Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the story idea and only some of the witty remarks. I own so little; so please don't steal.
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Ludwig did not like drive-thru duty. It was a fast-paced, money-counting, occasionally chilly mess of work. People complained if you gave them one cent less than they were due; they made a fuss if you somehow 'pulled their money out of their hands in a violent manner'. Not that he had done that, or even meant to do that (of course, there were people he wished he had) – but that wasn't the point.
The point was that he was stuck at the fast food joint to help pay for college and he was too socially awkward to work the counters. With this disability, he was exiled in a back corner to count change and accept payment for customers too busy to stop in and eat at a table.
Laborious work, but necessary, sadly. He considered getting a new job.
Somehow he never got around to doing it. He had no one else to blame but himself. Sometimes he berated himself silently at the window when traffic was light. Other times, he counted how many red cars went through the drive-thru. It wasn't a very mentally stimulating job, that was for sure.
Afternoons were the worst; the sun blared in your eyes in a teasing manner, there was lot of cars, and the idea that you were wasting away a perfectly good Friday afternoon at a part-time job was irritating. When there was a lot of traffic, money tended to fly in all different directions; the perfectionist side of him prevented him from being physically okay with the stack of bills in the drawer being haphazardly shoved in – no, they had to perfectly filed and stacked neatly. He could control coins no more than he could control water, but something always possessed him to keep all the heads side up.
Again, it wasn't a very mentally stimulating job.
The coworkers barely made it better. He was socially awkward with customers, but even more so with the people he'd been working with for over a year. One of the chefs was a colorful character; he whined about breaking a nail before working the grills. Ludwig swore he caught Feliks painting his nails one afternoon over a stack of raw meat and promised himself never to order food from the joint again. The manager during his shifts was a nice if not…unique sort of woman – Elizavita treated everyone nicely but Ludwig had his suspicions that she was trying to set them all up with each other. That probably wouldn't be a big issue, if more than half of them had not been guys.
It was all for higher education. Ludwig kept that in mind every time he took up his post again. He needed the money, and it could be worse.
On a particularly mundane day, an order for an iced coffee with extra whipped cream (Ludwig was a bit afraid of this person and he hadn't even laid eyes on the customer yet) appeared on the screen, and when Ludwig opened the window to announce that the total came up to three-forty, three-fifty with drink tax, he heard the car come sputtering up. It was a tiny thing, painted in a washed green, bobbing up and down although the pavement was smooth. In fact, Ludwig swore the driver himself was making noises with the car's bouncing movements.
"Hi…your total is three-fifty…" The cleaner in Ludwig twitched at the sight of the car; even before he looked at the driver, the backseat was covered in hastily shoved in canvases and other various papers were stick out of the cracks. An artist then; and he turned to the driver, a flustered-looking brunette who was scrambling for his wallet.
"Ah…hold on~…I got it somewhere…!" This was a boy no older than him, really. Perhaps one or two years younger; nevertheless, his hands were speckled with various colors of paint. Ludwig hadn't responded but the boy was blabbering on something he wasn't paying attention to. This kid was keeping up the line.
"Ah, I got it~!" Holding up a glass jar full of loose change, the boy looked triumphant. "Three-fifty, did you say?" It took the artist a couple of seconds to actually open the jar, then struggle to find the right amount of money. Ludwig resisted the urge to take jar and throw it back on this bothersome patron.
"Maybe…and this is just a suggestion…but perhaps you could get a coin purse to actually hold your change."
The brunette looked up at him, a bit dazed as if he hadn't even noticed Ludwig was there. His eyes widened slightly; bright honey brown, and he turned back to the jar, shaking out a few coins here and there. "It was on my list of things to do, but I never got onto that."
Ludwig sort of understood that feeling, but any sympathy was destroyed when the boy started counting out one cent coins. "Thirty…thirty-one…thirty-two…"
There was a faint beep of a disgruntled car behind them in the line. Ludwig sighed, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, reached out his hand. "Mind if I find the correct amount?"
The boy stared up at him again. "I guess so…" Handing over the jar hesitantly, he watched as Ludwig pulled out the necessary coins much faster than his rate. "Wow, you found them fast!" When Ludwig held out the jar, the brunette took it, along with Ludwig's hand and shook it. "My name's Feliciano Vargas. Hi!"
"Hi." This was not a job interview and Elizavita was giving him a pointed look and gesturing to the line behind this car. "You can drive on through to the next window."
"Oh...but…isn't it normal to introduce your own self when someone introduces themselves?"
"Maybe in other circumstances, but you're holding up the line."
"Oh!" Feliciano smiled sheepishly, his face scattered with an embarrassed pink as he shifted the car back to drive. "I'm sorry! It was nice meeting you, scary man." Before Ludwig could say anything, the car bounced off again.
It was another iced coffee with extra cream that warned Ludwig, and then he opened the window again, Feliciano's face was beaming up at him. "Hi scary man! I'm back again!"
"So it appears." Ludwig hoped this Feliciano person was not going to be a regular. It was a tad creepy that he'd shown up at the same time as a couple of days ago. He hoped it wasn't going to be something along the lines of stalking.
"I've got the right change today!" Feliciano announced, holding up a fistful of change. He was in the midst of handing it out to Ludwig when a couple of coins fell out of his grasp onto the ground. "Oops!" Ludwig bit back a groan when Feliciano opened the car door and reached for the fallen money. It was this sort of thing that got other customers upset and antsy and they usually took it out on him.
"Here you go!" Feliciano grinned as if he hadn't bothered anyone and slid back into the car. "And smile! It's a great day!"
Just wonderful. Ludwig glanced back to the backseat, where it was still cluttered with canvases. "Do you paint?" he asked, knowing there was a car waiting in line behind Feliciano's green one.
"Hmm?" Looking back, the brunette suddenly became more animated. "Yup! I love painting! And art in general! I was going to major in it, but my grandpa said I should go into business instead. I've got a good hand at that! My brother's jealous of me, but don't tell him so…"
"So you're in college?" Stop. Shut up and let him go. "Where do you go?" Why was he so social all of a sudden anyway? It had to be the fumes from the paint; Feliciano's hands were speckled with purple.
"Oh…the one down the street. With the big lawn…oh! I should probably move, right? Ah, I'll see you later scary man!" With a hasty half wave, Feliciano bumped off before Ludwig could make the observation that they attended the same university. But maybe it was for the better; if Feliciano was indeed stalking him, at least this would be the only place it would happen.
When the coffee order came around a couple days after, Feliciano didn't speak at first; after bumping his way to the window, he thrust the coin jar at Ludwig before staring at him resolutely. It was a bit odd to be stared at, but as Ludwig continued counting out the change, Feliciano stared at him wordlessly.
Feliciano blinked, then shook his head a bit, as if clearing it. "What?"
"My name. Ludwig Weillschmidt."
Feliciano blinked again before grinning and extending his hand. "I'm Feliciano Vargas!"
"You told me." Ludwig handed the change jar back without a word. Feliciano took his, before giving Ludwig's face another long stare. "Is there something on my face?"
This seemed to jolt the brunette back to reality again. "Nothing! I mean, there's nothing on your face…and I'm not doing anything…well, I'm going to get my coffee…and that's doing something…" He broke off in snatches of other excuses before shaking his head and smiling at Ludwig again, his face slightly pink. "Well, have a good day, Ludwig!"
"You…" Feliciano stepped on the gas, more than slightly eager to get away and nearly missed the next window. "…too."
Ludwig thought it was more than a bit odd when Feliciano started coming almost daily, religiously in the same hour as always. The order changed sometimes; one day a salad, the other a milkshake, but the routine remained the same. The artist never got a change purse for the times he drove by, either counting out the coins – or more frequently, handing the jar to Ludwig so he could get a good stare in.
Ludwig thought it too rude to ask, although on the other hand, it was rude to stare.
When the green car came bumping through the drive-thru again one afternoon, Ludwig was ready (surprised slightly why the order had actually turned into a sandwich, extra tomatoes) with his hand out when the driver turned out to be different – he looked like Feliciano, but he somehow wasn't.
The look-alike stared at him for a moment, with more prejudice eyes than Feliciano's. "You?" he said finally, his voice a bit lower and more sarcastic than his twin's. "You're scary-man-Ludwig?"
"I am." This was turning out to be of an rude tone. "And you would be…?"
"Romano Vargas, Feliciano's brother." Romano, it turned out, seemed more on top of things – pulling out a wallet, he was able to deal with money a lot easier than his brother could. "Though I hardly share his enthusiasm of you. You're barely more than average."
"Thank you," Ludwig replied, unsure of exactly how to handle this sort of compliment – thank-you always worked.
"A bit off center, though," Romano muttered, his stare a couple notches too scrutinizing for Ludwig's tastes. "The nose, I mean."
He was unaware his nose was off center. And who was it this boy's place to tell him so anyway? "Here's your change," Ludwig said stiffly, hoping he would go away. Romano flung the coins behind him, the metal clattering as they fell over themselves on the canvas.
"A lighter blonde, I suppose," Romano continued, squinting and cocking his head to get a better look at Ludwig. "Captured the scariness well, actually…"
"If you don't mind, you can pull forward."
"I don't mind, kraut. I don't usually eat here; make sure there are a lot of tomatoes okay? Thanks. For nothing." With a grumble, Romano drove forward, muttering more to himself in Italian. Ludwig frowned. That was unusual.
"I met your brother a while ago last week."
"Did you! Was he nice?" When Ludwig replied with a brief glance while depositing the offering of change in the drawer, Feliciano looked sympathetic. "Romano doesn't deal with people very well. I'm sorry about that."
"It's not your problem."
"He can be pleasant, believe it or not. Sometimes, though. When he thinks no one is watching and Antonio hasn't said anything stupid yet." Feliciano laughed. "You must have caught him on an off day. He had a fight with Antonio a few days ago."
Deciding not to point out that he had no idea who this Antonio guy was (he knew a young Romantic literature professor by the name Carriedo, but there could be no relation, possibly), Ludwig counted the amount in his hand carefully. "You're missing about five cents," he announced.
"Am I? Sorry about that!" Breaking off the staring match, Feliciano reached behind to the back, groping around at the canvases. "Romano said he had some spare change in the back…but…"
Feliciano wore his clothes well, Ludwig decided. He wasn't checking out an almost random stranger in a car, but he was willing to say that Feliciano definitely looked good in his choice of apparel. Again, he wasn't checking anyone out. He just happened to notice because Feliciano had contorted his body in a strange manner (he didn't think humanly possible) to find some change in the backseat of the car. So he got a view. Not a good view, but a view.
"Here you go!" Almost throwing the change in his hand, Feliciano squealed when their hands touched briefly at the exchange. "Wow!" he cried, before suddenly trying to downplay it with, "Didn't you just feel that shock?"
Seeing as there was no carpeting and any electric shock a car could give would be close to deadly, Ludwig couldn't say he had.
"I'm just going to go now!" Feliciano said quickly, struggling to get the car moving again. "And…um…ah…have a nice day!"
Another day, another stare.
Ludwig had to admit he didn't know Feliciano Vargas very well. He knew the bare basics and he knew what sort of person he was, but there were a lot of things he didn't know or understand about the Italian artist. They hadn't really talked about things other than art or change or changing the shock absorbers on the car. He thought it was awkward to say anything else; after all, it was a drive-thru; people didn't stay longer than possible.
He didn't really understand why Feliciano always kept coming. There were better places to eat.
He had finished neatly stacking every bill in the drawer in one direction when he heard the bumpy car drive up again. There was no order on the screen and it was a slow period; Feliks was telling everyone who would listen that he had just found a pair of really nice heels that he wasn't sure fit in with an outfit he had. Opening the window, Ludwig was prepared to hear that Feliciano had completely missed the ordering area and what would he like?
Ludwig hadn't gotten his mouth open when a canvas was hastily shoved into the window. "HereyougothisiswhyI'-bye!" With a loud sputtering of the engine, the car sped off.
With Feliciano gone and no reason to avert his attention elsewhere, Ludwig looked at the painting on the canvas in his hands. It was a startlingly good rendering of him on drive-thru duty. Everything had been captured well – like a photo. This picture was like a photo.
The story behind the long moments of staring and Romano's uncalled for comments suddenly was told in loving fashion.
Feliks had been distracted and was now trying to turn the canvas over to see the picture. As Ludwig was suddenly faced with the stark white of the back of the canvas while his co-workers marveled (and Feliks gushed), he saw in large, loopy letters Feliciano Vargas, freshman and a phone number; to contact the artist, Ludwig assumed.
He didn't know if this meant the end of Feliciano's visitations to the drive-thru. It was something he had grown to get used to.
There was one way to ensure it wasn't.
"Hello? Feliciano speaking!"
Note: To no one's surprise, the owner of the franchise that Ludwig works at is named Alfred F. Jones. Don't hate, guys, this one hits close to home. Yes, I did just insinuate that Romano's having an affair with a teacher! It's a moe of mine; in fact, in the early stages of As If the Year Wasn't Hard Enough the fic was going to be a multishot and one of the arcs was going to be the issue of teacher-student relationships. I changed it to avoid the raciness. But I believe that the brief time you take to pay someone, you can fall in love. Review, please?