Hadley Smith thinks his life sucks. Socially awkward and uncomfortable with his sexuality, what chance does he ever have of making something of himself, finding true love and settling down to help overpopulate the earth like he's been told to do?
He's fallen into a routine; work, eat, exchange sexual favours with his roommate, repeat, and he isn't sure he can ever break out of it. Until he gets arrested for something his idiot roommate does. Until he meets Andrew.
“One peach green tea lemonade?”
The voice belonged to Hadley Smith, and he was already 100% done with his day. His usual customers at the rundown branch of Starbucks he worked at had been absent, and instead, he had been inundated with tourists, foreign exchange students, and teenagers and twenty-somethings who wanted to try the new iced tea flavours without paying for the actual tea. He’d lost count of how many people had asked for free samples. In fact, he was one more ‘could I get a free sample?’ away from filling a pitcher with the shittiest, weakest iced tea concoctions he could muster, all tea and no lemonade.
But that might get him fired, and as shitty as it was, he needed his job. Starbucks put food on the table and kept a roof above his head. He measured out his life in coffee grounds, each Americano affording him another pack of instant ramen, or enough spare change to call his mom from a payphone to ask for more money.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, he mused, waiting for his phantom customer to come and fucking collect their shitty tea before he dumped it out of pure frustration. He’d left home the day he graduated high school, against his parents’ advice, and moved into an apartment in the city with his best friend, Caleb Turner. Except this was San Francisco and everything cost a fortune, and shitty fucking Caleb was only seventeen and still in high school, so Hadley was the one left in charge of the bills because Caleb could only get afternoon shifts at the same shitty Starbucks.
“No show?” asked the kid in question.
Looking at Caleb was like staring into a supernova. His hair was a tousled mop of pure fire, almost as red as the Target signs, and his skin was so stereotypically California tanned that he glowed, like some kind of reverse Twilight vampire. Paired with painfully white teeth and bright blue eyes, it was enough to give anyone a headache. Especially Hadley. Always Hadley.
Hadley shook his head at Caleb’s question, ready to toss the slowly melting iced tea, but Caleb got there first, scooping it up and taking a sip once he was certain the owner wasn’t going to appear. Hadley should have known. Caleb had a weakness for peach flavoured things. Peach soda, peach candy, peach condoms, peach everything. When he and Hadley had drunkenly kissed on prom night, Caleb had tasted of peaches and cream boiled sweets, and Hadley had never forgotten the taste.
"I don't know about you, but I've made enough tips to go out tonight," Caleb said, winking and reaching down to pluck a ten dollar bill out of his tip jar.
Caleb always got good tips. His personality was as bright as his appearance, and he better hid it whenever he was feeling surly. Unlike Hadley, who only ever got piss poor tips from his regular customers.
"Maybe you should put it towards something important, like, I don't know, the electricity bill?" suggested Hadley, stuffing the bill back into the tip jar.
He was still salty about the fact Caleb accrued so many tips they'd had to get him his own jar, instead of just using the communal pot like they used to.
"Or I can go out, find myself a nice rich man to move in with, and never have to worry about electricity bills again. I know what I'd rather do, hunty."
"Drag talk doesn't suit you, Caleb."
The redhead responded only by sticking his middle finger up and grabbing an empty tray to collect the used mugs that Hadley should have rounded up ten minutes prior. Hadley slumped over the bar, leaning his short frame against the cash register, the corner of the screen digging into his ribs. Why shouldn't he go out? He was young and attractive enough that he could get enough drinks bought for him, and his fake I.D. was convincing enough that he shouldn't have to bribe any doormen or bartenders. If luck was on his side, he wouldn't have to spend a cent. But luck wasn't often on his side.
"Ah, fuck it," he muttered, picking himself up off the counter.
He waited for Caleb to return with the empty trays, loading them into the dishwasher with the redhead. They could have washed them by hand, but closing time was looming on them, and honestly they couldn't wait to leave. The brunette let Caleb talk him into going out for one drink in the time it took them to close up, and he was already regretting it.