Word count: 849
Summary: It was that day young Hirato realized fully that sometimes the very best works of art, the most valuable ones that will be treasured for years to come, aren't always the prettiest or the most well-made ones.
Set pre-series, obviously.
Notes: Written for the promptbingo challenge. ALSO GAH I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING. HERP DERP HOW DOES I HEADCANON. vOv
As another, completely uninteresting note, I was heavily inspired by an album with my own childhood drawings in. Writing this made me feel so nostalgic. I mean, we've all drawn strikehideous/strike things as gifts for mom, dad, and just about the whole family, right?
Hirato knew those well enough, knew just how to work with someone else's emotions to get exactly what he wanted, despite his youth - barely 17 years of age, still an awkward teenager to some degree, but already such a master manipulator with a cold iron grip on his own emotions. However, actually understanding and relating to other people's emotions was difficult, even if he could read those older than himself near perfectly. Needless to say, this peculiar trait of his (one of so many) did not work any wonders on his ability to understand and relate to children and fellow teens below his own age.
And that was the main reason behind why he was so intent on pushing her away.
Hirato had tried over and over again to cast his emotions away, to find that comfortable detached state he felt so at home in when dealing with the girl, but the bitter truth was that she had managed to leave an impact on him. And that felt strange. Even if it was actually far from the truth, he couldn't help but feel woefully vulnerable because of the attachment she had developed towards him.
Attachment that he might actually (oh dear) be responding to.
It was such an alien concept.
He didn't even have to look over his shoulder to know just who was struggling to catch up to him, who it was that would hopefully fail to keep up with his far longer strides. She might have tentatively called out to him again, though he pretended not to hear. Even if she caught up to him, that should be just enough to discourage her, to make it clear that he was ultimately not worth her time, right? Ignoring her would make her give it up already, wouldn't it? It always worked wonders on the swooning teenage girls that would never leave him alone when they stopped being useful.
But she did something unexpected. She did not react the way he carelessly assumed she would.
She must have been really intent of catching his attention, for she caught up to him indeed, her heavy breathing a testament of just how much effort she put into following him as tiny, tiny hands latched onto his sleeve and gave it a light tug.
Well. That certainly made this a lot more complicated that it had any need to be. But fine, he would give her permission to be so forward just this once. She was still a small child, after all.
"Did you need something, Tsukumo?"
"Um, here!" Said the little girl, holding out a neatly folded paper for him to take. And after a second or two, she added (for some inane reason, he was sure): "For you."
As if that wasn't obvious enough already.
His expression remained indifferent as he slowly unfolded the paper. It was a drawing, so childishly made that it was almost ridiculous. The stick figure with blonde hair was her, wasn't it. And that taller figure on the right (the one the small one was holding hands with) must have been supposed to be him, judging by the hair color and the peculiar object scrawled on the face of it, most likely meant to be glasses.
An artist, she is not.
His silence must have worried her, for suddenly the petite girl spoke up again (usually she would always wait for him to respond), seemingly finding her own feet (or was it his feet, perhaps?) to be terribly interesting at the moment.
"…Do you hate it?" Her voice was so soft; he had to strain to properly hear what she was saying. It made her seem much smaller than she actually was. She was so small already, so young and fragile, and she only seemed to be steadily shrinking under his gaze with each passing second.
The clichéd description of how he felt at the moment that came to mind was "sheepish", though as far as he was concerned… Well, he would claim that he was not the type to ever feel very sheepish.
"No, of course not," said Hirato at last, still wondering about whether the peculiar creature in the upper left corner of the drawing was a cat, a wolf, or a rabbit.
Or a horribly mutated rat.
She brightened up considerably at that, violet eyes just a few shades lighter than his own glancing up to fully meet his gaze for the first time since she approached him with her gift. Little Tsukumo was not a girl of many smiles, but she beamed up at him now, practically swelling with pride and newfound confidence. "So… It's good?"
"It's a very unique drawing."
Yes. He would permit this. For now.
Just this once.
Ten years later, the very same drawing would rest safely in one of the drawers of his desk, hidden underneath stacks of more "important" papers.
He took it out and looked at it from time to time, but only when he felt absolutely positive that no one would be around to witness it, of course.