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mr. perfectly fine

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It was a relatively slow morning and Aleksander was grateful for the chance to finish working on the books before the usual ten am iced coffee rush. He never really understood what about cold brew coffee made it a suitable meal replacement but it was definitely not his place to question it especially not if it meant that he could take on new staff, anything was better than interacting with the crazies that walked through the door daily.

"There is a clear difference between caramel syrup and a caramel drizzle!" And there went his day, he thought as he got up with a sigh- unfortunately he knew that voice.

"What seems to be the problem here?" He asked, looking at his now terrified employee. "Why don't you go take a break and let me handle this," he sighed dismissing the freshman.

She all but ran off leaving him to contend with the angry girl before him. Cheerleaders, he thought, took in the ridiculously short shorts and Ravka Cheer printed jackets worn by the girl and her exasperated friend.

"The problem- Morozova- is that your employees are idiots."

"Zoya I said it was fine," the girl behind Zoya groaned, alerting Aleksander to her presence.

She was gorgeous he thought, doing everything in his power not to stare in awe of her.

"Oh would it be fine if you had a nut allergy and they accidentally gave you almond milk instead of oat milk and your throat seized up and you died? You're too much of a pushover."

The friend rolled her eyes as an amused smirk crossed her lips. "Why don't you head back to the gym and I'll be right over?"

"If you're late and I have to spend one minute alone with those losers it's your head, Starkov."

"I love you too Z," she smiled warmly. "I am so sorry about my friend. Tryouts are going on so she's on edge." Their coach was useless so Zoya pretty much ran the entire team all on her own- though she suspected that the older girl preferred it that way.

"It's fine we've had worse," he replied, shocked by his own willingness to make conversation with this girl.

"Worse than a melt down over caramel drizzle?"

"It's a very common issue," a smile crossed his lips, seemingly of its own volition- that didn't happen, ever. "What happened?" He asked choosing not to stare at the toned abs or cleavage that were currently on display due to her leaving her jacket unzipped.

"I wanted a caramel drizzle and she gave me caramel syrup. It was fine, definitely not worth the mess Zoya caused. I just would've tipped less."

He chuckled and shook his head, she was still tipping even though someone botched her order? She definitely was a pushover.

"What's so funny?" she asked, still smiling at him.

"You're nice for someone up before eight am."

"Oh I've been up since five, we had to work out and run through the routine for tryouts. Explains why Z is in such a mood, this batch of recruits isn't the most promising."

Zoya was in a bad mood because Zoya Nazyalensky was a raging bitch, he knew that much since he was old enough to know what the word meant.

"Uh huh, I'll take care of your order, what was it?"

"Extra large vanilla sweet cream cold brew with almond milk and a caramel drizzle. It's going to be a long day."

"I see, name?"

"Alina," she smiled. "And again I am so sorry for my friend it's just a bad day-"

"When you're like that ninety percent of the time it kinda stops being about the day you know."

"Oh so you know Zoya?" She asked taking a seat on one of the stools at the counter, he didn't have to look to know that there was no way her feet were touching the ground.

"I've had the displeasure yes."

"She really isn't that bad," Alina pouted, resting her chin in both her hands. Was Zoya intense, dramatic and strict? Yes. But she'd also been a great friend to her these past few months.

"I've known her since we were three, believe me, she is."

"Well I don't know you," she scoffed. "I don't even know your name. So forgive me if I'm not as trusting." Even as she was chastising him he could see there was no malice behind it, it was actually adorable- as was her rambling.

"Aleksander," he supplied.

"I'd say nice to meet you but you just shit talked my best friend," she replied with a small smile.

"Oh she's said worse about me," he grinned.

"Not to me," she shrugged. And honestly fuck her for that because she shouldn't be finding out about a man this hot by chance.

"I've never seen you around, are you a freshman?" She definitely looked young enough to be one, her petite frame wasn't helping much either but he didn't feel comfortable oggling someone who just left high school despite only being twenty himself.

"Sophomore, I transferred here though."

"Explains why you're so nice, people here aren't."

"People are mean everywhere. You get nothing out of being mean back."

"You are a pushover," he teased.

"You guys are the worst," she scoffed, crossing her arms, inadvertently accentuating her sports bra clad cleavage.

"You'll see," he scoffed placing the drink in front of her. "Let me know what you think."

She shook her head and stuck the straw in, swirling it around a few times before bringing it to her lips. He swears he saw her tongue dart out seductively but he could have just easily imagined that. What he didn't imagine was the small hum of satisfaction and the small smile that crossed her lips.

"Perfect. What do I owe you?"

"Oh it's on the house, we made the mistake remember?"

"Right," she chuckled. "Well thank you, Aleksander. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Sure, good luck with try outs."

"Thanks," she smiled walking out. This time he did shamelessly gawk at her toned legs- that were considerably long for her stature- and her unfairly perfect ass.

Great, he had to contend with the fact that he had a crush. The books were long forgotten as he searched Zoya's follow list on Instagram, desperate to find Alina's page. He let out a groan when he realised it was private and was positive that requesting it would make him look like a serial killer and ruin whatever small chance he had with her- not that he was thinking of chances with her. Saints he'd met the girl ONCE he needed to calm down. He heard a chime go off on the shop's phone and saw that their Instagram was tagged in an ig story; the handle was Alina's and the post in question was a cute boomerang of her winking and sipping her coffee.

tryouts! s/o to @theshadowfold for keeping me sane!

He reposted the story and figured it wouldn't hurt to follow her from that page, he hit the follow button before he could change his mind and pushed the phone away from him. Another chime signalled that she'd accepted the request and he was ashamed at how quickly he grabbed the phone.

Okay no, shame quickly went out the window when he took note of all the bikini pictures she had posted, now he felt glad he didn't wait. She wasn't kidding about Zoya being her best friend though, most of the recent pictures were taken at her house. The older posts were mainly videos of her in a gym practising stunts and a few photos of her in a black and red cheer uniform with a red ribbon in her hair and a K painted on her cheek.

He definitely didn't think of himself as the type of guy who was particularly turned on by cheerleaders- in fact he couldn't stand them- but there was something about the way Alina looked in that uniform. How she seemed to always look happy regardless of whether she was smiling or not and of course the obvious toned legs, nice ass and glimmer of her pierced navel.

He was only human and brushed his current attraction to her off as simply that. A very human attraction to a hot girl that would pass as quickly as it came. This would be nothing.

Update: it wasn't nothing. The moment Alina set foot into the shop the next morning, his barista ran into the office to have him deal with her; even though Alina was alone it was clear Zoya's wrath had made an impression. As soon as he stepped outside it was impossible to ignore her, she smiled brightly when she saw him come out and he noticed that she swapped her shorts from yesterday out for a velour tracksuit.

"Morning," he greeted.

"Good morning, Zoya didn't traumatise that poor girl did she?" Alina asked, leaning over the counter almost as though she was searching for the girl in question.

"Zoya traumatises all. What's the matter? I'm not good enough for you?" He asked with a smirk.

"You're alright," she teased. "But you still haven't taken my order."

"No need," he shrugged.

"Really? You know if you make a mistake Zoya will come here and yell at you."

"I can handle Zoya. And I have it memorised."

"Is that something you do? Memorise all your customer's orders?" She really hoped it wasn't, there was something about him remembering what she'd ordered that made her chest flutter.

"Only the ones that give my employees PTSD."

Alina snorted at that and brought her hands to her face to cover her face- no doubt embarrassed about the cute sound she made. He furrowed his brows when he saw a piece of a brace peeking out under the sleeve of the blue and yellow jacket.

"Your hand..."

She let out a groan and pulled the sleeve down to fully reveal the black brace. "Don't remind me, I volunteered to fly during base try outs and they dropped me. Zoya was livid. So I'm benched."

Livid didn't begin to cover it- Zoya had run over from her spot and demanded everybody "step the fuck back" in her scary voice. She really treated her as though she was something precious and fragile and it was nice to know how valued she was.

"I'm sorry to hear that. It's nothing serious is it?"

"Oh no not at all. I just can't do a lot of heavy lifting."

"So I shouldn't be making this an extra large then?"

"I can manage an extra large," she scoffed. The statement provoked an image that shouldn't have been crossing his mind that early in the morning- or at all actually. "And anyway if it gets too heavy one of the guys from the football team will carry it for me. A bunch of them offered to carry my stuff yesterday. And you said people in Os Alta weren't nice."

"They're not nice, they just think you're hot," he rolled his eyes. The football players were all such colossal cliches, they definitely wouldn't have done anything for anyone out of the kindness of their hearts- let alone Alina who'd bewitched even him.

"And you're just cynical."

With reason, he thought.

"Why'd you transfer from Keramzin anyway?" He asked turning his back as he began making her drink.

"How'd you know I went to Keramzin?"

Aleksander stiffened at that, was he supposed to tell her that he spent the better of his morning stalking her Instagram yesterday?

"Uhm, you told me," he lied.

Fantastic, they weren't even dating yet and he was already lying- not that they would ever date he reminded himself.

"I did?"

"Yea, just never got into the why."

"Oh, uhm well- we cheered against you guys at a competition and even though we totally bombed, Zoya came up to me the next day and asked how I'd like to cheer for the University of Ravka instead."

"So she poached you?"

"I believe her exact words were- I saw you and told my dad that I needed that little bitch on my squads ASAP."

"Yea that sounds about right."

"So what about you?"

"What about me?"

"Aren't you going to spare any details about your life? Or are you trying to appear mysterious?"

"Wasn't aware this was a transactional conversation."

"It is now."

"In that case, on the house," he replied placing the coffee in front of her.

"What?" Alina chuckled. "Are you buying your own silence?"

"Is it working?"

"No," she giggled. She freaking giggled- who does that?!

"What if I threw in a croissant?"

"I'd accept your dedication and respect your right to privacy."

"Pushover," he scoffed.

"Hey!" She scoffed reaching over the counter to punch him in the arm.

"Ow-" he scoffed rubbing the spot she'd hit. For a small girl she sure could throw a punch. "You're a violent little thing aren't you?"

"Wouldn't you like to know," she grinned.

He would, he'd very much like to know.

"Maybe, but not as much as you'd like to know what I'm willing to hide for free coffee," he scoffed handing her the croissant.

"Maybe," she reiterated, her dark brown eyes glittering with mischief. "But I could just ask Zoya. You've known her since you were three after all."

He grinned at that. "Yea, I guess you got me there."

"I'll see you around Aleksander."

"You too, Alina," he smiled heading back to his office before anyone else came in and expected him to answer them in more than one syllable or smile at them.

Their little routine continued, though once classes started she'd stopped coming in every day. Still, she made a point to come in at least twice a week and always alerted him to her presence. She said something about the way he made her coffee making her day more bearable, she didn't know he shared a similar sentiment for her smile. Seriously, how the girl managed to be up, well put together and smiling before nine am had to be a wonder of the world. It certainly made slipping money from his wallet into the register every time he gave her a free pastry a lot more fulfilling. He also looked forward to whatever ridiculous meme she'd send him on Instagram- after she followed his personal account- they were typically about things like the shows she watched or just a funny looking animal; he didn't understand them but he'd read- or when he was lucky, listen to- her explanations as many times as needed.

She'd started giving him a heads up when she was on her way over but he wouldn't go out if there were other customers present. He was still adamant that he'd only work out there if absolutely necessary- and hearing her call his name was an added bonus. He heard the wind chimes on the door and seeing as the shop was empty, he thought he'd give her a surprise. But when he stepped out front, by some cruel twist of fate the person standing before him wasn't the petite cheerleader but rather his dickhead best friend, Nikolai.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" He glared at the blonde man, he was supposed to still be in Kerch as part of a two year long study abroad program.

"You could act happy to see me," he scoffed walking through the door marked employees only and pouring himself a cup of coffee.

"You make it very hard. Shouldn't you be in Kerch?"

"Yea no, I flunked out of the program and now dad's pissed at me."

"You flunked out?" Aleksander had a hard time believing his ears.

"Yup, so I'm back here and on academic probation."

"How did you manage to actually do that badly?"

"Dude it's Kerch, no one goes there to study."

"Well you're not in Kerch now so..."

"Coach says my spot on the football team is still there, but I have to pass some stupid test before I even think about practising."

"Sounds like you should be studying and not drinking me out of house of and home," Aleksander scoffed grabbing the oat milk from him.

"I've come to ask you a favour," Nikolai shrugged, grabbing the whipped cream.

Seriously, why he was drinking oat milk but still using whipped cream made zero sense.

"Then I wish you'd lead with that instead of annoying me."

"The answer key-"


"You didn't even let me finish!"

"Because it's fucking stupid and I can't believe you'd ask me that."

"You did it all the time in high school, this place's security is way less advanced."

"Yea cause the consequences if I get caught are way worse. Just study like a normal person." Besides, he only stole answer keys in high school for the thrill of it- he never needed them.

"You know- we're not all as naturally gifted as you, Morozova."

He rolled his eyes, Nikolai hardly ever studied yet his GPA never dropped below a 3.9, well until now that is. "That's why textbooks exist. Now you should go, I have work to do," Aleksander scoffed. Truthfully he just wanted Nikolai out before Alina showed up, he really didn't know how to act around girls.

"Yea business is totally booming," Nikolai chuckled, looking around the empty shop. "how do you manage-" he paused his snarky remark to wolf whistle as Alina walked in. "Damn, these freshmen get hotter every year."

"Shut up," Aleksander groaned cursing what had to be horrible or perfect timing on Nikolai's part.

The target of Nikolai's pointed gaze had foregone her usual workout clothes. In the place of her strappy sports bras was a short and flowy white cherry patterned dress with frilly three quarter sleeves and a bodice that showed off the slightest hint of her cleavage; her ponytail was swapped out for two cherry barrettes pinned on either side of her long wavy black hair and instead of her sneakers she was in a pair of red platform heels. He knew he was staring but he didn't care, she looked amazing.

She walked up to the counter and the difference her heels made was instantly obvious, she was eye level with at least his chin now as opposed to his chest. He opened his mouth to greet her when Nikolai interrupted him.

"Hey gorgeous welcome to the Shadow Fold what can I get you?"

"Oh Aleksander already knows what I want," she replied sitting on a stool.

"Oh does he now? Well you could teach-"

"Ignore him Alina," Aleksander scoffed rolling his eyes. "He doesn't actually work here."

"Business would be a lot better if I did," Nikolai grinned.

"And you are?" she asked turning to face him.

"I'll be anybody you want me to be gorgeous." Alina giggled at that and Aleksander hated the feeling that came over him in that moment.

"Stop flirting with my customers, Nikolai."

Well shit, Alina thought taken aback by the stern edge in his voice. She didn't think he had it in him.

"Yikes so possessive," Nikolai chuckled.

"Shut up."

"Are you blushing Aleksander?" Alina beamed pulling out her phone and starting to record. She really hoped she could capture some modicum of emotion for her ig stories- he usually managed to remain stone faced- until she put the camera down and then gave her the warmest smiles ever or the occasional funny face. "Come on, turn to the camera."

He turned away and flipped her off, grateful that her recordings had evolved from yelling his name to get his attention and giggling at his reaction- he'd made a mess the first time.

"Fine be that way." She sighed.

"Where are you even going dressed up like that?"

"Some sorority mixer. It's supposed to be fun but I wouldn't know."

"Me neither, not my scene," Aleksander replied.

"Yea it'd require you to go out into actual sunlight, Dracula."

"For what it's worth you look lovely. I was beginning to think you didn't have a life outside of being tossed around like a rag doll."

"Oh but I quite like being tossed around like a rag doll Aleksander, you should try it sometime."

He stalled, contemplating if there was some hidden meaning between her words. Surely she couldn't mean he should throw her around?

"Uhm here's your drink," he replied, baffled by her words just the same.

"So is this a thing? Aleks makes your drinks when you come here?" Nikolai asked with a grin and the signature mischievous glint in his blue eyes.

"Yup, I'll come by and call him to do it."

"Well that's very interesting, and why's it only him that you trust to make this?"

"He makes it the best," she shrugged. And she happened to like staring at his big hands while he did.

"Well I'm sure he makes it with love," he teased.

Yup he was definitely going to murder Nikolai, Aleksander thought throwing an empty almond milk box at him.

"Ow? What it's a compliment," Nikolai laughed.

"Well he puts something special in there though. I wouldn't be able to make it through my day without it," Alina shrugged wrapping her lips around the black straw and sipping. She made sure to glance up at the man in question from behind her lashes as she sipped, hoping he'd finally catch on.

"Oh I'm sure you'd manage," he shrugged.

"Not these late night and early morning practices we've got going on. Football season kicks off next week you know."

"Yea I know," he glared at the man next to him.

"Are you going to the game?"

"I'm not a football fan."

"But he's coming to watch me play," Nikolai replied.

"Oh you play?"

"If I can pass a test."

"Oh then you better get to studying, if only to give Aleksander a reason to go outside for once."

"Yea? I'm looking for a partner if-"

"Nikolai," Aleksander warned.

"Right I shouldn't hit on freshman."

"Oh I'm not a freshman but yea maybe don't hit on me," Alina chuckled. "This party is no freshman allowed. It's also drink themed? You could be black coffee if you dropped by," she teased taking in Aleksander's usual black ensemble.

"The only thing worst than sorority parties are the themed ones so hard pass."

"Oh well I was just-"

"Saints Alina what the fuck is Morozova doing- picking the coffee beans himself?" Zoya grumbled as she walked in. She was literally in the middle of asking him to the party. She was failing but... What the fuck?

"Nice to see you too Zoya," he scoffed taking notice of the fact that she was in an outfit identical to Alina's except hers was lemon printed. "Cherry lemonade?" He asked with a raised brow.

Alina gasped and smiled brightly. "That's it! See Zoya I told you people would get it!" She looked up at him and he swore he could feel all the air being sucked from his lungs at the sight of her being so happy and knowing that he made her feel that way.

"That's not people it's Morozova," she scoffed rolling her eyes. "Anyway let's go. We have practice later today so I can't let you use my few hours of freedom to flirt with Aleksander."

Alina chuckled nervously at that before reaching into her purse only to be stopped by Aleksander.

"It's fine."

"How do you make money if you keep giving stuff away to pretty girls?" She asked with a raised brow.

"Well it's not every pretty girl, only you," he replied nonchalantly.

"I see," she smiled. "Well I hope to see you at the game and Nikolai good luck with that test."

"Huh? What?" Nikolai asked turning to Alina. It was obvious he was eyeing Zoya and Alina thought was adorable how he suddenly changed his demeanour in her presence.

"Nothing, see you guys around," she replied giving them a final look before walking out with Zoya grumbling about her drinking coffee before a party.

"Okay but dude why are you not hitting that already?" Nikolai asked as soon as the door closed behind Alina.


"Yes, gosh it's so fucking obvious that she wants you to break her in half or something."

"You make sex sound so romantic."

"Trust me way she was looking at you- she's not looking to get fucked romantically," Aleksander rolled his eyes at that, Nikolai and his grandiose ideas were back at it again. "Plus she invited you to a party- dude she was practically begging you to pop her cherry the entire time and you blew her off."

"She was not."

"You didn't see what I saw okay. A hot cheerleader wants to fuck your brains out and you're acting like some kind of monk," Nikolai replied sounding disgusted.

"If you were actually paying attention to her and not just staring at her tits you'd see we're two completely different people."

"They are nice tits though huh?" Nikolai grinned. "Looks like you both want to fuck each other."

"I don't think of Alina like that," he lied.

"I have eyes you know, you fucking short circuit every time she bats her pretty brown eyes at you."

"That's because she's incredible," Aleksander scoffed, not realising what he'd said.

"Oh she's incredible now?"

"I may have a tiny crush on her," he replied, attempting to downplay the severity of the situation.

"Tiny? Really dude?"

"Fine- I stare at her photos and listen to her voice notes every night before bed," Aleksander grimaced, knowing that he'd come to regret sharing this information.

"Yes! Fuck yes! I'm gonna get you a season ticket and you're gonna go to the game this Saturday and every other Saturday and you're gonna watch her shake her pom poms and then you know-"

"Yea I get it," he scoffed.

"Sorry dude I'm just proud you're putting yourself out there. You could land yourself a steady supply of-"

"Please stop talking or I'm gonna punch you in the face."