Like most of Tyler’s great ideas that manage to go spectacularly tits up, this one’s conceived after a night of too much alcohol and weed.
“I’m going to get a job,” he says to Brownie over Skype. It’s time for their weekly Smoke-and-Bitch session, and Tyler’s doing a lot of both.
“About time,” Brownie says. Tyler can only barely see him on the screen, as Brownie’s sprawled out on his bed. He was facing the camera at one point, but as he slouches down more and more, Tyler can only see Brownie’s chest and a cloud of smoke.
“No, like, there’s a plan,” Tyler insists. He sits up and reframes himself in the camera. “This is important. I’m gonna, like, get a job and, like, maybe I’ll meet some hot chicks there, it’s gonna fuckin’ rock.”
It’s a great idea, and Tyler’s really proud of it already.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Brownie says.
“Fuck you, it’s great.” Tyler waves his middle finger in front of the camera. “Also, I need to pay my rent, so.”
Brownie laughs. “There you go.”
The first place that calls Tyler in for an interview is Crafts ‘n’ Stuff. Tyler only applied there because he remembered getting dragged in by a girlfriend once to buy yarn, and he remembered seeing a lot of cute college girls roaming around.
So, yarn it is.
Between his beard and his plaid shirt and jeans, the manager who interviews Tyler looks like he should be a lumberjack, not running a Crafts ‘n’ Stuff. Tyler, because he has no self-preservation, actually says this out loud.
“This is a family business,” the guy says as he settles behind his desk. His nametag says Jordie, and Tyler only barely stops himself from making fun of his non-name.
“You still could have been a lumberjack, dude,” Tyler points out. “All because daddy left you a yarn store…”
“You do know we sell more than yarn, right?”
Tyler rolls his eyes. “Uh, duh? There’s also, like, glue, and fabric stuff? And those weird fake flowers that always smell kinda like cinnamon.”
“Have you ever even been in a craft store before?” Jordie narrows his eyes at Tyler. “Do you have any retail experience?”
“Sort of.” Jordie frowns as he looks over Tyler’s application. “And you’ve been … let go … from all of your past jobs?”
Tyler at least has the sense to look embarrassed about that. “It was a tough time, what can I say?”
Jordie sighs and scribbles a few notes on the application. “Why should I hire you, Tyler?”
Tyler flashes him his biggest, most charming grin. “I have a great personality.”
A week later, Tyler is back at Crafts ‘n’ Stuff, shaking Jordie’s hand. “I’m sure I’m going to regret this later,” Jordie mutters, “but welcome to the team. Cora’s back in the break room,” Jordie says. “She’ll give you the tour and start training you on the registers.” Jordie hands Tyler his smock and nametag and points down the hallway. “Keep going, straight past the framing department, you can’t miss it.”
Tyler, of course, manages to take a left and gets lost in the yarn section. He’s trying to find his way back out when he hears someone say his name.
Well, his last name, and she butchers it. He’s pretty sure she says Sequin.
He’s ready to make a quip about finding the sequin department when he finally spots her. She’s got bright blue hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and a full sleeve of tattoos of internet meme cats. She can’t be any more than five feet tall, but she still looks like she could toss Tyler up in an overhead squat with no problem at all.
She is terrifying, and she’s holding a clipboard and an employee manual.
“New guy. Quit gawking, I need you to sign shit.” She waves the clipboard at him.
Her lips press together into a frown while she points at her name tag. CORA, it reads, only the O has a skull drawn in it, and the A is covered over by a sticker of the anarchy sign. “The one and only.”
“You don’t look like a Cora.” Tyler had pictured someone more grandmotherly, not someone who could kick his ass.
“And you don’t look like you know the first fucking thing about needlepoint. Now sign my papers, Sequins.” She steps forward and grabs Tyler by the front of his smock and starts dragging him towards the break room.
“I got lost in the yarn,” he says dumbly, stumbling along after her.
Cora shoots him a withering look. “You shouldn’t even have been in the yarn. Didn’t Jordie say? Straight back through framing, only a moron could miss it.”
“Well. What. Don’t. I’m not.” He can’t even form a full sentence, let alone defend himself. She is right, after all. “Yarn, I mean. It was right there.”
“Fuckin’ hopeless.” Cora shoves Tyler into a seat in the break room and drops the clipboard and manual in front of him. “Read this, sign it, give it back.”
Tyler tips back in the chair, raising the front two legs off the ground, and picks up the clipboard. “Are you always this much of a ray of sunshine?”
“Yup.” Cora kicks at his chair. “Four on the floor, Sequins.”
Tyler sighs heavily and settles the chair back down. It’s going to be a long, long day.
Cora shoves Tyler behind one of the registers and taps a few buttons on the keyboard. “So, this is the register. You scan shit, you hit the total button, everything is fantastic.”
“You’re the worst trainer on earth,” Tyler says. “Does Jordie know you’re this terrible at training?”
“Trust me, I’m the best you’re gonna get today. Kristy will eat you alive, and Jamie…” Cora laughs and takes a step back, giving Tyler a once-over. “You wouldn’t learn a thing from Jamie. Jamie’s gonna be trouble for you, I think.”
That gets Tyler’s attention. “Jamie, huh?” He arches his eyebrows. “I like trouble, you know.”
“You don’t even want to go there, Sequins, trust me.” Cora shakes her head, then points back at the register. “Now, look, forget about Jamie for now. When someone comes up with discounted fabric, here’s what you have to type in.”
Tyler’s only half-listening. He’s got to meet this Jamie chick. Tyler lives for trouble.
Tyler’s already overwhelmed, and he’s only got one customer waiting in line. Cora’s nowhere to be found, and he can’t figure out how to work the intercom to page her to come back to the register to help him.
“That ribbon is supposed to be on sale,” says his customer. Tyler just rang up sixteen spools of ribbon for her, and he’s got no idea which one she’s talking about.
“Which ribbon?” he asks, peering into the bag.
The woman doesn’t answer; she merely fixes him with a withering look that makes Tyler reassess his decision-making skills. “Jamie knows all the sales,” she says disdainfully. “Where’s Jamie?”
Tyler wipes sweat from his forehead and shifts his weight from foot to foot. “Uh, I don’t know? This is my first day, I don’t know where Jamie is.” Tyler doesn’t really care about the mysterious Jamie’s whereabouts, but he’d really like for her to get here stat to tell this woman which ribbon is on sale while Tyler sinks into the floor and dies of shame.
“Right behind you, Sequins,” says a cheerful voice. Tyler whirls around and sees a massive guy in a Crafts ‘n’ Stuff smock. Tyler imagines that he looks like the spawn of a brawny lumberjack and a dorky hipster, with his haircut and the tattoos peeking out from underneath the rolled-up sleeves of his plaid shirt.
His nametag reads Jamie in clear block print, and Tyler definitely wants to open up a hole in the floor and disappear.
“Let’s take a look at these ribbons, Mrs. Carson,” Jamie says as he slips into Tyler’s space behind the register. He presses one hand to Tyler’s back to gently nudge him out of the way, and Tyler shivers. “I bet you’re thinking about the organza, aren’t you? That was on sale last week.” Jamie flashes a shy smile at her before bending to paw through the bag of ribbon.
Tyler, meanwhile, can’t stop staring at Jamie’s huge hands.
Cora was right: Tyler is pretty sure this is going to be a problem.
Tyler’s in the break room, hands wrapped around a can of Mountain Dew, and seriously wondering about his decision-making skills, when he hears heavy footsteps behind him.
“Sequins,” Jamie says as he pulls up a chair. “Cora threw you to the wolves today, didn’t she?”
“I am so fired, aren’t I? That lady was really pissed about those ribbons.”
Jamie shrugs. “Mrs. Carson is always pissed about something, and Jordie knows it. He’s not going to fire you on your first day, just because Mrs. Carson wanted an extra fifty cents off.”
Tyler pushes away the can and folds his arms on the table, then rests his head on top of them. “I made an old lady angry about fifty cents of ribbon, I am totally getting fired, no way around it, dude.”
He doesn’t hear Jamie move, but suddenly one of those big hands is planted firmly on his shoulder. “Seriously, it’s cool,” Jamie says. Tyler has to force himself to concentrate on Jamie’s words, and not the way his thumb is rubbing little lines against his shoulder. “If Jordie gets mad -- which he won’t -- just tell me? I’ll talk him out of it.”
“Have you seen that guy?” Tyler lifts his head up just enough to peer out at Jamie. “He doesn’t look like he takes shit from anyone.”
Jamie’s fingers squeeze Tyler’s shoulder, just once, before he pulls away. “He has to take shit from me,” Jamie says casually. “He’s my brother.”
“No way.” Tyler sits up and squints at Jamie. He can kind of see it, in the face and the unfortunate plaid that clashes with their red smocks, now that he thinks about it. Not that looking at Jamie is such a hardship, either, and Tyler has to force himself to look away before things get too awkward.
“Yes way,” Jamie says. The smile Jamie turns on him is enough to make Tyler a little weak in the knees. He’s definitely glad that he’s sitting down.
“I guess I can see it,” Tyler says, more to the vending machines across the room than to Jamie’s face. “You’re both huge nerds.”
“You know you work at a craft store now, right, Sequins? Nothing about this is exactly the pinnacle of cool.” From the corner of his eye, Tyler sees Jamie sprawl out in his chair, slouched back and legs parted wide. Tyler snaps his attention back to the vending machines.
“Dude, you know every single thing that’s on sale here,” Tyler says. “Pretty sure I come out on top.”
Jamie stands up, Tyler can tell by the screech of his chair and his heavy footsteps. “That how it’s gonna be, huh, you come out on top?” Tyler realizes what he just said and turns a brilliant red. He’s pretty sure he’s the same color as his smock. “We’ll see about that. See you back out there, Ty.” He knocks his fist against Tyler’s shoulder and lingers for a moment before leaving the break room.
He’s pretty sure he’s going to have to quit if he keeps having to work around Jamie, because this is ridiculous.
“So you press this button, here, then put the check face down in the reader,” Cora says as she places a scrap of paper in the reader.
“Right.” Tyler doesn’t know why he needs to know this; he’s almost positive that no one uses checks anymore.
Besides, from his register he can see all the way back to the fabric department, and that’s way more interesting than the check reader. Jamie’s spreading bolts of fabric out on the worktable for customers, and Tyler’s mesmerized by the way his hands smooth out even the most delicate of fabrics. He makes time to chat with every customer. He even draws a smiley face on each receipt that he pins to the freshly cut fabric; Tyler sees them whenever the customers come through his check-out line. With Jamie in sight, paying attention to Cora is next to impossible, so he only hears about half of what she says.
“And if you press this button twice, it’ll just take the customer’s total bill out of your paycheck,” she says.
“Cool, so that one, twice, right,” Tyler mumbles, glancing quickly at the register’s screen before going back to stare at Jamie, who’s busy rolling up a bolt of heavy canvas.
Cora jabs him in the ribs with her elbow. “You’re not even listening to me.” She looks up at him, then follows his gaze down the long aisle to the fabric department. “Oh, Christ, Sequins, I told you Jamie was going to be trouble.”
“What? No. No, it’s cool, I was just, uh, getting a feel for where things are in the store? By looking at it? While we’re talking?” He scrubs a hand over his stubble and looks out at the store -- definitely not at Jamie. Nope. Not at all in that direction.
“Uh huh.” Cora narrows her eyes at Tyler. “What aisle are the scrapbooking stickers in?”
Tyler has no clue whatsoever. He only kind of knows what scrapbooking is because his mom keeps asking him to email more photos of him so she can finish her “Tyler Moves to Dallas” pages. “Seven?” he says hesitantly, drawing out the s like it will give him extra time to come up with the right answer.
“Endcap of fourteen,” Cora says, shaking her head sadly.
“I was close!” Tyler protests.
“Look.” Cora maneuvers herself to stand in front of Tyler. She plants her hands on his shoulders and forces him to stoop down so they can see eye to eye. “You’re not the first cute kid to come in here and wind up wanting on Jamie’s dick, but it’s a lost cause, he pretty much keeps to himself, so you can make dumb cow eyes all you want, but you’re going home by yourself at the end of the night.”
Tyler’s so taken aback that he can’t even argue with her. “You’re, uh, really forward,” he says. He might even be blushing a bit, because he wasn’t thinking about Jamie’s dick before, but now he is, and he can’t stop himself.
“Someone’s gotta be the honest one around here.” Cora pats him on the chest, then lets him go. “Hey, good talk, Sequins. Let’s review how to use the check reader, so I can watch you fuck it up later.”
Three weeks go by and Tyler still has a job.
It’s a bit of a miracle, though, because Tyler regularly loses count of the number of stupid mistakes he makes.
“Why are you giving me eight cents?” he asks, staring at the nickel and pennies his customer had dropped into his palm. The cash drawer is hanging open and Tyler has no idea how to make change now.
“Seriously?” The customer levels an unimpressed look at him. “You’re joking. It’s simple math.”
“Just give her thirty-five cents, Ty,” Jamie says from the end of the check-out lane, where he’s restocking the battery display.
“But.” Tyler looks at the cash drawer, then at the total on the register’s screen, and then over at Jamie. “Eight cents?”
“I promise, the math works out.”
“I’m not getting f--”
“Jordie’s not going to fire you over thirty-five cents, I swear.” Jamie places his hand over his heart. “Just give Carly her change.”
Tyler grumbles, but pulls out a quarter and a dime and drops them into Carly’s outstretched hand. She takes it with a muttered thank-you, and Tyler’s left to stare at his hands, trying to figure out the math.
He doesn’t even hear Jamie come up behind him, so he’s surprised whenever Jamie’s suddenly there, leaning over him to press a few buttons on the register. “Just hit that key, and enter in the extra change they gave you. It’ll adjust the totals automatically. No math involved.”
“I’m not stupid.” Tyler frowns at Jamie, bristling at the suggestion that he can’t do math.
Jamie holds his hands up. “Didn’t say you were, Ty. Just showing you a quicker way so the Carlys and Mrs. Carsons of the world don’t wind up with a reason to go complain to Jordie.”
“Yeah, oh.” Jamie pats Tyler right between the shoulders, and Tyler forces himself not to lean back into his hand. “I’ve got your back, don’t worry.”
“So, how many hot crafty chicks have you banged, Segs?” From the screen of his phone, Brownie gives him an exaggerated wink.
Tyler groans and throws his phone down on the floor. “Why am I even friends with you?”
“Because I’m awesome,” Brownie says. His voice sounds tinny and far away. Tyler sighs and retrieves the phone, then props it up on the pillow next to him. “Your room is a mess, dude.”
“Shut the fuck up.” Tyler settles into bed and pulls the blankets up around his shoulders. “I’m at work all the time.”
“Right, work, at the craft store, where you’re supposed to find hot chicks and help them with their stuffing.”
Tyler pulls his blankets up over his head. “You’re disgusting, bro.”
Brownie gasps. “Don’t tell me you’ve already struck out. I’m pinning all my hopes and dreams on you.”
“Ugh.” Tyler flings the blankets back and grabs the phone. “I haven’t struck out, alright? It’s just -- there’s this -- the plan has changed, dude, like, it just has.”
“What do you mean, the plan has--” Brownie cuts himself off and grins at Tyler. “Wait a second, Segs. Don’t tell me that you found a hot dude you want to help with his stuffing, instead?”
“Seriously, why are we fucking friends?” Tyler leans the phone back up against the pillow and covers his face with his hands, trying to hide the color rising in his cheeks.
“Is he hot? Do you want to ride him like a bull or something? Whatever you people do down there in Texas?”
“I’m not-- I don’t-- you know what? I’m hanging up now.” Tyler reaches out for the phone and mashes his fingers against the screen until the call ends. He has the worst friends.
Tyler’s not completely sure how it happened, but somehow he manages to keep his job. Jordie doesn’t fire him, Cora doesn’t murder him, and he definitely, definitely does not spend a significant amount of time making sad, flirty eyes at Jamie.
But Cora’s right, he’s never even heard Jamie talk about going out on dates, let alone dating a guy. It’s a little hopeless, but Tyler gets that this is what his life is. He shouldn’t have expected anything different.
Which is why Tyler’s in the break room, head resting on the tabletop, not doing anything other than thinking of reasons why he needs to get over this stupid crush on Jamie. He can come up with a million reasons why it’s a bad idea, even though the list starts and ends with Jamie probably isn’t even into dudes, but every time he thinks he’s there, he pictures Jamie’s shy smile and strong hands and big brown eyes and he’s right back into his own personal fantasy-land again.
Jamie, of course, doesn’t help Tyler out at all.
“Sit up, Ty, I’ve got something for you,” Jamie says. He’s got a knack of taking his breaks the same time as Tyler does, and it’s going to drive Tyler mad.
“Is it more work? Because this is my break.” Tyler groans but forces himself to sit up anyway. When he does, there’s a cupcake with an unlit candle sitting on the table next to him. “What’s this, Jamie?”
Jamie smiles, and Tyler feels his insides do something weird. “It’s your three-month work anniversary. I thought you should celebrate still being gainfully employed. Jordie says that’s kind of a milestone for you.”
“I. Oh.” Tyler looks at the cupcake, which, based on the lopsided mound of frosting, is clearly homemade. “You. That’s. Wow.” He rubs his hands against his face and blinks rapidly, hoping that eventually he’ll make more sense of the fact that Jamie has brought him a cupcake. “You didn’t have to.”
“It’s no big deal. I didn’t want you to think that no one noticed.” Jamie nudges the plate closer to Tyler. “Sorry it’s not lit, Jordie would kill me if I accidentally set the sprinklers off with a cupcake.”
Tyler pulls the candle out and swipes off the frosting with his index finger. “I don’t think one candle is going to do it.” Without thinking, Tyler slides his finger into his mouth and sucks off the icing.
At the first taste, Tyler’s eyes go wide, and he reaches down to gather more frosting onto his fingertip, tasting that, too. “Holy shit, dude,” he mumbles around his finger. “Do not tell me you made this, this is some next-level frosting right here.”
Jamie’s blushing, and Tyler thinks at first that maybe he just isn’t good at accepting compliments, until he realizes that he’s been doing something borderline obscene with his finger the whole time. It’s Tyler’s turn to blush as he drops his hand back into his lap and looks down at his knees.
“Yeah, I, uh. I made the cupcakes, and the frosting. From scratch. I don’t make them for just anyone, it’s kind of a secret? But I just thought… it would be nice? There’s more at home, I wanted you to have the first one, though.” Jamie shrugs his shoulders before reaching out to drag his own index finger through the frosting.
Tyler definitely does not stare as Jamie licks off the icing. Instead, he picks up the cupcake and begins to pull back the liner. “I don’t think anyone’s ever done this for me before,” he admits before taking the liner between his teeth to lick off the frosting that clings to the edges.
“Have you ever even been employed for three months straight?” Jamie asks.
His deadpan delivery startles a laugh out of Tyler. “Don’t be an asshole, of course I have.” Tyler takes a bite of the cupcake and groans. “Shit, this is delicious.” He wipes crumbs from the corners of his mouth, then continues. “I had my shit together for a while, when I lived up in Boston, and then, I don’t know, things got ugly? It’s not like I set out to get axed from a bunch of shitty jobs, I just… I’m a mess. I was a mess? Whatever.”
Tyler sets the cupcake down and stares at it; he never talks about Boston with anyone, but the words are coming out before he can even stop them. “You know how this shit goes. Your life’s fine until you meet a guy who you think rocks, but really he’s no good for you. You blink and it turns out he’s an asshole and you’re fucked up over it until you’ve burned so many bridges, your only option left is getting the fuck out of Dodge. Or Beantown. Whatever. Point is, this is like, what, a rebuilding year? A getting-my-shit-back-together year. Something like that.” Tyler’s out of words, and he realizes that he just came out to Jamie in a round-about sort of way, so now’s a perfect time to stuff his face with the remainder of the cupcake.
He’s not counting on Jamie leaning forward to rest his hand on Tyler’s arm. “Hey, you’re doing good here,” he says. “None of that -- it wasn’t easy for you, it sounds like. And now you’re here, and you can prove everyone wrong. You’re already doing it. Everyone here really likes you, even Cora, and she hates pretty much everyone. The last girl she trained quit in a week because Cora kept making her cry. You’re making it work, here. That’s something you should celebrate.”
Tyler swallows heavily and offers Jamie a smile. “Thanks for the pep talk, I think? Being here is … it’s pretty cool. Everyone here’s great.” He pauses, and his grin turns sly. “You’re okay, I guess.”
Jamie’s fingers dig into Tyler’s biceps. “Just okay?”
“You only brought me one cupcake. Bring the rest, and we’ll talk.” If Tyler can’t have Jamie the way he wants him, he at least wants the rest of these cupcakes as compensation.
“You’re on, Sequins.”
The next day, there’s a box in the refrigerator with Tyler’s name on it, written out in sequins hot-glued to the top. Inside are the rest of the cupcakes. Tyler smiles to himself, then sets a few out to share.
He’s totally a good guy.
Tyler tosses a wadded-up ball of register tape at Jamie, who’s trying to straighten up the candy at the end of Tyler’s check-out aisle. “What was that for?” He scoops up the crumpled ball and stuffs it into the pocket of his smock; Tyler pouts.
“You’re going to Lizzie’s party, before she moves up to Minnie, right? Cora told me she invited you.” Tyler grabs the order divider from the side of the conveyor belt and uses it to poke at the boxes of candy that Jamie just straightened.
“Knock it off,” Jamie says half-heartedly, plucking the divider from Tyler’s hand and setting it out of reach. “And, I don’t know, probably not. I usually help Jordie with the books after we close on Fridays.”
“Oh, come on.” Tyler turns on the conveyor, sending the boxes Jamie was working on consolidating down the belt towards Tyler. “Come on, just come out for like, half an hour. Is Jordie the fun police? Are you not allowed to have fun because big bro makes you double check his work?”
Jamie drags a box of M&Ms back towards him. “It’s not like that, Ty.” He looks down the aisle at Tyler, who gives Jamie the saddest look he can muster up. “I’ve been to a Cora party before, they’re not my scene.”
“You can’t leave me hanging. As the only other dude here, I think you’re required to go. Strength in numbers, Benny.” Tyler flutters his eyelashes and pouts. “Don’t leave me alone at Cora’s house. She might poison me.”
Jamie sighs. He sounds incredibly put-out. He also sounds like he’s close to breaking. “I don’t know, Ty.”
“Please? I am asking so nicely.”
Jamie tips his head back and looks at the ceiling, as if the flickering fluorescent lights are going to save him from the overwhelming persuasiveness of Tyler’s whole face. “Fine, Tyler, but just for like, half an hour, once I’m sure Jordie doesn’t need me for anything else.”
“That’s my boy!” Tyler holds his fist out, and Jamie, almost reluctantly, bumps it with his own knuckles. “You’ll have fun, this party will be way more baller than doing the fucking books.”
“Don’t get your hopes up.” Jamie tucks the box of M&Ms back into the rack, then pulls the ball of register tape from his pocket and rolls it down the belt to Tyler. “I really like accounting.”
Tyler scoops up the paper and tosses it from hand to hand. “You’re so weird, you’re lucky I like you.”
If only Jamie knew how true that actually was.
If Tyler had realized how long it took Jamie and Jordie to do the books, maybe he wouldn’t have started drinking as soon as he got to Cora’s.
But he did, which is why he’s laying on the floor hours later, his head resting on Cora’s bare feet, rambling about Jamie. “He said he’d be here,” Tyler says, clutching Cora’s calf with one hand. “Just a little longer. Jamie doesn’t say he’s going to do stuff and then not do it. Jamie’s a good guy. No one sees it because he’s just so quiet all the time, but he’s a good guy.” Tyler pauses, then tugs on the hem of Cora’s skirt. “He’s also smokin’ hot, did you notice that? Like, how do you not notice that?”
“He is smokin’ hot, so you’re lucky I’m not into that.” Cora leans down and ruffles Tyler’s hair. “You’re a mess, Sequins,” she says. “Maybe we should cut you off. Otherwise you’ll probably hurl on Jamie whenever he gets here.” Cora nudges him with her foot, toes jamming into his neck. “Move, I’ll get you some water.”
“It’s good,” Tyler slurs, then repeats it a few more times for good measure. “It’s good, it’s all good, dude, don’t worry, I’m good. Jamie’ll get here, and it’ll be all good.”
Tyler rolls over and curls himself around Cora’s feet. He might as well be comfortable while he waits for Jamie.
Tyler loses track of time, that’s it. It’s not that he falls asleep on Cora’s floor while everyone else talks in the kitchen. It’s just, well, time’s working differently for him, that’s all. That’s all.
He wakes up when he feels a hand pulling on his shoulder, trying to roll him up onto his side.
“C’mon, Cora, I’m comfortable,” he mutters, slapping weakly at the hands on him. The hands only clamp down harder, and Tyler wonders when Cora’s hands got so huge.
“And you’re going to choke on your own vomit. Come on, Ty.”
Tyler opens his eyes, because that’s not Cora. That’s Jamie, trying to roll him over. Oh.
“It’s not that bad,” Tyler protests as he sits up. The whole world swims, though, and Tyler feels his stomach lurch.
“It really, really is, man.” Instead of trying to make Tyler stand up, Jamie drops to the floor to sit next to him.
Jamie’s probably far more comfortable than Cora’s floor, Tyler decides, and within seconds, he’s curled up against Jamie’s side, head resting on Jamie’s shoulder. “What took you so long?” he asks as he makes himself comfortable.
“Did Lizzie’s exit paperwork, got caught up talking to Jordie. I didn’t mean to take so long, I’m sorry.” Jamie wraps one arm around Tyler’s shoulders. Tyler’s not sure Jamie means to do it, but he’s sure as hell not going to say anything.
“I didn’t mean to, either,” Tyler says. His face is turned into Jamie’s shoulder and his voice is muffled. “Be like this, I mean, I didn’t, that wasn’t the plan, I just. I missed you. I wanted you to be here. Did you know Cora’s not into you?”
Jamie chuckles softly, and Tyler smiles as he feels Jamie’s shoulders move with his laughter. “I don’t have the right parts for Cora to be into me, I’m pretty sure.”
“I know, but, like.” Tyler rests one hand on Jamie’s chest, and only barely notices Jamie going utterly still under his hand. “I don’t know how she looks at you and doesn’t want on this, I mean, like, fuck, Benny, I was gone on you from the very first day, you know? You gotta know that.”
“Tyler.” Jamie covers Tyler’s hand with his own, gripping tight. “Tyler, don’t.”
“From day one, bro, you helped me with ribbons and I just kept fucking, like, your hands? And your everything? Like, how are you real?” Tyler tries to sit up, but he feels wrung out and boneless, so he just plasters himself more firmly to Jamie’s side. “I thought maybe I’d meet some hot chick at work, but I met you, and you are like ten thousand times more better than anyone else I could have asked for.”
Jamie’s quiet for a very, very long time, but he doesn’t move away from Tyler. “Why are you telling me this?” he says finally.
“Dunno.” Tyler tries to shrug; instead he finds himself rolling in, pressing his face against Jamie’s neck. “You just gotta know, is all.”
Tyler’s pretty sure that he presses a kiss to Jamie’s neck, but everything gets fuzzy after that.
Tyler wakes up in Cora’s guest bedroom, with one of Cora’s cats curled up on his chest.
“Cora,” he calls out. “Cora, I’m being smothered.” From the next room over, he hears the thump of Cora’s feet on the floor as she rolls out of bed.
“Shut the fuck up,” Cora grumbles as she walks into the room. Her hair’s school bus yellow this month, and it’s sticking straight up in the air. “Professor PuddinPop is not going to suffocate you, you big baby.”
“Your cat is fucking fat.” Tyler pokes at the cat with his fingers, but the cat stays put until Cora sits on the edge of the bed and scoops the cat off of Tyler’s chest.
“I can’t believe you woke me up for this, do you know how late I was up dealing with the mess you made?” Cora tries to glare at Tyler, but between her hair and the cat she’s snuggling, she’s not nearly as fearsome as usual.
“Shit, did I hurl somewhere?”
“Not that kind of mess.” Cora shifts the cat to her shoulder and reaches out to punch Tyler in the shoulder. “I’m talking about you basically telling Jamie that you’re in forever-love with him, do you remember that?”
If Tyler wasn’t awake before, then he sure is now. “You’re fucking joking.” He closes his eyes and grinds the heels of his hands against his face. He vaguely remembers Jamie getting to the party. Jamie, propping him up on the floor. Jamie, wrapping his arm around him to keep him upright. Jamie, going stock-still as Tyler’s lips found his neck.
“Oh, fuck me.” Tyler grabs the spare pillow and covers his face with it. Maybe suffocation-by-cat wasn’t such a terrible idea.
“I mean, you’re lucky you didn’t actually out-and-out say that to him, Sequins.” Tyler hears a soft meow and the patter of cat feet, then feels Cora prying the pillow off of his face. “But you might as well have.”
“He probably hates me now,” Tyler groans.
“Nope.” Cora puts the second pillow back on the bed, then stretches out next to Tyler. “After we put you to bed, I got to spend a good hour of my time telling Jamie that you’ve wanted to climb him like a tree since day one. You’re welcome, by the way.”
Tyler sits up, then drops back down as soon as he realizes that the whole room is still spinning. “You did not.”
“Did so. Remember that time you kept ringing up the same wreath like, ten times in a row the day that Jamie was working the register next to you?”
“He kept having to bend over to get to the oversized bags,” Tyler says dreamily. “You told him about that?”
Cora props herself up on one elbow and grins at Tyler. “Yup. He went red all over. Congratulations, Sequins, I think you’ve cracked his cold, lonely heart.”
“This isn’t exactly how I wanted to go about doing it, you know.” Tyler thinks he should probably feel ashamed, but he doesn’t. He just wishes he’d maybe been more sober for that conversation.
“What’s done is done, dude. Now you’ve just gotta make it right and not fuck it up again.” Cora pats Tyler on the chest, then rolls out of bed. “Good talk, kid. I’m gonna go find some pants. You start thinking about what you’re gonna say to Jamie when you go in later.”
“What?” Tyler does sit up then, regardless of how badly his brain wants to melt out of his ears. ‘I’m not scheduled for today.”
“Didn’t I tell you?” Cora flashes Tyler a wicked grin. “Today’s delivery day. Val was supposed to work the loading dock with Jamie, but he already called in sick. I already told Jordie that you’d cover for Val at noon. You’re a real lifesaver.”
“I hate everything you choose to be.” Tyler throws the pillow at Cora, but she’s already long gone, her excited laughter echoing after her down the hallway.
Tyler only clocks in a few minutes late. He’s glad that no one pays attention to what you wear when you’re working the loading docks, because he’s still wearing the same grungy clothes that he slept in.
“It’s about time, Val,” he hears Jamie call out from behind a pallet of boxes.
Tyler’s face falls. “Not Val,” he said. “Not today. You get me, instead.”
Tyler hears a metallic clatter from behind the boxes, then a few solid thumps as Jamie bumps into a stack of plastic totes. “Ow, fuck.” Jamie straightens up, rubbing absently at his shoulder, and fixes Tyler with a steady stare. “You’re never scheduled to do intake.”
“Cora volunteered me. Sorry.” Tyler shrugs.
“Yup.” Tyler rocks back on his heels. “Can we talk about--?”
“We’ve got like four pallets of shit from Singer to go through.” Jamie gestures at the stacks of boxes surrounding them on the dock. “Later. We’ll talk later.”
Tyler frowns. “Later. Right.” He sighs, then looks at the boxes. “You’ve got an extra box cutter? Let’s get this started.”
They work quietly for what feels like forever, and as the work day goes on, Tyler feels himself getting more and more sullen. He slices into the boxes with a little more force than necessary, but it’s hard to be cheerful whenever Jamie’s shut him down. Cora might have thought Jamie was into what Tyler was throwing down, but she was wrong, because Jamie clearly doesn’t want to even think about what Tyler told him.
Tyler’s halfway through entering an entire box of nothing but bobbins into inventory when Jamie finally speaks up.
“You could have said something earlier.”
Tyler sighs and puts down the bobbins. “I told you, dude, Cora woke me up this morning and told me she’d volunteered me for inventory. It’s not like I gave Val food poisoning, you know.”
Jamie tosses down his box cutter on top of a box full of spools of thread. “Not about inventory. About you. And me? All of that. You could have said something, like, six months ago.”
“Why, Benny? What difference would that have made?” Tyler grips the handles of the heavy plastic tote tight and glares at Jamie. “You’re clearly not into it, so telling you six months ago that, whatever, your milkshake brings this boy to the yard, it’s not like it would have made you care.”
“I made you cupcakes!"
Tyler moves the tote to the next stack over with a little more force than strictly necessary. “And I’m sorry that you made cupcakes for someone who wants to be more than buddies, but, like, no take-backs.”
Jamie tosses his head back and lets out a strangled, frustrated groan. “I made you cupcakes because I’m into you, you asshole.”
Tyler drops the tote and stares. “What.”
“Oh, you heard me.”
“Say it again.” Tyler takes a step out from behind the totes and half-emptied boxes, out towards Jamie.
“You’re an asshole.”
“Fuck you, not that part.” Another step closer. “The other part.”
“The part where I said I’m into you?” Jamie’s smiling, a bit smug, now. Tyler thinks everything’s going to be okay.
“Yeah, that part.” Tyler wipes his palms on his jeans and closes the gap so he’s standing within arm’s length of Jamie. “You’re not just saying that?”
“Cupcakes,” Jamie says. “Text Cora right now, ask her how many people I’ve made cupcakes for here.”
It’s a weird request, but Tyler shrugs and pulls out his phone.
settle sumthin 4 me
does j make cupcakes allot?
Cora texts back right away:
he made you cupcakes??? u never told me this
j doesn’t make cupcakes for just anyone, didn’t he tell u that?
you’re so fucking stupid sequins
he makes cupcakes for jordie’s bday that’s about it
cupcakes = you’re basically family = you’re a fucking moron
Tyler slides his phone back into his pocket. “Oh,” he says, sounding sheepish.
Jamie folds his arms over his chest. “Yeah, oh.”
“I didn’t -- I guess there were a lot of clues I missed.” Tyler rocks back and forth on his heels. “So, if I kiss you back here, is it going to wind up on the security cameras? And is Jordie going to give you shit about it for the rest of your life?”
Jamie looks up and points at the ceiling in the corner of the room, just over the loading dock. “Yes, and definitely yes.”
“Right on.” Tyler flashes Jamie a wicked grin and then closes the gap between them in one swift movement. He tips his head back at the camera and waves. “Hey Jordie! I’m gonna make out with your brother now.”
“Can you just not?”
“Nope.” Tyler lifts one hand and finally, finally lets himself trace the line of Jamie’s throat, the curve of his jaw, with his fingertips. He finally lets his fingers tangle in Jamie’s hair, then leans in and presses their lips together, soft at first until Jamie opens up beneath him. The kiss is everything Tyler’s wanted for the past six months, and it’s almost too good to be true.
Right whenever Jamie gets his hands on Tyler, one big hand settling tight on his hip, his phone buzzes in his pocket.
And then he hears -- and feels -- Jamie’s phone buzz.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Tyler mutters against Jamie’s lips. He sighs and fishes his phone out. The number’s not in Tyler’s phone book, but the sender is easy enough to guess, because the message says: GET YOUR TONGUE OUT OF MY BROTHER’S MOUTH AND GET BACK TO WORK
“Jordie,” Tyler says, turning his phone around to show Jamie.
“Jordie,” Jamie says, doing the same with his phone. (Good job, little bro, but I don’t pay you to make out on the clock, Jordie had texted.)
“Look, I’ve got like, seven thousand bobbins to catalog, whatever the fuck a bobbin is.”
“It goes in a sewing--”
Tyler cuts Jamie off. “What a bobbin is, that’s not the point, the point is that I am propositioning you, whenever we get out of here, so will you finish your shipment of seven different shades of black thread so I can take you home?”
“Oh.” Jamie’s smile is sly and dirty, and Tyler likes where this is going. “In that case, yes.” He leans in and kisses Tyler, just once, a promise of what’s to come.
“Good.” Tyler wonders if he can just misplace the rest of the shipment so they can leave earlier. “I’m glad that’s settled. I was getting worried that I’d finally met someone who could resist my charms.”
Jamie ducks his head and smiles. “You? Never.” He goes back over to his boxes and picks up his box cutter. “I mean, even if you are terrible at math.”
Tyler throws a packet of bobbins at Jamie. “Your face is terrible at math.”
Jamie catches the bobbins in mid-air, scans them, and drops them into a plastic tote. “You’re lucky I like you, Sequins.”
For some reason, Tyler feels inexplicably fond. “Don’t I know it, dude. Don’t I know it.”