God, this was so long. And. Uh. Yeah. Ahem. No comment on the quality.
For Anne, my favorite cliché-magnet. Happy birthday!
Disclaimer: I own nothing someone else does. I just own like two things in this. See if you can pick them out.
Sasuke was perusing the shelves of science fiction in the bookstore when he saw her. She was in the next aisle over – 'R' for romance – and humming to herself tunelessly. She carried five thick books, balanced precariously in one arm as she flipped through even more titles. They're going to fall, Sasuke thought, just before they did.
"Oops," she muttered, laughing guiltily to herself as she bent to scoop them up. His upbringing pushed Sasuke to her side, and he crouched down to help, surprising her very much.
"Oh! Thanks." She smiled, and it took up her entire face. She had pink hair – pink! – vivid green eyes, and very white teeth, and she wore a bright blue sundress – she was almost painfully bright to look at.
"No problem," he said, glancing at the titles absently. Pride and Prejudice. A Walk to Remember. Twilight. What a girl.
"God, this happens in like, every romance novel," she said as he handed the books to her. He raised an eyebrow at this. "You know," she elaborated. "Guy helps hopelessly clumsy girl. Their eyes meet. There's chemistry in that one glance. They're in love. Happily-ever-after."
"You're getting ahead of yourself. I don't even know your name," he pointed out.
"Sakura," she supplied breezily. "And anyways, I don't buy into that stuff. For one thing, I am very graceful. And for another…" She shrugged, eyes twinkling. "You're really not my type. Cute, though." She took a book from the shelf and waved awkwardly, books nearly spilling from her arms once again. Sasuke blinked after her, thrown off by the encounter, before shaking it off and returning to his own section.
The second time he saw her, Sakura didn't even recognize him.
He noticed her right away, of course. Not many people had that ridiculous bubblegum-pink hair, after all. And she was all made up in a purple top and black skirt, with absurdly high heels. She stood out, and she was walking right by where he stood in line at the coffee shop. She didn't look twice at him, and he looked away, too, so she wouldn't get the wrong impression. Unfortunately, Naruto was with him and couldn't take his eyes off her.
"Wow. She's hot," he said in a low voice. Unfortunately, Naruto's low voice wasn't much quieter than a normal person's loud one, and Sakura turned at the comment.
Naruto seemed taken aback by her direct stare, but Sasuke knew that he was more focused on the vivid green of her eyes, and the slope of her soft cheeks, and her full lips – that was just Naruto. But Sasuke could concede that she was very pretty – he just wasn't so vocal about it.
Sakura's gaze shifted from Naruto to Sasuke, and he ducked his head, staring at the money in his hand.
"Excuse me? Do I know you?"
Naruto didn't reply, and Sasuke realized she was talking to him. He cleared his throat. "Uh, we met—" Well, that was one way to put it—"last week at the bookstore. You dropped your books in the romance section." God, he sounded obsessed, like he had gone home and recorded every detail about her into a diary or something. And he hadn't; he just happened to have an excellent memory.
"Oh, right." Sakura smiled, oblivious to his inner turmoil. "I remember. Who's this?" she asked, nodding toward naruto.
"I'm his best buddy," he replied eagerly. Sasuke nudged him to cool it. "My name's Naruto. What's yours?"
"Sakura," she said flatly. Naruto looked puzzled at her tone, and she continued, "Don't go falling in love with me, or this guy will, too. And we'll have an epic drama on our hands."
Sasuke stared at her, lost for words. She shrugged.
"Regulation plot device. I'm just preventing a cliché. You'll thank me some day."
With that, she left, her hair swinging behind her as he walked. Sasuke watched her go. Naruto watched him.
"Why do you know all the weird girls?" Naruto shook his head sadly. "And why are all the pretty ones crazy?"
Sasuke smacked him on the back of the head.
One strange meeting was okay. The second was a weird coincidence. By the third meeting, Sasuke was starting to worry Sakura was stalking him. It wouldn't be the first time, but considering she wasn't even looking his way, he kind of doubted his own theory.
She was standing in the parking lot of a library, wearing a white tank top and jeans, and considering how cold it was outside, Sasuke thought he should help her.
"Sakura," he called out hesitantly. What was he doing? He barely even knew the girl!
She turned at his voice, and recognition flickered in her bright green eyes. She smiled wide and lifted her hand to wave.
"I remember you this time!" she exclaimed triumphantly as he neared.
He smiled a bit at that. "Congratulations. Why are you standing outside?"
"Waiting for a ride," she said easily. "Don't offer me one."
Sasuke gave her a strange look. "Right. Why don't you wait inside?"
Sakura exhaled gustily. "My ex-boyfriend is in there. We're cool, but if I see him… I mean, things can only go one of two ways, and everything's been written out." She waved a dog-eared book featuring a ridiculously busty woman and her bare-chested lover. The title was Love in the Rain. Sasuke made a face at it, and she laughed. "Wanna borrow it? I'll be done soon."
"I'll pass." He glanced around the empty parking lot and wondered why he didn't just leave. "Aren't you cold?"
"Maybe a little." As if on cue, she shivered, goosebumps rising along the pale skin of her arms. Sasuke watched them for a moment, until Sakura hitched her pink purse further up her arm and he snapped out of whatever daze he was in.
"Thought so," he said, pulling off his jacket. When she saw this her eyes widened and she stepped backing, holding her hands out in front of her.
"No. No no no no noooo." Despite her protests and flailing arms, Sasuke was able to grab her arm and hold her in place long enough to throw the jacket over his shoulders.
"Don't be so stubborn. You'll get sick," he snapped.
"No, I won't! I have a great immune system!"
He rolled his eyes and started walking away, cursing his own stupidity. Why the hell was he giving a jacket to some random girl? What was wrong with him?"
"I'm warning you now! We're destined for clichés!" Sasuke looked back over his shoulder. Sakura was stomping her feet and glaring furiously, but she had shoved her arms through his black jacket and was hugging it tightly to her body. It was a little too long on her, and Sasuke thought she looked kid of cute. But at that thought he had to turn away, because it was apparent he was turning into Naruto who, by the way, could not stop talking about Sakura.
Maybe her stupid clichés had some truth to them.
"If we meet again, we're doomed!" she shouted at his back. Sasuke ignored her.
But as luck – or was it fate, maybe? – would have it, Sasuke did meet Sakura again. He was in the library, typing up an essay, when she slid into the seat beside him.
"Well, I think it's about time I learn your name," she said, right off the bat.
Sasuke was so surprised, he answered immediately. "Sasuke. What are you doing here?"
Sakura glanced at her bag, at the bookshelves and study tables all around them, and back at Sasuke. "Scoping for hotties. Isn't it obvious?"
Sasuke smiled a little at that, and Sakura beamed back.
"By the way," she went on conversationally, taking her laptop out of her white tote, "I still have your jacket." Sasuke was horrified to feel his cheeks grow hot at the memory of his stupid, pointless, chivalrous gesture, and Sakura giggled at this, hitting the power button of her laptop. "My friend Ino thinks that was sweet of you, by the way. She approves of us. Isn't that good news?"
Sasuke choked. "What?!"
Sakura looked at him like he was the mentally unstable one. "Duh. We're not going to have a beautiful, tragic love story now. If this—" She gestured to the space between them, and Sasuke had the irrational urge to squirm away—"goes anywhere, it can just be, you know. Normal. No one's going to stand in the way of us marrying. We don't have to elope."
Sasuke ran a hand over his face. "What is wrong with you?"
Sakura looked offended. "I just don't want a scripted love story! Do you?"
"There is no love story!" Sasuke said, exasperated.
Sakura patted his shoulder. "I think we're meant to be by now." Sasuke seethed, but she went on, "So, you're right. There isn't going to be anything between us. Sorry. We can still be friends, though!" She looked so earnest, smiling up at him with her little hand stretched out, that Sasuke couldn't help lifting his own to take hers. She had long, French-manicured nails, and her hands were very soft.
"You know, it's almost a pity. We totally have the makings of the perfect Love Story." She sighed. "We would look so good together. Can't you see it?"
When she pointed it out, Sasuke kind of could. But he wasn't about to say that.
Sasuke took it for granted that he would see Sakura again, and he did, at a party thrown by a mutual friend, Kiba. She was sitting on a stood at the island in the kitchen, working her way through the platter of nachos and guacamole.
"Save some for the rest of us," Naruto said grumpily, scooping up a handful of chips and shoving them, all at once, into his mouth, before he saw her face. His jaw dropped, and a chip fell out. "Uh…"
"Ew," she said, wrinkling her nose. She looked at Sasuke and brightened. "Sasuke! Hi!"
"Hey," he greeted, leaning over for a nacho. Naruto still had his gaze fixed on her, dumbfounded. "Idiot. Stop staring at her."
"Yeah," Sakura said, wagging a finger in Naruto's face. It was painted black to match her black t-shirt, skirt, and ankle boots. "You'll set off a chain reaction."
Naruto looked to Sasuke for an explanation, but he just shook his head.
"Right. Uh. I'm gonna go. Over there." With that, Naruto scurried off, leaving the two of them alone in the kitchen. The faint thumping of music came from further back in the house, but it was mostly quiet in the kitchen.
Sakura sucked some guacamole off her thumb. "Are you drunk?"
Random. "I don't drink."
"Just covering all the bases," she said by way of explanation. "I drink, but I have a high tolerance. Don't worry, I won't shove you into a bedroom or be all cute and awkward and honest, or throw up and get assaulted so you have to protect me." She paused. "Well, I might throw up. But that's why I tied my hair, see?" She gestured to the high ponytail.
He furrowed his eyebrows. "I would hold your hair for you."
She laughed. "Is that your way of telling me the ponytail isn't working? What a nice guy." She pulled the scrunchie out of her hair, fluffing it so it fell about her face in its usual haphazard way. "Better?'
Sasuke wisely chose not to answer. "Why are you so dead-set against clichés?"
"If I've read it, I don't want to experience it," she said, as if she'd done it a million times before. "It's boring. It's fake. It's read and reviewed by the world over. Where is a scripted relationship supposed to go? The end credits, that's where." She popped a nacho into her mouth. "Why? Trying to romance me?"
Sasuke snorted. "Hardly."
Sakura didn't look hurt by the brush-off, however. "Good," she said, "Because, no offence, you don't look very original. You would totally try to hide your feelings for me in a completely obvious way."
"You're very annoying," Sasuke informed her.
She nodded wisely. "See? Just like that."
"I wouldn't do that," Sasuke said defensively. "I would tell you."
"Well, most guys don't. You look like the type to be in denial." She combed her fingers through her hair, trying to settle it. Sasuke thought it looked fine the way it was. "But if not, well, points to you. Being open – that's new."
Sasuke rolled his eyes, and the two fell into a comfortable silence – for all of two minutes, before Sakura was yapping again. This was exactly why they would never work, much to her relief, Sasuke was sure.
"My ex, Sai, said clichés were inevitable. But I think he read that off the internet or something. He was stupid that way. He actually believed that thing about pee being on cans of coke." She made a face.
"You have very good taste."
"Yeah, well, he was hot. He kind of looked like you." She tilted her head, squinting at him. Sasuke cocked an eyebrow at her. "You're prettier, though."
"Yeah. Like, you're kind of perfect-looking. I bet you make your girlfriends insecure."
"I wouldn't know. I never had one," Sasuke felt the need to tell her. Sakura didn't look surprised.
"Well, no, you wouldn't. You're kind of badass. Anyways," she went on, ignoring Sasuke's look, "Sai's way of flirting was to hold my books and buy me red roses." She looked disgusted. "He used to catch me when I fell, and carry me bridal style, when I twisted my ankle. I mean, hello!"
Sasuke looked away to hide his amusement. Sakura looked affronted. "I thought you were graceful," he reminded her, referring back to their first meeting.
She smiled. "I've learned my lesson since. You remember that? How sweet," she cooed. "This better not be a hint of your immense passion for me." sasuke dropped his face into his palm.
"Sakura, if I ever fall in love with you—" That was a very big if, but Sasuke wasn't going to tell her that, "You'll be the first to know."
"Thanks. I appreciate it." She pushed some hair out of her eyes, and they each took a chip to seal the deal.
Sakura asked Sasuke for her number the night of the party, as a tall, impatient blonde, came up to her to take her home. The two of them had spent the entire night together in the kitchen, only getting up for drinks and to refill their nacho bowl. It had been enjoyable. Sakura talked too much but then, so did Naruto, and he was his best friend.
Considering this, Sasuke had handed over his number. He didn't expect Sakura to really call him, anyway.
But call she did, and at, of all times, two in the morning.
He didn't even check the caller ID, just flipped open his phone and grumbled an irritated, "What the hell do you want?"
Immediately, Sasuke sat up, blinking in the dark. "Sakura? What's wrong?"
"Um…" She sniffed, and Sasuke could imagine her rubbing at her eyes. Unconsciously, he did the same. "I'm sorry to bother you, but…"
"It's okay," he urged, feeling much more awake. "Tell me what happened. Where are you?"
She didn't say anything, and Sasuke was growing more alarmed by the minute. "Sakura?" he pressed.
"I'm outside the bookstore," she said in a shaky voice. "Can you come pick me up?"
Sasuke didn't even think. "I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
When he drove into the parking lot, Sakura was swinging her purse from side to side. There was a group of smokers a few feet away, and even though they weren't paying any attention to her, she looked anxious. Sasuke unlocked the door, and she sagged with relief, running to meet him.
She flung herself into the passenger seat and folded her arms, staring out the window.
Sasuke hadn't changed out of his pajamas – dark blue plaid pants and a t-shirt – and his hear was still messy from sleep. Sakura, all made up in strappy silver sandals and a black dress, looked the very opposite.
"Ugh," she groaned, turning back to face him. Her eyes were narrowed, but her lips were trembling. "I went to a party with Sai, my ex, okay, just as friends," she said in a rush, "And he's horrible with alcohol, and we got into a fight and I know he didn't mean it but it got really nasty and…" By now she was sobbing, tears pouring down her cheeks. He could barely understand a word she was saying.
"Want me to take you home?"
She nodded. "I'm sorry, but my friends would go hunt Sai down or something. And then they'd come after me."
He reversed out of the parking lot. "What makes you think I won't do the same?"
"You don't know who Sai is," she reminded him, rubbing at her cheeks. Her mascara was smearing. She looked a mess. "And you wouldn't hurt me. I think you're a sucker for girls."
"What?" he asked incredulously. "No one has ever said that to me before. There's a reason for that."
Sakura laughed a little at that. "Well, you're always helping me out. With my books, your jacket… even now. You care about girls. Well, that, or you really, really like me."
"What's my third option?" he asked dryly.
Now she really did laugh. "Turn right here, by the way," she said as they neared a corner. He obliged, and she went about directing him the short distance to her house. It looked dark and empty.
"My parents went out. They'll be home soon," she explained. "Hang on a sec. I'll go get your jacket."
She disappeared before he could protests, and he waited in her driveway, trying to tame his hair. She came back a few minutes later, carrying his jacket, neatly folded over one arm, and he rolled down his window.
"Thanks," she said. "For both things. For everything."
"No problem," he replied, embarrassed.
"God, this is the kind of thing you find in every single bad novel," she complained. "Don't tell anyone about this, okay?"
Sasuke gave her a very flat look. "I'll try to restrain myself."
"That's all I ask. Well no, there's one more thing: if I kiss your cheek, will you fall in love with me? Because we're doing so well."
"You bring that up a lot," he observed.
"I'm cautious. So sue me."
"No," he said, "I won't fall in love with you." He didn't realize that was an invitation until she leaned through the window, pecked him lightly on the cheek, her lips cool and dry, and pulled away.
"You're a good guy, Sasuke." She stepped back and he watched until she went into the house to drive away. He had to wake up in less than four hours to get ready for a nine-hour day, but Sasuke couldn't find it in himself to be annoyed.
Maybe he was a sucker for girls. Maybe just Sakura. Maybe he was just too damn soft-hearted for his own good.
"I was reading this book today," Sakura said through the phone. "This guy made a girl fall in love with him by taking her on a midnight picnic of cupcakes. They looked at the stars." She sighed. I can cross that dream off my list."
"Why do you need to cross it off?" he asked, making a note in his textbook, cell phone pressed to his ear. Naruto walked into his dorm room and headed straight for the mini-fridge. Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"I pride myself on my originality, Sasuke," she said prissily. Naruto clanked around a few cans. "What's that noise?"
"The best friend who's stalking you," Sasuke informed her. To naruto, he snapped, "Get out of my room."
"Oh, him. Tell him I say hi!"
Naruto brightened at the same time. "Sakura-chan? Say hi to her for me!"
"She said she hates you and your fashion sense," Sasuke said to his so-called best friend. Naruto scowled at him.
"Don't be rude, Sasuke!" Sakura chided through the phone. "Alright, you go gossip with your buddy. I'm supposed to be studying, anyway. Bye!" she chirped, hanging up before he could protest. He did not want to gossip with Naruto. About what? New flavors of ramen?
He dropped his phone onto his desk with an exasperated sigh. Naruto was looking at him. "Go away," Sasuke said, turning back to his abandoned readings.
Naruto pulled an apple out from the fridge. "But I'm hungry. Why do you have rabbit-food?"
"It's healthy," Sasuke corrected.
"Whatever, you girl. You're just trying to keep your figure." Sasuke shot him a very sour look. "Do you always talk to Sakura like that?"
Immediately, Sasuke was on his guard. "Like what?"
"Like a normal person." Sasuke was sure that Naruto had lost one too many brain cells drinking. "I mean, I call you, and you just swear at me and hang up."
Sasuke picked up his highlighter. "Idiot. You call me to ask me to buy you ramen."
"So?" Clearly, Naruto didn't get it. "I need to eat, don't I?" He was silent for a moment, and Sasuke scanned the pages. "You know what I think? I think you like her."
Sasuke went on highlighting. "Don't let Sakura hear you say that," was all he said.
Naruto furrowed his eyebrows at the lack of a reaction. Where was the explosion? Sasuke nearly broke his arm when he suggested he liked Karin. "Uh, why?"
"She's against us having any sort of relationship." Sasuke finally looked up. "She calls us a cliché."
Naruto laughed. "Wow. She's nuts. But I still say you like her. I mean, you talk to her like an actual human being and you spent that entire party with her and you picked her up that night at like two in the morning."
Sasuke waved him off. "Should I have left her at the parking lot?"
"You would if it was me!"
Sasuke couldn't argue with that. Grinning, he tuned Naruto out until he finally, finally left.
Since the first night, Sakura had taken to calling Sasuke nearly every other day, though usually at more appropriate times. When she didn't call, he contemplated doing it, but never really worked up the nerve. He felt too awkward, even though their conversations were always easy, and very long – in spite of his usually anti-social tendencies.
They didn't talk about the night of her fight with Sai, though, and she had stopped telling him not to fall in love with her. Instead, they talked about the boys who held doors for her, or bumped into her, or picked up her books when she dropped them. She crossed them all off her list of possible conquests. Sasuke wondered if he had ever been on the list. She told him that their relationship was 'doomed from the start.'
But, quirkiness aside, Sasuke got along with Sakura well, much better than he did with many other people. Sure, she was annoying, and she talked too much, and she jumped to conclusions, but she was charming in her own way, and Sasuke grew more attached to her by the day.
It was too bad she had stopped warning him against it.
But Sasuke always honored a deal. He met Sakura for burgers and fries on a Saturday afternoon. She, of course, had a romance novel in her purse.
"I should just write my own," she complained. "The quality is going down. Where's the love lately?"
Sasuke didn't reply, all too used to her tirades by now.
"I mean, is there no other way to fall in love? They have to start off hating each other, or be embroiled in the throes of forbidden passion? God!" She glared up at him. "Help me out here, Sasuke."
He wiped his mouth. "You know what the most original way to get a guy's attention is?" he asked. Sakura blinked, a fry halfway to her mouth.
"No," she said, swirling it in more ketchup. "Some unfortunate girl catch your eye?"
"Funny," he deadpanned. He squirted another packet of ketchup onto the tray between them. "But yeah – you." Hopefully, anticlimactic was the way to go with her.
Judging by the way her eyes bulged, Sasuke wasn't so sure. Sakura choked on the fry she had just put in her mouth, and Sasuke pushed her coke towards her.
"Not the response I was expecting," he said patiently. "I was thinking swooning. Maybe some tears."
"Cliché," Sakura finally gasped, setting down her coke. "Never associate with them."
"So I've heard," he said dryly. "Can I continue?"
She was burning red. "Sure," she squeaked.
"Thanks. The best way to get a guy to like you is to tell him not to fall in love with you."
"You buy into reverse psychology?" she asked. "I'll remember that."
He gave her a look, and she shut her mouth, slumping down in her seat. "Are you even listening to what I'm saying?"
"You like me." He nodded expectantly. She coughed. "And I… no. No! Sasuke, if I like you back, I'm letting the clichés win!"
Sasuke groaned, raking a hand through his hair irritably. "Sakura, you're an idiot, but I still like you. How much less of a cliché can you get?"
Sakura pursed her lips and didn't reply.
"Look." Sasuke leaned forward, elbows on the table, arms crossed. "If you fall, I'll never catch you. If you cry, I won't hug you. I won't kiss your worries away or buy you things. I won't hold you when we watch a scary movie. I won't even pay for your meals, if that's what it takes."
"Wow. Isn't that going a little far?"
"Says the girl who told me not to fall for her the first three times we met."
She laughed at that. "Touché." Her eyes were twinkling, and she propped her chin up on one fist. "So what will you do for me?"
He thought it over. "I'll let you stuff your face with chocolate and not say anything. I'll teach you how to dance without complaining about how much you step on my feet." She made a face at him, but her cheeks were flaming, and she couldn't hold back a smile. "I'll text you every morning to wake you up, and, of course, I'll hold back your hair when you throw up."
Sasuke smirked. "Subtle. I'll kiss you only when you really don't want it."
Sakura mulled this over, twirling a strand of rose-pink hair through her fingers. Finally, she spoke up. "Sasuke, I don't want to like you." Sasuke was silent. "As a matter of fact, what I would really hate right now is for you to kiss me." When Sasuke didn't move, she added, "So don't do it. I mean it."
Sasuke moved across the table to slide into the booth beside her. He pulled one hand through her hair, and pressed the fingers of his other to jaw. She feigned exasperation, but her eyes were dancing with expectation.
He kissed her, hard, and she sighed into his touch. He pulled away after only a moment, leaving her eyes half-lidded and dazed.
"You better not do that again. And definitely not for longer." She paused, thinking. "Oh, and don't do that massage-y thing to my scalp again."
"And I still chose you," she teased. She leaned forward, and he obliged to her wordless command, kissing her again. He could get used to this. At least it shut her up. When he pulled away again, she was breathing hard. Score one for him.
"You know, I really like this reverse-psychology thing," she told him. "But don't kiss me breathless again. That is so cliché."
Just to piss her off, he did it again. Somehow, she didn't look too upset.