With a sigh, Ame heaved herself from her bed. She spared a glance at the alarm clock and sighed, barely registering the two things that really mattered to her; one, the annoying red light brought about a raging hatred inside of her, and two, she, Amaterasu Uchiha, was late.

Glaring at the curtain- which did little to block the offending rays of sunlight- Ame tried her best to slip on something that wasn't black and dreary. Ending up in a red shirt and a pair of black shorts, Ame slipped down the staircase and into the kitchen, where she found Itachi idly sipping a mug of what appeared to be coffee- black, no cream, three sugars, as Uchiha Itachi had always prepared it- and reading the newspaper.

Caught off-guard, Ame quietly startled shuffling around the kitchen, preparing a bento box for her lunch. She had no doubt that when she showed up for work, Pein would make her make up for the missed time during her lunch. Even though Pein was a hard-ass, he would never go as far as to fire her- her skills were greatly needed.

"Good morning, nii-san," She croaked, then raised a hand to her throat. Something wasn't right.

Itachi nodded in her direction, not taking his eyes from the paper. "You're going to be late for work, though I highly recommend that you take a sick day."

She shook her head, "I'll be fine."

He shrugged, then took a swig from his mug. "Have a good day."

She nodded and left, and it wasn't until after she had left the house and was closing in on the tattoo parlor that she realized that Itachi was in her kitchen. She quickly dialed his number on her phone and pressed it to her ear. "Quick question," she rasped, "Why are you in my house, exactly?"

The line was silent, but she could tell that he shrugged. "Kisame's snoring is enough to keep our entire building awake- I'm sure you can imagine having only a paper-thin wall between you and the slumbering giant."

She made a noise of understanding and then quickly said goodbye before exiting the car and walking toward the building.

While Ame was well-aware of the shark-man's ability to imitate an airplane while sleeping, she knew that her cousin's insomnia wasn't because of that.

He blamed himself for what had happened to her parents seven years prior.

In an effort to compensate for the incident, Itachi promised to always watch over his cousin, to always be there in her time of need- excepting only her 'time of the month'. With a smile, Ame remembers the only time she had asked for a favor regarding that, and Itachi had returned to their house with a box of tampons much too large for her and an embarrassed look etched across his usually stoic features. "Never again," he had hissed, shoving the box into her arms.

Ame couldn't control her laughter long enough to inform Itachi of his faux pas, and eventually had to ask Mikoto for some, ahem, advice.

An hour later, Ame coughed into her sleeve for the tenth time in the past five minutes. The customer seated on her chair fidgeted awkwardly. "We can reschedule if you want," she offered, "you don't sound too good."

Ame smiled at the woman, "Reina-chan, I know you've been waiting patiently-" she was cut off by another violent hacking fit.

"Oh, no, I insist!" Reina cried, "You should really get home and get some rest, Ame-chan! We can do it another time- you're the only one I trust with a needle near my skin, anyways."

Ame bit her lip, "I suppose you're right, how about we schedule for the fifth, that's in about a week.."

"Sounds good," Reina smiled, then pulled her shirt back on, then bade farewell to her friend. Ame watched the girl leave and then stood, not realizing just how tired she was. She began to gather the items she had brought in; her favorite gun, wrapped delicately in many layers of silk, then fitted inside and dark mahogany box; a sketchpad, and her bento box.

She turned to leave the office, but her head began to spin. She eased herself over to the seat Reina had previously occupied, and promised herself just one little nap.

Hidan hated running errands for Pein, but there was a bright side; he got to see Ame. Pein needed Ame to report to his office at 10:30, something having to do with an appointment being rescheduled again, and being late- but to be honest, as soon as Hidan heard the name of his girlfriend, he zoned out and began thinking illicit thoughts about the stoic female.

When he neared her office, he took note of the light on from under the door. He pushed it open and entered, then stopped in his tracks. Ame lay sprawled across the tattoo chair, with a thick blush on her face. She was breathing deeply, as if she were struggling. "Ame?"

With a few prods to her stomach, Ame woke up and blinked groggily at her boyfriend. "Hidan?" God, she sounded awful, as if she had tried to swallow a cat and the feline had gone down, digging its claws down the sides of her throat.

"You okay?" He asked tenderly, cocking his head to the side.

She blinked, "I'm not feeling too good," she admitted, swallowing dryly.

Ame couldn't remember a time she had been sick- unless you count the month's worth of depression that followed after her parents' death.

Shaking herself from her musings, Ame sat up and rested her head in her hand. "Can you take me home?" She found herself asking, not looking up at Hidan.

He was quiet for a moment- overcome with worry. "..yeah, let me text Pein, then I'll take you home and you can get some rest."

Surprisingly, Pein understood the situation- he even understood the hidden worry Hidan had- and though they were conversing through text messages, his boss just seemed to know what Hidan was freaking out on the inside.

'Taking Ame home, she isn't feeling too good' the zealot had quickly typed, then turned to lift his girlfriend in his arms. He had just picked her up and had an arm reaching for her dark purple bag when his phone buzzed in his pocket.

"Hm..?" Ame hummed, not opening her eyes.

"Just my phone, Ame. Sleep." Hidan urged her.

He took her to his car and placed her carefully in the passenger seat before placing her bag at her feet and climbing behind the steering wheel. He checked his phone, Pein had texted him back.

'She'll be fine, stop worrying.'

And even with Pein's reassurance, Hidan wasn't so sure he could shake the pit in his stomach.

When he arrived at her home, he found Itachi opening the door with a blank look on his face. "I told her not to go to work," he said quietly, taking her bag from the other man.

"Why did you let her?" Hidan growled, narrowing his magenta eyes at the Uchiha. "She passed out in her office, scared the shit outta me." This elicited a mumble of 'watch your mouth' from Ame.

Itachi shrugged. "She seemed adamant on it, and I wasn't going to stop her."

Hidan rolled his eyes and tugged Ame closer to him. "Can you fix her something?"

Itachi nodded once and disappeared into the other room. Hidan carried Ame to her bedroom and placed her gently on the bed. "Hidan?"

"Hm?"

His girlfriend smiled sweetly at him. "I'm swelling with patriotic mucus." This earned her an amused smirk.

"Calm down there, Zoidberg."

"John Fucking Zoidberg." She corrected.

Hidan shook his head. "You need sleep, you're loopy."

She pouted and held her arms out for a hug. He obliged her and leaned in, wrapping his arms around her torso and pressing a kiss to her warm forehead.

They held each other and not longer after, Hidan felt her breathing steady as she fell asleep in his arms. As he moved to untangle himself, Ame's grip tightened on him. Hidan decided then that cuddling with his sick girlfriend wasn't too bad of an idea.

Itachi entered the room a few moments later, took in the sight of the two wrapped around each other, and 'hn'-d quietly, placing the tray he carried on Ame's dresser, then exited the room.

As he descended the staircase, Itachi came face-to-face with Sakana. She rubbed her forehead sheepishly and waved, and he nodded in response. She passed him, quickly ascending the steps.

"Ah, Sakana-san." He called, and heard her pause.

"Hm?"

He turned to face her, taking in her appearance. "Amaterasu is ill, and Hidan is bound to catch her illness."

Sakana chewed her lip. "..okay?"

He sighed. "Do you have any soup in your pantry?"

She shrugged. "Why don't you check, Itachi? If we don't, then there's a recipe in the box on the counter." She quickly replied, "It's simple to make, just follow the instructions."

He nodded and they both continued on their own ways.

Itachi rolled up his sleeves, a variety of ingredients donning the large counter before him. He had gathered celery, green onions, carrots, and a single chicken breast from the fridge, chicken broth, egg noodles, and chicken bullion cubes from the pantry, and various pots, pans, and knives from around the kitchen.

First, he processed the vegetables in a mechanical food chopper, getting tiny cubes of celery, carrot, and onion in his hair. He resisted the urge to slap himself in the face- he had forgotten to put the damn lid on.

After retrying with the lid on, he was satisfied with the small pieces of vegetables, and added them into a pan, then set it over a flame. He worked on cooking the chicken breast, and was very invested in his task when he smelled something burning.

The vegetables, he realized, had been burned instead of sauteed. In his hurry to cook the soup, he had forgotten to add any type of sautee-ing agent to the vegetables, and once again had to stop himself from face-palming.

He scraped the vegetables from the 'non-stick' pan- what a lie, the vegetables were adhered to the pan as if they were barnacles on a boat- and silently thanked to gods for making sure that the smoke alarm hadn't sounded. He wasn't in the mood for Midori or Sakana or, god forbid, Hidan to come poke fun at Itachi's blunder. While he scrubbed the pan, he smelled burning yet again.

God damn it, Itachi inwardly growled, slamming the pan into the sink. He crossed the kitchen in a few strides, then yanked the pan from the stove top and quickly hurled it at the wall.

"Is there a reason that you're trying to destroy my wall- and my new pans?"

Itachi whirled around, anger rising. Sakana stood in the doorway of the kitchen, eyeing the overflowing sink. In one movement, Itachi was back at the sink, flicking the water off.

He said nothing, staring at her. "Well?" She asked, "Was it too hard for you?"

Itachi narrowed his eyes at the turquoise-haired female, challenging her to continue. She got the message but chuckled lightly.

"I'm teasing you, Itachi. I came down because I smelled burning- you forgot about the oil, huh?"

He glanced away, and she knew that she hit the nail on the head.

"It's okay, we all make mistakes. After all, Uchihas are human, too."

Sakana was in the process of teaching Itachi how to chop vegetables correctly- without the help of the strange little device Midori had suddenly decided that they needed. Her black-tipped fingers ghosted over his hand, correcting the angle of the blade before offering a simple compliment. He seemed to swell with pride when she doted on him, something that didn't go unnoticed by Sakana.

"Itachi-san," she started carefully, placing a stick of celery in his hand, "if I may ask, why is it that you're making soup for Ame-chan?"

Itachi blinked, not expecting the question. "It is my duty as an older brother figure to her. I promised to always be there in her time of need."

Sakana smirked, "But don't you think that this is a task best suited for her mother- uh, mother figure?"

"My mother isn't currently within reach or I would be leaving such a... effeminate task to her. Unfortunately, the sickness decided to strike on the day that she's out of the country."

His companion cocked her head, "What is it that your family does, Itachi?"

"Well, we work as a policing agent, I suppose. We employ and train military personnel, body guards and such. My mother, however, found that business to be too masculine and boring for her likes, and decided to try her hand at fashion designing."

"How did that go for her?"

"Excellently, as expected of a Uchiha. I'm sure you've heard of the brand 'Sharingan'?"

Sakana nodded, envisioning the deep reds and dark purples that were usually incorporated into the simple, yet profoundly elegant designs. "I suppose that if I had been closer to Sasuke- or maybe if he were a more open person, I wouldn't have to ask you these silly questions."

"Sasuke has always been quiet, searching for approval from our father, striving for attention from that foolish man."

Sakana looked away, fearing that pushing the conversation on wasn't exactly appropriate. "Ah, but he doesn't have to try so hard, then throw a fit when his father doesn't tend to him like he's a freaking spoiled child."

Itachi shook his head, "You forget, Sakana-chan, that's exactly what Sasuke is."

The soup that Itachi and Sakana prepared looked delightful, Itachi decided. He was almost tempted to taste it, just to get a sense of how good of a cook his friend is, but he stopped himself- the soup was meant for Ame. Well, Ame and maybe Hidan.

He carefully carried the tray up the stairs, wary of the way that the soup almost sloshed out of the bowl and onto his skin when he turned down the hall.

He had to kick the door softly and wait for Hidan to finally get up and open it before he could set it down.

"You made soup?" He asked groggily, reaching for it.

"Actually, Sakana made it, and it is for Ame, seeing as you aren't sick, you have to go downstairs now, and put a shirt on." Itachi commanded, placing a cool, damp towel on his cousin's sweaty forehead.

He prodded her awake and allowed Hidan to press a chaste kiss to her forehead before he presented the dish to her.

She sheepishly took it and began to sip the soup, occasionally stopping to cough.

"Itachi," she called, catching his attention. "It's not your fault."

Her cousin's eyes widened, and for a moment, he was still a child being assured by a parent that everything would be okay.

In the living room, Sakana and Midori sat on the couch, the latter having just stumbled down the staircase. She promptly collapsed onto her friend, effectively tackling the older girl onto the plush sofa behind them.

She rested her head on Sakana's chest, soothed by the rhythmic rising and falling. They both had their eyes glued to the television, where some strange anime played- something about a girl changing into some freaky, nearly naked creature when in danger.

"Damn, she's pretty hot," Midori mumbled. Sakana hummed in agreement, fingering her friend's bright green hair.

They continued watching the show, even as someone all but tumbled down the stairs.

Hidan, they decided, after hearing the stream of curses that emanated from the lump.

After a few minutes, he stood and dusted himself off. Then, he plopped onto the couch beside them and reached for the bag of chips in Sakana's lap.

She pulled it away. "Go get pizza or something, your fat ass isn't eating all of my chips."

He growled at her and looked at Midori. She shrugged, turning her eyes back to the tv.

"Pizza sounds nice," her lazy voice drawled, humming in content as Sakana petted her head.

Hidan looked between the two. "I'll get fucking pizza, but I'm not going by myself."

Sakana shoved her friend off her lap. "Midori will go with you," she said, quickly pulling a 5 dollar bill out of her pocket. Hidan drug the younger girl away, grumbling about being 'so-fucking-hungry'.

Midori chewed her lip anxiously as she gripped onto the handle above the car window in the car. Letting Hidan drive was a bad idea- he drove as if he were playing Grand Theft Auto, nearly crashing into at least ten other cars before they skidded to a halt into from of "Giuseppe's", the pizza joint that had once belonged to Sasori's father's father. Now, Sasori managed it while his grandmother owned it.

The duo strode into the building, the shorter of the two immediately traveling closer to the cash register, hands on hips.

"Hm, haven't seen you in a while, stranger." She smiled at her red-headed friend.

He blinked at her, "I've been busy- a little shorthanded here."

Midori frowned, but moved to the side as a paying customer approached. They had a hat on, but wore a pair of pink shorts and a black shirt. She ordered five large pizzas, and as she moved to step away from the counter, Hidan snuck up behind Midori and pinched her sides.

This elicited a squeak and a jump from Midori, the smaller girl bumping into the customer, jarring the hat from her head.

Pink hair spilled down across her shoulders and a blush spread on Sakura's cheeks. "Um, hi, Midori-chan."

Midori smiled brightly and pulled her friend into a hug. "Sakura!"

Deidara smacked the bell bringing the two girls' attention to him. "Order up," he smiled at Sakura. "Party, Sakura-chan?"

She shook her head. "Eh, no. They're uh, just for me..." She flushed, and Deidara nodded in understanding.

She turned to move closer to Kakuzu's register, shying away from Sasori, when Deidara's voice stopped her. "Could you tell Ino that I'll be by later to watch Dai?"

Sakura nodded, "I'm going to stop by and say hello in a little bit- I'll tell her then."

Deidara smiled thankfully, "Thanks, hm."

"CAN WE GET A FUCKING PIZZA HERE?" Midori's voice yelled from across the restaurant. "STOP FLIRTING AND COOK, PRETTY BOY!"

Deidara shook his head, then flashed a dazzling smile to Sakura before waving. She quickly paid Kakuzu, who tried to get her to drop $20 into his 'tip jar' by grumbling about how he needed to take care of his sick puppy.

Hidan then began bitching to his friend about how stupid he is and how he didn't have a puppy, though if he did, it would be afraid of him, because, quite frankly, the miser is "ugly as shit."

Kakuzu merely threw a roll of quarters at Hidan- then he jumped over the counter and snatched the money back, kicking Hidan's stomach in the process.

The silver haired man let out a stream of curses and pulled himself up from the floor. Once Hidan returned to his full height, he flicked his magenta eyes over his best friend threateningly. "You wanna fuckin' go, dickwad?"

Kakuzu chuckled, "What a mouth you have, Hidan... I'm sure your girlfriend would absolutely adore it."

Hidan paled, fearing the wrath of the dark-haired female. "You wouldn't dare," he challenged.

Kakuzu raised an eyebrow. "Whipped."

The albino zealot glared, ready to let loose another stream of insults when his green-haired companion shoved him out of the way- and into Kakuzu- and promptly snatched the three large boxes of pizza. "It's about time!" She exclaimed, opening the top box to inspect her prize.

Deidara's voice replied with something shitty and insulting, and Sasori took Kakuzu's place at the register. Due to the stoic man's growing fondness for the young girl, he added in his employee discount- so essentially the girl paid (with Hidan's money) for a single pizza. The sweet action was met with a hug- Sasori enjoyed it because her abnormally large breasts were pressed against his chest. Don't judge- he is a man, after all. Men enjoy things like that. Or so I hear.

After waving goodbye to the red-head three times, she finally yanked Hidan from the tangle of limbs (oh, get your mind out of the gutter, sicko- they were FIGHTING) and drug him home.

When they returned, Itachi wasn't in the living room, but Sakana was just walking down the stairs. "What took you guys so long?"

Hidan shrugged, and Midori plopped the pizza boxes onto the coffee table. "Deidara was flirting with Sakura and forgot about the pizzas in the oven."

"Oh, well at least you're back- I'm starving!"

Hidan glanced around. "Did ponytail-boy leave?"

Sakana snorted, "No, he's coming down with whatever Ame has, so I sent him to the guest room for rest. Just brought both of them soup."

Midori nodded and opened the pizza box, then pulled out a piece. Sakana and Hidan followed suit, and after a fifteen minutes, the pizza was completely gone, and the three friends were lost in the world of sleep.

Deidara sighed, glad to be free of the long shift at Giuseppe's, though when you work with Kakuzu (who constantly tried to lift money from the register) and Sasori, (who had a knack for growing impatient while the pizza cooked, then taking his anger out on Deidara for making him- and the paying customer- wait) the shifts could seem as if an eternity had passed.

He drug a tired hand over his face and shuffled to his car, the stench of uncooked pizza dough and too-tomato-y sauce permeating his clothes. He glared at the small, old car. It was a commercial vehicle, covered with different advertisements for various places he worked at.

On days like these- days filled with constant bitching from Danna and Kakuzu-, Deidara regretted his choice to not go to college and do something with his art.

To the blonde man, art was emotion, expression. If you didn't express how you felt at that precise moment, then what were you doing with your life? If you bottle your feelings up, then nobody will ever know how you really feel- and that was extremely pointless.

Deidara didn't want to not go to college, but his mother's business was struggling, and his father wasn't bringing in much income with his side job as a 'psychic'. The only choice left for him was to find a job somewhere- or two somewheres- and try to help Ino through high school, in hopes that his little sister actually get the education that she needs and deserves.

Speaking of the blonde she-devil, he knew that she was bright, but she was easily distracted. Anything shiny caught her attention- he swore that she was part squirrel or something- and she had this odd fascination with boys and for a brief stunt in the thirteenth year of her life, girls.

Honestly, he expected her to become curious about boys and girls, the birds and the bees, but he never expected her to have a girlfriend. The poor girl's name was Tenten, and Deidara suspected that she was just going through that phase, too.

After driving halfway across town, Deidara pulled to a stop in front of his parents' home. The living room light was on and Deidara could hear the beginning of a Katy Perry song from the road.

He approached the house- and two voices started singing along. Ino and.. was that Sakura? He snorted at the thought and pushed the door open.

"I'm here, un!" He called, startling the two teens. Sakura dropped the sing-star mic onto the floor, the action emitting ear piercingly loud feedback, and Ino stopped herself from screaming. On the couch, six-year old Daisuke jumped up to greet his big bro.

"Dei-chan! Dei-chan!"

Deidara glowered. "I've told you a million times, kid! I'm a boy, a boy, dammit!"

Daisuki chuckled nervously. "Sorry, big bro!"

Deidara ruffled the kid's hair- the short blonde locks starting to look like a mixture between his and his sister's.

Ino cleared her throat. "Why're you here?" She bit, placing a hand on her hip.

"I told Sakura to tell you that I'll stop by to watch Dai. Did she not tell you?"

Ino shifted her icy blue gaze to Sakura. The pink-haired girl chuckled.

"Whoops. I forgot- pizza and all."

Ino glowered. "I turned down a frigging date because you got too preoccupied with PIZZA?!"

Sakura bit her lip. "I'm sorry! I thought that we had that whole 'sisters before misters' thing going on!"

Deidara raised an eyebrow. "'Sisters before Misters', un?"

Ino balked at him. "Don't you have some pact with your friends? Like a whole, 'friends come first' thing?"

Deidara shook his head. "Nope, but I don't cum first."

Ino's face screwed up and she threw a sudden punch at him. "You're disgusting!"

Her older brother laughed and dodged her fist, then put distance between them. "So were you guys playing sing-star when I came in?"

Sakura nodded, picking up the discarded microphone. By now, the song they were singing had ended and the results were in- apparently they fucking sucked.

"Can I play?"

Ino scoffed. "You can't sing, doofus."

"Bet you $5 that I can."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "$10, and I bet you and Sakura can't beat me and Dai."

He held his hand out. She took it with a determined look on her face. "One song, duet. 5 minutes of preparation. Choreography doesn't count. Best couple wins $20, plus a free pizza from Giuseppe's."

She nodded once, and the two pairs went to opposite sides of the house to prepare themselves.

Sky met Ice in an intense stare-off. Deidara sank into the couch, Sakura not that far away. Ino and Daisuke poised themselves in front of the television, blue and red mics in their hands.

The beat began, Ino and Dai simultaneously swaying their hips.

"S-O-S is in the skies, S-O-S is in the skies," they chorused. "There's a she-wolf in disguise.. Comin out, coming out, coming out!"

Dai stepped forward, dancing to the beat.

"A domesticated girl, that's all you ask of me.

Darling it is no joke, this is lycanthropy.

The moon's awake now, with eyes wide open...

My body's aching, so feed the hungry!"

His older sister took over the song, her hips swaying at just the right time, her face donning what Deidara assumed was her attempt at sultry.

As they neared the chorus, Daisuke began singing in a high note, and Ino pantomimed a werewolf panting.

The two continued to switch off, dancing and singing. Deidara knew that Ino had somehow forced their little brother to learn the song and dance for reasons such as this.

They finished their song, each panting from the effort and Deidara and Sakura took their places in front of the television, not bothering to dance.

Deidara started off, his deep voice startling Ino and Sakura- who had never heard him sing before.

"Can't count the years on one hand that we've been together, I need the other one to hold you, make you feel- make you feel better."

Sakura took over from here, "It's not a walk in the park to love each other, but when our fingers interlock, can't deny, can't deny, you're worth it."

He smirked over at her, as they sang the chorus together,

"Cause after all this time, I'm still into you,

I should be over all the butterflies,

but I'm into you, I'm into you,

And baby even on our worst nights,

I'm into you, I'm into you.

Let them wonder how we got this far,

cause I don't really need to wonder at all,

yeah after all this time, I'm still into you."

Deidara's eyes glittered and Sakura had a faint blush on her face as she watched her crush sing alongside her. The two made quite a pair, their voices harmonizing perfectly, their tones following the tune in sync. Sakura's jade eyes latched on to Deidara's bright blue orbs and searched them. She wondered about what he was thinking- how he felt at this moment, looking back at her.

She felt butterflies in her stomach, but pushed them down as she sang the last line. "I'm still into you."

An hour later, Ino and Daisuke sat slumped on the couch. "We really need to step up our game," Ino growled, folding her arms over her chest. Her younger brother mimicked her, slouching his shoulders angrily.

"Can we do another song?" He asked, "I'm tired of always singin' that wolf-song."

Ino sighed in defeat. "Yeah yeah, let's actually do a song with both genders in it!"

Sakura sat up from her spot on the ground. "Let's all sing a song together!"

The older boy shrugged and picked up the controller, scrolling through the songs.

"This one!" Daisuki shouted, pointing to the song the cursor hovered on. "The love one!"

Seeing no reason to object, the four readied themselves as the music began to play.

Deidara and Daisuki shared one mic and Sakura and Ino shared the other.

"Well if you see a faded sign at the side of the road, that says fifteen miles to the-"

Ino cut in. "-Looooooooooooooove shack!"

Sakura joined her. "Love shack, yeah, yeah!"

"I was headin down the Atlanta highway,

lookin for the love getaway-

heading for the looove getaway!" The two sang together.

The four finished the song and found themselves to be extremely tired. "I should head home," Sakura grumbled, wiping her eyes. "Ino, can you take me home?"

Ino glared, "No, too tired. Just stay the night."

Sakura shook her head. "I have a class early in the morning."

Deidara popped his muscles, climbing down the staircase- he had just carried Daisuke to bed. "I'll take you, un."

Sakura blushed and started to refuse. "You don't have to-"

"It's fine, Sakura. I've gotta go home and so do you, so it's cool."

She finally agreed and started scrambling around the house, searching for anything she brought with her.

When she returned with an armful of things, Deidara was leaning against the door, necktie loose and shirt unbuttoned. She stopped short, peering at him from a distance while he looked at his nails. He hadn't noticed her yet, and she forced her mouth closed to keep from drooling onto the clean, white carpet of Ino's floor.

"Sorry that took so long," She sighed, earning his attention. "Ino has a knack for stealing and hiding my stuff."

He shrugged and offered to carry some of her things, "It's no big deal, relax, Sakura-chan." He held his hands out to her and she began to hand him her binders before something caught her eye.

"Whoa!" She exclaimed, snatching his hand and dropping her luggage. "Is that a tattoo?"

He nodded, "Did 'em myself."

"Them?"

He showed her his other hand. Matching tattoos adorned his palms- twin mouths, sticking their tongues out- the drawing style was curvy, old looking.

"They're really cool!" She gushed, then stopped herself. She bent to pick up her books and cleared her throat. "Good job."

Deidara nodded in thanks and opened the door. "Ready to go?"

She nodded and followed him out of the house.

Minutes later, the two drove slowly down the street, Deidara growling and smacking his dashboard angrily. "Such a piece of crap!"

Sakura rested her head on the head rest of her seat, breathing in the pizza and cologne scent that perforated her nose- and Deidara's car.

She didn't mind the smell, it was nice. She closed her eyelids, just noticing just how tired she was.

The blonde artist brought the car to a creaking halt at a stop sign, glancing over at his pink-haired passenger. "Sak-?"

She didn't respond. He sighed, this was great. Sakura was asleep- and Deidara didn't know where she lived!

He rested his forehead on the steering wheel. Sakura was a heavy sleeper; a little facet he had discovered years before during Ino's 11th birthday party. He slightly snickered, remembering the shrill shrieking he had woken up to the morning after the slumber-party.

Knowing full well that the girl wouldn't wake up until she had had a full 9-hours of sleep, Deidara sighed resignedly. Going back to his parents' home wasn't a good idea either- it was rather late and he no longer had a key- and the idea of Ino in full she-beast mode made the hairs on Deidara's neck stand up. That meant that there was only one thing left to do- Sasori be damned.

Sakura sat up groggily, rubbing her eyes. She felt disoriented and out of place. Her surroundings weren't familiar, and she felt panic rise in her stomach.

"Deidara, your ward is awake," a cold voice snapped from her left. She looked over- there sat Sasori, who spared her a brief sneer before returning to the small marionette he was carving into with a knife.

Sakura pulled herself into a sitting position and rubbed her eyes. "Huh?"

Deidara's shirtless form sauntered into the room, a toothbrush in his hand. "About time, yeah."

She stared at him, half puzzled, half please. "This is your house?"

"Apartment." Sasori corrected, never taking his eyes from his task.

She sighed- she didn't expect the red-haired man to treat her like a princess, but she wasn't fond of the cold bitterness that exuded from him. Though it was completely justified, she supposed. Some time in the past, she and the puppeteer had had a falling out- which ended in Sakura punching Sasori so hard in the face that he had sported a black eye for months, leaving the other High School Seniors to jeer at him- he had been taken out by a freshmen, and a girl no less.

Shrugging off the rudeness, she brought her knees to her chest. "Why exactly am I here?"

This time, Sasori stayed silent, leaving Deidara to answer her questions.

"You fell asleep in my car, yeah." He explained, pulling the brush from his mouth and speaking through a mouthful of spit and toothpaste. He disappeared for a moment before he returned with an empty mouth and a glass of water. "Don't know where you live, you're a smart girl. You can do the math."

She nodded, having understood what happened when he had first informed her of her little nap in the Deidara-mobile.

"One last question-"

Sasori sighed, "Well aren't you just a curious little kitten?" He hissed, setting his tray on the coffee table none too gently.

"Oh, come off it, Akasuna. What happened is in the past- it doesn't fucking matter anymore." She spat, having been fed up with his poor attitude. "I didn't ask to come to your place but the least you could do is be hospitable!"

He glared at her, his brown eyes narrowing. "I didn't ask for you to invade my home, either. Some people actually have things to do, how am I supposed to work with that constant shrill squeaking whenever you open that useless little mouth of yours?"

Deidara made a move to interfere, but looked more curious about how it would end.

She returned his glare, "Work? You're making barbie dolls. You call that work?"

"Oh, and I suppose you know what work is, having been given everything on a silver platter? News flash, Haruno; some people actually have to scrape as hard as they can to get by. Maybe you've never had to lift a delicate little finger your entire life, but some of us- some of us have seen the worst the world's got to offer." Sasori spat, then turned on his heel and stormed out of the apartment- pausing only to collect a set of keys from a hook by the door.

Sakura took a moment to look around the apartment now, taking in the simple placement of the furniture. She had slept on the couch, and a blanket rested sloppily on the arm of the dark red sofa, the only thing marring the otherwise pristine room. The color of the walls reminded Sakura of coffee with a little too much cream mixed in- rich and flavorful. Placed strategically around the room were various paintings- a few abstract, one of a girl with coffee-brown hair, a shade much darker than the walls, and a few simple still lifes. Sakura reveled in the thick scent of wood and- was that clay?

The living room gave way to the kitchen, the room being much smaller with a nice balcony just beyond it. From her spot on the couch, she could just barely see the tall spires and silvery cement buildings that made up Konoha. The kitchen was sleek; modern. The appliances were top-of-the-line and new, and probably unused by the two inhabitants of the cozy home. The room stretched beyond her field of vision, but she could see an island counter in the center of the room with a bowl of fruit perched atop it.

Trailing her eyes over the room, her green orbs came to a stop at the still-shirtless Deidara. He stared at her, his one visible eye so impossibly blue. "Sakura, that wasn't so wise."

She bit her lip. "Yeah, I know. But do you really blame me? He's a prick. Even worse than Sasuke."

Deidara quirked an eyebrow. "I'm not sure anybody could possibly be worse than Sasuke."

She chuckled at that, her anger alleviating a small amount. Deidara crossed the room and took up the spot that Sasori had rested in a few minutes before.

"Sakura, I know you think that Danna is cold and cruel, but he's not that bad-" he gave a pointed look at her snort, "-he's just.. different company than you're used to, yeah. He came from a troubled background, and when I befriended him, he called be 'gaki' for twelve years straight. Trust me, he'll take some getting used to, but you really just have to try to not provoke him."

She looked at him confusedly. "You act as if I'm going to spend more time around him."

Deidara smirked, "Well, yeah, you are." He admitted.

She felt a flush rise on her cheeks, waiting for him to continue.

"I swear if it's the last thing I do, I'm going to make you become friends with Akasuna no Sasori."

She felt something deflate in her chest- she had hoped that Deidara would want to spend more time with her, not for her to spend more time with his so called 'master'. Something akin to disappointment swelled in her chest, and the pink-haired girl bit back a depressed sigh. "Deidara, to be honest, I don't want to be around Sasori-san. He's cruel, and he's angry all the time- not to mention the fact that I don't freaking remember what it was that made him hate me in the first place!"

Her blonde companion merely chuckled. "I'm surprised. I've never seen Sasori that pissed before- and I've been his friend for fifteen years. Not much gets him that riled up."

"Care to remind me what it was?"

He nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by the door slamming open- as if someone had kicked it in. "Hidan, what the fuck?" Kakuzu's gruff voice growled.

Loud snickering was heard, "Well, I couldn't open the door, and you obviously weren't gonna fuckin' do it!"

"Did you ever maybe think of not breaking my door down, yeah?" Deidara glared.

"Nope," Hidan popped his lips, then stopped and finally took notice of the other person in the apartment. "What's pinky doing here?"

"Huh? She stayed the night," Deidara explained uninterestedly.

Hidan whistled lowly, then plopped onto the couch next to Sakura."Wow, didn't know you guys were that serious already, but props to you." He nudged her with his elbow, wiggling his eyebrows.

Sakura blushed brightly, but Deidara merely rolled his eyes. "You know that's not what happened," he bit.

"Really now? Hm, well it's so painstakingly obvious that you have things for each other-" Hidan was silenced by a swift blow to his head from Kakuzu.

Deidara offered an apologetic smile to Sakura, then stood and stretched. "It's about time to get ready, yeah."

Sakura blinked, "What time is it?"

Kakuzu pulled his sleeve back to glance at his watch. "9:13."

"Shit," she cursed, jumping up. "I have to go, or my mother is going to kill me!"

Deidara offered a ride to her, but after learning that the apartment was located near where she needed to be, she declined, choosing to walk instead.

"See you around, pinky,"Hidan teased as she left with a brief wave to Deidara. When she was gone, he rounded on the blonde. "She's a cute one, eh?"

Deidara shrugged, "I guess. The whole pink 'n green think is pretty cute, I guess."

Hidan smirked, "You should ask her out."

"What, and ruin her lifelong friendship with Ino? That's more trouble than it's worth." Deidara mumbled, trailing down the hallway and into his room. "Still, the way she handled Danna was rather amusing."

Hidan smirked- Deidara definitely liked the cherry blossom, and he would do his damnedest do hook a brotha up.