The house was as nice inside as it was outside. Someone had taken obvious care to decorate it and they seemed to have a knack for interior design... Tobi led her into a foyer, then right and up a flight of stairs. She paused to take in a vase, examining the flowers closely. Among the beautifully arranged lilies and violets, origami roses sat nestled in the spaces. There were more origami designs scattered around the rest of the house- a medium-sized crane tucked into a nook at the landing of the stairs, a few more paper roses hanging along the door frame into a chic living space with an open floor plan. Half of the room was occupied by a kitchenette, a small stove and mini-fridge, a sink, and an island counter-top with four stools, and the other half of the room was speckled with sofas and chairs, all centered around a large television screen that took up nearly half of the wall.
"It's cool, right? Tobi thinks so. This is where we all hang out. Saturdays we have a gaming competition."
"Oh, so you weren't celebrating the school's win last night?" The question slipped out and she almost cursed for it. It was supposed to be in and out.
"What win?" Tobi asked, cocking his head.
"Uh, the football team," she said.
"Oh. No," He replied, "We don't care about school sports."
"Oh," was all she could manage.
"Could you like, shut the fuck up?" Someone grumbled, coming into the living area from the conjoined hallway.
"Good morning, Hidan-san!" Tobi chirped, and the grumpy guy bristled.
"I'll fucking kill you if you don't shut the fuck up," he growled, leveling an angry glare at the duo, finally noticing Hiro. "Oh, it's the bitch from the store."
"Hi," she mumbled, "actually I just wanted to return this and get going- I have errands to run."
"Oh, that's Deidara-senpai's jacket," Tobi remarked, turning on his heel and disappearing down the hallway Hidan had come from.
"Is he just-" She turned her confused stare onto the silver-haired loudmouth. He merely shrugged, popping open a bottle of ibuprofen. "Midol works better," she informed him. "I'm not even kidding. It has muscle relaxers in it."
"Hm," Hidan grumbled, but took his ibuprofen and left her alone in the hangout area.
After a minute of awkwardly waiting for anyone to return, Hiro refolded the jacket and placed it on the counter, then turned and started for the stairs.
"Uh, who are you?"
A brick dropped in her stomach and she turned on her heel to face the new person.
This person was the only female inhabitant of the dorm, known for her reputation as a cold-hearted ice queen.
"Please don't beat me up," Hiro squeaked, shrinking in on herself. Confrontation made her feel anxious.
The blue-haired girl made a face, holding back laughter, but a giggle burst through and she was suddenly cackling.
"Oh dear Jesus, you people really are batshit."
"Konan, what are you laughing at?" A male voice asked, and a familiar face came into view over Konan's shoulder. "Oh, it's Hiro-chan from the store!"
Hiro didn't respond, her face flushing.
Konan wiped at her eyes and straightened up. "Oh, so you know her, then. Where'd you find her? She's pretty funny... And so adorable."
Deidara padded around Konan, ignoring the blue-haired woman's question... "What's up, Hiro-chan?"
"Oh- um… I brought your hoodie back to you. Thank you for lending it to me."
Deidara nodded. "No worries, you could have held onto it for a while if you needed it."
Hiro shrugged, "No, it's okay. I'd probably never give it back if I didn't bring it today." It took her a moment to realize the implication, and quickly corrected herself, stuttering. "I-I mean that I'm pretty forgetful and would likely lose it."
Konan giggled, pushing Deidara out of the way. "You're so cute, Hiro-chan. Talk with me for a bit, it gets quite lonely here with all of these toe-headed men."
Hiro nodded, "Okay, I guess."
Konan cracked a smile, "What plans do you have today, sweetheart?"
"Oh, I've got a few errands to run and I've got to pick up breakfast for my dad-"
"Your dad is in town?" She asked, leading Hiro to the couches and sitting down.
"He's a professor at the school," Hiro admitted, chewing on the inside of her lip.
"Ohhh, so you're Asuma-sensei's daughter, then?"
Hiro was shocked that she'd determined who her father was so quickly. "You're one of his students?"
Konan nodded, "Yup. I never thought his kid would be so cute."
Hiro flushed and looked at Deidara as if to say, 'help', but he was watching the exchange in silent amusement.
"Thanks, I guess."
"Oh, come now, you're quite adorable."
Hiro looked down at her hands. She'd never really been super girly, as most of her friends ended up being rowdy boys who liked dirt and danger, and she'd never had a mother, compliments were usually few and far between.
"Do you have any friends?"
Hiro shook her head, "Not really- I just get my work done and go home."
"Wow," Konan said, quiet for a minute. "So are you staying at a dorm, or at home?"
"At home. Saves us quite a bit of money."
Konan nodded sagely. "Alright, I've got to pee. It was lovely chatting with you, I do hope you'll stop by again soon. We rarely get visitors, much less new friends." With that, she stood and quickly exited, slipping down the stairs with a sing-song "goodbye, Hiro-chan!"
"That was odd," Hiro remarked, turning her astounded gaze on Deidara.
"Yeah, I don't think I've seen Konan that excited since Pein said we could have a cat," he replied.
"You guys have a cat?" Hiro asked, her tone dripping with excitement.
"Did. Pretty sure Hidan sacrificed it."
An immediate look of distaste crossed her face and she stood up, straightening out her shirt. "Okay, anyways. I have to go to the campus before 10 and it's almost 9:15 now-"
Deidara perked up. "I've got to go too, I have an art gallery."
"Ah, so do I. I'm entered under photo-realism," she supplied.
"Sculpting," he said, "Do you want to walk together, then? I've got to stop by the studio to pick up my submission."
"I've got to as well," she replied, "Should we go now?"
"Hm, yeah. Gimme a minute to change, 'kay? You can wait here if you want."
She hadn't really looked at him before, but now she noticed he'd only been wearing a pair of loose gray sweatpants, he'd very obviously just gotten out of bed. She flushed and turned around, waving her right hand frantically. "You go ahead."
Deidara was gone for a few moments but returned shortly donning actual jeans, a t-shirt, and his signature leather jacket. "Ready?"
Hiro nodded and followed him out of the building, thankful that she'd survived the visit with minimal mental scarring.
"Now that I think about it, I have seen you around the campus," Deidara remarked after a minute-long stretch of silence.
"You have?" She asked, a step behind him.
"Yeah, mostly around the art department. You keep to yourself, hardly ever look up from your books. I didn't realize it was you before because you had your hair down last night."
Hiro made a noise of understanding, reaching up to touch the mound of hair on her head. "My hair is that recognizable?"
"Ah, I'd never really looked at you before either. Sorry if this sounds mean but you're just very plain." He was quiet for a second before clearing his throat and correcting himself, "That's not a bad thing- I mean its good if you're laying low."
Hiro laughed, "No, it's okay. I'm not very noticeable."
"I was shocked to hear that Asuma's your dad, though..."
She picked up her pace to stride next to Deidara as the sidewalk widened and they crossed into the downtown sector, where narrow shops of every sort lined the street. "Oh, is he a bad professor?"
"No, he's great. You have a very different personality than your dad, hm?"
"I take after my mother," Hiro said, "Not that I'd know, since she passed away when I was young."
"Ah, my condolences..." Deidara said, glancing over at her through his thick blonde lashes. "I'm an orphan myself. Raised in a catholic church and escaped as soon as I could."
Hiro made a 'hmph' of a laugh in her throat. "I'm sorry."
"Well, at least I'm here now, and I got to meet a cutie like yourself." He flashed her a dazzling grin and she flushed.
"I'm sure you've met other girls who are much cuter than I am," Hiro scoffed.
"They definitely aren't as nice as you," He remarked, sticking his tongue out.
Hiro didn't reply and strode forward, overtaking the lead. How was she supposed to respond to that? 'Gee thanks, you're cute too. Wanna grab some coffee later?'
"Sure," Deidara said. "I think I'm free."
"Coffee?" He repeated, "You just asked me."
Hiro felt the color drain from her face. "I said that out loud?"
Deidara cracked a smirk. "Yeah."
"Oh dear god," Hiro sighed, burying her face in her hands. "That's embarrassing."
"Well, I'd still like to go, even if you didn't mean to ask." He batted his eyelashes at her innocently. "That is if you're up for it."
Hiro peeked out from her hands and nodded. How could she say no to those gorgeous eyes?
"Cool, it's a date."
A date? A DATE? Hiro almost hyperventilated at the word but regained her cool with a raspy, "yeah."
The rest of the walk was spent in awkward silence as Hiro switched between dying of embarrassment to trying to pump herself up, but every time she caught Deidara in the corner of her eye, she went red.
They eventually reached the steps of the Art Department and parted ways with an awkward wave and a cheery, "See you after the gallery ends."
Hiro's submission was an installment of stills, each sketched from a set of photos her mother had taken before her death. The first was a young girl playing in a field, the next was the girl falling, the third showed the girl crying while a man approached, and the last was the man picking the girl up and the girl smiling. It showed the comfort that a father gives and captured a perfect moment displaying her own bond with her father. Hiro had drawn them on large stretches of canvas, detailing with graphite, charcoal, ink, and sharpie where she had to. It had taken hours of staying up until her eyes burned and she was nearly hallucinating, but her hard work paid off. She'd scored fairly well from the judges, though she didn't place in the top three. She'd still take the pieces home and gift them to her father.
As soon as 11 struck it seemed like the judges and artists and random onlookers dispersed into the air, so Hiro took her artwork back to the studio and wrapped each frame in thick brown paper. They weren't terribly large or heavy, so she wrapped them in string and strapped it to her back.
Deidara was waiting for her when she descended the steps, leaning against one of the brick pillars at the bottom.
"Hey," he said, greeting her as she approached.
"Hey," she replied, "I've got to go check up on the house and drop these off before we get coffee. Is that okay?"
Deidara nodded and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Lead the way."
Thankfully, the walk to her house wasn't terrible and she actually managed to hold a decent conversation with Deidara as they walked.
Hiro unlocked her front door easily and led Deidara in, kicking her shoes off at the doorway. "Sorry, it's pretty much barren. We live a minimalist lifestyle."
Deidara shrugged. "It's simple."
She didn't reply but led him through the house to the kitchen. The Midol and water still sat, untouched. Her father hadn't made it back yet. Hiro made a mental note to phone his friends to check on him after she parted ways with Deidara, then pulled the wrapped canvases from her back and set them on the counter.
"All done?" Deidara asked as she turned around.
"Yeah, we're all set."
The coffee shop Hiro was most familiar with was a ten-minute walk from her home, but they served the best cinnamon rolls and a delicious mocha frappuccino, which sounded perfect for the warm autumn day.
It was a small little brick-and-mortar building, but it had been renovated and was run by a pair of quirky hipsters. They'd kept some of the original wall-art but added more pop-culture works scattered around as splashes of color against the red brick walls.
Hiro was surprised when the barista greeted Deidara by name and with a flirty smile. After they'd ordered their drinks- a frap and a cinnamon roll for Hiro and an iced Americano for Deidara- she remarked with a small smile, "You seem to be more popular than I gave you credit for."
He responded with a smile of his own, "And you have better taste in coffee than I gave you credit for."
Hiro took a long sip from her drink, savoring the flavors of chocolate, coffee, and whipped cream. "Thanks, I guess."
Deidara nodded and took a sip from his own drink, watching her for a moment. "So… No siblings, dad is a professor, you work fairly often, and always seem to be studious, and you're pretty cute to boot. What's the catch?"
Hiro almost snorted. "The catch is I'm emotionally unavailable due to a severe lack of meaningful social interaction, combined with my lack of interest in spending my free time pursuing said social interaction, equating in a socially inept hermit."
"You think that using dictionary words will scare me off because you don't have very many coping mechanisms so projecting the image that you're an unapproachable dork who isn't worthy of interest is a last-ditch effort to save face and keep yourself from the option of opening up and making a new friend." Deidara shot back, keeping his gaze trained on her. "And it's not going to work on me. We're friends now, you can't argue, that's friend rules."
Hiro opened her mouth to retort but Deidara held a finger up, wagging his painted fingernail every time she began to speak. "Okay, fine. We're friends."
"Cool, gimme some of that cinnamon roll, gurl." Deidara grinned evilly before snatching the pastry from her fingertips and ripping a chunk off. "So tell me about Papa Sarutobi. What kind of guy is he outside of teaching?"
Hiro shrugged with one shoulder, returning her attention to the ice-cold drink in front of her. "He's always been a good father."
Deidara nodded sagely. "That tracks."
"I guess we both just live our lives, we don't set aside time to spend together anymore. But it's not too terrible, just busy."
Deidara didn't reply for a while, so Hiro took the opportunity to ask a few questions of her own. "So is New Dawn as chaotic as the rumors say?"
"Yeah," he said, "Except worse."
Hiro didn't press the matter and the look that flashed across Deidara's face told her that she didn't want to. Instead, she asks, "What was your submission to the gallery?"
"I actually brought it with me," he replied, perking up at the thought of his art. "I usually destroy my works after I display them."
"Well, if I left it to sit forever, it'd get pretty boring after a while, hm?" Deidara pulled his bag from his side and withdrew a small clay figurine. "I like the idea that now that art can never be replicated. There will be nothing like it ever again."
"Mm, I see where you're coming from but isn't it then rendered moot? What's the point if a handful of people saw it before you destroyed it?"
Deidara shrugged. "I guess you just won't understand until you see it."
Hiro gave a slight nod. "I guess so." She checked the time on her phone and started. "Crap, I gotta get to the library before 1. I really have to go."
The blonde just smiled and stood up. "Do you mind if I walk with you? It's on the way to the dorm."
She nodded and picked up her few belongings, before turning on her heel and leaving the cafe. Deidara followed her, dropping his empty cup in the trash can on the way out. "See you again, Kisha-san!"
"Goodbye, Deidara-san! I look forward to seeing you!" The chipper barista responded, casting one last glare at the back of Hiro's head.
True to his word, Deidara left her at the library after insisting on giving his number to her.
"My phone is broken- remember? I've got to go get a new one after work, I guess." She told him. "You can write it down and I'll save it later?"
"Alright," he agreed with a shrug, jotting his number down quickly across the top of the notebook she offered. "Text me later, hm?"
Hiro took her notebook back and shrugged. "I don't know if I'd have time or reason to."
Deidara pouted. "What? Didn't have fun on our little date?"
Hiro shook her head vehemently. "No, no, I did."
A grin spread across the blonde man's face. "Good, then you should text me sometime, that way you don't have to stop by the dorm again. I can tell that you're not exactly comfortable there."
Hiro scoffed, "I just don't know your dorm-mates that well and they seem rather intimidating."
"Come now, I'm not so bad, am I? How much worse do you think they are?"
'Much, much worse, from what I can tell,' she thought, but she just said, "Yeah, you're right. I only came today to return your jacket, though. I don't have another one to warrant another trip."
Deidara's face flashed into a mischievous grin for a second before he was dropping his flannel on her head. When she managed to pull it off, he was darting away, calling back, "Now you do!"
Hiro flushed and entered the library.
"Hello, Hiro-chan! I was afraid you wouldn't make it today," the attendant, an older woman who had Hiro had grown quite close with, greeted as she approached the desk. "Your hold items are ready, I'll go get them. Just sit tight, dear."
It didn't take long for the woman to pick up her books and check them out, giving her a warm smile and a reminder of the due date.
She waved goodbye as she left and traced her steps back to her home, slipping her shoes off inside the door.
"Hiro?" Her father's deep voice resounded from deeper in the house. "Are you home?"
"Yeah, papa, I just got back," She called, setting her cell phone down on the coffee table.
"Could you come in here? I've got something important to discuss with you. We're in the kitchen."
"Of course, papa," Hiro replied, padding into the kitchen. "Wait, who's we?" She stopped short at the sight of a woman sitting at the kitchen counter.
"Hiro, this is Kurenai. Kurenai, this is my daughter, Hiro." Asuma was leaning against the counter across from the woman. "Hiro, Kurenai is my girlfriend."
"Girlfriend?" Hiro repeated, looking between her father and the woman.
"Yes. We've been dating for a few months now and I thought it was time to introduce you." Asuma replied. "Hiro, there's something else. Could you sit down for a moment?"
Hiro blinked, processing the new information. They'd been dating for months and he just decided to spring it all on her? "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Honey, we can talk about that later-"
"Don't you think it's weird to just suddenly tell me this? You could have warned me, said something-"
"Hiro!" Asuma growled, taking a stern tone in his voice. "You're acting rude!"
"Maybe I should leave-" Kurenai began, standing up from the counter. Hiro fell silent at the sight of her protruding belly.
"Hiro-" Asuma began, placing a hand on either of her shoulders. "I need you to listen to me. Kurenai and I are going to have a child. I didn't know how to tell you but she finally talked some sense into me. I'd like your support on this, but if you can't give it, I'll still love you and I'm still your dad."
"...I need some time to think."
Asuma blinked as she backed up, bowing to Kurenai. "I apologize for seeming rude, Kurenai-san. Congratulations, and it was lovely meeting you. Hopefully, our next encounter can be on better terms."
"It was nice meeting you, Hiro-san." Kurenai replied, sitting back down.
"Tou-san, I will return later today."
"Hiro-" Asuma tried one last time, but she was already down the hall, slipping her shoes back on and slamming the door.