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This is Us, and I Love Us

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He's standing in front of the counter, arms crossed.

He's wearing all black, he has too much hair…

And he's taking his goddamn time.

Hux makes a noise of impatience somewhere in the back of his throat. He can't help but tap his foot and mirror the other man's pose; this is getting out of hand. How long had he been standing there?

Finally, finally, precisely when the clock strikes 9:05 AM, the stranger orders. A pumpkin spice latte, at that. The man moves on as if he hadn't just been standing in front of a clearly impatient cashier for the last ten minutes. Or, that was what it felt like; it probably wasn't actually ten minutes. Even so, Hux continues to glare daggers into his back.

It's too early for this bullshit. This entire job is too early.

He opens Monday through Thursday at seven AM and doesn't get off work until noon. Every single day this man comes in, dressed in all black more often than not, at exactly nine AM. Hux doesn't know where he comes from or where he goes, but every day is almost identical.

The other customers vary, of course; you have your typical suburban soccer moms and white teenage girls wearing vests and leggings, but then you also have those extremely shading customers who lean a bit too far over the counter and put their hands a bit too close to the tip jar. Fortunately, Hux is skilled in the arts of facial expressions; he can make those shady bastards lean back and practically cower with his glare. That's always satisfying.

Despite the occasional interesting customer, the days were still monotonous, even when he didn't work. Work, classes, sleep, repeat. With everything going on, there isn't really any time to do anything else. Hell, he hasn't even called his parents since… Since the first month of school.

It's freshman year, second quarter, midway through November, which means double the customers in the mornings, which in turn means more suffering on Hux's part.

All he can do is attempt to be polite while trying to just get through the day. He doesn't have any classes today, but goddammit he still doesn't have the time.

In reality, only three minutes have passed since that weird guy ordered a pumpkin spice. He's sitting in the corner now, wearing a black beanie that's almost pulled down over his eyes. Not quite, though.

He stays there for a good hour, eventually pulling a laptop out of his (black) messenger bag and occasionally sipping his coffee. People stare (he's wearing so much black), but he either doesn't see or doesn't care. Every now and then, he slams his hands against his keyboard, typing angrily. It's very amusing to watch.

Well, until he forcefully shuts the laptop (surely that broke the screen), crams it back in the black bag, and leaves, somehow managing to slam the shop's front door.

Hux stares after him, watching the strange man force his way through the crowd of people on the sidewalk until he's out of sight.

Thankfully, the clock on the wall struck 10:15, meaning that he could finally, finally, go on break. He skillfully snitches a croissant from the pastry case.

As he turns, hand on the break room door, he notices something.

That bastard left his coffee cup on his table.

There's something in him that makes Hux want to throw the cup away, but he reminds himself that he's on break now.

It's not my job right now.

---

The break room is practically empty, as it usually is. Devoid of people, except for one, there isn't much in there to begin with. On one of those TV cabinet things (is there a name for those?) is in the center of the room, with an old TV on it, along with a VCR. There's a round table nearby, with two chairs. Apart from those, there isn't much else. A counter with a sink, some cardboard boxes, a Keurig (ironic).

Nicole Phasma is reclining back with her feet on the table. She had been staring aimlessly, but looks up when Hux enters.

She offers him a tired smile and a vague "mornin' Hux" as a greeting. There's a cup of iced coffee on the table next to her feet, and the fact that it could easily be knocked over bothers him. His fingers itch to reach out and move it. Not to mention the fact that she's the only one he knows who drinks iced coffee when the weather is this cold.

He settles down in the chair opposite of her without responding. This doesn't go unnoticed by her.

"Something wrong?" She takes a sip of her coffee.

All he does is mutter something about irritating customers while getting back put to begin the process of making coffee. Why did he sit down in the first place? Hux doesn't really look at (or care about) what he's making. What matters is that it's a way to wake up for a bit. He sits in silence while the machine does it's job before he realizes something that makes him look up.

"Why are you here early? You don't start until eleven." The Keurig alerts him that his coffee is finished, so he gets back up to retrieve it, questioning the reason why he sat down in the first place. Again.

Nicole only sighs slightly, not turning her attention away from the TV. "My first two classes are cancelled. Have you seen the snow outside?"

"Yes, of course I have. Why don't you have anywhere else to go?"

She shrugs and gestures vaguely. "The library doesn't have the little Dunkin Donuts cup-things for the Keurig. Besides, it's warmer in here." Without saying another word, she stands and exits the room.

It's not strange behavior, but she didn't turn off the TV. Hux can't tell what show it is; he doesn't watch a lot of television in the first place, and he's certainly never seen whatever this is. He sips coffee in silence, forcing himself to enjoy this time off and to not think about everything else on his list of things to do. He focuses on the here and the now; the slowly warming chair, the hot coffee, the satisfaction of being indoors while it's snowing.

Nicole returns soon enough. "Mr. Black-Hair-and-Beanie is back."

Hux pushes himself up into a more comfortable sitting position, admittedly more alert. "What? Why is he back?"

"I have no idea. Was he here earlier today?"

"Of course he was here earlier! He comes in everyday at exactly nine o'clock in the morning, always takes forever ordering, and he always leaves his goddamned cup out on his table!"

She snickers. "He left another cup, you should go throw it away."

"Why don't you do it yourself?" He asks, annoyed.

"Why don't you do your job?"

Dammit. "I'm on break, Phasma. It's not my job at the moment."

"I don't care," She crosses her arms and sits back down. "He had been visiting in the around noon for a while, but he never stayed long. Always looked so disappointed before he left. He hasn't been around for a bit while I'm working, though. Do you know why? Because I certainly don't."

Hux shrugs, pushing his empty cup around the table. "Beats me. I'd never seen him before he started coming in." Now his leg is bouncing up an down under the table, where Nicole can't see. Keep calm, keep calm. Change the subject.

"So," he ventures, "are you hoping for classes to be cancelled due to the snow?"

She starts talking, and the tension in his shoulders lessens. He has successfully steered the conversation away from potentially dangerous territory.

Dangerous, because this man is not just "Mr. Black-Hair-and-Beanie."

Hux absolutely loathes the man. Every single week day he comes in without fail, and every single day Hux spends an hour feeling like his limbs won't do what he wants them to.

Whenever this "stranger" is around, Hux always feel like his arms are too long, like his hands are thick and clumsy, like he's walking on ice with the way he slides around and misplaces his steps. His breathing gets just a tad bit faster, his face gets too warm. He hates how out of control he feels.

Never will he ever admit it to anyone, how he feels. It makes him feel weak. They're strangers, they don't know each other, what gives this man the right to make Hux feel this way?

Although, they're not really, truly strangers. Hux write's his name on a cup every day, listens to someone else call it out every day.

Neat script, black against a white cup, slightly shaky: Kylo.

It's ridiculous. He shouldn't be feeling this way. He shouldn't let himself feel this way.

All of his feelings can be summed up with "Ugh."

Nicole asks something about whether or not he drove to work. He answers, no of course he didn't, he can't drive in the snow, and tries not to look so spaced out.

She suspects something, he just knows it. They don't even work at the same time, but she knows that something is up. They have several classes together, and he often accompanies her for binge study sessions. (That's a bad habit that he needs to fix.)

In fact, now that he thinks about it… She really does bring up "Mr. Black-Hair-and-Beanie" a lot. Whenever there's a lull in their conversation, she always, always, mentions him, without fail.

So, Black-Hair-and-Beanie was in here the other day… That Kylo guy came in for fifteen minutes before he bought anything, what a hooligan… Remember Black-Hair-and-Beanie? He was here yesterday. Didn't stay long. Isn't he cute?

Yeah, she definitely knows that something is up.

Is he really that obvious?

Hux glances around. There's nobody else and the door is closed.

"Cameron!" Nicole snaps her fingers in front of his face. This earns an immediate reaction.

"Don't call me that!"

She only sighs and rolls her eyes. "Whatever. I asked you a question."

"I didn't hear."

"I could tell." Her words are short and clipped. "I asked you a question."

"And?"

"Do you think that Black-Hair-and-Beanie is cute?"

Had he been drinking coffee, Hux certainly would have just spit it out.

"Excuse me?!"

She shrugs, attempting to be nonchalant. Had he not known her so well, it would have been convincing. "I've been meaning to ask you for a while. No big deal."

"What--what give you the impression--how dare you ask--I don't--" The words falling from his mouth only vaguely resemble sentences. He sputters, trying to get what he wants to say out, but he just can't.

Could she read his thoughts? Is that why she asked?

"You blush whenever he's mentioned," she continues. "I told you, I've been meaning to ask you for a while now. He's been coming in for months. When are you going to say something to him?"

This is all so sudden. Why now? Why not, you know… never?

Definitely not avoiding the subject, he whips out his phone to check the time. "Oh, look at the time! I have to go back and, you know, do my job!" Hux practically flees the room. He's safe… for now.

"Cameron Brendol Hux! Do not think we are done discussing this!" She's shouting after him, but he's already out the door and back behind the counter.

Thank god that's over.