With a quiet sigh, Lance wipes the sweat off his brow and glances at the sausages on the small grill. They’re already done, have been done for a long time, but he has to keep them warm until somebody comes over and buys something. Because … well, who’d want to bite into a hot dog only to find out the only hot thing about it is the pretty seller? Right! No one!
Lance wouldn’t want that, either. At least he wouldn’t want that if he’d eat still hot dogs at all anymore. … which he doesn’t. Mostly because he doesn’t want to have anything to do with all this stuff, because he just can’t take the smell of meat anymore, not to mention the taste.
… is everything you do for a living like this? Do you start hating everything you do when you have to do it all day? … hmm. That’s a thing he needs to think about a little longer sometime soon. Maybe he should ask Hunk what he thinks about it. Hunk is smart and likes to play along with Lance’s dumb little mind games, however weird they might be.
That is probably the reason why Hunk is his best friend (even though he feels a bit lonely in here, on days like this one, when it’s hot outside and even hotter inside this stupid truck, when he feels trapped and cramped between all the sizzling meat, when he’s tired and exhausted and thinking of just smashing his head onto the nearest surface. Which would be the griddle. Just to see what’s gonna happen … though, well, no. Better not. He knows what’s going to happen, has watched countless times how the thin skin around the sausages just bursts, how the meat is being grilled from the inside, very nicely smelling, very tasty, very much not what he wants for himself. He’s extremely sure he doesn’t want to become the filling of a Lance sandwich, no thanks, nope, never ever); maybe that’s one of those reasons. That and because they’ve grown up together, the two of them against the rest of the world, two friend that would never let each other high and dry.
… except for now.
Because summer vacation just started. And Hunk went to Egypt with his parents, like he does every year, travelling along the Nile on a boat, examining the pyramids, clinging to the slim hope to find something no one has ever found before him. Like he does … every year. Because Hunk wants to become an archaeologist, or maybe a ship mechanic, he’s never quite sure about it.
Just like Lance. Well, that thing with the archaeology. Not the one with the mechanics. That’s definitely not his thing, he gets seasick very easily – which is why he dropped his dream of becoming an astronaut. An astronaut who gets nauseous just from being shaken, not stirred … no, not happening. Too bad.
But archaeology is cool. As long as it’s something that makes his name appear in history books and his face in newspapers.
The same face that’s not shining with sweat (which would be alright, usually, because usually he’d be in Egypt with Hunk and turn around every single god-damn pebble in the whole desert. Like every year. But no, this year, finals got in the way and his grades didn’t look as good as usual. And his parents were not amused.), as he’s picking up a pair of tongs to flip the meat from one side to the other, to watch it sizzle, turning a crispy brown from the other side as well. He pouts. And sighs.
Actually, it’s all his dad’s fault. After he came home with his not-too-pretty school report, his dad had thrown his hands up in despair and taken a very, very deep breath. The kind of breath you take when you actually want to scream. Lance could understand him, he felt the same when he received his grades. He hadn’t expected them to look this bad and maybe he wanted to mentally kick his own ass, because he’d spend more time calculating what grades he’d need so he wouldn’t have to repeat the whole year, than actually studying. And when he’d taken his final exams … he’d fucked up his grades and his holiday in Egypt.
Well. Anyway. His dad had very nicely and sternly told him to think about what he was doing, what he was hoping to get out of life and why he wasn’t „getting his ass up“ to actually reach the goals he’d set for himself and get his young, young life together. And then his dad had condemned him to a summer job so Lance could realize what he wouldn’t want to do for the rest of his life.
And that’s how he’d ended up here. And after the third day, he’d found out you could make a shit ton of money in a food truck that was around the corner of the biggest mall in the city – and also that it was a shit ton of work. Now that he knows a bit more about it, he feels kinda sorry for all those people who have to do this job all year long (but only kinda, for it is absolute grind work, it’s tough and tiring, but if it’s done right, it’s enough to make a living).
And that’s why he’s here, every day, for eight hours, in this tiny, cramped space and serving people, heaving boxes with lemonade and soft drinks from here to there and suffering through the smell of burnt meat and grease (nope, until summer vacation is over, Lance has definitely become a vegetarian). But not everything is bad. The customers are mostly nice. Sure, a few of them are always in a shitty mood or in a hurry, coming home from work or just wanting to grab something to eat before work, but most of them are nice to chat with. So he does that. A lot. Mostly with the guys and gals who work at the mall, when they come over to his place to keep him some company during their lunch or cigarette breaks. They often buy something. And those who don’t talk to him about everything and nothing (it’s one of the things he has found out while working here: People like to hear themselves talk or like to have someone to tell their worries to. And when the appointment with the doctor or the hairdresser is still too far away, the pretty food truck boy has to have an open ear for them).
However, that is not the only reason why the job is pissing him off less than he initially thought it would, why he’s coming to work day after day with a smile on his lips.
Because there’s also him.
The young man with the red leather jacket and the black hair. Who comes over every second day, a leather bag slung over his shoulder (one that Lance assumes is a school bag, some sort of fancy designer brand, stuff Lance knows nothing about. It would be to stressful for him to spend time and money on something that doesn’t need to look pretty, that only needs to be practical, to do its job and carry his books) and a smartphone in his hand that he types onto, his head a little lowered so that his hair falls into his face, hiding his eyes. Truth to be told, for a long time Lance believed him to be an arrogant dick, just some rich child going to a private school.
But then, one time, the guy didn’t just rush past him, past the mall and into the general direction of the train station, but instead paused and raised his head to look at him. To look him in the eye. … yeah, sure, most likely he only looked at the menu, but a boy can dream, right?
Anyways, the guy had looked at him. At smiled. And waved a bit at him when he noticed that Lance was looking at him as well (just looking, not staring. Definitely not staring, all right?).
… and this job hasn’t been that bad ever since.
Mental correction: The job has been incredibly shitty ever since. Just because every day, Lance goes to work with a hopeful smile on his face and comes back home with the facial expression of someone who has a lemon stuck in his throat. Which, in turn, is just because he is hoping to see his crush with the pretty hair and jacket again. And he is waiting. Again and again. Without him coming over. Although he really only wants to chat a bit him with, exchange a few words in order to find out whether he’s a giant dick or not, and then to … well …
But if he doesn’t shop up at all, Lance can’t flirt, and if Lance can’t flirt with him, he’ll never find out if he’s found the love of his life or not. It’s a catch-22 situation. He hates it.
But what if the guys always comes over when Lance isn’t there for a few minutes? What if he stared into the truck longingly, waiting for Lance to show up, only to grow as annoyed and frustrated as Lance is himself?
Oh god, what if he coincidentally always comes over just when Lance is in the mall to visit the restroom? … fine, that just means there are no more toilet breaks for him! He’s gotta endure that – or just sweat it out, after all, it’s so hot in here, it shouldn’t be a problem!
… yeah, well, no, that would be ridiculous.
… but maybe it’d be worth a try.
“Think, Lance, think,” he grumbles to himself a few days later and rubs his eyes with an exhausted sigh. And then he just stays like that for a bit, resting his elbows on the counter, hiding his face in his hands. Maybe he should go home. Summer vacation is almost over, just two more weeks, and then he’s back at school, trapped in there for months until his graduation. Then, there’s college. He’s gonna move far, far away. He’s never gonna see the pretty guy with the red jacket again.
And maybe that’s okay, in a way. There are plenty of other fish in the sea, and so on. To bad he is, like, an anti-pescetarian and doesn’t even care about fish and only about that one pretty idiot who just fails to drag his butt over here. Maybe he noticed Lance staring at him? Because, well, Lance did stare. A long time sometimes. Maybe he only smiled at Lance that one time because he hoped that would be enough, that would make Lance stop behaving like a giant idiot with a giant crush. Maybe. Yeah, maybe he did hope that – without knowing that just made his stupid crush a lot worse.
He just sighs one more time. “Congrats, man,” he murmurs to himself, “you’re totally fucked.”
Someone clears his throat.
Lance flinches. Drags his hands downwards a little, just enough to uncover his eyes … and wishes he hadn’t, for – well, who is standing there, looking at him puzzledly, head titled a little to the side and his eyes – purple; purple eyes, what the fuck, do those even exist, are those contacts? – widened in confusion? Who’s wearing a tight black shirt and his god-damn trademark jacket? Yeah? Guess? Guess who?
Someone up there really seems to hate Lance’s guts, because while Lance winces and runs a hair through his head, while he tries to gloss over having talked about being fucked – right in front of the guy he wants to get fucked by – with forced laughter and a wave of his free hand, he can feel himself breaking out in a cold sweat and his face grow a most likely not-so-pretty shade of red.
“Are you all right?” the other boy asks, looking at him a little worriedly.
“What? Me? I- sure! Sorry, sorry, I was just lost in thoughts.” Breathe, man. In. Out. In. Again. Just like that. Don’t get a heart attack, don’t fall face-first into the frying grease, that’s not hot – in the sexy kind of way, of course it it in the other kind of way, uh, duh – and won’t make him like you, that will ruin your chances of getting another one of his smiles … although Lance might be able to ask the paramedics if the guy can tag along and stay with him on the way the hospital and hold Lance’s hand the whole time. … okay, that’s enough. Stop it, man! You’re not a child anymore, don’t behave like one! Cool? Cool! “I … sorry. What can I do for you?”
He actually has hoped for “Kiss me right here and now”, but more or less expected that he wouldn’t get to hear it. Instead, the guy places his order and Lance starts to cut meat, grill it and pack it in two bags. As he reaches over the counter, he quirks a brow. “You’re gonna feed some lions with all that stuff?”
The other boy laughs a little. It’s a warm, rich sound that goes right through him and makes him shiver in delight. Then he shakes his head, black hair falling in his face. “Kinda. I’m still fighting a flu, I’m not thrilled to cook today. At all.”
Ah! The flu! That’s great! Well, actually, y'know, it isn’t, but it explains a lot. Like, why he hasn’t been here for a while, and that is good because it hasn’t been Lance’s fault and all possibilities for their blooming romance are still wide open. And THAT is great.
Lance smiles at him. “Sounds awful, man. Hope you’re doing better soon, and … hey,” he adds as if the thought just came to him, as if he hasn’t been rehearsing the next few words for weeks, “how about we go out and grab some coffee? I’m gonna pay, of course. We could celebrate you feeling better.”
“Oh … ”
Oh? OH?! Oh is not good. Unless “Oh” ends with “Oh, I’d love to, you charming, handsome fella”, but somehow he doubts it will end like that, because then the guy wouldn’t look at him like this, all sad and frowning. Right? Right?!
“… I already have a boyfriend.”
“Oh,” is all Lance can say, and it’s a cross between “Oh, that destroys every little bit of hope and happiness in my life” and “Oh, I should have known better, because you’re so pretty, of course every boy in the city would queue up to get the chance of going out with you (and maybe all the girls, too, but at least this pretty bastard is boys only. The situation would have been even more awkward otherwise … if that’s even possible). Including myself. But I’m so far behind in the queue that it’s never gonna be my turn and the blinds will be let down and then there I am, unable to get in at all and it’s gonna start raining and I’ll be standing there, wet and lonely and-”
“Please don’t look at me like I’ve kicked your dog.”
“I don’t have a dog.”
“That was a metaphor. I just … I wanted you to know.”
“Yeah. Sure. It’s cool.” Lance wipes his sweaty palms off on his pants and turns his head aside. “I didn’t want to … ”
“You don’t even know what I wanted to say.”
He shrugs it off. “You’re not butting into anything, you didn’t cross any lines, you weren’t obnoxious. Did I forget anything else?”
Lance sulks a little and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “I didn’t want to say any of that,” he claims, suddenly very happy that he didn’t say any of that.
“I’m just saying. I … ” He sighs and shakes his head a little, looks up at Lance to show him a gentle smile. “We’re kinda running in circles here. Sorry. I’d love to grab some coffee with you.”
Wait, what? “… but you have a boyfriend?”
“I don’t want to-”
“-butt into anything. You don’t. It’s okay. Really.”
Lance tenses a little. Sure, a part of him is jumping up and down with joy at the thought of spending some time outside these cramped, smelly walls with Mr. Red Jacket – time they can spend talking, time Lance can spend showing him that he’s not just handsome and charming, but also incredibly smart and generally irresistible; in which he doesn’t sweat his ass off, doesn’t have to make sure he manages to not hurt himself or burn everything down –, but he’s not a … he’s not someone to destroy an existing relationship.
The other boy is still smiling, but suddenly startles as if he just thought of something important. Then, he rummages through the leather bag and takes out a pen and a small, red notebook (yeah, wow, someone knows how to combine accessories with clothes) to scribble something down before tearing out the page and handing it over to Lance. “Here. My phone number and address. Just come over if you want to, coffee’s on me and home made.”
“I … ” He shouldn’t do it, but he still lets the other boy hand him the slip of paper and proceeds to look at helplessly. “… maybe.”
“I’d be looking forward to it. Oh. I haven’t even introduced myself. Sorry, must be the flu, my brain’s still not completely powered up again. I’m Keith,” he says with a grin that shows his white and even teeth.
“Lance,” he mumbles, looking from Keith’s face to the note in his hand and back to his face.
“Lance. Cool. Nice to meet you, Lance.”
“Yeah, same,” he says, and even though his whole situation is almost embarrassingly weird, he has to admit to himself that it actually is nice to meet him like this. At least a bit. Kinda. Somehow.