A/N: This was a drabble post for my tumblr: can be found
h t t p : / / klemonademouth . tumblr . com / post / 4218217190 / here-we-go-epically-long-was-supposed-to-be-a-drabble
on my tumblr as well (just get rid of the spaces). It was written for an anon for the prompt "barista".
Disclaimer: don't own.
Carmen couldn't actually remember the first time she'd seen them in the coffee shop, as off as that sounded. She could remember later on- when the details of the conversations she'd overheard, the expressions she'd seen became important to her. But really, how could she be expected to remember? In the beginning, they were just two more Dalton boys to frequent the Lima Bean, a place that was already overpopulated by those navy, red, and gray uniforms.
The first time she really noticed them- other than a faint recognition of their faces- was just before Christmas. They were bundled up in coats and scarves, of course, and both had a rosy pink glow to them, but the taller one's blush seemed to darken every time he looked at the shorter.
"Ten bucks says the short one's straight," Emilia murmured from beside her, re-stacking the coffee cups.
Carmen snorted. "You're on. No straight guy stands that close to another guy."
The shorter, dark-haired one was gesturing animatedly, and the taller one's pale eyes were fixed not on his friend's hands, but on his face.
"They're hot," Emilia said. "Really, really hot. Both of them. It's a shame they're in high school."
"They're also gay," Carmen reminded her, speaking a little lower as the two boys drew closer in line.
Emilia raised a challenging eyebrow. Dean waved them over to the cash register to man it while he filled a large order.
Short-and-dark and pale-and-elegant were next, stepping up to the counter. The shorter one gestured for his friends to go first.
He spoke, in a breathy voice she'd certainly heard before, but never really paid attention to. "Grande nonfat mocha." He looked expectantly at the other.
"Medium drip," the dark haired boy added, in a voice that oozed self-assurance. He pulled out a ten, handing it to Carmen. "Keep the change." To the other boy: "Stop apologizing for forgetting your wallet, I don't mind paying."
The pale boy smiled a little sheepishly.
"Names?" Emilia asked, her sharpie posed above a coffee cup. Carmen didn't miss the wink sent her way. "We're busy today- don't want any mix-ups," she said in explanation to their questioning looks.
"Kurt," the pretty one said, softly.
"Blaine," said the other, his smooth voice drawing out the vowels.
Emilia wrote the names on the cups, then handed them off to Carmen.
Carmen tried not to eavesdrop- she really did- as she prepped a few different orders, but their voices carried a little, and they were standing right in front of the espresso machine.
"So how did the Christmas Spectacular go?" the one called Kurt asked, a playful tone to his voice.
Blaine groaned a little. "Let's just say she doesn't have your voice and leave it at that."
"Pitchy?" Kurt guessed, his voice amused.
"The worst," Blaine agreed. "If you had been there to sing it with me instead of her, it would have brought the house down."
Carmen didn't miss the way the tips of Kurt's ears turned pink.
"Kurt, Blaine," she announced, sliding the cups across the counter, and the two took them to a table by the window, too far away for Carmen to hear anything else that was said. They both laughed a lot, though, and Kurt couldn't keep his eyes off of Blaine. The shorter boy seemed to be oblivious to that fact, apparently not noticing the adoring stares Kurt was sending his way.
The next time Carmen saw them was shortly after the new year. This time, it was Kurt who was talking excitedly and gesturing with his hands. Blaine was nodding, completely absorbed in the story, intent on nothing but Kurt's face. Tally two in her "gay" evidence box. The attentiveness in his gaze was almost unnerving.
Blaine paid again, and Carmen noticed the way Kurt's mouth curled upward at the gesture, even as he tried to remain outwardly cool. "I could have paid, you know," he whispered. "I remembered my wallet."
Blaine said nothing to him, merely arching an eyebrow in response.
Their conversation, as she prepared their orders, seemed to be simple "catching-up-with-you" talk after a holiday apart. Kurt's stories were rife with the word 'Mercedes'- clearly another rich prep school boy- and his dad, stepmom, and brother. Blaine's stories were exciting and picturesque- skiing in the mountains with friends, hiking by a frozen waterfall- but were noticeably devoid of parents or friends. Carmen didn't know if Kurt noticed, but if he did, he didn't mention it.
Emilia worked more hours than Carmen did, and would often visit the daycare where Carmen volunteered part-time to offer more proof that Blaine was, in fact, straight. The boys visited the coffee shop nearly every day, she said, and never once had there been any evidence of Blaine trying to "tap that" (her reasoning being, of course, that what gay man wouldn't want to tap that?). The only thing that puzzled her was that Blaine consistently, and despite Kurt's protests, paid for both of their coffee orders.
The next time she saw them, personally, was early in February. This time, they arrived with two girls- one a very pretty black girl who Carmen heard Kurt refer to as "Mercedes" (ah, not a car, then), and the other a very short brunette wearing a shudder-inducing quilted jacket.
Emilia appeared at her shoulder just as they'd moved aside to wait for their orders. "I want to up the betting pool to twenty dollars."
"You're on," Carmen whispered back. There was no way in hell it was a double date. The girls were carrying each other's orders, and Kurt was holding Blaine's biscotti for him. They sat segregated at the table they'd chosen- Kurt and Blaine on one side, Mercedes and the short girl on the other.
"Not a date," Carmen murmured to Emilia, who looked disgruntled. "Up it to thirty."
It was a week and a half later that Carmen saw them again- a Saturday, rather than a school day, which was unusual. Neither of them appeared to be wearing the usual uniforms under their coats. They appeared to be discussing the "puppy love" stuffed animal (personally, Carmen found it puke-inducing) in Kurt's arms. Kurt looked skeptical; Blaine, lovestruck.
"What can I get you?" she asked, politely.
"Uh, a medium drip and a nonfat mocha for this guy, and maybe I can get him to split one of those cupid cookies," Blaine said as they reached the counter, digging into his pocket for his wallet.
Kurt was gazing at him, his eyes alight. "You know my coffee order?" he asked breathlessly.
Blaine looked almost offended at the idea that he might not. "Of course I do."
"That'll be $8.40," Carmen said, trying hard to keep her voice neutral and disinterested.
Blaine opened his wallet, withdrawing a folded bill as Kurt fumbled in his bag for his own wallet.
"Don't even bother, dummy, it's on me," Blaine said, handing Carmen the bill. He met her eyes. "Keep the change," he said, with a charming smile that didn't quite meet his eyes.
But smooth. He was so very, very smooth. His voice, his words, his actions. But there was something in his eyes- some insecurity Carmen wasn't sure Kurt had noticed.
Kurt leaned forward, locking eyes with her and speaking in a confidential tone. "I do believe I have a new favorite holiday."
Emilia materialized beside her as she slid the coffee cups across the counter and the two boys picked them up. "What was that about?"
"Bring it up to forty," Carmen said in response.
She was working the Valentine's Day rush (there were far too many over-affectionate couples for her taste) when she saw them again. Kurt's face was sardonic, closed- his arms folded; he was standing further away from Blaine than usual. Blaine's face was bitter and somewhat embarrassed.
She kept an eye on them as she took orders, adjusting her hat so it covered most of her awful bed-head. Their faces changed at some point as they talked- Kurt's from sarcastic to soft and open, Blaine's from bitter to surprised and confused. Blaine's face grew more and more sincere as he stepped closer to Kurt to talk. Kurt's face grew more and more resigned.
"So, it'll be like When Harry Met Sally," her ears picked up, as the two boys stepped forward. "But I get to play Meg Ryan."
"Deal," Blaine said, his eyes soft as he looked at the other boy. He hesitated, stepping forward again. "Don't they get together in the end?"
Carmen's fingers crossed under the register.
Kurt didn't answer, only smiled somewhat mysteriously as he stepped up to the counter for both he and Blaine.
"You know my coffee order," Blaine said, in a tone of voice Carmen couldn't read.
"You know what?" Kurt said, an expression of enlightenment dawning on his face. "I think I've got something for us to do on Valentine's Day."
"Screw?" Dean muttered under his breath, and both Emilia and Carmen elbowed him, hard.
She was on cleaning and restock duty the next time she saw them. They were standing at the counter, talking, and she zeroed in because Blaine had his phone out. In their entire time at the coffee shop, she had never seen either of them with their phones out. They always had each other's undivided attention. But at this moment, Blaine was lifting his phone to his ear, and Kurt was leaning in to listen, too, half-laughing.
"Is she drunk?" she heard him ask.
Blaine shushed him. Carmen took extra long refilling the container of sugar packets, silently thanking God that they took the table closest to her.
"Rachel just asked me out," he said with an incredulous laugh as he shut his phone, and Carmen's heart sank a little.
Kurt, however, didn't seem concerned as he laughed. "That's amazing. She's got a girl crush on you!"
Carmen took a step back from the counter, grabbing her broom as Blaine stood up. Kurt took a gulp of his coffee, then seemed to think of something. "Wait a minute. Why did you say yes? You can't lead her on."
"Who says I'm leading her on?" Blaine asked, a little defensively, grabbing a coffee stirrer from the counter.
Kurt hissed something at Blaine as the boy sat back down, and Carmen turned away, locking eyes with Emilia.
"Not good," she mouthed.
Emilia's lips turned down. She hated it when people fought.
Carmen wiped down a few tables, keeping her eyes on theirs, watching as Blaine's face grew more distraught and Kurt's grew angrier. She watched in glances as their expressions grew heated, and she watched as Blaine made a parting comment to Kurt before picking up his bag and striding away. She watched the way Blaine pressed a fist to his eyes, a fruitless effort against the tears already escaping, and she watched as Kurt's face crumpled.
She propped her broom against the counter, leaning over Emilia to grab two pieces of chocolate-and-almond biscotti and a plate.
"What are you doing?" Emilia asked, bemused.
"Take it off my paycheck," Carmen said, "and up the bet to fifty."
"Are you crazy?" Emilia asked. "They just fought! Or did you not see that?"
" 'That' is why I'm upping the bet to fifty," Carmen said. "Didn't you see Blaine's face when he walked away? And Kurt's? They were hurt by whatever that fight was about."
She didn't know how to put it in the right words, and Emilia clearly didn't understand. She didn't understand it completely, herself. But she somehow knew she was right. That Blaine was completely, totally, one hundred percent in love with Kurt, and that Kurt felt exactly the same way.
And now, hearing what she had just heard, she faced the possibility that the reason neither of them had acted upon their feelings was that Blaine wasn't out. He didn't know he loved Kurt, and that was why he was going on a date with that 'Rachel' girl.
She piled the biscotti on the plate and headed to the table where Kurt sat, his eyes staring unseeingly at the door Blaine had just disappeared through. He looked up only when she set the plate down in front of him.
"What's this?" he asked, a quaver in his voice. He cleared his throat a little.
"It's on the house," Carmen said in a soft voice, attempting to convey with her eyes exactly what she was trying to say to him- that she was sorry, that she didn't like seeing him upset, that she was rooting for him.
He hesitated a moment, then- "thank you," he said, quietly, his fingers curling over the edge of the plate.
She smiled slightly, then turned to walk away.
Emilia wasn't working five days later when Blaine showed up, alone. Carmen had just begun her shift, and it took her a moment to recognize Blaine without Kurt beside him. In her head, they'd become a singular unit- BlaineandKurt instead of Blaine and Kurt- and it was unsettling to see one without the other.
He looked sad, still- more serious than usual. He kept glancing to his left, as if forgetting he was alone in line.
The brunette girl came out of nowhere- the same girl who'd been with them a month and a half ago when there had been four in the coffee shop instead of two. Blaine seemed surprised to see her- not unwelcoming, just surprised.
"Oh, hey Rachel-" he began, but was cut off when the girl (Rachel?) pressed her lips against his in a somewhat desperate and urgent kiss.
Carmen dropped the cup she was filling, swearing as it hit the floor and hot coffee sloshed over her feet. The next customer in line- a tall guy with dreadlocks- winced sympathetically.
Both parties pulled back, staring at each other.
Carmen filled another order, only half-concentrating on the task at hand as she watched Blaine nod, his jaw shifting.
"Yup, I'm gay," he said, and Carmen nearly dropped her second cup of coffee. "100% gay. Thanks for clearing that up for me, Rachel."
He said something else to her as Carmen slid a coffee order onto the pickup counter, but she couldn't hear it over her own voice as she called out the name "Batman" (honestly, couldn't people just use their own names?). He walked away briskly, leaving Rachel staring blankly at the spot he'd just been standing in.
She didn't notice Kurt until he stood up, walking up behind a still-shocked Rachel. He murmured something to her, his face surprisingly sympathetic (far more than Carmen's would have been, had it been her).
Rachel turned, her expression of shock slowly morphing into one of ecstasy. "Are you kidding? That was amazing! I just almost had a relationship with a guy who turned out to be gay; that is song-writing gold!"
Carmen's eyebrows shot up. Was that really what high school had been like? She honestly couldn't remember her years in high school ever coming close to that amount of drama.
Rachel darted off after kissing Kurt's cheek, leaving him standing alone in line with a completely befuddled look on his face.
"Next," Dean called, from the cash register.
Kurt stepped up, shaking his head. "Two medium drips," he said, before catching Carmen's eye. His face lit a little in recognition. She grinned at him. He leaned against the counter as she filled their cups.
"Feeling any better?" she asked, handing him the two identical coffees.
His gaze was no longer on her, but on a short, dark-haired figure making his way back to the line. "I will be in a minute."
Blaine stopped a few feet from Kurt, shoving his hands in his coat pockets and smiling hesitantly, so different from his usual confidant expression.
Kurt held out one of the coffees. "Let's agree that we both said things that hurt the other and never discuss it again."
Blaine reached for the coffee, letting his hand stay cupped around Kurt's for a moment. "Kurt, I'm so-"
Kurt raised an eyebrow. "What did you think of the new issue of Vogue?"
Blaine's smile was so relieved that Carmen actually had to turn away to hide her giant, silly grin.
It wasn't until they left that she realized that technically, she'd just won the bet.
"I don't believe you," Emilia said that night, after Carmen had called her. "You're making that up."
"I tell you, I'm not! He said, and I quote- 'Gay. 100% gay'."
"No way, it doesn't count," Emilia insisted. "I have to be there to hear or see it, or it doesn't count."
Carmen groaned. "Fine. But we're bringing the betting amount up to seventy-five."
"Awful sure of yourself, aren't you?" Emilia teased.
"I know what I heard."
They came back a few more times in March, and nothing much seemed to have changed in the way of their romantic relationship. Carmen noticed, though, in the way a third-party observer might, that they had somehow still changed.
Kurt still gazed at Blaine with adoration in his eyes, but it had softened from blind hero-worship to the genuine look of someone who knew all your faults and loved you anyway. Blaine was less confident, less smooth, and clung to Kurt a little more.
Carmen wasn't expecting it when Kurt showed up alone halfway through March, his expression slightly annoyed.
"Where's your friend?" Carmen asked before she could stop herself.
"Practicing perfecting his multitude of solos, I'd imagine," Kurt said, a little acerbically.
Carmen could feel her forehead pinch in surprise as she secured the lid on his cup. "Problems in Wonderland?"
Kurt laughed bitterly. "Warblerland, more like."
"Do you need to talk about it?" she found herself asking. "I'm Carmen," she added as an afterthought, holding out her hand.
"Kurt," he said, after a moment, clasping it briefly. "No, I don't think so. I already talked to him."
"Did it do anything?"
"I don't know, he still has all the solos. You tell me."
"Can I ask you something, then?" Carmen asked, unpinning her nametag and hanging it back up on the board as Dean slipped behind her to take over her shift.
Kurt's eyebrows lifted in response.
"Why are you in love with him?"
For a moment Kurt didn't react, then his head drooped. "Is it really that obvious?" he groaned.
Carmen laughed. "Only to the observant. I've just seen the way you look at him."
He sighed, cupping his hand around his coffee. "I think everyone has." He shifted his bag on his shoulder, turning away. "It was nice to formally meet you, Carmen."
"You, as well," she shrugged on her coat. He offered her a slight smile before he disappeared out the door.
Neither of them came to the Lima Bean for more than a week. She was beginning to think she had seen the last of them- maybe their friendship hadn't survived this most recent pitfall, maybe they'd found a better coffee shop- when the two of them walked through the door at three o'clock Thursday afternoon.
She nudged Emilia as soon as they came in, pointing. "They're back!"
There was something immediately and obviously different, even from such a distance. Both were noticeably glowing, radiating light and joy and love. They stood even closer together than before, their hands knocking against each other. Blaine's eyes never strayed from Kurt. His gaze was awed, loving, slightly thunderstruck. When Kurt met his gaze, the taller boy would flush, a pretty red coloring appearing high on his cheekbones, and both would smile fondly at each other.
"Something's different," Emilia said. "Shit. I might owe you seventy-five bucks."
Blaine leaned up a bit to whisper in Kurt's ear. The other blushed even darker, nodding, and slipped his hand into Blaine's.
Carmen gripped Emilia's hand under the counter.
"Friends hold hands," Emilia argued feebly.
"Friends don't look at each other like that," Carmen whispered, her voice swelling with joy.
The man at the counter coughed.
"Right, may I take your order, sir?" Emilia asked, hurrying to the cash register.
Carmen leaned against the espresso machine, watching the two boys murmur to each other, their faces exuberant and their gazes smitten.
Kurt was glancing around furtively, ensuring that they had nobody's attention, before leaning down to kiss Blaine. Blaine responded enthusiastically, reaching a hand up to press against Kurt's cheek, tilting his head to deepen the kiss. Kurt pulled away, blushing furiously and smacking Blaine's arm lightly.
There was a clatter as Emilia spilled an entire roll of quarters on the floor. Both boys' faces snapped to the counter as Carmen let out a whoop, throwing her fist into the air.
It was Blaine's turn to blush as hard as Kurt as both of them stepped up to the register, but neither released the other's hand.
"The usual?" Carmen asked, and wow her voice was startlingly bright and she really had to stop living vicariously through other couples.
"Can I have some chocolate-chip biscotti, too?" Blaine asked, then looked at the boy beside him, a slightly goofy smile on his face. "Do you want anything?"
"Can I get one of those black and white cookies?" Kurt asked, almost bashfully.
Carmen hummed happily to herself as she typed the order into the cash register, then deducted the total from her own pay. Blaine pulled out his wallet, still grinning to himself.
Carmen waved it away. "This is on the house."
They both looked incredulous. "Really?" Blaine asked, hesitating. "Are you sure?"
Carmen nodded, drumming her fingers on the register. "First of all, I just won a three-month long ongoing bet with my co-worker." She jabbed a thumb at Emilia.
Both of their faces were comically shocked.
"Second, you two are the cutest damn things I've ever seen and we've all been rooting for you to get together," she said. "And I'm probably the most jaded person I know, and I'm saying that. You two give me hope."
The light shining in the two boys' eyes was almost too much for her secretly romantic heart to take, so she waved them away, accepting their thanks but not their money.
Emilia met her eyes, and smiled softly, nodding.
It wasn't about the bet money, really. Somehow, she'd grown ridiculously attached to two teenage boys and their relationship with each other in the four months they'd been going to the coffee shop she worked at.
During the day, a barista saw a lot of things- people arguing on cellphones, sappy couples, people getting their heartbroken, people getting proposed to. All stages of love, out on display for the world to see, if it so chose. But it was rare- so rare- for a barista to get the chance to see two people slowly fall in love, right in front of her eyes.