Sometimes Late Is Right On Time

Author's Note: Part of Writer's Month 2019, day 3 - setting prompt: coffeeshop AU. Okay, so 1000 words is not exactly a drabble anymore, but I couldn't help myself. 🙂

Pete was running late, which he hated.

Rationally he knew that no one would say anything, since his dad owned the company and had made it very clear that his son was untouchable. It was his latest attempt to assuage his guilty conscience after leaving Pete and his mother for his secretary and one of the many reasons Pete had been regretting his decision to join the firm. He should have listened to his friend Tin, who had once again rolled his eyes and accused him of being too softhearted for his own good.

However, truth be told, a part of Pete had been glad to be spared the excruciating interview process, at least for his very first post-university job. Maybe with experience he would lose some of his crippling shyness around strangers. After all, he'd also managed to grow enough of a backbone to get rid of Trump, his horrible ex-boyfriend and subsequent blackmailer, albeit with Tin's help.

The memory of the nasty snake still upset him, and he decided that, since he was already late, he could just as well grab a cup of tea to calm himself. Looking around, Pete noticed a small cafe at the corner, which conveniently had parking, and smoothly pulled into it. Exiting his black Mercedes he wondered how he'd never noticed this nice-looking place before; it was directly on his usual route between his flat and the office.

His idle thoughts were interrupted by a friendly greeting from the red-haired barista behind the counter, and Pete responded in kind. Getting ready to order, he stepped closer, eyes still fixed on the menu, which featured a variety of teas. So when a rather bulky business man shouldered rudely past him, not even bothering to look up from his phone to apologise, Pete lost his balance and stumbled straight into another barista carrying a heavily-laden tray.

They both went down with a crash of dirty dishes, and the other guy cursed after the retreating back of the cause of their collision before turning his attention to Pete. Taking in the carnage of broken glasses and cups around them, Pete began to apologise immediately, but the barista waved him off. "Not your fault, dude."

Pete's previously spotless white shirt was stained with coffee, and his attention was suddenly drawn to a sharp pain in the palm of his left hand. Hissing, he lifted it from the floor and realised that he'd managed to slice it open on a shard of glass.

"Shit, are you okay?" Deftly covering the injury with a napkin, the barista cradled Pete's hand quite gently, very different to his rough way of speaking. Despite himself, Pete noticed that his good samaritan was rather handsome, albeit in a less conventional way than Pete himself, with a short, stocky stature and dark skin.

Quickly averting his eyes, Pete mumbled, "I'm fine, thank you."

"Fine, my ass," the barista said, but there was no malice in his words, and they were still basically holding hands. "You look like you're about to faint. Let me take you into the back and bandage you."

"That... that's not necessary," Pete began to protest, but the barista was already helping him to his feet, strong arms steadying him. Cursing his fair skin, Pete blushed hotly as the motion brought their faces quite close together. He'd known he was gay forever, but after the nightmare experience with Trump he never again wanted to be so vulnerable - until now.

As if he could read his mind, the barista took a step back, although he didn't let go of Pete completely, as if he didn't trust him to stand by himself. "What's your name?"

"Pete, krab," Pete stammered.

"I'm Ae," the barista - no, Ae replied easily, before hollering at the girl behind the counter, who Pete had completely forgotten but who'd been watching them intently, "Get Pond to clean up the mess, ChaAim - I'll be back as soon as I've patched up this Ai Khun Chai."

Turning back to Pete, he smiled disarmingly, setting a flutter of butterflies loose in Pete's stomach. "Sorry, my mom would have my hide for speaking like this to a customer. But I noticed your fancy car when you arrived - and it seems that we both went to LBC, so we're basically classmates. Although I doubt you were in the Thai Program."

During his speech, Ae pointed at the LBC school pin on Pete's bag, before carefully maneuvering him towards a door in the back. Pete smiled shyly, letting himself be led as he replied courteously, "No, I graduated from International College. What did you study, Khun Ae?"

"Don't be so formal, Ai'Pete, or I'll feel even more like a savage next to you." With a teasing grin, Ae opened the door to what appeared to be a combined office and break room. Gesturing for Pete to take a seat, he rummaged for a first aid kit while explaining, "I studied Engineering. But right now I'm taking a year off to help my friends get this place off the ground and save some money so I can do some traveling. It's probably nothing to you, but I've never been outside of Thailand."

With anyone else, Pete would have thought he was being insulted, but Ae was such an open book, all he could do was respond honestly, "I think that's really great of you. You're obviously very kind and you're working towards your dream."

"Don't flatter me, I'm not that perfect." To Pete's surprise, now Ae was blushing, obviously not used to being complimented. Then Ae's fingers, broad and calloused, were peeling off his makeshift bandage and cleaning his wound attentively, and Pete had to bite his lip to keep from whimpering - but not in pain. Ae picked up on it anyway, looking up from his efforts. Their eyes caught and held for what seemed like an eternity.

Dimly Pete remembered that he was still late for work, but somehow that didn't matter at all anymore.

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