Get a job with your girlfriend, they said. It would be great, they said.
When Flynn put in his application at Old Mother Hubbard’s Café just a few weeks prior, he and January had been together and mostly happy. He and Micah were on speaking terms. But most importantly, Kaz Bashiri wasn’t a person Flynn gave any real shits about.
When Flynn’s parents found his and Micah’s weed, he wished they would have just grounded him. Instead, they sat him down for a ridiculously lengthy lecture about using marijuana as a teen and brain development and blah blah. It ended with a requirement of him finding a job, because going forward, his allowance was hereby cancelled. January, ever the quick-thinking problem solver, put in a good word with her boss at the coffee shop and got Flynn the job.
Then, Flynn ruined everything with Micah, and he and January broke up. And now, Flynn was stuck learning a weird vintage aesthetic cash register while January openly flirted with Fucking Kaz over the sound of the milk steamers.
Maybe Flynn had been blinded by the idea of being in a relationship in the first place, to willingly get a job at a place where January came home with whatever life advice College Douche Kaz and his magical older-dude insight gave her that day. And logically, Flynn knew Kaz wasn’t THE reason they broke up. He knew he and January were at different schools and obviously drifting apart. And the Micah shit that Flynn was not up for addressing.
Kaz’s stupid sexy guy laugh snapped Flynn out of his stupor and Flynn looked up just in time to see a pair of girls step up to him. They looked younger and well dressed, like they could’ve been freshmen at Dumas. One of them shoved the other up to the register, both giggling to each other. Everyone was just laughing and having a good time all around him.
“Hi.” The girl put the sleeve of her sweater up to her mouth and mumbled out something Flynn couldn’t decipher.
“What?” Flynn leaned forward to hear her better. He wished he could tell her to take her shirt out of her mouth but it probably wouldn’t be very customer service friendly.
“A sock monkey mocha?”
Flynn looked at all of the different sizes of paper and plastic cups in front of him. Was a mocha supposed to be hot or cold? He found the buttons for the order and tried to decipher her mumbled answers to his ‘hot or cold’ and ‘whip cream or no’ questions, and swiped a credit card that she had to be too young for.
The second girl stepped up with none of the giggling fear of the first, and Flynn could tell she must’ve been the alpha of their group. Straight blonde hair, perfect chin held up high in a certain aura of contempt that breathed Dumas money.
“I’ll have a small Furby Frappe with soy milk and extra caramel, no whip.”
Flynn stared at the old timey buttons in front of him and tried to decide which one would add soy and get rid of the whip. He chewed on the inside of his lip while his cheeks heated up. In the pit of his stomach, he knew what he was going to have to do. With as much cool casualness as he could muster, Flynn turned to the milk steamers and said, “Hey, uh, Kaz? Can you help me?”
Kaz, in all of his ‘look at me flirting with your girl’ stupid hotness turned away from his conversation with someone over the counter and shot Flynn a grin. Behind him, January looked away from where she was making a smoothie and glanced suspiciously between them. He should’ve just asked her.
“Definitely! What’s up?”
Flynn muttered the girl’s modifications and Kaz stepped up next to him in front of the register. It took Flynn just a second too long to realize that he should step aside, and the tiny moment was enough that his arm brushed against Kaz’s as he hastily stepped aside.
“Sorry.” Something in the pit of his stomach felt like it was coming alive. Flynn twisted his arms behind his back to hide the goose bumps the small, stupid, insignificant touch gave him. Micah’s words bounced around in his head. No way dude. You’re not fucking gay.
Somewhere, his brain registered that Kaz was patiently explaining what he needed to press so rich thirteen year olds could have extra sugar in their non-fat sugar drinks, but Flynn’s brain was not having any of it. Flynn’s brain was buzzing with how badly he wanted to brush Kaz’s arm again.
Kaz finished the transaction and handed the girl her father’s credit card back. Before he went over to work on the drinks, he turned to Flynn. Their eyes met, and Flynn felt instantly disarmed. The protective barrier he’d worked so hard at maintaining slipped just a tiny, tiny bit.
He felt like his heart, his lungs, everything was about to explode out of him.
Kaz smiled at him. “Can you go clean the bathrooms?”
The rest of Flynn’s shift thankfully went without any more weird interactions with Kaz. He couldn’t help but roll his eyes when January hugged Kaz goodbye for a whole entire minute. They mostly ended on civil terms, but it felt a little like she was toying with him there. Since it was a weekend the manager had scheduled Flynn to stay and close with Kaz, and with the choice of that or going home and being not-exactly-grounded, Flynn decided the extra money on a paycheck would be worth being alone in the café with Kaz.
The café’s business tinkered out until they were the only two left in the store, along with a middle age man watching YouTube videos without headphones. Flynn was half way through inventing a complicated back story for him when Kaz stepped up next to him.
“Hey, can you take the trash out while I count your drawer?” He held out a large building key attached to a lanyard.
Flynn pulled out his phone while he let himself out the back door. He had to let his mom know that he would be done soon so she could leave to come get him, but a text from Tiana distracted him. In all this shit going on between he and Micah, she’d been firmly Team Micah for over a week. Her message was short and void of emotion. It said that they were all hanging out at Micah’s and that he should stop by after his shift. No punctuation, no emojis, nothing. As he pulled the garbage bin across the uneven parking lot, he used his free hand to scroll down to his thread with Micah. It’d been over a week since Tiana or Micah tried to reach out, and Flynn didn’t know how to feel about the vagueness of Ti’s invite after his fight with Micah.
Leaving the text unanswered, Flynn tugged the trash bin past the Lexus in the employee parking lot. He rolled his eyes. What the hell was Kaz even working here for? Clearly he didn’t need the money. He was probably just here to creep on girls like January.
The dumpster had a padlock to keep random people from using it, so Flynn reached for the keys as he got close to the walled off bin. As soon as he got the door open he was hit with the smell of burnt milk and rot. It was shocking how all of the drinks that people seemed to love could somehow smell so fucking bad. He hauled the heavy, dripping bags up and into the large green container one by one, breathing through his mouth and cursing everything about his life.
Was Tiana’s text just her way of trying to get them all back to normal? Or was it January or Micah reaching out through her? Flynn hauled the last soggy bag from the bin over the edge and wiped his hands on his apron. Part of him wanted to go. He could tell his parents that work went late and walk to Micah’s. With any luck, there would be a few moments of awkwardness before Micah would hand him a joint and everything would be back to normal. He didn’t even care if Micah accepted him. He just didn’t want to fight with him anymore.
Flynn grabbed his phone from his pocket to text Tiana back. This whole day was a bullshit clusterfuck of half-masting it when Kaz’s hand brushed his as he handed him cups, and all he wanted to do was smoke a bowl, rub one out, and pass the fuck out before he had to be back to work the next day.
The voice cutting through the silence of the parking lot scared him so much that his phone slipped out of his hand and clattered to the ground.
“What’s taking so long?” Kaz asked impatiently.
Flynn didn’t want to admit it was because he was texting on the clock, so he turned and glared at Kaz.
“You scared the shit out of me.”
As soon as he said it, Kaz’s expression lit up with laughter and he regretted the words.
“I guess you’re not as much of a tough guy as January says.”
Flynn rolled his eyes, even as something twisted in his stomach. What had January said about him? “Whatever, dude. I guess you’re just as much of a douche as January says.” When the words didn’t seem to have any effect on Kaz, he pushed further. “Tell me. Do you just work here to flirt with high school girls because you can’t get the ones your own age?”
The moment seemed to freeze between them, like all of the tension of the day and the heat in the air had finally collided. It hung between them, heavy and palpable, until Kaz let out the most sarcastic snort that Flynn had ever heard.
“Yeah, bro, you figured me out.” Kaz took a step towards him, and for a wild second Flynn thought his mouth was finally going to get him punched. Kaz’s eyes stayed locked on his, all hazel and fiery until he bent down in front of Flynn.
Severally equally disarming thoughts paralyzed Flynn into not moving away from Kaz again. It was like his whole body wanted to betray his mind and be as close to Kaz as possible.
The moment was over in a second when Kaz stood back up. Flynn’s brain was screaming at him to run or back away or to do something until Kaz held out Flynn’s phone to him. “This whole pretend hardass doesn’t really do it for me, so you can go ahead and quit it right now.”
Before Flynn process the words or move, Kaz was walking away from the dumpster and back to the café to lock up. Flynn wanted to go home, wanted to march back into the café and quit or actually punch Kaz in his stupidly perfect face for all of the doubt he’d planted in January’s head.
But he did none of those things, and tucked his proverbial tail between his legs as he followed Kaz back into Old Mother Hubbard’s.
Kaz was in the cluttered office when Flynn got back inside. His back was to the open door and he was quickly counting the money from Flynn’s register. Flynn knew all he really had left to do was punch out and leave, but he couldn’t bring himself to walk away from Kaz.
“What do you want, Flynn?” Kaz didn’t turn around or even pause counting.
Flynn leaned on the frame of the door. “What did January tell you about me?” The words came out before he totally planned what he wanted to ask, and his cheeks prickled with heat. He shouldn’t care what his ex-girlfriend told some dude she worked with.
Kaz leaned back and spun around in the office chair.
“What did she tell you about me?” He crossed his arms over his chest, all challenging and snarky. Flynn saw the corner of his mouth quiver as he fought a smile. And then Flynn couldn’t stop looking at his mouth.
“Look, dude. Just… don’t hurt her. With her mom and Jonathan and moving schools and—” he sighed. “Us. She doesn’t deserve some dude that just wants to toy with what he can’t have.”
If he wouldn’t have been staring right at Kaz, Flynn would’ve missed the way his expression softened. Kaz watched him for a moment, like he was deciding what Flynn was getting out of protecting January.
“There isn’t anything going on with January and I,” Kaz finally said. He took a moment to put everything in the office in order before he stood and faced Flynn. “She’s great, but she’s not my type.”
“What is your type?”
Kaz tilted his head in confusion, and Flynn wanted to die right there and now. God. He was such a dumbfuck. Why did he say that? This time, Kaz didn’t bother to hold back the quirk of his smile. And there he was, right back to staring at Kaz’s mouth.
By the grace of Mother Hubbard herself, the bell signaling someone entering the store dinged, breaking Flynn out of his trance. Flynn turned to leave, to get out of the situation, but a hand on his arm stopped him in his tracks.
“It’s that wannabe Broadway guy. He always stays way past close talking about his glory days as a high school theater teacher.”
Kaz’s hand stayed on his arm. Flynn bit his lip.
“Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll pretend this didn’t happen.” Kaz’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“Pretend what didn’t happen?” Flynn couldn’t breathe. This couldn’t actually be happening.
Kaz didn’t answer him. Flynn felt the frame of the door against his back, Kaz’s fingers on his arm. They were there, holding him, but Flynn could’ve easily stepped away. It was like Kaz was giving him a chance to escape. Kaz didn’t know that there wasn’t a chance in hell that Flynn was going to run from this. Whatever this was. And then Kaz’s lips were on his.
A wave of heat went all the way from Flynn’s chest to the tips of his fingers, and he reached out to pull Kaz into him. With Flynn’s unspoken permission, Kaz seemed to throw every ounce of his caution out the window and pushed closer to Flynn. A needy noise escaped the back of Flynn’s throat, and it seemed to urge Kaz on even more. Every kiss and everything else he’d ever had with January paled compared to the feeling of Kaz’s mouth on his. And then Kaz’s knee was between his legs, and Kaz’s fingers were in his hair, and he was completely consumed and surrounded by Kaz.
And then, way too soon, Kaz pulled back to breathe. Flynn didn’t dare open his eyes. He could feel Kaz’s shaky breath on his lips, and he didn’t want to face whatever was next. It was one thing to accidentally admit to Micah that he maybe liked dudes, but it was another thing entirely to make out with one in the back of a coffee shop.
“Flynn.” Soft fingertips brushed over his cheeks. “Look at me.”
Flynn squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t get Micah’s reaction out of his head.
“I can’t.” His voice cracked.
To his surprise, Kaz kissed him again. It was gentler than the first, just a touch of lips that seemed to ground him. When Kaz pulled back, Flynn opened his eyes.
Kaz’s thumb brushed along his chin. “Talk to me, Flynn.”
This was insane. This whole situation. He didn’t even know Kaz.
“I told my best friend, and um.” Flynn took a shaky breath. “And he didn’t take it very well. And he told his girlfriend, and she told January. And that’s why we broke up.”
Kaz blinked, processing Flynn’s confession.
“She… she told me you guys broke up because you refused to open up with her.”
Flynn huffed. “Well.” For all of the shit he and January put each other through, he had to respect that she kept his secret a lot better than Micah managed to.
Kaz’s fingers on his cheek seemed to be the only thing keeping him from unraveling.
“I’m so sorry that happened,” Kaz said. “I… My parents are kind of the same. As your friend. It really sucks, um… but if it’s ever something you need someone to talk about it with...” He trailed off. It seemed like all of Kaz’s cool demeanor disappeared, and something much more real and open took its place.
Flynn felt his shoulders slump. He didn’t want to talk to Kaz about his problems with Micah, or about January, or about being gay. He wanted to keep kissing him.
“Maybe some time,” Flynn said. There was something here, between them, that made Flynn want to open up to Kaz. His cheeks burned under Kaz’s hands, and Flynn had to look away when he spoke. “Right now, I’d really like to get back to what we were doing.”
Kaz smirked at him, all snarky and stupidly hot. This time though, Flynn could kiss the smirk right off his lips.