Once again I needed to turn to this silliness to take a bit of a break on life. I've been so busy with work, I can hardly find the time to write any more - which is probably a good thing considering I shouldn't technically be writing at work right now, but hey, I've had a busy week.
So, enjoy the insanity. Be Ready has been worked on and Rutilus has a few points coming along as well. This one is just simple and stupid and I love it to bits.
Also, no Beta, so there's probably mistakes. Just FYI.
Hitomi wasn't sure what to think as she sat delicately on the cold bench next to Van Fanel, a man who she couldn't believe she'd only met a short week ago. Though it was a busy street, the bench they had chosen for their conversation was tucked away further on the side-walk; large oak branches draping overhead, creating a deep, almost cave-like, atmosphere. Despite the sunny day, there was a chilly nip in the air. Hitomi crossed her arms over her uniform to keep from shivering. Without a word, Van slipped off his jacket and handed it to her. Blinking in surprise at the unexpectedly chivalrous gesture, she took it and put it on with a quiet, "Thank you".
She was equally surprised at the smell of it. Fabric softener and a piney cologne. Not a bad combination.
Looking into his exhausted mahogany eyes, she scratched underneath her chin with a fingernail and slowly let her mind process all that he had just confessed to her.
"So you're saying Allen Schezar is the one behind all of this mess?" She concluded a bit skeptically, pulling the sleeve of his jacket over her fingers to keep them warm.
"He's the one pulling the strings," Van answered with a sigh. "It's like he wants the band to become laughing-stocks of the music industry. I was fine with it when he was alone, but now I'm an unwitting full-fledged member."
"If this was all Allen's doing, where did this Pancake Song come from?" She quirked an eyebrow.
To her confusion, he smiled a bit at the question. "Actually, that's a weird thing. I don't know where it came from. Several days ago, I had sat down with all my songs I'd written over the years and transformed them into songs about food." He grimaced. "That was a tough night. But then, after I was done, I really don't know why, but I thought about you."
Hitomi blanched and a bright blush popped on her face. "Wh-What do you mean?" She stammered, going back to fiddling with his sleeve. A swirl of unexpected nervousness flitted her stomach like tiny hummingbirds and the short-haired waitress struggled to keep it still.
Thankfully, he didn't seem to notice her blush, but kept his face down, eyes staring at the concrete below his brown, stained loafers.
"I guess I was just thinking of all that had happened the past twenty-four hours. You just kinda came to my mind. I wrote out the Pancake Song that night – all with the intention of never, ever showing it to Allen. I wasn't thinking clearly after hours of work and tucked the song away in the book. Allen found it after flicking through my other songs. I tried to stop him and told him that it was a mistake, but…"
"He's kind of run with it, hasn't he?"
"More than I ever thought possible. I… also should add that I needed the money, too," he confessed, ducking his head further so that his hair fell over his eyes. "I have to take the blame for it. The Pancake Song wouldn't be here if I hadn't written it. Allen wouldn't have it if I'd just paid attention that night. If I had insisted and stood my ground, then we would have never used it. I could have – no, should have been firmer, harder, and less… God, less pathetic. As a consequence, you're dealing with a lot of problems. And it's not the end of it either. With this song released, it'll probably only escalade from here. Allen is dead set on this song and will probably go behind my back if I try to stop him now. I didn't realize when all this started that it would affect you this way. I wasn't thinking of anything, but the money involved. I'm sorry."
The apology was as long and unexpected as it was sincere. She felt it radiating from him. His head turned only slightly and she could see his dark amber orbs staring hard at the cracked concrete. His raven hair framing his tan face, she sighed at his bent spine and the tired scrunch of his shoulders. Try as she might, any flame of resentment sputtered and died at his posture. Instead, the nervousness in her stomach warmed with sad pity. He'd had enough retributions these past few days. He didn't need any more problems from her.
"I'll survive. That's what I do best, anyway," she said briskly.
His head shot up to fixate a gaze at her so strong with relief and wonder, she almost jumped in her seat. Darting her green eyes away while her blush grew brighter, she cleared her throat importantly. "Honestly, I've made quite a bit of money at the restaurant because of the video, and I'll probably get more from the song. Considering it's about me and the video will probably be used, I expect some form of compensation. A percentage of the cut, so to speak."
"I didn't think of that," Van said slowly with a nod. "You definitely deserve something. I mean, it's the least I can do."
"You can make the check out for 'trauma'."
Van let out a laugh of surprise delight that crinkled his eyes. She couldn't help grinning at the sound. Tucking a strand of short hair behind her ear, she cuddled further in the coat and asked, "What were some of the songs you changed?"
If he was happy with her 'tramua' joke, this question was the pot of gold. Sitting up, his spine immediately straightened and his dark amber eyes were practically shimmering with delight. It was weird that she was suddenly struck by how long his torso was. The top of her head came to around his neck. Not that she was picky when it came to height, but, for some odd reason, it made her breath catch in her throat a tiny bit. She squashed the nervousness before it could grow further.
Van started listing a thick roll of song titles, some he elaborated further on when there was a particular lyric he liked, or it was about a certain person he knew. Hitomi secretly continued to crush the pool of delight that struggled against her cage. There was just something so wholesome about him. Something she hadn't found in someone since Yukari. Van was an open book, his feelings written perfectly like a page.
He was genuinely a kind person.
When Van mentioned one title, "Her Pink Hair", Hitomi giggled against her will as she pictured his spunky little sister.
Seeing her reaction, he sang a bit for her:
"She's the home for my heart
Wishing we will never part
But she's growing up way too fast
Gotta make my time with her last - and last.
There's a red tie on my finger.
A crimson string I wish would linger.
Fightin' off the boys that stare
At her pink hair."
"That's very sweet," Hitomi nodded as Van finished the song quietly. "You make me envious. I don't have any talent for singing or poetry."
"People make it harder than it really is. Just look inside and find what you treasure the most. The rest just… comes." He shrugged simply, but his tan cheeks took on a twinge of red and he ducked his head again. She was beginning to realize this was a bit of a habit of his.
"Makes me wonder what treasure you had in your life when you thought of 'Chance of a Lifetime'," Hitomi teased.
His blush grew more prominent and he cleared his throat awkwardly. "It's not the manliest job, but it's what I got," he said avoiding the subject. "Not that it pays well either."
She noticed his evasiveness, but decided to humor him. "Well, waitressing and free tutoring can't be called the best employment either, so I can't judge."
They both blinked in surprise as a rumbling feeling vibrated the bench they were sitting on. Slowly, Van reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his buzzing phone. She saw his eyes tighten as he read the name: "Allen."
"Answer it," she sighed. They both glanced at each other in a strange kindred exhaustion before Van slid the phone with his finger and answered the call.
"Brah, Gad's gots the vid!"
Ten minutes ago…
Dryden Fassa smirked as the green man took a seat on his black leather couch and it squawked against his green trousers. Lacing his long fingers, he rested his elbows against the top of his pristinely crisp, white-wood desk and blinked importantly at his two guests. The boy, Dilandau – as he was introduced - stood with nervous shifting feet, his unusual reddish eyes dancing with a grimace over the various inspirational posters Dryden had insisted adorn his walls. Dressed in a black shirt and tight jeans, the boy clutched a flash drive tightly in his hands, which were folded in front of his stomach.
"I take it you're familiar with program editing?" Dryden inquired calmly.
"I-I am," Dilandau stuttered. Dryden's eyebrows rose a fraction. The boy seemed to be hovering between an equal amount of nervousness and condescension. A strange, but amusing feature.
"I'm guessing your resume is that thing you're fiddling in your hands." The CEO flicked his brown eyes pointedly at Dilandau's twisting fingers, which instantly halted. Holding out a palm, he drawled, "May I?"
The boy practically skipped a step as he hurried forward to place the black flash drive into Dryden's hand. "This is just something I've worked on for a few months. I've recently started training on multiple platforms which include-"
"I'll see for myself," Dryden interrupted swiftly as he clicked a button on his desk and a screen emerged from the drawer. Dilandau's eyes widened as the top of the desk folded beautifully over itself and created a lovely stand for the expensive computer.
My friend, Gad, here said you were exceptionally gifted when it comes to editing. I take Gad's recommendations very seriously."
"Very seriously?" Dilandau repeated with a bewildered look at the green man – who smirked and waved from the couch.
"Very seriously." Dryden nodded before pushing the flashdrive in with one long finger. Instantly, his computer whirled to life like a harmonic song. Brown eyes whisked across the screen, pleasantly scanning one program after another. The colors of Dilandau's videos flashed on his face and he had to admit, the boy had talent. It was a novice talent, but it was there nonetheless. There was a certain artistic, fiery air to his work. Flashy, brilliant, passionate, but still could be considered respectable. Dryden glanced at Gadeth to see him staring at the ceiling and making spit bubbles with his mouth.
Once again, that son-of-a-bitch found the diamond in the rough. Damn it, the fool was good at his job.
"Here's what I propose," Dryden started, without changing his tone. Turning off the computer with a twitch of a finger, he noticed the boy's ashy face and he knew he was being cruel by making him sweat. "I am a very busy man. I have many important meetings to attend. I have lots of important things to do. I'll give you the part-time intern position-"
"Thank you, sir!" the boy practically shouted.
"-Let me finish." Dryden held up a hand and the boy quieted. "I'll give you the part-time intern position if you do one thing for me."
He was so eager. So fresh. So innocently foolish. Dryden loved this kid.
"Make Gadeth work for me."
"Nope! Not happening! Not caging this phoenix no matter how many times you offer, Dry-Dry!" Gadeth's voice broke out almost in sing-song. The man hadn't even moved from his spot nor taken his eyes from the ceiling. Another spit bubble emerged from his lips.
Dryden sighed lightly and clicked his tongue. "Worth a shot. Well, kid, if you manage to get Gad on board, I'll hire you fulltime. But for now, I'll have Eris show you around and you can start on Monday."
"Don't forget our promise, Dilly-doo!" Gad called and the kid turned around with a dark frown. Dryden caught the expression and a furtive smile slipped on his lips. Gadeth flicked out his phone – flip phone - and typed a text on it lazily.
"I remember it. The video…" the kid sighed. "It's yours."
The easy conversation they had had prior to Allen's slang-infused gibberish phone call was now tainted with silence. As Hitomi's eyebrows had risen higher and higher with disbelief at his partner's ramblings, Van sank further and further with trepidation. Now that the video was in his possession, there was nothing stopping the head-on train wreck that was The White Dragons. Allen also mentioned that he wanted a new song – a third single to drop juuuust before the album to make sure sales were up. A cold sweat had broken over Van's hairline as Allen ended the call with a chirping, "catchu on da flippity" and he finally turned his eyes to Hitomi's brilliant emerald. She was watching him, her expression one of incredulity. Then her eyebrows crashed into a dark frown.
"He can't do this," she growled. "He can't just control-"
"He can," Van sighed and rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. "He does what he wants and he holds my livelihood in his hands."
"That's just…" Hitomi's words sputtered off her lips before she frowned again – this time in contemplation. "Van," she started quietly. "Why not let him have your songs and be done with him? He will pay you for them and you both can go your separate ways." Her eyes grew as the idea openly bloomed over her face. Van's eyes drifted back down to his shoes to avoid her shining hopefulness. "You could write on your own! Do this by yourself! You don't need Allen. Your songs are wonderful-"
"I've tried that," he said with a long exhale. "That's been my life for the last several years. I can barely support Merle anymore. No one wants poetry. They only want the next best club mix."
"I like poetry." Her bottom lip curled defensively. "And, on that note, why not just write club mixes? Sell those instead?"
"Because apparently I can only write weird songs like that. Songs about damn sexy pancakes."
"You never know. Sexy food might become a huge hit."
"I've also signed the contract."
"Contracts can be nulled."
"This is guaranteed money. I can't afford to wait until sexy food becomes a hit. The bills are piling, Merle's school is turning into a gang breeding zone, and Allen's due to give me a check in a week once the single is ready."
Her eyes darkened tightly and she sat back on the bench with an irritated sigh. "Well, you can't blame me for trying to help you."
Van's head lifted slightly and she saw his lips unexpectedly twist with a crooked smile. "Why are you trying to help me anyway?"
Shit! Her brain barked as the cute turn of his mouth made her blood rush to her cheeks. The nervous twist in her stomach knocked at its cage once more, and she swallowed tightly to brace her irrational feelings. This was stupid. She was being stupid.
Oh, shit, he asked a question, didn't he?
"Because I know how it feels to be down in your luck," she answered after only a five second pause, and congratulated her brain on its quick and, surprisingly truthful, answer. "I've had my fair share of bad. It'd be nice to see someone succeed for once. Especially when this bad luck really isn't your fault. You have to think of it in another way though. You've got talent, Van. It's clear that you are doing what you're meant to be doing. A lot of people can't say that about their careers. If you're dead set on making money this way, just do what you do, get the check, and maybe in a few years, you'll make enough money and street credit to actually pursue being just a pure lyricist."
His crooked smile had faded, but another light emotion had flickered on his face. She couldn't recognize it fast enough before it was gone.
"Would you…?" He stopped and she saw his throat bob nervously in his throat. "Look, it's been a long day and I could use a beer. You want to get a drink with me?"
Hitomi flinched. A stupid reaction that had her defensively crossing her arms over her chest. Get a drink with him. Go out somewhere in public. With a man. Like a date? Was this a date? Did Van just ask her out? Did he mean to ask her out like this? Was this only like a friend thing? Wait, were they even friends? Scrambling, she tried to formulate an excuse, but her green eyes were so focused on his, a bright "sure!" escaped her mouth before she could stop herself. It sounded weird and slightly squeaky, like a stranger speaking for her. Seeing the shine of delight brush over his features, she forced a strained smile.
"Oh, wait. Do you have to go back to work? Balgus will be missing you," he asked – and coincidentally giving her the excuse she couldn't think of in time.
"Nope!" she said in the same silly chirp and mentally kicked herself.
"Well, alright, then." Van grinned.
The bar they walked to was only a few blocks away and wasn't busy in the least. Only two other souls were inside the dark, dank place, and they were both buried in the spirits clutched in their fists. Honestly, Hitomi hadn't been to a bar like this since college, and even then she had never been a heavy drinker. It was a small hole-in-the-wall joint, the sign on the front window depicting a mole popping out of a hole. The picture made sense when Van slid onto a bar stool and called out for "Mole". A short, squatty man with thick round glasses gave a small squeak before his thin lips spread into a brilliant grin.
"Vanny-boy! Been a while! We got the new spring season on tap!"
"One for me," Van answered and turned to her with a questioning look.
"Uhh, white wine?"
"Com'in up! Hope you like a pinot griot!" Mole tossed and his balding head disappeared behind the bar.
They fell swiftly into a relaxed conversation again. It was strangely easier to talk in this smoky little place. Easier to forget what had brought them together. He asked about her students and she casually inquired about Merle's progress at school. He tossed in a quick jibe about her yellow uniform and she smirked as he blushed when she asked what he liked most about it. He stumbled about his words before he said one thing which made her crack up laughing: "ruffles…"
It was flirty innocence. It was fun. Van sipped his beer and offered to buy her another glass of wine. She hadn't even realized she drank it all until he said something. A warmness hum was in her belly and she shrugged off his coat to lay it across her lap before agreeing. She could see his face had lost some of the hardness, a calm happiness crinkling his eyes instead of stress. He was… already quite attractive in the sad puppy-dog way, but this lightness, as if parts of his burdens had been lifted, almost made her stomach start doing that ridiculous twisting again – almost.
Her second glass was settled on the coaster when she accidentally touched a conversation topic that brought back the tension in Van's shoulders. Immediately, she wished she could take back her question, but Van was already opening his mouth to answer.
"The subject for the new song Allen wants? I really don't know. It's gotta be about food, but I think I've run out of ideas."
"Already wrote about the chips incident," she added, trying to keep the playful spirit up.
He scratched the back of his neck as his eyes turned dark with thought. "There's nothing that comes to mind. Pancakes, chips, fruit, sandwiches, grilled vegetables-"
"Can we order some snacks? You're making me hungry."
"Let me show you some of the lyrics and you'll lose that appetite, trust me." Van snorted a laugh, but the tension had yet to leave him.
"Excuse me, Mole! This dip is cold! I wanted warm queso! Warm!" A voice spoke out from behind Van's head and both of them turned to see an older lady with a stern brow holding up a bowl of thick yellow cheese. Her hand shook and some of the cheese gooped over the side to splat on the dark floor. Van scooted quickly, but some landed on his shoe as well. Hitomi leaned to scowl at the lady.
"It was warm, you just take forever to eat anything," Mole barked back, straightening his spine though his size was hardly intimidating.
"I ordered melty cheese! This is thicker than my middle finger!" The old woman showed the barkeep said finger and Hitomi watched as Van's eyebrows raised slightly.
"You know what I said about that language! Watch yourself or you won't be welcomed here at all!" Mole retorted. "Hold your horses, you old bat! I'll warm up the dip in the microwave!" He jumped forward, leaned over the bar, and grabbed the cheese from the old lady's fingers. "I mean it. No more of that profanity here. Go back to your table and I'll bring you the cheese."
Van's head snapped to Hitomi's and she leaned away with apprehension. His dark mahogany eyes were practically glowing in the low light.
"I think I have an idea…"
"Melty, gooey, dripping with strings
Tangled in fingertips, licking it clean
Hits the tongue, a salty delight
Damn, this Gouda taste good tonight.
Grade it thin, slice it thick
Pealing slowly mozzarella stick
Squeezing smooth round provolone
Rubbing it good, crankin' ecstasy moan.
"Guilty as sin, that wet fromage
Swiss holes making my body hard.
Layered my lasagna, parmesan queen
You're making me scream
If you know what I mean.
Ain't nothin' betta.
Just like in the sack.
Just one taste is a tease.
Are you sure you wanna take that cheddar from me?"
"Knowing you as a person, I would have never expected something like this. But knowing the Pancake Song, I'm surprised you aren't more explicit."
"One must have their limits, I guess." Van sighed as he set the pen down on the bar and rubbed his eyes with his palms. Both drinks forgotten and pushed aside for the pen and small piece of receipt paper, Hitomi leaned her chin into her hand as she had watched Van furiously scribble out the most nonsensical garbage she'd ever laid eyes on. It was a sight, honestly, seeing him come up with the most ridiculous rimes right off the top of his head.
She was even more surprised at how much he knew about cheese.
"What about feta?" Hitomi suggested with a hint of a grin. "It's white and crumbly and goes good with cucumbers."
"You mean like Greek salads?"
"More like 'sprinkle that feta all over my cucumber' or something like that," she giggled. Van rolled his eyes, but smiled.
"Actually, I was thinking of brie."
Hitomi raised a hand and started listing with her fingers: "Knee, see, be, three-"
"Factory, thoroughly, carefree, chewie-"
"Whoopee!" She clapped her hands excitedly and another laugh burst forth at Van's incredulous look. "What? It works!"
Shaking his head with a full bloom smile, he grabbed the pen and scratched out:
"Feta so fine – spread 'cross the tongue
A taste that's making the body sprung
The sour-salt spice of queso dip
Slowly ticklin' with the fingertip.
Let's slap that brie.
Across the knee.
Before we see
A full whoopee."
"I can't write this anymore. I'm done. God..." Van dropped the pen again as Hitomi leaned in closer to read. Her bottom lip tucked into her mouth to keep her giggles at bay. Nodding slowly, she blinked rapidly.
"I think Allen would approve."
"This is sickening."
Watching him push the receipt paper away slowly and grab for his forgotten beer, she reached for the paper and turned it over to the blank side. Holding the pen for him, she said, "How about this: on the back of it write something poetic, like how you used to write."
"I don't really want to," Van said sourly with a swallow.
"I think it'll make you feel better if you did."
Sighing tightly, he took the pen from her fingers and she felt a weird lurch as his fingernail lightly grazed the back of her hand. Putting the pen down – further away from the both of them – he shook his head.
"I think I've had enough writing for today."
"Suit yourself." She shrugged, but struggled with inward disappointment. "For what it's worth, I think you've been blessed with a special talent – for both kinds of songwriting." She clarified at Van's raised eyebrow. "This cheese nonsense is practically perfect for whatever Allen wants and you knocked it out in barely thirty minutes. As for your other works…" she trailed off, blushing, and turned to stare at her half-full glass of wine. She hadn't meant to get so… confessy. She shot an inward scowl at the innocent glass of alcohol. She shouldn't have gotten a second one.
"You… really think so?" he asked softly. His eyes were staring at the receipt paper, but a new expression had emerged. He had a flicker of awe in his voice that immediately had her back to confessing.
"Van, you already know I was a big fan of the White Dragons back in the day. I learned from Merle that my favorites were personally written from you. Your words are inspiring. Lovely. Like… like… sunshine, I think."
God, she needed to stop. Now.
But… he was smiling. A fondness for his smile crept up and she shoved it away, unwanted.
"T-thanks. That means a lot, actually." He turned to face her on his stool and his knee brushed hers lightly under the bar. Instantly moving his leg away, he cleared his throat and snatched his beer to take another long swig.
Likewise, and probably unwisely, she took a sip of her wine. The awkwardness was back, as thick as queso cheese, but this time there was an underlying tension that had nothing to do with Allen or songwriting, and had everything to do with how his arm was close to touching her elbow.
A buzz in her apron made her jump and almost spill the glass down her front. Glancing at her curiously, he watched her reach inside and take out her cellphone. The name shined like an exit sign: "Old Fart".
"Balgus, I take it?" Van bit back a laugh.
"I should probably go. The breakfast rush has slowed by now and he's realized I've gone missing." She clicked her tongue with a deep sigh. "I really hate that restaurant."
"Why work there then?" Van asked with innocent curiosity.
"None of your business!" She snapped without thinking. Seeing Van's eyebrows crunch together and his visible withdrawal, she winced and wanted to kick herself. "Sorry. Look, I didn't mean for that to sound so… bitchy… it's just… personal."
"Preaching to the choir." He dipped his head with a nod of forgiveness. "I understand you have things you don't want to talk about. But, thanks… for today. For coming along and listening to what I have to say. For going to Allen's and seeing what he's about. I'll make sure Allen writes up a contract where you get some form of payment for damages."
"I'd like that." She smiled softly.
"And for hanging out." He added in a rush. She could have sworn his cheeks tinged pink. "I thought today would turn into a bad day, but this has actually been pretty nice. One of the better days I've had in a long time."
"I might be having a bad day this Friday," she blurted out, surprising even herself. "And I might just come here for a glass of wine again. Maybe after work at around 6ish. Maybe not."
Van's lips burst into an eye-crinkling smile so brilliant, she didn't even try to stop the scores of butterflies bouncing in her stomach.
"I might just be around to cheer you up then."
"She catches my eye, the emeralds gleam
I drift, fade away like a thinly-veiled dream.
But the heart starts thumping
The stomach starts rolling
It's hard to keep breathing
When I see her fairy-like skin as soft as cream.
The feeling rages there now, fear drags at my lip
Reining in the words before they slip
The truths I desire to untangle my tongue
They stop at my throat, adoration unsung."
Van stopped briefly, not wanting to end the verse there, but his brain was quickly swelling to the chorus he heard in his head. The thrum of a piano and possibly the build of a violin – crescendo-ing into a bright sound.
One that reminded of sunshine.
"Love's lullaby serves as the key
If I just let those unsaid words be free.
Please drop all your fears and rely on me
We could hold hands, sprinting through the trees
Or roll in the glades, escape reality
The heavens themselves will look down and agree
Accept my offer, on bended knee.
Then maybe we can howl carefree
Loving endlessly -
Like the wolves we were meant to be."
Glancing down at the lined padded paper that sat vigilantly on the kitchen table, Van finally halted the pencil in his fingertips and glanced down at what he had written. Eyes wide, mouth falling open, and a twist of slight fear, he tore the paper off the pad, wadded it furiously, and threw it in the kitchen bin. With an irritated sigh, Van put the padded paper back on the counter and moved back to the stove to ground the meat for dinner.
But unbeknownst to him-
Sharp eyes and a wash of bright pink hair watched him from the doorway, a curious eyebrow lifting at the trashcan.
I wasn't sure how I wanted this to end, honestly. I have a very small plotline with a lot of weird things happening in it, which also gives me probably way too much freedom than it should. I have a spot on how I want this to go, but the journey there is still kind of a mystery. Granted, I write this for kicks and giggles, so to expect an epic plotline would be silly of me.
I find it fun to think that Hitomi can inspire a love song - even if Van feels weird afterward. lol! We shall see if that one resurfaces as well.
He seems to have a bad luck when it comes to that.
More to come on all my stories! Thank you to all who keep at this weird one. It really means a whole lot to me!