This late in the day, when the afternoon rush was over, the cubicle slaves gone home, sunlight painted the world in shades of orange and red. The streets were mostly quiet, empty pop cans and drifting newspapers littering the streets.
Ngai Mun stepped over a puddle and noted that the clouds had finally parted letting through the light. It had been raining non-stop for nearly a week. Medic had been pacing back and forth, driving her quietly insane. He hadn’t liked the way the roof leaked into the bedroom below. She hadn’t liked how she and Simon were stuck behind listening to him rant as the others went out on a mission that didn’t necessitate a sniper. Bodyguard work. For Chang. She’d pick the doc over that flirtatious scumbag any day.
The glass front of the cafe was the same, clean with modest white lettering for a boastful name on the windows, Helluva Cup Café. Her cousin had laughed when she had first seen it. Story was, Syd had marched straight in and demanded a job because having that name on her resume should be a life’s goal. Lydia, the manager on shift, had laughed right back at her and told her no. The next day the brown-eyed girl had shown up again, with her hair dyed from blue to forest green, her resume and cover letter in hand, and decent shoes. The same manager hired her on the spot.
The door chimed as Ruby stepped through and her red eyes landed on dark chocolate brown before finding the warm brown ones behind the counter. Not that it was a surprise, since Kai was a stalker. He said it was only in Sydney’s case, but the redhead had doubts.
Once a stalker, always a stalker. If, and even she had to admit it wasn’t likely, some other girl caught the Japanese man’s fancy and he left Syd in tears, the guy was going to find a hole between the brows. Maybe one through the kneecap first, just to let him know what was coming. It was the decent thing to do.
But enough with the morbid thoughts, her cousin had seen her.
“Sydney,” the redhead said back with a smile. Family was a wonderful thing to have. They were the only ones she could truly relax around.
“How are things?” Her cousin darted around the counter and came for a hug as Simon stepped through the entrance, darting to the side and giving the two girls a wide berth.
Ruby rolled her eyes, and accepted the embrace. “Boring,” she grumbled. “Tedious. Think cabin fever and rabies all locked into the same rickety house while insisting that it was the only sane thing in the country.”
From the side Wolf snorted and sat down next to Kai, nodding hello.
Laughing, Xia Fu pulled away and held her at arm’s length. “Psychosis and illness. You’re talking about Medic.”
The tiny woman snorted. “I’m forming habits. How annoying.”
Kai blinked at the women, tilting his head very slightly. “They’re both red today.” Though Sydney’s was a much darker shade (and he sort of preferred it). He looked at the American near him, and smiled. “How is Arana-sama?” he asked pleasantly.
Lifting a brow, Simon smirked. “Nice to see you too.” Watching as the Japanese guy blinked and flushed a bright crimson, the young mercenary let his expression slide into a real smile. “She’s happier now. Met her sister. Been a long time, so lots to catch up on.”
Kai nodded. “Erm… and you?” he asked sheepishly.
“Never better,” the man in the grey hoodie responded shrugging one shoulder. Though that was a blatant lie.
There had been another request from the Triad’s last week. Baba had been eating breakfast when the call came in. It was all normal until the glance at the screen went to Wolf next. When Simon had looked back, Christoph was already walking out the door before picking up the call. Didn’t take a genius to know why he and Ruby had been left behind with Medic.
The male witch shifted at the silence that fell, and broke it when it became unbearable (about a minute and a half later). “Erm, good. Yes…” He nodded. “Uh… you said Arana-sama met her sister?” It was obvious he was trying to find something to talk about.
“Right…” Dark eyes lowered, to find his own hand tapping. He abruptly stopped. “Um. And she’s happy. That’s good. Happiness. And stuff. Long time and all. How long?”
Grey eyes shifted over from watching the two redheads chatter in that fluting Asian dialect like a pair of magpies over a shiny button to the spiky-haired goth who liked to follow his girlfriend’s cousin around like a kicked puppy who had smelled pepperoni. “How about I ask a question first: how come you’re asking about Arana?”
Blink, blink. Kai flushed as several reasons flickered through his mind, and he realized that ecchi thing must be what the merc was referring to. “Oh! Oh! N-no! It’s- I just- she’s- Master! Master!” he yelped squeakily, the nice shade of a ripe tomato. “Like a Master! ‘Cause- oh dear, no, not like– I’mgoingtoshutupnowbeforeGarygetsafreakyvibeandcomestokillme.” He sank down into his chair, covering his face with both hands.
Simon smirked picking out the one name Kai didn’t want him to hear. “Hey, I like Gary. He’s a great guy. I should call him up. See how he is.” He looked out the window, gaze sweeping the front one more time. “He’ll probably want to know how I’m doing of course.” So Kai wasn’t thinking to jump stalkees. Good to know.
“Gary?” One of the redheads looked over. The other one blinked, then shared an amused look with her partner as the one male witch paled. “What about him?”
Ruby tilted her head, giving Kai a wicked grin. “I haven’t seen that gladiator for a while. How’s he doing? I heard you and him have been… talking.”
Kai winced. “Sydney-chan wa watashi ga kare o korosu shitaku wanaideshou. Korosu tame ni shōdō ni teikō shinakereba naranai,” he mumbled under his breath, and shivered. “Gary-san is… terrifying…”
“Ko-ro… su?” Warm brown eyes narrowed on him as Syd tried to process what just left her boyfriend’s lips.
The two mercenaries meanwhile were snickering, the sniper going over to the demolition man, kissing him on the cheek before leaning against his shoulder. Simon just smiled and wrapped an arm around her tiny waist.
“Kai!” Apparently, the other girl had figured out what he had said.
He yelped and jumped up. “Īya koroshimasen! Watashi wa yakusoku shimasu!” he said quickly. “I swear! None!”
Whatever he had said made his irate girlfriend laugh.
Frowning, and a little annoyed at being left out, Ruby asked the question in Mandarin, “What did he say?” Beside her Wolf murmured in quiet protest. He didn’t like being out of the loop either, but he sighed and hugged her tighter when she squeezed his shoulder. She would tell him later.
Her cousin smiled widely at her witch as she answered in the same language. “Something about killing my gladiator, but abstaining because I would get pissed. At least, that better be what he said. I only caught the ‘Sydney, him, not kill’. Since I’m pretty sure Kai isn’t talking about your Simon, I’m assuming he’s talking about my Gary.” Her smile grew teeth and finished in English. “But he says he wouldn’t do that.”
“Shimatta,” Kai squeaked, already edging toward the door. “Sydney-chan…” He gave her a heartbroken look. Big, wide, hurt eyes. Crestfallen expression. Slightly tilted head.
Ignoring the two wolf grins on the two guests, Sydney shook her head at him. “Oh, get over here. I’m not mad. Uhm… A-shi-teru wa.” Giving him a hesitant look, the woman frowned. “Neh?”
A wide, smitten grin spread over his face, a light blush quickly following. “Ai-shi-teru,” he corrected gently, even as he skirted the reach of the other two and stepped over. “Watashi wa… iiya. Aishiteru wa. Sydney-chan.”
“And thank goodness for that,” she said with a bright grin, dragging him into a hug. “We’re teasing silly. You still think I’d get mad of that?”
Meanwhile Wolf was showing Ruby his cell phone and the red-eyed mercenary was trying not to laugh. He had managed to sneak a picture of a pink-cheeked Kai. She couldn’t decide whether to hug her partner or slug him for the audacity. Ah, to hell with it. She hugged him.
The Japanese man hung his head, resting his forehead on Sydney’s shoulder. “I’m sorry…”
One of her hands came up and lightly tapped him on the back of the head. She mumbled and stuttered something into the cotton of his black sweater.
Taking a deep breath, she moved back an inch, but kept her eyes on his chest. She was blushing! “Mōshi-wa-ka… ari-masen. Watashi wa… anata… ai…shi-teru wa, no, not wa. Uhm… Damnit. Shi… awa-se? Ni. Naru. No, yes. Naru. I think?” Syd thunked her forehead back on his collarbone, grumbling, “This is so hard without the words on paper.”
He was grinning as he leaned over, whispering into her ear. “Watashi wa motto manzoku shite koto wa arimasen. I could not be more satisfied.”
“I ask for happiness, didn’t I?” Syd turned her face up to his, a frown puckering her brows. “I think, I used the right word. ‘Satisfaction’ isn’t happiness.”
He smirked. “Same meaning,” he replied. “When did you say you got off? I have to prove the happiness, don’t I?”
Suddenly, the door burst open, and he had only half a second to whip around, throw out his arms and suck in a breath- … before he was tackled by a blur of yellow and a happy cry of, “ANIIIKIII!”
Once Syd got over her shock, she burst out laughing and joined the two mercenaries in bringing out her phone and taking pictures. Only, she made sure to take video footage too.