Length: 19,000..and counting
Genre: Romance, Angst (?)
Warnings: Too many narratives…?
Disclaimer: There’s a ton of reference here about angels. But like any other story about them, I made my own rules, symbolisms, and mixed pedagogies with my reality. EXO belongs to themselves, propriety-wise to SM I think, story belongs to me.
Minseok tried to live his life even when Lu Han was not there. He tried to return to his routines of waking up every morning, eating breakfast with Chanyeol, getting his cup of Americano and chatting a bit with Jongin at The Beans, meeting his deadlines, signing up for new accounts, and returning home to sleep only to wake up every time wishing that the bedroom next to his had Lu Han sleeping in it too. And he would lie there in that empty bed wishing that when he wakes up the next morning, his love would be back.
But he doesn’t and for the next thousand days it was a painful torture for Minseok.
He almost gave up halfway.
He found himself standing on the ledge of the rooftop of their building, looking at the vast expanse of the city skyscrapers. Below him were cars speeding up in the dead of the night.
Minseok felt so sad that he was willing to do anything to get Lu Han back. If this would force Lu Han back to him, he was willing to dip a toe or two between life and death. It was wrong he knew; he shouldn’t tease death but Minseok was desperate. He was wretched and lonely and dying inside and all he really wants is a glimpse of Lu Han or his voice in his head like he did before.
But Lu Han wasn’t speaking in his head, nor was his image appearing like he had hoped. There was no one, no one that could save him.
And just as he was about to let go again of his humanity, a hand clasped around his wrist and he looked back and saw another angel who was rebirthed in humanity.
“Please don’t do it, Hyung,” Sehun had pleaded. And Minseok had cried. He wailed in despair as Sehun helped cross the wall and he had sobbed in his hands when they sat down on the cold floor.
“I’m sorry, Sehun.”
“There, there,” the younger soothed the broken man beside him. It was breaking his heart too because he had seen this before. In Ethereal when he decided to be rebirth.
When a Guardian chooses to fall – or in the Guardian-turned-human’s small circle’s term, to be rebirth – he is sent back to Ethereal when he leaves humanity. He will live there for another phase of his life – just to make sure he will know what he’s leaving behind. In his free time (which in the case of Sehun was a lot because what a Guardian does even in Ethereal was look after his ward) he could still try and see, however, what he has also left behind in humanity. During this phase, Sehun was able to see how wrecked Jongin was, and how he so much resembled what Minseok was feeling now.
“It’s unfair to us, Sehunnie.” The rebirthed human remembered how Jongin had cried out in frustration in that dark, dark night when he had finally remembered who he was before he chose to be rebirth. “You don’t know how it feels to long for someone and miss someone and you’re not even sure if he’s coming back. God, Sehun, I missed you so much.”
And yet he never mentioned to Jongin how he had also longed for the other man in Ethereal. How every single day he was watching, he was hoping to be rebirth sooner. How every single waking moment he would talk to Joonmyeon and ask his Saint when it was his time. But apart from these frustrations is the fear that he could never remember. That he would remain an empty half of someone who was forever searching and waiting.
Sehun sighed and silently thanked everyone who had been part of his – of their – journey. Now, it was time to pay it forward.
“I’ll take you home, Hyung. You should rest.”
And Minseok nodded and he was faced yet again with the same routine and the biting reality that Lu Han is not even close to returning.
Three years without Lu Han, and Minseok had fallen into a life that’s getting used to the emptiness. And Minseok was beginning to feel scared that he might never meet his love again. But Minseok shoves the thought out as he remembered what Lu Han said before the symptoms of his leaving has gotten worse.
“Remember that every passing day without me gets you closer to the day I will finally return.”
And so he waited until the day they finally met again.
“Damn it I’ll be late! Can you please let us out first before you push yourself in?!” Lu Han shouted amidst the other people already shouting in the rush hour of Seoul Station’s subway. Hundreds of people wanted to get on the train and Lu Han was squished in between two huge males only two steps away from the platform.
When he did manage to get out, he was huffing and puffing and his shirt was rumpled at the chest and ugly lines run down his sleeves. He really shouldn’t have taken the train, but it was faster than the bus and he was already late as it is. After attempting to smoothen down his shirt and running a hand through his hair – he forgot to put gel on, for pete’s sake – he began scrambling out of station and into the bustling city that is Seoul.
Lu Han had prepared for it. For three years he prepared for his rebirth, readied himself to fit in with humanity, and planned to live the life that they have. He couldn’t remember exactly why but he knew there was a purpose. He was supposed to meet someone but he was unsure when and where and who that someone was. So Lu Han lived his life while waiting.
When they met Lu Han knew he was special. They were alone in the elevator and the man kept looking at him, first stealing glances, then straight out staring.
“Lu Han?” the man had said along with the elevator ding that signalled Lu Han’s floor.
He looked back at the man apologetically and stepped out of the elevator before hurriedly heading for his interview.
And the image of the man never left Lu Han’s head. The whole day he was thinking he might have seen him before, but he couldn’t put his finger on where or how or when.
Just that he must have seen him before.
It was him.
Minseok was sure.
It was Lu Han.
He couldn’t be wrong.
But the next time Minseok saw him, he didn’t approach.
Instead, he let everything fall into place, like Lu Han did when they first met. It was excruciatingly hard, waiting. But he knew it would be all worth it.
The fourth time Minseok saw him, he was in rugged pants and a plain shirt, walking into the same coffee shop they met at years ago.
Minseok had followed him inside and wondered how their two other friends would react if they see him.
And it was Sehun who noticed first. But all he did was tap Jongin and pull him to the back room. When the older returned, his eyes were searching. But before he could see Lu Han, he saw Minseok first and he managed to pull a sad smile.
Jongin manned the cashier and he managed to not act so surprised around Lu Han. But Minseok thought he has done this before. And containing excitement now over a friend is much easier than containing it for a lover.
“Hi,” Jongin addressed his new customer. “What will you have today?”
Lu Han gave Jongin a once over and scrunched his nose – that action so very familiar to Minseok when his lover was trying to remember something. “Uhm, can I get a caramel macchiato please, double shot of dark espresso roast, non-fat milk and one and half pump of vanilla. Make it iced in medium, please. It’s terribly hot outside.”
A gasp escaped Minseok’s mouth and he bit his lips to stop himself from crying. Once Jongin has handed the change to Lu Han, he turned to Minseok and motioned for the older man to sit at his usual spot. Minseok did and he fought the entire urge to touch Lu Han when he passed him by the counter.
Sehun emerged from the back room and went behind the espresso machine. He smiled carelessly at Lu Han as he tried to engage the other man in conversation.
“I haven’t seen you before, are you new in this neighbourhood?”
“Yeah,” Lu Han answered. “I just started working yesterday at the building across the street.”
“Oh really, Mr –“ Sehun turned the cup he was holding for too hide his familiarity, and read the name he already knew. “Mr. Lu? What do you do?”
“I teach Chinese,” Lu Han beamed, and Minseok’s heart constricted. He never knew Lu Han could speak Chinese, let alone at a level that could teach the foreign language. “It’s a language center, a bit out of place in that business building across the street, but it’s pretty convenient for the professionals who work there. Oh sorry, I think I might said unnecessary things-”
“No, don’t worry, Mr. Lu. We enjoy talking with our patrons,” Sehun smiled. “Well, here’s your coffee. Enjoy the rest of the day, Mr. Lu!”
All Minseok could really do was look at his boyfriend walk out of the coffee shop without sparing him a glance. It was odd and uncomfortable. And it was painful when he was so used to Lu Han giving only him the attention in a room full of people. It was worse than not having him around. Because now he was there, and yet Minseok felt like he never really existed.
Minseok had tried to prepare himself for this, for the shock, for the loneliness, for the pain. But the reality is nobody can measure the pain of actually being in this situation. Nobody could have prepared him for this. Nobody.
“Hyung, are you okay?”
“Do you want me to take you home?” It was Sehun’s voice and yet Minseok couldn’t see him. The tears have flooded his eyes and all he could make out was Lu Han’s retreating figure, vanishing in the throng of people crossing the street.
“No, please, Sehun, please I need Lu Han back. Oh god, he’s finally here and yet – and yet-”
Minseok scrambled to his feet, toppling the coffee table beside him and upsetting the couch he was sitting on. Everything was buzzing in Minseok’s head and his heart was hurting and he couldn’t just let Lu Han go. Not when he’s here, within his reach. No-
“No, Hyung, please!” It was Jongin’s strong built that had Minseok pinned to his place. “It’s not yet the right time. You’ll scare him!”
And he was brought to the back room away from the prying eyes of the customers. Sehun was left to handle the bewildered onlookers as Jongin half dragged half pulled the broken man.
“This isn’t the first time, Jongin, please-”
“Hyung, please calm down. Let’s talk this over first. You know how it will end up if you miss the right timing.” Jongin’s large hands are still on his shoulders, the younger man towering him. And he was helplessly pushed to the couch he had last seen almost three years ago. “Thank you. Now please, tell me what happened. How did you see him? When did you see him?”
“I saw him last week, we rode the elevator together. And I’ve tried to follow him ever since. Today is the fourth time I’ve seen him. He looks so happy, Jongin. I – I don’t know what to do.”
“We can’t interfere,” the younger man soothed as he gently patted Minseok’s back, gently squeezing his shoulders in emphasis. “That will be the worst.”
Minseok slowly nodded. He understood these things. He knew these things by heart. Lu Han had told him the rules before he vanished and they have talked about what Minseok was supposed to do. But seeing the man he loved – loves, still – it was enough for Minseok to forget everything, all the warnings and reminders just so he could hug his angel back to his life.
“Remember, everything must fall back into place at its own time.”
It doesn’t take long for Lu Han to notice him, the man in the expensive suit.
He’d see him at The Beans every Friday, at the same corner booth near the counter. He’d ride with him in the elevator every Monday night, or whenever he has to stay in the center late for extra lessons.
It took longer to ask for the man’s name, from the barista who was the first friendly person in this new city.
“You mean Mr. Kim?” Sehun’s eyes have that lazy twinkle in them, like he knows some little secret. “Minseok hyung has that place reserved every Friday.”
“He’s a regular here, and we sort of became good friends since way back.”
Lu Han nodded, smiling slightly to himself. He doesn’t see the man – Kim Minseok – today. He sort of did wish he wouldn’t cross paths with him when he had finally put together the courage to ask for the name.
“You know,” Sehun had called back when he turned around to leave. “He’s a good man, if you’re interested-”
“Sehun – we’re out of Robusta. Can you get some from the back room, please?”
Lu Han’s heart almost dropped when Sehun gave him a long look before disappearing behind another door. He cursed inside his head. What could the young man have told him if he were interested? And so Lu Han dismissed it for yet another day.
When Lu Han met the man again, it was well after he had practically begged Sehun to introduce them. The younger man was reluctant at first, always looking for signs from other boy from behind the cashier, but after hushed conversations and small squeezes on the shoulder, the other boy nodded and Sehun gave him a wide smile.
“Jongin said it should be the right time,” Sehun had told him while prepping his usual caramel macchiato. “I’m not exactly sure what he meant but he relented anyway.”
“Jongin – you guys are really close?” Lu Han had asked throwing in a bill at the tip box. “I mean I know for sure you own this place, but it seems like you listen to him a lot, too.”
Sehun beamed at him which made Lu Han raise an eyebrow. He knew that smile; he had seen that smile countless times before. And then part of his missing memories came with “I lived with you, didn’t I?”
It was as if Sehun knew this was coming as he nodded profusely, going around the counter and snaking his arms around Lu Han in a tight embrace.
“For a while, but yes!”
“W-w-wait up, Sehunnie?” he could feel the younger boy nod on his shoulders. “Whoa. I can’t believe it. Finally, someone I know! Wait, you’re -”
“I’m no longer that,” Sehun finally pushed himself off the older man, giving him another long look. “Listen, you’re running late, Hyung. Meet me back here after your classes. We can catch up? Maybe we can also try to hook you up with Minseok Hyung.”
To say that Lu Han was excited was an understatement. He was humming all sorts of tunes at work, and he was extra patient with the grumpy old professional from two floors below who was always interrupting his classes.
He had been transferring cities after cities in the last year trying to find someone who would have a clue in his past life as a human and he had finally found one in this city. He was never going to leave.
He’s finally close to home.
When Lu Han’s late class was finally over, he quickly gathered his things and sent a quick message to Sehun (the younger boy had managed to write his number on the receipt this morning while Lu Han fumbled for his coffee – his life, really – amidst all the excitement surrounding them). It was almost eleven in the evening and he was surprised Sehun even confirmed he was still in The Beans.
Despite running low on energy, Lu Han was still able to pull himself together when the elevator doors opened and a tired-looking man in an expensive suit stood inside the elevator and gaped almost at the same time as Lu Han did.
“Good evening,” the man had said. He smiled gently and moved a little to the side to let Lu Han in.
When the elevator hit ground floor, the man nodded at him and stepped out first. Lu Han stared at Kim Minseok and wondered if he should approach the man, or follow him, or jump him. Lu Han shook his head and decided to risk rejection and take the first move – which meant following the man up to the building’s exit before putting up the courage to approach.
“Hey – HEY, Mr. Kim?”
Kim Minseok stopped just as the glass doors closed behind him. Lu Han ran almost hitting the double doors, thankful that he was already out of it before the executive turned at the sound of his name.
“Sorry,” Lu Han heaved as he tried to straighten out his tie and push back his satchel. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to holler out like that. I was just wondering if – if – if you mind having a cup of coffee with me?”
Kim Minseok looked at him and wonder painted across his face as he tried to digest what Lu Han was suggesting. “Are you okay?” He asked instead.
Lu Han puffed out his chest. Of course he’s going to ask if you’re okay, it’s almost midnight and you’re asking him for coffee? He must think you’re a complete nutcase- “Yes – yes I’m fine. Sorry to bother you. Please, just ignore me. I – I’ll go now-”
“I think The Beans is still open,” Minseok said as he tilted his head to the other side of the street. The young instructor beamed and nodded enthusiastically – a little too eager had he seen himself from another perspective.
Lu Han could see the silent exchanges between Sehun and Jongin from behind the cashier out of the corner of his eyes. Kim Minseok had been sitting in silence in front of him, trying hard to avert his gaze every now and then when Lu Han noticed him staring for too long. For the most part, Lu Han didn’t mind. He was enjoying the attention but he also wished he could come up with a decent topic for them to talk about.
Lu Han couldn’t exactly tell him he used to be an angel. The man would think he’s even crazier than he already was. His job was out of the topic because clearly Kim Minseok has a way more interesting career than he has – although he had no idea what the other man does for a living.
And so “Mr. Kim?”
Minseok looked like he was pulled out of a trance as he blinked twice before smiling. Lu Han caught his heart beating twice as fast. “Minseok. Please call me Minseok.”
“Minseok,” Lu Han rolled the name on his tongue and it sounded comfortable, it felt familiar. A flitting white and then it was gone along with the sound. “Minseok. Do you always go home this late?”
The executive leaned on the table, pushing aside his cup of coffee. He rested his elbows on the table and clasped his hands together. “Most nights, especially when we have a project like now. How about you…?”
“Lu Han – please call me Lu Han,” the instructor smiled. “I was pulled in for extra classes tonight. And I didn’t have much to do anyway, so I agreed.”
Lu Han learned that the man had been working for the same company for almost eight years, and that was how he was able to climb up the ladder. He was a man of few words, Lu Han noticed, and he was more of the listening type, always bringing the conversation back to Lu Han and his story.
Lu Han shared he has always been a wandering soul, staying at a city until he was able to move on to his next point of interest. He stayed particularly long in China – where he was born – that was why he could speak the language. He left the part that he was actually born as an angel and was only rebirth to gain this identity. That would probably creep Minseok out.
It took them three whole hours of exchanges before Lu Han felt a tap on his shoulder. Jongin apologized to both men and told them politely that the shop has to close for the night. When Lu Han looked around, a few of the lights at the other end of the room had been turned off and Sehun was already sleeping in one corner, where the chairs weren’t upturned yet. Minseok apologized for extending their stay and he led Lu Han outside.
“I’ll be back tomorrow, Jongin,” Minseok said before bidding the young man goodbye.
They looked at each other and their suppressed laughter echoed in the almost empty street. It’s funny how this area looked bustling in the morning and ghostly after midnight. Suddenly, the wind felt too cold and Lu Han shuddered unconsciously.
“Should we start walking?” Minseok asked, unwrapping the scarf from his neck. “Here.” He looped the fabric around Lu Han’s and the angel thanked him through gritted teeth.
“My bus stop’s up the hill. I should be able to get there in one piece before I freeze.”
Minseok chuckled and Lu Han felt his heart thump. It was sweet music to his ears, and he wondered if these fluttering feelings and the flitting white flashes were connected. But before he could think too much of it, Minseok pulled at his hand and placed them in his coat pocket. Lu Han felt his cheeks burn.
And it didn’t matter that this was going way too fast for Lu Han. It felt easy, it felt comfortable, it felt real. It felt like he had known Minseok all his life. And he didn’t want to let go of that familiarity just because of the bugging feeling at the back of his head. He pushed it aside together with his anxiety that he will never find the person he was looking for. Because Minseok was here. And he was hoping, wishing and praying that Minseok would be the one he had been searching for all these time.
“How is it going?”
Lu Han perched himself on the table next to the counter as he waited for Sehun to finish the orders for the morning. “What do you mean?”
“Your search for that one person? Isn’t that why you were rebirth?”
Lu Han immediately stood up and shushed the younger boy. Sehun just guffawed at the older man’s over the top defence mode.
“I haven’t really thought about that in a while,” Lu Han admitted. “I’ve been… to say the least, caught up with other things.”
“And what about your memories? Oh sh-” the barista immediately closed his mouth as he fumbled for tissues at the counter to wipe at the spilt milk. “I mean, you have remembered me, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, and I don’t remember having read we can curse out loud even if we’ve already joined humanity.”
“We’re no longer governed by rules, Lu Han Hyung,” Sehun beamed as he pulled another tall cup for Lu Han’s drink. “It’s just old habit.”
“But to answer your question, I haven’t remembered everything about you. I still couldn’t remember how you ended up with him,” Lu Han nodded at Jongin’s direction “Or what happened after I worked here, and most especially, why I ended up becoming human in the first place.”
“It will all fall into place, you know that. Here.”
Lu Han grabbed the cup and frowned at the words written on his cup.
“Really? Little deer?”
“I used to call you that. Ring any bells?”
The older man shook his head no.
“You’ll eventually remember. Now tell me about Minseok Hyung. I’ve never heard about you guys since that night two months ago. Jongin never told me anything although I think they’ve been talking.”
Lu Han settled back into his seat. It was a Sunday and he didn’t have any class. He did, however, have other plans for the day aside from chatting with Sehun who was already roasting the third bag of beans since opening.
“We’re enjoying each other’s company,” Lu Han said slowly, and a smile crept across his lips. “I must have met him before. He’s very familiar and I like him. A lot.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m really happy for you, Hyung.”
“I just think we’re going too fast, you know?”
“If you aren’t going anywhere – which I hope you’re here for good – you have a lifetime to know each other. It doesn’t have to be over night, or over a course a three dates. You’re part of humanity now. Just enjoy it.”
It all came crashing down on him. First, slow like the first snow falling from the sky, then fast like the rain in an angry storm. There are hundreds – thousands of memories outside this one. He was first an angel – he knew that – then he was human. He’d forgotten things in between but now he remembered.
Lu Han woke up from a nagging feeling in his chest. He pulled at his cloak from behind the door and shrugged it on. He put his boots on and his eyes wandered at the blinking light of his phone. 2:30am He shouldn’t be up at this ungodly hour but he couldn’t go back to sleep either with this niggling feeling.
He knew this city by heart. And as he made a turn, he found the same chapel he ended up in a year ago when he made his return to humanity, with a new identity, a new background, a new life. As he made his way up the aisle, the images of angels from the ceiling caught his attention. These were intricate images based on what human knew of angels – what imagery they want angels to possess. But angels, like Lu Han used to be, didn’t exactly look like those. They were part human, part animal, with wings behind their back and bright halos above their heads.
“How can I run away from someone as beautiful as you? Granted this is not your true form… I doubt you can look half as bad.”
He ran out of the chapel into the cold December streets. He remembered. The face, the voice, the image was slowly forming. He reached out a hand as he ran the cold streets. There it was. The flitting image of the person he was looking for. And as if rejoicing with him, the first snow fell from the sky. Everything was a blur and soon he found himself standing in front of an apartment door. He had known this place the past year.
But he had known it way before that. He lived here, together with the man he loved – and the best friend he adored.
Lu Han pressed the buzzer and waited, white puffing out of his mouth as he exhaled. Nothing.
He pressed the buzzer again.
The door unlocked. He held his breath.
Minseok peered, his eyes half closed but his lips stretched into a smile. It was three in the morning, and this man is smiling, sleep immediately doused from his eyes as he set them on a pair of doe-eyed ones his guest owned.
“Lu Han, what hap-”
And Lu Han jumped him. And Lu Han kissed Minseok, and Minseok kissed him back.
“It’s you. It’s you!” he whispered at his love’s ear. “Kim Minseok, you’re the one.”
“Yes, Sweetheart,” the man giggled in his ears, heart beating against his chest. “You’re back.”
There’s no end, only a continuum.
And that closes this story. Thank you so much for being with this one until the end. :)
Lots of XiuHan love,