbed him greatly for some reason though. Like his ring, the missing-nin head protector was significant in showing his loyalty to the Akatsuki. Without them, he felt unbranded. Like his headband, his shirt was missing as well, leaving his pale chest exposed. The stitched mouth on his chest had gained an ashy tone that matched the rest of his sickly colored torso. Beads of sweat from the present fever worked their way down his skin like rain drops on cloudy glass. His face revealed his fevered misery, while his eyes were sluggish and drooped with exertion. His yellow bang dropped low and in a frazzled state from the combination of the earlier snow, his sweat, and the fact that his ponytail had come loose from it's usually secure hold. At the sight, he didn't even have the energy to grimace.

Pathetic, Deidara rambled quietly inside his head, cursing his weakness. One of the Akatsuki, the world's strongest band of rouge ninja's, and I've let myself get sick and then beaten down by a bunch of second rate ninjas. I've never been so humiliated... Deidara slumped over the sink, his hands meeting his inflamed face as more haggard coughing broke free. Once the short spurt passed, his eyes turned back to the inviting sleeping mat in the other room. Usually a doable feat, it seemed like an S-rank mission alone to just move his feet to its direction.

He stumbled his way out of the bathroom, the light being left on in his leave, bathing the dark corners of the room that the room's small bedside lamp couldn't quite reach. His bare feet prickled at the stiff carpet and for a moment he wondered dazedly where his sandals had gotten off to. Such thoughts were disregarded though when he managed to drag himself over to his mat and collapse completely on it with his head meeting the soft pillow. He dragged his blanket over himself with a fumbling tug and another stinging cough. His foot, which had been aching before, now only throbbed, appreciating the tight wrap of bandages. Apparently, he had only sprained it.

Now horizontal, the world seemed less askew. His stomach, which was now empty, remained calm after its earlier disrupt. Everything seemed a little bit better than before and the mouths on his hands stuck out gapingly and drew back in slowly as they begged for some clay to chew. Deidara had no intention of fulfilling their wish at the moment. He ignored his pain, the heat, and every other discomfort and shut his eyes. The world sank around him and his mind resided in the fever and some unmeasured time passed.

He could have stayed like that for hours, but just when he managed to even feel some slight comfort in his fevered world, the obnoxious sound of a door being jarred open pulled him out of his half-conscious state. Deidara's eyes flung open and into the room, which was still brightly lit, he watched a clocked figure stalk loudly into the room with a brown bag in one hand and large blue blanket in the other. Deidara's first initial reaction was to reach for his missing clay, but at the sight of a swirling orange mask and the confirmation of a catchy whistled tune Deidara couldn't pick out from his plethora of useless memories, he stopped.

Tobi stalked into the room a little, placing the bag and supplies down and looked into the bathroom, noticing the light left on. His whistling stopped as he flicked the switch off with one hand and turned around. Deidara could literally see the second Tobi noticed him because he jumped about a foot into the air in surprise.

"Sempai! Your're awake!" A blur of orange crossed Deidara's vision as he struggled to keep focus on Tobi.

"Yeah, thanks to you, un." Deidara croaked, accusingly, as Tobi's form came to a clear stop in a crotch next to Deidara's mat.

Tobi seemed to ignore his accusation, pulling the bag he had placed down on his way into the room. "Look Semapi, I brought you some stuff so you can get better!" He sounded excited, almost happy to be useful. On any normal day, Deidara would have kicked him in the face for such unnecessary cheerfulness; however, all he could conjure up at the moment was a puffy eyed glare.

"I didn't ask for your help…" Deidara coughed again, rolling into his pillow, invitingly. He didn't even hear as Tobi dragged out objects from the paper bag.

"Tobi bought some medicine! And I got some fresh water. I know how much you hate tap water, Sempai!" He waved around some boxes and a couple of water bottles, ignoring any potential look Deidara could be giving him. "I also got some wash cloths… and some soup, yep, lots of soup! Uhhh…. I think I had some more stuff in here somewhere…" Tobi trailed off, digging his hand into the bag.

Deidara groaned, turning to face the wall, trying to block out Tobi's loud banter. "Tobi. Please, I know you never listen to me, but just this once… SHUT UP, un." Deidara sputtered, inhaling harshly. His eye lids refused to remain open anymore and snapped shut. He didn't expect Tobi to actually quiet himself, but after Deidara regained his wits he noticed the silence of the room. Tobi, apparently, at his feeble demand, had actually shut his trap. Deidara wasn't too keen on believing in a greater force, but at the moment of peace he might have just converted to some serious religion like Hidan's screwed up faith just for the unexpected blessing.

The silence echoed for a few moments and although he wished for him to be gone from his side, he knew Tobi was still there because of the quite shifting he would do every so often as though antsy to move. The moron could never sit still, whatever village he had come from must have failed him from the start, there was no way he could have sit still long enough to take any sort of class.

"Deidara….? Sempai?" Deidara would have groaned if he had the energy, but the strange layer of chill that left him in a hazy sweat wouldn't allow it. He rolled over and glanced at Tobi with glassy blue eyes.

"Tobi thinks you should at least try and drink some water before you go back to resting…." His tone was unusually quiet and if he hadn't heard it, Deidara would have never imagined Tobi could keep his voice so low. Deidara wanted to snap at him, but in truth, he was parched. He nodded briefly and pulled himself into a sitting potion, a nearby wall acting as a support. Tobi materialized an open water bottle out of the paper bag. The blond could tell Tobi was reluctant to hand it over to Deidara. The need to assist was evident in his nervous fidgeting, but as long as Deidara was even slightly aware, he refused to be treated like an invalid.

With shaky hands, Deidara grabbed the bottle and downed three quarters of it in a couple of seconds. A moment after, Deidara flung it back into Tobi's open hands and sunk back down on his back and turned to face the wall again. Any semblance of energy he had had before was gone now, the misty haze of unconsciousness loomed over him. Before it could sweep him away though, Deidara heard Tobi and felt the blanket adjusted over him and another one placed on top.

"Good night, Deidara-Semapi."

He knew nothing else after that.


He didn't fully wake up the third time. Only uncomfortable and painful sensations where aware to him. His skin felt hot and slimy almost like an extra layer of skin that he could just slide off with enough force. But to his chagrin, his fingers wouldn't follow orders as they were stiff and cold. They wouldn't move or even twitch for his command, but they had to. They were the only things that could fix the heat. Weren't they?

Deidara curled inward, groaning at the bubbling inside his stomach as though he had been quickly spun around and had become understandably dizzy. He figured he couldn't have done anything to investigate the feeling, but the world was tilting in ways he didn't know was possible.

His lungs were heavy and every few seconds he let out a deep chocking breath and with each exhale. He couldn't hear anything and his sight was almost non-existent as grey shadows mingled with light spots that danced across his vision like tiny specks of white on a black canvas. It was strange, bizarre, unordinary, obscene… but Deidara couldn't quite get any mental facilities in the works to improve this situation. The pain was intense, but not something he never felt before. In his earlier stages of developing his jutsu, he had managed to give himself some serious burns. Having been a chunnin, pain from missions and severe injuries were things he was familiar with. He had spent many nights in hospitals attended to by healer's hands from minor cuts to major battle wounds. All had been painful, but like his art, they had been fast and the pain had been spontaneous and beautiful. This? This wasn't beautiful- it was long, drawn, out-ugly. It broke down slowly, pulling at limbs, heating the body till it gave out. It wasn't art, it wasn't anything but ugly sickness. And Deidara had never experienced it before- he hated it. If he had had the energy, he would have just blown himself up with his own explosives to create art while end his life with short pain and a bang.

He could do none of that though. He just remained there, helplessly, feeling like a small child, waiting for someone to notice his endeavors. He let out more haggard breathing until he felt chilled hands reach for his upper arms and he was shifted. The motion of the world didn't stop, but it seemed to slow down as a cool sensation suddenly appeared on his forehead and his upper chest. It was like someone tossing a bucket of water on a forest fire- useless, but attempting to stifle, attempting to help. And it did, Deidara, for a moment, breathed evenly as he noticed soothing words being spoken. The meanings were lost to him and he soon fell back into darkness, appreciative of the chance to escape the raging fire that had encased his body.


Water. It was the first thought Deidara awakened to and the first thing he saw as opened his eyes and found a water bottle sitting next to his head. He managed to sip it with weak and sticky fingers before dropping it again to the floor, ignore as half of its contents spilled. The world spun slightly, but he could see a rising sun through a blurry window above his head.

Its morning, he thought groggily. He felt a heavy ache throughout his body, but the burning and heat seemed to be gone now. It felt as though he had gone some rounds with Kisame and had been beaten over the head with his sword, but it was still improvement from his last stream of consciousness.

He creaked his eyes opened and turned his head to his right, looking for something familiar to try and better understand his situation. He blinked and jumped slightly as his face met with bright orange so intense that he had to blink.

"The hell?" He whispered feebly, propping himself onto his elbows. He blinked again, his heart fluttering, but then irritation set soon in again. Tobi sat his head propped against a small table near the head of his mat. His arms were splayed out on the table in between open boxes and used crinkled water bottles. Light snores echoes quietly as he shift periodically. In his silent state, Deidara didn't even have the nerve to wake him.

He rolled over again, removing damp sheets soaked in sweat like a second skin and flung it off the mat. Slowly, like someone much older than his 19 years, he made his way to shaky feet and made his way to the bathroom. Once inside, he cleaned up a little bit and rinsed himself off in the sink with a discarded wash cloth. When finished, he stumbled back onto his mat, not really egger to fall back asleep. He sat lamely on his mat staring out the bright mirror to the glistening world outside. The snow had left a fresh blanket on everything, and Deidara, safe in his warm room, could appreciate its glistening beauty of nearby rooftops. Snow only lasted so long after all, in a sense, it was fleeting as well.

He yawned and stretched a bit, but in extending, he bumped Tobi's leg with his foot. With a yelp of surprise, Tobi sprang awake at the contact and fell off his perch against the table and sprawled out on life floor rather comically. He sprang up a moment later; Deidara's only response was a raised eyebrow and a short huff.

"No more! No more! Tobi didn't take it!" He fumbled and looked around widely behind his mask and Deidara could see awareness return to him even without a visible expression. His potions perked and his mask locked onto Deidara for a moment, which lapsed into strangely awkward silence.

The blond shook his head. "I don't want to know…" It was true. He didn't want to know what went on in Tobi's cluttered head. At Deidara's voice, Tobi seemed to animate to life and for some unexplained reason he burst out into dramatic tears. Before Deidara knew it, Tobi was hugging and climbing all over him, his hands like two snakes winding around his neck.

"SEPMPAIYOUR'REALRIGHTIWASSOWORRIRIEDYOUWERENTRIGH TANDIDID-" Tobi's tears managed to roll out from under his mask and land on Deidara. The missing-nin scowled and tried to pry him off, but to no avail. He had no grace with his stiffened limbs.

"Stop." The death grip only seemed to increase with his words the blithering idiot continued to blather away.

"ANIREALLYREALLYDIDNTKNOWWHATTODOBECAUSETOBIWASTRY INGTOBEHELPFULANDAGOODBOY-" Deidara wedged himself from the masked man from chocking his wind pipe and he conjured up the fieriest glare he could manage.

"TOBI, STOP." All words were brought to a halt as Tobi froze. He loosened his grip, but to Deidara's chagrin, did not let go.

"Sorry, Sempai." His mask lowered to the ground as though saddened by Deidara's words. It was unusual for him to be phased by anyone else, words except when he burst into dramatic spontaneous fits of tears. There really was no off switch for Tobi's sporadic behavior.

Tobi perked up an instant later. "Oh!" He pulled out a plastic bowl from its resting space on the table. It was covered with plastic saran, but Deidara couldn't help wonder how it had survived after Tobi's awakening from his nap. "I have some soup from earlier… It still should be warm…" Tobi pried the plastic wrap off of the bowl and passed it to Deidara's shaky hands. For a moment, the pyromaniac felt quick revulsion at the concept of food, but his stomach wasn't doing summersaults and he felt almost… empty?

He eyed the lukewarm soup and took the spoon Tobi offered him and took a bite, acknowledging that he actually did have an appetite. The soup wasn't the best thing he ever tasted- it was store bought and had the aftertaste that only being warmed in a microwave could give. But, for once, Deidara didn't mind much, even if it wasn't an artistic meal. To his dry mouth, it was satisfying and it filled him up with a strange energy he hadn't realized he'd been missing. Although, he would a preferred something other than chicken soup since he hadn't ever really been fond of it.

Strange silence resided in the comfortable hotel room as Deidara ingested his substance. Blue eyes flickered and watched his masked partner for a moment. He couldn't make any eye contact, but the way Tobi sat still his mask staring at him unnerved him. It was eerie for Tobi to look at him so intently without being engaged in some kind of one-sided conversation. The man, however old he was, never got this quiet, ever, period without intense persuasion. Deidara stopped with his meal for a moment.

"What are you staring at?" He croaked out in false irritation. He was more curious than anything. Tobi drew back, shyly.

"Nothing! Nothing…Sempai… It's just…." He paused, as Deidara's eyes quirked as he finished eating the last of his second rate meal. "You were sick."

Deidara stared blankly, not even working up the energy to be angry. It was just Tobi being particularly slow on the uptake. "I wasn't sick. I was just out of commission for a little bit…" He stopped, thinking for the first time. He felt disgraced and disgusted with himself. He had gotten sick. That hadn't occurred since he had been a small child- weak, naïve, and still foundering under a village that would inevitably fail him. The Akatsuki had made him stronger. He was part of the elite, the immortal, the undefeatable! Yes, he was younger than the rest, but his power and status made him the best. He could share his art with everyone and be acknowledged in the most well-known organization the ninja world would ever know….. And he had gotten sick from an insignificant winter cold?

If Sasori were still alive, he would have been left in a ditch somewhere and he would have never heard the end of it. Deidara could literally imagine the laughter from that demented Hiroko puppet from the grave… or whatever you could call the resting place of a puppet. Danna had been cruel, but respectable, because of his power.

Tobi looked awkwardly positioned as he fidgeted with his fingers and the edge of his high collard black shirt. His cloak was nowhere in sight, which was a rarity since it had been a while Deidara had seen his regular clothing. Tobi had been hanging around long before he had been allowed into the Akatsuki, and the moment he was finally initiated the idiot didn't seem to want to part with the outfit. It was the only part of being an Akatsuki member Tobi seemed to actually take seriously. Their Akatsuki cloaks were worn as often as possible. They liked spreading terror- the black and red clouds could easily do that.

"I'm sorry, Sempai… It's just you were very…. out of it… for a while. Y-You said- I didn't think…." Tobi broke off and Deidara insides froze at his words. "I'm just glad you're better, Sempai."

Tobi bowed his head and folded his hands into his lap. Deidara sat dumbfounded, remembering smidgeons and glimpse from his memory- pain, memories, thoughts of his art, village… heat. He couldn't recall anything he had said, but by Tobi's words and hesitance it sounded as though he had said a little too much in his fever.

Great, just great, out of all the Akatsuki members, I might have blabbed something personal to this moron… Deidara said, passing Tobi his empty bowl and spoon without a word. In truth, he probably should have been happy it was Tobi, anyone else in the Akatsuki would have killed him from just any sign of weakness.

"Tobi." The masked man looked up as Deidara sobered as much as he could. Yelling, screaming, and kicking the idiot were his usual tactic in getting something through to his subordinate, but now was different. They were screwing around with Deidara's past, something non-comprisable. "I'm only going to tell you this once, so listen. I don't care what you heard from me or what I said. You forget it. Anything I said didn't matter and if I hear you bring up anything… I will kill you." Deidara glowered at Tobi.

"I don't care about the Akatsuki's rules, I will do it… And it won't be artistic, I will end you on my terms and it will be painful." He froze as he glanced over the stiff looking Tobi. He hoped he had made himself clear enough for someone like Tobi. With no expression to work with, Deidara could only grasp at straws if he actually understood what was being told to him.

"Hai, Deidara-Sempai." He bowed his head slightly, showing off his black ruffed hair to his master.

"Good." Deidara leaned back into his mat again. He could still feel Tobi's stare, but he brushed it off. "I'm going to sleep, we'll leave tomorrow. Now stop groping around for something to do and go resupply."

Tobi nodded and stood swiftly. "Alright, are you sure you'll be ready to leav-" Deidara raised his hand, cutting off Tobi's words.

"Yes, don't question me. Now go." His words were crisper and he relished the balance he was reacquainting himself with. Tobi walked towards the door, but Deidara thought of something before he could even pass the threshold. "Also, where is my clay bag? I want it."

Tobi turned around and inched back, almost reluctantly. "I have it here." He pulled out the bag from his own belt. Normally, he would have been enraged by Tobi holding onto his things without permission, but the excitement from getting it back silenced him. He felt naked and vulnerable without it.

Tobi held it out and Deidara snatched it without thanks. Tobi scurried away out the door as though he were afraid Deidara would use it on him. However, Deidara was much too interested about the return of his bag to care about Tobi at the moment.

He opened it and his eyes lit up at the white blob of his mushy molding clay. He placed both hands into the bag and let them chew on it for a moment, enjoying the sensation of chakra channel by weaving in and out of his clay and into the mouths on his hands. He didn't do this for too long and ended up placing the bag next to his pillow, with one hand remaining on it as he fell into a light and restful slumber.


"Sempai, look. The next towns up a head! Tobi told you he knew where he was going!" Tobi beamed as the two Akatsuki members walked briskly down the road. He grabbed at Deidara's hand to lead him, but was shoved away roughly.

Tobi was acting like his usual perky self, the somber version having left when 'his Sempai' had recovered. The blond had gotten better days ago and they had left the small inn room they had been staying in. Deidara had no lasting repercussions from his sickness and refused to acknowledge it at all. Although Tobi, apparently still acting as his nursemaid, was still being a little too clingy for his liking.

"Tobi, I know that. I'm leading us in this direction, remember?" Deidara quipped back, knowing full well Tobi did. But he enjoyed having control back, so he was going to push it. Tobi looked back at Deidara and stopped in his tracks in the snow trodden road they had come by.

"I know. Tobi would get lost without you." He murmured quietly. Deidara stopped too, not really sure why. "Thank you, Sempai."

He looked at his cohort, seriously. They were both adorned in their usual Akatsuki cloaks, although, Tobi had insisted they both layer up better for their trip back. Nothing in the usual persona seemed off about Tobi, but Deidara wasn't sure what he was getting at.

"Thank you?" His hands made their way from inside the pocket of his cloak. "For what? Leading you around? Anyone competent can read a map."

Tobi's head shook at that. If Tobi could present a smile, Deidara suspected now would be one of those moments. "For getting better, I like you as my partner, Sempai." With those words, Deidara froze. Tobi took his advantage and the short distance between them was gaped as Tobi caught him in a sudden bear hug.

His initial reaction, more like an instinct, was to push and shove the idiot off. It was what the man deserved for being so clingy and needy all the time. Tobi was a lot of things: foremost, an idiot; but, secondly, he was his partner. And even though it might just be his post-sickness affecting him, Deidara did not shove Tobi's awkward sign of affection off.

And although he would rather explode twenty times over before admitting it, Deidara didn't actually mind Tobi all the time as a partner either. The man might be fool, weak, a coward, and many others unnamed insults, but he looked up to Deidara and admired him. And an artist was nothing if someone didn't acknowledge his art.

So Deidara allowed Tobi this one moment- only one. Because, the next time that he would attempt something like this, Deidara wouldn't be so nice about it- partner or not.

A/N: Reviews? I'd love to receive some. *hint, hint* ;)