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to explore the universe with you

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Walking down the empty alley way, Sicheng felt eyes on his back. It was the middle of the day on a Sunday, so no one following him was likely to be suspicious but he felt uneasy nonetheless. Sicheng was a second year communications major who had just finished moving his belongings into a new apartment and now found himself walking to the nearest pharmacy in search of his favorite vitamin brand. He’d thought the short cut would be just fine and shorten his walk by 5 minutes but he felt increasingly uneasy the longer he walked. Finally turning to look behind him, he saw nothing but a tabby cat sitting on a nearby stoop, its amber eyes blinking curiously at him. Strange he thought, for a cat to look at him with such an intense stare. After a moment he turned and kept on walking.


On his way back to the new apartment Sicheng thought of the roommate he hadn’t met yet. Chittaphon Leechaiyapornkul, a fine arts major, but Sicheng knew nothing else about him. He hoped Chittaphon liked a nice cool apartment because he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to get over a drastically different preference for temperature. He climbed the stairs, inputting his key card to enter and prodded the button for the fourth floor in the elevator.


At the ding Sicheng looked up from his phone to see a beautiful man staring back at him. The shape of his eyes was distinctly feline and his gaze reminded Sicheng of the alley cat with startling familiarity. He could tell he’d stared a moment too long when the stranger cleared his throat before entering the elevator. Sicheng quickly bowed in apology and averted his eyes as he hurried past.


The apartment was empty when he entered but he could tell that Chittaphon had moved his things in, a peek into the formerly empty bedroom showed a neatly made bed, minimal decoration, and a startling amount of paintbrushes and pencils strewn about. In the common area now stood an easel with a small canvas propped upon it, the sunlight entering from the nearby window creating soft shadows across its surface. As Sicheng begun preparing himself dinner, the door opened revealing the cat-like man from the elevator. He paused upon realizing Sicheng was standing there then strode across the room holding out a hand.


“Hi! Are you Sicheng? I’m Chittaphon, but you can call me Ten,” he said with a broad smile. Sicheng stared for another moment before taking his hand. “Nice to meet you, you can call me Sicheng or Winwin, whichever you prefer.”


“Did you get all your stuff moved in alright?” Ten asked brushing some hair out of his face, “It felt like it took me ages to get all my stuff up here. Who gave us a top floor apartment honestly?”

Sicheng nodded along as he watched Ten’s hands. “Yeah I didn’t realize the front desk would be getting quite so familiar with my face this first day, but as long as I’m remembered positively I can’t complain.”

Ten laughed lightly. “It isn’t hard to remember a face as beautiful as yours,” he said with a wink. Sicheng blushed. “Ah thank you, but I could say the same for you.”


The two looked at each other for a moment and Sicheng was unsure what the other man was trying to learn about him. “So how cold would you like the apartment?” Sicheng asked awkwardly. Ten laughed again. “Well if we’re both so hot, it’d probably be best to keep the place cooler,” he said with a grin. Sicheng laughed with him. They would get along just fine.



As the days went on Sicheng became used to Ten’s constant presence. They often rose at the same time and ate a quick breakfast together before heading to their respective classes, and Sicheng found Ten’s views on life interesting. The canvas in their living room had begun to bloom with colors as Ten started his first project of the school year. So far there was a base of navy blue with spots of yellow placed sporadically. Sicheng couldn’t figure out what it was meant to represent so far but admittedly hadn’t yet asked.


One evening upon returning to the apartment, it didn’t look like Ten was home. There were a couple paintbrushes on the easel and the new paint still looked fresh so Sicheng figured Ten couldn’t be far. As Sicheng began to make his way towards his room, a familiar cat skidded out of Ten’s room with a single paintbrush in its mouth. As he watched, the cat tossed its head into the air, throwing the brush before transforming into his roommate who caught it with ease and began adjusting the painting.


Sicheng felt his jaw fall open as he stared at his roommate who was also a cat who once stared him down in an alley. Before he could try to pretend he hadn’t seen anything, his bag fell to the floor and Ten whipped around catching Sicheng’s dumbfounded expression.


“It isn’t what you might be thinking,” Ten started and Sicheng couldn’t help but let out a bark of laughter.

“What do you mean it’s not what I’m thinking? You’re also a cat on your days off!” he declared, gesturing broadly at Ten.


“Well, yes, but I don’t have any ill intentions! I’m just trying to do my thing and not be judged to harshly for something I can’t control too well,” Ten said, “I’m still just a guy in university trying to get a degree.”


Sicheng kept staring for a moment, picturing on repeat the cat to man transformation he had just witnessed. “What do you mean you can’t control it too well? That impressive brush catch seemed pretty in control to me.”


“I guess I mean when I’m at home, or somewhere I don’t have to put up human pretenses, I don’t think as often about staying human so it sometimes… slips,” Ten said carefully.


“So if you’re not trying to think human thoughts, you just go full on cat?” Sicheng asked, still in shock, “How have you been going to class for hours on end this whole time? And living with me for that matter?”


“That’s a funny story actually,” Ten began, looking wistfully at his hands. “I mean I do what I can during classes and everything, but when I’m home and not out in this common room I’m usually kicking around in my room letting myself just be. And I don’t usually throw paintbrushes, though it might look like it, I’d just forgotten a brush I needed and thought it’d be quicker to fetch it that way. You weren’t supposed to be home to notice anything,” he chuckled.


“But why hide it from me? And you’re making it sound like this is some kind of new development? I just don’t know what to think,” Sicheng told him, running a hand through his hair. It certainly wasn’t everyday one comes home to find out that his roommate can transform into a cat.


“It’s not really the kind of thing I open with when meeting new people if that’s what you’re asking,” Ten said cocking his head to one side. “And it is kind of new. I honestly don’t really know how to explain it. I just found myself seeing differently one day, happened to pass a mirror and nearly passed out from the shock and perspective change.”


Ten paused, as if he were thinking about what else Sicheng might want to know about his cat life. “I actually find it kind of nice now,” he added, “it lets me see things in different ways, which offers different perspectives I can bring into my painting.”


“Like this project?” Sicheng asked, gesturing towards the canvas. In the time he’d been gone, Ten had added several other shades of blue to the background giving it depth while making it notably more muted, but the yellow spots stayed resolutely in one place in a way that made Sicheng think they existed on a different plane than the rest.

Ten nodded. “This project is the first one I’m really doing since the cat thing started. I’m trying to combine perspectives to create a unique visual experience. It might be a lengthy process since I’m not sure how exactly I want to portray my subject.”


“What’s your subject?” Sicheng asked.


“Well, it’s you.” Ten stated. Sicheng stared at him for a moment. “Me?” he asked, “Why would you want to paint me?”


“I’m sure now that you know of my,” Ten paused comically, “catty nature, you remember our actual first meeting in that alley a couple weeks ago. What you may not have noticed when we met in the elevator was that I stared at you for just about as long as you stared at me.”


Sicheng coughed awkwardly. “Ah so you did notice that…”


“Of course, cat-like senses and all,” Ten teased. “In any case, I’m sure you’ve been told how beautiful you are before…” He stopped upon noticing Sicheng’s confusion.

“You can’t mean you haven’t been told that?”


“I admittedly haven’t thought too much about it,” Sicheng told him, “No one’s ever confessed to me if that’s what you mean.”

Ten shook his head. “Sicheng, when I saw you in that alley way I couldn’t take my gaze anywhere else. Your posture and grace was so beautiful and when we met in person later you had the loveliest smile. You’re in this painting as much as you can be. You’re the stars that stand out from the night sky.”


Sicheng felt his thoughts turning over themselves, changing their perspective and leaving his mouth completely different, vulnerable in a way he usually found difficult. “I’m the stars in the sky?” he asked softly.


Ten nodded. “You stand out to me in both forms as brilliantly as the stars.”


Sicheng found himself at a loss for words. “I… thank you. I haven’t been told that much.”


Ten opened his arms for a hug and Sicheng went in willingly. They shared a single, still moment before Sicheng pulled back. Searching Ten’s eyes he found nothing but genuine respect and admiration and a hint of love and Sicheng realized that reciprocating that might not be as unexpected as he might have thought.



“So you retain memories from when you’re a cat,” Sicheng started and Ten nodded in response. “But what kind of things change?” It had been a couple days since Sicheng witnessed Ten’s transformation and he had been able to see the cat side of his roommate a bit more in passing. It had been kind of nice, knowing Ten was comfortable enough around him to let his guard down.


“A lot of things,” Ten answered, “my height, the way I consciously move, my vision, it’s a lot to take in sometimes which is why I usually just run around my room instead of exploring the outside world like that one day.”


“So what brought you outside then?” Sicheng asked. Ten looked at him intently. “A want for a perspective change. Honestly I was kind of looking for a view that would inspire my next project and lucky for me I found it.” His gaze held a softness Sicheng could only meet for a second before looking away.


“How are you so… open with these things?” Sicheng asked Ten. “What things?” “Things concerning feelings and vulnerabilities.” Sicheng said as he glanced towards the canvas. It had changed a little more in the last few days. There was an eagle flying amongst the stars now with a broad wingspan, and upon closer inspection, a small cat sat on its back staring into the universe. Sicheng couldn’t help but imagine himself as the eagle and Ten as the cat and he wondered what Ten intended it to mean.


“I just don’t see a reason not to be, we’ll get where we’re going sooner if we’re both in the know after all,” Ten answered with a shrug.


“Well where are we going then?” Sicheng challenged him.


“Hopefully roommates who get along swimmingly, cuddle sometimes, maybe own a cat together, something like that,” Ten offered. “Or boyfriends who do all of those aforementioned things too.”


Sicheng could feel heat rising to his cheeks, but he couldn’t think of what to say. Pushing down his nearly overwhelming desire to change the subject, he looked back at Ten. Once again the other looked at him openly, and Sicheng couldn’t help but fall a little deeper.

“I… may not have an issue with the latter,” he mumbled but didn’t look away. Ten’s face broke out into a huge smile. “Permission to hug and kiss and adore forever?”


Sicheng smiled back at him. “Permission granted.” And as Ten smothered him in a huge hug leaving kisses all over his face, he thought maybe Ten could be the eagle and him the cat, Ten’s openness and love helping fly Sicheng to new heights.


Or better yet, they would fly together through the stars in the night sky.