Hotaru is working when she first sees her.
It is a total cliche, she thinks, that the pink-haired girl who strolls in during their slower hours catches her eye.
Beside her, Haruka snorts. “See something you like?” she asks.
“Shut up,” she hisses, tossing the wet dishrag at her.
“Haruka, you weren’t any better when you first met Michiru,” Setsuna remarks.
“I was very much calm and collected-Michiru don’t give me that look!”
The pink haired girl comes over to the counter with a wide smile. “Hi, can I get a vanilla mocha?” she asks.
“For here or to go?” Michiru asks, already writing down the order.
“For here please, thanks,” the girl says.
Michiru smiles and places a pink mug on the counter. “Will that be all?”
“Yes.” The girl hands over her card, and Hotaru catches a glimpse of glittery pink nails.
How can someone be so pink? The girl’s pink hair is pulled up into two pigtails with conical buns on top. Her nails are a glittery warm pink, and her skirt is peach colored floral lace. Pink is a color she normally has no use for, but maybe-
“Gay,” Haruka whispers in her ear, and Hotaru’s face burns.
“Shut up,” she hisses back, and snatches the mug up before Setsuna can start the drink. She hears Michiru’s amused chuckle but focuses only on making the best damn coffee she can.
Fuck you, Haruka.
“Vanilla mocha!” she calls out, placing the drink on the counter. The girl stands up and walks over, then carefully picks up the mug with a smile.
“Thanks,” she says, and vanishes with her drink.
“Gay,” Haruka repeats.
“I think you mean lesbian,” Michiru drily remarks.
Hotaru snatches up two dirty dishrags and pelts both of them, smacking Haruka’s shoulder and Michiru’s face.
Haruka grabs the dishrags and waves them threateningly. “It is on!”
“Okay, stop teasing Hotaru for her crush,” Setsuna interjects. “And do not-Haruka!”
Two wet dish towels smack into Hotaru’s chest before falling sadly to the floor.
“She started it,” Haruka says petulantly.
“We use those to clean,” Setsuna replies. “Now stop antagonizing one another.”
“The midget started it. Why should I get punished for her actions?”
“I am not a midget!”
Setsuna groans and Michiru snorts as both Hotaru and Haruka promptly launch the dish rags in the air once more, where the two towels collide with a wet thump before landing uselessly to the floor.
“I hate this fucking family,” Setsuna says in the background.
It’s been two days, and Hotaru hasn’t seen the personification of pink back in their little coffee shop since.
The door opens, and Hotaru glances up, but it’s only a pretty blonde girl, a large red hair bow on her head. She smiles at Haruka, giggles and flirts just enough to have Haruka wink and causing Michiru to give a secret smile to the milk steamer.
And then her gaze falls on Hotaru.
Her blue eyes widen and she gasps, her hand immediately whipping out her phone as she begins frantically texting something. Hotaru feels Haruka and Michiru look at her, and her own face flushes once more. She ducks her head and prepares the blonde’s drink.
“Latte!” she calls out, and the blonde girl grins and accepts it. “Thanks...Hotaru,” she says, reading her name tag. She shoots one last grin at Haruka, then turns around and settle in a booth with her latte.
“What was that about, midget?” Haruka asks.
“I have never seen her before,” Hotaru hisses. “I have no idea why she acted like that!”
The door is flung open and a girl with long black hair comes in. She strides to the counter and orders a chai tea latte, then takes her drink and joins the blonde girl’s booth.
“Do you know her?” Michiru asks.
“Never seen her before,” Hotaru responds.
The four of them stare at the two girls in the booth. The blonde girl is furiously whispering to the other girl, and both of them will occasionally spare glances at the door and the counter.
The door opens and in walks a short girl with glasses and blue hair. She smiles and orders a plain black coffee. Her eyes widen slightly when she sees Hotaru, and Hotaru feels a prickle of discomfort creep up her spine.
The blue haired girl smiles and thanks Hotaru before joining the blonde girl and the black-haired girl’s booth. She leans in and whispers something to the other girls.
The blonde slams both hands on the table and stands up. “Ami! We’re not meddling!”
“Keep it down!” the black-haired girl snaps, yanking the blonde back down. “You’re being too loud!”
The one with glasses-Ami, probably- sighs and rests her head on her hand.
“So...do you know that one?” Haruka asks.
“Nope.” Hotaru fiddles with her sleeves. “Setsuna, do you think I could hang out in the back for a bit?”
“Yes. Take your break.” Setsuna smiles gently at her. “This all seems very overwhelming.”
Hotaru nods and escapes to the backroom, where she immediately collapses into a chair. Who are these girls, and why are they all looking at her? She clutches her pendant and takes in deep breathes. It’s all going to be fine.
She thinks about the pretty pink girl once more. The way the girl had gracefully accepted the mocha, and how later the empty mug held a glossy pink lipstick stain. The way her nails had glittered in the sun. Her lovely pink hair. Hotaru takes in another breath. Everything is going to be fine.
“Hey, Hotaru,” Michiru says as she enters the backroom. “You okay?”
Hotaru nods. “It’s just...confusing.”
“Well, Haruka thought you might be interested to know that another girl joined them. She has a brown ponytail and...oh, hold on, Setsuna took a pic. Here.” She pulls out her phone and offers it to Hotaru. “Look familiar?”
“That’s okay. Maybe they’re still waiting for more people.” Michiru smiles. “They seem to have settled down though. You can come back out whenever you are comfortable.” She pauses. “Or not.”
Hotaru nods and watches as Michiru heads back out. She hears Haruka snort and coffee mugs clink. She sighs, remembering how to relax, hoping to calm her rabbit heart.
Then she steps back to the front.
Setsuna arches an eyebrow and Haruka sighs. Michiru smiles encouragingly at her, and Hotaru smiles back.
The door opens and two girls spill inside. One has blonde hair pulled into long twin tails, little round buns crowning each tail. The other girl is pink, pink, pink.
The blonde girl smiles and cheerfully orders two vanilla mochas while the pink girl slides into the booth with the other girls. Hotaru snatches up both mugs and makes both mochas, then hands them to the blonde girl.
“I like your shirt,” the blonde girl chirps.
“Usagi!” the pink girl yells.
“Calm down, Chibiusa,” Usagi calls back. She grins at Hotaru. “Don’t mind her. She’s my little sister.”
Usagi smiles and cheerfully skips back to the booth.
Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna all turn to her.
“Chibiusa, huh?” Haruka asks, a slow smirk spreading across her face.
Hotaru scowls and retreats to the break room. Haruka’s laughter follows her.
The next day, the door opens and the pink girl-Chibiusa-comes back inside. She strides right up to the counter and ignores the register.
“I’m sorry about my sister and her friends,” she says, looking directly at Hotaru. Hotaru feels Michiru sneakily push her closer to Chibiusa. The personification of pink, her mind supplies unhelpfully.
“It’s, uh, it’s okay.”
“You seemed uncomfortable yesterday,” Chibiusa says. “They mean well, but sometimes they can be absolutely thoughtless.”
“Oh.” Hotaru fidgets with her sleeves.
Chibiusa pauses, then says, “So...can I make it up to you?”
Hotaru’s head snaps up. “I-”
“When do you get off?” Chibiusa asks.
“Oh, she can leave right now,” Setsuna says. “You can go, Hotaru.”
Hotaru looks at her. Setsuna is smiling, and Haruka has both hands up in a thumbs-up.
“Fine,” she says. “Let me get my stuff.”
Chibusa nods and Hotaru slips back into the backroom to grab her stuff.
“Go Hotaru!” Michiru says. “Tell us everything!”
“Don’t do anything I would do,” Haruka adds.
“Have fun,” Setsuna tells her.
Hotaru sighs. “You’re all terrible.” A smile curls across her face as she heads back out to meet Chibiusa.
“I’m Usagi, but everyone calls me Chibiusa,” Chibiusa says as soon as Hotaru steps out from behind the counter. She smiles at her. “And you are?”
“Hotaru. Hotaru Tomoe.”
Chibiusa smiles. “So...wanna get a snack somewhere? Doesn’t have to be here; I know your coworkers are here.”
Hotaru smiles back. “That sounds nice. Know any good places close to here?”
Chibusa grins. “There’s this place five blocks down...”
As they leave, Hotaru risks one quick wave back at her friends.
“Use protection,” Haruka mouths, winking cheekily.
She internally groans as she follows Chibiusa down the street.