the tallest tower

"Half a week before the winter," Vanessa Carlton sang in her ears. "The chill bites before it comes. I'm a child of the pleasure that he brings before he runs. He sits behind a desk of mahogany. He whispers dreams into my ears. And though I've given him his empire, he delivers me my fears..."

A pale hand picked up her iPod touch and double-clicked the home button. "Vanessa Carlton, again?" Sai mused with a ghost of smile. "Really, Sakura, you've been favoring her lately."

She snatched her iPod back. "What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing. I just have to wonder..."

She rolled her eyes before pressing pause and pulling her headphones out of her ears. "Well, wonder all you want, Sai. You're reading too much into it."

"Chai latte with soy!"

The man quirked up a dark brow as she slid off the barstool to pick up her drink from the counter. "You're just now getting your drink?"

"Yeah," Sakura grumbled. "I've been waiting for twenty minutes at least and had enough time to finish one problem on my physics homework."

"You take forever to do a single problem on your physics homework."

"Exactly." Sakura grinned.

She confidently walked past the man sneaking glances at her for the last fifteen minutes from the bar counter. Ducking her head down, she busied herself with placing a cardboard sleeve around her cup, ignoring the heat he emitted.

Carabou Coffee was her favorite coffee shop on campus and she wasn't about to let some overconfident pretty boy deter her from visiting. Every time they were there together, he couldn't take his gaze off her for longer than five seconds despite his pathetic attempts to appear wholly engrossed in himself.

One time, she swore he started chatting up some random girl in an effort to make himself look cool and unaffected by her lack of attention to him.

For the most part, it was very easy to ignore Uchiha Sasuke. Especially when Sakura had plenty of friends to distract her attention with.

She settled herself back into her barstool next to Sai, laughing at something her best friend said before glancing back at the drink counter and flashing a mischievous smile at Sasuke for justamoment before diving into conversation.

you think you're so innocent

with those doe eyes but I know

a monster lurks beneath

them. how many times

will you push me away

before you absorb me

into your garden

of conquests?

She was good—he'll give her that.

Sasuke could not believe a single woman managed to both outsmart him in a game he mastered before he was ten and resist the infamous Uchiha charm.

"Whatcha thinking about, Sasuke-kun?" Ino sat down across the table from him in the library. "You look lost in thought."

His eyes slid to the blond and smirked. She flinched slightly, scooting backwards in her chair to create distance.

"Nothing, Ino. Just thinking about a girl."

Ino rolled her eyes. "You and the rest of the guys are always thinking about girls. What's new?"

"She's different."

Eyeing him skeptically, Ino pulled her laptop out of her backpack and opened up facebook. "Sure. Whatever you say."

He continued working on his homework, tuning out Ino's coos of appreciation over recent facebook posts.

"Oh my God, this girl needs to get out more."

Hyuuga Hinata leaned over and glanced at the screen. "Isn't that your friend, Haruno-san?"

"Yeah... I didn't know she was helping Sai-kun with his art portfolio. But I guess that makes sense..."

"Why is that?"

Ino rearranged herself primly in her chair. "Sakura-chan is my best friend but she and Sai-kun have known each other since high school. They're really close."

A few more taps on the keyboard, a couple gasps of appreciation, and Sasuke couldn't take it anymore.

"What are you looking at?"

"Oh, Sasuke-kun. Look at these amazing photos Sai-kun took of Sakura-chan!"

He glanced at the screen and almost spit out his coffee in surprise.

"Neat, huh?" Ino rambled on. "Sai-kun told me the prompt for his project was 'the divine' but I didn't expect him to ask Sakura-chan to model for him. She looks fantastic in his image of Athena."

"What's his major?" He absently asked as he hit NEXT.

"Graphic design and photography. I wonder who did her make-up? Sakura-chan barely knows how to put on eyeshadow as it is."

Sasuke continued to go through the entire album, the image of that seductress in her gold-beaded, blue dress haunting him the entire day.

How many secrets do you have?

I see it in your eyes

when I whisper "audeamus."

your will makes my heart

slow. soon, we'll be alike—

brittle lips chanting the same

stanza, too scared

to say what comes next.

Ino sank down further into the plush couch. "I'm so glad to be here with you, Sakura-chan, and not out partying with the mentorship kids again."

Sakura put down the mirror she was using to check her contacts and frowned. "I thought you loved spending time with them, Ino-pig."

Her best friend didn't have the energy to glare at her for the nickname. "I do, it's just... they're too much sometimes. Like Sasuke-kun."

"What about Uchiha-san?"

She tried not to act like she was especially interested in the Uchiha boy but Sakura knew she wanted to know everything about him.

Ino sat up and faced her properly. "Give me that bottle of vodka and I'll tell you everything."

Uchiha Sasuke was no stranger to Japanese education, having spent most of his high school years at some international school in Tokyo before accepting a tuition waiver scholarship at Konoha State University. He had an older brother who also studied in Japan except Uchiha Itachi graduated at Tokyo U.

Ino's problem did not lie with Sasuke's education background or his reasons for studying in Japan when he would have been perfectly fine with an American education. No, Ino's problem stemmed from Sasuke's attitude.

"He thinks he's the king of the universe, or something like it. I have never met anyone so self-absorbed. I mean, he is a genius, no denying that, but it gets to his head."

Sakura shrugged. "He doesn't know me. I'll put him in his place."

Ino shook her head and downed a shot of vodka. "As much as I would love for you to do that, it's best that you stay away from Uchiha Sasuke. You'd kill him."

you're not as distant as

the stars, mocking me with

false pretenses. I scoff—

ad astra per aspera.

I kiss your hand and

in that moment, I

captured the stars.

"Here we go, come with me. There's a world out there that we should see," Ryan Tedder sang in his ears. "Take my hand, close your eyes. With you right here, I'm a rocketeer. Let's fly..."

"Far East Movement again, man?" Uzumaki Naruto peered over his shoulder to look at his laptop screen. "You're obsessed."

Sasuke scoffed. "I know good music when I hear it, unlike you."

"Justin Bieber is good!"

"Bieber's voice has only started to mature and the only good song he has so far is 'As Long as You Love Me.' Your argument is invalid."

Naruto opened and closed his mouth a few times before turning around in a huff. He suddenly relaxed when he caught sight of someone coming up the stairs and waved frantically to catch their attention.

"Sakura-chan! Ino-chan!"

The woman looked surprised to see him, her arms full of books and papers. Beside her, Ino frowned at the commotion Naruto caused.

"Naruto-kun, pipe down," Ino hissed. "We're in the library, for God's sake."

Sasuke observed the pair over his laptop. Sakura was, he noted with extreme interest, uncomfortable with the familiarity Naruto treated her with. She hung behind Ino, green eyes continuously roving over the second floor of the library searching for empty tables.

"Would you like to sit down here? There's plenty of room," Sasuke smoothly offered.

Ino shrugged and set her bookbag down. "It's not like there's anywhere else. Saki-chan and I have been on every floor and corner of the library."

Still hesitant, Sakura set her books down and took a seat across from Sasuke. She didn't meet his eyes for the next two hours.


He hated this game.

Whenever they exhausted every other drinking game, Truth or Dare came up. Only, with these loose-lipped cowards, the game became Truth and Even-More-Shocking-Truth.

Naruto called it a bonding activity. Sasuke deemed it an invasion of privacy.

But alcohol is a powerful substance and the tight-lipped Uchiha participated against his better judgement regularly.

It was either that, or make out intensely with Rock Lee.

"Ino-chan," prim and proper Hinata slurred. "Who do you wish you could be?"

The blonde girl laughed. "If I was sober, I'd say Senju Tsunade-sama."

"But you're drunk, so answer the question honestly."

"Exactly! I'm drunk and all of you are too far gone to ever remember this. I wish I could be Haruno Sakura-chan."

Naruto snickered. "Her? Why her? She's pretty cool but she's so in control of every thing, I'd never want to be her."

Ino pointed at him. "Exactly! Sakura-chan knows her worth. She knows no ordinary man could measure up to her standards. She'll never have a broken heart. She's never know what it's like to be unmade at the hands of someone else, spurred on by her own foolishness. She'll never sacrifice herself to someone's selfish whims."

"I want to be Sakura-chan because I'll never carry frivolous sins."

No one knew what to say after Ino's suprisingly deep insight.

"That's not true," Sasuke spoke up. "Haruno-san has secrets. She's human like every one else, makes mistakes like the rest of us. It's only a matter of time before they're out in the open."

Ino's eyes blazed with fury at the insinuations Sasuke made about her best friend. "Do you think you'll be the one to find them out, Uchiha?" She spat. "You think you'll be the one to break her down?"

Sasuke smirked.

"Do you want to bet on it?"

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