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Taking Chances

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Yuki twirled his pen absently between two long fingers, teeth worrying his lower lip as he stared off into space, deep in thought. He’d been trying to come up with a beginning for his latest post for the past hour, and so far nothing was coming to him. With a sigh and a shake of his head, he set the pen down on his desk and slid his chair back, standing and stretching in one fluid motion. Perhaps he needed a break. Who knew? Maybe getting out of the house would inspire him. With that thought in mind, he crossed to his closet and pulled out a light jacket. The days were getting colder already, winter closing in, and the end of the year sneaking up on him before he was ready for it. Slipping into the coat as he made his way down the hall, he gave a cursory glance over his shoulder to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything before heading out the front door and locking it securely behind him. Tossing around possible topics in his head, only to discard each as unworthy after a cursory examination, he walked briskly down the road and made his way into the city in search of tea and pastries. And if his luck was any good maybe a bit of inspiration…

~~

The bell on the door tinkled as Yuki stepped into the cafe, noting that a good half of the tables were taken up with people quietly sipping something, a few nibbling at pastries, some on laptops or browsing their phones. The young man behind the counter looked up with a scowl upon hearing the bell, which made Yuki pause and blink a moment in surprise before hesitantly making his way up to the counter. He came to this particular cafe regularly when he was in a slump or just wanted a good cup of tea, and he hadn’t seen the man before. He was sure because no one could have forgotten that bright orange hair or the clearly vexed look on his face. It was a nice face, too, Yuki thought. At least it would be if he weren’t glowering at me..

Careful to keep his own expression as pleasantly neutral as possible, Yuki cleared his throat and addressed the man at the counter. “I’d like a medium hot spiced chai please.” The other man muttered something under his breath, huffed, and finally answered with a curt “That’ll be 450 yen.” Blinking slowly, Yuki handed over the money and accepted his change before moving down the counter to wait as the grouchy barista began to bang around making his drink. He didn’t think he’d ever encountered someone quite so unpleasant in a customer service position before, and he idly wondered what had possessed the owner to hire the guy in the first place. A good 5 minutes passed before the barista slid his drink across the counter to him without so much as a word or even looking up at him before slouching off to clean the things he’d used to blend Yuki’s tea. Nonplussed, Yuki took his tea and headed over to a table with a clear view of the counter.

It looked like he’d missed the afternoon rush. Maybe that was why the barista was so out of sorts. Yuki sipped his tea, absently noting with surprise that it was actually quite nice. He’d honestly expected anything put out by the moody worker to be slap-dash and soured by his apparent temper. I guess he’s not quite what he seems after all, Yuki thought as he watched the other man move around cleaning and grumbling to himself. He is cute even with the frown, hmm. With that train of thought, he continued to observe the barista as he idled and drank his tea. One slender-fingered hand lifted to tuck his straight silver hair behind his ear when a few strands fell across his face. He wondered again why the new guy had been hired and how long he’d stay. His lips twitched as he suppressed a smirk. An idea for his next blog post had just come to him. This outing had proved fruitful in more ways than one.

~~

Kyo sighed in frustration and swiped at the counter almost viciously with a clean rag. The afternoon rush had been brutal to handle by himself. Damn him and his weakness when it came to saying no to his best friend. Tohru had begged him to help out at the cafe when she’d come down with the flu and one of her part-timers had also fallen ill. She owned the shop with her husband Momiji, but the energetic blonde left most of the running of things to Tohru and a few part-time workers since his main focus was actually being a concert violinist. He was currently away again on one of his tours, and when Tohru got sick and couldn’t work she’d turned to Kyo in her desperation. He’d helped out a few times before, but it had almost always been in the back and when someone else was here as well. Kyo was awkward around people before he got to know them, and his temper usually got the best of him when he was flustered. Still, Tohru needed him, so here he was, running her cafe and trying his best not to lose his mind in the process.

He still hadn’t quite gotten his composure back when he heard the bell on the door jingle for what felt like the hundredth time that day. Looking up with a scowl, he saw that a man who looked to be around his own age had just walked in and was approaching the counter. Not another one already..oh, he’s so..pretty… Kyo’s thoughts were interrupted by the young man clearing his throat and ordering tea in a clear, pleasant tone. Registering what the man had said, Kyo quietly berated himself under his breath for such an idiotic thought. Embarrassed, he barked the price at the customer and accepted payment and practically shoved the guy’s change at him before turning away sharply to begin making his tea. He couldn’t help but grab things and slam them around roughly as he tried to shrug off the interaction entirely. When the tea was brewed and poured, he slid it across the counter, gaze averted and turning away in hopes that he could hide his blush.

The silver-haired young man took the drink and went to sit at a table with no further attempt at communication, so Kyo sighed again, this time almost with regret and started to roughly rinse the tea things. Why couldn’t he act like a normal person with others? That guy probably thinks I’m a lunatic, grumbling at him and tossing stuff around. I’m so stupid, ugh! Shaking his head, he put everything away before glancing out into the dining area to see how everything was going, if there was anything he needed to go straighten or if anyone needed help with something. It looked like things were finally settling down. A couple people were gathering their things and leaving as they finished their drinks, and but a few more were settling in with laptops and phones, which was fine. As his gaze slid over the chai tea guy he paused briefly. He really was beautiful, almost prettier than a girl, really. Not that Kyo cared about what girls looked like. He’d known he was gay since the 4th grade when his friends started pulling girls’ pigtails and whispering about who was cuter than who and he just..wasn’t interested.

While the boys were looking at the girls, Kyo found himself looking at them and the rest was history. He considered himself lucky. When he came out to his adopted father at 16, Shishou had just smiled and said as long as Kyo was happy it didn’t matter who he loved. Thinking of Shishou made him wonder how things were going at the dojo without him. He’d much rather be there helping out and teaching some of the younger classes than fumbling around Tohru’s cafe. Oh well, it was only for another week or two, just until the flu stopped going through all the part-timers. He chewed his lower lip thoughtfully. I’ll stop by to see how Tohru’s doing after this. If she’s still stuck in bed I’ll make her something. The dummy’ll probably push herself too hard otherwise and have a setback. Nodding to himself, he went back to organizing a few things behind the counter, his calm slowly coming back to him now that he wasn’t swamped by orders or flustered by acting like a moron in front of gorgeous tea drinkers.

~~

His mind on fire with possibilities, Yuki finished off his tea and rose to go. Absently he glanced over at the counter, steel grey eyes roaming over the new barista one more time before he made his way toward the door. Throwing his cup away, he exited in a whoosh of cold air and walked briskly for home. Customer service interactions in today’s market where the internet is slowly closing in on all kinds of services...how this affects small local business.. His thoughts whirled with the direction he’d take his next post. Maybe he could even turn it into an article. He worked freelance as a writer, but his blog was his real passion. He covered a wide range of topics and tried to update as often as possible. Thought pieces were just one of the things he often found himself covering, but they went over just as well as anything else he did. Yuki had a very distinct style of writing, and people seemed to latch on to his way with words. He loved what he did, and that lent itself a lot to his success. Well, that and his drive to succeed. He’d been driven to prove his parents wrong ever since he’d changed his major in college from pre-law and went into writing instead. They’d been disappointed and told him he was ruining his life, but that was nothing compared to their open disgust when they’d found out he was gay.

That was a year ago, and neither of them had spoken to him since. His big brother was the only one besides his cousins who still spoke to him, but then again their parents weren’t exactly thrilled with Ayame either. His brother owned a clothing store and designed specialty outfits for..let’s just say a niche market, but their parents hadn’t cut him off entirely because he’d at least married a woman, even if she was just as odd and into weird fashions as Aya was. Thinking about his brother made him tired. He loved Ayame, but he was just so..loud. About everything. With a wry laugh and a shake of his head, he found himself at his front door and went inside and shrugged out of his coat. Tossing it over the back of a chair, he went immediately to his desk and powered on his laptop and started typing. His thoughts were flowing too well to bother with pen and paper. He wanted to get this all down before it left him.

A couple hours flew by and before he knew it it was starting to get dark. Lifting his head from his computer screen, he looked around his study and stretched, groaning slightly as he rolled his neck and cracked his knuckles. He’d lost track of time, and now his stomach was howling at him that lunch time had been ages ago. With a sigh, Yuki got up and went to the kitchen, looking through his fridge and cabinets absently. He was a terrible cook, so he usually only kept instant meals or things that were easy to throw together in the house. Grumbling ruefully, he grabbed his phone and a couple of take-out menus and began to shuffle through them, trying to decide which he’d go with that night. I wonder if barista boy can cook as well as he brews tea.. Shaking his head at himself, he dialed one of the numbers and placed an order at a place he used regularly. What in the world was he doing thinking about a guy he’d interacted with once, who said a total of seven words to him and those brisk and uninterested at that? Still, he had been cute. Maybe he’d see him at the cafe again. There was no harm in looking, after all. With a thoughtful hum, Yuki plopped down on the couch with a book to wait for his dinner to arrive.

~~

It was closing time, and Kyo locked the door as the final customers trailed out of the cafe with a sigh of relief. He cleaned tables, swept and mopped the floor, and set up everything behind the counter for the morning shift before counting the register down and securing the day’s total in the safe in the back office before tucking the deposit bag under his arm and making his own way out the building, being sure to secure the door one last time before making his way to the bank to drop off the money in the overnight slot. That done he shot a text to Tohru to let her know he’d be dropping by to see how she was doing and caught the next bus heading to her and Momiji’s place. They had a fairly nice townhouse in the suburbs, a compromise since Tohru prefered the quiet to living in the city proper while Momiji enjoyed the perks of community living. He shook his head ruefully. He was with Tohru, personally. There was no way he’d want to live in the city. It was much too loud, too crowded, and closed off from nature.

No, Kyo was perfectly content to live on the outskirts of town, practically off the beaten path. It might take him longer to get to the dojo than Shishou or Kunimitsu, but being surrounded by trees, clean air, and most importantly, no neighbors right next to him was very much worth the trade-off to him. Nevermind that it took even longer to get to the cafe, but this situation was temporary. He just had to keep reminding himself of that, or he might just strangle his best friend the next time she asked him for another favor. He’d never actually consider such a thing, of course. Tohru had been with him through some of the darkest times in his life, and he’d do anything for her. Which was why he was getting off the bus and walking up to her door after sacrificing his day slaving at her cafe. He gave a perfunctory knock on the door before shrugging, inserting his key, and making his way into the entryway, yelling Tohru’s name as he bumped the door shut with his hip, locked it behind him, and slid his shoes off before stepping further into the house.

“Kyo-kun! Welcome! Thank you for today. It means so much to me that you’d help me with the cafe--” Tohru’s litany of gratitude was cut off abruptly by a fit of coughing as she came shuffling into the main living area from the hall that lead to her and Momiji’s bedroom. She was in her pajamas and had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, which she brought up to cover her mouth and nose when she started coughing so as not to spread her germs in his direction. He looked at her aghast and pointed back in the direction of her room, exasperation clear in his tone as he said, “What are you doing? Go back to bed! Honestly, Tohru, I swear I’m going to have to get you minder when that idiot husband of yours isn’t here. Hell, maybe when he is here. He’s no better than you are! Go, no protests. I’ll make you something to eat.” She went a little limp at his chiding and nodded and smiled meekly. “R-right! Back to bed. I’m on my way! You don’t have to go to all that trouble though, Kyo-kun. I could make..” and she trailed off at the look on his face and obediently turned around and made her way back down the hall to crawl back in bed.

Having at least gotten her to lay back down, Kyo set about making her some rice porridge with ingredients she had in the pantry. He’d been over plenty of times and knew his way around the kitchen almost as well as he knew his own or Shishou’s. When it was done, he set it on a tray with some tea he’d also made to help soothe her sore throat and made his way back to her room to serve it up and make sure she didn’t do anything else ridiculous like try to go see how her sick part-timers were doing when she herself was still so clearly out of it. This was not an unreasonable thought. She had done similar things before without him or her friends Uotani and Hanajima to stop her. Sometimes he wondered how she’d made it this far in life, and then he’d remind himself of all the emotional drama she’d rescued him from and told himself everyone had their strengths. Stepping into the room, he started talking before he was all the way through the doorway, “Hey, I brought you porridge. And tea for your throat. Have you been taking your medicine? When was the last time you heard from Momiji? When is that little nuisance coming back anyway?” She brightened and sat up as he came in and set the tray across her legs, nodding happily before replying, “Oh, thank you! This looks wonderful. It was so thoughtful of you to come check on me, Kyo-kun. Yes, I took them earlier, and Momiji-kun will be home next week. I talked to him about an hour ago. He said to tell you hello!”

He sat down on a chair across from the bed and folded his arms as he watched her pick up the spoon and take a few bites of the porridge before exclaiming that it was delicious and going into raptures about how wonderful it was that he’d come. Kyo let her rattle on for a while before smiling and shaking his head and interjecting to ask how she was doing. They talked while she ate, about how things were going at the cafe, how she and the sick part-timer were doing, and going over the way he’d split the remaining shifts with the other worker who was still well until Tohru was back on her feet. She also asked how things were going at the dojo, asked after his family, and they caught up amiably for an hour or so until he noted that she was both done with the porridge and starting to look a bit drowsy. “Alright, you, settle in and get some rest. I’ll take this stuff and clean up. Don’t worry about seeing me out. Just take it easy and call me or that yankie or Hanajima if you need anything.” Taking the tray from her, he brought the comforter up to her chin as she settled back into the pillows, her eyes already starting to droop. “Thank you, Kyo-kun, for everything. I will, I promise, and I’ll be sure to make it up to…” Her words trailed off as she dropped off to sleep before she could finish her thought.

He gave a half smile and shook his head at her before taking the tray back to the kitchen and cleaning up the dishes and putting everything away. With a last look around to make sure there was nothing else he should do for her before he headed home, he let himself out and locked her door. Now thoroughly exhausted, he made his way to the bus stop again to catch the next one that would get him home. He tried to remember what all he had at home that he could whip up a quick dinner for himself with before crawling into bed and passing out. He’d have to close at the cafe again tomorrow, so that meant another long day. The other part-timer who wasn’t sick could only work mornings. Casting his mind back on the happenings of the day he remembered the one customer who’d ordered tea and caught him so out of sorts. He put his head in his hands as he recalled how rude he’d been to the guy. Way to make a first impression, dingus, he told himself silently. He wondered if the guy was a regular. Part of him hoped not purely to avoid dying of embarrassment, but another part of him, the very male part, hoped that he’d see that pretty face again. Groaning at himself he got off the bus at his stop and made himself jog home. Mind out the gutter, pervert. Let’s go! Kyo practically fell through his door when he made it back, scored some left-overs he’d forgotten he hadn’t eaten yet, and shuffled off to shower and hit the sack. Tomorrow was another day.