Authoress: Mistress Krane
Summary: They met in a flurry of limbs, curses, and spilled coffee. She offered to replace his drink, and he couldn't help but feel like everything was a bit backwards. modern AU, DeiSaku
Disclaimer:I do not own Naruto, it belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
A/N: My first DeiSaku. 'Nuff said. (for now.)
Running errands for Sasori was the last thing he wanted to do on a Saturday morning.
Deidara sighed irritably, huddling further into his jacket as a particularly frigid burst of wind blew past. The streets were crowded despite the weather as he continued to make his way toward the nearest newspaper stand. Coming to a halt before the booth, he scanned the various newspaper editions briefly. Indifferent azure eyes eventually landed upon the national newspaper of his business partner's preference, and he wasted no time in collecting the paper and handing the standard fee to the salesman.
"Tch. Damned Uchiha," he mumbled, catching sight of the bold headline announcing yet another accomplishment of his close friend and acclaimed rival from high school. "The rich just keep getting richer."
Not that he had much room to talk. Being a successful artist himself as well as the proud co-owner of a thriving art studio along with his partner and fellow artist Akasuna no Sasori from high school, he was pretty well off. He was living his dream, and he earned quite enough to live comfortably.
But still. If he was well off, the Uchiha bastard was filthy rich.
Deidara snorted once, shoving the paper into his messenger bag; well damn, the thing was actually useful for something. Not that Sasori would be hearing that from him anytime soon. He continued walking at a brisk pace.
A few blocks away from the newspaper kiosk stood the town's public library. Under normal circumstances this would be among the last places one would think to find the blonde artist but today, as per orders, research documents of the utmost necessity needed to be picked up. Deidara wasted no time in climbing the steps and pushing through the glass doors into the lobby. But instead of the expected scent of musky books and rotting wood that normally accompanied libraries, an entirely different and infinitely more pleasant smell assaulted his senses.
Hope and disbelief colored his emerging grin as he followed the trail of the bitter aroma. Rounding the corner, blonde half-ponytail practically flying behind him, Deidara suddenly found himself nearly ramming into another man's back. His reflexes barely managed to help him avoid pissing off a small crowd of people.
Before he could demand to know why the hell they were all just standing in the middle of a perfectly open area, he pieced together a most disgruntling sight.
No more than ten feet away was a coffee stand, and all of these people were evidently in line to get some.
"Fuck," he hissed, eyeing the winding line venomously. His glare held steady for a few moments as he debated silently with himself over whether or not he was willing to wait so long for a drink. Logically, necessity ruled over personal preference. His short patience didn't factor in at all. Damn.
Before he could change his mind, Deidara turned on his heel and strode back to the library archives. His already foul mood worsened considerably when he got lost twice on his way to the information desk and again trying to find the apparent document keeper station.
The old woman's frigid reception and apparent ineptitude in finding the specified documents almost sent him over the edge as he was forced to wait for her to locate and gather his requested items. By the time the whole ordeal was over and done with, the ill-tempered artist's hands were itching to crush something.
Deidara managed a terse 'thank you' to the woman before he stalked out of the archives. Reaching the lobby once again, his steps faltered as a sudden thought popped into his head. Was the line for the coffee any shorter?
He dare not hope.
Still, soon enough he found himself rounding the very same corner from before. He almost couldn't bear to look, but when his mind finally seemed to register that somehow the line had almost completely cleared, his expression brightened considerably.
Mind made up in a heartbeat, Deidara moved to stand in the three-person line with an excited grin. It was almost criminal how quickly his mood could swing from agitated to almost giddy in the span of a few seconds at the promise of caffeine. The counter arrived soon enough.
"Can I get a tall cup of café au lait with an extra shot of espresso?" Deidara reached into his messenger bag and almost grimaced at the reminder of his unfinished errands. He pulled out the required cash. "Actually, make that two, yeah."
"I'll get that for you right away." The cashier replied politely, accepting the payment and scurrying off to prepare the order.
This time around the wait was almost unbearable. He figured that his persistent glances directed at the working employee were becoming unnerving – the longer he watched, the faster he moved.
"One tall cup of café au lait, two shots of espresso. I apologize for the wait." He seemed a little flustered, as if he were waiting for Deidara to go off at any second. The job must be hell.
Feeling guilty, the blonde attempted a reassuring smile as he accepted the drink. "Thanks, un."
A nod and short wave later and Deidara was on his way out of the library in a decidedly more cheerful mood. Newly acquired coffee in one hand, he absently shouldered his way out the door. The weight of his messenger bag reminded him that it would be a good idea to put away the documents for safekeeping and so, with steady hands, he easily slipped open the flap and slid the papers inside.
Azure eyes sufficiently occupied on the task of refastening the strap didn't notice the rapidly approaching flight of stairs. Therefore, it seemed appropriate that just as he finally raised the cup of coffee to his lips for a sip, the blonde overstepped.
The sudden lack of stability caught his notice just in time for him to realize that oh shit, he was about to fall down a flight of stairs.
Then, his panicked mind registered something obnoxiously pink in his line of vision and he couldn't help but hope that maybe it would catch him and prevent his impending face-plant.
Instead, quite contrary to his wishes, Deidara detected no resistance whatsoever as he slammed into the pink thing—that just so happened to be a person—with full force, cursing, as gravity sent both of them tumbling down the stairs. He felt himself land on the person with a dull thud, and couldn't withhold a wince at the impact.
Shaking off the shock of the fall, the first thing that immediately captured the blonde artist's attention was a pair of the brightest emerald eyes he had ever seen. The twin pools of viridian stared at him, slightly widened, on a backdrop of unblemished ivory skin and cheeks slightly rosy from the cold. A halo of the long, coral-colored hair he had caught a glimpse of earlier surrounded her heart-shaped face. It was literally as if a stunning, brilliant splash of color had crashed into him headfirst.
Deidara could only stare.
"You're kind of heavy." The woman pointed this out to him after a few moments of weighted silence, sounding slightly embarrassed.
He started at her quiet statement, scrambling to move off of her petite form. Offering her a hand that she gratefully accepted, he pulled her upright with little difficulty.
"Thank you." She smiled, and he couldn't help but feel like a complete idiot as he could only nod at her silently. Much to his growing bewilderment, she then proceeded to bend over and retrieve his fallen messenger bag and hand it to him. "I sure made a mess of things, didn't I? I'm sorry."
…Had he just imagined bowling her over a few seconds ago?
This woman was acting like the whole incident was her fault. He would've laughed at the situation if his vocal chords hadn't chosen that moment to die on him. Something on the ground suddenly caught her attention and, intrigued, his gaze followed after hers in an instant. His fallen cup of coffee lay on the ground, the light brown liquid seeping onto the concrete. A humorless smirk quirked the corner of his lips; he hadn't even gotten a taste of it.
"You dropped your drink when you fell, didn't you? And it looks almost full," she noted ruefully.
It sounded almost like she was apologizing again, and this time he managed a small chuckle.
"It's fine, yeah. No sense crying over spilled milk." Deidara declared airily, finding some of his voice and humor again. She glanced at him curiously.
"In this case wouldn't it be, spilled coffee?" she inquired, the smallest of smirks appearing on her lips to match his.
He eyed her once, raising a brow. "It was café au lait." He shrugged. "Close enough, hmm?"
"I can't disagree with that." Her eyes seemed to smile at him as she attempted to smooth her ruffled clothes, to no avail. He couldn't help but notice how her dark red coat accented her bright pink hair.
She observed his person for a moment and trained her gaze on his messenger bag. Gesturing to the library, she asked lightly, "Are you just running some errands?"
"I'm picking up a few things for a friend." Deidara confessed casually, readjusting the shoulder strap of his bag. He studied her person in return and noted her relative lack of a purse or carrier. "And you? Taking a walk around town or something?"
"Or something. I was actually just coming by the library for some light reading," she replied. Seeming to catch sight of his expression of disbelief, she smiled knowingly. "Yes, there are still people who read in their spare time."
He shook his head incredulously. "You don't seem like the type, yeah."
The pink-haired woman's interest seemed particularly piqued at the comment. "What do you mean by that?"
Deidara smirked, wondering how she would react if he told her straight out that it was because girls as attractive as her were better off spending their time elsewhere. Before he could find out, he felt his phone vibrate insistently in his pocket.
Distinctly irritated at having his conversation interrupted but knowing that it may be important, Deidara mumbled a small apology as he pulled out his phone. The message was from Sasori-danna.
Deidara-baka, I need those documents. Get your ass back to the studio and stop screwing around.
Gritting his teeth in annoyance, Deidara shoved his phone back into place. A string of obscenities leaked from his mouth.
"I'm guessing it wasn't good news?" The amused question abruptly stopped the blonde's cursing as he remembered that she was still standing in front of him. He shook his head once.
"I have to get back to that friend." He didn't think she missed his dripping sarcasm.
She hummed in understanding, smiling. "I get it. My best friend is like that. She can be a bit…much. You remind me of her, actually." Deidara figured that his quiet offense at being compared to a female showed on his face, because she suddenly rushed to reassure him. "I-I meant that your attitude reminds me of her, not that it's a bad thing. Although you two look very similar…b-but I'm not trying to say that you look feminine – you look very masculine, as a matter of fact."
He couldn't help thinking that the sight of her blushing and stuttering was almost adorable, before pushing the very unmanly thought away. His pride was already stinging a little.
"Don't worry about it, yeah. I get what you were going for." Unable to resist, the blonde wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "But you really think I'm 'very masculine,' hmm?"
She flushed a deeper red in response, reaching over to shove him lightly in the shoulder when he started to laugh at her. "Shut up."
Deidara continued to grin at her until another vibration from his phone had him checking his messages once again. Sasori was getting impatient; the bastard had always hated waiting.
"I should probably get going," he sighed. "Sorry again about knocking you over out of nowhere, un."
"I really should've been watching where I was going, so there's no need to apologize," she assured him hurriedly. How she had managed to convince herself that this was her fault, he would never know. She raised her hand in a small wave. "Have a nice afternoon."
"Likewise." He smirked as he turned to walk away.
A sense of dissatisfaction overcame him as his steps carried him further away from the library and the woman. It was just guilt, he told himself. Guilt that he had caused her so much trouble, and now he was just leaving without making proper amends, nothing more.
Not disappointment. No. That would indicate more than an aloof interest in the whole situation.
He felt his heart lurch almost imperceptibly. (Out of surprise, he told himself fiercely.) Deidara turned to see her jogging toward him, long pink hair fanning out behind her. She stumbled to a halt in front of him.
"Yeah?" he asked, hoping he sounded casual.
"Do you want to get together sometime, maybe over a cup of coffee?" she asked, words rushed and breathless. Her cheeks were darkening rapidly. "I'd like to replace that café au lait that was spilled."
Deidara stiffened in surprise. What the hell? A small voice in the back of his head was telling him that something about this scenario was hopelessly backwards. Last he'd checked, the guy was the one who was supposed to ask out the girls and all that shit.
A moment of strained silence flitted between them before he felt a devilish smirk tugging at his lips.
"I'm sure I'll be able to find a few minutes to spare."
She nearly wilted with relief at his affirmation. He felt his smirk kick up a notch.
They exchanged phones and entered their respective contact information. He navigated through to find her contacts page and noted the blunt and practical layout of her phone: the default wallpaper and settings remained untouched. Only a few numbers on the speed dial were set, enough for family members and one or two close friends, if even. Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to feel surprised in the least.
Once the devices were returned to the hands of their owners, the two skimmed through the new information. Her name suited her, and he had to bite his tongue to refrain from mentioning so. She'd probably heard the comment enough times to parade around bald just to shut everyone up about it.
"Iwa-san?" The woman—Haruno Sakura—was smiling at him like she had just received a very pleasant surprise. A similar smile was quick to form on his lips as well.
"Need anything else Haruno-san?" he asked easily.
The quiet click of a camera shutter and the angle of her phone told him at once that she had just taken his picture. Surprise jolted through him as she began to laugh softly to herself but, grinning, he angled his phone in retaliation.
"I'm sorry, but I just wanted to – oh!" She cut off with a small squeak at the sound of his camera shutter before shooting him a glance of mock indignation. "Hey!"
"Payback, hmm," was his almost arrogant response as he saved the picture under her contact listing.
Sakura shook her head with a faint smile, tucking her phone back into her coat pocket. She stuck out her hand to him expectantly. "It was nice meeting you, Iwa-san."
"Nice meeting you too, Haruno-san." Deidara took her hand in a firm shake and offered her a smirk. "See you around, yeah?"
Her responding smile brightened her features in a way that left him staring at her once again. "Definitely."
Deidara remained unmoving as he watched her saunter back in the direction of the library. It wasn't until a familiar vibration from his pocket refocused his attention that he realized just what he was doing, and he scowled. He could hear Sasori-danna now.
I know it's impossible. But stop being an idiot. You're wasting your time. Get back to the studio.
This time, he found himself agreeing completely. Hailing the next taxi and sliding inside, he found himself feeling restless as the cab slid into motion.
"He's kind of like, really hot, Forehead." Evidently, Ino had found the picture of him.
How the situation managed to deteriorate to this level, Sakura really didn't have a clue. A casual conversation with Ino during her lunch break had touched on the topic of her most recent trip to the library earlier in the week, and the passing mention of her run-in with a certain blonde-haired stranger suddenly found her phonejacked.
"I mean, forget that he obviously knows his way around the wardrobe and that he must have a brilliant hair stylist," the platinum blonde continued with a practiced hair flip. "But that smirk of his screams sexy and mysterious with just a touch of cocky. Just your type."
"That is not my type, Pig." She conveniently chose to ignore the image of Gaara and even Sasuke at a certain point in time that flashed in her mind's eye.
"Right. You claim to like them intelligent and dull," Ino declared with a disbelieving cluck of her tongue. She tapped the cellphone with a perfectly manicured indigo fingernail. "This hottie looks clever, and anything but dull."
Sakura snatched back her phone before her best friend could get any more ideas. "You haven't even met him."
"I call them like I see them," she shrugged. "And this one looks like a fine specimen."
Casually, Sakura allowed the picture an appraising once-over. Iwa Deidara was admittedly handsome with his solid build, chiseled features, sparkling azure eyes, and lopsided half smirk that reeked of arrogance and a hint of mystery like Ino had pointed out. He seemed just a few years older than her, which really shouldn't mean much to her twenty three years, but the age lent a certain air of maturity to his profile.
"You're realizing how hot he is, aren't you? You're blushing."
Sakura simply glared when she realized that her cheeks did feel warmer, and that Ino was right. With visible consternation, she managed, "He's attractive."
Ino grinned, leaning forward conspiratorially. "So when are you and Mr. Attractive meeting up again?"
"I don't know. We didn't really talk about it." She didn't have to look up to know that her companion was watching her with a scowl of doubt.
"So he just came out and asked you for your number and didn't mention meeting up again?" Ino's voice was colored with skepticism.
The lining on the restaurant's tablecloth suddenly developed a fascinating pattern. Sakura took to tracing it with her eyes. The answer was far from forthcoming, eventually emerging as a mumble.
"Sakura." Her best friend's voice was bordering on menacing.
"I was actually the one who asked for his number," she admitted, not raising her gaze.
Silence from her normally brazen friend greeted her proclamation. Sakura wondered briefly if Ino had fainted in a dramatic show of her professional modeling talents, and made mental escape plans accordingly.
Ino's impending screech managed to jolt the nearest patrons of the restaurant a few inches out of their seats.
"What the hell?" Ignoring the pointed stares sent in her direction, the roused blonde slammed her hands on the table and leaned closer to her unruffled, pink-haired companion. "You're supposed to be the smart one, remember? Did you somehow manage to forget the laws of social propriety?"
"Calm down Ino. You're scaring the other customers," Sakura felt the need to point out.
"Men ask us for our numbers, and we as women hold the power to make or crush them," Ino continued as if she hadn't heard the warning. Her words sounded almost rehearsed, and Sakura suspected that they came from either a fashion magazine or from her friend's set of core beliefs in life. She was willing to bet on the latter.
"You're making it sound like I committed a felony."
"That's because you did," she hissed acidly. "A capital crime against femininity."
The term 'overreaction' didn't seem to exist in Yamanaka Ino's vocabulary, but Sakura was just thankful that she was finally lowering her voice. Trying not to say anything that could potentially set off another rant, she leaned back in her seat and pursed her lips. She spoke slowly.
"It's not like I did it for no reason."
Ino didn't appear convinced. "And? The reason?"
Sakura just shrugged. "I owe him a cup of café au lait."
The blonde groaned in response, throwing up her hands in exasperation.
"You don't owe him anything. From what you've told me, the whole thing was an accident," she snapped. "You're doing it again, Sakura."
"Doing what?" she asked with a roll of her eyes.
An accusing finger was pointed in her direction. "You take responsibility for things that aren't yours to be taken responsibility for."
Sakura didn't say anything in response, knowing deep down that Ino had a point; she knew her better than anyone else, after all. But she couldn't bring herself to be bothered by it. She felt an innate need to meet up with this guy again, and she had learned long ago to listen to her gut.
As if sensing the direction of her thoughts, Ino let out a small sigh. "Well," she began in utter seriousness. "I can forgive you this time. But only because he's so hot that any law applied to him is automatically broken. He is one sexy convict for life."
Sakura released a snort of laughter at the completely outrageous statement, and Ino cracked a smile before giggling along with her. The conversation took on a much lighter tone afterwards, switching topics over to sharing work news.
The Tokyo branch of Ino's photoshoot was wrapping up at the end of the week, so she would be shipping off to Hokkaido soon for the next series. She and Shikamaru had already had already made plans to spend the weekend together, which was pretty impressive in itself considering the number of hours the Nara worked as a military strategist.
Nothing exciting had happened at the hospital lately per se, but Sakura reminded herself that a relative lack of activity in the hospital was always a good thing. Tsunade had her hands full with a new batch of trainees, and Shizune was busy picking up some of the paperwork that was beginning to pile. Some of them were assigned to her for observance rotations, but other than that her routine remained the same.
"So what about your pair of watchdogs? Anything new with them?" Ino asked expectantly, raising her eyebrows.
"They're the same as always." Sakura replied with an affectionate shake of her head. "Tsunade-sama always gets on to Naruto-kun about being too loud in the hospital, and Sasuke-kun just glares at the nurses whenever he drops by with bentos from the Akimichi's stand downtown."
"Sounds like they have a lot of free time nowadays," she said almost inquiringly, taking a bite from her half eaten salad.
"Jaraiya-san is getting a little looser with Naruto-kun's hours managing the restaurant. He can't stay away from ramen for very long regardless." She paused thoughtfully, smiling at her friend's success. Naruto had finally found a job that he loved, with someone who was practically family to the Uzumakis. With his friendly and cheerful disposition a long list of loyal customers was building up quickly, and she couldn't be happier for him.
"And Sasuke? I'm surprised he has any time to spare, really," Ino commented blithely. "I hear the CEO runs them ragged over there with all that business work."
"Fugaku-san isn't that bad," Sakura insisted wryly. "Actually, he's been helping Itachi-san with a few of the finer details in securing the ropes for his most recent promotion. Itachi-san is providing Sasuke with a little breathing room for the timebeing."
Ino accepted the information with a nod. "Those two still manage to make time for you. It's kind of cute," she said offhandedly, waving over the check. "Save for the idiocy and overprotection."
"My self-proclaimed protectors," Sakura agreed with a small laugh. Though she was perfectly capable of looking out for herself, their concern never failed to touch her and irritate her at the same time. They'd been through everything though, and she loved them.
"I'd keep that info about the blonde hottie to yourself if I were you," Ino advised, tossing money on the check and grabbing her purse to stand. Sakura followed suit.
"There's nothing to keep quiet about, Pig."
Ino shot her a condescending look as they left the restaurant door behind them. A particularly sharp bite of wind ripped through the streets as they clambered into the Yamanaka's dark violet Porsche.
"We both know that those two will be howling for blood at the mention of anything that even remotely sounds like it has balls attached to it," she declared frankly as she moved to turn on the car and turn up the heater. "Don't even try to deny it."
"I wasn't about to." Her reply was immediate. "I'm just saying it's nothing to worry about."
Clearly still not believing her, Ino was quiet for a few moments as she pulled out of the parking lot.
"Just take my advice Sakura. Don't mention it. I won't be here to bail you out." The gruff concern made Sakura smile.
"I'm just going to get coffee with the guy once. It's no big deal," she assured her. But the words seemed to hold a telling note of falsity to them that she couldn't explain nor deny. So when Ino replied with a doubtful 'If you say so,' she couldn't help feeling a little uneasy.
Sympathizing with doubts about her own rational was never a good thing.
Deidara frowned, adding pressure to his practiced strokes. The edges there needed to be smoother. The features needed to be sharper. Texture needed to be added at that angle. Depth needed to be added at that one. Hours blended together, with the only indication of time's passing evident in the growing stiffness of his muscles.
Stretching, the blonde artist moved to pop his joints slowly. A wide grin reached to pop his jaw with a satisfying crack, and he promptly collapsed to the floor with a sigh.
He had finally gotten back into the swing of things after the initial three days following his encounter with one Haruno Sakura – three days filled with almost obsessive recreations of the vibrant hues of emerald and soft coral that had plagued his mind, with the canvas acting as his medium. Sasori, long used to such frequent explosions of sudden passion from his partner and friend, merely refrained from comment and allowed him to work relatively undisturbed during the time.
Well, it was done now and out of his system.
Presently his latest clay creation was in the making, and he could feel in his bones that it was a masterpiece waiting to happen. Adrenaline rushed through him at the thought and, inspired, he pushed himself up from the ground. His hands were just reaching the clay when a dry and all-too familiar voice rang through the studio.
"Looks like someone's hard at work. Although you skipped dinner. And lunch."
Deidara's stomach released a deafening growl at the mention of food. The pang of hunger was impossible to resist, and he stepped away from his sculpture with a scowl. "I'll be down in a second, yeah."
Sasori nodded once, expression bland. "Kisame and Hidan will be ecstatic."
Perfect. They had company over.
Deidara moved to rinse down his arms in the sink before following his redheaded companion to the stairs. He hadn't seen the two in quite some time, but when he caught sight of his old friends from high school sitting on the gallery room floor arguing amongst half-eaten takeout containers, he figured that they hadn't changed all that much.
"Ponytail finally decides to join us. About fucking time." Hidan sat up fully to look him over. "Looking gayer than usual today. New conditioner?"
"They let you out of the convent early this year, hmm?" Deidara shot back, jaw already ticking in irritation. "Or did fucking Jashin finally decide he's better off without you?"
"Shut the fuck up. You have no right to talk about Jashin-sama, heathen."
"Settle down kids," Kisame chuckled, offering Deidara a container of semi-warm Chinese food as he took a seat beside him on the floor. "Especially you, Hidan. We're going to be staying here for a little while, after all."
The chopsticks froze centimeters from Deidara's mouth as he glanced at them in disbelief. "How long are you guys in town for?"
"A few weeks, a month tops." Kisame informed him thoughtfully.
"Business must be booming." Sasori commented quietly.
"Kakuzu is handling things back in Chugoku, so he sent us up here to deal with some unfinished business." The shark-like man's grin was positively menacing.
Hidan began to cackle. "Those bitches won't know what hit them."
Deidara eyed the pair dubiously, slowly sipping up another string of noodles. His stomach was still achingly empty, but he knew from experience that eating too quickly would result in killer pains later. "I'm guessing Kakuzu didn't bother shoving out for any housing expenses, yeah."
Hidan shook his head disgustedly. "Cheap bastard handed us some coupons for some fucked up hellhole downtown."
"We'll handle the food and transport costs," Kisame hurried to assure them. "We were just hoping we could crash here."
Deidara and Sasori exchanged a contemplative look. Although Hidan was going to be a handful, if all they needed was a roof over their heads they could hardly turn their longtime friends away.
Deidara shrugged. "That's fine with me. Sasori-danna?"
"You're free to stay as long as you need. Just be sure to make yourselves…scarce when the situation calls for it." Translation: If anyone else is in the building, be out of sight. Hidan just laid out flat on his back with a laugh as Kisame breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thanks guys." He sounded genuinely grateful, but it seemed that the same couldn't exactly be said about his silver-haired partner. For his part, Hidan responded with a solid belch.
The containers were emptied within the hour. Kisame took to inspecting the various works of art set out for general display after the late dinner, occasionally shouting out whatever comment or question came to mind. Sasori went to join him after a while and Deidara, not feeling up to joining them, remained unmoving from his spot beside Hidan. They sat in silence.
"Let me see your phone," Hidan said suddenly, gesturing expectantly with his hand.
Deidara was instantly suspicious. "Why?"
He received a scowl in reply. "Don't be a pussy. Tunaroll and I will be here for a month, so I'm going to have to fucking call you or Akasuna at some point." The argument sounded rational enough, but coming from the overzealous Jashinist he couldn't be completely sure. Hidan rolled his eyes. "Just give me your damn phone."
Deidara silently questioned the wisdom of such an act before almost sullenly handing over the device.
"About time, bitch. Oh hell…what's up with the pansy-ass background? And this font is damn tiny."
"Did you two leave your luggage in the car?" Deidara interrupted quickly. "I can go down and get it for you, un." Anything to get away from his bitching.
Hidan looked up from the screen with a self-satisfied smirk. Probably planned on being an annoying asshole just to steal his phone and find a sucker to carry up his bags, but Deidara was beyond caring. He needed some air.
"Silver Bugatti Veyron, parked in the closest spot to the entrance. Can't miss it." Hidan tossed him the keys, and Deidara almost dropped them in surprise. "Don't fuck it up. I could get another one, but insurance will be a pain in the ass."
Hearing the cost of replacing a brand new Bugatti and a hell of an increase of insurance being jointly referred to as a 'pain in the ass' instead of 'death by debt' gave Deidara a fresh perspective on just how rich his friends had become. It was almost enough to score Hidan some serious respect points in his book. But not quite.
The walk down to the studio parking lot was filled with the anticipation that only came with an encounter with a truly beautiful vehicle. As soon as his eyes landed on the vehicle in question, he felt his breath escape him. Forcing his legs to move he allowed himself a single caress of the sleek, untouched paint job as he walked to the rear to pop the trunk.
Hurrying to unload the suitcases, Deidara fled the garage before he could do anything illegal and stupid. He carried the bags up the stairs and shoved the door open with his shoulder.
"You tapping that?" Hidan leaned over with a sharp grin. He, Kisame, and Sasori were gathered together on the ground.
Deidara looked at him with confusion until he noticed the small phone clutched in his hand. Anger flooded through him. "None of your damn business."
"She's a cute little thing," Kisame commented slyly. He didn't seem at all embarrassed to have referred to anything as 'cute.' "But pink hair?"
If there was any doubt about who they were referring to, it disappeared with that statement. Deidara moved to snatch his phone back, to no avail. Hidan chuckled madly.
"She's one hot bitch. How'd you manage that?" He looked over to Sasori. "Pink and red. She your sister?"
Sasori leveled him with a glare. "No. I have no siblings."
"You're a fucking idiot," Kisame grunted. He pulled Deidara down into a friendly headlock. "I'm sure he's managed just fine on his own. How long's it been?"
Deidara attempted to break free from the hold but Kisame held steady. "We're not together. I've only talked to her once, and that was a week ago." He looked up in surprise when Kisame released him abruptly. His phone was being waved in his face a second later and Sakura's picture flashed on the vibrating screen. Speak of the devil.
"If you're not going to answer I'll talk to the bitch, seriously." Hidan's all too willing comment thawed his unresponsive arm.
Attempting to clear his suddenly dry throat, Deidara clicked answer. "Hello?"
"Iwa-san?" Sakura's voice rang clearly on the other end of the line. She sounded tired. "I'm sorry to bother you so late."
A brief glance at the clock told him that it was a quarter past midnight. Not late, for someone who pulled all-nighters on a regular basis. "Don't worry about it. What's up, yeah?"
She sighed quietly. "I know the timing isn't the greatest, but would you like to go grab that cup of coffee?"
"Café au lait." He couldn't help correcting her.
She laughed, and he was glad that he had. "Yeah, that."
"Got a place in mind?" He ignored the suggestive nudges and snickers coming from his eavesdroppers. "The library's closed, by the way. In case you had any brilliant ideas."
"Well there goes my plan A." He could hear her smile through the phone. "How about that diner on Yoyogi, across from JR Tokyo General Hospital?"
Deidara briefly mapped out the route in his head. "I'll meet you there in fifteen."
"I bet I can beat you there." There was a twinge of wry amusement to the declaration.
Never one to back down from a challenge but suspicious from her tone, he cautiously asked, "What side of the city do you live in?"
"Far east," she replied. The amusement had kicked up another notch. If she really did live on the far east side of town she lived pretty damn close to the studio. It would be a close race.
Unless he had a really fast car. He smirked arrogantly. "You're on, hmm."
She laughed, bright and full. "See you there."
The line clicked off. Deidara immediately turned to Hidan.
"I'm borrowing your car, yeah."
Sakura smiled to herself, setting her phone down on her desk. Really, what she had done was just terrible and unfair and she didn't know what had possessed her to do it. She blamed it on the long shift.
"Who was that?" Sakura turned to find her supervisor and close friend, Shizune, standing in the doorway.
"No one that needs mentioning," the young doctor replied dismissively.
Shizune raised a brow. "Yes, because smiles like that come from your love for paperwork."
Sakura worked to clear the incriminating smile from her face. "I don't know what you're talking about, Shizune-san."
Her supervisor shook her head at the weak denial, adopting a sly smile of her own. "Is it a guy?"
"Maybe." Sakura moved about picking up her jacket and wallet. She was aware that her movements were being closely scrutinized, and she refrained from rolling her eyes. "But like I said, nothing worth mentioning."
"I see." The dark-haired woman made a show of studying her nails innocuously. "Are you going on your break tonight?"
The pinkette suppressed a smile, slipping her jacket over her medical coat with a nod. "I'm going to drop by and visit Asuma-san." Sliding past Shizune and making her way down the whitewashed corridors of the hospital, she was unsurprised to hear her colleague's footsteps trailing after her. They came to a halt at the exit of the wing.
"I'm glad you finally decided to take your break, Sakura-san. You really work too hard." Shizune told her sincerely, smiling.
"So I've been told," she laughed sheepishly, raising a hand in a small wave. "I'll see you in an hour."
The trek to the diner normally took a couple of minutes at most, but the start of a light drizzle spurred her feet into quicker action. With the lack of traffic due to the late hour she was walking into the small establishment sooner than expected. A curt glance around the area confirmed her expected triumph. He wasn't here yet. She allowed herself a small, guilty smile.
"Sakura-san. Didn't expect to see you here." From behind the counter the owner of the humble diner welcomed her with a small wave. His customary cigarette was absent.
"Good evening Asuma-san," Sakura greeted pleasantly, taking a seat on one of the barstools. She looked around to find that she was the only customer in at the moment. "Slow night?"
"Tends to be that way at half past midnight on Tuesdays." He eyed her almost suspiciously. "Speaking of which, shouldn't you be in the middle of your regular shift right about now?"
"I decided to take my break tonight," she replied casually. Asuma's gaze sharpened as he turned to regard her fully.
"What brought on the sudden change of heart?"
In return, the pink-haired doctor offered him her sweetest smile. "I was feeling extremely tired and was hoping to find a cup of iced coffee and pleasant conversation with an old friend."
The older man just smiled to himself, shaking his head as he went to the kitchen to prepare her drink. Her chilled beverage was set in front of her soon enough, but Asuma was walking back to the kitchen before she could thank him properly. She peered at him through the small opening looking in on the cooking area, questioning.
He leaned in her direction, spreading his hands on the stainless steel counter. "Did you want me to make something for your friend as well?"
Surprised, Sakura followed the direction of his gesturing hand to the window where what appeared to be a silver Bugatti Veyron was pulling in front of the restaurant. She barely kept her jaw in place. "We're, um," she faltered momentarily. "Not really friends."
"Not friends, hmm? I'm hurt." The bell tinkled softly as he came inside, wiping the slightly damp ends of his hair in irritation. He paused long enough to raise a brow in her direction. "Looks like I lose."
Sakura smiled sheepishly, standing and taking of her jacket. She showed him her medical coat, complete with her name embroidered over her heart. "And I win."
Deidara walked over to join her, reading the name and taking in the coat with surprise. He laughed in disbelief. "I didn't peg you as a cheater, Haruno-sensei."
Said doctor laughed, her cheeks pinkening guiltily. "I couldn't resist." She moved from the stools to a booth and slid in, gesturing for him to follow suit. He slid in across from her.
"It sounds like something I'd do, yeah." Deidara smirked when his eyes landed on her still-full glass of iced coffee. "I didn't think I was that late getting here though."
Sakura mentally berated herself for being so insensitive. "I'm sorry Iwa-san. It was rude of me not to wait for you." He studied her, appearing to think briefly.
"You apologize too much." His comment was more of an observation than anything, made in that flippant manner that she was learning to expect from him. She might have been irritated, if he wasn't looking at her like that. She fought down the smallest urge to blush.
Deidara smirked at her almost knowingly, but he spared her from his scrutiny by glancing around the diner. He seemed amused by what he saw. "What made you pick this place?" he asked curiously. "Not much to it, hmm."
The diner had been bought by Asuma ten years ago, and having frequented the place through high school and college with Naruto and Sasuke the slightly faded wallpaper and surprisingly tasteful materials for the booths and tables were long familiar and loved. It was well maintained in her opinion. Indignant that he was insulting it, she crossed her arms.
"I have a history with the place," she sniffed. "Sorry that it's not up to your standards, Bugatti Veyron owner." She was being extremely rude, but her tolerance for such insults was immediately thrown out the window.
To her surprise, Deidara started to laugh. A loud, unbridled laugh that left her blinking at him, confused.
"No need to get your panties in a twist, Doc." His grin was positively wicked, stretching when her jaw ticked in annoyance. "I didn't mean it like that. I actually like this place. It's…cozy."
Sakura deflated almost instantly. "What did you mean then?"
"You seem more like the café or coffeehouse type. Don't really scream 'diner', you know?" he replied with a shrug. Amused to hear another supposed category that he had apparently fit her into over the brief span of their acquaintance, Sakura raised a brow.
"Sounds like you think you have me all figured out, with all these types you're pinning on me."
Unabashed, Deidara grinned cockily and leaned back in his seat. He was the picture of relaxed confidence. "I do have you all figured out, yeah."
"I'm guessing you're not including the two mistakes you've already made today?"
Sakura found herself smiling at his bold declaration. Curious to see what he thought he knew about her, she eyed him unbelievingly. "Enlighten me, Iwa-san. What am I like?"
He tapped his chin in thought. "Well first of all, I'm willing to bet that you take your iced coffee straight, nothing extra." Before she could say anything to stop him he was reaching to pull her glass over for a sip. His nose wrinkled in distaste. "And I was right, yeah. I don't know why you like that crap."
She didn't let it show, but she was surprised that he had managed to figure out that much. "How did you know that?"
"I didn't." His eyes met hers, and he smirked. "But you take everything at face value. You don't like adding anything to things that are perfectly usable already."
Sakura stared long and hard at Deidara's smug expression. He was right; spot on, actually. Practicality was her best friend. Not knowing quite what to say in response, she was saved the trouble when Asuma appeared beside the booth. He'd forgone the pen and notepad and stood with his hands shoved loosely in his pockets.
"Can I get you anything?"
The owner's considering stare didn't seem to affect Deidara, who glanced up at him before offering Sakura a grin. Something about his mischievous expression brought a twitch to her lips. "I'll take a cup of café au lait, two shots of espresso."
"Add that to my bill, Asuma-san." At his questioning glance, she shrugged. "I owe him one."
Nodding to the pair with a curious glance at the pinkette, the diner owner returned to the kitchen without a word. Sakura watched him go through the motions for preparing the drink, quick and efficient, before returning to set the cup on the table. He left with a nod.
She looked back at Deidara, but he didn't touch the mug right away. He seemed quite content to just watch her openly. The silence stretched.
"What?" she finally asked, shifting slightly in her seat. She didn't know him very well quite yet but so far he was proving to be particularly unreadable when he tried. He propped his chin in his hand to casually regard her, but his gaze was intent. The stark contrast had her staring.
"You're different, hmm."
The statement was delivered frankly, without ornament. But she got the distinct feeling that he was giving her the highest form of praise in his book. She felt her cheeks darkening and she distracted herself by taking a gulp of her iced coffee. Cool, bitter caffeine slid smoothly down her throat. "You're different too, Iwa-san. You're the only man I've ever met that actually owns a Bugatti Veyron," she confessed with a bubble of slightly nervous laughter.
She expected him to arch a brow or make another comment on her (entirely too readable, evidently) personality but he did no such thing. Much to her surprise, Deidara chuckled sheepishly and his pallor developed a small flush. "It's actually not mine, yeah."
"You stole it?" Sakura asked incredulously. He certainly didn't seem the type, but neither did most rapists and serial killers.
"Of course not!" His voice rose slightly and he looked somewhat offended. Confused, her pink brows knit together.
"You rented a car priced at over one million yen?"
"Hell no! Haruno-san, do I look like I can afford something like that, hmm?" The blonde tugged at his dark tee shirt smeared with what appeared to be clay of some sort. A brief glance beneath the table revealed dark denim bottoms and sneakers tastefully splattered with paint. Sakura slowly shook her head and his almost panicked expression melted into a relieved laugh. "Exactly. I just borrowed it from a friend that's staying with us."
Her interest perked at the notion that he didn't live alone. "Us?"
Deidara nodded. He then proceeded to explain that he was professional artist and co-owner of a successful gallery alongside one Akasuna no Sasori. After having spent countless consecutive nights working tirelessly on their respective projects and such, the duo had come to realize that their apartments had practically been abandoned in favor of the studio. Renovations were made to make their work space inhabitable and they arrived at the perfect solution to their dilemma. They could work, doing what they loved, for however long they wanted without the issues of commuting or additional housing charges to worry about. They had lived there ever since.
"No homo," Deidara clarified immediately. "But the situation works out perfectly for the danna and I. We never have to be away from our art."
Sakura felt a swell of admiration for the man in front of her. That he could be so devoted and fervent about such a thing spoke volumes about his character. "You really love art, don't you?"
His answering grin was bright and genuine and so wide that it became just a little lopsided at the corners. Her heart melted a little. "More than anything, yeah."
They remained that way, talking until the last minutes of her break, and it was the first time she found herself thinking that an hour off just wasn't long enough. She'd learned that there was a lot more to Iwa Deidara than she'd thought; behind his handsome face and quirky humor was a compassionate friend and an artist with unbridled passion for what he did. And there was still so much more.
As Sakura paid a speculative Asuma and made her way back to the blonde waiting by the door with a smirk on his face, she was met with a strong reluctance to part from him. Something in her expression must have given her away – he cut her off just as she opened her mouth to tell him goodbye. But what came out from his mouth was quite random.
"Looks like the rain picked up a bit," he said offhandedly, staring out at the sheets of water pounding the pavement outside. When she didn't respond, confused, he turned to her with a cocked brow. "My car's the only one out front, so I'm assuming you walked from the hospital. Did you bring an umbrella?"
Sakura shook her head, frowning. "No, but the hospital is just across the street. I'll be fine walking back without one."
"You're gonna get soaked, yeah. You'll go back to your shift sopping wet and shivering, and I don't think your superiors or the janitors will be too happy about that." His sudden grin was wicked. "Let me give you a ride."
The thought of turning down a ride in a car that she would probably never see again for the rest of her meager existence was met with immediate mental protest. Sakura viciously shoved said protests off a metaphorical cliff and hoped her polite smile didn't look too pained. "Thanks for the offer, but that won't be necessary. I can take care of myself."
"But you won't be taking care of yourself if you go walking through the freezing rain like that. You could catch a cold or something," Deidara reasoned smartly. He crossed his arms. "I figure you would know this stuff better than anyone, hmm." A pause, and a challenging smirk. "Haruno-sensei."
The pink-haired doctor bristled at the thinly veiled jab. But much as she hated to admit it he had a point, and getting sick just wouldn't do. Her lips thinned. "Fine."
Deidara, unaffected by her snappish reply, chuckled in triumph as he dodged her annoyed sideswipe. He glanced over to the back of the diner where the owner presumably stood and one of his hands, inked with a playful mouth and lolling tongue that she'd caught a glimpse of earlier, emerged from his pocket in a small wave. "Nice meeting you Asuma-san," he offered genially.
Sakura turned, just barely missing a suspicious movement that had a certain bundle of cloth disappearing behind the counter. Azure eyes behind her flashed in unholy amusement as Asuma matched the look with a knowing smirk.
The exchange was lost on the oblivious pinkette, who smiled at her long-time friend. "Have a nice evening Asuma-san. I'll be sure to come back again soon. Be sure to give Kurenai-san my best."
Asuma's smirk softened. "I will. It was nice meeting you Deidara-san." He paused, and became very serious. "Take care of Sakura."
"I will, un."
Deidara's uncharacteristically solemn reply had her turning around to stare at him oddly, only to find that he was turned away to open the door. A strong gust of wind blew the door open roughly and almost-frozen pellets of rain trickled inside. Sakura was suddenly really glad that she hadn't decided to walk through that.
"Come on," Deidara urged, tugging her outside by the arm.
They rushed to the car, and despite the heavy rain Sakura couldn't help but gaze appreciatively at the sleek exterior, awed. Then, much to her surprise, the passenger door was opened and she was gently eased inside by a pair of strong, steady arms. A flash of blonde caught the corner of her eye and she blinked. Had he really just taken the time to open the freaking door for her? Did people still do that?
A few moments later Deidara was sliding into the driver's seat, cursing lowly. With a flick of his wrist the engine roared to life, and he moved to fiddle with the dashboard. "Are you cold? Damn, it's fucking freezing out there." The heater greeted them with a blast of warm air and he sighed in relief, turning to her. "Everything okay on your end?"
Wordlessly, she nodded. A satisfied smile curved his mouth, and he proceeded to run his fingers through his wet hair in irritation, much like earlier.
Unlike earlier, however, her mouth began to go strangely dry at the sight.
His movement drew her attention to his toned arms, and his wet shirt clung to his body in a way that accentuated the flex of his chiseled abs from his subtle shifting. He was all hardened muscle and solid build. She couldn't help wondering how often he worked out to maintain such a healthy physique.
Sakura caught herself, stopping her thoughts with a violent blush. Oh crap, she had totally just been staring. Salivating. Mortified, emerald eyes shot up to find that Deidara had paused midway through his finger combing and was staring at her. He'd caught her ogling.
A slow smirk began to emerge, poignantly amused. Embarrassed couldn't even begin to describe what she was feeling at the moment.
"Like what you see, yeah?" he drawled languidly. He turned to face her fully, bracing his forearms on the small compartment separating them.
Sakura flushed, narrowing her eyes slightly. "I – of course not!"
Deidara's smirk sharpened, becoming darker and more feral. Sexier. His eyes smoldered as he leaned closer and she found that she couldn't move away. Didn't want to move away. Her heart was hammering in her chest.
"You're a bad liar, Sakura." The way he said her name was borderline sinful. A shiver raced down her spine. His irises were darkened to an almost stormy gray. "As for me…" Warm breath mingled with hers as his lips hovered just over her own. "I really like what I see."
His lips connected with hers, and all further thoughts were promptly shoved from her mind.
She tasted both sweet and bitter at the same time. Deidara almost smirked at the irony.
He didn't know why he kissed her – he blamed it on the rain, making her porcelain skin flush like that and filling the car with her distinctively feminine scent of what he could best attribute to peaches and mangoes. Then she'd been staring at him like that…
He was only a man, after all.
Her lips felt like silk against his own even as she remained initially stiff at the sudden move. Surprise faded soon enough when she tentatively pressed back and, encouraged, he lifted a hand to cup her cheek. The contact was short and relatively chaste, but it was enough to send a jolt through his system. A pleasant warmth seeped into his chest.
Not trusting himself to go any further, he forced himself to pull away. Viridian eyes fluttered open, a shade darker. His stomach clenched at the sight.
The sound of his name slipping from her lips almost made him lean back in for another kiss, but he resisted the urge and forced a smirk. "We need to get you back to work, hmm. Plenty of lives to save."
Sakura seemed to remember herself then, and her cheeks pinkened as her gaze cleared. "Oh, right."
The drive to the hospital was almost too short to really be labeled as anything close to awkward. After getting over her initial embarrassment Sakura took to admiring the interior of the Bugatti, asking a few excited questions about the vehicle. He quickly found out that she knew a lot about cars. The fact made her ten times sexier in his eyes.
Soon enough they were pulling up to one of the side doors of the hospital's emergency ward. He eyed the distance from the car to the entrance dubiously, noting with a frown that the rain was still pouring with a vengeance. It was pretty far off. Sakura seemed to realize this as well, and she pursed her lips in thought.
"I should be fine from here. My jacket should be enough to cover for me." She looked around her seat and her eyes widened when she found that it wasn't there. "Where is it? I know I brought it with me."
Deidara vaguely recalled the black bundle of fabric that Asuma had slipped behind the counter back at the diner, and his lips twitched in amusement at the opportunity he'd been handed. Forgetful woman.
"I think you forgot it back at the diner. I'm sure Asuma-san will keep it for you until you drop by again," he told her, rolling his eyes fondly at her horror-stricken expression. He reached into the backseat to retrieve his jacket and threw it on her head with a laugh. "Here. Just borrow mine, yeah."
"Hey!" Rose colored hair and wide emerald eyes peeked out from under the dark material to glare at him. "You've already done enough, Iwa-san." The reverted use of his surname had him frowning.
"Oi." He leaned in closer, enjoying the reemerging blush coming to her cheeks. "What happened to calling me Deidara?"
She puffed her cheeks and averted her eyes. "That kind of thing, doesn't it seem too familiar for us?"
"Nonsense. Come on, say with me Sakura-chan." He teased, the irritated twitch of her lip lost on him. "Dei-da-ra. Feel free to add the –kun if you like."
"Stop being childish." Her smile sucked away any bite thrown behind the reprimand. She consented halfway. "Deidara-san."
The blonde artist decided that it wasn't enough. Smirking, he playfully brushed his nose against hers. Their gazes connected. "Would another kiss make us familiar enough to drop the –san, hmm?"
Unexpectedly, an inviting smirk flitted across Sakura's visage. For a moment he thought she was actually going to throw caution to the wind and kiss him.
But that just wasn't her style.
She promptly shattered any illusions of that kind of spontaneity by responding with a kind of her own, when a wad of fabric was sent to smack him in the face. An amused laugh followed and he realized that she was pulling on his jacket. He shook his head with a twitch of his lips.
"You're shameless." She didn't look at him as she pulled up the zipper and attempted to pull her hands through the sleeves. The oversized jacket swallowed her in a way that was undeniably endearing, and he hoped that she didn't notice the small flush that touched his cheeks at the sight. Shameless, indeed.
"That's actually my favorite jacket," he found himself telling her, smiling faintly. "The red clouds were kind of a thing between me and my friends back in high school."
As if on cue, she frowned guiltily. "Oh, I couldn't possibly take this." Her hand reached to pull the zipper back down, but he stopped her with a glance.
"Take it. Because if you take it, that means I'll have an excuse to come get it back, yeah."
Sakura's eyes widened. She looked away and her voice was soft as she asked uncertainly, "You want to see me again?"
There was no hesitation in his voice, and his own conviction surprised him. "Of course. If you'll let me." He found himself feeling strangely anxious to hear her response.
Her affectionate smile washed away his worry. "I would like that."
He just caught a glimpse of her spreading grin before he felt a pair of warm lips press against his cheek. Long wisps of fragrant pink hair caressed his face as Sakura lingered meaningfully, and he stiffened in surprise. She pulled away before he could properly react, retreating and pulling the jacket hood over her head.
"Thanks again for the ride and the jacket." The rosette paused, and she turned to offer him a sweet smile. "And for opening the door for me despite the rain, and making sure I was comfortable before taking care of yourself. Thanks for everything. Goodnight, Deidara-san." She was out the door in a heartbeat.
Deidara was left to stare after her, feeling a sense of déjà vu. He eventually moved to shift the car into gear and begin the drive back to the studio, city lights blurring together as he sped down the highway.
His mouth stretched into a crooked grin. He knew with startling certainty that over the course of the next week or so his part of the studio was going to be filled with shades of coral, viridian, and alabaster, the hues of his latest obsession. Anticipation spurred a twitch to his fingers like nothing else could. Something great was going to be born, and with that came the knowledge that he wasn't going to be stepping foot outside until then.
No errands. He let loose a short bark of laughter.
Sasori-danna was going to flip a shit.
A/N: I'm actually really happy with how this turned out.(: But my opinion is only part of the battle! Reviews would be much appreciated, as always. Especially since this is sort of new territory for me.
With regards to Sister: I know it's been months, but I haven't abandoned this, I swear! I'm in the process of writing out the next chapter right now, and am working on some pretty serious plot development to make up for the lost time as best I can. (Because nothing can really make up for these many months of idling that have become quite characteristic of me. D:)
With regards to Train: Still on break. Sorry guys, my muse just refuses to even consider the possibility of an addition to this right now. I'll be sure to post any news of a breakthrough on my profile, so keep checking back for updates. :/
Moving back to Happenstance, I left a few loose ends open just in case I decide to come back for a sequel to this. I know, starting a new project would be suicide right now, so no promises! I'd hate to leave everything else hanging like that.
Thanks for all the continued support everyone! Your support keeps me going, although it may not seem like it with my infrequent updates. Heh.