When Yuta tries to remember the first time, he can’t. The second time is more of a blur than it is a real recounting of what happened, and the third only lasted a few hours - maybe even only half an hour. The fourth time, he thinks his hands might have been too many sizes too small and his feet unable to hold him up. Yuta can’t remember anything from the very beginnings, but he does know his purpose in each life.
Maybe he should start from the beginning.
Yuta is old enough to know what he wants and young enough to make stupid mistakes trying to get it when he first meets Hansol. He drops six kilograms in a month while following his goal, and kisses Hansol under the awning of some pricey cafe in the heart of Seoul after he discovers his dream. The outbreak that follows is somewhat disastrous, if not outright tragic: Yuta is kicked out of his entertainment company, with one ticket spelling out “never come back” as he leaves Korea for a life in Japan that involves a lot of kicking the back of Hansol’s shoes, asking if him being caught kissing some idol-trainee will end his career in dance.
But, what’s great about kissing your choreographer is that they won’t have one of those “wow, this is the end of the fucking world” moments (much like Yuta had) and won’t have to restart and go back to school (much like Yuta had to). They answer your texts, calls, and facetimes, because one year of holding hands and one moment of fallout is nothing to someone who has spent their whole lives training for a few hours combined on multiple stages, who has decided to teach some other kids how to shine. They decide that going to Japan is cool, because the entertainment industry might not be just as shining, but there are kids there who need someone to teach them how to make a spin look pretty.
And then there’s a whirlwind that no one else really cares about; there’s careful planning and budgeting, and nights when the heater goes out and Yuta scowls at the cold feet pressed against his calves, and the times where Hansol brings back takoyaki after a long rehearsal with his kids. Yuta spends a lot of time in the beginning watching anime with Hansol and asking him if he understood what the characters said during the plot twist, leading to him being unreasonably proud at his boyfriend’s Japanese language level even though it’s quite obvious he should be proficient in it after three months of immersing in the culture itself. No one else knows what they do. But Yuta knows, and that’s really all that matters.
He’s talking on the phone when it happens. Hansol is on the other end, saying something about how they should order in tonight because he just got paid. Yuta’s in the middle of thinking about how he’d like to do this forever when there’s a loud honk to his left.
The truck is three times bigger than Yuta’s small car, and the driver doesn’t abide to road rules. Yuta has a two-second long panic about whether to speed up or not, and his foot pushes on the pedal. The other driver skids off in the same direction trying to avoid him.
If someone is thrown from their vehicle, there is a very high chance they will die.
Yuta is no exception.
He wakes up with an ache in his chest.
His first instinct is to reach across the bed and find Hansol’s hand. His second is to open his eyes, because his fingers are only making contact with chilly air. His third is to shoot up in bed. Yuta is alone on a mat that is nothing like the fluffy bed he’d gotten used to.
From the doors, thrown wide open, Yuta feels a breeze blowing across his cheeks. He rubs his eyes and stands, only to fall immediately to the floor.
A woman walks in and asks him if he’s alright. In this one, he is the prince of a nation, and his father roars to life when Yuta gets feverishly hot and begins spewing nonsense about Hansol in a foreign language. His vision is foggy when he dies.
However, the heat of a flame is unmistakeable and so are the shouts of protest.
It takes hundreds of tries for him to understand. Gulps of air fill him in every life except for when he awakes dying. (Those are the worst.) And, for the most part, he doesn’t know anything except Hansol, which leads to a dead end because what is Yuta supposed to do if he’s a never ending cycle of breathe, walk, cease? There’s nothing he can do with a hard drive that consists of only Hansol when he wakes up in space or the desert or in the middle of nowhere. Plenty of times, this leads to panic.
His confusion only ceases when he is a young boy in Germany, crying his heart out as an old lady soothes him and asks, “What troubles you?”
Yuta looks outside the window and sees cobblestone streets, people walking with their heads down and bakeries closed for indefinite amounts of time. He is searching for something whole, and doesn’t know where to go.
“I don’t know,” he whispers, voice tight. “I can’t find the one who loves me.”
The soft petting on the top of his head stops. “Oh,” she says, “Well, you will find them. You just have to keep looking, even on the inside.”
He blinks, and breathes out heavily, mist forming in front of his eyes.
“And I love you, son. I do.” Her voice doesn’t fade into the background, not like everything else. They don’t eat dinner. Yuta doesn’t mind.
That sticks with him throughout the days. It’s a singular mindset that gives Yuta hope — beyond the unknown, he still knows Hansol.
The sun shines very dully on this planet, painting the white walls a red hue even with the window blown wide open and the curtains pulled back. In this life, Yuta is a blonde woman with skinny hips and thin shoulders.
She might as well have been a bird, hollow bones and all. Yuta doesn’t exactly know what’s wrong with her. Every step feels heavy even if she would have probably been able to fly along with the drag of wind on Earth, so he takes extra care as he alights the steps of her apartment. The ground makes indents wherever he walks, little puffs of orange dirt flying up when people who are five times bigger than him take steps. Yuta would really hate to live in a world like this, because the smog here might be a little worse than Beijing’s. However, the thought is immediately dismissed - he’ll live on this planet for 24 hours at the most, and two have already been spent staring in confusion at the appliances around his vessel’s apartment.
“Watch where you’re going,” a gruff voice bites out when Yuta bumps into someone, and when he turns to apologize, he can’t find anyone with angry eyes. This part of the town is particularly condensed. A thick aroma of food surrounds him, and for a second, he really, really wants to dig into the purse he found near the door of his temporary apartment, but Yuta has only one thing to do.
Find Hansol. Figure out where to go from there.
Yuta breaks out of the crowd as quickly as he can, which actually takes about twenty minutes. The first thing he sees is a train station. There are not many people at the train station, but that can just be a trick of the eye considering the mega size of the building. The pillars are made of steel. Thick enough to withstand the force of several trucks, according to the small boy he passes as he approaches the building.
He has just enough money for a ride to the other side of the city.
As he walks, Yuta’s eyes scan everything. Hansol could be in the gift shop, or he could be working on the train. He could be climbing the walls, trying to assassinate some political figure. Yuta never knows what Hansol does, unless he’s lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him in one of these many alternate universes.
Sometimes, he’s approaching Hansol to talk to him when fate interrupts him; Yuta is most angry at those times. He wakes up in his next life and doesn’t move for the entire day, until fate ends his life and another cycle begins.
(Once, Yuta got to say hello to Hansol just before a bombing took place. This was in New York, 2022, in the middle of the airport. Hansol looked really beautiful when he gave him a confused smile at the sudden greeting.)
One gift shop advertises water in big, bold red letters. He goes over to buy one only after waging a war with himself. On one hand, he’s basically stealing money, but it’s money from himself and it’s not like he’ll be living all throughout the day.
The train arrives slightly off time. He only knows this due to the reactions of the people around him. They shift, grumbling under their breath, eyebrows twitching, wrists turning over to give a clear sight of the time. He walks on board with everyone else, hands clutching the water bottle as if it could protect his fragile body.
It travels too fast. Yuta knows how this life will end with one sway of the train.
In his peripherals, he sees the side profile of someone familiar, maybe just a little more tanned and worn than the first time.
Then the train tries to screech to a halt — some people scream, and Yuta falls.
He wakes up and he can’t move. He’s restrained in ties that cut into his body, and around his neck is a metal band that doesn’t allow for his head to turn.
It’s times like this when Yuta finds it really unfair that fate is so cruel as to prevent him from having a normal life like anyone else he finds during his multiple ones.
One glance down tells him that he is not human. He is tinged with deep purple, with white spots marring his flesh. His blood is still red, though, and he can only tell through a gash on what he would call his knee had Yuta been given a human lifetime. One glance up tells him that he is especially sensitive to light. He bites his tongue to muffle a pained keen from the back of his throat that shakes the room.
A red light flashes above a door straight across from Yuta. He breathes heavily as the doorknob turns, expecting some stereotypical version of a mad scientist. So to say he’s thrown off when Hansol walks through - clipboard tucked to his chest, pupils shaking - is an understatement. Yuta is thrown off the goddamn edge of the universe.
Somewhere, deep inside, a knife twists so hard he doesn’t know if it kills him or reminds him he’s alive.
Hansol walks towards him, eyes glued to the side of Yuta. He looks just the same as always, minor changes ignored. Hair cropped short looks nice on him, anyways, even if Yuta isn’t used to the bangs being swept up and away from his face. The glasses make his eyes look smaller, though, and when Hansol looks at him, Yuta can only see his own reflection.
Yuta stays frozen still as Hansol takes a needle out, preparing it with ease. He flicks his finger against the plastic tube, and slowly begins to lift it to Yuta’s neck - and this here, this would be the first time Hansol has approached Yuta in centuries, millenniums, but it’s nothing that Yuta had imagined before.
The glasses fall down the slightest bit, brown eyes peeking over the lens, and he says, “This won’t hurt you a bit. I promise.”
The steady rhythm of his heart keeping him tied down roars in his ears. Yuta doesn’t know it, but this is where this life begins to go wrong. The heart monitor speeds up and Hansol says something soothing, something that no one else in this life would say to Yuta. The vial of blood is pulled from his neck. The doors slam open and the hand reaching for Yuta’s knee wound is suddenly pulled away, a quiet man in heavy, black armor citing something short about excitable mutants. Yuta is breathing too hard. He is unstable.
It hits him, a lot of the time, how kind Hansol is. It gives him false hope that even if Yuta were to approach Hansol in a new life on a new day to tell him that he had been running for days, weeks, months to find Hansol, the response would be to accept it. Embrace it.
Look at it like even Yuta doesn’t look at it. Call it a blessing instead of a curse.
Yuta doesn’t like math. 2 is 2 and 2 + 2 = 4, and that’s about the extent he brings himself to care, because it means that he can solve how much dinner will cost in any living scenario.
However, there is a time when he’s a university student in America. He is a he this time around, and his body has been altered in blue eyes and orange hair. His eyesight is just past the border of horrific and his class schedule is more-so, thus he ends up close to the board in a statistics class where he apparently does super great in, because 2 is 2 and 2 + 2 = 4 really begins to mean nothing when there are numbers on the board that Yuta didn’t even know existed.
There is something he learns, though:
Considering past and present, the likeliness of having one person made for you who is close to your age range and even still alive is close to impossible. The probability is meeting them is 1 to 500,000,000. Out of 10,000 lifetimes, you would only meet them once.
(It’s not fair. It’s never fair; but Yuta will wait more than 27.4 years, maybe even 900 years.)
If fate is cruel, then at least it was merciful enough to give him Hansol.
Yuta finds himself contemplating on days he is fragile. Mind, body, ethnicity, circumstance - he thinks it through.
For one day, he looks for Hansol. If this is so, does Hansol live a fulfilling life in each universe Yuta shows up in? If Yuta is a flower, is Hansol a picker? If Yuta is an old man, has Hansol already found love and lived well?
He won’t know.
Yuta waits through thousands of lifetimes to give Hansol a piece of his heart. It’s been thrown in shards in all directions.
The ceiling looks cold on one morning. Yuta doesn’t know why it does. It could be a reflection of how he’s feeling, which is frozen - goosebumps and annoyed shivers and all. He reaches a hand down and thinks to sleep it off, (it’s not going to be any different today), and instead it comes into contact with a knee curled a bit too high into a person.
Yuta’s first instinct is to jerk back. His head hits a night desk, and he thinks, these rooms are always so goddamn cramped for no reason at all. A low groan falls from Yuta’s mouth.
This morning is actually pretty disconcerting. Yuta might be sick and dying.
“Oh my God, Yuta,” a voice groans beside him, followed by shuffling as someone on Yuta’s other side moves to slap at the night desk. Yuta sits up, twists around to see some guy with his feet hanging off the bed poking uselessly at an alarm clock. “Turn off the alarm-” it turns off- “Thanks.”
Yuta sits in a daze, wondering why he’s sitting on a bunk bed with two other bunk beds in the room, before realizing that he’s being called by a name he’d almost forgotten. His eyes widen, and the tall guy just getting up looks at him foggily.
“Did you just call me Yuta?” Spills from his mouth before he can stop it.
“Um,” the one who’d fallen back into his pillow lifts his head back up, thin lips parted in confusion. “Yes. That’s your name, unless you’ve been lying for the past two years. In which case, I would be hurt.”
“Me, too,” tall one pipes in.
“Johnny and I would be hurt.”
“Oh,” Yuta says, and feels like he might faint. That can’t happen, otherwise he might die, so he stands up quickly and feels- nothing, really. Normal. “I see.”
This could be called being given a second chance.
Yuta eats breakfast with a group of randoms who are all also fairly attractive. Some are clearly familiar with him, and some are vaguely familiar to him. Yuta plays along and eats his eggs, carefully considering his every movement. He doesn’t know how this one will go, but Yuta has a sure-fire feeling building in his gut after their manager shows up and tells them to be down in the practice rooms at five o’clock in the afternoon.
The motions are never ending. Yuta doesn’t know them by heart, and he follows Taeil or Taeyong. They look at him the kindest and laugh his confusion off as exhaustion.
At five, Yuta follows down the stairs and out the door.
Yuta has bad memory. One of the things he remembers is meeting Hansol.
The grand scheme of things began with something like this, years and years ago:
Yuta and the rest of the trainees pour into the room, filling up the large space with polite “hello”s and “nice to meet you”s. He is immediately stricken by how attractive the new choreographer is, and wonders at his age before Taeyong catches their attention with the same introduction they were taught only a month before.
Hansol is long, lean, and controlled. He answers each question and gives pause to Yuta’s, only because it had been so out of the blue, if not a bit rude.
He’d looked put-off, but in hindsight, maybe it was hesitation or fear. Yuta remembers Hansol’s eyes the best, and they looked off to the side, around, and up to the ceiling in thought before he pulled out his phone and told him to make sure for the texts to be strictly business.
This time, Yuta doesn’t get a number.
What he does get are long side-glances and smiles, an introduction that sticks in his mind for hours afterward. He’s not quite sure what to do with that, but something tells him he’ll figure it out.
If he doesn’t have today, he’ll have tomorrow.