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Coffee Stains

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The first time he sees him, Kurogane nearly turns and walks right back out of the coffee shop’s doors.

There are several people waiting in line to be served, and each one was taken care of by a man far too boisterous for such an early hour. The zombified shuffling and blank stares do nothing to dim the cashier’s excited pleasantries; actually, it seems more that he uses it to his full advantage. It’s clear why he’s the one running the counter in opposition to his coworkers, since while they all seem generally alert and keep to their jobs with smiles on their faces, the blond cashier’s cheerful suggestions of pastries from behind the glass shelf beside him are accepted by every customer that he helps.

Of course, until Kurogane reaches the front. He gives his order – medium coffee, black, as simple as it could get – and does his best to ignore the challenge that sparks to life in those sapphire eyes.

“A little boring, don’t you think?”

“I’m paying you to make the drink, not ridicule it,” Kurogane grinds out, already worn out from the man’s energy just from watching him with previous customers.

The man – Fai, his nametag reads – clicks his tongue chidingly, though his grin doesn’t waver in the slightest. If anything, it perks up even higher with the realization that Kurogane is far more awake and alert than the rest of the shop, and therefore more reactive. “I’m just saying, Mr. Grumpy. You should really treat yourself to one of our chocolate muffins, sweeten up that sour look on your face!”

“Don’t call me that. Just the coffee.” It doesn’t escape Kurogane’s notice that the man’s suggestion is suddenly different from what he’s been giving everyone else. Curiosity tickles at the edge of his mind, but even if he had the taste for sweets he wouldn’t accept it from this person. It would feel far too close to losing when those eyes dared him to accept.

With a loud an exaggerated sigh that has the closest coworker smiling, Fai takes Kurogane’s name and money. “Ku-ro-ga-ne,” he sounds out the name in pieces, his hand scribbling it out across the side of a cup with a flourish that doesn’t quite match the same pace. “Quite a mouthful! Not that I can talk, my full name’s even longer than that.”

But already Kurogane is moving aside, change in hand, to the shelf set up for pending orders. He didn’t come for small talk or meeting friends, he came for a quick cup of coffee on his way to work. He definitely didn’t come here to admire the way his name sounds in the blond cashier’s mouth, even broken up as it was.

“Kuro-woof!”

Guiltily he jumps at the feminine voice, and despite himself the first half of his name has him glancing over to the petite girl calling it out just behind the counter’s shelf. Red eyes take a moment to scan the rest of the meandering customers, but aside from a few amused glances toward the girl, not one of them seem interested in receiving the order.

“Black coffee and a chocolate muffin for Kuro-woof!”

Resigning to his fate and to the tittering of the amused strangers, Kurogane steps forward. “That’s half of my name.” He pauses, softening his tone to a small degree when her jade eyes widen in worry. “And half of my order.”

“O-oh, um, that’s just what Fai wrote down, I’m sorry.” The girl with the nametag reading ‘Sakura’ and a few small cherry blossom stickers plaster at the edges glances down at the items in her hands nervously.

“It’s not your fault,” he reassures her. A quick look past her confirms that while Fai has his eyes trained on the customer in front of him, his grin gives him away for listening in. “But I only ordered the coffee.”

“Well, I’ve already heated it up, so I can’t put it back… Would you like it anyway? On the house?”

He doesn’t. He doesn’t enjoy such sweet things, nor does he have any interest in taking food he hasn’t paid for and has seemingly been dared to take. But Sakura is gazing up at him with such a nervous, hopeful expression that before he knows it the pastry bag is in his hands and she’s relaxed back into a sweet smile whose innocence is a stark contrast to the impish smirk of her blonde coworker.

As he leaves, he refuses to give a reaction to Fai’s happily called out, “See you next time, Kuro-woof!”