Jin's heart hasn't stopped pulsing in his throat and stomach, and everywhere else it shouldn't be, until he's far, far away from the platform. His legs haven't yet found the strength to carry him away by themselves, but his saviour seems to have no problem in getting him past the vague interest of the crowd waiting for the train that, had Jin slipped and fallen much later, would have been on top of him.
"Oh my god. Oh my god. Thank you. Thank you so much, I.. Thank you," Jin warbles on, cold and prickling but otherwise feeling as though his body may still be beside the tracks, only aware of his fingers; the man that had.. done whatever he had done, saved Jin, by some blurred means, is wearing a thick jacket that feels harsh and solid in the vice grip Jin has at his forearm.
Bem taps the brim of his hat down low over his eyes as his third save of the night blunders down the stairs back into the station and drags him along too. Their differing heights and Jin's unwillingness to support his own weight leads them into the paths of far too many people, however much Bem tries to steer them in a straight path.
Bem sometimes prefers the evenings he spends hidden away, imagining that he's something like a human as he teaches manners while his little family chew on leaves. Some nights forcing himself to remember the past is preferable to listening to the cries of the city around him, nerves in the sides of his head pulsing with each scream and sob.
"Oh god," Jin's still talking, to himself and loud above Bem's right ear, more reflective now, "I can't believe I just fell. So stupid.. If you hadn't been there.."
They turn a corner, and suddenly the station is dimmer and shabbier; the streams of people have all but tapered off. A girl guardedly reading from the screen of her phone walks wide to avoid them without even acknowledging their presence, though Bem feels tendrils of defensive aggression as they pass that's rarely as defined in people that unknowingly have him drift by throughout the day. Maybe the enclosed space doesn't feel as secure to some people as others. He's never entered a station before.
"Train," Jin mumbles as a rumble starting above their heads grows in volume, the sudden crashes startling Bem into tensing at Jin's side. Both reassuring Bem and bewilderedly wondering how he can not recognise the familiar sound gives Jin further clarity, draws his mind further from what could have been, and soon he's aware of how deeply his fingers are buried in his saviour's jacket. His face doesn't feel numb any more or the nape of his neck cold and stinging. "Guess I need to start living each day like my last now, huh?"
Bem remains awkwardly tight-lipped and stoic as Jin starts to reanimate, finding his feet and his tongue again and the need to fill the dank space with something brighter. More often than not, from experience in which he's a third-party, Bem has found humans to not take kindly to strangers — politeness for politeness' sake, if even that. Whether because they're wary of the unknown or uninterested in filling their own lives up with more of someone else's, Bem has never definitively decided. There's nothing as closed off or non-genuine in the way Jin's now enthusing about his near miss, though.
"That's what people always say about near-death experiences, right? New perspective on life and everything."
Bem is bemused as, by the time a second train has passed overhead, the man on his arm seems to be almost pleased with his misfortune to stumble on an untied lace and end up on the tracks. Though Bem's concept of near-death, full death, or the lack of it as an experience, is skewed. The complexity of humans never fails to surprise him.
"I hadn't really wanted to go tonight anyway," Jin sounds louder as the exit comes into sight and the walls start to narrow; the hint of a tremble is still noticeable (to Bem, at least) as his voice echoes. "I'm sure they won't miss me. You know when people that you don't like all that much kinda forget about it after a few years and think meeting up is a great idea?"
Bem makes a non-committal sound in the back of his throat. He doesn't know. His mouth is dry, and he needs to get away from this person he's somehow become far further engaged in than necessary.
Jin only relinquishes his grip on Bem's jacket after they've climbed a set of grimy tiled stairs and he's started to head in the direction of home ("Sorry! I wasn't trying to take you with me.").
"Maybe we'll meet again."
"I hope our circumstances aren't as unfortunate to." Bem says gravely, bowing his head with the intention of politely tapping down his hat and turning to leave.
Bem rarely looks back at the people he saves, spare for a glance from the rooftops just to make sure they're safely on their way. He rarely stays long enough for them to so much as catch sight of him; Bem's found that, not entirely unlike himself, humans have a need to rationalise and understand. Far easier for him to be a shadow and a blip in their memory than to leave them struggling to comprehend the figure that's inexplicably pulled them from danger.
Jin's looking at him as though it's not his presence that's the problem, though. Bem almost recognizes the expression as something hurt, but it's softer, uncertain. There'd been hope in what he'd said. Bem should have noticed.
"O-oh," he utters, too, and then inclines his head back toward the station. "I.. I meant, you know. I didn't intend to offend you. Or.." Or what else Bem isn't sure. Rejection is an all too familiar experience for him to miss the signs, but this doesn't happen. Bem doesn't look back, Bem doesn't stay, Bem doesn't reject humans.
"Maybe I should rephrase that," Jin picks up where Bem has left the words trailing off into the mild night. His smile is the toothiest, prettiest smile Bem recalls ever seeing, but his deep brown eyes flick from detail to detail and it's unnerving. "I'd like us to meet again."
Jin, expectant, is already reaching for his phone. The gesture is lost on Bem, who dumbly pats his own pockets if only to politely mimic. Jin isn't sure why he expected the odd little man in his worn jacket, shadowed by the brim of a dusty old hat and apparently no stranger to leaping into danger, to do much of anything ordinary.
"Ok." Jin smiles again, urges Bem not to turn and leave as he so evidently wants to do. "How about now? Are you busy? You did just save me, I should.."
Within fifteen minutes Bem finds himself in a shopping mall. Due to the late hour all but the restaurants and a few cafes remain open; silhouettes of mannequins, posed in such a human fashion, fading into the dim light behind closed shutters make Bem feel uncomfortable. The bright lights overhead do, too, as does the unsettling sense of being so enclosed. Thankfully everyone else is seemingly either elsewhere or responsible for the general clatter and excitable buzz of conversation drifting out from beyond the colourful window displays.
"I haven't been here in a while.." Jin says with a finger pressed quizzically to his chin, eyes wide and beautiful as he searches for anything familiar enough to jog his memory.
Bem pauses and watches him. He never agreed to being taken to dinner, didn't enthuse over Jin's choice of place (had never even heard the word before), and feels increasingly unsettled with each step deeper into the maze of shuttered windows and noisy chatter. He's ridiculously pink in the face, too, but perhaps that's due to the bright lights overhead.
Jin turns and blinks curiously at Bem, smiles again, teeth and crinkly eyes and something so genuine, warm, and natural, like..
"I think I've done this before."
The statement surprises Bem as much as Jin; he grinds his teeth as they start walking again with the restaurant now in sight, trapping any further thoughts that may feel like expressing themselves between his incisors and tongue. He isn't sure what this is, this thing that they're doing, the reason they're here together, but there's something warmly familiar about walking side by side, slow conversation, the promise of food (maybe something sweet..)
Jin's eyes are still eagerly taking in everything available about Bem as the heated flush set in his otherwise pallid complexion darkens from cerise to fuchsia, unrelenting in seeking out any hints of further details. He's fascinated, from Bem's appearance to his ease in leaping out in front of trains..
"You're ok with here, right?" Jin asks, an afterthought, as he pulls open the heavy glass door. "I mean, I know it's nothing special, but.."
Bem's nodding without being sure of what he's agreeing to. He falters in entering before Jin, belatedly realising the door is being held for him and fumbling for words of thanks. Why is he doing this? It isn't right for him to be here, to be letting Jin treat him so kindly..
Bem's barely a step over the threshold when a young girl in a shirt pinstriped with the colours of the sign above the door approaches, and he casts a helpless glance back at Jin when she launches into a cheerful welcome.
The door quietly thuds closed as Jin joins Bem, broad shoulder bumping the back of his neck.
"Two, please," is all Jin has to say to appease her, moving to stand at Bem's side and giving him an encouraging nudge as she tucks two menus under her arm and sets off into the mass of tables.
For a second the thought of following strikes Bem as entirely ridiculous, but with the prospect of being left by the door and at the mercy of more helpful staff his only alternative, Bem scurries after them. Head bowed low, it's with hesitant interest that he processes the deluge of unfamiliarities to his senses: sharp disinfectant nearly masked by the rich scent of cooking, too many foods, herbs, and spices for him to identify, perfume and bleach and stale smoke.
Jin's already seated himself against the wall when Bem catches up; his smile is brighter than ever. Bem's chair rattles as he tugs it out. Oh, why.
Jin thanks the girl, who, to Bem's awkward displeasure, refuses to leave until she's placed a menu in front of each of them and told Bem a great deal of information he has no clue what to do with. Jin seems to be pleased to know, though, so Bem just props his stick against the table, smiles uncertainly, and breathes a subtle sigh of relief as the click of her heels fades behind him.
"I'm starving," Jin says, hands and eyes greedy on the menu the moment they have the table to themselves, "Near-death is hungry work. I'd imagine you are, too, after that.. whatever it was you did."
Floral perfume and that lingering, stale scent are the strongest now they're round a corner, past the kitchen and boxed in. Bem wrinkles his nose as he waits to grow accustomed to it. Jin curiously tilts his head, prompting Bem to quickly mimic him in lifting his menu.
"Yes. Thank you."
From behind his menu, Jin pouts. Disappointed at the lack of further detail as to how his rescue had been carried out, he finds Bem's polite, sparse words slightly less charming. He has a right to know, after all. Kind of.
"What a nice place," Bem adds intuitively, referring quite genuinely to the warm lighting, comfy seats, and quiet little nook they've been seated in.
"It's nothing special," Jin repeats, misreading Bem's look of bemusement as he studies photos of heaped pasta dishes for something more of distaste. "But my treat. Get as much of whatever you want."
Even as he hums thoughtfully, Bem doesn't entirely take in what Jin says. Then he does.
"Oh," Bem utters, stupidly, as though he had expected Jin to take him to dinner and then eat by himself. Maybe that really was what he'd expected. For the nth time that hour Bem has to question why he didn't just slip away into the night. "Thank you. Uhmm."
At a loss as to what he should order, either in quantity or variety, Bem slips a little further behind the laminated page of pasta and side-eyes their surrounding company.
Due to the late hour there are (thankfully) far more vacant tables than Bem would expect is normal for such a pleasant, prominently placed restaurant; clattering and footsteps from the kitchen behind them contributes to more noise than of customers. The source of both the stale and floral smell so insistent in getting up Bem's nose lies in a pretty teenage girl three tables away, chalk and pastel pink from head to toe. The tight ringlets of hair brushing her shoulders bounce and sway with every slight movement of her head. She's adorable, but the stale smelling boy slouched opposite her looks too tired to appreciate whatever it is that she's telling him so brightly, barely offering her glance. The only items on their table are the remnants of a single, shared dessert, and the mugs cradled in their hands.
Hidden in the corner and entirely focused on her phone sits a girl with hair a shocking resemblance to his own, spare for the black roots seeping through the silver. Bem tugs self-consciously at strands that fall below the brim of his hat, interest suddenly far from food and Jin as he regards her curiously. Humans don't have hair like his, he's learned this over many years of.. well, he doesn't search, but he would never forget if he'd found another. It's just another thing that separates him. The metal jutting out of her lower lip and eyebrow lead Bem to think perhaps she doesn't care. It almost makes him feel braver in his new surroundings.
On the wall above her is the restaurants logo, larger than the one above the door. Bem can see with the lines enlarged that under their name reads the words 'family restaurant', and Jin's dismissal seems rather more sensical.
The girl only has one small bowl on her table — pasta that she's idly pushing around rather than finishing. Jin's offer made it sound as though he should have more than one dish.
"Decided?" Jin asks with a gentle nudge to Bem's hand with the corner of his menu.
"Oh, I.." Bem startles, heat creeping back into his face as he studiously returns focus to his menu. "Yes." He awkwardly lies; the waitress is approaching again, he can sense her before he hears footsteps. Other than warm rice he isn't accustomed to the taste and texture of food. He'd seen leaves somewhere in here. Leaves are always good.
Over the course of ten minutes the pretty pink girl leaves with her equally as pink handbag in one hand and her sluggish boyfriend's sleeve clasped in the other, Bem hears the arrival of one new customer, and the space on their table gradually lessens.
Jin pokes the tines of a heavy silver fork into chilli flecked fries piled up in front of him. "You did want to share.. some of this, right?" he gestures with an impaled potato chip to the dishes tightly packed onto the small table. "I mean, I know you didn't say, but I figured you'd probably share pizza if I ordered it. And these, and.."
Bem regards the food with the same politely aghast expression he's worn intermittently since the moment Jin suggested they come here. The warm, savoury scent is a tempting one, but Bem had no prior intention to dine at expense to Jin. In front of him is his only contribution to the order — two heaped bowls of salad that Jin seems none to keen on eating any of. Good old reliable leaves.
"Yes, of course," mumbles Bem eventually, after reaching the conclusion that Jin will be more put-out at him refusing. "Thank you."
Jin smiles around his fork and leaves it hanging from his mouth to reach across and shuffle the plates so the pizza is more in Bem's reach.
"Oh, so," Jin stretches over again to grab a slice for himself. "It'd be pretty bad for me to not know my saviour's name.."
A moment passes in which Bem studies Jin passing the hot food from hand to hand so intently that he doesn't pick up on the prompt. With his eyes downcast, Bem notices how long Jin's eyelashes are. Then they flick up to him, eyes questioning, and heat starts to seep back under Bem's skin.
"Bem," he says stiffly, inclining his head in a small bow.
"Mm." Jin repeats the name curiously — or sounds it out, at least, around a mouthful of pizza. He tries to tell Bem his own name in much the same way; Bem covers a smile with his sleeve when Jin moves to set the slice down and the cheese topping stretches and stretches from Jin's mouth.
"Jin," he says finally, sounding exasperated from his fight. Bem nods, does as Jin had (attempted) and quietly repeats: "Jin-san, then, thank you for.."
"No, no," Jin insistently nudges another plate of food towards Bem as he starts to stab at fries again. "Just 'Jin' is fine."
Bem nods, but doesn't try saying it again. He thought he'd always done the correct thing in teaching human table manners, but the patterned knife and fork are heavy and clumsy in his hands as he painstakingly folds and nudges and chases salad leaves around their bowl but succeeds in eating very little. Jin's fingers are greasy and picking at things and in and out of his mouth. Bem considers catching one of the errant leaves between his fingertips, but he persists after finally (accidentally) succeeding in impaling one.
Jin's too busy stirring the ice in his drink to notice the way Bem's eyes widen, his body freezes, as he chews. These leaves taste sharp and greasy; the flavour improves the more he eats. Some have sprinkles of white and crimson on them — saltiness that cuts through everything else followed by pleasant, spreading heat.
"I like it here," Bem thinks he's already said something similar this evening, but this time he means it with more of himself. Loosened up by the false sense of normality in the same way he's seen alcohol loosen the thoughts and tongues of countless humans during his lifetime, Bem is distantly aware of a kind of happiness he hadn't ever expected to feel again. "Thank you, Jin."
Jin pauses with his hand halfway between the plate and his mouth. His smile sends butterflies darting around Bem's stomach (lurching, perhaps because they're interested in the leaves). "Maybe we could do this again sometime?" Jin's ridiculous grin takes the pressure out of the suggestion, and Bem finds that he's nodded before remembering that no, they probably really can't. It feels nice to say someone's name with such ease — perhaps a little awkward on his tongue without an honorific, but he's here to please Jin, not himself. Fitting in feels nice.
Life isn't this simple, but maybe just for a few hours he can pretend. It'll be worth it for the hours he can spend reliving it in the darker times inevitably to follow.
"Perhaps we could come here again," Bem almost surprises himself with the bold suggestion, but pretending for just a little longer that they really could makes him feel warm from the pit of his stomach to the roots of his horns.
He doesn't need to understand Jin's reply around one of the slices of pizza that had been designated as Bem's to know that Jin's agreeing. Jin waves his hands a little, signalling elaboration, and thumps at his chest when he swallows too fast.
"Somewhere better. What do you like? We can go some place else."
Warm rice and leaves, Bem thinks with the curl of a half-smile on his lips as he pokes around the remaining contents in his bowl. "Maybe for coffee," he says, because it's what humans do, with no idea of whether Jin or he would like that. His teeth crunch down on something salty-sweet that's folded into the salad and Jin doesn't so much as raise an eyebrow when he sounds pleasantly surprised.
It takes until more staff have appeared from out back and started stacking chairs for them to decide to leave, and even then Bem only concedes when the sharp scent of disinfectant starts to get into his sinuses. Jin saves him a slice of pizza that he doesn't eat, and Bem insists on paying towards the bill, even if it's only with three silver coins that have been in the bottom of his pocket for countless years.
They gravitate in the direction of the subway station that they'd emerged from hours previously, and Jin never asks Bem any of the questions that have spent all evening on the tip of his tongue when it hadn't been occupied with food.
He does, however, catch Bem's arm when he looks as though he's about to make a hasty exit once they've come to a halt by the subway entrance. It's a small, remote set of stairs, only visible thanks to the weathered sign glowing dimly above it; if Bem wanted to slip away into the shadows, Jin's not even sure the grip on his jacket would stop him.
Bem tenses, feels trapped, and doesn't suffer Jin's hold on him as lightly as when it had been out of fear. The forced bow of apology after he's snatched himself away brings Bem back to himself, makes him stiffen and stand awkward and ready to take his leave as quickly as possible. He's been stupid this evening.
That look of confused hurt is back in Jin's eyes, his hands awkward and clutching at the hem of his own jacket after having to relinquish their hold on Bem so unwillingly. He doesn't look as though he'd intended Bem any harm — Bem would recognise it if he did.
"It's all right."
"No, I just.." Jin sighs. He keeps shuffling on the spot to avoid causing Bem to dart. When he smiles it doesn't light up his face, and Bem doesn't like that. "I don't think I believe you that we're going to do this again."
"Jin," Bem lowers his head, feels irresponsible and so guilty that it burns inside, chars the wings of the butterflies. "It's complicated." How human. This is what humans do, though: things maybe too complicated and delicate for him to understand.
"That is the worst excuse.."
Bem's heart sinks; it's true, it's too complicated, but that evidently isn't good enough. His stomach is rolling so hard inside that he wishes he'd not eaten a thing.
It should make him more wary than it does when Jin suddenly lurches forward, but Bem neglects to be at his usual level of defence as guilt continues to impose on him. Jin's arms are clumsy thrown around his slim shoulders, his eyes squeezed tightly shut and the press of his lips brief and misaimed.
Bem's legs suddenly feel boneless in much the same way Jin was limp against him when they met. He gasps into the gap Jin leaves in drawing back to measure Bem's expression. Jin's smiling again, and Bem's free hand cautiously grasps at his shirt for leverage in anticipation. The whole experience is so disorientating, unfamiliar and.. warm, Jin's lips are warm and rough.
The moment ends abruptly and with an undignified sound from Bem as Jin tilts his head and it knocks the brim of Bem's hat. It's to his detriment that he pulls back so sharply — his hat topples backwards, over his low ponytail and to the floor. Jin can only make his own assumptions at how violently Bem removes himself from the situation.
"Sorry! I'm sorry, I really shouldn't have just assumed, I.."
"No, no, it's.." Bem's on the floor grasping at handfuls of damp leaves and trembling, hands tight and veins prominent. This is bad, so, so bad..
Jin thinks he's being helpful, maybe even enough to redeem himself, when he catches sight of the hat first. He sits it on his own head, after brushing it off and before saying, "Bem, here~"
Bem breathes a displeased sound as he turns to the sight, and gives Jin a look so stern that he wilts under it. This isn't something to play around with, if the fire kindled in Bem's eyes in comparison to the almost docile courtesy Jin is used to is anything to go by.
"Sorry," Jin mumbles for what feels like at least the tenth time in five minutes. He still finds Bem just as fascinating, with his mysterious ways, questionable eating habits, funny clothes, funny stick, funny hat.. Even the dim yellow light allows him enough to be curious about.
"You saw, didn't you."
Bem has no doubt about it, and Jin wasn't about to keep his mouth shut anyway.
"I think they're cute."
Bem's lips press into a tight, grim line. Jin rolls his eyes and steps closer again, looking far calmer than the other 99.9% of people exposed to any hints of his true nature.
"You flew, kind of, when you helped me off the track. And you didn't even know what pizza was," Jin lowers his voice to a menacing tone as he emphasises the severity of Bem's ignorance to his favourite food, almost succeeding in replacing the tense look on his face, even if only with shock. "I don't know why you think.. ..would bother me after that." Jin raises a curled finger to either side of his forehead and waggles them, intimating that Bem's horns are of the highly animated variety. Bem's confused, but the tension isn't as deeply set any more.
"Experience. People usually run for their torches and pitchforks when they find out." Bem's surprised at the ease that the words come out with, the lack of bitter taste. "Obviously it's been a while since I've been as careless."
"Sorry," Jin bursts out, again, from behind a hand as he tries to muffle his laughter. "I'm sorry! That isn't funny."
"No, it isn't."
Bem ducks his head down to hide the start of a smile, and when Jin stops laughing he stoops down to kiss him again.