Note: This story includes OCs that belong to perladellanotte (tumblr) and sets in a beautiful future of LoS universe where Milo and Camus got married and had children.
Don't Forget to Worry
After reading so many positive reviews, I came into this place with great expectations. Sadly, the experience was extremely disappointing. I ordered a bowl of solyanka and it was so salty I could barely finish it; also, the apple pastry I had for dessert was ridiculously sour. Moreover, the waiter was painfully slow and the air conditioner didn't work properly. The only good things about this place are the price (quite low for the city of Adamas) and its sea view. If I ever return to this place, it will be only to see the sunset from the terrace.
Camus exhaled heavily and stretched his neck as he covered his face with both hands. A strong tightness in his chest prevented him from breathing correctly and ever since came up with the review, he felt an acute pain in the pit of his stomach. The most rational part of his brain kept telling him that he was worrying too much, while the other —the one that devoted so much attention and care to his dishes— felt that it was the end of the world.
With the help of his family, Camus opened a discreet restaurant on Milos Island. Initially, they offered a small menu of local specialties, but as time went by they had the chance to expand their offer to international recipes. Little by little, the restaurant gained regular customers as well as foreign visitors and, eventually, the inevitable came: the Internet reviews.
The moment Camus discovered that the restaurant had received an entry at Google Maps, he assumed that he would soon receive negative comments. It was impossible to please everyone and everyone felt protected under the anonymity of the web. However, after more than a year with reviews as successful as his business, he let his guard down. Therefore, we has not emotionally prepared to receive his first negative review. Especially one that should be taken seriously.
It was not apple season and all the desserts made with that ingredient had become too sour. Camus changed some of the recipes to compensate the unusual taste, but he was yet to make the proper modifications to the pastries. Moreover, the air conditioner malfunctioned for three entire days thanks to the fact that the maintenance company had a full schedule and could not make time for them. The solyanka... well, Camus would defend that recipe until his dying breath. That soup was naturally salty and it was not his fault that the client had ordered something that wouldn't satisfy their taste.
Nevertheless, the review still remained, a button away for the rest of the world to see and to remind them that his restaurant was imperfect. Even if the two star rating was not enough to dent his four point five average, he knew that more than one person would read with morbid curiosity his most critical review. His failures had been pointed out and, as if that wasn't enough, it was Camus's duty to swallow his pride and answer to the criticism. It probably was impossible for the client to change his mind about the restaurant, but other potential customers would welcome his interest to amend his mistakes.
Now, the main issue was how to respond to the review without being too sarcastic or condescending. Camus crossed his arms and began to ideate an appropriate response. Unfortunately, he soon realized it would be impossible. The best thing he could do would be to take a couple of days to calm down. Only after that would he be able to summon the most appropriate words.
Frustrated, he prepared to turn off his computer in hopes of ignoring it for at least three more days. It was at that moment that the sound of little steps crawling over the wooden floor caught his attention. He turned to the door and smiled when he met his youngest daughter, Eirlys.
"Are you angry?"
Intrigued by the unexpected question, Camus turned on his seat and extended his arms towards the girl.
"Of course not. Why would I be?"
Although Eirlys didn't seem to believe him at all, she allowed him to carry her in his arms.
"Mom says it's almost dinner time," she replied. "She wants you to turn off your stupid computer so you can help her out."
Camus frowned as he rocked her up and down.
"Your mother shouldn't use that language in front of a girl as sweet as you."
Eirlys brought both hands to hers mouth as she failed to contain a high-pitched chuckle.
"Mommy is in trouble!"
Camus nodded, stood up with the girl still in his arms and began walking towards the ground floor.
"Yes, she is. But we will be too if we keep ignoring her."
Being five years old, Eirlys still enjoyed being held by his father and Camus was more than willing to oblige. After all, he knew the situation wouldn't last much longer. It had been like that with her older sisters, Sohelia and Haydee. They stopped stretching their little arms towards him after their ninth birthday. Camus dreaded for the moment his children wouldn't need him anymore and that was why he would clung to Eirlys' love down to the very end. Camus will hold her in his arms and carry her all over the end of the world as many times and as long as she would allow it in the same way he did with the rest of his children.
It was precisely for them that the concern about the restaurant would not abandon him. His family supported him ever since they opened the place and he would do anything to avoid letting them down. Given the time, even the little ones made their best efforts to help their parents, either preparing ingredients in the kitchen or choosing the design of the menus. The restaurant was the result of the teamwork and sacrifices of the entire family and Camus could not allow it to go bankrupt because he was not a capable manager.
Once they reached the dining room, Camus sat Eirlys in her favorite seat, kissed her on the head and continued his steps toward the kitchen. That was Camus' favorite place in the entire house. He and his wife had carefully redesigned it as soon as they bought the house. Its large cabinets, ovens and burners were just enough to feed their large family. Few images could give him as much happiness as Milo wandering around the kitchen while the kids swarmed around her for a taste of cake or, simply, the opportunity to help her out.
That night he was gifted with one of those beautiful moments. Milo was busy incorporating tomato sauce into a bowl of spaghetti, while his youngest son enthusiastically grated a tiny piece of Parmesan cheese that was three times bigger just the day before.
"I think you've already grated enough cheese, Wilbert."
The boy raised his left eyebrow and turned his gaze from his father to the bowl overflowing with cheese. He did not seem to agree with Camus at all, but he had the precaution to turn his face towards his mother and ask her in a low voice whether there was enough cheese or not.
Milo looked at him sideways and although her lips curved in a mischievous smile, she didn't laugh out loud.
"It's enough, love. Now you can take the bread and cheese to the dining table."
Wilbert nodded enthusiastically as he took the bread tray and cheese bowl and left the room.
"You're finally out of your den," Milo's words didn't carry any recrimination as much as amusement. "It's unusual for me to have to send my cavalry to get you."
"You know all my weaknesses," he admitted. "Still, you must put two euros in the swear jar. Eirlys said my computer was stupid."
Milo set the spaghetti bowl at the countertop and stared at Camus with disbelief.
"Stupid is not a swear word. Do you want to hear a real swear word?"
"No, thanks," he assured. "I rather you tell me how I can help you."
The woman smiled with satisfaction -Camus knew it was because she hadn't lost a single penny in the swear jar for more than two years- and handed him a jug of water.
"Leave this at the table and go get the twins. They are playing at the living room and I don't really need to listen to their Lord of the Rings philosophical commentaries and theories once more," Camus laughed out loud, but nodded and started walking towards the living room. "It's not funny, Camus. Last time I listened to them I lost thirty minutes of my life."
"Serves you right. One can never understand Tolkien until he hears it from the mouth of two nine-year-old children."
He snickered again after hearing a snort from his wife. As he passed through the dining room, he saw that Haydee and Isaac were already taking their seats. Isaac gave him the usual attention any preteen would give to his father (that is, the boy barely looked over his cell phone to greet him with a subtle nod). However, the distaste of his disinterest disappeared when the young man put aside his cell phone in order to pour water in the glasses of his younger sisters.
Leaving the girls in good hands, Camus continued on his way to the living room. The twins were, just as their mother predicted, playing on the old game console. They had played LEGO Lord of the Rings so many times that Camus was convinced they could be able to finish a complete level with their eyes closed.
"Alexei, Jules, its diner time," the children straightened their backs, but only Alexei allowed himself to turn back to see his father. It wasn't that he was more obedient than Jules. It was simply that at that time only his brother was solving a puzzle.
"What are we eating?"
Those words were enough for Jules to pause the game and copy his brother's posture at the back of the sofa.
Convinced by such an exceptional argument, the twins followed their father to the dining room.
"Dad," Alexei said. "Do you think hobbits like red spaghetti?"
"I'm sure they love it," he answered even though he knew that hobbits would enjoy anything edible.
"Even more than rabbit stew?" Jules pressed on.
"If your mother cooked it, yes."
Satisfied with his answer, the children took their places at the table, where Milo was already serving everyone's dishes with Isaac's help.
Camus admired the scene in front of him for several seconds. Undoubtedly, the pain of dealing with negative reviews was worth it in order to keep his family happy. It didn't matter if he had to offer a free meal to someone who didn't understand the basic concept of solyanka; if that was the price to get a new regular costumer, he would do it with pleasure.
He was about to take his seat when he realized that someone was still missing from the table.
"Where is Sohelia?"
Milo frowned and she seemed to wonder whether to answer or not. However, she had to give in under the scrutiny of the rest of the family.
"She was not feeling well; she said she would eat later. Don't worry, her portion is already on the fridge."
"Is she ill? Have you called for a doctor?"
Milo sighed heavily and shook her head.
"It's not that type of ailment, Camus," their eyes crossed and Camus recognized the frustration in her eyes. "She only needs to be alone for a couple of hours. We've talked about this, remember?"
Camus nodded. Lately, Sohelia had been the focal point their nightly talks. Their daughter was no longer a little girl. She was a seventeen-year-old lady who was about to have major changes in her life. Soon, she would start university and would have to move into the capital. That meant leaving her friends, her family and even her pets behind, at least until she could find a dorm where they could admit them. Although Sohelia was an intelligent and optimistic young woman, even someone like her would be overwhelmed with everything that was being thrown into her life. Camus, accustomed to keep his feelings to himself, struggled to instill candidness and honesty to his children, but Milo insisted that sometimes it was not necessary. Sometimes, she said, it was best to give them space and the opportunity to mature for themselves.
"I understand. Just tell me where she is. I promise I won't go running after her," Camus thought he heard a sarcastic snort from Isaac, but chose to ignore it.
"She's at the beach. She'll return once she gets cold enough."
The answer barely eased Camus's concern. Yet, he decided to imitate his wife and sat down to eat. The dinner passed with the usual tranquility, which was only occasionally interrupted by the children's retorts.
Once they finished eating, the family dispersed once more and Milo and Camus took their time to pick up the table and wash the dishes. They worked silently, but at all times Camus felt Milo's heavy gaze on him. The tortuous situation lasted for several minutes until they began to store the dishes in the cupboard.
"Well?" said the woman. "What happened?"
"No," she interrupted. "You were worried even before you heard about her. What happened?"
Camus shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. He disliked sharing his worries to the rest of his family, but Milo was so insistent, he rarely had an alternative. Perhaps, it was the best for the family. After all, it is easier to carry the burdens when they are shared with someone else.
"It's nothing important," he finally said. "It's just that the restaurant received a bad review."
Camus had to give credit to his wife for not laughing at him.
"A bad review," she said. "Like the rest of the restaurants in the world?"
"I know, I know. It's stupid. However, I can't help but worrying. Who knows if it's just the beginning of a long streak of dissatisfied customers?"
"If it is, we'll read all the comments and we'll find the way to improve our business. Together."
Although Milo's words made complete sense, Camus was still unable to calm himself down.
"Yes. I know. I apologize. I don't know why I'm worrying about something so foolish. After everything we've been through, a negative review is just a drop of water in the vastness of the sea."
Milo frowned and tenderly placed her long fingers on Camus's arm.
"The problems of the past were left behind, Camus. Comparing your current worries with those of the past is very unfair to yourself. The restaurant may not be as relevant to the order of the universe as saving Athena, but that doesn't mean it's less important.
"You're right," he sighed. "Although I feel like an idiot for worrying so much about what a stranger thinks about my restaurant."
"You're not stupid" she joined their lips to add more weight to her words. "You simply are as apprehensive as when you wore your cloth."
Camus leaned towards Milo in an attempt to kiss her, but the moment was interrupted when they heard voices coming from the living room. The voices were soon accompanied by steps and Milo stepped back and dried her hands with a kitchen towel.
"I'll go prepare Eirlys for bed," she said before kissing Camus on the cheek and leaving him alone in the kitchen.
Before Camus understood what was happening, Sohelia appeared in front of him. The young woman stared at him for a few seconds before daring to talk.
"I'm sorry I didn't joined you at dinner."
"Don't worry. Everyone needs to be by themselves every once in a while," he walked towards the refrigerator and opened it. "Your mother left you something to eat. Do you want me to heat it?"
Sohelia opened her mouth and, after doubting for a few seconds, she nodded.
While Camus programed the microwave, his daughter took a seat in the overflowed breakfast table that the family only used to put on the many things they didn't know where else to store.
The hum of the microwave began to run and, while the food was ready, Camus took the time to give his daughter a glass of water and, hopefully, a little bit of comfort.
"Is everything alright?" he asked as he handed Sohelia the glass of water. "I don't want to intrude, but you can trust that I will always do my best to help you."
Sohelia laughed heartlessly and shrugged.
"It's nothing. To tell you the truth, I feel silly every time I tell you my worries. They are so absurd..."
Camus smiled. In a way, it was comforting to know that he was not the only one who belittled his problems. After moving aside a huge package of napkins, he took a seat next to his daughter.
"Don't say that. Maybe I was an Athena Saint, but I also care about banalities."
"Such as?" she asked with clear disbelief.
"Such as a negative review that the restaurant received today."
Apparently, Sohelia was yet to develop her mother's self-control, as she threw her head backwards started laughing. At least, Camus thought, she had the decency to cover her mouth with both hands as soon as he regained control of her body.
"Sorry! Sorry! I know it is important to you. It is for me too, but..."
"But everyone gets a negative review every once in a while. I know."
Sohelia nodded and the microwave started beeping, announcing that the food was ready. Camus tried to get up, but Sohelia placed her hand over his shoulder and decided to do it instead. Soon she was back and began eating the spaghetti straight from its plastic container.
"I admit that I feel better knowing that someone who fought for the survival of the human race also worries about trivialities."
Yes. The restaurant affair was trivial, but that didn't mean Camus didn't have real problems. The biggest was about come in a few months, when Sohelia moved out and Camus would go from seeing her daily to only the holidays. As if that wasn't enough, Camus knew that it was just the beginning of the end; one by one their children would leave to live their own lives. Worst of all, he had sworn to silence that fear. His children didn't need to feel guilty for wanting to be independent.
More so in moments like this when Sohelia was so vulnerable.
"I keep thinking that soon I'll have to leave," emboldened by her father's empathy, Sohelia started talking. "I know it's silly because this is what I want to do and I know it's the best for me. I think what frustrates me the most is that I can't do anything to stop feeling like this. The only thing I can do is wait until classes begin in September.
"You'll make friends soon enough. Besides, I am sure that you will be so busy, you'll hardly miss us."
Sohelia frowned, which made her look just like her mother.
"That will never happen."
"Leisure is the mother of the distress. When you're busy you don't have time to think about things that are not under your control."
Sohelia thought intently about his father's words until she finished eating her diner; it was only then that she seemed to find a solution to her problems.
"I know what I'm going to do!" she exclaimed triumphantly. "I'll help you with the restaurant from now on! I'll receive the customers with such enthusiasm that they'll write good reviews even if you feed them lemon zest. I'll go after school and spend the entire weekends there. What do you think? You'll never have a better sous chef!"
"I thought you would be the hostess..."
"But sous chef sounds much better! The public will love to see a chef taking their time to receive the costumers."
"Okay," he conceded. "I'll give you a sous chef name tag as long as you stop worrying about school."
Satisfied, Sohelia stood up with a little jump and began washing the dishes. For a few moments Camus thought he had managed to dissipate her melancholy, but it didn't take long for it to return to her eyes.
"Thank you, dad. You don't know how much I'm going to miss you all."
Camus ignored the lump that formed in his throat and gave his daughter a tight hug.
"We'll be a phone call away, and if you ever have problems, I'll go help you at the speed of light."
"I know you will."
"Come on, I'll finish with this. Go rest."
Sohelia seemed like she would refuse, but in the end she allowed him to take her place in front of the sink.
"Fine, but only because I'm in The Lord of the Rings mood. I'll go play with my brothers."
Camus narrowed his eyes and dropped his shoulders in defeat.
"You don't know what you are saying."
"I rather have them obsessed with that than Toy Story," she patted him on the back and walked towards the living room. "Tell mom to come down. I'll convince the twins to put on the Return of the King."
"That won't make her come down any faster."
"Nonsense! She won't pass the chance to have a family movie night."
Sohelia left the kitchen, leaving Camus alone with the fear that he will have to watch the same movie for the third time in a week. However, Sohelia's argument was extremely convincing: there was no way he could miss the opportunity to spend a night alongside his beloved family.
It was for them that he would continue to work hard in the restaurant and it was for them that he would never stop worrying.
Author's Commentary: Upps! I was supposed to share this a month ago, but this turned out to be much longer than what I expected. This was the gift for perladellanotte for being the one that made more fanwork for last's year MiloShipFest. I really hoped you enjoyed it!
This was quite a challenge because I had to work with someone else's OCs so I really, really hope I did a decent job with them. I didn't dare to gave them all a lot of relevance, but I did want them all to show up.
Moreover, I didn't updated the Spanish version until I had this translation. Which, as ya'll probably can tell, was not betad. I haven't made a translation in ages so I was super rusty and I do confess to have used google translator. I tried to fix most of it, but if something is amiss, please be considerate.
I really hope you enjoyed this, perladellanotte. Thank you so much for all your hard work! You really have helped to make a great MiloShipFest for the three years we've been running this event!