You, Me & Forty-Three Degree Tilted Hats

- a oneshot -

a/n; This is definitely one of the more cliche things I have done, but I hope you like it all the same. I've been working on this for a few days. And just be aware: I'm not meaning to stereotype anyone (like jocks or narcissists.) This is simply how my characters are. People are who they are for a reason, and I have no reason to judge. So, with that in mind, read on :)

x

She runs through the downpour, her fingertips shriveling due to the barage of thundering rain. The lightning crackles overhead, and her heart jumps every time light streaks across the blackening skies, only reminding her how startled she is already.

"Ana, can you just stop?"

"No," she cries, turning to glare at him. Unfortunately, her feet decide that now is a good time to tangle with each other, and down she goes. Pain lances up her side; it feels as if her hip is shattered, the ache is so horrible. A cry leaves her lips before she can stop it, and tears rush to burn in her eyes.

"I thought you were the coordinated one," he mumbles as he kneels beside her.

"I am." Ana tries not to look up at his bright brown eyes, but fails. A flush spreads down her neck, and she tries to remember why she was so angry with him in the first place. It's hard to do with his fingers creeping around her waist, supporting her. Her voice softens as she asks,"Michael, what do you want?"

Michael's eyes remain trained on hers in that intent manner that he doesn't know unnerves her, "You're being difficult, Ana."

"I wouldn't have to be difficult if you hadn't kissed me," she points out.

Michael rolls his eyes, trying to surpress a smile, "Actually, if I remember correctly, you kissed me."

"Stop talking proper," she mutters, slapping him across the shoulder.

"Then stop being ridiculous," he retorts, pulling her as gently as possible to her feet. She still winces. "If you didn't want to be with me, then you wouldn't be blushing." His fingertips brush her burning cheek, and she swats them away hurriedly.

"Blushing is hardly reason to assume that someone wants to be with you," Ana responds, crossing her arms. "I happen to blush a lot, thank you very much."

"Now who's talking proper?" Michael says, chuckling as her eyes grow wide with rage.

"You know this is how I talk," Ana growls, trying to keep her temper from slipping away. But as usual, she is never able to hold a grudge, damn amiable nature.

x

It is obvious that this argument will go on for quite some time, and you, the reader, are probably wondering how these two spirited lovers got themselves in such a position. I find it necessary to begin from the beginning of the tale, though it might seem tedious.

The story begins in the fall of 2010, focusing on two students in the midst of their sophomore year at California State University, Northridge. The air is crisp with promises of winter time, and we find one student in particular huddled in her seat with a scarf about her neck.

x

Good God, it is cold.

There is a reason she lives in California, and it is not so that she can sit here wrapped in a thick coat and checkered scarf, brown hair spilling about her shoulders, and still be freezing. The sun is supposed to be shining down - like it normally does in September - not hiding behind looming gray storm clouds. Although the breeze and the cold does make for better exercizing weather, she hates it all the same.

"Analyn?" The English professor reads from the role sheet, like she does every time they meet.

Ana raises her hand, "Here." Immediately she sinks her hands into her pockets, regretting even letting them make contact with the bitter cold air. Normally the AC is rusty in this building, the heater sputtering to life reluctantly whenever needed, but now it seems that the AC finally decided to cooperate.

After reading the last few names from the sheet, the professor rises to her feet, straightening her too-short, crimson blouse. It looks as if the shirt was tossed in with the wrong load and shrunk down; however, all of the woman's clothes are like that, so her washer must be malfunctioning. Ana represses a laugh.

"Alright," the professor begins, "pull out a sheet of paper. It is time for your reading quiz."

There is a chuckle to the right, and Ana cannot resist looking behind her. It's the same laugh that she's been noticing more and more lately, belonging to one of the boys in the back who always walks in right as class is about to begin and wears his caps tilted at a raised angle. The fact that he's wearing a football jersey today doesn't help the opinion Ana is forming of him. He's the typical jock who couldn't care less about school-work, who thrives on mocking the professors. At least he could have the decency to keep his comments to himself, she thinks irritably.

This time he meets her gaze, his brown eyes shining with mirth. She jerks back.

"Michael, do you have something to say?" The professor asks, her gaze piercing.

"No," the boy says, touching his cap without thinking about it. "Sorry." He sinks back in his seat, legs spread in the normal pose that most men adopt when lounging.

Ana's fingers clench around her pencil, and for a moment, she forgets about the cold as she meets his eyes again. The nerve of some people.

x

It feels right to run, to feel the concrete slapping underneath her tennis shoes like a constant rhythm.

Ana tries to run in time to her music - "God gave me you for the ups and downs, God gave me you for the days of doubts" - and begins to hum under her breath almost without meaning to. She can see her breath twirling in the air, only reminding her how cold it is.

His eyes are a soft kind of brown, she thinks all of a sudden. Kind of like chocolate, but deeper, like he's hiding something beneath the surface. Maybe he's like the chocolate bars with almonds she always secretly liked but turned down because ohsomuchfat; his secrets are like the almonds that you never expect to taste until you bite into the rich chocolate. They compliment chocolate like secrets complete a person.

She doesn't stop running, but her thoughts run to a halt for a moment. Damn it, he's invading my head.

To distract herself, she thinks of the cookies she will make when she gets home, the ones with the mini chocolate chips that practically melt in one's mouth. Typically she doesn't indulge in such treats, but she has a long night of studying ahead, and damn it, she just feels like chocolate chip cookies, and Nestle hot cocoa. So shoot her.

"God gave me you," Ana sings softly, quickly giving up on it as she focuses back on making it the next mile.

x

She's sitting outside of the Learning Resource Center, waiting for her appointment with a tutor. Normally she wouldn't come here - because honestly, her essays are pretty damn good, if the hours she spends meticulously combing over them for any irrelevance or grammatical error say anything- but her English professor made it a requirement for their first essay. Something about "freshman and their inability to write anything potentially pleasing."

And of course, being early, as Ana hates to think she'll be late for anything, she has to content herself either reading Pride and Prejudice, or watching a girl with long black hair jump into her boyfriend's arms and make out with him while they stumble back and forth. Soon, she decides that Mr. Darcy's ardent confession of love will just have to wait (not to mention she's been exhausted just reading through Mr. Collin's countless speeches that take up whole chapters) and closes her book. The couple are still making out, and Ana watches them. Pure detachment, she thinks. How can they act so indiscreet?

Of course she can't be fully detached. She does have a heart, after all. And just watching the scene sends first a burning to the pit of her stomach, then a sad sort of ache to her heart which she attempts to ignore. There are plenty of people on campus who are single, she tells herself as she turns her attention back to her book. But not many who've never dated anyone, her head points out stubbornly.

"I'm too busy to date anyone," Ana whispers to herself as she reads on to Elizabeth's flat out refusal. The girl has spunk.

"Hey, would you like a flyer?" A perky female voice says from a number of feet away.

"No thanks," a familiar voice declines politely.

Ana forces herself to look up only as if she's suddenly taken an interest in the satchel display across the courtyard, because otherwise her flushing cheeks could be mistaken for something else. The girl is walking her way now, the same girl who was making out with her boyfriend moments before. She has a determined glint in her eyes, as well as in her stride.

"Would you like a -" the girl begins.

"Sure," Ana says, cutting her off and snatching the flyer from the girl's hand, shoving it into the biggest pouch of her backpack seconds later. She glances discreetly over to the right, then asks conversationally, "Are you waiting for your LRC appointment too?"

Michael looks up, surprised as he meets her gaze, "Oh, no. I just finished, actually."

"Oh." Awkwardness creeps over her. She wishes she hadn't said anything. "Did the person tear your paper apart? I heard they have a habit of doing so."

"Yeah, she did actually," Michael says with a laugh. "But I guess that's a good thing. At least I know what I have to improve on." He sounds so studious that it surprises Ana, who had thought him a total slacker.

"That's good," Ana responds lightly. "I have to go in there soon."

"Well, good luck with it," Michael says as he stands up.

She expects him to walk away without even a goodbye, but instead he walks over to her and says, "We've never formally met. I'm Michael." He extends a hand and Ana shakes it slowly, biting her lip as little tingles race up and down her hand. His own hand feels nice, not too large, but firm.

"I'm Analyn," she says with a genuine smile, "but you can call me Ana."

Michael nods, and then, with another smile, turns and heads off the other direction with his backpack slung over his right shoulder - like a boss.

x

It's the middle of October, she's trying to focus on her research in English class, and he's in back snickering like he always does. Honestly, does the boy have nothing better to do than gape his mouth like a gutted fish and spout laughter? Ana turns a page in her book, then realizes she's taken in nothing from the last two pages, so she turns back the page with a sigh.

How to describe his laughter, if she absolutely cannot concentrate.

Bothersome? Check. Musical? Well, it does tend to ring like the clear sound - nevermind, no. Distracting? Very much so.

She realizes she's thinking about his eyes again, bright and brown, and -

He laughs again, damn him, and Ana turns in her seat to give him a shriveling glare. But the moment their eyes connect her hands get clammy, she loses her hold on the book and it shuts with a snap, and her cheeks flush (with anger, of course).

"I have to make a call," she whispers to the girl beside her - who nods - then gathers her things and heads for the door. Once out in the courtyard separating the two halves of the building, she dumps her books onto the nearest table and falls into the chair with a sigh.

The door clicks shut behind her, rather loudly.

"You left," he says, pulling up a chair to sit across from her.

Ana looks up, trying to stare at the space between Michael's eyes so she won't get trapped by them, "Obviously." She opens her book, trying very intently to find her place, but is interuppted by him humming softly under his breath. "Do you mind?"

"Oh." He looks startled. "I didn't think about it, sorry." Silence falls over them, and she watches his fingers knot together over the top of her book she's trying so hard to read.

Ana sighs. She is being rather cold towards the poor boy; he doesn't truly deserve her anger.

"What were you humming?" she asks, hoping she sounds interested.

Michael smiles as their eyes meet just for a second, "Have you ever heard of the band Broken Iris?"

"Heard of it." No need to tell him that she enjoys many of their songs, has been into them for a couple weeks now.

"Well," he continues, "I was humming their song Beautiful Girl. It's kind of a sad song, but I find it inspiring." He returns to humming, and Ana can only stare confusedly at him for so long before she begins to hum along with him. Their voices meld kind of awkwardly at first (she never claimed to have perfect pitch) and it only takes a second for Ana to realize that he's stopped singing with her; instead, he is eyeing her with undisguised admiration.

"Thought you said you'd only heard of them," Michael says.

Ana shrugs, "I lied. I do that sometimes." She can't help but smile as his laugh rings out.

Maybe his laugh is kind of nice after all.

x

Ugh, why did she add that extra mile to her jog, especially when October is fading to a close?

Oh, that's right, because she's a masochist and loves the cold...not. And maybe she was thinking just a little bit about his brown eyes and his laugh and the way his forehead crinkles when he's confused about something, and she had to distract herself somehow.

"I thought I'd seen you here before."

Oh no, please, no. She turns to see that Michael is jogging her way, wearing loose gray sweatpants and an old Letterman jacket that looks way too good on him. It should be a crime for anyone to grow muscles like that, honestly.

"Do you jog here often?" Michael continues with one of his laughs, beginning to run beside her.

Ana rolls her eyes, "This is my jogging time, kid. Get lost."

"Don't try to speak like a jock," he retorts, his hand briefly brushing hers and sending shock waves rushing up her arm. "You're too proper for that." So he has noticed something about her.

"Oh, you mean like you speak?" Ana asks, giggling to herself as he gives her a look of surprise.

A minute later, he joins in her laughter, his hand pressing against her shoulder and shoving her ever so slightly, "Nice comeback for a nerd."

A flash of hurt, and she's irritated with him, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, I was just joking," Michael says, the surprised look in his eyes signifying he's not sure why she's reacting in such a manner.

But she's not ready to let it go. "Just because I care about my grades and where I'm going in life does not make me a nerd." She flips her hair so that it nearly smacks him on the face. "Do you see glasses taped on the nose-bridge, hmm?"

Michael is laughing again, "I didn't mean to offend you. You sound like you're trying to protect your secret identity or something."

"Maybe I am," Ana responds wryly as she slows to a walk, shoving her hands in her pockets to keep them from getting hypothermia or something. "I'm not the only one with a hidden identity, though you're not so good at hiding the fact that you're the typical jock who wants to go nowhere in life."

"What?" Michael cocks an eyebrow.

"Do you play a sport?" she presses.

Michael pauses, as though weighing his answer, then says, "Yeah. Soccer."

Better than football, at least, but enough to make her point. "Exactly what I thought," Ana says haughtily. "Please tell me that your walls aren't decorated with posters of soccer pros you're hoping to mimic, because you want to be a star." Her voice is filled with sarcasm, edged with sharp criticism. She's not often this aggravated, but when she is, she lashes out and doesn't regret what she says until later.

"Harsh," Michael says, stopping her in her tracks. Guilt washes over her sooner than usual as the light flickers in his eyes, making him look somber. "I actually don't have any pictures of professionals on my walls, and I'll have you know that I keep straight Bs."

They walk awkwardly side by side for a moment, and Ana feels her breathing slow; her heart stops pounding against her rib-cage as it does whenever she pushes her physical limits.

"I'm sorry," she says at last, trying to meet his eyes. "I tend to talk without thinking sometimes. It's one of my not so good qualities."

"Your good qualities outweigh the bad," Michael replies thoughtfully, smiling as her cheeks flush with pleasure. "I think we're both experiencing identity crises."

Ana allows her right hand to fall from her pocket and brush his. "If I had a wine glass I'd be toasting to it," she says with a laugh.

"You drink wine?" Michael asks.

Ana shakes her head, "I said wine glass. Perhaps I'd prefer a nice herbal tea to wine, wouldn't you?"

"I was scarred by the smell of herbal tea at a young age," Michael confesses. "Make it Coke and you have a deal."

Ana stops to think, then comments under her breath, "Drug addict, eh?" They both pause to laugh at the lame joke.

"I do believe you just asked me out on a date," Michael points out impishly. A dimple appears on the left side of his mouth as his grin spreads wide enough to accommodate it.

Ana tries to stop the color from rushing to her cheeks. She attempts to think of a good retort, but all she can come up with is, "Pssssh." She breaks into a jog, unable to stop the tingle of pleasure she feels as Michael appears beside her, jogging with such ease one would think it was his natural element.

Oh the feeling of simple happiness. It almost makes her forget about the damn bitter cold.

x

Ana marks the last day off October on the calender in the kitchen as she waits for her cookies to come out of the oven. Ever since the semester started she's been baking more (succeeding a few times in not burning her creations) and even gaining a pound or two, despite her rigorous exercize routine. Outside the window rain floods the streets, slipping down the frosted pane like sodden tears. If that was the case, someone must be really unhappy, she thinks as the oven beeps obnoxiously.

Someone knocks annoyingly loud on the door just as she sets the platter of cookies down on the top of the stove, trying not to devour them right that second.

"Do you mind," Ana begins as she wrenches open the door, cutting off the moment she sees Michael standing there, completely soaked. "How did you know where I live?"

"You gave me your address last week in class," Michael says through chattering teeth. "Remember?"

She takes a second to think about it. Oh yes, she did give it to him, but it was a spur of the moment thing. "I didn't think you'd actually use it," Ana says.

"Well, my car broke down just down the road," Michael says, gesturing over his shoulder, "and I realized that you lived right here, so -" he cuts off, shuffling his feet awkwardly. "Can I come in? Kind of, um, freezing here."

"Oh, sure." Ana beckons him in, then peeks out her doorway to see where his car is. The street is empty. Her brow furrows with confusion, then she snorts as she gets it. "Your car broke down, huh? I thought it sounded a little too cliche."

"I lied," Michael says, stealing her line. "I do that sometimes."

"So how did you get here?" she asks as she heads for the hall closet. Some of her dad's old stuff is stored in here; she doesn't know why she hasn't gotten rid of it yet. Perhaps she hopes that one day he'll come back with a new wife and kids and say that he's sorry for abandoning his first wife - Ana's mother - and her, his only daughter. But it's been six years, and they haven't recieved anything to suggest that he's even alive.

"I jogged," he confesses, following her. She can hear him munching down on one of her cookies, damn him. "I hope you don't plan on having me wear one of your blouses."

"The thought crossed my mind," Ana replies sarcastically as she digs through the boxes in the closet, finally pulling out a pair of jeans with holes in the knees and a blue button up shirt. "Here, try these on. And don't complain if they don't fit."

"Someone's grumpy tonight," Michael says, snatching the clothes from her hand and retreating into the bathroom right behind them.

"I'm a very grumpy person," Ana says, making her way over to the kitchen. "Another one of my less pleasing traits."

"Try smiling," comes his muffled voice from the bathroom. "It tends to help." The cheeky bastard.

"Why didn't I think of that?" she shouts back to him, taking a bite out of one of her cookies and smiling. She actually made them right for once.

A minute later he reappears in the hall, his hair still having a tiny bit of shape to it despite the rain water darkening and matting it to his skull. The clothes look a bit bulky on him, but they work for the time being.

"Who's clothes are these?" Michael wonders as he steps into the kitchen.

"A heart-to-heart isn't on the agenda for today," she shoots back.

"You're being a bitch," he points out.

Ana sighs, trying to lessen the sting of his words, but it doesn't much help. He's right, though, unfortunately. She's been getting increasingly worse, as she always does when the winter seasons roll around. She much more appreciates summer.

"Sorry," she mumbles. "I just can't seem to get warm. The heater broke down on me, and it's so damn cold outside. Not to mention, it's raining. Raining."

"Try being a glass half full," Michael says as he steals another cookie from the tray.

Ana rolls her eyes, "You try living on your own because your mom couldn't stand being in this town, paying all the bills, working whenever you're not at school. It's not as fun as it sounds." She glances back out the window.

He creeps up behind her, his hand pressing gently against her left shoulder, "I thought a heart-to-heart wasn't on the agenda."

"I was just stating the facts," Ana snaps, not having the energy to remove his hand. Plus it feels rather nice. "Do you see what this weather does to me?" She turns then, a little too quickly, and her shoulder bashes into his in a very awkward way. They are left staring at each other and her heart starts thumping against her rib-cage like it does whenever she runs for a little too long. Her cheeks are probably flushing, the traitors.

His brown eyes stay locked on hers, speaking more than any words could, even as he says softly, "I live on my own too. I understand more than you know."

She's seen the movies, where the princes rescue their damsels in distress, and she's always ruled herself out as one of the damsels. Because she doesn't need to be rescued. She can remain disciplined - it's what got her into running the miles and sticking to a healthy diet in the first place - and take care of herself. She doesn't need a prince.

"How convenient," she murmers, trying to make it sound witty like her normal tone. It sounds exactly the opposite.

But when he looks at her like this, she remembers all the cookies she's been baking, the weight she's been gaining, her fluctuating emotions. He makes her start to unravel, makes her think about that fairy tale scenario, makes her look at him and all his imperfections and want him to be that person to drag her back. When did this happen?

She's also seen the part where the prince kisses the damsel in distress, but it doesn't seem appropriate for the current situation. She won't wait for him to make the move he probably isn't even considering. Instead, she leans forward, wondering how her heart can beat so fast without spontaneously combusting, and kisses him gently.

There's just a second in which he doesn't respond - oh no, what did I - then his lips move against hers, and it's wonderful - how can I be so happy - until she realizes she's kissing one of the school jocks. Immediately she rips away from him, unable to think, unable to move. All she's aware of is his eyes on hers.

Then she dashes for the door.

x

She runs through the downpour, her fingertips shriveling due to the barage of thundering rain. The lightning crackles overhead, and her heart jumps every time light streaks across the blackening skies, only reminding her how startled she is already.

"Ana, can you just stop?"

"No," she cries, turning to glare at him. Unfortunately, her feet decide that now is a good time to tangle with each other, and down she goes. Pain lances up her side; it feels as if her hip is shattered, the ache is so horrible. A cry leaves her lips before she can stop it, and tears rush to burn in her eyes.

"I thought you were the coordinated one," he mumbles as he kneels beside her.

"I am." Ana tries not to look up at his bright brown eyes, but fails. A flush spreads down her neck, and she tries to remember why she was so angry with him in the first place. It's hard to do with his fingers creeping around her waist, supporting her. Her voice softens as she asks,"Michael, what do you want?"

Michael's eyes remain trained on hers in that intent manner that he doesn't know unnerves her, "You're being difficult, Ana."

"I wouldn't have to be difficult if you hadn't kissed me," she points out.

Michael rolls his eyes, trying to surpress a smile, "Actually, if I remember correctly, you kissed me."

"Stop talking proper," she mutters, slapping him across the shoulder.

"Then stop being ridiculous," he retorts, pulling her as gently as possible to her feet. She still winces. "If you didn't want to be with me, then you wouldn't be blushing." His fingertips brush her burning cheek, and she swats them away hurriedly.

"Blushing is hardly reason to assume that someone wants to be with you," Ana responds, crossing her arms. "I happen to blush a lot, thank you very much."

"Now who's talking proper?" Michael says, chuckling as her eyes grow wide with rage.

"You know this is how I talk," Ana growls, trying to keep her temper from slipping away. But as usual, she is never able to hold a grudge, damn amiable nature.

"Why can't you just admit you want to be with me," Michael says suddenly, cutting away all pretensions and bringing the issue to light. "All semester you've been a total bitch to me, but you hung around me, and we talked, and maybe I'm an idiot for feeling something, but I know you're not made of ice."

Her eyes are wide, and she's unable to say anything. For a second she can't breathe as his fingers trace a pattern over her cheek.

"I already told you I hate the cold," Ana whispers. "How could my feelings be made of ice then?"

Michael laughs like he did when they first met, then his lips come crashing down on hers. It's only a short kiss, but she likes it just the same.

"I'm still not sure why you don't live someplace warmer," he says.

"I'm in California," Ana says with a laugh that makes her sides ache. "Where else could I go?"

"I guess I'll have to keep you warm," Michael says as he wraps his arms around her waist, and kisses her until she feels dizzy.

"Jocks," Ana mumbles into the crook of his neck, unable to hide her smile. "Be warned, I will slap you if you get cocky in class again."

"I was waiting for that," Michael mumbles.

"And no hats tilted at a 43 degree angle," she continues.

"Here we go."

x