The boy's pace slowed as he walked down the sidewalk, looking over his list. He sighed. Seven prospective jobs, and seven rejections. He wasn't sure how he would take care of his sister if he didn't find work soon. He was a hard worker, damn it, but apparently all the interviewers so far hadn't been able to see past his less-than-new khaki pants and button-up shirt.

He looked broke, sure, but at least he was trying. Besides... he -was- broke. "Looks like it's back to the drawing board," he murmured to himself. "Pull yourself together, Shawn... you can't quit trying. Hannah needs you to get a job." When he realized people on the street were staring at him, he internalized the pep talk. Couldn't have people thinking he was broke -and- crazy.

He crumpled the paper up and threw it into a nearby wastebasket, and shoved his hands into his pockets. He may have to settle for a less glamorous job. At this point, anything would do (though the thought of running a drivethru or bagging groceries made him nauseous.)

A sign caught his eye after a few minutes of walking. 'HELP WANTED - Inquire Inside.' He stepped back to look the place over. It was a fancy restaurant. "Well, there goes -that- idea." He murmured, having forgotten that talking to oneself could be misinterpreted as a case of the crazies.

But again... he couldn't just give up. The worst that could happen would be another rejection, right? Right. Of course, right. As soon as he'd agreed with himself, he walked inside.

The maitre'd was standing at the podium, looking slightly asleep. "..Can I.. help you? I do have to warn you, sir.. there's a dress code.."

Hell... a dress code to -eat- here? There was no way he'd get a job. "Um... I... uh... I saw the sign..?" Way to go, Shawn. They'll definitely hire you now, what with your brilliant conversation skillz.

The man looked relieved. "Great.. Our maitre'd called in sick today.. I'm the assistant manager here.. We just had a busboy and a dishwasher quit.. You'll have to speak to the manager, but I don't think he'll care. He isn't feeling well either. When can you start? I'll get you a uniform."

Shawn blinked. Wait a minute. Hold on. What just happened? He was -hired-? "Um... anytime. Now, I guess."

"Fantastic! " He motioned to one of the dishwashers through the window in the kitchen door. "Hey! Michael.. Do you want to get this boy a uniform? He's our new busboy." He smiled at Shawn. "You can always meet with the manager after."

Michael nodded and made a motion for Shawn to follow him through the kitchen. "You'll need to tie your hair back or something. The manager's a bitch about it." He smirked. "He's a bitch about a lot of things. That's why everyone keeps quitting."

"Oh... yeah, of course. Do you have a rubber band?" He was too overwhelmed by the fact that he had a job to really consider the seemingly imminent bitchiness he'd need to put up with while he worked here.

"Naw. There's hairnets in this box." He tossed one to Shawn. "Okay. There's uniforms here, just find one that fits. He inventories every week so don't take extra. I don't know how he knows, but he knows."

Shawn nodded, and restrained his shoulder-length auburn red hair with the hair net, filtering through the uniforms to find his size.

"Just.. like.. stay away from him. He's a real fuckhead. I think he needs a good fucking.. "

"Why's he" Shawn paused, trying to find the right word.

"Bitchy? He's a fag, dude."

"P.. pardon?"

Michael nodded. "He's a fag. " He leaned forward. "This guy who used to work here.. Paul.. I guess the fag hit on him, he turned the bitch down, and he got fired."

The redhead swallowed. He'd have to be sure not to let anyone here know -he- was gay. Not if they talked about them like this. Sure, he hated bigots but he needed the money. "So uh... I know I just got hired..." He said, changing the subject, "...but what's the pay here? And um... what exactly do I need to do?"

"You bus tables. Clear them away and then reset them before someone gets here. Pays okay, I guess. You gotta deal with the horny old man gawking at you." Michael shrugged. "C'mon, we should get back, or this'll cut into a break."

"...yeah. Thanks." He changed quickly, and followed the other man out. Clearing tables and resetting them, hm? Didn't sound too hard.

The day went by quickly, and without a sign of the evil, evil gay manager. By the end of the day, the assistant manager came over and smiled.

"You did great today, Shawn.. I wrote up a schedule for you - the manager wants to see you before you go home."

Oh hell. He was being fired already. Or he was going to be raped... or something. "...thanks. Um... where's his office?"

He was shown to a small office near the kitchen. "Just go right in."

Shawn stepped inside.... and blinked. The scary evil gay manager was....young. And hot.

He looked young - about seventeen or eighteen, with short jet black hair, cold blue-grey eyes, and was quite pale. He had a large glass of water on his desk, and four or five pill bottles beside it. Hastily, he cleared them into the drawer. "So. You started today?"

He had a clipped English accent that went along with his professional look. Adjusting his glasses, he watched Sean impassively.

Okay... calm down. Hot or not, he's still the boss. And evil. Remember that. Be polite and respectful, and don't make a total ass out of yourself. "Yes sir... as a busboy."

"Hm. " Marshall said softly. "Do you have any questions for me?"

"Uh.. just a few. Like... about payment, and insurance and stuff. The um... the other guys didn't really tell me anything."

"Your starting pay is seven dollars an hour. If you decide to continue and stay on as a full-time employee, you will have basic insurance provided for you. You may call me Mr. Gray, and not what the other kitchen staff call me when they think I'm not paying attention." The faintest smirk crossed his lips, but he didn't smile. He looked like he hadn't smiled in a long time. Like.. since birth.

Shawn couldn't look him in the face after he'd said that. "...yes, Mr. Gray. And... actually, I would prefer to be full-time if possible." God, he hoped he wasn't overstepping his boundaries.

"Good. You've been given a schedule for the week?"

"Yes sir."

Marshall nodded. "And if you're interested in earning extra money, inventory is on Friday, after we close. You'll be paid overtime."

"Thank you, sir." He was baffled. Yeah, Mr. Gray seemed a little cold, but... he was -young-! Around Shawn's age... not intimidating at all. And he seemed nice enough, really. Plus... he was hawt.

"Good. I've heard from the other boys that you're hard-up for money."

"...yeah. Anything I can get, I'll take."

"Good. Bring clothes to change into for Friday. "

" what kind of clothes, sir?"

Marshall blinked a few times. ".. Casual clothes."

Shawn nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Anything else?"

"Um.... just how often is payroll?"

"Every two weeks."

"Yes sir."

He shook Shawn's hand. "Bring me your banking information and a proper resume tomorrow."

"I.. yes, sir."

He went back to his paperwork, sipping the glass of water, and sighing. Marshall was only seventeen, but he felt like he had just celebrated his sixty-second birthday..

Shawn quickly retreated, but breathed a sigh of relief once out of the office. That hadn't gone badly. Why was everyone so afraid of him?

A week passed, and Shawn had decided his job wasn't so bad, and despite trying not to, he was developing quite a crush on Mr. Gray. He just couldn't figure out what was so bad about him.

Of course, he'd also been working like a dog. No way was he going to be fired. Not when he needed the money so badly.

Marshall had taken the Friday off, since he was going to be there until about three in the morning. Maybe sooner, now that he had someone to help him.

He let everyone out and allowed Shawn to change in his office. "I'll meet you in the kitchen." He said shortly and went in, starting to make notes on his clipboard about the food in the pantry.

Shawn changed into a plain pair of jeans, sneakers, and an old gray t-shirt, pulling his hair into a ponytail before heading for the kitchen for his instructions.

"Good. Count everything in the fridge. And then move onto the freezer."

The redhead nodded and went about his work. This wasn't so bad. Plus, overtime!

Mars hesitated slightly. ".. Thank you.. for staying behind. Since we opened, I've 'ad to do this by myself. It's the job of the owner, I suppose."

"You don't have to thank me, sir. I need the money, remember?"

".. Right. Right."

"Besides, with two of us working, it should go by faster."

He gave Shawn the tiniest flicker of a smile. "It should. " He crouched down to count the bottom shelves.

Upon finishing the fridge, Shawn moved into the freezer. After a few minutes, he was kicking himself for not bringing a jacket. Marshall knocked on the freezer door, holding out a warm jacket to him. Shawn was baffled. " you, sir." He put it on, blinking. Marshall nodded and went on to the other pantry.

A moment later, the redhead realized, much to his dismay, that the jacket smelled like... Mr. Gray! It was his jacket, and this realization gave Shawn mixed feelings. Not that he wasn't grateful, but it was all very confusing.

"I'll be in the basement if you need my help." Marshall said, disappearing from the kitchen.

"Yes sir..." Shawn murmured. He snapped out of his daze a moment later, and resumed working. No matter how good-looking and confusing Mr. Gray was, he would still fire him if he didn't do his job.

It was almost one in the morning by the time they were finished, and Mars looked tired. He swallowed one pill from each other bottle, wincing slightly. "Did you 'ave dinner before you got here?" He asked, looking over at Shawn.

Shawn couldn't answer before his stomach growled rather loudly. He smiled sheepishly. ", sir."

Marshall pulled out a packet of chicken breasts from the fridge. "I'll just write it off as stolen. I'm bloody starving." He fried the two breasts up in a pan with some olive oil and lemon zest, humming softly and flipping them as he boiled water for pasta. Mars set the plates down on one of the tables, and fixed up the chairs. "There.. Tell me if you like it."

"You can't just say you cooked it? I mean... you're the manager," Shawn said, then added, "..sir."

"I'm the owner. I'll just lie."

"...right." Shawn took a bite and had to stifle a moan. "...this is... wow."

"You can't run a restaurant without knowing how to cook. " He ate some of the pasta. "How has your first week been?"

"Busy." Shawn said, but he was smiling. "But I like it. I don't get bored... the work isn't terribly difficult, and... well, I won't mention the money because I don't want to sound like that's all I ever think about."

"You 'ave a sick... sister, correct?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's a little different than needing money for a new car, or whatever kids spend money on." He ate more of the chicken and got them each a bottle of water.

"..true. And... please pardon my saying so, sir, but... aren't you still a kid yourself? I mean... you look like you're around my age."

"I haven't been a kid for a long time.. And you don't need to call me sir. We're not technically at work. My name is Marshall. My father has chains of this restaurant throughout Europe. This is the first one in America... So he put me in charge. I'm the family genius..or something."

"...oh. Well um... you do a good job here. I couldn't do it. Of course, I can barely boil water."

"I'll keep that in mind and not ask you to be our head chef. Are you having any problems with the other boys?"

"No... I just don't see why they badmouth you so much." The only reason he felt as though he could say this was because Marshall already seemed to know they didn't like him.

"My theory is that they are so uncomfortable with their own sexuality that they project those fears onto me and therefore say such horrid things about me."

" it's true, then?"

"That all the kitchen boys are homosexuals? I'm afraid so." He managed a straight face. It wasn't difficult for him.

Shawn blinked several times. ""

Marshall stared at him innocently. "Something wrong?"

"Well, no... I just..." The poor boy was horribly, horribly confused.


"...I thought..." He was flustered. He couldn't very well come out and say 'I thought you were gay.' " they said..."

"They said.." Marshall prompted.

"..that um... that -you- were... homosexual." Shawn murmured. "...sir."

"Would it bother you if I were?"

"No, sir! Not at all!"

"Would it honestly bother you, or are you saying that to keep your job?" Mars sipped at the water.

"It wouldn't bother me at all. Honestly. I have, um, friends... who are gay." And of course by 'friends,' he meant 'himself.'

"Then honestly - it's none of your business." He said simply.

Shawn bit his lip. That.. kinda hurt. "......yes, sir."

Marshall cleared away the dishes. "Do you need a ride home?"

"...I can take a cab. But thank you."

"I can give you a ride." He put the chairs back up and grabbed a coat. "My car's outside."

"You don't have to."

"Stop arguing and get in." He turned off the car alarm and locked up the restaurant for the night. His car was a sleek black sports car, and it was obvious he took good care of it

Shawn sighed and followed him, getting into the car. He was fairly sure the whole gay conversation had gone awry, and felt less comfortable around Mr. Gray now.

"Just tell me where to go." He said, turning the car on and speeding off.

"West End Apartments."

He stopped in front of the building. "Thank you, Shawn..For... helping me with inventory."

"Just doing my job, sir."

"Well.. thank you." He wasn't sure why he did it, but he leaned across the seat and kissed him.

Shawn froze. He had absolutely no clue what to do in this situation. Was Mr. Gray gay or not? Did he know Shawn was gay? If so, was he mocking him, or...? What the hell was going on?

Marshall pulled away, sighing. "I'm very sorry. I had no right to do that."

Shawn was too shocked to really react properly right now. "...I... um... I should go check on Hannah. I'll see you tomorrow."

He looked pained. ".. Yes."

The redhead got out of the car, retreating to his apartment. His mind was reeling. Even though he hadn't returned the kiss, it had felt strangely... right. He didn't know what it meant, but by the time he'd gotten into the apartment he realized any slight chance he'd had with Mr. Gray had been blown when he didn't respond favorably to the situation. But damn it... how could he, with how he'd reacted earlier to the questions about his sexuality?

Mars let out a soft sigh and shook his head. He was an ass.. He fucked things up.. and he had to work with this boy.. "You fucking idiot.." He beat his head on the steering wheel, just sitting there for a minute. There was a pain in his chest, and he was well aware it wasn't just the ache of repressed sexuality.

He'd had heart problems since he was a baby, and all his life, doctors had told him he wasn't going to see his eighteenth birthday. Well, that was coming up.. He was going to die alone and unloved, and it was his own fault.. but he wasn't here to make friends. If he didn't do a good enough job, his father had told him not to come home. And he missed England. He missed his older brothers.

He'd had a boyfriend in high school, but he'd ended up fucked over because of it.. And now he was putting himself out like this.. "Fuck.."

He felt a few stray tears snake down his cheeks, and wiped them away angrily. He really wasn't sure why he kissed Shawn.. Two years ago, he'd had a heart attack, and was sinking under.. He heard this voice in his head, saying 'You have to live.. You have to live for him..' And since then, Marshall had been trying to find this 'him', and find out why he was so important...

Shawn checked on Hannah, showered, and went to bed. It took him awhile to get to sleep; his lips were still burning from the kiss. And oddly, even though he thought he'd angered Mr. Gray, he felt a strange connection to him. As though they'd met before. He fell asleep soon after, those unexplainable thoughts still lingering on his mind.