A/N: Knowing my track record, it might not be a good idea to do another rewrite of an older story. I just couldn't resist. If I find the discipline, it's going to get a little dark with a side of incessant swearing. All romance will be strictly slow-burn and people are not necessarily who they seem to be. Also, I wanted to write a bit of an AU fix-it after watching Naruto again. It's horribly unfair sometimes … But whatever. Let's get started.

XXX

Chapter 2: "Nothing worth talking about"

Akatsuki strikes again – CI dead, robbers escape with $ 50.000

Deidara skimmed the article, folded the newspaper and dropped it disappointedly. In his opinion, an amateur heist gone wrong shouldn't make front page. It was an uninspired, boring, run-of the mill crime perpetrated by suckers acting out of greed. Nothing the world needed to read about. People were obsessed enough with money anyway. Money, power, influence.

He listened to the lecture with only half an ear, too angry to concentrate. Hard to believe these unimaginative fools had pushed him to page eight, even though his bomb had only been discovered and diffused by accident. Next time, he would succeed and watch the agents of capitalism go up in flames, ripping hierarchies and power structures apart with terror and mayhem.

He'd watch the world burn and crumble like a house of cards! He'd be judge and executioner to all those corrupted, braindead zombies lusting after wealth and possessions, who had long ago forgotten their humanity in their acquisitive frenzy! And after the apocalypse, he'd create a paradise, a sanctuary without rules and regulations, without hierarchies and exploitation. Humanity should thank him for trying to burst their bonds!

Instead, they put him on page eight.

Sarutobi-sensei dismissed them with a few empty phrases Deidara was used to ignoring. He collected his scattered notes, carelessly stuffing them into his shoulder bag, and fled outside into the bone-freezing cold of a January afternoon. It was hardly 4 pm, but the sun was already about to set. Deidara liked to think it was an omen, spelling doom for Akatsuki and its upstart don. If anybody brought a new dawn to this rotten world, it would be him!

First, though, he needed a smoke.

Deidara's fellow students passed him by, laughing and chatting happily. Exams already looming on the horizon, hardly anybody lingered. Deidara knew he'd have to start cramming as well, considering how often he skipped Sarutobi-senseis soul-destroyingly boring classes. It wouldn't do to fail his mid-terms, no matter how much he hated law school. As long as society held strong, he'd have to play along. He couldn't have people notice him before he blew it all to pieces. Especially after his recent failure.

He wasn't having a good day. Thus, Deidara decided to bum a smoke – not because he needed to, just to annoy some rich dude's spoiled kid. Due to the cold and to exams, there was little opportunity.

Making sure his face betrayed just how pissed off he was, Deidara grabbed his tobacco pouch and rolled a cigarette. Once he put it between his lips, ready to smoke, he couldn't find his lighter. He'd have to talk to someone after all. Shame there was hardly anybody left.

Irritated, Deidara scoured the outside seating area for potential fellow smokers. There were none. Just some weirdo sitting on a bench, calmly reading the newspaper and getting snowed on like he didn't feel the cold. He looked older than Deidara, tired, his long, black hair pulled up into a ponytail. As Deidara approached, he realized just how expensive this guy's suit and coat appeared. The epitome of rich and beautiful. Deidara sneered. He wouldn't enjoy talking to him.

"Could you give me a light?" He tried anyway, feigning an almost friendly smile.

Rich boy ignored him.

"Hey, dude, hm! I'm talking to you! D'you have a lighter?"

Rich boy lowered his newspaper. It was the same edition Deidara had left behind in the auditorium and it was completely folded, showing page one. Rich boy had been reading about the robbery. Deidara snapped.

"Gimme that, hm!"

Before rich boy could react, he grabbed the paper, wadded it up into a ball and trashed it, huffing indignantly.

"Now that's settled – do you have a fucking lighter or not?"

Rich boy stared at him intently. The sunset made his eyes gleam red. It took him at least half a minute to speak, and when he finally opened his mouth, his voice was unexpectedly smooth and deep.

"I don't smoke. So you might as well piss off."

Deidara held his ground. It made rich boy roll his creepy-ass eyes.

"Well then, you're lucky I still carry this around."

Rich boy casually pulled a fairly antique golden lighter from his coat pocket. It probably cost more than his entire outfit. Deidara took it, considering throwing it right after the newspaper, but rich boy read his thoughts with ease. As soon as he had lit his cigarette, he grabbed his wrist and wrested the lighter from him. Deidara shivered. Rich boy was ridiculously strong.

"I assume you can piss off now."

It really wasn't a suggestion, and Deidara obeyed. Gleaming red eyes followed him.

XXX

Itachi waited until the asshole with the yellow hair disappeared from view. Hard to believe a rowdy brat like that could study at Konoha University. They obviously didn't care about their reputation anymore. Itachi had more important things to do than get into an argument, though.

Straightening his coat, he walked over to the waste bin and retrieved his newspaper. He couldn't afford to buy a new one, but still needed the article. The others had to see this. Unbothered by the approaching snowstorm he made his way over to the cafeteria.

It didn't take him long to spot his colleagues as most students had already left for home. He sat down next to them right in front of a large window. The world outside grew dark.

"Kisame. Sasori."

They didn't give him much of a greeting in return. Kisame wordlessly slid him a cardamom chai. He acknowledged the gesture with a curt nod.

"You took your sweet time," Sasori observed. He slurred his speech and his face looked awfully pale underneath his charcoal hoodie. He'd clearly overdone it with the painkillers.

"I just had an unpleasant encounter, nothing serious."

Sasori raised an eyebrow.

"You still think everyone except for you is an imbecile, don't you?"

Itachi shrugged and carefully placed the crumpled newspaper on the table between them.

"Nothing worth talking about. I'd rather you take a look at this."

Reading was beyond Sasori's capabilities for now. He glanced at the headline, failed to focus, went a little green around the nose and, conspicuously using his left hand, shoved the paper in Kisame's face.

"That thing smells awful. Also, I've already seen it earlier."

Since he looked like he might either faint or be sick any moment, Itachi decided to leave Sasori well alone and addressed Kisame instead.

"Do you think their information is reliable? Do you really believe he was an informant?"

"What do you think? He kicked me squarely in the gut. No reason to do that if he didn't rat us out. If I'm not mistaken, your back's all black and blue as well."

Tall and bulky Kisame seemed reassuringly unphased. It helped Itachi keep up his façade despite being called out on his weakness. He wasn't quite sure how Kisame knew about the extent of the bruises their ex-colleague had left him with. He might be guessing, for all he knew. The humiliation of being caught unawares smarted more than the actual wounds anyway; so he didn't comment.

"Konan hacked Konoha Anbu's database after we returned," Kisame explained. "It's all true. He's been working with them for almost a year. Only the Gods know why! He must have been after something."

As per usual. Up until yesterday, Itachi could have sworn he knew perfectly well what that slithery snake was after. Not that it mattered anymore.

"He's gone now."

"I actually noticed." Sasori was getting paler by the minute. "Like, when I shot him dead. I still feel the recoil."

That Sasori felt anything but tired and nauseous was hard to believe, but Itachi generously let him have the last word on the matter and took the newspaper back away from Kisame.

"Konan called me earlier," he said. "Our leader decided on a replacement. It's the kid who made page eight."

Sasori grabbed the newspaper with shaking fingers and tried his best to decipher what it said. A weary sigh betrayed his success.

"Really? That guy's completely bonkers. And pretty damned stupid too. Says here, he tried to blow up half the banking district."

"Good thing then he's a fool, or he would've killed us," Kisame joked half-heartedly. "It was a really close call, though. A little kid disturbed the setup when it dropped a paper boat down the drain. Funny coincidence the SWAT team was there for us. They were able to clear the site and call a bomb disposal unit."

Sasori didn't look any happier.

"But I don't wanna work with such a rowdy brat!"

"Who would have known you get so whiny when you're high."

Itachi slammed a hand on the table. He wasn't in a laughing mood, if he ever had been.

"Would you please focus!" It was more of an order than a request. "If it mattered what you want, Sasori, our leader would have asked for your opinion in advance. It's all decided now. We'll have to pick the kid up later."

"How do we even know, who he is?", Sasori asked with a huff. His cheeks now glowed an unhealthy red. It probably wasn't a good idea to have him running around with a freshly patched up gunshot wound, but they all knew him well enough to doubt he'd stay behind without a fight.

"Konan figured it out. She told me earlier."

"And how is it that you're always the first one to get informed, Uchiha?"

Itachi just looked at him.

"Let's go", he said eventually. Sasori dug his heels in, but Kisame grabbed him by his healthy shoulder.

"Don't tell me you actually miss that traitor!" he hissed.

With a sigh, Sasori rose, supporting himself on the table. His coffee remained untouched.

"No. Of course not." He looked at his shoes as though they had offended him somehow. "Most certainly not."