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sull'arco
sullarco
peppermint [pokemon au; steven stone/wallace] 
title - peppermint
project - / for
rating - pg
fandom - pokemon (gen iii / au)
characters/pairings - steven stone / wallace
warnings - slash/BL
word count - 1,644
summary - prompt / "Christmas themed Coffee Shop AU. Steven is a TA, overloaded with stuff to grade and it's almost Christmas goddamnit. Maybe he doesn't want to go home for break because he can't stand the thought of more stuffy, high society parties that his dad likes to throw. Anyway, he just really needs a good cup of coffee right now, but this barista who smells of peppermint syrup brews him up a candy cane latte instead."
notes - written for pokeprompts holiday exchange. original post here

@AO3 | @DW

Last christmas Steven went home during break. He stayed in his old room and sat at the desk grading papers and put off going downstairs. On the first floor Mr. Stone was awaiting his son’s arrival, telling his christmas party guests that Steven was ‘still preparing’.

Eventually Steven did put on his suit. Eventually he did go downstairs. Steven drank champagne and picked at the hors d'œuvre and he smiled for his father’s friends and employees and colleagues. He hated every minute of it.

-----

“No, I’m not coming this year.”

Steven occupied the little corner of a cafe, talking quietly into his phone. He’d sent a very polite email to his father explaining that he couldn’t make it back home for the holidays and wished him a very bright christmas and happy new year. That he was much busier now than he’d been last christmas and he really couldn’t spare the time to travel. His father was a bit upset as his son was always willing to come home and had called to convince him. But Steven was determined not to give in to parental guilt.

It was cold, and he was tired. So, so tired. The worse thing about being at sea level in the winter was it was cold but it didn’t snow; there was just rain. A lot of wet rain and flooding and coming back to your apartment in drenched pants and spending a lot of quarters to dry them.

“I know. Yes. Next year, I promise.” Steven wished he hadn’t promised, in case this christmas turned out to be more relaxing that the ones at home at ever been. “Yes, I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”

Steven sighed, a deep and full breath let go, and with it all the tension of the phone call. He ordered a coffee, and graded school papers from his briefcase until the rain looked light enough to walk home without getting too wet.

-----

Steven visited the cafe most days. It was dressed up for christmas and kept the heat in better than his apartment. It wasn’t too far and there were enough awnings to walk under for when it rained (which it almost always was). There was a man that worked there every time Steven visited, so he could only assume he was a manager or something. When Steven came in the man would smile and wave at him but never seemed to notice Steven’s distracted glances.

-----

On Christmas Eve, Steven was tucked into the corner of the cafe once again. It was empty, in the late afternoon, with only two staff members. One of which being the blue haired supervisor. He reluctantly went through grading paper after paper to keep his mind busy. If he was going to spend his time thinking about his father’s Christmas business parties or his quiet apartment with the tabletop tree, he might as well use that energy to go through school papers.

But the days were short, and by five, it was dark outside and closing was imminent. Steven was suddenly aware of someone next to him, and he turned his head to see the familiar employee next to him.

"You look like you could use this." The man said, setting the bright red mug down on his table. Steven took the handle and sipped carefully, not expecting the sweet taste of candy and peppermint.

"I usually just have coffee." Steven looked up at the barista from his papers; christmas themed drinks were nice and all but much different from the bitter caffeine he was used to. He took another drink despite his words and tongued the sweetness at the roof of his mouth.

"Yes well, it’s on the house. I can still bring you the coffee later if you want." The man smiled, as if already predicting Steven's polite decline.

"Thank you." Steven replied, if somewhat unsure.

"Do you mind if I sit?” He asked, taking the opposite seat anyway. “I’m Wallace.”

“Hello Wallace, I’m Steven.” Steven smiled. He held out his hand for the other man to shake, a habit of manners. Wallace seemed to be amused at a handshake of all things but took Steven’s hand anyway, and shook it firmly over the table.

“So what are you doing here on Christmas Eve, hm?”

Steven stacked his papers to the side and sipped his drink carefully, letting the whipped cream settle on his upper lip before licking it away. “I’ve been here every other eve, haven’t I?”

“You have. Always paperwork at a cafe decorated vigorously in christmas lights.”

“Yes.” Steven said simply. Wallace was quiet at that, letting his head rest in his palm. “What about you? Working on Christmas Eve?”

Wallace looked over to his co worker, who seemed to be bored and in routine-mode. Habit cleaning and tweaking. “It’s not so bad. It’s technically spending time with more people than I would be at home.” He didn’t seem bothered by this, though.

This would be Steven’s own first year without his family for christmas, which was both a relief and a bit lonely. But maybe Wallace was used to spending it alone, and would rather even spend this time in the company of strangers than by himself, and it was a feeling he was used to. Or maybe something else entirely, but Steven couldn’t imagine being as into Christmas as Wallace seemed to be and also liking spending it alone.

“What about you?” Wallace asked. “Are you alone this year as well?”

Steven took another sip of his drink, finished, faster than any of his coffees had been downed. He tucked his papers into his briefcase. “Yes. Usually I spend Christmas with my father. I enjoy my father’s company very much, but Christmas in his house is a tedious and stressful affair.” Steven paused then, fixing his eyes on the table. “I wanted to detach myself from that stress this year. It’s been alright, though. I found a warm little hole in the wall to spend my time.”

Wallace laughed at that. Not just a giggle or a chuckle, but a real laugh, and it made Steven laugh as well. “That’s good then. Not to sound creepy, but I’ve seen you in here before. Before Christmas time, I mean. Just in and out now and then. Before we set up our Christmas decor. Once December rolled around I knew something must have happened if you were coming in all the time. You were never here during Christmas, before.”

Had he been here so many times, even few and far inbetween, that his face became recognizable? He didn’t even remember Wallace in the slightest. “Oh.” He said in a small voice. “Well. I’m glad you came over to talk to me, in any case.”

Another smile spread on Wallace’s face. “You’re very welcome.”

They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, and when Wallace looked like he was going to stand up Steven cleared his throat. “Listen. If you’re interested...” He felt heat rise to his face. “I’m not used to spending christmas by myself, and I’m sure for you it would be nice to spend christmas with someone; anyone.”

It was very subtle, but relief swept across Wallace’s face, and Steven felt glad to have done that. He and Wallace were strangers, but offering him his small deed meant the world.

“Yes, I would be very interested, Steven. Thank you.”

-----

Thankfully, it wasn’t too wet outside. Steven led them back to his small apartment in the drizzle. Mostly his hair was wet, but he could turn on the heater and it would be fine after a bit. Inside, it was dark except for the red of the christmas lights around garland hung up around the perimeter of the main room. The tabletop Christmas tree stood by the window, off.
Steven flicked on the overhead light and crossed the room to turn it on. The front door closed and the light turned off again just as he plugged the tree in. He turned and looked at Wallace shrugging off his coat. Wallace looked back at him. “Sorry, the christmas lights in the dark just look nice, don’t they?”

“Yeah, they do.” Steven agreed. “You’re welcome to sit down. I don’t have any gifts or anything but-”

“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Wallace laughed, falling onto the couch and pulling a blanket draped over the back around his shoulders. He watched Steven shuffle around, in and out of the kitchen for a bit, before standing and coming over to him. “You have a cozy apartment and nice decorations. Nothing overly fancy, just some lights. It’s good.” He said.

“Well I wanted it to at least feel like christmas.” Steven turned him around and pushed him back over to the couch. “Television?”

“If you want.” Wallace chuckled, making sure Steven joined him on the couch.

-----

After a few corny Christmas movies on the television, comfortable conversation with Wallace, and the apartment having warmed up finally, Steven stretched out from under his blankets. “I’m pretty tired.” He laughed, checked his watch. It was just coming on midnight. “Merry Christmas.”

Wallace stretched out his long limbs from his blankets as well. “Ah is it that late already? My throat feels dry from talking so much.”

“I think it’s still raining.” Steven sighed. “You could stay here. If you wanted.”

“You’re a very kind and trusting person, Steven, letting a stranger spent the night in your home.” Wallace shifted closer.

“Well we’re not complete strangers, are we? Besides, I think I may have fallen for you, a little bit.”

“That’s good to know. So you wouldn’t mind if I kissed you, then?”

“And why would you want to do that?”

“Because I think I’ve fallen for you a little bit as well.”

Wallace leaned forward to kiss him, and Steven breathed in.

Peppermint.
sull'arco
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