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love is found in crowded streets and coffee shops

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The residents of Stirling Street were, for the most part, good friends. They were a tight knit community of five shops, and possibly a little co-dependent for their own good. Seb owned Horse & Bull Repairs Shop, fixing anything from watches to car engines. Kimi and Kevin were next door at Iceman Tattoos, which sometimes also did alcohol (it was never advised). On the other side of him was Restaurant de Monte-Carlo, run by Romain and his trusty crew, and kept very traditionally French. Across the road was Jenson and Fernando’s Champions Coffee Shop & Bakery, once started as two separate shops, but they had ended up sharing so many customers they’d eventually given in and taken down the inbetween wall. Next to them was Jev and Andre’s shop, which was… well, they seemed to change it every week, the rest of them had given up trying to predict what shop it was going to be. 

Stirling Street was great. Except for the fact that Seb and Kimi hated each other.

No-one knew how the rivalry had started, not even the two of them. It was just a fact of life by now. They opened their shops, argued about where their poster boards were situated at 9.15 exactly, sniped their way through their lunch break at Champions, and yelled at each other through their shared wall about their choice in music. 

“We need to do something.” Jenson groaned, after Seb and Kimi had left following another tense lunch-break. “They’re always at each other's throats, and frankly, it’s driving me insane.”

“I can’t hear myself think.” Kevin muttered. “I need to stay out of there as long as possible.”

“Romain said he has heard them yelling three time this week. Three times . It is insane.” Fernando said glumly. “And they argued over what was the best flavour muffin. And they were both wrong.”

“They didn’t choose my Key Lime Pie muffin?” Jenson sounded wounded. “What did they choose?”

“Seb said chocolate chip.” Fernando flinched at Jenson’s sharp intake of breath. “You do not want to know what Kimi said.”

“Tell me what he said.”

Fernando sighed. “Vanilla. He said vanilla.”

“He said what?” Jenson yelped. “Is he open? I need to have words with him.”

Fernando watched Jenson leave, shaking his head. He’d said that he wouldn’t want to know. People really should listen to him.

“How can we stop them fighting?” Lando asked, clearing plates. “They’re pretty much always at each other’s throats.”

“You’re missing the point.” Lewis said from a nearby table, who had before looked completely asleep. He still did, except for the part his mouth was moving.

“What’s the point then?” Kevin asked curiously.

“It’s not that they hate each other. It’s that they don’t.”

“What do you mean, they don’t?” Lando frowned. “Of course they do. They fight all the time!”

“It’s because they’re scared.” Lewis shrugged. “They don’t actually hate each other, but they’re terrified of not-hating each other. It’s comfortable, it’s a relationship they know.”

“That makes sense.” Fernando shrugged. “I can work with it.”

Jenson stormed back in, eyes suspiciously red. “He won’t apologise. Said his opinions are his own and that vanilla is a valid choice.” His voice sounded wobbly. “It’s fine.”

“Did you cry during or after this discussion?” Fernando raised an eyebrow. Jenson shuffled.

“During.”

“You do know that he’s going to remember that forever.”

“Yep.”

“Just checking.”

“So,” Lando leaned on the counter. “So we need to convince them that they don’t hate each other? How hard can it be?”

 

~*~

 

It was pretty hard.

Romain kept on complaining that he could hear Kimi shouting at Seb, and had even sent his waiters over to try and calm the situation.

It hadn’t.

Pierre, Charles and Esteban had stumbled back to the restaurant terrified, Kevin alongside, and needed two shots each until they stopped trembling. They looked shell-shocked for another week. 

Jenson tried talking to Seb one afternoon, bringing muffins as a go-between (chocolate chip included). Seb had taken the muffin’s, had listened as long as it had taken to eat them, before turfing Jenson out. (He’d agreed to mend the bakery clock free of charge though. It might have something to do with Jenson lying in the doorway, holding his muffin tub, determined not to move. Bribery was sometimes needed). 

Even Jev had tried. Which was something that no-one had ever imagined happened, as Jev and Andre acted like the cool kids that thought everything was beneath them. Jev had wandered into the bakery at lunchtime, looking unconcerned, and had attempted to mediate one of their arguments. When he’d left, his usually perfect hair had been sticking up on end, and something was popping in his jaw. 

Everyone had tried, except for Lewis, who refused to get involved. Something about them figuring it out for themselves.

“What are we going to do?” Jenson moaned. “It’s like everything we do makes things worse!”

“No more meddling here.” Fernando threatened. “Look at George.”

Jenson looked over to where George was lying with his head on a table, cheesecake in his hair. Lando was patting him on the back, while Carlos was trying to brush as many crumbs as possible out of his hair. Alex was playing gentle music from his phone, making comforting noises. 

“Look at him Jenson.” Fernando repeated. “He has cheesecake in his hair. I don’t even know how they got cheesecake, we don’t sell cheesecake.”

“It was fantastic aim though.” Andre shrugged. “Can’t deny that. Two double espressos to go please.”

“Those are going to keep you up all night you know?” Fernando said. “Or give you superpowers, you’ve been getting those everyday for a year.”

“Betting on it.” Andre winked. “Plus, gotta keep looking hot somehow.”

“Amen.” Lewis chimed in from the back of the bakery. Jenson jumped a little, staring at him. 

“I thought he was asleep, didn’t you think he was asleep?”

“Maybe you should convince them of the things that they like about each other.” Andre suggested. “Vodka, racing, ice-cream. Start slow.” He picked up both espressos, downed one after the other, before grinning. “See you later.”

“He’s going to die.” Carlos said in admiration. “He is insane.”

“Do you think that would work?” Jenson asked. “Slowly warming them up to each other?”

“Cannot do much worse, can it?” Fernando replied. “It will either stay the same or they will want to bang each other in a week.”

“Challenge accepted.” Jenson looked determined. “Better than the arguing.”

 

~*~

 

“So, Seb.” Jenson leaned up on Seb’s counter, grinning. “Ice-cream?”

Seb gave him a weird look. “Sure.” He said slowly, taking one of the offered ice-creams. “What do you want?”

“I can come and hang out with you, can’t I? We’re friends.” Jenson laughed. “So, vodka? What’s that about?”

“Are you trying to make me like Kimi?” Seb raised an eyebrow, tapping a finger against the counter. “Because it’s not going to work.”

“What, no! No, no no…” Jenson trailed off. “Well, good chat.” He backed away towards the door. “Lovely, lovely chat.”

“Tell them it’ll take more than that to sort out your problem.” Seb called after him. “And I want a free coffee for that attempt!”

 

~*~

 

Jenson spent twenty seconds in Kimi’s shop before something was thrown at him. He didn’t stop to find out what it was.

Valtteri, who was in the shop of the time, only shook his head when asked.  

 

~*~

 

“We’re doomed.” Romain said gloomily. “I’m going to need to buy earplugs.”

The majority of the Stirling Street residents (minus the significant two) were sat around a few tables pushed together, nursing various coffees and teas. Charles, Pierre and Esteban still looked jittery. George was still finding crumbs in his hair. Jev still tensed up when he heard their names mentioned. Kevin was just starting to pretend that he didn’t exist. 

Lewis was still asleep in the corner. Or maybe he wasn’t, they weren’t sure. 

“Wait, here they come.” Jenson shushed the group. They all turned to watch out the window as they came out of their shops, scowling as they saw each other. 

“Your board is in front of my store.” Seb snapped, locking his shop. “Again.”

“Well, it’s not like I’m stealing your customers. How many people did you see today?” Kimi countered, crossing his arms. 

“Don’t change the subject. Also, why do you have to play your music so loud? It’d be nice not to have it drill into my head.”

“Well, I’m sorry... “ They continued bickering down the street. The group turned back to look at each other, dismally.

“Doomed.” Romain repeated sadly. “Doomed.”

 

~*~

 

Jenson picked up his tub of muffins, steeling himself. “Half for Seb, half for Kimi. As an apology of sorts.”

“They need to learn for themselves.” Fernando agreed. “We cannot have anymore scared kids. They do not need to see that ever.”

Jenson sighed, picking up the tubs. “I hope Romain buys those earplugs.” He said, walking towards the door. “Really hope.”

He crossed the street, opening the door to Seb’s shop. It was before opening time, but Seb never locked his shop (which was probably a really bad idea considering his shop was filled with valuables).

“Hey Seb, just brought some more muffins, five chocolate chips and one of my new inventions, Blackberry Crumble muffins. Thought you might one to try it, and - er, what?” He stopped as he finally took in the scene in front of him. “What is happening?”

Seb looked up, blinking. “Huh?”

Jenson gaped. “But… you’re here! And… and him!” He stuttered, pointing at the other guy in the room. “It’s Kimi!”

Seb turned to Kimi sat next to him. “Huh, it is. Funny that.”

“But… you hate each other!” Jenson clutched his muffin box to his chest. “You hate each other!”

“Well, we did.” Seb said, tapping away at his laptop. “For ages.”

“Arguing is the way to a man’s heart.” Kimi muttered from behind his coffee. Seb nodded absentmindedly. 

“Exactly.”

“So, we’ve been trying to make you two not hate each other when you don’t actually hate each other?” Jenson asked. “I think I need to sit down.”

“The floor is just there.” Seb said helpfully. Kimi snickered.

“How long has this been going on?” Jenson looked between them wildly. “How long?”

“Since those poor French boys walked in.” Seb replied. “I really am sorry for traumatising them.”

“I’m not.” Kimi shrugged.

“Oh my… oh my god.” Jenson put his tub on the counter, resting his forehead on the counter. “Does anyone else know?”

“Lewis.” Kimi yawned.

“Lewis?!” Jenson screeched. “He knew?!” He took a deep breath, looking at the two men in front of him. “Give me a minute.”

 

~*~

 

Jenson would later admit that running back across the street, screaming words with no coherence at Lewis, and then promptly fainting was not his finest moment. 

However, he’d also say that his emotions were running high. It was justified. 

 

~*~

 

“So, they don’t actually hate each other?” Lando asked. “Wow.”

“All this time?” Andre said. “Wow.”

“I think it is sweet.” Fernando said. “That Seb and Kimi - do not flinch -” as Jev, Charles, Pierre, Kevin and Esteban all involuntarily shuddered, “that even they can get over their differences.”

“I can’t believe they let me find out like that!” Jenson still looked haunted.

The door opened, and the usual bickering being heard again. “If you move that sign one more time …” 

“Love at it’s finest.” Lewis said smugly. “I said to leave it to themselves.” 

“I swear you were asleep a second ago!” Jenson yelped. “You were asleep!”