Mako trudges out of the stairwell, head hung low. This is the third one she's tried, and there still isn't an entry to the seventh floor in the building. This is because there doesn’t appear to be one. Which is a problem, because she's supposed to be moving into apartment 705.
Thinking back, maybe she should have realized that the rent had been just a little too reasonable, and that Imilce had been just a little too kind (and what kind of name was Imilce, anyway?), but... she had wanted so badly to go to school away from home, and her father had set such a strict budget that when she had found the offer, she had jumped on it. How was she supposed to know that she would end up a victim of apartment fraud?
There is a bench in the lobby and Mako sits down heavily, dropping her head into her hands. School starts in a week, her first month’s rent is gone (leaving her broke until her scholarship money comes in), her life possessions are stacked in a rental truck outside (which she only has for another hour) and her father will be so disappointed in her.
Given her circumstances, it is a bit more understandable that when a hand falls on her shoulder, and a stranger asks, "Are you okay?", Mako has to blink away tears. She tries to put on a brave font, but her treacherous voice quavers when she replies, “I think… I might be homeless.”
“Homeless…?” The man furrows his brow, so Mako takes a deep breath and explains further.
“I was told that Imilce Cho lived here and needed a roommate, so I had my first deposit sent, and my things are all outside, ready to move in, but. This apartment only has 6 floors.”
“Yes. Yes it does.”
"And I was told to move into 705."
The man blinks, then his eyes widen. "Ah. I see the problem."
“Hm.” He scratches his head. “You know, I might actually have a solution for you.”
"If it’s not the address to a youth hostel, I am all ears. I already asked, and they do not have anywhere I can leave my belongings."
"No, it's um..." He fumbles around with his bag and pulls out a stack of flyers. "Here.”
"What's this?" Mako is wary, but she takes one and glances over its contents. Printed neatly across the paper is a short, simple "Looking for Roommate" ad. "Huh."
"Yeah, my brother left me in the lurch pretty recently, so I've been trying to find someone to cover the cost of his rent. And if you don't mind living with a guy...?"
Mako gives the man a tight smile. “My apartment does not exist, I start school in a week, and you do not immediately give me creeped out feelings. Given that my choices are here or the street?” She holds out her hand "My name is Mako Mori. Nice to meet you, roomie."
The man takes her hand with a warm smile. "Nice to meet you too, Mako. I'm Raleigh. Uh, Raleigh Becket." He looks over her shoulder at the truck she's got parked out front. "So, you need any help moving your boxes in?"
Mako's smile becomes a bit more genuine as they shake hands. "If you are offering, I would very much appreciate it."
Raleigh lies in bed in the morning, nervous about what he's going to find when he gets up. He's not really sure how the events of yesterday managed to happen. Usually it's Yancy doing the stupid impulsive stuff like this, and Raleigh who makes things work, bitching all the while. This being on him?
His phone alarm rings for the third time and he sighs and scrubs at his face. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Literally, apparently, since when he walks out into the main room, he's assaulted by the heavy scent of dark roast.
"Wow, did you bring a coffeemaker with you that I didn't see?" Because the only other thing in his house is a battered Mr. Coffee, and that... no. No way she made something smelling this nice in that.
Except, apparently, she did, because it's out of that Mr. Coffee pot that Mako pours him a cup of what is very possibly ambrosia of the gods. "I just used what was in the kitchen." She smiles as she offers him the mug. "I figured that making breakfast was the least I could do to thank you for letting me stay here."
As Raleigh examines his coffee cup, Mako continues to move around the kitchen, pulling out plates and spreading jam onto toast. The background noise drowns out into nothingness though, as Raleigh holds the mug in his hands, staring into its depths as the heat of it soaks through his palms. He takes a sip.
Mako glances over as she arranges her toast on a plate. "I'm sorry?"
Raleigh sets the cup down on the counter with care. "You can make coffee like this with the terrible coffee machine right there? On the counter?"
"Oh. Well. Yes. My uncle Tendo is a big coffee buff. He taught me how to make a good brew even if I only had two cups, a kettle, and a couple of tissues. My childhood babysitters were … eclectic." Mako's cheeks colour as she looks away and tries to change the topic. “By the way, I have to apologize. I will not be able to make first month's rent for a little while. My budget does not allow for it until after I have figured out exactly how much my textbooks will cost."
"Crap, don’t worry about that, Mako." Raleigh steps forward and puts his hands on her shoulders, looking her straight in the eye with as much gravity as he can muster in his pyjamas. "I will pay you to make coffee. Let me pay you to make coffee."
She blinks. "I am glad that you enjoyed it, but I do not think that making you breakfast will pay the bills."
"What? Oh, geez, no, you don't understand. Um." Raleigh beckons her over to the window of his apartment. "See that coffee shop over there? Cafe Robo?"
Mako peers out across the street, and a light comes on in her eyes. "Yes?"
"I run it. But, it's sort of. Well." Raleigh runs a hand through his hair. "Look, my last two baristas ran away together to elope in Tahiti, and the barista before that was stealing money from the register, and while I'm great at many things, my coffee tastes like sludge.”
“I see.” Mako sneaks a grin at him as she peeks up through her bangs, blushing. “You are full of surprises, Mr. Becket.”
“It’s Raleigh. And is that a yes?” Raleigh wrings his hands as he looks imploringly at Mako. “Please tell me that’s a yes.”
"I think… that we should write up a contract. And that I can start today."
She squeaks when Raleigh whoops and wraps her up in an exuberant hug, but starts laughing with him when he spins her around.
After they write up the contract, Raleigh takes Mako down to the store, practically bouncing as they cross the street.
"And I'm sorry about the mess of paperwork you're gonna find in the back office. Most of it, I can do, but sometimes I get things that only Yance can sign off on, since he's technically the owner, and-"
Mako halts in her tracks. "You do not own the store?"
"Well, theoretically no, but..." Raleigh laughs awkwardly and beckons Mako towards the door as he unlocks it. "Look, it'll be easier to explain when you see The Wall."
Mako enters after Raleigh, under the jingle of bells. The shop is surprisingly cozy, decked out in warm blues and golds. There is a definite robot theme, and the mural of Lady Danger on the wall suddenly makes the shop name much more understandable. Mako drifts over to the counter and inspects the machines there. Yes, she can definitely work with this.
"Over here, Mako!" Raleigh is standing further down the counter, and he pulls a sheet down from a corkboard as Mako watches.
The title reads "WHERE IN THE WORLD IS YANCY BECKET?" in bright blue bubble letters, and underneath is a map of Europe. Thumb tacks are pressed into various cities, and strings tied to those lead to printed cellphone pictures, all of the same man, in various states of ... being. The captions are text message transcriptions, and as Mako starts to read, her eyebrows rise higher and higher.
"me helping build a church in spain!"
"i hit on a german girl last night and this is the black eye she gave me :Db”
“lol guys in poland have the best accents”
Mako tips her head to one side, then the other. Finally, she turns to Raleigh. “So this is your brother.”
Raleigh winces. "Yeah, that's him. The venerable Yancy Becket. He... well. They say that big brothers are the responsible ones? But I think Yance missed that memo and then some."
"Oh?" Mako hikes herself up against the edge of the counter, settling in for story time.
"Don't get me wrong, I love my brother! But he never was the kind of guy to really take things super seriously? I'm pretty sure the only reason he's still alive is because he's got really good luck." Raleigh laughs under his breath. "Take this place as a perfect example: Yancy won it in a poker game."
"Yeah, really. He won it, failed at running it for about a month, then the next thing I know, I wake up to an empty apartment and a text reading... it's this one."
Raleigh gestures to the one caption that has no picture attached. It reads, 'hey bro goin backpacking in europe hold the fort while im gone luv u b strong'
"How long has he been gone for?"
"We're coming up on three months now." Raleigh's mouth twists into not quite a smile. "So... yeah. I'm not legally the owner, but in every other way that counts, I run things here."
Mako considers the wall again, staring closely at Yancy Becket’s grainy face, then glances back at Raleigh, who is looking at her with the kind of expression worn only by eager puppies. She has always liked puppies.
"So when does this place normally open?" She asks, and it would almost be worth it to accept for Raleigh's smile alone.
"Half an hour. Think we can get the place set up by then, Mako?"
Mako finds herself grinning back as she says, "Of course."
It's a good first day, all things considered. Mako's a smart girl, and oftentimes if she doesn't do things the way Raleigh usually does them, it's because she's figured out a better method. She doesn't really need help, and Raleigh mostly just heaps praise on her whenever he gets a chance because wow she is great at everything.
“You flatter me, Raleigh, but it was only my first day. I am not nearly as skilled as you are trying to imply."
"No, you’re absolute perfection in comparison to everyone else who's worked here. And that’s including me." Raleigh bumps his shoulder against Mako's as they walk to the bank to deliver the deposit. "Believe me on that one."
"Hmm." Mako bumps him back. "You are going to give me a big head."
"And I will tell you that it is adorably round in its largeness."
Mako covers her face with her hands, and it's adorable right until a huge guy steps out of the shadows and grabs her, holding a knife to her side.
"Give me the money, and the girl doesn't get hurt."
Raleigh can feel the blood draining from his face as he takes the situation in. Huge guy holding a knife to his tiny new roomie and employee. Mako's safety vs. Rent money.
The choice is pretty obvious.
"Um, sure, just take it easy, big guy." Raleigh starts fumbling with his bag to get the deposit box keys out. He stops when Mako speaks up.
"What are you doing, Raleigh?"
"I'm giving him the money?"
"I see that, but why?"
Both he and the mugger blink.
"He... has a knife."
"It's a real knife," the mugger adds, poking at her ribs with the point, to make this fact more clear.
"Yes. Just a knife."
Before Raleigh can make any more incredulous comments, she grabs the mugger's wrist and moves. The knife clatters to the ground.
"Wow." Raleigh is still clutching his bag to his chest as he comes closer. "You really just did that. How did you just do that? "
Mako grunts as she clenches the struggling man in a sleeper hold. "I grew up on a military base. You tend to pick up a few things."
"Right. Of course." Raleigh shifts his weight from foot to foot. "So, um, what do we do now?"
"Generally, when assaulted by a criminal, it is standard protocol to call the police. Or, if you want, you could wait about two minutes, and he'll be unconscious?"
Raleigh stares at Mako, who blows a strand of blue hair out of her face. The mugger continues to make soft gurgling noises.
Finally, Raleigh breaks eye contact and starts hunting for his phone.
"... I'll call the cops."
"That seems like an advisable decision."
"Woof." Raleigh shuts the door behind him with a deep sigh, running his hand through his already dishevelled hair."I am beat."
"So am I. And I will be dreaming of police paperwork for weeks." Mako shrugs off her jacket and flops onto the lumpy sofa with a quieter exhalation, dragging a pillow to her chest to cuddle into.
“Same here.” Raleigh chuckles and grabs the TV remote. "You know what? I think we deserve a movie night." He glances over at her as he boots up the On Demand menu. "You like classic monster flicks?"
"Do birds have wings?" Mako's eyes gleam. "But if you believe that the 1998 Godzilla remake is a classic monster movie, we can no longer be friends."
"Oh man, I can't believe I found a jewel like you by accident, Mako." They fistbump as Raleigh scrolls through the movie list. "They don't have the original here, but how about 'Tokyo S.O.S.'? Lots of mass destruction, not too heavy plot-wise...?"
"Perfect.” Mako aims a cheeky grin Raleigh's way. “But I am comfortable, so if you want popcorn, you are going to have to make it yourself."
He laughs and ruffles her hair as he makes his way to the kitchen. "Fine. But only because you're the hero of the hour, Miss 'It's Only A Knife'."
The couch has plenty of room, but they squabble over "equal, fair popcorn access", so by the time the movie starts, Mako is curled up in the corner created by the arm of the sofa, knee-to-knee with Raleigh, who sits with his arms spread wide across the back, popcorn safe in his lap. It's comfortable, this quiet sharing of personal space, and for the first time since she left home, Mako feels relaxed.
She smiles sleepily as Mothra fights Godzilla, remembers murmuring "Faito!", but then she blinks. When she opens her eyes again, she's got a crick in her neck and a sunbeam in her face.
With a great yawn, she stretches out the kinks in her back, and smiles muzzily when she notices the blanket that's puddled in her lap. It is neatly folded over the back of the couch by the time Raleigh wanders out of his room.
"Good morning. Your neck okay?" Raleigh asks, as Mako sets down a plate of eggs and a pair of coffee mugs.
"Yes. Thank you for the blanket." She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear as heat rises in her face. "I am sorry about falling asleep."
"Nah, don't worry about it. We had a long day." Raleigh grins as he starts spooning eggs onto his plate. "Plus, you snore really cutely. Like, little kitten purrs. It added a certain something new to the movie experience."
"Raleigh, you need to stop." Mako rolls her eyes, embarrassed, but grinning despite herself as she pours herself coffee. "You really do."
"Maybe." Raleigh shrugs, then chews thoughtfully, before asking, "So, you grew up on a military base, huh?"
"Yes, I did." Mako straightens in her seat, ready for the worst. She hates telling people about this part of her childhood, but it had to happen eventually. Better to pull it off now, like a band-aid. "I ... hm. I know a lot of martial arts."
"Hah, I noticed!" Raleigh waves his fork in the air as he speaks. It should put Mako off, but it's vaguely endearing when Raleigh does it. "But how many kinds do you know officially? Or did you just pick things up here and there?"
"No..." Mako looks down, pushing her food around her plate so that she doesn't have to look Raleigh in the eye. "I favour Krav Maga, but I've also studied SCARS, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do... and a few other things. There are a lot of people to learn from when you move from base to base with your father every few months.” She shrugs helplessly. "I guess it's not really that feminine, but..."
"What are you saying?" She looks up and is surprised to find a starstruck expression on Raleigh’s face.
"That is so cool. I mean, I can only dream about being that badass!"
Mako’s eyes go wide. "You don't think I'm scary?"
"Um…” Raleigh cocks his head. “Do you want me to?"
"Then it’s settled!” He bangs his fist on the table with glee. “You’re a super sweet fighter lady, and that’s amazing."
"Oh, um. Thank you." Mako curls her hands around her coffee cup and takes a deep sip to cover her blush. She doesn't tell Raleigh to stop talking this time, though. It’s one thing to be commended for simply existing, but being complimented on a skill set that she worked so hard to earn is... surprisingly pleasant.
By the time Mako starts classes, the coffee shop is doing significantly better. It really does help to have coffee that is palatable and unlikely to induce vomiting. They do brisk business with the students and business people who pass through the area, and Raleigh starts thinking that maybe things will turn out alright.
Then he checks the back room one morning, and what he finds leaves him cursing a quiet blue streak. He puts the coffee shop into emergency “out to lunch” shut down, and sprints down the street, towards the university.
When Mako gets out of class, he's waiting by the doors.
"We have a problem."
He grabs her wrist to pull her along, and promptly gets thrown into a wall.
"... I deserved that," he moans from the floor, while Mako hovers over him, apologizing profusely.
"I'm sorry! I do not react well to being grabbed!"
"No, seriously, it's okay. I should have realized you wouldn't- Oof." Raleigh pulls himself up and brushes the dirt off his clothes. "But we really do have a problem."
Mako cocks her head, and Raleigh extrapolates.
"I checked the coffee this morning, and it must have gotten damp at some point, because the bag went moldy."
"You can’t just open another?" At Mako’s raised eyebrow, Raleigh shakes his head.
"No, you don't understand, Mako. It's all gone bad." He scrubs at his face with his hands. "We've got about a day's worth of beans up behind the counter, but that's it."
"Alright.” She pauses, then ventures, “And we can’t order more, because…?”
"I have a regular order in, but that’s not due for another two months, and the fastest shipping I can get is three weeks, which usually stretches at this time of year. We'll have to close the shop. Ugh. Only if that happens, my savings are blown, so I can't pay you and who knows how we'll make rent, and-"
"Raleigh." Mako puts a hand on each of Raleigh's shoulders and gives him a little shake, staring him straight in the eye. “Focus. You are speaking too many words in too little time.”
Shocked out of his nervous breakdown, Raleigh blurts, "What if Yancy comes back and we’re homeless and broke? I'll never live it down!"
He flings his arms around Mako and tucks his head into the crook of her shoulder, hyperventilating into her shirt.
“Shhh.” Mako twists so that she can get a hand on Raleigh’s back and start rubbing small circles. “Shh, it is going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not,” Raleigh mumbles, voice muffled by Mako’s neck.
“Yes, it will.” Mako tilts her head, bumping it lightly against Raleigh’s before pulling back with a solemn expression. “This is important to you, and you are my partner. I will fix it."
Mako shrugs. "I will go order more coffee."
“But. Our coffee isn't grown in Australia. Our beans are fair trade from Columbia. They are processed across the ocean in Columbia and shipped to us by boat."
“We’re on the other side of the Pacific Rim! Delivery takes weeks!”
“And we do not have weeks, yes, I did understand that. But how long do we have? Where is Yancy?”
“Um...” Raleigh checks his phone. “According to his latest text, he was motorboating in France this morning. Whether it was with boats, women, or both, I don’t know." He wrinkles his nose, then goes back to being panicked. "But why do you need to know that?"
“Because now we know that he is at least a day away by plane. And we have enough coffee for another day or so, right?”
“Umm, two if we stretch it and make the special something non-coffee-ish, I guess.”
“Great." Mako nods sharply, then holds out a hand. "Let me make a few calls."
Numb, Raleigh hands his cell over, and Mako dials a number, then starts speaking rapidly in ... some language. Maybe it's Japanese, maybe it's Greek. Either way, it's a something he doesn't understand.
"Right, so I'll just. Wait here then." He scuffs his toe against the ground and is forever glad that Yancy had gifted him with an unlimited international plan (to curb the cost of his self-indulgent selfie texts).
When Mako hangs up, she has a sharp grin on her face. "Two days."
"Okay." Raleigh takes his phone back from her, not sure how she is going to pull off this miracle, but willing to trust her. After all, what other option does he have?
Still, he peeks at his phone as they're walking back, trying to figure out where she called. It only leaves him more confused -- it's closer than Columbia, but why would Mako be calling Hong Kong?
He ponders this question, but nothing he dreams up is nearly as strange as the reality of what happens.
When the shop's salvation comes, it’s just in the nick of time. They've got all of two cups of coffee left, and Raleigh is so nervous that he's about to vibrate out of his skin. In the middle of taking an order, Mako tilts her head just so, listening for something.
"Ah," she says, "our coffee has arrived."
"I- what?" Raleigh peers out the front doors, then shoves a cup of coffee into a customer's hands, calling, "Sorry guys, gotta run to, uh, accept a delivery!", as he follows Mako out the doors and into the street.
There is a helicopter coming down in the parking lot.
“That. That’s not." Raleigh looks at Mako with wide eyes. "It’s not allowed to do that, is it?”
“Would you prefer me to direct them to the roof?”
Raleigh looks up at the roof, which is sloping and shingled, and not at all flat, then back at Mako, who is smiling her usual Mona Lisa smile.
“My point exactly. Plus, do you think that anyone is going to tell them that they can’t land wherever they want?”
The helicopter circles lower as it lands, and Raleigh gets a good look at the huge bear of a man who is piloting the craft. He smiles weakly.
“As usual, you have a good point."
“Mmhm.” Mako pats him on the arm in consolation, then says, “Those are Sasha and Aleksis Kaidonovsky, by the way. Aleksis taught me everything I know about make-up and heels, and Sasha taught me how to shoot a gun and assemble heavy artillery."
She smiles dreamily as she adds, "They were the best babysitters.”
A man and woman have hopped out of the helicopter now. As the woman roots around in the back, the man (Sasha?) strides forward and plucks Mako off the ground with a hearty laugh.
"Little Mako! It is so good to see you!”
Mako laughs brightly as he swings her around, looking even more pixie-like in comparison to the Russian man's massive bulk. Raleigh's breath catches in his throat from the sudden affection that slams into him. In deference to the arrival of her two friends, though, he refrains from hollering at her about her cuteness, and settles for grinning like a maniac until he notices the woman walking over with two gigantic burlap bags under her arms.
“Oh! Let me help you that!” Raleigh rushes forward. The woman eyes him, then shrugs and leans one side towards him, so that he can try to take a bag from her. He staggers embarrassingly when he takes its weight fully into his arms.
“How much does this weigh?” he squeaks.
“Mm," the woman hefts her bag, lips pursed. "Not too much. Perhaps a hundred, a hundred-fifty pounds?"
With that, she starts walking forward, heedless of Raleigh's steadily reddening face.
"Where should I put this down?"
Cursing his pride, Raleigh shuffles forward. "A-ah... this way."
"Tsk. Raleigh, you are going to pull a muscle or several if you continue carrying that alone." Mako slips into stride beside him and takes a hold of one side of the bag. "How did you ever move these before?"
Raleigh shoots her a relieved grin. "Um, that's what I pay the delivery people to do. And they usually have a dolly, now that I think about it."
"Silly." Mako laughs and shifts the bag a little more on her hip. "Here, you go see if Aleksis needs any help with sorting the helicopter. Sasha and I will take care of the rest of the bags. There are only a few left to carry.”
"Sure...." And then Raleigh does a double take. "Wait, Aleksis is the guy? But--" He looks over his shoulder at the man, who is helping to unload bags of coffee from the military helicopter parked in Raleigh’s parking lot, and well, things are already so weird that it’s not worth it to question things anymore. "You know what? Forget about it. Aleksis is the guy. Right. Yup."
He lets Mako slide the bag away from him and heft it over her shoulder with ease before going to show Sasha the way.
Raleigh wanders back towards the helicopter, where Aleksis is now setting up pylons, presumably to keep people from venturing too close.
"Um, hi." Raleigh waves hesitantly, and smiles. "I'm Raleigh Becket. Mako's roomie and, um. I guess I'm technically her boss, but really, we're more like partners."
“Hmm” says the man. He straightens up to his full height and crosses his arms over his chest, looking Raleigh up and down. Finally, he grins very widely and smacks Raleigh on the back hard enough to send him stumbling forward a step. “Mako is like a daughter to me. You will remember this.”
With that, he walks towards the shop doors, whistling.
It takes Raleigh a couple tries, but he does finally manage to get his limbs working enough to follow him in. When he does, Aleksis is leaning against the counter, inspecting The Wall, and Sasha and Mako are emerging from the back, chattering in what he assumes is Russian. Mako waves him over when she sees him, smiling brightly.
Raleigh sweeps over and switches to "good host" mode. "Hey Mako. And hello, Miss... Sasha?" The woman quirks her lips into a smirk, so Raleigh nods, pleased that he remembered her name properly. "Can I get either of you something to drink?"
"What do you have?" Sasha asks, only to be answered by a giggle from Mako.
"This is a coffeeshop."
"True." Sasha hums under her breath as she peruses the menu. "Something strong. We have had a long flight."
"Coming right up!" Raleigh spins to start on the coffee, and Mako stands to follow him.
"I had better come help. We need to start a new pot of coffee, anyway, and we both know that you can't work the machine for love or money."
"Sure!" As the two of them move behind the counter, Raleigh leans over to whisper in Mako's ear. "Right, so, last question."
He tips his head over at Aleksis, who has sat himself down by his wife, and is cupping her cheek in his hand.
"Why would he even need heels?"
Mako bops Raleigh upside the head as she passes behind him, grinning impishly. "Because Sasha likes them, of course."
"Ah." Raleigh pauses for a moment in his tracks, considering that mental image. "So I'm just going to finish making this drink now."
Mako's eyes crinkle as she continues to set up the espresso machine for a new batch of coffee. "That sounds like a good idea."
Sasha and Aleksis stay at the coffeeshop until close, chatting with Mako whenever she isn't serving customers.
Time flies, and when Mako looks out the window, the sun is deep down on the horizon. She clucks her tongue as she finishes wiping down the counters.
"You two can’t be heading back to base right away. It is much too dark to fly safely. Where are you staying?”
“With you, of course,” says Sasha, as if the arrangement were a natural assumption.
"Of course you are." Mako smiles warmly and bows her head. "Let me just check with Raleigh about something."
Swiftly, she sidles over to Raleigh and murmurs in his ear.
“So that pull-out couch you have. Can it sleep two people?”
“I don’t know if it can even sleep one, actually. It isn't really meant for sleeping and- wait." His eyes light with sudden realization. "Are they staying? Because I mean, I can fit on it, but..."
“Ah, thank you for your generous offer to sleep on the couch,” says Aleksis, who has come up behind him and placed a huge hand on his shoulder.
“Yes, Raleigh. Thank you for sacrificing your bed for the comfort of your guests,” says Sasha.
“I did tell Sasha and Aleksis what a wonderful person you are!”
Mako smiles stiffly at Raleigh and tries her best to become telepathic. Please say okay, she thinks at him, please please please!
“Well.” Raleigh laughs awkwardly. “The apartment’s this way. After you.”
He holds the door open for Aleksis and Sasha, but as Mako comes, he hisses, “I call it the violating chair for a reason. There are springs.”
“If it is so bad, why do you own it?”
“Because it’s too heavy to take down the stairs, and it doesn’t fit in the elevator!”
“Well, the Kaidonovskys did us a huge favour today, so we definitely can't turn them out." She squares her jaw. "And I like my bed.”
Raleigh sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Do I get to use my boss powers to pull rank…?”
“We have a contract. It’s very firm about these sorts of things.”
"Really?" He looks so disbelieving that Mako pulls out her phone.
“I took a picture of it, just in case."
Raleigh scrolls through as they walk, eyes growing wider and wider. He stares at the phone, then at her, then back to the phone.
"... How did this happen?"
"You are a pushover," says Mako as she pats him on the arm.
Raleigh sighs again. “So I’m sleeping on the couch tonight, then.”
"You are so lucky that I like you." Raleigh pats Mako on the back. "C'mon. Let's get going."
After a brief freak-out, wherein Raleigh gets Mako to distract the Kaidonovskys with a quick tour of the apartment while he moves his spank bank from his bedside table into the bottom of his underwear drawer, the Kaidonovskys settle in Raleigh's room fairly easily. Mako bids him a good night soon after her friends shut the door, leaving Raleigh to eye the couch suspiciously.
Maybe it's not as bad as he remembers?
He pulls the cushions off onto the floor, and grabs the handle to pull it out. Horrible creaking sounds ensue, and he abandons that course of action immediately, letting the furniture fold back into itself with a loud "SCREE-CLANK". His next try doesn't even budge the couch -- dropping it like that must have jammed the mechanism.
Screw it, he's just going to sleep on the floor. He’ll have a little (read: a lot of) back pain tomorrow, but it's just one night, right? He keeps telling himself as he grabs his pillows and blankets from the kitchen table and starts piling them on the floor, far away from the violating chair. The resulting heap of bedclothes looks extremely pathetic.
A quiet cough takes Raleigh away from thoughts of the rough night he's about to face.
"I am not sacrificing my bed, but maybe..." Mako looks up at him through her bangs as she peeks out from behind her door. "Maybe we could share?"
"Oh my god, yes please." Raleigh has his pillow in hand and is by her side in a hot second. "You are ama- Woah."
He stops in his tracks and stares when Mako pulls the door open all the way, because that is not what his roommate usually wears to bed. When he wakes up in the morning, and she's yawning in the kitchen, making coffee, Mako favours baggy t-shirts and sweatpants with the possible addition of fluffy slippers. That she's not wearing any of the above sets alarms ringing in Raleigh's brain.
"You're in shorts. And a tank top."
"I am." Mako's cheeks turn pink as she nods.
"There’s lace. You are wearing a lacy tank top. Are you ... ?" Raleigh cycles from confused to almost there to extremely concerned in about five seconds tops as the lights go on in his brain. "Waaaaait crap shit oh my god, is this-- Did you mean sharing your bed, or sharing your bed?"
"Whichever of those options involves sex." Despite her blush, Mako is obviously determined to make things work, because she straightens up and puts her hands on her hips, looking Raleigh directly in the eye. "You are an attractive man, and I am not unpretty, so … what do you say?"
"I... I'm super flattered, Mako, but I think we've got some crossed wires here." Raleigh waves his hands as Mako starts to wilt in the face of his rejection. "No! I mean, you're a gorgeous girl, but. Um. Shit."
"But you only see me as a friend and little sister, not that way, because I'm just not your type." Mako sounds resigned, obviously used to rejection. "This speech was given to me plenty of times at the base because of my father."
"No! I mean, you're right that you're not my type, but not because- Shit, those guys were dumbasses." Raleigh sputters and waves his hands again, as if fluttering them awkwardly will make his meaning clear. "You're super gorgeous and if I could make myself into you, I'd be all over you, I'm just. You're not a guy."
"I-" Mako's head snaps up. "What? You're-?"
"Gay. Really gay. Super, crazy, gold star, rainbows and unicorns gay."
"I didn't. You don't." Mako's face has gone sheet white. From behind her hands, she squeaks, "But you were giving out signs?"
"Signs? Really? What do you mean by signs?"
"How can you not notice?" Now it is Mako who flings her arms out, hands spread wide. "You flirt with me all the time! You tell me that- that I am perfect and lovely, and we exchange casual touches every other moment, and two days ago, you came to my school and you held my hand the entire time we were walking back!”
“But..." Raleigh is taken aback. "But you are perfect, and I touch everyone I like that way, and it was busy that day! I didn’t want to lose you in the crowds! You’re really short! I mean, it works really well for you, because your proportions are great, and it means that your head fits perfectly under my chin when I get tired, but-”
Mako smacks Raleigh's shoulder. "You are doing it again!"
"I can't help it! That's just how I am!"
"Well, you asked why I thought you were interested in me!"
"Why are we yelling at each other?!"
"Because..." Both of them deflate. "Because it just happened."
Mako crosses her arms over her chest and looks away, lip jutting out the way it does when she's upset and doesn't want to show it. Raleigh bites his lip and lays a hand on Mako's shoulder.
"Hey. I'm really sorry if I hurt your feelings. You really are like a little sister to me. I just... have no romantic boyfriend-y feelings for you. At all."
Mako snorts. “Luckily for both of us, no romantic interest was involved”
“... But you wanted to have sex?”
“Ever heard of friends with benefits?”
“Um.” Raleigh's worldview shifts dramatically.
“Being the commander’s daughter greatly limited the … pool of candidates when I was growing up. Most of the people who didn’t care about that did care about my martial arts experience." Mako sighs. "This was the first time in a long time that I thought there might be mutual interest, and more than that, I trust you, so I thought, why not?"
“Ah. Right. So. Okay.” Raleigh shuffles about looking somewhat like a kicked puppy.
It's Mako's turn to reach out and squeeze Raleigh's shoulder. “Raleigh, you are a good person and your abs are a work of art, but you are also my boss and my roommate. We both know that dating would be really, really awkward.”
The silence between the stretches for eternities before Raleigh manages to ask, “Is this going to be awkward?”
Mako squints up at him. “Only if you make it awkward." She strides over to her bed and gets in. When Raleigh doesn't follow, she looks back at him and pats the mattress. “Well?”
With her unstated permission, Raleigh crawls into bed beside Mako, spooning up behind her before she flips off her lamp. Nothing happens that night except for sleep.
Well, maybe a few kitten snores from Mako, but Raleigh wasn't lying when he said that they were adorable.
Mako murmurs when Raleigh wakes up the next morning, but doesn't quite wake. "Shh, no need to get up." He pats her shoulder and eases his way out of the bed with care. Mako deserves whatever extra sleep she can get. Tiptoeing across the floor, he teases the door open and shut to keep it from creaking. This proves to be a tactical error, because it prevents him from noticing until too late that he is not alone.
He freezes, turns slowly away from the bedroom door, and finds Sasha and Alexis already at the kitchen table, eating pancakes.
Sasha glances up at him from her food, then looks to Aleksis. "Hmph. They really didn't have sex last night."
"Impossible!" Aleksis pounds his fist on the table while Raleigh sputters.
Sasha shrugs and tilts her head sharply in Raleigh's direction. "Very possible. See how he walks?"
"Bah!" Aleksis wheels on Raleigh. “A beautiful, precious flower like Mako invited you into her room, and you didn’t oblige her?”
“… no?” Raleigh squeaks, because even though it is a true answer, he feels like it's also the wrong one.
“In Russia, we have words for people like you." In the face of Aleksis's potent glare, Raleigh winces.
“Er, yes, but in this case, most of them apply.” He gestures with his hand, and it's Aleksis's turn to reel back as Sasha snorts into her pancakes.
“... Ah. Well.” The man shifts in his chair and digs five dollars out of his pocket, which Sasha accepts with a victorious grin.
“When will you learn that I am always right?”
“Never. How else would you get your money?”
Sasha pecks Aleksis on the cheek. “Oh, I’ll just rent out your bedroom.”
Mako wanders out of the bedroom at that point, stretching tall with a contented hum.
"Good morning!" Her smile widens when she sees the food on the kitchen table. "Oh, you made pancakes!"
"Of course," Aleksis rumbles with gruff affection as he stands to pull a chair out for Mako. "They are your favourIte."
"Wonderful." Mako scoots herself in before nonchalantly adding, "Good food will fill the gaping hole in my heart caused by Raleigh's cold-hearted rejection of my feelings.”
Aleksis’s head whips around and Raleigh makes a high-pitched noise in the back of his throat when he registers the killing intent in his eyes. Mako pats Aleksis then, laughing lightly. "I’m joking, Lyosha! Just joking!"
She scoots closer to Raleigh, so that she can fold their fingers together under the table.
"Raleigh and I are just fine."