There had been a heatwave for days.
Kyungsoo wasn’t surprised. No one was, really.
It happened every year, right in the middle of summer. The sun’s warm touch would gradually turn warmer and warmer until it was unbearable to feel on your skin. No sane person would be seen out on the streets during the day.
Even in the evening, when the sun had already set, the air would still feel suffocating, and the streets would remain empty.
During the heatwaves, their small town would completely shut down.
It somehow felt even lonelier during this time of the year.
“Do you think someone is still at the supermarket?” Suho groaned beside him, sluggishly moving down the street with him. They were both just silently walking and barely uttering a word. Kyungsoo supposed they were both praying for even the faintest of a breeze. He knew he was. When he looked at his best friend, his face was only being illuminated by the faint light of the street lamps. “I’d kill for a cold soda right now.”
Kyungsoo just soundlessly agreed, a brief nod of his head to indicate he was listening as they took a turn and headed down to their neighborhood’s small supermarket. He wouldn’t mind a cold drink.
They were mainly walking in silence. Even talking felt exhausting in such weather. They’d eventually mumble a low remark about the heat, a low grumble about how far the supermarket was. About how sad it was to see the town so deadly quiet and empty.
The supermarket was working. Kyungsoo wasn’t sure he’d seen an expression of such honest bliss on Suho’s face in a while now.
“Here.” his friend said once he took out two sodas from the fridge and sprawled his hand out towards Kyungsoo.
He almost did not to notice how careful Suho was not to touch him. It wasn’t unusual for any of them. They were both used to being cautious around one another.
The heat hit them like a truck once they left the supermarket, the only thing keeping him sane at this moment – the cold drink in his hand. There was a satisfying sizzling sound when he uncapped it and raised it to his lips.
He could practically feel the cold liquid moving in his body, the coolness sprawling through his chest at the first gulp. The pleasant feeling only lasted for a few seconds before he opened his eyes and he was still in the middle of the empty street with his best friend, still in their devilishly hot town, still not knowing what else to do.
Every summer, it would feel like the heatwave was lasting for decades, even if it had only been a couple of days. It felt like time wasn't passing quickly enough, on purpose.
There weren't many places they could go when the weather was like this. Not only because it was way too hot for them to even feel good about taking a walk, but because it just wasn't good for them. The heat, if they were out for too long, would make him feel dizzy and weak. Let's not even mention the sunburns.
There was, however, one place that him and Suho particularly enjoyed ever since they were little children. There was a river flowing through their city. Not a big one. Especially in the summer, when it would dry up completely at some places. if they were lucky, there would still be a little stream in which they could shove their legs and walk around in the muddy soil, letting the river's icy touch send shivers up their entire, heated bodies.
That's what Suho had to say when they stepped through the drying woods and that little stream they had been hoping for came in view. It wasn't that bad. Not as bad as Kyungsoo had been imagining. There had been years when there had been no water at all.
Now, there was a little stream. Right, a very narrow one, very shallow, but there was a stream. Maybe it would get up to their knees.
"It's better than nothing."
They walked upstream for a while, about ten minutes, until they reached a flat ground under the shades of the big trees. Suho was the first one to stop.
"Here's good." Kyungsoo just nodded and dropped the backpack from his shoulder. He looked away when he saw Suho pulling out the blankets to spread on the ground for them to sit on later.
Instead, he pulled out the bottles from his own bag - a few Coke dozes, a few beers and two bottles of water - and he brought them over to the stream. It wasn't much, but it was definitely cooler than his bag or the ground around them. He made sure to secure them properly in between two rocks, before returning to Suho and the sight of him pulling out two bottles of sunscreen.
He tried not to sigh. Suho was always so predictable.
Not that it was a bad thing. No. In fact, Kyungsoo was grateful to have a friend like Suho. A friend, who always thought ahead of things, a friend who always made sure they were safe and sound. Even if it meant keeping them safe from the sun.
A responsible friend. He caught the sunscreen that Suho tossed at him and briefly wondered if that stuff would even be effective right now. He was sweating so much.
"This must be punishment," Suho groaned at some point but there was this distinct smirk on his lips, that indicated he was just joking around. "This whole heatwave hell thing. Our ancestors must have done something really messed up."
"Or it's just the weather." Kyungsoo rolled his eyes.
"It could be that or it could be the ten times cooler version, that it's a curse by the witches or something."
Kyungsoo tried hard to suppress his sigh. He just ended up giving Suho a look.
"You know I don't believe in that stuff."
"Then how would you explain us?"
They've had this conversation tens, hundreds, hell, thousands of times. Kyungsoo knew Suho was only messing around, or at least he was to some extent. And Suho knew Kyungsoo wouldn't change his mind.
"We were just born special."
"And you believe that?" Suho laughed, a cheerful sound, as he came closer, as if going in to nudge Kyungsoo, but stopping in the last moment before touching him. He just ended up rocking back and forth in his place. "Don't you ever think about it? Why we're like this?"
"I don't know why." Kyungsoo closed the cap of the sunscreen and dropped it down on the blanket again. "I don't really want to know."
"Well that makes one of us."
Kyungsoo was grateful when they dropped the subject and started talking about the food they'd brought instead.
It's not that he didn't ever wonder. He did, sometimes. It was only human to be curious. However, other times, when he'd see how his best friend in the world refused to touch him, how he was cautious around him, he would stop and realize that maybe it wasn't that bad that he didn't know. He felt like digging deeper into this would only make things worse. The thought of digging deeper. He was okay with knowing what he knew now. Nothing more, nothing less.
It was about ten minutes after they'd arrived and devoured a sandwich each, when Suho gave them the green light to go into the water. Because the sunscreen had to set in before that. Kyungsoo couldn't believe his best friend was stricter than his mom was.
It's not that the water was particularly cold. It's just that his body was heated up. When he pushed his first leg into the water, he slowly hissed because of the difference in temperature. It felt freezing.
Suho, beside him, was giggling as they entered deeper into the water. The deepest part of it reaching just above Kyungsoo's knees. The hems of his shorts got wet, but it's not like Kyungsoo minded. They'd dry up in a minute once they got out of the water. It felt refreshing. It felt like his brain was suddenly awake, like his mind was functioning properly again after days of continuous suffering under the fan in his room.
But there was also something else.
Kyungsoo couldn't quite pinpoint it at first. He just felt odd, splashing around in the water with Suho. He felt like he was at the wrong place. He felt like he was supposed to look somewhere else.
"What's with the face?" Suho laughed as he once again kicked and sent splashes of water flying in Kyungsoo's direction. Kyungsoo was pretty sure there was also some mud in there and he would have given his friend shit for it, had it not been for this unsettling feeling in his gut. "No, seriously. What is it? Kyungsoo?"
"I-...don't know. It's nothing." he shook his head, turning his full attention back to Suho, trying to get rid of that odd feeling. It felt like it was pestering him. "You messed up my shirt."
The Pestering Feeling only seemed to intensify, though, the more time they spent in the water. Kyungsoo tried not to let it show and forced it back in his mind, only to a dull buzzing as he focused on spending the time with his best friend.
It was a few hours later when they finally started packing their things, about to head back to the town with heavy hearts, when the buzzing in Kyungsoo's mind got louder, as if it sensed they were going to leave.
Louder and louder and louder and stronger.
Until Kyungsoo couldn't even hear his own thoughts.
Maybe it was because of the heat. Maybe he was getting a heat stroke or something.
He bit on his lip, turning around.
"Where are you going?" Kyungsoo didn't answer mostly because he didn't know. It just felt like he had to turn around and step back towards the water. It felt right.
Suho questioning him from behind only seemed like a dull noise compared to the noise in his ears, the closer he got to the water.
Kyungsoo ducked down, confusion uncomfortably settling in his chest as he looked at the clear water loudly clashing against the little rocks and pebbles. He reached his hand out, trying to pinpoint the reason for this whole weirdness.
Maybe he really was going crazy. Maybe he needed to see a doctor. He'd been out in the sun for far too long.
Just when he was about to stand up and tell Suho they needed to go home, and fast, because he was in a desperate need of ice cream, he saw it.
A faint shimmer among the little pebbles and rocks. He narrowed his eyes, as he leaned in closer, as close as he could get to the water without falling in. A ring.
It was a ring. Nestled between the pebbles and mud at the bottom of the stream, Kyungsoo could see it.
Hell, he could hear it. The buzzing in his ears. The way the ring was shimmering under the sun's last rays of sunshine.
"What is this?"
"I don't know," Kyungsoo ended up replying when Suho squatted down next to him, staring at the ring. "I don't know, but-...I feel it."
"You feel it?"
"I-" Kyungsoo gulped down, as he brought a hand to the water and just shook his head. "That thing, you know. I feel it. I feel like it's calling for me."
"You should take it."
Kyungsoo hesitantly stared at the ring. Was he really supposed to take it? Taking it, an object that was causing such a headache without him even touching it...
"I don't know..."
"If you don't take it, I will." Suho said indignantly. "It's a nice ass ring."
Kyungsoo just scoffed, taking one last look at the shimmering ring.
"Do you have a cloth? A napkin or something?"
He was going to take the ring. He didn't know why, but he felt intrigued. He wanted to know. But he sure as hell was not going to touch it now. He didn't want to cause any trouble for Suho. He didn't want to have a headache in the middle of the day. No, he was going to bring it home and then decide what to do with it.
Suho shoved a little napkin in his hand. Trust Suho to be bringing a thing like that, old and delicate with intricate designs on it. It was his grandmother's, Kyungsoo could tell. He reached out, shoving his entire hand in the water and carefully catching the ring with the napkin preventing his fingers from touching the object.
It came out with a couple pebbles, but Kyungsoo couldn't care less. He just stared at the ring. It was pretty simple. It was light. Silver. Probably white gold? There were no gems and there was no particular design to the thing. Just a simple ring. Kyungsoo would study it more carefully when he got home. For now, though, he just wrapped it in the napkin carefully and shoved it in his pocket.
When he looked up, Suho was just staring at him with an unreadable expression and lips pressed together in a firm line.
Kyungsoo was staring at the ring that he had placed on his desk hours ago. It felt like it was mocking him.
It had been a while since he had felt such energy from an object.
To be fair, he was afraid to examine this. An object that powerful must contain a lot of memories, Kyungsoo figured, and a lot of memories were never good.
A lot of memories, with such immense strength, meant pain. Kyungsoo was afraid to find out what they were.
But the hours weren’t passing quickly enough and the more he stared at the ring, the more agonizing the buzzing in his ears got. He felt like his head would burst from both the constant noise and the curiosity slowly building up within him.
It was past midnight when it got unbearable. When he just picked up the ring carefully, still wrapped in the napkin, and went to sit down on his bed. He stared at the little orb on his palm for what seemed like an eternity.
“Fuck it,” he whispered, mostly to himself. As some sort of encouragement, he supposed. He breathed out slowly and raised a hesitant finger.
The moment his skin came in contact with the ring, he felt a sharp pain in his head, like a truck had just collided with him.
And then he was falling.
The first thing he sensed was the warmth around his hand. Someone was holding his hand between theirs.
He looked up, the golden rays of a sunset peeking through an old looking window. A woman was standing in front of him. With a loving smile on her lips and a certain glint in her eyes. She was holding his hand.
“Someday you’ll give this to someone else,” she was saying, and he could only blink. “To the person you will love most in the world.”
The eyes shifted down and the hands around his moved away. It was a tiny hand, small. A child’s hand, as it opened its fingers and there it was, a beautiful ring. He felt excitement bubbling in his chest.
“Most in the world?”
The childish voice sounded confused. Light and excited, just like that bubbling feeling in his chest.
The woman in front of him smiled fondly. She reached out her hand to ruffle his hair and there was another wave of warmth in his chest.
“You’ll know when you grow up, Chanyeol.”
He felt another wave of excitement wash over his entire being, as he pushed the ring up one of his tiny fingers. A frown laced his lips as it just slid right off.
He looked back up to his mom with distress filling his entire mind. It was too big!
The woman in front of him just laughed fondly again, raising her fingers to her neck. He was curiously watching as she removed the simple chain she always wore.
“Come over here.” She urged and he didn’t need to be told twice to scramble closer to her. Just attentively watched, as she replaced her own pendant with the ring and closed the necklace around his neck. She beamed at him. “There you go.”
He felt a cheerful smile stretching his lips and that same wave of warmth filling his tiny body. He looked down to see the ring proudly resting on his chest.
He just leaped forward and threw his small hands around his mom’s neck, and the woman embraced him tightly with a loving smile and cheerful laughter filling the room.
Kyungsoo’s eyes opened abruptly as he pulled his hand away from the ring, as if burned. He could feel the sheer layer of cold sweat covering his entire body. He was aware of how fast his heart was beating. Of how exhausted he was.
And he was also aware of the sun’s first rays peeking through his window. Sunrise.
He breathed out heavily, staring at the ring now resting on his bed.
Chanyeol, Kyungsoo dully noted. The boy’s name was Chanyeol. The owner of this ring. The boy whose memory he had seen.
A gift. That ring had been a gift to him from his mom.
So what, he felt the corners of his lips tugging into a frown. Just a gift. To a child, no less.
Those few moments of a shattered memory had definitely not been worth the pain he had gone through. The sleepless night, the exhaustion that was already creeping through his body.
But it was only moments later that he started feeling the same buzzing sound in his head and he felt a panic rising inside his body.
It wasn’t over. The ring held more memories, naturally, and it wanted him to see them. It wanted to show them to him.
Kyungsoo just breathed out heavily, as he scrambled out of the bed and hurried to escape his room. Away from the ring, away from the disturbance.
That had been enough for one day.
He just rested his head against the wall of the hallway and closed his eyes, letting out a shuddering breath.
He avoided the ring for as long as he could. Trying to isolate himself from paying attention to the constant buzzing in his head.
He kept throwing glances at it for two days, wondering what it wanted from him.
More than once, he contemplated throwing it away. It was just another memory anyways. It’s not like he could change the past. It’s not like he could do anything about it.
His power to only see things that had happened months, years, even centuries ago - it was pretty useless.
Suho always said it was fascinating. To be able to see everything in all its authenticity. To be able to experience first hand how people felt.
Suho said it was cool. Kyungsoo couldn’t quite agree with him.
He didn’t see a point in seeing the past. The past was over. It wouldn’t come back, and it couldn’t be changed.
Besides, most of the time, objects like that ring, objects that were filled with so much memories that he could practically hear them, they weren’t just any objects.
They were usually those objects that made his head split in half with pain whenever he touched them.
The objects that would put him out for hours. They were too powerful for him.
So no, that was definitely not cool, as Suho was saying.
Kyungsoo simply found it useless and inconvenient.
Psychometry, his grandmother called it. The ability to see memories bound to an object as he touched it. She always said that with time he would learn to control it.
And it had been years, but Kyungsoo still hadn’t learned. Whenever he touched something, he would vaguely see where it had been, whom it had belonged to.
Sometimes he would see some cheesy things, too grossed out to talk about them.
Sometimes he would see horrors, things that would leave him shocked for days.
Sometimes he would see fires, waterfalls, he would witness birthday parties and graduations, he would feel excitement and sadness flooding his entire body.
And sometimes he wouldn’t see anything.
He couldn’t control it.
He wished he could. Maybe then his best friend wouldn’t be so cautious around him. Maybe he wouldn’t flinch every time they touched.
Kyungsoo wanted to reassure Suho that he wouldn’t read into his memories, but that would be a lie.
He couldn’t control it. He didn’t know how to.
How to control the burst of images in his mind, or the feelings of others shaking his own being. As if he was them. As if he were in their place.
But he couldn’t. Even when he felt like the biggest intruder, he couldn’t stop it. Even when he felt pain and wished to go back to his own reality, he couldn’t.
And now, even when this constant calling he was hearing from the ring on his dresser kept bugging him for hours, for days, he could do nothing to tune it out.
The only way to deal with the noise was to make it go away. And the noise would only go away if he looked into the memories until there was nothing to be shown anymore.
It was two days after the first time he watched, when he brought out the napkin again and seated himself carefully in his bed.
Two days after his first attempt to discover that plain ring’s mystery when he brought it out again and with a deep sigh, pulled it into his palm.
His head felt like it was going to burst and he wanted to scream, but then the familiar sensation of falling dawned upon him, so he didn’t.
His feet were dangling off the tree he was sitting on. There was a light breeze and the only sounds were coming from the other kids in the distance playing and the rustling of the leaves around.
There was a boy next to him. Tanned skin, too tanned from playing around in the park all day long. His knees were scraped and he had a missing tooth. His hair was black and it was falling over his brown eyes.
Brown eyes, that were curiously examining the ring that Chanyeol was oh so proudly showing off.
“My dad gave it to my mom, cause she was the person he loved most in the world. And she gave it to me now, so I can give it to the person I love most in the world.”
The boy’s face was scrunched up in thought, the mind of a seemingly eight-nine year old boy trying to keep up.
“So why are you wearing it?”
“She said I have to wait until I grow up.” Chanyeol mumbled quietly and looked down to his own chest, the ring catching the rays of the sun and shining brightly.
“You should give it to me.”
Chanyeol turned his head sharply to his best friend, watching him smile a toothy grin, instinctively raising his hands to protect his ring.
“Better me than someone else!” he said, feet dangerously dangling in the air as he balanced himself on the tree’s branch only on his hands. Chanyeol was about to tell him to be careful, but the other boy jumped, a quiet thud when one of his knees collided with the ground again. He frowned when he saw the old scratch opening up, but didn’t say anything about it. Instead, he looked back up to Chanyeol, up to the tree and grinned again. “Come on! Baekhyun got a new football for his birthday and his parents let him bring it to the park! Let’s go play with him!”
Chanyeol felt excitement once again bubbling in his chest. A new football meant Baekhyun would be showing off and probably wouldn’t let them touch it, but then they’d end up playing anyways. He looked down from the branch he was sitting on, not quite understanding how his best friend could just jump from up here.
His best friend, who was already skipping away. Chanyeol frowned, feet hastily moving from one branch to another, as he threw a distressed look after the tanned boy.
“Hey!” he called out. “Jongin! Wait for me!”
His leg slipped and the next thing he knew, there was pain in his butt as he fell down on the hard ground. In the matter of seconds, he heard his best friend’s distinctive, loud laughter. Jongin was looking at him and he was laughing and Chanyeol felt tears prickling at his eyes at the dull pain. He stood up, throwing an angry glance towards his best friend.
Jongin was still laughing, when he ran back over to him and hooked an arm under his.
“Come on, don’t be such a baby.” Jongin said and he started pulling him forward, giving him no time to think about his dramatic and painful fall from the tree. “Jongdae and Sehun are also going, we need to hurry up!”
And so, with just another few tugs, the Fall was forgotten and Chanyeol started feeling excitement all over again about playing with his friends and Baekhyun’s new football.
He started running with Jongin.
The air wasn’t as suffocating as it had been for the past few weeks and Kyungsoo took that as a good sign. The heatwave was finally going away.
It was still hot outside, yes, and it was still incredibly dangerous to linger in the sun for a long time, but at least breathing didn’t feel painful anymore.
“What happened to the ring?” Suho asked before he threw a rock at the river. It made a loud sound as it collided with another stone.
Kyungsoo just shrugged, throwing his own rock at the stream. It was fuller this time around. More powerful.
It had been a while since he last saw anything. The ring had been exceptionally quiet, the buzzing wasn’t present anymore and Kyungsoo had finally been able to sleep peacefully for the last few days.
But even so, he didn’t have the heart to throw the ring away. Maybe it was intuition, or a feeling, or just common sense – he wouldn’t have gotten such splitting headaches because of two stupid memories of a young boy.
“It’s at home.”
“You didn’t touch it?”
“Nothing interesting.” Kyungsoo shrugged again, picking up another rock. “Memories of a child.”
Suho tried not to look disappointed when Kyungsoo looked at him, but he did nonetheless.
“There isn’t always a tragically beautiful story bound to everything we find, you know.” Kyungsoo threw the stone at the river and watched it gracelessly plop into the water before sinking to the rocky bottom.
“Then how would you explain your headaches?”
Kyungsoo shrugged. He tried not to look troubled by that question.
It was the same question that was bothering him as well. The sole reason he still hadn’t gotten rid of the ring after it had stopped buzzing in his head.
He couldn’t control his powers. He couldn’t read the history of that ring whenever he wished. He couldn’t speed it up.
So it’s either the ring held no other significant memories or it did, but it wasn’t ready to revel its secrets yet.
Kyungsoo supposed he just had to be patient if he wanted to know more.
And that’s exactly where his troubles started forming. He didn’t want to know more. He didn’t want anything to do with that ring and its story. He didn’t want to have sleepless nights, he didn’t want his head to be splitting in half for hours. He didn’t want to risk hurting himself again.
He didn’t want a lot of things, but a rather large part of him, the curious one, had refused to give up just yet and had stashed the ring inside his desk’s drawer, waiting for it to start calling for his attention again.
Kyungsoo just pursed his lips and picked up yet another rock.
The sound when he dropped his cutlery on the plate was deafening.
His parents looked up to him from the other side of the table with questioning looks and Kyungsoo only mumbled out an apology. He excused himself from the table and practically ran to his room, his head feeling like it was continuously being stabbed by knives.
He let out a shaky breath at the sudden pain, a shaky hand reaching out to pull the napkin-covered ring from the drawer.
He didn’t know if it was because it had been many days since he had last felt anything from the ring, he didn’t know if it was because it had been a while, but the pain was harsher. It was so unbearable, that he hurried to unwrap the ring and sit down on his bed.
He wasn’t sure if he screamed when he actually touched the object, the sensation of falling feeling somewhat steeper and faster, as he lost himself in someone else’s life.
Someone was talking next to him. Someone was talking to him.
Chanyeol, however, wasn’t really paying attention. His eyes were trained at the end of the hallway where Jongin was chatting with Sehun.
He felt a tingle of jealousy in his chest. Jongin was his best friend, not Sehun’s. Yet lately it felt like the two of them spent way much more time together.
He didn’t like the way they were laughing so loudly he could hear their voices all the way from here. He didn’t like the fact that they were having so much fun together without him.
He didn’t mean to close the locker so abruptly. The sound startled him.
“Great. Now you’re breaking school property.” The person next to him said and Chanyeol let out a sigh. He felt irritation mixing up with maybe a little bit of guilt when he turned to look at him.
The boy was shorter than him, considerably so, as he had to look down to see him. His hair was black and his expression was judging when he raised his eyebrows.
“At least pretend you’re listening to me, will you?”
“Sorry, Baekhyun.” Chanyeol said and his voice was deep. Much deeper than the childish, high-pitched voice from before. Another wave of guilt spread in his chest as he looked at the boy, Baekhyun, and sighed again. “I don’t really care about your physics pop quiz, though.”
“I don’t care about my pop quiz either! If you’d been listening to me you would have known.” Baekhyun exclaimed, but Chanyeol was already (involuntarily) looking back at the other end of the hallway. “So what is it again? Trouble in crush-land again?”
Chanyeol turned around and smacked Baekhyun, eliciting a loud whine from the shorter boy.
He felt embarrassment enveloping his entire body and he was pretty sure his cheeks and ears were getting red.
“I told you to stop sprouting nonsense. He’s not my crush!” he insisted with his low voice. “He’s my best friend and it feels shitty to see him hang out with Sehun all the time.”
“Chanyeol, he literally spends every second after school with you. Stop being so possessive.” Baekhyun raised a hand theatrically over his heart. “Also, you offend me. Does my company mean nothing to you?”
Chanyeol didn’t bother to reply. He knew Baekhyun wasn’t waiting for a reply anyways, judging by his snicker.
He directed his eyes abck to the other side of the hallway, once again, without even meaning to. It felt like his gaze was being drawn back to the tall, golden-skinned boy with long locks of black hair falling over his eyes. He was laughing again, showcasing perfect teeth with full lips pulled over them.
It was an expression Chanyeol knew so well. An expression he had known for many, many years. An expression that had started appearing on a slightly more mature face, but an expression that hadn’t changed since they were kids.
Joy and happiness suited Kim Jongin and whenever he saw him laugh and smile, he felt his own heart swelling.
However, it was Oh Sehun now next to him, laughing just as loudly at some undoubtedly lame joke and Chanyeol definitely didn’t like that.
He didn’t like how close they were standing to one another.
How they were leaning closer as they laughed even harder.
How comfortable they looked messing around.
He didn’t like it.
Sourness filled his chest as he bit on the inside of his cheek.
“You can just admit you have a crush on your best friend and all of this will be much easier, you know?”
Chanyeol almost tuned out Baekhyun again. He could see him in his periphery vision leaning against the lockers with his smirk and examining eyes.
He wasn’t even sure why they were friends, but somehow life without Byun Baekhyun seemed unimaginable. Life without Oh Sehun, too, even though he was number one on Chanyeol’s to-kill list at the moment, seemed unimaginable.
He stiffened in his place when Jongin looked up and their eyes met. Something in his best friend’s face shifted and his grin, if anything, only widened as he sprawled a hand out and wove at him.
Chanyeol felt the corner of his lip twitching in a smirk as he wove back, trying not to look awkward.
Life without Kim Jongin seemed unimaginable.
Life without Kim Jongin seemed worse than unimaginable.
Chanyeol felt all sorts of emotions swirling in his chest and he chose to ignore all of them.
He also ignored Byun Baekhyun, because he could feel the shorter man beside him flaring up at that small interaction and he knew he had a full-blown analysis of Jongin’s face and movements coming up, when all he really wanted was for Baekhyun to shut up.
His hand involuntarily moved up to his neck, fingers catching the old simple silver chair around his neck, dragging the old ring of his mom out and absentmindedly clutching it in his palm as his eyes followed Jongin until he was out of his sight.
He just sighed.
“Skipped years?” Suho echoed and Kyungsoo hummed in acknowledgement.
“Yeah. About ten years.”
“That’s odd.” Suho concluded, a frown pulling his lips and a deep etch between his eyebrows.
Suho was the only person Kyungsoo could open up to about all of this. He was the only person he could tell how he had woken up in sweat – annoyed and feeling jealous. The feelings of Chanyeol lingering on him, the images in his mind playing like a film in Kyungsoo’s.
It was scary.
The last memory had been of the boys in high school. The previous memories had been from the park when they had been kids. It had skipped a lot of years. A lot of years and undoubtedly a lot of memories were left out and that didn’t help Kyungsoo figure out what was going on. It was somehow irritating.
“And you’re saying it won’t stop buzzing?”
Ever since that night the ring hadn’t stopped calling for him. Kyungsoo had thought he was going crazy but he was pretty sure he even saw the object vibrating on the desk whenever he entered the room.
He was afraid to touch it now.
Last time he had been passed out for an entire day. He had woken up tired and sweaty, his limbs feeling detached from his body. It was painful. Reading those memories took its toll on him – both physically and mentally.
That’s why he had called Suho to go out. He just couldn’t bear the constant noise in his voice, he needed to get away.
“Are they recent memories?”
Kyungsoo pursed his lips, as he nodded.
“I think so. The house, the school…their clothes. They seemed pretty normal.”
“So maybe those people are still around?”
Kyungsoo didn’t reply. He didn’t know that.
He didn’t know what the story of this ring was just yet, but judging by the insistent noises, it wasn’t good. Or maybe it was. He didn’t know. He really didn’t know.
And it was eating him from the inside.
“Do you want me to take it?” Suho asked, concern lacing his words. “Just until you can rest properly and give it another go?”
Kyungsoo knew that having the ring with himself was exhausting. Putting him on the edge and testing his patience out.
He also knew that not having the ring with himself would mean constant wondering.
He just ended up shaking his head and looking away from Suho pursing his lips into a tight smile.
“It’s fine.” Kyungsoo ended up saying after a while. “The faster I get over with it, the faster I can get rid of the ring. I’ll continue tonight.”
“Are you sure?” Suho asked again, worry dripping from his words. “You look tired. You are tired.”
The wind entering the truck from the open window was messing up his hair.
It was also messing up Jongin’s hair – now freshly pink and flying in all directions as he was laughing loudly with a hand sprawled out of the passenger seat window and long feet raised on his old truck’s dashboard.
Chanyeol kind of hated the warmth that spread in his body.
He also kind of loved it.
He wished he could keep staring at Jongin, at the way he was laughing without a single care in the world, at the way he would stick his head out of the window and earn himself a distressed warning from Chanyeol. At the way he would complain about the music and change the radio frequency. At how he’d turn up the volume whenever a song he liked came up. So loud that they wouldn’t hear each other talking, but Chanyeol could appreciate the look of utter bliss on Jongin’s face for those few moments and watch him tap his fingers over the rips of his jeans and mumble along to the music.
“Legs off the dashboard,” Chanyeol said and Jongin blew him the raspberry before leaning down to turn up the volume of the radio again.
Chanyeol felt another wave of warmth flooding his body.
He wasn’t angry. He couldn’t care less about the dashboard. He knew that no matter how times he told Jongin, he still wouldn’t listen to him. And Jongin knew he would never get angry at him.
He trained his eyes on the dark road, nothing and everything ahead of them.
There was no particular destination for this drive. Jongin would call him sometimes in the middle of the night and ask him if he wanted to go for a drive. He never denied.
There was always been something magical in driving around aimlessly with Jongin.
They could talk – just the two of them. They could spend some time alone and Chanyeol would end up getting back home reassured, that he was always – and would always be – the closest person to Jongin. The one he could tell everything.
He felt a flash of guilt in his mind at the thought. He threw a quick look at his best friend and his soft, full lips and closed eyes.
Jongin had grown. He had grown so much.
He’d grown to be a gorgeous young man. A very unique young man. He stood out. Always.
He was all grown now, yet Chanyeol could still occasionally see the little kid with scraped knees and missing teeth urging him to go play in the park.
He was all grown now, urging Chanyeol to go for midnight drives down the highway towards the big city. Urging Chanyeol to go to parties they’d leave after getting a few drinks. Urging Chanyeol to skip school and go down to the river instead. Because it’s such a beautiful day, he’d say and Chanyeol would be convinced.
He was all grown now, and Chanyeol knew he liked him. Loved him. Maybe more than he was supposed to love his best friend. Maybe not in the way he was supposed to love his best friend.
“You OK?” Jongin asked, lowering the volume once the song finished and Chanyeol blinked towards him and his concerned expression before looking back towards the road. “You look constipated.”
“I’m tired,” Chanyeol lied. “It’s like, 1am.”
“We can go back, if you want.” Jongin suggested and Chanyeol scoffed.
“I doubt Sehun would be up at this hour, Jonginnie.”
Chanyeol felt bitterness spread in his chest, as he flashed a quick look towards Jongin and his feet still resting on the dashboard in all their glory. He seemed confused, full lips pushed into a pout.
“You’ve been hanging out with him a lot lately.” Chanyeol said, trying not to let the venom he felt drip into his words. “Figured you might have as well asked him out for a drive.”
He didn’t expect the punch on his shoulder.
And it was no light punch. He actually winced when Jongin hit him, almost losing his grip on the wheel, before throwing his friend a look.
“What was that for?!”
“You idiot.” Jongin seemed offended. “I’d never ask Sehun for a drive. It’s our thing…if you tell me you’ve been out for a drive with that Byun Baekhyun I’ll get out of this truck right here and right now.”
Chanyeol was busy basking in the waves of relief that washed over him to answer. He felt like suddenly breathing was easier.
That was right. It was their thing. Their own thing, just his and Jongin’s.
He flinched when Jongin punched him again, in the exact same spot on his shoulder with just as much strength as the first time.
“Ouch?” he squinted at him to see that Jongin actually seemed scandalized. With his mouth hanging open and eyebrows furrowed under the pink fringe.
“You have?! You’ve been out with Byun Baekhyun for our midnight drives?!”
“Don’t lie. You didn’t reply the first time I asked.”
“I really haven’t.” Chanyeol frowned, turning towards Jongin. “I never would. It’s our thing.”
His best friend measured his face with a judging look, before he finally scoffed.
“I can’t believe you’d ask me such a thing in the first place. You’re such a dumbass.”
Chanyeol didn’t react to the insult. Instead, he felt even more waves of relief hitting him. Hard.
“You really have been hanging out a lot. I thought-…I just thought-…”
“Sehun is in my year, Chanyeol. Of course I hang out with him, we have all our classes together. And we’ve known each other since we were kids. But it’s different than us.” Jongin indignantly rested his head back against the seat. “I heard he actually has a crush on me, that poor kid. He told Yixing he’ll ask me to prom.”
That same relief filling his body was suddenly replaced by another sensation. Chanyeol couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was, but he felt alert, as his fingers tightened around the wheel.
“Prom?” he barely asked through clenched teeth. “Will you go with him?”
Jongin was silent and the red light in Chanyeol’s mind started blinking rapidly. He turned his head to see his best friend staring out the front window up towards the stars, before shaking his head ever so lightly.
“No?” Chanyeol urged, hating himself for how rushed his questions sounded.
“No.” Jongin confirmed. “I’m waiting for someone else to ask me.”
Chanyeol’s knuckles were turning white as he tightened them around the wheel again. He wasn’t even seeing where they were driving. All he could see was images of Jongin with another by his side.
All he could see was red.
Jongin was silent again.
Chanyeol felt a lump forming in his throat as he looked over to the passenger seat briefly again.
Jongin was sitting there with his lips pursed, a faint blush painting his cheeks. Chanyeol felt his heart speeding up in his chest.
He just watched as the younger boy leaned down, resting his chin on his knees and looking towards him with a little smile.
Kyungsoo felt his heart skipping a beat as he jumped up to a sitting position.
He was breathing heavily and he could feel the cold sweat on his forehead, but most importantly, he couldn’t shake off that feeling of joy. His heart wasn’t complying.
He was happy. He was elated.
His mind couldn’t get rid of the image of a pink haired boy with a small smile, whispering the one word that made him a shaking mess.
“Fuck,” he rasped out, letting go of the ring. Along with ecstatic, he also felt scared. “What the fuck?”
They were lingering, Kyungsoo realized with horror as he looked at his trembling hands, so different from the long bony fingers he had gotten used to seeing in the memories.
Chanyeol’s feelings were strong and they were really lingering and Kyungsoo couldn’t quite understand why his own heart was reacting like that to the images of Jongin flashing through his mind.
He shook his head and stood up from the bed, not minding the sun outside rising.
He needed to clear his mind. Those memories, those feelings – they weren’t his.
They weren’t supposed to be here, yet they were.
He bit on his lower lip as he shut the door to his room, leaving the old ring behind.
In the following days Kyungsoo didn’t even dare go near the ring.
However, the memories he had seen were haunting him in his dreams.
He kept seeing the long, empty road in front of the truck.
The long, empty road that seemed so familiar.
Jongin’s laughter was echoing in his ears when he woke up with a dry mouth.
Realization dawned upon him when he figured out that he knew that long, empty road. The same road he had been on many times in his life.
The same road with the empty fields on both sides, with the desert’s emptiness around.
The same old, long, empty highway just outside their town.
The road to the bigger city, Kyungsoo realized. A long, old road connecting all the smaller cities of the South, like a web, leading to the big city.
Kyungsoo felt his heart skipping a beat at the thought – at his own thought.
Whoever Chanyeol and Jongin were, whoever they had been, they must have been close to where he was.
“This doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
His words were contradicting the giggles escaping his lips and Chanyeol just rolled his eyes.
He looked at the two boys in front of him, at how pink Baekhyun’s face was when Yixing raised the salt to his neck. At how his eyelids fluttered when Yixing leaned down and his tongue ran over his neck.
He didn’t have enough alcohol pumping through his veins to be able to watch all of this without getting a weird feeling in his gut. He looked away in the same time Yixing downed the shot and leaned down to take the lime slice from Baekhyun’s lips.
All of them had known prom would be shitty. Prom was always shitty. Jongdae had made sure from earlier to buy the drinks and make sure that they’d have some fun.
Chanyeol wasn’t sure what he had been expecting. This was, after all, Jongdae they were talking about. The boy was maniacally laughing from the other side of the circle at how flushed Baekhyun was, the liquid in his glass dangerously swirling around.
“Next, Jongin! Who will it be?”
Chanyeol perked up, eyes finding Jongin immediately. The pink in his hair was faded, but the pink flush from the first few drinks finally affecting him was compensating for that. He watched him looking around the people in the circle.
Chanyeol felt a pang in his chest when he shot a gaze in Sehun’s direction. The younger boy was suddenly sitting up straight with a hand running through his hair.
The black and red dots littered his vision as he clenched his jaw, eyes returning to Jongin.
Jongin was already looking at him, a questioning look in his slightly widened eyes.
He didn’t know if he was being asked if it was OK. Even if he had been, he couldn’t process it. Instead, he felt a wave of pride filling him up.
All he could hear for a few moments was the loud beating of his heart and the dull sounds of his friends wolf-whistling and pushing Jongin closer to him.
Chanyeol almost forgot where he was and what was happening when Jongin raised a hand and he felt something poking at his lips. He was in a daze when he parted them and let Jongin place the lime wedge between them.
He felt his heartrate picking up when he felt Jongin’s nimble fingers pulling his collar down and exposing his neck. The sounds his friends were making sounded distant, when all he could feel was the tingle of Jongin’s fingers against his skin.
Chanyeol’s breath hitched when he felt the warmth on his neck – Jongin’s tongue running over his skin.
He didn’t want to let all these thoughts invade his mind – all the thoughts he had always really had about Jongin but had tried not to pay attention to. All these thoughts that were crossing a line. A line he wasn’t even sure existed.
He looked at Jongin’s face then – the flush only seemed to have deepened as he was setting down the salt. Their eyes met for a brief moment when Jongin picked up the shot in one hand and placed the other on his shoulder.
He felt excitement rushing through his entire body. Excitement and arousal and something far beyond joy.
He was pretty sure his eyelids fluttered just like Baekhyun’s had when Jongin sunk down and slowly ran his tongue over his skin. Chanyeol felt shivers running up his spine at the sensation.
He blinked quickly, biting onto the lime wedge slightly, the sourness exploding in his mouth, as he watched Jongin raise the shot to his lips. He shut his eyes tightly, the fingers on Chanyeol’s shoulder digging into his skin.
And then he was leaning down.
And his face was so awfully close, closer than it ever had been. Chanyeol’s heart skipped yet another beat when those full lips parted and he could feel Jongin’s breath against his skin.
Their lips brushed when Jongin leaned even closer.
Chanyeol expected him to take the lime wedge and move back to his seat.
Jongin, however, pressed his lips against his. Held them there for a few moments longer than a body shot required. He was sober enough to know that.
He was sober enough to see the dilated pupils of Jongin as he moved back, the lime wedge between his teeth.
Sober enough to realize that any lines that may have existed were now completely blurred.
Many hours and many heart palpitations later Chanyeol had finally gotten over the fact that Jongin practically kissed him after licking his neck. Twice. He knew it was a game. He tried hard to convince himself it was just a game.
It was many drinks later when he noticed how close Jongin was hovering. How his fingers seemed to reach out to him at every time. How his eyes were trained on him.
His mind was a little hazy from the alcohol and he knew he’d regret drinking that much in the morning.
Now, however, there was only one thing he regretted and it was Jongin leaning against him, fingers playing with the hem of his shirt and drunken giggles leaving the prettiest of lips.
He was drunk too, but not drunk enough to indulge himself in this. He wasn’t drunk enough to cross even more lines.
It was late in the night, or early in the morning, when Jongin had lost his tie and the top buttons of his shirt were undone. When Chanyeol once again pushed his fingers away from his body before he would do something stupid.
It was in the late hours of the night, when Jongin finally frowned, pouted really, looking rather distraught.
“In case you’ve missed it, Chanyeol, I’m throwing myself at you.”
Chanyeol just blinked at his best friend. That pout was possibly one of the most attractive things he had ever seen.
“I am,” Jongin continued, fingers raising to undo yet another button of his shirt, dilated pupils still focused on Chanyeol’s face in fierce determination. “I am tearing off my clothes.”
“Yeah, that’s not hard to notice.” He said, the warmth in his chest spreading throughout his entire body as more and more of Jongin’s naked chest came into view. He felt that awful warmth spreading south. It wasn’t supposed to spread there.
He remembered himself just in time to raise a hand to stop Jongin from completely unbuttoning his shirt, the people around them completely forgotten.
Jongin looked at him again when he was stopped, eyes shining with something unreadable.
“Do you not like me?”
The younger one sighed, as he sat back.
“Not drunk enough for a rejection.”
Chanyeol felt something sharp running through him. That same alert, as he hurried to shake his head.
“It’s not a rejection.”
“You’re drunk. I’m drunk. This isn’t the way.”
“Ever the hopeless romantic,” Jongin snickered, crawling closer again. He didn’t try unbuttoning any shirts this time around, instead pulled Chanyeol’s hand into his own. It felt warm around his palm. “Go out with me then.”
The warmth was joined by colours. All sorts of colours erupting behind Chanyeol’s eyelids. Like fireworks, as his breath stopped and all he could look at was the soft blush on Jongin’s cheeks.
“You’re asking me out?”
“I am tired of waiting for you to ask me out, so yeah…yeah, I am.” Jongin breathed out after a bit, squeezing Chanyeol’s hand between his tightly. “Will you reply or will you just keep on staring at me?”
Chanyeol wanted to keep on staring, he truly did. If he could, he would stare on for an eternity.
He ended up briefly nodding, because he didn’t trust himself with words at the moment.
He looked down to their hands – linked together, Jongin’s chest still halfway in his sight and his victorious and soft smile blossoming on those full lips he admired so much.
He groggily opened his eyes. He wasn’t sure where he was but it looked like his room.
The concerned face hovering over his own was that of his best friend. Suho was calling his name out and he seemed borderline scared.
“Good, you’re awake!” he ended up sighing in what had to be relief, while Kyungsoo shut his eyes closed and groaned a little at the dulled thump in his head. He felt like he’d throw up. “What happened?!”
A good question, Kyungsoo thought to himself, as he barely pushed himself up to sit in his bed.
All he could remember was Jongin. His smile. His scent. His lips against his.
Fuck, he groaned again. Not his. Chanyeol’s. His head was spinning.
“What happened, Kyungsoo…” Suho repeated, a concerned scowl on his face. “You’ve been out for two days and you look so pale now and-“
“Two days?” Kyungsoo barely croaked out. Sure, this memory had been a little bit longer, but two days?
He tried to calm his heart. He tried to shake the feeling of warmth off his hand. He tried to close his eyes without feeling like someone was punching him in the brain.
He just ended up groaning again, hiding his face in his palms.
“Are you alright?”
“I think I have a hangover.” He ended up saying quietly, tiredly. The world was spinning.
Why couldn’t Chanyeol keep his stupid feelings and his stupid senses and most of all, his stupid hangover?
“A…a hangover?” Suho echoed. “Kyungsoo, you’ve been out of it for two days. You haven’t been drinking anything, you-“
“The other guy did.” Kyungsoo shook his head, hand waving dismissively towards the ring. “A farewell gift.”
“You mean his memories affect your body?!” Suho’s eyes just kept on widening in distress. “This is bad.”
There was silence in the room for a few moments, as Suho stood up and brought him a bottle of water – cold and refreshing.
Kyungsoo was still breathing heavily, though. All sorts of colors dancing behind his closed eyelids.
“You should give me the ring, Soo.” Suho said quietly. “I knew reading the memories took a lot out of you, but if it’s reflecting on your real body, you can’t risk it. This is dangerous.”
“It’s the first time this happens.” Kyungsoo said, fingers unconsciously clenching and unclenching from a fist, trying to shake away the feeling of Jongin’s warm hand.
“And it’s not something to experiment with! I’ll keep the ring safe until you ask-“
Kyungsoo didn’t mean for his voice to sound harsh. As harsh as it could sound with him barely finding strength to speak anyways.
There was something scarier than Chanyeol’s emotions lingering on him and it was having those memories taken away.
Having Jongin taken away.
The moment the thought crossed Kyungsoo’s mind, he almost shuddered.
This wasn’t his thought.
It wasn’t supposed to be his thought.
He let out a ragged breath, a part of his mind supplying that Suho was probably right. Maybe he had to take that goddamn ring away and spare him the troubles of sleepless days and nights.
However, a larger part of him refused to give in. He didn’t want to let go of that. He didn’t want to.
There was something tugging at his heartstrings, as he shook his head and tried his best to smile.
“It’s fine.” He saw the sceptical look on his best friend’s face, so he pursed his lips and nodded, more to himself than anything. “Really. It’s fine. I’m fine.”
There was silence in the car, except for the low music playing from the stereo.
It was so far the fourth song and Jongin had not yet changed the radio frequency, neither had he turned the volume up. He was silent, too.
He looked over to the passenger seat, the other boy’s hand lazily thrown out the window, fingers trying to catch the wind with a dreamy expression on his face as he stared at the long road ahead of them.
He felt a swell in his heart. Whenever Jongin lost himself in his thoughts like this. He wanted to be let in on them. He wanted to know what was causing this unusual silence.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, voice low. Eyes lingering on Jongin for a couple more seconds to see him snapping out of his thoughts and turning towards him with a small smile.
“No. Just thinking.”
“Me. You. The city. The weather. The road. The people.” Jongin’s lips formed into a barely visible pout in his periphery vision. “The shitty music on the radio.”
Chanyeol let out a low chuckle.
“Someday,” Jongin said quietly, his voice sounding like honey. “Someday I want to get out of here.”
Chanyeol wouldn’t have looked away from the road had he not felt something incredibly sincere in Jongin’s tone. Something that sounded like a confession long due.
His friend – boyfriend – was staring right ahead, fingers drumming on his knees.
“Someday, I want to get out of here, out of this small town. Drive to the very end of this road.”
“Why?” he heard himself asking, a little anxiety but mostly confusion lacing his voice.
“Because the world is a bigger place, Chan.” Jongin sighed. “The rest of the world doesn’t believe in local legends. The rest of the world doesn’t stop with the heatwave. The rest of the world is always buzzing and always alive, while we’re stuck here doing nothing.”
Chanyeol felt his fingers tightening around the wheel. His knuckles turned white.
“That’s why I like you.”
He blinked when Jongin’s honey-dipped voice powered over the low tones of the song playing on the radio.
“You make the world around me bigger. You make it better.”
He felt butterflies in his stomach. Lightness in his chest. He felt like everything was bright even though it was nearing 1am and the skies around them were black.
“How?” he asked curiously. He never did anything special. He never did anything interesting or anything special.
Jongin’s shrug was little, as he leaned against him, head resting on his shoulder. Chanyeol would have usually scolded him, because he was driving, but this time he just accepted it. The scent of Jongin’s tropical shampoo was strong and mixing with everything else that Jonginw as and it filled all his senses.
“I don’t know. You just do.” The younger man muttered, a hand finding its way to his waist. Chanyeol almost jumped. “You drive with me down this road. I guess I can only see myself going to the end of it with you.”
Kyungsoo’s eyes snapped open.
His breathing was a little heavier than usual and his palms were sweating. There was a feeling of content and love pumping through his veins.
Ghostly giggles he didn’t remember hearing were echoing in his head, as he stood up slowly, throwing a look down to the ring he’d dropped.
There was no headache splitting his head. No unimaginable pain thumping in his brain.
He wasn’t fine, he realized as he let out a breath. He definitely wasn’t fine.
This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t natural.
To feel this way about someone he’d never even met.
To feel this way about someone he’d never meet.
And most importantly, he was scared.
Because there was no pain from reading this memory. There was no pain and no regret. No sweat covering his body.
The only thing he was feeling at the moment was the explosion of colours and energy in his body. Jongin’s quiet words lingering in his mind. The words he’d uttered for only Chanyeol to hear.
The words that had made Chanyeol’s heart flutter.
The words that had made Kyungsoo’s suffer.
In the sweetest way possible, Kyungsoo knew he was screwed.
Because everything he saw and everything he heard – it wasn’t meant to be seen or heard by him.
It wasn’t. Yet, he saw it and he heard it. He felt it. He believed it.
He threw one more gaze towards the ring. There was no ringing in his mind, no pain.
Just indefinite fear of what he’d gotten himself into.
The weather wasn’t warm. It was hot. It was absolutely devastating and he felt annoyed at practically everything and anything around himself. It felt difficult to breathe.
Everything was horrible, except for the beautiful boy sitting on the floor in front of the mirror and staring.
Chanyeol wasn’t sure what Jongin was doing. He had stopped questioning some of Jongin’s actions a long time ago, but he adored every single action of his. He was looking at him, wearing a loose wifebeater and shorts. He was sweating too, Chanyeol could tell, but even that looked good on Jongin. His bronze skin was shining and he was staring with hooded eyes and parted lips. He seemed concentrated.
“Come here.” He said suddenly. So suddenly, without even looking away from the mirror, that Chanyeol almost flinched. He felt like his limbs weren’t going to comply in this heat, but he stood up anyways.
Anything for Jongin.
He dragged himself down on the floor, eyes never leaving the boy, who was finally looking up at him and smiling his soft smile.
He loved that smile. It was one of those few sights that only he ever saw. It was his smile.
When he was sitting down, Jongin hurried to scramble closer to him on the hardwood floor. Wrapping a hand around his waist and burying his face in the crook of his neck.
Chanyeol sighed out when he felt Jongin’s hot breath on his already boiling skin.
But it didn’t irritate him like the heatwave did. No. Jongin’s warmth against him felt refreshing.
Jongin’s warmth was nice and spreading softly through his body, unlike the heatwave and its harshness.
“Look at us,” Jongin said after planting a soft peck on his neck, and turned back to the mirror.
So he did. He raised his head slowly and looked at the mirror. At the way their bodies were tangled on the floor with arms thrown around each other loosely. With heads resting against one another.
Chanyeol blinked quickly, as he looked away from his own face and towards Jongin’s instead.
Towards the now freshly pink hair and the pouty lips. The shine in his eyes. He was smiling.
“What about us?”
“We just work.” Jongin said quietly, before letting out a chuckle. “I realized that I’d rather have your dumb face in my sight all the time instead of staring at my own face. Alone. Chanyeol-less.”
“My dumb face was in the other corner of the room. You could have just looked up.” He retorted and watched Jongin’s smile just widen. He turned his head and buried his fingers in the hairs at his nape, pulling his face down.
Their lips met in the middle and just like every single kiss they shared, he felt the electricity running down his spine, all the way to his fingertips. Jongin’s lips were electrifying. Jongin’s lips were dangerous.
“Then I wouldn’t have been able to do that.” Came the quiet reply, barely a whisper against his ear and he felt a shiver running throughout his body. “Or that.”
Jongin’s lips moved from his lips to the side of his face, where his jawline met his ear.
Another kiss, down the side of his neck. He felt his breath hitching when Jongin’s teeth nibbled on his skin.
He felt a shudder shake his body when Jongin’s hand moved from his waist to the front of his sweatpants, a bold hand running over his crotch.
Chanyeol interrupted him before he could continue. He lunged forward and captured those pink lips in an urgent, needy kiss. He was blindly looking for Jongin’s wrists. When he got hold of them, he pushed his hands up and rolled over his boyfriend. Pinning his hands over his head.
There was a smirk pulling Jongin’s lips when he pulled back – staring down at the perfect mess that the younger man was underneath him. He watched as he raised a palm to lay down on his chest. He wondered if he could feel his heart beating loudly. Just for him. Jongin’s fingers, instead, ran down the chain hanging from his neck and the ring swinging right in front of his face. He circled it once thoughtfully, before his eyes shot up and looked right into Chanyeol’s soul. His smirk widened.
“I like it when you get worked up.”
“You like it when you get me worked up.” Chanyeol retorted and there was a sweet chuckle in the room, as he felt Jongin wrapping his legs around his waist and pulling him down until their bodies were pressed together and Chanyeol was barely breathing.
His entire body was on fire.
“It’s because I love you and every single stupid thing that you do.” Jongin said, just as softly and Chanyeol felt his heart skipping a beat. His elbows hurt from supporting his weight over Jongin on the hardwood floor, but he didn’t mind.
Instead, he leaned down and pressed their lips together again. It was a small kiss this time, a simple lock of their lips that tasted sweet and lasted a few seconds. Then he pulled back and pushed a lock of hair out of Jongin’s eyes, so he could see all the universes and constellations in those orbs.
“I love you, too,” he uttered and with that, he felt something shaking up his entire body. It felt like what he imagined an avalanche would feel like, but it was his emotions.
Once he said it out loud, he realized just how deeply he meant it. How his entire heart and his entire soul belonged to Jongin. They were his.
He didn’t mind when Jongin kissed him again – with vigour he’d never experienced before. When Jongin pressed their bodies even tighter and when their breaths became shallow.
When hands got bolder and actions – stronger.
Their eyes met then, for a moment, all Chanyeol could see was a wreck. Jongin’s face was vulnerable and his eyes – filled with want and trust. Those entire universes in his gaze seemed brighter and clearer than ever. Like he was letting Chanyeol in on them, like he was finally letting him actually see what was going on in that beautiful mind of his.
“I want you,” Jongin uttered and the stars in his eyes shone brightly.
Chanyeol breathed out when his eyes took in the sight that Jongin was. The way he was waiting for him, and the way he was begging for him. The way he was showing him everything that he was. The way he was loving him.
It was a sight that would burn in his mind forever.
Kyungsoo was shaking when he shot up in the bed. He was pretty sure he had screamed too.
The last thing he remembered was inching closer and closer to Jongin’s face again, and fingers feeling a warm body underneath his. He remembered begging to go out. Screaming.
This was not a memory he wanted to see. This was not a memory he could bear to see.
And somehow, he had escaped.
The relief only lasted for a few milliseconds, though, as he remembered Chanyeol’s face. His heart felt heavy in his chest, despite its erratic rhythm.
He remembered seeing that face in the mirror, as if looking at his own, and feeling a thousand stones crushing his spirits.
He didn’t know what he had been expecting. All he had seen from the man’s memories so far had been his large hands on the steering wheel, or his long arms wrapped around Jongin.
But now, he had finally seen his face. And Chanyeol was simply breath-taking. Just as gorgeous as Jongin, with his almond eyes and soft looking lips, with the white skin and the big ears that made him look endearing.
Kyungsoo didn’t know how to define that swirling feeling in his gut, but he didn’t like it.
He didn’t like the fact that he now had a face to connect to all these memories.
He didn’t like the fact that it broke all illusions and all images playing in his head.
And most importantly, he didn’t like the fact that his own thought had slipped into Chanyeol’s.
Handsome, he remembered thinking and he remembered Chanyeol hearing it.
“No,” he shook his head. “That’s impossible.”
He tried hard to regulate his breathing and not to think about it.
Not to think about the lingering feeling of Jongin’s lips on his neck, even though his skin felt like it was tingling where the younger boy had kissed Chanyeol.
He tried not to think about his beautiful eyes and soft lips and his – Chanyeol’s – fingers all over him.
Tried hard not to think about where he’d left off. What had happened after that.
Jealousy, Kyungsoo realized in horror, as that same feeling swirled in his stomach again, clouding his entire mind.
He was jealous.
He dropped the ring down on his bed and looked away.
Suho was right. He had to stop this, before it got too much. He had to stop this, before he got dragged in something he couldn’t fix.
He tried not to let anything from that dream affect him, but the painful ache in his crotch and the tingling feeling of Jongin’s kisses on his lips, jawline and neck were there to remind him that he was already beyond the point of turning away.
There was a scraping feeling against his cheek.
He blinked his eyes open slowly, the sunlight feeling intrusive. Jongin’s face, however, only inches away from his was even more blinding. He was biting onto his lower lip in concentration, eyes focused on his work and head twisted in a weird angle as he continued carefully running the razor down Chanyeol’s cheek.
Chanyeol kept on looking at him and the way he was working silently with his shirt open and his golden chest peeking from under it. His legs on both sides of Chanyeol, as he was sitting in his lap.
He ran his hands down his boyfriend’s naked thighs, sensing those eyes flickering towards his own for a moment, before returning on the edge of the razor.
All he could do was sit still, with hands on Jongin as the other was sitting in his arms, holding a blade to his face.
He didn’t know why he agreed to let Jongin help him shave. It’s not like he was too lazy to do it himself. He supposed he just knew they’d end up sitting like this, way too closely, bodies against one another.
Besides, there was a new sort of shine on Jongin’s face.
It was a new feeling. Letting someone hold something to sharp against his face. Someone other than himself. Something that could cut him with one stronger or sharper drag against his skin.
Something that could potentially end a life.
But this was Jongin in his arms and if there was a person in this world he trusted more than himself, then it was Jongin.
He felt vulnerable in his arms, but he also felt safe under his soothing touch.
He ran his hands back up Jongin’s thighs again and heard a quiet intake of breath, as the razor was drawn away from his face.
“If you don’t want to end up looking like the Joker, I’d advise you to stop doing that.”
Chanyeol raised an eyebrow.
“What did I do?”
Jongin stared down at him with eyes hidden below his now silver hair. There was a shining dare in them, as he resumed sliding the razor up his jawline.
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest decision he’d made in his life but there was definitely something entertaining in seeing Jongin’s eyes narrow and little breaths escape his lips as he touched him.
He dug his fingers into Jongin’s thighs briefly, enjoying the purse of plush lips and the soft skin under his fingertips, before moving his hands up to Jongin’s waist.
“Stop it,” Jongin chided, but his voice was soft and it sounded more like a mumble than anything. He felt a smirk pulling his lips.
He gave it a rest for a few moments, but when Jongin moved on the other side of his face, his head twisting again and revealing his long and smooth neck, he felt something stirring inside him. He felt like it would be only right to move forward and mark that neck his.
His fingers slid down Jongin’s waist, playing with the hem of his shorts. It earned him another quick and darkening glance.
“Can’t you stay still for one second?”
Chanyeol decided to answer that with his hands sliding up the smooth skin of that beautiful chest. He deliberately ran his fingers over Jongin’s nipples, enjoying the low gasp.
He supposed it was his fault when he felt a nick at his skin.
The low gasp was followed by another one, louder, as he heard a clanking sound and realized Jongin had dropped the razor on the floor and was instead fumbling with a napkin that he hurried to bring up to his face.
He looked the perfect mix of annoyed and guilty when he frowned at Chanyeol.
“Serves you right.”
Chanyeol could only let out a breathy laugh. There was nothing but a mere tingle on the side of his jaw. He watched as Jongin tore off an edge of the newspaper and put it over the nick. He was still pouting.
His hands ran down his torso and back to his waist. Squeezing tightly to get his attention back.
Their eyes met and all those universes in Jongin’s eyes were shining brightly. Chanyeol could stare at him forever.
“You’ll just have to kiss it better, I guess.”
Jongin’s hands were on his shoulders for a few moments, as he hesitated. Then, a small crooked smile pulled his lips back as he leaned down and placed a soft, light peck on that spot on his jawline.
Then he pressed their lips together, the breeze invading their room and messing up Jongin’s silver hair. He was art.
His lips, too, moulded with his, they were art.
A silly thought crossed his mind, as he looked at Jongin’s face before diving for his lips yet again.
No matter what it was – pleasure or pain – if it was Jongin, he’d accept it all.
It had been a while since he had last looked into the ring’s memories.
Kyungsoo had thought it would be good to take a little break.
The memories were intense and every single thing that happened lingered on for days. Hell, even weeks.
And if it didn’t linger, then Kyungsoo just found himself thinking about it.
About Jongin. All the goddamn time.
About his touches and about his kisses. About his soft voice and about his soft hair.
About his lips.
This was wrong. It was so wrong. He didn’t even know this boy. Didn’t even know this man. Didn’t know where he was, what had happened to him and whether he was still alive. How old he was.
He literally knew nothing about him.
Nothing, except the fact that he loved him just as dearly as Chanyeol loved him.
And that was ruining him.
There wasn’t a day that would go by that he wouldn’t think of Jongin in some way.
He would see the sunset with its golden hues and remember the man’s beautiful skin.
He would see the blossoms of the trees and remember his pink hair in his late teens.
He would see the moon shining brightly in the night’s sky and remember Jongin’s silver hair flying in all directions, blown by the wind entering the truck during the midnight drives.
He would see the stars and remember Jongin’s eyes.
He would see all that and he would remember Jongin’s magical smile. His entrancing look and his sweet scent.
And then he would shudder. Because he didn’t even know that man.
Because what was going on was beyond scary and he knew he wasn’t supposed to feel anything, yet here he was, falling deeper and steeper for someone he had never even met.
He felt like a stalker. He felt like a creep.
And he tried hard to ignore it and to remind himself of reality every day, but the more he ignored it, the stronger it felt
And with the passing days, he realized something even scarier.
The ringing had returned.
Quiet at first, but after a week it had reached the point of painfully intruding Kyungsoo’s thoughts.
It had been months since his head had last hurt from sensing the ring. And now it felt even stronger than before.
Stronger, harsher and more demanding than ever.
Kyungsoo barely made his way to the bed before opening the napkin and touching the ring.
The same sensation of something colliding with his head washed over his body and then he was falling.
He felt anxious.
Excitement and unease were flowing through his veins and he found himself clenching and unclenching his fists every now and then, trying to relieve some of the tension.
The stars were especially bright tonight, as him and Jongin sat at the back of the truck, off the main highway, admiring the night’s sky.
Well, Jongin was admiring it. The stars and universes in his own eyes taking in the ones littering the black canvas of the sky.
Chanyeol was too busy staring at his boyfriend. At the way the wind was messing up his soft, brown hair and the way his face was brighter than the moon. He was leaning against him, rubbing his hands together and trying to keep warm. Chanyeol pulled up the blanket up, making sure to cover more of Jongin, as he pulled him closer and tucked his head under his chin.
He could feel his own erratic heartbeat and vaguely wondered if Jongin could tell how hitched his breath was and how stiff and nervous he was behind him.
“I remember the first time we ever drove down the highway.” Jongin chuckled all of a sudden, leaning closer into Chanyeol’s touch. “You didn’t even have your license yet and you were grounded for a month when your dad found out you took the truck.”
Chanyeol recalled the memory. They were young back then, and they were reckless. And Jongin had been just as entrancing and beautiful and Chanyeol just couldn’t refuse. Not then. Not now.
He felt his chest tightening again, as he raised a hand to wrap around the ring hanging from his neck.
It felt like a reassurance. It felt like an anchor.
“Do you remember this?”
Jongin turned around in his arms with a curious glance when Chanyeol unclasped the necklace and let the ring roll into his palm. His eyes lingered on the white gold band before shooting up, along with his eyebrows.
“Your mom’s ring? How can I forget it, you always wear it.”
Chanyeol let out a breath and shook his head with a smile.
“When she gave it to me all those years ago, she told me to someday give it to the person I love most in the world.” He said and let the smile pull his lips back. “And when I showed it to you in the park you asked me to give it to you.”
“You refused. I remember that.” Jongin laughed quietly, a giggle that got carried away by the wind.
“I refused,” Chanyeol confirmed, fingers tightening around the ring and lowering his fist. “But I’ve been carrying this thing around ever since. For over thirteen years, Jongin, this thing has been with me and for over thirteen years I’ve been asking myself one question every single day.”
“Why did I refuse?”
He felt his heart opening up a little, when Jongin let out a breath and looked up to him.
His brown eyes holding the entire world, the entire galaxy, as he blinked at him.
Chanyeol raised a hand to run his fingers over his cheeks, down to the plush lips. Down the sharp jawline. Jongin leaned into his touch, resting his face in his palm.
“I love you, Jongin.” He said that and felt his heart painfully doing a backflip in his chest. He’d said this many times, but now felt different. Now was different. “I have loved you ever since I can remember myself and I know that I will love you till my last dying breath. No matter how hard I think about it, there isn’t anyone in this world I will ever love more than I love you.”
Chanyeol pursed his lips as he opened his fist slowly again, the ring lying there ruefully.
“This is yours. It always has been yours.” He looked up to see that Jongin was smiling softly, the look of affection burning through every inch of his face. That soft smile that belonged to only him. “It comes with a question long overdue, though.”
“What?” Jongin blinked at him voice sounding a little choked. Chanyeol smiled as he ran his thumb over Jongin’s cheek.
There was silence for a few moments. Even the song from the radio seemed dulled as his heart pounded in his ears. His eyes were widened in anticipation, he knew that, but he couldn’t control his expression as he just stared at Jongin and his stunned expression.
He felt like the whole world froze around them as he waited. He felt like even the wind stilled down in expectancy.
He thought he was imagining when he saw the worlds in Jongin’s eyes shining brightly. Becoming more prominent with every blink. It’s when he realized that his eyes were watering. He ran his thumb over Jongin’s cheek again, to wipe away the trace of the single tear that rolled down when he let out an amused chuckle, mixed with a sob.
Time resumed around them. The wind messed up Jongin’s hair strongly and carried away Chanyeol’s relieved chuckle. The music on the radio sounded louder.
Chanyeol felt his heart swelling. Every single part of his being on that fine line between crying happily and jumping in joy. He wanted to scream. He wanted to shout. He wanted to let the entire world know how happy he was.
Instead, his hand slid down from Jongin’s face down his shoulder and arm to hold his hand. To raise it and kiss his knuckles lovingly before raising the ring.
“You can have this now, then.”
Jongin’s chuckle was ghostly and it sounded breathy, as he sprawled his fingers out.
Chanyeol felt like he was holding the entire world as he slid the ring up Jongin’s slender finger.
The world was shaking. Everything around him was shaking.
It felt like he couldn’t breathe for a few moments.
It felt like he would suffocate.
It felt like he was lost.
But then something drew him in. He felt something pulling at his heart. He felt happiness flooding his body.
A different type of happiness. A happiness he wasn’t used to.
He felt love bursting in his body. All the way from his heart to the very tips of his fingertips.
And then he was falling.
The same chilly wind of the night was entering the car through the truck’s open windows and e could feel nothing but all sorts of emotions swirling in his body.
He couldn’t help the constant grin. He had to bite down on his lower lip to stop himself from choking on emotional tears and from grinning way to widely.
The ring fit his finger perfectly. It felt natural. Like it was meant to be there. Like it was made to be there.
He looked away from his fingers and to the left instead.
Chanyeol’s side profile was so handsome. Just like everything about him, it was handsome. His beautiful eyes and his sculpted nose, his soft lips and round chin. Everything about him was handsome.
And despite all that, there was nothing about Park Chanyeol that he loved more than he loved his pure heart.
His amazing, beautiful heart, that held all the love in the world. His warm heart, that knew compassion and empathy, forgiveness and kindness.
It wasn’t Park Chanyeol’s face he fell in love with, it was his heart.
“I love you,” he uttered quietly, feeling all the sincerity in the world as he spoke those three words. “I love you so much, Chan.”
He couldn’t look away when the man behind the wheel barely contained his immediate smile and turned to look at him. The look in his eyes Jongin knew all too well.
He saw one of his hands leaving the wheel and sliding down to grab his own.
Their fingers intertwined naturally. After years of being together, it felt like their hands were moulding together, just like their lips would whenever they kissed.
This time, however, he felt Chanyeol’s finger dancing around the new piece of accessory on Jongin’s finger. He felt his burning gaze on their fingers, and he just couldn’t look away.
It felt like his heart would burst from all the happiness that was filling it.
“I love you too, Jongin.”
Chanyeol’s soft voice sounded even lower than usual. It sounded like he was containing his happy tears, just like he was.
Stupid boy, Jongin thought to himself as he tightened his grip on Chanyeol’s hand. He knew how he felt. He knew his heart.
He also knew the unmistakable sound cutting through the night’s silence.
The honk of a truck was loud and it sounded harsh in the rueful evening.
The sudden flash of headlights blinded him and he felt his eyes widening in horror when he saw the unmistakable strong front of an eighteen-wheeler.
He knew he was screaming something, but he wasn’t sure what he was screaming.
He knew Chanyeol was screaming something, but he couldn’t hear him.
He saw him frantically turning the wheel and he felt himself almost sliding out of his seat.
Every single moment felt like it was centuries long in the next moments.
The car was turning, and Chanyeol’s fingers slipped away from his own.
There were muffled screams and warnings. The honks of a truck were still ringing loudly in his ears.
He felt the horror filling his entire heart when he saw Chanyeol moving over him.
Jongin had half a mind to think he was leaning in to embrace him, or hug him. His heart sure wished so. Seeing the momentary horror on Chanyeol’s face, however, and him shoving him into the seat as he lunged over, Jongin knew.
Chanyeol was covering him.
Chanyeol was protecting him.
There was a blinding light, and then unbelievable pain as the trucks crashed and his head hit the glass.
The last thing he remembered was Chanyeol screaming his name and his entire body hovering over his as he took the hit.
He opened his eyes quickly at the feeling of someone shaking him.
And he almost cowered back when the light invaded his eyes.
He heard the screeching sound of metal clashing against metal.
Screams. Shattered glass flying everywhere.
He let out a shuddering breath when everything hit him. When he realized what had happened.
When he felt the panic spreading in his chest. When he started trembling in Suho’s arms.
“I need to-...the truck-…No. No.”
“Kyungsoo!” Suho’s voice sounded beyond scared as he shook him again. He was barely touching him, as if afraid to not hurt him. “Kyungsoo, you were screaming. You are hurt. What happened?!”
His chest was heaving up and down. Eyes wandering around his quiet room.
“No…” he uttered quietly, as he felt Jongin’s emotions flooding his entire body. Jongin’s love and Jongin’s happiness. Jongin’s fear. “No, no, no.”
“Kyungsooo…you’re hurt, Kyungsoo.”
Suho’s voice sounded dull compared to the vividness of his thoughts. He finally looked down.
His arms. They were bruised. Ugly, purple bruises blooming on his skin like flowers.
His head hurt. Just where Jongin had hit his head at the crash, his head was hurting.
His entire body.
A new wave of terror passed over him. Again. The memories affecting him physically again. Naturally, not as strongly as it had affected the real people involved in the accident, but enough to remind him what he had witnessed.
How he had seen the truck coming from the side road.
How Chanyeol had turned the car just in time to avoid a straight crash.
How instead, the semi had collided with the driver’s side.
How Chanyeol’s body had been all over Jongin to shield him from harm, as much as possible.
The dull pain was there to remind him that the real owner of the ring wasn’t Chanyeol. Even though he had been seeing everything through his eyes and feeling everything through his heart, the real owner of the ring was Jongin.
How he felt his sincerity and his pureness when he looked over at Chanyeol.
How his own heart broke in a thousand little pieces when he realized that this love was something different. How it was something unique. Something he had gotten to experience through the power of this ring.
“Kyungsoo, what happened?”
Suho’s voice was a harsh reminder of his own reality.
He opened his mouth, wanting to tell his best friend. He wanted to share.
But he realized, that the memory had cut off.
He didn’t know what happened. He felt his body shaking again.
What if this was the end? What if they were gone?
The images of Chanyeol’s horrified expression flashed in his mind again. The fear in his eyes, all the happiness from everything that had happened earlier completely gone.
Only fear for Jongin’s life.
Kyungsoo realized, as he let out another shuddering breath, that it was a reflection of his own face.
A couple days and a lot of arguments with Suho had passed. A lot of screaming.
Kyungsoo refused to let go of the ring, even when Suho kept insisting he had to throw it away. He refused.
He kept holding onto it. Twisting it in his fingers, rolling it around, trying to force the memories out of it, but it would remain silent and cold against his skin.
He would spend hours and hours trying to see something, to find some reassurance for his broken heart, but all he saw was the darkness as he closed his eyes and tried to will the memories out of the object.
He was trying hard not to think about it, but every night he would curl up in his bed with the fear of the unknown, the fear from not knowing what happened to the person he felt his heart beating for loudly and he would stare blankly at the walls in thought until the first rays of the sun would peek over from the horizon. Sleep felt pointless when he feared it would be blank.
It was in the middle of a sleepless night, in the stillness of the breaking dawn, when he heard it again.
The faintest of ringing in the back of his head.
He thought for a moment he was imagining things. That he was so desperate for something – for anything, really – that his mind was playing games on him.
When he heard it again, though, he felt his heart skipping a beat, as he jumped out of bed and grabbed the napkin-covered ring from the bedside table.
The ringing intensified as he unwrapped it, and Kyungsoo felt his breath becoming shallow with fear and anticipation. He wasn’t sure what he would see.
He felt hesitant as he stared at the ring. What if he didn’t like the truth? What if Jongin-….
He willed the thoughts away from his head.
He hurried to touch the ring, afraid that if he decided not to he’d lose this chance.
It didn’t feel like anything hit him and it didn’t feel like he was falling.
Instead, it felt like someone caressed his hair and a heavy sigh resounded in his ear as he found himself floating.
Everything hurt when he woke up.
His head was throbbing. His arms, his shoulders, his chest, his legs. Everything hurt.
It took him a few moments to adjust to the brightness of the room. To the white walls and the white curtains, the white bedsheets and the white doors.
The woman in a white coat with a pad in her hands.
“Oh, you’re awake!”
A hospital, he realized as his eyes travelled to the cast around his leg and the needles sticking out of his arm.
He closed his eyes and memories flooded his mind. A flash of bright light. Honking. Screams.
He felt a sudden pain in his already hurting chest, eyes shooting up to the doctor’s face.
“Chan-...” His voice sounded hoarse. It felt hoarse. He ignored the pain in his throat, as he closed his eyes for a moment, before focusing them on the woman again. “Chan-...yeol.”
He didn’t look away from the woman’s face. He didn’t miss the way she looked down to her pad and her eyebrows twitched. He felt a panic rising in his chest and she hadn’t even said a word.
“Chanyeol.” he croaked out again, the dread only spreading.
He didn’t like the way the doctor was avoiding his eyes.
He didn’t like the way she lowered the pad and her gaze lightly.
“I’m really sorry.” She said with a shake of her head and Jongin felt like the air in the room wasn’t enough. He couldn’t breathe. “By the time the ambulance arrived it was too late. Your friend didn’t make it.”
She continued talking, but Jongin couldn’t hear a word.
Instead, he felt empty. Like someone was messing with him. Like someone was trying to pull a cruel joke on him.
He felt a shiver running down his spine, before he looked back up to the doctor with widened eyes. He supposed she saw the distrust and disbelief in them, because she started talking again. Sweet nothings.
But Jongin, once again, didn’t hear a word. He felt that pain in his head and limbs dulling, instead being replaced by something much larger.
Something much stronger.
Something truly painful.
His heart shattering in thousands of pieces – it felt like all the pain in the world would still feel like a papercut compared to that.
The sense of floating returned, and there were colours swirling around him. The lingering taste of tragedy was sour on his tongue, before the soft hues of orange and blue engulfed him.
His eyes were trained on the sunset. The sun slowly disappearing and leaving the dreadful night sky after itself.
He felt hollow. Empty. Like a shell with no one living inside.
The days were passing quickly and the lives of people around him were moving on.
He was stuck, though.
Stuck in that night, unable to move on.
The happiest and most tragic night in his life.
He tightened his hands around his knees, pulling them closer to his chest – he didn’t mind the pain that shot through him. The pain reminded him that he was still alive.
Something he had ended up regretting a thousand times in the past few days.
It was all his fault, he ended up thinking most of the time. It was his fault.
Had he not been holding Chanyeol’s hand, had he not been distracting him, had he not been so selfish, then Chanyeol would have been here with him now, watching the sunset. Anticipating the night instead of loathing it.
It was his fault, and he hated himself.
Hated himself with the passion of a thousand suns, with the chill of a thousand icebergs.
It was all his fault, and if there was anything he could do to fix this, he would.
But Chanyeol was gone. The only person in the world he loved was gone and with him everything that mattered had evaporated.
The will to live, the will to go on, the will to do anything – nothing existed in a world without Chanyeol.
Without Chanyeol, Jongin too ceased to exist.
There were blurred images passing through him – pained screams and blurred vision. Crying. A lot of crying. A lot of screaming. A lot of pain. There was pain everywhere around him. Surrounding him. Drowning him. It was everywhere, just like the darkness that engulfed him as he started falling.
“What are you doing?”
He decided to ignore the low voice behind himself as he kept throwing things in the bag. He wasn’t even looking, he was just throwing shirt after shirt, trying to force the tears out of his eyes.
“Jongin, you will regret this.”
“You can’t…You shouldn’t leave now.”
“Shut up, Sehun.” He said, quietly. He didn’t trust himself to speak up any louder than that. “I don’t need this. Not from you.”
He heard shuffling behind himself, before two hands were on his shoulders, stopping him from throwing any more clothes in the bags. He almost argued, but with the weight of Sehun’s hands, it felt like the entire world crumbled on him.
“I can’t do this.” He ended up admitting quietly, choking on the lump forming in his throat. The painful restriction in his voice as he tried to stop himself from crying. It only ended up with his lips twitching and the tears escaping his eyes despite his effort not to cry. “You want-…you all want me to go and watch-… see-…how he disappears. How they bury him under the-“
Sehun’s hands felt even heavier on his shoulder when Jongin’s shoulders slumped down. When the weight of that entire world started crushing him. He knew nothing but pain.
“I know it hurts. I know it-“
Jongin interrupted him with a scoff, a cynical sound that hid none of his bitterness.
“You don’t know anything, Sehun. You don’t know a thing.”
He could hear how loud his own breathing was in the sudden silence of the room. He didn’t mean to be harsh to Sehun. Hell, he didn’t mean to be harsh to anyone. Not his parents, not his friends. But when people said they understood, when they so blatantly lied to his face, he couldn’t help it.
“Just think about it. You can run away after that,” Sehun ended up silently whispering after a while. “It’s your chance to say a last goodbye.”
Jongin felt something in him snapping at the sound of that.
Something in him completely breaking. Maybe it was that one last strand of hope he had been holding onto, wishing that someone would tell him it was all a mistake. That didn’t happen.
Instead, he felt his body going limp.
He would have fallen had it not been for his friend holding onto him.
He didn’t even try to contain the tears this time. He couldn’t even if he tried. They started flowing down his cheeks – full and bitter and filled with all the pain that was inside him.
“I don’t want to say goodbye. It’s too early to say goodbye.”
Sehun didn’t say anything and Jongin appreciated that. Instead, he just held him for what seemed like hours, as the tears kept streaming down his face and soaking into his childhood friend’s shirt.
The green mist surrounding him was entrancing. Somewhat magical as he floated from one memory to another, the pain only intensifying with every single moment.
He was in a forest. There were trees around him. The soil under his shoes was soft and the sound of the small river in front of him was somewhat deafening in the silence of nature.
Jongin didn’t know how long he’d been sitting here, staring at nothing in particular.
He only knew that this place comforted him somehow. It isolated him from everyone in the little town, from the pitying gazes and half-hearted smiles. He didn’t need this. He didn’t need pity.
He needed to be alone.
Months. Months had passed and the world around him was buzzing. Even in the small town, life was going on and it was only him staying in the past and dwelling on memories. The pain in his heart was a daily anchor, stopping him from moving on with the rest of the town.
It wasn’t easy. It felt worse, actually. With every passing day, the realization that he’d never see those almond eyes again, that he’d never feel those soft lips against his, that he would never run his fingers through the black hair and that he would never smell the sweet scent of Chanyeol again would hit him stronger. It would wash over him like freezing water and he would end up shivering even during the middle of the heatwave. His fingers were playing with the ring, and he was blankly staring at it.
So many memories. Good and bad ones.
All of them, dear to him. From the moment he first met Chanyeol in the park, through all the years they knew each other. To the first time they kissed and the first time they confessed their love to one another. From their very first drive in the old truck to the exciting picnics and hikes in the forest. From all the little presents exchanged at birthdays and anniversaries to all the sweet touches that meant more than any present.
From the very first day, to the very last, there hadn’t been a moment he hadn’t loved Chanyeol with his entire heart.
And now that it was only him left, with only the sweet memories and endless pain, Jongin didn’t know what to do. He’d walk around the town and every single corner, every single street and shop would bring back memories. Every bench and every tree.
Memories that would cloud his vision and cause the pain to start spiking through his chest again.
He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t stay here any longer.
He couldn’t live with the constant reminder of the what-if’s.
He rolled the ring inside his palm one last time, recalling a fresh memory.
He had wanted to return the ring to Chanyeol’s parents. It belonged to them first, after all. He should have predicted the pain he had caused. The way a mother started crying, the way a father started breathing heavily.
It’s yours, the woman had said, the decision to give it to you must have meant the world to him. It’s yours.
His. Jongin found himself playing with the ring and staring at it blankly.
The first and last thing Chanyeol had told him about this ring was that he was supposed to give it to a person he loved most in the world.
Jongin closed his fingers over the ring, the empty, hollow feeling in his chest returning.
There would never be a person like this in the world. There was no one he would ever love as much as he loved Chanyeol. This ring. It was never going to go in someone else’s hands.
But keeping it with himself wasn’t an option either. It hurt. Looking at it and remembering it dangling on Chanyeol’s chest.
Jongin felt another lump forming in his throat, as he stood up and his fingers tightened around the ring one last time, hesitantly.
All the pain, and all the memories emerged in him one last time. The tears brimmed his eyes as he recalled a lifetime of love and friendship.
And then the bitter taste of his entire world crumbling.
He threw the ring with all the force he had in his still healing arm, watching it fall in the river and taking away a part of him with itself.
Days passed since the last memories of Jongin Kyungsoo had seen. Ever since the last memory of him throwing the ring in the river played in his mind.
Silence. That’s what had followed after that. Complete silence from the ring.
That was it, Kyunsoo realized. The ring had been thrown away. The river had carried it all the way down to their city. It had no more memories to show him.
That was it, he realized. It was a bittersweet story. A love. A loss.
What made it different was that Kyungsoo’s heart, too, was invested in it.
His heart understood Chanyeol’s love for Jongin. It understood the need to protect him and to love him. The need to touch him gently and brush his hair. The need to look into his breath-taking eyes and lose himself in them.
His heart, however, also understood Jongin’s love for Chanyeol. Something limitless and stronger than anything he had ever felt. Something painful, when he lost everything. Something absolutely shattering as he blamed himself. Something empty.
It felt hard to distinguish between all these emotions, but Kyungsoo realized that it was his own heart that was aching.
It was aching for Chanyeol. It was aching for Jongin.
He was sad, afraid even, that Jongin was blaming himself. That he thought this happened because of him.
That he never really knew just how loved he had been. How loved he still was.
“I need to find him.” Kyungsoo had said one day quietly and Suho had just stared at him incredulously. “I need to find him and I need to tell him.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Suho scolded him unceremoniously. “You can’t just go and tell a person you don’t know you love them.”
“I can show him. I can explain to him.” Kyungsoo was twisting the white ring between his fingers, feeling a heave forming in his chest. “I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t know he is alright.”
“Kyungsoo…Kyungsoo, you don’t even know if he’s still alive. You don’t even know where he lives, what he’s doing, how old he is. This might have happened ages ago. He might have a family of his own now. He might not even be-“
“I need to at least try finding out.” Kyungsoo interrupted, clenching a fist around the ring. “I owe him that.”
“You owe him nothing. You don’t even know him.”
Kyungsoo breathed in deeply, before letting out a sigh and digging his gaze into Suho.
“You were the one who convinced me to do this, Suho. You of all people should understand me, when I tell you that I need to do this. I love him. I need to know he is alright.”
Suho looked ready to argue. He looked like he had a lot to say on the matter, but despite the thoughts he had spinning in his mind, he didn’t voice them out. Instead, he let out a sigh and looked away.
“Help me.” Kyungsoo uttered then. “Help me find him.”
Suho let out another sigh then and shot his eyes up. There was something unreadable in them.
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you? You really fell in love with a memory?”
“I fell in love with love.” He admitted quietly. “I never thought anything like this could exist. But I felt it and I experienced it with them. I can’t let go of it now. Of him.”
Suho’s eyes were measuring him carefully, before he finally let out a defeated sigh and nodded.
“Fine. But I won’t stand by and watch you get hurt again. If anything happens, I stop and you’re on your own.”
Kyungsoo had spent his entire life believing that his power was useless.
He was envious of Suho. Now, his power had always been useful. He could use it for good and he could help people. Suho’s power had always fascinated Kyungsoo with its reliability, but it had also really annoyed him sometimes.
When your best friend was a gifted with the power of dowsing, it means no privacy.
Kyungsoo had no choice but to always tell Suho where he was, cause if he even attempted lying the other would just know.
It wasn’t bad really, but it was one more thing that made them really cautious around each other.
Suho was his best friend, but he was also the person with the most prominent limitations around him.
They knew each other’s limits. They didn’t cross them.
And while Kyungsoo preferred not talking about this at all, about their gifts, now was different.
Suho’s power had once again proven to be useful in the most helpful way possible.
It had taken a few minutes. Suho holding onto the ring silently, his eyelids fluttering. Quiet mumbles rolling off his tongue. And then he was given a name.
The drive to the little town took about less than an hour down the highway. The highway that Kyungsoo knew oh so well at this point. The highway that made his chest feel constricted.
The streets of the town were almost empty. It was the middle of the day. Work, school. People were busy.
He didn’t even have a place to start.
“Maybe we should ask someone?” Suho suggested.
“You think they would know?”
“In a town this small, everyone knows everything.” His friend shrugged, looking around the almost empty square.
Kyungsoo contained the sigh, as he looked around. This place, so foreign, yet so familiar. He had never been here, yet it felt like he’d spent most of his life walking down this street and down to the park behind the corner.
“Let’s just walk around for a bit and see if I can recognize anything.”
Suho nodded and then they were walking.
It was awfully unsettling. Kyungsoo knew he had never even stepped foot in this town, yet it felt like he had never left. It was an awful feeling of familiarity.
It was his first time seeing the town hall, but it felt like he knew every red brick’s position by heart.
It was his first time seeing the few people buzzing in and out of the bakery at the corner, but it felt like the sweet scent of bread had never left his nostrils.
He breathed out a sigh, as they took a turn into another street from the main square. Small bookstores, supermarkets, a small burger joint.
And then he stopped.
That same dreadful familiarity setting in his chest as he looked over to the diner on the other side of the street.
Breakfast at Byun’s.
It felt like this was a place he had been in thousands, millions of times. Yet, it was his first time seeing the large windows and the small tables peeking from the inside.
The name sounded awfully familiar, Kyungsoo thought as he raked his breain for the correct memory.
A honey-dipped voice resounded in his head, if you tell me you’ve been out for a drive with that Byun Baekhyun I’ll get out of this truck right here and right now, loud and clear.
Kyungsoo felt his breath halting, as he grabbed Suho’s elbow and stopped him from going down the street.
“Let’s go there.”
“Are you hungry?”
Suho didn’t ask anything. Maybe he didn’t get the chance to, because Kyungsoo dragged him across the empty street.
His heart was filled with anxiety and anticipation as he pushed the door and the bell rang happily.
The place was quite packed, considering the lack of people out on the streets. There were people on most of the tables and there was a waiter walking around with a friendly smile and balancing a tray with way too many coffee cups.
Kyungsoo looked at the yellow and red decorations, the soft colours of the diner and he felt calm. He felt happiness filling his body. As if he associated this place with good things.
“How can I help you?” there was a loud, bubbly voice suddenly sounding close to them and Kyungsoo blinked away from the corner table to the counter, to only have his breath hitching again.
The last time he had seen that face it had been a boy’s face. A teenage boy’s face, joking around with his friend about a highschool crush.
Byun Baekhyun looked mature now. He wasn’t old, but he wasn’t a teenage boy anymore either. He was wearing the yellow-red-black apron that the waiter was also wearing, and he was leaning against the counter, waiting for them to reply.
“Can I get a tea, please?” Suho chided from the side and Kyungsoo remembered where they were and that he wasn’t supposed to stare. Instead, he tried not to mind Suho’s reprimanding gaze, and cleared his throat instead.
Baekhyun looked from Suho to him with an unreadable look in his eyes, before he peeled himself off the counter and grabbed two plastic cups. A grin broke out on his face.
“New in town?”
“I thought so. Everyone who lives here knows that coffee is the best drink in this place. Tea will do too, though.” Baekhyun’s tone hadn’t changed much from what Kyungsoo remembered from Chanyeol’s memories. He was still joking around and he still had that glint in his eyes. “That, and I do know everyone who lives here. Not a big town, people talk. It would have been hard to miss you two.”
“We’re just here…for some work.” Suho replied when Kyungsoo remained silent.
“Work, huh?” Baekhyun continued with his carefree tone. “Not many people come here for work. No one actually does. In fact, a lot of people travel out of town for work. What are you fellas up to?”
Suho threw a glance at him. Kyungsoo felt bad for dragging him here without even explaining first.
He breathed out a sigh, as he kept his eyes trained on Baekhyun’s back as the man was reaching out to grab the tea from a shelf.
“You’re a friend of Park Chanyeol, right?”
He should have thought this through, but it was the first thing he managed to blurt out. He regretted it the moment it rolled off his tongue.
He watched the way Baekhyun’s hand froze mid-air and the way he turned around slowly. The smile was gone from his face and the glint in his eyes seemed somewhat dulled. He looked at him cautiously, then towards Suho, before nodding once.
“I am.” He said quietly, a twitch of his eyebrows. “I was. Who did you say you guys were?”
Kyungsoo felt a panic raising within him. He knew he should have come prepared with some sort of explanation. He knew he should have measured every word coming out of his mouth.
But he couldn’t help it. His heart was thriving to know, and it didn’t wait for that brain-mouth connection.
Thank goodness, that Suho knew what he was doing. Or, at least, he knew how to wing it.
“Routine investigation. Clearing out old reports.”
“You guys are cops?”
“Something like that.” Suho smiled, as honestly as he could and Kyungsoo tried to mimic his action. Baekhyun eyed them again, his smile still not quite there yet, as he let out a heavy sigh and placed their teas on the counter.
“It’s been a long time since anyone’s asked me about him. Why are you suddenly working on a case that was closed years ago?”
“As I said, routine.” Suho sounded so sure, that even Kyungsoo almost fell for it. “We are trying to get in touch with the people involved in the accident. And as you know-“
“You can’t really get in touch with Chanyeol anymore. Nor the truck’s driver.” Baekhyun’s sigh this time around was louder and hitched and he looked broken for a few moments, before his lips pulled back in a sad smile. “How can I help you?”
“We are trying to find-“
“Kim Jongin.” Kyungsoo interrupted Suho. The name felt natural rolling off his tongue and Baekhyun’s eyes shot towards him. There was understanding on his features as he nodded, that earlier glint of happiness now replaced by a dull sadness etched deeply into his eyes.
“Jongin,” he almost sighed the name out. “I wish I could help you, but it’s been a long time since I heard from him. He really shut himself out after…after everything.”
“What do you mean?” Kyungsoo asked, not even trying to sound subtle. He really hoped Baekhyun bought Suho’s lies, because now he really needed answers.
“Well, it’s been- what, three years and a half since the accident? He left the town a few months after that. Said it was too much to handle.” Baekhyun explained with a solemn voice. “I completely understand him. There isn’t a place where you can escape here.”
“Do you know where he moved?”
“I’m not really sure.” Baekhyun shook his head. “He was moving a lot in the beginning. If he’s settled anywhere, I wouldn’t know. We haven’t talked in ages.”
Kyungsoo felt a disappointed frown pulling his lips down, as he shared a look with Suho. Suho looked sorry, while Kyungsoo felt determined. Determined to continue looking around, until he found out.
“Sehun probably knows.”
Kyungsoo’s head whipped around at the new voice and the mention of a familiar name. A sculpted nose and sharp jaw floated in his mind, as he focused on the boy he’d seen earlier. A cat-like smile and fluffy hair.
He looked around the rest of the diner. The few people on the tables closer to the counter were looking at them with curiosity and Kyungsoo realized they had been attentively listening.
“Sehun?” Suho asked and his gaze flicked from the waiter to Baekhyun, who nodded thoughtfully.
“Another friend. He knows Jongin better than I do. There’s a chance he would know where you can find him.” Baekhyun sighed as he pulled out a phone from his jeans. He motioned for them to wait as he turned around and pressed the phone to his ear.
Kyungsoo wanted to hear what he was saying into the device. He wanted to know what he was thinking. All he knew was that he kept throwing curious glances back towards them as he pulled a sticky note and started scribbling something onto it. He heard Jongin’s name being softly spoken once or twice. Chanyeol’s too. A quiet thank you.
Then he was handing him that yellow sticky note with pursed lips.
It was an address.
“Thank you,” Kyungsoo uttered sincerely. He contained the urge to lunge forward and shake Baekhyun’s hand. He knew he sure as hell felt like it, but he contained the urge to do so. “Can I ask one more thing?”
Everyone looked at him – Baekhyun, the waiter and even Suho, his eyebrows raised lightly.
“Where is the cemetery?”
Baekhyun’s eyes narrowed a little, before he let out an amused sigh.
“Are you sure you guys are cops?” he asked, voice breathy in a dull joke, as he tilted his head. “It’s right outside of town.”
“Ten minute drive tops, up the highway,” the waiter said. “You won’t miss it.”
“Jongdae.” The waiter smiled his kittenish smile again, as Kyungsoo nodded once again in gratitude.
It was silent for a few moments, and Kyungsoo’s head was buzzing and his fingers were tightly holding onto the sticky note with the address. It was Suho who spoke up first, as he reached out and grabbed the two teas.
“How much do we-“
Baekhyun wove his hand dismissively, a distant glint of sadness and sorrow shining in his eyes, before his bright and cheerful, albeit a little strained, smile returned on his lips.
“Please. It’s on the house.”
A light chill ran up his spine and he knew it had nothing to do with the chilly breeze of the night setting in slowly.
It was dark here and Kyungsoo vaguely wondered if that was a requirement for cemeteries of small towns.
Secluded, merging with the forests and creepy.
Especially for him.
Cemeteries always felt heavy.
The memories of alive and dead merging together created this weightless weight that made Kyungsoo feel tense from the moment they stepped through the old, rusty gates. The buzzing in his head strong and aimless.
Most of the headstones looked older, with only a few shining, new marble ones.
He wasn’t really sure why he wanted to come here. When Suho asked him earlier, he wasn’t able to give him a definite answer.
It just felt like the right thing to do.
After all these months getting invested in Park Chanyeol’s memories, after months of seeing the world through his eyes and touching things with his fingertips, feeling the entire spectrum of human emotion through his heart, it only felt right to be here.
He never met the man, but it was as though he was the person he’d been closest to.
It’s as if his soul had become Kyungsoo’s.
He blinked his thoughts away when he saw Suho motioning for him to go closer to a seemingly new headstone. White marble looked like it was radiating light among the darkness of dirt and shade of trees.
Kyungsoo felt his breath hitching, as he stepped closer, eyes trained on the white marble.
There were fresh flowers on the grave, unlike the wilted ones on many other.
Kyungsoo felt like a complete fool as he stepped closer and realized that he had forgotten to bring flowers.
Now he really didn’t know why he was here. He felt his hands were shaking as he stopped next to Suho, so he clenched them into fists, fingernails digging into his palms. Eyes taking in the words engraved into the stone.
He felt a lump forming in his throat, as he looked down from the headstone to the dirt and the pebbles, to the fresh bouquet lying on the side of the marble. The buzzing from all those memories in the graveyard dulled, being overpowered by something else.
Another whisper, another rustle.
“Can I please have a moment?” Kyungsoo turned his head the slightest and only saw Suho silently nodding as he walked away, not before giving him a concerned look.
He breathed out slowly when he was alone at Chanyeol’s grave, eyes shaky as he looked back up to the name finely engraved in the marble.
Real. He was real. Everything he’d seen was real.
And the not so low, urging rustle was real too.
Kyungsoo could hear it. Coming from all around him, drawing him in.
The headstone looked like it only started shining brighter, as Kyungsoo looked at it again. He hesitantly raised his hand, unsure.
The whispers became stronger, lingering in his ears.
He held his breath as he ran his fingers on the smooth surface of the marble.
It felt like his soul, along with the breath he was holding, was ripped out of his body.
He was standing there, and he could see them all. All the people dressed in black gathered around and listening to a dulled speech he couldn’t quite make out. People sobbing at the front, holding each other. His parents. His friends. His neighbours.
His Jongin, too. He was there. Standing right between his parents and his friends.
Not quite a friend. Not quite family yet. None, but both. So much more.
His Jongin, whose face was blank. His Jongin, who was staring at the large coffin without a single glint of emotion in his eyes.
His Jongin, whose light seemed to have faded.
He felt a pain rip through his chest at the sight of that emptiness.
His Jongin, who was alright. An ugly scratch up the side of his face and a cast around his arm, but alright.
The pain in his chest flashed again, before It was washed away by something else. Relief. So much relief.
Alive. Breathing and alive. Jongin was alive. His Jongin was alive.
He walked forward, right through the middle of the crowd. He only halted briefly at the side of the coffin.
It was a pity. The time he’d had with Jongin, all his life, it hadn’t been enough. It was the only thing he regretted as he passed by the wooden box, and walked closer to Jongin. They hadn’t had enough time. All the time in the world wouldn’t have been enough, but now more than ever he regretted not spending every minute, every second with his Jongin.
He was standing right in front of him. Those empty eyes that once held the universe piercing right through his chest and looking at the coffin.
A certain heave filled him up, as he looked at Jongin and his dull, swollen eyes. At his lips, barely parted and letting out irregular breaths.
“Don’t cry.” He whispered and he didn’t know if he meant it for Jongin or himself. “Don’t cry. You’re uglier when you cry. Smile instead.”
Jongin’s breaths became more irregular and his pupils were shaking as he watched the coffin starting to sink into the ground.
“You’re alive. That’s all that matters. Make it count.” He continued, refusing to look back and watch. Refusing to waste his time. “Everything we ever dreamed about, do it. Help Baekhyun with his diner and make sure you leave twenty bucks at my grave when Minseok and Jongdae actually get married, cause I just know I’ll win that bet. Hang out with Sehun, but not too much.”
He felt himself getting choked up again, as he stared at those wavering pupils and those trembling hands.
“And then take the truck and drive. Drive all night long and get out of here. Go in the big city and start living the way you always wanted to live.” The pain flashed in his chest again, as his vision became blurred, distant. “Meet someone someday. Love them like I love you. Be happy. Be alive, OK?”
He raised a hand hesitantly.
“Don’t forget me, though. And don’t forget how much I love you, alright? I’ll always be here.”
His fingertips went right through Jongin. He couldn’t caress him, for that one last time. Instead, a breeze messed up those soft, brown locks of hair and something shone in Jongin’s eyes. He let out a ragged breath and a dulled sound, as his shoulders slumped down and the first tear streamed down his cheek.
The vision became even blurrier and he realized his time was ending. With every inch of the coffin sinking to the cold ground, he felt the world becoming distant. He had so much things to say, but no time.
“I love you.” He said that and it sounded like a whisper.
The only whisper that mattered, carried on by the wind, that blew Jongin’s hair and completely broke him.
He was in the same place, looking down at a white headstone with his name on it.
Jongin was sitting there, right by the side of the stone. He looked like himself, but he really didn’t. His eyes were shining, but it was not the light he wanted to see in them. This was a foreign shine, a shine that didn’t fit him.
He had been crying, he could tell. And he was crying now too. It was breaking his heart witnessing that.
He wanted to scream at him. To tell him to not do this. To not waste away the hours, minutes and seconds of his life. To not stay here and cry.
He wanted to tell him to go out there into the world instead and live.
Sehun was there too, a hand on Jongin’s shoulder that he kept shaking off himself.
Baekhyun too. He was there, but he was simply staring down soundlessly with trembling hands and his eyes avoiding the marble.
He wanted to scream. Scream at all of them. Tell them to get out of here. To get Jongin out of here. To try harder to drag him away.
He wasn’t supposed to waste his life now here. He wasn’t supposed to linger on memories.
He didn’t want him to.
He wanted him to shine like the brightest star in the night’s sky again. He wanted him to smile and he wanted him to start dreaming again.
To live. To love.
He hated being the reason he wasn’t doing that. So he wanted to scream.
Similar memories kept flashing through his mind, his friends arguing there, Jongin visiting alone. Staying there the night even though Chanyeol wanted to scream at him, to actually argue with him. But every shout, every word he said was carried away by the wind, unheard.
Months of this, months of this same darkness, until he saw Jongin sitting by his grave again.
“I’ll go,” he heard him say. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just can’t-…”
Jongin stopped talking and Chanyeol heard himself sighing, as he walked closer. There was a certain light in Jongin’s eyes. Not the dark one, but the one that indicated a goal. He knew that look well.
“I threw your ring in the river.” Jongin said then. “I hope you’ll forgive me someday. I hope I’ll forgive myself someday.”
It’s fine, Chanyeol wanted to say, you’ll be fine.
“I decided to leave town. Start somewhere else. And maybe someday I’ll return here.” Jongin continued, his voice hushed. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but I’ll come back to see you. I’ll tell you everything then.”
OK, Chanyeol finally smiled. A warmth spreading in his chest, as he reached out again and his fingers hovered over Jongin’s chest. He could feel the warmth of his heart.
Be happy. That’s all I ever wanted.
His fingers dropped back to the ground, as he watched Jongin smile.
And then come back and tell me.
I’ll be waiting.
It was unusual, seeing Sehun standing there, where he was used to seeing Jongin.
With his stoic face and broad shoulders and a bouquet of flowers in his hand. A lopsided smile as he would kneel down and put the flowers on the side of his headstone.
And then he would start talking.
Tell him when Jongin last called him. Where he’d been and what new people he had met in the big city.
What apartment he started renting and what his neighbours were like. Where he found himself a part-time job until he would settle.
How he’d tell Sehun to make sure to buy a colourful bouquet and tell everything to Chanyeol.
It was unusual, seeing Sehun standing there every week, with a new bouquet and less stories to tell with every new visit.
Sometimes he would just silently sit there with the flowers, and he wouldn’t say anything. Just stare at Chanyeol’s grave and sigh out.
“He really loved you, you know.” He said that time and there was a faint smile on his face.
From all these times standing there and watching Sehun talk, he had realized that he had never really been jealous.
He was glad. That Jongin had Sehun before and that he had him now. To rely on, to talk to. To have a friend like him, who’d be there no matter what.
And seeing Sehun here even when he had no new stories from Jongin’s life to tell him, he was glad.
“He still does.”
Chanyeol felt a smile pulling his lips back, as he looked up through the trees and into the bright sky.
He hoped that Sehun knew from the breeze that blew past the grave, that he was listening.
That he knew.
Kyungsoo stumbled back and his palms hit the dirt on the ground, as he felt like someone punched him in the chest.
It took him a few moments to focus his eyes back on the headstone. Then to look over to the side. Suho was still walking away.
Another breath left his lips.
He had seen all this in only the span of a few seconds.
His eyes shot up to the spot where he’d been seeing all of this from.
“You can see me, right?” he asked quietly, barely audibly.
He thought he might have lost it. He should have listened to Suho and dropped this whole ordeal right at the beginning. Now he was staring at an empty spot between the headstones in the cemetery and expecting an answer.
He thought he might have lost it when the wind messed up his hair and a shiver ran up his spine again.
“You probably are wondering who I am.” He said quietly, eyebrows furrowing. “My name is Kyungsoo. We don’t really-…we don’t know each other.”
There was another breeze around him and Kyungsoo was ready to sign himself an admission slip for an asylum, but it felt like it was carrying around confusion. Maybe.
Or maybe he was really insane.
“It’s a really long story, but I wanted to thank you. You taught me what real love is. How exciting life really could be.”
There was a sharper blow of wind and Kyungsoo pursed his lips, staring back up to that empty spot.
He really was insane, huh.
“If it wasn’t for your memories I wouldn’t have known who Jongin was.” His eyes darted around, as he sighed. “I don’t know him either. Not yet anyways. But I know how he felt after the accident. I know he blamed himself for everything and my heart was aching for him. I knew your heart would be aching too, if you were still there.”
The wind didn’t stop blowing and the hair kept flying into Kyungsoo’s eyes. He looked down.
“I decided to look for him and make sure he would stop blaming himself. I know you don’t know me, and I know I sound insane right now. Everything sounds even worse when I say it out loud, but I just wanted to let you know that the way I feel isn’t different from the way you did. I care for Jongin.”
I love him, Kyungsoo wanted to say, but he kept that part to himself. He didn’t know if he was delusional but if Chanyeol really was listening, then maybe he could tell him that some other time.
“Are you OK with this?” he asked after a while. “Are you OK with me looking for him?”
There was a sharp blow of wind right in his face.
“Nothing weird. I promise. I truly care for him. I only want to make sure he is doing alright. That he knows you love him and don’t blame him for anything. Is that cool?”
There was a hesitant swirl of wind around him – them, Kyungsoo mentally corrected himself, raising the leaves up in the air.
And then he felt it. A soft, hot breeze barely pushing his fringe to the side.
“Thank you, Chanyeol.” He said, fingers running down the marble. “I can definitely see why Jongin loves you so dearly. You truly are spectacular.”
He didn’t ask Suho to go with him this time around.
He had kind of wanted the support, but he knew this was something he had to do by himself. Without Suho’s concerned and sometimes condescending glance.
The drive down the highway seemed long. Too long.
The nothingness of the dried-out fields and the desert on both sides of the road seemed endless.
It felt almost surreal, driving down this road and knowing that with every second, with every turn of his car’s tires, he was getting closer and closer to Jongin.
It was a café.
The address Baekhyun had given him was a café.
On a large street, with cars filling the roads in front of the windows and with people buzzing everywhere, the noises of the big city filling every single corner of the place.
Kyungsoo let out a breath, as he looked at the façade of the café, the people walking in and out.
He was hesitant as he pushed the door open and the scent of coffee and herbs hit him.
It was a big place and unlike Baekhyun’s small diner in the small town, it was filed to the brim.
There was only one free table, at the very corner of the place, that Kyungsoo’s eyes fell on and claimed his. So he walked over there and sat down, eyes flashing from one corner of the café to another, looking for that familiar face he had never seen before.
When a waitress came and asked for his order, he breathed out in content, ordering something he didn’t even have the intention to drink.
Instead, he got rid of the jacket and leaned back in his chair, getting comfortable.
Here and now, all he could do was squeeze the ring in his hand and wait.
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting here at the corner table of the café, looking out the window and the rushing people on the sidewalks.
He knew it had been at least a few hours, when he finally heard it.
The voice he knew so well. The voice he had never heard before in his life.
Soft and deep, every word sending a shiver up his spine.
“Can I get you anything else, sir?”
It felt like everything in the world slowed down, as he looked away from the window and towards the man that had spoken.
It felt like he stopped breathing and everything stopped moving altogether, as he turned to look at the face ha had been seeing in the back of his mind for the past months.
He was mesmerizing.
His soft, full lips were turned up into a small, polite smile and his eyes were deep and brown, just like he remembered them from all his dreams. His jawline was sharp and his hair-
His hair was the darkest shade of black Kyungsoo had ever seen in his life.
This face. So familiar, yet so foreign.
“You look so different.”
He didn’t even realize he had spoken up out loud, until he saw the man’s eyebrows twitch in confusion and the polite smile grow into a confused one.
Kyungsoo felt like all the stillness disappeared and the noise of the outside world hit him at once again.
Different. He looked different.
He looked more mature.
He looked grown.
Even more gorgeous than anything he remembered from Chanyeol’s memories. Even more perfect.
“Your hair.” He barely managed to let out quietly. “It’s changed. It looks different.”
“Do I know you?”
The polite smile was gone and instead, the man was looking at him with a glint of suspicion in his eyes.
Kyungsoo regretted he hadn’t brought Suho with himself in that moment. He was such an idiot. He didn’t have a way with his words.
“I-…no. Sorry, that was rude of me. You’re Kim Jongin, right?” Kyungsoo shoved a hand in his pocket to bring out the crumpled yellow sticky note, as if it was some sort of evidence. “Your friend gave me this address. I thought it would be your home, but-...”
“Oh,” Jongin muttered lowly, the joy gone from his voice as his features twisted into realization and the glint in his eyes died altogether. “Yes. Sehun told me about you. He said you’re a cop.”
Kyungsoo pursed his lips as he watched Jongin reach out and take the empty cup from his earlier coffee.
“There’s really nothing I can tell you, sir. It was an accident.” He sounded sad and Kyungsoo felt his heart aching. “The truck’s headlights weren’t on. We didn’t even see it. By the time we did, it was too late.”
“I’m not a cop.” Was all he managed to say, and to earn himself a wary glance from Jongin.
“It’s a good thing Baekhyun didn’t give you the address to my home, then.” He said, lowly, that wary glint unwavering, as he reached out to take the yellow sticky note from the table and wrap his fist around it. “Who are you, then?”
“My name is Kyungsoo. Do Kyungsoo.” He said, watching the expectancy in Jongin’s eyes. He opened his mouth, but realized that he had nothing else to say.
Who was he?
How could he explain?
He found himself speechless, as he stared up at Jongin. At his handsome face – all sharp and soft lines, at that beautiful bronze skin he had only ever seen in memories. At his eyes that drew him in.
He felt like it was falling, the same sensation he was used to, washing over him. Softer. Harsher.
His heart was going wild in his ribcage as he tried to make some sound.
“I know a lot about you.” He ended up saying. “About your life with Chanyeol.”
He didn’t miss the way Jongin flinched at the mention of his name, and e didn’t miss the way his lips pursed into a thin line for a moment.
“Did you know him? Were you a friend of his?”
“Not really, no.” Kyungsoo uttered, whispered almost, and had to look down when Jongin’s eyes moved towards his. Dark and curious, but also questioning.
Kyungsoo’s chest felt constricted, as his eyes shot up and his gaze met Jongin’s. He felt unreal.
“A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them. It’s a really long story.”
Jongin’s glance was measuring and Kyungsoo swallowed the lump forming in his throat. He watched as Jongin threw a look over his shoulder, before letting out a quiet sigh.
“My shift ends in an hour. You’ll tell me then.”
The tone of Jongin’s voice was final. He wasn’t giving him a choice to refuse or anything of the sort. It was not like Kyungsoo had intended to anyways.
He had been waiting for months. He could wait for another hour.
Jongin deserved to know.
He tried hard not to stare too much, which proved to be quite a hard task.
After seeing Jongin for the first time, it felt almost impossible to look away. He was simply entrancing. That entire hour felt too short, Kyungsoo realized when Jongin stood in front of him without the little black apron and handed him a tall coffee cup, that Kyungsoo stared at like it was the biggest treasure on the face of Earth.
“I’m sorry you had to wait.” Jongin mumbled first and Kyungsoo almost choked at the way the warmth spread from his heart throughout his entire body.
“It’s OK.” He replied quietly, fingers wrapping around the plastic, careful not to brush against Jongin’s. He watched the man in front of himself pull on a jacket, before picking up the second plastic cup on the counter and giving him an unreadable look.
“We can talk outside right? It’s stuffy in here and I feel like I’ll need some air if we’re gonna talk about-“
“Of course. Yeah, of course.”
Kyungsoo’s tongue ran over his dry lips, as he followed after Jongin out of the café and onto the busy streets of the big town.
He knew the moment has come. The moment he had been waiting for all those months.
This was the moment, and he had been trying to prepare himself for it, but now he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know how to start the conversation or what to say. Instead, he raised the coffee to his lips in an attempt to avoid the unavoidable conversation.
“You said something earlier. About knowing about me and my life with Chanyeol. Yet you don’t know us.” Jongin started first, voice low and soft and somehow regretful, as he looked through his black bangs towards him. Kyungsoo felt cornered, even though he was on a street larger than the highways between their towns.
“I don’t-…I don’t really know where to start. It’s all very complicated.”
“Try me.” Jongin said and there was a dare in his voice, as he gave the smallest of smiles. Barely visible, yet the most gorgeous thing Kyungsoo had witnessed in his entire life.
“Do you believe in magic?”
He realized how dumb the question had sounded when he saw Jongin frowning a little and then raising his own cup to full lips and shaking his head with an ironic smirk.
“Do you come from a little town?” he fired back and Kyungsoo let out a breath as he smiled.
“Thought so.” Jongin said, pursing his lips momentarily. “There were a lot of legends and stories that my grandma used to tell me. About how the Southern towns were created. Magic, witches, all this nonsense. I never believed in it.
“Me neither.” Kyungsoo breathed out, looking up to the large buildings with billboards and ads on them. It was truly a sight, different from his own little town, where the largest building was the city hall and the biggest ad was the outdated poster on the convenience store. “I never believed in all that stuff. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?”
Jongin hummed in agreement, before his brows knitted together and he looked at him again. Kyungsoo couldn’t help but notice how much taller Jongin was than him. How broad his shoulders were and how long his legs were.
Considering how he’d always been seeing him from Chanyeol’s eyes, and how he had always seemed smaller, wrapped in Chanyeol’s big hands, it seemed odd. Only made him think about how tall Chanyeol had been. It made him dizzy thinking about it.
“How is that connected to me and Chanyeol?” Jongin asked instead, drawing Kyungsoo out of his thoughts.
“Well-...it’s-…God, this sounds stupid even in my head, I don’t-…” Kyungsoo breathed out again to calm himself, looking back up to Jongin’s small smile and his dark eyes. “My grandma used to tell me stories, about how those powers got passed down from the founders of those little towns to their kids. And then to their kids’ kids. And so on and on and on. That power getting smaller and smaller, until it almost disappeared. Kept getting passed on down the generations, until-…well, until me.”
The way Jongin looked at him was no different from the way he expected him to.
His eyebrows were knitted and there was a wary look on his face. The look that was torn between ‘what the hell’ and ‘is he crazy’.
“Don’t-…don’t jump to any conclusions, I’m no witch.” Kyungsoo hurried to say with a shake of his head. “I just said I never believed in all that stuff anyways.”
Jongin’s face relaxed a little. He didn’t seem as concerned about Kyungsoo’s mentality anymore, but he still had quite a lot of that ‘what the hell’ tone lacing his features.
“Do you know what psychometry is?”
“It’s the ability to see memories.” Kyungsoo said with a knit of his eyebrows. “A person’s memories, or memories attached to an object.”
“And you’re saying-“
“I can do that.” Kyungsoo nodded stiffly. “I know it is hard to believe.”
There was no but. He didn’t want to try convincing Jongin. He wasn’t in the position to be trying anything.
Instead, he waited for the other man to say something, anything.
Jongin’s lips were pushed into a pout and his eyes were focused on the coffee he was holding. There was a deep etch between his eyebrows, as he shook his head.
“OK. Okay, let’s assume for a moment that what you’re saying is actually true. I still don’t see how it concerns me and Chanyeol and the accident.”
Kyungsoo’s fingers involuntarily wrapped themselves around the ring in his pocket, holding on to dear life.
“I found something. An object, that held a lot of Chanyeol’s memories. A lot of your memories, too.” He said, hesitantly pulling his hand out of the pocket and unwrapping his fingers. The ring glimmered under the sun’s last rays of sunshine.
It was in that moment, that he realized he should have done this in a different way.
Because at the sight of the ring in Kyungsoo’s palm, Jongin stopped in his place and he shot a look at Kyungsoo’s face, eyes filled with all sorts of different emotions. He started trembling.
“Where did you get this?” his voice sounded hoarse, the raw emotion in his voice harsh.
“I found it in the river.” Kyungsoo replied cautiously, debating whether to reach out and try comforting Jongin or just stand there as he was. “I suppose the current brought it from your town down to mine. It was between the pebbles and it was…it was loud. Filled with memories.”
Jongin was still standing there, in the middle of the sidewalk, eyes somehow clouded as he kept staring at the ring without uttering a word. He was still trembling and Kyungsoo didn’t know what to do.
“It held a lot of Chanyeol’s childhood memories. I saw how he received the ring from his mom, how he showed it to you in the park. How-…I saw how you two grew up together, how you got together, how you were driving and how-“
“Stop.” Jongin’s voice was cold. “I don’t know how you know about us, and I don’t know how you found that ring in the river, and I don’t know who you are, but stop. I don’t want to hear anything else.”
“I’m sorry.” Kyungsoo said. He wasn’t sure what he was apologizing for. Everything, he supposed.
Jongin was still trembling in front of him and his eyes were glassy, as his lips parted and his breathing became heavy.
“Are you a novelist? A journalist, looking for a heartbreaking story to write?” Jongin’s words were harsh and his tone was also harsh and the hurt was dripping from his voice. He sounded like he was on the verge of a breakdown and Kyungsoo felt a panic rising inside of him. “Whoever told you about us was wrong. It was wrong. You coming here to ask me about it was wrong.”
“I’m not writing a story. No one told me.” Kyungsoo breathed out. “I am not lying to you. I know it sounds hard to believe but-“
Jongin’s scoff was loud and clear and Kyungsoo flinched at the sound.
“You expect me to believe that you actually have some-…some silly power to read memories? As if I-“
“I can prove it.” Kyungsoo interrupted him.
Jongin’s glance on him was measuring and there was a judging glint in his eyes, as he raised his hands to unwrap the light scarf he had thrown over his shoulder.
Kyungsoo didn’t expect him to drop it in his hands. He looked up to Jongin and the way his eyes were piercing through him expectantly.
“It was your friend’s.” he said quietly, eyebrows furrowing as he looked up to measure Jongin’s still mistrusting look. Vague scenes flashed behind his eyes, and a familiar face. Kyungsoo pursed his lips as he reached his hand out, ready to return it. “It was Jongdae’s. He gave it to you on a trip in high school because you had forgotten your own scarf. He told you to keep it.”
Jongin’s lip trembled, as if he was about to say something, when he unwrapped his hands and took the scarf from Kyungsoo’s hands.
“Silly kid.” He said and Jongin flashed another look at him. “That’s what he said when he saw you didn’t bring one.”
“How-…” Jongin breathed out and Kyungsoo saw his fingers digging into the fabric of the old scarf.
“I don’t know.” Kyungsoo shook his head when Jongin didn’t finish his question. “I was born like this. I really don’t know.”
There was silence between them. The sounds around them from the busy streets somewhat dulled, as Kyungsoo waited for a reaction.
The other man just kept on staring at the scarf, though, as if it had burned him. He was biting on his lower lip and the etch between his eyebrows only seemed to have deepened.
Kyungsoo wanted to know what was happening inside of his mind. Wanted to know what he was thinking.
“The memories you saw…” Jongin said after a little while with that same soft and low, honey-dipped voice he loved hearing so much. “What did you see exactly?”
“A lot,” Kyungsoo hesitated a little. “The ring was Chanyeol’s, so I was seeing everything from his eyes. Everything he felt and everything he thought – I saw everything the way he remembered it.”
“Everything he felt?”
“Every single heartbeat.”
Jongin seemed to have entered another momentary state of shock, as his eyes started darting all over the place, as his breaths became more shallow and fast.
As he harshly bit on his lower lip, so hard that even Kyungsoo winced as he was watching him.
And then he looked towards him, those deep eyes shining with determination, as he reached out to pick up the ring from Kyungsoo’s palm. He looked at it with pain and sadness written all over his face, before nodding.
“Tell me everything.”
The coffee in his hands had already become cold and he felt awkward sitting so close to Jongin after months of dreaming and thinking about the man. It truly felt special, being so close to him.
The fact that his heart wouldn’t stop racing in his chest wasn’t helping.
“The next memory I saw was from high school. He was watching you and Sehun talk in the hallway. He was really jealous.” Kyungsoo looked down to hide the little smile. “He was jealous that you were spending all that time with Sehun. Not romantically, but like-…you know. He just wanted to spend more time with you. He really liked you a lot, even back then.”
He allowed himself to look over towards Jongin from time to time. To look at the way his eyes would shine during his stories, undoubtedly his own memories flooding his mind at the mention of every single event.
“Then there was prom night. Chanyeol was a little bit drunk but his thoughts-…he really, really liked you. So much. He didn’t want to do something dumb while you were drunk as well. But then you were kissing and-“
“Wait,” Jongin interrupted him in the middle of his sentence. “You said you saw all those memories from his eyes?”
“Then-…when we were kissing and…and touching and-“
Kyungsoo looked away and cleared his throat. Jongin, too, looked away, a soft pink creeping its way to his cheeks.
“No,” Jongin shook his head, still looking positively mortified. “No, it’s fine. It’s just…so weird.”
“I know. I know it’s weird. It creeps me out too sometimes.”
Jongin’s eyebrows knitted together again then, as he nodded.
“Then after prom night?”
“I saw you guys driving in the truck after midnight. And you wanted to move out of the little town and Chanyeol was ready to follow you everywhere. He really loved you a lot.” Kyungsoo shook his head. “Then there was a heatwave and you two were alone. You called him to a mirror and you said you loved him. It really meant a lot to him. It really, really did. And then-“
“Then we slept together for the first time. I know.” Jongin said, face scrunched into a frown. “Please tell me you didn’t see that.”
Kyungsoo let a smile pull his lips back, as he shook his head.
Jongin breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Then there was another memory. You were-…uh, shaving him. I think you were already living together. Chanyeol had a lot of thoughts during that memory. I-…I think it’s when I realized he truly loved you. He was ready to do anything for you. And when you cut him, he kept thinking how it was alright, because it was you-“
“That fool.” Jongin barely whispered and when Kyungsoo looked over to him, he could swear that there was a wetness in the man’s eyes that he was blinking away.
“And then I saw the last of Chanyeol’s memories. The night he proposed to you.”
He watched as Jongin’s face became stoic. As his shoulders slumped down and he tightened the grip of his fingers around the coffee.
“He was really nervous. And he kept thinking about your life together. And driving to the big city with you. I remember hardly breathing, my heart-…I mean, his heart was going crazy. And then when you said yes and when he gave you the ring-“
“The memories stopped?”
Kyungsoo shook his head, burying his gaze in the ground again.
“No. They didn’t stop.” He said quietly. “When he gave you the ring I started seeing things from your eyes. From that point on, I saw everything through you. The drive, the accident. The hospital. How you tried to run away before the funeral. How you threw the ring away in the river.”
The silence between them on the park bench in the dark evening was deafening.
“I know how much you loved Chanyeol. I know how much you were hurting.” Kyungsoo continued. “I was hurting with you. I have been seeing Chanyeol’s memories for months, feeling his every emotion and hearing all his thoughts. After I saw the accident through your eyes, I felt your pain, but I was hurting myself too. It felt like I had lost a friend.”
“And then I started feeling your emotions. You were blaming yourself for the crash all the time and I was so, so concerned about you. Just like I had started caring for Chanyeol, I cared for you. I still do.” Kyungsoo looked down to his hands, feeling the warmth spreading in his chest. “Even more.”
The sound of that one word out loud made Kyungsoo’s blood freeze. He felt disappointment and regret filling his chest at once, everything inside crumbling, as his lips parted in surprise and he looked at Jongin again.
Jongin, who just breathed out deeply.
“One hour ago when you started talking about all of this, I wanted to call you a freak. I wanted to listen to you and then tell you you’re lying. Blame you for trying to make fun of me.”
His breath was caught in his throat, as he threw a hesitant look over to the other man. He watched Jongin’s fingers tapping the coffee cup, his lips pressed into a thin line.
“But now I want to know more.” He ended up saying quietly and Kyungsoo finally breathed out – a ragged breath, filled with all the emotions in the world. “I want you to tell me everything.”
“Are you sure?” he asked quietly, the question carrying more weight than anything he had said so far tonight.
Jongin looked uncertain, as he nodded.
“I ran away from there, trying to forget. And just when I was starting to actually live again, you found me with all-…all of this.” He shook his head. “I don’t know if I’m sure. I don’t want to get dragged back to the past, but-“
Kyungsoo shot his eyes up when Jongin stopped taking and watched him shrug instead. Watched him slowly turning his head towards him and those chocolate brown eyes deeper than the universe staring right into his own.
Breathing was suddenly the hardest thing to do.
“Maybe it would feel like closure. Maybe if I knew everything, then I would be able to completely move on.”
It took Kyungsoo a few moments to process this.
That was fair. Jongin deserved to know. More than anybody else, he deserved to know about every little secret inside of Chanyeol’s heart. All those secrets belonged to him.
Jongin didn’t reply, he only looked at him. Right at him.
He smiled. It was sad. It was the saddest thing he had ever seen.
Jongin had never been more beautiful.
They talked a lot. They met up in the café to talk. They met up in the park to talk. They walked around the busy streets of the big city and they talked.
It was mainly Kyungsoo talking, actually. Stories, feelings, trying to relay everything into words.
And Jongin would listen. He would listen to every single word and he would nod along.
Sometimes he’d smile fondly.
Sometimes he’d chuckle out quietly, sadly at the beautiful memories.
Sometimes he’d tell Kyungsoo more about that certain moment.
And every time, he’d cry.
Kyungsoo had seen him trying to fight it in the beginning. Trying to not let his shoulder slump down and trying to not let the tears overflow.
But he knew how he felt. He knew how much his heart had once ached, and he knew how much his heart ached now. He knew how much it hurt trying to keep everything hidden.
“It’s alright, Jongin,” he’d said quietly the first time. “It’s okay to cry.”
It’s like that simple sentence completely had broken Jongin, because he started crying then.
Burying his face in his hands, the sobs shaking his entire body.
Kyungsoo’s own heart was breaking at the sight of Jongin crying, but he willed himself to sit up straight and to not break along with him.
Jongin would cry his eyes out, and all he could do – all he wanted to do – was to be there to comfort him.
That’s how most of their meetings would go.
Jongin would be cheerful when they’d meet up, and gradually his smile would falter and his eyes would turn red and all Kyungsoo could do was pull him closer, let him rest his head on his shoulder. He didn’t mind the tears soaking into his shirts. He didn’t mind the other man’s fingers tightening around the fabric.
All he cared about was easing that pain away, as he pursed his lips and gently stroked Jongin’s back.
“If I could take all your pain away, I would.” He mumbled quietly that evening, Jongin’s red eyes all puffy as he rubbed at them and then looked away, sniffing.
He was quiet. So was Kyungsoo.
There wasn’t much to be said anymore. It was just the two of them with their aching hearts.
Just the two of them on the quiet bench with nothing but memories of big ears and the brightest smile.
“What?” Kyungsoo snapped out of his daze at the sound of Jongin’s voice. The boy was looking at him, trying to smile. His lips were trembling, though, so he just ended up looking down again. He shook his head.
“You did take my pain away, Kyungsoo. In a way.” Jongin said quietly, probably not trusting himself to speak louder. “No one has ever been able to understand what I went through. You do, though. Magic or not, you do.”
Kyungsoo didn’t know what to say, so he chose to remain silent. He was glad. If he really had been able to help, even just slightly, then he was glad.
He felt a hand on his knee and his eyes shot up to see Jongin looking at him.
The universes was twinkling in his eyes.
“It hurts. It hurts a lot, and maybe it will hurt forever. But knowing that I have someone who will always listen and will actually know what I mean…that’s enough to make it bearable.”
That’s what Kyungsoo felt when he looked up and found Jongin staring up to the clear sky. One traitorous tear escaped his eye again and slid down his cheek.
Kyungsoo reached out to wipe it away gently.
Two red eyes focused on him again and Kyungsoo only nodded lightly.
“So,” Jongin’s voice was pretty cheerful as they walked down the street. “When did it first happen?”
“I told you, I saw the first memory when I brought the ring back ho-“
“No, no. Not our memories,” Jongin shook his head. “I mean altogether. When did you first see someone else’s memories.”
“Oh,” Kyungsoo mused, kind of surprised that the conversation was shifting towards him. “Um, well. When I was a kid, teachers used to think I was incredibly intuitive. I always somehow managed to guess where something or someone had been. They thought it was all lucky guesses. So did I.”
“But?” Jongin raised an eyebrow with a faint smile on his lips. “I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming.”
“But puberty happened.” Kyungsoo let out a soft chuckle. “My voice was all wobbly, my body started growing and, well, those lucky guesses were suddenly much more vivid. Everything somehow seemed so real.”
Kyungsoo looked to the side. Jongin was staring at him with a curious glint in his eyes, waiting for him to continue.
He couldn’t help his breath hitching a little. Jongin was looking at him so attentively, so closely. All his attention was on him and suddenly Kyungsoo felt like he couldn’t breathe even though they were walking down the largest street he had ever set foot on.
“I was scared of seeing so much history in everything I touched. I was flinching whenever someone walked closer, I was avoiding everybody. I guess I became more introverted. My grandma was the first one who noticed that, and she was the one who explained everything to me. She told me the stories of the small cities, the legends of the witches and the stories about their power that carried from generation to generation. How I carried a little bit of their magic within me. How everybody really did.”
“She sounds like a great person.”
“She was,” Kyungsoo looked down, smiling fondly. “She taught me as much as she could about psychometry. She gave me books, she gave me advice. And the very first time I encountered a powerful object, the very first time I actually was drawn to someone’s story, I was kind of prepared. I knew what to expect.”
“What was it?”
“It was a diary,” Kyungsoo couldn’t help the fond smile that stretched his lips. “It had once belonged to a girl named Seulgi. It always had this sweet, faint sound coming from it. Like a girl laughing, you know. Cheerful, somehow.”
“What was her story?”
“Love.” Kyungsoo’s lips were twisted in a half smile, he knew.
“Isn’t it always love?”
Jongin’s question sounded more like a sigh. Kyungsoo felt himself freezing for a moment, looking up to make sure Jongin was alright.
He was looking forward, and there was a distant, but pleased smile on his lips. He was so beautiful in his daze and Kyungsoo just ended up breathlessly nodding.
“Anyways, her memories…they were old. If she was still alive by the time I found the diary, then she must have been a really old lady. Every time I saw her memories I was in the countryside. Away at the farms, in a small town. And there was another girl.” Kyungsoo halted, images of crescent eyes and full smiles emerging in his mind. “Irene. They were friends, but I knew what Seulgi felt. I always knew how her face would feel hotter and how her heart would start fluttering every time Irene was there. Ever since they were kids, up until the day they first kissed hidden behind the hay bales in the horse stables. I felt the warmth filling her body every time they held hands and the laugher bubbling in her chest every time they ran down the hills and those ridiculous, large dresses would fly behind them. I remember a lot of hair. Like, a lot of hair, always getting into my face - her face, whenever they ran.”
Jongin’s laugher was cheerful and Kyungsoo appreciated that heavenly sound. Jongin’s happy smile was so, so beautiful. Something he could stare at forever.
“What happened to them?” he ended up asking after his little fit of chuckles. Kyungsoo shrugged.
“They ran away together. The diary was left behind. It didn’t hold their memories anymore, but it held a lot of strong feelings. That’s why I could hear it.”
Jongin hummed quietly. Their shoulders were brushing as they walked down the street.
“Anyways, I could only read what Seulgi wrote after I saw all memories. Every time before that I’d only start seeing memories whenever I touched it. But after they ran away, I could finally see what she wrote.”
“What did she write?”
“The things any teenager in love would write.” Kyungsoo pursed his lips, throwing a look towards Jongin. “But words are not a tool powerful enough to convey feelings, you know. No matter what she wrote, it did no justice to how she actually felt. Trust me. I’d know.”
Jongin was silent as they kept walking down the street aimlessly and Kyungsoo kept thinking about girls laughing and running hand in hand, something tugging at his heartstrings.
He almost jumped up in surprise when he felt Jongin’s fingers brushing against his hand.
“Your grandmother was right.”
Kyungsoo blinked up in confusion. In surprise.
“You’ve seen all those stories and you’ve felt all that love. A normal human wouldn’t be able to handle it all,” there was a soft look in Jongin’s eyes. “You really do carry magic within you.”
Kyungsoo didn’t even realize he had stopped walking and was instead just staring at the boy and all those universes he was showing him, all those new worlds he discovered thanks to him. The tugging at his heartstrings only intensified, as he felt the warmth spreading through his entire body, all the way to his fingertips.
“So do you.”
“In your eyes.”
Jongin, too, stopped in his place and gave him a look – intrigued and fascinated.
His eyes truly were magical – shining with the light of all the stars in the sky. Brighter even.
At least to Kyungsoo, who was somehow blinded by every twinkle in them.
When Jongin smiled, he felt felt his shoulder slumping down as he breathed out in complete defeat and let the feelings completely wash over him – his own feelings this time. He was weak, so weak.
Because when the sun and the moon were smiling at him, all he could do was smile back.
With time, the questions about the past decreased, and so did the tears.
Eventually, Jongin would ask him about his childhood, about his friends and about his work, about his family and his home.
Eventually, he found himself sharing everything with such ease. Sitting there and watching Jongin’s eyes shining brighter than every star in the universe.
Eventually, he found himself smiling every time Jongin laughed.
Eventually, he found himself falling in love with him all over again.
“Do you actually like this place?” Kyungsoo vaguely motioned with his hands towards the street. He couldn’t help the little frown. “The big city.”
“Why?” Jongin cocked his head a little. “Don’t you?”
Kyungsoo pursed his lips. The big city was grey. The streets were grey, the buildings were grey. The people, all rushing, they too seemed grey.
“It’s really not what I was expecting.” Kyungsoo ended up mumbling. “I don’t get the hype.”
“There’s everything in the big city. Tens, hundreds of schools. Universities, theatres, cinemas, shopping centres. Cafes, restaurants. Firms, businesses. Parks, monuments, museums, wo-“
“I get it. There’s everything.” Kyungsoo let out a breathy chuckle. “Yet, it’s so grey. It’s so ugly.”
“Quite on the contrary.” Kyungsoo looked around sceptically again. At all the grey streets, jammed with traffic. At all the grey people, rushing around. At all the grey buildings and skyscrapers, standing tall and hiding the sun. “I think it’s quite lifeless.”
He turned around when he felt the weight of someone’s gaze burning holes in him. Jongin was looking at him silently, with a calculating expression.
He looked dazed, until a smile cracked his lips and he shook his head. A few strands of black hair fell over his eyes.
“You’re right,” he whispered eventually, the ghostly smile still very prominent on his face. It was kind of ironic. “I hate this place.”
“So why stay?”
“Because it’s home now.”
The answer was simple and Kyungsoo didn’t even need to look at Jongin and the dullness in his eyes to know he was lying. He could hear it in his voice. He felt a sigh building up.
“It’s not all that ugly though,” Jongin changed, the tone of his voice changing abruptly. He sounded so cheerful when he grabbed Kyungsoo’s hand and started dragging him down the street. So quickly that he almost tripped in his own feet.
“Hey, slow down! Where are we going?”
“I’m gonna show you my favourite place in the city. Come on.”
Kyungsoo didn’t even have a choice as he was still being dragged by an overly enthusiastic Jongin. He didn’t even think about complaining, though. Not even once.
Jongin was smiling. Jongin was happy.
After all this time, his heart was finally bursting and it was because the man he loved was content.
So he followed willingly. He’d follow him to the end of the world, to the end of another world. To the end of the universe.
Someday, he would.
The end of today’s universe, though, turned out to be a rooftop.
“Are we even allowed to be here?” Kyungsoo asked, eyes lingering on the ‘Stay Out’ warning sign on the door Jongin pushed open.
The playful grin on the other man’s face spoke for itself, as the wind messed up his hair.
“Great. Now I’m a felon.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as felon. Maybe delinquent.”
“What am I, seventeen?”
“I don’t know,” Jongin looked at him, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “You look it.”
“Shut up,” Kyungsoo muttered, it wasn’t whining, but kept walking after Jongin.
Mostly because he was drawn by the powerful beauty that his smile was. There was something so entrancing in his smile and Kyungsoo wanted more. He wanted to see more of that moment’s happiness, he wanted to engrave it in his mind – the way Jongin looked here and now.
The wind blowing his hair and a smile stretching his lips as he grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward on the wide rooftop.
“Here,” Jongin said breathily, as they finally reached the safety railing. “See?”
Kyungsoo was trying to catch his breath as he finally looked at the sight. All those other buildings below them, an endless maze of streets and the sounds of the city somehow distant.
And there were lights everywhere. Flickering and shining, all those lights below them and spreading into an endless sea of darkness – it was somehow captivating. To see all that life, all that greyness and all that rush from all the way up here.
From a different angle, from a different point of view. Even the big city looked small from up here.
Up here, they were on top of the world. So far.
Kyungsoo looked to the side, towards Jongin. He was holding onto the railing and his eyes were soaking in the sight from the rooftop. The big city actually felt like freedom here and he could see it in the other man’s eyes. The way they were shining, the lights reflecting in them.
Jongin was watching the city.
Kyungsoo was watching Jongin.
And he was beautiful.
Jongin’s eyes didn’t move away from the city, not even when Kyungsoo rested his warm hand on top of his.
There was, however, a twitch on his lips and then the ghost of the faintest of smiles on his face.
Kyungsoo just couldn’t look away. Not even if he tried. He felt like someone had kicked him in the chest, there was no air in his lungs.
He ended up nodding, his fingers tightening around Jongin’s hand and eyes still very much trained on the man, the city below them long forgotten.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave soon.”
Those few words had a much stronger effect on Jongin than he had imagined. He saw the man’s lips parting briefly once. Twice. Three times, as his eyes widened and he just shook his head in the end.
Kyungsoo let out a breathy chuckle.
“It’s been almost a month and rent in the big city’s kind of killing my bank account.”
Jongin pursed his lips and his eyebrow twitched. He looked desperate.
“You can stay in my place!” he ended up blurting out. “You can stay with me until you can find a job and maybe a cheaper place to stay and-…and I can help you look and-…”
Kyungsoo’s own eyebrows furrowed in concern as he watched Jongin’s face twisting and his breathing becoming more shallow. He pursed his lips when Jongin closed his eyes and shook his head.
“Do you really have to go?”
So tempting. Everything was so tempting.
Just forget the little city and stay here. With Jongin. Find a job, live here.
That’s what made it even harder to look down. Pictures of his parents flashing in his mind. His friends. All his responsibilities at home.
The answer was evident in his eyes when he looked back at Jongin. He saw the other man’s shoulders slumping lightly and a breath leaving his lips, as he nodded distractedly.
“I see.” He ended up mumbling quietly, his voice shaking.
His eyes twinkled in disappointment and Kyungsoo felt the weight of the world crushing him.
He reached out and put his hand on top of Jongin’s.
“I’ll give you my phone number. You can call me any day, at any time. And I’ll try to come back here as much as possible and-“
He blinked to stop himself from rambling on when Jongin spoke. He had a soft smile on his lips, although his eyes were still sad. Kyungsoo felt the warmth of a hand on top of his this time, locking it between Jongin’s.
“Thank you.” The man squeezed his arm lightly. “Thank you so much.”
He didn’t need to reply, he knew. There was nothing but naked sincerity in Jongin’s voice and Kyungsoo felt his breath hitching and his heartbeat picking up.
He just swallowed the knot forming in his throat, as he nodded and put his other hand on top of Jongin’s, on top of his own. Holding onto him tightly and not letting go.
When their eyes met again, all he could do was nod again.
Kyungsoo’s chest felt heavy as he shoved his bags in the trunk of the car. He wrapped the scarf tighter around his neck then, and looked around.
The streets of the big city were still quiet at this hour, so he wasn’t surprised to see Jongin walking towards him.
His heart clenched at the sight. Pitch black hair blown by the wind and face buried in a scarf, as he was hurrying forward.
“You came.” Kyungsoo mumbled quietly, when Jongin stopped just in front of him. “You didn’t have to. You have work later and-“
“I don’t actually.” Jongin shrugged. “I quit.”
Jongin shuffled in his place, shrugging again and adjusting the strap of a backpack that Kyungsoo only saw now.
“I was wondering…” he sounded nervous as he spoke and he was avoiding Kyungsoo’s eyes. “I was wondering if I could go with you. Back…back home.”
“If you want me to, of course. I don’t want to be a bother and-“
“Jongin.” Kyungsoo interrupted him, hands reaching out to hold Jongin’s shoulders, and those two chocolate eyes holding the universes were staring at him again and all he could do was purse his lips in concern. “Are you sure?”
He could practically hear the inner turmoil happening within Jongin. He held his breath, as he watched Jongin running a tongue over his dry lips.
“Yeah,” he ended up saying quietly once, then again. Louder. As if trying to convince himself more than anything. “Yeah. I’m ready.”
Kyungsoo couldn’t help the concern that laced his features. He didn’t want to see Jongin breaking all over again. He didn’t want to see him cry again.
“Can I come with you?”
When the question was quietly uttered, all Kyungsoo could do was pull Jongin closer and hold him in his embrace until he felt two hesitant arms wrapping themselves around him and holding him just as tightly.
“Let’s go home.”
Jongin grew awfully quiet the longer they rode.
The nothingness of the dried-out fields and the desert on both sides of the road were bringing out memories for Kyungsoo.
His own memories.
He couldn’t blame Jongin for looking down and not talking. He could see how uneasy he felt. How he kept tapping his fingers against his thighs distractedly.
He could see his lips trembling the slightest bit at the sight of the road he knew so well.
Kyungsoo ended up throwing worried glances towards the man in his passenger seat every now and then, wondering what he could say to ease his tension. Wondering what he could say to take his mind off everything.
He doubted anything would be strong enough to do that.
That’s why he settled for staring out of the window, eyes focusing on the road ahead of them instead.
Maybe Jongin just needed to be alone with his thoughts for a while.
Maybe the silence was needed.
“You can stay here tonight,” Kyungsoo said, awkwardly standing beside the door of his room while Jongin was taking in the sight of old posters taking up most of the walls. “I’ll drive you home tomorrow first thing in the morning unless you want to be a little tourist-y.”
Kyungsoo detached himself from the wall to throw his bag on the floor.
“There’s not really much to see in a town this small, to be honest. There’s the council hall and the old statue in the main square, but besides that it’s pretty plain. I mean-“
“Kyungsoo.” Jongin’s voice interrupted his ramblings and he looked up to him. Jongin was standing at the other side of his bed, hand wrapped around the strap of his backpack. He was smiling softly. “Thank you.”
Kyungsoo felt a pang in his chest, his heart wildly beating at the mere sight of Jongin. He bit on his lower lip and nodded.
“Uh…you can take the bed.” He started fussing around again, trying to avoid the awkwardness of the situation.
“What about you?”
“I’ll just pull out a futon, or I’ll crash on the couch.”
“Please. It’s fine.” Kyungsoo cleared his throat, not really knowing what to do with his hands. He had never imagined a situation like this. Jongin was still looking at him, a certain glint in his eyes. “The- uh…bathroom’s first door down the hall to the left. You can use it first, I’ll bring out extra pillows and blankets in the meantime.”
Jongin smiled and nodded quietly.
Kyungsoo felt like he wasn’t even breathing as he watched Jongin pulling out a towel and clean clothes from his backpack. Hesitantly leaving his phone and wallet on the beside table.
Something glimmered on top of it and Kyungsoo pursed his lips when he recognized the ring.
He only breathed out when Jongin walked out of the room. He felt his heart going absolutely wild in his chest. He let his hand lie flat over it for a few moments, as he tried to regulate his breathing.
“Stop being an idiot, Kyungsoo.” He mumbled quietly to himself. “Blankets and pillows.”
He could hear the water running in the shower.
He headed for the large wardrobe, trying to keep himself occupied with the thoughts of impromptu beds made out of blankets. Trying to think about everything really.
The missed calls from Suho. The messages he had to check later.
The weather reports, the shifts at his job he had to take now that he had missed an entire month.
The old posters on his walls, the books scattered around the room. The chatter of people he could hear from the street.
And then it happened again.
A quiet buzz.
A quiet call.
A quiet ringing that made him drop the pillows he was holding.
A quiet sound that made all color drain from his face.
His eyes shot up to look at the ring, ruefully lying on top of Jongin’s wallet, calling for him. Shouting, yelling. Bellowing.
He raised a hand up to his head.
“No.” he barely whispered, eyes widening. “No. Not now. Not anymore…”
He felt fear overtaking his body.
What did the ring want to show him. He was afraid to look.
He was scared. He did not want to unveil any other memories from Chanyeol’s life. He did not want to intrude anymore.
But mostly, he was just afraid of feeling all that pain again.
He almost whimpered when there was a particularly shrieking ring, piercing right through his mind. Stronger than any other call before.
“Damn it.” He let out through clenched teeth, eyes shooting up in the direction of the bathroom. The water was still running. The ringing was only intensifying.
He knew he had no choice then. He had never been able to control it, the effect objects had on him. He couldn’t stop the calls, he couldn’t stop the buzzing in his mind.
There was only one way he knew of and it was lying right in front of him.
He bit on his lower lip harshly, as he moved towards his bed and stared at the white band.
Once he was seated, he threw another look over his shoulder.
And then, with the next loud call, he reached out and took the ring between his fingers.
The pain was immediate. Sharp and numbing, like someone had shot him straight in the head.
And then he was falling.
The picture was vivid.
He didn’t recall ever witnessing something so striking, yet so grey.
The dirty, busy streets of the big city. Traffic even in the morning. The tall buildings and the busy people.
He was hurrying forward. Hurrying, almost running, holding tightly onto the backpack on his shoulder.
It wasn’t the running he was breathy because of. It was everything else.
Almost there, he thought to himself, as he turned the corner and hurried down the familiar street.
There. Finally. Leaning against the car and looking around. Wearing a coat that was engulfing him, and a scarf covering some of his face.
He felt his breath hitching for a moment, as he hurried forward. He tried smiling when Kyungsoo’s eyes focused on him. His eyebrows were raised in surprise.
“You came.” he said in that velvety, sweet voice he had gotten used to listening to. He did sound surprised. “You didn’t have to. You have work later and-“
“I don’t actually. I quit.” He interrupted in a ramble.
Kyungsoo’s eyebrows shot up in surprise again.
Jongin adjusted the strap of the backpack, taking in a deep breath and trying to not stumble over his words. He suddenly felt all that worry within him rising. He couldn’t even look Kyungsoo in the eyes.
“I was wondering…I was wondering if I could go with you. Back…back home.”
Kyungsoo’s whisper was almost immediate and when he looked up he saw the concerned curve of his eyebrows. He could see the genuine worry in his eyes.
Jongin didn’t know what to do, so he did what he did best. He rambled on, hoping to make sense.
“If you want me to, of course. I don’t want to be a bother and-“
The hands grabbing his shoulders shut him up. He looked straight into Kyungsoo’s eyes and watched the other man pursing his lips. He couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“Jongin. Are you sure?”
He couldn’t tell what Kyungsoo was thinking, but he knew he truly cared. He had realized that some time ago.
No human being would go to the lengths Kyungsoo had, if they didn’t care.
He had sacrificed his time and energy to be here for him. To find him, to tell him everything. To make sure he was alright.
Jongin’s lips suddenly felt very dry, as he kept staring at Kyungsoo.
At the man who had done everything in his power to help him overcome his pain. And it would all have been in vain if he remained afraid of facing reality forever.
“Yeah,” he said quietly, mostly to himself. “Yeah. I’m ready.”
Kyungsoo still looked just as concerned as he had a minute ago, so Jongin lowered his head and held his breath.
“Can I come with you?”
He didn’t expect to get pulled down in a hug.
He didn’t realize he had been until he felt two arms holding him tightly and until he sensed the faint smell of peaches.
Only when he felt Kyungsoo’s hair tickling his cheek and his arms still holding him tightly, Jongin let out his breath.
He felt his entire body heating up with all these emotions he had been trying to suppress.
He felt his heart skipping a beat.
He was in a daze when he raised his hands to hug Kyungsoo, to hold him tightly against himself.
He was in a daze when he felt hot breath tickling his skin and the sweet, velvety voice lingering in his ears, as Kyungsoo whispered.
“Let’s go home.”
He came back to someone angrily shaking his body.
He opened his eyes and he needed a few moments to adjust to the light in the room.
Jongin was hovering over him, droplets of water falling from his wet hair. His pupils were shaking.
He seemed terrified.
“Oh my God, Kyungsoo…you were-“ Jongin’s lower lip was trembling as he watched him opening his eyes slowly. “I thought you were-…”
Jongin’s clasped his hand over his mouth and Kyungsoo was suddeny very aware of the tears on the other man’s face. On the way his body was trembling.
“Shh,” he mumbled quietly, sitting up and reaching out to put a hand on Jongin’s shoulder and pull his body forward. To hug him and let him bury his face in his neck. “Shh, I’m fine.”
“I thought you were…” Jongin’s voice sounded muffled against his skin and Kyungsoo held him tightly. His mind was wandering. From the memories he saw only moments ago to the trembling boy in his arms. “You weren’t moving. You weren’t moving and I thought-“
“I thought I lost you.” Jongin’s voice broke and Kyungsoo only held onto him tightly, trying to sort out all the emotions bursting within him. “I thought I lost you too.”
“I’m here.” He said quietly, a hand moving to push Jongin a little, so he could wipe away the tears and cup his cheek. So he could look him straight in the eyes. “I’m here, Jongin. I’m not going anywhere.”
He didn’t expect the other man to lean forward and press their lips together.
Kind of hastily, kind of hurriedly.
But at the touch of their lips, Kyungsoo felt his entire world falling apart until there was just Jongin in it.
He felt the other one curling his fingers into a fist at the back of his head, holding him closely as they kissed.
As if making sure that he wouldn’t go away. That he wouldn’t disappear.
And Kyungsoo? He was drowning in the feelings.
He was drowning in the taste of Jongin’s lips. A touch he knew through memories, but something that was so much stronger when he experienced it himself. Something so much more colourful. Something flaming.
“I’m here,” he ended up mumbling quietly again as they parted. He just rested his forehead against Jongin’s, with no intention of letting go. Ever. “I’m here.”
The atmosphere was just as dreadful and heavy as last time. Kyungsoo’s mind was starting to spin at all the dulled noises from all the memories in the graveyard.
Why Jongin had insisted on coming here before he drove him home, he didn’t know. How Jongin had found the power within himself to visit Chanyeol’s grave before anything else in his home, he didn’t know. IT was beyond him.
But if there was something he had learned in the past few months, it was that Kim Jongin was the single most peculiar person he had ever met. His choices, his way of thinking always surprised him.
Like last night, when the ring showed him the memories of Jongin. It had been peculiar, seeing himself through someone else’s eyes.
It had been peculiar, feeling such things about himself. Completely understanding someone else’s heart.
He couldn’t stop thinking about that one moment and the way Jongin’s eyes were shining.
He did, however, bring himself to pay attention now. This was important. It was way more important than anything else.
His eyes were wary as he followed Jongin towards the white marble of the grave. Jongin’s footsteps were slow and hesitant.
“I can give you a minute, if you want.”
“No.” Jongin shook his head, looking up from the grave toward him. “Stay.”
Kyungsoo nodded hesitantly, as he watched Jongin leaning down to put the fresh bouquet of flowers next to the other one. Sehun must have been here not long ago.
Then he watched him staring down at his finger, before hesitantly sliding the ring off and putting it on top of the white marble.
He watched Jongin as his hand slid down the headstone, as if caressing it.
“Give it to the person you love most in the world, right?” the man said quietly and Kyungsoo’s eyes looked up to the ring ruefully lying on Chanyeol’s headstone.
It belonged there. It always had.
And Kyungsoo? He wasn’t mad. He wasn’t angry or annoyed or anything of the sort.
Jongin’s love for Chanyeol had been limitless, no end to it. It still was.
It was only right to leave the ring here, to the person he loved most in this world.
And as for him, Jongin would have an eternity to learn how to love him.
“He said you can hear me.” Jongin said quietly, kneeling next to the grave and talking to the marble.
Kyungsoo just watched on, as he felt the wind around them swirling. His eyes shot up as he heard the rustling of trees and the sighs of the breeze.
He watched Jongin caressing the marble one more time before standing up.
“He said you wanted me to be happy.” Jongin was still speaking quietly, all words meant for Chanyeol to hear. “I will be. For you. For myself. Maybe it will be with him.”
Kyungsoo’s eyes shot up. Jongin was looking at him. There was a small, sad smile pulling his lips.
“He knows your soul. He knows mine.” Jongin touched the marble again, a fond look in his eyes. “And I think I’d like to know his too.”
Kyungsoo let out a quiet breath.
Jongin stood up and walked over closer to him, eyes still trained on the white headstone. Kyungsoo felt soft fingers wrapping around his wrist gently.
The breeze around them, the rustling of the leaves.
The wind that caressed them felt like the warmest smile.