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already sweet enough

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Grind the beans. Steam the milk. Pour the coffee. Add the cream, add the sugar, add the syrup, add the flavourings, add the toppings, add what-fucking-ever. Wash, rinse, repeat.

A reprieve from the constant routine was welcome. The monotony of his day job was not lost on him. Three hours into his shift and Keith could already feel the tension build behind his brows, his eyelids heavy to the point of being slightly painful. Three o’clock brings a lack of customers, with workers still stuck in their offices and school not being let out yet, and it was a break Keith relished. A time to sigh and stretch, rub his eyes, knock his head against the counter-top repeatedly because he rued the day he decided to find a part-time job in something that required customer service.

It was fair to say it wasn’t his strong point.

Still, a job was a job and it paid the bills enough for him to not worry about it constantly, so he couldn’t complain too much.

Still, his shift couldn’t be over fast enough.

Three hours down and two and a half more to go. He hated the afternoon shift. No, he despised the afternoon shift. It was clogged with exhausted office workers who needed enough coffee to get home, frazzled university students who had to start inhaling coffee by the gallon if they wanted any hope of staying awake long enough to finish their last-minute assignments, and uppity mothers who just picked up their snot nosed kids from daycare. If he had to tell another woman with an assymetrical bob that it’s not his fault their kid spilled their drink and no, he can’t provide another one for free, he was going to lose it.

It was three o’clock though, and it was blissfully, beautifully empty.

He hummed along with the melody of the song playing across the speakers, some top 40 hit on the radio by an artist he couldn’t care to remember, and turned to use this time to his advantage. He cracked his back, put the syrups back where they needed to be, and wet a cloth to begin wiping down the counter.

He scrubbed it quietly, humming persisting, whilst thinking of the evening ahead of him; getting off at five thirty, what food do we have in the flat, do I need to run to the sh- no wait we definitely have the ingredients for pasta, that’s good that gives me more time to write my aerospace law essay this evening, wait shit when is that due, ah it’s fine, he has time, hm I wonder if I’ll get home bef-

“Hey there.”

Keith snapped his head up sharply, having been so engrossed in his thoughts that he had completely missed the bell chime as the door opened. The voice was smooth, sounding purposefully deep, and almost a little bit teasing.

He turned, and let out a small smile. “Hi.”

Blue eyes stared back at him, a small smirk curled in the corner of a mouth. He looked windswept, as if he had run to the shop. “Hi,” was repeated back to him, spoken slower and even deeper, something more being present in his voice.

There was a pause. It lingered for only a moment but it felt like the air escaped the room only for electricity to fill it. They made eye contact, indigo meeting cerulean, and there was a wink. The newcomer laughed as he did it, running a hand through short brown locks, before smirking wider. “Wow, well I don’t know about you, but I can tell that there’s something brewing between us.”

Keith blinked, the sentence running back through his head word by word, before he rolled his eyes. The moment broke. “Huh… Cute.” He drawled, a twinge of an old accent coming back through in his most sarcastic state. “You’re going to have to try harder than that though.”

“Oh ho?” The smirk broke into a grin. “So I’m guessing you want me to try harder then? That I can do, but it looks like the coffee will need to wait.” He winked again. He placed his elbows on the countertop and leaned in. “It seems like you’re already giving my heart palpitations.”

Keith snorted, before turning around. He quickly grabbed some mugs that had been left out, and placed them back in their correct spot. “Guess you’re not ordering anything then.” He teased back.

His companion was quick to respond. “Hey, wait don’t be such a tea-se.”

Keith groaned, but didn’t turn around. He focused on putting everything away before grabbing the earlier-discarded cloth and started to wipe down the back counter.

“Oh come on, turn back around, give me another shot.” The teasing remark made Keith laugh again. He could feel his face heat up, the inevitable blush making itself known. He quickly smoothed back his bangs, tightened his ponytail, and turned back around.

“Are you going to order?”

“Alright, alright.” Hands held up in the air, a hip cocked to the side, a wink. “How about a fair trade? I give you my coffee order and you give me a line. That way we both get what we want.”

“Sure.” Keith drawled again, smirking, despite the fact that coming up with a pick-up line was not a task he wanted to complete. He was so cute though. “So hurry up with that order then.”

“Skinny latte. To go, please.” Was the answer, and Keith quickly got back to work. Grind the beans, steam the milk, pour the coffee. Simple, easy, monotonous. He placed the beans in the machine and waited for the filter water to start to mix. He looked back at blue eyes, and let his eye wander for a moment. Skinny jeans, bomber jacket, brown satchel. A curve of a hip, the straight of a back, the flick of a wrist. His ass.

A playful glint appeared in Keith’s eye as he picked up a to-go cup. He searched around for a brief second to find the marker, before making eye contact. “Ah… Can I have a name for the order?”

A snicker. “Lance.”

He uncapped the pen and he wrote on the cup quickly, before turning back to the espresso machine.

“How’s your day going then?” A simple question, but Keith raised his eyebrows. He quickly glanced at the machine to check its progress before looking back.

“Same old, same old. Disappointed by the lack of a pick up line there though. Giving up, or have you just run out?”

It was Lance’s turn to blink confusedly, before laughing under his breath. “Oh you’re underestimating me. Don’t worry though, I’m still soy into you.”

The espresso slowly dripped into the to go cup.

“That was bad.”

He started steaming the milk.

“If you were coffee, you’d be espresso.”

“Oh god, why?”

“Because you’re so fine.”

“That was somehow worse.”

The milk was finished streaming, and the coffee was almost finished dripping.

“What can I say? I just like you a latte.

“Did you google these?”

He poured the milk into the cup.

“Are you calling me unimaginative?” Lance teased, leaning into the counter again. He hiked his bag up his shoulder, secure in his flirting.

“Perhaps I am.” Keith quipped back, making sure that he didn’t overflow the cup with milk. He grabbed one of the lids and secured it, because nothing is worse than accidentally drinking out of a cup with the lid not tightened. “You’re not giving me much hope for anything else.”

There was an indignant look on Lance’s face, one that screamed offence, but the flush that coated his freckled covered cheeks suggested otherwise. Keith wasn’t afraid to admit that he really liked that look.

“A latte for Lance.” He called out as per policy, despite the fact that they were the only two present in the store currently.

Lance carefully took the cup, but not without winking at Keith for what must have been around the fifth time since he walked through the door. “Thank you very much for the latte, you absolute hot-tea.”

“You know what? That was the worst one yet.”

“I’d like to see you try, mullet.” Lance snarked, Keith’s hand instinctively flying to the back of his neck and fiddling with his ponytail. Lance straightened up and smirked, suddenly looking more assured. “Anyway, I believe you owe me a line my good sir?” Ah, that was why.

Keith rolled his eyes and picked up his discarded cloth again. “They’re so stupid though.”

“So?”

A pause. He deliberated, thinking of the pros, the cons, what he knows and what he can bullshit. And then, quietly; “Look, I didn’t add any sugar to your latte.”

He watched as Lance’s face drew blank, obviously contemplating the strange statement before a look of excitement started growing. Keith withdrew into himself. This was not his strong point and he could practically feel his face grow bright red. He averted his eyes from Lance to choke out:

“You’re… you’re already sweet enough.”

It was immediately apparent that Lance couldn’t hold back his giggles, and bent over at the waist as he laughed heartily. The flirty atmosphere they had created had disappeared in the blink of an eye, and Keith couldn’t help but groan.

He should have never flirted with Lance like this.

“I-” Lance broke off laughing again. “I didn’t actually expect you to say one back. Oh my god, and you didn’t even need to google it. Keith-” Another peal of giggles. “Keith you’re such a dork.”

Keith groaned loudly, unprofessionally trying to hide himself away. He was the only person here, so fuck it, what did it matter. “In my defence, I hear shitty pick up lines like that all the time. I’m bound to retain some of them.”

One of the joys of being in customer service.

“I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel jealous of that, but good to know my pick-up lines are just as bad as the common crowd. I’ll have you know that those were golden!”

“Sure.” Keith smiled. “You keep believing that.”

“Babe.” Lance whined. “I thought you loved my pick-up lines.”

Keith snorted. “I tolerate them.”

“T-Tolerate them?!” Lance cried out. “I can’t believe this utter betrayal.” He sniffed, holding his coffee in one hand and placing the back of the other hand on his forehead. “I’ve never been hurt this much.”

“Why are you doing this.”

“I don’t know if I’ll ever recover.”

“Please don’t do this at my work, Lance.”  

“Two years! Two years we’ve been together, and today I find that you only tolerate me? How do we move on from here?”

“I-” Keith rolled his eyes, unable to keep from smiling. “I tolerate the pick up lines, not you, idiot, I-”

“They are a part of me. Saying you hate them is just the same as kicking me to the curb.” Lance wailed, his voice resonating. Keith was both so glad and so lucky he didn’t have any customers at this point in time..

“The pick up lines suck, but I love you. So....” Keith trailed off, the teasing dropping for a moment of pure sincerity.

Lance smiled at him, unashamedly fond, and leaned over to kiss Keith’s cheek. Two years of cheek kisses, of forehead kisses, of actual kisses, and they never failed to make his heart skip.

“Whilst this was fun, I really do need to blast. I don’t think my professor will accept ‘found a load of good coffee related pick-up lines on the internet and needed to run to where he worked to try them out’ as a good reason I was late to class.”

“Idiot.” Keith said under his breath, smiling widely. “I was wondering why you were here.”

“Just wanted to see you, babe.” Lance winked again.

“Cute.” Keith smiled. “Good luck in class, what time does it finish again?”

“Ugh, six.” Lance scowled, the thought of his thermodynamics class souring his mood. “I wish for death, so it’s coffee instead for me.”

Keith rolled his eyes. “No death. Dying is bad.”

“I want sweet relief.”

“We’re not doing that.” Keith groaned. “Anyway, I finish at five thirty. Was thinking of making pasta when I get home? That way it’ll be done when you get back.”

“I love you so much.” Lance sighed, tilting his head. “You’re the best.”

“Sure, sure.” Keith waved him off. “Get to class, asshole.”

“Okay!” Lance took a sip from his coffee cup, grinning at the hearts surrounding his name on the side. “I’ll see you later.”

“See you later.”

“Oh and Keith?” Lance said as he started walking towards the door. “This coffee may be hot, but you’re hotter.”

Keith’s groan resounded throughout the store. “Why.”

“And like this coffee, you’re going to be keeping me up all night-”

“Why do I put up with you?”

“-because I’ll be thinking about you a latte.”

“You already used that one, asshole! ”

“Yeah, yeah. Love you!”

“Love you too.”

The chime of a doorbell was heard and then he was gone, most likely sprinting to his lecture. Keith sighed, laughing silently at all the stupid pick-up lines his boyfriend had found and run to tell him, risked getting into trouble for.

It was almost half past three, and he had two hours to go until he was done with his shift. Two hours of excessive monotony, and rude customers, and spillages and breakages and tired eyes and weary feet. The same old routine.

Grind the beans. Steam the milk. Pour the coffee. Add the cream, add the sugar, add the syrup, add the flavourings, add the toppings, add what-fucking-ever. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If you had someone like Lance in your life however, nothing was ever quite that simple.