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a slow descent to madness.
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Kitsuki here again, for an update after about a century of nothing on my account. No writing, no Insanitalia, no nothing. Yeah, school is cruel to me ;n; I'm sorry, I'll definitely block in more time to write and such. I just got very recently concerned about college, being a sophomore and all. Ugh... But! there's a silver lining to all that. 

Guess what Kitsuki just recently bought.

PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY.

Oh my God it is my life If you're talking to me and I just suddenly go: "OBJECTION!" or start rambling about Phoenix and Miles and all this gorgeous court stuff, then you know what it's all about.

I am hooked. Severely. Don't expect any life from me for a while, because I am playing this baby nonstop!

even though he's my favourite character, i cannot remember Mile Edgeworth's name for the life of me
i keep thinking it's Miles Upshur from Outlast what has that game done to me //shot


Next, I'm going to get my hands on all the Ace Attorney games. And then The Evil Within if I ever get the balls to play it. My gaming life is, once more, very vigorous! Thank goodness ;D

Get into your games, everyone! I'm definitely more than willing to talk about games with anybody. XD
~Kitsuki

There is a certain beauty to the art of seduction. Joker knows this very well, although his and his companions’ skills encompass not only in the realm of sexual seduction--as many people so narrowmindedly think of their art--but everything. Upon a first glance, it’s not quite so obvious.

“C’mon, Joker,” says a boy not much older than him… about thirteen or so. They’re only three or four years apart, but it’ll work well enough. Joker raises his eyes to meet the boy’s, but it’s difficult to keep an even gaze. The right half of the child’s face was eaten by flames on the left side, and all that’s left is bumps and an expansive dark brown scab. “M’turn fer the blanket tonight.”

He wraps a tattered blanket around his shoulders, not shifting his gaze away from the other’s. “Right now?” he says, shrinking deeper into the dirt-stained corner of the alleyway he’s chosen for his bed. His voice shakes, lilting into a high-pitched hoarseness at the very end. He makes sure of that.

The boy’s lips, ripped and coarse like Joker’s blanket, soften. They’re a deep shade of brown, the right eye being the only thing that was saved from the scalding fires that took from him the rest of his skin. “Yeah,” he says at last, a stutter trembling on his lip. “T’night is my turn. T’night.”

They are poor little children with no home, no family, no food. They don’t even haves names—he certainly doesn’t know this boy’s name. He only calls himself “Joker,” a name that has little meaning to him. He heard it once as he passed a windowsill where a mother and her son were reading a faerie tale of sorts. He remembers hearing the son’s inquiry. Something about the manner in which the story read, about the character who made his appearance in quite a bit of the book. And he remembers the soft hum of the mother. And he remembers her answer: “He called himself the joker, and he was very proud of his jokes; but nobody else could see anything in them to laugh at.”

He is quite a bit like that Joker, he’d reckon. Sometimes, when he looks at the state of his living, at the state of the other children’s lives, he wants to laugh. It’s horrible. He can’t see why anyone would ever laugh at something like this. But it’s his own private joke—his jab at misery, and the only way he can push away the reality of his poverty.

He has nothing, really. They have nothing. There is only what scraps they can salvage from the garbage of the aristocrats’ feasts, and they live in filthy alleyways that cake their bodies with mud and the stink of urine. He is only one out of hundreds of them. It’s been this way as long as Joker can remember. It’s their--his--life. There was nothing before this.

He’s supposed to have given up the blanket by this time. It’s the only blanket in their group of stragglers, and the sole source of heat save for the bare clothes on their backs. The children pass it to another boy or girl every night so that by the end of the week, everyone’s had at least one warm night of sleep. Tonight, his turn ends.

“Right now,” says Joker again, eyes flitting to the tip of the boy’s shoe. The front is torn, and through it Joker can see something nasty eating at his feet. It’s not frostbite. The thick yellow substance welling in the torn strips of the boy’s big toe and ankles makes certain of that.

Vomit rises in Joker’s throat, but still the pity pounding in his chest isn’t strong enough to press away his desire. It’s too cold tonight. Far too cold to suppress the fear of death and freezing to eternal sleep.

“Y-Yes, please,” says the boy, voice hitching in his throat again. He pins Joker with his uncertain stare, and Joker’s heart constricts. But still, the boy never gives a solid demand. “... ‘s cold old t’night,” he says instead. “Really.”

It’s working enough. Just a touch more will tilt the boy off his decision. Joker peels the blanket off his shoulders, gently as can be, as if he’s peeling a peach. He holds the cloth in his bruised hands a while, feeling the linen under the callused pads of his fingers. The boy’s eyes are on him, watching each finger trail across the thick fabric.

“... Here.”

Joker lifts the blanket, stiffening his arms until it looks like he’s trembling. It’s easy enough to buy—the other boy’s eyes aren’t good, and it’ll look quite real. “… Here,” he says, making sure that his teeth clack against each other loud enough to hear. “It’ll keep y’warm t’night. A’ight?”

Guilt settles into the boy’s eyes. He’s fidgety, if his trembling fingers are enough to tell by.

“No,” he mutters, quiet at first. Then his eyes set. “No,” he says to Joker, “take it fer a while longer. You’re colder ‘n I be.” He stares Joker straight through, the dark brown of his eyes grim. “But only fer a while, a’ight? ‘Til the sun sets, or summat like that. No longer, y’hear?”

Sunset. That gives him about two hours, give or take. Joker nods and settles into his spot, drawing the blanket over his shoulders once more. “Thank ya,” he murmurs. “Thank ya, brother.”

It worked. He’s got more time to keep himself warm, to make sure that the blood is still flowing in his body. He’s being selfish, of course—he knows it all too well. That boy is just as cold as he is, and just as in need. Being younger is hardly an excuse.

But seduction is his art, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t use it to its fullest. He looks up to the skies, where thunder is brewing behind the clouds. It will be a day that the children huddle together, bones upon bones and thin flesh against thin flesh. It’s the only way to get heat, other than this torn blanket. They’ll be needing every bit of warmth they have tonight.

Guilt eats him as he thinks of that boy and of the blanket on his shoulders. He thinks of how that other boy will be freezing cold for two whole hours until the sun sinks into the teeth of the city’s tips. He remembers the bodies of children on the sidewalks, frozen to the bone and motionless with Death’s breath on their white cheeks.

Guilt, he thinks bitterly to himself, is more of a comfort than the promise of death.

He’s almost tempted to laugh at that.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Newcastle skies loom above, chiseled a dark grey. Clouds swirl around the pointed tops of towering manours. It looks like rain. The higher men of England pass him by on the streets, a few tossing a glance his way. He doesn’t make eye contact—he just keeps walking along the curb, eye on the asphalt as he walks.

He imagines how pathetic and disgusting he must look to those men, those people from an entirely different world of England. He imagines the shakes of their heads and their sighs as they mutter under their breaths at him: a lost little boy of seven years, wandering the dank narrow gutters. Dirt in his hair and nails and a tattered blanket on his back.

He hates them. He hates thinking about what they’d say, how they’ll eye him with pity in their gaze before they walk on, back to their homes and wives.

“What a shame,” they’d say to their women with tight-lipped frowns. “That a child has to live like that. What a shame it is.”

And then they’d go about their business. They’ll talk about it, the ones that do know that children like him, children of the world’s gutter, exist. But they won’t do anything about it. Not when they have their elevenses to attend and their midday tea in open gardens and rows of brightly-painted flowers.

The people who don’t know about their poverty, about the state of children like Joker who have to scavenge to get by the day. Those people have their ignorance to blame. But it’s the people who know and don’t do a thing about it that drives Joker to near madness. He hates them.

He’s been all about England, looking for a place where the poor are allowed to live among the rich—where a crevasse of status doesn’t hold children like him apart from the others. He’s been all around, from Plymouth to Liverpool and Sunderland.

Everywhere is the same. He can’t find peace. He can’t find a single body that will take him in, who accepts his kind. And Newcastle is just the same as everywhere.

There is not a crumb of food to be found, not even in the alleys near the baker’s a little ways down the street. No one comes near here, because they’re all afraid of the baker and of his furious shrieks when one of the children dash down the sidewalk with his fresh loaves. But there’s often food there, and Joker has taken to coming around here in search of meals.

He pulls back the lid of a nearby trunk thrown out onto the sidewalk. The rotting smell of weeks-old food and kerosene makes him cringe. Even though Joker hasn’t eaten in days, he’s half-heaving up the contents of his stomach. But he still rifles through the molding food and moth-eaten clothes in search of something--anything--to bring back. The only thing that isn’t stained with dark oil is a single glove, white. It’s not much, but it will be enough to keep at least one of their hands warm on a cold winter evening.

He thinks of that boy that let him have the blanket a little while longer than he should have. He thinks of how cold it would be, out here scavenging, if there were not a cloth on his back. His grip tightens on the glove as he thinks of the smile that will grace that boy’s face when he hands the glove over.

Even if it is missing a fingertip or so, even if there’s a splat of kerosene on the palm, he doesn’t think that boy will mind. He can already see the splitting grin on his face, the smile that will shine as brightly as a fire on Christmas evening.

The nice thing about children like him—they don’t ever complain when they get something. No matter how messed up it is, or how much of it is missing. They just smile, as wide as he’s ever seen. It’s times that this that make him feel that his name means a little more than just a boy with laughter no one understands.

Sometimes, knowing that he can be a bringer of smiles, even without cryptic jokes and riddles, is more than enough.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

All Joker thinks of as he heads back to that alleyway is that boy’s smile. He’s seen a grin crack his face once or twice, but never for too long. Sunset is a few minutes off, the sun just beginning to brush the tips of Newcastle’s grand towers. If he goes quickly enough, he can handle the blanket and the glove off to that boy at the same time.

When he returns, the children are already lying across each other, arms and legs tangled and searching for heat in each other’s embraces. But the boy, the one that loaned him his blanket, is huddled in his corner of the alleyway. He looks cold, and his toes are yellow and stained as Joker remembers them.

He picks up the pace as he strides to the boy in the back. “Hey!” he hollers, and the boy stirs. He must have already gotten to sleep a little. “Hey,” he says, coming up close and lowering his voice to a hushed whisper. He shakes the boy’s shoulders. “Wake up, boy. I’ve got sumthin’ fer ya.”

When the boy’s stirred, Jokers moves to drape the blankets around the boy, receiving a muffled, sleep-laced “Thank ya”. Then he hands the glove over, and the boy’s face brightens like a beam of light.

“What’s this?” he says, turning the glove over and over again, eyes like a child’s on Christmas day. “What’s this?”

“A glove,” Joker explains to him, “Ya put it on your hand to keep ya warm.”

“I know that,” the kid says, sleep-addled face becoming bright with excitement. “But where’d ya get it?”

“Down near the baker’s. It was the only thing I could find today, but it’s enough, right?” Joker eyes him expectantly. “It’ll keep ya warm enough, anywho.”

“This is for me?”

“Aye.”

“Thank ya,” the boy says, still turning the glove over in his hands. Now that Joker looks close enough, they’re bleeding. Just likes his toes, only worse, like they’ve been cut up with a knife. The boy’s careful not to leave blood on the white of the glove, though. “It’s the best thing I could ‘ave. Thank ya, Joker.”

“It’s no problem,” he says. It is a problem, or at least it was. He’d been thinking to save it for himself, to keep his own hand warm on a dark night like this,  but seeing this boy’s face so happy and clear is enough for him. “No problem at all, boy.”

The boy turns his gaze to him, contemplative all of a sudden. “What’s with yer name, by the way? Where’d ya get a name like that? Your ma give it to you or summat?”

Not his mother. Joker doesn’t remember a thing about her, except that she left him in the gutter when he was only a boy of four or five. “No,” he says, “Not my ma. I picked it up fer myself.”

“How’d ya get a name like that?” says the boy, shaking his head. “It sounds great. I’d sure love ta have one, but I haven’t thought of any good ones. All the ones that sound great are the ones those aristocrats use a’ready. I don’t,” he pauses here a moment. “I don’t want a name like that.”

“Oh,” says Joker. He’s at a loss what to say. He understands, of course, the feelings towards the richer society. A name like theirs would make this boy sound like one of them—much too far from what he is. It’d drive anyone mad.

And all of a sudden, it comes to him. “I ‘ave a name fer ya!”

The boy’s smile grows wider, if that’s possible. “Really?” he says, awe spreading across his face. “Really? This isn’t a joke, is it? A name! What is it? Oh, boy, what is it?”

Joker grins. It’s perfect, when he looks at those deep brown eyes and those dimples forming on pink cheeks. The boy’s teeth are crooked, far from white and clean, but they’re pretty all the same when he looks at it the right way.

“… Smile.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

He doesn’t know how this happened. One moment, he’s sitting in his corner with Smile, who’s laughing and crying at the same time at his new name (Joker still remembers the shape of his teeth, every curve and sharpened end).

And then the next, there’s one of the children—a little girl—stumbling into the alleyway, with several loaves of bread in her thin arms. They haven’t eaten in days, and at their limit, the children will steal. He’s never liked taking what he hasn’t paid for, but the other children don’t mind. Anything to survive.

He remembers the smile splitting his own face at the thought of a restful night, with a full stomach and lying against Smile and the others. And then there’s a gunshot, and the girl is face down against the ground of the alley, blood splattered across the face of the loaves and staining them deep.

There are men in the alleyway. Not police—the police have never appeared around here before. It’s the face of the baker, frenzy with fury, and three other men that Joker has never seen before. Everyone is scrambling in all different directions. They never reach the opening of the alleyway before they all fall down, bodies snapping with the weight of the bullet in their flesh before they drop.

And then Smile is limp against him, blood pouring from his mouth and chest heaving for breath, and the bodies of the children lying against Joker are suddenly cold and lifeless. He’s scared—he remembers that. He remembers how Smile is still half alive against him, hand gripping and ungripping Joker’s arm as he fades in and out of consciousness. He’s muttering something only half comprehensible.

Keep it,” Joker thinks he hears, “Wear it.” But he doesn’t understand what Smile is saying. All he knows is that he’s the only one left. He doesn’t know how, or why he’s just there. But he’s the only one left.

“Kill him.”

No.

“C’mon,” says one of the men, who isn’t holding a gun. Just a butcher’s knife, although that scares Joker much more than a gun. “Leave ‘im alone. That’s enough, this one hasn’t stolen.”

“How do ya know?” the rough grunt of another sounds through the alleyway, ripping through his eardrums and piercing his head with terror. “He could have.”

“He hasn’t.” This is the familiar drone of the baker. “He comes around the shop a lot. But he doesn’t take things.”

“He’s with them, though. He’ll steal someday, if he’s give the chance.”

“Then don’t give it to him.”

What comes next is so much more frightening than the press of dead bodies against his arms and legs, even more terrifying than Smile’s dying gasps in his ear. He fists a piece of cloth in his hand—he’s not sure where it came from, but it gives him the slightest comfort.

“Cut off his arm.”

He remembers screaming as the man with knife saws off his right arm. He remembers blacking out several times, only to be slapped awake so that he can feel the pain all over again.

He remembers how slow it is, the agony that drives deep into his marrow and burns even more than that half of Smile’s face.

After what seems like an eternity, they’re gone.

His breathing hasn’t calmed down, but the breaths in his ear have long gone. Smile’s gone. Everyone is gone.

He looks down in his hand at the piece of cloth he’s been gripping onto this whole time, and suddenly there’s water building painfully behind his eyes and dripping onto the cloth. It’s even worse than the pain that’s still scalding in his shoulder.

Keep it,” Smile said. “Wear it.”

Smile’s gone. The least he can do is what Smile asked of him. Joker’s trembling as he pulls back the sleeve of his remaining arm with his teeth. The loss of feeling in the right side of his body is something that hasn’t quite hit him yet. He’s still numb, still half-delirious from the loss of blood and the missing breath in his lungs.

Something isn’t quite right. Joker looks down to see, and he wishes he hadn’t.

His thumb doesn’t fit into the glove.

There’s only one glove. I couldn’t find the other one. This one only fits—

“Keep it,” Smile said. “Wear it.”

His left hand doesn’t fit the glove. Joker reaches down to try it onto his other hand, knowing full well it will fit.

His right arm is gone.

Smile's name is on his lips as he slumps against the alley wall.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Smile!" he chortles at the thirteen-years-old boy who's gazing up at him with one, great blue eye that's knotted in something akin to horror. "A huge smile! A great, big smile!"

When Ciel gives him the biggest smile he's got, he's something at a loss for words. All the teeth are straight and perfect--not like the boy's teeth that he met in the alleyway.

"A great, big smile!" He doesn't know what he's thinking when he tells Ciel his new name.

What is does know is that it brings back so much more than it should.

Smile.

He is Joker, bringer of smiles. 
A Joker who tells jokes that no one understands.
A Joker that seduces children to their death in his circus.

He almost laughs at the name that slips from his lips when he calls Ciel "Smile" for the first time.

Smile
So. :iconkuroshitsuji-club: contest thing. Blurb. All I think of when I think Joker is this crazy sort of stuff.

I know he was born without an arm, okay. But this idea came to mind, and it just seemed--I don't know. It gets along with me more than the idea that Joker was born crippled like that. headcanonz time So I thought it's nice to feature Joker in his own one shot :3 Just Joker, no one else. I like the idea that he goes all over the place before ending up in London, so I wanted to have Newcastle

Because GEORDIES.
The TOON.

<3<3<3

Credit goes to Toboso's glorious art.
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(Contains: strong language)

One of the things on (Name)’s brain—one of the long, long list that’s constantly accumulating—is dealing with this Momotaro character, the original hired help that never made it to the door of the Grilled Mackerel.

Momotaro either didn’t care for the job that Mikoshiba had so kindly helped him get, or he was a real bastard when it came to taking initiative. (Name) has to wonder what his/her relationship to Mikoshiba is, if they’re related or just really good friends.

Really good friends, maybe.

Most of her time is spent playing with the cash register, jamming drink machines, or watching the front and back door for anyone who came in by the name of “Momotaro”. Two weeks of this routine pass by, and there is no hide nor hair of the mysterious Momotaro.

Until one day some orange-haired bumbling idiot comes tripping in the front door, dragged along by a very familiar face. It’s just her luck that, for once, she isn’t watching the doors and windows.

It’s a Thursday when this happens. Thursdays always bring the worst out of her, and Mr. Tamura has wisely retreated to the kitchens and let her tinker with the equipment as she wants. Wise, old Tamura. A sagely old man, that he is.

“Welcome to the Grilled Mackerel. No tables available in the good restaurant down the block?” says (Name) blandly, hearing the door jingle its little rusty tune. She doesn’t look up from the cash register, where she’s trying to tug off all the keys and then reassemble them back without leaving any trace of malfunction. So far, she’s lost the “9” and the “0” by flinging them somewhere halfway across the room. Shigino went off looking for them ages ago. He’s all the way back in the kitchens now—not like the keys can drop that far. But what Shigino wants, she’ll let him do. Less work for her.

“Hello, miss. We’re looking for Tamura-san,” says a polished, cheerful voice that’s somehow familiar to her ears. She makes the mistake of looking up instead of just darting off to find old man Tamura. She’s greeted by the ever-smiling face of—

Mikoshiba stares down at her, eyes wide with surprise. “(Name)?” he says, mouth dropping open like a fish’s. She guesses he’d never have pegged her for a working kind of girl. It’s true she isn’t, but she doesn’t exactly have much of a choice if she wants to survive summer vacation. “(Name),” the amputated red-haired fish head says again, like it’s a poor, lost, little thing.

“No,” she corrects it, “I’m Spock. But you can call me Mr. Spock, or sir Spock. Take your pick, I’ve got more.”

“(Name),” Mikoshiba says stubbornly. By the knot of puzzled bewilderment in his brows, he’s still trying to figure out what she’s doing here in the first place. She rolls her eyes.

Yes, I’m (Name), idiot.” She shoves the cash register shut and stands from her stool to go and get Shigino so he can deal with this loser. She’s not that bored that she wants to have an extended conversation with Mikoshiba. He’s far too flaunty and fair, making him difficult to bother.

Right then, Shigino starts shouting at her from the kitchen. From the bits and pieces she can hear over the crashing cacophony of pans and dishes, she gathers that Shigino is doing whatever it is that Mr. Tamura needs him to do with the oven—so, unfortunately, she can’t dump Mikoshiba on someone else.

Oh well. You can’t have everything in life. (Name) turns back to Mikoshiba and pastes the fakest, phoniest smile she’s got onto her face. “Okay, fish head. What do you want?”

Mikoshiba doesn’t register the insult, as usual. He never registers anything. His smile only gets broader, if that’s possible, like her remark wasn’t even vaguely demeaning. “I’m here to get this guy signed up for work, since we never got the call for him to come in.”

Mikoshiba jabs a thumb over his shoulder, towards some sad-looking kid in the corner table. His back is turned to the counter, so (Name) can only see the back of a head of wild red hair. He’s about her age, she’d garner. Judging from the sweater on his back, he’s also either attending her university or preparing to enter it. Wonderful, another opportunity to get to know some annoying brat.

“I wasn’t aware we were hiring some new guy.”

“Well, he got the job a couple weeks ago.” Mikoshiba rubs his head, looking almost sheepish as he glares at the back of the other kid’s head. “He’s just bad at taking initiative, I guess. He claims he never got the call to come in.”

“How responsible of him.” (Name) brushes off her apron, turning towards the kitchen. Just four steps, and she could be rid of Mikoshiba forever. “You want, um, Tamura-san, right?”

“Yeah,” says Mikoshiba.

She’s about to bolt for the doors. But right on cue, old man Tamura emerges from the kitchen, smelling of smoke and burnt mackerel, a disgruntled expression distorting his face as he heads straight for the sink and begins washing off his hands. Shigino follows suit a few seconds later, panting like a madman and bending over his knees. She doesn’t even want to know what they were doing in there, or if anything edible will come out of that kitchen in the next few months.

“Tamura-san!” says Mikoshiba, delighted to see the man he’s looking for. “Tamura-san, it’s me, Mikoshiba!”

“Oh?” Mr. Tamura turns around, wiping his hands off with a dirty rag like the one she saw Shigino handling on the first day of her work here. Great to know that the restaurant’s twisted perception of hygiene hasn’t changed one bit. “Mikoshiba-kun! What a surprise. To what do I owe this visit?”

Mikoshiba waves towards the guy at the table in the corner. “I brought the person you hired, Tamura-san. It was a couple weeks ago that you approved him, but he says he never got a call from you. So I thought we’d just drop by.”

Mr. Tamura’s eyebrows practically rise to the ceiling. “The person I hired?” he says confusedly, cocking his head to the side and staring thoughtfully at the loser sitting with his back to the counter. “That would be…?”

“Yeah,” says Mikoshiba, “that’s him.” He waves his arm at the red-haired rock lounging in the corner and hollers: “Hey! Get over here and say hello to Tamura-san, you laze! Hey—Momotaro!”

When a mini-Mikoshiba turns around, bright golden eyes lighting up in nervous anticipation, the name “Momotaro” finally hits (Name)’s ears. She puts two and two together.

She’s screwed.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Momotaro-kun,” Mr. Tamura says, giving the real Momotaro a good once-over. Then he turns to (Name). “… Momotaro-san?”

Mikoshiba shakes his head of bright red hair wildly. (Name) shrugs and watches him lazily, thoughts not quite formed right. She stopped thinking correctly when she heard Momotaro’s from his mouth, and right now all she can think is that Mikoshiba’s a pretty good imitation of a dog drying itself off after a splash. With Mikoshiba the fish and Shigino the Cowardly Lion here as well, they might as well start a zoo.

Mikoshiba points to Momotaro. “Momotaro”—then he points to (Name)—“not Momotaro.”

Mind still trained on the idea of starting up a zoo right in the Grilled Mackerel, (Name) points at herself, casting a careless glance at Mikoshiba. “Spock,” she corrects him, earning an irritated glare.

Mr. Tamura looks perplexed. “This complicates a lot of things,” he says slowly, glancing from pseudo-Momotaro to mini-Mikoshiba. He reaches up to scratch his head. “A lot of things,” he repeats, as if it’s only suddenly dawning on him that he’s running a restaurant, and keeping track of hired staff is vital to keeping the place afloat.

“How did you even miss that this guy,” says Mikoshiba to (Name), gesticulating violently at Mikoshiba V2, “is supposed to be working here and not you? No way you actually thought that phone call was for you, right?”

“Identity crisis,” she shrugs. Mikoshiba opens his mouth to argue, but then he closes it a moment later, realising that his pathetic logic and reasoning cannot one up (Name), advocator of reckless anarchy and carelessness. You can’t really win against someone who refuses to see logic.

Mr. Tamura rubs at his chin confusedly. “Momotaro-kun is the one who’s supposed to work here in the first place,” he says half-heartedly, an expression of extreme inner conflict rising to his face. “Then you, (Name). How did you…?”

“Identity crisis,” she repeats, and Mikoshiba throws his hands up in the air. She ignores him and goes back to thinking about how nice it’ll be to get out of the kitchens, where smoke is quickly becoming their air, and going back to clog up the coffee machine some more. She turns her eyes to her fingernails and all the coffee ground that’s gotten wedged under them.

“Momotaro-kun,” says Mr. Tamura, giving his all to Mikoshiba Junior. “what are you good at?”

Momotaro rolls his shoulders and runs a hand through his hair, looking lost. “Um,” he says lamely, “I’m pretty decent with a soda machine? I kind of worked with one back in third grade, when I was—”

“Are you good at taking orders?” interrupts Mr. Tamura gingerly, like he’s handling a fragile object. Momotaro looks like he wants nothing more than to run out the door and never come back. But he responds with a timid: “I’m a pretty good listener.”

(Name) snorts. Momotaro acts like he’s nervous, but he’s giving the exact sort of answers he knows people like Mr. Tamura want. Despite all appearances, he’s a regular kisser-up. The most perfect phony she’s ever seen in her life. (Name)’s about to set the video camera rolling so that she can cast Momotaro for a Hollywood movie, given what a fantastic phony he is, but Mikoshiba looks like he’s about to kill her. So it might not be the best time.

“And how are you with equipment…” Mr. Tamura stops, then says pointedly: “like coffee machines?”

“I make a lot of coffee,” mumbles Momotaro, suddenly very interested in his shoes. He’s figured out what kind of situation he’s suddenly put his impersonator in. “Good stuff. Um...  Cappuccino. Americano. Lots more. And I’ve used that model, the one in your—er—counter before.”

(Name) doesn’t even have to look up from her fingernails to guess she’s about to be fired. But she does glance up, and, from the look of elderly, patient concern that Mr. Tamura is giving her, she knows she’s spot on. It’s the kind of look old folk always give you when they’re about to break some bad news. She’d know, from those times she’s had to stare a professor in the face before she was handed a neatly-written “F” on one term paper or another. For guys who seem so apologetic about failing you out of their classes, they sure take a hell of a lot of time scripting their “F”s in perfect calligraphy. They were masters of cursive, those professional bastards. They probably didn’t learn anything else in grade school. All they did was practice scrawling their fancy “F”s all day.

But anyway, that’s the same look old Tamura is giving her right now. Not that (Name) minds—she’s bored out of her mind whether she’s at home or here, so it’s not like it makes a huge difference. She’ll be perfectly happy going back to her old ways and spending all day surfing the vast universe of impossibilities that is the internet.

“Um, excuse me,” says Shigino, again poking his head where it isn’t needed. He gives everyone a sheepish look and cowers under Mikoshiba’s boiling glare. But in the end he gets the nerve to squeak: “What’s there to be worried about? We can keep (Name) and just hire Momotaro-kun, a-and everything will be okay!”

Mr. Tamura’s face becomes a beacon of heavenly light. “That’s right,” he says firmly, eyes twinkling. “We’ll keep (Name), and hire Momotaro-kun.”

Mikoshiba looks like he wants to protest, but Shigino only beams happily and says, all chipper now that he’s sure he’s led everyone to their happy ending, “We can’t separate—we’re a family, after all!”

(Name) curses the ever-shining Shigino as she slinks away back to the cash register, this time dragging a genetically-cloned, red-haired fish idiot with her. As if it’s not bad enough that she’s staying in the Grilled Mackerel, but now she has to lug another fish head around with her. She has Mikoshiba to thank for it, and Shigino. Poor, shining little Shigino—she’ll murder him the next time she gets the chance. Family, her ass.

(Name) doesn’t waste time to warn Momotaro that she doesn’t take kindly to newcomers that come within ten metres of her. Instead, she lets him know her exact sentiments by jamming up the soda machine five minutes into his first shift while Tamura-san gives him a once-over of the menu. He looks confused when she calls him up to the counter and says, sickly sweet: “You’re good with soda machines, right, Momotaro-kun?”

He doesn’t look quite so befuddled when she does it for the sixth time that day.

(Name) really does hate Thursdays.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The three boys in bathing suits disappear for a few days. But on another gorgeous Thursday, they’re suddenly back and walking into the Grilled Mackerel, smiles aglow as if they haven’t been missing for a half a week. They’re not in bathing suits this time, but they’re not dressed in discounted Hot Topic clothing either. Thank God for small miracles.

(Name) pretends not to see them when they come in, but Shigino shatters her pleasant fantasy when he half-shouts a “Welcome back!” from where he’s mopping on the other side of the restaurant. At least someone’s happy to see them.

Green Eyes is the first to stroll gaily into the shop, the sun glowing around his head like a goddam halo. He’s dressed in ugly suspenders, a poor excuse of fashion that only firefighters wear these days. (Name) wants to puke when she sees him prancing in like all the world is right, and he’s not wearing the most hideous thing on earth. She’d beat on him for it, but after weeks of walking to the restaurant on foot, she’s sadly aware that there is indeed a fire station nearby. She assumes he’s from there—so she forgives him for his lack of fashion awareness. Perhaps then, karma will be on her side, and he’ll be saving them when she burns down the Grilled Mackerel.

Green Eyes has the decency to at least grab a table this time instead of strolling up to her and demanding the whereabouts of his nonexistent friend. What an asshole. You wouldn’t believe what kind of great, seemingly-decent people are actually a terrible brand of jerk nowadays. You can never tell who’s really a saint and who’s not anymore.

A few minutes later, Blondie skips through the front door whistling a happy tune that makes (Name)’s ears ache. He’s dressed in a grey, tailoured suit. From half a mile away she can see the“JAXA” printed in large font on a business card, sticking obnoxiously out of his coat’s breast pocket. He fills in the seat across from Green Eyes, who gives him a saintly smile that only strangers who bother with niceties give.

(Name) really can’t decide if Green Eyes’ a real jerk or someone who’s just blissfully unaware that he’s living in the 21st century. Nobody’s that nice anymore.

Glasses is the last one in the shop. With him he’s lugging what looks like a ten-pound book bag, with the sleeves of a white lab coat dangling out the unzipped top. He obviously didn’t heed her warning about leaving and never coming back. (Name) gives him a glare as Shigino fills up a Styrofoam cup of coffee, which Glasses came all the way to the counter to order before retreating with his tail between his legs to the table where Green Eyes and Blondie are chatting each other up a wall.

When she goes over (at Shigino’s urging) to give them their menus and water, Blondie chirps a pleasant “Hello!” at her. Which she ignores. Green Eyes lists a questionable-sounding salad, Blondie gets a soda, and Glasses fumbles with his order, thinking aloud as his eyes slide between three different main courses. Just to spite him, she writes them all down and reads it back to him, reveling in the dark flush on his face. She regrets it right away when he starts apologising profusely for nonspecific trivialities he’s probably been recording on a mile-long list for the past ten years of his life.

There are jerks; there are all-too-cheerful weirdos; there are saints unaware that they’re living in the present; and then there are guys who just have no clue. At all. Glasses is one of those guys. She almost throws her pen and pad at their bloated heads. She’s damn tempted to just walk away on them. A whole table full of phonies—just fantastic.

None of them complain when she relays the order to Momotaro incorrectly, and he comes with their orders switched around. She hears him apologise very insincerely (she and Momotaro are similar in that aspect), but Green Eyes just smiles and exchanges Glasses’ salmon and rice plate for his salad bowl.

Weirdo.

At the end of the meal, Green Eyes calls her over for the bill. At that point, she still hasn’t decided if he’s a full-blown jerk or an overly nice guy who was just born in the wrong era. She’s considering the “nice guy” category as she watches him peel a fifty from his wallet and press it into her hand, gentle as can be. She’s about to go and grab his change, but he tells her to keep it as a tip. She’s this close to thinking that Green Eyes is actually a great fellow and that she’s been misinterpreting him all along.

Then he asks her—very gently, as if he’s delivering some sort of traumatic news—if she’s seen someone. Specifically, their nonexistent red-headed, sharp-toothed friend.

(Name) turns on her heel and walks off, not bothering to give a response. She hears the jingle of the bell as Green Eyes and the Dynamic Duo make their anti-climactic exit. When she comes back to clear their plates, it pisses her off how someone—it’s Green Eyes, she’s sure of it—has stacked their bowls neatly and wiped down the table.

She slams the neatly stacked bowls in the dish cart so violently that the bowls jump a foot in the air and separate, clattering individually when they come down.

Good riddance.

The next day, to (Name)’s displeasure, the three come back. Even though there’s no reason for them to return—she’s already made it clear that she doesn’t know their friend, who she’s figured is some misguided Mr. Krabs cosplayer—Shigino pleads with her not to make their stay miserable. He’s got a point, since they’re currently the Grilled Mackerel’s only returning patrons.

She doesn’t make their stay miserable.

She makes it hell.

But every time she accidentally spills a water on the floor on her way over, Green Eyes gives her a smile that reaches his eyes and even goes to help clean up. It’s like the guy signed a contract to be a goddam guardian angel to every single person on the planet and is actually keeping to it. Amazing.

When that doesn’t work to get the boys riled up, (Name) starts doodling the obscenities she always sees inked across the district’s residents’ cheeks and arms on Glasses’ coffee cup. He never seems to notice them, even when they’re right on the lid and even when Green Eyes is gawking his eyes out at her hideous vulgarity. Glasses must have really bad farsightedness, which his heavy spectacles don’t seem to be helping.

He finally regains use of his eyes when she begins to draw dicks on the lid of his coffee. Unfortunately, Glasses is one of the few guys who’s actually got a noggin in his head. He starts waiting around the counter for Shigino to finish his coffee, taking it immediately and not giving (Name) a chance to defile his precious lattes.

As for Blondie, she doesn’t even try. Anything she does will probably go far over his  head anyway, so for the most part she ignores him. He doesn’t appear to mind either way, since always he’s too occupied making out with his Mountain Dew to care about anything else.

Every day, Green Eyes asks if she’s seen a certain redhead roaming the streets. He keeps asking, refusing to leave until she picks up Shigino’s mop and, swinging it like a madman, physically chases him out. Usually Glasses and Blondie follow suit, and she won’t see them again until the next afternoon, when the bell on the door will jingle their arrival and start another round of phony smiles and Green Eyes’ unbearable saintliness. It makes her want to puke.

This goes on for a week or so. It becomes routine to see the three boys in not-bathing suits chime through the door at approximately two in the afternoon every day, except on Sundays. (Green Eyes, the saint he is, has probably sworn them all to a no-working/no-walking oath.)

It’s a routine that she gets used to. Eventually, she forgets to ignore the Terrible Trio when they make their usual entrance, and she’s actually taking and relaying their orders with a decent attitude and not drawing pricks on Glasses’ Styrofoam cups. Once in a while she’ll deliver their food on her own, and she’ll respond to some remark or other of Blondie’s. Glasses doesn’t seem to want to converse with her—he’s learnt his lesson.

On the seventeenth day of their daily visits, she graces Green Eyes’ constant inquiry with a response: “No, I have not seen Otoya Ittoki.” Eventually, he stops asking.

By now, she’s used to it. She’s used to them, and she’s gotten around to not caring that they’re there. They’re just something at the back of her mind now, like the summer heat and the Hot Topic guys who go around spitting on the Grilled Mackerel’s windows—they’re second to her boredom. It’s all perfect the way it is, like it’s always been.

Then they just have to go and ruin it.

On the eighteenth day of their routine, in comes not three boys in not-bathing suits, but four boys. Green Eyes, Blondie, and Glasses’ she’s used to seeing. But this time, there’s some guy with dark blue hair and light eyes that look like the blinding hue of the sunny, cloudless sky outside. She dubs him “Blue”, like his hair and eyes, and keeps her eye trained on him in case he tries to pull anything funny.

And he does. Boy, he does.

The usual three take their seats, all eyes on Blue, who saunters up to the counter like he owns the Grilled Mackerel. Shigino’s eyes gleam with awe. Even Momotaro takes a moment to glance over at the newcomer from where he’s manning the soda machine. (He finally realized that the best way to stop having to fix his higher-up’s messes is to keep her from making the messes.)

Blue has this prim look about him. He holds his head proudly while managing to have an air of relaxation about him. If there were ever an icon for L'Oréal, he’s it. (Name) wonders what’s in that skull that makes it so light so he’s able to lift it so high even as he leans over the counter. She smells a mix of chlorine and saltwater.

When she gets past the initial scent, she’s surprised. Under all that bleach, he smells like a fish. Not one of the dead ones that Tamura goes about chopping all day. He smells like those fish that are fresh caught by the ocean, when the smell of death hasn’t gotten all over them yet.

So far so good. Out of the bunch of them, Blue might be the most interesting. But (Name)’s short-lived amusement comes to a sudden halt the moment he opens his mouth.

“Have you seen my friend?” he asks, “Red-headed, sharp teeth—”

Before he can get another word across, she’s chasing the Fantastic Four out the door with Shigino’s wet mop and slamming the door behind them.

If that doesn’t get her message across, she doesn’t know what will.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Blue doesn’t get the message.

He keeps coming back, even when his posse does not. He’s there on weekdays and on Sunday mornings, most likely against the wishes of Green Eyes the Saint.

He doesn’t get the message.

She puts it in so many different ways: “don’t come back”, “get your ass outta here”, “no uncooked fish welcome”, “there are no raw Mr. Krabs’ here”… and tons more she doesn’t even bother to list. She’s probably spent sleepless nights trying to find some way to get through to him that there’s no redhead here, and that he should go home and leave them alone. Blue never gets the message.

Instead, he takes up residence at one of the one-person tables near the counter and often sits there for a good hour before leaving, only to return the next day, inquiry armed and ready to fire. Unlike Green Eyes, he doesn’t even order anything. He just sits there, coming and going as he wants. Common courtesy in a restaurant is a concept lost upon him.

For some reason, Shigino has taken it upon himself become Blue’s knight in shining armour. He thinks he owes something to Blue, maybe because he feels guilt over the many fish the restaurant has slaughtered every time he smells Blue coming through the door.

“You can’t just kick potential customers out the door, (Name)!” he says stoutly, putting a hand over the black-stitched “Shigino” on the left breast pocket of his apron. She knows he’s choosing to ignore the fact that Blue hasn’t bought a thing since he came into the restaurant half a month ago. “That’s against the spirit and the slogan of the Grilled Mackerel!”

“Which slogan?” she asks, genuinely confused. “Was it ‘no tables free at the restaurant down the block’? Or ‘took a wrong turn on the way to Oive Garden? We have free maps!’?”

Shigino, however, has learnt to ignore her expertly-placed jabs. He goes through to the trouble of placing a cup of water on the Blue’s table—which is the only thing in the restaurant that Blue will touch—and then he’ll come back around the counter, folding his arms and declaring, “Blue has the right that every one of our customers do!”.

To which (Name) will point out the We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service sign on the wall next to the soda machine.

Needless to say, it all goes over Shigino’s head. He’s content to spend the majority of his working hours either catering to Blue’s needs (which are always nil) or speaking up in defense of Blue.

The only plus out of it is that at least Shigino’s picked up her nicknames for the four boys. It’s funny to hear it coming out of his mouth, rather than just in her head. If he ever learnt Blue’s real name, or any of their’s, he’ll most likely become unbearable.

(Name) complains to Mr. Tamura, now the only person in the restaurant (besides Momotaro) whom she has slight faith in. The old man looks surprised at her detailed report outlining Blue and his crimes against humanity. But he’s considering it. After thinking it over, he says carefully, “If he doesn’t buy anything, then you can ask him to leave.”

“Can’t I just kick him out the second he comes in?” she whines, to which he says wisely, “(Name), you can’t kick people out for nothing.”

“I’m not kicking him out for nothing,” she insists, clasping her hands and shaking her head.  Out of all the people in the Grilled Mackerel, she alone bears the burden of the enlightenment bestowed upon her concerning Blue and his posse of Krabs-searching hooligans.

“Oh?” says Mr. Tamura, hardly listening as he chops up some fish for imaginary customers.

“I’m kicking him out for having been born.”

At least Momotaro seems to agree with her reasoning, to some degree. It might have to do with the fact that he understands her way of thinking now, thanks to once before having to deal with her reaction to the sin of having been born himself.

After she pours out her heart and soul to him about how Blue shouldn’t be allowed into the Grilled Mackerel, she thanks Momotaro’s lending of his ear by clogging up the soda machine one last time for the day. He should be thankful. Usually she won’t stop until closing time, which means that she spared him for the last three hours of work.

Unfortunately, for some unfathomable reason, Momotaro doesn’t have any gratitude for her sudden show of kindness. He drops dozens of f-bombs and scares away one prospective diner, who’s in and out the door as soon as he hears Momotaro screaming bloody murder.

“Someday,” she tells Momotaro just as they’re almost ready to lock up the restaurant, “you may be able to take my place as the sole advocate of good humour in the Grilled Mackerel.”

“Wow, Senpai,” he says with a roll of the eyes. “I’m so flattered. Think I can have the honour of being allowed to wear your filthy apron, too?”

She throws her filthy apron on his flaming red hair and is out the door before he can shove it back at her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Blue is back. He’s sitting at the one-person table closest to the counter again, being his usual self: a jobless, pathetic, fish-smelling guy who just can’t get a message.

He doesn’t buy anything.

Ignoring Shigino’s cries for mercy, (Name) is over the counter quicker than a flash (who says you can’t do parkour in an uptight place like a restaurant?) and approaching the target rapidly.

“Get out,” she says sweetly to him, and Blue raises an eyebrow at her.

“What?” he says, like he can’t understand what she’s just said. It’s plain and simple—if he can’t get that through his thick, redhead-obsessed skull, then what is she supposed to do?

“Out,” she says, pointing to the door. “No money, no purchase, no seat. This isn’t a live action comedy, my friend. It’s a restaurant. People come to eat here, not to gawk at the servers.”

“People come here to eat?” Blue makes a show of looking around. It would be a funny joke, except she can’t tell if he’s serious or not. “What people?” he says blandly, turning to gaze back at her coolly.

For once, (Name) is speechless. No way. Blue’s smartass comebacks are out-doing hers. No one outdoes (Name)’s smartass comebacks.

Two can play that game, boy-o.

“Normal people,” she says in a sugary tone, planting her palm on his table. He tilts his head upwards to watch her, as if challenging her next move, and sips on his water stoically. “Not weirdo stalkers who come to stare down the servers. Come on, we’re hot, but not that hot.”

Hot?” chokes Blue, withdrawing from his cup. He flushes a bright red, bending over as he coughs and hacks elegantly on a lungful of water.

“Well,” she shrugs, “Maybe not Shigino,” which draws an indignant hey! over from the coffee machine. “But anyways. Your time is up. Do something interesting or get out.”

He seems to consider it for a while. Then, out of nowhere: “Come swimming with me.”

(Name) nearly faints. “What?”

“Come swimming with me,” Blue says again, eyes surveying her coolly. “With Makoto. And Nagisa and Rei.”

“Who the hell—?” Then it hits her. The other three he’s always showing up with—Green Eyes, Blondie, and Glasses. Which was which again? “You mean those three losers?”

“They’re not losers,” he says, making some attempt at justifying his companions’ existences. But past that, it doesn’t look like he takes any real offense at his three best friends having been put down right to his face. What a swell guy.

She ignores that. There was no point arguing anything out with Blue. “Swimming, huh?” she says. She lifts herself, seating her arse right onto his table. Then she starts tapping his glass of water and trying to tip it over, hoping to get a rise out of him.

“Stop that,” he orders her.

“Make me,” she replies, the most mature comment she can think to shoot back. But he doesn’t make any move to stop her. He just keeps insisting.

“For once. Get out of this place and actually do something worthwhile.” Oh. So he’s acting like he knows her life, is he? What a jerk. What a splendid, gorgeous phony.

“I do plenty with my life,” she says, “I work here, don’t I?”

“Working on your way to become a juvenile delinquent. Fantastic work,” Blue says blandly. What a swell, swell guy. Fantastic sense of humour.

“I’m not going swimming with you,” she tells him, hopping off his table and heading back to the counter.

“Too busy?” he says with a hint of what she thinks is supposed to be sarcasm. “That’s a shame. It could most definitely cure your boredom.”

She chases him out with Shigino’s mop. Not like he’s putting up a fight—even as she’s whacking his head with the end, he still gets up slowly and calmly as ever, making his way over to the door without even a change in pace.

What a jerk.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Then he’s back again the next day, like nothing ever happened. (Name) expected it—so she goes around the corner and right up to him. “You can’t stay here,” she says bluntly. “Either you’ve got to buy something or you’ve got to put on some kind of show. Out.”

He looks up at her, his stoicness somehow twisted enough to resemble confusion. “Am I not entertaining enough?” he says smoothly.

“No. Either become a stripper or beat it.” She kind of questions her sanity as she says this, but if it gets him out, then it’s good enough.

“Oh,” says Blue, as if this explains everything. (Name)’s starting to worry he might actually become a stripper now, just so he can keep his table.

“No money, no food, no table,” she says, not to be redirected. She’s here for one purpose and one purpose only—to get Blue out of her sight forever. “Now, out.”

He fixes her with an attentive stare worthy of a master stalker. “So you’re saying,” he says, “that if I don’t buy anything, I won’t be able to hang around here?”

“That’s basically it,” she nods. “Why, did you think this was your private hangout or something?”

“Something like that,” he says dazedly.

It’s probably hitting him now—that this isn’t his place, he doesn’t own it, and he doesn’t have the right to be here if he’s not buying food like normal people who come to a restaurant do. Maybe if she pushes a little further, she might even make him see his true stalker nature for what it is.

He stands, and (Name) is just about ready to proclaim her victory.

But instead of going out the door, Blue pushes deeper into the restaurant, towards the counter which he should know by now is a restricted area for creepy stalkers like him.

“Hey,” she says, “the exit is that way!”

And on cue, Mr. Tamura sweeps in from the kitchen, and Blue raises a hand and calls out to him.

“Sir,” he says, and Mr. Tamura smiles his patient, elderly smile and insists that Blue calls him Tamura-san. “Do you have any openings here?”

“The server positions are full,” says Momotaro anxiously, swooping in to save the day. (Name) makes a promise to herself not to touch the soda machines for a whole week. “Sorry, man.”

Mr. Tamura fixes Blue with a scrutinizing look that’s much too contemplative for (Name)’s comfort.

“How well,” he says, pausing for effect, “can you cook?”

“Very well,” Blue says, and Shigino butts in to say something about family and how glad the Grilled Mackerel is to be able to welcome a new member of the family.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Blue really can cook well. Mr. Tamura calls them all into the kitchen to sample his fried fish, as if to rub in the fact that the new cook is here to stay permanently now that he’s proved his worth. The fish Blue makes is delicious. His rice is perfect and fluffy. Even she can’t find some bad enough remark to ruin how amazingly good his cooking is.

(Name) comforts herself with the fact that at least now that Blue is the Grilled Mackerel’s new chef, she won’t have to see his ugly mug out front anymore. His friends still swing by, and there’s still the occasional mention of some redhead that’s failed to show his face for the past months they’ve been looking for him. Some friend he is.

Today marks the second month (Name) has been working at the Grilled Mackerel, and a whole week since Blue has started working his dark magic on the kitchens. Since then, the number of customers they’ve been receiving has risen exponentially (although that’s not saying much, considering they didn’t have any in the first place).

She decides to swing around back to finally give him a proper greeting. Maybe accidentally dump a glass of ice water or two on his apron.

“Welcome to Hell,” she says when she bursts through the double doors to the adjoining kitchen, two glasses of ice water in hand, “enjoy your permanent stay and try not to die of boredom.”

She would have dumped the water onto his head if she weren’t shocked speechless at the sight of Blue cooking in nothing but an apron and swimming trunks.

“I don’t want to ruin my swimsuit,” is his excuse as he throws a handful of vegetables into a pan and begins to sauté them expertly.

“Wow, Blue.” She shakes her head, setting a cup of water down next to him. “I thought you were weird, but this is just outta your realm altogether.”

His hand, clutching the glass of water, stops halfway to his lips. “Blue?” he says blankly, eyes shifting from his water to her.

“Yeah. That’s the colour of your hair and eyes. So you’re Blue.”

“I’m not Blue,” he protests, taking a small sip and placing the water down next to the stove.

“Yes, you are,” she says stubbornly with the same rigidness she uses on Mikoshiba. “You’re very blue. So I’ll call you Blue.”

Haruka.”

This time, it’s (Name)’s turn to stop gulping down her drink. She lowers the glass, peering at their new chef over the top of it. “What?”

“My name,” he says without diverting his gaze from the pan, “ is Haruka.”

She considers it. It’s not so bad of a name. If she gets past the part about it usually being a girl’s name, it’s actually got a great ring to it. It fits him well, almost better than just “Blue”.

“... I like Blue better,” she decides, tipping the rest of her glass. “Haruka is a girl’s name.”

“So I’m aware.” He’s probably gotten it all his life. The least she can do is be even more unoriginal.

“Cheers,” she says with a roll of her eyes, exiting the kitchen and returning to the monotony of the restaurant. Green Eyes, Blondie, and Glasses wave at her from the corner, where Momotaro is taking their order.

Even her first customer is back, having taken Haru—Blue’s, dammit—place at the one-man table near the counter. Shigino drops a coffee off at his table, since the guy’s learnt his lesson after complaining about the water that one time.

(Name) pulls out her gaming console and checks the time on it. It’s a Thursday, and a couple hours before the Grilled Mackerel gets at its busiest. Then she realises. School starts on Monday. She won’t be bored anymore after that. There’s no reason to keep working here.

She makes a note to tell that to Mr. Tamura before she leaves tomorrow night. It would be only courteous of her to give him a day to prepare for the lack of her glorious presence after Sunday night comes and goes.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Ruin and Chaos: the Second Kingdom of the Sea” is as bad as (Name) remembers.

Now that she thinks about it, they look somewhat familiar when she presses her nose closer to the screen. They’re probably ripped sprites taken off of some decent indie game she’s played before. In that case, the various recolourings are probably meant to cater to those with no sense of colour composition. Could the sprite artist do no wrong?

“I can’t believe anyone actual funded a team to produce this shit,” she grumbles against the screen.

“Then why are you playing it?” comes the stoic response. She snaps up from her game to glare at Haruka, Blue, whatever his name is, from her lower bunk. He’s set himself up nicely at their desk, poring over some marine biology text.

School has been in session for five weeks now, and she’s back at the college dorms again now that her parents have found a good reason to move her out of the filthy mess that is her room. The first few days were nice. She was one of the students who’d signed up for a dorm immediately when it was offered, and so she’d gotten settled in early. It was comforting to be back in a familiar setting—even if it promised quite a bit of boredom for the coming year.

She thought she’d never have to see the chef of the Grilled Mackerel’s ugly mug again. But her jab at his girly name heavily backfired on her. And here they are, sharing a dorm. That shouldn’t be allowed, even with the impressive laziness of the university’s office staff.

But apparently some bastard assistant assumed Blue’s a girl and couldn’t be bothered to check the official records. So here (Name)  is, rooming with a boy with a girl’s name because the college couldn’t be bothered to check the dorms correctly.

Of course, she can’t be bothered to go and fix up their mess for them, either. Blue doesn’t seem to care either way. So he stays.

“Of all people, I have to get stuck with you,” she huffs, fiddling with her console.

“Looks like the red strings of fate have tied us together once more,” Blue says, pushing his textbook away with an expression of extreme boredom.

The summer heat still hasn’t faded, and she can see how heavily it’s weighing on his shoulders. They stay like that, unmoving, (Name) sprawled on her blankets and Blue leaning back in his chair. For a few minutes, there’s not a sound, and all there is is the humid silence and the sunlight blanketing them. It’s nice.

Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” chimes in her ears, and (Name) removes the pile of dirty laundry at the foot of her bed to reveal her mobile. The caller ID reads “Glasses”. She answers less than hastily. “Sup, Glasses.”

I’m Rei!” comes the irritated response, “Call me Rei!

“What’s up?”

Can you ask Haruka-senpai if he’s still up for swimming later today?

“Blue,” (Name) shouts, “it’s your boyfriend ringing for you!”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” says Blue with not an inflection in his voice as he takes the phone.

“Aw, that’s cruel,” she says loud enough for Rei to hear, “Will Senpai ever notice poor Glasses-chan?”

I’m not Glasses!! Call me Rei!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She’s pulled out of her nap by a hand shaking her shoulder roughly, and she has to struggle to remember what happened before she passed out on her pillow.

Oh, right. Blue spent half an hour listening to Glasses rant on the other end before she lost track of it all and fell asleep to the sound of her gaming console sounding in her earphones. A hand offers her long-awaited mobile back to her, and she murmurs, “Thank you, based hand,” as she takes it and tucks it back into her pocket.

She stares at the floor, at a pair of retreating sneakers. Her eyes follow their path to the door of their dorm room, which is swung open.

“Well?” comes the usual call. Her eyes clear, and she looks up to see Blue looking back at her over his shoulder. “Are you coming to work or not?”

“Yeah,” she yawns, “I’m coming. Give me a minute.”

A minute turns into ten minutes because (Name) can’t find her left shoe, so they’re both ten minutes late for work. Makoto (Green Eyes), Nagisa (Blondie), and Rei (Glasses) wave to them when they enter through the back door, having donned their aprons.

It’s been five weeks since school started.

It marks the fourth week since her return to the Grilled Mackerel.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The door jingles open on a Sunday, when work is slow and the Terrible Trio have decided to slack off in their dorms as usual. Momotaro is cursing at the soda machines that (Name)’s expertly clogged up, Shigino is polishing up the coffee maker, and Blue is in the back chopping fish for imaginary customers.

“No tables at the restaurant down the block?” says (Name), looking up to face their newest diner. The man has walked right up to the counter, not bothering with a table. Delightful.

Red bangs hang over pale skin, and he gives a grin that reveals white, sharpened teeth. “I’m looking for a friend,” he says, his voice smooth and pleasantly low.

Next thing he knows, (Name), armed with a mop in her hand, kicks him out on the curb. She locks the door and pulls down the blinds, plunging the restaurant into darkness. Shigino lets out a squeak of terror, and Momotaro chokes back his laughter.

Blue emerges from the kitchen, smelling more like fish than usual.

“Who did you kick out?” he says, an uncharacteristic tone of urgency lighting his voice. He must be worried that she’s done it to Green Eyes or Blondie. What Blue doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

“Just some guy looking for a friend,” says (Name) coolly, tapping at the cash register. Ching! Chang! the tray sings. Haruka gives her a dubious look, but nevertheless he retreats back into the kitchen.

(Name) gives a wide smirk that has Shigino nearly passing out cold on the floor.

The routine carries on as usual, and nothing changes.

And that’s okay with (Name).

Just the Usual (Haru x Reader)|Chapter 2
Wow. So the interaction with Haru was actually pretty short. So I guess it's not really a true HaruxReader after all, maybe more like an experimental Free! reader insert with no romance.

But if anyone thinks that Shigino is OOC--think again. Which Shigino am I using? I'm using the little brother. This is an AU about five or six years in the future, where Haru is a last-year college attendant, and Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei all have jobs already. I imagined that since Haru is a little lost in the last episode I saw of him (ep 9 or something??), he might skim around the idea of college for a while. Maybe he'll apply after a couple years of thinking. So he's definitely older than Reader by a few.

Momotaro should be around Reader's age, whereas I imagine Shigino is maybe 15 or 16. Because he was like, 10 or 11 in the anime where he's being a kawaii baby and swimming in Makoto's classes.

I was pretty happy with how this turned out. The ending is kind of like with my Fem!AmericaxReader fic, but that's because boredom's one of my themes lately. I'm getting into the rhythm of sarcasm, that's all.

So. This ended up having two chapters and not three, so here:
Chapter 1: Just the Usual (Haru x Reader)|Chapter 1
Chapter 2: You are here.
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The internet is slowing down again.

She plucks away at the keys, spares the front yard outside her window a glance, and turns back to the desktop, where a gritty advertisement featuring Sonic the Hedgehog separates her from her Google search of “how to get to hell”.

The grainy pixels displaying the reliability of her wi-fi have risen above the first bar. A new record.

She leans back in her chair, gives the summer afternoon another long drawn-out glare, and gets off of the computer, shutting it down mercilessly and crawling back towards her bed in search of her phone. There must be someone she can call—someone from last year’s classes, maybe. She wouldn’t call them “friends”, but they were useful enough when she needed them to be.

They might have some interesting topics in their summer tutoring program that might get her through June. Or, if she was lucky, they could even find her a job that would keep her occupied for the rest of the summer.

But she can’t call people if she doesn’t have a phone to call them with. Her room is a mess, and her phone is buried somewhere beneath it. She can’t be bothered to find it, so she flops down onto the bed and digs under her pillow for her gaming console. The large bag of games stashed under her bed is, thankfully, where it always is.

Huffing a sigh, (Name) starts up a random RPG from the accumulating pile of games gathering in the Target bag and gets halfway through the opening before she trashes it for a different game. Then another one.

And then some.

They’re all so pitifully bad that sitting in classes again (even maths) suddenly begins to sound like a fantastic idea. She chokes back a snort.

She never thought the day would come where she wants to actually be in school. Then again, she never thought the day would come where she would need to Google how to get to hell. On most days, it comes naturally. But summer vacation is boring, and there hasn’t been enough chaos to wreak lately.

There’s nothing to do. She drained her savings for the latest handheld game console on the market: the sleek, shiny baby she’s currently cradling and button-mashing the life out of. It was expensive. When it came out, she sat by her desktop and chewed her nails for fifteen minutes considering whether or not to run to Gamestop and buy it immediately.

She wouldn’t call it a hasty purchase. More like a necessity of life. Something simpletons (like her college professors) wouldn’t be able to understand.

But the device, she’s come to realise, is useless without games to play it with. It was an afterthought that only weighed on her mind after she bought the damned thing. Her friends were easy to fool, since none of them seemed to know her real birthday (the bastards). Normally she wouldn’t go so far to spend so much.

But this is an early birthday present to herself, and so she even took out money from her deposit to get games for it. She’s played all of them, and they’re not so good that she’d consider playing them again.

But she might. Just for entertainment (or rather, a lack thereof).

In retrospect, getting an early birthday present an exact seven months before her actual birthday might end up backfiring on her someday. Lying to Mikoshiba about it to get some of the money she needed will probably turn out even worse.

But oh well. Life is short. And if it isn’t, this is Mikoshiba she’s talking about, so who cares?

She hums to herself as she plugs herself into the copy of her newest game that she’s already played ten times over since picking it up from its lonely perch on one of Gamestop’s dustiest shelves. No one seemed to want it. Maybe it’s too retro for their weak twentieth century minds.

She doesn’t blame them. The overused, thoughtless feel to the title (who the hell had little enough of a brain to name their game “Ruin and Chaos: the Second Kingdom of the Sea”?) would make anyone nauseous.

(Name) doesn’t mind. It’s practically her job to pick up these rejected games and button-mash them until she dulls her senses to the pain of how terrible they really are. Ruin and Chaos: the Second Kingdom of the Sea is mere child’s play compared to the horrors she’s seen.

So she bought it, beat it in two hours, and threw it down into the bag with all the others for a future day of gaming.

That was yesterday.

She’s a little turned off by the fact that she bores so easily that she’d replay a perfectly awful game—spoiling that one-time, rage-quit, special feeling that comes with the worst of these RPGs. But hell if she’s going to let a little disappointment get the best of her summer vacation. Not that she’s doing anything with it.

It isn’t that hard to beat the game if you know what you’re doing, and (Name) definitely knows what she’s doing. She deletes her save files, loads a new game, and begins blasting her way through level one.

The pixelated diver on the screen is a total dumbass when it comes to actual diving. Not to mention it's awkwardly androgynous, sporting both an obvious crotch and what looks suspiciously like a pair of prominent breasts. She doesn’t know whether she should laugh at the pixel artist or dismember them slowly. When she presses the movement controls, she watches the little shit flop like an amputated spider in water, its arms and legs flapping in every direction the human brain can’t even imagine.

Her brain is beginning to fry from the stupidity being slapped into her face. But she doesn’t stop pounding the controls. She could do this all day. She doesn’t really want to, but hey, she doesn’t exactly have options.

(Name) blasts through disfigured squids and monstrous crabs that look more of a sickly orange than red, not bothering to watch her HP bar as she sprays death rays at them all from her androgynous diver’s waterproof gun. Death is welcome. It’ll give her an excuse to throw the console against the wall and pretend to be angry, rather than relieved, at the badly sprited “GAME OVER” flashing on the screen.

But she doesn't get death. She gets more disfigured squids, joined by their brethren squash-faced octopi. And, sooner than she wants, she's assaulted by mermaids that look more like mermen that have had seashells and padding plastered to their broad chests.

Fifteen minutes into her serial murder spree of gender-confused mermen, the familiar call of “Never Gonna Give You Up” lets out its glorious, muffled chimes. It’s coming from somewhere in her room, but like she said—she can’t be bothered. She opts to ignore it, instead picking up the rare armor that her defeated pixelated enemy has just dropped.

The phone takes a hint and shuts up, and she proceeds to level five. Ten seconds into her first battle, the phone blares again.

Ten minutes later, Rick Astley is so ingrained into her cerebral cortex that she wants to rip her brain out, shove it into her phone where the battery is supposed to be, and dump all mentions of the man, and whoever has the gall to even mutter his name, over the top of Sears Tower. In a burning coffin.

The final boss is a fight hardly worth her money. The game as a whole is so bad that it’s almost good, and she decides she can forgive the developers’ existences for this monstrosity that’s threatening to end her life with laughter. She cranks the volume up and tries to focus on the horrendous battle music that just almost drowns out “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

Almost.

After seventeen minutes of enduring hell (which she finally regrets ever looking up), (Name) comes to the conclusion that she does not want Rick Astley to tell her how he’s feeling.

Ever.
Again.

She flings the game across her bedroom, not caring where it lands, and takes a few minutes before she can calm herself enough to go digging for her phone. It’s not hard—all she has to do is follow the song that’s threatening to tear her skull apart. She finds the grinning face of her mobile in a pile of her dirty laundry from two weeks ago. It almost looks amused at the torment she’s enduring to the point of being self-nominated for sainthood.

A glance at the hated screen tells her that the caller is unknown. She can’t be pushed to care for the dignity of the person on the other end. She flips it open and snaps, “What do you want?”

A pregnant pause ensues, Rick Astley still vocalizing in some distant corner of her mind. “U-um.” The voice on the other line is male, gravelly, like there's a block of asphalt stuck halfway down his throat.

Ironically, after a summer of enduring boredom, she doesn’t have the patience for this. “What. Do. You. Want?” Whoever this person is, whether they’re a commercial or some creep, she’ll tell them whatever they want to hear. If only to get them and Rick Astley out of her life forever.

“This is Tamura-san?” says a voice that definitely belongs to a middle-aged man, if her deductive skills are spot-on as usual. Which they never are. From the man’s tone, it sounds more like a question than a statement of self-identification. “From the restaurant?”

“Restaurant,” she says flatly, the word flying in one ear and out the other. What restaurant? What has she done now? The last time she set a food place on fire was at a McDonald's. That was weeks ago. She doesn't remember terrorising any other places since then.

“Yes, the restaurant.” There’s a hint of unease in the caller’s tone, and (Name) clutches onto it, praying that she isn't fated to probation or something equally awful. “Is this not Momotaro-kun?”

“Um.” Despite most definitely not being Momotaro-kun, she still finds time to pause.

“Hello? Are you there, miss?”

In the Spirit of Cooperation, she pushes off answering directly, instead considering the pile of dirty laundry on the floor from which her phone had risen. She stares the disheveled clothes down, not particularly interested in cleaning them up. “Is this the wrong number?” worries the voice on the other end, put off by a lack of response. Damn people need everything and anything immediately nowadays. “You’re the one who called in for the job?”

(Name) swears briefly and returns to the call, fussing over her reply. She can’t help zoning out. She’s bored, after all, and being bored for unnaturally lengthy periods of time can fry a brain pretty good. “I’m still here.”

By now, (Name)'s a little miffed by the length of the call and how she has to dodge every question this man is hurling at her. What is this, Answering Questions 101? Hanging up is easy enough, but what (Name) plans to do with her summer is a different matter. For all she knows, she could be “still here” until the end of the vacation if she doesn’t step up and do something about it.

Her ear latches on to the word “job.

“Momotaro-ku... er, san?” says the voice again, very concerned over this Momotaro character that (Name) doesn’t even know. “Are you still there?”

She isn’t sure if she can be considered “still there” or “still living” after the hell this summer vacation has been. There’s a lot of things she doesn’t know. But there are a few things she is most definitely certain of. And for one, she isn’t interested in that laundry pile.

“This is most definitely Momotaro-kun. I mean. Momotaro-chan. I am totally up for this job, whatever it is. Restaurant stuff, right? I can totally handle it.”

The owner of the middle-aged voice gives a small “hmm” that sounds an awful lot like dubiousness. “You know,” he says, “you sound very nervous.” Uh oh! “Mikoshiba-san said you were much more easily excited.”

“Oh.” Easily excited? “Uh.” Nervous? “I can be forth-going. I’m not nervous at all.”

Mikoshiba?

… Wait a second. “Um, did you just say Mikoshiba?”

“Yes, I did,” says Mr. Tamura, sounding a little less worried. “Seijuro thought you would be quite the fit for this job. Says you need something to do with your time. And when you next see that boy, you really must tell him to spend his money on something other than games, dear.”

“Yeah. Haha. I will.”

Life has a funny way of twisting her own words back on her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The voice of middle-aged, terribly deceived Mr. Tamura takes her to a little restaurant sitting on the outskirts of the downtown district. This part of town, littered for the most part with ancient tattoo parlours and cafés that serve burnt breakfast food, is usually empty. The more popular shopping areas are further in towards the centre of the city. No one bothers to linger here unless it’s to visit one of the more popular dining joints or to get obscenities inked onto their backs.

The restaurant that the address leads her to is situated between one such tattoo parlour and a rundown building with shady offers plastered all over their windows. When she walks through the door, it gives a little chime so rusty that chills run down her back. The kind of fearful chills that Ruins and Chaos: SKotS gives her.

“Welcome to the Grilled Mackerel, everyone’s favourite seafood eat-out!” is the greeting she receives when she strolls in like she owns the place.

The Grilled Mackerel looks more like an poor excuse of a café. But (Name) doesn’t say so. She wonders if Mr. Tamura pays his employees to lie to their customers. The boy who greets her is a cheerful little thing with big violet eyes that doesn’t look a year older than a high school freshman.

He waves his hands and gesticulates almost violently at the blown-up menu pasted behind the counter. “Please, have a look at our ‘Build your Own’ menu! You can assort all your toppings as
freely as you like!”

She squints at the boy, and he smiles back so brilliantly she’s surprised her eyes don’t burn. It’s a miracle that the café isn’t already shutting down with this scrawny kid at the register. He's already shaking like a twig, eyes skidding over to the counter. They stay there, and she can see the way he wrings his hands nervously under her gaze. She almost feels sorry for the guy.

Whatever. She doesn't have time for this empathy stuff. “What’s your name?”

“Please, call me Shigino-kun, ma’am!” fidgets the boy, rubbing a cloth over the counter. Where did that dirty rag come from? He must have pulled it from under some bloody wreck of a car, given how many ugly stains were on the thing.

Just as she’s about to quip on the hygienic guidelines of running a restaurant, an older man with a balding crown of grey hair emerges from the adjoining kitchen. His gait is slow and steady, and deep crinkles line his temples. He doesn’t look like the kind of man who’s up to hacking vegetables in the kitchen all the livelong day, with a knife thicker than his arm.

In the man’s hands is an equally filthy towel, which he drops in the sink. She doesn’t even want to know what he was doing in the kitchen with that thing.

The old man turns to her with a smile somewhat softer than Shigino’s scalding grin. He looks like he’s ready to harp on about something, but (Name) isn’t about to waste time.

“Are you Tamura-san?” His thick, bushy eyebrows rise to where there would have been a healthy hairline, once upon a time. She tugs on a stray lock on her own head, feeling largely intimidated by the lack of hair on his scalp. “I’m here for a job.”

She almost regrets saying so. The supposed Mr. Tamura brightens immediately. “A job!” he says, like he’s just won the jackpot. “You must be Momotaro…kun?”

“Um.” She’s gone all this way. She’s not going to stop here. “Call me (Name).”

She never replied whether she was the Momotaro in question or not, so it’s not a total lie. Thank God she’s good at telling white lies when she needs to.

Mr. Tamura comes around the counter, a smile larger than the sun on his face. He slams his hands onto her shoulders with a strength she didn’t know his bony old hands could muster.

“Let me show you around!” he says, almost shoving her in the direction of the kitchen. “You can start immediately after today.”

She doesn’t think much of the black apron piled into her arms. She doesn’t listen when Mr. Tamura gesticulates wildly at his cooking equipment. All she can think about is how long she can keep Mikoshiba off her tail, and how long she can actually survive in this restaurant.

If she’s lucky, she figures, she’ll last a week.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The first thing her new boss does is put her at the reception desk. He wants her to familiarize herself with the menu, the customers, and the ever-shining Shigino.

The menu she memorizes within the first two days. (There’s nothing else to do.) All the foods are plain and simple, and Mr. Tamura doesn’t seem to know anything outside the boundaries of the basic world of seafood. She doesn’t complain, since it’s far healthier than what kids of her age are stuffing down their throats nowadays. Their generation’s standards seem to be continually dropping, no thanks to her, either.

Shigino is fidgety. He knocks over the stacked business cards next to him five times on the first day she works the register with him, and he rearranges the menus and cups next to the soda machine all the live-long day, like there's no tomorrow. (Name) thinks he likes to believe that he's doing a fantastic job by trying to look busy every second, even if there's no one there to see him. Probably has some sort of inferiority complex, she figures.

Shigino can do whatever the hell he likes, for all she cares. Her duty is to man the register and welcome customers, which is supposed to help with learning the everyday routine, setting up the restaurant for opening, and dealing with customers.

There are no customers.

It’s no shocker. Mr. Tamura, kind as the old man is, has no sense of interior decoration. Even a construction site is more ostentatiously adorned than this place. The entirety of the building’s insides is stained an ugly, splotchy white, like the painter coated on the primer and then forgot to do the rest. There are too many windows, and each is framed by long, blue blinds decorated with an ugly fish pattern. It’s the type of thing you find on discount at Toys R Us, not because it’s a day for discounts, but because the thing is so ugly they (including the designer) just want to get rid of it.  The wall above the tables are plain and spotted with the occasional picture of the ocean—just a vast, blue ocean that was probably ripped off of Google Images. But that’s all.

Not to mention Mr. Tamura’s chosen a pretty bad spot to set up. Only punks and hipsters dress in Hot Topic rejects tend to roam the mostly streets in this part of the district. Every so often, a brat will look in the window and stick their tongue out at the plain insides of the Grilled Mackerel before moving on to have holes punched into their faces at the piercing shop down the road.

Rather than curing boredom, the new job is feeding it. (Name) thought that a restaurant would keep her on her feet and get rid of her restlessness, at the least. But she didn’t expect it to be so empty that the floor is practically spotless at the end of the day as it was in the morning, except for Shigino’s occasional soda spill. Apparently Shigino even pays for the soda he drinks on the job. That’s how sad this pseudo-restaurant is.

Once in a while, someone actually comes in, and Shigino graces them with the Grilled Mackerel’s custom greeting: “Welcome to the Grilled Mackerel, everyone’s favourite seafood eat-out!” Sometimes he’ll fumble with the greeting—he’ll occasionally drop a few f-bombs when he messes up, scaring the customer out the doorand give (Name) something to laugh at him for.

This routine goes on for a while. The first day brings in a few stragglers, who just need directions to the three-star restaurant on the next block, and a few strays looking for a job. Not like they’re going to get any with curses and sexual innuendos tattooed across their necks.

On (Name)’s second day, the day she actually starts work, the place is pristine for four whole hours after opening time (6 AM). Then the bell of the restaurant door chimes, and in comes some buff idiot dragging his muddy feet behind him and dirtying the white floors of the Grilled Mackerel.

He comes in, plops right down at a table in the corner, and taps his fingers against the tabletop so hard that (Name) is almost concerned he might dent the wood. She takes her sweet time bringing him his menu and water, making sure to neglect her good server attitude since he’s so neglecting of the state of the floor.

The idiot, who has a fusillade of holes blown in his nose, ears, below his lips, and on his forehead, is one of those punks who pass the restaurant every day. She may or may not remember him from the times that he spit on all the windows and tempted her to clock him over the head with a hammer Mr. Tamura keeps in the backrooms. (Because grilling fish always requires the use of a sledgehammer.)

A moment after he tips back the water and swirls it around in his mouth for a little, the idiot lurches forward and sprays it all over the table, slamming the cup back down so hard it rattles.

“This is shit!” he practically howls, indignation in his pathetic yowling. She wrinkles her nose at his irritating attitude. “You call this filthy stuff water!? You’re killing people! The health department approves of this?!”

“I’m so sorry,” says (Name). Then she splashes the “filthy stuff” into his face. Next thing she knows, the Hot Topic reject is screaming and running out the door sobbing.

She hopes his piercings rust into his snotty face.

“You shouldn’t have done that, (Name),” worries Shigino when she collects the menu and cup and returns to the counter to exchange them for a towel and mop. “He might not come back now.”

“Oh,” she says simply, wringing out her damp apron once Shigino gathers his senses enough to place a towel in her hand, “I don’t think he’s going to come back.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.

Or at least, that’s how Shigino’s story starts. (Name) isn’t very interested in American short stories, and “A&P” by John Updike doesn’t look very promising. On closer inspection, it’s a story just like hers, a tale of a poor cashier/receptionist who obviously didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he took on his job. She leaves Shigino to fret over his cram school English assignment and goes over to the cash register to ponder the meaning of life.

In walks these three boys in nothing but bathing suits.

There’s a tall one, a slightly-less-taller one, and a tiny one, all clad in skin-tight swim suits from the hips down to the ankles (except for the tiny one—his goes down to his knees). For once, to (Name)’s surprise, her customers aren’t sporting some dumb tattoo or piercing. They look like actual decent college students, which are a rare find nowadays.

Well, they are dressed questionably. But in this part of town, they might as well be English aristocrats.

They don’t sit down at a table, to her chagrin. Instead, they walk straight up to the counter, where Shigino is shining up a coffee machine like it’s a treasured piece of silverware. She taps the register, making the tray slide out with a pop! and a bam!

“Sup,” she says dully, and Shigino butts in to give them the “proper” greeting.”

“Welcome to the Grilled Mackerel, everyone’s favourite seafood eat-out,” he pants. His words come out in short breaths and huffs. Because cleaning a coffee machine is so much work. But he seems in awe of these men in bathing suits. “P-Please, take a look at the ‘Build your Own’ menu. You can assort all the toppings, freely as you like!” he squeaks, completing his kiss-up with a little bow of his head.

Impressive, Shigino. Keep it up, and someday you’ll be a politician.

The tall one smiles like a saint. “There’s no need for that,” he says, his voice gentle and smooth like he’s making conversation with a five-year-old. (Name) shifts to the side so that the ceiling light is right behind the head of the tall guy. It looks like he’s wearing a fluorescent halo around his crown of thick brown hair. “We’re just stopping by.”

“We’re looking for a friend!” the little one pipes up, shaking his mop of light blonde and smiling up at (Name) with huge, pink eyes. Too bad whatever evil tricks he’s harbouring beneath that cute exterior won’t work on her.

The tall one nods, and she notices his very green eyes. “He’s a redhead, very temperamental.” Lots of people are redheaded. Even more of them are temperamental. “Sharp teeth,” he continues, and she can’t tell if he’s joking about this part, if it’s metaphorical or literal. The guy looks at her like he expects some actual identification from the few messy details he’s given. “Have you seen him around?”

“Redhead? Temperamental?” she murmurs, pushing in the tray and releasing it. Then doing it over again. And again. Ching! Chang! the near-empty tray cries repeatedly, mourning its lack of money, and she scoffs. “Can’t say I have.”

“Oh,” says the little one, disappointment dawning on his face. But he reaches for the menu and blinks at the cover, at a print of a blue mackerel doodle. The fish has dots for eyes and disproportionate fins.

The brunette thanks her and goes to stand by the door, peering out at the street as if he expects his friend to walk down the sidewalk any moment. The blonde one continues to stare intently at the mackerel drawing.

Then there’s the other guy, the not-as-tall-as-Mr.-Saint one, who actually looks like he’s been giving the place and menu (particularly the coffee and tea section) a decent once-over. Heavy red glasses sit on the edge of his nose, and his blue-ish hair can’t be natural. She turns to him.

“I’d get out of here as soon as I could if I were you,” she says in greeting, and he gives her a nervous smile in response, not understanding her warning. He goes back to poring over the coffees, eyes lighting up when his finger trails across the lines and lands on something he seems to like.

His fault if Shigino spills coffee on him in his eagerness to serve them.

“Are you going to order anything?” she says to the blonde, who peers at her curiously, then goes back to inspecting the fish. A few seconds later, Shigino hands Glasses his drink, and they’re out the door.

(Name) watches them pass the restaurant, shifting to the tattoo parlour next door, and within moments they’re out of her line of sight.

“First sale of the day!” Shigino beams, and she grunts and goes back to slamming the cash register in and out until Mr. Tamura comes out to give her a lecture on the importance of caring for the restaurant’s equipment.

Later that day, she clogs up the coffee machine and jams the soda machine with tissues, fixes and cleans it all up, and does it all over again.

Just for something to do.

Just the Usual (Haru x Reader)|Chapter 1
It's about time I made my contribution to the Free! Iwatobi Swim club fandom. SO. Have a little restaurant AU. I put my effort into making our reader the most sarcastic, clever little shit you can imagine. Just a nerdy floater in life. Just like me. Sob.

Haru isn't actually here yet--I'm putting him off a little bit for the sake of making the chapter fit the limit--but he will make his grand debut soon.

I'll be submitting this to Inserts-On-Anime's contest once I finish editing the rest of it. This thing has been in the works for a long time, but I've always been way too lazy to actually finish it. So now it finally gets out--what? Two or three months after the start of the writing? Amazing.

There will be three two chapters. Or two, if I'm lazy enough and decide to cut it short.
Chapter 1: You are here.
Chapter 2 - ENDJust the Usual (Haru x Reader)|Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Coming soon.
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Espada-Kitsuki's Profile Picture
Espada-Kitsuki
きつき/Lawrence
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
(deviantID profile picture by Cantrona.)

:iconmv1plz::iconmv2plz::iconmv3plz::iconmv4plz::iconmv5plz::iconmv6plz::iconmv7plz:

Regarding Myself.

I'm just a little Kitsuki.

I like chocolate, baseball caps, and good writing. I'm a long-time inhabitant of the ProcrastiNation... Basically I'm just your average dispassionate asshole. Sometimes I can be a sociopathic megalomaniac.

I accept bribery.

Feel free to message this little sucker at <kitsuki.san@gmail.com>.

Long-time partners and comrades-in-writing:
:iconespada-naoto::iconespada-kitsuki:

:iconmv1plz::iconmv2plz::iconmv3plz::iconmv4plz::iconmv5plz::iconmv6plz::iconmv7plz:

Things I Like. As in Really Like.

You really must go and check these fanfiction out:
Death and His Shadow (Death Note): www.fanfiction.net/s/3329822/1…
Muse (Bleach): www.fanfiction.net/s/6251476/1…

Cake is good, next to chocolate. As for things other than food... I like video games. "Outlast" is the scariest one I've played, and my absolute favourite.

I like Aizen Sousuke and Light Yagami. Basically villainous/anti-heroic, homicidal, megalomaniac characters; the good-looking ones with a high level of intelligence.

I also like deep voices.

And in regards to my writing... Criticism is good, I love criticism. But please, leave out flames. Flames are not nice. Flames are bad.



:iconmv1plz::iconmv2plz::iconmv3plz::iconmv4plz::iconmv5plz::iconmv6plz::iconmv7plz:

I write things because I want to.
So grab a smoke. Put it in your mouth. Light it with fire.
Sit down and have some good reads right 'ere.

Aizen_Stamp by Miyuki-TsukiyonoKira stamp by Jeff2psycoDRAMAtical Murder: Koujaku stamp by SakamakiJustineNoiz - STAMP by Thoxiic-Editions

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:iconxlustrous:
xLustrous Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the fav :D
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DoodleRooChu Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for the :+fav:!! c:
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eriikun Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2014  New member
*memes all over ur page*
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Alyssa1035 Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for the fav uvu~
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JadeDeng Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2014  Student Writer
Hi!
I was just wondering if I can have the link for the Death Note story mentioned on your deviantID? 
Thanks!
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