"So… Uh, I kind have may have kissed him?" starts Sam awkwardly the next day, in between a lull in customers, stacking and rearranging the cups unnecessarily so he doesn't have to see the look on Jess's face. He's not sure what he'd see there if he looked, disapproval or amusement or concern.
He doesn't expect Jess to practically squeak, "You did what?!" loud enough that the buzz of chatter in the whole shop quietens noticeably, and many people look in their direction.
Jess winces, waving a dismissive hand and waiting for everything to go back to normal before repeating, in a lower but equally excited whisper, "What?!"
"Um, I kissed him." Sam's fairly sure he's bright red, and he's still got his back to Jess, fiddling with the coffee filter now. "He noticed me staring at his mouth and then he was licking at the whipped cream and he got a bit on his lip and he was just there so I sort of…? And then yeah."
"And…?" says Jess impatiently, and when Sam finally turns around her eyes are wide and curious, an odd excitement in them.
"And… he asked me if I wanted to go have lunch with him on Sunday," admits Sam, unable to keep what he's sure must be a fairly dreamy smile off his face.
"He did not!" Jess's volume is slowly rising again, and she forces herself to quiet down with a physical effort when people start looking again. "Oh Sam, that's awesome."
"He's eight years older than me!" whines Sam mournfully, ignoring the dirty look the comment gets him from the man he's serving, who asks for his order to be changed to take-away.
"Love knows no bounds," says Jess, tone mock-wise as she strokes a beard she doesn't have. "Follow your heart, you must."
Sam rolls his eyes and elbows her lightly, and concentrates on adding the right amount of cherry syrup to a chocolate berry ice ordered by a small girl with pigtails, who's staring at him as if the secrets of the universe are contained in the cup of sugar he offers her.
Sam leaves early that day, tickets to Paradise Lost burning in his pocket as he rushes home to change and shave and try to wrestle his hair into some semblance of obedience as he races against time to make himself presentable. He misses the bus, has to catch the one that comes eight minutes later, and by the time he reaches the theater he's a jittery mess of nerves, terrified that it's started without him being there.
It hasn't. Sam climbs the endless, winding stairs through the art-deco interior of the theater, feeling out-of-place and self conscious. Though there are some people dressed similarly to him – decently smart shirt, clean pair of jeans, nice shoes – the majority are in suits or cocktail dresses, dolled up to the nines. The women glitter with jewellery, and the men flash watches and expensive cufflinks, and Sam feels so very, very small.
The feeling only intensifies when he reaches his seats. Right at the back of the gods, the only place that students like him and Jess can afford, and the whole theater's splayed out below him, crowds of people all talking and laughing, the place buzzing with chatter.
As soon as the lights dim, though, that all stops, like someone flipped a switch and turned the noise off. There's a low rolling, the musicians hidden somewhere in their pit, drums throbbing and echoing through the space, and every hair on Sam's body seems to stand on end at the electric energy that ripples through the silent space.
The audience holds its collective breath…
And doesn't release it until two hours later, when the play is concluded and the actors come out to take their bows to roaring applause. Sam's on the edge of his seat, craning forward to see more – grateful he's at the back, so he doesn't have any annoyed shorter people sitting behind him and complaining that they can't see – and he claps wildly along with the rest of them, eyes wide and bright with the excitement of it all.
Jess had been right, he thinks, as he rides the bus back home. Chuck had been brilliant as usual, no surprise there. Ms. Masters, not an actress he was terribly familiar with, had been wonderful too, surprising and engaging and passionate, and he'd made a mental note to find out what else she'd been in. Lili had been good, nothing terribly special; in Sam's opinion, she had her looks going for her as an actress, and not much else, but she hadn't been bad.
But the real show-stealer had been Lucien Morningstar. Quiet, reticent, with a reputation as something of a diva – or, in the words of some of the less polite papers, a "spoilt, sulking child" – he'd looked utterly… unearthly. There really was no other way to describe it, the sense he'd got of the man being new to his own skin, confused, curious, calm over the surface of tightly compressed power. It was perfect, brilliant, and the fact that even Sam could pick up on it when he could barely see the guy's face was a testament to his acting prowess.
It was weirdly familiar, but despite turning it over and over in his head all the way home, Sam can't think for the life of him where he's seen it before.
"You weren't there on Saturday."
They're walking through the park, arms linked loosely together, shoulders touching. It's not a particularly intimate gesture, but Sam's skin still bursts into static everywhere Luke's body comes into contact with his.
"I, uh, oh, sorry about that. Hope you didn't think I'd run off." Sam grins nervously at him, fingers scratching at the leg of his jeans. He hadn't even considered how that would look, kissing an almost-stranger in a darkened coffee shop and then disappearing the next day.
Luke smiles, and shakes his head. "No, there was a very… friendly co-worker of yours filling in for you. Jess, I believe her name was? She seemed to know a lot about me."
Sam winces. "Yeah. She's been, um. I think interrogating would be the best word there. Interrogating me."
Luke laughs at that, quietly, a small, understated sound that does something odd to Sam's stomach. "Yes, she rather interrogated me, as well. She's very thorough." He decided not to mention the fact that she'd also brandished the cake knife at him and threatened to castrate him if he hurt Sam in any way at all.
"She's the best friend I could have," says Sam loyally. "Did she tell you she was the one that bought the tickets to Paradise Lost for me?"
There's a moment's pause where Luke seems to jolt slightly, blinking at Sam in a cross between surprise and alarm and worry – and then it's gone before Sam can analyse it. He considers asking, but he's not sure he's allowed to pry, not yet, and besides Luke is speaking again. "No, she did not. She simply told me you were attending a performance. I was unaware of which one." He looks up at Sam, one corner of his mouth curling in some kind of private joke. "Did you enjoy it?"
"Oh man, it was awesome." Sam tries not to turn into a total mess of excitement and happiness as he begins remembering it, and fails. "I mean, Chuck's always good, he's just basically brilliance personified in everything he's ever been in, and that- what's her face, Masters, Meg Masters, she was really cool too, I loved the kind of- her energy, you know? And the passion… I mean, and the music was brilliant too, and-" He stops, takes a deep breath, and tries to ignore the amusement on Luke's face. "And that Morningstar guy, I mean, wow. Just, wow."
Luke looks curious, blinking up at Sam. "…'Wow'?" he asks slowly, raising an eyebrow. "Define 'wow'?"
"He just- there was just something about him, y'know? Like… like he was his role, I don't know." Sam shook his head, unable to explain it properly. "He had this kind of electricity, this presence – I mean, I've seen him before, but this time- he kind of just… wow."
Luke quirks an eyebrow at Sam, smiling. "Should I be jealous?"
Sam rolls his eyes, and elbows him lightly. "Oh, hush," he mumbles, and then to make sure Luke does, tilts his head down to kiss the other man. Luke sighs against his mouth, obviously recognising a distraction technique when he sees one, but he doesn't pull away. He tilts his head, leans in – and he still kisses like he's memorising Sam, like he's exploring. Like he's slightly confused as to how he ended up with his lips pressed against another's, but he's going to make the most of the opportunity.
And as for Sam, he kisses like he's scared Luke's going to vanish, hard and desperate and completely ignoring the fact they're in a park and people are staring and somewhere to his left someone's yelling an insult. He curls an arm around Luke's back, pulls him close, opens his lips against Luke's, licks into his mouth and tastes warmth and bitter coffee and a hint of copper.
For that moment, in the sun-drenched park, the warmth of Luke against him and around him, Sam thinks his life is probably as close to perfect as it's possible to get.
Life goes on very much as normal – Sam still gets up, goes to his lectures, goes to work, chats to Jess, goes out with his friends. It's just now he also goes out with Luke, to lunch or dinner, to the park, to the cinema, once or twice to his apartment. They can't exactly go back to Sam's tiny cupboard in the halls of residence, or Sam would have offered to return the favour; he feels oddly guilty about not being able to.
It's nice, comfortable, easy, and Sam loves it. Normal? Not so much, but he can live with that – he lived with his dad for eighteen years before he managed to escape to college, and he's been living with the fact his boss is insane for the past year or so, and the fact that he now has a… a what? A boyfriend sounds childish, a partner sounds too serious, and lover just sounds wrong, especially considering they haven't even got to that point yet.
The point is, the fact Sam's seeing someone nearly ten years older than him doesn't sound quite so mad in the general course of his life, somehow – although he's dreading the moment he has to tell anyone, other than Jessica. He's not told his friends, although they all know he's taken the occasional interest in boys as well as girls, and he's not told Dean, or his dad… the thought of doing that makes his insides squirm with horror.
But for now… well. Everything's going well. Too well, really, far too perfect, and Sam's just dreading the moment he has to wake up from the dream his life's become.
The little slice of heaven Sam's carved out for himself lasts exactly two weeks and five days after that first kiss over the counter. He's been expecting something to happen for a while, but not… this.
It's a perfectly lovely Tuesday evening – well, night, really, Sam's just about to close up the shop and start cleaning and packing things away. That's what he's telling himself, anyway, but with Luke leaning over the counter and kissing him languidly, almost lazily, it's hard to muster up the willpower to pull away.
In fact, he only manages it when the bell above the door rings as a small group of theatergoers stumble into the shop, folding umbrellas up and shaking damp hair out. It's unusual to have customers this late, but not unheard of – plenty of people hang around long after the show's ended, trying to get autographs.
Luke's still lounging against the counter as the group – five kids in their late teens – approaches, licking his lips, and Sam braces himself for any pointed or unpleasant comments they're going to make. It wouldn't be the first time; there are plenty of advantages to dating Luke, most concerning his happiness level, but increasing his level of social acceptability is not one of them.
Instead, though, the girl at the front of the group orders five hot chocolates, barely glancing at Luke. Behind her, her friends are chatting to themselves, discussing whatever they went to see in low, excited voices, and Sam lets out a low breath of relief as he turns to grab cups. He really, really doesn't need a lecture on how he's a sick freak or is going to Hell so close to midnight.
His relief doesn't last long.
"Oh my god," says one of the teens suddenly, a boy with a large green streak dyed in his overly long hair. "Oh my god, Lisa, it's him."
Sam doesn't turn around at that, because who knows what they're talking about, but when a girl – presumably Lisa – lets out a noise that sounds like a strangled squeak, he does. She's looking directly at Luke, eyes wide and excited, and there's a faint blush on her cheeks. "Holy- you're Lucien Morningstar, aren't you? Ohmygod, oh my- I'm such a fan of your work, seriously, you're an inspiration." She's grinning nervously at him. "It's an honour, um, we've literally just gotten back from Paradise Lost, you were amazing, uh, would you mind signing my programme, please…?"
Sam stares, open-mouthed, and waits for Luke to smile and shake his head and tell them they've mistaken him for someone else.
It doesn't happen. Luke does smile, but he accepts the programme the girl hands him, scrawling a messy black signature across the front of it with a pen from the pot that rests permanently on the counter. Sam's still staring, shocked and confused, not quite getting what's going on in front of his eyes. One of the girls at the back of the group is looking athim, not Luke, and there's something like jealousy in her eyes – which makes no sense, because this is Luke, Luke Novak, not–
"Lucien Morningstar?" manages Sam, voice tight and rough and almost strangled. "Lucien Morningstar?"
Luke's head shoots up from where he's signing the programme, and when they focus on Sam's face they're soft and almost guilty. He hands the programme back to the girl, who grins and clutches it to her chest, and he opens his mouth to say something, but Sam's not having any of that.
"What happened to Luke, huh?" he asks, and his voice is low and rough with anger. he knows he's being unfair, but he trusted Luke handed his heart over to this man who it turns out he doesn't even know. "Were you planning on telling me? Ever? Or were you just gonna keep stringing me along, keep laughing behind my back? What– what am I, just some kind of petty amusement to you?" He shouldn't be doing this, not here, not in front of these strangers whose grins are slowly sliding off their faces, but he can't help himself.
"No– Sam, I… care about you greatly. I–" Luke breaks himself off at the look on Sam's face, at the confusion slowly turning to abject horror on the face of Lisa. "I think now is not the time to have this conversation," he says slowly, licking at his lips in a vaguely nervous gesture and meeting Sam's eyes. There's an apology in there that Sam doesn't want to acknowledge. "I should go."
Sam doesn't agree with him, can't bring himself to do that – he knows if he says, "Yes, you should," in the cold tone of voice he wants to then this, whatever it is, will be over for good – but he doesn't try to stop him. Luke nods to him, says, "It was a pleasure to meet you," to the still-lingering teenagers, and turns on his heel and walks out the shop.
The bell tinkles behind him, and then there's silence.
"Oh. Oh my god. Oh, fuck, I'm– so sorry. I didn't know, I didn't realise, I'm–" Lisa's looking at him with horror in her eyes, an expression mirrored in those of her friends, and she seems close to tears as she shakes her head frantically.
"Don't," says Sam shortly, refusing to swear and rage like he wants to. Lisa falls silent, biting her lip and looking as apologetic and ashamed as it's possible for a human to be. "Just… don't."
He makes their drinks in silence, five hot chocolates – in to-go cups, even though they asked for eat-in – and pushes them across the counter to them in silence. "Twenty two dollars, please," he asks, voice flat and empty, and the boy pushes a three ten dollar bills across the to him.
"Keep the change," he says, not able to meet Sam's eyes. "Sorry."
They walk out in silence, clutching a hot chocolate each, and Sam shuts the shop in silence. He doesn't clean up very well, knows Gabriel will have words with him tomorrow for the sloppily wiped tables and the half-dried cups, but he can't bring himself to care.
Sam turns up for work the next day in a foul mood – Jess picks up on it right away, knows something's happened, but simply pulls him into a hug and then gets on with serving the next customer. He's ridiculously grateful that she doesn't push him, doesn't
Sure enough, though, Gabriel wasn't pleased by the mess Sam left last night (using 'not pleased' is possibly akin to describing a tornado as 'a breath of wind) and comes out of the back room less than ten minutes after Sam arrives, hands on hips. Despite the fact he's roughly half Sam's size, Sam always feels small next to him, and when Gabriel gives him thatlook, one disappointed eyebrow raised, Sam shrinks.
"You left a right mess last night, kiddo," he says easily, arms folded across his chest and eyes hard. "Took me an hour to clear up. You think I'm paying you to leave a mess?" His voice is light, even, but there's an edge to it that makes Sam cringe.
"I'm sorry," he mumbles quietly. "I shouldn't have– I'm sorry. I'll– work overtime. Make it up."
Gabriel blinks, surprised, and his eyes narrow. Sam never gives in that easily; he's never rude, not exactly, but if Gabriel pushes he pushes right back. "Right," he says, taking a step forward and poking Sam's chest. "What's up with you?" People say many things about Gabriel, complimentary and… not so complimentary, but no one would dare accuse him of not looking after his staff.
Sam looks up from where he's staring at at the floor, shoulders hunched over. "I b- had an argument with my boyfriend," he says quietly, voice rough around the edges from lack of sleep, and winces at the word that nearly escaped. "Last night. Just… an argument." Because they haven't broken up, they really haven't, it's just an argument, just a little misunderstanding, everything will be fine. He hopes.
He's never exactly outright told Gabriel about his preferences, and it only occurs to him after he's said it that his boss might not be overly happy, but he looks up to see Gabriel's eyes softening. "Sucks to be you," he says, shrugging one shoulder, because he doesn't docomfort, not exactly. But the lack of continued scowling is enough to tell Sam he's been forgiven. "No need to overtime, kiddo, I understand – but in future, private life out of work hours, yeah?" He nods comfortingly, claps Sam on the shoulder, and shoots Jess a lookbefore returning to the back rooms to whip up god only knows what.
Jess doesn't need the look. She's already there, winding arms around Sam's waist and pulling him forward into a hug, and as Sam pulls her close and drops his head onto her shoulder as best he can, he wonders what on earth he did to deserve such a wonderful friend. "I'm sorry," she murmurs to him, stroking his back. "What happened?"
Someone behind them clears their throat, and Sam reluctantly lets go of Jess to turn around. "My apologies, how may I help you?" he asks, not needing to turn around to know that, behind him, Jess is glaring daggers at the sour-faced woman standing there with one eyebrow raised.
In between customers and cleaning tables and replenishing stock, it takes almost all of the two hours that their shifts overlap by for Sam to get the whole story out. Jess looks appropriately shocked when he tells her about the fact that his boyfriend is apparently also a world-famous actor – at least for a moment, before lapsing into badly-suppressed excitement. "How on earth didn't you realise who he was?" she asks incredulously, shaking her head. "Sam, you went to see him in a play!"
Sam mutters something under his breath and scrubs at a stain on the table in front of him, cursing food dye and everything it chooses to be. "Dunno. I was really high up and everything– I mean, I kind of thought he looked familiar, but I'd been to that other Thousand Deaths thing so I just sort of figured…" He shrugs carelessly. "Dunno."
"Oh, I wasn't– Sam, I wasn't accusing you, I just–" Jess shakes her head, sighing, and for a moment there's silence. Then, finally, she adds, "Well. It seems to me that you didn't even really have a proper argument – you just panicked a bit, understandably, and he wanted to… give you your space, to come to terms with things. I'm sure he'll come back soon, and you two can talk things over and sort it all out."
Sam hopes to God she's right.
That first night, Sam expects him to come back – expects to see Luke walk back through the doors as usual (after doing an evening performance, he now knows, and being detained whilst de-costuming and signing autographs) and ask for some invented drink and smile at Sam with that half-curl of his lips that Sam loves so much.
He wants it, more than anything,
It hurts, like a physical pain in his chest, when he finally gives up at one in the morning, an hour later than they're supposed to closed. He's already cleaned everything up, tidied the tables and shut the stock away, and has just been sitting there for nearly half an hour, waiting.
Waiting, apparently, for someone who's not coming.
He stands up with a low sigh that gets strangled in his chest somewhere, twisted with barbs inside his throat. Its cold outside – not long now until the first snow of the year, and he tugs his coat closer around him against the sharp wind skidding down the neat alley made for it by tall buildings. Despite the early hour, there's still plenty of people about and wandering around, but nonetheless, Sam feels achingly, impossibly alone.
By the fourth day, even Jess has run out of positive things to say, and the tentative voice message Sam left on Luke's mobile yesterday hasn't been replied to.
He sends a text that night – we need to talk. call me. please – as he steps out of the shop and locks up, twisting his scarf tighter around his neck, and considers calling again. After a minute of standing there staring at his phone, oblivious to the people hurrying past, he shakes his head and shuts it, pushing it into his pocket.
Sam doesn't see Luke for the rest of the week. Not that he really goes looking for him, other than leaving another message asking to talk, and hopefully peering out the shop window when any attractive thirty-odd man walks past, but he'd hoped… he'd hoped the Luke would come find him, maybe, turn up in the shop again and explain things and apologise, give Sam a chance to apologise for overreacting.
But he doesn't.
Needless to say, the rest of Sam's week does not go well.
Sam jumps, fumbles with the cup he's holding and nearly drops it – because it's been a week, a whole week, and he's not heard anything, and now it's Sunday (afternoon, at that, nearly five already), and he is never here Sunday, except he is–
He sets the cup back on the counter gently, takes several deep breaths, and turns around. "Luke," he says, as calmly as he can. He's not entirely sure what he wants to say. Maybe get out, or I've missed you, or please not here because he can already see the people turning to stare at the actor, hear the soft whispers of, "Lucien Morningstar!" running through the café. "Can I help you?"
Luke shakes his head, tongue skating across his lip nervously. There's the familiar flash of silver, and Sam's stomach twists with want, with the urge to lean across and kiss, taste, feel. He curls fingers around the lip of the counter instead, and asks, "Why are you here?"
"I came to–" Luke cuts himself off, shakes his head, chewing on his lip. "I understand your unhappiness with me being– something other than what you had come to know me as." He pauses, thinking, and when he starts speaking again there's a tone of almost frantic worry in his voice. "I never lied to you, Sam, I promise. I told you only the truth, just– you were never a 'petty distraction', you're beautiful and perfect, and– I really am called Luke Novak. Lucien is just my stage name. I never lied."
He's wide eyed, nervous, practically begging Sam to believe him, and Sam does. "It's okay," he murmurs, surprising himself almost as much as Luke. "I was– angry, at first. But I kind of understand why you didn't tell me. I just– I just wish you had." Luke's words hadn't been an apology, not even close, but it's good enough. Sam had realised early on in their… he supposes it really is a relationship, that Luke is bad with says sorry. This, coming from him, is practically begging on bended knee.
"It was… nice," says Luke softly, looking oddly vulnerable. "Everyone makes assumptions about me, from the media, from my name, without ever having met me, but you…" He shakes his head, drawing in a slow breath. "You took me for what I was, not what they saw. Not what the media says about me. For the first time in years, there was someone being honest, and I– I didn't want that to end. Even if it meant me having to conceal certain things."
There's a line forming behind Luke, customers scowling and muttering amongst themselves, but neither Sam nor Luke are paying them any attention. Most seem to realise that, even if they're not happy about it, something beyond them is going on right now, and are patient enough to wait.
Sam nods at Luke's words. he doesn't understand – couldn't possibly understand because he's not famous, he's just some college kid hoping to be a half-decent lawyer one day – but he can empathise, can understand the justification. Luke's hands are white-knuckled, resting on the very edge of the counter, and Sam reaches across to curl his own fingers over Luke's cold ones. "It's okay," he repeats quietly. "It doesn't change anything."
"Really?" The sheer hope in Luke's voice takes Sam's breath away. He sounds as if Sam has just offered him redemption, absolution, rather than a second chance when he never really ruined his first.
"Yes, really," says Sam, smiling gently. "Of course. I'm not– As if I'd be stupid enough to throw this away over something so small."
There's a moment of absolute silence, where Luke stares at him in complete shock, and Sam stares right back.
And then Luke smiles, lips half-curling at the corners and parting slightly, showing teeth and warmth and a flash of silver, and Sam gives in. He gives in and leans forward, grabbing the lapel of Luke's jacket and pulling him forward into a kiss – tasting the heat of his mouth, the slow slide of tongue over teeth and
It's a bit difficult to know for sure, because right at that moment Sam's mind is in other places – most of them focused on the curl of Luke's fingers at the back of his neck and the lazy, proprietary drag of teeth across his lip – but he's fairly sure a few people at the back of the queue walk out. Someone to his left, or maybe a couple of someones, wolf-whistle. There's a bit of cheering, a smattering of claps, probably from the same group of people, but he grins into Luke's mouth all the same, dizzy with the sheer euphoria of it all.
He pulls away after a low moment, running his tongue over his lip as if to catch the lingering taste of Luke's mouth. "I have customers to serve," he says quietly, eyeing the line behind the actor, "and you have a play to go get ready for. It's already quarter past five, you're gonna be late."
"I'm sure they'll manage with me being a few minutes behind schedule," murmurs Luke, eyes suddenly playful and oddly dangerous.
"No," says Sam firmly, despite the twist in his stomach at the sudden change in tone of voice. "I've got customers to serve. And I'll see you tonight, anyway, after the performance?" It's not meant to be a question, but somehow it comes out as one all the same.
"Of course." There's no hesitation behind Luke's answer. "Until tonight, then."
"Until tonight," echoes Sam, mouth curled in a hopeless smile as he watches Luke leave – except this time, when the door falls shut with a ring, it doesn't feel like an end; it feels like a beginning.
AN: And that's that, folks! Hope you've enjoyed the story. :) There may well be more in this universe, though, considering I quite like it, so it's not really the end. Just a temporary one.