For the record, I have come to the conclusion that I am horrible at writing contest pieces. To new readers, please don't judge my style off of this one-shot, it is far from my best, to my reoccurring readers (and you know I love you all 3) I apologize for this not being up to par with say, Battle Scars and Impulse. Thanks again to ~annoyance for doing me the honor of inviting me to another contest! (even if I did badly).

xXx

Aaron O'Conner

"In case you haven't noticed, Erickson, we're stuck in a goddamned hole until someone has the decency to come and find us. How about we call it a truce for one night?" I agreed. But I had no idea then just how much that truce would change my life.

For the "I Love to Hate you" Contest.

Rules:

-Has to be a OneShot above 2500 words, and below 10,000 words—Must be Ridiculously Happy (no angst, tragedy, hurt/comfort. Looking for humor, romance, drama, general etc. Happy endings only please)—Set in the current world--Be realistic—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.—The characters must have substantial reason to dislike one another, and then to eventually fall in love. Make these reasons abundantly clear to the reader.—Neither of the characters can pretend to hate the other. There must be genuine dislike between the two.—When I say love, I mean love. I'm not talking about a high school crush here (that's why characters are above 22).—The characters can't just wake up one day, and decide that they are in love with each other. The build up must be realistic, and believable. (I cannot stress on this enough)

xXx

"Erickson, I really don't think that's going to help."

"Shut the hell up, O'Conner, this is all your fault anyway," I snapped at him vehemently, pausing only for that moment before resuming my screams

"My fault, how the hell could this possibly be my fault?" he yelled, throwing his hands up in the air in exasperation. "If I remember right, I was the one who found you in this precarious predicament in the first place!"

Precarious predicament? Who the hell said precarious predicament anyway? Especially someone who's currently in one! "Yes, well," I huffed, at a momentary loss for words. And then I found them, spinning around to shout back at him. "If you had gone and got help like I told you to, instead of trying to be a hero like the dumb oaf that you are, then we wouldn't be here right now!"

"Dumb oaf? Really, Erickson? Is that the best you've got?"

I glared at him, my breathing ragged and fast, my breath misting in front of my face in the rapidly chilling October air. "Shut the hell up, O'Connor," I repeated, but with surprisingly less conviction. I threw myself onto the ground, pressing my back up against one of the dirt walls that surrounded us, curling my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around them. O'Conner sent me a curious look that I ignored.

It was his fault anyway. His fault that I wandered away from the stupid party. It would always be his fault, anytime he was present somewhere and a disaster happened. It had always been that way, and it always would.

Tonight was the company party, and by company I mean Fame! Magazine, one of the most highly regarded magazines on this coast—the one I was currently Head Photographer for. And by "party" I mean one of the wild, ridiculous, random and worst of all themed holiday parties we decided to hold. Tonight's celebration? Halloween. Tonight's location?

St. Catherine's graveyard.

I think that it might have been bearable, if my boss hadn't forbidden me from bringing my camera, claiming I needed to "have some fun" and "stop working for once." Even though I don't think my dear boss understands that photography is my life. To top matters off, the party had been going badly already, and then I saw him, Mr. Bane-of-My-Existence, having a grand old time, laughing his ass off at some stupid joke, and, as what happened every time I saw him, I was overcome with a wave of disgust and forced to relocate myself away from his presence. This had, of course, led to my self guided tour of the graveyard, where I found my troubles—except for my fingers constant itch, yearning for the camera which I did not have—washed away with the light mist curling across the ground. Until I fell in an open (and luckily otherwise unoccupied) grave.

Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, yours truly (clothed ironically in a Cleopatra outfit) fell into an open grave.

Part one of how this was all Aaron O'Conner's fault.

Part two entails the fact that Mr. O'Conner—subsequently one of my lovely colleagues, the layout editor who I do my best never to deal with directly—happened to be the one who came across my…precarious predicament, as he put it. Instead of trying to get help, or at the very least perhaps a ladder, he had decided instead to take some time to mock me and try and get me out himself.

Which then resulted in him tumbling in beside me.

"Are you okay?"

I looked up at him in surprise. Replaying back the phrase in my head, I could detect no amount of concern laced in his voice, only mild irritation.

"Are you okay?" I snapped back in rhetorical sarcasm.

"Well actually…"

"Don't ask if you don't care, okay, O'Conner?"

He sneered at me, and I leered right back at him. "I only wanted to make sure you weren't going to die in here with me. Imagine how that would look when people showed up in the morning."

"Maybe it would look like you killed me, and then the police would put you behind bars, where you belong!" I snapped at him. He narrowed his eyes at me, but said nothing.

Part three of why it was his fault goes back six or so years, when we both met at the tender ages of sixteen, at Montgomery Valley Senior High. He was the "new kid," and while we never quite set off on bad terms—I, in fact, had had a minor crush on him, a fact I am loathe to admit—they quickly became so. It wasn't long before he noticed me—we were, after all, in ninety percent of the same classes—and proceeded to take interest in me, leading me on stupidly so that I was hanging off of his every word like a love sick puppy. And then he stabbed me in the back, sleeping with my best friend and then leaving her broken hearted the next morning when he left without a word.

And of course all this was moments after he used me, taking my best pictures, the ones that we had developed together after a mutual photography excursion, and claiming them as his own. He got the fame, the praise, the prestige, and I got two broken hearts to clean up—mine and Abby's.

"Damn it," he cursed, and I looked up to see him kick the dirt, his shiny black shoes kicking loose some soil. "What were you doing out here anyway Juliette?"

"None of your damn business," I snarled defensively, and I watched him kick the dirt wall again, running his hands through his black, wavy hair. I closed my eyes, forcing myself to breathe slower, to relax. I needed to calm down enough to think, enough to stop cursing—a habit that came out any time I was overly frustrated.

Once graduation had hit, I thought I would see the last of the man that I had truly come to loathe. The backstabbing was only the tip of the iceberg, leading to a list of events too long to even recall, ending with me, as the editor in chief of the school yearbook, sneaking in something malicious to put a damper on his ego. For that, I nearly got suspended, and Aaron had only smirked, further deepening my ire for the boy. Thus graduation had been sweet, and I rejoiced at the thought of being able to become a sane woman again. And for five luxurious years, I had that opportunity. College had been amazing, and Fame! had picked me up as an intern in my Junior year, keeping me on after that and then moving me up the ranks over the years. Unfortunately for me, a year after I was officially hired, Aaron O'Conner joined the team.

"Maybe we could climb out," Aaron suggested, his cobalt eyes shining with actual hope when he swung his gaze at me. I snorted in response and watched his eyes deaden.

"You think I hadn't tried that?"

"One never knows with you," he retorted.

"Unless," I mused, "I stand on your shoulders…"

I watched as a flicker of what looked like panic shot in front of his eyes. My brows furrowed together in confusion.

"It's worth a shot," he finally agreed after a moment, motioning me over to him as he crouched down on the ground, giving me room for him to crawl up on his shoulders.

"If you look up my dress…" I started as he braced my ankles, slowly beginning to stand. I could feel him shaking beneath me with the effort.

"I know, I'm dead," he huffed.

"Actually I was going to say that I would castrate you, but yeah, dead works too," I mumbled, grabbing at the dirt walls for support. "Just a little bit higher and I've almost got…" I trailed off as my fingers clutched grass at the top of the hole, and I gave a little cry of glee. "Got it!"

"Erickson," Aaron grunted from beneath me, "I can't hold on much longer."

"Yeah, yeah, just give me a little push," I said, stretching my fingers as far as I could, flexing my muscles in an effort to drag myself up to solid ground.

"Erickson, I can't, I have to…" he cut off as his knees buckled beneath him, dropping him, and then me—still groping for air—back into the dark pit.

I rolled as I fell, my arms pin wheeling as I tried to not land on him. As much as I wouldn't mind causing him pain any other time, it's like he said, imagine how it would look to the cops the next morning.

"What the hell was that?" I yelled after I managed to scramble to my feet, brushing as much dirt off of my shredded dress as I could. I looked down at his crumpled mound, sprawled out and wheezing for breath. "I'm not that heavy."

"I know," he muttered, "I'm sorry. God, I could kill for some Red Bull."

Hearing the apology felt like a slap in the face after so many years. I had waited for an apology from him for so long for what he had done, and I had begun to think "I'm sorry" wasn't among the list of words in his vocabulary. "Yeah, well…" I murmured, defeated.

"Look, Erickson," he started, pushing himself awkwardly up against one of the holes, "In case you haven't noticed, we're now officially stuck in a goddamned hole until someone has the decency to come and find us. How about we call it a truce for one night?" He looked up at me, his eyes weary, his entire body posture drained.

Looking at him, I couldn't help but feel drained as well. "Fine," I grumbled, taking a seat beside him. I tilted my head back, looking up at the stars millions of miles away from us, letting the silence span, growing in awkwardness as the moments passed.

Finally I broke, tipped my head to him and asked, "So have you been home to Mont Valley recently?"

He turned his head to me, and a slow, unsure smile spread across his lips. "Yeah, sort of. You?"

********

I woke up later not to the bright morning sunshine as I thought I would, but rather a single, directed light that flashed over my eyes and off again. Groaning, I squinted my eyes open, searching for the source of the light, and was rewarded with the sight of an older gentleman in overalls, his face leathery and wrinkled, looking down on us from his perch at the side of the hole. The sky behind him was the lightening gray of the beginnings of a sunrise.

"What're you two doin' down there, eh?"

A single word rushed into my head: Saved! We were saved! I took a moment to examine my surroundings, and found Aaron pressed up against me—well, vice versa, to be accurate—his suit jacket (his outfit had been James Bond) draped across my shoulders, and my head had presumably been cradled on his shoulder. Shock reeled through me, but I dismissed it quickly, elbowing Aaron in the side.

He woke up with a start and a grunt, and I kept poking him until he finally saw the man on the edge of our dirt prison, who was watching us with a very amused expression on his face.

"You kid's need any help?"

"Yes, oh most definitely!" I cried awkwardly, scrambling to my feet and looking up at him. "We need a ladder or…or a rope…"

"Can't ya'll just climb out yourselves?"

"We tried," I explained, growing desperate, "Please, sir…"

"Alright, alright, hold yer horses, I'll getcha a ladder. Either of ye hurt?"

"No, we're…"

"Actually," Aaron interrupted, and I threw him a confused look over my shoulder. "I think I sprained my ankle in the fall down here," he said, a grimace on his face. "I can climb out, but I'm not sure how far I can go after that."

The old man nodded and simply turned away. For a moment, fear clutched my heart—what if he didn't come back? And then it was replaced with anger as I spun around to face Aaron. "Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?"

He shrugged. "I didn't want to worry you."

"And yet you let me climb on your back anyway? That had to have made it worse!"

He shrugged again, and I growled in infuriation. "I don't understand why…"

"Your ladder's here," he interjected, jerking his chin up to the lip of the hole where the old man was currently lowering down a metal ladder. "Time to get out of here. Ladies first."

"Oh no," I said, holding my hand down to him to haul him to his feet, "Injured first. I don't want to have to come back down and carry you up myself."

"Ah," he said, patting my cheek with his hand and smirking at me, "There's the Jules we all know and love." At my fierce glare, he amended, "Or hate."

I felt, for some strange reason, a tinge of regret at the addition to his words. We had gone so far last night, each of us practically bearing our souls, and for what? Nothing?

It hit me later, as I watched paramedics tape up his ankle—I didn't hate Aaron O'Conner anymore. Huh, some truce.

********

My fingers tapped an annoyed statacco against my desk as I looked at the screen, flipping back and forth and back and forth between two images. It had been a week since the graveyard incident, and I hadn't really talked to Aaron since—but neither had I gone out of my way to avoid him as usual.

Heaving a sigh, I selected the two images, hit print, got up to collect them and continued on to a cubical I'd rarely been to before. Slapping the pictures down on the desk in front of the man sitting there I asked, "Which one?"

Aaron craned his head up to look at me in surprise. "Excuse me?"

"Which one? For the family unity section of the magazine."

"You're asking me?"

"You are our layout editor."

"Are all of your lackeys busy?"

"No, I just thought I'd get your opinion. Stop making such a big deal out of it."

"Fine, fine," he agreed, spinning back in his chair to examine my pictures. He made some sort of sound and then asked, "What else have you got?"

"Excuse me?"

"I know you, Jules, you sell yourself short sometimes. Show me the other ones."

I pursed my lips together. "I don't have them."

"But they're on the computer, right?" Without waiting for me to respond, he stood up, grabbed my shoulders, spun me around and sat me down in his chair, pushing it closer to the computer for me to access. "Show me."

I pushed aside a can of Red Bull to get to the mouse. "God, you really need to stop drinking this stuff," I muttered, ignoring his sneer as I obediently opened the collection and flipped through them slowly, aware of Aaron lurking behind me, his gaze sweeping over my pictures with a critical eye.

"Stop." I felt him lean forward behind me, his head next to mine, his breath on my ear. "That one," he whispered, and shivers danced down my spine.

"This one?" I took a look at the picture. It was one of my favorites, a candid shot of the family I had been photographing, where they didn't realize I was taking the picture. In the foreground, the mother held her baby up in the air, a smile stretched across her face, while her two daughters chased her husband in the background in a tiring game of tag. I hadn't thought it would be what the magazine would be looking for.

"Definitely. Now, get me a copy of that and then get out of my chair," he said, his head still where it was.

"Gladly," I snapped, pushing back on the chair so it slammed into his body. He let out an "oof" of surprise. I stalked away from his cubicle, but not without a smile on my face. And a confused one at that.

Was it possible that I…liked...Aaron O'Conner?

********

I walked down the hallway with a smile on my face. It had now been three weeks since the incident in the graveyard, and I had seen Aaron more frequently. Our once sinister banters became friendly, and on some occasions, he even brought me coffee. It led to a point where I had forgotten why we had even fought at all, why I had even hated him. I had even met up with Abby over the weekend, and she squealed when I told her what was going on, telling me to, "Totally go for it, girl!"

I dipped my head to hide my grin—when Abby and I were together, we were still teenagers.

"…tap that."

"Yeah, man, Juliette is hot."

The sound of voices, and my name, stopped me dead in my tracks, and I peeked around the corner where three of the men I worked with, including Aaron, stood talking over coffee. I watched and waited.

Aaron snorted. "You think I should sleep with Erickson?"

"Exactly."

"No," Aaron said, and when he barked a laugh I felt my heart sink. "Absolutely not. She hates my guts and I hate hers…it's sort of a, mutual hate thing."

I gasped, my hands flying to my mouth. But one of them had heard me, and mumbled something quickly to Aaron. I turned and flew before I could see his face, running through the offices and grabbing my purse, yelling an excuse to a coworker before fleeing to the elevators. I now remembered why I hated Aaron O'Conner.

********

I hadn't been home more than ten minutes before I heard the pounding on my door. "Juliette! Juliette I know you're in there!"

My heart skipped a beat at the sound of Aaron's voice.

"Go away!"

"Not a chance, Jules! Not until you open up!"

"Not happening!"

The banging became more persistent. "I have to talk to you!"

"I don't want to listen!"

The noise stopped, and I breathed out a sigh of…what? Relief? Disappointment? A sigh which quickly turned into a gasp of shock when my door swung open revealing a smirking Aaron.

"You should remember that I know how to pick locks."

"This is an invasion of privacy!" I shrieked, backing away from him as he strode towards me. It felt like knives stabbing into me, looking into his face after hearing what he said. "I'll call the cops!"

"No, you won't. I'm not here to hurt you," he said, stretching a hand out. "I just want you to listen."

I had backed myself up to my kitchen counter, giving him the advantage. He continued to advance, grabbing my shoulders gently when he had reached me. "Listen to me, Jules. I know what you think you heard back there…"

"'Absolutely not, I hate her guts,'" I paraphrased, and he closed his eyes and shook his head.

"I know, I know, but…"

"I get it, Aaron, it's always a game for you, isn't it?"

"That's not it…"

"Yes it is. That's what it was in high school and that's…"

"Damn it, Jules, shut up!" he yelled, shaking me slightly. I looked up at him in shock, at his face towering over me. His head was lowered, so that it was closer to mine than it usually was, and his eyes had a look of desperation and hunger in them that made my stomach flip-flop. "Jules," he murmured, and I could feel his breath against my lips. My head tipped up farther, my breathing ragged, every breath pressing me up against his chest. "Jules, I…"

I hummed a note in response, a sound which brought me back to my senses with a snap. Even though the motion wrung my heart, I brought my hands up, putting them against his chest and pushing. "I don't want to hear it."

"But, Jules…"

I turned my head away from his kicked-puppy face, not wanting to have to have it break my resolve. "Get the hell out of my apartment," I muttered.

For a moment, he stood there, but then nodded and turned.

I heard the door slam behind him before I broke down in tears, sliding down the wall of the counter and onto the floor in a little ball and cursed the day I had ever begun to fall for Aaron O'Conner.

********

Another party. Another damned party. A Christmasparty. A belated Thanksgiving party, to be exact. I mean, really? Honestly? And I couldn't even get out of the damned thing.

Trust me, I had tried.

I thought it would be easy to go back to hating Aaron, to avoiding him around the workplace, but it was harder than I thought. I came up with every excuse to see him, and then fought against each one. My heart clenched any time that I saw him, and the wave of disgust that I used to feel had been replaced with one of heartbroken longing.

I blamed the Halloween party, loathing the day that we ever decided to call a truce. It was that damned truce that led us to talking, that showed me how much of a human he actually was. That was the beginning of my downfall, and I knew it.

Was it really possible to fall in love in four weeks?

But I already knew the answer to that—yes, it was. Especially with the events that had led up to it. Especially since I knew what a crush was, and how far the depths of "liking" someone went, and this went far beyond that.

Especially because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't bring myself to hate him.

Even with the looks he gave me, even with the bimbos he paraded around on his arm at work and outside of it…I still couldn't bring myself to do it.

So now here I was, knuckles white with fury on the steering wheel as I drove to the annoyingly remote location of our Christmas party—a barn. Because yes, we just had to be that unique.

And to top it off, it was raining, as if this day could get any…

The sound of my car spluttering to a grinding stop cut off my last thought as I screamed in frustration, directing it to the side of the road while I still could. As I fumbled for my phone, I cursed myself. I really, really should not have ignored that "check engine" light that had been flashing on my dashboard for the past couple of weeks.

Pulling out my phone, I realized I should have also really, really charged it when I meant to. Damn.

I quickly scrolled through my contacts list and selected the number of my boss, who I knew always had his phone on him. After a few rings, I heard him pick up.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Phil, it's me…"

"Juliette? Where are you? The party is hopping!"

Oh god, he was already drunk. "Listen, Phil, I'm about twenty minutes away and my car broke down. I need someone to come get me."

"Where exactly are you?"

Tears pushed at my eyes. "I'm not quite sure. It's the empty road…the one before the left hand turn on the instructions. But I don't know how far down I am and…" I stopped talking when I realized that there was nothing on the other end of the line—my battery had died. Throwing my phone down on the ground, I banged my head against the steering wheel in frustration and cried.

It was just going to be one of those days.

********

A knock on my window made me jump.

Had I really fallen asleep waiting for someone to come get me? I rubbed my eyes as the knock came again. I squinted through the rain drenched glass to see who the person was and nearly yelped with shock.

"Come on, Erickson!" his voice was muffled through the window.

"Not you!" I shouted back.

"I'm the only one here, open up!" I saw him grab at my handle and cursed myself (again) for not locking the doors, or having the reflexes to do that before he locked them for me. "Time to go," he said, no longer yelled now that the door was open.

I clambered out, and he slammed the door behind me. "I don't want to go with you," I said, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Oh, come on, Juliette, don't be stubborn about this," he groaned, squinting at me through the rain. His black hair hung down around his face, dripping wet, and water droplets coated his eyelashes. I resisted the urge to push his hair out of his face.

"You can go back and tell someone where I am," I insisted, holding myself tighter. The rain was coming down hard and it was already freezing out here. I was beginning to regret the words coming out of my mouth.

"Everyone else is too drunk to get you!"

"I don't care!" And I didn't, even though it made me almost laugh that the only reason he probably wasn't drunk is because he was likely hopped up on Red Bull instead.

He sighed and rubbed his hands through his hair, the motion drawing his light sweater across his chest, emphasizing the muscles there. "Alright, let's call a truce."

"A truce?" I barked a laugh. "You want to call a truce?"

"Jules, come on, it's…"

"Do you know what happened the last time we called a truce?"

"Jules…"

"No! No, I don't think you understand. The last time we called a truce was the worst mistake of my life!"

"Jules…" he repeated, reaching out for my arm.

"Don't you 'Jules' me!" I shouted, slapping his hand away. "You have some nerve, you know that right? Some nerve. It's just like high school all over again—you lead me on and then you send me crashing. And I hate you so damn much for it! I hate you for making me think that you quite possibly liked me, for making me fall in love with you!"

Aaron gaped at me openly, his mouth silently forming the word "love."

"I hate that you told me everything about you, and I hate that I know that your mom was a drug addict and your dad had drinking problems and that you had to take care of your little sister, and I hate that I know that you rescued a dog that had been hit by a car outside of your house and it died a day later and you cried over it for a week, and I hate that you told me all these other things that show that you're human.

"I could have kept on believing you were some jackass, O'Conner, and it would have been fine, but no! No! You couldn't just leave it at that, you had to call some dumbass 'truce'! And yes, I know what you're thinking, 'love, really?' Well, yes really. This isn't high school anymore. I don't 'love you, like oh my gosh' because you have a great bod or because your hair is perfect or because you have a cute smirk. No. I love you because you have flaws, because you don't make yourself out to be some god…all of the time at least. I love you because you actually know how to be caring, because you have a heart, a soul, an actual conscious…or at least I thought you had one. Maybe you don't have any morals, hell, I don't know. I love you because…"

My words were cut short as his lips crashed down against mine, hot and fiery as his body pushed up against mine, backing me into my car and crushing us together. I felt his body heat seep into me through our wet clothes, warming me and sending tingles down to my toes as his one hand pulled me closer, the other hand threading through my hair, making my stomach do flip flops.

And then I realized what he was doing and I shoved him away.

"Where the hell do you get off, thinking you have the right to kiss me like that?" I panted, completely out of breath.

I watched a look of confusion take over his face. "I…I just thought, well, maybe…"

I cut him off, my hand bringing his head back down to my level as I pressed my lips hard against him. Before he could bring himself to respond, I pushed him away again. "See, how do you like it? Getting cut off like that?"

He grinned at me. "Actually, very much," he said, his hands cupping my chin and tipping it up, pressing his lips softly against mine.

I let out an indignant gasp, but nevertheless complied. "You are…such…an arrogant…ass," I muttered in between kisses.

He grunted in reply. "But that's why you love me," he said, his lips trailing down my jaw line, nibbling lightly at my neck as his hands pulled my hips square into his.

I snorted, my cheeks tingeing pink. "Ass," I repeated.

"Don't worry, Jules," he said, his lips millimeters from my ear, his breath and husky voice sending shivers down my spine once more, "I love you too."

As you can imagine, we never quite made it to the party, and for that I will always blame…Aaron O'Conner.

xXx

Yes, I'm really not happy with how this one came out—it's too forced with little feeling and I'm pretty sure I didn't really stick to the guidelines/rules that well. I am aware of it's quality, so please, no criticisms on that, but if there are blatant factual/grammatical errors, please kindly inform me of them specifically. I will hopefully rewrite this one.

Anyone interested in a better example of one of my writing, feel free to check out Battle Scars or Impulse. They're my favorites.

Much love to you all for reading! Thanks a bunch! Good luck to all the contestants!

Until next time everyone,

-Aria