Mork took a deep drag from the cigarette pressed between his cracked lips. The smoke burned against the back of his throat, but he welcomed the feeling. It was a momentary distraction from the throbbing pain in his cheek and the sting in the side of his chest with each breath he took, at the very least. He was pretty certain he had broken a rib, but he couldn’t find it in himself to pay it much mind.
There was little he cared about, in fact. Not the group of punks that had just kicked the shit out of him. No, definitely not them. He’d given it back just as badly as he’d taken it, and it wasn’t like it was the first time he’d gone around sporting a busted lip and bloodied knuckles. He knew his father would have had something to say about it if he could see him; he always did. More often than not he’d rough Mork up just as bad- if not worse- than the guys he met on the street. That was one reason he had left home in the first place. Mork was numb to it all by now, for what it was worth.
With a smoke-filled exhale, Mork leaned his head back against the icy, stone wall of the alleyway. It was a sweltering mid-autumn night, and the stick of cold sweat on his neck felt out of place contrasted with the distinct scent of late October in the air. Mork considered for a moment removing his jacket, but the thought of moving at all seemed like too much trouble to be bothered with; so he resolved to just sit and simmer in the hot leather instead.
Mork tapped the ash off the end of his dwindling cigarette with another long exhale. He hadn’t been looking for a fight. He never really did. Somehow, the fights always seemed to find him though. He didn’t particularly enjoy the feeling of his knuckles crunching against some other guy’s face, or the sound the brunt of his boot made when he rammed it into an oncoming chest. But it wasn’t like Mork had much of a choice; he couldn’t just sit back and let himself get wailed on like he was some defenseless little kid. He’d spent way too many years living that way.
Besides, despite his misgivings, he generally could hold his own pretty well. Even against the sizable crowd, he’d lasted a while until some big bastard came along and managed to dead-leg and knock his feet out from under him. They only decided he’d had enough when the blood started dripping from his lips. Naturally, they’d left him there in the alley without a second look.
Mork extinguished his cigarette on the damp ground. What a shitty night this had turned out to be. His boyfriend (or should he say ex ) had kicked him out of their apartment again for God-knows-what petty reason. He wouldn’t say he was particularly heartbroken over the fact; he’d only shacked up with the guy because he had nowhere else to go, after all. Even so, crashing on the street didn’t exactly sound like his idea of a cozy night. Especially with the rumbling moving in with the clouds overhead.
Of course it was going to rain. Mork really couldn’t have expected anything less. It’s not like anything else had ever gone in his favor. He wasn’t surprised in the least when the first drops fell against his face, and even less when they became a torrential downpour.
With a groan, he managed to hoist himself up off the ground; using the alley wall behind him for as much support as he could. Mork knew he didn’t have anywhere in particular to go, but he felt he should try to find some shelter from the rain at the very least. He winced as he tried to take a step. His side felt like it was on fire, but he begrudgingly continued on.
His drenched leather jacket clung to every inch of his torso and arms like a slimy film, and he was almost regretting not having removed it earlier. The thought of peeling it away from his damp skin later sent a shiver crawling up his spine. Mork caught himself wondering if the night could possibly get any worse for him, but he knew that it was almost a given that it could and most likely would with his track record. Murphy’s Law could have just as easily been known as Mork’s Law.
Mork continued to stumble his way down the sidewalk. It was late- well past midnight by now- and the streets were all but deserted. He wouldn’t have expected to get help from anyone regardless. People were always too focused on their own problems to worry about anybody else. That was the harsh reality of the world. Mork knew that all too well.
The rain had finally begun to let up a bit, but it was still difficult for Mork to see where he was going. His eyes stung as the water mixed with the layer of sweat and blood on his brow and ran down the length of his face. He occasionally rubbed at them futilely with the back of his hand before giving up all together and continuing on blindly.
Mork lost more and more strength with every step. His body felt like a thousand pounds of dead weight. His heavy boots slipped a few times against the slick pavement, sending him reaching out for anything nearby he could grab onto to keep himself from falling on his face. He wasn’t certain that he would be able to pull himself up off the ground a second time.
Through the downpour, Mork could make out a faint, warm glow that seemed not too far away. He hoped perhaps it was a convenience store or at least some place he could duck in to get out of the rain for a few minutes.
As he approached, Mork could begin to make out the shape of a building. Pots of various kinds of plants dotted and decorated the pathway leading up, and a brown wooden door flanked by windows and a deep blue frame marked the entrance. He could tell now that it wasn’t a convenience store; it appeared to be some sort of café. In all honesty, he didn’t really care what it was as long as he could huddle himself under the awning and rest for a little while. The lights were all off inside- only the flood lights outside were lit- so he assumed whoever owned the place had already closed for the night and surely wouldn’t mind him camping out until morning.
In his haste to take shelter, Mork moved a little more quickly than he should have and a searing pain from his ribs resonated through his entire right side. It was excruciating, and the pain sent him crumbling back to the pavement; crashing into a few potted plants on his way and shattering them across the ground of the entryway.
“Shit,” Mork breathed.
The lights inside flipped on.
“ Shit,” he repeated.
He couldn’t get up. He didn’t want to move anymore. Someone was bursting out the front door of the café, and Mork couldn’t muster up the strength to try to run away.
What a shitty night.
“Hey!” the stranger yelled. “What are you doing on my property?!”
Mork winced and shielded his eyes as a bright light was shone upon him.
“Leave or I’ll call the-” the stranger froze. “Oh my god, are you okay?”
The light disappeared and a silhouette rushed towards him. The stranger kneeled down onto the wet ground beside Mork.
“I’m fine,” Mork muttered unconvincingly in reply. “Sorry about your plants.”
“I’m fine,” Mork repeated. He tried to hoist himself back up to his feet, but the pain in his side had gotten so immense that he just didn’t have the strength.
“Whoa, whoa,” the stranger urged, hooking his arm with one of Mork’s to keep him from hitting the ground again. “You need a doctor.”
“I said I’m fine .” Mork ripped his arm away from the stranger’s grip and promptly slammed back down with a groan.
“Let me help you up. At least come get out of the rain.”
Mork wanted to complain. He hated being babied, but his entire goal had been to find a bit of shelter for a while. He couldn’t deny how warm and inviting the interior of the shop he could make out through the open door appeared either.
“Fine,” he mumbled reluctantly.
The stranger hooked back on to Mork’s arm once again and helped lift him back up. He supported Mork with relative ease, Mork noted. Together, they shuffled through the doorway of the shop and Mork was seated on a small couch just inside the entry. As his eyes adjusted to the light and his sight was no longer obstructed by heavy rain, Mork was finally able to catch a glimpse of the man who had assisted him and he went to kneel before him.
He was handsome. As jaded towards the idea of love and relationships and other people in general as Mork was, he could still admit the man was attractive. Droplets of water trickled from the tips of his dark, drenched hair and ran down the length of his sharp features. He seemed to be older than Mork, but only by a few years. The man looked him over with an expression that Mork couldn’t quite place; he just hoped to god that it wasn’t pity. He never wanted to be pitted, and he told the stranger as much.
“I’m not pitying you,” the stranger assured him. “I’m just wondering how you ended up so badly beaten on my doorstep. Were you mugged? Or in a fight?”
“None of your business,” Mork muttered.
The stranger raised an eyebrow. “You were sneaking around and damaging my property in the middle of the night. I’d say that’s my business.”
“It was an accident!” Mork snapped. He took a breath to calm himself. “I was just trying to get out of the rain. I wasn’t doing anything or trying to bother anyone.”
The stranger furrowed his brow. “Did you not have anywhere else to go?”
Mork chewed the inside of his lip. He could taste blood beginning to pool inside his mouth once more as he inadvertently reopened a few cuts.
“I won’t pry,” the stranger said finally once it was clear that Mork intended not to answer his question. “Let’s get you cleaned up and dry at least. I’m Sun.” He flashed Mork a small smile. “And your name?”
Mork scoffed. “Is still none of your business.”
Sun sighed and nodded in acceptance. “Fair enough,” he said. “Wait here.”
Sun stood and disappeared up the stairs towards the back of the café. Mork took the opportunity to take in the scenery around him. The café was warm, cozy, and clean. It was the kind of place Mork imagined someone could feel at home and welcomed in. Someplace safe. Mork hadn’t felt that way in a long time.
It wasn’t overly decorated; just a few plants here and there like the ones outside, and tables and chairs sprinkled throughout. Behind the dark, wooden counter Mork could make out a few machines and bits and bobs he assumed were used in coffee preparation. The air smelled of bold, dark roast and sugary whipped cream. Mork had never been a huge coffee drinker himself, but he found the scent oddly soothing.
The stairs creaked as Sun returned back down them; a towel, first-aid kit, and change of clothes in tow. Mork noticed that he had changed as well; now sporting a dark gray pair of sweatpants and a form-fitting white tee. Mork most certainly did not take notice of how it hugged the other man’s chest just right. He would never.
“Here,” Sun said as he tossed Mork the towel. “Dry off and you can change once I’ve finished patching you up.”
Mork ran the towel through his hair. “I don’t need help,” he rebutted. “I can handle myself.”
“I can see that,” Sun mocked. He unpacked the first-aid kit and started cleaning the wounds on Mork’s face before he could start protesting again.
Mork hissed as Sun brushed across a particularly deep gash just above his right eyebrow. Mork had cleaned his fair share of his own wounds, and he couldn’t say that it was an experience he particularly enjoyed. He could tell Sun was trying to be as gentle as possible, but it still stung like hell.
Sun bandaged up the more severe cuts and dabbed ointment against the smaller scratches. Mork tried to ignore how close their faces were to each other.
“There,” Sun said, satisfied with his work. “Take off your shirt now.”
“Excuse me?” Mork asked incredulously.
“Take it off,” Sun repeated. “I want to make sure you’re not bleeding anywhere else. You need to change anyway.”
Mork couldn’t believe this guy. They’d only know each other for ten minutes and he was already making demands. Mork had every mind to refuse, but the look on Sun’s face gave him the impression that he really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. He reluctantly peeled off his jacket- which felt just as disgusting as he’d imagined it would- and lifted his drenched t-shirt over his head; wincing as his right side stretched and pain tore through him like a gunshot.
Sun’s brow furrowed even deeper as his eyes scanned over every inch of Mork’s chest and abdomen. He was littered with scars; some long and thin, some deep and thick, and some small and perfectly round like the butt of a cigarette. Mork’s right side had already begun to bruise and was peppered with angry red splotches shaped like the toe end of a boot. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to be bleeding anywhere else, but the damage was still extensive.
“You really should see a doctor,” Sun chided.
Mork shook his head. “What’s the point? Even if any of my ribs are broken, what can they do? They’d just send me home to rest anyway.”
Sun huffed disapprovingly. “How did you end up like this?” he quizzed.
“I thought we already established that it wasn’t any of your business,” Mork snapped.
Sun sighed. “Yes, I remember. But you shouldn’t get into fights if you can avoid it.”
“Sometimes you can’t avoid it,” Mork replied, his expression darkening slightly.
Sun didn’t press him on it any further, to which Mork was relieved.
“Can you stand?” Sun asked after a few deafening moments of silence.
“I can manage,” Mork insisted. Sun still gave him a hand getting to his feet regardless.
Mork was led slowly up the stairs to the second floor of the café. It looked to be much more residential than downstairs, so he assumed this must be where Sun lived. Still supporting him, Sun guided Mork into a small bathroom where he was told he was free to bathe and change if he wanted. Mork mumbled a thank you under his breath as Sun turned to leave. The door pulled shut behind him with a soft click.
Mork finally was able to get a good look at himself in the vanity mirror above the sink. His face was swollen and red. The cuts Sun had cleaned for him extended all across his brow and down his cheek. He was pretty certain a shiner was forming on his right eye. But he’d been worse. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.
Mork shimmied out of his wet jeans and underwear and quickly washed himself with a rag Sun had left for him on the counter top. Standing up still made him feel a bit woozy, so he’d decided to opt out of a full-blown shower; regardless of how good it sounded to him. Once he had cleaned and dried, he pulled on the white shirt and gray sweatpants Sun had provided him; a set almost identical to Sun’s own.
Mork emerged from the bathroom feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable. He was in a man’s- an attractive man’s- home in the middle of the night wearing clothes that weren’t his and it was all feeling a little too domestic for his liking. He knew there were no such intentions on Sun’s- or his- part, but he couldn’t help the fact that this kind of situation would usually make him cringe.
He hated the idea of sweet, domestic relationships. Every relationship he’d seen or been part of his entire life had been all about give-and-take. Purely transactional, and only looking out for one’s own selfish interests. Feelings were too costly to afford. That was the world Mork knew.
Mork trudged his way over to the top of the staircase, and, taking each step slowly and carefully with the guardrail firmly in his grip, began his descent back to the main café floor.
“Do you need help?” Sun called once he heard the creaking of Mork’s heavy feet against the stairs the stairs.
“I’m fine,” Mork replied. Sun was babying him a little too much, he felt. He could handle doing this much at least. It took him longer than he would have liked to admit, but he managed to reach the bottom without incident.
“Come sit here,” Sun instructed once he saw Mork’s head peek around the corner. He had relocated to behind the wooden counter and gestured to one of the black metal stools seated there.
Mork obliged and plopped himself down onto the cool seat.
“Is coffee alright?” Sun asked from the other side of the counter. Mork could see a couple of mugs sitting out on the clean workspace and heard the groan of the machines warming up. “Or would you prefer milk?”
Mork huffed. “I’m not a child,” he retorted.
“Coffee it is.”
Mork observed with mild interest as Sun skillfully prepared a cup for each of them. Mork was sure it was a lot more in depth a process than it seemed, but Sun made it look so effortless. Everything was perfectly measured and cleanly presented, and witching moments, a steaming, brown brew was placed before him.
Mork had never really enjoyed coffee all that much, if he was being honest. He’d only ever had the crappy, cheap kind that tasted burned and bitter and was only really good for knocking you awake in the morning, so he could never quite understand what the hype was behind it.
Sun’s coffee… was not that. Sun’s coffee was bold but perfectly balanced in sweetness. It was warm and inviting and tasted like nothing Mork had ever tried before. It tasted like something you would drink just because you wanted to; because it felt nice and comfortable to. He couldn’t stop himself from practically guzzling the entire thing. The warmth passed his dry lips and coursed through his entire body, settling in the depths of his belly and leaving him with a satisfying tingly feeling that he could feel all the way to the tips of his fingers. If he wasn’t careful he might just let a small smile break through in spite of himself.
“Good?” Sun chuckled upon seeing Mork’s candid reaction.
Mork felt the back of his neck flush with the heat of blush. He cleared his throat lightly and simply nodded in reply.
“I’m glad.” Sun shot him a smile that warmed him up almost as much as the coffee had.
“Why are you doing all this for me?” Mork pondered; not really intending to say it out loud, but not particularly upset that he had. He’d been wondering it even since Sun had picked him up, after all.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Sun rebutted.
“Most people wouldn’t have.”
Sun leaned in towards Mork ever so slightly. “Maybe you just hadn’t met the right person before.”
Mork swallowed and ripped his eyes away from Sun’s face, choosing to stare into the bottom of his empty mug instead. He was pretending that his heart was racing because of the caffeine.
God, at a moment like this he really needed a smoke. He started patting at his sides in search of something.
“Damn it,” he muttered under his breath.
“Is something wrong?” Sun asked in concern.
“My cigarettes,” Mork replied. “I left them in my jean pocket in the bathroom upstairs.” He groaned. “They’re probably all soaked and ruined anyway. Damn.”
Sun hummed in reply. “Cigarettes, huh? Wait here just a moment.”
Sun disappeared a little bit further back into the kitchen and Mork could hear him rifling through a few drawers before he quickly returned.
“Hold out your hand,” Sun said.
Mork obeyed and held his palm up expecting Sun to place a cigarette in his open hand. Sun instead handed him a small, bright red lollipop wrapped snugly in a cherry-decorated plastic wrapper.
“Are you serious?” Mork asked.
“Cigarettes are bad for you,” Sun replied.
“Wow, I’ve never heard that one before,” Mork sneered. “Thanks for the tip, Mom.”
“You should take care of yourself.”
Mork rolled his eyes.
“I appreciate your help tonight, but I don’t need the lecture.” Mork slid himself down off the stool and turned to head towards the door. He was feeling like he’d overstayed his welcome. “I’ll go ahead and be on my way. Thanks though.”
“Wait!” Sun called after him, bursting out from behind the counter and grabbing hold of Mork’s wrist. “Why don’t you rest here for the night?”
Mork opened his mouth to protest but Sun cut him off before he had the chance.
“It’s late,” Sun insisted. “You need to rest with those injuries and it’s still pouring outside. You don’t have anywhere else to go, right?”
Mork sighed. Sun was right and he hated that Sun was right.
Sun practically beamed.
“You can sleep on the couch there,” he said. “I’ll bring you a blanket.” Sun sent him another smile before heading back up the stairs.
Mork couldn’t understand why a complete stranger would go to such lengths for him. He considered for just a moment still bolting while Sun had left him unsupervised, but something kept tugging at him to stay. In all honesty, he wouldn’t mind a few hours of actual sleep where it was dry.
Making his decision, Mork shuffled over to the small couch and laid his head down on one of the throw pillows. He hadn’t realized how completely exhausted he was; even with the cup of coffee he’d just had still fresh in his veins. The couch was much more comfortable than he expected that it would be. His eyes started to droop before he knew it, and he could barely recall the blanket Sun returned with and gently tucked around him, or the soft fingertips that brushed a lock of hair out of his face, or the gentle good night that was whispered to him.
Mork slept better and more peacefully that night than he had in years.
Sun awoke bright and early the next morning; as was his usual routine. Lots of people couldn’t function without their morning coffee, so he had to always be sure to be up and ready to serve the morning rush.
He dressed in a clean, white button up and dark slacks and tidied himself up before heading quietly down the stairs.
He usually waited until a little later in the morning to make sure that Rain was up. His brother could sleep through just about anything- as evidenced by the fact that he hadn’t awoken through any of the commotion the previous night- but when he was awakened, he absolutely detested it. Rain most certainly was not a morning person. Sun had learned over the years that it was best not to bother him until he was ready to get up himself.
Sun was trying to be as silent as possible as he reached the bottom of the staircase so as not to disturb his guest whom he assumed must still be asleep on the couch, but to his surprise he found the downstairs empty.
“Hello?” he called. There was no reply.
Sun wandered around the ground floor and even double checked the bathroom upstairs, but the man from the previous night had vanished.
Sun frowned. Why would he just leave? His injuries had been so severe, and Sun was sure the few hours that had passed couldn’t have been enough rest. Sun wondered if he should have made the man go to the hospital after all. He was worried, and he couldn’t deny that.
With a deep sigh, Sun wandered over to the couch. The blanket as well as the clothes he had loaned the man had all been neatly folded and stacked on the cushions. On top, a small note had been left. Sun recognized the paper from a pad he kept behind the counter to take orders.
Sun picked it up and read the messy scrawl.
“Thanks again for everything.
Sorry for the trouble.
Try not to nag people so much, it makes you sound like an old man.
P.S. I hate cherry.”
On the back of the note, a crumpled, empty cherry lollipop wrapper had been attached with a small piece of tape.
Sun laughed, his disappointment melting away into an emotion entirely different. A wide smile spread across his face.
So his name was Mork.