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Magic Beans and Fairytale Lattes

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Magic beans and fairytale lattes
ease your burdens, supply you with strength.
To survive through yet one of your Mondays,
sip the warmth and release a held breath.

Snow crunched under his feet and crispy air prickled his nose as Tenzō walked through empty streets, leaving white puffs of air behind. Everywhere was quiet at this hour – when he finally reached his destination, the morning light only began washing away the stars above Konoha, a little town on the middle of Nowhere (the biggest enchanted forest in the Land of Fire). He unlocked the door and swiftly closed it behind him, leaving the winter cold out, then proceeded inside to turn on the lights in his little coffee shop. Tenzō nodded in response to the familiar buzzing of the security wards as they dispelled, whispering about how heroic they were at defending the store from unwanted visitors. The weather fairy promised more snow today, which meant another busy day, so Tenzō went promptly to the kitchen to start on the preparations.

"You know you can talk to him, right?" Tenzō heard his employee speak in a hushed tone but pretended not to, focusing instead on rearranging the coffee syrups and fairy potions that were perfectly fine without his interference. It was that odd hour after the morning rush and just before lunchtime, so the cafe didn't have many customers. (The odd hour was reserved for the odd customers that were mostly out-of-towners on their way through the enchanted forest. They didn't wish to mix with the local crowd aside from a few exceptions). Iruka, the noisy friend he knew from his days at the Konoha's School of Wizardry and Witchcraft and made a mistake of hiring as a barista, kept doing that ridiculous eyebrow dance still trying to get a reaction out of Tenzō. "He is just your type!"

Tenzō did not have a type. (The fact that the two of his previous romantic interests were dark-haired with dark eyes did not mean that at all. There was more to a person than their looks.)

"I don't know who you're talking about," Tenzō knew who Iruka was talking about but would not entertain the discussion further. "Stop procrastinating and rearrange the coasters, you know that they like to change their order frequently. If you don't do this now, they will switch someone's drinks later." He sighed in relief when Iruka huffed and started on the task, then snickered at the man's insults as the coasters kept slipping away.

Involuntarily, how it's often been lately, Tenzō's attention drifted towards the man Iruka talked about. He was an irregular regular to their cafe, meaning that one could always count on him to be there but could never know when exactly. This was frustrating because it meant that Tenzō couldn't always tend to his order and thus be on the receiving end of the always joyous greeting. When he came by, he spent most of the time sipping outrageous fairytale lattes and scribbling something on pages of thick birch bark paper at one of the tables by the window, where he was sitting now.

Tenzō didn't know when he began paying attention to him in a way different from other customers.  Sure, the man was good looking with tan skin, black hair and expressive big eyes, but was that enough to separate him from the crowd? Their shop had a fair share of attractive visitors, among them: a sharkman with an impressive sword; a young talented witch with pink hair, emerald eyes and the strength of a knight; a few princes Charmings with startling red eyes; a dark-haired wizard with a short beard and a pipe. The list could go on and on. It might have been the way this irregular regular talked, though. Just before retreating to the table, he would always pause for a brief small talk, excitedly ask about new flavours and be curious enough to try a few new fairy potions. And the way he addressed him as Tenzō-san always made him fuzzy inside. Out of politeness, Tenzō assumed, which the man seemed to have more of than others. But the thought never stopped Tenzō's eyes from wandering to the man throughout the day.

"He is a customer, Iruka," he tried to reason with his friend later, after the coasters agreed upon the new order but should have expected the response that followed.

"And your point is?"

"It's unprofessional."

"Pflease, it is not like you're his healer or anything – just the average magic beans coffee shop owner, minding your own small business in a town in the middle of Nowhere."

"Why don't you talk to that other guy, then?" It was about time Tenzō closed the topic and with Iruka, the best tactic for that was to redirect the attention to him instead.

"That's different!" Immediately, his friend flushed and shushed at him, to which Tenzō couldn't stop a laugh. Iruka had it bad for a particular peculiar (someone who always showed up at the same time but never regularly). He often came with the first one but never stayed too long. "Have you—have you seen him?! There is no way he would be interested in me. So, go and talk to your handsome guy and let me live this coffee shop romance through you."  

Tenzō didn't talk to that guy. Neither did Iruka.

"Thanks, Iruka," Iruka wanted to melt into a puddle from the smooth voice and a wink that followed.

"Why do we have to have these boring mugs and not paper cups?" He complained yet again while sighing after his crush who just picked up a straight-up dark magic roast americano and pumpkin dust salted caramel reduced sugar fairytale latte. The man was tall, slim but muscular, with silver hair that looked stylishly messy every damn time, and an adorable mole next to his bottom lip that stirred something deep in Iruka's heart.

"I'm not sacrificing our brand image so that you get to know the guy's name." He heard Tenzō respond, punching in the sale. "They are handmade clay mugs, locally sourced from the forest's trolls, don't call them boring. Look, you made this one sad enough to crack."

"You're not fun," Iruka sighed and switched to the next customer. His gut was telling him that Tenzō considered this at least once but would never admit it out loud.

Tenzō probably should have stayed in the backroom to finish going through the books, but there was something magical about sitting near the window with a mug of freshly brewed magic bean coffee that helped him concentrate more. That same feeling and the desire to share it with others was what originally prompted him to open this cafe. The shop was busy with regular regulars, but Iruka was managing it just fine without him (as most orders for regular regulars were brewed beforehand in anticipation of their arrival), so he had the time to spend on the accounting side of the business. Outside, the snowstorm subsided, only leaving lazy snowflakes to hover in the air and whisper secrets of the ancients to those who listened. 

His work was going well. The numbers added up nicely, showing a steady increase in revenue ever since they began the new loyalty program. People enjoyed getting every tenth drink for free, but they also seemed to enjoy the little spells and charms that went with it. Every time a customer finished their drink their loyalty card would show a small part of a spell, he and Iruka created. Whoever managed to collect the whole spell and perform it was surprised by a new hair colour, a mug of their own, a fit of laughter, a free broom ride, and other little things and favours. He was also planning to think about the new set of spells using a book by a new and upcoming spells-author that was right there on the table while he worked, waiting to be read for the umpteenth time and eagerly flipping the pages in anticipation. Tenzō was almost done with the review of the last week's sales when he was suddenly interrupted. 

"I am so sorry to keep you waiting! Usually, I would make sure to show up at least fifteen minutes early so to not be late, and there is still indeed fifteen minutes before our appointed time, but I just didn't think that you would do the same! My apologies, I didn't mean to presume that you wouldn't! Most towners just don't do that, but then, here I am so why wouldn't you? This is actually a nice surprise and I like you already." 

Tenzō looked up from his seat to see that one irregular regular who was occupying his mind lately.

"Oh, Tenzō-san!" The man blushed and scratched the back of his neck in an adorably awkward gesture. While Tenzō tried to find words, the man quickly sat down on the opposite side of the table and continued. "This is even more surprising to know that you're my date! Pleasantly surprising I might add. To be honest, I was thinking about asking you out for quite a while but never mustered the courage. But fate works in mysterious ways, doesn't it?"

"I'm sorry, I don't—" Date? Fate? What? Did he lose his marbles?

"Oh, how rude of me! I never introduced myself! I'm Gai! Gai Maito!" The man stood up again and Tenzō couldn't help but follow (as did the coaster eager to be included in the action). The handshake was quick but firm, and Tenzō loved how it immediately warmed his hand. "I'm so excited to finally get to know you better! You're amazing, you know that, right? So young and already owning a small business."

Tenzō really should have said something by now but the name Gai played in his brain on repeat. How long has it been since he wanted to learn the man's name? Too long. He was about to finally say what an absolute pleasure it was to finally make the acquaintance but then was rudely interrupted for the second time by a loud gasp followed by a displeased grunt.

"I cannot believe it! Don't go setting up two dates at the same time!" A man in witchers clothing and high blond ponytail looked at both Tenzō and Gai accusingly and threw a book in their general direction. "Only imbeciles would read this crap anyway! I'm outta here, yeah!" He then vanished into thin air, leaving only uttered curses in his wake. (They kept bouncing off the walls that had no interest in listening to them until Iruka opened the door and let them out; he might have pocketed a few more creative ones for future use but Tenzo couldn't be sure).

Tenzō picked up the book from the ground (it was no way to treat a book) and realized that it was exactly the same book of spells like the one he already had on his table. What an interesting choice. He looked back at Gai and finally spoke.

"As you see, Maito-san," he smiled apologetically and with a heavy heart passed Gai the book (after it thanked him for being dusted off and pages straightened), expecting him to leave right away. "I am not your date. You should probably go after him."

To his surprise, Gai instead sat back down on the chair and stared at him with pleading eyes. "With your permission, Tenzo-san, I would like to continue our date." To which, Tenzou blushed and nodded.

"Argh, that's unsightly!" Iruka fumed, eyes throwing daggers at the couple in the corner. He was all for supporting his friend's magic beans coffee shop romance but after three months of seeing the two love birds blushing and laughing and snuggling and smooching at the cafe, Iruka couldn't stand it anymore. His coasters kept running away or switching drinks on the customers, and mugs were looking sadder every day no matter how many times he apologized for calling them boring. His only fault was in desiring to learn the name of one particular peculiar, was that really so much to ask for? It wasn't as if he was asking for a date! A date, might he add, that Tenzō got with his own crush without even asking. The world was truly unfair.
When another mug showed a crack in his arms, Iruka huffed out a breath and gave up the task. Tenzō would have to continue cleaning them himself. After he's done smooching in the corner like a teenager that is.


The new moon meant new opportunities, so Iruka (while gathering fresh potions from the friendly neighbourhood fairies) decided to finally find a way to find out his crush's name. 

Iruka didn't yet know what he would do with the name but wanted to at least learn how it would sound like, or what would it feel like saying it. How would the man react when Iruka finally calls him by name? Would he get weak in the knees in the same way Iruka did every time? (Probably not) It was so unfair that the customers had the advantage of knowing their server's name from the nametags, if not the tags then walls as they liked to talk to customers. (Iruka was sure that they knew every customer's name but refused to share with him. They straight pine lied to him when he asked.)

"We're conducting a survey among our customers," Iruka sang sweetly the next time the silver-haired stranger came by. "Please fill in the card, and if you want to enter into a draw for a prize, write your name at the bottom."

As the man was leaving, Iruka's gaze followed after him, as always, before Tenzō appeared and blocked the view.

"We don't give away prizes."

"He doesn't know that!" He hissed in response. It was the simplest tactic he came up with last night that didn't involve magic. What he came to learn about the stranger was that he could smell magic from miles away and learn of its intent before it even reaches him. So, tricks like spill-the-beans coffee wouldn't work, nor the truth-serum biscuits, and tell-me-all forget-me-nots.  

Iruka let out a sob of despair when the stranger didn't enter the nonexistent draw. (He was certain that the walls betrayed him again.)

"Why are you giving me a paper cup?" After a few unsuccessful attempts, Iruka still refused to admit defeat. Tenzō was out and about on a stroll with Gai through smoochtown and thus wasn't there to stop Iruka from bringing one paper cup into the store. The wards Tenzō set up hissed at him but he dispelled them easily. They would for sure complain to the owner later but it didn't matter as by then he would know his particular peculiar's name.

"It's a new policy." He tried sounding indifferent so as to not draw suspicion on himself or the cup.

"What policy?" The man sounded confused there for a second, so Iruka just smiled.

"The new paper cup policy."

"Everybody else has mugs."

"I just said, it's a new policy," refusing to back down, Iruka smiled a little bit wider but still kept the note of indifference in his tone, which made him sound most trustworthy (at least that's what the mirror said when he practised in the morning). "Introduced after we served previous customers. Your name please."

"What for?"

"So I can write down your name on the cup and call you when the drink is ready."

If the man didn't look surprised before, he certainly did now, so did the only two odd customers that were with them at the shop during this odd hour. When Iruka received a simple 'I'll wait right here' as a response, his shoulders slumped and his smile faltered. He simply proceeded with the order.

Iruka avoided the grey-haired stranger after that, to save everyone the embarrassment and to prevent saddening mugs further. (Tenzō had to heal the cracks almost every day now.) Clearly, the man wasn't interested in a simple barista from a coffee shop in a town in the middle of Nowhere. He was only interested in coffee – the straight-up dark magic roast americano, to be specific. Any half-decent potioneer could brew it. It didn't matter that Iruka secretly added cinnamon dust (when the man looked stressed) or a tear of chamomile (when he had dark circles under both eyes). Anyone in his place would have done the same.

So, Iruka avoided the man, but it didn't mean he stopped thinking about him. He liked comparing the silver eyes to the silver light of the moon, the grey hair to the fur of white wolves in the forest. Without any hope, Iruka would allow his thoughts to wander, especially at nights like this when he had to lock the shop alone and walk through quiet snowed in streets, listening to nothing but his footsteps and snowflakes.

"Iruka!" When the voice first reached him, Iruka thought he had imagined it and only shook his head. The second time it was much closer, which prompted him to snap out of his thoughts and turn around. To his surprise, his particular peculiar was only a few steps behind him – still as tall and handsome as ever, with the same infuriatingly stylish hair, but the mole covered by a thick green scarf. "Here." The man passed Iruka a card similar to the loyalty cards at the cafe only much, much longer.

"What's that?" Iruka's heart fluttered against his rib cage as he first spoke to the stranger after a long while. He was afraid to expect anything so stopped any racing thought right at its tracks.

"My name," the man said and Iruka kept looking between him and the card without seeing the link. The card seemed to have each character sealed in separately but there were too many of them.

"Clearly it's not that long!"

"You will have to unseal to find out."

Emotions swelled inside him as he clutched the card in cold hands and beamed at the stranger. (So brightly that the lamppost confused it with sunrise and switched off). Iruka didn't know what to think, he wanted so badly to learn the man's name. Any hope he thought he lost came rushing back like a tsunami after an earthquake.

"How do I—" he didn't get to finish as warm lips pressed softly to his. As they withdrew (the audacity!) Iruka looked at the man, then the card and saw the first letter appear.

"That is, if you want to," Iruka noticed a bright blush dusting the usually pale cheeks as his particular peculiar tried to hide it under a scarf. Without another thought, Iruka stopped him from doing that and pressed their lips together again, and again.

By morning, he learned the man's name and gained a boyfriend in the process.