A/N: I've never written NS fic before. And wow! A canon romance. I'm so odd. Am I actually getting soft in my old age? Tori/Blake.

I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost, in the sounds.
Regina Spektor – Fidelity

Any girl will gladly tell everyone who will listen her ideas of romance. These typically stick to the clichés, the ideas force fed to children since they are very small that they eventually adopt as their own.

The man walks up to the door, impeccably dressed, thrusting a bouquet of red roses and a box of chocolates into the surprised girl's face. The girl accepts them, invites the man in, finds a vase, small talk ensues, and then the two leave for dinner. They don't hold hands yet, oh no. It's impolite; they've only just met! But over the expensive, candlelit dinner and warming wine, the girl falls for the man's charms, and the man falls for the girl's beauty. After dinner comes the moonlit walk… along a beach, or a park… some other remote location for strolling. Here, they feel connected and daring enough to clasp hands, and sneak glances when the other one isn't looking. There can be deep conversation, but more than likely not. That's what dinner was for, after all.

Then comes the clincher, the climax of all of those romance movies and books. The man turns to the girl, holds her hands, tells her how beautiful she is… and they kiss.

The kiss is a passionate affair, and the girl's ankle lifts, despite it being their first.

At this point, the girl sighs and states that she knows—screw thinking, these girls know—that this man is the one for them. They've fallen irrevocably in love! Love at first date, at first kiss, at first charm.

Tori has never bought into that bullshit.

That man? The cliché romantic one? He doesn't exist, not in reality. The only ones who act like that are those desperate enough to read the dating guidebooks, and those more often than not turn into the creepy stalker kind than the husband kind.

Romance is ugly. It is full of missteps, misunderstandings, and outright arguments.

Love? She's not sure if the romantic kind exists. The familial kind, certainly; Dustin and Shane are closer to her than brothers, and she'd give her life for either of them.

But the heart-racing, eyelashes fluttering, fainting kind of love?

It's a fairy tale.


She knows what crushes are. They're fleeting, hormone-driven lust, and she's pretty sure that's what drove her to attempt to date Blake in the first place. He's quite a catch, after all. Professional motocross rider, well-built (oh boy is he), sweetly adorable, caring, and very handsome.

They have a lot in common, despite their wildly different sporting interests. They both can't stand that shit that passes for rap nowadays, and they both love to read. It doesn't hurt that they've got the whole comrades in arms thing going on too. Nearly dying together more times than they can count is a perk, she guesses.

It was hard, at first, getting past the fact that some of those near death experiences were directly and purposefully caused by Blake. But Tori has always been nothing if not rational, and Blake apologized besides.

So she moved on, they had fun, and it wasn't a problem.

The problem was that Tori is always nothing if not rational.

She doesn't believe in any of this romantic, love crap. Tori likes Blake, likes him a lot. He's fun to talk to, makes her happy, and they don't argue too much more than what Tori considers normal. But love?

So when Blake leaves on his tour, the goodbyes are perfunctory. Blake likes Tori, Tori likes Blake, Blake leaves to pursue wildest dream, Tori stays and teaches, end of story.

Except its not.

They keep talking to each other, over the phone for hours, and in page-long emails. Tori's parents are amused; they think their little girl is finally showing signs of typicality.

Blake's tour heats up, and he starts winning. The press starts noticing, and he has less and less time to spend chatting with his small town girlfriend, though he doesn't say anything of the sort. The fact is that he just has less time, what with a need to sleep and eat in addition to his other activities. Tori knows that this doesn't bother her. They only like each other after all, it's nothing serious.

Except she starts snapping unprovoked at her students when they do the least imagined thing wrong, something Sensei solidly rebukes her for. She even snaps at Dustin for being his normal cheery self, and is horrified by his hurt expression.

Not even catching huge waves makes her feel better.

Tori was baffled, and her friends were getting pissed. But she couldn't control herself, it was like something else had taken over.

The phone calls and emails are fewer and farther between now, and Tori decided that she missed someone intelligent to talk to. Her few attempts to discuss her literary prowess with Hunter have fallen flat, and she knows from long experience that Shane and Dustin have already hashed their favorite books to death and back. Cam reads… but only non-fiction, which is useless when Tori wants to discuss the possible allegories in a particular work.

She feels alone, and bored. Oh, her teaching duties are lots of fun, and good exercise, and hanging out with the guys is as awesome as it always has been… but she still feels listless.

But it's not because she misses Blake, oh no. He's not gone, really, she still has plenty of contact with him. He shares plenty of news about the cute reporters that interview him for a plethora of magazines, the deals offered, the friends he made. She tells him about her students, how they're coming along, how utterly frustrating and useless they are. Just swapping general details of their lives and how different they are, now. No more time for profound conversation on either of their ends. The distraction of life has caught up with them both.

Then Lothor comes back.

Tori, Shane, and Dustin are evil, if only for a short amount of time. But they do damage, and Tori remembers every moment of it. She remembers the explosions and how amazing they felt, The feeling of power that comes from utter destruction, from holding someone's life in your hands.

It was beautiful, and seductive.

Blake saved her. He rescued her from the depths of insanity with nothing more than a smile and a nod. Then it was back to business.

And that's how Tori likes it.

Except for one thing. One thing that the shock of being confronted with her own heartless, evil side made her acknowledge.

"Blake… I missed you. Not just talking to you, or hanging out with you, or how you make me feel… but I missed you. "

His face lights up in a goofy smile, as if this is the best news he's heard all year. "You did?"

Tori smiles, rests a hand on his cheek, and breathes, "Yeah." Then she kisses him, softly, and stares into his eyes as she pulls away.

It's the most cliché love thing she's ever done, and it feels wonderfully freeing. And so does the next one. And the one after that, and after that….