EXCUSE ME. MAKE WAY FOR IZABELLA. I SAID, MOVE MAGGOTS!
Well thank you kindly for stepping out of the way, now I can make room for this maaaaassive oneshot I'm carrying. Or, it was a oneshot; I'm making it a mult-chaptered story by way of apolozy for Izabella, who won the right for this story to be created by winning my oneshot contest over a year ago. I started writing this when I was living at Keesler AFB this summer for my tech school, and now it's finished!
If you didn't realize it already you just walked into a big ol', cracktastic reverse harem. Now, since the last time I have seriously worked on fanfics, I had this mini "epiphany" about my stories in which it really hit me that despite how proud I am of my writing, it really is 90% silly teenage fantasy and certainly not literary gold. Consequently, I feel a little silly writing this type of thing now, especially since this takes place in modern times where "reverse harem anime" behavior would either be ridiculed or be a reason to call the police. But I still…like it. Goddammit, even if it embarrasses me, this stuff just makes me grin when it's fanfic or anime form.
On a more realistic note, writing with my more "updated" mentality on romance fanfiction makes me feel really weird and unsure when I'm writing from the POV of adult men, not teenagers, who are struck by the looks and attitude of an adult woman. I really hope I do not embarrass, disgust or dishonor any respectable men by doing this. :c
On an even more realistic note don't expect updates to this story or any story relatively "soon" because I'm a sad and busy college student with not much writing time. Much of the time, my brain is too busy fretting over how I feel lukewarm at best towards my major and even my military involvement, and constantly feel worry/jealousy because my friends are progressing in life much faster than I am. GROWING UP SUCKS so let's avoid it with a fanfiction.
Peace Thief Studios. 1:16 PM, May 20th, 2015.
It's time for the next shoot.
This slant of light is perfect. It falls on the hair, and that one curve of the shoulder that speaks of so much young and ready masculinity, a man growing out of a determined boy. So much to be found in the lines of a body if you pay attention. And viewers of all ages ate up that buoyant, youthful shit. Motonashi's got the camera at the best angle for his face, with the light, with his jaw line and its shadow creeping down his collar and underneath the trim-linen shirt and its cutoff sleeves (which are courtesy of Bergdorf, the starting point of its summer line) pulling your gaze down there. His toes are only just being lapped at by the sand that we filled the giant sandbox in the center of the set with. I'm glad the aide got the shirt's collar out of the way properly, otherwise someone would be standing up and taking shit from me, because I am so sick of having aides run over there and poke things that should have been poked twenty minutes ago. Finally, we're ready and we can start getting shots.
"Smile, Naruto. Show me your fangs." He showed them, and lightning flashed.
The cameras (or "lightning," I love that) going off on the guy were dazzling, like him, like his perfect, oh my God perfect pose and his perfect, boyish face and so. Fucking. Perfect blonde hair. And the sleeves holding his arms so comfortably tight…I love this picture that's forming in my mind now, but unfortunately for daydreaming broads like me, the current economy makes it difficult to not put work first. Fantasies later, shots now. Click those heels, my dear.
"I said fangs, Naruto!" I stood up and stepped around Gin's second-point camera. "The smile is cute but we have your cute face already. We want ferocity. Show me, you know, a…a fox face. A wolf!"
"Hah! A fox face! A fox face sounds way better." What should have been a gorgeous young man in sunlight brimming with all sexual appeal and playful, powerful youth turned into seventh grader idiot when Naruto opens his mouth. His body begged for photography, but like seriously, lord help us if he ever gets in front of a microphone. "But I read this book really recently where there was a girl named Foxface, and she died, so are you sure that's attractive?"
Oh my God. "Make the fox face, Naruto. Please. It'll look good, I swear. You've got the perfect teeth for it."
He shrugged, and you could watch his muscles move even just with that. I admit, I watched. "Okay, then." He twisted his head a little—ruined the artful spikes we had prodded up into his hair, and even made new ones—and the teeth shone out from underneath his boyish, grinning lips. A good shape. A nice sharp curve on his top that pulled around the muscle. Just shy of perfect. That little armband peeking from beneath the cuff adds 'casual' and color, which he doesn't need here, but it highlights him. Topped neatly with the smile that was excellently playful and silly. A summer smile, an 'I'm-having-so-much-fun-at-the-beach' smile. Yes, yes yesyesyes, yes to it all—lightning flashed again. Yeah.
I stood underneath lightning and watched him become ours. The best side of Naruto now exists in my cameras. Soon it will exist on a magazine cover, and the e-reader magazine file, and then those elegant, daddy-bought-all-my-cars bitches from Vogue will be begging at my feet. They didn't host their own home-grown contest and reap the most attractive men in the country and beyond, they weren't advertising the city's biggest clothing line this year, and they sure won't get one penny's worth of sympathy or charity from me. This is definitely an occasion where the paycheck is second-best.
Thirty seconds gone. Time to check progress. I lifted my hand and all point cameras stopped their flashes and waited. Motonashi backed away from his camera, even. Seeing as he was the one acting like a private at an army boot camp, I went over to him first. Click-click, go my lovely Alexander McQueens. Click, halt. Okay, I so love this boot camp analogy. Motonashi's practically sweating. "Chill out and let me see the trial pics," I told him.
"Certainly, right here," he replied, and stepped aside like a little gentleman. I leaned forward and looked into the lens, tapping the arrow button right again and again.
Naruto's fangs bared, his shoulders tense for running down a summer beach, and…and one lock of his hair curling in on itself. Like a tiny gun pointed in his eye. Yeah, no.
The same fangs in the next one, a perfect smile, actually. All-around good.
The next looked exactly the same. But something about it…made my mouth part, and stare. But we have limited time, so I flipped to the next ones, where Naruto turned his head, and his body was now far behind. He was putting his shoulder in between the camera and himself, like he was shoving someone, like a boy roughhousing. Was that better than the astounding previous one? I flipped back and forth. Could not decide. Naruto asked if he could move around.
"Not one inch, Naruto."
"Let him move. He needs to look free."
For a second I thought Naruto was talking about himself. It wouldn't be that surprising. But the familiarity of the voice hit me a second after. I lowered the camera and looked over at the far door. I even had to look up over the giant second point cam and see, and I was right. Sakura was there! I should have known by the sound of her shoes. Quick, heavy. Brisk for business, harsh for strength. A known combination since middle school. I went right around Motonashi and walked up to meet her.
The newest aide got wise and took my files out of my hands so they'd be free. "I totally forgot you were coming!" I told her.
And one look up and down and a nod later—this girl is a big fan of all garments and accessories red—she sighed and said with her usual Oh-Ino voice, "You invited me! I thought you would have set an alert on your phone to remind you."
"It might have gone off. I haven't been listening. But I've been waiting for a call about your Newport visit! I wanted to hear more of the showline you said you saw there, and those boat rides on the river, too, those sounded wonderful."
Sakura smiled. Professionally, of course. "You know I'd be happy to! Sometime over lunch. You could come over if you like. But is this really the time for that? I know you have a time limit before the next one comes in." She circled neatly around me and approached Naruto Uzumaki, winner of my nationwide sweep and our current poster boy for the summer line of the city's eternal favorite department, Bergdorf Goodman. She walked right onto the set and when she stopped, he jumped a little, like she'd stepped on his foot. Also wouldn't be surprising.
Next thing I know, though, she's fluffing the guy's hair and pulling on his armband and his arms, pulling basically every piece of him she can grab, and that was freaking enough. It had taken half an hour to sandpaper the armband's sides and confirm his best torso positions with the Goodman advisor. Bitch'll pay for messing up my perfect doll. I stood up and slapped one of the tripods, which clanged and made her look up. "Sakura, what are you doing? He was in the perfect position! We just spent ages—"
"You didn't hear me say he needs to look more free?" She asked, while pulling the guy's arms up like a mannequin doll. He looks so confused now. And she was messing up my art for god's sake. And talking back. Not. A surprise. "You went over this with me not a week ago. A cover page and three mid-pages in the first issue of summer. We have beachgoers gearing up for vacation, outlets and warehouses filling up with endless sports trunks, and bikinis, and form-fitting blouses for the vain women. That is our situation. The mood must fit the clothing. Flawlessly. So we are fitting Mr. Uzumaki to the visual perception of the beginning of summer."
"We had flawless positioning, and the clothing is Goodman's best for the summer." I told her. Sakura looked up at me from behind our model's shoulder. "You didn't agree with the first pose? 'Looking into the sun' to start with, and if you tell me that was an idiotic place to start, I will—"
"No, you had a good starting pose. And degenerating into the," She stopped to wave her hand and make some dumb gesture, "'playful wolf cub in a field' trope was a fair idea for the second, too."
"…We didn't do the 'playful wolf in a field' thing for the second; are you going blind? That was my third."
"Then your second was more or less unnoticeable. And probably too quick to capture well, unless you have a Canon EOS, or something even better. He was shifting too fast in the first place."
"We do have an EOS, see there? And because we do, I think our second pose will be visible in at least some of the shots."
"You're fine, Naruto." Sakura murmured to him. The guy acted like she'd punched him in the shin instead of nudged him to the side. I could feel a little, distasteful frown growing on my face already. I hadn't taken this kid for a wimp. She pushed his shoulders down, too, the left one softly and the other a little harder. "And unless you're bleeding, we need to continue with the shoot."
Naruto was just her puppet now. She was now behind him again, using the rounded tips of her heels to force his feet forward, and nudge them to face another direction. That this is taking over two minutes is ticking me off, but as the seconds tick, I can see it: slowly with pokes and shoves she is making Naruto look even more at ease than he did before, more natural.
The aide with my folder handed me a thick glass of tea. Peach mango. "You sounded kinda like you were going to advise on the pose or set. What've you got?" I moved closer to the set, my heels a step away from the sandbox. But not—never, not these shoes—inside.
"The start of summer's all about fun and brightness. We need the proper colors to start. Primaries." She was right about that, but there was an inside joke hidden there that we both smiled at. Sakura went on, smoothing Naruto's sleeve again and again with the side of her slim hand, "They're evenly placed on the set you decided on. The bench, off-center in the background? That's golden. The placement is good; the relaxing object shouldn't be too close to the center of energy." She pretty much went on like that. Professor of goddamn-everything-and-can't-let-us-forget-it Haruno.
Sakura spoke and tweaked Naruto just under a minute more. She finished by sprinkling the smallest bit of sand on his left hand, which she'd raised like he would soon catch a football. She moved in front of him and said, "This is perfect. Naruto, freeze in that position, except for your eyes. I want you to look up." When he did, he smiled. Like a little laugh at some inside joke that slipped out. And that was even better, an even better picture than I'd thought and even better than the happy expression my friend had teased out of him thirty seconds before. He's laughing at the sun. At the waves, at his friends. This was the naturally powerful expression I'd been trying to pull out of him for all four days. All that prep and it just took five minutes, really.
Only after that, did Sakura hop off the stage, order a duster so she could sweep her footprints away, and walk off a bit to claim an observation spot by the first camera. And thank goodness for that, Motonashi and his dick-brain would be staring at her the entire time otherwise. This way, he and basically everyone else had to work double-time to satisfy Sakura and her one-person parade of perfectionism would be on the set. Mr. Uzumaki, though, is handling it the best. As lightning flashed again and he held his Sakura-crafted pose and moved into Sakura-instructed new ones, and we paused to talk to him and praise him, that wonderful face of his seemed frozen in perfection. He was all curiosity, even more brightness and sweet interest than before. And it's amazing. He's positively lit up and I'm snared in the way he looks now.
We had another quick break. The tea-giving aide fixed the rendering on her Canon EOS. "Jen, heighten your contrast. You'll need it for the lighting on his neck and his chin." Sakura issued a few more commands from off to my left, but I wasn't listening anymore. Naruto had my attention now.
His eyes were drifting now, though no one was reprimanding him. Now he was back to being curious…this guy was full of expressions anyway, he could model for us for days, in the same clothes, in the same light, and never run out of new things to express and new ways to move and have us photograph. My friend's direction had fixed him, though there was one thing was breaking his concentration. The break's nearly over but he's still staring over in Jen's direction, which we'd told him not to do! I barked at him not to do that but the idiot didn't even hear me. He was too focused on something else, some other thing around Jen, because no offense, but I'm pretty sure it was not her with her extra thirty pounds and 1995 bowlcut bangs. I mean, really.
I must have been way more tired than I expected that day, because it should not have taken me that long to notice: of course he wasn't staring at our the cameragirl, or her camera or anything around her. He was staring at Sakura. Constantly looking back at her and grinning. Lighting up. Positively lighting up.
The expressions I see in him aren't just bright now, but familiar. I've seen that face before. I saw it in movies as a girl, I saw it on adolescent boys in high school, I craved it myself for a long time since. It's powerful and focused and wondering; it looks like he could walk over to her right now, say anything in the world to make her look at him.
There was a clear opportunity to look between the third and fourth point cameras, and see both of them, but I stood where I was. I hardly needed to move to observe this. Mm, I could bet a paycheck that he's wondering a thing or two about her, maybe how her hair got to be its unique color, and if he could be so blessed and pleased and virile as to see that hair spread out on a pillow next to him.
I fucking know that look, it's tinged with that boyish naiveté that bleeds out of Naruto Uzumaki, but undoubtedly, that is a man that wants a woman. And Sakura's not even looking.
Ohh, hell. Change of priorities for now. Those Vogue girls can go suck a sharp steel pipe. I found something else that needs doing. Oh, baby, I haven't been able to prod Sakura about men since we were sixteen. It has been far too long. We are having that lunch soon.
Intersection of R-Street and Birch. Red light. 7:36 AM, April 21st, 2013.
Come get me.
One of my prizes for winning this contest was getting my own car driver. Nice car, weird guy. He talks only a little more than Sasuke and murders every joke I try to tell. Murders it with silence.
Ino hired him for me, or her assistant did. She seems to be a busy woman, even though some of her work is just whisking around from aide to aide, and staring at men and criticizing them. Maybe she does actual work and I'm just not around to see it, I can't say, really. So anyway either her or her assistant gave me this man named Ao, also from Hokkaido like me (so I'd "feel at home" is what she said?) who wears a badass eyepatch. He's supposed to drive me to and from the studio, and anyplace else in the city I want, but he is not paid to talk to me which makes him look like an jerk sometimes. It made our first drive really awkward, and I was thinking that he had some personal vendetta against me for making him have to work, or whatever. But today I feel happier, even more energized, and what a coincidence, I think today he's really listening to me and isn't frowning as much. Maybe all I had to do was turn up the volume to the extreme to make him talk.
"I'm not from the city, so hell if I can figure out all your one-way streets and intersections that don't move! We don't name streets alphabet letters where I come from, and the cars actually fit in the roads. I wasn't told this thing would be happening in the world's biggest concrete jungle anyway, they just drove me to the airport, handed me a ticket and said "get on the plane.'"
"It's not a difficult city, it only takes getting used to." Ha, I always get him to talk at least a little. "Learning proper routes, which streets are one-way, and the bad intersections. You learn it within a few weeks like any new place. It's really not so convoluted as you think…or like movies would make it seem. And even with the long lights, it's actually very nice to have time to plug in your iPod and listen to turn on Pandora, listen to some good music without busyness and fuss."
"Then you must have grown up here, or some other place that's really urban. Anyone from general suburbia would tell you city streets are way too crowded and difficult to navigate, I promise."
We turned onto 5th Street, the 5th street, where all the people who bled money would go to shop for all their rich desires and stuff. Some of it was kinda familiar from lots of movies and google pictures. Same tall buildings, but now some of them have one of their sides covered in massive posters to advertise to summer shoppers. Holy God, there're two-story posters of dogs and cats wearing jewelry down there. Jewelry from Tiffany's. There's one of those weird bald cats. It has a tiara! That belongs on the internet, why haven't I seen it there before? There's a toucan with a diamond necklace, oh heck, that's a classy bird. I should get a picture of that! I think Ao was talking while I was getting my phone out to get those pictures. I heard him call me "mister."
"Mr. Uzumaki" is a new thing, too. Another unnecessary, fancy part of this whole thing. You win a contest, get money, be a model and be a Mister. It's cool. But he also could have been talking about some other man in the studio I didn't meet yet. Mhh. I got a nice picture of Princess Toucan and just answered with, "What about 'Mister'?"
There was one final poster on the other side of the building, and it was a close-up of a cat's tail with a blue ring around it. It made me remember the last ring I came in contact with, the one that basically punched me for ten minutes straight. It was Ino's advisor-friend who moved me around in the studio yesterday. First name Sakura, and the aides told me last name Haruno, and she definitely used her ring hand to shove me.
Before Ao came to pick me up she had been on my mind this morning, and for a long while last night. I kept thinking about her. She came into the studio in the middle of our photoshoot and I couldn't help it, I stared. Good god, did I stare. I could hear Ino and the camera crew talking to me at least once, but suddenly I didn't care. She had pink hair, literally pink, and a business suit with a red top that I thought about half the goddamn night. And her eyes glared at everything, like, even when she wasn't actually glaring, I mean…she looked intimidating. And she basically punched me with her ring hand to move me around during the shoot.
I noticed some things about her that I just, really, really liked. I kept imagining her walking, for example. I don't generally notice…how people walk, but Sakura's walk is interesting. All purposeful and strong, like movie characters everyone would move out of the way for. That gave me the idea that she could fight if she wanted to. Beat people up or lift heavy things and throw them. That made me wonder if she liked games, I mean, some kind of sport. I mean, it could be. Maybe. The whole time I saw her face in my mind, too, because no matter what I'm thinking I'm not for a second going to forget that she's extremely beautiful. And pink. The aide said it was natural, and I wanna know—
"Mr. Uzumaki." Shit, he might have been talking a whole minute that I've been mentally rambling. Uh. "Sorry, man. What're you saying?"
"I was trying to make conversation and thought with your engrossing motormouth you might actually appreciate it." Stare. Stare. Glare.
Goddamn, his face looks like my mother's face right now. "Sorr…ry. Can you repeat whatever it was?"
"I asked about Ms. Haruno."
Oh. Oh. "You did? Why?"
Ao's glare intensified, and now it reminded me of my eighth grade science teacher. Their quiet totally-judging-you rage was similar. "Because you were staring at her after the shoot yesterday so intensely I honestly thought you were about to drool on the floor and embarrass yourself. We expect some amount of decorum at the studio, Mr. Uzumaki, this isn't some small-town paper or damned People Magazine you're modeling for. We have—" He paused and clacked his mouth shut, by luck just about the moment I drifted from his words. I saw less of him and more of Sakura in my mind. ("You didn't hear me say he needs to be more free? Playful wolf in a field. You're fine, Naruto." I like that voice..)
Ao was just staring now. He looks truly mad. And he's a not a complete asshole, so I tried to answer him. I tried. My mouth was only cooperating with me about sixty-five percent. Mostly, my mouth was just smiling, like mostly my eyes were not looking at him. "I stared because she's pretty, Ao. I liked her a lot. You gonna blame me for that?"
My dejected driver continued to frown. "What do you mean you 'like' her? You haven't spoken a word to her." That meant exactly nothing to me, so I waited for him to be done, patiently. My mom would have been proud. He exhaled a little disappointed sigh. "Ugh…it just…reminds me some high school crush, is all. If you do mean that, you at least need to make that less obvious, for your own sake. If Ms. Haruno notices you gaping and drooling, she will fire you and you will pay for your own plane ticket home."
"You think she would?"
"That's not even a question. She's in this business for the business. In fact, I do apologize for you not being informed before she came in, so I'll just tell you now: be quiet and be easy to work with when she's around, or you stand a fair chance of being fired, and the easiest money or perhaps college tuition of your life will go out the window." Pause. Red light. Stare. "Decorum. Do you understand me, Naruto?"
I feel like I just forgot what decorum means. "Yeah. I won't look like an idiot. And I'll let her punch me as much as she wants." Ao exhaled really quick, the sort of "breath-laugh" that Sasuke would always do. "What?"
"She was shoving you around like a ragdoll."
He was grinning, and I followed suit, couldn't help it. "I liked how they were just talking business and proper posing and all that while I was a ragdoll and didn't even look at me. I think I've seen a TV show where people did that in front a servant person. An HBO thing." Yeah, yeah, I saw the latest episode two nights ago…I started to imagine her again. No business dress this time, but a cloak from the house of Lannister—no, no, they're a bunch of bitches. House Stark. Yeah. She would watch that show, I feel like she would. I think it was a book, too.
"Don't take it personally." He said as he made a left turn. "She's just doing her job, you know. I don't think she really meant to 'punch' you."
"I'm still gonna ask her out soon." I think we were just a block or two away now. We turned onto Stark Street, of all places. Ha! That was funny for all of three seconds before "did you even hear what I said" hit my ears and it was unwelcome.
I frowned at the guy and felt like verbally pissing on him for the first time. "Yeah. I don't care. I wanna try anyway. I mean it when I say I like her, Ao. And it's not like I'm not really, really desperate for money anyway, so if I'm fired, I'm fired, no big deal. I might even still try after that."
Ao continued frowning.
"Fine." He said, and that sounded like the end of it. Nice. Back to 'Sakura Stark.' Okay. "Well, then at least make your request before Kiba does." Sakura Stark what what?
"Wh—? Who's Kiba?" And I don't have the greatest memory of my home country, but I'm almost sure his name was Japanese, too.
"Another male model. He was shooting for some business in Toronto, I think. He came down here two months back. And he did not drool as profusely as you did, but I'd say he's enamored with Ms. Haruno as well." No. "So make yourself known before him or your chance could be wasted anyhow. That's my humble advice."
Crap. Damn…Canadian Japanese guy. Like hell you'll have her instead of me. Like hell. "Well—well, tell me more about him! Should I be worried? Is he some rich jerk, or, or is she already interested in him? Anything?"
"I think that's all the relationship advice I'm capable of dispensing."
"Bullshit, if you know the guy, help me out! You're my driver, man!"
The car got dark as he went into a parking building. "I'm a chauffeur who's been married for fourteen years, Mr. Uzumaki." We both paused at that. "I'm afraid that's about all of the advice I can truthfully give for the young adult dating scene. Just do your best." He kept both hands on the wheel even when he killed the engine. "Well. I have one last bit, actually. Do not be a nervous wreck or act timid. I've never seen a shy man approach Ms. Haruno, but I suspect that she would only have so much patience for the stuttering or dancing around the subject before she tells him to get back to work, or simply walks off to get back to work herself. Do yourself a favor and approach confidently, that's what I say."
For the final time, I switch my opinion and say that Ao is a good guy. I should not judge a man by his constant frowning. "Ah. That is good advice, thanks. At the same time, though, I don't need to worry about it that much. I'm not a timid guy, Ao."
"I see. Then you ought to be fine. Let's head up now, you've got even more cameras waiting for you today. Show your teeth in some of them, Ms. Yamanaka seemed really pleased with that."
Officer of Lead Set Designer, Tate Jeinan, Peace Thief Studios. 8:16 AM, April 21st, 2013.
Wolf on the prowl.
I could write a book about how long this woman spends putting five paint strokes on a goddamn board. I could write a book in the time it takes her to put five strokes on a goddamn board! Geez, woman, the set looks fine, it's a sky, it's blue and there's clouds and the background is going to be photoshopped in anyway, so, so…you know what, I'm tired of sitting and waiting.
"Why are you even doing that when the background is going to be photoshopped in onto the greenscreen, anyway?" I yelled across the big room. "We don't need a freaking background picture."
It was a big room that probably wasn't actually meant to be an office, maybe a big meeting room, but Tate had made it her office anyway, or Ino had made it for her. Tate had her desk and computer and all that secretarial debris in here in one corner, and everything else was just space where huge-ass paintings could sit and be worked on. She was near the door right now painting a big, blue sky with shiny ocean waves near the bottom. "We need a spare, in case the techs can't make a good one. We'll have this beauty ready in case they screw up again."
Obviously this woman doesn't understand that computerizing the background is a lot easier than her spending ten hours on a drawing, especially since standing not directly in front of it will make it obvious that it's just a drawing. (She must have at least have been 30 when the internet starting getting big.) It wouldn't look good. The only pro to Tate's project is that yeah, she's a great artist and the sky looks absolutely real. Hana would like it.
Still. It was dumb. I gave her my example that I just thought of about standing near that thing but off-center, and her bubbly answer was, "You leave the science of backdrops and photography angles to us, kiddo. Just don't wrinkle your shirt."
"Maybe if Ino did half of her work on time I wouldn't be so bored that I gotta come in here and watch paint dry. The only pro that my old job had on this one is that they did shit when they said they were gonna do it. We sure didn't have any of this 'strutting around, supervising and pretending we're important,' junk."
She spared me one glance from her bucket of creatively-named blue paint. "Please don't let them hear you say that. Jamison wanted you fired as it is." she said, like the little thing with Jamison was a really sensitive subject, but I didn't care about his stuffiness. "You don't need to be downtalking the place so much. I hear you've been getting some nice checks ever since you came down here."
"Yeah," I conceded, because there's no way I would deny that, "but money's not everything. Anyway I just don't like the way they do things here. I feel this whole New-York-pompous attitude. That dress-up guy, Gage, is the biggest asshole in the tri-state area."
"It seems like you come into my office just to complain, Kiba." Tate observed, stirring her little bucket. The curious face she made while doing it made her look younger somehow.
I shrugged. "To avoid Ino, more like. She finds endless excuses to doll me up more and more, fix this, fix that. That's stupid, too. I look perfectly good."
"Get off the chair!"
Hell if I didn't blast off the chair like the Challenger rocket, and the swivel wheels sent it flying back towards the desk and it hit the wood hard. Tate yelped a little and her highness Ino Yamanaka came striding into the room. She had the blue heels with the little silver thing on the bottom that she liked to wear and they clicked. She clicked right up to my face and screeched, "I paid seven hundred goddamn dollars for those pants! Do not tear them!"
"I didn't tear the stupid pants!"
"You sure?" She looked around me at the chair, which apparently had some pant-tearing spikes on it that I missed, and then circled around me. She went slower around the backside.
"You staring at my ass?"
"It is pretty nice, Kiba." (…Did she really say that?) "Which is why I don't want it or any other part of you looking like a homeless douchebag, okay? You could have gotten paint on them along with tearing them. This room is pretty much a danger zone for you, so why don't you stay out? It's almost time to start. Go! Tate, that looks great, thanks a million!" She was pulling on me the whole time, I think she kicked me once, and I just wanted to growl at her. So tired of this woman. Sakura was infinitely better.
"Stop pushing me, I can freaking walk."
"I just said 'go', Kiba, so go. I don't have time to babysit you, I have to check in with Motonashi and a bunch of others!"
Sakura wasn't a damn pompous taskmaster, either. She got all this photography nonsense done by doing work and not "supervising" like Ino always does. But I'm not usually so lucky as to see her in the studio, she don't come by but twice a month, if that. Sometimes she clicked her heels just like Ino. The sound was actually nice.
"Today is not the 'daydream' face, dude," Ino twisted around and her single, big waterfall of blonde bangs puffed into my face. "I need a big, 'hot young man' smile. We're splashing water all over you today." She put her hands on my head and started mussing my hair around. "Look at this, it's an absolute drunken bedhead. It's like Gage forgot how to style hair." She pulled on one strand, hard. "Look at that!"
I'm just done. I mean, done complaining (for now). I tolerate this for the paycheck. And for the visiting coworker, Sakura H. I hear she came by yesterday when I had my off day. She could come by again, who knows? Maybe this time I'll stop being a pussy and say somethin'. Maybe. I could have thought of an idea on how to do that, if Ino hadn't kept pulling my hair. A lot. Finally I slapped her hand off my head and told her to stop. She told me to stop being a bitch, I told her that, too.
We were in the main room where the set was now. They had the big sandbox refilled and the greenscreen behind it mounted. By the door to the break room I could see another employed model, obvious by the shirtlessness—sometimes this is as significant as a name tag with your job on it—with ridiculously long hair, and he looked like a hippie to me. He was juggling three bottles of sunscreen and laughing while some of the camera and makeup people watched. Congrats on actually having fun here, wish I could join the club.
Another one of those makeup people approached me and started sweeping at my cheek with a dusty brush that looked like an alien tool. "Ready for another day, Kiba?" she asked with a cashier-clerk smile.
I think her name was Ella, and she was always nice to me. So, yeah, I told her, "I guess. Are we anywhere near starting the actual shooting?"
She took another tool from her purse-thing and started plucking at hairs on my eyebrow I'm pretty sure didn't need to be plucked. "Almost. Ms. Yamanaka is making one more call to a man she knows in Japan. She's flushing out a big bunch of clothing models and bringing in new ones to shoot for this season, maybe longer."
"She never hangs on to men for long, does she?"
"Except for her fiancée."
This timeI plucked my own eyebrow by lifting it up in surprise a little too fast. "She actually has a boyfriend?"
Ella looked surprised, and brushed bangs away from her eye. "Well, yes. I thought you knew." I shook my head, again. "It's a guy she knew since high school. He's some computer programmer for the government, literally a genius. And despite what you may think or how flighty she acts around male clients, she is utterly devoted to him. She's gone to—"
I got the "utterly devoted" part. And that's great for Ino, real great. Great. But the door opened and I just saw Sakura and instantly the piece of me that houses all my masculinity is insisting that today is the day I 'utterly devote' myself to getting off my nervous ass and asking that woman out. It's been over two months of just considering it, or just staring at her, and I was thinkin' she's worth more than just staring. Actually, a lot more. Today ought to be the day. Yeah.
Ino could take an hour on the phone or more. Of course I have time. And she's just standing there reading a paper now. I could walk up and she wouldn't notice me till I'm about there. Or maybe she would. She can, like…predict things people do or say like a…psychic…hawk…shit.
I was right the first time. I want to date her and I'm tired of picturing it instead of trying. Gotta try. She might say yes. So at last I did, I moved, and I think I said sorry to Ella when I moved around her, but maybe not. Wasn't thinking too much. I spent too much time thinking about this when I ought to have put a goal in mind and reached for it as soon as I could. That's the exact kind of thing she liked, anyway. Plan. Attempt. Success. That's what Sakura was. Goddammit if she doesn't like tattoos, I'm shot down already, aren't I? I never thought of that.
By this point I had to be ten yards away at least, but she looked up at me and lowered the paper she read. She some really…really green eyes, and I paid attention to them instead of the silence as I closed the final twenty-foot gap, silence where she just looked at me. I hope she was looking and thinking positive things.
"What do you need, Kiba?" she said before I could open my mouth. I guess I didn't answer quick enough, because: "I have to be at the Stanley Conference Center in half an hour for the Armani introduction. So please make it quick."
The "please" didn't make it any easier; my head was already intimately familiar with ideas of this woman saying "please" to me. Remembering it just fucked me up in the head and slowed me down. "I don't need anything, really. I want to ask you something, is all. Have you got a minute for me?" ('A minute just for me?')
"Yes," she said, and curled the paper over her fingers to fold it in half. It moved slowly, then quickly, snapping into the halved form with a little 'crack' kind of noise. I think I actually flinched. But I am not getting cold feet here. The fact that she's even taking her eyes off papers and cameras and putting them on me instead is…is so nice. But now they're not. Why? Huh? She's looking over my shoulder, I think. Is Ino coming back? She can't be finished this early, there's no way. No way is she interrupting my chance to earn the attention of—
I turned around, quick, angry, about to tell her to go the hell away for once—but it's not Ino coming by, it's some, some guy. A blonde guy my age who hadn't even buttoned his shirt, staring at me like I sprouted an alien head. He looked frozen to the spot, and he looked angry. That's what made me guess. I turned around away from him before he could say or do anything to ruin this.
She was staring at me again. Waiting. I looked her right in the eye and tried to say as smooth, an non-intimidated as possible, "I've wanted to ask this for a little while. Would you wanna go out for dinner with me sometime? I'd like to talk to you more, outside of the studio."
For a second, nothing. One awful second of thinking I was about to be shot. Then she blinked twice and her face changed, warped practically, to surprise. Her composure was half-gone. "Go out for dinner?" she repeated quietly.
"Yeah." Felt like smiling, so I did.
"No," she said, and now I felt like I got shot after all, but it wasn't her voice, I realized. It didn't sound like it by a long shot. One second after this mistake someone grabbed my shoulder with a hand like a claw and pulled me back. "No goddamn way," this stranger said and I did the first thing that came to mind: elbowed him hard, hopefully in the gut. But I missed, and jabbed at nothing and fell back a couple feet, scraping my feet against the floor to stay standing. And the blonde guy who had stood behind me shot forward the same distance. I saw his face as I went back. Long scars on his cheeks.
"I'm sorry. Sorry. I need to…ask you something." The weird motherfucker huffed and puffed nervously. I knew just what he was going to say, but didn't do anything. Now I was the one frozen to the spot and gaping. I can see how weird and awful it looks from this position instead.
This guy's another model that Ino hired, I'm pretty sure of it, and his model-perfect face fell back into place seconds later to replace that nervous display from a second ago. I had to stand there and listen to him say: "Sorry for being so weird about it, but I really want to ask. I wanted to ask yesterday, even, but I didn't have a chance to thanks to Ino, heh. So, well, I like you, Sakura, and I'd like to take you a movie or something if you want me to. Or wherever you wanted to go, it wouldn't matter to me."
It matters to me, you little dipshit. Finally I got out of my trance and spat out exactly what I thought: "You're not serious. Are you a fucking child? You couldn't even wait till I was done talking?"
The blond didn't look fazed at all. "No. I couldn't." I stared at him. The only pro to this situation was that Sakura was starting to look annoyed, too, hopefully totally exasperated with this violent creep who attacked a guy to ask her out. He even turned back to her and started talking again. "If this guy—"
"I think I'll say no to both of you." And I did just get shot. Sakura looked at each of us in turn. She looked at us the same, which made me goddamn furious at the other guy. "I don't have time for this, I'm sorry. Go back to your stations. Actually, you, Kiba, go back to Ino. She'll want to fix that shirt. I'll remind her it's Naruto's fault so she won't erupt on you."
She started walking away and I didn't want to see that. "Why not, though?" the blond boy asked, literally not one breath before I was about to. "Just…you don't have time? You've got a busy schedule?"
"Yes. I'm just a busy girl, Naruto." She said. Instantly. And that half-glare that kept me sitting and thinking for two months instead of pursuing was on her face again, and Naruto got the full brunt of it. I saw him freeze.
"Then…I'll just wait. I'm here for a three-month contract, at least. I'll just ask again later on." And he smiled at that, like he just solved the problem and he was guaranteed a chance with this girl because he said so. What a fucking load. Sakura's ensuing glare at him was…confused? I think it was confused. I'm confused that she's not telling him that won't make a difference, that she's not telling him no, which is just…not…no, now I have to try. Again.
"I'll try later, too. I've already waited and I can wait some more." I said, with surprising ease. "But if you really aren't interested in me, for God's sake, don't pick the guy who attacked someone for talking to you, either."
The tough stare came my way this time. I stopped breathing for a second. It was like a full-grown, panting bear was staring down its muzzle at me. "If anyone is stupid enough to attack me, then I will slam their forehead into this concrete floor and be done with it, and not because I got dating advice from a little wannabe gangster scraped from the gut of Toronto." ('What does that mean how could she know oh shit—') "You two had best head back to wherever Ino wants you placed and continue to look the part of robotically happy young men on a beach." The stare had intensified to a 'glare' by now, and I was looking right into it. Totally green, totally fire. I love this woman's eyes. "And if there's any more of that roughhousing bullshit in this studio, I'm taking whoever it is by the hair and dropkicking them into the street. There won't be employment for them within ten miles of here. Move." The both of us did, shot forward a little like she really had shoved us, and walked back to where the set had been filled with beach sand in front of the greenscreen. I heard her heels clicking away more and more till they were gone.
The other guy looked back for her, turned left and right, so she must not have been there. I stopped walking, halfway to the set. An aide was staring at us, but he didn't come forward. I didn't want him to. I was a little breathless but mostly I wanted to punch this idiot next to me in the throat. I told it straight to him: "Wish I could deck you in the damn throat, you moron."
I know he heard me. But he just ignored what I said. "I didn't mean to make her mad like that. I swear. I just, I just tried—"
"We both look like idiots thanks to you! You fucked both our chances to get with her!"
"Hah. Don't care." I started to bite my tongue off at his sheer idiocy. "And I'm not the idiot anyway who sat like a scared puppy for two months. I met her yesterday, and she barely talked to me but," he stopped to laugh, like this was actually growing less hopeless by the second and not more, "but you know…I couldn't not ask her."
My thoughts exactly. Exactly. I had spent those two months knowing pretty exactly what he did, I "couldn't not" ask her. Despite this kid's fourth grade grammar, we had thought the same thing. And call me fuckin' Nicholas Sparks, but it was the eyes that got me first. They freaked me out, honestly. And made me stare at the same time. The way she talks is like that, too. She acts like a…like a leader wolf. The alpha. That's right. And I was the lame omega wolf if there ever was one. So much for the Wolfpack in Toronto. Beside me, Hippie Guy had appeared again, leaning his shirtless self against a big pile of crates and supporting his head on his hand like a really pleased high school cheerleading bitch.
The idiot was using the phrase "Scared puppy" again, and saying some other annoying junk, and this second time it did piss me off. That feeling reminded me of home. Wolfpack. There's no such thing as a "puppy" there.
"The hell are you doing over there?" It was Ino. Geez. She waved from the far, far doorway to the second photoshoot room, waving. "Get! In! Your! Stations! Sakura, move 'em!"
Sakura appeared again. I flinched when she appeared out of nowhere; so much for my pride. She passed sorta near where the three of us stood, and said something in Japanese. I didn't understand it, not really, just the kudasai, which is like "please", I think. I was eight the last time I spoke this language, I don't remember too much. I didn't even bother remembering, I just stood there and was confused as to why she was talking in a foreign language at me. But it wasn't at me. Of course.
She spoke to Hippie Guy, leaning on his boxes. "Wakarenai," he said, waving his hand, and walked over to her. And she huffed a little laugh, and smiled at him. It felt like I could have stopped breathing. Again. She led him away while he fingered through his own hair.
"Him, too?" The idiot asked me.
It looked like it to me. I could see his one eye from here, still looking at her as she walked in front of him. Following like a delighted little kitten. "Maybe."
"She didn't even smile at me. Not once."
"Who is he?"
"Some other model, I don't know."
"…Why is this so damn difficult? I just wanted to ask a woman out." I sighed, and looked at something else. Some distraction.
"You're not the only one, and I bet me and that guy there won't be the only ones, either."
Summer is the big time for new hires. He's right. There's every chance some other guy...even some other girl, I wouldn't be surprised, would walk in and desperately need to do a double-take at Sakura Haruno's eyes or the sound of her voice commanding and moving. This isn't a problem I thought I would ever actually have because it's ridiculous, but here it is. "I'm sure you're perfectly good at your job and maybe you're not such a stupid shit as you constantly sound." That made him look. And ha, he looked angry. Damn child. "I'm not going to be the 'nice guy' and let you take her from me. I was here first, little boy, and if you bash your way in when I'm trying to have a simple conversation ever again, I'll knock your fucking lights out and you'll deserve it."
The blonde idiot's face sprouted more idiocy. A stupid, shit-eating grin. "You think that's your decision? You don't get to decide she's yours. Sakura will choose who she wants. But it won't be you. Just don't go crying back to Canada or wherever the fuck you came from when that news hits you."
"I'm from Japan same as you, stupid asswipe." I spat at him.
"Oh yeah, so they have 'Let's-Learn-Shapes-Tattoos' in-"
A plastic bowl came flying and just barely missed braining the blonde kid. It hit a stack of crates by the greenscreen and cracked when it hit the floor. Ino had been the thrower. "Naruto, Kiba, shut the fuck up and smile!"
The cameras kept flashing.
You know, I was actually supposed to post this on July 4th. Yeah, of 2013. I even promised someone in a PM last summer that I would be doing just that, and I apologize profusely for that. I have been terrible with keeping fanfic promises, sometimes due to an honest lack of time and sometimes to due an entirely un-honest laziness problem of playing Pokemon or scrolling through Tumblr when I really could be writing. For this story/chapter, it was a mix.
Psssssst did you see my GoT plug in there, hurr hurr. I'm a big fan of those books! I thought randomly that if Sakura were to be "sorted" a la Hogwarts Sorting Hat into one of the Westeros Houses, it would be the tough and honorable House Stark and thought mmmmmmm yes I must put this in the fanfic. Sasuke would be a Lannister because that family has enough lies, corruption, strength and sneaky behavior to fill three governments. :l No word/decision yet on whether or not that was a totally random thought on Naruto's part or it will become a running gag or even significant.
Back on topic: as per Izabella's request, more Naruto men will be appearing as hired models for Peace Thief Studios (a name I made up and am very fond of), which I guess is in either NYC or some big Cali city, who knows. And all of them will have some interest in Sakura Haruno, who generally does not have time for their lovestruck shit but much time will be spent trying to convince her otherwise. Off the top of my head, Neji and Pein are coming, but there will be more besides. Again, with my new, troubled mind on romance fanfics, it's going to be a struggle to write all those guys with even a faintly respectable air, even when I do have the time for it, but I promise to do my best on whatever I manage to put out there. No matter what happens, bros, I do put my all into fanfiction. Stupid though it can be, it makes me happy, and always has.
That's all for now. Thanks for reading! Thank Izabella the Se7enth for the plot, and also maybe you should pop on over to my friend Thirrin73's profile; I hear she's also a SakuMulti fan and has this thing called Sugar Cube that might pertain to the interests of the type of folks who read my stories.
UNRELATED SIDENOTE: ppsssst if you ever read and enjoyed my spooky oneshot "The Night Under," I added 8000 words' worth of new content to the story this past December, which might prove it worth a second look for some.