pg-13 | eunhae
"they're nothing short of expensive china."
Two hands, piecing beautifully crafted pieces together like puzzle pieces, smoothing down artificial hair so soft that it felt real, painting fair color onto porcelain. Two eyes, twinkling with pride and accomplishment and love. Two arms, holding this magnificent being and placing it in this grand leather-upholstered chair.
"Open your eyes, Donghae," he whispers gently, running a hand along the doll's clothed arm, smiling softly. Then he steps back, his footsteps echoing throughout the hall.
Fingers twitching, this doll—Donghae—opens his eyes, these gorgeous, honey orbs, and glances around for the first time.
"Today we have a special guest," a woman on the radio says. "He's the manufacturer of a line of hand-made human-sized dolls that are believed to be able to live the life of a human. They can act for themselves, they can adapt easily, they can breathe, they can touch, and so many other things."
But can they love?, a million people think.
Unlike the other dolls of his Creator, Donghae is unwanted soon after his first month inside the walls of the mansion. He watches his Creator with his children, little ones with golden hair and sparkling eyes, and he thinks: Why can't I be like them?
No one notices when Donghae disappears one day. Down the halls, down the vines on the side of the mansion, through the garden. He spares one last glance, and then never looks back again.
The world is loud and difficult and so very confusing. Donghae feels a lot like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole—except the rabbit hole never ends, and Donghae thinks he's never going to hit the bottom.
Remembering when his Creator first read him "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", he teeters a little.
It takes a long while for Donghae to navigate himself through the city, because people are bumping into him, and dogs are barking, and children are staring up at him from their strollers, and where exactly is he going, anyway?
He's not so sure anymore, even as he descends the stairs leading into the subway. People chatter loudly on their cellular phones—which Donghae has never seen before, since all he knows is the mansion—and scolding everyone, anyone.
Donghae also isn't sure when a little girl, not more than six, comes up to him and presses her ticket into his hand. He almost drops it. With big ocean blue eyes, she stares up at him and whispers, "I don't want to get on the train!"
Her mother, Donghae presumes, calls out, "Heejin!", and the girl giggles and dashes off, faster than Donghae can blink.
Everything from the gate on in is a mystery, because the next thing Donghae knows, he's being yanked backwards just as a roaring streak of silver hurls and screeches past him. On the ground, Donghae glances up at the person who saved him.
"Are you okay?" they ask.
Now, Donghae is a little baffled. He had expected this man to yell at him, with obsceneties inserted every two seconds. But this man—who looks just as old as Donghae, had he been a human himself—gets down on his knees to peer at him.
"You're a Harlequinn doll, aren't you?" He doesn't allow Donghae the chance to answer, because he's leaning closer. "I didn't know they've been released on the market."
Donghae sees a small flash, and catches sight of a card, laminated in thick plastic and pinned to the man's ivory dress shirt. "Hyukjae?" he reads outloud.
With a slim finger, Donghae reaches over to tap his nail on the plastic card. Hyukjae smiles at him, like he has just experienced a child learning their first word.
Through the park and down two blocks goes Hyukjae, Donghae trailing a little behind. Slowing to a stop at the intersection, Hyukjae laughs when he turns around. "You're just like a puppy," he comments.
"I don't know where I'm going," Donghae admits guiltily, and glances down at the dirty sidewalk, unsure of what to say next.
There's a soothing hand on his shoulder. "Come over to my place, and we'll figure something out."
The second Donghae steps into Hyukjae's apartment, he's greeted by a small animal that yaps happily at him, and circles around his legs. Unsure of what's happening, and feeling something much like confusion, Donghae edges toward the living room.
"She's a beagle. Her name's Summer," Hyukjae explains as he gently shuts the front door with a click. "She's—" he cuts himself off when he spots Donghae crawling onto the couch to get away from Summer.
Laughing loudly, Hyukjae drops his keys onto the stand by the door, and places his briefcase beside it. "She won't bite you, you know. Harmless, really."
He watches Donghae in fascination as the Harlequinn sinks hesitantly to the floor to run his perfect fingers across Summer's soft ears, and he can't help but smile and lightly murmur, "Amazing."
When Donghae is sleeping, Hyukjae creeps up onto the bed next to him as gently as he can without waking the other, and runs his fingers through Donghae's auburn ringlets.
"It's not real," Donghae whispers as he opens his eyes slowly.
Hyukjae continues stroking it, and shakes his head. "It feels real to me," he tells him, and smiles.
For some unknown reason, Donghae finds himself staying with Hyukjae for much longer than expected. It isn't until later than he realizes they couldn't leave each other—not now, not ever.
Spying on Hyukjae was one of Donghae's favourite things to do. He'd hide behind something so he could scrutinize Hyukjae's every move and practice them later. As a guest in the apartment, Donghae felt it was his duty to behave in a more polite manner.
Hyukjae notices Donghae seated on the couch after dinner one day, sewing a rip in Hyukjae's favourite, blue jeans, that seemed to have gotten ruined when Summer sunk her teeth into them.
Dropping down beside him, Hyukjae wraps his arms around Donghae and kisses his hair. "I love you, Donghae," he says truthfully. "I wish I could keep you forever."
The needle pricks into Donghae's index finger, but he doesn't feel any pain, nor is there any blood.
"What does love mean?"
Ice clinks in the glass that Hyukjae is holding, and he half-turns to face Donghae in the doorway into the kitchen, who stands there as stiff as a statue.
"What is what?"
"What is love?"
It should be an easy question, but Hyukjae doesn't know how to answer at first. "Donghae," he starts eventually, placing his glass of water on the island countertop, "love is... a lot of things." Hyukjae pauses and surveys Donghae through his lashes. "Is this because I told you I love you two days ago?"
A timid, uncertain nod.
He sits Donghae down at the kitchen table, and takes one porcelain hand. "Love is... love is when you feel like you can't breathe around them. When the stars just don't shine as bright in the night. When you felt that you'd rather die then be without them."
Donghae, curling his fingers around Hyukjae's absentmindedly, tilts his head up so he can meet Hyukjae's eyes. "Can I ever feel that some day?"
"I know you can," is the answer in return, and Donghae closes his eyes in shame when Hyukjae hugs him close, pressing his cheek to his artificial hair, holding his artificial body like it could break any second.
Donghae hates this, he hates it so much, but he's willing to deny the rules of life for Hyukjae.