Sitting high up on his tree, Deidara silently watched what was happening far below. Of course he wasn't exactly happy that Itachi had to tell this spy practically everything he knew about him, but he knew just as well as Itachi that he didn't exactly have a choice. It was bad enough that they suspected he knew something, they couldn't exactly allow them to find out Itachi was betraying them too.
Deidara leaned back against a thick branch and absent-mindedly played with his clay as he watched the spy nod slowly as if he was pretending to consider something.
“If you find out anything else about the plans of that Deidara, you will contact us immediately.” The tone of his voice did not allow any objections.
Itachi nodded and the spy smiled coldly. He handed him a small wooden box. “It's always nice to do business with you.”
He disappeared without another word.
For a few seconds, Itachi simply stood there silently, as if he was expecting for the spy to return, then he turned on his heel and walked towards the place he and Deidara had agreed to meet earlier.
Itachi had demanded that Deidara wouldn't tell him where he was hiding, just in case something happened and Itachi was forced to talk. Deidara still thought that was a bit overkill but at least it gave him the chance for some fun.
Smiling excitedly, Deidara jumped from tree to tree as silently as possible. Just to be safe he watched out for enemies but he could neither see nor hear any.
Itachi was just a few minutes away from the meeting point when Deidara dropped from the branches above and landed directly next to him, throwing an arm around his shoulder without warning. “Hey!”
“You're too early.”
Itachi frowned, acting like he had known exactly where Deidara had been the entire time. Even a few months ago it would have pissed Deidara off to no end, but now he barely rolled his eyes.
He had easily noticed the way Itachi's hand moved slightly towards his weapons like it always did when he felt threatened, not to mention the slight flinch of his eyebrows. He was simply too easy to read, Deidara thought with a satisfied grin.
“You know, you can just admit I surprised you, un.” Deidara grinned and wiggled his eyebrows, laughing at the way Itachi ignored him completely. He couldn't help but feel a bit smug about the fact that he was able to sneak up on The Uchiha Itachi like this and of course he'd now rub that into his face for as long as it was still fun.
Smiling fondly, Deidara removed his arm from Itachi's shoulders, silently noting the fact that Itachi hadn't brushed him off earlier.
Itachi could pretend nothing could touch him as long as he liked but Deidara knew the truth. He hadn't just seen how he acted at his low points, and there were surprisingly many of those, but he could also read the small signs in his body language that told him everything he needed to know about how Itachi was feeling, even if he tried to pretend nothing was wrong.
And part of that was the tiny smile that formed on Itachi's face at Deidara's words or the way he barely noticeably stood closer to him than before.
Deidara really liked the idea that he was the only one who knew Itachi this well.
He watched from the shadows as his target threw his arm around Uchiha Itachi.
For a while, the two walked silently side by side through the forest.
Neither of them had wanted to risk someone noticing them leaving together on Deidara's bird so soon after the secret meeting with Root, so unfortunately walking was the only option. Even though complete silence tended to make Deidara nervous sometimes, it was also kind of nice. It almost felt like they went on a walk just for the fun of it.
At that thought, Deidara had to suppress a laugh, waving away Itachi's concerned glance.
Still, he couldn't stop thinking about that spy and his threats.
That boy couldn't have been much older than Deidara was, maybe even younger than that, but he was so... cold. Not like a regular ninja simply had to be, ready to kill if the mission demanded it and always prepared for a teammate's death, but somehow even more extreme. As if instead of hiding or suppressing his emotions, they had been beaten completely out of him. But was something like that even possible?
“Do you know what that guy's name was? That would make it easier to find him once we're done with Danzo”, he finally asked.
Deidara was already looking forward to seeing that bastard again and showing him that he shouldn't threaten anyone he cared about. Especially not like that. As if Itachi's life hadn't been hard enough already.
Deidara grit his teeth in frustration. There weren't many things that really, truly mattered to him. Until recently, the list had had only consisted of his art after he had kicked Kurotsuchi off it when he left Iwa. But at this point, there was someone else that mattered, and of course it had to be the guy he had sworn to kill almost two years ago. Sure, maybe he should have expected that when he first realised that he had fallen in love with Itachi, but somehow still every new realisation of how deep his feelings really were came as a shock to him. When the hell had this become his life??
Itachi shook his head and Deidara sighed. Of course he didn't.
“They're keeping a lot of secrets from me but it looks like most Root agents only work with code names. They change and rotate them every once in a while.” Itachi absent-mindedly removed a stray leaf that had landed in his hair. “I'm pretty sure I met at least five different people that were all called Shin. I'm not even sure they have personal names at all.”
“But how can they just not have names, un?”
With a shrug, Itachi stopped, carefully checking the surroundings. “Either they're raised directly by Root or they're beaten out of them.” He threw Deidara a meaningful glance and started moving again. “Or they could just be regular code names. It's hard to find out specifics without becoming an immediate target.”
Deidara swallowed hard, trying not to let his unease show.
Neither of these options made him feel any better. Root was just becoming more and more creepy the more he found out about them.
So Itachi hadn't just found someone new they could use against him but he had also entrusted him with his secrets. That made him a threat they should get rid of as soon as possible.
He silently thanked his master for giving him this important mission.
A rustling in the bushes a few meters away made both of them stop dead in their tracks.
It could have been caused by anything from a rabbit to a deadly enemy, but after the last few months Deidara had definitely become more wary of suspicious sounds.
As if nothing had happened, Deidara turned towards Itachi, who returned the same act of indifference Deidara put on.
“Can we finally fly now, un?” His voice was much more tense than he would have liked.
Slowly, Deidara buried his hand in one of his clay bags. “Let's leave.” He hoped that whoever was watching them, they wouldn't realise what he was trying to do.
His hand spat out two little clay balls. One of them disappeared into Deidara's sleeve while he formed the other one into the shape he needed.
Deidara spun around as fast as he phsyically could and one of his extra fast birds bolted towards the bushes.
He knew exactly where the bird would land and when it would explode, but before he had the chance to do anything else, Itachi suddenly threw a single kunai in the middle of the bushes before Deidara's bird could get there.
Annoyed, Deidara turned towards him as he called the bird back.
“Hey, show-off! Stop stealing my thunder, un!”
Itachi threw another kunai and the bushes rustled loudly in response. Deidara was about to say something when one of them finally seemed to hit something. The sound of metal hitting metal ripped through the silence of the forest like a gunshot.
A shadow leaped from the bushes as fast as lightning and landed on a branch above.
In one hand, he held a short sword which he must have used at the last second to block Itachi's attack. He didn't have a single injury. The fact that he had dodged everything else and managed to stay hidden at the same time for so long was pretty impressive, but Deidara would rather die than admit that.
His eyes finally landed on the stranger's face and he gasped in surprise.
Itachi glanced in Deidara's direction, confused. Did he know this guy?
How many more enemies would he run into that all knew Deidara somehow?
Apparently, Deidara didn't even notice Itachi's surprise as he accusingly pointed at the stranger. “You don't just run away from a fight, un! I would have easily beaten you, you coward!”
The stranger smiled, and the complete absence of emotion forced an uneasy shiver over Itachi's back. It was immediately clear who they were dealing with.
“I'm sorry, back then my mission was to stay unnoticed.” His gaze turned serious and ice cold. “But maybe I should thank you. Our fight gave us a lot of useful information.”
Itachi grit his teeth. So it was him that had told Root about Deidara. Thanks to him, Deidara was in danger.
He forced himself to stay calm and concentrated on forming a plan instead.
On one hand there was no way they could let this spy run back to Danzo and tell him Itachi had betrayed him. With that, there was nothing he could do to save the last two people on this earth he truly cared about.
But on the other hand, he highly doubted killing one of their spies would be a better option.
Finally, Deidara made his decision for him by suddenly calling the bird he had not detonated yet to attack the spy.
With a loud bang, the bird exploded. The spy just barely managed to jump aside while gearing up for a counter attack.
Itachi activated his Sharingan and drew him into a spy, sword against kunai. At the same time, Deidara launched one bomb after another, which Itachi dodged much more easily than the spy did.
It was obvious that this boy wouldn't be able to fight for much longer. His face stayed completely expressionless during the entire fight, but with every new attack he had to block, every new bomb aimed at his face, his movements became just the tiniest bit slower.
It didn't take very long for the fight to end. Two members of Akatsuki were simply too strong for a single Root agent, no matter how skilled he may be on his own.
The spy dodged another of Itachi's attacks, but he was too slow. Itachi kicked him in the side and he went flying sideways, crashing directly into the blast of one of Deidara's bombs. One explosion later and he lay on the ground, completely motionless.
Hesitating, Deidara walked towards him and lightly kicked his shoulder. He didn't move a single muscle.
“Do you think he's dead?”
He kicked him a little bit harder.
The spy made a tiny, pained sound and flinched a little, but he stayed down, his eyes closed.
“What are we going to do with him now? We can't exactly leave him here.”
“But we can't take him back to the headquarters either.”
That made Deidara laugh for some reason. Itachi frowned in confusion and Deidara clearly struggled to keep himself together for long enough to explain.
“Imagine him and Hidan in the same room.”
Itachi let out a small laugh at that thought. That guy in a room with the Akatsuki was... interesting. He wouldn't survive a single day and somehow make everyone try to kill each other even more than they usually did.
In the end, it was Deidara who found a solution.
“This guy probably has a lot of information about Root, right? If we get those we have all the proof we need that Danzo is a manipulative bastard!” He grinned at Itachi excitedly. “There are so many caves in the mountains around the headquarters, we can probably hide him there! As long as we make sure no one notices him...” His smile fell slightly. “Then you can finally go home.”
Itachi blinked, confused. He hadn't even thought of that.
He shook his head. “Even if the elders believe us they wouldn't let me go back.”
If there was one thing Itachi was sure about, it was this. But still, the thought of being able to go home after all these years... could he really hope for that much?
The information this spy could provide was a once in a lifetime opportunity. A month ago Itachi hadn't even thought stopping Danzo was possible at all and now, with this, it suddenly became a real possibility. Itachi had no idea how to handle this much hope.
Jumping onto Deidara's transportation bird, Itachi shook off those thoughts. It wouldn't help to think about these things when they were still so far away from their goal.
With the spy safely tucked inside the bird's beak, they finally took off.
The spy kneeled in front of his master.
“You were right. Uchiha Itachi is acting strange. That Deidara seems to have an influence over him.”
His master nodded slowly. He carefully laid a hand onto the bandages covering his arms. “Is Sai in position?”
“I saw them take him away myself.”
“Very good. As soon as he is back with us he will report back to you.”
The spy nodded and stood up. He hesitated for a moment.
“Will he come back, then?”
His master glared at him coldly and despite the years of training and conditioning, the spy shuddered.
“No one can handle torture as well as he does. There is no one better suited for this mission.”
The spy nodded once again and after his master gave him permission, he left the room.
When he was finally away from his master's prying eyes, he took a deep breath.
None of them were allowed to ask these sort of questions. Whatever their master demanded, it was to be followed without doubt or objection. Free will and every sign of emotion was punished as soon as the master got his hands on them, preferably in the first few years of their lives. All this made Root the most efficient, loyal and blindly obedient soldiers in the world.
But still, it was impossible to prevent everything and sometimes, even small friendships formed, just as long as the master didn't punish them. Too many good soldiers had died already.
Once again with an expressionless look on his face, the spy made his way over to the training court, where he could already hear the new arrivals fight over who deserved to become like him. He hoped at least half of them would survive this time.