"…And I thought I told you to get rid of these candles! They're perfectly tacky!"
George stifled a yawn as Pauline held up the offending items. It was entirely too early in the morning for this, he thought, but Pauline was on one of her redecorating rampages again, and when she was in the mood to rearrange the shop there wasn't anything anyone could do to talk her out of it. He took the candle from her, wondering what was so wrong with them. He thought the ivy on them was rather nice himself, and on top of that, it made them look perfectly decorative, which hid their true purpose… This was a joke shop, after all.
"And while you're at it," Pauline railed on, her voice rising deliberately so that it carried up the stairs, "tell that no-good brother of yours to get his arse down here and help us out. This is no time for a lie-in!"
"Be right there, your majesty!" Fred's voice carried down the stairs.
"Bite me!" Pauline shot back.
"If he doesn't want to, can I?" asked George, deadpan.
Pauline gave him a withering glare and George thought it best to get to work. The sooner this was done, the better, and then perhaps things could calm down again. As George pulled out his wand and began levitating items of stock about the place, in accordance with Pauline's wishes, he mentally kicked himself for making such a suggestive comment to her. Because in reality he wanted to get to know her better, perhaps ask her out to dinner at the Three Broomsticks, but he just didn't know how to go about it. Fred always had such an easy time asking girls out, but George, when he liked a girl, always ended up hiding behind comments like the one he'd just made, and in the end, it never got him anywhere.
Pauline's voice carried to him across the shop. "And do you think you could change into something more subdued before we open for the day?"
George sighed, as he looked ruefully down at his robes--they were royal blue and orange decorated with alligators. He'd had to make a special order by owl post to the southern United States to get them, and in his opinion they were quite spiffing. Fred, of course had had kittens when he'd seen them.
He'd never have a chance with Pauline. He knew they didn't share the same tastes, but when he thought of the way the light played over her blonde hair, how richly she laughed, what a sharp sense of humour she had, when she wasn't giving orders… George sighed again. She was everything he looked for in a woman, but she wouldn't want anything to do with him.
Fred was the twin everyone noticed, after all. He was the one who came up with most of their pranks. No one ever paid as much attention to George, and for a long time he had been content to remain in his brother's shadow, but that was changing now. He wondered if his love of bright colours was a way of differentiating himself, but then he laughed off the idea. It was so early in the morning, his mind was playing tricks on him.
He thought about what she'd said again. Something more subdued. Perhaps he could do it just this once and see if it made any difference… As he climbed the steps up to the shop's living quarters, he met his twin on the way down. George stopped and stared for a moment. Fred was wearing a set of Hawaiian print robes in tones of violent orange, electric blue and purple.
"What are you looking at?" asked Fred, irritably.
"Never though I'd see the day you'd put those on. I quite like them."
"Shut it. You know very well I grabbed the first thing I laid my hands on." He shuddered. "Didn't want her majesty to yell at me any more than necessary."
"Yeah, well, can you take over for me? I was rearranging the stock over by the window. She wants those self-playing violins on better display. I need to run upstairs for a moment."
He quickly opened Fred's trunk, and selected what he thought were Fred's most boring robes. They were dark blue and unadorned, but if that was the sort of thing Pauline liked, he was ready to give it to her. He changed, and went back downstairs, rolling up his sleeves and ready to get back to work. One advantage to wearing his brother's robes was he didn't mind so much if he got them dirty.
As he went toward the front of the store, he could hear Pauline telling Fred off. "You think you're so funny, don't you? Can't you ever be serious?"
"Why should I be serious?" Fred asked mutinously. "I work in a joke shop, for Merlin's sake."
"It may be a joke shop, but this is serious business. Now go put on something more respectable!" She moved off in a huff again.
"Go on," said George, taking a box from Fred. "I can carry that weight from here."
"She's completely mental," Fred said under his breath as he pushed past his brother. "You'd think all that sugar she puts in her tea she'd be a lot sweeter."
"I think she's just fine the way she is."
"Are you feeling all right?" asked Fred, concerned, before backing away slowly.
George continued to work for a while in silence, while Pauline bustled in and out, bringing in boxes of stock, and placing the items just so on the shelves. He couldn't stop himself from conjuring up mental images of what it might be like to kiss her. Fred's comment about the sugar had set his mind to wondering just how sweet she might taste…
"Did you hear what I just said to you?"
Pauline's voice broke in on his thoughts, coming from directly behind him and startling him. He took an inadvertent step backwards, tripping over a box at his feet and slamming into the shelves behind him. The shelves teetered precariously, and George lunged for Pauline, dragging her down to the ground with him, and just in time. He was able to cover her with his body, protecting her as the shelves came crashing down on them.
It was a good thing he'd been a Beater on the Quidditch team, he thought ruefully as he protected his head from the rain of toy violins. They were much harder than they looked, and he'd be lucky if he didn't find himself fixing a hole or two later on. After a moment, it seemed as if movement might be possible, but he found he didn't want to. He was in an extremely pleasant position at the moment, lying as he was fully over Pauline. He looked down and met her gaze. She was staring back at him, her mouth slightly open in shock.
Then she started struggling underneath him, trying to push him off her, but he couldn't move. He was fascinated with her lips, which were now moving. She was saying something, starting to yell, perhaps, but the sound didn't seem to reach his ears. It echoed through the room as if from far away, but all he could hear was the sound of his own heart thumping loudly.
He didn't think about what he did next. He leaned down and kissed her.
He didn't quite expect the reaction he got from her. She began to struggle even more violently. He pulled back disappointed.
"FRED!" she shouted, and he realised that's what she'd been shouting all along. She had to have been calling out to his brother to help them. Disappointment washed through him. "Fred, get off me, or so help me, when we get off this floor, I'm going to get my wand and…"
"I'm not Fred," George said quietly, but it was enough to cut her off mid-rant.
"No, he's not," said a new voice. Fred had obviously thought the same as George, that Pauline had been calling for help, and had come running. Now he was staring at the pair of them, and his eyes glittered with good humour. "I'm Fred."
Pauline stared from one twin to the other, confused. "You're not Fred?" she asked George.
"No, I'm not," he replied.
"But the robes…"
"I changed like you asked."
"Oh…" She broke off and began to colour. "You're George and you kissed me."
"Yes, and I'd like to kiss you again."
Fred snorted with laughter. "You're both mental, you know that?"
"You can leave now!" George told his twin.
"Yes, go," added Pauline. "Get back where you once belonged."
"Don't let me ruin the party then," said Fred, and he disappeared from view.
"Now," said George, leaning in once more. "Where were we?"
"Wait, why did you kiss me?" Pauline asked, a sly smile spreading over her face, causing George to feel hopeful that something good might come out of this after all.
"Because… I'm a bad boy."