Tiffany’s Coffeeshop AU

Tiffany posted a poll on twitter the other day, with a bunch of AU options and asking which vibes she gives off – I voted for Coffeeshop and decided to write her an AU.
It also includes Joel, one of Tiffany’s friends, as a side character.
Tiffany is a huge fan of Chen Kitay from The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang, but I don’t know that character, so I wrote her a Poppy War fanboy instead.

β€œHe keeps looking at you, you know?” Joel wiggled his brows at her over the rim of his cup – matcha latte.
Tiffany pulled a face.
β€œWhat?”
Before she could stop him, Joel put his cup down and glanced – very obviously not hiding the fact that he was straight up checking the barista out – at the counter.
The cup clattered against the saucer as Tiffany set her cup down, reaching for his arm. β€œWhat are you doing?” she hissed, panicking while she hoped that the barista would not notice Joel staring at him like a creep.
This is NOT how you act in public.
β€œI’m looking respectfully,” Joel said, doing finger guns and clicking his tongue at her. β€œHe’s really cute.”
β€œIf you think he’s so cute, you can go and ask him out,” Tiffany grumbled, picking up her spoon and stirring her caramel hot cocoa for no reason.
β€œNo!” Joel immediately objected. β€œI’m way too awkward to flirt. Besides, he might be straight.” Joel rolled his eyes and made a gagging noise before he went back to his matcha latte.
Tiffany rolled her eyes too. Joel could tell her what he wanted, as long as he kept being the literal embodiment of self-confidence and charm, she wouldn’t buy it.
He was a gorgeous bouquet of roses and Tiffany … a wall-flower. She sighed and pursed her lips, looking down at her cup, and watching the spoon travel in circles.
β€œHey,” Joel said softly. β€œI know we both have impossibly high standards, but fictional characters aren’t real, and as much as you would deserve a Chen Kitay – believe me, you do – you can’t just mope around like that.”
At the mention of Chen Kitay, Tiffany gave another sigh. β€œI wish he was real,” she lamented.
β€œHe’s not.”
β€œI know,” she whined, drawing the vowel out and leaning her head into the palm of her hand. β€œA girl can dream.”
They sat for a while longer, and she finally stopped stirring her drink before downing the rest of it in one go and packing up her study materials. β€œI have class now.”
she didn’t even wait for Joel to say goodbye before she walked over to the counter, pointedly ignoring the allegedly cute barista as he rang her up.
β€œWas everything alright with your order?” he asked.
Tiffany was violently ripped out of her daydreams at that question. β€œHuh?” she said, her eyes flying up from her wallet, her hand – credit card included – hanging in mid-air.
He was looking at her, and now that she was also looking at him, she could tell that Joel was right. He was no Chen Kitay, but maybe he would be a Peter Kavinsky, with Patroclus’ personality.
β€œWas everything alright with your order?” he repeated, giving her a soft smile as he adjusted the hat that belonged to his uniform on his head.
Tiffany blinked. β€œYeah,” she said softly, finally extending her credit card to him. β€œIt was good.”
β€œI’m glad.”
He took his merry time ringing her up, and when he handed her her receipt, Tiffany was quick to make a run for the hills – or rather the dance studio.
The receipt landed in her dance bag, and she forgot about it for a day or two before she decided it was time to get that bag sorted out.
The receipt was crumbled up now, and one among many, since Tiffany was a regular at that coffee shop – but the cute barista was definitely new.
She smoothed out the paper and found a phone number at the bottom. Was she dreaming? Did she hit her head, like in Isn’t It Romantic, and had entered her personal romance story?
She rolled her eyes at the audacity and typed the number into her phone, sending the mystery-barista a one-liner: β€˜bold move’.
If Joel were there with her, he would make a big deal out of the fact that Tiffany was getting hit on – or potentially flirted with – she was glad that that wasn’t the case.
Dots danced in a speech bubble – β€˜omg,’ he texted back immediately, β€˜please tell me you’re that girl from two days ago who was talking about Kitay with her friend. I LOVE that book so much, I have literally NEVER heard anyone talk about it.’
Tiffany stared at her phone in disbelief.
What were the odds?

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