A/N: I haven't written in forever and even though I'm hesitant about writing a back story when so much canon is still up on in the air, this idea has been bouncing around in my head for a week and I had to put it out there. Right now, it's a one shot but depending on how my mind wanders, there may be more.
He recognized the jewelry as it flashed through the stacks of UT's main library before the person wearing it registered. "Cricket Caruth," he said. There was no verbal response but through the stacks he could tell that the silhouette of the eighteen-year-old had frozen in place. He stepped into the aisle, crossed his arms, and leaned against a bookshelf while he waited for her to respond.
"Blake Reilly." Only after she said his name did she turn around. "Hello," she said with the smirk of a smile he remembered well.
"This is the first time we've talked since college started and all you have to say is 'hello'?"
"We're in a library, Blake," Cricket shot back in a harsh whisper while giving him a look as if speaking in that space was the equivalent of breaking a commandment. "What do you want me to do? Sing you a song?" He didn't say anything but just shot her a grin, which didn't seem to faze her. "I need to check these out," she said with a tap of the books in her arms. "Excuse me."
"I'll go with you." He grabbed the first book in reach. "I need to check this out too."
She turned away so he couldn't see her face, but he knew she was rolling her eyes. He tried to start up a conversation as they walked through the library but she just held her finger to her lips with a disapproving look in her eye.
"So, Cricket," he began once they were outside the library. "How've you been?"
"Can't complain." He waited for her to say something but she just gave him a practiced smile. "Congrats on Tri Delt," he said as they started walking in the direction of where he knew she lived.
Her eyes narrowed as she cast him a sidelong glance. "How did you know I rushed Tri Delt?"
"Because Cricket Caruth would never rush anything but the best."
"Each sorority has its own merits."
Blake smirked at her diplomacy. "But there's nothing like those three little triangles."
"Not quite." She stopped suddenly and crossed her arms. With her smile fading, she shot him a look somewhere between annoyance and accusation. "What do you want, Blake?" she asked
"Nothing. You remind me of home-a touch of Dallas society that Austin so sorely lacks." It wasn't a lie-more of a half truth. Blake wasn't homesick but he did miss Dallas. His real motivation, however, was curiosity. They hadn't spoken since the last coffee hour of the summer in the church fellowship hall even though their paths had crossed a number of times on UT's campus. Yet somehow, Cricket was always surrounded by her newfound sorority sister and if he did catch her eye, the most he got was a nod of acknowledgement.
"I am not the only girl from Dallas in this school. Let one of them give you that society you so desperately desire."
She began walking again—faster this time—but he easily kept in step with her despite her efforts. "Not high society."
"If you wanted that, you should have gone to SMU." She didn't stop but slowed her pace to a more normal one. "Why didn't you go to SMU?"
"Same reason you didn't."
"You wanted a degree instead of an engagement ring?" she teased lightly.
He held up his hand and wiggled his fingers. "I've never been one for diamonds," he said. It earned him a hint of an actual—not smirking—smile. "Honestly, Cricket, I thought you were headed to Rice."
The hint of a smile faded into her more frozen one. "You thought wrong."
"You had a full ride, didn't you?" he asked, knowing that she did. In high school, most of the girls never wanted to appear unattractively smart, so Cricket had never overtly shown off her intelligence, but Blake knew she had always been at the top of their class.
"Daddy Bo went to Texas," she said a little too sharply. "Besides the business program is a lot stronger here," she finished in a more even tone.
Blake could tell there was more to it than what she said, but he let it slide. He had his own reasons for choosing UT that he wanted to keep private and he figured he should let her do the same.
"Speaking of business program," she continued. "It was wonderful to talk to you but I need to go study. I have an economics midterm on Tuesday."
"So do I." She gave him a look of surprise and he couldn't quite tell whether it was feigned or legitimate. "We're in the same class."
"So are two hundred other people."
"There are only fifty in anthropology." Her face didn't change, but Blake could tell she had known they were in the same class. "Don't lie to me, Cricket. And I saw you at the Sigma Chi party Friday night too." He stopped walking and asked, "Why have you been avoiding me?"
She kept walking. "I haven't."
This time she stopped and turned back to look at him. "Just because two people went to the same high school it doesn't mean they need to hang out in college."
Her face and voice didn't convey it, but Blake could tell she was angry. He had thought she was avoiding him because she believed she was better than him—after all, it had barely been two months and Cricket already had made a social name for herself based on wealth and influence—but he now realized her reasons ran deeper.
"What is it you want us to do? Reminisce about all the fun times we had at Hillside?" she continued lightly. "What 'fun times'? From what I recall, you barely spoke to me our senior year." Before he could open his mouth to argue, she added, "Saying hello to my daddy and me after church doesn't count."
She was right and he knew it. While he wasn't cruel to her, he had been too caught up in football and his own reputation to pay her much mind after the rumors broke out. Rather than defend himself, he changed the subject. "We could study," he suggested.
"Really? What makes you think I need a study partner?"
"I'm sure you don't, but I do," he said with a wide grin. "Consider it a charity project."
"I do enough charity."
He didn't drop his smile but it became more serious. "A business deal then."
"Thanksgiving's in less than a month."
"And everyone will expect some overlap in our lives," she said and he was glad she was following his reasoning, but could tell she still hadn't fully bought in on it.
"Telling them we're study partners will be endearing."
"It'll make you look like the good cowboy protecting me from this big ol' state school," she said dramatically. He held back a smirk at the way she described it, but that was exactly what she was thinking. "I still don't see what's in it for me," she finished skeptically.
"You plan to go back to Dallas after you graduate, right?" Blake asked and she nodded. "Then you're going to need make nice with all those girls shooting for their MRS at SMU."
"I don't need your help."
"I know, but this:" He paused and gave her his best flirtatious grin. "Will make it easy."
"You're full of yourself."
"I'm charming," he said confidently as he offered his hand. "So are you in?"
She looked at his hand for a split second before gripping it firmly. "I'm meeting friends for diner, but tonight: eight o'clock."
A/N: Hit that little button and let me know what you think. Comments and constructive criticism always welcomed. Oh, and I feel compelled to note that SMU is a great school and that not everyone goes there for the wedding ring, but having gone to a southern institution myself, I know from experience that some girls focus on things other than grades.