Rating: PG to PG-13 it's kind of harmless I guess.
Warnings: AU! a bit of flangst, experimental writing style (but what isn't experimental with me, really)
Summary: Hyukjae has (literal) visions of the future, Daniel is a writer; together, they fight crime, or maybe they just drink obscene amounts of coffee while trying to figure out their lives.
A/N: I am not dead! this fic was a fantastic experience, I loved writing it so much, I really hope you enjoy it. If you follow my other fics, fear not, in a few weeks I'll get the chaos that is my life slightly sorted, so I'll get on writing those really soon. <3
Also, I apologize for the mistakes, some parts didn't got re read as much as some others, I hope there aren't too many or too annoying. Again, please enjoy.
It was not night, not day, not dark, not light. If anything, it was blurry, yeah, that was the word; blurry, all of them where blurry, the shapes, the colors, the sounds, the feelings, everything was almost shapeless but at the same time clear, well, not really clear, he learned to polish it, to know that a certain spot meant green and that shade meant happiness. His eyes weren’t exactly the things that saw, he couldn’t explain it but at that moment he wasn’t looking, he was just, for a lack of a better word, receiving. And he hated it.
He didn’t know when it started exactly; he just knew that at some point he went from being a regular kid to that creep who started to cry every time he looked at their teacher for a whole week before said teacher died on the classroom after a very violent stroke.
It took him five years to understand that he was different in a very disturbing way, to understand that to avoid the horrified looks from his mother and the mocking from the other kids he should just keep quiet, he should just pretend he didn’t feel or see anything different, he did his best as a kid who was always too scared of rejection, who didn’t want to be left alone.
With his mother the damage was already done.
She kept quiet and tried to smile and treat him like a regular mother would treat a regular son, but he could see; he could see the fear in her eyes, in the way her smile was too big, in the way she never touched him, hugged him or even patted his head like any parent would do. He couldn’t blame her.
His childhood was slightly different, he noticed; while lacking motherly love, his sister proved to be the world for him, she was his only friend, his only source of real affection; she wasn’t faking it, her smiles where real, her hugs where real, she even told her how jealous she was because her little brother was special. To him, his sister was the special one; she was an angel in a world full of intolerant and fearful people. He didn’t blame them, he didn’t blame anyone, but it hurt. Even after years passed he still felt pain when it was his sister and not his mother the one that insisted that he should at least come to have dinner with them on his birthday.
“Come on Hyukjae, no one should spend their birthday alone, specially the people who can actually be with their family.”
“She doesn’t want me there.”
“Of course she does! She has barely seen you after all these years, she misses you, she’s our mother; she loves you.”
He sighed; it was like this every year; she would always call him a couple of weeks (or months) before his birthday, it was like that since he left at sixteen, she never managed to make him visit. “How about you come over here, buy me dinner and I tell the world that you’re still single?”
“So I end up in a horrible date and forget that I actually like you so you don’t have to go visit mom?” he heard a sigh “Oh, Hyukjae, you know mom won’t be nasty to you, she will try to…”
“I don’t want her to try” he said bitterly “she’s my mother, her feelings towards me shouldn’t be a struggle. Look, Sora, I love mom, you know it, but I can’t handle her looks or her smiles, the last time I tried to touch her she started shivering! I’m still not ready to face that kind of reaction again, just give me some time and give mom time too.”
Sora’s response sounded defeated and tired, this distance has been painful to her too since the beginning “It’s been years, Hyukjae, how much more time do you need?”
“It’s not my call, Sora.” She sighed again “Have dinner with me, I won’t set you up this time.”
“Well, actually, I met this guy who-“
He was in a field where flowers of every shape and color where whispering to him the secrets that kept men from sleeping since the beginning of time when a horrible witch with fingers like claws started to poke him without reason.
“No lady witch!” he said terrified “I won’t ever set foot on your garden again, I promise” He heard a laugh that was more like a distant memory before waking up after falling on a cold, hard floor. “I fell asleep in the café again.” He announced to no one in particular since the facts where right there hard, cold, and slightly stained.
“You fell asleep in the café again.” Answered an amused voice just above his head, he looked up to find the son of the owner looking at him with a raised eyebrow. “You know, if you’re that tired, you should really go home, you look like shit and comatose teachers are bad for the business.”
“I’m not a teacher” he said for the hundredth time (he liked to count) “I’m a researcher, I don’t teach, I don’t have students, I’m a selfish academic with no desires to share my knowledge with people who remind me of myself five years ago.”
He heard a snort while getting up slowly, he grimaced at the pain of his back, and sat again on the chair “Anyway, Daniel, what was that you where shouting in your sleep about witches, and secrets and flowers?”
Daniel shrugged while looking longingly at his empty mug of coffee “Jungsik in drag is almost as terrifying as Jin in drag, evil witch Jungsik is even worse.” Kyuhyun snorted again while taking Daniel’s mug, hopefully for a refill.
“I’m sure Heechul would love to hear that story” he looked at Daniel’s face and frowned “no more coffee for you, go to sleep, or I swear I’m going to find a way to make you a real teacher.”
Daniel cursed and picked up his things. Kyuhyun or Heechul or Jungsik or even that pretty girl who worked on the weekends whose name he couldn’t remember liked to kick him out once or twice a month when he was a step from exhausted scholar to barely functional sub-human covered in books. It was unnerving but a regular occurrence now, so he left the café frowning and actually considering going home, he grimaced, the single idea of calling that disgusting old apartment ‘home’ soured his mood even more, but with nothing else to do, Daniel started walking towards the dreaded building. He needed a book he had there, anyway.
Daniel’s life was always complicated; he was a great disappointment for his family since the beginning; he wasn’t extremely fond of sports, he loved music, he wasn’t extremely social and would be found hiding in some place with a book before having to face his family, he never asked for a bicycle but begged for weeks over a special edition of a Whitman poetry compilation, he barely dated, and finally, when no one thought he could be any more weird he dismissed a promising medical career and instead pursued a not that promising career as a, well, whatever literary studies graduates do, to the horror of his parents who opted to let Daniel do whatever he wanted and focus their attention in more promising beings to mold to their liking. He felt slightly sorry for his brother.
But Daniel valued his freedom, and valued his dreams. To him, it was his family the one that was weird, the one that was wrong; he couldn’t understand how they could think and be so sure that the way they saw the world was the same he had, that their idea of a good life was Daniel’s idea of a good life.
The first time his mother asked him why couldn’t he be normal like the other kids (“for God’s sake, Daniel, you are a boy, drop that book and behave like one!”) Daniel questioned himself for the first time about what was normal and why wasn’t he normal, at first he craved normalcy because being Daniel was a lonely experience, but as the months and years passed he noticed that his normalcy wasn’t his family’s normalcy. Daniel was normal for Daniel, even if his family didn’t agree.
It was that notion that led him to leave his house and the dreams of his family to them, he stopped thinking that his family was wrong or weird; he just rationalized it as a conflict of interests which led him to part from his childhood world towards his freedom and his happiness; at that moment things stopped from being weird and wrong, they became different and diverse. He still visited his parents on Christmas and sent them gifts on the right dates.
Daniel was still relatively young and was already a very talented researcher with unlimited potential (or that was what his tutor said when he was intoxicated with wine at some academic event), he found a job in a university as an assistant to a very old teacher who needed someone to read his texts, prepare his classes and grade the papers, it was an incredibly dull job that allowed him to find the time to become a ghost writer, he still didn’t have enough money to leave the old teacher, or to move apartments, but he was writing books, in the name of others, but still, it counted, in a very pathetic and sad way, but it counted.
When he got home Ernest was waiting for him, Ernest was always waiting for him; he was the only constant in his life, his partner, the only one who was faithful to him.
“Well, hello there, Ernest.” He said as soon as he saw him sitting on Daniel’s bed with the same distracted expression he always directed towards him “how was your day, my friend? Mine was boring as always, same old research, same old work, same shitty books I have to write in the name of others, even the same nightmare of Jungsik as a witch” Daniel shivered and he was sure that Ernest shivered too “I really need to stop owing him money. Anyway, Ernest, that was my day, oh, I also got kicked out of the café as always and finally decided to come home to sleep, maybe to get a decent meal too if I can get to cook, what do you say, Ernest; a nice nap, a bath and some food, just you and I.” Ernest didn’t answer, he was the quiet type; Daniel rather liked that about him.
He changed clothes, putting on some old sweatpants he had since he was a student and slumped in the most ungraceful way possible on his bed, he looked at Ernest and smiled pulling him into the bed “Let’s take a nap.”
Ernest didn’t reply.
He’d never had visions about his own future, he was thankful for that little moment of peace; he had some sense of normalcy (even if fake) when the flashes and smudges of color would leave him alone; before he managed to control it, the times of solitude in his room where the only ones when the silence was absolute, when the darkness was welcome; when he was for one blissful moment, Hyukjae the regular boy.
But that happened long ago, he was in control now, he still kept mostly to himself but that was more force of habit than anything, he got used to silence and solitude, leaving his house when he was young reinforced the notion that being alone was a natural state, his studies and jobs led him to the few friends he had now.
That day was sunny, and Hyukjae knew for a fact (touching Junsu’s arm) that it was going to rain later, he took an umbrella and didn’t tell Junsu about it because to hell with Junsu. Both friends were walking towards the general direction of the library still unsure of actually going to do some studying in there, the library had the advantage of storing almost everything both of them needed, but also stored memories, feelings and even ideas of everyone who entered the building at some point, and Hyukjae could actually feel everything in the place. It was a painful and disturbing experience.
“Do we really need to go there?” he asked Junsu, apprehension clear in his voice.
“Yes, yes we do” said Junsu as the asshole Hyukjae always knew he was “well, at least I do.”
“Well, yes, you need as much study as you can get, poor bastard-Su” he said as an automatic response that gained an automatic punch in the arm “I, on the other side, am not willing to risk fainting or puking in a public place when I don’t need to, so if it’s OK with you, I’ll go home.”
Junsu only raised an eyebrow and patted Hyukjae’s back “sure, go ahead and take a nap, you look like you need it, I’ll call you so you can start making me dinner before I get home, sweetie.”
“How about fuck you, darling.” Junsu only snorted and after saying their goodbyes they parted ways, Junsu towards the library and Hyukjae towards somewhere that wasn’t his small apartment. He would be there by the time Junsu came demanding food from him, anyway.
He walked towards a pretty café he had seen a few times on the way towards the library, he always felt attracted to it because it felt peaceful enough to make him feel normal but not as quiet as his apartment. He hated quiet places; they reminded him of the past.
When he entered the place the first thing he noticed was the sweet smell of freshly brewed coffee, the place had a few tables that weren’t occupied possibly due to the hour; most students where on class or studying for their finals, and the café was most likely designed for that kind of clientele; it was colorful and comfortable, with an equal amount of low tables with pillows as chairs and of regular ones. The quiet melodies of an acoustic guitar and the sweet voice of a young singer who became popular recently gave the place a feeling of warmth and tranquility, some posters of classic movies and videogames adorned the place. Hyukjae already loved it and he hadn’t even tasted the coffee.
“Welcome!” said an approaching waiter, he had a friendly face –almost too friendly- accompanied by the most mischievous smile Hyukjae had ever seen in his life “Welcome to ‘Aroma’, you must be a new costumer, let me show you a table, would you rather a regular one or do you want to relax in one of our cushioned spaces?”
Hyukaje blinked after the overflow of kindness and hospitality before answering; it was unusual for him to be received in such a way, even when he was a customer people tended to sense something weird in him and treat him with coldness and distance “A regular table would be perfect, thank you.” He said awkwardly. The tall waiter led him towards one of the tables; it had a nice view towards the street and Hyukjae felt himself comfortable for the first time in months, he sighed happily making the waiter smile.
“I’m glad you like it; let me get you the menu, then.” And with a last blinding smile he left Hyukjae alone to gather his thoughts about the place.
The only way he could describe 'Aroma' was ‘peaceful’, he couldn’t say that about many places, so it was a welcome surprise; it was as if the regulars in the place were so in peace with themselves that there weren’t many traces of negative feelings or worries. Hyukjae could live with his seeing the future thing as long as no one touched him when he was distracted or unready for the overflow of sensations; he still couldn’t handle well the influxes of energy of many people at the same time, it was painful and exhausting and it made him sick in all the ways possible.
‘Aroma’ was decidedly his new safe place.
‘Aroma’ was decidedly the punishment some superior entity sent him for being Jack the Ripper in a previous life. It was the only explanation as to why he was so thoroughly tortured day after day by all of the staff of the café and still being unable to stop going to drink coffee and work himself unconscious there.
“I wish you could come with me, Ernest,” Said Daniel looking sadly at his partner “but since you’re my favorite I wouldn’t expose you to the evilness that is that piece of hell on earth.” He frowned “Sadly, that’s the only place that lets me overdose on caffeine and drool all over their tables and occasionally on their floors when gravity isn’t working for me.” He smiled at Ernest “Oh well, wish me luck, I’ll see you tonight.”
Daniel’s apartment was located close to the university; it was a cheap place with a strange smell between humidity, rat poison and garlic, the legend said that it was that cheap because someone actually died a tragic dead in there and the place was haunted. Daniel thought that if there ever was a ghost in that house that horrible smell and Daniel’s conversations with Ernest already scared it away. Ghost or not, the apartment was just what Daniel needed and could afford at a time when his salary was plain sad.
It was because of the apartment actually that he found ‘Aroma’. He was desperate for a cup of coffee and the campus’ cafeterias didn’t have coffee, mind you, they sold coffee, but the thing they gave in exchange for the student’s money was something that looked and tasted like lukewarm mud with sugar, actually, it probably was lukewarm mud and sugar. Daniel liked to think of himself as a coffee connoisseur and as such he demanded at least a cup of coffee that was actually coffee, that’s when ‘Aroma’ made its appearance and Daniel’s problems were over for an incredible amount of two hours. Then he met the staff and everything went to hell, two years later, and he could admit he was somehow part of the family of stray weirdoes that ended up finding their place in the café and that even if most of the staff was horrible with him (in a loving, friendly way, if that made any sense), he felt comfortable in there.
Or maybe the coffee guy made such a good coffee he could overlook the torture.
He entered ‘Aroma’ and didn’t wait for any of the niceties of any of the waiters, they weren’t nice to him, anyway, they just annoyed him until he sat and after ten minutes of fierce scowling, someone would give up and serve him his cup of coffee, one memorable day, one of the costumers couldn’t take anymore of Daniel’s murder faces and gave him herself the coffee. That afternoon wasn’t too different, even after sleeping almost fifteen hours, he was exhausted, the first draft of the book he was working at was due in three days and the atrocious writing of his employer was starting to turn him suicidal. He was starting to find impossible to transform the pile of garbage that that man called “memories” into a decent piece of literature. He hated politicians.
“I hate politicians.” He whined as soon as he saw Kyuhyun approaching with a gigantic mug that smelled divine.
“Well, they’re more than half of your clients, so even if you hate them you better shut up and get to work” he put the mug on Daniel’s table “here, especially dark for our resident zombie.”
Daniel sighed and smelled the coffee; it was perfection “How much for your coffee guy?”
Kyuhyun patted him on the shoulder “He’s too expensive for you, my friend, also I know for a fact that you don’t even have a decent coffee machine, those things tend to make Zhoumi cry, you know, he’s pretty… sensitive over coffee, and shoes, but mostly coffee.” Daniel raised an eyebrow; Kyuhyun only shrugged and left him to keep on working.
He was sitting on one of the regular tables, which were actually the only ones he could use to work on, without the risk of immediate unconsciousness (those cushions where more comfortable than his own bed), that was usually his spot, a table that had a nice view both inside the café and towards the street, Daniel liked to observe people when he wasn’t engrossed in his work.
Among the people he observed that day in the café was a boy not much younger than him, who had his attention divided between a laptop, a book, and a cup of coffee. It was a peaceful image, the boy looked like he had all the time of the world to do whatever he was doing and was also enjoying every minute of it. Daniel looked at his current project and sighed; he was starting to forget how it felt to enjoy whatever he was doing, every day was the same, without change, not even a minimal one. Daniel didn’t feel sad, it was worse; he was bored. Boredom was dangerous in his line of work; Daniel loved being a writer, if he got bored of writing then what was he good for? He left everything behind to follow his ambitions, quitting now would mean a defeat in every aspect of his existence.
He took a long drink of his coffee annoyed at himself; he was not bored of being a writer for fucks sake, he was bored of being like this, of writing uninteresting crap for useless idiots, of giving his talent to others who actually got recognition while he was… well, just there.
“Maybe I just need to make some changes.” He resigned himself to keep on writing, any life-changing idea he had would have to wait at least until this book was done. After an hour or so of intense work (which consisted in cursing fluidly at his client while trying to make sense of the horrible writing) he raised his head to notice that the boy in front of him was looking at him with a strange expression; it was a mixture of worry and curiosity that made the boy look a little like a confused chimpanzee.
Daniel raised an eyebrow “Can I help you?” he asked startling the boy who gaped like a fish for a couple of seconds before blushing profusely.
“I-I… sorry,” Daniel had to make an effort to listen to the boy who was looking at the coffee with incredible intensity, suddenly his head snapped upwards to look at Daniel again. “This is going to sound incredibly weird to you but… er… how should I say this… it would be er… intelligent of you… no, not intelligent I mean… a good idea, if you, well, if you stopped working on that biography you’re writing now…”
Daniel just stared at the boy, what the hell was wrong with him? How did he know he was working on a biography? The only ones who knew where Kyuhyun and Jungsik, the first wouldn’t tell a costumer he just met and the latter didn't have friends to share the information with (he had associated or so he said), he didn’t even tell Jin so he wouldn’t demand him money, so how come this guy knew about it?
The boy blushed even more, and started fidgeting with a napkin “I would explain to you but you have to believe me, you have to… to stop writing that, it’s not safe. I-I…saw.”
“You saw?” The fear in the boy’s eyes and general body language was almost enough to make Daniel believe him; if not for the absurdity of the situation he would be worried about him.
“I saw you…” said the boy in a weird voice, Daniel couldn’t define it in other way but empty, he shuddered, suddenly cold. “You died.”
It’s always like this, Hyukjae mused, while looking at the different expressions that crossed the man’s face, usually when he decided to warn people, there was a certain range of expressions which Hyukjae memorized and categorized; first there was something like surprise, then annoyance, then shock, followed by amusement, and finally pity. The pity was the worst of all, pity and fear, he hated them; they reminded him of his mother.
This guy’s face was taking a good time to change from surprise to anything else, Hyukjae waited, and waited, and waited, until it was getting absurd even for his standards. So Hyukjae opted for a extreme approach (at least for him). He sat on the same table the guy was and avoided carefully any contact with him or his things before addressing the man again.
“Look, I know it’s weird, believe me, I know, and I can assure you this is not a threat or a weird way to get your attention, and I am most definitely not insane no matter what my friends tell you.” he slapped himself mentally annoyed at his ever present tendency to babble when nervous “The important thing is that you’re in danger because if you finish writing that thing you’re going to end up murdered.” The man raised an eyebrow which was somehow a strange reaction given that the rest of his face was frozen in a shocked expression.
Suddenly one of the waiters was in front of them looking at them with interest “I didn’t know you two where friends, I didn’t know you had friends who actually could read” said the waiter smirking at the guy, who frowned and turned to look at the waiter with an annoyed expression almost as if forgetting Hyukjae’s existence.
“We’re not really friends” said Hyukjae quickly before the guy could say anything.
“Oh, a student, then?” Hyukjae nodded quickly at the waiter before the other guy could correct him “well, I’ll leave you to your work, then. Daniel, drink your coffee, you’re hurting Zhoumi’s feelings.” He shot a murderous look at Daniel and left quickly. The most awkward silence accompanied them from the next five minutes.
Daniel was sipping at his cup of coffee while Hyukjae tried to think of something to say, he was kind of bad at speaking to people, so it was an incredible mental struggle to try to find words that would never come in a satisfying way; he opted for a different approach.
“I can prove it to you.”
After a clearly uncomfortable moment of silence in which Daniel almost thought that the boy was a figment of his very exhausted imagination, he talked again. “I can prove it to you” he mumbled looking at the table without blinking.
“You can prove that I’m going to get killed?”
The boy blushed in a way that Daniel would deny forever he found cute at all “No, I mean… I can prove to you that I saw something.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow already curious “and how would you prove it?” At that, the boy blushed crimson and fixed his eyes on his hands.
“I could touch you and see something incredibly embarrassing about you that no one else knows?”
“Wait,” said Daniel “what are you talking about, what is exactly these things you say you can see?”
The boy blinked and looked at Daniel with a shocked expression before composing himself quickly “Well,” started the boy with a voice that was almost a whisper obliging Daniel to lean towards him to listen “I have a thing in which in extreme cases, if I’m close to people I can see things that are going to happen to them.”
“So you’re saying that you can see the future…”
“I know it sounds ridiculous!” interrupted the boy quickly before blushing again “But I just can do it.”
Daniel wasn’t about to believe him but his curiosity peaked as the the seconds passed, the boy was harmless and they were in the café, nothing could happen “And how could you prove that by touching me?” he couldn’t help but smirk at the blush he received as an answer “your ability is triggered by proximity, right? Not by touch.”
The boy nodded “It’s actually by both, if I touch people I can see not so relevant things like if it’s going to rain and stuff like that, but I told you, I’m not going to have a vision of your future, it wouldn’t be too useful since I could see something that’s going to happen in ten minutes or in one month, I can’t quite control that, I just can kind of block it.”
“Right, you said you could tell me something incredibly embarrassing about me, how does that work?” There was a long silence and Daniel almost could see the other’s brain working at full speed “I guess you don’t want to explain, then?”
“I-I could but…” he sighed defeated “look, I could explain it to you, but you most likely won’t believe me, the explanation is weird, even I am aware of that, if I could just…”
“OK, OK, go ahead and touch all you want” he winked at the (again) blushing boy “but keep it above the waist, I don’t even know your name.”
“…it’s Hyukjae” he mumbled before barely touching Daniel’s hand with his index finger for a few moments.
Daniel would admit later that he could feel something strange when Hyukjae touched him, it was like a tingling sensation that went from his hand to his head, but it was so quick that at the moment he couldn’t even understand what was happening so he filed it for later contemplation. Hyukjae was looking at him with an amused expression that made things to Daniel that honestly scared him.
“So Ernest…” Daniel stared at Hyukjae in shock.
“What about him?”
“You have a teddy bear called Ernest and you’re honestly terrified about someone kidnapping him to make you pay your debts, because you really love it… him” He said quickly without blinking. “Are you going to reject that biography thing now or do I have to go to your apartment and take the bear so you listen to me?” Daniel shook his head slowly and was rewarded with a blinding smile “Thank you.”
Hyukjae shrugged suddenly shy again “you believed me without thinking I’m some kind of monster.” He said in a very tiny voice.
“Well, you don’t like a monster to me” said Daniel smiling at Hyukjae who finally smiled back.
A couple of minutes of comfortable silence followed them; both sipped slowly their respective cups of coffee (which they were made to buy under the threat of expulsion), and trying to be inconspicuous about staring at the other, Daniel took some time considering what led him to believe Hyukjae so quickly and he couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact reason, it could be the Ernest thing, the explanation, the fact that Hyukjae looked extremely sure about what was he saying, maybe Daniel was an idiot, maybe it was all of them, he couldn’t deny the fact that he believed in Hyukjae and that something extraordinaire was happening right at that moment and if he didn’t do something about it he would be even more of an idiot. With that in mind he looked at Hyukjae in the eye with renewed determination.
“Let me write your story.”
“Let me write your story, Hyukjae.”
“Because it would be a great story, a great book, we can… we can change things, we can even say it’s completely fictional.” Daniel’s eyes had an intensity that Hyukjae had never seen directed at him before, he felt his cheeks heat up again. He was blushing an awful lot that day. “So what do you say?”
A part of Hyukjae was warning him about the deal, he could be exposed, he could be hurt, he couldn’t trust a person he just met, he could barely trust the people he’d known for a long time, and Daniel wasn’t even his friend.
But telling his story, sharing his burden sounded so good.
No one knew all the details of his life and his ability, not even his sister who lived with him at the beginning of this madness. Not even Junsu who was his only support when the nightmares overlapped with visions waking him up screaming and very close to clawing his eyes off. Not even Sungmin who believed him at once and never doubted him over the short time they thought they were in love. He never felt the impulse to tell them everything, not in the way he felt like telling Daniel, he understood the compulsion, his own desires for sharing his curse where mixing with Daniel’s desires, whatever they were. For the first time it wasn’t an uncomfortable feeling, it was almost…
He took a deep breath and looked at Daniel “You can write it, but it will be your novel, not my biography, I’ll tell you my story and you will use it however you want to.” Daniel smiled brightly at Hyukjae , who answered with a small smile before picking up his cellphone and answering it almost before it started ringing “What Junsu?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m drinking a coffee.”
“'Aroma', close to the library, we walk past it all the time. Are you still there pretending you care about research?”
“No, I decided that I’m shit at lying even to myself; buy me something chocolate, I’ll be there soon.”
“Are you pregnant? Junsu didn’t deign with an answer, the call was abruptly finished and Hyukjae smirked at his cellphone before noticing Daniel’s weird look “That was a friend; he’s on his way to getting soaked in the rain, the poor thing.”
“It’s not raining…”
“It will rain soon” replied Hyukjae distracted with scanning quickly the menu to look for some sort of chocolate-y thing for Junsu, he was going to get really angry when the rain started and Hyukjae didn’t want to bait him more, not before telling him that he basically was about to confess all of his secrets to a guy he met not even two hours ago “do you come here often?”
“Are you hitting on me?” Hyukjae was about to curse our loud, his cheeks where going to explode if he kept his blushing rate that high.
“I wouldn’t even know how to do that.” he mumbled making Daniel laugh, Hyukjae found himself rather liking the sound, he couldn’t help but smile back, Daniel’s mood was contagious. They got silent again, when the first sounds of the rain hitting the windows of the café reached their ears Hyukjae cursed “Is the chocolate cheesecake good?” he asked suddenly.
Daniel shrugged “I don’t think a bad chocolate cheesecake is even possible so I will go with a yes.”
Hyukjae managed to make his order and engrossed himself with a comfortable conversation with Daniel for a few minutes before Junsu entered the café with a murderous glint in his eyes. He spotted Hyukjae in record time. “I hate you.”
“I ordered you a warm cup of coffee.”
“I dislike you deeply.” Replied Junsu sitting next to Hyukjae without noticing Daniel’s existence for the moment.
“And a chocolate cheesecake.”
“And I’m paying.”
“…What did you do?”
Hyukjae looked offended at Junsu “can’t I just be nice to my oldest friend after making him get drenched almost on purpose? Maybe I am a nice per… OK I did something”
“How bad is it?”
Hyukjae smiled at his friend in a way he expected to be reassuring “well, it’s a matter of perspectives, you know? Have you met my friend Daniel? He’s a writer.” Junsu didn’t even look at Daniel; his scowling was reaching scary proportions.
“What did you tell him?”
“I can’t’ believe you… you told him?”
“He was going to die!” exclaimed Hyukjae feeling defensive.
“You could’ve told me, Hyukjae, there are ways to help people without telling them that you had a vision of them.” Junsu was positively fuming, and Hyukjae blushed angrily.
“You just would’ve told me to let him die because it’s not my problem.”
Junsu had the decency to look ashamed “I wouldn’t be lying.” He mumbled frowning at the table, before Hyukjae could reply Daniel cleared his throat loudly making them both look at them in shock.
“I would appreciate you both noticing that I’m still here,” he said with a tone that reminded Hyukjae of a teacher lecturing a group of kids “look Junsu, that’s your name, right? Good, look, I understand that you’re worried about Hyukjae here, but I believe he’s old enough to take his own decisions about what he does with his talents; I’m not going to hurt him or sell him to a circus if that’s what worries you, he kind of saved my life…”
“I actually saved your life.” Interrupted Hyukjae quickly earning a glare from both Daniel and Junsu.
“The point is, I am thankful, and you don’t see me sharpening the pitchfork and lighting the torch, do you? So let us assume that the kid took a good decision on whom to trust.” he smiled charmingly at Junsu who only scowled a little before eating his cheesecake in silence. Hyukjae sighed; it was a small victory that the yelling stopped for a while, now, if the news about the book could be taken that well…
“Oh, Junsu, I forgot to tell you-“
Hyukjae was studying anthropology in the same university in which Daniel was working at, he liked to read; especially mystery novels and comic books but hated libraries, he didn’t like crowds even when he could control his ability, he liked rainy days and couldn’t stand extreme summer weathers (“it’s as if everything around me feels tired at the same time and it exhausts me, I rather stay at home on those days”), he liked the color green, but wasn’t extremely fond of vegetables, he loved movies but avoided movie theaters like the plague (“And any other place that could have people with strong emotions in them, actually”), he loved music but had never attended a concert for obvious reasons, he had a happy enough life but entered into strong periods of sadness (he wouldn’t call them depression just yet) from time to time.
All in all, Hyukjae was an incredibly complex collection of ambivalences that Daniel couldn’t help but like more and more as the days passed.
It was not only that Hyukjae was a fascinating collection of contradictions. That was just something interesting to tell about him, something that could work as a pretty narrative devise; Hyukjae was, in simple terms, ridiculously adorable.
It was really easy to make him blush and he hated it, he would pout and frown at Daniel who would only smile and shrug before restarting the teasing cycle all over again.
He had a contagious laugh and a great sense of humor that made its appearance when he finally managed to get over the awkward phase, he was incredibly clumsy, he ate like a hungry bear with a sweet tooth and a massive caffeine addiction. He wasn’t exactly a looker, but Daniel wasn’t either, and really the handsome or pretty people in his life tended to be too much on the insane side of the spectrum, he wasn’t saying that Hyukjae was ugly, because that would be stupid, but he wouldn’t call him beautiful or gorgeous right away; he had some sort of boyish charm and a nice enough body to look at. He considered Hyukjae a subjective beauty, an acquired taste, even. It was strange for Daniel to find himself so accepting about acquiring said taste.
One day, after a few weeks of meeting sporadically at ‘Aroma’ Hyukjae invited Daniel to his apartment.
“Kyuhyun keeps looking at us and it’s really unnerving and even if I like him because he feeds me I know that he’s evil.”
“Well, I can’t really deny that.” Replied Daniel.
Hyukjae wasn’t done with his observations, though “And Zhoumi!” he looked at Daniel “Zhoumi’s the one that makes the coffee, you really need to remember his name, he’s an important character, you know. Anyway, did you know that he’s emotionally attached to the coffee machine? He talks to it, he named it; its name is Henry, it has a birthday and everything.”
“How do you know all of that stuff about the coffee guy?”
“How don’t you? Honestly Daniel, we had to wear party hats last week, why do you think it was?”
“I stopped questioning whatever happened in here” answered Daniel “I like to avoid slightly disturbing discoveries about the places in which I trust my means of survival.”
“Like perverse relationships with coffee machines.”
“Like perverse relationships with coffee machines.” Daniel took a sip of his coffee birthed from Henry, the coffee machine, and grimaced “OK let’s go to your apartment.”
Hyukjae had a cat.
“You have a cat.” Said Daniel while said animal stared at him without blinking.
“No I don’t.” replied Hyukaje while looking at the cat too, who kept staring at them from his place at the counter of the kitchen
“Then your dog really looks like a cat.”
“He’s not mine,” a blink “he’s Junsu’s cat, Junsu says he’s in love with me, I say he only likes me for my body.”
Daniel didn’t even wink “You do have a nice body.”
Hyukaje blushed a pretty shade of red while petting the cat who was purring happily and loudly at the attention “I don’t see anything when I touch animals, you know” he said suddenly “I wanted a pet when I was little but mom never let me.” He looked at the cat with a sad smile “She never let me do a lot of things.”
Daniel didn’t say anything besides “Junsu lives with you?” which was an immensely stupid thing to say after such a reveal, Hyukjae seemed not to care, and that was a relief.
“He lives in the apartment across the hall, the cat comes a goes from the windows; they’re connected.”
Daniel only had stupid questions that night. “What’s the name of the cat?”
“I call it ‘Cat’”
“You never asked Junsu?” Hyukjae shrugged and Daniel noticed they were talking about cats, about one cat whose name was Cat.
“I didn’t want to talk about my mom over there, I don’t even know if I want to talk about it now, or ever.” The shift of subject didn't' even surprise Daniel, that was the way Hyukjae talked; he jumped from one subject to the other at the speed of light, Daniel learned quickly to keep up with him.
“You don’t need to do it.”
Hyukjae looked at Daniel and he noticed that it was the first time their eyes met since their first meeting; it was unnerving, and weird, and enlightening and incredibly scary. ´
“Yes I do.”
And Daniel knew he wasn’t talking about the book.
Daniel listened almost without blinking while Hyukjae told him everything.
They made tea because there wasn’t any coffee at the moment, Daniel sipped occasionally wrinkling his face in distaste, Hyukjae liked to look at the way his nose wrinkled and his lips curled downwards before he braved another sip, it was amusing and made Hyukjae forget what they were talking about for a second.
Hyukjae still talked and Daniel listened, and then he started talking too, after a few hours of talking and listening they started writing, after a few hours of writing it was morning and they had the first satisfactory sketch of the novel.
“I think I’m going to skip work today, tomorrow, whenever it is, I'm skipping,” said Daniel after yawning, he looked exhausted and kind of grey but happy, content, even proud; Hyukjae thought he never looked as handsome as he looked at that exact moment “can I stay here? I’m sure I could sleep through me getting robbed if I dared to go out like this.”
“Sure” he replied, too tired to be articulate “I’ll lend you some clothes tomorrow, or today, or whenever I decide to wake up” he yawned and Daniel yawned in response “I’ll get you some blankets and a pillow.”
“What if I crawl my way into your bed?” said Daniel trying to raise an eyebrow seductively and only managing to look drunk.
Hyukjae was too tired to blush, he noticed kind of relieved “No crawling tonight.”
“And later?” replied Daniel already halfway unconscious.
Hyukjae managed to convince a pretty much asleep Daniel out of his jeans, fortunately he was too tired to stare and even if he wasn’t, those horrible baggy dotted boxers were hardly sexy. He covered Daniel with blankets quickly, too tired to be careful or delicate about it. When his guest was finally comfortable (or so he looked) Hyukjae took a second to look at his work and smiled.
He would’ve liked to say that the sweet smell of pancakes and coffee woke him up but it was the cat.
“You’re crushing my ribs.” He said, without even opening his eyes “I am aware there’s a weird dude on the couch but you must remember that it’s my couch, your couch is across the hall, inside the other apartment, where the dude that actually adopted you lives.”
“I resent that; I’m not just ‘a weird dude’”. Hyukjae opened his eyes to find Daniel leaning on the doorframe sipping from a mug that smelled divine and looking at him with an amused expression while the cat decided that Hyukjae’s chest was just as good as the couch, Daniel had already his jeans on and he found that he was slightly disappointed at the lack of ugly boxers “I made coffee.”
“Mmm, great idea, fantastic idea, I think I’ll keep you.” Daniel let out a startled laugh that Hyukjae found unexpectedly attractive.
“You’re really flirty when you’re barely conscious.”
“I’m not barely conscious” he mumbled scratching the cat’s ear making him purr immediately “I’m unexpectedly sleepy, there’s a difference.”
“Sure, sure, now get up and have some coffee, is not as good as the coffe guy fro-“
“As Zhoumi’s coffee, but I think it’ll do.”
“I didn’t have any coffee in here.”
“Yeah well, maybe I went and bought some, and some other things for breakfast, really, Hyukjae your kitchen is pathetic.”
“You made me breakfast?” Hyukjae could almost giggle in delight, it’s been so long since he had something home cooked, he had tried cooking; the result ended up being inedible (and most likely poisonous) so he stopped trying altogether.
“I made us breakfast, a late one, more like a weird lunch but I woke up starving and you’re half beast so I guessed you’d be even hungrier and wanted to avoid us an awkward confrontation with Junsu when you ate his cat, so yeah, I made breakfast.”
“My hero.” He mumbled already walking tiredly towards the kitchen, the cat already took claim of Hyukjae’s pillow and was staring at them while they abandoned the bedroom probably glad that he could finally get to sleep for another five hours, the lazy bastard.
Even if it wasn’t the sweet smell of pancakes and coffee that woke him up, it was the coffee, strong enough and perfectly sweet and the pancakes, soft and delicious that gave him everything he needed to face the day with a smile.
“I know tomorrow it’s your birthday.”
Or maybe not.
Junsu told him a few days back that it was Hyukjae’s birthday and that he absolutely hated the date, the only highlight, he was told, was meeting with his sister who always came to town to have dinner with him, according to what Junsu told him, and confirmed by his talk with Hyukjae from the night before; his sister was the only family he kept in touch with since he left home. His birthday was a bitter reminder of how he stopped having a mother the moment he found out he was a monster to her.
“I want to give you a present.”
“I’m informing you, not asking you.”
“I won’t receive it.”
“That’s incredibly rude.”
“I don’t care.”
“You’re hurting my very sensitive writer feelings.”
“You don’t have feelings.”
“That’s even ruder.”
Hyukjae had a faint blush tinting his cheeks that could be from embarrassment, anger or both, Daniel found he didn’t care because he was in the right this time dammit. “Why do you tell me if you’re doing it anyway?”
“To avoid awkward confrontations tomorrow?” Hyukjae frowned and sighed, clearly defeated, Daniel smiled.
“Only because I decided that your breakfast abilities are good enough to keep you around.”
“You’re terrible; I can’t imagine what will happen after I get to kiss you.”
Hyukjae laughed and everything was fine.
When Daniel was about to leave, Hyukjae touched his shoulder and warned him about the weather, told him to be careful about the ambulance and “stop considering making it an erotic novel for your eyes only you perverted creep.”
After that his day was pretty much routine; he went to ‘Aroma’ fought with Kyuhyun, hid from Jungsik, annoyed Jin and was unmercifully teased by everyone. He was happy for the first time in months.
“Where is your boyfriend? I like you better when he’s around.” Said Kyuhyun a couple of hours later when Daniel was already engrossed in his work, he didn’t even look at the waiter.
“He must be at class.” He mumbled while wondering if Hyukjae would mind if he made this character a detective, he could even make a series.
“You didn’t deny he was your boyfriend.”
“Would it matter?”
Another voice that made Daniel yelp in the most pathetic way interrupted the conversation. “Well, I imagine is not as fun when you don’t attempt to impersonate a blushing virgin.” He looked at Jungsik who apparently found something really amusing in Daniel’s expression (being Jungsik it was probably absolute horror) because he was smiling, a lot, it was creepy “Hello, Daniel.”
“Oh… Jungsik, hey, how are you?”
“I’m fine; you know, looking for a warm cup of coffee and for stray writers.” His smile grew bigger reminding Daniel of a demented fox or even a shark, it was really, really creepy “Oh don’t give me that face, I’m not here for anything bad, I’m your friend before your publisher and I’m your publisher before the evil guy who will make you pay your debt, so you’re safe, almost.”
Daniel gulped “Almost?”
“I forgave you for abandoning the other works because I’m incredibly understanding,” Daniel snorted and Jungsik ignored him “but you aren’t giving me anything, man. Are you even writing?”
Daniel smiled feeling for the first time in a while absolutely confident in front of Jungsik who was evil and intimidating when he wanted to “I have something for you, a bit risky but I’m sure that trying to publish anything by me is risky by itself, so you may like this idea.” He turned his laptop towards Jungsik showing him the first few chapters of the story and a general overview of it. Jungsik read for long minutes in silence and when he was done, looked at Daniel with a serious expression.
“Well, where the hell is the rest?”
Sora was looking at him with an expression that clearly demanded no nonsense from him “Well?”
“Nothing, really, it’s nothing.”
“He have you a teddy bear, Hyukje.” She replied patiently before sipping her wine without taking her eyes off Hyukjae’s face which was most likely crimson at the moment.
“It was a joke.”
“Hyukjae, you looked at it as if it was the most precious thing in the universe and I’m sure that if I wasn’t there at the moment you would have jumped that guy Daniel right there on the couch I was sitting on.” Hyukjae groaned and cursed Daniel a billion times for his brilliant idea of going to his apartment on the afternoon of his birthday to give him Ernest. Of course he couldn’t know that Sora got early that day, not even Hyukjae knew, but he had to blame someone, and Daniel gave him Ernest, for fucks sake. “Is he the guy you told me about? The writer?”
“Yeah.” He answered with a sigh.
“Are you dating him?”
“Hey, I just want to know.”
Daniel glared at his sister “No casual sex, OK? No kissing, no hugging, no lingering touches, well maybe a few of those but I use them to see if something horrible will happen to him or if it ‘s going to rain, but nothing romantic.”
“He gave you a teddy bear.”
“OK, we may flirt a bit.”
“A lot, shut up” it was not as if he could keep a secret from Sora anyway, she was, for most of his life his confident and best friend, he trusted her implicitly, but it was incredibly unnerving having her fishing information about…whatever he had with Daniel.
“You know I don’t mind, Hyukjae, I want you to be happy, and I know he is… helping.” She smiled sweetly at him and he forgot why he was angry at her.
“I’m happy, I mean it this time.”
Sora smiled and she clinked his cup with Hyukjae’s.
“I believe you, brother. This time I believe you.”
Sora had to leave just after dinner; she kissed Hyukjae’s cheek and wished him again a happy birthday just before throwing him a package and getting on the nearest taxi. Hyukaje clutched the present and smiled all the way home.
When he got to his apartment Ernest was sitting on the couch, he was weird teddy bear, thought Hyukjae while examining it closely, he wouldn’t be if he was at least of a regular teddy bear color like brown, black, white, even red would be better.
Ernest was a plaid teddy.
“No wonder Daniel loves you so much” he said without touching the bear just yet, something that especial surely had a lot of Daniel in it, when he got the gift he actually made sure of not touching it directly to avoid a dramatic reaction in front of his sister.
He suspected Daniel was hoping for said dramatic reaction, the bastard.
“Well, Ernest, we’re not giving him the satisfaction” he muttered before taking the bear and hugging him tightly against his chest, his hands buried in the fur.
Just as with his sightings of the future his readings through objects where abstract, they were easier and harder to read because he knew the feelings but sometimes couldn’t make a difference from his own, everything got mixed from time to time and it was painful and almost maddening, he could say with authority that absolute terror and absolute hate don’t mix well, ever.
Ernest was wind, was green, was calm, was sleep, was quiet but not the deafening silence that plagued Hyukjae’s nightmares, it was so peaceful and calm that it was almost unreal. And he understood that the gift was much more than only Ernest. It was his own oasis of reality, of the uncomfortable and permanent uneasiness and chaos that cohabited with him; now he had Ernest as his own sanctuary and in the future maybe also Daniel.
He slept that night hugging the bear and for the first time in years he didn’t dream.
“So you don’t mind?”
“I gave you complete liberty, right? And I like the detective thing, will I have a girlfriend?”
“A pretty secretary?”
“She’s eighty and her name is Doris.”
Hyukjae laughed “How about a boyfriend?” Daniel snorted took another sip of his coffee, the flirting was amusing, it also because warmer, sweeter, more direct and honest, all because of Ernest.
“Well, you will have a policeman around you that will give you enough homoerotic subtext to have the readers sighing.” Hyukjae laughed out loud, it was a weird sound, he usually laughed in silence and when he got noisy it was a high pitched noise that was horrible but incredibly endearing. Or maybe Daniel was in too deep to judge objectively.
“I hope there’s at least a femme fatale, I’m kind of fond of clichés.”
“Yeah, there’s one,” confirmed Daniel “she dies at the end, though.” Hyukjae laughed again. “OK I’m just kidding; I think that maybe I’ll write some old romance, to make him darker or something, I'm trying to make this a series so maybe we could give him some mysterious past to give people curiosity.” They kept talking about the novel for a while, when he told Hyukjae that the novel was most likely getting published because of Jungsik he was thrilled, he congratulated Daniel and gave him a really enthusiastic hug that left him dizzy and incredibly happy. They were now discussing small details and flirting at insane levels, Kyuhyun kept rolling his eyes at them in exasperation every time he walked past their table. “I wonder why you didn’t see this happening,” said Daniel “I mean, you saw me dying and when that changed you only gave me small visions, like the ones you give Junsu.”
“Oh that’s easy” replied Hyukjae looking at Daniel directly “I can’t see anything that concerns me directly, not even from others, I don’t know why but I can’t see anything too relevant from people that are involved with me.” He smiled and blushed “that’s why I keep wondering when the hell are you going to confirm that these meetings are terribly camouflaged dates.”
“Oh.” Said Daniel eloquently “well, these meetings are terribly camouflaged dates, now you know the whole truth, I woo my targets with coffee and literature, oh and teddy bears.
Hyukjae smiled and moved his chair to end up sitting side by side to Daniel “Did I thank you for that?”
“Like fifteen times.” Replied Daniel taking Hyukjae’s hand and lacing their fingers “do you mind?” he asked while looking at their hands half waiting for a violent reaction. Hyukjae shook his head and leaned towards Daniel’s body.
“You feel like wind, Daniel.”
“Is that good?”
Hyukjae smiled “The best.”
When they finally kissed at Hyukjae’s apartment, he was trembling a little but Daniel was sure he was too, they held each other for long minutes, until Daniel yawned loudly and Hyukjae took him to bed. “Are you sleeping with me?” said Daniel while getting under the covers wearing one of Hyukjae’s pajamas.
“Are you going to sleep if I stay with you?”
“I’m too tired, so yes, only sleep, I’m not responsible for the morning though.” Hyukjae smiled fondly, and went to the bathroom to change clothes; when he got in the bed he had Ernest already in his arms, they found quickly a comfortable pose, with Daniel spooning Hyukjae and Hyukjae hugging Ernest. “I’m so incredibly jealous of that bear.”
“Well, don’t worry, if it comes to choosing between you too, I ‘ll take the cat.” Daniel hugged Hyukjae harder until he made him squirm and beg for mercy, they recovered after a few minutes of tickles (and kissing) and where already dozing off when Daniel remembered something.
“You feel like wind.”