Author's note: And now for another installment of Introspective Conversations In The Dark.


Upon arrival at her condo, priority number one, for Ino, was food—and nine ounces of Pinot Grigio. For Deidara, it was stripping out of his 'pussy-ass rich-boy clothes'.

Ino watched him do so, enthroned upon her barstool at the kitchen counter, munching on a zucchini spear. "It's too bad," she mused as the blazer came off. "If I'd run into you in Mallorca dressed like that, I wouldn't have said no if you'd wanted to buy me a drink."

Deidara paused midway through pulling off his undershirt. "...What?"

"Nothing," said Ino.

Deidara resumed changing, though not without giving Ino an odd look, like he couldn't decide if this had actually been a flirtatious comment, or if it was all in his head.

Ino turned her attention back to her food, her cheeks flushing, because it had so been a flirtatious comment, and also dumb and totally uncalled for, so, um?

She was tired, decided Ino after a fortifying swig of wine. She was tired, and she'd had a hard, weird day, and her filters were down and not catching the harebrained remarks her mouth decided to utter.

"What's to eat?" asked Deidara, moseying over to Ino like she was somehow responsible for feeding him—a view which she did not share.

Deidara looked over Ino's shoulder and did not seem impressed with the quinoa salad that she had put together for herself. He took to the cupboards, where he was greeted by the lentil cirsps and the dried cranberries that he had rejected the day before, then to the fridge, where Greek yogurt and asparagus and almond milk stared back at him. With increasing despair, he opened the freezer, where he found a carton of low-cal frozen spring rolls.

"Finally, some actual food," he said, tearing the box open.

He then proceeded to scandalize Ino by making them in the microwave.

"I have an oven," said Ino, indicating the location of the appliance in question with her fork.

"Takes too long. I'm friggin' starving…"

The microwave beeped. Deidara reached in to to pull out the soggy pile of eight spring rolls, apparently forgot that he didn't have his gloves on, and burnt his fingers with an outburst of swearing.

Then he sat on the counter beside Ino, alternately sucking on his burnt fingertips and wolfing down mouthfuls of steaming spring roll. Ino picked at her salad, looking even more dainty than usual by contrast.

Deidara eyed her. "Bird."

"Ruffian," said Ino, with a judgmental look over her cutlery.

Deidara leaned in and studied the quinoa. "You're literally eating seeds."

"It's a grain."


Ino flashed him a look. He hid a smirk behind his spring roll.

"Speaking of birds," said Ino, "talk to me about your exploding Furbies."

Deidara let out a snort. "I told you—they aren't toys."

"Yes. I gathered as much when they caused the partial collapse of an underground car park."

"That was so good." Deidara waved his last spring roll into an arc in front of him. "Boom. Must've hit a load-bearing pillar somewhere. That was just luck. I've got more of them in my bag, lemme show you."

He crammed the spring roll into his mouth, pushed himself off the counter, and disappeared into the hall.

"More of them?" Ino skittered to the living room behind Deidara with a degree of alarm. "Here? In my condo?"

"Yeah," said Deidara, rummaging around in his bag. He pulled out another metallic owl-like contraption—a smaller one, this time, half the size of his palm. "It's fine. They don't blow up unless I tell them to. Don't get your panties in a twist."

"I'm not getting my panties in a twist," said Ino, definitely getting her panties in a twist as Deidara tossed the bird from one hand to the other with a careless disregard for its explosive capabilities. "Stop that. Stop throwing it around, for Christ's sake..."

Deidara twisted the bird open and pulled something out of its wired-up insides. "There. Detonator's gone. So even if I do tell it to blow up—if you really piss me off—it won't."

This did little to reassure Ino. It took her a moment to reach out and take the bird that Deidara was holding up to her for inspection. Then, since it didn't immediately blow up in her face, she sat on the couch and turned it around in her hands, studying the matte beige material with wary curiosity. Its teeny wings whirled when she poked them.

"It's… kind of cute," she said, running a finger across its round head. "In a murderous way."

"So like me," said Deidara, seating himself beside her.

Ino rolled her eyes, and Deidara grinned to himself, because she didn't actually deny it.

"So these are all remote controlled?" asked Ino. "And so small… if anyone spotted them, they'd think they were some Fisher Price thing, not a lethal contraption..."

Deidara reached to wipe an invisible dust speck from the bird's tummy. "Yeah. I made them ʼcause I wanted something that I could keep on me all the time—and that wouldn't get me arrested if they were found in my pockets. Cops pull me over a lot, for some reason…"

Ino gave him a look of disapproval before turning her attention back to the bird. She flipped one of its wings back and forth. "All your design?"

"Yeah. I've got others… bugs, rats, whatever. Some fly, some crawl. They've come in handy. Take a while to make, though."

"It's kind of genius," said Ino. "Not that I condone whole-scale destruction of property, or murder. But it really is kind of genius. You must sell a lot of these."

Deidara scoffed. "Nah. I'd get laughed out of town trying to sell them. The bozos who buy from me want gear that looks badass. Manly. Military. With spikes. And flames up the sides. That kinda shit."

"Their loss." Ino drifted into a thoughtful silence. She felt Deidara's eyes on her as she poked the bird's tiny hooked toes.

Out of nowhere, he reached for her hand.

"What are you—?"

Deidara was now glaring at a dark smudge on her wrist. "What's this?"

"Oh," said Ino, observing the new bruise. "Kakuzu."

Deidara was staring at the bruised spot, tight-jawed. His fingertips twitched against her skin where he held her arm.

"Hey, it's fine," said Ino to mitigate the explosion that seemed impending. "If this is all I take away from that encounter, I'll consider myself lucky. I thought he was going to break my bones at one point, honestly, he was squeezing so hard..."

Deidara's eyes flashed up at her, hot with sudden anger. "That fucker."

"It doesn't even hurt," said Ino with a shake of her head that sent her earrings dancing. "It's fine."

Deidara pulled Ino's other wrist to himself, turned her hand over a few times, and found it free of blemishes. Then he cast a searching look at her neck, where Kakuzu's cruel grip had held her—but there was no mark there either, apparently, because he sat back again.

"Nothing?" asked Ino, touching her throat.

"Not that I can see," said Deidara, though his unhappy glower persisted.

Ino ran her forefinger above her collarbone. "Well, even if there had been something here, it might not have been Kakuzu." The corner of her mouth lifted in a sardonic smile. "I did get throttled until I passed out quite recently… by a pair of handcuffs. I'm actually surprised that didn't leave a mark."

Deidara opened his mouth then closed it, nonplussed. "I—that was when you were just—" he began, before cutting himself off. "I mean, we weren't—that was before I—just—that was before."

Ino raised her eyebrows in the face of this astonishing display of articulateness.

"Point is, Kakuzu's a dick," said Deidara, changing the subject none too subtly.

"Yes. He is." Ino tilted her chin towards the little bomber bird that sat on her knee. "Just lob one of these at him next time you see him."

And Deidara, deadly serious, said, "I will." He pulled Ino's hand to himself and studied the bruise as though it was a map that would lead him to Kakuzu. "Yeah… I'm gonna blow his head off."

"Um. Please don't. I was kidding."

"I'm not."


Deidara's eyes found hers. "It's gonna haunt me, you know."

"Oh my god, you're being dramatic. It'll be faded by tomorrow."

"Not this," said Deidara. "I mean today. Coming back and seeing you tied up with those two groping at you, and Kakuzu about to strangle you, and you, stuck there, all tied up and defenceless, ʼcause of me. If I'd arrived five minutes later—"

Deidara broke off mid-sentence and looked away. He continued after a moment, his voice so low that it was almost a pained whisper. "I don't even wanna think about what they could've done to you."

He brushed his thumb back and forth along the thin skin of Ino's inner wrist, as though the touch could erase the bruise. And now it was Ino's turn to be nonplussed, disconcerted by the gentleness in the gesture and the intensity of the guilt that was making Deidara's shoulders tense.

"Nothing happened," said Ino.

"It could've," said Deidara. "It could've been bad."

They lapsed into silence. With her free hand, Ino smoothed nonexistent tangles from a strand of her hair. Deidara sat beside her, eyes downcast, perfectly still save for his thumb running along the bruise.

It grew quieter still. The air conditioner kicked in with a click and a low whir.

Somewhere far below, nighttime traffic rumbled away in the city that never sleeps.

It was with surprise that Ino realized that she was enjoying the quiet moment. There was something unexpectedly… unexpectedly nice about sitting here next to Deidara, in knowing that, right now, she was the sole subject of his concern. His focus washed over her in a tingly kind of warmth, mingling pleasantly with the feel of his rough fingers on her skin and the heat from his body where their shoulders and thighs touched.

So enjoyable was it that Ino was on the verge of pulling her knees up and leaning into him with a sigh—at which point she realized that she wanted to cuddle with Deidara. At which point she blanched, pulled her hand away from him, and wondered if she was falling ill.

Deidara blinked at her sudden movement and watched, confused, as she touched her the back of her hand to her forehead. (No fever; Ino couldn't decide whether this was good or bad.)

"Anyway," said Ino, the crispness of her voice shattering the silence, "you didn't arrive five minutes later. You arrived just in time and you saved my ass, so we can put this behind us. So stop stewing in guilt, already."

"I'll stew all I want," said Deidara, looking vexed. "I'm the one who put your ass in danger in the first place."

"True," conceded Ino, because, yes, pretty much all of this was his fault. "I'll let you make it up to me, though."

Deidara studied her with mixed curiosity and wariness. "Make it up to you?...How?"

"You're going to promise never to put a goddamn zip tie on me again."

Deidara looked her up and down. "That's... it?"

"Yes. A real promise. No more zip ties. Ever. Say it."

"Okay. I promise. No more zip ties, ever," said Deidara. Then, as Ino was still staring intently at him, he asked, "What? Is that not good enough for you? You want to—to pinky swear this out, or something?"

"Yes, actually," said Ino, holding up her little finger. "Also, you should know that pinky swears with lawyers are legally binding."

"...You are so full of shit," said Deidara, holding back a grin as he reached for her little finger and crossed it with his.


Bedtime rolled around. Ino disappeared into her room while Deidara lingered in the living room, doing things that involved a lot of mysterious and slightly frightening clicking and snapping noises, as of explosives being armed and guns being reloaded. Which, Ino reflected astutely, was probably what was happening out there.

For her part, Ino sat cross-legged on her bed and brushed out her silky hair by the soft glow of her bedside table lamp. It was a rare moment of solitude and tranquility in a day that had been anything but peaceful. Her thoughts turned to tomorrow: the boardroom, the schedule, finding out who had put up the murder-ad. This was good. This was a plan. They would have a name for this little prince. And then she would personally unleash hell upon him to the fullest extent of the law.

Thus reassured, Ino sighed and pondered the possibility of turning on some gentle piano music to go with her mood when Deidara, whistling loudly, and inexplicably not wearing a shirt, burst into the room.

He flipped on the bright light of the chandelier (Ino was blinded), whistled out something 80s-sounding (Ino was deafened) and groped at the blankets around her, apparently looking for his phone (Ino grew pissy). He then accused her of having done something with it, because he'd just plugged it in to charge on his side of the bed, but it wasn't there. Ino bristled at both the suggestion that she was somehow responsible for the disappearance of his phone and also at the implication that half the bed was in any way his, because it was all hers.

So Ino glared her displeasure at him. And let the record show that that was indeed what she was doing, glaring her displeasure—not watching lean arm muscles glide under sunset skin as Deidara flipped over the covers, and certainly not staring at the taut forearm next to her when he bent over to check under the pillows.

Also, he smelled really good.

Some kind of woodsy deodorant.

Ino focused with new ferocity on the strands of hair between her fingers.

"Where the hell did it go," said Deidara, flinging the pillows down. "Call it, will you?"

"No. Find it yourself."

"I looked everywhere."

"I'm busy."

"Come on…"

With a heavy, annoyed sigh, Ino yanked her phone towards herself by its charging cable and called Deidara's.

A ringtone emanated from somewhere under the bed.

"Oh," said Deidara, his voice muffled as he bent over to fetch it. "It fell."

Of course it fell. Ino looked at the ceiling. Then, as Deidara's ringtone jingled on, she sighed again. "MC Hammer, really? Just, why…"

"Wouldn't expect you to understand," said Deidara. He flipped his hair at her as he strode into the bathroom. "Those were more sophisticated times."

"Don't be ridiculous. Those pants were an atrocity—"

Deidara slammed the bathroom door in her face. Ino grouchily finished her braid.

When Deidara came back out of the bathroom, wafting mint, and settled himself next to Ino, it occurred to her that she ought to put up a fuss about him self-inviting himself to sleep in her bed again. At least for form's sake…

As she debated the question, Deidara punched his pillow into shape, lay down, and said, "Huh."


"I thought you were gonna whine at me again."

"I was. I mean, I am." Ino gestured to the living room. "Go sleep on the couch."

"No, I don't think I will."


"Sharing is caring."

Ino almost choked on her laugh, because caring.



"No," said Ino.

Deidara stretched out onto his back and closed his eyes. Apparently, as far as he was concerned, going to sleep would put the matter to a close.

Ino narrowed her eyes at him: to squabble or not to squabble…

Deidara yawned and crossed his arms behind his head. The corner of sheet that he'd pulled over himself shifted down as he did so, exposing a few inches of tatted-up abs and side, vivid against the white. On the right, below his ribcage, swirled those lavender clouds in which the faint outline of a woman's face was visible.

Squabble, decided Ino.

"You know," said Ino, with the air of one making a conversational remark on the weather, "Saint Barbara looks an awful lot like your mother."

Deidara cracked open an eye, saw where she was looking, and pulled the sheets up. "No she doesn't."

"Yes she does. I noticed as soon as I met her."

"Go to sleep."

"She's the one in that sketch I found, too, isn't she?"

Deidara didn't answer her. It looked like his teeth were clenched.

"You draw her really well," continued Ino, though with a little more caution, given the clenching. "There's this... fragility about her that you capture just right. Something about the lines of her mouth and around her eyes when she smiles…"

Deidara's jaw twitched; he seemed torn, now, between annoyance at Ino's meddling and pleasure in the face of these compliments.

Ino pulled his sheet down again and ran a finger down his side, where the lavender clouds faded into twilight skies. "I suppose it's classier than one of those heart-and-arrow tattoos with 'MOM' underneath…"

Deidara irritably tugged the sheet back up and tucked it around himself. "Can we sleep?"

"If you want to sleep, go to the couch. I'm investigating." Ino picked up her phone, pulled up paintings of the actual Saint Barbara, and flipped through them. "They really do look alike. It's kind of a cool coincidence. I mean, my mother looked nothing like Saint Ives... Patron saint of lawyers," she added in the face of Deidara's blank look. "Also, he's a man. It was a joke."

She held her phone at Deidara's side and tried to pull the sheet down again with the intention of comparing the two portraits. Her efforts were met by an unyielding grip on the sheet and Deidara's warning glare.



"Fuck off."

Deidara's words were clipped and hot with the threat of an imminent blow-out. Ino decided not to push her luck: she'd wanted to aggravate him into sleeping on the couch, not get her head torn off.

"Fine," she sniffed, swinging her legs off the bed. "Be that way. Silly me for having any kind of interest in you and yours..."

His glare pursued her as she sashayed to the bathroom to change into her sleeping things. "Liar."


"You were trying to piss me off," came Deidara's voice through the half-closed door. "Don't pretend you were giving a damn about me."

Ino gave him a coy look from around the door. "Those things aren't mutually exclusive."

"Uh huh."

"Anyway," said Ino from the safety of the bathroom, "I really did enjoy meeting your saintly mother today. She was so sweet and kind and funny."

Deidara didn't respond, apparently having decided to ignore her again.

"And beautiful," added Ino.

Still no response.

"So, basically, nothing like you," called Ino through the door. "Are you sure you're not adopted?"

There was a rustle in the other room, as of a pillow being strangled, and Ino cackled to herself as she brushed her teeth.


A few minutes later, Ino turned off the lights. Then she stood by the bed in the dark and hesitated, because Deidara was being suspiciously quiet.

"Are you going to attack me or is it safe to get in bed?" she asked.

"...Definitely going to attack you," came Deidara's deadpan response after a moment.

Ino took this as reassurance that he wasn't that pissy with her and climbed into bed. "ʼK."

She settled under the covers, unattacked, and closed her eyes.

Deidara shifted beside her in the dark. Then, unexpectedly, he spoke. "After what my mom's gone through, she is a goddamn saint."

Whatever Ino had expected, it hadn't been a pursuit of this particular topic.

"...You mean the cancer?" she asked after a beat.

"No," said Deidara. "Me."

"You?" Ino nestled into her pillow and turned to face him. "But you're a good son—I mean, besides being a criminal. I saw you today…"

"I wasn't always a good son," said Deidara. Then he added, flatly, "Crackheads don't make good sons."

"Oh. I guess I can see that."

Again there was a pause. When Deidara spoke again, his voice was tinged with bitter remorse. "I did all kinds of shit to her. Made her life hell for years. Back when I was getting high every night—back before the accident—I stole from her. Broke into her place all the time. Trashed it whenever I couldn't find enough money for my next hit. Stole her TV, sold it for cash. Stole her jewelry. Stole her car."

Ino regarded him with wide eyes in the dark. "Jesus. Why are you telling me this?"

"I dunno. ʼCause you were fucking around about her being a saint. I want you to know it's not actually a joke."

"Oh. Okay…" Ino trailed off uncertainly before speaking again. "I really do think she's a sweet lady, you know. I wasn't being a jerk about that."

In the darkness, Ino could make out Deidara pressing the heels of his palms into his forehead, as though to squeeze the memories away. "God. I hate it. I hate remembering what I've put her through. I wish I could erase it from my brain."

"But you—I mean, you aren't that person anymore." Ino gathered her pillow in her arms and propped her chin on it. "And you're making it up to her. I saw you today, giving up everything you earned. Those wads of cash, oh my god, you could've lived on that for a year, easy, but you gave it all up..."

"It doesn't make up for the things I did."

"It does," said Ino quite earnestly.

"You don't know."

"I know you live in a rat-infested shithole so your mother can get state-of-the-art medical care at Mount Fucking Sinai."

"My place isn't that bad."

"Yes it is. The whole building is a health hazard. You're hallucinating from the asbestos and lead paint and rat turd off-gassing, if you think otherwise." Ino put a hand on Deidara's forehead. "Just as I suspected: feverish. You'll talk more sense when the diphtheria clears up."

There was a snort of amusement in the dark.

"Anyway," continued Ino, "at least you're clean now. You kicked the addiction. And you're not exactly—um—a hundred percent legal, in terms of your activities, but you're also not, like, actively committing crimes…"

"A hundred percent legal doesn't pay enough," said Deidara.

"It could," said Ino.

"Not with my skillset."

"I disagree."

"No. Believe me, I tried."

"You tried to go straight?"

"Yeah. After I kicked the coke." Deidara turned to glance at her, a shadowy silhouette in the dark. "I got a job at a factory, can you imagine? Ammunitions manufacturing."

"Really? A factory? Overalls and everything?"

"Overalls and everything," said Deidara. "Soul-killing job, but, whatever, I was keeping my nose clean."

"Literally," said Ino, regarding the cocaine thing.

"Hah—nah. I didn't really snort it, in the end."

"Oh. I thought that's how you do cocaine. Like in the movies..."

Deidara looked at her for a long time and Ino felt innocent and naive. "Yeah. But shooting it up is a whole ʼnother experience. It's a totally different drug when you plug it straight into your veins."


"Never feel a rush that good." Deidara's voice grew slow and almost dreamy. "You're twacked the fuck out for half an hour—just gone. But you come down fast, too—so you do it again. And again. And when you're done, ʼcause you've run out, you're a shaky mess of coke jitters and bloody arms… and you can't fucking wait to do it again."


"Yeah." He sighed and there was longing in it.

"You sound like you miss it."

"I do." The dreaminess left Deidara's voice. He grew serious. "I'll miss it for the rest of my goddamn life."

Ino bit her lip. "I can't decide if that's really sad or really scary."

"Both. I'll struggle with it forever, ʼcause I'll always remember what it felt like. What I'm missing. Once you've tasted euphoria, you know, it's just…" Deidara let the sentence trail off and shrugged.

"No. I wouldn't know," said Ino.

"Have you never tried anything?"




Deidara raised his head to stare at her in shadowy disbelief. "Nothing? Not ever? Pot?"

"I've never even touched a cigarette in my life," said Ino.

"Jesus," said Deidara, letting his head fall again. "You are some kinda fuckin' nerd."

"I follow the rules," said Ino with a sniff. "So what happened with the job?"

"Nerd," repeated Deidara. "Right, so—soul-sucking job, trying to go straight, no more drugs—good stuff. And then—kick in the balls from the universe, out of fucking nowhere—my mom got sick."

"Oh, no…"

"Yeah. So, do the math. Minimum wage job for me, no job for her—she was a high-school art teacher, ʼtil she got too sick—and no insurance for either of us. Good luck covering that kind of expense. So I went back to the—what do you call it, the dark side? No, the underworld. Back to making illegal weapons and explosives, only this time, the money wasn't going straight to my drug habit. And I made really good money, ʼcause I'm good at what I do, and I was clean doing it—but it was never enough. There was always a next treatment, a next stay in the hospital, two months, six months, chemo, surgery, new meds—it added up so goddamn fast…"

"So you had to borrow."

"Yep. Five years of borrowing from, I'm pretty sure, every lender this side of the river, to keep my mom alive. After a while, everyone was after me to pay them back. I got desperate—couldn't run, ʼcause my mom was here, and they'd go after her instead."

Ino studied Deidara's profile in the dark. His farouche behaviour whenever his mother was involved made so much sense now. She was his weak spot. Small wonder he was simultaneously so evasive and defensive about her.

"I couldn't move her," continued Deidara. "She needed a machine just to breathe back then. And her specialists were all here, and her nurses, and she was so fragile… so..."

"Kakuzu," said Ino.

"Yep. My last chance. He settled with everyone else for me about six months ago—and consolidated all my debts under his control. Everyone warned me away from him. Everyone… But I didn't have a choice. It was just —such a huge amount of money over the years. Millions."

"So that's what the five million was about..."

"Four. The extra mil is his lending fee."

"His lending fee…? God," said Ino, rolling over to stare at the ceiling. "Why'd he even agree to take you on?"

"He knows about my mother. He knew I'd find a way to make it happen and get him a cool mil in the meantime. I make a lot. I've got a solid reputation. And I could've—if the goddamn hospital bills had eased up. But they haven't—and I gotta pay for her before I put anything aside for him. And now he's getting pissed, ʼcause I don't look like I'm gonna deliver by his deadline. No wonder he thinks I'm considering the sketchy-ass Yamanaka hit."

There was a pause. Then Deidara added, in a lower tone: "...Which, not gonna lie, I would be, if I hadn't met you."

Ino said nothing, struggling to get a grip on a messy surge of feelings in response to this last statement: righteous anger at this admission, admiration of in the face of this honesty, and a new understanding of where he was coming from that made everything complicated...

She propped herself up on her elbow and levelled a hard stare at him. "You would've taken the Yamanaka job?"

Even in the darkness of the bedroom, Deidara looked wary as she loomed over him. "Well—yeah. I mean, at this point, I would've been out of options..."

Ino continued to stare at him. He set his jaw and stared back, appearing to brace for impact.

Then Ino shook her head. "I never thought I'd say this, but... I'm really glad you kidnapped me."

Deidara's mouth fell half-open. Then his swift grin lit the dark room.

"It's true," said Ino. "Thank god you did."

"I want this in writing," said Deidara, still grinning at her.

"Never," said Ino. "And I will deny ever having said it in a court of law, hand on the bible and everything."

A musical ping interrupted them as Deidara's phone signaled an incoming text. He reached over and pulled it towards him. In the dark, a message from Sasori glowed on the screen: "Yeah. I know."

Deidara raised an eyebrow and swiped at the screen. "He knows what...?" he muttered. "I haven't even talked to him since this morning..."

Oh. Oh my. Ino watched Deidara pull up his conversation with Sasori. She shrank back into her pillow a little, biting her lip, because—

Deidara choked. Just above Sasori's message was a text ostensibly sent by Deidara: "I think I'm in love with her."

Deidara reread the exchange in disbelief—then he rounded on Ino. "You—! You goddamn little sneak—!"

Ino was now stifling a laugh with her knuckles.

"You—when the hell did you do this?" asked Deidara, waving his phone at her.

"I had to look like I was doing something with your phone when you handed it to me at the hospital, your mother was right there… Plus, I mean, I owed you, because you did it to me—no, you did worse—you said three baguettes!"

Deidara stared at her, speechless.

Ino scooted away from him a little further and asked, in a small voice, "Did he really say 'I know'?"

Deidara's glare flashed at her with a new intensity. And Ino could no longer contain her laughter. "That's hilarious!" she gurgled, beating the mattress with a feeble palm. "Oh my god, no way. Sasori really—he said that—you're—ha ha ha…"

"It's not funny," snarled Deidara.

"But it is," said Ino, and thank god she was already lying down, or she would've fallen over. "Sasori—Sasori! Thinks that—no, he knows that—you love me—oh my god…"

"Quit it. Stop laughing. Not fucking funny," said Deidara, reaching over in an attempt to cover Ino's mouth.

"Look at your face," said Ino, too giggle-weak to push off his hands but trying anyway, "you're soooo pissed, oh my god, this is too good…"

"I'm not—it's not—quit—do I have to smother you, ʼcause I will…!"

"Okay, okay," said Ino, when Deidara rolled onto her, pillow in hand.

Ino held in the rest of her giggles. Deidara lowered the pillow.

They breathed at each other.

Deidara narrowed his eyes. "Are you done?"



Ino pressed her lips together valiantly, looked at his face... then exploded into another bout of laughter, clapping her hands in glee. "It's—it's just too good… this is the best revenge I've ever taken, ever..."

Deidara snatched at her hands in exasperation. "Will you just stop—"

"You did it to me!"

"But Sasori? Of all people?"

"You did it to me with Sakura, of all people! You said hunkalicious, you asshole!"

"I'm going to kill you..."

"No you aren't." Ino hiccupped. Then, uncertainly, because Deidara looked furious, she asked, "Are you?"

"Yes. No. I don't know."

"Oh my god, it's not that bad… you can just tell him I was messing with your phone…"

"Right," said Deidara, cynicism lending an edge to his words. "And you don't think he's gonna wonder why I was even letting you play with my phone in the first place? You're supposed to be a hostage."

Ino attempted a nonchalant shrug under the weight of Deidara's hands. "Well, then, tell him I stole your phone, or did it when you weren't looking, or whatever…"

"Great suggestions," said Deidara, glaring down at her. "Because if a hostage gets their hands on a phone, the first thing they do is fuck around sending out dumb texts, rather than, I don't know—calling the cops?"

Ino blinked. "Oh."

"Yeah, oh."

Ino paused thoughtfully, but no further suggestions were forthcoming. So she gave Deidara her most coquettish smile. "I guess you're stuck being in love with me."

Her only response was a very black look.

"I mean, he already knew, apparently," continued Ino, "so it's not like it was news..."

"Shut up."

"Though it's kind of weird that he'd think that, to be honest..."

"Shut up."

"I wonder why he does?"

"Do you actually want me to kill you?" The shadows around them weren't deep enough to hide the blush that rosied its way across Deidara's cheekbones.

Ino bit her lip to quell another surge of amusement—amusement twinned with a surge of lightheadedness. There was something about Deidara's vexation—something about the way he was so flustered and defensive—that, absurd as it seemed, lent the tiniest hint of veracity to the text she'd sent.

And, for some reason, all of this was going straight to Ino's head, and with far more potency thanks to the evening's Pinot Grigio. She was honest-to-god giddy. She wanted to laugh again—but not at Deidara, just in general delight...

Deidara looked down at her, apparently realized that she'd actually been quiet for long enough that he no longer had a good reason to be on top of her like this, and rolled off.

For a moment, Ino was wistful about the loss of his warmth and of his weight against her legs.

"I'm never letting you near my phone again," muttered Deidara sullenly in the dark.

"Okay," said Ino.

"I hate you."


"Go the fuck to sleep."



"Goodnight, baguette-boy."