Carter is unsure of when he began pining.
No, pining isn’t the right word. It’s not, he’s insisted to Jason time and time again. Staring? Maybe that’s it.
But the fact remains that it is the fourth time in a week Carter has leaned on his mop to stare at the people rehearsing on the stage before him, and the third time he’s had to tear himself away. Pretty people, he decides, should not be allowed in public places while he’s working.
He resumes sweeping the theatre floor, trying his very hardest not to ogle the people on the stage. Trying not to ogle in particular the auburn-haired one with the good voice. His janitor’s cart almost rolls away from him several times in his efforts.
Not staring is apparently difficult.
Later, when he picks up a shift at Jason’s bakery, he complains some more.
“It’s not as if I like him that much or anything, you know? I just want to talk to him or something,” he tells Jason, stretching across the display case.
Jason snorts, “Yeah, if you could actually work up the nerve.”
Carter frowns at him, then squishes his face on the case. The raspberry danishes beneath his eyes look tasty; he goes cross-eyed looking at them.
One of their frequent customers, Maria, laughs at him. Carter is eighty percent certain that she doesn’t even know what they’re talking about, yet she still laughs at him. Carter raises his head to frown at her, all thoughts of danishes vanishing from his mind.
She stops laughing at him to ask, “So, why are you miserable?”
Jason leans on the edge of the counter and says, “He’s pining over someone at work and they have no idea he exists.”
As Carter tells them that he is not pining, Maria falls off her stool laughing.
“It’s not like I want to be besties with him,” Carter says, “I just wanna to talk to him or something, y’know? And he’s really pretty, and...” Jason and Maria don’t seem to be listening anymore.
The next day, Carter ends up staring at the boy with auburn hair some more.
It’s his lunch break, and he’s slumped in the back seats of the theatre eating a ham and mustard sandwich. It’s a little dry, he thinks. Could do with some lettuce. He is still eating his sandwich when three of the main cast members march out onto the stage with clear intent to begin practicing. Carter sits upright.
Of the people practicing, one was the guy with the hair and voice. Along with him walks a lanky, smiling dude and a pretty girl. They are joking around, pushing each other a little and all laughing. Carter hasn’t seen the pretty boy laugh before. Ever. He can’t help but watch.
The pretty boy, A-something he thinks he heard the tall one call him, looks very nice when he smiles. Not that he didn’t look nice when doing anything else, but he looks particularly good happy. Carter sighs and rests his chin on his hand, not even noticing the sandwich still in it.
He is most definitely not pining, Carter later tells Jason and Maria. They proceed to giggle for ten minutes.
And then, Jason tries to make him actually work, which is not what he picked up these shifts to do. Maria tries to tell him about all her pretty friends she needs to set up. Carter listens to neither.
Carter begins spending a lot of time re-vacuuming seats when he gets distracted watching… Alex? Arthur? sing on the stage. He also spends a lot of time wondering why he hasn’t gotten fired for not cleaning the place properly.
His part-time job, and his life, come close to ending when Carter actually talks to the pretty boy.
He is standing outside the theatre building at two, right before Carter is meant to open it up and clean and Carter is blown away. Sure, Carter may not know his name, but he does know that apparently, theatre kids are very good-looking. Or, at the very least, the theatre kids with auburn hair and hazel eyes were very good-looking. Particularly, The theatre kid standing right in front of Carter.
He walks over to unlock the building and tries to be smooth.
“Um, hey,” Carter says, making his way over in a not so smooth way.
The theatre kid looks up.
“Do you need to get in?” Carter asks, and twirls the keys around his finger. Theatre boy- Alfie? Aiden? Honestly, what is his name- nods and looks relieved.
As he unlocks the door, Carter tries, “I’m, uh. I’m Carter, the janitor. I come in here to clean up about now usually, but there’s not really anyone here then.”
Theatre boy bites his lip, and says, “I came because I thought we were going to try some extra rehearsal, but apparently not. And my ride’s left, so I guess I’m stuck watching you clean.”
Carter lets a low breath out, and thinks about how he might have a difficult time cleaning today.
As they walk into the lobby, Theatre Kid says, “I’m Adrian, by the way,” and shakes Carter’s hand.
In the end, Adrian spends the entire time curled up on a seat playing a game, and Carter successfully mops the stage without dying. His boss still hasn’t realized he’s not cleaning much.
He is not pining over this boy, Carter tries to tell Jason. Even if he knows his name now.
Carter spends a lot of time in the back of the theatre watching rehearsals. Adrian can not only sing, but dance too. Carter is unsure as to why he hadn’t realized how hardcore theatre kids are. They can do anything.
When Maria walks into the bakery two days later with one of her friends, Carter knows that it’s going to be the ‘cute, single one’ she’d told him about before. He’d expected her to bring him in at some point, because Maria is a meddler that enjoys messing with Carter.
When Carter walks over to take their order, he realizes, with stunning clarity, that Maria’s friend is Adrian.
Head spinning, he tries to absorb this new information. Maria is friends with Adrian, the pretty auburn haired boy Carter has been staring at for quite a while. Maria, who makes bad Pokemon jokes, is friends with Adrian. Adrian is quite possibly the boy Maria has tried to set Carter up with. Carter has denied many dates with Maria’s single friend. Maria’s single friend who was probably Adrian.
Maria sees Carter standing stock still, and looks at him in worry. When she notices what he’s staring at, though, she freezes for a few seconds too.
Then she figures out the punchline and breaks in laughter.
Adrian is confused, even after twisting around and seeing Carter. Carter, who has by now walked over to their booth, attempts to smile. It doesn’t really work, but he makes an effort. Maria gawks at him.
“So,” he says, doing a thing with his eyebrows at the both of them, everyone loves his eyebrows, “What would you like to order?”
Adrian begins frequenting Jason’s bakery a lot more.