The next morning at Solitarie went a little bit different than usual and Haruhi was in no hurry to scold anyone since she was playing hooky herself, letting everyone glue themselves to the phone.
“We weren’t sure why Miss Saphine’s novel was taking too long after falling out with her mother yet when she attended Arthur Fenigan’s book launch with her new lover, distractions are bound to happen,” read Quincy out loud, scrolling through his phone. Above the caption was a hazy picture of Bastian grabbing Erska as they were running. “These two can’t keep quiet at all, huh?”
“This is real unfortunate. Very few tabloids were able to take a picture of both but still, this is going to affect Erska’s image one way or another. I wonder how she’s coping..” pondered Haruhi as she repeatedly clicked on various search engine results that were concerned with the keyword ‘Erska Saphine’ which began trending in the last six hours. “I better get back to the surveillance team at HQ to do a trace delete. Can’t have the risk of exposing Bastian, even if it is a hazy image.”
“It’s funny,” said Fyre as he looked up from his phone. “These two look a lot better together than Bastian did with Fleur.”
“Wow, don’t even joke about that,” warned Quincy, widening his eyes. He calmed down only when Haruhi patted his shoulder.
“Why not? I don’t understand why you have a problem with them dating?” asked Fyre.
“Remember you were told at the HQ that we aren’t exactly supposed to fraternize with humans?” stated Haruhi quickly before Quincy could bombard him.
“Yea but aren’t rules meant to be broken?” he asked in all seriousness.
“Fyre, we are Draphas and not humans. Our lives are dedicated to only one mission and human interference is not going to help us. That is exactly why it is frowned upon..” explained Haruhi.
“Then, Haruhi. How about dating among Draphas? That’s fine?” he asked, glancing at Quincy who had unexpectedly begun to cough, taken aback.
“That’s not a problem, I suppose…except that with the kind of commitment we’ve got, it often never really works out,” she said, thinking hard as she rubbed Quincy’s back. “What is wrong with you all of a sudden? Cold?”
“Nah..I’m fine,” he said, getting up to leave only to be waylaid by Haruhi.
“I got some work. Both of you keep watch. I’ll be back,” she said.
“Well, I could whatever you were going to do and you keep watch?” he suggested.
“I’m not going to even try and explain. Sit still, Quincy,” she replied, walking away.
As Quincy sat back on the chair, sighing, Fyre pulled his chair closer to Quincy
“Can I help you?” Quincy asked, trying to keep a straight face while Fyre’s ocean blue eyes were intensely staring at him, letting it wander, taking his own time in the world to outline Quincy’s face in his brain while he slowly licked his lips in hunger. Fyre had no intention of being discrete and it started to infuriate Quincy. “I said can I help you?!” snapped Quincy, turning towards him.
“Sure,” he replied, nodding his head eagerly. “No problem dating among Draphas she said.”
“That’s true. Thought you knew,” Quincy replied back.
“What do you think about us then?” asked Fyre, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“Like I already told you, I like girls,” stated Quincy, the obvious.
“I believe that can be overlooked if you gave it a chance,” reasoned Fyre.
“Hmmm. I don’t think so..”
Fyre leaned forward and whispered into his ears in a shrill tone, breathing down his neck. “I’m going to make you.”
Quincy simply smirked in reply as he patted Fyre on the head, unflustered by his proximity. He gazed back with similar ferocity, though less amorous, and said, “Your party tricks won’t work on me. Nothing that I haven’t seen.”
“You haven’t seen me yet. I can come off quite strong,” countered Fyre, brushing the tip of Quincy’s nose with his finger. “Once I set my mind to something, I make it cave in for me.”
“Can I have some explanation for this?” Fleur began as soon as she stepped into Solitarie where Bastian was waiting for her. She showed him the image that was currently trending in Lessa.
“First, do sit down, okay?” he said calmly, making her sit while settling opposite to Fleur.
“You better have good reasons because I wanted to introduce you to my friends at workplace. You do all this Prince Charming act and when I tell them that you are my boyfriend, they are calling me delusional because it seemed sooo obvious in the picture that you guys are in love,” she said, dangling her phone in front of him.
“Which you know is not true, you’re the only one for me and you know it,” he said, holding her hands. “You trust me over other people, yeah?”
“Yea...I do..” she mumbled. “But you still need to explain, mister.”
“You know, Erska, right? She’s taking a break away from the spotlight and stuff. All of a sudden, loads of reporters were around us and that’s why we had to go abruptly. I did not mean to ditch you. You know I would never do that,” he said, stroking her cheeks.
Fleur removed his hand from her cheek. “You are her friend. You don’t have to go protecting her, right? Not to the point where she is mistaken for being your girlfriend. Am I wrong?”
“She’s a friend that needed help and I helped. There’s not much to talk about, Fleur,” he replied, slightly annoyed at her persistence.
“Not much to talk about? Do you even care how much it has affected me? They are calling me mad. When I pointed out to you, showing you off to them – all they asked me was about the girl you were hanging out with,” she continued.
He leaned back, crossing his legs as he exhaled. “What do you want me to do, Fleur? Tell the whole world that I am your boyfriend and not Erska’s?!”
“Well..” she said as she shrugged, tracing invisible patterns on the counter. “That would be good…”
“Are you out of your mind, Fleur?!” he screamed, kicking the nearest chair while Fleur almost jumped out of the seat, stunned by the abrupt attitude change. “I’m trying to explain in the most reasonable way possible that it was an unavoidable consequence and you want to use this situation to announce something to the world?”
“You wouldn’t understand how I feel,” she grumbled, almost sobbing as she placed a kerchief against her mouth. “That the world recognizes you as if you belong to someone so much that they take me for a joke-”
“Again!!” he growled, banging the counter with his hand. “Going over in circles again and again, you take me for a joke. The world takes you for a joke but you are doing the same thing to me right now!”
Fleur’s fingers shivered as she rubbed her palms together and tried to continue but her voice was slightly shaken, having never seen Bastian angry. “You need to stop defending her! She-She’s driving me crazy! You have to be on my side!”
He was already worn out. No amount of sense would ever take form in Fleur’s mind, he had concluded long ago and now, she had been infuriating to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore. “Fleur, if you don’t have anything else, I’m leaving,” he said as he prepared to get up.
Fleur’s lips twitched in displeasure as she tapped her feet nervously, watching Bastian go. “Served that bitch right,” she muttered under her breath.
“What?! What did you just say?” seethed Bastian as he retraced his steps. “If what I heard was right..”
“What would you do? I said that!” she shot back, standing up.
He rubbed his face, trying to soothe himself from the madness. “Why do you hate her so much? What did she ever do to you?”
“Besides constantly making jokes and teasing and taunting me and trying to break us apart?” rattled Fleur, breathless.
“The way you talk, Fleur,” he said, sceptical about her level of fantasy. “It’s almost as if you had wanted her to get hurt.”
Nonchalantly, she shrugged, her demeanour being all smug. “Yes, I did that. I sent those reporters after her. I destroy anything that tries to touch what’s mine. You have a problem with that?”
Bastian bit his lips, hands on his hips. The face that was staring back at him was a lot different from the one that he has first met. Cold, manipulative, getting things their way all the time. He knew why these girls did that. To try and compensate for their numbness on the inside, not sure how to share affection. Normally, he adjusted, he cajoled, he tried to change them but this time he didn’t really feel like doing that.
“Let’s break up, Fleur.” Saying that he walked out without a glance.
“Oh c’mon, Mrs. Delaney! I’ve been trying to wrack my head over this recipe for days and I can’t stop thinking about it,” Quincy whined as he bit into the creamy pastry.
“I would say on one condition: if you promise to never come back to Mint & Spice,” she stated as she stirred a vanilla concoction. Normally, she would have shooed Quincy away but it was early evening and the café had barely any customer.
“You did not mean that! I’m sure I contribute a major part to your income. You shouldn’t be shunning away your patrons!” argued Quincy.
“Even if you contributed to my entire livelihood, I’d rather beg than serve you food,” she said. Placing the mug on the counter before him, she continued, “And while you’re at it, give this is a sip and let me know. I’m going to check the oven.”
“I knew it, Mrs. Delaney!” he guffawed as she went into the kitchen, “My taste buds are worth millions.” He turned around, his fingers clasped onto the mug while he sat at one of the tables, taking small mouthfuls of the drink. The day would have gone better, surveying the quaint, little neighbourhood but seeing Bastian and Erska stroll together down the street, giggling, got on Quincy’s nerves.
This idiot! Doing all kinds of nonsense and hanging out with the wrong person. After taking a swig of the rest of the contents, he marched out, trying to control his anger. “Well, hello there!” he said, his voice thundering so loud he could have gotten the attention of the entire street. Both of them turned around to see Quincy, plastered with a smile.
“Bastian, my boy,” Quincy said, placing his hand on his shoulder, “Do I have to remind you that you are supposed to do something?”
“Something?” Bastian asked, cocking his head to the right.
“Yes. Like you have a purpose, right? I mean, the job that you are supposed to do, Bastian. Haruhi was just telling me,” he stressed. By now, Quincy had Bastian’s complete attention, both of his hands resting on his shoulders. Any passer-by would have thought that the presence of Erska akin to that of an intruding third wheel. Bastian narrowed his eyes as he gestured Erska to give them a private moment, unsure of what Quincy was implying. Erska stood against Mint&Spice’s entrance.
“Can you be specific now?” Bastian asked.
“You dumbhead!” Quincy exclaimed, swatting Bastian on his forehead. “I heard you broke up with Fleur. Have you checked up with her? What are you going to do?”
Bastian sighed. “ I’m giving it some time, man. I can’t go on like this. She has been absolutely horrible. I’m ready to switch assignments.”
“What happened? It can’t be that bad. We often adjust to our assignments,” Quincy said, trying to convince him.
“Remember how Erska and I ran away from the reporters? That was all because Fleur had tipped them. And why did she do that? Because she was jealous, it seems! Jealous, Quincy! Can you believe this?!” he fumed.
“Bastian, you once had a stalker hiding in your closet, trying to get naked pictures of you. Now, I don’t know what your idea of extreme is…” reminded Quincy.
“The thing is I wouldn’t mind that but you can’t hurt the people around me like that. And before you say another word, tell me. If your assignment hurt me, would you keep quiet?” he asked Quincy before he could protest.
“I-I would not keep quiet but you also need to make up. Most of your girls are sensitive. Don’t you think now would be a great time to make up with her? Get back together? Hand her some flowers and stuff?” suggested Quincy vaguely, unsure what he was trying to do.
“I’m going to sleep on it, buddy,” Bastian said as his eyes darted towards Erska who was waiting for them to finish their conversation.
“Bastian. I don’t have to remind you that our assignments are our first priority,” he emphasized.
“I know. I’ll see you soon, pal,” Bastian said, leaving Quincy speechless as the pair walked on, engaged in an animated conversation. He turned around to the walking silhouettes ogling at each other.