Really it’s all Gary’s fault.
Her usual, very reliable, sometimes a bit eccentric, assistant is always the one to get her morning coffee. But when Ava had received a call this morning from an obviously very under the weather Gary saying that he wouldn’t be able to come in today, she hadn’t even thought about the fact that for the first time since she hired Gary as her assistant two years ago, there wouldn’t be a coffee waiting for her on her desk when got to work.
The fact that she had somehow managed to make it all the way to her lunch break without dying of exhaustion was truly a miracle in and of itself, and if she snapped at a few employees and pinched her eyes together in the tell tale signs of a caffineless life, nobody was really around her office to see anyways.
She thought she had at least been managing decently enough, but when their lunch hour rolled around and Nate waved a Starbucks gift card in her direction with a “Please, we all need you to go back to normal”, it was all too clear that her off performance was more noticeable than she had thought.
The coffee shop isn’t far from the office.
A plus side of living and working in the city is that there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner.
There’s a line, because of fucking course there is, just Ava’s luck. By time she finally makes it up the counter, she’s exhausted and a little hungry and she knows that the cake pop that she’s ordering won’t actually make her any less hungry, but it’s cute.
Almost as cute as the girl behind the counter.
Someone who clearly had gotten her morning, lunch, and afternoon coffees - smiling brightly, blonde hair tied up in a ponytail, with a well practiced customer service smile. Almost too peppy but she takes Ava’s order quick enough, doesn’t judge on the cake pop, and really Ava thinks she’s about to get out of the whole transaction without any issue until the peppy barista girl says, “Hey, do you want me to make it a double dirty, on the house, you look like you need it?”
Ava sputters - “A what?”
“Double dirty,” the barista replies, wiggling her eyebrows in a manner which might have been an attempt at suggestive but looks more silly.
“She means two shots of espresso,” one of the other baristas says, “And it’s coming out of her paycheck , if she keeps offering everyone discounts.”
“It’s not every one , John,” the barista insists, before turning back to Ava with a wink, “Just the cute ones.”
And Ava isn’t even sure what to make of that.
It’s not that she doesn’t like being flirted with. She does, and sure it has been a while, all too busy with work and under normal circumstances maybe she would have been smart enough to flirt back or t at least say thank you for the offer of something free. But right now, she just has a splitting headache and the barista is a little bit too peppy for Ava’s midafternoon slump.
“Really, all I want is something caffinated as soon as possible,” Ava says.
The barista seems to take that as some sort of affirmative statement, smiling a little bit too wide, before she hands Ava back her card. Ava heads over to where the pick up window is, letting the next customer step up into her place, and get the barista’s far too bright smile instead.
It doesn’t take too long for her coffee and cake pop to appear, and Ava thanks the other barista - John (?) - for delivering her the drink, and heads out of the store.
It’s not until she is already out of the store and half way back to her office that she stops and takes a drink, realizing instantly that something isn’t right. It’s not… Completely wrong, it’s mostly her drink, but slightly off.
Probably that double dirty or whatever.
And truth be told it’s not bad , so Ava takes another drink and continues on with her day without thinking of it.
The next day, when Gary is out again (it’s strep apparently, and he promises he’ll be back and not contagious in another day or two), Ava makes sure to stop by the Starbucks on her way into work, not willing to have another morning of caffeine headaches and poor moods.
The line is about the same as it was the day before, despite it currently being eight in the morning.
She’s got a plan for today, to order her coffee, just the usual way she likes and to make sure that it is made right this time.
A plan that completely disappears from her mind and she reaches the front of the line. The same barista from the day before greets her, this time with a smile that isn’t quite as hyped up. It seems early mornings could get to everyone.
But she smiles when Ava gets to the front, like they’re old friends, “You’re back! Dirty soy chai for Ava, right?”
“No - Yeah, How do you know my name?”
“Steel trap,” the barista replies, tapping her forehead, “I always remember the cute ones.”
And there it is, the flirting again, and, “Do you do this with everyone to get a good tip or something?”
“No, no, I swear,” she replies, holding up her hands innocently, “Well, okay sometimes, but not all the time.”
Ava can’t help but laugh. She’s cute, and nice, and getting flirted with first thing isn’t as terrible as being flirted with in the middle of the afternoon with a splitting headache is. And well…. The barista is her type ater all.
“I don’t think it’s fair that you know my name, and I don’t know yours,” Ava tells her, handing over her credit card.
The barista smiles, “You know I have to write it on your cup, right?”
“Well yes, but-”
Behind her the next customer fakes a cough, a bit too loudly, and suddenly reminding Ava that there is in fact a massive line behind her.
“It’s Sara, by the way,” the barista replies, handing Ava back her credit card. “Sara, the coffee queen.”
“Well,” Ava laughs a little again. “Nice to meet you, your highness.”
Sara does a small teasing cursey and there’s a smile on Ava’s lips that she can’t manage to wipe away as she goes to the pick up area. This time the drink is made by a different barista, but the amused expression on the woman’s face matches the one of the man from yesterday.
Really, Ava is just thankful for the coffee.
Even if it is only once the coffee is in her hands that she realizes in her distraction of Sara knowing her name, Ava hadn’t managed to remember to correct her order before it was made.
At least, now she knows why it tastes a little different than her usual.
It becomes a thing.
Without her even meaning too.
Sure she still sends Gary on the afternoon and evening coffee runs, but now every morning before work Ava stops in to grab her own drink. Coming into work not only with her morning coffee, but with a little extra pep in her step from Sara’s bright smile - clearly the other woman must actually be a morning person - and her cheesy pick up lines of the day.
And really when you get down to it, there isn't’ that much of a difference between soy milk and oat milk.
“Oh you’re whipped whipped.”
Nora grins back at her from over the top of her own drink. One that looks to be one hundred percent sugar and nothing else.
The fact that they’re sitting in the coffee shop is so out of her usual norm that Ava already feels off. She can’t help but keep glancing up at the counter where Sara is taking each customers’ order, mentally calculating whether the level of pep she reserves for Ava’s visits is something special or not.
“Here I am graciously visiting my best friend on my lunch break, and all she is doing is making eyes and innocent customer service workers,” Nora says, dramatic and a little bit too loud for Ava’s liking. “Have you asked for her number yet?
Ava nearly chokes on her coffee.
“Don’t you have a chocolate monstrosity to be drinking,” Ava replies.
“Double chocolate, chocolate chip, mocha frappe,” Nora corrects.
Ava’s stomach turns at just the thought of consuming that much chocolate. “Gross.”
“Okay Miss Soy Milk.”
“You know really when you get down to the science the difference between Soy and Oat milk is negligible and best and-”
“That’s whipped culture, Ava, I really hope you know this.”
It’s raining, pouring really, and Ava should have just called an uber to take her to work instead of taking the train, but her commitment to the environment (or simply not paying the terrible uber surge prices) ruled over everything else.
Even the fact that she had no umbrella didn’t stop her.
So ducking into the coffee shop to escape the rain, and get her morning coffee, makes sense especially considering that the Starbucks is halfway between her train station and her job.
For the first time in a long while the coffee shop is practically empty, only one barista behind the counter instead of the usual two or three (Ava now more than well familiar with the rest of the staff - John, Charlie, Zari and Behrad), this time, it’s just Sara.
Sara who looks more than a little shocked to see Ava coming in from the storm.
“Sorry, for tracking water in and-”
“It’s fine,” Sara cuts her off. “Are you okay, you’re like soaked?”
“I mean,” Ava sighs. “I’ve been better?”
“I’m upgrading you to a venti free of charge and you’re sitting here to drink it, until you’re all warmed up, okay? No arguments allowed.”
It’s so sweet.
Such a simple thing.
And Ava’s heart feels a little bit like it wants to escape out of her chest.
This was why despite the terrible weather Ava had made sure to step inside the coffee shop anyways.
“Plus,” Sara says, waving Ava off, when she tries to pay, “I could use the company.”
They’re having a working lunch.
A final project coming up with a deadline quicker than she would like and so she drags Gary with her to the usual Starbucks without a second thought. Determined to get her dirty chai and a table in which they can spread out all their notes and get some work done.
The line is shorter, and they’re up at the front before they know it and Sara glances between the two of them with her usual smile and - “Oh hey, you two know each other?”
“Yeah, we work together,” Ava says, quickly.
Not thinking about it, until Sara starts to ring the two of them up, asking if they both want the usual , and Ava maybe can’t help the little feeling of jealousy that Gary also has a usual from bubbling up - ironic considering that she is the one usually sending him on coffee runs here.
It’s only as Sara hands the cups off to Charlie that she pauses, and asks, “Hey, Gary, do you want me to hold off on making the one for your boss until you’re about to leave, that way it’s still hot when you two head back,” that she realizes all of this time Sara has been missing one vital piece of information.
Because while there may not be that much of a difference, beat a chai latte with soy milk and one with oat milk, as far Sara is concerned those are two different drink orders belonging to two different people not.
“Well, actually I-”
“Ava’s my boss,” Gary says, chiming in innocently. Not knowing that anything is wrong. “I guess there’s no way you would have known that , huh, small world.”
There’s a look of confusion on Sara’s face and Ava instantly feels bad.
“But you drink soy milk , not…”
Sara pen is still over the to go cup, paused where she was in the middle of writing what would normally have been a familiar order.
“I actually… Prefer oat milk,” Ava says, in a small almost quiet voice.
“Shit, why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“Because you were so happy to have gotten my order right the first time, and I felt bad, and-”
“And she thinks that you’re cute,” Gary supplies.
Ava can’t help but blush that floods her face, because well, he’s not wrong. And when Ava looks up there is a hint of red on Sara’s cheeks too, but just a hint, because this is the girl that’s been flirting with her since day one. Even though Ava had tried as her might to deny the obvious over all this time.
“Well, I should make it up to you then, you know, since I’ve been getting your order wrong all this time,” Sara says.
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that, really, it’s fine,” Ava insists, tripping over her words.
But Sara just waves her off, insisting that this one will have oat milk and that it’s on the house and that Ava isn’t allowed to argue with that. Ava doesn’t, lets herself be shuffled over to the pick up counter easily enough and watches as Sara even insists on making the drink, forcing Charlie onto register duties instead so that she can make Ava’s drink perfectly this time.
It’s all rather amusing and cute and okay maybe she has been falling for Sara all this time, but…
When there’s a drink in her hand finally, Ava finds that she doesn’t care whether the chai latte inside is made with soy milk or oat milk, because there’s a phone number scrawled on the side of the coffee mug with a promise to make it up to her if she wants to text and set up a time later for something that just might be a date.