Tim Stoker wasn’t known for being a patient person. He didn’t like to wait, especially not on things he had already been looking forward to all week. Sitting in the little booth right next to the coffee shop’s counter he tried to concentrate on anything else but the waiting, counting the petals of the daisies standing in a vase on the table. He is coming. He is not coming. He is coming. He is-
Tim checked his phone for the fourth time in the last 7 minutes and 30 seconds. He wasn’t the most punctual person himself and he had already been five minutes late. Which made it even worse that his date, a really nice and handsome guy he knew from a kayaking trip, had yet to show up. He found himself looking at the screen yet again - 8 minutes late now - and still: no messages about being sorry or not being able to make it.
He couldn’t have been stood up, right? That was just not something that happened to Timothy “The Hot One” Stoker. Sure, his hair started to grey not only around his temples, the lines around his eyes showing that he had definitely passed his 30th birthday, but still - he was a catch, right? A silver fox! Still at the top of his game - and his date was 10 minutes late now.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but if you don’t order something soon I will have to ask you to leave.” Tim looked up to the barista's face and was about to ask him to please not call him “Sir” and make him feel even older. But his gaze wandered off to the big store window for a moment on the way up and he recognized three people standing right outside, looking in.
Sasha, Basira and Daisy. His three colleagues, to whom he had - just a few hours ago - bragged about the hot date he was going to meet later. Now they were opening the bright yellow door and about to come in and- and see how Tim apparently had reached the point in life where dates stood him up. The guy was over 15 minutes late. He wouldn’t show up.
Without really thinking about it - or thinking at all - he grabbed the barista's warm hand and pulled him into the booth. The young man half fell, half dropped onto the bench and stared at Tim in confusion. Tim only had a second to really look at the other man. Reddish-blonde hair, hundreds of freckles on a pretty face, a tiny gap between his front teeth and pale green eyes, now sparkling with a hint of anger.
“Please, I am sorry, please play along just for a few minutes and I swear I will order whatever you want and tip you very generously,” Tim whispered, fast, still holding the barista’s hand in his own. For whatever reason, the other hadn’t pulled away yet. Shock, probably.
Basira, Sasha and Daisy were reaching the counter, chatting and laughing about a joke Daisy had made, when Sasha’s eyes fell onto Tim. Then on the barista. Then their hands. Her eyebrows shot up, her smile widening. It was that grin that Tim knew just to well, that pleasure she took in knowing things. It made her the great researcher that she was - always wanting to find out more.
“Oh, look at us crashing right into you and your date, Tim.” She winked at him, her statement making Basira and Daisy stop looking at the menu to turn around and look at the two men.
“You were right - he is cute,” Basira noticed in her calm way, lips curling slightly in amusement.
“Don’t let us distract you,” Daisy added, while turning back to the counter and the chalkboard menu. Another barista - a gorgeous black woman - appeared behind it, eyes searching the room for a moment, probably looking for her disappeared colleague. Her gaze lingered on him for only a second when she spotted him, frowning almost unnoticeably. She then continued to take Daisy’s order as if nothing about the whole situation was strange to her in any way. The blond man hadn’t said another word. His hand was still in Tim’s and he was trying very hard to not look anybody in the eyes.
Soon enough his friends each had a big, steaming cup of coffee in their hands and - luckily - decided to take the hot drinks and go for a walk to enjoy the nice weather. As much as Tim loved them all, right now he couldn’t wait for them to leave.
“I’m looking forward to what you’re gonna tell us tomorrow,” Sasha said, placing a hand on Tim’s shoulder. Tim didn’t really like how much the girls interrupted his date, even if it wasn’t a real one, but there was true fondness in Sasha’s eyes. She gave his shoulder a slight squeeze and then looked over to Tim’s “date.”
“Treat him well, yeah? He’s one of the good guys. Nice meeting you-?”
“Martin. Wonderful! Have fun, you two!” With that, she quickly followed Daisy and Basira out of the coffee shop, offering a strange little half-wave that should not have been endaring, but was.
The silence that followed lasted only about a second, but for Tim it felt like an eternity. No words, no sounds, even the rumbling of the coffee machines drowned out by the sound of his own heart pounding against his chest. Then, at the exact same moment, him and the barista - Martin - both pulled their hands back as if one had just electrocuted the other.
“WHAT ON EARTH-”
“I AM SO SORRY!”
They both started, loud and fast, staring at each other, than stopping abruptly to let the other talk. Then someone started to laugh.
“You- oh gosh, you two should see your faces.”
The other barista stood behind the counter, shaking with laughter. Tim even could see tears forming in her eyes, she didn’t seem to be able to stop. Then Martin started to giggle along with her and Tim couldn’t help but join in. It was a contagious and it helped to make Tim feel a little bit less mortified. A tiny bit. He still couldn’t believe that he had actually done this.
“I am really sorry,” Tim started anew when he was finally able to breath again, dropping his head in shame. “I don’t know what came over me. I… well, I was supposed to have a date, here, now and… well, looks like I actually got stood up.” He stopped, allowing himself to be bitter about that fact for a moment.
“And so…?” Martin looked at him, eyebrows raised, but at least not looking angry anymore.
“And so when the girls - my colleagues and friends - came in, after I had told them in great detail how amazing and cute that guy is that I was supposed to meet… I panicked! I am really so sorry, Martin, I… I don’t know what else to say."
Martin looked at Tim, still a bit in disbelief about the fact that this all just had actually happened probably, but the tiny smile playing on his lips seemed real. It made Tim think that maybe he wasn’t about to be thrown out of the coffee shop just yet.
“Okay, so… your colleagues now believe that I am your hot and amazing date? You know what? I’ll just… take that as a compliment and file it under Strange Things That Could Happen To You As A Barista. ” He stood up, giving Tim an opportunity to look at Martin. He really was cute, tall and soft in just the right way. The type of guy you would love to cuddle onto while watching some documentary about fish and eating indian take away.
Tim scolded himself for that kind of thought. He had been acting completely inappropriate for the last half an hour and now he was thinking about cuddling a complete stranger. Martin was probably only acting nice because he was afraid of what Tim might do next.
“Well… yeah. So. I guess, it might be best, you know, I’ll… be out of your way then.” Tim had already stood up and turned to leave, then remembered what he had promised before and spun back around. He must have looked completely awkward, but it wasn’t as if they could think even worse of him, right?
“Wait, I promised to order something.” He smiled at the barista behind the counter, who was still giggling silently and grinned at him.
“As it looks like you’re not going to throw me out on the spot, could I get a triple espresso with a lot of milk and a big shot of vanilla sirup?” He could hear Martin let out a snort, the girl’s giggling intensified - and then the three of them burst out into laughter once again.
“A very vanilla espresso, sure .” She still sounded a little breathless, but two minutes later handed him a cup of coffee. Tim didn’t even wait for her to tell him how much it cost, he just presse what he knew would be "too much money" into her hand.
“For… the both of you, and the inconvenience that I’ve caused.” He took the mug, tried to not burn his fingers and failed promptly.
“Ouch! Okay, yeah. Goodbye!” And with that, Tim Stoker, king of flirts and master of sweet talking, fled a coffee shop after being stood up and making a complete fool out of himself. Great Tim. Great. Absolutely fantastic.
“Sooo… that dude from before was… handsome.” Georgie let herself drop against one of the shelves that she and Martin had been stocking for the last hour or so. It was their ritual at the end of the late shift, making sure everything was stocked and fine for the poor souls who had the morning shift - the Archive, a coffee shop that was attached to the university library, opened at 5am during the semester.
“Was he…? I didn’t notice, I was too shocked by -”
“A hot guy holding you hand and pretending to date you?” Georgie didn’t mention how Martin’s mind apparently had directly jumped towards The Date Guy when she spoke of someone handsome. What had his name been? Tim?
“I don’t know anything about him, Georgie! He could be a killer for what I know?” Martin blushed way too much for Georgie to believe that Martin really thought of Tim that way. She knew that Martin was often shy when it came to matters of the heart and they were good enough friends for her to know that it had been quite a while since Martin had even kissed someone.
“Oh, come on, have you seen how embarrassed he was afterwards? The poor guy got stood up by his date and he panicked. Maybe you should have just asked him out instead!” Martin looked over to see Georgie beam at him. He suddenly found the sack of coffee beans in front of him very interesting.
“Oh, surely that is what he would have wanted. Hi, I know your hot date didn’t show up, how about you take me instead as a consolation prize.”
“Martin, you know that you’re not-"
“I-.. I know, Georgie, it’s just… you know, I would have dreamt to hold the hand of a guy like this back when I was younger? I’m just… not the type of guy that people find attractive, I guess? It always just seemed so impossible. And now, just like that, I got a taste of what it could feel like, and… I don’t know.” With a deep, frustrated sigh he let himself sink down to the floor, back sliding along the storage room wall.
“You should ask him out the next time he comes in to get coffee.”
“Didn’t you hear what I just said?” Martin lifted his head to look at Georgie with a deep sigh of resignation. “Guys like that don’t go out with guys like me. He panicked and needed someone to play along, I was so dumbstruck that I did. That’s all there is.” Martin knew that tonight he would probably think of Tim. Think of how nice and warm his hand had felt and how he wished that he had the guts to actually ask him out. But Martin was... Martin. He really shouldn’t get his hopes up. He wouldn’t-
“Alright, you know what? If he ever shows up here again - which I highly doubt - then I will ask him out,” Martin heard himself say instead. Georgie laughed, pushed herself slightly off of the wall and grabbed her coat. She extended her hand for him to grab and help him up.
“Wonderful. Come on then, loverboy, it’s late and Melanie promised me to order pizza for when I come home.”
Martin followed her, wordlessly. What on earth had he gotten himself into now?