The overnight shift at the twenty four hour all day breakfast place could, theoretically, be a lot worse. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t get a lot better.
Okay, so no one is forcing Taeyong to work it, sure, but he also doesn’t work it out of preference, either. More out of necessity. A full class load means he’s got no time to sacrifice to trying to make cash besides the wee hours of the morning, between midnight and eight AM every weekend.
Taeyong works with Yuta practically every shift, at least. That makes things a lot better. Yuta is Taeyong’s bestfriend and they are in much of the same boat when it comes to this: work and school. It’s easy to vent to someone on the same wavelength about this stuff as you. They can also switch back and forth between who gets to drive home and who gets to pass the fuck out in the passenger seat.
Things that could get a lot better is pretty limited to just the one thing, but it’s a big thing: the people. The night shift brings in all sorts of people and none of them are ever particularly accommodating.
The people coming in after nights of drinking are rowdy and loud and they always order more food then they’re gonna eat and leave huge messes, hashbrowns smeared under the table and syrup all over the seats. The worst of them sometimes eat too much and then throw up fruit salad and scrambled eggs all over the floor.
Then there’s the dudes coming in after night shift. They’re pretty quiet, which is nice, but they’re also impatient and never particularly thankful. Taeyong has learnt to always drop by their tables with a full pot of coffee steaming in his hand to avoid their narrowed gazes when they forcibly catch the sleeve of his uniform and all but demand a refill.
Occasionally they get small parties of people that are catching breakfast before they head off to the airport to fly somewhere really sunny with all inclusive resorts. Those people always want to tell Taeyong all about Bora Bora or Aruba or St. Lucia or wherever they’re going and they especially like to talk when Taeyong has a full section and no time to really do any stalling because someone’s bacon is getting cold. Those people always tip good, though, and they’re usually in a good mood.
(The first time Ten comes in Taeyong expects much of the same. He’s wrong, but that comes later. First, there’s all this:)
“Taeyong,” Seulgi says, peeking around a corner as Taeyong juggles a few plates of waffles. She manages all the hosts, pinned with a gold name tag and dressed in all black. “Just dropped a party of four in your section,”
“Drunk or nah?” Taeyong asks, nodding in silent thanks to Yuta as the other boy zips past him to his own table and shoves an extra bottle of syrup in his hand.
“Some of them are, I think” Seulgi shrugs, “two of them seem sober, or sober enough. Get to them after you drop those off, yeah?” Taeyong nods and Seulgi disappears to reorganize her seating chart.
His old table sitting happy with their breakfasts, Taeyong zips to the new table in his section, reaching for his pen and pad of paper before he gets there. The party of four is seated in a booth, near the back of Taeyong’s section against the wall of windows. It’s still pitch black outside, the clock ticking towards 2:30 AM.
“Hi, my name is Taeyong,” he tells them robotically, used to the formalities of introducing himself to every customer, “I’ll be your server for this morning, can I get anyone something to drink?”
“I like your hair,” One of them says in lieu of reply. Taeyong assumes that’s one of the drunk ones.
“Uh, thanks?” Taeyong replies, suddenly aware of the bangs in his face. He tugs them out of his eyes.
“Ignore him,” The one sitting on the open side of the booth says. He’s the closest to Taeyong, with clipped short black hair and a small nose. This one seems sober. “This dude drinks Sour Puss mixed with soda, so it tastes like juice and hits him hella hard all at once. We’ll take four waters,” Taeyong scribbles in his note pad obediently, “and me and him,” he points to the guy sitting across from him, who seems sober as well, “will have some Oh Jay, please and thanks.”
“Be right back with that,” Taeyong says, flipping his notepad closed and shoving it into the apron tied around his waist. He’s at the juice machine filling two plastic cups with orange juice when Seulgi finds him again.
“The black haired one,” she starts, “with the tiny nose,” she flicks Taeyong’s own nose playfully.
“What about him?” Taeyong asks her, balancing drinks on a tray up onto his hand.
Seulgi hands him a bundle of straws. “He’s cute, right?”
“Please, tell me you didn’t put him in my section because you thought I would find him cute,”
Seulgi shrugs, mimes zipping her mouth closed and disappears. Taeyong sighs, returning to the table of Cute Guy with the Nose. Taeyong shakes his head. He will not let that be the label he associates with this guy.
“Four waters and two orange juices,” Taeyong recites, placing each glass onto the table. He lets the table disperse their drinks and settle with them before he asks, “so have you guys decided?”
Tiny Nose speaks up again, “we’re just gonna go with a shitload of pancakes,”
“I am unfamiliar with the unit of measurement ‘a shitload’, can you give me one we use on the menu?” Taeyong replies, folding the tray he used to carry over the drinks against his stomach.
Tiny Nose laughs. Taeyong swallows a lump in his throat. He’s gonna get Seulgi for this, somehow, without letting her know he actually finds Tiny Nose cute at all. “Okay, fair enough,” he says, “will take like? Eight orders?”
“That’s twenty-four pancakes,” Taeyong deadpans, a little skeptical.
“We can eat a lot,” Tiny Nose counters, “bring extra syrup, too, please? Our bottle is almost empty,”
It’s creeping towards 4AM by the time Tiny Nose and his friends bounce, plates almost licked clean from what Taeyong can tell. All twenty-four pancakes, split four ways. Six each, if they did it evenly.
Tiny Nose is at the counter, paying with his debit and making small talk with Taeyong. “What’s your name again, anyway?” Tiny Nose asks, sliding his debit card into the slot after Taeyong hands him the machine.
“Taeyong,” he tells him, then pushes his nametag pinned to his shirt forward slightly. “I have a name tag.”
“Oh, I didn’t notice,” Tiny Nose hands the machine back, sliding his card back into his pocket, “too busy looking at your face, I guess.”
Taeyong thinks that might be flirting, just maybe, but Tiny Nose is gone before Taeyong can even ask him if he wants his copy of his debit receipt.
Tiny Nose comes back a week later, to the day, with the same group of friends.
They come earlier in the night this time and by consequence none of them are drunk yet. It also means the restaurants a little slower, in that weird limbo between the late night but not early morning crowd. Taeyong’s been fucking around with stacking clean glasses for at least half an hour while his two tables eat their meals.
The group of them are all wearing letterman jackets for the high school across town. The name stitched on the front of Tiny Nose’s says Ten.
“Cutie with the Nose is back,” Seulgi says, knocking Taeyong with her hip as he puts a fresh pot of coffee on. “And get this, you know what he said to me? He said is Taeyong working? Can you put us in his section, please? and because, obviously, the customer is always right, I totally put him in your section.”
“Oh, wow,” Taeyong deadpans, “you’re a real angel, queen of customer service, right here. You’ll get an employee of the month for this.”
“Shut up and go take their orders,”
“Hey!” Tiny Nose - or, Ten, apparently, - pipes up when he sees Taeyong, considerably loud. From his spot wiping down a table not far away, Taeyong sees Yuta laugh. “Jaehyun here is going to apologize for being weird the other night,”
Ten points to the kid who made sure Taeyong knew exactly how he felt about his hair, who scratches the back of his head a little sheepish. “Sorry,”
“It’s whatever,” Taeyong replies, “I have dealt with weirder things from drunk people working this shift. What can I get for you guys,”
“Four Oh Jays this time,” Ten tells Taeyong, holding up four fingers, “and eight orders of pancakes. Extra syrup.”
Ten pays again, lagging behind to use the debit machine while his friends file out the front door.
“Your name’s Ten?” Taeyong asks, not sure what possessed him to do. He had just been standing there, eyes tracing over the stitching of the name of Ten’s letterman jacket and thinking that that was a weird name and the question had just slipped out.
“Nah, it’s a nickname,” Ten tells him, “all my friends call me Ten.”
“And you play?” Taeyong asks a second question.
“Lacrosse,” Ten replies, “we all do.” He gestures towards outside the door, where his friends have all grouped up to wait for him.
“You’re all wearing the same jacket, I could have guessed,” Taeyong takes back the debit machine from Ten’s hands as the other boy laughs. Taeyong offers Ten his debit receipt, which Ten refuses and watches as Taeyong’s throws it into the small waste basket hidden behind the counter. “Have a good night, T - can I call you Ten?”
“You’re my friend, aren’t you?” Ten says, then pushes open the door and leaves, smile on his lips.
It’s a busy night. They’re running short-staffed after one of the older woman who works with Taeyong had to run off to relieve her baby sitter of duty when her son started running a fever in the hundred degrees and the restaurant is buzzing, filled with people. More people file in periodically too and for some reason a lot of them seem to be fine with a thirty minute, at least, wait for a table.
Taeyong’s section is full and his coffee pot keeps emptying itself faster then he can fill it with fresh batches. He’s a little frazzled to say the least.
“Don’t look now,” Yuta says, punching in an order from one of his tables next to Taeyong doing the same, “but your favourite customer is in your section again.”
Taeyong ignores Yuta and turns to see, probably looking a little too eager and kind of embarrassing, but whatever. Sure enough, Ten and his three friends are taking up the last seat in his section, sans letterman jackets and all four of them looking sober again this time.
“How long did you have to wait,” Taeyong says in favour of introducing himself when he manages his way over to Ten’s table, wiping some leftover toast crumbs away, “to find a seat in my section.”
“You had an opening as soon as we walked in,” Ten replies, beaming from ear to ear.
“I’m kind of busy,” Taeyong gestures around him to the full restaurant, “so unfortunately I have to get straight to taking your orders.”
“The usual,” This time, Ten’s sober buddy from the first night speaks. Taeyong thinks he remembers the name on his letterman jacket from a week ago said Johnny.
“Don’t forget my -” Ten starts.
“Extra syrup, got it.” Taeyong finished for him, scurrying off to get their order to the kitchen.
Taeyong does not get his usual goodbye from Ten tonight. He half-expects the kid to come up to the counter with his debit card in hand as per usual, but Taeyong checks on them to take away their empty plates and the next time he looks over towards their table they're gone.
Taeyong tries not be disappointed because, really, Ten doesn’t owe him small talk or anything beyond courtesy. But he’s here every Friday, always sits in Taeyong’s section, called Taeyong his friend - so it’s easy for Taeyong to fool himself or to pretend.
When Taeyong makes his way over to the empty table he finds a crumpled mess of bills, which equal up to their bill and a handsome tip. He catches something scribbled on the blank side of their bill. He grabs it to take a closer look.
Ten’s written his name, all capital letters, underlined. And underneath it he’s written seven digits, which Taeyong can only logically assume is his phone number.
Taeyong turns beat red and quickly shoves the piece of paper into the pocket of his work pants.
Prom season arrives and with it comes slews and slews of high school seniors in dresses and tuxes coming in for waffles and crepes at all hours of the night. It gets dark later now, though, and seeing the sun for longer makes Taeyong feel less like a vampire. He still looks like one, though - pale skinned and wide-eyed.
Taeyong readies himself for his Friday night shift with butterflies in his stomach, beating away against all his inner organs. It feels like they’re going to send everything flying out his mouth.
Friday is the usual night Ten comes in with his group of friends - Jaehyun, Johnny and the last one who’s name Taeyong hasn’t caught yet. Ten, who seemingly gave Taeyong his number the last time he was in. The number, which Taeyong has not tried calling or texting and maybe even avoided looking at since he shoved it into his pants pocket.
He’s just nervous because what if it had been an accident? What if Ten had no idea Taeyong had his number? And as the days dragged on and Taeyong considered calling again he thought, what if Ten had meant to give him his number and he thought Taeyong had been ignoring him? Rejected him?
It’s Friday now, though, and Taeyong is between a rock and a hard place. He has work and if Ten comes in tonight a conversation is going to happen whether Taeyong likes it or not.
When Ten comes in it is 4AM and he is drunk off his ass. Drunk, surrounded by a few extra friends, and wearing a tuxedo with a corsage pinned on it. Of course, above all of that, he gets sat in Taeyong’s section too.
Probably asked for his section.
Taeyong feels like curling into a ball on the floor of the break room and maybe dying.
“Hi, my name is T-” he starts when he reaches the table but Ten cuts him off with a delighted squeal.
“Taeyeon, hi! I’m so happy you work tonight,” then Ten furrows his brow, though, and a harsher look takes the place of his happy smile. “Wait - you didn’t call me. Why didn’t you call me?”
The whole table is looking at him now. Taeyong’s heart hammers in his chest. “I - I,” he tries to start but trips and trips and trips over his words.
“Ten,” Johnny finally says, saving Taeyong’s dignity, “you are wasted, dude, let it go.”
“But I -” Ten tries to counter but Johnny shushes him.
“Orance juice for everyone,” Johnny continues, gesturing to extra bodies at the table this time around. Taeyong keeps his eyes on his notebook to avoid catching any accidental eye contact. “And bump the usual order of eight up to eleven this time, please.”
“With extra syrup,” Taeyong mumbles, “I’ll be back with everything.” Taeyong bolts as quick as he can without actually looking like he’s running away.
Ten does not come in the next Friday and it makes Taeyong’s heart sink, if just a little, no matter how hard he ties strings to it to try and hold it up.
On Saturday, though, the restaurant unusually slow, Taeyong comes back from his break to find Ten and his friends seated in his section - already nursing glasses of orange juice.
Taeyong is happy, despite the awkwardness that proceeds. The last member of Ten’s friends finally introduces himself as Doyoung and Johnny orders their usual while Ten seems to try very hard to stay focused on the crossword puzzle on a paper kid’s menu he must have lifted from another table.
When they leave, though, Ten is the one who stands and makes him way to the counter to pay. He speaks to Taeyong then, “I’m sorry,”
“It’s okay,” Taeyong replies.
“No, seriously,” Ten insists, “I was hella wasted because it was prom and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have put you on the spot like that.”
“I said it’s fine,” Taeyong insists in return, “I get it. I hope you had fun at your prom.”
“Okay, but,” Ten wrings his hands, slightly, and asks, “can I actually ask you again why you didn’t call me?”
“I -” Taeyong considers, for just a second, telling the truth. But the truth is embarrassing, so he decides on a joke instead. “If I would have would you have asked me to your prom?”
Ten laughs and it just like that - it seems they’re back to normal.
Ten shows up on Sunday. The very next day. Taeyong is startled. What’s even more startling is he shows up by himself, no crew in tow behind him.
“You’re not gonna order eight helpings of pancakes for yourself are you?” Taeyong asks, playfully.
“Can I talk to you?” Ten says, tone serious. Taeyong knits his eyebrows confused but Ten’s facial expression seems to plead with him.
“I’m on the clock,” Taeyong replies.
“This will only take a second,” Ten counters.
“Well,” Taeyong bites his lip, “okay, I guess. We’re pretty dead. Come into the hallway?”
Taeyong leads the way, Ten abandoning his glass of orange juice at the table half-finished as he follows behind him. Once their in the shielded quiet of the hallway Taeyong turns to face Ten - and instead is met with a chaste, closed-mouth kiss to his lips.
Taeyong blinks, surprised, as Ten leans back away from him with a light blush starting to pinken his cheeks. “What?”
“Can I take you on a date?” Ten says at the same time as Taeyong’s what?. The pink on his cheeks darkens to a red, harder to see in the low light of the hallway.
“What?” Taeyong repeats.
“I thought leaving my number was pretty obvious,” Ten explains, “but Johnny said I could be more forward. So, I’m just asking you. Do you want to go on a date with me?”
“I’m on the clock?”
“Not right now, idiot,” Ten laughs, shoving Taeyong’s shoulder. “When you’re not working. We can go to the movies or something. You can tell me what your favourite candy bar is and I’ll buy it for you.”
“You’re in high school,” Taeyong points out lamely, “I’m in college.”
“I’m eighteen,” Ten tells him then asks, “how old are you?”
“Eighteen,” Taeyong adds for good measure, “nineteen this year.”
“So you have no excuse to say no besides you don’t like me,” Ten says, “which would be a bummer, like, a hella bummer. But I would get it.”
“I like you,” Taeyong blurts without thinking. It hangs in the air between them for a brief moment before Ten smiles and it seems to brighten up the dim lights they stand under.
“Does that mean you’ll go on a date with me?”
“I- Okay,” Taeyong finally manages to say, no longer skirting around the reality that he thinks Ten, Cutie with the Nose, is definitely cute and Taeyong really likes him and that small kiss he gave him earlier was really nice.
Ten darts forward to give Taeyong another. Taeyong has to restrain himself from chasing after more. “When do you get off?” Ten asks.
“8 AM, why?”
Ten lifts Taeyong’s arm to check his watch, which blinks up the numbers at him that tell them both it’s just past 2 AM. “Cool, I’ll go pass out in my car and wait for you!”
“Wait, what? You don’t have too?” Taeyong insists.
“I want too!” Ten kisses Taeyong again, this time a little longer, with a little more heat behind it. “And when your shift is done I’ll buy you a coffee and a muffin and we can make out a bit.”