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If It Wasn't For Coffee

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Wes loves stability. He loves routine.

He has no idea what he is doing here.

He has no idea why he let Alex leave him, why it felt so right to leave his old job—his stable job—as a lawyer.

He does have an idea why he did it in the first place, though, and he definitely has a firm grasp on why Alex left—she made sure to drill it into him before she closed the door on him one last time.

Wes may not have the most stability in his life now, but he does have motivation. What he’s aiming for is a career in law enforcement. After his last case as a lawyer, the one that altered his view of the world for better or worse, he knew that he had to start anew.

But it turned out that the police force doesn’t just hire people off the street, regardless of their law degree and impeccable resume. Apparently there are a few hoops to jump through before they hand you a badge and gun, which includes months on months of training.

Wes had to turn to an old college friend to get him a job at his coffee shop, which would pay for his costly stay at a nearby hotel while he put himself through the training necessary to get on the force.

And that is how Wes ended up here, serving coffee to well-dressed businessmen and haggard college students alike. It was absolutely not where he wanted to be. But it was a start.

Wes always gets in early to his shift, because he likes to rack up the overtime. Usually the morning shift is the busiest; as that is the time the coffee shop fills up with the poor souls who hadn’t had the time to get their coffee fix yet. Wes doesn’t chat with them, because God knows he has enough problems of his own without hearing about other’s, and often times he gets a grateful smile for not showing his customers false cheer so early in the morning.

Occasionally someone will try to flirt with Wes, and there must be something about an OCD barista that people like, because they’ll usually come back no matter how many times they witness Wes’s semi-neurotic eye twitch he gets when he thinks about moving on from Alex. So what if he’s a little hung up over his wife—ex-wife? It hasn’t even been a year.

“You’re in early, as usual,” Rick, the assistant manager, says. Wes rolls his eyes, because Rick greets him this way every morning (and seriously, Rick? Wes has to bite his tongue to keep all the Casablanca jokes from spilling out).

“Yeah, well,” Wes doesn’t start a conversation, instead turning to the already long line of customers waiting to place their order.

And suddenly Wes finds himself staring into the bluest-blue eyes that he’s ever seen.

“Can I get a coffee?” The guy asks, blinking back at Wes, and Wes really hopes that he’s not drooling.

Okay, yeah. Coffee. Wes rolls his eyes, mostly to break the stare. “You came to the right place,” he says.

“Oh, yeah,” the guy actually looks sheepish, and he bites his lip, and Wes averts his eyes because he does not need to see that. “Um, I’ll just take an espresso.”

“Sure thing.” Wes passes the order along to Rick and moves to take the next order, but the guy is still there.

“Did you want something else?” He asks, and his tone may not be the friendliest, but that’s pretty much how he always is.

“Nah.” The guy doesn’t move. “But your number would be pretty nice to have.”

“We don’t deliver. Can I help you, ma’am?” He calls to the elderly woman waiting behind the man. She teeters up to the counter and the man moves out of her way, but he’s still much too close for Wes’s liking.

“Sir, you’re coffee is done.” Rick calls, and Wes has never been grateful to another human being in his life but he’s feeling a bit of that now. “That’ll be $2.99.”

The man pays with cash, still glancing at Wes with those too-blue eyes. Wes ignores him in favor of the other customers, and when he finally works up the courage to glance over, the man is gone.

---

Wes doesn’t really hate the coffee shop, per se. He loves the smell of coffee and he loves that sometimes he can sample the baked goods and he even loves cleaning up after his shift, because he’s always been particularly good at mopping.

But Wes is not at all a people person, and the cozy, intimate aura of the whole place gives him the creeps sometimes.

In addition, Rick insists on chatting inanely when they’re not dealing with customers, and their other part-timer Cara is convinced that Wes is her soul mate, which is weird and really unacceptable because she’s still in high school.

Therefore, it’s really not Wes’s fault that he’s a bit snippy sometimes, because he can count on one hand the number of things he likes about this job. He’s so anxious to get out of here and get on the force.

Too-blue eye guy comes back in three days later, this time right before closing.

“I’ve got a stakeout to get to,” is his excuse, as he orders three black coffees. Wes punches his order in a little too hard, because of course this guy is with the police. The universe loves throwing unattainable things at Wes, why not combine two of them into one?

“Uh huh,” is his only answer, and he moves away from the register to start on the coffees himself, since Rick left early and Cara called in sick.

“Want to know what I do?” The man says, his voice low and silky.

“Want to pay me and get out of my sight?” Wes says, and okay, maybe that was a little cruel but he is really not in the mood for some ridiculously handsome police officer to play with his feelings tonight (and Wes despairs at that thought, because when was he cast in a romantic drama?)

The man clucks his tongue and smiles, like he’s used to rejection, or even attracted to it. Wes raises an eyebrow at him.

“My name’s Travis,” the guy says. “I feel like we got off to a bad start.”

“That’s okay.” Wes says. “I feel like we really don’t need to start over. This is as far as our relationship goes—you come in and order, I serve you the coffee, and you get out.”

“Your name’s Wes, right?” The guy—Travis—says, totally ignoring Wes. “What’s it short for?”

“It’s short for Wes. Here’s your coffee, you owe me ten bucks.” Wes hands over the flimsy cardboard container they use for carry out orders. Travis takes it and looks up at the clock
behind Wes.

“Hey, you guys close about now right? I have an hour to get to where I’m supposed to be, how would you like to share one of these coffees with me?”

Wes breathes in deep. “Listen… Travis?” The man nods. “I don’t know why you seem so interested in me, here’s some advice: you do not want to get involved with me. I am just coming out of a relationship—a marriage, actually—and you seriously do not want to deal with all the chick-flick moments that are going on in my life right now. I get that I totally have awesome coffee making skills, and that’s attractive or something, but you’d be better off with someone else.”

Travis just smiles at him, and Wes finds himself sucked into those blue eyes again, and damn it, how is this fair?

“You don’t even want to try?” Travis asks him, and Wes thinks of Alex and how she’s almost definitely moved on by now, and he thinks of his hotel room that is the farthest thing from a home, and he thinks of his academy training and how close he is to a badge.

“I don’t even want to try,” Wes says, but something in his voice makes Travis just grin all the more.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then, bright and early.”

---

Travis does come in the next morning, right as Wes opens the doors for the day.

“Told you I’d be back,” he says, and Wes struggles for words because this is the first time a counter hasn’t separated them.

“I don’t know what you want from me,” Wes says finally, and he hates that this is the role he’s been cast in. He wonders what Alex would say if she could see him now, going out on a limb—moving on.

Travis smiles, and Wes likes it a lot, and that is really weird because a day ago he didn’t even know this guy’s name, only that he has the bluest eyes and bad taste in coffee.

“Just some coffee,” Travis replies. “And it would be nice if we could actually sit down and talk a while. I want to know more about this prickly guy who makes great espresso.”

Wes bristles, but Travis’ voice is soft and teasing, and it’s making Wes smile, which hasn’t happened in so long.

“If you really want to know something about me,” Wes starts, and Travis leans forward, completely involved in what Wes is going to say next. “You should know that I’m training to be on the force.”

Travis’s eyebrows shoot straight up, and the laugh he lets out fills the entire shop.

---

Two Years Later

“I can’t believe he’s making us go to couples counseling. This is embarrassing.”

“This is uncalled for,” Wes agrees, slumping over his desk.

“Even more so because we’re an actual couple. It’s not like we’re going to break up, it’s just that we’re—passionate.”

Wes rolls his eyes and Travis grins at the flush that makes its way onto his face. “Don’t say that. I blame you entirely. If you just listened to me we would work perfectly well in the field.”

“Well I blame you.” Travis blinks false tears into his eyes. “I still haven’t gotten over all those cruel things you said to me in the coffee shop all those years ago.”

Travis watches as Wes chews on his lip, mulling over his guilt. “You know I was in a bad place—”

Travis takes pity on him and reaches over to grasp his hand. Wes looks like he wants to pull away, but Travis squeezes tight to stop him. “Listen. We’ll just go and see what happens—maybe we do need to stop with all the fighting. What do you say?”

Wes rolls his eyes again and succeeds in pulling away. “I say that I know you well enough to tell when you’re fake crying; give me some credit.” After a short while, though, he nods. “Alright, we’ll give it a go.”

Travis smiles when Wes meets his eyes, and grins all the more when he smiles back.