-1AN: Come on, you know you want to find out what would happen…enjoy! This is sort of my little apology for taking "A Simple Wish" off of my stories list. Looking back at it, it was simply just bad writing. I was basically rewriting a story that I had made years ago when my writing sucked, and if you had seen the next chapter…I cringed. It was really that bad. No use of adjectives at all, completely lame actions, just…bad. I hope you like this one!
Disclaimer: No Naruto for me. Kishimoto is such a lucky guy. If only I had his imagination…
Prologue: The News
"No, I'm not!" Yamanaka Ino cried gleefully as she brandished the clipped newspaper ad at her best friend. "It's a citywide contest, meant for anyone ages eighteen to twenty-four. It's based on seven categories, which are technique, creativity--"
"It's a kissing contest." Haruno Sakura stared blankly at the black and white letters, setting her coffee mug back down on the table as she refrained from sighing deeply. If the world hadn't sunk to new lows already, this was the topper on a mountain of lame ideas. "What sick, twisted moron came up with a contest like this? And what completely idiotic person would enter?"
"Well, you see, that's the part I was getting to…" Ino nervously set down the paper and wrung her hands while simultaneously avoiding Sakura's gaze. "I entered with Shikamaru. Of course he struggled fabulously, but I have ways of persuading him." She grinned, but it immediately faded as Sakura waited for her to continue. "And you know…how I always say that you…"
"Never date anyone, and probably won't ever find a decent guy on the face of this planet," Sakura finished impatiently. She had heard the speech often enough to have it memorized. Not that she had taken any of it to heart. "Yeah. I've heard all that before. What are you getting at?"
The blood suddenly drained from her face as she realized. "Oh, Ino, you didn't…"
Ino grinned sheepishly.
"Now don't look so shocked, it's a very big event!" she quickly defended, raising her hands as though she could push back the impeding doom that was washing over her. "It's even televised, and a clip of it will appear on the news! It pays a lot if you win!"
The coffee mug and most of the other objects on the rounded dining room table toppled over, the hazelnut vanilla coffee meant to prevent Sakura from turning into a morning monster soaking into the tablecloth. Apparently, after what her best friend, possibly now an ex-best friend had told her, no amount of coffee would soften this reaction.
"You entered me in a freaking kissing contest!"
Uchiha Sasuke sat back lazily in his chair, sipping his vanilla hazelnut coffee and staring out the window, detached from his surroundings. It was far too early to be back in his office, but work had demanded it, and his boss always deemed Sasuke to be the right man for nearly every job. Never mind the fact that Sasuke was only twenty, and that there were plenty of older, much more experienced employees who could perform the exact same tasks perfectly. No; Sasuke was always called into his boss's office every few days with a new project, sometimes even from home.
Maybe it was because his boss happened to be a female with perfect 20-20 vision and a knack for discovering very attractive men.
He rested his elbow on his desk, allowing his face to fall into his hand. He wasn't stupid; he was well aware that conniving Temari was scoping him out behind his back. It was a reaction he was used to from most females. But he would have to have a word with her supervisor if this continued. He had far more work than anyone else in his department, and though he did his job flawlessly Temari still refused to promote him. Sasuke supposed that she liked the idea of keeping him around just a little too much. She had even told him not to call her by her last name; just Temari would do. Her confident little winks were starting to get on his nerves.
"Uchiha-san, Temari-san would like to speak with you," a voice came from his telephone. He sighed gruffly, smoothing out his suit as he stood up. Not again. She had already called him at four o'clock in the freaking morning just to get him to work early. What more did she want?
"I'll be right there," Sasuke replied as he set the phone back on his desk. Being the most favored guy in his department did have its perks sometimes. For example, he was the only one who, after request, was allowed to have a cordless phone in his office as opposed to the standard navy blue one. Still, not even that was worth enduring the covetous looks his boss kept shooting him.
Temari looked up from her computer as her object of adoration came through the door without knocking.
"Uchiha-kun!" she greeted, picking up a stack of papers on her desk and clunking the edges on the wood to straighten them. "I have a job for you."
"Of course." Sasuke didn't say this in a disrespectful way, but it took considerable effort to keep from doing so.
"There is a contest coming up in Konoha, and our company could really use the publicity," Temari explained, but there was a certain glint in her eyes that Sasuke didn't like. "Now, it would be easier just to promote the contest and advertise on the televised portions, but imagine the amount of attention we would get if one of our own employees were to win the contest."
Sasuke nodded. This wasn't the first time she had sent an employee to try out for something or other to gain publicity. He just hoped he wasn't too involved in whatever it was this time.
"I knew you'd see it that way," Temari said with a grin. "So this year I'm sending you. It's their first annual contest, so we should strike while it's hot."
"Wait, you want me to enter?" he asked rather unintelligently. She beamed at him.
"Of course! What did you think I'd called you in for?" More mindless projects on promoting the contest, maybe. "Anyways, the contest starts up in a week, so that'll give you plenty of time to prepare. Unfortunately, I can't enter myself, as I have so much work to do…" On anyone else this would have seemed like a blatant lie, but from the way her nose crinkled as she surveyed the forms on her desk, Sasuke knew she was being truthful.
"So you'll go to this one. A week should be enough for you to find a partner. Then, you fill out these forms--" she shoved a paper clipped gathering of work that was thankfully a lot smaller than the rest of the stacks on her desk, "--and report back to me."
"Fine." Sasuke decided that this was not the best time to ask questions, as Temari looked much too excited. A partner? Something was off. Taking the papers from her while being very careful not to touch her hand, he read the heading on the business letter. It seemed that they had actually been invited to promote the contest. It had surely been Temari's original idea to send someone to participate, though.
Konoha's First Annual Kissing Contest
Brought to you by Sunakagure, Inc.
Sasuke stormed out the door before his enraged voice could give him away. He was definitely speaking to her supervisor.
"And you've already filled out the paperwork?" Sakura asked incredulously.
"Yep! Sorry, I kinda borrowed your social security card for that…" Ino, so far, was looking pretty unabashed about the whole thing.
"And you're positive that I have to show up."
"Of course! It was basically a contract you signed, agreeing to participate in the event. There's a spot at a table already waiting for you."
"You mean the contract that you signed. You forged my signature!" Sakura exclaimed in a furiously accusing voice.
"Only a little bit!"
"There is no 'little bit' about it, Ino! You either did or you didn't!"
"Sakuraaa, calm down," Ino said, finally just rolling her eyes and settling into her chair. "It's already done with. No use squabbling over the past. Besides, you have to find a guy."
"I do not," Sakura seethed. "Just because you happen to be already married doesn't mean I should be."
"You're going to die a saggy old maid."
"See if I care."
"Please, Sakura, just be reasonable!" Ino finally pleaded. "If you do this for me, I'll bring you coffee every single morning. Hazelnut and vanilla, just the way you like it."
Sakura sighed loudly, her hair fluttering with the movement. No matter how much she stormed, nothing would get her out of this. She could kill Ino, but somehow she figured that would not make it any easier for her to find a job. Being unemployed sucked.
"It better be every morning," she muttered, then was immediately tempted to slap the ecstatic expression right off of Ino's face before it got contagious.
"All righty then! Now, if we're going to do this, we'll have to find you a partner. I know that if you don't have one, they can just randomly assign you one, but that would completely defeat the purpose of finding you man-candy if he turns out to be horrible." She ignored Sakura's snort of "Man-candy?" as she unzipped her purse.
"I fortunately came with most of my beauty products, and we're going to need a full week if I'm going to transform you."
"Thanks a lot, Ino," Sakura grumbled, trying not to look at the small killer objects Ino was pulling one by one out of her bag. She winced at the thought that soon every bit of the arsenal of beauty products would be unleashed on her. What exactly was it that she could look forward to? Oh, that's right, nothing.
"Ino, when this is over, you'll be bringing me so much more than coffee," Sakura threatened. "And we'll start by you bringing me your own head on a platter."
Ino grimaced at the mental image. "Just hold still. We'll begin with skin care today, and that'll go on for the next three days. Your skin is a bit oily, and that makes your forehead look impossibly large when it's so shiny…"
"Why am I friends with you again?"
Ino grinned. "Because you love me."
After going home and repeatedly beating his punching bag until it nearly fell off of its hook, Sasuke collapsed into his sofa, allowing his weight to sink into the comfy fabric. This was so unfair. Call him a sulky teenager, but he had every right to be after the supervisor more or less told him that there was nothing he could do.
"Sorry, Uchiha-san," the supervisor had said as he looked down at the younger man apologetically. "Temari's already filled out the basic paperwork. Granted, she does need your signature on those files, but technically she can make you sign. Other employees do the same thing every day without question. Your case is nothing special, kid."
But it's a fucking kissing contest. Sasuke rolled over and stretched out horizontally over the cushions. I'll bet that's a hell of a difference. Let's see those other employees do something like this "without question." They aren't told to make out with some random person on demand. Sasuke ran a hand through his ebony hair as he pondered the thought. The truth is, many of the other employees--the single ones, that is--would in fact do this without complaint. He would never understand any of them.
His smoldering anger reduced to hot ash as he gave himself another hour to cool off. The contest only lasted for a month. It would be a typical game show setting, where the partners would stay in the same paid hotel rooms, but only if they made it past the first round. Sasuke had to snort at that detail. He was an Uchiha. Uchiha's never failed--not even at something as trivial as a kissing contest. He may not win; he may actually just lose on purpose. But he was getting past that first round, if only to prove to himself that this was just another thing he excelled at. Sometimes his pride was just too demanding.
So I have to find a partner, Sasuke thought. Who could I possibly drag into this with me? Kami-sama known he didn't want anyone he already knew to suffer through the trauma. So his partner would have to be a complete stranger? I still cannot believe this is truly happening. Well, better for it to be a stranger that he could walk away from the minute it was done than for it to be someone he knew. Talk about strings attached; emotionally traumatizing someone else was not high on his to-do list.
The phone rang, and he waited four rings before getting up off the couch to answer it.
"Hello?" he said gruffly.
"Hi, this is Yamanaka Ino," a voice so cheerful it almost sounded false chirped at him. "Your boss contacted me regarding the contest in Konoha."
Sasuke regretted not putting his punching bag in his living room. Will this contest follow him around forever?
"I understand you need a partner for this, don't you?"
Sasuke glared. His boss had recommended him to someone? He was going to kill her. He imagined Temari's face on the top of his punching bag, and vowed to practice his punches the minute he got off the phone.
"Sorry. I'm not interested in the bubbly type," he replied before moving to set the phone down. Ino's high-pitched voice screamed, "Wait!" before it touched the receiver.
"Hang on a minute! The person entering the contest isn't me!" she shrieked. He winced. Who cared?
"Not interested," he said again.
"Her name's Sakura, and she absolutely hates this contest, but I forced her into it!" she said in one breath before Sasuke could even think about hanging up again.
His finger paused just above the receiver to cut off the call. This Sakura hated it, too? The last thing he needed was to be paired with some woman who could not be more excited about kissing a complete stranger. Sasuke realized that this was an opportunity he really didn't have the option of passing up. He would most likely never find another girl who would only want to survive this death trap and get the hell away from him ASAP. There was really no way he could say no.
"Is she…normal?" Does she have warts?
"Oh, she's very pretty!" Ino gushed. "Well, she does have a rather large forehead, but of course you can overlook that."
He heard an annoyed voice in the background said suspiciously, "Who are you talking to, Ino?" before Ino said, "Okay, I have to go. Should I have her call you later?"
"No," Sasuke responded. "Just get my address from Temari and bring her by the day before the contest." Not bothering to say goodbye, he hung up.
He would be willing to bet everything he owned that this girl Sakura had no idea what Ino had just done. A small chuckle escaped his lips. Large forehead, huh? He would be completely paranoid for the next six days. Trying not to imagine a woman with an alien-like, deformed forehead, he strode over to his garage, spotted his punching bag, and grinned as the image of Temari slid easily back into his mind.
"Sakura! I found you a partner!"
A week later, Sakura had been plucked, blow-dried, and foiled to within an inch of her life. She fidgeted with the hem of her red and white striped tank top, which of course Ino had picked out for her. That combined with a fluttery white skirt was supposed to look cute. In Sakura's opinion, it made her look twelve.
"All right, Sakura, I'll be back to pick you up in a half hour," Ino said from behind her as she shut the door of her blue convertible. Ino always did have flashy taste in cars. "Just keep him talking, okay? According to this Temari person, he's quite a hunk." With a final honk of her horn, Ino drove off.
Sakura stared determinedly at the closed door of the Uchiha estate, her foot tapping on the doormat. It was a rather large, expensive house, as though he had inherited it rather than bought it himself. At only twenty, this man could not possibly afford to live here without the backup of some family finances.
She studied the door's intricate patterns. It was a solid, perfect white, but had antique carvings that looked hand-made. The doorknob, solid brass, intimidated her for some reason.
Oh, Sakura, stop it, she scolded herself as she realized that her door-watching was meant to be a distraction from the matter at hand. Just knock on the door, and smile when he answers. No big deal. Her hands clasped and unclasped, and she glanced back down at her outfit. She felt awkward, but Ino had done a good job. She had subtly mixed Sakura's tastes with her own, so nothing was too tight, too indecent, or too flashy. She looked good. This helped her self-esteem somewhat, yet she still could not bring herself to knock on the door.
She jumped as the door suddenly opened, and a man with dark hair and matching eyes stared back at her. A dark blue button up shirt hung loosely on his muscular frame, accompanied by comfortable jeans and no shoes, only wool socks. Curious.
"Haruno Sakura?" he asked, faintly amused. "Were you ever planning to ring the doorbell?"
Oh. Of course it had a doorbell. Sakura had been standing here trying to pep talk herself that she hadn't even noticed.
"Of…of course," she said defiantly. Way to make a good first impression. Gawk at the door, and then at the man inside. He certainly was handsome, but Sakura never was one to be captivated by looks. Though…she gazed up at his perfectly unblemished face…it didn't hurt.
"Well, then, come in," Sasuke said impatiently. He left the door open and walked off, presumably toward the living room. Sakura, stunned, hastily made her way in and shut the distracting door behind her.
Sasuke reached the living room, and he motioned for her to sit on one of the couches. She reluctantly obliged, as everything looked so clean and polished that she didn't want to ruin any of it. The only thing that was wrinkled was the couch, and Sakura noticed this with some relief. At least he was human.
Sasuke scanned her up and down, from her little white shoes to her surprisingly normal-sized forehead. She was pretty, in a small-town girl kind of way. Ina, or whatever her name was, must have exaggerated on the forehead description. There was nothing wrong with it from where he stood.
"Hn. You look…decent," he finally said. No warts, anyway. He saw her face slowly color, and knew he had said the wrong thing.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sakura asked him angrily. "What did you expect, Frankenstein?"
"It would be Frankenstein's creation you're thinking of, though I'm sure the creator wasn't very attractive either," Sasuke corrected, amused. "I was just…surprised, is all. Your friend told me that you had a rather large forehead."
Sakura's face burned in embarrassment, and she mumbled something that contained the words "kill" and "more coffee." Which sounded remarkably like his feelings toward Temari.
"Well, I don't see anything wrong with it," Sasuke commented. Sakura looked up at him, hardly daring to believe that he was saying something polite.
"Thanks," she said awkwardly, shifting a little on the couch. "Nice to know I'm not horribly disfigured."
"Now I didn't say that."
Sakura glared up at him, but her eyes pertly shone with amusement. "You're not exactly a statue of David either."
"Oh, you just might be lying about that," Sasuke said, feigning arrogance. Sakura laughed, leaning forward and placing her hands on her knees, and Sasuke smiled. She wasn't so bad.
"Okay, let's get to the point," Sakura started, all traces of humor fading. "This kissing contest…" She looked just as disgruntled as he was.
"You don't want any part in it," stated Sasuke. He already knew that much.
"I'd rather be thrown into a pit of killer beetles," Sakura agreed. "Ino signed me up against my will."
"My boss wants me to participate for the media attention it'll bring to the company."
"Fair enough," Sakura said, smiling. "I'm glad that I at least have a partner who's as unhappy about this as I am."
"Unhappy might not be the word," Sasuke said. "Maybe 'disastrous' would be more fitting."
"Disastrous, revolting, completely and utterly disgusting…" Sakura shrugged. "Take your pick."
"Wait, you think kissing me will be disgusting?" Sasuke was suddenly on the defensive.
"Hey, I didn't say that, I just meant--"
"That the contest would be revolting. But you'll be in that contest, and I can assure you that I'm the farthest thing from disgusting when it comes to kissing."
Sakura took in his real arrogance this time and frowned. "I'm sure you would know."
"What do you mean by that?" Anger flashed in his eyes at her implication.
"Well, putting this lightly…" There was no light way to put it. "You look like the type who kisses without thinking."
"You think I'm a playboy?" Sasuke's eyes widened at her accusation.
"No, I don't think you're a man-whore," Sakura replied, rolling her eyes. "You just seem to be the kind of guy who…is interested in lots of girls."
Sasuke snorted. He had been doing that a lot lately. "For your information, I could not be less interested in women lately."
"So you're gay." Sakura's eyes twinkled.
"I am not gay!" Sasuke's voice had grown to an enraged shout.
"Then prove it. We'll probably have to practice sooner or later anyway. Prove to me that you're straight."
"Straight as a board," Sasuke confirmed. He started toward her and sat down on the couch beside her.
"This is only for the sake of the contest," he warned.
"Of course," Sakura agreed.
"Only because we have to practice."
"And to prove that you're not gay."
Sasuke's frown deepened. "Right," he growled.
"Then go for it."
Sasuke swallowed, and leaned toward her. Sakura closed her eyes, making it easy for him. He tensely set his hand on her shoulder, and leaned closer. Sakura didn't move.
He stopped. "Kissing is usually a two-person job, you know," he said.
Sakura opened her eyes. "I know, I just wanted to see how you fare first."
"On my own?" Sasuke arched an eyebrow.
"Yes, on your own. We can get to practicing both sides later."
"Who decided that you get to call the shots?"
"Do you want to prove your straightness or not?" Sakura asked, impatient. It was bad enough that they were even doing this.
"Fine. Close your eyes."
Sakura did, and Sasuke leaned toward him again. His lips were so close to hers. Any second now, and they would touch, he noted. It was just a simple kiss. Not a big deal. So what if he didn't know her? A kiss was a kiss. It wasn't like they were going into battle together.
His lips finally met hers, and he froze.
Damn. Maybe they were marching to a battle together.
After a few seconds, Sakura turned her head to the side.
"Uchiha, I'm sorry to say this…"
Sasuke recoiled in shock. "I do not." Uchihas never sucked.
"You do," Sakura insisted. "You act like you've never kissed a girl in your life. How are we supposed to make it past the first round with that?"
"I just don't know you!" Sasuke retorted. "How the hell am I supposed to kiss someone convincingly if I don't even know who you are?"
"Haruno Sakura, currently unemployed, lives with best friend Ino, likes long walks on the beach," Sakura replied, her impatience growing. "Better?"
"Ugh!" Sakura felt like tearing her hair out in frustration. "We're going to lose!"
"So what? You didn't want to be in this contest in the first place," Sasuke pointed out.
"I need the money," Sakura said quietly. "It pays five thousand dollars if we win. I need it to get back on my feet. I can't keep living at Ino's while certain people toss my resume into the shredder. It's getting increasingly difficult to find a job right now." She frowned at him. "And your company needs the advertising."
"Screw the company," Sasuke said coldly. "We'll survive. If it's money you need, take out a loan."
"Without a job to pay it off with?" Sakura sighed in frustration. "Let's just get through this. If we make it, it'll only be for a month anyway. Suffer through it for me?"
Sasuke stared hard at her, trying to read every emotion in her expression. He counted off three so far: aggravation, desperation, and just a hint of defeat. He supposed he could keep it going for maybe one round.
"According to you, I suck," he said mockingly.
"Well, I'll make up for it," Sakura said, jabbing at herself with her thumb. Sasuke gave her a disbelieving look.
"You'd kiss a stranger without any hesitation at all?"
"I'm an amazing actress." With that, she scooted closer to him until she bumped into his leg, and wound her arms around his neck.
"You'd better be," Sasuke said, unfazed and still a little bitter from her remark earlier.
"Trust me, I don't make mistakes."
She touched her lips to his, and pulled him to her. One of her hands played gently with his hair, ruffling the uneven black spikes. Her mouth moved gracefully against his, making no move to deepen the kiss, just showing him a measure of what she could do. She angled her head a little differently, and sighed onto his lips for added effect.
When she pulled back, be merely looked at her. Impressed? She didn't think so. Then again, he had no skill whatsoever. Who was he to talk?
"You had no passion."
"What?" Sakura asked. "No passion? Excuse me, I happen to be rather good at that."
"Well, you had none." Pulling a letter out of his pocket, he glanced over the contents. "And according to the invitation, 'Passion' happens to be one of the categories."
"I did just fine!" Sakura argued angrily. "There was nothing wrong with it!"
"Oh, sure, that might get you past the first round. But you won't get any farther than that without any feeling."
"I can put feeling into it!" she spat out, her fists clenched. "Pretending emotion isn't rocket science. And in case you hadn't noticed, you're really not one to talk."
"I have no passion because I don't pretend."
"Well, start pretending!" Sakura demanded. "If we're going to pull this off as a fake couple, we're going to have to beat out all of the real ones!"
The corner of Sasuke's mouth twitched. "Competitive, aren't you?"
"Hell, yeah, I am! If we're going to get that money…" she quieted down. "We're going to have to give it everything we have."
"We'll be practicing a lot."
"You better not have mono."
"The kissing disease?" Sakura made a face. "Gross."
Sasuke chuckled as his eyes skimmed the letter again. "This says that 'anyone found to have any contagious ailment of any sort will be automatically disqualified.'"
"Well, then I guess that rules you out."
"Do you want to practice or not?"
AN: First chapter done! And it's actually two pages longer than my chapters normally are! Please tell me what you think!