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It all starts with Axel and Cloud working at the local coffee bar. Their boss is an ass and they get their fair share of nasty customers. Throw in a handful of new co-workers and a few gorgeous regulars and what do you get? Axel/Roxas - Cloud/Leon - Sora/Riku - Demyx/Zexion
'Maybe we'll live and learn; maybe we'll crash and burn.
Or maybe we all just need some damn coffee in our system.'
Ĉђąρτεŕ Öηε » Ĉăƒƒείηε ƒїϰατίση
Caffeine: (noun) a bitter alkaloid found in coffee and tea that is responsible for their energizing stimulation.
Fixation: (noun) an unhealthy, compulsive and addictive obsession with something or someone.
Caffeine Fixation: (noun) the name of a well-hidden, high-end coffee bar that sells excellent caffeinated products to not-so-respectable customers and casual second year university kids. It customarily rivals against the competing Starbucks situated two blocks down the street. Regulars call the place 'The Fix'.
"This is so Totally Not a Prologue. I am so Totally Not a Liar."
Monday mornings were a chore. A painful, excruciating, agonising, tormenting, horrible, horrible, horrible chore. No, I don't think you quite get the picture. If there was a single person in this world who remotely exhibited some form of fondness for Mondays, they should really be shot in the kneecaps. Repeatedly. I say again: Monday mornings were a chore. And if that weren't enough, it was utterly blown up by the fact that it was the middle of summer and that ridiculously stupid, evil, yellow, spherical ball of burning gas in the sky they called The Sun was happily glaring down on everyone on the streets in cheery disposition as though unashamedly mocking them from its heavenly pedestal in the sky. Mister Sun was one morbid son of a nebula for making a hobby out of baking people alive. Mister Sun sorely needed to implode. Smug bastard.
Oh yeah, something about a swelteringly hot Monday morning seemed to rub Cloud Strife the wrong way. They always successfully managed to get under his skin like no other day of the week. He believed that Mondays in general deserved to go to hell so that Sunday could take over. Forever.
The sapphire-eyed blond had all but dragged himself out from under the covers of his comfy bed with a great deal of willpower, groaning sleepily, then almost dying on the spot when he glanced at his digital alarm clock – 07:32? WHAT THE FUCK? – saw that The Accursed Sun was high up in the sky, and realised with rapidly growing horror and dread that he was meant to be down at the coffee bar in something like negative thirty-two minutes and twenty seconds.
Oh, crapcrapcrap! GODAMMIT!
And at that precise moment, the poor guy was regretting having gone to bed at 4 A.M. in the morning. But dammit, the addictive power of MSN compelled all! Bloody internet. Bloody MSN Messenger. Bloody computer.
Cloud clambered out of his too-small-for-a-grown-man bed hastily, entangling himself among the mess of sheets and gracelessly falling off the edge of the bed altogether with a painful-sounding thud. His face got acquainted with the floor.
No. This was not the first time this has ever happened to the Strife.
It was probably not going to be the last either.
"Ngeh-" Splutter, choke, cough. "Bleh." Evidently, Cloud was never very coherent in the early moments of post-awakening. "No. No, no, nonononono, FUCKING HELL."
Wait. I take that back.
"OH HELL NO. HEEEELL NO."
The blond blearily picked himself off the ground, screamed, cursed, yelled, ran around his bedroom erratically, rooted through his wardrobe like a human tornado on strike, thrown on his usual attire for work haphazardly, gone through half a bottle of Square's Double Strength Hair Gel semi-impeccably, eaten half a leftover bagel, and practically flew out of his apartment with just one shoe on. He bypassed the usual three blocks of flats, dashed down Sundown Avenue (spewing forth vulgarities and expletives at an alarming rate with loud vigour), narrowly avoided being run over by some dude on a skateboard, and finally burst into Caffeine Fixation, panting and wheezing and almost keeling over like he were suffering from heart failure. Which he probably was.
Goddammit. Leon was so going gut him with a fork, pluck his eyeballs out with his car keys, murder him with a kettle full of boiling water and yell at him till his ears bled with his brain juice. All in that precise order. Okay, no, seriously, Leon wasn't the type to do that. Cloud knew this. The blond knew this all too damn well. But that was what made it all the more worse, and it was fucking frustrating. The boss man would just fix him with that level stare of his and no, he would not reprimand him, but just tell him. In that drawling, unfeeling, remorseless, deadened, I-Am-Your-Superior-You-Asshole voice that made Cloud's insides want to shrivel up and die from the damned frigidity.
In all truthfulness, Cloud preferred to be gutted by forks, blinded by keys, murdered by kettles and yelled at till his brains melted instead, really. It was a hell of a lot better than enduring Mister Youruglyface (first name: Ireallyhate).
He glanced around the bar tentatively. Cloud, I mean. Yeah, Cloud glanced around the bar tentatively.
It was devoid of customers, but that was usually the case at this time in the morning. The Fix was generally a well-kept secret from most people. It was a semi-posh café. But hey, Leon never liked to call it a 'café'. For some God Only Knows reason, he preferred the term 'coffee bar'. They served the best coffee in all of Twilight Metropolis (or at least that's what Axel liked to think, but we'll get to our pretty redhead later). The bar supplied anything with caffeine in it. You name it, they've got it. They also sold lemonade, Red Bull and diet sodas. But who cared about that? No one walked into coffee bars to order a damn soda. Anyways, Caffeine Fixation (a.k.a. The Fix) was well-hidden from the general crowd. Those who knew the place were reputable folks. Very rich people who liked tolerable coffee.
Well, okay. Not really. That was a total lie.
The frequent customers were usually punks from the university across town who came in groups of twos or threes or sevens, or people who had generally nothing better to do but sample the coffee from this place for the sole purpose of comparing it to the exalted Starbucks two blocks away. It was pretty normal for the bar to be quiet and empty at this hour. So, it wasn't that Cloud was looking around for customers. He was looking for the boss.
He heaved a sigh of relief when he couldn't find Leon anywhere.
This was a good thing. Maybe… maybe if he just scrambled behind the counter right this moment, played around with the coffee machine or the cash register or something, and pretended he'd been there all along… Maybe…
"Late again, Strife?"
Cloud cursed wildly within the mental recesses of his brain and glared at his boss/manager, who had just emerged from the doorway that led to the kitchen from behind the counter. Leon, in the flesh, took a few steps forward and leant against the countertop divider, giving Cloud one of those deadpan faces. That very expression of Leon's was special. To anyone else, it would've seemed like a normal straight-faced stare. Cloud knew better. It was Leon's Angry Face. It had the 100 Percent Leon Approved 'This Is My Angry Face!' Stamp stamped all over it.
"Late? Axel, that stupid redhead, isn't even here yet damn it!" Cloud exclaimed, trying (in vain) to defend himself. He failed miserably.
"Uh, hello? Yeah, I am." The said stupid redhead emerged from the kitchen after their manager and waved at the blond with two fingers raised. "I had to open up this morning, remember?" he reminded with a smirk. "You were supposed to be here fifty minutes ago to hand me the spare. When you pulled a no-show, I had to call boss man here to come in early cuz I knew you slept in and I had no idea what time you were gonna get your ass down here."
"But… But…" Cloud just had to sputter indignantly like a defensive child guilty of stealing the cookies from the cookie jar (plus the jar itself).
Leon made a disapproving noise. "Strife, don't try playing dumb with me. I already gave you one hell of a warning last week. You know what I said, unless the words didn't register in that minuscule brain of yours. One more late morning and-"
"You'll cut my lousy salary by twenty-nine point seven percent, yeah yeah, I know." Cloud glowered sulkily, indolently trudging his way towards his two colleagues and joining them behind the counter.
"Exactly. You're lucky we haven't had any customers yet. Last warning, Strife. Last one." Leon glared. "Now go find another shoe and get to work."
Cloud gaped in fury as his boss turned on his heel and walked back into the kitchens, sidestepping an amused Axel in the process.
Yeah, something about a swelteringly hot Monday morning seemed to get under Cloud Strife's skin. And that something was Squall 'Leon' Leonhart. He was the hotshot owner of Caffeine Fixation, the stupid boss of Axel Onér and Cloud Strife. And oh, he was also real good at being a major asshole.
Before we go any further, I guess I should introduce you to our unhappy blond. He will, after all, be one of our main protagonists at The Fix.
As you already know, he was named after those picturesque, white wisps of condensed water droplets in the sky.
Cloud Strife. 22. He was graced with moderate good-looks, a mess of golden spiky hair, crystal blue eyes, and a lean-but-slightly-muscular physique. Really, for a young man his age with such striking features, it was a wonder he didn't already have a girlfriend. I mean, come on! With that chiselled jaw and that perfect nose! It was such a waste, really. Anyway, at age 20, Mr Strife had promptly dropped out of university as soon as he realised that a major in psychology wasn't what he really needed in life. Actually, psychology was really screwing his brains over, so he decided to stop studying forever just in case his mind imploded due to an overdose of psychosomatic crack that was being fed to him. Okay, fine. No. The real reason he ceased his education was because, firstly, some cheap punk stole his one and only love, Fenrir, (which he'd parked right in front of the university's goddamn Law Faculty for chrissakes!) during the start of his second year at university, and secondly, he was running pretty low in the financial department.
He figured what he really needed was a good, semi-decent paid job that helped him survive out there in the cold, harsh reality of this modern era full of rocker emo kids, plastic Barbie hookers and expensive fast food. He didn't need to know how or why a person thinks the way he does. A degree in psychology? Pfft. Like he's so totally gonna need something like that.
Cloud had known Axel for awhile. They'd met back in the old days during those godawful high school years, but they weren't terribly close. In this reality, however, Cloud considered Axel to be somewhat of a pal (a buddy, a chum, an ally, a comrade, et cetera). Or at least he considered the redhead his main source of entertainment and companionship within the confines of The Fix. Same difference.
Well, and who might this charismatic crimson-haired guy be, anyways?
Allow me to introduce him to you.
Axel Onér. 23. Well, 24 in three weeks. But no one generally cared about his birthday. This dude was as unpredictable as the weather and often impulsive, reckless, loud, self-confident, brash… you get the picture. And he was also, well, maybe just a tad on the eccentric side. He just wasn't normal. Well, if his oddly-placed tattoos and wild mop of blood-red hair (that stuck out in so many odd angles that his head resembled a damn broomstick) didn't tell you anything about his character, his obsessive habit of openly flirting with anything and everything on two legs would surely indicate his screwy (ha ha ha) personality. And nobody, godammit, nobody could have eyes that were that green. The man was not normal.
Axel knew Leon when they went to university together. They met when they were just 18. Bachelor of Biological Sciences. Year One. They became (somewhat) friends on their first day. It was a pity Axel was thrown out in the span of two days following enrolment. He blew up one of the science labs. Apparently he misread (read: ignored) the warning signs on the doors regarding carrying flammable items into the premises. How in the hell was he supposed to know that his cigarette lighter would ultimately be the cause of the laboratory's untimely demise?
Strangely enough, the redhead had remained Leon's pal ever since.
Ah yes, Leon. There was a lot to know about this young man's back story.
Squall Leonhart. 23 five months ago. He preferred the pseudonym 'Leon' seeing as the kids back in high school used to laugh at his bona fide name. "What the hell kind of name is Squall?" they would say, pointing and giggling behind his unturned back. Yeah, so he took up a more manly identity and christened himself after his last name. He could've come up with something more imaginative and original. But noooo, he had to name himself after his last name. Leon wasn't always known for his creativity.
At 17, the then-unemployed individual graduated from Sunset High and enrolled himself at the local university. There, he met the Obnoxious But Strangely Charming Redhead, who went by the name of Axel Onér. They were both doing the same degree, it seemed. That was, until Axel got the boot.
And so, Leon was left to graduate with his bachelor degree in Bio Science without the redhead friend he had made on day one. To be honest, once attained, Leon didn't know what the hell he was going to do with such a degree. He was stumped. He believed it was the end of the road for him… But, at age 23, his dad got him to take over their family coffee bar. Laguna claimed he was much too old to stay in the business. "Son," he announced one day with a huge-ass smile on his face, "I'm handing over the reigns of the Caffeine Fixation bar to you!"
And that was how it all started.
When the original staff quit (they claimed Leon was nothing like his kindly old pops), the poor guy had to go off in search of a new crew to help him mend the bar. The first person he went to was Axel.
"Hey, Ax. You lookin' for a job?"
Axel, ever-searching for employment since being kicked out of uni, was more than happy to work for the Leonhart.
Leon managed to hire two others, Larxene and Xigbar. But then Larxene declared Caffeine Fixation to be 'a fucking hole in the ground' and left shortly after employment. Xigbar got arrested for selling marijuana on the streets and never came back to work. So the bar was pretty underhanded for a few weeks following that. Leon was distraught. But luckily for the desperado, Axel knew of a friend who was looking for a full-time job.
Cue Cloud Strife. The young man was always in need of some form of cash to survive. Cloud never came from a good family. He moved out as soon as he was old enough. Prior to his permanent placement at The Fix, he'd been doing odd jobs in order to earn enough to feed himself and keep the water and electricity running in his dingy one-room flat. But he was getting tired of babysitting and toilet cleaning. Selling coffee at a classy café seemed like a nice change. Following his resignation from university, the blonde had agreed to work as soon as Axel sought him out.
Except, when Cloud finally met his boss, he immediately decided that he didn't like him. Not one bit.
The only thing that really held him back from stabbing Leon in the eye with a spork was that he was The Boss Man. The only thing holding him back from quitting and never seeing said boss ever again was the fact that the pay was pretty darn good. And the job wasn't that bad. It just included the extra effort of enduring Mister Arrogant Bastard With The Smug I-Totally-Own-You-And-Your-Mom Face. Also, on the plus side, working alongside Axel could be pretty amusing and interesting sometimes.
Back to the matter at hand, Cloud was muttering something about dead lions, bloodied hearts and bitchy supervisors.
"Is he gone yet?" the blond finally whispered lowly to Axel.
The redhead looked back to check the kitchen doorway. "Yeah. Think he went out the back door to make a call."
Cloud let out a sigh of relief. One day, he was pretty sure Leon would drive him mad and be the definite cause of his sad death. One day. The damned guy was always breathing down his neck and watching him like a hawk that wanted to scratch his eyes out (or a vulture that wanted to eat him whole).
Whoa. Bad thoughts. Yuck. Ew.
Cloud shook his head in disgust and looked up just in time to see their first customer of the day step into the bar through the glass doors. He heaved a dismal sigh and proceeded to the front of the counter.
Welcome to The Fix. May I take your goddamn order, you fag with the pink 'do?
And so, the day began, like it always had for the past six months.
Author's Note: Yep, horribly short, I know. But I guess that's usually how prologues are. I suppose. Future chapters following this one will be much, much, much longer.