Menrui stood dead in the middle of the living room, jaw agape while he stared at the new addition to the Watanabe household. Kakkhan scowled at him from the armchair (“his” armchair, Gikuko liked to tease). Unfortunately, this only made Menrui crack.
"Oh. My. God. How cute is that?!" he nearly shrieked, grin splitting his face.
Kakkhan growled. “Shut up, Menrui. Do you want me to kick your butt again?”
"As if," Menrui snorted. He came forward and offered his hand to the … the beast curled on top of Kakkhan’s head, its tail curled around his neck. Sora shifted enough to sniff at Menrui’s hand, then stretched to lick at it. Menrui, like the soft-heart he was, immediately melted; in five seconds (possibly less), the damned sneak had wormed its way into Menrui’s heart. Great, there would be no end to the idolatry now.
Still, as Sora shifted atop of his head, Kakkhan could not help but relax at how the lines on Menrui’s face eased, how the shadows in his eyes faded. Nanao-chan had been dear to him, for all that their relationship had always been bounded by the end of senior high school. Here, cooing over Sora, Menrui resumbled nothing so much as a five-year-old kid, if you could say a five-foot-eight sock-footed glasses-wearing Menrui was a kid. Smirking, Kakkhan pointed out one of Sora’s toys that he and Uno-nee had bought; his snickers when Menrui dived for it made his twin blush. Menrui had his turn to laugh when Sora used Kakkhan as a spring board and tiny claws left gouges in his skin, leaving Kakkhan wincing. But Sora soon was pouncing all over the koosh ball Menrui was rolling around, prompting Gikuko to come out of the kitchen (doing Kami-knew-what) and join in on the action.
"Kakkhan, come and play with us," Gikuko said a moment later, just as Menrui said, "Come on, bro, you’re missing out on quality pet time here!"
The two grinned at each other while Kakkhan heaved a put-upon sigh. “Fine, fine. Just make sure that darned cat keeps his claws in and away from me.”
He stood as Menrui rolled his eyes and Gikuko nodded; refused to admit that his heart softened just a little when Sora perked up upon seeing him rise; then thought, ah screw it, and went to join his girlfriend and his brother in adoration of the Cat God Sora.
“Oi, Kakkhan,” Tomori yelled over the whine of the sander, “put that thing down and check this out!”
Kakkhan ignored him for the few seconds it took to finish the fender. Then he flipped open his visor and looked over. “What is it, Tomori?”
“Get over here and find out.”
Rolling his eyes, Kakkhan got to his feet with a pat to the fancy DS2000 series hover car. Avoiding the mess of wires and car parts that decorated the Tigre Bianca Garage, he ambled over to the rec. room at the very front. There, nearly all the garage’s employees were gathered, hunched around … a piece of paper on the table?
“What’s going on?” he asked, pushing his visor further up his head. Eliku hastily gestured him over.
“Take a look,” he whispered, waving wildly at Tomori (who was reading the paper to himself very solemnly). “It’s all the rage!”
“Tomori, you done with that?”
Tomori handed the paper over with a quirky grin. Kakkhan understood why within a glance.
“Break’s over, people, let’s go!” he barked, just to hear the awww’s of protests. He pointed at the clock, which indicated that more than the allocated ten minutes had passed, and then at the door. Slowly the rec. room came alive; Kakkhan’s men and women shuffled past him with mulish looks, jokes, and nudges (or punches, if you were Tomori). Rubbing at his arm, Kakkhan had to smile at how Maho and Hitomi, Eliku and Kyō, and Tomori fell onto the DS2000 series. Lackey zoomed in a few moments later to jump loudly onto his feet next to Hitomi, who screamed as she always did. Wincing, Kakkhan took a moment more to appreciate his people, then took a step forward.
“Lackey!” he roared. “Quit doin’ that, you’re gonna give somebody a heart attack. Everyone else, get going before Ohno gets down here!”
Panic at the Garage: bodies jump-started into motion around the DS2000; the buzz of tools working whined out; Kakkhan jammed his visor down and got to work.
Four days later, the Pastry Shoppe opened. The Tigre Bianca had a rash of customers that day, however, so it wasn’t until lunchtime that Kakkhan and co. got to go over and check it out. He had to admit, as he approached, that it was a pretty place, although he could see that it barely had enough space for the booths that lined the spacious window.
Still, it had been extensively remodeled, for it looked nothing like Madame Foote’s Shoes. The front had cute window dressing, a hanging menu blackboard, and more seating in the form of a bench. The inside of it was light and airy, making the tiny space liveable, although perhaps the booths would have been better placed against the far well rather than next to the window. The counter and its display case took up the remaining space, but for good reason.
“Look at all this!” Hitomi said. The sweep of her arm took in the rows upon rows of brownies, pastries, cookies, truffles, chocolates, cakes, and even small sandwiches (that of course where more expensive than any of the rest).
“Very nice,” agreed Kakkhan. “You gonna get anything?”
Hitomi didn’t answer, too busy drooling over the truffles. Kakkhan shook his head with a smile.
“Remember, everyone, we’re going to ask them to deliver, so mark down your favorites!” Patsy called, greedy eyes devouring the display. Kakkhan laughed as the others crowded the counter, taking up the tiny available space remaining. The girl at the counter got a hunted look on her face, so Kakkhan decided to help her out.
He said, “Hey, hey, everyone take a step back. I’ll order so we don’t freak out the other customers.” He slanted a look at the people in the booths, most of whom did look alarmed.
“Whoops,” someone said. Sheepishly, they shuffled back. Kakkhan smiled at the girl and leaned on the counter. “Just let me know what you want and I’ll pay for it. My treat.”
“Hey, thanks Boss!” “Aww, you don’t have to do that!” “Boss! I-I love you!”
Kakkhan rolled his eyes. The girl behind the counter gulped. “Uh,” she said, brown eyes darting over the entirety of Tigre Bianca, “l-let me get a pad of paper to take down your order, okay?” She turned around and yelled, “Gikuko-sempai! Can you take over the counter while I find a paper pad?”
“A paper pad? Why do you need that?” A woman poked her head out around the corner. Kakkhan stiffened when he took in the purple hair and grey eyes, and then, yes, the chef’s apron when she came out to investigate. Shit, this wasn’t good. What were the damn odds? If Kakkhan hadn’t known better, he’d have said Dende hated him. since Dende most emphatically did not, he had to settle for coincidence. Knowing his luck, though, the coincidence would only get worse.
“Oh.” The woman was as taken back by the number of people in the shop as the girl was. “Yeah, I’ll take over. Just tell your mom where I am and be quick.”
“Yes, ma’am!” The girl jumped down from her stool and dashed off. Kakkhan was now left with the purple-haired woman who was still taking in the Tigre Bianca invasion. It didn’t take long for her to move to Kakkhan; he waited with a sense of impending doom, saw the recognition coming from miles away.
She stumbled to a stop at the burning glare Kakkhan sent her. “Uh, you’re—you work at the garage across the street, don’t you?”
“We’ll talk later,” Kakkhan ground out. A tug on his shoulders turned him to see Maho, who looked between him and the woman.
“We’ve all decided on our orders, Boss,” she said, nodding to the others behind her.
“Okay. They’re getting a pad to take our orders down.”
“Why? They don’t have cash registers?”
“No, not yet,” the purple-haired woman chimed in. “The people who were supposed to ship them to us mixed up the order. For small groups like we’ve been getting, it’s fine to let Danching handle it. She can add in her head.”
“Really? Is she good at math?” Maho asked.
“Mmhmm. Oh, here she comes now.” Purple Hair turned to Danching as the latter rushed up, pad in hand. “Ready?” Purple Hair asked.
“Ready!” Breathless, she slid onto the stool again, next to Purple Hair. “Thank you for waiting, may I take your order?” She looked up at Kakkhan and Maho.
Kakkhan caught Purple Hair’s eye. “Go on,” he said. “I’m going back to the garage.” Purple Hair ducked her head, but nodded.
“I’m taking a five-minute break, Danching-chan. I’ll be in the alley if you need me,” she said.
Danching looked Purple Hair and Kakkhan, but didn’t say anything. Kakkhan turned to Maho.
“Here’s money to pay for the food. If you order more than this, then you’re on your own,” he threatened.
Before Maho could do more than grimace, he turned and made his way towards the door. Cries of “Boss?” followed him, but Maho said, “Boss is going back to the garage. Now order already, you rats!”
The door closed on the scrambles of Team Tigre Bianca towards the counter, yells of “Hey, cut it out!” “I was here first!” “I want the double-dipped-in-fudge chocolate brownie, please!” “No fair, Hitomi, you’re not first yet!”
Under normal circumstances, Kakkhan would have smiled or rolled his eyes. As it was, he only squared his shoulders and set off for the alley.
I need to rewrite everything after Danching-chan rushes off to get the paper pad. Maybe even not have Danching rush off, but have Purple Hair come to the counter? Idk. I’ll figure it out, eventually.