“Good morning,” Ernst signs drowsily, eyes still half closed, as he wanders over to Hanschen’s teapot. Hanschen stares after him, sipping his mug of coffee.
Ernst’s hair is still messy- he has spectacular bedhead, sticking up on his left side and tangled on the other, due to Hanschen’s habit of running his fingers through it while they fall asleep- and he’s just wearing boxers and a too-big shirt of Otto’s that Hanschen adopted years ago with a screaming chicken on it. Otto had never explained the chicken, and Hanschen had never asked. It was fine. Ernst scratches the back of his neck while he pours water into the teapot, yawning.
Hanschen will maintain that Ernst has the cutest yawn he’s heard- he’s had this opinion since they were both first graders and Hanschen was next to Ernst during naptime, both of them tiny and trailing blankets behind them. Hanschen’s was yellow with blue polkadots, and Ernst’s was light gray with a stuffed elephant’s head sewn on the top.
Hanschen’s jolted out of his reverie when Melchior clears his throat.
“What the fuck’s Ernst doing here at 9:30 in the morning?” He hisses, leaning over his mug. Melchior brings his own mug whenever he stops over at Hanschen’s. It’s gray and has some political slogan from before Hanschen cared about politics.
Hanschen scowls at him. “God, I forgot you were here.”
Melchior ignores Hanschen, still staring at Ernst. “And why isn’t he wearing pants?”
Hanschen rolls his eyes. “Why do you think?”
Melchior looks back at Hanchen, purses his lips, and takes a thoughtful drink of coffee. “I wouldn’t have taken Ernst to be the kind of person to fall for you,” he says pointedly.
“Well, I wouldn’t have guessed that anyone would be the type to fall for you, and yet you managed to find someone stupid enough to date you.”
“Take that back,” Melchior says mildly.
Ernst pours himself a cup of hot water and drops a tea bag into it, coming over to the kitchen table.
Hanschen didn’t have a teapot before Ernst started coming over, nor did he have any of the tea bags that are now strewn over his kitchen counter. It was, he thinks, Ernst’s way of implementing himself in Hanschen’s life, under the guise of Thea saying that tea took up too much counter space.
“What’re you guys doing?” Ernst asks, putting his mug down on the table. It’s a gray-green color with a fancy handle that Hanschen thinks is probably pretty uncomfortable. Ernst eyes are not gray-green, they’re just brown, but they’re beautiful all the same. Ilse teases him about how much Hanschen looks into Ernst’s eyes: “I bet you’d spend hours staring at his face if you could,” and yeah. Hanschen probably would.
“Well, we were talking,” Melchior signs back, “but now Hanschen seems rather preoccupied with your eyes.”
Hanschen glares. “I was just asking this asshole why he’s here.”
“I could ask Ernst the same thing.” Melchior raises his eyebrows.
“I had to come here! It was a sign from above.” Ernst signs, casting his eyes toward the ceiling.
Melchior brings his hands up to signs something, then stops. “You’re baiting me,” he accuses.
“Never!” Hanschen signs, grinning at Ernst, who grins back, and Hanschen is floored.
Once, when Hanschen was in seventh grade, he won the spelling bee. The headmaster came up onstage to give him an oversized medal made of hard plastic and Melchior, who’d been eliminated in the second around after misspelling ‘envious’, sat in the back of the auditorium. They’d made eye contact and Melchior had flipped him off. It’d cemented their friendship and had been the first time that Hanchen had felt truly victorious.
He feels like that whenever he makes Ernst smile.
Melchior notices Hanschen’s expression and rolls his eyes. “I’m going to get cavities around you two.”
“You’re going to get cavities anyway, with how you drink your coffee,” Hanschen says distastefully.
“You’re one to talk, Mr. caramel mocha-”
“Please stop,” Ernst signs pleasantly. “I’ve just woken up.”
“Sorry,” Hanschen signs, and elbows Melchior, who assumes his ‘good schoolboy face’.
“Awfully sorry, Ernst.”
“Fuck you,” Ernst signs back, then sighs and sips his tea.
Melchior frowns at his coffee, then at the clock on the wall, then at Ernst, then takes out his phone and frowns at it.
Hanschen glances at Ernst, who’s smiling bemusedly.
“It seems I’ve overstayed my welcome,” Melchior says, sliding out of his seat and bowing slightly.
It’s all the bit melodramatic, but so is Melchior. “You’ve never been one to take hints,” Hanschen signs. “What happened?”
“Well, I’ve decided to value my friends more,” Melchior holds up his phone, showing a series of increasingly frantic text messages from ‘moreitz or less’ . “Also I was supposed to be at Moritz’s fifteen minutes ago.”
“Well, then, off you go.” Ernst nods at the door.
“Uh-hu!” Melchior nods cheerily and takes a gulp of his coffee. “Text me if you need anything from Target, I think Moritz and I are doing errands.”
Hanschen opens their apartment door. “Sounds fun! Bye.”
“It’s not very romantic, admittedly,” Melchior muses. “And yet what is romance? Who’s to say that going to large, warehouse-like stores with your boyfriend isn’t-”
Hanschen clamps a hand over Melchior’s, then takes it away to sign, “You were leaving?”
Melchior grins at Hanschen, every bit the imp Hanschen always knew he was. “I suppose I was- and yet.”
He doesn’t leave. They talk for a few more minutes, Ernst just drinking the rest of his tea, until Hanschen just shoves Melchior out the door- “Have fun at Target!” A few droplets of his coffee spill in the transition. Hanschen couldn’t care less.
Hanschen locks the door and walks back to his coffee and Ernst, hopping back into his chair- they’d gotten barstools and Ernst had enthused about how nice it would look, neither of them had paused to consider Hanschen’s height.
“God, he’s annoying,” Hanschen observes, still staring at the door.
“And yet, so are you.”
“But you love me,” Hanschen counters.
Ernst hums thoughtfully, taking another sip of his tea. “Dumb of me,” he finally signs, setting down the mug. He grins and Hanschen grins back, leaning over to kiss Ernst’s cheek.
“I love you too.”