Last chapter was an interesting one, and I feel like I should have put a note at the end of it to address the overall tone. In short, the chapter was designed to feel contrived – the goal being to slowly drive home the reveal that Coco had planned it all. I don't just mean the ending, or taking Jaune along, but also the fact that Coco and Velvet were running through Vale (with Velvet pointing out how random that was), to the part where Jaune said "too close to dodge", and yet they dodged anyway – Coco somehow being able to dodge anyway (because she was prepared), and how she looked him up and down, etc… Simply put, everything was a ruse. How did she know of him? Well, from Yatsu and Fox, of course, who appeared in the second chapter and commented that they had to tell their teammates about such a place.

Anyway, to those who felt it seemed contrived… well, it was kind of the aim, but maybe I should have explained that in the ending notes. It felt contrived because it was supposed to be contrived – mostly by Coco. And actually, for those who asked, i didn't project my left wrist injury onto Jaune. I didn't actually realise it was playing until a week or so after that chapter. It was a crazy coincidence... or was it?

Please don't hurt me, vengeful spirit of Jaune...


Chapter 8


It wasn't hard to see Velvet was nervous, but the awkward part was that he felt nervous too, despite being the one in the far better position. Nothing was on the line from his perspective and he didn't have anything to prove, yet his legs felt weak and he licked his lips as he sat down on the other side of a small table from her. All those things Weiss had drilled into his head were still there, but they felt jumbled and out of place. The only thing he could vaguely remember was a stern reminder that he shouldn't enter any interview thinking he had to hire someone, otherwise he'd be settling for bad employees.

But by that virtue he could already tell Velvet wasn't going to be right for the café. He could tell, but he also felt incredibly guilty considering all the effort she'd gone through for this. Effort I wouldn't know about if it weren't for Coco, he thought. Damn her for that. Things would have been so much easier without getting to know Velvet first, and that was likely Coco's plan from the start. Her loyalty was to her teammate, after all. Not to him.

"So," he began, searching for the right words and also his dwindling confidence. "I take it you saw my job posters in Beacon?" It felt like a good and a bad question, since why else would she be here if she hadn't? On the other hand, it was a simple one – and something even the most anxious of people couldn't mess up.

Velvet nodded, her ears flapping up and down as she did. "Y-Yes. I saw a younger student putting them up and asked about it. They told me all about this place."

"Did she have blonde hair?"

"I think she said her name was Yang."

He'd thought so. It looked like she'd taken his request to put up some posters seriously, probably still feeling the whole affair was her fault. Which it was, he supposed. He didn't blame her for it, but if this made her feel better then he was all for it. He was honestly surprised it was already yielding results, though she must have put them up yesterday and he realised he had no idea how many she had, or how busy said areas were. Hopefully, she hadn't gotten in trouble for it.

He noticed a second later than Velvet was fidgeting thanks to his silence - which she no doubt though was him deliberating on her faults and problems. Whoops. Time to go with some of the questions Weiss had prepped him with in advance. She knew her stuff and the list had pinged onto his scroll late last night. For all the work she did, he really needed to see about giving her a discount card or something.

"Do you have any experience with this kind of job?" he asked.

"N-No…"

Ugh. Why did she have to make it so hard? She could have just lied, since it wasn't like he would have been able to tell. Wait. Was it a good sign that she didn't lie? Like, did that mean she was more honest? Did he need someone particularly honest? Was that something he should be looking for? Probably not, or at least it wouldn't be an advantage in any way.

The silence left behind by his thoughts continued to grow, and Velvet became increasingly uncertain, her legs kicking beneath the table. Eventually, the waiting became too much and she spoke once more.

"But I'm a fast learner and a hard worker. I'm huntress-trained, so while I don't know much about waiting tables, I'm strong and fast and I have great endurance. I can work for longer than most other people, and work faster, too."

Jaune perked up a little at the news. Those weren't bad points. No wait, I shouldn't be acting like I'm on her side with this. I need to make the decision that's best for my business – not for her. I need to be impartial.

It was so hard, though. All he could think about was how much Velvet had put herself through to come here, from the teasing to the shopping trip, to trying on outfit after outfit in an attempt to impress him.

But that didn't mean he had to hire her, or even that he should. Coco might have had Velvet's success in mind, but he had to think about more than just that. Even if he gave her a job here, if she couldn't do the work she'd become stressed and unhappy, and that would lead to misery. He'd seen that already in Team RWBY, who now that he thought about it had been a perfect test run for him as an employer. It had let him see what it was like to have people under you, and that it wasn't just a job of sit back and let them do the work. You still had to help and look over them, stepping in if they had any trouble or were doing something wrong.

"Do you know much about coffee?" Jaune asked, continuing the interview.

"I know a few blends, but not as many as there are here," Velvet admitted. "Coco needs coffee when she wakes up, and Yatsu has really weird demands when it comes to his. Since Fox and I wake up first, we usually have to go and get them some from the common rooms, otherwise Coco would never have time for her morning routine."

"What kind of things does Yatsuhashi ask you for?"

"The coffee granules must be allowed to air for thirty seconds before the water is added," Velvet recounted, her face taking on an almost-lecturing expression. "When the water is poured, no milk should be added for two minutes – and he doesn't like the coffee stirred, but rather for them to slowly infuse. Then, it must be stirred for ten seconds before the milk is added. Not too much, though. It has to be just perfect." Velvet laughed nervously. "Yatsu is great, but he has a lot of little rituals like that."

It sounded like it. Still, that was maybe a good sign, since he wasn't the only one and with so many people visiting every day, you always came across someone with strange demands or tastes. The important part was being willing to listen and accommodate them. If she was doing that already, and respecting their worth, then that could be a valuable skill. The other blends could be taught, since he hadn't really expected anyone to come with as much knowledge as he had. His mother had worked in a place like this when she was but a child, and had passed on much of her experience.

"How do you do around people?"

"I-I'm okay with anyone." This time, she lied, or at least bent the truth a little. He caught it easily, since she was nervous enough around him as it was. That Coco had told him the reason had felt odd at the time, it being way too personal to share to a stranger. Naturally, she'd been trying to prepare him in advance for it, and to give him the reason why so he didn't dismiss Velvet's anxiety out of hand.

She really had thought of everything, hadn't she?

Not quite everything, it seemed – for both Jaune and Velvet's heads shot up at the sound of a fist knocking against the glass of the door. "Hello," a male voice called. "Is this open?"

"One second," Jaune whispered to the girl, who nodded as he stood up and made his way to the door.

It looked like a teenage boy, though he was definitely one who hadn't been to the café before. He was dressed in black pants and a white shirt tucked loosely in, but the smart look somewhat failed from the neck upwards. Despite the smile on his face, the boy had a shaved head crowned with a Mohawk that was somewhere between blonde and green.

Jaune clicked the door unlocked and opened it up. "I'm closed today, I'm afraid," he said. "We'll be open tomorrow, though."

"I was actually here about the job," the boy said, holding up one of the posters he'd given to Yang. "It said to come by."

"Oh, right." He hadn't realised it was about that. Wow, two applicants already? It occurred to him that he really should have had some plan in place for this. Out of ideas, he opened the door further. "Please come in. I'm just interviewing someone now, but if you can wait…?"

"Russel Thrush," the boy said, holding out a hand. The handshake was firm but controlled, and Jaune could feel the power behind it. Another student from Beacon, then. "And sure, I can wait. Take however long you need."

Jaune nodded and left him with a bottle of water to sit at a different table and look through his scroll. Velvet looked nervous when he came back to her, though that might have just been because she was now in competition with someone. "Sorry about that," he said, sitting down once more. Velvet smiled weakly and nodded. "So, where were we? Oh yeah, you've not worked in a restaurant or café before, but have you ever worked in the past?"

"I worked as a photographer for a local newspaper once," she said. "I wasn't sure it was relevant…"

It really wasn't, but it was better than nothing. "What kind of things did you have to do there?"

"I was too young to be a proper photographer, but if there were any parties or things they had to send someone to, they would send me instead. I had to take pictures of fifteen couples and have names for captions. I'd get a hundred lien for every event."

"Do you like photography?"

"It's a hobby. I always wanted to be a huntress, but it was nice to have the pocket money for dust and things. That could get expensive. I also had to speak to people," Velvet said, suddenly perking up. "I'd have to go up to strangers and ask if they'd let me take a picture for the newspaper, and then take down their names afterwards. I know it's not waiting, but it's talking."

"That's true," he allowed, and it kind of was similar enough to show she could do it when she had to. At the very least, the fact she was used to working a job before suggested she wasn't lazy. The interview was beginning to feel like something out of a detective novel, with him trying to piece together clues and evidence to pin her with the murder, or in this case the job. "Was it difficult talking to strangers?"

"It was at first, but I got used to it. I'd just tell myself they wouldn't remember me, and I'd probably not have to see them again. After a while I got used to it."

"Were there ever any bad experiences?"

She nodded. "Some people wouldn't want their pictures taken, and some could get aggressive over it. They thought I was intruding on their time, or trying to ruin the event. Some others would say nasty things for… other reasons." Her faunus heritage. He nodded to show he understood and didn't bother to ask on it. "It wasn't too bad though," she finished. "Most people were nice, and I got used to ignoring those that weren't."

They chatted for another ten minutes or so, with him posing her various questions that she answered after a second or two to think. After he'd run through the payment package he was offering – essentially what someone their ages would expect, but with the added bonus of any tips they earned – he asked her to wait while he did the interview with Russel.

"I'll have a decision for you before you leave," he said. "I just don't want to send you off when it might only be a little while. Do you have lessons today?"

"Not for three hours."

"It won't be that long," he promised.

Velvet nodded and he offered her some coffee and a magazine to enjoy while he went over to the other table. Russel saw him coming and quickly put away his scroll, smiling pleasantly. Jaune honestly wasn't sure what to make of the guy.

The hair was a definite no, but he instantly felt stupid for thinking it. That was judging on appearances practically on the same level as judging Velvet by her ears, but he couldn't deny it was also true. While younger customers might not mind, there was a chance the middle-aged or older ones might feel intimidated by him. People could be weird like that, and he definitely cut a wilder figure than Velvet, who looked like she might fold over in a stiff breeze.

"Sorry for keeping you," Jaune said, sitting down. He found it easier to be blunt with this guy, since not only was he a guy, but there was also no interference from Coco making life harder. "Russel, was it? Can you tell me why you want to work here?"

"Sure can. Here's my Résumé." He pushed a sheet of paper across the table, and Jaune took it, idly wondering he should have asked for one from Velvet, as well. What he saw had his eyes widening. "I've worked in a lot of restaurants and diners in the past," Russel said, sounding surprisingly casual about the whole thing. "I figured with my being in Beacon now, I could earn some money to enjoy myself, and this is the kind of work I've always done."

"I can see that. This is… honestly a little surprising." Each place he'd worked included a number he could call, along with a name so that he could verify Russel was telling the truth. He even had some quotes written down from his previous employers.

"Russel Thrush is a hard-working lad and quick on the draw. Does well with customers and other staff alike, and never once called in sick. Good worker all around."

There were others like it; almost all of them filled with praise for what was by all accounts a very hard-working person. I guess that goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover, he thought. He'd taken one look at the hair and assumed the worst, but it was clear Russel had dressed smart for the interview, and that should have been the first sign he wasn't a time-waster.

"This is a lot of job experience," Jaune said, leafing through the pages and counting the numbers. "If this is true, you've been working since you were… thirteen?"

"Yeah, I had to lie about my age the first time and tell my boss I was fourteen." Russel laughed at the memory. "I've been working pretty much all my life, and I never really had any skills so waiting was my go-to job. So long as you're quick on your feet, hard-working, and able to talk to people, you're good to go."

"That's true. What made you want to work so much?"

"Uh, it was mostly necessity. After my Mom died, Dad lost his job and spiralled into drink and other things less legal. Someone had to put food on the table, and what little I earned was always stolen by him." Russel's face twisted, his lips peeling back in a silent snarl. "Anyway, I wanted to break away from it all, so I worked as hard as I could to pay someone to train me, and worked my way up until I was good enough to apply to Beacon." The tale recounted, his smile became more honest. "And now I'm away from him and living my own life. Dust is expensive, though, so I figured I could get a job for the weekends. I've heard good things about this place. I'm not bitter about my Dad or anything though," he hurried to add, laughing loudly. "Shit happens, but you get over it. I'm doing this for me now, and I'll spend what I earn on stuff I want."

"That's understandable." His motives, that was. Not his father. Stories like that were all too common sadly, and he idly wondered if Russel's mother had been a huntress. It would explain both his desire to be one, and the reason she'd died. "How are you with customers?" he asked. "Things can get rather hectic here and sometimes it's just me handling everything. With my injury-" He held up his hand, "-it would mostly be you."

"I'm good with anyone. I know some customers can be rude or impatient, but it's my job to wear a smile and welcome them no matter what. I've put up with angry men, loud children and crying pensioners, and always with a smile or a shoulder where needed." He smiled lopsidedly, and there was no doubting his easy confidence. "It's a job at the end of the day. Even if I've had a bad day myself, I know you've got to leave your issues at the door. When you put on that uniform, you're someone else for however long you're working."

He's good, Jaune thought, suddenly worried as he glanced over to where Velvet was sat. If he were being honest with himself, Russel was very good – far better than Velvet would be. He was experienced, willing, and if the references were to be believed, an absolute godsend when it came to commitment.

"Would you mind if I have these references a call?" Jaune asked.

Russel nodded. "Go for it. Tell them it's about me and I'll bet they'll talk. This one won't be open though," he added, pointing to a single one. Jaune realised why immediately, but Russel explained anyway. "It's a fancy restaurant back home, so it only opens after seven. You could call them later though and I'm sure they'd be willing to talk."

And again, there didn't seem to be any deceit there. He couldn't even detect a hint of nervousness, and why would there be if he was so used to the job? Russel probably felt he could visit ten other places and get interviews on his experience alone – and he'd be right. That he'd also worked in a restaurant showed he must have been good, because places like that really tended to only hire the best. Appearance mattered in a fancy place like that.

"Do you mind if I leave you for a second to think?"

He nodded, and after a quick word to the same for Velvet, Jaune returned to his apartment to think.

/-/

"So, he's hard-working?" Jaune asked, scroll held before him.

"Sure is," the portly man on the other side returned. In the background, Jaune could see the familiar stainless steel of a kitchen. "Shame to see him go, but his dad's a real known issue around here, so none of us was surprised. Don't let his looks fool ya," the man pressed. "Russ looks rough, and he hangs around with bad people, but he knows when to put it aside for the job. I gave him shit for his hair, but ah, he wanted to look nothing like his old man and I couldn't fault him that."

"Yeah, I can understand. Thanks for your time, Mr Mars."

"No problem. From one hard-working guy to another, give the kid a chance. You'll not regret it."

"I'll keep it in mind. Thank you."

The scroll call ended with a click, and Jaune put it down on the table with a quick sigh. That was the third call, and all had been much the same, two men and a woman happy to sing the praises of Russel Thrush, who all agreed was not the sort of person they'd initially wanted for the job, but who had risen to the top and never once complained.

He sounded perfect. Jaune didn't even think it necessary to wait to call the restaurant, since that wouldn't open for at least three or four hours.

Russel was the perfect employee.

Sadly, that meant Velvet was not.

"That's not even something I can argue about," he said, slumping back. He liked the girl, he really did. She looked adorable, and he knew a lot of people would like that in the same way they'd liked seeing Team RWBY in their own outfits. She was also gentle and soft-spoken which would doubtless work well with children and older customers, but those had started to diminish from the diner, replaced with rough and tumble huntsmen and huntresses.

Would those people even bat an eye at Russel's wild hair and rough look? He doubted it, and if the guy was put into a smart uniform, he'd probably look fine regardless. If he was as forthright and polite as he was in the interview, and there was no reason to think he wouldn't be, then there shouldn't be any problems. The guy could be whatever he wanted outside of work, and if that was some kind of punk rocker, so be it. Like he'd said; when you put on the uniform, you're a different person.

But Velvet… oh, Velvet…

"What do I do?" he whined, hands on his head. "Why couldn't she have been some prissy and rude girl scoffing at me for being a mere businessman or something? Why does she have to be…" he swallowed, "nice…?"

He glanced to his scroll, wondering if he should call Weiss. In the end, he decided against it. Apart from the fact she'd already done enough to help him, he could already imagine what it was she would say.

"You need to make the decision that is best for you and your establishment, not the applicant!"

That was easy for her to say, and he'd have agreed with it at any other time. It was an obvious thing. It was just that he'd never really considered that it would be an actual person on the other end of the interview table, and what it would be like telling them they weren't good enough. The same words he'd been forced to accept when his application to Beacon had returned – albeit Ozpin had used kinder language to mask the blow. It still hurt just as much, though.

I could test them, but what would be the point? Velvet doesn't have any experience, so Russel will just make her look like an idiot.

Realistically, the only thing he could do was go out there and put Velvet out of her misery. Maybe she'd find a job elsewhere, or maybe she'd find something else she could do better. This wasn't it, since he needed someone confident enough to talk to people, and she was already nervous around him. Coco had done her best, but she couldn't do everything. He hoped she wouldn't be angry.

He stepped out of his apartment and crept down the stairs, pausing as he heard the two in the diner talking to one another. Russel sounded friendly enough, but Velvet was still a little off, answering here and there but not contributing all that much to the conversation. Just another sign, he supposed. This really wasn't the kind of job for her.

When he stepped back into sight, the two went silent, waiting for him to make a move or say something. Way to put the pressure back on me, guys. Thanks a bunch. He took a deep breath and stepped forward.

At the end of the day, honesty was probably the best bet.

"Velvet… I think we need to talk."

She looked up, eyes wide and afraid.

/-/

"And that's how I ended up hiring both of them."

He said it casually, waving his good hand in the air and laughing it off almost straight afterwards. All the while, he kept his eyes on Yang, Blake and Ruby – who had understandably dropped by to see how the day had gone. They knew he needed an employee for tomorrow, after all, and Yang especially wanted to make sure he'd managed.

Of course, there was still one other problem.

"What!?" Weiss erupted, somewhat predictably. She slammed both hands down on the table and rose to her not-so-intimidating full height. "What do you mean `that's how I ended up hiring both`? That makes no sense whatsoever!"

He laughed, and kept laughing long after her eyes bore into his. "W-Well, it wasn't that easy, you know? I meant to tell her she wasn't right for the job, but she looked so hopeful. I hesitated and asked her why she wanted the job instead."

"What," Weiss hissed, emphasising each word, "did she say?"

"I want to become a better person," Jaune recounted, eyes closed. "I know I'm nervous, but I don't want to spend the rest of my life being that. I want to learn to be confident, sociable, and to talk with all kinds of people. That's why I want to work here. I just want a chance to prove I can be more than what people see me as."

Three out of four girls slumped in their seats, while the one who resisted still showed a brief flash of sympathy on her face, before it was washed over with a frown that wasn't quite as firm as it had been a few seconds before.

That had been his feeling entirely. Whether she'd meant it or not, and it wasn't like she could have known, Velvet had hit him straight in the gut – instantly recalling his own feelings when he hadn't been given that same chance at Beacon. It was different, sure. He could afford to give her that chance because if she failed, she lost the job. If he'd failed in Beacon's initiation, he'd have been dead.

Still, what was he supposed to say after hearing that?

"That's no excuse," Weiss said, but even her resolve wavered. "Even if she has admirable reasons for wanting to work here, you still need to think of yourself first. What's going to happen if she can't do the job?"

"I'll let her go," he said. "According to Vale's laws, if it's within the first two months of employment and I can prove they're not able to work in the role, I can fire someone without any process." It was a grace window to protect employers from what Roman had told him, sending a rather detailed list of information through to his scroll without him even having to ask for it. It basically meant that if he hired someone who was a waste of time or incompetent, he wouldn't have to traipse through loads of legal issues if he found it out quick enough.

He was grateful Roman thought to send it, even if it was weird he knew so much about Vale's laws in the first place. Maybe he was friends with a lawyer or something.

"And would you be able to? Fire her, I mean. If you struggled to even say no in the first place, I'm not sure you'd be able to take this step."

Jaune winced, but took the criticism on the chin, since Weiss was pretty much spot-on. "I think I could," he said. "The thing is, at least then I'd have proof. Besides, I'm not expecting miracles from her. Velvet told me that since she's an upper year, she has the mornings free. I'm not going to start her waiting, but instead helping me prep the diner."

"And that only requires a strong pair of arms," Yang said, recalling her own time doing such. "She'll have that if nothing else, and since Russel is a first-year like us, he'd be busy in the mornings anyway."

"Exactly," he said, nodding. "Russel is going to come in for the last two hours of each day, and then do an eight-hour shift on Saturday, as well. Both of them then have four hours on Sunday since it's a little quieter, and I'll use that time to keep an eye on her and make sure she learns the job."

"Hm…" Weiss stared at him for several long moments, waiting to see if he broke and admitted to anything else, as well. When he didn't, she sighed and sat down. "I suppose that makes sense. At least you're thinking with your head. Even if she turns out to be bad at waiting, you'll only have her for four hours a week doing that."

Jaune's relief was palpable, but he kept himself from showing it in case she called him out on it. To be fair, most of those reasons had been thought up after the fact of hiring Velvet, which definitely wasn't the right way to do business. Then again, he'd gotten as far as he had now without following any rules and instead relying on his instincts. Hopefully this would work out, as well.

If Velvet did turn out to be bad at the job, he had a few options, even other than firing her. He could move her hours to include more time before the café opened, or he could swap those four hours on the Sunday for an hour in the morning on the weekdays instead, breaking her in slowly to the early-risers. That would let her adapt to the relatively fewer customers who came by, and slowly build up her tolerance. Either way, at least Russel promised to be a good find.

"I'm really surprised Russel Thrush of all people would work here, though," Yang said. "I mean, have you seen him?"

"How can I not?" Weiss asked. "He hardly looks the respectable sort. You did check his references, didn't you?"

"They were glowing. Sure, it's possible they may have lied, but it didn't sound like it."

"I doubt they would have. Many employers tend to weigh in on the side of their fellows rather than an employee, especially if that employee isn't good at the job." The heiress leaned back and sipped the cappuccino he'd made for her. "I guess it just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover."

"Isn't it a little ironic for you to say that?" Ruby asked.

The cup slammed down. "Excuse me?"

"I didn't say anything!"

He had to laugh at the little display, especially since he did kind of maybe agree with Ruby a little there, not that he'd ever be brave enough to admit it. Apart from being scary in her own right, Weiss had also helped him out with valuable business advice. Even if I was too much of a wuss to use it properly this time…

"I'm surprised he was even able to talk with Velvet at all," Blake said. It was so rare for her to join in the conversation that he couldn't help but stare at her.

"What do you mean?"

Blake shrugged but wouldn't elaborate. In the end, Yang did it for her.

"He and Vel don't exactly get on from what I've seen. Even though he's not on their team, he hangs around with some people who are… how should I put it?"

"Not the right sort," Weiss said, helping her along.

"That's one way of saying it…"

Jaune blinked owlishly and looked between them. "Something I should know?"

"It's not really our business to talk about him, especially if it's not something he's doing here already." Weiss sighed and finished her drink. "Just keep an eye on him is all I'll say. Maybe it's nothing. Maybe it's as you say and he will be nothing but professional while he's working here. I can't say."

"Isn't he teammates with Pyrrha Nikos?" Ruby asked.

"For all the two won't sit next to one another," Yang said. "He sits with Cardin and Team Crimson every day, and I don't think I've seen his partner even talk to him since they were put together. They even sit far apart in lessons."

"It doesn't look good," Weiss agreed, "but I don't see how that would impede his ability to work here. If anything, it might give him more reason to want to work. It's not like he has much of a team to return to."

It sounded like Russel had more problems than he'd let on, though in a way Weiss was right; it wasn't any of his business. I always spent so much time imagining and fantasising about what being at Beacon would be like. I never once considered I might not get on with my team. I wonder if Russel thought that, too.

"Well, it may not have been as he planned it, but Jaune got his first employees," Yang said, raising her mug. "That calls for a toast, right?"

"Even if he was kinda tricked into it," Ruby agreed, giggling.

Blake smirked. "He's a soft-touch."

"Soft in the head, more like," Weiss growled, holding up her own mug. "But sure, why not? It's better than nothing and it does solve the issue of his shoulder."

They all looked to him, smiling (or scowling in Weiss' case) as they waited for him to join in on celebrating the next big step in his career. And it was a big step, he supposed. Only two and a half weeks ago, he'd opened this little place, and now he'd have two people working in it with him. That wasn't by intent, of course, but rather from the necessity of his arm, but it was still a milestone to be proud of.

That he had four wonderful friends to celebrate it with was something to be equally proud of, and pleased. He raised his mug to their and clicked them all together.

"To my new employees…"

"Cheers!"

/-/

"I got it!" Velvet crowed, already shouting before she pushed open the door and nearly bowled Fox over, the lithe boy leaping to the side and tripping over Yatsu's form as he read on his bed. The giant of a man barely moved, even as Fox tumbled over with a startled cry, but did look up to Velvet and smile.

"That is wonderful news, Velvet. Did I not tell you that you would do well?"

"You did!" she crowed, throwing her arms around his neck. "Where's Fox?"

"Ow…"

"What are you doing on the floor?"

"I wonder," the red-haired teen groaned. "Congrats, Vel. I take it Coco's shopping trip helped."

Her eyes narrowed at the reminder and she whirled on the final member of her team, who was sat cross-legged atop a pile of pillows, glasses dangling from the end of her nose as she read a fashion magazine. "You!" Velvet hissed.

"Me," Coco agreed, licking her finger and marking the page for later. "So, how did it go?"

"It was humiliating," Velvet said, her cheer finally escaping as she collapsed with a `whoosh` of air from her lungs. "Do you have any idea how embarrassing it was to sit there and know full well the guy in front of you is only giving you a chance because of pity?"

Coco winced. "I didn't think it would be that bad."

"It was! Argh!" Velvet threw herself back on her bed, arms sprawled above her head as she glared a hole in the ceiling. "I only got it because of what you did, and that feels unfair. What if I'm a terrible employee and he regrets giving me a chance?"

"How about you don't start thinking like that before you even start," her friend said.

"Coco has a point, Velvet," Yatsu echoed. "Believing yourself a failure already will only lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"But what if I do fail?"

"Failure is not the act of falling down; but in not finding the strength to rise once more."

Velvet groaned.

"What Yats is trying to say, in his round a bout way, is that people make mistakes," Coco said, settling down on the edge of Velvet's bed and poking her cheek. "I doubt Jaune expects you to be perfect, but so long as you keep trying your best and listen to what he says, you'll do fine."

"Every tree begins life as a seed."

"Yats, she doesn't need the metaphors right now."

The giant of a man rolled his eyes. "Very well. Every professional waiter begins live as an amateur."

"See?" Coco pressed, smiling down at her. "Everyone has to learn at one point or another. So I may have cheated your interview a little…"

"A lot," Velvet growled, glaring up between splayed fingers.

"A lot," her teammate agreed. "Either way, he wouldn't have hired you without it, and it's not like you're going to do a bad job on purpose, right?"

"No! I'm going to do my best!"

"Exactly. Don't think of it as a pity job; think of it as a chance to prove he made the right decision. Go out there and kick ass, then, when he praises you as the best damn employee he's ever hired, you can nod your head and smile. Besides, you said you wanted to become more confident, right?"

Velvet nodded, drawing in a long breath and letting it go. Her team hadn't necessarily agreed she needed to change, but she felt she did. Those three would always say she was perfect as she was, but she didn't feel it. Being bullied by those first year students had opened her eyes to that, especially since she was more than strong enough to take them all on if she'd felt confident enough to. Serving coffee wasn't exactly the same thing, but everyone agreed that customer service jobs were a great way to break out of your shell. You pretty much had to in order to do the job.

If Jaune had seen her around her team, he wouldn't have recognised her. Alone and in the confines of their room, or when no one was looking, she could tease and chat as good as she got, and was more than willing to call even Coco out on her crap every now and then. It was just that when other people were added, she got a case of the nerves, coming across as a shy waif of a girl.

She hated that about herself, she really did. She was a huntress – not a wallflower.

"I'll do it," she promised, one hand clenching into a fist as a fire lit inside of her. "I'll do it!" she repeated, louder this time. "I'll prove I can be the perfect employee, and I'll make sure he doesn't regret giving me the job!"

"That's the spirit," Coco said, clapping. "Now, did you get a uniform?"

"Huh?" Velvet blinked and looked over. "No? I didn't realise they had a uniform."

Coco's answering laugh was just a little too amused, a little too satisfied, and far too perverted for Velvet's liking. It hardly helped that she continued cackling long into the night, and never once answered Velvet's panicked questions about what exactly the uniform looked like.

It couldn't be that bad...


And so, Jaune makes the poor decision, but what else would one expect given his lack of experience? He never comes across as someone who could say no and hurt someone, but can he turn Velvet into a lean, mean, coffee-serving machine? And is Russel as good as he claims?

When will the members of Not-Quite-JNPR appear?

Find out next time on, Service with a Bunny Maid and a Mohawk


Next Chapter: 28th November

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur