It’s him again.
The man walks into Windrise Coffee with his red hair tied in a low ponytail. His red eyes seem to barely regard anything around him, making him look annoyed. However, Venti knows he would loosen up a little bit after a sip of his usual order: a plain and simple Americano, served hot. He would not add any sugar or creamer into the dark liquid, seemingly reveling in the dark liquid.
This is their daily dance. This man stating his order even if Venti has memorized it. Venti, making his coffee without question.
Then Venti, handing it with his best smile and hoping the man would be at least a little charmed by him. Despite several weeks of this, it seems like the man is just focused on his morning coffee and not the charming barista serving it.
And Venti knows he’s charming. He’s gotten his fair share of phone numbers on a napkin. He’s gotten invitations on dates. Yet somehow, he is not charming this red-haired man.
When the man gets to the front, Venti smiles at him. The man does not smile back.
“Americano,” the man says, his voice sounding stern and serious instead of sleepy. “Hot.”
“For?” Venti asks.
They don’t usually ask for names at Windrise Coffee. Their cups, paper or plastic, would have sweet greetings on them instead, things like ‘have a good day’ or ‘you can reach your goals’. They have a number system, where customers will be called up based on their order number.
The red-haired man knows about the order number system, surely. He raises his eyebrow at Venti’s question, but he does not seem to be in an argumentative mood, not before his morning coffee. So, he says slowly: “Diluc.”
“Diluc,” Venti echoes, finally having the man’s name on his tongue. “With a k?”
“With a c,” Diluc replies flatly.
Venti writes the name down on the paper cup right above the pre-written ‘you’re beautiful’. And Diluc is beautiful, anyway, so that suits him well. Venti lets the way Diluc says his own name echo in his own mind and decides that he likes the name, after all.
He pulls the espresso from the machine, putting it together with hot water to make the Americano, finishing it off by closing the paper cup with a plastic lid and placing a cardboard paper sleeve around it. Then, he brings it over to the pick-up counter. He extends it to Diluc with the text ‘Diluc, you’re beautiful’ facing Diluc, letting his delicate fingers brush slightly against Diluc’s as he hands over the cup.
Yet Diluc does not seem to mind the text. Diluc does not seem to mind the breezy touch of Venti’s fingers. He takes the cup with his hand on the paper slip, instantly sipping from the cup. The heat of the drink does not seem to bother him, which makes Venti wonder what kind of tongue does this man have.
Then, their time together ends. Diluc makes his way out of Windrise Coffee, his Americano in hand. Venti watches as his back disappears. Venti watches as he walks to the right of the shop in brisk steps. The steps of someone busy and important.
“I don’t get it,” Lisa yawns, tying her apron around her waist. “Why don’t you just give him your number?”
“Because,” Venti starts, but instead of finishing, he huffs. He is used to men giving him their numbers. He is used to being pretty in front of everyone. And due to Diluc’s lack of reaction towards Venti’s flirtatious action makes Venti afraid that he would not call him even if he’s to give him his number on the paper cup.
Venti is not used to being rejected, except if it’s after hours in a tavern and he gets thrown out for not going home.
“I know, I know,” Lisa says, sleepiness still in her voice. She’s never a huge fan of morning shifts, after all. “You’re used to being pretty.”
“I’m used to being pretty,” Venti pouts. “Why doesn’t it work on him?”
“Maybe he doesn’t like pretty,” Lisa shrugs. Then, she laughs at the petulant expression on Venti’s face. “Poor Venti, having to work for his crush this time instead of getting a number magically appearing on a napkin for him.”
Venti huffs, crossing his arms. Before he could say anything more to Lisa, however, the door opens to reveal their next customer. Back to work, Venti knows, and even though she’s not a hundred percent awake, Lisa is aware the time for teasing Venti is over. She pats his shoulder affectionately.
“You know, there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself out there,” Lisa smiles softly. “Give him your number, take the first step.”
“This conversation is over,” Venti decides with a sigh.
He approaches the counter, smiling brightly at the man who just stepped in.
Now, this man instantly blushes at Venti’s charms. He gives his name voluntarily, without Venti having to ask. So, his charm is still working, Venti thinks to himself. He can still get numbers on napkins.
Just not from Diluc, the person he wants it from the most right now.
He’s not sure what about Diluc makes him so appealing to Venti. He is handsome, sure, even though he comes in the morning grumpy without his caffeine, but surely there are other handsome men who would fall for Venti’s charms? Surely, it does not have to be Diluc?
Like this man right in front of Venti right now. He’s already scrambling for a pen to give Venti his number just because Venti smiled at him.
Or rather, perhaps it is because Diluc is aloof that Venti wants him. One wants what one can’t get that easily and all that. However, Venti would like to think he’s not that kind of masochist. He makes the man’s drink, the movements practiced and precise even when Venti’s mind is elsewhere. And once he serves his drink, he receives what he would usually get from his charms: a phone number on a napkin.
Still not Diluc’s, however.
He smiles at the man, folding the napkin and putting it in his pocket with a smile he’s sure is bright and beautiful.
Diluc comes in the next morning like clockwork, with Windrise Coffee still sleepy and not quite winding up to its busiest state. He looks like hell, with eyebags under those eyes, the ponytail he ties his hair in a little bit messier than usual. And what is wrong with Venti, really, for still finding Diluc to be good-looking despite all that? Venti does not know, and even if he does, he’s not sure if he would like the answer.
“Rough night?” Venti asks, trying to start some sort of conversation.
Or is it a good night, and Diluc has gone home with someone? He tries to not show his jealousy over a maybe on his face, continuing to smile as prettily and as charmingly as he can possibly manage.
Diluc runs his fingers down his hair, but it does nothing to make it any neater. But from the grim expression on his face, this is definitely not the result of a pleasant night. Venti feels a little relieved at that, even if he knows he’s selfish for thinking this way. After all, what is Diluc to him? Diluc probably doesn’t even know his name.
“It’s not a good night,” Diluc admits. Venti feels elevated. That’s the first thing that Diluc has said to him that isn’t his order. Perhaps he’s slowly worming himself through to the other man’s heart? He sure hopes so.
“Oh?” Venti asks, leaning on the counter. “Do you need an ear?”
“I need my coffee more,” Diluc says sharply. For a second, Venti’s expression falls, but he recovers quickly, wearing his usual charming smile once more.
“Of course,” Venti pulls himself up from the counter, standing upright. “Americano, yes?”
“Please,” Diluc says.
As Venti prepares Diluc’s coffee for him, he considers what Lisa said yesterday. Should he take the risk and put his number on Diluc’s cup? But Diluc doesn’t seem to be entirely put together right now. Would this be a good time for it?
But on the other hand, if he doesn’t call him, perhaps Venti can chalk it up to Diluc being in a bad mood and save his pride.
Before Venti could change his mind, he uses the marker they keep at the back to scribble down his number on the paper cup. Then, finishing the drink preparation, he passes the drink to Diluc with a bright smile on his face.
“Your Americano,” he says.
“Thanks,” Diluc says, barely regarding the cup. Perhaps he wouldn’t notice at all, which would suck, but that’s the risk Venti is taking.
Diluc takes a sip from the cup as he walks outside. Just as he steps outside, however, he notices the writing on the cup. Venti watches from beyond the glass door as Diluc’s eyes widen at this. Now, what is he going to do? Venti wonders.
Within moments, Diluc walks back into Windrise Coffee. His pace is brisk, now, but his hand steady, making sure none of his coffee would spill out. He gets to the counter, placing the paper cup down as he looks at Venti, those bright red eyes seemingly diluted.
“Diluc?” Venti tilts his head, charming and innocent.
“Is this your number?”
“Yes,” Venti says, trying to keep cool.
“So,” Diluc murmurs. “How should I read this?”
How should he read this? Shouldn’t it be obvious? Venti gave him his number. He obviously wants Diluc to call him. And surely someone as handsome as Diluc has gotten his share of numbers from strangers before?
“Yesterday,” Diluc starts, speaking slowly. “When I saw you wrote ‘you’re beautiful, Diluc’, I was wondering if it was on purpose. It kept me up all night.”
Ah, so that’s the source of his terrible night. Being a little bit sly, there’s a part of Venti that is flattered. He's the reason why Diluc seemed like such a mess that morning.
“Are you really not used to this?” Venti asks.
“I’m not,” Diluc admits. “I’ve been told I always have a scary expression on my face.”
Which Venti attributed to a lack of coffee. But it seems like that’s the default mode for Diluc. But despite that scary face, there should be no denying that Diluc is handsome. Still, his rather anxious reaction to Venti hitting on him amuses Venti.
Venti places Diluc’s hand around the cardboard cup holder.
“For now, you take the coffee out,” Venti grins. “And then, you’ll call me later to set up a date. That is if you’re interested.”
“I am,” Diluc murmurs. “You’re--”
He starts but does not finish his sentence. There’s a soft blush to his cheeks, seemingly embarrassed and flustered.
“I’ll call you,” Diluc decides instead. “Venti, right?”
Venti pats the name tag on his chest: “yep.”
As Diluc leaves Windrise Coffee, Venti smiles victoriously. Tonight, he will be expecting a call. But now, he would be gloating to Lisa, telling her that Diluc likes pretty after all.