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A Bittersweet Brew (OLD)

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Ranma Saotome was raised to be one thing and one thing only: the best. He’s spent his whole life training to one day be the best martial artist in Japan, and maybe even in the world. Of course, in order to be the best, you have to make a lot of sacrifices. For example, Ranma’s education had become a backseat priority in favor of training trips and working at the family dojo, much to the frustration of his mother. Ranma didn’t mind too much. What use was school if he was just going to take over the family business anyways? His father seemed to agree, as well.

The family business, however, wasn’t doing so well. Though Ranma’s father, Genma, taught him well enough, he wasn’t exactly the best when it came to teaching other students. Ranma grew up with the unorthodox ways Genma taught and accepted whatever came his way, with few exceptions (There was one time when he was 7 and Genma threw him into a pit of cats; it was supposed to teach him some special technique but instead just left him with an extreme phobia of cats). Most people didn’t take very well to his teachings. Students often complained about the class being to rigorous for beginners, to which Genma replied “If you can’t handle this, then you’re just not cut out to be a martial artist.” Very few saw that as a challenge to do better. Most quit after just one class. Some people actually made it three classes before giving up. Word eventually got around that the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts was complete garbage, so the family was struggling to bring money in. Ranma didn’t realize how bad it was for them until he was relaxing in the family room while his mother sat next to him.

Nodoka sighed as she went through the mail. It was all bills again, and all of them pink. “Looks like we’re going to go without cable for a while."

Ranma looked up from his book. “You okay, Ma.”

“I don't know,” she mumbled. “Oh, Ryoko,” Ranma flinched at the sound of his dead name. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do. Your father isn’t getting many students anymore, I barely know where our next meal is gonna come from. I just don’t know what to do.” Nodoka wiped the tears from her eyes and Ranma frowned. He didn’t hate many things, but seeing his mother cry was definitely one thing he despised. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put that on you, dear. How does ramen sound for dinner?”

Ranma didn’t answer. He decided that he needed to do something, just so his mother would stop worrying. He stood up and headed for the front door. “I’m going out,” he said as he put on his sneakers and then ran out the door. He wasn’t sure how he was going to do it, but he was going to get a job. So he ran to the nearest library, hopped on a computer, and started applying to every place in the area. And so, his dream of being the greatest martial artist was put on hold.

 

As it turns out, getting a job was harder then Ranma expected it to be. Apparently people didn’t want a trans boy who barely made it through high school to work for them. Though Ranma refused to give up, interview after interview, he was rejected again and again.

Ranma groaned and slammed his head on the table.

“Careful, don’t want to break anything,” his friend, Ukyo, said nonplussed, across from him in their tiny apartment.

“What am I gonna do?” he moaned, his head still on the table. “I’ve tried everywhere. No one wants me!”

“Hey, that’s not true. I want you,” they tried to comfort.

Ranma lifted his head to glare at his best friend. “Ucchan, I’m being serious.”

“So am I.”

“Ugh, forget it.” He put his down again to wallow.

“Why don’t you just forget about the job hunt and try promoting the dojo?” Ukyo asked, stirring their tea.

“We tried that ages ago. Our reputation is so bad, I’m pretty sure everyone in Tokyo knows to stay away. We’ve got four students and I’m pretty sure one of them is about to call it quits.” Ranma sat up and put his head in his hand. “Maybe I havta be more girly, but it’ll be like I’m in the closet again. Not that I’m entirely out, but still...”

As Ranma griped, Ukyo got an idea.

“Hey, Ranchan,” they interrupted. “Maybe you could work with me and Konatsu? The coffee house we’re working at is hiring and-”

“Since when do ya work at a coffee house?”

“Really? I’ve been working there for months now!”

“You never brought it up!” Ranma defended.

“Oh, whatever. The point is they’re hiring and the boss is fine with me being genderfluid and Konatsu being trans, so he’s going to be okay with you being a trans guy. Plus you got the two of us as a character reference to back you up. It’s perfect!”

Ranma brightened up and grinned. “Ukyo, this is great! Let’s go! Where is this cafe anyways?”

“It’s just a couple blocks from here. If you come here before noon tomorrow I’ll take you down with me for my shift.”

Ranma agreed, nodding his head enthusiastically and beginning to feel more hopeful.

 

The next day came and the two arrived at the cafe. It was a fairly small, western-style place, but felt very cozy. The wall the door was the small and was nothing but windows. The walls adjacent to it were a soft green and had bookshelves connected to them, carrying knickknacks and mugs and instant coffee packages. Ranma noticed some small plush animals on the shelf of a black pig, a panda bear, and, he shuddered, a pink cat. There were small square tables scattered around the store, all surrounded by brown and green pleather chairs. The counter was long and L-shaped and had a chalkboard above it with their menu written on it and shelves filled with even more coffee behind it. The counter also had a glass case filled with little snacks like croissants and sandwiches and various desserts. Ranma’s mouth watered at the site of the chocolate cake slice.

“Sit down anywhere,” Ukyo told him. “I’ll get my manager for you.”

“Wait, don’t I need to fill out an application or something?”

“Don’t worry about it. Just sit down and relax.” His friend went behind the counter and Ranma was left by himself. He pulled up a chair that was closest to him and sat down. The martial artist tapped his foot and yanked at the pigtail at the back of his head. Ranma was extremely uncomfortable at the idea of being seen feminine, but he was used to having long hair. He thought it suited him, as long as it was tied up. Ranma sighed as he tried to calm down.

‘Relax, she says,’ he thought to himself. ‘That’s easy for her to say. She’s already got a job’

Ranma heard footsteps walk up behind him and turned to find a man, several years older and much taller and slimmer than he was (not that it was a difficult thing to be, as Ranma was pretty short and curvy without his binder on). The mystery man, who he assumed to be the manager, had wavy honey brown hair that was pushed out of his face and dark, friendly eyes and a beaming smile and he wore a shockingly bright red apron.

“So you must me Ranma Saotome!” Said the man. “It’s a pleasure to meet you!” The man practically glowed with that friendly smile of his.

Ranma stood up and bowed to the man and stuck out his hand to the manager. “Yes, sir.”

“No need to call me, sir. I’m Motoki Kuroki. You can just call me Motoki though, or Aniki. That’s what the rest of the staff calls me.” He winked at him and Ranma stared in confusion.

“Oh… kay?” Ranma was thrown off by how casual this guy was. He shouldn’t have been so surprised but everywhere else he interviewed the managers were all so professional. “So, shouldn’t I be filling out an application?”

“No, you don’t have to worry about that. Just sit back down and let’s talk.” Motoki slid into the seat across from Ranma, folded his hands on the table, and looked expectantly at Ranma. Ranma took back his seat and and waited for Motoki to begin asking questions that Ranma had memorized by heart at this point.

They went through the standard “Why do you want to work with us?” and “What does customer service mean to you?” and “Where do you see yourself in the next five years?” questions and answers with ease and Ranma was feeling much more confident about this interview than the last fifteen.

“Okay, now,” Motoki said. “I want you to describe yourself in three words.”

“Passionate, creative, and friendly.” Ranma recited the utter garbage that he’d been saying for weeks with a smile.

“Alright, that’s good.” The manager nodded. “Now I want you to tell me the three words you actually would describe yourself as.”

Ranma looked at him in shock. He hoped this guy would see through his lies, but apparently he was more perceptive than assumed. The martial artist thought for a moment, trying to come up with an answer.

“Confident, persistent, and friendly.” He decided on.

“You’re sticking with that last one?”

“What can I say? I’m an amiable guy.”

“Well, alright then.” Motoki clapped his hand together and stood up. “Thank you for your honesty! That’s all I needed to know. Do you have any questions?” Ranma shook his head. “Great! Leave me your name and phone number and I’ll get back to you in a few day if you’re hired.” They shook hands and Ranma stood back up as well. He gave the older man his name and phone number on a piece of paper and Motoki left to behind the counter. Ranma figured he might as well leave. He waved goodbye to Ukyo behind the counter and walked out the door.

As Ranma walked home, he remembered something about the interview that bothered him. He pulled out his phone and texted Ukyo, needing the issue settled.

[Aniki?]

A few minutes later, he got his reply.

[No one calls him that. hes been trying to get us to call him that forever. its better to ignore him]

 

Ranma was freaking out. It’s been three days since the interview and he was starting to get antsy. He thought that last interview had gone pretty well, but that’s what he had thought about every other interview, too, before the disappointment set in.

He’d been sitting in the family room again with his mother and was staring at his phone, waiting for it to ring. Every time it so much as buzzed he’d grab it to only sigh and begin his wait again. Why was Shampoo feeling so chatty today of all days?

His mother looked at him with concern. “Ryoko,” Ranma should be used to hearing that name but he still had to stop himself from cringing whenever he heard it. “What’s gotten you so worked up? You’re not waiting for a boy to call are you?” She laughed to herself.

“Not exactly, no.” He mumbled, still staring at his phone. He tried getting some information from Ukyo, but they said that Motoki wasn’t leaking anything to them. He planted his forehead on the table and sighed for the upteenth time that afternoon. Maybe he wasn’t getting a call at all. He should probably start looking again for work across town. Maybe he could get a job working construction? He had the strength for it.

Ranma’s thought’s were interrupted by his phone. He stared in disbelief for a moment than rushed to grab it. It nearly fell out of his hand, he was trembling so badly from excitement and anxiety. It was an unknown number, that was a good sign. He answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, am I speaking to Ranma Saotome?”

Ranma glanced at his mom who was now staring at him wide-eyed. “J-just a second.” Ranma rushed out of the room and into his bedroom and quickly shut the door. “This is Ranma Saotome,” he said with a deeper voice.

“Ah, Ranma! This is Motoki. I have good news for you.” His heart skipped a beat. “You got the job.”

“You’re serious?” Ranma swore his heart stopped

“Of course! Now can you start Monday?”

“I’ll start whenever you need me to start. This is great!” Ranma grinned. ‘Finally!’ he thought to himself.

“Great, you can come in at noon. Ukyo will be training you. Have a nice day rest of the day!” And then Motoki hung up.

“Oh, I will.” Ranma punched his fist in the air and ran out his bedroom door and slid down the bannister of the stairs.

“Ryoko! What are you thinking? You could’ve gotten hurt!” His mother scolded

“I got a job!” He shouted.

“What?”

“I’m working at some coffee house with Ukyo. I got a job!” He said, giddily.

“Is that what you’ve been doing these past few weeks?”

“Yeah! Isn’t it great? Now I can help you guys out!”

Nodoka put a hand to her cheek and sighed. “Oh, dear, you didn’t have to do that for us.”

“Why wouldn’t I? I don’t know how much my paycheck can cover, but I can pay for groceries and stuff.”

“I just wished you didn’t feel like you needed to.”

“Well it’s too late for that, Mom.” Ranma softened his voice. “Now you don’t have to worry about our next meal.” Nodoka gave him a hard stare and then she grabbed her child in the tightest hug she could manage and refused to let go. Ranma sighed into her shoulder, and hugged her back. They stayed like that for a good minute until Nodoka loosened her grip and put her hands on Ranma’s shoulders.

“How did I get so blessed to have you as a daughter?” She asked with a tender smile on her face. Ranma just smiled back, uncomfortably.

 

After one week on the job, Ranma realized he had made a huge mistake. As it turns out, working retail is a lot more difficult than he imagined. It wasn’t like making coffee was that difficult. Hell, he figured out how to make everything on the menu by the second day. No, it wasn’t that, nor was it the rest of the staff (though Motoki sometimes got on his nerves by how chipper he always was) or the fact that he was the one who had to clean the bathrooms. The worst part of his job were the customers.

Most of them weren’t even awful, they just wanted their coffee and left, but that just made the truly horrid ones stand out. On Monday, Ranma had an early shift and a woman tried to pay for a 300 yen cup of coffee with a 5000 yen bill. On Wednesday, a man tried to get a free cup of coffee because he claimed to know the owner of the shop. When Ranma refused to give him it, the man got angry and kept demanding it and eventually tried to get behind the counter to get it himself. Ranma and Konatsu ended up having to force the man out of the cafe with the man threatening to get the two of them fired. Thursday had a man trying to start a fight with another man for trying to smoke in a non-smoking section of the cafe. Ranma had to be the one to diffuse the fight, which he did with his best threatening look and kicked the man out. On Friday, a wealthy looking man around his age came in and ordered coffee, but claimed that he couldn’t pay right now and that he will later. As Ranma was about to tell him that he couldn’t do that, Ukyo chased the man out with a broom. They explained that the man, whose name was apparently Kashao, came in often and constantly tried to swindle them into getting a free cup of coffee.

And that was only a few examples of how bad the customers got. Every shift left him emotionally tired and wanting to just go to bed. Constantly having to wear a friendly smile on his face left a strain on him, but damn it, he was not going to give up. If he has to deal with terrible customers day after day to help support his family, then he’s just going to deal with it. Ranma was raised to be the best and he was going to be the best barista Tokyo has ever seen.

Of course the customers weren’t all bad. In fact, there was one in particular that caught Ranma’s attention. There was this one girl that showed up everyday during his shifts. She said her name was Akane. He was always the one to get her order and she ordered the same thing each time, black coffee with three creams and no sugar. Except on Friday when she ordered a latte and a chocolate chip muffin. She always left a big tip too, 500 yen, and she left it with a smile on her face. When she got her coffee she would sit in the corner table and would read some kind of book while she talked on the phone.

He wondered as he walked into work Saturday morning if she would show up during his shift again. He also wondered if she had a caffeine addiction and that’s why she came to the coffee house so much until it hit him. He paused as he was about to step behind the counter. The girl had a crush on him. She noticed how handsome he was and she just had to see him again! He smirked as he walked behind the counter and put on his apron. Slick but not subtle enough, Akane. Ranma tried to suppress the smug look on his face, but judging by the questioning looks from one customer he didn’t seem to be doing a good job of it. He waited for her to come into the cafe, because he knew that she would. He wasn’t sure what he was going to when she came in, but he was anxious waiting for her. Every time the bell on the door chimed, he’d look up from what he was doing, thinking that it was her. When the morning rush finally settled and the employees could take a breath, Konatsu cornered him.

“Are you alright, Ranma?” She asked. “Is someone coming after you?”

He looked at her like she had gone mad. “What?”

“You keep jumping whenever the door opens. Is someone after you?” She got close to him and dropped her voice to a whisper. “You want me to take care of it for you?”

“No, no one’s after me.” He took a step back from her and turned around to the register. “And even if someone was, I can take care of it myself.”

“I’m sure you could, but no one would know if I did it.” She grabbed a spray bottle and a rag to start cleaning the tables. “And I’m sure Miss Akane will come soon.”

“Wait, what?” He turned back around but she was already gone. Ranma sighed. Konatsu liked messing with him with her “ninja ways,” but he was used to it by now.

“Excuse me.” Ranma jumped at the sound and faced the register again. It was Akane. How did she sneak up on him? He must be out of practice since he wasn’t usually this easy to scare. Ranma cleared his throat and leaned on the counter.

“So, you’re back?” He said as smooth as he could manage.

“Yeah, well, I gotta get my coffee from somewhere.” She said with a smile. “Could I just get a small black coffee with three creams to go?”

Ranma wrote down the order on a paper cup. He took a deep breath and decided it was now or never. “So instead of your name, could I get your number?” He hoped he looked good saying that.

“What?” She did not look pleased at all. Oh man, this was a mistake, but it was too late to back out now.
“Well, since you’ve been coming in here everyday I thought-”

“Thought what?” She looked pissed, this was not good at all.

“I thought that- well, that since you came in everyday that, um-” He was stuttering now. He glanced around rapidly to find something or someone to get himself out of this situation. “That you might have a- You know what it seems kinda stupid now, nevermind.”

“Okay, I know you’re new and all,” she interrupted his trainwreck of a thought. “But I’m pretty sure they should have taught you how to treat customers by now and that you’re not supposed to flirt with them.” She crossed her arms. Ranma wasn’t sure what to say, so he just stood there with his mouth open while she glared at him.

“So, then three creams, no sugar?” He said, desperately wanting to get out of the situation. Akane huffed, and walked out of the shop. Well, that could have gone a lot better. He sighed and went to throw out the cup he was holding in his hand, but was greeted to a slap on the back of the head provided by Ukyo.

“You jackass!” They shouted through gritted teeth. Ranma was taken aback and stepped away from them. They were glaring at him even harder then Akane was. “Why would you do that?”

“All I did was ask for her number!” He defended.

Ukyo grabbed Ranma by the apron and yanked him towards her. “She’s one of our best customers and you probably just chased her off!”

“She came in everyday, and always when I’m on shift. What was I supposed to think?”

“Have you ever heard of coincidence?” They started to shake him. “She came in all the time before you even started working here.”

“Would you knock it off?” He grabbed Ukyo’s arms and pushed them away.

“You’re such a dumbass, now she’s never going to come back.”

“Big deal, we lost one customer.”

“Do you ever listen? She’s one of out best. Or at least she was until you ran her out of here.”

Ranma rolled his eyes. “All I did was try and flirt with her.”

Konatsu interrupted their bickering. “She left a tip!”

Ranma and Ukyo looked from behind her at the tip jar.

“How do you know it’s her tip?” Ukyo asked.

“It’s the only 500 yen coin in here,” Konatsu replied.

Ranma grinned and put his arms behind his head. “Looks like I didn’t scare her off after all.”

“Yeah, but you’re still a jackass.”

Chapter Text

Akane knew she was going to regret storming out of the coffee shop without her caffeine fix, but like hell if she was going to go back in there today.

She’d spent most of the night working on her paper, forgetting it wasn’t due until Monday, and procrastinating on it by breaking concrete bricks and rehearsing her lines for the drama club’s play. She was never that great at concentrating when it came to her school work, but thanks to her mix up (which she swore never happened, usually), she did manage to finish her paper two days before it was due. However, it also meant she could only get a few hours of sleep, leaving her to go about her day feeling like a zombie, and without her coffee she might as well be dead right now.

Akane was disastrous in the kitchen, even with something as simple as making coffee. It always came out burned and, somehow, lumpy. The coffee shop, was her saving grace. It gave her the caffeine she desperately needed to survive, and it also gave her a place to study. She had trouble working in her own home, as she constantly found distractions to put her off task. She tried her school’s library but she found the silence to be off-putting. When she started coming the coffee shop, she realized it was the perfect place for her to study during the day. She started coming there everyday in between her classes, as it was only a couple of blocks away from her university. Of course, it being so close meant it was always fairly busy, but she managed to always find a place to sit.

Today, though, she didn’t have the time to sit and relax for her cup of coffee. She was meant to meet her friend, for lunch today, but she was running late. She figured she at least had time to get a drink, but then that stupid barista had the nerve to flirt with her. What kind of person tries to pick up girls while they’re working anyways? Akane huffed as she marched angrily down the street. She might be exhausted, but she was too stubborn to go back and get her coffee or to let the lack of it affect her.

As she walked, her anger cooled down. When she finally arrived at the restaurant, she was no longer steaming. She sat at a table near the front window and looked around. She couldn’t seem to find who she was looking for and sighed. She was running late and he still managed to not make it before her. She grabbed a menu to look over while she waited for him. While she was reading through the list of teas she could feel herself dozing off. Just as she closed her eyes to rest for a moment she heard a voice next to her very loudly say, “Congratulations!”

Akane screamed and then quickly covered her mouth, forgetting she was in public. She turned to her left to see a man with long black hair and big, coke bottle glasses stunned by her shout. “Hi, Mousse,” she smiled and waved at him as if she didn’t just blow out his eardrums five seconds ago. “Congrats on what?”

Mouse slid into the seat across from her gave her a funny look. “Did you really forget?”

She shrugged.

“Why do you think we’re having lunch, Miss Juliet?” He asked her.
Akane stared at him, her tired brain trying to process what he just said. Then she suddenly slapped her forehead and groaned. “I can’t believe I forgot.” She slid her hand down her face.

“Congratulations at getting the part,” Mousse smiled at her and Akane smiled back.

Akane considered Mousse one of her closest friends and the only boy that she could get along with that wasn’t her father. They met in the most normal way you could meet a person, with one of them almost getting mugged. Akane was on her way home from her classes and as she passed an empty lot, she saw 3 men, all much bigger than her, cornering a tall guy a little older than her in chinese robes against a wall. She couldn’t hear what any of them were saying, but she saw that one of the men was beginning to get aggressive, shoving the guy against the wall. He pushed him off and reached inside the sleeve of his robe as the man began to throw a punch. Before he even pulled his fist back all the way, Akane sprinted toward them and swept her leg at the man’s feet to knock him down. She was raised a martial artist, and she was not going to let these guys hurt him.

When the first thug fell, the other two and the guy stared at her. The guy still had his arm up his large sleeve as if he were grabbing something. She put up her arms to guard her face and dropped to a ready stance. The man she knocked down got up and ran towards her with a yell. She swung her right leg to kick him in the stomach knocking him down again. One of the other two thugs rushed at her and tried to grab her hair but she threw an uppercut at his jaw and jabbed at his solar plexus. As she was pummeling the two, she didn’t notice the other man sneaking up behind her. He was about to grab her until he got knocked upside the head by a cane. The man collapsed and Akane turned around to see the man in chinese robes holding the cane in his hands. She looked around them to check if all the thugs were unconscious. Satisfied, she looked to the man left standing.

“Are you alright?” She asked him, breathing heavily.

“You didn’t need to get involved,” he said sternly. He turned around and began to walk away.

“You’re welcome!” Akane yelled at his back. She was about to leave until she saw him walk into the brick wall at the end of the lot. She winced and ran over to him. “Do you need help?” she asked gently.

“I’m fine.” The man looked to her and squinted. “Have you seen a pair of glasses anywhere?”

Akane stared at him for a moment. She grabbed the glasses that were resting on his forehead and pulled them over his eyes.

He blushed in embarrassment. “Oh...”

She offered him her hand to pull him off the ground. He accepted it. “I’m Akane, by the way.”

“I’m Mousse.” He said as he steadied himself.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m sort of used to running into walls.” Mousse said sheepishly.

She furrowed her brow. “Why were those guys after you?”

“I think they were just looking for a fight.” He took his glasses off and cleaned them on his clothes. “That or my money. Lucky for me, I don’t have any.” He smiled brightly at her. Akane was stunned by his upbeat attitude. “You wouldn’t happen to have the time, would you?”

She looked at her watch. “It’s 5:14.”

His eyes widened in panic. “I’m gonna be late for my shift!” He began to run off, but Akane, thinking about how he just ran into a wall, called after him.

“Wait! Can I walk you there? I know you can take care of yourself, but I’d feel a lot better if I went with you.”

Mousse thought for a moment and then grinned. “Sure.”

On the walk to his work, a place called the Cat Cafe, she learned a lot about him. How he came to Japan from China with his childhood friend and her family, and how he only worked part-time and spent the rest of his time performing magic on the streets. He spent a lot of time on their walk talking about his friend, whose name was apparently Shampoo. It was a little much, Akane thought, but she liked the way his face lit up when he talked about her. In return, she told him about how she loved martial arts, and was in her university's drama and volleyball club. She also talked about her family. How her father trained her and how he cried all the time, and how her sisters moved out so she was the only one still living at home.

When they finally arrived at the cafe, Akane was almost sad to leave him. She really liked Mousse and she really wanted to keep talking to him.

“Hey,” she said. “You want to hang out sometime?”

Mousse looked stunned. “Wow, well, I’m very flattered but I’m already interested in someone else.”

“I meant as friends, you dope.”

“Oh.” His face turned bright red, but he smiled through his embarrassment. “I’d love to.”

“Great. You live here, right?” Mousse nodded. “Then I’ll see you soon.” She smiled at him one last time then walked home.

Since then, they’ve grown to be extremely close. Akane hated boys with a fiery passion, but Mousse was sweet. She trusted him completely and they told each other nearly everything, from their everyday lives to their biggest secrets to (mostly Mousse’s) romantic pursuits. Of course, they couldn’t meet up as often as they’d like, with her classes and extracurriculars and his work schedule, so they mostly talked over the phone or through text. But today, they were both free and celebrating.

“How do you forget something this big?” He asked, exasperated. “You must be really tired, I mean, you look awful.”

“Gee, thanks.” She grunted, trying to keep herself awake. She ordered a coffee and hopefully it would wake her up some. She yawned and said. “I was going to get a coffee before I came here, but then this guy thought it’d be a good idea to flirt with me.”

“How did that keep you from getting your drink?”

“It was the barista. He was this short guy with a pigtail. He asked me for my number. While he was working. Who does that?” She rolled her eyes remembering the incident. “So, I left before I paid and I didn’t get my coffee.” Mousse just stared at her in confusion. “Don’t look at me like that!” She glared.

“I’m sorry. I know you hate when guys flirt with you, but I think you overreacted,” he said.

Akane slumped in her seat. “And here I thought you’d be on my side for this.”

“I am on your side. I just think that you need to calm down sometimes. You don’t tend to think straight when you’re mad.” He tried to reason. “You should have just said that you don’t have a phone.”

She went quiet. The waitress came by to give them their drinks and told them their food would be there soon. Not wanting to admit out loud that her friend was right, she sat up and took a sip and grimaced at the too bitter taste of her coffee.

“I should have at least gotten my coffee first, because this is almost as bad as mine.”

Mousse laughed. “Nothing is as bad as your coffee.”

“You be quiet.”

“Anyways, back to the reason we’re here,” he said. “How excited are you to be playing Juliet?”

Akane beamed. “I haven’t stopped thinking about it! This has been my dream role for years. I can’t believe it’s actually happening!”

“I’m so proud of you.” Mousse smiled at her softly. “When’s the show?”

“It’s not until December. Unfortunately, I’ve got volleyball too so I’m going to be busy all semester.” She sighed and ran her finger around the rim of her mug. “I don’t think I’ll have any time to sleep.”

“Oh, before I forget, guess what happened!” He said, excited all of a sudden.

“What?”

“Xian Pu and I had dinner together! She came home late from her dance class and we ate our food together. I mean, we just sat next to each other and she didn’t say anything to me, but I really think she’s coming around to like me!” He continued talking about Shampoo and Akane tried to look interested, but she couldn’t stand him talking about her. She had only met Shampoo a couple of times, and while the two of them didn’t get along very well (Shampoo seemed to have some odd hatred of her), Akane empathized with her. She knew what it was like to deal with boys who just wouldn’t give up on you, and it got on her nerves. She tried to convince Mousse to move on from her, but nothing she did worked. What made it worse was that Shampoo was already in a relationship. Akane didn’t know much about her partner, just that their name was Ukyo and that they had another partner as well. She didn’t understand how someone could be able to handle having two relationships at a time, or how the two parties were okay with it.

She was relieved when he finally finished his rambling about the ‘love of his life.’ After that they just discussed what’s been happening in their lives while they ate. Akane said that the dojo just had an influx of new students and her father couldn’t be happier and Mousse told her about a new magic trick he’d been working on. Soon after, they left the restaurant and went their separate ways because Mousse had to work.

Akane walked home, feeling dizzy from her lack of sleep. When she finally made it home after what felt like hours, she didn’t bother announcing herself home, as she knew her father would be in the dojo, and went straight for the stairs. She opened the door to her room, changed into her pajamas, and landed roughly on her bed. Once her head hit the pillow, she was out like a light.