Work Header

number neighbour romance

Work Text:

Lem ran his fingernail along the outside edge of his phone, chewing on his lip as he read over the message.


L.King: You know, I’m pretty good at cooking myself! Perhaps if you like to change things around, you could come over and I could cook for you


As messages went, it was pretty neutral, but it was the closest he’d come in the weeks of texting to asking Emmanuel out. They’d talked back and forth, sometimes about cooking, or music, or the parklands that Emmanuel lived near on the edge of town, their conversations stretching over days, and with each word Lem fell more in love.


Baker <3: sure, I’d love to c u prove ur skills ;)


Lem felt a jolt in his stomach. Emmanuel could be a little reserved when Lem saw him, though, Lem only ever saw him in person at work so his professionalism was probably reasonable. It always felt like such a thrill to see this side of him over text. Lem took a deep breath, steeling himself for the next text.


L.King: How would this Friday be for you?


Emmanuel’s reply was instant, another thrill.


Baker <3: this friday is great 4 me - where should I meet u?

L.King: Our usual meeting spot is probably the easiest

Baker <3: usual meeting spot?

L.King: The bakery?

Baker <3: there’s a lot of bakeries in this town

L.King: But only one known for its strawberry cronuts

Baker <3: oh, yeah. I know the 1 u mean :) I'm round there all the time


Lem laughed. Emmanuel was so funny, pretending as though he didn’t know which bakery Lem meant. It felt like such luck that Lem had met him at all, let alone that he’d managed to work up the nerve, after several dozen bakery visits, to ask for Emmanuel’s number.


He smiled, scrolling back up through their conversation. Emmanuel had an odd sense of humour, but Lem felt charmed by it. He could just imagine the glint in Emmanuel’s eyes as he teased Lem about contacting a stranger at random, or when he pretended not to know the recipe for anything he baked.


Lem headed to the bakery mid-week, halfway there before he almost thought better of it. Surely it wouldn’t be too weird, it was his routine now, after all. It just meant that he’d see Emmanuel twice in a week instead of only once.


Emmanuel was behind the counter as always, shooting Lem a warm smile as he entered. Lem smiled back, his stomach fluttering with nerves. He let out a breath, steadying himself. After all, Emmanuel had already agreed to the date.


Emmanuel slid Lem’s usual order - a coffee and a toasted ham and cheese croissant - across the counter to him. Lem felt the flutter of nerves again, his cheeks flushing with heat.


“Ha, thank you,” said Lem. “I, uh, I’ll try to make something just as nice for you this Friday.”


Emmanuel frowned. “This… Friday?”


“Yes, I-” Lem’s stomach sank. “If- are you still free? For me to make you dinner, I mean?”


“Oh!” Emmanuel’s expression brightened, and he ducked his head. “I- I would love that. I finish a little before six.”


“Oh, yes, I suppose we didn’t discuss time yet,” said Lem.


“No, we didn’t,” said Emmanuel, laughing a little.


“Well, it’s a good thing I caught you here then, to ask,” said Lem.


“Yes,” said Emmanuel, smiling the warm, beautiful smile that made Lem’s knees go weak. “Yes, a good thing.”


Lem practically floated out of the bakery. He was so caught up in the ecstasy of the moment, in fact, that he failed to notice that a busker had set up right outside the bakery doors, tripping over the man’s guitar case. The man looked vaguely familiar - he was usually set up somewhere on the block, so Lem had probably nodded hello to him half a dozen times.


“Hey!” said the busker.


“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there,” said Lem, bending to pick up the sign he’d inadvertently knocked over.


“Yeah, I got that,” said the busker.


‘I WILL USE THIS MONEY 2 BUY HOUSEPLANTS + FEED STRAY CATS’, read the sign. Lem smiled despite himself, in too much of a good mood to be affected by the busker’s grouchy tone.


“You’ve set up in a great spot,” said Lem. “I’m a little biased, but I think this is the best bakery in the city.”


The busker tilted his head to one side, absentmindedly strumming a tune while he looked up at Lem. “Yeah, a lot of handsome people have told me that this week.”


Lem felt his face flush. “I, ah- that’s- lovely music-” He felt around in his wallet, pulling out some money. “I, sorry about the, you know, knocking it a little.”


The busker blinked down at the money Lem had dropped in his guitar case. “Uh, don’t worry about it, that, uh- That covers it.”


Lem looked down, noticing much too late that he’d put in $20. He suppressed a sigh. At least he’d already bought groceries for the week. He could cook something nice enough for Emmanuel with what he had.


“Thanks,” said the busker.


“I- no problem. Enjoy-” Lem glanced down at the sign, laughter bubbling in his chest again at it despite the situation. “Enjoy feeding the stray cats.”


“I always do!” said the busker cheerfully.


He got home just as his phone chimed, another text from Emmanuel. It was of a guitar, held loosely in what he could only assume was Emmanuel’s hands. Lem frowned. The guitar must have been a rather large one, making Emmanuel seem a lot smaller in comparison.


L.King: Oh!! I didn’t know you played!

Baker <3: sometimes

Baker <3: most just 4 busking, nothing srs


A strange coincidence, thought Lem. Well it certainly was the week for them.


L.King: There was a busker outside the bakery today

Baker <3: Ha! U should have said hi - pretty talented right?

L.King: Sure, I suppose so


There was a long pause before Emmanuel responded.


Baker <3: wow thx


Lem felt a flash of panic. Perhaps Emmanuel and the busker were friends, or perhaps Emmanuel held respect for the busker’s guitar playing as one musician to another.


L.King: Not as talented as you though


Emmanuel took even longer to respond this time.


Baker <3: sometimes u r the most confusing person i have evr met

L.King: Is that good or bad?

Baker <3: so far it’s both


Friday rushed towards Lem before he could really prepare himself. He paced circles around his apartment, waiting for the clock to tick close to six. He didn’t want Emmanuel to feel as though he was sulking around outside, but he didn’t want to be late either. He waited as long as he could stand and took the long way there, focusing on keeping his steps neat and even to distract himself as much to keep himself from walking too fast.


There were two people waiting outside the bakery, chatting to each other. One was Emmanuel, turning to wave to Lem, smiling his beautiful smile. The other was the busker, who also waved. He didn’t seem to have his guitar with him, but then again this was a popular bakery. Perhaps he’d just stopped by as Emmanuel was leaving.


Lem took a deep breath in. There was no need to be jealous . Emmanuel had agreed to a date with him after all, not some busker.


“Hello,” said Emmanuel.


“Hi,” said the busker.


“Uh, hi,” said Lem. “I- Sorry, what was your name?”


“Oh, yeah, I guess we never actually exchanged names,” said the busker. “I’m Fero, I’m the guy you arranged to meet for dinner?”


Lem frowned. “What?”


“Yeah, I know,” said Fero. “I’m kind of surprised either of us are real, my friend Hella was convinced you were a total catfish.”


“Oh,” said Emmanuel. “When you offered dinner I did not think it was a… group situation.”


“Oh, hey, are you coming too?” said Fero. “I mean, I’m not cooking so extra guests are fine with me.”


Lem’s frown deepened. “No, I… Sorry, I only asked Emmanuel out. I did it twice, even.”


“Twice?” said Emmanuel.


“Yes, once by text, and once in person,” said Lem.


“You have never texted me,” said Emmanuel.


“What?” said Lem, a cold sinking feeling in his stomach. “Emmanuel, I- I text you all the time?”


“No, you do not,” said Emmanuel. He huffed a laugh. “I told you my number when you asked for it, but then you never sent me a message. I had started to think that perhaps you were not interested in me in that way, but you kept coming back to the bakery-”


“Wait,” said Fero, “Wait, if you have a date with this guy-”


“Emmanuel,” said Emmanuel, amusement curling through his tone.


“If you had a date coming up with Emmanuel,” amended Fero, “Then why are you always texting me ?”


“I’m not texting you!” said Lem. “I only met you this week! How would I even have your number!”


“I don’t know!” said Fero, pulling out his phone, “But you do, see?”


He held up his phone. Lem could see his own texts, his number saved as ‘Mr Mystery Man’. He felt his cheeks flush, and he looked at Emmanuel.


“Emmanuel, I… I truly thought I was texting you, I…”


“I do believe that,” said Emmanuel. He paused. “Fero, could I see your phone?”


Fero shrugged. “Sure.”


Emmanuel took it, scrolling through for a moment before he laughed.


“Ah, I see what has happened,” said Emmanuel. “This is your number Fero, yes? Ends in three-one-two?”


“Yeah?” said Fero.


“Well my number is exactly the same,” said Emmanuel, “Except my number ends in three-two-one.” He huffed a laugh. “I never did check what it was that you put in your phone Lem.”


“Oh,” said Lem. His mind flashed through several conversations, the late night messages, the guitar photo. “ Oh . Oh my god.”


“Yes,” said Emmanuel. “So it is that we are all right, and we are all wrong at the same time.”


Fero laughed. “I guess as long as it evens out.”


“That is a good attitude to have in these situations,” said Emmanuel.


Fero grinned up at him. “Been in this kind of situation often, huh?”


Emmanuel laughed. “Oh no, this is certainly a first.”


“Hey, me too!” said Fero.


Emmanuel smiled.


“Hey, now wait a minute,” said Lem. “That’s my- I asked him out first, so don’t get any ideas-”


“Sorry, which one of us are you talking to?” said Fero.


“I believe it was you who he asked to dinner first,” said Emmanuel, “so I suppose he is speaking to me.”


“No, I- Emmanuel-” spluttered Lem. “I didn’t- I want to go to dinner with you.”


“Ah, but you have other plans,” said Emmanuel. “It is only fair, since you asked Fero first and he said yes first.”


“It’s okay, I get that he wanted to ask you and he's just kind of an idiot-”


“Hey!” said Lem.


“But I was kind of looking forward to the dinner,” said Fero. “I mean, I’ve been getting teased about it over text all week with what recipe books he’s been digging out.”


“Oh, you have all this inside knowledge,” said Emmanuel. The corners of his eye crinkled as he smiled down at Fero. “The dinner will remain a mystery to me.”


“I mean, I could text you about it,” said Fero. “Here, give me your number.”


Emmanuel’s smile bloomed into a grin as he took back Fero’s phone. Lem blinked, his mind still trying to absorb the situation.


“Sorry, what’s- what’s happening?”


“We’re going to dinner,” said Fero. “I mean, you owe us both Friday night dinner. I’m guessing you bought enough that you could make whatever it is for three people instead of two.”


“I suppose so,” said Lem.


“Unless there’s a third person you’ve been messaging about this,” said Fero. “Have you emailed anyone about it? Faxed them? Sent a carrier pigeon?”


“No, that’s- I think this was a perfectly understandable mistake,” said Lem.


“Sure,” said Fero. “I mean, I’ve never done it, but-”


He broke off as Emmanuel laughed, grinning up at him again. It was hard to keep ahold of his annoyance in the face of Emmanuel’s smile, and Fero’s… Well, there was something to his grin. It was easy to imagine it on the other side of all those late night text conversations.


“Well,” said Lem, “I suppose I- I would be honoured to host you both for dinner.”


“Good,” said Fero, “because you already offered to do that.”


“Fero,” said Emmanuel.


Fero held up his hands. “Okay, okay. I am letting it go.” He paused. “As long as we actually get dinner.”


"You will," said Lem.


"Well, come on then, lead the way," said Fero. "What are you making anyway?"


"Oh, it's a modified recipe," said Lem, as they began to walk. "Emmanuel is vegetarian."


"No, I'm not," said Emmanuel, amused.


"I am!" said Fero. He laughed. "I guess you have a lot to learn about both of us, huh?"


"Yes," said Lem. Instead of the anxiety he expected, he felt a warmth in his chest at the thought of it. "Yes, I suppose I do."