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Coffee Boy

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Tyler pulled the baseball cap lower on his face. The coffee shop he was in was by no means busy, but he still felt as though all eyes were on him. Tyler was used to being recognised of course, being the alternate captain of the Dallas Stars ensured that. Except sometimes Tyler just wanted to order his triple shot, three sugar, large latte in peace.

 

Tyler risked a glance around the coffee shop, Albert’s, it was called. He’d never been here before, if he hadn’t been trying to avoid fans so hard he probably would have never found it. Albert’s was a tiny shop tucked far into the alleyway that separated two large buildings in the city. The walls were bright green, the furniture was mismatched, tables scratched and Björk was playing in the background. Somehow the café managed to feel cosy and comfortable. He hoped the coffee was just as good.

 

There were a few people milling around, slouching in the big armchairs or hunched over a book at one of the tables. And there in the corner, a man sat hunched over a laptop, his eyes concentrating heavy on the screen and his finger typing excessively fast. The man was good-looking, not that Tyler would ever admit that out loud. His hair was dark brown, almost black and fell in thick waves around his head, his jawline was chiselled and covered with the slightest bit of stubble, and his eyes, Tyler couldn’t see the colour of them, but they were framed by a pair of thick glasses which should not look that good.

 

As if sensing he was being watched, the man looked up from his laptop. Tyler forced himself to turn away before they made eye contact, his cheeks burning.

 

“Tyler?”

 

The barista pulled Tyler from his embarrassment as she held out a cup with his name written haphazardly on the side. Muttering a short thanks, he grabbed the drink from her and exited the shop, fast.

 

*

 

The thing is, Tyler’s not exactly in the closet per se, he’s just never told the team or management or the rest of the world about his thing for both women and men. His mom knew of course; she’d accidently walked in on him playing tonsil hockey with the guy from over the road. That was a bit of an awkward conversation. She’d accepted him though.

 

Normally his thing wouldn’t be much of a hindrance except he’s in the middle of home game against the Predators, and they’re losing and he can’t get that fucking guy out of his head! He’s messing up passes, missing the net, and making all sorts of stupid mistakes. It’s a wonder he didn’t get benched. Fuck his life! Seriously, fuck it!

 

They lose.

 

Tyler’s pissed.

 

He’s going to find Mr Hot Nerd tomorrow and give him a piece of his mind. Well, he won’t do that because all the guy really did was stare at his laptop and give Tyler a hard on.

 

Fuck that guy.

 

*

He finds himself at Albert’s again. Sitting in the corner where Mr Hot Nerd was sat several days before. He’s nursing a latte and questioning all of his life choices. There’s a random indie song playing in the background and Tyler decides he should do something other than wallow in self-pity, when the guy walks into the café.

 

Shit.

 

Tyler pulls out his phone and clicks on a random app. He did not think this through. He runs his hand through his hair several times and tries to stop his foot from bouncing up and down. A shadow looms above him and Tyler looks up to see Mr Hot Nerd himself towering above him.

 

His eyes are hazel.

 

Fuck.

 

“Hey, so you’re sitting in my seat?” Mr Hot Nerd stares at him, and wow, Tyler was not expecting the deep, velvety voice from the guy.

 

“Uh – what – uh yeah- I’ll just-” Tyler goes to stand up but the guy giggles, and fuck, it’s a cute one.

 

“No, no, I’m just kidding. I hope you don’t mind if I sit here?” Mr Hot Nerd smiles at him and Tyler is 90% sure that this is what love feels like.

 

“Uh, yeah go ahead.”

 

Mr Hot Nerd sits down in front of him and holds out his hand.

 

“I should probably introduce myself, I’m Jamie”

 

Tyler shakes Jamie’s hand and introduces himself.

 

“Tyler, nice to meet you.”

 

*

 

It’s official. Tyler is well and truly gone for Jamie. Jamie! God, even his name is sexy. They’d sat for hours talking about anything and everything. Despite their endless talking, Tyler never once brought up the fact that he was an NHL superstar. Instead choosing to push all the focus over to Jamie. Besides, it was nice to just be a normal person for once. He’d discovered that Jamie was a journalist for a local newspaper but had dreams of becoming a novelist. He was working on a fantasy novel, had two dogs (both German Shepherds), and absolutely hated anything to do with sports. Tyler can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

 

*

 

They continued like that for weeks. Meeting up at Albert’s for their ‘coffee dates’. Jamie would talk about his novel, or his dogs, and Tyler would sit and listen in awe. Until finally, Tyler had the nerve to get his head out of his ass and ask Jamie on a real date.

 

“Do you, maybe, like, wanna go on a date sometime?” Tyler blurts out in the middle of their coffee ‘date’ two months into this thing they’ve got going on. He can feel his face heating up as Jamie stares at Tyler, red blush creeping up from his neck.

 

Oh no, he’s read this situation wrong!

 

“I’m so sorry!” Tyler rushes out as he pushes himself out from the table, and hurries himself outside, leaving Jamie alone.

 

God, he probably hates him now.

 

*

 

Tyler doesn’t see Jamie for the next five weeks. A mix of a hectic game schedule and a heavy dose of avoidance has ensured he doesn’t run into Jamie. Instead finds himself daydreaming about the cow-eyed journalist every chance he gets, intentional or not. And every time the image of Jamie appears in Tyler’s peripheral vision, so does the conversation and the rejection that Tyler just knows he was going to receive that day.

 

He’s hiding in the gym when Hitchcock corners him.

 

“Tyler?” Hitcock’s voice echoes throughout the empty gym, pulling Tyler out from his trance on the treadmill.

 

“Yeah, Coach?”

 

“A word.” Hitchcock says, gesturing in the direction of his office. Tyler has no choice but to follow him, grabbing the ratty towel that’s hung over the back of a rack of weights, and wiping off the sweat as he follows Hitchcock down the corridor, a heavy weight settling in his stomach.

 

The uneasiness doesn’t wear off, not even when Tyler finds himself in the seat across from Hitchcock, fingers fidgeting with the frayed hem of his shirt. Hitchcock sits in front of him, fingers drumming on the desk and a steely gaze in his eyes. Hitchcock sighs deeply and leans forward in the seat. Tyler tries not to gulp and forces the panic rising in his chest back down.

 

He’s going to get traded again. They’ll probably send him to the Panthers or worse, the Blackhawks. Tyler tries to block out the thought of being captained by Jonathon Toews.

 

“There’s a journalist coming in to do a piece on the Stars Organisation.” Hitchcock says. “Jim’s asked me to pick a player for him to interview.”

 

“And you picked me?”

 

“I’ll be honest Tyler; you weren’t my first choice but no one understands a fucking word that Rads says.”

*

 

Jim sticks Tyler in one of the training rooms to be interviewed. He leaves him with a list of do’s and don’ts, and feeling out of place with his dark blue suit in the weight room. He’s pacing back and forth when there’s a knock on the door and Jim appears, a tall man in his tow who Tyler can’t see yet.

 

“Ah, Tyler.” he greets, stepping aside to let a familiar cow-eyed man through. “This is-“

 

“Jamie?”

 

“Ty?”

 

Tyler tries to stop the heat rising to his face as he remembers the coffee shop incident. Jamie doesn’t say anything, just watches Tyler through his big brown eyes. Suddenly, Jim coughs awkwardly and pulls the two of them back to the present. He shuffles awkwardly on his feet before announcing that he’ll be off to do some paper work.

 

“I didn’t know you knew any journalists.” Jim says to Tyler before closing the door.

 

There’s a long pause and a silence so tense you could cut it with a knife. Neither of them know what to do or say. Tyler’s voice is stuck in his throat and it’s all he can do to stare at Jamie. Jamie in his tight beige pants, and the plaid button up that’s pulled tightly over his chest.

 

“We should probably start?” Jamie says, finally.

 

Tyler can’t open his mouth to speak, instead he just nods and leads Jamie over to the table and chairs set up over the other side of the room.

 

“So, first question.” Jamie’s voice is soft, and he pulls out a pen and notepad. “Will you go on a date with me?”

 

*

 

There’s coffee in his breath, and a whisper of ‘I love you’ on his lips.

 

There’s lonely nights in hotels, and falling asleep to the sound of each other’s breaths on the phone.

 

There’s fights and make ups. And sweaty skin under the silk covers.

 

There’s the heavy wooden door of the closet that keeps Tyler confined within its walls, and the crack of light that slowly grows brighter and brighter.

 

A flash of a ring.

 

“Yes.”

 

The stretch of an aisle lined by friends and family.

“I do.”

 

The kiss is soft and gentle.

 

Just like Jamie.