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Tall, Dark Roast, and Handsome

Chapter Text

"Hello, what can I get started for you?"

Kravitz said the words of his greeting pretty much on auto-pilot, not really paying attention to the customer in front of him.  Instead he was looking at the register, clicking on the right icons to pull up the drinks menu, and thinking about the sink full of dishes that he needed to attend to after the rush was over.  He normally would be on top of them, but when customers stacked up like they were currently, there was no time to wash the blender pitchers or rinse the milk foam out of the steaming cups.

"Okay, pay close attention, because this shit is precise, and I don't like repeating myself," the customer spoke, and immediately Kravitz's attention snapped forward.  Just who was this rude motherfucker?

Oh, well, rude as they may be, this person was certainly attractive.  Their long, platinum hair was braided impeccably, and their bronze skin was dusted with a constellation of freckles.  They were also dressed to the nines, clearly having put much more time into their appearance than the students currently swarming the café, having just rolled out of bed and hoping to get a boost before their next class.

Kravitz didn't have much time to drink in this attractiveness, however, because the customer opened their mouth again, and suddenly the spell was broken.

"I want a venti decaf almond milk Java Chip Frappuccino, made with white chocolate instead of bittersweet, and an extra pump.  With whip."  As they spoke Kravitz frantically reached down to pull out a venti cup and grabbed a wax pencil so that he could scribble notes onto the side of the cup.  Why did this person need such an unnecessarily complicated drink in the middle of lunch rush?  The customer then leaned over the bake case, peering at the different food options they had.  "Are any of the sandwiches vegan?"

Kravitz resisted the urge to grit his teeth, because dammit, there were lots of customers behind this person, and he already had at least four drinks lined up to make – including this person's monstrosity – before he could even think about cooking anything.  "No; the tomato caprese doesn't have meat, but it does have cheese.  Are you needing vegan options?"

The customer shook their head.  "No, I was just curious."  Kravitz gripped the counter behind the register to ground himself as a reminder that yelling at customers was a very bad idea.  "I'll have a farmer's wrap, I guess."

Kravitz put on a smile and rung this up.  "Alright, that'll be $10.45."  The customer reached forward and placed something on the counter.  Kravitz leaned over to see what it was, and when it came fully into view he nearly exploded.  A Starbucks gift card.  Of course.  "I-I'm sorry, but we can't actually accept Starbucks gift cards."

"Wait, seriously?" the customer asked, a little stunned.  "Why the hell not?"

"Well we're not actually an official Starbucks branch, we just sell their products-"

"That's bullshit."

"We can accept bookstore gift cards, if you have any of those?"

The customer raised an eyebrow.  "Do I look like the kind of person to carry around bookstore gift cards?"  They stuffed the offending card back into their bag and fished out a credit card.  "Whatever, have it your way, just count yourself lucking you're a good looking barista and that I need a pick-me-up badly!"

Stopping himself from rolling his eyes, Kravitz picked the cup and pencil back up.  "What name should I call when your drink is ready?"

"Taco," they said, and Kravitz blinked in surprise for a moment, before shrugging it off and writing "TACO" on the side of the cup.  Whatever.

"Okay, I'll call you when your order's ready," he said, ripping the receipt out of the printer and laying it on the counter next to the cup.  The customer muttered something under their breath as they left the counter, and Kravitz could've sworn he heard "...rather you just call me tonight..."

It took about fifteen more minutes before that order would be ready.  There were...a LOT of people.  They were centrally located on the college's campus and it was lunch time, of course there'd be a rush of people, and of course it'd take some time to get through all the orders.  Often people were understanding of this.  Other times...

"TACO?" Kravitz shouted out into the store from the pickup window.  No response.  “TACO?  FARMER'S WRAP AND A VENTI JAVA CHIP-"

"I'm comin', I'm comin', stop yelling!"  A voice came from the bookshelves on the far left, and the customer strolled out from the fantasy section and over to the counter.  "It's about damn time," he sighed loudly.

Kravitz practically white-knuckled the counter again.  "There was a big rush, I worked as fast as I could."

"Whatever, man," they drawled, placing a straw into their cup.  They raised it to take a sip, but then stopped short, glaring at the cup itself.

Kravitz internally groaned.  "Something wrong?" he asked.

The customer spun the cup around and pointed to the "TACO" scrawled onto the side.  "Try again next time on the name, my dude," they said, before picking up their wrap, turning around, and walking out.

Chapter Text

"Kraaaav, I'm boooored!" came a voice from the pickup window.  Kravitz turned around in time to see Julia flop down onto the counter, groaning.

"That sounds like a you problem," he joked, walking over.

She raised her head and stuck out her tongue at him.  "You keep being mean to me and I'll tell Raven I don't want to train in the café after all.  Then you'll be stuck alone with Lucas!  How does that sound?"

"Absolutely abhorrent," Kravitz admitted with a mock shudder.  Lucas was the other café worker who was always messing things up in little ways to hinder productivity and really grind his gears.  Having someone at least mildly competent like Julia working in the café would really help lower Kravitz's stress levels.  "Speaking of 'abhorrent,'" he said.  "You wouldn't believe the customer I had to deal with during lunch rush today."

Julia perked up and put her elbows on the counter, propping her head up in her hands.  "Do tell, do tell," she prompted.

"Well, like I said, it was lunch rush, so it was busy, and this person comes up like 'pay attention, because I don't want to repeat myself,' and starts rattling off this ridiculous drink!"

"What kind of drink?"

"A Java Chip with like thirty different parts to it, I don't remember it all.  And then on top of that they wanted a sandwich, and then they get all pissy when I tell them that I can't accept their Starbucks card!"

"Oh boy, the gift card thing..." Julia groans.  "Seriously, we should put up a sign.  With BIG print."

Kravitz nodded.  "And on top of that, apparently I got the name wrong on the cup.  I could've sworn when I asked for the name they said 'Taco,' but I must've been wrong because they told me to 'try again' when they saw it."

Upon hearing this Julia looked stunned for a moment, before throwing herself back down onto the counter in a fit of laughter.

"Um, what's so funny?"  Kravitz asked, confused by his coworker's sudden hysterics.

"H-how did you spell it?"  Julia asked, calming down for a moment.

"T-A-C-O."  This sent Julia straight back cackling onto the counter, this time pounding it with her fist.  "Seriously, what's so funny?"

Julia took some deep breaths before speaking.  "His name is Taako, spelled T-A-A-K-O," she explained.

Kravitz raised an eyebrow.  "How do you know?  Does he give you guys hell on the textbook side, too?"

Julia shook her head.  "Nah, he wouldn't dream of being a little shit to me.  I put the fear of Julia in him."

Kravitz laughed.  "The fear of Julia?"

She grinned proudly.  "Yup, way stronger and scarier that the fear of God.  But yeah, he's a friend of Magnus', so we hang out sometimes.  He's actually a cool guy, just a pain in the ass sometimes.  His sister's a lot more chill.  Had a bit of a crush on her before I started dating Maggie, actually."

Kravitz mentally filed that little tidbit of information away for later use.  "So, is he a student here too, then?" he asked.

"Yeah, culinary arts major," she answered.  "His cooking's amazing, I always make sure I come over whenever he's making something."  She paused and smirked at Kravitz.  "Why you asking?  You interested in him or something?"

Kravitz couldn't help but laugh at that.  Sure, the man was hot, but he was also annoying as hell.  There was no chance in hell.  "No, I was just curious is all."

Julia hummed and shrugged her shoulders.  "Okay Kravvy, whatever you say.  Just know that if you change your mind I could get a good word in for ya."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Chapter Text

Kravitz walked out of the music building, still humming the song he'd just been rehearsing.  He was tired as all hell and absolutely sick to death of the song, but after hearing it nonstop for the past few hours it was the only tune his brain could conjure up.  He reached into his pocket for his phone and headphones, hoping to remedy this by playing some other music.  When he pulled out his phone, however, he saw he had a missed call from work.  Kravitz debated calling back, but decided against it, since that was already where he was heading anyways.

When he got to the bookstore he was greeted by the familiar scent of paper and coffee, and also a familiar smile.

"Hello, Kravitz, how are you?" asked the white-haired woman at the book information desk.

Kravitz smiled in return.  "Hello Istus.  I'm doing alright, a little tired from class, but good otherwise."  He paused for a moment before asking, "Did you guys try to call me while I was in class?"

"Oh, yes.  Sorry if that interrupted you - it's just that Lucas called off this morning, and since Raven's at a company meeting we needed someone to run the café," she said.

Kravitz shook his head.  "No, it's fine, my phone's always on silent, I didn't see until I was out of class just a few minutes ago."  He peered over his shoulder down towards the café.  "So, does that mean the café was closed this whole morning, or...?"

"Oh, no, I worked it!" Istus declared, looking a little proud of herself for this.  "I mean, I have less than the bare-minimum of training, but I at least know how to read the recipe cards, so I managed!"

Kravitz was a little surprised by this, since to his knowledge he'd never seen Istus work the café in the entire time he'd been employed there.  "Oh, well good, I'm glad it all worked out!"

"Most things usually do," Istus said.  Yup, there it was, there was the textbook manager he knew and loved who sounded like a fortune cookie most of the time.

"Right, well thank you for covering," Kravitz said before going to the back room to set down his bookbag and hang up his jacket.  He immediately went down to the café to see what sort of collateral damage had been done while Istus had been in charge, not even stopping to chat with Carey, who was the bookseller today.

Immediately Kravitz noticed several things off.  First of all the lights to the bake case, the blenders, and the grills hadn't been turned on.  Also there were dirty dishes somewhat strewn about, and the washing and sanitation water had been allowed to go cold.  Tentatively Kravitz pulled the handles to the coffee urns, only to be relieved that they had, in fact, been drained of water upon opening.  So at least that was taken care of.  He turned on the lights and appliances and started to gather the dishes and wash up, only to be interrupted by a sharp throat clearing behind him at the register.

Kravitz turned with a start, and immediately he had to stifle a groan.  It was that annoying guy from yesterday.  Hastily wiping his wet hands on his apron (Istus apparently hadn't laid out a hand towel this morning), Kravitz stepped up to the register and plastered on a winning smile.  "Hello, What can I get started for you today?"  His hand was already wandering over to the "Blended/Frappuccino" button.  It'd been a decaf Java Chip last time, right...?

"Hey handsome.  Let's see if you can keep up as well as you did last time, huh?" The customer (Taako, Kravitz reminded himself) said.  "I want a grande soy iced half-caf caramel macchiato with an extra pump of white chocolate at the bottom.  Double caramel, light ice.  You got that?"

Kravitz blinked.  That...was definitely not what he'd gotten last time.  "Uh, I'm sorry, could you repeat that one more time?" he asked, reaching down to grab a cup and wax pencil.

Taako rolled his eyes.  "Guess it's Amateur Hour up in here.  And you did so well last time..."  Kravitz grit his teeth.  "I said a grande soy iced half-caf caramel macchiato with an extra pump of white chocolate at the bottom.  Double caramel, light ice.  Get it that time?"  Taako had raised his voice and said the order exaggeratedly slow, as if he were talking to a toddler who just couldn't grasp a simple concept.

"Loud and clear, sir."  Kravitz said, voice so falsely polite that he swears he may have accidentally made himself sound like he was using a bad British accent.  Vaguely he wondered to himself if Istus would really do anything to him if he yelled at a customer.  Probably not.  She'd tell Raven though, and she probably would do something.

"Cool.  I'd also like a cinnamon raisin bagel, too, and some butter."

"We're out of butter, we just have cream cheese left."

"Oh you have gotta be fucking kidding me," Taako sighed.

Okay, that's it, Kravitz had had enough.  "You know, if you're so disappointed with our service, there are other places to eat or get coffee around here," he stated, not even bothering to cover up his annoyance.

"Yeah, but I have class in this area of campus all day this semester, I don't have a school meal plan, and my apartment's on the other end of town.  So this is the most convenient option.  Besides," Taako winked, "Maybe I like the view of the service, even if they are amateurs."

Okay, now Kravitz was confused.  Was he flirting with him or insulting him?  Deciding to ignore it, Kravitz instead asked "Do you want the bagel or not?"

"Yeah, sure, I guess.  No cream cheese though."

"Okay, your total is $5.75," Kravitz stated, immediately turning to put on the plastic food service gloves and start on the bagel.  He made quick work of the bagel and drink, and he made absolutely sure to write "TAAKO" correctly this time.  Hopefully he could confuse Taako and make him wonder how he figured that one out.

However, when he handed over the order Taako simply looked at the drink, smirked, and then said, "So Julia tattled on how to spell my name, huh?"  Son of a bitch.  "Also, my dude," Taako said, pointing to something over Kravitz's shoulder, "Your washing sink is overflowing."  SON OF A BITCH!  "'Til next time, darling!" he called over his shoulder as he left behind a frantic Kravitz trying to scoop sudsy scalding water into the drainage sink.

Chapter Text

The next time Taako comes in Kravitz is actually in the middle of talking to Sloane, another bookseller, at the pickup counter.

"And then Carey comes up to me like, 'Hey, do you think Istus would need 227 used English Lit book tags for anything?' and when I ask her why, she says 'Because I just accidentally printed 229 of them, and I only need two.'"

Kravitz laughed in disbelief.  "Really?"

"Yeah, and then she pulls her arms out from behind her back and she's just got a fucking GARLAND of bar codes!  They looked like arcade tickets!"

Up at the register, Taako cleared his throat.  Kravitz held up a finger to signal "one minute."  "What'd she do with them?"

Sloane shrugged, laughing.  "Just threw 'em away, what else was she gonna do with them?"

Another, more dramatic throat clearing.  "How did she even manage to make that bad of a mistake?"

"As far as she could tell, she probably just mis-typed.  But damn if that's not a beautifully glorious fuck-up."

"Seriously, am I invisible?" Taako asked incredulously, loud enough to get both Kravitz and Sloane's attention.

"No, but you are annoying," Kravitz said automatically without even thinking.  He froze for just a moment, worried that this would cause him to have some sort of angry response, but luckily it seemed that Taako was unfazed by the comment.

"Well if you're ready to take my order, I'm ready to give it."

"Hold on," Kravitz said.  "Hot or cold?"

"Cold."

"Which size?"

"Venti?"

Kravitz grabbed a venti cold cup and a wax pencil, readying them to write with.  "Okay, now start."

Taako actually laughed at that, seemingly surprised and somewhat charmed by the action.  "I want a soy strawberries and cream frappuccino, with java chips blended in, and one pump of bittersweet chocolate."

Kravitz recorded all of this on the cup, then paused to look up at Taako.  "Wait, seriously?  The strawberries and cream frap is already like, sickeningly-sweet, though."

Taako waved a hand dismissively.  "I know what I'm doing my man; it tastes like straight up liquid chocolate covered strawberries."

Kravitz considered this for a moment.  "Hm, that does sound good..."

"Hell yeah it does, it's the best!"  He rummaged around in his bag and pulled out his credit card, before pausing and saying, "Hey, I got an idea, how about instead of writing my name on the cup, this time you write yours, so I know what to call you?  Y'know, other than 'Handsome?'"

"I- uh," Kravitz stammered for a second, momentarily caught off guard.  He subconsciously reached for the lanyard that had his name tag on it, only to remember that he took it off since it got in his way while working.  He floundered for just a moment, considering just blurting out his name like an idiot, before deciding yeah, okay, fuck it, he'll play along.  "Sure, I can do that," he said, replacing his surprised expression with a smile.

Taako's face seemed to light up at this response, his normally condescending smirk seeming to turn into something more closely resembling a genuine smile.  "Okay, rad!"

Kravitz quickly rang him up and made the drink.  Once it was done he poured as much as he could fit into the cup, topped it with the usual whipped cream and lid, and then reached behind the sink for one of the shot glass-sized tester cups, pouring what little was left in the pitcher into it.

Taako raised an eyebrow at this.  "You usually skim the leftovers off of other people's drinks?" he asked.

Kravitz smiled, placing a shortened tester straw into the tiny cup.  "Only the ones I want to try for myself," he said before taking a sip.  Holy shit, Taako was right, that really did taste exactly like liquefied chocolate covered strawberries.  "Oh my god," he exclaimed, surprised, because honestly he'd just expected it to taste like overly-sweet garbage.

"I know, right?" Taako exclaimed.  "I know my shit, don't ever doubt me again!"  He glanced down at his cup, and then smiled before turning to leave.  "Well Kravitz, I'll see you later!"

"Yeah, see you," Kravitz parroted, waving awkwardly.

Once Taako was out of the store Sloane, who was still hanging around the pickup counter, burst into a fit of laughter.

"What's so funny?" Kravitz asked, only for her to respond by pointing at him.

"You!  Your stammering, dumb-founded face at him asking for your name!  You'd think he'd asked for your number or something, the way you reacted!"  She shook her head and looked at him, grinning ear to ear.  "You're so gay and useless, I swear, it's like looking in a mirror!"

"I- I'm not 'useless!'" Kravitz squawked in his defense, which only caused Sloane to giggle more.

Chapter Text

A few days later Kravitz found himself working the Saturday shift, which was always a tossup.  Either Saturdays were insanely busy - with everybody and their neighbor deciding they needed coffee, or they were mind-numbingly slow - with only four or five customers spread out with an hour between them.  Today seemed to be the latter of the two.  Kravitz was simply leaning against the counter, debating whether or not he should go down to the textbook side and see if Carey needed help or not (on one hand it would be something to do, but on the other hand that required learning how to actually WORK the textbook side) when he heard the doors to the store open, accompanied by a familiar voice.

"I'm telling you, I'm right, so you might as well accept it and pay up right now!" Taako said as he walked into the store.  Kravitz could see that he was accompanied by two other people; someone who looked so similar to Taako that they almost seemed identical, and a shorter person with mousy brown hair and glasses.  The identical-looking one argued back.

"I'll be the judge of that, so you can just shut up and hold your horses, Koko!"

The three of them came around to the register and Taako flashed Kravitz a winning smile.  "Hey Krav-cakes, how's it chillin'?" he asked.

Kravitz laughed.  "Oh, is this gonna be a thing now?"

"It absolutely is gonna be a thing now," Taako replied.  He then gestured to the other people with him.  "This is my sister Lup and her boyfriend Barry, by the way.  We're out shopping right now and I'm desperately trying to convince Barold that there's more to fashion than just denim."

Barry (Barold?) defended himself, saying "Denim is comfortable and looks good, what's the big deal?"

Taako flashed Kravitz a withering look.  "Obviously it's a work in progress."

The sister, Lup, walked over to the bake case and started peering in at the contents.  "They got any good eats here?" she asked Taako over her shoulder.

"Nothing you can have, Lulu," Taako replied.  "I've been informed that they don't have any vegan options.  Isn't that right, Kravvy?"

Kravitz raised an eyebrow at the nickname before addressing Lup.  "Yeah, from what I can gather pretty much none of what we make is vegan, other than drinks with milk substitutes.  I noticed one of the soups is labeled as 'vegetarian,' but I don't know how strict that is, and unfortunately it's not the soup of the day."  He motioned to the display near the pickup counter.  "I don't know if any of the convenience stuff might be, though?  I know there's some health bars and stuff down there."

Lup looked up from the bake case, seemed to give him a quick once-over, and then smiled and said "Alright, I'll check it out real quick," before heading over to appraise the selection.

Taako sighed and said "Okay, well while she's figuring all that out, I'll start the order.  We're all gonna be rung up together, by the way.  I'll have a venti shaken passion tea lemonade with five pumps of peach syrup, two pumps of raspberry, and three classic."

Kravitz grimaced at the order.  "That sounds...painfully sweet."

Taako nodded.  "Oh it is, no doubt, but it tastes good, and that's what matters."  He turned back to Barry.  "Bluejeans, you're up!" he said, stepping back from the counter.

"I thought that nickname died in high school," Barry grumbled as he walked up.

"Never my dude, Barry Bluejeans is eternal," Taako snickered.

Barry rolled his eyes before turning his attention to Kravitz and giving his order, a grande unsweet cold brew with almond milk.  "So, you deal with Taako often, I take it?" he asked.

Kravitz shrugged.  "He's a regular by now, yeah.  Threw me for a loop the first time I met him, but I'm used to him now."  He looked over Barry's head at Taako, who was sticking his tongue out at him in a childish display that couldn't help but make Krav huff out a small laugh.  Taako caught the laugh and smiled back.

Barry laughed in response.  "Yeah, I figured, because most people who aren't used to him would probably be driven nuts by him by now."

"Barold, I take offense to that!  I am a delight to be around!  People should be basking in my presence!" Taako retorted.

"Oh, he's right and you know it, you big baby!" said Lup, coming forward with some apple strawberry chia bar she'd picked out for herself.  She placed it on the counter before pulling her wallet out of her bag.  "And fine Taako, you win, I'm paying."

Taako pumped his fists in the air.  "Ha!  Told you!"

She turned and narrowed her eyes at him.  "Oh don't get too cocky, this was a fluke!" she exclaimed, but there was no malice in her eyes, and her face sported a barely-concealed smile.  She turned back to the register and said "Okay, I'll get this weird raisin-seed-bar-thing, and then a grande soy cinnamon dulce cappuccino with a pump of caramel."

Kravitz rung her up, but paused to ask, "So what was all that just about, anyways?"

Lup responded by just flippantly waving a hand and saying, "Oh, nothing, just a dumb bet between siblings," and leaving it at that.  Kravitz was definitely curious as to what this "bet" was, but decided he wasn't going to press for more information.  Instead, he turned to casually chatting with Taako as he prepared the drinks.

"So, how's the shopping going then?  Good?  Not good?" he asked as he filled the appropriate shakers for both Taako and Barry's drinks.

"Well, for me it's going GREAT," Taako bragged, flipping some of his golden hair back out of his face.  "Lup too.  We've both pretty much got whole new kickass wardrobes to put literally anyone around us to shame, and we got all of it at like half price or lower because we're fucking savvy."  He huffed, shoulders slouching a little.  "It's only Barold who's impossible to shop for."

"Seriously - all I need is just like a new pair of jeans and maybe a couple shirts-" Barry protested, only to be cut off my Taako.

"See!  Man's a lost cause!"  He shook his head in distaste while Barry simply sighed and rolled his eyes.

Kravitz watched the exchange as he finished steaming the milk for Lup's cappuccino, laughing at the dynamic between the two.  "I think you'd get along well with my older siblings.  They're both senior design majors at a school up-state, and they can shop their way around town on a budget like no other, too."  He chuckled a little thinking about them.  "They're always saying that I dress too 'drab.'"

Taako gave Kravitz an exaggerated once-over (that maybe? lasted longer than necessary) before declaring, "Yeah gorgeous, I'm gonna have to side with your sibs on this one.  Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen you in any tones outside of white, gray, and black.  Nothing an afternoon with Ol' Taako can't fix, though!"  He punctuated this assessment by winking, and Kravitz couldn't help but feel a little heat rise in his cheeks at that.

"Well, I keep that in mind," he replied, capping the drinks and sliding them over to the end of the pickup counter.  "Have a good day, I'll see you around!"

Barry and Lup both took their drinks and waved politely with normal goodbye, but Taako declared, "See you around, Rabbit!" as he took his.

"I- Rabbit?" Kravitz asked, perplexed by this new nickname.

"Yeah, 'cause Rabbit rhymes with Kravitz!"  Taako declared, smiling as he jogged backwards to catch up with the rest of his party.

"It...really doesn't all that much..." Kravitz muttered, but he was smiling despite himself.

"Can't hear ya, Rabbit!" Taako called, turning around and waving as he left the store.

Chapter Text

By the time Taako had become a regular at the café, Kravitz had pretty much gotten used to his complicated, almost nonsensical drink requests.  The only times he was ever tripped up were the few times where Taako simply came in with a drink name with no further instruction, such as the "birthday cake frappuccino," the "snickerdoodle hot chocolate," and the terribly-fated half hour long mess that came out of the "london fog latte."  Kravitz was no longer exhausted by the other man's strange tastes, but that didn't mean that he couldn't be exhausted by the café for other reasons.

That was the state he found himself in now; frazzled like no other, curly hair falling out of the bun he kept it in, wanting desperately to just clean SOMETHING so that maybe his stress levels could go down between customers.  "I'll get your coffee started in just a minute, sir!" he breathed out before jogging to the back room grab a bag of coffee grounds.  Of course, of COURSE he'd wanted blonde roast when all that was brewed right now was Pike.  Kravitz quickly tore open the bag and poured the grounds into the filter, nearly putting the basket back into the urn crooked in his haste.  He then turned around and tried to make quick work of the other drinks while the coffee brewed, only to dismay when he saw that they required blender pitchers, which were (of course) all dirty.  He washed some out as fast as he could, slamming them onto the counter before turning to pour the blonde roast into the cup and - oh no, no no no that was certainly not right.

"Shit!" Kravitz hissed, seeing that the coffee was coming out much, much clearer than it should be, and filled with loose grounds.  Of course.  Of fucking course Lucas hadn't drained the left urn of water when he'd opened this morning.  Why the fuck would he?  He tossed the cup into the garbage and quickly replaced it with a pitcher to catch the not-coffee that was draining out.  He then ran to the pick up counter and waved to the man who'd ordered the coffee.  "Sir?  There's been a, um, a slight problem with the blonde and it'll take a few more minutes to brew.  I'm so sorry for the wait."  The man assured him that it was fine and Kravitz nodded and smiled apologetically, before quickly replacing the now almost-full pitcher with an empty one.  He then turned back to make the blended drinks and oh no there were more people at the register to order now.

"It'll be just a minute!" Kravitz said to them as he grabbed his needed ingredients from the fridge.  He threw them all into their respective blenders, dumped one of the full not-coffee pitchers and quickly replaced it, and then ran up to the register to ring up the next people.  Once he'd finished with that the man who'd ordered the blonde roast came up to him, asking if he knew how long it would be until his coffee was ready.

"It- it'll be maybe five to ten minutes, the urn needs to finish draining, and then i need to brew another pot-"

"I can't wait that long, I'm running late," the man explained, and Kravitz nearly wilted onto the floor.  Of course the drink that got messed up was the time-sensitive one.

"I- I'm so sorry, would Pike maybe be okay for just now?" he asked, mind racing for ways to make this right.

Blonde roast man shrugged.  "I guess it'll have to."

"Right," Kravitz said, quickly reaching under the counter and pulling out two loyalty cards and a stamp.  He stamped the cards up to the "Free Drink" spot, then handed them to the man.  "But, here, for the next time you come in, since there was so much trouble this time."  He then hurriedly turned to pour the coffee, not even taking a second to register the man's reaction.

The next ten to twenty minutes went this general way - fast paced, chaotic, and stressful - before finally Kravitz got some time to assess and take care of the damage, such as washing the intimidatingly high mountain of dishes that had amassed in the sink, refilling the ice cooler, which was now close to empty, and dating all of the supplies that had been opened during the rush.  He was just finishing with these tasks when he heard a familiar voice at the register.

"Woo hoo, Rabbit!  Are you totally zoned out or something?"  Asked Taako, waving his bangle-clad arm in an attempt to get Kravitz's attention.  "I've been standing here for like three minutes and you haven't even noticed!"

Kravitz sheepishly smiled, putting the chai he had just dated into the mini fridge and standing back up.  "Sorry, I've been pretty busy."

Taako grimaced upon seeing Kravitz's face, saying, "Yeah, looks like it.  You look, like, dead tired my man."

Kravitz laughed a little humorlessly.  "I suppose that's because I am.  I just got back from a three hour lecture and a two hour rehearsal before coming in to work, and I was just slammed for about the past hour with a whole horde of people.  I mean, they descended like LOCUSTS."  He sighed and ran his hand through his hair, trying in vain to smooth back the good half of it that had fallen out of the updo.  "And then once I get off work I have to go do an entire essay that I'd put off until tonight, and I have some other homework I should catch up on, too."

Taako whistled at the work load, eyebrows raised in surprise.  "Hachi machi, you do have a lot on your plate," he exclaimed.  "Well in that case, here's what I'll have - a venti decaf coconut milk black and white mocha with three extra pumps of vanilla, and then one of whatever your favorite drink is."

Kravitz blinked, the words not quite registering in his brain.  "I- what?" he asked.

"I'm buying you a drink, dear," Taako explained, rolling his eyes.  "You keep looking tired like that and that handsome face is gonna get wrinkles.  You need caffeine."

"Oh," Kravitz said, a slight blush starting to creep up his neck.  "You really don't have to-"

"Nope!" Taako cut him off, raising a finger.  "None of that humble shit, I'm buying you a pick-me-up, and that's final!  Just pick whatever you want and ring me up for it!"

Kravitz decided it wasn't worth it to fight him, and did what he was told, giving Taako a grateful smile.  "Thank you," he said, pulling out the needed cups.

"Ah, it's no big deal," Taako said flippantly, waving him off.  The sincere smile on his face betrayed his feigned attitude, though.  "So what did I end up buying you?" he asked.

Kravitz smirked as he pulled out the needed steaming pitchers.  "A vanilla chai latte."

Taako laughed.  "I don't know how, but somehow that seems so exactly you.  You work in a Starbucks-"

"We're not a Starbucks."

"And given the choice of any drink on the menu you go for one that's not coffee."

Kravitz chuckled a little at that.  "Yeah I guess that is true, I hadn't thought about it that way before."  Somewhere in the back of his mind some part of him registered what Taako had said - that it seems so "him."  That part of him was very happy at the thought that Taako apparently knew him well enough to make that assessment.

"It probably reveals some deep psychological personality stuff about you if you think about it hard enough, but all I can interpret it as meaning is that you're a big goofus," Taako teased.

That blush from a minute ago was threatening to come back, but instead of fighting it Kravitz just responded, "Or it means you're looking too far into little things, like drink orders."  He grabbed a spoon and started stirring the espresso into the flavored syrup.  "For example, if I tried to discern anything about you from your drink orders it would take all night!"

Taako grinned and winked.  "That's just how I like it - I'm unreadable!"

"Mhm, well Mr. Unreadable, here's your mocha," Kravitz said, topping the drink with the appropriate whipped cream and drizzle.  "Thanks again for paying for my drink," he added.

"It's my pleasure, hot stuff," Taako said, wiping his finger across the edge of the cup to catch some whip that was threatening to spill, before bringing said finger to his mouth to lick the whip off - and wow, okay, there was no way that wasn't just flirting right there.  He reached over and grabbed a travel lid before winking again and spinning on his heel, declaring "See ya, good luck on your nerd shit tonight!"

"Um, yeah, see ya!" Kravitz stammered out, still replaying the image with the whipped cream over and over in his mind.  Vaguely he remembered Sloane's assessment of "gay and useless," and at the moment he didn't feel like he could really argue.

Chapter Text

Kravitz impatiently tapped a wax pencil against the counter, creating a fairly steady beat with the writing utensil, although leaving several little black dots along the countertop as he did so.  Today work was glacially slow.  He’s had one person come in to buy a single cup of coffee all morning, but otherwise the café had been totally dead.  He’d tried to keep himself occupied by doing things that Lucas never seemed to do, like wiping down all the counters, cleaning the syrup holders, scrubbing out all of the sinks, and cleaning the built-up coffee residue on all of the measuring cups, but he’d been finished with all of that for the past half hour, and the café was still dead as ever.

The whole store was actually dead.  Both Julia and Sloane were on the clock as booksellers at the moment, but as there were no customers to actually sell books to currently, they’d been put on various odd jobs throughout the store.  With a sigh, Kravitz pushed off the counter he was leaning on and started walking over to the center textbook aisle, where both girls were talking in hushed tones, dipped behind high boxes that obscured them from Raven at the manager’s desk.

“Hello ladies, what are we discussing today?” he asked, leaning against the tower of boxes.

“The exact nature of Raven and Istus’ relationship,” Julia answered, grinning.

Kravitz groaned and bought a hand to his forehead.  “Not this again…”

“I’m telling you, they’re totally a couple!” Sloane whisper-yelled.

“Then why did I head Istus once mention ‘Raven’s room?’  They wouldn’t have separate bedrooms if they were together, Sloane!  I’m still putting my money on ‘just roommates.’”

“They’ve been ‘roommates’ since their freshmen year of college, Julia.  And they refer to each other’s family as their own.  Tell me that’s not gay.”

“They could be just really, REALLY good friends!” Julia insisted.

“You know what you call girls who are really, REALLY good friends, Julia?  GIRLFRIENDS!”

“This really isn’t any of ours’ business…” Kravitz muttered, mostly to himself.  Sloane heard him though and huffed.

“Whatever, they’re lesbians, I’m calling it.  Us gay gals can sense it on each other,” she declared.

“I’m pan, Sloane, I’m a gay gal too-“

“Okay is there anything of interest going on here that’s not our bosses’ possible love life?” Kravitz interrupted, uncomfortable with the conversation.  It was their private business, he didn’t need to know what the relationship was between Raven and Istus, so long as they worked well together.

Julia rolled her eyes and glanced over at Kravitz.  “Fine, let’s change the topic of our gossip:  You.”

Kravitz blinked.  “Me?”  No, no this was not what he had meant at all…

“Earlier today Sloane was just telling me something interesting she saw last night regarding you…” she drawled, motioning for Sloane to pick up where she left off.

Sloane perked back up, and said, “Oh yeah!  So last night I was on Yik Yak to see if there were any races going on-“

“Were there?”

“Oh yeah, and before you ask, we crushed it.”  She flashed a wicked grin before continuing.  “But while I was looking I saw this one post that was like…shit let me just pull out my phone and show you, you guys cover me.”  She knelt down to the floor and pulled her phone out of her back pocket in one fluid motion, and Julia and Kravitz scrambled to try to find something to cover up the lack of productivity coming from the area.

“So, Krav, here’s how you check in clothes,” Julia said loudly, swiping a set of stapled paperwork off of the top of the box tower.  “You see this number?  This is the ISBN, and you need to make sure it matches up with what’s on the actual tag.  Then you just have to count everything and make sure we got everything.”

“What are you doing?” Kravitz hissed.  “Now she’s gonna expect me to actually know this stuff!”

“You can just tell her you forgot if it comes up!”  Julia hissed back.

“Got it, guys,” Sloane chimed, holding up her phone a little.  Kravitz dipped down to her level, and took the phone from her to read.  The Yik Yak post in question said,

“HELP A DUDE OUT??  anyone know what the deal is with that cute barista in the campus bookstore?  like, is he single?  and what’s he into, like guys, girls, or what?  bc chaboy might have a crush”

Below it there was the comment, “Lucas?  He’s a huge nerd, I don’t think he’s into like, anyone but science,” which was followed by the poster replying “no I said the CUTE one dumbass!!”

“Looks like someone’s got a secret admirer!”  Julia sang over Kravitz’s shoulder as heat rose to his cheeks.

Sloane nodded in agreement.  “I wonder if it’s that pretty boy who comes in here to flirt with you all the time?” she pondered aloud.

“He- he doesn’t flirt all the time…” Kravitz insisted.

“Would you want it to be him?” Julia asked.

Kravitz didn’t feel like he had to give that a response, as his visible blush was probably answer enough.

Chapter Text

The next time Taako came into the café since Kravitz had seen the Yik Yak post he seemed just a little less put together than he normally did.  That wasn’t to say that he didn’t still look better than the average student who rolled out of bed and went to class in sweatpants, but his makeup was a little more basic, having no elaborate wings on the eyes or detailed contouring, and his hair was simply pulled into a high ponytail.

“Krav, my man, I need you this morning,” he exclaimed as he jogged up to the counter.  “I’ve got a hugeass midterm today that’s gonna absolutely kick my ass, and I need as much liquid courage as I can get, and since getting plastered before a giant midterm is probably what would be considered a ‘bad idea,’ that leaves LOTS of espresso.”

Kravitz simply laughed, giving Taako a sympathetic look.  “I know the feeling.  Hot or cold?”

“Cold,” Taako replied.  “I’m going with a double white lightning today.  Because either I’m gonna kick this exam’s ass or I’m gonna kick my own while attempting to do so.”

“I’m sorry, a double what?”

Taako sighed.  “Honestly my dude, you need to look up the secret menu some time for your own benefit.”  He leaned in closer to the counter.  “A white lightning is four pumps of white mocha and three espresso shots, with the rest of the cup being filled up with ice.  I want a double, so double all of that and half the ice.”

“Oh,” Kravitz said.  “That’s actually fairly easy.”

“Are you suggesting that my drinks are usually difficult?” Taako gasped in mock offense.

“I’m insinuating that I may have considered throwing a cup at your head on multiple occasions due to the unnecessary complexity of your orders,” Kravitz snarked back, grinning.

“Oh say what you want, I know I’m your favorite customer,” Taako said, laughing.  “Without me your life would be boring.”

“Maybe so,” Kravitz admitted, shrugging as he rung up the order.  “I’ll never get the peace to find out.”

“RUDE.”

Kravitz started to make the drink, picking up casual conversation.  “So, what class is this midterm for, anyways?”

Taako grimaced, his displeasure at the topic clear on his face.  “Life Span Nutrition,” he answered.  “It’s like health class all over again but way harder and without all of the fun parts.”

“You have to take nutrition courses as a culinary student?” Kravitz questioned.

“Hell yeah, man!” Taako exclaimed.  “You gotta know like, what kinda shit you’re putting into your food.  Not many people wanna eat some heart-bursting death food anymore, and you gotta make shit that’s good to taste and also good health-wise.”

“Huh, yeah, I guess that is true.”  Kravitz finished mixing the drink before he paused for a minute, considering something, before reaching for the wax pencil and quickly scrawling something a little clumsily onto the side of the cup.  “Well, good luck on your midterm, Taako!” he said, a little nervously, sliding the cup across the counter towards him.

Taako raised an eyebrow, confused for a minute, before looking at what he’d written on the cup.  Both eyebrows went up when he saw what it read.  Kravitz had hurriedly written his number onto the cup, followed by “In case you needed just a little more courage  ;)”

“Oh, well, um.  Yeah, yeah, thanks Krav.  I’ll just go in there and fucking- fucking crush it, yeah.  Uh, thanks, for, y’know, this,” Taako shook the cup, though Kravitz didn’t know if he was indicating the coffee or the number.  “And I will…talk to you later, then.”

“Okay, well, bye,” Kravitz said, hoping that his twisting gut wasn’t reflecting in a flush on his face for once.

“Yeah, yeah, bye,” Taako said, walking away in what could only be described as a little bit of a haze.

 


 

Later that evening, after he’d gotten home from work, Kravitz had planned on studying for his remaining midterms and being productive.

Instead, he found himself in a death staring match with his phone, which he was sorely losing.

He kept replaying his earlier interaction with Taako over and over again in his head, feeling worse and worse every time.  He’d totally misinterpreted the whole thing, he was sure of it.  Taako hadn’t actually been flirting, and he’s only made everything awkward and terrible by giving him his number.  Of course he hadn’t been the one to make that Yik Yak – that had been so stupid of him to hope that.  Now he’s probably never going to see Taako again.  He’s gonna start going to another place to get all of his ridiculous coffee orders, and he’ll buy all of his textbooks online just so he’ll never have to go into the store again, and-

Kravitz’s thoughts were interrupted by the sharp buzz of his phone, which sent him jumping back enough that he almost toppled his chair.  Quickly regaining his composure, Kravitz scrambled to pick up his phone, which had one new text from an unknown number.

“okay, just for the record, total dick move you pulled there, rabbit.”

Kravitz’s heart lept into his throat when he read that, and he quickly typed back, “Taako, is this you?”

“yes of fucking course it is, unless you got other ppl who call you rabbit?  and i’m still pissed at you!”

Worry gnawed at Kravitz’s stomach as he typed his reply.  “I’m sorry, why are you pissed?”

“because i’m already psyched out about this fuckin exam and then on top of that right before i take it this super gorgeous guy just gives me his number??  like fuck man i couldn’t concentrate on jack shit and it’s all your fault!”

Kravitz let out a bark of laughter, tension immediately dropping from his shoulders as he realized that Taako wasn’t genuinely chewing him out.  “Well in that case I’m sorry that I made you lose your focus, but I still stand by my decision to give a cute guy my number.”

“fffuuuuuuck yooouuuu!  you should make it up to me!  like dinner, maybe?”

At this point Kravitz was practically dancing around the room, trying hard (and failing) to contain his excitement and delight.  “I’d say that sounds like a just settlement.”

“cool, say the davey lamp bar and grill at 6 on friday?”

“Shouldn’t I be the one picking this place since I’m the one making it up to you?”

“you gonna question the culinary student, the guy who’s going to school for FOOD, when he says a place is a good place to eat?”

Kravitz chuckled at that.  “No, I suppose I won’t.”

“good, then it’s settled.  seeya then, kravalicious!”

“THAT IS THE WORST NICKNAME YOU’VE COME UP WITH YET PLEASE STOP!”

“NEVER!!!!”

Chapter Text

To say that Kravitz was nervous for his date would be the understatement of the century.  He didn’t really have much experience with dating around, so pretty much all of his knowledge of the subject came from trashy TV shows and the like.  He decided he would need some help, so he came up to Julia the day when she was stocking textbooks for the next semester to ask for her input.

“Julia, I have something that I need help with, but first I’m gonna need you to promise not to freak out when I tell you what it is.”

Julia paused, stopping mid-way from lifting five hardcover textbooks onto the shelf all at once (She’s very strong, this is why they always had her stock the highest shelves).  “Jesus Krav, what’d you do, kill somebody?” she asked.

“No, it’s nothing like that!” Kravitz insisted.  “It’s just, I have a date this Friday-“

“Is it with Taako?”

Kravitz paused, then said, “Who it’s with doesn’t matter-“

“It’s with Taako,” Julia said, smiling knowingly.

“Anyways I have a date this Friday, and I was wondering if you had any first date pointers you could maybe give me?  Because I’m not really all that knowledgeable about this sort of thing-“

“Wait a minute,” Julia said, interrupting Kravitz again.  “You’re telling me that you, the literal walking embodiment of ‘tall dark and handsome,’ have never been on a date before?”

Kravitz could already feel himself start to blush as he tried to stammer out his defense.  “W-well, I came from a pretty rural area, there weren’t really many opportunities to date other guys back home.  I went on a group date with a girl and her friends once back in junior high, and well-“

“That’s when you realized you weren’t into dating girls?” Julia supplied.

“Got it in one,” Kravitz answered.

Julia put the books up on the shelf and sighed, leaning with her back against the shelves.  “Well, really the best advice I can say is to just be yourself.”

“Gee, thanks, I totally couldn’t have just gotten that from any random Google search too.”

Julia rolled her eyes.  “Okay, asshole, I know it’s cliché, but it’s solid advice.  You don’t want someone falling for a fake version of you, and you DO want someone who’s gonna fall for the real you when you see it.  For example, Magnus and I met when I punched out some guys who were trying to harass some poor girl at the bar.  He’s been smitten ever since, because he saw the real me and liked it a lot.  If I’d been putting up a front and acting all sweet and demure, then he never would’ve been interested.  You getting it?”

“Yeah yeah, I got it,” Kravitz said, nodding.

“Good,” Julia replied.  “Also, I would suggest being open to plans changing and seeing where the night takes you.  Dates don’t always go how you expect them to, and it’s super fun when you’re adaptable and just roll with the punches.  Especially when you’re just getting to know each other, because then you get to learn more about the other person.”

“You’re just full of good advice on this subject, aren’t you?” Kravitz joked.

Julia simply shrugged.  “I’m in a happy relationship, my friends come to me for dating advice all the time.  Although to be fair, it’s usually more along the lines of, ‘How do I land a man like Magnus?’”

They both shared a laugh at that, and Kravitz let Julia continue her work.  He felt a little better after their conversation, but he still couldn’t help the nerves that kept creeping up on him.

-

“hey handsome, don’t forget to dress nice for tonight!  ;)”

Kravitz stared at his phone, with the text on it staring back at him, for a good thirty seconds before looking up again at his open closet.  He glared at the clothes inside for about a minute before turning his gaze to the phone, then to the closet, then back to the phone again a few more times, before giving in and firing off a text for help.

“More help needed.  He told me to make sure I dress nice for tonight.  How nice is ‘nice?’ Does he mean nice by MY standards or HIS standards?  Bc he always dresses, like…really REALLY well.  HELP ME JULIA I ONLY HAVE A FEW MORE HOURS TO FIGURE THIS OUT!!”

“Jesus ur obsessing this much over ur wardrobe and u have HOURS to go??  GET HELP, MAN!”

“THAT’S WHAT I’M TRYING TO DO RIGHT NOW, JULIA!!”

“Okay okay calm down man geez lemme ask maggie what he says, he knows taako better than I do”

Kravitz paced back and forth across his room, waiting for his phone to ping again.  It took a good ten minutes before it did, and he nearly smacked himself in the face when he jerked his hand up out of eagerness to the read the message.

“He said that it means u should rob an entire Bloomingdales and bring a quick-change station with u just in case”

“NEITHER OF YOU ARE HELPING ME!!”

“THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN U ASK THE WAXMAN-BURNSIDES DUO FOR HELP, KRAVITZ!!”

There was a pause for a moment before Kravitz received another message from Julia.

“He just said in all reality dressy-casual is prolly totally fine.  Honestly just wear whatever makes u comfortable man?  Like, u want him to be interested in the real u.”

“Yes, I know, you had this conversation with me already, remember?”

“Good, then I’ve covered all of my bases.  U kids have fun tonight!  <3”

“Yeah yeah yeah, jerk.  By the way, you still good for running the midnight shift at the café?  I know it’s your first shift alone with no one to help you.”

“I’ll be fiiiiiine!  U just enjoy ur HOT DATE!”

“Thanks, and shut up!”

Kravitz sighed, tossing his phone onto his bed and turning to face his closet again.  This was gonna be a long few hours.

-

When Kravitz pulled up to the address Taako had given him, he immediately started to worry that he had over-dressed.  He'd kind of expected a guy like Taako to pick a swankier joint, but the Davey Lamp Bar and Grill seemed to be exactly what it said on the tin.  Not even some hipster kind of place, just your average mom-and-pop restaurant.  As he stepped out of his car Kravitz was debating leaving his jacket behind, but a familiar voice told him that he'd been spotted, and that it was already too late for that.

"Hey Krav-Cakes, you made it!" Taako exclaimed, waving enthusiastically as he made his way over.  After a few steps he stopped short, though, only to start laughing.

Kravitz gave a questioning look as he walked over to close the gap.  "What, what's so funny?" he asked.

Taako simply pointed.  "You, my man."  He pulled his hand back to wipe a tear from his eye.  "In your fucking three piece suit there, you look like you're dressed for a damn funeral!"

Kravitz rubbed the back of his neck and gave a sheepish smile.  "Funnily enough, I'm pretty sure a funeral was the last place I wore this thing."  He shrugged.  "I mean, you said to dress nice-"

"Ya, dress nice as in 'look presentable,' not 'Sunday's best!'" Taako laughed.  He then shook his head, dismissing his last chuckles.  "Whatever, it's fine, you look damn good in a suit anyways."  And with that he linked his arm with Kravitz's and started leading them into the restaurant.  Kravitz tensed a little at the touch, not quite expecting it, but he relaxed soon after, feeding off of Taako's chill demeanor.

As they walked into the restaurant the atmosphere was immediately palpable.  The air was thick with the sound of conversation, clanking glasses, and country music playing from the jukebox in the corner.  Nearly everything in the restaurant was made of wood; the floors, the walls, the bar, and the furniture.  All of it was a deep, stained oak that made the place radiate “down home joint.”  The most notable feature of the entire place, though, was the smell.  The aroma of different dishes wafted from every corner, all individual from each other but still mixing into an intoxicating scent that could only be described as “comfort food.”

Once they’d walked in the hostess standing at the podium at the front of the bar lit up with recognition, exclaiming, “Oh my God, Taako, how are you?”

“I’m doing pretty fucking good, what about you, Ren?” Taako greeted back.

“I’m great!  I’ve mostly just been working here and then working on the book in my free time,” Ren responded.  She motioned for the boys to follow her while she started to walk backwards into the restaurant.  “Follow me, I’ll get you a table!”

“Ren’s a friend of mine, and she’s working on making her own cookbook,” Taako explained to Kravitz as they weaved through tables and other patrons.  “And she’s gonna make sure we get a bomb ass seat, right?” he said pointedly to Ren.  She just laughed in response.

“I can do my best.  You’re lucky, we just cleaned a window seat near the kitchen.”

Taako smirked.  “That sounds fantastic, my dude."

Ren directed them towards their table and handed them their menus as they got seated, quickly running through a list of the specials.  After taking their drink orders (ice water with lemon for Kravitz and some sort of raspberry lemonade sparkler drink for Taako) she left them to look over their menus, and suddenly Taako and Kravitz were alone again.

There was no awkward silence, though, because Taako immediately filled the space with words.

“So the parmesan crusted chicken here is good, but every time I get it I feel like it could use a lil’ something, y’know?” he said, reaching across the table to point at said chicken on Kravitz’s menu.  “So if you get that you might want to consider tacking something on with it.”  He retracted his hand and pulled up his own menu, looking at the choices.  “They have good salmon here too, though.  Anything from their woodfire grill is amazing.”  He set his menu down and looked up at Kravitz.  “You got a preference?”

“Um,” Kravitz stammered.  He wasn’t sure if he should tell Taako that he was the kind of guy who lived off of mac n’ cheese and ramen noodles and hardly ever ate out, or if that would scare the man away right from the get-go.  “I’m up for anything, really.  You know this place really well, why don’t you decide?”

If Taako noticed the deflection at all he didn’t show it, immediately lighting up and pulling his menu back up, exclaiming, “Sure thing, sounds like a plan!”

He skimmed over the different dishes for a minute or two, occasionally glancing up at Kravitz as if he were assessing him, before finally asking “How do you feel about splitting one of those twofer-combo-things of shrimp scampi and  glazed chicken?”

Kravitz nodded in response, smiling.  “That sounds wonderful.  A bit of surf n’ turf, huh?”

“Actually, technically surf n’ turf has to have red meat,” Taako replied.  “Trust me, I’m going to school for foodstuffs.”

“The chicken is a land animal, I’m calling bullshit,” Kravitz quipped.  This made Taako laugh mid-sip of his drink, causing him to sputter a bit.

“Holy shit my dude,” Taako laughed, grabbing a napkin to wipe at his face.

“What?  Tell me I’m wrong,” Kravitz said, also laughing.  As the laughter died down Kravitz swirled his straw in his drink a bit before asking, “So you’re going to school for culinary arts, is it safe to assume you want to be a chef?”

Taako snorted at this, flipping his hair back over his shoulder and saying, “My dude I’m already a chef, I just wanna get paid for it!”

Kravitz laughed a little at this.  “I guess that’s true, Julia did mention that you’re a good cook.”

Taako’s eyes widened in surprise.  “Jules talks about me at work?  No way!  What kind of things does she say about me - all good things?”

“Eh,” Kravitz said, waving his hand in the universal sign for “so-so.”  “Depends on her mood, really.”

Taako donned a look of mock offense.  “How dare she say anything negative about me ever!  I am a fucking delight, always, all the time!”  Kravitz couldn’t help but laugh in response, and Taako smirked before saying, “But yeah you’re right, I wanna be a professional chef someday.  Maybe even have my own TV show!  How does Sizzle It Up With Taako sound?”

“I think it sounds fantastic, actually,” Kravitz said, nodding.  “I could really see you with a cooking show; you definitely have the stage presence for it.”

“Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment!” Taako said, winking.

“Good, because it was supposed to be.”

Kravitz may have been seeing things in the low lighting, but he could’ve sworn he saw Taako’s cheeks flush a little at that comment.  “So anyways, enough about my major, you mentioned you’re going to school for music, right?  What’s that all about?” Taako asked before taking a long sip of his fruity sparkling drink.

“Ah, well, I love music, I guess obviously?”  Kravitz said, rubbing at the back of his neck.  “I was in orchestra, marching band, choir, everything when I was in high school.”

“You were a fucking nerd!” Taako interjected, cackling.

Kravitz blushed a little.  “Yeah, pretty much.  But I really enjoyed it, and since sophomore year I’ve wanted to do something with it for a career.  Ideally I’d like to be a conductor.”

Taako leaned forward with his elbows on the table.  “Shit my dude, that’s actually pretty cool!  Do you ever write music?”

Kravitz flushed even deeper at the question, sinking back in his chair a little.  “I- I uh, may have been known to try my hand at one or two songs or so in the past, but they’re not really that g-”

“Fuck man, you’ve got to show me sometime!” Taako interjected, practically bouncing in his chair.  “I’d love to hear them!”

Kravitz was sure he was several shades off from his normal complexion with how deep the blush had set in, now.  “If- If you really want to I guess I could show you at some point.”  He wasn’t really used to people being this eager to hear the things he created.  Usually they got bored by his music talk pretty quickly.

“Fuck yeah, great!” Taako said, beaming.

The rest of the dinner went really nicely.  They talked nearly the whole time, small talk surprisingly easy between the two once they got started.  They split the dish when it arrived, and Taako had been absolutely right about this hole-in-the-wall place having great food.  There wasn’t even anything left for leftovers between the two of them.  The only hitch was when an unfortunately-placed elbow knocked the boat of scampi sauce onto Taako’s nice outfit, but after apologizing profusely Kravitz lent him his suit jacket to tie around his waist and cover up the spill, and all was forgiven.

The night was still fairly young by the time they left the Davey Lamp, and Taako had the suggestion that they just walk the streets of the college town and “see where the night takes us, homie!”  They walked for a bit, bumping shoulders on the tight sidewalk, before Kravitz’s hand tentatively reached for Taako’s.  Taako seemed surprised by the motion, pausing his steps for barely half a second, before accepting the hand and entangling their fingers together.  He didn’t acknowledge the move vocally or even with a change in facial expression, but Kravitz could see a tiny bit of blush start to work its way across Taako’s face.

They walked hand-in-hand down the street for a few minutes, simply enjoying each other's’ presence, before Taako suddenly dropped Kravitz’s hand to run over and peer into the window of a shop.  “Holy shit,” he exclaimed, putting his palms on the glass like an overexcited child.  “Look at that fuckin’ dress!”

Kravitz followed Taako’s gaze, realizing that he was looking in the window of an antique store.  The dress in question was undoubtedly beautiful.  It was a slick, midnight blue number with intricate beading and a sweeping neckline.  It looked like somebody had made an outfit out of the night sky, and he could tell immediately that it was very much Taako’s style.  “Are they open?” he asked, moving over to look at the store hours posted on the door.  “Because if they are you should try it on.”

Taako grinned in reply.  “Hell yeah, you’re right, I should!”

After confirming that the store was in fact still open, they went inside, Taako immediately marching over to the front counter and demanding that the dress be removed from the window so that he could try it on.  Kravitz opted to peer around at the trinkets near the dressing room while he did so.

There was always a strange feeling that he got in antique stores.  He wasn’t sure if it was the fact that each item had once belonged to someone else - that they might have a story that he’d never know about, or maybe just the overwhelming old people smell messing with his head.  But every antique store seemed to give off a feeling of being a liminal space, a point in the world where reality was slightly altered.

Kravitz was looking at a baby doll that he was certain had to be at least a little haunted when he heard the door behind him open.  “So, what do ya think?  Because I think it looks fan-fucking-tastic.”

Kravitz turned around to look and almost choked on his own tongue.  Taako looked stunning, to say the very least.  It looked like the dress had been sewn specifically for him, the way it fit and flattered him perfectly.  “You- you look fucking radiant,” Kravitz finally stammered out, after reminding himself that he was supposed to breathe.

“Hell yeah, of course I do, I’m me,” Taako boasted, but that blush was back on his face, this time with a vengence.  For someone who liked to cover up how he really felt, he seemed to be incredibly bad at it.  “I sent Lulu like a hundred selfies and now she’s blowing up my phone insisting that if I don’t buy it she’s gonna kill me, look.”  Taako showed Kravitz his phone, which was just a wall of notifications from Lup.

“HOLY SJIT!!!!???!?!???”

“U LOOK LIKE ROYALTY WHAT THE FUCK!!!”

“U GOTTA BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!”

“SO THAT I CAN BORROW IT”

“AND ALSO LOOK LIKE ROYALTY!!”

“KOKO??”

“SRSLY PLS TELL ME UR BUYING IT!!”

“BABE P L E A S E”

“IF U DON’T RESPOND WITH A PICTURE OF A RECEIPT I AM ENDING U I S2G!!!!”

Kravitz laughed at the barrage of texts.  “She’s pretty determined to steal a dress you don’t even own yet, isn’t she?”

Taako laughed and shrugged.  “It’s always like this, we’ve been sharing clothes since we were kids.  No use having two separate wardrobes for identical twins when you’re the same exact size in everything, right?”

Kravitz nodded.  “I suppose you’re right about that.”

Taako smiled and leaned back against the door to the dressing room.  “Well I’m gonna real quick change back, and then we can look around at whatever other crap they have in this store, 'kay?”

Kravitz smiled in reply, nodding.  “Sounds like a good plan.”

“Alright, be back in one sec!” Taako called over his shoulder as he dipped back into the dressing room.

Once Taako returned, blue dress slung over his shoulder like a waiter’s towel for safe-keeping, they took off across the store to see what other undiscovered treasures may lie in wait.  Taako encountered a few more vintage clothes, but not any that he liked more than his current find.  (Although, Kravitz had to admit that Taako had looked somewhat alluring in that mink coat he’d tried on for kicks.)  Kravitz found a selection of old records that he’d been initially hopeful about, but none of them seemed to peak his interest.  Tracks like “Disney Workout Jams” weren’t exactly the classic vinyl aesthetic he was looking for.  At one point deep in the store they stumbled upon an old MdDonald’s Happy Meal toy display case, the colors faded from Ronald McDonald’s face and old toys still in tact in the plastic inside, though covered with a layer of dust.  Taako immediately declared this item “cursed,” and Kravitz was quick to agree, pushing them along to get away from strange aura emanating from the case.

They were on their way to the front of the store to leave and check out, Kravitz sweeping his gaze across the multitudes of trinkets littering the tables lining the walkways, when something caught his eye for a moment.  It was a small, dark wooden box with golden claw feet holding it up.  It was a fairly simple box, aside from the window on the top, which was a beautiful small masterpiece of stained glass flowers making up a heart shape.  Kravitz stopped to pick it up, causing Taako to halt his pace as he did so.  “What’s that?” he asked.

“A jewelry box, I think,” Kravitz said.  He opened the lid, and he couldn’t help his lips instinctively quirking up into a smile when he saw the inside.  “A jewelry box and a music box.”

“Play it then!”  Taako insisted, getting closer to properly hear.

Kravitz flipped the box over and turned the key, eager to hear what music the pretty little box made.  Once the melody started playing, though, Kravitz felt his breath catch in his throat for the second time that night.  The song was a familiar one, one that his mother used to hum all the time when he’d been growing up.  He’d never actually known what the name of the song was, but the tune was instantly recognizable, and it seemed to suddenly take him back to another time; a time of teasing siblings, fresh-baked cookies, and watching cartoons in the evening after school.  It felt familiar and warm and like home.

“Huh, that’s a pretty little tune there,” Taako said from over his shoulder.

Kravitz turned to him, smiling.  “My mom used to hum this song all the time,” he explained.  “I don’t even know what it’s called, but I know it’s the same song.”

Taako let out a low whistle.  “Talk about a blast from the past, then, huh?”  He put his hand on Kravitz’s shoulder, the unexpected contact making Kravitz’s mind race suddenly in a good way.  “You should totally buy it, dude!  It’s got sentimental value and shit.  Plus, if you ask me, you can never have too many places to put your jewelry.”

“I don’t really wear jewelry much,” Kravitz responded, though he had already started to continue their walk to the counter, box still in his hands.  Taako dropped his hand from Kravitz’s shoulder and turned to follow.

“That’s unfortunate,” he said as he situated himself next to Kravitz so that they could bump elbows.  “Because some gold here and there would really bring out your eyes.”

Kravitz flushed, casting his eyes back down to the music box.  “I’ll think about maybe incorporating some into my wardrobe some time, then.”

By the time they’d checked out and left the store night had completely descended, the only sources of light being the high moon, the streetlamps, and the light spilling from still-open storefront windows.  They put a few paces between them and the antique store before Taako pulled Kravitz aside.

“Hey,” he said, fingers nervously playing with the end of the intricate braid that held his hair.  “So, tonight’s been great.  Like, really, really great, and I just wanted to tell you that I had a great time.”  He chanced a quick, split-second glance up at Kravitz’s face before turning his gaze steadily to the moon while he waited for a response.

“That’s 'great,’” Kravitz teased, earning himself a light thwack on the side from Taako’s shopping bag.  Laughing, Kravitz put his hand on Taako’s shoulder and continued.  “No really though, I’m glad, tonight was really fun for me too.  I enjoyed spending time with you, Taako.”

Taako finally let his eyes settle on Kravitz’s, and the beginnings of a genuine smile started to show on his features.  “Natch,” he said, inching forward a little.  Kravitz picked up on the cue and also pushed forward, until there was only about an inch of space between the two of them.  “You know, I’m not usually one to kiss and tell on first dates,” Taako said, his tone hushed, “but I think I can make an exception if I just don’t tell-”

Just as Taako was about to close the gap, Kravitz’s phone went off, blaring sound and vibrate startling him forward, but not in the romantic way that had been intended a mere second before.  Kravitz's forehead connected solidly with Taako’s with a crack that made both men shout out in pain.

“Sorry!  I’m so, so sorry!” Kravitz yelled, blinking the stars out of his vision.

“Not what I had in mind by 'closing the gap,’ my man!” Taako replied, hand rubbing his head in an attempt to reduce the pain.  “God, that smarts!”

“I know, I’m sorry!”  Kravitz apologized again.  “My phone startled me-”

“Well, then you might as well answer it!” Taako sighed.

Kravitz reached into his pocket and pulled out the offending device, looking at who was calling him.  The screen said Julia, which only confused him.  Julia?  Shouldn’t she be at work right now?  “Hello?” he answered.

“Krav, oh thank God!” Julia shouted from the other end, her voice sounding panicked.

“Julia what’s going on?” Kravitz asked, concern quickly outweighing his previous confusion and annoyance.

“You know how I said I could handle the midnight shift?  Well I was wrong, Kravitz.  I was dead fucking wrong.  Everything had been moderately okay until this fucking bus full of school children showed up, followed by TWO MORE BUSES!  And they all want Starbucks, Krav, every last one of them!  AND YES, I KNOW WE’RE NOT REALLY A STARBUCKS!” Julia snipped before Kravitz could even open his mouth to remind her.

“But I am fucking swamped, I’m way out of my depth.  There’s too many of them for me to handle alone, and Raven’s busy trying to wrangle them with the teachers and make sure they don’t get into shit they’re not supposed to.  Some kid was standing on Raven’s desk, Krav!  Another was sitting on top of the mystery shelf!  I don’t even know how he got up there!  I tried to call Lucas to help me, but he wouldn’t answer.  You know I wouldn’t interrupt your date unless I really needed your help over here, but holy shit I really need your help.  Can you please head over here?”

“Calm down Jules,” Kravitz soothed.  “I’ll be over in just a few minutes.”

“Thank you, God bless you, remind me to send Taako flowers as a consolation for ruining your date,” Julia joked, although she sounded half serious.

Kravitz laughed.  “I’ll see you in just a few, try to hold it together until I get there,” he said before hanging up and turning to Taako.  “That was Julia, she’s really out of her depth at the café and needs me to come help her, it’s kind of an emergency,” he explained.

Taako tried not to look too disappointed, but the split second before he put up his false smile betrayed how he really felt.  “That’s fine Rabbit, you go do your barista thing, Taako’s good here.”

Kravitz hesitated for a moment, before walking over to Taako and kissing his forehead where he’d knocked against just a moment ago.  He pulled away and reached up to lightly stroke the spot with his thumb, already feeling a bump forming.  “I’m sorry for having to leave so suddenly,” he said, looking Taako in the eyes.  “But how about I plan our next outing?” he suggested.

Taako looked like a deer caught in headlights for the most part, surprised by Kravitz’s tenderness with him.  He blinked hard to startle himself out of the spell before saying, “I’m listening…”

Kravitz smiled at Taako’s reaction.  “My siblings, the ones I mentioned before?  They’re going to be in a student fashion show at their school next weekend, and they told me to 'not even show up if i don’t have a date with me.’  They were mostly joking, but I was kinda thinking this sort of thing would be right up your alley.  What do you say?”

Taako hummed, pretending to be thinking.  “I say…” he smiled up at Kravitz, “that you can tell your sibs that you’re bringing a very hot date with you.”

Kravitz beamed and pressed another kiss to Taako’s forehead before stepping away.  “Great!  I really have to go now, but I can’t wait to see you at this thing.”

“Yeah yeah, you go rescue Julia from the little coffee shop of horrors she’s got herself in,” Taako joked, hand reaching up to try to cover the blush that was starting to bloom across his face.  “I’ll see you next weekend, my man!”

They parted ways, both quietly knowing that Kravitz would definitely be seeing Taako again before their next date.  Because without Taako, who else was going to entertain the café by ordering a drink with 20 pumps of vanilla syrup and one single pump of raspberry in it?