Fairytale Real Estate

"Come on, come on, we don't want to be late." Ino hurries me off the sidewalk and into the café.

I shake my head. "What's the big deal? It's just lunch with Naruto." My eyes narrow. "Right?"

Ino won't meet my eyes. "Well…"

"Ino!" I hiss. "Are you setting me up again?" We linger near the door of the café. Suddenly it all makes sense – the strange glint in Ino's eyes, how she went so far as to choose my outfit.

Ino looks affronted. "I am not setting you up. I'm taking your best interests to heart by selecting eligible bachelors and giving you a chance to examine them. It's quite noble of me. When I finally manage to get you with Mr. Right, you'll owe me a mocha. Remember that."

"It is not in my 'best interest' to make a fool of myself again. You know I can never think of anything to say, and I do my nervous laugh-snort, and it's so awkward, and…" I cross my arms. "You know what, that's it. No more. I'm leaving."

She barricades the exit. "You can't! He's already here, over there with Naruto, and—"

I try to move past her. "Nope. You'll just have to apologize for me. I have a big test to study for; I need to go to the library and—"

"Sakura. Just look at this guy, okay? Just look at him."

"No, I—" Ino takes me by the shoulders and turns me so that I can see Naruto and—Oh. Oh.

Be still, my beating heart.

The guy sitting across from Naruto is, in a word, gorgeous. Beautiful could also be used; as could hot. He is all cheekbones and angles and dark, dark eyes, his hair a work of art.

It is not love at first sight, but it feels like a prelude.

Ino points a manicured finger at him. "That," she says, in a tone of smug satisfaction, "is Uchiha Sasuke. Your date. Am I a great friend or what?"

I gape. "Ino…" He is perfect and flawless and straight out of my childhood fantasies.

Which translates, of course, to way out of my league.

I shake my head helplessly. "How can you expect me to talk to a guy like that? I'll humiliate myself. More importantly, why would a guy like that talk to a girl like me?"

She puts her hands on her hips. "Listen up, kiddo, because I'm only saying this once. You are beautiful. You are smart and funny and goddammit, you're gonna be a doctor. Also, you're wearing my boots."

It's true; she let me borrow her tall, black, high-heeled boots, gorgeous and exquisite. In retrospect, that act of generosity should have tipped me off to something like this. Boots like these are not passed around willy-nilly.

"No one can resist you when you're wearing The Boots. Now, keep that in mind as you march over there and make him fall in love with you. Got it?"

I nod wordlessly, my mouth dry. Alright, I can do this. He's just a guy. No problem. Just a guy. Just a gorgeous, mind-blowing, outrageously handsome—

Ino senses that I am otherwise preoccupied and takes it upon herself to steer me over. Naruto jumps up when he sees us. "Heyyy!" He hugs me, then kisses Ino, his girlfriend of two months. "We were beginning to think that you guys wouldn't show. The bastard was devastated."

'The bastard' is, I assume, Sasuke, who does not stand up and gives me no more than a fleeting glance.

Oh yeah, I can tell I made an impression.

"So," Naruto says. He gesticulates towards Sasuke. "This is Sasuke. He's a bastard, and he doesn't really know how to talk to people, but he's pretty okay, I guess."

"Thank you for your kind words," Sasuke mutters under his breath. He looks bored.

Naruto ignores him in favor of slinging an arm around my shoulders. "And this is Sakura-chan. She's awesome. Really smart. Pre-med and all that jazz." I blush. God, I hope Sasuke doesn't think I'm conceited.

Ino claps her hands once. "Well. I think you two are going to get along smashingly." She loves using British terms.

Sasuke arches one eyebrow. Very sexy. Man, I wish I could do that. "Where are you guys going?"

Ino waves a hand airily. "Oh, well, we just thought that these tables were too small for four people, so Naruto and I are just going to sit over there." She gestures to a table across the room. It is, I notice, the perfect place to watch Sasuke and me.

Naruto takes her by the arm. "So, anyway, see you guys later." They hurry off.

I feel abandoned. And suddenly self-conscious. I give a small tug to my clothes. Ino put much time and effort into them, but they turned out pretty simple. Short black skirt, trendy white blouse. And, of course, The Boots.

That thought makes me a little more confident. "So," I begin, and awkwardly slide into the seat across from Sasuke.

Bad move. Now it feels like he's staring me down. I look away. "Um. I…" I gesture half-heartedly. "I'm sorry about this."

He lifts a shoulder in an economical shrug. "Yeah."

Okay, so that was kind of rude. But I try again. "Well…are you in college? I mean." God, this is awkward. I tuck a strand of pastel hair behind my ear.


Not much of a talker, is he? Still, it's kind of hot. "Where?"

"Tokyo University."

I blink, surprised. "Wow, me too. I haven't seen you around campus before…" And I really, really think I'd remember a face like that. "What classes are you taking?"

"Economics and Political Science."

We both look up when the waitress arrives. She takes Sasuke's order first, and I can tell it kills her to turn her attention to me. Not that I can blame her.

It is silent when she leaves. I try to get the conversation going again by asking about how he knows Naruto. We don't get far. Then I ask him how he likes college. That topic falls even shorter.

Yeah, definitely getting along smashingly. He's going to propose any moment now, I'm sure. I think we'll have a June wedding…lilies, not roses…my bridesmaids' gowns will be pale pink…

I peer across the room at Ino and Naruto. Naruto is working his way through a giant sandwich, but Ino shoos me with her hand. Get on with it, the motion seems to say.

I turn back to Sasuke. His chin is propped on his hand as he stares out the window. It has started to rain. I'm miserable. He thinks that even the rain is more interesting than me.

Suddenly, I'm irrationally angry—at Ino and Naruto, for getting me into this; at Sasuke, for not falling in love with me; at the rain, for…raining.

An idea comes to me. It is impulsive and spur-of-the-moment and completely uncharacteristic of me, but for some reason, I desperately want Sasuke to like me. To at least pay attention to me.

"Hey," I say. "Do you wanna disappear?"

He frowns at me. "What?"

I swallow and gesture towards Naruto and Ino. "They'd probably freak if suddenly they looked over and we weren't here, right? I mean, since obviously we're their entertainment for the day. So…" I shrug. "Let's get out of here."

He doesn't really seem to be taking me seriously, but still he asks, "How do we leave without them noticing?"

I grin and extract my cell phone from my handbag. I shoot off a quick text to Ino:

Hey, I think you have a split end.

Sasuke and I watch as, two seconds later, Ino flips open her phone, reads my text, and immediately whirls on Naruto, demanding him to examine her hair and tell her if there indeed is a split end.

She shoves her ponytail in his face. Naruto looks at her like she's crazy and soon they are immersed in a heated argument.

I look at Sasuke. "C'mon."

I shrug on my jacket, stand, and grab his hand, pulling him up after me. I'm probably going to seriously regret my forthrightness later, but whatever.

To my surprise, Sasuke allows me to lead him by the hand away from our table and into the kitchen. Naruto and Ino probably would have noticed had we left through the front door, so I plan on going through the kitchen exit. There is such a thing, right? There always is in the movies.

We walk past harried kitchen aides who stare at us incredulously. We're not technically supposed to be back here, but everyone seems too bewildered to stop us.

I notice a cook preparing my grilled chicken Caesar salad. "You can cancel that order," I tell him. "We're leaving."

He squints at me and opens his mouth to speak, but by that point I have found the exit (it does exist) and am pulling Sasuke through it.

We step out into the alley behind the café. It is still raining—not a downpour, but not lightly, either.

I hadn't planned this far ahead. So…what to do now…we could catch a movie, go shopping…rob a bank…possibilities, possibilities. Everything seems more enticing when you're with The Hottest Guy in Existence.

I glance at Sasuke. He looks back at me impassively, but something about the set of his mouth tells me that he is amused.

He has yet to take his hand back and I have yet to drop it.

I don't. Instead I tug him along, sloshing through the streets. I'm glad I remembered to put my jacket on over my thin white blouse. That would've been embarrassing.

I'm not sure how long I lead him like that, covering block after block, passing shop after shop. His hand is rain-chilled but still faintly warm, and I grip it like a lifeline.

For some reason a coffee-shop on the corner catches my eye. I squeeze Sasuke's hand and tilt my chin at it, wordlessly asking if he approves.

He shrugs an affirmation, and I swear to God, he squeezes my hand back. Just a little.

Or I've become delusion from hypothermia. Which is, you know, out there as a possibility. But I like my scenario better.

We go inside. We're drenched and shivering, but I'm smiling, and at least Sasuke isn't scowling.

The woman running it, a plump, matronly lady, takes pity on us and gives us towels to dry off with, as well as superb café au lattes.

"On the house," she winks. "Because you two make such a lovely couple, even when you're soaking wet."

I turn scarlet. I glance at Sasuke, but he doesn't deny what she said, only sips his drink. He probably just can't be bothered, but a bubble of hope and pleasure wells inside me. I grin as I turn my attention to my own steaming mug.

We drink in silence, but it is not the wow-this-is-awkward silence from back at the café; I wouldn't go so far as to say it's comfortable, but it's…not strained. Or something.

I get a text from Ino: Where are you guys???

I smile and decide to ignore her for a while, let her stew.

When we are both finished, I mention a bookstore not far from here. Sasuke smirks at me.

I flush self-consciously. "What?"

"Nothing. Just that you're one of those people."

I try to mimic his one-eyebrow gesture. I end up raising both and looking surprised. Story of my life. "One of which people?"

He smirks again. "The kind who spends more on books than they do rent."

I want to deny it, but what can I say? He has my number. "How could you tell?"

"Your face," he says simply.

I turn away, my cheeks burning. "Come on," I bid, in lieu of continuing that line of conversation.

Without thinking I reach to take his hand again. Upon realizing my action I stop halfway and mask it by clasping my hands behind my back. I hope he didn't notice. Holding his hand just felt, I don't know…natural.

The woman beams at us as we head towards the door. "Come back soon, you two!"

I smile at her and thank her for her kindness. Sasuke nods, and I think I seem him slip a few bills into the tip jar near the cash register. Aw, he's a softie.

The bookstore is close by. We jog the block quickly through the rain, and we are only a little wet when we arrive and slip inside.

I love bookstores. I love books, and borrowing them from the library is just never the same as buying them.

"You know," I mention offhand to Sasuke, "when I was little I wanted to write the Great American Novel."

He raises one eyebrow again. Damn him. "I feel it necessary to point out that you're not American."

I scoff. "Like I was going to let that stop me."

He considers me. "So why are you taking pre-med, then?"

So he was listening. I shrug. "I hate to sound callous…but at first it was just, you know. I'm an intelligent, type-A personality. It was only natural to go on to be a doctor, or a journalist, or a lawyer-or-something. But I really do like practicing medicine and helping people."

I run a hand through my hair thoughtfully. "Though I do sometimes have regrets. There are many perks to being a lawyer. Like carrying a briefcase. I've always wanted to carry a briefcase. And I'd get to be all like 'You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!' and stuff." I glance at Sasuke. "That was from Law & Order, right? Or something?"

I'm surprised to hear Sasuke laugh—soft and quiet, but still laughter. "I'm really not the person to ask," he says, and smiles at me.

…Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the ground and try to form semi-coherent thoughts.

I swallow. "Um…"

He takes two steps closer to me, until we are mere inches apart. He cocks his head. "Hmm?"

"I-I…" Is he…flirting with me?

He bends down so that we are eye-level. His breath just barely touches my lips—phantom warmth. "What was that?"

He is flirting with me. I have to say something. Something coy and witty and—

"I like cheese," I blurt. "Do you like cheese? Because I like cheese. It's…cheese…-ish…ummm…"

Smooth, Haruno. Way smooth.

Had he been anyone else, the expression on Sasuke's face would have been a grin. He leans in close, even closer than before, and ohmygod he's going to kiss me, ohmygodohmygodohmy—

"I have to go," he whispers.

I stare at him. Are you freaking kidding me.

He motions to the clock on the wall. It is late-afternoon. "I have a class."

"…Oh." Ah, the sweet sensation of crushing disappointment. Nothing quite like it.

He comes up with a pen and scrawls something on a scrap of paper, which he then hands to me, smirking. "Tomorrow night. I know a restaurant that is rumored to have very good cheese."

I clutch the paper and mumble, "You're a jerk."

"So I've been told." His face grows…softer. "I'll see you around, Sakura."

I nod dumbly. "See you…Sasuke."

I don't know how long I stand there, just holding that slip of paper. I have a date with Sasuke. I have no idea what to do with myself, I'm so happy. It's like I bought real estate in a fairytale.

Note to self: Buy Ino a mocha. Or three.

I forget from what Sakura quotes - You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" - but I think it's from Law & Order. Or, wait, no, a movie, right? Ummm. I don't feel like looking it up. At any rate, it's not mine.

First-person POVs (especially Sakura's) are so fun to write. =D

Disclaimer: I own nothing that is not mine.