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The Moss

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Douglas Street, Humboldt County, CA 08/02/1992

Shadows creep up with the setting of the summer sun. More cavernous than the black of the dimmed forest, their whispers fuse into the thick fog that winds itself through the trees, warning of impending rain. They dance in Sasori’s peripheral, spindled fingers waving and faces camouflaged. 

He exhales and presses his clasped hands to his forehead. They don’t shut up anymore. He can’t tell if it’s his blood running too hot or the sweat tacked down his spine that’s catching him frigid. He chews on the left side of his tongue, trying to ignore the already split skin searing the inside of his mouth.

The umbras are chatty tonight. Harvest season creeps up and they have their own reaping scheduled, trailing Sasori and his ever-wary steps. This evening, they are not angry. Instead, they coax against the shell of his ears, murmuring secrets that only he understands. He respects these shapeless beings as he does the curtained forest that towers over his isolated cabin.

Those that are desperate become envious. Sasori, in the mountains since the ripe age of fifteen, knows this well. He tucks a lock of fiery red hair behind his ear before letting his hand fall to the M-16 resting between his knees. Had to give his shoulders a rest. And when did his back start knotting up this bad? Getting old is no good for anyone. He’s trying to stay alive forever and the haunting reminder of age only solidifies his mortality. 

The woods are still. They settle themselves for the dancing shadows in his cochlea with baited breaths and honey filled gasps.

He told Yura to show up near an hour ago.

Not sure what’s worse. Thieves, or tardiness. Doesn’t much matter, since this kid happens to be both. The trimmers are coming by with quicker expiration dates, gone with the sanctuary that these redwoods used to hold. Killed with Sasori’s coming of age and the booming popularity of the marijuana trade. The seventies and eighties are over and new pairs of boots are trekking themselves in.

Suits him just fine. With a flick of his zippo, pot stains otherwise fresh air. 

It’s not until he’s near halfway through the joint he’s tucked behind his ear that he hears Yura’s truck roll up. A thousand times, he’s told this idiot to ditch it for the ATV once he hits the gate. 

Like anyone fucking listens to him. Sasori rolls his eyes and takes another puff as his trimmer hits the lights and heaves himself out from the truck. Late night calls from Sasori aren’t unusual. Up all the time and work always on the brain.

The voices hiss that there’s no need for formality. A thief is a thief, and it’s an eye for an eye when the police see local growers as criminals. Better for them to just kill each other than waste the taxpayer dollar. It’s not the dope, thank God, but things start to go missing. Extra pills, shots of whiskey, little things here and there that Sasori watches like a hawk and no one else thinks he would notice. 

Let’s get this over with.

Soon as he sees the whites of Yura’s eyes, the shadows tell Sasori to show this son of a bitch the gravity of what he’s done.

He cocks his gun, whizzing the first bullet by Yura’s head and splintering it into the heaving redwood that sits behind. The trees are no strangers to gunfire, but this one still whines at the ragged puncture.

“Run,” is all Sasori says, sandy voice hardening to slicked glass. 

Yura freezes. Fight nor flight seem to be his specialty. Maybe he doesn’t understand the gravity of his situation? They always look like they’re going to shit themselves. Sasori fires another warning shot, embedding it only centimeters from the already splintered bark. “I’m not repeating myself. And I’m not waiting.” 

It sinks in and his prey takes off. 

Finally.

The echo of leaves underfoot fades, leaving Sasori with his murmurs and the coo of an owl taking shelter in overhead branches.

Yura doesn’t know his way around at night. Very few, even the locals, will test the limits of the Redwood Curtain.

Sasori’s become something of a special case, so he can afford to give the guy a head start. 

He’ll catch up anyway, his umbras reassure him. How many nights have we spent in these woods? They goad. His legs sprawled out and his hands buried in ATV repairs until he sat, babbling to himself, as if someone else would come by to listen. There were people, before, that said they could smell the cooking. That Sasori could be found even out of sight. Burnt plastic became his cologne, and a glassy dissociation coated over his mascara decorated lashes. 

No time for all that prep.

Inside, he breaks up a pill with the bottom of his flask, dicing up two crystalline white lines that smile up at him. Yura’s betrayal means the night shift. From the corner of his eye, the shadow of his father shakes his head. “I know, Pa. I’ve got plenty of time to sleep tomorrow.” His mouth is already dry with yearning anticipation. “It’s an emergency.”

He peeks his head around a little more often. His mom tends to just wave him in and out of the house.

It’s two rhythmic snorts, the wrinkle of his nose, and a third for good measure, filling the back of his throat with that familiar numbing sting. 

“See?” he mutters to the ghost of his father. “For good luck.”

Cut, snort, swallow.

Time to get this over with. Even in the summer, the nighttime brings a steady cool that has him bundling up in his long sleeve, ribbed turtleneck. The navy fabric hugging soft to his crawling skin, he hikes the M-16 back over his shoulder and pats at his pockets to make sure he’s got his keys.

“Goodnight, Ma!” He yells back into the house with a wave, smiling when they remind him not to stay out too late.

Sizzling plastic in the back of his throat, he lets out a bellowing whoop and crashes his way through the trees. The shadows take him by the hand and peel back their coaxes to snarls.

Chapter Text

Garberville, Humboldt County, CA 08/26/1987

Those who are meant to stay go to Humboldt State University. Those who are meant to go get the hell out without so much as a forlorn glance behind them. That’s the thing--Humboldt has a strange way of escorting those who don’t belong right out the door. Some, kindly. Others, less so. 

When you’ve lived here your whole life, things aren’t so cut and dry. Even the smallest towns have their politics and pissing contests. Gaara waters the shriveled fern next to his bed. It seems to ball even further into itself, uninterested in his offering. You too, huh? 

He’s tempted to shove the dying plant into the trash. Instead, he plucks off the dead leaves, little more than the plant’s struggling stem left behind.

Their silent house, save for the sound of his ticking clock, is a ball and chain. Soon, even more so. Temari and Kankuro will be going back to university. For the next few weeks, they’ll spend their days at the lake with friends and at the bars in town. Companionship came easy to them while Gaara tumbled to the sidelines, eyes downcast and teeth bared.

He, instead, has the Police Academy to look forward to. Their county isn’t progressive enough for female officers and Kankuro dodged that bullet with a degree in criminal justice. Process of elimination gives the youngest the shit end of the stick.

Gaara says no, but no isn’t an option. This is an honor that’s been passed down from his father’s father to him. It’s a noxious curse that sandpapers his mouth. His father is a man obsessed with pride and tradition, cracking his hands down on the table and screaming until Gaara is quieted into submission. He’d asked for this opportunity about as eagerly as he asked for the fists Rasa distributed after a long overtime shift and a few drinks too many.

The first he hears of it, Gaara’s grounded the rest of the summer after nearly bashing in Dosu’s ribs with a rusted pipe. 

He will be polite, he will be respectful, he will be proper, so his father says.

This is his last chance, so he’d better damn well keep himself in line.

Gaara celebrates by draining a bottle of Goldschlager tucked away at the bottom of Kankuro’s closet. Too sweet, the liquor coats a thick cinnamon film over his tongue and threatens, when he takes too large a gulp, to come back up. Goes down easier than whiskey, though. Kankuro has never been a classy drinker and it sure is saving him now. 

Kankuro’s done him another favor by leaving his truck in the driveway.

What’s he waiting for? He’s going to get the hell out of this piss town. No one’s home to stop him. Swimming vision, Gaara packs a bag of belongings that don’t make sense—no shirts, three pairs of pants, mismatched socks, and his hygiene products swept unceremoniously from his desk into his duffel bag. He’ll ditch the truck downtown and catch the bus. Kankuro can know after he’s well out of town.

Perfect.

Wait.

He changes into fresh clothes for the trip, tugging on ripped black jeans, an oversized Slayer t-shirt, and fingerless gloves lined with spikes along the wrist. With his chipped nails, he picks at his eyebrows. Or, where they’d been. His thumbnail scrapes over the plucked skin, itching instead. A wince, and he plucks out one of the few remaining hairs.

In the mirror, his eyes dart around, trying to find his face. They’ll catch up in a second.

Damn, he’s wasted.

The sun’s setting. He should get going before everyone gets home. Keys are nowhere to be found, but that’s not a problem. Without thinking twice, he jerks the wires from inside Kankuro’s Ford, striking the reds together and kick starting the engine to life. Gaara accidentally whips the truck into reverse, slamming into the tree beside their driveway. The whiplash erupts black spots over his vision, but it doesn’t set the airbag off. Lucky.

Shit. 

He’s going to miss the bus.

In drive this time, Gaara peels off their property and towards Garberville, ricocheting down Route 101. No one’s out around now. Not for a few miles, where civilization starts to creep back up. The wind whips his hair in his face, and he breathes out a sigh of relief.

Ditch the truck, leave some money in the glove compartment. No way the truck went unharmed.

Soon as Gaara turns on the radio, he blacks out.


Lee graduates high school as the track team’s captain. With a full ride to Boston College, he has a bright future and a team that insists on throwing him a party in celebration of his relentless training and expansive future.

A party isn’t much without food or drinks. Always happy to, Lee volunteers to pick up pizza from The Humboldt Bar and Grill. 

“It’s pretty lame to pick up food for your own party,” Naruto says with his hands tucked behind his head. Hardly a surprise when it falls on deaf ears.

“It is no problem!” Lee brushes off. “I would like to finish my cool down on the way over,” he insists, stretching his arm over his head, easing it back with his free hand. Sunset is starting to burst in heaps over their silent town, illuminating the crooked teeth of surrounding bushels of pine trees.

Naruto shrugs and kicks an orphaned rock into the street. A car whizzing by runs it over, bouncing it into a storm drain. “You sure you don’t want a ride?”

Lee waves his hand in front of his face. “I insist. It will only take me a few minutes.”

With the sky kissed sherbert, he takes off to the center of town with a brisk jog. Wouldn’t it be sinful not to take advantage of such a lovely day? He keeps his breaths in even, trained breaths and his eyes set straight ahead.

For Humboldt, this time of year is busy. Still, busy doesn’t mean much with the streets still left largely empty on his trek. His father tells him the east coast has cities filled wall to wall with people. Something new to Lee that has him giddy and apprehensive.

At the grill, pizza takes twenty-five minutes. 

If he can get back in fifteen minutes, that would be faster than last month. The food means he can’t jog, though. Lee spends his time trying to step on the breaks in the pavement, making his way down the sidewalk in too long strides that leave the tourists staring. Most everyone else’s used to him by now.

The crossing signal blinks for him to go, and he starts to bounce across, hopping from one white line to the next. Lee sees the flashing headlights too late, already in the middle of the road when the truck lays on its horn.

Doesn’t lay so much on the breaks.

The Ford flying through town hits Lee’s left side and his body shatters rings across the windshield on impact.


Gaara wakes to a swarm of paramedics and the toiled wailing of ambulances. Where is he? Freezing gooseflesh runs up his arms, thousands of bumps that make his hair stand on end. He cranes his gaze up and the night sky spins. Nauseous. When did the sun set? His head feels like it’s gotten smashed with a hammer, throbbing and disoriented. Gaara presses his palm to his forehead, covering his tattoo and smearing sweat down his temple. 

Everything hurts.

The Goldschlager runs stale on his breath, a bitter aftertaste in the wake of a bitter accident. Skyward, the stars are a jittered blur. They mock him, pointing to the blood covered tarmac and the last taste of freedom that’s spilled with it.

His duffel bag is five feet from the truck, strewn amidst the bloodied street. 

Whose blood? He’s definitely not bleeding. The EMTs haven’t left him with any bandages. Gaara pats at his face. A split lip, but the rest feels like bruising. Or internal. Minus the feeling of an impending explosion inside his skull, he’s fine. Sore, but fine.

“ ‘m okay, ‘m okay,” Gaara slurs, slapping away the EMT’s hand with a disinterested sneer. Nothing’s broken. From the looks of it, emergency services only just showed up. He tries to stand up slow, gags, and throws up on the ground beside him. It comes out of his mouth and should sting his nose, but it’s all white noise. Fuck, his ears are ringing. On his feet, he grasps his head with both hands, blinking himself rapidly to reality. 

There’s someone more pressing to attend to. That’s not fucking good.

Gaara opens and closes his fist, staring down the wrinkles on his palm while he begs his vision to go back to normal. His head’s stuck in a world that’s upside down, ice under his skin despite summer’s heated reminders.

Is this his body? Can’t feel myself move .

Around him is pandemonium. Paramedics rush with the state of the scene around them, but they drag along unbearably slow in Gaara’s jittering vision. With ambulances come the fire department and police.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck fuck

The truck is on its side, the windshield shattered front and center in heaped rings. No doubt, it’s totaled to hell. The back had been messed up from the tree. The side made sense. What’d he hit in front?

Right.

They’d left him on a stretcher. Something else must’ve—

Gaara swallows a gasp when his legs, disconnected, brings him closer. Burnt rubber stings his nostrils and iron cuts even through that.

There’s a body in the middle of the street. 

Crushed. Is it? Gaara’s inching into the accident despite the screaming in his legs telling him to sit down. He sucks in a shaky breath, but it does him little good. Gaara shouldn’t be looking at this. It churns his stomach and he’s ill. Cottonmouth sticks his tongue to the roof of his mouth, and he wants, more than anything, to scream.

He’s killed someone.

I’m so fucked.

God, and he’s still trashed.

Bitterly, he can’t help laughing to himself that he’s struck out at his chance at the Academy.

Oh, thank God .

They’re still breathing, he reassures himself.

Gaara catches a tanned face and jet-black hair plastered in a wrecked bowl cut against his gnashed face. Foreboding, his stomach tells him not to retch again. I’m dead . Half of his face split open—the windshield? —and gushed blood down his jaw and throat, pooling into the hood of his mustard and green jogger. 

Someone tried to use his clothes to stop the bleeding.

“When did he get up? Get him into the ambulance. We have to get this one stabilized!”

Stabilized .

I’m dead I’m so screwed I’m so screwed.

They take him away on a stretcher, hooked up in the ambulance with oxygen and an IV in the crook of his elbow. 

Rasa’s not the one on the scene, acting as a small blessing on its own. The heaped over pedestrian is taken to the hospital. Gaara’s brought in the back of Fugaku’s cruiser. Reeking of cinnamon schnapps and weed, he’s the family disappointment. The disturbed one. 

The ride is graveyard silent, with Gaara’s arms crossed over his chest and fixed on the barely lit road ahead of them. 

“Your father doesn’t need this from you , too,” Fugaku chastises, stealing glances in the rear view mirror at defiant eyes. Gaara’s heard the whole song and dance before, whispers of a dysfunctional family surrounded by death that does him no favors.

A redheaded boy spotted in the woods before two high schoolers disappear. Again a year later. Baggies of powder and weed stashed away in gym bags, books, anything. He’s a reminder of the past, and a disturbed man that’d plagued their family near decades ago.

“Do you know how much he does for you? A single dad putting three kids through college. How many kids would pay to be in your shoes, Gaara?”

He doesn’t bother answering Fugaku. The disappointment seems rhetorical, anyway. It’s always about Rasa. His reputation, his future, his goals. Gaara knows that well, from the aged welts on his back and the plumes of bruising they’ve left behind. 

Salt in the wound, Fugaku leads him in through the front door, stumbling and vision wavy. Hospitals are always so bright , and their small town emergency room is no different. Chairs covered in ancient patterned cotton. 

Greenish linoleum frowns up at him, nodding to the corner of the room. Stuffed into one of the seats is a hulking man with the same shining black hair as the boy he hit, leg trembling and his hands clasped together at his face in a silent prayer. Beside him, a silver haired man in a loose tie-dyed tank top and his hand on the other’s knee. 

They’re devastated.

Gaara can’t wrap his head around it.

Similar to the tarmac, he’s a liability at the hospital. Nurses and doctors whizz around him, trying to avoid a fatality. How fast had he been going? He’d been late for the bus. Well over the speed limit from what Kankuro’s truck looked like.

I’m going to jail.

His stomach sinks, but the shame comes instead with intake questions and  the disgusted frowns when the nurses hear about why he’s here and what he’s done. They’ll whisper that he’s pissing away his future and the future of someone else.

While a nurse flashes lights in his eyes to check for a concussion, he watches two doctors rush his victim’s stretcher in for emergency surgery.

The next morning, Gaara is sent to his uncle, Yashamaru, for intensive psychotherapy in Arcata.

Chapter Text

Garberville, Humboldt County, CA 08/04/1992

Hidan tells him a thousand times not to hitchhike. Not in Garberville.

Hidan also tells him he’ll remember to pick him when the bus drops him off at eight because it’s going to rain. And he doesn’t want to be stuck finding a payphone at night in the middle of a fucking hick town. 

There’s plenty of stupid things he’s done that haven’t killed him yet. What’s one more? 

Deidara points his thumb to the sky by what looks like a road to the mountain. The bus stop sits half a mile away, right next to a cop that’d been giving him the eye since he’d hit town. He’s a tourist, no doubt, with his golden blond hair tumbling down his back and the knapsack he picked up from the Army Navy store clutched in his sweaty palm.

Sure enough, the storm’s giving him an outstanding welcome. Water slicks down his leather jacket, most of the damage landing on his jeans and hair. He just wants to wash his face and get some rest.

There’s not too much going on in this little backwater town. Garberville is silent, save for the roll of the tires over cracked asphalt and the shivering pound of rain. Fuckin’ hell was is thinking? Hidan isn’t going to pick him up tonight. 

He’s an adult, he can figure it out.

Three tries at the payphone, so he’ll catch a ride for the night and deal with it in the morning. Up to Alderpoint, then to Rancho Sequoia for a couple months.

He needs money and this is the quickest way to go about it.

Finally, a Ford F-150 that takes pity on him, halting with the driver’s side squaring his face. One good eye squinted, he presses his tongue to the roof of his mouth as the window rolls down. Hopefully not a creep. In his pocket, he grasps his pistol. A little insurance never hurt anyone. 

“You’re drenched.” It’s softer than he expects, this voice, and all he can make out is a head of fiery red hair and mascara covered lashes. “Where’re you trying to go?” Moonlight alone isn’t enough to catch his features.

Deidara waves towards the rising trees past town. “Way over. Up at Rancho Sequoia, hn.” Couldn’t point it out on a map if you asked him, but he hopes the locals know their way around. Hidan’s told him there’s only so many roads you can go down.

The driver clicks his tongue and shakes his head. “Not at this time of night. Get in.” He rolls the window up and unlocks the other doors.

Deidara doesn’t think twice. Tugging the passenger side open, he wrings out his hair and ducks into the truck, shoving his overloaded knapsack between his knees. Rolls his tongue piercing between his lips and let his head lull against his propped fist. 

Tar turns to gravel. Gravel crumbles away to an uneven dirt that rocks them on their way up the hill. The truck bounces up the road, kicking up rocks and twigs that’d rolled in their way. Sasori’s painted fingernails tremble against the wheel, knocking out inharmonious taps to mirror the tune of the beating rain. Fog lines the streets, ghosting in overbearing rolls over the windshield.

He’d asked for seclusion, hadn’t he? Deidara clears his throat and drifts his attention back to the driver. “Who am I thanking for the ride, hn?” 

“Sasori.” Great, chatty.

“My man, Sasori. I’m telling you, I appreciate it. It’s pissin’ buckets out there.” His soaked hair falls over his shoulder, tracing damp swirls on his leather jacket. This escort isn’t much of a talker. 

“This isn’t the place to be hitchhiking,” Sasori dismisses. He’s pallid, with a cold sweat lining his brow. Coming down. Or coming up. 

He looks young. 

Waved red hair and a smooth, freckled face. He glances at Deidara with flashes of honey dipped brown eyes, and past his indifference is something wild. Intense and probing, claws right into Deidara’s flesh and clasp on.

“Well, I guess it’s good a guy like you picked me up, isn’t it, hn?” He clicks his nail against the window. “Deidara.” It doesn’t hurt to be friendly, does it? He juts out his jaw and chews on the inside of his cheek. 

Sasori laughs, a wispy breath that cuts to Deidara’s bones. “If you say so.” From behind his ear, his unsteady fingers pluck out a tightly rolled joint and pop it between his teeth. “Do you smoke, Deidara?”

“Who doesn’t, hn? Do you think I’m up here just to putz around?”

Jarred hesitation stops the lighter in front of his face. Sasori slows the truck to a low roll and he lights the joint with a lick of fire. Flame brings his mania tainted eyes to life. He blinks slow, searching the night swallowed road and the faded holes the street lights disappear into. 

The joint gets passed over and Deidara takes it gratefully between his thumb and index finger. “Knock yourself out.”

“Thanks, hn. Whatd’ya do for work up here?” This doesn’t look like a place hippies were starting flourishing communities in. The street signs they sweep by are puckered with bullet holes while abandoned vehicles lay heaped into uneven towers. License plates scraped clean. Something he needs to remember as the woods swallow them up. Crazy shit happens up here. “Woah,” Deidara exhales with a dramatic cough. Did Sasori just roll his eyes? “Where’d you get this, hn?”

“Around.” 

“From a farm? Is it your farm?”

This guy’s getting pissed at him. Deidara chews his tongue and stares back out the window. Just as quickly as the headlights pass, the woods lapse back to black. While he takes another toke, he reads the snippet of a missing person’s poster smeared across a scratched-up tree.

He can disappear anywhere in these woods.

“People don’t like it when you ask a lot of questions.”  

“Oh, no, it’s not like that,” he tries to backtrack. “I’m just coming up here to work for my buddy. He makes uh…rope, hn,” Deidara explains with a quick wink. 

“People don’t like it when you spread their business around here, either.” 

Okay, this time he did roll his eyes. Deidara wants to laugh. He’s grouchy. And cute. 

Despite his protests, Sasori taps a little harder at the steering wheel. “What does he look like?” A curious glance and a shift in his seat. He eases on the clutch and his truck almost coughs.

So much for minding their own business. “Oh, I’m sure you don’t know him.”

“Alderpoint has a population of one hundred and fourteen people.” And he’s a little too serious. Twitchy. The redwood curtain leads them onto a dirt road. A rough bump locks Deidara’s fingers to the armrest. “Everybody knows everybody here.”

“Okay, geez. He’s got, like, silver hair. And uh…what else. He’s one of those jackasses that always wears a leather jacket without a shirt on under—”

“Wait, Hidan ?”

Deidara cackles. Some names stood out no matter where you went. “Yeah! That’s the guy, hn.” 

Exasperated, Sasori brings his hand to the bridge of his nose. Irritated, almost, as if he hadn’t taken this task upon himself. “Jesus. You know, that makes sense now.” 

“What?” Deidara practically yells. “Why?”

Because you’ve been screaming since you got in my fucking truck!” 

“Woah, look who’s talking about volume, hn.” But he knows Hidan and that’s something of a reassurance. Tells himself to make it so.

 

“Trust me; you’re loud, kid.” Sasori’s knee shakes next to the stick shift. “Either way, it’s not a place to go after dark.” The trees loom over them, offering the same, heaving warning. This is not a place to play outdoorsman. Disapproving giants. Deidara feels like a fucking bug, weaving through them at their mercy.

“Looks like we’re out in the sticks.”

“We are out in the sticks.”

“You seem like a skittish guy.”

Tense. Sasori clicks his tongue. His Doe eyes check around them. “I am.” 

Not much of a joker, either. 

His escort sighs and flicks his high beams on, then off again. Doesn’t do much between the storm and the woods. “I have a trailer you can spend the night in.”

Deidara stares straight ahead. “I have a gun.”

They both know about the M-16 peeking out from the rearview mirror. “Me too.”

“So, there won’t be any problems, hn.”

“Right.” 

Better to get a good look at him. Sasori’s young, from what he can tell. He’s seen some shit, though . His lips purse themselves into a flushed pout, a damp hint of saliva on his bottom lip. Seems to be staring at something no one else can see. Searching.

Hidan’s is the end goal. But his commitments are as fleeting as his works of art, as is his impulse control. “Yeah. I’m beat, it took so long to get here, hn.” Fuck it.

“Sure. Let’s head up.”

Just needs to remember his gun.

The dirt road brings them to a pitch black Deidara’s never seen before. Rain is bullets against the truck’s roof, roaring in his ears. They pass a mangled NO TRESPASSERS sign and barbed wire clipped and strewn about. Jesus. He rubs his face to make sure he’s seeing the right thing. This is not what Hidan had described. 

It’s too dark to see most of the property, but he can make out the cabin and the trailer nestled beside it. Sasori comes to a halt near the porch and kills the engine. “Come in for a drink. And…be careful in the dark here.” He creaks his door open and tugs off his seatbelt. 

Never a warning to be taken lightly, Deidara nods in agreement, trying to see as far as he could with his good eye. “I’ll keep that in mind, hn.”

“The roots tend to…” Sasori hesitates, searching. With downward turned lips, he greets the night. “…swallow you whole.” He’s small, with a rail thin frame and an arm outstretched to his cabin.

Deidara doesn’t know any better and with his jacket over his head, follows him inside.

Chapter Text

NOTE: For anyone reading this in a public space, we want to flag that some of the illustrations added in this chapter is slightly nsfw!  


Douglas Street, Humboldt County, CA 08/05/1992

Sasori readjusts his pinch on the hose hiked over his shoulder, a gurgle of water splashing onto his beat-up hiking boots. The sun thinks about rising, starting to spill paneled warmth through the underbrush where it can manage to pierce past its dense foliage. Its light washes away the animosity of the hills, and Sasori breathes it out as a deflated sigh. It feels like it’ll be warm, especially for the beginning of August.

He sucks on another one of his joints, soothing the ache when his eyes fall open and shut. Sleep after his benders is like dipping his toes into TV static. Evening purgatory crackles around him, subsiding to a muted sunrise and a splitting headache. Sasori leans his neck to the left until he hears a crack, then to the right. He stretches, balancing for a second on the balls of his feet, free hand over his head, sighing at the relief down his spine.

Did he eat anything yesterday? His stomach twists and bites acid at itself. Nope, forgot again. The hunger is nauseating, only exacerbated by the bluish smoke creeping out of his joint. The females stay here, and the decoys, already watered, sits half a mile away.

Years ago, he set up a system to pull water to his property from the local river. Siphoned through miles of piping, hoses, and tubing, it’s his lifeline. Kakuzu told him the plants absorb nutrients best if watered in the morning. Hasn’t led him astray yet.

The seclusion flocks people up the mountain to grow for cash. Sasori’s interested in keeping to himself and scraping by. Unfortunately, there’s been no such thing the last few years, with product prices soaring to the thousands for a single pound of marijuana. Government intervention only threw gasoline onto the black-market embers, plunging the peace and love of the seventies to cartel-like warfare.

By ferns, weeds, and decoy vegetables, he’s tucked amidst towering plants and cloaked in nature’s embrace. He tucks his ball cap further over his face. Scratching at his freckled arm, he whistles along with a screaming bird in the trees and starts himself another joint.

The sun on his shoulders is bright, threatening to burn. He douses the plants, fanning the hose’s water to a spray with his thumb over the nozzle. Water seeps in fat droplets to the soil and Sasori, weight on his right leg, lets the leftover stream trickle as it pleases.

His shadows bid their goodbyes to daylight, leaving him content with the peace he finds hidden amongst the plants.


The old clock in the trailer reads 4:45 but Deidara’s watch says 5:45. Sasori’s trailer is ancient, donning fake wooden paneling, some parts peeling and others chipped, and pink curtains hanging from the small rectangle window above a sink that doesn’t work.

It’s less intimidating in the light. The forest still has an eerie wind to it despite the near stilled summer morning that might burn to a hot sunrise. Outside is fresh pine and dirt. Jeans and Cherry Bomb shirt dried from last night’s storm, he readjusts his ponytail and paces around the property. There’s no sign of Sasori and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to sleep in. Chickens in the backyard whistle around their coop, some waddling around in circles and others taking refuge in the houses lined underneath a shaded patch of trees.

Past them, a stretched hose leads into the woods. Following the snaking rubber, Deidara’s led through a winding patch of trees. The tubing stretches for what feels like miles, and he smells the pot before he sees it. The puttering of water is like a jet engine amidst silent trees. The morning smells like pine and dew, weighing down emerald ferns and thick buds from the plants around him.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

He turns the corner and Sasori’s standing stark naked, hose hooked over his shoulder.

Deidara’s first inclination is to stare a little too long.

Deidara’s second inclination is to choke out a startled yell.

Sasori’s is to blast him with the hose. He aims for the eyes with a startled yelp, followed by a shrill “ Don’t look!

Fuck, my eye, hn!” Deidara chokes on the water blasting against his face with wet coughs, covering his face with his forearms. “Why! Why why why why wouldn’t you have clothes on, hn?!” he screams, mortified at the bright burn that’s sparked alive over his face. Even beneath the cold film of water, he’s on fire. 

Deidara whips himself around and shields his view with his hands. Before he does, he catches sight of silver scars that run over his arms and down his sides. Some look like scratches, others: cuts. Along his wrist, the markings of cigarette burns and knife wounds. Moonlit crescents white against alabaster skin.

“I forgot I picked you up last night!” Sasori yells behind him, voice sharpening an octave at the end of his screech.

“My man, we talked in your truck for forty minu—”

“Because I was high enough to see God . Stop turning this way !”

He knew it. “What? I what ? You—”

GO.

Deidara takes off and he’s not sure what’s worse—the burning in his lungs or the blush on his cheeks. He waits in the trailer with a shaking knee, rolling his hair around his fingers until he hears Sasori storm back and slam his cabin door shut. 

Eek . Deidara’s teeth are fuzzy underneath his tongue. With what water he has left from the bottle he’d grabbed at a CITGO on the way up, he brushes his teeth behind the trailer with his travel-pack and wipes at his face with a moist towelette he’d found in the bottom of his bag.

The cabin door swings back open and Deidara’s heart rate goes right through the roof. He can’t think of a single good way to approach this. Tucking the toothbrush back into its case and shoving that and the crumpled up towelette into his back pocket, he turns the corner.

Fuck.

And he stared way too long.

Sasori’s down his front steps, maroon pants with pleated knees hugging his hips while he pulls an old Miller High Life tank on over his head. It’s ratty near the hem, with moth chewed holes and stains running up in faded splotches all over.

“Hey, uh—” Okay. Don’t make it weird .

It’s already weird.

“We’re not discussing it,” Sasori decides flatly, and that’s that. He’s distracted, then, by a faded ripple of gunshots.

Embarrassed dread is a pit in Deidara’s gut.

“Sorry, I just—” The wifebeater doesn’t do much to cover him up. Deidara can still trace one of the scars that dips over his ribs. He knows he’s staring and if—

“What? You want to see it again?” Sasori snaps, grasping his waistband as Deidara sputters a frantic “ no no no no no no !”

He lets his hands sit on his hips instead, shaking his head in something that looks mixed between disgust and disbelief. Then, almost robotic, he points to the porch. “There’s oatmeal.” Turns back. “I’ll take you to Hidan’s after we eat.”

Deidara coughs into his fist.  “Hn?”

Sasori doesn’t repeat himself.

“Bathroom’s out back. I’ve got a setup in the cabin with water.”

Oh, thank God.

Uncomfortable run in or not, something’s different from the night before. Sasori’s…spacey, almost. Pacing around the property, he’s distracted easily by whatever he decides interests him. And sometimes, when he turns his back, Deidara feels like that the fascination falls even to him. He dawdles, eventually, back to the porch and sits himself in the carved rocking chair propped beside the front door. On the small table next to it, he has two small wooden bowls.

Why not? Deidara sits himself on the cabin’s steps, back pressed to part of the railing. Whenever he turns away, he feels Sasori’s eyes on him.

Fuck, he doesn’t have enough self-control for this.

--

Deidara offers to do the dishes. This is before he realizes that Sasori’s siphoned his water from, apparently , the other side of the fucking country.

“You motherfucker, hn! ” he curses to himself, pumping at the contraption that Sasori, apparently, excuses for a sink. Looking around when he finally gets water to come pouring from the faucet, Deidara doesn’t spot a single light switch or outlet in the entire common space.

Outside of a phone hooked up to a wire that dips back outside and to God knows where, there’s no electricity. What century am I in ?

“Alright, let’s get you out of here.” Sasori, interrupting his musings, comes from what must be his bedroom carrying a handful of bandanas. He places them evenly on the kitchen table. He lingers over the green bandana before changing his mind and seizing the bright blue one. He tosses it over, folded in a neat triangle. “Put this over your face.”

What the hell?

There hasn’t been the sound of another human around since he was picked up. Deciding his new acquaintance is plagued with a more than serious case of paranoia, Deidara fastens the bandana over his face, inhaling sandalwood and worn cotton. Scratchy at one point, the fibers have worn themselves down to an almost flannel-like touch. Sasori fastens his own, bright red, over his nose and mouth, only his eyes peeking out between that and the hat. Bright doe eyes blink at him, inquisitive.

“You do everything strangers ask you?” Sasori asks, almost bewildered as he leads them off the porch and around the back. Two ATV’s nestled under a landscaping tarp, he drags it off one and hikes himself onto it, nodding for Deidara to follow. Confused, he turns and points back to the truck. “We’re not going on the road. Get on. I’m never late.”

This is weird as shit . But this is what he’s up here to see. This guy hasn’t murdered him yet, so Deidara throws caution to the wind and hops onto the ATV, squeezed on behind Sasori. “Hold on.”

“Okay, hn,” he says, snaking his arms around Sasori’s narrow waist. Hands laced together, one is ripped away at the wrist and forced up his other forearm.

“Like this. Tighter grip,” he explains gruffly. “It’s not a smooth ride.” His arms lean into Sasori’s ribs, heated warm from the sun. Deidara adjusts his arms again, shifting his hand a little further up. “Good?”

“Good, hn.”

Deidara clutches down hard. The woods are pathless, the ATV crashing through trees and dips in the forest that had him lurching in the seat and pressing his chest hard into the curve of Sasori’s spine. He smells of shampoo and dope, wafting from a joint that seems permanently fixated behind his ear. Down his bare arms are scratches and cuts, some surface level and others deeper, healed raised off his skin in gnarled branches. His shoulders, lined with sparse freckles, are a burnt reddish brown by the baking summer sun. He’s lean, wiry, and next to nothing in Deidara’s grasp. Still, a fierce rigidity to his body trains his muscles and keeps him solid.

He seems like he’s always on edge. Night, he understands. But daylight brings out the ethereal nature of the redwoods. They’re their own skyscrapers, rendering them insects in the thousands of miles they trapse over. The air is fresher here than San Francisco. Pine and earth are a pleasant break from exhaust and the unidentifiable smells that come with any major metropolitan city.

The underbrush is thick enough to shield the moss from burning, letting it line the trees and fallen logs in an emerald cloak.

It’s fifteen minutes before Sasori’s slamming on the breaks. There’s a breach in trees, surrounded by the familiar KEEP OUT and NO TRESPASSING signs. Who the fuck did they expect to bump into up here? Whether it’s paranoia or reasonable caution, the general consensus is that you don’t snoop around here. And if you’re caught, there’s consequences. “Here we are,” Sasori waves, prying Deidara’s arms off him so he can hop off the ATV.

“Wow, hn.” He follows, moving slower and taking the time to peer up and circle himself around. He’s never seen a place so beautiful. The lush overbrush captivates him, planting the start of their roots near his feet. The night is long forgotten, and he’s tumbled into a paradise he’s never known.

Why hadn’t he done this sooner?

The trip must’ve been communicated beforehand. The gates creak open and Deidara hears the “Yo, asshole!” before Hidan comes barreling out, clad in the same black jeans and studded leather jacket he’d worn since college. Steel toed boots and a circular pendant with a triangle inside around his neck, he drags along with him the marred, ratty looking man that starred in most of the Polaroids they exchanged.

One thing was for sure, they sure didn’t share the same taste in men.

Hidan had come crashing into Deidara’s orbit like a meteor, but out here, he's wilder than at university. Twigs caught in his slicked back, silver hair, he’s turned into a surefire, off the grid hick.

“My man, what the fuck happened to picking me up, hn?”

“I fuckin’ swear I didn’t think you were coming until tomorrow!”

He holds his arms out wide to Deidara for a hug and a slap on the back. Pain in the ass . Still, he returns the gesture and immediately reels back.

“My man, you reek of body spray, hm,” Deidara says with a disgusted wince. On top of that, he catches the gun hooked to his hip.

“Fuck yeah, dude. I’ve been doing bullshit yardwork all morning thanks to this jag.” Hidan jabs towards his  partner, who’s been sucked into a side conversation with his travel companion. He towers well over Sasori, tattooed arms crossed over his chest. He’s tanned leather from hours in the sun, his stringed chestnut hair tied to a sloppy, unwashed ponytail.

Nasty , just take a fuckin’ shower.”

“We ain’t all livin’ the fuckin’ high life over here!” Hidan yells, nodding towards Sasori. “Prissy ass setups are rare out here.”

Deidara squints. Is bathing prissy to him? “That’s gross, man, hn.” Wait. He’s thought of something more important. “You’re not gonna introduce me, hn?” he half shouts, ogling at the towering man before him. He’s got scars like Sasori’s, some much deeper. No doubt a few gunshot wounds. Deidara can’t stop staring at the nasty, indented slice that runs a valley from the corner of his mouth and across his cheek, extending to where part of his earlobe should be.

This guy looks like he’s straight out of a horror movie. Definitely different taste in men. “Calm your tits. This is Kakuzu, he’s fuckin’ around with us for the season.”

Kakuzu makes no motion to shake his hand and leers at him with unsettlingly green eyes, scleras tattooed a morbid red. He doesn’t look any better than Hidan, with greasy hair and wearing only a dust-covered, black tank top and camouflage pants. Cuffed tattoos line his forearms, one broken up by a deep white bolt of a scar.

“Cool. Oh, shit , that scar is gnarly . Looks like you got stabbed right in the throat.” Not someone Deidara would want to bump into in an alleyway.

Kakuzu stares at him. Does he blink? “Yeah. It’s from getting stabbed in the throat.”

Oh.

Alright.


Hidan and Deidara talk over each other. Are they yelling? Sasori rubs at his temples. They’re fuming, until Kakuzu can’t take it anymore.

“Shut the fuck up! ” He screams, snapping harsh silence over the two. “The two of you, go over there and scream your heads off, alright?”

Thankfully, they’re happy enough to take twelve of the beers and clamor off. “Whatever. Fuckin’ buzzkills,” Hidan cackles with a flash of his middle finger. He throws his arm around Deidara’s shoulder, tugging him close as they dipped off into the woods.

Sasori watches Deidara straighten himself in the greasy embrace.

Even out of sight, their yells echo in irritating barrels through the trees. “My ears,” Sasori groans, collapsing to the ground and propping himself against one of the redwoods. Kakuzu takes a seat on the collapsed log beside him. They’re miniscule, compared to the rolling trees.  Moss has started to creep up the side, coating most of the log and the tree’s base. “What an awful noise.”

Kakuzu shakes his head. “He’s usually better. Looks like they feed off each other.”

“Here,” Sasori offers, passing a joint over to him. Sounds like Kakuzu’s going to need it a hell of a lot more than he will. “I brought an extra.” He can’t bear to imagine Deidara as a university student. And in the city, no less. Even compared to the mountain men, his voice bellows carelessly through lush trees.

Kakuzu lets out a gruffy sigh and takes it between his fingers.

They light up and Sasori leans back, tilting his head and exhaling towards the treetops. “I don’t think you’ll make it through the season.”

Kakuzu nods solemnly. “I’m inclined to agree with you.”

“Beer?”

“Not even a question.”

Too cold going down and it sits heavy in their stomachs. Kakuzu sighs again. “It sounds like I should call in a favor,” he muses. “From a good friend that owes me.”

That’s what Sasori gets for doing this so close after one of his... episodes . But Deidara’s a little too much for him, with the pickup in his own erratic behavior. It happens like this in waves. Sasori flashes between highs and lows, unable to regulate where he lands.

“It sounds like it might be better to save it for an emergency.”

“I don’t have the patience for this.” And Sasori only just picked him up from jail about a year back. “I’d call it an emergency.”

“You think I do?” he gawks in reply. To prove his point, all Kakuzu does is point his finger towards the sky, motioning for Sasori to be quiet so they can hear the ghost of yelling from across the way. “I can’t go back to jail, Sasori.”

Yeah, spending the harvest season with these two idiots is asking for more time. And, to those not living in the backwoods, Kakuzu would be considered ‘on parole.’ “Aren’t you on the market for a new trimmer?” 

Sasori digs his heel into the dirt anyway. “Not so much.” He tries to tell himself it isn’t because Deidara saw his penis.

It’s because Deidara saw his penis.

“That’s not what I heard,” Kakuzu hums. “Or did I bump into someone else the other night?”

God damn it. Sasori groans and tries to melt into the tree. With his head down, he covers his face with one hand, pressing at his temples

Kakuzu’s got his back to the wall. “ Damn it. Alright. I’ll take him.”

Sounds like it’s not much of a choice. “I’ll sell it to Hidan.”

Sasori says goodbye to his life of solitude with another drink.


“My man, I’ve never seen a place like this, hn,” Deidara gawks, plopping next to Hidan and the twelve pack.

Hidan cackles. “Fuckin’ crazy, right? You ain’t seen shit yet.” He swigs at his own booze, back pressed into the rough trunk of the redwood. The forest smells of pine and heat, the summer air drying the needles and dirt underfoot. The heel of Hidan’s boot digs into the ground while he drinks.

“I bet, hn.” He cracks open one of the cans of High Life and drains a huge gulp of it.

“I can’t believe Sasori of all guys hitched you up here. Was he fucked up?”

Deidara perks to life, hopping on the chance to gossip. He tilts his head to make sure the others aren’t listening and leans into Hidan’s ear. “Dude, yeah . He’s fucking weird , hn.”

“What the fuck? Did something happen?” Hidan’s just as bad, a sly grin on his lips when he leans closer to his friend.

Again, Deidara peeks over his shoulder. “Okay, check this out. I crash in this trailer he’s got and I guess he’s up before me, yeah? I bump into him watering fucking dozens of dope plants—”

“The fuck did you think we were doing up here? Growing tomatoes?”

“You didn’t let me finish, hn!” Deidara huffs, punching him square in the shoulder. “Guy’s fucking stark naked.”

Hidan stares at him for a microscopic moment before bursting into an uncomfortable laugh. “I’m sorry, what ?” He nearly has tears in his eyes. “Fuck, ‘Kuzu’s going to lose his mind when I tell him this.”

Deidara gawks at the sentiment. “That man doesn’t look like he’s laughed a day in his life, hn.”

Hidan just shrugs.

“But seriously, Hidan, Sasori is so hot, hn.” 

It gets a groan and he rolls his eyes. “Not this again, shithead,” Hidan never takes him seriously. Maybe with good reason. “Fucking shit, Deidara. Don’t get started on that already. How long’ve you been here? Twelve goddamn hours?”

“Okay, do your eyes not work, hn?” Deidara half yells, jabbing in his escort’s general direction. “I mean come on , man.”

“I can’t take you anywhere.”

“And you love me for it, hn.”

“He’s a backwoods speed freak that spends most of his time running around the woods,” Hidan muses. Okay, good to know. But that means he’s keeping things lively all the time, yeah? “I’d say you’ve got a fifty-fifty.”

Fuck yeah. Wait shh, shh, they’re coming back, hn.”

“Dude you’re the one fucking talking will you—”

“The hell are you idiots doing over here?” Sasori huffs in his smoothed glass voice, poking his head around from behind their tree. He shuffles through a patch of ferns that sprout to his waist, knocking the delicate leaves out of his way as he goes.

“You two cocksuckers done?” Hidan practically shouts instead, barreling up to his feet and dragging Deidara up no less aggressively.

Sasori ignores him and doesn’t bother much with niceties either. “I have a proposition for you two.”

He nods his head towards Sasori and flashes a toothy grin. “What’s up, hn?”

“Kakuzu implied that the housing Hidan has on property is...cramped,” Sasori explains with a pained hesitation, Kakuzu loitering just far enough away that he can render himself uninvolved.  “I need a trimmer from now until November or December.”

What?

Oh. Oh . He’s offering him a job. No, not just that.

He’s offering to let me stay with him.

The look in Hidan’s eyes says Don’t but all Deidara hears is Do it

“How much?”

“One fifty a pound.”

That’s a shit ton of money. 

“One seventy-five and we got a deal, hn.”

Deidara catches him bite his tongue, the tense pulse on the sides of his jaw before his eyes flick to Kakuzu. He inhales slowly, holds, exhales. Sasori relents with a wave of his hand. “Deal.”

He barks out a laugh. “ Sweet , hn!” Scrambling to his feet, his head spins and he stumbles for an instant. “Whoops.” Deidara’s hip buckles and he catches on Hidan’s forearm, tugging himself back up.

“What the fuck ? I thought you were hangin’ out with me for the season!” Hidan objects. But it’s Kakuzu’s property, and he gets the final call.

“And I thought you were picking me up yesterday, hn!” Deidara shoots back. Besides, his mind’s already made up.  “C’mon I’ll be over here all the time.”

If Deidara’s volume is anything to go by, that promise isn’t too far off.


Beer lingers on Deidara's breath the whole way back, but he’s quiet, so it feels like a decent enough tradeoff. He constricts Sasori’s ribs, skin hot against him from the booze.

Sasori’s head weighs down with the fuzzed mist that comes with a couple beers and one joint too many. Fuck it—his work’s done for the day. Just have to go out and comb through the garden before dinner.

He throws himself into the rocking chair on his porch. Legs splayed out, he lets it sway him back and forth, bong clutched in his lap.

His new addition has busied himself with what looks like doodling in a ratty sketchbook before his ears perk up at the rocking chair’s squeak. Never to be quiet, Deidara’s head snaps up and he materializes on the porch before Sasori can get a word out to stop him.

A city boy with an outdoorsman’s voice. “Want another drink, hn?” he offers, extending another bottle. No doesn’t seem to be an option, and he’s buzzed enough that he doesn’t mind the company. Sasori accepts it, cracking the top off with his teeth. “That’s awesome. Do mine, too, hn.”

“You want my mouth all over your beer?”

Deidara shrugs and pushes it closer to him. Sasori cracks the top off and passes it back off. His eyes are blown wide, a bewildered child looking at something that is truly, in its own right, unextraordinary.

“What are you doing?” Sasori asks flatly. “You were in the middle of something.” He stares Deidara down but can’t read the wildfire in his eyes. On the ground, he kicks his legs up and crosses them over each other, hands twirling at the ends of his hair. He flits from one thing to the next, happy to go where the current takes him.

Sasori’s no different in that sense.

“Whatever, hn.” With his hair tucked behind his ears, Sasori watches his left eye drift into his nose, independent of the right. It’s distracting, and he surely misses most of what Deidara’s saying. “Thanks for the gig—I don’t think I want to be third wheeling all summer, hn.” Ah, so he has his own reasons for taking the job as well.

“Yeah.”

“What? What’s with the look, hn?” Deidara asks, straightening himself out and widening his eyes. Frantic. He’s still a little drunk, no doubt.

“Did you say eye singular earlier?”

“What the hell’re you talking about, hn?” Deidara tongue piercing peeks out and pushes against his lower lip. He can’t help stealing a glance before it retreats again.

“This morning. You said ‘Fuck, my eye!’, did you say eye singular ?” Sasori repeats.

“No?” Deidara’s hair falls back into his face, but curiosity gets the best of him. Something new for him to latch onto.

“Let me see.” Sasori catches his face, trapping him. The clutch squishes his cheeks, thumb on one and the rest of his fingers on the other. And this kid fucking lets him.  Deidara’s jaw tenses, pulsating under Sasori’s palm. His face is turning red . With his free hand, Sasori brushes his bangs from the hidden eye with a ginger sweep, barely grazing his forehead. While one peers back at him, the other drags in, tucked facing his nose in the corner.

The way Sasori stares is dissective.

“Ah,” Deidara gasps, pulling himself back. He chokes out an uncomfortable laugh. “It does that, hn” he admits, tilting the eye back in place so it’s looking straight ahead. Or, well. Close enough.

“Lazy eye?”

“Glass, hn.”

“Interesting.”

It’s something he doesn’t like talking about, evidently, since it’s the only subject he’s spent under five minutes on in the last twelve hours.

“Isn’t it deafening, hn?” Deidara mumbles, forcing a change in subject. Between the beer and dope, he’s glazed over with a drawled smile on his lips and a hand curled around his ankle. The fake eye’s iris floats back to the corner. Sasori wants to pull it out of his head. Examine it. Why doesn’t it fit ? He wants to ask.

“What?” he asks instead, pulling himself to his feet.

“The silence.”

Sasori laughs easily. “It’s never quiet up here.”

 

Chapter Text

Douglas Street, Humboldt County, CA 08/06/1992

Sasori thinks he’ll be waking his new employee bright and early when five thirty rolls around. The sun hasn’t quite risen yet and dew clings in fat, heavy drops to sulking grass. Rapping his fist less than gently against the camper’s door, the loud “Come in, hn!” that immediately follows startles him. He’d thought the first early morning was out of an eagerness to get to Hidan’s.

Never a dull day in the backwoods of North Cali.

Sasori just doesn’t expect this one to start with Deidara, sitting at the camper’s table and huffing glue from a crumpled paper bag as nonchalantly as if he were sipping his morning coffee. He gives Sasori a quick wave and dips his face back against the bag to take a few weighted huffs. His eyes are glassy and the smile on his lips is a little shaky, but it does little to stifle the energy he’s clearly ramped up in his brief evening’s rest.

Sasori stares with the door still in hand and his lips parted in a silent shock. What happened to the art of subtlety? A major epiphany mercilessly rocks him.

He’s going to kill Kakuzu for shackling him with this brat. This was the worst possible person for Sasori to be stuck with for what would essentially be twenty-four hours a day for the next few months. The next month would ease them into the shitshow that comes with trimming and selling. Once your crop is ready, that’s when everyone gets their eyes on each other. Those that are successful become targets and those that are weak become fodder for those looking to steal your profit and maybe a little more.

Something tells him Deidara’s the kind of guy that carries a gun and doesn’t quite know how to use it.

“What? I can’t do what I want in my space, hn?” Over his shoulders, his hair is down. It tugs his fringe out of his face. He looks ridiculous with only one of his eyes covered in that chemical induced haze. Still, he traces Deidara’s cheekbones and the arrogant curve to his lips that makes him almost too easily smackable.

My space,” Sasori clarifies. “Come with me.”

“Good morning to you, too, hn.” Deidara hesitates as if he’s gotten caught by the principal, tossing the bag and can to the ground and following silently to the cabin. “Am I in trouble, hn?”

“You know what? Yes , you are in trouble. Is this elementary school? Who the fuck huffs glue anymore?” He’s no stranger to doing stupid shit, especially in his prime, but the last thing he needs is for Deidara to fry whatever few brain cells he has left before they’ve even dipped their toes into the season. “Are you just going to stare at me?” He snaps his fingers in front of his good eye and rolls his wrist for an explanation. “ Well ? Spit it out”

“Uh…” He sees Deidara’s gears trying to turn in his head. Okay, so he does this shit all the time, then.

“When is the last time you haven’t started your morning by huffing glue?”

Oh for Christ’s sake, Deidara can’t answer him. On top of that, Sasori’s surly attitude doesn’t seem to be phasing him in the least. “Well, I mean, I dunno. If I run out of rubber cement, I’ll just get a can of whipped—"

“I can’t listen to this anymore,” Sasori decides almost immediately, ripping the baggie of coke he has out of his pocket. He’s aghast to get narrowed eyes back at the inquiry, as if he’s irritated someone’s daring to chastise him for huffing glue like an imbecile. He flashes the drugs in his hand and digs for his keys. No one is doing fucking whippets or huffing anything on his property if he can help it.

That changes Deidara’s tune right away. “ Woah . Is that coke, hn?”

The way his eyes light up tells Sasori he’s no stranger. Sasori takes a quick glance around his trailer. It looks like a bomb went off in the small space. Sketches, clothes, makeup, everything is littered everywhere in no particular order. Maybe the coke will get some chores done.

“You’re going to do real drugs like a real adult.”

“Yeah, yeah, don’t waste your breath, hn. Hand it over,” Deidara huffs, disregarding the lecture entirely and holding his palm out to Sasori. In this game, you instill respect in your acquaintances and if that doesn’t work, fear. After what Deidara won’t stop calling their “oopsie”, all that’s out the window and they both know it.

Deidara’s spacey, rude, and changes subjects at the first swap in his stream of consciousness. He can’t help staring down the web of wired creases that bloom over his hand. Sasori presses the bag to the center of his palm, letting the keys follow.

Definitely no stranger, he dips the key and takes three sharp bumps with overdramatic snorts that grate on Sasori’s nerves. Does he have to make so much noise with every fucking thing he does ? “ Shit , that’s good, hn.”

“That’s nothing, the best coke I ever had was in Miami during the eighties.” They make their way out of the trailer and by the time they’ve set towards the woods, any appetite they had is stuffed down by a tingling high that makes Sasori feel like nothing and everything. Zaps him up way quicker than his coffee.

Why is he getting laughed at? “No offense, my man, but you don’t look like you’ve been in public for like…” Deidara takes a slow look around. “Ever.”

“Don’t call me that.” The jab touches a little bit of a nerve. “Where the hell have you been?” What a jackass. Sasori casts an irritated sideways glance, watching him dust his strawberry blond hair out of his face and into his regular high ponytail. A thick lock hangs out at the base of Deidara’s neck and he instinctively smoothing it up to Deidara’s hand with two of his fingers. “You missed this.”

Kakuzu always gets irritated at him for things like that—always finicking with everyone’s clothing and hair, trying to straighten them up with delicate precision.

“Oh. Oops, hn.” Deidara snickers again, plucking the lock into his fist like the touch is nothing. With the glass eye, he can’t tell if there’s a glance at him or not. A mean streak sets in his jaw, like a spoiled child starved for attention. “I dunno, San Fran, here, uh…My parents are divorced so I go to Los Angeles to see my mum every once in a while. Oh, and Hidan and I went to Vegas before, too, hn. Have you ever been there? It’s fucking crazy with all of the smoke and the gambling machines. Hidan wanted to go to a strip club but I told him a lot of the women don’t really like it when you do—”

Oh, for the love of god, never mind. “Not interested,” he snaps, bringing Deidara’s stream of consciousness to a sharp halt. Any question he asks is going to end up like this, Sasori realizes quickly. Got it. “You’re really only up here because Hidan told you that you could hang out for a few months?”

“Well, obviously I want the money, hn,” Deidara huffs. “But otherwise, yeah, hn. I wanted to do something different. It’s peaceful up here and I need something new to inspire me.” Inspire him? That catches his attention. Between the sketches and this, he’s pegged him as an artist of sorts. Whether he’s successful at his craft or not is a different story.

Sasori has to bite back a laugh. Peaceful wasn’t the word he would have gone with. There were dozens of reasons people came up here nowadays. This one didn’t tend to be one of them much anymore. They’re only halfway to the plants before Sasori realizes it is not a good idea to let him handle any of the product. Impossible for this to be a boy with a gentle hand. “This isn’t the type of place to just ‘hang out,’” he mocks with pointed air quotes. Deidara just narrows his eyes at him.

Good. Maybe Yura was a little too easy to push around. “Whatever. I can handle myself, hn.”

That’s what they all say, but Deidara doesn’t even pretend to listen to him. Any fear that’d been struck in him the first night is long gone. He’s absorbed in himself, boundless energy making his way through the dewy underbrush, bringing the realization that this is the last person on the planet that should ever get coked up. Deidara’s loud as shit to begin with. Hyped up like this, he borders on unbearable.

He flutters from chattering about a fist fight he saw in San Francisco the week before,

He can’t listen to this all morning. Anything redeeming about this boy is ruined by the sheer endlessness of his voice. And not just the volume, the sheer amount of energy . He’s getting dizzy watching Deidara pace around him while they trudge through the woods.

Okay, Sasori, think .

“What’re you having me do with the plants, hn? When do you dry all this shit?”

He barks out a scoff, jamming his hands into his back pockets. “Oh, no, no, you’re not working with the plants.”

Deidara doesn’t hold back on his disappointment. He scoffs, blowing a mouthful of air at his fringe. “ What ? The hell am I doing here, then, hn?”

Stop yelling in my ear.

Deidara just thinks it’s funny. “Y’know, my mum always forced me to play outside as a kid because I was ‘too disruptive’,” he mocks, jamming his tongue and the hint of his piercing out. Retreating just as quick, he leaves behind a trail of saliva against his bottom lip.

Sasori  doesn’t try to hide that he’s staring. “Why don’t you let her know she’s right for me?”

He has energy, that’s for sure. Which Sasori would like a lot more without the constant disruption . He’s got to get this guy to burn off some steam.

Ah. Took long enough for it to click.

“You know what, Deidara? I have the perfect job for a man of your caliber.”

Really, hn?” His eyes light up, and there’s a rejuvenated excitement to the way he walks as he’s led through winding trees. The leaves are wet underfoot, slipping against the soles of his steel toed boots. He beams at Sasori with an enthusiasm that has him chewing the side of his tongue. Well, at least he’s eager, even if he hardly thinks before he speaks or acts.

“Up here,” Sasori directs, weaving them through the towering marijuana plants less than quarter of a mile past to a clearing in the redwoods. Tucked into the trunk of a hollowed log is a plastic bucket with an axe, gloves, and protective glasses. Yanking out the axe, he waves it at the weathered, stumped remains of what used to be an enormous tree.

Without looking at Deidara’s face, he shoved the axe into his hands. “Here we go.”

“Are you fucking kidding me, hn? Why ?”

“Because you’re too disruptive. Now get to it.”

Sasori leaves him be and heads back to his property to feed the chickens. Silence has never been so welcomed.


Garberville, Humboldt County, CA 8/10/1992

Kankuro sinks a shot of Apple Pie McGillicuddy's with the bartender, tonguing over the sugary fuzz it clings to his teeth. Hey, it’s free and beggars can’t be choosers. Konan’s good at hooking him up in between the lunch and dinner rushes. He keeps her company during the dead patches, and she sneaks a few drinks off his tab.

“You’re going to have me trashed by six,” Konan says in her usual straight face, not so much as wincing at the shot. She’s a trained drinker and one of two bartenders at their little hole in the wall stop off.

“Another double? Damn, have your boyfriend pick up a few shifts. That sucks,” Kankuro slides the glass back across the bar. She catches it with a clink of her fingernails. “Unless you guys are hiring,” he adds with a wink.

“We don’t hire our regulars, would lose too much money. Especially from you.” And it’s a family business. Konan, Pein, and the five brothers have run this place for as long as anyone could remember that.

Kankuro snorts. She wasn’t wrong. His time lately’s spent ghosting between here and his friends’ couches. Sometimes, couches of those that could be considered only acquaintances, and other times, not even that. “It’s cool, we’re in the middle of trying to line something up—big sis and the little bro need some cash.”

That gets a restrained laugh from her. “And you do, too.” She pulls a rack of clean glasses out from the dishwasher, stacking the pints on the bar back. “Doing what?”

“A little of this and a little of that,” he chuckles, rubbing at the back of his cat-eared hat. No need to elaborate, but he frowns right after and waves her closer. “I can talk to you, right?” She’s safe to confide in. This bar houses more mountain men than they do cops. They don’t spill, and with the brothers, nobody dares to ask Konan any questions.

“That’s what bartenders are here for.”

Checking around to make sure no one’s listening, he leans half over the bar to whisper. “My little brother might be seeing someone that our charming father isn’t going to appreciate.”

“A man?”

“Yeah.” Konan picks up quickly. And bartenders hear everything. “You know Rock Lee? Bowl cut kid that’s always running around town?”

“Isn’t that the kid he hit with his truck?”

My truck,” Kankuro snaps, as if that’s any better. His goatee is rough under his fingertips. “But yeah, that’s the kid.”

Konan chews her lip.  “ Wow .” She had to have heard it around—everyone talks about everyone here. To know that it’s true is a different story entirely. She takes a deep breath. “I feel like there’s more to this that I’m not to like.” That’s true. Kankuro wouldn’t consider himself an easy person to help.

There’s too many players involved for him to be reckless this time.

He laughs a little too loud. “ What ? No way ,” he says too dramatically to cover his tracks. All he does is give himself away. That’s the other reason he’s been keeping out of the house—Gaara’s back from Arcata and Rasa’s the only one out of the loop.

“Tell me,” she says with an exhausted wave of her hand. While she waits, she slices up lemons and limes for the bar stations.

“We were…thinking of reaching out to our uncle for help.”

“I take back what I said, Yashamaru is a great option for—”

Oops. She’s not going to be happy with the interruption. “Actually, uh, our other uncle.” The look in her eyes is close to the one everyone else gives when they talk about him . But hers has a twinge of understanding that she rolls curiously over her tongue. “We figured he’d be able to cover Gaara's…situation. Temari and I have been floating it but we know it’s a huge risk.”

She clacks her nails against the sticky bar top. “Shit.” Rasa’s infamous in town. Especially in a bar infamous for housing most of the criminals the police are trying to snuff out. His involvement with Gaara is detrimental. On top of that, she sits around the same age as Sasori, knowing him from his high school years. “You didn’t hear this from me, right?”

“What? Totally.”

“Kankuro, I know you’re the town gossip. Promise me.”

“I swear! I laid out my secrets, didn’t I?”

“I’ll fucking gut you.” And when she says it, she means it. He holds his hands up in surrender and she sighs, checking around for who else was in their company again. Just in case.

Konan wrinkles her nose. “Sasori lives up on the hill. He helps Pein out with some carpentry every once in a while.” Carpentry, rope, whatever. They’d known Sasori had stamped out his ties with the family nearly twenty years earlier and gave the final nail in the coffin around thirteen ago.

This was the future Rasa saw for Gaara, and was going to do everything in his power to prevent it.

If anything, he’s pushed Gaara closer to the belly of the beast.

Konan pours Kankuro another shot and one for herself. “What happened to staying sober for the night shift?”

“Any bartender that tells you they aren’t drinking’s lying to you.” She knocks the shot back with an easy swig. “I should warn you that Sasori can be skittish. He might be understanding to your brother’s situation.” Sure, they’d hear… things about Sasori. But rumors spread fast and warp even faster. Mostly drugs, but run-ins with men. A lot of men.

“We still have to think about it.” Sasori is a volatile, risky option. But man , it doesn’t seem like there are many other workarounds. “Maybe you could give me his number?”

Konan sucks in a sharp breath and shakes her head. “He wouldn’t like that very much. When you sort yourselves out, we can give him a ring here. After hours.”


He gets back to the property around the same time Temari’s getting out of her own, near ancient Honda. One light’s out, but it runs just fine. A car’s a car and it gets her to where she needs to go. “Yo, sis! Date night?”

Temari yawns and shakes her head, kneading her fingers against her tensed shoulders. “PT.”

“Damn.” Good for the extra money, though. For what they need in the next few months, though, it’ll never be enough.

Sasori’s become more of a prospect now that they have the possibility of an in.

“You were…?”

“Bar.”

“Right.” Where else?

Kankuro shrugs. “You wanna take a walk?”

She knows what it means and nods, keeping pace with him to the end of their street and into the thick pines that towered behind their property. Always solitary, they’re free to talk out here. She crosses her arms over her chest, standing with her weight shifted to her left leg. “I was talking to Konan today,” he starts, sitting crisscrossed in the dirt. He rolls the thought around, wondering in passing if this isn’t something he should just piece together himself. Fuck. She’ll hear either way—Temari’s no idiot.

“Uhuh?”

“I know we’re still on the fence for this, but,” His palms are sweaty against his pants. “She can put us in contact with Sasori.”

There. All on the table.

Her eyes snap wide. “Wait, really ?”

“Yeah. But…she said it might be better if you called. I guess guys spook him easy on the phone.”

“Okay. Yeah. Okay, this is good.” Temari purses her lips. “You want to do it, don’t you?”

“I’m just worried that Gaara—”

“He’s going to figure it out eventually. With or without us, he’ll do it,” 

It doesn’t make the decision better, but it’s easier. Gaara can’t be up there alone. They’d likely have ended up there anyway, but this sealed the deal.

So be it.

“I’ll go into town and let Konan know.”

“Next week?” Temari asks. “We need time to put together a game plan.”

“Alright. Let’s do it.”

The woods whisper with a wind that tastes of acquiescence. Like everyone else that knows the dangers of going up to the mountains, they convince themselves that for them, things will be different. They’re locals, they’ll have each other, and if Sasori will be as sympathetic to Gaara as it sounds, they’ll have him.

That’s more than enough, and either way, it’s all they have to work with.


Douglas Street, Humboldt County, CA 08/12/1992

Sasori tossing him the keys is probably the time to mention he never quite got around to getting his driver’s license. Had he even wanted it, there was no opportunity. Deidara can thank the glass eye for that. “No” isn’t an option, though, since the minute he starts to complain, his new boss is all over him.

What were the exact words?

Don’t make excuses—everyone drives up here.

I have all my employees run these kinds of errands.

What else was it Sasori said before sending him on his way? Oh, right.

You know dark it gets after sunset. Don’t dawdle. With that, he’s sent on his way with a warning that if he keeps complaining, his ass is hitting the curb and Sasori could care less if he has to walk himself back to San Francisco.

Someone has a little bit of a temper.

Whatever. He’s not afraid of the dark. Warnings are tinged with a dramatism that tells Deidara that things will be different with him. Night is a black-out curtain coaxing the truck through eerie nothingness, but if Sasori doesn’t have a problem picking a kid he doesn’t even know off the side of the road, it can’t be that bad right? Plus, the powder Sasori gave him tells him he can do anything if he sets his mind on it. Deidara has the air of immortality without the sense of self-preservation to maintain it.

Okay, it is dark as shit out here, though.

The quiet was discomforting on evening one. Most of that dissipates with the week on Sasori’s property—the man seems to be awake no matter what the hour, and therefore, has some sort of project no matter the hour. Deidara convinces himself, rolling down the mountain for extra bags of fertilizer, that night time brings a breath of fresh air and a serenity the city will never live up to.

It’s not so much that he couldn’t get back before dark. More so that he got distracted by the quaint ruggedness the town nearby holds, seeming like a bustling city compared to the near silent redwoods. In their own right. Here, each insignificant sound mounds itself to an overwhelming crescendo. Under the cloak of nature, each individual noise is an eruption and everything becomes significant.

Even on the return trip, Deidara blames the encompassing black on shitty headlights, and makes a mental note that he’ll nag at Sasori for that when he gets home.

Downhill’s a lot easier than up and Deidara really doesn’t know how to drive stick, grinding the clutch until he smells burnt rubber and oil. “You son of a bitch if you stall one more time, hn!” he screams, slamming down and only getting a weary whine from the truck when he kicks it into what sounds like it might be the right gear. Fucking again it seizes.

Man, if he fucks this truck up—

The clutch shrieks when he eases back to a sluggish roll, creeping barely above a few miles per hour as it crunches underfoot. “Everything’s gotta be a pain in the ass, hn,” Deidara hisses, lifting off the pedal to readjust himself.

Peace makes its exit as the truck settles into it’s slow roll. Pitch black is a timeless drone.

Something about it makes him sit up straighter.

Riding towards the mountain is riding into its darkness, amongst hundreds of bodies that have yet to and never will be discovered. He flicks the radio off. It feels wrong.

The temperature of the truck shifts to an alarming cold. His knuckles are white against the steering wheel. Like something’s watching him.

Hands slam against the back door of the truck and Deidara hears his scream before he realizes it’s coming out of his mouth. “Fuck. Fuck !” Outside is no better, frenzied shrieks and pounding against the back door, small hands trying to pry open the window and tug at the handle.

He’s trying to break it. His hand sticks a muddy imprint on the window and he’s tugging the handle with mortified rips.

All Deidara catches is an HSU sweater and jeans. “ Help me!” He screams, pounding hard enough that the door of the truck shakes, jarring Deidara in his seat. “ Help me! They’re gonna kill me! HELP!” Deidara fumbles, first at the handle, then, freezing, he whips his head around to look clean over his right shoulder.  “ PLEASE !”

There’s two people bounding out from the trees. Gonna die . Light glistens against the rearview mirror, trying to blind him.

I’m next .

His heart drops and he slams his foot on the gas, ignoring the crunch of the clutch when he switches the gears wrong. Gotta get back . Are they following me? He flicks to the mirror again but by now what’s behind him is black, swallowed up by night. But that means there isn’t another truck following him. They’d been on foot and it seems like they’d caught what they needed.

Fuck.

He peels up the mountain, near crashing the truck as he comes ripping into the driveway. Slamming the door shut, he swears when it catches on the seatbelt, rips it back open, and tries again.

Son of a bitch.

Son of a bitch .

He can’t become another statistic of this mountain, never to be seen again.

Deidara’s drowned in the expanse of trees, tranquility of the forest gone with ominous rustling that tells him STAY INSIDE AND DON’T COME OUT .


Sasori’s found an itch he can’t seem to scratch. A shadow in the corner of his eye tells him that he’s brewing something dangerous. No matter how many times Deidara pushes his buttons, he can’t seem to look away. This new addition is as inquisitive as he is irritating and becomes a persistent thorn in his side.

He does another line to set his head on straight. The whispers quell themselves to a lazy simmer. They’ve eased up with Yura’s escort from the property. And wake right back up when his cabin’s thrown open.

Deidara’s white as a sheet, swinging the door shut behind him with a trembling slam. Around, around, around, he paces a rigid loop at the table. Shell-shocked. He’s talking too fast to make sense. Something about twins, blood, someone following them following him . The shaking is bad enough that it sends a violent tremor through his words.

His energy is an ice-cold terror that steams off him in explosive waves. “How high are you, Deidara? Breathe .” Just as good as he is at making a scene, he’s able to coax a paranoia out of Sasori he’s only recently managed to eradicate.

Deidara’s mouth moves at him, but it sounds like he’s gone dry, nothing coming out.

It’s no fun to make jabs when he’s this upset. Out of necessity rather than pity, he realizes that he needs to take care of this.

“I just saw one of the most fucked up things in my life, hn,” he starts rambling, staring down Sasori with his blackened pupils. Shit, and he’s really coked up. Sasori looks at what he’s got left on the table. He hadn’t done that much, yeah? Not enough to be hallucinating. “I think I saw someone get murdered. What the hell am I doing? I hitchhiked my way up into the middle of the fucking woods and I’m going to fucking die here !”

He watches Deidara’s dream of a peaceful vacation die in the traumatized glint that takes over his good eye. Fucking terrified, with his pupil as black as the barrel of a gun.

This is all part of the process. Shock and awe of the woodlands wears off quickly, leaving plenty of room for a person’s fears to thrive. Deidara’s the same as dozens of other fools who’ve made their way up here with their heads in the clouds. Make some quick cash, smoke some weed, hang out in the woods for a few months. Get back home with a couple thousand bucks and you’re set.

Things don’t work out so easily these days.

Deidara’s learning that reality, trembling at Sasori’s kitchen table with his head sunk into his hands, clutching at his hair.

It’s a lot less fun when he’s actually upset, he’s coming to learn. Sasori’s still learning what makes him tick, so he pours them each a few fingers of whiskey into a few old jelly jars and clinks them on the table. “Here.”

With a quivering hand, Deidara grapples for the drink and sucks it down in two pained gulps. He gags, nearly expelling it back onto his lap, but swallows again and shakes his head. “ Sharp, hn.”

Is he fucking stupid? “It was a sipping whiskey.” No, no. Sasori should have known better. Anyone that’s close to Hidan can’t be a classy drinker. Or a knowledgeable one. With the way that idiot slugs back anything that’s put in front of him, he should know he’d surround himself with the same company. But it at least seems to distract Deidara from his meltdown. When his hand’s shaking again, knocking against the kitchen table with an irritating clatter, Sasori rolls his eyes. “You spend a week in the woods and you’re already turning around?”

Deidara doesn’t say anything.

This is a far cry from the attitude he’d shown up to Garberville with.

 “How does nothing about this bother you?” Yeah, that’s where it usually starts. The horror, the disgust at injustice and inaction. All part of the song and dance. “They looked like they were trying to give him a head start, hn!”

Sasori doesn’t look up. Cuts himself another line and hesitates before cutting an extra. This is undoubtedly the precursor to a long evening. “How high are you?”

“Do you think I’m fucking making this up, hn?” Deidara balked, tearing him up from his seat with an unexpectedly tense grasp around his wrist. Clamped under his fingers, Sasori’s practically dragged outside despite the unhinged fear erupting before his eyes. “Get your ass out here and look at your fucking truck!”

If this kid crashed his truck, he’s going to—

The thought dies when he finds the perfect imprint against one of the driver’s side windows. Starting to dry, there’s hints of wet blood glistening in pitch black. Beside it, another from where it looks like they tried to hold on, the hand swept to a bloody smear down past the handle.

Desperation from a man that knew how badly he wanted to live.

God damn it.

It runs a cold apprehension up his spine. This sort of shit happens here all the time. And lately? Even more so. The Campaign Against Marijuana Production opened Pandora’s Box and unleashed demons far worse than a few aging hippies trying to grow pot in the woods. With a new influx of money comes a new greed and with that, drug related deaths, indiscriminate tracking, and god knows what else follows suit.

“We have to walk the property.”

The best thing to do about it is turn a blind eye. But he’d seen how quickly Deidara left the property the first time he’d taken the truck and it did little to comfort him about the distance made in his exit. He needs to check the plants. Fast.

“I’m not walking shit , hn,” Deidara is yelling, but no isn’t really an option, because what’s worse than a little bit of a jump scare is nothing compared to his crop torn down for the year.

“Cut the theatrics, I told you to—”

No one cuts Sasori off. Deidara is an infuriating first. A fear in his eyes takes over, and he’s digging his heels into the ground. “ Hell fucking no. What’re you gonna do, shoot me? I’m not going back out there, hn.”

Part of him does want to shoot him, but something tells him no matter the threats, Deidara isn’t going to budge. You can’t have two bodies this close together , he reminds himself. “I don’t have fucking time for this. Stay in here and don’t fucking touch anything .”

The shadows tell him he has to get a fucking move on.

Things… happen out here. Best to stay in your own lane and keep your eyes set straight ahead. Everyone makes their own laws out here, and that staying afloat means having the good sense to keep your nose out of trouble.

The property is empty. He does three laps through the plants, safety flicked off his shotgun. If it’s good enough for the umbras it’s good enough for him.

On the porch, he peers towards the tree line again for a final, stolen look.

Why are you being so hard on him? His mother’s ghosted voice wisps at his ear. Remember what happened to you?

Kakuzu had been the one to pick up the pieces that time. “This isn’t like finding a body,” Sasori snaps back. “You’re always a fucking pushover.”

Don’t use that kind of language around your mother, his father snaps at him. 

“Sorry, ma,” Sasori grumbles reluctantly. Discipline hangs his shoulders heavy and he feels a deep, guilty wrench in his gut.

He’s the last one to see that body alive, isn’t he? She’s telling him, in her roundabout way, that it’s worse.

She tells him he loves her and Sasori tells her that of course, he loves her too, but he has to turn in. Blinking them away is no easy feat. They need to mind their own business on this one. 

Inside, Deidara keeps peeking past him towards the locked door. From his room, Sasori fetches his M-16, bringing it back to the living room. A handgun does just as well, but this leaves a tighter air of security.

“Look,” Sasori sighs, dragging his chair with him and tucking it underneath the doorknob, trapping the entrance in place. He throws himself to the floor, legs splayed with the gun propped beside him. “Can’t get much safer than that.”

All this tells Sasori is that he needs more eyes. The “twins” are something new. Someone new. And anyone lingering this close to his property is a problem. He likes his own trouble here, and that’s it. Deidara’s hysteria twinges a separate anxiety in him. He checked the plants. He knows he checked the plants. No sign of anyone coming up the property, either. If what he’d seen was on foot, that shouldn’t be an issue.

“I should have help—”

Okay, enough is enough. “ No .”

It freezes Deidara’s pacing. He stares at Sasori wide with his good eye, aghast at what the normal population considers heartless. Up here, that’s Survival 101. “Listen to me very carefully.” And if now isn’t the time to imprint some sense into this overly destructive man, when is? “If you poke your nose where it shouldn’t be, you will end up in a shallow grave with no one ever, ever finding your body. Do you understand?”

Deidara’s breath catches and Sasori watches him play with the hem of his shirt. This sort of thing happens all the time here, but now his employee is the one with inquisitive eyes, taking in the scars on display up Sasori’s body.  

How many times has he seen something like that? He imagines Deidara wondering. And having it leave a twinge of apprehension in its wake. Dozens.

No doubt, this isn’t what Hidan told him the mountains are supposed to be. Sasori’s had nightmares—anyone who’s committed to this lifestyle has. Thousands of times, he’s imagined himself as that handprint on the side of the truck, or his face on the body begging for help.

Years of it desensitizes him. He rolls a fat joint, lighting it with a flick of his zippo and a sharp breath to make sure it’s lit before passing it over. Deidara chews his lip. Anyone in their right mind would say they’re leaving on the first bus back to San Francisco. “Come here,” he demands, motioning to the floor, and Deidara sits reluctantly.

The shadow to his right reminds him of something Yashamaru would do when the children would act up. He can’t handle the noise anymore and secures one hand gentle on Deidara’s shoulder, the other pressed firmly to the center of his chest. His heart screams to burst from his chest, pounding beneath Sasori’s heated fingertips.

“Breathe,” he whispers in his even glass voice, firming his push against his chest. “You’re high. Take a deep breath and look at me.” Deidara’s eye darts over his face. His heart is a scattered staccato but focusing him seems to slow him down. “Grab the pack of cards on the table,” Sasori says, whistling and nodding his head towards the worn-down deck held together with an elastic band on the coffee table.

“The fuck makes you think I’m playing cards right now?”

“Because I’m distracting you,” Sasori says flatly. “This is irritating me.” He motions for Deidara to sit with enough authority that he just does it.

He shuffles the deck and spreads them out between their crossed legs. “Poker?”

“Too slow. Slaps.”

“Why?”

Does it matter fucking why? He’s not making it easy for Sasori to follow his ma’s advice. “So you don’t have time to think.”

It works well enough, regardless of how much Deidara huffs and puffs about it. He complains about everything—the temperature, the bugs, the humidity, the frizziness of his hair. You name it, he has a stupid opinion on it.

“What did you go to school for?” he asks, hoping it’ll steer the conversation in a different direction.

“Fine arts. You?”

Sasori pauses. Right. “I dropped out in grade nine.”

Deidara frowns, and it’s rare that there’s no judgement in his eyes “Oh.” He’s not looking up—too focused on trying to match the cards. The game happens in a split second, cards flying into their respective piles before his hand jolts out for the slap.

Scared shitless or not, it’s not going to kill Sasori’s competitive spirit. He catches the stack under Deidara’s hands first, manicured nails clinging to cardstock. “Another round. You cheated, hn.”

His hand lingers a little too long and makes no move to hide that he’s holding onto Sasori’s fingers. “It’s impossible to cheat at this.”

“Another round, hn.”

Pushy. Sasori rolls his eyes and lays the cards out again. “You’re an artist, then.” What he constitutes as art, he’s not sure, but Deidara doesn’t seem like the type of man he needs to prod for questions.

“An underappreciated one, hn,” Deidara says matter of factly. This time, Sasori’s hand cracks down over his and he yelps, wincing slightly. What the hell now? “Your ring,” he grits out, shaking his hand and using the uninjured one to point to the platinum band around his thumb. “ Jesus.”

At least it’s distracting him.

It’s abnormal to be sitting like this, getting high and playing a few rounds of cards like nothing’s out of the ordinary. What else is there to do? They’re not mercenaries and they’re certainly not the police.

That’s why they’re out here in the first place.

Deidara’s hand lingers after a particularly harsh slap over his knuckles. His skin tingles hot from the seared impact, tickling against the open palm.

Sasori wouldn’t pick this as the best time to flirt, but fear is a harbinger of lust and it seems like most of Deidara’s thoughts end at the same place.

Okay. He takes account of what’s going on. Deidara’s coming onto him. The problem with that? It’s working.

Fuck fuck fuck . Sasori is supposed to be the incubus, the seductress, the unstoppable. He coaxes flies to his web and lambs to the slaughter. It goes straight to hell with Deidara’s hand atop his, clasped down with a knowing gentleness that tugs him underwater.

He’s going to be eaten alive.

Deidara drives him out of his mind. His eyes, covered in their dramatic liner, pierce him, questioning him, push back on the pinpricks and notes he makes. Like it’s nothing out of the ordinary, he pulls his hand back and takes another lazy peek at his cards.

“You can sleep on the couch,” Sasori offers dully as he can when their interest in games starts to peter out. He knows what Deidara’s doing because he’s usually the one to do it to other men . No, this is different. He’s meaner, striking Sasori with a firecracker tongue and a destabilized temperament. He’s the attention whore the eccentric artist the animal.

He scrambles to sit up straight when Sasori hikes the M-16 over his shoulder and heads for the door. “Where are you going?”

Where else? “To make sure no one’s fucking with me,” Sasori grunts, popping a joint between his lips before heading on his way.

He doesn't pass out until nearly sunrise, but when Deidara wakes up, it's to Sasori with his back to the door again, gun propped between his legs. Half asleep, his arms fold over his chest, half smoked joint on the ashtray sitting beside him.

Chapter Text

If you haven't checked out The Moss: Letters yet, it can be found HERE as it contains important context for Gaara and Lee throughout it. : )

***NOTE: Some of the illustrations/pictures included in this chapter are NSFW and SEXUALLY EXPLICIT. As a heads up for anyone not into that/that might be reading this in more public setting. ***


Alderpoint, Humboldt County, CA 08/16/1992

A torturous three years seems feeble in the face of such wiry self doubt. What Gaara’s rehearsed goes out the window and he’s left pressing his nails to the inside of his palm, leaving half mooned crescents in their wake. 

He’s never been happier. 

He’s never been so petrified.

The clearing never seems to swallow him up like this. Trees heap over like blankets, weighing sopping wet branches down to the windshield of Kakashi’s truck with streaked lines of evergreen. The windshield wipers shove them out of the way, but tangling miniscule branches around the rubber extensions.

Gaara can see him fumble inside to turn them off. Then, with it, the engine. He waits with his simple, silly little picnic basket set up and his ankles crossed, standing straight as he can with a rigid spine and sparkling, verdant eyes. 

Where is he supposed to look when Lee gets out of the truck? Can’t pretend he’s not there, but eye contact suddenly seems so hard . He swings the door open overzealously, seeming to fuss over the strain it puts on the hinges. When he walks, he swings his arms in animated arcs.

Handsome seems too underwhelming a word.

“Gaara?” He’s loud , with booming enthusiasm and an ardour to himself that leaves Gaara a trembling moonstruck. “I hope I was not too late! I did not expect you to be here so early!” He admits, and it strikes a tepidness in him that pangs hard behind his ribs.

He waves his hand “It’s no trouble, Naruto dropped me off early.” The words almost stick dry to his tongue. It looks like they’d both been trying to do the same thing. The keys jingle away into Lee’s pocket, and for a terrifying instant, Gaara doesn’t know where to look. Should he go over there? Should he wait, he has--  

A quivering smile breaks out on his lips when he’s swept up into tanned arms and a shimmering laugh against his ear. 

Everything he’s missed and everything he’s yearned for. “I cannot believe I can finally do this!” Lee whispers against him, smothering him with a hug that smells of cedar and spruce. The muscles in his back ripple under Gaara’s fingertips, and he’s squeezed a little too tight.

A breathless plea from fluttering lungs, he clings with weak fists to Lee’s back. He laughs so easily he feels something might be wrong with him. “Me either,” he hears himself mumble back, afraid to let go.

“I did not think your voice would be so low!” Lee laughs as if it’s the funniest thing in the world. His fingers catch Gaara’s cheek, dragging him close and with an intensity that tells him it might as well have been this way his entire life.

“I am so happy this looks so nice on you!” Lee gawks almost immediately after, brushing up to run his fingers over the ribbed edge of the beanie. His face tints pink and he’s mesmerized that it’s so easy for this damaged man to be so happy. Without fretting without worry without anything.

He looks away from the gash on his face.

No, that’s not true.

Lee has, he just knows how to handle it.

“I haven’t taken it off since you got it for me,” Gaara admits, awkwardly adjusting it on his head. “You’re not allergic to anything, are you? I made us…uh, sandwiches, and…I didn’t know if you would drink so I bought some fake champagne,” he offers, fussing over the food assortment while Lee plops himself close with a hand on the back of his calf.

“This is all beautiful! You should not have made yourself worry over something like this! Actually, hold on!”

Before he can say anything, Lee is scurrying back to the truck to dig through the passenger side seat. Gingerly, he comes out with a humble display of flowers wrapped in delicate, shimmering plastic. “I was not sure what would be best, so I got a few different ones, I hope that you like them!”

Shit . “This is way too much trouble for you to be going-- Oh .” The shock is so palpable it renders him speechless.

Oh. Oh no .

Coriander is the first thing he sees and it blazens latent embers to a wildfire in him. 

The green carnations just about murder him.

It’s so noticeable, apparently, that Lee’s starting to fret. “I’m sorry! If you do not like them I can—”

“What? No, they’re beautiful, I just, it’s…” Did you do this on purpose ? He almost asks, but the knitted worry in Lee’s brows tells him otherwise. The nervous flush to his face is adorable , and Gaara wants to kiss it off him. “Did you pick these out yourself?” he asks slowly. He couldn’t have, and it doesn’t seem like him to be so forward with something like that.

The gears turn in Lee’s head and his face displays palpable shock. “Actually, Ino helped me! She told me that they were all symbols of affection and--” he exclaims loudly, and then freezes, understanding the error. “Has…Did she lie to me?”

Gaara wants to laugh, save for the mortifying burn to his face. “Yeah. She definitely lied,” he gulps and tries to swallow it down.

At least Lee’s face looks just as red. Helps a little bit, if nothing else. “What are-it is not something bad is it? Ino was working at the flower shop, so she helped me.”

Someone that knows about these kinds of things. Ah . There’s a little twinge of pride that comes with the idea that Lee’s been so eagerly talking about him. It’s...reassuring. 

No, it’s nothing bad...” he trails off, pressing his tongue to the roof of your mouth. But Lee’s waiting for an elaboration and the more hesitation rolls around on his tongue, the faster he feels his face heat up. “They’re for someone you’re interested in seeing.” 

“Like symbols of romance!”

“Symbols of... lust are a little closer,” Gaara says a little too blunt, and watches Lee’s face roar into a mortified blush. “No, no, it’s okay! I love them!” he adds frantically, holding the flowers close to himself as if it’s some sort of reassurance. 

“I do not want you to think-I never would have-” Lee can’t get the words out. Red faced, he buries his face in his hands for a split second and groans. “I am so embarrassed!” 

Uh oh.

“It’s really okay!  You don’t have to worry about it, they’re perfect.” He has to backtrack. His date looks like he’s going to curl in on himself even more so than Gaara is. “They’re beautiful , Lee. Let’s put them up with our food, okay?”

They don’t have a vase, but they find an extra water bottle in the back of Lee’s truck that does just as well. 

The squeeze Gaara gives his hand is as soothing as he can make it without removing that underlying breath of I will, though, if you want to .

Alderpoint, Humboldt County, CA 08/16/1992

If nothing else, Deidara bounces back quickly. Only days after his scare with the twins, he’s bounding about the woods as if nothing’s happened at all. Danger rolls off his shoulders and sits heavy on Sasori’s. Unlike this idiot, he won’t brush risk off as easily. The willingness to let such a blunder roll off his back, however, is at the expense of the berth Sasori thought he’d manage to put between them. 

Evaporated as soon as the bloody handprint had smacked itself against the side of the Ford, Deidara’s meshed himself like sweat to his skin, by his side when a leaf so much as falls in the wrong direction.

Sasori wants to say he absolutely fucking hates it

Well.

Sometimes it’s not all bad. Like today.

Deidara sprawls out in the dirt after a morning of chopping wood, teal Cherry Bomb shirt soaked through his back and in the dip of his chest. Sweat glistens salt down his neck, sticking his hair to him in damp locks. He eyes Sasori down when he comes out with a glass of water, grabbing it readily out of his hands and drinking it in sloppy gulps. Water dribbles down his chin, mixing with the fat droplets of sweat between his clavicles.

Attention whore.

A glass for Deidara, his old metal canteen for himself. Sasori leans against the chopping block, happy to nestle himself into the shade provided by a low hanging branch. Thanks to the trees cutting out thick panels of sun, his property tends to stay cool even in the dead of summer. Deidara sighs and tilts his head to the hint of clouds in the sky. Is he staring too long? When he drums his fingers against his thigh, Deidara’s eyes follow him, up the concave of his ivory hips and the slighted line to his waist.

It’s been like this all week.

“More of the same, hn?” He clasps at the front of his shirt, fanning it in an out to try and draft a breeze down his chest. Sasori rolls his eyes. He hopes it didn’t look as embarrassing when he used to do this. Clacking his nails against the lid of his canteen, he saunters back to this thorn in his side.

“Don’t sound so excited.” He hovers over Deidara, watching the shadow he casts over his face. He squints his charcoal covered eyes and frowns. 

“You’re in the way, hn.”

By now, the top’s mostly off. There’s not a lot of water left, is there? Well, he’ll figure it out in a second.

Scowling, Sasori tips the canteen all over his face, dumping it over him with a heavy shake.

Deidara sputters, gasping for air and wiping at his face with wild swipes. “Oh you dick what the fuck, hn!” It mixes with sweat, drenching the whole front of his shirt dark. 

“Why don’t you fight back?” Sasori asks dully, head lolling to the side. Saying he doesn’t get it only scrapes the surface. It’s opportunities like this that he relishes in, able to get under Deidara’s skin and pick his brain a little.

He’d break someone’s kneecaps if they doused him like that.

Deidara, however, doesn’t seem to mind it. He actually laughs , tucking his sopping wet hair behind his ears. It’s closer to a cackle that grates on Sasori’s ears. So fucking annoying . He’s half tempted to drop the canteen on him. Would it break his nose?

He’s starting to weigh it out in his hand and—

“I dunno, do you want me to fight back, hn?” Deidara asks almost innocently, killed to something brutish when his eyes narrow.

Sasori blinks at him. “Yes.” And he likes that this one probably will if he pushes hard enough. 

“Don’t worry,” he says with a wink, leaving only his crossed eye showing. “I’m keeping score, hn.” I’ll get you back is his silent little tease. 

It’s that . That look is what burns acid through him. Glistening in his good eye is the threat that he’ll enjoy the hunt just as much as Sasori.

Sasori shifts his weight to his right leg. “Smoke?”

Deidara shrugs and extends his calloused fingers for the joint before it’s fully offered. Lit with a careful spark, his mouth puckers around the base while he brushes his fringe back over his bad eye.

Good. Sasori’s been wanting to touch it. Abnormalities, deformities, he collects them like treasures and picks them apart down to their sun bleached bones.

Deidara blows smoke out his nose. He lets the earth become a part of him, dusting up his jeans and under his nails with thick, grimy coats. “Chopping wood sucks balls , my man. I’m so bored , hn,” he complains, overdramatically rolling onto his stomach and propping his chin on his open-faced hand. There’s a disgusted sneer to his lips that curls to flash the hint of his teeth.

“It’s either that or lugging the fifty pounds of piping I got up to the creek.”

Deidara doesn’t miss a beat. “Yeah, let’s do that, hn.”

It actually catches him off guard. How many times had he had to pull fucking teeth to get his old workers to do this? “What?”

“This is blistering the shit out of my hands, hn,” he whines, flashing his reddened palms and the hint of bubbles, some newly forming and some torn, from the axe’s friction. “I’d rather move your stupid pipes.”

“It’s for-You know what? You’re not going to listen to me, are you.” Deidara shakes his head and presses his tongue piercing through his lip. He quickly adverts his gaze to his shoes. “Get your ass up and let’s get going, then. Shit’s around back in the wheelbarrow. You’ll want to use it.”

He hadn’t found any twins on his walk around the property. What he did find, though? Cut water lines. This close to harvest, he can’t afford to have his resources drained. And moving this stuff is a pain in the ass . Lugging never seems so bad for the first few hundred feet. Once the better part of a mile starts to creep up, though, it becomes back breaking. Especially after a night with heavy rain. Which is why he’s delegating that backbreak right to Deidara. He massages at his own already knotted shoulder and sighs, watching his employee scramble to his feet with an overdramatic enthusiasm.

Sasori’s not sure why he’s swearing so much behind the property or why it takes so long for him to get himself back in front with the supplies, but sometimes ignorance is bliss and he doesn’t have it in him to do a check in.

The guy’s made it this long without killing himself, right? Surely, there've been a few close calls. Sasori’s willing to bet as much with the burns stained up Deidara’s biceps and the speckled hint of scarring around his glass eye.

“Wait, hold on, hn!” he gasps as soon as he’s back over, leaving Sasori with the wheelbarrow to scurry back into his trailer for his sketchbook.

Waving it around proudly, he throws it in with the piping and a handful of pens and pencils. “What? We’ll be out for a while, yeah?”

Yeah, they might as well make a day of it. Should he be surprised when not even a quarter mile into it, Deidara starts to complain? “What do you even need all this shit for, hn,” he groans, wiping another palmful of sweat off his forehead. It’s starting to drip in his eyes, stinging salt and clinging to his eyebrows.

“I have to reroute one of my water lines,” Sasori snaps. “You can thank the jackass that slashed it up the other night. And how are you so sweaty? I’m freezing.”

“Because I’m lugging all your shit around for you, hn!” Then, he snaps his fingers. “My man, you know what you could do? Get plumbing like a normal person.”

“Oh, good idea! Let me march on down to town and get myself a plumber! And I’ll drag him all the way up here to show him where to install a water system for my illegal fucking grow !”

“Woah, geez, are you okay, hn?”

Just ,” Sasori grits. “We’ve got at least half a mile to go. Nothing to be done about it.”

“Yeah, man, just cool it. You’re stressing me out, hn.”

He’s stressed? “Feel free to get your ass back to chopping wood.”

Deidara rolls his eyes. “I’m going, I’m going, hn.”

They break by a dip between two gently sloped hills, eroded down by a rushing creek, flowing heavy with recent rainfall. The wheelbarrow sticks to the soaked leaves underfoot, tangling in the wheel and threatening to jam it up.

“It’s fine,” Sasori grumbles, motioning for him to stop. “I’ll take it by hand from here.”

“What? You don’t want me to tag along, hn?”

“No.”

“Why, hn?”

Sasori doesn’t answer. Instead, he pulls out the sketchbook and pens, places them carefully in Deidara’s hands, and lugs the piping off behind a shimmering heap of ferns. He has to be siphoning water from the creek. Whatever the system is, it’s intricate and it seems like the less eyes on it the better.

He’s not staying with a man that indulges many secrets.

Honestly, though? Whatever. Deidara’s been getting sick of carrying all that around, anyway. The work he’s been doing blows chunks, and if Sasori wants to get all wrapped up in that by himself, it’s no skin off his teeth.

Tranquility nestles itself between the trees, water trickling loud after morning rain. A loose branch tumbles from one of the trees and falls to the creek with a sharp slash.

Sasori’s right, though; it’s chilly here. With dried sweat on his back his skin starts to break out in frigid bumps. It doesn’t help that the creek that runs even colder. 

A positive is that it might be a hell of a lot better than showering with the fucking hose behind the trailer like he’s taken to. 

Lighting up again, he smokes the jay perched between his lips. His shoes kick off with dull splats. Everything here is so mushy , and he sinks underfoot with the press of bare feet into almost muddy dirt that clings to the balls of his feet.

It washes away with crystal clear water, but he hisses and pulls it back. “ Fuck , that’s bitter, hn.” Again, his feet go back in. Better get used to it. But Sasori doesn’t want him nosing around, so he tucks himself in the driest spot he can find by a hollowed out tree trunk. The moss still pads spongy against the backs of his bared arms, but he pays it no mind while he scribbles away.

The earth is so rich it sits heavy in even the slightest of his breaths.

Drawing for about an hour or so feels like no time at all. The creek’s ice-cold water starts to become a comforting and jolting alertness that keeps him focused. He works over the same spot on the page, adjusting the weight of his hand.

“Is there a reason you’re drawing me behind my back?”

Sasori materializes behind him so silently he gasps at the intrusion. His first reaction is to slap the sketchbook against his chest, but it’s only halfway there before it’s snatched out of his grasp and held in slightly shaky, milk white hands.

There’s a freckle on Sasori’s wrist that peeks out from the sleeve of his turtleneck. Darker than the others, it stands out an ink blot on blank paper.

“Oh my god you keep doing that , hn! Stop grabbing my shit without asking.”

He gets a confused blink in return, but he hands the sketchbook back. “I did ask.”

Has he been alone for so long that he really thought he just said something out loud? Deidara shakes his head. Whatever. He holds it up for Sasori to peer at, which he does with an overly critical disdain.

“I can do better than that.”

Deidara rolls his eyes. Show-off. “Whatever, I was the top of my class, y’know,” he scoffs, leaning until he collapses to the ground with his hands over his chest. With his head tilted back and his lungs full of pine, he feels this might not be the worst place to end up dead, with Sasori sketching lightly in his book beside him.

“Ah-huh.”

He’s more interested in the sky. Clear blue, it expands endless over rolling, tree covered hills that Deidara can’t get enough of. The air he breathes in is crisp and almost living , curling soothing swirls in his lungs. “ Wait, hn!

Sasori freezes so abruptly and with such a ferocity that he’s sure the pencil’s going to snap. White knuckled around it, he snaps his honeyed eyes to the side. “What.”

He huffs. Okay, maybe he’s a little vain. “If you’re going to draw me, I want you to at least do it with my hair down, hn,” he complains, letting the hair out of its tight ponytail. Deidara’s not an idiot—it’s hopefully not the first or last time this’ll work for him.

Sasori just stares and blinks at him before burying his head back in the sketchbook. “Whatever.”

So much for falling for his charm and good looks. It’s almost like he responds better to the jabs Deidara makes at him. He pulls quietly at strands of grass clumped between his fists until it’s actually uncomfortable sitting here so silently.

It feels like an eternity that Sasori’s been working on this stupid scribble. He reaches to snatch the book out of his hands again. Who cares? Not like this guy was asking before touching any of his shit. “My man, I know I must’ve thrown you off with my artistic expertise but—”

It dies in his throat. “Holy SHIT , hn.”

“Not too shabby for dropping out in grade nine, huh?”

Deidara wishes he’d bitten back his awe, his face burning, now, staring at what’s a perfect replica of himself, down to the messy slope of his nose and the constant meanness in his eyes. “I didn’t… wow , I stand corrected, hn,” he can’t believe he’s saying, but just as quickly, he’s reeling back. “I mean, it’s pretty technically proficient, but I don’t know if I’d call it a piece of art , hn.”

“Give it back, then,” Sasori demands, holding his hand out for the drawing. His nails catch the hairs on the back of Deidara’s hand and he jerks back a little too quickly.

His touch is jolting.

He scoffs, hugging the sketchbook close to his chest. “No way! It’s mine, hn. You should’ve drawn it on your own paper,” he huffs. Pulling it back just enough to steal another peek. It’s a spitting image of him, done with an ease he’s rarely seen on anyone. “Don’t get all full of yourself, mine’s just stylized .”

Sasori cackles at him until there’s tears in the corner of his eyes. “ Stylized? Is that how you’re going to bandage up your ego?” I’m better at drawing than you , his stupid hooded eyes say, and it makes him dig his heels in.

“It’s just to get the point across! I’m a 3D major, it’s different, hn.”

He gets an eye roll. “You said it was fine arts yesterday.” Sasori shakes his head. “Tell me how the fuck that isn’t art. That’s perfect execution.”

Deidara blows a raspberry with a full tongue and Sasori scowls at him. Fine, whatever, he thinks he’s funny and that’s all that matters. “Fine arts, 3-D arts, whatever, hn. You don’t get it. It’s a good drawing but doin’ it like that all the time’s just…boring.”

Sasori scoffs at him defensively. “ You are too heavy handed.”

What ?! You don’t know dick, hn !”

He frowns and points at the sketchbook. Deidara’s flustered, passing it off quick. Is this his way of asking permission? Something he’s noticed the last week or so—Sasori isn’t good at talking. When he sees something he wants, he grabs it right out of Deidara’s hands without a word or second thought.

Maybe he thinks he’s asking?

“It’s not up for debate. My mouth doesn’t look like that,” he balks, almost offended in the way he points at his portrait.

“It absolutely looks like that, hn!” Deidara exclaims, pointing exasperated from the sketchbook to Sasoris’ rounded face. Does he think he hasn’t been spending all week staring at him? The curve of his perpetually pouted lower lip swells against his chin, pursed to a straight, unappreciative line.

Deidara wants to make him squirm .

He hates leaving anything still for too long.

Sasori won’t take that as an answer. The book’s ripped from his clasp all over again, held up next to his ever so slightly freckled face. The light behind his eyes is rare, ferocious, and entirely focused on this piece of “art” he’s trying to create. “Look at me.”

He does and it’s the final nail in the coffin.

His mouth is evergreen that drinks Deidara in and he’s left darting from his eyes to his knees to right below his waist and right back up.

His companion doesn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, but the air is cold and starving, begging him for attention, a hunger he can’t satisfy. “I guess I could’ve shaded it differently, hn,” he relents. “But it’s stylistic ,” he huffs again, getting himself stuck in that same loop.

“I’m not talking to you about this anymore.” The nicest way he can say you’re fucking wrong .

“Don’t care. Gimme my book, hn.”

With his back turned, Deidara pores over the portrait all over again, knowing, with anticipation on his tongue, that Sasori’s really looked at him. He traces over the sketched details of his own face, things he barely notices himself that he didn’t think a man who’s barely known him a week would.

His out of sync heart pounds blood in his ears and he snaps the sketchbook shut. “What’s down there, hn?” he asks, pointing to the dip between them and the next expanse of trees.

Sasori peers down the rocky pit and shrugs. “No clue.”

“Should we find out, hn?”

He checks his watch and laughs silently. “Fuck it.” Deidara watches him work. He’s used to living out here, spending most of his day in the wilderness, wandering through trees, dirt, ferns.

Just a backwoods hick living out here by himself. Seems like he knows his way around well enough, though. “That tree looks sturdy, hn,” Deidara offers, pointing to a toppled over trunk that hangs over the creek.

“Be careful. It’s still wet.”

Case and point, Sasori lowers himself and half crawls over it, inching himself over the slippery, moss covered tree.

“You look like an idiot, hn,” Deidara scoffs, stepping hard onto the trunk with his heavy, steel toed boots. “Wait, so you siphon the water all the way from—" His heel slips right off the trunk and he’s sent down a couple dozen feet down the side of the hill, staining his back with mud.

Sasori swings his legs over to glower down at him. “I’m leaving you here if you break something.”

Still, he waits and lights himself another joint while he waits for Deidara to pull himself back up.


Garberville, Humboldt County CA 08/16/1992

It always goes back to the mangled cicatrix that dominates Lee’s side. They avoid it as much as they can but it always falls back under Gaara’s scrutiny. From the pictures, he’d trusted Lee when he’d said it wasn’t so noticeable.

Gaara saw the damage before his date was even out of the truck.

“Hey, what is that for? You have no reason to be worried,” Lee utters, “Come here!” He pulls Gaara in a little too rough, guiding him across the picnic blanket to between his legs and hooking his knees over Lee’s thigh. They nestle together like doves, Gaara’s cheek pressed to his sturdy shoulder.

He tries to smile, but it bursts away quickly as it comes. Lee acts like the scarring is nothing out of the ordinary. Surely, something he’s forced to come to terms with at the beginning of all this. 

Lee’s hand sits on his knee and the first thing he looks at is the milk while scar that runs from his knuckles halfway up his arm. Discoloration shows where he’d needed to be stitched back together. Immediately. Summer tan lights the scars up brighter, and when Lee finally catches him staring, he twists the smear out of sight. “Some people find them difficult to look at. I hope I have not made you uncomfortable,” he says almost with an air of muted sadness.

He’d never seen from the pictures what he’d actually done. And Lee’s beautiful, of course he’s beautiful, but what he’s done is something awful and irreparable. Looking at Lee is absorbing a battlefield. It’s his face that quilts heartbreak fastest. 

It’s his fault.

“Lee,” he finally has to say. “I’m so sorry that we had to meet because of this,” he blabbers, reaching automatically for the  touch of the burnt mottling by his elbow. 

Gaara doesn’t know if he’s ready for what’s under his clothes. Just this thrashes something crystal clear through him: 

Lee’s lucky to be walking at all . And with all four of his limbs still intact, no less. Minus the cosmetic blunders, but they’d been working with someone who’d been near torn apart.

Gaara had seen him in the hospital, after all.

“It was tough to overcome, but it is not as hard now,” Lee tries to reassure him, but the hesitancy on his lips tells otherwise. “It reminds me,” of you almost comes forth, but he catches himself, rubbing at the scar Gaara’s been so keen on observing. “That I have worked hard to be here, and that I am very lucky to have overcome as much as I have.”

Always with the positives. Gaara smiles soft. “I don’t know how you can be so... genuine all the time.” On his plate, he traces the trail of crumbs  left in his sandwich’s wake over his Styrofoam plate. He chews on the inside of his cheek. “You’re really one of a kind.”

Compliments are shaky on his tongue, but Lee’s face lights up and it stirs a joy in him he doesn’t know how to fully feel. Gaara exhales in disbelief that this boy has come to terms with this, can forgive him, can want him like this without a hardened disdain in his heart.

He draws a cautious line with his finger down the crook in Lee’s nose to the line of scarred stitching hidden behind his ear.

A worry in his love’s eyes reduces him to quivering anxieties. It hurts when he sees confidence waver to self-conscious reservations.

He tugs back and Lee catches their fingers together. “I am sorry,” he then apologizes in turn, and Gaara’s about to tell him that no , he couldn’t possibly have anything to lament over. He’s been nothing but kind, understanding, and supportive. Still, he holds this jump on his tongue, letting their hands tangle together like knotted yarn. “It is not you,” Lee reassures quickly, this time letting his own grasp tumble to his damaged forearm. “I was worried that you would see this and...I do not know, I thought that you might rethink coming to see me.”

He motions gently to the damaged set to his nose.

It breaks Gaara’s heart.

He swallows the lump in his throat once, twice, three times before he can reach a thread of composure. “Lee, I would never change my mind about you,” he exhales in disbelief that this...someone like this would be worried about impressing Gaara of all people.

It’s a relief when Lee’s pulled from averting eye contact to his usual, brightened smile. “I have been very nervous because you are so…” He looks for the right word. “Gorgeous.”

It winds Gaara, and he doesn’t know if he should say thank you, should say something back, should stammer and say that no, he’s nothing special in the way he looks.

Nothing comes out.

All Gaara knows is he wants this boy and the touch of his skin under naive fingertips.

Lee presses to the inside of his wrist, ghosting over bluish veins and his alabaster composure. He follows the forested trail of his artery up to his heart. It roars his heart in his ears and traps his lips in a parted silence.

“May I?” he whispers, and Gaara can’t answer, desire like ravenous hunger an overwhelming beast. A shaky gulp and the ghost of a nod is the best he can do.

He doesn’t know if it moves too slow or too fast, pulled into a kiss from smiling lips that’s sunburst between Gaara’s lungs. Lips sticky apple from sparkling cider, Gaara’s clumsy , knocking their teeth together with a stifled gasp.

He starts back, fluttering his manicured hands up to hide his mouth. Embarrassment swallows him. How many times has he dreamed of doing this perfectly? “I’m sorry, I’ve never—”

Lee laughs against his cheek and tilts Gaara’s mouth open with a thumb on his chin. “Again,” he breathes, and red-faced, brushes their lips together in something that’s barely a kiss. He shudders, yearning to fall harder into the arms around him. He’s swallowed up, with Lee’s tongue against his lip before he covers it with another kiss. Touches like lotus blossoms bloom down his back.

Lee ,” he gasps when they break away, dipping in for more and moaning when Lee’s hand slips under his shirt and up the small of his back.

“Woah,” Lee whispers the next time they part, dazed eyes and a crooked smile wide on his face. 

Gaara just about wants to die until they’re coaxed back together by the lazy circles being drawn absently by the hand on his thigh. “Yeah,” he laughs back, relishing in how easy it is to be around this person. “We should...we could…” he coughs, and pauses, realizing he doesn’t know what to say .

This place is too public for what they really want. If they get caught like this, there’ll be a lot worse hell to pay than just his sneaking around Naruto’s apartment.

They should go for a walk to cool down. Gaara doesn’t want there to be a second where Lee’s hands aren’t on him.

“If we go up the river a little, there is a very lovely place to sit by the water,” Lee offers, tilting his chin up to dust another kiss over his reddened lips.

Still, he smiles against the touch down his jaw. “Yeah, why don’t we?” They have plenty of time, he reminds himself. 

They say they’ll get moving, but they stay nestled on their picnic blanket, wrapped in sugared kisses and confectioned whispers that tangle their hearts together.


Garberville, Humboldt County, CA 08/17/1992

The bars around here close early. To the public, at least.

Any time past ten, operations carry on behind closed doors and pulled blinds. Those they serve after hours have a far higher value than the couple of dollars they throw down the drain for pitchers of cheap beer. So, when Temari shows up at ten-thirty with her jean jacket pulled tight around her muscular shoulders, she isn’t surprised that despite being let in through a locked door, the bar’s filled with the Six Brothers going about their business.

Konan and Pein are the face of the business. His brothers? Security, budgeting, damage control. Behind the scenes stuff. Only she’s here tonight. Things get busy this time of year.

What did Kankuro say they called it? Carpentry. Yeah. As long as she gets the cash she needs and keeps her siblings relatively unharmed, she doesn’t give a damn what they call it. Nervous doesn’t begin to cover where Temari is starting out.

She remembers Sasori. Not like Gaara, who talks about him with the goggles of childhood innocence still fastened over his eyes. He’d lived with them on and off in their youth, which fizzled into just stopping by like a dysfunctional whirlwind in their equally, although alternatively messy lives.

The uncle Temari recalls, though, is a far cry from the one everyone seems to think she has. After they’ve defaulted to Yashamaru and she tells them no, that’s not who she’s interested in, she’s met with cold shoulders and abundant caution.

Yeah, it’s better if we don’t really ... talk about that , it always falls to. 

Even as kids, he’d been weird. But he was still young , even when he’d finally fallen off the map. But being weird is different than having everyone petrified of you.

No one really looks at Temari.

The after hours crew doesn’t mind so much. These types keep their mouths shut, but everyone has a soft spot for Kankuro. Especially the hole he burns through his wallet around them. Plus, Konan likes to think, supposedly, he’ll have some sympathy for his little foil of a nephew, softened by his own plague of homosexual tendencies.

It’s busier right now than it is during a majority of the day shift.

Most of these things happen at night, she’s quickly learning. People that refuse to conform operate during hours unwelcome to interruption. 

The bar’s phone is an ancient, corded thing from the eighties.  “Might want this to help,” Konan offers, sliding a shot of Jose Cuervo Silver across the bar. Another one, she pours quickly for herself. “Your brother drinks trash liquor. This is my excuse for something classier.”

Temari wouldn’t call tequila classy, but it’s better than Apple Pie McGillicuddy's. Just thinking about it gives her a cavity, so she has no idea how Kankuro’s mouth isn’t riddled with fillings. “Thanks again for this,” she murmurs sincerely, keeping her voice down though she knows, surely, that these are people working far outside the confines of the law.

She supposes she and her siblings may be, soon, too.

Konan checks her lipstick in the mirror behind the bar. Her amber pooled eyes flick to meet Temari’s. With her fishnet shirt sloped off her shoulder, she dabs flaked mascara away from her waterline. She’s easily one of the most beautiful and untouchable women in town. “I can’t promise he’ll be as helpful as you want. But you’ll have better luck than Kankuro.”

Right. Flighty about men. “Is there anything I should keep in mind?”

A hanging light flickers overhead, ghosting it’s yellow hue to a shuttered black. Even in town, the night is an unwelcome wave.

“Money doesn’t mean anything to him.”

So wealth will never be a motivating factor. Temari likes to think that means he won’t shoot them in the back over a couple dollars. 

Well, there’s no time like the present, so she lets Konan lead her around the bar. The tequila’s hot in Temari’s chest and gives her the edge of alcohol’s ever inflated confidence.

Konan clacks in the number with her oval nails and holds the receiver to her ear until the ring picks up and she passes it over.

He might not even pick up.

And if he does, will he talk to her?

Temari waits with bated breath as the phone rings once, twice, three times, then clicks alive. Did he pick up ?

“—the love of God, Deidara, will you go outside? Hello? Hello ? Someone there? Yeah?”

“Uhm, hi? Hello?”

“Hello? Who is this? How did you get this number?” a silken sharp voice clips from the other end of the line. He doesn’t sound a day older than her siblings. Actually, it’s the same smooth tone she remembers from her childhood, even toned and always lingering with the whisper of something… different .

This is weird .

Maybe not everything that’s disliked about Sasori is a mortal offense. 

“It’s, well…” Even over the phone, he sounds ages younger than their father. “Is this Sasori?”

Temari’s met with a brick wall. “No names. How did you get this number.”

“It’s Temari.” She swallows. Not off to a strong start. She takes a deep breath and twirls the phone cord around her hand, feeling like she needs to elaborate over the uncomfortable silence. “Rasa’s daughter. I—”

Close the door! I don’t need bugs in my fucking house! ” Temari holds the phone away from her ear until the screaming and slamming on the other end settles.

Okay, seriously? “Is now a bad time?”

She catches a cough and the sound of a lighter clicking.  “Temari,” he says slowly, as if he’s letting the word sink down to his bones. “Now’s fine.”

“Konan said she spoke to you. About me.”

There’s a potent silence punctuated by a sharp cough. “Yes.”

Is that all? “I’m not sure how much she’s filled you in,” she starts cautiously. His temper’s another thing she remembers. Sasori would be a wild storm, coming and going either in a state of total euphoria, or a low so tumbling that he’s hardly able to be pulled above water.

“Minimally.”

This reiteration of Sasori seems irritated, prissy, and withdrawn.

Brother . Something tells her that’s not the case, but the ball’s in his court and she swallows it back. “Kankuro and I have been looking for work over the summer and—”

“Does Rasa know about this?” Konan’s right about his off putting personality. She can tell even like this, without seeing his face, that he’s itching to hang up the phone.

Does he think someone’s listening in on her?

Talk about paranoia.

“What? No. No, of course not. We’ve been looking for work and it’s been impossible. And—”

“Where are you calling from?”

Is this twenty fucking questions?

“Konan dialed for me. I’m at the bar.” She has to bite her tongue, she reminds herself. 

“Okay.”

That seems to be it for the interruptions. Temari clears her throat again and rolls her eyes. “This is actually…about Rasa. The three of us are trying to raise money to get the hell out of here.”

“Sounds like he’s as nurturing as ever.”

“He’s always been this way?”

There’s a snort from Sasori, but that’s the end of it. “Restaurants aren’t hiring?”

“Who goes out to eat around here?” Temari scoffs, and that gets her a laugh. Some things are a joke to everyone that lives here. “Besides, we’re looking for something a little…shorter term.”

“And you think I can help?” An irritated sigh. “I don’t need your father nosing his way into my business.”

Yeah, Konan said this might be difficult. But Kankuro tells her the card to pull, so she crosses her fingers and takes the plunge. “We’re trying to keep out of sight. Gaara’s coming home soon and we’re trying to get him out of town before Rasa’s too involved.”

“And?”

“Gaara’s supposed to be enrolled in the police academy.”

And ? That’s your family’s whole thing, isn’t it?”

“Ours.”

He laughs at that. “Sorry, but this isn’t the place for a bunch of kids to be running around. Especially the kids of the county’s—”

“Will you let me finish ?” This time, it’s Temari’s turn to cut him off. “He’s trying to save money in case he needs to get out of here with his boyfriend.”

Sasori’s voice dies.

Hook, line, and hopefully sinker.

“He knows it’s going to cause…problems when it comes out.” And she pulls out the final card. “Konan said you might understand.”

The silence is so potent that she thinks for a moment he’s hung up. There’s an exasperation to it that’s palpable even without words. 

She’ll back him into a corner if she has to, because they can’t take living like this anymore. Constantly on eggshells, always looking over their shoulders for their own safety or that of their siblings. Her boyfriend calls it a drag and she calls it something a little closer to a crisis.

“September twenty first. Intersection of Alderpoint Road and Main Drive. One bag each. Show up at two in the morning without a vehicle. Not a minute later.”

Wait.

He’s going to let them come .

She’s scrambling for a pen and paper, scrawling down notes in broken chicken scratch. They’ll have to figure out a plan. “Thank you so much, Sa—”

“I said no names. My name doesn’t come out of anyone’s mouth again until you’re on the property. Understand?”

“Right. Of course, I promise. We won’t take this for granted, thank you so much .” Paranoid as all hell. She has to admit—there’s something off about him. No worse than where they’re at now, and caution hasn’t done them any favors.

Time to try things their own way.

“Two in the morning. Do not be late.”

The phone line dies and Temari’s left with a scratchy set of notes and a welled dread on the back of her tongue.

“That’s farther than I thought you’d get,” Konan chimes in from across the bar, wiping down a space two patrons had just left from.

“He’s…”

“Hard to find words, right?”

Temari can’t help but laugh and scratch at the back of her head. “I guess so. I’ve gotta catch up with the boys,” she says with a wave, paying her tab and making way for her Honda. “Thanks for the help. I owe you one.”

Konan doesn’t bat an eye. “No debts. I’ve owed Kankuro a favor for a while.”

She doesn’t realize she’s flying over the speed limit until she skids onto their street, reeling into the driveway just as Kankuro’s getting out of his pickup.

His chapped lips quirk to a smile. Holding up a hesitant thumbs up, he breathes a sigh of relief when she nods. “We got him.”

“What’s the plan?”

“Meet at Shikamaru’s with Gaara tomorrow night. I think this is going to be more complicated than we anticipated.”

But if this is their one opportunity to make something of themselves, they’re going to take it , no matter how overwhelming the uncertainty.


Garberville, Humboldt County, CA 08/16/1992

Gaara keeps smiling at the flowers precariously settled on his lap. Sunset settling over the horizon reminds them that they need to get going. Even here, Lee doesn’t like to get caught out after dark without a group.

He won’t let Gaara walk home alone, or at all , staying so far away at Naruto’s. Lee has also deemed it unacceptable for him to wait for a ride. He can hear the way Guy would chew him out if he let that happen. That’s how they end up in Kakashi’s truck, puttering down Route 101.

Lee’s still mortified about the flowers, especially after how many times he’s imagined Gaara’s lips, or the touch of his mouth against more than what they’ve done so far.

Manicured, slender, and digging into his denim covered leg, Gaara’s hand hasn’t left his thigh. He has to keep his jaw tense while he drives. It’s been a perfect day. They’ve spent most of the afternoon into the breezy summer evening with almost constant conversation and their bodies glued to each other. A gentleman still, but their innocent touches move further and further from that as their evening tires to a close.

He’s thought about this a thousand times. The nails on his thigh taunt that it’s not just him. He’d seen it in the way Gaara’s verdurous eyes lit up at the coriander alone. He traces the stitches along Lee’s pocket and he inadvertently grasps at the steering wheel until his knuckles threaten to turn white.

Where would they even go ?

Gaara shifts the flowers to the side, propping them gently against the passenger side door. They crinkle against his seatbelt, almost echoing through the truck. Lee watches him brush over a coral rose with dainty touches. “These will look too nice in Naruto’s apartment,” Gaara teases with a laugh.

Isn’t that the truth. Naruto’s a great friend for letting him stay, but his tiny space is in a constant state of disarray, a mix of actual clutter and then some. Snack wrappers, ramen cups, you name it.

He shifts his knees and Gaara exhales something hardly modest. If he moves his hand he’ll end up...Lee accidentally shifts his thigh open. The last thing Lee wants is for him to think he’s being taken advantage of. “I am so sorry again about Ino! She was very excited that I had a date and was trying to help. In her own way,” he adds quickly.

Gaara takes a moment to stare down the flowers again. “Do you feel this way?” he wonders aloud, trailing over a coriander petal and down the slim neck of its stem. Lee imitates the touch, kissing his fingers up the side of his alabaster throat. His hair tucks out from the hat fiery red and tickles at a cracked fingernail. The touch is met with nervous eyes. “ I feel this way,” he admits abruptly.

At first, he thinks he’s misheard.

Gaara licks his lips.

He hasn’t.

Lee laughs, and it should make him relax, but fear of the unknown fills him with a new trepidation. “I have for...I cannot remember how long now,” he grins, and his heart tightens at the way Gaara’s face so wholeheartedly perks up. 

Young love is overwhelming and young lust is a monster of its own.

His touch is feathery, unlike Lee’s with wide knuckled hands. The fear of taking advantage goes right out the window with fingers bumping into the pulsing heat of his erection. Gaara grabs and his cock twitches under calescent pressure. His foot slips against the gas and the truck staggers. 

“We could…pull over.” His lips shine with a touch of saliva and Lee doesn’t need to be told twice. When they come off the exit, they pull to a dip in the trees only a few miles out from Naruto’s apartment. 

Their lips touch in a kiss full of chamomile and Lee’s swept up all over again. They’re clumsy but they’re in love and falling into their own uncoordinated beat comes easy. He touches, curious, at the hardened mound between Gaara’s legs and shivers at how he writhes.

Gaara squeezes him again and it aches .

“Lee…Can I suck your dick?”

“Don’t you want to go somewhere more private?” he gasps, but it doesn’t matter because they’ve started something they can’t stop, with Gaara’s hand between his legs and Lee’s fumbling with his buckle.

No ,” Gaara growls almost forcefully, an almost wild desperation in his eyes when he smooths up the hem of Lee’s shirt and presses a wet kiss to the hairs trailing down his navel. Just a little lower and--

They don’t need to say anything before they’re undoing each other's pants. Gaara’s jutted hip is carved marble and he’s only just barely touched before he’s swallowed up. The hand in his pants is electric, trapping him with a callous shyness.

Lee instinctively rolls his hips up when he’s pulled from his pants, despite the what if’s that won’t get out of his head. He’s mortified when he sees his boyfriend freeze. 

Woah .”

“Is something wrong?” he gasps, hands fluttering up to his mouth. Gaara stares down at him with wide eyes, tonguing at his chapped lip. He swallows, thumbing again at the base of Lee’s cock. He smooths his hand up with a slow, experimental stroke that lolls his head back.

He has to stifle a moan.

Gaara .” It’s dizzying, nails up his length and stirring a dangerous wave in him. If things keep going like this, he’ll barely last, and he’s waited so long for this.

“N-no, it’s just…” Gaara’s breath tickles against the tip of his cock and he shudders, trying not to beg for touch. “ Bigger than I imagined.”

It winds him that Gaara wants him to be the first person he does this with. That when he looks up at Lee it’s with a wholehearted lust that comes from the kind of adoration of someone that fully knows him.

“You imagined it?” Lee gasps, rutting into his fist. Oh, no no no it feels too good . But there’s something to the way Gaara looks at him, with his fingers pushed to the scar down his thumb, that makes him worry.

He hesitates, and he’s scared for a split second. He didn’t change his mind, did he? It’s-

Gaara kisses at the tip of his cock, punctuating it with a nervous twirl of his tongue. His mouth is sultry fire, running Lee’s head’s too cloudy as he staggers a weak “Oh, God , Gaara .” 

How does his mouth feel like this?

Lee gags out a whine with his hand over his mouth. He doesn’t mean to thrust at the mouth between his legs, but it's warm and oh God, his tongue shouldn’t feel that good. “Oh. Your mouth, Gaara!” he gasps again, digging his nails into the truck’s armrest.

Gaara groans between his legs and strikes fire through him. His throat is tight , gagging around him and swallowing him down until his lips are a flushed red around him. His mouth has him soaked , fucking Gaara’s mouth with too rough slaps of his hips. 

He gags and swallows him deeper .

Lee goes from the eyes staring, tear flooded, up at him, to the furious shuffle of his hand between his own legs. Gaara’s cock, strained in his fist, leaks with the hint of precum.

He has to touch him.

When Lee’s hand goes over his, Gaara shakes his head. “ Fuck me ,” he mouths against the underside of his cock and it takes everything not to let himself go. He’s beautiful , eagerly tonguing at the thrusts against his rouge stained lips. 

No one’s wanted him like this before.

Gaara , please, you need to slow down I’m—” His gasp is almost a yelp when the mouth between his legs pulls away and leaves him with empty air. He takes Lee’s hand, pressing his soft hands to the inside of his palm, extending his index and middle finger skyward. “Like this,” Gaara pleads, kissing sweet nothings to Lee’s fingertips.

“It should—Oh noGaara -“

He takes Lee’s fingers and swallows against them. Tonguing around them, he chokes when he pulls back too quickly and fumbles to pull his pants off.

Lee can’t stop staring. It’s here, lingering at the small of Gaara’s back, that it hits him. He really has no idea what he’s doing.

His first finger inside Gaara throws that out the window with the lust it tremors through him. Heat, back between his legs, is dizzying, sloppied by the awkward way he shifts his hips to try to get Lee to fuck him deeper .

“Mm-” he gags against Lee’s cock, pulling up with a messy suck that almost ruins him again . The pants he sucks are shaky, rolling hot air over his strained erection. Pressing another kiss to spit glistened skin, he leans into Lee’s fingers. “ More .”

Gaara’s breath hitches with the second finger, because much as he wants this, it still hurts . He gags again on Lee’s cock, shuddering to a sharp orgasm by his own hand and it shatters him .

It’s not on purpose. It’s not it’s not it’s not but Gaara’s tongue, the warmth and those eyes looking at him that—

“Oh my god, oh my God , Gaara, please !”

Cumming up his face with a staggered rut, Lee tugs his face down with awkward thrusts up his cheek until he realizes exactly what he’s doing .

Gaara stares up at him shaky with tear-stained eyes and spit wiped down the side of his mouth. Gossamer roped up his cheek, he’s…

God, Lee would do anything to sleep with him. Not until he’s dragging his thumb over his boyfriend’s sticky lips does he realize what he’s done. 

“I’m sorry!” he exclaims, pulling Gaara up in his seat. “I’m so sorry, I did not mean to ruin your makeup!” he apologizes profusely, fumbling the glove cabinet open for spare napkins. “Here, let me help.”

He wipes his face with obsessive pats, frantically trying to clean up the mess he’s made. There’s only so much he can do about Gaara’s hair, but between the two of them, they get him hopefully put together enough that no one will ask questions when he gets home. 

“It’s okay,” Gaara laughs and wipes at his stuffy nose. “That was…” he breathes ragged, swept up in how good the pounding of his heart feels. Is there a word for it? Fluffed brushes of his lips to Lee’s ear is all he musters.

“I wish…” A wanton lust lingers unabashedly in how he smooths his hands under Lee’s shirt. He prickles over curled chest hairs, burying his fingers in the inky locks. “I want more ,” Gaara growls into his ear. 

Lee’s going to melt. Does this lovely, frail boy know what he does to him? There’s something offbeat because this is so much better than when he was with Sakura. Gaara’s touch is too sensitive and he’s shuddering, cleaning himself up and pulling his pants back up with a shiver. Salt covers the sticky sugar over his lips, and Lee presses a kiss to swollen red lips.

There’s that lingering want, but it doesn’t feel right to go that far here. Not like this, jammed in his parents’ truck without a bit of romantic ambiance to it.

Many of his peers have said you are supposed to wait three days after a first date to reach out again. Nothing about their relationship has been traditional, so why start now?

“When will I see you again?” Lee whispers, and Gaara has the same gears turning in his head.

He lingers before breathing it as more of a question. “Tomorrow?”

Lee can’t help the beaming grin that breaks out on his face. “Yes! I will see you tomorrow, then!”

The kiss of Gaara’s lips lingers between his legs, and he exhales after he’s disappeared into the apartment, letting his head fall back against the headrest.

What cuts through his lust riddled fog is how he’ll have to break this new relationship to his fathers. 

Chapter Text

***NOTE: Some of the illustrations/pictures included in this chapter are NSFW and SEXUALLY EXPLICIT. As a heads up for anyone not into that/that might be reading this in more public setting. ***

 

Garberville, Humboldt County, CA 08/16/1992

He knows Naruto will be awake when he gets home. That doesn’t make his stomach sink any less when he sees the tranquil, golden light glowing from the street. Leaning against the front door, Gaara sucks in shaky, desolate breaths.

Stickiness on the inside of his thigh reminds him of the emptiness he feels without Lee against him. Inside him. He blinks hard, trying to smudge any stray eyeliner off his face. Couldn’t see well enough in the truck, and trying to in his pocket mirror on his way upstairs didn’t do him any favors, either.

He’s sure he doesn’t look a hundred percent, but this is better than nothing. Outside, he’d smoked another joint in the back. Better to smell like weed than sex.

Naruto’s on his feet before he’s even fully in through the doorway. Pulling his shoes off, Gaara brings his head up to his friend’s only inches from his, and he gasps, reeling himself backwards and knocking into the doorframe.

“What is wrong with you?” Gaara gasps, hand flying up to clutch the front of his shirt. He almost crushes the flowers against himself, jerking them back just as quickly to make sure they’re all in tact.

Good, nothing’s damaged.

“How was it! Oh man you’ve gotta tell me—Woah dude, your hair’s all messed up,” he gawks blatantly, pointing at the mussed red locks sticking out from under his hat.

Gaara tries to hide the smile that blossoms over his tender lips. “We went hiking,” he replies too quickly, earning narrowed eyes and a low, thoughtful hum. With the scrapes on his knees and the crumpled grasps wrinkled down his shirt, it isn’t unreasonable to say they’d spent their day rummaging around through the woods.

Lee’s hands are seared into him, welcomed stains against his porcelain skin.

He’s never been particularly good at lying. He wrinkles his nose, under scrutinizing eyes far too long. All he can do is try to keep from cracking under pressure. “Wait, is there a trail by there? I don’t think I’ve—Oh, dude, that was good, you almost got me!” Naruto cackles, slapping him too hard on the shoulder. He moves out of the way for Gaara to pad his way over to the couch.

“What are you talking about?”

Naruto blows right past his question.

“Okay, how hairy was he though, because I need to know. I dunno if you’ve ever noticed, but Sakura does this thing where she’ll drop those bombs on me and then just like leave it! How am I supposed to stop thinking about something like that?” Naruto babbles on, nestling hard into the pilled couch. “At least one of us is getting it, I mean—"

“We didn’t do anything,” Gaara snaps, overly defensive. He knows the blush is telling and that either way, the look in his friend’s eyes tells him he’s made up his mind either way.

“I never said you did! But come on , you two pine over each other for years and you’re telling me you didn’t feel around a little ? And besides…”

Gaara’s hand lands on it the same time he says it.

“Your hair.” Naruto points right at his mussed red locks, and even though most of it’s tucked under his hat, part of his hair is undeniably, conspicuously dried to his left temple. “And the eyeliner.”

Heat runs up his spine so fast it’s almost freezing .

“I don’t kiss and tell,” Gaara tries to say weakly. Against his chest, the bouquet’s plastic covering crinkles helplessly.

“Well, you haven’t kissed before today either, buzzkill, so now’s a good time to start!” Naruto’s made the transition from matchmaker to nosy friend in half a tick. “Okay? So is he too hairy or not?”

“I…” he has to force it out, and it almost hurts how hard the blush prickles over his face. “kind of like it,” Gaara admits, then clenches his jaw when he sees his friend’s face lights up. His face must be the same shade as his flaming red hair. “I really should go take a shower!” he exclaims quickly.

Maybe he should be a landscaper, since he’s managing to dig his own grave in record fucking time.

“I’m only messin’ with you,” Naruto teases, flicking the television on as Gaara heads to the bathroom to get himself more presentable. “You deserve it, by the way.”

“Huh?”

“Sorry, that’s not what I meant!” he exclaims with a wild wave in front of his face. “Like, uh, you deserve to have someone like Lee in your life. You worked really hard to get here.”

Gaara smiles, but he doesn’t know what to say. It takes time to get used to, and he repeats it all the time. That it’s okay, he deserves this, and especially, that Lee wants this just as wholeheartedly.

He meticulously clips the ends of his flowers and puts them in one of Naruto’s pint glasses on the coffee table.

In the shower, he sighs into hot water against his back and traces over the valleys Lee’d carved into his body.


Eel River, Humboldt County, CA 08/18/1992

Sasori’s a showoff. He doesn’t like that Deidara’s just as bad, if not worse. While he appreciates having someone else around unafraid to embrace their vanity, his new trimmer tries to lure him in with the subtlety of a baboon. Outside the trailer, he pulls stray hairs from his head, his usual ponytail down in favor of straight, golden blond locks weeping down his back.

“Do you think this looks okay, hn?” he asks, as if he’s not wearing the same thing he’s worn every other day for the past couple of weeks.

Is he chewing gum?

“Bring a jacket. It’s going to be cold later,” Sasori snaps. Anything he can do to nix the complaining before it starts. He pops a loud bubble, and even a dozen yards away, he can hear the chewing. Awful.

“I got mud all over mine.”

Sasori rubs at the bridge of his nose. He feels like he’s getting a child ready to catch the bus. “That was days ago, you didn’t clean it?” he gawks.

“I did!” Deidara exclaims. “This is mud from this morning, hn.” Dramatically, he waves at his jacket hanging solitary on the trailer’s door.

Seriously ? Look, I have a spare you can-- spit that gum out !” Sasori finally screams. “Get over here. Get your ass over here!” he fumes, until Deidara skulks towards him like a dog that’s eaten something it shouldn’t, ready to book it at the first wrong move.

He holds his hand out and points to the ground. “Spit it.”

“No, hn.”

Spit.

Deidara shrugs and expels it right into his open palm.

“Oh I’m going to fucking kill you! I meant onto the fucking—you know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, and we’re late,” he gripes. “I’ll get you a fucking jacket. Christ , Deidara, fucking animal .”

Sasori’s going to stick it in his hair when he isn’t looking.

They have two major outings during the year—Kakuzu’s birthday, and their end of harvest celebration down at the bar. At least for those who take breaks in between. Kakuzu goes year-round. Sasori, on the other hand, can’t be bothered with the complications of indoor growing and is happy to stick to the land’s natural growing seasons.

There’s nothing special about Kakuzu’s birthday. This is just the time of year everyone needs a serious break.

For most of them, it’s about the power of the dollar, and that means twenty-four hour a day schedules. Sasori just likes to sell weed. He’s got enough for a lifetime buried all over the mountains, and now it’s all about the thrill. More money means more feet needed on the property. Even more so when everyone’s leaving their posts for the day.

Small time grower or part of a large-scale operation, they have too many plants to take any unnecessary risks. On top of that, Sasori has a couple more people that want a bullet in his head than he’d like. He pays for two guys. Kakuzu gets three.

Konan and Pein are the kingpins. Their five brothers? They’re around for favors. This favor happens to be watching a few grows while the rest of them light up.

The jacket Sasori fishes out is something that’s got to be at least fifteen years old, but like everything else on his property, he’s kept in impeccable condition. He’s a preserver. Deidara’s a smasher.

Even with the bulk Deidara has on him, the jacket is large on him. Camouflage print and something he’s sure was a hand me down either from Kakuzu or an unknown excursion, Sasori rustles the jacket around on him until it’s sitting evenly enough on his slender shoulders.

“Geez, I got it, I got it! Stop fucking nitpicking will you, hn?” Deidara snaps, swatting his spindled hands away.

Sasori scowls at him. “We’re taking the ATV.”

The trip over is only twenty minutes. Clinging around his waist, Deidara travels with his mouth pressed into the back of Sasori’s shoulder. His body’s hot, radiating an inviting, smoky warmth from the thick knitting in his turtleneck. It’s a small gathering, he’s told, with only eight of them in attendance.

Sasori just doesn’t mention who they are, what they do, or any identifying information about them. So, when his first run in is a woman with aquamarine blue hair and what’s clearly her boyfriend, red haired and a face full of piercings, he’s beside himself. Even in San Francisco, he would have been beside himself.

And Sasori gave him some coke before they left. Okay, maybe a lot.

The property, nestled on the edge of the Eel River and tucked on the line of a statuesque canopy of trees, gives way to an open plot with space for cooking, camping, and, apparently, a space for fireworks. Already stacked out by the river, they sit in bright boxes atop one another.

“Quit with the staring, I’ll introduce you,” Sasori murmurs, swatting him at the elbow. She’s throwing more wood into the fire while her partner sets up coolers full of alcohol, water, and sodas. They all drink. It’s more mixers than anything else.

“Sasori!” the woman exclaims, giving him a firm clap on the back that he returns fondly. Her boyfriend just nods. Deidara’s starting to realize that most of the people living so far off the grid are a little…off. “I haven’t heard from you since our chat the other night!”

He’d been on the phone more often than expected for someone so isolated. Sasori keeps kicking him out for talks that are all but nonexistent the minute the line goes dead.

“I’ve been busy with the new trimmer.” Sasori thumbs towards him. “Deidara. This is Konan and her boyfriend, Pein.”

“No way that’s your real name. Can I ask what they call you that for, hn?” Deidara laughs, raising his hand to give him a high five.

Pein blatantly ignores the gesture. “You may not.” he asks, nodding once at Sasori. “This is Hidan’s friend?”

“What gave it away?”

Pein sighs. “Just keep an eye on him.”

Deidara would be offended if he weren’t already preoccupied with yet another unacknowledged couple on the property. His eyes light up as soon as he catches sight of them, trudging over from their truck with several handles of liquor in tow. The shorter one is pale—even moreso than Sasori—with jet black hair and thick, rounded glasses. Whatever. It’s who’s beside him that he’s fixated on. He and his vibrant blue hair tower well over six feet, donning a shark tooth necklace and an almost neon Hawaiian shirt.

Sasori tries to stop him, but it’s too late. Just before he can reach out to clamp down on Deidara’s wrist, he’s out of grasp, bounding towards them. “Woah, who is this , hn? Sasori, my man, this guy makes you look like a fucking ant ! My name’s Deidara, I’m Hidan’s friend and I’m staying with him because Kakuzu decided I talk to much and he couldn’t deal with two of—"

Pain in the ass.

At least Kisame’s friendly.

His partner, on the other hand? Far less impressed. “Where did you get him?” he asks, more horrified than anything else.

Christ , Deidara, at least let them get their names in!” Sasori snaps, swatting him sharp on the shoulder. He doesn’t love the way his employee seems to so freely give out information. Itachi shoots him something that’s almost sympathetic, but Kisame seems utterly delighted in the bizarre interaction unfolding before his eyes.

“Kisame,” he says with a short wave and a grin. “And this is my guy, Itachi. Good question, where did you come from? Side of the road?”

“Yeah, actually,” Sasori admits.

Itachi nods in understanding. “Makes sense.”

“Kisame, hn?” Deidara hums, letting the name sink in. “My man, Kisame, I bet you’d be able to fucking chuck me into that river,” he half yells, pointing towards the rushing Eel River at the edge of Konan’s property. His pitch-black pupils seem to quiver, trapped in shimmering azure pools. “You think?”

He gets a confused squint. “Do you…want me to?” he asks slowly.

“Yes, hn,” Deidara says without missing a beat.

“Alright, kid, let’s give it a go,” Kisame agrees and with a hesitant glance over his shoulder, lets Deidara, even more boisterous than usual, drag him to the shoreline.

“Well,” Itachi murmurs, tugging his glasses off his face to clean the lenses with his shirt. On either side of his face, deep indents sit from the nose guards. “They’ll keep each other busy for a while.”

“Drink?”

“Please.”

Kisame hoists Deidara nearly over his head and tosses him into the river.

For a second, Sasori’s heart stops when he doesn’t resurface right away. He should know better. This kid seems to be boundlessly reckless and simultaneously indestructible. Deidara pops back up with a gasp and then a shrieking laugh. His hair, sopping wet, sticks down his face and his gooseflesh covered skin.

Sasori can only tell him it’s cold so many times.

It’s mesmerizing how easily he can nose his way into a group. Necessarily wanted or not.

“Is there something wrong with him?” Itachi asks in earnest, following Sasori back to the fire. Kakuzu’s tossing balled up papers into the fire, glancing up with a single nod while they lay out an assortment of wax-lined paper cups. He pours a few fingers of vodka and mixes it with orange juice. When Sasori stares at it, he just shrugs and goes “Kisame likes what he likes.”

Whatever, beggars can’t be choosers. He takes the screwdriver offered to him and tries to hide the way his nose wrinkles. He’s not one for sweet drinks much anymore. Sasori eyes his own accompaniment. “Not sure. If he’s fitting in this well? Probably.”

Itachi chuckles.

With Deidara out of sight, though, and Kakuzu on standby, this is the best time to take care of his business talk. “I’ve been hearing whispers around,” Sasori begins suddenly, bringing the cup to his lips. It sits sticky sweet against his tongue and he gulps. “Of twins,” he prods, and Kakuzu crosses his arms over his chest.

None of them like dealing with this shit.

“Nothing on our end. Kisame’s kept things quiet.” Both of them are good with their aim, if nothing else. Well. Itachi used to be, before his eyes took a turn for the worse.

Kakuzu takes a little longer to come around. “Hidan’s caught movement on our other side.”

He knows Deidara wasn’t hallucinating. He just doesn’t like knowing that a problem is rooting up so close to home. For the most part, he tries to stay out of the political side of this. But when it comes down to it, his turf is his turf and he has to keep an iron grip on his territory. “We have an idea of what the problem is?” he drawls.

“Trafficking. Again,” Kakuzu mutters.

“Men or women?”

“Both.”

Sasori rolls his eyes. “Is it him?”

Itachi shrugs. “Trafficking? No doubt. The Snakes have been getting more traction lately. It’s all the government intervention. Things have been getting rustled up.”

Yeah, that’s the other part of the problem. With the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, they were at risk not only of getting raided by other, jealous growers, but from good old Uncle Sam trying to make back his missed tax revenue.

At least if Sasori gets kidnapped by a bunch of thugs, he didn’t have to worry about going to prison for twenty fucking years. Besides, it wouldn't be the first time. Probably not the last, either.

He wrinkles his nose. “I told that jackass to stay off my turf,” Sasori sneers, crossing his arms over his chest. “He knows better than to stick his nose over here.”

“Where was he?”

Sasori sighs. “I’m not sure. Deidara caught two of them when he was driving back.”

“And he’s still here?” Kakuzu balked.

Sasori shakes his head. “I don’t know what to tell you. He’s been glued to me since.” He eyes at Deidara and catches him wiping water off his scarred arms.

Kakuzu snaps his fingers in front of his eyes. “Orochimaru’s trying to get you into another fucking pissing contest, you know,” Kakuzu says flatly.

“I agree,” Itachi murmurs.

“That’s great ! Because he’s going to get a fucking pissing contest.”

If there’s anyone that can hold a grudge, it’s Sasori. The story of what happened between him and The Snakes changes so often that at this point it comes down to petty bickering and sheer hardheadedness.

“This is the last thing I want to hear,” Kakuzu admits. “I’ve been having my own issue.”

Sasori raises a brow. “Yeah?” Everyone’s been going nuts lately. Himself included. Things got tense around here this time of year. Party drugs start turning to long term, sustained use. Sasori’s been past that point for years. No way he’d be able to pick himself up for the day without a few bumps. For the anxiety? He just keeps a joint popped between his teeth at all times.

“I got a drop coming up and we have a hunch that our guy’s not gonna cough up the cash. I don’t think we have time to give him a talk beforehand,” Kakuzu murmurs. He has no problem pulling the trigger, but it seems like a decent enough formality to give him a warning.

“The one that was flashy about his cash a couple weeks ago?”

“Fools piss it away like nothing.”

Sasori chews his bottom lip, then looks over his shoulder. Deidara’s taken to wrestling with Hidan so Kisame can make his escape back to the campfire.

“That kid’s out of his fucking mind . Talk about a wildcard. How’s he living with you of all people?”

“Are they going to hurt each other?”

Kakuzu rolls his eyes. “If we’re lucky.”

Actually…

“Why don’t Deidara and I talk to him?” he offers. “An extra birthday present.” Maybe someone volatile is what he needs. It always helps to have a backup, and Deidara’s clearly unstable, with his nonexistent attention span and the reckless abandon that he throws himself towards in his day-to-day life.

“You want to bring him with you?” Kakuzu balks, and Itachi can’t help raising a brow in silent agreement.

“I always take care of it, don’t I?” Sasori reassures him.

“With impeccable speed. I catch up with him first of the month.”

He casts another glance to the shoreline and watches Deidara fumble carelessly with the fireworks. “Consider it done.”

It’s barely out of his mouth before the whirlwind hits. Deidara throws himself hard to the ground next to Sasori, just barely missing the log seating. “ Yo , hn! Can you roll me a joint? I thought I brought one but-”

“Deidara, you’re getting water all over me, quit it,” he grumbles and really, he’s moving away from the way his fingers linger too long when he’s dropping the rolling papers onto his lap. “And you know how to roll a fucking joint. Get ,” Sasori tuts, trying to wave him away and simultaneously avoiding eye contact with his friends. 

“Whatever, gimme, then, hn,” Deidara demands, snapping the joint out from behind Sasori’s ear and with intentional, piercing eye contact, he lights it with a flight of his zippo and blows diesel tinted smoke right back in his face.

Anyone else would have been dead. This imbecile, instead, claps Sasori on his shoulder before he can say anything and pulls himself back to his feet. “Hidan’s gonna show me how to shoot fish or somethin’. Thanks for the jay, hn,” he half yells, digging his thumb into the knot between Sasori’s shoulder and his spine. “See ya!” 

He takes off and Sasori, reluctantly looks back to his friends with his lips still parted.

“Dude, your face is red ,” Kisame laughs.

Sasori’s ready to kill him.


Eel River, Humboldt County, CA 08/18/1992

Three rounds of cocktails blankets Deidara in tingling warmth that radiates down to his fingertips. His head rolls side to side on his knees, watching Hidan cock his gun at the river.

“You’re just going to blast them to bits if you do that, hn,” he hums, re-lighting the joint he’d stolen from Sasori. It does always taste better when he rolls them. Deidara breathes slow out his nose, glancing back over his shoulder.

 Hidan doesn’t seem to care one way or the other, and cracks a round of shots that disappear beneath the rushing water in agitated ripples. Fish dart away from the bullets in frantic droves, while Deidara muffles his ear against his damp shoulder. “Fucking cocksuckers !” he spits.

Loud .

The shots go off like firecrackers, gun knocking hard into Hidan’s shoulder.

Deidara’s not much of a pro either, but he figures you’re probably not supposed to hold it like that, braced so tight to the body. “Did you get any?” he has to ask. It doesn’t seem like it particularly matters. Just an excuse to fire off a few magazines.

His friend stammers, overly defensive. “It’s not about catching the goddamn fish!” Hidan snaps, firing again, swearing when the rifle cracks into him again. “Things going good with fuckin’ Thumbelina over there?” he cackles right after, nodding at Sasori who is currently—and far from subtly—buying a bottle of pills off his partner. Deidara thought it’d just been coke until now.

“Dude, you’re definitely gonna dislocate it.” Then, he pauses. “He hasn’t fucked me yet,” Deidara huffs.

“Did he say that he won’t?”

From what Hidan knows of Sasori, he’d spent his youth as nothing but promiscuous.

“Nah, totally under control. I’ve got him wrapped around my finger,” Deidara brags, flicking his hair over his shoulder. “He’s obsessed with me, hn.”

“Is that why you haven’t been by my place?” Hidan jeers, giving him a sharp jab with his elbow. It digs into his rib and he winces, but still grins through it.

“Well, okay, I’m trying to shoot my shot here and-“

“No, it’s fucking fine, I have you come all the way up here and you bail on my ass for a dick appointment!”

“At least keep it down , hn!” Deidara snaps, tossing a handful of gravelly sand at him. “I’ve been trying to play it cool.”

“Play it fucking cool ?!” he gawks, firing his rifle without looking at anything in particular. It skips off the water and plunks against a moss smothered rock. “Everyone can tell how thick you’ve been laying it on. You’re shittin’ me, right?”

He’s about to reply, but the hand on his shoulder catches him and makes his stomach sink. Before he even tilts his head back, he knows it’s Sasori.

What did he overhear?

His amber, doe eyes stare back, batting thick, non-accusatory lashes.

Looks like he’s in the clear. “Coming to see where the real fun is, hn?” Deidara plays off, sticking out his tongue to flash his piercing.

Sasori’s lip curls. “No. Gross. We’re getting more firewood,” he demands rather than asks. Hands crossed over his chest and his bottom lip jutted out, he looks particularly disgusted. Still, Deidara stares up at the hint of freckles on his cheeks and thinks of kissing them off of him.

Hidan shoots a pointed look that he does his best to ignore. “Be right back, my man. Even on my fuckin’ day off you’ve got me lugging shit around, hn,” Deidara groans, but he’s grinning when he pulls himself to his feet.

“Yeah, yeah, leave me in the dust again, asshole!” He kicks a splash of water that catches the hem of Deidara’s already damp jeans. Yeah. He’d do the same thing if it was the other way around, too.

“That’s right. Let’s go,” Sasori huffs. Down Deidara’s arm, he watches a trail of water sink its way to the crook of his elbow. Wait, is he wearing lip gloss? “We don’t have all day.”

Deidara keeps pace, their shoulders just barely grazing each other. Part of him almost feels like he’s being brought to the back to be scolded, but Sasori trails beside him like there’s nothing out of the ordinary, hands propped up on his hips while he walks.

The tree line feels too far, but Deidara’s led on confidently, so he follows. Noises from their cookout fade to muffled clatters punctuated by Hidan’s gunshots and with that comes the echo of his own heart in his ears.

He’s a little more intoxicated than he thought, and the forest seems to swallow him up. Nothing behind him looks familiar and nothing in front of him looks any different. He can at least still smell the crackling of firewood behind them.

“They usually keep it back here,” Sasori hums, guessing at the hesitation as he winds them through fog-washed ferns and sequoia giants, hand jittering restlessly against his thigh.

They hear another flurry of bullet’s fire across the river with ricocheted splashes.

“Damn, this is pretty far out, though. It seems ridiculous to-Wait.“  Deidara turns and realizes, a split second too late, that there’s no fucking way he just got dragged out here for firewood.

Honey pooled eyes flash at him like an animal that’s cornered its prey, and Sasori’s on him in a second . He has the woodlands kissed into his skin, etching the earth in vascular roots up Deidara’s trembling chest. “Hey-“

Sasori fucking pins him to the base of a sequoia nearly three times the width of either of them.

It’s because of the joint earlier. Deidara had gotten too pushy in front of his friends. It happens. He excels at pushing people’s buttons.

This time, he’s dazed, with a hot breath in his ear that goes right to his cock. His oversaturated confidence is gone, floored by the almost of lips down the cut of his jaw. Sasori taunts with dainty quivers of his glossed lips, far enough that he prickles with want and so damn close that anything without it feels unbearable.

Pinned flush against the sequoia’s rugged bark, Sasori ruts up until Deidara practically straddles on his thigh, snapping up golden blond locks between his strained knuckles. Trapping him in that tormenting almost until he tries to tug forward for more. Eyes clouded with panicked lust, he squirms, rocking himself slow against the intrusion between his legs. 

It’s Sasori’s cue to pull away.

Deidara’s left entirely empty, any semblance of control ripped from his calloused fingers, shattered before his eyes with Sasori’s lips to his throat and a fumbled hand down the back of his jeans. Sasori gropes at his ass, and fuck if he doesn’t move-

“I know what you’re doing,” Sasori goads, “And I’ll beat you every. Single. Time .” Words punctuated with listless, tongue filled kisses down his throat. Just barely, he grazes skin and tastes the heartbeat trapped beneath.

Deidara groans, melting into the stickied breaths that strike smoldering embers between his legs. Each of the touches he tries to steal are dusted away with malicious teasing.

“Kiss me, hn,” he begs, almost knocking the hands off him to try anything he can. Mouthing for a kiss feels desperate and he can almost taste Sasori. He’s left wanting, tonguing for the tongue of his lips.

“Ah ah ah ah ah ,” Sasori tuts, and jerks back with a curt laugh. “ No .” comes only a split second before he lands a stinging slap against Deidara’s ass. “Maybe later,” he snickers, patting at his cheek with slow strokes of his thumb.

Before he can say not to ditch him, Sasori’s gone.

It’s fine.

He has to pull himself together. He takes a shaky breath and lets his shoulders fall slack. “Holy shit , hn,” Deidara rasps to no one in particular. Okay. Palming at his burning face, neck, and chest, he doesn’t have to look in the mirror to know his skin’s splotched an embarrassed red.

He inhales, counts to three slowly, and exhales.

Fuck.

Sasori got to him. It’s okay.

He takes another deep breath. It’s fine. 

He’s still keeping score.


 

Alderpoint, Humboldt County, CA 08/17/1992

Lee gets home from his date both glowing and eternally grateful that despite the warm bedroom light pouring from the back of their quaint house, no one is occupying the kitchen when he, like a ghost, passes through. Family photos peer at him through the dark and he tiptoes less than successfully up the creaky stairs to his childhood bedroom.

Under the mismatched quilt he’d knitted together with his leftover yarn, he falls asleep to invisible kisses from Gaara’s honey stained lips and the burn of his fingers curled into his chest hair. When Lee wakes up, it’s to the dreadful reminder that with sunrise comes the reality that he lied to his fathers and they, inevitably, are going to ask how his night went.

It doesn’t stop the smile from breaking over his face when he rolls over to Gaara’s framed portrait on his bedside table. Sun brings a cheerful glisten to the cast of morning dew over their property. With a glance at the flowers he’s pinned above his headboard, Lee tugs himself out of bed and trudges downstairs to make coffee for the three of them.

He thinks he can handle the day until Kakashi all but materializes behind him and claps a hand on his shoulder. “How was your—” he starts to ask, and Lee goes rigid, dropping their French Press against the green, garishly seventies granite countertop with a clatter that nearly shatters the glass beaker.

Nothing!” he shouts, feeling the burn on his face all the way to the tip of his ears, shirking away from the touch like it’s poison. “Sorry! I forgot that I did not water the vegetables yet!”

“Geez…” Kakashi mumbles, hand still held over the spot his son’s shoulder had just been. Outside, he tries to sling the hose over his shoulder and tangles the rubber around his feet instead.

“What’s gotten into him?” Guy asks with a heavy frown, wheeling himself into the kitchen with his hair still only half brushed. He’d only come through the doorway as Lee stormed out, but it doesn’t need to be said that their son doesn’t act that way. Unless he’s hiding something. “Did you see him come home last night?”

Kakashi figures he’ll come out with it when he’s ready, but for the sake of subtlety, he gives a limp shrug. “I didn’t hear him. Must’ve been late. You know how kids are at that age.” There’s a distinct, rosy glow to Lee’s face while Guy watches his son frantically hose down their plants with overzealous trepidation 

He sighs. One of them is just as oblivious as the other.

At lunch, Guy asks how he slept and with a panicked gasp, Lee declares that he is not that hungry and that he needs to catch up on his upper back training.

They’d seen him working out in the back all morning.

Kakashi’s able to put two and two together just by the way he’s lost in his own head most of the day.

Lee’s daydreams, though, are smacked away in the face of reality when a hesitant knock thuds against his bedroom door. Crap. He’s in the middle of re-packing his gym bag, thinking he’ll be able to get out of the house. So much for that. He swallows his nerves, tilting the photo of Gaara away from the door and flicking a nervous glance to the poster of Bruce Lee that hangs bright in the corner, praying for an extension of his strength to get through this. “Yes?” he shouts, thumbing anxiously at the thick wraps encasing his hands.

Guy pokes his head in, Kakashi trailing helplessly behind. While one looks devastated, the other is just exasperated.

“Are you busy?” Guy starts in that way that always makes the hairs on his neck stand.

“I am not going anywhere! I mean—I am not busy!” he keeps bumbling over his pitiful excuses with sweat tacked palms until his father sighs and gazes through with a disappointment that harrows him.

Did Kakashi say something?

Guy shakes his head, staring directly at the flowers and then, agonizingly slow, to his devastated son. “Lee…” he starts softly, disappointment palpable and oppressive in his father’s voice.

He almost looks like he’s going to cry.

“Your father and I noticed you’ve been acting differently since you came home last night.” Guy actually has to take a deep breath before he finishes. Lee’s hand jolts out for the photograph. “Were you…using drugs?”

Wait.

Lee’s heart skips a beat. Eyes squeezed shut, prepared to reel in a different direction, he tries to desperately backtrack. He almost laughs with relief. “ What ? No. No! I would never!” But the way he snaps the frame down to his bedside table gives way to his secret.

Crap.

Clattered hard against the bedside table stained with watermarks, Lee worries for an instant that he’s shattered the glass. “Lee…” Guy says slowly, curling his hands on his knees.

He’s screwed. Lee looks at one of the pressed lilacs as if it will lend him any help.

Against the doorway, Kakashi leans limp with his arms crossed. Lee can’t read his expression, and he feels like his bones, trapped under tense muscle, are rattling. Does he know? One eye shut, he waits behind his devastated boyfriend. He must. Does he? Guy’s just a little bit slower sometimes. “Are you sure you’re not hiding something from us?” Kakashi prods.

He can’t lie to them point blank like this. Try as he might, Lee falls apart instantaneously. “I am not! I was not—I did not mean to—well—” His face glows boiling red and he glances at Kakashi for help. All he gets back is a single shake of his head. He has to face this like a man. “I am so sorry! I lied about where I was last night. I did not go out with my friends. I was actually…on a date,” he forces out.

Guy’s face lighting up is that much worse. “What? Lee, you never have to hide anything like that from me! Who’s the lucky lady? Did Sakura agree to dinner with you?” he gushes, giving his son a firm, gleeful slap on the shoulder.

Yeah. It’s worse that he has to say it. “Actually, we went…hiking,” Lee cautiously offers. He has to tell his parents, but he still needs to cover for Gaara. He’d seen the way his boyfriend checked over his shoulders so many times before getting out of the truck and how quickly he’d snuck back into Naruto’s place. He’d be horrified if he were the one to mess that up. “We did not want to tell anyone because his family, so—“

His ?” Guy’s ecstatic all over again. “That’s great! We know how tough it can be coming to terms with your sexuality growing up with so many… conservative people in town,” he implies. “Boston must have given you so much opportunity!” And for him to be able to relate to his son’s relationship is thrilling. “Looks like you took after your old man a little more than you thought, huh?”

“Yes, actually! The thing is, though-“

Guy interrupts him before he can start to break the news. “Wait,” he starts, rubbing at his chin. “ Who did you go out with?” Lee can see the mental gymnastics he’s going through, trying to figure out who else his age might have leaned in a less than straight direction.

No one comes to mind. There are a lot of young people coming up, he could have lied.

Lee’s not quick enough.

It feels like witnessing his own execution. His hand fumbles, dropping the photo onto his lap. “Please do not freak out,” Lee says slowly, turning the photo and handing it over to his father. “I went on a date with the police captain’s son, Gaara.” He pauses. “The one I was writing to.”

Lee’s not sure if what he’s looking at is distress, horror, or both. “What am I looking at?” Guy half exhales, and he thinks for an instant his father might cry.

He remembers the exact expressions on his fathers’ faces when he’d come to after the accident. And he remembers, particularly, the ice-cold lighting he’d cracked at Gaara’s father.

They had, all in all, tried to put Gaara in jail.

Burning shame crawls over his face. Tears were going to come with the territory either way, but Lee didn't expect them to cling to his lashes so quickly. He knew his father would be proud of him for coming out, and to watch it torn away so quickly shatters him. “Wait, please listen! We have been talking for almost three years and he is very sweet! I think that…he loves me very much and,” he doesn’t realize the weight of it until it’s on the tip of his tongue. “I love him, too.”

Guy’s face is unreadable, hidden by the way he stares down, into the eyes of the man that had nearly killed his son. And that was now smiling softly into the camera, wearing a hat and scarf that his son had knitted for him. 

Lee chokes when he tries to swallow, the first tear falling hot from his eyes, opening the floodgates for the rest. He tries to wipe at his cheek with the back of his fist, staining his training wraps wet. He sniffles out a choked sob. “I am sorry ! I did not mean to disappoint you. Gaara is just someone that is very dear to me,” he sputters. “I did not mean to hurt either of you!” he apologizes again, wiping at another streak of tears that stain his face.

“Lee,” his father whispers, squeezing hard over his trembling hand. Fat tears shine in his eyes when he finally tilts his face up. “I’m so proud of the man you’ve become,” Guy pores, and then laughs, giving the photo of Gaara and his shy face another look. “To see how much you’ve grown up and to know how mature you’ve become by developing this relationship.”

Lee’s tears turn from terror to relief.

Kakashi’s the one to step in this time. “Woah, Lee, calm down,” he eases, squatting in front of his son to put a hand on his knee. “Don’t apologize for finding someone special to you,” he starts. “No matter how daunting it can be.” He smiles. “I know it’s not always easy, but I’m glad you told us.”

Guy nods, going so far as to laugh and knock at his wheelchair as an example. “It’s going to take some getting used to, but what kind of parents would we be if we didn’t want you to share this part of your life with us?” No matter who it’s with. He motions for a hug that Lee falls into gratefully, digging his fingers into the fibers of his cotton shirt. Still, his heart aches thinking of Gaara, hiding in Naruto’s small apartment until he can find a way out of his family’s own messed up situation. “I’d never want to miss seeing my son young and in love!”

He laughs, but Gaara’s secret keeps his tongue bitter. “Actually,” Lee starts, then bites at his lip. Should he say anything? What is he thinking? Of course, he can trust his parents. “Please do not say anything about Gaara to anyone in town!” he practically begs, and Kakashi frowns at him.

“Why?”

He knows it sounds like a major red flag. “I promised I would not say anything.” Lee swallows. Just the bare bones is okay, right? “Gaara’s father does not know he is back yet. Or that we have been talking.”

“Why wouldn’t he- Oh ,” Kakashi murmurs. Police captain doesn’t exactly sound like the type of man fond of having a queer son. “Right, well. We don’t like to involve ourselves with the authorities much, anyway. Is he still staying with his uncle?”

Lee laughs, clapping his hands in front of his face. “Ah! Thank you so much! And I am sorry, but…should not say,” Lee admits. Another red flag. He tries to avert attention. “Would you like me to start working on the railing? I can tell you all about him while I am measuring out the wood!” he babbles, and it seems, thankfully, that his parents don’t lie any more suspicions on him.

Kakashi glances out the window at the pile of supplies sitting next to the porch. “We might have to make one more trip to the store down in Garberville first.”

“That is okay!” Lee exclaims. “I will drive! I am still out of practice from living in the city for so long.”

Kakashi tosses him the keys and shrugs. “Coming along?” he asks with a quick nod towards Guy.

“Head out without me, I’ll get dinner started. Drive safe, okay?”

Their beat up Ford is the same one they’d had since Lee was a kid. The engine roars too loud and the brakes squeal every once in a while when he hits them too hard, but it gets them where they need to go. They’re all about conservation, so if the truck still works, there’s no need for a new one. 

Lee piles into the driver’s seat with an excited bounce, waiting for Kakashi’s much more reserved entry before hitting the road.

They pull onto Route 101 and Lee rolls his window down, sighing at the fresh, sun kissed air that blows through his hair. “I am supposed to see Gaara again tonight, if you do not mind me taking the truck.”

“Feel free, Guy and I aren’t planning on going anywhere.”

Kakashi’s much better at listening than he is at talking.

“I am so excited to have him visit when he is ready! He will love all of the plants. Did I tell you that he has helped his uncle, Yashamaru, grow all of his flowers and vegetables the last few years?” Lee keeps rambling, talking excitedly with waves of his hands when clear, straight stretches of road sit. “I will have to show you the pictures he has sent me of the garden he had. It was so impressive, I hope that he will like seeing everything at our house!”

“As soon as you’re ready to have him,” Kakashi reassures him with a smile.

Lee taps his fingers against the wheel. There is something that’s been bugging him, though. “Did you already know I was seeing him?”

Kakashi glances at the passenger side mirror. “I did, but I wanted to let you come out in your own time. That’s how these things should go.”

He’s right, of course. He’d been mortified at the thought of Kakashi saying something when he was out. “How did you figure it out so fast?”

Kakashi laughs and scratches at the back of his head. “Because you get your subtly from Guy,” he teases. “I didn’t see any framed pictures of Naruto in your room. And the flowers.”

“Ah.”

And all you’ve talked about at every meal is Gaara.”

Lee laughs. “Okay, okay, you are right! I am just so excited that we have found each other!” No matter how unorthodox the start of their story may be.

“You know you can ask us any questions you have, right? I’m sure Guy’s brimming to talk to you when you’re more comfortable.”

He’s not sure if he’s ready for that, but it’s a relief to have such unbridled support. On the way through the hardware store, they pass Naruto’s apartment, and he glances up to see if he can catch sight of Gaara in the window.


Eel River, Humboldt County, CA 08/18/1992

Hidan starts on his flat earth spiel, the group decides it’s as good a time as any to disband. The Zombie Combo’s headed for town, because if his boyfriend’s going to talk about this shit all night, Kakuzu might as well get a decent scotch over it. And they’re starting to run dry here-- they all drink like mountain boys, that’s for sure. Itachi and Kisame trek back to their small home on the other side of Sasori’s property.

“I can’t listen to it anymore, hn,” Deidara gripes.

Sasori eyes him. “I didn’t think you’d hit your breaking point before me.” They know it’s not just Hidan. There’s been that itch in the back of both of their throats the last couple of hours to get the hell out of there.

He scoffs. “You didn’t live with him for four years, hn.”

Just the thought is absolutely unbearable.

“Touché.” No one’s looking, making it easy for Sasori’s finger to hook through one of Deidara’s belt loops. He smooths his thumb to the dip of his pocket before letting his delicate touch quiver away. His turtleneck hugs at his Adam's apple, taunting when he swallows thick against knitted wool.

It’s easier like this.

Without having to worry about sobriety, he means. What Kakuzu gave him is strong compared to the usual batch. His nose feels blocked up and with a finger on one nostril, he snorts sharp and feels a bitter tickle on the back of his throat.

Fuck , he’s blasted.

“I can’t believe he still talks about that shit, hn,” Deidara huffs, eyes a glassed red and the hint of raspberry vodka still a sweet cyanide on his breath. His lips stick when they try to part, and Sasori decides, quickly as his temper flared up at Hidan, that he’s over it. “I thought Kakuzu would’ve knocked that crap outta him by now, hn.”

Okay, maybe Deidara isn’t as dumb as he looks.

“He really believes it,” Sasori adds, waving towards the ATV before hoisting himself on. He tilts his head for Deidara to hop on and he does, distant. The same man that kept his face buried--less than subtly, mind you--against Sasori’s shoulder their whole trek over. “You’re gonna fall off like that,” he says with a hiccup. “ ‘nd I’m too fucked up to drive like I’m tryna keep you in one piece.”

Deidara knocks his shoulder with a punch that’s a little too hard. “ ‘s cute when you slur, hn,” he gushes, sounding no better, but he does as he’s told.

The hand that takes root in the dipped center of Sasori’s chest is bad enough. It’s one draped down his waist that makes him sit up straight. It’s a dangerous shift in the woods.

No, it’s a dangerous switch in Deidara , the way he molds chest to spine, pressing igneous against his aching back. He needs to do something. What’s in his system reminds him that he needs to do something. What’s in his system snaps him back ten years. That’s what it’s there for, right?

Fuck it.  

Sasori leans into touch and his own morbid curiosity with an enamored sigh. It’s a permission Deidara takes greedily. He fights back like Sasori’s demanded so many times, spitting back that same lust he’d been entrapped in so swiftly before.

“God damn ,” he grunts as soon as they hit the road. Sasori sucks in a shaky breath at the hand drawn taut around his waist. It brushes a tickle down his side, over his waistband. “ Finally, hn.” This asshole shoves forward and rolls to push the bulge of his cock against him. “Look what you’ve been doing to me all day.”

Sasori shivers .

“I’m driving!” he barks without any bite. Deidara is aphrodisia, walking his nails lazy up Sasori’s thigh. He draws invisible shapes, closer, and fuck, if he keeps moving like that he’s going to-

He smooths back down his thigh and Sasori’s going to scream .

“Come on, I thought you’d be more fun after what you pulled on me, hn,” Deidara taunts, pressing a wet kiss to the tender flesh behind his ear.

The grasp between his legs is rough, blindsiding, and pumps acid through his trembling heart. “ Shit .” He clasps his hand over Deidara’s, thrusting up against his fingers with a shattered exhale. “Do you ever stop talking?”

Deidara scowls audibly. Not the answer he wants, apparently. He digs the heel of his hand down harder, dragging a harsh line down his cock. He feels himself throb against Deidara’s palm and lets his lips part, overwhelmed. “Fine, you talk then, hn.”

Sasori’s furious that he’s being beaten at his own game, but the air’s torn from his lungs, ripped away by calloused hands and earth-stained kisses. Deidara won’t stop groping him. Not just between his legs, but with liquor-stained fingers down his side.

“I’m not a— ah —talker,” he chastises, but he’s tilting his head back into Deidara’s shoulder, arching into the chipped nail that catches up his porcelain stomach. He thumbs over a constellation of freckles that peeks out. They’re argil molded together, tilled alive with blundering grapples.

Fight me back , Sasori’s hooded eyes beg silent. 

“Fine. I’ll force it out of you.” The nails that’d snuck up his stomach come tumbling down the valleys of his torso, catching rough down his ribbed sweater.

Careful.” 

Whatever, hn.

Deidara flicks his nipple, and the sharp pain cuts a whine from his throat.

His foot slips off the gas and Deidara laughs at him. “Do you like when I hurt you?” He can hear the parched stick of his tongue against his own lips. “I’m good with my tongue, y’know, hn.”

He’ll make fun of Sasori for his impatience but he’s no better, relishing in the sweltering of bare skin when he finally whisks under his clothes and over the stinging, hardened nub. Deidara holds him close, smothering him in flushed gropes and the flicker of his fingertips just barely over Sasori’s pinkened nipple. “So hard .”

Fingers like butterfly kisses over his nipple, Sasori groans loud into the touch and comes back panting when he’s squeezed again slow, intentional, between his legs.

“Oh, fuckyouthat’sgood ,” Sasori whines, almost guttural. He has to focus on driving, and Deidara won’t stop . His concern is no longer on their dirt path, but the thought of the tongue dabbing fire along his throat between teeth riddled kisses. Gracing his stinging flesh with an open-mouthed kiss and the malicious smile that always curls over his lips. Sucking on him. 

“See? That’s so much hotter .”  Deidara clamps down on his hips and ruts against him again, grunting loudly against his back. “Tell me how long you’ve wanted to fuck me for, hn.”

“I, ah , haven’t,” Sasori utters. He cackles, squeezing between his legs again and sending him lurching over the handlebars. “ Jesus , Deidara, I’m not trying to cum in my own fucking pants .”

“Oh , hn,” he adds to that all-encompassing heat swallowing Sasori up. “ Oh. I get it.” Away from his cock, he shifts to the inside of his thigh. Up, he knocks his chipped nail against his button. “How long have you thought of my dick up your tight little ass for, hn? Fuck , I knew you’d be fun.”

He can hear the antagonizing smile on lips.

The pants are snapped open like nothing and Sasori grinds up into the intruding hand with a slow roll. “Since ah-I’m sofuckinghigh ,” he pants out with a shudder, throbbing in Deidara’s hand. 

This is bad. He’s not going to last the whole ride home. Sasori squeezes his eyes shut too hard and bursts colored circles over his vision. “Since you started-“

“Since I started giving you my shitty attitude, yeah?” Sasori’s reduced to a puddle by a man enamored by and immune to him. Cursing, he steers the ATV from nearly running into a mess of thorned brush. “ Hey , keep your eyes on the road,” Deidara tsks, jerking his hair back so hard and fast that he borders on choking. Laced into his hair, he holds Sasori’s head straight. “You’re so fucking pretty , hn” he whispers. “You know what I like, hn?” His thumb is hot coals over his nipples. “I like that you’re mean, too.”

Hitting the property line is a morbid relief. Sasori barely kills the engine with quaking hands before he’s hoisted himself up to turn and throw himself into Deidara’s lap. Their kiss is an erosive flush, with Deidara’s tongue pushed past his teeth.

He uses too much tongue when he kisses, dragging it slow over Sasori’s lower lip. Any thought of too rough goes out the window when Deidara’s yanked forward by the hair. A little payback for their excursion.

Sasori’s touches are fierce, calculated, and precise. The cold of his ring ices over Deidara’s cheek and he smiles into the kiss. He’s high . His head spins and he wants to get under his clothes now.

Coke makes him a little aggressive. And a little too talkative.

“You drive,” Sasori demands, and all he hears is do whatever you want .

“Let’s see if you can handle me, hn,” Deidara purrs, kissing obsidian into him before he bites. Sasori moans something intoxicating and laughs into it. His tongue is vodka and smoke and it dizzies him because this man is so fucking magnetic and part of Sasori can’t believe he’s actually touching him, like an artist and his muse.

With the kissing , though. It’s a juvenile thing, it’s too fucking wet and-

Deidara’s fingers hook under his turtleneck and drag him into a ruining kiss. Where Sasori tries to kiss is repaid in bites, just hard enough to run him ragged. He dangles his hands over his tanned shoulders, letting himself dissolve..

He hates how quickly he feels with this boy’s hands up his shirt. “Get this fucking thing off, hn,” he snaps, tugging at the hem until Sasori slaps his hand away with a sharp crack.

“I’ll stab you if you stretch this out.”

“Aren’t guys that wanna get smacked around supposed to be submissive? You’re still kinda scary like this, hn,” he whispers, going from his careless tugs to catching the shirt hem in the crook of his thumb and sliding up, up , until he’s barely grazed over Sasori’s nipples all over again.

“Is it really this hard to get you to smack me around?” Sasori finally barks. 

Submission Isn't his thing, but he’s happy to let loose and let himself be thrown around like a rag doll. Deidara’s happy to bother his plaything, jostling him around until he’s ready to scream. 

He rolls his tongue over the erect nub, sucking hard with a generous swirl of his tongue. His bite earns a groan that he relishes and makes him ache . Worse is Sasori grinding against him, slow rocks of his hips that almost have him clinging to the sides of his seat. “Get. Inside.”

He doesn’t push his luck and does what he’s told. Kind of.

They get as far as the porch.

With his arm heavy around Sasori’s shoulders, he drags his marionette into a kiss and grabs firm at his ass. Deidara doesn’t realize “Suck me,” is whispered between them until he’s shoved away and he’s actually scowled at. 

“I said suck me ,” he snaps, and Deidara nods breathlessly. Okay. Alright. Yeah. 

“Give it a rest, I’m working on it, hn.” He chews the inside of his mouth, knocking Sasori back until he’s against the porch’s sturdy redwood railing, drinking in the tremble of the hand clasped around it. 

Sasori’s eyes are pitch black.

While Deidara tugs his belt off his narrow, freckle stained hips, he’s watched with inky observation. 

His hairs are fine, barely dusting over his thighs and down his legs. “Fucking beer can dick,” Deidara laughs, reaching to brush his fingers over Sasori’s cock, sticky with precum. He dabs his middle finger against his tip, savoring the way he ruts his hips up for more . “That all you’ve got? I’ll show you how good a city boy is at taking cock.”

“Yeah, city boy,” Sasori teases, flicking a handful of hair out of his face to stare at his crossed eye. With lax fingers, he lets the golden locks slip away and settle back against his cheek. “Let’s see why you’re so fucking arrogant .”

He laps up the underside of Sasori’s cock, breathing a moan when he pulses against his tongue. The coveted need in his eyes tells Deidara that hell, maybe this’ll be a little easier than he thought. Sasori is salt and heat, fingers carded up through his hair, pinning his fringe out of his face. 

Deidara dips and when he hits the back of his throat, he gags.

Okay, maybe a little thicker than he expected.

Sasori shudders and lets his head loll back. He snaps forward rough, forcing himself further down Deidara’s throat until there’s another muffled choke. Ohfuck . Did he not feel the strain against him? The swat at his face is closer to a series of gentle pats, but it’s nothing against the way his jaw’s forced open and his throat desperately tries to close around the intrusion in his mouth.

 “ God, Deidara ,” Sasori groans, rocking against the chokes that suck wet against his cock. “That’s fucking awful .”

Yeah, he’s not fucking his throat like that, though. Deidara barely has time to glance, tear glazed, up at him, before hands are smoothed through his hair again, gripping it into a knotted ponytail. “You don’t suck a lot of dick, do you?” he mocks, rutting against Deidara’s face again. He stains pre-cum down his cheek with a shuddered moan. “Come on, you said you could take it.” He jerks Deidara’s head and forces him back down, taking Sasori into the back of his throat with messy gulps. “ Take it .”

He can’t breathe . Deidara gags and coughs against his cock, swallowing helplessly. “Sa…srh..” he pleads, silenced again by another thrust. He claws his fingers up Sasori’s calf. Needs to touch himself.

“Uh-uh,” Sasori grits, tsking in distaste when he catches a gag that won’t let him go any further. “Fuck, look at your lips .” He feels them, tingling furious red against the scratch of the curled hairs between Sasori’s legs. Helplessness is a heated kiss up his spine, easing him despite his aching jaw into these thrusts and the harsh push of Sasori’s hips.

He throbs in Deidara’s throat and his eyes flutter. 

Damn it !” Tugged away at the taste of salt in the back of his throat, Deidara yelps. “ Yeah ,” he grits, pulling from his flushed lips, catching Deidara’s face with his palm and smearing the cum up his cheek. “That’s a good fucking look on you.”

He lifts his face back up to Sasori red faced and gossamer white shining over his lips, chin, and tongue. One more tug of his hair pushes him so close to that edge. “Deidara…” he whispers, name striking a breathless twinge between them, watching Deidara blankly despite sputtered coughs and the tears streaking down his face.

Sasori’s studying him.

“You call that a blowjob?” He’s attention seeking in the way he licks his lips, smearing white up the side of his face in a debauched streak. Laughing earth and flint, Deidara spits what he doesn’t swallow in a plop next to his foot. Sasori’s lips follow the beat, kissing salt and whiskey, and he’s swallowed up by a man immune to his charm. “Let’s hope your dick’s better than your mouth,” he taunts still, and it freezes them.

He’s not sure if Sasori’s eyes say to slap him or if it’s his own violent intentions, but he feels his hand raise outside his own volition. 

“Hurry it up , will you?”

For someone who wanted to get smacked around, he’s being a fucking dick about it.

The slap crackles electricity through the pacified clearing.

Deidara snickers, staring Sasori down with pointed sadism. “Damn, there’s something wrong with you, hn,” he mocks, brushing lips over the heated sting that flowered fingerprints across his jaw. He tongues at the numbed flesh, dragging his tongue piercing up in a slow swirl. “Look’t this. You’re a fucking freak .”

Between Sasori’s legs, his calloused palm brings back a glistening wet slicked to the valleys of his hand. He’s overstimulated, but he’s still hard , and it’s begging him for Deidara to tear out more . “ Harder .”

He doesn’t need to be asked twice to give Sasori his fix. 

Deidara slaps him again, open handed, smearing cum in a messy splat against his cheek and fuck he needs to fuck him rightnowdamnit . He’s dragged around like he’s nothing and it stirs something in Sasori, moaning into what’s faded from tingling pressure to a needled pain between his legs.

It’s dizzying, pushing down Deidara’s pants, his boxer briefs, until he’s slapped away and shoved back. Hadn’t even seen him grab the lube from his glove compartment. “You haven’t been fucked in a while, right, hn?” he murmurs. “Or do you always let go this fast?” 

Honeyed eyes cloudy, Sasori ruts his hips forward against nothing, his cock strained hard towards his stomach. Nothing is replaced with a calloused fist and he tilts his head back, desperate. “Will you quit fucking around?”

Deidara licks his lips. “Pff, whatever.” he scoffs, knocking him hard enough to send his jutted hip bones against the wood.

Sasori pants against the fist rocking him to an aching mess beneath this fucking jackass .

“I’m gonna knock the shit out of you, hn,” he groans, tongue flicking to the crook of his lips before a theatrical swallow. He needs more.

When Sasori stares back at him with mocking indifference, his knuckles roll on their own and the fist is clenched before he knows what to do with it.

“You’re annoying the piss out of me.”

Fine.

His fist connects with Sasori’s temple, head knocking against the patio’s support beam and rolls. Blinking away starfire, he comes to with one blown out and one crooked eye staring down at him. Deidara just knocked him out. Only for a second.

A rattled gasp parts through his lips and heaved chest, and his cock begs for relief. “Jesus Christ , Deidara,” he grits with inadvertent twitches of his lips, hand instinctively going up to ease against his temple. He winces, but doesn’t tell him to stop.

Doesn’t want him to. 

“Yeah, hn,” Deidara spits, catching his knuckles against his scalp to drag him up with a stilted moan. “Spread your fucking legs when you bend over, hn.” His knee forces between Sasori’s trembling thighs and knocks him open. Sasori slips on the balls of his feet to an arched roll against him. “How’m I gonna fuck you like this?”

“Come on .” 

Thumbs in Sasori’s back, he’s bent over the railing to the thrust of Deidara’s pulsating cock against the part in his thighs. “You’re a fucking control freak, aren’t you?” He peels Sasori apart layer by layer, watching his shoulders heave.  “I hate when people like you tell me what to do, hn.”

Face against the porch railing, Deidara pins him by the back of his neck, and fuck, oh shit, he’s not even using his fingers he’s just going to—

Sharp pressure bursts his vision bright black with the name of a man he barely knows on his lips.

“Deidara. Deidara , fucking idiot-”

He rolls forward slow, letting Sasori feel the shape of him pressing hard into his heat. It fucking hurts and his toes curl tight until his calves are aching. “Better than my mouth, right, hn?”

Hips rut to his ass with a careless snap. Blunt force tears Sasori apart, scorching an incandescent grit through clenched teeth. “Your fucking ass , my man, hn,” he grunts, and he’s repulsed by the nickname, but Deidara’s wrapping him in a smoke he’s not used to, fucking him disarrayed, messy, with uneven thrusts and too loud grunts against him.

How is he always so loud ?

Damn it ,” Sasori whines on accident. A wet slap schleps against the back of his thigh. His hand, smoothed over the cum on his stomach, smacking it against his leg and forcing his knee to the railing.

Too deep .

His mouth opens in a silent o while he falls apart. “ Oooh , Fuck yeah, I-“ . His thumb ring clacks hard against the wooden railing.

Deidara holds him by the back of his head and the dip between his ribs, tearing him to a painful arch that stirs the heat in his stomach and tells him he can’t he can’t he can’t he can’t .

The hand around his throat strangles him.

“How much harder do I have to fuck you?” It’s tight and he’s trying to slow down but he’s already swept past that edge, smoothing up to catch Sasori by the throat. “Yeah, that’s it. Fuck, that’s sexy, I’m gonna— oh fuck yes , hn,” he grunts, and damn it , he’s being told to keep going, fuck him harder- “Come here . Spread your ass for me,”  Deidara snaps, forcing his hand behind him.

Eyes rolled back, he stifles a gasp at the wave that sneaks up on him. He cums deep in Sasori, pulling back frantically to stroke hard fists at himself, spilling the rest over his ass with a heavy, choked sigh. His teeth sink against his lower lip and he stares, hazy eyed, at the mess of a man beneath him. Overstimulation sets a tremor in his knee, propped up weak on the railing. 

Deidara slaps his hand wet against his thigh.

Sasori lips barely part and it makes him want more . “I thought you were gonna cum again, hn,” Deidara huffs.

Fuck it. He’s still up. With another rock of his hips, he grasps himself with a sharp squeeze before thrusting himself back into the mess he’s pressed into.  “ ‘ve still got, ah, a little more— Fuck you, you’re soaked , hn.”

“Are you, ah , fucking ki-idding me,” Sasori caves, slumping forward until he’s tugged right back up by the fist in his hair.

“One more, hn.” Deidara's hips slap wet against his ass, forcing a strained gargle. Sasori clamps down on his wrist, carding puffy red streaks down his arm. There’s something cruel in his cerulean eyes that twists his gut. It’s not enough , he’s so fucking close and Deidara’s taunting him.

Can’t breathe. 

“You were playing with that stupid turtleneck all day, it’s been making me want to choke you out just like this, hn.” 

It’s nails up Sasori’s cock, strained, that teeters him over, cumming violent with white over his eyes and his head buried back in the crook of Deidara’s neck. “I knew you could do another one, hn.” He melts into the burning lips against his temple.

Sasori can’t breathe. He mouths something unintelligible, tongue moving wordless against the back of his teeth.

He peaks with the breach of the hand on his throat, rushing cool air to his desperate lungs. “ Shit ,” is all he pants, and when Deidara pulls away, he crumbles against the railing, wincing at the sweaty chest that falls on top of him. “ Shit , Deidara.”

Deidara’s reduced to ragged pants down his spine, tonguing against his sweaty shoulder. “Fuck, man, that was good , hn,” he groans and the cruelty melts away, replaced with arms around Sasori’s slim waist, pulling him close. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Sasori licks his dry lips and swallows against the sting in his throat. “Yeah, I’m okay.” His eyes, bloodshot around amber pools, glisten strained tears. 

Silence is a rare thing stirred between them. One, starstruck. The other, dazed.

And just like that, it’s no longer tolerable. “What the fuck was that, my man? You had me fuckin’ pulverize you, hn,” Deidara finally has to ask, propping his head lazy against a freckled shoulder. 

“I,” Sasori gasps, a janked smile lazy on his lips. “ Need to,” he finishes, punctuating with a delicate kiss from his swollen, rose stained lips.

It’s best, maybe, not to ask what that means. And thankfully, he doesn’t have to, with the manicured fingers through his tangled blond hair that bring his eyes to Sasori’s. “Come to the creek. I want to smoke and get all this off’ve me.”


Starting their day at the river and ending by the creek, the water’s still just as cold when they dip their toes into the rushing water.

Gooseflesh runs rampant up Sasori’s limbs in puckered bumps, standing his hairs on end. The water never quite warms up around here. He splashes one handful of water on his face, then another, cursing when he remembers that shit, he still has his mascara on.

Or, well, did. He’s sure it’s streaked down his face now, and when Deidara looks at him and laughs, he knows it definitely is. No better, though, are his eyes, with his pointed liner mashed across the side of his face and black tinted tears streamed down his cheeks.

He can feel Deidara watching his skin routine in awe. “Dude, you’ve been wearing the same shirt for a decade and you have a five step face routine? Faggy , hn,” he scoffs, and Sasori rolls his eyes. What a fucking dick.

But like Deidara said, he likes him because he’s got that mean edge to him. Because he’s pretty, because he pulls himself out of the water and whispers “You’re too beautiful for this to bruise,” with trembling fingers over the handprint across his face. Because he dips and kisses him with an open mouth, arms tight around him.

Held with a hand on the back of his head and another around his waist, Sasori falls into it with open arms. Like he’s precious, Deidara holds him tight and doesn’t let go.


Alderpoint, Humboldt County, CA 08/19/1992

Things have been disappearing from Temari’s room. Nothing noticeable, but the jewelry she’s inherited from her mother’s moved to Shikamaru’s, and any makeup she has lives in her gym locker. Existing in this house is a life proceeded with caution. Little things disappear from the medicine cabinet she thinks they might need—basic first aid, tooth paste, q-tips. Things she knows her siblings will forget but will provide at least some sense of normalcy while they’re living up the mountain.

The Mountain, The Hill, their backwoods forest has a dozen nicknames depending on who you ask. Temari tells herself that this is different from the vanloads of post-grads, wealth hunters, and thrill seekers that make their way up in droves. She and her siblings know the terrain. They know what’s up there and okay, Sasori sounds a little… off , but he’s family.

It’s better than if they just hitched a ride up with the first truck they saw. Those are the people that end up with bullets in the back of their heads. Or worse.

She’s zipping up her last back when she hears a truck door slam shut outside. A quick peek at her wall clock flashes noon. It’s still early. Downstairs, she hears the front door open and shut, with the heavy gait of a man kicking off his shoes and walking through the kitchen.

Rasa’s home from the overnight. It’s not much of a wrench in her plans, but she knows he’ll ask questions. After a double shift, and an overnight one at that? Shouldn’t be too much to wiggle around.

Does she have everything? Clothes, first aid and hygiene products, her photo album, and a gift, wrapped tight and previously hidden under her dresser, that she’d purchased for Sasori. They have a thousand thank you’s to give him, so it’s a good start.

Growers provide housing, food, and weed. Not to mention, the money.

With her bag slung over her shoulder—a simple overnight she’ll transfer into her duffle at Shikamaru’s—she pads down the stairs barefoot. Always, she has to take a deep breath at the last step.

Things have been… tense since his blowout with Gaara. Unlike when they were kids, there’s no runoff to Kankuro and Temari this time. Kankuro’s out too often and she probably has a nastier right hook than any of the men in their family.

In the kitchen, rather than furious, Rasa looks exhausted. He’s not awful all the time, but when things are bad, they’re bad .

“Good morning. Did you just get back from work?” she asks cautiously. It’s late, even for a double shift.

Today, graciously, doesn’t seem to be one of the bad ones.

Her father rubs at the back of his neck, focused on the eggs he’s tugging from their fridge. “Yeah. Spent the night pulling a body out of the river,” he explains with a sigh. “That’s the third homicide we’ve had this month.” That they knew of.

The bag over her shoulder feels heavier. “Was it…anyone local?”

“No. Just another one of those idiots trying to make a quick buck. They’re going to fucking kill each other up there.”

Yeah.

There’s something else he wants to talk about, from the way he waves towards the table. Right. “Take a seat,” he demands. It’s best, too, that she doesn’t ask too many questions.

“Is something wrong?” She needs to get going.

The twenty-first is coming up fast . Any little thing like this sinks dread in her stomach.

“Have you spoken with Gaara recently?” He asks slowly. They haven’t talked about him recently, and both she and her brother pretended they knew nothing about the phone call.

“Not really,” she lies. “Have you?”

He sighs and this time, he’s more haggard than usual. He scratches at the start of his five o’ clock shadow. “I’ve been trying to get him back into the academy. I called him a few weeks ago to try and reason with him.”

“I thought he wasn’t interested?” she tries to imply, but that does nothing.

Here we go.

There’s no fire spitting this time, at least. Likely because the booze hasn’t come into play yet. “He’s been unreasonable about this opportunity from the start, and your uncle isn’t making it any easier.” He sighs, and it seems almost like he’s trying to swallow his pride. “Temari…” he starts, fumbling back into the fridge for a beer. It cracks open with a cold fizz of carbonated smoke.

Doesn’t take long , she notes bitterly.

They’re a family of angry, damaged people. Substances are only an amplification. “He’s running his life into a wall. Where else is he going to work? He’s got himself a permanent record at least a mile long.” Especially after the crash always hangs as a heavy, almost wet curtain.

She props her hand on her hip, readjusting the hold on her bag. A silent shift to say that she’s really trying to get going.

Rasa doesn’t notice.

“I’ve talked to him a thousand times,” he laments. “The academy would be great to set him straight. I thought he’d grow out of that shit with the makeup and his nails by now and-“

 “I think it’s a lot of pressure,” Temari interjects sharply. Have you asked why he doesn’t want to? Isn’t acceptable to throw out without any aftermath. With the anger in their family comes hardheaded stubbornness.

Gaara will not budge, and neither will his father. The irony is anything Gaara’s picked up, he’s learned from this environment. “Would you talk to him? Yashamaru said he might be softening up to you more.”

She wants to tell him that the police academy won’t “fix” his son’s flamboyancy. Instead, bites her tongue. Forty-eight hours and they’re okay. Temari will say anything she needs to make sure they get there. “Sure, Dad. Why don’t I give Yashamaru a call today?”

He’s never had it in him to be a single father. Temari can’t fault him for that. After all, no one expects to lose their wife during childbirth. The constant screaming and hitting that’s plagued their childhood? Not so forgivable.

“I’m about to head to Shikamaru’s. I’ll call him up when I get there.” That seems satisfactory enough. Rasa finishes his first beer as she pulls on her trainers. “Get some rest, okay?”

“Say hello to Shikamaru for me,” he says with a turned back, rummaging through the fridge again. “I love you, Temari,” he adds, and she freezes for a split second, clutching the strap over her shoulder.

“I love you, too, Dad,” she lies, and lets the front door clatter shut.

Fuck this guy.

Temari throws her bag into the trunk of her Honda and doesn’t look back.