Upgrading Chapter 13

Hinata had just walked into the kitchen when she saw the new hire’s elbow nudge the stack of plates. Unfortunately for Kankuro-kun, she was too far away to help as the stack crashed down.

“Crap.” Kakuro sighed as he stared down at the minor mountain of shattered porcelain. Out in the serving area, they heard several chuckles. “Sorry, boss!” he called out, nudging the pile with his foot.

“That’s coming out of your paycheck,” the owner sang out cheerfully.

“Whaa… Oh, fine.” Grimacing, Kankuro took the broom Hinata offered him. He blinked at her once, then nodded. “Thanks, Hinata-chan.”

Smiling slightly, she shook her head. “There’s no point in pulling double shifts if this happens, Kankuro-san.” Though, they really did appreciate him coming in to cover Rika’s shift.

Cheap pottery scraped across painted cement as he swept the shards into the dustpan. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he groused. Which was probably why the owner was so quick to bill him; overtime paid well.

“Make sure you sleep tonight, neh?”

“Yes, yes. Get to work,” he said, raising the broom in mock threat.

Hinata graced him with one last smile as she picked up a tray of clean dishes and took them out to the front counter.

Deidara was waiting there for her, looking especially closed down for once. And it was scary when Deidara, one of the most passionate people in the face of ever, closed down. “Hey, Hinata, can I ask you a favor, un?”

“Of course, Dei-kun.” Setting the tray down, Hinata frowned. “What’s wrong?”

He hesitated, and sighed. “Um, can you talk Hidan into letting me stay for a bit? Like, I’ll take a… a couch or something, un,” he said, staring at some point over her shoulder. “I need a place to crash; mum kicked me out.”

Blink. “I’ll make sure he says yes,” she assured him. “Do you want to talk about it?” It wasn’t that long ago that she had been afraid of the same thing happening to her. “Do you want some tea? Muffin?”

He met her gaze briefly, then looked down. “Yeah, I could use a muffin. I got money.” He’d probably stolen it from his mother, knowing Deidara’s sometimes spiteful anger. “And a cappucino, may as well, un.”

“You get caffeine only this once,” she told him with a smile. “And you’re sitting in the kitchen.” The owner had caught her eye and had pointed to the back. Putting him in the kitchen was better than chancing an encounter with a regular customer. She loved Dei like a brother, but he was just so high-strung. “C’mon.”

He straightened and grabbed a beat up duffel from the floor beside him. He’d been wearing his backpack through the whole conversation. “Thanks, Hinata. I’ll make this up to you, un.” He finally broke the mask, smiling a little for her. Already he was looking better.

Gesturing at him to come around the counter, Hinata beamed at him. “Get over to this side, I can’t give you a hug if you’re all the way over there.” The kicked-puppy look deserved a big hug, even if it was just to make it go away.

His smile widened at that, and he circled the counter, dropping the duffel, and just threw his arms around her. Lifting, he almost immediately stumbled, and set her down again. “Hah, you’re heavy.”

“You’ve got a strange way of saying thanks,” she said wryly, with only a light smack to his shoulder. Still, she hugged him tightly. When she let him go, she snagged a black forest cupcake from the display case as he picked up his baggage. “Will you behave if I give you an upgrade on your order?” Hinata waved the cupcake under his nose, one brow raised.

“And suddenly I have a new understanding of Hidan’s life,” Deidara said with wide eyes. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good boy,” she quipped, handing the treat over. “Now we’ve got a new guy back here, so please be nice.” Leading him through the hall, she knocked on the doorframe to get her co-worker’s attention. He was turned away, probably on his second pass for the tinier shards. “Kankuro-kun, you’ve got company,” she announced as he turned.

xXx

There was a scuffle as someone else moved, probably right up behind Hinata. “Sabaku?” a familiar voice yelped. “You’re in town? You have a job in town?!”

Kankuro frowned. “Yeah… Who?” He finally got a good look at the guy as Hinata-chan stepped to the side. “Toji! Hey! How are you?” Flashing a grin at the girl’s confused expression, Kankuro explained. “We know each other… Wait. You know each other? How?”

Deidara snickered as he stepped around the bemused girl, walking over and dropping his bag beside the wall. He grabbed the sole stool in the room and set up right beside his bag. The backpack on his shoulders went beside the duffel. “She’s dating one of my posse, un,” he said, glancing toward Hinata and grinning all the more at her hard eyeroll. “Yeah, that’s right, I said it. You are dating a posse member.”

You are such a gangster wannabe,” Hinata told him. And Kankuro blinked at the comfortable way she spoke. Easy and confident. Kinda changed her whole image actually.

Deidara was shaking his head. Emphatically. “No, no, no. Cowboy. I’m a wannabe cowboy, un. They’ve got the posses.” His eyes sparkled with amused glee at this. “I need to get some boots.”

Somewhere between gangster and boots, Kankuro’s brain clicked back on. “Hold on. Back up. Who are you dating?” If it wasn’t Deidara himself, then… Itachi was taken. It couldn’t be Kisame…

When Hinata opened her mouth, the blond inserted quickly. “That albino cock-sucking bastard.” And he smiled innocently at Hinata.

Cowboy there means Hidan, of course,” she replied tartly, one hand held out to the blond. “Gimme the cupcake.”

Kankuro blinked. Unbelievable as it was… he could actually see her with Hidan. Especially with that tone.

“I’m payin’ for it!” Deidara said, jaw trembling faintly. “I’ll give up the coffee.”

Pausing, she seemed to consider. Finally: “No more bad-mouthing my boyfriend and you’ll get a coffee when you leave, okay?”

He exhaled in exaggerated relief. “Yes’m.”

Snorting, Kankuro dumped the last of the mess into the trash before propping the broom against the wall—away from the dish rack. “So? What’s up?” he asked, looking first to Hinata and then to Deidara. “Don’t tell me you’re going to work here.”

Blue eyes blinked, and Deidara cackled. “Yeah fucking right,” he said, and sniffed. “I have other things I do if I need money.”

Shaking her head, Hinata grinned. “I’ll let Dei-kun explain himself, I’ve got to get to work.” She waved at them both before slipping out.

Kankuro whistled. “Is she always like that?” If so, he’d been blind.

“Like what?” Deidara asked, and took a bite of his cupcake.

How to explain? “She was a quiet, low-key girl,” he attempted. “At least, I thought she was. You know, the kind of girl you don’t even see.” And it was a good thing she was out of earshot!

Deidara blinked at that one. “Wha—is she—? Aww, I thought we got her past that…” He shook his head. “Guess it’s easier to slip back into old habits, un. When we’re not here, I mean.”

Brows crunching together, Kankuro leaned back against the counter. “Hmm. Then again, I usually have the day shift, so maybe she’s just shy around me.” He shrugged. “Only knows me through work, right? And I’m new.”

A beat passed as Deidara munched, not looking up from the sweet in his hand. “Why are you here, anyway?”

Kankuro coughed. “Dad.” He grimaced and rolled his shoulders, remembering extremely tense dinners and long lectures he had tried not to listen to.

“Ah. Right.” Deidara winced.

The two of them lapsed into silence before Kankuro groaned. “As fun as this is, I gotta work. And if you laugh at me, I’ll dunk your head.”

The blond frowned. “Why would I laugh at you, un?”

In answer, he waved at the sink beside him. “I’m the dishwasher here,” Kankuro muttered. “And some of the cleaning. So… yeah.” Pride taking the loss, he turned to the sink and twisted open the hot tap. “Anyway,” he said over the sound of running water, “if you’re not here for work, why is Hinata-chan hiding you back here?”

Deidara cringed, audibly. “Had a fight with my parental unit,” he said, sarcastically. “She kicked me out, un. She was kinda pissed about the Assembly—ah, but you don’t know about that, huh?”

Carefully lowering a stack of plates in—like hell he was breaking any more of the things—Kankuro paused to look over his shoulder. “No… is it something important? Our assemblies were pretty boring.” Then again, he was used to his dad giving speeches.

The other male cackled. “Dude, these are the worst assemblies known to man. They’re horrifying, mind numbing excuses for the teachers to make sure we never have sex. Like they’re trying to curb the masses. I’m pretty sure that’s why Kisame’s gay.” He grinned. “I interrupted today’s. First in history to do it, un!”

First Kankuro had to turn the water off, then he turned around completely. “Uh, good for you, but… Kisame, Shark Man, is gay?!”

“Yep,” Deidara snickered.

Whoa. Shaking his head, Kankuro went back to washing dishes. “Huh, didn’t see that coming. Thought it would be you, if anyone in that group was gay.” Blink. “I actually said that, didn’t I?” He sneaked a look at the blond.

Who was giving him the most unimpressed of stares. “Yeah, you said that out loud.”

“Sorry,” Kankuro said quickly—Toji had a pyro reputation after all. “Forget I said that, okay?” There was no way to get his head out of his ass now. “It’s just my opinion.”

The blond sighed. “Yeah, well it’s a popular one, un,” he grumbled. “Everyone seems to say that.”

Cautiously turning back to the dishes, Kankuro shrugged. “Yeah, well, when you finally find a girl, we’ll stop thinking that.” He picked up a plate and frowned at it. What the hell was on this? Tar? “It makes sense, right?”

“No, no you won’t,” Deidara retorted. “I’m not exactly a virgin, y’know.”

Kankuro rolled his eyes before he turned around again. “Okay, then find a girl, keep her around so that others actually see her and then we’ll stop.”

The blond looked far from convinced, popped the last bite of cupcake into his mouth, and made a face at him. “So how’s Temari and Gaara? Sakura whines about them occasionally.”

“Gaara’s gonna be moving here eventually, I think,” Kankuro answered, a little relieved at the change of topic. “He’s been planning that for months. Temari’s fine.” He shrugged, scrubbing at the plate. “She’s busy of course, last year of school, but nothing’s stopping her from doing what she wants.” Dad included.

“Sounds like her,” the blond said, sounding amused. “Why is he moving here?”

“What? It’s not obvious?” Kankuro drawled, finally rinsing off the plate. “It’s because of Sakura.”

A snort. “Stalkerish, much?”

Kankuro laughed, though it came out weak. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Deidara sighed and tossed out the paper from his cupcake. “Good thing his sight’s set on Sakura, un.”

“It’s… not quite normal,” Kankuro said, brow wrinkling down at the soapy water. “Okay, no, nothing about my brother is normal, but that’s not just it.” He sighed and leaned back from the sink, hands grasping the edge. “She’s his first friend. And I think he just wants to be around her. All the time. I don’t think he knows the difference between friendship and love.” How can he? He’s never had either. Wincing as the latter was more truthful than he liked, Kankuro stuck his hands back into the water.

There were a few seconds of quiet, and then Deidara chuckled. “He’ll get along with Hidan, probably. Maybe Kakuzu, un, but that’s harder.”

Cringing back from the thought of his psychotic brother willingly hanging out with the Zombie brothers, Kankuro groaned. “You’re giving me nightmare material. Though, if he does find more friends, I’ll be happier. The kid’s so unstable.”

“Dude, stability is not in the vocabularies of anyone we know. Except maybe Hinata, and even then, I wonder sometimes.”

“It is in mine,” he retorted, grinning back at the blond. “I like to think I’m actually reliable, you know? Makes it easier to keep a job.” Kankuro shrugged at the skeptical look from Deidara. “Look at it this way. I live with a psychotic younger brother and a marginally less explosive sister, staying sane is the only option at that point. I gotta keep my head to keep up with those two.”

The blond paused a beat. “Okay, I guess that makes sense. Just don’t expect anyone else to be sane.”

“Story of my life, Toji.”

xXx

Sai was working on the last coat of bronze enamel when he heard the classroom door close somewhere behind him. He shifted his weight, glancing up into a mirror set on the desk behind the one he used, and spotted blonde hair. He didn’t bother turning, his visitor’s identity confirmed, as he nudged slightly with the flat-edged pallet knife into a groove, urging the enamel deeper, then sprayed with the can again before smoothing the outer edges.

“Hello, Ino,” he said after her footsteps had stopped behind him.

He heard a soft intake of breath. “That is not my ass.”

He tilted his head a little, teeth clenched in his concentration as he carefully turned the lazy susan he’d put the model on. “No…” He frowned, lifting the pallet knife to fix a rough edge near the top.

“Whose is it?” she demanded angrily, prompting a smile from the artist. Jealousy? That was actually rather touching. “And how did you convince her to let you!?”

Squinting once he’d evened it out, then boy then leaned back and turned the thing slowly. He set the can of bronze paint down and turned his head to smile up at her briefly, even as his hand reached down to dig the gold out of his duffel. “Tenten-san’s. As for the negotiations for permission, well, that was mostly Kakuzu-san. Although she did make me get her a coffee before she’d even consider it.”

Now Ino just looked baffled. “Sai… why do you even want to make a bust of a girl’s ass?” she asked, hands propped on her hips.

He blinked and looked over again, can lifted toward the sculpture. “Technically, it’s a model, not a bust,” he replied, brows furrowing slightly. “A bust is the upper part of the body. This is the ass.”

She rolled her eyes hard, and he turned to eye his art. “That wasn’t an answer, Sai!”

“I like them. I think the female form is beautiful,” he replied distractedly, mapping where he’d need to darken the sculpture in places with the gold. Perhaps in the crease there… No, definitely there, the natural shadows weren’t doing enough.

Ino didn’t answer, but eventually went to sit on an empty desk nearby, to watch. Neither of them said anything for a long time, until he sat back after making the final adjustments, letting the model dry. When he looked at her, she smiled at him uncertainly, and he spoke up before she could even ask. “Yours too, of course. I like your breasts the best!”

The blonde looked like she wasn’t sure whether to throttle him or be embarrassed, and settled for scowling. “You’re taking me out for a late dinner tonight, pervert!”

His grin was wide. “Yes, mistress.”

xXx

It wasn’t very often Itachi was surprised, but looking down at the game pieces placed on the checkerboard, he found himself wishing it would happen more often. Pressing the corners of his twitching lips down, Itachi raised his gaze to take in the opposition.

Across from him, his big blue friend chewed at his lip and frowned down at the war zone and frowned. “Shit…” Kisame muttered. “I fucked up, didn’t I?”

Itachi blinked once at his friend’s words and surveyed the board again. “If you have an overall strategy you must follow, perhaps,” he offered. “Taking out my rook at this stage of the game isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Kisame.”

“Tch.” Kisame scowled down even harder, but waved a hand at him and sat back to nurse his beer.

Curiosity piqued, Itachi leaned over, pushing forward with his active bishop and claiming his friend’s last knight. He had barely lifted his hand away from the board, than Kisame reached out, plucked his second to last pawn up and knocked Itachi’s second rook off the board.

This time, Kisame sat back with a milder frown.

“Careful,” Itachi cautioned, eyes roaming over the game. “That was almost hasty.”

“At least I wasn’t annihilated in the first three moves,” the other teen grumbled, turning his bottle around and around in his hands. For a man with a deadly poker face, Kisame barely bothered with chess.

“Hnn.” With a little more consideration than the norm, Itachi moved his queen forward and watched with amusement as Kisame’s brows slid up. “Yes,” he drawled. “Now I’m being serious.”

With a cackle, Kisame shifted forward in his seat and cracked the knuckles of his left hand. “Finally!”

Letting his own grin slip free, Itachi reached for his beer and clinked bottles with his best friend. “About time.”

xXx

Hidan yawned as he shambled into his apartment, absently kicking his shoes off onto the rack by the door. It was nearly two AM, and he was aching all over. Some dickhead had decided to pick tonight of all nights to sneak in and try and steal shit. Which was fucking stupid, since he could have asked during daylight hours and gotten his way. It was just trash, after all.

Anyway, Hidan had sprained his wrist swinging the bat (and probably broke the guy’s arm), and then wrestled with the crazy fucker! Of course, that was before the bastard’s fucktard friend decided he was going to play hero. Holy shit…

Heading for the soft light of the kitchen, Hidan nearly passed right by the blond crashed on the couch. He thought about waking the crazy fucker, but after a second, left him be and went into the kitchen. As he’d hoped, Hinata was waiting there, and so was Kakuzu. “Hey fucker, Goddess,” he grunted, making a beeline for the fridge (and the beers). “Any leftovers, or am I gonna have to cook?”

“If you like cold nachos with an exuberant amount of banana peppers, then yes, there’s leftovers.” Hinata met him at the fridge, arm winding around his waist. A tactful one-sided hug that allowed her to get a good look at the scrapes up his left forearm. “Alternatively, I made turkey club sandwiches again.”

He tugged her against him, kissing her enthusiastically for a moment before snagging a beer and letting her go. “Both? Fucking starving,” he complained.

Kakuzu rolled his eyes. “The hell happened to you, cunt?” he demanded. “Get into a fight with a cat?”

Hidan flipped him off. “Coupla bitches broke into the Yard, and I had to fucking fend them off before I could call the cops.” He grinned proudly. “Sent ’em away on fuuucking streeetchers.” The last was half-sung as the albino looked over to the table.

A low noise of exasperation came from his side as Hina carefully shoved him towards the bastard. “Sit down already,” she told him, already pulling open the freezer. “I’ll feed you.” Contrary to her words though, the first thing she gave him was a bag of ice cubes.

He grinned up at her, accepting it to drape it over his wrist. “Have I said you’re fucking gorgeous lately?”

Kakuzu sneered, nursing a mug of tea.

Humming, Hina bent over to pull out something or other and moved to the oven. “Often enough to keep me interested,” she replied, Hidan raised his focus from her ass to her face as she turned around and was graced with an eye-roll. He just grinned back. “Anyway, we gotta talk about Dei-kun.”

“I was wonderin’ about that,” he admitted, after swallowing a gulp of the beer in his hand. “The fuck’s that guy doing here, anyway?”

Kakuzu set down his mug. “His mother kicked him out. For good this time. She said if he came back, she’d have him arrested.”

The albino whistled softly. “Well fuck.”

“Apparently, Toji-san really didn’t like spiders,” Hina added, “and Dei-kun had kept two dozen in the basement right under her bedroom overnight.” Giving the oven dial one more glance, she went back to the open fridge and took out a plate of sandwiches. “And I mean the big and hairy kind of spiders.”

The green-eyed male hummed. “Well, I think there was probably more to it than that- but he wouldn’t say,” he commented. “He asked if he could bunk here for a while. Either ’till he finds his own place, or school ends. Which is just till the end of the year at most.”

Hidan huffed and accepted a sandwich. “Fucking figures.” At their looks, his brows snapped together in irritation. “The fuck am I gonna say? No? Seriously.”

Smiling, Hina leaned over and kissed his ear lightly. He tried to catch her lips in decent lip lock, but she went even further and hugged him. “Thank you,” she said softly, her hair tickling his throat.

Grumbling, he hugged her back, then dragged the teasing minx into his lap for a good kissing. Kakuzu grunted in annoyance and finished his tea before leaving for bed. Eventually, Hidan pulled back from his girlfriend and grinned at her. “I’m gettin’ fucking brownies tomorrow from the store.”

Hina giggled. “We’ll need milk then. And since Dei-kun’s going to be around, maybe a second fire extinguisher.”

“Good point,” Hidan agreed, smirking. “We’ll make him go to the fucking store, then.”

“Mmm…” Hina’s eyes unfocused for a moment before she blushed bright red and had a sudden interest in nuzzling his neck.

His grin inched wider. “Awww, that’s nice and all, but now I’m fuckin’ curious. Penny for your thoughts?” he asked teasingly, nudging her shoulder.

She almost distracted him by biting down on his own shoulder, but another prod had her mumbling something about “firemen” and “costumes” just under his ear.

Hidan was grinning so wide it hurt. “Did you, my sexy goddess, just suggest sex cosplay?”

The heat radiating off her cheeks would rival the sun. “Nooooo…?”

“You did,” he said, as if she hadn’t said anything. “That is the hottest thing ever.”

“Maybe… Maybe there’s a fire hydrant costume I can hide in…” Hina really meant that to be as uninteresting as all hell, but all Hidan could imagine was mini hydrant tops as nipple pasties.

He laughed. “Oh man, please tell me I ain’t fucking dreaming,” he begged, kissing her head.

Under his lips, Hina shook her head. “No, please tell me I’m dreaming.” She moved away, but only within the circle of his arms and only to look up with a pout. “I thought we were talking about food?”

“Hey you’re the one that started talking about firemen costumes,” he shot back, still smirking. “But if you insist, I know all sorts of fruit-and-sweet-related ways to make things tasty.”

Poor Hina. She blinked once… twice… then her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open. “Meep!” And she was back to hiding under his chin. He could imagine the meltdown going on between her ears.

And he was going to enjoy every second of it.

xXx

Chapter 12 | Naruto Listings | Chapter 14

A/N: And we’re back!

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