It's Saturday, and the man has been sitting alone in the corner on his laptop since the shop opened, typing furiously while drinking a probably unhealthy quantity of tea.
By mid-afternoon, the shop is mostly empty, except this guy is still sitting there, occasionally running his fingers through his impractically long blond hair. He lifts his cup to his lips and almost tips it upside-down before realizing that it's empty. He scowls and returns to the counter, where the small, silver-haired worker waits with a lifted eyebrow.
"You know," he says conversationally when the blond hands him his cup for a refill, "when we offer 'free refills on tea between 2-4' I don't think the owner intended for someone to drink six cups of tea in that time."
"Just give me another cup," the blond replies, and the worker rolls his eyes as he hands it over.
The worker pushes his glasses up his nose and watches as his customer returns to his computer, muttering to himself as he types. He's been here before, but usually only to grab something to go; this is the first time he's stayed around that the worker can remember. (He's pretty sure he would remember a guy with hair like that, styled in a strange wing shape on the left side, and a weird golden ornament dangling down.)
What a strange man, Durbe thinks, but he's kind of adorable with his sweater vest and khaki uniform that he's wearing even though there's no class today.
It's Tuesday, and the blond is back. This time, he orders an iced latte.
"They're not free refills," the worker offers helpfully.
"Do you have a name?"
It's not really necessary to write his name on the order; it's four o'clock in the afternoon and a lot of people are still in class, so there aren't very many people in the shop. But the worker is curious.
The worker frowns and taps his marker on the cup. "Is that spelled with an 's' or a 'z'?"
Misael makes a noise of impatience. "Both are fine. May I have my drink?"
"Misael's a weird name," the worker goes on, scribbling on the cup.
"So is Durbe," Misael says shortly, snatching the cup from him with a quick glance at the worker's name tag.
Durbe smiles wryly as Misael returns to the same table and pulls out his computer. Misael takes a sip of his drink and makes a face before glancing at the cup. The two exchange a look – Durbe's one of amusement and Misael's one of irritation – as Misael sees how Durbe spelled his name.
Misael mouths something across the room but Durbe's not very good at lip reading.
It's Friday, and the shop is full of people. A couple of guys have taken up Misael's regular table, and when Misael arrives in his sweater vest and khakis, he scowls at the two of them before ordering a tea.
"The latte was disgusting."
Durbe wants to retort but has to hurry up, because a gaggle of impatient girls on their cell phones are whining because their order isn't getting done fast enough. He looks up long enough to see Misael take the table nearest the counter and pull out his laptop.
When the evening rush finally dies out and people head out to dinner or some party or another, Misael stays at the table, even when his regular table becomes vacant again. When there's a long lull in customers, Durbe goes out to wash tables and finds himself watching Misael type.
It's not homework, Durbe decides, because nobody does homework on a Friday night. Plus, he doesn't have any books.
"What are you working on?"
Misael looks up, startled, but covers it up nicely by taking a too-big gulp of tea that probably burns on the way down but he maintains his composure.
"I'm just… writing."
His face flushes in what Durbe takes to be embarrassment. "Just… stuff."
It's clear that Misael doesn't want Durbe to know what he's writing about, so Durbe amuses himself for a moment with the thought that he's writing erotic fiction. "Okay, then. Well, we close in about half an hour."
Durbe goes back behind the counter and rinses his cleaning rag off before starting to wash out the coffee pots. Misael finishes his tea and stares at his screen but he doesn't seem to have the same focus and his fingers hover over his keyboard awkwardly.
"Did I throw you off?"
Misael glances up at Durbe, who is halfway through rinsing the smoothie blender. He shrugs.
"It's fine. I should probably be going anyway."
"What are you doing tonight?"
Durbe tells himself he's just curious about Misael. It helps alleviate his embarrassment at trying to ask Misael to hang out with him because he feels like he should probably make friends with somebody who actually has some kind of work ethic because maybe it'd be good for him.
"I have work to do," Misael says shortly.
"What about tomorrow night?"
Misael repeats himself but Durbe's somewhat dejected look makes him grimace before amending himself. "But I guess I can spare a few hours… doing something."
It's Saturday again, and Durbe makes lattes and triple espresso shots and more coffee than he thinks is good for this university for most of the afternoon, all the while kind of wishing Misael would show up to work on his erotic fiction (he was convinced that nothing else would make Misael so embarrassed to share what he was working on) because even though Misael was about as talkative as a tree, there was something about him that interested Durbe and seemed to make the day go by a little faster.
But Misael doesn't show up until the shop is closed, and he's wearing the same clothes he always wears. Does he have like ten of the same uniform? Durbe wonders as he puts the cash drawer in the safe and goes outside to meet him. Suddenly he's not sure offering to hang out with him is a good idea after all.
"I was wondering whether you were even going to show up," Durbe says with a nervous laugh.
Misael shrugs and looks a little like Durbe feels. His hands are shoved in his pockets and he's looking away distractedly. "What did you want to do?"
Durbe thinks about going to a party – he has a friend of sorts who throws pretty good parties – but somehow he knows this guy would be a total party killjoy and he's not sure Vector and Misael would get along in the slightest.
"I can cook pretty well," he offers. "Want to come over to my place? I live just down the street." He has like three pieces of chicken and a bag of rice but it sure beats going out to eat because he's not sure Misael would shoulder his bill and he has like ten dollars to his name.
Misael rubs his arm and shrugs again. "Okay."
Durbe's one-bedroom apartment is tiny and cramped and smells like a cat lady's house, but the furniture is well-kept and the kitchen is spotless. A white kitten rubs Misael's ankle as Durbe goes into the kitchen and starts pulling out pans.
"That's Mach," Durbe says, opening the refrigerator. "He usually doesn't like people."
Misael bends down to pet the kitten, who backs away and darts down the hall. With a sigh, he sits at the folding table next to the kitchen.
They sit in silence for a while Durbe pours things into a pan, and soon the house smells like old cat lady mixed with curry chicken.
"You're not vegetarian, are you?" Durbe calls out after a while.
"Good. I didn't bother asking before I started cooking and that would be awkward, huh?" Durbe chuckles nervously again. He cuts off abruptly as Misael remains silent and shifts in his chair.
When dinner is done, Misael picks up his fork and steadily eats his way through the chicken and rice while Durbe gnaws slowly on his own. There's too much curry but it's not too bad and Misael doesn't seem to mind.
"Um." Durbe clears his throat. "Are you… are you a student at the university?"
Misael nods and takes a sip of water. Durbe waits for him to elaborate. He waits three minutes before trying again.
"What are you studying?"
Misael looks embarrassed. "Creative writing," he mutters.
That explains why he writes all the time, Durbe realizes, and he knows that Misael is waiting for him to ask what he plans to do with such a useless degree, and that's okay because Durbe knows exactly what that feels like, and probably better than most.
Durbe is a bit surprised because Misael is finally asking him something for a change. "I was a classical languages and mythology major but I had to drop out this semester," he admits. "I couldn't afford tuition."
"Your parents won't help?" Misael sounds surprised and a bit sympathetic.
Durbe's attempt at a smile is more like a wince. "Um, I haven't talked to them in a while."
Misael asks why, and then flinches. "I'm sorry, that's none of my business."
"No, it's all right." Durbe takes a drink of his water and decides he needs something strong. Thinking about his parents makes him want to curl up on the couch with a full bottle of wine and a tub of ice cream and he doesn't have any ice cream. "Do you want some wine?"
Misael frowns. "I… guess."
Durbe fills two glasses with wine and downs it in one go. "Sorry, it's shitty cheap wine." He pours himself another glass.
Misael grimaces just enough for Durbe to know he doesn't really care for it but he sips it anyway. "It's fine… Thanks." He watches Durbe pour a third glass and looks worried.
They finish eating and Durbe clears the table, dumping everything in the sink. He doesn't feel like cleaning it and he probably drank his wine too fast because he's feeling a little weird. Naturally, he goes for a fourth glass before Misael takes his wrist and pulls the bottle away.
"I think you need to sit down," he says uncomfortably, leading Durbe to the sofa.
Durbe falls asleep quickly on Misael's shoulder.
It's Sunday morning and Durbe wakes up tucked in bed. He has a splitting headache and he can't really remember why for a moment, but then remembers drinking a few glasses of wine and decides that he's going to just go back to sleep for a few hours and mentally thanks every god he can think of from Allah to Zeus that he doesn't have to work today.
It's Friday, except two weeks later, and Durbe hasn't seen Misael since they had dinner. He had wondered for two weeks about how he got back in his bed that night, and at what point Misael decided to leave. But Misael's not around to ask, and Durbe's feeling kind of down because he thinks maybe he shouldn't have had the wine after all, and he messes up three people's orders and gets yelled at twice and now his day is just really shitty.
After work he tries calling his mom but she won't answer and his dad won't have a civil word with him so he gives up and buys himself a pack of cheap menthols for the first time in a month because he thinks that'll make him feel better and sits in the park to smoke them, only they taste like ass and send him into a fit of coughs and he should have known better because they always do this to him and now he's out five bucks.
"That's a gross habit," a voice says, and Durbe looks up through his coughs to see Misael, wearing running shorts and a sweaty t-shirt frowning down at him.
Durbe shrugs because, yeah, it is, but he doesn't really care at the moment.
Misael gingerly pulls the cigarette out of Durbe's fingers and drops it on the ground. Durbe watches it smolder out and Misael steps on it and holds out a hand. "I'd ask if you wanted to go for a run but you don't seem up for that; do you want to go on a walk?"
It's the most words Misael has ever strung together in Durbe's presence and Durbe decides to take advantage of this change in personality, so he takes Misael's hand and lets Misael pull him to his feet. Misael's hand is soft and sweaty and Durbe wants to keep holding it, but he probably already made Misael uncomfortable so he lets go quickly and shoves his hands in his pockets and tries not to look at Misael because he's really fond of the ponytail and oh god his legs are so long and he's not sure if Misael looks more like a pretty woman out for a run or an uncannily beautiful man.
"You seem down today," Misael says, holding two fingers to his neck, probably to check his pulse, since he seems like one of those lunatic health nuts and Durbe's suddenly aware that he probably smells like an ashtray while Misael smells weirdly like flowery deodorant and sweat.
"Yeah," Durbe replies, because it's the truth and it's pretty obvious.
They walk along in silence for a bit, and Misael warily eyes a few dogs running around the park without leashes before turning back to Durbe.
"It's not really like you to be quiet."
Durbe looks up in surprise because he's not sure why Misael is being sympathetic and actually initiating the conversation, and he's not sure how to tell Misael that the reason he's depressed is because he thinks he drove Misael away. Well, that's part of it. The major part was-
"My parents," Durbe begins before realizing that he hasn't said this to anyone in the past three months and why should he tell this guy when the most conversation they'd had up to this point was how do you spell your name and are you morally opposed to eating meat? (Durbe still isn't sure how to spell his name, now that he thinks about it.)
Misael nods understandingly, as if that's all that needs to be said, but Durbe really wants to tell someone because it's not fair and aren't parents supposed to love their children no matter what?
"I fell in with a few guys I shouldn't have and made some shitty choices and almost got kicked out of school and my dad threatened to disown me, so I moved in with someone and when my dad found out that we were fucking he disowned me after all and then I could barely afford rent on a café worker's salary so I had to drop out of school."
He can't bring himself to look at Misael, who he is reasonably sure is regretting his decision to stop his run to listen to this guy with major issues talk about past relationships and probably illegal extracurriculars.
"Did you break up with her?"
Durbe is confused. "Who?"
"The person you were… with."
"Oh. Well, no, he kicked me out, actually…"
There's a long pause and Durbe realizes he just told this guy he thinks is attractive that he was screwing another guy, way to go, Durbe, and Misael just kind of keeps walking with his crazy blue eyes straight ahead, and there's a bit of a concerned look to them now. At least he didn't mention the drugs because that would have really put the nail in that coffin.
"I, um, should get going… sorry for dumping that on you like that."
Durbe turns around and heads back the way they came and reaches in his pocket for his cigarettes, except he can't find his lighter and he's pretty sure he left it on the bench so now he's got these useless gross cigarettes that he spent his last five bucks on and he's out of booze at home and Vector never lets him come to his parties unless he brings some so he can't even get trashed tonight to forget about it.
It's Sunday morning and he wakes up on the couch, Mach sleeping on his chest. His mouth feels like cotton and he's dizzy and he's pretty sure he doesn't have a hangover because he doesn't even have alcohol but he can't figure out why he feels like this until he sees the empty bottle of anxiety medication on the coffee table. He supposes he should feel grateful he only had four left when he decided he should just take the rest of them because he'd probably be dead otherwise but then he remembers that that was kind of the point in the first place.
He sighs and remembers that he has to work today and he has no money and needs to work so he reluctantly pushes Mach off and fumbles on the floor for his work uniform, which is wrinkled, and he's probably going to get yelled at again but he's past caring at this point.
It's Friday and he's had the week from hell and can barely manage to stand at the counter at work without wanting to burst into tears and he can't breathe and he's so terrified of screwing up people's orders that he ends up screwing up more of them and most people just gently remind him that they wanted an iced pumpkin spice mocha instead of a hot chocolate but there are a few who slam the drink on the counter and call him an idiot and how the hell do you mix up French vanilla with white chocolate caramel you idiot and these people upset him so much that he has to let his coworker fix the problem while he goes in the back and buries his head in his hands and wishes he had just one more anxiety pill but he can't afford any more.
His boss offers to let him have a couple of days off to compose himself but Durbe tells her he can't afford to take time off, so he splashes cold water on his face and goes back to work.
It's Sunday and he's feeling even worse because his dad finally called him back to tell him that it was his own damn fault he didn't have any money and he should have thought about that before screwing that guy and maybe he should call him and see if he will help Durbe out.
Only, Durbe can't call Nasch because Nasch is seeing this new guy and is trying to put as much distance between him and his past as possible and has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't want anything to do with Durbe anymore and Durbe can't really blame him because he's a fucking mess at this point.
He opens the fridge and remembers that he doesn't have any food so he gives Mach the last third of the can of tuna and lies back down on the couch.
It's Friday and Durbe has the day off but he doesn't feel like going anywhere but he got paid today and at least he has a few dollars to his name, and he thinks about buying some vodka and passing out on Vector's floor before there's a knock on the door, which is surprising enough because he can't remember the last time anyone actually bothered to come see him.
It's Misael, who's wearing a button-down shirt and jeans and holding a paper grocery bag and looking like he's not sure why he's there.
"You look like hell," he says helpfully and Durbe realizes he hasn't really slept in four days and spent the last four hours crying for no real reason other than that Mach hid under the bed and hissed at him earlier that morning. Misael hands him the bag and there's a bottle of actually decent wine in it and some fresh fruits and vegetables and a box labeled "dinner" and he can't help but start crying again.
They eat the dinner and Misael won't let him pour his own wine, which is probably a good idea, so they each have a small glass and it's delicious and Durbe doesn't know what to say so Misael just wraps an arm around him awkwardly as he blurts out a shaky why the hell are you being so nice to me and Misael says he's worried about him and it's nice to hear that because nobody's ever told him that before.
Misael is about to leave when they hear thunder and Durbe tentatively offers for Misael to stay otherwise he'll have to walk home in the rain and Misael surprisingly agrees.
They watch a movie on the tiny television and Durbe wants to curl up next to Misael because he's really pretty but he can't bring himself to do it, especially since Misael knows that he likes men and that would probably make him uncomfortable.
The movie's not very good and in the middle of it, Misael pours them each another glass of wine and Durbe fidgets and cries again because he and Nasch used to watch shitty movies together before fucking each other silly and the memories really hurt and the next thing he knows Misael's holding him while he sobs into Misael's chest and Misael is stroking his back the same way Nasch used to and that only makes it worse.
After a while, he finally manages to compose himself and now his head hurts because he's basically spent the last three weeks crying and why the hell do I feel like this but maybe it's okay to feel like this or maybe it's normal. Either way, he's overcome with the urge to kiss Misael and he does, and Misael's body goes rigid before he grabs Durbe by the shoulders and pulls him away and now Durbe feels even worse because Misael's the first person in months who has shown him compassion instead of just hey man, just have some beer and forget about that son of a bitch and we can screw the memories right out of you which never really made him feel better until he'd gone through like eight beers and his mouth tasted like piss and having a mouth that tasted like that coupled with having Vector shoving his dick down his throat didn't really make things better in the end anyway.
"Was it drugs?" Misael asks quietly.
"What are you talking about?" But Durbe knows exactly what he's talking about and he's scared because how does he know but then he realizes he's left two empty pill bottles on the coffee table and it seems pretty damn obvious at this point.
"The things you fell into. They were drugs, right?"
Durbe laughs without a trace of humor and shrugs. "Yeah. Sex, drugs, and rock n' roll." He's shaking because it's been two months since he'd been clean until last week and the reason he even got Mach was so he could take care of something and keep his mind off his own problems and he curses his parents because if they gave two shits about him they could have gotten him real help and he wouldn't be in this mess.
"You need to sleep," Misael whispers, and pulls the glasses off Durbe's face and helps him to his bed.
It's Monday and Misael brings the stuff for cheese quesadillas, and they're the best quesadillas Durbe is pretty sure he's ever had. He finds himself gushing about ancient American mythology and the Spanish conquistadores and ends up on the subject of the Lost City of Gold, and he's really happy because Misael seems interested and Durbe realizes that none of his friends had ever cared about his passion for mythology.
"Do you think it exists?" Misael asks as Durbe pauses to take a bite
Durbe mulls over the question for a long moment, chewing thoughtfully. "Probably not," he finally decides, "because they would have found it by now, don't you think? It's still fun to think about though."
Misael nods and the two get into a civil discourse about whether aliens helped build the pyramids.
It's Tuesday and halfway through some stir-fry Durbe decides to breach the question that started all of this.
"What do you write about?"
Some rice falls out of Misael's mouth but he composes himself admirably other than that.
Misael looks embarrassed and Durbe's attempt to keep from grinning fails.
"It's not erotic fiction, is it?"
Misael doesn't answer and pokes at his chicken with more force than was necessary and Durbe lets out a weak laugh.
"Oh my god, you do write erotic fiction."
"It's a romance," Misael says stiffly, and he's back to his old self for a minute.
Durbe props his elbows on the table and looks at Misael's bright red face with interest. "What's the plot?"
Misael sighs and stares at his lap as he quickly blurts out that the two characters meet at a coffee shop and don't get along at first but then one of them takes a vested interest in the other and then finds out he's having a severe mental collapse-
Durbe tilts his head and takes a sip of water. "Sounds familiar."
"I went to the coffee shop for inspiration," Misael admits, face still crimson as he avoids Durbe's gaze. "I guess I found it."
It's Friday again, and Misael has been over every night this week, bringing food each time, and Durbe is really thankful because his boss sent him home Wednesday when he had a panic attack after accidentally mixing up the decaf and the hyper coffee and so his paycheck is barely going to cover this month's rent and he doesn't have enough money to eat. He doesn't bring wine anymore, which Durbe supposes he should be grateful for too because alcohol just makes him an emotional train wreck.
Vector calls a couple of times and wonders why he hasn't been over drinking and Durbe tells him he doesn't really want to do that anymore because he's trying to sort out his life and Vector doesn't get it but tells him if he changes his mind Durbe knows where to find him and maybe they can fuck because it's been a few weeks since they had, except sometimes he doesn't really like sleeping with Vector because he's rough on Durbe and uses spit instead of lube, and Durbe still feels guilty that he hooked up with Vector a few times while he was with Nasch and there are bad memories there too.
Each night, Misael stays on the couch, which Durbe never finds out about until the next morning because he always falls asleep first. He wants to offer his bed to Misael and sleep on the couch himself but knows Misael is too noble for that sort of thing.
"You're like my knight in shining armor," Durbe mutters as he starts to doze off on Misael's shoulder. Misael's petting Mach, which is surprising because Mach sometimes won't even let Durbe pet him. "I don't know where I'd be without you right now."
Probably dead, he tells himself, and the thought awards him no comfort; but then, maybe he'd be better off that way because nobody would miss him, especially not his parents because he's such a failure that they like to pretend they never had him.
"All I did was make sure you're eating and kept you company so you're not off participating in a drug ring."
Durbe is about to say that bringing him food at least keeps him from starving to death and bringing him comfort at least keeps him from wanting to take a bottle of sleeping pills but Misael cups his face and he suddenly can't breathe.
Kissing Misael, he decides, is a lot better than kissing Nasch.
It's Saturday morning and Misael wakes up naked and exhausted in Durbe's bed, except instead of Durbe on the pillow next to him there is a note and Misael is terrified for a minute that Durbe went off the deep end until he actually reads it.
Misael... Mizael... Miszael
Thanks for everything. Come by the shop later and I'll make you some tea.
P.S. – I hope last night gave you some inspiration for your not-erotic-fiction novel.
Misael sighs because Durbe was the most inventive lover he's ever had and he has no idea how Durbe managed to work up the energy to go to work after last night because he can barely summon the energy to look for his pants.