It starts out small. Subtle, even. On the mornings when Tall Hot Guy -- and he hasn't been coming here long, so that's the only name Misha has for him at the moment -- looks especially tired, he gives him an extra shot of espresso in his vanilla latte. He doesn't tell the guy he's doing it. The sense of personal satisfaction is enough, although admittedly, the groan of pleasure that Tall Hot Guy makes at the first sip is a welcome bonus.
As the weeks go by, Tall Hot Guy (Jared, Misha has to remind himself more than once) becomes a regular fixture at Misha's cafe. It's a small place, tucked between a bookstore and a dry cleaner. It's also only a block away from the nearest Starbucks, which is why Misha knows the value of regular, loyal customers. Regular customers are important, which is why it makes him happy to make Jared happy. There's certainly no other reason.
If he goes out of his way to make Jared laugh, then it's just good business sense. It certainly helps that it's easy to make him laugh. The number of people who recognize Misha's particular brand of dry humor isn't particularly large, and the number who really appreciate it is even smaller. So today, when some asshole stomps in right before Jared, he decides to make the best of it.
"It's absolute bullshit, is what it is," the man is ranting. "I thought there was supposed to be a Starbucks on every corner, right? So why is there a line out the goddamn door of this one? Why don't they just open another store?"
"That does sound awful," Misha says, nodding seriously. "I can't imagine how you must feel."
"Pissed, that's how," the man says, pointing a chubby finger at Misha. "Now hopefully I can actually get a decent cup of coffee here. Normally I don't bother with these sorts of places."
"Oh, me neither," Misha whispers. "I'm only working at this dump to pay the bills." The guy nods his sympathy, and at least he's calmed down enough that his face isn't that alarming shade of red anymore. Misha figures that having to call an ambulance would almost certainly be bad for business.
He grabs a large cup, rolling his eyes at the man's demands for a Venti, and goes to pour him his coffee. He makes deliberate eye contact with Jared, who leans to the side and squints. Misha knows the exact second when he spots the decaf tag on the brewer, because his eyes light up. When Misha hands the coffee over, the customer manages to complain about how low the prices are. He didn't even think that was possible.
The man is still grumbling to himself as he stalks outside, and Misha casts a theatrically forlorn look at the empty tip jar. When he finally looks up, Jared's shoulders are shaking with silent laughter.
"Whoa, Misha," Jared chuckles as the other customer hurries down the sidewalk with his coffee, "you really gave him what for. They teach you that in business school?"
"Yeah, yeah. Get a haircut," Misha mutters as he starts a fresh pot of coffee. Jared just laughs harder, and the sound of it is kind of wonderful. Misha may fall a little bit in love with him that day, if he's being totally honest with himself.
Just a little bit, though.
Misha gets a small shipment of fresh pastries delivered daily from the bakery down the street, and the day he gets the pumpkin spice muffins in he thinks Jared might burst with glee.
"Listen, man, I need one of these muffins. Pumpkin is my favorite, and you know I can't bake, and I need a fix, okay? It's already mid-October, and I haven't even had a single slice of pumpkin pie yet, Misha. Surely you recognize this as cruel and unusual."
Misha has gotten used to this excitable puppy routine, especially when it comes to baked goods. He grabs a muffin with the tongs, slides it into the oven to warm it up for a few seconds, and then sets it on a plate before handing it over with a stern expression.
"Don't think those pleading puppy dog eyes are always going to get you what you want, Padalecki. You know I have no control over what the bakery sends over here half the time."
Jared grins widely, undeterred, before taking a giant bite of his muffin and thanking Misha profusely as crumbs fall out of his mouth. Misha frowns at him. The man is seriously incapable of eating food in a non-disgusting manner. He calls the bakery that afternoon and asks them to keep sending the muffins for as long as they'll be making them. Every morning he makes sure to set one aside in case Jared gets there late.
It's just that his dimples are a force to contend with. That's all. No reason to disappoint him.
It's just after five o'clock, and Misha is standing outside locking the coffee shop doors. It's seriously freezing, even for late fall in Pennsylvania. As the wind whips around him, he regrets rushing out of his apartment that morning with only a jacket.
He hears footsteps approaching, and he glances briefly over his shoulder. He does a double take when he sees Jared stop behind him, all bundled up with his floppy hair whipping in front of his face. His shoulders are hunched against the wind, but he's smiling at Misha.
"Forget something?" Misha asks nonchalantly, turning back to retrieve his keys from the door and slide them into his pocket before facing Jared again. And damn it, it's been a long day, but that smile just gives him a boost.
"I don't just eat breakfast, you know," Jared says quickly, his already reddened cheeks flushing just a bit more.
Misha blinks at him in confusion before shivering at a cold gust of wind.
"Oh, for…" Jared trails off, pulling the scarf from around his neck before looping it over Misha's. "Are you trying to get hypothermia or something?"
Misha blinks again, trying valiantly to make his brain work when all it wants to focus on is the scarf, and how warm it is, and how good it smells. Like Jared, his brain supplies, and he suppresses another shiver before attempting to recover his composure.
"I don't know," he says blandly, "I wasn't expecting to be stuck on the sidewalk as strange men blurt out their eating habits."
"Oh, so I'm strange," Jared says with another smile. "Kind of a pot and kettle situation, don't you think?"
Misha narrows his eyes.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," he sniffs. Jared laughs at that, and Misha can't stop his lips from quirking up.
"Anyway," Jared continues. "I was trying to smoothly transition into asking you to dinner tonight. But your complete lack of self-preservation against the elements forced me to abandon my carefully planned script." He looks as if he's trying very hard to appear serious. Misha is suddenly extremely aware that Jared's hands are still wrapped in the scarf he's placed around Misha's neck, and he's standing quite close.
It takes a few long moments for Misha to adjust to that, at which point he realizes that Jared's face has fallen a bit and he's shifting like he's about to step away. He raises a hand quickly to grasp Jared's wrist, halting his movements.
"I'd like that," he says quietly, looking intently at Jared to show the other man how much he means it. The way Jared's eyes light up tells him he's made his point. "But it's freezing cold, and I had big plans to stop off for dinner at the Thai place on 52nd and take it home to eat on my sofa under a blanket. I don't suppose that appeals to you?"
As usual, Jared's blinding grin tells him everything he needs to know.