"I'm two cups in my coffee break,
I'm sitting alone in the cafe from the way.
Reading all by myself"-Forever the Sickest Kids
Shel notices when Jose arrives. It's like he's got an inner alarm that pings whenever the other man shows up. He is, by far, Sheldon's favourite customer. He won't admit it to anyone else, but he suspects that Nuge knows. Maybe even Gabe has caught on also. Ebs for sure knows, but he keeps it quiet and only occasionally gives him grief when Shel schedules him in the morning shifts. But overall, it's minimal the grief that he gets for having a favourite customer like Jose.
Shel won't deny that he's intrigued by the soft-spoken and unscrupulously polite man. He's very good looking in that dark way and he's got eyes that show every bit of emotion and are like pools that Shel (privately) won't deny he'd like to be able to swim in. He's not like the other run of the mill art students, local musicians, hipsters and business people that frequent his shop. There's something contained about him and private, like he's got a secret he'd be only willing to share with a particular person.
When he catches himself thinking that, Shel snorts and promises himself that he's going to slow down with the romance novels, a habit that he still has no idea how he came by, but enjoys immensely. The only downside of it was that he had to go through heroic lengths to feed his habit and keep it under the radar.
(Well, Ebs knows of it and actually is good enough to keep him supplied with his mother and sister's discards. On occasion, they would even meet and do some swapping. But for the most part, Shel is glad that he had gone to school with the librarian in the South branch of the public library. Danny is usually nice enough to set aside new releases from his favourite authors and doesn't tease him much about his habit. So that is a bonus.)
"Morning. What can I get you?" He greets Jose, who smiles that slow, sensual smile of his before he looks up at the menu board.
It is that smile and just the way that Jose's eyes linger just a tad too long for it to be considered friendly that make Sheldon's pulse race just a bit. He can see interest there, but he's not exactly sure how much of an opening he has there. They do talk and they have gotten to know each other in that superficial way that a customer knows his server...but to make it more....Sheldon's not sure about that just yet.
It's really a quirk of habit at that point. They both know he's going to order a large chai latte with soy milk and a shot of vanilla flavouring. But they still go through the motions. It's an unspoken agreement between them. Has been since the first time that Jose walked into the shop about two months ago on a friend's recommendation.
(Shel doesn't know this friend, but if he ever ends up dating Jose, he's going to at least give him six month's worth of free coffee. Seriously.)
"Morning, Sheldon. Uhm. I think I'll have a large de-caf moccaccino. With whipped cream." Jose replied, surprising Sheldon.
The surprise must show on his face, because Jose colours slightly before he speaks, his voice halting instead of its usual smooth tone.
"I just...I felt like I needed something sweeter this morning." Jose explains a bit sheepishly as he hands over a tenner.
"I know it's not my usual-"
"Hey, it's cool. I guess I just got lulled into a false sense of security, since you have your usual and all that." Sheldon tries to cover up, cringing internally at having made Jose need to justify his drink choices.
Jose smiles widely at that and makes sure to put a loonie in the tip jar.
"Well, that's how you keep relationships, fresh. The element of surprise." Jose replies and goes to stand by the shelf they put the finished drinks on, leaving Sheldon shell-shocked at the words.
Relationship, huh? He muses as he brews the drink with practised moves before pouring it in an over-sized mug and putting it on the shelf. He would have stuck around to make even more conversation with Jose, but more customers arrive, keeping him busy for a while. By that time, Jose had doctored his drink and had sat down in his usual corner by the back to sip at his drink and to write, doodle, or read as he usually did when he came by.
They all speculate on his career, since he doesn't seem to follow an actual dress code and comes in about mid-morning.
Nuge thinks he's some kind of editor or programmer, but that idea is shot down by the conspicuous lack of computer manuals and an actual laptop. He mostly carries a notebook and is always reading after he finishes writing or drawing. Hallsy swears up and down that he's a librarian for the University and Gabe backs him up. Ebs is the one that holds the bet money and gleefully hands it over to Hallsy when it is discovered that Jose is a new librarian at the UofA and works the late shifts there.
(Ebs is only happy because it means that Hallsy will share his ill-gotten gains by buying Haagen-Daas and Chunky Monkey ice cream)After that mystery is solved, things settle into a predictable pattern of Jose coming in and Sheldon quietly pining over him and trying to not be a massive creeper about it, since he does admit that he is both afraid of rejection and it would just be horribly awkward if Jose took it the wrong way, and thus deny him of his presence.
So Shel tries to be subtle as he wipes down the counters and direct his two workers while he watches Jose scribble madly into his notebook. Nuge is a good kid, despite being barely out of High School and doesn't need as much supervision as Hallsy. But they work well in tandem and can leave him to do the other behind the scenes jobs that come with the territory of running a coffee shop.
He tells himself he's going to attend to them as soon as he finishes wiping the counter down. Talking to suppliers, doing payroll, and making the schedule isn't on the top ten things about running a coffee shop that he likes. But he's lucky that he has decently reliable staff and that his customers are (usually) charming people he doesn't mind interacting with. Some more than others and Jose in particular.
Overall, his life is pretty good and he's pleased with the gamble that he took about opening up his coffee shop in an area that was known as a tenderloin strip, but has matured into a decent arts district. The only thing that's missing is having someone to share that life with.
"You're bordering on being a stalker, you know that?" Nuge mutters to him as he comes back with a fresh pan of banana bread already saran-wrapped and ready to be put into the display cooler.
"Is that a nice thing to say to the guy that signs your cheques?" Shel snaps, but he does move away from the counters and rinses out the rag before facing Nuge.
"No. But I do believe in telling you the truth. And the way it is looking right now is to either talk to the guy, or back off. If Hallsy's starting to notice, you're not being as subtle as you think." Nuge warns him as he starts to arrange the banana bread on the platter inside the cooler.
"Shit. I'd better stay in the office until the rush, then." Sheldon mutters, making a beeline to the closet-sized space he calls his office. To his relief, Nuge only waves at him as he concentrates on his work.
Once inside his office, Shel runs his hands through his hair and snorts. He really has to get himself under control and quit being such a coward.
Right now though, he needs to do the paperwork or else he won't have supplies and employees if he puts it off any longer.
Jose sighs inwardly when he sees Sheldon, the owner of his refuge, go into his office and disappear. Probably for the rest of the morning and that doesn't sit well with Jose. He was sort of hoping that today, he was going to have enough guts to throw all caution to the wind and talk to Sheldon and maybe go out after they both got off work or something.
(He certainly couldn't use the old let's go for coffee trope with a coffee shop owner. So until he actually did the asking, he'd leave it to a vague event and play it by ear)
He sighs and takes another sip of his coffee and notices that the young, very angular kid that is putting out the pastries is looking at him with a thoughtful expression on his face. He nearly chokes on his drink, but managed to keep it cool by looking down at his sketchbook.
Which he slams shut when he catches a glimpse of his watch. He has to go or else he would be sure to run into Ryan. It isn't that he still has feelings for him. It would have been pretty hypocritical, since he had been the one that had told Miller it was over. They had a lot of good times, but not enough to stand the inconsistency and cheating. Jose had promised himself he wasn't going to ever be that boyfriend, and had ended it when he caught Ryan cheating on him with another graduate student.
The sucky thing was that they worked in the same library, but luckily not at the same time. Ryan would usually be gone by the time that Jose came into work, but he does hang out to do work or see his boyfriend off and those are the reasons he doesn't want to get there too close to his shift.
If he gets there early enough, he would hide out in the back with his headphones on and draw or write until his shift started and that was all right with him. Saves him from being pissed off the rest of the eight hours he is there. He is all done with having aggravations in his life.
He gathers up his things and takes off without a backwards glance. There is always tomorrow, he promises himself. He is for sure not going to chicken out then.
He rushes out so fast that he doesn't notice his sketchbook falling out of his bag and landing on the floor beside his table.
"Thank bloody God that's all done." Sheldon mutters as he closes his ledgers and closes the excel sheets. It is all done for at least another couple of weeks. He stands up and stretches out his sore shoulders after being hunched over his desk for the past couple of hours. Once he has worked out all the kinks in his back and shoulders, he looks at the clock and sighs quietly. It is time for the afternoon rush to start and they are going to need all the help that they can get, since everyone needs the afternoon pick me up.
He sighs and grabs his apron before leaving his office. Sure enough, he can see that Gabe and Nuge are manning the till and getting the drinks out while Hallsy is just rushing into the shop to start his shift. It looks like he has just arrived in time.
He sees that some of the tables are dirty and needed clearing, so he busies himself with that. He picks up a cleaning rag and the grey bus pan and clears off all of the tables in moments. He has just wiped down a couple of tables, including the one that Jose had used when he notices the black B5 size sketchbook covered in sports stickers lying on the floor.
"Oh." He whispers as he picks it up and shoves it in his apron pocket before finishing off the tables and getting back behind the counter, since it has gotten even busier than before. He takes his spot at the cash register and indicates to Hallsy to help Nuge and Gabe with the drinks and food.
"Thank God you're here!" Nuge exclaims gratefully as they see Ebs coming in for his shift. The rush has cleared, tables are clean and they are stocked up on everything, so they could relax and catch a breather.
"That busy, bro?" Ebs greets his younger co-worker while Hallsy and Gabe have a quiet conversation. Sheldon only smiles at their antics and reaches into his pocket to retrieve his phone and check for any messages. As he is about to pull it out, his hand comes in contact with the smooth cover of the book he had picked up off the floor.
Phone forgotten, he pulls out the book and opens it.
"Oh." The exclamation is pulled out of him as he flipps through the pages. Some are covered in loopy, neat writing that he could read clearly, but didn't bother to. He doesn't feel the same compunction about the drawings, which take his breath away.
They are sketches of patrons in the coffee shop, or the boys. Or him. They are done in delicate and wispy lines, but he can tell immediately who they are of. Especially the ones that feature his face. Those have been drawn with more care than the others and he can see that the artist cares deeply for his subject.
He flips through more of the pages and sees that there are more drawings of him doing various things-looking out the window, leaning against the counter, wiping down tables and handing over drinks. The latest one had him putting down a large cup in front of a customer that he recognizes as being Jose.
"That's one mystery solved." Nuge's voice takes him out of his thoughts and makes him nearly drop the notebook.
"Jesus, Nuge!" Sheldon hisses as he slams the book shut. Nuge shrugs.
"You didn't hear me. Anyways, you don't have an excuse now. You really need to ask him out now. No one draws that many pictures of one person simply because they're practising their pencil work. You don't have an excuse any longer to be a super stalker."
Sheldon scowls at his youngest worker, opens and closes his mouth a couple of times before he simply shakes his head and puts it back in his apron pocket.
"Yeah. I guess you're right. I'll talk to him tomorrow."
Nuge shakes his head. "Maybe you should do it now. That book obviously means a lot to him and we can handle the shop for a short time while you return it to him."
Sheldon snorts in disbelief. "We're not teenagers in a movie, Nuge."
Nuge grins at that before nudging his boss towards his office.
"It's true, but then, who wouldn't appreciate such a grand gesture? Everyone needs a bit of romance or niceties in their lives. It's not restricted to musicians and artists. Coffee shop owners and librarians need them too."
"Sacrement de la maudite hostile!" Jose swears to himself as he looks frantically through his bag for the second time in a futile attempt to locate his missing sketchbook. He knows it is lost, but he still isn't ready to accept it just yet. That book contains not only his drawings, but also served as his diary for the past year and a half and even though it may not have been important to anyone else, it meant the world to him.
Especially since that book has the best drawings he has ever done of Sheldon and the boys at the coffee shop and he has toyed with making them complete drawings and possibly making them a collection he is hoping to self-publish soon.
He chews on his lip and sighs heavily as he starts to shove his other belongings back into his bag. He puts his bag back into his locker and locks it. So much for getting some writing or drawing done on his lunch break to avoid seeing or talking to Ryan.
To compound his crap day, Ryan had switched shifts with Vinnie, so on top of losing one of his most prized possessions, he had to deal with Ryan being his co-worker for his shift. It isn't that Ryan is going to be nasty to him or vice versa, but after the sour way that their relationship had ended, he really wasn't quite ready to forgive and forget just yet. He would, eventually. But it wasn't going to happen overnight.
"Just brilliant." He says as he looks at his watch and sees that he's got about forty minutes left to kill. He could just get some food and plug into his ipod, but the idea isn't appealing. He really had his heart set on writing and nothing else would take that itch away until he got to write down his thoughts and feelings down. He supposes he can grab some foolscap, but it's not the same.
He sighs and goes to the desk, not looking forward to telling Ryan he's on his way to get some food. He knows that Ryan will probably draw out the conversation to try and get some information out of him to see if Jose has already replaced him or not, just like he did the other times and that would just be the icing on the shit-cake that was his day.
"Hey, Ryan, I'm going to get something to-Sheldon? What are you doing here?"
Jose blurts out, Ryan completely forgotten when he sees Sheldon standing in front of the desk, while Ryan is standing there, shell-shocked at the sight of him.
Sheldon swallows and reaches into his jacket to retrieve the very notebook that Jose had thought completely lost.
"I found it on the floor and thought I'd return it and ask you if you want to go to dinner Thursday?"
Jose's lips move soundlessly. He's still in shock at getting his book back and at the fact that Sheldon must have left his shop to return his sketchbook. He feels a bit like a teenage girl and he can feel himself blushing at how touched he is. No one has ever done something so romantic for him in all the relationships he's been in and the fact that Sheldon took the time to come and hand him back something that he knows is important to him as well as asking him out has made him be momentarily speechless.
"Yeah. I would. Meet you at the shop then?" Jose asks and he admits that he's proud of how steady his voice is and how they are both able to ignore Ryan, who is standing at a discreet enough distance to not be intrusive, but close enough to eavesdrop on their conversation.
Sheldon beams and he reaches over the counter to clasp his large, warm hand over Jose's own before he lifts it to his lips and gives it a soft kiss.
"Great. I'll see you there at six."
"For sure and thanks for bringing my sketchbook to me." Jose adds.
Sheldon shrugs. "I know it's important to you and how it would ruin your day if you didn't have it with you, so it's not a problem. I'll see you soon. I gotta get back."
"No problem. See you soon."
With that, Sheldon left, leaving Jose feeling as if he had won the lottery. Not only had he gotten his book back, he had finally scored a date with Sheldon.
Life was definitely good indeed.