As mentioned in other fics, my work event is approaching and I now have dates. I will be off from Sat 23rd to Friday 29th March. My event is on the 28th. This will affect Service with a Smile in that the next update would normally have been Tuesday 26th March but will now be Tuesday 2nd April.

Everything will continue as normal from that point on.

Cover Art: Jack Wayne

Chapter 41

"There there…"

Jaune rubbed the woman's back awkwardly. Being a counsellor or shoulder to cry on hadn't really been in the job description, but then neither had a lot of the things he'd had to do, and it wasn't like she was actually crying, per se. The world would have needed to do some serious mental gymnastics before he could imagine her sobbing like a little baby.

It was just… well, it was the closest to crying that he could imagine.

Cinder Fall slouched over the table with a steaming half-full (or half-empty, as she'd probably say it right now) mug of coffee in front of her. There were at least five empty mugs already, along with two plates that only contained the barest spattering of chocolate crumbs. That wasn't to say she'd only had that much of either, since he was cleaning up as she drank.

It was just that she'd gone through them so fast he couldn't keep up.

"I'm sure it's not that bad," Jaune said.

"It is." Cinder groaned. There was no honesty between them obviously, but she wove a story that sounded real enough, and, with the knowledge he had, told him more than she probably intended to. "My employer is unhappy with progress and that is making life… difficult."

Jaune cringed and wondered who could be behind Cinder. "Have you considered a different career?"

"I have not."

"Maybe you should. This one doesn't seem to be making you happy."

"I am-" Cinder paused, considered the point and then sighed. "I am not happy when I am failing, but the work is not… that is not to say I am against it. I would not be doing what I'm doing if I didn't agree with it in some small way. Fundamentally speaking."

"But does it make you happy?"

"Yes." Her eyes narrowed as she raised her head to look at him. "You seem surprised…"

"It's not that…" He looked away and rubbed his cheek. It was hard offering sympathy to someone he'd helped screw over, let alone someone who ought to be stopped. At the same time, though, it was hard to forget that Cinder had helped him, saved him, unlocked his aura and then had Emerald teach him how to use it.

His shoulder was better now mostly thanks to her. Plus, she wasn't a bad person.

Well, she was… but she wasn't a bad person.

Sort of.

Damn me and my beating heart. He was supposed to be closed on a Wednesday, too. The only reason he'd let her in at all was because of the red rings around her eyes and the fact she looked ready to force her way in if he didn't open the door.

He had a feeling she'd been drinking.

"You always look like you have a purpose, but… I can't say you look happy. Not properly happy."

Cinder frowned. "What's the difference? I enjoy what I do."

"Yeah, but that just means it's engaging. You can enjoy something without truly being happy." He felt like he was grasping at straws, but something about it stuck. "Like me, for instance. I like reading comics and lazing around, but that doesn't make me happy. I didn't use to like doing work and I hated the idea of being a waiter and look at me now!" He spread his arms.

"You did not like this work?"

"At first, sure. I mean… I'm a man. Young teenager." Damn it. Man sounded better. "That's to say that I didn't really like any work. I was a pretty lazy kid. Doing something like this where I'm busy all day most days wouldn't have even crossed my mind, yet I'm happier now than I've ever been before."

"I suppose that you are…" Cinder sipped her cooling coffee. "And you think I'm not?"

"I think you like what you do, but I can't say it makes you happy. You've always come across as… not miserable, but not quite all there. Sometimes smug, sometimes pleased, but never really…"


He shrugged. "Yeah. I don't think I've ever seen you properly smile."

"I smile often." Cinder brought one of her devilish smiles out for his pleasure. He was taken and happy with Miltia, but there was no denying the rush of pleasure he felt. Cinder really was beautiful. Dangerously so.

"I said a real smile. That's something you're putting on."

It slid off her face. "Hm."

"Can you ever say you've felt fully in love with what you do? Not satisfied, not pleased with some success, but have you ever genuinely woken up and thought `I love my job` and gone to work with a huge smile on your face?"

Cinder's fingers tapped on the table top. Her lack of an answer was answer enough. It made sense, too, at least to him. Roman was a crook but loved his work, probably because he was a raging narcissist and the thrill of the chase and the publicity appealed to him. He also made loads of money, which he could spend on anything he wanted.

Money couldn't buy you happiness, but it could buy away a whole lot of things that made you unhappy, plus, even if you did think friends and activities were what led to true happiness, more money meant more opportunities to do the things that truly made you happy.

Neo? Well, he had no idea on Neo – but she seemed to love life.

Or making other people's lives harder. Hard to say.

Ruby loved being a huntress. Nicholas Arc loved being a father. Ozpin loved coffee. He loved seeing his little diner flourish in the face of all opposition. But Cinder? In a way, she reminded him of Blake, and not just because of the hair and eyes. Blake went after the White Fang despite that it didn't lead to any happiness, and Cinder did… whatever horrible things she was doing. Pretty much to the same effect.

"It is not… It's not quite that simple," she said. Her eyes were troubled. "I should go." Cinder made to stand, only to pause when he caught her wrist.

Oh hell, I'm restraining a deadly terrorist. Nice one, Jaune. Perfect plan. He cringed and let go, though Cinder made no move to leave, content to wait and hear what it was he had to say. Which would have been great if he had anything to say. He'd stopped her on impulse alone, not wanting to let it end like that.

"Have you ever had real fun?" he asked randomly.

The question seemed to shock her. "What?"

"Fun," he repeated. "Genuine fun. No questions asked. Just… spent a day to yourself."

"Relaxation? Of course. I hardly work every day of my life."

"Not relaxing," he said, earning a frown. "Relaxing is more about destressing and is what you do when your body or mind can't go on any longer. That's kind of the issue I'm getting at. I mean have you ever spent a day out just having fun? Just doing things you like?"

"I have had days to myself…" She frowned. "I'm not sure what you mean."

Yeah, he wasn't either. "What do you normally do on your days off?"

"I stay in our dorm and have a drink."

Jaune raised a brow.

Cinder looked away. "Now that I say it like that… but I do like wine."

"Well, that's better, I guess, but I still think you're a little too young to be driven to drink on your days off."

"My work is demanding," Cinder defended.



"You seeing my point here?"

"Perhaps," she repeated, admitting some small defeat. Her eyes snapped to his. "Very well. What do you do on your days off?"

Apparently, I spend them offering advice to super villains.

"Uh. I relax, I guess, but it's not the same! My work truly makes me happy, so I don't need to seek more when I have a day off. Work isn't work to me. Work is fun and my day off is a chance to sit back and think about all the amazing experiences I had during the week. It's more for my body than anything, since it just needs a good night's sleep and a day off. If I could, I'd work every day."

"You're committed…"

"No. I'm having fun. I love my work. That's kind of the point I'm making. You don't, otherwise you wouldn't be so exhausted all the time. You're drained, Cinder. Physically, mentally and emotionally."

The woman crossed her arms. She didn't look angry, more pissed. Probably not at him, but at the situation in general. He had a feeling that if he'd really annoyed her, she'd not have been shy in showing it. "What do you suggest then?"

"New job?"

"No. It is… not that simple."

He could imagine. It would have been far too convenient if Cinder broke down and recanted her evil ways to open an orphanage, but that was probably a step too far. Small steps. Baby steps. If he couldn't convince her to drop everything entirely, maybe he could plant the seed?

"Have fun, I guess. Go and spend the day doing things you actually like."

"Such as…?"



"Well, we got out alive and without the rest of the year in detention," Yang said. "I'm calling that a win."

"I'm calling it a miracle," Weiss replied. "The CCT is in ruins and the enemy escaped. All we really did was cause a mess and highlight the fact they existed in the first place. Something that could have been ascertained simply by the unconscious guards outside. I'm surprised we didn't get in more trouble for going in."

"Huntresses can't wait for reinforcements all the time," Blake said. "I think we scored points by having you inform General Ironwood and Miss Goodwitch. If we'd gone in on our own…"

"Detention for the rest of our lives," Yang said, nodding. "Welp. Good job we didn't pull a Blake, then."

"Excuse me?"

"Running into danger without any thought for consequences, reinforcements or common sense. That's called `doing a Blake`."

"Since when?"

"Since now?"

"The name fits," Weiss said, stroking her chin.

"It absolutely does not!"

It kind of did, Ruby was forced to admit. She hid her giggles behind her weapons magazine. A team leader wasn't supposed to pick sides. Blake was never going to be allowed to forget how she ran off like an idiot and nearly got herself killed, though.

If it wasn't for Jaune…

Well, he'd been there so it didn't matter. Not there as in fighting alongside Blake – he wasn't a huntsman – but there to offer her a place to stay so Blake didn't get stuck on her own. And he'd pushed her into contacting them. That counted for a lot. Not every problem needed to be beaten back with a scythe, and Jaune was good at dealing with things like that.

And now she'd paid him back, too. Ruby felt giddier about that than anything else. Jaune's problem with those evil people was over now that Ozpin knew about them. Like Weiss said, there was really no way he could miss the fact the CCT had been attacked and destroyed.

Chalk one up for the good guys. Oh yeah.

Shame it was Wednesday, though. She'd have liked to have gone and celebrated with Jaune.


Oh well, he needed his days off as well. So did they, to be honest. Dad's allowance wasn't really supporting the team's new coffee addiction, and Weiss was as stingy as ever when it came to treating them.

"You think Jaune will be safe now that we've passed this on to Ozpin?" Yang asked. "I mean, it's job done, right? We can trust the headmaster to handle it from now on."

"I would hope so," Weiss said. "It is his job, and he does have the aid of General Ironwood. The CCT is technically a gift from Atlas, so its destruction is an insult against Atlas."

"Yeah, and its destruction interrupted his dance with Miss G," Yang laughed. "I'd say that makes it personal. Bring down the Atlas military; Ironwood is about to go on a rampage!"

"You're so childish. General Ironwood is a professional."

"Hey. He's still a man."

"You should know," Blake teased, "Considering you flashed him."

Yang squawked angrily and launched her pillow like a missile, knocking Blake clean off the end of her bed. "BLAKE!"

Ruby looked up. "Yang flashed General Ironwood?"

"Ruby, no!"

"Oh yes," Weiss said evilly. "Let me tell you all about it."


He wasn't quite sure how he'd ended up on what felt awkwardly like a date with Cinder Fall, but happen it had. The two of them were walking through a park in Vale together, not hand in hand, but close enough to look like they were dating. Close enough for him to send a text to Miltia briefly explaining the situation in case she found out.

Her reply of `Wtf` summed it all up fair well, he thought.

Cinder had opted for a slightly more casual method of dress than her usual red dress over black shorts. Instead, she wore dark leggings under a brown leather skirt with a cream blouse and a grey scarf. The days were getting just a little cooler as the festival approached, though winter was still a few months away.

A few people had already looked their way. Older couples with whimsical looks and some young men with jealousy towards him or pure desire for Cinder. He wasn't sure if he should have felt annoyed on her part or worried for those poor innocent fools.

Operation: Cinder's Fun-Time was not going at full speed, however.

"This is peaceful," she said politely. Her eyes skirted over the park, the fountain and several people having picnics, but without any real interest.

"Not fun though?"

"It's relaxing."

Idiot, he thought to himself. Who walks around a park for fun? This is for spending time with someone, and Cinder only has work colleagues. Well, apart from me. Cinema? No, that's too much like a date, and I doubt a woman fully used to fighting is going to find action flicks impressive.

What he wouldn't have given for a carnival to pop up, but that was going to be saved for the Vytal Festival. No one was going to try and compete with that. "Do you like music?" he asked randomly. "Any preferences?"

"Some. Classical, piano… I find Mercury's taste in wub-step appalling."

"Wub-step?" Was that a joke? The small and cruel curl to her lips suggested so and he laughed. "Nice one. Nothing from Emerald?"

"Emerald likes whatever I like." Cinder rolled her eyes. "Or at least she pretends to."

"Oh. That must be a little awkward."

"It is…" A range of emotions flickered over Cinder's face. Not all of them bad, but most not exactly `happy` either. "It is awkward," she finally said. "I try not to dwell on it. When she thinks I am not looking or listening, I've heard her listen to mainstream music."

"Do you play?"

"An instrument?" Cinder shook her head. "No, I…" Her eyes narrowed. "Once upon a time, I recall learning the violin. Or beginning to. That… That was a different life, however. One left behind."

"You ever think to take it up again?"


"You didn't enjoy it?"

"I… I might have done." Again, her eyes flickered. "I was young then. Much younger. I recall it was my mother who wanted me to learn, but she… passed on before I had the chance to master it. She died in an attack on our village," Cinder said, no real emotion in her voice.


"In a sense." Cinder sighed. "But I do not blame the Grimm for it. There was a team of huntsmen that were fleeing Grimm they had startled and then proved unable to defeat. Lacking any means of escape, they led the Grimm to our small village and used us as a distraction. The village was defenceless and quickly overrun. Sacrificed for the life of a single team of huntsmen."

Jaune's eyes widened. He felt sick. "That's…"


"Disgusting. Cowardly. Absolutely foul. Tell me that team were punished."

"By whom?" Cinder asked, chuckling mirthlessly. "Villages outside the walls of the major cities rise and fall every day and no one cares to know of them. I doubt the huntsmen ever reported what it was they did."

"So they got away with it?"

"Not entirely. I sought them out once I was older. It turns out they suffered a… series of accidents."

Murder, then. Jaune pretended he couldn't read between the lines. "Sounds like they deserved it."

"Yes." For once, Cinder's smile seemed genuine. "Yes, they did."

"How did you survive?"


"From the village, I mean. Did you hide from the Grimm?"

He wouldn't have normally asked someone a question like that, but Cinder didn't seem bothered by the memory. And not in a `I'm repressing it` kind of way. More a `this happened and I'm over it` one. Enough so that he felt confident asking wouldn't lead to tears or violence.

"My mother concealed me in a small cubby under the floorboards while she remained above to try and defend me. It went poorly, as you might expect. The Grimm then smelt or sensed me and began to dig down but were… stopped by someone else. That person rescued and took me in. I will not say it was out of love, but a shared interest. A mutual set of goals."

"Is that the person you work for now?"

Cinder watched him cautiously, but apparently saw no danger in the question. "Yes."

"Well, maybe we could visit a music shop."

"As you wish."

"It's supposed to be what you want," Jaune mumbled, but led her on regardless. It had all seemed so easy to suggest Cinder have fun, but it really wasn't. He knew what he liked to do, but Cinder was an enigma. Apparently, to herself as much as to him. It really did feel like a first date; one of those terrible first dates you heard about where you were trying to show someone a good time and just trying one thing after another, hoping one would magically stick.

Finding a music store wasn't difficult. Vale had a huge mall complex that catered to just about anything and everything, and a store window containing numerous guitars, keyboards and a drum set made for an obvious choice. It was run by a faunus with crazy blue hair spiked up and a pierced nose who was busy arguing with a guy in a black leather jacket about guitars.

The classical instruments were toward the back and a little forgotten compared to the more common ones. Cinder looked over some of the violins and took one down off its hooks. Her hands settled on the varnished wood and she turned it over, inspecting it with an almost nostalgic focus.

Silently, Jaune watched her.

Cinder's hand flicked one of the strings. It made a quiet noise.

"It's not tuned…"

"You can tell by ear?" he asked. "I know how to play the guitar, but I need to use a little tester to tell what the notes are. I'm not tone deaf, just… tone useless."

Cinder chuckled. "I doubt I am much better, but I can tell it is not quite there." Her fingers plucked the other strings and the notes were a little flat.

"Aren't you supposed to use a bow?"

The violin came down. Cinder stared at him.

"What? Is that not the right word?"

"It is," she said, "But the strings should still be tuned without it." There was a faint, amused, curl to her lips. "You didn't know?"

"Hey. I learned to play the guitar."

Smiling, Cinder turned back to the violin. He had the strangest feeling she was mocking him without saying a word. She continued to fiddle with the violin a little, twisting some of the knobs and testing the strings with her nails. The cashier had stopped talking to the other now and was watching them, but seeing Cinder not causing any trouble, shrugged and began to read a magazine behind the counter.

Once she was happy, she brought the bow up and dragged it lightly across the strings. The sound wasn't quite perfect, not as one might have expected, but it was close. It was a note. An F, he thought. Slowly, clumsily, Cinder played another two notes beside it and then repeated them, dragging out the third. Apparently frustrated, she stopped.

"Was that a lullaby?"

"I'm surprised you recognised it," she said. "I was better when I was younger…"

"You're out of practice."

"Hm." Cinder turned to put the violin back on the shelf but paused when he stopped her.

"You could get back into it."

"Why? I have enough responsibilities as it is. Learning an instrument is a commitment I have neither the time nor effort for."

"It's not hard work if it's fun. And you looked like you were enjoying yourself."

Cinder's mouth opened to deny it, but she refrained. "It was… nostalgic," she admitted. "It has been years since I thought of home. Of my mother. It has been over ten years since she died. The memories are… distant."

"But not bad?"

"She loved me, and I loved her. My father died a few winters before. He loved us, too." Curiously, Cinder looked at the violin. "He used to play, I recall. He was supposed to teach me but never had the chance."

"Your mom found someone else to?"

"Yes. I believe she wanted a way to remember him. She used to like listening to me play, as clumsy as I was at it." Cinder laughed and then froze, surprised by the sound. As if she hadn't heard herself laugh properly before.

"I think you should buy it," he said before she could put it back and bottle those feelings up. "What would it hurt? At the worst, you don't play it and it becomes an ornament. At best, you might find it a good way to relax and have a little fun between work."

"Perhaps." Cinder drew it back with a complicated frown. "I suppose there's no harm…"

Without another word, Cinder made her way to the counter, pausing briefly to talk to the faunus behind it, who suggested a book with some simple sheet music in if she were interested. Interested was a strong term. Cinder looked cautious at best. Even so, she accepted the book and added it to the tally.

If she could afford to rent his diner during the nights, she obviously had money. Most of it was blood money he assumed, but he didn't let it bother him. Or rather, he acted like it didn't bother him. Cinder learning violin was Cinder not destroying Vale.

Maybe it wouldn't mean anything, but he'd hope for a miracle.

"This is a waste," Cinder said as they left, her with a new violin case in hand. "I'll not have the opportunity to learn, let alone play."

"Eh. We'll see. It's not like you're working twenty-four seven. Like I said, if it doesn't work out it'll be an ornament. What's the harm?"

"A waste of resources."

"If you say so…"

Cinder didn't look that upset about the money.


It was time to pull out the big guns.

He was out of ideas. No, he'd been out of ideas from the start – but you couldn't grow up with seven sisters without knowing at least one or two tricks. Maybe it was stereotypical to think all girls would be the same, but all his sisters shared a few common interests and he was desperate enough to try one of them.

A dangerous one.

"A… pet store…" Cinder's eyes narrowed. Had she been a faunus, he could imagine her ears flicking and laying back. Her attention roamed over the cats and dogs in the windows, most of whom were sleeping. "You do not own a pet. Why are we here?"

"My friend has a dog," he said, thinking of Ruby. "I thought I could get her a toy to pass onto him, and it's not like we have much else to do. You can have a look at the animals while I browse around. It's allowed."

Cinder rolled her eyes. "As you wish."

It wasn't quite the enthusiasm he'd been hoping for. Jaune watched her to see where her interests might lay, but Cinder simply walked up to a display of fish tanks and hummed dispassionately, watching the brightly coloured things swim around.

Seriously? Another bust? She has to like something…

Maybe she didn't. Maybe she was just a bad person or doomed to be one. Maybe whatever happened with her village had changed her irreparably, and he was arrogant for thinking he could be the one to fix it. He was no psychiatrist. He was a barista.

With a mournful sigh, Jaune pushed into the aisle set aside for dog and cat toys, each set opposite one another on two different shelving units. Ruby had only really mentioned Zwei in passing, but he'd said he was here for dog treats now, so he had to prove it. They were all cheap, though.

"Corgi. That's the small one…"

How small? Some of the toys were for puppies, so he stayed away from them. According to Ruby, Zwei was smart. Smart enough that they had to hide the dog treats in a high cupboard and still install a lock on it. A squeaky toy was a bad idea. Especially if Yang got hold of it, annoyed Weiss and got it destroyed before it ever reached the dog.

In the end, he chose a small Beowolf chew plush shaped like the Grimm in question. It was weird to think of anyone making a toy shaped after a murderous monster, but since it was bound to be chewed and ultimately destroyed by man's best friend, he figured it was okay. The thing was squeezy and hard in different places, offering different texture and material to chew on. The label promised tough wear and no synthetic material inside that the dog might swallow or choke on.

Good enough. It was about time to get out and find something else to try and distract Cinder wit-


Cinder was stood before a glass panel, her hands on her knees and her head leaning forward to look at a white and grey puppy. A husky. It had huge paws for its size, which it placed on the window as it whined and made little sounds at Cinder.

"Owu," Cinder replied softly. "Owuuu."

"Owuwuwuwuwu!" the dog replied, batting the window.

"Owu…" Cinder touched the window to the side.

The dog placed its paw on her finger.

"Owu," Cinder said, mimicking the sound.

Not unlike his sisters after all…

He made a sound. He didn't mean to, but must have, for Cinder's head snapped suddenly towards him. She stood quickly, eyes burning. No other reaction. No heat in her cheeks, no embarrassment and no reaction to having been caught playing with the puppy.

He swallowed. "Did you-"

"You're done?"

"I… yeah, I found a toy." He hoisted the bag the cashier provided. "Are you-?"

"Let's go," Cinder said, brushing past him. "I'm hungry."

"Wuuuuu…" the puppy whined mournfully. Its tailed wagged as it futilely pawed at the glass, trying to get out and chase Cinder. It slid down after a moment of its best effort and howled weakly. "Owuuuuuu…"

Cinder paused for a moment, then, with a shake of her head, continued on.

The puppy slumped down behind the glass.


They ate in silence.

To anyone watching, it must have seemed as though he were in the dog house. That, or breaking up with his girlfriend, because Cinder ate mechanically and without saying a word. The food was simple enough and served in an open-air café in the middle of the mall. The coffee was instant brand and smelled so horrible that he'd gone for water instead.

When they were done, he paid for the both of them and fiddled with some change, leaving a tip for the beleaguered waiter running around serving far too many people. To his credit, he had managed a tired smile for them. It was more than Jaune expected.

The whole day was so much less, though.

"This didn't really work out as I thought it would…" he said sadly. "I was really hoping we'd be able to have fun, but it feels like I've done nothing but waste your time. I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have pushed…"

"Don't blame yourself," Cinder said, not unkindly. Her eyes were not on his, however. "I appreciate you putting in the effort."

"I was hoping to show you what real happiness is, though."

"And maybe that isn't something one person can show another. Perhaps I need to discover it on my own, if such a thing is possible. Regardless, I would not say the day was uninteresting. It was… novel to do something different."

Novel. Not entertaining, fun or interesting. Just… new. He tried not to let that bother him and went with a little joke instead, hoping to at least win one smile. "Did you really have to pause before you said that?"


"And now you're just mocking me."


"Argh!" He threw his hands in the air but wasn't really offended. Just disappointed in himself. "Well, it's a bust from me. I still think your job doesn't really make you as happy as it should, but you're probably right. It's not for me to show you around and introduce you to things until you find something that makes you happy. That's now how it worked for me, either. I had to discover it for myself."

"As I said, I appreciate the effort. It made for a better day than wallowing on my recent failure."

"There is that, I guess."

It wasn't what he'd wanted, of course. In his head, he'd had the naïve idea of solving all their problems by convincing Cinder to change her mind. It was stupid even looking back on it. If her mind could be changed so easily, then it would mean she wasn't even committed to this insanity in the first place.

In the end, Cinder was going to continue with her plans, and he was going to have to trust Ruby and the others to stop her. It sucked, but he'd done what he could. He'd done his best.

Still, as he watched Cinder walk away, he couldn't help but wish he'd found a better answer.

"I sure messed that one up…"

Jaune walked glumly back to the diner.

He'd failed…


Mercury crept back into their dorm with nary a sound, hoping Cinder and Emerald wouldn't think to ask why he'd been gone for so long or what he'd been up to. There was no immediate Emerald to the face or a Cinder stare, so that was a good sign. In fact, Emerald was nowhere in sight. Had they gone out?



The high-pitched, yet low, sound echoed again.

"Do not argue with me," Cinder replied.


"No. You will conduct yourself as befits your image."


The fuck is that? Mercury crept a little further, dreading some horrifying sex game between Emerald and Cinder. Not that it wouldn't be hot as hell to see, but he'd be a dead man if Emerald caught him thinking it. Besides, he was fairly sure Cinder didn't see the other girl that way. Emerald did, obviously. Girl was obsessed.

Slinking up past the bathroom door, Mercury poked his head around the corner and caught Cinder's hair over the back of the sofa. She was dressed differently from usual; indication that she'd spent the day out. That was handy. It probably meant he wasn't about to be further interrogated on why the CCT incident went so poorly.

Luckily, he had an alibi. Emerald had seen him dancing as instructed, and he'd even kept Red busy, making it look like he'd spotted her interest in interfering with the plan and gone after and distracted her. Cinder, through her fury, had been pleased with him for that.

He'd still expected to come back to more anger and rage, however.

It was why he'd run off to spend the day on his own.


"You are persistent," Cinder said. "I can approve of this to a degree…"

A low pad of something hitting the floor. "Rrrr…"

"Do you think you have earned my attention? I am not so easily pleased…"

Oh God, it IS the sex games. Interest warred with horror. Interest won out. One look and he could die happy. Swallowing, Mercury looked over the couch.

There were no games.

No Emerald, either.

Instead, Cinder knelt on the floor, somehow looking regal and imposing even on her knees, with one hand held out towards the fluffiest thing he'd ever seen. In time, it might have been a large white dog used to the cold Atlas winter. Right now, it was a gangly ball of white fluff with legs. The puppy pawed the ground and grumbled. "Rrr…"

"Paw." Cinder commanded, hand held out.

The puppy slapped its paw on her hand.


Making a happy sound, the thing rolled over and exposed its belly. Its tail wagged furiously.

"I suppose you have earned it, just this once." Cinder began to rub its stomach and the dog's leg kicked happily. "Do not become accustomed to such. You will need to adapt if you wish to remain in my good graces."

The dog wiggled in pure glee.

The hell am I looking at…? Mercury wondered. He had entered the wrong room? He looked around to be sure, but this was definitely their room and that was definitely his psychopathic boss playing with a puppy on the floor. There were several bags of shopping nearby, one tipped over with an assortment of puppy supplies, food and toys on the floor. There was even a dog bed set to the side of his bed.

Wait a minute, had Cinder moved his stuff to make room for the dog?

Come on…

"Arf!" The dog rolled over, spotting him. It leapt in front of Cinder protectively. "Arf! Grrrr!"

"What are-?" Cinder turned, saw him and froze. "Mercury…"

"Um." He had the sinking feeling he hadn't been supposed to see the moment. "C-Cinder. Hey. Nice… uh… nice dog."

"Yes. Yes, he is."

Her eyes narrowed.

"I didn't see anything."

"No. No, you did not."

Aw. Cinder snuck back without Jaune to buy the puppy. Cinder with a puppy. Somehow, it fits in my head. And yes, I know, we should all get animals from rescue shelters, etc, but this is just a story. Let's not go crazy.

Remember, the next chapter will be a week later due to my event and week off.

Next Chapter: 2nd April

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur