When Omi Coffee opened across the street from the monolith that was the Tachibana Real Estate Firm building, Kiryu couldn't have been more excited.
He always liked to pick up coffee before work to give him a boost to get through the day or at least until he could get another cup made by the secretary at work (hey, it wasn't completely his fault he was cursed with insufferable insomnia most nights of the week), but the only decent café between his small apartment outside of town and his job was out of the way of his normal route to the office. Thank the gods his boss, a young realtor named Tetsu Tachibana, liked him enough to not dock him for any tardiness he might have. Or he just had to bring Tachibana his favorite, which happened to be a small cup of dark roast coffee with a splash of milk and exactly three packets of sugar, and he was in the clear. Tachibana did love his coffee, after all.
The little café across from the real estate firm had been bustling with customers ever since it opened a couple of days ago, so, one morning, Kiryu steeled himself to fight the morning crowd to get his coffee before work. After waiting in line behind several businessmen talking quickly into their cell phones and a few students buying their morning caffeine fix before they walked to school, he got to the counter. And when he got to the front counter, he was taken aback slightly.
The thing Kiryu immediately noticed was the man's eyepatch. He hadn't even realized he had been staring until the cashier spoke up.
"Well, are ya gonna order somethin' or what? Yer holdin' up the line," the man in front of him, who apparently had a Kansai accent, snapped. Kiryu immediately felt embarrassed that he had been staring at the man's missing eye, so he stared intently at the menu on the chalkboard above him.
"Yeah, I'll get, uh, just a small latte. And a small dark roast coffee as well," Kiryu replied. As he pulled his wallet out from his blazer, he took a good look at the cashier. In Kiryu's opinion, he was actually really cute. The man had fair skin, black hair that looked to be pulled back into a ponytail, and some stubble above his lips and dotted around his chin. Kiryu was also able to sneak a quick glance down at his chest where he wore a beige apron and a small nametag that read "Goro". Well, at least he had a name.
"That'll be 700 yen, sir," Goro, the cashier, ground out. Kiryu pulled a few hundred-yen notes and handed them over. "Can I have a name for the order?"
"Kiryu," he mumbled. Kiryu moved out of the line and over to the little area labelled with a sign to indicate that there was where his order was going to go when it was finished.
"Oi, Nishida," the eyepatch-wearing man hollered, presumably to the back of the café. "Come take orders for a minute, I need to make two drinks." A short man with dark hair in a matching apron came rushing out from the back area of the little coffee shop and took Goro's place behind the cash register. As he started taking orders, Kiryu watched in fascination as long-fingered hands got to work carefully preparing Kiryu's order. It was almost mesmerizing to watch Goro move effortlessly around the small prepping area, making fresh coffee and shots of espresso and pumping a thick-looking flavored syrup into his latte. A few minutes later, two cups were plopped down onto the little counter.
"Kiryu-san?" Goro called, even though he could see Kiryu standing two feet away from him. Kiryu grabbed the order and prepared Tachibana's usual order using the little cream and sugar station next to the pick-up counter before quickly exiting the bustling café. As the door closed behind him and he walked across the street to his office, his mind wouldn't stop wandering to thoughts about that barista named Goro. He thought of his hands. How he made the coffee. His Kansai accent that he had barely heard out in Kamurocho. It wasn't until he stepped into the elevator that he actually thought to try the latte he ordered.
As Kiryu took the sip, though it scalded his tongue slightly, it was heavenly. He could taste that there was a slight mocha flavor to it. That must have been the thick brown syrup he saw Goro add. He hadn't asked for it, but it was just what he needed, as if Goro had seen into the future and knew that that was exactly what Kiryu needed in his life. When the elevator doors opened, he immediately made his way to Tachibana's office to drop off his order.
"Ah, Kiryu-san!" Tachibana greeted warmly. "Thank you for the gift. My usual?" As Kiryu nodded and handed off the coffee, Tachibana looked it over. A puzzled look crossed his face and suddenly, Kiryu was worried he had done something wrong.
"This...isn't what the cups from Café Sakura normally look like, right?" his boss asked. Suddenly, the younger man tensed up. He hadn't asked Tachibana if he had actually wanted anything from Omi Coffee ahead of time. He just assumed that he would want his usual from there and not to worry about going all the way halfway across the city to get the kind Café Sakura made.
"Ah, no, Tachibana-sama," Kiryu eventually blurted out. "It's from the new place across the street. Remember all those signs for some place called Omi Coffee right outside of the building? Well, they opened up recently and I decided to try there this morning. So I just got your usual order from there. If that's alright with you." Kiryu could see the cogs turning in Tachibana's head. His boss took a sip from the coffee cup and immediately recoiled.
I'm fucked, Kiryu thought, mentally steeling himself.
"Damn, that's a fine cup of coffee," Tachibana said with a big grin. "They're much better than Café Sakura is. Thank you, Kiryu-san. Remind me to check them out on my way home from work this week." Kiryu's entire body seemed to relax so much so that he felt he could sink right into the floor beneath his feet. He nodded and immediately retreated to the office he shared with one of Tachibana's partners, Oda-san, down the hall.
For the rest of the day, his mind was filled with the smell of coffee and the barista with the missing eye.
“Sagawa-han, are we all done here?”
Goro looked down at his boss from where he was sitting at a table in the little café and reading the daily newspaper. One of the two managers at Omi Coffee, Tsukasa Sagawa, was an older man who didn’t look all too threatening, but the second someone stepped out of line, he was on them like a tiger pounces on its weak, defenseless prey. Majima didn’t even like to think about his other boss, a hulking brute of a man named Futoshi Shimano. One wouldn’t think a man of Shimano’s stature would run a coffee shop in Kamurocho - he looked like he had just stepped out of a picture that displayed the textbook definition of a yakuza boss - but he had a penchant for business and was willing to dig into the untapped potential of coffee shops. Sagawa, who was Shimano’s very close friend, was only along for the ride. And the free coffee.
After a few moments of silence, Sagawa folded his newspaper up and scrubbed a hand over his face.
“Did ya at least make an effort to clean this time, Goro?” Sagawa asked, lazily. Majima’s fists clenched slightly and he grit his teeth, trying to find a way to respond that wouldn’t get him chewed out for the third time in twenty-four hours.
He was fucking pissed that he had to work this dinky coffee shop. He could have been working some cushy job at some high-end bar, but no. He just so happened to owe Sagawa a massive debt after Sagawa paid his bond of a cool nine hundred thousand yen to escape going to jail from a crime he helped to commit. In order to pay the older man back, Majima was forced to choose between working at the newly-created Omi Coffee café or doing hard labor work for one of Shimano’s other business ventures. The one-eyed man had gladly chosen the café job.
“Yes, I did,” Goro ground out. “I cleaned the counters and the machines and even the goddamn toilets. I restocked the stupid coffee cups and lids and ceramic mugs. I did everythin’ you fuckin’ asked me ta do.” Sagawa looked up at Goro and smiled. The grin on his face was so smug, Majima could have punched him.
“Now, was that so hard?” the older man inquired. “Alright, kid, you’re free to go. See you tomorrow morning.” Goro immediately removed his apron and hung it up behind the counter before he burst through the doors to the shop. However, three steps out from the little café, he was knocked right down on his ass.
“Hey, fuckin’ watch it!” a man’s voice barked at him. He carefully stood up and was about to make a retort, but the man who had almost steamrolled him was staring at him, flushed red in the cheeks. The man was tall and slightly tan with a broad chest and dark hair and he was wearing this slightly gaudy white pinstriped suit. And he was looking at Goro like he was mortified that he had knocked him on his ass in the middle of the sidewalk.
“You work at Omi Coffee, right?” he finally piped up. “You - uh - made my coffee this morning. It came out really good. Oh, and, uh, I’m real sorry I ran into you, by the way.” The man bowed his head a little bit and Goro felt confused and, weirdly, flattered.
“It’s…fine, don’t worry about it. Accidents happen,” Majima insisted. He racked his brain trying to remember the name from the man’s order, but it was useless. Goro had made maybe over a hundred coffee orders during his long shift at the café and remembering anyone who had ordered’s name was the furthest thing from his mind. “Sorry, but what’s yer name again?”
“I’m Kiryu,” the man replied. He stuck his arm out to presumably want to shake Goro’s hand, but the one-eyed man decided to stuff his hands into the pockets of his work pants and avoid the offer. Kiryu’s arm hung in the air for a second before he awkwardly lowered it back down to his side. A moment of silence passed between the two men before Goro realized he should probably introduce himself, even if this dude was a little odd.
“The name’s Goro Majima and I don’t fuckin’ care what you call me,” the long-haired man grunted. “Well, I should get goin’. Uh, I guess I’ll see you around.” Kiryu nodded and opened his mouth to say something. But, whatever it was, he decided to not say it and instead quickly hurry off in the direction of the Hotel District. Majima turned his head and watched him walk away, not really sure what to make of the whole encounter.
The one-eyed man let out a sigh and continued toward the bus station to take him home, which, for him, was a small, shitty apartment outside of the nearby town of Sotenbori, for the night. He wasn’t even two block away from the café, but he already dreaded coming back to work a shift tomorrow.
That night, Goro’s head was filled with thoughts of burning down the café late at night and, for some odd reason, the weird man who had almost ran him over.