Nothing could quite capture the chipper attitude Yusei had when I stepped in. The tune he hummed mirrored the birds outside with ease, and there were even more pancakes this morning. I smiled at the surprise until I realized he had somehow retrieved the crutches.
"How did you escape?" He didn't reply right away, instead flipping a pancake. As he added the buttermilk goodness to the giant stack, I noted the whip cream and strawberries beside them.
"It was Miguel again, wasn't it?" I asked, but by now, he probably met a Beatrice and a Lenny for all I knew. Yusei smiled separating a couple of pancakes from the stack.
"He wanted his toolbox back," he offered as he added whip cream to his stack along with two strawberries. It really made me wonder how he even got to the door or why he hadn't left for sweet freedom right after. Right, I still had something he wanted, and he was too logical to ever consider searching the cookie jar.
"That wasn't too difficult for you?" Letting him decide how guilty I should feel about it, his face didn't reveal any possible vexation from the ordeal. He didn't even look particularly smug. He simply separated out another stack and handed the plate to me. I went ahead and added the whip cream and strawberries myself (so fancy).
We ate at a fairly regular pace. I tried very hard not to make a squeak of contentment in case he planned to use this as leverage for the return of his deck. He did give me a look when I went back for seconds. I froze, but he didn't say anything and simply watched as if I were a bird who had just landed on the window sill, a surprise that could easily go away at a moment's notice. I risked getting seconds. He gave a polite nod, before getting up to wash his plate. A shoved more pancake in my mouth than I planned now that I found myself alone as well as borderline late. Plate clean, besides the syrupy remains, I chugged the milk. I made a swift motion for my laptop and camera so I could head out. Yusei tapped my shoulder.
"The disguise," he reminded me, causing me to curse a little. Considering how late I was, I wasn't looking forward to dragging him around on his one functioning leg. Well, I did break it, and I did get up early to find something that would make him a little less recognizable, which led to a fairly awkward question.
"Are you okay with makeup?" I loved the way he fidgeted a little at the question, muttering something about being a bad influence on Rua, whoever that might be. His mouth opened a little, and he touched the marker in a reflexive way. He gingerly put his hand down and nodded, accepting the need for it. Unless he wanted a mask, a certain witch made that a bit of a taboo around this area(It was a fairly big attention grabber as it was).
I took the impromptu make up kit out. I made sure to get a dark oil base shade so it wouldn't be so obvious that he was covered in it. It's not like no one had thought of this trick before, but I had called Saiga extremely early yesterday or late in my case to ask how to apply it properly, giving me a well deserved boost of confidence. He winced a little as I caked the stuff on (the thing was bright yellow). The final product looked fairly convincing. There was that hair. I didn't really want to dye it so. I was lazy about it.
"And I got you a hat" He seemed grateful that it wasn't anything too drastic. He took the cap willingly. The volume of it caved from the force of Yusei's hand easily. I had expected more of a struggle, but it fit under the hat without much effort. Pleased but horrendously late, I struggled to think of a polite way to hurry him along. He moved to the door with large confident leaps.
"Work?" he asked when I gaped at him. I fumbled with my keys until I pulled myself together enough to the lock the door. There wasn't much to the rest of the trip. Mostly I spazzed from my lateness and lack of actual good news to give to my boss. The yellow cab got us there although I worried about the way Yusei eyed the noisy motor with a critical eye. He better not touch the sputtering beaut. I liked it that way. Well, I was already late so I waited for him outside the building and held the door for him. He seemed flustered by this as he mumbled something about being able to hold the door himself. Yusei accepted the help anyway. We were holding up the reporters who actually had news to report.
"Wait here," I told him once we arrived at my boss's door. Here I go, solo. I tensed once I shut the door behind me. He hadn't noticed me yet. Up on his message board was a map of the city, a picture of Yusei was plastered on it with a bunch of thumb tacks used to mark possible locations. Well, I figured as much from, the where the hell is he, sign, thumb tacked beside it. From what I heard, he was not in a good mood. The call ended all too soon, and he turned to me.
"What do you have for me Carly?" my boss asked expectantly with a nefarious grin( The mustache didn't help.) He may have always pressured me and called me more than he should on stake outs, but he did always expect me to bring in the best stuff, my reputation proceeds me. There were the times when . . . I was two steps away from being fired.
"Nothing, I couldn't find him and security was too tight around Jack," I said with a straight face. A resounding growl that lasted long enough to make his moustache flutter in the wind followed my bad news.
"Carly, you always find a way," he said, furrowing his brows as he noticed me twitch. I took a deep breath, letting myself smile a little. He still looked like an extremely hungry bear that I'd poked with a stick.
"Nada," I said again. I consoled myself with the fact he wouldn't believe me anyway.
"Carly, I put up with a lot of your silly antics. Once I asked you to cover a store opening, and you came back with a full expose on a robbery that happened next store. That's great and all," he adjusted his britches. He'd cut back on the sandwiches and it showed, a little too much sometimes. I closed my eyes. Here it comes.
"But you're too inconsistent, you haven't brought me anything good in weeks. You're fired," he said. My jaw dropped. He actually did it this time. Oh, the rents coming up and the electric bills after that and . . .
"O- o-kk-ay," I stuttered, thinking of kittens and pancakes to stop the tears. The door opened. He didn't. My boss ran to the door. He did. Yusei had taken off the makeup and hat, disguise be damned. My boss grabbed Yusei by the shoulder as if to make sure he was really there. He ignored that.
"Excuse me, are you ready for lunch Carly?" he asked like it was no big deal, and they did this sort of thing all the time. My boss picked up on it right away.
"You and her are," he started to say as he connected the dots, which all added up to, firing Carly, big mistake.
"Dating, she actually wanted to interview me today for your newspaper, but I suppose that won't be necessary," Yusei said, taking it a step further. I could feel my cheeks heat up, and the only other time that happened usually involved me falling along with some other sticky substance. Bless him and curse him all at the same time. Other than that, I didn't confirm it. I didn't deny it either. A spotlight was on me and I had no idea what to do. My boss recovered first. He helped me up. I guess I should pick up some stuff I have here as silly and worthless as it was.
"Carly, you should have said you were still working on it, of course you can have more time," he said, guiding me to the door and not so subtly pushing us together. My brain didn't get it.
"But you just," I said.
"Gave you some vacation time," he said, attempting to bribe me. Something occurred to me. Experience taught me vacation time meant less money. I had a trump card this time.
"With pay," I added. He looked at Yusei before begrudgingly turning to me again, wondering how the hell that happened but knowing it was in his best interest to support it. That was my take on it anyway, maybe, he was cursing Yusei for having to hire me again.
"Fine," he said. Feeling brazen enough for it, I gave him a hug. He sputtered but took the abrupt invasion of personal space anyway.
"Thanks, if I'm not around, you'll know where I'll be," I said. It wasn't confident if anything it sounded doubtful. Yusei made another move and did the classic arm on shoulder trick. It caused two dollar signs to appear over my boss's eyes. We managed to keep a steady rhythm as we made it outside, despite our sudden close proximity. He wasn't leaning on me too much. I had to give him credit for keeping coordinated. Only when we reached the door did I think of the disguise, I couldn't put makeup on him in public. The same thing must have occurred to him. There couldn't have been any other reason to do something so incriminating in front of a newspaper office. He picked me up keeping steady hold while holding both his crutches with his other hand. And, we were close enough to kiss. I've never been so sweaty or conscious of my strawberry chap stick, my one dollar fruity chap stick. A heard a click from the office. It didn't just happen. Did it look like we . . .? He had started walking. It hadn't occurred to anyone inside to chase us, no wonder I never got fired- well mostly. No one else seemed to have my instincts to chase these stories. Everyone who walked by only saw the back of my head, the idea was kind of brilliant, so I ignored how my arms trembled, I wasn't doing the heavy lifting anyhow.
We were lucky I parked in front of the building. I was lucky he was amazingly strong and didn't make us both crash to the ground. He put me down, quickly retrieving his hat. Keeping his head low, he made his way to the other side of the car. Inside, I handed him the makeup from my satchel. So, I did think to stop for lunch after Yusei had made such a big deal about it while purposely saving my ass. It's the least I could do.
"Are we actually . . ." I could see a mild panic course through him as he wondered if I believed anything he had said. He was back to Yusei ninja mode, all tense and ready to dash into the distance. It wasn't something I wanted to deal with. It's not like I'd even considered it before he said it.
"Thanks," It was enough to calm him down and regain his composure. Somehow, the lack of a visible marker seemed to make him less intimidating and more his age. Perhaps it was all the negative connotations I have of markers, but I could see him walking into a grocery store and buying a candy bar no problem. It was nice just seeing him as a regular human being who didn't have the entire world on his shoulders, today at least. The little Italian place had a nice assortment of pasta, and he ordered milk of all things. He blushed a little when they mentioned it usually was something kids ordered. I asked for a milkshake, also from the kid's menu which seemed to help him get past it.
As I ate, he twirled his fork into his pasta, but didn't particularly make a move to eat. I ignored that and ate my own. Once I was a third of the way done, he took a bite before looking off into the distance.
"I have to go," It wasn't overly firm like he wasn't expecting it to have much affect on me. Good, I had spent the majority of the last few days saying no. He never gave up. I didn't see it as much of a virtue this go round. We were eating lunch for one.
"Do we really have to discuss this now?" I asked, and the tiredness seeped into my voice. I hadn't had time for coffee this morning.
"Yeah," he said, not so much out of obliviousness but more, so we could actually have a civil conversation about it.
"I suppose I could go and keep an eye on you if you must go," It was better than getting arrested. Faked tawdry antics aside, someone must have seen them. That and besides that one isolated incident, it didn't look like the world was going to end.
"You can't," he said, not sounding very concerned for my welfare at all. He was irritated. Welcome to the club.
"Why? I'm more able bodied than you are at the moment," Ignoring the spectacle of Yusei carrying me on one foot, my logic was completely sound. He continued to twirl the spaghetti into a bigger ball.
" You'd get in the way, and this is important. It's not some tournament. I don't need a tag along," he said, and a cement block might as well of hit my stomach the way it came out. Apparently, he didn't find me helpful at all, about as good as a puppy. Whatever, I'd be an adorable puppy.
"I get it. Since I'm not some magical fairy that can heal your leg, I can't do any more to help you," The words came out like sharp quiet little daggers as I glared at him. I could see when he flinched at every sarcastic word. As foreign as it was, I find myself smiling at that. Still, he'd had a rough couple of days. I should lay off.
"I'll drive you to the director's tomorrow. Provided, he doesn't come to us first," If they did get a photo of me, I wasn't as ready to disappear as Saiga was, even if I had fewer close ties than he did.
"Thanks," he almost added something else, but the glare I gave him quieted him. Yusei started eating the giant glorified meat chunk in smile bites. I attacked the rest of my meal. I was hungry really. There wasn't further talking, until after I paid for the meal with my one and only credit card. He looked at the empty milk bottle instead of me.
"Carly, I didn't mean to insult you. It's just not your fight, and there really isn't anything you can do. And about the article, no one would" . . . believe you, I finished the thought for him. I snapped the metal chair back into place so I heard a satisfied clink afterwards. I tossed him the phone and didn't bother looking at him either.
"Here, enjoy being outside for a while, call my home phone when you're ready for me to pick you up," I told him. As the responsible party, I'd done what I could. If magical entities wanted to harm this guy so badly, what else could I do really? He already had the whole magic dragon force field going on. After everything I did without such protection, I was deemed useless. I do hope we run into each other again, literally. I'd get a kick out of the coincidence.
"Carly," he started to say something again. I didn't let him try to take what he said back. I could tell he meant it. I'm a reporter, some peoples' idea of annoying. I had a few days before my boss would start asking questions. I would just tell him we broke up when he did and if he fired me again, well, maybe, getting another scoop would change his mind.
"I'll hand over the deck in the morning," I cut him off. Yusei sighed, and he reminded me more of a kid who lost his ball than anything with that cap on.
"All right,' he said. The lady that served us seemed worried about my hasty retreat. I could see him start to talk to her from the corner of my eye. Good luck lady. I let my head hit the soft padding. This was stupid. What did it matter what this unknown out of the blue star-kid thought of me? He's the king, but that didn't mean all that much. It could have been a fluke. No one saw the end of it. Come to think of it, It's probably when he saw all the mystical junk. Crazy, infuriatingly ready to die, Yusei, soon, you won't be my problem anymore. Thanks for fixing the dishwasher and for the pancakes, if only you actually cared. I'm not really sure you do, about me anyway. I took out my fortune deck. Hey, guys, I know I've been neglecting you but could I ask I question. What does Yusei think of me? I shouldn't care, but you know how easily I get attached.
The little red pixie, En, stared back at me. My fortune today is uncertain, but I should remember things are stronger when united. I wasn't turning the car around if that's what they were thinking. I left my satchel by the door and went immediately into my room. I attempted to land dramatically on my bed, but I hit my head on the headboard. Half heartedly hitting the board with my fist, I fell asleep easily because of my late night yesterday. My home phone didn't buzz until very late. Part of me thought, he'd never actually call. I could see him convincing some taxi driver to take him to the director's house for free. I trudged over to the phone anyway. The few words we exchanged were generic and pretty much ended with the swift pick up of Yusei. He didn't leave the little Italian joint. The girl he had talked to all that time was Stephanie apparently. Very pleasant and cheery, except, she was changing jobs to some overpriced coffee place because they paid better. He was a little upset he wouldn't be able to find her again. He'd never heard of the place. There were hints that he wanted me to tell him where he might find it. I only nodded along and feigned interest. He just loves to hear everyone's life story. Actually, he'd never asked for mine, not that it matters. He probably had a good idea how she lived by now. He'd seen it, he'd heard it, and now, he was ready to stop the next major disaster since the darkness incident her mother had told her about. She hoped this disaster wouldn't be that wide spread at least.
"Yusei, sleep in my bed tonight," she hadn't phrased that right, but he understood. Yusei had given up arguing with her for the time being.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Carly," he said. The silence that followed made them both turn away. I lay on the couch and hoped the seething anger would disappear with more sleep. Something about that boy just seemed to bring out my anger. The darkness in her dreams remarked dryly that's what she got for meeting the wrong boy.