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Help Wanted by Ellerina
Chapter 1: Clandestine Food Shopping Can Cause Problems
awesome chappie image by justonemorefic @ tda
David realized later that the scene at the grocery store might not have been so catastrophic if he hadn’t lied to his mother earlier that day.
That Sunday had not been a particularly good day for him in the first place, having been called in to work at four o’clock in the morning to interrogate a suspect for an arson case (who had turned out to be a red herring in the end anyway), and then somehow he’d been conned into filling out all the paperwork afterwards.
He also had his weekly tea with his mother on Sundays, and while David loved his mum, she had always been a bit… pushy.
“Honestly, David. I don’t understand why you’re being like this.” She had set her teacup down on the table with the irritated clink of china.
That week, and for the last few weeks in fact, she had been pushing for him to go on blind dates. “She’s a lovely girl. I’m sure you’ll fall for her the minute you see her.”
“That’s what you said about the last woman. And the one before that, and the one before that, and the one — “
“They were all very nice girls too! You’re just being picky.”
“Picky! Umma,” he had whinged, despising the fact that arguing with his mother always ended up with him whining like a child, “the last girl flossed her teeth at the table after we ate lunch.”
“So she cares about dental hygiene — "
“With her own hair.”
His mother had sniffed at him and sipped her tea.
David couldn’t understand why she had decided to push dating at him so hard now in particular. His older sister Jocelyn was already married and had a daughter, Leila. Working as an Auror, something like marriage wasn’t even on his radar screen these days. Besides, most women weren’t too keen on having the possibility that they could lose their spouse to a splinching accident during a high-speed Apparition chase.
And marrying some vapid girl his parents had set him up with on top of that — the idea was repulsive.
At the mention of the hair-flossing, his mum had sighed for a moment and sat back in a resigned sort of way that had made David start hoping the subject was closed.
Unfortunately, as if sensing his momentary relief, she then said quickly, “Won’t you just meet her for a drink?” He had groaned and she had looked at him appealingly. “And then if you don’t like her, you can leave.”
It wasn’t that his mum would intentionally have set him up with a bimbo. She had come from Korea to England for school when she was young and, after her parents had passed away, she had supported herself and ended up as a hugely successful business woman in her own right. So she didn't usually put up with stupid women, for obvious reasons. But what else could David expect from a girl that he met on a blind date?
The prospects weren’t very promising.
Clearing his throat, David had said, “I’d love to, really. But I can’t. I already have plans for tonight.”
It wasn’t technically a lie. He had a mountain of paperwork waiting for him at home to get through before work the next morning. That counted as having plans, didn’t it?
That certainly caught her attention. “Plans? You have a date tonight?”
A date with his couch and some files probably wasn’t what she had meant. But instead David had bit the inside of his lip and said, “…Sure. Something like that.”
“Then what are you doing here? It’s nearly time for dinner!”
“Umma, it’s only 4:30,” he said with a laugh, standing to leave. “And you know I wouldn’t miss tea with you for anything.”
He had bent to kiss her on the cheek and she waved him away with a manicured hand. “Yes, dear, you’re very sweet. Now go. Go!”
After being shooed unceremoniously out of his mother’s house, David had stopped by the grocery on his way home to pick up something for dinner. Of course, every inch a confirmed bachelor, he had somehow ended up with a basket full of snacks instead of actual food.
He was reaching for a bag of his favorite kind of crisps when he could have sworn he heard his mother say from behind him, “David?”
He froze, fingers clinging to the plastic of the bag like it was a lifeline, and practically saw his life flash before his eyes. “Umma?”
“David, what on earth are you doing here? I thought you said you were going on date?”
Yes, that was definitely his mum’s voice. He cursed himself for going to the grocery she always frequented out of sheer habit.
Taking a deep breath, David tried to remind himself that he was twenty-seven for Christ’s sake, and also a hardened Auror not easily cowed by cold-blooded murderers and Dark wizards, and turned to face her. Her expression made him remember that time when he was eight and had nicked his father’s wand and turned the giant ceramic dog in the living room into a real life puppy. That had been a dark day in the Connor's household.
“I…” His mouth seemed to have gone suddenly dry. He swallowed. Then, struck by a sudden inspiration, (probably because he felt like such a child at that moment) David continued, “I ... am out on date. We decided to grab some food and watch a film at my place instead of going out.”
Even though she was only about half his height, David’s mother managed to look down her nose at his T-shirt and jeans and the crumpled crisps bag still clutched in his hand. “Really. Who are you on this… supermarket date with?”
It felt as if all his lies were closing in around him and David saw the possibility of a lifetime of blind dates in his mother’s eyes if she found him out. “Erm… “
He looked around frantically and caught sight of a lone figure across the aisle, debating between two different kinds of dip. It was a woman, wearing baggy pants that were a bit like gym clothes, and the hood of her jumper was up, obscuring her face, but he saw the glittering end of a keychain hanging out of a pocket — a large sparkling heart and several other bedazzled charms, the sort of silly thing only a woman would have — and the slimness of the figure. It didn’t much matter what she looked like anyway; any old girl would work at this point.
“I’m — I’m here with — um —,” he almost stuttered, pointing at the woman and looking at his mother hopefully.
Her eyebrows flew up into her hair and David’s insides twisted nervously. What would he do if she didn’t buy it? If there was one thing his mum couldn’t stand, it was lying. After a moment however, her mouth morphed into a strange sort of smile and she said, “Well, hello. And what is your name, dear?”
He very nearly sighed in relief, until he took another look in the girl’s direction and saw her pull the hood down away from her face. Her dark hair was chopped short and messy, like a boy’s, and her face was thin and plain, except perhaps for the large brown eyes that were currently filled with confusion and no makeup to speak of. “Er, hi, I guess? My name’s Frankie?”
The voice was low and almost gravelly and David felt his face fall, his whole body filling with dread. That… was definitely not a girl. The bag of crisps dropped from his hand onto the ground with a crunch. The woma — no, the man was looking between David and his mother, bewilderment written all over his face and David thought he had never been so mortified in his whole life.
Hardly daring to look at his mum’s face, David choked out, “Yes, Umma. This is… Frankie.”
There was an awkward silence.
Wincing, David finally chanced a glance at his mother out of the corner of his eye. He was shocked to see that she was actually smiling a strange sort of smile. The smile actually made him more wary than anything else.
“I’m sure it’s very nice to meet you,” she said sweetly to ‘Frankie’ sounding every inch the kind Asian mother she appeared to be.
Then she turned to David, her face going stern but her voice still freakishly cheerful. “David, why don’t you bring your… boyfriend around for tea next weekend. Jocelyn will be in town and I’m sure she would love to meet him. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
David’s mouth dropped open in surprise and his mother’s smile almost seemed to widen.
“Lovely! I’ll see you both next Saturday then. Have a nice night!” She walked away down the aisle, leaving David and Frankie-the-apparently-male-stranger staring after her.
Seeming to come out of the deep confusion he had been in, Frankie suddenly called after her, “Wait! I think you’ve made a mistake! I’m not — "
Practically lunging across the aisle, David slapped his hand across the other man’s mouth. Then, suddenly realizing their close proximity, he sprang away again as though he’d been burned.
Frankie proceeded to look at him as if he was insane — which David was starting to suspect might actually be true.
“Sorry, I’m a bit confused. Did you just come out of the closet to your mum by telling her I’m your boyfriend?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “I feel like there’s better ways of doing that.”
“Yeah, I’m not really sure how that happened either.” David shoved his hands into his pockets, trying to figure out how to explain. “You see, I’m not actually gay, so…”
Frankie nodded, still looking at him strangely. “Oh. Awkward.”
“Yeah.” David looked down at his new…boyfriend. ‘Awkward’ was one word for it.
‘Complete and total train-wreck’ was another.
A/N: I actually started this story ages ago, for July NaNo. Obviously, I didn't win (notice that it is now February) but I am in love with this story and I had to post it. It is loosely based on the hit Korean drama 'Coffee Prince', though the action/adventure bit is my own creation, as well as many of the minor characters. I hope you all enjoyed it!
That said, I feel like I should clarify: while this story does have a slash warning, there is no actual same-sex pairing. However, I felt that I should add a warning just to be safe and to let readers know that, while there is no actual slash, some of the subject matter and humor of this story deals with homosexuality and gender confusion.
To make this author's note even longer, I should also explain that David is half-Korean. He was raised in bilingual home and often calls his mother 'umma', which means 'mom' in Korean.
A huge, HUGE thanks to my beta, Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme) for britpicking my use of the word 'grocery' (apparently they don't have those over there or something?) and to all the peeps over at TGS, including Gina (justonemorefic), Gubby (GubraithianFire), Jo (Margravine), Miranda (FannyPrice) and my dear darling Jakes (George Whitman) for putting up with me while I tried to make all this madness work!
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling and 'The First Shop of Coffee Prince' belongs entirely to MBC (Korea). I own nothing you recognize.