Queen of Spades

A/N: Yes, you read that summary correctly – this is a yuri YumePati fanfic. Plot bunny time, courtesy of episode eight! It also helps that Henri-sensei was pretty mean to Mari again – the poor girl really needs to get over him.

Queen of Spades

It always surprises her how cold it is when she leaves the shop in the evening, long after the sun has disappeared from behind the murky clouds. The wind always seems to be whipping its way through the streets by then, and she finds that, no matter how much she wears, it always bites her to the bone. Tonight is no different; above, the trees creak heavily in the wind, and she can smell a hint of snow in the air.

She closes the shop quickly, the keys having become cold in an instant. She used to try to fiddle with it with her gloves on, but she’s learned that this is no good. If she wants the door locked, then she’ll just have to let her hands freeze. She smiles mildly to herself – it seems cavalier somehow for a patissiere to do such a thing, after all. But it’s her own shop, after all, and although she trusts Ricardo and thinks he does great work, well… he’s just not herself.

If she’s being truly honest with herself, though, she will admit that she also prefers to send him home before it gets too late. It embarrasses her slightly to even just consider this fact – she isn’t that old, she shouldn’t be feeling motherly yet. And it isn’t something that she’s accustomed to at all.

After the shop is locked, she makes her way a bit further down the street to the subway station. She isn’t crazy about taking it so late in the evening, but the taxi is hardly affordable on her budget. Her subway pass sits in her pocket, easily accessible; in her hands she has a small pastry box, a delicate pastry box, she reminds herself. She’s trying to get rid of their remaining stock of these boxes, having decided to go for a stronger type of cardboard. The boxes they’d bought initially hadn’t done a very good job of keeping people’s purchases safe and uncrushed. Mari has resorted to using the older, weaker ones for her own personal use as a result.

On the train she hums slightly, leaning fully against the back of her seat, her back and feet sore from hours of standing. She doesn’t like commuting on the trains this late, but she prefers it to the morning crush. She smiles when she thinks on this; she can’t be a real Japanese person, after all – don’t all real Japanese people think every train outside of places like Tokyo are wonderfully empty, after all?

She finds herself falling into a reverie, the clicking noises from the train hypnotic. Time has begun to move faster than she can keep track of it; Amano and her friends seem to have been in town only days before, not months. Christmas has come and gone – and, perhaps, saved the shop entirely. The place has become quite popular, and she is beginning to wonder if it may be wise to look into hiring another patissiere. She’s already got a cashier working full-time now. Someone much nicer than Sarah. Although she realizes now that, although Sarah wasn’t a particularly good employee, she herself was not a particularly good boss.

It’s these little things that are especially making time seem so rapid. It had always been difficult to get close to others, but Mari had never realized how intimidating she seemed to others. It hadn’t bothered her that she had no confidants beyond Honey. She had a goal in her mind, and other people just seemed… tiresome.

Other than Henri-sensei, of course.

Ah, but here was something else which was so different from just those short months ago. Because…

Well, it was still a bit painful to admit it. Because she had chased at his heels for so long, even after he told her that there was no room for love in the life of the patissiere. She was embarrassed now to think that she hadn’t managed to drop her interest after that. She had thought she could at the time. But she’d failed to do so then.

Now, though, she could see Henri-sensei in the chilly light of reality. Henri-sensei was certainly a genius when it came to the culinary arts, but, in truth, he was an emotionally distant man, a man given to pitting his protégés against each other in a thoughtless pursuit of perfection in them. There was some merit behind his methods, but he never seemed to either be aware of or care particularly about the emotional impact of said methods. If she had fruitlessly leaped after his shadow so many times, it was in part due to his own manner with her when she’d first been his student. He seemed so charming most of the time. She had hardly been the first one to become smitten; she was sure she wasn’t to be the last either. But she may’ve been the most hopeless.

Henri-sensei’s hard demeanor and strict threats had not helped her, nor had sending Amano and the others to work under her nose rattled her in a useful manner. It hadn’t been until she let Linda into the shop that fateful day that she’d finally come to understand what it was she had to do. It hadn’t been until that day that she’d finally come to understand that Henri Lucas was no benevolent master, that her only way forward was to cut her ties with him as much as she could.

And it was a matter of ‘as much’ for the time being. Henri-sensei owned the retail space, after all, and they’d had to dig themselves out of a bit of red before she could even start thinking about things such as hiring a full-time cashier. But Mari had dreams, she had plans; she was diligently saving up, trying to put as many pennies away as possible. She was going to buy that storefront, come hell or high water. And if Henri-sensei wouldn’t sell? Well, there were lots of empty storefronts for sale in the city. She wouldn’t like moving, but she wouldn’t like remaining dependent on Henri Lucas, either.

When she gets to her stop, she feels slightly reluctant to leave the warmth of the train car. The station feels a bit like a sauna, and it is cozy in the winter weather. She shivers her way from the station to her apartment, where she fiddles with the keys, all of which seem to look exactly the same. She is forced to put down the pastry box, but she picks it back up again after getting the door open, and she slips quietly inside.

All the lights are off, so she hangs her coat on the doorknob, along with her scarf, gloves, and hat to save the noise that would be made were she to open the tiny closet. She puts the cake in the kitchen on the counter, and tilts the lid up slightly so that the contents can be seen. A nice little breakfast surprise… a thank you, probably. Like always.

Her pajamas are in the bathroom, and she changes quickly, the tile floor freezing beneath her feet. She brushes her teeth – all the sugar from taste-testing has made her mouth feel syrupy and sticky. And then she snaps the light off, and makes her way to her bedroom.

She’s quiet with this door, too, and takes care to not unsettle the bed too much when she crawls into it. Linda is fast asleep; auditions all day as usual, the theater and dance season picking up again after the lull immediately following the holidays. Mari can feel herself grinning a bit in the dark, uncharacteristically so. She curls closely to Linda, who stirs slightly in her sleep, mumbling nonsense. Henri Lucas can have his no-romance policy. She’ll take this and her shop, and she’ll surpass him. He always did say she’d never improve by chasing his shadow, after all, didn’t he? Now she doesn’t see him, let alone his shadow. He’s gone. Utterly gone.

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