Summary: Falkner wanted a nice job and a steady summer. He did not want insufferable coworkers, hormonal college students, Wham!, whipped bosses, blood sacrifices, Avril Lavigne, or any of this damn sexual frustration. Falkner/Janine and more. FOURSHOT
Pairings: Fatherly, Special, OldRival, MangaQuest, Airplane, and others.
Rating: Strictly T for mild language and mature references
Warnings
: Half-adults learning to deal with their hormones, girls being yuri, some spontaneous pop culture references, Organized!Falkner, crazy college classes, summer stress, Green being a Good Samaritan, birds, Mesoamerican rituals, super subtle advances, Sabrina being single, and a whole lot of caffeine.
Note: A oneshot that got way too out of hand, a now shortfic consisting of about 4 chapters, more or less. An early bird birthday present for Ice Krystal, my bro here on FFn! Her b-day's actually on November 13th, but I got really excited with this thing, plus it's kinda not finished yet since this is like the first part. Happy birthday, dearie, enjoy your first dose of caffeine here! You get complete nonsense on a silver platter with several servings of shippings and a whole lot of kids being kids. Or young adults. Young adults in a coffee shop/café. Welcome to Hot Vanilla Sacrifices, dear!
Note 2: I think I started crying around 12K words. How did this happen. This wasn't supposed to happen.
Disclaimer: Pokemon is a dream in the distance, kiddos.


Hot Vanilla Sacrifices


May


To Falkner, summer was one of those seasons that was too appreciated.

Well, sure, it wasn't like he despised the season. A time to get away from classes, relax to the best of your abilities, and do your best to place yourself within a fifteen foot radius of or warmly embrace those who invoked overly excitable frat parties and mornings of waking up with rabbit-fur fuzzy memories of what the hell had just happened the previous night before if you could blink your eyes past the splitting hangover that told you just why you couldn't. Falkner, of course, was the former. For one, he had more important things to do than bump and grind with random strangers (not that he wanted to in the first place), and secondly, his job made him dead-man-walking stressed after every time he came home.

Oh, his job.

A quaint place, he had thought, with its tiny rectangular frame that squeezed in through the surrounding four story-five story buildings that surrounded it. Just looking up at his had made his heart soothe and his body melt. The luminescent, flickering letters blatantly screaming HOT VANILLA in his unsuspecting face, the white light splashing on him through the evening. The inside, even, had given him that home-like feeling that gave him a nice, fluffy green chair right next to the shelves where at least fifty bags of coffee gathered. The service for the little café had seemed decent enough, and the coffee suited his likings. It wasn't even that far from his apartment, either.

So, sitting there, laptop set in his lap comfortably, he smirked to himself as he remembered the thing that had caught his eye in the first place, the thing that he actually cared about, the HELP WANTED sign that decorated the window.

Falkner a year later, looking back at the merry youth that had consumed every lie and piece of utter deception that had been smacked into his face and shoved down his throat, he could practically feel regret clawing at his throat like a taunting bear.

To be honest, Falkner just did it to a) have excuses not to do things, and b) have something that helped pay his half of the rent and save the apartment when his roommate decided it would be a good idea not to (which in such roommate learned very quickly that it was a very very bad idea to do so). Of course, if said roommate had not ditched his more-than-filthy-rich parents, then maybe dealing with said apartment wouldn't be such a chore. Maybe he wouldn't have had noticed the sloppily-painted sign that plead for help like a starving prisoner. Maybe he wouldn't be stuck working at a damn café during the summer. Maybe he could go home and spend some time with his pets (except for Sneakers, Sneakers was a fat, lazy sunuvabitch that gargled his own drool and nearly ate Wanda twenty-six times).

Yes, Falkner hated his job, especially during the summer, because during the summer, his sweeter-than-honeycombs boss abandoned the team to go on an "All-summer trip!" with her gadget-genius boyfriend. And like last summer, Falkner foresighted, they could come back bearing gifts-not-for-you, inappropriately cheerful smiles on their faces, and way too much happy for the near-literally dying employees behind the counter. Also just like last summer, she would leave her Grinch-grumpy little brother in charge and make it hell for all of Hot Vanilla.

Said little brother was mostly grumpy because he had better things to do than look over a shop all day, much less one named "Hot Vanilla". "I feel too much like a woman." He had said. Falkner, though kept to himself, digressed. He particularly liked vanilla.

But Falkner guessed that was the power of being on the other side of the counter. Just entering the shop, ordering, and sitting down at one of the comfy, fall-colored chairs was pretty blissful, he had to admit, but when you stepped behind the register, it was like you had fallen off the edge of heaven, hit several mountainsides, and tumbled a couple miles until you hit a fairly large rock that left you laid there, lost, helpless, pained, and kind of bored.

But anyways, since the summer had already started, lovely boss-lady and her boyfriend had already acquired a couple of certain cruise tickets, out of all things, early and had left as soon as her just-as-lovely kid brother entered summer break. Falkner was put on more hours, and the days seemed to drag on even longer, not that the slow, literal lengthening of the days helped much.

Of course, then came the coworkers.

"Y'know, Fal, if you would just stop making those constipated faces when you manned the register, maybe Boss-man wouldn't be such a bitch to you."

Falkner groaned, and rubbed his exhausted eyes.

"I am not making const—"

"Falkner, you were drooling again."

"No, I wasn't." Falkner grumbled, quickly swiping at his mouth. He was.

"He means 'Thank you, Yellow, I'm sorry for being such an irrational tightass all the time.'"

"Hey!"

"'And maybe I shouldn't dye my hair unreasonable colors like blue. Wow, Sabrina's always right.'"

"It's natural. Your hair is practically blue, too."

"'I shouldn't be such a whiny, sarcastic, impatient little—'"

"Shut up, Sabrina."

Among the list graciously titled "Things I Would Very Much Like to Dig Graves for as Well as Push down All by Myself", Sabrina was number 3 on that list.

"Guys, there are customers." Yellow sighed, her arms folded tightly. Her face read "I'm ready to be calm and patient with all of you", which Falkner greatly appreciated, but nails that dug into her little arms said "I'm doing my absolute best not to strangle the crap out of both of you please shut up."

Falkner admired her resistance.

"None of which are at the register right now, they can do what they want." Sabrina said, grinning ferally.

Now Falkner didn't hate Sabrina. Sure, she was cocky, pretty straightforwardly evil, too cunning for anyone's tastes, more than kind of creepy, laughed or took enjoyment at inappropriate times, danced on people's graves at night, and more (of course, that last one was a native myth, but everybody was pretty sure of it either way), but Falkner, through blood, sweat, tears, and about thirteen occasions of blackmail, got used to her.

"Fun" wasn't the preferred word to describe the spawn-of-the-devil that wore a red Hot Vanilla apron on a daily basis. "Interesting" was better, and usually the word he liked to use since he couldn't really think of anything positive to shorten "the woman who threatens to bolt me to an iron slap and pull my fingernails out one by one if I don't hurry up with the cinnamon rolls".

Alright, so maybe she wasn't that malicious. Just snarky. Really snarky. Snark like Whoa. Johnny B. Snark. Ooh-Eeh-Ooh-Ah-Ah-Ting-Tang-Walla-Walla-Bing-Snark. You get the picture.

Yellow, on the other hand, was a fairly tolerable young woman. Between Sabrina scalding annoying customers hands with hot coffee and turning off the Wi-Fi at when she got angry just to see the customers squirm, and Falkner complaining about who dis-color coded the mugs again and rolling on the floor (sometimes literally) pleading to be executed quickly and painlessly, Yellow was a goddess. A great force that balanced the two and made sure that the roof didn't collapse (which actually nearly happened once, you would wonder who didn't notice the suspicious rumbling ever time another lump of snow smacked into the somewhat-caving ceiling). She was tolerant, a good listener, and frequently stopped by her local Wegmans to pick up organic groceries.

Nonetheless, her temper was quite the sight to see, the last time involved two hours of cleanup and enough bleach to hide a murder scene. Falkner, for one, was not too pleased with getting plates different from the ones they already had and had been monstrously destroyed at the same time, but Boss-lady told him that maybe he shouldn't have ignored Sabrina when she decided it would be a good idea to set up a cellophane trap in the doorway of the back room where she knew Yellow had been nursing her still-wet art projects.

"Why are there still customers here anyways?" Falkner asked. "We're about to close up soon anyways."

All eyes shamelessly shot to the clock mounted just above the door to the back room.

Sabrina groaned, scrunching her nose in distaste. "Probably enjoying their lovely little summer vacations. Look at those kids over there, sappy little brats sharing my favorite red, single-person seat when there are like, three other ones available! How is that even reasonable? They're going to crush the cushion! How does that boy even find it easy to type with his dainty girlfriend crushing his arms?"

"Because they want to be close?" Yellow volunteered. Falkner could just barely indicate the slight sarcasm in her voice.

"Because they're stupid!"

"That's a little harsh." Yellow told her.

"Yeah, well, they can leave. It's…"

All eyes shamelessly shot to the clock mounted just above the door to the back room.

"…fifteen minutes to closing and they're spreading their disgusting little hormones all over the place. I'm going to disinfect that thing." Sabrina growled, glaring at the couple on the seat with her eyes intense, like she was hoping they would suddenly glow red and shoot laser beams at any moment.

Falkner gave a low grumble. "You know, we would have been out here forty-five minutes ago if Sargent Needle-Eater didn't increase the hours for the summer."

"Well, I guess he was thinking about the situation economically." Yellow suggested, the creases on her forehead showing thought from the answer.

"Economically my ass, he hates this place as much as we do." Sabrina said, crinkling her nose. "Why the hell would he even support this place let alone make it better?"

"Money." Falkner said obviously.

"Daisy." Yellow replied with a shrug.

"Oh, yeah." Sabrina grumbled, and sighed, glancing over at the clock again. "Well, might as well start closing down now. I want to get out of here as soon as those little hands hit seven." She said, and began to take off her red, coffee-scented apron and throw it onto the hook on the door of the break room. She then turned back at Falkner and Yellow with a tried expression. "You guys do that, I'm going to get my stuff." She told them, opening the door of the break room and slamming the door behind her.

Sure, Falkner thought with more than enough sarcasm within his inner monologue. Woman wasn't coming back until the clock struck seven.

"Excuse me."

When he heard no reply to the voice, Falkner quickly searched for Yellow, finding her putting away the last of the mugs. He gave her a short stare before she caught it, and gave him an "are you serious" glare and continuing to place mugs on the shelves. With a an irritated yet defeated twitch of his lips, Falkner turned to the counter, doing his best to put up with work for another (glance) twelve minutes and answer to just a few more customers.

Falkner didn't bother to force up a smile and looked up at the customer. "Hello and how may I help yo—Oh, wait, it's just you."

"Nice workmanship skills." The girl told him with a scowl at his attitude, placing a fist on her hip. Her glare kind of reminded Falkner of a cat with the whole subtle "I would much like to shred your curtains but that's okay I'm better than you anyways" thing. It was a glare he got used to after a while, with her sarcastic, sassy, "not taking any of your crap today" attitude. Though she was still a good person, a very tolerable, somewhat good person. She liked kids, he supposed that explained a lot.

"Hi Crys." Falkner greeted the young woman. "What is it?"

"Hey, don't scare of your regulars, kid." She warned, and tossed an item onto the counter. "I found this on one of the tables, I think somebody left it there." She told him, and he looked down at the regular, 70-page, Mead-brand notebook with silver-sharpie doodles scribbled all over its black cover. His eyes drifted along it from top to bottom, looking at what looked like a bunch of cats doing the Macarena to a quick, capitalized name set at the bottom.

"Janine?"

"I think she was the girl in purple that came in around five. I think that's a notebook for a summer project or something since she had a textbook with her. She might come back for it, so keep it safe." Crystal told him, and threw the strap of her satchel over her head and tightened it.

"Uh, sure." Falkner said with a nod, picking up the notebook. Shouldn't be too hard, he thought.

"Oh yeah and Falkner?"

"What?"

"Tell that idiot roommate of yours that if he so much as breathes on me again, I'll be wearing cleats the next time I meet him. It won't be pretty." She informed him, and then spun on her heel, walking out of the store.

What did he do now… Falkner grumbled to himself mentally before looking down.

Falkner stared down at the notebook. The owner must have really gotten down to tarnishing the cover as soon as she got it because it looked brand new despite the silver markings. A small sense of curiosity struck him as he wondered what was inside. He considered himself a fairly honorable man, who didn't open notebooks that happened to belong to girls that studied at small coffee shops. Was there even a girl dressed in purple earlier? Quite a few, he thought, it was a fairly common color. Any one of those strangers would have gone to college or high school or whatever and brought in the notebook. Though nobody said it was a school notebook, maybe the girl was studying and writing in a journal at the same time. He couldn't invade somebody's privacy like that.

Falkner flipped open the notebook.

And stared at the open page.

...man would be laid on a slab and held down by four, while a fifth would take a ceremonial knife made of flint and slice though the human's abdomen and through the diaphragm. Then, rip out the sacrifice's still-beating heart, and place it in a bowl held by a statue of…

There was a time for everyone that they felt like the world had just opened up and swallowed them.

For Falkner, that time was now.

Ding-ling "Oh, you're still open? Excuse me, I was wondering i—"

There was a pause.

Falkner looked up from the open notebook.

An unsettling silence draped over the shop for several minutes. Yellow tensed uncomfortably as she closed the cabinet doors.

A shriek was heard from five blocks over.

"That's a pretty good scream there, have you ever thought of horror movies?"

"HOLY CRAP, MY NOTEBOOK!"

"No seriously I think the sound just made my stomach drop like twenty feet, have you ever had that feeling?"

"YOU READ IT, OH MY GOD!"

"I don't think I've felt my heart beat for five minutes now, am I dead?"

"HOW COULD YOU EVEN DO THAT, DO YOU EVEN REALIZE WHAT YOU'VE JUST DONE?"

"You know, I think my lungs have stopped working."

The girl snatched the notebook off of the counter.

Falkner blinked, feeling a heavy breath escape his mouth clumsily. He fixated wide eyes on the girl before him, panting heavily from shouting and clutching the notebook firmly in her hands as nails dug into its cardboard cover, her other hand clenched into a tight fist. Falkner shuffled back a few inches, mentally measuring her arms to see how far her fists would be from his face at his current distance.

Falkner had had several thoughts at the moment. One of them was "I'm going to be held down on a slab while my heart is ripped out oh my god", another was "Wow, for a bloody murderess she looks kinda pretty", another being "Shut up Falkner, pull yourself together and sort out this mess, it could be a misunderstanding", but there was also "Is she wearing a dark purple short jacket over a carmine shirt? Girl, no." Though that last one wasn't really relevant for the situation at hand if it wasn't obvious enough.

However, he actually almost said that last one, but he caught himself for something better that he felt would possibly not get him a black eye.

"Uh."

The girl before him stared at him with a dumbfounded look, her mouth gaping as she leaned forward, frozen. Violet eyes stared at him, wide and disbelieving. Falkner looked up, but could still feel the burn of her gaze. His eyes travelled around the café, his mouth spewing small "Um"s and "Well…"s before he found Yellow again. She looked at him with a straight face, nodding, making Falkner's heart soar with hope for that one second before she knelt down, opened the cabinet door and crawled into the little space before letting it shut again, disappearing from the scene.

Are you even kidding me, Falkner thought, and looked back at the girl.

"So… You're… Jackie?"

"Janine, can't you read?" She asked, but then perked up with hope for a second.

"No, I can, sorry." Falkner said, rubbing his temples as the girl's face twisted in horror once again.

"Then… you actually…" She began, standing up straight and her shoulders tightening. Falkner almost felt sorry for her, but that didn't really repel the feeling of fear he felt well up in his stomach. He actually felt a little pained to be afraid of this girl. But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that—

SLAM

"WELL, time to go! Let's get out of here, people!" Sabrina cheered gleefully with her purse on her arm and sunglasses attached to her face as she laughed, making her way for the door.

Falkner shot a glace to the clock, seven hours and three seconds.

"Oh, man, she's right. It's time to go, Yel!" He shouted at the little blonde already making her way from the little cabinet space. "We're closed now, Miss, so I think it's best that you leave." Falkner said quickly, stripping off the red apron and tossing it onto the hook.

"Oh, would you look at that, huh? Thanks for choosing Hot Vanilla, Ma'am!" Yellow laughed as she passed throwing her apron up along with the rest. "Well, it's time to go, goodbye!"

"H-Huh?"

Without another word, the two shoved her out and locked up.

Yellow and Falkner threw themselves into the break room, breathing heavily through clenched teeth. They pressed their backs against the door, palms sweating and eyebrows twitching. The small room was silent and hot, a small fan whirring in the corner with little papers drifting with its breeze.

"Falkner, what was that?" Yellow asked suspiciously, not turning to the boy next to her.

"Uh… Well… Um…" Falkner said through breaths.

Truth be told, obvious or not, Falkner had no idea what the hell had just happened.

I'm probably going to die tomorrow. My fate is set. I'm probably dying right now. Falkner swiped his hand from his forehead, to his abdomen, and then across both shoulders.

"Are you even Catholic?" Yellow asked.

"It seemed like a good thing to do."


"I TRULY APOLOGIZE FOR WHAT HAPPENED THE PREVIOUS DAY!"

Falkner jumped back from the counter, eyes locked on the girl kneeling before him. He noticed a few whispering customers a few yards away, and then turned back to the girl before him.

Janine looked up, picking her face off of the floor. Was that a saikeirei?, Falkner thought, leaning over the counter slightly so he could see the bowing girl. He nearly jumped again when the girl sprang to her feet quicker than a kangaroo.

"Oooh, Falky, what'dja do?" Sabrina cooed from the back, stirring up a mug. She grinned like the devil, and Falkner could just see the horns spouting out of her neatly-cut hair. Falkner scooted to the side before she could nudge him in the side.

"Nothing!" He told her, and then shot his gaze back over to the girl sitting with her legs folded up under her and her hands placed formally on her looked up at him, completely serious with her eyebrows furrowed ad her mouth in a flat line.

Falkner grumbled to himself. He had finally gotten over the problem over the night (which was a complete lie, he had the raccoon eyes to prove it), and did not want to go through it again (which was also a lie, he was curious enough to open the book after all, he found himself staring at missing persons reports that morning to try and figure out what it all could have meant).

But then there came the girl.

"I promise you that I do not rip out the hearts of human beings for Aztec gods!"

A couple customers shuffled out of the café.

Are you sure? Falkner thought to himself, but out loud said, "Could you please move, there are customers."

"Ah, crap!" Janine leapt to her feet, spinning around on her heel to the small line behind her. "I apologize profoundly!" She shouted, bowing at a 90 degree angle.

She doesn't seem like it… Falkner thought, but then he remembered The Lovely Bones. That was one freakish book. But nonetheless, Janine could be as sweet as that man, but in the end chop him to pieces. He sighed as the next customer appeared before Falkner, giving him his order and credit card. As politely and professionally a man like Falkner could be, he punched in the order and gave it to Sabrina to make. The line soon disappeared, and Falkner himself felt accomplished from the task.

"If it means anything to you, I'm not into human sacrifices at all!"

"GOOD GRIEF!" Falkner yelped and jumped to sideways, hitting the side of the counter.

He bent over in pain for a couple moments as Janine slipped him a few "sorry"s and a few attempts at helping.

A couple minutes later, Yellow arrived and Sabrina forced Falkner onto a break to talk to the girl. That's when he found himself sitting at one of the tables with a purple-haired girl and a steaming cup of joe hoping that maybe, just maybe, or maybe a whole lot more than maybe, a motorcycle would come flying through the window and knock him out. Just this once. He nursed the mug before him with clammy hands, his eyes darting up and down from the completely serious scarved girl.

Is that a hot pink bandana on her head with a green and blue shirt? Falkner noticed, examining the girl before him. Are you trying to burn my eyes?

"Oh, man, you're giving me that look." Janine said worryingly, she clapped her hands together as if in a prayer, looking up at him with big eyes. "I swear, I'm not a bad person, please don't hate me."

"I… uh, don't hate you…" Puppy dog eyes alert, abort, abort.

Janine brightened.

Say something eloquent, Falkner. Stop looking like an idiot. "Uh… What was… that… anyw—"

"Itwasjustathingforcollegther esreallynothingIactuallyfoll owfromitdammit!" Janine shouted quickly, her palms slamming onto the table. Falkner yelped as he felt scalding coffee burn onto his hands.

He bent over in pain for a couple moments as Janine slipped him a few "sorry"s and a few attempts at helping.

Janine looked honestly, completely and utterly embarrassed by the time he recovered.

Damn, she actually looks completely guilty about it, Falkner thought. He did feel a little compelled to cheer her up at this point. Maybe she wasn't a serial killer. "I promise you I don't hate you." Falkner told her.

Janine looked up at him with hopeful eyes, leaning forward on the table. "You sure?"

"Uh…" Falkner stammered completely eloquently. "Su-Yeah?"

"Whoo hoo!" Janine cheered, throwing her hands up in the air, high and proud.

Yeah, definitely not a serial killer. Falkner said mentally, nodding to himself, looking a little brighter.

"Alright, let me introduce myself properly!" Janine said, enthusiasm around her like glitter.

Introdu… What? Falkner stopped. We're getting acquainted?

"Janine Fukui!" She said without a second thought, catching Falkner off guard. "Just finished my freshman year of college! I'm 19! Single! I have two cats and live in an apartment a couple streets down! I also love to poison people!"

There was a shrill screech of the chair as Falkner stood up.

"AH, CRAP, NO, THAT CAME OUT WRONG!"

A couple moments of squabbling and urging as Janine persuaded Falkner to sit down again.

The first thought Falkner thought from there was "Oh, man, I could be sitting down with a potential serial killer." The second was, "What the hell is in my drink?" Falkner stared down at the dark coffee in his hands, and then put a hand on his stomach, realizing that he could be dying right now.

Janine apparently read this correctly because she stood up and said, "I didn't put anything in that, I swear! I don't have anything on me!" She spread her arms out wide and twisted around a couple times to show herself off.

What in the world is this girl? Falkner thought, furrowing his eyebrows.

"I'll start again!" Janine said, and sat down, taking another breath and clearing her mind. She shook her head and then looked up at Falkner. "My name is Janine Fukui and I'm 19! I like cats and chemicals and major in biochemistry at GCU! I don't actually poison people but I study their symptoms!"

Oh, that actually makes sense… kinda. It was a little hard to believe how proudly she said "to poison" instead of "study poison" or whatever she was going to say. Though her reintroduction did do her a little justice.

It wasn't that Falkner hated her or anything. Just feared. A little. She was a too spontaneous and unpredictable for her own good and seemed to be quicker than the human eye could catch and that didn't really reassure him in the slightest. Though she did seem very sincere so far, and it was best not to kill his positive thoughts about her. Though there's a hot-pink bandana in her hair and it's really clashing with the atmosphere and I feel like I'm going to shrivel up and die right here oh man…

"Wait a minute…" Falkner began, his thoughts stopping. "What was that whole thing about the ripping out of human hearts and gods and human sacrifices…"

"Summer project!" Janine piped up quickly. She then stopped herself and cleared her throat as if to be professional. "I'm researching Mesoamerican culture! It's not my fault that they believed that blood sacrifices would satisfy their gods!" She shouted, though it was more like a solid fact than a defensive statement.

"Wait, you must have just started this thing… that's the first thing you look up?!" Falkner said, dumbfounded and shocked at the girl.

"It seemed interesting!" Janine said, defensively this time.

"They tore people's hearts out!"

"It seemed interesting!"

"Okay!" Falkner said, and leaned back in his chair. "Alright, I understand now." So you're not actually a serial killer.

Janine shook her head. "No, sir." Crap, you actually thought that.

Falkner rocked in the chair as he held the warm mug in his hands. "That makes me feel old." Of course I did, what did you expect?

Janine shook her head and started again. "Yes, Falkner." I am truly sorry about that.

"Wait, what?" Wait, what?

"Uh." Janine said completely and perfectly eloquently. "It was on your nametag."

"Oh, yeah." Falkner accepted, thinking back to his apron hanging on the break room door. That did make sense, when he thought about it. Weirdly.

So she seemed like a really nice girl, by the looks of it, Falkner thought, just really loud and overly spontaneous.

Though…

"Your bandana…" Falkner began, pointing up at the pink cloth on Janine' head.

"Huh?" Janine said, and reached a hand up to tug at the bandana. "Oh! This thing?"

"Why are you wearing it?" Falkner asked, his face becoming completely and utterly serious. His face became grim as he narrowed his eyes.

"Uh… it's hot out…?" Janine replied, raising an eyebrow as if it was obvious.

"But… it's bright pink." Falkner told her, making a face.

"So…?"

SO?

"YOU'RE COMPLETELY COLOR UNCOORDINATED! IT CLASHES WITH YOUR ENTIRE APPEARANCE!"

"What?" Janine said, her eyes widening. A few customers began to murmur and point their way. From across the room, Yellow covered her face with her hands.

"HOW CAN YOU EVEN LIVE WITH YOURSELF? DO YOU EVEN SORT YOUR CLOTHES PROPERLY?"

"I-I just grab whatever's there…"

"WHAT?"

"Okay, birdboy, break's over." Sabrina said, catching Falkner by the collar and pulling aside and away from the shocked biochemistry student. Before he could even say another word, Sabrina grabbed the front of the collar of his shirt and stuffed it in his mouth, creating loud "Mmrph! Hrrgm! Phrmf!"s.

Janine watched from her seat, watching the two move across the café. She looked over at Falkner's abandoned coffee mug, and then touched her pink bandana.

"U-Uncoordinated…?"


"AHAHAHAHAHA!"

Falkner's right eye twitched.

"Y-You're *heh* such a joke, B-Big Bro!" The redheaded girl on the counter said between laughs.

"Shut up, Skyla." Falkner said, grabbing the hood of the younger girl's sleeveless hoodie and pulling it over her head harshly.

Skyla snorted from under the hood, glancing up at him with bright blue eyes, shaking red bangs away from her face. "B-But seriously, Bro, you've got *pfft* that problem…"

"It's not a problem, I just happen to be very distinct about proper organization! Clothes included!" Falkner told her defensively, putting away the last of the red plates and moving on to the yellow ones, drying each one with a clean rag and making sure they lined up perfectly with the rest in the drawer. The incident had only happened two days ago and he hadn't seen the Janine since. He wondered if this was a good or bad thing because he probably scared a good, potential regular off. That might have been bad. Or good. He wasn't too sure at this point.

Skyla held her mouth with her fingers, her cheeks puffing up with the constant urge to burst out in laughter again. "You're lucky Big Sis is gonna marry a model, then."

"No, no I'm not." Falkner grumbled, placing each plate in as delicately as he could with shaking hands through his anger. "I have no idea what she sees in that pompous fop and why somebody like Winona would even consider marrying him."

"Because they're in love?" Skyla suggested as if the answer was obvious.

"No, why it would even happen in the first place!" Falkner said, nearly smashing the next plate onto the counter before he caught himself at the last moment. That was close… can't afford uneven numbers…

"Well, they told you the story like, five times, remember? Well, Wallace did, but there was this bar that Erika dragged her to and young how they've got the alcohol and the tipsy and turvy and scurvies…"

"Okay, okay, alright, I didn't forget it." Falkner stopped the girl, leaning over the counter and running a hand through his hair. That weird-ass story always sends shivers up my spine…

It wasn't that Falkner disliked his sisters. Well, contrary to popular belief, Falkner didn't dislike a lot of things. He just got really, really stressed at times, but Falkner did love his sisters. He just acted like a brother to them, an irritated and "SKYLA TURN YOUR MUSIC DOWN!" completely normal brother.

Of course, it was also completely normal that there were a total of twenty-five tamed birds in the house.

Well, their parent's house, actually, where Skyla lived. Only three of them actually belonged to Skyla. Falkner couldn't bring any of his to his apartment since it didn't allow pets (none of the apartment complexes near his college actually did, much to his dismay), but he had eight of them. Winona was taking most of her's to her new house (with the diva-man), but a third of them stayed back at the house, which was like five. The rest belonged to their parents.

Yes, they had a lot of birds. They were an avian family, so what? But that still didn't save them from that ridiculous—

"Oh, hey, it's the Birdy Bunch!"

Son of a bitch.

"Breenie!" Skyla cheered, hopping off of the counter.

"Lylee!" Sabrina called back excitably and met the girl in a tight embrace.

Falkner's left eye twitched.

"Shouldn't you be working and not coddling with my fourteen year old sister?" Falkner said, putting in the last plate and shoving the drawer to the plates shut.

Sabrina sent Falkner a glare. A dark glare, the kind of glare that exorcized demons but also brought them up from the fiery pits of hell. Falkner countered with a scowl. An angry scowl. One that countered both workings of the Judas chair and the Iron Maiden.

"You both should be working."

It was a voice. A monstrous voice. One that cut checks and applied hours, but also pulled limbs off and performed Aztec human sacrifices to worship gods.

Slowly, the former releasing Skyla, Sabrina and Falkner turned.

A green glare met them.

Now, the statement could be synonymous with a few statements.

A. A literal green glare. Though there really isn't such thing as a green glare since glares really aren't tangible and can't be the color green.

B. A jealous glare. This is more of a metaphorical use. Though the author has never really heard of people calling envious glares "green glares", though such author does consider it acceptable for metaphorical use in such author's own terms.

C. A glare given by green eyes. This is true because eyes are tangible (which sounds kinda weird since you shouldn't actually touch your eyes unless you've got some condition or contacts or because of scientific and/or medical purposes (or you just like eyeballs but that's really, really weird and you probably shouldn't do that outside of actual non-obsessive scientific and/or medical purposes)).

D. A glare from the spawn of Satan. This is probably less true because just because you have green eyes does not mean you're the spawn of Satan. The spawn of Satan has an angelic older sister named Daisy and spends his summers managing a café called Hot Vanilla of all things.

Or E.

Green's glare.

In this situation, it was the last three.

"Get to work." Green commanded.

"Yes, sir." Two obedient workers responded, saluting to their manager and scurrying off to make and take orders.

Picking off from where we left off earlier, Falkner did indeed love his sisters. They were both a few years apart from him, with Skyla at fourteen and Winona at twenty-six, but they were close, nonetheless. Though he couldn't really understand why Winona really wanted to marry so-called man called Wallace, who of all things was a model. It's not like male models were bad, or pompous like Wallace, some were actually very suave (Did I just think that?), but out Winona, "I'm going to kick your ass into next week if you don't do your homework again", tomboy, parkour-master, "Air Master Winona" was going to marry Wallace Ronona.

Freaking Ronona.

For Pete's sake, his last name is Ronona! It wasn't just that, though. When (IF, Falkner thought hopefully) they got married, her full name would be Winona Harmona Ronona. She already got enough crap for it for just the "Winona Harmona" part (admittedly, a lot of it came from Falkner and Skyla, but that was beside the point), and she already got a lot of attention for being a Ryder. Falkner had no problem with being a Ryder, Ryder was a cool name.

But when your name was Winona Ryder, somebody's gonna notice you've got the exact same name as that woman who played Josephine in Little Women.

A lot of people.

Skyla milked it up the most. Skyla Ryder apparently was a really cool name in middle school, like a model or actress' name. Though she actually wanted to be a pilot when she got older, she was really clear on that. Really. Really. Clear on that. Though she was fourteen and a turning high school freshman, Falkner wouldn't have been too convinced since she had just graduated middle school, but she was really. Really. Clear on that.

Falkner didn't want to talk about the reason he was so sure.

He just didn't, get over it.

Ding-ling

"FALKNER!"

Falkner subconsciously choked.

There was an echoing SLAM on the counter as Falkner's eyes shot up from the counter and locked onto the girl striking her hands onto the counter between them.

"How do I look? Huh? Aren't I color cooperative?" Janine asked, leaning in close on the counter, her eyes locked with Falkner's shocked ones, who himself had jumped away several feet from the counter.

"Uh, coordinated, but…" Actually…

She was, in fact, color cooperativ… coordinated (dammit, Janine). A nice blend of purples, whites, and blacks gave her a nice monochromatic flow with wait a minute…

A beret?

Wait, what was she…

Holy crap she actually looks really, really nice. Falkner thought. With pearl earrings and a couple loops of white jewel necklaces around her neck, and her hair out of its regular ponytail and falling to her skim her shoulders in a messy, yet strangely appropriate way. A lose purple top reached just below her ribcage and draped over her shoulders, covering up a tight black undershirt. Black leggings fitted underneath a white pair of short-shorts, and just nearly covered her knees. A pair of brown shoes covered her feet, and just as he just noticed, a black beret capped her head.

What the hell just happened? Falkner thought, staring at the girl, dumbfounded. She wore a hot pink bandana before. A hot pink bandana.

"What…" Falkner said, drifting off, but then noticed another figure.

And froze.

Another girl.

Falkner then had several thoughts. One of them being "Is that a private school uniform? In the summer?", and another being "She looks really beautiful in this really wicked way, like she'll crush my head with this two-inch heels of her's as I grovel at her feet." (the thought made Falkner tremble in disturbance for a moment).

Dyed-blonde hair with straight-cut bangs and a thin frame, the girl looked as if she would be in high school, but old enough for college, especially with that expression. She really was wearing a private school uniform, with a tan sweater vest over her white shirt and blue skirt, but still managed to make them look like she had just come straight out of a photo shoot. Though she also wore a big white pair of headphones over her ears so Falkner wasn't really sure if she was really paying attention to anything around her or not.

What the hell is going on, somebody help me.

"Your hair."

Falkner's attention caught to the blonde girl, whose blue eyes examined him calmly. She kept her arms at her side, slightly reminding Falkner of a hawk that gazed over its prey, waiting for the kill. He suddenly felt ten times smaller.

"It's blue."

"Her hair is purple, don't talk about mine." Falkner said flatly, tripping out of his trance. More like tripping, falling, and rolling over several times because he was still profoundly lost and unsure of the situation despite his straight face.

"HA!" Sabrina called over from replacing the coffee bags, much to Falkner's dismay. "I told you so!"

"Your hair is blue too." The girl told the woman.

"It's black!" Sabrina shouted defensively, and stomped over to inventory. Yellow came up from the order-pickup counter, sighing and continuing to do her job while not being distracted by noisy coworkers like a good girl.

"Janine… Who…" Falkner said, remembering the transformed young woman in front of him. He was still pretty amazed on how well she had fixed herself up. She didn't look like a lazy, rainbow-attacked hobo anymore. At least I know she doesn't tear human hearts out… Falkner remembered distantly (four days ago).

"Oh! Yeah!" Janine said, perking up and backing up to stand by where the girl stood, waving a hand to her. "This is my cousin Elesa!" She introduced, showing off the girl. "She's going to be a high school senior next year, but she's a model!"

That explains a lot, Falkner thought. The girl was younger than he thought, just by a year though, she had to be about seventeen or sixteen. Unless she skipped or was held back a grade…

Elesa stared at Falkner for a few moments, looking at him with bored eyes. He followed her gaze up and down as she examined him thoroughly in silence for a couple moment.

Her eye twitched.

Falkner noticed and twitched back.

"Pleasure." She told him with the same face.

You sure don't seem like it. Falkner thought as his eyebrows furrowed.

"Elesa's here for the summer! She's from overseas" Janine said enthusiastically, shaking Elesa's shoulder with a grin. "She got me a bunch of stuff. She was really serious about it too, like some Fashion General or something. It was really intense, you should have been there, Falkner!" Janine laughed.

There was a pause. In the back, Yellow nearly dropped a mug in the sink, but caught in and continued to do her job while not being distracted by noisy coworkers like a good girl.

"You know, maybe you shouldn't have." Janine said, reminiscing on the past events, her face falling.

You're probably right about that, Falkner told her mentally.

"You have no sense of fashion, it's not my fault you didn't know the difference between a halter top and boob tube." Elesa said with a shrug and pointed her nose up high. Was that an accent? Falkner noticed, he wasn't really sure.

"A boob what?" Falkner echoed, his hormones reacting (dammit, puberty).

"It was a tube top, and an honest mistake! " Janine stammered with a flushed face and waved Elesa to back off the subject. Elesa merely avoided her swiping hands.

"They don't even look alike." Elesa told her, not looking at the older girl.

"An honest mistake!" Janine said in defense, growling.

"Well at least you've got your colors on right." Falkner told her, leaning over the counter and taking another look at her outfit.

Crap, she does look pretty.

Hey, stop that! Voice A for Alice shouted, sounding oddly female for Falkner's conscience.

Why is that a bad thing? Voice B for Barret countered, a smirk hidden in his voice.

Because you met her four days A replied, her voice sounding more and more irritated.

So? Doesn't mean she can't look pretty. Voice B said, snickering.

Shut up, B. Voice A snapped.

Make me. Voice B challenged.

Make out. Voice A replied.

Then there was a lot of muffle smacks and groans and the suspicious rustling of clothing.

Falkner covered his face with his hands. Did that just happen inside of my head?

I'm becoming a pervert. (Dammit, bastard roommate)

But…

You do look… goo… pre… nice. Falkner thought, tripping and stumbling over a couple words in his head, trying to find the right one that would sound the best in the current situation. This is weird, he thought. He really just needed to find something that actually suited the girl and say it.

He was being strangely honest with himself. Falkner had this really strange relationship with his mind that made him go in and out of decisions like a hooker with relationships (that sounded really, really weird but the only metaphor Falkner could think of at the time). Wait, maybe he could have just said he was indecisive. That would have been a better word for it. But then again, being indecisive was the whole problem with that in the first place.

Though he was more used to her looking like a rainbow hobo, he guessed, not like some fashion diva.

Like Wallace.

Falkner twitched.

"It doesn't suit you."

Janine froze.

"What?" She said.

"What." Falkner replied.

Oh.

Oops.

"What?" Said the angriest voice of all.

Oh, wait, I forgot about her.

"Are you telling me that I put my entire day off yesterday to make sure she looked like a complete knockout, and you say she it doesn't SUIT HER?" Elesa snapped furiously, her face twisting angrily. Falkner's body turned solid as mascara-covered eyes tore through his frightened soul.

"I meant I was so used to seeing her in—" Falkner quickly said, but Elesa continued.

"Do not, you homely blue-haired coffee boy." Elesa snapped sternly.

"Homely?" Falkner echoed with an insulted flinch.

"Elesa…" Janine warned from next to the blonde girl, half- "It's okay, I'm a little pissed too but I think I actually know what he's getting at" and half- "What the hell are you doing?"

"Do not "Elesa" me." The model continued, sending a piercing glare all around the room that seemed to shoot needles in all directions and stomping a heeled foot forward. Falkner might have thought she would have shot forward and dug her thee centimeter claws into his neck, he was a little surprised at her restraint, but she kept on going. "Listen, coffee boy, I've got three things I know I know in my life and they're love, fashion, and how to channel electricity through that pencil-skinny neck of yours. Hell, I can make your brain explode from the inside out, but apparently you don't have one!"

Many customers were staring at this point. Falkner began to run through the number of the ways he could kill a person with a coffee machine. He was currently at #43. Whether the victim be himself or Elesa, was still be contemplated.

"Guys…" Yellow began, coming up from behind Falkner and up to the counter.

"No, keep going, this is good." Sabrina said with interest spreading across her face. Janine seemed to have gotten lost somewhere halfway through the rant because she had been staring in horror for quite a while.

"So you, you tasteless, colorblind, oblivious little mocha-maker with the mental speed of a tortoise, are calling my work unsuitable for my cousin?" Elesa continued, and there were several "oooooh"s throughout the café as if a student had just insulted a teacher in seventh grade. Mental speed of a tortoise, maybe, but at this point, Falkner had even more fury contained within him than Bill Cosby's wife having a conniption. Unfortunately for his self-restraint abilities, Elesa continued on.

Now Elesa Baete was a woman of many ways. She was generally stoic in some ways, but neither a kind nor mean person by natural terms. You had to make her that way. She was like a silent protagonist; choose the option, and she shall do, you just had to press the right buttons. Easy enough. Unfortunately, it could work both ways. As she stated before, she had three major prides that she did not take lightly.

That last one was a hobby. She didn't talk about it much.

But as said, Elesa Baete did not take her pride being shot down too lightly.

As seen.

"Are you calling my work an embarrassment? I can't see how anything can be more embarrassing than you, such a pathetic excuse for a man! I've seen genetically-bred, blue-fured, zoo-inhabiting chimpanzees who deserve more pride than you!" Elesa continued her string of creatively-spun insults. Seriously, she could write a book on these. Janine and Falkner continued to gape at her in horror as the rest of the restaurant "OOOOOHHH"ed even louder and Sabrina begging Yellow for a video camera. "I bet you were raised by the same chimpanzees! That would explain your ridiculous hair color and your primitive, brainless, uncultured—"

SMACK

The entire restaurant went silent. A sparrow hit the window through the silence. Nobody noticed.

Falkner choked. Janine gazed in utter confusion. Yellow and Sabrina's mouth turned into the shape of dinner plates. Elesa stumbled back a couple feet before her back hit the wall behind her to give her support. Nobody said a word. For about ten seconds.

"Now listen here, Miss. Photo-Fancy."

Skyla pointed a disapproving finger at the model, whose electrifying blue eyes were wide like the sun had just hit the earth and killed everyone. It would have been quite a sight.

"I don't care who you are, but I've got a three birds and a dog named Sneakers at home as well as a silver Spelling Bee Championship award and my team's gold Regional Soccer Championship trophy encased in the halls of Violet Middle School. I'll take great joy in taking you down, because nobody sends animal insults and death threats at my brother…" Skyla slammed a fingerless-gloved hand straight into the wall next to Elesa's head with a SLAM that echoed through the silent café. "…except me!"

Falkner, at this point, didn't really know what to think of his sister. He decided to not think at all. Doing such was unhealthy for his brain at the moment.

"So listen close, Prettypants." Skyla continued, pretending to be threatening despite her highly odd choice of insulting names. She poked a finger into the upper chest of Elesa's still-frozen body, the girl herself continuing to stare at the fourteen year old with an expression blanker than a fresh sheet of computer paper. The analogy itself would be worthy of Skyla's freshman essays. "If you've got another word to say about my brother or how he was raised, then say it to my face because we've been living in the exact same house for the past thirteen years until he moved out last year. Don't think you're so great just because you pose for the flashing cameras, girl, because I know of really brainy girl who owns a pair of cleats sharper than nails that can out-do you any day despite her sarcastic attitude. So you can take your flashy talents elsewhere because if I see you at my family's throat again, I'll be less than forgiving."

Skyla backed off with a determined, vengeful expression donning her face. Her hands dropped to her sides, only to come up and place themselves on her hips. The air was so thick with silence you could cut it with a knife. Skyla didn't seem to notice the tension or mood because she turned to her brother, gave him a thumbs-up and a nod before spinning around and striding out the door.

With the ding-ling of the door opening and closing from Skyla's exit, the rest of the café returned to normal and regular chatter rose through the café again.

Back at the register, four dumbfounded faces slowly turned to a blonde-haired girl still holding her throbbing cheek.

Elesa blinked. Once. Twice. She blinked a few times more. Falkner wasn't really too sure whether she was trying to clear her head or not at this point. Her eyes were still as wide as dinner rolls, but she had removed herself from the wall. Slowly, she turned, and faced the glass door that a certain redheaded pilot-to-be had just exited out of.

In the back, Yellow, the most observant of the five, saw Elesa shiver just the tiniest bit. This told her nothing good.

Back in front of the counter, Elesa stroked her cheek. Once. Twice. A few more times. Everybody saw this. This told them nothing good.

After a couple more seconds, Elesa spoke up. Her voice donned the traits of amazement and pure wonder as were mouth gracefully formed her next word.

"Wow."

She stared. Her eyes shone the lights of a thousand stars, and a new, exhilarating sensation electrified throughout her body. A natural, reddish tint defied the effects of the already-set blush on her cheeks, making them redden even more. Her other hand reached up and clutched her chest. The speeding beating could practically be heard by the entire room. Bubbles and mist of a pinkish tint seemed to float around her like a cheesy shoujo anime.

There was an awkward cough. Nobody really was paying attention enough to see who did it.

Falkner covered his face with his hands.

Nothing was good.


Despite the whole fiasco distastefully dubbed "The Elesa Incident", Janine continued to show up with her textbooks and notebooks, hopefully moving on from the whole religious side of the spectrum and moved onto something better like how they liked corn. Falkner did eventually get used to her, she didn't wear high-class jewels and nice leggings anymore but at least she wasn't wearing hot ink bandanas with orange shoes or whatever. Though she did like to wear fairly tight clothes because of training, whatever training was, and this didn't help with Falkner's attention span. He actually misplaced the green mugs with the red mugs one time, and it was because she came in wearing a net blouse with nothing but an undershirt underneath. He wondered what his father would have said about that.

Nonetheless, it wasn't like she was bad to have around, she was actually quite enjoyable. Falkner actually caught himself enjoying a nice cup of coffee with her on his breaks from time to time.

Elesa did come in and apologize the day after the incident. Nobody really believed her but she did seem really sincere about it. After that she just seemed really friendly in an "I kind of still hate you but I'm tolerating you because of reasons" way. Falkner admired her resistance, but he still hated the way she always had her eyes open for a certain redheaded teenage sister of his

It was just a week after the incident when he finally came in. Honestly, people were wondering when it would happen, just half of them were praying that it wouldn't. There was another tiny percentage that had completely mixed feelings on the subject and that consisted of one person.

The girlfriend.

"Good morning, coffee-brewers!"

Green threw down the cloth he was cleaning counters with and turned around to the door to the stairs. "I'm leaving." He said as if to say I quit.

"Aw, man, still got his panties in a twist, doesn't he?" The boy before the crew chuckled. The customer before the register was handed back his card and immediately shuffled away from the scene as the he came up.

Falkner's once-okay attitude fell as his expression became a hard scowl. The boy before him whistled, and then chuckled at his immediate change of mood. Falkner groaned, "I was wondering when this day would come…"

"Hey, it's alright, you guys love me, dont'cha?" The boy laughed as he rounded his way around the counter to the back where Falkner stood and gave him a couple rough pats on the back.

"You do know you're not allowed back here, right?" Falkner told the boy, tugging at his arm which the boy clung to.

"Oh, hello Gold." Yellow greeted, carrying a couple bags of coffee beans with her as she passed the two, giving the boy a friendly smile.

"Hey Yellers." Gold greeted back with a wave and a friendly grin.

"Hey, wassup, Gold?" Sabrina called to the boy as she strode past the two boys, heading over to break room.

"Sup Bri!" Gold called back with another wave and grin, and then turned back to Falkner. "I don't see a problem with it."

"Crys isn't here, Gold." Falkner said quickly.

"Dude, you have to help me out here I can't get her to talk to me." Gold responded immediately, dropping to his knees and clinging to the sleeve of Falkner's shirt with a distressed face. If he was sensitive enough, Falkner would have sworn he would have been on the brink of tears. Fortunately for Gold, he was manly enough to take it, because if anything, Gold was male through and through. Just pure Y chromosome.

Falkner turned to the boy groveling at his feet. Taking him by the collar and throwing him out of the café seemed too cruel, though it would solve the problem temporarily. Though that just meant he would have to wait until he got home to deal with it and he didn't want to do that either. To Gold or not to Gold, that was the question. "Gold" in this case being synonymous with "talk about dramatic relationship problems until ends up crying totally manly tears".

"Hey Fal, who's that?"

"HOLY—" Falkner nearly jumped out of his shoes at the voice, and spun around to the newcomer. Janine waved a friendly greeting and smiled triumphantly. "Stop doing that!"

"I can't! It's training, duh. We've been over this." Janine told Falkner, rolling her eyes.

I still don't know what this training is but I don't think I should ask. (Except he really, really just wanted to know already; he was curious enough to open the book after all.)

"Oh! Who's that? I would suggest girlfriend but you're incapable of human affection." Gold said, snickering a bit as Janine looked at the two awkwardly but did her best attempts to smile through it.

Falkner, a less than pleased factor in the equation, caught the younger boy in a headlock and growled, "I am so capable of affection! It's just that I don't do it a lot!" Falkner tightened his arm around Gold's neck, who struggled relentlessly under his grip.

"Alright! Jeez, you're going to snap my head off one of these days." Gold said, swatting Falkner's arm off and coughing a few times.

"You never did answer my question, Fal." Janine mentioned, pointing at Gold again. "Who's he?"

"Can't you guys wait until I'm on break or something? I'm working here and neither of you are supposed to be back here anyways." Falkner mentioned.

"Dude, there's like, nobody here. If you won't say anything, I will." Gold decided, giving a charming wink to the two. Janine snickered at this while Falkner rolled his eyes at his associate's actions. "And to the lovely lady, I'm Gold Ellis! I'm Falkner's roommate and best pal!" He said with a gentlemanly bow at Janine.

"His family's also as rich as Bill Gates but he ran away and is currently as penniless as any other college kid on the block. He lives in Ellen Apartments 3B but don't tell anyone that, it's supposed to be a secret." Falkner told Janine with the last part in a low, not-a-whisper sort of way.

"You're a bastard, you know that, Falkner?" Gold said to his blue-haired companion as he jabbed him in the side, quickly dodged by the Falkner.

"I know, and I'm not your best pal." Falkner said to the boy.

"Yeah, I've only know you since we were little tykes, if that means anything." Gold replied, a cocky grin on his face.

"You two are funny." Janine interrupted, chuckling to herself.

"We are not." The two replied simultaneously.

"Oh, wait, I am. Heh." Gold recovered.

"Shouldn't you be fixing things with your girlfriend? What did you even do anyways?" Falkner asked his roommate, turning to him with a suspicious expression. With Gold, nobody could ever really tell. It wasn't that Falkner hated him (like with a lot of things), it was just that Gold was… Gold. Pretty much. Let's leave it at that.

Gold was one of those people that you really had to get used to in order to understand. Like Gold had said, he and Falkner had known each other since fourth grade. This was mostly because of Winona, who, being seven years older and a junior in high school, was, apparently, smoking hot (which Falkner really didn't need to know) and frequently picked Falkner up from school. Gold was the kid who was overly confident and always tried to get an older girlfriend. Falkner was the younger brother who shoved him over and told his sister to drive away as fast as they could out of the school. Gold was also the determined little kid who never gave up. Something just sort of clicked like that (which sounded oddly like a set of handcuffs), and the two suddenly could not get rid of each other.

Because of Winona.

But then Gold got a girlfriend. A nice girlfriend. A girlfriend who practiced kickboxing while acing her SATs in high school. A girl who picked up notebooks and volunteered at orphanages.

Gold suddenly remembered this girlfriend.

"I didn't mean it! I swear!" Gold cried, latching onto Falkner. "Crys, she just… I don't know! I mean, you know how her tournament's next week, right?" Gold asked.

There was a pause.

Falkner stared at his friend for a moment, his eyes widening in disbelief. Janine looked from him to Gold, and then back to Falkner. The silence continued, Gold began to look worried.

"…You mean two weeks ago." Falkner said, his eyes narrowing at his friend.

"…Huh?"

"Two weeks ago. The day before I came home and said that Crystal was going to leave your body on the side of the road for the animals." Falkner told his friend, remembering the day that Crystal came in and threatened Gold with cleats. Crystal must have diamond-capped those things, they were as painful as throwing knives.

"…"

There was a pause.

Janine let out a deep "Ooooh, you did not. Your wifey's gonna be so mad at you."

"She already has been, for the past two weeks." Falkner corrected her. Also for the past two years that they've been dating.

"Holy shit." Gold swore, holding his head as if he were in dire pain. His eyes were wide with horror at the revelation. Falkner swore he could see his soul wither away on the spot.

Ding-ling

Falkner sighed. "Alright, guys, get out. There are customers—"

Gold stopped.

"Crys?"

Janine leaned over to get a closer look at the girl in question, curious to see the girl who was tormenting Gold's emotional strength. Crystal stood there, bag on her shoulder and gaze fixated on the boy clinging to Falkner's arm. There was a small moment of silence before Crystal gave a dissatisfied huff and walked out the door once again.

"Oh, seriously. You see that? You see what you do to people's businesses here? We're building an economy here, Gold." Falkner said disapprovingly, but the boy wasn't listening, he was currently trying to process his own thoughts as he tried to figure out how to fix his relationship with the girl.

"C… Wait, Crys!" He cried out as he leapt over the counter and ran after his girlfriend with the swift opening of the door (ding-ling) and his dramatic exit. A few customers in the back began to whisper amongst themselves, pointing at the door the two had just left through.

Well, that's one problem half-solved, Falkner thought, and gave out a sigh. Janine looked over from the door to Falkner, laughing awkwardly.

"You think he'll be okay?" She asked, a little worried on the poor boy's situation. "He seemed nice…"

"Yeah, you would think that." Falkner sighed, and leaned forward on the counter, resting his head in one hand and tapping the wooden counter with the other.

Honestly, he was a little worried about what would happen to Gold; Crystal was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. The girl had the guy wrapped around her little finger and Falkner swore, that boy was like a piece of titanium. You needed a girl as strong as Hercules for that. Fortunately for Gold (and a lot of people), Crystal was that girl. Smart, strong, with enough venom to fill a cobra, but also considerate, caring, and one of the most common-sense girls you could ever meet.

"You think she'll forgive him?" Janine asked curiously.

"Normally I would give them until tonight now that he knows, but that was a pretty big tournament for her. They'll be eating each other's faces off by tomorrow, around lunch, I would say. On the couch." Falkner predicted. That was usually how it went, after all.

"Ew." Janine grimaced at the mental image, scrunching up her face slightly.

"You get used to it." Falkner shrugged. Despite his suggestiveness, they never got too rowdy. Crystal was a good girl. A good, strong girl. A good, strong girl who got a taser for her eighteenth birthday and carried it around like a teenage girl with a cellphone. A good, strong girl who got a taser for her eighteenth birthday and carried around like a teenage girl with a cellphone who also had several gold kickboxing championship trophies at home. And cleats. Can't forget cleats.

A couple more minutes continued in silence. The day was slow for Hot Vanilla. Only one person sat on Sabrina's favorite red chair and a few people typed vigorously on their laptops while drinking beverages of their choice. Janine shuffled a little awkwardly from behind the counter next to Falkner. Sabrina was probably sleeping in the break room, Falkner guessed, while Yellow probably decided halfway through Gold's soap drama episode that it would be a good idea to pick up some groceries from Wegmans a couple blocks away. That would explain the silence, Falkner thought.

"Yo, Fal."

Falkner looked up, and nearly flinched at the closeness of a certain couple of violet eyes. "Yeah?" He asked, avoiding a stammer and slowly raising a hand to push Janine's face away a couple inches. She didn't seem to mind.

"Have you ever had a girlfriend?" Janine asked out of the blue, her face completely straight and serious. She even narrowed her eyes. That's determination.

Falkner choked on air.

"Where… Where the hell did that come from?" He asked distressfully, shooting up from the counter and gaping at the girl.

"It came up." Janine replied without hesitation.

"Don't give me that! No, I haven't, weren't you listening to Gold earlier? I'm incapable of human affection!" Falkner told her automatically, getting a little flustered.

"So he was telling the truth?" Janine gasped.

"Wait, no, I am! It's actually do i— I mean I— It's really just— You know what, nevermind, you know what I mean." Falkner told her, waving the question off and rubbing his head with the heel of his palm.

He wasn't really comfortable with questions of the sort. He wasn't really sure why. Not because he had no idea, but because he had to figure out whether it was because of his mom asking if every other girl he breathed on was his girlfriend or Skyla and her complete support in her older brother's love life (Complete. SUPPORT.) or maybe it was just because of Gold, just Gold, let's leave it at that.

But no, Falkner could not choose. Nonetheless, he had problems. Problems with things like romance. Because he was Falkner that way. Or maybe it really was because of Gold, that was always a good reason.

Then there were also problems he had when people didn't even bother to match their socks, but that was a different story.

"I do?" Janine said, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes, you do, and this conversation is ending." Falkner told her, and returned to the cash register with the familiar ding-ling of the door. He looked up and expected a customer or two, putting on his professional face, but then scowled as he saw a head of blonde hair and an oddly placed school uniform.

Blue eyes scanned the room, the girl not even bothering to enter before her gaze fell on Falkner. "Skyla?"

"No, Elesa." Falkner told her.

"I see." Elesa said with a nod and a moment of thought, and then opened her mouth again.

"Soccer camp." Falkner told her for what felt like the thousandth time that week.

"I see." Elesa said again and thought for another moment before looking up at Falkner and Janine again. "Farewell." She said, and Falkner and Janine both waved as she made her exit.

"Your cousin is weird." Falkner told the girl beside him. "Why does she even wear that school uniform? It's summer, and she's on vacation. Didn't she wear that thing like seven times in the past two weeks?"

"She says it's the only thing worth getting dirty." Janine informed him.

"Ah." Falkner replied with a nod.


And so the summer continued on.

Coffee was made, bagels were served, and employees continued to grovel. May was drawing to a close and soon, the high schoolers would get out of school, and then groveling would be no more since said employees would be too dead to do such, much to the likings of Green, AKA Colonel Cuts-Yo-Checks. Yellow herself was actually fond of this nickname because it was catchy when you said it, she made a little song about it but she never really wanted to admit it to anyone even though everybody already knew it.

Elesa continued to hunt for her girlcrush who she tailed around like a lost puppy. Skyla, unfortunately for her, was still mad about the whole Elesa Incident and continued to give her the cold shoulder. Elesa, however, had to be either the most determined, loyal lover of all time or a complete idiot, and continued to chase after the girl. Who was fourteen. And three years younger than her.

"And thus, for my love is not a weed; the most pure blossoms of love are bloomed from just the seed." Elesa had said.

Falkner wasn't really too sure how to respond to this so he just gave her the most intelligent response he could think of at the time.

"Uh, sure."

He also didn't have a clue on what she was talking about but he thought it was probably best if he didn't know.

Janine also continued to be a mystery and brought up "training" several more times. To put it in short, again, let's just repeat that Falkner was curious enough to open the book. He did feel more comfortable around her, though. It was a little refreshing to him; between tonsil-hockey champions Gold and Crystal and Lucifer in a red apron Sabrina, Janine probably became the best part of the day.

Not like he would admit that.

Because he wasn't affectionate or anything.

No, nothing like that.

Definitely not that.

Heaven forbid.

Soon, May was about to end, and its final day arrived.

Along with a parrot.

"Fal. Yellow got a raise."

Falkner turned off the coffee machine and took a hold of the chocolate syrup without even turning to Sabrina at the counter. "Really? Good for her, she deserves it."

"No, no, you don't understand. The girl is eighteen. I'm twenty-two. She's earning even more than I do now; I don't approve of this, Falkner." Sabrina told the boy, pounding numbers into a calculator vigorously and glaring at the numbers as they appeared up on the screen.

"Good for you." Falkner told her, rolling his eyes.

"Tell the boss he's a slut." Sabrina said.

"What? Oh… Wait, what?" Falkner snapped, nearly spilling the piping hot cup of coffee in his hands as he prevented himself from doubling over. He carefully set it on the counter and stammered out a number to the crowd before turning back to Sabrina and saying "Why the hell would I do that? Are you trying to get me killed?" Falkner snapped at the frustrated woman at the register, who grumbled swear words to herself.

"It's not that hard, just walk into that little office of his and say the three words. You don't even have to say that. You could accuse him of stealing his sister's bras at night. That could get your paycheck sliced." Sabrina continued on, not even looking up at the boy, nodding approvingly to herself. Falkner himself, on the contrary, did not approve, not one bit.

"I'm not telling Green he's a slut or that he steals his sister's… stuff." Falkner told Sabrina, walking over the cash register.

"Then—"

"Or that he's a whore. I'm not insulting the spawn of Satan here, Sabrina! If you're trying to get me to risk my paycheck for you then—"

Ding-ling

"SQUAWK"

"Hey, Falkner, I found this outside."

A young man walked through the door, friendly face and slightly taller figure, he greeted the blue-haired boy behind the counter with a cheerful smile as he raised his hand. Perched on it was a green and yellow bird who gripped to the red-eyed boy's hand and pecked at his fingers lightly.

Falkner froze, and Sabrina grinned one of her devil's grins as an idea formed in her head. Suddenly, a second ding-ling sounded from the doorway, and a girl stepped from behind the bird-wielding boy.

"Hey Falkner, guess who I found outside!" Janine greeted showing off the older boy with a bit of pride in her voice.

Sabrina gazed at the two slyly, snickering and "Oh, man, Red, you just found me the perfect—"

"OH MY GOD, RICARDO!"

The cry was heard several shops down, and the people in the electronics store at the end of the block looked up to see who the hell "Ricardo" was and why he was so important. Little did they know of the coffee-making college student leaping over the counter like a panther a few stores down in the local café.

Red would have been completely able to defend himself if it wasn't for the avian on his hand. Fortunately, Janine was there to save the day by stepping forward and grappling the airborne bird-boy midway as he slammed into her. Sabrina and Red watched as the two toppled to the ground, and a couple of curious customers looked over to see what had commenced at the front of the store. You would have thought, by this point, somebody would have brought a camera. A few contemplated, but nobody really seemed to remember.

"SQUAWK" Ricardo the white-bellied parrot called, nipping at the little note on his leg.

Falkner, currently in a tangled mess with his female friend on the floor, reacted to the sound of his feathered companion and struggled to get up. Neither of the two really were doing a good job at it. They rolled around on the floor for a few moments with a couple "umph"s, "augh"s, "gerroff"s, and "owwwww"s before Falkner was able to spring to his feet and spin around to the bird. He nearly shot to it before a slightly muffled "herrrlph" from Janine on the floor. He offered her a hand and brought the girl up with ease, mumbling a quick "sorry". Then he shot to the bird.

"Ricardo, what happened?" Falkner asked the bird in complete distress, and the bird gave out another squawk.

"BRAWK 'Message for you' BRAWK 'Message for you'" The bird cried, and nipped at his leg again. Falkner let out a small gasp and skillfully removed the paper from the bird's leg. Ricardo flapped his wings and shook his legs out before Red got the message and backed away to open to door for the bird as it flew out.

"Uh… are you sure it's okay for it to do that…?" Red asked Falkner, indicating the parrot that just flew off, but the boy was too busy fumbling with the small note in his hands, unfolding the small note with lightning speed. His eyes quickly scanned the tiny message inside before slowing down, and the boy ultimately sighing in the end.

"Ugh, my sister just wants me to help her with a couple of wedding preparations at my parent's house this weekend." He groaned, crumbling the note with his hand. "I thought Sneakers actually succeeded in eating Wanda or something…"

"Wedding…? Oh! Your sister, uh, Winona, right?" Janine remembered quickly.

"Don't you hate her fiancé or something?" Red asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Hate is a strong word, I prefer detest. It doesn't have as much malice." Falkner told his friend, tossing the paper in the bin a couple feet away, and making his way back around the counter again.

"Red! You should have kept the bird! Green might have cut his pay over it!" Sabrina hissed at the boy, sounding severely disappointed in the college boy.

"Why would I—" Red began, confused.

"Don't ask. Yellow got a raise and Sabrina's having a cash crisis." Falkner told the boy, whose ears perked at the sound of the name.

"Oh, really?" Red said, his mood brightening about twenty times with the subject. "Good for her! Is she here now? It would be great to, you know, see her, congratulate her, tell her that—"

"Sorry, kid, you just missed her. She left like, twenty minutes ago." Sabrina interrupted the enthusiastic boy, and his face fell like a pile of rocks.

Red Lyons was one of those people that was hard to see upset. One, because he was probably going to be one of the nicest people you meet; two, because he probably didn't deserve it in the first place; three, because it was probably for a reason that tore your heart out; and four, if it was the other kind of upset, he could probably send you into the hospital quicker than you could say "Those fists didn't look as threatening as they did two seconds ago". But he probably wouldn't have done that last one. He was pretty capable of doing that though. Everybody knew of the freshman year New Year's Incident from two years ago. It was legendary, somebody had taken pictures.

The point was, you didn't want Red upset. It tore your heart out one way or the other. One way being literally.

Not that he would do that.

Totally.

"Oh." Red said, and about twenty hearts in the room broke. "Alright, well, I'll see you guys later, then. I'll catch her another time." He said, and then turned around, walking out of Hot Vanilla with the little ding-ling of the door as he exited.

Janine walked up to the counter. "I'm guessing Yellow is the girl Red get all daydreamy about? Seriously, it's like he goes deaf to his own thoughts." She mentioned, remembering the boy in his glory moments.

"It's almost sad." Falkner confirmed, and then turned to Sabrina. "Why did you tell him that? Today is Yellow's day off, she didn't even come in." He said a little angrily to the older coworker.

"I thought it would tear his heart to bits more. I'm angry. I feel a little better now." Sabrina said, straightening up and nodding to herself while throwing her arms up in a stretch.

"…You're a heartless little witch, you know that?" Falkner told the woman, a twitch in his eye.

"I know." Sabrina agreed, crossing her arms and putting on a confident expression.

"Maybe you're just lonely because you're single with a paycheck even lower than that of a college freshman's and that you work in a café called Hot Vanilla with a boss who's apparently on constant PMS while his sister's away on a cruise." Janine suggested, remembering what she had learned from the past few weeks and putting them together.

Sabrina stood there for a moment, and the two stared at her for a couple moments. There were a couple moments of silence. Across the store, a customer nearly burned his girlfriend with his coffee. This got him a smack in the back of the head.

A few moments later, Sabrina hung her head over the counter and held her head in her hands. "I know…" She groaned distressfully.

"I would feel bad for you but I'm in the exact same situation as you." Falkner told the older woman.

"Yeah, you believe that." Sabrina grumbled under her breath.

"What?" Falkner and Janine asked on sync, both in confusion.

"Nevermind, you two enjoy your little tango, I'm taking my break." Sabrina said with a sigh, and headed over to the break room, not even bothering to take her apron off. The door shut with a little click, and Falkner and Janine looked at each other, neither really understanding Sabrina's language.

"Tango…?"

Ding-ling

A pale head of golden hair poked itself through the doorway, not even bothering to look around as she opened her mouth at the coffee boy at the counter.

"Swimming with friends." Falkner told the model automatically, not a single speck of surprise on his face.

"I see." Elesa responded, looking down at the floor as she plunged back into deep thought, and then returned her gaze to the two at the counter. "Farewell." She told them, and exited, disappearing from sight. As she made her way away from the café, she wondered how the redhead would look in a swimsuit. It was a nice thought. Elesa licked her lipgloss-sweet lips at this.

What a fine summer this would be.


End of part one! THIRTEEN AND A HALF THOUSAND WORDS IT WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO BE EIGHT. Oh well. I'm just worried that this part is too big and threatening for newcomers. Well, it's just the first part. About three more to go. The beginning's always the slowest part for me.

A side note, choosing Winona and Wallace's last names was actually pretty fun. Winona Ryder really is an actual person if you didn't know that already, she played Jo in Little Women (the movie), and she had a pretty kickass name so I was like, Why the hell not? There's a bunch of other pop culture references in there, too. Should be obvious for some, others not. Ahaha…

Once again, Happy (early) Birthday, Ice Krystal! Because I couldn't wait. I SWEAR GUYS USING AN OUTLINE IS LIKE THE BEST THING EVER I COULDN'T HAVE WORKED THROUGH THIS HALF AS WELL WITHOUT ONE. You don't even have to follow it completely it just comes to you. Anyways, one down, three to go!

Next time: A little family, a new coworker, a sexually frustrated boss, a few backfiring gimmicks, and a new revelation.

I would say sometime this month, but this month is NaNoWriMo. GOTTA GET TO 30K. I don't think that would be quite the problem anymore but when it comes to me and originals, I always have trouble with planning. Welp, if not November, then early December! I don't really plan on having this thing exceed January. I also gotta work on that new thing! Y'know. The thing. Nevermind.

-Starri