Vancouver can in no way be considered a large metropolis, but it’s not a small town either. The population barely breaches half a million unless the surrounding suburban cities are included, as they often are when anyone travels. It’s far easier to say one is from Vancouver as opposed to Langley where Sean had spent the better part of his life living on the fringes of suburbia on a small hobby farm.
His parents home couldn’t quite be considered rural living because he could still walk twenty minutes to the nearest McDonald’s with his brother and sister, but it was still a quiet pocket of boring for any teenager to grow up in. It’s probably why Sean moved to the ‘big city’ the moment he could, even if he had shared a small 2 bedroom apartment on the West End with three other guys. Most nights he’d slept on the pullout in the living room until he moved to his cramped dorm room on campus at the beginning of the semester.
Sitting at a corner table nestled next to the large window overlooking a busy downtown street, Sean idly swirled his tea bag in the white ceramic mug in front of him. The tea leaves were overstepped and burnt from the obscene temperature the coffee shop served their water, but what did he care when he couldn’t tear his attention away from the door. Every time the little bell jingled merrily, he slunk lower in his seat. The trip out from campus hadn’t been all that difficult. Most students were heading back to school after the weekend, not leaving.
If Sean had any doubts on whether Noodles would show, they dissipated the moment a six-foot-something giant in the promised neon orange tank top walked through the door of the coffee shop and glanced around in search of someone in particular. His hair was swept up but buzzed on the sides, and for someone so tall, he wasn’t notably bulky. Still, he had more musculature in his left arm than Sean did his entire body. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but the last time Sean had stepped inside a gym had been when he still lived with Jay and Edi. Jay had liked the company, and Edi was never awake to go with him, which meant Jay had dragged Sean down and put him through his paces three times a week before his morning classes. It had been torture.
When the stranger’s attention lingered on Sean’s brown leather motorcycle jacket, Sean dropped the string of the tea bag and sat up, leather squeaking against the back of the uncomfortable wooden chair.
The jacket had been a present from his brother when he graduated high school four years ago. The leather was soft and worn from use and a little abuse. It’d come in handy the one time he got into a fight his second year of university and landed on broken glass after a sucker punch to the face when he’d tried to help Edi pull an overly intoxicated Jay away from a frat dudebro that hadn’t liked that Edi and Jason were holding hands on campus. As liberal as Vancouver was, there were still assholes that couldn’t see past their own carefully marked boundaries of social acceptability, and most often, in Sean’s experience, it was the ‘Chad’s’ of the world.
The man Sean could only assume was Noodles quickly approached, clumsily dodging tables and other customers. He walked like he wanted to appear smaller and less intimidating, but there was no getting around it. Noodles was all limbs, and his mouth hung open. Just a little, but it was enough that Sean’s cheeks warmed slightly at the attention and wished he’d suggested meeting up on Davie rather than in the middle of the populous shopping district.
Noodles swallowed. “Kal?”
“It’s Sean, actually,” Sean said. “Sean Montes.”
Noodles continued to stare, mouth still somewhat agape. Sean glanced down at his outfit and tugged his motorcycle jacket a little tighter around his torso. When most people heard straight-A student, Sean wasn’t usually what came to mind. Whatever Noodles had expected, it probably wasn’t a 5’5’’ Japanese-Brazilian undergrad with a Batman industrial piercing.
The silence was palpable. Sean cleared his throat and stood up in greeting, but immediately regretted it because Noodles towered over him. “Can I assume your given name is not actually Noodles,” he finally said.
“What? Oh, right. Yeah. I’m Caleb. Caleb Schou,” he said sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck and laughing awkwardly. “And I like it. The hair, I mean. It’s nice. Not too, uhh… emo? I like the purple bit,” he added miming where the purple streak was as if it were on his own head.
“Thanks,” Sean said. He shyly brushed his bangs back only for them to fall back into place. The right side of his head was partially shaved, but the left was longer and swooped down over his eye. “Do you want to sit?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, I’m just going to get a drink first. Do you want anything? Nevermind, you already have a drink. I’ll be back in a sec,” Caleb rambled off quickly as he backed away, almost tripping over another patron’s messenger bag on the floor by their chair.
Breathing a huff of relief, Sean sank back down into his seat and chuckled to himself as Caleb stumbled awkwardly to the front to order. “Shit,” he muttered, hiding his sudden grin behind his hand. Edi had warned him that Noodles, or Caleb as he now knew him, was cute in a sort of clumsy, unassuming way, but Sean had not been prepared for, well, all of that. “Keep your mind out of the gutter, Montes.”
At the counter, Caleb ordered a drink. Sean was too far off to
hear his conversation with the barista, but his booming laughter echoed pleasantly through the cafe. He reminded Sean of Jay. Loud, friendly, and animated. Whatever he was discussing with the barista involved a lot of wild hand movements that made her giggle. By the time Caleb stumbled back to their table, Sean had a decent image of the other man, and from what he could tell, they were complete opposites.
Caleb plopped down in the seat across from Sean, and then, nothing. They stared silently across the table at each other, hands tightly gripping their drinks like a lifeline.
Cue the crickets.
Sean gnawed on his lower lip.
“So…” Caleb drummed his fingers against the tabletop. “You know Jason and Ed?”
“Uh, yeah,” Sean answered lamely. “I went to high school with Edi, and Jay, he’s sorta wherever Edi is. Born a couple, I swear.”
Caleb cackled, already slumping down in his seat and casually spreading his legs. “Oh, man. I could see that. They are something else. But seriously, how did Ed end up with such a dumbass? Guy’s a total genius.”
Sean relaxed in his seat, just a little. His hands unclenched around his mug. “He’s a certified genius. Mensa level,” he snickered. “I dunno. I mean, Jay’s a super nice guy. I guess Edi likes to let go. He doesn’t have to always be on with Jay, ya know?”
“That’s fair.” Caleb nodded his agreement. “So…uh… you’re an art student, right?”
“Mhmm,” Sean hummed. “Well, arts in the general sense. Japanese Literature. I took a course during my first year, and I dunno, I really liked it. My mom’s Japanese. She used to read to me when I was young. Guess I wanted to know more.”
“That’s cool. You speak Japanese?” Caleb perked up a little.
“I’m super into anime and stuff.”
“Hai. Watashi no ryoshin no ie de Nihongo o hanashimasu,” Sean offered as casually he could, but his cheeks warmed when Caleb gaped at him. He didn’t speak Japanese often. And definitely not in public. “It makes translating for my fourth-year thesis easier.”
“That’s so cool!” Caleb nearly knocked over his cup in his enthusiasm. “Man, I don’t know any language. I mean, other than English. I think my family is German? I dunno really. Apparently, our pronunciation of our last name is a bastardization or something. But dude, that’s awesome. You could like, watch anime without subtitles!”
Sean hid a laugh behind his hand. “I do,” he admitted.
“Shit, you’re cute.” Caleb froze. “I mean… uh, you know… umm…”
Sean’s cheeks burned. No doubt, he was bright red. “Domo,” he mumbled and quickly busied himself with taking a sip of his cold tea.
“Awww, don’t get shy on me now, princess,” Caleb crowed. He leaned forward on his elbows and grinned. It only grew when Sean reached out to smack his arm in retaliation.
“You ass,” Sean muttered.
“You like my ass,” Caleb boasted with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows.
Sean almost snorted out his tea. “Wouldn’t know. I’ve never seen it.”
Caleb’s eyes narrowed playfully with his growing grin. “Oh yeah. You wanna?” he said. Abruptly he stood up and turned around to show off his denim-clad booty. “Check it.”
“Oh my god!” Sean tried to tug Caleb down in his seat. They were starting to draw attention from the other patrons of the coffee shop. “Sit down, you idiot.”
When Caleb finally collapsed back into his seat, still laughing his head off, Sean buried his warm face in his hands. It was as
embarrassing as being out with Jay, except his companion was super hot. Not that Jay wasn’t attractive, but he’d been safely brother/friend-zoned years ago.
“Sean?” Caleb said after a little while. Sean still hadn’t uncovered his face. “Did I go too hard? I’ll back off a little.”
“You’re worse than Jay, and I hate you,” Sean grumbled, but without any real heat.
“Awww… I’m sorry, princess,” Caleb said. He reached across the table and gently lay his hand over Sean’s.
They both froze. Sean glanced up. Caleb was equally wide-eyed and unsure. After a moment that lasted forever, Sean slowly let their fingers intertwine, and the tension seemed to drain from Caleb as he relaxed in his seat again, thumb deliberately rubbing the back of Sean’s hand.
“I’m glad we finally got to meet,” Caleb said quieter than he’d spoken thus far. “I feel like we’ve known each other for ages.”
Sean offered a shy smile in return and nodded as he chewed his lower lip. “Yeah. I get that.”
Caleb let out a slow breath. “Good. That’s good,” he said. He didn’t let go of Sean’s hand, but sat back in his chair and glanced around at the other occupants of the shop. No one paid them any mind.