Callum was at work, taking the orders of a constantly growing group of college kids that were much too rowdy and completely disrespectful to those around them. They were part of a nearby college's fraternity and sorority, wearing their respective jackets, and Callum had to repeatedly tell them that the diner did not serve hard liquor. His patience was quickly wearing thin and even Grayson was seconds away from going off at the group.
"I'm going to kill them. I fucking swear," Grayson grumbled when one of the girls started cackling like a hyena and the boy she was sitting on let out a guffaw that sounded distinctly like a dying horse. At the same time, three of their friends had a shouting match of trying to outdo the other in terms of how much action they got at a party the previous weekend.
"I'll help you hide the bodies," Callum muttered as he took a deep breath and balanced five plates on his arms to deliver to the table of potential murder targets.
As he set the plates down in front of their respective person, Callum ignored the group's yammering, wanting to get away from the table as soon as possible. They weren't even going to tip well so pretending to tolerate them wasn't going to be worth it.
Just as he set the last salad down in front of one of the boys, he stood up to leave but a hand grabbed onto his wrist.
"Yes?" Callum asked through gritted teeth as he turned back around and slipped his hand free. It was a girl. She was attractive, sure, and had considerably less makeup on than the other girls at the table, but Callum was not oblivious to the way she eyed him and shifted ever so slightly to give him a more than adequate eyeful off her assets. "May I help you?" he reiterated.
"Definitely," she purred.
Callum clenched his jaw as he waited for her to continue while simultaneously trying not to snap at her or her jeering friends.
He raised a brow and tapped his foot impatiently when she said nothing else and continued to molest him with her eyes.
She licked her lips with a purpose and leaned across the table, further revealing the olive skin that wasn't really hiding under her tank top or barely there bra. "You should totally hang out with me."
"I'll have to decline," Callum replied immediately. "If that was all, please enjoy your meal."
As Callum turned once again to leave, he heard the outrage of his easy dismissal. One of the girls tried to comfort the one who had been trying to pick him up by muttering that he was probably a fag.
Callum halted and looked over his shoulder at them. He quirked a brow, "I am. Do you have a problem with that?"
Grayson, who had been watching keenly, let out a whistle and hollered a very indiscreet and not quite appropriately used, "Shots fired!" with his thumbs stuck upwards at Callum in support.
Callum left the vicinity of the table to spluttering and disbelief, shaking his head and giving into high fiving Grayson who was much too excited about Callum finally unleashing his inner sass queer.
"Sass queer? What the hell is that even?" Callum laughed at his coworker.
"Dude, you're the gay one," was Grayson's explanatory response before he slipped away to hand an elderly couple their bill.
The next couple hours went by without much trouble. The college kids left without a fuss, only giving Callum weird and suspicious looks but he paid them no mind.
It was when a man dressed in a designer suit with bejeweled cufflinks entered the diner that things went downhill.
Callum went to go and seat the man but the new customer completely dismissed him and asked for Tracy.
"Uh, she might be in her office. I'll go get her," he replied warily.
Callum rushed to find Tracy who was actually in her office although she had been about to rejoin the kitchen staff.
"There's an asshole in a suit that wants to talk to you," Callum told her.
Tracy's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before she schooled her features and pasted on a smile, but Callum wasn't fooled. He followed Tracy back out into the diner and did not like the way the rude man was smirking at her condescendingly.
"Mr. Weiss," Tracy greeted with a forced smile. "To what do I owe this little visit?"
"Hello, I've just come by to give you your warning," the man replied. "You have fifteen days, Ms. Holt."
The man left without another word and they all stared at Tracy in shock.
"Trace, are you in underground trouble?" Grayson asked cautiously.
Tracy laughed at that, some of the tension dissipating, "No, no, nothing like that, gumdrop. We should save this talk for a little later."
They nodded and Tracy went into the kitchen, everyone behaving as if nothing ominous was fast approaching. Callum remembered the phone call he had heard Tracy's side of just the previous day in the staff room.
Callum couldn't get through the next couple hours without thinking about what Tracy had been hiding from them. Neither could Grayson who had been coming up with conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory.
"It's the mafia," he claimed. "She's totally fucking with the mafia and they've caught her."
Callum rolled his eyes, "I doubt she messed with the mafia, Grayson. It's probably nothing too bad. Right?"
Grayson deadpanned, "Yeah, nothing threatening about you have fifteen days, Ms. Holt."
Callum slapped the human's shoulder and stuck his tongue out at him.
When the diner was almost empty, peak hour over and the calm before the storm settling in as well as the end of Callum's shift, Tracy called everyone into the kitchen for the long awaited announcement.
Callum leaned against an oven with Grayson next to him as Tracy stood in front of the loose semicircle that the others had formed.
Tracy took a deep breath and bit her lip before starting, "So, you all saw what had happened when that man came in. And before you keep jumping into conclusions, no I am not in any sort of illegal trouble. I… oh boy." Tracy's expression fell as her shoulders dropped in defeat. "That man was warning me because the rent for this place has gone up and I can't afford it. I was supposed to have a month but someone else's booked the area and I have to close down in two weeks. I'm sorry."
Various forms of disbelief manifested. Some gasped, others, like Callum, simple stood in stunned silence, and a few even began to vocalize their concerns.
Tracy shook her head when one of the cooks asked if there was anything they could do, "I've tried to negotiate with them and I've consulted multiple advisors, but there is no way for me to save this place. I appreciate you wanting to try and help, but there is nothing we can do, as much as I hate to say it."
Tracy wiped her eyes and it sunk deep into Callum that he was about to lose his job. That all of them were going to lose their job. That the diner was going to be closed.
Grayson sagged against the oven, asking, "Why didn't you tell us sooner?" He wasn't angry, only confused.
"I thought I'd have longer, at least another two months before reaching the point of no return. And I don't want to see this place or all of you go."
"What's going to happen to you?" Callum asked. The rest of them were obviously going to be going job-hunting, but what about Tracy? She wasn't even from this city and if her only form of income was going to be closed, what was she going to do?
Tracy smiled sadly, "I'm probably going to head back to my hometown until I can figure something out and start over, buttercup."
A hugging fest quickly began and soon everyone was being ushered back to work with Tracy forcing a smile to try and get spirits up again. Callum went to the staff room to grab his things as his shift was over but his mind was a mess. As bad as he felt for Tracy who saved him from a homeless, starving life by hiring and giving him longer shifts after he dropped out of college, that life he was saved from was fast approaching if he didn't find a new job and soon. Dean's pub came to mind immediately, but he just as quickly dismissed the idea. If he worked there every night, he would never be left alone due to his infamous reputation there.
With just a high school degree to his name, the only jobs he was likely to have even a chance to get were as a waiter or something similar. It was also the only job he really knew how to do and had years of experience at.
As he walked down the street, he kept an eye out for 'Hiring' signs, mostly ones at restaurants and cafes as he had a much better chance at those types of places.
After stepping into a few stores, some without hiring signs for Callum was desperate, and being rejected each and every time, Callum was more than a little disheartened by the time he was a block away from his apartment. He only had two weeks.
Callum sighed and watched his apartment building slowly come closer with every step he took. He was staring at the ground in thought, oblivious to his surroundings, that when a hand clamped onto his shoulder, he started in fright.
"Mason," Callum gasped when he turned around and saw the shifter looking at him sheepishly.
"Sorry," the wolf winced.
"At least you didn't drag me into an alley," Callum sighed. "Did you need something?"
Mason frowned, "Did I make you angry again? Crap, was it the texts last night? I—"
Callum put a hand on Mason's shoulder to calm him down, interrupting him, "I'm not mad at you. I… Georgia called me while you were, uh, texting, and I didn't know how to respond to your…texts so I…didn't."
Callum felt his face heat up as he recalled the texts, especially what he had been about to do had Georgia's call not been a bucket of cold water. After his phone call with Georgia ended in which she had forced him to spill that he had gone out with Mason, the wolf in question had stopped his texts with a simple 'Good night, I love you xx'. Callum was too embarrassed to read the texts that had been sent during his phone call and didn't reply.
Mason's worried expression melted into a teasing grin but he didn't say anything after Callum shot him a harsh look that wasn't as harsh as he wanted since his face was a top contender in a tomato look-alike contest.
Mason chuckled, "So, where are you headed?"
"Uh, nowhere really. I just need to think a bit," Callum replied. He forced himself to not glance at his apartment building. He really did not want Mason knowing where he lived. Fuck knows if his life would ever have a moment of peace ever again.
Mason's expression sobered instantly. "What happened?"
Callum rubbed the back of his neck and looked down at his shifting feet, "Nothing, seriously, don't worry about it."
Mason stared Callum down, making the halfie even more nervous, until he stepped forward and before Callum knew it, he was tossed over Mason's shoulder.
"Mason!" Callum screeched, hands fisting into the back of Mason's shirt for fear of falling even though Mason had a firm arm over Callum's lower back and back of his knees. "Put me down!"
"I'll put you down if you promise to tell me what's bothering you," the stupid shifter replied.
Callum groaned and ducked his face into Mason's shoulder blade when he noticed the stares and snickers of other pedestrians. If any of his neighbours saw him…
"Fine! Just, put me down," Callum relented with a strangled plea.
Callum was promptly set back on his feet in front of Mason. The sudden movement had him stumbling and light headed for a second, long enough to fall into Mason's chest as he closed his eyes and clung onto the fabric of Mason's shirt to try and steady himself.
"Never. Do. That. Again," Callum bit out as he waited for his head to stop spinning and his stomach to settle.
Mason pet his head and chuckled as his other arm went around Callum's back to pull him close, "Sorry, love. I didn't know how else to convince you. We can talk at my place?"
Callum sighed and rested his forehead on Mason's shoulder. He was too tired and stressed to fight and simply nodded, "Sure."
Mason rubbed his back in large soothing circles, "You're agreeing with me. Something must really be wrong. Come on, my car's just a bit down the block."
Mason led the way by holding Callum's hand and chivalrously opened the passenger's door, closing it once Callum was settled and running around to get in through the driver's side.
They rode in silence, Callum staring down at his hands in his lap and then at Mason's hand that was soon placed on his knee, gently squeezing in reassurance. Callum didn't know what to think so he didn't and let Mason's hand rest on his knee for the rest of the ride to Mason's apartment building.
Mason parked in the underground garage and as he slipped out, Callum noticed that pretty much every car that was parked was super expensive and of the latest edition. He was completely out of his element.
Mason led the way to the elevator that required an access code to get to any floor. Mason was on the 16th, the third to last.
"Not the penthouse?" Callum questioned. It was the first either had spoken since Mason stopped hugging him on the street before they walked to his ridiculous car.
"Didn't have much of a look around last time, did you?" Mason chuckled. "But no, I just wanted one floor. It's big enough as it is for one person and I don't spend a lot of time home anyway so I didn't see the use in having two."
Callum found himself about to ask why Mason didn't spend much time home but held his tongue.
As they passed the eighth floor, the elevator slowed to a stop at the tenth, the doors dinging open to reveal a woman and a man dressed…eccentrically, to put it mildly.
The woman seemed to have taken inspiration from a peacock and tiger for her apparel with a bikini top colored in azure, green, and faded brown with strings of similarly colored beads and peacock feathers hanging down to her pierced bellybutton. Her tiger print skirt was cut asymmetrically with one side hanging down to her ankle and the other barely preventing any flashing of intimate parts. Callum doubted she'd be able to sit or do much of anything other than stand stock-still if she wanted to keep her privates private. Her black hair was done up in an arrangement of more beads and peacock feathers as well as sashes of orange and black striped ribbons. Her face was painted with warm orange stripes and her eyes were thickly outlined in gold, standing out on her dark skin tone.
Her companion on the other hand was a cross between the ghost of the Mad Hatter and Einstein. His hair was powder white with flashes of an orange-red and spiked out in every which direction as if something had exploded in his face. It was only slightly tamed by the elaborate purple top hat that sat upon his head. Under a white lab coat splattered in neon paints, he wore a pink vest and orange shirt and a pair of khaki slacks. Several polka dotted ties of various garish colors adorned his neck, arms, legs, hat, and waist, and his skin was as pale as the woman's was dark. The both of them were barefoot.
"Mason!" the man greeted as he and the woman entered the elevator. They keyed in a code and selected the 19th floor.
"Hey, Dani, Lucas. Rudi's holding another party?" Mason inquired. He seemed completely at ease with the two's outrageous attire. Callum couldn't stop staring.
"Yep, we are definitely going to win at least one award tonight," peacock-tiger girl, Dani, replied, eyes glinting with determination.
The two newcomers noticed Callum, who was still staring with his mouth slightly parted, and grinned at Mason.
"Soooooo, who's this cutie?" Einstein-Hatter man, Lucas, questioned, eyeing Callum with appreciation.
Mason growled and pulled Callum behind him, "Mine."
Eyes wide, Lucas backed up slightly while Dani pursed her lips in surprise before smirking.
Neither said another word as the car came to a stop again and Mason pulled Callum out, dragging the startled man to the door on the left wall. A quick punch of keys on the keypad later, Mason had the door open and ushered Callum inside.
"Would you like anything to drink?" Mason asked as he unbuttoned the first couple buttons of his shirt and sighed in relief.
"Do you have tea?" Callum asked, diverting his eyes from the teasing flash of Mason's toned chest.
"You like tea?" Mason returned. "What about coffee?"
Callum nodded, "Kind of an addict. Can't stand coffee though."
Mason grimaced, "I'm afraid you'll only find coffee here. I can go out and buy—"
"No, water's fine. Seriously, don't worry about it," Callum interrupted. He had no doubt in his mind that Mason would go out to buy a box of teabags for Callum and Callum alone. He would have probably bought the most expensive brands and a wide selection of flavors for Callum to take his pick from.
Mason walked towards the kitchen, beckoning for Callum to follow, "Are you sure? I've got beer too, and a couple sodas maybe. Or, if you want to you could just drink my blood again. I've heard being fed on can be really pleasurable and I'd love to get firsthand experience from you."
With wide eyes, red cheeks, and a more than slight splutter, Callum insisted on water, refusing to acknowledge Mason's more than obvious hint at wanting his blood sucked by Callum with the halfie not trying to exact a bit of revenge.
When Mason chuckled and handed Callum a tall glass of cool water, Callum replied with a quiet, "Thank you."
Mason put his hand on Callum's lower back and gently led him out of the kitchen, "Let's go sit in the living room."
Callum sat on the edge of the long L-shaped couch, kicking his shoes off and drawing his legs up to sit cross-legged while Mason settled right next to him, slightly angled to face him with an arm slung over the back of the couch.
Callum stared down at the glass of water in his hands and felt Mason's stare on him.
"So what's got you so upset?" Mason eventually asked.
Callum looked up but couldn't keep his gaze on Mason's and lowered his eyes to Mason's arm as he shrugged, "Nothing, I'm just tired, that's all."
Callum found his chin being lifted up and his eyes caught Mason's frown.
"You've always been a pretty bad liar, love," Mason tsked. He stroked his thumb across Callum's cheek and leaned forward, whispering, "Please tell me what's wrong."
Callum gulped at the intensity of Mason's worried gaze and bit his lip. "I…I'm going to lose my job in two weeks," he finally revealed.
"What? Tracy's firing you?" Mason was enraged.
"No, no, no, crap, I didn't mean it like that," Callum quickly tried to explain. "Tracy has to close down the diner in fifteen days. So, she's not firing me, although technically I'm being fired since I won't have a place to work at anymore."
"Why?" Mason questioned, calmer now and his hand dropped down to hold Callum's wrist, his thumb caressing the vulnerable skin under his palm.
Callum sighed and leaned back into the couch, "Tracy's been renting out the space where the diner is. Said the space's rent has gone up and the assholes that own the space aren't giving her enough time to figure out how she can still afford the place, plus some new guys have taken it. In fifteen days she has to close down. I've been looking for a new job since my shift ended today but I've had no luck whatsoever. Who's going to hire a community college dropout?"
Mason opened his mouth to argue or try and soothe Callum, but Callum was finally getting to vent his worries and Mason was not going to stop him.
"And I've been just managing but there's talk of my rent going up soon and with no job I'll get evicted 'cause my landlord is kind of a major bitch, and I doubt I'll find a new job that paid as well as Tracy did with good hours by the time the diner closes. I am so screwed."
Mason's arms went around Callum and the man found himself cradled in the shifter's lap seconds later, the glass of water set down on the coffee table in front of them. Mason rubbed Callum's back and hugged him to his chest, pressing his lips to Callum's forehead.
"Shh, it's going to be alright," Mason told him. "How long have you been working at Tracy's?"
"Five years give or take," Callum murmured, feeling like a little boy again even though his parents had never done something like this when he was upset.
"Right, so you've got a ton of experience. And Tracy's diner is pretty well known around these parts so you'll be fine. One bad day of job hunting shouldn't get you down. You've got two weeks to find another one. And if your rent is too much I'll help you find a new apartment, or you could even just move in with me until you get back on your feet. My door is always open for you, love. I'd even offer to cover all your expenses but I know you've got too much pride to accept handouts, even if the giver was doing it out of love and not pity."
Callum looked up at Mason and quickly ducked his head down to hide in the crook of Mason's neck, mumbling in embarrassment, "Thank you. Sorry for freaking out."
Mason chuckled and pressed a kiss to Callum's head, rubbing a hand up and down Callum's arm, "Anything for you, Callum. And don't apologize for freaking out a bit. You have every right to be worried about your future. But I'm serious, if you ever need any help, I'll always be there for you. No matter what."
Callum tried to swallow the lump in his throat and kept his eyes trained on the back of the couch over Mason's shoulder. He didn't even want to image the depths of adoration and affection that would be present in the shifter's dark blue eyes.
Callum's phone saved him from having to give Mason a reply. It rung from his back pocket and he muttered a quiet, "Sorry," before reaching behind to grab it. When he tried to discretely move from Mason's lap, the shifter didn't budge so Callum sighed and answered his phone after seeing that it was Grayson calling him.
"Hey, Grayson, what's up?"
"Hey, I just got home after an unsuccessful job hunt. You?"
Callum heaved another sigh and leaned into Mason, "Same. The job hunting failure part. I haven't gone home yet."
"Dude, this really sucks. Finding a new job is gonna be such a pain in the ass. Anyway, I called to tell you that a bunch of us were planning on having a thank you/goodbye/we'll miss you party thing for Tracy on the last day the diner's open. Kathleen had talked with Tracy after the two of us left and Tracy's planning on having some kind of farewell day thing on the last day so we can just combine everything."
"It's gonna turn out so depressing," Callum replied.
"Jeez, a little optimism wouldn't hurt, ya know," Grayson replied and Callum knew for certain that he was rolling his eyes.
"Sorry. I'm tired and stressed. But yeah, it'll be great. We should get Tracy something."
"Jakob and Kathleen are already on it. They said they're gonna set everything up. You know how controlling and OCD those two are."
Callum chuckled, "Yeah. Hey, do you wanna go job hunting together tomorrow? We've got the same shifts again so we could go before and after if you don't have classes."
"Yeah, maybe we could get jobs at the same place again if we're lucky. I've only got a morning class tomorrow before my shift so we can head out after. But I gotta ditch you now. I have a paper to write that isn't even a quarter of the way done and is due before six AM and I am gonna die. Gah. See you tomorrow, Cal."
Callum wished Grayson good luck on his paper and goodnight before putting his phone away.
"I should get home," he told Mason who had yet to relinquish his hold on the halfie. Throughout the conversation he had sat quietly, resting his chin on Callum's head and gently stroking Callum's hip over his shirt.
"You could stay the night," Mason suggested though it was more of a plea. "I really don't want you to leave." To emphasize his reluctance, he tightened his hold on Callum, hugging him as if he were a favorite giant teddy bear.
"Mason…" Callum protested.
With a mournful sigh, Mason let go of Callum and the halfie clambered out of the shifter's lap, steadying himself on his feet in front of the couch.
Rubbing the back of his neck and feeling the heat on his face only increasing, Callum mumbled, "Well…thanks. I'll, uh, I'll be going now…"
Mason got to his feet with a soft smile, "I'll walk you to the door."
Callum was acutely aware of Mason walking barely a step behind him the short distance to the door.
When Callum went to say goodbye once he was outside of Mason's apartment, he frowned as Mason walked past him to the elevator.
Callum quickly jogged to catch up with his brows still furrowed in confusion.
Mason chuckled and pulled Callum into the elevator by his wrist when the halfie didn't move. "I never said which door," he teased, leaning down to peck Callum's lips and then ruffle his hair.
Callum huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, face beet red. "You are not dropping me home," he grumbled.
Mason laughed at him and Callum continued to sulk until Mason pulled him in for a longer kiss.
"I did tell you that I'd kiss all your pouts away," Mason said before leaning back down for another kiss.
The elevator door opened and Callum pushed at Mason's chest when he noticed that people were standing and staring at them from the lobby.
"Mason," Callum whined, trying to urge the shifter to stop trying to play tonsil hockey.
Mason grumbled but pulled back and threaded his fingers with Callum's as he led the way out of the car. Callum couldn't look up at anyone though he did notice that they were all dressed quite uniquely, probably more guests for 'Rudi's' party. He heard a number of them greet and send a playful jibe to Mason who simply gave them a short greeting in return.
Mason let go of Callum when they were stood outside the apartment building.
"Sorry, I promised just last night that I wouldn't embarrass you but goddamn I can't get enough of you."
"Uh…" Callum didn't know what to say. "It's…okay. It wasn't too bad and I didn't know any of them nor will I probably ever see them again…so…don't worry about it. But I really need to get going. I'll see you around, Mason."
Mason grinned and nodded, "Good night, Callum. Text me when you get home."
Callum rolled his eyes, "I'm not five, mom."
"I highly doubt your mother wants to mate with you and if she does, then something is clearly wrong there," Mason chuckled. "I'm just worried and want to know that you're safe."
Callum flushed and muttered, "Whatever. Good night, Mason."
"No good night kiss?" Mason asked cheekily.
Callum scowled with a red face.
"Kidding, love," Mason laughed. "I won't push you past your limits."
Not knowing what made him do it, probably the need to show Mason up in some arbitrary way, Callum grabbed onto the collar of Mason's shirt and pulled him down. With his eyes screwed shut, he puckered his lips and crushed them to Mason's for a moment before pulling back, skin burning from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his neck.
Callum ran off before Mason could react and he could be hit with the realization of what he had actually done.
When he got home, Callum flopped onto his bed with a groan.
"Why the fuck did I do that?" he mumbled into his pillow. "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid."
Still, Callum groped for his phone and lifted his head to see the keyboard as he typed a quick message.
Callum: I'm home
A/N: Heyyo! So I've also updated my other WIPS as an early present since I'm going to be without internet up until around Jan 2/3. So yeah, I'll reply to comments and such (if I get any, that is) when I get back. Happy holidays/new year. Hope yours turns out better than mine will.