Rating: PG-13 for mild swearing
Summary: “Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.”
Word count: ~3000
Disclaimer: This is a complete work of fiction.
Note: Written for the schmoop_bingo prompt hot cocoa. Thanks to devilswhore_x, our Designated Schmoop Bingo Beta and also seratonation for the brainstorming and listening to me nag about this.
There’s a little bell on the door of Jon’s little coffee shop, and it jingles every time someone comes in. It’s been there since his grandmother was running the place, and Jon likes to keep it that way. The shop looks exactly the same as when she gave him the keys a few months ago, apart from the new kitchen hoods and tablecloths. He even kept the chatty cook that wears thick-rimmed glass, Brendon, and the pretty waitress Greta, but Jon gave her the job of staying behind the cash machine. He likes to serve customers himself because he likes to interact with them. Jon is a people person.
The place is always quiet, but one Sunday night they don’t have any customers at all. Jon isn’t worried because they have their faithful regulars. The regulars like the mellow ambience, and he’s never had any problem paying his workers so far.
“Maybe we should just call it a day,” Greta suggests, her hands wiping the counter aimlessly with an old washcloth, and then the bell suddenly jingles. Like a Pavlovian response, Jon jerks his head up to see a boy wearing a white shirt, a vest, a pair of ugly colored skinny jeans (Brendon tells him later that it’s dark moss) and a headband, which is a weird combination, but this boy looks pretty gorgeous in them. Pretty and gorgeous.
The boy looks around, shifting his messenger bag over his left shoulder. He slowly walks towards the table at the corner that has the clear view of the cross road in front of the diner. Jon looks at him shamelessly, but God, this boy is so gorgeous he just can’t stop looking. Jon doesn’t move until Greta flicks his ear, hissing at him to go and take the customer’s order.
He grabs his battered notebook and a pen, almost knocking into Brendon who is carrying a tray full of freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies, and heads towards the table where their only customer that night is sat.
There’s a laptop on the table and the boy is texting, apparently, so Jon waits a moment before interrupting. “Hi, may I take your order?” he says and hands out a menu. Usually people who come to his coffee shop don’t need the menu, but he hasn’t seen this boy around before this. “Are you new around here?”
The boy looks up from the menu a bit nervously, as if he’s uncomfortable talking to strangers. “Yeah. Just moved in,” he says curtly, his voice is deeper than Jon expected.
“No wonder I’ve never seen you before,” Jon smiles, even though the boy isn’t looking at him. He extends a hand and says, “I’m Jon Walker.”
“Ryan,” Ryan says and took his hand, smiling awkwardly.
“This used to be my grandma’s café, but she gave it to me because she thinks she’s too old to be handling it, but I think she just wants me to stop being a lazy ass and start working to pay my own bills, you know,” he says conversationally, hands waving around as he speaks. When the boy doesn’t say anything, Jon continues, “I suggest that you order the hot cocoa, it’s our specialty, and the customer’s favorite. Well, it’s mine too, because my grandma used to make it for me every day when I was younger. Now I can make them as good as hers.”
Now the boy’s smiling, amused, and Jon rubs the back of his head in embarrassment. It’s just, he likes talking to people. It’s his job to be friendly to his customers.
“Can I have one of those cookies along with it?” Ryan says.
“Certainly,” Jon says, tucking the pen and notebook into his pocket. He doesn’t know why he even bothered bringing them, it’s not like he can’t remember one person’s order in a deserted cafe. “Anything else?”
“No, thanks,” Ryan smiles at him, and this time it’s warmer. Jon thinks he feels butterflies fluttering faintly in his stomach.
There are a lot of people in the café the next afternoon; one of his grandmother’s old friends brought his entire family, and Jon is short staffed because Brendon hasn’t arrived yet. Jon brings out the drinks in one large tray and Greta makes sure that everyone already got their orders. It’s warm and loud and happy, and despite being rushed off his feet, Jon is grinning widely. It’s a long time before Jon can finally sit down.
“I don’t remember the last time this place had been this crazy,” Greta laughs airily.
“He has an extra class,” Jon shrugs.”He said he’ll come in after school.”
“Pastry chef students have extra class?” she asked.
“Yeah, I had no idea either,” Jon laughs. He really had no idea about it; maybe it’s just his cook trying to get out of his shift.
The café sounds like flea market at the time, but Jon can still hear the distinct noise that the little bell makes as Ryan enters the café. Jon doesn’t think he would meet him again, that Ryan would return to his small, unpopular coffee shop, but he did. A smile instantly appears on Jon’s face.
A sudden burst of laughter from the big family balks his steps, but as he caught Jon’s eyes, Ryan smiles shyly and heads towards the counter. “Closed party?” he asks, jerking his head at the crowd’s direction.
“Nope,” Jon continues to smile. “You came back,” he cannot help the zealousness in his voice, and quickly adds, “For my awesome hot cocoa.”
“I told you it’s good! I’ve been recommending it to every new customer that comes here,” he grins at Ryan. He’s still wearing the same headband, his soft curls falling over it. Well, Jon guesses that his hair is soft, from the look of it. I’d love to run my fingers through it, Jon suddenly thought, then promptly shook his head to get rid of that thought.
The small bell jingles again and Jon’s eyes snap towards the door, and this time it’s Brendon. “I’m so sorry! I had a totally unexpected pop quiz just now, I couldn’t get here any faster!” he exclaims for pretty much the whole café to hear.
“Pop quiz? For what?” Greta frowns behind the cash machine.
Brendon drops his back pack under the counter and pulls on his white apron. “What, you think we only bake cookies and cakes all day?” Brendon huffs. “It was for business management. I think I’m going to fail, I didn’t study at all.”
“It’s fine, B, you can still bake cookies and cakes for me,” Jon says, returning his attention to Ryan. “Right. One hot cocoa?”
“Yeah,” he nods, eyes on the old laminated paper menu. “And an apple strudel. Please.”
“That would be about 40 minutes! I just got here!” Brendon shouts from the kitchen, followed by a loud slap and Greta yelling about being rude to customers.
“I’ll wait. Not going anywhere,” Ryan says, amused, and turns to take the same seat by the window. This time he takes out a book from his messenger bag and after getting himself comfortable, starts to read it. Jon lets himself stare for a few more minutes before making the boy a hot cocoa that can rock his world. Or so Jon hopes.
Jon is totally not waiting for Ryan. It’s just been a really slow, dreary day, and Jon could use with some excitement (apart from Brendon cooing happily at his perfect, colorful macaroons earlier that morning). He keeps seeing skinny, brown haired boys walking past the coffee shop hoping that they would stop by and order a cup of his delicious hot cocoa.
“Jon?” Brendon rests a hand on his shoulder; he has just finished arranging the cakes and cookies inside the display. “Are you okay? You’ve been all quiet and weird since this morning.”
Jon manages a smile. “Do you remember the kid that ordered your strudel yesterday?”
Brendon nods earnestly. “Yeah yeah. The skinny one with the headband, right?”
“I’m kind of waiting for him? I think?” Jon’s smile turns meek. “He’s been here every day –”
“Only for the last two days!” Greta interrupts quickly, hands on her hips. “Jonathan Walker, I can’t believe that you’re already pining on that boy!”
“What? How did I not know about this?” Brendon throws his head back and laughs while and Jon rubs the back of his head in embarrassment.
“He’s different from the people I see every day, I think I will like him if I can get to know him better,” Jon reasons, shoving Brendon away when the boy snorts loudly. “He isn’t as loud as you or as bossy as Greta!”
“You’ve barely talked to him, how would you know?” Greta rolls her eyes.
“That is why –” he is stopped by the jingling of the bell, and finally, finally Ryan that enters Jon’s little coffee shop, and Jon continues with a hushed voice and a small glint in his eyes, “That’s why I said I want to know him better.” He shoos Brendon into the kitchen and ignores Greta.
Ryan’s hair looks different today, without the headband, but the vest is back, and he’s wearing – for the love of God – a flowery shirt. It’s too weird, but looks good on Ryan. Jon’s not sure he can pull that shirt off, it looks so much like something grandmothers would like. Ryan gazes at him and smiles, and Jon feels giddy inside and returns it gladly with a quick wave. “You’re here again.”
“I guess so.”
“You’re like, our 5th customer since this morning, it’s been a really slow day,” Jon says. “I don’t know how I’m still able to pay my cook and my cashier, and the bills! Do you think I should do some changes to the place so that more people would come?”
“I don’t know. I like it like this,” Ryan answers softly, his cheeks turn slightly pinkish. “I’d like the hot cocoa again. Two, to go.”
“Of course, they’ll be a few minutes,” Jon turns towards the cabinet that keeps the paper cups. He forces himself to not ask of whom the other cup is for. “You know, most people who come here had been coming since my grandma ran this place, that’s why I think I shouldn’t change stuff, maybe they like this place as it is. But it’s mine now; I guess I should have my own regulars some day. Do you think so?”
Ryan hums. “Maybe.”
Jon can hear Greta and Brendon laughing in the kitchen, probably at him, so he just shakes his head and makes a mental note to think of payback. He notices that Ryan’s sentences consist of very few words, unlike his. “You don’t talk a lot,” Jon observes as he pours some heated milk into the cups evenly. Ryan doesn’t comment or say anything but he chuckles. Jon thinks that it’s pretty much a divine sound.
Brendon is sitting on the counter, (Jon has told him dozens of time that he shouldn’t, especially when there are customers in the café, but Brendon never listens) faking a wistful look at Jon and says, “If he comes here again tonight, you should kiss him already or I’ll tell him you’re a creep who makes moony eyes at the door every day until he walks through it.”
“I’m not a creep and I don’t make moony eyes at the door.” Jon says indignantly. He maybe considers taking Brendon’s advice, except when Ryan comes into the café later that day, he‘s not alone. Brendon elbows him, and he wants to elbow back and tell Brendon that yes, he can see that Ryan is with a pretty girl with brown hair and blue eyes, but he’s kind of shocked and a little broken hearted at the moment. They are still outside, talking and laughing and before Ryan can see him, Jon hides under the counter.
“Jon!” Brendon stage whispers and then the little bell tinkles. He tugs at Brendon’s jeans.
“I’m not here. You’re in charge today.”
“Sure, Jon Walker,” Brendon says, petting Jon’s head. Jon can see Greta on her stool by the cash machine, and she has the same sad look as Brendon on her face. Jon groans softly and hugs his knees.
He tries to listen when Brendon greets his customer cheerfully. “Sorry for the delay, we’re a little short-staffed today! Ryan, right? I’m Brendon. I don’t think we’ve properly met!” there is a pause in which Jon thinks that they’re shaking hands or something, and then Brendon asks, “Can I take your order? Uh, Jon’s not here so, I’m gonna be making the cocoas. I promise mine aren’t so bad!”
“Where is he?”
“He’s…” Brendon trails off, the pause stretching out far too long. Jon buries his face in between his knees. “He’s out to do manager stuff, I think. So, your order? Cocoas? Today we have chocolate filled croissant, strawberry cream croissant, classic plain croissant, strawberry cheese tart, white chocolate mousse cake – oh, and pancakes! Or waffles. I make really awesome waffles. I go to pastry chef school!”
Jon can only imagine Brendon’s panicked face because he’s shit at lying, and then he always gets nervous about it.
“Um, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try your cocoa, Brendon,” the smile in Ryan’s voice is obvious; Brendon is definitely making a fool out of himself. “And a croissant.”
Jon gets up to peek, but from behind the counter, careful to not let Ryan see him. He hears Greta laughing and from the corner of his eye, he can see her head shaking.
“The plain one? Or the chocolate filled? But you look like a strawberry kind of person –”
“Sure thing!” Brendon nods and scribbles something on the little note pad. “And what will your girlfriend have?”
“I’m not his girlfriend –” the girl jumps to her feet and hisses angrily, and hey, she sounds like a boy, “fuck you, I’m not a fucking girl!” Ryan pretty much cackles, getting a bitchy look from his friend. Who is a boy.
“Oh. Oh I’m. Oh god – I’m so sorry. You’re just so pretty.”
Oh god. Maybe he should’ve taken the order after all. Brendon’s face is so earnest, and it’s hard to miss the confusion in his voice. (Jon takes his time to worry about how Brendon will face the real world with that innocent attitude.)
“Are you fucking with me?” the dude’s now glaring so fiercely at Brendon, Ryan doesn’t try to make things better, Greta is laughing out loud in the kitchen, and Jon buries his face in his hands.
“No! God, no!” Brendon covers his mouth with his hand; he probably doesn’t mean to say it out loud. “I’m so sorry. I’m gonna make it up to you for being a presumptuous asshole, okay? You’d. You’d love my pancakes, they’re the most awesome pancakes in this town.”
“No. I want to get out of here now, Ryan.”
“Come on, Spencer, that was an honest mistake,” Ryan is still amused, not affected by his friend’s fierce bitchface at all. “Plus Brendon is right. Everything he makes is delicious.”
Brendon grins and chimes in, “That is so true, Spencer!”
“You shut up,” Spencer snaps and Brendon’s smile fades a little. “But fine, whatever. I’ll stay because Ryan is stupidly – ow.” Apparently there’s a little kicking happening under the table.
“Do you like blueberry chocolate waffles?” Brendon asks, oblivious, but also relieved at the change of subject.
“No, I don’t want any waffles.”
“Come on, It’s on the house.” Jon would murder Brendon if he doesn’t love that kid so much. And his waffles are actually amazing.
“Please?” Brendon pouts, and okay, there’s not even an angry mother bear could resist that pout. “I promise that you can continue to be mad at me if you don’t like it.”
“Fine, God, you’re persistent. Bring me your goddamn blueberry chocolate waffles.”
The smile that splits on Brendon’s face is practically blinding. “You’ll love it, I promise.”
It turns out that Spencer really enjoys the waffles. He tries to hide it on the first bite, but the noise he makes kind of gives him away.
Jon is pretending to work with his piles of letters and bills behind the counter. He feels safe now that he knows that Spencer is not Ryan’s girlfriend, or boyfriend, whichever way he swings. He pretends to come into the shop from the back door a moment ago and cannot help but smiles at Ryan when he looks up from his cocoa.
“Do you like it?” he hears Brendon asks, and Spencer hums.
“It’s not too bad.” He doesn’t look at Brendon when he says it. Ryan grins behind his cup.
“So you’ll forgive me?”
“I will if you stop talking.” Spencer takes another bite and Brendon smiles, not smug, just genuinely pleased.
“I still think you’re really pretty, though,” he says, ducking his head. Brendon blushes slightly and returns to the kitchen. Jon notices how Spencer’s cheeks turn slightly pink too. Ryan whispers something to Spencer across the table and Spencer throws his napkin at him and both of them laugh, the sound of it rings cheerfully in the café.
When Greta rings the battered cash machine for Spencer, and Brendon shouts from the kitchen that the waffles are free – and he would also like Spencer’s phone number, thank you very much – Jon pulls Ryan sideways and hands him a takeaway cup of cocoa, still hot. “You shouldn’t live a day without a Jon Walker’s special cocoa,” he doesn’t wait for Ryan to say anything, just leans forward and kisses the boy sweetly. Ryan smiles against the kiss and pulls away.
“I guess I’ll just have to get a Jon Walker of my own then.”