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o/o

There's a woman who comes into the shop every morning for a cupcake and a latte. She's stunningly beautiful: green eyes, high cheekbones, and a massive mane of dark curls that hangs down her back. She carries her curves like a queen, and her arms bulge with muscle under the green jacket she always wears. Drew is not a lightweight- he's tall and broad, with a blend of muscle and chub that make him rather heavy- but he suspects she could lift him with no effort.

It is perhaps this which makes him so nervous to speak to her the first time he sees her, as she looks to be in a foul mood and gives off the air of one who would happily take out her mood on anyone who crossed her. He squeaks and hurries away, shoving Bob to the register to take her order instead. He disappears into the back, peeking around the door to watch. While he cannot bring himself to speak with her, he is already entranced, enthralled, enamored: he wants to see more of her and is disappointed when she asks for her cupcake and latte to go.

He prepares her order himself, offering it to her with a broad, shaky smile, humming nervously. She barely spares him a glance, mumbles a thanks as she takes her cupcake and latte and walks out of his cupcakery with a swish of her dark hair and a swing of her hips. He waits until she's gone and folds himself over the counter, letting out a despairing moan.

“There she goes,” he says, when Bob comes over to see what's wrong. “The most beautiful woman in the world and I couldn't even get a glance.” He unfolds himself and trudges over to the register, where more customers are waiting. Hes he's never going to see her again.

*

He sees her again. She comes into the shop every morning, ordering the same latte and whatever cupcake she's in the mood for that day. She always gets her order to go, and she is always in a foul mood. He learns on her second visit that her name is Shego, when she gives her name on her order. He learns on her third visit that she has a brother, because she is on the phone with him when she comes in. Her fourth visit, he finally gets up the nerve to wait on her himself.

She doesn't notice him. He is disappointed, but not surprised. What reason would a woman as beautiful as her have to notice the poor schmuck who waits on her in a cupcakery?

She might notice him if she knew who he was. There's a world of difference between a poor schmuck and a cupcake tycoon. He wonders how he might tell her, if he would be able to introduce the idea seamlessly or if he would be better being straightforward. But would she get the idea? “I'm a cupcake tycoon and I'm utterly enamored of you” may get her attention, but then it may also make her think that he believes her affections can be bought. That would get her attention, but it would ruin his chances.

Visit number five he learns that she's not a fan of rain- it's storming out, and she's in a worse mood than usual, moaning about the foul weather. Visit number six, and her brothers are plural, and twins. Visit number seven, she complains about her students, and he learns that she's a teacher. Visit number eight, he finally asks her something about herself, hoping she can't hear how hard his heart is pounding, or the little nervous noises he's making while she approaches the register.

“So, er, what do you teach?” he asks.

“Hm? Oh, I'm only a sub,” she says. She doesn't look interested in conversation, but she also doesn't look grumpy at him trying. He chalks it up as a success.

*

He manages, on her next few visits, to learn a bit more about her- a casual question here and there, when she doesn't seem in quite so foul a mood as usual, and she informs him that she has four brothers, that she is currently subbing a history class, that she coaches a self-defense course in the evenings, and- most tragic- that she has a boyfriend. His name is Steve. They're very happy together. Drew can tell because Shego doesn't seem so grumpy when she talks about him.

Though the news of her boyfriend shatters his hopes, it is perhaps the best thing that could have happened. Knowing Shego is no longer an option makes him much more able to speak to her. When she comes in next morning, he asks her how her class is going, and he is far more relaxed than before. She looks a little surprised by this change, picking at her cupcake while he mixes her latte.

“We're doing a field trip today,” she says. “We're visiting the local history museum.”

“Sounds fun,” he says. “I prefer science museums, myself.”

It's the first thing he's told her about himself, beyond his name. She doesn't seem interested, but she does give a slight hum of acknowledgment at the comment, before taking her latte and leaving. He counts it as another success.

*

The next few visits Shego gets to know Drew better. She learns that many of the store's cupcakes are his own recipes. He tells her about his research, that he's looking into better fertilizers that will grow plants faster, more efficiently. She laughs at that- mocking laughter, but it's the first time he's heard her laugh, seen her look any way besides bored or cranky. When he sees her the next morning, he tells her about how his lab is overrun with flowers, hoping to hear that laugh again. He is disappointed, because her mood is particularly sour today, and all he gets is a sarcastic remark.

The next day, he is too discouraged to say much, but the day after, she asks how his flowers are going, and he brightens up enough to tell her that he thinks he's approaching a breakthrough before realizing she meant it mockingly. He tells her anyway, because she asked, and if she didn't want to know she shouldn't have.

*

A month passes. He sees her almost every morning, has her latte memorized. The employees know to let him wait on her when she comes in. He gets to know her better; some mornings she's not in a mood to talk, but others she will chat with him while she waits. A few times she even starts the conversation. He learns to read her moods a little better, and starts being able to predict whether a day will be a talking day, a mocking day, or a silent brooding day by her body language when she walks in.

He finally manages to mention that he owns the Dr. D's Gourmet Cupcake chain; she seems surprised, and wants to know why he's working front register at one of his stores when he could easily leave that to others. He just shrugs.

“Normally I leave running the place to others,” he admits. “It's really just a way to fund my research, you know. But this was the first store I opened and I'm in a bit of an idea slump, and working here usually helps unstick my mind for new ideas.”

“What about your fertilizer?”

He waves that away. “That's an old idea. I already have everything I need to conduct it and now I'm at the point of repetition. It's tedious and mind-numbing, and I want to work on something new. In the meantime, I work here to see what I can come up with.”

“I guess that makes sense.” She takes her latte from him then, and gives him the first genuine smile he's ever seen from her. She swishes out without a backwards glance, and he slowly folds himself over the counter again, slightly dazed.

He is in so deep. He knows that now.

*

Drew can't get her out his head that night, while he monitors his fertilizer experiments and lets his thoughts wander. He ends up in the kitchen, staring at ingredients and letting himself drift out of focus until suddenly his mind is racing with ideas. He laughs, a little maniacally, and begins fluttering around the kitchen, throwing ingredients here and there seemingly at random, until he has a bowl of batter in front of him. He pours it carefully and starts laughing again while he waits for the first batch of his new cupcakes to cook.

*

Mint and chocolate are not a particularly new combination, but the new cupcakes, dark chocolate with mint frosting, have a special touch that makes them both beautiful and delicious. He wonders if Shego will realize that she was the muse for his newest creation, that her dark curls and her green eyes inspired this latest recipe.

“I never understood putting mint on chocolate,” she says, eying the cupcake display with mistrust. “I mean, who wants a cupcake that tastes like toothpaste?”

His hopeful look falls flat. “You don't like them?”

“Ugh, no. Weren't you listening?”

Oh.” He makes a disgruntled noise. “Well, I didn't make them for you. And they seem to be doing well with our test groups. So there.”

He doesn't stick his tongue out at her, but the temptation is there. He hands her her latte with a broad frown of disapproval, and doesn't wipe it away when she flounces out with a cheeky wave and a snarky “See ya' later, Dr. D~”

*

The mint chocolate cupcakes test well, so he puts them on the limited time menu and moves the raspberry truffle cupcakes out.

“Why not just have them all the time?” she asks, while he prepares her latte.

Because, Shego,” he says, “then they wouldn't be special.”

She looks surprised at his attitude, but he's still stinging over her dismissal of the cupcakes she'd inspired, so he ignores her stunned look and reminds himself that it's not like he had a chance to ruin anyway. After all, she has Steve, and she's mentioned recently that their anniversary is coming up, so what does it matter? He hands her her latte and barely acknowledges her as she goes, ignoring the voice of reason in his mind telling him that if he isn't careful, he's going to ruin his chance to have her as a friend as well.

*

Another month passes. He learns that she and her brothers are all adopted, that she's been to Greece, that she's had some trouble with the law in the past. He learns that she's tutoring the son of a millionaire and that her self-defense class is out for the season.

He makes her another cupcake.

This one is inspired by her personality, by the dark, broody look she wears in the mornings and the biting comments she makes when he says something she thinks is particularly stupid, by the sing-song way she says “later, Dr. D~” when she's in a more cheerful mood. Bitter dark chocolate, with dark chocolate cream injected in the center. A lemon crème frosting- not a combination he sees having any success, but Dr. D's is known for its experimental combinations and anyway, he can think of nothing better to mimic the sour aura Shego gives off.

“Who thinks to combine lemon and chocolate?” she demands, when he tells her about their latest experiment. He shrugs, and her eyes flicker to the ganache she's just ordered. “All right,” she says, “I'll give it a try.”

She takes one bite and throws the rest away, wrinkling her nose and making a great show of disgust. “Terrible combination,” she says, and snatches her latte from him so that she can take a long gulp of it. She ignores the scalding her tongue and throat must be getting, and turns to go with a two-fingered wave.

Drew isn't as discouraged as he was the last time. He'd expected as much- no cupcake made from Shego's personality could actually taste good.

*

They only carry the lemon chocolate cupcakes for a few days, as everyone else has a similar reaction, and the cupcakes go up on the catering menu as by-request-only with the other failures. Drew gets an idea for a new type of power cell and gets to work on the experiments, but he doesn't stop pulling the morning shift at the cupcakery. True, he doesn't need to, now that he's found his inspiration, but he can't bring himself to give up his brief morning conversations with Shego.

Their snarky back and forth has become his favorite ritual, and the rest of his day is more pleasant for it. The days he doesn't see her are always almost dreary, and he knows he's being foolish but just being around her is enough to energize him. He wishes there were some way of putting that into a power cell, but he suspects those chemicals only work on humans.

Or do they?

He starts digging up science journals, experiments by his fellow scientists to do with bodily chemicals, ideas writhing in his mind and slowly coiling themselves around each other until they form something with shape, with substance. It's absurd, it's the stupidest idea he's ever had (the bottom of a long list; the life's work of a mad scientist is ninety-nine percent failure), but he has to know if it will work. He'll hate himself if he doesn't try.

*

He tells her. He doesn't mean to- but she asks, casually, while he's ringing up her order (two dozen cupcakes this morning; she's bringing them for her class), and he's explaining the concept before he even realizes it.

She laughs. It's disheartening.

“Sorry,” she says, and she doesn't sound sorry at all. “But seriously? A battery that works on tummy flutters? What are you supposed to do, tell your batteries how nice they look today just to power your cell phone?”

He gives off a little disgruntled growl. “No,” he snaps. “The batteries will simulate the chemical reaction that happens in humans, but it won't be necessary to use the same triggers.”

“It still sounds stupid,” she says, and a small smile tugs at his lips.

“You wouldn't understand,” he says. “It's a genius thing.”

*

More months. More visits, more cupcakes. Some are inspired by her, by the things he learns about her, and she hates every one of them. He doesn't know why he keeps bothering, except that he's sure eventually he'll find the right combination of ingredients that will please her. He knows he'll keep trying no matter how many times it takes. Failure has been his closest companion since childhood so he's used to it by now, and is too stubborn to let it stop him. He will find the right cupcake for her- and in the meantime, continue to do variably well selling the cupcakes she inspires.

*

He meets her brother. The man is enormous, a solid wall of muscle clad in blue. He gives his name as Hego on his order, and Drew comments on the similarities to her name before he can stop himself. Hego smiles at that.

“Ah, you must be Dr. D, then,” he says. “The cupcake scientist my sister told me about.”

Drew nods, and doesn't say much else to the man. She's mentioned him? Shego has talked about him to her brothers?

He wants to ask what she's said- was it good? Was it bad? Was it flattering?- but can't form the words. What if she said how much she hates him? He doesn't want to know.

*

“So you met my brother,” she says, when she comes in the next morning.

Drew nods. “He looks like he could benchpress a truck,” he says. Shego actually laughs at this, that genuine laugh he's only ever heard once before. A hopeful smile dances across his face. “Are those muscles just for show or does he know how to use them?”

“He can fight, if that's what you're asking. We used to spar when we were younger. Still do, sometimes.”

“Why not more?”

“Because if I see my brothers too much or too often, I start thinking about loopholes in murder laws.” She takes her latte from him, gives him her usual two fingered wave as she leaves. He stares after her retreating form and wonders if that was a joke or not.

*

Her mood sours after that. For a week and more there's not a morning she comes in that she doesn't glower, unwilling to chat and seemingly daring him to try. He doesn't- he's learned well enough by now not to engage when she's in this state. Instead he pays extra attention to making sure her order is right and that her time spent in the cupcakery, at least, is as pleasant as possible.

After nearly two weeks, she comes in in better spirits, not a good mood but at least closer to her neutral, bored mood than the bitter scowl of late.

“Nice to see you in brighter spirits again,” he says, and gives her a hopeful smile with her latte.

She gives him a sharp look at that, and then stares at him as though she is seeing him for the first time. His eyes dance nervously and he leans back just a little, unbalanced by her scrutiny. He lets out a shaky chuckle.

“Is, uh, is something wrong? Shego?” He edges back a little. “Shego, you're scaring me.”

“Wh-?” She snaps out of it and raises an eyebrow at him, then smirks. “Doesn't seem too difficult to do,” she says. “You look like you scare easy.”

“Well. Maybe,” he admits. “Are you all right? You seem off.”

“I'm fine.” She gives him a smirk that is halfway to being a smile, and turns around and swishes out, her usual two-fingered wave and “See ya, Dr. D~” trailing behind her.

*

The weather is starting to warm up lately. The staff uniform at Dr. D's swaps over to the short sleeved version, and more and more customers are coming in in t-shirts or light jackets. Shego is among them, abandoning her green jacket for green button-down, her slacks for a black pencil skirt. His mouth falls open at the sight of her, and he stammers out his hellos amidst wondering how she was able to perfectly hide such a figure.

She smirks at him and he realizes that she knows exactly what she's doing to him. But of course, there's no way she doesn't. She's always so perfectly put together that of course she realizes how beautiful she is, realizes the power that beauty gives her.

“Why didn't you look at me like that six months ago?” she asks, cocking one hip to the side and resting her hand on it.

“I did,” he admits. “I hid behind the door so you wouldn't see me.”

He isn't sure what compelled him to tell her that. He hadn't ever intended to. But when she laughs at him the mocking edge is not so sharp, and when she gets her order she lingers for a few moments before leaving. He stares after her while she goes. He feels like something important has just happened, but he isn't quite sure what.

*

Shego isn't seeing Steve anymore. Drew learns this in a roundabout way, when one of her students mentions that “It's such a shame Ms. Go is single” while he makes their order. He asks if they mean Shego, and if they're sure, and they say yes to both and ask him why he wants to know.

“She comes in here every morning,” he says. “I thought she was seeing someone.”

“Yeah, but he dumped her,” the boy says callously, while the girl elbows him and hisses “Ron!”. He laughs nervously. “Or maybe she dumped him. What do I know?”

He considers this information after they leave, that this Steve would dump her. Why would he dump her? Did he take leave of his sense? Does he have terrible taste?

Drew finds that he hates Steve, even though he's never met him. He's never exactly been his biggest fan as it is, a petty, jealous dislike coating any thought of him, but now he loathes him. He must be a fool, to not know how good he'd had it. He has to be a fool, to let go of Shego willingly.

He is so busy loathing Steve that it is three days later before he realizes this means that Shego is available again.

*

He asks her out the next morning. She laughs so hard that she nearly forgets her latte.

He calls in his assistant manager and takes the rest of the day off.

*

He designs another cupcake that night. His ingredients sit on the counter, mocking him as he paces, reminding him of Shego's mocking laughter at his ask. He doesn't know why she felt the need to do that. She could have just said no. She could have said she wasn't interested, she could have turned him down. There was no need for such mocking laughter at the very idea.

Her rejection burns the back of his throat and he throws caramel into the batter, drizzled thick and sickly-sweet. He mixes until the batter is smooth, the caramel forming a heavy swirl throughout, and then stares at it. It needs something else, something to balance out the caramel.

He looks around his kitchen for an idea and his eyes land on a bowl of apples, the green ones that he likes so much.

They're the wrong shade of green. Her eyes are darker, deeper. He grabs one and begins cutting it up.

By the time the cupcakes are done- caramel apple swirl- he feels much better, having put all of his loathing and hurt feelings into the cupcakes. He doesn't really like how they turned out- the apple messes up the texture, and he used too much caramel. He decides to do some more work on the recipe, and see what he can turn out.

*

He makes Bob wait on her the next morning, occupying himself with a different customer instead. The next morning is the same, and the next he doesn't bother coming in. A week passes like this, with Drew ignoring her presence and very clearly cold shouldering her. She doesn't even seem to notice, which also stings, but he tells himself he doesn't care and carries on as if she is nothing to him.

*

He keeps trying with the caramel apple cupcakes. He can't quite get them right, and her taunting laughter echoes in his mind every time he fails. The cupcakes have become synonymous with her rejection to him.

He keeps trying.

*

She finally breaks the silence between them after a week, walking over to him while Bob makes her latte and folding her arms to watch him while he cleans the already-immaculate display case. He turns his back to her, his could shoulder apparent. She huffs.

“You don't take rejection very well, do you?” she asks.

He stops wiping, and straightens up slowly. Turns around. “Rejection?” he repeats. “Shego, rejection I can handle. I'm quite used to rejection. But mockery? Your laughter wounds me, your words cut deep to my core. Why should I take that well? If the very idea of my company repulses you so much, then why should I continue offering it?”

He turns away again. She seems to get the point- she leaves.

*

After three more unsuccessful attempts to perfect the caramel apple cupcakes, he decides to get some customer feedback. He takes a batch into the store and cuts them into small, sample-sized pieces. It's not the first time he's taken this route on a recipe.

“Pecans,” Shego says, when she tries a sample. He stares at her, and she tries another, ignoring the “one per customer” sign. “They need pecans. Pecans and caramel in the cupcake and apple frosting.”

He carries on staring. He isn't sure why he didn't think of it- but now that she says it, he knows she's right.

She takes her latte from Bob, and gives him what he thinks might be a hopeful look. He shrugs it off, turning back to his cupcake samples, though less solidly than before. He can keep up a petty grudge for a long time- for years, decades even- but he doesn't want to keep this one. He misses her.

He knows he'll forgive her soon, whether she apologizes or not. He hates that about himself.

*

His resolve lasts three more days before it crumples. Three days that he spends perfecting the caramel apple pecan cupcakes. It takes a few tries to get the balance right, to get the pecans to the right consistency to be present but not intrusive, to get the frosting just the right flavor, to get just the right amount of caramel.

When he finally feels he's perfected it, he speaks to her again, offering her a whole one when she comes in. She takes a bite of it and chews thoughtfully for a moment.

“Tastes like bitter rejection and desperate hope,” she says. He doesn't miss that she actually finishes the whole thing, though. “So are you speaking to me again?”

He sighs. “Yes. I suppose.”

“Good. I was actually starting to miss that dumb smile of yours.” She grabs her latte and her cupcake, and heads out with a wave. “See ya, Dr. D~”

He watches her go, stunned. It's the nicest thing she's actually said to him, and he's fairly certain she meant it.

*

He hasn't seen Shego in a few days. She's stop coming into the shop in the mornings, and he has to admit he's starting to worry. That's silly, of course- there's no reason she has to come in, and it's not the healthiest breakfast if he's honest. No doubt she's trying to do better with her diet, to eat better or something.

That's it. She's not avoiding him, or anything like that.

It's just a coincidence that she disappeared right after he forgave her.

*

He's given up hope when she returns, a week later. She swishes in like she's never been gone, and his heart starts pounding at just the sight of her.

“Hey,” she says. “Did you miss me?”

Yes . “You were gone?”

“Cute. I was on vacation- Venice.”

“Oh.” Well, that explained that. He wishes she'd said she was going, but of course why would she? She was just a customer- a customer he was friendly with, well, by some definition of the word anyway- but still just a customer. It wasn't his business to know when she was going away.

She gives her order and then when it's ready she beckons him over to one of the tables in the corner. He follows, because it's the first time in eight months that she's gotten her order to stay. He sits down across from her, wondering what's going on. For her own part, Shego sips her latte and nibbles her cupcake in silence.

“Still want that date?” she finally asks.

Yes . “I suppose.”

“Good.” She smiles, and he's momentarily stunned by the difference it makes to her face. Dear lord, she's beautiful. “Then meet me here at seven and you can take me out to dinner.”

He considers, for just a moment, telling her no. Telling her to find someone else. Telling her that he's moved on. Telling her that his emotions are not to be played with, that he has pride, that he is not a toy. He considers being as petty and spiteful as only he is capable.

But he would do anything to see that smile again. He nods.

*

“So what made you change your mind?” he asks, over dinner that night.

“I missed you while I was in Venice,” she says. “Thought maybe I ought to give you a chance after all.”

o/o