Rating: Young Adult/Mature (see warnings below)
Characters/Pairing: [Deidara X Sakura H]; Akatsuki; Konoha 12
Themes:Drama, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, Friendship
Warnings: Strong language, possible sexual content/situations and underage drinking
Chapter Twelve | In Bloom
Normal POV—6:14 AM August 3, 2013—Chamomile Court;
Sakura rubbed at her eyes as a yawn ripped from her lips. Fatigue weighed down her movements, making it seem like just lifting her hand exhausted her. It was just past six am; Ino would have been around sometime soon to pick her up for a little run so Sakura supposed a granola bar would have been enough for sustenance. The breath of the morning was cold and bit at her sides as air swept through the large holes of her muscle-tee. Sakura tried not to run to the door as she heard Ino's footfalls coming up the stairs, and when the blonde knocked, a sensation of dull excitement overcame her. Once she opened the door, Sakura gave Ino a tired smile and waved; Ino's grin was deafening.
"Hey girl! You ready to go?"
"Yeah," Sakura replied as she shut the door behind her. She didn't understand how Ino was so cheery so early in the morning. She had expected the blonde would have been the opposite—grumpy, tired, annoyed even. She shook her head to dismiss her assumptions and jogged down the steps after her friend, and towards the bus stop down the hill. They spent their time gossiping over little things—derby girls, cute guys she needed to meet, the way Sasuke's muscles rippled when he walked. Sakura couldn't remember giggling like that in a while; Ino always seemed to make things comfortable for her and for that, she was grateful.
Upon arriving at the edge of the boardwalk, Sakura quickly noticed the youngest of her cousins wrestling around with Temari. Briefly, she wondered if they even noticed their perpetual rivalry. Temari managed to get Tayuya under her when Sakura approached, and paused when Ino began mocking them—"take your foreplay elsewhere—preferably somewhere in private."
"Hey Sakura," Tayuya greeted from beneath the sandy blonde, her intonation both confused and pleased. "Are you here to join us on a run?"
The rosette nodded slightly. "Yeah, I figured I could use a little exercise. I hope its okay that I tag along?"
"Of course it is," Hinata insisted, smiling as she tied back her hair.
"Yeah, you could use a little toning," Kin teased and pressed her fingers into the minute protrusion in Sakura's belly. Slighted, Sakura batted her hands away with her face vaguely twisted in annoyance, but of course no one noticed. Instead, she took a seat on the ground beside Hinata and mirrored her floor stretches with an air of certainty. Today would be the day she got her life started—that, she promised.
Normal POV—2:02 PM Saturday August 3, 2013—Namikaze Ice
The glass to the doors was cold to the touch, almost burning Sasori's fingers in mock as he forced them open, and an icy breath overwhelmed him as he exposed himself to the ice. It was almost as if he lost the ability to breathe, for a moment. All the sweat that adorned his neck disappeared the moment he stepped into the arena, thankfully, allowing the dusty pink hue of his warmth to slowly ebb away. There were quite a few people around today, occupying several of the rinks—twirl girls and their coaches, kids bundled together with their instructors, and in another rink there were just humble patrons skating around the ice. Further down, in the hockey wing of the arena, Sasori spotted several mixed hockey players running drills. Some wore their various school jerseys and others just simple clothes, but it was easy to tell they were all from different schools, seeing as how they stayed in small groups away from one another.
There were only three of them from Konoha Central out—the captain, an alumni and one of the enforcers—yet they had a rink all to themselves. Were they that special? Sasori scoffed and shook his head: he doubted it. He hated himself for crawling to them of all people. They were a dirty team who went off on their own rules—that's why they always won. He didn't play like that. He wasn't like them. But he also knew he would have ended up joining the team anyway, whether he hated them or not. He was built for hockey, just like Sakura had told him, and he'd be damned if he went a year of high school without it.
Shaking his head, Sasori readjusted his skates on his shoulder then ambled towards the pro-shop. He moved past the leotards and they brand new skates, and went directly to the man sitting behind the counter in the back. "I need my skates sharpened," he directed and placed his skates on the counter; it took him a minute to remove the knot in the laces, but he got it done. The man behind the counter hardly spared him another glance before starting on the first skate. The whirling blades to the machine were deafening enough as it was, and only grew more trying as his skate was slowly drawn across it—sparks jumped out towards Sasori, making him step back.
His thoughts wandered towards his sister; she should be out with Ino and the girls by now. She wasn't home when he checked her bedroom earlier, and he swore he could smell that obnoxious lavender perfume Ino frequently layered on when he entered the living room. That was probably a good thing that she wouldn't be home for a bit. She needed time out in the sun. She needed color on her skin and wind in her hair. She needed something to occupy her time with because otherwise, she'd just end up relying on others for her entertainment, and her dependence was embarrassing. Where was her backbone? Where was her tenacity? He knew she had a wild temper—he'd experienced it firsthand—so all she really needed was to break through that annoying exterior of hers. Maybe then she cold be normal.
"There you go," the man behind the counter hummed, drawing Sasori's attention towards him once again. The man passed along Sasori's skates with a slight smile. Sasori snapped open his wallet to pay but paused as the man sputtered for him to stop. "Don't worry about it," the man insisted. "We take care of our hockey players. Just take your team to the Playoffs."
Sasori wanted to tell him he wasn't a hockey player (for now, at least) but decided best to just thank him and walk away. If he was being kind, why not take it? He wandered the pro-shop for a little longer, carefully taking in everything it had to offer and noting what he had to get for the new season, before finally deciding to confront the hockey players in the western rink. He crossed the building easily, brushing past anxious kids and phone-docked teens with an annoyed expression about his face, stopping as he reached the edge to the ice. Madara was the first to spot him—that dude seemed to see everything—as he nudged Pein's arm with a laugh. After a short comment from Pein, Madara skated towards Sasori, his head tilted slightly, and a slight maniac look crossing his face. Shaved ice flew from his blades as he stopped before him, landing on Sasori's shoes in a way that prompted respect. "Well, what a pleasant surprise," Madara sarcastically hummed, "What can I do for you, Sasori?"
The redhead brushed off the blatant disrespect the former hockey player flaunted, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I have no business with you. I'm here to talk to this team's captain." Noticing that Pein was observing them, Sasori raised his hand and gestured for the teen to come over; Pein was rather quick to do so.
"What do you want?" Pein inquired, his intonation drawn out and slow. "We're running drills right now."
"I know that you guys want me for the team," he bluntly acknowledged. "You need me. And since we all know I'm eventually going to join the team even if you don't want me to, I figure we put this shit behind us."
Pein raised his palms in a gesture that illustrated his nonchalance and blamelessness. "I have no problem with you. That's something you need to take up with Deidara."
"Where can I find him?"
Madara leant against Sasori despite the glare shot his way, using the redhead's shoulder as an armrest, then nudged his cheek with his hand. "How about you stay a while, and we'll take you to him?"
"And why would I do that? I don't have time to deal with you."
Madara shrugged slightly and moved to return to the ice. "I just figure Deidara will be less likely to kick your scrawny ass if we were there."
Normal POV—12 PM Saturday August 3, 2013—Coral Crest CT;
Sakura wasn't quite sure what hurt more: her legs or her lungs. Running with the girls was difficult on her end, even though the girls slowed their usual pace for her—that was a bit embarrassing, but she appreciated it nonetheless. Her head was pounding as roughly as her heart; her chest heaved as it slowly managed to regain composure; sand ground against her feet, and her stomach twisted horribly, punishing her for skipping out on breakfast yet again. Even now, as she all but collapsed onto Temari's couch, Sakura could feel her legs trembling from exhaustion.
Was I this out of shape, she asked herself, forcing up a smile as Tayuya passed off a water bottle. She tried not to be greedy and derisorily drink it all, even if handing it off only made her body scream in displeasure; Kin laid across the couch with her head on Sakura's lap. "Nice job rookie," she complimented, her smile bordering sarcastic. "You didn't pass out—that's a good thing."
Tayuya threw a pillow at the girl across the living room. "Bitch, leave her alone," she snickered, ducking away as Kin threw the pillow back. "Ino is the only one who'd pass out on a run."
The blonde folded her legs and pulled the rubber band from her hair to adjust her sweat-drenched ponytail. With her nose scrunched and face twisted, Ino dryly sneered, "Can you not? That was like, a year ago."
"It's still funny," Tenten teased. She moved to sit beside Sakura and beneath Kin, her cheeks still pink and her hair a hilarious mess. She folded some wayward hairs behind her ear, suddenly making her appear rather feminine, and smiled nicely. "You'll get the hang of it in a few days. Don't worry. Be glad you didn't have PE with Gai."
The girls groaned collectively at the mentioning, and upon noticing Sakura's confused expression, Kin went on to explain. "Gai is a teacher over at KCH. Mile runs were on the weekly, sometimes bi-weekly."
Sakura blanched. "That sounds horrible—and borderline abusive."
"Nah, it wasn't that bad," Tenten assured.
"Yeah, Gai is a great teacher," Hinata affirmed. "He's really goofy and he's actually really nice. He pushes you, but he knows when you're at your limit and runs with it."
"Sometimes literally," Ino added. "He'd run the miles with us."
Footsteps danced down the stairs, drawing everyone's attention towards the rear of the room. Naruto, Gaara and Sasuke bounded down the steps, pausing as they noticed the girls before recollecting themselves. "Hey ladies," Naruto greeted, moving to kiss the top of Hinata's head. Sasuke leant against the back of the couch she sat on while Naruto situated himself beneath Hinata, and Gaara sat on the coffee table across from Sakura. Upon seeing Gaara's intense stare, Sakura's skin burnished in mortification, forcing her to look away.
"Sakura," he greeted, smirking slightly.
"Hey Gaara." She berated herself for the thoriated voice that came out, and folded a few hairs behind her ear almost awkwardly. She knew that Ino and Tenten and everyone else between them noticed, and she was thankful that no one bothered to comment on it. That would have been mortifying.
"It's really cool you're trying to join the team. I'm sure you'll make it if you're anything like Tayuya or Fubuki," Tenten casually remarked, shrugging slightly as Tayuya said something about how no one was like her—or something like that. Blanching, Sakura whipped around to glance at her, but Tenten brushed off the look and pointed at Ino who nonchalantly brushed out her tangles with her fingers. "Did you really think Ino could keep a secret?"
"Hey," Ino indignantly shouted. "I keep secrets all the time. This one just so happened to slip out."
Sakura pinched the bridge of her nose in annoyance, shaking her head slowly as she sighed out, "Of course. Note to self: don't give Ino big tidbits of information." Ignoring Ino's incensed mumblings and Temari's snickers, Sakura smiled and went on to say, "Thanks. I really hope I make the team. You have no idea."
"We'll help you," Hinata said, whilst giving a show-stopping smile that forced Sakura's heart to skip a pulsation. She could feel herself shaking, and the skin around her fingers began to burn—normally Sakura would have been worried, but she knew that this sensation was a good thing. Leaning back into the couch, Sakura locked eyes with Gaara, whose lips were just barely affected by a smirk. God, she loved his smirk.
Normal POV—3:16 PM Friday June 26, 2013—Ocean Avenue and Bennymark;
The plate burned at Hidan's fingertips as he grasped it. Quickly but with caution, he set the smoldering dish onto the table and offered a half-hearted grin to the couple taking up the booth before ambling off towards the counter. Fatigue was a curse that bound him into an autopilot routine throughout the familiar walkways of the restaurant. The strong scent of barbecued beef and marinated ribs wafted through the openings of his nostrils, stirring his hunger enough for his belly to growl in protest—fuck, he should have eaten earlier. He glanced at the clock on his cellphone, inwardly (and outwardly) rejoicing as he realized that he could finally clock out. He quickly tugged loose the laces to his apron then tossed them onto a nearby hook, before typing in his employee ID at the computer, His manager hardly acknowledged his curt goodbye—asshole.
Upon stepping outside, Hidan expected that it would at least be somewhat colder out, but the dry wind was hardly anything for him to get excited about. He sighed. Of course. A short flame flickered against the cigarette balanced between his dry lips, his lashes fluttering over his cheeks as he caught the bittersweet tang of nicotine as it flittered against his tongue; smoke clouded his vision in a gray eddy of breath, and he reached for the eyelets in his ear to massage them just as he always did when so overly worked.
"Smoking is bad for you, you know?"
Hidan paused as recognition fluttered about his skin, and he shivered slightly as he realized: I know this person. Focusing his attention on the man who spoke—a tall, lean man with a five-o-clock shadow that needed work and messy, dirty-blonde hair—Hidan drew in another breath of smoke. "So is heroin—but you never gave a shit, Dad." The man's jaw visibly tightened, and Hidan could see a muscle throbbing along the side of his withering face. Disgust filled him as he took in the sullen, reddish eyes and the pockmarks that ruined his features; his abhorrence furthered as he noticed the major similarities in their facial structures. Grimacing, Hidan snuffed out the butt of his cigarette against the gum-encrusted cement. "What are you doing here? Don't you have some junkies to look after?"
The man let out a steadying breath and leant against his cheesy, glossy red convertible, then brushed aside some fallen hairs. "I can't visit my son?"
"Oh, you have a son? I wouldn't have known."
Hidan could tell he was reaching the pinnacle of his father's tolerance—he needed to get away from him. He tensed slightly as his father, Maro, moved seemingly to approach him, and instinctively squared his shoulders as if it would somehow do something to impede Maro's advances. Unfazed, Maro moved around his car and slipped into the driver's seat. He beckoned for Hidan to follow, but the teen stood apprehensively on the sidewalk. Maro gestured again. "I'll take you home."
"I have legs," Hidan pointed out.
"You have an ass, too. So sit on it."
After a moment of contemplation, Hidan hopped over the door and fell into the passenger's seat; he had hardly fastened his seatbelt when he dad quickly backed out into the parking lot. The car ride was silent and awkward—at least for Hidan. The wind felt nice against his skin, and he loved the slight tickle of his un-gelled hair brushing against his cheeks, and Maro at least played a station that didn't have crappy tunes; but it just wasn't right to be there. He was always weary of his father's visits, how rare they were, because they usually involved some scheme for money or something seedy of that nature. The last time he saw him was actually four months ago, when he bought a nice dinner for Kakuzu and Nibi, but then skipped out the next morning with every penny from Hidan's secret stash. And the time before that, he had paid Hidan's aunt with a check that bounced and ruined her bank account.
He had a good idea where all the money was going.
Ever since he was a kid, Hidan could remember seeing his mother strung out on some kind of pill, whether it be prescription or illegal. And his wonderful male parental unit was a drunkard who gambled their savings every chance he had. He was a great blackjack player, honestly, but he just took too many risks with sleazy people for comfort. Hell, Hidan was sure that if his aunt Nibi hadn't taken him in, he probably would have ended up like him—not that he didn't have his fair share of trouble. But drugs and gambling were something different in itself—something he swore he'd never get himself into.
"So, how have you been?" Maro suddenly asked.
Hidan glanced at him briefly before looking out at the street. "I'm fine."
"And how about Kakuzu? And your aunt? I heard she had surgery not too long ago."
"They're fine. It went fine. She's not dead yet."
Maro's grin was fake. It always was. "Well that's good. I was thinking: maybe tonight we can go to that Thai place you like so much—my treat."
Hidan scoffed and rolled his eyes overzealously, just so his father would understand that he was not at all enthusiastic over the idea. "No thanks. I'd rather be home." The silence continued for another few blocks, and was abruptly destroyed when Hidan all but slammed his hand into the dash as he screamed, "What do...what do you even want from me? I'm tired of your front—acting like you care and shit. So what the fuck do you want this time?"
"You better watch your mouth when you talk to me, boy," Maro snapped, infuriated by Hidan's tone. "You show your father some respect! And get your feet off my dash!"
At Maro's snarl, Hidan let loose a hefty laugh and crossed his arms above his chest. "I don't respect anyone who doesn't respect me. Now what the fuck are you doing out here? You want money or something? That's the only reason you ever come by."
Furious, Maro abruptly reached over and belted his palm against the back of Hidan's head; his class ring made contact somewhere near the center of his skull and Hidan's body trembled in a dodgy mixture of rage, fear and vertigo, and he clenched his fists to direct his anger. They pulled abruptly into a parking lot to some little diner further down Ocean Avenue, swerving so suddenly that Hidan nearly slammed his skull into the window, and Maro snapped, "I'm your dad, you little shit—and you best show me some respect."
"My dad," Hidan repeated with an amused snort, "you haven't been my dad for fifteen years. Fuck you and your respect; I'm leaving." Hidan removed the clinch to the seatbelt as he spoke, and he was sure to slam the door much harder than necessary when he stepped out on the other side.
Maro was silent at first, his eyes glinting mischievously with amusement as he watched Hidan saunter towards the sidewalk, and he called out, "You know—I told your mom that sending you here to those nips was going to fuck you up. Look at you; you're a pathetic little shit."
Hidan turned on his heel at his father's sneer, and he approached the car with a heavy stomp behind his steps, and he reached over the door and curled his fingers into the collar of his father's shirt. "Kakuzu is more of a brother to me than you were a father," he seethed. "Those nips are my family; they've done more for me than you ever did. If I could, I'd take my mom away from you—I'd slice your throat and watch you bleed out. I'd hang your body in the front yard for the world to see. I'd fucking suffocate you with a plastic bag before I ever considered you my father. If you show your face out here again, I'll send my foot so far up your ass that you'll switch teams. And don't you ever disrespect Kakuzu or aunt Nibi again because those nips you hate so much are what made me everything you wish you could be."
Maro screamed after Hidan as he walked away, but the teen paid no attention to his father's obscenities. He kept walking, unbuttoning his black shirt and tugging anxiously at his eyelet; he never stopped until he was in front of the arcade, because he knew if he stopped he probably would have started to cry like some bitch. He was sure his father followed him (because that's just something he liked to do), and he waited for the moment where a fist would slam into the muscles of his lower back or for a hand to clamp over his shoulder. Nausea spun Hidan's vision as he thought back to those days in his early childhood, where his father would roll up his sleeves and gift him that disparaging glare; and his stomach churned as his muscles reacted to the memorized wounds that once embellished his flesh.
He didn't want to be like that—like his father.
He didn't want to grow into some alcoholic that beat up his wife every now and then, or end up as a compulsive gambler who couldn't even remember his kid's birthday, but Hidan admitted he loved to drink. Drinking added confidence to his persona—it was what gave him the edge he so boldly displayed; and it scared him because he knew he'd be just like the man who stalked him from around the corner.
Hidan wasn't sure when he arrived at the arcade but he was thankful when he heard the annoying electronic pings of the surrounding games. "Hidan…?" Kakuzu pushed away from the Pacman game he had leant against and sauntered over towards his cousin. There was a certain rush behind his steps—so inconspicuously hidden that one would have thought him to be absolutely apathetic—and when he was close, Kakuzu pulled Hidan into a tight embrace. They didn't speak; not now when there was so much to say; it was a special moment that rarely happened in natural light and even rarer to be displayed to the public eye, but it was necessary. Hidan didn't know when he had started crying and frankly he didn't care.
"No one cares about you, Hidan. Nobody cares about what you do. No one cares."
His father said that to him at fifteen years old, when he left to live with his aunt. That admission haunted him, and probably always will, but deep down Hidan knew it wasn't completely true. Kakuzu always acted cold and indifferent, but he knew it was out of love.
Normal POV—3 PM Friday June 26, 2013—Ocean Avenue & Timberhill;
The Boardwalk; Akatsuki Arcade
The annoying page of the crossing light rang out against the afternoon's casual song; Madara and Sasori crossed and blended into the crowd of surfers and skaters that meandered passed, their conversation nearly drowned out by the multitude of voices that rebelled against them. Madara could still smell the residue of Sasori's bowl even from their stretched out distance, and whatever it was Sasori bought, he needed to get. They had shared a bowl earlier out of a display of amicability, but the Uchiha new better than to assume that the redhead actually wanted him around. Sasori made it very clear that he was only befriending him out of mutual benefit.
The arcade's door was open to filter out the stuffiness of the midsummer heat, and even with the interior darkness Madara could see his friends lounging about. Hidan and Konan were the closest, as they took refuge at a nearby Tekken game, while Tobi and Izuna were chatting over fries and chips over by the Shootout system; he just assumed the others were somewhere in the back. When they entered, everyone within proximity turned their stares towards them—all stink eyes just for show—and only Kakuzu seemed amused at Sasori's apathetic slouch. "What's up, Sasori," he greeted with an outstretched fist. Sasori brushed his knuckles against the offered fist then gave a lethargic wave to Hidan and Konan.
"Who else is here," Madara asked as he gave his own hand-greetings. "Don't tell me it's just you fuckers." He paused, smiling as Konan threw him a dark look. "And Konan."
Hidan jerked his chin towards the back of the populated arcade, "Itachi, Deidara and Zetsu are somewhere back there. Everyone else is MIA."
"C'mon," Madara grunted as he led Sasori further, "Gotta say what's up to everyone." Sasori followed without much of a fight in rebellion, instead opting to read over the many games that were scattered throughout the room; there were games from the older years and the current ones, pinball machines and first-person shooters—an eclectic collection of games that could keep any person busy for a wild stint. The familiar voices of Deidara and Itachi played over the electronic keys of the surrounding games, and an odd sensation of apprehension curled around Sasori's heart as he thought about what it was they may have had to say to him; when did he begin to care? They were behind a first person shooter, snickering and enjoying their time without much care for the world around them, but when they noticed Sasori and Madara's reflections in the mirror, they both gifted a less than enthusiastic "what's up?"
"Just chilling," Madara replied, then slung an arm around the redhead's shoulders despite the glare he received. "This is Sasori; he's going to chill with us for a while."
Deidara acknowledged him rather indifferently, while Itachi bothered himself to murmur his own sort of welcome; the atmosphere was less than comfortable for some reason or another, so Sasori walked off towards a pinball machine near the back of the room as soon as Madara walked away. Itachi noticed the timidity that Sasori attempted to hide away, and jabbed his elbow into Deidara's side to capture the blonde's attention. "What," Deidara snapped.
"Apologize," Itachi ordered. "We can't go on in bad terms." When Deidara sneered in dismissal and turned his stare on towards the game, Madara shoved him away and snatched the blue gun from Deidara's grip; Deidara glared at first, but said nothing when he realized neither teen would care to notice. Sighing, he turned away and crossed the arcade in the half-hearted search for the redhead. It took a while, and Deidara spent the passing minutes to gather what it was he had to say—because he really didn't know how to apologize—but when he found Sasori chattering away with Zetsu, he spent a bit longer hiding behind another game and gathering his breath.
Finally, he steeled his nerves and revealed himself. "Hey Sasori, can I talk to you?"
At the sound his name, Sasori glanced away from the glass to gift his full attention; Deidara was leaning on some counsel a foot or so away, with his arms crossed and his chin arrogantly bucked, and he played with his lip ring with his tongue. Apprehension made Sasori hesitate for just a moment, but seeing the steel behind Deidara's steady stare made his wariness dither. He gifted a nod, muttering to Zetsu about something Deidara couldn't quite hear, then the two sauntered into the warmth of the outside sun. "What's up," Sasori asked as he leant against the wall.
Deidara dropped into the bench across from the redhead then fished a box of cigarettes from his pockets; he offered one to Sasori and tossed off the lighter to spark, then lit his own. He took a breath—something to steady his nerves and tether him to his thoughts—and he said, "I want to apologize for what happened back at the warehouse, yeah."
Amused and somewhat staggered, Sasori quirked a brow. "Yeah?"
"Yeah, I shouldn't have done that to your sister. It's nothing personal against you or her, or anything. It was just uh—heat of the moment." He met Sasori's eyes to reveal the guilt he held, careful to withhold any hint of his stress, and he said, "And I didn't think she'd get covered in that guy's tray. That part was an accident. I'm sorry, man. Are we cool, yeah?"
"Yeah, we're cool," Sasori admitted; a smirk stretched about his handsome features then, accentuating the eternal beauty he was lucky to own as he went on, "But you need to apologize to my sister, first. I don't think she'll be as accepting as I am."
Although Deidara dreaded the idea of a second apology, a part of him seemed to lift from his back and shoulders, making him want to grin out of joy. So despite himself, he nodded and amicably punched Sasori's shoulder. "For sure. I got it."
I'm so sorry for being late in this chapter.
I had it typed out, but I added new parts so I struggled a bit.
Then I started getting ideas for
my other/future stories and I had to write them out before
I forgot about them—it was a mess.
But I've got things sorted, and I know how I want to start the next chapter
so it shouldn't be too long after I update The Making of Legends
for the next chapter. Although, I am struggling with TMOL.
Nonetheless, I'll be working diligently on both stories,
and I'll keep you all updated on our FB page.
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This chapter title was inspired by the song In Bloom by Nirvana.