Yongguk’s gaze began to unfocus, the pencil and off-white paper blurring shakily for a moment before he finally looked away, gaze first dropping on his untouched coffee before flickering up to look about the familiar cafe around him. His back hit the chair as he let himself relax, pencil falling from his fingertips and dropping with a small noise to the wooden table below. Lately, not even coming to his favorite cafe could offer up any inspiration, and his sketchbook and remained much too baren for comfort. It wasn’t as if this was going to hurt his career, most came in with tattoo designs pre-planned rather than choosing one of his originals anyways, but Yongguk couldn’t help but be unsettled by his abrupt lack of creativity. His doctor would just blame it on his panic disorder, and though Yongguk knew his spikes of anxiety caused him many struggles, artists block had never been one of them. Hell, sometimes the suffering even brought about his creativity in a desperate attempt to express what he hardly understood about himself.
With a sigh Yongguk reached for his coffee and finally took his first drink, body warming from the hot beverage and his mind easing up a bit from it’s angry torrent of thoughts. He should be trying to get his mind off this somehow, not sitting in a cafe and hoping the atmosphere would draw something out of him. Maybe Himchan was right for calling him a workaholic. He had an early shift tomorrow and it was already going to be difficult enough to shove himself in bed without overworking himself on top of everything else.
As Yongguk’s gaze flickered about the cafe, he gazed over each patron in turn, an amused smile tugging at his lips as a child took a drink from their hot cocoa only to pull away with whipped cream on the tip of their nose. The mother chuckled and cleaned it off, ruffling the child’s hair before turning back to her friend. Near the front sat a single customer absorbed in taking the perfect photo of their muffin and drink, they couldn’t seem to get the right angle, if the frustrated expression on their face was anything to go by. Next, Yongguk’s eyes fell on a couple just exiting, hands around each other tight as they kept up a whispered conversation with smiles on their faces. A small pang resounded in Yongguk’s chest at the sight, he’d never had the pleasure of experiencing a love quite like that. The few relationships he had never really got to the point of comfortable adoration that he’d seen between the couple leaving. Even Himchan had better luck in finding real love than Yongguk did, and Himchan wasn’t even looking for it. How unfair of fate.
Nearly ready to give up and leave, Yongguk looked over to the counter to ponder buying something to eat for his walk back home, but was a bit startled as his attention was caught by cotton candy hair instead. The barista that had served him was nowhere to be seen and in her place was a man with tan skin and comically bright hair, currently wiping down the counter. Yongguk allowed himself to watch the boy work for a few minutes, letting himself settle back into his seat as he followed fluid movements and studied plush lips and crinkled eyes. The man had a wonderful smile when greeting customers, Yongguk concluded. And somehow he didn’t look too bad with such an obnoxious hair color. Maybe it was the gold of his skin that allowed him to pull it off.
Hesitantly, Yongguk picked his pencil up and finally looked down to the off-white of his sketchbook. With slow movements he began to draw, glancing up every few moments for reference, wanting his work to accurately match the charismatic barista. If only he’d brought some colored pencils to bring the vibrance of that hair into the drawing.. Perhaps he’d try to go back and add that when he got home. As he scribbled down the details of the man, a content satisfaction bubbled within Yongguk. Sure it wasn’t any ideas for new tattoos but that was fine, any creativity was welcome at this point, and Yongguk found it a good exercise for him to draw realistic portraits when he could. He added a bit more detail to the lips of his drawing before looking up, yet instead of a profile of the man, their eyes caught.
With a kitten-like curl of the lips, the barista smiled, causing Yongguk’s heart to nervously palpitate. His hand stilled over the unfinished lips, guilt washing over him for drawing someone without permission. Still.. The urge to capture such a bright smile… Yongguk wished he could save a snapshot of it in his mind so he could draw it later, with endless time at his disposal. The chipper barista gave a nervous peace sign, holding it for a moment in a pose before getting back to work. Was that an acceptance? The dark haired artist couldn’t help but wonder if that had been a form of permission.. An offer of a pose as consolation he didn’t mind the stares. After a moment of consideration, Yongguk dropped his pencil back to the paper in a blank area and began drawing once more, sketching down the pose while it remained fresh in his mind.
Then next time the artist raised his read, the barista smiles cheekily before sticking his tongue out, another pose for Yongguk to scribble down on the off-white paper underneath his graphite stained fingertips. The process continued until a whole page was filled with drawings of the unnamed barista who seemed to find the poses to be a way of entertaining himself during his shift. Yongguk only paused a moment, then with a smile of his own, turned the page and began again.
The bell on the door chimed with both the entrance and exit of customers, and the artist still sat beside his forgotten coffee, drawing until his hand cramped from overuse, and even still urging on. It was as if all the creativity that was locked away was now spilling forth without reserve, all in the form of a vibraint boy. It wasn’t often that people became the muse of his work, Yongguk couldn't even recall the last time offhand. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy drawing people of course, but there were never many he found stunning enough to capture in utter realism. Caricatures, sure, he liked to draw mysterious and indiscript forms and play with anatomy, but models were never something he drew often. Today was full of the unexpected, it seemed.
His stiff fingers adjusted their hold on the pencil before dropping it down to the page, creating tufts of hair with his strokes and adding detail to happily scrunched eyes. After all of his messy doodles, Yongguk wanted to spend time on something more whole, and had begun work on a full page drawing of his new muse, choosing to capture a moment of the boys stunning smile. He was still deciding how he’d like to finish it, to leave it a pencil drawing or perhaps ink it, he couldn’t settle on either. He could trace the pencil drawing once home and do both, but he was never satisfied with any duplicate he made of an original. Especially when it came to drawing people. There was something so raw and pure of his first sketch, as if he’d captured a part of their soul within his gray strokes. Nothing could ever really compare. Maybe having a model to pose really did give an advantage, even if this time his model wasn’t exactly a planned piece of his work.
Lost in an artists daze, Yongguk noticed no passage of time, forgetting himself in the pleasant ambiance of the cafe around him. He needn't look up to gaze at the barista anymore, taking reference from his earlier doodles for the final piece. Aching fingers and wrist were a welcome pain after having been without creativity for so long, the burn almost comforting to him. A sign artists block had been stopped for now, at least until his current piece was finished.
Eventually, Yongguk reached completion on his work, slowing to make sure he captured each detail with the strokes of his pencil. Taking time to shade the contours of the strangers cheeks just right. Contentment settled in the artists chest, his hand pausing so he could study the work before him a moment, midnight eyes flickering over the paper in search of anything else that needed to be fixed. When their search turned up the need for no alterations, he finally set his pencil down, stretching his sore hand and letting pride seep through his tattooed chest. Maybe one or two lines could use a bit of definition, a tuft of hair could use more detail, but Yongguk was content to bask in his pride for the moment. How long had it been since he had finished something to this degree? Ah, he didn’t want to really consider that.
“Sorry to bother you, but I’m locking up.” A honey voice spoke, jolting Yongguk from his thoughts and back into reality. He finally looked up, seeing a now empty cafe, the windows outside showing the evening sky, different from the afternoon light that he’d prior seen past the large glass windows. Time had truly gotten away from him, the artist realized in a panic, finally letting his head turn towards the voice that had brought him out of his daze.
In front of him stood his muse, more stunning up close than Yongguk could have imagined.. He felt his heart stutter. The man offered a subtle smile, the amusement only curling his plush lips into a small crescent instead of showing the white of his teeth. The artist could feel longing for the glimmer of the man’s full smile, yet this amused twitch still was breathtaking in its own right. For a moment, the silence between the two men settled, both content in the contact off their gazes finally meeting in close quarters instead of across a bustling cafe. However, after a small laugh broke past the lips of the standing barista, Yongguk found himself grounded once more in reality.
Around him no longer hummed the conversations of patrons, or even the sounds of coffee machines and the ching of the cash register. Outside it had become dark, only a minuscule amount of light filtering in through the large front windows. Embarrassment flooded Yongguk as he realized he’d lost track of time, now sitting in a shop even after it had closed without even noticing it had done so. With realization flooding him, his eyes snapped back to the still amused barista and an apology broke past his lips.
“I’m sorry,” He finally spoke, standing from the comfortable cafe chair and shutting his sketchbook rather hastily. His pencil was grasped tight in one hand and his coffee still half full on the table, forgotten long ago. The barista didn’t answer the apology right away, instead letting out a giddy bit of laughter, his smile finally blooming further to show his glittering teeth. Yongguk felt his stomach flip, inwardly cursing for the cheesy predictability of his own reactions. What was he, a lovesick teenage boy? Sure he had always know himself to be a romantic, but to feel anything for someone so quickly was something new for even him. Admiring the man for his beautiful exterior was one thing, he was an artist, it was only natural to see and appreciate beauty everywhere he went, but to swoon at a simple laugh.. That was a bit much.
“It’s no problem, you looked too happy for me to ask you to leave so… I let you stay a bit after closing since it’s just me here for tonight.” The barista gave a sheepish smile at the admission, looking as if he had done something wrong and not just said one of the sweetest things Yongguk had perhaps ever heard. This man had let him stay past closing and was suddenly looking sheepish after admitting to the kind gesture. It was- beyond endearing. The full force of the implications that the two were all alone now, hadn’t quite hit him yet.
“Thank you.” Yongguk managed to answer, unsure what else to say to the expectant looking man before him. He’d always been a man of few words, looking in on conversations from the sidelines and never bringing himself in to the center of a discussion unless his passions drew him into a deep conversation or debate. “ I’ll let you close up.” He muttered, turning towards the door and taking a step towards the outside. Perhaps once he got home, he could finish up his drawing more accurately now that he’d seen his muse up close. He’d need to get home rather quick, for the memory to be fresh in his mind and most accurate. Before Yongguk could take another step towards the exit however, he felt a hand gently grab at the junction of his elbow. He could almost hardly feel the touch, but it was enough to stop his footsteps and get his attention, head turning to gaze over his shoulder at the rather bashful looking barista.
“I-um… Would you mind if I see your drawings? I’ve been curious ever since you started drawing me.” He spoke, looking up to meet Yongguk’s curious eyes through his long lashes. The artist could practically feel his heart stop, not only from the touch still lingering on his arm, but from the question as well. He had almost forgotten about their earlier exchange, too flustered at being face to face with the very man he had been drawing to think of how things had ended up like this in the first place. He parted his lips as if to deny, but hesitated a moment as his eyes danced over the barista’s features. Perhaps he at least owed that, he had been allowed to stay long after closing, and given adorable poses to sketch by the barista himself… It wasn’t really a stretch to say he at least owed his model a look at what they had inspired. Yongguk let out a shaky breath, turning himself to face the barista with a now gentle smile adorning his lips.
“I- they’re only sketches. I planned to finish when I got home.” He spoke softly, handing over the sketchbook with a hesitant gesture, letting the outstretched limb drop to his side nervously as his works were gently taken from him. It was silent, apart from the flipping of pages. Neither made move to speak, eyes both glued to the pages of the leatherbound sketchbook. One with wonder, the other anxiety. Yongguk watched as the barista’s eyes scanned over each pose, each page. Pages decorated with plush lips and kitten eyes. A blush of embarrassment prickled it’s way at Yongguk’s cheeks, but he swallowed it down and let the sketches be studied, even the final of the bunch. This is what he got for drawing people, he supposed. A short giggle pulled Yongguk free of his anxious musings, dragging his gaze from the sketchbook and back up to the strangers beautiful features, currently curled in amusement. Feeling the gaze on him, the barista looked up and met Yongguk’s confused expression, smile turning a tad sheepish.
“I’m glad you enjoyed my poses-” He spoke in a soft voice, a blush coloring his tanned cheeks in a way Yongguk wished he had captured earlier. “I was worried I was just posing for nothing… ” A nervous pause, sketchbook now closed and clutched against a coffee stained apron. “Maybe I could- Pose again for you sometime?” Yongguk could hardly believe his own ears, wondering if he had fallen asleep when drawing and this was some caffeine-induced dream. Nonetheless, he let himself smile, gummy and bright, and perhaps the laugh that left his lips was the first he’d made in months. Sure he wasn’t one to draw people often, but with another opportunity to sketch out dazzling smiles and cotton candy hair, how could he refuse?
“I’d like that.” He breathed, and it almost seemed to pass by in a blur as a number was scribbled onto the corner of an sketch-filled page. Yongguk still felt warm even when stepping out into the bitter evening winds, looking back through the window to give a wave a final goodbye, a shy smile given to him in return. It was only when he found himself leaned against the inside of his apartment door that Yongguk felt himself sink back into reality, head coming out of the clouds, if only by a few inches. He paused in his giddy bliss, thinking back to the conversation and realizing with a slow shame, he hadn’t remembered to ask the barista’s name. Or even look at his name tag for that matter, too distracted by his features and expressions. With an embarrassed groan, Yongguk slid the sketchbook out from under his arm, flipping through pages until he found digits scribbled in the corner of a page. He smiled, lips curling once more into a gummy smile.
Once again it seemed the barista- Daehyun, had saved him again. First from artist block, and now from his own social ineptitude. Jung Daehyun. What a beautiful name, fit for a beautiful barista. Maybe tonight he wouldn’t need to ring up Himchan in order to calm himself enough for sleep. Maybe the smile of a certain Jung Daehyun would be enough.