ON MY LIST
Duo stretched his back to ease some of its complaints after a long day at the store. A glance at the clock showed he still had two hours to go on his shift, and he sighed. Standing at the register, he started up the moving belt for the next customer, and the small piles of shopping came closer. A loaf of bread, a carton of milk, four tins of beans and an anime magazine. And following in two fairly neat piles behind the other stuff, eight boxes of orange Pocky.
“Long day, eh?”
He looked up, startled. He probably should have greeted the customer properly, as he’d been trained. Good afternoon, sir, did you find everything you were looking for? At the very least, he should have pretended his back didn’t hurt like hell from the extra shift in the stock room, and the mind-numbing boredom of hours on the checkout were really a delicious, intellectually stimulating treat…
Instead, his hand paused half-way over the boxes of Pocky, and he stared.
The guy on the other side of the counter stared back at him. His eyes were large and blue and his mouth twisted with surprise. His face looked a bit red. “Is there a problem?”
Duo found his throat very dry, which was odd when he’d only just come back from a snatched coffee break. “No. I mean, sorry.” He continued to stare and now he could feel himself flushing, too. The guy was probably as tall as he was, slim and lean. He looked athletic; he looked fit. His tee shirt was tight across his torso and his jeans equally snug on his hips. And his hair… it was a thick, dark, glossy shock, falling over his forehead and framing the high cheekbones of his face. Duo found he was tilting his head, trying to see how it curled in against the guy’s neck. He could imagine how it would feel if he pressed one hand on the guy’s back, skin to skin, and tangled the other into his hair, tightening his fingers, tugging the guy’s head back toward him…
Duo coughed with embarrassment. God, it’d obviously been a longer day than he thought. Like that’d ever happen in real life! He’d never been so pleased he was standing behind the register because his jeans were suddenly, seriously tight across his crotch. Hadn’t been a problem for a while, he hadn’t exactly been Mr Date-a-Minute, but there was something about this guy… Dear God. Two hours to go, he thought, not without some bitterness, with the whole of tinned soups to be re-stacked and suddenly my damned cock wants to play Friends Reunited. He sighed again, dropping his eyes and pushing the Pocky boxes through the scan. He couldn’t help smiling as he did.
Duo cursed to himself and reddened even further. He really ought to be considering some kind of career change: he and retail didn’t seem to be compatible. “Sorry again. I wasn’t laughing at your shopping. Well, only because… it’s my favourite flavour.”
The guy’s eyes widened. “Orange?”
Duo nodded and grinned. Kept grinning. He didn’t seem able to concentrate properly while those blue eyes were fixed on him.
“That’s great,” said the guy, very enthusiastically. Duo was a little startled, but he couldn’t see any overt sarcasm. Still, he did miss the signals sometimes. Possibly one of the reasons he wasn’t exactly Mr. Date-a-Minute. He read out the total due, his voice sounding unusually hoarse.
The guy was still staring at him. He jerked as if suddenly remembering where he was, and started to search through his pockets. Duo picked up the bill that the guy had already put down, and cleared his throat. “I’ll use this, shall I?”
The guy went even redder. “Of course. I forgot I’d… anyway.”
“Anyway,” Duo repeated, and then he laughed. “Sorry, that was rude of me.” The guy smiled back. Great smile, Duo thought. Great teeth, eyes that reflected the smile, a cute little nervous gesture with his hand as if he wanted to brush at his lips…
Goddammit. He shifted uncomfortably, wishing he’d worn the loose sweat pants today. “A lot of people get flustered at my checkout,” he said, ruefully.
“A lot of people?” the guy said. He looked startled.
Duo grinned. “Let’s say, I’ve never been tagged as Employee of the Month.”
“I can’t imagine why,” the guy replied, quite softly, and there was no trace of sarcasm this time, either. He took a long time bagging up his goods, though Duo didn’t call anyone over to help. In fact, he spent rather a long time himself watching the guy’s hands and imagining the kind of help they might give his inconvenient but enthusiastic hard on…
God. He was going to have to ask for an extra hour in frozen goods.
Duo usually hated being on the self-serve checkout. Customers tried to scan four items at once; jammed the slots with foreign coins; tried to slide a kilo of loose, soft fruit across with the same expectation as a bar-tagged pencil. Then there was that time a kid tried to scan and bag his baby brother…
He didn’t mind it today, though. Dammit, he couldn’t get into position for duty fast enough. “Can I help?” he asked the dark-haired man who was standing at the side of the scanner, looking bemused. Can I? Please?
“It’s okay, Duo,” came a reedy voice at his elbow. Greg, one of the other assistants, raised himself to his full, pompous, five-foot-five self. “I’m supervisor on duty today.”
Fuck off, Greg. “Thanks Greg,” Duo said, through slightly gritted teeth. “But weren’t you being called for aisle 23? Some kid just threw up over the washing powder display.”
Greg winced. “I need to help this customer first -”
“No you don’t,” interrupted the guy, with a forceful tone that wouldn’t have gone amiss in one of Duo’s many and varied Customer Services training sessions. “Duo… can help me.” He turned and smiled at Duo, as if delighted to have discovered his name.
Greg looked astonished; Duo flushed with pleasure. The words had sounded so very… sensual. Like hot chocolate; like sinking into a warm bath; like silk boxers would feel on his pathetically persistent erection - that is, if he’d been able to afford silk on his meagre pay. He wondered how the guy’s voice would sound wrapped around a low, breathy moan; hissed into Duo’s mouth around a thrusting, demanding tongue…
He shook himself out of his impossibly erotic daydreams and looked at the guy’s basket. “Is that all you have? More Pocky?”
“Duo!” Greg sounded scandalised at his colleague’s bluntness.
The guy’s face went a little pink but he didn’t stop gazing at Duo. “That’s all I need today.”
Duo gazed back, his heartbeat starting up double time. The pink looked good on the guy’s dusky skin. Damned good. Small tendrils of hope tickled inside his gut: he hoped to God it wasn’t just indigestion from a rushed breakfast. “You bought the same yesterday. Two more boxes, the day before that.”
“So I like Pocky,” the guy said. His blue eyes sparkled. “Especially orange.”
Duo bit his lip. His heart was beating so fast now he’d swear he could hear it over the clatter of registers. He wondered if he’d brushed his hair enough that morning before work; if he still had that spot on his chin. He prayed he’d zipped his fly properly shut after his last restroom break. “You’ve been buying Pocky for a week now, every single day. Nothing else.”
The guy shrugged. He was starting to smile. “I haven’t used up the tins of beans yet. I don’t need anything else from here.”
“Just Pocky?” Duo said, smiling back and raising an eyebrow.
The guy nodded. “That’s one of the things, anyway,” he said, firmly.
“Look here,” Greg stepped in front of Duo. The two men continued to smile at each other over his head, so he stepped back again, confused. The PA system announced – for maybe the third time - a customer query on aisle 23.
“The bucket and mop are in the corner, Greg,” hissed Duo.
“Do you get a lunch break, Duo?” asked the guy. He looked very flushed now.
Greg sniffed. “Duo only has a half hour, he has to make good the mess he made unpacking the spot creams this morning…”
“Yes,” Duo interrupted quickly. “Actually, I’ve got some extra time coming to me for clearing up the mess in aisle 23. Right, Greg?”
Greg’s eyes narrowed. “I suppose so.”
The guy smiled and held out his hand. “Heero. My name’s Heero.” Duo stuck out his hand in reply, narrowly missing Greg’s eye. “I wasn’t sure…”
Duo tilted his head. “About me?”
Heero smiled, ruefully. “About me. Wasn’t sure you’d be interested. Took me a long time to pluck up courage.”
“A week’s worth of Pocky time?” Duo smiled. He was shockingly flattered. That was way better than flowers and chocolates, not that he’d ever received them either.
Heero nodded. He looked relieved. “I’m not so good at this…“ He shrugged. “Just shy.”
“Like me,” murmured Duo in sympathy.
Greg snorted. “The bucket and mop are in the corner, Duo,” he hissed.
Duo wondered what category of aggravated assault it’d be if he held down his supervisor’s head in a bucket of vomit-sodden washing powder.
He turned to Heero. “One o’clock?” he said. Did he sound desperate? Over-eager? Did he care? “Coffee at the bar on the corner?”
“And Pocky,” smiled Heero, nodding again. “I have lots of that we can share.”
At the last minute, as Duo started to turn back toward aisle 23 and his substantially less attractive date with infantile nausea, Heero reached out and grasped his wrist. “I’m sorry… about you having to do extra work, you know?”
Duo tried not to stare as if this gorgeous man were something from another planet – as if he weren’t the very best thing that had passed Duo’s register since the day they mis-priced the hot chocolate and he bought six boxes for himself. Since all his dreams and fantasies bundled themselves up in a single hot body and arrived in front of him, bearing – of all things! - orange Pocky as a courtship gift.
“Don’t be, I’m not,” he grinned. Much. “After all, I’m always happy to do whatever I can for Customer Service.”
In the background, Greg sounded as if he were choking. Duo decided, vindictively, that’d do almost as well as suffocation in sick. He gave a small, ironic salute to Heero as goodbye for now, and laughing happily, he quoted his tired old mantra. “Good afternoon, sir, did you find everything you were looking for?”
Heero was still holding him, and he smiled back.
“I have now,” he whispered.