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It’s two in the morning, Gabe just finished getting reamed out by his boss for missing one too many phone calls while he was taking a snack break, and he’s really ready to be done with his shift for the night.

He’s been working as a phone operator at QVC for almost two years now. It was supposed to be a temporary gig while he finished up business school but unfortunately for Gabe, being a financial consultant for the hippies and old couples of Denver isn’t going to turn him into a millionaire any time soon. So now he works the graveyard shift a few times a week for some extra cash. The pay is pretty good though plus he gets his own cubicle that’s pretty spacious for, you know, being a cubicle and his coworkers don’t suck—his asshole boss aside.

The majority of the people calling in to order things during his shifts are older ladies watching QVC on repeat before bedtime. They’re very nice and most of them wind up trying to set him up with their granddaughters by the end of the call. Gabe always politely declines and tries to steer the conversation back to the sale, not disclosing the fact that he’d much rather date their grandsons. 

It’s a pretty chill gig.

But there are those nights where he’ll have an irate customer or two. People who call to complain about not getting what they paid for, as if they’re buying some sort of designer luxury product instead of overpriced useless junk. Not that Gabe would ever tell them that because he figures they should already know better. If they want to waste their money, so be it.

(Plus he gets bonuses if he sells certain products, so he will gladly talk up whatever garbage they’re putting on people’s TVs if and when he needs to.)

Tonight he’s manning the phones with two of his best girls, Dolores and Karly. They’ve both been here since Gabe started and don’t put up with customers’ shit, which he respects. Unfortunately, it’s as if people knew he had a shitty day at his regular job and decided to make tonight at his second job shitty as well. He’s already had to deal with three customers yelling down the phone at him about honestly god knows what at this point, and he’s thoroughly annoyed. 

Sadly, he still has quite a few hours left in his shift. There’s a lull right now because apparently not too many people are interested in buying ‘Illuminated Iridescent Crackle Spheres’ which is honestly a little shocking to Gabe because that’s the kind of useless shit that grandmas love to fill their houses with.

He’s spinning around in his desk chair, humming the new Dua Lipa song to himself, when his line rings and he steels himself for the worst. He tries and fails to plaster a fake smile on before he answers the call. 

“Good evening and thank you for calling QVC. My name is Gabe and I will be assisting you tonight. What is the name and product number of the item you are you looking to buy this evening?” 

There’s a slight pause and then he hears a snort from the other end of the line, “Wow, that was almost convincing. I mean, I know it’s almost three in the morning but show some enthusiasm. Gabe,” the caller says.

Gabe really isn’t in the mood but he makes sure to turn his ‘fake happy phone voice’ up a notch this time. 

“Oh, trust me sir, I am very excited about your call and I am here to help you with whatever purchase you are interested in. Do you have the name and product number of the item you are looking to buy this evening?”

There’s another pause and for a second he thinks the guy hung up.

Apparently Gabe’s not that lucky because just as he’s about to end the call, the guy continues, “So if I keep giving you shit, are you just going to keep repeating the same kind of stuff over and over until I just give you all of my hard-earned money? I mean—I might as well be talking to a machine. Aren’t you supposed to be selling me on something? That whole up-sale strategy. And do you guys work off of commission? I’ve always wondered about that because I know people are usually calling about certain—,” Gabe cuts this guy off before he can continue on with his rambling.

“Okay, look man. It’s been a long night and I’ve already had to deal with multiple asshole customers today so, if you don’t mind? Either order something or get off the line,” Gabe says and immediately winces because he’s going to be so fired if this customer complains to his boss. 

He braces himself to get yelled at for a fourth time tonight but then he hears honest-to-god cackling coming from the phone instead. He’s relieved that this guy seems to have a sense of humor. 

“See? That’s what I’m talking about, Gabe! A computer could never tell me off like that. I can appreciate someone who’s not afraid to call their customers assholes when they’re being assholes. You’re already up to a 4 star rating in my book just for that,” the man tells him.

Gabe idly wonders what he would need to do to earn that last star but focuses back on the purpose of this call—selling stupid shit to the gullible masses of America.

“Well, I’m happy to be of service. But for real—did you actually want to buy anything tonight or were you just bored and looking for a captive audience to bother?” he asks him and then promptly smacks himself on the forehead because really, he shouldn’t be antagonizing this dude and pressing his luck. He doesn’t know what’s gotten into him tonight.

Luckily, the guy just responds with some more laughter before answering him.

“No, no, I am interested in buying something. I’m sorry for giving you shit but like you said, it’s late and I’m up watching QVC so I obviously don’t have anything better to do than fuck with you. But if you’re ready—I am very much interested in buying some of these shiny crystal rainbow ball… things that are on my TV right now.”

Gabe snorts, “You mean the ‘Illuminated Iridescent Crackle Spheres’,” he says in his most posh voice. 

The guy on the phone laughs yet again which kind of surprises Gabe because honestly, people don’t usually find him that funny. If he stays on the line much longer he’s gonna get a big head. Also, he thinks the guy’s laugh is kind of nice but he tells himself that’s neither here nor there.

“I didn’t understand any of the words that you just said but yes. Those,” he says. Gabe starts inputting some things into his computer before asking for the guy’s account information.

“Uh, yeah, the account should be under Tyson Benn,” the guy—Tyson, says before coughing a bit. He must have a cold or something.

Gabe’s not sure if he’s ever met a Tyson before. It somehow fits the breathy sound of his voice which is a totally weird thing to notice, but it’s not Gabe’s fault that they’ve been on the phone for almost ten minutes now because Tyson wanted to give him shit, okay? He pleads the fifth. 

“Alright, Tyson. Let me just pull up all of your info and… there we are. So, how many sets of these were you looking to buy?”

Tyson hums through the phone, taking his time deciding—as if this is some life altering decision—but Gabe finds that he doesn’t mind waiting as much as he normally would.

“What the heck, let’s go with three.”

Gabe’s about to put that into the computer but he finds himself pausing for some reason.

“…you know they’re like forty bucks each, right?” he asks and he’s not quite sure why.

Really, Gabe should be trying to convince him to double that order but he’s also genuinely curious as to why someone would want to waste $120 on some shitty, shiny lights that literally serve no purpose.

“Yeah… so?” Tyson tells him, clearly not understanding Gabe’s point.

And now he suddenly wants to ask Tyson what he does for a living because Gabe wouldn’t be caught dead shelling out that kind of cash on junk like this. He refrains because that’s really none of his business but he still can’t help but press the issue.

“Hold on a sec,” Gabe tells him and then he stretches backwards in his chair and pokes his head out of his cubicle, double checking that his boss isn’t lurking somewhere near.

They’re supposed to get the customer on and off the line as quickly as possible and he really doesn’t feel like getting chewed out tonight. He just can’t let this go for some reason.

Once he sees that the coast is clear, he continues with his line of questioning. 

“Okay, can I ask you something?” and maybe Gabe’s imagining it but he swears Tyson almost sounds fond when he huffs and says, “Sure, Gabe. I’m an open book. Shoot.”

“Why are you even buying these? You barely knew what they were when you called.”

Tyson snorts.

“You raise a valid point. I guess, they’re just… pretty? I don’t know. I feel like maybe my mom would like them. And you don’t know this about me yet,” Gabe feels like that ‘yet’ is both foreboding and a little exciting and man, does he need to get a life, “but this is what I do, Gabe. I’m like a bird! I need to fill my nest with shiny things! It makes me feel whole, okay?” 

Gabe isn’t sure if Tyson’s joking or not but with the impression that he’s gotten so far? He doubts that he is.

“Plus, I really don’t have anything better to spend my money on. And before you start,” Gabe was most definitely about to start, “yes, I give money to charities and stuff, okay. But I also enjoy buying things in the moment that are pretty and kinda stupid and then if I don’t like them I just pawn them off on to people I know. And let me tell you, most of them make great gifts for my friends’ girlfriends and wives.”

That makes Gabe pause and he’s just about to ask Tyson why he doesn’t just give them to his girlfriend when he remembers that he doesn’t even know this guy and yeah, he really needs to end this call.

He drags his hand across his face and then gets back to the task at hand, “Well, I guess I can’t argue with that, then. Let’s go ahead and get these shiny, pretty, stupid things ordered for you,” he tells Tyson and is pretty proud of the giggle it causes.

Gabe takes a couple of minutes to finish up the order—and no, he’s totally not enjoying listening to Tyson babble about random things down the line at him while he does so—and then there’s a moment of awkward silence once he’s done.

This is Gabe’s job and he ends dozens of these calls every night and yet this one feels monumentally different and he’s suddenly at a loss for what to say or do.

After a few more moments of silence, Tyson is the first one to break it and says, “Okay well, I guess I’ll… hear you around?” and then snorts, totally pleased with himself.

“Get it? Because I obviously won’t be seeing you because you’re on the phone and—,” he doesn’t get to finish because Gabe cuts him off with an abrupt, “Alright, well goodnight, Tyson!” because if there’s one thing Gabe’s weak for, it’s lame dad jokes and his heart is already doing some stupid fluttery thing in his chest and he really needs to get a hold of himself.

Luckily for him, he can’t dwell on it because the product changes a few seconds later and up next are some truly hideous faux-snakeskin platform sandals, which just so happen to be a Middle America favorite. His phone lines start lighting up like crazy.

He doesn’t really have time to think about Tyson much after that.

About a week later, Gabe’s an hour into his shift when he answers a call, during a TV segment about a 4-piece knife set, with his usual spiel. 

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t my favorite phone operator. Good evening, Gabriel. How are we doing tonight?”

Gabe has worked multiple shifts since his last call with Tyson, both at his full-time job and at QVC. He’s interacted and talked to literally hundreds of people since then—but his breath still catches in his throat a bit when he hears Tyson’s voice on the line.

“Tyson. Hello, there. Calling again so soon? I take it you’ve stumbled upon some more fruitless items that you would like to purchase tonight?” and there goes Gabe’s filter already. This must be a new record.

“Ooh, fruitless. Good word, Mr. Dictionary. Actually, what I’m calling about tonight is very important for both my health and nutrition, thank you very much.”

“What, are we offering miracle vitamins or some vegan hippie shit, again?”

Tyson huffs down the line. “God, Gabe. No, but what you are selling is a set of knives that I very much need in order to achieve all of my culinary dreams.”

Gabe resists the urge to roll his eyes and pulls up Tyson’s information in the computer (not that he had his name memorized or anything) and happens to catch a glance at Tyson’s purchase history.

“Wait, Tyson, it shows here that you just bought a set of knives last week. A person only needs so many knives.”

“Yes but those were boring, non-celebrity knives and these are Valerie Bertinelli’s knives. These have an ‘ease of comfort’ grip according to Val, okay. She would spit on those other knives. Don’t be disrespectful, Gabe. Plus, I’m already planning on re-gifting the lame ones to my mom for Christmas so now I’m in need of another set hence this phone call.”

“You know those aren’t her actual knives, right? She just slaps her name on some random product and then people like you buy them because you think they’re better when,” Gabe lowers his voice, “spoiler alert: they’re probably worse.” 

He could let Tyson waste his money but it’s only fair to let him know that he’s not getting his money’s worth, right? Not that he would do that with other customers. But that’s not the point. And it’s not like he really works on commissions either, so.

“Shut up, Gabe. Don’t act like you’re some fancy chef who knows the differences between knives.”

“Well, as a matter of fact I am a pretty good cook and have used a lot of knives in my day, thank you very much.”

Tyson laughs at that so loudly that Gabe has to physically take off his headset and hold the receiver away from his ears.

“‘In my day’, oh man. I know we’ve never met and I don’t really know anything about you but I didn’t realize you were 85 years old.”

Gabe rolls his eyes and holds back a laugh that’s bubbled up into his throat. Tyson’s the kind of person who doles out insults that somehow sound endearing and no, Gabe doesn’t find that attractive at all.

“Ha ha, very funny. I’m just saying—the knives you bought last week look nicer than these ones. And I don’t know why you’re calling them boring when they’re practically rainbow-colored.”

“Okay, see! That’s how they got me. You know my thing about pretty stuff. I was lured in by a false sense of vanity, not knowing that there were better, more famous knives just waiting for me around the corner! Also, shouldn’t you be trying to get me to buy both sets of knives? We’ve talked about this. Not to be mean or anything but if this is how you are with all of your customers then wow, you kind of suck at your job.”

Gabe doesn’t tell him that no, he’s literally only like this with him because for whatever reason Tyson makes his guard go up in flames and then Gabe just says whatever rude shit pops into his brain. He can’t help it.

But it’s not a thing. 

Instead of telling him all that, Gabe just calls him a dick, much to Tyson’s delight.

“Me being a dick aside, how do you even know what I bought last week? Are you stalking me?”

Gabe wishes Tyson could see the unimpressed look on his face right now.

“Yes, Tyson. I’m stalking you,” he says flatly.  “No, you dumbass. I have your account information. I can see your previous purchases.”

“Oh, so does that means you can see my address and everything, too? You’re so gonna start stalking me now though, right?”

“Okay, I’m hanging up.”

“No, Gabe! I need the ‘Days of Our Lives’ Knives—wait, oh my god, why didn’t she name them that?”

“Because she was on ‘One Day at a Time’, not ‘Days of Our Lives’,” and god, Gabe is Swedish, he shouldn’t even know that. But he fully blames his mother and the fact that Sweden gets American TV shows about twenty years too late, “but that’s not even the point, Tyson. The point is that you need to forget about these knives.”

“But I really do need them! Oh and look, she has her own wine too,” Tyson says, obviously distracted, “Ooh, and something called a ‘Love Cake’. Now that I gotta have, Gabe! You can’t have anything against cheesecake,” Tyson continues.

“I don’t want to support your addiction any longer,” Gabe tells him before unceremoniously hanging up on him, once again.

Tyson calls back a couple of minutes later and Gabe doesn’t end up getting him on the line—but he can hear his indignant squawking coming from Karly’s cubicle next to him that Gabe now knows is very much Tyson and he smiles to himself. 

Okay, so maybe it’s a thing.

The next time Gabe talks to Tyson is just a few days later when he’s covering for someone and working the early shift for once.

When he first answers the call all he can hear is some muffled cursing and what sounds like honking.

“Hello? Uh, thank you for calling QVC. My name is Gabe and—,” he barely gets out before being cut off.

“Oh thank god, it’s you. I’m so not in the mood to deal with people’s fake customer service cheeriness shit right now. So I was—what the fuck, learn how to drive, asshole!”

It’s Tyson, of course. Gabe has a lot of questions.

“Wait, are you calling from your car right now?” Gabe asks him.

“Um, yeah. I was listening to QVC on my phone while I was driving into work and they mentioned some sick wine sealers that I need in my life like yesterday.”

Gabe hasn’t even known Tyson for more than a couple of weeks but he’s already the most ridiculous person Gabe has ever encountered.

“Okay, you know what, we’ll come back to the stupid useless product you want to buy later but let me get this straight. You were watching QVC. In you car. While you were driving?” 

Gabe honestly doesn’t know how Tyson is a functioning adult human.

“Why are you saying that like it’s a weird thing? And no, I said listening. Watching would be unsafe, Gabe, god. I’m a very responsible driver unlike some of these morons on the road!” Tyson yells and then Gabe hears some more honking in the background. 

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know people regularly listened to QVC like it was a podcast and then ordered things off of it… while driving.”

“I’ll have you know that I do some of my best shopping in the car,” Tyson says, sounding insulted like Gabe’s the one being completely insane right now.

“Of course you do, Tyson.”

“Look, you know that I love our back and forth banter but I’m almost at work and really need to order these pronto so we’re gonna have to put the cute insults on hold for today. Let’s speed this up, if you don’t mind.”

Gabe totally doesn’t get stuck on the fact that Tyson referred to his insults as ‘cute’.

“Whatever you say. But can I just add that these are truly hideous?”

“Um, rude? You obviously have terrible taste. I already got a second opinion and Nate thinks they’re sick. Right, Nate?”

Gabe is confused for a second until he hears a second voice, faint, agreeing with Tyson, “Yeah, they’re pretty dope,” the person, Nate, says.

Tyson ends up buying three sets of the gaudy wine sealers. One for his mom, one for him, and one of them for his… Nate person to keep at his house.

Gabe tries to act like he’s not a little let down by that.

It’s almost 6 AM, the phones have been crazy all night, and Gabe is dragging. It’s almost December which means that every shift from here on out is going to be pure hell. 

Why can’t people just buy Christmas presents on Amazon like the rest of the world?

There’s finally been a lull in calls so he’s drinking his third cup of coffee and having very vivid daydreams involving his bed and a hot shower when his phone line rings and he groans loudly.

He takes a deep breath and answers the call with as much fake enthusiasm he can muster which isn’t a lot at this point.

“Well good morning, sunshine! Someone sounds nice and chipper today,” and Gabe can practically hear Tyson’s shit-eating grin through the phone. 

It’s been ten days since Tyson called last. Not that Gabe was keeping track or anything.

“How are you doing this fine morning?” Tyson asks.

“God morgon, Tyson,” Gabe slurs a bit, “I’m a little tired but doing just fine. How about yourself?”

“Ooh, what language was that? Wait, let me guess. Swedish? God, of course you’re Swedish—I should have known.”

Gabe laughs. “Why would you have known that?”

“I happen to know quite a few Swedes who are also grade A smart-asses like yourself. And the slight accent here and there? It just makes sense, is all.”

Gabe just smiles at that. “I see. Well, for a little while there I was thinking that you entered some kind of shopper’s anonymous program and got clean. But here you are, back again, so—”

“Aw, did you miss me? I totally know I’m your favorite customer. Come on, Gabe—just admit it,” Tyson says, with a smugness in his voice like he already knows that’s true. He’s such a little shit.

“I think you’re mixing up ‘favorite’ and ‘biggest pain in the ass’ but I can see how you might have gotten confused.”

“Whatever,” Tyson scoffs. “I know you missed me. I actually just got back from a long road trip for work and my roommate isn’t as jazzed on QVC as me so I wasn’t really able to watch much. But lucky for you, I’m back home and I’m ready to make up for lost time.”

“I don’t know if I should be happy or scared for you, honestly.”

“I feel the same way, bud. What I’m actually calling about this time is a sweet boombox that they’re showing right now. My old one just bit the dust so it’s like this was fate.”

Gabe pulls up the items that are currently being aired and laughs when he sees the boombox in question. It looks like something straight out of a 90’s teen movie.

“Tyson, this looks like the boombox I got when I turned twelve. Also, you realize that most people don’t actually own CD’s anymore, right? Hell, there’s a whole generation of kids who don’t even know what they are,” Gabe tells him.

Tyson sounds genuinely offended when he responds, “I’ll have you know, that I have a very extensive CD collection. It’s what all true 90’s fem-rock ballads should be listened to on. Screw vinyl. And hey, maybe I want my own Lloyd Dobbler moment, Gabe! Except Peter Gabriel is pretty dated so we’d have to update that to… maybe Alanis?  Ooh, or a little Celine Dion.”

“Oh, Peter Gabriel is dated? Alanis and Celine Dion? Is it 1995?”

Tyson groans loudly, and Gabe’s not gonna lie—he really has missed this.

“Oh my god, I forgot that on top of being an expert phone operator and talented chef, you’re also a judge-y musician type. What’s next? Are you going to tell me that you play hockey, too?”

Gabe’s not sure where that random segue came from but, “I mean, I did kinda grow up playing in Sweden and now I play in some beer leagues around Denver. So yeah, I’m not half bad if I do say—” Tyson interrupts him by letting out a pained screech in the background.

After he’s finished cursing Gabe’s existence, Tyson gets back on the phone just to tell him, “I hate you,” and this time, Tyson hangs up on him.

He doesn’t end up calling back and Gabe is maybe a little too sad about that.

After a couple of months of Tyson consistently calling in, the other phone operators immediately pawn him off on Gabe. He’s not sure if they think that he and Tyson are actually friends or if Tyson just annoys them enough that they’d rather not deal with him.

Either way, Gabe doesn’t complain.

The next time Tyson calls, Dolores leans over from her cubicle and tells Gabe, “Your boy is acting like a fool—reign him in,” before transferring Tyson over to Gabe’s line.

He answers the phone and Tyson immediately starts defending his own honor.

“Hey, offense! That’s rude! I’m not ‘acting like a fool’, okay. I may be a tad in… hebrated? Ineebr—okay, I’m a little bit drunk. That’s what I’m trying to say here.”

Gabe doesn’t know what he did to deserve this but he thanks the universe at large because this is going to be good.

“Ah, I see,” Gabe says, not able to keep the glee out of his voice. “Drunk and QVC’ing. I feel like that could be especially dangerous for you, Tys.”

Tyson snorts. “God, you have no idea. I once bought $500 worth of wood carving tools because they were small and cute and the guy selling them looked so convincing. I drunkenly thought that maybe wood carving was for me. But guess what? It’s definitely not.”

Gabe laughs quietly to himself, imagining a drunk Tyson so pumped about becoming an expert wood carver before waking up the next morning very confused about his bank account balance and Google searches.

“And you didn’t learn your lesson from that?” Gabe asks him.

“Hey, don’t judge what I do when I’m in a state of depression, Gabe.”

“Oh, ‘a state of depression’? And here I thought you were just drunk. This is something totally different though. I apologize.”

“Thank you,” Tyson says earnestly, not picking up on Gabe’s sarcasm. 

“Yes—clearly I am drunk. But I’m also depressed, okay? You can be more than one thing at the same time, Gabe,” Tyson says before scoffing down the line at him.

“Like I said, my sincerest apologies, Tyson. I know you’re a man of many talents and many layers—“

“Layers. Like ‘Shrek’, yes. Thank you,” Tyson tells him.

“I’ve never seen it,” Gabe admits and Tyson just makes a sound that Gabe can only imagine sounds like a dying cat. A dying cat who’s also being very judgmental.

“Okay, forget ‘Shrek’—what exactly are you depressed about? Is it something that QVC can help you with?”

“I don’t know, Gabe. Can QVC help me find a guy who actually wants to date me because they find me attractive or interesting and not just rich. I mean, I am rich. Well, I’m rich enough but I’m more than that, okay? I just don’t understand why I only attract these guys who are only interested in my profession or money. I just don’t get it.”

Tyson drunkenly babbles on some more but Gabe doesn’t really hear him because he can’t help but focus on the fact that Tyson was out on a date tonight. With a guy.

And like. Okay, Gabe kind of thought that Tyson and Nate were dating or at least hooking up so it’s not like this is a big shock to him. He just never really thought he had a shot. 

Not that he does have a shot but Tyson just confirmed that he is single and very much into guys and Gabe doesn’t know what to do with that information. Besides asking him out, which is obviously not appropriate at this moment in time or maybe ever, really.

He settles for comforting Tyson about his bad date because Gabe has been there before. Plenty.

“Ah. Bad date gone awry. I feel you, pal,” Gabe says, trying to keep his voice even.

“No, a bad date was the time that I got cat-fished in real life,” Tyson says and Gabe suddenly has so many questions but before he can ask any of them, Tyson keeps going.

“This is more than a bad date, Gabe. This is a… a bad dating history. A bad dating life. I know I’m not the most bang-able looking dude out there but come on. I have a great personality, okay!”

Gabe holds back the laughter that’s bubbling up in his throat. It’s not mean laughter but he can’t help but find drunk, mopey Tyson completely hilarious and adorable.

“I can attest to your great personality,” Gabe tells Tyson, surprising himself with how much he actually believes that.

“Thank you! And maybe I’m not a ’10’ but I’m at least a ‘7’ on a good day and I deserve someone who wants me for me, okay,” Tyson practically screams and then Gabe hears crashing in the background and flinches, feeling a little sorry for the mess that sober Tyson is going to have to clean up in the morning.

Tyson continues on, “Anyway—I know you say that you can relate but come on, Gabe. You probably have like, a six pack and are all… muscle-ly, huh?”

He sighs loudly through the phone and Gabe knows Tyson’s drunk but now he’s not making any sense.

“Wait, why would you even think that?” Gabe asks, confused.

“It’s the name. Gabe. Gabriel. That’s definitely a hot guy’s name,” Tyson tells him, completely sincere.

Gabe stifles another laugh before responding. “I mean, I’ve definitely met plenty of unattractive ‘Gabes’ over the years,” he tells him, even though he’s almost certain that’s a lie.

Gabe’s not even sure if he’s ever met another Gabe, ever, but the urge to comfort Tyson is suddenly more important to him right now—and once again, he tries not to read too much into that fact.

“Ugh, I don’t believe that for a second. Plus you’re Swedish. It’s like, in your DNA or whatever, to be attractive. But I appreciate the lying. Just keep pretending like you relate for my own pride, okay?” Tyson says before sighing again, sounding a bit far away.

Then Gabe hears what sounds like springs creaking and what he assumes is Tyson stumbling into bed. He tries to not get distracted thinking about a sad, drunken Tyson snuggled up under the covers. 

Now is probably the time to steer the conversation back towards what he’s actually supposed to be doing at his job, something he often forgets when he’s on the line with Tyson.

“So are you calling tonight to actually buy something or did you just want someone to listen to you whine?” Gabe asks him.

“No, don’t worry. I already made Nate listen to my whining plenty.” 

Gabe pointedly ignores Tyson mentioning Nate again and tries not to feel sad about being Tyson’s second choice for commiseration.

“Once he left I turned on QVC to soothe my pain and saw that they’re offering a pilates machine… thing. And I want it,” Tyson tells him, a little sulky.

“Tyson, I’m pretty sure we talk about this every single time you call but I feel like I need to stress it even more this time since you’re, ya know, drunk and all. If you don’t know what the product even is then you don’t buy it. Especially if it costs,” Gabe looks up the item in question and winces at the price, “‘four easy payments of $349.99’.”

“Yes, but we also talked about the fact that I have plenty of money to spend on whatever useless items I want. But this isn’t even useless, okay? I’m an athlete Gabe and need to work on targeting some of my extra… fluff. Plus, I really need to work on my flexibility.”

Gabe tries very hard not to picture some other ways Tyson could ‘work on his flexibility’ and fails horribly. He’s going to need to end this call before he pops a boner and embarrasses himself at work.

“You know you can’t actually target the specific problem areas, right?” Gabe tells him, trying to change the subject to something a little safer than Tyson’s flexibility.

“Yes, I know that—like I said, you’re talking to a professional athlete here,” and Gabe can’t tell if Tyson’s being serious about that or if it’s the booze talking, “But that doesn’t mean that I won’t buy this and try to get as chiseled as the over-bronzed dude on the package, okay?”

Gabe can’t hold back his laugh before replying, “Fine. You win. One Pilates Reformer thing coming up,” he says and starts putting it in to the computer.

“Thanks, Gabe,” Tyson says softly, like whatever fight he had left in him is gone. Gabe really, really likes this idiot.

The line is quiet for a few minutes while Gabe works on Tyson’s order, who he assumes is just quietly pouting to himself but just as he’s finishing up, he hears soft snoring and realizes that Tyson has actually fallen asleep on the phone.

And now Gabe kind of feels like his heart is going to burst out of his chest. He’s so fond of this totally ridiculous stranger and he knows that’s a problem because that’s exactly what they are—strangers.

He decides to push those thoughts to the side for now and whispers, “Goodnight, Tyson,” before ending the call.

Yeah, he is so, so screwed.

Gabe answers the phone to wheezing. Honest to god, wheezing.

“Hello?” he tries, wondering if the person on the line is okay or having some kind of fit.

The wheezing continues for a few more seconds before Gabe hears coughing and someone clearing their throat then, “Oh my god, Gabe. I just nearly laughed myself to death.”

It’s Tyson because of course it is.

“I’m not even sure that’s possible,” Gabe tells him, because he can’t help but point that out.

“Okay, you of all people know better than to take anything I say literally. Whatever, it’s probably not actually possible but I did just almost choke from laughing over this stupid stuffed demon cat that’s being sold right now.”

Gabe pulls up said demon cat on his computer and okay, Tyson’s not wrong. The thing does look a little… demented.

And the more he looks at it, the worse it gets. If only its face wasn’t smushed in like that? Was that a design flaw or an actual choice?

“All of the other animals look fine and this poor sad sack of a cat looks like that? I just don’t understand. I feel so bad for it. I need to order like fifty of them just to make up for all of the people that I’m sure aren’t giving it the time of day.”

“You’re going to order fifty ugly stuffed cats, Tyson? What are you even going to do with them,” Gabe asks because he really is starting to get worried about Tyson going bankrupt over buying all of this QVC shit.

“Well, there’s obviously only one thing to do with a product like this, duh,” and there’s a tiny pause like Tyson’s trying to build suspense for the punchline of some dumb joke, “I’m going to send them all to Nate’s house and confuse the fuck out of him,” Tyson finishes, laughing like he’s so proud of himself for thinking up this idea.

Gabe’s not amused. And no, it’s not because of the Nate thing, okay? It’s because wasting two grand on a bunch of stuffed animals to just mess with your friend is childish and stupid, that’s all.

He tells Tyson so and he completely misses Gabe’s point.

“Wait, why did you say ‘friend’ like that? Oh my god, are you jealous?” and Gabe really needs to work on his poker-face (voice?) when it comes to Tyson.

“Oh, shove it. I said ‘friend’ totally normal. Get over yourself.”

“You’re totally jealous. This is amazing. Aw, Gabe. I would send you the hideous cats but you’ve already seen them. That wouldn’t even be any fun. But I can surprise you with something else next time, promise.”

That ‘promise’ hangs there and Gabe doesn’t want to read anything into it. Tyson’s offering to basically prank him in the future, it’s not like it’s a marriage proposal. But still. Gabe feels a little validated.

“Spare me, please. Save your money for something important like making sure you retire with a 401k instead of just a mound of QVC items.”

Tyson just giggles a bit at that.

“Also, did we ever discuss what exactly you do for a living? Because these cats are about to cost you a pretty penny,” Gabe says as he starts in on Tyson’s order of fifty of these stupid cats.

“I thought I already made it clear that I am a totally super fit and healthy, attractive athlete,” Tyson says in a voice that Gabe can’t help but roll his eyes at.

“Okay, sure. But what kind of athlete? Football, hockey, cheerleading? You gotta give me a little more than that.”

And okay, Gabe’s gotta be honest here: he tried Googling Tyson because he couldn’t help himself. But his name alone didn’t really yield any real leads. He can’t help but be curious, okay? 

“I mean, does that really matter?” Tyson tells him, clearly avoiding the subject. “What matters right now is that I’m about to buy a shit ton of these little disaster cats to scare my best friend with before donating them to the kids at the charity brunch my team is hosting next month. See? Sometimes I do buy these things for a good reason.”

“Wow, I can’t wait to hear about how you scarred all of those children with these goblin cats. I truly worry for your offspring.”

“Hey! For your information, I think that I would be a great dad. My kid would be hilarious. I’m sure even a stuck-up kid like the one you’d raise would want to be friends with them.”

“Who says I’d raise a ‘stuck-up’ kid?” Gabe is a little offended at that. “Just because my kid would have some taste and be annoyed by your kid doesn’t mean they’d be stuck-up, okay?”

“Nah, they’d totally be charmed. They’d be the best of friends. I mean, look at us.”

There’s a moment of silence like Tyson is waiting for Gabe to tell him that they’re not friends. And as much as he likes to give Tyson shit, saying that would be an outright lie so he doesn’t.

“Fine. They’d be friends. Just like us.”

“Well, maybe not just like us but—”

“Tyson, do you want our imaginary kids to be friends or not?” 

“Of course I do. They’d be friends,” Tyson replies, final and Gabe smiles at that.

“Now, about these monster cats,” Gabe says.

Tyson suddenly remembers what he was actually calling about and has a laughing fit all over again.

Gabe can’t believe this is his life now.

It’s been a month since Gabe has heard from Tyson and he’s starting to freak out a little bit. There’s not really a precedent for this kind of thing because Gabe’s never really had any reason to keep tabs on a customer before. 

And he knows he shouldn’t necessarily worry because Tyson does travel a lot for his job so he doesn’t always get a chance to call in. He’s told Gabe this multiple times. Sometimes Gabe doesn’t talk to him for a week and a half.

But he’s never gone this long without calling and Gabe’s starting to think something terrible has happened to him.

It’s entirely possible that Tyson just decided that he should stop wasting his money on useless crap and no longer has a reason to call. But if that’s the case, Gabe kind of feels like he’d deserve one last phone call explaining that especially considering some of the more recent conversations they’ve had.

Maybe he’s putting too much stock into the pseudo friendship that they’ve formed but Gabe kind of thought Tyson cared about him a little bit. Like a friend, of course. But still.

It just doesn’t make sense for the guy to be consistently calling, always being put through to talk to Gabe, and then to just drop off the face of the planet without letting him know.

If this was a normal friendship then there would be a ton of different ways to check up on him and he wouldn’t have to worry but as it is, they don’t really know each other. Gabe tries not to let that upset him more than it should.

He spends most of tonight’s shift moping and trying to not think about Tyson. He only partially succeeds.

It’s only when he’s on tenth call of the night, verifying a customer’s address and phone number, that he realizes he can access Tyson’s contact information.

Now, Gabe went through all of the training courses and knows all about customer privacy. He knows that looking up and using Tyson’s phone number would probably get him fired if someone found out about it. But if he doesn’t check to see that he’s okay he doesn’t know how he’s going to be able to stop thinking about it.

He shoots a silent prayer up to the sky, hoping that no one ever finds out about this, looks up Tyson in the system, and writes his number down on a post-it note. He puts it in his pocket for safekeeping until he can take his break in an hour and tries to focus on the rest of his calls.

After what seems like an eternity, Gabe is finally able to take his break and heads outside to sit in his car. He already feels weird about making this call let alone doing it where any of his co-workers may overhear.

He gets the post-it note out of his pocket and types the number into his phone. After one final deep breath, he hits ‘call’.

The line rings and rings and just as Gabe’s about to hang up, someone finally picks up.

“Tyson’s phone, this is Nate speaking,” a male voice says on the other line.

Nate. Gabe’s going to assume that this is the same Nate that Tyson is always mentioning. His best friend. He’s a little thrown off by him answering Tyson’s phone but he tries to keep his voice even when responding.

“Uh… hi, Nate. Um, this is Gabe. I work at—,” Nate cuts him off before he gets a chance to finish.

“Oh, Gabe,” Nate says, in a tone that Gabe is suddenly terrified of. “It’s nice to finally talk to you.”

Gabe hears literal shrieking in the background of the call and knows that means that Tyson must be in the general vicinity.

Nate gets back on the phone but before he has the chance to get out more than one word there’s a grunt and then Gabe hears some kind of struggle happening over the receiver.

He can barely make out Tyson’s voice when he yells, “Let go—you fu—stop! Tell him that I’ve been trying to call but you guys wouldn’t believe me and just thought it was the drugs talking!”

Drugs? Gabe is so confused.

“Hi there. Nate again. Tyson would like me to inform you that he did mention someone named Gabe. Someone with the supposed voice of an angel and who was rude but ‘in a charming way’—but we just assumed he was hallucinating from all of the pain meds.”

“Wait, pain meds? Tyson’s been hurt this whole time?” Gabe asks and then winces because yeah, way to be obvious about the fact that you’ve noticed he’s not been calling in. 

“Not to worry; he’s fine now. We’ve just been on the road because of the playo—OW! What the fuck, Tyson. Put the pillow down! You’re such a dick,” Nate says and Gabe really needs to get Tyson on the phone already.

Luckily, just as he’s about to ask if he can speak to Tyson directly, that’s who comes on the phone.

“Gabe. It’s me,” Tysons says, a bit out of breath. “I’m so sorry. Nate thinks that one little concussion means that I’m incapable of doing anything on my own anymore. I can use screens now,” he says more to Nate than to Gabe, “my doctor signed off on that a couple of weeks ago.”

Jesus. A concussion? Not being able to use screens? He knew that Tyson was an athlete but it never crossed his mind that he was part of something that could get himself seriously injured like this.

Gabe’s reeling a bit and has gone silent which Tyson has apparently taken as Gabe being pissed, which is definitely not the case, but he keeps defending himself before Gabe has a chance to respond.

“And I know, I should’ve called sooner but I was dealing with the concussion and I’ve been on the road with work a lot lately, like Nate said, and things have just been really stressful. That still doesn’t make it okay though. So, I’m sorry again, if you’re like mad or something. I promise this won’t happen again. Or, well, it could, actually. But if it does then I’ll just make Nate call you or—”

“Tyson.” Gabe interrupts him because he knows Tyson enough by now that he’ll just keep going if you let him. “It’s fine. Why would I be angry? You had a concussion and weren’t allowed to look at screens. Jesus. I’m not a monster. I was just… worried? I guess.”

“Oh.”

Gabe realizes he just made a big mistake by admitting that. Tyson’s never gonna let this go now.

“I mean, it’s just that you call more often than not, so like. It was weird that you just stopped.” Gabe’s just trying to save face now.

“Uh-huh,” and Gabe just knows that Tyson has a shit-eating grin on his face right now because he loves when Gabe makes an ass of himself.

“Shut up.”

“I didn’t even say anything!”

“Whatever. It’s not like I was waiting for you to call or anything. It just seemed strange that after calling nearly every week since we first talked that you disappeared. Anyone would be worried, okay?”

Tyson says “uh-huh” again and Gabe hangs up on him.

A few seconds later Tyson calls back and when Gabe answers he’s just laughing into the receiver. He really, really wants to throw his phone out the window.

Gabe graciously lets him laugh for a few more seconds before threatening to hang up on him again.

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop. I just didn’t know you cared so much, Gabriel. It’s sweet.”

“Hey, no one said anything about caring. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t dead or like, in jail, or something. I know by now that it would take a lot for you to kick your QVC habit cold turkey, okay?”

“Yeah, whatever you say. You totally missed me.”

Gabe just rolls his eyes because he refuses to agree and give Tyson the satisfaction. Instead, he changes the subject. 

“Well, since you’re back, we are selling some truly hideous sunglasses right now that would be right up your alley. Maybe they can help with any lingering concussion symptoms or whatever. Not that I care.”

Tyson laughs one last time. “Now, we’re talking. Hold on, let me turn on my… oh my god, they’re shiny and rainbow-colored? Aw, Gabe, you know me so well.

“Yeah, it’s as if I can look at an entire sheet of other purchases you’ve made and sense a pattern.”

“Oh, shut up, you totally know me and my shiny bird thing. Stop trying to act like you don’t care about me,” Tyson croons.

As usual, Gabe is questioning all of the life decisions he made to end up here.

“But yes. Those sunglasses are bitchin’ and I definitely need them. I want one in every color, please,” Tyson tells him, sounding like a toddler but Gabe can’t even fuck with him about it because he is still sitting in his car, very much not as his desk where he could actually order them for Tyson.

“Um, if you could just give me a second to get back to my desk then I can absolutely do that,” Gabe trails off and tries to quietly slink out of his car back into the building but of course Tyson’s not going to let this go either.

“Wait, are you on your cell phone right now? You’re such a stalker, I knew it! You totally looked up my information. Are you like, outside my house right now? Because I mean, I wouldn’t totally be opposed—”

“Oh my god, I am not outside of your house, you ass. I’m at work but I didn’t really feel like getting fired for taking too long on a call. I know how talkative you can get when it comes to things you’re passionate about, you know?”

“You’re right. And I’m very passionate about QVC,” Tyson says, fond, and it definitely sounds like he’s not actually talking about QVC. Gabe’s not sure what to do with that at the moment. 

He does know how to sell Tyson a stupid product though so he gets back to his desk and does just that.

Gabe is barely through the door to start his last shift of the week before Karly is standing up from her cubicle, shooting him a death glare which can only mean one thing: Tyson’s on the line and is being his usual charming (see: irritating) self.

He puts his bag down, gets settled in at his desk, and clicks onto Tyson’s call.

“You know, if you knew Karly in real life, you really wouldn’t want to fuck with her,” Gabe tells him, completely serious. He lowers his voice before adding, “She’s terrifying.”

“I heard that!” Karly calls out from a few phones over and Gabe winces. For such a tiny woman, she truly is very scary.

He can hear Tyson laughing through the line and Gabe tells him to fuck off which just makes him laugh even more.

“Listen. I was merely trying to explain to her the gravity of the situation that is unfolding in front of my eyes right now,” Tyson says.

Gabe can only imagine what has caught Tyson’s attention tonight.

“And what exactly is happening that has you so outraged?” Gabe asks him. 

“What is happening is a matter of public safety, Gabe! Don’t you guys have, like, monitors or something set up in your building? Do you not see what is happening to these poor cookies on screen right now?” Tyson asks, thoroughly offended.

They actually do have some monitors set up around the room that Gabe’s cubicle is stationed in but he never really pays much attention to them. It’s easier to just look up the current products being sold in the database they use to put orders through.

Gabe tells Tyson to hang on a minute and tries to spot the so-called ‘cookie travesty’ on one of the TVs. Eventually he sees a  man and woman poking around some trays of sweets. From what Gabe can tell, there’s nothing shameful happening, just a couple of people trying to sell some desserts.

He tells this to Tyson and it apparently just makes him even angrier.

”Do you even like cookies, Gabe? I feel like you would be more offended if you did so you’ll just have to take my expert opinion on the situation, okay?”

Tyson is apparently on a roll so Gabe just lets him keep rambling on.

“And don’t even get me started on the previous segment where they were selling mini fruit pies covered in chocolate and whipped cream like they were hiding the fact that there was fruit in them.”

“What’s wrong with fruit pies?” Gabe asks innocently.

Tyson must drop his phone because all Gabe hears is a loud thunk and a muffled ’damn it’ before Tyson’s back yelling at him.

“Fruit does not belong in dessert! I hate fruit in dessert. I avoid all fruit-related desserts at all costs. That being said… I do love whipped cream.”

And Gabe, as usual, tries not to make that into something dirty in his mind and fails by a mile.

“Oh god, not the double chocolate chip mint! Show some compassion, you monster!” Tyson yells. And this is what Gabe is being paid to put up with tonight. 

“That’s it. Gabe, put me through to the show. I need to have a talk with her.”

“Tyson, I’m not going to put you through to the show,” Gabe tells him. He’s not even the one who’s in charge of doing that.

“Someone needs to stop this travesty! They need to stop treating cookies like this. Haven’t they seen ‘Shrek’? Cookies have feelings, okay?” Tyson exclaims, his voice reaching a really terrible high-pitched octave. Gabe should have guessed that Tyson would have very passionate feelings about something like cookies.

“Okay, you know I haven’t seen ‘Shrek’ but I do know that it’s an animated film and not a documentary, Tyson,” Gabe tells him but Tyson just ignores him and continues on with his rant.

“Also, I really have a problem with her sidekick. The way that guy is eating those cookies is highly uncomfortable. If they want to actually sell some of these, they’re going to need to stop with the close-ups on his face,” Tyson says before making gagging noises.

“Hey, maybe some people are into his face. Maybe, there are hoards of housewives across the country who are specifically tuning in to see him do that with his face,” Gabe says, unable to resist teasing Tyson further on this subject.

He hears Tyson splutter down the line.

“Sorry, no. As the resident gay man of this friendship, I can tell you for a fact that that’s not true. Straight housewives cannot be this desperate.”

Gabe shakes his head, even though Tyson can’t see him, and says, “Well, coming from another gay man, I can kind of see his appeal.” 

It takes him a second before he realizes what he just said.

There’s a pause on the other line and Gabe waits for Tyson’s reaction to his admission.

It’s not like Tyson wasn’t ever going to find out about the fact that Gabe is also gay, it just hadn’t come up yet. But he was hoping he could do it… properly?

As if there’s a proper way to tell the dude-who-you’re-crushing-on-even-though-you’ve-never-actually-met, “Oh hey, by the way, I’m gay too! Wanna bone?”

Gabe’s life is truly pathetic.

“…I can’t believe you have a crush on the cookie-orgasm-face-guy,” Tyson finally says, disgusted.

Gabe feels like Tyson’s giving him some kind of out and he’s pretty thankful for it.

“I didn’t say I have a crush on him. I just said that I could see the appeal of him, okay? If I was a straight housewife he would probably tick some boxes for me, that’s all.”

Tyson groans. “God, what am I going to find out next? That you’re cat-fishing me? I’m currently under the impression that I’m talking to an attractive Swede who loathes selling overpriced crap on the phone and loves getting in the last word. So I hope that’s still true,” Tyson tells him, amusement clear in his voice.

Gabe pointedly ignores the part where Tyson said he was attractive and scoffs at the rest of it.

Tyson keeps going though, “I mean, honestly, QVC would be selling a lot more stuff if they just put you on TV.”

“Tyson, you don’t even know what I look like. I could be the Hunchback of Notre Dame for all you know.”

Tyson actually gasps before saying, “Hey, he had a heart of gold, Gabriel!” and Gabe really wonders why he has a crush on someone so ridiculous.

“Plus there’s totally no way that you’re not hot. Like I’ve told you before: it’s in your people’s genetic makeup. And you sound hot, okay? I have a sixth sense for this kind of thing. My hot-o-meter is always 100% accurate—even over the phone,” Tyson says.

“Hot-o-meter? You’re like some caricature, I swear to god.”

“Yeah, well at least I’m cute though.”

“Ouch, not so sure about that. My hot-o-meter only works in person, so.”

Instead of hearing laughter on the other line like Gabe expected, there’s just quiet. Gabe’s actually kind of sad that his attempt at a joke failed. He thought that one was pretty good.

“Well, I guess that just means that we need to meet, huh?” Tyson finally says.

And that is so not what Gabe was trying to get at. He thought that this was just some harmless flirting. But the thought of meeting Tyson is as terrifying as it is exciting.

What if it doesn’t go well? Just because they have a good back and forth on the phone doesn’t mean that it will translate over into real life. Gabe would hate to ruin whatever quasi friendship he and Tyson have going on. He just really likes Tyson and it would suck to lose him.

“I’ve seen too many Dateline specials about that but good try,” Gabe tells him, hoping to dissuade Tyson from suggesting it again by joking about it some more.

But Tyson being Tyson just keeps going. “Excuse me, I’m not some creepy weirdo from the internet or like… a serial killer or something.”

“That’s exactly something a serial killer would say. How do I know that that’s not exactly what you are?” Gabe asks him.

“Well how do I know that you’re not one?” Tyson counters with.

He’s got him there.

“Fine. I think we can both agree that we’re not serial killers, okay?”

“Sure,” Tyson says.

There’s another pause in the conversation and just as Gabe is about to redirect Tyson’s attention back to cookies he says, “But I still think we should meet up.”

Gabe doesn’t respond.

“Hear me out! It would be totally chill. We already know we have so much in common. We both love hockey and sarcasm and…,” Tyson pauses. “Things. We’d totally have a great time. We could even enjoy some of these cookies I’m about to buy.”

Gabe gives himself a second to think. He guesses it wouldn’t hurt to meet the guy. 

And ever since he moved to Colorado, Gabe doesn’t get a lot of social interaction outside of his jobs, so it might be a good chance for him to actually make another real friend in town.

“I’ll agree to meet you as long as you promise to bring one of those terrifying demon cats with you. I need to see that in person,” Gabe says, trying to lighten the tension that has suddenly seeped into their conversation.

“Oh, god. I’ve actually been too scared to pick up the leftover ones from Nate’s. But for you? Anything.”

Gabe’s face goes warm at that and he’s suddenly glad that Tyson can only hear him at the moment.

“So, when would you want to do this?” Tyson asks him. “My work schedule is pretty packed right now, actually. But,” he stops suddenly and Gabe waits him out.

Eventually, Tyson clears his throat and says, “I do have an inside connection with the Colorado Avalanche. I know you’re a hockey fan and I could definitely get us some tickets. If that’s something you’d be interested in…,” before trailing off.

He’s kidding, right?

“You’re kidding, right? You are aware that they’re in the playoffs right now, aren’t you? 

“I am very aware of this, yes,” Tyson tells him, sounding a little strangled.

“I’ve never actually been to a game. I love hockey but I don’t have a lot of time to keep up with it these days.”

“Wait, so you’re telling me that you don’t know who plays for the Colorado Avalanche?”

Gabe tries to think of some of the bigger named players from the past couple of years but can really only name Nathan MacKinnon.

When he tells Tyson this it sounds like he chokes. He didn’t realize Tyson was so passionate about hockey.

“You know what? That’s totally fine. We’ll still have a great time. How about this Saturday night? I can have the ticket waiting for you at will-call and I can meet you there,” Tyson tells him.

“Uh, sure, yeah. Saturday can work for me,” Gabe tells him, back to feeling a bit nauseous over meeting face-to-face.

“Alright. Then… it’s a date,” Tyson says softly and Gabe’s stomach feels like it drops to his feet.

So Tyson really wants to just jump into dating, huh? Gabe totally doesn’t have enough time to mentally prepare for that. 

“Wait… a date—,” Gabe starts before Tyson cuts him off. 

“I said what I said! See you Saturday, Gabe!” and hangs up the phone.

Is is sad that Gabe is getting used to that?

A few seconds later, Tyson calls back. “I just realized that I never gave you my phone number which might be helpful,” he tells Gabe.

“Uh, I have called you before, remember?”

“Oh. Right. Cool,” Tyson says and Gabe’s waiting to be hung up on again when Tyson continues on, “Well, while I have you on the line again, I do really want to put in a few orders of those cookies…” Tyson says because of course he does.

“Anything you want, Tyson,” Gabe tells him honestly, and he swears he can hear Tyson smiling through the phone.

He’s suddenly really excited to see that smile in person.

When Saturday finally rolls around, Gabe spends an inordinate amount of time picking out an outfit for his and Tyson’s date. He thinks about possibly picking up an Avs jersey at the game but they’re just so bulky and shapeless. 

(And okay, maybe Gabe wants to show off his assets a little bit. Cheap, ill-fitting polyester, will definitely not do that, okay?)

In the end, he decides on a pair of dark jeans and a tight blue long-sleeve t-shirt that he’s been told brings out his eyes, with a hoodie in tow just in case it gets too cold. Luckily he’s having a good hair day so he doesn’t have to worry about that too much. 

He feels a little silly fixating on his appearance so much but he just really wants Tyson to like him. He and Tyson have texted a couple of times back and forth since they talked on the phone last but the conversation just didn’t flow the same way. If he wants to make sure his hair looks extra shiny and smooth today so he feels a bit more confident, sue him.

After pacing around his living room for a while, watching a documentary about bees, and second-guessing his outfit for the millionth time, it’s time for Gabe to head to the Pepsi Center.

Once there, he heads over to get in line at the Will Call ticket booth and stops himself from looking around, trying to spot Tyson. He doesn’t even know what Tyson looks like. He has no idea who he’d even be looking for.

He finally makes his way to the front of the line and gives the ticket attendant Tyson’s name. The woman gives Gabe an odd look before handing over an envelope with one ticket in it. Gabe asks if anyone else picked up tickets under Tyson’s name tonight and she shakes her head. Tyson must have already had his ticket when he invited Gabe.

After looking around and not seeing any other single guys awkwardly waiting for someone, he decides to shoot Tyson a text to let him know that he’s here.

Ten minutes go by and Gabe doesn’t get a response. He just assumes that Tyson’s stuck in traffic or something and doesn’t have his hands free to text him back.

Gabe suddenly remembers that this place has beer which could really help calm his nerves right now. He heads over to a concession stand and gets one for him and Tyson as well as a box of popcorn to split.

Another ten minutes goes by and Gabe’s starting to worry. It’s now past the time they agreed upon meeting and the game’s going to be starting soon. If Tyson was running late then he would have texted Gabe by now.

He tries to call Tyson this time but he doesn’t pick up. He leaves a voicemail to let Tyson know that he’s going to head to their seats, and makes his way into the arena. After showing his ticket to one of the ladies at the door, she ushers him to his seat… which is right on the glass.

Who the hell does Tyson know at the Colorado Avalanche that can get them this nice of seats?

Gabe thanks the usher and sits down, getting himself situated while quietly freaking out about the fact that he’s going to be seeing an NHL playoff game this close on the ice.

Warm-ups are starting and there’s still no sign of Tyson. The seats on either side of him have also been filled by two women who seem to have no interest in engaging with him at all. He’s not sure if they saw some empty seats and decided to get a better one or if Tyson isn’t telling him something. Either way, he’s confused.

He decides to focus on the warm-ups instead, telling himself that Tyson must have a good reason for not being here and that he’s totally not being stood up, and tries to enjoy himself.

The Avs are skating on his side of the ice and he keeps an eye on some of the players going through their on-ice rituals. It’s always fascinating to see how different players warm up for games.

Gabe’s still so in his head about Tyson that he almost doesn’t notice when Nathan MacKinnon skates over to the glass in front of him. And yeah, Gabe doesn’t have much time to keep up with hockey aside from catching a few games on TV here and there, but when there’s a first overall draft pick on your ‘home’ team roster, you are aware of it.

Another Avs player skates over to Nathan MacKinnon and they seem to start bickering about something. The shorter player starts to shove Nathan MacKinnon back away from the glass. 

Nathan MacKinnon ends up getting the other player in a headlock and then makes direct eye contact with Gabe, which makes him startle a bit. That just makes Nathan MacKinnon laugh and then he gives Gabe a little wave. Gabe waves back, completely star-struck, which makes Nathan MacKinnon laugh a little more. 

The other player eventually looks up at Gabe and gives him a small smile, one that Gabe notes is very nice, and then he unceremoniously punches Nathan MacKinnon in the stomach and skates away, leaving Nathan MacKinnon doubled over in front of Gabe for a few more seconds before he leaves to chase after him.

Gabe really doesn’t know how this is his life right now. 

He checks his phone one last time but there’s still nothing from Tyson so he sends him one last text and gets ready for the game to start.

The first period of the game ends and Gabe has gone from worried to pissed.

Tyson still hasn’t shown up and Gabe’s ready to call it a night. If there was a reason that Tyson couldn’t show up then he should have let him know ahead of time. But letting Gabe sit here by himself, without a word, is kind of humiliating.

Gabe gathers his things and starts to head out of the arena. He’s fully ready to go home, strip down to his boxers, and eat his feelings. 

Just as he’s getting to the exit doors, his phone vibrates. Gabe shakes his head, curses the fact that he still very much has feelings for Tyson, and pulls his phone out of his pocket.

Finally, Tyson has managed to message him and it’s not what Gabe was hoping to hear. Supposedly, ‘something came up’ and Tyson’s not going to be able to make it for the game but wants Gabe to stay and meet him after. Outside of the Avs locker room.

And of course he’s going to stay now. He’s not going to pass up the chance to finally meet Tyson after everything.

He decides to grab a third beer, because what the hell and heads back to his seat.  The Avs come back down the tunnel and Gabe decides to fully enjoy the rest of the game because how many times is he going to get an opportunity like this?

He also spends the rest of the game texting with his twin sister about it because she’s also a hockey fan and he needs to brag about this to someone.

The Avs absolutely destroy the Blackhawks and Gabe’s not going to lie, he really loves seeing the sad look on Patrick Kane’s face. It’s almost enough for him to forget about the fact that Tyson basically stood him up, but not quite.

He grabs his coat and steels himself for what will probably be an even more awkward meeting now.

Once out of the arena, he finds the usher who helped him before and asks her to point him in the direction of the Avs locker room. She tells him that the public aren’t allowed down there and asks if he’s meeting someone on the team.

When he gives her Tyson’s name she gives him a funny look but still shows him the way. He thanks her again and then he’s left standing in the hallway, awkwardly.

There’s loud music and cheering coming from the locker room, which is directly towards Gabe’s left. Luckily, no one else is waiting around but him so he has plenty of room to pace and freak out one final time. 

He gets his phone out to text Tyson, letting him know that he’s made it down here but just as he’s about to hit send, he hears, “Gabe?”

He looks up towards the sound and to his left, walking out of the Avs locker room, is the cute hockey player with the nice smile from earlier, who has a very confused look on his face.

Gabe must have a similar look his face because the guy just awkwardly laughs a bit and rubs at his neck.

Maybe he’s the person Tyson knows on the Avs? Which would explain why he knew where Tyson would be sitting tonight and why he came over.

“Uh, hi? I’m Gabe. Tyson Benn’s friend? I was supposed to be meeting him here but—well, it’s a funny story, actually. We’ve never actually met so I’m not even sure who I’m supposed to be looking for and then something came up,” Gabe says, cutting himself off before he rambles too much.

The guy looks a little shell-shocked and Gabe is still really confused. “Gabe. It’s—My name is Tyson Barrie. I’m—It’s me? Tyson?” and yeah, Gabe definitely recognizes that voice.

All of a sudden, everything clicks into place. 

Tyson’s never-ending disposable income. The road trips he takes for work. His concussion. The giant orders of stuffed animals for charity. Guys only wanting to date him because of his profession.

That profession being a player for the Colorado Avalanche. 

Gabe closes his eyes and starts to shake his head before breaking down into hysterical laughter. He doesn’t know how this is his life.

“Um…,” Tyson doesn’t seem to know how to react to the situation and honestly, Gabe can’t blame him.

He tries to stop laughing but can’t. He doesn’t know if it’s the four beers that he’s had or if he’s just lost it but he’s doubled over, wheezing in a very Tyson-like manner and that only makes him laugh even more.

There’s just no way that the Tyson he’s been talking to for all these months is Tyson Barrie, NHL player. His life is not a romantic comedy! Things like this don’t happen to people like him. 

And yet, here he is, choking through his laughter, trying to catch his breath in front of the Colorado Avalanche locker room while Tyson stares at him, wide-eyed and looking kind of terrified.

Finally, after a few more awkward seconds of laughing, Gabe takes one last long breath before looking back at Tyson.

“Listen, I can explain,” Tyson tells him, hands out like he’s trying to placate a spooked horse.

Gabe just shakes his head. 

“Man, it’s good to know that you’re putting that whole good-looking, great hair, winning personality stereotype about professional hockey players to rest,” Gabe tells him, straight-faced, before breaking into a grin that is threatening to hurt his cheeks.

Tyson’s face drops for a split second and then he splutters before replying, “Yeah? Well, it’s good to know that you’re putting that whole beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyes Swedish thing—ah, fuck it. I knew you were gonna be hot. I knew it! I told you.” 

That surprises another bark of laughter out of Gabe and Tyson’s entire face immediately goes red.

“Well,” Gabe says, preening a little bit even though he’s dying on the inside because Tyson thinks he’s hot.

Neither of them really know what to do now so there’s a moment where they’re both just standing there awkwardly, smiling at each other, before Tyson clears his throat.

“I mean, this would be a good time to mention that you also find me, super handsome and charming but...,” Tyson trails off, arms flailing a bit, and Gabe is so glad that Tyson remains just as ridiculous in person as he is on the phone.

Maybe meeting was a good idea after all.

“You’re okay, I guess,” Gabe tells him, his own face heating up a bit.

Before Tyson can respond to that, the door behind him opens and none other than Nathan MacKinnon stumbles out into the hallway. He walks over to join them, shooting Gabe a wide smile.

“Hey! Gabe, right? What am I talking about—of course you’re Gabe. I saw you earlier. I’m Nate. It’s nice to finally meet you,” he says, holding out his hand for him to shake but Gabe freezes again.

And then it hits him. 

“Wait a minute. Your friend ‘Nate’ is Nathan MacKinnon?” 

Tyson shrugs, “Uh, yeah?”

Nathan MacKinnon—Nate, is totally laughing at him right now.

“Oh my god and your name,” he says, pointing at Tyson.

“Wait, what about my name? You know my name.”

“Tyson Benn. Does that mean… oh my god, Jamie Benn.”

“Yeah, me and Jamie are buds, so? Also, I thought you didn’t have time to keep up with hockey?” Tyson asks, looking slightly offended.

“I mean, I don’t. Not really. I just know some of the more, you know, ’well known’ players,” Gabe tells him before backtracking a bit. “Like, I totally knew who you were,” Gabe lies, “I was just starstruck is all.” 

Tyson totally doesn’t believe him for a second. But he just rolls his eyes and smiles back at Gabe and Gabe can’t help but get lost in the moment for a second.

“Wait a minute,” Nate says, and Gabe startles because he honest-to-god forgot that Nate was still standing there, “Why didn’t you use my last name for your alter ego? I’m a way better friend than Jamie,” Nate spits out, sounding as petulant as a toddler.

“MacKinnon? In Colorado? Yeah, that’s not a very good disguise, bud,” he tells Nate, who is now sporting a giant frown, “But if I was in any other state? I’d be Tyson MacKinnon for days.”

Nate beams then, totally charmed by Tyson and god, this is Gabe’s life now. What’s worse? He’s just as charmed by Tyson as Nate is. 

They eventually say their goodbyes to Nate and the other guys (no, Gabe’s totally not freaking out about meeting an entire NHL team, not at all) and start making their way out to the parking garage. 

Gabe’s not really sure where they go from here. Their date never really happened so maybe Tyson would be up for some food. Maybe a movie? Or maybe Gabe should just head home, collect his thoughts, and make plans with Tyson for another night. Tonight has been a lot.

Tyson stops at what Gabe assumes is his car and he’s so caught up in his thoughts that he’s not expecting it when Tyson leans forward and kisses him squarely on the mouth. 

Gabe doesn’t even have time to react and then Tyson’s pulling back and looking totally spooked. 

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” he says, stepping out of Gabe’s space which is the exact opposite of what Gabe wants. “I just thought we were on the same page here since we’ve basically been flirting for forever and I, you know, really like listening to your dumb voice on the phone and like to compliment your metaphorical abs—which I now see are very much not metaphorical, by the way and—”

Gabe decides to try to shut up Tyson in the one way he hasn’t had a chance to yet and kisses him. When he pulls back Tyson’s eyes are still closed and he has a small smile on his lips. “You talk. So much,” Gabe tells him.

Tyson just shakes his head before saying, “I’ll work on it,” his smile widening and Gabe can’t believe that he’s been waiting to see that smile in person for so long and now he can just lean in and kiss it, which he does, again.

“You know, a guy could get used to this,” Tyson tells him.

“Yeah? Well, lucky for you I find your constant babbling kind of charming, so.”

Tyson just smiles some more and leans in to kiss Gabe again, when his stomach grumbles, interrupting them. Gabe laughs which earns him a little shove from Tyson.

“Food?” Tyson asks him.

“Food,” Gabe decides and kisses Tyson one last time.

They separate and Tyson walks over to the passenger side of his car, opening it for Gabe and then lets out a small shriek, jumping back into Gabe’s space.

Gabe moves Tyson to the side and looks in to see what has him so rattled and there, sitting in the front seat of Tyson’s car… is the demon cat stuffed animal.

“Gabe, I didn’t even bring it with me, I swear! This thing is haunted—we’ve got to—,”

Tyson is cut off by Nate yelling across the parking lot, “I got you so good, T-Bear!”

“T-Bear?” Gabe says, gleefully. Tyson’s cheeks turn a brilliant shade of red and he mutters a string of curse words under his breath, flipping Nate off.

Yeah, Gabe thinks that maybe he could get used to this too.