“Oh my god, you’re Gabriel Landeskog.”
Gabe looked up to see a brunet man standing behind the counter with a comical look of disbelief painted across his face holding a box of paper cups loosely in his nicely muscled arms.
“Uh. Mr Landeskog, sir-” The man started speaking again, the waver in his voice and shifty look in his eyes giving away his nervousness, “Can I help you with anything today.”
Gabe had come in to drop off the lunch Mel made especially for Tyson before morning practice and as a result he had had to leave far earlier than normal in order to make it into the rink at a sufficiently captainly time. Unfortunately that meant sacrificing his - while not necessarily needed - much appreciated beauty sleep.
“Just call me Gabe, or Landy, or whatever just for my sake drop the sir and the Mr.” Is the first thing that comes out of his mouth, it’s not what he had meant to say but he was tired, they’d had a bad streak of games over the past few weeks, his stupid boyfriend had forgot his stupid lunch and Bowen fucking Byram has been making him feel like a grumpy old man.
The man behind the counter let out a rather undignified squawk presumably of shock at the abrupt word. Gabe might have to talk to Tyson about some of his employee’s customer service abilities.
“Sorry kid,” Gabe offered a small tired smile, “Could I just get an Americano please. Oh and if you don’t mind I need to talk to Tys real quick.”
The cashires thin eyebrows furrowed together in a look of confusion.
“I-uh, I don’t know if i can disclose personal inf-” The man started to say, looking like it was causing him physical pain to be in this situation. Thankfully both Gabe and the brunet man were saved by the crowing of an annoyingly familiar voice.
“An americano? Really? Where’s your loyalty to Sweden?” Tyson emerged from the door to the bakery and swanned up to the counter placing a hand on the shoulder of his employee.
After years of dealing with Tyson, Gabe was well versed in the casual banter that allowed his boyfriend to endear himself so easily to anyone around him but that didn't mean his pride would allow said boyfriend to challenge the legitimacy of his national heritage.
“Oh fuck off,” Gabe said with good natured grin that didn’t seem to soften the blow of seeing an NHL captain insulting yur boss for Tysons poor employee who still stood awkwardly between them. “You’re a Canadian who willingly moved to Colorado for no good reason.”
Gabe knew exactly why Tyson had moved to Colorado - and if he was perfectly honest, thought it was a fantastic reason - but he wasn’t going to take insults of his national pride lying down.
“Kerf, why don’t you go back and help EJ out with that new pastry he's been trying” Tyson said squeezing the shoulder of his poor employee who was looking painfully awkward eyes flicking between the other two men currently occupying the coffee shop front.
“Y-yeah, i think that’s sounds like a good idea,” The man - Kerf - said ducking out from underneath the arm Tyson had slung casually across his shoulders, “Nice meeting you Mr Landeskog, Sir. Um good luck with the season I guess.”
“This is why we don’t let you out the front Alexander!” Tyson yelled over his shoulder at the man who was hurriedly making his way into the relative safety of the kitchen.
“Ah, so that’s Alexander.” Gabe nodded sagely as Tyson came out from behind the counter, “I was going to say he doesn’t seem too great at customer service.”
“Oh shut up Landesnerd, don’t insult my staff.” Tyson said while looking quickly around to make sure they really were alone before leaning in to press a quick kiss to Gabe cheek.
“What are you doing here anyway? Don’t you have morning skate in-” he checked his watch which read a time far too early to be functioning properly.
“Well I would be on my way for practice soon if someone didn’t forget the lunch that my beautiful wife made especially for him.” Gabe spoke barreling over whatever tangent Tyson was undoubtedly heading towards as he held up an embarrassingly cute bento box style lunch box.
“Damn, tell Mel her WAG game is on point.” Tyson said with a shit eating grin.
“Tell her yourself asshole, she’s your girlfriend too.” Gabe grumbled tossing food at Tysons chest.
“Oh my god, she really is nailing the whole WAG thing, she’s a wife AND a girlfriend.” He said easily catching the projectile.
The look of pure unbridled joy painted across Tysons face was only going to lead to a headache for Gabe. They’d been together for years at this stage, Gabe had no doubts about his feelings for Tyson. That being said, the little fucker could be annoying as hell when he put his mind to it.
“Y’know you didn’t actually have to drop this off for me, I would’ve been alright.” Tyson said his smile turned softer as he took Gabes hand intertwining their fingers together between them. “I own a bakery, I’m not going to starve.”
“Yeah, but maybe I’m just a good boyfriend.” He said with an equally soft smile.
“Best boyfriend.” Tyson said with another quick check around making sure they were still alone before leaning in to connect their lips in a chaste kiss. “Now get going before you’re late, gotta set a good example for the kids.”
Gabe rolled his eyes but he knew Tyson was right. If he didn’t leave soon he’d be cutting his designated captainly arrival time a little too close.
“Whatever, I’ll see you at home.” He said squeezing their hands before dropping them and turning to leave. “Oh can you bring back some of those low carb cinnamon rolls, Byram's been asking after them since the last team dinner.”
“Tell Bo he can come visit me if he wants my sweet treats, I haven’t seen him since before that last road trip.” Tyson yelled to Gabes quickly retreating back.
_/ _/ _/
“So was I supposed to know that our boss is apparently very good friends with the captain of the Colorado fucking Avalanche or was i just supposed to find out by listening to them insult eachother?” Alexander announced as the door to the shop front slammed shut behind him leaving a safety barrier between him and one of the most confusing - and terrifying - interactions since he had begun working at Barrie’s Bakery.
EJ shot a sidelong look toward the room's new occupant before pointedly turning his back to Alexander so as to attend to the fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies being pulled from the oven not bothering to offer a response.
“Hold on, Gabriel Landeskog?” Cale said from where he was sitting next to Sammy on EJs prep bench holding a wooden spoon covered in batter that matched the battered surreptitiously spread at the corner of Sam's mouth. “As is Gabe the babe?”
“No Juice, the other captain of the avalanche.” EJ said without bothering to look up from whatever he was doing.
Kerf threw his arms up in an exaggerated expression of exasperation, “Can we focus on what’s important here? Our boss is apparently good enough friends with a professional athlete to casually insult him. It was mortifying” He says glaring around the room before focussing back on Cale “Hang on a second why weren’t you out the front Cale, it’s literally your job to have painful customer interaction. It’s your fault I’m traumatized now.”
A flush made its way up Cale's neck turning his face - what EJ would no doubt describe as quite a lovely shade of bright - red as he looked guiltily down at the half licked spoon in his hand then between Sammy and EJ who had of course coincidently begun paying attention to the conversation.
“You guys are the worst.” Kerf huffed grumpily “You three are being all gross with your stupid flirting, boss is apparently friends with Gabriel Landeskog and Josty doesn’t even work today.”
He snatched the spoon from the younger man's hands earning a dirty glare from both Sammy and EJ. Tossing the spoon into the sink before taking the tray from EJ’s hands and hip checking him out of the way.
“At least keep an eye on the front Cale, some of us are actually doing our jobs.” Kerf mumbled, turning his back to the rest of the room.
“Yeah Cale, keep an eye on the front.” EJ leared
“Me an EJ will keep an eye on something else mon chum.” Sammy finished lifting his hand for EJ to high five.
More of the Avs boys come to visit and Gabe is stuck running errends for Tyson.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It’s an unassuming Wednesday afternoon well and truly after the lunch rush has died down and Josty has handled the necessary cleaning. He’s leaning against the door frame between the front of house and the bakery, door propped open with his foot as he watches Alexander work humming quietly to himself as me prepares the dough for proofing overnight.
Really they were just waiting for closing time, Erik, Sammy and Cale had all headed out almost a full hour ago leaving just the two of them to finish closing. Josty was just checking his phone for the time when the little bell above the shop's entrance chimed signaling a customer's arrival.
Josty didn’t react at first, too lost in his own head. It was only when Kerf stopped humming, looking up from his work on the prep bench and making his way through the door where he was standing, gently slapping him on the cheek to get his attention.
“How come none of you Barista boys pay attention to our customers.” Kerfy said, leading the way to the front as Josty followed along behind trailing like a lost puppy.
“I pay plenty of attention to our customers.” Josty whined petulantly, “I was just distracted, it’s almost closing time anyway. Who comes to a coffee shop at 5pm?”
The answer of course came quickly in the form of three tall, well built men.
“Fuck no,” Alexander said turning the second he locked eyes with the small group, “Not my job, not my problem.” He shoved Josty in front of him and hastily made his escape to the familiarity of the kitchen.
“Oh.” Josty said dumbly as he stood face to face with a small entourage made up of professional hockey players.
“Tyson should make this a cat cafe.” The youngest one with greasy blond hair said vehemently as if the lack of cats was a personal attack.
Josty wasn’t the biggest fan of hockey but he was Canadian enough to recognise the 4th overall pick for his local team - who apparently has some strong opinions on cats or something - and the captain of aforementioned team.
He could hear Alex laughing at the slightly slack jawed expression across his face from where he was hidden in the safety of the back.
Turning quickly to shoot his useless coworker a glare trying to convey his urge to slap his hand across Alex’s mouth and wrestle him in to silent compliance, as they usually would if the cafe was empty (it had cost the two of them several frustrated lectures from big Tyson but what was one more lecture about responsible workplace conduct especially considering the hypocrisy.)
A small cough from the slightly shorter ginger man with an admittedly nice beard who was sandwiched between the two blonds - the only member of the small trio that Tyson didn’t recognise.
“Um, sorry I don’t think I have the authority to turn the place into a cat cafe,” He said dumbly. “I mean not that I’m opposed but I think the boss is allergic or something.”
“Wait. Gabe, why didn’t you say Tyson was allergic to cats.” The greasy blond looked afronted at his prospects of a cat cafe being crushed.
“Um,” Josty interrupted, “I just said the boss was allergic, not me… wait why would Gabriel Landeskog know about my allergies.”
He heard a sound that sounded suspiciously like a snort of laughter coming from the kitchen again.
The kid and the ginger were wearing matching expressions of confusion while Gabe was smirking in a smug knowing way.
The beat of silence was stretching to a slightly uncomfortable length.
“Uh,” Josty started
“So you’re Junior then?” Gabe said at the same time. Saving Tyson from awkwardly trying to continue as normal.
“Why do you know that?” Josty said. He liked to think he was usually a pretty even keeled kinda guy but forgive him for finding it strange that an NHL player knew his employer’s nickname for him.
Tyson tuned back in from his moment of panic to hear Gabe talking.
“Yeah my Tys is always talking about his baby Tyson, sometimes I think I’m going to be replaced - or he’s going to adopt Junior or something.” Gabe was explaining to his two teammates.
The younger blond - Bo or Owen or something like that Tyson wracked his brain trying to remember - looked like he wasn’t paying attention, eyes glazed over like he’d heard similar tangents several times before. While the other man also seemed to be tuning out his eyes were fixed quite clearly on Tyson.
Mentally pinching himself to refocus, trying to ignore the ginger's confusing but intense stare Tyson opened his mouth to cut the rambling off.
“Wait, you know Barrie? Why does my boss know you? What the fuck.”
“Shit that reminds me,” Gabe said, stopping in the middle of the sentence he was already halfway through still somehow completely ignoring the question. “Tys asked me to drop this off after the press junket.”
For the first time Tyson’s eyes were drawn to the relatively small box in Gabe’s hands. He placed it on the front counter sliding it across to Tyson. Who looked at it with an increasing degree of dubious curiosity leaving it sat up the bench where it was placed.
“Right.” Tyson trailed off seeming to accept that - at least for the moment it was rather unlikely any answers to the many, many questions racing through his mind.
“Oh hey little dude, Junior, whatever.” The kid said rocking back and forth on his heels in a way that resembled an actual child.
Tysons eyebrows moved into a frown, he was only an inch or two shorter than any of them and it seemed a bit rude for this kid barely out of his teens as Junior - though to be fair the name tag he was supposed to wear very rarely found its way into his apparel.
“Can I get, like a Hot Chocolate please?” He continued apparently oblivious to Tysons annoyance as he dragged out the vowels in the please.
Tyson opened his mouth to launch into his regular customer service spiel before he was interrupted - apparently a recurring theme throughout this interaction - by a snort coming from the ginger.
“Bo, we have a game tomorrow.” He said with a clear look of cynicism across his handsome face, “Can you imagine if Mac found out you had a Hot Chocolate?”
“Oh come on Comphy, don’t be such a wet blanket” Bo said with a pout that once again reminded Tyson of an actual child.
“Whatever man,” The ginger - Comphy apparently, Tyson made sure to make note of that in his mind for no particular reason shut up - shrugged. “Just trying to look out for the rookie, don’t know why I bother.”
“We do actually offer a kinda healthy hot chocolate.” Tyson interjected, his service training taking over as he offered Comphy a placating smile. “We make it with cocoa powder, maple syrup instead of sugar and almond milk.”
“Yeah! Let’s do it!” Bo said quickly, making sure to beat out his teammate who had both opened their mouths, likely to once again shut him down.
“7.50 thanks.” Tyson said following the kids' lead and not giving enough time for the other to interrupt before quickly escaping to the back to grab the required ingredients that Alex had preemptively put away ready for close.
“Why the fuck are there a bunch of Avalanche players in Barries shop.” Josty hissed to Alexander who was innocently kneading dough again.
“Great question,” Alex said, not looking up from his baking. “One that I would also like an answer to, they were in the other day too. I think big Tyson is friends with the captain or something.”
“What the fuck,” Tyson said “What the fuck, what the fuck, what the actually fuck.”
Alex just laughed quietly, eyes soft.
“So can we close now?” He asked, finally looking up once the mushy look on his face was back under control.
“Wait no I came back here to grab that weird healthy Hot Chocolate mix Barrie’s been working on.” Josty said, grabbing said mix from the shelf over Alexander's head, face turning warm as he was pressed up against his coworkers back.
_/ _/ _/
It wasn’t until they’d finally locked the shop 15 minutes later than they were supposed to close, much to the annoyance of Alexander that Josty finally remembered the mysterious box their boss had apparently asked a god damn NHL player. A captain at that to casually drop off to their humble little shop.
“Apparently boss man asked Gabriel freaking Landeskog to drop this off.” Tyson said, hefting the lightweight box in his arms as he walked into the back where Alex was sitting on the floor tapping away at some game on his phone.
“What game tickets or something?” Came the response from the floor where Alex hadn’t even moved to look up.
“Psht, I wish.” Tyson snorted, placing the box on the prep table. “It’s just a box of something.”
“I bet it’s a signed jersey.”
“No way, why would Landeskog drop a jersey off to the bakery if him and Barrie are friends”
Alex furrowed his brow finally looking up from his phone.
“Dare you to open it.” Josty said, sticking his tongue out at the man on the floor.
“No way dude.”
“Aw come on.” He pressed, picking up the box and waving it in front of Alexander's face in an enticing manner before continuing in a sing-song voice “Triple dog dare you.”
“Oh fuck off.” Alex grumbled but took the box, he was never able to say no to Josty for long.
The two of them leaned over the box and Alex prided the folded flaps open.
“What. The. Fuck.” Tyson said clearly annunciating each word individually as the box revealed a handful of completely innocuous cleaning supplies.
Together they dug through the box determined to find something other than clothes and a couple of dish chemicals they’d run out of earlier in the day.
“Why the hell does Tyson Barrie have an entourage of NHL players running errands for him?” Alex questioned.
“More importantly,” Josty leveled “Why do NHL players listen to what he wants. I mean we barely listen to him and it’s kinda what we’re paid to do.”
“Ooo, maybe Landeskog has a crush on Tyson.” Alex suggested trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face.
“Yeah right,” Josty laughed. “Have you seen his wife? Don’t get me wrong women aren’t my thing but Landeskogs wife is beautiful.”
I'm really not happy with this chapter but I'm kinda a shitty writer and the only way to get better is practice so like I'm doing my best.
kudos and comments are always apprciated
find me on tumblr @rylekayner if you wanna talk
Nate's an asshole and Mel is an angel.
Content warning: There is a fairly explicit description of a character having a panic attack and that same character accidently injures himself resulting in a minor injury with some blood.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The morning rush, as any barista would probably be able to tell you, was the worst time of day. Customers were always at their worst when they were waiting in line at 6am, manners apparently nowhere near as important as their first dose of caffeine.
Cale’s hands were shaking as he made his way through the morning rush alone. He wasn’t even supposed to be at work today, it was 4am when he’d gotten the call that not only Josty was sick but Andre was too and Tyson wasn’t going to be able to make it in until 9. With almost all the trained baristas out of commission EJ had sounded uncharacteristically stressed on the phone leaving Cale no real choice but to abandon his study and make his way to the bakery on zero sleep.
The line was getting longer and longer as Cale fell further behind, with only one person on counter it was impossible to keep up with the rush.
“Why is this taking so long?” A voice came from the line.
Cale ignored it, there was nothing unusual about self important business people complaining about wait times like they’d never worked a day of customer service in their lives to be fair it was usually because they hadn’t - stupid stuffy white collar assholes.
The tips of his fingers hurt where he’d been biting away at the nail beds as he pressed the buttons on the register tapping in the next order.
“I’m so sorry ma’am but I’m afraid we’ve run out of almond milk, would oat or soy be ok?” He said putting on his best customer service smile, although even that was being worn down as he heard another snide remark from further back in the line.
The woman seemingly took pity on him seeing the stress in his pained expression as she just nodded and handed her card over.
Cale around under the guise of retrieving whatever non dairy milk was the closest and took a deep breath clasping his hands together and cracking his knuckles to release at least
a bit of the pressure that was building up in his head.
“What’s taking so long, I’ve got places to be kid.” A voice rose above the constant murmur humming through the cafe. “Not everyone has the luxury to laze around all day.”
Cale turned back around to face a bland looking man dressed in a charcoal suit and a rumpled white shirt, the sharpness of his closely cropped brown hair drew the attention to the ugly frown on his uninspiring features.
“I’ve been waiting in line for almost 10 minutes.” The man snapped, tapping his watch rudely.
“I’m sorry sir, we’re extremely under staffed this morning but we’re doing our best.” Cale responded as politely as he could choke out with the feeling of dread building in his stomach and cold hand clutching at his organs. “What can I get started for you today?”
Naturally he was met with a snide scoff and an eyeroll.
“So I’m going to need a large white mocha frappe with a caramel drizzle both on the top and bottom with 2 pumps of peppermint syrup and a dusting on cinnamon powder on top, a large vanilla bean latte with-”
Cale felt his eyes glazing over and the blunt stubs left of his fingernails digging red crescents into the palm of his hands as his fists began clenching tighter and tighter as the man continued to speak listing out a total of four increasingly complex and ludicrous drinks that he was pretty sure even starbucks wouldn’t entertain.
He opened his mouth to correct the man or possibly offer him alternatives or perhaps just tell him where exactly a self important asshole could shove his stupid gross sugary excuse for coffee.
Instead what came out was a garbled choking sound as his anxiety took over robbing him of the ability to talk.
“Are you going to stand there gaping like an idiot?” The man sneered, snapping his fingers in front of Cales face.
“I- Sir I’m sorry.” Cale forced out, managing to keep his voice mostly steady. “I’m afraid that we aren’t able to accommodate such specific orders at this time.”
If he was being honest Cale was kinda proud of himself for the way he was handling this situation.
“However I can offer you a simplified alternative.” The practiced customer service smile was once again more securely in place across Cales features.
“You really are an idiot.” The man said angrily, “Do you know who I am? I’m a very important man and I’m going to be late because you’re too incompitent to do your stupid worthless job, a nobody like you is never going to amount to anything.”
“Sir, I-I’m so so sorry but-” Cale started to explain trying to keep his cool as he tapped his fingers rhythmically along his thigh to prevent his finger nails from drawing blood from his palm.
“I don’t have time to hear your excuses.” The sharp tone in the man's voice silenced Cale mid apology, “Just get me your manager so I can talk to someone who actually knows what they’re doing.”
Cale cringed internally and the rhythmic tapping stopped as he couldn’t resist digging his nails into his own flesh at the bad news. EJ was the only other person currently working, Tyson wasn’t going to be for another half hour or so.
“Um,” He started not really sure where this was going to end up. “Look, my manager isn’t going to be here for another 30 minutes and the only other person available is the bakery manager.”
Cale’s customer service smile was waning as he began worrying at his lip picking at the chapped, dead skin with his teeth as the customers eyes grew darker and his eyebrows furrowed deeper.
“I can’t afford to waste any more time waiting around, just get me that bakery manager.” The man said airily before leaning in across the counter making an uncomfortable amount of eye contact, tone turning even meaner than before “Just wait kid, I’m going to teach you a lesson. You’re getting fired.”
Cale looked away, breaking eye contact unwilling to risk further provocation. Wordlessly turning around Cale hurried off to the back, hopefully EJ would be able to defuse the situation and Cale wouldn’t end up searching for a new job in the middle of studying for midterms.
Cales hands were still shaking as he knocked on the already open door to the bakery where EJ was measuring out ingredients for whatever pastry he was experimenting with.
He coughed politely to make himself known before beginning.
“Hey, excuse me Erik.”
“What’s up my little veggie?” EJ responded, spinning around unnecessarily dramatically.
“Some assh- uh guy is asking to see a manager.” Cale said, censoring himself from his position just inside the doorway, “I let him know Tyson wasn’t gonna be in for a while but he insisted I got someone.”
EJ’s eyes lit up with what Cale imagined would be a rather unsettling gleem if it were to be directed toward him as the taller man strode towards him.
“Oh this is going to be great fun,” EJ smiled his signatured toothless grin. “For me at least, it’s been too long since the last time Tys let me deal with a customer.”
_/ _/ _/
If Cale were a bigger person he probably would’ve felt bad for the customer. Fortunately, he was not a bigger person. After taking a moment to walk himself through the breathing exercises that his therapist insisted would help, the scene Cale found himself walking into was absolute chaos.
That manic look in EJ’s eyes was burning at full force as he stared down the man who had shrunk into himself as the two of them yelled back and forth.
“I want that kid fired!” The man yelled but the conviction was lacking.
It was much easier to intimidate someone like Cale, young, short and lacking confidence than the toothless giant with a voice to match that EJ was.
“We’ll, I want to be doing my job instead of putting a pompous assholes in his place. Guess we don’t always get what we want.” Slamming his hand on the counter EJ leant forward causing the man to lean back giving ground. “Now get the hell outta my shop or am I going to have to show you out myself?”
The man all but sprinted to the door, leaving it swinging as he made his escape.
Cale stood back from the counter surveying the cafe that now lay mostly empty thanks to the shouting match, a fact that he didn’t think Tyson would be particularly happy with.
EJ swung around to face Cale who could feel the blood rushing to his cheeks causing a blush to spread across his face - something that Cale thought happened too often for his taste.
“You alright kid?” EJ asked, his facial expression softening.
“Uh yeah, sorry,” He smiled ruefully. “Like I haven't slept in maybe 2 days and I just- he was yelling and I couldn't stop thinking that if I got fired I probably wouldn't be able to afford rent on my apartment and then I’d have to go back home and then I wouldn't be able to graduate.”
“Hey. Cale. Bud, it’s alright.” EJ rested his hands on Cale’s shoulders giving a reassuring squeeze. “How about you go out back and take a moment, I’ll fend off all those nasty customers like your dashing knight in shining armour.”
Cale nodded in agreement but rolled his eyes after he’d already turned to make his way back into the kitchen.
“Don’t let my profiteroles over cook or I might actually have to fire you.” Cale heard EJ yell from where he’d stationed himself in front of the register with a mean glare on his face.
_/ _/ _/
About 15 minutes later when the timer for EJ’s pastries had sounded, Cale finally emerged from his safety of the kitchen to an entirely empty store and a stupidly smug looking EJ.
“I’m feeling alright now I think.” Cale smiled ignoring the way his hands started shaking the moment he’d reentered the front of house area. “Not sure Tyson will be too happy with you scaring away all the customers.”
“Ahh, whatever.” Came the reply, “I think he’ll forgive me when I tell the harrowing story of some big mean goon was being mean to my poor baby boy.”
Cale rolled his eyes at the exaggerated pout that looked kinda horrifying on EJs face.
“I took your profiteroles outta the oven, go take care of your real babies, I’ll be ok out here.”
With that Cale was out the front alone again, thankfully the morning rush had mostly died down with only the stragglers. He could handle this, he didn’t need somebody to stand up for him. There was no point in bothering EJ anymore, they both had their own jobs to do and Cale didn’t need help.
He studiously ignored the way that he had absent mindedly begun tapping out rhythms on his thigh again. He took a breath and counted.
The ringing of the bell was what brought his focus back.
A blond man with frankly ridiculously broad shoulders and a dark expression on his face came storming up to the counter with wide meaningful strides.
Cale felt the imminent dread creeping through his veins.
“Good morning sir, how can I help you today?” Cale started pasting his broadest, brightest smile in a futile attempt to counteract whatever bad mood was following the new customer around.
“Who did it?” The man said with an evil eye that could put even EJ to shame.
“Um,” Cale really didn’t know what was going on here, oh god had that asshole from earlier gone and called his boss or something. No, that wouldn't make sense. What sort of business man had the time to berate barista’s, on second thought maybe that was actually a good guess.
“Who’s been feeding my rookies all this junk.” The man gestured vaguely at the pastry display case making no more sense than before.
“Sir I’m sorry but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Cale sorta shook his head in a moment head in confusion as he felt hands tightening along with his jaw.
“Look, I need to know. I need the recipe so I can work out the exact caloric intake and protein to saturated fat ratio…”
Cale couldn’t hear the end of the strange man's even stranger rant as the words began blurring together as his eyes glazed over and his vision blurred with the tears beginning to form despite his best efforts to refocus as reality slipped from his grasp.
The week had been terrible, the day had been terrible, the customers had been terrible, everything was terrible. He tried to focus on the way his fingers tapped against his thigh.
Index. Middle. Ring. Don’t clench.
Index. Midde. Ring. Don’t cry.
Dammit he shouldn’t have agreed to come back out front, he shouldn’t have taken this stupid shift at all.
His breath came faster and faster and he forgot that he was currently standing behind the counter of his workplace in front of a prospective customer who was making ridiculous demands. The world began to spin, where was a chair? He needed to sit before he fell.
He was vaguely aware of some loud crashing sound from nearby, the sound of voices talking frantically above him, the cold feeling of tiles underneath him and finally the warm spreading feeling of blood across his palm.
“Hey Honey can you breathe with me?” The unfamiliar voice of a woman broke through his mind's haze. “Here, I’ll count for you so all you have to do is breathe.”
“One. Two. Three, that’s right honey. Just keep breathing with me.”
A soft hand was rubbing his back in a comforting fashion comforting as another, firmer hand gripped his own hand where the blood was beginning to flow down onto his wrist.
Angry voices were arguing loud over his head but he just focused on breathing like the nice woman told him to.
_/ _/ _/
Tyson was in a rush. This morning had been a mess,he’d had an uncharacteristically frantic call way too early that had woken him from where he was comfortably squished between his stupidly hot boyfriend and his ridiculously beautiful girlfriend. All his stupid employees were sick except for good old work horse EJ and and beautiful, baby faced Cale. Unfortunately that meant going into the coffee shop on his day off instead of spending it with the aforementioned beautiful girlfriend.
“It’s okay baby,” Mel smiled, pressing a short kiss to Tysons cheek. “I have some errands to run in town anyway. You do what you’ve gotta do my beautiful businessman.”
_/ _/ _/
So here he was now. On the floor of his coffee shop, bandaging the hand of his youngest employee while his (beautiful) girlfriend comforted said employee who was apparently having a panic attack because his (beautiful) boyfriend's idiot teammate was an asshole.
“EJ!” Tyson called just loud enough to be heard through the kitchen door.
The big man kicked the door open ready to mouth off to his boss but whatever snarky comment was on the tip of his tongue died the second his eyes fell onto the scene on the floor.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” EJ stormed over to the counter looking like he was mere seconds from jumping the counter. “You’re the second son of a bitch to-”
“EJ. Leave it.” Tyson snapped, dealing with EJ was like dealing with a dog, be direct and firm. “Here how about you come bandage Cales hand.”
EJ was almost comically quick to abandon his valiant attempt to defend Cales honour or whatever he thought he was doing in favour of looking after his boy.
“What the hell are you even doing here Nathan.” Tyson addressed the man who was still standing at the counter looking a little pale and extremely lost as he went to get a dustpan to clear up the broken shards of the tip jar.
“I was just trying to get the nutrition information on those cinnamon scrolls that Bo keeps bringing to the rink. It’s seriously starting to affect the dietary plan I drew up for the rookies.”
“Shut up Nathan, are you listening to yourself?” Tyson rolled his eyes, “Look I know you’re a nice guy and you’re looking after my team but you can’t come in here and give my poor employees panic attacks.”
“Shit, I’m so sorry.” Nate looked seriously sheepish like he was realigning his entire life values to incorporate this somehow revolutionary new information.
“Why the hell wouldn’t you just ask Gabe?” Tyson accused, “You’re seriously ridiculous man.”
“I didn’t mean to scare him or whatever.” Nate looked honestly upset but that didn’t stop the daggers that EJ shot him with his eyes.
“I think you should leave.” EJ said standing up to his full height that somehow managed to dwarf the professional athlete across the counter. “I don’t think Cale is going to want the man who caused him to have a panic attack to be around once he’s finally calmed down.”
Tyson knelt back down completing the protective barrier around the young man sitting on the floor.
“Hey honey, are you back with us?” Mel murmured softly like she was soothing a frightened animal, which Tyson supposed was kinda an apt comparison to draw.
“Yeah, uh yeah. Hi.” Cale still looked a little dazed but there was more colour in his cheeks now and his eyes were starting to focus up again. “Wait sorry who are you?”
Mel laughed softly rubbing her hand soothingly along Cales back.
“I’m Mel, Tyson’s girlfriend.” She smiled, beautifully - at least in Tysons opinion.
EJ coughed to cover up a surprised almost gasp sound and Cales eyes glass over again for just a moment before coming back into focus properly.
“Girlfriend?” EJ asked
“Oh, lovely to meet you Mel.” Cale said at the sametime.
Tyson just laughed at the two of them.
“Good to see the two of you are feeling normal again.”4
Cale went to stand up using EJ's arm as a handle to hang off. He looked awful, not like he was going to have another panic attack, more like he was feeling incredibly guilty for having said panic attack as if it was something within his control.
“Cale, you know I’d let you go home if I could but with only the three of us available I really can’t afford to lose you right now.” Tyson felt but knew if he sent Cale home it would only end in the kid drowning in a puddle of his own guilt. “How about I man the front and you can help EJ out with the croquembouche.”
Cale nodded quickly as EJ already started dragging him off.
“Thank you for helping Mel.” Tyson smiled, brushing her hair behind her ear. “I really didn’t know what to do, if you weren’t here I can only imagine what would’ve happened.”
Tyson could picture some sort of mess where he and Cale were crying on the floor while EJ tried to bite out Nate's trachea with his bare gums.
“Anytime baby,” She pressed a kiss to his lips. “I know they’re all basically your kids. Anyways, I’ve gotta get going.”
The bell above the door rang indicating the entrance of a new customer.
“And it looks like you’ve got work to do.” She made her way to the door waving over her shoulder, “Love you!”
_/ _/ _/
“I thought Tyson was single.” EJ wondered out loud as he coated another profiterole in caramel.
Cale snorted a little laugh from where he was sitting next to EJs workstation swinging his legs back and forth, a position he found himself in more and more frequently.
“I’ll do you one better, I thought Tyson was gay.”
This is the longest single chapter I've written in a long time, I got a little too into projecting onto Cale oops.
As always comments and kudos are always appriciated and constructive critisim is welcome if you're nice about it :)
I have no beta so all mistakes (I'm sure there's plenty) are my own.