Author/Artist: chromatic_coma @ animusia
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Egypt, Greece, fem!Turkey, Japan, (brief France and other nation cameos) ;; Egypt/fem!Turkey, Greece/Japan (implied: Egypt/fem!Turkey/Greece, Greece/fem!Turkey, Greece/Egypt, male!Turkey/fem!Turkey, Greece/Spain)
Genre: Slice of Life, Romance, Angst
Warnings: angst, implied sex, foul language, stream of conscious writing, cheesy ending
Summary: Hassan, Herakles, and Sidika own a Mediterranean coffee shop in Astoria, Queens, and it is the best damn place for hookah in the entire city, maybe.
Notes: Fic is dedicated to disownmereturns and inuyashacooks explanation at the end because I'm
Nestled in Astoria, hugging the corner of Ditmars and 33rd, between a bagel shop and a bank, there is a Mediterranean coffee shop. It’s standard fare for the area that is more Manhattan than Queens; there’s a Zagat sticker on the door, and pasted in the window is a three year old newspaper article about the shop’s opening. The awning is tan, the text is brown and reads the shop’s name, Falafelosophy. The menu is limited; there are fresh juices and lazy coffee drinks (because if you want a double mocha frappuchino with skim milk, cinnamon and low fat foam with your muffin, Starbucks is conveniently located two blocks up), simple sandwiches and vegan dips, and a dessert listing with only one option, baklava. On the whole, the café is unassuming and modest, it’s simplicity engulfed by the hustle and bustle of the world around it.
And yet, it’s evident to anyone who enters the shop that it’s absolutely nothing like anything else on Ditmars Boulevard.
Every day at precisely seven o eight pm, Hassan puts a fresh pot of coffee down on the machine to brew. And, at seven o nine pm, Sidika scoffs and insists, “The shop is empty!”
And, every day, when the clock in the shop reads seven-seventeen, the bell above the door chimes and people begin to amble in. Hassan shoots Sidika a triumphant look, and she grumbles. She’s always sure to elbow Herakles roughly in the ribs as she grabs her notepad to take orders, to wake him up and to release some of her frustrations. Herakles scowls and Hassan is probably even more amused, though his expression betrays none of it.
Such are the relations between the three-man staff of this particular establishment. More than for the feta cheese salads and fresh Turkish coffee, their customers come to watch these three interact; it’s like a meal and an improvisational comedy act, except both can be enjoyed at once without one risking stomach cramps. Usually.
“We have a problem.”
Hassan said this one night as they are locking up. Night is a relative term; it was 2 am by the time they were able to weasel the hookah pipe out of the hands of the last customer. He had attempted to grope Sidika to buy himself more time; she punched him hard enough to dislocate his jaw and left him in front of the bank.
“What is it?”
The explanation comes in the form of a slip of paper placed on the counter between them.
“What. The. Fuck,” Sidika swore simply.
“The rent is going up.”
“Fucking Manhattanites, moving to Astoria and making the rent here go higher and higher. We can’t afford this!”
Herakles hummed slowly. “How about we put her in a belly dancing costume to attract customers?”
Sidika turned in dramatic slow motion, her features twisting into something demonic. Hassan pulled up one of the stools and sat, biting into an unordered falafel sandwich.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“Not particularly. I’m not so desperate that I’d want to ogle a wildebeest’s body.”
“You smarmy little man slut bastard.”
“That’s hardly fair,” Herakles frowned. “Hassan is a bastard, too.”
Sidika growled. Hassan wondered if there was anything interesting in that day’s paper.
“Maybe we should just whore you out. Charge a dollar for every pussy that comes in here looking for ya. We’d be rich enough to retire in six months.”
“Jealous?” Herakles grinned. Actually, it looked a lot more like a leer…
Hassan stood up, placing his palm over Sidika’s mouth just in time to stop her next shout. Actually, she accidentally bit his hand, not expecting it to be there, but he said nothing about it.
“Before I go home and leave you both to have sex in the stock room,” he started simply, “I would appreciate it if you didn’t make me feel stupid for hoping you could talk this out like adults.”
He moved his hand off of Sidika’s mouth, and she responded calmly by slapping him across the cheek.
“I would never have sex with her,” Herakles agreed verbally. “I’m sorry, Hassan.”
Hassan rolled his eyes. “We cannot whore Herakles out. It would reflect poorly on our establishment and isolate male customers-“
“-I still think it’s a good idea-“
“-Nor can we dress Sidika as an exotic dancer. The costumes are too expensive.”
“It would earn twice the amount we spent on it in a week.”
Hassan appraised Sidika’s chest. “Perhaps…”
“Don’t even think about it,” she growled. Both men sighed.
“I was thinking we could move in together…”
“No.” “No.” Sidika and Herakles answered in a single breath.
That Sunday, they moved into Hassan’s apartment, conveniently located right above the shop.
Herakles kissed the customer once on each cheek after she dropped a few cents in the tip jar, because it was the customary thing to do in his mother’s country and because she had treated him with courtesy.
And because she was beautiful, probably. Herakles did not like to think about whys too much, because then he would start to realize underlying intentions; for example, Hassan and Sidika were no doubt watching that part of their exchange.
The next person to come up to his register was a businessman, as the crispness of his suit and the sharpness in his tone indicated. Herakles his mother had, at one point, entertained the thought that he would become a businessman, too. But she died and he invested all her savings in café wisely opened across the street from a very popular Greek taverna. Business was not his forte.
“I would like an order of hummus, please.”
“Hummus,” Herakles repeated, and the other nodded curtly. “With pita bread?”
The other agreed, but his momentary hesitation was enough indication that he had not thought it through. Perhaps he was not familiar with this sort of food. Slowly Herakles prepared his order, popping the bread up in their small microwave oven to be heated.
“I have never seen you here before.”
“That is because I have never been here before. I do not need my bread heated, and I am in a hurry to catch the subway…”
He did not sound as if he was telling Heracles that he wanted him to go faster, but rather as if he was asking for approval to tell him such. It was endearing, and Herakles selfishly decided that he would not comply.
“I would remember a face like yours, yes. I’m glad you decided to come today.”
The other man’s cheeks became pink, and Herakles was grateful he had inherited his father’s charm. Not that he had ever met his father, but the man had to have been charming to have been able to seduce his mother. She was vehemently against putting it out, even for the most pleasant of men. And women.
“Thank you, but I really must be going.”
“Your bread isn’t hot yet.”
“That is no problem for me. I do not mind it if it is cold.”
“It is not good when it’s cold,” Herakles hummed. He felt Hassan’s eyes on his back, and then faintly he became aware of the subway pulling out of the station two blocks away.
“Hn,” the customer (Herakles was realizing belatedly that was Asian. He wondered if all Asians were this beautiful) sighed under his breath.
Herakles finally took the bread out of the microwave oven. The edge was a bit charred, but he did not offer to heat another piece for this man because he realized there was a difference between making an intriguing impression and alienating a very cute boy. Man. Man who happened to look like a boy, sort of.
As he was handing the man his change and faded paper receipt, Herakles leaned in and kissed him once on each cheek. He froze, grabbing the bag with his lunch in it and his change, and dashed out of the store so quickly the bell at the top of the door fell, a few of his coins hitting the ground with it.
“Smooth move, man slut.”
“Are you upset I haven’t touched yours?” Herakles grinned, and Sidika flushed indignantly.
“Nymphomaniac,” she swore venomously under her breath, before she left her notepad and apron down on the counter and went into the kitchens to whisper urgently with Hassan. Herakles suspected they were gossiping about him, and feigned a deaf ear as he handled the next customer.
“You should have an event day.”
This, on a sunny April afternoon, a few days before Easter, when yesterday’s rain was dripping from the awning and drying on the sidewalk, came from one of their regulars, the reporter who had written the article in the window, a man named Francis Bonnefoy.
“What’s that?” Sidika grunted, taking another delicate forkful of her lunch (chickpea salad, hold the chickpeas). She was sharing a table with him, not from necessity because they were never packed, but because he was nice company and generally a good fuck. The only problem with him was that after every night of passion Sidika felt the need to get tested for every STD known to man.
“Ah, ma chérie, have I ever told you that you are so full of contradictions?”
Sidika rolled her eyes, “Save it, Bonnefoy, if I take another break for sex Hassan will skin me.”
“Oh?” Francis quirked an eyebrow. “I was unaware our Egyptian friend was so possessive.”
Francis took a moment, taking that in with another bite of his sandwich.
“An event,” he continued suddenly. “Perhaps hire a live band to play once a week. If they’re high schoolers, you won’t have to pay them very much.”
“Pass,” Sidika said nonchalantly. Francis sighed, but he did not seem downtrodden. Quite the contrary, actually…
“Then I propose you are all costumed. Certainly nothing will draw more attention to your café than if the staff is all appealingly under-dressed.”
Herakles hummed from his place at the register. “It’s a good idea.”
“Exhibitionists, the both of you,” Sidika huffed.
“Do you really not know?” Herakles was smirking lazily, and it was aggravating, to say the least.
“The only reason Hassan wanted us to hire you.”
The aforementioned stepped out of the kitchen, and Francis sat up in interest.
“You’re top heavy and men find it attractive.”
Sidika’s cheeks were colored a sharp crimson, and she looked as if she was trying to decide between attacking Francis (who was closest to her and laughing), Herakles (it would be so immensely satisfying to wipe the smug smile off his face), and Hassan (the flush in his cheeks was enough to confirm that Herakles was not making things up). She stood suddenly. Her chair clattered to the floor. She ripped her apron off and threw it to the ground. And then she walked out the door of Falafelosophy.
“Perhaps you should not have said that, mon ami,” Francis suggested amusedly as he took another sip of his coffee. Herakles and Hassan shared a look, and then Hassan went back into the kitchen.
“She’ll be back,” Heracles translated simply. “We have her house keys.”
True enough, Sidika was back at closing time, when Hassan was sweeping and Herakles emptying out the register. The former gave a soft wave and the latter grunted; she ignored them both and went into the backroom.
“Was that too much?” Hassan asked calmly, squatting down to sweep the dust into the dustpan.
“Perhaps…” Herakles was looking past the kitchen to the backroom door thoughtfully. “But it is not the worst thing we’ve done to her.”
The door to the store room swung open, and Sidika stepped out-
“You look like a slut,” Herakles commented simply, though both he and Hassan could not completely hide their surprise. And Sidika could not even be offended, because there was nothing about the way she looked at that moment that was unintentional.
A cut off tank top whose jagged edge rested well above her midriff, the shortest pair of black shorts known to humankind that were little more than glorified underwear, and a long spiky pair of red heels that appeared to have the potential to gorge someone’s eyes out; that was it. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she had mussed up her curls so vigorously, it wasn’t too far a stretch to suggest that she looked like she’d already come from a round of hot, passionate sex.
“What thrift store did you steal those clothes from?”
Sidika rolled her eyes (and her eyeshadow glittered in the café’s dim light).
“Since you insist on knowing, nosy bastards, these are my clubbing clothes. I keep ‘em at a girlfriend’s house because I know you you’d probably use them as rags to dust the counters.”
“To be fair, it’s only because they look like rags,” Herakles muttered. The others pretended not to hear him, and Hassan spoke softly,
“Then why come here to put them on?”
Sidika flashed her teeth in a wicked grin. “Because I wanted to show ya what you’re missing.”
And then she strutted herself out the door again.
The next morning at five-thirty-two am, when Hassan was turning on the café lights and Herakles was blearily slumped on the counter, his hair still wet from the shower, there was a knock on the glass door.
“We’re closed,” Herakles grunted. Hassan smacked him over the head, because there was no way he would let the other nap while he opened. When he turned to the door, however, his body tensed, and the smack was followed up with a nudge.
In the faint light of the sunrise red sky, the figure of a man could be seen in the door. He was tall and broad shouldered, and draped over said shoulder was a very easily recognizable female figure.
When Hassan let them in, the man rested Sidika in one of the chairs, and she promptly slumped onto the table in what he told them was a drunken stupor. Hassan, ever the polite one, offered the man a seat and a cup of coffee, which the other laughed might help with the hangover.
Herakles, to Hassan’s surprise, had not gone back to sleep. While the other went into the back to get some more coffee for the machine (they’d need it), Herakles sat up and put his hand on his fist.
“Huh?” the other man raised an eyebrow, giving Heracles a once over. Slowly, a lazy grin grew on his face. “The guy who fucked your girlfriend last night, apparently. She’s good, sucks tha’ ya let her go.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Herakles answered. Simply. The other man’s grin grew, and Herakles wondered if he was retarded, or something. He wasn’t even that good looking; sure he was well built and nicely tanned, but other than that he had nothing to boast about. He had a little stubble on his chin, too, but Herakles thought it made him look like a dirty old ape. And he smelled bad. Hassan should chase him away before any potential customers were repulsed.
“Sure she isn’t,” the man retorted, flashing his canine teeth like something subhuman. Disgusting. Herakles decided he wasn’t worth his time anymore, but when he put his head down on the counter to finish (start?) his nap, the other man continued.
“It really is a shame, though, tha’ she got stuck with a douche like ya. She seemed really bent out of shape las’ night. Throwing herself at any guy tha’ would listen, and who wouldn’t when she’s got a rack like tha’? But then she came ta me, and I showed her what a good time really was.”
“Wonderful,” Herakles deadpanned.
It was then that Hassan returned, and Herakles was more livid than the other had ever seen him; he was having trouble keeping it off his face, which was saying something.
“Here’s your coffee,” Hassan said softly, placing the small blue Greek style to-go coffee cup on the table. “On the house. Thank you for bringing her home.”
The man smiled and nodded politely, glimpsing Herakles from the corner of his eye. He smirked, but this time not for long; his mouth had soon occupied itself with Hassan’s. Before either could react, he pulled away with a chuckle, removed his hoodie and threw it over Sidika’s sleeping form, and cockily ambled out.
Herakles growled. Hassan touched his lips as if he was still wondering whether or not it had really happened, but then he sighed and dropped it. “Don’t worry, he was drunk.”
“Doesn’t excuse him kissing you.”
“Or fucking her?” Hassan asked innocently. He was giving Herakles a devious look, though, and Herakles looked away with a huff.
“It’s amusing, though,” Hassan murmured. “To watch you lose a fight with a drunken man.”
“Shut up,” Herakles whined softly, his eyes falling shut as his head dropped onto the counter. Hassan sighed softly in amusement, and then sat in the seat beside Sidika.
Her breath reeked of alcohol, and her breathing was heavy and thick. Her clothes were mostly intact, which was a relief because she had been wearing next to nothing to begin with, but the strange man’s musky sweatshirt over her body was a bit unsettling. Still, it was an early April morning and so it was cold, so Hassan was not inclined to take it off of her; instead, he reached a hand into the pocket.
There was a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Hassan looked briefly at the number, then at Herakles (who was sleeping), and then his gaze lingered on Sidika. Sighing, he took the paper back into the kitchen with him and burned it on the stove.
It was the middle of May. As the days started to get longer, Falafelosophy found itself becoming more and more full. Two newspaper articles were written about the shop; one by Francis Bonnefoy, and the second by his rival critic for another paper, Arthur Kirkland. On the second Monday of the month, the staff opened the backyard to customers who wanted to smoke hookah. Hassan stopped worrying about the rent.
One afternoon, which was actually early evening but the sun was still rather bright, the bell above the door rang. This was no longer too strange an occurrence; there was already debate about removing the damn thing. But what was rare was the person Herakles spotted when he looked up.
It was the same adorable Asian man who had come in for hummus back in February. Herakles sat up a little straighter and shook off his sleepiness (he was losing naps over this increase in business). When the man approached the register, Herakles used his extra charming smile. The man’s cheeks turned pink.
Herakles waved lazily, “Welcome back.”
The man looked surprised, and Heracles laughed calmly. “Did you not expect me to remember you?”
“No,” the other answered humbly, if not with confusion in his tone. “You see so many customers every single day, it would be strange to expect otherwise.”
Herakles wondered what sort of idea this man had about their shop, that he would think they were so busy. “I remember the cute ones.”
The other man spluttered, and Sidika was suddenly there, her arm resting on the counter.
“Don’t scare him off, pervert,” she scowled. When she turned to the man, however, she was all smiles. “If you’d take seat over there, I’d be happy to take your order so that you don’t have to deal with this sexual harassment.”
“N-No, that is fine, miss. I am quite alright-“
“He’s trying to tell you to fuck off, Sidika. Not that I blame him; you smell like onions festering in pig grease.”
“Why you smarmy little-“
The two of them went off fighting, and suddenly there was a hand on the Asian man’s shoulder.
“My name is Hassan,” he whispered calmly over the argument. “I apologize for their behavior. Please accept this supper as my apology.”
“Kiku Honda,” the man replied shaking his head and pushing the white “I ♥ NY” shopping bag away. “It is no bother. Are they always like this?”
Hassan nodded. “On every day that ends with a “-y”. Please, I insist.”
“With all due respect…”
Before Kiku could finish declining, Hassan laughed softly and looped the bag around his wrist.
“Consider this an incentive to come back sooner, then.”
And, without giving him a chance to speak, Hassan turned on his heel and headed back into the kitchen area, grabbing Sidika away with him. So Kiku did the next best thing; he put the bag down on the counter. Herakles looked rumpled, but his expression eased back into a smile.
“How much would this come up to…?”
Herakles shrugged. “I can’t say. Crossing Hassan is not a very good idea.”
“Oh…” Kiku frowned softly, and even Herakles’ expression softened.
“Perhaps if you pull up a seat and keep me company while you eat, I’ll consider making Hassan take the cost from my salary.”
“It was coming out of your salary anyways,” Hassan’s soft voice carried over the oven timer’s ding. Herakles laughed.
“Now I’m afraid you’ll have to say with me. I hope that’s not too much trouble,” he said bemusedly. Kiku finally sighed, and did grab one of the stools and sit at the counter, a few feet away from Herakles.
It was a start.
The summer months started to settle in, and with it came the heat. For the first year, after a lot of coaxing from customers and staff alike, Hassan finally relented and purchased a small air-conditioner to keep the shop’s interior comfortable and replace the ancient fan that had been part of his inheritance. It had been noisy, but to everyone’s great discomfort the A/C was even louder; if anyone complained, Hassan would reply simply, “I can turn it off if you’d like.” Sidika was sure he was Satan’s son.
One afternoon in late June, the door to Falafelosophy was opened in the middle of the day by two young teenage girls. Herakles felt their faces were familiar, though he did not know them as anything more than occasional visitors. They were wearing the uniforms of the nearby Catholic school, but they were both tiny enough to make him wonder for the slightest moment if they were even in high school yet.
And then he decided it was not interesting enough to think about girls who were too young to flirt with, and resolved to use that energy to continue checking Kiku out without the other man noticing him. Which is, of course, what he’d been doing since the man first took his hummus and sat at a table by the air conditioner.
“Excuse us?” the small blonde girl said shyly. Oh, right, he was supposed to help them.
“We’d like two orange juices please! With lots and lots of ice!” the other, a tan girl with long pigtails, supplied, wiping sweat off her brow. Herakles nodded and went to the fridge to retrieve the drinks.
“Hey, we also’ve got a question for you,” the brunette with pigtails added after her blonde friend paid for their juices. Herakles hummed, wondering what it could possibly be, and she continued promptly.
“Who of you guys is dating who, exactly?”
Well, that was certainly unexpected. Sidika looked up from her spot up washing plates at the sink, and even Hassan poked his head out from the kitchen, wrist shaking the pan of nuts back and forth over the flame absently. Herakles paused, and then he smiled amusedly.
“Me and Hassan.”
Both girls looked appropriately thrown for a loop. Even before the door to the shop had closed they could be heard chatting away. Once it was finally shut, Sidika laughed.
“I’m not sure which is more amusing,” she drawled, her arms covered to the elbows in soap suds. “That you felt the need to lie to them about it, or that they actually believed you.”
“Who said I was lying?”
“I live with you.”
“You don’t share a room with us,” Herakles replied calmly. Sidika grimaced.
Hassan stepped out of the kitchen, then, and placed his hand on Herakles’ shoulder. When they locked eyes, Hassan nudged his head in the direction of the café’s left corner; there was Kiku, absently overloading the same small triangle of pita with too much chili hummus.
Herakles suddenly sobered.
One early evening in July, at the hour when the sun was a ball of red fire in the sky and the backyard was full of tired people looking for a quick smoke, Herakles asked Kiku if he would like to try a puff of hookah.
“Ah, thank you, but I will have to decline.”
“There’s no marijuana in it,” Herakles insisted calmly. “We considered it for a while. But it’s illegal.”
Kiku was only slightly horrified to realize Herakles sounded upset about that. “But you wouldn’t want anyone who was high in your shop at all, anyways.”
“Hm, that’s true.”
Kiku paused, wondering if perhaps he should keep his next thought to himself. When he realized that Herakles was pretty much impossible to offend, he spoke.
“You three are very interesting, aren’t you?”
Gauging Herakles’ reaction proved that he was more amused than anything else. “What makes you say that?”
“Simply by your interactions, I suppose… You all seem very close…”
Herakles nodded, humming softly as he swept dust off the counter.
“We are,” is all he said. Then a heavy silence fell, and Kiku started to ponder the idea of going home; it was a long way to Flushing.
“What do you do?”
“Your job,” Herakles clarified, noting how taken off guard the other was.
“Oh. I…” (Kiku licked his lips) “work in marketing. For a toy company.”
Herakles smiled warmly, “That suits you.”
Two weeks after that brief mention of Kiku’s profession to Herakles, Hassan had managed with few words and many facial expressions to weasel a truth out of the Asian regular. He was, as of the day of his second visit to their humble coffee shop back in May, unemployed.
“Why didn’t ya tell us sooner? Sidika scowled. “We would’ve given ya a job here!”
For the first time in Kiku’s memory, the three had all agreed upon this immediately. Nervously, shyly, he waved them off.
“No, that is fine. I have submitted a few applications to other places…”
There was more insisting, and more polite declining, which went on until customers started to come in (summer evenings may have been good for business, but summer afternoons were not). Hassan resigned himself to the hot kitchen, where the oven was on to bake the baklava. At his insistence, Sidika went to help him roll out the phyllo dough.
“You should have told me…” Herakles murmured after the customer had paid for her drink. He did not kiss her cheeks. Kiku could sense that he felt dejected; on him it felt like looking at a neglected kitten, and he had to suppress the urge to pat the Greek’s hair.
“I did not want to worry you,” he replied just as softly. “I do not want to be a burden.”
Herakles gave a characteristic hum. “Did you ever consider that, perhaps, I want you to be my burden?”
The couple was silent until Kiku decided it was time he went home.
The one time, on a rainy August afternoon (rain did horrible things for business), that Herakles decided he wanted to reload the ice machine and went into the backroom to do so, he found himself immediately regretting it.
For there in the stockroom, between the bags of hazelnuts and flour, Sidika and Hassan were necking. He wasn’t sure what of the situation was most jarring; the fact that he, as their housemate, had not known they were in that sort of relationship, the fact that they were doing this in the place where food was stored, the fact that they were both still fully clothed, or the fact that they had not invited him.
Hassan, who was facing him and holding Sidika in places and ways Herakles might, under the right influence, admit to having dreamed of, was the one to notice that he was there. Sidika, with her back to him and her hands out of his line of vision, had either not heard the door open or not cared that he was watching. She perpetuated the kiss, even against Hassan’s slackened lips, stopping only when he, with reddened cheeks, cleared his throat.
“Did you need something?” she snapped gruffly at Herakles, but he could hear the breathiness in her tone, too. And that was when the regret came in, because his friends had never had very good luck with relationships, and he did not want to interfere (though, honestly, he did).
So Herakles grabbed the first thing he could reach, a tin of pickled cucumbers, and gave a small, sheepish smile before turning on his heel.
“He needs to hurry up and get to fucking his Asian boy toy,” Sidika snarled before he’d shut the door, and he could hear the wetness of her aggressively kissing Hassan’s neck without having to see it. “I can’t wait much longer…”
Herakles pulled the door shut behind him. When he sat on his stool at the counter, he opened the tin and bit into a pickle, grateful for once for the noisy air conditioner.
Early in September, Kiku came into the shop with a bit more spring in his step, if only a subtle change in his usual gait that only a decent stalker would have noticed.
“What’s up?” he pronounced excitedly, noticing that Kiku was practically flushed from the smile that grew on his face.
“I found a job. I got hired.”
Modesty be damned; Herakles grabbed Kiku by the neck of his shirt and pulled him closer, putting the unresolved sexual tension of six months’ of lusting into an impassioned kiss. The customers in the shop who’d been watching this saga unfold for months cheered and hollered, but none’s voice was so easy to make out as Sidika’s.
A few minutes later, after Kiku had stumbled out of the shop with a dazed look, utterly red in the everything, she was ready to vehemently deny it.
Despite Herakles’ hopes that his wordless confession of undying lust would stir a tempest in Kiku’s heart that would bring him to where he belonged in the Greek’s bed, Kiku was not to be seen for days after the kiss. Hassan calmly reminded Herakles that Kiku had a job, now, and was probably just busy adjusting. Sidika gleefully reminded him that he kissed a shy man who showed nothing more than common courtesy towards him, who quite possibly was not even interested in men, and good luck ever seeing him again.
Rejection and depression first set in in stages. First came the acceptance of the fact that, after two weeks, he should stop being so hopeful every time the bell above the door rang. Then came the realization in the pit of his stomach that he missed Kiku, not just his lean chest and admittedly beautiful ass; this was followed a few minutes later with the realization that he did not regret kissing Kiku, even if this was the result. He, rather childishly, wanted both: Kiku’s refreshingly polite bluntness and his deliciously plump pink lips (and nipples, Herakles added).
It was after that, that Herakles started to wear dejection on his sleeve, carved out in the shape of a heart. Hassan did not approve, but kept his resentment of this approach to himself because he didn’t have any better ideas. Sidika remained surprisingly quiet about the situation.
Quiet, until one late evening/early night; nine-thirty-seven pm, to be specific. The shop was not empty, but it was not full, either. Sitting at the corner table was a couple, a pair of male brunets presumably in college or interning, doubtful possession of a real job between either of them, occupying one of the center tables was a trio of girls, huddled and giggling in what was practically a foreign language, and off in the other corner was a lonely blond, sipping a plain coffee and doing that morning paper’s crossword.
“Before you say anything, I’m well aware that we’re not exactly close,” was how she started when she pulled her bar stool up near his. Her voice was a whisper, gruff but purposefully so.
“But,” Herakles continued for her, softly, if only because he was too damn tired to find his inner snark.
“But someone needs to kick your ass, and no one does that better than me.”
Herakles caught himself half-smiling, and thusly it faded. It was a strange phenomena, though, to be able to smile while he could feel Sidika’s body heat against his arm.
She sighed, “Look, so you fucked up once. Sitting here, moping? It’s not going to help anything, and neither is making out with all these sluts. You’ve got options, and they’re to get over him, or go get him.”
“Why are you giving me advice?”
“Frankly, watching you reliving your high school stoner days isn’t fun of any of us, least of all me.”
“Oh?” Herakles sneered, “Does it bring back bad memories?”
Just as Herakles was about to retort, one of the brunets in the corner smacked the table with a resounding thud, and he stood,
“Fuck it, Antonio! Fuck it and fuck you!”
He strutted out, leaving Antonio alone at the table, shell shocked. Herakles and Sidika looked from him to one another, and the former gave a soft smile.
“Oh. Oh no, you don’t-“
Herakles went over to that table. As he laid awake the next morning, in a strange bed in a foreign apartment in the arms of this beautiful, naked man, he wondered if love existed.
It was the first week of October, and Sidika was outside of the shop, hanging a construction paper pumpkin in the window. It was not that she actually cared about Halloween so much, rather that this decoration was handmade and hand delivered by quite possibly the cutest little Kindergartener she had ever met, and as much as she tried to hide it she had a weakness for children.
As she pulled back to survey her handiwork, her eyes caught sight of the candy cane HELP WANTED sign in the glass.
“U-Um… excuse me?”
She knew that voice. Turning around quickly, she was ready for him with her finger out and her angry face on.
“I’m sorry,” Kiku apologized quickly, placing his hands up and taking a step back. And then he noticed the sign, too. “What...?”
Sidika sighed, shoulders relaxing and her hand waving it off. “You should know something about Herakles. There are only three things in the world of interest to him: cats, philosophy, and sex. It’s why we could never last.”
She sighed again, more softly, and put a hand on her hip. “He usually never takes anything so seriously, and yet he took you… well, at any rate, now that the summer rush is over he’s asked for some time off to think about things. And Hassan, that pushover, gave it to him.”
“…I really messed things up, haven’t I?”
Sidika rolled her eyes, pulling her keys out of her pocket. “If he asks, Hassan let you in.”
When they were upstairs, and she was turning the doorknob to the apartment door to make sure it was open, is when Kiku murmured humbly, “Thank you.”
With a flash of a smile, Sidika was gone. Kiku gripped the doorknob tightly, and after collecting more courage than he realized his body possessed, he was finally able to move.
The apartment was cluttered in a neat way. Certainly it was full of things, but everything had a place and was mostly out of the way. Kiku slipped out of his shoes at the door and padded in on the carpeted floors feeling all too much like an intruder; luckily (or maybe not so), it did not take long to discover Herakles lying on the couch in the living room, staring the ceiling. The floor creaked under Kiku’s weight, but Herakles did not flinch.
“Excuse me...” Kiku whispered hesitantly, softly, “H-Herakles?”
“Ki-…” Herakles breathed a sigh. “Do you… believe in love at first sight?”
Kiku swallowed, and then he walked over to the couch, sitting on his knees on the floor beside and watching the other’s face while his eyes were closed. Herakles’ expression betrayed nothing.
“I used to believe that first sight was limited to lust. My mother believed in love for a while, but she never managed to find it. Watching her break, time and time again… made me wonder if love was just a trick God played on us humans.”
“I don’t think…”
“But lust… was always the safer option. As long as you never invested more into it than it was worth… nothing could hurt you.”
Kiku inhaled sharply; so close to his hand he could feel the other’s pulse a steady beating. Or maybe that was his own, thumping so loudly…
“I’m sorry. I… should not have run away.”
Herakles opened his eyes a crack, their usual beautiful brightness missing, their lack of hazel luster betraying how broken he was on the inside. But with his lips he was smiling, so the breath that froze in Kiku’s throat was able to pass.
“I would apologize, but I don’t want to be forgiven. I meant to do it. My only regret… is that I scared you.”
Kiku licked his lips, and then realized it might have the adverse reaction of drawing the other’s attention to them, again.
But then, he rationed, was it really so adverse anymore?
“Hm?” the other hummed, his eyes falling shut, the left one still open 2 millimeters, enough for Kiku to see the inquisitiveness of the other’s expression. And Herakles was, he was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. You could feign a blind eye, but if you truly did not see it you could only be ignorant, and to hurt him…
“For what I am about to do,” Kiku whispered, his words coming out in puffs over the other’s thinly clothed chest, and oh, what a beautiful chest it was, “I will accept full responsibility.”
He kissed. He marveled at how his top lip could so easily fall into place between Herakles’ two, how Herakles’ full bottom lip felt so right between his thin ones, how warm the other was to the touch and how, perhaps, he tasted a little like olives...
Herakles was not kissing back. When this finally occurred to Kiku, he pulled away, something in his heart shattering and telling him ’now you know how he felt’. Still, his pulse was running away from him, and he could feel the temperature rising in his face.
He turned his head away. His lips were parting, a million apologies resting on the tip of his tongue ready to come out. But-
But then, Herakles’ wide palm was cradling the back of his skull, and the Greek was lifting his own head as he pulled Kiku’s down, down…
They met halfway, and everything fell into place.
On the outside, Falafelosophy looks like every other Mediterranean café in Astoria, with shiny glass windows and a simple tan awning. The menu is modest, the shop unassuming, and while there are three newspaper articles in the window, the place is never fully occupied.
The staff is small, too; Herakles is the cashier, sitting at the register and performing the small tasks of toasting bread and pouring out drinks. Sidika is the waitress, busgirl, and the female sensibility that prevents the place from becoming too stiff and dull. And Hassan is the chef and manager, if only because he is the only one that can keep any semblance of order between the trio. They are quirky and strange and all too unique, even in a vast city like New York, and their coffee shop is a thread of gold in a haystack to people who like to feel a little at home, a little flustered, when they drink their tea and eat their baklava.
And one evening, after the shop is closed (it’s only nine, an early day), Hassan steps out of the kitchen with four small glasses of translucent red juice. Sidika puts down the rag she’s using to dry dishes and steps over.
“Oh, what’s this?”
“Sharbat,” he answered calmly in Arabic, a smile tugging at his lips.
“Oho? Is there something you haven’t told us?”
He laughed, passing the glasses out between the four of them and shaking his head.
“You would be the first to know, if I was getting married,” Hassan answered pointedly. And then his eyes flitted between Herakles and Kiku, “though…”
Kiku flushed. Herakles took his small glass and starting tracing his finger around the rim of it. “What is the occasion, then?”
“Our shop opened four years ago today.”
And suddenly there were identical smiles on all faces in the room, and as they downed their sharbat (some with more difficulty than others) Hassan had no doubts that none of them was thinking too much about the two years that passed.
After all, there were still many more years to come.
A/N: The section where I try to out-do myself by making the notes longer than the actual fic. In bullet points!:
- Fun fact: Japan was not supposed to be in this fic at all. Actually, this had no direction at all until he came in and made Greece fall for him and asljdkaslk I have no idea how this fic happened, but I like it.
- Fic is dedicated to disownmereturns and inuyashacooks because I think of these two as my Mediterranean bros, and because you inspired the fic. inuyashacooks is the person who I prompted this idea to months ago, and disownmereturns' giripan/mediterranean group fics, which I've been reading obsessively over this past week, inspired me to go steal that prompt back and apply it. Plus they're both just amazing writers in their own respects and I'm lazy and this is a late holiday gift
- Astoria: a neighborhood in Western Queens known for it's ginormous Greek population
- Food: Hummus Baklava Sharbat. I could not find a good website to explain sharbat, so I will be brief: in Egypt sharbat is usually drunken to celebrate an engagement or wedding, but I decided that as an Egyptian-America Hassan can do whatever I want him to do with it and so he uses it to celebrate the shop
- The name Falafelosophy is not my brainchild no matter how much I wish it was. I got it, a bit embarrassingly, from one of the new episodes of Arthur
- I apologize for how the beginning seems to have so many unfinished potential plot lines; to be honest, I'd start one then realize it wouldn't work but keep what was written because I liked it. This fic is just like me and the page and randomness happening between us. Thank you if you've read this far, and I hope you guys liked ♥