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Take a ride with me

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It was too cold for this. The wind cut through Kent’s thin jacket and he wished he had grabbed at least another layer before he had stormed out. He just needed to get out of their apartment; too many conversations were turning into arguments. Kent had felt his relationship with Tom becoming strained for a while now, but it was getting pretty clear that it wasn’t working out anymore.

Hence the argument, the dramatic exit, and Kent freezing his ass off at the bus stop. Today was just dandy.

He couldn’t turn back now though. That’d be giving into Tom and his stupid face. He’d just hop on the bus he took to work and hang out at his favorite cafe next door until things calmed down. Anything was better than giving Tom the satisfaction of Kent returning because he acted rashly.

The bus pulled up with a slushy splash, and opened its doors to a fairly crowded interior.

All the seats were taken. A cherry on top of the shit sundae Sunday Kent was having. He grabbed a spot standing next to one of the poles in the middle of the bus.

As they pulled up to the next stop, one of the two men sitting to Kent’s right stood up with an, “до завтра." The other waved him off with a smile, warm brown eyes crinkled at the corners.

And now there was an open seat. Kent swooped down and stole it before anyone could even think of sitting down.

“Sorry, man. I just need one thing to go my way today. Just been one of those days,” Kent said when the man raised a brow at his graceless seat acquisition. A wry smile crossed his face, and Kent took that as permission to continue.

“It’s just like Tom, my boyfriend, is being kinda an ass recently. Like we’re trying the whole spending more nights at each other’s places thing,” Kent vented.

Kent cringed. It was actually his idea. He thought it would be nice to take the next step, and Tom had seemed really enthusiastic at first. But now, he was refusing to make any compromises and just kept living like Kent wasn’t even there. It was less learning how to live with his boyfriend and more picking up after a child. Not ideal.

“Yeah, it’s not working out too well. And, honestly, I’m not sure I want to stay with him, and I’m starting to think he feels the same way.” The man didn’t really respond, just continued looking at Kent with the same open listening expression angled towards him. What the hell, Kent continued rambling for a good ten minutes.

The bus pulled up to the next stop, and the man, good lord he was tall, unfurled himself from the seat. Giving a small wave, he walked off the bus and disappeared around the corner. Kent watched as the bus pulled away.

Wait, he thought back to guy’s previous conversation. That definitely wasn’t English before Kent sat down. Had he not understood anything Kent had said?

Oh man. He was probably just humoring the crazy ranting guy that ambushed him on the bus. Well, that’s embarrassing. Kent comforted himself with the thought that they’d never run into each other again.

-

Kent saw him again the next day on the ride home from work. Once again he was sitting with the only open seat next to him. This time, however, he noticed when Kent got on. Grinning, he shifted his bag closer to his feet to make room for Kent to sit down.

Clearly he wasn’t put off from yesterday and Kent immediately launched into a tirade about lazy coworkers, unforgiving bosses, and childish ex-boyfriends that were refusing to pick up his shit from Kent’s place.

-

This happened every day for the rest of the week.

-

“And then the best thing happened. I bet you already guessed it. It’s just perfect karma.” Kent whipped out his phone, scrolling through his photos. “See! Of course, I let her back in right away, but obviously I had to take a thousand and one pics first.” He leaned over to look at Kent’s Kit filled Instagram, his arm a long line of heat against Kent’s shoulder.

It was a little over a month since they’d started this thing. This one-sided bus ride chat where Kent would chatter on about everything and the other man, now Alexei, would smile and occasionally tilt his head inquiringly.

By now, he was 100% sure that he wasn’t being understood. Surely Alexei would’ve said something by now. They were just two men enjoying having a bus companion, even if they couldn’t really communicate with words.

Kent could think of a few other ways they could communicate without words though. He had noticed the first time he’d met the guy, but Alexei was really cute. And tall. And really fit too. Quite honestly, just his whole face area was really doing it for Kent. Especially when he was smiling like that and cooing over Kit.

“You would totally love her, man. I can just tell. You should totally meet her. Be warned, if she doesn’t approve you’re outta here. Though I suppose I could continue seeing you here. It’ll just be an illicit affair,” teased Kent.

Alexei grinned back, probably just reacting to Kent’s tone. It was embarrassingly easy for Kent to get lost in looking at him, especially when he looked at Kent so fondly.

It was times like these that Kent really thought they could be something. Kent wasn’t too horrible at other languages, maybe he could pick up some of whatever language Alexei had spoken before, maybe Russian?

Hell, they had Google. They could totally figure something out. Anything to keep Alexei grinning and make him laugh again.

“God, I want to climb you like a fucking tree. You’re a lot to take in, but good lord am I willing to try.” Alexei’s eyes widened, a blush erupting over his face. Kent could feel a matching blush flood across his cheeks at the accidental confession.

“I – what? You mean?” Alexei stuttered.

Yeah, ‘what’ was right. That was definitely English. English. As in the language Kent just used to inappropriately hit on his bus buddy. His non-English speaking bus buddy.

Kent frantically tried to backpedal, scrambling to stand up and stab at the ‘stop’ button.

“I mean – you’re just a lot. Like really attractive.” Which, true, but also not entirely what he meant. Kent shot to his feet. “I’m so sorry. Holy shit. I’m – bye.”

Without looking at which stop the bus had pulled up to, he rocketed out onto the sidewalk. He picked a random direction and started power walking away from the scene of the crime.

-

No one ever said Kent dealt with these kinds of situations with grace.

-

That went well, and now he can never ride the bus again. Ever. Wait, how’s he going to get to work?

Nevermind, he’ll just quit.

Find something closer. Something that will never require public transport.

Maybe he can work at the bookstore around the corner. They’re always hiring, but wait, no, what if Alexei likes to read.

Ok, bookstores are a no go. Alexei must cook sometimes too, so that rules out ever going to grocery stores. God, Kent’s going to starve. Maybe he’ll use one of those grocery delivery services so he never has to leave his house ever again.

Cold, stressed, and very much in need of a nice coffee, Kent ducked into a cozy looking corner bakery.

“Hello, welcome to Bake n’ Bitts,” said the woman reading on the stool behind the counter. “No, we don’t have bacon nor any bacon baked goods. I’m Lardo, what can I get you?”

“You know if you’re going to be called Bake n’ Bitts you really should have some sort of bacon thing on your menu. For the sake of the pun,” Kent said without thinking. He was too frazzled from earlier.

One of the seated customers whipped his head around, gesturing excitedly. ‘That’s what I’m saying! Good man, right here!”

“I didn’t pick it. Coffee? Pie? Cake?” She gestured in front of her. “Literally anything from the case?”

“Oh, yes. Mocha, please. And one of those mini pies.” After paying, Kent took a moment to look around. The bakery was clearly well loved and popular, with comfortable seating for customers.

“Those are quite literally my favorite thing here. I’m Shitty. What do you go by?” The costumer from earlier had sidled up to the counter to wait with Kent.

“Uh, Kent?”

“That a question,” chirped Shitty with a smirk.

A tall guy emerged from the back, carrying out another tray of baked goods that he started arranging in the case. “Quit it, Shits. Leave the poor guy alone and stop procrastinating.”

“But I’m bored.” Shitty pouted at his raised brow. “Alright, Jack. You big Canadian party pooper.” Shitty dramatically swung away from the counter back to his side table.

“Sorry about him. He’s a bit excitable. Uh, normally Bitty would be out here to welcome you too, but he’s in the back.” He handed Kent the mocha Lardo finished preparing. He looked around the shop. “Uh. Do you want to join me and Shitty? There aren’t any free tables, and we’re just hanging out till our friend joins us.”

“Yeah, that’d be nice. You’re sure you don’t mind?” Kent said, a little relieved for the distraction.

“Not at all. Are you ok? You looked a little stressed.” Jack gestured to sit at Shitty’s table, grabbing a coffee for himself.

Shitty moved his pile of textbooks to clear room for Kent and Jack’s drinks. “Bro, might help talking to a stranger. No judgment.”

“Uh, that’s actually what got me in my situation. I’ve been talking to this guy, but I didn’t think he spoke English. But he does, and like I definitely, maybe, hit on him on the bus.” Shitty and Jack glanced at each other, expression unreadable. Jack fiddled with his phone.

“And I thought it’d be ok because he wouldn’t understand. But he’s known English. This. Whole. Time.” Kent slumped over onto the table, hiding his face in his arms. Jack finished messing around on his phone, tilting the screen to show Shitty.

“Ok, bro. First things first, you know what they say about assuming things.” Kent groaned into his arms. Shitty continued, “I wouldn’t worry though. Somehow I think things are going to work out for you.”

“I’m going to grab Bitty.” Jack said, going to fetch a smaller blond man from the back.

“Jack, honey, this better be important. I’ve only got about five minutes.”

“Oh, this definitely is. You know how you wanted to meet Kent? Well, I think he’s found us instead.”

What the fuck was Jack talking about?

The chimes rang as the bakery door opened, letting in another burst of cold air.

“Sorry I’m late. I’m take bus again and was traffic. I text though.”

Kent’s head shot up. Shit.

“No problem, Tater. We’ve been chatting with our new bro here. I think you know Kent!” Shitty proudly twisted Kent’s chair to face Alexei. “This is the guy, right?”

Uhhh, that was definitely Alexei right there, looking just as shocked and flustered as Kent felt. God, he still looked so good, even with that gobsmacked expression. He recovered much faster than Kent though, and stuck out his hand at Kent.

“Yes, happy to see again! Call me Alexei, Tater, whichever.”

Kent shook his hand numbly. The universe was having a field day throwing what he couldn’t have right in Kent’s face.

“Hey. Uh, sorry? If my comment made you uncomfortable, I’m really sorry, man. I completely understand if you want to me sit somewhere else from now on.” Looking at the floor was way more interesting than looking Alexei in the eyes. It was spotless and provided no distraction, great.

“Why I want that? No, is flattering.” He gave a self-conscious huff of laughter. “Dirty, but flattering. You very pretty and funny.” Kent’s head snapped up at that and he looked at Alexei’s friends for confirmation that he wasn’t imagining this.

“He’s completely serious. I don’t think he’s ridden the bus without gushing to us later about you.” Bitty stole a sip of Jack’s coffee before giving Alexei a thumbs up and returning to the back.

Alexei shrugged with a ‘can’t help it’ gesture. The fond smile was back on his face and Kent was so glad it hadn’t disappeared permanently from his life.

“Uh, not gonna lie, I’m a tad confused why you pretended to not speak English? You were always pretty expressive, but we could’ve been talking a long time ago,” said Kent.

It was Alexei’s turn to look a little sheepish. “Many reasons. You so cute when ramble about anything without filter. Also, English not so great. Embarrassing. Don’t know how to tell you.” He looked a little sad and Kent vowed to never let him look that dejected again.

“Ok, first of all, your English is great. Don’t let anyone tell you different. And secondly, I am perfectly fine with still rambling to you. Just, maybe we could do it over dinner?”

If Kent thought Alexei’s smile was great before, it was nothing compared to what was aimed at him now.