So Bloor's enjoying a rather mediocre cup of tea in some overpriced pretentious coffee shop when he's startled by a hand on his shoulder. Actually, it's not so much the hand as what it's attached to, which is a well-muscled arm barely concealed by a faded green tee that's definitely seen better days.
Bloor would put money on the fact that those better days were probably back when Toyotas were considered luxury cars and that mint green color was still new and exciting. Right now, though, he sits with a stranger's arm around his shoulders and doesn't have the nerve to ask why it's there.
The guy's breath smells like coffee, kind of stale and gross and too warm on the side of Bloor's face. This, he can't point out either, because Bloor is nothing if not polite.
"So, Donodan," the guy says, whispering his coffee breath into Bloor's right ear. "You wanna tell me why you lied to me?"
"I, uh, sorry," Bloor says, even though he doesn't have a clue who Donodan is or why he'd been lying. He's just sorry because that's the way he is.
"Honestly." The guy punctuates this with a hard squeeze to the bones underneath Bloor's skin. "I had these plans, right? And then you give me fifteen minutes to cancel. Which I can't. So I find you here."
Bloor tries to shrug, finds the guy's arm still firmly weighing down his shoulder blades and ducks his head down instead. "I didn't know."
"I—shit," the guy slides his free hand over his face, pinching at his nose and his lips and settles too-bright eyes on Bloor's face. "You ever think of anyone but yourself, you selfish bastard?"
"Sorry," Bloor mumbles, trying to hunch his shoulders up to prevent future verbal attacks from scoring too deep a hit. It's worked in the past, so it really surprises him when the guy grabs the sleeve of his jacket and pulls him to his feet.
"Listen, you jackass," the guy keeps a fist full of jacket and drags Bloor after him. Bloor's taller than him by at least two inches, but it doesn't seem to matter because, remember, Bloor's polite to a fault.
"Sorry," Bloor apologizes again, just in case it wasn't completely obvious about the polite thing.
"I was going to spend this whole freaking day with you, and you're not going to shrug off just because you feel like it," the guy turns a bit to stab this one in Bloor's chest. Bloor flinches and hopes the guy doesn't notice.
"We are going to spend the day together. We are going to the market. We are going to buy something that requires assembly and we'll go back to my apartment to order Chinese and assemble it. Okay?" The guy lets go of Bloor's jacket almost as violently as he'd grabbed it, and expects an answer.
Bloor's just got his mouth open to reply when the guy narrows his eyes and freezes the words in his mouth.
"If you say sorry again I'll kill you, swear to god." The guy jerks his chin up once and waits until he sees Bloor agree, then resumes walking.
Bloor follows a few steps behind, wondering how to break it to the guy that he wasn't this Donodan, and even if he was, he probably wouldn't like himself very much.
They get into a red grand am, and Bloor waits for the guy to pull it out of a parallel park when a wallet falls into his lap.
Surprised, Bloor looks to the blond behind the wheel and doesn't touch the wallet.
"Grab my parking card, would you?" He raises his eyebrows and points to wallet before turning quickly around the median like a slingshot.
Bloor nods and opens up the wallet, still warm from being in the guy's back pocket. Bloor can feel his face heat up as he blushes at the thought, pausing for just a second on the driver's license that answers the question of who the guy thinks he is.
Apparently he's Darren Shepherd, and Bloor isn't sure if he's supposed to have a nickname for the guy or whatever. He settles on sliding the parking card out and handing it over to—Darren, so they can find a spot in a crowded lot.
The afternoon pretty much flies by, and Bloor can't remember the last time he had so much fun with someone he just met. Darren—who keeps correcting Bloor, telling him to call him Dar—doesn't act like they just met, no awkward silences or pauses that stretch on too long.
Bloor thinks this might be the best thing that ever happened to him—and then he remembers it's actually the best thing that's happened to Donodan.
"Can you hit the floor?" Dar asks, his hands full of boxes. He nods towards the elevator's number pad, little circles waiting to be turned on.
Bloor draws a blank unsurprisingly, and pretends to drop the paper bag of Chinese food he's clutching to his chest.
"Honestly, Donodan," Dar shakes his head, and then this girl steps between them in the elevator.
If Bloor was a praying man, he'd be sending up some thanks for the fact this girl has both her hands free and can push the button for both floors.
Dar asks her for the seventh—Bloor commits seven to his memory, even though it's technically nothing he needs to know—and then glares at Bloor behind her back.
Bloor makes an innocent face, which is a lot like his polite misunderstanding face, which started out as a way to plan an escape without letting anyone else in on it. He's perfected a few faces, and luckily this was one of them.
Rolling his eyes, Dar waits until the girl gets off at five before he steps right into Bloor's space, pushing him back against the door until the greasy warmth of the paper bag is pressing into Bloor's chest.
Bloor opens his mouth to protest, maybe even to say he's not Donodan even though that'd mean forfeiting all the greasy goodness he's paid for with his own credit card, but neither of them gets a word out before the floor stops at seven.
Dar gives Bloor a narrow-eyed look that means payback's coming later.
Payback's a bitch, Bloor remembers suddenly, and flushes when he realizes he's actually said the word, even in his head. Keep in mind, he's almost too polite.
"You wanna grab plates?" Dar asks over his shoulder, carrying his boxes towards the rear of the apartment.
"Uh, okay," Bloor says, choosing left and finding the kitchen. He sets the bag of Chinese down on the counter, opening one of the cupboards in hopes of finding plates. His luck doesn't hold, and he finds plastic cups instead. The next cupboard over is full of half-empty Bacardi, and then Dar walks back into the kitchen.
Surprised, Bloor shuts the door quickly and tries to look inconspicuous.
"If you didn't want to help, you should've just said something," Dar says, trying to hide his hurt look behind a snarl. Bloor recognizes it because hiding is something he's good at.
"I—sorry," Bloor says, hoping that it's been long enough that he can start apologizing again.
"Whatever." Dar doesn't turn around, shoulders tense and plates set down a little too heavily on the counter. "Grab some forks?"
"Uh," Bloor pauses, wondering where to start with all the drawers.
"Oh what the hell, man," Dar says, yanking a drawer open and nearly pulling it free from the casters. "We were having such a good day, too."
Bloor wants to correct Dar, tell him that maybe he has no idea where things are in the kitchen, but isn't sure how exactly to say it. He just knows that dinner's going to be awkward, even if he's barely tapped into the reserve of polite conversation starters.
Dar slams the drawer back shut when he doesn't find the cutlery he's after. Throwing open the next one down, this one sticks and Dar jams it up and down while he tries to get it open far enough.
Wincing at the jangling noise the cutlery makes, Bloor takes a step backwards, away from the possibility of Dar spilling the drawer's contents over the floor.
"Just great," Dar mutters to the drawing, pulling back hard enough that the drawer hardware makes a squealing protest.
"Wait," Bloor says, before he can self-censor, moving closer to stop Dar before it got even worse.
"What?" Dar pulls on the door one more time, glaring at Bloor past his shoulder.
Without thinking about it, Bloor takes a step back, then swallows hard. "Let me."
Dar lets go of the drawer pull, holding his hands up with a sarcastic look on his face, like he knows that Donodan is even worse with stuck drawers than he is.
Bloor wonders absently whether Donodan would ever offer to fix Dar's drawers, and promptly blushes as he kneels to stick his hand back in there to pull a plastic serving spoon free.
It's cracking where the handle meets the spoon, and Bloor hands it to Dar almost apologetically.
Clearing his throat, Bloor wipes his hands on his jeans and stays crouched next to the counter. "I, uh, think it's broken."
"Yeah," Dar says softly, bending the spoon back and away from the handle. "Looks like."
Bloor waits there, kneeling on Dar's kitchen floor, not sure what's the next step.
"Why didn't you tell me," Dar mumbles to the spoon, and Bloor frowns in confusion as he slowly gets to his feet, using the still-open drawer for leverage.
"My god, Donodan," Dar says, pressing his thumb against the bowl of the spoon until it's bent nearly double, still holding despite the vicious crack halfway through it.
Bloor blinks, biting the corner of his lip as he looks down at the spoon, feeling his heart start to beat a little faster as he knows that he's got to do something. It'd be so much easier once he just got it out there, but he's not sure how to start it, or even what it is.
"Dan," Dar says, and despite the fact Bloor's not Donodan he still makes eye contact.
Dar hesitates, and the silence is just about enough to make Bloor uncomfortable when Dar presses his lips together and then just goes in and kisses him.
Bloor's taller by a few inches, but that doesn't help him much with the counter digging into the backs of his legs and Dar's tongue pressing insistently against his lips.
There's really no polite way to handle this, Bloor knows, especially since he's gone way past simple mistake and taken it well into too far territory.
Some part of him knows that kissing back is probably the closest thing to polite, so he goes with that. He's a polite guy, after all.
Dar pulls back when Bloor's teeth slip a little into his lip, mumbles a swear word against Bloor's panting mouth.
"Sorry," Bloor mumbles, keeping his hands on the edge of the counter so he doesn't pull Dar even closer.
"Shut up," Dar says, sliding a hand to the back of Bloor's head and pulling his mouth back down.
Bloor doesn't know what to do with his hands, digging his nails into the greasy underside of the countertop and keeping his tongue safely in his own mouth. Then Dar kind of pushes down against his leg, hard enough for Bloor to figure out that he's not exactly politely expressing interest.
Dar slides his tongue into Bloor's mouth, kind of a tease against his teeth and Bloor forgets about everything but keeping his mouth open and the touch of Dar's fingers on his neck.
"You," Dar gets out, moving his lips from Bloor's mouth to the side of his jaw, mumbling things that Bloor doesn't understand for all that they're in English.
"Sorry," Bloor says, even though he's really not. He's maybe a little sorry for Donodan, whoever he is, because he likes this too much to tell Dar to stop.
With Dar's mouth just below his ear and his hands skimming his hips, Bloor thinks of exactly one thing. He's lucky to be here.
Then Dar pushes him away, pushes him back into the edge of the counter as far as he'll go, which isn't far. Bloor grunts when he settles, not far from where he started with Dar's hands sliding off and away from him and even farther from that in his head.
"Shit," Dar says, raising a hand to touch at his mouth and narrow his eyes at Bloor. "I'm still pissed at you."
"I'm sorry," Bloor offers, wincing a bit when he remembers Dar's earlier promise to kill him.
"I don't care if you can fix my drawer," Dar says, like Bloor hasn't interrupted. "Or that you still kiss like that. You're still an asshole."
"I—" Bloor hesitates, wanting to say something about falling over without their clothes on, that it's okay because he's not the one Dar's mad at, but Dar's already turning away and ripping the greasy paper bag of their cooling Chinese. So he doesn't.
He does decide to come clean at some point. While they're eating—with forks, because Dar scowls hard at the cheap wooden chopsticks that come tucked in the bottom of the bag, so hard that Bloor doesn't think about offering to show him how—Bloor phrases things out.
Things like this is all a big coincidence, please don't get mad but and listen there's something you should know but he forgets the rest. He keeps thinking about it the entire time they assemble a CD cabinet, even after Dar transfers his scowl to the extra screw that he's convinced should go somewhere.
Bloor takes a reassuring breath that doesn't work, takes another, and just opens his mouth to explain everything when Dar says something that kills that idea.
Dar sets the allen key down, too carefully, and sets his hands carefully on his knees.
The sinking feeling Bloor gets has nothing to do with the serious look on Dar's face, but more that he's missed his chance to make anything good about this again.
"Dan, I. Shit." Dar shakes his head, and Bloor can't help but meet his eyes, even though his stomach's tying its way into a more complex knot. "You're freaking amazing, you know that?"
"I, okay," Bloor says, instead of what he wants, which is something like: I'm freaking amazing but Donodan isn't, really.
"No, really," Dar continues, licking his lips and pressing them together. "When you're like this, this is how I know we should keep going."
"Oh," Bloor says, with a sigh that's not just for him and what isn't going to happen, but for Dar too, and what is.
"What?" Dar asks, the note of concern threaded in his voice drowned out by the pounding of Bloor's heart and the way that he just knows that this is the worst moment of his life, because it's the best moment of Donodan's.
After that tender moment, Dar gets kind of closed down and awkward, so he takes Bloor's retreat kind of like a favour. Bloor goes home with his jacket collar turned up tight and a stilted goodbye. He goes home never to see Dar again.
There's no way he's going to try and change that, either. Bloor gets depressed first, even tucks his jacket to the back of the closet and wears one that isn't quite so waterproof and sits in sodden misery in the new coffee place he has to find because he's not going back to the place he went to before. Just in case.
The old place, it was expensive and the tea wasn't that great, Bloor tells himself, even though this place isn't as close to his apartment. The whole thing, it's either enabling or pathetic, so Bloor just orders his tea with a side of scorn. The baristas add that for free.
There's one, and Bloor's not being an asshole when he thinks about it, but she likes it when he smiles and sometimes draws a heart on the lid if he gets his drink to go. Another one, he wears hemp necklaces and he likes it when Bloor gets soy instead of milk, and they all love it because he tips like sixty percent because he doesn't ever take his change.
Bloor goes often enough to be recognized and have an established usual, and long enough to really start to like the place, even if it adds seven minutes to his day.
When he has the time he sits at the bar, at the counter with his back to the wall so the same thing doesn't happen at the new place. He doesn't want anyone to sneak up on him and totally like steal his heart or whatever, especially not by accident, and of course it doesn't so eventually he stops paying attention.
He's come by after work just twice, and it's the third time he's there after work that he's sitting at the end of the counter reading an abandoned newspaper when Dar finds him, somehow.
Not exactly like that. Bloor happens to look up when he goes to flip a page, happens to catch sight of a familiar green shirt and nearly knocks over his trendy mug with his suddenly shaking hands.
The real Donodan's there, Bloor can see, half-hidden behind the brushed nickel canisters stacked at this end of the counter, and the barista with the thing for his smile is making a coffee, something weird with lots of cream and caffeine that Bloor tries if he's on his way out.
Just in case he doesn't like it, that way no one knows because he even throws the cup out in a secret garbage far from here, after carrying the cup around and looking appreciative long after the liquid inside's gone cold. He doesn't want anyone to know better.
So Bloor panics, hiding behind the canisters and trying not to look like he's doing anything but enjoying the cup of coffee Sheppard made him. Sheppard went on his break after that, though, so Ellie's at the counter and smiling at Donodan who actually looks a lot like Bloor.
Raising the edge of the newspaper, Bloor hides his face but can still hear Donodan arguing with Dar, raising his voice to look-at-me levels that Bloor rolls his eyes at, can see Dar rolling his eyes too.
Ellie greets Donodan with her usual smile, reaching for the marker to sign the top of his cup and Bloor feels jealous for no reason, enough to make him leave the last mouthful of tea and stand up, head for the door.
He passes close enough to the counter to overhear what Donodan's saying.
"This place is great, really," Donodan tells Dar, who has his back to the door and to where Bloor's standing. "They give me free coffee, you know?"
That surprises Bloor, not because sometimes he walks away with a free cup on his way out for the afternoon, but because they don't notice the difference between his habits and Donodan's demands and Bloor looks away for just a second too long and runs solidly into Dar's back and the soft fabric of his tee.
"Hey," Dar says, turning and freezing when he sees the expression on Bloor's face, or maybe it's just Bloor's face. It's enough that Bloor gets a chance to spin back around, too fast, and nearly slips as he heads out the door.
Bloor gets outside, takes one deep breath of the cold breeze as he stumbles around the corner, away from the plate glass windows at the front of the coffee shop and away from where Dar's apparently still with Donodan, after Bloor accidentally proved that he wasn't a huge douche or whatever.
Went back or stayed, but either way Bloor's not touching that entire situation. It's not until he turns the corner and leans against the brick wall of another building that he remembers he left his bag slung over the back of his chair, hiding behind the canisters of coffee and still kind of important.
He waits a few minutes, to see if Dar and Donodan leave, maybe take their coffee to go and go, but there's nothing. Bloor figures, after a long couple of minutes in poor weather, that maybe they left right after he did.
Maybe—and Bloor's reaching, he knows, but he can't convince himself not to—Dar went after him, or something. Bloor counts backwards from ten, then back from twenty, and goes back into the coffee shop.
Ellie gives him a confused smile, like she's glad to see him but isn't sure why. Bloor just shrugs and goes to pick up his bag from his chair. It's there like no one even noticed it.
Down at the other end of the bar, Sheppard is arguing with another customer, a regular, who has the name of some bird that Bloor can't remember. He always fights with Sheppard about the soy, even though Sheppard is some raw veganism freak who grows his own vegetables in his bathroom sink.
Bloor waves to Ellie and doesn't look where he's going, so of course he nearly walks back into Dar, who's standing in front of him with his arms crossed over his chest. He takes a step back, with a chair pressing into the backs of his knees.
"I, uh, I have to go," Bloor says, and pushes past Dar—well, sort of moves sideways to avoid touching him and speeds up when he's closer to the door—but he's still walking when he reaches the sidewalk outside.
Dar's too close behind him, Bloor can feel it, because Dar grabs his shoulder and holds on tight enough to turn him around so they're facing each other.
They stare for a second, Bloor feeling terrible and awkward, and he's about to apologize again when Dar shakes his head and lets go of Bloor's arm.
"So why?" Dar says, just throws it out there onto the sidewalk between them, where Bloor looks down at his shoes and stares at it.
He answers after too long of a second to call it conversation. "It's, uh, the least I can do."
It's not the wrong thing to say, Bloor knows it, but Dar scowls and acts like it was anyway.
"So that's what it was to you? Some game to play on some random asshole?" Dar snorts and spits on the ground, too close to Bloor's shoes.
Bloor flinches back and it's not just the look on Dar's face that keeps him back. It's like Dar thinks he did it on purpose, or for Donodan or something, and Bloor can't find the words to tell Dar that he'd never seen—well. That's not exactly true.
Wincing, Bloor turns the words around in his mouth until he figures he makes sense. "I didn't do it for him."
"Shit," Dar says, and turns away from where Bloor's standing. "Just leave me alone, all right?"
"Okay," Bloor agrees, even though Dar was the one who came into Bloor's new coffee shop, and Bloor was the one who left so they didn't have to talk each other.
Dar mutters something under his breath at that, and turns back to head into the coffee shop where Bloor figures Donodan is still waiting.
He calls himself a couple kinds of idiot because he knows two other languages and readjusts his bag. He's not looking forward to finding yet another coffee place that Donodan doesn't know about, and tries to work through the figures of how unlikely bumping into the two of them again would be.
Bloor should've remembered he hated math, because the next day he's back at his usual spot with his usual cup of tea and Sheppard is still arguing with the guy with the bird's name—Finch, Bloor overheard it earlier—and everything is familiar.
The door jangles and someone else orders a coffee, but then he hears a cup sliding down at the other side of his counter and Bloor looks up to see Dar looming over him.
"Oh," Bloor says, because he doesn't know what else would work in this case.
"You should probably know that Donodan's been getting your free coffee," Dar says, like they have conversations like this every day.
"I, uh, I figured," Bloor says. He lets go of the corner of the newspaper he was holding up like a shield, reaches for a cup he forgot he'd emptied already.
Ellie's coming over with a smile and refill, though, and she gives Dar a look that Bloor doesn't recognize, but he thinks it could be threatening.
It warms Bloor a little more than the coffee could, and it's from a fresh pot.
"You figured," Dar says, and shifts on his feet.
Bloor doesn't ask Dar to sit down, and Dar doesn't look like he would anyway.
"You figured," Dar repeats, and moves his own cup closer. "You figured, and you didn't tell the staff so they would stop doing it?"
"No," Bloor says, because it doesn't bother him. He was still getting free coffee, and it wasn't like he missed the extras when he wasn't here, but okay. Maybe the part where Donodan didn't say thank you bothered him a little.
"It bothers you, doesn't it?" Dar asks, and Bloor shakes his head automatically as an answer.
"It doesn't bother me," Bloor says, but it comes out a little flat and neither of them believes it.
"You should—you shouldn't let him do that," Dar says finally, after Ellie gives them both a look. "Let him use you. It's not—shit. It's not good."
"I don't," Bloor says, looking down at the business section of his paper. "I didn't even know he existed until a few weeks ago."
"Trust me," Dar says with a snort, and the funny thing is that Bloor does.
"Um, sorry about," Bloor starts, hesitates, and Dar doesn't even seem to notice.
"I have to go," Dar says shortly, talking overtop of Bloor's soft apology, grabbing his to-go cup and Bloor watches him go out the door.
"So," Ellie says, moving in front of him to take his empty cup. "Did he buy the evil twin theory?"
"No," Bloor says. He tells himself he's not disappointed, but he doesn't believe himself either.
He catches sight of Dar—mostly through the windows of the coffee place and the back of his head or maybe hearing his voice from the other side of the counter—off and on for the next few weeks.
It isn't that Bloor is avoiding Dar, not really, it's just that Bloor has a lot of things to do that involve being in different places at the same time. There's a couple of close calls that Finch warns Bloor about. He's not so bad, as long as he's not talking about the myrmidon qualities of the people who ask for soy milk in their lattes.
Eventually, though, Sheppard starts telling Bloor he should just talk to the guy, because Dar isn't such an asshole once he's away from Donodan. He says things like how Dar wants to start over, pretend none of it happened, but Bloor, he can't.
He can still remember the way Dar looked when they kissed in the kitchen, the way Dar looked at him when he was someone else. He can't tell that to Sheppard either, who doesn't understand relationships because the only one who doesn't know Finch is a vegan too is Sheppard.
So Bloor just shrugs and doesn't tell Sheppard that Dar is the one who doesn't want to talk to him. He pretends like it's him. He's the one with the problem, because that's the way Dar seems to want it.
There's one time, when Bloor is about to come in for a cup of tea for his walk home, when Dar looks up and sees him and his face actually brightens the way that Sheppard always says it does, when Bloor thinks about actually going inside instead of turning around the other way and going home cold and alone.
Ellie starts leaving pointed notes folded inside of Bloor's newspaper, so when he's reading it with a cup of tea he learns something new about Dar, like the way he slumps when Bloor doesn't come inside. Even when she's not working, Bloor reads about how Dar doesn't talk about Bloor when he comes inside, but Ellie still knows what he's thinking about.
Even when Finch stops signalling Bloor with an obnoxiously obvious bird call when Dar's coming around, Bloor still doesn't see a lot of Dar.
He doesn't get suspicious about it until he's sitting alone by the wall one day, tracing his finger along the lines of an article about proposed funding for a project he's not interested in because that's when Dar sits down heavily beside Bloor.
Bloor jumps, because he wasn't expecting it, little droplets of tea jumping from his cup onto the pages of his newspaper. For all that he tells himself to stop doing it, he still spaces out and forgets to watch his back.
"You look familiar," Dar says, setting his cream-coloured coffee mug on the counter. It's only half-full, liquid kept safely inside the mug even after Dar sits. "Have we met?"
His hands are shaking. Bloor nearly drops his cup the last inch to the counter, flattens his hands on the wood and ignores the way the wood sticks to his palms. "I don't think so, no."
Dar offers his hand like an introduction. "I'm Dar. I think I'm in love with your face."
Bloor hesitates before taking it. "That's too bad."
"Really," Dar says, squeezing Bloor's sticky fingers and his mouth slants into a smile.
"Yeah." Bloor looks down at their hands squeezed together. "Because I have a great personality."