Perhaps it should have been a sign, the rainbowness of Can's life. His hair burns red, singes purple. His dreams? All rimmed in hazes of blues and greens. His premonitions come sharp with the scent of an orange. His sister is Lemon, lemony yellow.
Still, waking up in bed with a man. Waking up in bed with a man staring at him. Waking up in bed with a man no longer staring at him but kissing him. These are not things that Can's prepared for. When he's rolled underneath, with lips still kissing him in languid slides like they could do this all day long, with hands getting handsy, Can's brain finally connects - this isn't a dream. This broadcasts bright and clear, no tinges of blues or greens about it. This is real.
"Can? Where did you go? Can! Cantaloupe? Gucci's daddy?"
Can almost loses his hold on the invisibility spell. Daddy??
Then a dog barrels into the room, black and white and perfect, and Can lets out a sigh.
Not that he's any less lightheaded. He's not in his room. He's apparently daddy to a dog. And he's gay? Bi? At least he seems to be loved by some guy, some guy he doesn't know. Some guy with a ring on his finger. Fuck.
Can knows better the second time around. The guy is named Tin. The guy likes him. Only, maybe he's dead wrong. Cause this version of Tin looks like he wants to fight him. Or at least push him up hard against a vertical surface. Or a horizontal surface. Any surface.
Their friends Ae and Pete sit between them, buffers. But even so, Can feels the weight of each of Tin's glances like they're hands, like they're lips, pressing hot to his cheeks. Pressing hot everywhere. His hair's touched pink by the time he makes an excuse, abandons lunch.
The third Tin - Can should theoretically be more prepared for him. He's met Tin twice by now. He knows the outline of his nose, the press of his lips, the shape of his eyes, and the weight of his gaze. He knows the sound of his voice, even the rhythm of his breaths in sleep. He knows things about Tin. Like the fact that he loves dogs. Like the fact that dogs love him.
So really he shouldn't be surprised when Gucci runs off and doggy kisses the guy like he's starved for attention, like Can's never petted him a day in his life, that betrayal dog!
"Hi," Tin says, almost shy, and Can's thrown. This isn't fiancé-Tin or fight-me Tin. This is just Tin. Tin of his world.
"Are you doing okay?" Can barely has time to blink before Tin's hand is on his arm, a squeeze wrapped around him gentle. "It's going to be okay, Can. You jumped universes twice now. I believe you can do it again. You can get back, Can."
Can does the first thing he can think of. He levitates Gucci's tennis ball and gives it a twirl.
Tin's eyes widen and his cheeks flush.
"Surprise! I'm back."
Gucci barks in delight. And Can flicks his wrist, sends the ball flying for his baby to catch.
"You're Canny-Can!" Tin blurts and Can watches as the mortification sets in, pinches the apples of his cheeks red.
"I don't mind the name." Can grabs Tin's wrist and shakes him a little. "It's fine. It's better than Cantaloupe."
"Nothing's better than Cantaloupe." Tin fires back and Can regrets ever comforting him.
"Oh yeah? You want to become a cantaloupe?" Not that Can knows the spell, if the spell even exists. But Tin doesn't know that.
"No." Tin backs up a step. And how unfair is it that even now Tin looks like a model, like he's David and The Thinker rolled into one, chiseled but not shallow. "What else can you do? Ada seemed to know everything. Do you know everything too?"
Can quirks up a corner of his mouth, charmed despite himself. "Ada didn't win the spells bee three years in a row for nothing. I know almost as much as she does, so I guess that means I know almost everything?"
Gucci runs back, the ball gripped between his grin and leans into Tin. "Okay, Mr. Almost Everyspell," Tin pats Gucci like he's the daddy. "Show me something?"
Can purses his lips. He's always up for a demonstration. Magic's fun. It's like playing soccer, just with different muscles and different mind-maps. Still, it's almost lunch time. "Magic likes me better on a full stomach. Are you hungry? I'm hungry."
"You probably want more than a lollipop?"
Can nods furiously. Lollipop! What kind of lunch? "Mmm! Pork skewers sound good. And fried rice. And something cold! Smoothies? Strawberry! Or Banana? Strawberry banana!"
Tin smiles at him, this slow bloom of a thing taking up the whole of his face, and wow, how is Can wholly unprepared for this, for this Tin?
But then again, one is not two is not three.
"Let's go. I know a place." Tin leads and Gucci follows him, tail a-wagging. If Can follows too, it's totally because of Gucci. He's a daddy now. There are responsibilities. Yummy dishes and responsibilities.
Ada brings it up first.
"You and Tin are friends now, right?"
Can nods before he thinks about it. They are. They're hanging out as much as Can and Good hang out almost, and Can has soccer with Good. Tin comes out to watch them practice sometimes, in his immaculate dress pants, his pressed shirts and ties. At least he doesn't look too out of place with Pete there dressed the same.
"Invite him to Ae's birthday bash! Pond said to invite everyone. I'm going to invite Rose. You haven't met her yet."
Can's already mid-texting Tin, so he nods. "Yeah 'kay, I'll ask him." He still sends the horror clip first because he likes sharing these and Ada doesn't like horror. Good doesn't appreciate it enough. Tin, on the other hand, makes dry comments like: 'I like the rocking chair. My great aunt has one.' Or: 'That crash sounded like someone jumped into a pool of Lego and tripped on a round piece.' Or: 'That's some mood lighting. Who puts on murder lighting for dinner?'
Pond put up a very Pond lighting for the party, this almost inappropriate shade of red.
It makes Rose look even more like her namesake, gently rounded and positively rosy. And when she weaves her magic, Can swears she glows. Ada's taken with her and Can can't blame her.
The fact that Tin keeps looking her way too… well, it makes Can all itchy. Good thing Pond's supplied lots to eat and drink and lots of distractions too: a live band and even a pinata.
Can throws back a few more drinks than maybe he should.
Ada downs quite a few herself. "Rose is the one who taught me the truth spell. She put it on me earlier. Here, ask me anything." But before Can can think of a question, she blurts, "I like her. Rose."
"Mm," Can hums, non-committal. "Rose is cool."
Ada scoffs. "Oi no, cool is when that kid Kev levitated a whole bathtub's worth of milk and mixed in Corn Pops in midair. Rose is spectacular."
Can's brain moseys through the thought process. "You're spectacular. You're not jealous of her, are you?"
"A little bit. But more like in awe?"
"More like you want to kiss her than you want to be her?"
"Exactly." Ada slaps a hand over her mouth.
She hugs him for a long time after that. "Your magic's chaotic fantastic too," she swears. And Can thinks yeah, maybe that's part of the problem. They have magic in common and some days it feels like they only have magic in common. Ada hates soccer and while she likes dogs just fine, she prefers birds. Because they can fly and that's magical to her. Ada's just all magic all the time, intense and borderline obsessive like Rose seems to be.
"Does she like you? Like that?" Can still worries, because five years of friendship and half a year of dating adds up to something. He'd ask Good the same thing.
Ada shakes her head. "I don't know."
"Put the truth spell back on her. Or teach me so I can put it on her myself. I'll even ask for you! Is it wrong to wingman your ex?"
Ada snorts and swats at him. "Shut up. Stop being so nice, Canny-Can. It's making me feel guilty. Even though you totally like Tin, don't even lie."
"You're still one of my best friends, Ada. You're the Good I would kiss."
"Shut it, loser." Ada shoulder bumps him, all affection, and yeah, they're going to be okay.
Can's hair hasn't tipped pink even once since he's been back. He's still doing magic, but half the time now it's for Gucci's entertainment or for Tin's. He thinks he's probably trying to impress Tin.
He's definitely trying to impress Gucci.
"That was cool, huh?"
Tin plucks the green dog treat out of the air and inspects it. "Are you trying to get him to hate treats?"
"I can make it purple!"
Tin arches a brow. "What color was it originally?"
"Brown? Something boring. Oh! I should try polka dots!"
Tin offers the treat to Gucci and Gucci chomps it down quick before Can can kill his appetite.
"I think brown's a good color. Your eyes are brown. Coffee's brown."
"Coffee's coffee. I'm just me."
"I like you too."
Can drops the boring brown treats, all ten of them.
Tin looks un-contrite. "Too soon?"
Gucci looks radiant. Then busy.
"You're making him fat."
"I can make us fat too. Do you want to go grab dinner?"
Good takes his time with most things. And even Good gets around to asking Can about Tin.
"Are you... boyfriends now?"
Can yanks down his clean shirt and splutters. "Oi Good. What boyfriend? What are you talking about? Who has a boyfriend? Ae and Pete? They're boyfriends." He slams his locker shut for sound effect.
"So… no? You're just… dating?"
Can waves his arms. "We're not dating! It's called hanging out."
Good looks unimpressed. "Do you... like him?"
Can slumps back against the locker door. "I don't know."
Good blinks at him, slow and goldfish-like, and Can's never won a staring contest in his life, nevermind against Good.
"I think I do? But I don't know if it's because I feel like I should because the other Cans did or if I actually do."
"Are you… going to… find out?"
"Stop… talking… to him… for a couple… days. See if… you miss him."
Can didn't think it would work. What's a couple of days? He's lost hours playing video games before or trying out new spells. This isn't going to prove anything.
He's antsy by the fifth hour of mindful avoidance. He's beaten Good at this video game for the sixth time tonight and he's getting bored. Tin's much better at this. Tin would kick his ass and make his (radiant) ugly victory face and then offer Can a brownie and milk.
"Are you… thinking…"
"No! Let's watch a movie. I'm going to get some snacks."
There's a rocking chair in this horror film too. Good eats his chips and slow-sloth blinks at the screen, making zero commentaries.
"Do you like the rocking chair?"
Good looks at him like he's gone nuts. "I wouldn't… go anywhere… near that… house."
By the second day, Can has to admit Good's on to something. Saturday lunch without Tin hasn't been a thing for a while now. Can doesn't see how he's supposed to not miss him.
"No! This curry rice is so good, Good. Have you tried it with the chicken?"
Good just smirks at him and steals his chicken. His best friend is the worst friend.
At dinner, Good kicks him under the table. "You… miss… him." He doesn't phrase it as a question anymore because he's caught on.
Can chomps down a mouthful of watermelon and doesn't refute it.
"Tell… him, Can."
"Touch my hair!" Can blurts and then promptly turns away from Tin and face-palmed. This is not at all what he meant to say first thing after not seeing Tin for the whole weekend.
Tin turns him back around. And with all the seriousness in the world, Tin combs his hands through Can's locks and ends up cradling Can's head and crap, this is not at all what Can meant.
"They're black, not pink." Can's mouth just keeps running, with no input from his brain.
Tin looks at him curiously and nods. "Looks black to me."
"I - they go boom! Pink! Sometimes. When I'm really stressed out trying to perfect my magic. I think maybe I've been less stressed with you around. Except now. Right now I'm really, really stressed."
Tin looks at him and cradles his head better, tilts it up and closer. "Why are you stressed?"
"You!" Can closes his eyes. Shit, he's fucking it up. "I turned my phone off this weekend because Good made me. He said if I missed you then that means I like you. And if I didn't then maybe I just thought I was supposed to like you."
Tin keeps looking at him, and somehow between one breath and the next he seems to float closer. He swallows and licks his lips. "Did you miss me, too?"
Can blinks and blinks again. He's definitely not dreaming or making it up. This is the same intense look on Tin that he woke up to in the first other universe. "You missed me?"
Tin nods. "You're very loud and you eat a lot."
But Tin isn't done. "You have a very big dog who is also very loud and eats a lot."
"You leave my baby out of this!"
Tin just steps in closer, a whole wall of heat. "I missed you both so much. Especially you."
Oh. Can's mouth drops open. "I missed you, too." He confesses.
Tin smiles with his eyes and dips his gaze down to Can's mouth. It feels like a caress, a pre-kiss, a question.
Yes. Can lifts up on tiptoes and meets him halfway, lips pressed chaste to lips.
This isn't the wild, panicky sensation he had being kissed by the fiancé-Tin of the other universe. This is a wild pulse of delight, of right.
Then Tin opens his mouth and sucks on Can's upper lip and the delight burns even brighter, the wild beats even wilder. Can gasps, trying to suck in air, get some help with his stupidly rapid heartbeat. Instead, he gets Tin's tongue. Gets Tin tightening his fingers in Can's hair.
Can makes a noise in the back of his throat and grabs Tin back. And the world narrows down to the points where they're connected, all of them hotspots. Can curls his tongue and curls his toes, curls tight into this feeling of better than magic.
Still, he pulls away so he can tell Tin. "I like you not because of the not-you yous. I like you for you."
Surprisingly Tin understands. "Same. Canny-Can's my favorite Cantaloupe."
Can opens his mouth to tell him not to call him Cantaloupe but Tin just kisses him breathless.
For once Can doesn't mind.