Summary: AU with a bit of crack. Two strangers happen to have matching attire. Deidara doesn't see what the big deal is. Sakura insists it wouldn't've happened if he hadn't shopped in the women's section. Tempers flare, words are exchanged, clothing is ruined. And thus, a romance is born.

Inspired by 'The Horror' by KorinaCaffeine/Fallacy.

"When suddenly, from across the street, a woman--nay, a MAN--with the same jacket-and-scarf combo!

The horror!

The horror!

The world was indeed a bleak place for Haruno Sakura!"


The problem with winter, Sakura thought blearily as she drifted awake to the insistent blare of her clock radio, was that it was just so blasted cold. And dark. And dreary. And the puffy, pregnant grey clouds hanging close overhead and threatening to release a thick layer of snow to go with the ice on the sidewalks and the bitterly frosty nip of the wind didn't help either.

She huddled beneath her blankets in one final attempt to soak up every last bit of warmth she possibly could, cursing the fact that the heat must have gone out in the night yet again and trying to convince herself that she was too sick to go to class today. Which, as a pre-med student, she knew she wasn't. The idea of making the long, cold trek down the street to the bus stop and then across the sizeable college campus was nearly enough to convince her that she was, however, especially considering that if she were sick, she could spend the day seated on her futon, wrapped in several layers of blankets, curled up with a mug of steaming hot cocoa with marshmallows and catching up on her soaps.

You don't even watch the soaps, she reminded herself sternly. You can't stand daytime TV.

This was true, but even spending the whole day watching the news and Judge Judy was preferable to going out in that weather. In fact, if she stayed home, she could study all day and actually get ahead in class…

Oh, just get up already and stop moaning. Cursing her conscience's honour-student mentality, her tossed off the covers, forcing herself to sit upright and swing her legs off the bed--the shock of the cold floor against the bottoms of her bare feet nearly sent her scurrying back into the depths of her blankets--and stumbled towards the bathroom. If you hurry, her conscience surfaced to whisper again, a seductive suggestion this time rather than a no-nonsense order, you can get one of those mocha espressos from the shop across the street. Kiva Han. Their coffee is to die for.

That thought was enough to really get her going.

Within fifteen minutes she was out the door, taking comfort in the idea of the anticipated hot caffeinated beverage, and almost feeling ready to face the cold, bundled up as she was in the new faux-fur-trimmed, smoke-grey jacket she'd bought just that weekend and the midnight blue polyester-weave scarf Ino had sent her from New York City last week.

She was so busy enjoying the way the soft, thick material of the scarf kept the cold air from sneaking down the neck of her jacket as she stepped out of her apartment building's revolving glass door onto the street that she almost didn't notice him.

She'd just started across the street when someone stepped out of the coffee shop, steaming mug in hand, and headed off down the sidewalk; Sakura couldn't help but stop and stare, her mouth dropping open in angry astonishment, all thoughts of the once-tantalizing mocha espresso entirely banished from her mind.

The young man--he couldn't've been more than a few years older than she was herself--was eye-catchingly attractive in an artsy, almost feminine way. His hair was long and bright golden-blonde, the top half of it pulled up in a high ponytail, his long fringe draped theatrically over the left side of his face, his features delicate, with something just slightly exotic about the tilt of his visible eye and the faintly olive undertone of his skin. His face was beautiful enough, and his frame slender enough, that she didn't doubt that he was at times mistaken for a woman, despite the angular set of his jaw and his confident, decidedly masculine bearing.

But good-looking as he was, that wasn't what had really caught her attention; what had was the fact that he had on the exact same jacket and scarf that she did. Sakura glanced back and forth between herself and the stranger several times, but each glance only reconfirmed the terrible, humiliating truth.

…And to add insult to injury, there was simply no denying that the coat looked much better on him than it did on her (though the fur trimming did make him look a little camp).

Sakura considered turning right around and slinking back to her apartment to change into her old jacket, but that one was really old and smelled strongly of mothballs; it also had a pretty sizeable tear in the armpit from a snowball fight last year, which made the long walk to the bus stop and then across campus uncomfortably cold. She'd be late for class if she went back now anyway.

No, this situation simply could not be ignored, and it called for quick and decisive action.

Almost before she knew it, she was stalking across the street towards him.

"Hey, you!"

Unsurprisingly the stranger didn't turn at being addressed in such an ambiguous manner, continuing on down the street at his regular pace; as she came within range, Sakura reached out a hand and grabbed him by the shoulder, forcibly jerking him halfway around.

"Hey, watch it!" the blonde yelped, holding his steaming coffee mug well away from his body and shrugging off her hand as he turned to face her completely, looking none too pleased; his coffee had sloshed over the rim of the cup a bit when she'd grabbed him, evidenced by the dark, shiny rivulets marring the red ceramic and the slow drip of liquid from the bottom of the mug onto the frost-rimed sidewalk. "What the hell? You nearly made me spill my coffee everywhere, yeah!"


The blonde blinked, the eye not covered by his fringe widening a bit, staring at her incredulously like—well, like she was just some random stranger yelling at him for no logical reason, which she sort of was come to think of it.

But no, she did have a reason, a very valid one, and she wasn't quite finished just yet. "WHAT'S MORE, I BOUGHT THIS JACKET IN THE WOMEN'S SECTION. YOU'RE A BOY—HAVE YOU NO SHAME?"

The stranger (his eyes were very blue, she noticed abruptly, her stomach dropping with an unsettling little lurch on that discovery) gave her a rather unpleasant smirk. "More shame than you, yeah--you're yelling at me over nothing in the middle of a busy sidewalk."

People were kind of staring at them a little as they passed, Sakura suddenly realised with a flush, though that only served to worsen her mood—with the world in general, and the smug-looking blonde in particular.

"You just ran into someone wearing the exact same thing as you—a girl no less! That doesn't bother you at all?"

Sakura noticed that his brow had furrowed, two tiny lines of irritation forming between his eyebrows as he stared down at her with obvious detachment. "So what? Who cares that we have the same jacket and scarf. We're complete strangers, and we're not likely to meet again, yeah."

Sakura just shook her head. "But that's just it--we're EXPONENTIALLY more likely to meet again now, simply because we have the same outfit. And with my luck, it'll probably be while I'm out on a really hot date, too…oh, the shame…"

The blonde just stared at her for a moment, then rolled his eyes and turned to continue on his way, but Sakura was too quick for him, placing herself squarely in his path, her jaw set at a stubborn angle.

"You don't believe me? Fine then, I'll prove it to you. Where do you live?"

The blue-eyed stranger snorted. "Right, like I'm gonna tell you—"

"Is it around here?"

He gave her a stony look, then, apparently deciding it would probably be simpler to just give up the information, he muttered, "Yeah, I live on this street. Have for a while now—"

"Do you live in the Fifth Ward Square building?" Sakura pressed, and the man scowled.

"No, I'm in Riverwend Towers," he admitted grudgingly.

"…Which is right beside the Fifth Ward Square building," Sakura nodded knowledgeably, apparently very self-satisfied, "which is where I live. Therefore we are quite likely to bump into each other on a regular basis."

"Not if I can help it," the blonde muttered into his mug, taking a slurping sip of still-steaming black coffee. "I try to avoid bitchy, overtly hostile nutjobs, yeah."

Sakura felt a surge of white-hot anger, and before she could think twice, her hand lashed out, hitting his coffee mug so hard that he nearly dropped it altogether; as it was, he ended up with a large, brown stain bleeding down the front of his nice grey jacket.

"What the—?!" the man sputtered, understandably angry, but Sakura was already 'apologising' before he could say more.

"Oh, did I knock into you again? I am SO sorry, I'm such a klutz…" She'd already pulled out the little package of tissues that she carried in her bag during the winter and was using one to dab at his jacket, her face set in an expression of obviously overdone concern. "You'd better go wash this out right away, otherwise it'll definitely stain--oh, but look on the bright side, at least we wouldn't match anymore," she said too-sweetly, giving an innocent little shrug of her shoulders.

The blonde snatched the already-soaked tissue away from her to continue the largely vain effort of sopping up the coffee himself. "You'd better be willing to pay to have this dry cleaned," he began with a growl, looking up--

--To find that Sakura was already halfway down the street.

"HEY! Get back here! You owe me, yeah!"

Sakura didn't even bother looking back--she just flipped him off and continued on her way to the bus stop, where her bus had just arrived. She swept aboard, ignoring the sound of his fading shouts and feeling much better about the whole situation.

Yes, all was right in the world once again, she thought with a little smile as she settled into her seat. Perhaps today wasn't going to be such a bad day after all.

But of course, it couldn't end there. That would have been too easy.

Classes had been long and dull, but it was a good thing that she'd gone: there'd been a random attendance check in one class and a pop quiz in another. Still, she didn't feel much like cooking for herself tonight (not that uncommon of an occurrence really), so she stopped in at her favourite sandwich shop on the way home. Ho! was a comfortable, homey little place, and due to the excellent-as-usual service, Sakura was soon sitting in her favourite spot--a two-person table tucked right up against the window in a little niche on the far side of the shop.

She had only taken a single bite of her club sandwich, and was staring absently out the window as she washed it down with a drink of lemonade, when he cornered her.

The scrape of the chair across from her being pulled out snapped her out of her daze, and once again she could only stare as the blue-eyed blonde from that morning dropped into the seat across from her. "Mind if I join you?"

Sakura stiffened momentarily, then began hastily rewrapping her sandwich; she could finish eating at home. "Actually, I was just leaving—"

She hadn't managed to push her chair back more than a few inches before she was jerked to a stop; the stranger had hooked his foot around one of her chairlegs. Before she could give any response to that other than a flat glare, he shoved the table right up against her, trapping her between it and back of her chair, knocking the wind out of her with the swift, unexpected move.

"What's the rush?" he asked with a charming smile that Sakura didn't trust one bit. "Take your time and finish eating…yeah."

"Let me out right now or I'll scream," she growled after the moment of unpleasant breathlessness had passed.

The blonde gave a clearly unimpressed-sounding snort. "Judging by the way you yelled at me this morning with the whole world watching, you don't have any qualms about looking like an absolute moron, so yeah, you could go ahead and scream your squirrelly little head off, or--here's a novel idea--you could try not being a bitch and talk this out with me."

She didn't want to stay, of course, but the curved back of the chair was caught between the table and the wall behind her; she had a few inches of wiggle room, but she still wasn't going anywhere, and there was no one nearby to help, so she crossed her arms over her chest and slumped in her seat. Maybe if she was as unpleasant as possible, he'd decide he'd had enough and let her go. "I have nothing to say to you."

He quirked an eyebrow at her, his expression cynical. "Funny, you seemed to have plenty to tell me this morning."

Sakura felt a brief flash of embarrassment and perhaps the slightest pang of guilt in thinking about the way she'd yelled at him that morning, but the way he was behaving now made any and all regrets she might have had considerably easier to ignore; she just pressed her lips together firmly and stayed silent, intent on proving her previous claim.

"Oh come on now, like you said, we're practically neighbours. We must have something in common," here he loosened his scarf with exaggerated nonchalance, pulling it aside to reveal the dark coffee stain on the jacket beneath it, "so let's have a nice, neighbourly chat, hmm?"

For a long moment she just continued to glower at him, which surprisingly enough didn't even put a dent in his confident smirk; more than a few much tougher-looking men had quailed under similar glares from the pink-haired girl. But this guy wasn't going anywhere, a fact that he made pointedly clear by shedding his coat and draping it across the back of his seat. "Fine," she finally spat, looking over the contents of the table as best she could while still maintaining eye contact, trying to determine which item would make the best weapon, should it come to that. Pity one didn't require a fork to eat a sandwich. "I assume you're still in college. What's your major?"

"Graduated, actually," he replied as he slid her glass of lemonade out of easy reach, and the napkin holder and salt and pepper shakers as well, much to Sakura's irritation. "But it was Art. Emphasis in Art History, Theory, and Criticism."

Ah…art student. That would explain his unusual taste in clothing. Her second guess had been theatre major. Speaking of his taste in clothing…

"Didn't anyone tell you that bandannas went out with the 80s?" She gestured towards the odd-looking headband he wore across his forehead. "And what's with that symbol on it? Are you in a gang or something?"

The blonde chuckled. "Oh yeah, for sure. Ever heard of the Rising Dawn?"

Sakura blinked. "That terrorist group that's said to have connections with the Mafia?" She gave his lean frame a blatantly skeptical once-over. "Right, you're totally the muscle-bound thug type."

He just grinned, revealing quite a lot of very white teeth. "I'm serious. I've got a motorcycle and everything. It's great going around breaking headlights and kneecapping guys who don't pay up on their gambling bets, yeah."


"Fine. What about that pink hair of yours, huh? You some kinda punk rocker wannabe?"

"No," Sakura gritted out. "I'm pre-med, actually. And the hair colour is natural."

"Something else we have in common, hmm," the blonde chuckled, helping himself to one of the four little triangles Sakura's club sandwich was cut into; he finished it in two bites. "Not bad," he said, taking a drink of her lemonade as well and grimacing as he set the cup back down.

Sakura felt one of her eyes twitch. "I'm sorry, is your stolen lemonade not to your liking?"

"Nope," he admitted, eyeing what remained of her sandwich, utterly unconcerned by her scathing tone. "It's way too sweet." He reached for another slice only to have her jerk the plate back out of range. "Hey, if you're not gonna eat it, I will. You know what they say about starving artists." Frowning, Sakura picked up her partially-eaten piece and munched on it halfheartedly as her captor went on, "And since you're not gonna pay to have my coat cleaned, I thought maybe I'd just hang around with you for a few weeks and steal your food until I decide we're even."

"You're joking," Sakura hissed, but something in his lopsided smirk told her that no, he most certainly was not. Her eyes narrowed dangerously, prompting the stranger to put up his hands, a beatific smile on his face. But before he could say a word—

"Are those tattoos?"

The blonde followed her eyes to his raised hands. "Yeah," he said, moving them closer so she could get a better look. "Pretty awesome, huh?"

In the center of each of his palms was a tattoo of a mouth. The one on his left palm was half-open, revealing sharply white teeth and a blood-red interior; the right was similar, but a long, pink tongue snaked out over most of the bottom row of teeth, curving along the outer edge of his hand and almost down onto to his wrist. Both were so bright, so lurid, so vividly inked and dynamically designed that Sakura almost expected to see them move, gleaming teeth gnashing, tongues writhing, lips pulling back to frame glinting enamel and twin maws the rich colour of claret.

Feeling half mesmerised, she reached out to lightly trace the upper lip of one 'mouth'--his palms were warm, dry, and just slightly callused, as any dedicated artist's should be--then snorted. "…More like pretty weird. Why mouths? Something to do with your gang, right?"

He couldn't help but give a small grin at that. "You catch on fast. See, I was actually supposed to file my teeth into points or dye my hair blue or get like fifty facial piercings for my initiation, but these were unique enough that they let that slide."

Sakura gave a short chuckle, then repeated her question, "So really…why mouths?"

The blonde relaxed slightly, looking at his palms with a strange sort of almost-tenderness. "Because an artist truly speaks with his hands. His most sincere revelations are given in paint or pencil or clay, because he puts a little of himself, a little bit of his soul, into everything he creates…" He gave a minute shake of his head, "And yet, these mouths are mute: we can't even fully understand ourselves, so how can we expect others to? You're putting something into your work that even you can't fully grasp, projecting an element of the unknown into it…but once it's completed, you love it, you feel for it, because it's got something of you in it…yeah."

There was something in his tone, his expression, that left Sakura momentarily speechless. 'Wow' was the only response her mind seemed to be able to come up with, and she could feel her cheeks warming just slightly, because watching his face light up, seeing the gleam in his eyes, hearing him talk so passionately about art, about creating…it was something of a turn-on, much as she hated to admit it. Then again, she always had gone for the intelligent, bad-boy type—

"So what about you, little miss pre-med? Why'd you decide to enter the medical field? And if you're not gonna finish that sandwich…"

Sakura gave him a look, then shrugged and pushed the plate at him, letting him take another of the two remaining slices. "I want to help people, to make difference, and I've always been an excellent student, so getting into a good program wasn't a problem. It's a good job, and I don't mind the hard work." She hesitated, wondering why she was bothering to discuss this with a complete stranger. Maybe it had something to do with his own openness about his art; maybe after what he'd said, she couldn't help wanting to impress him with her own life's goals, to move him the way he'd moved her.

…But judging by his expression, if impressing him had indeed been her goal, she was going to have to try harder. A lot harder.

"You just want to help people. How adorable," the blonde artist chuckled around a mouthful of sandwich, giving her an unspeakably droll smile. "Nothing more than pure altruism, hmm? Mommy and Daddy didn't push you into this at all?"

She frowned at him, irked by his obvious amusement as well as the fact that it stung her pride more than she'd expected. "I'm an only child, and my parents have always expected a lot of me, so that was part of it," she admitted stiffly, "but that's never really bothered me. I guess I just feel like since I know that I can do it, I should do it."

He was already shaking his head before she'd even finished her sentence. "That sounds nice, but it's really kinda dumb. It's your life--you should do what you want to do, not what you feel like you have to, yeah."

"You can't always just do what you want."

"Yeah?" he said with a rakehell grin. "Why not?"

Sakura heaved a frustrated sigh, feeling very much like she was explaining something to a five-year-old. "Because that's not how life works, and just because you want to do something doesn't mean it's a good idea. If we all just did what we wanted, a lot of people would end up doing pretty stupid things—like, say, shopping in the wrong section of a department store. Though you do look pretty girly, so I guess I can understand how you might have gotten confused—"

The blonde scowled at her, his voice falling to a half-growl. "You can't always just give up on what you want to do, either--you'll be miserable if you never get to do what you want. Only idiots do what they're told all the time."

"Idiots, or people who actually want to make something of themselves and do something useful with their lives."

"Art is plenty useful—"

"Oh, of course. I mean, just look at the paintings here, they're practically holding up the walls."

"—And I've done just fine making something of myself on my own, making my own decisions," he continued relentlessly, as if he hadn't heard her, though the angry flush darkening his face suggested otherwise. "Sure, I might've done some stupid shit, but it's all worked out okay, and when my parents tried to force me to live my life how they wanted, at least I had the balls to pack up and leave—"

"Really? Was that before or after the sex change? Personally, I'm betting after."

If she'd been trying to push his buttons--and of course she had--it was more than obvious by the intensity of his glare that she'd succeeded; however, judging by the dangerous glint in his eye, she'd hit a few too many, including the big red one in the glass case with the yellow-and-black-striped DO NOT PRESS label over it.

The blonde artist stood abruptly, shaking the table violently enough to send the salt and pepper shakers tumbling to the floor and jamming her chair back into the wall even harder; she could feel the plaster give, hear the dull crunch as the metal seatback dug into it.

Sakura felt trapped, very small, and almost afraid, pinned in place by both the table and the blonde's angry stare. She saw one of his hands--the one not still using the table to wedge her chair against the wall--clench in her peripheral vision, and she tensed, bracing herself to take the hit and then fight back. Maybe if she kicked the table's single leg hard enough…

But the blow never came. Instead, he just stepped back, reaching behind him to grab hold of his coffee-stained jacket, which he flung full in her face before turning and stalking out; by the time she'd pulled the jacket away, he was gone.

For a long moment she just sat there, quietly contemplating the ruined coat in her lap, then finishing what was left of her meal in silence. By the time she'd drained her lemonade glass (it really was too sweet), she was feeling more than a little guilty about what she'd said. He'd been annoying, sure, but that last comment about his gender might have been a bit much.

Somehow, though, she suspected that he'd been more upset about what she'd said about art.

I wonder who he is really…if I've ever heard of him, or seen any of his art before…

Her curiosity was only temporarily satisfied by going through his coat pockets, which contained empty gum wrappers, theatre ticket stubs, half a dollar in loose change, some crumpled tissues, a bit of clay, a kneaded eraser, a couple receipts, and the gloves he'd been wearing earlier, which showed signs of age and heavy wear. Looking down at the stained jacket and the pile of his things littering the table, the flicker of guilt she'd felt before returned, and this time it stuck around. He'd been irritating and obnoxious, certainly, but ruining his coat really had been taking things a little too far. Besides, he'd been pretty interesting to talk to, at least when he hadn't been mocking her choice of vocation, and he certainly wasn't bad to look at…

I guess I should make this up to him…dammit, I have studying to do! Still…

With a tired sigh, she scooped the things she'd dug out of his pockets (minus the tissues and gum wrappers) into her messenger bag and headed back out into the cold, grumbling to herself as she went.

It was harder to find his apartment than she had expected. She knew what building he was in, of course, but, she realised with chagrin as she stood in the lobby of the Riverwend Towers apartment building, paging through the directory that the helpful desk clerk had given her, she hadn't gotten the blonde artist to tell her his name.

Fortune seemed to be on her side for once however, and she soon found herself standing outside Apartment #459, a flat rectangular package under one arm, raising her hand to knock. She wavered the instant before her knuckles made contact with the door--did she really have to do this? She was tired and half-frozen and didn't particularly feel like apologising at the moment--then clenched her jaw and gave the door a smart rap. Almost as an afterthought, she pressed her thumb over the peephole: she very much doubted that he would be above pretending he wasn't home if he saw her standing there. This way he had to open the door at least a fraction if he wanted to see who was outside.

There was a quiet scuffling sound from the other side of the door, along with what might have been a growled curse due to not being able to use the peephole, then a brief moment of silence before a muffled voice called through the door, "Who is it?"

His tone held a hint of annoyance, and more than a hint of wariness, almost edging on apprehension, Sakura noticed, her inquisitive nature making itself known once again. This wasn't at all a bad part of town, and it wasn't even that late--why would he worry about answering his door?

"Got a delivery for you," she called back, making an effort to lower her voice in the hopes of disguising it somewhat. It must have worked, because a moment later the door opened a crack and the blonde artist peered out at her; as expected, that single visible eye narrowed into an icy slit the instant it came to rest on her.

"What do you want, yeah?"

Sakura felt a twinge of irritation at his harsh, haughty tone, but this time she forced her temper down. "To talk to you," she said simply.

His eye narrowed even more. "I think I'd rather go gargle with some turpentine. How the hell did you find my apartment anyway? You don't even know my name."

Sakura couldn't help but feel a little smug at that, which she was sure showed quite plainly on her face. "The girl at the front desk was very helpful. Lucky for me you're pretty memorable, Deidara. Now open the stupid door already."

He hesitated, his expression wavering between curiosity and irritation, so Sakura relieved him of all choice in the matter, shoving the door the rest of the way open with a huff of exasperation. "Here," she said, thrusting the package into his hands and cutting her eyes to the side and upwards to avoid his questioning look. "Just open it," she muttered when he continued to stare at her.

"It's not a bomb, is it?" he asked with a sudden lopsided smile, and Sakura snorted in reply.

"Yep, sure is. How'd you know?"

"Because taking me out would totally be worth blowing yourself up, yeah," he said as he prised the lid off the box, his sly grin leaving no room for doubting the possible double meaning in his words.

The grin slid off his face as he got a good look at the actual contents of the package: neatly folded inside was a nice new jacket, this one a good deal more stylish-looking than the one Sakura had ruined, double-breasted and cut short as was in fashion that season. Deidara pulled it out of the box, shaking it out to get a better look at it, pleased by the sleek but durable feel of the material and the unusual collar, though his face was still frozen in an expression of surprise.

"Since we bought the same thing before, I figured we probably have similar tastes, and if I was a guy, that's the kind of jacket I'd want. I think it'll look nice on you," Sakura said conversationally, ignoring his stunned silence and allowing herself a faint smirk. "You'll certainly look more masculine, anyway--this was in the men's section."

Deidara didn't seem to know how to react, which was amusing at first considering how glib he'd been up until that point, though Sakura soon tired of it. Time for some sarcasm to sting him back into action.

"Should I have gotten you a leather jacket instead?" she asked, eyebrow arched. "It would've gone with your motorcycle better."

That snapped him out of it. "Nah, this one's fine," the blonde chuckled, folding it over his arm and carelessly kicking the box it had come in back into the apartment behind him, meeting her eyes with an unexpectedly warm smile. "Look…" he trailed off meaningfully, waiting for her to supply her name.


His smile went lopsided at that, gaze flicking to her hair; he'd obviously made the connection, not that it was a particularly difficult one to make. "Nice. Do you wanna come in for a minute, Sakura?"

Sakura hesitated. She did want to, she realised with mild surprise, but she wasn't stupid; going into a stranger's apartment wasn't really the smartest thing for a young woman to do, regardless of how attractive said stranger might be. She'd just opened her mouth to decline when he added, "I'll get you a cup of coffee, yeah."

Well great, that would just give him the chance to slip something into her drink, nullifying everything she'd learned in her self-defense classes and the few years of judo she'd taken back in high school. Still, she'd been around her share of creeps, and they'd all given off an uncomfortable, almost slimy-feeling vibe; this guy wasn't even a blip on her skeeze radar. He didn't really look like the type who had to drug girls to get them to sleep with him anyway--he was way too pretty for that.

She hadn't missed how his eyes periodically darted both ways down the hall as he spoke either; the blonde seemed more interested in getting himself back out of sight than getting her inside his apartment, and he had yet to lay a finger on her. But then again, there was also the informal interpretation of 'coming in for a cup of coffee' to consider…not…that this had been anything like a date. Still, he might make assumptions…

…Oh, what the heck. He was skinny enough that she could probably take him anyway.

"Fine. But don't think bribing me with coffee will work all the time," she said as she stepped through the door, the mingled scents of fresh-brewed coffee and wet paint instantly greeting her as she did so.

"Right, yeah." Closing the door firmly behind her, the blonde artist moved into the open kitchen area, which was marked as being separate from the rest of the room by linoleum flooring and a long island/counter, leaving Sakura to look around the rest of the main room.

It was a good deal neater than Sakura would've given him credit for judging by his coat pockets. The place looked half again the size of her own apartment and was very well-lit, all of the furniture matched and looked both comfortable and in relatively good condition, and he had a decent collection of DVDs (many of which were foreign films, big surprise). There were no sculptures or paintings in various stages of completion spread throughout the room (his 'studio' was most likely in one of the bedrooms), though there were loose pieces of paper, stacks of books on art, and various art supplies littering a large percentage of the visible horizontal surfaces. The eye of the storm seemed to be the coffee table, which was clear but for a thick sketchbook and a well-worn pencil case, the latter of which was lying on its side with half its contents spilling out.

She'd just reached out a hand to flip back the sketchbook's cover when Deidara called over his shoulder from the other room, "Go ahead and have a seat, yeah—oh, hey, d'you put anything in your coffee?"

"Sugar and cream," Sakura replied, snatching her hand away from the sketchbook and attempting to disguise the movement as part of the process of shedding her coat, though it was probably a good thing Deidara wasn't looking.

Speaking of looking…

She shifted her attention to the artist himself, her eyes scanning over his lean frame appreciatively, lingering a bit on the slender, corded muscles of his arms and the way his jeans hung on his slim hips. His blonde hair was tied back in a single long tail, his fringe held to the side by some clips (rather like the ones Ino had worn back in high school, Sakura thought with amusement), and he had paint stains on his hands that hadn't been there during their confrontation a few hours ago. There were matching stains on his white t-shirt and jeans, though there was also sufficient evidence to suggest that this was not the first time those clothes had been worn while Deidara was feeling inspired.

She quickly perched herself on the edge of the couch and redirected her focus to removing her scarf as he turned towards her, a coffee mug in each hand.

"So, any special reason why you bothered buying that coat for me, hmm?" he asked, offering her one of the mugs before sprawling in the overstuffed chair.

Sakura watched the steam curling up off the hot liquid for a moment before answering, expression thoughtful. "Well…I was thinking about it, and I started to feel kinda guilty about ruining your jacket," she admitted, pausing to take a drink and hoping the mug hid her grimace at the coffee's bitterness; it didn't taste like he'd added any sugar at all. "But I really didn't want you having the same one that I do, so I couldn't just have yours cleaned."

Deidara gave a snort of amusement. "Is it alright that we still have matching scarves, or should I expect you to come storming across the street the next time you see me to dump coffee all over that too?

It was a bit of a strain, but Sakura managed to smile. "No, it's fine…that's not so noticeable, really…"

"Yeah, and if you did that, you'd probably just end up buying me another one."

She couldn't hold back a chuckle at that. "You're right, I probably would. So I'll save myself some money and just let it go. I mean, it's not like we'll be seeing each other often enough for people to really notice."

…Surprising how wistful, almost disappointed, that simple statement made her feel…

"Hmm…you never know," Deidara said, and Sakura caught a brief glimpse of an impish grin before he covered it with his coffee mug. "We might end up seeing more of each other than you'd expect."

His tone was blatantly suggestive, and Sakura cursed her fair complexion as she felt her cheeks grow warm, knowing her face must've gone pink enough to match her hair. "W-well, I still have a lot of studying to do tonight, so I'd better go," she said quietly, biting the inside of her cheek angrily at how she'd allowed her voice to tremble.

"Hey, don't you want me to try on that jacket first? That way if it doesn't fit, you can take it back and get me the right size, yeah," he said with a smirk. "Hmm, don't wanna get paint on it though…"

Before she could utter a word of protest, he'd stood, turned his back on her, and doffed his paint-streaked t-shirt, giving her a full view of a well-muscled back and some very gropable shoulders. He took his own sweet time re-covering them with the jacket, too, but Sakura certainly wasn't complaining.

After taking a moment to fiddle with the buttons, the blonde artist turned back towards her, and this time there was no coffee mug on hand to hide his toothy grin. "So what do you think, hmm? Feels like it fits real nice, yeah."

It really did look quite good on him--the cut emphasised his chest and shoulders, making them look broader than usual, but it showed off his trim hips as well; Sakura doubted the mannequin in the store had worn it any better. The colour suited him as well, the faded forest green bringing out the golden-yellow shade of his hair and going well alongside his olive complexion.

Sakura suddenly became aware that she hadn't said a word, and that Deidara was staring at her with a raised eyebrow and a look that said well?

"Yes, it looks very nice," she said, the words coming automatically. "It's a good style for you." Setting her empty mug on the coffee table in front of her, she gave the closed sketchbook one last passing glance before standing and slipping back into her own coat.

She had to get out of there before he took that jacket off again. Before she started thinking things. From what she'd seen, he was very attractive, but he was still aggravating and terribly cocky (a trait she told herself she hated, though ironically enough all the guys she'd dated thus far had been appallingly conceited) and little better than a complete stranger, after all, and she didn't do one-night-stands--not that he'd offered, or even really suggested the option.

Better to make her escape while that was still the case.

"Thanks for the coffee," she said as she moved to the door, Deidara following a few steps behind. "And…sorry about earlier." The apology came out as a half-mumble, and she couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes as she gave it. Have to apologise to this kind of man...goodbye, sweet pride.

It only made matters worse when he just waved it off. "Eh, no big deal. I'm kinda glad it happened…it made the day a lot more…interesting, yeah."

Startled by the low, faintly sensual tone of his voice, she looked up in surprise, her hand still on the doorknob, the door itself only partially open; with a sly smile, Deidara leaned closer…and pulled the door the rest of the way open, just wide enough for her to step out.

"See ya around, yeah?"

Despite the casually inquisitive tone, it was a promise, not a question.

"…Yeah," Sakura nodded before slipping out the door, waiting until she'd heard it shut behind her to change her pace from a sedate walk to a hasty almost-jog. She wasn't entirely sure what had just happened (was he seriously coming on to me, or was he just trying to embarrass me?) or what she really thought of Deidara (though for at the moment 'hot', 'incorrigible', and 'asshole' all sounded like applicable labels), and for the moment beating a hasty retreat back home to sort some of this out was definitely the best plan of action.

Deidara smiled to himself as he methodically locked the door behind the girl. She'd drunk that coffee like a soldier, he thought with a chuckle, despite the fact that he'd only added about half a spoonful of sugar and just enough milk to visibly lighten it. Watching her pull a face behind the cup every time she took a sip of the stuff had made letting her in well worth the time away from his latest work-in-progress.

As he turned away from the door, his gaze happened upon the midnight-blue scarf that lay draped across the arm of the couch. A glance to the side showed that his own scarf was already hanging on its peg by the door, which meant that this scarf belonged to…

Deidara felt a smirk pulling along his lips as he headed back towards the couch, calmly picking up an exacto knife from off the hall table as he went.