Devil's Peppermint

- a oneshot –

A/N: This was so, so much fun to write. It took me a few weeks, only because I kind of kept putting it off and losing inspiration. But in the end, I think it turned out very well. Hopefully you like it as well. Reviews are very much appreciated. (:

"You do know it's not polite to stare, right?"

"Don't flatter yourself so much," he replies, glancing up to meet her annoyed expression with a cheeky grin. "I was staring at the Peppermint Mocha and wondering how I got so lucky."

She cocks an eyebrow, sprays whipped cream on top of the frappuccino despite him explicitly telling her not to. "Lucky?" she asks, shoving the drink towards him.

"I've never been served a frappuccino this delicious looking," he says.

She rolls her big, brown eyes, brushing her dark brown bangs out of her eyes and tightening the band holding her hair back. "Maybe that's because you've never had one," she responds, crossing her arms.

"Thank God I'm not indecisive," he says, taking a sip and smiling. "Otherwise I'd never have tasted the heaven that is this drink."

She barks a laugh, "Decisive? You? It took you ten minutes to order that, and that was with me helping you. That old guy almost hit you over the head with his cane," she says, pointing briefly to the elderly gentleman in the back corner with his cup of straight black coffee.

"It didn't take ten minutes," he says, scrunching up his forehead as he thinks. "More like five."

"No," she says. "It was definitely ten."

He smirks up at her, "How would you know? You don't even have a watch." To stop himself from laughing at the flush on her neck and cheeks, he takes another sip of his drink. "God I love peppermint."

"Peppermint is the spawn of the devil," she spits.

This time he really does laugh, "You don't know what you're missing." He leans against the countertop, ignoring the way her fingertips are shoving against his arms. She has slim fingers, nails just barely visible and painted clear.

"No leaning on the countertops," she hisses, her lips dragged down into a frown. "You're blocking the rest of the customers from getting their drinks."

"What customers?" He looks around him, grinning sheepishly at the ring of people gathering around him with their receipts in hand. "I'm not the one keeping them here. Aren't you supposed to be getting their drinks?"

Her cheeks flush dark red, "Get out."

"I'm not loitering," he says, waving his drink in the air as he peels himself off the counter and turns to head out. "You know, I don't think you deserve a tip." Grinning at the look on her face, he opens the door and slides out.

/][\

"Hey, I think I'll get the tall, blonde and crabby," he says as she turns around to take his order. "Oh look, there she is." He smiles the dorky little grin that has most girls falling all over his feet. She only scowls at him, adjusts her black apron.

"You forgot fat," she says in a tone barely above a growl.

"Who called you fat?" he asks, leaning against the countertop and probing her wide brown eyes. "Cause you're as skinny as a model. Unhealthily so, almost."

She nearly smiles, then remembers she's not supposed to care what he thinks, "Just the guy that everyone in school drools to talk to. He said that I had to be careful or I could pass as a mother who'd let herself go." She types something into the machine in front of her, probably logging on.

"What a douche," he says, brushing his dark brown hair back from his face and wincing slightly.

She glances over him for a second, then says, "Perhaps. It's always the jocks." She crosses her arms. "You could really use a haircut. The Justin Bieber look-a-like contest is already over."

"Ouch," he says, placing a hand over his chest dramatically. "Are you offering to give me a makeover?"

"I thought you'd given up on trying to impress me, it being three weeks since you last visited." She washes the blender in her hands thoughtfully, rinsing away the remains of chocolate syrup.

"And give up on my soul-mate?" he asks with another little grin.

She glances back at him, the corners of her mouth turning up just a little, "Please don't tell me you're going to quote Othello or something."

"Please, I'd rather quote Romeo and Juliet," he scoffs. "Let down your hair, fair maiden!"

She flips her ponytail back over her shoulder and grabs another cup from the rack beside her, "Wrong movie, lover boy. Besides, I always thought Rapunzel was a whiny little brat all too determined to fulfill the princess stereotype."

"Ouch," he says. "You're one of those extreme feminists, aren't you?"

"Only the cult-leader," she says, checking her watch. "Don't you have anywhere else to be besides here, bothering me?"

His lower lip slides out in a pout, "And I thought we were becoming BFFs." He slides off the counter and adjusts his coat. "I should probably go pick up some kitty litter from the grocers before they close."

"You're an animal hoarder, aren't you?" she counters with a saucy smirk.

He only laughs as he heads out.

/][\

"Did you just have sex, or are you naturally this exhausted?"

She raises her head off the table, glances irritably through bleary eyes at him, "I'm sleeping. Go away."

"Really not a morning person, are you?" he asks, sliding a peppermint mocha across the table to her. "Here, you're at work. Have a sip, get some color in those cheeks."

Her face turns to the side, eyelashes fluttering, then her nose wrinkles.

"Peppermint is –" she begins grouchily.

"The spawn of the devil," he completes the sentence for her. "I know, I know. But I only had enough for one drink, and I happen to like peppermint, so get over yourself and take a sip."

It takes a minute, but at last she reaches across and takes hold of the drink. Her lips cover the top and she takes a hesitant sip. Her face scrunches up like one of those ugly Pug dogs, or whatever they are.

"So what did you do last night?" he asks after she's taken a few more sips of the warm drink.

She looks up at him, brown eyes finally coming to life, "Had sex."

He grimaces, and she laughs. It's a nice sort of laugh, one that makes her whole face light up. She has nice white teeth.

"You wanted to know," she says, taking another sip of the drink and pushing it back to him. "But no, I wish I could have hooked up with someone. My Psych professor is killing me with this final paper."

"I see," he says. "How old are you, anyways?"

"Stalker," she says, runs a hand through her hair. "I'm a senior, and of course my school is the last one to get out for Christmas break. Christmas is next week."

"Junior college?" he asks, humming sympathetically as she nods an affirmation. "They're always the worst. Gotten your Christmas shopping done yet?"

She snorts, "Holiday shopping is the spawn of the devil."

"Is that like your catch phrase or something?" he asks with a little smile.

"I'm not a freaking superhero," she says, tipping her head to the side.

His eyes narrow, "Are you sure about that? I can see you being one of those people who lives a double life."

"Yeah," she mumbles. "By night I'm a porn-star."

He chokes on his drink, and she laughs wickedly.

"So, how old are you?" she asks. "Since, you know, we're already playing Ultimate Stalker."

He smiles at her sass, "I would probably watch that show if they had one like it."

"It would replace Degrassi," she mumbles as she steals his drink from between his hands and takes a sip. He finds it prudent not to mention that she's supposed to hate peppermint; she'd probably castrate him if he did.

"Was that show ever good?" he asks.

She giggles – the sound surprising coming from the queen of darkness – and snaps, "No. Every time I watch the newest promos I cringe. They look like freakin' seventh graders in the midst of a mid-life crisis."

"Harsh," he says, laughs anyways. He hasn't laughed this much in a long time. "Anyways, I graduated two years ago, studied law in Manhattan."

Her brown eyes widen and she looks kind of confused. Taking a third sip of the peppermint mocha, she asks, "Why move to an out of the way place like Oregon?"

"I grew up here," he says, scratching the back of his neck uncomfortably. "My parents eventually moved to Florida – guess they wanted a bit more sun. But I'd always loved it here, so I just kind of…came back." He shrugs nonchalantly.

"Interesting," she says, studying him like he's a fascinating species of insect. "I want to get out of here one day, open a bookstore slash coffee shop in Hollywood or something. There's nothing to do here."

He smiles at the whine in her tone, understanding her longing to be something more. This town kind of has that constricting feel on people, like it's trying to push them out.

"You like reading?" he asks, taking a gulp of the drink and passing it to her.

She shrugs, "Guilty pleasure." Her eyes flash to check the time on her watch. "I should get back to work."

"Well, it was nice to have a civil conversation with you," he says, holding out a hand. "The name is –"

"I don't do names," she says matter-of-factly, taking a last sip of the mocha before sliding out and heading back to get her register or something.

He smiles, calling after here, "Nice to stalk you."

Her laugh rings out across the café.

/][\

"We're closed," she says, irritated, as he squeezes his way through the employee entrance in back and joins her.

He smiles, "I didn't see a sign. "

"If you'd come in the normal way then you would have," she mutters agitatedly, wringing the washcloth in her hands out over the sink before returning to the counter she was scrubbing. There are lines burrowing in the corners of her lips, on her forehead and between her eyes; she looks like she hasn't slept in a few days, and he suspects that she's in a just less than stellar mood.

"I'm a stalker," he jokes. "We don't follow the rules."

"Of course not," she snaps, continuing to scrub at the same patch of counter like she's hoping to drown away the paint.

His eyes make a path around the café, noticing how different it looks when closed. All but a few chairs are stacked on top of the shining yellow and red tables and a dustpan is sitting by the closest table, filled with bits of trash. The lighting is dimmed just enough so that whoever's left can see, though with the evening light flooding through the front windows, it doesn't matter much. The quiet is almost disturbing; he would have thought she'd be playing hard rock songs through her iPod right now. Crossing behind her, he makes his way to the opposite side of the counter so that he can look her square in the face. She's mumbling under her breath angrily and if he didn't know her better he'd think she was PMSing.

"I bought you a chocolate chip muffin."

She eyes him over the counter as she pulls off her apron, then responds, "I'm allergic to chocolate chips."

"Sure you are," he says with a roll of his eyes, beckoning her towards the muffin on the counter. "Girls cannot possibly be allergic to chocolate, especially when they have their final exams coming up tomorrow."

"You remembered?" She sounds incredulous. After a pause, she reaches out and tugs off a piece of muffin, tossing it in her mouth.

He smiles, waiting for her to join him on the customer's side of the café before replying with, "I've been praying for you all morning. The priests at Confession were starting to give me weird looks after I told them about my selfish desire for you to succeed."

"I've never seen you sign the cross," she points out with a little smirk. "No offense to Catholics. They're cool. But someone's losing their touch." She gives him a mocking little smile. They move towards the front door and when he trips over one of the chairs left on the ground she bursts out laughing and calls him a klutz.

"Fine, fine, maybe I'm not Catholic," he admits. "But I really hope you do well."

She looks at him for a long second, as though trying to read his motivation.

"I don't think you're getting any brownie points with God," she says at last, "but thanks, I guess. It's nice to have someone care."

He feels the sudden urge to cup her cheek in the palm of his hand and his breath catches. She looks kind of stunned, but quickly covers it up with the familiar smirk he's come to enjoy.

"You deserve all the care in the world," he tells her honestly, barely able to keep the grin from his lips.

She takes another minute to look at him as though he's a crazy person before replying, "I feel like I'm watching Dawson's Creek. What, are you going to tell me that you have a identical twin who is evil and sucks up to me just so he can take my blood for an experiment? " It appears the question is rhetorical.

She grabs the peppermint mocha from his right hand and, pulling a marker from a pocket in her apron, scribbles something onto the cup. Taking a long sip of the drink, she flashes him one of her brazen and unconfident looks rolled into one before handing him his drink back and turning to lock the door of the café.

"I'll see you whenever then," he tells her as he backs away.

Her eyes meet his, deep, brown. "Later," she says with a little smile. Then she walks down the street away from him and he's left to work on his breathing for a minute as he reads the digits on the side of his cup. She's signed the space above her number with From Her.

/][\

He dials her number with quivering fingers, wondering if he's acting a bit possessive. I mean, technically, they're only acquaintances from the coffee shop. Why is he so stupid as to actually believe that she trusts him? He shouldn't be – it's stupid of him to call her. He pulls the phone back to hang up.

"Hello?" Her voice sounds kind of stuffy.

"Hey, it's your stalker," he says. "I haven't seen you in the shop for weeks."

She sighs, "Sorry mom, didn't realize I had to check in with you."

The sarcasm in her voice is blatant; sometimes it drives him crazy, at least until he realizes that it's just a part of her. Just like the little smiles she tries to hide when she's excited about something, or the way her fingers tap the countertop when she's trying to memorize an order. Just like the way her lists of banter appropriate responses never seems to end, or her wry sense of humor is always there like a wall, or the way her dark, wavy hair looks depending on what kind of mood she's in. He wonders when he started noticing so many things about her.

"Is – is everything okay?" he asks, frowning when there is a little sniffle on her end.

Another sniffle, and it almost sounds like she's crying. It almost sounds impossible, the thought of her breaking down in tears.

"I just," she pauses, taking a deep breath. "Just being stupid, I guess. I tanked my most important exam and my professor told me that everything I'd been achieving for these past few years wasn't the right path for me. She told me that I'd been wasting my time and that she couldn't really see me being an architect." She faltered a bit on the last words, as though she hadn't meant to tell him all that.

"You wanted to be an architect?" he asks, trying to keep his voice gentle. For once, she doesn't seem to care that he's babying her.

She laughs, kind of bitterly, mumbles, "Ever since I was young. That's why I wanted to move to the city, I suppose. Build skyscrapers and all that. But now it's a pipe dream."

"Well," he begins, searching for the right words. He doesn't know what to tell her exactly, mainly because he never had quite this problem. Sure, he doubted, but she'd just lost four years of her life to a nearly-there degree she'll probably never finish or use.

"Where are you?" she asks abruptly.

"Uh, at home?" he responds questioningly.

She coughs on her end, says, "Let's meet in the park. Well I – I just need to not be alone." She doesn't seem compromising, but that's always been her personality.

"Give me ten minutes and I'll be there."

"Meet me at the arbor in the center of the park," she says, then hangs up.

He spends a few minutes in front of the mirror, trying on a few shirts that suit his figure best – she'd laugh at him for thinking like this. After brushing his teeth thoroughly and fixing his chestnut hair to that tousled, wind-swept look, he grabs his keys and heads out. She's sitting on the bench across from the arbor when he gets there and he takes a second to observe her without her noticing that he's ogling. With her hair down and moving gently in the breeze – restrained only by the white, croqueted beanie on her head - and the only makeup on her face a light coat of mascara, she looks rather beautiful.

"Hey," he calls out as he approaches, handing her one of the cups in his hand. She takes a sip of peppermint mocha and smiles at the sharp taste she always claimed to hate.

"Hey," she says, turning to look at him. Her face is more pensive than he's ever seen it, relaxed. He likes it. "Thanks for coming," she adds a second later.

"It's kind of cold," he tells her.

She shrugs, "You're just a wuss. The cold is awesome."

"Hurtful," he whines jokingly, shoving her shoulder lightly with his own. "So, you tanked the final, huh?"

A pause, then she nods, muttering, "Just had to remind me."

"It's the only reason you want me here," he points out, wrapping an arm instinctively behind her as she leans into the back of the bench. "But hey, listen to me." He waits for her to look up at him and realizes just how small she is. Her personality makes up for it.

"If you're going to lecture me, save it," she responds sharply.

He feels her lean slightly into him and says, "I wasn't going to lecture you. Stop being so defensive. I wanted to tell you that –"

"What?" Her head slides into the crook of his neck, but her body is stiff. "That I'm full of potential and I shouldn't let life get me down? That it's just one test and doesn't determine the rest of my life? I already got that from my family!"

"Why do you even want me here then, damn it?" He flies up onto his feet and whirls to face her. "I'm not going to sit here and spend time trying to make you feel better if you're going to hurl insults at me. I thought we were past that!"

She rises to her feet slowly, approaches him. "We are," she breathes.

"Then why don't I even know your first name?" he wonders, voice rising. "Why won't you even trust me with that?"

She snaps, tears building up in her eyes. "Because I was worried something like this would happen," she yells, cupping his face between her hands and kissing him. Instantly his body responds, his arms going about her waist and his torso pressing against her own. His lips claim hers, probably bruising them, but she doesn't seem to care. When she finally pulls away she's gasping, but manages to hiss, "I was worried that I would finally care about someone, you. That I would be stupid enough to throw away my plans just to be with you, because I – I love you."

"You're so stupid," he says, kissing her again. "Look, I don't want you throwing away anything for me. You're practically running the café now and have fantastic management skills. So what if architecture didn't work out? Your niche is business. I'll be right here by your side, but I wouldn't ever want you giving one of your dreams up. You're more than that."

She links their fingers and looks back at the pair of peppermint mochas sitting on the bench. Then she smiles, asks, "Is that your way of saying 'I love you, too?'"

This time, when their lips meet, the kiss is gentle.

/][\

"Would you mind telling me how you managed to get the priest to say Him and Her instead of our names?" he asks, fuming.

She smiles up at her husband and says, "You can pay off anyone these days." Linking their fingers, she tugs him faster towards the car, grumbling as he continues to dig his feet into the concrete. "Why are you moving so slowly?"

"Honey, we have the rest of forever," he says, trying to calm her down. "Besides, I'm still trying to figure out why you paid the priest to change our names."

She shrugs, "I thought it represented us, you know? I didn't even tell you my name until we got engaged, and that was because you said you wouldn't marry me if I didn't tell you. Ironic, considering you proposed."

"You're such a handful," he complains.

She raises their hands up and kisses his knuckles affectionately, replying, "No one but the Ultimate Stalker would stand a chance."

"You'd probably have them running away crying in a half hour tops," he agrees.

Her laugh echoes around the courtyard, "You know me so well. Now, will you hurry up?"

"Are you determined to sleep with me before dinner?" he jokes, tugging her to a stop so that he can just look at her.

"Gotta burn the calories somehow," she says with a giggle, wrapping her arms around his neck as he kisses her. It is short and sweet, but it's one of the best kisses they've ever shared. "Then again, they are serving peppermint mochas for desert," she says after she pulls back and smacks her lips together. "Choices, choices…"

"You're comparing me to coffee?" he asks, rolling his eyes. "And you said you didn't like them."

She detangles her hand from his and skips ahead, turning back to stick her tongue out at him. "They're the spawn of the devil," she says, "but if I get to keep you, then I'll compromise." With that, she takes off for the car, hoisting her gown up so it won't get caught up those blasted heels she was forced to wear.

"God, you're a handful," he breathes, watching her run. "But you're so worth it."

He chases after her, screaming like a banshee. Her laughter fills the air, beautiful and clear.

- fin -