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Maxwell Castillo

I'll be a dreamer 'til the day I die

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Maxwell Castillo

Meeting Ally had, perhaps, been the biggest turnaround in his not-so-illustrious career of...serving people who perpetually thought of themselves as better than him.  Under normal circumstances, Max put on the brave face.  That was what he was good at, right?  Grinning and bearing it, terminally cheerful in a way that nauseated even him even while the inner workings of his mind slandered acidic insults on whichever customer of the night had grated their expensively manicured nails on his imaginary chalkboard.  He'd never quite imagined how much the hurled abuse of 'his betters' would bother him when it was his mother on the receiving end of their villainous rants.

 

Then Rosa had gone and passed her little gem, her precious restaurant, onto her eldest child.

 

It was, at this point, that Max's life truly descended from 'relatively unmotivated toward anything' into 'actual, literal hell.'  It had garnered other things in him, too, of course.  A work ethic, for one, which he hadn't really had until he'd realized how much work actually went into being the boss.  He had to actually do things.  Then there was his proficiency with a wand (or lack thereof, for that matter) which hadn't really been honed until he had to use it in a kitchen to make some sniveling half-veela from Lyon stop simpering into her plate in the tone of a funeral march.

 

Tequila, too.  It had garnered in him a deep thirst and strong affinity for even stronger alcohol...to numb the increasingly long days that turned into increasingly long nights and the crippling self-doubt that seemed omnipresent in all adults his age.  Who'd have predicted that gem arriving with year twenty-five, right?

 

And then there was Ally, who had come sweeping (stumbling, perhaps?  He couldn't remember the day clearly—there'd been a lot of alcohol and a lot of crying when one of the waitresses had curled into the fetal position somewhere...to the right of the stove...and then there had been the proposition!)  Max neglected to consider that calling it a proposition made it seem so much more obscene than it was—and what it was, of course, was a business proposition of the completely legitimate (and more importantly, legal) sort.  She'd been to a wedding he'd catered for so-and-so (names were not important, not that he could recall every wedding he'd ever cooked for) and she'd picked up a business card from a friend with this address.  She was planning another wedding, she'd explained, and she needed him to cater it and if all went well, there were plenty of more opportunities down the road to do more than slave behind that stainless steel counter from eight in the morning to midnight.

 

That, of course, made a long story very short and neglected to footnote the shameless flirting that occasionally occurred (nothing more, business would get weird—an excuse they'd both sort of mumbled to each other in the same moment when flirting tottered on the cusp of more.)  That had been, by Max's count, nearly a year ago and too many weddings to keep track of.  It had led to him hiring someone else to actually run the place while he took over this half of the business venture.

 

Surprisingly, there was less abuse hurled from brides than there was from angry half-veelas and their paramours.  

 

It also led to Max being there on the only day that the place was closed, a Monday, late in the morning, sitting atop the bar with a coffee while he waited for the telltale click of the door swinging open to signify Ally's arrival.

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Ally Turner

Had it only been a year?  By Ally’s count it seemed like so much less and at the same time so much longer too.  The days seemed to trickle by slowly with time skipping by underneath her feet unaccounted for all at once.  But when she’d met Max, she’d never stumbled, oh no, those days were long behind her.  She’d known just what she was walking into. Or at least she thought she had.   

 

She’d spent years stumbling around, figuratively of course; sickles trickling in here and there for her horoscopes had finally managed to get her business off the ground and get her out of her mother’s house and but it hadn’t been enough.  She should have seen it coming, really.  What good is setting people up, if you didn’t expect it to last?  If it lasted, of course a wedding was inevitable but getting asked to help plan it had been unexpected.  Getting paid to help plan it, well… she definitely wasn’t stumbling anymore.  

 

Making contacts with dress designers, bakers, bands, jewelers, florists, and yes even caterers.  It was a good thing she had never really been a shy person because she had never done so much sweet talking in her life.  

 

Because she now spent so much time actually planning weddings it was rare that she actually got to be a guest at one but this time she’d made an exception.  One of the first couples who’d actually decided to tie the knot had invited her to sit back and enjoy the celebration as a thank you and she found she couldn’t resist.  The break couldn’t have come at a more needed time.  At present she had several couples she was planning for, and she was exhausted.  At any rate, she hadn’t remembered but she’d sent this particular couple on their first date to this restaurant, Max’s restaurant, and they simply had to have his food at their wedding.  They’d already taken it upon themselves to speak to him directly.   

 

But even as a guest she couldn’t sit still, couldn’t stop working.

 

So maybe meeting Max had been an accident, but keeping him there had been a business decision.  With the pretense of having another wedding to cater she’d gone in to speak with Max himself about setting up some kind of deal.  She didn’t yet, coincidentally, have a wedding that he might actually be of service for but that little white lie would be something she’d deal with later.  She couldn’t pass up the chance to make another valuable connection.  It didn’t hurt that he wasn’t so bad to look at either. 

 

The arrangement proved too good for either of them to pass up.  Soon enough, weekends were for events, long and hectic days filled with comments (hers significantly more optimistic) on the fate of the couple of the night followed by long weeks that started much like this one.  Monday’s were for recovery and Tuesday’s were for tastings.  Wednesday’s held menu reviews and Thursday’s…?  Well, Thursday’s was 2 for 1 tequila night (at least after hours) and dinner held host to the best sangria she could ever ask for.  

 

It was relatively safe to say the only day of the week she really didn’t see Max was Friday.  Date night.  For her anyways, but nothing ever stuck and no she didn’t like to talk about it.  How quaint it was that she had done so well in helping others find love but seemed so incapable of finding it herself. 

 

She didn’t have a clue what Max did with his Friday nights and she didn’t ask.  Today however, wasn’t Friday.  It was Monday, and they had catching up to do.  They might have been friends, there might have been something more, but Ally wouldn’t readily admit it.  Business came first despite how much harder it was becoming to remember why that stipulation was there.  She’d worked too hard to lose it all in one night. But, he knew exactly how she took her coffee.  Especially after having to work late at an event the night before.  

 

Speaking of… 

 

“That’s for me, yes?”  She hid a yawn behind the backside of her hand, the most certainly over-sized bag over her shoulder dropping hard onto one of the restaurant tables as her heels clicked across the floor towards the counter where he sat.  Expectantly, her hand reached out for the cup.  
 

Edited by Ally Turner

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Maxwell Castillo

His mother had asked him once when she'd come to his apartment for breakfast how it was that he knew how Ally Turner took her coffee, but he hadn't invited her to meet Rosa or Rafael yet.  Max had faltered, stammering through an awkward explanation that shouldn't have made the tips of his ears turn red at thirty-three years old.  It had gone something along the lines of, 'Because it isn't like that, mamá, stop pushing!'  It had done no good, of course, because Max couldn't accurately explain why or how he knew that Ally took her coffee with enough sugar to send a diabetic into shock and that she wanted enough cream in it to make it caramel colored, no more and no less.  She preferred a cappuccino to a regular cup, but she'd drink either if the opportunity was presented to her, and she always picked it over tea.

 

He knew which hand she wrote with (her right), that sangria was her preferred drink (with or without the addition of Andalusian rum) but she liked 2 for 1 tequila night just as much as the next young lady sitting at the bar, and that she worked far too much for her own good.

 

It was no wonder Rosa had asked, really.  From the outside, they were together enough to be mistaken for married (and they had been, once or twice, awkwardly and uncomfortably and stammering for their own separate excuses) and Max, like Ally, had a hard time remembering that they'd both said it was best this way...to just be friends.  Business was booming, after all.  Why ruin a good thing?  He didn't want to return to every evening spent behind the stove and he doubted very much that Ally liked the idea of returning to doing horoscopes in her mother's attic.

 

Max looked up at the sound of her voice, startled from the thoughts that ranged from 'why are we doing this again?' to 'did I make her a copy of the menu plan?'  He was certain he would have heard from her if he hadn't or that her disposition would have been less sleepy and more genuinely irritated with him had he done that.  It had been awhile, anyway, since Max had made such a beginner's mistake.  He wasn't actually stupid, regardless of what his brother liked to claim, and upsetting Ally made him feel...worse than upsetting other people.

 

He pushed the cup toward her along the dark, polished stone of the bar.  "Extra sugar, caramel colored.  Hazelnut morning blend," he chirped in response before giving her a good look.  He got out of events relatively earlier than she did.  She had to stay all the way through to the end.  Max was only required to be there until food was packed up and returned to Rosa.  

 

"Rough night?"  He wrinkled his nose.  The last couple had been...exceptionally trying, even for him.  Then he held his hand out.  "I thought it would be.  She was uh..."  He pressed his hands flat against the bar on either side of him and made a face.  "She was something."

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Ally Turner

 

"What is it about weddings that turns them into complete nightmares?" Came the reply.  She slid onto the bar stool and the cup extended to her slid into her grasp. It was all so familiar, so normal, so domestic one might even say.  Lifting it up, she took a moment to inspect it thoroughly, it wouldn't have been the first time he'd tried to convince her that she didn't need that much sugar in the morning or that the creamer was detracting from the flavour of the actual coffee (the hazelnut today though was a nice touch).  It passed the test.

 

Slowly she brought it to her lips and rolled back her thoughts on the night before as she took a sip.  A small laugh poured out of her not more then a few seconds later and she found herself rising back up off the stool and taking a few aimless steps in a circle as she spoke.  “Did you hear that speech the best man gave? I swear they really should have someone look those over first. If I was that bride and I heard…” She shook her head and took another sip of the still very full and nearly spilling cup of coffee before she wound up wearing it.   “Let’s just say it’s probably a good thing she had no where on that dress to keep her wand.”

 

She’d been to more weddings then she could count by this point but it still surprised her when something new managed to come up and the best man spilling such a scandalous secret with no shame in the middle of his toast was definitely now at the top of her list.  It would now be near the top of her list of “Reminders to the Bride and Groom” in the hopes of stopping any potential duels from breaking out. It had come close.

 

“You know the bride wanted me to throw him out though.  The best man, I mean. No one complained about the food though.”  Broad grin and three steps back towards the bar, a hand patted his knee and she sunk back down onto the bar stool.  

 

“Hear me now, I promise if…” and that was a big if at this point she feared,  “...IF I ever get married I won’t be such an arse to the help.”

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Maxwell Castillo

"The inevitable destruction of the nuclear family," Max answered, voice flat, completely serious.  He wasn't, of course—serious, that is—his own parents had been happily (?) married for something like forty years by then.  He only questioned the happily part because they bickered constantly, but he supposed old married were supposed to bicker like that.  It was part of the territory.  It had still left him somewhat disillusioned about the idea of maintaining that honeymoon period for anything longer than...well, the honeymoon, obviously.  

 

Of the two of them, Ally was definitely the optimist, which was strange, in and of itself, because Max was normally a relatively cheerful sort of bloke.  "I didn't hear the best man's speech," he eventually relented.  "I was distracted by the old woman that kept telling me that I reminded her of her husband.  He's dead, by the way.  Twenty years ago."  He added the last bit with a little extra emphasis so that Ally would fully understand just how old he was talking about in regards to this extremely flirtatious octogenarian.  "But hear me out—if the best man had something so lewd and lascivious to slather about his speech, maybe the bride and groom should have been a little bit more..."  He coughed.  "Open with each other...you know, prior to promises of eternity."

 

Unlike Ally (or perhaps not, he had never really asked her where she stood on wedding brawls) Max would have actually paid hard money to watch nuptials explode into a five minute segment of Smash Brothers or a mixed martial arts event.  Hell, he'd have settled for a wizard's duel and someone's head being turned into a pumpkin.  Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for Ally), his business associate (friend?  flirtationship?  boss?) was actually very good at her job and nothing had ever unnecessarily exploded except the one time the bride had actually wanted something to explode and for doves or pigeons or some other filthy, shouldn't-be-around-food member of the avian family to burst out of a cake.  Not the cake, of course, another cake, which he had been tasked with creating, complete with disgusting, still living filling who had no trouble exploding out at the appropriate time because they were pissed as all hell about being sealed into a pastry.

 

Max smiled widely.  "Of course they didn't complain about the food.  I only ever put the best out for you, Turner,"   

 

The statement that followed, however, gave him more pause than anything else had.  Perhaps because Max had never really considered Ally's own wedding or perhaps because the idea of it looming in the future felt vaguely threatening in a way he couldn't quite discern. "If?" he asked, arching an eyebrow in question.  "There some Prince Charming I don't know about?  I'm wounded, Ally.  Really."  He mocked a frown.  "We spend so much time together and you didn't even tell me."

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Ally Turner

One could learn a lot about someone else over the course of a year and over time, if Ally had learned one thing about Max (truth be told she had learned several things about Max but that wasn’t the point) if she was allowed to name only one, it would have been that for him, sarcasm came almost as easily as breathing.  Or it seemed to be that way when she was around. Maybe it was because she supplied more than enough of the bright side to cover them both but she knew no different and his quip barely phased her.

 

Except enough for her to say, “It’s honestly too early in the morning for words like inevitable and nuclear... please.”  Her tone was just as flat and unforgiving as his had been, supplied with a eyeroll to boot. It didn’t surprise her in the slightest that he would have a story to tell about someone hitting on him either.  Usually they weren’t so elderly, or so widowed but it wasn’t uncommon and she jumped at the chance to give him a hard time over it. He would have done the same to her.


“Aww someone found their next date!” She teased.  “It’s cause you’re just too cute, even the nana’s can't stay away.” That time she even waited long enough in expectation of whatever he might toss back at her, because she knew it would be coming.  What she didn’t expect was how quickly he would launch into a declaration so bold over something he hadn’t actually even overheard.

 

Leaning back against the back of the seat, she folded an arm across her chest and hooked one of her heels into the footrest.  “Maybe they were. Maybe she did know about it. That doesn’t mean it needed to be announced to every friend, family member, and co-worker who RSVP’d.  Sometimes some things are better left unsaid.”

 

From where she sat it was easy enough to look up at him and catch his eyes.  Once she caught them, however, and by the time she’d finished talking even she wasn’t entirely sure whether she’d been remarking to him on that incident or trying to give herself a reminder.  

 

Thankfully, promptly shoving her own foot in her mouth not a moment later was a surefire way to send her stumbling down distraction lane.

 

“What? No.  Stop being dramatic.” This time she actually shoved his leg with enough force that he probably could have fallen right off the bar if he hadn’t been expecting it.  “I said ‘if’ because I can’t imagine that day will ever come at this point. It’s best I just stick to making everyone else’s perfect day, well, perfect yea?”
 

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Maxwell Castillo

Ally was right in regards to the attention paid to him at weddings.  Women, in particular, it seemed (though he didn't doubt it happened to men, as well, he just hadn't been on the receiving end of it and if Ally was, well, she wasn't talking) got some sort of romantic idea in their heads about things that happened at wedding and proceeded to flirt with anyone who seemed even moderately interested.  Max, for all the good it did, attempted to seem totally uninterested to the point of being comical, which had only succeeded in making it seem like he was actively trying to engage them in humor.  As per the usual, his attempts at Slytherin-esque trickery fell flat.

 

That being said, he was not amused by Ally's teasing.  Or, at least, he attempted to look like he was not amused by fixing her with a flat, pointedly disappointed stare.  

 

"While I appreciate that you've noticed how cute I am," he emphasized that point, one eyebrow arched as if he was trying to remind her that they'd been down this road (drunk on sweet sangria, giggling until their sides hurt in the early hours of the morning at his restaurant, trying to wind down after a particularly awful wedding) and they'd both decided (stumbled, stammered, as awkward as two teenagers trying to navigate first kisses) that it was best their partnership remain business-oriented or, at the very least, pointedly platonic.

 

He could not count the number of times he had mentally kicked himself for butchering that conversation the way that he had, effectively ruining the only real chance he'd ever had at maybe being something more.  Or even just more fun, if anything else.  Not that they didn't have fun.  THe night with the sangria was among his better memories, but that wasn't exactly where he'd been going—

 

Max's train of thought was abruptly interrupted by the shove against his leg, which would have sent him sliding off the end of the polished bar he was sitting on if his fingers hadn't been curled around the edge.  He did falter a bit, tottering dangerously to one side before his balance returned.  "Ever?" he snorted, rolling his eyes.  "Now who's dramatic?  Come on, you can't tell me I'm the only person being accosted at these things?  I'll accuse you of lying if you do, fair warning.  Maybe you'll meet Mr. Right at someone's wedding.  It gets people in the mood for these things, you know.  Maybe I'll cater for your someday, give a cynical speech, ruin everything~"

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Ally Turner

They walked a precarious line that, depending on the night of the week (2 for 1 tequila night always seemed to be the trickiest) could sometimes be a bit blurred.  It had all started out so simple, so easy.  They worked together, regularly, it made sense not to clutter that up with complications and at first it wasn't even as if that kind of complication was on the radar.  

 

Until of course that one night and all sangria.  It wasn't often that things went wrong at events, but this time it was beyond wrong.  No explosions, or duels but when sister of the bride had enjoyed just a little too much at the open bar and decided the head table was the perfect place for a nap just before the bouquet toss (and said bouquet had become their pillow of choice) she couldn't blame the bride herself for being just a tad angry.  Pair that up with fingerprints in the cake from an over-eager three year old and a shoe (still remained unclaimed by the end of the night) that was found... well it was found lodged in the brides near-perfect up-do but only because it had been flung into the rafters by a mystery couple hiding behind a decorative room divider near the back of the room.  

 

It wasn't a wonder that Ally had wound up needing a drink back at Rosa by the time she'd sorted it all out at the end of the night.  Getting through a whole pitcher however had been regrettable.  Not in every way, but definitely in the fact that it made their whole arrangement that much more complicated.  She probably should have packed it all up and shut it all down there.  But, she hadn’t.  Awkward aside, she hadn't been able to bring herself to cut Max out completely.  She even kept coming back for more Sangria and thinking about what if things had gone differently?   

 

In the end, she didn't need his subtle reminder that they had been there before, she already thought about it often enough.  But, it did serve a purpose to sober her up enough to realize that goading him in such a way was going to do neither of them any good.  "Right, well." Again she brought the cup to her lips, a longer sip now and folded one knee across the other, finding a swirled pattern in the wood grain of the bar top that caught her gaze to focus on instead of him.  

 

"Yea, I don't know." She shrugged, more then uncomfortable now with where she'd accidentally taken the conversation.  "You went to Hogwarts too, getting out it was like some race to get married before the ink on your apparition licence fully dried."  Granted, she hadn't actually known Max while they were in school, different circles and different friends.   

 

"I'm not at the weddings to meet people, I'm there to work.  You know that." She added after a moment and even though her head was screaming at her to drop it there and say no more she couldn't, wouldn't and absolutely didn't.  Curiosity got the better of her and even the pattern on the bar couldn't hold her attention and keep her from looking back up at Max again, one more question crept out, "Why would you want to ruin my wedding?" 

 

 

Edited by Ally Turner

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Maxwell Castillo

Is it too early for drinking, Max wondered to himself, watching the shift in her demeanor.  Things had been easy, flowing as naturally as they had before what he liked to refer to as Sangria NightTM and then he'd gone and ruined it by bringing up precisely that which had made things awkward in the first place.  It wasn't as if they were always awkward, of course.  For the most part, both of them tended to glaze over the fact that Sangria NightTM had even happened...that they'd ever ended up sitting on the floor at Rosa after close, so drunk that they were leaning on each other to stay upright, laughing about the shoe in the bride's hair until their sides stitched up and then there had been the eye contact.

 

That sort of eye contact, with faces too close to be platonic and too much alcohol between the both of them to really know that the lines should have been drawn something like an hour before that when they were still in actual chairs.  Everything had been right, yeah?  Until he'd thought that they were drinking too much to make any sort of sound decision and they were business partners.  Sure, it was possible everything would work, but it was also possible that they would implode like a building slated for demolition as all of his past relationships had.

 

And so, inevitably, the conversation took that awkward turn again and Max looked down at where his hands were folded up between his knees, legs swinging from the bar.  He made a face at the mention of Hogwarts and the race to the altar that followed it.  At that time, everyone around him had been getting his married (his little brother included, just a year after Diego's own graduation) and Max had been disgusted by the entirety of it.  Of course, back then, he'd been moping around his parents' house, working weekends at Rosa while his mother still owned it.  He hadn't cared then.  He'd made no lasting connections at the school, a byproduct of hating every moment of being there and being rather dismal at any magic that wasn't charms...and even that was questionable, sometimes...mostly because he didn't practice.

 

"My brother got married a year after his graduation," he reminded her, making a face.  "To a Slytherin."  Another face.  It was a jest, mostly.  He'd never actually had an inherent problem with Slytherins.  It was really an attempt to steer the conversation away from, well, exactly where it went in the moments that followed his little reminder.

 

Max wondered if, perhaps, it was far too forward to answer with, 'Because I wouldn't be in it.'  She would understand, of course, exactly what he meant, but it would take their relatively harmless flirting to the next level and way, way beyond even Sangria NightTM.  

 

Instead, he slid backward off the bar and behind it so that he was leaning on it across from her, one hand poised on the bottle of Andalusian rum that was kept under the counter.  His bottle.  Or, really, their bottle.  Still, he did manage to at least hold her gaze, which was more than he could say for her as she had momentarily grown a keen interest for the grain patterns of finished wooden furniture.  

 

"I think that you really don't actually want me to answer that," he finally told her.

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Ally Turner

An empty restaurant was a quiet restaurant, so why was it that every sound seemed to be reverberating through her head at nearly three times the volume it should have been after her question fell from her lips.  

 

The sound he made sliding off the bar and when his feet hit the floor, clunk, clunk; the rattle of the bottles underneath the wood, she couldn’t see what he was reaching for but it didn’t take a legilimens to figure it out.  They were creatures of habit and even at ten forty-five on a Monday morning, a shot of rum didn’t sound so bad if it meant she didn’t have to think any more about the position she’d just put them both in.

 

Monumental life changes weren’t meant to be made on a Monday morning, especially not on five and half hours of sleep and a half a cup of coffee but this territory was cutting it dangerously close.  

 

Drawing in a deep breath and releasing it slowly, she chose not to comment on the mention of house slytherin at all.  She was sure she had mentioned Jaedon on at least one occasion and it wasn’t something she wanted to bring up again. If there had ever been a shot that she would have been one of those who had been rushing off to change their name before they even changed out of their school uniform it might have been with him but things hadn’t exactly worked out that way, had they?  It had been far too long now be dwelling on that past.

 

Which she wasn’t.  She was all about the future, at least the future for other people.  Throwing herself full tilt into everyone else’s romantic lives had left her so very little time for her own that it hadn’t mattered that she seemed to have very little idea how to cultivate a real relationship anymore.  

 

Even that breath she had taken sounded far too loud inside the spacious room and his response could have very well been thunder.  Thunder and lightning too with the way it was spoken and seemed to strike just moments later, resonating inside her head and vibrating with the weight of its implications all tied up to a kite like a key.  

 

While she may have asked the first question they both knew that his response held the real question that needed answering.  She’d been told, once or twice by her mother or her grandmother and even an elderly woman at an etiquette class that she’d taken (for the business of course) that it was impolite to answer a question with a question, but she supposed it was a good thing that he hadn’t actually asked her a question because despite her best efforts to find something else to fill the silence nothing would come to mind.  

 

“Since when, Max, do you presume to know everything that I want?”

 

 

 

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Maxwell Castillo

Max's fingers closed idly around the neck of the bottle, half finished from last week's Monday of 'winding down.'  That hadn't been so bad, though.  The wedding itself had been relatively smooth.  Ally had even managed to escape at a reasonable hour, requiring much less in the way of caffeine the following morning when she met him at Rosa to fill him in on things he may have missed.  The rum usually didn't even come out until after lunch when she started going into details on the next menu she had for him.  They'd laugh, get distracted, carry on about things that didn't relate to work at all, and then eventually, having accidentally spent all day telling him about the insane things people believed when she told them their horoscopes, she would stand and give him that awkward half-hug that lingered somewhere between professional and friendly, just like the meeting had.  

 

Then Max would lock the door behind her.  The glasses would wash themselves with a flick of his wand.  He'd hear from her again on Tuesday when she relayed how the cake tasting had gone.  Sometimes she'd do that by stopping by, skipping by the door to Rosa and going to the apartment above it so that she could speak to him personally about preparing appropriate wines, allergies, and last minute adjustments.  On Wednesday, she'd be back at Rosa with the couple for the menu test.

 

Thursday found her at the bar.  2 for 1 tequila night, but only after she had the sangria with dinner, which was also taken at the bar, her notes spread out in front of her and Max occasionally stepping around a bartender while he moved between listening to her and helping whoever was working that night.

 

He knew what she did with her Friday nights, though he never, ever asked for more details than she occasionally gave, though that was rare in and of itself.

 

Max's fingers tapped the bottle and drew it out, letting it come to a rest on the bar with a dull thunk against the polished wood.  Two glasses followed and were subsequently filled.  Early or not, this wasn't a conversation he'd ever thought to have with a clear head.  They hadn't had it with clear heads the last time.  Last time, however, had been that almost-a-moment sort of thing, so close he could taste the lime on her breath.

 

The former Gryffindor scooped up one of the glasses and tossed it back, grateful for the burn along his tongue and his teeth before the rim hit the bar.  "Since we both agreed this partnership should remain business oriented," he reminded her, grimacing at the recollection.  "Which, in my humble opinion, I think was a mistake.  If I told why I'd ruin your wedding, I'd have to admit that it would be spiteful...because I would be angry, mostly at myself, that I stammered like an idiot that day with the sangria instead of just bloody kissing you like I should have.  I would be bitter.  And irritated.  And...disappointed."  

He heaved a sigh, intentionally looking at anything but her, trying to pace the staccato beat of his heart that rattled his rib cage.  "Obviously, I don't do disappointed very well.  Sorry."

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Ally Turner

Any expectation over what she thought Max might have answered with went straight out the unsightly stained glass window in the front door the moment Ally heard the thunk of the heavy bottle hitting the counter.  Briefly her eyes went towards it, then with questions, towards his.  
 
Her first thought, beyond the fact that it was probably much too early in the morning for this, was that she’d read his signals all wrong.  This wasn’t going to be the part where he poured out his heart (apparently along with relatively rare and expensive spanish spirits).  It was the part where he added another crack into hers and that was precisely why she knew she should have left well enough alone.  
 
Blue eyes narrowed focus on the liquid as it swirled inside the glass he carried to his lips before it disappeared and she felt something inside her chest tighten with the realization that whatever he was about to say was so bad he’d needed a drink to say it.   
 
And he’d thought she would need one too.  
 
Truthfully she couldn’t stomach it and in fact, while she found herself yet again at a loss for something, anything at all to focus on that wasn’t the man standing in front of her, she could feel the coffee threatening to find it’s way back up.  
 
This wasn’t at all how she’d thought today was going to go.  They had a routine, they were creatures of habit.  Every day of the week had it’s pattern and it was all so familiar, so comforting and now that she could almost hear it - yes even in this nearly silent and empty restaurant - crashing around her, she realized how much she had come to actually enjoy the imperfect, perfect of it all.  
 
There was really only one part missing, wasn’t there?  
 
The realization hit her about the same time as she recognized the anger in his tone and it took the gesture of her actually looking in near circles from the full glass, to the empty one, to his face and down to her own coffee cup before she was able to process what he was actually saying.  
 
Words like ‘mistake’ and ‘kiss’ and ‘disappointed’ funneled in through a haze of confusion and one their own they didn’t seem to make sense at all but somehow they made perfect sense to her and before she could convince herself again that any of the ridiculous reasons ‘not to’ were actually valid she reached forward and plucked the empty glass from his hands and discarded it on the counter.  She could always find another caterer, she’d had one before.  The real truth was that she didn’t want to stop seeing him every day and work had become the excuse, in the wrong sort of way.  
 
Her own heart started racing as her fingers curled around his hand and she leaned across the counter, giving him no choice but to look in her direction and sure it might have been a line straight out of a movie but dammit she did so want to believe in everything those romantic comedies were selling.  They kept her in business.  
 
“So do it now.” 

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Maxwell Castillo

It was quiet in Rosa, right?

 

The panicked drumming in the back of his head was just his heart beat, spurred into overdrive by having said such a notoriously stupid thing.  She'd made it clear, hadn't she?  No, actually.  She hadn't.  They'd both sort of stammered, awkward and flushing, about ruining a good work relationship or a friendship and Max had thought it all sounded terribly like a poor excuse on both their parts.  He could explain himself away, of course.  He'd never been good at relationships.  He liked to claim that he just hadn't found the right person or some romantic garbage like that but, when he got right down to the truth of the matter, Maxwell had been married to his work since his twenty-fifth birthday when his mother had signed the rights to the place over to him.

 

Ally had flipped that all on its head.  Night after night spent working in that kitchen could be handed off to someone else and while, occasionally, Max still forayed into the din of it for nostalgia's sake, he played the part of owner better than he'd ever played the part of chef even if he carried the qualifications for both.

 

Max nearly jumped, startled by the feel of her fingers on his hand, coaxing the cup free of his fingers—he couldn't remember when he'd grabbed for it again, but there it was, cold glass squeezed almost too tightly in his grasp...until it wasn't and there was only her palm against the back of his hand, her fingers wrapped over into his, pressed against his life line.

 

This was new territory.  They didn't hold hands, unless he counted that one time they'd been almost late for a wedding because of a thunderstorm and a misplaced portkey and she'd torn across the road to the venue, his hand clasped tightly in hers and he'd been sure she'd tear his arm right out of the socket—but that was different.  She had leaned into him a few times when she over-indulged on 2 for 1 tequila night (really, neither of them were alcoholics, it just so happened that a lot of their work included copious wine tasting and Max did own a bar.)  She hugged him awkwardly sometimes when she said goodbye.  She'd shaken his hand on that first official meeting when she'd hired him on.

 

She did not, under any circumstances, hold his hand.  Not like this.

 

It would have been aces to say that he passed this test with flying colors—that they lived this ridiculous romcom moment to its full potential and he did exactly what she demanded of him with wit and charm to spare.  He would have liked that...to come up with some romantic thing to stay to her, some absurd comment to make that would send them both into a fit of giggles before the actual kissing commenced.

 

That would have been nice.

 

But this was real life, not a film.  They weren't standing in the rain.  He wasn't Clark Gable.  She wasn't Vivien Leigh.  He said nothing even remotely like, 'You should be kissed, and often.  And by someone who knows how.'

 

He would have, in fact, looked at anything but her if she'd given him any choice at all but the only thing in his vision was Ally's blue-eyed face looking up at him expectantly, leaning across the bar.  He should have reminded himself that she employed him, but he didn't.  He should have reminded himself that he liked working with her, but he didn't.

 

All he did, in fact, was exactly what she asked him to—or, rather, demanded of him, and he fervently wished the damn bar wasn't between them because he'd have liked more contact than there was, just like he'd have liked more charm than he'd actually shown, and it wasn't until he had to, you know, breathe did he realize what a dangerous line they were really crossing.

 

Max should have apologized.  He would have, if he'd been sorry at all, but he wasn't.  So he managed a weak sort of chuckle and carefully tucked a stray lock of blonde hair behind her ear, still too close to adequately describe what should have been a working relationship.  "So," he began.  "You firing me now?"

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Ally Turner

So maybe he didn't have a line a sweet enough as her, now cold, cup of coffee, nothing that filled the sudden silence that had seemed to return to Rosa in the moment that followed Ally's request.  A demand that couldn't really be taken any other way.  She even had to ask herself if she’d really even said it.  Right after the fact she had almost wanted to laugh (you know, if she weren’t holding her breath in anticipation of how Max might react) because even she knew how silly it must have sounded.  Did anyone ever actually say things like that? Well, she had and there was no taking it back. No more room to question where this could possibly go. There was teetering on a line with the idea you could cross it, like they had been, and then there was what she'd done with actually taking his hand and jumping over it as if it suddenly disappeared.  

 

What she soon wished would have disappeared was the bar, and if she'd known of any way to keep it classy she might have found herself stepping up and climbing on top of it but this wasn't that kind of moment.  

 

That’s not to say that the moment wasn’t a good one.  It had been a long time since a kiss had actually stolen her breath away and maybe that had something to do with the fact that once those three seconds that seemed to last forever passed between when she’d responded and Max actually realized what she had said, time seemed to stretch on even longer.  

 

A year’s worth of coy comments, missed opportunities and regrets funneled into this moment and somehow the traces of dark rum she could taste on his lips seemed to be most fitting.  As if, when she’d imagined the hows and ifs of this second she’d always known they’d be there because it should have happened back then.

 

But, should haves and could haves were better left unsaid, that what something she did know.  Which was impressive because as she felt his fingers brush against her face and the heat and his breath across her face as she spoke she could barely remember what she’d come in here for anymore, other then this… now.

 

Her nose wrinkled up at his question and his laugh, though familiar, sounded so very different all of a sudden.  “Are you kidding me?” She responded, echoing back with a chirp of laughter as she reluctantly leaned away, but decidedly kept her hand within reach of his.  “We have back to back ceremonies this weekend and you haven’t even shown me the final menus yet.”

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