Author's Note: I have been wanting to do a stylized one-shot lately, though really had nowhere to go with it, but after watching episode 109 today for the umpteenth time (only this time in English, which is always weird, but hey, gotta get the fix) this came to me. And what can I say? I am a sucker for coffee shops. AU drabble, nice and sweet. Please tell me what you think? Shall I continue with this style in the future? Do you like a more realistic approach? Lemme know, and thank you. I hope you enjoy, it certainly warmed my heart to write.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Seriously, I'm dirt-poor-broke. But that won't stop me from cuddling with my Sasuke plushie! Oh how he must hate me…
The bells over the solid wooden door chimed softly, allowing a glimpse beyond into the overcast day that shrouded the city. The dim gray light that snuck through the crack was brief, soon swallowed up by the yellow glow of indoors. The atmosphere of the small shop was warm, the air like vanilla and an unnamable spice that reminded those who entered of a good novel. That was why she came here, he supposed, and curled up in the corner booth with the same cup of coffee every Saturday afternoon.
Now as she approached the counter that spanned almost an entire wall of the cozy café, her cheeks pink from the wind and nose tucked down near the rim of her scarf, the tall male –the owner's son- busied himself with another order as if he weren't in fact anticipating her arrival. Carefully she plucked a wool glove from her delicate fingertips which still quivered from the near-winter chill and reached in her pocket for the exact amount in change. She never carried a purse.
"May I take your order?" the pleasant, sing-song voice of a coworker drifted over the counter, mingling with the smooth jazz that hummed from invisible speakers.
"A tall coffee, please," he wasn't looking but still knew that she was smiling, always polite.
Money exchanged hands, no receipt needed. Stormy eyes flicked over to the girl for just a moment, his head not even turning, but he could still see her unwinding the soft-looking gray scarf, her gloves no where to be seen but the bulges in her pockets deceived their location.
"Here you are, miss."
"Thank you," her boots padded over to her favorite nook, one which the male secretly kept a cup or two on up until the time she stopped by just so it would be open when she got there.
Setting the steaming cup down onto the small, round table beside an over-stuffed cushioned bench, the girl shed her thick wool coat, folding it over a slender arm before draping it over the side of the booth. The springs of the seat groaned as she sat. Scooting towards the window which was so heavily curtained that the outside was a mere shimmer around the edges, the girl's hand extended, grasping the thin-foam cup which held her drink. The man behind the counter watched intently as she touched those soft, pale lips to the rim and purred her satisfaction as the black liquid lapped over her tongue. The breath he hadn't realized he had been holding escaped from his lungs in an exhausted whoosh.
The bell over the front entrance rang again.
"Hey, Sasuke, can you take this one?"
Sighing with the burden, the male dragged himself towards the front station and forced his mouth to twist in what one may consider a comely fashion.
"Good afternoon," his deep voice resonated for the customer but his thoughts remained on the other side of the shop.
When I'm finished with my coffee, I must get back to work. The girl heaved a heavy breath, her frame drooping forward in the action, fine lashes lowered. Almost without comprehending the act, her hand reached out for the one bit of solace in her ever-demanding schedule, the heat of the brew easing her tension for the time being. Anatomy and Physiology, Social Science, Calculus, Art History exam… the list of study topics ran through her head, an attempt to remember all that she had yet to accomplish.
But those could come later when her coffee was depleted and the hour for breathing that she forced herself to take was over. Until then, her rigidly-wound muscles could relax, although she was aware of the perils of such things, knowing full well that if she sat for the full sixty minutes that she was in danger of never rising again. She sipped her coffee slower.
Sakura had been visiting this cafe for well over a year now since she first discovered it her second semester in college. It was an insignificant spit of a place located on the Indie side of town between a bustling bridal boutique and an abandoned old building that had long ago been claimed by squatters. She had happened upon it on a day much like this one, only near the tip of September instead of November when she had missed the bus and had to wait forty-five minutes for the next one. She had wandered for a while, window shopping, especially outside of the space beside this one where an overpriced dress was posed meticulously in the display area. She would have passed right by if it hadn't been for a nameless person who had walked out and that scent to drift so sweetly by her wary senses in their wake. It was love ever since.
So now, just as it went every weekend following, she was staring out at the cold weather beyond the thick curtain, dreading stepping back into it and the realm of responsibility.
He hated that expression on her. She was so distant, so far away in thoughts that he couldn't read but wished to spare her. He wanted those iridescent, earthy eyes to sparkle like they did when she smiled, to have their edges crinkle in such a friendly way that he knew she must forget herself when it happened. He wished the lines that creased her brow would smooth back and the muscles to ease in her jaw. They had only spoken enough to exchange goods and the average small talk between strangers. It wasn't as if she was intimidating, she never kept an aura outside of kindness to his knowledge, it was merely that he had never really managed to conceive of a logical reason to approach.
"Hey, Tenten, I'm taking five," he called to the back where his coworker was removing a few pastries from their vintage oven.
"Okay," she called back absent-mindedly, the male having already ditched the hunter-green apron around his neck and made his way towards the girl.
"You shouldn't sigh so often, it's not becoming of a lady," not being one with words, Sasuke hardly recognized the statement for its rude nature.
"Pardon?" she looked up at him through straight, silky strands of strawberry-blonde hair that had fallen around a heart-shaped face, her now-knitted brows a shade or two darker.
The male crinkled his nose subconsciously, lanky fingers slipping through his belt loops out of a habitual stance, "Frowning is even more unflattering."
Perhaps it was living a sheltered life that had made Sasuke so socially inept, being surrounded constantly by his family, helping to run the business, but mostly behind the scenes. He rarely served customers and even then it was only a few words between parties, not casual conversation. But here he was, sending polite insults at a young woman who he had only seen in passing for a year and a half.
"Then I invite you not to look," her green eyes sharpened a degree, hoping to get the point across to the man standing before her, readily informing her of her facial discrepancies.
But now he was transfixed, gazing into such jewel-like eyes that he questioned for a moment if they were real or perhaps only colored contact lenses. But no man-made product could be so clear and flawless. And as she tipped her head up to stare back at him, the golden artificial light brought out the copper that hid itself so snugly near the pupils of the jade irises.
"And if I want to look?" his tone softened just enough that the edge in her growing dislike of the male was curved and the worry that marred her soft features returned.
"I'm not sure why you would," her voice, an alto, held no insecurity but that did not prevent the words from ringing true.
She turned her face away, the arm closest to her admirer rising to support her chin in a sweatered palm, the cropped, pink-tinted hair falling around the elongated, red collar. Go away, her gestures whispered, but Sasuke chose to ignore them, instead seating himself across from her in the other short booth. There was a pregnant silence before the male spoke again.
"What's on your mind?"
The corners of her lips tipped down, the creases they created subtle in her young skin. She took a moment to examine the man who had kept her company for the past minute and a half and wondered why he bothered. They didn't even know each other, but there he was, arms folded over the table, an elbow threatening to tip over her coffee cup and staring at her with gentle curiosity. At the angle that he was at -adjacent with the window- his eyes that she had once assumed to be black as night shone in the silver light, reflecting back a deep, muted gray, almost matching her scarf. For a moment she allowed her feminine mind to take hold, admiring the paleness of his skin which came from living indoors or in such a gloomy city such as Chicago. It was such a stark contrast with the pitch of his hair that looked like it had never seen a brush in the twenty-plus years of his life.
"What's you're name again?" she asked in return. He might have been beautiful as far as men went, but seriously, she didn't know him.
"Sasuke, and yours?"
He had answered that much too easily. She grunted to herself inwardly before caving in. What would it hurt, right?
"Sakura," how fitting.
The smile that tugged at the man's face warmed a place in the girl that had little contact, especially when she noticed how it dimpled his cheek just slightly. Don't do this to me now, she warned her pulse, the little tapping of her forefinger mimicking its increased pace. That habit hadn't developed until she had come to school in the city.
But with the flick of those dark eyes, she knew he noticed and repeated his previous question.
"What's on your mind?" although his voice was somewhat flat, as if it went unexercised regularly, it retained its interest.
"What's it matter?" she retorted.
Sakura was hardly one to go about spouting her problems to everyone who asked. She even omitted information from her parents who called to check up on her every so often, just reciting the usual or any positive tidbits of news, such as a good grade or the new restaurant she tried the other day. There was a touch of distress that weaseled its way through her at the pensive expression the male dawned. Maybe now that she demonstrated her disagreeable disposition he would leave her alone and she could go back to work and back to the stress that she was trying so desperately to claw herself away from.
"I want to see you smile," he said after a long moment, his gaze diverted away from her when the surprise lit her face.
Sakura hardly knew how to respond to such a request, instead vouching to remain silent, hoping that he would continue to stare at the other wall long enough for the faint blush that stained her cheeks to fade. But luck never favored this particular female except in ways that she hardly expected.
"I'm sorry, did I embarrass you?"
The girl –Sakura, he mentally corrected- appeared as she had when she first walked in their front door except now he knew it was not due to the cold, although there was a tiny draft that snuck between the cracks of their decaying window sill. If she hadn't looked so startled then he might have labeled it charming. His humor, which he attempted to keep safely tucked away in appearance, increased when she floundered.
"N-no, no-o, I'm okay, really," she mumbled really again under her breath as if to convince herself as she looked away, the tint on her face extending to her ears.
"Hey, don't worry about it." He really didn't want to leave, "I'm sorry that I caused you any inconvenience," but rose to go nevertheless.
Please stop me… it had been a long while since he had wished such a thing. But it would appear that as every other time such a prayer leaked from his mind, it went unanswered as she let him walk away and back behind the counter where he belonged. That was the way of things, though, to keep work and pleasure separate; a server and a customer, a counter and a booth.
It would be about a month before the two would interact again, Sasuke purposely hiding in the back room with one excuse or another when she came by at eleven sharp Saturday mornings. His pride had been bruised and he had no desire to put it on the line again. That was until the fifth week of this trend rolled around and he could no longer ignore the way she slouched in her seat, knees tucked to her chest in such a protective gesture that he could hardly stand to look on from another room. It was the final blow when he noticed her shoulders quiver and fists ball around her ankles.
Sliding his fingers through ebony locks, tousling them further than what was considered normal, Sasuke strode forward and out of his assigned station, not bothering to remove the apron that currently sported flour left over from the morning's baking.
"What's wrong with you?" he knew he sounded impatient and crude, but it didn't matter as long as those harsh words would get the point across. I'm worried…
When she looked up at him with eyes that were almost as dark as his own, seeming sunken by the rings that smeared a sickly puce around them, the quick temper that he was known for by the few who came close to him ignited and he wanted nothing more than to demolish whatever it was that made Sakura this way.
"Nothing, I'm just tired," she said softly, almost convincing, but her voice was so far away that it sounded like a recording.
"You've got nothing to gain by lying to me, now what's the matter?" he sat beside her in the narrow booth, her dainty feet squished somewhat by his thigh but she did not remove them.
Her head dropped back into the nest formed by her arms and for a while the male suspected that she would not answer. Just as his lips parted to press the issue further, her muffled voice could be detected, but the man had to lean in to decipher what she was actually saying.
"I don't know," she started, sounding so weak, "it's this feeling. This hollowness that has eaten away a hole in me but I don't know what it is or where it came from. It's not heartache, it's not homesickness, but this… this little chaotic place inside my chest, right over the tip of my sternum. At first I believed it was just a problem with my diaphragm," this was followed by a faint chuckle, sounding almost sarcastic in the irony of it all. "I'm just tired…" she finished.
Once again the atmosphere that shrouded the pair was heavy, neither knowing what to do or say. The anger that had bubbled up within the male of the two had dissolved, now replaced with a feeling of loss and pity. Sucking his lower lip between his teeth, Sasuke's hand extended towards the girl's head as if to grace her with a tender caress but then paused, thinking better of it. Drawing his hand back a degree, he reached instead for the Styrofoam cup that was still full yet cooling quickly, grasping it and drawing it back to touch the warm, smooth surface to her cool hand.
Tipping her head up enough to look at him from over her knees, the area around her eyes looking puffy, almost as if she had been crying, Sasuke offered her an unsure, lopsided smile.
"It's getting cold," he said softly, bringing the cup more to the level of her head, forcing her to release her knees to retrieve it.
Her translucent olive eyes gazed at the thing he offered, noting quietly the tan colored print, the little logo with a red and white fan on the side, partially covered by the male's thumb. It would be such a waste if it went cold and the microwave always distorted the taste of things.
Carefully her digits uncurled from around her lower half as she proffered them for her drink. Her lashes, the same pale pinkish color as her brows, drifted closed as she took the first long sip, unable to conceal the little moan of pleasure that slipped between her lips when they parted from the rim.
"Thank you," she whispered against the cup, her eyes still closed but now a little more relaxed.
Sasuke only smiled in response.