Part I Part II Part III Part IV
I’ve been traveling a lot and somehow you’re in every single city I
go to seriously what the fuck who even are you how are you doing this (Part V)
Paris, 3rd of May
It had been raining nonstop since Marco arrived at the city of love two days ago. Of course that didn’t keep him from exploring like he’d planned to, it just meant that his umbrella was his constant companion.
Also he spent a lot more time in little cafes to warm up and change his plans according to the weather.
There were just some sights that made no sense as long as it was pouring, so he visited the Louvre instead – which took almost a whole day anyway – and Napoleon’s tomb inside Les Invalides as well as some less famous places the owners of the small bed&breakfast he stayed at told him about.
Today was the first day it wasn’t raining buckets and he’d decided to pay the Eiffel Tower a visit now before the weather got worse again and he’d never have a good view from the top.
It still wasn’t exactly sunny, the persistent cloud cover still hanging low, but as long as the top wasn’t disappearing in it, he should be fine.
Marco didn’t get that far, though. Before he could even reach the Tower itself, while still strolling through the parkway leading toward it, he saw his stranger again.
He was standing there all alone on the damp grass, ripped jeans and dirty sneakers, the collar of his dark leather jacket popped up against the early morning chill, one hand shoved into his pocket, the other holding what looked like a slip of paper, maybe a letter or a photograph.
He didn’t move.
Not in all the while that Marco stood there frozen, openly staring at him. At how his profile was sharp against the gray gloom surrounding them, at the way the blond strands of hair were being whipped around by soft bursts of wind, at his eyes, that were varying between tracing the paper in his hand and gliding up to regard the Tower in front of them while he absentmindedly chewed on one of his lip piercings.
Marco didn’t think when he stepped forward at last. He didn’t think about what to say this time, if the stranger would even understand him or how this might be his very last chance to talk to him. He just started moving, barely feeling the gravel underneath his sneakers or the soppy lawn it quickly changed into when he got closer to the other man.
Before he could reach him and blurt out the first thing that came to mind, the stranger turned his head to look at him, movement as sharp as his eyes.
“What the fuck do you want from me?”
Marco stopped dead in his tracks, about two meters still separating him from the other man, and didn’t know what to say. What did he want indeed?
“I don’t know if you’re really following me but four cities is a pretty big coincidence, don’t you think?”, the tone of his voice was harsh and accusatory, cutting through the cool breeze.
Marco still didn’t know what to say. This was not how he’d imagined things playing out if he ever got the chance to actually talk to the guy.
His eyes started flitting around, catching on the paper held so delicately between slim fingers.
It actually was a photograph, yellowed and wrinkled, and seemed to be of this exact location. There was a young woman at the center of it but before Marco could inspect it any further it was hastily tucked away, the eyes of the stranger turning even colder when he looked up to meet them again.
“Do I have to beat it out of you?” Pale hands clenched into fists as the stranger took a heavy step towards Marco who jumped back at the sudden movement, raising his hands slowly.
“N-no! No, it’s okay. I’ll…” Yes, what would he do? God this wasn’t turning out as planned. Hell, there had never been a plan in the first place. Just confusion and curiosity and a night on a grimy dancefloor…
Marco took a deep breath and let it out again, lowering his hands as the stranger didn’t make another move toward him and just stood there glaring, waiting.
“It’s … it’s actually been six…” He wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to say but sticking to the truth couldn’t be the worst he could do.
“Six cities. You said four but it’s been six”, Marco started again, voice kind of timid and only able to meet the other’s eyes every few words before they flitted away again. “I … I saw you in Rome. At the Trevi Fountain. And at the aquarium in Vienna. Then Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam. Now we’re here. Six.” He didn’t think that expression could become even harder but was proven wrong. Trying to reciprocate that icy stare as calmly as he could he noticed something.
The reason those eyes seemed to practically glow with anger was that they were bloodshot, a little swollen around the eyelids, too. Now that he came to think about it, it was a little chilly but not enough to warrant that feverish redness to those pale cheeks…
“You stalking me or anything?”
“I … no. No!” Marco tried to clarify as the stranger cocked his head to the side, covering a little sniff. Oh. “No, I promise. This is just some stupid coincidence. I’m just a guy doing my thing and there you are, doing the same thing and yeah this is crazy but I promise…”
“So we had the same route for almost a month and you’re trying to tell me it’s what? Fate? That your shitty pick-up line?”
“I’m…” Marco was at a loss for words again. Was that what he had wanted to do this whole time? Hit on the guy? Well, Berlin had been … interesting. And the guy was really attractive … but was that everything there was to this? “I don’t know.”
“You don’t … Okay, you know what? Just fuck off already. I don’t if you’re a creepy stalker or not, just don’t try anything or I’ll kick your fucking head in. I don’t have time for this shit.”
For some reason this blatant rejection hurt more than the open hostility from before. Marco couldn’t do anything but slink back from the stranger.
This was it then. His big mystery had been somewhat solved. There was nothing more to this than coincidence and maybe a bit of luck. And now there would be nothing more than possibly one or two more glimpses in a crowd.
“Okay, I’m sorry. Get to Bern safely, then.” That made the stranger, who had already been about to turn away, make a double take.
“Bern?” He raised a dark eyebrow, blinking slowly while, for the first time, really regarding Marco.
“Yes, we’re headed for Switzerland, right?”
“No…”, that deep voice drawled, laced with confusion. “I’m going to Madrid after this.”
Oh god so this had been Marco’s very last chance and he blew it and now he would never see that stupidly attractive guy again, that guy that made his heart leap so very high and…
“So you’re really not a stalker? And you didn’t just say that on purpose so I would … did you?”
“I’m … no!”, Marco managed after marginal sputtering, trying his best to sound as convincing as he wanted to this time. “I’ve been trying to tell you, I’m not…”
“Fuck this is crazy!”, the guy exclaimed, all that suspicion and venom suddenly gone from his voice as he shook his head, shoulders dropping as he let go of his prickly defenses. “Dude, what gives? Six cities, really?”
Marco didn’t know what exactly had caused this sudden change in behavior but oh it made his stupid heart hammer against his ribcage all the more insistently. He took a timid step forward, towards the stranger, even though his fingers were trembling, and carefully offered his hand.
“Hi, I’m Marco and I’ve been planning this trip for months before I even knew you existed. I swear. It’s nice to … uhm, officially meet you.”
The other guy’s grip on his hand was strong, cool fingers squeezing his tightly while he still shook his head. A disbelieving smile was now playing at his lips but there was really not an ounce hostility left, neither in the way he held himself, nor in his voice.
“Hey Marco. I’m Jean and I…” There was a pause, soft and tiny, but Marco noticed it. Noticed the split-second of grief before the stranger – Jean! - caught himself. “Yeah, same.”
“Do you…”, Marco faltered for a second before scolding himself: Get yourself together Bodt, you got another chance now use it. “Do you maybe want to grab a coffee? Now or … later? I don’t care I just have a feeling that this…”
“Ugh, thank god you’re cute Marco, or this whole fate thing wouldn’t do jackshit for me.” A nervous giggle escaped him as he watched Jean’s smile pull into a grin, their hands still clasped together.
“Was that … was that a yes?”
“Look at you, you couldn’t be a creepy stalker if you tried, could you? Yes, that was a yes”, Jean clarified, still grinning and just slowly letting go of his hand.
A moment later they were headed off towards the nearest cafe, Eiffel Tower all but forgotten as they were recalling stories of their respective journeys so far.