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Tenderly, Tragically

Chapter Text


I love you tenderly, totally tragically 



“We’ll go for miles and miles, would you like that, baby?” Kyungil absent-mindedly carded his hand through Yijeong’s hair again. Sunday afternoons were lazy, just as they always were, just like they should be. “We’ll just leave… just go and never turn back. We’ll see the Jordan, the Mediterranean, the Andes, fucking Everest. Backpack through Nepal, trek through Israel, sail through the Bermuda, walk through Iceland…” Kyungil couldn’t help but glance down at the curled up boy in his lap who was currently dozing, or at least pretending to do so. He could see the beginnings of a grin curling at the edge of the boy’s lips.


After a moment of silence, Kyungil heard a little puff of air and, “I’d go anywhere with you, hyung.” Yijeong cracked open an eye, full contagious smile blooming across his lips, “Carry me across Thailand?” Kyungil grinned and whispered, “If you hold my hand in Fiji.”


“Hmm,” Yijeong looked away, feigning contemplation, “Only if you kiss me under the sakura blossoms in Kyoto.”


“Deal.” Kyungil leaned down suddenly for a slow, luxurious kiss buried in the lumpy couch cushions of their tiny Manhattan flat, eliciting a shriek of laughter and star-struck, bedroom eyes.


“Have I ever told you how much I fucking love you?” Kyungil asked after finally coming up for air, forearms framed around Yijeong’s head. His boyfriend looked so deliciously debauched right then. Mused pink hair, static-y and frizzling wildly, kiss swollen lips, plump and red and glistening with temptation, and those ridiculous chipmunk cheeks, tinted with a peach fuzz blush. He looked so fucking soft.


It just made Kyungil want to devour him even more.


“Tell me more,” Yijeong giggled breathlessly, half-lidded eyes peeking out through candy floss lashes, “Mr. Poet, sir.” Kyungil groaned and rolled his eyes (though smiling in spite of all because how could he ever get annoyed his little piece of moonshine personified) and buried his head in the crook of his lover’s neck, inhaling chai spice and chocolate cosmos, the very essence of divinity (in his opinion).


Yijeong let out a low, carefree laugh, and strangely, Kyungil thought of the symphony of resonating bullfrog mating songs in the Florida mangroves. With an exasperated sigh swelling with endearment, he grabbed his lover by the waist and flipped their positions with a soft “umpfh” so that Yijeong was curled up on his chest, molten amber eyes glittering with amusement and speaking silent galaxies to Kyungil’s heartstrings as tufts of cotton candy hair brushed against his chin.


“We’ll see the ruins of Mayan temples, swim in the Poco Azul of Brazil, watch the sunrise among the clouds of Meteora, fly in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia,” Kyungil brushed his thumb against Yijeong’s bottom lip, watching in wonder at the shy little smile curling around his finger and those adoring, innocent cuckoo eyes making a sap out of his heart.


“How do come up with these things?” Yijeong asked, holding Kyungil’s palm to his cheek and leaning into his touch, eyelids fluttering shut in contentment. Kyungil’s thumb caressed the apple of his cheek and he looked up at the cracked ceiling in contemplation, “You just don’t get it, but I swear your eyes are made of stardust, your entire being is cataclysmic, quite simply you’re my muse and my poetry in prose.”


He looked back down to find his lover ducking under the fluffy comforter in embarrassment and softly kissing his chest through his threadbare shirt. Kyungil grinned and wrapped his arms around the bundle of bashful protests, “What did Drake say? Or wait, was it Mik Everett? Once you fuck a writer, you’re immortal. And tteokbokki, you fucked me over in the worst way.


“You made me fall in love with you.”

Chapter Text

On Monday mornings, Yijeong goes to class. He doesn’t know what he wants, he just loves music and the guileless nature of the piano. Kyungil stays home or walks the streets of Brooklyn, looking for inspiration and pondering the direction of his life.


They don’t have much money, but that’s because they’re both artists, and all too eccentric in their own rights. Yijeong spent half of last month’s on five different types of organic soaps and Kyungil sold their bed only to buy five dozen roses and a pair of silver rings  for their fifth anniversary. Regardless to say, they both spent the better part of that month, and the month after that, working odd hours and performing in Central Park and in the subway for a few extra dollars. They pulled through in the end.


They’re a firm believer in the natural flow of things, the natural order of the universe. They’re young and they plan to stay so forever. Neither of them had a plan, both had too many dreams, too much spirit flooding out of their souls. They spent half their money on plants to fill their tiny studio flat and not nearly enough money on food and other necessities. They’d compiled a list forever ago, a list filled with exotic islands and sprawling, peculiar countries. They planned to leave as soon as Yijeong finished school, that was the only thing holding them back. They never worried about money.


Monday afternoons meant eating $1 bagels at the Bagel Hole and taking a stroll through Prospect Park before both had to go their separate ways. Yijeong to a Music Theory class and Kyungil to his job as a freelance editor while sitting in cafe, working on his own novel instead of working on someone else’s. It wasn’t that he didn’t respect other writers, it was just a creeping paranoia and urgency to tell his own story, and tell it well… before it ended.


Sometimes Kyungil had jobs in photoshoots and runway shows and such. He was tall, a dancer, lanky in all the right places and had a kind of cold, hedonistic air to him that drew people in and made him susceptible to all sorts of modeling offers and contracts. He rarely booked anything though, he was too particular about what he did and too wary of systems and bonds to actually be anything but a part-time freelancer. The only serious commitment he could recall was to an unorthodox musician who stole his heart in high school.


Monday evenings were spent cuddling and cooking shitty soups in their tiny flat and watching reruns of their favorite korean dramas on their ipad. Then long after the sun set, they would venture out into the city, walking with linked arms under the Manhattan lights before stopping at an obscure little bar, snug against the black of night and bright of city glows.


There, Yijeong was the long-awaited pianist who would play hours into the night and Kyungil would sit back and scribble on napkins while sipping on brandy that came complimentary from Yijeong as he couldn’t hold his liquor for the life of him.


Then, a few hours before dawn, the couple would walk back home, handsy and tipsy and drunk of the high of alcohol and performance nerves.


Tuesday mornings were spent fucking each other to oblivion, skipped classes, and coffee at noon. Yijeong was all shy and innocent until he turned coy and lecherous. At that dawn, those bedroom eyes lit up, sly and dangerous like a fox and he knelt between Kyungil’s legs, giving his cock lascivious licks while moaning like a whore.


Tuesday afternoons were spent nursing Yijeong back to health. He lost his voice, he couldn’t stand let alone walk, his legs gave out under him whenever he put any sort of weight on them, and his entire body felt sore and bruised. Like he got hit by a bus, then run over by a train, then had his insides burned off. He’d come 12 times last night, twice more that morning (Kyungil had made him count), the last five times had been dry orgasms, he was so thoroughly fucked, everything felt painful.


Kyungil on the other hand, woke up feeling fresh as a daisy. He felt like he could run a 10k and climb Kilimanjaro. One look at Yijeong however, sent him back tumbling into bed, drawing Yijeong close and murmuring apologies and soliloquies into his hair.  


Tuesday evenings were spent lounging around the flat. Yijeong always got clingy after sex, not that Kyungil minded. In fact, it might’ve been his favorite part of the afterglow.


“Hyung, it hurts.” Yijeong rasped softly, tilting his head up to look wistfully at Kyungil. It look like it must hurt. Kyungil thought. Yijeong’s slim body was dyed calico with red and purpling bruises, around his neck and shoulders, he wore a necklace of teeth marks and scarlet hickies, his eyes were red and swollen from crying and his lips were puffy from getting bit all night.


“Shh, I know baby, I’m so sorry.” Kyungil gently pressed a chaste kiss on his lips before drawing him closer and wrapping his arms around his back.

After a moment of silence, Yijeong looked up again, this time seriousness in his eyes as he forced himself to speak clearer, “Let’s leave hyung,”


“Leave?” Kyungil repeated, surprised and a bit confused, “What about school?”


Yijeong shook his head, leaning his head into the base of Kyungil’s neck, feeling the soothing vibrations of his voice. “I don’t wanna do it anymore. Let’s go hyung. I feel restless.”


Kyungil laughed, “You’re the one clinging to me like a koala.”


Yijeong sighed before wincing in pain, Kyungil immediately reached down to grab the cup of cooling oolong tea at the foot of their cocoon nest bed. “Baby are you sure? Did something happen?”


Yijeong was silent for a moment before slowly shaking his head. Something was obviously wrong.


Kyungil didn’t push it though. If Yijeong wanted to leave, then leave they would. To any outsider, it would seem as if Kyungil was the leader, the decision-maker. After all, he was the older one, the one with a job (if you’d even call it that), the taller one, the bigger one, but really, under the facade of societal norms, Kyungil didn’t really amount to much other than his utter devotion to Yijeong. In his world, Yijeong got the final say in everything and anything; if Yijeong wanted to become a monk and live on the edge of the Paro Taktsang of Bhutan, if he wanted to become a tea farmer in Munnar, India, or even if he wanted to become a fisherman on the coasts of Chile, Kyungil would follow him in a heartbeat, no questions asked.


“Where do you want to go?” He asked, kissing the top of Yijeong’s head, catching the faintest whiff of wisteria and Four O’clock blossoms. Yijeong was always tending to the plants in their apartment, he especially loved the cascading flowers hanging from their windows and spent so much time caring for them that a faint fragrance always seemed to follow him. As if he were a flower himself, a nymph or a changeling misplaced by fairies and Kyungil was the lucky fool that got to keep their lapse in judgement. It was all too fitting, he thought as he leaned down to kiss Yijeong’s forehead just as Yijeong looked up again.


“France.” Yijeong swallowed hard, noticeably in pain, before continuing to whisper, “I want to see the lavender fields of Provence.” He looked near tears suddenly and Kyungil couldn’t help but pull him closer, squeezing him tight to his chest. An uneasy feeling suddenly settled over his heart.


“Then we’ll go to France. We’ll go as soon as you’ve recovered.”


Yijeong shook his head, “No, let’s leave tomorrow.”


Kyungil nodded slowly, kissing Yijeong’s nose and signing away his life without question. “Let’s leave tomorrow.” He murmured in Yijeong’s ear, “We’ll be gone so fast, it’ll be like no one was ever here.”


“Hyung, promise me,” Yijeong’s eyes held a certain urgency that made Kyungil’s heart sink. It was the kind of urgency Kyungil felt to finish his novel, the kind of urgency he felt whenever he looked at a map, the kind of urgency that made his heart race when he looked over the Manhattan skyline. The type of of urgency that made his soul seize whenever he thought about kissing Yijeong, making love to him, writing him thousands of love poems to sneak into his pockets and recording millions of words on his phone in case he ever wasn’t there to say them.


“I promise... Yijeong, what’s wrong?” Kyungil placed a hand on Yijeong’s cheek, brushing against his lip and prompting Yijeong to meet his eyes. God , those pools of black made his soul hurt. They sucked him in like a black hole, like he was standing in the middle of Yijeong’s celestial sphere and everything around him was at their Chandrasekhar limit. Kyungil rarely pried, he rarely needed to, but something felt off. Leaving wasn’t a problem, they’d discussed it so many times in passing that it’d almost become another one of the many ways they said “i love you” .


“Nothing, hyung.” He whispered, smiling faintly, however those colloquialistic words drew wearisome feelings from Kyungil’s heart.


He gulped before agreeing softly, “Ok.” and leaning down to kiss Yijeong’s forehead, his cheeks, his nose, his eyes, and finally, tenderly, slowly, he cherished the brief kiss they shared, lips pressing against each other, soothing, gently, without hurry or frenzy, a silent reassurance of each other’s presence.


Tuesday twilights were spent gazing out the open window. A gentle breeze carried in the sounds of the city coming to life at night and the sweet scent of their jasmine flowers and chocolate cosmos.


“You can see the Manhattan skyline.” Kyungil murmured. Yijeong was silent long enough for Kyungil to think he was asleep when he replied, voice barely above a whisper, “I can see foxgloves and ferns and lily of the valleys.”


“They’re all you.” Kyungil grinned against the back of Yijeong’s neck, feeling a flow of silent laughter rumble through his diaphragm.


“Tell me something beautiful.” Yijeong whispered, twisting briefly to give a smoldering smile, “Mr. Poet, sir.”


Without hesitation, Kyungil kissed Yijeong’s neck, “I had a dream last night.”


“Of course.” Yijeong grinned.


“You were standing in a field of baby’s breath wearing a crown of blue forget-me-nots with a shower of tuberose in your hair. You were looking at something off in the distance, and you kept singing a song about rosemary and thyme. Then you smiled at me, and you kissed me, and then you said the sweetest thing.”


“What did I say?”


“‘Meet me in Eden, under the sails of the Argo Navis, and there, I’ll give you my forever.’”


Yijeong delicately brushed his lips against Kyungil’s wrist and smiled, “You already have my forever.”


After another long pause, Yijeong whispered into the glimmering Manhattan skyline and swaying foxglove petals, longing and promise and tragedy thick in his voice,

“In this world, I’m glad there is you.”

Chapter Text

Wednesday mornings were usually spent baking shitty muffins and brewing a clumsy batch of coffee that neither of then really enjoyed drinking. They just liked the smell that emitted from the bubbling coffeepot and filled their flat with the calming scent of roasted coffee beans. However, this particular Wednesday morning was spent hastily throwing a few pairs of jeans and t-shirts and their few other belongings in two scraggly backpacks. A laptop, a few chargers, a pack of bubble gum, a wallet, and a tiny pot of succulents, placed gently into one of the backpacks.


Yijeong really couldn’t walk at all, he’d tried to get up, propping himself up by the arm of the couch, but almost immediately, his legs had crumpled under him and he would’ve crashed onto the floor had Kyungil not been there to catch him.


“We can get a wheelchair at the airport.” Kyungil teased, kissing the top of Yijeong’s head before ruffling his hair into an even messier disarray.


Yijeong narrowed his eyes, glaring up at him with a quiet but resounding no . Kyungil rolled his eyes and slung Yijeong’s arm around his neck, propping him up until he was sort of standing, “Maybe I shouldn’t have fucked you so hard.” He said as an afterthought. Yijeong glared at him with even greater ferocity, “Yeah, maybe not!”


“You were so fucking hot though.” Kyungil protested, “You’re always so fucking hot.” He leaned down to breath a kiss on the side of Yijeong’s neck.


They managed to hail a cab outside of their apartment. After arriving at the airport, they promptly bought two tickets to Paris, France, where they would land before buying train tickets to Provence. What they would do, where they would stay, they had no idea. But the spontaneity and adventure of it all lightened the mood considerably and the two were nothing but secret kisses and loud laughter in the airport boarding gate.


This is what it must feel like, Kyungil thought , to have no roots and radio-flyer veins and the taste of chocolate cosmos on my tongue. This must be youth.


“Let’s chase waterfalls, hyung.” Yijeong said, grinning ear to ear, “Let’s kiss over Salar de Uyuni and have a picnic under the pyramids of Giza.”


“Let’s jump off the Cliffs of Insanity.”


“You mean the Cliffs of Moher.” Yijeong laughed. They’d poured over geography books and travel guides since their high school years, finding solace in the hidden beauties of the world and planning their future journies to see every oddity the world had to offer.


The boarding call suddenly interrupted their banter and with support from Kyungil, both made it to their seats. Yijeong took the window, Kyungil took the middle, nodding awkwardly at a middle-aged man who glanced far too long and far too hungrily at Yijeong’s hickey-stained, slender neck for Kyungil’s taste. Perhaps he was just being overprotective but in any case, he kept an arm wrapped securely around Yijeong for the entire flight.


When night fell above the clouds, darkness reigned for miles and miles. Inside the plane, Yijeong almost felt as if he were cocooned inside the dark and at that moment, he missed the comfort of his ferns and lilies intensely. Almost as if Kyungil could sense his creeping loneliness, Yijeong felt the arm around him tighten, squeezing his shoulders gently, and felt Kyungil take his hand, interlacing their fingers together before kissing his knuckles and stroking his hair just the way he always did to comfort Yijeong.


This was nothing particularly new. Yijeong had always been rather peculiar with his emotions.


Yijeong was a secret crier. It was his thing as Kyungil had discovered. He was a bit of an insomniac at heart and would often stay up deep into the night, staring out an open window, trying to see the stars above the Manhattan smog, though most nights the skies would get so murky it was like they were buried underneath the world itself. He was sit there, counting what few stars he could see for hours, and then would come the most heart-wrenching sobs Kyungil had ever heard.


Yijeong would try to keep them muffled up in loose shirt sleeves and thin blankets but those silent tears and that trembling silhouette against the twinkling Manhattan skyline would reduce Kyungil to speechlessness. Sometimes Kyungil would wake up in the middle of the night for no reason to find Yijeong sitting by the open window frame with puffy eyes and tear stained cheeks, freezing fingers and toes and blank black eyes. They’d always curl up together, Kyungil squeezing Yijeong tight, the height of their 12th floor apartment window always making his heart sink as he thought about Yijeong dangling on the edge, leaning forward and whispering, “See you in Eden, hyung.”


Yijeong never seemed to have a solid reason for his occasional bouts of depression. He was a restless soul. That was the only reason they could both agree on. He wasn’t sad about his life, his conditions, his partner; no, he loved Kyungil unlike anything in the world. In fact, the only thing that made him feel better in the throes of his nameless tears was when Kyungil was there, supporting his back and whispering odes of love and tales of poetry in his hair. He didn’t know what was wrong with him. All he knew was that there were so many stars. So many that he couldn’t see under the smog of earth. And one day, he would become one of them.


Kyungil couldn’t stand it when Yijeong talked like that. It made their presence seem fleeting, though in a way, it was. Kyungil couldn’t face the reality of it. They were supposed to last forever. Kyungil considered himself a restless soul as well, but he was restless to see the world, to never stay in one place long enough to make a mark, to pass through mother earth and observe and leave her be, to see cultures and dance with the natives before bidding them farewell, leaving nothing but traces of the scent of osmanthus and a soulful warmth, just as it always should’ve been. Yijeong however, was more restless for the extra-terrestrial, the celestial objects, the cosmos and the great beyond.


The subterranean Milky Way , Kyungil called Yijeong’s affliction. It was beautiful in a sense and made Yijeong laugh. Kyungil had a way with words, but he didn’t know jack shit about what was really going on in Yijeong’s head and how to truly help him. They both brushed it off as eccentricity. They were both artists, both fucked up from the start in their own way, tragedy written in their blood, eyes trained on all that glittered, and hearts drunk on the ambrosia of love and promise of liberation.


The flight was long and Yijeong, as expected, got particularly restless halfway through. He couldn’t sleep, and staring out into the nothingness of the stratosphere made him feel uneasy.


Kyungil gently pulled him into his lap and watched him curl up, nose pressed into his abdomen, breathing him in and finally fluttering his eyes shut. Tenderly, Kyungil carded his hand through Yijeong’s hair, occasionally leaning down to kiss his cheek, his forehead, his nose. And strangely enough, Yijeong visibly relaxed, unconsciously holding a hand loosely to Kyungil’s shirt.


Kyungil let out a soft sigh, leaning his head back against the headrest and closing his eyes briefly. He felt a certain dread about this trip, about Yijeong’s urgency. This wasn’t exactly how he thought he’d feel at the start of their world travels.


He wasn’t blaming Yijeong. No, he could never do that. They were one of those couples that never fought; Kyungil was too soft-hearted, he loved Yijeong too hard, too much; Yijeong was perfectly aware of this and though he loved Kyungil with the same intensity, if not more, he usually got his way whether he realized it or not.


Once Kyungil got an offer to model some underwear campaign with some other girl. Yijeong, in a fit of jealousy (that in hindsight, Kyungil thought quite adorable), forbid Kyungil to go. At the time, Kyungil had stormed out of the apartment, determined to prove that he was a grown man and that he could whatever the fuck he wanted to.


In the end, he wandered the streets of New York for over six hours, and came home with a pot full of lily in the valleys and apologies on his lips to a weeping angel, sitting on the window sill. He had rushed into the room, holding Yijeong tight and cooing into his ear about how he never took the job, was never going to in the first place. Yijeong had cried for hours, hands clutching Kyungil tight, tears soaking into his shirt.


“I thought you would leave me.” Yijeong had whispered, when the sobs finally resided, “I thought you were leaving.” He repeated in a broken murmur, tears welling up in his eyes again.


“No baby, never.” Kyungil said quickly, genuinely, hand stroking Yijeong’s head and pressing him close to his heart. “I would never leave you. I promise.” Yijeong had a bad past, Kyungil had been part of it, briefly, in high school before Yijeong’s Big Bang . Before the galactic crash in Yijeong’s life that absolutely tore him apart. So Kyungil knew how personally Yijeong held abandonment and no matter how much Kyungil tried, it seemed to be a wound that would not heal.


“Hey.” Kyungil suddenly snapped up at the sound of a raspy, cigarette-ruined voice beside him. It was that creepy old man, smelling of strange ointments and sickly sweet peppermint candies, barely masking the unlying stench of tobacco.


“Yes?” Kyungil asked stiffly, his hand frozen on Yijeong’s head for a moment before slowly pulling him in closer to himself, like a mother protecting her young.


“Is that pretty boy your boyfriend?” The man grinned like he’d said some outrageously clever joke.


Kyungil frowned, remaining stoic and looked away, “Yes.”


“Well isn’t he pretty! Back in my day, men didn’t look like that. If they did, they’d be whores at best, addicts maybe even. But look at him!” He said, unnaturally giddy with a hungry look in his eyes as he stared at Yijeong’s exposed shoulder when the too large shirt Yijeong had stole from Kyungil slipped down his arm, exposing all of last night’s escapades. “All curled up and going on a little rendez-vous to France!”


Kyungil shot a look of disgust at the man, pulling up the shirt, careful not to disturb Yijeong who was ( thank god) sleeping through this creep’s one-sided conversation.


“Say,” The man probed again, “Where’d you meet such a pretty little bird?”


“High school.” Kyungil said tersely, holding back the growing urge to punch him in the face.


“High school sweethearts! How strange.”


“Why’s that?” Kyungil asked in spite of himself.


“Well I really think he resembles a whore I knew, back in my day -”


He was cut off with a hand on his throat and a cold, murderous look in Kyungil’s eyes, “Say one more word about him and I will fucking rip your throat out.


With all the commotion, Yijeong had stirred from his sleep, slowly rubbing his eyes, murmuring “hyung” before seeing the struggle between the two.

“Kyungil! What are you doing? Stop!” He frantically, climbed onto Kyungil’s lap, forcing Kyungil to look away from the man and into his own eyes.


“Hyung, stop. Whatever this is about, it’s not worth it ok?”


Hearing that only made Kyungil narrow his eyes into tiny slits and tighten his grip. The man was starting to struggle hard, thrashing around and causing other passengers to glance over with quizzical, worried expressions.


“Hyung please.” He whispered, “ Hyung . I need you. ” With those desperate, broken little words, whispering a forecast of dripping spring showers, Kyungil finally looked away. As quickly as that ominous cloud of murderous intent came, the darkness faded to be replaced by a gentle glow and Kyungil turned worriedly to Yijeong. Brows furrowed and thumbs brushing away stray tears.


“I’m sorry baby,” He murmured, giving Yijeong a chaste kiss, “Shh, angel, don’t cry.”


Yijeong clung to Kyungil, fingers gripping his sweater until his knuckles were white. Kyungil clutched onto Yijeong just as hard. They loved too hard and felt too much. They were too different and too similar all at the same time.


To put it simply, they were bad for each other. Each drew out the most violent, most destructive, most devastating qualities out of the other. And yet, they were the only things holding each other together. It was a strange sort of fate that brought them together, one faraway Sunday in the fog of their childhood, and it was a strange sort of destiny that kept them together all these years. Or rather, it was their own insatiable need for each other that bound them together.


But this was the only love they’d ever known. It was hard, but it was also so utterly easy. Their lifestyle would never bring them fame nor fortune, but they felt so free in every moment of their lives that they couldn’t tell if they ever needed anything more than lazy Sunday afternoons and the feeling of being held in each other's arms. Reality lapped at their feet, but they were high on the scent of blooming chrysanthemums and drunk on unreachable nebulas. They learned trust from the concrete ocean and forgiveness from the rain. What they had was more than love and so when their edges splintered and their bones cracked with unspoken memories, they really didn’t know any better than to cling to each other tighter and fall deeper into their own subterranean milky ways.


Oh, the tragedy of star-crossed lovers. The tragedy of toiling artists.


Kyungil could almost write a book.