|Rafael Atala (freyr) wrote in paxletalelogs,
@ 2017-12-04 14:59:00
|freyr, uke mochi
doctor said everything was bad for my health
Who: Alice and Rafe.
What: A bunch of addicts walk into a bakery…
Where: Rosemary & Thyme
When: Friday, November 17th, 4:50 a.m.
It was early yet, but Rafael knew his friend would have already arrived at her shop. She would be busy, of course, but in his current state he did not consider this. He had worked in enough kitchens to know the better part of the preparation would already be done, leaving him and his friends to descend on fresh croissants and quiches and tarts like the coke-addled locusts they were. He had been talking up her pastries since the idea to come here had first occurred to him. Now, over an hour before the shop even opened, they stood outside the plate glass window and stared into its warm and welcoming depths.
"Do you think she'll have the chocolate ones?" Robbie said, his face and palms pressed to the glass. "Muffins or croissants. I don't care. Jesus that sounds good right now."
"It's bran and berries you need," another man said, a recent addition to their fold. He opened his mouth to offer some jibe or explanation, but Rafael did not give him the chance.
"I think she's back there," he cut in, pointing through the glass toward the kitchen far beyond. "Maybe if we knock a little…"
With far too much energy and not enough sense, Rafael moved to the bakery's front door. There he began to rap on the glass; in short order his gathered companions joined him. Five pairs of hands rapped against the glass, alternately tapping and knocking like obnoxious trick-or-treaters.
"Aliiiiiiice," the newcomer called, as though he knew her. Rafael shouldered him out of the way, his flushed face framed by the glass as he continued their knocking.
Alice nearly dropped a pan of plain croissants when the beating on the glass door jarred her out of her quiet morning. Pushing the swinging door to her kitchen open she narrowed her eyes to see who stood outside in the darkness and felt a small jolt of fear when she saw not one person, but multiple people. It wasn’t until she caught the familiar voice of Rafael that she lurched forward, sat the pan down, and made her way to the door to unlock it.
“What are you doing here? It’s so early!” She whispered as she pushed the door open to let Rafael and his friends in. The shop wasn’t opened yet, not by any means, but she didn’t think twice to letting her friend in. It was almost immediate that she noticed, however, that there was something off with her friend as she leaned back and eyed him.
"Or late," Rafe countered. He mouthed a thank you to her as they swept into the shop. "We've just been out, that's all, and we needed some carbs to soak up this alcohol. We've got—well, some of us, anyway, have work tomorrow. The rest are just along for the ride. And the delicious pastries. Which I have told them a lot about."
"D'you have chocolate croissants?" Robbie asked, parting the little crowd to prop his arm on Alice's shoulder. "Or cheesecake. Is it too early for cheesecake? Or creme brulee. Wait. What would you recommend?"
The young man who had called for Alice was now hunched over the display case, his grimy fingers pressed to the glass. Rafael chided him, but not strongly enough; he lingered there, leaning forward until his forehead came to rest on the display. "Is there a discount for yesterday's unsold stuff? Or can I, like, open a tab…"
Alice’s eyes were wide as she looked from person to person, attempting to keep up with the various conversations. She frowned at Robbie, then looked at Rafael with a raised eyebrow. “I think you guys need some croissants. Something to fill you up and soak up the alcohol… Plus all the day old stuff gets donated to the hospital and homeless shelter.”
But something in her didn’t think it was just alcohol. She stared at Rafael as she moved away from Robbie’s touch and toward the kitchen. “Does Gabe know you’re here?” But what she meant was does Gabe know you’re with Robbie?
"I texted him earlier," Rafael said, truthfully. "But he's probably asleep. I hope he's asleep. He dislocated his shoulder, did you know that? At the Halloween party." He trailed off, glancing back to his friends as they gathered at a nearby table. The young blond man—Dean, as his companions soon referred to him—pulled Robbie's chair out from under him as he went to sit; Robbie fell, naturally, sending all of them into paroxysms of laughter. Chuckling, Rafe turned his wide eyes back to Alice, his attention coming too little and too late.
"That was my fault," he added, as though there had been no lull at all in their conversation. Then he brushed past the confession, lingering no longer on it than he had on anything else. "Do you think he'd like a fresh croissant for breakfast? I think it would be nice to surprise him."
Alice nodded slowly, pulling herself forward while still giving Rafael a concerned look. “How about I give you guys some food and then I’ll get something for Gabe before you leave?” She moved behind the counter and pulled out some plates. “Fresh croissants for everyone, I’ll grab the ones with ham and cheese, too. They may be a little better for you all to eat right now anyway…” She paused, looking at the men at the table for a moment before her friend. “Rafael, could you help me in the kitchen?”
"Of course," he said, immediately turning away from his companions and moving close to Alice's side. He slid an arm around her, giving her a brief, tight squeeze as they walked toward the back. "Thank you, Alice. It smells amazing in here. Are you working on anything special this morning? I'll be your guinea pig if you need one. Taste-tester. Whatever you'd like to call me."
He stepped around her, opening the kitchen door and holding it for her. "Oh, that reminds me. Have you ever had stollen? Gabe and I were just talking about it. I think I'm going to make some for Christmas, and I'd share the recipe with you if you want. It's my mother's, you know."
Alice could barely keep up with his chatter as she went to the oven and dropped the door down, grabbing for gloves before pulling out a tray of croissants, golden and flakey with bits of ham and cheese peaking through the curves of the bread. Putting the pan on top of one of the counters, she turned to Rafael. “Nothing special this morning and you know you’re always welcome to be my taste-tester. Do you think this will be good for them? Or should I bring out more? Maybe some water…”
"Yes," he said, "that's probably a good idea. They'll probably want coffee, but at least a couple of them really should hydrate…"
She turned to the towering shelving unit with different plates and platters while pulling the gloves off and tossing them to the side. “Sweets may be too much…” she murmured with a frown before blinking and looking back at Rafael and allowing her shoulders to fall. “I’ve heard of stollen but I haven’t had any and I’m glad, so glad you and Gabe are making Christmas plans but… Rafael. Is this…your friends and the state you all are under… is this okay? Are you alright?”
"Hm?" He turned back to her from where he had been peering at the tray of food, studying its contents with curious eyes and barely restrained hands. His eyes slid away from hers just as quickly as they met them. "Oh, we're fine. I'm fine. Thank you. We've just been out and I have some work this weekend and you know, it's a little anxiety-inducing sometimes. I haven't really slept well lately. But going out helped, I think. Sometimes it's nice to just go drink and dance and not worry so much. That's all." He nodded toward the back door of the bakery. "Do you mind if I step out a second? I could use a smoke."
Alice stared at Rafael and for a moment, she didn’t answer; the next moment, she seemed ready to say something else entirely, but instead she nodded. “Yes, of course. Do what you have to do. I’ll get this food out to your friends.”
"I'll be right back," he insisted. Then he slipped out the back door and was gone, lighting up before the door fully closed.
His friends grew increasingly loud, their teasing and jokes soon risen to a dull roar. At some point cell phones had come out, and a series of very questionable photos were being passed around as Alice tried to sink into the wall behind the counter, where she had placed herself far enough away from the group but close enough to grab more food if necessary. Rafael returned as one from his own recent shoot was in the middle of being assessed. Immediately he swore, and a steady stream of Portuguese flowed free of him.
"Come on," he said, snatching the phone from Dean's pale hand. Dean rolled his eyes but let him have it, and it disappeared into Rafael's pocket; he hardly cared to whom the phone actually belonged. He looked to Alice, a smile forced onto his face.
"I'm sorry about that," he said. "Now where were we…"
Alice was frowning plainly now and looked from the boys to Rafael. She was uncomfortable with the situation and it was obvious. “Just… you know,” she glanced at the boys again and then back to the kitchen door. “I gotta get more croissants into the oven, do you want to help?”
She was off her stool before he answered and making her way back to the kitchen, speaking softly over her shoulder. “I want to talk about Halloween. Not too much, but just a little.”
His face fell, but he followed her all the same, his shoulders subtly sagging. He tried to put a smile on his face; he succeeded by only the smallest measure.
"Halloween?" he asked, once they were alone, the din of his friends mercifully dulled by the distance. "What about Halloween?" He cast a glance around the kitchen, clearly looking for some way to busy himself, to keep his hands and mind occupied on something other than the colossal failure that night had been. "Croissants, you said. How can I help?"
“You can roll them out,” Alice offered, pointing to the already cut slices of dough. “While I get the pan ready. And it’s not much, not really. I mean… I doubt you want to talk about Halloween much, you know I certainly don’t. But it happened, right? All of it? You were okay, weren’t you?”
She pulled a tray out and turned to her friend, a furrow in her brow. He avoided her eyes, hard at work on the task at hand. “Uke Mochi was worried about me, like you said she cares...she was only trying to get me out of there the entire time but she didn’t look for you. I don’t remember seeing you. I mean, other than when we were together at the part but once we changed… were you okay? Did you change too?”
He nodded, still staring intently down at the dough. "Freyr didn't look for her, either," he admitted. "Gabe—Xochipilli—fell in quicksand. We didn't see much else, just… tried to help him out. He still dislocated his shoulder. He could've died. I thought—I hoped—Freyr was stronger than that."
Rafe fell silent, literally biting his tongue as he tried to put the graphic memories out of his mind. He glanced up to Alice, his cheeks burning with embarrassment; he had not asked after her, and on top of all his other failures it shamed him all the more. "I'm so sorry, Alice, I… are you okay? You look okay. Were you hurt? Who, um, was someone with you?"
Alice shook her head quickly and placed the pan beside Rafael’s working station. “I was fine. I didn’t get hurt or anything. I was with Lucas when it happened. He became Apollo and I have to say, Uke Mochi did not like Apollo.” She laughed, color rising on her cheeks as she reached for a piece of the dough and began to roll it up beside her friend. Rafe smiled softly, and set to work alongside her. “He wasn’t very focused on getting out and then when he was, he put on a show about saving her. She was not having it. But…when we got out Lucas was sweet. He looked after me. I was...totally freaked. It was embarrassing.”
She glanced at Rafael and frowned. “I’m sorry Gabe got hurt though. Don’t be too upset with Freyr though, I’m sure he tried his best. There was a lot going on in there, a lot of people probably got hurt. I mean… did you see Brittany?” Her voice faded at that and now it was her turn to look down at the dough.
Rafe nodded. "I haven't seen her since," he said. "I hope she's healing all right. It looked like she had several people going to help her."
He fell into a quick, easy rhythm. The repeated motions seemed to calm him; though his eyes were still not as they usually were, and he fidgeted more often than was necessary, at last his thoughts and his words seemed to slow, to gain a kind of focus they had lacked. "I'm glad you had Lucas. Even if Apollo wasn't such a good match." He glanced over to Alice, risking a smile. "Are you two…?"
Alice smiled, her cheeks heating up. “No, I mean.” A little laugh snuck out, one of embarrassment and unspoken feelings. “I think it’s clear we like each other but we aren’t anything official, not yet at least.” She shrugged and smiled at Rafael. “It seems to be going that way which is nice, but it’s slow moving...which is also nice. I’m glad I had him there that night.”
He gave her a knowing smile. He said nothing more to put her on the spot, but the slight, encouraging bump of his shoulder against hers said enough.
The voices of Rafael’s friends reached a higher pitch, loud enough to be heard in the kitchen and Alice’s smile faltered. It was easy to ignore them and focus on just herself and Rafael, something of which she had plenty of experience and was comfortable with. Their noise brought back the whole oddity of the evening and Alice looked worriedly at Rafael. “You’re sure you’re doing alright? I mean, if Halloween is sort of messing with you, you know I understand, right?”
This time, he determinedly avoided her eyes. His hands moved more quickly over the dough, shaping perfect, uniform croissants in spite of his clear agitation. He showed clear disappointment when he reached the end of the dough allotted him; still he did not look at her.
"Mmhm," he mumbled, belatedly. His eyes flicked up to her, back out toward where his friends sat, returning to her for an instant before sliding back down to the tray. "It's just the sleeping, you know, like I said. Nightmares. Just stupid, childish things that will pass. I'll be fine." He lifted the tray with careful hands, raising it up for her inspection. "Is this okay? Is the oven ready?"
Alice studied Rafael for a moment, wanting to say that no, no this was not okay. She thought of Rafael the night she had turned into Uke Mochi, when he admitted he was using, and felt goosebumps spread over her arms. Blinking rapidly, she looked down at the croissants and forced a smile. “They’re perfectly done. You know, you could always leave your job and become a baker with me. You’ve got a knack for it. Let’s pop these in the oven.”
Again he laughed, grateful beyond measure that she had allowed him to so easily bypass her more difficult questions. He avoided any verbalized answer at all, unwilling to invite further discussion. He simply went to his task, paying closer attention to the oven than it truly required, and counting down the minutes until he could escape her too-observant gaze, and Alice allowed this silence and the unanswered questions to lay between them.
Ignoring the sound of the men in the dining area, Alice stepped closer to Rafael and leaned into his side, quietly observing with him the steady rise of the croissants in the oven as the darkness outside began to dim and the first hints of dawn brightened the windowsills.