Good Lord! The Captain thought to himself. Or maybe he’d said that out loud actually, as the couple at the table next to him shot him a confused glance. But surely, he couldn’t be blamed. He didn’t think he’d ever tasted something quite so divine. Young Mary could certainly bake.
The Captain had always enjoyed coming here, as he found the atmosphere to be just right. He had tried many different places in all his years of life, but none quite matched up this. The smell of fresh baking intrigued your senses as you walked by. And this almost always worked to get the customers in. He didn’t know quite what kind of witchcraft she was practising, but many a time he’d watched as rushing pedestrians slowed, then retraced their steps back to the door to step inside for some of Mary’s cakes. That’s how he’d found it. And boy was he glad he had.
He set his fork down, and returned to seriously studying the newspaper in front of him. Definitely the paper. Just look at the paper. Dammit and blast it to hell, he thought to himself as his eyes once again wandered to the man behind the counter. He certainly admired Patrick’s work ethic. He was wonderful with customers. He always had the right thing to say. A witty comment here. A sympathetic look there, when a customer looked like they had had a particularly trying day. And he had simply wonderous arms, that worked with such speed and skill to craft the coffees and other beverages that the weary masses desired.
Patrick was a master of his craft and the Captain admired that tremendously.
The door clattered open, brining in a strong breeze that rattled the Captain’s paper and distracted his wandering brain enough to take his eyes off of Patrick. And onto the man that had entered. Shit. Julian, this is the last thing he needed. Whilst he loved Julian dearly, he did have quite a habit of jumping to conclusions.
“Cappy, there you are. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” Julian whined.
The Captain shot him a disbelieving look. “Julian, you know I come here at the same time-
“- yeah, yeah,” Julian cut in “leave the office 1300 hours, arrive at my destination 1307, and spend the next 46 minutes mooning over my dear Patrick so I can safely make it back to the office at 1400 hours,” I know the drill Julian mocked.
“Julian!” The Captain exclaimed. “What on heavens are you on about man. I don’t moon over anyone. I simply enjoy coming here, regularly, to show my appreciation for a fine local business.”
Julian’s face suddenly took on a suggestive smirk as he settled himself at the Captain’s table, “a fine business-man more like.”
“Julian.” The Captain’s tone was warning. And Julian, after thirty years of friendship finally seemed to be smart enough to head this warning. Strange. This in itself worried the Captain more than it ought to, as Julian Fawcett MP, respected politician and diplomat as he so often reminded people, never was a fan of warnings.
“Julian,” the Captain tried again, his voice laced with a hint of worry. “What have you done.”
“Why do you assume I’ve done something wrong!” The man exclaimed, flapping his arms.
The Captain sighed. As whilst Julian may be many things, innocent was not usually one of them. “Good lord, man. Do you want the whole list… Or just the highlights.”
“I am going to pretend you didn’t say that. Because I’ve got news. Big, big news.” Julian was practically vibrating in his seat like an over-excited schoolgirl.
The Captain stared at him. Did he want to know? Often times Julian’s news erred on the side of extremely morally questionable.
And before the Captain could even begin to formulate a response, Julian interrupted his train of thought. “Right then. I’m going to take that silence as a resounding yes.” The man subsequently launched into his story. Recounting his antics to the Captain, which involved entirely too many names for him to keep track of. More rope than a sailor would see in his lifetime. And an alarming number of food items. The Captain glanced at his plate. Thankfully the man hadn’t found a use for cake yet. Thank the Lord for small mercies, he supposed.
“Anyway, now that’s all out of the way I’ll get to the juicy gossip for you,” Julian added.
The Captain simply stared at him. What on heavens could the man have to say, if all that hadn’t been the juicy party.
Unfortunately, the two men were interrupted by the arrival of Patrick. Or perhaps fortunately, the Captain thought, as he’d already worked up an disturbingly long list of items he was going to have to chuck from his kitchen cupboards as soon as he got home.
“Afternoon,” Patrick squeaked enthusiastically looking first towards the Captain, then the floor as a blush worked its way on to his cheeks.
Heavens. The Captian thought, the poor man must be boiling, working all those long hours with hot drinks. Pacing back and forth between the office, and the kitchen, and the counter. Such a hardworking man. He didn’t often wait the tables though, that was usually Mary. How strange, the Captain thought to himself. Perhaps May was busy baking. He glanced back towards the counter, where Mary could be seen giving a thumbs up. Rather odd, the Captain thought to himself, but he was soon distracted.
“Anything I can get for my favourite customer?” He said, locking eyes with the Captain. Neither man looked away.
Simply marvellous. Lord, Patrick certainly had wonderful eyes. The Captain had never been a man of words. Nor had he ever been a man particularly in touch with his emotions. Good Lord no, those were better left unexplored. He preferred action, and hard work. Determination. Which Patrick surely had in spades. But suddenly, he cursed every day that he had lived without the gift of poetry. How he simply wished he knew a verse that could describe the way-
“Ahem,” Julian cut in, clearing his throat, “hate to be a bother chaps, but I would quite like a coffee. Milk and two sugars, thanks. Can’t dawdle all day you see. Places to go. People to see and all that.” He raised his eyebrows inquisitively, as he looked from one man to the other.
“Oh. Oh, yes! Of course. Coming right up.” Patrick hurried back to the counter, practically tripping over his feet in his haste. Heavens. The man certainly knew how to carry himself. Determination indeed. The Captain watched as the man began Julian’s order. He saw how Mary approached him with a look of gentle optimism. Whatever Patrick had responded clearly hadn’t been what she had hoped to hear, as he subsequently watched as she whacked poor Patrick upside the head, then walked away in exasperation.
The Captain looked towards Julian, “I do hope everything’s alright, your order seems to have caused quite the commotion over there. Poor Mary looks like she’s had just about enough. Perhaps you should’ve ordered some cake too.” The man fretted.
Julian looked at him.
Julian looked at him some more.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Cap. Just tell the bloke you like him already. No offence, but all that nonsense was rather pathetic to watch. At this rate you’ll both be dead before you can get down to the good bit,” Julian wiggled his eyebrows.
“I say man, it’s just not that simple.” And it wasn’t. Not for him. The Captain didn’t have the best track record with all that relationship nonsense. There was William, and… Well actually there was just William, but that ended badly enough that he’d never much fancied trying again. Well, until now. But no. Patrick was a wonderful man. Surely someone like him couldn’t still be available. How could anyone get the chance to look at Patrick Butcher and not snap him up. Certainly not. It was unthinkable to the Captain, that a man of such excellence would be available to him. I mean heavens, he didn’t even know whether Patrick was interested in men. Christ. That would add a whole other level. He didn’t know whether he wanted the answer to that either. Was it better to know that Patrick didn’t want him because he was a man, or was it better to know that Patrick didn’t want him because he was the man he was? Both options sounded bleak. Unattainable, or simply unwanted. And he told Julian just that.
Julian dropped his head into his hands, “Cap, I’m genuinely starting to wonder if you have even a single brain cell. Or have you gone blind. Or maybe it’s a brain tumour. Yes! That’d explain it, a nice big tumour in your tiny little brain.”
The Captain frowned, unimpressed.
Julian shrugged. “Well, it’s the only explanation I can think of as to why you,” he emphasised his point by jabbing his surprisingly pointy finger straight into the Captain’s face, “cannot see that that man is clearly interested in you.” He bopped the Captain’s nose, and sat back satisfied that his work was done. Suddenly, he leaned in again. “No. You know what. I’ll do it for you. Yes! Oh, I am brilliant. Why have I never thought of this before.”
Before the Captain could even begin to explain to Julian just how brilliant he most assuredly wasn’t, Patrick returned with the damned coffee. The Captain tried to glare Julian into submission, but the gleeful smile on his face warned him that Julian was going to pay no heed.
“Ah, Patrick. Pat. Patty boy. Just the man I wanted to see actually. You see I have this friend- Hey! You know I bruise like a peach,” Julian whined as the Captain’s foot connected forcefully with his shin. “Anyway, as I was saying this friend. Dashing. Ex-Army. Geographically close. Extremely interested in you. I mean what more could you want. We all like a soldier,” He finished throwing Patrick a wink.
The poor man was bewildered. His moustache twitching in confusion.
Julian sighed, and pointed to the Captain. “It’s him.”
The Captain’s eyes widened. He’d actually done it. He’d actually gone and done it. The Captain glanced at Patrick, who looked almost as traumatised as the Captain had done after the incident with that poor seagull. The Captain stared down at the table. Ah. Right. He clearly wasn’t interested. “Ha, Julian! Whatever next. Anyway, I best be off. Busy, busy. You know how it is,” the Captain stumbled over his words and his feet, as he tried to get out of the damned chair and get to the door at exactly the same time. His coat caught on the chair. Then hit the poor lady at the next table in the back of the head, with a particularly loud thud when his wallet, keys, and phone all connected with her skull. The Captain was fairly sure he stumbled out an apology, as his ever furthering embarrassment stained his face.
Before he could get any further, there was a strong, gentle hand on his arm. Firm, but calming. He turned around. Patrick was looking at him.
Patrick was looking at him. Touching him. Holding him.
Patrick was speaking to him. Christ, Patrick was speaking to him. What had he said?
Something about it time. About bloody time? No, that couldn’t be right, surely.
“Sorry, would you mind awfully repeating that?” The Captain whispered.
“I said, it’s about bloody time. Christ, I’ve been trying to figure out how to give you my number since the second time you came in here. I’ve driven Mary up the walls more times than I can count, trying to figure out if you’d be interested in me-“
The man’s speech was interrupted when Julian suddenly pushed the Captain even closer to him, just about knocking them both over. Patrick’s arms steadied him. Their eyes locked.
The Captain cleared his throat, and tried to speak but nothing came out. He tried again. “Right . Yes. Marvellous. Simply marvellous. Ehm. Well, I suppose then Patrick… That I should… And the thing to do now would be. Only if you wanted to. And-“
Pat thankfully interrupted the Captain’s rambling, “Captain, would you like to go on a date? With me. Because I would very much like that.”
The Captain breathed out.