Petunia's Tea and Cake Shop

Everything Seems Worse When it's Raining

Michael hung off the edge of a freight car as the train came to a stop. “Hey!” He called to Calum, and hopped off the car.

“Shh!” Calum hushed him. “Luke’s upstairs with Ashton.”

“What the- why did he call him? Jesus, I knew this was a bad Idea.” Michael shook his head in disappointment and frustration, and ran a hand through his hair.

“Luke didn’t call him, he just showed up out of nowhere. From what I heard, Ashton’s asking him about the tipped over truck we used to get the train to stop.” Calum explained.

“I still don’t trust him,” Michael responded with a shrug. “Anyway, we’d better get these boxes off before the train starts moving again.”

“I don’t know, we’ll have to be really careful, so he doesn’t see us.” Calum bit his lip as he thought, glancing back up toward the shop where Luke and Ashton spoke.

Upstairs in the tea shop, Ashton eyed Luke closely as he awaited an answer. “Why are you so nervous?” He asked again, almost testing Luke.

“The train, it, uh, Petunia doesn’t like it.” Luke stumbled to come up with an excuse.

Ashton cocked his head and raised his eyebrow doubtfully. “I don’t hear her barking, or whining. Where is she, exactly?”

Luke gently nudged her with his foot to rouse her. “She’s hiding under the counter, cowering.”

Petunia stood up and yawned, then sauntered around the counter to greet Ashton. At the sight of the dog, Ashton’s face softened and the look of suspicion he had carried since entering the shop disappeared.

“Hey old girl,” he said, and knelt to greet her. He ruffled her ears, and she gave him a kiss. “I remember when you first got her. Your mom was so mad.” He paused to laugh. “How old is she now? 3 or 4?”

“She’ll be 4 in a couple months.” Luke answered, and knelt to join them on the floor. “We’ll throw you a big party, Pets; I’ll get you a ‘cake’ and we’ll invite all your friends.”

Ashton quietly sighed and stood up, returning to his former steely demeanor. “Speaking of friends, do you happen to know where I might find a Calum Hood, or a Michael Clifford?”

Luke slowly stood up and leaned on the counter. He was surprised by Ashton’s sudden change in tone and countenance, as if he’d flipped a switch and reverted back to Prohibition Bureau Agent Ashton Irwin. Luke had been skeptical about Calum and Michael’s dislike for Ashton, but now he was starting to see their point of view. This was not the same Ash he had been friends with back in Australia.

Luke shook his head. “No, I don’t really keep up with their whereabouts. Though,” he paused and cocked his head, pretending to think. “I think they might have said something about heading to the docks this afternoon?”

Ashton’s eyes opened slightly more at this news, and like a dog on a scent, he became more alert as they parted ways. “Well, thank you. I’ll see if I can catch -er find- them there.” He nodded, then, as if he’d found his manors, added, “it was nice seeing you, I’ll have to come back another time for a scone.”

Luke nodded a goodbye, and Ashton disappeared out the door.

Calum and Michael were still quietly bickering about how to get the boxes of illegal alcohol off the train when Luke appeared from the basement. “Did you guys still need help?”

“Where’s Ass-ton?” Michael asked sarcastically, and Calum snickered at his nickname.

“I sent him on a wild goose chase to the docks.” Luke grinned triumphantly. “So, need some help?” He asked again, and rolled up his sleeves.

Michael gave Calum a glance that said ‘I guess I was wrong’. “Yeah, let’s do this!” He clapped his hands and threw open the door to the freight car to reveal the dozen or so crates of illegally imported alcohol he’d smuggled into the US from Canada. “Grab a bax, let’s get these in the basement before the train starts moving again!”

The three worked quickly, and got the boxes in storage in no time. They were careful to keep the boxes hidden in case Ashton, or any other Bureau agent, showed up.

“Thanks for helping us out, man. Sorry I ever doubted, uh,” Michael paused, his hand resting on Luke’s shoulder. “Why don’t we open one of these up and try the merchandise?”

“For quality control, of course,” Calum added with a smirk and reached for a bottle of whiskey. “We have to make sure it’s the real deal.”

“I like the sound of that. No offence Mike, but your moonshine is…” Luke made a face and tried to think of a nice way of saying ‘it sucks’.

“It’s an acquired taste, okay?” Michael defended jokingly as he poured them each a glass and handed them around. He swirled the liquid in his glass and sniffed it to ensure it was up to par. He held his glass up to Calum and Luke, and they followed suit. “Cheers, to…” He thought and glanced at the other two, remembering their years of mischief growing up together back in Australia. “To us, to friendship, and sticking together.”

“Way to be sentimental, Mike,” Calum teased and punched his arm jokingly.

“Hey, you’re going to make me spill this!” He retorted. “Do you know how much this cost?”

“Yeah, I paid for it.” Calum nodded, and tried to hit him again.

“Or how much effort I went through to get this?” Michael added, unable to hid his amusement. “I risked my life for this.”

Luke watched their banter with a smirk and took a sip of his whisky.

It was like old times, almost.

Back home they would to sit around a table at their favorite pub with a couple pints every weekend. They’d joke, and laugh at whatever shenanigans they’d gotten into recently, talk about their future, ignore whatever new problems had sprung up. It had always been the four of them, and whatever the world threw at them.

Now, it felt like something was absent, something more than just Ashton’s presence. In a way, a part of each of them was missing, as if they hadn’t been complete since they’d left Australia two years ago. It was more than just the usual changes experienced when growing up, or from the culture change between their homeland and their now home; no, it was a bit more than that.

Ashton sat on the edge of a dock and looked out at the setting sun. He immediately knew this had been a set up, yet he didn’t feel angry, just disappointed. At first he was disappointed that Luke had supported Calum and Michael, those criminals. Yet, then he realized he was only disappointed in himself.

He thought for sure they were in the wrong, not him. Yet now Luke was siding with Cal and Mike, and even plotting against him to help them. Ashton was sure something had been up with that train, conveniently stopped outside of Luke’s shop. He was sure there was something up with that, but he couldn’t prove anything.

However, each passing day he felt less enthusiasm for catching those two than he had at the start. Luke’s arrival made him question his motives, and wonder if maybe they had in fact been telling the truth.

It was raining that night, nearly a year ago, and the rain always made things seem worse than they really were. Perhaps he had jumped to conclusions, and things were not really as they had seemed.

That night, he had not only lost what was probably the love of his life, Ashton had lost the two, and now possibly three, best friends he had considered family.
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Sorry for the long delay between chapters! I wrote most of the chapter out, then lost my notebook! Turns out my cat had knocked it off my desk, and I didn’t find it until this weekend xD

Thank you for reading and commenting! :D