Rise to the Occasion.
for The "I Love To Hate You" Contest.
summary: who's to say that 18 years of hate can't morph into a lifetime of love? –or– acts of fate bring two people who hate each other into the complete and total opposite.
notes: this is kinda-sorta-maybe-a-little-bit freakishly long? um, sorry about that—i needed some real life build up. And i hope i achieved it. :)
disclaimer: i own nothing you notice; i do own things that you don't. thankjoo.
EDIT: words in BOLD (near the end) equals the new material that i put in; i knew i didn't have a reason for Ian's Betrayal, but a reviewer, Noie, told me to edit the story easily and add a reason and . . . well, i did. so, thanks Noie!
~ Het pairing, with both girl and boy more than 22 years old.
~ Mutual hate relationship for a while between the leads which eventually turns to love.
~ Either/ both characters must have an obsession with a beverage of your choice.
~ Be realistic.
~ Has to be a oneshot above 2500 words, and below 10,000 words.
~ Must be Ridiculously Happy.
check out annoyance's profile for more details.
At the age of seven, I had never thought I could hate someone as much as I hated Ian Cross for stealing my journal and reading it to the class as an English assignment.
An English assignment, can you believe it! As if my heartfelt words written on each painstakingly gorgeous piece of diary stationary were just a grade.
Of course I'd just had to sign my name at the end of every entry, and, true to form, Ian had read that part too, the nasty little seven-year-old him just as mean as his seventeen-year-old self, if not meaner.
Nevertheless, I'd had my revenge. Starting with the instant retaliation of pouncing on him in front of the entire class once he'd finished reading through my humiliation. Sure, it wasn't subtle, but it had been effective. Of course, that had been the first and last day I'd ever received a time out, but it was mostly because our teacher, evil witch that she was, hated me and adored him.
After class, he'd grinned cheekily at me. "So, Naomi," he'd drawled, "you like me, then, huh?"
Blushing furiously from anger, I'd spat, "Not anymore, Cross, not after what you just did right now. Oh, by the way, is your eye okay?" I nodded in the general direction of his left eye, blackened and bruised by my very angry knuckles.
Without waiting for an answer, I stomped off, the ringing laughter of he and his friends echoing painfully in my ears.
And that had been the starting point of a very hate-filled relationship.
During those turbulent teen years, we'd upped the feud a little bit, to our peers' delight. They enjoyed public humiliation, especially when it was on someone they actually knew.
Ladies first, as they said, so I'd had the magnificent honor of finding out his locker combination and bringing brightly colored hot pink underwear in my backpack that day.
The best part? He was absent, presumably for a doctor's appointment. My inner prankster reared its head in absolute glee, cackling wickedly to the sky.
The best three numbers in the entire world, I swear. Trying not to giggle, I placed my sister's (she was going to skewer me when she found out) lingerie in strategic places around his locker, surveyed my gorgeous handiwork, and closed the metal door with a bang.
And then I slunk off, in the direction of my very own locker, looking like there was nothing steaming up behind the surface.
It took a lot of willpower to not start giggling randomly in a class, but I survived.
The next day, I was craving to be the earliest kid at school, but that would've been too suspicious, so I went slower than I normally did, still managing to make it to school at my normal time.
When I entered the bright red doors of our high school, it took more willpower to head to my locker like I normally would, getting my textbooks for the day.
And then, finally, I headed toward the hallway his locker was located in . . .
. . . and nearly started laughing like a stupid, non-subtle idiot when I saw him lift a bright pink, lacy piece of underwear from the recesses of his locker.
OhmyGod, I was a genius.
He stared at the friends around his locker with wide, bug eyes, and shouldn't have bothered because they were laughing so hard I thought they were going to choke.
His eyes met mine, then, and I swear I saw his bright, blue eyes narrow, but all I did? All I did was smirk.
Take that, Cross.
The next month, both of us sixteen-years-old, and after he'd recovered from painful humiliation, he'd taken his revenge. By—would you guess it—taping thirty-four (I counted) pictures of my favorite stuffed penguin, Mr. Wiggles, to my locker, his chicken scratch mauling the pieces of paper with the words, "Naomi Page's only sleeping partner is a penguin."
Everyone was staring at it, laughing their heads off, some even daring to touch my locker to rip off a picture.
I'd stared in furious anger at him, my eyes blurring with stupid, girlish tears. Quickly, before he could see my reaction, I blinked them away and hissed, "Oh, I will so get you back for this, Cross."
"Can't wait, Page," he'd replied casually, angering me so much I stomped on his foot with my flats and stalked away, exuding a revengeful aura that had people parting for me, Red Sea-esque.
But then I'd had to crash into his best friend, Jared Barrett, who clutched my upper arms with his hands and stared down at me, chestnut brown eyes boring into my hazel ones.
"You okay?" he asked, and then—ohmygoodness—my heart fluttered.
Can you believe it? My heart fluttered, like, I liked the guy or something. But I couldn't, because, no duh, he was Ian Cross's best friend, and if the two of us (as in, Jared and I; how could it be Ian, honestly?) ever did date, then that would mean I'd be spending a lot of time in Ian's stupid, undeserved presence.
Still, as I felt my eyes being probed by his, I knew this was the point of no return—I did like the guy. I just—just had to avoid him or something so we couldn't elaborate on this weird . . . chemistry thing.
"Um, yeah, I'm fine. S-sorry for crashing into you . . . um, I better go." He smiled at me, and my stupid inner girl just swooned—like, majorly.
"Um, so yeah," I kept stuttering, idiotically, "I have to—have to go to, it's called 'classes,' right?"
His smile, already so darn hot, grew bigger. "Yeah, classes, Naomi."
Oh my God, he just said my name. He knew my name!
"Well, yeah, um, I better go . . . see you, um, whenever."
Then I scampered off quickly, hearing the deep, amused sound of his laugh as I sprinted into English, the first person there . . .
. . . except one girl in the back, reading—I peered discreetly—Wuthering Heights.
"You know," she spoke up, her green eyes barely leaving the page, "it's nicer to ask."
"Sorry," I replied immediately, "I just . . . didn't want to disturb you."
"Oh," she said, a smile gracing her tanned features. "Thanks, but if you had, that would've been fine with me. I've read this book before."
"Oh," I copied her without knowing, "um, that's cool. My name's Naomi. Naomi Page."
I nearly fell off my chair and died. "Aliyah Barrett? As in Jared Barrett's younger-by-two-hours sister? It's so nice to meet you!"
"You know my brother?" she asked, a curious smile replacing her welcoming one as she raised a slender hand to place a stray strand of red hair behind her ears..
"Um, yeah, I sort of . . . bumped into him outside."
"He was probably checking up on me, and then you bumped into him when he left. Happens a lot, apparently, from what he tells me."
" . . . a lot?" I asked, dejected. Maybe our chemistry-thing had happened many times before mine; maybe he was already dating someone.
But Jared Barrett was popular, and surely the high school grapevine would have revealed his relationship status eventually . . . right?
"Yes, a bunch of times. I'm his little sister—he tells me these things. Why?"
"Oh, come on, if we're going to end up being best friends, why aren't you telling me?"
"Best friends . . .?" I asked, sitting up straight, one eyebrow raised already.
"Well, you said hi, so, I presume you'd want to be friends? Why else would you say hi?"
"To . . . greet someone?" I asked, but then smiled at her. "Although, a friend would be nice."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how Aliyah Barrett and I became the best of friends.
Of course, as her best friend of about a year, I'd ended up telling her everything, starting from my seven-year-old anomalies to the moment her brother had captured my interest, if not my heart.
Needless to say, she understood my disappointment a few seconds after I told her.
"So, let me get this straight, you like my brother?" she asked, for like, what, the billionth time, snacking on some Pringles while lying on her bed.
I, however, was drinking apple juice, sitting in her desk chair, and smiling like I was in heaven. Apple juice was the best drink to ever have been created, no kidding.
"Haven't I told you that a billion times?" I asked, ceasing my incessant slurping and instead just inhaling the sweet aroma of perfectly squeezed apple juice.
"No, more like a hundred." She grinned cheekily and I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out.
"He's not dating anyone, right?" Now that, I'd asked her a billion times.
"Oh my goodness, he's not dating anyone Naomi. God, feels like I've told you that a billion times."
I laughed loudly, "I think you have, Ali."
She ended up laughing with me. "Probably, Nay-Nay."
Aliyah started giggling. She was giggling so hard Jared came into the room to ask her what was wrong.
"Hey sis," he said, staring at her like he didn't even know her. "What's the matter with you?"
"Ohhh," she giggled, "nothing, Jer."
His look escalated to My Sister is An Alien Life Form. "Okay, then, little sis, whatever you say. Oh—hey, Naomi." Finally he noticed me.
I smiled at him. "Hi, Jared," I greeted, proud of myself for controlling my voice into not morphing into a high-pitched squeal.
Of course, after that, Ian had to come waltzing into Ali's room, smiling at everyone and then frowning at me. "Page."
"Cross," I replied coldly.
"Uh," Jared butt in, "let's go back to my room, Ian."
Ian had no choice but to glare at me one last time before following Jared.
"You okay, Naomi?"
"Yeah—yeah, I'm fine."
"He's such an ass, though. Why does your brother hang out with him?"
"Well, they have known each other since they were twelve. And, seriously, Naomi? He isn't that bad."
"Yeah, it's just—whenever you get here, he gets all . . . tense and stuff. It's weird."
"Hm," I mused.
"Jared and I think there's sexual tension between the two of you."
I'd been staring so intently at the window of her room that it took my brain a while to process her words. I whipped my head to look at her, neck cricking, but me barely noticing.
"You and Jared think what now?"
"We think you and Ian possess a serious case of sexual tension. Like, Godzilla-King-Kong serious."
"No we don't!" I sputtered. "I hate the guy, for Christ's sake. He hates me too, have you two ever noticed that?"
"Of course we have! We're exposed to it five days a week. Sometimes six, seven. And that's where we get the assumption that you two are secretly in love with each other."
"Oh dear, dear Ali, you and your brother are just . . . so adorable!"
She just sighed and rolled her eyes.
And I continued to slurp my apple juice, momentarily forgotten, ignoring the shivers running up my stupid, hyper-sensitive spine.
-on the verge of real life-
In the end, Jared and I never even had a chance. He was my best friend's older brother, for goodness sake, so why, exactly, had I been crushing on him?
Of course, Aliyah had been saddened when I told her, senior year, after two years of crushing on her brother, that, no, I didn't really like him anymore.
"Aww," she pouted, "I wanted to be your sister-in-law."
I laughed, hugging her. "He's dating someone already anyway, Ali. Face it, I had no chance."
"It's because of Ian, isn't it?" she asked sneakily, peering at me with her bright, probing green eyes.
"Of course not."
"Yes it is!" she sang, "you just don't want to admit it."
"No, I hate the guy. And I'm happy we're all going to college. Away from each other." I took a sip of the box of apple juice in my hand, the childish lettering staying with me through all these years.
Ali frowned, hating the idea that all of us we're going to be separated now, but I knew it was gonna happen someday, so thank goodness it was now, when all I wanted to do was escape Ian and his . . . annoying self.
Stupid fate, I later learned to fume.
"Have fun, honey!" Mom called, waving from the passenger seat of our Lexus, "you'll have so much fun in college, I promise!"
I stared after the smooth, dark blue rear bumper of our family car, until it disappeared.
"Hey Page!" came a call from a few feet behind me and I cringed, almost immediately.
"Oh, God, no," I moaned, closing my eyes to prolong the moment my life would change forever.
"Hey, Naomi," he drawled, his black and white Converse shoes appearing in my line of sight. "Why weren't you answering?"
I wanted to run away.
To blend with the grass.
To disappear into the grass.
Be anywhere but at college now.
I would even be happy with a different college, maybe even clown college if that's what it took.
But I was already here, and, as I stared into the smiling (read: smirking) face of Ian Cross, I knew college was going to suck.
Thanks, Mom, thanks a lot.
"Ms. Page, congratulations, you're hired." I smiled brightly at Mr. Sumner, lead director of the journalism department in my old hometown.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Sumner," I gushed before he shooed me out of his office, a friendly, amused smile on his aged features.
"Guess what, Ali?" I squealed into my phone once I escaped from prying eyes. "I'm hired! I officially have a job! An awesome-paying job that pays me for what I love to do!"
"Let's go get some apple juice!" she cried, jubilant for me and simultaneously making a joke as well.
She was a smart girl, no wonder she'd been accepted in the most prestigious grad school law university in the States.
"Now you're talking, Aliyah!" I laughed.
"I'll meet you at The Place in 30."
I hung up, my spirits higher than they had been in a very long time, and actually skipped to The Place.
Once I got there, my best friend in the entire world jumped up from her seat and tackled me.
"Congratulations Naomi!" she shrieked. "I got your favorite!" She flourished the box of apple juice in front of my face, laughing when a grin spread over my face and I snatched the apple juice from her hands.
And then my mood immediately went down . . .
"Glad to see you're just as obsessed with that fruity drink as ever, Page."
I turned to Ali, ignoring Ian Cross, and trying to dislodge that oh-so-annoying voice from my mind. "Really, Ali, really?"
She looked guilty. "He works near the university and I sorta-kinda bumped into him and then I, um, invited him too?"
"Oh, well, fine. I'll deal with it."
She sniffed, "Oh my gosh, Naomi, you're all grown up now!"
"Well, for one, you're not running away, screaming at the top of your lungs that, 'you hate Ian Cross with your entire heart!'
"Two, you're actually going to deal with it, instead of, you know, doing something like taping his boxers to the high school walls. Or, yeah, something like that."
Ali hugged me in one of her signature bear hugs, a squeal tagged to her last word.
"Okay, fine, maybe I have grown up—college tends to do that to you."
Without further ado, I turned to face the bane of my existence, a forced smile on my face. "Apple juice is delicious, and that is why I love it." I clipped off.
"Nice to know," he retorted before heading into the line.
I pinned Aliyah with a look that had her smiling hesitantly.
"Maybe college hasn't matured him," I told her.
"Maybe," she smiled, a genuine one this time.
We both sat down in our booth, and talked about life after college. But then he came and sat on my side of the table and piped in every couple of sentences.
I resisted the urge to push him off the bench. Mature Naomi did not, under any circumstances, stoop to that kind of level.
Finally—finally, after many inner talking-to's—the celebration lunch was over and I could go home to start writing my article.
"Need a ride, Page?" I turned to face him after waving enthusiastically to Aliyah who lived on the opposite end of where I lived.
I shook my head. "No, it's fine . . . thanks, though."
"Your choice," he shrugged before heading toward a silver F150 by the sidewalk of the park.
I started walking . . . but forgot that I was wearing heels—really, really high heels—and almost immediately started slowing down.
Ugh, my luck. Why didn't I think to bring tennis shoes?
I heard the distinct roar of the engine before I heard his voice. "Are you sure you don't need a ride?" he asked again, like he was being nice or something.
I feuded with myself inwardly—for, what, the billionth time in the last hour—trying to decide about whether or not I should just suck it up or suffer.
Needless to say, I chose to suck it up. "Oh, fine." I huffed. "Stupid heels."
Sliding into the plush, leather seating I stupidly started to sink into the seats. He noticed.
"Like my truck, do you?"
"Well, it's comfortable," I defended. And he didn't say anything else after that—huh, weird.
"So, where do you live?" he finally asked, right when we were nearing the four-way intersection that would determine whether or not I'd get lost.
"Turn left here," I ordered, "um, please."
He silently obeyed. Oh my god, what had replaced him and his immature tendencies?
"Um, hey," I quietly piped up, "are you . . . you know, okay?"
"Yeah," he replied, like he was surprised, "are you okay? I mean, you just asked me if I was okay. What the hell is the matter with you?"
"Um, I was just worried, I guess." A few seconds later and I noticed that he was back to his old self. "Now there's the Ian I know and . . . lo- um, hate!" It took me another few seconds to realize that, yeah, I was about to say 'love.'
I guess Ian was right: what was the matter with me?
". . . hate," I repeated weakly.
"Hate," he repeated, again. Then, he peered from me out of the corner of his eyes—I could tell, I was doing the same—and asked, like he didn't know, like he was unsure, "You hate me, right?"
"Of course!" I sputtered, cursing the unruly fact that I just had to wear heels today. And that my apartment was so far away from civilization. And that I was stuck in a truck with Ian Cross of all people.
"Okay," he breathed, fast, and, for some odd reason that I really didn't want to think about, my heart plummeted to the truck floor, metaphorically, "good."
"Yup," I mumbled lamely.
And that was it—that was the moment I knew my life would change forever. Ian Cross? He really wasn't all that bad. He'd barely annoyed me the entire ride back to my apartment and when he dropped me off, saying 'bye' in the process, I felt this twinge of . . . what was it, maturity.
Yup, maturity. I'd barely given him a witty comment the entire time, and, oh my god, it almost felt like we could actually be friends. Not best friends like Aliyah and I, but, friends. Friends that hung out, had fun and well, just normal friends.
-building a friendship-
The next time I saw Ian Cross was—can you believe it—at the grocery store, getting groceries like a normal person. "Hey, Ian," I said, the first time ever where I hadn't greeted him by his last name.
"Oh, hey Naomi." And that was the first time he never greeted me by my last name—we really were getting older!
"Um, I—uh—have to get this packet-thing at the top of a shelf, and I'm way too short to reach it—can you help me? Uh, please?"
He looked at me like he didn't know who I was, and I did the same—technically, we really didn't, we'd changed so much.
I was so surprised by his answer I kinda reeled back a little. "Oh, what?"
"I said, sure, Naomi, not . . . not some big word that you don't understand."
I huffed almost immediately, bringing myself up to full size—the top of my head reached his nose. "Well, I'll have you know," I began, looking up at him, and trying not to distract myself from staring at his lips—I mean, why would I?—"that I was just . . . caught off-guard by . . . your—answer."
He sort of hummed a little bit, finally looking me straight in the face—I really had no choice but to stare back, really—before asking me what aisle this 'packet-thing' was, and the moment was over.
What the hell just happened? I asked myself, standing in the checkout line with Ian—oh my gooodness—behind me. I mean, it wasn't everyday I stared at a guy's lips like I did.
And Ian Cross's, of all the people in the world.
I must have fallen down somehow, without knowing. Or maybe I woke up one day, sitting up in bed so fast that I lost my mind for a long while. That could totally happen.
Finally, I paid, and thank goodness I brought my birthday—I was officially 25 now—car or else I would've died, having to ask Ian for a ride.
"Um, well, see you around, Ian." There was the Ian again.
"See ya, Page," he tossed behind his shoulder like he hadn't been affected at all.
"I don't know, Ali," I whined, talking to her on the phone and sipping some ever-present apple juice. "This . . . Ian epidemic just attacked me like I had been brainwashed or something. Do you think I've been brainwashed?"
"Um, no, I just think you're starting to be attracted to the guy."
I gasped, loud.
"What kind of friend are you?" I cried, appalled.
She sighed, like she had to do this every day or something. "A friend who wants nothing more than for her best friend to get a boyfriend."
"Oh," I groaned, "that kind of friend. I thought you'd be happy for me or something! That I've stayed single for so long!"
"Well," Ali mumbled, "I sorta hoped we'd be able to double date or something."
"Aliyah Barrett, what did you just say?"
"Okay, fine, someone asked me out." She said this like she wasn't sure what volume to use—it sounded like she was roller coaster-ing with her tone, Ali style.
"Who? Who?" I asked eagerly.
"Sam Ramkins. He sits by me in class and he seemed really sweet so we just started talking and then he asked me out." After she spouted this entire montage of words out, she took a huge, deep breath.
"Oh my God, Aliyah! Yay! Yay! Yay!" I started jumping around my bedroom, jumping jellybean-esque, so fast I felt myself tripping—and then I cried out.
I ended up with a sprained ankle, which had to be kept in a cast for at least 6 weeks.
"Does apple juice heal these kinds of things?" I asked the doctor meekly.
He shook his head, an amused smile gracing his features. "No, but milk will."
I sighed, dejected. "You know," I whispered softly, looking up at Ali from my place on the hospital bed once the doctor had gone, "this is partially your fault."
"What?" she burst. "What did I do?"
"You told me about you and Sam! And then I started jumping around a maniac and I sprained my ankle."
"Yeah, but it's mostly your fault because you could've just squealed along with me."
"I preferred jumping around, thanks. But, seriously, I'm happy for you, Ali."
She grinned at me. "Thanks, Nay-Nay." And then I glared.
"Don't call me that."
-rising to the occasion-
There was a knock at my door and I hobbled over to open it, surprised to see Ian standing on the other side. "Er—hi," he said, since apparently I was so surprised the only thing moving was my heart. Oh, and my chest, because, surprisingly, I was still breathing.
"Oh, hello. Wha—what are you doing here?"
"Um, I was wondering—did you need some . . . company while, you, you know, recover?"
"Who asked you to do this? Because Normal Ian wouldn't."
He smiled slightly. "Aliyah, would you guess it?"
"Of course," I hissed under my breath.
When this was over, I was so going to call my best friend and give her a good talking-to.
"Um, sure. Did you bring apple juice?"
Ian actually laughed—and I realized that his laugh? It really wasn't as annoying as before—it was, could you believe it, charming.
"Of course I did—Ali gave me express orders to bring apple juice for you, even though you know the doctor told you to drink some milk."
"I did ingest calcium today," I protested, already grabbing for the box of apple juice he was holding in his hands.
"I believe you."
"Thanks for the apple juice," I mumbled.
"No problem; I knew that if I didn't bring some you'd be very upset and Aliyah would be freaking pissed at me."
"Smart," was all I could say, I was so immersed in the heavenly taste of my apple juice.
"Why did you hate me so much in high school?"
"Well, it all started when we were seven, Ian. When you read my journal-diary out to the entire class, you know? And that hurt because . . . because I thought you were my best friend." And that was it—the big secret I kept from everyone: Ian Cross? He used to be my best friend. And I had liked the guy, for goodness sake.
"But then I betrayed the trust you gave me, right?"
". . . Exactly," I sighed softly, glancing up at him.
"I'm sorry, Naomi," he whispered, somehow suddenly coming closer to me than he had in a long, long time—not even the ride in his F150 had he been this close. "For believing that having a girl as a best friend was such a taboo that I ended up hurting your feelings."
I gulped, setting the apple juice down on the closest surface I could find. And then I looked up at him, heart racing when I realized that he was looking down at me already—"It's—uh, fine, Ian. It was eighteen years ago. I got over it in college. Shows how long we can both keep grudges, huh?"
Hesitantly, I smiled, and he smiled back, thank goodness. It was awkward enough that he was so close to me . . . and, yet, I tried to keep myself from thinking, Why am I not moving away?
Was it because I craved closeness, like Aliyah believed, or was it because I was just so drawn to him—there, I admitted it—that I couldn't even think about moving?
He didn't even bother with any more words before he bent his head and kissed me.
It was one of those "grown-up" kisses you should never see on a kids show like, Disney Channel, for instance—it was that serious.
I tried not to laugh; I swear I did, but Ian and I? We were serious people, sure, when needed, but this situation was just so surreal—I mean, Ian Cross in my apartment, saying sorry and then suddenly kissing me after bring some apple juice for my sprained ankle; that didn't happen every day—I couldn't help laughing.
"Hey," he whispered into my mouth, amused himself, "I'm trying to tell you I'm falling in love with you and all you can do is laugh?"
"Well, yeah," I whispered back, still giggling, "but you're just so romantic—I mean, you apologize and then you just kiss me. My god, Ian. Man up."
He pulled away and glared teasingly. "Well, fine," he huffed, circling his arms around my waist and lifting me onto the table. "I'll man up. God, woman."
And then he did, his lips soft but hard at the same time, his fingers working wonders on my tense back and I barely noticed the fact that my apple juice box fell to the floor.
Huh. He had a lot of pent up frustration in his body—eighteen years' worth, in fact.
And he so showed it.
When I meant 'man up,' how was I supposed to know he'd rise to the occasion?
notes: this is officially the longest oneshot i've ever written. thanks annoyance for asking me to participate. so fun, even though I got stuck a couple of times. if i don't win, that's fine with me. i mean, i was asked to join a contest, that doesn't happen to me everyday, let me tell you. but still: review, por favor?
material © to toffeecakesxox. 2009.
please don't plagiarize. Or else.