He'd been having a particularly bad evening--there had been a bit of a freak burner accident which the better part of Mikey's hand was smarting from, and he'd had two kids get snippy with him about the line moving too slowly--the night they met. A third kid was about to ride Mikey's ass when the guy next to him said, "Hey, knock it off. Being an asshole ages you."
The Asshole looked ready to start something, but Nice Guy--who was wearing a pretty awesome Megadeath shirt--was obviously easily able to pound him. His arms were roughly the size of, well, Mikey. Asshole backed off and Mikey got him his potatoes. He then offered Nice Guy, "Extra helping?"
"Oh, hey, for real?"
Mikey laughed, because the guy actually seemed sort of excited. He just scooped up a second helping and said, "Thanks for the courtesy."
Nice Guy grinned. "Any time."
Nice Guy was suddenly a regular in the mashed potato line. Mikey was embarrassed to admit it, but it was sort of the highlight of his days, seeing what new band shirt Nice Guy was sporting, having him smile and say, "How's it going?"
Mikey wanted to say, "Hi, I'm Mikey," but Nice Guy probably just had manners, so it wasn't like he should make a big deal of it or anything. There was one night where the line wasn't very long and he thought the guy sort of lingered and Mikey almost, almost said it, but then another student came up and Nice Guy gave him a smile and went to go get a drink. It was probably for the best.
Mikey was fingering the Pearl Jam LP wistfully when somebody came up next to him and said, "If it isn't Mashed Potato Boy."
Mikey looked up and saw Nice Guy. "Oh, um. Hi."
"That's a brilliant album."
Mikey nodded. Nice Guy said, "I'm Ray. I've sort of been trying to say that, but it always seems weird, like, I don't know--"
Mikey laughed. "Yeah a little. I'm Mikey. You have nice t-shirts. Um." If Mikey could have rolled his eyes at himself without Ray noticing, he would have. Because it wasn't bad enough that he was mashed potatoes boy, he had to admit that he was always looking at the guy's t-shirts?
"You like those bands?"
"Zeppelin best," Mikey said.
"You gonna get that?" Ray asked, motioning to the LP.
Mikey ran his hand regretfully over it. "Nah, I have the tracks on my iPod."
"Yeah, but--" Ray said, "Okay, well, you have a free hour?"
Mikey checked his watch. "Forty-five minutes." He had to be at the bookstore in an hour. Luckily it was pretty slow at this point in the semester, so he could probably get some homework done while he was there.
"Wanna grab some lunch?"
"On me. I was supposed to be on shift about five minutes ago. It's the least you can do, for making me late."
Mikey said, "Oh, I made you late?"
Ray said, "Obviously."
"I guess I'd better pay up then."
They established a pattern so regular, Mikey could almost pretend they were actually dating. Ray came and got mashed potatoes on the weeknights that Mikey worked, they LP browsed Saturday morning, and Mikey grabbed lunch at the dive where Ray bartended. Mikey told Gerard, "We're friends," and Gerard said, "You have a very specific tone for when you're lying out your ass, Mikey."
Gerard was probably right, but Ray had a cool job, and cool friends from all over the place, and even a cool major. Well, the major itself was an engineering major (which was still better than Mikey's music education), but Ray did his honors work in sound engineering, which was about the fucking coolest thing Mikey had ever heard. Ray was not looking to have some sophomore boyfriend who couldn't afford to go on a date that didn't involve a comped meal.
Mikey said, "Yeah, well," and Gerard left it, because Gerard knew what it felt like, he'd been in college once, too.
Ray broke routine one night to come back through the mashed potato line as Mikey was starting to clean up. Mikey said, "Oh, hey, it's kinda the dregs--"
Ray said, "No, no, I wanted-- Look, I got these tickets, for a concert Saturday night. I know you work till eight, but doors are at eight, so that should be fine, it's not that far out. I was wondering, I mean, it's Richard Ashcroft, and you said--"
"You didn't listen to Verve," Mikey said. He remembered the conversation. It had been the one band they'd found so far that they disagreed on.
"Right, but you really liked them."
"Look, I know I'm an engineer, which is kind of like the dorkiest thing in the world, and every day is sort of a bad hair day for me, and I'm about to graduate and I've got no clue what I'm doing and no real prospects and really, I'm totally the sort of guy your older brother would probably beat up for even trying to date you, but I sort of think--"
"Sorry, sorry, it was a really, really good speech and everything, but I've sort of, um, been pretending that our lunch thing was sort of a date so I have to say yes now."
"Oh." Ray looked surprised. "Really? The lunch thing?"
Mikey shrugged. "I like your hair."
Ray's grin was large and seriously dorky and without question, the most awesome thing Mikey had ever seen.