Note: written as a gift for the darling aims21, who adores the cracky madness that results when you stick Hidan and Temari in the same place at the same time. Hope you enjoy it!
Also: this is a oneshot AU, so don't ask for a continuation. Plus, it's complete fluff—cute enough to rot your teeth. Now that you've been sufficiently warned, you may carry on. XD Reviews are love!
"I'll be back in a little while," Temari called over her shoulder, pausing at the front door. When Kankuro grunted to show her he'd heard, she closed the door and emerged outside into the cool, crisp winter air.
Lingering there on her porch for a few seconds, she took the time to tighten her scarf and pull on a pair of gloves, stuffing her hands into her pockets. The railing and sidewalks glittered with frost, cloudy accumulations of snow glistening on the lawn and un-shoveled parts of the road.
Even through the scarf, her breath fogged in the frigid air as she carefully descended her veranda steps, minding the ice. Stars winked brightly overhead and Christmas lights flickered to life on most of the surrounding houses, eliciting a rather nostalgic feeling as she paused on the sidewalk to glance back at her house and its lack of furnishings.
They'd been on their own for more than six months now, taking the small house left to them in their father's will once he'd been killed. Located in a tight cluster of houses in a comfortable little neighbourhood, Temari had managed to keep herself and her brothers away from the criminal meanderings that had been the death of their father.
Here, no one bothered them. The neighbours were decent, quiet, distant people who minded their own businesses, and though their detachment seemed a bit cold, it was the way Temari preferred it.
She wanted to blend in, remain incognito until the conspiracies surrounding her father's death—of which there were many, considering how he had been one of the city's most prominent criminals and drug lords—blew over and ensured her family's safety. Consequently, she'd made no friends and spent every commuting trip to and from school alone, sitting by herself during her lectures, studying on her own for exams.
It didn't matter, she thought jadedly. Friends came and went. They were a sort of commodity, nothing she couldn't survive without.
Inhaling deeply, taking in the smoky effluence of burning wood, she stuffed her hands deeper into her pockets and headed towards the convenience store, located just around the block.
The inheritance left to them ensured comfortable living conditions, the only thing Temari was grateful towards her father for. As a full-time university student pursuing a career in botany, she could spare no time to work in addition to taking care of her brothers.
But these nightly excursions, taken at odd times during the week had become commonplace. Gaara, although learning to let go of his insomnia, continuously suffered recurring bouts of restlessness and irritability, and the only thing that worked to settle his 'moods' lay in the back section of her neighbourhood's convenience store.
A few minutes later, the small bell at the top of the door jingled as Temari entered, basking momentarily in the warmth of the small store.
"How's it going, Temari?" the store owner, Ren, greeted her, a friendly grin taking over his features. "The regular?"
"Fabulous," she said dryly, smiling slightly. "Yeah, the regular. And…add a pack of Jolly Ranchers to that."
She sauntered towards the back of the store, passing the postcard rack and shelves of cookies, cleaners, and cheap merchandise. Stopping at the coffee machine, she took one of the jumbo-sized cups and proceeded to fill it with the dark sludge, wrinkling her nose slightly at the almost acrid stench.
How Gaara drank this abomination so eagerly was beyond her, but she was more than happy to get it for him if it helped quell his moods. As the sludge was nearing the top of the cup, the bell jingled once more at the front of the store and Temari glanced over her shoulder. She stiffened almost immediately.
It was him again.
Pursing her lips, she turned back to face the machine as the man glanced briefly in her direction before walking up to the counter.
As Ren's voice floated to the back of the store, Temari vaguely wondered if this had been the eleventh or twelfth time they'd happened to be in the store at the same time in the course of two months.
He still didn't look like he was from the neighbourhood, dressed in a long overcoat that probably cost more than her wardrobe, looking polished and arrogant and snobby. At that thought, she bowed her head slightly, placing the lid on the steaming cup with deliberate slowness.
Granted, she'd never spoken to him, but her judgments seemed plausible enough. He did have the look of a rich asshole, with his hair neatly groomed and swept back, the leather gloves on his hands, that gaudy-looking necklace she'd glimpsed a few times around his neck.
She was nearly sold on her preconceptions, save for one thing. There was one odd thing about him that seemed to say otherwise. In particular, it was what he bought every single time she saw him here.
"Jeez, I know this isn't any of my business, but how in God's name do you eat all that?" Ren asked, aghast as the man dumped a pile of candy onto the counter. From where she stood, Temari could make out a handful of Pixie Stix and a box of Pocky, along with an assortment of other sweets.
"Seriously, what can I say?" he responded, voice sardonic. "Gluttony is one of my deadly sins."
Ah, that too, the way he spoke. He sounded so…informal. Laidback. Not like how you'd expect a rich snob to sound like.
"Whatever you say, buddy," Ren said in bemusement, ringing up his order.
Temari doubted a man who looked so refined and stuck up could possibly ingest all that garbage.
Probably has a kid,she thought inwardly, lingering at the back of the store, waiting for him to finish and leave.
He took his bag of cavity-makers from the counter, and she automatically averted her gaze when he glanced once more in her direction before departing, the bell jingling in his wake.
When she was sure he was gone, she made her way towards the counter, pulling out her wallet as Ren watched her amusedly.
"Do you know that guy?"
"What?" Temari said distractedly, digging for a five dollar bill.
"That guy who just left. You know him?"
"No," she said, placing the crumpled bill onto the counter. "Why?"
"Well," he said thoughtfully, the smile on his face widening slightly. "I thought he might be an ex or something, with the way you keep shunting him whenever he shows up."
Temari glanced at him in surprise, raising an eyebrow at the amused look he gave her.
"Trust me, I don't know him," Temari said flatly. "I'm just not the type to make small talk, that's all. It's…awkward."
He shook his head.
"What's more awkward is the way you look like you're purposely avoiding him, Temari. No offense or anything, but after being in the same place as him like, ten times, it's kind of rude to not say hi."
She sighed, having heard the same complaint from both professors and students at university.
"I don't know, Ren. I just…don't want to talk to people right now."
"Why not? You talk to me, don't you?"
"You're different," she said exasperatedly. "You're…"
He raised an eyebrow. "I'm what? Frankly, I think you're just intimidated because he looks like he came from the rich side of town."
Temari gave him a glowering look.
Laughing weakly, he raised his hands in supplication, handing her her change.
"Sorry, sorry. I won't bring it up again," he said ruefully. "It's just…you really need to give people a chance, Temari. They're not all bad."
"Yeah, sure," she muttered, turning towards the door. "Goodnight, Ren."
When she got home, she left the steaming cup of coffee on Gaara's bedside table and went to her room, shedding the heavy coat and scarf and settling into her pajamas. Crawling into bed with a book, she absentmindedly unwrapped one of the Jolly Ranchers, about to put it to her lips when the sweet smell instantly reminded her of the convenience store.
Scowling faintly, she lowered her book, resting her head against the wall.
Ren was right, in a way. She did have a rather standoffish demeanor and could stand to shed some of the frostiness, but at this point in her life she just felt it prudent to be wary. She'd had her share of misery and could see nothing wrong with avoiding people for her own sake, but then again…
She sighed. The man must have thought she was the stuck-up snob. It wouldn't be the first time someone dubbed her a bitch judging from first impressions.
Popping the candy into her mouth, she settled back against the headboard with her book, deciding that a small "hello" couldn't hurt the next time she saw him.
After all, she thought grudgingly. It was the neighbourly thing to do.
She didn't need to go back to the store for nearly a week, but a few days into January, vestiges of Gaara's moodiness began resurfacing and she took the familiar, nightly trip down to the convenience store, running all the way because it was nearing closing time.
When she clambered up over the frost and salt-ridden steps and flung the door open, almost stumbling inside, her already reddened cheeks darkened to a more intense puce when she saw both Ren and that guy standing at the counter, staring at her.
"Oh!" Ren said with excessive cheeriness. "Temari, what's up?"
Struggling to catch her breath and look both impassive at the same time, she mumbled something incomprehensible and automatically strode towards the back of the store, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground.
She could imagine Ren smacking himself on the forehead as she walked past without sparing the guy a glance, but she couldn't help it. Biting on her lower lip, she stood before the coffee machine, waiting for the cup to fill as she surreptitiously glanced back over her shoulder.
Ren was talking to him while punching in his order of seven kinds of licorice. Rather slowly, too, Temari noticed begrudgingly. Smartass.
Once the cup was filled, she slapped the lid on and bit her lip, loathing herself for feeling so awkward.
Come on, Temari, she goaded herself. Go pay, say hi to make Ren happy, and leave. He probably doesn't even care, anyway.
Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself and forced her face to look expressionless, taking her cup and marching up to the counter. A bright smile flitted across Ren's face when she came to stop just next to his other customer, but it faltered slightly in fear when she slammed the coffee cup down harder than necessary onto the counter, teal eyes icy.
Coughing, he took her five dollar bill and furtively glanced over his shoulder from the cash register, grimacing at the sight of them standing next to each other, looking resolutely in the opposite directions.
Biting the inside of his mouth, he cleared his throat.
"I'm, uh…out of change. Give me a sec."
He purposefully avoided the venomous look she shot him when he darted out from behind the counter and scurried into the back room.
Jaw working furiously, she lowered her head to look at the coffee clutched in her hands, unable to bring herself to open her mouth and say something. It was a long, awkward moment, until she grew disgusted with her own hesitance and finally lifted her head, lips parting to speak.
She glanced at him, and froze.
He'd been staring at the counter when she'd raised her head, and feeling as though he was being watched, he glanced at her.
Temari met his gaze momentarily before suddenly speaking, practically shouting the words as she tore her gaze away and turned around, taking rapid steps towards the door.
"Ren, keep the change!"
"W-Wait!" Ren called, stumbling out of the back room, looking dismayed as she abruptly turned tail and bolted out the door.
"Man," Ren groaned, burying his face in his hands.
His customer stared at him, looking utterly bewildered.
"What the fuck was that?"
"Sorry, Hidan. It's just…ugh, nothing. Here's your licorice."
A rosary! She fumed to herself as she stalked back home, smacking herself on the forehead. The gaudy necklace was nothing more than a rosary, and the thought that she'd been such a bitch and acted so insanely just now towards a holy man made her want to crawl into a hole out of embarrassment.
When it came to those of religious persuasions, she held a deep respect instilled in her from childhood. The nuns who'd raised her and her siblings when her father had been on the run had inspired that respect, and she couldn't help but feel a bit subdued and reproachful towards herself for looking like a lunatic.
She paused on the sidewalk, shallow breaths fogging in the frigid air.
Just the sight of the rosary had thrown her for a loop. All those carefully constructed preconceptions fell apart, along with the completely imagined idea that he was probably some sort of promiscuous business mogul who had a sweet tooth and drove a Mercedes and lived for materialistic things—things she'd imagined just from looking at him.
And for some reason, she mused to herself as she entered the house, it pleased her to know she'd been wrong.
She visited the store twice more in the following week before seeing him again. Flurries drifted through the air as she left the house on Friday night, the blankets of snow giving the night a twilight effect.
Ren greeted her with a small grin when she stepped through the door, and she smiled in return before heading towards the back of the store. It remained empty save for Ren and herself, and she made her way back to the counter with coffee in tow, eyes briefly scoping the rows of chocolate she passed.
Impulsively, she grabbed the last bar of dark chocolate, placing it on the counter as Ren rang up her items.
The small bell above the door suddenly jingled and she glanced up as a cold draft swept through the store.
"Hey, Hidan," Ren greeted amiably. Rather louder than necessary, Temari groused. She felt his brief stare on her and felt her face grow hot as their last encounter came to mind, particularly the part where she'd fled the store like a bat out of hell.
"Hey," he greeted back, sparing her a glance as he circled around where she stood, sleeve brushing against the back of her coat.
Biting her lip, she suppressed the urge to strangle Ren as he snickered behind the counter, taking his sweet time counting her change.
"Say hi," he whispered suddenly.
Her eyes widened in horror, mouth dropping open as the two words sounded very audibly in the small store.
"Ren. Shut up," she hissed back.
"Come on, Temari. Honestly, you—" he stopped abruptly when she shot him a murderous glare.
Chagrined, he went back to counting her change.
Temari froze as the man's voice sounded from somewhere behind her, but relaxed almost immediately when she realized he was addressing Ren.
"Are you out of dark chocolate?"
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that…"
Temari lowered her eyes to the steaming cup of coffee on the counter, then looked meditatively at the pristine bar of dark chocolate right next to it. The change felt heavy in her palm, and abruptly, simultaneously, she felt a wave of boldness and generosity she couldn't quite remember feeling ever before.
Internally, she associated the feeling with her previous guilt at avoiding him like the plague, associated it with the hope of making amends for running out of the store the last time, even associated it with her respect for the religious.
And for some reason, somewhere in the back recesses of her mind, she thought she felt it simply because she was so sick of the detachment.
Whatever it was, she waited till he'd gathered his bounty and came to stand next to her, waited till he dumped it on the counter next to her coffee, waited till both he and Ren gave her curious looks as she lingered there, motionless. Then she made her move.
Wordlessly, she placed her hand over the chocolate and slid it towards his pile, and before he could even blink at her and open his mouth to speak, she grabbed the coffee and strode out of the store, breaking into a run as soon as she stepped onto the sidewalk.
She couldn't bring herself to admit that she ran not out of fear for her dignity, but because she feared she wouldn't have known how to respond if he'd managed to say "thank you".
2 days later.
"That was sweet, Temari."
"Shut up, Ren."
"Honestly, you should've seen his face after you, uh…"
Her voice was blunt. "Ran off?"
"Haha, I meant after you gave him the chocolate, but…well, he was surprised, to say the least. It was really sweet of you."
"…what did he say?"
"Why are you so suddenly interested?" He grinned deviously.
"Ah, um…sorry. He didn't really say anything. Just looked really, really surprised. He must've thought you hated him or something before."
She looked chagrined. "Really…?"
"Yeah, see? I told you it wouldn't hurt to say hi."
"Now he's going to think I'm a weirdo for doing that…" she muttered sullenly.
"Not at all! I covered for you."
"…what did you say?"
"I said you noticed him all those times and wanted to say something but the only reason you acted so withdrawn is because you're really, really shy."
"…What?" she said, mortified.
"Hey, what's with that face? Wait, Temari, don't go—!"
The jingling of the bell was muffled by the sound of the door slamming as she stormed out.
24 hours later.
Kankuro nearly leapt out of his skin when Temari flung open his bedroom door, letting it smash against the wall. Scrambling to catch his art project as it teetered from the force of the impact, he looked at her incredulously.
"I am not shy," she said heatedly, wearing an expression that could only be described as dangerous. "Am I, Kankuro?"
"N-No…of course not!" he stammered.
"Then what am I?" she demanded. "Why do I have such a hard time talking to people?"
Kankuro straightened at his desk, looking somewhat bemused by the odd question.
"Well, maybe…" he began, lowering his eyes in thought. "Besides you being the ice queen and all…maybe…I don't know, you're just afraid of being hurt?"
He winced when she slammed the door again on her way out.
Temari breathed heavily in the hallway, leaning against the wall as she considered Kankuro's answer. Rubbing the bridge of her nose, she straightened from against the wall and turned to move towards her bedroom, but stopped abruptly when she found Gaara staring at her from where he stood near the washroom.
"Oh, Gaara," she began, faintly surprised. "How's your—"
"Kankuro's right," he interrupted calmly.
Temari stared at him, surprised.
"You're afraid of being hurt, and you are still angry at father."
"And you take that anger out on others. It's made you callous and distant."
Temari stopped, astonished by what her brother was saying.
Gaara blinked at her impassively, then turned back around to disappear into his room.
"I want my coffee, Temari."
The door clicked shut behind him.
This time, the short walk to the convenience store didn't offer her the small comforts it always did, the crisp, clean air doing nothing to bring her out of her reverie.
In some ways, she almost felt betrayed by her brothers' answers, but at the same time she couldn't help but acknowledge the semblance of truth those answers held, either. When she really thought about it, she was afraid. She was afraid of letting anyone in, letting anyone see her family background, letting anyone know her, the daughter of the most infamous drug lord in the city.
And she was angry, angry at her father for leaving them a legacy of shame and dishonour and scandalous notoriety, angry because why would anyone want to associate with the progeny of a dead criminal, anyway? She was angry and bitter and cynical, and the thought made her feel jaded beyond her years.
The bell jingled merrily overhead as she entered the store, and she managed a small, strained smile at Ren when he waved hesitantly from behind the counter. Looking visibly relieved by her smile, he automatically began ringing up her order as she headed to the back of the store.
As she waited for the cup to fill, the bell jingled again at the front of the store.
"Hey, Hidan. How'd the exam go?"
Temari stared at the cup, motionless with something vaguely resembling panic. She could feel his stare on the back of her head before he replied.
"It was a piece of cake. Seriously, those guys have to be fucking retarded to fail it every year."
"I don't know," Ren said good-naturedly. "I heard seminaries are tough."
"How hard is it to memorize a few things and bullshit your way through essays? What's hard is keeping the faith alive when the profs spiritually ass-rape the students in senior year. That's when we get the most dropouts."
Temari stared at the overflowing cup, wide-eyed with disbelief.
Whatever preconceptions she'd had before had just been blown out the window.
"What is it that you want to do again?" Ren asked.
"I thought I told you that," Hidan said, sounding bemused.
Temari realized with another wave of panic that Ren was purposely playing dumb for her sake, inadvertently letting her learn more about him.
"Whatever. Once I'm done there I'm going to be the minister of my church," Hidan replied proudly. "And there'll be no fucking around when I'm in charge. Either you accept Jashin's Word and commit, or you get your ass flogged till you reach enlightenment."
"That's really something," Ren said falteringly, sounding vaguely alarmed. "Good for you. You'll make a…unique minister."
"Hey, thanks, man."
Temari grimaced as she took the cup, the rest of their conversation growing muffled beneath the pounding pulse in her temples.
In that moment, she couldn't quite tell why she felt so nauseous and afraid. Maybe she felt shaken after being proved so completely wrong in her ability to read people. Maybe it was because she was afraid of further humiliating herself.
Or maybe it was because she felt far too much intrigue for this unique, foul-mouthed holy man than she cared to admit.
"Is that it?" Ren asked from behind her, sounding faintly surprised.
"Yeah, crunch time's over. It'll be a few months before I'll need the sugar again." There was a pause, and she heard him add "put that on it, too."
The cash register spat out the receipt and a moment later, she heard Ren say goodbye as the door swung closed with a jingle.
Releasing the breath she'd been holding, she slowly turned around and approached the counter, ignoring the way Ren was grinning at her.
"You're hopeless," he said.
"Don't start," she muttered.
"Ren," she said through gritted teeth, holding her hand out. "Can you just let me pay for the damn coffee?"
His grin widened even more. "Nope."
Temari's brow furrowed. "Why not?"
If smugness had needed a personification, Ren would be it.
"Because he already paid for it."
"What'd she say?"
"Haha, absolutely nothing. She looked shocked, to say the least. That was nice of you."
"I guess it was fair in return for her paying last time."
"…okay, now this is just getting weird." Ren frowned. "How come you don't just say hi?"
"Every time I come in here, she looks like she wants to kill me and eat my liver."
"And don't give me that bullshit about her being shy. A shy girl wouldn't look at me like she wanted to eat my liver."
Ren looked uncomfortable. "Well…"
"She'll kill me for this, but…give her a break. She's kind of…socially inept."
"I know it bothers you, the fact that she doesn't even look in your direction."
"What the hell are you talking about? I don't give a shit, seriously."
He took a bite of his chocolate bar, looking surly.
Ren continued. "How about you break the ice next time? She's a nice girl when you look past the holier-than-thou thing she has going on…and the liver-eating thing."
"Whatever. I'm not here to make small talk, you know."
Ren smiled slightly.
"Funny. She said the exact same thing."
"What did he say?"
"The next time he saw me, you mean? Well…"
"Ren, stop grinning at me like that."
He coughed. "Sorry. Honestly, he didn't say much…only, he did admit that you do look kind of intimidating."
She blinked, astonished. "I look intimidating?"
"Yeah. He was a bit more blunt about it, though."
Ren struggled to keep a straight face. "He said you looked like you wanted to eat his liver."
Inwardly, Ren was glad the security camera was recording twenty-four hours a day. Her expression was priceless.
"You should say hi to break the ice next time."
"He thought I wanted to eat his liver?"
"Yeah, but, he's a nice guy! When you look past the language and…uh, eccentricities."
"Oh my God…" she groaned.
"Yeah, see, he'd like that. Did you know he's going to a seminary to become a minister for his chu—hey, Temari, wait!"
A faint, hesitant knock came at her door.
Temari answered without looking up from her textbook. "Come in."
The doorknob turned and a moment later Kankuro poked his head inside, biting on his lower lip.
"Hey, Temari, what's for dinner?"
She sighed, high-lighting a passage under Prokaryotic Algae. "Order some pizza or something, Kankuro. I don't feel like cooking tonight."
"Oh, okay," he said. Rather happily, too, Temari noticed grouchily.
Kankuro was just about to leave when she suddenly closed her textbook and sat up, looking over at him with an uncomfortable look on her face.
"Do you think…I'm intimidating?"
He raised an eyebrow at her, making a face.
"What kind of a dumb question is that? You're my older sister, for God's sake. You scare the shit out of me."
Temari couldn't help but smile, suddenly feeling an inexplicable surge of affection towards him.
"Oh, and, Gaara says he wants coffee again tonight," he added. "Bring me back some gum, will ya?"
Feeling considerably better, she decided a break wouldn't hurt, grabbing her coat on the way out. The cold winter air tasted sweet on her tongue and her cheeks tingled red from the sharp gusts, ushering her to walk faster.
A glance through the store window made her pause when she caught sight of him through the glass, browsing the shelves of candy.
"And I thought I was pathetic," she said aloud, smirking wryly. "Honestly, eat his liver…"
Taking a deep breath, feeling more confidant than she had in months, she pulled her hands out of her pockets and opened the door. At the sound of the bell, Ren waved cheerily over his Gameboy and Hidan glanced at her, pausing briefly in surprise when she gave him a meditative stare before heading to the back of the store.
When I'm paying for the coffee, I'll say it, she thought inwardly. And make small talk and all that crap. Yes. Okay. I can do that.
He was still browsing the shelves for candy when she'd got the coffee, and she took a deep breath before slowly approaching him, keeping her gaze focused on the various packs of gum. Just as she'd reached his side, just as he'd realized she was there and glanced at her, the front door opened again.
All three heads turned to look towards the doorway, and Temari nearly dropped the coffee in her hands when the first thing that came into sight was the barrel of a handgun.
The man had a ski mask pulled over his face and closed the door behind him, his gun raised. He pointed it at Ren.
"Gimme the money."
They stared at him, blinking as if dumbstruck.
"Gimme the fucking money!" he roared, startling Ren into motion, before whipping the gun towards the candy shelves.
"You two, on the floor. If you move, I'll blow your heads off."
They automatically dropped towards the floor, Temari carefully setting aside the coffee and Hidan cursing colourfully under his breath next to her as they got onto their hands and knees, crouching behind the shelf of bubblegum.
Maybe it was because she'd been exposed to the criminal world since the day of her birth, for Temari felt absolutely no fear, only annoyance. And to her faint surprise, Hidan seemed to be feeling the exact same way.
"Fucking ridiculous," she heard him mutter. "—sermon in half an hour…stupid fuck had to rob a store today…"
She didn't realize she was staring at him, didn't realize they were separated by nothing but a few centimeters until he raised his head and glanced at her. Her reaction was spontaneous.
"Hi," she said blankly.
He blinked at her a few times, then finally spoke.
"Hi," he returned slowly, and just as blankly.
How ironic, she thought faintly, staring at him, that for the first time in nearly three months of seeing each other, they should first break the ice on the floor during a convenience store robbery behind a shelf of bubblegum and an unopened box of cat food.
It was romantic, almost, in the most fucked-up, warped, demented sense of the word you could possibly imagine. But still romantic. Sort of.
Behind the shelf of gum, they could hear Ren scrambling towards the back room for the safe as the robber shouted at him. By now, Temari thought, Ren may or may not have tripped the alarm system.
Very calmly, she realized that it was very possible that she could die here tonight. And for some sad reason, the only real regret she felt was that her brothers would have to fend for themselves without her.
"What's your name?"
She raised her head, glancing at the man next to her.
He looked utterly calm as well. Maybe he felt the same way.
"Temari," she answered. "And you're Hidan."
He gave her a wry grin, the smile looking oddly devilish against his winsome features. "So you've been paying attention."
"I have. I also don't want to eat your liver, just so you know."
He blinked, surprised.
"And I don't hate you," she continued, deciding she might as well cut loose. "I'm just…"
"Socially retarded?" he offered.
She stared at him, feeling as though some heavy, burdensome weight had been lifted off her chest, a ridiculous feeling considering the situation they were in. But apparently she wasn't alone, as he smirked and moved his head to the side to look over at the robber.
"Hey," he said loudly, much to her shock and horror. "Would you hurry up and rob the fucking place already? I'm late for a sermon."
"Shut up," the robber ordered, brandishing his gun. "Or I'll—"
"Or you'll what?" Hidan said contemptuously. "Shoot me? Go ahead, asshole. There's a spiked chair waiting in hell with your name on it if you do."
The robber gave him an incredulous look through the mask.
"I don't believe in any of that bullshit. Religion is a lie," he said with a sneer. Then added, "Dumbass."
Temari could honestly swear she'd never seen a man's face go from white to puce so fast, as all the blood seemed to rocket to Hidan's head.
"You godless sack of shit—" he started furiously, moving to stand when the man suddenly cocked the gun at him. Temari grabbed the bottom of his coat and yanked him down to the floor at the same time the robber pulled the trigger, exploding a box of mints and sending the white candies raining down on their heads.
"Stay on the ground!" he barked.
"Oh my God!" Ren cried in horror, emerging from the back room at the sound of the gunshot.
"We're fine!" Temari shouted back. "Ren, just give him the money!"
"Do what she says," the robber ordered, forcing him back into the room. "If you don't get the money in the next sixty seconds, I'll kill all of you."
"Well," Hidan muttered to her, rubbing his knee behind the shelf. "It was nice knowing you for…two and a half minutes. Start praying."
"No," Temari suddenly said, mouth dry and pulse racing. "We can stop him."
He shot her a skeptical look.
"The guy has a loaded gun. What are we going to do, throw Tic-Tac's at him?"
She shook her head, breathing faster as her eyes focused on the robber's tapping foot.
"It's not loaded."
He blinked at her. "How do you—"
"He has a Colt M1873," she whispered. "It's a single-action revolver. You can't shoot until you eject the casing and cock the gun again."
Hidan blinked, looking somewhat impressed. "How do you know that?"
Temari smiled humourlessly.
"My father had interesting hobbies. Now listen, I can distract him and you can tackle him without getting shot. The gun won't go off."
Hidan shrugged, still looking remarkably calm. "Okay. Either way, I'll still get shot if we don't try it."
Temari gave him a mingled look of disbelief and admiration.
"All right," she whispered, shedding her bulky coat and beckoning for him to do the same. "On the count of three."
"Hurry up!" the robber shouted, staring fixedly at his watch. "You've got ten seconds! Nine, eight, sev—" he stopped, suddenly, whipping towards the back of the store when a can of cat food connected against the wall.
"What the—oof!" his finger automatically squeezed the trigger, only to find it locked as he went flying back into a wire rack of magazines, the gun falling from his hand and skittering across the floor.
Temari leapt out from behind the shelf and kicked the gun away, sending it clattering into the back room where Ren stumbled out of a moment later, clutching the safe.
"What…?" he began faintly, staring in shock, only to let out an alarmed yell when the robber grabbed the nearest object—a can opener—and hurled it, missing his head by inches.
"Ren, stay on the ground," Temari ordered, rushing over to where Hidan was repeatedly smacking the robber's head against the floor, shouting something over his agonized cries.
"Repent, you stupid asshole. I swear to God I'll fucking kill you if you don't take back what you said—" He slammed his head against the floor again when the man screamed a curse. "I said repent, you blaspheming son of a bitch!"
The man only screamed louder, only to be jerked to his feet when Hidan clambered off his back and pulled him up, effectively placing him in a submission hold from behind. Ren promptly tripped the alarm now that he was out of harm's way and Temari merely stood there, staring at the robber with narrowed eyes.
Wordlessly, she reached forward and took hold of his mask, pulling it from his head.
"You…" she said in disbelief, when the features became visible.
The man blinked at her, squinting through the blood clouding his eyes before a look of recognition dawned on his face.
"Why, if it isn't Sabaku's kid!" he said with faint surprise, before a malicious grin crossed his lips. "That asshole still owes me money. Where is he?"
"Dead," Temari said, inwardly bemused with the way her voice shook. "You should know. You were an accomplice to his last heist."
"So you recognize me?" he asked, grinning, the blood giving his teeth a red sheen.
Temari could only stare at him, horrified and dismayed and humiliated. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't seem to shake the ghosts of her father's past, couldn't seem to avoid the wretched people who'd followed him. There was always something, always someone to remind her that she'd be pegged with the stigma of being her father's daughter until the day she died.
"So tell me," the man said, smirking. "You following in daddy's footsteps? Is that why you were here? Must've beaten me to it."
"Hey, shut up," Hidan ordered in annoyance, pulling painfully on his awkwardly positioned arm as Temari clenched her trembling fists by her sides.
He winced, but it made his smile look all the more malicious.
"Or maybe your brothers are the ones following after daddy," he continued, smirk widening. "Your crackwhore of a mother set plenty of examples for you, I bet."
This announcement was followed by complete, utter silence.
That is, it was until Hidan slowly spoke.
"Oh, no, you didn't."
Temari stumbled back when Hidan suddenly released the man and whipped him around, belting him across the mouth with enough force to send him staggering into a bin of chocolate coins.
"Fucker, first you denounce religion, and then you start insulting people's mothers? You're lower than blasphemous shit!"
Temari stared at this furious, unusually striking would-be minister, with his oddly provocative hairstyle, his fine white vicuña Polo sweater and equally fancy-looking trousers, his silver rosary that looked oddly out of place around his neck, and felt three months' worth of preconceptions shatter before her eyes.
Then the robber made a move to escape. Hidan moved to go after him, only to be beaten to it when Temari grabbed the man by the back of his shirt and jerked him back hard enough to break his neck, the rage she'd kept dormant since her father's death exploding out of her in one furious torrent.
He hardly had time to straighten before Temari delivered a solid uppercut and whipped around to land a kick to the side of his head, sending him crashing into the pile of overturned chocolate coins.
Reeling from the blows, he struggled to his feet, only to meet her fist with his face when Temari viciously punched him, hitting him so hard her fists bruised, and when she had him pinned against the wall, she grabbed him by the back of his hair and brought his face down to her upraised knee, effectively breaking his nose.
Ren let out a yelp when Temari seized the back of the robber's shirt and spun him before letting go, sending him crashing through a glass display case containing cigars. Ren shakily got to his feet as she proceeded to stomp through the glass, fists shaking by her sides, cheeks flushed and eyes glittering with fury.
"What the hell are you staring at?" he cried to Hidan, who watched the violent display with a beaming smile. "Stop her!"
"Why?" he asked, perplexed. "The fucker badmouthed her mother. Let her kick his ass."
"She'll kill him!"
"She's destroying my store!"
"You have insurance, don't you?"
"Well, yeah, but—oh dear God—Temari, stop!"
Ren nearly pulled his hair out by the roots when the enraged girl picked up one of the jagged pieces of glass, flipping the robber over and raising it above his face.
Hidan blinked. "Well shit."
"Stop her!" Ren screamed.
Temari nearly impaled the jagged piece of glass into the his throat when she was suddenly jerked back, dropping the glass as arms entwined tightly around her waist and heaved her away from the shattered display case.
"Let go!" she said furiously, struggling viciously. "I'll kill him. I'll—"
"Yeah, see, if I was in charge of the law, I'd let you," Hidan said sympathetically, hauling her away and grimacing as the flashing lights of the police cars illuminated the windows. "But spending a life sentence in a shit hole prison cell isn't really worth the satisfaction, seriously."
Ren edged out through the door with his hands in the air, shouting at the police to arrest the man lying in the pile of broken glass and chocolate coins.
The cops entered a moment later, guns out, only to stare in shock at the sight of the robber lying facedown in a pile of broken glass, completely unconscious. Then they stared at the man restraining the woman in the corner, exchanging glances when he grinned cheekily and waved.
"Well," Hidan said loudly, sounding oddly pleased with himself. "This'll make an interesting story to tell the clergy."
Temari gave him an incredulous look.
They were seated on the sidewalk just outside the store, illuminated by the red and blue lights emanating from the surrounding squad cars. Temari had managed to make a call home to tell Kankuro of her circumstances before she'd been moved for questioning.
And now, after an hour of sitting on the frost-ridden sidewalks and telling the cops that they'd merely reacted in self-defense ("He had a fucking gun, for God's sake"), and signaling Ren to dispose of the security tape, they seemed just about free to go.
"You handed that guy's ass to him," Hidan had said admiringly to her after the cops went to talk to Ren. "Where'd you learn to fight like that?"
Despite herself, Temari felt herself smiling wryly.
"Nuns. Particularly, one nun who goes by the name of Chiyo-baa."
"See, now that's what they should be teaching in church," he said approvingly.
Temari stared at him, raising an eyebrow.
"You're…way stranger than I thought you'd be."
"Same to you, only replace 'stranger' with 'more violent'."
They glanced up simultaneously when one of the officers approached, scrambling to their feet as he came to a stop.
"Well," he said flatly. "Somehow, the security tape has mysteriously vanished and your story's been confirmed by the store owner, so…until anything new comes up, you're free to go."
Once the cop turned around and left, Hidan grinned and smacked Temari on the back so hard she nearly staggered.
"Nice job. You practically kill a guy and get off scot-free. Seriously goes to show the system works."
"I guess," she said with a wince, rubbing her shoulder. "Well, then, I…" she trailed off, glancing around awkwardly, flinching at the sight of the ravaged store.
"…I won't be seeing you for a while, then."
He glanced at her, then reached into his coat pocket.
"I hold a sermon every Wednesday."
Temari stared at him, blinking in surprise when he held out a pamphlet. Taking it slowly, she lowered her eyes to the address and blinked once more in surprise.
"This…is at one of my lecture halls."
"Yeah, well, I'm not an official minister or anything yet, so it's the best I can—wait, you go to school there?" he said, surprised.
He looked somewhat mollified, then, and smiled sheepishly. "That's pretty far off from the crazy cat lady scenario I had in mind…"
Temari stared at him incredulously. "Crazy cat lady? Me?"
"Well, you seemed kind of—"
"I'm only twenty-one years old. And I'm allergic to cats."
"And then you thought I was some sort of cannibal who wanted your liver. I hate liver."
"Jeez, how was I supposed to know? You never talked to me!"
"I could say the same to you, God-boy."
"You seriously looked like you wanted to kill me. What'd you expect?"
"What, scared of a girl?" she taunted. "Pansy."
He looked positively outraged by the last remark.
"Hey loony tunes, after what you did to that guy back in the store, how do you expect me to feel?"
"I don't know," Temari shot back, sneering. "Grateful, maybe? I saved your ass, after all."
At that, he could only mouth wordlessly like a fish out of water.
Vaguely, Temari realized she felt more invigorated and happier—honestly happier—than she'd felt in the six months since moving here. Despite the biting sarcasm and sardonic quips on both their parts, she was grinning, and after he'd finally gathered his bearings and feigned contempt, she could see the beginnings of a smirk twitching at the corners of his lips.
"Bitch," he mumbled.
"Asshole," she retorted.
A pause. "So…will you come to my sermon?"
"Only if you save me a seat."
"And only if you take me grocery-shopping on Saturday in your Mercedes."
"I don't own a fucking Mercedes. We'll have to take the bus."
They stared at each other for a few seconds, and then Temari turned away, pocketing the pamphlet.
He merely smirked in response, staring after her as she waved and walked off in the opposite direction, hands stuffed in her pockets.
"You have my number, Blondie!" he called after her.
She merely bowed her head and kept walking, trying and failing to fight the uncontrollable smile spreading across her face.
Friends were still a form of commodity, she thought, kicking off her shoes once she entered the house. They were assets that came and went. And despite the fact that she still couldn't bring herself to see them as more than that…
Temari paused in her room, withdrawing the pamphlet from her pocket and smiling faintly at the sight of his number typed at the bottom.
Even if her new friend was highly partial to foul language and subject to numerous eccentricities and seemed a bit on the crazy side, she thought, placing the pamphlet on her bedside table, she had to admit…it felt pretty damn good to finally have one.
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