It’s a game of ‘my soulmate situation is weirder than yours’ and Hyuck can’t believe he’s losing. To Renjun of all people.
With how awkward his situation is, he should definitely be winning this one. But Renjun and Yangyang seem to be upset, so he’s letting them have it. That’s what he tells himself at least. In reality, they don’t know that he found his second soulmate. Or that he has a second soulmate.
“Oh boo-hoo, no more pets,” Yangyang says bitterly, “At least you know where you and Jaemin stand.”
Renjun and Jaemin found themselves because of matching tattoos on their wrists shaped like candy canes that glowed when they met. They fell in love, meaning they are romantic soulmates, which is ironic when you consider Renjun’s aversion towards anything that has to do with romance.
Hyuck is jealous. It was easy for Renjun. Hyuck’s soulmate situation is complicated.
I’m pretty sure only you think that.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Renjun snaps back.
“It means shut up.”
The venom in Yangyang’s voice makes Hyuck worry. Ask, Taeil reminds him.
“What’s going on?”
“I found my soulmate months ago.” The announcement is a surprise. Partly because Yangyang sounds exhausted when he says it. The other part is that in the past he got excited at the mere mention of soulmates. They expected him to share everything the moment he found them. You could say the same for you too. Not now, Illie-ah. “We’re obviously in love with each other, but he won’t admit it. We spend all nights talking, we hook up, and after we’re done he pulls a no homo on me.”
“And you keep going to him,” Hyuck finishes the sentence for him.
Yangyang sighs, seemingly defeated.
“He draws on my arms and writes song lyrics. It’s hard to ignore the tingles.”
Yangyang has the type of connection that Hyuck always wanted. The whole write on your skin and it tingles on theirs until they see it. He always thought that was cool and romantic in the grand romance kind of way that he wants to experience.
But no. Hyuck gets to have the uncool soulmate connections. He used to have a tattoo over his ribs of the first words Mark said to him, and he’s really glad that it disappeared when they met. Mark is his soulmate, but it’s only platonic. Mark in fact has two soulmates. Hyuck who he’s best friends with. And Yuta who he’s stupidly in love with. Bleh, Taeil mocks as Hyuck thinks about Yuta and Mark together.
Hyuck has two soulmates as well, the second one he met being Taeil.
They both grew up with tiny daisy tattoos on the side of their left hand ring fingers, signaling that from the moment their eyes meet they’ll be able to hear each other’s thoughts, feel each other’s emotions and sensations. This is considered the strongest connection. It’s more extraordinary than having two connections. While about ten percent of the population on the planet has two soulmate markings, the percentage that have the telepathic connection has a decimal, then two zeros after it.
It’s not as cool as writing messages for someone by doing it on your own skin. It’s fine. The negative is that Taeil works at the zoo. He spends his days around animals and their cuteness is very distracting.
Your calculations are just as distracting, Mr. Aerospace Engineer.
“Talk to him. He’ll come around,” Renjun promises, giving Yangyang back a bit of that hope he used to exude.
For all of their sake, Hyuck hopes he’s right about this. He hates seeing his best friend this upset.
It’s not like Hyuck is hiding Taeil. They’re just taking his time adjusting.
Could’ve fooled me.
They met and connected a month ago. Taeil was on his break at work, and Hyuck was taking his nephew to the zoo. It wasn’t what he expected to happen. He wasn’t prepared. No matter how much he had read about what happens and how it feels, it wasn’t helpful.
It was intense. The moment the connection happens is impossible to delineate. It’s a headache, but not really. A rush of emotions and thoughts, but also emptiness. It’s confusing. You can’t distinguish what’s yours and what’s theirs and it’s a whole entire mess.
It got easier after. Taeil’s thoughts come in with an echo, his feelings aren’t a sensation, more of a realization. Within a few days it was no longer distracting. It was as if they had always been connected. It felt right.
They haven’t seen each other ever since. Whose fault is it? Hyuck would blame his nerves, mostly. And having to tell the truth.
He hasn’t told any of his friends that he has two soulmates. He hasn’t mentioned the telepathic connection at all. Too many eyes are on the telepaths, their bond is looked down upon. A handful of telepaths have been criminals. Some murderers, serial murderers. Less than two dozen, but they’re notorious cases. It’s also mysterious, and therefore terrifying. There’s a stigma. He doesn’t want it to be put on him too. On them.
After a month of living with a live feed of Taeil’s thoughts and emotions, he can say that Taeil’s not a psychopath. It was a concern of his, of course, but there’s no reason for him to think that could be the case. The time is coming for him to tell the truth.
Hyuck doesn’t want to tell Renjun and Yangyang about it first. They’re his best friends, potentially losing them over this is a scary thought. He’ll deal with the thought later. His friends can be a bit unpredictable, and they’re both going through a rocky period with their soulmates. That’s why he chose to tell Mark first.
Mark is nice. He’s the type of tooth-rotting sweet that can make you sick. Yuta is too. He’s accepting of the situation, and of Hyuck, even though Hyuck hated his guts at first. He was sure he could have made Mark fall in love with him if Yuta was out of the equation. That way he wouldn’t have to worry about his other soulmate being one of the bad apples.
Hyuck really just wanted to be loved and someone to love. A romantic soulmate. His telepathic connection being that was always a given, despite his fear and denial. Now he kind of has that, so it’s not an issue anymore.
Kind of? You think it’s possible not to fall in love with the person you share every thought and feeling with? The answer is no. He’s catching feelings too hard and too fast. It’s scary to me too. We can’t control it.
He asks Mark to meet him for coffee, catching him by surprise with the invitation, because it’s usually Mark inviting him out. Hyuck doesn’t want to bother him, or make Yuta uncomfortable. But he wanted Mark to know this first.
“You know how you have two soulmates?” Hyuck asks, and he can feel Taeil rolling his eyes at him.
“Yes,” Mark smiles, “I do know that I have two soulmates.”
“I have two soulmates too.”
Mark tilts his head, narrowing his eyes at Hyuck. It’ll be fine.
“Why haven’t you said anything?”
Hyuck looks around the coffee shop. Saying it out loud might end up with the old men sitting by the window coming over to tell him he’s disgusting. So he decides to show instead of tell.
“Here,” he says. He pulls off the ring he always has on his finger, the one covering the tiny daisy, and he lets Mark see. Mark’s eyes widened. His mouth falls open, and Hyuck waits for him to say something, but he doesn’t. So he puts his ring back to cover the daisy, pushing past the sinking feeling in his chest, and Taeil’s worry. A few moments pass, and he clears his throat, then speaks, “You’re scared of me now, aren’t you?”
“No,” Mark shakes his head. A liar. Or he’s just processing, Taeil adds.
“It’s okay if you are.”
“I’m not. I’m amazed you didn’t say anything,” he says to him, “Why are you telling me now?”
“I met my other soulmate last month.”
Mark is speechless. Hyuck wonders how Yangyang and Renjun are going to act when they find out. There is only one way to find out.
One down. Two more to go.
Mark shakes his head next, shutting his eyes for a moment. He exhales then asks, “Tell me about him.” So Hyuck does exactly that. And Mark ends up asking for the obvious.
I’m not afraid to meet them, you know. You should meet my friends too.
Hyuck is afraid though. Of both of those options.
“Would anything change if I said that I have a telepathic soulmate?”
Yangyang rolls his eyes at him. Surprisingly, that is the reaction is what Hyuck was hoping for.
He didn’t really plan to bring it up tonight. He was going to wait a few days. But they’re sitting in Yangyang’s living room, playing video games, and Hyuck’s relaxed. It felt like the right moment.
“Why would it change anything?”
“Would you like to elaborate?”
“I have a second soulmate connection, it’s a telepathic one.”
Yangyang snorts. “You don’t expect me to believe that that’s all.”
So Hyuck adds the details.
“We connected a month ago. He’s name is Taeil. He works at the zoo. When he’s not taking care of animals, he’s asleep.” Taeil doesn’t want him to say the last bit, but Hyuck still does. “I’m in love.”
Hyuck can feel that Taeil’s blushing. It’s so adorable.
“Congratulations,” Yangyang pats his back and offers him a smile. He turns serious before he adds, “You can’t introduce him to Renjun?”
“Your soulmate won’t know peace. You know how easily Renjun gets attached to animals.”
I won’t mind. Hyuck smiles.
“Taeil won’t mind.”
Yangyang sighs, “I promise you, you will,” he raises his voice when he addresses Taeil. Taeil finds it funny.
“We want to get our friends together this weekend.”
“Can I bring Xiaojun?”
“Is he your soulmate?”
Yangyang beams a smile at him.
“He is, and we talked and figured it out. So he’s also my boyfriend.”
“Fancy.” Don’t be mean, congratulate him properly. “Sorry. I meant, amazing. Congratulations. You deserve to be happy.”
“I like Taeil already.”
Renjun gives him a hug and calls him an idiot for hiding it for so long.
I told you not to doubt them.
Taeil really was right. His friends won’t abandon him over this.
That doesn’t mean that it ends that way though. Renjun is the most persistent person Hyuck has ever known and he proves exactly that a day before the brunch Hyuck and Taeil organized. He and Yangyang show up at the zoo.
When Taeil gets called away from the capuchin enclosure, neither of them suspects anything. But as soon as the boys introduce themselves, they’re both shocked.
Hyuck does everything in his power to fight the urge to sprint there. Taeil reassures him it’s fine and he can handle it. He’s much more confident, Hyuck is still scared because of the prejudice he was raised with.
They say they are just there to talk to Taeil without Hyuck interfering, to which Yangyang adds physically, and he promises they mean no harm. Hyuck tells Taeil to trust Yangyang more. But neither of them mean harm, it turns out in the end.
They just get to know Taeil, without anyone else interrupting, asking general questions. They hit it off.
Hyuck was initially worried about the outcome, but he knows that Taeil wins over Renjun the moment he offers him the chance to meet the meerkats.
Hyuck always wondered about his soulmate. He had questions no one could answer, wondering about their name, their age, their gender, what it would feel like when he finds them. His parents didn’t have the answers. They found each other because of tattoos, much like Renjun and Jaemin. They didn’t know what it would feel like. They didn’t know the rest either. Name and age are always uncertain, you figure out the gender as you figure out your sexuality. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.
It always felt like something was missing. Especially after he met Mark. Hyuck felt longing and emptiness at times, and had no way to make that feeling go away. Mark was a soulmate, but it wasn’t the soulmate he was waiting for. He wasn’t the missing piece. Taeil is.
The longing partially went away after he met Taeil. It’s still present, it’s still strong, but different. Nowadays it has less to do with finding who he’s destined to spend the rest of his life with, and more with being in love. Spending time together would be a remedy, but it’s also terrifying, so they put it off until they got to know each other better.
Hyuck’s really nervous about seeing Taeil again because of the same reason he’s afraid. It can be overwhelming.
When you’re processing another person’s thoughts and emotions, and both are amplified by your presence, the senses go wild. He feels the love he has for Taeil and the love Taeil has from him when they’re miles apart, and he loses himself in the feeling. Experiencing it while they’re in the same room makes it unbearable, the fondness grows and the emotions echo of each other.
That’s what it was like the first time. Hyuck hopes they’ll handle it better this second time.
They decide to keep a distance until the brunch is over, which is exactly what they do. Opposite sides of the table, mingling with each other’s friends but not with each other. It’s bearable that way.
They’re both excited about the occasion, and that feeling of excitement keeps bouncing between them. Sharing feelings telepathically is like setting a lamp between two mirrors, the feelings echo but they don’t lose their intensity. It’s always bright in the center.
In Hyuck’s mind Taeil’s friends were slightly intimidating. He knew a bit about them, after all he’s been camping out in Taeil’s mind for a month. Taeil is an introvert, he prefers animals over people too, so he wouldn’t socialize if it were up to him. His friends don’t let him do that though. Whenever they decide he’s being distant, they show up and get him to hang out with them. Hyuck is grateful that they are like that, Taeil shouldn’t close up like that. But in his mind it’s also intimidating. They know Taeil so much better than him.
In person, they’re not intimidating at all. It helps that Taeil can guide him, he does the same for him too, but they’re really nice, actually.
Out of everyone there, the person who Hyuck’s most grateful for ends up being Yuta. Hyuck doesn’t really expect that to turn out that way, but Yuta makes conversation with everyone, keeps them engaged, and with that he helps both groups bridge over whatever gap there is between them. He manages to make Xiaojun comfortable. He’s a calming presence.
Hyuck wonders if brunch would’ve gone so well if Yuta didn’t come. I wonder that too. Guess they’ll never know.
I’ll drive you home.
They’ve contained their urges for long enough, but they can’t run away from it anymore. They’re soulmates. Spending time together is inevitable, even when you’re trying to avoid the tsunami of emotions.
They say goodbye to their friends and everyone goes their separate way. They achieved exactly what they wanted with the brunch. Everyone met everyone, exchanged contact information. It made it official. They’re dating and it’s obvious how their relationship will end. Or rather that it won’t. Not like other relationships do.
The longing is less when they’re together. And it makes Hyuck wonder what it will be like if they go a step further than just talking in their thoughts. What will touching feel like? What will happen if they go further than that? He suddenly wants Taeil to come upstairs with him.
I can come up. Telepathy makes these things easier.
They walk up in silence. There’s no need for them to talk anyway. They’re always talking.
When they walk into Hyuck’s apartment, he initiates the first contact. He puts his hand in Taeil’s, innocently looking down at where their hands meet. They both suck in a sharp breath because of the sensation. The touch makes them both jittery, as if their own jitters weren’t hard enough to handle. Will it get easier over time? I hope so.
It takes a few moments for them to calm themselves, before the next genius idea pops into Hyuck’s head. If this is what touching feels like, what will happen when we kiss?
We can find out if you’d like.
It feels like an explosion.
The one thing you can’t find out from the testimonies given by people with telepathic connections is that the intensity of the connection doesn’t fade.
You just get used to it.
"What's your name?"
The same cycle of doubt and fear starts somewhere else. What will it be like? What will their friends think?
Fingers with sun tattoos connect in a bookstore downtown. Eyes meet, thoughts get overwhelmed, adrenaline courses through veins as souls sync up and prepare for synergy. The cursed connection, some call it. It feels that way at the start. There still shouldn’t be as much fear from it as there is.
He's panicking. The stranger should know the answer before he says it.
We're in public. It's a formality. The words echo over the abundance of sensations.
"I'm Shotaro." But he knows the answer before it's said. He knows what follows too. "Let me buy you a cup of coffee."
Shotaro offers a smile.
The more time Sungchan spends with Shotaro’s thoughts, the less he’s afraid of what his future will be like.