Matt isn’t staring at the clock as the second hand ticks closer and closer to 4:30 P.M. He also doesn’t keep glancing at the door, waiting for the small bell to chime and a familiar face to come through the door, no matter what his annoying brother, Kylo, says. He’s just impatiently waiting for his shift to end and for customers to come in through the door to give him something to do. That is all. Idle hands, after all, and he can only clean the equipment so many times in an hour. It’s not like he’s waiting for a specific person to come in through the door—that one regular that shows up almost every day with his gentle smiles and shy glances. No, he’s not waiting for him to show up at all.
(Kylo would have sent him home early. Matt gets paid the same regardless of how many hours he works; that had been part of their deal when he came to work here when he got out of jail. They were doing each other a favor, after all. But Kylo had to run out, leaving Matt here alone. Matt didn’t really mind much at all, he swears.)
His fingers tap impatiently against the counter. Worry starts to form in his gut, but it’s still early. It’s not even 4:30 yet. He’s just being ridiculous.
The bell above the door chimes three minutes later—not that he’s counting—and he nearly jumps, trying hard to keep the grin off his lips when he sees the familiar head of ginger hair coming in through the door: Techie. His cheeks are red from the winter’s cold air, his nose sniffling as he enters into the building. His red and white King Charles Cavalier, Copper, walks along his side, proud in her red and black vest.
“The usual?” Matt asks with a bright smile.
He grabs one of the cups from the dispenser, writing Techie’s name on it—careful not to dot the I with the heart like he’s some lovesick high school girl—and starts to make his Honey Chamomile Latte. (He adds in a little extra honey to the milk because he knows that’s how Techie prefers it, even if he would never say so.)
“So, how was your day?” he asks, biting at the inside of his lip.
“Oh, It was fine, I guess. You know how work is.” He laughs a bit nervously, fingers toying with the ends of his hair. “And how about you?”
“Good.” Matt pauses to steam the milk and honey, cringing just a bit at the sound of the machine. “Doing a little better now that you’re here.” His eyes widen before forcing himself to look away, feeling the tips of his ears turning red. “I just—I mean, that, uh, it’s been slow. And Kylo left a bit ago to help Mom with something and I just—it’s nice to have someone to talk to that isn’t a grumpy old woman impatiently waiting for her drink.”
He tries to smile, and he’s sure it’s all awkward with his crooked teeth and uneven tugs of his lips, but he’s never been good at this—with hiding his feelings, with keeping his composure, with having crushes. It’s stupid, he knows; he’s tried to move past it. He knows nothing will come from this.
Techie smiles back, soft and gentle—the type of smile that’s always made Matt’s heart skip a beat.
There’s no way this crush will end well for him.
“Well, I guess I’m glad that my desire for lattes has been put to good use.” And maybe it’s just Matt’s imagination, but did the red in Techie’s cheeks grow brighter?
He tries not to let himself linger on the thought but instead keeps his focus on finishing the latte, too scared to open his mouth again. Too afraid of making yet another fool out of himself. This is stupid; he is stupid. There’s no way a boy like Techie would go for a guy like him. Especially not after his stint in jail.
(It was nothing, really. Just him being an idiot and letting his anger and emotions getting the best of him. He barely remembers it now—the blind rage had faded away the second he felt the ground under him and the cuffs on his wrists.)
But Techie… Techie is too good for him. He always will be but… Matt has changed, right? He’s in therapy now. He hasn’t had an episode in months. He feels calmer, safer, like he could be around Techie and not have to worry about his reactions. That he could actually control himself.
No, no—that type of thinking will just get him hurt.
He puts the cap onto the drink before sliding it over towards Techie. “Anything for Copper today?”
“Oh, no. I think you spoiled her a little too much last week.” Techie chuckles, delicate enough that Matt almost could miss it. But his ears catch it, and Matt wants to tell Techie that he should laugh more. Even if it’s small and gentle and barely in existence.
(He needs to get a life. Needs to make friends and get over this silly little crush and actually feel like he’s a human again and not some lovesick school girl, but his life ever since he got out has been work and bunking with Armitage and Kylo until he finds an apartment of his own.)
“Look at her, though. She knows no one can say no to her.”
Techie properly laughs this time, lifting a fleece covered hand to cover over his face, hiding away the bright smile. “I’m going to have to find a new coffee shop if you keep spoiling her. She’ll start expecting something every time soon.”
“Oh, it’s not that bad!”
Techie raises an eyebrow, knowing fully well the truth. Matt laughs it off, ignoring the ever rising bubbling pit inside of him. There’s no need for these nerves or butterflies to be taking control of him; he’s just having a nice little conversation with a regular that is perhaps a little too nice to him and that he’s gotten to know fairly well over the last six months. It’s absolutely nothing other than that.
“Fine, no treats for the girl today,” Matt says in a joking defeat. “So, just the latte today?”
Techie nods and Matt tells him the total. The exchange is quick and easy, but Matt hates the way the pit of his stomach falls at the thought of Techie leaving. He wants to keep talking even if he doesn't know the right words to say, even if the line goes out the door and Kylo fires him for the mile long list of complaints because he was too preoccupied with a cute ginger boy with the brightest smile.
Techie bids him a goodbye before heading off to one of the tables in the corner. Matt watches after him for a second, wishing he could follow after him, sit with him, talk to him for hours. Unfortunately, another customer comes up for a double shot soy latte and ruins all his dreams.
This stupid little crush is going to be the death of him.
By nine o’clock, the shop is empty. The last customer had left half an hour ago, and Matt and Kylo had spent most of the time joking around before they started doing their own work to closing up the shop.
Kylo wipes off the counters when he asks, “So, did you see Techie today?”
“What?” Matt feels his cheeks heat up. “What makes you think that?”
“You got that dumb look on your face,” Kylo laughs, “so did you?”
“I don’t know what it matters to you.”
“Ah, so you did.” He can feel Kylo’s eyes on him, staring, judging, waiting. “Did you ask him out yet?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Please, it’s obvious that you like him. Even Rey sees it.”
Matt curses. Is he really that obvious? Did everyone know? Did Techie know? He groans as he buries his head into his hands.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Kylo muses.
“I doubt he’ll say yes. I’m just the guy that makes his tea.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that now,” Kylo says with a sly smile as he starts to wipe the tables. “He’s always asking about you when you’re not here.”
“Really?” He tries to sound neutral about it. Tries to not get his hopes too high. It could be absolutely nothing, after all. Techie could just prefer the way that Matt makes his drinks and that could be it. With his luck, it would absolutely be something that small. No point in getting his hopes up. Though, judging by the look on Kylo’s face, he feels like he has failed.
“Why don’t you just ask him out? No harm can come from it, right?”
“What if I scare him off?” Matt rebunked. “Remember the last date you tried setting me up with? That was a fucking disaster.”
“Poe is just shit anyway. No one was really expecting it to work out.”
“Then why did you even bother?”
Kylo shrugs and moves onto another table. “You were getting on everyone’s nerves and Mom thought it’d be good if you had a boyfriend,” he confesses. “If you want to blame anyone, blame her. She’s the one that put me up to it.”
Matt groans and leans back against the counter. “You should have known better than to listen to her. My life would have been so much better if you had.”
“Sorry. You know how she gets.” Kylo just shrugs. “But I still think you should try for Techie.”
“What am I supposed to do? Hand him his drink and just ask him on a date?”
“Well, yeah. It had worked well enough for me.”
Matt rolls his eyes. “Easy for you to say when it was your husband that had asked you out.”
“He did not, the lying asshole! I asked him once a week and he always said no. Just because he asked me one day before I got the chance does not mean he asked me out first.” He sighs before shaking his head. “But this isn’t about me. What have you got to lose?”
Everything, Matt thinks, but would never admit. Techie’s the first person who’s genuinely talked to him since he got out of jail and while he could deal with the rejection, he still isn’t quite sure he could handle losing the small sense friendship… but what if it could turn into something more? What if Techie does actually return those feelings? What if Kylo knows something that he isn’t telling him and is just trying to help him?
“You’re right,” he sighs. “I should. Tomorrow, I’ll do it.”
“I swear to God, you better. I don’t think I can handle your self-doubting and staring after him with that dumb lovesick puppy look.”
“Oh, fuck off. Like you weren't any different with Armitage.”
“And look at me now—this could be your life, you know.”
“Will you stop? I told you I would ask him out.”
“I’m just saying,” he says as he tosses the towel in his hand at Matt. “Now, how about you actually get to work now.”
Matt flips him off as he catches the towel. He takes a deep breath to calm down. Reminds himself that nothing bad will happen. Worse case, he’ll lose a casual friend, but at the end of the day, he could make a million of those. Turning his thoughts away from Techie and tomorrow, he gives all his attention towards cleaning the machines.
Techie doesn’t show up in the morning for his seven o’clock London Fog, and it’s well past the time for his normal Honey Chamomile. Matt’s nerves were already on edge—he was going to ask Techie out today. He was going to muster up the courage, otherwise, Kylo would just proceed to tease him. (And no matter what Kylo says, he knows that it was Armitage that had asked him out first after months.) But he had this all planned out: Techie would come in for one of his drinks, they would talk a little bit while Matt made the drink and just before Techie left, he would ask him. He would ask Techie to go out on a date—to where, he doesn’t quite know, but they could figure that out—and Techie would say yes. They’d be happy and everything would be great.
But it’s quarter to five and there has been no sign of Techie. He doesn't know if he should worry or not. After all, it’s not like Techie shows up every day. Most days, yes, but not every. He’s learned over the last few months that Techie doesn’t work every day, and he has more appointments than Matt can count. Everything is fine. He doesn’t even have a number to get ahold of Techie anyway. He’s just overreacting over nothing.
Matt busies himself with organizing the fridges and wiping them out. It’s enough to keep his mind from making irrational scenarios—it’s nice to not think too much about anything, actually—just focus on the repetitive notions of wiping and straightening and rotating. A few customers come in, but he tries not to get his hopes up too high so he’s not disappointed when he sees that they’re not Techie. There will always be tomorrow to ask him; tomorrow he’ll be more prepared, more rehearsed. It’ll be better for everyone.
It’s half past six when he finishes with the fridges. His fingers tap against the countertop as he surveys the room. There’s not even a stray cup or napkin for him to pick up. And he knows that there’s plenty of things he could be doing: all the closing prep and stock for tomorrow to help stay on Rey’s good side. The only problem is that he doesn’t feel like it. He doesn’t want to admit it, but the little flicker of disappointment has started to work against his mood. The hope he felt when he woke up this morning has faded away, and the self-doubt has started to trickle in.
With a sigh, he pushes the thoughts out of his head. They’ll do him no good anyway.
The bell above the door rings and Matt puts on his best customer service smile before he sees that it’s Techie. His smile brightens almost instantly, his heart pounding in his chest.
Techie gives him his usual small, sly smile, his cheeks red from the cold, and flakes of snow in his hair—he’s never looked better. When he reaches the counter, Matt sees the little twinkle in his eyes that Matt has learned shows up when he’s proud of himself.
“No Copper today?” Matt asks after finally noticing the lack of Techie’s companion.
“No. She had a surgery today, so she’s resting. I got a friend watching her for me.”
“Yeah. There was just some, like, questionable cysts that they thought should be removed.” Techie pauses for a second, biting at his lip. “It’s been a rough day without her, you know, but I made it through!”
And Techie looks so, so pleased with himself. The flow of it lights up his whole face and Matt has to force himself not to stare.
“I’m glad you did. I, uh, I was actually starting to worry a bit when you hadn’t shown up.” He casts his gaze downward at the admission.
Techie’s silent for a second—a horribly long second that Matt hates himself for his little slip up. He should have kept his stupid mouth shut.
“That’s sweet of you,” Techie says, quietly, “to worry.” When Matt looks back at him. Techie still has that small smile, and… is that a fondness that’s crossed his face? “I had meant to come earlier, but I got held up at work.”
“I was hoping that was the case. Are you getting the usual today?”
“Actually,” Techie starts with his cheeks flushing, “could I get one of the honey milk teas?”
Matt starts making the drink, counting out his breaths as he tries to get his courage back. Techie is right there—he can do this. He just has to open his mouth and ask. Simple as that, right?
He fumbles with the drink once, nearly knocking it off the counter.
“Are you okay?” Techie asks.
“What? Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Just been slow again, so I think my mind has started to fall asleep.” He chuckles nervously, hoping that it sounds like a good excuse. His heartbeat pounds in his ears as he repeats the one little question over and over again in his head. This should not be this hard.
He finishes the drink and sets in on the counter in front of Techie and tells him the total. Their fingers touch for the slightest second—those cold fingertips sliding against his and making Matt want to grab his hands and warm him up—and Matt tries hard not to focus on it. He should just be concerned about whether or not he can get this damned question out.
(The worst part of it all, is that Matt has done this hundreds of times before. He knows how to ask someone out. He knows how to handle rejections. But for some reason—some silly, ridiculous reason—he is struggling to get those six little words out, like they mean something entirely different now. Like Techie would mean something entirely different.)
Techie takes his card back with a small thanks before he takes a sip of his drink, smiling to himself. And the words are right there—right on the tip of his tongue. All he has to do is open his mouth and say them. Simple as that. Completely and utterly simple, but the second he opens his mouth, the words don’t come. They cling to his tongue like some sort of secret to protect against the world. His hand tightens into a fist at his side, out of sight of Techie. The frustration quickly tries to take over him. He takes a deep breath in a vain attempt to get his anger in control.
“I would love to stay longer, but I promised my friend I’d take her to dinner for watching Copper.” No, that’s not disappointment on Techie’s face—no, it’s just a trick of the light. “Will you be here tomorrow?”
Matt blinks, unsure if he had even heard the question. “Yeah. I’ll be pulling a double.”
“Great. Then I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He’s about halfway to the door when Matt comes to his senses. “Hey, Techie?”
He stops, slowly turning back around to face Matt, confusion and curiosity taking over his features. “Yeah?”
“I, uhm—” he gulps. No, don’t choke now. He has this. He can do this. “I just, uhm—have a good night.”
He cringes at himself. That is not what was supposed to come out, but it’s too late now. He can’t get himself to say it. Not now with Techie looking at him with the small knit of his eyebrows, watching him as if he knows that Matt has a question for him.
“Thank you. You too, Matt.”
And then he’s gone, and Matt has lost every chance that he’s had. He should have just forced himself to say it. Should have prepared himself for the worst and just asked. Matt could have handled the rejection. At least then, he would have known Techie’s feelings and moved on with his life, but here he is, hating himself a little more with each passing second. What a fucking idiot he is.
At least there’s always tomorrow, right?
It takes about an hour for Matt to remember why he said he wouldn’t work the morning shift of the year’s busiest shopping holiday. The line had nearly been out the door after the first ten minutes of them opening, and each customer got more and more bitter with each second that passed. It’s the world’s test of his patience, of how well his new coping strategies are working—not as great as he would have liked. It’s only two hours into his shift and he’s been grinding his teeth for the last hour and a half. He’s ready to go home. He’s ready to go back to bed and sleep and never see another uptight middle-aged woman yelling at him because he can’t remember if he put in low-fat milk and not whole, or that there isn’t enough caramel in their extra caramel latte.
He wants to strangle every single person what walks in through those doors. Fuck, he’d even strangle Rey if she gets in his way one more time and glare at him like it’s his fault.
His only saving grace is at ten after seven when he sees the cup appear with the order of a London Fog Latte. Immediately, he grabs the cup and gets to work. His eyes glance over at the queue of people waiting for their drinks and spots the familiar head of red hair. Techie catches his eye and offers a gentle smile that almost causes him to pour too much milk into the steamer cup. He curses under his breath and shakes himself out of it. He repeats the one little question that he will ask Techie today. Busy or not, he needs to do it.
Unfortunately for him, when he hands the cup over to Techie, all words fail him. Is it because he’s an idiot? Because he’s a coward? He doesn't know, but when he hands the cup over, Techie smiles at him and slides a few dollar bills over to him.
“This is for you. Thanks,” he says, almost too quietly, grabbing his cup and rushing out of the mob of people.
It takes Matt a second to recover after Rey nudges him in the side with her elbow. Quickly, he grabs the bills and shoves them into his pockets. He takes the next cup waiting and begins the order. This is fine. It’s too busy to be asking someone out on a date anyway. He’ll just ask when the crowd disperses. That makes more sense.
His mood deflates just a bit when the crowd dies down around three that afternoon and he doesn't see Techie anywhere in the shop. That’s fine. He could have had work he needed to get to, and he can just ask him when he comes in that afternoon. But Techie doesn’t show up again for the rest of the day.
So much for that idea.
“Did you ask him out yet?” Rey asks him as she appears next to him, making Matt jump. He tries to calm down his racing heart as he glares over at her.
“Jesus, fuck, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
She just shrugs and perches herself onto the table he was just about to clean. “Did you ask him?”
“No,” he sighs, “I haven’t gotten the chance to.”
“And why not?” She shoves a few Doritos in her mouth and watches him expectantly. “Kylo told me you were going to like two days ago.”
“I don’t know. I just haven’t gotten the chance. Yesterday was too busy, and yes, I know choked the day before.”
“Are you going to ask him today?”
“Why are you guys so obsessed with my love life lately?”
“Because you like him, and he likes you, and you guys would be cute together,” she says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “That’s my excuse at least. I don’t know about Kylo, but I’m sure he misses having the apartment for him and Armitage.”
Matt plays with the cleaning rag in his hands, ignoring the way a flicker of hope ignites in his system “How can you know he likes me?”
“He asks about you a lot, and he, like, lights up when you two are talking. It’s cute.”
Heat creeps up his neck as he tries to process it. “How do you know it’s not just cause we’re friends?”
“God, you boys are so fucking dumb,” she groans with a roll of her eyes and a shake of her head. “You better ask him today, or I won’t cover your shift Tuesday.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll try. If he shows up, I’ll ask, okay?”
“Good.” She hops down from the table. “You know, I just want the best for you, right? Don’t tell anyone—you and Kylo may be the shittiest brothers in the world, but I still care about you guys.”
The smile on his lips is weak, he knows it is; his mind is still too distracted. “I know, Rey. thank you.”
“Come here, you idiot.” She pulls him in for a hug—short and awkward—clapping him on the back as she pulls away. “Now, go get him, tiger.” Her grin is mischievous as she walks away. Matt blinks as the confusion settles over him.
It doesn’t take long before the bell rings with a new customer entering the shop. He turns to greet them only to see Techie and Copper walking in. Did Rey know he was coming in? But… how—
“Hey Matt,” Techie greets him, unwrapping the scarf from around his neck. “Not stuck behind the counter today?”
It takes him a second to stop staring and respond. “For now. Just finished cleaning up out here. I still gotta check the bathrooms and grab some things from the back room, but—shit—sorry. You don’t care and I’m rambling.” He combs a hand through his hair. “Anyway, how are you?”
Amusement dances in Techie’s eyes and Matt’s cheeks heat up. He really is such a fucking idiot. How could anyone, especially Techie, like him?”
“I’m good.” There’s a bit of that amusement in his voice like he’s holding back a laugh. “And you? You good aside from your tremendous workload?”
“I—yeah—I’m good. Busy.” His teeth graze at his bottom lip.
“Better than being slow, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Techie’s eyes meet his, and he knows that he has to ask. He needs to just do it. Just needs to man up and fucking ask. Why is this so hard?
The door open just as Techie opens his mouth, stalling whatever he was going to say. A girl walks through the doors, her hair up in two buns at the top of her head. She smiles as soon as she sees Techie and makes her way over him. Matt’s heart drops when he sees her hug him from behind. Well, fuck.
“Hey,” Techie says to her brightly, placing his free hand over hers. Matt tries to swallow down the jealousy that bubbles up inside of him. “Matt, this is Kaydel, Kaydel, Matt.”
“So, this is the Matt that I keep hearing so much about.” She grins at him, pulling away from Techie and holding her hand out. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Matt’s eyebrows raise in surprise as he looks between the two. Techie’s cheeks are red and his eyes are looking everywhere but at Matt. Has he really been talking about him?
He shakes Kaydel’s hand “It’s nice to meet you, too. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything about you, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t expect you to.” She laughs, light and airy. “It took me forever for me to get him to even mention you. There was a lot of harassing him to even get him to admit he had any other friends.”
Kaydel still has her arm around Techie’s waist, holding him, protecting him. Despite the smile on her face, her eyes stare at Matt in judgment. Matt twists the rag in his hand again. She’s a pretty girl, Matt has to admit that much; probably far more Techie’s type, too. They do make a cute couple. She’ll make him happier than Matt ever could.
Gulping, he says, “Well, I better get back to work before Kylo starts yelling. Maybe I’ll see you after.”
He leaves with a weak smile, not bothering to wait for a response. He was so, so stupid—why should he have believed his siblings? They had never actually cared about him; they much preferred making his life hell. He should have realized this by now.
He slams the door of the bathroom a little harder than necessary. His fingers grip at the edges of the sink. He tries to get a steady hold of his jealousy. Tries to fight off his self-hatred for even thinking that he could have had a shot with Techie. Really, he should have known better. How could Techie ever really like him? With his often abrasive and awkward personality? With his prominent ears and his too big nose? He wasn’t even fucking attractive. He had absolutely nothing going for him while Techie had fucking everything.
Shaking his head, he turns the faucet on. He splashes some of the cold water into his face, trying to clear his head some. It helps, a little. helps forget the struggles he’s trying to overcome. He takes a deep breath and composes himself again. At least now, he knows. He knows that there’s no chance with Techie. Knows that he could still have that small bit of friendship that they have. Knows that he can now move on with his feelings.
With another deep breath, he straightens his postures. This is a good thing, when he thinks about it.
Telling himself that everything will be fine, he returns to focusing on his work.
With his new determination, his heart doesn’t jump in his chest when he sees Techie walk through the door the next day and his nerves don’t go into overdrive. It feels nice, like he could actually be friends with him. (And maybe, some day down the line, something could happen. Just maybe. But he won’t dwell on that thought.)
“Good morning. London Fog?” he asks as he pulls a cup from the dispenser.
Matt immediately looks at him. Techie doesn’t look back, just keeps his eyes down at Copper, who’s sat close to his feet. Any trace of a smile is gone, and if Matt didn’t know any better, he’d almost think that Techie was about to cry. His heart clenches. He wants to wrap Techie in his arms and tell him that whatever it is, it’ll be okay.
He doesn’t. Instead, he asks, “Hey, are you okay?”
“I—yeah. It’s nothing. No need to worry about me.” He sniffles, bringing a hand up to rub at his eyes, letting his long hair fall into his face.
“Techie… you’re not. What’s wrong? You can talk to me.”
Techie hesitates. Those blue eyes stare right at Matt as if he’s deciding if he’s worthy enough. After a second, he sighs. “It’s just… it’s a bit complicated. My Ma… well, she’s never been the greatest, but she’s still my mom, right? No matter what, I’m going to love her… even if—anyway. I got a call from the hospital last night. I guess she still has me as her emergency contact—but she got involved in that gang fight last night. Tried protecting her territory, and thought she was invincible—she’s always thought that. Always was so, so sure of herself. But last night, I guess she found out she was only human after all. She got shot. But… they were too late. They called this morning to tell me that she didn’t make it.”
By the time he’s finished, his voice is cracking and the edges of his eyes are brimmed with tears. Matt reaches a hand out, lighting touch Techie’s arm. Techie freezes for a second before he relaxes.
“Hey, it’s okay. Death is hard. I won’t judge you if you cry over it.”
Techie shakes his head with the smallest trace of a smile teasing at his lips. “Thank you, but I’d really like to not cry in public. It’s just… I haven’t told anyone yet, and it’s just a huge relief.”
“Kaydel doesn’t even know?”
“No, not yet. She’s been too busy with her boyfriend and I haven’t wanted to bother her.”
Matt blinks. Kaydel has a boyfriend? Then that—that means —
“Thank you for listening,” Techie interrupts his train of thought.
“No problem. Aren’t baristas the ones you always tell your problems to? Or is that bartenders?”
The small laugh he receives from Techie is well worth the shit joke.
“Well, I don’t drink, so I guess you’re the next best thing, aren’t you?”
Matt smiles at that. “Yeah. Well. I guess I am then.”
Techie wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket. “I don’t mean to rush you, but I could really use that latte now.”
“Oh, shit, yeah. Sorry.” He moves to make the drink, trying not to pay attention to the thoughts running through his head. He shouldn’t be thinking about it. (Techie could be single. He could be single, and Matt could have a chance.)
“Are you going to be okay, though?” he asks over the sound of the milk steamer.
“Yeah I’m still just in the shock of it all. I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
“If you need anything, just let me know, okay?” He pours the milk into the tea—he’s been practicing his latte art recently, and he carefully crafts the world’s shittiest heart into the foam—and caps off the drink before handing it off to Techie, denying the money he tries handing him. “Don’t worry. It’s on the house.”
Warmth returns to Techie’s face, lighting up his eyes. “Are you—are you sure? You won’t get in trouble?”
“Oh, no.” Matt laughs. “Rey is always giving shit out to her friends for free.”
Techie cradles the cup in his hands, taking a careful sip. “Thank you.”
Techie leaves with a gentle smile and heads towards one of the tables. Matt watches after him, as she slides into one of the booths and pulls out his laptop, as Copper curls into a ball at his feet. His thoughts betray him again as he starts to think that maybe he can do this. Though, now would not be a good time. No. Definitely not.
He’s thankful for the distraction of a new customer. It allows him to not worry on his dilemma. Allows him to focus on carefully brewing the espresso and steaming the milk of the customer’s latte. He keeps glancing over at Techie, wondering if he really is all right. He wants to go over there and sit with him, ask him, but he knows he would just be a bother.
Matt’s head throbs as he heads into the coffee shop. He didn’t sleep at all last night, tossing and turning and wishing and worrying. He hasn’t seen Techie for almost a week now. (There’s nothing wrong, he has to remind himself. Techie’s had to deal with the death in his family. He’s never had to deal with it himself, but there’s had to have been arrangements for a funeral or a wake. Of getting the family together and everything else. Techie’s just been busy with all of that.)
He wishes that he had stayed in bed. Should have tried to sleep so he didn’t have to deal with anyone when he felt like absolute shit. (Kylo wouldn’t have given him the day off. Not when he was already off spending the day with Armitage. And Finn was gone for the rest of the week for school break to go back home. He was just going to have it tough it out.)
He punches in without saying a word to anyone. Walks into the back room to start organizing and dating the new stock delivery. It’s the easiest work he can think of doing—no customers, no orders, no complaints. It’s like the perfect job for him; Rey and Rose could handle the front of house for a little while longer as he tries to put himself into a better mindset.
After an hour, he’s almost feeling better—and maybe from the two large coffees Rey brought to him. There’s a higher chance that he can go up front and not try to fight with every entitled customer that comes through. He yawns as he places the last box of cups onto the shelf. He double checks around the room to make sure that everything is set. Once he’s happy with everything, he starts to head out of the room only to run into Rey at the door.
“Oh, hey, I was just coming to get you,” she grins at him. “Techie is asking for you up front.”
Matt blinks. Techie’s here? And he’s asking about him?
“Okay. Yeah. I’ll be up there in a second.”
The smile never leaves Rey’s face, and he doesn’t know if he should find that reassuring or not, but he tries not to overthink it. Tries not to let the negative thoughts plague him. Techie just happened to ask about him and he was here and he just wants to say hi—it’s been a week, after all. Nothing bad at all.
When she disappears back out into the hallway. Matt shakes her his head. His hands run through his hair in some vain attempt to make it look like he didn’t just roll out of bed. (He doesn’t know why he’s been bothering—his hair always looks like a disastrous mess. It’s like him having a miraculously neat and manageable hair will suddenly make Techie like him. He’s just being stupid. Again.) He takes a deep breath and exits the stockroom. The walk into the front feels like it takes longer than it should. Anticipation, he realizes, is making it feel far longer.
Techie is sitting at one of the tables when he walks through the door, staring out at the snow falling outside. Matt gulps. Tries not to overthink it still.
“Hey,” he says as he reaches the table. “I was told you wanted to see me.”
Techie nearly jumps at the sound of his voice, but he smiles when he sees Matt. “Hi, yes. I did.” He bites down on his lip as he averts his eyes away. “I, uh, I was hoping to ask—to ask you something.”
Matt blinks and raises his eyebrows. “Oh?”
“Ye-yeah. Uhm, could you maybe sit down? It’s kind of awkward talking like this”
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” He sits down across from Techie. “What did you wanna ask me?”
Techie’s cheeks are flaming red as his fingers twist in the hems of his sweater’s sleeves. Copper moves under the table; Matt can feel her tail and hind legs moving as she gets closer to Techie, likely feeling the nervous energy radiating off him. “I-yeah.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah-yeah. Everything’s fine. I just… I just wanted to ask if—” he pauses, taking a deep breath, a hand moving to play with the ends of his hair— “Wouldyouwannagooutwithme?”
The words come out so fast, so quiet that Matt isn’t sure he heard it right. Did Techie just—was that—is this—
His heart jumps in his chest. “I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Fuck. Sorry.” He takes a second. “Did you want to get dinner, or just, maybe, go on a date with me?”
Techie’s not looking at him, and his teeth worry at his bottom lip. But—it doesn’t matter. All of his struggles with the worries and choking almost seem pointless now. Maybe he hadn’t had to worry about asking Techie out because Techie just asked him out.
He grins. “Yeah. I would love to.”
This is the happiest he’s been in the last six months. And maybe he’ll apologize to Rey about being so doubtful over her beliefs. He doesn’t think he actually will, but maybe.
Techie looks up at him with a stunned expression. “Really?”
And Techie smiles; the blue of his eyes twinkling as he reaches a fabric covered hand, hiding away his bright smile. It’s the most beautiful thing Matt has ever seen.
And Matt has a date.
They arrange to meet at the coffee shop on the following Wednesday night. (There’s a lesser chance of places being overcrowded, which benefits the both of them.) Matt spent hours trying to find his nicest clothes without any rips or stains and trying to straighten out his hair. He would have tried to fix his glasses, too, but he had spent one too many nights falling asleep with them on for there to be any hope in recovery. But he thinks he looks all right. Kylo hadn’t laughed at him and Armitage gave him a wordless nod of approval.
He bounces on his feels after spending the last five minutes pacing around the shop. Rey had yelled at him three minutes ago to stop, but it had taken her actually throwing something at him to get him to stop.
Matt can’t remember the last time he went on a date — a real date, that is, that wasn’t just Netflix and chill. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. Was he supposed to do? Was he supposed to hold his hand the whole time? Did he have to pay for everything? He definitely couldn’t afford that. Maybe they could split costs… or would that be rude? Should he have brought something for Techie? Fuck, he should have brought him some flowers. Maybe he would still have some time—
A soft thud against his head snaps him back to the real world. He blinks a few times, noticing the towel at his feet before looking over at the counter. Rey rolls her eyes and notions to the door as Rose laughs in the background. Matt feels himself flush, head ducking down from embarrassment as he notices Techie standing there.
“Oh, hey, good you’re here.”
Techie nods. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, just one second.” He reaches down and picks up the towel from the ground and tosses it back at Rey. “Shall we?”
They head out of the shop. Snow falls down around them, soft and gentle, just like in the movies. It’s perfect, Matt thinks as they make their way down the street.
“So, where are we going?” Techie asks.
“I was thinking we could maybe go the science museum? Maybe go to the planetarium while we’re there? If that’s good for you.”
“Yes! That sounds great.” Techie beams. “I love the museum! There’s actually a new exhibit I’ve been dying to check out. It’s about the science in pop culture in things like Star Wars and Back to the Future and—sorry, I’m rambling.” He ducks his head down, hiding away behind his hair.
“Oh, no, you’re fine. You’re cute when you’re excited.”
The street lights don’t provide enough light to see the color flood into Techie’s cheeks as he sends a glare over at Matt—the small traces of a smile teasing at his lips. “I am not, shut up.”
Matt laughs. “Yes you are. Don’t bother trying to fight with me.”
Techie bumps against Matt’s side, the smile still teasing at his lips still. And he doesn’t move away. Their arms still brush together as they walk. His heart races, thunders in his ears. Butterflies dance in his system. He ignores any feeling of dread that tries to take control—he won’t do that. This is supposed to be a good night. Techie and he will have a nice date. They’ll walk around the museum and enjoy each other’s company, learning about one another. It’ll be great for both of them, and if he’s lucky, he’ll get another date. (And then another and another and another. But he’ll just focus on the here and now.)
They arrive at the museum five minutes later, and Matt’s thankful when Techie pays for his own ticket and the pass for the planetarium. After they pay for their tickets, Techie starts to lead them through the exhibits. He talks animatedly about the different displays—the aerophysics and robotics seem to be his favorite. He goes on explaining everything in more detail, his eyes bright and face glowing with delight. Techie apologizes after the first ten minutes, looking nervous and ashamed, but Matt loves every single second of it; he tells Techie this, and Techie blushes even further. Matt’s absolutely delighted that all of this is happening—that Techie asked him out, that they’re here on this date, that Techie is enjoying himself and looks so, so happy. Matt wants to see this every day.
Halfway through the museum, Techie cautiously bumps his hand into Matt’s, slowly taking it into his own and lacing their fingers together, giving Matt a small smile as he squeezes his hand. This is far better than Matt could have ever imagined. He only wishes he had the nerve to ask him sooner.
The pop culture exhibit is actually fascinating. There is even a real model of one of the Delorean from the third Back to Futures. Matt finds out that Techie has a surprising amount of random trivia stored away in his head—especially about Star Wars which Matt is thankful for. Matt doesn’t know if he’s ever heard Techie talk so much, but thankfully, he’d have no problem listening to Techie all day.
Soon, they make their way to the planetarium. Matt groans just a bit at the sight of a few children waiting with their annoyed parents, but Techie reassures him with a smile and a squeeze of his hand. When they get into the small auditorium, they sit in the back row away from the kids. The lights dim down and the stars get projected onto the ceiling above them.
Techie inches closer to Matt, his breath hitting against his skin as he whispers, “I’ve always loved stars.”
“Me too,” he whispers back, smiling to himself as Techie rests his head against Matt’s shoulder.
Carefully, Matt untangles his fingers from Techie’s, sliding his arm around Techie’s shoulders, unsure of his movements. But Techie doesn’t seem to mind at all. He nestles as close as he can with the weird angle of the seats. They listen to the presenter as he talks about the origins of the galaxy, of the stars and the planets. And it’s nice, sitting here with Techie, with his arm wrapped around him and the soft weight of his head against his shoulder. It’s something he can get used to, something he can grow to like and enjoy. Maybe he shouldn’t allow himself to get used to this. There’s no guarantee that this will last longer than tonight. That there will be a tomorrow or the day after. That there will be another date or anything with Techie will go past this.
He’ll enjoy every last minute that he gets.
It’s a few minutes in that he feels Techie moving, tilting his head up to look at Matt. Matt looks down at him, their eyes locking for just a moment. A swell of emotions run through Matt. There is so much swelled up inside of him. So much that he wants to say and do, that he doesn’t even know where to begin. But they can’t do that here. Not now while in a room with other people and trying to listen to the presenter go on about the stars. For a second, Matt thinks it might be dumb. Thinks that the wrong move at the wrong time might destroy everything, but that doesn’t stop him. No, he leans down the short distance and presses his lips against Techie’s—soft and gentle, testing the waters, and is pleasantly surprised when he feels the soft pressure back. His heart skips a beat and he knows that he’ll cherish this moment forever.
The kiss is just that. Soft and short, not demanding of anything further, and when they pull away, Matt smiles. Kissing those lips has been on his mind since the first time that he’s ever met Techie. (He wants to do it again and again and again until his lips grow numb and tired.) He can just make out the small traces of a smile on Techie’s lips, and he wishes he could see it better. Wishes that they were out somewhere in the countryside, laying on a blanket and idly kissing underneath the stars. Maybe once spring comes, they could, if Techie still wants to continue with this.
Techie rests his head against Matt’s shoulder once again and raises one of his hands up to rest over the one Matt has against his arm. Warmth fills through Matt’s body. It’s been so long since he’s felt this way, it seems so foreign. He feels like he’s on cloud nine, soaring above the clouds in pure bliss.
He still feels that way when they leave the auditorium, as they make their way out of the museum. Their hands are interlocked once again as they walk down the street. Matt knows the date has to end, but he doesn’t want it to. He wants this night to last forever.
“Did you have fun?” Matt asks as they turn the corner, not paying attention to where they were going and just letting Techie lead the way.
“I did,” he says almost shyly, biting at his bottom lip, and Matt has the sudden urge to kiss him again. “What about you?”
“Yeah.” He chuckles nervously, letting his free hand run through his hair. “It was the best night I’ve had in a while, actually.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
They fall into a steady silence as they continue down the street. Matt’s thumb idly runs across the back of Techie’s hand. “Did you want me to walk you home?”
“Yes, please. If you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
Techie stalls their walk, waiting for a car to pass before they cross the street. With each step that they take, Matt feels himself stiffen up a bit. He doesn’t want the night to end. He wants it to live on forever and not deal with the dreaded risk of there being no tomorrow. He doesn’t want to worry if Techie actually had fun or if Techie would want to have a second date with him. The here and now is perfect; nothing has to change.
They spend the rest of their walk talking about the exhibits that they saw: mostly Techie questioning Matt on various different ones to gather his opinion on certain subjects before fading the conversation onto whether or not Padme had died due to heartbreak or whether or not there were other forces at play.
(Techie seemed convinced that there were other factors, while Matt, though open-minded, didn’t think that there was much else to her death than what was given.)
They arrive at Techie’s apartment building far too soon for Matt’s liking. He bites at his lips as they stand outside the door. This is the part where they say good night. The part where he goes home and wonders if the night will lead to another. If he would even be suitable for a boyfriend and if Techie would even consider him that. Their fingers stay intertwined for a few moments as they stand at the door, and if Matt had to guess, he would say that Techie was just as unsure as him. That Techie had something at the edge of his mind, wanting to be released.
Techie closes the short gap between them and kisses him, lightly. When he pulls away, he looks up at Matt like he’s unsure of his next words. “Would you want to, uhm, come in?” His teeth graze at his bottom lip. “My roommate isn't home, so we’d have the place to ourselves.”
Matt stares for a second. “I, uh.” Unexpected heat rises through him and he takes a deep breath the calm it down. This didn’t have to mean anything. He shakes off the thought immediately. He’ll be good this time. Swallowing, he smiles at Techie and says, “I’d love to.”