Thirty Steps

By @MHarper247

Thirty Steps

By @MHarper247

James Alexander is a 23-year-old wannabe marine biologist working at a coffee counter in a cinema foyer. Thirty steps away, 19-year-old amateur filmmaker Bailey Thompson works at the snacks counter adjacent to his. Six attempts at asking Bailey out and James gives up, witnessing, three days after his most recent confession, a kiss between Bailey and a young girl closer to his age. Then they meet in a bar, and James discovers the true meaning behind Bailey's new girlfriend.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Could you stop drooling over that kid? Haven’t you been shot down enough in two months?”

It was true. Despite his incessant pining for the blond teenager, James Alexander had barely been spared a second glance by his crush, Thompson. He had been left to his crush worsening after five horrid attempts at asking him out. James wasn’t sure he understood it at all. Usually he had guys lining up to have dates with him, and this stupidly attractive kiosk worker had managed to reject him at every turn. It was frustrating, and his colleague pestering him with the reminder of his loneliness was not helping.

“I’m not drooling, Luke. I’m just… watching-”

“-you look like you’re staring at a steak.”

James huffed at his comment, turning around and breaking his gaze on the other, glaring at Luke who was making an order for what was only their second customer in three hours. Slow day.

“Steaks don’t squeal at movie posters like he does.” He sighed, glancing back at the worker cleaning the countertop of the snack kiosk.

Luke chuckled faintly, taking money from the woman at the till who then requested to have a sandwich heated up, a task which James took since on quiet days they liked to split up the work that way, swapping between coffee making and preparation of food. Setting the timer for the toasting machine, he leaned against the counter, annoyed by the smirk he saw on his friend’s face.

“You could always give it another go?” Their customer spoke up, smiling kindly at him.

“See, even our customers have faith in you.” Luke was sniggering under his breath, his sarcasm evident.

James glared at him sourly, waves of negative intentions radiating off of him and into the atmosphere. The female patron who had spoken earlier took her sandwich when he finished preparing it, patting his shoulder.

“You’ll get there eventually. Some guys just take a while to wear down.”

He nodded just slightly when he saw the determined look in her eyes, thankful that someone believed in him, before glancing over at where the other worker was now serving someone, preparing nachos. He quickly became distracted by watching his pale, deft fingers working, the faint tone of his arm muscles showing as he pulled on the sauce dispenser. James was pretty much on another plain of existence and didn’t hear his customer laugh at his expression as she walked away. Only as his best friend’s booming voice crossed the thirty steps between the kiosk and the coffee shop, did he realise that he had been caught staring. His crush was blushing faintly from what he could see as he concentrated on reality now, and Luke was calling the blond over to order coffee.

“Thompson, come here! I’ll make you a drink!” The stupid grin on the brunette’s face did something to convince the younger as he gave him a distracted thumbs up.

After dealing with another customer and handing over to the ticket tearer, Johnny, he wandered over to their little coffee shop adjacent to the snack counter, smiling at them both.

“Hey guys! Can I have a caramel macchiato in a takeaway cup? You know how I hate those big ceramic mugs.” He grinned.

James could have melted on the spot at the bright, toothy smile that was beaming at Luke, wondering how someone could have such a heartwarming grin. He gulped when Luke kicked his shin lightly, bringing him back to Earth once more.

“You only hate them because of those slim fingers of yours. You aren’t strong enough to carry the mugs with your hands of a child!”

He wondered how Luke could speak to him so casually, as trying to say one word to the younger was enough to leave James a spluttering mess. He watched as a blush appeared across his cheeks and growled inside, unhappy with his friend flirting with his crush.

“Why do you tease me like that, Lukey? Am I not pretty enough to be nice to?”

The other brunette was dumbfounded as Thompson started flirting back, trying not to let it show as he felt a protective rage burning inside of him at the sight. The blond was leaning on his elbows against the higher part of the counter, watching Luke work on his drink.

“The trouble isn’t with how pretty you are. It’s with what’s in your jeans.” His friend replied, smirking, which made the other shrug as he stepped back.

“Your loss.” Thompson laughed, smiling a little at James.

“Hey James.”

The older male froze up slightly when he spoke to him, only replying when Luke handed Thompson his drink and stepped harshly on James’ foot deliberately. He groaned in pain when he did, trying not to show his suffering to the blond in front of him. This didn’t help him because the teen was already noticing the pain he was in, seeing tears pricking the edges of his eyes.

“Are you okay, James?” He was frowning, and the brunette couldn’t help what spluttered out of his mouth as Luke nudged his ribs next, putting him in more pain.

“D- do you want to go for a drink with me? Later, I mean!” James tried to save himself at the end, ready to curl up in the corner and die.

Luke walked away to make another coffee which he knew James would need in a minute, but really he was just walking away so Thompson didn’t see him in tears of laughter at the predicament his friend was in, courtesy of Luke. There was a minute of silence as the blond pieced together the words he had managed to pick up on from James’ strained request, but what came next was yet another disappointing blow for James’ self-preservation.

“Oh, I’d love to go drinking with you guys! Just maybe… another time? I’m really sorry, it’s just that I have this dinner with my parents tonight and I can’t cancel with them. Family commitments, you know?” He smiled at the man who slumped at his reply, trying not to look too mortified at the fact that he hadn’t even realised it was a date he was asking for.

He smiled back though, nodding quickly so he didn’t sense anything wrong. Luke had gone quite quiet from where he was standing making James’ coffee.

“Yeah, I totally get it. Maybe another time.”

The blond nodded too before waving to Luke and wandering back across the thirty step space between their workplaces. James watched him go, huffing in response to the rejection and taking the coffee that his friend handed him, Luke sighing and squeezing his shoulder gently.

“Tough blow, dude. Six shots to the heart.” He laughed, blocking the jab to his stomach that James tried to inflict.

“He thought I was asking him to out with both of us, like a bunch of straight dudes.” The shorter brunette groaned, drinking some more coffee and staring longingly at the blond again, causing Luke to pinch his arm.

“Ow-”

“-give up. Six is enough-”

“-but I like him enough to try a seventh!” James lamented, crossing his arms stubbornly.

Luke sighed in frustration at his best friend’s obsession with the kiosk guy. Thompson was cute, but he wasn’t worth getting this hung up over. He needed to get James out of the blond and hazel eyes mind.

“What if we go out on Friday? We can go to a gay club and you can try and meet someone who doesn’t take seven attempts to get a date out of!” He suggested to him, nudging his side gently as James continued to stare at the teenager across the way.

It took a few seconds before he gave in.

“Fine.” He huffed, tearing his eyes away from his two-month crush who was getting ready to leave work.

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