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sleepwalker

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(maybe one day we'll find the place where our dreams and reality collide)

 

nam woohyun is five years old when he loses consciousness for the first time. he is climbing up a tree, wanting to show boohyun that he is definitely not a coward and he can do it when his foot slips and he is falling down. he doesn't feel his head hitting the ground.

 

when he comes to, he isn't in the park anymore. but where he is, he doesn't know. everywhere he looks he can see a sea of wild flowers, brilliant red, maddening violet with crying blue specks thrown here and there. the only ones he recognizes are the lone white daisies gasping for air in the green grass ocean. he leans down to pick some because his mother loves flowers and these would make her really happy, she would smile at him and maybe she would buy him cake (but not for boohyun). soon he is sitting down making a flower crown slowly but steadily when he hears a voice behind him.

"who are you?"

woohyun turns around and gasps. behind him there is a train station he can't believe he didn't notice earlier. the station is small and is painted light pink which makes woohyun think of barbies. there is a clock above the main door but time seems frozen as the hands stay unmoving somewhere between five and six.

"yah! i asked a question!"

woohyun tears his gaze from the station (the light is dancing fandango on the windows of the waiting room) and focuses on the boy standing in front of him. he must be older than him, his two front teeth are missing and he is wearing a school uniform whereas woohyun is still in kindergarden. the boy has short black hair and squinty eyes, his hands are on his hips and no doubt he is trying to be frightening, but woohyun thinks he looks ridiculous. he stands up and bows.

"i'm nam woohyun and i'm already five years old." he says proudly. "who are you? and where are we?"

"my name is kim sunggyu and i'm seven!" the boy says and puffs his cheeks "and we are at a train station dummy."

woohyun thinks sunggyu is somewhere between annoying (not boohyun level though) and inexplicably entertaining. and given that he is the only other soul around here he decides to humour him.

"and where is the train station?" he asks.

"hyung."

woohyun blinks. then blinks again.

"i'm older than you. you should call me hyung!" sunggyu says (orders) then he adds "the train station is obviously on a field." and he crosses his arms on his chest. wincing. that's when woohyun notices that sunggyu's uniform is dishelveled, torn even and the skin around his neck and collarbones is an angry shade of red.

"hyung... okay... why are you here? i fell from a tree!" he says the last part somehow proudly because he fell from really high and he didn't cry (boohyun would cry). "and that's all i know..." he adds, voice small and unsure.

sunggyu looks flustered and a bit lost. he chews on his lower lip and finally says "i fell too. from the... um... stairs!" he nods "yes i fell down the stairs."

woohyun thinks sunggyu is behaving like his mother when she doesn't want to tell where she hid his birthday presents so he decides not to press. if sunggyu wants to have a secret he can. he probably fell on his face in school and wants woohyun to think he is cooler than that.

they spend the rest of the day exploring the station. turns out this is sunggyu's third time here so he shows woohyun around. they talk about their friends (or lack of them), their siblings (sunggyu has an elder sister who gives him stickers and chocolate bars while woohyun is cursed with boohyun who gives him wedgies and kicks to the shin) and their future (sunggyu wants to be a policeman to hunt down bad guys who hit women while woohyun wants to be an astronaut because that is cool and boohyun can't follow him to the moon). at the end of the day woohyun places his flower crown on top of sunggyu's head and tells him he is a good hyung and he would trade boohyun for him in less than a second.

 

he thinks the same when he wakes up under the tree in his mother's arms and hears boohyun laughing at him.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is six and a half when he starts school. the opening ceremony is held outside under the scorching hot rays of the sun. woohyun's uniform is too tight, he feels weak, queasy and dazed and also so hot. he sways on his feet and thinks maybe boohyun stealing his breakfast might have something to do with this state. before he can finish the thought his eyes roll back to his head and he falls to the ground with a loud thud.

 

when he comes to sunggyu is there at the station with eyes small and squinty and a bruise on his left cheek.

"i thought i'd never see you again." he says and woohyun thinks maybe sunggyu missed him.

woohyun missed sunggyu but he doesn't tell him that. instead he runs to him and wraps his arms around the older boy and doesn't let go. he pretends not to notice that sunggyu is shaking in his arms.

later they are sitting among the flowers, the wind is blowing softly and woohyun is teaching sunggyu how to make flower crowns.

"have you ever seen a train here hyung?"

"no." sunggyu answers and braids another dandelion into his crown.

"but this is a railway station. there's bound to be a train somewhere! let's find it!" woohyun jumps up, all excited and jittery while sunggyu seems utterly disinterested.

"can't we just stay here? i'm almost done with this." he doesn't even look up just sticks some daisies to the crown.

"but hyuuuung" woohyun whines "please come with me! if we find the train you can drive it and we can go to seoul and lotte world and then to china and maybe to jeju!"

sunggyu sighs exasperatedly "you can't go to jeju by train. how do you want to find it anyways?"

woohyun's method is simple, just follow the train tracks. he's skipping around walking with a spring in his steps and talking animatedly about his neighbor's new dog, kkeudeoki and how boohyun broke his leg and now he's bedridden and that makes woohyun really happy. while sunggyu is panting and sighing repeatedly because honestly this is so tiring and he doesn't care about the train, he likes here where it's just the two of them. sometimes he stops and picks a pretty flower and adds it to his half finished flower crown that he is still clutching in his left hand. they just walk and walk and the tracks are never ending and when sunggyu sees the silhouette of a building in the distance he thanks whatever god is upstairs. woohyun seems excited too he starts running and sunggyu yells at him not to leave him alone but he doesn't listen. sunggyu won't run, but he quickens his steps a bit and catches up to woohyun after a while.

"oh" that's all woohyun says and he's wearing a ridiculously crestfallen expression. sunggyu wants to laugh at him but then he doesn't. he's not sure why but he feels that laughing would hurt woohyun and that is the last thing he wants.

they came to a full circle. the building in front of them is the same station they left but from the other side. the tracks are running into themselves and maybe that explains the lack of trains. sunggyu is content with this because now he doesn't have to go jeju but woohyun seems so sad suddenly. sunggyu thinks of the only thing he can do to make him happier and puts his (ugly) flower crown to his head. except that it's too big and slides down to woohyun's nose. he laughs and sunggyu thinks everything is okay now.

 

when woohyun wakes up he is surrounded by teachers in the school yard. they are giving him water and chocolate. later in class a boy named kibum sits next to him and says that his fainting was the coolest thing he's ever seen and the two hit it off. the only problem is, kibum thinks flowers are gay.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is seven years old when he starts dreaming with sunggyu. he doesn't dream with him every night, usually once a month maybe twice if he's lucky. he notices he dreams more frequently when he's exhausted so he puts extra effort into his schoolwork. it doesn't really help increasing the amount of dreams with sunggyu but his grades make his parents proud and boohyun jealous (sometimes boohyun teases him about his imaginary friend but woohyun ignores him because sunggyu is real and boohyun is stupid) and woohyun thinks that's almost as good as meeting sunggyu. almost.

the dreams are different than the previous times he spent with sunggyu. they aren't that long (he maybe spends one or two hours at the train station in one dream), the lines are blurry, the colors are dull and sunggyu's voice is distant as if it comes through an old radio. the dreams are limited in other ways as well. they are always at the same place, the covered terrace next to the waiting room and it's always nighttime with a storm raging on. sometimes the thunder is so loud he cannot hear what sunggyu is saying and sometimes it's so dark he feels sunggyu sitting next to him, but cannot see him no matter how hard he tries.

one particular dream burns into woohyun's mind probably for the rest of his life. there are so many lighning bolts racing through the sky that it seems like daytime and for the first time in his dreams woohyun can see perfectly. then he wishes he couldn't.

sunggyu is there at their usual sitting spot, underneath the third window from the left and he is clutching his right arm to his chest which seems all awkward bent in angles that shouldn't be possible. sunggyu is crying... no he's doing something more than that that woohyun doesn't know words for but it does something to his heart. he rushes to the older boy and asks to see his arm but sunggyu shakes his head and starts hiccuping. woohyun doesn't know what to do so he just rubs comforting circles to sunggyu's back and tells him about kkeudeoki chasing a stray cat through the whole neighborhood.

in the next dream sunggyu is wearing a cast and a sling around his arm and the cast is covered with drawings of horses and dogs (clearly his noona's work) and a smiling boy with black hair sticking in all directions.

after that the dreams stop.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is eleven years old when his parents decide to spend the entire summer at the countryside with second cousins he's never heard of. it's not so bad though. the scenery is nice, it reminds woohyun of an almost forgotten, faraway land with wild flowers and an empty train station. boohyun is in his rebel phase (he's fourteen, has three ear piercings and an attitude that's making his mother's hair turn grey) and he ignores woohyun for which he's undoubtedly grateful.

in two days woohyun makes great friends. the small town is full of kids around his age and they all want to hear about the life in the city. soon he becomes the leader of their little gang and the one who decides what to play. on a particularly sunny day he thinks it would be nice to hold a race like the tour de france (he heard his father and some of the second cousins talk about it the day before). the boys all agree except for myungsoo but myungsoo is weird and he's only ten so he's overpowered easily. they all gather to the start line and sungyeol brags that he has the biggest bike so he's gonna win. woohyun just smirks, he knows that sungyeol lacks stamina, in fact the only one who could beat him is howon but he's also just visiting here (his grandparents) and his family decided to go on a camping that day. perfect.

myungsoo pulls the trigger of their airsoft gun (junghyun's prized possession) and the race starts. woohyun feels the adrenaline rushing in his veins as he's speeding fast towards the finish line. he's winning and he knows he left the others back at the start line. and now there is only a small hill between him and victory so he stands up and leans forward willing the bike to go faster and faster up the hill and then he's at the top. he can see myungsoo with a flag (really, it's an old tablecloth tied to a stick) standing by the finish line waving for him excitedly. he pats his bike as if it was a horse and starts barreling down the hill at breakneck speed. myungsoo's waving turns frantic and he hears doojoon's voice behind him. he doesn't care, he has his eyes set on victory.

there is a curb on the road. he couldn't see it from the top of the hill but the slight curve in front of him is clearly there and he goes too fast he knows he can't make it. he tries anyway. swerves to the right but the bike skits on some pebbles and now woohyun knows he's lost control. everything is blurred together it feels dizzy and the shouting voices don't help at all. then the first wheel hits something and woohyun is flying. he closes his eyes because he doesn't want to see how he hits the pavement head first.

 

when he dares open one eye sunggyu isn't there. but the train is.

woohyun has never seen a train like this, only in the movies. it's nothing like the slender, modern vehicles he sees in seoul everyday. no, this train is like a slice of past in front of him. in fact, he's surprised it's not black and white.

as if some force was pulling him, he starts walking closer to the train, leaves crunching beneath his feet, which is odd. woohyun stops and looks around and then he feels frightened. the vast green field with the wild flowers he came to love is gone. the remains of the grass are yellow and dry, he can see bits of the brown soil peeking out and even the ground looks pathetic and tired. there are some flowers still clinging to life, but he can see their petals falling off one by one. poppies are crying red tears and buttercups lie down hoping for a better life in another world. the few trees surrounding the station used to stand tall and proud but now one of them is dead and burnt, probably a lightning bolt struck it the night that woohyun doesn't want to remember. the other trees seem lost and naked, their leaves falling just like the flower petals, thrown in a crazy never ending spiraling chase by the harsh wind.

it's not the safe haven woohyun remembers. now it's a cold, cruel and lonely place and he doesn't want to be here anymore. he looks at the train again and suddenly it seems even more inviting than before. some of the doors flung open warmth radiating from inside. the locomotive starts blowing smoke, the engine is warming up and woohyun feels tempted, so tempted just to board the train and leave this mess of a place behind and never come back.

but then a pair of squinty eyes and a smile flash in front of him. sunggyu. he's not here now, but what if he will come later? what if he comes scared and crying like that night and woohyun isn't there for him? no that can't happen. and he said he'd never seen the train. now woohyun saw it, and he can tell sunggyu about it, maybe he can even show it somehow. and then sunggyu will be jealous that he wasn't the first seeing it and woohyun can tease him so sunggyu will whine and after a while they'll both end up laughing on the floor. yeah - woohyun nods to himself - that sounds right.

so despite the inviting warmth and the force pulling him, woohyun sits down on the floor cross legged and just watches the train, trying to memorize every single one of its little details. after a while the doors close, the engine stops and the puffs of smoke disappear.

along with that the wind stops blowing and maybe a buttercup lifts its head sighing softly.

 

when he wakes up, woohyun is lying on something uncomfortable and despite that his body is being tossed left and right he can't move. his eyes dart around franticly but everything is blurry and there is so much noise, something is screaming and wailing and there are shadows towering above him. they are gesturing wildly, talking about something animatedly, but woohyun doesn't understand a word. he's panicking, he wants to break free, run to sunggyu, to his mother or maybe even to boohyun. that's when someone touches his hand.

it's myungsoo. he seems a little less unfazed than usual, but he's still far from freaking out and that calms woohyun a bit.

"it's okay hyung. you're in the ambulance, you hit your head a bit but it's okay now."

woohyun groans and tries to move again but a hand stops him.

"maybe you shouldn't do that." myungsoo quips from the side "actually you hit your head pretty bad. there was so much blood that sungjongie fainted. doojoon hyung had to carry him home on his back... then come back for his bike. then come back for sungjongie's bike i guess... but i don't know that for sure because i'm here and not there..."

myungsoo babbles on and on and woohyun doesn't pay attention because honestly, he's never done before. but then he hears something.

"... i think my dad will be proud of me. he's a doctor, you know, he rarely has time to be proud of me but the medics say that if i hadn't secured you right away, you would've died. you almost did anyway. did you feel like dying? did you see a light? don't answer now, that's not good for your head... have i told you about my new camera? i actually have it here, do you want to see?..."

 

woohyun is okay. kind of. he spends too much time in the hospital for his liking and he sees her mother cry for the first time. his bike is beyond repair but he wouldn't want to use it for a while anyways. he spends the rest of his summer with myungsoo. myungsoo is weird and he's only ten but he teaches woohyun how to draw.

and woohyun draws old trains and a boy whose eyes disappear when he smiles.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is thirteen years old when he starts dreaming with sunggyu again. he doesn't dream with him every night but maybe once a week. the frequency surprises woohyun. not that he minds it, but somewhere deep inside him (later he would say in his heart) he feels worry and maybe a hint of dread that something is wrong.

their first meeting in god knows how many years is simple. sunggyu is sitting at their usual spot, on the covered terrace underneath the third window from the left staring into the distance. he's fifteen and he's in his rebel phase just like boohyun was a year ago. his hair is longer than woohyun remembers, it covers his forehead and most of his right eye. he's wearing an oversized black hoodie with an obnoxious pattern and old jeans and woohyun's heartbeat speeds up seeing the familiar gesture of sunggyu cocking his head to the side when he notices him.

they talk all night as if they were never separated even for a minute. woohyun's emotions are swirling inside of him like the waves of all the seas after a seven day long storm. he's not sure but maybe he can see the same conflict in sunggyu's eyes as well, but that's one thing they never talk about. woohyun draws instead. it takes six consecutive dreams and eight pebbles to carve the old train into the stone floor of the waiting room, but when it's finally done and sunggyu smiles at him approvingly, woohyun feels he's never been more proud in his life.

sunggyu says the drawing is beautiful. woohyun thinks sunggyu is beautiful.

 

after that night woohyun starts sharing his drawings with sunggyu, most of them portraits of his friends. one particular drawing catches sunggyu's attention immediately. it's him, a few years younger, smiling on the picture with eyes small and grin big.

"what's wrong with my eyes? why didn't you draw them properly?" he demands upon inspecting the sketch.

"what do you mean hyung? they are right there looking just right to me." woohyun smirks.

"i don't like this!" sunggyu exclaims angrily. "draw them bigger! i know i have small eyes, okay? you don't need to tell me too!" he huffs and keeps his mouth shut the whole night, leaving woohyun perplexed and clutching his drawing feeling guilty and inexplicably sad.

 

two nights later sunggyu comes head hanging low, hands nervously fidgeting as he whispers an apology to woohyun.

"i just don't like my new school and it seems the school doesn't like me either." he explains still whispering, closing his eyes and leaning back to the wall. woohyun notices he has his ears pierced now and also his breathing is laboured as if he's in pain. he shifts closer, rubbing the elder's back soothingly.

"after our last meeting here my mom finally took the courage to ran away from my father and everything was so good, so perfect up until now." sunggyu's voice is barely audible, so woohyun shifts even closer, trying to offer as much comfort as he can. "my sister got pregnant. and of course the moment she told that douchebag she liked to call her boyfriend, he disappeared. we had to move to the capital, so my mom can take more part time jobs to support us and the baby. i hate seoul. it's so oppressive and it makes me feel like i'm nobody, like i'm not enough and i'll never be. which is probably true. i'm failing at school, i'm failing my family, i'm failing myself and i'm even failing you. i'm so sorry, please... i'm so sorry." sunggyu breathes and buries his face in his hands.

woohyun is at a loss of words. he doesn't understand why it hurts so much to see sunggyu in such a state but he does what he can do the best. envelopes sunggyu in a warm hug, not letting him go until dawn.

 

from that night woohyun feels their relationship shifting. they share more about their lives, their thoughts, and even though sunggyu is the one doing most of the sharing every now and then woohyun has his own problems too and it feels nice to get it off his chest especially with the recent changes in his life too.

nam woohyun is fourteen when one morning at breakfast he announces that he'd like to have his ears pierced. the statement makes his mother choke on her coffee and boohyun smirk at the kitchen counter.

two days later at breakfast boohyun announces that he has a girlfriend. the statement makes his father choke on his orange juice and woohyun drop his plate at the kitchen counter.

the girl is called yoobin and in woohyun's opinion she's a spoiled bitch. she's a year older than boohyun and woohyun is honestly baffled at what his brother sees in her. he can't stop talking about how perfect she is, how her hair shines in the sunlight, how her laughter makes him happy, how her touch can calm him down and excite him at the same time. woohyun doesn't understand at all.

surprisingly, his mother agrees with him. one late night when woohyun hasn't dreamt with sunggyu for a week, he finds his mother at the kitchen table, looking lost in her thoughts. he approaches her tentatively and they have the deepest conversation they had in a while. woohyun shares his worries about yoobin and how he thinks she's not good enough for boohyun. his mother smiles at that.

"it's okay woohyun. your brother is having his first love. you don't have to like it, but let them be. one day you'll understand."

woohyun doesn't think he'll understand it anytime soon.

 

change doesn't always come to your life from one day to another. sometimes it happens gradually and in such a slow motion you don't even notice it until it's too late.

sometime along the year woohyun turns fifteen and sunggyu starts withdrawing to himself. and with him, the station changes. the flowers are not blooming anymore, the wind blows colder and fall sneaks up on them slowly. the leaves of the trees turn into the shade of hundred sunsets and the autumn rain sings hallelujah every night.

when sunggyu starts coming with bruises again, woohyun feels his heart shattering to pieces. he's afraid to ask what happened, but there's no need to. sunggyu sighs heavily, and leans his head on woohyun's shoulder.

"my sister ran off with that douchebag she likes to call her boyfriend. i need to work now instead of her. and apparently delivering sushi makes me a loser in school, even though the fake license cost so much more than just money..." woohyun's heart clenches at this statement, he feels like he's drowning under enormous waves of sorrow and unfairness. "i have no idea what i'm going to do with my life, i just don't know what to do..." sunggyu whispers with eyes closed and he's falling asleep on woohyun's shoulder as the younger is battling with his tears.

why sunggyu? why does it have to be him when he's perfect? he's perfect when the sunlight illuminates his face, his laughter makes woohyun's heart so light and his touch both centers and sets him free.

woohyun doesn't think he'll understand it anytime soon.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is sixteen years old when he starts looking for sunggyu actively. his dreams have been on and off for a while and it makes him incredibly worried and stressed. sometimes he dreams with an empty station or with abandoned train tracks on a lonely field and sometimes he dreams of chasing a shadow among burnt trees or in a vintage train car. he can never tell if those dreams are real or just the stress catching up with him in his sleep. for the first time in his life he feels useless and bound, oppressed by seoul's giant gray cloud looming over him. the city is huge, in the ocean of millions of nameless people he thinks it's impossible to find one kim sunggyu. but he tries anyways.

he checks out every sushi restaurant he can reach. by the third week he's sick of the smell of fish and the color green but he still can't find sunggyu. by the thirteenth week, boohyun starts going with him. he claims he took a newfound love in shady sushi places but woohyun suspects that maybe his brother is worried. boohyun is still teasing him relentlessly but every once in a while woohyun catches a thoughtful glance or a silent sigh escaping the elder's lips. he visits high schools and cafes and bookstores, even doctor's offices and hospitals (both of which he's thrown out of). boohyun keeps tagging along. by the twenty third week woohyun tells him everything and he half expects his brother to laugh at him and leave him in the middle of the street. that never happens. boohyun just smiles somehow knowingly, ruffles his hair and after a while he starts suggesting places to visit (he even brings yoobin sometimes and maybe woohyun finds her a little less awful every time he sees her getting excited over an antique copy of a well known book or watches her as her eyes widen in amazement as she grabs boohyun's hand excitedly when they check out a space themed cafe). by the forty second week woohyun stops.

just like the dreams did once again.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is seventeen years old when he decides to try out for his high school's football team. it's myungsoo's idea. he's the one suggesting him in his latest letter (apparently he is a fan of snail mail, and refuses any other means of communication to keep in touch with woohyun) to do some sports to get rid of all of his pent up energy. maybe myungsoo is a little bit biased given his girlfriend of five weeks (and four days) is a goalkeeper on their town's female team, but well, woohyun has nothing to lose.

except he does. his consciousness.

he doesn't even remember how it happens. in one moment he's chasing the ball, giving the perfect pass for a goal and in the next one a fun sized tornado sweeps him off his feet, and somehow he manages to hit his head in the goalpost.

 

sometimes you can brace yourself to face whatever monstrosity is coming at you. and sometimes no matter how hard you try you can't stop the terror hitting you with full force and cutting you open from the inside.

woohyun considers himself brave. he thinks he has the courage to stand up for what's right, he thinks he's strong enough to withstand the anger of his enemies and the tears of his beloved, he thinks he's prepared for everything life throws at him.

that day woohyun finds out he's wrong.

when he wakes up at the train station it's raining cats and dogs. he can barely see, the rain creates a waving curtain around him, he feels suffocated and as the raindrops keep hitting his head and back like millions of tiny spears, woohyun tries to shield himself and make out his surroundings at the same time. soon he realizes sunggyu is not here, so he runs quickly to the station building to wait out the storm. inside he finds sunggyu.

he's lying on the stone floor of the waiting room, curled into a ball, hugging his knees close to his chest. woohyun rushes to him as fast as he can, and when he drops to his knees, he can see immediately that something is horribly wrong.

sunggyu's eyes are screwed shut, but tears are streaming down his face. he's hot, his entire being radiates heat as he keeps shaking and shivering. his breaths are shallow, laboured, and he seems delirious. woohyun calls to him multiple times, but he doesn't answer, he doesn't seem to register that woohyun's there, that he's holding him in his arms, that he's desperately trying to wake him up.

woohyun can't do anything. he's never felt so helpless in his life like in this moment, holding his friend close and counting his heartbeat. he doesn't know how much time passes like this, but he can hear the whistle of the train a few times, coming closer and closer until the cold steel monster is speeding past them, cutting through the rain and thunder, sending a wave of cold wind towards them. soon after that sunggyu regains consciousness.

when he realizes woohyun is holding him in his arms, he refuses to believe his eyes. woohyun can't be here, no that's not possible. after searching for him almost every single day and night in this damn station and never finding him, now he appears when sunggyu is at his lowest point in his life. that simply cannot be true. he blinks several times, and he can see woohyun talking, but his words can't cut through the fog of his mind. he closes his eyes again and thinks it's okay. woohyun is here, everything is okay. sleep comes easily, enveloping him in a warm hug.

next time he wakes up, his senses are way too sharp for his liking. he can feel woohyun everywhere, his fingertips brushing against his arm, his scent hitting his nose and his voice echoing in his ears.

"sunggyu, are you awake? oh god i was worried sick... are you okay? what happened?" woohyun is holding his breath as his eyes are searching sunggyu's face. sunggyu sits up, moves a bit back and takes in woohyun in front of him, as he keeps fiddling with his fingers while watching him intently. his hair is longer now, but still sticking in every direction.

"i... nothing" he mumbles, shaking his head. "nothing happened... i just... really missed you."

woohyun stares at him, mouth agape and he leans back a little.

"i missed you too, but sunggyu, i haven't heard of you in ages and now look at you. something is clearly wrong and i want to help you." sunggyu turns his head away. "please sunggyu, you're my..." he takes a breath "you're important to me, just let me help you."

sunggyu looks at woohyun again, a tender smile playing on his lips.

"i just wanted to come here." sunggyu's voice is small and quivering "i just really... really wanted to come here. but it's not easy. i needed to sleep, but i didn't have time for sleeping, i needed to work, drive, sell... i couldn't stop." he whispers, takes woohyun's hand in his and looks him in the eye. "i needed a break. do you get that? i just needed a break."

"hyung i don... oh... oh..." woohyun shakes his head violently. "no hyung please don't tell me you're in the drug business anyhow. that's dangerous hyung that... that could cost your life..." woohyun's grip tightens on sunggyu's hands and despite everything sunggyu feels the need to laugh at woohyun's terrified expression.

"woohyun calm down, i'm selling sushi, not drugs. i was asked but i said no. if i'm caught my mother would be all alone with the baby. i can't have that." sunggyu explains with a small smile.

woohyun looks up and closes his eyes. "oh thank god."

"i started taking sleeping pills." sunggyu says with a small voice. "and i might have taken too much today." he adds hesitantly "woohyun, you have to understand, i hate my life, i just can't see where it leads, my future is just a brick wall... it's much better here, no one is mocking me, it's quite, peaceful. i can be alone finally, nobody is here..." but you he adds in his head.

woohyun feels like he's ripped apart from the inside by some monster that's clawing relentlessly at his heart, kicking at his lungs and screaming in his ears. he feels useless once again, but determination takes over him and he tries to calm down his erratic heartbeat.

"but sunggyu," woohyun scoots closer to him "this place is not real. nothing here is real except for me. there is nothing that's worth coming here but there must be something that's worth living for outside of your head. tear down that brick wall, your future is right behind it!" he tries to reason as he keeps inching closer to sunggyu until their legs touch.

"dear god, you sound like a crappy motivational quote." sunggyu groans "and besides, you're forgetting something."

"what?" asks woohyun with a curious expression on his face.

sunggyu smiles somehow sadly. "what if i already found something that gives me strength to go on, something amazing and precious that makes me happier than i ever remember being? what if i found something that's worth living for, but it's all in my head?"

 

woohyun wakes up when ice cold water hits his face (and soul). a group of concerned faces tower above him and someone reaches out to touch his head. he squats the hand away, inexplicably angry as he stands up slowly. a ball is tossed right at him and he kicks it with all of his anger and frustration. the ball flies away and lands him in the football team.

that night woohyun cries himself to sleep.

 

***

 

nam woohyun is seventeen years old when he gets on the school bus with his football team to play his first match as a new striker. that is the last bus nam woohyun ever gets on in his life.

woohyun is in a great form, he can feel his luck in his veins. he's going to win this match, he knows. that is if he can manage to shut out any inconvenient thoughts about feelings, beautiful boys and trains. luck really seems to be on his side when his teammate, dongwoo plops down to the seat next to him and they start talking over ideas and strategies.

no one sees the truck slipping on the road in the opposite lane.

a loud crash echoes in woohyun's mind and he's sure he'll never be able to hear again. he's thrown harshly to the window, dongwoo on top of him as the bus tilts and finally lands on its side. flames erupt from everywhere, the smoke is blinding and the heat is so strong, woohyun feels his tears evaporating. he's stuck beneath dongwoo and his seat and he can see shadows rushing out but he can't call to them. his mouth is full of black smoke, his lungs are screaming and his insides are churning but it doesn't matter. he's stuck and helpless. his last thought before the blackness envelopes him is an eyesmile he never wants to forget.

 

cold. everything is so cold. soft snowflakes are biting his skin and his heart and after the harsh whip of the flames he feels like thousand needles are thrown at him at the same time.

when woohyun opens his eyes he doesn't want to believe what he's seeing. he's at the train station but the building is no longer pink, it's black and scarred, just like all the trees and rocks around it. the flowers and the field can't be seen under the thick layer of grey snow. snowflakes and soot are falling from the sky, hand in hand, dancing a strange waltz together. and when woohyun turns around he can see the train.

it's as majestic as he remembers. the doors are wide open, calling and inviting him, and soft music rolls to his feet while the engine starts up and white puffs of smoke start their adventure up to the sky.

woohyun looks around. the once picturesque scenery is destroyed and all he can remember are the painful memories. hurt, cries it all could be forgotten on the train. he takes step by step, his legs are working on their own, and he's already stepping inside the wagon when he feels a tug on his sleeve.

it's sunggyu. woohyun has never seen him so small and fragile, not even when he was just seven years old tattered with bruises. he clings to his sleeve like a lost child and he asks softly. "please don't go."

woohyun doesn't understand. the train holds serenity and safety inside while here there is nothing but pain. then again, it's sunggyu. it's sunggyu asking him not to go and woohyun has never questioned sunggyu. in that moment even though he doesn't understand, he accepts: it's always been sunggyu. in every smile and teardrop, in the dirty streets of seoul and the crisp air of the countryside, in swift lines of charcoal and the hard surface of stone, in the burning flames and the biting snowfall, in every sound and the silence it's never been anyone else but sunggyu. he steps down to the platform and walks over to sunggyu. he looks him in the eye as he intertwines their fingers and in those eyes woohyun can see his whole life spanning till the horizon.

they just stand there, eyes and hands locked for an eternity until woohyun moves. or maybe it's sunggyu, they'll never know. but when their lips finally touch and the stillness crashes down on them, it leaves the world breathless and panting.

hours later (or maybe it's just seconds - there is a rip in the fabric of time and reality) woohyun holds sunggyu close and sunggyu brings woohyun closer. none of them dare to let go, afraid of losing each other, themselves, everything. they fall asleep in an embrace so tight it keeps their whole world together.

 

***

 

when woohyun wakes up in the hospital, he is tired. tired and confused. he’s got second degree burns and a dislocated shoulder. the doctor says he’s lucky, he could’ve died like jaesung, the goalkeeper or taebum, their best fullback and it’s a miracle that both he and dongwoo survived. yet his thoughts are swirling and he keeps thinking about sunggyu, the flames and the snow, and all of it is just too much. he can't handle it and he doesn't even want to. he just wants to rest, so as soon as it's possible he calls myungsoo (calling is reserved for emergencies so myungsoo picks it up immediately and woohyun briefs him in the events of the past few days) to arrange a visit in the countryside. it takes two more weeks until he's released from the hospital.

two agonizingly long weeks as his thoughts keep revolving around sunggyu. does he love sunggyu? the answer is easy: of course. but nonetheless it scares the shit out of woohyun. he feels like he boarded that train and now it's off the tracks going 250 km/h towards an abyss. oh and the brakes are broken. when he's not being frightened of his feelings, he keeps worrying about sunggyu. is he okay? what is he doing? where is he? and most importantly: does he love him back? (even though if he's being completely honest to himself, woohyun knows the answer for that last one.)

he tries talking to boohyun and while he's a great listener and tries to help actively as well, it turns out they may be brothers but they barely know each other. woohyun takes a mental note to work on that as he's counting the days until he can discuss everything with myungsoo and make a plan. of what that's yet to be decided.

the day after he's released, he goes to the central station with no little apprehension. the building is huge and the trains make him agitated and jumpy, he's not even looking where he's going. that's probably the reason why he bumps into someone and knocks both of them to the ground. woohyun automatically tries to shield his head, he really doesn't need to lose consciousness now when his train is about to leave in ten minutes. he sits up, muttering an apology and thinking about taking his leave as soon as possible. the other guy (it's a guy judging by his sneakers) is already on his feet, apologizing, but when woohyun lowers his arms in front of his face he falls silent. the next thing woohyun knows is that he's being pulled up gently.

and when he looks up he meets a pair of squinty eyes.