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Sweetness and Coffee

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Erik pretended to complain as Mia dragged him along.  There was a new coffee shop that went up near their apartment a few weeks ago, and Mia had heard (well, read) good things about it.  If she knew he didn’t mind treating her, she’d burn her way through his wallet before the day was out. 

A young woman with dark hair tied in an exceedingly high ponytail was working the register when the two walked in.  There was someone else moving about the drink station behind her with shoulder-length hair and a tall, slender frame.  Their back was turned. 

The line dragged onward slowly, though none of the customers seemed to be in a hurry.  Mia kept her nose in her phone. It occasionally flashed with a new text message or notification.  Erik hoped nobody thought she was taking pictures. 

When they were second in line, the person in front of them asked for the most ridiculous-sounding drink Erik had ever heard of. 

“Eleven, do you remember how to make the-” Erik would never remember what the woman at the register called it. 

He would, however, remember the insanely gorgeous man who turned around and sheepishly shook his head. 

His hair was silky and shiny, and his bangs fell into his face in a way that had to be intentional.  His big doe eyes carried a softness that should not be possible on a real human person. His uniform hugged him just well enough to show he had a bit of muscle hiding beneath. 

The woman at the register huffed. “Okay, trade me.” 

“Eleven,” as she called him, looked nervous, but nodded.  He grabbed a tablet off the counter next to the register and took her place. 

He held it up.  It was a dry-erase board, that read, “ Hello!  What can I get for you? ” 

Erik didn’t hesitate; he didn’t want to make things weird for the guy. “A black coffee, and-” he turned to his sister. < Mia, order? > 

She signed what she wanted.  Erik rolled his eyes. 

“A small frappuccino, and one cake pop,” he said pointedly, making sure she could read his lips. 

Eleven set his board aside. < You sure you don’t want a large frappuccino, and three cake pops? > he signed with a sweet little smile. 

His signing voice was so pretty, he was so pretty, and Erik was lucky Mia jumped into the conversation while he stood there with his jaw on the floor like an idiot. 

Mia ended up getting what she wanted.  Erik ended up getting caught dumping a mountain of sugar into his drink, and his “tough guy” reputation was ruined. 

They went almost weekly after that. 



“Did you just come here to pine again?” Veronica scolded, a little too loud. 

Erik jumped, startled out of his daze.  A few of his papers fell off the table and went flying through the cafe.  He jumped up to chase them.

“No, I-” Erik started, gathering them up. “Th-thanks,” he stammered, as Eleven handed him a paper he missed.  He watched, enthralled, as Eleven offered him a small smile before turning back to cleaning tables. 

Really, ” Veronica said as Erik slid back into his seat. 

“Hey, cut me some slack, will you?” Erik groaned. “I was working late last night, and now we’re here at the asscrack of dawn ‘cause someone decided we needed to finish this assignment early.” 

“It’s noon. ” Despite her tone, Veronica looked sympathetic. 

Erik could handle a lot, but going to school and working while taking care of a teenager would take its toll on anyone. 

“Let’s just get this finished,” Erik grumbled. 

They worked for the next hour.  Erik was fading fast. He needed caffeine, but knew he shouldn’t waste money buying another drink while the rent payment loomed in the distance. 

As his head fell forward for the third time in a few minutes, he felt a tap on his shoulder.  He jolted and whirled around, and found himself less than a foot away from pretty, pretty blue-gray eyes. 

Eleven took a step back, those eyes widening at Erik’s sudden movement.  He quickly signed an apology, setting a cup in front of him before scurrying away.  He had already slipped into the back room before Erik had the presence of mind to react. 

“Uh, Ronnie, did you order this?” 

Veronica was staring at him, properly stunned. “No…?” 

Erik glanced around the cafe.  There were no other customers, but even if there were, it was pretty obvious the drink was meant for him.  Normally Jade or Rab, depending on who was working, would call out names, even if the place was practically empty.  If Eleven went through the effort of bringing it all the way over, it was on purpose. 

Erik took a cautious sip.  It was sweet, in a way that he tried to hide that he liked.  It was surely a coincidence, right? It wasn’t like Eleven was watching him.  Not in the way Erik was. 

Veronica gasped. 


“Look-” Veronica grabbed his cup and turned it around. 

There was a message in small, neat handwriting.  It read “text me” followed by a phone number. 



Erik fidgeted with his phone.  He had only left the cafe a few hours ago.  It was too soon to send a message, right? 

He had no idea.  The one shitty relationship followed by rare hookups didn’t really prepare him for this.  

Did Eleven even like him like that?  Or was it just a platonic thing? He seemed really shy, after all.  Maybe he just wanted a friend. 

The door to the apartment slammed shut.  Erik wondered if Mia would ever stop being amused by the way the door shuddered and nearly fell off its hinges. 

< What’s with the moping? > Mia asked. 

Erik grimaced. < None of your business. > He was moping?  

< What, did cute barista smile at you again? > At Erik’s blush, Mia snickered. < I knew it was about him.  What happened this time? > 

< He… > Erik briefly closed his eyes.  She’s going to give me so much shit over this. < He gave me his number. > 

Mia squalked.  Erik wished she could hear herself; she sounded like a chicken. < What?!

Erik looked away with a scowl.  Mia shook him, bringing his eyes back to her. 

< No, seriously, what?   Are you going on a date?  Spill! > 

He shrugged.  Mia looked like she was going to hit him. < I don’t know, okay?  He wrote it on a coffee cup, set it down in front of me, and ran away without saying anything.  What does that even mean? > 

< Oh my god, you’re an idiot, > Mia signed. < I can’t believe we’re related. > 

As Mia disappeared into her room, Erik picked at his phone case.  The rubber was breaking in places with how much he tended to worry at it. 



[Me 6:37 pm]  hey 

[Eleven 6:42 pm]  Hi. Who is this? 

[Me 6:56 pm]  it’s erik 

[Me 6:57 pm] from the coffee shop 

[Me 6:57 pm] as a customer i mean 


Erik stopped himself from chucking his phone across the room.  He was sounding more and more like an idiot with every message.  And didn’t Sylv say not to double-text or something? 


[Eleven 7:01 pm] Did you need something? 


Erik chewed his lip.  Wasn’t Eleven the one who needed something?  He was the one to give his number, after all.  Did Erik say something dumb? Was Eleven just giving him his number in case he had a… what, coffee emergency? 

No, that was stupid.  Maybe he just mistyped the number.  He knew he should have kept that cup… 


[Me 7:03 pm]  sorry, is this eleven? did i get the wrong number? 

[Eleven 7:05 pm]  No, that’s me. What’s up? 

[Me 7:08 pm]  ah 

[Me 7:08 pm] i’m sorry, i guess you meant that number to go to veronica. i’ll stop bothering u.  want me to send her ur # 


Erik sighed, fighting the strange feeling of his heart sinking.  What was wrong with him?  He’d never been this affected by someone.  He barely even knew the guy. 


[Eleven 7:09 pm] No, I'm sorry 

[Eleven 7:10 pm] Sorry I'm being so awkward 

[Eleven 7:10 pm] I didn't expect you'd actually message me 

[Eleven 7:11 pm] Sorry 

[Me 7:12 pm] what do you keep apologizing for 

[Eleven 7:17 pm] For giving you my number and running away like a weirdo?  

[Me 7:20 pm] 's fine. u lose a bet or smth? 

[Eleven 7:21 pm] No 


Time ticked by with no further explanation.  After a moment of staring at the blank screen, Erik got up and rummaged in the fridge for something to eat. 

The need to find out why Eleven had given him his number continued to itch at Erik as he ate his nasty tv dinner.  He should probably just ask. The worst thing that could happen, if he made things weird, was that he would have to find a new coffee shop so Mia would stop complaining. 


[Me 7:40 pm] so… why did you give me your number, then? 

[Eleven 7:47 pm] Would it be weird if I said "I thought you were interesting and I wanted to get to know you better"? 


Erik gawked at his phone.  With fumbling fingers, he typed out a response. 


[Me 7:48 pm] only if it would be weird for me to respond with "when are you free?” 



Erik drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.  He had arrived at the bowling alley a full twenty minutes early, and wasn’t sure if he should just go in.  

That would mean Eleven would have to pay for his own when he arrived, but maybe that was for the best.  He still wasn’t sure if this was a date, after all. He had been too nervous to bring it up, and Eleven hadn’t, either. 

He winced as the cold wind ripped through him.  He could handle impressively low temperatures, but was dressed completely inappropriately for December.  He went with hot rather than warm, which was probably a mistake. 

As his fast-numbing fingers reached for the door of the building, a car drove up.  Someone stepped out of the passenger side, fairly close to him, and he bristled for just a second. 

Eleven, already flushed from the cold, made his way toward Erik.  He was wearing a beanie and a scarf that looked like it would span the parking lot, should it be unwrapped.  His fluffy coat looked like it was trying to bury him alive, there was so much fabric. 

Erik hadn’t known it was possible to become more attracted to someone seeing them in more clothing, but here he was. 

The woman Eleven worked with - Jade - waved from the driver’s seat.  Eleven waved back as she drove off. 

< Aren’t you cold? > Eleven signed to Erik as he walked up. 

“Freezing,” he admitted. 

Eleven reached past him to open the door, just testing the edge of his personal space, and gestured for him to go in.  Sputtering out a thanks, Erik walked inside. 

“Was that Jade?” Erik asked, rubbing his arms. 

Eleven nodded with a low hum. < She needed the car tonight, so she dropped me off. > 

“You share a car?” 

< For now.  The other one’s in the shop. > 

“Wait, you live together or something?” 

Eleven nodded, eyebrows pinched in confusion.  Damn, so much for a date.  Even I noticed she's hot. 

Erik laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Your girlfriend know you're giving out your number to customers?" 

Eleven blinked at him, before his eyes grew wide. < My sister knows that I've been building up the courage to for weeks. > 

Erik gawked at him, heat rising to his cheeks. 

Eleven blanched. < Sorry, that was weird. > 

"I thought it was cute," Erik mumbled, too low for Eleven to hear.  Hopefully. "It wasn't weird," he said at normal volume. "Come on, we should stop standing in the entry.  We're starting to get looks." 


As they got up to the counter, Eleven gestured for Erik to go first, starting to tap on his phone. 

"Eleven, what's your size?" Erik asked. 

Eleven gave him a confused look, but answered. 

"Aww, you've got little baby feet." 

Eleven pouted at him. 

Erik relayed Eleven's size to the person at the counter, as well as his own, pretending he didn't see Eleven protesting as he paid. 

< I can get it- > 

"Yeah, yeah, sorry, habit.  How about you pay for dinner instead?" Erik worried the inside of his lip.  They hadn't talked about much besides bowling, but it was around dinner time and there was a restaurant inside the alley, if Eleven wasn't comfortable with catching a ride with him. 

Smiling shyly, Eleven nodded. 


“So, Jade’s your sister?” Erik asked conversationally.  He was sprawled across the chairs, taking up three of them, but it wasn’t like anyone else was using them.

Eleven nodded, focused mostly on lining up.  He rolled forward with an impressive grace, then sunk the fifth gutter ball in a row.  He slouched back to his seat. 

Erik raised his hand to pat Eleven on the back before thinking better of it. 

"I never realized it," Erik mused as he stood. "You don't look anything alike, though." 

He picked up a ball before looking over his shoulder.  Eleven was pursing his lips. 

< We're both adopted, > Eleven signed. 

"Oh, damn.  How old were you?" 

< When we were adopted? > 

"Yeah- gimme a sec, this is heavy." Erik rolled it, much worse than he could so he wasn't embarrassing Eleven, but not so bad that he wasn't embarrassing himself. "Okay.  Only if you want, you don't have to talk about it." 

< I was just a baby.  Jade was nine. > 

"You like your parents?" 

Eleven nodded. < Mom.  She’s the best. > 

Erik sat down, fighting a stirring of jealousy.  It wasn't fair to be bitter. 

< You don't have to feel sorry for me. > 

"That's not-" Erik sighed.  He supposed his face gave him away. "I dunno.  I aged out and got custody of Mia 'cause the people she was stuck with were…" He cringed. "Doesn't matter anymore.  She doesn't want me blabbing. Don't you feel sorry for us either, though." 

The look on Eleven's face said he wasn't doing as Erik asked. 

“Hey, no, don’t make that face,” Erik said, poking Eleven’s nose.  He brought his hand back, internally smacking himself. “Damn, this got serious.  Do you want to talk about something-” 

He was interrupted by a series of notes coming from Eleven’s phone. 

“Is that Pokémon?” Erik snickered. 

< You’re the one who recognized it, > Eleven signed. 

“Touché.” Eleven typed on his phone, giving Erik the opportunity to gaze at his face for a moment.  Erik smiled down at his lap when Eleven glanced up. He got cuter every day, how was that fair? 

Eleven eventually stood, looking apologetic as he made his way to take his turn.  He tripped over his feet on the way over. How he managed to be graceful one minute and a total klutz the next, Erik would likely never know. 

“Okay,” Erik said, “can I fix your posture?  You’re driving me crazy.” 

Eleven paused his arm, which was reaching for a ball, and nodded back to him. 

As Erik stepped up to Eleven, he internally gave three-seconds-ago Erik a high five.  He wasn’t really trying to be smooth. It was a good thing he wasn’t - he kind of sucked at doing things like that on purpose. 

“Okay, mirror me.” He couldn’t mimic a cheesy teen movie and wrap his arms around Eleven, unfortunately.  Or perhaps fortunately. Their handedness was opposite, and Erik wasn’t confident enough with his right-handed throw. 

"So you're kinda doing-" he rotated his arm to demonstrate. "Which is crazy innacurate, and’ll fuck up your wrist.  What you want to do is this," he rotated again. "Don't force it, just swing directly back and release on the forward." 

Eleven tried to mirror it, but this time, instead of going too far in, he went too far out. 

“No, okay, here,” Erik said, holding out his hand. 

Eleven blinked at it for a couple of seconds, red dusting his cheeks, before taking it.  Despite the softness of his appearance, his hand was surprisingly rough. 

I meant the ball!  Erik internally screamed.  But he was not going to say that.  He was so not going to say that.  He could work with this. 

"O-okay, so," Erik started, pretending to not notice the trio of middle-aged men on the line over, who seemed to be doing everything short of dog-whistling them.  Pretending to not notice the fact that his face felt like it was on fire. 

"Four steps forward, you were doing that right.  Three… two…" 



< Where do you want to eat? > Eleven asked after the game ended. 

“Oh, uh,” Erik thought it over, “have you been to Ruby’s?  It’s just a few blocks down.” 

Eleven shook his head. 

"It's uh, kind of a hole in the wall, but the food is damn good, and the owner and I have sort of a 'if you accidentally kill a man, I'll be there with a shovel' agreement, so…" 

Eleven shrugged, smiling.  That smile will be the death of me. < If you like it, I'm sure it's great. > 

Erik sputtered. 

< I mean, you like my family's cafe, after all, > he signed slyly. 

"I mean it was more the cute barist-" Erik cut off. "Oh wow, look at the time, we'd better get going if we don't want Ruby bitching at us for keeping her there past closing." 

Eleven followed Erik out the door, his serene smile and pink cheeks causing Erik’s heart to thud. 

As he made his way to the car, Erik shivered.  It was a much longer walk than he remembered, though it was probably colder since the sun had gone down.  

He startled at fabric touching his hand.  Eleven’s mile-long scarf was being shoved at him, Eleven carefully avoiding his gaze.  Erik took it with a mumbled thanks. 

It was still warm, and smelled of coffee and pine and boy, and Erik did his very best to not keep sniffing it.  Which was hard, because it smelled so, so good.  It made Erik want to grab Eleven in a tight hug and inhale him, which he sincerely doubted would be appreciated. 

They made it to the car without Erik embarrassing himself.  Erik half-wondered if he should have opened Eleven's door for him, but that would probably be weird.  Right? 

He grimaced at the floor of the passenger seat.  It was dirty and covered in drink stains. He hadn't had time to clean it. 

“Hey, sorry about the m-” Erik started, as Eleven got in.  His beanie fell, swiped off by the door frame. His shiny hair managed to fall perfectly in place despite being in a hat off and on for the evening. “Mess,” he choked out. 

Eleven shrugged. < Mine’s worse. > He reached out of the car to get the hat off the gravel. 

Don’t look at his ass, don’t look at his- oh damn.  

Erik forced his gaze out the front window, almost sure steam was coming off his face.  A few specific fruit emojis clouded his vision. The steering wheel creaked as he gripped it.  Eleven’s clothes were loose and baggy, but the way he leaned out of the car pulled it against his skin, and left nothing to the imagination. 

“Ready to go?” Erik squeaked when he heard the door shut.  Then he remembered he would have to actually look at Eleven to see his response, so he did. 

Eleven was nodding.  He looked concerned. < You all right? > 

“Just great,” Erik said through gritted teeth. 



There was only one other car in the parking lot when they got there.  Erik recognized it as Ruby’s. Must have been a slow night. 

“Uh, hang on, I’ve got something I need to bring in while we’re here,” Erik said, rustling through the armrest console. “You can go on ahead if you want.  She’ll understand you.” 

Eleven nodded and hopped out of the car.  A moment later, upon getting his hands on what he was looking for, Erik felt a creak behind him, and felt cold air. 

Eleven had opened his door for him.  He held out an arm, palm down. Erik took it, having to make a conscious effort to not squeeze the muscular forearm under his hand. 

“Such- such a gentleman,” Erik stammered, letting Eleven help him up. 

That sweet smile was back.  The cold alone kept Erik from just standing there, staring at him.  He dropped his hand off Eleven’s arm and buried his blush in the scarf.  He had forgotten to take it off. 

Eleven trailed behind him as he made his way up to the restaurant.  That’s probably why Eleven had waited in the first place - too shy to go in alone. 

Erik threw the door open with all the dramatics that drove Ruby up the wall.  There was a dent in the drywall that she had given up on fixing. “Ruby, more of your mail got sent to our box!” 

He heard a scoff come from the other room, and could just see her bright red hair through the window between the kitchen and the seating area. "You come to mooch off me again?" 

Erik crossed his arms, embarrassed. "No, we're paying, what do you take me for?" 

"You two, paying, I'd never see the day." She walked out the curtained door frame, drying her hands on a fading pink towel. "Oh, you're not Mia.  Who're you, then?" 

Eleven looked to Erik, who gave him an encouraging nod. < E-L-E-V-E-N, nice to meet you. > 

Ruby cooed. < Nice to meet you too. > She turned her back and headed back toward the kitchen. “You bagged a cute one, little tea leaf.  You ain’t gonna ruin ‘im, are ya?” 

"He can hear you!" Erik squalked, face going hot. 

Eleven buried his face in his hands.  He was red as a tomato. 

"Oh, 'm sorry!  I jus' assumed, with the signin'-" 

"It would have been inappropriate even if-  Gah, can we just eat?" Erik groaned. 



“So’re you on a date?” Ruby asked conversationally as she arranged the appetizers on their table. 

Erik looked to Eleven for an answer.  He was already staring back, wearing just as uncertain an expression as Erik felt. 

"Oh, I can't keep me big feet out'f me big mouth for five stinkin' minutes, can I?" Ruby fussed, pushing her glasses up. "I'll be going, you 'oller if y' need me." 

Erik’s head hit the table with a loud thunk before she was fully gone from the room.  He heard a bowl scrape the table as Eleven pulled the bread basket away from his hair. 

A tap on his shoulder caused him to look up. < Did you want to tell her?  I wasn’t sure. > 

“Tell… Ruby?  Tell her what?” 

Eleven stared at him, mouth slightly open. < That we’re on a date? > He pursed his lips and lowered his eyes. < Is it not? > 

Erik could hear his own pulse, and half-wondered if Eleven could hear it, too. “I… we didn’t really talk about it ahead of time.  I didn’t want to assume.” Erik folded his arms in front of him. “But if you want it to be, it totally is.” 

Eleven's pretty doe eyes returned his gaze. 

"I mean if you don't want to, it doesn't have to," Erik said, picking at the tablecloth nervously. "Up to you." 

Eleven glanced down at the table, then looked back up at Erik through his lashes. < I want it to be. > 

Erik didn't bother fighting the grin that spread across his face. "Okay," he said, trying to sound casual and failing miserably. "Cool." 

Eleven grinned back, and wow, Erik had spent weeks falling for the little angel smile he gave freely, but this was something else. 

Ruby came back to find them holding hands across the table. 

Erik idly tapped his fingers to the beat of the song on the radio.  Jade still hand’t responded to Eleven’s text, so they were just waiting in the car. 

Eleven was being even quieter than usual - well, less chatty.  Erik couldn’t blame him. Date or not, Eleven was stuck in the car of a near-stranger with the only way out not responding. 

Or maybe he was getting tired. 

< I’m sorry, > Eleven signed, so sudden Erik almost missed it. 

“For what?” 

< For making you wait so long. > 

Erik shrugged. “I mean, I,” he cleared his throat awkwardly, “I… like hanging out with you.  So don’t worry about it.” 

The dim light of the street lamps didn’t do a whole lot to hide Eleven’s blush. < Thank you. > 

Eleven took Erik’s hand and squeezed it with a smile.  Erik had been staring at those lips a lot, admittedly. Here, in a dark, empty parking lot, was probably a bad time to wonder how they tasted.  Eleven was stuck with him. He couldn’t bring it up without worrying he’d feel forced or something. 

The cold was steadily seeping in, and Erik felt a shiver run up his spine.  He didn’t want to leave the car running - gas was expensive, and he vaguely remembered someone teaching him how to drive before he was legally allowed behind the wheel, mentioning “parking” and “carbon monoxide.”  Even still, he might wimp out and run the engine if Jade took much longer. 

The warm hand slipped from Erik’s.  He tried to not mourn its loss too much. 

< Are you getting cold? > 

“I’ll live,” Erik said.  Still better than that shed. “Don’t wanna waste gas.” 

Eleven looked worried. 

“Uh, unless you’re cold?” 

Eleven shook his head.  Erik exhaled, rubbing his arms.  Was that his breath he saw? 

Eleven reached toward him.  The warm touch to his arms might have taken Erik by surprise if he wasn’t already paying attention to his hands. 

No.  It still took him by surprise. 

Eleven’s callused hands slowly trailed up Erik’s arms, light blue eyes paying rapt attention to any hint of discomfort in Erik’s warming face.  Erik let himself be guided into Eleven’s chest. 

He was like a furnace.  And the way the scarf smelled in no way prepared him for the real thing, leaving Erik a little bit lightheaded.  Hands rubbed heat back into Erik’s arms before coming back up around his shoulders. 

Erik hummed softly, tucking his face under Eleven’s chin.  He wedged his arms between Eleven’s back and the seat, greedily drinking in the warmth. 

The center compartment was digging into Erik’s side, but the bruise that would probably appear was a problem for Future Erik.  Present Erik was in the arms of a hot guy. 

He hadn’t been held like this in a long time.  Too long. The only amorous affection he’d been getting in recent years was more… purposeful, and sitting here like this, Erik began to wonder why he’d been out of dating for so long in the first place. 

Then he tensed up, wishing he hadn’t thought of that. 

Hands worriedly fluttered along his back. 

“I’m fine.  Jus’ diggin’ into my side,” he deflected.  He might be hilariously out of practice, but he knew ex troubles weren’t something to bring up on the first date. 

He felt fingers trace down to his hip where the center console was cutting into him. 

Erik gasped as he was suddenly lifted from his spot like he weighed nothing and dropped into Eleven’s lap.  He sprawled awkwardly, back leaning against the passenger door, stunned.  Fuck, he’s ripped.  

Eleven shrugged with a dark blush.  Erik bit his lip. “Did I say that out loud?” 

Eleven nodded shyly. < Sorry, was that too much? > 

“Nah,” Erik said, adjusting further down Eleven’s legs so he had more room to move his hands. “When’d you get so strong, coffee boy?” 

< I’m training as a blacksmith.  It takes some strength to- what? > 

Erik picked his jaw up. “You’re full of surprises, aren’t you?” 



Erik startled awake to a knock on the window.  His back was killing him, but he felt pleasantly warm, like holding a hot drink close out in the cold. 

He peeled his face out of Eleven’s neck and sat up lazily, cracking his back.  Not realizing how much of his weight was on the door, he went tumbling out when he unlatched it. 

Jade stared down at him with raised brows as he sat, groaning, on the gravel.  She offered him a hand up. 

“Thanks,” he mumbled. 

“Do I want to know?” 

Erik ran a hand through his hair.  It was even more mussed up than usual.  He only barely choked back an innuendo. Jade, he had learned, was protective enough of Eleven to shout a customer out of the cafe, and looked strong enough to put him to an early grave. 

“Fell asleep waiting on you.  What took you?” 

Jade frowned and looked at the time on her phone. “He told me to wait a bit longer.  I’m a little early, actually.” 

Erik blinked at her, gears turning in his head.  Then his face split with a wicked grin. “I see.” 

He glanced back through the open door to see that Eleven was still asleep. 

“Hey,” he murmured, touching his shoulder. “Time to get up.” 

Jade snorted. “Yeah, that’s not going to work.” She stepped around him and shook Eleven’s shoulder. “He sleeps like the dead,” she explained casually, as if she wasn’t batting Eleven around like a cat toy. 

Eleven’s eyebrows furrowed before he blinked.  Jade yanked him to his feet as he tried to doze off again.  He tilted sideways, Jade leaving him to his own devices, and Erik caught him.  He gave an irritated little huff at not being allowed to eat dirt. 

“I’m gonna need you to stand,” Erik grunted. “This is kinda like trying to hold a cooked spaghetti noodle straight.  Or me.” 

Eleven let out a single, quiet laugh as he got his feet under him. 

“That’s better,” Erik said. “Sorry to drag you out, but you need to get home.” 

Eleven grunted and pulled himself upright, out of Erik’s grasp.  The cold night air tore through Erik like paper in his absence. 

< Sorry, > Eleven signed. 

“I’ll be in the car,” Jade said. 

Erik chewed his lip as he watched her go.  He felt like an idiot for falling asleep. He didn’t want the date to end, and he wasn’t sure if Eleven would want another. 

“Can I see you again?” Erik asked lowly when Jade was out of earshot. 

Eleven smiled. < You’re kind of a regular customer.  I expect, if not sooner, I’ll see you sometime next week. > 

Erik rubbed the back of his neck, swallowing thickly. “Not what I meant.” 

Eleven’s teasing expression melted into something softer. < Of course you can. > 

He held out his arms, and Erik happily stepped into them. 

Eleven took a half step back and leaned their foreheads together.  He was close. He was so close.  Erik could see his mouth, and not much else.  Their breath mingled, a glaring reminder of how close Eleven’s lips were. 

Kiss me, Erik thought, out of nowhere, a little desperately.  He audibly swallowed. 

Their foreheads pulled apart, but very little distance was made between them.  Erik had one hand around Eleven’s shoulders, the other playing with his collar.  Eleven’s lips parted; his eyes moved down to Erik’s mouth and stayed there. Up until the point they traveled up to Erik’s eyes, and gave him a pleading look before closing them. 

Erik may have been terribly uncertain as to where he stood with Eleven through most of the date, but that face was clear.  He knew that look, had been giving that look, and didn’t hesitate to answer it. 

Eleven was a bit taller - enough that Erik had to tilt his head up to meet him, but not so much that he had to stand on his toes. 

Eleven’s lips were chapped, but he more than made up for it in the softness of how he kissed him.  His hands came up to cup Erik’s cheeks, trailing his thumbs across his cheekbones as he kissed him again. 

Erik went weak at the knees.  The hands he had tangled in Eleven’s scarf were probably the only reason he was still upright. 

All too soon, they separated. 

“Good night,” Erik repeated in a whisper. 

His hold on Eleven’s shoulders widened to give him room for a response.  A tap of the palm on the chin, followed by hooding the other hand with it. 

Erik reluctantly let go.  He couldn’t stop himself from watching Eleven’s back as he left. 

Eleven apparently couldn’t keep his eyes away either, sending one last sweet smile his way before disappearing into the car.