Characters: Eunhyuk, Sungmin, Kyuhyun
Word Count: 4772
Summary: Being a dancer isn't nearly as romantic Hyukjae expected it to be... until he wishes upon a star.
Note: Infinitely better if you read while listening to Hello Venus's Romantic Love.
A triple pirouette, completed on half-toe, eyes spotting a particularly deep crack on the concrete wall ahead.
A basic plié, door handle as the ballet bar, torso and knees perfectly aligned.
A double stag leap, back arched gracefully, toes encased in sneakers but pointed beautifully nonetheless.
A sigh and a kick at a pebble on the snowy pavement, head bent in dismay and frustration.
The door opened, and his co-worker poked his head out.
"Break's over," announced Kyuhyun mercilessly.
Hyukjae sighed and nodded. "Okay."
He followed Kyuhyun to the door and stepped inside the cafe where he worked.
But he took a deep breath before putting on a hopeful smile.
Hopefully that will change later tonight.
"A large green tea latte, lactose-free milk, with um – " hesitated Hyukjae. He'd just heard the order, but he had forgotten already. "Um – with extra – "
"With extra foam and two shots of vanilla," repeated the customer, slower.
"Thank you," said Hyukjae gratefully. He then took a big breath to repeat the order, but... "So that was a large – large..."
The customer took a deep breath, clearly annoyed at having to repeat the order for the third time while Hyukjae stumbled over the order again. But before the customer could speak again, Kyuhyun, who was working at the coffee machine nearby took over.
"A large green tea latte, lactose-free milk, extra foam and two shots of vanilla. Coming right up."
Kyuhyun grabbed the jug to start the drink and then shot Hyukjae a look.
"It's not a complicated order, Hyukjae," snapped Kyuhyun, then he pushed Hyukjae aside to reach into the fridge for the milk. "Just go if you're going to be this distracted."
Hyukjae took a step back from the counter.
"I'm really sorry, you know the results for the audition have actually been posted for almost an hour now, and – "
"I know. Just go," said Kyuhyun, not looking at him as he made his way to the steamer.
"I'll be back in an hour to close up," promised Hyukjae. "You can leave an hour early."
"Okay, Hyukjae. Please, do me a favour and just go," said a clearly irritated Kyuhyun.
"Thank you, Kyuhyun," said Hyukjae genuinely, and before the other could change his mind, rushed out of the coffee shop and into the darkening streets.
Hyukjae stood outside the double glass doors, chewing on his lips.
His eyes scanned the short list of names posted on a piece of paper taped to the door again and again, praying that he had just missed it.
But no matter how many times he read the list, his name wasn't there.
He let out a sigh and hung his head.
His sixth audition this month, and his sixth refusal.
He turned around blankly into the empty street.
He knew the competition was tough, given the bleak job market for dancers, but this was only the local dance company, and if he couldn't get this job, there was little chance that he was going to get any others.
Hyukjae felt tears well up in his eyes.
Why was achieving his one and only dream so hard?
His eyes welled up with tears, and he clenched his teeth and looked up to the sky to keep his tears in his eyes.
And just as he did, he saw a single star twinkling in the sky that was not quite dark yet.
Then even though he knew that he was doing nothing but grasping at straws, he drew in a breath.
"Star light, star bright... the first star I see tonight..." he whispered desperately, the words laced with another sigh.
The star twinkled, as if it were listening to him. And so he continued softly.
"I wish I may... I wish I might... have the wish I wish tonight."
He closed his eyes to make the wish, as childish and unrealistic as it might be. And as he did, the tear that he'd tried to keep in his eyes fell.
When he opened his eyes again with his lips between his teeth, a shooting star flew across the dusky sky.
And a trace of a sad smile appeared on his lips.
I hope that means I'll be lucky on the next one.
He turned his steps back towards the coffee shop that he had go back to to close up.
Hyukjae was mopping slowly and tiredly.
He was just so tired of wasting his life at a coffee shop when it was nowhere near what he wanted to do.
He was so close to giving up. Just, to hell with dance. Everything was telling him no, so what in the world was making him continue? To hell with his dream to join the –
He jumped in shock as he heard the bell hung on the door jingle. He guessed he forgot to lock up before he began to close up. Hyukjae looked up and to the door just as the one who had opened the door spoke.
"Ex – Excuse me."
And as soon as Hyukjae saw the young man at the door, his breaths stopped.
He was surreally beautiful; he certainly didn't belong in this world. His blond hair seemed to glow, and his eyes shone brighter than anyone's he'd ever seen before.
In all of his beauty and perfection though, he had a scrape over his cheekbone, and was holding his arm as if he were in pain.
Someone knocking at the door when the cafe was closed was something that never happened before, so Hyukjae flustered. Or... was that why he was flustered, or was there another reason why he was getting so rattled?
"Um – I'm so sorry, but – but we're closed," stuttered Hyukjae.
And he was almost glad he heard what he did.
"I know, I saw. I'm so sorry," said the young man. "I was just a bit – lost, and I was hoping you'd let me warm up a bit here."
And there was no hesitation to Hyukjae's next response.
"Yeah, of course," said Hyukjae. He put down the mop and went quickly to the man standing there with a frown of concern. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"
"Yeah, a bit," he whispered. "I'm travelling, and I just got mugged, so I just – don't have anything..."
"Okay, come on in," urged Hyukjae. He held open the door so that the other could come inside, which he did cautiously. Hyukjae pulled the chairs down from a table for him.
"Um – would you like a drink? I've shut most of our machines off, but um – I should be able to make you a coffee, or a tea – "
"Thank you so much, Hyukjae."
Hyukjae's heart almost stopped.
Did... did he just use my name? Had I told him my name?
It wasn't until he realized that he still had his nametag on that he breathed again.
Getting ahead of myself, thought Hyukjae, shaking his head. I just need to focus on giving this guy something warm.
He made his way to the counter. He had cleaned up already, but a tea was going to be simple enough.
Soon, Hyukjae had set a mug of tea to the table where the young man was resting.
"Here you go."
"Thank you," said the other, a smile spreading across his face.
Hyukjae sat down across the table, figuring that he had a couple minutes to spare.
"What's your name?" asked Hyukjae, hoping the stranger wouldn't feel too weirded out by the question. Thankfully, he didn't seem bothered.
"I'm Sungmin," he said, reaching to grab the steaming mug with both of his hands.
Hyukjae goggled, then when Sungmin's hands were about to touch the mug, got up in horror. "Um, wait, don't, it's h – "
But it was too late and Sungmin grabbed the mug tightly. It took a split second for Sungmin to realize how hot the cup really was.
"Oh!" shouted Sungmin, and he dropped the mug back on the table. His eyes were wide as he stared at his hands. "Oh, it's – It's so – "
"Oh God, I'm so sorry!" yelled Hyukjae quickly. "Did you get burned?"
Hyukjae reached for Sungmin's hands and grabbed Sungmin's wrists. He took a look at the palms to see them red and raw.
"Oh, God, let me get you some ice to put on that, and there's a first aid kit lying around somewhere, if I can just find it – "
Hyukjae was busy again, scooping ice from the ice machine used to make smoothies into a plastic cup. He also grabbed a rag for Sungmin before hurrying back. Sungmin was still staring at his red hands in confusion when Hyukjae arrived.
"I – I swear I've seen people do that," whispered Sungmin with a small frown. "I don't understand why it was so..."
"Hold on to that for a little bit while I go get the first aid kit," he said, wrapping the ice in the towel and setting it in front of Sungmin.
Hyukjae stared as Sungmin as Sungmin reached for the clothed ice cautiously this time, touching it lightly several times with the tip of his finger before finally letting out a breath of relief and holding it in both of his hands.
"Here, let me see if it's going to blister," said Hyukjae, carefully taking Sungmin's soft hands in his own rough ones.
"...Hot," whispered Sungmin.
"It was hot. The tea, it was really... really hot."
"Oh," said Hyukjae, blushing. He wasn't sure why, but he was blushing. "Um – God, I'm really so sorry. It's my fault. I should have warned you that it was so hot."
"It's okay," said Sungmin with a small smile. Then a frown of worry filled his face. "It will get better, right? Because I know some burns don't ever really get better."
"Yeah, it might blister a little bit, but it'll – It'll definitely get better."
"That's great," said Sungmin, his eyes folding into half-moons in a genuine smile.
And for the first time that night, Hyukjae found himself smiling along with this odd man.
As much as Hyukjae wanted to sit down with Sungmin, there was still work to be done.
So Hyukjae began to finish up the last of the work, taking his time so that Sungmin could finish his cup of tea that was apparently too hot for him, and also be reasonably warmed up before having to leave.
But Sungmin seemed totally oblivious to the fact that he would eventually have to leave soon. Sungmin was just sitting there, looking around the small, cozy cafe with that genuine, innocent smile on his face, until Hyukjae finally finished and approached Sungmin again.
"So I have to close up soon," said Hyukjae apologetically.
Sungmin nodded and smiled as he got up. "Well... thank you for your hospitality, Hyukjae. I really appreciate it."
"You're - you're welcome," said Hyukjae uncertainly. He wasn't sure if he'd done more harm than good, having burned Sungmin's hands. "Where are you going to be staying tonight?" he asked, although he wasn't sure why he was even asking.
"I don't know," admitted Sungmin. "I'll try to find somewhere, I guess."
Sungmin smiled and got up from the chair that he was sitting in. He limped a little as he made his way to the door with Hyukjae following behind him. He turned around and gave Hyukjae a small smile, and when Sungmin raised a hand to wave Hyukjae good-bye in all of its blistered glory, guilt overcame Hyukjae.
"Wait," breathed Hyukjae hurriedly. "If you don't have a place to stay overnight – do you want to stay at mine?"
Sungmin smiled the brightest smile in response.
Hyukjae hesitated a bit before turning the key to his apartment. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, because –
"Um... it's not the biggest place," said Hyukjae apologetically. "...Or the cleanest."
Definitely not, with laundry strewn all over the place and the floor vacuumed maybe a month and a half ago… It was probably a mistake to even bring Sungmin here; he was probably more comfortable on the street. And even though he was used to the smell of his apartment, it probably came off as a stench to someone who was new to it like Sungmin…
Hyukjae looked worriedly at Sungmin's face, but Sungmin didn't seem bothered.
"It's really nice," mused Sungmin. Hyukjae knew he was just saying that, he must be just saying that. But Sungmin looked so genuine all the time like he did right now, looking so impressed at Hyukjae's studio apartment. "It's so cozy."
"Thanks," said Hyukjae with a small, embarrassed laugh. He scratched the back of his head before addressing Sungmin. "Um, so this is the bed, obviously. You're welcome to sleep on it tonight, Sungmin."
"I'm perfectly comfortable on your couch, Hyukjae. I'm just so thankful you let me stay over," said Sungmin, looking like he couldn't be in higher spirits. And he went ahead and sat down on Hyukjae's couch with a dazzling smile.
"Um, okay, then," said Hyukjae awkwardly. "Let me see your hands."
Sungmin held them out, but he wasn't paying attention and was looking around Hyukjae's apartment.
When Hyukjae returned with his first aid kit, Sungmin was staring at the ballet bar at Hyukjae's window. Hyukjae tried to pretend he didn't notice, just because he didn't want to explain to Sungmin that he was an unemployed dancer, but Sungmin decided to take it upon himself to find out.
"What's that?" Sungmin asked, pointing with his chin. Hyukjae glanced at the bar before turning his attention to putting ointment over the blisters in Sungmin's hands.
"It's a ballet bar," said Hyukjae, trying not to go into more detail than that.
"You dance?" asked Sungmin, looking interested.
"Um, I guess so."
"You guess?" asked Sungmin curiously.
"I... Well, I just graduated from a contemporary dance academy so..."
Sungmin's sparkling eyes flew open wide.
"Wow!" he exclaimed in delight. "That's so cool!"
Hyukjae chuckled. "It's pretty cool, except that now I'm in debt from that and I'm working in a coffee shop."
Sungmin seemed unfazed by Hyukjae's hardship though, and his eyes continued to twinkle.
"May I watch you dance?"
"No," laughed Hyukjae. "I can't even pass an audition for the local dance company, for the love of God. I'm horrible."
Sungmin's smile disappeared to be replaced by a frown. "You think that?"
"I know that," snapped Hyukjae without meaning to. He began wrapping Sungmin's hands with the bandages, then he eyed at Sungmin's expression, worried that he might have hurt the other, but Sungmin was smiling again.
"I find dancers just beautiful."
"You won't find me beautiful. I'm barely a dancer," muttered Hyukjae.
"But you're already beautiful," said Sungmin softly. "Even when you're not dancing."
Hyukjae felt like his heart was about to burst from his body and his face flushing.
God, what was happening?
Hyukjae took a deep breath to see if the flush and the sensations would go away, but they didn't. He heard Sungmin giggle, and that made the feelings just that much worse.
"I'll let you watch if we get a chance," said Hyukjae finally, trying to look like nothing happened.
"Wow, thank you," breathed Sungmin. Hyukjae wasn't sure whether he was thankful that Hyukjae was going to let him watch him practice, or because Hyukjae had just finished wrapping Sungmin's hands, but Hyukjae just didn't really care what Sungmin was thanking him for.
"You're welcome," whispered Hyukjae.
Sungmin was smiling again, and Hyukjae's heart was beating twice as fast again.
Hyukjae stirred and swatted aimlessly into the air in annoyance. He thought he heard a small giggle, and his eyes opened a slit. But he didn't want to open them any wider; it was just so bright –
And if it was this bright, that meant he was late for work –
His eyes flew open.
And even before he fully knew anything that was around him, he bolted up in his bed and threw his blankets aside. Only then did he realize that a voice had spoken to wake him, and that a gorgeous face was laughing into his.
Hyukjae felt all of his breath being knocked out of his lungs as he realized that the room was not that bright after all; the sun was barely rising, and the sky was still dark – but he knew it was too bright to open his eyes just a moment ago…
He looked at Sungmin in wonder, then squeezed his eyes shut. He must have been imagining it.
He opened his eyes.
"G-Good morning," replied Hyukjae finally. He held back the urge to say 'you're even more gorgeous in the morning'.
Sungmin laughed as he plopped himself down on Hyukjae's bed, Hyukjae still sitting in it. Hyukjae startled and blushed, staring into his lap, his face burning.
He didn't raise it until Sungmin cupped Hyukjae's burning cheeks in his bandaged hands and raised it up, softly and slowly – and that was when Hyukjae remembered Sungmin's hands.
"How are your hands feeling?" asked Hyukjae, seizing Sungmin's hands from his face and placing them into his lap.
"Oh," said Sungmin, startling, clearly not having expected the question. "Good. Really good."
Hyukjae shuffled back on his bed so that he was more comfortable looking into Sungmin's hands, then carefully unwrapped the bandages from Sungmin's hands.
Hyukjae's mouth fell open.
"H-How – "
There were no blisters.
The skin was smooth, like nothing had scalded it the night before.
Hyukjae looked up, unable to believe his eyes.
His eyes travelled to Sungmin's cheek, where the cut had been the night before.
He pinched his cheek to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
It wasn't there.
"I'm so sorry. I'm just going to be a few hours," said Hyukjae sincerely. He set the mug of caramel macchiato down on the table that Sungmin was sitting at. Hyukjae didn't know what kind of drink Sungmin would like. But this just seemed like something Sungmin would enjoy drinking.
Hyukjae usually never delivered coffee to customers at their tables; that wasn't part of his job. But he felt obligated this time. He had asked the other to come to work with him for a few hours before he took Sungmin to the studio to watch him practice. Hyukjae was much more intrigued now. He had promised Sungmin that he would let him watch him dance after all, and he just didn't want Sungmin to leave now and lose touch with him. And Sungmin did say that he didn't have anywhere to go, not right now, and Hyukjae didn't have enough cash lying around to help Sungmin get home at the moment, wherever that was, so maybe until he did, it was just the right thing to do to let Sungmin stay at his place…
"No, please don't apologize," said Sungmin, wide-eyed. "Thank you so much. I really appreciate this. Really."
Hyukjae nodded and watched as Sungmin carefully sipped from his mug. When Sungmin tasted it, his eyes grew wide.
"Wow," he said. Happiness spread across his face. "Did you make this?"
Hyukjae nodded, feeling his cheeks growing hot again.
"Thank you. It's delicious."
Hyukjae laughed, embarrassed. "Thanks. Um, enjoy," he said.
Sungmin nodded and turned to his drink again, and watching Sungmin look so, so happy, Hyukjae turned awkwardly and made his way back behind the counter. When he was safely behind it and out Sungmin's line of sight, he let out the breath he was holding and looked over at Sungmin.
He watched Sungmin sip from his cup, a fond smile appearing on his face, until a throat cleared from behind him. Hyukjae jumped and looked behind him to find Kyuhyun leaning against the wall, his arms crossed.
"What?" demanded Hyukjae.
"You are so in love with that guy," said Kyuhyun with a smirk.
"Shut up," retorted Hyukjae, but blushing bright red. "I'm just trying to be a decent human being."
"Sure," sang Kyuhyun smugly.
"You – " began Hyukjae angrily, but Kyuhyun just thrust a dishrag into Hyukjae's hands, seemingly unconcerned.
"Maybe you can work instead of swooning. That would make my life much easier," said Kyuhyun, then smirking at Hyukjae once more, stole a glance at Sungmin. "He is quite the looker, though, I don't blame you."
"Shut up and don't even think about it," growled Hyukjae. Kyuhyun smirked.
"Of course you're not in love with that guy," said Kyuhyun, then humming in the most annoying, irking, irritating way possible, turned to the coffee machine that he had to clean.
"Sorry it took so long," said Hyukjae, untying his apron. Sungmin put the newspaper down.
"No, I had a really good time," said Sungmin, genuinely looking delighted.
Hyukjae smiled in relief. "I'm going to go to the dance studio to train now, so if you – "
"Oh, by the way," said Sungmin, cutting Hyukjae off, but seemingly oblivious to the fact that he'd cut him off as he flipped through the pages of the newspaper. "I found something for you. It's a posting for a dance company," said Sungmin, pointing. "I don't know if you have more auditions coming up, but I just thought you could audition for this."
Hyukjae leaned in, curious. He didn't have auditions coming up, but the more, the better, he supposed. He had to force himself to pay attention as he drew in a breath and smelled Sungmin's sweet scent.
When he saw the posting, though, he goggled at Sungmin.
"You want me to audition for the National Contemporary Dance Company."
"Yeah," said Sungmin, his eyes twinkling.
"Sungmin – " began Hyukjae, unsure of how to explain it to him. "The National Contemporary Dance Company is the best dance company in the whole country. It's at the international level. People from all over the world try to get a spot in the company."
Hyukjae didn't get any reactions from Sungmin, so he continued.
"It's the most competitive company in the country. They have one opening maybe every couple of years, and the salary for that is – is much, much more than I expect to earn, ever, in my lifetime."
"But does it hurt to try?" said Sungmin. "Especially if you won't get another chance to audition until years later?"
Hyukjae opened his mouth to explain to him that it was a waste of time and that he would just be embarrassing himself if he went, and that there was no chance that he would ever make the company, but Sungmin was right. It doesn't hurt to try. Hyukjae bit his lip, thinking it over, then spoke uncertainly.
"Does it explain what the requirements are?"
It was a dance standard that every contemporary dancer knew. He remembered it as the piece that he spent months upon months trying to perfect, breaking down the technical components as he almost always did with these standards, and making sure he had fully completed that turn, had that extra extension in his fingers, and pointed his toes.
It had become second nature to him, and his body knew exactly what to do, but it had also become second nature to him to constantly remind himself of the details in his head anyway.
"Wow, that was – that was so good, Hyukjae," said Sungmin, looking impressed as Hyukjae finished a run-through of the piece.
"Thanks," he said shyly. He knew it was nowhere good enough to get into the National Contemporary Dance Company, but it still felt good to hear a compliment from Sungmin.
"What is it about?" asked Sungmin.
Hyukjae felt his heart sink as he realized that he hadn't done his job if Sungmin had to ask him what the dance was about; he hadn't been able to convey the message.
"So…" began Hyukjae reluctantly."I have a – a lover who has to leave me, physically. So it's a bunch of different feelings I'm supposed to portray. Regret and sadness, for sure, but also love and hope." Hyukjae sighed. "I have the theory down, anyway. The rest is all just pretend."
But at that, Sungmin laughed a little.
"You can't pretend you're in love," said Sungmin. "You can't fake love. Love is something that just - happens, naturally, and it's so beautiful, and you are so lucky that you get to express that with your body, Hyukjae."
"I've… never been in love," said Hyukjae, blushing.
"Oh," said Sungmin, looking crestfallen. "I thought… I thought you might…"
"Unless you count – " Hyukjae began, but then he stopped as he stopped himself from saying the next word: you.
Sungmin looked up, looking almost hopeful, but Hyukjae stopped himself.
He didn't know if this was love. He'd never been in it before, so he didn't know if this was love.
"Um – unless you count – um – my crush back in preschool."
Sungmin let out a small giggle, and Hyukjae looked down in embarrassment.
"Well, I'm in love," said Sungmin quietly and gently. "Right now."
Hyukjae stared at him as Sungmin walked closer to him. Hyukjae took an instinctive step forward as well.
"I didn't expect to fall in love with you," said Sungmin quietly.
"I – me neither," whispered Hyukjae.
"I didn't expect you to fall in love with me, either."
Hyukjae didn't say anything.
"And I am feeling all of regret and sadness that I am going to have to leave. But I am also feeling love and hope."
Hyukjae let out a breath and shook his head.
That was everything he wanted to say, and was feeling…
"And I think there are some other things that I can help you feel," said Sungmin.
He was feet, no, inches, no, a hair away from Hyukjae, and Hyukjae could hardly even breathe.
Sungmin's hand reached up to run over the side of Hyukjae's face, and Hyukjae did the same.
Hyukjae's eyes closed, and so did Sungmin's.
"Look," whispered Sungmin.
Hyukjae opened his eyes.
Sungmin held Hyukjae's hand in his own so that Hyukjae's palm was facing up. He held his other hand over Hyukjae's open one and curled the fingers of his free hand into his palms so that he made a gentle fist.
Sungmin eyes met Hyukjae's and Hyukjae's eyes travelled from the hand that Sungmin was holding up to Sungmin's sparkling, smiling eyes for a moment.
Then still looking into Hyukjae's eyes, Sungmin opened his fist slowly.
A small mound of sparkling stardust fluttered from Sungmin's fist to collect on Hyukjae's hand.
Hyukjae shook his head in disbelief.
"I – I – "
"I can't just make your wish come true," whispered Sungmin. "But I can help you."
And Hyukjae felt as their lips met for the first time.
He felt love.
And he knew.
He knew exactly how to dance this dance.
'Will you go with me to see if I got the spot?'
'No. I'm going to have to be gone as soon as you see it, Hyukjae. My job is done.'
'Then I don't want to see it.'
'Don't be silly. This is your dream. Your wish. I want you to achieve it.'
'I do too, but – but can't you stay?'
'I can't. But once you become a star that I know you'll be, you can come up to the sky and we will be together.'
Hyukjae had laughed at the exchange, but his heart had tugged as he realized that once he got back to his apartment, Sungmin would no longer be there.
'But maybe there will be a surprise waiting for you when you get back.'
Those last words that Sungmin had spoken was the only hope that Hyukjae had held on to as he approached the piece of paper taped to the glass doors of the building where he did his auditions, already knowing what it would read.
He had read 'Lee Hyukjae' in bold, certain letters and he knew he had done it, but his mind was drifting, knowing that as he read those words, Sungmin would be gone.
And now, he stood outside his apartment door, heart heavy that he would step into an empty flat, he was stalling before he opened the door. He finally took a deep breath and pushed it open, and as soon as he did, he began to laugh.
A house full of stardust greeted him.
He rushed through his apartment to his small balcony and stepped outside.
He looked up at the sky, and saw a sky full of stars.
And knowing that Sungmin was looking down on him, he closed his eyes and mouthed the words that he hadn't been able to before.
Hyukjae opened his eyes and looked up again.
A star twinkled.